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Don't believe the hype - Apple doesn't care about your privacy

For the past few years, Apple has constantly talked about their focus on privacy and security. However, their behavior has inconsistently lined up with that claim. Sure, they very publicly denied the FBI's request to decrypt an iPhone that could have contained information about the San Bernadino shooting. The company claimed that once a process for decrypting a device existed, it was a bottle that couldn't be recorked. They also pointed out that the device was encrypted because they made a mistake.

On the other hand, the company recently announced during their first appearance at CES in decades, ironically during a privacy roundtable, that iCloud device backups were not encrypted and, in fact, the company regularly scans those backups. While they tried to justify the behavior by hiding behind the auspices of looking for child exploitation content, it doesn't change the fact that the company is scanning your files. Technologically, for Apple to be able to scan for any particular content, they have to create an index of all of the searchable content. That means that they are indexing your emails, photos, files, and more, whether you like it or not.

It is important to note that the argument made, searching for child exploitation content, is the same argument regularly made by the Justice Department when they talk about wanting to outlaw encryption. This is important to note because a new report from Reuters suggests that the company had been working on encrypting device backups but abandoned them because of a complaint from the FBI. The complaint was that encrypting the data on the device and the cloud would place Apple in violation of warrants, especially in cases of "national security" are in question. Of course, a lack of encryption also led to Apple being able to scan and index your data, as well.

This is far from the first time a technology company has lied about its commitment to user privacy. We do live in the age of Facebook, after all. However, the idea that Apple markets itself as a guardian of user privacy and violates it every day is wrong and potential liability for the company.

MicroVision - The Gadget Professor (TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award) (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

The Gadget Professor awards his TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award to MicroVision.

Over the past few years, the cost of projection technology has come down significantly. That has been paired with the size of the technology getting smaller. On Black Friday 2019, we saw pico projectors being offered for less than $100. However, these devices don't provide a lot of value for most consumers. That's because the way we interact with our computing technology has changed, as well.

Most people expect the screens in their life to be touch. Nearly all laptops, definitely all phones and tablets, and even a lot of desktop (all-in-one) computers offer touch input. Projection screens, however, still require external input - that is until now. MicroVision has developed the Interactive Projection Engine - a very small hardware array that allows developers to produce devices with touch-enabled projection.

The demo device we got to see allowed for nearly any standard video input and computing output to connect to a device. We saw the projector connected to a phone with impressive touch recognition capabilities. But, the possibilities are endless, especially when connected to a computer. Even in our portable broadcast studio, this projector would make traveling easier, because it would eliminate the need for monitors.

Imagine being a business traveler, maybe you're a salesperson. You don't know what your client might have in a conference room. You don't want to pack a full projector, but the pico projectors tend to be too dim. This technology, however, is laser-powered, making it possible to use it in standard lighting. We even saw it on our wall in the studio with our lighting and the light of the convention center.

The demo device is available for developers through an application. The company is working with manufacturers to produce commercial products based on the technology.

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URGONight - Talking Sound (TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award) (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

The Talking Sound awards its TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award to URGONight.

Have you ever had a period of time where you just couldn't sleep at night? Maybe a week leading up to a big event like CES. Maybe you've got a big project at work that you're worried about. Maybe you can't figure out what's going on, you just can't sleep. That's where URGONight comes in. Their product is a training device for your brain that helps you learn to get into the right state to sleep.

Rather than the common scenario of wearing a device while you sleep, which can negatively affect your sleep, URGONight is worn during the day. Even better, it is worn for only a few minutes per day. It does this using an electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor combined with brain exercises on the connected app. The device is based on existing technology that was previously only available to those who took the time and expense to go to a sleep clinic.

Early testers seem to love the device. The fact that it doesn't require wearing the device to bed is seemingly the most popular feature. The fact that it doesn't use any wave emissions or sounds is a big deal, too, though. Because it doesn't try to make any changes through the device itself, it can create ease of mind for the user. And, even without any electronic stimulation, users could see lasting results, thanks to the guided exercises. Those exercises are recommended based on the readings of the device with the intention to help you sleep faster and better.

URGONight is not currently publicly available, but it is coming. If you want more information about the company, the product, or want to sign up for updates, you can check out the company's website.

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Wonder Painter - Tech Podcasts Network Best of CES 2020 Award (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

The Tech Podcasts Network team awards its TPN Best of CES 2020 Award to Wonder Painter.

