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Oculus' Controversial ToS a Stark Reminder of Its Facebook Parentage
April 4, 2016
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.
Microsoft Guns for Cloud Devs at Build 2016
April 4, 2016
Microsoft last week at its Build 2016 conference announced innovations in mobile app development, the Internet of Things, microservices and intelligence designed to help developers create apps for the cloud. One is Azure App Service, which offers back-end capabilities for Web, native Windows, iOS and Android platforms. Microsoft also announced five Azure IoT starter kits, starting at $50.
Amazon Doubles Down on Dash
April 4, 2016
Amazon last week announced that it had increased to more than 100 the number of Dash buttons Prime users can install in their homes to replenish supplies of household goods. Dash buttons, which essentially are free for Amazon Prime members, are connected devices that link to a customer's account. With the press of a button, they can order shipments of the product associated with a Dash module.
The Hololens Academy: How I Became a Novice Wizard
April 4, 2016
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.
FCC Extends Broadband Lifeline to Low-Income Subcribers
April 2, 2016
The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted 3-2 to approve a $2.25 billion program to subsidize broadband Internet service and bundled voice and data packages for low-income consumers. The new subsidy is part of a major overhaul of the agency's Lifeline program, which has provided affordable phone access for decades. The vote was a long-awaited reform for many low-income communities.
That Time When Instead of Saying 'April Fool!' Google Had to Say 'Sorry!'
April 1, 2016
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.
Facebook Plots Secret Chat for Messenger
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.
CPQ's Challenge
March 31, 2016
Virtually every CPQ -- configuration, price and quote -- software vendor on the planet has a credible solution for the processes from which the category gets its name. That's the good news. Unfortunately, the world has moved on. Most CPQ is effective for helping promote transactions, especially the sales transaction, in which a buyer or buying entity makes a one-time purchase of a bill of goods.
For Many Users, Instagram Algorithm Is Not a Pretty Picture
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.
FCC Commissioner Sounds Alarm Over Netflix Throttling
March 30, 2016
FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly on Tuesday suggested the government should investigate Netflix's practice of throttling video content delivery to customers using mobile devices. However, Netflix's video throttling was not a violation of the FCC's Net neutrality rules, O'Rielly also said. Netflix last week announced plans to offer a data saver feature for mobile apps beginning in May.
FCC Privacy Proposal Troubles Broadband Internet Providers
March 29, 2016
Broadband Internet service providers are wary of a government plan to impose consumer privacy protection regulations on the sector. The Federal Communications Commission likely will issue the proposed regulations by Friday. It will accept public comment on the proposal before taking final action. The program would require ISPs to meet privacy standards similar to those covering phone companies.
Google Gets Serious About Cloud Services
March 28, 2016
Google, which lags Amazon and Microsoft in cloud infrastructure services, last week released a slew of machine learning and analytics products and services. The Cloud Machine Learning platform provides access through REST APIs to the technologies powering Google Now, Google Photos and voice recognition in Google Search. The tools are designed to let users build predictive analytics models.
Oculus Rift Offers the Best VR Experience Yet, Reviewers Say
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.
Microsoft Apologizes for Corrupted Chatbot's Nasty Comments
March 28, 2016
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.
Dish Networks' Hopper 3 Takes a Leap and a Bound
March 26, 2016
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.
Blendle Bets Readers Will Micropay for Good Journalism
March 25, 2016
Blendle, a Netherlands-based news aggregation site that draws comparisons to Spotify, on Wednesday announced its beta launch in the U.S. Blendle made its debut with the participation of several major new organizations and financial backing from Axel Springer and The New York Times. The 5-year-old company, which recently expanded into Germany, has opened the beta phase to 10,000 users.
Google Aims to Build a Better iOS Keyboard
March 24, 2016
Google has been developing a third-party keyboard for Apple devices in an effort to increase the number of Google searches on iOS, according to a news report published Tuesday. The keyboard, which is being tested internally, reportedly would incorporate a number of search options and a Swype-like feature to guess the intended word when a user slides a finger from one letter to another.
Google Says Sayonara to Chrome App Launcher
March 23, 2016
Google on Tuesday announced that it was shutting down the Chrome app launcher everywhere but in the Chrome OS. That means users who like to launch their favorite Google apps from a menu will have to settle for launching them only within the Google Chrome browser or through shortcuts in their bookmark bar. Windows, Mac and Linux users prefer launching their apps within Chrome.
