Category Archives: Business and Economy

Last Night’s Show, 2/27/2012

Stories from last night’s show (in no particular order):

Tongue Drive uses dental retainer and tongue piercing to control wheelchair :

GPS spoofers– devices that create false GPS signals to fool receivers into thinking they are somewhere they aren’t– could be used for high-frequency financial trading fraud:

Flowers grown from 30,000-year-old fruit :

Skier saved from deadly avalanche by airbag backpack :

NYT sez: Google to sell Android-based heads-up display glasses this year :

Google and Adobe team up to make Flash Player for Linux :

Nightline’s Foxconn report offers revealing look at factory:

Google Fiber just got better– Google asks permission to provide video service to Kansas City :

iPad owners are far more likely to be able to claim they are considerably richer than you :
– survey conducted by US market watcher NPD
– more than 40% of iPad owners have a household income in excess of $100,000 annually
– only 26% of owners of other tablets (Android, BlackBerry, WebOS, Windows) were as well-heeled

Fraunhover’s Full-HD Voice brings high-fidelity VoLTE to Android smartphones :

Court rules that TrueCrypt user cannot be compelled to decrypt hard disk
(fifth amendment upheld) :

New password-snatching Mac trojan is spreading in the wild :

Facebook started out building its own data centers, and then their own servers. Now they’re building their own storage hardware :
– extends philosophy of ‘vanity-free engineering’
– eliminating any ancillary components around the drive itself, to make it more serviceable

iFixit examines alleged iPad 3 display, confirms doubled resolution :
– iPad 2 has 1024×768
– new display has 2048×1536

Apple patents design for ultra-thin keyboard :

Physicists pinpoint W boson, narrow search for the Higgs :

After US v. Jones, FBI turns off 3,000 GPS tracking devices : – FBI sought court orders in some cases to obtain permission to turn the devices on again briefly, in order to locate and retrieve them

Google+ gets unblocked in China; President Obama’s page flooded with comments

Researchers have developed optical memory devices that could find their way into future all-optical routing devices :
– based on optical cavities that can be switched between light-transmitting and light-blocking states to construct digital signals
– new memory cells use just 30 nanowatts of power, 300x less than previous designs, and can retain data for up to one full microsecond, which is long enough to support processing

Android ‘phablets’ like the Galaxy Note are a big thing a MWC 2012 :

Carrier iQ– remember them?– opens up iQCare diagnostics platform to smartphone end users :

AT&T service in the works to let app developers pay for their users’ data use
– why would anyone do this? :

London Sunday Times is reporting that Facebook read SMS text messages of users who downloaded the FB smartphone app for Android :
– FB admitted to reading text messages as part of a trial to launch its own messaging service
– it’s not clear if FB has discontinued this practice

Three of the four DC lobbying firms Facebook had hired abruptly terminated their contracts
– Politico is reporting that the firms are siding with content providers (Hollywood) in their fight against Internet firms in the growing battle on Capitol Hill

East Africa’s high-speed Internet access is severely disrupted after a ship drops anchor into fiber optic cables off Kenya’s coast :

IBM researchers image electrical charge distribution inside a single molecule :

HTC has signed a deal with Dropbox to better compete against iCloud :

Facebook mobile operator billing opens app economy to the credit card-less :

Prosthetics breakthrough might fuse nerves with fake limbs :

Lego International Space Station built aboard the real ISS :


An Introduction to Patent Trolling

On the last show, we mentioned the latest episode of This American Life, a radio program available locally on KBIA.

The episode was a fascinating introduction to the topic and practice of software patent trolling.  This is a topic that we’ve mentioned on the show many times, and if you are intrigued by the subject, we suggest you check out this episode:

Great stuff!

Summer months means electricity costs

View this fun graphic on Power draining vampires.

Some appliances unplugged will save you some bux.

Some appliances unplugged will save you some bux.

IMAX, the Deception

AMC, a large movie theater chain, and IMAX corporation, a movie format company, are engaging in something highly deceptive, arguably unethical, but likely legal.

But let’s back up a bit first. For those of you that have not seen a classic IMAX film before, such as the one at the St. Louis Science center, let me describe it for you: It’s awesome. The screen is over 50 ft tall and wraps around the audience like a bubble. You feel like you are immersed into the movie. The film is 70mm rather than 35mm, so you have twice the resolution in both the horizontal and vertical directions. It uses 6
track surround sound (or better), so that it feels like you are surrounded by the sound.

Even though nearly every film I’ve seen in IMAX sucked as far as plot line and story went, the visuals and sound were so overpowering that I enjoyed the experience anyway.

To keep things clear, I’m going to “name” what I just described as “IMAX classic”.

A trend that started a few years ago is taking standard movies and “remixing” them for the IMAX classic theaters. These movies where not true IMAX, but were considered a somewhat better experience of the same movie, so some folks went for it. Some of these showings were labeled as IMAX, which is somewhat confusing since they were not IMAX classic, they were simply better versions of standard movies shown on the nice IMAX screens.