As a kid, almost everyone imagined themselves as the protagonist in their favorite stories. Heck, most adults do it when they read. However, those picture books never actually feature your face, right? Wonder Painter has created a technology that can directly bring any drawing or photo to life. The technology can allow publishers to use the reader's drawing or photo as an integral part of their storytelling experience.

Imagine a story about two kids going on an adventure - it's a fairly standard kids book concept. However, using Wonder Painter's technology, that story can feature you and your best friend as the kids going on said adventure. During the story, the two of you need a horse to get across a large field. Simply draw your own horse and the drawing comes to life as your transportation. This is nearly every kid's dream scenario and it is now a possibility.

The company has published a few demo apps to the Apple App Store to show off the basics of what their technology can do. While these demos are a ton of fun, the really important part is the technology. It is available in a platform-agnostic way, making it possible to build for the web, iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, macOS, and more. The company licenses this technology to content creators to allow them to make their own products and services more interactive. They are currently working with LG, Baidu, Alibaba, and more to make interactive applications a reality.

If you want to see the technology in action, check out the Wonder Painter apps in the App Store or the company's website. You can also learn about the SDK, Cloud service, and ask for a private demo of the development tech.

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Lumen - PLUGHITZ Live Presents (TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award) (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

PLUGHITZ Live Presents awards its TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award to Lumen.

Lumen is a breath analyzer, but with a different purpose from what you may be thinking. Rather than being used to analyze whether or not you are drunk, Lumen is used to determine information about your metabolism. The company claims that with a single breath they can give you information about the effectiveness of exercise and more. They do this by determining whether you are currently burning carbs or fat based on a CO2 sensor and flow meter.

The science behind the device is not new. A similar process has been in use in hospitals and sports facilities for years. Lumen is bringing the concept to consumers for the first time. Whether you are actively trying to lose weight or just looking to improve your nutrition, Lumen can help.

To get started, you use the sensor to determine your metabolism throughout your day. This allows the system to determine how you are affected by activity, sleep, and more. Based on your readings, the connected app can give you a recommended meal plan, including when to eat. Before you workout, you can also use the sensor to determine whether you are in a good position to exercise or if you need to fuel up first. When you're done with your workout, run another test to see how your body was affected. This will allow you and the app to help optimize future workouts and meals to be the most effective.

All of this data combines together to form your Lumen Flex Score. This score indicates how effective your metabolism is for your lifestyle and health. Keeping an eye on this score will allow you to track your success and help with sustaining results.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign, Lumen is available now. The regular retail is $349, but the company is currently running a New Year Sale for $299.

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Drinkworks - Geek News Central (TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award) (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

Geek News Central awards its TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award to Drinkworks by Keurig.

Nearly everyone knows who Keurig is. Their pod-based coffee makers changed the way homes and offices make coffee. You can purchase Pods directly from the company, or from a variety of companies who all make Pods for their own style of coffee. No longer do people have to portion out the right amount of grounds for a single cup of coffee, or even worse, make a full pot.

Last year, the company announced a new product with a similar goal - Drinkmaker from Drinkworks. Rather than focusing on coffee, like the standard Keurig devices do, Drinkmaker is a pod-based bartender. The Pods that you purchase won't come with coffee grounds, but will instead come with all of the ingredients to make an alcoholic drink. The variety of drinks available is already impressive, with everything from a Cosmopolitan and White Russian to Peach Sangria available on their website.

Like the standard Keurig product, you simply place a Pod of your choice into the machine, press the start button, and it will produce the drink. The biggest benefit of the device is that the drink will always be properly proportioned with quality ingredients without any work on your part. It's perfect for when you have friends or family over and don't want to spend your time bartending but instead socializing.

At CES 2020, the company showed off the final product and announced general availability. Drinkmaker is available now for $299 with free shipping. Because of certain restrictions, shipping is only available to certain states, but the company is working to expand its availability as quickly as possible. Drink Pods are available now starting at $9.99 and ranging to $15.99.

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Voiceitt - The Tech Ranch (TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award) (PLuGHiTz Live Presents)

The Tech Ranch awards its TPN Picks Best of CES 2020 Award to Voiceitt.

