The Verge says the United States Postal Service is coming up with new ways to make money.
The line is called "Rain Heat & Snow," after the Postal Service's motto "neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." It will initially be geared toward men and involve some sort of "wearable electronics," according the Postal Service.
This agreement will put the Postal Service on the cutting edge of functional fashion,” said Postal Service Corporate Licensing Manager Steven Mills in a statement published on the agency's website...
Because when you think of the Postal Service, you think of fashion, and technology, and the place where fashion meets technology.
I don't think that anyone is going to adopt Ubuntu because of this, but it's still an important announcement:
Engadget explains it better than I ever could:
Regardless of precise dates, why would someone bother with such a latecomer to the mobile OS game? There are actually a few good reasons. Most importantly, Ubuntu is so lightweight that — by the time Ubuntu 14.04 rolls around — it'll be able to use the same code across all four form factors, with the same security features, user profiles and UI fundamentals.
Since the OS will be a constant, a smartphone-oriented app will work on an Ubuntu tablet or any other Ubuntu device without having to be ported or even tweaked.
Microsoft and Apple both seem to be trying to reach the point where they have one operating system that runs on everything—phones, tablets, laptops, desk tops—but neither one is quite there yet. Tablets and phones don't yet have the computing power to do everything a desktop can do, so we have these two parallel operating systems where apps that work on mobile computing devices don't work on desktops and vice versa. But ultimately, all of our screens are going to be linked all the time, and they're going to do so effortlessly, without any patches or kludges or workarounds. This is the sort of thing that Apple or Microsoft will announce to great acclaim in four or five years, and when that day comes, someone should be there to point out that Ubuntu got there first.
Apple Inc computers were attacked by the same hackers who targeted Facebook Inc, but no data appeared to have been stolen, the company said on Tuesday in an unprecedented admission of a widespread cyber-security breach.
This seems as though it might be the new normal. (And President Obama's State of the Union call for more cybersecurity measures now seems prescient.) As for normal schlubs who just use this stuff on the internet and don't create it, a password change is always a good idea.
The decision to open stores, I’m told, came when drawing up plans to take the Google Glass to the public. The leadership thought consumers would need to try Google Glass first hand to make a purchase. Without being able to use them first hand, few non-techies would be interested in buying Google’s glasses (which will retail from between $500 to $1,000). From there, the decision to sell other Google-branded products made sense.
Along with Glass, Google will have an opportunity to demonstrate other upcoming and Google X projects like driverless cars and mini-drone delivery systems at its stores.
When I attended the political conventions last summer, Google set up hangout spaces for media to work in. They were large, colorful areas with lots of tables, charging stations, free wifi, and booths displaying Google products, along with coffee stands, games, and tech-minded employees to help out if you had any questions. I imagine Google is thinking of something like that, only with less free stuff and more products for sale.
Bear in mind, please, that there have been rumors of Amazon.com retail stores for years now, so this is not necessarily going to happen: Every tech brand presumably tosses around the idea of building brand-only retail stores, the way Apple has. But I think it's safe to say that Sony Style and Microsoft stores haven't taken off the way Apple's stores have, in part because Apple Stores feel like an extension of the brand, and Microsoft's stores just feel like ripoffs of Apple Stores. If Google is going to do this, they have to do something that isn't just a bunch of spare tables spread across a huge, well-lit space with a "bar" of "geniuses" in back.
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a rumor-heavy story about Apple's prospective smart watch:
...Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass...Such a watch would operate on Apple’s iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company’s understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.
Apple declined to comment on its plans. But the exploration of such a watch leaves open lots of exciting questions: If the company does release such a product, what would it look like? Would it include Siri, the voice assistant? Would it have a version of Apple’s map software, offering real-time directions to people walking down the street? Could it receive text messages? Could it monitor a user’s health or daily activity? How much will it cost?
The Wall Street Journal, which has been Apple's unofficial pet newspaper for the last couple of years, quickly followed with its own story about the Apple smart watch. We can assume that Apple has been working on this device for a while. But Apple works on a lot of different devices all the time, and most of those devices never make it to market. This story probably wouldn't have leaked unless Apple was serious about breaking into the smart watch market. The question is whether wearable computers, like Google glasses and Pebble watches, will be the next big thing. Apple could popularize and redefine the smart watch market the way it changed the smart phone market and jump-started the tablet market. Or it could be a huge bust. What do you think? Are you looking forward to a smart watch?
