We Never Want to Spoil the Fun

This week I go on a bit of a rant about the new entry in the Star Trek reboot, “Star Trek: Into Darkness”. Okay, maybe I go on a long, foaming at the mouth diatribe that contains spoilers about every major plot point of the movie. If you want to skip the spoilers jump ahead to the 9 minute and 10 second mark.

Apologies to those Jammers who have yet to peep the flick (which I actually quite enjoyed despite my concerns). My bad! Here are some bloopers from Star Trek: Classic…

Episode 49 News: Somebody’s Watching Me

Fresh off its announcement last week that it sold 10 million Galaxy S4 phones in the first month of release, Samsung is already aiming for another media moment. The company said this week that it plans an event for June 20th in London. Press invitations for its Samsung Premiere 2013 event have gone out and new Galaxy and Ativ mobile devices are expected.

Also on the other side of the Atlantic, Google Maps app has added cycling directions for six more European countries. Google first added maps for cyclists in 2010 with information for the US and Canada and expanded the feature last year to include the United Kingdom, much of Europe and Australia. Bicycles aren’t the only mode of transportation Google is dabbling with this week. The company also plans to use high-altitude blimps and balloons to build wireless networks in parts of Africa and Asia that do not have the infrastructure for more traditional methods of getting people online.

Microsoft has an updated console, the Xbox One, coming out later this year, but the new product has people talking about more than just the hardware spex. For instance, there was some confusion about whether the Xbox One will play second-hand games. After hearing a lot of swirl on the forums, a Microsoft representative did put out a statement saying used games would be allowed. (Sony had its own batch of Twitter protesters tweeting angrily this week about any attempt at enforcing digital-rights management restrictions for used games on its upcoming on PlayStation 4 console.)


Microsoft also had its share of privacy concerns and questions, due to the “always on” feature of the Internet-connected Xbox One console and its Kinect motion-sense controller. These issues involve data collection and Internet safety, and a German commissioner even went as far as to call the Xbox One a monitoring device. Among other things, Microsoft did confirm that the Xbox One system can be shut down completely.  Other news outlets have also expressed concern over a patent Microsoft has filed for technology that tracks TV viewing habits through the Xbox One.

A vintage Apple I computer made in 1976 sold for much more than its original $666 asking price at an auction in Germany this past weekend. The Apple antique sold for a record $671,400 dollars to an anonymous collector.

Yahoo didn’t buy the old Apple, but it seems to be bidding on everything else. Not long after the company made the move to buy the Tumblr blogging service, All Things D and other sites are reporting that Yahoo is possibly buying the Hulu video-streaming service. Hulu had revenues of about $695 million in 2012, so it could bring in some cash and help pay off that big Tumbler bill.

More new things are on the way. Mozilla is joining up with Chinese manufacturer Foxconn for a press event next week. The two have an announcement set for June 3 with speculation that a handset or tablet running the new HTML 5-powered Firefox OS could be in the making. Opera Software has released a beta version 15 of its Opera browser for Windows and Mac systems. The test version is officially known as Opera Next 15 and has been overhauled to run on Google’s Chromium engine for faster performance. (Opera has been working on its browser for 17 years, so it’s seven years older than WordPress blogging software, which celebrates its 10th birthday this week.)

Deustsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, said it plans to test small airborne surveillance drones with infrared cameras to photograph and hopefully prosecute people spraying graffiti on its rail depots. Yeah, can’t really see that sort of thing working here in New York City unless there was a Starfleet-size armada of drones — and then half of them would still show up for sale on eBay.

And… “Action!”

Inspired by filmmaker Anthony Q. Artis after hearing his chat with Pop Tech Jam’s roving correspondent Jocelyn Gonzales on Episode 49? Grab your iPhone and head to the App Store.

As shown below, Nexvio’s $2 8mm Vintage Camera app offers plenty of retro film effects (see a demo here) and an easy-to-use interface. Artis even used the app for parts of a Thomson-DiPalma shampoo commercial.


FiLMiC Pro, a $5 app from Cinegenix LLC, is another great tool for shooting high-definition movies with your iPhone. The app offers a 4x zoom, 15 presets and easy uploading to popular video-sharing sites. You can see what FiLMiC Pro can do here.

Tilt-shift photography — which is often used to make scenes appear miniaturized — has been around for decades and is another technique that has found a place in video as well. The free Miniatures: Tilt Shift Time Lapse Videos app from Hit Rolls is a great way to experiment with the style and you can get an eyeful of what it can do here. (A more full-featured Pro version of the app is also available for $5.)