But the latest move adds even more confusion. You see, the trademark IMAX really only means that the IMAX corporation is willing to call it IMAX. Recently, they created a far inferior product called IMAX digital. The “digital” bit is in the fine print. You see, it’s not a 50 ft or 100 ft tall screen. It’s a 28 ft screen which isn’t much bigger than plain screen. The resolution is exactly the same (1080p; the equivalent of 35mm).  The sound is only slightly improved. So, it’s “IMAX” only in the trademark sense. Oh, and the movie cost $5 more to watch. A total waste of money if you were expecting the IMAX Classic experience.

A link to their promotion of IMAX:

They don’t say it outright, but it implies the classic “huge screen” experience not the piddly “slightly bigger” experience you actually get.

So, is IMAX like IMAX anymore? Don’t know. Roll the dice and hope you don’t get ripped off.

link: Google mashup to help find the difference.

Google’s ‘Immigration Fixer’

NYT has a great article up about the person Google hired to cross immigration hurdles and acquire H-1B visas. She’s known as the ‘immigration fixer.’

Google spends $4.5 million per year on visa administration for its workers. What happens is Google (or nearly any other American tech firm in the Fortune 500) finds a foreign worker eager to move to the US, and then crafts a job description that fits this person’s qualifications and abilities. The company then advertises the opening in smaller newspapers and on the Internet, soliciting US-citizen applicants. A hiring manager disqualifies as many of these applicants as possible, using the unique qualifications as a filter. Once the government’s been satisfied that no domestic talent exists for the position, it grants Google an H-1B visa to bring the real applicant to the US. It goes without saying these “migrant PhDs” take the job for less money than a similarly-degreed domestic applicant with many years experience working in the US.

I’d love to see a companion piece on how the current economic crisis is (or isn’t) affecting the tech job market. If there really are jobless people with scads of experience and PhDs in Computer Science already in the US, why would these companies look outside, if not for reduced salaries and benefits?

What we learned from Apple’s iPhone 3.0 software reveal

Many thanks to Crunchgear for live coverage of Apple’s press/developer event– here’s a summary of what’s to come in the next version of the iPhone’s software:

Still no background processes, but push support is Apple-supported

Copy/Cut/Paste support in all apps

MMS messaging available on the 3G iPhone model

Bluetooth stereo headsets are now supported

Bluetooth local-area networking for hardware add-ons & software support for said add-ons

Landscape-mode keyboard available in all apps

Tethering available for cell carriers to offer as paid option with their plans

Whole-phone text search

Still waiting for: video recording (without having to jailbreak the phone), Adobe Flash support

Google begins behavioral targeting ad program based on DoubleClick tech

It’s almost exactly one year since Google shelled out $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, a company famous for questionable privacy practices. DoubleClick is known for placing “cookies” on visitors’ computers and making the cookies accessible to ad networks that in turn display advertising based on browsing behavior. Google plans to start targeting web ads based on online behavior using intellectual property gained from the DoubleClick acquisition.

Part of Google’s new “interest-based advertising” program is a web browser plug-in that will allow a special opt-out cookie to remain on the system, even after the user empties the cookie file for the browser. This is necessary because cookies remain the only cross-browser/cross-platform method of dealing with saved information– in this case, the bit of data that User X doesn’t want ads from Ad Network Y. Google argues that an opt-in approach isn’t feasible.

At least one US congressman, Virginia Democrat Rich Boucher, plans to closely watch how Google’s new ad program is rolled out to users and make recommendations for “new statutory requirements that should apply to all behavioral advertising.”

Social Networking for pets is now cool

ZooToo is an online “facebook for pets and their owners.” (as I describe it).  They are holding a national competition to renovate an animal shelter somewhere in the country.

Central Missouri Humane Society has with support from the online Missouri Community and our local media has taken the NUMBER ONE spot in the standings with just 3 days to go.

I like this story because I like Columbia, MO.  It seems to me that our lil’ berg has been way ahead of the curve in a lot of ways when it comes to tech.

The main paper is also generously covering the story an if you’re not a supporter yet, you have 3 days to add some ‘points’ to the cause.

‘Wave and Pay’ apparantly not going to happen any time soon

I bring up this story, not becuase it is a new technology. But for a different one: it’s NOT new.

Any yet we can’t get it in the U.S.

Japan has had it for over five years: pay accounts associated with cell phones. The idea is simple: rather than carry credit cards or coins, you can pay for things with your cell phone.

Example: walk up to a soda machine, put a button for your favorite soda, wave your cell phone over the pad, and bam: your soda drops down for you to drink.

Another example: go to grocery store. Swipe your items in the self-check-out lane. Swipe your phone across the pad. Bam: groceries paid for.

The tech is called ‘near field communication’ but it’s not an exotic technology. The problem is that the players involved: banks, cell carriers, phone manufacturers, and retail outlets can’t see to agree on the details.

Japan and other countries have pretty much banged out most of the security details and other complications.