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Each week, ITworld's Phil Johnson pokes fun at the tech world's top news and newsmakers
May 30th - That ransomware payment is coming out of your allowance
There was news this week out of Australia about some iOS owners getting locked out of their devices by ransomware. After making sure I was taking the proper precautions to ensure that my own iPhone wouldn’t get hit, I then had to remind my daughters to secure their own phones as well. Back when I was growing up, my parents didn’t have to worry about this kind of unexpected electronics-related expense from cropping up. Parenting must’ve been simpler, and definitely cheaper, back in the 1980s.
This slideshow originally appeared on ITworld.com.
May 23rd - Smart grill? Or smartypants grill?
Memorial Day is coming up, which also doubles as the unofficial start of the summer grilling seaon. Grilling is one of my favorite things; opening up a beer, firing up the grill and cooking some meat over an open flame. Sure, maybe I occasionally cook something a little too long or lose a few body hairs in the process, but who cares, really? Just standing over the fire, flipping those burgers, dogs or chicken is most of the fun.
That’s why news of coming smart grill technology doesn’t get me too excited. I don’t want my grill deciding when the food is done or otherwise making me expenable. That’s one device I’d prefer remain dumb.
May 16th - Mark Zuckerberg reaches a milestone
Big day this past Wednesday when Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg turned 30! Hard to believe, right? 30, of course, isn’t in any way, shape or form, old (says this 44 year-old). But, there can certainly be some signs of aging by then like a receding hairline, a little more weight around the gut and, occasionally, forgetting why you came into a room - or why you called a meeting with your company lawyers.
Anyway, happy birthday Zuck!
May 9th - This Mother’s Day, give mom peace of mind
As you hopefully already know, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. If you’re stuck for an idea as to what to get your mom or wife for Mother's Day, how about taking a cue from the recent World Password Day and give her the gift of increased online security? Mom’s always love stuff their kids make, anyway, whatever it is. It’s a no lose!
May 2nd - So that’s what happened to Clippy
Fun story out of New Mexico this week, where folks from Microsoft Xbox and a film company dug up a cache of unsold E.T. Atari 2600 video game cartridges. The cartridges, along with other unsold Atari merchandise including other game cartridges and gaming hardware, were buried in an Alamorgordo landfill in 1983 after the game turned out to be a huge flop.
This whole thing made me wonder what other infamous tech failures may be waiting to be discovered in some forgotten landfill? As interesting as it was to see pictures of people holding those long-buried E.T. games, I can think of at least one other famous tech blunder that should just remain buried.
April 18th - When it comes to Heartbleed, you can’t be too careful
Well, this was another week in which I seemed to spend too much time reading about Heartbleed and trying to figure out what passwords I needed to change. Just to be extra safe, I’ve also changed the locks on my house as well as my regular order at Starbucks and am considering other safety precautions. Nothing’s off the table. I figure better safe than sorry, right?
April 11th - Ali Baba and the unencrypted password
I don't know about you, but I spent far too much time this week getting stressed out over thisHeartbleed OpenSSL bug, trying to figure out which passwords to which sites might have been exposed and then changing them. This whole thing reminded me of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, when another password was famously exposed. Imagine how the story might have gone had the forty thieves used a password generator.
April 4th - Streaming devices make better doors than window
This week Amazon announced its new set-top streaming device, the Fire TV. Like many people, when I heard about it all I could think was, “Why?” Seems like there are already plenty of similar devices out there to stream content to your TV, like Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Xbox, and PlayStation. Can the market support one more streaming box? How about your TV stand?
March 28th - Facebook has scary plans for the Oculus Rift
March 21st - Android Wear is about to make things creepier
This week Google announced the release of Android Wear, which is extending the Android operating system to wearable devices. Android-powered smart watches are the first thing they have in mind, but after that, who knows? The sky - or the imaginations of device makers and Android Wear developers - will be the limit.
I'm not sure what to think about it. On the hand, it sounds kind of exciting. On the other hand, well, things could get weird. We'll see...
March 14th - Happy birthday to the mother of all time-wasters!
This past Wednesday was a big day: it was 25 years ago on that day, March 12, 1989, that Tim Berners-Lee shared a document with his colleagues at CERN outlining what would become the World Wide Web. Of course, at the time, he didn't call it that (despite how I drew it in this cartoon; artistic license, and all that). He referred to it as “Mesh,” a "global hyperlink system." These days, we just call it the web or, as I call it, a “global hyper-time wasting system.”
Happy birthday, World Wide Web! I'm sure we'll all be using you to waste our time for way more than another 25 years!
March 7th - March comes in like a crazed tech executive
It's March, which means winter should be (finally) ending soon and spring commencing. It always makes me think of that old saying about how March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. This year, I thought maybe it's time to update that saying using some more, say, techy references and these two fellas, who seem to be at at the opposite ends of the personality spectrum, came to mind.
Interestingly, while Tim Cook has the reputation of being fairly mild mannered, he actually got a little feisty at Apple's recent shareholder meeting. So, maybe that isn't totally accurate. But you get the idea.
