"It's Barack. Really!"
Have you ever wanted to whisper some kind – or, well, otherwise – words directly into the ear of the President of the United States? Well now you can – at least virtually, through Twitter! The White House and President Obama has today officially signed up for Twitter, and has begun tweeting using the sanctioned account @POTUS – as in, President of the United States. At the moment, it appears that all tweets will be personally composed by President Barack Obama himself.
The real question is what happens to the account following next year’s Presidential Election – will Barack Obama retain control over @POTUS (likely with a username change), or will it move onto our next commander and chief? The anticipation is killing me!
Source: @POTUS (Twitter)
Sprint to create new
As had been rumored heavily reported earlier this week, we can confirm that RadioShack has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Today’s announcement brought an internal memo written by company CEO Joseph C. Magnacca, who outlined the “lengthy” bankruptcy process confirming key details of the announcement, including the sale of “between 1,500 and 2,400” company owned stories to Radio Shack affiliate Standard General and plans for new “dedicated mobility ‘store within a store’ retail” in 1,750 of those acquired stores.
Click through after the break to read the full corporate memo, as delivered to RadioShack stores this evening.
An extension of Blu-ray makes it all happen
4K televisions (or Ultra HD, if that’s your thing) are amazing, with picture quality that often goes far beyond anything you can even remotely hope to find on now standard 1080p sets. The big problem, however, is that up until now, there just hasn’t been much to actually watch with these new, expensive, beautiful televisions. Netflix has helped fill the gap with a small library of shows streaming in 4K, but the selection is next to nil and support is limited to only select, Netflix sanctioned smart televisions. That’s all about the change however as The Blu-ray Disc Association has just announced at CES that they’re working on a new version of the existing Blu-ray technology that will bring 4K movies to your next home theater system, in convenient disc format.
The new discs, which will be branded as Ultra HD Blu-ray and will essentially be Blu-rays manufactured with a new process that allows up to 33GB per layer (up from 25GB), meaning that a single disc will allow for as much as 99GB. This is absolutely necessary given that 4K movies require an obscene amount of available space, way more than the average 1080p Blu-ray movie.
Manufacturer Panasonic is proving the concept with a prototype Ultra HD player, seen above. Sure enough, it works as you’d expect – this is just your average Blu-ray player with the added bonus of beautiful 4K video playback. According to Engadget, the new Ultra HD Blu-ray specification – which has yet to be finalized – will likely call for HVEC encoding, a next-generation encoder that allows for incredibly highly compressed file without losing quality.
These new Ultra HD Blu-rays are expected to hit market by the end of 2015, however a delay into early 2016 is still possible. While all this technology is cool and it’s fantastic that 4K will finally have an opportunity to invade the average living room, the real question is whether or not Americans are ready to invest in a next generation optical disc format. It seems like just yesterday that the industry tried to get us to ditch our old and busted DVDs for high definition Blu-rays. Can that same strategy be successful only a couple of years later?
It's an Android tablet, but nice
Dell hasn’t always been known to make the most lust-worthy devices, but the company has struck design gold with a couple of the new devices they’ve brought with them to CES this year. Introducing the XPS 13 laptop – an ultra-thin, ultra-portable, ultrabook with an optional super high resolution display, an aluminum body with just a touch of carbon fiber, and practically no bezels. Okay, there’s a little bezel, but we’re talking one tiny bezel here.
Spec wise, we’re looking at all options coming equipped with a next-generation Intel Core processor, which the company just announced at CES this week. There’s a model with a 1080p display that starts at a cool $800, while higher end model with the 4K display will cost you a more hefty $2,349. The lesser model went on sale today, while the 4K model ships soon.
Next up is the Venue 8 7000 tablet, an Android 5.0 tablet that has more than few tricks up its sleeves. For one thing, it is gorgeous, with an amazing aluminum body, and OLED (yes – OLED, like the ones found in LG’s new TVs) 8-inch display with an impressive 2560 x 1600 resolution. But what makes the Venue really special is its camera set up. Intel’s new RealSense technology is on board, marking the first tablet – and one of the first devices – to have the new, motion and depth tracking technology with Kinect-like utility.
The Venue 8 7000 starts at a very reasonable $400 and is also available in a higher end LTE model. If that perks your ears up, you can head on over to Dell’s website and get yours now.
Forget it, pack it up, we're going home
While CES can bring us some pretty cool innovations and new technologies, it can also introduce plenty of truly “WTF” moments. Oh, and on that note, WTF. OhMiBod is apparently a regular manufacturer at CES, and this year they truly went all out with their latest and greatest: a Bluetooth “massager” that syncs with that Apple Watch you aren’t even wearing yet for in order to keep track and control your, uh, you know, pleasure levels. Or something.
