Gadget Ogling: Note-Taker Triumphs, Classic Nokia Returns, and Audio Thrills

Gadget Ogling: Note-Taker Triumphs, Classic Nokia Returns, and Audio Thrills

Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that sometimes takes a break from figuring out why people are investing in an ephemeral content company losing half a billion dollars a year and suffering slowing user growth to pore over the latest gadget announcements.

This time around, we take a look at an automated transcription device, the return of a classic cellphone, and Bang and Olufsen’s latest wireless speaker.

As ever, these are not reviews — a difficult prospect when I’ve yet to see any of these items in person, let alone rigorously test them. The ratings relate only to how much I’d like to use each with my somehow-still-frigid-in-March fingers.

Transcription Tedium Killer

As someone who deals with words for a living, there are countless occasions on which I have to transcribe speech. It’s tedious, and until voice recognition truly can handle all manner of accents and verbal tics, it’s a necessary evil. Hands up, everyone who thinks I wouldn’t want a machine to take care of that for me. No one? Good.

Titan Note records and transcribes audio, with a particular trick up its sleeve: It can discern different speakers when it’s transcribing. It can operate as a speaker as well — and if you’re in a pinch, it can charge your mobile device.

That sounds great. It’s hard to tell how successful the Titan Note will prove in practice, given that even the most intelligent AI tools, like Siri and Google’s Assistant, struggle to transcribe accurately.

Yet if it can do the bulk of my transcription work, letting me drop in at the end to clean up any mistakes, I can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t want this in my toolbag.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Eye Think It Will Be Fairly Accurates

Fine Finnish

Nokia’s classic 3310 mobile phone is back with a twist. The hugely successful phone made its bow in 2000, selling more than 126 million units.

Nokia discontinued the sturdy handset in 2005, but 12 years later, HMD Global has revived the 3310 under the Nokia banner as a feature phone for a new generation.

The modern incarnation, which uses the Nokia S30+ operating system, includes an FM radio, a basic Web browser and a voice recorder. Though the 3310 carries only 16 MB of onboard storage, that’s expandable up to 32 GB with a microSD card. You’ll need that for the 2-MP rear camera, which can capture video.

You won’t have to worry about shelling out for ringtones or composing them yourself: This version can play MP3 ringtones.

Most importantly, the 3310 includes a version of Snake, the game that’s synonymous with the original phone. An infuriatingly simple game to play, I’d wager Snake was a key harbinger for the success of mobile gaming in its current state.

The most attractive aspect of the 3310 for your humble, clumsy columnist is the hope it’ll prove as rigid as the original device. I recently dropped my iPhone 6 one time too many, and I am forced either to overspend on a repair or tough it out with a spider-web screen until renewal time.

At 49 euros, the 3310 could prove a useful backup until then. Also, I could play Snake with physical buttons on a mobile device again, which would be nice.

Sadly, the 3310 apparently works only on 2.5G GSM networks, meaning it’s impossible to use in many territories, including the U.S. and Canada.

It taps into the wave of nostalgia in the zeitgeist night now, with many yearning for glories gone by. If Stranger Things and the board game resurgence can do it for entertainment, why not the 3310 for technology?

Rating: 4 out of 5 Boxed Myself in Corners

Bang For Your Buck?

Good heavens, this is a pretty wireless speaker.

Bang & Olufsen’s Beolit 17 offers 240 watts of power, a boost from the Beolit 15 from two years ago. The leather carrying strap should make it a cinch to transport the Beolit 17, which has an aluminum speaker grill and a polymer material on the top and bottom for protection.

The top of the device has a non-slip tray that’s designed to house your phone while you’re streaming music without having to worry that you’ll scratch any surface. Critically, the Beolit apparently offers 24 hours of battery life.

There’s a connection button that links to one of four modes in the Beoplay app: Alarm with snooze; Connect, which continues music from when you stopped; Remote; and ToneTouch, which employs your preferred audio preset.

I’m not completely sure that I’m willing to spend US$499 on something I don’t absolutely need in my life right now. Still, I keep looking at the images, knowing the audio quality is bound to be at least good, and I yearn.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Mournful Melodies

David

David

I’m a long time employee with Office Depot as a Senior Technology Associate, I do computer and smartphone repair there. I do graphic and web design from home using WordPress, Can also setup ecommerce using Woocommerce. I’m very well versed in almost all technology as I thrive to know as much as I can.

FACEBOOK

Facebook Gets Tough on Spy Apps

Facebook Gets Tough on Spy Apps

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Facebook on Monday moved to prevent spy applications from accessing its users’ data.

The company has updated its Facebook and Instagram policies to prohibit developers from using data obtained from those platforms in surveillance tools, according to Rob Sherman, deputy chief privacy officer at Facebook.

Facebook already has taken enforcement actions against devs who created and marketed surveillance tools in violation of the company’s previous policy, he noted, adding that “we want to be sure everyone understands the underlying policy and how to comply.”

Facebook has been under pressure to beef up its rules governing surveillance apps since last fall, when the American Civil Liberties Union released a report exposing how Geofeedia was using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter data to track protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

Marketing materials for surveillance companies urged police to monitor hashtags associated with Black Lives Matter, and labeled unions and activist groups as “overt threats,” the ACLU also reported.

“We depend on social networks to connect and communicate about the most important issues in our lives and the core political and social issues in our country,” said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil Liberties director at the ACLU of California.

“Now more than ever, we expect companies to slam shut any surveillance side doors and make sure nobody can use their platforms to target people of color and activists,” she added.

Data Sellers Chill Dissent

The ACLU is part of a coalition that includes the Center for Media Justice and the Color of Change. The group aims to persuade social media companies to establish robust systems to make sure the rules prohibiting surveillance are followed.

“When technology companies allow their platforms and devices to be used to conduct mass surveillance of activists and other targeted communities, it chills democratic dissent and gives authoritarianism a license to thrive,” said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice.

“Social media platforms are a powerful tool for black people to draw attention to the injustices our community faces,” remarked Brandi Collins, campaign director for Color of Change.

“We commend Facebook and Instagram for this step,” she continued, “and call on all companies who claim to value diversity and justice to also stand up and do what’s needed to limit invasive social media surveillance from being used to target black and brown people in low-income communities.”

All Facebook users will benefit from the crackdown on surveillance apps, said Andrew Sudbury, CTO of Abine.

“This should improve user privacy, as there shouldn’t be any commercial companies reselling access to them and their data to law enforcement for tracking and intelligence gathering purposes,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Mixed Bag for Cops

For law enforcement agencies using information from developers of surveillance apps, Facebook’s policy will be a mixed bag.

“There’s nothing to stop law enforcement from looking as a suspect’s Facebook feed, but it will stop these intermediary-type companies like Geofeedia from getting automated feeds of information,” said Timothy Toohey, an attorney with Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger.

Enforcement still could be a problem for Facebook, though.

“There may be other companies that have ways to scrape this information from Facebook without developer access,” Toohey told TechNewsWorld.

Facebook’s ability and willingness to police its antisurveillance policy will be key to its success.

“A company could simply do its surveillance anyway,” Abine’s Sudbury noted. “Then it would fall on Facebook to carefully monitor what and how developers access data, looking for clues as to the purposes of the data.”

Controversies over what’s done with Facebook’s data are unavoidable, Toohey maintained.

“The data is incredibly valuable. It’s valuable to law enforcement. It’s valuable to private enterprises,” he said. “Facebook wants to monetize that, which puts them in very difficult positions balancing their commercial interests with other interests.”