Short Takes: February 20, 2015 Pixabay

Short Takes: February 20, 2015

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news. In this edition: dating digital assistants, bigger smart glasses or Terminator implants, 100 finalist for a one-way trip to Mars, the OEM crack that is junkware on PC’s, do not adjust your eyeglass prescription because it is just a Windows Patch Tuesday Update making your fonts fuzzy, ORION Spacecraft making some data and BlackBerry ships a big update to their users.

Time for the Personal Digital Assistants Dating Game

The Dating Game was on television in various forms from 1965 until 1999 and had a bachelorette/bachelor who would question members of the opposite sex, also bachelors and bachelorettes, who were out of eye sight throughout the show. Following a series of questions the contestant would select one of the hidden participants and they would then go out on a date paid for by the show.

Well the 2015 version of the Dating Game hit the Internet airwaves this week and this time it is Cortana vs Siri.

In a page featuring Microsoft’s Nokia Lumia 635 and 830 Windows Phones the features between Cortana and Siri are compared together and have some related videos as well. These comparisons highlight Cortana’s ability to learn who you are and personalize the information she provides including reminders based on location, certain people and traffic alerts based on your favorite locations and schedule. 

Two new commercials join the Cortana vs Siri match Lumia 635 – New Love and Lumia 635 – Breaking Up.

Who would you pick to take out on a date?

Yes, give us a bigger pair of smart glasses please!

You probably already heard the news recently about the end of the Google Glass Explorers program and the fact Google is likely taking this opportunity to re-work the much maligned smart eyewear.

Now it appears Sony has not taken any notice of the grief that many wearers of Google Glass received and are preparing to release their own set of glasses called SmartEyeglass.

It uses holographic waveguide technology to display text and images on a monochrome display in the lenses and has a 3MP CMOS image sensor, accelerometer, gyro, electronic compass and a brightness sensor. Total weight of the glasses is 77 grams (2.7 ounces) and they cost just $840 per pair.

Pretty impressive specs. But, if you thought Google Glass was bulky and obvious wait until you see these things:

Sony SmartEyeglass

Image courtesy of Sony

The little device she is holding in her hand is apparently the control unit for the glasses and allows you to control programs on the glasses with touch and also voice interaction for communicating with nearby friends wearing their own SmartEyeglass’s.  It even has a convenient clip so you can easily attach it to your jacket or shirt.

Many will draw comparisons to Microsoft’s recently unveiled Hololens but that is not intended for walking around the streets of your city or neighborhood. However, based on the intro video to the SmartEyeglass that is exactly the intent for these.

Who needs big bulky outer eye wear when it looks like scientist have figured out a way to give us terminator vision anyway?

Umm – no thanks.

One Way Ticket to Paradise?

I have memories of Eddie Money singing Two tickets to Paradise as I think about this one.

This past week it was announced that 100 finalists for a spot on the Mars One mission to begin the colonization of Mars were selected from a field of over 200,000 applicants.

This group of 100 were selected from a pool of 660 possible travelers to the red planet and they got their spot after being interviewed online by the Mars One Chief Medical Officer.

It is a 50/50 split between men and women in this final group of candidates with 39 of them from the Americans, 31 from Europe, 16 from Asia, 7 from Africa and 7 Oceania.

The next steps for these potential interplanetary travelers include being formed into multiple teams that can survive the hardships of a permanent settlement on Mars. The focus will not necessarily be on the best individual leader but those who show their ability to be team players.

If you were one of the 560 people not selected for this final 100 no need to fret as you can reapply in the next cycle for your chance to get your own ticket to paradise on Mars.

Hand in the Cookie Crack Jar

I once heard Paul Thurrott, the former curator of this newsletter, refer to the junk OEM’s install on their brand new shiny computers as crack and something the OEM’s simply cannot stop doing.

Well it is one thing to provide a free trial of security software or install a suite of OEM specific software to interface with Windows tools however, it looks like Lenovo might have reached into the cookie crack jar and they have apparently stuck their entire head in it.

Initially reports were that Lenovo was including a special gift of Adware on their new computers and that this adware, called Superfish, would activate when the device was set up. In turn it would inject unwelcomed visual ads and pop-ups in the user’s browser as they surfed the web.

Apparently, once they were caught in the cookie crack jar by very upset users, Lenovo came out and stated they would temporarily remove the software from systems. The statement continued to say they would ask Superfish to issue an updated software build to address those issues.

