PTJ 65 News: Lyin’, Cheatin’ and Stealin’

Don’t be makin’ stuff up— the state of New York is cracking down on fake Internet reviews on sites like Yelp, Yahoo and Citysearch and issued fines of about $350,000 to more than a dozen companies who got caught singing their own praises—or paying others to do it for them, including people in other countries who had never used the services in question. The State of New York has been busy the past week or so, and also introduced “text stops” along the highway for people who need to pull over and send a message.

In other legal news, LinkedIn is getting sued by several of its customers, who claim the professional networking site hacked into their personal external e-mail accounts and downloaded the address books for marketing purposes. A post on a company blog by LinkedIn’s senior director of litigation states that the accusations are false. Stay tuned.

On a happier note, Google is revamping the way YouTube uploaders manage the comments on their sites, which may help knock the trolls farther down and out of sight. (While we’re waiting for the new system to roll out, don’t forget the Pop Tech Jam guide to blocking online comments.)

As expected, Microsoft announced the next generation of its Surface tablets. The Surface Pro 2 runs on an Intel Core i5 Haswell processor. The less-powerful Surface 2 tablet was also announced this week. While Microsoft soldiers on trying to carve out more market share for its tablets and smartphones, BlackBerry reported major losses and layoffs, and also announced it was selling itself for $5 billion to Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, a Canadian finance firm.

Apple’s new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s went on sale last Friday and sold more phones over the weekend than BlackBerry did for the entire last quarter. So while the battle of the fruit-themed smartphone companies has been decided, but Apple’s products are taking bites out of other firms as well. After the arrival of iTunes Radio last week, the Web radio service Pandora saw its stock from 10 percent. Apple also pushed out iOS 7 last week, and the bug hunters have been having a ball.

In other Apple news, the childhood home of the late company co-founder Steve Jobs could be made a protected site by the Los Altos Historical Commission in California.

If you thought your Gmail was slow earlier this week, that wasn’t your friends and colleagues ignoring you — that was Google having problems delivering messages and attachments to its 425 million users. The situation was resolved about 12 hours later, with a dual network failure taking the blame.

Worried about someone swiping your Android device and getting into your stuff? You can now lock a lost device remotely with the latest version of the Android Device Manager. To use it, just log into the Android Device Manager Web page with your Google or Gmail user name and password and follow along.

In gaming news, Valve is busting out its own Linux-based SteamOS designed for gaming on TV screens. The SteamOS home page has more information, and the company is also working on Steam Machines (not to be confused with those things you rent a couple times a year to get all the mashed Cheetos and Gatorade stains out of the carpet).

lasereyesDo you hate it when you take pictures of your cat and it has those weird glowing eyes? Adobe has  added a new feature to its brand new Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 software. Yes, now you can use the “Pet Eye” tool to correct those weird green and yellow distortions in the eyes of your cats and dogs, just like you can use the Red Eye tool to get the demon gaze out of human eyes.
Most of the time.

Online Radio Days

startWill Apple do for streaming radio what it did for podcasts? The company did make it incredibly easy for people looking to create their own customized audio experiences, after all. And how much do those other services (Pandora, Slacker, Spotify et al.) need to worry now? Time will tell, but with the arrival of iTunes Radio last week, 11 million people went to check it out. Like those other radio streamers, you can use the service on your mobile devices, you can use it on your computer and it’s all very easy to have a steady flow of music whenever you want it.

If you’re at all curious but don’t know where to start, check out Apple’s guide to iTunes Radio. If you’re already an iTunes user, it’s a fairly pleasant addition to the overstuffed program. (If you’re happy with a different streaming radio service, never mind.) At any rate, iTunes Radio might actually be useful for some people and it’s already more interesting than Apple’s last attempt to get social with music.

PTJ 65: iRadio Ga Ga

This week JD takes a listen to Apple’s new iTunes Radio service and breaks it down for us; Pedro wrestles with a rare tie-less day in the studio; and gives us his observations on everything from “Breaking Bad”, iOS 7 and the updated edition of JD’s book, “iPad: The Missing Manual”. In the news New York State goes after fake online reviews; LinkedIn gets sued for allegedly hacking user accounts; Microsoft debuts new Surface tablets; Blackberry throws in the towel; iPhone sets a sales record for their new smartphones; Google’s Gmail service slows to a crawl; Valve announces their own Linux based OS; and Adobe updates their consumer photo apps to eliminate the dreaded “Pet Eye”. (Stop frontin’, you know you wanted it…)

PTJ 64: Bing, Bump and Box

J.D. tells which companies are offering deals for your old gear and Pedro has an Old  School Tech Term segment to share with the class. In the news, Verizon challenges the FCC’s Open Internet rule of 2010; Netflix keeps an eye on pirates to decide what to buy; Nokia prepares to roll out new product; Sandisk debuts a new 256GB memory card; Bing attempts to redefine search; Box takes on Google Docs; and Grand Theft Auto V appears to be on the road to billion dollar sales in less than one month.

