TechSummit Rewind #015: January 16th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This is the TechSummit Rewind, which presses pause on the TechSummit Rewind.

HBO Go comes to PlayStation

HBO Go playstation

HBO Go has made its way to PlayStation. While there isn’t a release window for the premium service’s streaming app, Sony’s VP of business development assures it’ll be “soon” for the PS3, with a PS4 version to follow. However, as with other streaming services on the platforms (including Amazon Instant Video and Netflix), the app’s functionality won’t be locked behind a paywall, like it was on Microsoft’s consoles.

Huawei joins octa-core club with high-spec mobile chip of its own

ces2013huawei-lab1

It’s been a year since Huawei’s Richard Yu teased his company’s octa-core HiSilicon system-on-chip, and according to a post on Sina Weibo, it’s finally ready. In fact, Yu revealed that his company’s launched two new 28nm HPM chips. The octa-core model features the usual quad Cortex-A15 plus Cortex-A7 big.LITTLE combo; and there’s also a new quad-core Cortex A9 model, which succeeds the 40nm K3V2 that features the same architecture. What’s unclear is whether the octa-core chip will allow all eight cores to run simultaneously, but we do know that both chips come with a multi-mode LTE modem that will also handle both WCDMA and China Mobile’s TD-SCDMA radios.

Yu also posted to say we’re entering the era of 64-bit octa-core processor (Cortex A53 plus Cortex A57) this year, but the message got deleted soon after. Anyhow, we have a feeling that we’ll be hearing more in the TechSummit Rewind’s MWC 2014 coverage. That’s not to say that Huawei’s saying goodbye to Qualcomm and MediaTek, though as Yu confirmed that he’ll have more “high-end” devices featuring chips from the two companies.

Jawbone’s second-gen Era headset is 42% smaller, comes with own charging case

Jawbone Era 2nd gen

Wearables might have taken over the show at CES 2014, but given that we were just a month from the Up24’s release, chances were slim that we were going to see another wearable from Jawbone so soon. Instead, the company went back to its roots by announcing a new version of its Era Bluetooth headset, with a smaller design, a 10-hour battery and a bundled charging case. In particular, the new Era is 42 percent more compact than the last-gen model, with a new earpiece that’s said to fit more securely. On the audio front, Jawbone moved to MEMS microphones and overhauled its Noise Assassin noise cancellation technology with support for wider-band audio. You can also use voice commands to boss Siri about, assuming you own an Apple device. It’s on sale now in four colors starting at $100, but the charging case will set you back another $30.

Adobe adds 3D printing software to Photoshop CC, MakerBot and Shapeways support in tow

photoshop-3d-printing

With desktop 3D printing’s emergence, a long-trusted name in creative software is looking to offer tools for the job. Adobe has announced an update to Photoshop CC that includes 3D printing capabilities to simplify the 3D print process. The new functionality allows you to refine, preview, prep and output those three-dimensional creations. Starting from scratch or using an existing model, Photoshop’s tools like automated mesh repair and support structure generation lend a hand with final production. The software will also add scaffolding under your creations so that they don’t collapse during the production process and automatically check for watertightness.

When you’re ready for printing, Photoshop CC has built-in support for four 3D printers, Shapeways online community/marketplace for printing away at home and publishing models on Sketchfab. Using the latter’s 3D viewer, projects can get posted to Behance for an online portfolio. Support for directly printing from Photoshop to the 3D Systems Cube, MakerBot Replicator 2, MakerBot Replicator 2x and Zcorp Full Color is there, as is the ability to export an STL file. You can also preview finished prints from each device and the Shapeways marketplace to make a more accurate product. Photoshop even allows for material selection and provides pricing, if you choose to go with the online printing company. Support for more of “the more popular” printing models is “on the way.”

Winston Hendrickson, Adobe creative media solutions VP of products:

“Before today there was a gap between the content produced by 3D modeling tools and what 3D printers need in order to deliver high quality results. Now, by simply clicking ‘Print’ in Photoshop CC, creatives can bring 3D designs to the physical world.”

What’s more, the outfit expects current users to stay in Photoshop to 3D print items such as packaging mockups and more.

Don’t worry, tools for regular use are in the update as well. Perspective Warp allows you to change an object’s viewpoint and Linked Smart Objects to improve collaborative efforts with automatic updating. All of the new tools and features are available now as a free update to Creative Cloud subscribers.

NSA also collected text messages

nsa

Secretly sifting through your text messages isn’t just for overprotective parents and paranoid lovers anymore. The NSA’s prying eyes have shifted from call logs and location data to your texts in a not-so-secret initiative called Dishfire. The agency collected about 200 million text messages per day globally, according to the Guardian, extracting location data, contact information and credit card numbers. This revelation, unsurprisingly sprung from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. According to the paper, the British intelligence agency known as the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) also used the NSA’s database to cull information about “untargeted and unwarranted” communications by UK citizens, noting that the program collects “pretty much everything it can.”

