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Harmony Takes Control of Home Sweet Automated Home
September 18, 2014
Logitech has announced four new products for the smart home in its Harmony family that let users control TVs, set-top boxes, speakers, lighting, thermostats, door locks, window shades and more. Users can trigger activities such as dimming the house lights in several ways: by pressing a button on their remote; passing a sensor; using the Harmony mobile app; or by setting up an automatic schedule.
FTC Gives E-tailers Bad Shipping News
September 18, 2014
The Federal Trade Commission has updated a longstanding rule governing mail- and phone-based retailers to explicitly include e-commerce vendors as well, meaning that online retailers now must abide by a 30-day shipping requirement or refund customers' payments if they can't. Merchants in violation could be sued by the FTC for injunctive relief or monetary civil penalties.
Early iPhone 6 Reviewers Might as Well Be Rating Vacuum Cleaners
September 18, 2014
With every new iPhone release, Apple delivers a handful of new iPhones to a select few industry journalists to review. How are those journalists and publications selected? First, they are known to appreciate the Apple aesthetic -- they have written dozens of positive reviews. No Apple haters allowed, which makes sense. It's important to set the stage for positive vibes.
Nintendo Blows Some Minds With Hyrule Warriors
September 17, 2014
Nintendo's Hyrule Warriors, which was released in Japan last month and will arrive in North America on Sept. 26, is a very different kind of game. Nintendo called in help from two outside studios: Team Ninja; and Omega Force, the creators of Dynasty Warriors. The result is a game that looks a lot like The Legend of Zelda but doesn't play like it at all.
FCC Chews on the Mobile Net Neutrality Question
September 17, 2014
The FCC on Tuesday hosted a roundtable discussion on the possibility of Net neutrality rules being applied to mobile networks. Participants in the talk included representatives from The Center for Media Justice, Consumers Union and CTIA. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler earlier this year suggested that the 2010 rules, which exempted mobile services from Net neutrality provisions, should be reconsidered.
IBM's Watson May Change the Face of Business Analytics
September 17, 2014
IBM on Tuesday announced Watson Analytics, a natural language-based cognitive service designed to provide businesses with instant access to powerful predictive and visual analytics tools. It runs on desktop PCs and mobile devices. Watson Analytics automates data preparation, predictive analysis, and visual storytelling for business professionals in data-intensive areas such as marketing and sales.
Panasonic's New Point-and-Shoot Snapper Supports 4K Video
September 17, 2014
Panasonic on Monday introduced the Lumix DMC-LX100, a point-and-shoot camera that supports the latest in high-quality video -- 3840 x 2160 4K video at 30 frames per second -- as well as 1920 x 1080 HD video, which can be stored in AVCHD progressive or MP4 format. The LX100 takes advantage of its 4K support to create 8-megapixel photos from single frames in video.
PredictionIO's Simon Chan on Machine Learning by Devs for Devs
September 16, 2014
PredictionIO is building the MySQL of prediction. The young company recently released version 0.7.3 of its open source machine-learning server. Unlike typical prediction algorithms and open source libraries, PredictionIO is based on making machine learning more available. Cofounder Simon Chan sees a gaping hole in open source tools to connect database programmers and software developers.
Destiny Teams Race to Vault of Glass Finish Line
September 16, 2014
Bungie's second special Destiny event, dubbed "Vault of Glass," went live early Tuesday. Bungie calls it "the most elaborate mission" it has ever created. Only gamers who have reached Level 26 will qualify. Attempts to complete the Raid are being streamed live on Twitch. After months of hype and anticipation, Destiny, the latest video game from Bungie, finally arrived last week.
Soft Super-Suit Could Make Soldiers Stronger
September 16, 2014
A new, flexible robotic suit funded by the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could enable soldiers to walk longer distances with less fatigue and also improve mobility for disabled civilians. Called the "Soft Exosuit," the biologically inspired device is made of flexible textiles woven together into a piece of smart clothing that is worn under a soldier's regular gear.
Medical Trials to Test Usefulness of Apple's HealthKit
September 15, 2014
Stanford and Duke Universities reportedly will use Apple's HealthKit in medical trials. Doctors at Stanford are working with Apple to let physicians track blood sugar levels for children with diabetes, while Duke is developing a pilot program to track blood pressure, weight and other measurements for patients with cancer or heart disease. The programs will roll out in a few weeks.
