DT Daily: Blackberry Passport debuts, iOS 8 blocks the Feds, solar panel scrubber

Today on DT Daily: the Blackberry Passport gets a price, Apple’s new anti-authority OS feature, and a robot scrubber for your solar panels.

Are you one of the few, the proud, the lonely, still clinging to your Blackberry? Well, we have good news for you! Blackberry’s oddball new square phone, the Passport, just got pricing and a release date – which is tomorrow.

Never mind that Apple just sold 10 million new iPhone 6s over the weekend, we know you’re saving your nickels for the Passport, which features that familiar physical keyboard and a big… uh, 4.5-inch square… screen. Well, we can’t accuse them of not trying to be different. And the price? $599 without a contract, so perhaps less with the usual service discounts.

New CEO John Chen is hoping the Passport will be a hit with those wanting a phone that has essentially no apps but does have an actual keyboard and robust email. We’re not sure who those people are, but we wish the new crackberry luck anyway.

In this age of government wiretapping scandals and privacy concerns, it would seem a robust security feature of Apple’s iOS 8 would be welcome. But some people are worried about it.

Writer Orin Kerr of the Washington Post recently penned a column noting an unusual tack Apple has taken that essentially gives them an out if the government gets a warrant and asks them to reveal what’s on an iPhone running iOS 8. Their response: we don’t know and we can’t open the phone without the user’s password, so go ask the owner. That’s right: Apple says iOS 8 security measures prevent even them from peeking into your phone, warrant or otherwise.

Kerr says that may hinder criminal prosecution of bad guys, but privacy advocates may hail the move as a win for the little guy. So how could the government gain access to your phone’s data? Well, they can get a warrant to see your iCloud data, or they’d have to either guess the password on your phone – not real easy – or have you type it in. So if you refuse, essentially, they’re out of luck.

It’s a complicated issue, so let us know what you think of the new padlock on your data in iOS 8 in comments.

And finally, if you’re living on the bleeding edge of off-grid solar energy tech, you may have a unique problem: how do you keep those spendy, delicate panels on your roof clean?

It’s a growing problem, and now there’s a kickstarter campaign under way with a possible solution: The Scrobby Solar Panel cleaning robot. Like a Roomba for your solar cells, the Scrobby whips up some suds and gives your panels a thorough scrub to keep them working at maximum efficiency. Stephan Hamminga of the Netherlands painstakingly built a prototype and it uses a clever system of wires and sensors to move around the sloped panels.

It uses rainwater and never needs charging – because it’s solar powered, of course. Stephan is looking to raise 75,000 euros and he’s part of the way there, so check out the project at the link below for more soapy details on the Scrobby bot.

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