In addition to collecting and storing data from texts, a 2011 NSA presentation titled “SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit,” revealed a second program, referred to as “Prefer.” Under Prefer, the agency used information pulled from automated text messages, missed call and network roaming alerts and electronic business cards to collect information about users’ travel habits and social connections. While the documents, complete with smiley face Venn diagrams and gemstone metaphors, stated that US phone numbers were either removed or minimized. The same cannot be said for numbers from the UK and elsewhere.

In a response to the report, an NSA spokesperson told the Guardian that the information would only be used against “valid foreign intelligence targets.” Meanwhile, the GCHQ claims it used the Dishfire results to develop new targets. According to a Vodafone representative, the finding came as a shock and the program sounded like it circumvented UK privacy and security standards.

NetZero’s mobile broadband now works wherever Sprint has LTE

NetZero-MiFi

Like the person who thinks socks with sandals is a bold fashion statement, WiMAX is a mobile technology that rarely gets invited to the cool parties anymore. NetZero, realizing that its WiMAX powered mobile broadband needs to keep up with the times, signed a deal to use Springs’s 3G and 4G networks, to bolster — and eventually replace — the service. Stage one of the agreement is live now, enabling NetZero users to hop on Big Yellow’s network, which is more robust than Clearwire’s equivalent.

Xbox One #1 in the US with 908,000 consoles sold in December: Microsoft

XboxD_Logo_Consle_Sensr_controller_F_GreenBG_RGB_2013Microsoft and Sony already went head to head with worldwide sales numbers for 2013 and while the PS4 won that battle by 1.2 million consoles, the Xbox One apparently sold more systems in the US in December 2013. Microsoft is touting sales of 908,000 Xbones that put it atop the current generation of videogame systems, with 643,000 for the Xbox 360. That puts the Xbox One predecessor in third place on the home hardware list and first for its hardware generation. 

Facebook adds Trending topics to keep you updated on what’s hot in the social universe

trending_facebook

After several months of testing, Facebook has officially rolled out a Trending feature that, just like its Twitter counterpart, lets users see what’s dominating the conversation on the social platform. The new column, which is on the right of users’ News Feeds, groups the most popular topics in a list and displays a headline summary to add some context on its importance. Facebook isn’t just taking this data from its massive global reach and giving you a worldwide view of what’s trending, but customizing the feed based on your interests and friends. Clicking on a topic will take you to a relevant post from a friend of a sponsored Page.

Hershey, 3D Systems join forces to create printable confections

3D Systems ChefJet

 

You may have to settle for getting your chocolate in teardrop, bar or bunny form no longer. The Hershey Company has signed an agreement to develop printable treats with 3D Systems, which announced its own chocolate-equipped printer at CES. That yet-to-be-released machine will fall under the ChefJet line, and supports printing sugar-filled 3D objects.

DoubleTwist’s new Android app now records songs played on iTunes Radio

Airplay-Recorder

 

DoubleTwist has been freeing music from iTunes’ grasp for years, so it was only a matter of time before they figured out how to do the same with songs played on iTunes Radio. The app’s called, simply enough, iTunes Radio Recorder and it turns your Android phone into an AirPlay device — not literally as the app on your phone simply populates as an optional AirPlay streaming device in iTunes on your Mac or PC.

Once the app gets selected for AirPlay streaming, music gets played and recorded in real-time. Not quite as quick as a download, but it is a way to avoid Apple’s digital audio shackles.

Monique Farantzos, DoubleTwist co-founder and president, on piracy and legal concerns:

“Recording has been around for decades, from audio cassettes to TuneIn Radio’s recording feature. Given that Apple built their iPod empire on letting millions of people rip CDs based on fair use, we don’t see how they could object to this app.”

Intel’s revenues and profit stay flat in Q4 2013 as PC sales level off

An employee walks past an Intel logo during the 2014 Computex exhibition at the TWTC Nangang exhibition hall in Taipei

 

Intel may have just validated concerns that the PC market had a relatively weak Q4 2013. The chipmaker reported a net profit for the period of $2.6 billion based on $13.8 billion in revenue, which is only slightly better year-to-year; but a drop from the summer. While the company’s Data Center and Other Intel Architecture groups did boost their revenue year-over-year by eight and nine percent, respectively, its PC Client division was flat. In other words, any extra cash came largely from embedded chips (including mobile) and servers, not traditional desktops and laptops.

These results also gave Intel a chance to look back at 2013 as a whole. The Data Center group was the only one to boost its revenue during the year, while the PC group saw a four percent drop in revenue, and the Other Intel group dipped seven percent.

