... And some tech news you might have missed

By Laura Haight

If you aren’t the kind of person who voraciously devours Wired, Gizmodo and other tech media, you are missing some really important developments. Here’s a look at recent tech news you need to know. Or not.

Apple. There is an entire cottage industry developed around getting to the core of what Apple is up to these days. The least little glimmer and a breathless post appears on Today’s iPhone, iMore, Macrumors, Cultofmac and more. Here are a few juicy bits that the Apple press is salivating over this week.

Apparently, there is a new iPad case in design. This has been leaked from an Apple accessory provider. Why does this matter? Because it gives us a glimpse into the dimensions and possible ports that could be seen on the next gen iPad. Says Cult of Mac: We will be looking at a narrower bezel and slimmer profile. And, as if that’s not exciting enough, the microphone may move to the rear shell.

On the app front, according to MacRumors, Apple is hiring something called a “Maps Ground Truth Data Specialist” in Australia. This person will collect information “on the ground” to better calibrate the Map app results in Australia. I guess that’s pretty important: One wrong turn in the Outback and you are on a long walkabout.

Yahoo. Last week, this column talked about the ability and advantages in working remotely. I guess that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wasn’t reading. Yahoo notified employees last week that anyone working remotely needed to relocate to the company facilities. “Speed and quality,” she said in an internal memo published by The Wall Street Journal, “are often sacrificed when we work from home.” She added: “We need to be one Yahoo!”

The change, which begins in June, is not being well received. Highly placed sources say there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the new rule: come in from the cold, or quit. Anticipating some defections, other tech companies are sweetening the pot and trolling the waters with a lifeboat for former-Yahoos.

Microsoft. Microsoft has announced that it had been the subject of a cyber attack. I was shocked to read this - perhaps they missed one of last week’s extensive portfolio of security updates to fix all the newly exploited holes in their products. Welcome to the world of the rest of us!

Google. Are you familiar with the Chromebook? It’s an interesting product that the company is highly touting in certain industries like education. No software required, the Chromebook is a totally browser-driven operating system. It starts nearly instantly and, since no software is installed, users really can’t mess it up so they can be used in environments without much IT support. Most Chromebooks are inexpensive - as low as $199.

But last week, Google launched itself into the high end market with a $1299 touch screen version called Pixel. It is beautiful with extensive attention to detail in its design and manufacture. The big question is “Why?” Google’s Chrome senior VP says they are providing the best device possible for “power users living in the cloud.”

A lot of the tech press is head-scratching. A $1299 laptop that won’t run any software and isn’t a MacBook? Hmm... Well, says one Google hardware designer quoted by All Things Digital, we are “tuning the force function of the mechanical keys to be more responsive.” Well, the geeks will love that!

Space, the final frontier. So much of our time is spent looking at small things -- smartphones, tablets, TV (no matter how big the set). This week, Wired Magazine looked up at the big picture: What if the big one - a giant earth-killing asteroid - is in fact on it’s way here, right now. What can we do? 

As scary as it may seem, several initiatives are underway. Something called ATLAS will start building an early warning system for impending hits by city-destroying or potentially devastating asteroids. It’s supposed to be online in 2015 and will give us a week’s notice. Hmmm. Not sure how that helps, except it’s enough time to go to Hawaii, rent a house on a bluff overlooking the ocean and join Kapalua Country Club!

Another effort is the B612 Foundation which is planning to launch a telescope by 2017 to put eyes in orbit near Venus.

Of course, the biggest unanswered question is once we see it, what do we do about it - even if we have enough time to act? B612 recommends firing something big into the asteroid to push it off course. I think we saw this in 1998’s Armageddon where Bruce Willis saves the world - again!

I say we put Apple on it. Maybe the Map app can be used to help us get to safety if the big one is coming to a town near us. Well, at least as long as we aren’t in Australia.