Episode 26 News: The One Where We Just Blogged It

And now, some news!

Microsoft, in the midst of taking a swipe at Google for what is says are suspect ranks for shopping searches, says Windows 8 is selling just fine, thankyouverymuch. Not everyone’s convinced, though. Some sites like InformationWeek would like, well, more information about the numbers.

The manager for Apple’s misbegotten Maps app is probably looking for new directions himself after getting fired earlier this month, and Tony Fadell, the man known as the Godfather of the iPod does not seem to be too broken up about Scott Forstall — another previously released Apple exec — getting the sack. Apple itself is said to be working with TomTom to make the iOS 6 maps app better, while map fans wait in hope for a standalone Google Maps app for iOS. At least iTunes 11 finally showed up this week.

Google has had about enough of anonymous trolling on app reviews in its Google Play Store. Reviews must now be accompanied by the user’s Google+ name and profile photo. The move should cut down on the number of astroturfed reviews for an app, and trolls will just have to drive up Google+ membership stats with fake accounts if they want to continue fragging apps in public forums.

Hoping to get its buzz back, Research in Motion is showing off a new BlackBerry in advance of its new BlackBerry OS 10 system due out early next year. And while not exactly fresh news, AT&T is still hanging out in the basement of the Consumer Reports customer satisfaction survey for US wireless carriers; the company’s 4G LTE network got better marks. Verizon Wireless was tops among the major national carriers.

But enough about tech, how about some pop? With the big summer movies now landing on Blu-ray and DVD for the holidays, director Christopher Nolan has some thoughts on the ending of the The Dark Knight Rises. Now, if they can just get Hugh Jackman jacked in to the X-Men: Days of Future Past with the rest of the gang

Information: Technology

Need a holiday gift for the gadget, game or physics enthusiast in your life? Check out Mad Science: Einstein’s Fridge, Dewar’s Flash, Mach’s Speed, and 362 Other Inventions and Discoveries That Made Our World, edited by Randy Alfred. As discussed on this week’s show, the $20 book collects a year’s worth of entries from Wired’s This Day in Tech feature in one convenient place. The nicely compiled book makes for quick, informative reading on those topics dear to geek hearts: math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries…

Episode 26: The Virtual Episode

El Kaiser takes a much needed vacation but that doesn’t stop the Pop Tech Jammers from bringing you some geeky goodness! This week J.D. reviews the book “Mad Science” from the writers and editors at Wired Magazine and Pedro tackles live blogging in another of his Tech Term segments. He also makes a startling announcement that might just rock the very foundations of the universe this little blue marble we call Earth floats in! Okay, that may be overstating a bit. Pedro just gives us the lowdown on his new smartphone.

Episode 25: Planes, Trains and Cyber Monday Mania

Cyber Security expert David Perry of AhnLab phones in with tips on how to protect yourself online during the Holiday shopping season plus J.D. and Pedro discuss apps that might make holiday travel a little bit easier. In the news, Microsoft and Apple have up and down weeks; Google decides it doesn’t need the last month of the year and is rumored to be working on an Airplay alternative; and Nintendo debuts its new gaming console.

Episode 25 News: Don’t Delete December!

Good design is an integral part of a successful product, which may explain why Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system has been getting hammered since its official release last month. This week, the Web design guru Jakob Nielsen gave a rather scathing critique of the new software on his blog. (Still, PC makers like Lenovo are trying to make the best of Win8 with models that can contort themselves between tablet and laptop form.) Also adding to Microsoft’s woe: problems with new Windows Phone 8 handsets spontaneously rebooting, and leaked old videos showing its discontinued Kin phone spectacularly flunking usability tests.

But no matter how bad a week Microsoft is having, at least they can’t be accused of deleting December, which Google did for some Android 4.2 users. (They’re looking into it.) In addition to restoring the 12th month of the year, Google is said to be working on an open alterative to Apple’s AirPlay wireless streaming technology for beaming music and videos around the speakers and screens in your house.

Apple has had a week of ups and downs itself, with iCloud and some of its Web-based services being, well, down. But on the upside, the company finally snagged the AC/DC catalog for iTunes and is reportedly experimenting with an eBay storefront to sell refurbished Apple computers, iPods, iPads and other gear — at refurbished prices. While iOS gamers will still have Apple’s Game Center network, developers and players on other platforms should note that the OpenFeint gaming network is shutting down on December 14th.

Perhaps the long-awaited Nintento Wii U console that arrived last weekend (review roundup here) with ease some of the pain—once the device gets a good library of games that maximizes the potential of the GamePad controller. Oh well, at least you can watch Amazon Instant Video on the console while you’re waiting around.

Fly the Friendly Apps

Whoever said, “The journey is the reward” never had to fly cross-country in the middle seat of an overbooked Boeing 757, but getting home for the holidays is what people are doing this time of year. Whether we’re coming, going, or waiting for someone else’s delayed flight to finally get in, at least we have apps.

Although it’s known more as a fare-finder, Kayak’s mobile app packs in a ton of other travel-related features (including airport information from GateGuru, an airline-fee chart, a currency converter and …a packing list). The Kayak app can also track flights, but if you want a dedicated app for locating planes, there’s no shortage of ’em — just browse your mobile app store.

Flight Update (and Flight Update Pro) for iOS are $5 and $10 respectively, and bring a ton of flight-status and other travel information together into one well-designed app. FlightView for Android (which has a freebie and paid versions with more features for 99 cents and $4) is another flight-status app for those rockin’ a Google-powered device.