Google Drive dev tools promise better, more powerful apps

google-drive-work

 

If you’re an Android user, there’s little doubt that you’re familiar with Google Drive, the preferred cloud storage service of Mountain View that completes with the Dropboxes, Onedrives and iClouds of the world. Of course, Drive can also be used by developers to build better apps, and Google has rolled out a new Drive for Android API to make devs’ jobs even easier — and offer better app experiences. The main attraction is a feature called transparent offline syncing, which, for users, means that cloud storage gets treated the same as local storage.

So, you get the benefits of GDrive’s realistically infinite amounts of storage, without using any of your phone’s local storage. And, if you don’t have a good enough connection to the cloud, the API automatically shifts to storing your data locally until reception improves to send it to the servers. Because of this, developers can design more capable, powerful and generally better app user experiences for cheaper and flagship handsets aside. Speaking of which, these features will work on 98 percent of all Android devices, according to Google, so most of us will reap the benefits.

T-Mobile will pay you to switch from a smaller carrier

T-Mobile Logo

 

Some Americans have no doubt been tempted by T-Mobile’s willingness to pay early termination fees for switchers, but the offer has many catches — you have to jump ship from the big 3 carriers (AT&T, Verizon and Sprint), for one thing. However, according to Re/code, that’s about to change. It plans to extend the deal to cover fees from over a dozen smaller providers, like US Cellular. The Uncarrier will also accept more devices for trade-ins, and they won’t even have to be in working order.

Nickelodeon’s new interactive kids channel will bring streaming features to live TV

MyNickJr (1)[1]_0

As parents have rapidly discovered, kids don’t really mind the drawbacks of Amazon or Netflix streaming and just want to watch their favorite show, again and again. That’s where the internet services are beating traditional TV, and Nickelodeon has prepared an answer. According to the Wall Street Journal and Fierce Cable, its “My Nick Jr.” channel will appear in the guide like any other, but provides a custom lineup of shows based on preselected preferences, and even cut out the ads. Other features will let parents check what their kids watch and set time limits, while the kids can rate shows with a smile or frown.

There’s no word on the technology behind My Nick Jr., but it’s coming to Verizon’s FiOS TV service first in the US, and eventually mobile devices as well. Nickelodeon’s parent company Viacom already tested out the service on France’s CanalSat, and hints that the personalized channel concept could spread to its sister networks like MTV. A major issue holding it back is the millions of other cable boxes that won’t be able to handle the new setup. So far, conglomerates like Viacom and the existing US TV carriers have shown little interest in chopping up their bundles or offering video-on-demand style access as an alternative. Besides a ton of network-specific mobile apps (think: WatchESPN, WatchABC, etc.), this channel is one of the first steps toward that line.

Google Now comes to desktop Chrome

Google-Now-Card-Desktop

 

You can now check Google Now without reaching for your phone. Google has introduced the contextual notifications to the desktop, giving you alerts from the menu bar (Mac), taskbar (Windows) or notification center (Chrome OS). However, it’s not a seamless experience. You’ll first have to use Google Now on your mobile device, and location-sensitive cards like weather and traffic get tied to that device’s location, not your desktop’s.

China reveals COS government-approved operating system to break foreign software’s monopoly

ubuntu-kylin-and-china-operating-system-cos

China’s tried to create its own mobile OS ecosystem in the past, but OPhone’s attempt was hardly something to be proud of. This time around, though, Shanghai Liantong has joined forces with the Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ISCAS) and the government to launch COS, which simply stands for China Operating System.

Apart from the open-source code, this Linux-based OS got developed “entirely independently,” in the hopes of breaking the foreign software monopoly, as well as providing better localization for the likes of language input, cloud services and monetization.

Ironically, all the COS variants — in the forms of phones, tablets, PCs and set-top boxes — are very Android-like, and some of its features, like multitasking, content streaming and remote desktop, are nothing new. Even the HTC One and Butterfly S we saw looked like they still had HTC’s Sense 5 skin on it.

Tracking Point

 

The US military has bought six of TrackingPoint’s precision-guided firearms that can cost between $10,000-$27,000 each, according to the startup. These rifles come equipped with a Linux computer in the scope and sensors that automatically find environmental factors like weather and ground inclination. Users merely have to tag a target while peering into the scope, and the built-in computer will show them how to place the firearm before they press the trigger. The units will test if ordinary soldiers can compete against marksmen when given better weapons.

Oculus explains how to create a VR experience that doesn’t make people sick

vr-oculus-1

 

Oculus has released a guide to help you make a good virtual reality experience. The 39-page document aims to help combat simulator sickness, which can leave users of a poorly optimized virtual reality experience feeling nauseous, disoriented and uncomfortable. Inside, it features guidelines for minimum framerates, graphics aliasing and response times, but most of it focuses on creating a natural-feeling experience for the user.

Seemingly simple things, like a player’s walking speed or limitations in camera control, can have a major impact on how uncomfortable a player feels in a virtual space. The user’s awareness of their own presence in VR is also pretty important.