Market research firm Canalys kicked off a bit of a high tech shit storm when it bucked convention by counting tablets as PCs. While most analysts have the PC industry shrinking, Canalys has it growing, thanks to gangbuster tablet sales from the likes of Apple, Samsung, Amazon and other tablet makers.
But are tablets PCs? Critics of Canalys argue that if you're going to count tablets as PCs, why not large screened smartphones? Or all smartphones for that matter? After all, the iPad and the iPhone share processors and operating systems. Where's the dividing line?
On the other hand, if tablets aren't PCs, what does that make the Microsoft Surface? Is a touchscreen device with a keyboard really all that different from an ultrabook with a touchscreen?
Personally, I'd go with screen size as the dividing line, as that's what really determines the usefulness of a device for light PC work. Add a keyboard or keyboard case to any tablet and it's as useful for the bulk of traditional PC tasks as any netbook. And netbooks were always counted as PCs.
But maybe I'm an idiot. What do you think?
Amazon.com has announced that they're creating a new virtual currency, Amazon Coins, for their customers to buy apps and make in-app purchases. The Verge has a great article looking at potential reasons why Amazon wants to get into the digital minting business. These reasons range from mundane (other game developers have their own currencies and it's a financially smart decision for them) to the disturbing ("proprietary currencies have lots of advantages for their issuers, especially when the issuer is attempting to build a proprietary economy"). We'll find out more when Amazon launches Amazon Coins in May, but I urge you to read The Verge piece, which includes a reference to "standalone virtual currencies such as Flooz and Beenz," which "flopped miserably." Flooz and Beenz!
"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders."
—Michael Dell on Apple, shortly after Steve Jobs' return in 1997
After years of stagnant growth and declining stock prices, Dell Computer has been taken private in a $24.4 billion leveraged buyout led by founder Michael Dell. Microsoft will loan Dell $2 billion as part of the deal.
I'd say that Apple's Steve Jobs got the last laugh on Dell, but Jobs is dead and Dell isn't, so, um, no.
The Washington Post ran a very interesting story yesterday:
The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.
The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.
The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.
This is the sort of thing that causes people to shake their heads and say, "it'll never happen." but I think the Obama Administration, if it receives the kind of pressure that can be generated by the whole internet, could come down in favor of this plan. I think it's a genuine possibility.
(Via Mike Allen's Playbook.)
How do you protect some of the world's rarest large mammals from rampant poaching in an area about six times the size of Manhattan? Conservationists in Kenya believe the answer could come from the skies.A Marxist critic can't help but see the sudden prevalence of drones in so many seemingly unrelated social domains as not a mere accident. This prevalence must be the expression of a solution to the shape or character that our historically and economically determined moment has assumed. What the drone reveals is that policing now connects domains that were established by and distinct in previous moments that, as a whole, form the 400-year development of a form of social reproduction that was initiated in Europe after the Islamic age of the Mediterranean and has since been urbanizing and globalizing the human condition. Each moment in this development presents new solutions for control and new weapons for the controlled...
Nestled in the shadow of the majestic Mount Kenya, Ol Pejeta Conservancy is a 90,000-acre game reserve boasting a wide array of wildlife, including the endangered black and white rhinos, elephants, leopards, lions and chimpanzees. Since late 2009, it has also been home to four of the last seven northern white rhinos left in the world.
RIM, which is rebranding itself as BlackBerry, has announced a new BlackBerry phone, the z10. The reviews are kind of okay, but basically nothing special. And BlackBerry has named Alicia Keys as their "new Global Creative Director," even though Gizmodo reports that Keys tweets from her iPhone.
I don't know how you're going to get any work done now that your world has been rocked like this.
The Atlantic tells the story of the very first piece of artwork made on a computer, in 1956. The computer was a $238 million IBM military machine. Before you switch over to read the story, take the Slog Quiz below. Then go check your answer.
Video game maker Atari's U.S. operations have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an effort to separate from their French parent company, which is filing a similar motion separately in France.
In a statement, Atari says the move is necessary to secure investments it needs to grow in mobile and downloadable video games.
Apple's stock is $504, down from a high this year of $705.The Motley Fool asks "Is Tim Cook The Next Steve Ballmer?" which is not meant as a complement. Bob Lefsetz, a blogger and music industry veteran, calls Tim Cook "charisma-challenged," and "he starts to speak and credibility goes out the window." He states that Apple is not telling its story as it should given the competitive threats of Samsung and Google.And there's also Amazon, which successfully forced its way into the long-locked iPhone and iPod.
