Tech news roundup for Friday, December 5

girl scout cookiesGirl Scout cookies now available online
On Monday, the Girl Scouts of the USA launched an online shopping platform so girls, with parent permission, can sell cookies via personalized websites or a new mobile app. This will be great for family and friends who don’t live by the cookie seller—although you order the cookies online they’ll be delivered to your door. Each Girl Scout council had to choose one of the platforms—either the app or the web—but can’t use both. The websites are only accessible by an email invitation (and only show the girl’s first name) so be contact your favorite Scout to get on her list early :-).

Amazon launches new Elements brand
Yesterday Amazon unveiled its own brand of ethically-sourced home goods (probably competing against Jessica Alba’s Honest Company) called Elements. The first products are diapers and baby wipes and they each have a QR code on the box that will give all the info about what’s in them (“transparent origins”). From what I gather, this is probably the first of many introductions and these products are exclusively available to Prime Members. Of course, Amazon would be happy to have you put on a subscription schedule just to make your life easier. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as they roll out more products. We’ll see if they off anything that will trim my Trader Joe’s shopping list.

Recaptcha_anchor@2xGoogle’s “Captchas” are going away…mostly
Google has finally figured out a better way to tell if you’re an automated spambot other than asking you to retype distorted text. Now, all it takes in one click in a checkbox that says, “I’m not a robot.” The new “reCaptcha” uses your IP addresses and cookie history to figure out whether you’re a human. In fact, Google’s new reCaptcha even takes into account how the mouse hovers and moves towards the box—we humans do that in a unique way, apparently. In total, all of the little IP clues and mouse movements tell Google you’re actually real. Of course, in cases where it thinks you might be, you’ll still have to type in the messed-up text just like you used to. Wired has more details.

sonypictures_share_200x200Sony Pictures got hacked—big time
This week Sony admitted they were hacked…and not just a little. Personal information and social security numbers of more than 47,000 current and former employees were leaked—including from big stars like Sylvester Stallone, Judd Apatow and Rebel Wilson. The hackers also deleted files from hard drives and released some yet-to-be-released movies onto the Internet. Some reports link North Korea to the breach, but that hasn’t been confirmed. While it’s easy to feel badly for Sony, at the same time, reports also came out this week that their IT department “hid” their most important passwords in a file labeled “Passwords” [forehead slap, am I right?].

Tis the season of “Best Of” lists
The first ones I spotted were from Mashable this week, but as things often are on that site, they’re fairly irresistible – the 12 Best Adroid Apps of 2014 and the 12 Best iPhone Apps of 2014. I’m an Apple girl and all I know is that I will never, ever give Kim Kardashian a moment of my time, even if the game is supposed to be fun. Now, TwoDots I might just have to try though…

google-kids2Google is developing kid-friendly versions of its services
Although I missed the rumors, apparently there has been some quiet buzz about this possibility for a while. Now, Google has confirmed that it they are, in fact, going to be launching kid-friendly versions of its services for kids in 2015. No word yet about which platforms will get changed, but it’s probably a safe bet that it’ll be popular things like YouTube. As Engadget points out, if it works, “they could help establish a ‘kids internet’ where parents can feel safer about the apps and sites that their little ones use.” Amen to that.

YouTube’s view counter broken by Gangnam Style
No really, it’s true. Psy, the Korean pop music star, and his video for Gangnam Style is still being watched…a lot, apparently. YouTube posted on G+ on Monday that they “…never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views).” Now the counter has been updated and, last I checked, it has 2,158,396,584 views.

dress_ugly_holiday_sweaters_joy_to_the_worldRent an ugly sweater
Forget combing your local thrift shops for an appropriately hideous sweater to wear for your next “ugly sweater party.” Now you can just rent one! Rent the Runway now has a lovely collection of terrible sweaters you can rent for $15. The selection is rather limited but man, what they do have really are ugly!

Kickstarter of the week: Aura wireless Christmas lights
Just because they’re wireless doesn’t mean they take batteries. Get this—they work by magnetic field. There’s a “power ring” you put at the base of your tree (or the middle, if it’s a big one) and plug in. The lights, which look like ornaments, pick up the signals when placed in the ring’s field. The lights have LEDs inside and should last up to 20 years. Now, these aren’t necessarily cheap – $65 for 12 lights (if you catch the early bird special, like, now [$69 if you don’t, and 24 lights will set you back $89]) but the makers claim that’s $70 off the retail price. Oh, and you can control your lights from your smartphone, of course. It’s hard not to appreciate the fresh take on traditional lights. Check them out:
 

 
 

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids. You can find Missy on G+ and on Twitter.
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