If you’re interested in shooting video and not quite sure how to jump in, check out The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video Guide. It may take some time before your inner Kathryn Bigelow or Spike Lee comes busting out, but hey, it’s never been easier to get rolling.

Episode 49: Angry Gamers and Spies in the Skies

Roving correspondent Jocelyn Gonzales talks to filmmaker and author Anthony Artis about shooting movies on your smartphone and J.D. has a roundup of apps that will help you finish those home improvement projects. Also on the show, Pedro sets his phasers on stun and takes aim at the new Star Trek movie. In the news, Samsung prepares to unveil new Android and Windows phones; Google plans to use blimps and balloons to build wireless networks; Microsoft feeling heat over privacy concerns with their new XBox console; Yahoo continues their shopping spree; and a German railroad company plans to use drones to prevent vandalism.

Hammer Time!

Planning a summer remodeling project or taking care of a few little tool-related chores around the house now that the weather is starting to warm up and you’ve got some summer vacation time on the way? You guessed it — your smartphone can help with that, too.

Just go to your app store and search for “home improvement” and you should get a screen full of possibilities. If you need something specific, try “paint calculator” or “flashlight” in the search box. Apps that specialize in project planning, remodeling ideas, decorating, kitchen planning, or even how-to help are also out there.

National home-improvement store like Lowes or The Home Depot have their own apps and national chains like Ace Hardware at least have a mobile Web site. The Home Depot’s app is particularly helpful with tips and videos.

DIYSome apps are tools themselves, like the $2 iHandy Carpenter (shown here) for iOS and Android. The app includes a plumb bob, a protractor, a level bar, a surface level and a short ruler. If you just want a level, iHandy makes a free level app for both platforms, and Stanley Tools makes its own free level app for iOS. Android users can choose from a number of Smart Tools apps.

Calculators of all types are also very important for project planning. These include free options and professional apps like the $20 Construction Master Pro for Android, Windows Phone and iOS. Another option for iPhone owners is Home Improvement Calcs, which is $2 to start with .99 in-app purchases to add on. Android users have similar apps, including the $8 Handy Construction Calculators app. You can also find apps that let you store notes on your projects or calculate room dimensions.

So, if you’re dreading the part where you have to get started on a do-it-yourself project, ease into it with a visit to your app store. And if your spouse or partner complains, you’re not stalling — you’re finding technology that will make the project quicker and more efficient!

Whaddaya know, It’s Our 1st Birthday!

Pretty soon we’ll be flinging food from our high chair and having ear-shattering tantrums at supermarkets…

A year ago this week J.D. and I officially “went rouge” and unleashed the pilot episode of our new project, Pop Tech Jam. In December of 2011 our radio show for The New York Times had been cancelled and yours truly moved on to produce video for the Gray Lady. J.D. shifted her focus to her book series for O’Reilly Media and continued writing and editing for the Book Review and Technology sections of the Times. It appeared our Internet radio days were over. But a strange thing happened.

Once word spread that our show had ended production, the emails poured in exhorting us to bring it back or produce a new one. To say we were moved by the outpouring of support from our listeners would be a gross understatement. J.D. and I were actually both a little gobsmacked.

Neither of us had any clue that there were so many passionate fans missing our shenanigans but grinding out a weekly radio show for so long had taken its toll and we both needed time off to recharge before discussing what to do next. It became clear during our first few meetings that without the considerable resources available to us at our day gig it would have been impossible for us to do both a new show and our full-time jobs. Just as we were about to move on, the team at BROS offered to help and the rest, as they say, is history.

The plan is to continue producing the show until it loses the fun factor for either of us. As things stand right now, it appears J.D. and I will be busy for quite some time.

Thank you all and please remember to JAM responsibly.

Star Trek Into Discussion

As we mentioned on Episode 48, Star Trek Into Darkness has been open for a week. The reviews are in and the Trekologists are debating the movie’s perceived merits and flaws.

Aggregate scores for the film landed in the high 80s on Rotten Tomatoes, were slightly lower on MetaCritic and a review roundup on ScreenRant was generally positive. Ain’t It Cool News took quite a liking to the film, posting spoiler-lite and megaspoiler reviews.

Star_Trek_Into_DarknessGeekcentric sites like io9 (which also did a spoiler FAQ) and Wired were not feeling the love for the film, however. The Mary Sue blog liked it as popcorn-consumption vehicle but not so much as a bonafide Star Trek picture.

TOR.com, SlashFilm and Empire all weighed in with thoughtful analysis and plenty of plot points, so see the film first unless you don’t like surprises. (NFL rookies woke up and commented as well.)

