My last column discussed the intersection between Big Data and Artificial Intelligence and where things might be heading. The question for this column is can I (Bob Cringely) be replaced by a machine?
Look below the fold on most news sites and you’ll see ads that look like news stories but aren’t: "One Weird Trick to Grow Extra Toes!", or "The 53 Hottest Ukrainian Grandmothers!" I’m waiting for "One Weird Trick to Becoming a Hot Ukrainian Grandmother with Extra Toes!" Read the stories and they are total crap, that is unless you have a fetish for Ukrainian Grandmas… or toes. They are all about getting us to click through page after page and be exposed to ad after ad. Alas, in SEOWorld (the recently added 10th level of Hell) some people call this progress.
Much of the buzz in the tech world at the moment surrounds the internet of things, the idea that every piece of electronic kit might one day be connected via the web.
There are plenty of benefits from this but it also presents a number of challenges. Home automation specialist Custom Controls has released an infographic showing what needs to happen for the internet of things to work.
I enjoy running, but require motivation to get started and keep going. Thankfully there are plenty of apps which can help here. I’m a big fan of Zombies, Run! and the similar BattleSuit Runner, both of which offer episodic stories that unfold in between tracks from your playlist as you run.
Occasionally though I just like to put on some running music, and for that I have a new favorite app -- RockMyRun. This is essentially a large collection of mixes from various DJs, covering a wide range of genres -- 80s, 90s, Rock, House, Pop, Hip-Hop, Dubstep, Christian Rock, Oldies, and so on -- that have been designed specifically for listening to when running (the last 15 minutes are higher energy, to encourage you to keep going). Mixes can be streamed on 3G/4G, or downloaded to your device via Wi-Fi.
I have just recently finished my review of the new Amazon Fire TV, a box I found tremendously likable and easy to use. However, that doesn't mean it's for everyone. Not all of us utilize Prime for our video content.
However, it’s not the only game in town. Other companies are making competitive boxes, though I can't say I've had occasion to try them all. For instance, I do not have, nor have I used, the offerings from both WD and Apple. However, for the three I have used, I have some early impressions to share that could, hopefully, serve as a bit of a guide towards your next purchase.
The set-top box market recently grew a bit more crowded, as Amazon unveiled its offering, taking on stiff competition from Apple, Roku and Google. However, with a strong ecosystem for content, the retailer seems up to the challenge.
Like its Kindle Fire tablet line, the little box runs a highly customized version of Android, but don’t let that fool you into thinking the Play store will be there -- it isn't. You are living in the Amazon universe now, but the company doesn't force it wares on you, as there are other services you can also use.
Amazon's Fire TV, a previously much-rumored device, is now officially on the market, with reviews cropping up around the web -- our own will be coming shortly. One known issue that seems to pop up is that the voice search only encompasses Amazon. But that landscape is already beginning to change.
Today, the retailer announces new partners in this endeavor. Hulu Plus, Crackle and Showtime, which were already present on the tiny set-top box, will now be included in search, starting this summer (a rather vague time frame).
It seems that there have been few big names left unaffected by the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL. Google may have rushed to patch the flaw, but the number of websites and services that fell foul of the discovery is staggering. It seems that even stalwarts of security are finding themselves in troubled waters, and this includes anonymizing service Tor.
Put very simply (very, very simply!), Tor works by not only encrypting data that is transferred online, but also bouncing it around a number of servers, making it all but impossible to trace to a particular user or computer. It transpires that some of the Tor nodes that are used in the process are running versions of OpenSSL that are vulnerable to Heartbleed, and this has led to calls for the affected nodes to be closed down. Writing to the Tor mailing list, developer Roger Dingledine suggests that up to 12 percent of the network's capacity may be lost if all of the vulnerable nodes are taken offline.
It's been a busy couple of weeks in the home theater market, with a few major releases, including the Roku streaming stick, but also Amazon's much anticipated Fire TV and the latest offering from Harmony. The Logitech-owned company offers a number of smart remotes, but now also has the Smart Keyboard, designed to control your home theater.
