Monday tech roundupIt has certainly been an eventful week. The Apple Watch is finally finding its way to a wrist near you, Google is once again in the middle of some tech drama, the truth about hack attacks, Starbucks need to wake up and smell the coffee and a big happy birthday to YouTube. But first, 4D printers!

4D printers make things that can change themselves

We all know 3D printers are pretty hot stuff. I was amazed when, during a show for SolidWorks, I saw a 3D printer that could make a copy of itself! I thought it was cool, but it had nothing on what’s coming next – a 4D printer.

So what is 4D? You might think the fourth dimension is time, but in the case of printers it refers to the materials used. Objects can change depending on the environment, such as heat, cold or light.

For instance, the material could expand when it gets hot, or change color when the light shifts – all by using electromaterials. The ARC Centre of Excellence in Electromaterials Science at the University of Wollongong disclosed the project in a recent press release saying “researchers have started to develop 3D printed materials that morph into new structures, post production, under the influence of external stimuli such as water or heat – hence the name, 4D printing.” It continued: “So, as in 3D printing, a structure is built up layer by layer into the desired shape, but these new materials are able to transform themselves from one shape into another, much like a child’s Transformer toy.”

One early project is a valve that shuts itself when it gets hot. “The cool thing about it is, is it’s a working functioning device that you just pick up from the printer,” said ACES Professor Marc in het Panhuis. “So it’s an autonomous valve, there’s no input necessary other than water; it closes itself when it detects hot water,” he said.

Starbucks gets security wakeup call

In the early days of Microsoft Office, Microsoft used the then tiny Starbucks as an example for sample documents to demonstrate the software. Decades later the coffee maker should be even more tech savvy. Yet it fell hard due to a computer failure this weekend that left cash registers frozen forcing baristas to accept just cash or giving away coffee. In Seattle it meant Starbucks had to shut its doors leaving caffeine fans in the lurch.

The fault affected around 8,000 company-owned stores across North America and Canada. The problem was from “a failure during a daily system refresh,” said Jim Olson, a company spokesperson, who added there was no breach. The news spread over Twitter on Friday with both customers and employees tweeting about the incident hashtagged #TheFrappening. Luckily, systems were back in business by Saturday morning, just in time to revive late night revelers. 

US hackers attacks largely local

The big hacker boogeymen tend to be from Easter Europe, Russia and China – at least that’s what press and politicians tend to say. The truth, however, is far less sinister. Turns out most US attacks actually come from the US.

About half of malicious URLs and a third of IP addresses used for US attacks, are from the United States. Phishing is even worse where 3 out of 4 attacks are launched from our backyard, according to an article on Dark Reading. The report also sheds light on the kind of phishing attacks where it was revealed that bad guys simply love to impersonate tech companies and the top phishing lures were Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Apple.

Google financial growth stumbles?

Google has been outstripping the rest of technology companies – I dare say the rest of the world – when it comes to sales growth. It seems there is no stopping them. But while not stalled, Google sales growth is slowing, rising only 12% in this past quester partly because the price per click it charges has been steadily dropping. Don’t feel too bad for Google just yet. At over $17 billion in revenue for the first quarter of 2015 they have a run rate of over $66 billion. Meanwhile, profits were over $3.5 billion.

Like Facebook, Google is struggling to adapt to an increasing mobile and smartphone-driven world. The main problem being the fact that there isn’t nearly as much real estate in which to display ads. Once Google figures that out, it should be back on track for more insane sales.

YouTube turns 10

The YouTube video service is turning 10 years’ old, and the best part is, it’s just getting started. For most of its life, YouTube was a free web video service driven by end users. After being acquired by Google, YouTube became more ad driven and is now looking at premium services similar to cable TV.

Much like Netflix and recently Amazon, YouTube is looking to develop its own movies and shows. One of the first is a Japanese horror flick The Crawler in the Dark which is being developed and released by a new YouTube-owned studio.

The subscription service will let users see videos without sitting through any ads, and if it increases views, the video creators could see a bit more cash – at around $1 per thousand views.

Google faulted for police attacks

Two police professionals, David A. Clarke Jr., a sheriff, and Jonathan Thompson, CEO of the National Sheriffs’ Association in the United States, think Google should know better than post the whereabouts of police officers, and said so in an opinion piece for CNN.com.

The pair lamented that in the US ambushes have been the number one way officers die. After five years of this harrowing stat, Google still offers a smartphone app that shows precisely where working cops are. Despite being warned of this problem, Google seems to still be refusing to sit down and talk with the people involved.

“Google’s popular real-time traffic app, Waze, uses GPS navigation and crowdsourcing to alert users to traffic jams, automobile accidents, stalled cars and through its ‘traffic cop’ feature, the presence of law enforcement. Most people undoubtedly use Waze’s police-finding feature to avoid traffic tickets, but the app poses an enormous risk to deputies and police officers,” the two wrote. “In the days before he assassinated New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu at point blank range while they sat in their patrol car last December, Ismaaiyl Brinsley is known to have used the Waze application to monitor the movements of police officers. The killer identified the location of police on his own Waze account and even posted screen captures on Instagram.”

Fellow policemen are not the authors’ only concern. ”It’s not just the speeders and drunk drivers who have access to the locations of police officers through Google’s technology. Perpetrators of domestic violence can use it to find out about the presence of law enforcement in a spouse’s neighborhood; gang members, narcotics dealers, even those intent on perpetrating an act of terror, all have access to Waze’s ‘traffic cop‘ feature.”

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A watch that looks sharp as it is smart

Curious as I am about the Apple Watch, I simply couldn’t wear the same watch that millions of others wear. In my opinion, it looks more like a gussied up piece of plastic rather than an elegant timepiece.

A solution is already at hand. Borland founder Philippe Kahn who invented the smartphone camera is now applying his generous brainpower to watches. Instead of building the watches himself, Kahn’s company, Fullpower, is adding its MotionX activity-tracking technology to fine tune Swiss timepieces like Frederique Constant.

PC World recently reviewed some of these watches and found them far more gorgeous than your basic smartwatch. Those good looks come at a cost, not just the high Swiss price ($1,000-$2,600) but the watches have a limited set of functions that only relate to activity and sleep tracking.

“The watches (and their accompanying smartphone app) give you the same essential step- and sleep-tracking functions offered by the first few generations of Jawbone UP wristbands. For daytime activity, they’ll show you total step counts and calorie burn estimates. For nighttime, they’ll show you periods of deep and light sleep, your total sleep for each night, when you fell asleep, and how many times you woke up,” PC World editor in chief Jon Philipps wrote. “But beyond that? There’s really not much else. The watches sync with your smartphone to make sure you never need to reset the time manually when you jump through time zones. That’s a smart feature indeed, but you won’t find any smartphone notifications, which are the cash currency of traditional smartwatches.”