This week we take a quick look at the news of the tech world.
Apple released the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus as well as a new iPad Pro and Apple TV last week. After watching the presentation, my first thought was “Yawn, nothing new to see here.” The new iPhones are pretty underwhelming, no improved battery life, slightly better cameras, 3D Touch (basically a pressure-sensitive screen) and a faster processor. All improvements over the iPhone 6 but nothing that would set it apart from competing handsets from Samsung, LG and others. The new iPad Pro is larger (at 12.9”) and now has an available keyboard (only $169 more). iPads aren’t making much headway in the business market as companies like Microsoft, Lenovo and others offer more capable devices (running Windows) at similar or often significantly less cost. The Apple TV also offered similarly underwhelming changes. The addition of voice commands via Siri is new but this is a feature that has been available on competing (and less expensive) products such as the Amazon Fire Stick and Google Chromecast.
Dell recently announced a plan to invest $125 billion dollars (that’s BILLION as in $125,000,000,000.00) in China over the next 5 years to “encourage innovation.” This is expected to generate approximately 1 MILLION new jobs. Whether actually happens or not remains to be seen. Interestingly, according to Dell’s last balance sheet (from 2013) their total assets were under $60 billion… I wonder where the rest of this money is coming from? Of course, what Dell is doing is nothing really new; Microsoft, IBM and many other American companies have and continue to invest tremendous amounts of money in China’s economy, they just tend to be stealthier about it.
The Tor Project is a free software that allows users to browse the Internet anonymously. In addition to increasing your privacy online, TOR is also used by journalists and dissidents in countries with oppressive regimes as it allows them to connect to the greater Internet and thus reach an audience. The Tor Project has begun a program to install TOR relays at public libraries around the United States. Recently, their first location at the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire was brought online, allowing patrons of the library to browse the Internet with greater liberty from domestic spying. A few days later, the Department of Homeland Security contacted local police (via several intermediaries) to pressure the library into shutting down the relay. After meeting with local police and the city council, the library agreed to temporarily deactivate the relay while the library’s board discussed the matter. The concerns promoted by the police department were that such a system allows criminals to hide their activity from law enforcement and that the library would essentially be assisting them by providing this service. left unsaid was that anyone can freely download, install and use (legally) the TOR software and thus hide their online activity from the police. The Library board is releasing their decision on September 15th. So as of this writing it is unknown whether they will submit to the pressure of an oppressive government agency or make a stand for privacy and liberty.