Wanted to see a convincing hacker movie? Jon Schiefer made Algorithm for just that reason. Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt talk to him about his movie, hacker portrayals on TV and film, and using the Internet to distribute a movie.
We’re less than a week from Christmas, so consider this blog my gift to you, because I don’t have your address and have no way of getting you anything else.
I Knew It Would Make A Comeback, Just Like My Acid Washed Jeans… Wait, Says Who?
Google has updated Maps for iOS, enabling the use of offline maps. That’s right, offline maps. Now who’s “the poor schmuck carrying an iPod Touch 4 that’s as useless as a twig at a lightsaber fight”?
Is It Bad If It Takes Ten Minutes For The Form To Load?
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is asking New Yorkers to visit a site where customers of Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner can test their internet speed against what their providers have promised. Schneiderman is asking customers to submit a screenshot of the results and fill out an online form that asks 1) who their ISP is, 2) the speed they were promised, and 3) whether “Schneiderman” makes them think of the superintendent from the 70’s sitcom One Day at a Time, like the mayor keeps saying.
If their connection doesn’t measure up to expectations, it’s probable that there will be hints for optimizing speed at the customer end, while if promised speeds are achieved, customers will be asked to explain if they feel their unholy deal with Beelzebub was worth it.
Why Do The Seventh Graders Get Everything?
Starting next week, the majority of drone owners will need to register with the Federal Aviation Administration. Pilots must provide their name, home address, and email address and be at least thirteen years old. The legally mandated five dollar registration fee will raise a token amount of revenue for the federal government, a total dwarfed by that amassed from the suddenly burgeoning market of 10- to 12-year-olds desperate for fake IDs.
It’s A Safety Concern, Because I’m Getting Ready To Punch Somebody
After airlines banned “hoverboards” (two-wheeled, self-balancing scooters)–deeming many of the batteries to be fire and explosion hazards–Amazon has stopped selling certain models until they can be proven safe. Some, myself included, believe this move would have been justified long ago, for all manufacturers, because, yes, fires and explosions are not great, but more importantly THEY AREN’T HOVERBOARDS! THEY DON’T HOVER–THEY HAVE WHEELS! I GUESS I’LL CALL MY SHOES HOVERSHOES! AT LEAST THEY LEAVE THE GROUND EVERY OTHER STEP!
The Wheels Of Justice Turn Slo–They Are Turning, Aren’t They?
Samsung has asked the Supreme Court to hear their appeal of a smartphone patent dispute with Apple that began over four years ago, and was initially decided in Apple’s favor over three years ago. The Supreme Court asked both parties to be patient, and will consider whether or not to hear the appeal as soon as they finish with Tesla v Edison.
Sure, Freedom Of Speech, Within Limits
There are reports that Homeland Security is planning to examine the social media accounts of foreigners applying for visas. They would presumably eliminate applicants for references to terrorist ties, while the remainder would be forwarded to a committee flagging occurrences of “Kardashian,” “Real Housewives,” and the barest hint of The Force Awakens spoilers.
So About Three Inches Of Mulch, You Say?
Speaking of Star Wars spoilers, a new Chrome extension called Force Block will block web pages containing spoilers for The Force Awakens, instead loading a screen with a Star Wars joke. This allows those of us who have not yet seen the movie to freely navigate the remainder of the web–an archive of geocities gardening blogs last updated in 2003.
Do I Need A Watch To Count The Steps From My Bed To My Couch And Back?
Pebble has introduced Pebble Health, their first foray into fitness-tracking. Initially it will track only steps and sleep, but hopes are that the first update will start to allow comparisons between the two, and when minutes of sleep exceeds number of steps, it will immediately sync to your phone and block access to the GrubHub app.
Here’s A Nutty Idea
Rumor has it that Google plans to use its self-driving cars in a ride service that would rival Uber. There are further rumors that the autonomous car division will become a stand-alone company under Google parent Alphabet, proving definitively that they care nothing about my feelings. If they did, the cars would remain under Google and the Uber competitor would be named Goober.
I Guess It’s Official
Facebook announced that Messenger will have a Transportation option in the More menu, allowing users to access ridesharing services. Currently, Uber is the only provider, but Facebook expects to add more in the coming months, and down the road one would expect to see Goober. Yeah, I’m calling it that, whatever they decide.
