November 26, 2017 - Episode 485 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

Hosted by Scott Ertz and Avram Piltch, F5 Live is a livecast covering the worlds of gadgets, gaming, Internet and media.

Germany Bans Smartwatches for Children, Encourages Destroying Them

The market for kids' wearables is growing and myriad. Every year at CES we encounter at least one company showing off a wearable device that is designed to make kids safer and parents more at ease. Usually they are shaped like a watch, but not all of them offer screens. Most allow a parent to track the child via GPS, some allow parents to communicate with their kids, and some allow parents to listen in on their kids.

This last feature, while uncommon here in the US, has raised concern in Germany. While some helicopter parents have begun listening in on their kids' teachers, the government worries that it could be taken one step farther: espionage. Yes, that's right - the German government is worried about people listening in on all of the top-secret meetings that 8-year-olds are taking.

In reality, the concerns over privacy with these types of devices is legitimate. Several models of these watches, and other IoT transmitters, have been found to transmit and store data unencrypted. This means, especially in the case of children, that it could become really easy to track a child's location or listen to a child's environment, without anyone being the wiser. If the child in question is the kid of a public figure, tracking the child could be like tracking the parent, creating a double security threat.

In addition to banning the sale of these products, the government has encouraged parents to take them from their kids and destroy them. This might be an extreme reaction to a hypothetical problem. In fact, it seems that, rather than banning the devices entirely, perhaps regulations to ensure the safety and security of the data, and the wearer, might make for a better plan. The privacy issues are not limited to kids' smartwatches - in fact they are potentially ever-present in all IoT devices, including adult watches.

Data security is the real topic here, not kids' smartwatches in particular. As a whole, we need to encourage manufacturers of IoT devices to pay more attention to what they are doing, and to respect the privacy of the people who buy their products, not to demonize a single aspect of the industry.

November 19, 2017 - Episode 484 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, EA actually listens to gamers, DJI doesn't respect bug bounty reports and Amazon brings more to the Lord of the Rings universe.

How to Spot a Good Black Friday Season Deal - Episode 153 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch helps you prepare for Black Friday, which has expanded into a whole season, with deals over the next couple of weeks. Those deals can be overwhelming, with mass hysteria generated over televisions, laptops and more. Avram recommends making a plan by deciding what it is you are looking for, and what price would constitute a deal, and not jumping in just because something seems like a good price.

In addition, he shows off a new laptop he reviewed this week, the Acer Spin 1. This inexpensive laptop has an aluminum case and a screen better than some laptops triple its price, but it is powered by a Celeron processor. Who is it good for, and should you consider it? Avram's got the answer.

iHome iBT84 Color Changing Portable Bluetooth Speaker (PLuGHiTz Live Unboxed)

Bring the party wherever you go with the iBT84 Bluetooth speaker with speakerphone. Stream music wirelessly from your Bluetooth-enabled device. Enjoy your music without missing a call. Aux-in jack to play audio from any device equipped with a headphone jack. Two stereo drivers for rich, detailed sound. Color changing mode for fun, fabulous color effects which can be controlled via free app. Operates on internal rechargeable battery, charges via included USB charging cable. USB port to charge mobile devices.

Microsoft Lumia 650 and Actiontec ScreenBeam Mini2 (PLuGHiTz Live Unboxed)

Lumia 650

Discover the benefits of a seamless cross-device Windows 10 experience in a precision crafted package. With refined performance and premium design, the Lumia 650 is the smart choice for your business. Experience a crisp and bright viewing experience, even in direct sunlight, with a super sharp 5" HD OLED display that sits elegantly in a precision crafted, diamond cut metal frame. With lightweight design, a thin 6.9mm profile and up to 16 GB of internal memory, the Lumia 650 has the perfect combination of premium looks and performance-driven features.

ScreenBeam Mini2

With ScreenBeam Mini2, you can enjoy your favorite videos, photos and movies on the best display in the house. Simply connect the tiny adapter to your HDTV and you can wirelessly display content from a compatible laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Anything you can see on your laptop or tablet, you can see on your HDTV.

HP Elite x3 Phone and Desk Dock (PLuGHiTz Live Unboxed)

The Elite x3 puts the power of a PC in the palm of your hand. Boasting a brilliant 5.96-inch WQHD AMOLED multi-touch display, the Elite x3 gives you a clear view of your work - in and out of the office. Plus, the 16MP rear camera takes razor-sharp pictures and video, while the 8MP front-facing camera ensures you look your business best during video calls.

Start working from anywhere and finish at your desk without saving, syncing, or restarting your Elite x3 using Microsoft Continuum and included desktop dock or optional laptop dock. That way you can switch to a larger display, keyboard, and mouse without missing a beat.

PC Bloatware Is Not Really a Problem - Episode 152 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses a topic that many of us have forgotten about: bloatware. Over the past few years, the concept has changed, but has not gone away. Instead of Internet Explorer toolbars, today Microsoft and manufacturers pre-install casual games and other software. The question is, is the software that comes pre-installed a problem? Avram's got the answer.

In addition, Avram gives us a preview of the Asus Zenbook Ux430, the latest laptop to receive an Intel 8th Generation Core upgrade. While the review is still in-process, Avram's got some of the early results for this refreshed laptop.

November 5, 2017 - Episode 483 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Microsoft is looking to the future, World of Warcraft is going back to the past and podcasts are finally safe.

Microsoft to Energize Mixed Reality Vision, Looking to License HoloLens Chip

Ever since Microsoft's surprise announcement of HoloLens, analysts have struggled to understand Microsoft's plans for the device. Microsoft diehards, however, have recognized the device as a technology demo platform. This is an approach that Intel has taken for years, and Microsoft adopted the concept far more recently.

The original Surface was designed to challenge the industry's and public's views of what a computer could be. The Band was designed for Microsoft to test out integrating new sensors, charging technology, etc., into a smaller package. The HoloLens was Microsoft's Mixed Reality playground. A device which allows them to try out Windows Mixed Reality without the need for a PC, but that can try out new technology.

The next generation of HoloLens will feature a newly designed AI chip. The company has been working to incorporate some of the capabilities that the HoloLens uses currently through Azure, but in a disconnected nature. This chip, however, is not designed just to enhance the HoloLens, but to enhance computing as a whole. Panos Panay, the head of devices for Microsoft, said,

We have to continue to find those pieces of silicon, those chipsets that have to be developed, to bring those sensors to life, to connect people to each other, and with their products.

But he expanded the idea beyond Microsoft. In fact, he suggested that Microsoft, after designing this chip, would want to license it out to partners, such as they did with the chipset within the Surface pen.

I think of the most important things we do in Surface and in our chip development is not only creating technology - we have a pen, there's an ASIC in the pen-as an example, that we do license out to other companies. And without a doubt, the opportunity to make sure that we get the technology, create it within Surface, and then proliferate it to our partners and give everybody the opportunity to use is really important.

This falls inline with Microsoft's business model. Unlike Apple, who designs stuff and hides it behind patents and their design studio, Microsoft develops technology for themselves, and then allows others in the industry to use that technology to enhance their own products. We've seen this with ASIC in the Surface Pen, Casio licensing the Band, and even Cortana in the Harmon Kardon Invoke.

It will be interesting to see how partners put Microsoft's new AI chip to use. Perhaps Harmon Kardon will enhance Cortana's capabilities within the Invoke, Casio could improve their implementation of the Band, Samsung could make their Mixed Reality headsets even better, or a company we've never heard of could design a whole new device category.

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