? All Tech Radio Episode 479
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  • While the Oculus Rift is still in development and Samsung has its own virtual reality headset, Google has made it possible to experience VR cheap and simple. Google Cardboard, which was first announced at the Google I/O this year, requires only a set made out of cardboard and a smartphone. Google's idea is very interesting and might have a lot of potential. After achieving a landmark of 500,000 Google Cardboard units delivered, Google unveiled the next move for its virtual reality headset by providing more apps compatible with the VR set and tempting developers to build more apps for the technology. On the Google Play Store there are over 20 apps compatible with the Google Cardboard. Some of the apps are games that have the player jump from the rooftop of a skyscraper in order of collecting numerous prizes on their way down before landing on the ground safely. Other apps offer a more interactive experience such as The Hobbit VR Experience which provides fans of the movie with a 360 degree landscape of the Shire.
  • After days of silence, Sony Pictures Entertainment acknowledged a voluminous, embarrassing leak of internal e-mails and other materials on Sunday, warning numerous media outlets in a strongly worded letter against publishing or using the "stolen" corporate data exposed by unidentified hackers. The materials, particularly e-mails, provided an extraordinary glimpse inside one of the world's best-known corporations. The initial stories based on the materials went viral and absorbed days of coverage last week, illuminating the high-powered dealings, petty squabbling and ego that can define Hollywood.
  • The Pirate Bay has released a statement saying it has not yet decided whether it will come back. This is the first time the team has communicated with the public since it went down last week after police raided its data center in Sweden. "Will we reboot? We don't know yet. But if and when we do, it'll be with a bang," Mr 10100100000 told TorrentFreak. "The people behind TPB are like one big collective mind. There are no leaders nor any one in charge. About 30-50 people from all over the world pitch their ideas against each other and whatever comes out of that is what will be the fate of TPB." This is significant because The Pirate Bay was the most popular file sharing website on the planet. Nevertheless, competitors have stepped up their game and many "new" sites have sprung up as potential replacements.
  • Microsoft has made available a first public preview of Skype Translator, its service for real-time language translation. Microsoft execs announced Skype Translator in May 2014, noting that a public preview would be available this year. The company began taking sign ups for the preview in November 2014. Microsoft is characterizing Skype Translator as "a brand new feature from Skype." The new service translates conversations both ways in near real-time. The service will display an on-screen transcript of the call, and also ultimately will translate instant-message chats in more than 45 languages. Initially, the preview available on December 15 is available on devices running Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 Technical Preview, though Microsoft is expected to make it ultimately available across a wide variety of devices and operating systems over time. Today's preview also is currently available in only in English and Spanish.
  • Facebook has officiallydropped from its website search results from Bing, the search engine owned by Microsoft Corp. The move comes on the heels of Facebook unveiling a new search tool on its own site, allowing the site's 1.35 billion users to easily search for old Facebook activity on theirs and others' pages, perhaps indicating an increased emphasis on the lucrative web search market currently dominated by Facebook rival Google.
  • Windows 10 will be a little more gaming-infused than its past installments. That's courtesy of a new Xbox App, and the Halo AI turned phone AI turned PC operating system AI, Cortana. The news comes from a leaked consumer build of Windows 10, which has escaped from Microsoft ahead of a planned January press event. The Xbox App is advertised as unfinished, but merely a "sneak peek" at what can be expected when it makes it to market. The app allows access to Xbox Live friend lists, achievements and the store, with hints that Xbox Video and Xbox Music may someday be integrated into the main Windows store at some point in the future. The larger news is in the form of Cortana, the digital assistant that users will be able to utilize to search and write notes and set reminders and so on, all the functions she performs on Windows phones currently, plus what's likely to be a new slate of abilities as well.
  • Iranian hackers may be sniffing out energy targets as part of a well-planned operation, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has reportedly warned. It comes after Cylance researchers revealed earlier this month that an alleged Iranian hacking group had stepped up its two-year-long campaign to breach the security systems of critical infrastructure around the globe. Iran is looking to bring down electrical grids across the US and other countries it deems to be an enemy of the state. Water and natural gas could also be a target by simply changing the direction of the flow of water and gas in the system causing a backup and overload. This can all be done remotely and has already happened in some small towns, but thought to be accidents.
  • Need to behave responsibly after a night out on the town? There's now an app for that, and it's being paid for by the federal government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently decided to fund a new app called ENDUI that will show users how their alcohol intake will affect their motor skills and reflexes, thereby showing them just how (un)prepared they may be to get behind the wheel. The idea behind the endeavor, as the name suggests, is to end DUI's. While the app doesn't include a built-in breathalyzer test, it allows drinkers to enter their height, weight and number of drinks consumed to approximate their blood alcohol content. But more unique is the app's approach to simulating how your drunkenness will affect your functioning in real life situations. For example, one game, or test, asks you to press a large, red "stop" button anytime a pedestrian appears, or the car in front of your pretend-vehicle slows down.
  • In the central business district (CBD) of Sydney, Australia there was a hostage situation. But while everyone was concerned for those involved, Uber seemed to think it was a good idea to increase the rates for its ride-sharing service - a decision that it shortly backtracked on. A tweet from the @Uber_Sydney account stated, "We are all concerned with events in CBD. Fares have increased to encourage more drivers to come online & pick up passengers in the area." No sooner was the tweet sent before the public started to express outrage on social networks with some claiming that the fares reached around $100 Australian dollars (around $80 USD) for a ride.
  • Instagram has told Newsbeat it has the potential to "change the world" as it announced it has overtaken Twitter with 300 million users. The company's CEO Kevin Systrom described the milestone as "exciting" and said the company would "continue to grow". Twitter claims to have 284 million users accessing the network each month. Facebook, which boasts 1.35 billion monthly active users, bought Instagram in 2012. Speaking to Newsbeat ahead of the announcement, Kevin Systrom said: "Instagram is about seeing a live pulse of the world right now, it's not just about taking a photo of a cute baby or a cute dog."

email from listeners:

  • Paul from LA asks "Which cell phone company is the best to go with?"