Weekly Tech Views – April 23, 2016

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Real tech news. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Weekly Tech Views, where each story, like the Cleveland Browns draft in a few days, is sure to start promisingly but end with you saying, “What the heck just happened?” 

Take That
Amazon is now offering their Prime Video streaming service as a stand alone product for $8.99 per month, the announcement coming just after Netflix increased their rate to $9.99 per month. Netflix, of course, did not take this lying down, and immediately created NetBoox, promising to undercut Amazon’s book prices by a dollar. Currently, the selection is limited to what they could find laying around the employee break room, but $7.92 isn’t bad for a (minimally-stained) copy of Gone Girl.

Paging Doctor Langdon
Intuitive Surgical Inc reported a profitable quarter as use of their Da Vinci surgical robots–which specialize in hernia surgery–rose 17% from a year ago. Despite the promising financial news, Intuitive thinks Da Vinci use could have been substantially higher, but was hindered by the robot’s high cost prompting medical facilities to institute extreme security around them, often consisting of thick steel doors secured by not only multiple physical locks but intricate passcodes, and we all know what a bear it is to figure out… the Da Vinci code.*

Honey, This Is What We Call A Silver Lining
Intuitive will soon have company in the robotic surgery market from Medtronic Plc, a company partially funded by Google. They have reportedly been delayed due to some Google self-driving car software finding its way into their version of the robot. As a result, some hernias were not completely repaired, though patients’ groins do slip smoothly into third gear.

It’s Always Something
After the pilot of a British Airways flight reported that he believed a drone had struck his plane during landing, the UK Transport minister failed to back up the claim, stating, “it may have even been a plastic bag or something.” This is not to say that either gentleman would want to mislead us, but I’m just reminded that “or something” was my favorite way of not quite lying as a kid. When my dad discovered a crack in the windshield of our car on my return from a party, I told him there had been a big truck in front of us kicking up rocks from the road and one “must have hit us or something.” And “or something” technically does include “during a game of Beach Ball Skeet Shooting, the heavy metal tip of an errant lawn dart I threw smacked the middle of the windshield.”

Don’t Worry About The Wii, It Took Care Of Itself
Microsoft has ceased production of Xbox 360s, nearly eleven years after its launch on November 22, 2005. This occasion has led to the hurriedly completed miniseries 11-22-05, a sequel to Hulu’s Stephen King project 11-22-63. This time, rather than attempting to stop the Kennedy assassination, James Franco’s Jake Epping, on orders from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, goes back in time to stop the release of “that meddling PlayStation 3.”

Old Things Come To Those Who Wait
The end of Xbox 360 production also means many households will be making plans to upgrade, including ours. The 360 is finally going to fall into my price range! Bring on Halo 3!

And Also Be Sure To Check Out MealChamp
Google Play Music has started carrying podcasts. You can search for and subscribe to specific podcasts, or browse “channels” focused on comedy, news, business, etc.

This story is sponsored by AutoBull. Audio books are fine for long trips, but what if you just need something short to listen to when you make a quick drive to the corner store? Welcome to audio blogs, from AutoBull! Why do we call ourselves AutoBull? Not because you might confuse us for another popular sponsor of podcasts, that’s for sure! That’s definitely not it! No, we know people like to listen in their car, and we specialize in blogs that focus on, well, for this family publication let’s drop a syllable and call it “bull.” We think aficionados of blogs with misleading or outright incorrect information is an underserved market. That’s why our featured blog this month is the Weekly Tech Views. No matter how many times you listen, you won’t find a single cogent thought! Sign up now and get two free audio blogs! We recommend using one credit on the Weekly Tech Views, because that’s actually the only blog we carry right now. So the second credit may not be particularly valuable just yet. But we’ll find another blog. Probably. Blogs as pointless as the Weekly Tech Views aren’t growing on trees, you know.

They Just Can’t Help Themselves
Volkswagen says it is going to buy back nearly five hundred thousand diesel engine vehicles that were programmed to fake compliant emission test results. This may help VW owners feel a little better about the company, at least until they try to deposit the check signed by Mr. Fakey McDieselton.

It’ll Never Replace My 5th-Grade Candy Dish-Ashtray-Dinosaur
Chemists have developed ceramics that can be used in a 3D printer. This could supposedly be very beneficial for improving parts used in microelectronics, automobiles, and spacecraft, which is all well and good, but it would be a shame if this were adopted in schools and supplanted pottery-making in art classes, denying millions of kids the joy of creating something with their own two hands and then making Freddy Krueger jokes around the kiln.

Maybe Something With The Word “Laser”
Magic Leap was showing off their augmented reality headset, and explained that their technology, while apparently similar to the Hololens method of “beam-splitting,” was “better than beam-splitting.” Right. And there’s a food better than cheesy fries. Go home, Magic Leap, you’re drunk. (I don’t actually know what beam-splitting is, but it sounds pretty science fictiony, and Magic Leap doesn’t have a cool name for their process, so I’m Team Beam-Splitting.)

Though The Plots Have Nothing To Do With Reality, Virtual Or Otherwise
Virtual reality headset maker AuraVisor is teaming up with VR Bangers (not a joke) to provide in-room adult VR content for hotels in–go ahead, guess which city… that’s right–Montpelier, Vermont.

No, of course it’s Las Vegas. The visors–pre-loaded with requested videos–will rent for $20, which, given the technology, sounds not particularly expensive, seeing how hotel pricing results in that same $20 buying you a bottled water and a couple candy bars from the mini-bar. But where they get you is the highly-recommended $200 vat of Purell.


You know that fantasy movie draft I keep claiming Tom and Jennie took part in, even though the “zero” next to Team DTNS’s name suggests “taking part in” is a rather liberal interpretation of what they’ve been doing? Well, that’s changed in a big way. It took them all of three days to go from last place to second place. You can get the details and their reaction** in the CRUMDUM.


*   That sound you hear is a blogger high-fiving himself.

** “Reaction” is simulated, and not based in what many call “reality.”


There you go. The tech blog equivalent of drafting a first-round running back with bad knees and a severe allergic reaction to leather. Better luck next week, I guess.


Mike Range

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