The introduction of Amazon's Android-based box seemed to offer a challenge, as the remote is Bluetooth, but Harmony has stepped up and made it work.
Not long ago, I conducted a rather unscientific survey, asking readers if they planned to cut the cord in 2014. There was no voting, it simply relied on comments, as I wished to know your thoughts. A number of you had already taken the plunge, but we are dealing with a tech-oriented crowd. This isn't something my mom and dad will be doing -- they’d think I spoke a foreign language if I used the word Roku.
Morgan Stanley, who we don't tend to think of when it comes to media, went a bit further, taking a more scientific approach and collating the results into a nice graphic format.
Google has a lot of mud thrown at it, and while a lot of it slides off, there is a good proportion that sticks. There are a variety of accusations levelled at the search giant -- evil, self-serving, monopolistic, nosey, invasive, overbearing, corporate, et cetera, et cetera -- but could it be that the power the company wields is actually a good thing? Could Google use the sway it holds over website owners to make the web a better place? But before we start praising Google, there's no harm in sticking the boot in first, eh?
For many people, Google is a bully. In the constant search for page views, ranking in Google matters -- it matters a lot. My colleague Joe Wilcox argues that writers should write for themselves and their readers rather than Google -- something I would strongly advocate -- but until this notion gathers momentum, there are still countless bloggers panicking themselves silly about what impact the latest search algorithm changes will have on their position in search results. It can be a constant game of catch-up, requiring endless changes to optimize content for maximum visibility -- all too often at the expense of readability and reader experience.
It's tough for me to get too excited about TVs these days. I'm past the glitz of the 3D craze. And "large" 60 and 70 plus inch screens are neat, but after enjoying a 114" viewing area thanks to my home projector the last few years, anything smaller pales in comparison.
Yet when I got to try out an 82" Perceptive Pixel touch TV at Microsoft's Chicago offices earlier today, I couldn't resist wanting one for my own condo or even office. It's that unique of a TV screen, and if when it goes mainstream, it will completely change the way we view interactive entertainment displays.
Google’s Chromecast has been getting a lot of media attention in tech circles, mostly due to the ever-evolving number of services and websites throwing support behind the little HDMI dongle. Price also plays a part of it -- retail is a mere $35, and Amazon offers it for a hair under $30.
All of this attention has kept the product at the top of the best-seller list in the electronics category for sometime now. But last week Amazon disrupted the market by announcing Fire TV -- a small set-top box designed to compete with Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV and the like.
Does anyone remember Nintendo's Virtual Boy? It was an overpriced, underpowered 3D gaming system from the mid 1990s with little content and awkward hardware to justify its high price tag. Other pesky limitations, like the fact that you could really only play on it comfortably while seated at the dinner table, drove Nintendo to shut this commercial flop down before it became laughing stock for competitors like Sega and Sony.
I'm not interested in strolling down gaming's memory lane here. I never owned a Virtual Boy myself, as my Sega Genesis was enough to keep my gaming heart fulfilled at the time. While the premise of 3D was appealing, the means to getting there were impractical in every sense.
Rapper, producer, Black Eye Pea and all round tech-loving futurist tech-head will.i.am has designed his own smart watch which will be ready for launch in the coming months. The music titan has, apparently, self-designed and self-funded a project which should lead to a release in July. Very little is known about the device at the moment, but it has made a few appearances on TV screens that give an intriguing glimpse of what's to come. Unlike other wearables, this one looks like it will not require tethering to a smartphone -- it will stand on its own two feet.
It's worth pointing out for non-UK residents that product placement (endorsements, 'support from', 'promotional consideration' or however you want to view it) does not really exist in the UK in the same way as in the US and some other countries. But that said, will.i.am has been spotted on more than one occasion, "subtly" interacting with a device strapped to his wrist. Viewers of The Voice in the UK (yeah, sorry, I've been known to dip into it from time to time) will probably have noticed him fiddling with his wrist, and reference has been made to his actions on a couple of occasions.