harrymcc writes "Over at TIME.com, I rounded up the year's dumbest moments in technology. Yes, the launch of Healthcare.gov is included, as are Edward Snowden's revelations. But so are a bunch of people embarrassing themselves on Twitter, both BlackBerry and Lenovo hiring celebrities to (supposedly) design products, the release of glitchy products ranging from OS X 10.9 Mavericks to the new Yahoo Mail, and much more." I can't think of anything dumber than the NSA's claims that metadata isn't data.
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Nerval's Lobster writes "Lots of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and developers made headlines in 2013—but in hindsight, Edward Snowden will likely stand as this year's most influential figure in technology. In June, Snowden began feeding top-secret documents detailing the National Security Agency's surveillance programs to The Guardian and other newspapers. Much of that information, downloaded by Snowden while he served as a system administrator at an NSA outpost in Hawaii, suggested that the U.S. government swept up massive amounts of information on ordinary Americans as part of its broader operations. Whatever one's feelings on the debate over privacy and security, it's undeniable that Snowden's documents have increased general awareness of online vulnerability; but whether that's sparked an increased use of countermeasures—including encryption tools—is another matter entirely. On the developer side of things, when you consider the sheer amount of money, time, and code that'll be invested over the next few years in encryption and encryption-breaking, it's clear that Snowden's influence will be felt for quite some time to come—even if the man himself is trapped in Russian exile."
Bennett Haselton writes with four big tips for anyone blessed by the holiday buying frenzy with a new laptop; in particular, these are tips to pass on to non-techie relatives and others who are unlikely to put (say) "Install a Free operating system" at the very top of the list: Here's Bennett's advice, in short: (1) If you don't want to pay for an anti-virus program, at least install a free one. (2) Save files to a folder that is automatically mirrored to the cloud, for effortless backups. (3) Create a non-administrator guest account, in case a friend needs to borrow the computer. (4) Be aware of your computer's System Restore option as a way of fixing mysterious problems that arose recently." Read on for the expanded version; worth keeping in mind before your next friends-and-family tech support call.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Some high-profile tech initiatives really crashed-and-burned this year. Did BlackBerry executives really think that BlackBerry 10 would spark a miraculous turnaround, or were they simply going through the motions of promoting it? That's the key question as BlackBerry 10 devices fail to sell. Then there's Facebook's misbegotten attempt at 'skinning' the Android OS with its Home app. Or maybe Healthcare.gov counts as 2013's biggest debacle, with its repeated crashes and glitches and inability to carry out core functions. What do you think was the biggest software or hardware (or both) mishap of the past twelve months?"
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from the USA Today tech column: "...But until a lone information-technology contractor named Edward Snowden leaked a trove of National Security Agency documents to the media this summer, we didn't know just how much we'd surrendered. Now that we do, our nation can have a healthy debate — out in the open, as a democracy should debate — about how good a bargain we got in that exchange. For facilitating that debate, at great risk to his own personal liberty, Snowden is this column's technology person of the year for 2013."
jones_supa writes "At the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in early January, it is expected that multiple computer makers will unveil systems that simultaneously run two different operating systems, both Windows and Android, two different analysts said recently. The new devices will introduce a new marketing buzzword called PC Plus, explained Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies. 'A PC Plus machine will run Windows 8.1 but will also run Android apps as well', Bajarin wrote recently for Time. 'They are doing this through software emulation. I'm not sure what kind of performance you can expect, but this is their way to try and bring more touch-based apps to the Windows ecosystem.' Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, suggests that PC Plus could get millions of consumers more comfortable with Android on PCs. 'Just imagine for a second what happens when Android gets an improved large-screen experience. This should scare the heck out of Microsoft.'"
An anonymous reader writes with a link to Der Spiegel, which describes a Top-Secret spy-agency catalog which reveals that the NSA "has been secretly back dooring equipment from US companies including Dell, Cisco, Juniper, IBM, Western Digital, Seagate, Maxtor and more, risking enormous damage to US tech sector." Der Spiegel also has a wider ranging article about the agency's Tailored Access Operations unit.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Paul Szoldra reports at Business Insider that Joel Gascoigne, CEO of social media startup Buffer, reveals his salary along with the salary of every single employee in the company, and includes the formula the company uses to get to each one. "One of the highest values we have at Buffer is transparency," says Gascoigne. "We do quite a number of things internally and externally in line with this value. Transparency breeds trust, and that's one of the key reasons for us to place such a high importance on it." Gascoigne, who has a salary of $158,800, revealed the exact formula Buffer uses to get to each employee's number: Salary = job type X seniority X experience + location (+ $10K if salary choice). Gascoigne says his open salary system is part of Buffer's "Default to Transparency" and says Buffer is willing to update the formula as the company grows but hopes that its focus on work/life balance fosters employees that are in it for the long haul. "In Silicon Valley, there's a culture of people jumping from one place to the next," says Gascoigne. "That's why we focus on culture. Doing it this way means we can grow just as fast—if not faster—than doing it the 'normal' cutthroat way. We're putting oil into the engine to make sure everything can work smoothly so we can just shoot ahead and that's what we're starting to see.""
