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Google's Project Ara Smartphone Puzzle Is Coming Together
January 14, 2015
Google on Wednesday shed fresh light on Project Ara, its modular Android smartphone initiative, including plans to pilot the project in Puerto Rico through food truck-style stores. Project Ara will offer a smartphone endoskeleton; users will be able to add the functionality they want piece by piece, rather than being confined by the hardware configurations determined by operators and providers.
Instacart Bags $220 Million
January 14, 2015
Instacart on Tuesday announced it has raised $220 million, following a $44 million investment round in June of last year. The company uses a fleet of personal shoppers, who are independent contractors, to purchase and deliver items to customers. "The two main differentiators for Instacart are our focus on grocery and our strategy to partner with retailers," said Instacart's Nilam Ganenthiran.
LG's WebOS: 3rd Time's the Charm?
January 13, 2015
LG Electronics turned up at last week's CES with a smartwatch that apparently runs webOS. LG used the watch to unlock an Audi at the show. "LG has never officially confirmed that we were planning a webOS smartwatch," said company spokesperson Ken Hong. "I think that is speculation based on the watch that Audi announced here at CES, which we developed but have not finalized the OS for."
Google Translate to Convert Talk to Text
January 13, 2015
Google soon will update its Translate mobile app to render words spoken in popular languages into written text, according to reports. This feature is already available for some major languages in the Google Chrome browser. In essence, the update will let two people converse in their own native tongues by listening to both and automatically translating their words.
Gadget Ogling: A Swank Walkman, a Brainy Grill, and Oh, So Much More From CES
January 10, 2015
Welcome to the year's first edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that offers infallible opinions on the latest gadget announcements. The mammoth CES trade show took place this week, and though it offered far too many new items to conceivably cram into a single column, we'll look at some of the most notable and notorious, including Sony's latest Walkman, a smart grill and more.
Will Apple's 12-inch MacBook Air Use One Port to Rule Them All?
January 08, 2015
There is a hot new MacBook Air rumor that's got the tech press all in a flutter, and get this: It's not about a long-awaited Retina display for the MacBook Air. Instead, the rumor claims that Apple's redesigned MacBook Air will be remarkably smaller, with a 12-inch screen -- and just one port. The new MacBook Air design reportedly will drop the current MacBook Air's USB 3 ports.
Sony's New Walkman Aims Sky High
January 06, 2015
Sony on Monday debuted a new Walkman at CES that's as notable for its hefty price as for its high-end features. Listed at $1,119.99, the new Walkman NW-ZX2 is several hundred dollars more than last year's Walkman NW-ZX1. In return, it promises "high-resolution audio like never before," thanks to Sony's new S-Master HX digital amplifier and DSEE HX technology.
We Are the World: Samsung's Vision for IoT
January 06, 2015
The world needs one open ecosystem to enable the Internet of Things, and Samsung is prepared to lead the way, said CEO BK Yoon at the 2015 International CES. Serving up the classic depiction of IoT -- always-on, always-connected devices working together -- Yoon said the technology for linking smart radios, smart TVs, smartphones and smart homes will be available later this year.
CES: Oh, the Amazing Things You Will See
January 05, 2015
Writing a CES teaser is a bit difficult because I actually know a great deal about what will be announced, but I can't share the details because I'm bound by a variety of ironclad NDAs. However, I can comment in general about the product categories you are going to see opened up at the show, and I have to say you'd better lock up your wallet because much of this is cool and you'll likely want it.
New Filter Family Adds Diversity to Instagram Toolset
January 02, 2015
Instagram recently added some new filters -- the first time it has done so in two years. Each of the filters included in the latest version allow users to make subtle mood changes to a photo. "Filters are becoming a competitive advantage for Instagram so I suspect you'll see it develop more filters as time goes on because that's the real value of their service," noted IDC Research Director Chris Chute.
Misfortune Cookie Crumbles Millions of Security Systems
December 29, 2014
Check Point Software Technologies recently revealed a flaw in millions of routers that allows the devices to be controlled by hackers. The company detected 12 million Internet-connected devices that have the flaw. The vulnerability, which Check Point dubbed "Misfortune Cookie," can be found in the code of a commonly used embedded Web server, RomPager from AllegroSoft.
The Big Tech Stories of 2015
December 29, 2014
Last week, we looked back at the largely untold, or under told, stories of 2014. This week, let's look ahead to some of the stories that are coming in 2015. We'll have robots, self-driving cars, armed autonomous drones, the professional proliferation of head mounted cameras, some scandals, and some interesting political implications. I'll close with my product of the year, which even surprised me.