Over the past few years, we have seen a variety of products that provide language translation services. These products are great for traveling abroad or if you find yourself in a situation where you don't speak the language. Most of these products require communication within a very limited set of parameters in which even strong accents can be a problem.

But what if you communicate in a non-traditional way? How can you easily communicate with people who are not used to your style? Millions of people have vocal disabilities, due to stroke, cerebral palsy, and other causes. That is where Voiceitt comes in - it provides a way to verbalize communication for people of all abilities. The product is based on the idea that verbal communication is an essential human need, whether you're ordering food or telling someone "I love you." For those who have limited speech capabilities, the limitations are difficult to overcome.

Voiceitt is designed specifically to understand and respond to non-standard and dysarthric speech. This is accomplished through a mobile application, which is currently in a closed beta phase. It allows for face-to-face, real-time communication with friends, family, and people around you. This can bring an aspect of everyday life for most that was previously unavailable, helping to build stronger and more meaningful connections.

If you are one of more than 10 million people in the United States or Europe who suffer from speech disabilities or are the caretaker of one of the 8 percent of children with a temporary or consistent communication disorder and would like to join the beta program, you can apply to join on their website.

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December 29, 2019 - Episode 546 (F5 Live: Refreshing Technology)

This week, Sony's changing the controller, Cox is paying for your piracy, and Sling is charging more for TV.

Most Influential Tech of the 2010s - Episode 213 (Piltch Point)

This week, Avram Piltch discusses some of the most influential technology of the past decade. While some products produce a short-term change to an industry, others have long-lasting effects. In the past decade, there have been several massive moves that will likely never be reverted.

One of the most influential products of the decade was the AMD Ryzen 1800X processor. The product stood head and shoulders above what Intel was producing and, in grand AMD fashion, was far less expensive than what Intel was offering. The processor offered 8 cores and 16 threads, as opposed to the common 4 core processor being offered by Intel. It also ushered in the architecture that made it possible for AMD to produce the first 7nm chips, something that Intel still has not accomplished.

Another influential product in the 2010s, especially for Avram, has been the Raspberry Pi. This single-board computer has changed the way we think about computing. It also changed the way we think about what a computer can be, and what it is capable of doing. For so long, a computer was thought to be a larger, more powerful system that could do anything. With the Raspberry Pi, we can now think about a computer as a single-purpose device, whether that be to power a robot or a security camera. It also helped evolve the craft community into the maker movement.

For Scott, however, one of the most influential technologies of the decade has been virtualization. Without it, there would be no Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud. There would be no Project xCloud or Google Stadia. More importantly, there would be no blossoming startup community. The ability to create virtual networks in Azure and the like and scale them up and down at will, without having to purchase hardware, lease physical space to store them, provide power and internet, etc. And, none of it is a capital expense. Awesome.

Messaging is changing, encryption is more important than ever

This week saw a couple of revelations about the state of messaging services. An announcement from Facebook reversed a previous policy, with the company now requiring that new users have a Facebook account to use the service's Messenger app. Previously, new users could get access to the Messenger service without the need to create a Facebook profile. For many, a Facebook profile comes along with significant privacy concerns, and the ability to use the Messenger service without a full profile was appealing. However, as the company begins to integrate the various messaging platforms, they seem to be looking for tighter control. This will not affect current users who signed up using a phone number, however.

But Messenger is far from the only player in town creating controversy. And, in reality, it's pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of problems online. A newer app, named ToTok, has made the rounds this week after it was revealed to be a government spy app for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The name should sound familiar it is similar to the Chinese social video app TikTok, which has also been tied to government surveillance and censorship activities.

ToTok gained popularity because, unlike services like Messenger and WhatsApp, ToTok was available in countries that are likely to censor internet traffic, such as the UAE itself. The platform makes claims about a high level of security but does not mention any level of encryption. That's likely because data transferred through the service is sent through a data-mining firm that then hands the valuable data to DarkMatter, a government hacking firm located in Abi Dhabi. DarkMatter is already under US federal investigation by the FBI for spy-related activity. In addition to messages, user location data and contact lists are also tracked through DarkMatter, under the guise of providing customized recommendations.

All of these incidents bring to light the importance of end-to-end encryption, a feature that the US government is vehemently opposed to, going so far as to look for international support. The argument against the government's insistence is that, without the end-to-end encryption that the government wants to avoid, the US government could have the same power to spy on its citizens that it is complaining about other countries doing.

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