iPad: What's in a Name?
Apple's newest tablet is named simply "iPad" -- no HD or 3 about it. But it does have a high-resolution screen, along with 4G LTE support and a new A5X chip with quad-core graphics. Availability is set for March 16. Meanwhile, authorities crack down on LulzSec after a member reportedly squeals, Netflix cuddles up with cable companies, and inventors in Japan build a shut-up machine.
Apple finally drew the curtain on its next-generation iPad, revealing a device that looks a whole lot like last year's model but is definitely packing some heavier guts.
First of all the screen is now a super-sharp Retina display, so named because theoretically you shouldn't be able to spot the individual pixels with a naked eye. It's like the display you can already find on an iPhone 4 or 4S.
Also, as usual, the new iPad is loaded with faster processors -- it's got a new A5X chip with quad-core graphics.
The device's cameras have been given a brush-up, with the rear cam now able to record HD video. And now the iPad is available with 4G LTE wireless for those who don't mind paying for cellular data. This strongly hints at the possibility that the next iPhone may be an LTE device as well.
The new iPad follows Apple's standing price structure. Models start at US$500 and go all the way up to $830 for LTE plus maximum storage. Meanwhile, the iPad 2 now starts at $400.
Now, about the name -- I haven't called it an "iPad 3" or an "iPad HD" because apparently that's not its name. Apple is only referring to it as the "new iPad." That could lead to a little initial confusion, but on some levels it does make sense. Apple doesn't call its latest MacBook Pro the "MacBook Pro 7" or whatever generation it happens to be on. If you need to know which generation it is, you can find out, but in terms of branding and casual reference, it's just a MacBook Pro. And now its seems iPads will just be iPads.
Besides, the naming convention for the iPhone is already getting a little weird. The second model had a three in it, the fifth model has a four in it, and if they call the next one "iPhone 5," it'll actually be the sixth generation.
And who knows, maybe Apple's also taking a swipe at Android for what critics have said is its fragmented nature.
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The Google Superstore
If you pick through the differences between the world of iOS and the world of Android, you might see that their ways of selling content are different. Apple brings it all in via a single pipeline -- iTunes. Books, movies, TV shows, music, apps, whatever -- it all comes through that single iHub. There are ways to side-load other stuff, of course, but this single iTunes shopping center is the iPhone's official content dealer.
Google supports Android in much the same way. It's a more open platform, but Google still services it with Google Music, the Android Market, Google Books and so forth.
Until recently, though, all those services were scattered among different sites. But now Google's drawn them all together under a new single destination: Google Play. Now that's the place that Android users or those who just prefer Google's services can go to stock up on media.
It feels like a more iTunes-like way for Google to run its store, and it says Play is designed to be less of a hassle for buyers and offer a smoother experience -- visiting a department store rather than walking through several blocks of downtown retail, for example.
However, the Android Market is already a solid brand. Millions of Android users are familiar with the name as the place they go to get most or all of their mobile apps. Now, though, they'll be directed to a new place -- same wares, just a new location.
There's also some concern in the development community that Google's mobile app store will end up sharing resources with the company's other media download channels now that they're all under the same roof.
Despite the rocky times it's gone through since last summer, Netflix still gets a lot of love from many of its customers, and some of its biggest fans include so-called cable cutters -- people who don't bother with cable TV subscriptions but still manage to get plenty of entertainment, legally, through various online sources.
True cable-cutters are a pretty small fraction of all TV viewers, but their very existence makes cable companies shudder. Netflix's streaming selection isn't exactly bristling with A-list titles, but combine it with DVDs, the stuff you can get for free on Hulu, and maybe an odd iTunes or Amazon splurge every now and then, and a cable cutter could reasonably expect to park butt on couch for several hours a night without paying a penny in cable or satellite bills.
But those cable companies may be getting ready to embrace the enemy. Netflix is in negotiations to make its streaming library a sort of piggyback service to accompany cable television packages, according to a Reuters report. People who subscribe to cable packages could get access to everything Netflix offers, perhaps right through their cable boxes and DVRs.
Asked to comment on the report, Netflix had a bit of Zen moment: "What's revolutionary is evolutionary" is what Communications VP Steve Swasey told us when we contacted him. I'm going to try chanting that during my next trip to the sensory deprivation chamber. But that's not a denial of what Reuters wrote, so a deal like this may indeed be in discussion.
