If you accepted an invitation to buy Amazon's Echo speaker, you've noticed that the device didn't have a vast musical vocabulary at first -- you could tell it to play iHeartRadio or Prime Music tunes, and that's about it. You'll have a better time of things from now on, though. Amazon is rolling out an update that lets you use your voice to steer iTunes, Pandora radio or Spotify on your mobile device . It's not super-sophisticated, but you no longer have to reach for your phone just to skip tracks. And in case millions more songs won't keep you entertained, there's also a "Simon says" command that you can use to prank people (or simply tell them something) from across the home. We'd argue that the biggest upgrade to the Echo would be getting to buy one, but these new features will do in a pinch.
Marriott wants you to know that it's completely done trying to block guests' personal WiFi connections -- it has even given up convincing the FCC to give it permission to do so, a spokesperson told Engadget. The company already announced that it won't be keeping people from using their own MiFis and hotspots in hotel rooms, but its official statement at that time said it "will continue to look to the FCC to clarify appropriate security measures network operators." See, the hotel chain still wanted the FCC to let it continue blocking personal WiFi in its business and convention centers in order to protect guests from rogue internet connections, or so it claimed.
We're starting to wonder if it's nigh-on impossible to keep The Pirate Bay down. Just weeks after Swedish police raided the bootleg file site and knocked it offline, it's back -- TorrentFreak reports that almost everything is up and running once again, complete with a phoenix graphic (above) to taunt authorities. With that said, it's not quite the same experience that many veteran users would remember. While the pre-raid content remains intact, many of the original staffers are locked out of this version. They're planning to create their own version of the Bay that supposedly restores the community spirit of the original. It's not clear if that'll work, but it sounds like cops and copyright holders may have created more problems for themselves in trying to take down one of the best-known pirate havens.
I'd like to think my tweets offer some cultural value and promote a better world. I consume plenty of brilliant films and scholarly articles, then reflect my learnings on Twitter multiple times a day. So when I heard there was a tool to turn my tweets into real poetry, I expected a reflection of the erudite person I've become. Unfortunately, I was painted as, well...a boob.
HTC hasn't always had success upgrading One users to the latest version of Android within its promised 90-day window, and history is unfortunately repeating itself with Android 5.0 Lollipop on the way. The phone maker is now warning that "some carrier versions" of the One M8 and M7 won't get Lollipop by the expected February 1st deadline. Reportedly, Google's rush to fix Lollipop (which emerged, shall we say, less than polished) gave HTC little time to both finish its own update and put it through the usual provider testing routine.
Apps have done wonders for music creation, and now there's mobile software from Casio that aims to make it even easier. The Chordana Composer app for iPhone creates a track basked on a melody that you create by singing or whistling two bars of a tune. Casio's handiwork records you, and then automatically builds the rest of the song based on your input. This means that anyone can construct a hit without in-depth music knowledge or the ability to play an instrument. After the base of the song is captured, there's five genres and three melodic settings for the tweaking before hitting the Auto Compose button and putting the app to work.
Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.
A Look Back at the Doomed Virtual Reality Boom of the 90s
Kyle Fowle, Kill Screen
With the revival of VR, it's important that we take a look back to the last big push for virtual reality. Kill Screen recently dedicated an entire issue to the topic, including a piece that recalls what VR was like in the '90s, when it was all circle pods, massive headsets and plastic guns. Ah... the good ol' days.
Have a BMW, Mini or Rolls Royce with the ConnectedDrive feature parked in your driveway? Maybe all three? Well, it turns out there was a bug that allowed ne'er-do-wells to manipulate it -- entirely wirelessly. According to Reuters, by simulating a fake phone network researchers at German outfit ADAC (essentially Deutschland's AAA) were able to gain access to systems governed by the platform's SIM card by spoofing a cell tower. They've even put together a video describing the gap in security which you can check out after the break -- if you speak German. While the vulnerabilities didn't include anything related to steering, acceleration or braking, the ConnectedDrive does have access to traffic information, air conditioning and... door locks.
As Cyanogen moves along a new path (apparently with help from Microsoft) phone maker OnePlus is working on its own flavor of Android, and now it has a name: OxygenOS. Unfortunately, it doesn't have ...
In an effort to help prevent foodborne illnesses and contamination, IBM Research is teaming up with Mars for a safety study that'll examine how supply chains affect what we eat. Specifically, the du...