Hue Know What I Mean *
A software update to the Philips Hue lighting system prevented users from adding third-party bulbs to the system until they are certified “Friends of Hue.”
“Friends of who?”
“Friends of Hue.”
“Friends of me? Why would they care about my friends?”
“No, Friends of Hue.”
“What? I’m right here.”
“No. Hugh… who?”
“Hue… nobody. Just Hue.”
“Just me? What happened to my friends?”
“Why can’t you get this? We’re talking about Philips Hue.”
“Phillips, Hugh? Why would you say it like that?”
“Why? Because that’s what it is!”
“Not Hugh Phillips?”
“No, Philips Hue.”
“What about his friends?”
“The friends of Hugh. The friends of Phillips, Hugh.”
“Listen. It’s Philips Friends of Hue.”
“So Phillip’s friends are also Hugh’s friends?”
“I… you… it’s…”
“Wait a minute; I get it! You mean Philips the company! They make a lighting system called Hue! Bulbs have to be certified “Friends of Hue” to be used in the system, like to replace those little portable lights, the… uh…”
“Yes! The Philips Hue Go!”
* Apologies to Abbott and Costello
Need to get a gift for someone, but worried that it won’t arrive by Christmas?
Well, I’ve got the answer.
Worried that they might not fully appreciate a book filled with technology nonsense?
Well, it will arrive by Christmas.
The Internet is Like a Snowblower (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year) is a collection of the year’s Weekly Tech Views, is available immediately for the Kindle or Kindle app, and, at $2.99, is 40% less expensive than a drone pilot registration (yet contains many more words!).
And if you’re looking for a short holiday story that I’m going to classify as “humorous,” (there’s really no other option for the origin story of a Christmas napkin) for the bargain price of FREE, The Christmas Napkin will be exactly that price this coming Thursday and Friday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. After all, there’s no rule saying you can’t read this AND The Night Before Christmas.
Brazil briefly bans WhatsApp and Turner will kick off their new esports coverage with a CS:GO tourney at CES. Jenn Cutter talks with Tom Merritt about whether Turner can avoid past esports TV mistakes and what’s in store for esports in general in 2016.
Should the Army act like a startup? Silicon Valley has its roots in military research so what can it do to help Defense get more agile? Peter Newell has some ideas and Veronica Belmont and Tom Merritt ask him about them.
65 degrees in mid-December in Ohio? Perfect. Some say it doesn’t feel like the holidays, but I always say there’s nothing more festive than wearing shorts and a t-shirt while listening to a little Christmas music and reading some bogus tech-story analysis.
A study indicates that text messages ending with a period are perceived as less sincere than those with no punctuation. Exclamation points, on the other hand, indicate more sincerity than no punctuation. In nine states, semicolons are grounds for divorce.
Can It At Least Help Me Get The Name Right?
Google and NASA jointly purchased a quantum computer two years ago. It has proved to be 100 million times faster than a single core computer in solving a particular type of problem.* Unfortunately, that problem was not “what the hell should Mike get his wife for Christmas.” Which means she’s probably looking at another gift card to that Bed Bath and Body Works and Beyond place.
Welcome To The Big Apple-tini
Amazon Prime members in Manhattan can now take advantage of one-hour delivery service for beer, wine, and spirits. “Found something for my Wish List!” said hard-to-buy-for uncles.
From Amazon Prime liquor delivery page: “People who ordered 2-liter Badinov Vodka also purchased… Orange Juice… Aspirin… 30-lb Tin of Beef Jerky…”
What do you want to bet that Amazon Prime booze delivery comes with a 5% off Amazon.com coupon code, valid for four hours from the moment the drinks are dropped off? (Guys, guys… you know what would make this apartment super cool? A PS4 in every room! Yeah! P-S-4! P-S-4! Done! Think I can fit a fifty-inch TV on my bedroom dresser? Oh no? Only one way to find out!)
This Could Really Mess With My Live-Tweeting Of Real Housewives
Twitter is experimenting with displaying tweets in non-chronological order…
Sorry; my brain couldn’t quite process that. What methods are they considering? Alphabetical? (“aaaaaaand here’s what I think…”). Dewey decimal system? (Ask your parents, kids). A roulette wheel replacing the Moments icon? (I’m listening…)
I Can Finally Move My Laptop Out Of The Half Bathroom Nearest Their House
Australia is investing nearly a billion dollars to make the country more inviting to tech startups and reduce its reliance on the mining industry. In a related story, I’m grudgingly investing $40 a month on an ISP to make my house more inviting to internet access and reduce my reliance on my neighbors’ non-password-protected WiFi. They don’t seem in any hurry to upgrade to the 30Mbps tier, and right now when they both get on to play Battlefront it’s almost pointless for me to use their Netflix log on credentials.
