The press set up to film Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, at the Black Hat hacker conference on Wednesday.
The press set up to film Army Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, at the Black Hat hacker conference on Wednesday. Isaac Brekken/AP
Each Friday we round up the big conversations in tech and culture during the week that was. We also revisit the work that appeared on this blog, and highlight what we're reading from our fellow technology writers and observers at other organizations.
In case you missed it ... here on All Tech, we featured NPR host Scott Simon's explanation of his lyrical, hour-by-hour Twitter farewell to his mother. We wondered about how to preserve memories of our kids' futures when all our photo storing keeps changing; checked out an app that will let you share your leftovers with strangers; and reviewed the long-awaited MIT report on its involvement in the prosecution of the late Aaron Swartz. Our weekly innovation pick was NapAnywhere, a bendy disk that promises to be much better for your body — and your naps — than the traditional U-shaped inflatable travel pillow.
On our airwaves, All Things Considered featured a chat about the new Moto X phone with Laura Sydell, and dispatches from the Black Hat and Def Con conferences from Steve Henn. Steve reported a piece on how hacking cars is now a reality. He also covered remarks by Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, to the tough crowd at the Black Hat hackers conference. I reported for Morning Edition on the viral ad for HelloFlo, and how the openness and wider conversation fostered by social media are changing the marketing landscape.
The Big Conversations
The tech world widely covered the release of the Moto X, which is the flagship phone by Motorola, the faded telecom giant that Google purchased about two years ago. With its easy voice and gesture control, the Moto X is considered a marker in the ground for how smartphones will be expected to work going forward. "It's easy enough to say that the Moto X is impressive, but one would be hard pressed to call it disruptive," the New Yorker says.
It was a big week in national security news, and since we're in the summer of nonstop reports of secret government surveillance, the Internet was set abuzz Thursday after a woman claimed that Google searches for "pressure cooker" and "backpack" from the family's Internet connection led Joint Terrorism Task Force agents to her doorstep. But the story wasn't quite right. Wired reports:
" 'Yes, The FBI Is Tracking American Google Searches,' read Gizmodo's headline, one of many blowing up the story.
"But the local police department that actually visited [Michele] Catalano's husband finally explained themselves, and it turns out the story is more about a dispute with the husband's former employer than rampant secret police surveillance ...
" 'It's easy to see why this story found traction. But bogus claims of secret data mining and 'profiling' detract from the real news. So please let's stop.' "
What's Catching Our Eye
In no particular order:
Associated Press: Smartphones Outfitted To Detect Bacteria
A new app can turn your smartphone into a handheld biosensor to let users run on-the-spot tests for food safety, toxins and medical diagnostics.
The New York Times: Who Made That Super Soaker?
Perfect for these hot summer days, a look at how a NASA engineer came up with a better water gun. Awesome.
Ars Technica: Engineer can't get decent dinner reservations, creates Urbanspoon-dominating bot
What a way to code around a problem. Since bots are now thieving restaurant reservations through OpenTable or other online reservation systems, one San Francisco engineer wrote a bot to beat the other bots.