Apparently, your Apple Watch will control the way that “massager” vibrates, used to – and this is a quote from Suki Dunham, founder of OhMiBod, and apparently a very strange woman, “create the vibrations that drive his or her partner’s pleasure, […] (and) also determines the strength and intensity of those vibrations.”
But wait, there’s more! You’ll also be able to use your voice to record “vibration patterns” that you can push to your “massager” to really personalize your intimate time in ways that nobody could haver ever, ever, ever dreamt before, unless you want did in which case hey, more power to you.
OhMiBod promises that new features will be coming to their “massagers” as early as March 2015, all based on the company’s existing “Cuddle and Share” product. And with that, I am officially done.
webOS lives on... again
Last year LG resurrected Palm’s ill-fated webOS smartphone platform, reimagining it as a next-generation Smart TV platform with little in the way of any sort of competition when it comes to usability and design. It was just June that LG announced that they’ve sold 1 million television sets running webOS, and now the company is back with seven – yes, count them, seven – new models running an upgraded version of LG’s webOS platform, which the company is calling webOS 2.0, all in various sizes. Oh, and some of them are even curved.
But unlike last year’s webOS Smart TVs, which featured essentially mostly conventional 1080p LCD panels, this year LG is making a bold move by heavily pushing the next generation 4K OLED technology. OLED panels have several improvements over traditional LCDs, including blacker blacks, deeper and richer colors, and better energy efficiency.
OLEDs aren’t necessarily anything new – they’ve been a staple of numerous CES’s past, at this point – but LG’s new webOS 2.0 OLED Smart TVs promise to be among the first relatively affordable OLED sets. 4K panels, of course, offer a much higher resolution than 1080p displays resulting in a much sharper, more detailed picture.
LG hasn’t said anything in the way of pricing or availability of any of their 4K OLED Smart TVs, however expect to learn more in the weeks and months ahead.
Bringing Smart Homes to life
I’ve been a fan of the Smart Home concept since I first saw the American classic movie “Smart House” by the Disney Channel, which means I’ve been waiting to talk to a robot house for the last 15 years. Finally, my time as come, and it figures it would be in part thanks to Apple to lead the charge; though Apple may not actually have any sort of presence at CES 2015, hardware supporting their HomeKit smart home ecosystem is absolutely everywhere.
iHome, manufacturer of an absolutely endless line of portable speaker systems that work well with iPhones, iPods, and iPads, came to CES with their first HomeKit accessory, the $40 SmartPlug. SmartPlug works as an intermediary between the electrical outlets in your house and whatever you plug into the wall, allowing you to turn nearly every piece of electronics in your house on and off, right from your iOS device. It even supports Siri, so if you’re really lazy, you could just say “Hey Siri, turn on my lamp,” and poof – lamp is on.
There’s also Switch by accessory manufacturer iDevice, another device that plugs into your wall outlets and devices to do the same. iDevice’s accompanying application allows you to set “schedules”, which work as advanced timers. Know you get home from the library at 3:00 PM every day? Switch will remember to turn on the lights before you even get home.
Next up – and most ambitiously – there’s the Elgato Eve, a complete line of HomeKit connected devices and sensors that do everything from determine how energy efficient your home is to the amount of water you consume in a given timeframe, to automatically turning the lights on and off like the aforementioned devices, and even the weather both in and outside your house. Elgato’s Eve iOS application then puts all of this data together to give you a ridiculously specific idea of every element of your living environment.
While Apple has yet to officially launch HomeKit, and none of these devices have hit the market just yet, CES 2015 is the sign we needed that smart homes will finally become a real, honest to goodness thing this year. While we may be a little while away from talking to a holographic avatar representing your house complete with a unique, crazed personality – especially one with the likeness of famous actress Katey Sagal – I think this is close enough to count. Welcome to the future!
Well, Apple does have a reputation
Taking a break from CES coverage for a moment to highlight people’s perception of Apple in 2015 – namely, Apple’s reputation for high prices. Two out of four of the contestants in an episode of ‘Price is Right’ were asked how much they thought a 16GB iPhone 6 and a year’s worth of 4GB of data and unlimited talk/text were worth.
Two of the four contestants thought all of that would cost the average consumer $7,500, whilst the latter two guessed $850 and $930 respectively. The actual cost? $1,969.
This isn’t the first time we’ve got the impression that consumer sentiment is that Apple is over priced; in fact, the company is continuously accused of price gouging and over pricing their electronics, and have been practically since the company’s inception. This is often bologna, as the Price Is Right just showed; when comparing actual specifications of Apple products with competitor’s products, Apple often is within earshot and almost always competitive.
‘Price Is Right’ host Drew Carrey at the time commented that he hoped ‘the marketing people at Apple are watching this.’ Me too, Drew. Me too.
Interested in seeing this mess for yourself? We’ve embedded a YouTube video of the recording after the break.
