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Obama Vs. NSA, Mossberg Leaves WSJ, Twitter TV Series, Vine Vanity [Tech News Digest]

Dave Parrack 19-12-2013

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 Government Surveillance, Xbox One Backwards Compatibility, Game of Thrones Game [Tech News Digest] Coalition formed to fight government surveillance, Windows 7 declared dead, Xbox One users tricked into bricking consoles, Game Of Thrones video game, Creative Commons 4.0 arrives, Google News on iOS and Android improved, and SpaghettiOs... Read More ; 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 8 Essential Twitter Accounts for Apple Fanboys I’m not an Apple fanboy myself but I do know a few. They don’t deserve the treatment they receive, and have done throughout history. They’re still human, and still people who need love and attention... Read More . 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

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 How Twitter Was Born [Geek History Lessons] Originally created in 2006 as a short messaging system for small groups, Twitter has since evolved into a powerful communication tool that has dramatically changed how information is shared and spread online. Twitter functions as... Read More , 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

Obama Vs. NSA, Mossberg Leaves WSJ, Twitter TV Series, Vine Vanity [Tech News Digest] vine logo

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 “” 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


Microsoft has recently added a slew of new features to Bing, its search alternative to Google. Most of the additions Bing Adds TED Talks To Search Results Bing has just added TED talks and audio play to their search results page, plus a host of other useful pieces of information. Read More , 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 4 Search Engines That Combine Google & Bing The Google search engine is a fantastic resource for those of us who spend half our lives online, hence its inclusion in the list of the 7 wonders of the Web, but it isn't the... Read More .

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

Related topics: Microsoft Bing, Spotify, Surveillance, Twitter, Vine.

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  1. drtagonmouth
    December 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    The only reason we are talking about NSA's collecting petabytes of data is because of United States' somewhat more open culture. There is still some lip service paid to the idea of "freedom of speech". Had Snowden been working for any other nation's secret data collection agency, he would have been "taken care of" before becoming a public embarassment to his employer.

    Even though the advisory panel's recommendations are not binding, some changes will be made with accompanying very public fanfare. Unfortunately, as it happens most of the time, the actual status will remain quo. NSA will continue to collect data but even more covertly than they do now.

  2. sean
    December 19, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Guess Mossberg is going to work at apple now?

    • Dave P
      December 23, 2013 at 11:52 am

      He's still going to be writing about tech, but I'm sure the fanboyism will continue regardless of the outlet.