The plan was to take a week off so El Kaiser could launch two new shows and J.D. could work on beating back the Polar Vortex—not gonna happen! The Dynamic Podcasting Duo present a bonus episode of Pop Tech Jam to all the faithful Jammers out there in which they share their picks for who will take home Oscar® statuettes in a few of their favorite categories at the 86th Annual Academy Awards® Ceremony.
Cable companies are hooking up — with each other. Late last week, Comcast announced it had reached an agreement to take over Time Warner Cable for $45 billion dollars. Criticism over the deal flared up quickly, including a statement from former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who said the merger would let the two companies “run roughshod over consumers in the end.” Several consumers took to the Internet themselves, lamenting a possible future of even more high prices and bad service. (Last year’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index survey ranked Internet providers and cable companies even lower than the airlines, another industry that’s seen a lot of mergers and a dwindling number of choices over the recent years.) The deal, which has not gotten the official government seal of approval yet, includes no breakup fee if it falls through. The Ars Technica site has an analysis of the proposed deal and how it might play out if the FCC steps in. In addition to consumer fears, the Comcast-Time Warner deal could derail a deal between Time Warner Cable and Netflix.
Meanwhile, much smaller cable company RCN is teaming up with TiVo and Opera Software are all joining forces together to bring the Opera TV Store to certain TiVo’s recorders. (Never heard of RCN? It’s a smaller outfit with service mainly along the major East Coast cities and Chicago.)
On the phone front, Federal lawmakers have followed the California Senate in proposing a new law that would require a kill switch on smartphones. Dubbed the Smartphone Theft Protection Act, the bill aims to cut down on theft and save consumers $30 billion a year in lost hardware and related costs. The wireless phone industry is not too keen on being told how to build phone hardware, however. Whatever happens, at least there are basic remote recovery tools in many phone operating systems now, like Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone or Windows Phone remote wipe.
Details about the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone are starting to percolate. Bloomberg News reports that the S5 will have a 5.2-inch display screen that’s sharper than the screen on the current S4 model, and have an improved camera and better battery life. Other sites claim the new model will have a fingerprint sensor and a spiffy new physical design.
The Kickstarter crowdfunding site got hacked this past weekend. If you’re a member of the site, change your password if you haven’t already. In a post on the Kickstarter company blog, CEO Yancey Strickler said no customer credit-card information had been accessed.
Sony’s PlayStation continues to outsell its main rival the Microsoft Xbox One. Sony announced it’s sold 5.3 million PS4 consoles since the hardware debuted last November, comparde to Microsoft’s sales of 3.9 million Xbox One units since its own November debut. Nintendo’s Wii U console has sold about 6 million units since it arrived in November 2012. Nintendo may be zeroing in on a certain segment of its user base, however. Over in the United Kingdom, the company has launched a new YouTube channel aimed at female gamers. It’s called Nintendo Girls Club and it features videos from British actors and bloggers on the latest gameplay and trailers.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day last week, Facebook added more than 40 new gender terms for users to use with their profiles on the site, expanding from the binary male/female to include transgender, intersex and a whole lot more. While many called the move progressive move into the modern world of gender identity, and editorial in the Guardian suggested that Facebook should get really radical and remove all gender options instead.
Also in the V-Day vibe, the Facebook Data Science group did a series of posts last week, sharing some of its research. One post was called “The Formation of Love,” and explained how Facebook can tell when you’re about to start a new relationship.
Ken Burns, a documentary filmmaker so iconic that he got a special effect named after him in Apple’s iPhoto software, now has an iPad app of his own. It, too, is called Ken Burns. Software Ken Burns is free to try and $10 to buy.
Many New Yorkers have not been shy in complaining about the winter weather this year, but is there science behind it? (The weather, not New Yorkers complaining.) A study recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, research was presented that suggested warmer temperatures in the Arctic have caused the jet stream to shift father south and take a longer path across the globe — and making for more sustained weather systems.
And finally, NASA says it’s solved the mystery of the jelly-shaped donut rock on Mars that seemed to suddenly appear in front of its Opportunity rover last month. The rock, as Mars-watchers know, looked like it showed up out of the blue in pictures the rover sent back to earth within the span of 12 Martian days. This set off all sorts of speculation about just how the rock got there, but NASA now says it was a broken-off piece of another rock that the rover ran over while it was exploring the area. Let’s hope Opportunity has its insurance card in the glove compartment in case the Martians file a claim.
El Kaiser reviews a sexy set of headphones from Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer Onkyo and J.D. compares top three set-top streaming boxes from Roku, Apple, and Google. In the news, Comcast and Time-Warner Cable look to merge; the U.S. look present a bill forcing smartphone carriers to include killswitch on hardware; Samsung Galaxy S5 rumors heat up; Kickstarter gets hacked; Facebook adds 40 more gender options; and NASA solves the mystery of the Martian doughnut rock.
