DeathToBill writes: I spend a lot of time away from my kids (think months at a time) who are aged 3-8. I keep in touch with them by Skype, but the young ones are not really old enough to concentrate on it and we're often in quite different timezones, so it's not often it can be very spontaneous. We'd like to have some way that we can record short video messages of things we're doing and send them to each other. It needs to have an iPad app that is simple enough for a three-year-old to use with help and for a five-year-old to use without help; it needs to have an Android or web client, preferably one that doesn't require an Apple ID; it needs to be able to record a short video and send it to someone.
As far as I can tell, iMessage requires Apple kit (there is an Android app but it sends all your messages through a server in China...) and Whatsapp works on iPhone but not iPad.
DeathToBill writes: According to Hack-A-Day, about a month ago FTDI released a new driver for their venerable USB-to-serial bridge chip, the FT232. This driver was pushed out to Windows systems via Windows Update. Unbeknown to, well, everyone except FTDI, the driver included an update to the terms and conditions, including the text, "Use of the Software as a driver for, or installation of the Software onto, a component that is not a Genuine FTDI Component, including without limitation counterfeit components, MAY IRRETRIEVABLY DAMAGE THAT COMPONENT." Now, your average slashdotter might see that warning on a license agreement and think, "Ha ha, yeah right," but this driver update is a bit... special. It uses small differences in the behaviour of counterfeit chips to detect them, then reprograms the chip's USB PID to 0 — preventing any operating system from loading a driver for the device and very effectively bricking it.
DeathToBill writes: Hack A Day reports on the attempts of open hardware hackers to obtain a vendor and product ID for their devices to be able to sell them as USB compliant: "A not for profit foundation [in this case Arachnid Labs] could buy a VID, give PIDs away to foundation members making open source hardware, and we would all live in a magical world of homebrew devices that are certified as USB compliant." The USB Implementers Forum, which controls the sale of PIDs, has lawyered up, responding to the effort with a cease and desist notice, requiring Arachnid Labs to stop "raising funds to purchase a unique USB VID" and "delete all references to the USB-IF, VIDs and PIDs for transfer, resale or sublicense from your website and other marketing materials." A slight over-reaction? Or dark conspiracy against open hardware? You decide!
DeathToBill writes: Has he pushed shareholders one step too far? The BBC is reporting that Steve Ballmer will retire as Microsoft CEO within the next 12 months. "The world's biggest software company has created a special committee to find a replacement. This committee includes Microsoft founder Bill Gates. In pre-market trading on Wall Street, Microsoft shares surged 8%." I've got my application in...
DeathToBill writes: Over at Gizmodo, Kyle Wagner argues that Microsoft's u-turn on DRM is bad for gamers. "Cheaper games. Easier sharing. The end of discs. The Xbox One would have been just fine despite the chorus of haters, would have been a better system for ignoring them. Microsoft losing its nerve on this isn't just disappointing for the features we lose. It's unfortunate because it shows just how heavy an anchor we can be." Of course, whether that 'always on' system would have stayed on when XBox Two arrived isn't specified. But, really, I can't imagine Microsoft doing that...
DeathToBill writes: EA has done it again, the BBC reports. After EA took over operation of the online Scrabble brand, it introduced a "new and improved" version. Improvements include requiring manual refreshes to see other players' turns, irretrievably wiping players' game history and a switch to the Collins dictionary that has proved deeply unpopular with Scrabble fanatics. "EA was unavailable for comment."
DeathToBill writes: There have been a few articles here recently about some up-and-coming research on brain-computer interfaces. There are even some consumer-level products out such as the Neural Impulse Actuator (£80). For the average geek who wants to mess with this stuff, they all have problems, though; either they are closed-source, with Windows-only drivers and no API documentation, like the NIA, or they don't even quote prices on their webpage, assuming that if you have to ask then you can't afford it (like the g.USBamp). Or they are aimed at people who have 10+ years research experience in BCI (which I don't have). Do Slashdot readers know of any projects out there that bring brain-computer interfaces within reach of the geek-experimenter?