If it's true, Netflix could be in for a revenue surge. It might not make as much money per customer if it's using a cable company as a middleman. But at this point, further growth is difficult for Netflix to achieve without heading in a new direction, and partnering with Big Cable could bring in a huge number of new users. And by becoming friendlier with cable companies, it may also find it a little easier to snag content, another thing that's becoming more difficult for it to do lately.
From the cable companies' perspective, bringing Netflix into the fold gives them yet another premium product to tack onto service packages.
As for Netflix's current customers who like things just fine the way they are: Whether they win or not will be determined by how Netflix handles itself. A deal with cable companies could result in more content for all users. Or it could eventually result in Netflix becoming the next HBO: a great perk if you pay for cable, but good luck getting it if you want it a la carte.
The hacker collective Anonymous claims that its numbers are legion, and who am I to argue with that? There's no central registration database. If you want to be an anon, just call yourself an anon, and maybe do some anony stuff now and then -- DDoS attacks, breaking into corporate and government servers, that kind of thing.
But the group LulzSec is a little different. It's more or less in the same ballpark as Anonymous politically, but LulzSec is less amorphous, and if you keep tabs on its exploits long enough, you'll start recognizing some actual nicknames -- "Sabu," "Topiary," "Pwnsauce," "Anarchaos," to name a few.
Also, several members of LulzSec aren't anonymous at all -- not anymore. In fact, they were reportedly outed by none other than one of LulzSec's very own: Hector Monsegur, aka "Sabu." He'd apparently been in cahoots with the FBI for months, naming names, providing information, and helping agencies in multiple countries build a case against the entire gang. That case recently resulted in several arrests.
So what did LulzSec do to make everyone so mad in the first place? They've claimed responsibility for several high-profile cyberattacks over the last year or so, targeting organizations like Sony, Fox News, the CIA, PBS, and any other group that's displeased them to any degree. But Operation AntiSec was perhaps the group's most serious undertaking. LulzSec and other hackers associated with Anonymous declared open season on all classified government information, encouraging everyone everywhere to do anything they could to obtain and expose state secrets of any kind. This resulted in a variety of data breaches, including the publication of personal information belonging to members of the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
But now about a half-dozen alleged LulzSec members are in custody in the U.S., UK and Ireland, thanks to Sabu's reported snitching. The coordinated arrests are evidence that authorities in different countries are getting better at cooperating with each other to pursue cybercriminals. And the fact that so many suspects were arrested simultaneously may make some other would-be malicious hackers reconsider their vocation.
However, these arrests represent just a handful of the many highly talented computer hackers in the world. Some are associated with collectives like Anonymous, which may be more difficult to stamp out because they're so nebulous and intentionally disorganized in nature. It may be impossible to determine just how "legion" they really are in number, but judging by their propensity for retaliation, they seem true to the other part of their motto -- the part that goes "we do not forgive, we do not forget."
A couple of inventors in Japan have finally built a gadget that's been sought after for ages by countless teachers, librarians, movie theater attendees and on-air political windbags: a device that makes someone just shut the hell up.
You don't have to use a gag or chemicals or darts or anything like that. The person you're trying to silence probably won't even realize what just happened. They'll just stop talking because all of a sudden it feels funny.
It's called the "SpeechJammer." It looks kind of like a police radar gun, and it basically works by hacking your brain.
When it's pointed at a person who's talking, its long-range microphone picks up the words, then uses a directional speaker to send that speech back at the talker.
So far it sounds like people who like to hear themselves speak would just love this thing, right? But the SpeechJammer's trick is to play that speech back with a 0.2-second delay. So the speaker hears what he or she just said a fifth of a second ago, causing what's known as "delayed auditory feedback." For most people, it completely disrupts their ability to keep talking.
It works, it doesn't send anyone to the hospital, and the effect disappears as soon as the target stops yapping.
Obviously, the prank potential for such a device is nothing short of revolutionary, though there are some concerns that its use could go much further than that, even all the way up to oppressive governments silencing protest. It would definitely be hard to exercise free speech if you couldn't physically talk.