Eight Depressing, Illuminating Months With a Flip Phone

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A Flip Phone

Sometimes, an author can get away with writing about anything if it’s done with charm and grace. In this case Wired’s Jason Kehe decided to try living with a flip phone for eight months to see what he might learn. The story is not so much about the awkward disconnectedness of it all, but rather the remarkable social and technical impact.

Frankly, I’m embarrassed to write about this semifailed experiment. Disconnection has become the most congratulated, least convincing narrative gimmick of recent times, a widely excusable hypocrisy.

The author writes with a certain colorful, literary irony and sparkle. As a result, his social commentary about our fixation and dependence on the smartphone is delightful reading in and of itself. And yet, and yet, the author manages to make us ponder. What have we done to ourselves as humans?

Apple Watch Saved Woman Trapped in Car

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A woman from Florida was recently saved by her Apple Watch after she was trapped in a car underwater.

Amanda Antonio told first responders in Hillsborough County, Fla., that she used her Apple Watch to locate her iPhone to call 9-1-1 after her car rolled in a ditch full of mud and water. “It’s up to my waist,” Antonio said according to a transcript of the call obtained by Spectrum Bay News 9, a television station covering the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. She later said, “It’s now up to my chin. I’m freezing. I’m so scared.”

Kids' Programming Language Scratch 3.0 Now Available

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Scratch is a programming language for kids and recently celebrated the launch of Scratch 3.0. The update adds new functionalities.

Scratch 3.0 is the next generation of Scratch – designed to expand how, what, and where you can create with Scratch. It includes dozens of new sprites, a totally new sound editor, and many new programming blocks. And with Scratch 3.0, you are able to create and play projects on your tablet, in addition to your laptop or desk computer.

Intel Team Still Fighting Meltdown and Spectre

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An elite Intel team is still fighting Meltdown and Spectre, two security vulnerabilities that affected millions of devices.

Throughout 2018, researchers inside and outside Intel continued to find exploitable weaknesses related to this class of “speculative execution” vulnerabilities. Fixing many of them takes not just software patches, but conceptually rethinking how processors are made.

I recommend reading Wired’s article, it’s an interesting look into Intel and how serious the two flaws still are.

Hackers Hijacked Chromecasts and Told Users to Follow PewDePie

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Cyber Security

Hackers warned thousands of Chromecast users of a security flaw…by hijacking their devices. They were the latest people to work out how to force the Chromecast to play any YouTube video they want. For good measure, the hackers, who go by the names Hacker Giraffe and J3ws3r, encouraged users to subscribe to controversial YouTube personality PewDePie’s channel. Techcrunch spoke to researchers concerned that the vulnerability could leave exposed devices vulnerable to more damaging attacks.

The bug, dubbed CastHack, exploits a weakness in both Chromecast and the router it connects to. Some home routers have enabled Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), a networking standard that can be exploited in many ways. UPnP forwards ports from the internal network to the internet, making Chromecasts and other devices viewable and accessible from anywhere on the internet.

New Ring and August Smart Home Products Could be Set for CES 2019 Launch

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august smart bell

It is nearly CES time, so that means lots of product leaks and rumors! 9to5Mac brought together reporting by Dave Zatz on some interesting leaks from August and Ring in the smart home security space. It looks like August is preparing to launch a new smart doorbell, with an updated design. Meanwhile, Amazon-owned Ring looks set to launch a set of smart security lights.

In a nice change from the blocky square design that August currently uses with its current Doorbell Cam Pro, the View takes a more minimal, rectangular form factor. It also brings a space gray color compared to the silver finish on the existing Doorbell Cam Pro. The new rectangular design of August’s View also matches the hardware of its main competitor Ring (now owned by Amazon). No pricing or release details are known yet, but we could hear more about View next week at CES.