Too Bad, I was Hoping For YaBaHooBa
Yahoo has decided to keep their 15% stake in Alibaba, known as the Ebay of China, and instead spin off the rest of Yahoo into a new company. This is apparently a Google/Alphabet type of restructuring with various complex balance sheet advantages making the company more attractive to shareholders.
It does raise an interesting financial question for Wall Street insiders: In the story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, is Ali Baba a hero fighting the thieves or is he the leader of the thieves? All I remember is “open sesame,” which, to be honest, I really remember better as the cartoon version where Popeye is standing in front of a blocked cave saying, “Open, says me.” Anyhow, if you’re selling things, do you want to be associated with thieves? Questionable branding, if you ask me.
But I guess I shouldn’t let my ignorance of eastern literature make me question an obviously successful business. I think I’m just nervous my thousand (minimum order) Death Star ice cube molds aren’t going to make it here from China in time for our Star Wars marathon party on Thursday.
You Say Sharing Like It’s A Good Thing
Google is introducing Shared Albums to Google Photos, allowing users to send an album to others, who can add their own photos to the album. Nice idea, with one problem. You have to trust the people you’re sharing with. “So just share with people you trust,” you say. A reasonable response, except I don’t trust anybody. Sure, I’d trust my family with my car or my house or my life, but with a photo album? Right.
I guarantee that if I share an album from our family reunion with ten other family members, they will each add a hundred pictures, and somewhere in those thousand shots will be a hilarious series of Uncle Paul seven beers in and trying to make out behind the shed with Aunt Sally’s sister, Mindy (Aunt Sally being Uncle Paul’s wife). On his way to second base with Mindy, Paul abruptly disgorged approximately one cubic foot of hot dogs and three-bean salad on Mindy’s shoes. A laugh riot. Except my face will have been swapped in for Paul’s in every photo, and I’ll be the one dealing with Mindy’s fuzzy, drunken memories.
Hope I Don’t Crop Myself
Speaking of photos, a Twitter update is going to allow uncropped photos in timelines. This may mean facing a hard truth on my part, as I’ve been telling myself that everyone’s been saying my Twitter photos were “a bunch of crops.”
I’ve Heard It Both Ways
Uber has been blocked in China from using the messaging app WeChat, a severe hindrance for a company dependent on communication with potential riders. This brings up one of those funny language idiosyncrasies you occasionally run across, like “Aloha” meaning both “hello” and “goodbye.” The explanation for Uber’s ban can be translated from the Chinese as “malicious marketing activities” or, more loosely, “WeChat is owned by Tencent, an investor in an Uber competitor.” Weird, huh?
It’s Been 20 Minutes, So Here’s Adele’s “Hello” Again
Apple is now supporting 100,000 songs in their $24.99 iTunes Match, up from 25,000 songs. Assuming an average of three-and-a-half minutes per song and sixteen waking hours a day, this would allow you to listen to your music for a year before you heard the same song twice. “How much to store twelve songs?” asked every pop music radio station ever.
* I don’t know. Something about “using quantum annealing for an optimization problem involving 945 binary variables.” I’m pretty sure not all those words are real.
Thanks, as always, for reading the Weekly Tech Views Blog, and an additional thanks to those who have picked up my collection of WTVBs, The Internet is Like a Snowblower (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year). Hope it brings back fond memories of things that may not have actually happened this year.
If you have already made that commendable purchase, or haven’t, but find yourself at Amazon browsing books about, say, internets and snowblowers, why not take a minute to pick up a free (starting Monday) copy of the holiday classic-in-waiting The Christmas Napkin.
This short story has nothing to do with technology, but is at least as ridiculous as what you read here. The origin story of that most beloved of holiday icons–The Christmas Napkin–is free Monday, December 14 through Wednesday, December 16. If you are reading this after Wednesday, it will also be free on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
See you next week (and beware the Beast of Brymlar!).