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Thursday - April 7, 2016
white-house-declines-to-support-encryption-bill
It appears that the Obama administration will refrain from giving its outspoken support to any legislation that aims to compel high-tech companies to help law enforcement agencies crack mobile phone encryption. On the other hand, it won't level any outspoken opposition either. Introduction of such a bill -- sponsored by Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr -- is expected soon. [More...]

Thursday - April 7, 2016
vivaldi-browser-power-users
Vivaldi on Wednesday launched the first release of its eponymously named browser. Vivaldi is the brainchild of CEO Jon von Tetzchner, a cofounder of Opera Software. Aimed at the power user, Vivaldi 1.0 packs in features that were stripped out of Opera 12. However, "Vivaldi is not about a single feature," von Tetzchner said. "Vivaldi is more about a philosophy." [More...]

Thursday - April 7, 2016
apple-fbi-iphone
The battle between the FBI and Apple over access to the iPhone of Syed Farook came to an abrupt end last week when the agency announced it no longer needed the company's assistance. Since the Department of Justice delayed a hearing on an order to force Apple to assist the FBI in brute-forcing the password, speculation has spread about how the agency planned to access the data. [More...]

Wednesday - April 6, 2016
facebook-accessibility-team
Facebook on Monday introduced automated alt text, a new tool that describes what's in an image to help visually impaired users engage more on the site. People using screen readers on iOS devices will hear a description of the items contained in a photo when they swipe past pictures on a Facebook page. The feature is available for iOS users in the U.S., the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. [More...]

Wednesday - April 6, 2016
whatsapp
WhatsApp on Tuesday told its 1 billion users that their communications would be better protected from prying eyes with end-to-end encryption. The company always has made data and communication security a priority, according to Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the founders of WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for $19 billion in 2014. End-to-end encryption is accomplished through use of the Signal Protocol. [More...]

Wednesday - April 6, 2016
xiaomi-rice-cooker
Of all the kitchen gadgets I own, the rice cooker is possibly my second-most favorite after the tea kettle. Sure, I could make rice in a pot, but the dedicated rice cooker makes it much easier to attend to other details instead of watching the pot. Xiaomi's pressurized version might prove even better. It recognizes the type of rice from a barcode scan and cooks it perfectly. [More...]

Tuesday - April 5, 2016
hp-spectre-laptop
HP on Tuesday unveiled its latest challenger to Apple's laptops, touting it as the thinnest laptop in the world. At 10.4 mm, the HP Spectre's chassis is as thin as a triple-A battery, the company noted. The Spectre is powered by Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and weighs in at 2.45 pounds. It has a 13.3-inch Gorilla glass display, and stereo speakers from Bang & Olufsen. [More...]

Tuesday - April 5, 2016
IBM last week announced that Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has purchased its TrueNorth processor-based cognitive computing platform. The purchase included an end-to-end ecosystem and a multisocket host node. The lab will build a supercomputer based on the platform to see how neural networks might be used in the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration's cybersecurity program. [More...]

Monday - April 4, 2016
oculus-facebook-terms-service-privacy-creative-rights
Oculus last week updated its terms of service to accompany the release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, raising privacy and content ownership concerns. Software will be installed to monitor how the device is used, and the usage data will be sent back to Oculus and its parent company, Facebook, according to the terms of service. Collected data could be shared with third parties. [More...]

Monday - April 4, 2016
hololens-build-developers-conference
At last week's Microsoft Build conference, I attended the Hololens Academy -- a whirlwind effort to turn me into a master programmer able to create things out of thin air. It failed. Apparently it takes longer than an hour to teach someone who hasn't coded in decades to be a master programmer -- go figure. However, by the end of the class I was gleefully throwing fireballs. [More...]

Friday - April 1, 2016
google-gmail-send-drop-mic-april-fools-day-prank
Unintentional consequences led Google to pull its April Fools' prank, Gmail Mic Drop, a few hours after launching it on Friday. The joke let users claim the last word in an email thread by clicking on the "Send + Mic Drop" option. A GIF of a minion from the animated movie Despicable Me -- would accompany the reply, and the sender would not receive any further responses to the thread. [More...]

Friday - April 1, 2016
Facebook has been working on mobile pay and secret chat features for its Messenger app, according to a report published this week, based on clues found in extracted software code on Messenger for iPhone. Commands embedded in the software hint at secret conversations, similar to what's found in WhatsApp, and commands to pay in person and pay in Messenger when picking up an item. [More...]

Friday - April 1, 2016
medstar-health-ransomware-attack
Despite its computer systems being infected with malware since Monday, MedStar Health, which operates 10 hospitals and more than 250 outpatient facilities in and around Washington, D.C., has continued to provide patient care at near normal levels, according to several updates released this week. Since the malware attack occurred, MedStar Health has treated an average of 3,380 patients a day. [More...]

