Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
Today in Tech News Digest, Obama hears the truth about the NSA, Walt Mossberg waves goodbye, Spotify gets a visual overhaul, Nick Bilton’s Twitter book becomes a TV series, Vine users are offered vanity URLs, Bing adds some cool new features, and George Takei loses his video game virginity.
Obama Advisors Report On NSA
A panel of outside advisors has reported its findings about the NSA back to U.S. President Barack Obama. The five experts on intelligence delivered a 300-page report [PDF link] detailing 46 recommendations relating to the way the National Security Agency conducts itself.
The key recommendations are: an end to the epic collecting of metadata relating to phone calls; an end to backdoors into the databases of technology companies; an end to the trampling on of the right to privacy; an increase in transparency, with the American public kept informed as to what is happening and why it’s happening.
This review panel was set up by Obama in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks. The recommendations are not binding, so it remains unclear how many will be acted upon. While some of the recommendations can be enacted by the President, others would need clearing through Congress.
As Glenn Greenwald suggests in the tweet embedded above, the fact that these outside advisors are keen to see the NSA reined in suggests Snowden isn’t the enemy some portions of the U.S. government, military, security services, and media are painting him out to be. In fact, some would suggest he’s a hero.
Walt Mossberg Leaves The WSJ
Walt Mossberg, one of the best-known and respected technology journalists in the world, is leaving The Wall Street Journal after 22 years. His final column for the WSJ is a nostalgic look back at the 12 most important products Mossberg considers he covered over the past two decades.
There’s an obvious Apple bias, with five of the 12 products coming out of Cupertino, but Mossberg has never attempted to hide his fanboyism. Mossberg is set to continue reporting on and reviewing technology, with a brand new website due to be launched in 2014.
Spotify Enjoys A Makeover
Waiting for software rollouts is so frustrating. Why not give customers with knowledge of an update the ability to update? #spotify
— Max (@maxbornmann) December 18, 2013
Spotify is in the process of rolling out a new version, 0.9.8, which includes a noticeable visual overhaul. The desktop update for both Windows and Mac includes larger fonts and shiny new graphical elements that really stand out, though arguably make the experience less intuitive.
In a nutshell, this makeover leaves Spotify looking darker, cleaner, and more minimalist, at least compared to how it used to look. The only negative is you’ll have to wait for Spotify to update your desktop app as there is no way of forcing the upgrade.
Twitter Book Becoming TV Series
Nick Bilton’s book, Hatching Twitter, is set to become a television series, with Lionsgate optioning the rights. Hatching Twitter tells the intriguing tale of how the social networking site came to be, though some have argued Bilton’s version of events is highly dramatized. Which should make it the perfect fodder for TV.
Vine Gets Vain With Vanity URLs
Twitter has announced that vanity URLs are coming to Vine, with verified accounts getting the first pick on Dec. 20, with the proles following on Dec. 23. Vine vanity URLS will, unsurpisingly, follow the “vine.co/USERNAME” format. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram are among the social media sites already offering vanity URLs, so Vine is really just playing catch-up here.
Bing Adds New Features
Just accidentally used Bing to search for something. I think the entire Bing staff are having a party right now and high fiving each other.
— Matt Tarrant (@MattTarrant) December 14, 2013
Microsoft has recently added a slew of new features to Bing, its search alternative to Google. Most of the additions, including links to TED talks and playable audio, have been added to the Snapshot pane. This is Bing’s answer to Google’s Knowledge Graph, and it’s extremely useful. Whether these changes will be enough to wean people off Google remains to be seen, but it’s doubtful. You could always just use Google and Bing combined.
George Takei Plays Games
And finally, George Takei has lost his gaming virginity at the ripe old age of 76, giving it up to geek goddess Felicia Day. Takei, who starred in Star Trek before inexplicably becoming a social media star, battles Day at Mario Party 4 on her Co-Optitude show on the Geek & Sundry YouTube channel. Takei has launched his own YouTube show titled Takei’s Take, which sees the veteran entertainer talking technology and the Internet. To boldly go where no septuagenarian has gone before. Or some other Star Trek-related pun.
Tech News Digest… Breaking News Into Bite-Sized Chunks
Image Credit: dannymac15_1999