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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.
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.
DC Healthcare Provider Limps On After Malware Attack
April 1, 2016
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.
ACLU Finds Widespread Use of All Writs Act to Compel Cooperation
April 1, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday announced that it had identified dozens of criminal cases in which the government has made requests for cooperation in unlocking encrypted phones -- both of Apple and of Google. The government has used the All Writs Act to compel a phone manufacturer to hand over data to law enforcement in a total of 63 cases, the ACLU report shows.
Stakes High as Tesla Gets Ready to Pull the Wraps Off Model 3
March 31, 2016
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.
Microsoft Tells Devs to Talk to the Bots
March 31, 2016
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."
Gadget Ogling: Honey, I Shrunk the iPhone
March 31, 2016
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.
Oracle Ups Java Damages Demand to $9.3B
March 30, 2016
Oracle has asked for $9.3 billion in damages in its multiyear lawsuit against Google over the use of Java in Android, according to a report filed last week in federal court. That amount is reportedly about 10 times what it had initially asked for. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for May 9 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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.
You Rang? Microsoft's Holoportation Redefines Face-to-Face Communication
March 29, 2016
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.
Feds Crack iPhone, Warn Apple to Keep One Eye Open
March 29, 2016
After a bitter legal battle over encryption and privacy rights, the Department of Justice on Monday announced it would back out of its case against Apple because the FBI was able to crack the code of the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters. The department had asked a federal magistrate judge to force Apple to help the FBI crack open the encrypted smartphone.
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.
Chinese National Cops Plea in Defense Secrets Case
March 29, 2016
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.
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.
The Brand New Made-in-Space Frontier
March 25, 2016
What happens when you're 220 miles above Earth on the International Space Station and you need a tool you don't have? You can print one yourself. In 2014, American astronauts for the first time printed a tool -- a ratchet wrench -- using a design file sent from NASA on the ground to the 3D printer spinning about in space. The feat was only the first step to much larger miracles in space.
FBI Would Rather Crack Terrorist's iPhone Itself
March 23, 2016
On the eve of a court showdown with Apple over unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, the FBI put its case on pause Monday to pursue an attack method that could allow it to crack the phone without Apple's assistance. After reviewing the FBI's request for postponement of oral arguments in the case, a U.S. District Court in California granted the delay.
Apple's CareKit Gives More Power to the Patient
March 23, 2016
Perhaps worthy of more attention than it received at Apple's Loop You In event on Monday is CareKit. The open source platform will allow developers to create consumer-focused applications to help patients communicate with healthcare providers and closely monitor their own health conditions. Similar to ResearchKit, CareKit applies many of the same tools to patient care.
Supreme Court to End Samsung, Apple Patent Brawl
March 22, 2016
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Samsung regarding its patent dispute with Apple. The case stems from a 2011 lawsuit by Apple that alleged Samsung copied certain design elements and features from the iPhone and iPad and used them in Samsung Galaxy phones and tablet computers. A jury in 2012 awarded $1 billion to Apple.
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.
Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs, DoT Team to Ease Gridlock
March 22, 2016
The U.S. Department of Transportation last week announced a partnership with Alphabet subsidiary Sidewalk Labs to help cities ease gridlock using Google's vast array of technology and traffic data. Sidewalk Labs will work with the seven finalists in the DoT's Smart City Challenge on a plan to help ease congestion and improve mobility to disadvantaged communities under a program called "Flow."
Car Computers Are Vehicles for Hacking, Warns FBI
March 22, 2016
The FBI, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week issued a warning about the threat of automobile hacking. Computers that control steering, braking, acceleration and lights, as well as wireless technologies used in keyless entry, ignition control and navigation systems, provide portals for cyberattack, the agencies said.
Judge Delays Encryption Hearing After FBI Says It May Not Need Apple's Help
March 21, 2016
A federal magistrate judge on Monday granted the Department of Justice's request to delay a much-anticipated court hearing that had been scheduled to take place on Tuesday in Riverside, Calif. The court granted an indefinite stay, after the DoJ said it had found a possible method of accessing the encrypted iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist without the help of Apple.
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.
Low-Cost Bundle Beckons Gamers to PlayStation VR
March 21, 2016
Sony last week announced it would begin taking preorders for a cost-shaving virtual reality bundle. Priced at $499, the PlayStation VR bundle includes everything needed except the PlayStation 4 console. It contains a VR headset, cables, stereo headphones, a PlayStation camera, two PlayStation Move motion controllers and a pair of discs etched with VR demos.
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.
Apple Channels Founding Fathers in Legal Brief
March 17, 2016
Lawyers for Apple on Tuesday argued in a federal District Court filing that the founding fathers would be appalled by the demands the Department of Justice has made in seeking a backdoor to iPhone encryption. The DoJ and the FBI want "Apple to create exactly the kind of operating system that Congress has thus far refused to require," the lawyers wrote.
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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.