Ben Lovejoy

@benlovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer who started his career on PC World and has written for dozens of computer and technology magazines, as well as numerous national newspapers, business and in-flight magazines. He has also written two novels.

He thinks wires are evil and had a custom desk made to hide them, known as the OC Desk for obvious reasons.

He considers 1000 miles a good distance for a cycle ride, and Chernobyl a suitable tourist destination. What can we say, he’s that kind of chap.

He speaks fluent English but only broken American, so please forgive any Anglicised spelling in his posts.

February 5

GOOG: 683.57

-24.44
Stock Chart

Good news for cord-cutters in the U.S.: you can stream this year’s Super Bowl 50 without a cable TV subscription. The Panthers vs Broncos game kicks off at 6.30pm ET/3.30pm PT on Sunday 7th Feb, and watching it on your TV box, Android tablet or PC is as simple as downloading a free app or using the live web player …

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February 3

GOOG: 726.95

-37.70
Stock Chart

Update: Leung has resumed testing with a repaired test device, but for now can only weed out bad cables for now as he still doesn’t have a working Chromebook.

Google engineer Benson Leung was doing a great job at distinguishing the good, the bad and the ugly where USB Type-C cables are concerned, exposing ones that failed to meet the proper specs as well as others that were just plain dangerous.

Unfortunately his testing has now come to an abrupt end as one particularly bad cable resulted in significant damage to both his Chromebook Pixel and the USB PD sniffer devices he was using …

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9to5mac 

February 2

GOOG: 764.65

12.65
Stock Chart

Google’s self-driving cars have notched up almost 1.5 million miles in autonomous mode since the project began in 2009 – but they drive twice as many miles every single day in the lab. Google’s latest monthly report reveals that every software change is tested by using it to simulate driving the entire driving history of the fleet, autonomous and manual.

One benefit of teaching a computer to drive is that it has great memory and recall. With our simulator, we’re able to call upon the millions of miles we’ve already driven and drive those miles again with the updated software. For example, to make left turns at an intersection more comfortable for our passengers, we modified our software to adjust the angle at which our cars would travel. To test this change, we then rerun our entire driving history of 2+ million miles with the new turning pattern to ensure that it doesn’t just make our car better at left turns, but that the changes creates a better driving experience overall …

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February 1

GOOG: 752.00

9.05
Stock Chart

While Canalys reported last year that Huawei overtook Xiaomi to become the biggest-selling smartphone manufacturer in China during Q3, it now says strong Q4 sales enabled Xiaomi to retake the top slot for the year. It says Xiaomi ended the year with a 15.2% market share against 14.7% for Huawei, with Apple following at 12.5%.

The WSJ reports that this view is echoed by rival market intelligence company Strategy Analytics. However, with more Chinese consumers looking to upgrade to mid-range handsets this year, Canalys analyst Nicole Peng believes the positions could be reversed during the course of this year …

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January 29

GOOG: 742.95

11.99
Stock Chart

It’s two-and-a-half years since Google first shared details of Project Loon, a series of high-altitude balloons designed to provide wireless Internet access to developing countries where infrastructure is scarce. As testing expands, and we’ve learned more about the project’s progress, the FCC has started to receive objections from those concerned that the long-range microwave transmissions might pose health risks or interfere with other wireless operations.

Google has this week written to the FCC to argue that the balloons are both safe and legal …

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9to5toys 

January 28

GOOG: 730.96

30.97
Stock Chart

Samsung has today reported a steep 40% decline in net profits in its Q4 earnings, stating that its chip and component business has been hit by weaker prices. It revealed that net profit for the final quarter of 2015 fell to 3.2T Korean won ($2.7B), significantly short of market expectations.

Facing global economic headwinds, including a sharp fall in oil prices, the company’s fourth quarter earnings fell QoQ, as the components side of the business was impacted by weakened prices for DRAM chips and LCD panels due to overall softer demand in the IT market and PCs.

Samsung’s smartphone business has long been struggling with increased competition from lower-cost Chinese brands, and the WSJ reports that the company expects things to be even tougher this year …

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The European Commission says that the £130M ($185M) tax deal struck between Google and the UK government may amount to “illegal state aid” by offering the company better terms than those available to smaller businesses.

Google first came under fire for its tax arrangements in the UK in early 2013, when it was accused of funneling profits from UK Adword sales through Ireland, resulting in the company paying just £6M ($8.5M) tax on a turnover of £395M ($565M). In the new deal, it agreed to change its accounting practices to pay more tax in the UK, and to pay a lump sum in back tax …

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January 15

GOOG: 694.45

-20.27
Stock Chart

When Tesla’s Elon Musk tweeted that he expected to the company’s cars to be able to drive themselves across the U.S. from coast to coast within two years, my response was that I might believe the tech could hit that deadline, but not the law. It seems I may be wrong.

The WSJ reports that the Obama administration wants to invest $3.9B in crafting rules and policies to facilitate the rapid rollout of self-driving cars. This would take place at the federal level, ensuring consistent national laws rather than a patchwork of state-by-state regulations …

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electrek 

There’s bad news for anyone who uses a proxy service to access Netflix content from outside their own country: the company says in a blog post that it will be blocking proxies within the “coming weeks” …

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January 14

GOOG: 714.72

14.16
Stock Chart

Medium’s tech hub editor-in-chief Steven Levy provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to be a test-(non)driver of one of Google’s self-driving cars. Among the more surprising facts is that there’s a four-week full-time course to qualify to sit behind the wheel of one of the company’s testbed Lexus cars – with additional training needed for the cute prototype cars with only emergency controls.