Mobiata’s versatile  FlightTrack app comes in several editions (free to $10) and comes in versions for iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone. The company also makes the $4 FlightBoard app for iOS and Android that turns your phone into your chosen airport’s arrival and departure board, in case you can’t see it slumped in your sticky vinyl chair down at the overcrowded gate.

Need live flight-tracking on the Web? Check out site like FlightStats and FlightAware (which has mobile apps for just about every smartphone platform) to check a flight’s status and get other aviation-related information.

If you don’t have to fly this season, satisfy your schadenfreude with US News & World Report’s list of America’s Meanest Airlines. Or, if you’re traveling by national rail instead, check out Amtrak’s mobile offerings. You may not be able to make the trains run on time yourself, but you can at least check the schedule, buy and use eTickets, and upgrade your seat.

But no matter how you get there, Pop Tech Jam wishes you a safe and happy holiday season!

Holiday Hat Trick

Yes, it’s THAT time of year again here in America. Thanksgiving is next Thursday, which traditionally kicks off the start of the holiday travel, eating and shopping seasons. Here are some apps that may help dealing with all three a little easier.

Getting There
Your smartphone should have its own Maps app. If you use Android, you get those nice, accurate Google Maps app. If you’ve got an iOS 6 device, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggests these alternatives to Apple’s still-a-work-in-progress-honest Maps offering:

Worried about traffic on the way? Try the free Inrix Traffic app, available for most smartphone platforms.

Bird is the Word
If it’s Thanksgiving, there’s probably a turkey on the menu at some point. The Butterball folks have been guiding nervous cooks through Thanksgiving turkey prep for years, with a telephone hotline, but the company has branched out in recent years with a handy mobile Web site, the Butterball Turkey Talk podcast and even its own $5 Butterball Cookbook Plus app for iOS.

Got vegetarians in the family or what to devitate from the traditional Thankgiving menu? There are plenty of mobile cooking apps out there, including the Betty Crocker Mobile Cookbook (for Android or iOS) and the helpful, inventive Pepperplate. And if you’re not allowed to watch football during the meal, apps like ESPN ScoreCenter and Yahoo Sportacular (Android and iOS) offer free game alerts and live updates to sneak under the table.

Eeeeeeeeee! Commerce!
Many people take advantage of the day off after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) to pillage the malls for mega-sales. Many stores have apps — like Macy’s and Target — and now many malls have their own apps with maps and more info to make this full-contact shopping experience more effective.

Can’t stand the crowds? When you get back home, there’s always Cyber Monday!

Episode 24 News: Cautionary Tales

Who’d have thought Gmail drafts and online privacy would be tangled up in the current US military sex scandal that’s rolling through the news cycle like that big boulder bearing down on Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark? For anyone who still thinks Webmail accounts are a good cover for anonymous online activities, InformationWeek’s “Petraeus Fallout: 5 Gmail Security Facts” is worth a read. The Google Transparency Report, which counts user data requests from courts and government agencies, also adds perspective.

Speaking of courts, a judge in the United Kingdom has found Apple’s apology to Samsung less than sincere and ordered the Cupertino crowd to cough up some bucks for bad behavior. Also shaking things up on the Apple campus: Scott Forstall, who handled the iOS platform over at Apple, is parting ways with the company early next year.

Microsoft has its own personnel changes — Windows and Windows Live president Steve Sinofsky is leaving the company, an announcement made in the same week as the modest sales (so far) of the company’s new Surface tablets and Windows 8 system. Although Apple’s Mountain Lion is clawing
Windows 8
in the upgrade race, some executives still think Windows tablets will eventually outpace Android devices, as the flat system of choice for businessfolk — once they get some apps, that is.

Tablets still continue to be the object of affection for many people, including Linux lovers who have successfully gotten Ubuntu Linux up and running on the Google Nexus 7 tablet. Development is still early, but signs point to the Ubuntu desktop software making a concentrated the jump to mobile devices over the next few years. Ubuntu has appeared on other devices before, including Android smartphones with multi-core processors and a Samsung Chromebook. A TV set-top box version is also in the works. For those keeping track of the animal code names, the next version of the often-updated Ubuntu system, version 13.04, has been dubbed Raring Ringtail.

Google’s Nexus 4 smartphone sold out in less than an hour after it went on sale across the pond — a bit of good news for a company that may be facing a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission for stacking the search-results deck with its own services. (But YouTube is cleaning things up: the the site is weeding out about 60 percent of its channels from last year.)

For those still firmly gripping their BlackBerry phones in hand amidst the onslaught of Android phones, iPhones and Windows Phone handsets, the future is on the way. Research in Motion is planning a January 30th, 2013, launch event for its BlackBerry 10 operating system.

While the BlackBerry platform has gotten shoved aside by those other phones in recent years, many people still hang on to it for the BlackBerry Messenger service, which, like Apple’s iMessage system, has taken a big bite out of text-message volume over the wireless carrier networks. In fact, a new report shows that old-school SMS text messaging in the U.S. is in decline for the first time. But no matter how you direct your text traffic, be sure to do it safely and not in traffic. As a TV sage use to say, “Let’s be careful out there.” Same goes for using Webmail, making apologies and unlocking the bootloader on your Nexus 7 so you can Penguinize your Google tablet.

Episode 24: Ducky Doughnut (It’ll Make Sense When You Listen)

This week J.D. lists some useful apps that will get you through the Thanksgiving Holiday and Pedro laments the lack of decent gaming controllers for his tablets. In the news, a political scandal with a tech twist; high-level changes in the executive ranks at Apple and Google; RIM is finally ready to unveil the Blackberry 10 OS; and Youtube distributes cancellation slips.