PTJ 64 News: To Stream the Impossible Stream

Another week, another legal tussle. Verizon recently threw down a legal challenge to the FCC’s Open Internet rule of 2010, which bans big companies from discriminating against little companies in favor of their own competing services or business partners on their broadband networks. Verizon says this violates its First Amendment rights and some legal eagles worry that the net neutrality rules may not survive.

pirateLet’s not worry about Netflix for the moment, as it seems to have found a cheap way to do customer research. A Netflix VP said the company looks around to see what’s hot on the piracy sites and uses that intel for decisions about what programs to buy for its streaming service. (Why yes, Netflix does offer old seasons of Game of Thrones in its DVD rental department, but no streaming.)

There’s a snap in the East Coast air and companies are rolling out new stuff. A quick post from Nokia’s Twitter account seems to confirm October 22 as the date for the company’s fall hardware event. SanDisk, maker of memory cards, has announced its SanDisk Extreme Pro Compactflash memory card with a 256GB capacity. Microsoft Bing has gotten both a visual overhaul and a new mission to change the definition of search. If you don’t have it already, Twitter is said to be preparing a redesign of its mobile app as well to coincide with the arrival of Apple’s iOS 7, which arrived this week. But even though iOS 7 is fresh out of the gate, the 9to5Mac site reports that it’s noticed last week in its Web analytics that some people are browsing around with devices running iOS 7.0.1, iOS 7.0.2  and iOS 7.1.  So the bug hunt has already begun.

Amazon has some updates up its giant sleeves too. While images of new Kindle Fires have been leaking around the Web, the supermegaüberstore also updated its Amazon Instant Video app for iOS to support Apple’s AirPlay technology and add integration with the Internet Movie Database.

Box, one of the many online storage and sharing services up in the cloud, has a new application for creating and editing digital documents. It’s called Box Notes, and this next-generation text editor is taking on Google Docs, Microsoft’s online version of Word, Evernote and even the new startup, Quip. Box Notes is still in beta, but the new tool promises real-time concurrent editing, comments and inline annotations and hyperlinks.

Bump, the sassy little app that let users share photos and other files by plonking phones together long before the Samsung Galaxy got in on the act, is joining Google. The tech news sites are reporting that Google bought Bump for somewhere between $30 and $60 million dollars. Although the Bump app had versions for iPhone and Android and the two platforms could bump together, insiders are predicting that the iPhone version may be going away soon. For a different kind of bump, if the Google Street View photos of certain places around Indonesia look a little shaky, it might be because the Google Street View car taking the photos has been involved in three different traffic accidents outside Jakarta.

In gaming news, Grand Theft Auto V arrived this week and Amazon reportedly sold out of the game for certain consoles like the Xbox 360. The game is expected to grab 1 billion dollars in sales for its first month of release. (Anybody have this game yet? Can you drive a Google Street View car in-world?)

And finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam are pouring out a 40 and cranking the volume up to 11 in honor of Ray Dolby, the legendary sound pioneer who passed away last week at the age of 80. Thanks for all those multichannel memories, Mr. Dolby.

Trading Places

The Hot Fall Gadgets of 2013 are rolling out now and several companies are trying to make it easier for you to upgrade by offering deals for your old gear. Apple and Walmart have jumped into the trade-in game and Microsoft is even trying to get in on action.

So, you want to trade – where do you go? Here are some options:

  • tradeApple. The company has had a reuse and recycling program for a few years that offers Apple Store gift cards based on the value of your old device, or at least, responsible recycling to keep the stuff out of landfills. Last month, Apple started an iPhone Reuse and Recycling program and you can even do it on a walk-in basis if you live hear one of those fancy Apple Stores. As Wired explains it, you go to the Store, snag an employee who can tell you if your particular iPhone is worthy. If it passes muster, the Apple Store person will give you a price quote on the value of your model. If you agree and take the deal, your old phone goes to Anchorhead to get its memory erased right there and you go home with a new iPhone that cost you less than what it normally would. Don’t like what’s offered? You can walk and go try someplace else.
  • Gazelle. Long a player in the recycle-for-cash game, Gazelle’s site can quickly tell you how much your old phone, tablet or computer is worth to them in cash. They also buy broken stuff.
  • Amazon. The site tries to sell you everything, so it’s only fair that it buys some of it back when you’re ready for new things. Smartphones, tablets, Blu-ray players, games, speakers and more can be traded back for Amazon gift cards.
  • Microsoft. Still looking to get rid of all that Surface tablet overstock from last year’s flopped launch, Microsoft promises a $200 gift card to the Microsoft Store if you trade in your gently used iPad for oh, maybe a Surface tablet or other Windows gear.