Gadget Ogling: Bathroom Bots, Bedroom Bulbs, and Doorbell Detectives
March 22, 2016
Can you imagine a time before robot vacuum cleaners? The world was a messier place, certainly in the homes of those with too little impetus to pick up a broom or vacuum cleaner once in a while. Thankfully, for those of us who don't mind sweeping but are less enthused about using the mop, robotic help is on its way in a more affordable model: the Braava Jet from iRobot.
Scientists Track Sloshed Tweeters in Real Time
March 21, 2016
Applied machine learning techniques can identify tweeters' behaviors in real time and locate them to within 100 meters, according to a paper Rochester University computer scientists published earlier this month. The team focused on discovering patterns of alcohol use in urban and suburban settings to better understand where and how people drink.
Could Anonymous Get Trump Elected?
March 21, 2016
Much of the analysis that I've seen regarding the U.S. presidential election season concludes that it is progressing like the Goldwater vs. Johnson election in the 1960s, when the Republican Party torpedoed its own candidate, ensuring a Democratic Party win. This is happening despite statistics that suggest Hillary Clinton is an extremely weak candidate.
Apple Loses Video Over IP Patent Scuffle in Germany
March 18, 2016
A German court on Wednesday determined that Apple had infringed a patent owned by the Kudelski Group's OpenTV division. Apple products sold in Germany can't use streaming technology that infringes OpenTV's patents, the court reportedly ruled. The suit was brought in 2014 in Düsseldorf District Court over three patents held by OpenTV and its sister company, Nagra.
Google Reports Web Traffic Encryption Progress
March 18, 2016
Google this week launched a section of its transparency report to track the progress of efforts to encrypt the Web, by both the company and third-party sites estimated to account for about 25 percent of Web traffic. The report will be updated weekly with information about progress the company has made toward implementing HTTPS by default across its services.
Instagram's New Algorithm Promises Most Favorable Sorting
March 17, 2016
Instagram on Tuesday announced plans to dump chronological posts in favor of algorithmic recommendations. Users miss about 70 percent of the content that flows through their feeds, which the company attributed to its growth and its system for ordering content. The new algorithm, which will begin rolling out in the coming months, will weigh the content by relevancy to the user.
Celebgate Hacker Strikes Plea Deal
March 17, 2016
Prosecutors for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California on Tuesday announced they had reached a plea agreement with Ryan Collins, a Pennsylvania resident, over charges that he hacked Apple and Google email accounts of more than 100 people back in 2014. The allegations stemmed from the official investigation into the hacking case dubbed "Celebgate."
Xbox Signals It's Ready to Rumble
March 16, 2016
Microsoft this week announced that it would support cross-network play between its latest gaming console and other platforms. Cross-network support would allow Xbox One players to engage in multiplayer gaming with friends and randoms on platforms such as Steam and the PlayStation Network. It will be up to developers to support cross-platform games, however.
Digital Assistants Fail Abysmally in Crisis Situations
March 16, 2016
Personal digital assistants are of little benefit for people experiencing a serious personal crisis, such as sexual assault or thoughts of suicide, according to a study published Monday. The research looked at four major personal assistants. For the most part, they were unable to recommend solutions when users expressed severe mental anguish, or reported domestic violence, sexual assault or forms of imminent danger.
Microsoft Quashes Bitcoin Scare
March 14, 2016
Micrososft on Monday withdrew a notice posted earlier in the day to its Windows website, which declared that bitcoin currency no longer would be accepted in its users' accounts. "We continue to support Bitcoin for adding money to your Microsoft Account which can be used for purchasing content in the Windows and Xbox stores," the company said. "We apologize for inaccurate information."
USA Today to Experiment With Virtual Reality News Show
March 14, 2016
The USA Today Network last week announced VRtually There, a virtual reality news program that will evolve alongside the nascent VR sector. Set to launch this spring, VRtually There will air an assortment of regularly scheduled programming, according to the Gannett-owned company. It will lean on the network's newsrooms to deliver original reporting for the VR platform.
Philips Gets Biological With Home Lighting
March 14, 2016
Philips Lighting on Monday unveiled its Philips Hue white ambiance connected light bulbs. Designed to feature more natural light, the bulbs can gradually brighten in the morning to help users wake up naturally, while at night they can dim to help ease users to sleep. They also deliver a color temperature range that can be adjusted via a connected dimmer switch or through an app.
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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.