I will wager that most of you don’t have a lot of time to keep up with the latest tech gadgets, apps, sites, and services. While I probably don’t have a lot of time for that either, I have come to recognize my tech addiction for what it is, and have accepted my need to be an early adopter and tryer of new tech thingies. Recently I’ve been looking for a better, or different, way to share what I find with you – I will start to post shorter, bite-sized blog posts with helpful information, and that’s a start. But recently I’ve been doing a lot of speaking on podcasting, and I was intrigued by the possibility of starting up another, shorter podcast for those of you who would rather listen than read.
So welcome to your first Friday Tech Fix. Each Friday I’ll share with you what for me are the most interesting tech stories of the week, as well as some of the tech podcasts I think are worth a listen. Most weeks I’ll do a quick, 10-minute podcast that you can download to your smartphone or listen to right on your computer. But this week it will be just a plain old blog post.
This is a work in progress – if I (or you) have a better idea for a title, or for the content, I’ll be making changes. I’d love to hear your suggestions for the content you want to see. So without further ado….
The Friday Tech Fix for April 8, 2016
WhatsApp Encrypts the World. Do you use WhatsApp? You may not even be aware of this messaging app that has 1 billion users around the world. And on Monday, it became the biggest protector of worldwide communications by enabling end-to-end encryption for all of its users. WhatsApp uses the Signal protocol, the same technology recommended by Edward Snowden, the noted encryption enthusiast. (If you don’t want to use WhatsApp, download the Signal app – it also provides end-to-end encryption). Of course, WhatsApp’s encryption is only secure as long as you’re not storing copies of messages on your phone, you don’t back up messages to a cloud service, or the person you’re chatting with is using the same precautions. That’s the traditional knock for these messaging apps – to use it, your friends (and colleagues, and family, and others) will need to use it as well. Well, with 1 billion users, WhatsApp is well on its way to having all of us as a user.
The Echo Dot Advances the Alexa Invasion. If you don’t have an Amazon Echo yet, I’ll wait here while you pull up another browser page, go to Amazon, and buy one. The Echo is an amazing device that operates by voice command – it can play music for you, set timers and alarms, play the latest news, add items to your shopping list, and even control your “smart home” thermostats and light bulbs. The original Echo is a cylinder about the size of two soup cans on top of each other – and at the beginning of April Amazon started shipping the Echo’s little sister – the Echo Dot. The Dot is much smaller than the Echo, mostly because it doesn’t have a speaker included. I keep my Echo in the kitchen where I use it most, but I bought an Echo Dot (at half the price) to keep in my office, so I can get information and set reminders from there as well. Early reviews of the Echo Dot are good. Unfortunately, the default way of ordering an Echo Dot was through your Echo (“Alexa, order an Echo Dot”), but there are ways around that.
Facebook introduces AI and livestreaming options. It was a busy week for everyone’s favorite social network. Starting this week, visually impaired readers will be able to “listen” to descriptions of photos. Facebook built an artificial intelligence system to recognize places, people and things represented in a photo, and to describe them to people who have screen readers enabled.
While impressive, Facebook’s new AI did not make near the splash Facebook Live made when it was rolled out to the general public this week. Facebook Live essentially allows you to livestream from the Facebook app on your mobile device (iOS and Android apps only). Just click on the box to post a status update, and you’ll see an option to Share a Live Video – press that button, and you’ll be streaming live to anybody who wants to watch you. I can imagine there will be whole lot of boring livestreaming going on in the near future. But think about it – you arguably now have the ability to stream a live broadcast to more than 1 billion people. How can lawyers take advantage of that in a way that’s actually useful?
A Phone with 2 Cameras? Crazy! Anyone who knows me well is aware that I tend to switch phones more than the average person; I am always looking for the next must-have, “best” phone out there. For me, however, that means Android, so you iPhone users out there can skip ahead to the next story. I currently use the Huawei Nexus 6P, and think it’s the best phone I’ve ever owned. So I was intrigued this week when the manufacturer unveiled the Huawei P9, which is primarily designed for people who love to take pictures with their phone. The P9 comes with not one but two 12-megapixel cameras, co-engineered with German camera-maker Leica. One camera has a black-and-white sensor, the other traditional color. Huawei says this combination will allow for pictures with more than three times the light and 50 percent more contrast. The phone will launch later this month. I’ve generally observed that people use their phones far more for taking pictures than answering calls, so I’m thinking this could be a popular phone.
Outlook for Mobile is Getting Even More Awesome. Last year, Microsoft purchased a little app called Sunrise, an extremely popular calendar app for both iOS and Android. Microsoft promised it would be incorporating the Sunrise features into its Outlook mobile app, which in the past had a fairly stodgy reputation as an email and calendaring program. Well, Microsoft continued to make good on its promise this week, by launching Calendar Apps for Outlook. You can now connect your Evernote, Facebook, and Wunderlist apps to Outlook (to start), and see all of your tasks, events and notes in one place. I’m still not sure I want to see all of that information in one place, but I love the fact that Microsoft is incorporating useful tools from companies other than Microsoft.
It’s a Great Night for Football on…..Twitter? Beating out tech companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google, Twitter won a deal to stream NFL Thursday Night Football games online starting later this year. And Twitter wasn’t even the top bidder – it’s only paying $10 million to stream 10 games, which seems dirt cheap when you consider CBS and NBC paid a combined $450 million for broadcast rights. This appears to be part of Twitter’s move to take a more active role in live events – Twitter recognized that Twitter is most effective when people are commenting in the moment on something that’s going on. This is a great way to take advantage of that.
That’s your Fix for the week. Be sure to tune in next Friday!