Leo got his Apple HomePod this week and he says it's a device that suffers from an identity crisis. Apple isn't selling it as a home assistant like the Echo or Google Assistant, even though it has Siri on it. It's limited in its ability to play music, though. It's slightly better than the first generation Sonos, but not as good as a bonafide stereo system. It's just an expensive speaker for Apple Music via Airplay. It doesn't even work with Bluetooth. If you're not drinking that Kool-aid, there's no sense in buying one.
This Week in Tech News
Leo says that the Space X Falcon Heavy rocket launch, with two boosters automatically landing afterwards, was a triumph of engineering (even though one crashed in the ocean). The fun part was using Elon Musk's Tesla Roadster as ballast with a mannequin dressed in a spacesuit, playing Bowie's Space Oddity on the stereo. What a great test, and the PR stunt of the century for Tesla, with hundreds of thousands watching the live stream of StarMan orbiting the earth before heading off to Mars.
The day before the Super Bowl is the biggest TV buying day of the year — even bigger than Black Friday. That's because it's also the end of the model year and they want to clear out the old models to make room for the new models. Leo says that there are some times you want to wait for the latest and greatest, but right now is not that time. LCD and OLED TVs are still dominant and will be for a few more years until MicroLEDs take hold. So if you were waiting, don't! If you have an HD TV and wonder if you should buy 4K, now is the time because of HDR 4K TVs.
Tech companies announced quarterly earnings last week, and everything was up. Alphabet's revenue was up 24%, but because of the new tax law, it actually lost money. Alphabet had an additional tax expense of $9.9 billion, but that money went toward taxes on funds that were kept overseas to avoid that tax. Ebay lost money because it had to pay $3.1 billion, and Lenovo lost money because it had to pay $400 million in taxes.
Samsung will be announcing the Galaxy S9 smartphone later this month at Mobile World Congress. We expect the phone to be more expensive this time around, at $850, and it will look a lot like the Galaxy S8. It will have dual cameras, but for the most part, it likely won't be anything major that would prompt an upgrade unless you're already in the market for a new phone anyway.
Leo isn't sure how this will work, but TiVo is now supporting If This Then That, as well as Amazon Echo and others. TiVo also announced it would have a 'Super Bowl Skip' feature that would skip over the actual football game and show the commercials.
There's a new attack that has been affecting ATMs around the world, and it's called "Jackpotting." It causes ATMs to dispense all of its cash. Hackers are using endoscopes to gain access to the interior of an ATM in order to connect to it and hack into the ATM's Windows XP operating system. Then, the once the malware is installed, a remote command is given to spew out 40 bills every 23 seconds.
The New York Times recently ran a story about a company that's been selling fake social media accounts to celebrities and businesses. It's called Devumi, and it has millions of fake Twitter accounts. Some of them are based on stolen social identities. They may have pictures, backgrounds, and bios that are real but are part of a fake account that is then sold off. This is very widespread because in Hollywood, the amount of money actors make in a movie is often tied to the number of followers they have. This is what happens when follower counts are an important measure of success.
With the now infamous Spectre and Meltdown processor flaws affecting every intel based computer for the last ten years, Intel pushed out a fast fix to plug the holes. Now they're saying not to use it. It seems that some computers will get stuck in a reboot loop. So the cure is worse than the disease. To date, there's been no evidence that the Spectre and Meltdown flaws have been exploited, so Leo is wondering if the right advice is to do nothing at all. At least until a new fix has been released, or that malware shows up that will take advantage of it.
Kasperky AntiVirus was caught in the middle of a battle between the company's owners, and the Russian Security Services government agency. The company lost and now the Russians are now in charge of the Kaspersky Security Network. Leo says that he hasn't recommended Kaspersky for awhile now and even the US Federal Government recommends not using it because of the potential for spying. But it's more than a potential espionage tool, as there's a hole in the Kaspersky Network that would allow an employee of the company, or a hacker to snoop into your system.