? All Tech Radio Episode 481
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  • Chinese access to Google's email service has been blocked amid government efforts to limit or possibly ban access to the U.S. company's services, which are popular among Chinese who seek to avoid government monitoring. Data from Google's Transparency Report show online traffic from China to Gmail fell precipitously on Friday and dropped to nearly zero on Saturday, although there was a tiny pickup on Monday. Taj Meadows, a spokesman for Google Asia Pacific, said Google has checked its email service and "there's nothing technically wrong on our end." Earl Zmijewski, vice president of data analytics at U.S.-based Internet analysis firm Dyn Research, said his tests showed that China's government had blocked Google IP addresses in Hong Kong used by people on the mainland to access Gmail services.
  • A member of the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) hacker network claims to have cloned a thumbprint of a German politician by using commercial software and images taken at a news conference. Jan Krissler says he replicated the fingerprint of defence minister Ursula von der Leyen using pictures taken with a "standard photo camera". Mr Krissler had no physical print from Ms von der Leyen. Fingerprint biometrics are already considered insecure, experts say. Mr Krissler, also known as Starbug, was speaking at a convention for members of the CCC, a 31-year-old network that claims to be "Europe's largest association" of hackers.
  • Sony says its PlayStation Network is back online after three days of disruptions that began on Christmas. But heavy traffic might continue to cause problems for customers seeking to play their favorite games, the company said Sunday. A group of hackers called Lizard Squad -- or someone claiming to speak for it -- took credit for the disruptions. In a blog post Saturday night saying service had been restored, Sony vice president Catherine Jensen added that "PlayStation Network and some other gaming services were attacked over the holidays with artificially high levels of traffic to disrupt connectivity and online gameplay." Microsoft's Xbox Live service, which also went down Thursday, was back online Friday, although the company reported continuing problems.
  • Apple's payments service may make the jump to the U.K. Let's look at the technology stocks to watch Monday: Apple. The company is in talks with Britain's top banks to introduce Apple Pay to customers, reports The Telegraph. The payments service that lets users make credit cards transaction through their smartphone is expected to debut in the U.K. in the first half of 2015.
  • As previously promised, the flood gates for the Halo 5 multiplayer Beta have opened today for anyone who bought Halo: The Master Chief Collection. You can also gain access to the Beta if you happen to be a member of the Xbox One Preview Program. Aside from those two options, I'm afraid there's no other way to play the game just yet. This testing phase will last three weeks up until January 18th and participants are advised to keep in mind that this build is not final, so the final product might end up being a bit different. Rather, the Halo 5: Guardians Beta is meant to give players a general idea of the game and sending in feedback is of course encouraged.
  • The FCC will soon issue a new set of Open Internet rules, and Republicans in Congress are already making plans to push back. For the White House, a major win on net neutrality might come at a cost - scuttling everything else on Washington's tech and telecom agenda next year. The Federal Communications Commission is racing to write rules that require Internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally, and many expect the agency will follow President Barack Obama's call to treat broadband service like a utility.
  • On Jan. 2, 8 a.m. local time in Japan, Apple will continue to follow the Japanese tradition of fukubukuro ("lucky bag"), where brick-and-mortar retail stores sell bags filled with unknown items sold at heavy discounts. This is great news for shoppers in Japan; for the rest of us, it's time yet again to get a little jealous. Last year, shoppers in Japan were able to pay about $345 to get one of four variations of the Apple Lucky Bag containing items such as the iPod nano, iPad Air and MacBook Air.Each variation of the Lucky Bag was different, but all of them contained a commemorative T-shirt, backpack and Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Mini. The Beats by Dre Pill Bluetooth speaker, Apple Magic Mouse, Nike+ FuelBand SE, Square Reader and JayBird BlueBuds X headphones were among the other items included in the four versions of last year's Apple Lucky Bag.
  • A video of a grandmother opening an iPhone box going viral. Because she's more excited about the present when she realizes it's not real. When she first sees the box, the grandmother says, "The problem is that I really am not equipped to handle this." The grandmother opens the box and finds what looks to be a phone. A relative says, "I want you to put it in your mouth." She replies, "I beg your pardon?" "I want you to take a bite out of your phone," the relative says. Then she figures it out. She was actually given a chocolate phone as a prank by her grandchildren. She couldn't express enough how relieved she was it wasn't a real phone.
  • Chattanooga is not quite San Francisco, but the Tennessee city can now boast something that even Silicon Valley can't: It is the first city in the U.S. to offer a fiber-optic network with a gigabit per second Internet speed, which is 50 times faster than the national broadband average. The fiber-optic network is the latest in a series of developments to raise the 175-year-old city's profile, which began with downtown redevelopment. The Tennessee Aquarium and a $120 million real estate project on Tennesssee River waterfront lead to a major coup in the form of a $1 billion Volkswagen assembly plant announced in 2008. The Southern municipality's government used $111 million in federal stimulus money allocated in 2009 to build out the network, which leaders hope will help growth the tech sector.
  • A new round of NSA documents snatched by master blabbermouth Edward Snowden appeared online late on Sunday, revealing spooks' internet security pet hates. The latest dump of PDFs published by Der Spiegel appeared to show what the Five Eyes surveillance buddies - the USA, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand - see as obstacles posed by internet security protocols. While it's clear that the docs may well be out of date given that they cover the 2010 to 2012 period, they offer some interesting nuggets about how spies have attempted to break strong encryption online. An 18-page, redacted file (PDF) dated 13 June 2011, for example, goes into tantalising detail about "A potential technique to deanonymise users of the TOR network".
  • Samsung says that the Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A is the world's first smartphone to support tri-band carrier aggregation. Instead of combining two different frequency bands into a single high-speed connection like the standard Galaxy Note 4, the Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A can combine up to three frequency bands. The original Galaxy Note 4's LTE modem supports speeds of up to 150 Mbps. The Galaxy Note 4 LTE-A, however, supports LTE Category 6 speed (300 Mbps), which will allow you to download a 700MB video in just 19 seconds or 40MB worth of music, files in just one second. The smartphone also supports LTE Category 9, which delivers data speeds of up to 450 Mbps. Unfortunately, wireless networks around the world aren't capable of supporting 450 Mbps connections at this point, but Samsung says that support should come by the end of 2015.

email from listeners:

  • Phil from Seattle asks "Is my Nintendo Wii going to be useless or will Nintendo pull out of its slump?"