Chinese Spacecraft becomes First to Land on Far Side of the Moon

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China Far Side Moon

It has been a pretty exciting time for space technology recently. SpaceX completed its first mission for the U.S. military on December 23, 2018. On Wednesday, scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission shared the first close-up images of an object in the distant Kuiper Belt that is not Pluto or one of its moons. On Thursday, just over 50 years since man first went to the Far Side of the Moon in Apollo 8, a Chinese robot spacecraft become the first to actually land there. BBC News Online provided a fantastic rundown of what happened in this historic mission.

Previous Moon missions have landed on the Earth-facing side, but this is the first time any craft has landed successfully on the unexplored and rugged far side. Some spacecraft have crashed into the far side, either after system failures, or after they had completed their mission.Ye Quanzhi, an astronomer at Caltech, told the BBC this was the first time China had “attempted something that other space powers have not attempted before”

This Person Created an iPad OS Design Concept

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u/thomanthony shared an iPad OS design concept on Reddit. It turns the iPad into even more of a productivity tool.

This is quite possibly the most exciting peice of technology I’ve acquired in the last decade and, yes, I’m including the iPhone X in that calculation. The last time I bought an iPad was in 2012 when the first Retina screen equipped model hit the market. And I loved it. But it quickly was relegated to the job of a full-color Kindle replacement and kitchen recipe manager.

These are cool features and it would be interesting to see if Apple implements similar ones in iOS 13.

Personal Tech That Got Fixed in 2018 and What Did Not

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Computer Frustration

On December 26, Brian X. Chen wrote for the New York Times: “Personal technology was so awful this year [2018] that nobody would think you were paranoid if you dug a hole and buried your computer, phone and smart speaker under six feet of earth.” However, some things did get better. Author Chen provides a list and his observations.

Big Cable is on Life Support, But The Future Isn't Much Better

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Big Cable companies are on life support due to the struggle to reach deals with TV channels over how much they pay for content.

These disputes, driven by a shrinking traditional TV market, are leading to more programming blackouts for consumers, and could be forcing some smaller, niche cable channels out of business altogether.

The future isn’t much better though. Instead of companies forcing us into cable bundles, now we have a plethora of streaming services, some with exclusive content. I guarantee a startup with appear in the next couple of years offering streaming video bundles.

Raspberry Pi: How This Cheap Computer Changed the World

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The Raspberry Pi changed the world. It’s small, affordable, and can be used in many different computing projects.

Today the Raspberry Pi is a phenomenon, the world’s third best-selling, general-purpose computer. If you’re interested in computers, chances are you’ve got one of the tiny British-made boards tucked away somewhere. It’s inside laptops, tablets, and robots; it has run experiments on board the International Space Station; it has spawned a massive ecosystem of kits for learning about computers; and it has even broken into mainstream media.

For a couple years now, a someday goal of mine is to build a Raspberry Pi supercluster. What will I use it for? No clue, but it sounds and looks cool.

Nimble Eco-Friendly Wireless Dual Charging Pad: $29.93

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Nimble Eco-Friendly Wireless Dual Charging Pad

We have a deal on the Nimble Eco-Friendly Wireless Dual Charging Pad. This wireless charger can charge two devices at once. Plus, for every product sold, Nimble will recycle up to one pound of e-waste by including a disposable pouch to send old or unused electronic devices to the company’s recycling partner at no added cost​. It’s $36.95 through our deal, but coupon code NEWYEAR2019 at checkout saves 19%. That’s $29.93.

Huawei Wishes Users Happy New Year...From an iPhone

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Huawei NYE tweet via iPhone

In the past, Huawei ambassadors such as Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot raised some eyebrows by tweeting their love of the Chinese firm’s phones via an iPhone. Now, the company’s own PR department has done the same, tweeting a “happy new year” message from an iPhone. All rather embarrassing, particularly, as AppleInsider noted, in the context of an apparent boycott of Apple products from Chinese firms following the arrest of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of the U.S.

Despite an international incident involving the arrest of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou on fraud charges related to violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran, and the supposed Asian iPhone boycott announced by Nikkei, the Chinese phone maker’s public relations group continued to use iPhones in the promotion of its brand, as noted by MKBHD video blogger Marques Brownlee


iPhone XR was a Christmas Best Seller

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iPhone XR was a Christmas best seller this year, along with iPads. Analytics data show the iPad 6th gen had an activation increase of 219%, and the 11-inch iPad Pro came in second at 125%.

