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Rapid-fire tech news!

Mobile:

1- Is CyanogenMod about to become Lineage Android Distribution?

When stock Android just doesn’t cut it, and commercial versions are bloated, these guys are experts at geek oriented Android. After a painful breakup between Cyanogen Inc. and its co-founder Steve Kondik, a new GitHub repo was found bearing the name Lineage Android Distribution. This repo is being updated with code associated with CyanogenMod. More here.

2- AirPods unboxed: Apple’s other new wearable of the future

Very clever wireless earbuds from Apple. The carrying case even doubles as a battery pack for the buds, also you can run them in Mono mode (1 bud on) and drain its battery then switching to the remaining bud. Great for lengthy audio books.

PC hardware:

1- AMD crests Summit Ridge with Ryzen CPUs

During AMD’s Horizon Event (3/12/16), AMD unveiled it’s latest CPU architecture doing away with their previous philosophy of design opting for a more mainstream (read Intel) structure. They want to get back into the game focusing on power efficiency in a very big way.

2- AMD Introduces Radeon Instinct Machine Intelligence And Deep Learning Accelerators

Aside from unorthodox GPGPU usages (password cracking, crypto-currency mining) AMD wants to use the horsepower for A.I. Most machine learning techniques can be powered by methods that are favorable to GPGPU over conventional CPUs.

3- Tile-based Rasterization in Nvidia GPUs

You can draw an image on screen pixel-by-pixel or in tiles. This is a great in-depth look into how Nvidia does it and how they gain from it.

Condiments:

1- Android Things is the new IoT OS from Google, taking over from Project Brillo

The IoT scene is a mess and Google wants to fix that. Google first built Brillo back in 2015 but feedback given meant a better strategy would be to make use of Android building blocks and tools. So, Android Things was born. IoAT?

2- Twitter update adds live video integration from Periscope

Twitter + Pictures make history. Live video? Yes, please. Starting with version 6.26.0 your indiscretions can be live streamed too. Want to dissent? Whatever floats your boat. Powered by Periscope this should probably plug the hole left after killing Vine.

3- Hack Brief: Hackers Breach a Billion Yahoo Accounts. A Billion.

Uh-oh. That is a Billion, with a B folks. It was bad when it was 500-million back when Yahoo announced a hack in September. The tricky thing with these Yahoo hacks is that the actual hack event occurs much earlier (sometimes years) and investigations bring them full circle to the present day (whenever they announce). And the hits just keep on coming. More here.

4- Amazon Prime Air: First delivery by air

Air-mail has reached the last mile. Although Amazon deliveries aren’t your conventional snail mail, that makes this all the more significant. The twist here is that this is from the moment the user clicked “order” to delivery. Want to be blown away? It was with an autonomous drone. The showcase is 13-mins long. This is an historic event.

5- Here and Microsoft extend mapping deal, expanding into connected car data.

Microsoft integrated Here maps functionality into Win 8.1 as Microsoft wants to have something for everything in the handheld world. Here was that ticket and it seems this extension is aimed squarely at SatNav for cars but with added traffic updates and location services.

6- Microsoft fixes broken Windows 10 update that blocked Internet connectivity, broke DHCP

You need an update to restore your ability to update which was broken by an update. A reboot was a temporary work around. Microsoft seems to have released an update to fix this though.7- Microsoft releases new AI chatbot.Oh Tay. Zo will take it from here. Tay was nifty until it (she?) was turned racist. A.I. is “A” after all. Now Microsoft want to have another shot at this as the idea isn’t without uses (Telemarketing? yikes!). Zo might be coming to Skype (and others) soon.

Renewables:

1- First offshore wind farm in US waters delivers power to Rhode Island

 The US built its first offshore wind farm. Big leap for “The biggest little state in the union”. Block Island, Rhode Island isn’t heavily populated but getting power there was really expensive. This meant a wind farm (offshore none the less) might actually save some money for the customers. And sure enough, the initial billing scheme shows just that. Offshore wind has the added cost of underwater cables that make distribution infrastructure costs much higher than conventional. But things are improving. More here.

 Science:

1- Curiosity finds tantalizing clues as it ascends Martian mountain

 A lot of things on Mars show it really could have harbored life in the distant past. But the only evidence we find are some life friendly clues. Not actual clues of life. This discovery is no different, yet the action this tiny rover uncovers (or past action as we should say) adds more pieces to the puzzle of possible (past?) Martian life. This time, there might have been a lake where Curiosity roved recently.

2- Researchers create a tiny tractor beam that totes bacteria around

Tractor beams were a great (albeit not entirely fictional) tool in the Star Trek universe. Back in the 60s (!) the original series featured it prominently. IRL, a group of eggheads seem to have managed to build one, but all it can do so far is manipulate bacteria. One small step for man. Why you ask? Well, living cells don’t like to hold still and say cheese for the cameras. Smearing ruins the cells and therefore the shot.

Tech Policy:

1- As Uber Launches Self-Driving in SF, Regulators Shut It Down

 One more hurdle for Skynet. A red light is the redline that was crossed. Needless to say the laws must be obeyed or else Asimov’s laws would be pointless right? The incident was caught on video none-the-less. Volvo or no Volvo this is not safe. The kicker is that Uber says the driver at the time was human. Very poor example for computers learning to drive. More here.

2- Twitter cuts Dataminr access for law enforcement fusion centers

 ICYMI, Twitter has a stake in a social media monitor called Dataminr. Dataminr cooperated with governments through contacts to allow them dibs on raw Twitter data. The ACLU pushed Twitter to pull the plug on the party and Twitter gave in.

3- Google just published eight National Security Letters

 Big brother is watching you but only with help from providers. Yet things aren’t so simple. Requests must be made for access and transparency means this kind of thing doesn’t just happen behind closed doors. Google has released in this latest batch 8 NSLs for its transparency report.

4- Tom Wheeler to leave FCC on January 20 when Trump becomes president

 Wheeler was a tie breaker (Republican vs. Democrat) on the commission during his chairmanship. And after the Republican senate refused to renew for another Democrat on the commission, Trump and his fellow Republicans will have control over the commission’s flavor with 2 new appointments of the 5 where 2 are already Republican. More here.

5- California adopts first energy-efficiency standards for PCs in US

It is often said that California has an economy that ranks in the mid range of the top ten nation economies. It has precedent in automotive emission standards enforcement, why not PCs? California wants to bring down the amount of energy PCs use when they are snoozing for this phase. Also, monitors should become more frugal with electricity too, but this time using high-efficiency screen technology.

Projects:

 1- Two teens built this Lego robot to sign Christmas cards for them

Lego snaps into Christmas. There is something poetic about the dot-matrix style of the of the finished cards but hey, this is great. Using Lego-MindStorms, this project is a great example of what good tools in the hands of creative youngsters can do.

2- I made my dumb appliances smarter with the Internet of Things

 Washing Machine (and Dryer) + Three-axis Gyroscopic Accelerometer + Email (and SMS) = IoT.
That’s all folks, stay tuned for our next edition.

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