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Today in Tech News Digest, the U.S. takes on patent trolls, Android 4.4.1 arrives with added camera goodness, there’s a difference of opinion over Bitcoin, with China and America on opposing sides, the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto is possibly revealed, Google gives you your Gmail data, Twitter comes to dumbphones via USSD, Any.do Cal arrives on Android, and the real-life Robocop makes its (his? hers?) debut.
Patent Trolls Begone
The first step in fighting back against patent trolls: http://t.co/Tz4k0gN5ph. But only the first step.
— Paul Graham (@paulg) December 5, 2013
The United States House of Representatives has passed the Innovation Act, and, in doing so, has taken the first step in stopping patent trolls in their tracks. The Innovation Act isn’t a golden bullet to the growing issue of patent trolls, but it is at least a first step in trying to alleviate the problem.
The Innovation Act introduces changes to the way patent lawsuits work, all of which are designed to make it less attractive for patent trolls to do business. These changes include more specificity and transparency in legal cases, an effort to make losing plaintiffs pay legal fees, and added protection for end users.
Bizarrely, this new attempt at setting the ball rolling on patent reform comes just two years after the last attempt. But the America Invents Act of 2011 was a stunning failure thanks to all of the big ideas being left out. The Innovation Act is looking more promising, but there are still interested parties looking to kill this change in the law.
This move will hopefully end the most egregious examples of patent trolls and trolling, but expert onlookers are suggesting a more extreme overhaul of the patent system is required. Still, you have to start somewhere, right?
Android 4.4.1 Gets The Picture
Android 4.4.1 is being rolled out to compatible devices, and with it comes a variety of fixes to the camera on the Nexus 5. While many reviewers loved the Nexus 5, the buggy and inconsistent camera came in for criticism. Android 4.4.1 goes a long way towards solving these issues.
The Verge has a detailed description of the camera changes present in Android 4.4.1, and the comparative screenshots show just how much of a difference these changes have made to picture quality. If only Google could fix the speaker on the Nexus 5 then we could have an amazing handset at our disposal.
America & China Split On Bitcoin
You are not mining bitcoins. You are building a network for "Satoshi Nakamoto" and becoming dependent on it. #bitcoin is the bait.
— Harry Dillema (@Harry_Dillema) December 6, 2013
Bitcoin, the virtual currency that everyone wants a piece of, has had a mixed day. On the one hand China has banned all financial institutions from dealing in Bitcoin, which sent the price plummeting. On the other hand Bank Of America has stated that Bitcoin has the potential to be a “major means of payment for e-commerce” and a “serious competitor to traditional money transfer providers.”
On top of all that the real identity of Bitcoin mastermind Satoshi Nakamoto may have been uncovered. Is it any wonder people are still confused over the very notion of Bitcoin?
Google Data Download
Google users can now download a copy of their Gmail and Google Calendar data. The new feature, built into the Google Takeout service, is being rolled out “over the next month.” Until then Google advocates can obtain an archive file of data from a host of other Google services, including Google+, Google Drive, Google Hangouts, and YouTube. All we need now is for Google to sort out the YouTube comments mess and life will be great once more.
Mobile phone users who have ignored the lure of smartphones will soon be able to enjoy the delights of Twitter on their dumbphones. This is thanks to an impending partnership between Twitter and U2opia Mobile, a Singapore-based startup which will use USSD, or Unstructured Supplementary Service Data, to deliver trending topics to users dialling a simple code. U2opia already offers Facebook access to entry-level mobile owners, and the Twitter offering is set to launch in the first quarter of 2014. Or, dumbphone users could just use Twitter via SMS, like almost everyone did in 2006.
Any.do Cal Lands On Android
Any.do Cal has landed on Android, having been available on iOS for some time. Any.do Cal is a smart calendar app which layers your daily routine with extra tools such as Google Maps and navigational pointers. This means you can not only pencil in a meeting with someone but also discover where the best places are to eat in the local vicinity. Which is undoubtedly more exciting in practical terms than it sounds on paper.
Robocop Is Real, Goddammit
And finally, Robocop is real, though in its prototype form it looks more like a budget R2-D2 or Dalek than it does a superhuman cyborg. This particular crime-fighting robot is the K5 Autonomous Data Machine from Knightscope, a Silicon Valley robotics company.
Unlike Robocop, the K5 will not be armed, but it will, according to CEO William Santana Li, be able to “see, hear, feel, and smell” as well as “roam around autonomously 24/7.” And all for $6.25 an hour. The main job of the K5 will be to collect and analyze data in order to predict crimes and alert real police officers to the s**t that’s about to go down.
Knightscope hopes to have K5 units deployed on the streets by 2015. Which is the future, apparently.