In order to achieve this, we examined our vast mobile data over Christmas this year, looking specifically at the volume of new devices that entered the market. As a reminder, this data only consists of devices that users activated for the first time and began using apps in.

On one hand we have news saying the iPhone XR was a failure, and on the other hand we find that the iPhone XS and XR have close to the same market share. Now, that doesn’t mean much if the iPhone XS share is low too, but the news seems to be focused on the iPhone XR specifically as the poster child for Apple doom.

Internet founding father Larry Roberts dies aged 81

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Internet founding father Larry Roberts dies aged 81

One of the internet’s founding fathers, Larry Roberts, sadly passed away over the holiday season. Dr. Roberts pioneered packet switching technology and went on to become the Chief Scientist on the ARPANET project. He also had success in the private sector. Dr. Roberts died on 26 December 2018 after suffering a heart attack, aged 81, The Register paid tribute:

After studying electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completing his PhD, Roberts implemented a packet-switched link for his uni. In 1966, he was appointed chief scientist for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – and put in charge of its embryonic ARPANET. He worked with packet-switching theorist Lawrence Kleinrock to create the project’s first working network of four computers connected to each other in 1969.

20,000mAh (Practically) Crush-Proof Portable Power Bank: $67.96

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20,000mAh Crush-Proof Portable Power Bank

We have a deal on a powerful portable battery, the 20,000mAh (Practically) Crush-Proof Portable Power Bank. In addition to massive capacity, this device features passthrough charging via USB-0C or microUSB, and it has USB-C and regular USB out. It also features a very durable enclosure. I’m linking to the silver option, but there’s also a black option available on the deal listing. It’s $79.95 through our deal, but coupon code MERRY15 at checkout will take 15% off to bring it down to

Bent iPad Pros Aren't Slowing Down Sales

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Data from Best Buy show that bent iPad Pros aren’t slowing down sales. Both the 12.9-inch and 11-inch model have remained strong sellers.

It’s still early, of course, and as “bend-gate” continued to gain news tractions — and as consumers return to work next week — it’s entirely possible that consumers will revolt. We’ll keep an eye on the iPad Pro’s sales as things develop. But, for now, it appears that Apple’s in the clear.

This is good for Apple but it doesn’t excuse their awful gaslighting.

Reset Facebook: Have Fewer Friends

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2018 has been a difficult year for Facebook. There are lots of suggestions from lots of people about how the company can fix its own problems. Kurt Wagner on Re/Code made a suggestion for us users – have fewer friends. He said that “it’s time for Facebook to build a new feature: A reset button.” This reset button would get rid of all your current friends so you can start again and build a more intimate experience. He thinks this would help us share and consume better information.

Fewer friends won’t just change what you consume, but it might encourage you to share more yourself. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar famously suggested people could maintain just 150 “meaningful relationships” at any one time, a number that’s been put to the test thanks to services like Facebook.

Google and Facebook Ads Helped Support Illegal WhatsApp Groups

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Facebook WhatsApp data collection

Google removed third-party apps that guided people to WhatsApp groups sharing child pornography after a Techcrunch report highlighted the issue. In a powerful follow-up, the site revealed how Google and Facebook’s advertising networks inadvertently helped finance the apps and the associated WhatsApp groups.

New research provided exclusively to TechCrunch by anti-harassment algorithm startup AntiToxin shows that these removed apps that hosted links to child porn sharing rings on WhatsApp were supported with ads run by Google and Facebook’s ad networks. AntiToxin found six of these apps ran Google AdMob, one ran Google Firebase, two ran Facebook Audience Network and one ran StartApp. These ad networks earned a cut of brands’ marketing spend while allowing the apps to monetize and sustain their operations by hosting ads for Amazon, Microsoft, Motorola, Sprint, Sprite, Western Union, Dyson, DJI, Gett, Yandex Music, Q Link Wireless, Tik Tok and more.