Minecraft May Help Microsoft Build Its Mobile Strategy
September 15, 2014
Microsoft on Monday announced it has agreed to acquire Mojang, the software developer that created the popular Minecraft video game. Although it's subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory review, the deal is expected to be finalized by the end of this year. Microsoft will pay $2.5 billion for Mojang and gain full control of the iconic Minecraft franchise.
Rise of the Smartwatch
September 15, 2014
Taken separately, last week's announcements from Apple, Intel and T-Mobile were impressive. Intel and T-Mobile basically announced they were going to explode the existing mobile market, changing it dramatically. Apple embraced some slow-moving technologies, which should speed them up dramatically. I don't think what Apple announced is in the same league, but it also will drive change.
Apple Pay Rings Opening Bell in Banks vs. Retailers Match
September 15, 2014
Apple's unveiling last week of its Apple Pay NFC mobile payments system has triggered a clash between banks and the retail industry. Apple has lined up support from banks and credit card companies, but Best Buy and Walmart have said they will not support Apple Pay, according to reports. Instead, they will go with a competing mobile wallet application, CurrentC.
Feds Wielded Baseball Bat to Win Yahoo's NSA Cooperation
September 12, 2014
The Obama administration threatened Yahoo with fines of $250,000 daily if it wouldn't comply with demands to hand over user information to the NSA, Yahoo has disclosed. Yahoo had filed suit against the demands in 2007, citing the Fourth Amendment. "They basically said you must do this thing that you don't want to do or we'll put you out of business," said ITIF's Daniel Castro.
Google Buys Developer of Tremor-Canceling Tech
September 12, 2014
Google has purchased Lift Labs, which produces battery-operated utensils that make it easier for people with tremors to eat their meals. Parkinson's and ET patients' hands shake, making it difficult for them to eat or drink. Lift Labs' products, offered under the "Liftware" name, cancel more than 70 percent of tremors. Lift Labs also is working on attachments for painting and craftwork.
Gadget Ogling: It's Raining Apples
September 12, 2014
It's usually around here that I introduce the column and tease the agenda, but since absolutely nothing happened in the gadget world this week, I'm going to take it easy. Oh, wait -- sorry. Apple happened. Welcome to a special edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, a weekly peek at just-announced gadgets. Of course, the big topic is Apple's iPhone 6 and its first wearable, the Apple Watch.
Verizon May Launch Have-It-Your-Way Internet TV
September 12, 2014
Verizon in the first half of next year will launch an Internet TV service that offers a selection of custom channels as well as a bundle of content from the Big Four networks, according to reports. Represented in the mobile-minded bundle will be not only content from ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, but also millennials-focused programming from DreamWorks Animation's Awesomeness TV.
If Google Were French
September 11, 2014
Europeans are relentlessly attacking Google: A German official called for its breakup, a French minister charged it was a threat to sovereignty, and a publisher compared it to a dragon, according to a report. Really? I would have thought the euro and the draconian austerity program needed to keep it functioning threatened sovereignty more than Google.
Will Ferrell Calls On Gamers to Launch Cancer Assault
September 10, 2014
Comedian Will Ferrell on Wednesday announced an effort to battle cancer by giving gamers a chance to participate in a two-hour gaming event with him. The Indiegogo initiative aims to raise $375,000 for nonprofit organizations Cancer for College and DonateGames, by asking gamers to contribute at least $10. One randomly selected giver will win the opportunity to play games with Ferrell on Oct. 26.
Pols Besieged by Fast, Furious Messages on Internet Slowdown Day
September 10, 2014
U.S. lawmakers were getting an estimated 1,000 calls a minute from constituents concerned about Net neutrality by noon Pacific Time on Internet Slowdown Day, an online demonstration held on Wed., Sept. 10. "We've set a new record for FCC comments and beat Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction,'" said David Moon of Demand Progress. Father of the Internet Tim Berners-Lee tweeted his support.
Intel Picks Up Its Mobile Pace
September 09, 2014
Intel on Tuesday made a mobile splash as it kicked off the Intel Developer Forum being held in San Francisco through Thursday. It announced the commercial availability of Intel Edison, its postage stamp-sized System on a Chip, and of its second-generation Intel XMM 7260 and 7262 LTE modem. It also unveiled the MICA bracelet -- available exclusively on AT&T's network.

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