But in the end, the only opinion that matters is your own. Live long and ponder. So, what did you think?

Episode 48: YUMBLR! Famous

New to Doctor Who and don’t know what a K9 is? Feeling left out of the conversation when you and your Trekker friends get together? Well, don’t despair! J.D. will have you geeking out with the best of them. Also on the show, El Kaiser gives us his thoughts on Samsung’s newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S4 and digs into movie box office numbers. In the news Yahoo buys Tumblr and starts handing out storage by the terabyte over at Flicker; Microsoft unveils their new gaming console and hopes it will be The One that rules them all; and more proof that Science rocks and it rocks the hardest!

Episode 48 News: Mergers & Acquisitions

All those fast and furious rumors at the end of last week about Yahoo buying Tumbler turned out to be true. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer herself posted the informal announcement of the acquisition on the company’s blog Monday. (Mergers must be in the spring air, as GrubHub and Seamless hooked up this week as well, united in their mission to deliver takeout potatoes to couch potatoes.)

Yahoo owns Flickr as well, and that site got a redesign this week. Owners of free accounts now have a terabyte of online store to roll in. Holders of the paid Flickr Pro accounts still have their unlimited space for photo storage, but Yahoo is retiring the Flickr Pro account option in favor of new pricing plans. (Also going into retirement: Google Checkout.)


Microsoft unveiled the next version of its Xbox game console. A new gamepad and Kinect motion controller were also introduced, and the company announced a forthcoming live-action TV show based on the Halo game.

Tired of of not being able to do videochat over an AT&T cellular connection? AT&T says it’s working on it. Also in mobile news this week: some sources looking at the leaked 4.2.2. firmware planned for Samsung Galaxy S3 phones whisper that the update includes several new features. And Dell Computer, not really known for its prowess beyond desktops and laptops for years, will go really mobile and have a sticktop computer out this July. It’s called Project Ophelia, and is expected to cost about $100 bucks.

The annual World Science Festival is coming up soon in New York City The five-day fest starts May 29th and will have 50 events taking place across all 5 boroughs. Here’s the event list so you can start making plans.

Speaking of science fairs and festivals, an 18-year-old California girl’s science project has just won her the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award. Eesha Khare’s winning project is called Design and Synthesis of Hydrogenated TiO2-Polyaniline Nanorods for Flexible High-Performance Supercapacitors. And meanwhile, up on Mars, the Curiosity rover drilled into a second rock this past Sunday to obtain a sample. Science rocks!

Guides for the Perplexed

doctorsDoctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The mighty Star Trek franchise is not far behind, as almost 47 years have passed since it first beamed up on the television airwaves back in 1966. That’s a lot of history and backstory for these two shows, and some of it even pops into current episodes – just think of the recent Season 7 finale for the Doctor and characters from the new Star Trek Into Darkness movie. But let’s face it: long-running television shows have built up complex mythologies and continuities that can be hard to remember over the decades. And what if you came to the show late? How do you figure stuff out and find your way? (Like, who is this character and when did he first appear?)

So, with that in mind, here are a few sites to help fill in the backstory on some very popular parts of the entertainment universe.

Doctor Who
While the BBC One (and BBC America) official Web sites can be generally helpful for show news, recent events and even a beginner’s guide, visit the TARDIS Data Core Wiki if you really want to dig deep into collective Whovian history. The site compiles character backgrounds, plot points, actor bios and more, even incorporating material from minisode clips and other random bits. Looking for something specific? The search box invites you to “probe the data core!”

Star Trek
The official Star Trek site owned by CBS Studios has full episodes of the original TV series and all the spin-offs (including the animated adventures that first aired in 1973), as well as pages devoted to franchise news, events and trinkets to purchase. Roddenberry Entertainment runs the Trek Initiative wiki, which has its own video clips from the family archives and other exclusive material. Want to delve even deeper? Visit the Star Trek Memory Alpha wiki for more than 35,000 pages devoted to the total Trek universe.

Star Wars
The official Star Wars site has its own encyclopedia, online gaming portal and exclusive video clips, along with links to fan sites, the official Star Wars blog, a social-media roundup page, and of course, a shop where you can buy lots and lots of Star Wars stuff. Serious Star Wars scholars will want to check out (or even contribute to) the The Wookiepedia, a dedicated wiki with more than 103,000 pages.

Thanks to Wikia, fan-created wikis have popped up all over the Web for several other popular shows and entertainment properties, including:

Odds are, if a show has more than three dedicated fans, there’s probably a wiki on it out there somewhere. Can’t find a wiki out there for your favorite cult obsession, TV or otherwise? Start one yourself!