Amazon has stepped up its competition against iTunes with a version of its MP3 store for Apple’s iPhones and iPod Touch devices.As to why anyone would buy music from iTunes is a complete mystery to me. Amazon is by far the better deal, and not because of prices but because you can move purchased music from one device to another without encountering this or that imposed barrier. Seriously, I hope Cook is the next Ballmer.
Long a distant second to Apple in digital music sales, Amazon has been moving aggressively over the last couple of years to attract music fans. It regularly discounts digital versions of hit albums and songs, something that has occasionally wrought some mischief on the Billboard charts. And its Cloud Player and Cloud Drive systems, introduced almost two years ago, let its customers back up their songs and stream them to virtually any device. (Apple, Google and others have their own versions of these so-called “lockers.”)
My hate of Apple's products found hope in this bit of news:
Shares of Apple stayed down today following a drop that sent the stock down below $500 for the first time since February.To grasp the roots of my hate of Apple products, read the second point of the Repair Manifesto: Things Should Be Designed So They Can Be Repaired. As for that massively ugly yacht...
The stock ended the day at $501.75, down $18.55 or 3.57 percent.
The cause for the initial drop came from a pair of stories yesterday — one from Japan's Nikkei and another later in the day from The Wall Street Journal — claiming Apple cut its component orders for the iPhone by nearly half last month. The suggestion from both was that demand for Apple's iPhone 5 had declined, causing Apple to slow down on manufacturing orders for more devices.
Pax is what they would make.
This thing is awesome (and awesomely expensive). Self-contained, rechargeable, solidly built, and packaged and documented with great care. I imagine these guys' business model started looking very smart in November as the orders from Washington and Colorado started pouring in. As laws like I-502 get passed in more and more states, I imagine we'll start seeing much more of this. High-tech (GETIT), luxury gear for potheads. I mean, for people who like to vaporize tobacco and other premium, loose-leaf herbs.
Since I'm filing this under tech, the requisite unboxing pics are after the jump.
The Consumer Electronics Show is happening right now in Las Vegas. It's the convention that maps out the upcoming year in technology, with the very important caveat that most of the big dogs of tech—Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft—don't take part in the show. So what are our early adopters going to be buying this year?
The Nvidia Shield, a portable Android-based gaming system:
And Samsung announced a whole bunch of products, including an "almost human" TV:
Like a beefed -up version of the iPhone's Siri functionality, the F8000's S-Recommendation system can understand questions from viewers and offers responses to their inquiries. For example, Baxter asked the television, “Anything good on today?" and was greeted with a sampling of programming choices that evolve based on not only the type of programming he normally views but also the actual time he views it.
Similar to the Xbox's Kinect camera system, the F8000 also makes use of hand -gesture functionality; instead of using a remote control, users move their hands to change TV channels or record a movie.
Samsung will also have TVs that will allow two people to watch two different TV shows in full screen on the same set at the same time, using special glasses with built-in ear buds. They announced ovens that can cook at two different temperatures at the same time, and a refrigerator that can turn regular fridge space into extra freezer space. Also, their refrigerators will have touch screens and apps, in case you really needed to get Twitter on your fridge. And! Cameras that can film in 3D, in case you didn't hate 3D technology enough already.
(Thanks to Slog tipper Greg for the links.)
All is apparently right with the world again now that the Google Maps app is available for the iPhone. Yippee! I'll probably download it myself, if only for the superior transit routing option.
That said, I've been using the Apple supplied Maps app for the past couple months, and I don't see what all the fuss was about. The turn-by-turn voice instructions have proven a boon, and they haven't guided me off course once. They're sometimes slow to recalculate when I stray from the plan, but the old app didn't automatically recalculate at all. (Or provide turn-by-turn voice instructions.)
Yeah, I know the data behind Apple's app is reportedly better in Seattle than it is in a lot of other cities. But I live in Seattle. So it's been fine. Different, but fine. And certainly a helluva a lot better than the nothing we had before we all got smartphones.