So caught red-handed Lenovo will not remove the offending hardware but offer an update for it and likely keep shipping it on new systems.


Like Paul said, that crack is hard to stay away from isn’t it? Ok Lenovo - this is an intervention - step away from the cookie crack jar.

The hits keep on coming for Lenovo as it was also reported that this adware gift from Lenovo hijacks encrypted web sessions on IE and Chrome which makes users vulnerable to a man in the middle attack. Finally late Thursday afternoon Lenovo issued full instructions on how to remove the adware and the unwanted security certificate.

Read my full take on the situation at the SuperSite for Windows.


Last week Rod, your regular Short Takes architect, wrote about the early issues with Microsoft’s February Patch Tuesday and it seems this week the woes continue.

KB3013455 was provided on Patch Tuesday to address issues in Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. It also impacted some Windows XP machines but only for those who are forking out $200 per machine to receive patches from Microsoft following the end of official support for the antiquated OS which occurred last April.

The initial version of KB3013455 caused fonts in the systems listed above to go fuzzy and nearly illegible.

Hopefully, folks did not rush out to their eye doctors and are now seeing much clearer thanks to the re-issued patch.

If you are keeping count that is now three issues relating to this most recent Patch Tuesday. 

With the track record Microsoft has these days for poor quality patches you will want to stay abreast of issues related to Patch Tuesday. Over at the Windows IT Pro website a new dedicated page for all things Patch Tuesday has been established for this very purpose. Make sure to read Rod’s thoughts behind starting this service for our readers.

P.S. Still trying to figure out the title of this segment? Think eye chart. OK, now wait for it…your welcome.

Generating some data onboard ORION during EFT-1

I am a huge fan of the space program and back on December 5th of last year I was glued to my computer, that is a norm for me most of the time anyway, watching the historic first flight test of the ORION crew capsule being built for NASA by Lockheed Martin.

There were some spectacular views from all of the onboard cameras that teased our eyes with views of our planet the likes of which we had not seen since the final moon landings in the early 70’s.

Those images were not the only pieces of data collected that day either.  According to a story in The Denver Post this week Lockheed Martin, who will deliver a detailed report on the 5th of March to NASA, had sensors on the spacecraft that collected 600GB’s of data.

The flight lasted for 4 hours and 24 minutes or 264 minutes. 600GB’s is the same as 614,400 MB’s.

Doing the rough math that means ORION sensors collected about 2.33GB of data per minute for the duration of the flight.

Interestingly 3-D printing played a role in the construction of at least one vent on the ORION spacecraft and that part performed optimally. That is space talk for it did a great job.

There are most tests, data interpretation and development left before the planned initial crewed deep space flight in 2021.


BlackBerry users get a software update and Android app access

A big software update was pushed out by BlackBerry this week and now folks using handsets like the Z10, Q10 and Z30 have the ability to access the Amazon Appstore to download Android apps plus they got some features that might sound pretty familiar to Windows Phone users.

The new Blend feature which BlackBerry announced last year allows users to get notifications, email, text messages, access files, calendars, contacts and other media items on whatever device they are using.

According to the MSN IT Insider story those items can be accessed across most operating systems including Mac OS, Windows and Android tablets.

The last thing noted about this update – is BlackBerry Assistant – a new digital assistant that can use voice or text to interact with the handset in many ways.

I wonder how BlackBerry Assistant would be on a date…

And, finally…

It has been a lot of fun this past week putting together Short Takes for my first time.  I may need some more practice and it turns out that practice is coming sooner than I thought it might when the week began. Unfortunately, due to wintry weather in and around Kentucky, Rod and his wife were unable to take off for their 25th Anniversary celebration last week so I will be filling in again next week on Short Takes for Rod as they head for the hills.

I have also been officially providing content on the SuperSite for Windows and Windows IT Pro for a month now and to be honest the time has flown by.  I really enjoy the community here and being able to engage in a dialog with everyone through our content.  The enthusiasm for all things tech is very apparent in the way people discuss the topics that drive the site.

Of course, I would be remiss to not take this chance and say thanks to Rod for his support and the assistance as I have settled into the routine here.  Paul Thurrott was right when he said Rod is one of the hardest working guys in tech journalism.

Until next week stay safe out there and no Superfish’ing.

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