There’s an abbreviated version for those who will only be sitting in the cars on the company’s private test facility. If you fancy the job, the most reliable way to apply, says Levy, is to be friends with an existing driver. If you can’t swing that, there’s always the option of applying to be a professional pedestrian …

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9to5mac 

January 13

GOOG: 700.56

-25.51
Stock Chart

Apple for a time led the tech market in education, even making education-specific Mac models. More recently, the company made a big push on iPads, signing a $30M deal (that would eventually have been worth a quarter of a billion dollars) in 2013 to equip every student in the LA Unified School District with an iPad.

If that program had succeeded, it would have created a template for rolling out similar ones across the whole of the USA. Instead, it failed catastrophically, and it now appears that Chromebooks are winning where iPads have failed.

CNBC reported last month that Chromebooks now make up more than half of all devices in U.S. classrooms, while Apple’s share of classroom purchases more than halved between 2012 and 2015. Why is that, and what – if anything – can Apple do to reverse the trend … ?

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January 12

GOOG: 726.07

10.04
Stock Chart

As usual, President Obama’s State of the Union address will be broadcast live on YouTube this evening, followed on Friday by a live Q&A with three YouTube personalities.

This year, YouTube has announced that the three personalities will be Destin Sandlin, Ingrid Nilsen, and Adande Thorne. Sandlin presents the science channel Smarter Every Day, Nilson runs a lifestyle/tips channel, and Thorne is a professional gamer with a knack for story-telling.

YouTube is also offering you the opportunity to suggest questions for the interview …

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January 11

GOOG: 716.03

1.56
Stock Chart

If you’re feeling jealous of any friends grandfathered into an existing AT&T unlimited data plan (especially since ‘unlimited’ was redefined from ‘5GB before throttling kicks in’ to ’22GB before throttling if congested’), the company has good news: it is launching a brand new version of unlimited data tomorrow.

Pricing starts at $100/month for a single line, plus $40 for each individual line. Unfortunately, there’s bad news too. As The Verge notes, there are some pretty big catches – the biggest of which is that you need to be a DirecTV or U-Verse subscriber to be eligible, which of course adds to the cost if you don’t already have a subscription …

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9to5toys 

Investors are “beginning to question” Xiaomi’s $46B valuation after the company reportedly failed to hit its sales target of 80M smartphones in 2015, reports the WSJ. That target was itself reduced from 100M last summer, and the company has also not yet delivered on its promise of substantial revenue from Internet services.

Xiaomi has faced tougher competition from more established brands like Huawei.

Huawei’s engineering strength and brand image, built up over decades, make it difficult for Xiaomi to compete in China, analysts say.

“The competition in China’s smartphone market has intensified tremendously this year,” said a Xiaomi spokeswoman, who declined to comment on the company’s valuation or say whether it met its 2015 sales target.

Huawei comfortably overtook Xiaomi to become the Chinese market leader in October of last year …

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January 8

GOOG: 714.47

-11.92
Stock Chart

ArsTechnica reports that Google has pulled 13 malicious apps from the Play store after they were found to make unauthorized downloads. The apps (listed below) are particularly dangerous in that they attempt to gain root privileges that would allow them to remain installed even after a factory reset.

The malware used a clever technique to make the apps appear safe, giving them high download numbers and positive ratings.

The apps are capable of using compromised devices to download and positively review other malicious apps in the Play store by the same authors. This helps increase the download figures in the Play Store.

Although the family of malware known as Brain Test has been around for a while, affected apps have previously only been found in third-party app stores. This is the first time Brain test apps have been found in the Google Play store …

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January 6

GOOG: 743.62

1.04
Stock Chart

Given Google’s apparent lead in driverless car technology, you might imagine that the tech giant has notched-up the greatest number of patents in the field, but Reuters says that this isn’t the case. A detailed analysis of patent filings for autonomous car technology shows that car manufacturers are way out ahead, with Google only taking 26th place.

Toyota is, far and away, the global leader in the number of self-driving car patents, the report found. Toyota is followed by Germany’s Robert Bosch GmbH, Japan’s Denso Corp, Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co and General Motors Co. The tech company with the most autonomous-driving patents, Alphabet Inc’s Google, ranks 26th on the list.

Toyota has more than 1,400 patents in the field, twice as many as second-placed Robert Bosch …

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electrek 

January 5

GOOG: 742.58

0.74
Stock Chart

LastPass has updated its Android app and browser extensions to version 4.0 to add an emergency access feature and shared passwords, as well as a significantly revamped user-interface.

Emergency Access (shown below) is designed to ensure that you aren’t permanently locked out of your account if you ever forget your master password.

Emergency Access lets users designate trusted family, friends or colleagues to have access to their password vault in the case of an emergency. For added security, a user can require a waiting period between when an Emergency Access contact can request access to the vault and when access is granted. During the waiting period, users can decline an Emergency Access request to their vault.

The new Sharing Center is designed to provide a safe method of allowing multiple people access to the same account, such as when two or more family members want access to utility accounts …

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January 4

GOOG: 741.84

-17.04
Stock Chart

If you have a Chromebook Pixel C and are looking for an external monitor for it, Lenovo and Acer have announced the neatest solutions yet, with a choice of 24-, 25- and 27-inch USB-C monitors.

Lenovo’s ThinkVision X24 Pro is the most basic, with a 1920×1080 resolution starting at $399, with availability in May. Acer’s H7 series monitors offer 2560×1440 resolution in 25- and 27-inch variants, and you’ll be able to get your hands on one of those next month, starting at $499.99.

Finally, Lenovo’s ThinkVision X1 is a 27-inch model offering 3840×2160 resolution, again from May, priced at $799 …

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