Windows 8 is incredibly important to the future of Microsoft, and the future of Microsoft is incredibly important to the region. And so I've quietly been collecting depressing stories about Windows 8 and worrying about the local economy. The most recent story comes from Yahoo:
Almost one year ago today, we laid out the nightmare scenario for Microsoft (MSFT) that could lead to its business collapsing. After laying it all out, we concluded, "Fortunately for Microsoft, none of this is going to happen."
We were wrong.
A lot changed in the last year. Microsoft's nightmare scenario is actually starting to take hold.
I understand that tech writers like to be histrionic. If something isn't the biggest hit ever, it's the biggest miss ever, and the future of every single tech company in the world hangs in the balance at any given time on any given day. But there are so many unimpressed stories about Windows 8, and very few positive ones. I stopped by the Windows Store at University Village a month ago and played with a Surface tablet and found it to be a difficult, unintuitive mess. The OS could get better with practice, but I'm sure not willing to shell out for a Surface to test that hypothesis.
I know that many commenters think I'm gleeful when Microsoft fucks up. That's not true; Microsoft is an important part of the area, and I want the company to succeed. And when I read all the stories about Microsoft halving their supply chain on Surface tablets, as a Seattleite, I think the only appropriate reaction is worry.
We needn't fear: scientists are studying the risk of a robot uprising. Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price explains how The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk aims to assess the threat:
"It tends to be regarded as a flakey concern, but given that we don't know how serious the risks are, that we don't know the time scale, dismissing the concerns is dangerous. What we're trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community," he said.
While Price said the exact nature of the risks is difficult to predict, he said that advanced technology could be a threat when computers start to direct resources towards their own goals, at the expense of human concerns like environmental sustainability.
UPDATE: It's true! Let the speculation end, and let us now begin to question the wisdom of launching your product with a reboot.
ORIGINAL POST: Just heard from a source that Microsoft might be planning a publicity stunt tonight:
Windows is going to black out Times Square at midnight tonight then 'reboot' the screens with Windows 8.
So if you're planning an Ocean's Eleven-style heist that involves Time Square, you may or may not have several seconds of darkness to play with this evening.
What do you think?
[Amazon.com] lost $274 million on sales of $13.81 billion. Yes, you read that right.
On the bright side for the company, that probably means Amazon sold a whole bunch of Kindles last quarter.
I'm slogging from home this morning so I thought I'd stream today's Apple event on my Apple TV, just because I could. Forget all the marketing fluff about Apple's past success, here's the news on new products:
I know. I know. I'm an Apple fanboy who owns a few shares in my IRA. So don't trust anything I say. But I think there were some pretty significant product announcements today that should have the competition somewhat worried.
All right, Mark Budash. The seamless screen synching of everything here is pretty slick, and although it seems doubtful that a lot of people are going to do much internet reading on their television, the movie and music features seem a lot more attractive. Look guys—it suggests bands Mark might like based on the fact that he's listening to Maroon 5! (BARF) Oh, and then Mark said something about sports, but I had already zoned out. THANKS A LOT, MARK.
"Whether you are using a phone, PC, tablet or console that is running our software you have an experience that is distinctively Microsoft, elegant, intuitive and integrated," wrote Yusuf Mehdi, Chief Marketing Officer for Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment Division, on the Official Microsoft Blog. The idea is to center all of your entertainment around Xbox—the video game console that became such a success Microsoft bought it—making it the hub for all your devices. ("Your phone and tablet will become the best remote controls in your house"!) In a wise move, the app will be compatible with iOS. I've yet to mess with Xbox Music, but I'm gonna go ahead here and doubt that I'd like it as much as iTunes. Want to bet me? (I don't gamble.)
This fall, they'll be pricing the thing at $99 when you sign up for two years of Xbox Live. All in all, this seems like a pretty good move for Microsoft, and even though they're exhibiting their typical lag, it seems like they've made up for lost time. Plus, kids are always asking dad for an Xbox. Give them an Xbox!!! GIVE THEM AN XBOX!!!!! And now dad has an excuse to talk mom into it. "Family movie night, Barb!" (Barb is the hypothetical mom here.) The app drops along with the release of Windows 8,000,000, this Friday.
People often comment on it when having to use my computer. "How do you find anything!?" they cry. My personal laptop is even worse.
It used to be that I would only clean it off every couple of months, when it starts to get insufferably cluttered (or when I'm tired of not being able to see whatever cute picture I have as my background image).
In the last few months, though, I've gotten better and organizing my icons. I still save everything to the desktop, but at least once a week, usually on Fridays, I will go through and file stuff away or trash things I don't need. But it's hard to break old habits.