If it’s mostly Apple stuff you’re looking to offload for cash, check out AppleInsider’s price guides page for trading your iGear. And remember, you can always donate your old phones, computers and music players to a worthy cause, and get karma points instead of a gift card.

PTJ 63 News: Golden Apples

appleAs expected, Apple announced two new iPhone models on Tuesday. The first was the lower-end iPhone 5C with a plastic back in white, pink, green, blue or yellow and specs similar to the now-discontinued iPhone 5. The second was the high-end iPhone 5S, a 64-bit handset with a fingerprint reader, better camera and three color options: gold, silver and “space gray.” Not sure about taking a bite and upgrading? As with every tech-acquisition decision, there are pros and cons.

In other news, Apple announced that its own iApps — iMovie, iPhoto, and the iWork trio of Pages, Numbers and Keynote — will now come free with newly purchased devices running iOS 7. As for iOS 7, Apple’s new flatly designed mobile operating system will be available for download on September 18th. And with iOS 7, you get iTunes Radio. Not mentioned during this week’s Apple press event: iPads, iPods, iTunes, OS X Mavericks, MacBook Pro updates, Apple TV updates, mythical iTV sets or imaginary iWatches. Maybe next month.

Try as it might, Apple could not hog all the headlines this week. Microsoft is preparing to launch the Surface 2 tablets later this month. Hoping not to get lost in the press for iTunes Radio, Microsoft also launched mobile apps for its Xbox streaming music service. Users can now stream the service on iOS and Android devices. Xbox Music has about 30 million songs in the jukebox.

Sony’s PlayStation 4 console is on the way later this fall, as is a new version of its handheld PS Vita and its PlayStation Vita TV hardware. The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch made its official debut last week. The fancy timepiece can link with Android devices running version 4.3 or later.

Facebook seems to be trying to catch up with Twitter as the social-media place people go to get and discuss news events and other topics that trend. The Social Network released a pair of new tools for news organizations that could give those companies a better understanding of real-time social conversation surrounding things like breaking news, TV events like Sharknado or live sports. Google+ has added embedded posts and author attribution to its world. Google+ sign-ins are now integrated with Google’s Authorship program. Google+ also follows Twitter and Facebook into the world of embedded posts. And Twitter, perhaps looking to make some money in advertising, just bought the MoPub mobile advertising exchange for $350 million dollars.

FilmOn, one of the streaming broadcast TV services we mentioned recently here, has lost a major court battle over copyright in the District of Columbia and has been ordered to shut down by preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs in the case, which include ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, were pleased with the decision but FilmOn has vowed to fight on with an appeal. FilmOn’s rival, Aereo, is no doubt watching these events closely.

The National Security Agency can apparently crack most forms of digital encryption.

And finally, AM radio, perhaps the original wireless network that brought people together, has been losing audience and influence for years, but a lone member on the Federal Communications Commission is trying to get his agency to overhaul the technology and save it. In today’s world of satellite channels and audio streaming into your computer or phone from around the world, it’s easy to forget the crackly comfort of good ol’ amplitude modulation, but AM radio is still a vital part of rural communities and a beacon of information in times of emergency. (For a historical perspective on radio’s influence on the world, check out the excellent 1992 documentary Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio by Ken Burns, which is available on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.) If you’re now feeling nostalgic, go on — dig up that old transistor radio you’ve got tucked away in the junk drawer, pop in some fresh batteries and give the dial a spin for old times’ sake.

PTJ 63: Never Mind the Applesauce

Apple makes a product announcement and the response is a collective “d’uh, we already knew that.” Turns out the rumors were true. The fruit-themed phone makers roll out a plastic iPhone and a refresh of their flagship smartphone. In the news, Microsoft prepares to launch new Surface tablets; Sony announces an updated version of their PS Vita mobile gaming device; Samsung unveils their smartwatch; Facebook aims to be your source for news; The NSA can crack even the most advanced encryption methods; and a lone voice makes the case for saving AM radio.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Government Tools

Along with fashion, tech gear and exciting entertainment options popping back into the news after a relatively quiet summer, Congress is back in session. Love them or hate them, the legislative branch of the government make the laws around here, but the process can sometimes be a little confusing and unwieldy. If you want to know what’s going out there in Washington, here are a few resources that may help:

