Ransomware starts appearing on Android
Ars Technica reported that the first Android ransomware has been found. It’s described as “crude” but it encrypts photos, videos and documents stored on the device and demands a ransom for their return. Experts are thinking this malicious app, known as Android/Simplocker, is more of a proof of concept, rather than a finished product (after all, it addresses users in Russian and demands payment in Ukrainian currency), but be warned more of these are likely on the horizon. Think twice before downloading new apps or from developers you’re not familiar with.
Amazon’s Prime music service goes live
The rumors I told you about last week are true—Amazon now has its first music streaming service for Prime members. If you are a member, you can use one of its existing Cloud Player Amazon Music apps for your mobile device to take a peek at the free tunes. The service has curated play lists, will learn your music preferences and make recommendations, and you can save tracks to your device for offline listening. What Amazon Music doesn’t have, according to reports, is an amazing track selection and it’s true that music is “newish” but nothing that’s currently hot on the music charts. Depending on your way of thinking, this could actually be feature ;-).
Honeywell comes out swinging at Nest
The new Honeywell thermostat even looks like a Nest, with its round body and white Apple-ish look. But, just because it looks like Nest doesn’t mean it works exactly the same way. It uses something called “geofencing” and rather than changing the temperature based on how predictable you are (like the Nest does), it changes the temperature based on proximity. So, if you’re headed home from work, when you reach a certain radius from your house, it will start heating or cooling so it’s warm/cold when you walk in the door. Also, the Honeywell device works with AccuWeather to get current exterior conditions so it can take things like outside humidity into account (and you can see a 7-day forecast on the thermostat’s screen). What I could get behind is the setting to receive text notifications when someone from your family crosses the threshold—it would be handy when my kids get home from school! It’ll hit Lowes stores in August.
Google wants to track your health data too
Last week Apple announced its HealthKit service but, not wanting to be too late to the party, rumors have Google soon releasing its own—Google Fit (or at least that the tentative name right now). Reports have it pulling in information from third-party wearables and combine them into one app. No one knows yet if it’ll be available widely as a stand-alone app, or if it’s going to be part of the Android OS. The expectation is Google will announce Google Fit at its upcoming developer conference on the 25th of this month.
$99 will get you a new PlayStation TV
Assuming you already have a controller, of course. If you don’t, you can get a controller, a memory card to store downloaded games, and the PlayStation TV (and a copy of The Lego Movie) for $139. It’ll let you play your PS4 games via remote play on a second TV in your home. The console also will allow owners to log into Sony’s PlayStation Now – the new, not-yet-live, “Netflix for games” service that will let people stream games from the cloud. Finally, PlayStation TV will be compatible with Playstation Vita games, as well as PS1 and PSPClassics.
Kickstarter of the week (well, former): AngelBlocks
I missed this one when the Kickstarter was active and it fell short of its funding goal by $5,000, but I think it might have legs since it’s still in the media this week. AngelBlocks is a customizable home automation solution—there’s a base (the AngelGate) along with the smaller AngelBlocks and sensors to put on things you’d like to track. They’re programmable and wireless so you can put them on anything and know what you’d like to know. Are your plants getting dry? Is your front door closed? AngelBlocks can tell you. There’s no cloud data storage making it more secure. I hope they find other funding for this, because I could certainly think of a few ways to use this product in my house! (note: there’s a video of how it all works on their Kicksarter page)
And now for some fun tech news
Did you see this dot-matrix printer play Bach??
Maybe it’s just me, but I thought this printer playing Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was cool. If you grew up in the age of dot-matrix like I did, I’m betting you will too:
Cup can sense (and tell you!) what’s in your beverage
Vessyl is a cup with sensors that can detect what its holding. It can analyze by volume, nutritional info (including calories, fat, etc. [eek!]) and beverage type down to the brand and flavor—and it’s good looking too! You can pre-order one for $99 which is half off what it will retail for. It charges wirelessly, comes with a spill-proof lid, and a non-stick finish. I wonder if a plate is next? 😉
Pepper, a somewhat terrifying home robot
Maybe it’s just me, but Pepper, what could be the world’s first real humanoid “home bot,” looks scary to me (too many sci-fi movies perhaps?). Introduced by Japanese telecom Softbank, Pepper will cost about $2,000 and will be available in Japan this week. Pepper has microphones and sensors to sense how you’re feeling and speak with you accordingly. The thinking is that these kind of cyber companions could be used in any house, but could be a great boon to the elderly or infirm who could have “someone” there to help. You can upgrade Pepper thanks to apps you can install, which means he can “grow” over time. After doing some poking around, I am unsure about what Pepper will do other than talk with you, but the tech press thinks this could be the start of home robot technology.