Where are you at with desktop icons? Right now (and no cheating!), how many icons do you have on your computer's desktop?
(Also: If you have any organizing tips, GIMMIE! I need them! Obviously.)
Microsoft finally released pricing this morning for its soon to be shipping Surface RT tablet, starting at $499 for the 32 GB model without a cover, rising to $699 for the 64 GB version with a "Touch" keyboard cover. The mechanical keyboard cover costs an additonal $129. All models are WiFi only.
I saw one of the TV ads for Surface last night, and it certainly looks like they're advertising the Touch cover as an integral part of the device. That means prices really start at $599 for the 32 GB model with the cover.
All of which is earning Microsoft a collective "eh" from industry analysts.
The specs look good on the 10.6 inch diagonal tablet, and they better be, because Microsoft certainly isn't attempting to compete against Apple's iPad based on price. My guess is there's room for two or three operating systems in the segment, and with a billion dollar advertising campaign behind it, no doubt Microsoft grabs that second or third spot. But it's hard to see this as an iPad killer, and it remains to be seen if Microsoft can make big profits off a segment where it doesn't hold a monopoly position.
On Friday Gawker writer Adrien Chen posted this fascinating, well-written, and well-reported piece titled "Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web," profiling the 49-year-old married father from Texas who used Reddit, an online community with millions of users and "lurkers," to post racist, misogynistic, and highly-controversial articles and photos.
Brutsch was the creator and/or moderator of hundreds of "subreddits" (smaller communities within Reddit), some of them with titles like Chokeabitch, Rapebait, Jewmerica, Jailbait, Beatingwomen, and even Picsofdeadjailbait. Yeah. Pictures of dead, underage girls. "I just like riling people up in my spare time," he told Chen.
The Gawker piece came just days after an anonymous person or group started the Tumblr blog called Predditors (which, after the Gawker piece, was protected by password but appears to be live again). Predditors posts the personal information of Reddit users who are known to submit photos to the subreddit Creepshots, a (now defunct) subreddit where users would share pictures they took of women's butts, breasts, or bodies without consent, titling them things like "Juicy ass in tight jean shorts," "Lady at McDonald's with a fat ass," and "Hottie in a bikini ordering a drink."
Like Chen, this Tumblr didn't hack anyone's computer to find this information—it's all public, and fairly easy to get to with just a little digging. The creators of the blog simply used the Reddit user's comment history to gather things like their full name, location, school, or place of employment, as well as their Facebook or Twitter accounts. As you could imagine, some Redditors freaked out, crying about their right to privacy. (I suppose the women who were just in line at McDonald's or trying to get a drink on the beach aren't worthy of the same privacy.)
Reddit banned the posting of Predditors (and a Jezebel post that pointed it out), claiming it gave away private information, which is the one thing you can't post on Reddit. But here's the thing: You are not anonymous on the internet. This isn't breaching anyone's right to privacy, it's the outcome of mistaken entitlement.
Seattle Interactive Conference, now in its second year, focuses on emergent technology trends and how they relate to Seattle and the industry in general. Brian Rauschenbach, the conference curator, discusses the upcoming conference, how it relates to Capitol Hill Block Party, and how he hopes to eventually develop it into a multi-component event similar to Austin's South By Southwest, which currently brings that city upwards of $160 million a year—basically something the city of Seattle could really use right now.
What's one of the biggest developments in technology this year?
Big Data—people are getting better with working attribution models involving Big Data.
Can you give an example of what Big Data is?
Let's say, on the gamer side, it's taking data that [game developers] have collected, say, from a previous title that's a sequel in a series—a company can say 'Okay, last time, x was the lifespan of this game," and they don't have to throw away a bunch of marketing dollars. They're saying 'Okay, this game will last about 35 days, and then it's going to fall flat on its face.' So all their marketing can be more directional. They can say 'Let's just put all our resources into the next month, because we know it's going to fall off right after that.' Basically, Big Data has been around, but there haven't been a lot of tools for it. Marketers and developers are getting more sophisticated in how they look at the data and then apply it to a use-case for their business.
SIC worked with Capitol Hill Block Party this year. Do you see that relationship growing, and where do you see Seattle in terms of developing something with more of a South By Southwest feel and magnitude—tech components, music components, film components, etcetera?
Courtesy of The Oatmeal: