? All Tech Radio Episode 425
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  • In the not-too-distant future, Amazon deliveries could come by air directly to your doorstep. The "octocopters" aren't ready to take flight yet. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in an interview on 60 Minutes that the drones would be ready to take flight in four to five years. But an Amazon spokesperson pointed to an updated post on the company's website promising aerial deliveries as soon as federal rules change. Those FAA rules could come as soon as 2015. The type of flights Bezos proposed are currently not allowed. Unlike some other drones currently used, these would be autonomous -- they would fly without a pilot.
  • AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless launched a database for stolen smartphones last year, and today the wireless industry says that database system is complete. CTIA president and CEO Steve Largent announced that the database now allows carriers to block activation of LTE smartphones as well as 3G devices, hopefully deterring their theft, and has been integrated with international databases so foreign carriers can assist the effort. "As more countries and more carriers around the world participate in the 3G and 4G/LTE databases, criminals will have fewer outlets since these stolen phones would be blacklisted and could not be reactivated," wrote Largent in a press release.
  • Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Twitter are engaged in a costly tech arms race, with their businesses and cultures at stake. Not against one another, mind you, but a common foe: the National Security Agency. The tech juggernauts are investing in security technology, lobbying efforts and good old-fashioned PR to thwart U.S. government snooping of their data systems, often without their cooperation or knowledge. For months, the narrative has focused on data breaches and spying as tech's biggest players quietly stewed over a sense of government betrayal, while assessing threats to their brands because of consumer outrage over invasion of their privacy. The breaches, and their threat to company reputations, are collateral damage of the government's war on terrorism.
  • Chris Whitmore of Deutsche Bank polled more than 100 stores over the weekend to assess demand for Apple's products. In all, about 50 Apple Retail Stores and more than 50 AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Best Buy, Walmart and Target locations were surveyed, and online checks were conducted as well. Whitmore found that demand for all of Apple's key products was "robustm" and that the company has been able to supply solid levels of inventory at its own stores thus far for the holiday shopping season. Specifically, Whitmore found that the iPhone 5s was in ample supply at Apple's stores, while on the 128 gigabyte capacity of the iPad Air was sold out in a few locations. The same couldn't be said for the iPad mini with Retina display, which has been in short supply since it first went on sale in November. The poll found the Wi-Fi-only model had a 13 percent stock-out rate at Apple stores, while the cellular-capable model was out of stock at 20 percent of Apple stores contacted on Friday.
  • An unpatched vulnerability in Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 creates a means for hackers to gain admin rights on vulnerable Windows XP machines, Microsoft warned on Wednesday. The zero-day local privilege escalation vulnerability is not suitable for remote code execution but might allow a standard user account to execute code in the kernel. As such, the bug is not that much use on its own, but potentially troublesome when mixed in a cocktail with other software vulnerabilities in order to formulate workable attacks. Unfortunately this has already happened and the vulnerability has already been used in anger in conjunction with an Adobe Reader exploit to target a recently patched vulnerability in the widely used PDF reader software, anti-malware firm FireEye warns. Simply put, the Windows bug allows hackers to bypass Adobe's sandbox defenses but only on older versions of Reader.
  • Dell announced that it will introduce a new line of Ultra HD Monitors with 4K resolution for under $1k. In a statement released the company outlined the new "Dell Ultra HD Monitors," promising to deliver "stunning screen clarity and detail with four times the resolution of Full HD. Featuring Dell PremierColor, Dell UltraSharp Ultra HD Monitors deliver accurate, precise color at virtually full spectrum coverage, and include support of major color industry standards including 99 percent AdobeRGB - the highest level in the industry, and the ability to precisely calibrate to the palettes users need for custom color work.
  • PC Gaming is not dead. Game-distribution service Steam just topped 7 million concurrent online customers for the first time in its history. This new record comes in the midst of the annual fall sale that Valve holds for its digital-download platform. Steam approached the 7-million mark for the past several days, but it peaked at 7.19 million customers around 11 a.m. Pacific time today. In late October, Valve revealed that Steam has 65 million registered accounts. That means that more than one in every 10 Steam members were using the service today. That's a huge number of engaged gamers.
  • Apple's iPhone 5s is proving to be a hit with UK consumers, at least compared to the cheaper iPhone 5c, but Apple's overall share of sales in the country is still less than it was a year ago. That's according to new figures based on Kantar World Panel ComTech's consumer survey data for sales during the three months to the end of October. Britain is a bright spot for Apple's iPhone 5s/5c release in otherwise tough conditions in Europe for Apple. Despite record launch sales reaching nine million for the two models this September, Apple's share of quarterly smartphone sales continues to slide in Europe's big five - Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. A year ago iOS made up 20 percent of sales, which has fallen to 15.8 percent today, according to Kantar, leaving Windows Phone a bigger seller in Italy and about to overtake iOS in France and Spain.
  • From Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet: It turns out the Microsoft codename for that wave of deliverables is "Threshold." A couple of my contacts have confirmed that Microsoft Executive Vice President Terry Myerson recently mentioned the Threshold codename in an internal email about plans for his unified operating-system engineering group. If all goes according to early plans, Threshold will include updates to all three OS platforms (Xbox One, Windows and Windows Phone) that will advance them in a way to share even more common elements.
  • Android fans looking for a different smartphone experience will be be able to get their hands on Oppo's latest phone, the N1, from December 10, the company said today. The phone will retail at €449 ($599). The company announced its higher-end device in September, bringing together a number of innovative takes on smartphone hardware design and a different approach to software. Available only in white, the 5.9-inch phablet has Oppo's Android 4.2-based ColorOS and runs on a 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 quad core processor with 2GB RAM. The device ships in 16GB or 32GB variants with a display at 1080p HD resolution, while the battery has a 3610 mAh capacity. From there, the device includes more unusual features, such as its camera: instead of a main and front-facing cameras, the N1 has one which rotates 206 degrees. It's also got O-Touch, the N1's rear touch panel for scrolling, tapping or taking photos.

email from listeners:

  • John from Seattle asks "Now that the new consoles are out for Xbox One and PS4, which one would you recommend?"