'90s looks, '10s performance
Before I start, let me just say – I want one of these. I want one of these so, so, so bad. Look at it – this is the new Seagate Seven external hard drive, a 500GB disk inside a beautiful, gorgeous, jaw dropping external enclosure complete with USB 3.0 support, all in a package barely any bigger than that iPhone 6 in your hipster brother’s pockets.
Seagate is releasing this bad boy as a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the company’s first mass market 5.25-inch hard disk, which also happened to be the fist of its kind in the world. I’d be willing to bet, though, that people who bought that first hard disk all those years ago weren’t getting 500GB of space, nor a package this small. And they probably would have asked what “USB” was.
The Seagate Seven will be available wherever decent external hard drives are sold by the end of January, and it’ll run you an actually fairly decent $99, and you can pre-order yours now over at Seagate.com. Sign me up.
Spatial orientation comes to notebooks
The Xbox’s Kinect may not have set the world on fire like Microsoft ad hoped it would, but that isn’t stopping Acer from giving it a go. Launching as part of the company’s new notebook lineup being introduced at CES, Acer’s high end V 17 Nitro notebook has an integrated Intel RealSense 3D camera. Used to measure motion and depth, the V 17 Nitro’s will allow you to control compatible PC games in a very similar fashion to Kinect enabled Xbox games. Make a rowing motion with your arms to row your boat in-game – do a jumping jack and have your in-game avatar convince you you’re exercising – the possibilities are limitless.
Inside the rather eccentric looking gigantic laptop is all the latest and greatest specifications you might expect. You’ve got your quad-core 2.5GHz Core i7 processor, GeForce GTX 860M graphics card, 1TB of spinning disk storage alongside 128GB or 256GB of solid state storage, a high resolution 17-inch display, and more.
The Acer V 17 Nitro launches this month for an undisclosed sum of money, so keep an eye for more information. Acer also has a whole other lineup of new notebooks from high end gaming rigs to full blown workstation replacements, all of which you can discover at the source link below.
Taking the time to get it right
You may have heard of these cool new things called smartwatches, with them being all the rage these days and everything. It seems like everybody and their mom is trying to get a smartwatch out in the market these days, a task that has been made monumentally easier now that Google is supplying the software to every hardware manufacturer with their still fairly new Android Wear platform. But one company has remained relatively quiet on the smartwatch front; HTC, the folks behind the upcoming Nexus 9 and the excellent HTC One M8, has still yet to release any sort of wearable device at all. There were some rumors that HTC had been working on a wearable that should have shipped by now, but we’ve not heard much on that front in a long while.
This has lead to rampant speculation that, in another blow to the struggling company, HTC has abandoned plans to release a smartwatch at all – but HTC says not so fast. In a statement provided to Re/code, an HTC spokesperson has confirmed that the company is indeed actively working on a device, which is nearing completing but has been internally delated so as to give it a bit more time in the oven.
There’s still very little we know for sure on the state of HTC’s new wearable, but the company hasn’t had a good track record with anything but smartphones in the past. Just as tablet mania began in earnest in 2011, HTC launched their first – and to date, only – tablet, the Flyer, to just awful reviews and abysmal sales. Consumer reaction to the Flyer was so bad that the company actually scrapped all plans for future tablets at the time, which is part of what makes their now confirmed upcoming smartwatch all the more exciting.
iCloud lacked brute force detection
By now, you probably know that a number of celebrities have been the target of a nude photo leak that has said to have lead to the leak of potentially hundreds of photos and videos. Of course, this vehement violation of human privacy is a despicable act in and of itself – the thought that there are individuals out there who would go to any length to obtain such photos and violate women (and men) is nauseating. But where there’s a will, there’s a way – and unfortunately, Apple seems to be at the center of that way.
According to new reports, the leak stem from a security issue that was previously present in Apple’s iCloud cloud storage system. iCloud automatically backs up a user’s photos (among other data) into the cloud, which can then be downloaded to any authorized computer capable of logging into the iCloud account. Hackers claim that Apple had failed to implement any sort of brute force detection software into iCloud’s login authorization, a loophole that enterprising hackers worked around using software called iBrute, which “guessed” at password combinations at a dizzying speed.
Essentially, in layman’s terms, that means that anybody with the knowledge of a celebrity’s iCloud email address would be able to keep guessing at their password until they hit on the correct password by chance, forever. A simple loophole, which Apple has reportedly now implemented, stops users from trying passwords after a couple of incorrect guesses. The new protection is similar to how Apple’s iOS software locks users out of devices after a number of incorrect passcode guesses.
While there’s yet to be any confirmation from either Apple or the supposed hacker that this method was the one used to illegally obtain the celebrity’s passwords, Apple has confirmed that they are investigating their role in the issue, if any. Still, the fact that this loophole existed and had been easily exploitable up until just today indirectly implies it could have been the root cause.