The trending topics lists were humming last week as Netflix released all 13 episodes for Season Two of its House of Cards series on Valentine’s Day. Although the first season is available on DVD, the Netflix stream is where you can watch the fresh new episodes of this US adaptation of a British original. (If you haven’t seen the US version, it stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in a sort of Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth in Washington scenerio and it can be a bit, er, dark at times.)
With apps, Netflix has built its streaming service into a variety of devices, including Smart TVs, TiVo recorders and set-top streaming boxes that connect to a television. Three of the popular options, the Roku box, the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast HDMI stick, all include Netflix — and a whole lot more.
These streamers also include plenty of other sources for movies, TV shows, news, sports, cat videos and even games. If you live in an area where you don’t get a lot of broadcast channels or the cable package is just too expensive to consider, a device that pulls in video content from the Internet broadens your TV-viewing options considerably.
Of the three, Roku’s boxes offer the most channels, or content streams, with more than 1000 to choose from. The company also creates a variety of hardware models for a wider range of television sets. These include the bare-bones $50 Roku LT that works on just about any TV set to the blue-chip $100 Roku 3 for HDTV models. In addition to Netflix, you get Hulu Plus (if you subscribe), Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO (if you subscribe through your cable provider), plus news and sports channels. There’s a kids section and a dedicated Latino channel for Spanish-language programming. The Roku 3 can also play games like Angry Birds, as if you didn’t have enough places already to play Angry Birds.
For people with a lot of investment in the iTunes ecosystem, the $100 Apple TV has its advantages. While it doesn’t have as many content channels a the Roku, it’s got a fair amount of them, including subscription biggies (Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, yadda yadda yadda), as well as PBS, YouTube, the Smithsonian Channel, several sports networks and some Disney options for the kids. Where the Apple TV comes in really handy, however, is if you have an iOS device, because you can stream your videos and music from the iTunes Store, your photos and other media to the big screen via Apple’s AirPlay technology. You can also mirror games on your iPad to the TV through the Apple TV, as well as the screen contents of late-model Mac laptops. Apple knows it doesn’t have the content channels of the Roku, but rumors have recently surfaced of a possible deal with Time Warner Cable to get programming for cable subscribers streaming through the device. (However, this deal may be sunk if the Comcast merger goes through.) Whispers of a new Apple TV model showing up as early as next month are also circulating, with a TV tuner, DVR capability and gaming powers all mentioned as possible new features.
Now, if you’re on a budget and have a tablet or smartphone, there’s the Google Chromecast. It’s not technically a set-top box that pulls down its own online video streams, but a small doo-dad that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. With it, you play the video on your Android or iOS device – or even in the Chrome browser on your computer. But it’s $35 and a cheap way to watch content from your smaller screen all nice and fancy on your bigger screen. And the Chromecast works with several video services itself, including the aforementioned Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO GO. It’s a Google product, so of course, you get YouTube and you can stream music, movies and TV shows from the Google Play Store. There are a few other channels like the Vevo music videos, but you can also beam photos or anything else you can see in the Chrome browser to the TV. The Chromecast is the most limited of the three devices right now, but Google recently released a software development kit that will let developers go wild.
So if you’re looking for a way to stream content from the major subscription services — or just want to increase your viewing options with more than just the channels in your cable package — consider a streamer. And you’ve already binged your way through Season Two of House of Cards, rest assured. The folks at Netflix have already ordered up Season Three.
Well, this is kind of awkward. I guess it was inevitable since I am less than organized when it comes to this sort of stuff. Quite honestly I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner when you consider how many of these vocabulary lessons I’ve actually done. Strange. You’d think I’d be more upset about it. Guess that’s the upside of not having any shame.
Oh geez, now I’m compounding the problem by burying the lede! Oh darn it, now I’m using cool newsroom jargon about beginning a story with secondary details instead of getting to the actual point. AAUGGGH!
Great, now I’m channeling Charlie Brown…
Do people use “ish” instead of issue anymore? Was that ever a thing ? Anyway, my “ish” is that there is a real possibility I may have already dissected this week’s Tech Term, Social Engineering, on a previous podcast episode. It may have been for our old show at that huge and well-respected media empire both J.D. and I continue to happily toil for or I may have dropped some science about it here on Pop Tech Jam many, many moons ago. While I may not be all that torn up about it I do sincerely apologize if this is the case. My bad Jammers…and Tech Talkers.