February 28th - Good luck stashing your Bitcoins under the mattress
Two seemingly unrelated big stories broke this week. First, we had the shutdown of the the Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox, after hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the digital currency reportedly went missing. Then there was the California couple who found a slew of 19th century U.S. gold coins, estimated to be worth $10 million, buried in cans on their property.
The latter story made me wonder if a currency like Bitcoin that you can never put your hands on - or bury in the yard for safe keeping - will ever really take off. Then again, very well known and respected smart guy Fred Wilson thinks that, eventually, it will. Guess I'll defer to him.
February 21st - What’s app?! Mark Zuckerberg gets a bargain
The big tech story of the week was Facebook shelling out a whopping $19 billion in cash and stock to buy WhatsApp. Hoo doggy, that seems like a lot of money for a messaging app, but I guess Mark Zuckerberg feels it will give his company enough of a foothold in the mobile market in developing countries to be worthwhile. We'll see.
Of course, all I can think of when I hear about WhatsApp are the old Budweiser Wazz Up ads. Also, I figure the WhatsApp founders must sick and tired of hearing people say, "What's app?". Of course, if the guy who just gave them $19 billion for their company says it, they'd better smile and laugh like they never heard it before.
February 14th - Good luck getting Comcast to show up for the closing
Big news from the world of cable this week, with Comcast agreeing to buy Time Warner for $45 billion. The deal has been agreed to in principle, but still has to be approved by regulators and shareholders. Of course, the hardest part for Time Warner will be waiting for Comcast to show up during whatever 8 hour window of availability they provide. Don't make any other plans during that window, Time Warner!
February 7th - Even Kim Jong Un isn’t that crazy
Sure, the big tech story of the week was Microsoft finally naming their new CEO. But, for my money, the most interesting tech story this week was, hands down, the news that North Korea's newest operating system looks an awful lot like Apple's OS X. Who knows if their Dear Leader Kim Jong Un actually had any say in the matter, but if he did, it would seem to be a surprisingly sane decision. At least, it's a lot more sane than importing Dennis Rodmanto be his best friend.
January 31st - Good luck getting Her attention until after the Oscars
As you probably know by now, the movie Her stars Joaquin Phoenix as a regular schlub who falls in love with his operating system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson . The movie's been a critical success, garnering a bunch of Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture.
Needless to say, as a result of this attention, if you need to ask Siri something in the next few weeks, be patient. She may be on the other line with you-know-who. Or perhaps picking out an outfit for the Academy Awards.
January 30th - Try the salmon, but make sure your camera flash is on
My wife, two daughters (ages 11 and 14) and I went to out dinner last weekend. We don't do it very often, so when we do it's a bit of an event. The girls weren't allowed to use their phones during dinner (neither was dad, sadly). So, it was a bit unusual to go through dinner without anyone taking a picture of the food.
It got me to thinking about all those pictures of all that food that we all take and share on social media and via Snapchat and things like that. Maybe restaurants should start advertising the photogenic qualities of their food. Who knows? It could help generate a little more business.
January 24th - No power? No problem. How to spend money the old fashioned way
Last weekend I took my kids out with me to run a few errands. At each stop I did something I feel like I never do anymore: I paid for all of it with cash. I didn’t use a credit card or cell phone to pay for any of it.
It made me think that my kids are growing up in a world where the only cash transaction they see involves the tooth fairy. We should probably be paying them in Bitcoins when they lose teeth. Or get them Square readers so the tooth fairy can just swipe her credit card.
Anyway, make sure your kids know how to use cash! You never know when the power will go out and they’ll need that skill.
January 17th - The Internet of Annoying Things
The Internet of Things picked up more steam this week with Google's purchase of Nest, a company that makes smart devices for the home, like thermostats, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.This acquisition should give Google lots and lots of new data about what people are doing in their homes. As worrying as that may be to some, I worry about it also going the other way: how much will my thermostat know about what I'm doing online?
January 10th - Kids hack the darndest things
The big tech news of the week all came from the Consumer Electronics Show out in Las Vegas. Companies showed off all sorts of new goodies, but the gadget that caught my eye was an Internet-connected toothbrush. The thing supposedly can collect data on how it’s being moved and send it to an app on your phone, so you can see how well (or poorly) you’re taking care of your choppers. It sounds pretty cool and all but, being a parent who spends of good portion of the day reminding his kids to brush their teeth, or asking them if they did brush their teeth, I can’t help but wonder what kind of additional headaches this kind of thing will cause me.
January 3rd - Chromebooks are the new Swiss Army Knives
This Christmas, my wife and I decided to get each of our two daughters (ages 11 and 14) a Chromebook. We got sick of fighting with them (or listening to them fight) over the family MacBook Pro and decided they each needed a device for doing schoolwork. The girls are thrilled with them and these little devices seem pretty slick.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to make this call last year. In case you missed it, 20% of all new laptops sold in 2013 were Chromebooks. These devices seem to be genuinely threatening traditional computers. Who knows what else they’ll eventually displace?