Google is a Vital Cog in the U.S. Spying Machine

· Andrew Orr · Link

Microsoft isn’t the only one working closely with the U.S. spying machine. Google has been doing it for years. The company’s roots are tied to the CIA, and it has worked with the NSA as well.

Here’s a sign of how vital Google has become to the US government: in 2010, following a disastrous intrusion into its system by what the company believes was a group of Chinese government hackers, Google entered into a secretive agreement with the NSA…

This mixing of military, police, government, public education, business and consumer-facing systems – all funnelled through Google – continues to raise alarms.

Is it just me, or is it unnerving that companies are allying themselves closer with the military?

How Books Have Changed in the Digital Age

· Andrew Orr · Link

Books have changed in the digital age. Although plenty of people still read paper books, or ‘pBooks’, eBooks are here to stay. Past prognosticators foretold the rise of the Future Book, but that future is different than they thought.

…We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book…

It’s an interesting read. Books themselves haven’t changed much, but a lot of things around books have.

Manage Your Finances, Set Budgets, and More with CoinKeeper: $16.99

· Bryan Chaffin · TMO Deals


We have a deal on CoinKeeper, a finance tracking app for iOS (or Android). You can create and track budgets, manage your income, set reminders, and much more. A 1-year subscription is $19.99 through our deal, but coupon code MERRY15 at checkout brings it down to $16.99. There are longer subscriptions available in the deal listing, too.

Ryan Welsh on Why The Singularity Isn't Coming Soon

· Andrew Orr · Link

Digital Trends interviewed Ryan Welsh, CEO of an AI company called Kyndi that is building an Explainable AI platform for government, financial services, and healthcare.

We’re very far away from artificial general intelligence … If you’re in the industry and you work with A.I. systems, you understand how limited they are, specifically around sensory motor and natural language understanding … Systems are very good at parsing sentences, but not really good at understanding the semantics or the pragmatics of language.

I always thought the Singularity was odd. Basically, it’s the belief that AI will get so powerful it will become god-like and give us all sorts of advanced technology. It’s religion for the atheistic Silicon Valley types.

Why Mark Zuckerberg is Untouchable at Facebook

· Charlotte Henry · Link

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has been hit with one crisis after another recently. On Tuesday, The New York Times revealed that it allowed companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix, to access user’s personal data to a far greater extent than those users were aware of. Normally, such a stream of scandal would put a CEO and Board Chairman like Mark Zuckerberg under serious pressure to resign. However, as Emily Stewart explains on Vox, Facebook’s structure means Mr. Zuckerberg is unlikely to go anywhere, anytime soon.

There have long been questions about whether too much influence within Facebook has been placed with Zuckerberg and, among some investors, pushes for him to renounce his position as chair of the board. But because of the way Facebook’s shareholder structure is set up — and the number of shares Zuckerberg holds — there’s no way for anyone to force him out.

Some 2018 iPad Pros are Shipped Bent but Apple said that's Normal

· Charlotte Henry · Link

11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro with USB-C

Some 2018 iPad Pros were shipped with a slight bend in their aluminium chassis. However, Apple told The Verge that this is not a defect. The company said it is a side effect of the manufacturing process. Apple insisted that the issue will not get worse over time, or have a negative effect on the device’s performance.

It’s an issue that seems to be more pronounced on the LTE model, as there’s a plastic strip that breaks up the iPad’s flat aluminum sides; it’s where the antenna line divides two sections of metal that some users have noticed a bend. Apple did not say the perceived flaw is strictly limited to the cellular iPad Pro, however, and some buyers of the Wi-Fi model also claim to have encountered it. Even if only cosmetic, the issue is out of character for Apple, which has rooted its reputation in manufacturing devices with best-in-industry fit and finish

Owner's Parrot Uses Alexa to Play Music, Order Food

· John Martellaro · Link

The Times writes: “The African grey parrot has become so adept at giving orders to Amazon’s smart speaker system while his owner is out that he uses it to play songs, tell him jokes and even order treats.” I wonder if the parrot instructs Alexa to open the smart home door so Amazon can bring the food to the cage.