  • Congress for Android and iOS is a free app that lets you find your Congressional representative, checkout new and active legislation, see who’s sponsoring current bills, keep tabs on the social media coming out of his or her office and see how people voted on bills and laws.
  • cspanIf you’d rather listen than read about what’s going on. The free C-SPAN Radio app for Android, BlackBerry and iOS delivers audio streams of Congressional speeches and hearings, as well as public affairs programming. You can also hear author interviews from the Book TV folks over there on C-SPAN 2.
  • On the Web, you can look up past and present bills, resolutions and other legislative information in the Thomas database on the Web. Named after Thomas Jefferson, you can search the text of bills, download copies of said bills, check out roll call votes and contact members of Congress if you have something to say. The database has a number of other extras, including the original text of The Federalist Papers.

The inefficiency of Congress is nothing new, but at least with apps and other sources of information, it’s much easier to get information — and even participate in the democratic process itself. We the People, indeed.

Winning Isn’t Everything But it Definitely Beats the Alternative

ptj_teeAs the days get noticeably shorter and the summer heat gives way to a crisp autumn chill we end the season by selecting the winner of our “Update El Kaiser’s Origin Story Contest”. After poring over all the submissions and patiently waiting for the many spirited debates and heated discussions to die down we decided to award the prize to two Jammers, not just one. Chad and Will are the lucky winners of a limited edition Pop Tech Jam t-shirt (modeled in the photo by yours truly). Here are the winning entries, posted below for your reading pleasure…

DJ Kaiser By Chad

As a teenager you were a popular DJ at an underground techno leather dance club. Maybe because of your age, maybe for other reasons, you protected your identity by always wearing a quasi-military outfit, including jackboots, helmet with a pointy top, and oversize aviator sunglasses. Your following grew, your DJ skills improved… you had power. Fans speculated about your identity – rumors had you as the illegitimate son variously of Tito Puente, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Desi Arnaz, Marlene Dietrich. You were known only as El Kaiser. One day at school you received a note warning you not to go to the club that night. Alarmed that somebody knew your identity, you stayed home. The club was raided and shut down, the property sold cheap to a sleazy developer, who gentrified the hell out of it. Now it is live-work lofts upstairs, hipster shops on the ground level. Some of the old fans are still supremely bitter, even blaming you for the raid – after all, where was El Kaiser? Others mythologize El Kaiser’s mad DJ skillz. You moved on, grew up, got a family. But you didn’t completely heal. After everything you’ve been through, how could you not be paranoid about privacy? How could you behave any other way than to tell truth to power and rant against the corporate man? There can be no doubt why you love to hate (and secretly hate that you love) the suburbs, the sprawling cousin of gentrification. Although you insist on keeping your old life a secret, you are driven to use your power to right wrongs and explain tech terms. Turntables were yesterday; podcasts and social media are your super-tools now. Although you are once again known as “El Kaiser” nobody has yet connected you to the teen DJ of the same nickname – after all, that guy had a hat and glasses, which are uncrackable disguises.

Our next winner continued the music theme but managed to work in the Little Panzer and an origin story for J.D.

THE Kaiser Chief by Will

Pedro Rafael Rosado received the title “El Kaiser” due to his audio production work with the British indie band the Kaiser Chiefs. He also served as the replacement drummer in some recordings after Nick Hodgeson left.

While his drumming skills were excellent there are occasional fallings out with the band over “technical differences” and his electronic tablet addiction, his son, using the stage name “Rhett Rosado”, turned out to have more in common with the rockers and plays drums on some recordings, earning the nickname “Bam-Bam”.  Rhett will replace Pedro for the current world tour during his kindergarten summer break.

Countess JD Biersdorfer, sometimes mistakenly known as “The Accountess” by those who misunderstand that “Book Keeping” and “Keeping Books” are not the same thing, is the other driving force behind Pop Tech Jam.

Countess Biersdorfer’s family hails from the Transylvania, and actually inherited the title form the late Count Dracul, also known as Dracula. The Biesdorfer (translation “coffin maker for the village”) family turns out to have been the main beneficiary following the last Dracul’s untimely death in England in 1897. While the Countess does not operate in the family business, she can knock together a set of shelves easily to accommodate her expanding book collection.

 About the recordings – Turns out that storing book volumes spine side in makes a good acoustic baffle. The Pop Tech Jam recordings have been know to take place in the Biersdorfer private reading room.


For those of you desperate for Pop Tech Jam merchandise, we’ll be debuting an online shop when the website revamp goes live soon. Yes, it will be swagadelic…