Flaws in Ancient Standard Enable Wireless Eavesdropping, Spying
December 23, 2014
Vulnerabilities in Signaling System 7, telephony signaling protocols used by carriers worldwide, allow third parties to listen to people's cellphone calls and intercept text messages despite encryption, The Washington Post reported last week. German cybersecurity researchers Tobias Engel of Sternraute and Karsten Nohl of Security Research Labs separately discovered these vulnerabilities.
Amazon Plans Fire Phone Do-Over for 2016
December 23, 2014
Amazon reportedly is working on a second iteration of its Fire Phone for release in 2016. Following the disappointing performance of the phone's first generation, it appears the company has gone back to the drawing board to determine the combination of features that will succeed. The first Fire Phone was "quite the learning experience," said analyst Michael Morgan.
Boeing Picks BlackBerry to Brace Black's Security
December 22, 2014
Boeing has enlisted BlackBerry to help bolster the security of its Black smartphone by providing "secure mobile solutions for Android devices utilizing their BES-12 platform," said Boeing spokesperson Andrew Lee. BES 12 provides cross-platform enterprise mobile management that gives organizations strict control of devices, while letting users keep personal data private.
Gadget Ogling: Budget Fitness Tracking, Focused Writing and Red-Hot Wearables
December 22, 2014
Gather around, friends, for another edition of the column that holds up just-announced gadgets to scrutiny, Gadget Dreams and Nightmares. In the stocking for our pre-holidays edition are a smartphone-controlled lock, an inexpensive fitness tracker, a red-hot wearable and much more. While I've looked before at smartphone-enabled door locks, Sony's take on the idea, the Qrio, stands out.
Which Stars Will Shine Brightest in Apple's Brilliant 2015?
December 19, 2014
The end of the year and holiday season is a natural time to look back -- and then look forward to the year to come. Apple started 2014 slowly, but more than made up for it in the long haul, introducing the Apple Watch, Apple Pay, Mac OS X Yosemite, iOS 8, an iPad Air 2 with a super-fast processor, the massively selling iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, and a luscious iMac with a 5K Retina screen.
Feds Pounce on Sprint for Phone Bill Cramming
December 18, 2014
The United States government is delivering a one-two punch to Sprint over the practice of cramming -- allowing third parties to place unauthorized charges on customers' bills. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau on Thursday filed a civil suit against Sprint over the issue. Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission reportedly is planning to hit Sprint with a $105 million fine.
BMW's Self-Parking Tech Relieves Drivers From Circling the Lot
December 18, 2014
BMW Group this week previewed the automated parking technology it will showcase at next month's International CES in Las Vegas. The Remote Valet Parking Assistant features 36-degree collision avoidance with secure position and environment recognition. It can be controlled via a smartwatch. The technology will be demonstrated at the trade show in BMW's electric i3.
BlackBerry Bucks Up Its Loyal Base With Classic Comeback
December 17, 2014
BlackBerry has unveiled the BlackBerry Classic, a handset with a full QWERTY physical keyboard, physical navigation keys, and a design that can be best described as "retro," in that its appearance is virtually identical to the BlackBerry Bold. The Classic, which is smaller than the company's recently launched Passport smartphone, targets users who still long for the traditional BlackBerry handset.
Google's Cardboard VR Kit Is Really No Joke
December 17, 2014
Google last week announced an updated app for its minimalist Cardboard virtual-reality viewer, as well as software development kits for both Android and the Unity game engine. It also published new building specifications for those interested in making their own Cardboard viewers and announced that it's hiring more people to work on the project, with five new positions now open.
Disappointed iPod Plaintiffs: Jurors Didn't Weigh the Right Questions
December 17, 2014
After a 10-year knock-down drag-out battle, Apple on Tuesday prevailed in a class-action lawsuit over its use of digital rights management technology on iPods purchased between Sept. 1, 2006 and March 31, 2009. Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd -- one of the "most feared litigation firms" in the U.S. -- brought the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Viber Eases Into Casual Gaming
December 16, 2014
Viber on Monday announced the launch of Viber Games, the latest expansion in its app development. This is the third such expansion for the company in as many months, following the launch of Mobile Video Calls and Viber Public Chats. Viber partnered with social game developers to create gaming experiences featuring Viber characters and exclusive content.
Have Intel and Microsoft Discovered the Fountain of Corporate Youth?
December 15, 2014
This has been an interesting quarter. After Andy Grove left, Intel often seemed to struggle with its place in the world and seemed at odds with the computing OEMs. Now, though, it seems more and more like it did when it was 20 years younger. It's not alone, either. Microsoft, which seemed to have forgotten why there were OEMs, suddenly is acting much more like the firm we knew in the early 90s.

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