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Top Stories for the Week of February 10, 2015

  • Episode 386
  • February 10, 2015

Here are the stories we're following for the week of Tuesday February 10, 2015

Blip.TV seems to be winding down since the company that bought it was itself recently bought out.

Blip.TV is winding down after the company that bought them out got bought out.

A lot of online video platforms have disappeared over the years. Now it looks like one — while not shutting down — is having a pretty brisk spring clean.

Blip.TV, the video distribution startup acquired by Maker Studios (which is now itself getting acquired by Disney), has been sending out notices to many users telling them that their accounts are getting closed.

That’s on top of the fact that it’s currently not accepting new producers.

Jeff O’Connell, an SVP of technology at Maker Studios and Blip says, “Blip isn’t shutting down. We’re just closing more accounts as part of our effort to focus the library.”

In the meantime, while Blip the site is up and running, it seems to be somewhat on autopilot. The company’s blog has not been updated in three months, and one of the last entries invites users to instead follow the Maker Studios blog. Of the two people who ran the Blip.TV blog, one now describes himself as a VP of product at Maker, and the other works elsewhere.


Luckily the big bad wolf is a work of fiction, because UK's open housing market now features homes built of straw.

The first straw houses in the UK to be offered on the open market are on sale.

The first straw houses in the UK to be offered on the open market are on sale.

Though straw walls might be most readily linked to a story of pigs making questionable construction choices, the team behind these homes says the material could help to sustainably meet housing demand.

The homes are the result of an engineering research project led by the University of Bath.

The houses, on a street of traditional brick-built homes in Bristol, are clad in brick to fit in with the surroundings. But their prefabricated walls are timber framed, filled with straw bales and encased in wooden boards.

Prof Pete Walker from the University of Bath led the research and says that straw is a very efficient insulator, so these homes should reduce energy bills by as much as 90% compared to other houses around the site.

Although these are not the first homes in the UK to be built using straw bales, they are the first to be built for any buyer on the open market.

Prof Walker says, "the more we can build out of renewable materials like straw and timber, the less carbon will be in the atmosphere, so we can reduce climate change effects."


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

If at first you fail, get up and try again! Google is taking another stab at Google Glass, but this time they're not letting us see it until it's ready.

Google is rebooting Glass.

Google is starting again from scratch with its Glass project.

Sales of the controversial smart spectacles were halted in January and development of the prototype was also believed to have been stopped.

First revealed in 2011, Google Glass made a big impact in mid-2012 when the company demonstrated it at its developers' conference using skydivers and stunt cyclists.

But many working on the device were unhappy with this exposure because it meant its final development had to take place in public.

The New York Times said the controversy the project gained gave rise to tensions among the development team, forcing some key researchers to leave.

Glass development is now being driven by former Apple gadget designer Tony Fadell, who has "reset" the project.

The new version will be developed internally and only released when finished.


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

The Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu edition smartphone is coming to market.

An Ubuntu-powered smartphone is coming to the market.

An Ubuntu-powered smartphone is coming to the market a year and a half after a previous attempt to launch a model via crowdfunding failed.

The Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu edition relies on a card-like user interface that is not focused on apps.

Unlike the original proposal, the handset does not become a desktop PC when plugged into a monitor.

It is initially being targeted at "early adopters", who developers hope will become advocates for the platform.

The British company Canonical, which developed the Linux-based operating system, said it hoped to emulate the success of Chinese companies including Xiaomi with its launch strategy.

This includes holding a number of "flash sales" in Europe beginning this week, in which the device will be sold for short periods of time - giving the developers an opportunity to gauge demand and respond to feedback before committing to a bigger production run.

The Ubuntu handset can run apps written in either the HTML5 web programming language or its own native QML code.

However, its operating system effectively hides them away. Instead of the traditional smartphone user interface - featuring grids of apps - it uses themed cards that group together different facilities.

Canonical calls these Scopes, and they are reminiscent of the swipe-based card system used by the Google Now personal assistant.

The phones themselves are being made and sold by a Spanish company, BQ, which already has an Android variant of the hardware.

They include an eight-megapixel rear camera, a 5MP front one and one gigabyte of RAM memory. They will cost about 170 euros ($195; £127).


Sent to us by: Roy W. Nash

Your TV is listening to you... be careful what you say.

Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.

Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.

The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.

When the feature is active, such TV sets "listen" to what is said and may share what they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.

Samsung's privacy policy for its net-connected Smart TV sets explains that the TV will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands or queries are issued via the remote. It goes on to say: "If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party." ... the third party being the company providing speech-to-text conversion for Samsung.

Publicity about the issue led competitor LG to create a software update which ensured data collection was turned off for those who did not want to share information.




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