Thursday - March 31, 2016
elon musk tesla model 3
Tesla fans around the world queued up to add their names to a reservation list in anticipation of Tesla Motors' planned Thursday night unveiling of its Model 3. The long-awaited new addition to the Tesla line is a more affordable sedan that targets not just early adopters, but a larger audience of luxury car owners. Company founder Elon Musk has shared key details in advance of the reveal. [More...]

Thursday - March 31, 2016
spearphishing
Hackers in recent weeks have stepped up their efforts to steal employee tax information from companies in all kinds of industries. Typically, the information contained on IRS form W-2 is used to file false tax returns or steal someone's identity. The situation has become so bad that the IRS earlier this month issued an alert to human resources and payroll professionals about the subject. [More...]

Thursday - March 31, 2016
microsoft-build-developers-conference-2016-conversation-as-a-platform
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and members of his leadership team, speaking to developers Wednesday at the Build 2016 conference, introduced their vision to infuse human speech and machine learning into the company's consumer and enterprise businesses. Nadella and Executive VP Terry Myerson introduced upgrades to Windows 10 and Cortana as well as technology called "Conversations as a Platform." [More...]

GADGET DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES
Gadget Ogling: Honey, I Shrunk the iPhone
Thursday - March 31, 2016
iphone-se
The iPhone SE packs almost everything from the iPhone 6s into a handset that looks almost identical to the iPhone 5. The only thing that's really missing is Force Touch. It's a smart play, trying to convince iPhone 4 and 5 owners that they can still upgrade to -- almost -- the latest model without the need to take on a device with a larger screen. [More...]

Wednesday - March 30, 2016
Instagram on Monday moved to calm concerns among some users about a proposed change in the way content appears in their feeds. Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and Cindy Crawford fueled the anxiety by urging their followers to enable a feature on their mobile devices that would notify them whenever those celebrities post to Instagram. The company assured users that their feed weren't changing yet. [More...]

Wednesday - March 30, 2016
ios-9-3-update-glitches-bugs
Apple has been deluged with complaints from users who say the latest version of its mobile operating system is breaking links and crashing apps. "Following iOS 9.3 on iPhone 6splus update links in safari no longer open, then safari crashes -- any ideas how to fix? Same problem in Chrome," user John MacDonald posted Monday on Apple's support page on Twitter. [More...]

Tuesday - March 29, 2016
microsoft-holoportation
Microsoft on Monday unveiled its version of a teleporter, called "holoportation," which was designed to transmit 3D models of people anywhere in the world. Holoportation compresses, transmits and reconstructs the 3D scans to Microsoft's HoloLens and other head-mounted displays. It lets headset wearers interact with remote users in 3D as if they were in the same space, according to Microsoft. [More...]

Tuesday - March 29, 2016
chinese-hacker
A Chinese aviation and aerospace businessman last week pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to steal sensitive military and export-controlled data from major U.S. defense contractors and send the information to China, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Su Bin, also known as Stephen Su and Stephen Subin, entered the plea before Judge Christina A. Snyder. [More...]

Monday - March 28, 2016
The first reviews of the Oculus Rift surfaced Monday, and reviewers praised the potential of the virtual reality system while pointing out some obvious concerns. The headset display is well-crafted, but drawbacks include the cost and the fact that it requires a powerful gaming system to run it, according to some reviews. "It has the potential to change the world," Devindra Hardawar wrote. [More...]

Monday - March 28, 2016
apple-dell-hp-lenovo-transformations
Following Apple's latest announcements, I noticed a number of reports on how disappointed customers were that there was nothing they wanted to wait in line for hours to buy. I personally thought they should have been excited about that, because I hate to stand in lines. I've never really figured out an Apple fanatic's penchant for pain. Still, it is very clear that today's Apple is very different. [More...]

Monday - March 28, 2016
microsoft-tay-chatbot-internet-trolls
Microsoft last week apologized for its Tay chatbot's bad behavior. It took the machine learning system offline, only 24 hours into its short life, after Twitter trolls got it to deny the Holocaust and elicit pro-Nazi and anti-feminist remarks. "We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for," said Peter Lee, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research. [More...]

Saturday - March 26, 2016
dish-hopper-3
Dish Network continues to up its game with its whole-home TV set-top box and accompanying devices. Since introducing its Sling-based TV-anywhere solution and whole-home DVR three years ago, Dish has remained one hop ahead of the competition. Since its launch, the Hopper has featured Sling technology that allowed for the streaming of content from the living room to almost anywhere. [More...]

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What best reflects your opinion on online privacy?
We need new laws to curb government spying.
It's dead -- Google, Facebook and others killed it.
Personalized advertising is the worst -- it's creepy.
It's achievable through encryption and other tech.
It's an overblown issue -- I have nothing to hide.