Daily Tech Headlines – August 19, 2016

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Daily Tech Headlines – August 19, 2016
Number 52
Broadcast Date AUGUST 19, 2016
Episode Length 7:25
Hosts Tom Merritt

Leaked NSA hacking tools seem legit, Apple can’t work out data connections in watches, and Twitter cracks down on more abuses.


The Intercept published documents leaked by Edward Snowden which appear to confirm the legitimacy of leaked hacking tools purported to be taken from an NSA Server. A 16-character string that the Snowden documents say is required to be used in a program called SECONDDATE appears 14 times in the leaked malware, including in a file titled SecondDate-3021.exe. SECONDDATE was reportedly used in operations in Pakistan and Lebanon. It intercepts Web requests and redirects them to an NSA server called FOXACID that delivers malware.
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reports sources tell him that Apple has not been able to add data connection to its watches because of battery life issues. Apple has begun studying lower-power cellular data chips. New Apple Watches are still expected this year that would integrate GPS.
Twitter has suspended 235,000 accounts for violating policies on the promotion of terrorism. Twitter says daily suspensions are up 80% since last year. Twitter said it had benefited from the use of spam-fighting tools that automatically detect problem accounts. A third of recent suspensions were identified that way.
Twitter is bringing Quality Filter settings to all users, which algorithmically removes "low-quality content" based on account origin and behavior. Any accounts a user follows or recently interacted with will not be subject to the filter. Additionally, all users can set notifications to only show for interactions with people they follow back. The new features will roll out to everyone in the coming days.
The New York Times Now app will no longer be available for download after August 29. Now launched in April 2014 for $8 a month and later became free. Now was separate from the Times main app and let readers catch up on a curated selection of the most important news of the day. News updates will stop being delivered to the app in September. Most of Now's features have been integrated into the main New York Times app.
Gawker.com the website will shut down next week and its editors will be reassigned to other Gawker properties or somewhere within its new parent company Univision.
On Thursday in Federal District Court for Northern California, Judge Edward M. Chen overturned an April class-action lawsuit settlement between Uber and a class of drivers. The judge rejected the $100 million settlement to almost 400,000 drivers as "not fair, adequate, and reasonable", noting it represented only 0.1% of the potential full verdict value for the case. The lawsuit regards the classification of Uber drivers as employees or contractors. The objection to the settlement was brought by a group of 200 Uber drivers, with the assistance of the National Taxi Workers Alliance. The drivers attorney, Shannon Liss-Riordan say a revised settlement may yet be reached.
Comcast launched a trial of its DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit service in Chicago Wednesday. Nashville and Atlanta already have the service. Chris Morran at the Consumerist notes in Chicago, Comcast only offers a no-contract rate of $139 per month. Atlanta and Nashville customers can get service for $70 a month if they agree to a 36-month contract. Nashville has Google Fiber and AT&T Gigapower is coming to Atlanta. What an odd coincidence...
NOTE: after the recording of Friday's show, Comcast decided to announce they will offer a $70 a month option in Chicago with a 3 year contract.
MIT News reports lithium metal batteries developed by SolidEnergy can deliver the same energy as lithium ion batteries in half the size. The new batteries use lithium metal instead of carbon for the anode. SolidEnergy CEO Qichao Hu and team solved the overheating problem that plagued previous lithium metal batteries by coating the anode with a solid electrolyte that functions at room temperature and doesn't create harmful filaments. SolidEnergy plans to launch batteries for drones by the end of the year, cells for smartphones and other electronics in 2017 with electric vehicle batteries to come in 2018.
Riding Hailing company Lyft announced it will "pause" its Carpool feature, due to lack of adoption. Carpooling was introduced in March for Bay Area users, and provided $4 to $10 to anyone picking up folks during their normal commute. A Lyft spokesman said the company thinks commuting is still important for the company's long term plans.
Social network Yik Yak rolled out an update to their service this week. The update requires users to create "handles", which will be associated with any postings on the network. The company introduced user handles in March, but up until now were optional. Yik Yak also allows users to post 18-character status messages, which last for 24 hours. Finally, the app now provides a chat list of nearby users called "local yakkers". Users can opt-out of chat, as well as block specific people.
The US Department of Education is launching the Educational Quality through Innovation Partnerships (EQUIP) initiative to help low-income students pay for coding bootcamps. 8 coding bootcamps in the US are part of the program including at SUNY Empire State College, UT-Austin, Wilmington University and Marylhurst University. EQUIP is part of the Experimental Sites Initiatives, which tests the effectiveness of more flexibility in student aid. Current DOE rules limit federal aid to colleges where more than 50% of the instruction comes from an ineligible entity (such as a bootcamp) rather than the institution. The EQUIP initiative is specifically designed to test the efficacy of exceeding that limit with coding bootcamps.
NPD Group reports the success of Pokemon Go has bled over into Nintendo's mobile console. Sales of the Nintendo 3DS family of systems rose 80% year over year in the month of July. Sales of the 3-year old Pokemon X & Y received an ever bigger boost, up 200%, with the more recently released Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire seeing an 80% spike.


Preceded by:
"Daily Tech Headlines – August 18, 2016"
Daily Tech Headlines – August 19, 2016
Followed by:
"Daily Tech Headlines – August 22, 2016"