Weekly Tech Views – Feb 20, 2016

Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Because this blog-filled with the least accurate tech analysis available-is where you naturally turn for breaking political news… the Republican South Carolina primary has been called for ol' what's-his-name, referenced in our fourth story today.

Who needs CNN?

For the week of February 15 - 19, 2016…


I'm Sure Artificial Intelligence Robot Barbie Will Love It
At the New York Toy Show, Mattel unveiled the View-Master DLX, a virtual reality device in which the imagery is provided by an app downloaded to your smartphone, which you then insert into the viewer.

Uh huh.

That is not a View-Master.

I don't know what the "X" stands for, but the "DL" must be "Damned Lie," because a View-Master does not require apps or smartphones. A View-Master requires a cardboard disc with some film on it and a finger to press the lever that rotates the disc. This device looks very cool, and appears to do some amazing things, but it's a Google Cardboard Extra Special Super Deluxe or something, not a View-Master. What was at the next booth, a GeForce GTX 970 graphics card-bearing, Logitech Extreme 3D Pro joystick-compatible Etch-A-Sketch?

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's nearly four o'clock, and I have to get to dinner so I can be back for the Matlock marathon.

It Is, After All, One Of The Higher-Point Scrabble Letters
Google parent Alphabet renamed it's think tank-tasked with solving your standard tech company issues like privacy and security; oh, and terrorism and human trafficking-from Google Ideas to Jigsaw. Why Jigsaw? Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt explained, "the new name acknowledges that the world is a complex puzzle of physical and digital challenges." He then held up a hand, cutting off the next question, and added, "Yes, okay, and we needed a 'J'."

It's Not Yeezy Earning Green
Streaming music service app TIDAL became the number one app in the iTunes Store after Kanye West announced his new album, The Life of Pablo, would be available only through TIDAL for a week, before being sold on his website. He then said it will never be for sale, and TIDAL was the only way to (legally) hear it. Unfortunately, this all came after Kanye had started taking orders for the album on his website. When he changed his mind, TIDAL was flooded with complaints by fans who pre-ordered the album, saw their credit card charged (sometimes twice), but received approximately zero albums. For all we know, Kanye may next decide Pablo will be included in specially marked boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but for now, congratulations, TIDAL.

We're Hackers, Not Hagglers
A California hospital's computer network was hacked with ransomware, making access to some patient data impossible without a decryption key to unlock the data. The hackers were reportedly demanding $3.6 million in bitcoins as ransom, but eventually settled for $17,000.

"Look, we're really proud of the technical work we did here," said Gotcha!23, the hacking team's spokesman. "We had absolutely zero issues bringing an institution focused on healing illness and injury to its knees. It really couldn't have gone smoother.

"But…" here Mr. Gotcha!23 hesitated and shifted in his seat. "But… well… the negotiations were a joke. We obviously need somebody with some business savvy in here. Our initial demand of $3.6 million was really cool and got us some nice press. But letting ourselves get talked down to $17K made us look like chumps. It's embarrassing. I even read what's-his-name's book-the big-mouthed, tomato-faced guy-The Art of the Deal, but look where that got us.

"Frankly, it hardly seems worth the effort of crippling a life-saving facility. I mean, if someone was going to die being transported to another hospital, it was supposed to be for an estate on a tropical island, not, what, a few grand in everyone's 401k and some pizza? Okay, maybe we get Netflix hooked up again; I've heard good things about Jessica Jones. But the 4K TV is definitely out." He stared into the distance, obviously envisioning the visual clarity of the television that was not to be. "It's on me," he said, weakly thumping his chest. "I talked big to the guys, swore I wouldn't take less than a million." He shook his head. "I don't know, the hospital negotiator sounded hot; I guess I let her get in my head."

Hospital spokesman Bud "Marcus" Hermann commented, "Obviously, nobody wants to give in to extortion, no matter the amount. It sets a bad precedent, bowing to lawless thugs. That said, we recouped the $17,000 this morning by telling a few walk-ins with low grade flu symptoms-and decent insurance-that we suspected the Zika virus. They'll be here a few days and-heh-heh-we'll probably come out a little ahead."

A Mobile Payment Method By Any Other Name
Apple Pay is teaming up with UnionPay to begin business in China and compete with AliPay. Which mobile payment service achieves dominance in this massive, burgeoning economy is interesting, I suppose, but takes a back seat in my mind to understanding the logic behind Papple, Punion, and Pali adopting this Pig Latin naming convention.

I'm Hoping Jokes At My Expense Lower Expectations
A winner of Amazon's Internet of Things Mega contest was a drone that can be launched by voice control via an Amazon Echo and Raspberry Pi. Version 2.0, which can be told to go to a nearby store to retrieve one or two small items-and accomplishes the feat nearly half the time-has been codenamed "Husband."

Can You Ear Me Now?
Doctors have 3D printed living tissue that formed blood vessels and cartilage when implanted under the skin of mice. In this particular case, a printed human ear was attached to a mouse. "Oh, sure, everyone's all, 'Ewww, that's weird, a human ear on a mouse," said the mouse. "I can't turn around without somebody in the lab telling me that Dr. Moreau is looking for me. But, somehow, tourists at Disney World are 'cute.'"

How Much Do We Want To Please Our Users? Check Out This GIF Of A Monkey Bending Over Backwards!
Twitter will be adding a GIF button to its app over the next few weeks, allowing users to easily communicate their feelings via all the chuckle-inducing clips of cute animals and precocious kids their hearts desire. Moments after the announcement, a Twitter executive poked his head out of his office and asked, "Did it work? Are they still pissed about the timeline? What about stickers? Would they like stickers?"

You made it. It's over. Congratulations.

Mike Range

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