Flexiroam Data Roaming Microchip with 2 GB Starter Pack: $41.65

· Bryan Chaffin · TMO Deals

Flexiroam Data Roaming Microchip: 2 GB Starter Pack

Our deal of the day is an interesting one: the Flexiroam Data Roaming Microchip, an ultra-thin microchip sticker for your SIM card that lets you access data roaming in over 140 countries. Our deal includes 2GB of data, and you can manage your data from a companion app. It’s $49 through us, but coupon code MERRY15 at checkout brings it down to $41.65.

The AR Cloud Could Be as Revolutionary as the Internet

· Andrew Orr · Link

I’m a firm believer in the future of AR and I think it has the potential to be as revolutionary as the internet. Amir Bozorgzadeh writes along similar lines about the ‘AR Cloud.’

The AR Cloud allows the real, physical, world and all of the otherwise mundane objects scattered throughout it to animate seamlessly with meaning and imagination, and AR itself becomes the interface that allows us to intuitively navigate the new layers of reality.

This is why I think Apple should release an augmented reality headset. If you want AR to be a casual tool, then do what you’re already doing and keep it confined to the iPhone. But if you want AR to be a second layer of reality, it needs glasses. No one wants to constantly hold a phone in front of their face.

Twitch Streamers are Damaging their Health

· Charlotte Henry · Link

Twitch Logo

For many of us, being paid to play video games is the ultimate dream job. However, a new piece in Wired showed its not all it is cracked up to be. Professional gamers on Twitch play and stream for hours without a break to try and keep fans happy and the money coming in. And it has caused health issues, including serious back pain.

Professional streamers (and gamers more generally) tend to get the same health issues as office workers, who are also desk-bound for eight hours at a time. But they also share some problems with rock climbers and musicians, who put plenty of strain on their hands and wrists through repetitive motion.

How ISPs Will Start to Be More Anti-Competitive

· Andrew Orr · Link

Karl Bode writes how AT&T and other ISPs can bully their way into domination. This anti-competitive behavior is bad for everyone but the carriers.

The first tool in telecom’s arsenal is zero-rating, which lets preferred services get a break on network-level data charges. Wireless users may find that AT&T’s DirecTV Now service doesn’t count against their monthly usage limit, an arrangement that was still allowed under Wheeler’s FCC but was increasingly frowned upon.

Mr. Bode doesn’t mention 5G but I think we’re going to see more anti-competitive behavior with this faster network. AT&T already revealed special 5G plans that are more expensive than 4G plans.

I Don't Think It's Likely Apple Will Buy Sony Pictures

· Andrew Orr · Link

Variety is welcoming in the new year by predicting that Apple will acquire Sony Pictures. They don’t offer a reason other than Apple has a lot of money so why not?

Buying Sony gives Apple access to a library that includes “Men in Black,” “Breaking Bad” and “Jumanji,” as well as the right to make more “Spider-Man” movies. That’s a web Apple would be lucky to spin. Also, buying a studio is basically a rounding error for a company worth $1 trillion.

I don’t think Apple needs to buy Sony Pictures because it’s already poaching top Sony executives. Why waste money on IP when you can just buy the talent? And the Sony IP (movies) won’t add more value to Apple because they’re already on iTunes.

The iPad Pro Needs the Split Keyboard

· Charlotte Henry · Link

The iPad Pro has a lot to recommend it. However, it is missing one key feature, according to Jon Gruber on Daring Fireball – split keyboard mode. Mr. Gruber said that the larger the iPad, the more helpful split keyboard mode is and he does not understand why the biggest iPad in the range does not have this feature.

I want to type with my thumbs, iPhone-style, and can’t, because my iPad is too big. And I have relatively large hands and I’m using the 11-inch iPad Pro, not the 13-inch one. I’m not even sure Craig “Fleshy Palms” Hockenberry could thumb-type on a 13-inch iPad Pro.The bottom line is that because I want to thumb-type, I type better on-screen with my iPhone than I do my iPad, and I can type better on an old iPad than my new one that cost $1,000. This is just baffling to me.