The document:

“Looking down and having no body is disconcerting. A full character avatar can do a lot to ground the user in the virtual environment.”

The guide has health warnings too, suggesting that users take 10 to 15 minute breaks for every hour spent in the Oculus Rift and declaring its 3D technology potentially unsafe for children.

Skype for iOS brings two-way HD video chat for A7-toting devices

skype_ios7

Skype has updated its iOS apps to support two-way HD video chat on all A7-equipped devices (iPhone 5S, iPad Air, iPad mini 2 and later). The update also lets the app receive chat messages in the background, and for those messages to sync faster across all your gadgets. The update is available now in the App Store.

Google’s new wearable project: a smart contact lens with medical uses

Google contact lenses

Google loves wearables and it’s getting even closer to your body with a developmental smart contact lens. Through miniaturized electronics, it can apparently measure the levels of glucose in your tears, offering diabetics an easier way to check their conditions without needles and blood. A tiny wireless chip and glucose sensor got wedged between two layers of “biocompatible” contact lens material, and Google is already working on embedding tiny LED lights for notifications, too.

Google rolls out 3D maps for Tokyo, other Japanese urban hubs

tokyo_03

As ubiquitous as 3D city maps might be these days, they typically don’t cover Tokyo — possibly due to its massive size. Google, however, has just taken on that daunting task. Fire up Google Maps or Google Earth and you’ll now see 3D imagery for metro Tokyo, including landmarks like the Tokyo Sky Tree. The expansion also brings 3D to the major population centers of Chiba, Kanagawa and Sendai.

Google Glass traffic ticket gets dismissed in court

Google Glass

Pay attention to the road. At least, until cars can drive themselves. That’s teh most basic rule of the road, and it was probably a leading reason why Google Glass user Cecilia Abadie got ticketed for using the eyewear being the wheel. It was a second citation, alongside speeding, although it got dismissed by San Diego Court Commissioner John Blair, noting that:

“There is no testimony it was operating or in use while Ms. Abadie was driving.”

However, he did say that Google’s wearable did fall within the state’s ban on driving with a monitor.

Xbox multimedia exec steps down because of Microsoft’s new ‘direction’

Xbox-one-multimedia

 

 

After a CEO switch-up and massive internal reorganization at Microsoft, the Xbox business has seemed the most stable division in Redmond. But it’s hardly immune from the aura of change with Variety reporting that Microsoft’s media and entertainment group VP has resigned.

 

Blair Westlake, former Microsoft media and entertiannment group VP:

“It has become clear to me that the organization is moving in a direction that does not fit either my expertise or my skill sets. I truly believe that this move is in the best interest of all parties concerned.”

He headed up both media partnerships and licensing agreements for Xbox since 2004.

Rdio now free on the web

rdio
Rdio customers can now listen to the service’s streaming library from a desktop browser for free, as long as they’re willing to sit through advertising. Of course, if commercials aren’t your thing, you can still cough up $9.99 a month to nip them with Rdio Unlimited.

Sharp unveils RW-16G Windows tablet that’s a keyboardless Ultrabook

Sharp RW-16G

Let’s see what we have here: Intel Core i5 processor, Windows 8.1, 3200×1800 15.6-inch display, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD; if Sharp’s RW-16G sounds like a solid laptop, you’re be surprised to hear that it’s actually a tablet. Sharp is keying in on business users for the slate with a bundled stylus for graphics professionals, along with screen sharing to assist during presentations. With the Japanese company’s IGZO screen tech, it’ll also outlast your bladder with nine hours of battery life.

Starbucks plans to secure user information with updated iOS app

Starbucks_On_Highland_04

 

Following the revelation that Starbucks’ mobile apps store data like usernames, passwords and location coordinates in plain text, a refreshed application is in the works, according to Cut Garner, the company’s chief information officer. According to Garner, the new iOS app will
“add extra layers of protection” to the “added measures” that “sufficiently address the concerns” referenced in last week’s TechSummit Rewind.

 

Version 2.6.2 of the Starbucks iOS app is available now with “additional performance enhancements and safeguards.” The press release didn’t go into too much more detail saying:

“As promised, we have released an updated version of Starbucks Mobile App for iOS which adds extra layers of protection. We encourage customers to download the update as an additional safeguard measure.”

-Starbucks press release announcing the update

Spotify gives desktop users unlimited music without a subscription

spotify desktop

 

Streaming from Spotify’s desktop client hasn’t been a simple affair. Users had to deal with grace periods, monthly caps and even limits on how many times they could listen to each track, but that’s all changing. The company has eliminated those stiupulations, allowing you to listen to as much music as you want subscription-free. There will be ads of course, but at least there aren’t any shuffle-only requirements on desktop, like on Spotify’s mobile apps.

 

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