Weekly Tech Views 16 – Oct 31, 2015

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Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.

Welcome to the Halloween edition of the Weekly Tech Views. While the following stories aren’t particularly spooky, I am sitting here with a bedsheet over my head and eating fun-size Snickers bars while I type.

To Continue Your Fantasy That We Care, Press “2”
New York’s Attorney General is looking into whether Verizon, Cablevision, and Time Warner Cable have been providing the internet speeds that they promised. Why did it have to come to this, with the Attorney General involved? I’m sure that if customers called these companies’ customer service departments and explained their concerns, the issue would have been handl–AHHH-HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Everybody Pair Up With Your Buddy
Samsung is bringing an 18-inch tablet, the Galaxy View, to market next week. This jump in screen size from the iPad Pro’s 13-inch and the Surface Book’s 13.5-inch indicates we’re on the verge of the next category of mobile devices–the “twoblet,” so named because–while it will be spectacular for viewing video and playing single-screen two-player games–it will require two people to actually make it “mobile.”

It was ruled this week that people in the U.S. can circumvent the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to, among other things, repair or modify a vehicle, and jailbreak all mobile computing devices. What a day for Americans! Boy, if we could go back in time and tell our ancestors 50, 100, 200 years ago that now, when we buy a product, we actually own it and can make reasonable alterations to it. Can you just imagine the look on their faces when they’d say, “Well, sure.”?

Thought I Had That One Suppressed
Alphabet is working on a plan to bring internet access via balloon to Indonesia, and eventually, the entire southern hemisphere. Project Loon’s balloons will send radio signals to antennas on the ground. I’m sure it will work wonderfully, maybe even be aesthetically pleasing to low-flying aircraft (until they are, inevitably, covered in ads), floating peacefully up there at 5,000 meters, not bothering anybody, up until the day a mean sixth-grader gets hold of a sharp, 5,000-meter stick and pokes one. It bursts, the debris flops to the ground, now nothing more than sad, wrinkled, ruined material, the color suddenly muted and lifeless, and the punk kid points at it and laughs. Maybe a few tears of rage spill from your six-year-old eyes (you really liked that balloon; it was Mutley from The Wacky Races) but at lunch you’re able to spit in his carton of chocolate milk and you feel a lot better.

They’re Still Learning
Twitter added four million active users last month, and analysts were surprised to discover that as many as twelve of these new accounts did not live tweet the finale of Big Brother.

Just Put A Chip In My Head And Be Done With It
Mastercard is devising ways to let you pay for purchases using a ring or key fob or wrist band or fashion accessories. This is not a good thing. The only reason I have any money in the bank is because I am forgetful enough to have sometimes left my wallet at home and lazy enough to not want to return for it when I find myself at Best Buy convinced that I really need to drop $500 on the new Galaxy Tab just to compare it to my iPad. If I can suddenly pay with everything I’m carrying and, presumably, wearing, my bank account is doomed, because I’m not yet forgetful enough to go to Best Buy naked.

But The Exits Are Equipped With A Grid Of Bone-Slicing Lasers
Microsoft opened their flagship store in New York City. One nice feature is that they will not tether their display devices with a cord, making it easier for customers to get a true user experience. This is a welcome departure from industry-standard tethering protocols that call for cords of a length “requiring customers to hold a taking-a-drink-at-an-elementary-school-water-fountain” pose to read a couple pages in a Nook.

Wait For It…
Architecturally, the Microsoft store is three stories tall, and expected to be one of the brightest buildings in Manhattan, because…

…of all…

…the Windows.

(I have a few more stories to talk about, but I expect many of you will be leaving now, so thanks for stopping by.)

And The Signal Is Better On The Dark Side Of The Street
In Ukraine, a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin was converted into one of Darth Vader. The statue has a wifi hotspot cleverly installed under Darth’s helmet, but there are a few bugs to be worked out–it currently only works with Anakin-dles.

(Wow, that is a truly despicable way to treat those of you who hung in there and gave me another chance.)

I’m Used To It, But I Do Wake Up The Neighbors
Verizon demonstrated the Motorola Droid Turbo 2 and its Turbo Shatter Shield material by repeatedly dropping it on a concrete block with no harm coming to the screen. This does not mean you should take to playing cornhole with your phone. The screen may survive, but that doesn’t mean things are intact inside. I’ve fallen on my head a few times, and there may be no visible damage (I’ve always looked this way), but I’m pretty sure I haven’t always barked like an agitated Pomeranian whenever I scratch my left elbow.

Please Stay Clear Of The Orange Cones
While Europe’s Parliament voted in favor of a proposal for net neutrality–the idea that all internet traffic should be handled equally–many think there are too many loopholes, including the ability of ISPs to manage internet congestion if they only expect high traffic, even if it doesn’t currently exist. Sure, defining “impending” traffic seems to leave leeway for abuse, but it’s tough to argue the principle if you think in terms of local fast food shack El Taco Grasiento (they assumed, correctly, that half of their customers wouldn’t bother to translate that to The Greasy Taco and the other half would think it was named ironically).

On a rare occasion, I’ll stop at El Taco Grasiento for a quick, tasty dinner. I come home, and, for a while, everything’s cool. But, despite there being no obvious reason to do so, I restrict access to the route leading from the living room to the bathroom, because waiting until “go time” is a risk nobody wants. Yes, in a perfect world, bathroom neutrality is a beautiful concept, but a world with El Taco Grasiento is not perfect.

Okay, the Snickers are gone and the sheet is starting to smell, which is the traditional signal to call it quits. Happy Halloween, and hope to see you next week.

Mike Range

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