Weekly Tech Views 24 – Best Of 2015

Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

As a blogger, I am required by internet law to submit an end-of-year "Best Of" list. Failure to do so results in a loss of my blogging license and expulsion from the International Membership of Accredited Bloggers Union - Tech Topics (IMABUTT).

As such, here are my favorite stories from this year's Weekly Tech Views. The Top 20 will appear over the next two weeks, I'm thinking of using some wacky format like numbers 20 - 11 this week and 10 - 1 to end the year next week.

Let's begin our stroll down technology memory lane…

Numbers 20 and 19 (October 31, 2015)…

Wait For It…
Architecturally, the Microsoft store is three stories tall, and expected to be one of the brightest buildings in Manhattan, because…

…of all…

…the Windows.

(I have a few more stories to talk about, but I expect many of you will be leaving now, so thanks for stopping by.)

And The Signal Is Better On The Dark Side Of The Street
In Ukraine, a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was converted into one of Darth Vader. The statue has a wifi hotspot cleverly installed under Darth's helmet, but there are a few bugs to be worked out–it currently only works with Anakin-dles.

(Wow, that is a truly despicable way to treat those of you who hung in there and gave me another chance.)

Number 18 (September 5, 2015)…

I'm Just Saying, Get a Receipt
Nextbit is Kickstarting a new phone called Robin that would automatically store your lesser used apps and data in the cloud to save space on the phone. Sweet. Why not store what you're not using somewhere else? When you need it, you just bring it back. A fine idea. Except, I've kind of been through this before.

It starts out, "You haven't looked at these comic books in a while, let's make some space in your closet and store these in the attic." You say, "Whatever." They weren't bothering you in the closet, but if it's that big a deal to your mom, fine, it's not battle-worthy.

Then, a year later, in eighth grade homeroom, you meet a cute girl who is actually into Marvel Comics. So you race home from school to prepare your collection to show her the next day. You perform the Olympic-level gymnastics necessary to hoist yourself through the ladderless two-foot square opening in the ceiling. It's early September, so the attic has maintained its customary 197 degrees and your new school clothes are plastered to your body, including the sweater-vest, for god's sake, that your mom made you wear, despite the fact that it was still officially summer, so you'd be a "handsome young man" for the first day of school.

But none of that matters, because you've reached the box that's going to let you impress Cindy Stewart before any of the other guys have a chance. You throw open the slimy-yet-sticky, perpetually-on-the-verge-of-melting lid to the Rubbermaid container, and gaze upon six cubic feet of… tiny plastic pilgrims. And Indians. And turkeys. All slightly warped, losing their own non-air conditioned battle with the Cleveland summer. What you don't see are four neatly-wrapped and bound packages of Marvel comics.

You have the wrong bin. Easy mistake.

You look at the side of the container and see the curling masking tape… Mike's Comic Books is crossed off, Thanksgiving Decorations is squeezed underneath in your mom's neat cursive.

You interrupt your mother's viewing of General Hospital with a scream that convinces her you've finally impaled yourself on one of "those damned lightsabers scattered all over your room." And when you try to explain that she has ruined any chance you ever had at being happy, she responds, with the same tone she might use to say she cleaned up an accident the dog had in the living room, "Oh, you hadn't looked at those in forever, I got rid of them."

Careful, Nextbit. Be very careful.

Number 17 (October 3, 2015)…

The Dark Side Of Twitter
Edward Snowden, leaker of National Security Agency documents and current fugitive resident of Russia, is now on Twitter. His first tweet–"Can you hear me now?"–was innocuous enough, but he then put stunned government officials on alert worldwide, wondering what bizarre and unbalanced move he might make next, when he followed up by live-tweeting Dancing With The Stars.

Number 16  (October 17, 2015)…

Avoid The Origami Setting
Laundroid is a robot capable of folding clothes. While the five minutes required to fold a T-shirt may seem excessive, the time, like everything, is relative. For testing purposes, I performed a time trial measuring my speed at folding a t-shirt, and completed the relatively foreign task in ten seconds. While not necessarily up to the precise standards you might encounter on the shelves at Neiman-Marcus, it was satisfactory for my needs (a low bar, true, as "worn for two days and hanging inside-out from the bathroom doorknob" is satisfactory for my needs). At that pace, I could theoretically fold thirty shirts in that same five minutes. Theoretically. But that little experiment took place in a controlled, distraction-free environment of our laundry room.* In the real world, I have been known to remove a t-shirt from a laundry basket as the Browns kicked-off against the Steelers and had that same shirt in my hand at half-time. So, assuming the Laundroid has no interest in football, I'm willing to give it a whirl.

*  Now that I think of it, why don't we have a TV down there?

Number 15 (October 10, 2015)…

"My Platform Is Based On Secur–Damn It."
Credit card information may have been stolen from Trump hotels. Said Donald Trump, "Our dedication to security is yuge. The only thing bigger is the jackpot you can win on our new Mexican Border Wall slot machines–payouts so big you can't get over it. Heh-heh."