An anonymous reader writes "A review of the top UX successes and failures of 2013 covers hot topics ranging from Snapchat to the Nest thermostat to David Pogue's departure from the New York Times. The author begins: 'In terms of UX milestones and missteps, 2013 failed to produce industry-altering innovations like 2007 with the introduction of the first iPhone or 2012 with the demise of Blackberry. Yet on another level, UX design in 2013 gave us a glimpse at the rapidly broadening definition of UX design as a structural concept and its role in the future of new media device design, content creation and even the status of product reviews created by leading tech journalists. In a critical way, I personally find this more interesting than blockbuster introductions that alter the technology landscape.'"
Velcroman1 writes "Fearing rapidly plummeting sales of traditional laptops and desktop computers — which fell by another 10 percent or so in 2013 — manufacturers are planning a revolt against Microsoft and the Windows operating system, analysts say. At the 2014 CES in Las Vegas, multiple computer makers will unveil systems that simultaneously run two different operating systems, both Windows and the Android OS that powers many of the world's tablets and smartphones, two different analysts said recently. The new devices will be called 'PC Plus' machines, explained analyst Tim Bajarin. 'A PC Plus machine will run Windows 8.1 but will also run Android apps as well,' Bajarin wrote. Another analyst put the threat to Windows bluntly: 'This should scare the heck out of Microsoft.'"
Tackhead writes "People of a certain age — the age before email filters were effective, may remember a few mid-90s buzzwords like 'bulletproof hosting' and 'double opt-in.' People may remember that Hormel itself conceded that although 'SPAM' referred to their potted meat product, the term 'spam' could refer to unsolicited commercial email. People may also remember AGIS, Cyberpromo, Sanford 'Spam King' Wallace, and Walt Rines. Ten years after a 2003 retrospective on Rines and Wallace, Ars Technica reminds us that the more things change, the more they stay the same."
An anonymous reader writes "A recent paper from Georgia Tech (abstract, paper itself) describes a system than can run the complete TPC-H benchmark suite on an NVIDIA Titan card, at a 7x speedup over a commercial database running on a 32-core Amazon EC2 node, and a 68x speedup over a single core Xeon. A previous story described an MIT project that achieved similar speedups. There has been a steady trickle of work on GPU-accelerated database systems for several years, but it doesn't seem like any code has made it into Open Source databases like MonetDB, MySQL, CouchDB, etc. Why not? Many queries that I write are simpler than TPC-H, so what's holding them back?"
wjcofkc writes "Interactive displays projected into the air in the spirit of Iron Man have been heralded as the next step in visual technology. Yet many obstacles remain. According to Russian designer Max Kamanin, creator of Displair, many the problems have now been largely cracked. With this attempt at refining the technology, the image is created inside a layer of dry fog which is composed of ultra-fine water droplets so small they lack moisture. Three-dimensional projections are then created using infrared sensors. The projected screen currently responds intuitively to 1,500 hand movements, many of which are similar to those used on mobile devices, such as pinch and zoom. The most immediate applications include advertising and medicine, with the latter offering a more hygienic alternative to touchscreens. The most immediate objection from home and office computer users is that they don't want to be waving their hands around all day, and while such questions as 'What happens when I turn on a fan?' are not answered here, just imagine a future with a projected keyboard and trackpad that use puff-air haptic feedback with the option of reaching right into the screen whenever it applies to the application at hand — and applications that take advantage of such a technology would no doubt come along. Better yet, imagine for yourself in the comments. As always, pictures speak a thousand words, so don't neglect the articles gallery."
An anonymous reader writes "The common trope these days is that the internet never forgets. We tech-inclined folk warn our friends and relatives that anything embarrassing they put on the internet will stay there whether they want it to or not. But at the same time, we're told about massive amounts of data being lost as storage services go out of business or as the media it's stored on degrades and fails. There are organizations like the Internet Archive putting a huge amount of effort into saving everything that can be saved, and they're not getting all of it. My question is this: how long can we reasonably expect the internet to remember us? Assume, of course, that we're not doing anything particularly famous or notable — just normal people leading normal lives. Will our great-grandkids be able to trace our online presence? Will all your publicly-posted photos be viewable in 50 years, or just the one of you tripping over a sheep and falling into the mud?"
An anonymous reader writes with the latest news about the aftermath of the Silk Road shutdown "From the article: 'Ulbricht ... said in a notarised December 11 statement that he believes the virtual currency should be returned to him because Bitcoins are "not subject to seizure" by federal law. Ulbricht, 29, now admits the Bitcoin fortune is his — even though he's previously denied any wrongdoing regarding Silk Road and claimed through his lawyer that the feds arrested the wrong guy.' So not only has he now confirmed his link to the site, and confirmed the money is his, but also means that a few precedents will be set. Is it seizable? Is it just 'copying data?'" Relatedly, three alleged moderators of Silk Road were indicted on Friday.