Weekly Tech Views 17 – Nov 7, 2015

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

It’s November, which means I treat the tech news like a brittle autumn leaf, and pulverize it beyond recognition.

Some Scenes May Be Too Intense For Younger Viewers
YouTube for Android now supports virtual reality video. Currently you can see an ad for TOMS shoes and a Hunger Games VR Experience. Whatever you think of the franchise, whether you find it too violent or too depressingly dystopian, or think that the most recent installment didn’t live up to earlier efforts, you have to admit there’s probably no better way to highlight the potential of VR than with the breakneck action and cinematography of a TOMS shoes ad.

That’ll Teach You To be Popular
The European Commision continues to assert that Google is taking advantage of their dominance in the search engine market. They are threatening a possible $6 billion fine, and contending that steps need to be taken to help other search engines compete. In a related story, the NFL is requiring the New England Patriots to give their playbook to opponents each week and to play every third down with only seven players.

They Probably Spent That Much On Podcast Sponsorships
Outerwall, owner of Redbox and Coinstar, has purchased used gadget-buyer Gazelle for $18 million. Gazelle was able to lock in their selling price for thirty days, and was pleasantly surprised when Outerwall increased the bid from $16 million, upgrading Gazelle’s own estimate of their condition from “fair” to “good,” overlooking some minor dings and scratches. A postage paid container was provided for Gazelle to ship itself to Outerwall’s headquarters.

Okay, Ladies, Let’s See You Flirt Your Way Out Of This One
Police in the UK are the latest to incorporate drones in police work. It starts with crime scene photography and missing persons searches, which makes sense, and it’s cool to imagine this progressing to action movie-type stuff–drones zipping around, casting nets on fleeing burglars or shooting lasers at terrorists, but more likely they’ll be hovering over roads, just waiting for me go 40mph in a 35mph zone, swooping down, printing a ticket as they go, and sticking to my windshield without even stopping. There will be a QR code I can scan which will display a video showing me going from Point A to Point B in X number of seconds, proving my speed. Sometimes I hate technology.

And I Don’t Even Charge $9.99 Per Month
Facebook has a new feature for iOS called Music Stories, allowing users to post a 30-second clip of a song from Apple Music or Spotify, and readers of the post can hear the whole track if they subscribe to the service. I need to check my options with an attorney, but I’m pretty sure they took this from the idea I presented to them–Musing Stories–30-second clips of me thinking about important things, like how many more times can wear this 20 year old t-shirt before a moderate breeze makes it disintegrate into a cloud of microscopic cotton fibers?, what’s that smell?, and how long has that been in my ear?

What Did I Do With That Pencil?
Microsoft acquired MileIQ, an app that automatically tracks mileage, making that bit of bookkeeping easy for those who can deduct the expense. At first, this sounded like a fine idea to the traveling salesman who no longer had to remember to mark his mileage in a notebook each day in order to be compensated for it. But, every silver lining has its dark cloud.

Boss (showing off the demo): “It’s all taken care of for you; the app’s data get synced from your phone to our computers, we cut you a check.”

Salesman: “Great.”

Boss: “I’ll say. The GPS measures distance traveled to a hundredth of a mile. And you don’t have to lift a finger.”

Salesman: “Nice.”

Boss: “Even displays a map of your whole route.”

Salesman (recalling the semiweekly 27-mile detour he takes to the home of the waitress he met at Applebee’s a few months ago, mileage he has been including in his expense reports): “Phone’s broke.”

We All Have Needs
There’s a new router from a company called Luma that offers extensive parental controls and the ability to easily monitor the browsing of anyone on the network. The problem, you can see, is what happens if my wife gets to the admin settings before me. Obviously, I will be locked out of certain “adult” sites that I periodically need to access. There are times when a guy–or gal, no reason to be sexist about this–has certain urges that can be met most expediently, while alone, online. Sometimes it’s free, sometimes you have to pay, and sure, sometimes, when it’s over, you don’t feel great about what you’ve done. Look, I don’t know why I’m dancing around this; it shouldn’t be embarrassing, it’s the most natural thing in the world. It’s just that our society stigmatizes some things that… okay, yes, occasionally, I go to Draft Kings and play daily fantasy football. How about you mind your own business, Luma?

Won’t Do Anything About Her Hogging My Side Of The Bed, Though
T-mobile has a new device–the CellSpot– to improve cell reception in the home. This is big news for our cat, who will no longer have to share the top level of her cat tree with me, from which I would lean desperately toward the southwest corner of the living room, arm outstretched, where I once got a bar.

Which One Goes To The Spamming-Four-Times-A-Day Mesothelioma Lawyers?
Gmail will be launching Smart Reply, a feature aiming to simplify answering email by recognizing those requiring a response and offering three replies to choose from. It will supposedly learn over time and offer increasingly appropriate replies. I am way ahead of this game, with three customized responses to cover every email I get:

1) I got your email. I know you think I’m ignoring you if you don’t get a reply within 10 minutes, so rest assured the world still revolves around you.

2) Great hearing from you! We need to get together soon! Remember last time? Crazy!

3) Hi Mom. Try rebooting it.

OneDrive: The Fabric Of Our Lives
Microsoft’s OneDrive will be discontinuing its unlimited storage plan, capping use at one terabyte. For many of us, a terabyte may still sound essentially unlimited. How many auto repair history spreadsheets will it take to fill a terabyte? But “unfillable” space has a way of being filled, a fact I’m reminded of each time I look in our attic.

Or at my pants.

A few months ago, in the height of summer–great running weather, eating a lot of salads, basketball after dinner–I was on the 33-inch waistband plan. Not unlimited, but it may as well have been. My pants were slipping precariously to teenager depths, a tripping hazard for those of us without the years of experience required to navigate the world in thigh-high waistbands. But then came the summer-ending Labor Day Festival of Gluttony. And wing- and sausage sandwich-heavy football parties. And a stay home vacation we livened up by trying a new restaurant, beer, and ice cream each day. Halloween, and its devious invention of “fun-sized.” More rain, less running. More TV, less basketball. And suddenly, unfillable is feeling, if not filled, pretty damn fillable. By Christmas, the pants-related risk will be one of ripping rather than tripping.

Enjoy your terabyte, OneDrive users, while it looks so expansive, and try not to think about the coming day when you’re looking for a discreet way to undo the button at the top for a little breathing room.
See, nothing says fall like the sound of tech news crunching underfoot. Enjoy your week, and I hope to see you next time.

Mike Range

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