Number 14 (September 26, 2015)…

And While You're At It, Tattoo Your Bank Account Info on Your Forehead
The Indian government had proposed a law requiring smartphone users to keep any encrypted information stored on their phone, in plain text, for ninety days, so the government could have a little look-see if they felt like it. Thankfully, this provision was removed in a later draft, along with the less-publicized requirement that citizens keep all web site passwords written on a piece of paper and kept in their sock drawer.

Number 13 (October 24, 2015)…

Gullible Public Shakes Head, Says "You Got Me"
The European Court of Justice ruled that bitcoin is exempt from consumption tax. In other words, value added tax, or VAT, is not to be added to…

Okay, okay. We've all had a good laugh, but it's time to come clean. As many of you have no doubt realized, there is no such thing as "bitcoin." Don't feel bad if you fell for it. I bought in for a while. But come on. Think about it. Somebody suddenly says, "Guess what? These bits of information on my computer? They're now worth money!" Really, how much money are they worth? "That's an interesting question. In July of 2010, a bitcoin was worth eight cents. A year later, it was worth a dollar. Another year later, two dollars. Then, get this, in 2013 it went up to $266! Then down to $100. The up to $1,250! Then down to $600. Today, about $280, give or take. "

Suurrrrrre… that makes sense. But say you still haven't caught on to the gag. You ask:

So it's really currency? I could buy stuff with it?


I could just walk into McDonald's and buy a Big Mac with bitcoin?

No, not McDonald's.

Burger King?

No, Burger King doesn't sell Big Macs.

Okay, a Whopper then, smartass?


Grocery store?

Probably not.

So it's more of an online thing?


I can use it at Amazon, then?

No. Well, not directly. You could go to a bitcoin-accepting site that sells gift cards and buy an Amazon gift card with bitcoin, then buy something at Amazon with the gift card.

Uh, okay. But if I spend a bitcoin today to get a $200 gift card, I might find out that if I had waited until tomorrow I could have gotten a $300 card? Because the value fluctuates?

Entirely possible.

So how do I know when to spend my bitcoin?

You don't.

Well then, are people actually spending them, or are they investing in them, hoping the price goes up like a stock?


Finally, the light bulb comes on, you elbow the person pranking you and say You had me going.

We expect this will be the topic of the series-ending episode of Mythbusters next year, right after they reveal to Cubs fans that there has never been such a thing as a "World Series," but only a hoax–like the moon landing–performed each year to frustrate them.

Number 12 (September 12, 2015)…

In one of mankind's most vital experiments, a Scottish distillery sent whisky to the International Space Station for three years to find out what effect microgravity would have on flavor. The control sample kept on Earth had hints of raisins, toffee, vanilla, and creamy fudge, while tasters found the "space whisky" to have aromas and flavors of smoke, violet perfume, and antiseptic lozenges, a combination classified by whiskey aficionados as "My Grandmother's Purse."

Number 11 (September 19, 2015)…

Frankly, I Don't Trust the Coffee Maker Either
The new Roomba 980 vacuum cleaner will allegedly keep working until it has cleaned every possible spot on your floor. It is able to do this by mapping your whole house with the use of a camera. Oh, and military robotics technology.

No thanks. I've seen this movie. It was called Maximum Overdrive. It was based on a Stephen King story in which machines come to life and help us lead more efficient, fulfilling lives. Ha! As if! No, they want us dead, of course. And you know what the ability to map my whole house means? The ability to find me wherever the hell I hide, that's what.

"Oh, what's a Roomba going to do to you?" you ask. "Clean you to death?"

You don't watch horror movies, do you?

All you have to do is trip once (guess what trips you?), and the Roomba accelerates, gets hold of your hair, and, without being too graphic, let's just say you aren't standing up again with your scalp and brain intact.

So I think we'll keep pushing around our twelve-year-old, non-military grade Dirt Devil. (My wife would like me to clarify that, by "we," I mean "she." This is true, but only because I have an old Frisbee-related wrist injury that could flare up at any time, especially with the way that vacuum cleaner lurches to one side, being on only three wheels–it's a real bear to manage, let me tell you–and I wouldn't want my ability to type up this blog and deliver it to the readers (both of you) to be affected.)

There's the first half of the Best Of the Weekly Tech Views - 2015. Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion next week, when drones, adulterers, emojis, and others vie for the coveted title of WTVB Story of the Year!

If you'd like to relive all 200+ stories from 2015… well, I guess you could just read all the previous blog entries. But if you want them in a convenient Kindle format with a cool Len Peralta cover, just break out that Amazon gift card* you got from Aunt Nancy and pick up The Internet is Like a Snowblower (And 200 Other Things I Got Wrong About Tech This Year). If you are one of the wonderful people who have already done that, you could double your wonderfulness by leaving a quick review at Amazon. If you have time. Maybe while on hold with tech support about that new gadget you got that won't download the new firmware. Isn't tech fun?

*Credit cards work, too.

Check it out at Amazon, right here!

Until next week, continued Happy Holidays.

Mike Range

Weekly Tech Views Blog by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.