8 characters that cause Skype to have a catastrophic breakdown

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Thankfully Mac users are safe. Kind of.
It's the second major app-crashing bug we've had in one week.
Photo: FailGif

It’s a bad week for simple messages capable of bringing down entire apps. Following on from Apple’s Messages-crashing “Unicode of death” code, a nasty bug has been discovered in Skype, which promises to crash the software every time you attempt to sign in.

Thankfully, the bug doesn’t appear to have any effect on Skype for Mac, although it does work on the iOS version, as well as the Windows and Android versions.

And getting rid of it’s not easy.

MegaUpload founder brings video calling to your browser

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Steve Wozniak's Recent Meeting With Kim Dotcom.
Kim Dotcom, as pictured with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Photo: Kim Dotcom/Instagram

The infamous brains behind MegaUpload, Kim Dotcom, has just launched the beta version of his latest product: a browser-based encrypted video calling and file-sharing service he hopes will take on the Microsoft-owned Skype.

Called MegaChat, the service uses what is called User Controlled Encryption (UCE), meaning that you get a decryption key provided, and are then free to send it to people so that they you can trade files with them. Like the Web-based MegaUpload, no software installation is required, although there are Chrome and Firefox extensions which aid with improved performance and security.

Skype’s new service is like a Star Trek universal translator for the real world

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Even school kids can see the potential. Photo: Skype/Microsoft
Even school kids can see the potential. Photo: Skype/Microsoft

Star Trek Captains Picard and Kirk could talk to any alien, no matter how different it was from humanity, thanks to the universal translator, a magical sci-fi device that explained away why strange civilizations in far-away solar systems all spoke English.

That future just got a little less far-fetched, thanks to Skype Translator, a new preview service that uses technology from Microsoft Research to translate two different languages back and forth in real time.

This is heady stuff, as school kids in Seattle and Mexico City seem to instantly recognize when they chat back and forth in English and Spanish via the Skype service in the video below.

WhatsApp won’t get voice calling until next year

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WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging services on mobile, has long had plans to step up its assault against the likes of Skype and Viber with a free voice calling feature that was initially promised for the second quarter of 2014. Now the company’s CEO has confirmed that the launch is planned for early 2015 instead.

These are the best messaging apps on iOS

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Cult of Mac runs on Slack. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
It's an iOS messaging shootout! Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

I recently watched The Lady try to convince a friend of ours to download WhatsApp. The friend is moving to the United Kingdom, and we want to stay in touch. Our friend tried to say that email would do the job, but we all know that will never work.

Our friend doesn’t want WhatsApp (maybe because it’s owned by Facebook), and she doesn’t own an iPhone, so iMessage is out. Thankfully, there are plenty of free and good alternatives. Some are more secure, some have more features, and none of them is owned by Facebook.

Let’s take a look at what’s available and how these very different messaging apps compare on a number of key features.

Skype for iPhone is getting a big makeover next week

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The Skype team at Microsoft has been hard at work on a complete rewrite of their iPhone app, and it’s arriving in the App Store next week.

Version 5.0 of Skype for iPhone looks very similar in some ways to the existing Windows Phone and Android Skype clients, but its developers promise that they have built it to “fit iOS best.”

Microsoft and Skype may have just invented the world’s first real universal translator

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Universal translator

Universal translators are a common trope in science fiction. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, they come in the form of the babelfish, a tiny crustacean you jam in your ear. In Farscape, they are bacteria injected into your body. In Star Trek, they take a less squishy form as a wand or tiny computer pinned to your lapel.

In all incarnations, though, a universal communicator is seen as alien and futuristic. But Microsoft wants to change all that. The Washington-based company has just revealed a new real-time speech translation tool that is set to be built right into Skype, and which can translate any foreign language into English in the blink of an eye.

What’s next for iPod? Catch the discussion on our newest CultCast

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This time on The CultCast: rumored new EarPods take your pulse and more; updated Macbook Airs get faster and cheaper; a leaked “iPhone 6” case indicates an iPod-inspired design; Google takes on Office with new iOS apps for Drive; we ponder the state of the iPod; and we pitch our favorite tech and apps then vote on which is best… it’s an all new Faves N Raves!

Have a few chuckles while we catch you up on each week’s best Apple stories! Stream or download new and past episodes of The CultCast now on your Mac or iDevice by subscribing on iTunes, or hit play below and let the audio adventure begin!

And thanks to Lynda.com for sponsoring this episode! Learn at your own pace from expert-taught video tutorials at Lynda.com.

Click on for the show notes.