Apple's Push Notifications May Violate its Own Rules

· Charlotte Henry · Link

During the last few weeks, Apple sent a number of push notifications to iOS users. The latest, sent yesterday, told users that Apple Music is now available on the Amazon Echo. 9to5Mac had a look at the purpose of the messages, and whether Apple is violating its own guidelines.

What’s interesting about Apple’s choice of push notifications is whether or not they are “targeted” in anyway. For instance, it’s clear why almost everyone received the Kendall Jenner Carpool Karaoke alert, even if they had expressed no interest in the Carpool Karaoke series. In the case of the Apple Music + Amazon Echo notification, it’s unclear how Apple would target users.

Ziistle Triangle Foldable Wireless Qi-Certified Charger: $29.74

· Bryan Chaffin · TMO Deals

Ziistle Triangle Foldable Wireless Qi-Certified Charger

We have a deal on the Ziistle Triangle Foldable Wireless Qi-Certified Charger. This is an interesting take on a Qi charger, where the charging disk is designed to work with a flexible folder that can be set up with multiple angles for different use cases. Check out the video for a good demonstration. It’s $34.99 through our deal, but coupon code MERRY15 at checkout saves 15%, for a final price of $29.74.

Apple TV 4K is Glorious, Underrated and Essential

· John Martellaro · Link

Apple TV 4K

At Mashable, Chris Taylor writes: “Which of the trillion-dollar company’s beautifully-designed devices would a jaded Apple fanboy like me most miss, if I was forced to switch to competing products?” The author goes on to describe the many features, engineering design decisions, freedom from imposed ads and user interface of the Apple TV 4K. It’s one of the best articles I’ve seen that makes the iron-clad case for this wonderful product from Apple.

Speculation on When Apple's Popular 5th Avenue Store Will Reopen

· Charlotte Henry · Link

5th Ave Apple Store glass cube being removed temporarily during construction

Apple’s flagship 5th Avenue store in New York closed nearly two years ago. There is no confirmed date for when it will reopen. 9to5Mac looked through various public statements to try and work out how long it may be until the famous cube reopens its doors.

The glass cube did return this past spring, but as October and November passed without an announcement, it became clear that the project had likely fallen behind schedule. At this point, it’s essentially impossible for Apple to reopen the store before the end of the year. Construction delays are not unprecedented, but for eager Apple fans, the reason for the delay is likely much less interesting than the actual reopening date. As of December 14th, New York City residents passing by the construction site report that much work remains to be done on the plaza surrounding the store. The cube’s Apple logo has not yet been reinstalled and Apple’s temporary store is still in service.

Kids Should Have Privacy in Education

· Andrew Orr · Link

Dipayan Ghosh and Jim Steyer wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times about how kids need privacy in education.

…policymakers must intervene specifically to protect the most precious and vulnerable people in our society: children. Their behavioral data is continuously suctioned up by technology firms through tablets, smartphones and computers and is at risk of being misused.

Kids are the most vulnerable among us, and if they can’t get privacy and protection from advertising corporations, who can?

Peter Cao's Journey Using an iPad Pro as His Main Computer

· Andrew Orr · Link

Peter Cao has used the iPad Pro has his main computer for several weeks now. In this article he shares some of his daily workflow.

Despite some hesitations from myself as well as others, I’ve not returned to the Mac and the iPad Pro continues to be my go-to computer. Now that it’s been a few weeks since my last piece, I’ve added a few things that aren’t necessarily new, but new to me when it comes to my daily workflow.

I love reading peoples’ stories of how they use an iPad as their main computing device. I plan to transition over as well and will be sharing my own story in the next couple of weeks.

Featured image by Joel Filipe on Unsplash

Private Platform MeWe Trending #1 Social Media Site

· Andrew Orr · Link

Last year I reviewed a private social network called MeWe. A year later the platform is trending as the number one social media site.

MeWe’s rapid growth is due to multiple factors: backlash against Facebook’s broad censorship, privacy infractions, and LGBTQ violations; discontent at Twitter for censorship of conservatives; the announced closure of Google+; and recent policy changes at Tumblr.

I like the platform, and if you can convince your friends and family to join with you, you’ll safely escape the clutches of Facebook.