Oh right, the Tech Term! Well according to the Microsoft Safety and Security Center—I hear you snickering, be nice—Social Engineering is a technique used by criminals to gain access to your computer. The purpose of Social Engineering is usually to secretly install spyware or other malicious software or to trick you into handing over your passwords or other sensitive financial and personal information. Social engineering scams can be both online (such as an email message that asks you to open the attachment, which contains malware) and offline (such as a phone call from someone posing as a representative from your credit card company).
To this day I don’t know why they don’t just call it getting conned. Or hustled. Swindled. Played. Scammed, fleeced, bamboozled, taken for a ride, slickered, skinned…
You get the point.
To listen to Episode 82 click here.
Sincerest apologies to the great Federico Fellini but we here at Pop Tech Jam believe life is a combination of magic … and a White Castle Crave Case®. If you have a hankering for some regional food classics that you just can’t find in your town, J.D. harnesses the power of the Internet and shows you how to get those comfort food favorites delivered right to your door. All the talk of food has Pedro’s stomach grumbling but he was able to fight off the hunger pangs long enough to explain what Social Engineering is and how we can all be affected by it. In the news the F.C.C. plans on introducing a new net neutrality policy; Apple loses their appeal in an attempt to ditch a government appointed e-book monitor; Anti-malware company Kaspersky Labs claims to have discovered a global cyber-espionage organization; Google leases more space from NASA; and Lego considers a new building set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show.
It was just about a month ago that the government’s Net Neutrality rules were kicked to the curb in court, but Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said this week the agency will have retooled rules very soon. Some opponents to government regulation fear that the FCC may use this second chance to overstep its bounds and try to start controlling everything on the Internet. However, the agency’s site states, “no one — not the government and not the companies that provide broadband service — can restrict innovation on the Internet.” (For those who are fans of oratory, Mr. Wheeler’s lively speech included references to Abraham Lincoln’s second address to Congress from December 1862, Moore’s Law, the metaphysics of pizza delivery and Return of the Jedi — without the Ewoks).
In Apple-related news, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Apple’s request to ditch the court-appointed monitor in its ebook price-fixing case. Meanwhile, the SecureMac site says its found a new Trojan horse called OSX/CoinThief.A; it’s aimed at OS X and designed to steal login credentials for Bitcoin wallets. But on happier note, Apple’s iTunes Radio service has now gone international, with a launch in Australia this week.
Talk about your uptime: Researchers at Kaspersky Labs say they’ve discovered a sophisticated global cyber-espionage operation called The Mask. It’s been running since 2007.
Silicon Valley residents are probably familiar with Hangar One, a massive eight-acre hangar designed in 1933 as a parking garage for blimps. NASA’s in charge of Hangar One but if things work out, the space agency would be leasing the structure to Google for things like housing private jets and whatnot. Google has already leased more than 40 acres of the nearby NASA Ames Research Center to build a large Research & Development facility, and the two are working together to test the world’s first quantum computer there as well. Google is also teaming up with long-time Apple component supplier Foxconn on robotics development, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Google itself declined to comment on the matter. No word from the robots, either.
Need some do-it-yourself inspiration for your own engineering projects? Spanish hacker Jose Julio used his skills to build an air-hockey playing robot for his daughter.
Microsoft is looking for a software design engineer to create “a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics.” While Windows 8 already has a basic reader app, some are speculating that this new app with be an Xbox-branded bit of software that would work across all the company’s platforms, including Windows 8, Windows Phone and the Xbox game consoles.
With about two months to go before the End of Support for Windows XP, Microsoft is starting to approach small and medium-size businesses about the need to get off the ancient operating system. As part of the End of Support campaign, a post on one of Microsoft’s blogs titled “Help your friends and family get off Windows XP” also went up last week, While some comments were positive or indifferent, there was a noticeable amount of backlash from readers who have no intention of doing any such thing.
The eWeek site has just compiled a list of the most popular apps on Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Flappy Bird, made the list, even though the developer, pulled the game from app stores this week. He said Flappy Bird had “ruined his simple life” by attracting too much attention and that it was an addictive product. The game, which was making $50,000 a week in advertising (and still is) involves trying to steer a poor little bird through a series of vertical green pipes. There has been speculation the game was yanked due to possible copyright violations with Nintendo’s Mario games, but a Nintendo spokesperson denied the company had taken any legal action.
Lego is considering ideas for new building sets and one of the candidates this year is a set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show. The proposed Sherlock set is just a finalist among six possible projects that also include the DeLorean from Back to the Future and a Legend of Zelda kit. The Sherlock proposal details two different sets: a 370-piece recreation of the consultation area at 221B Baker Street and a 630-piece kit that makes up the apartment’s living room. Here’s hoping!
And finally, one bit of Winter Olympic 2014 news. The Canadian athletes have extra treats in their Olympic House: a refrigerator that dispenses free beer. You have to be Canadian to use the beer fridge, however, and need to present your passport for scanning by the vending machine. Canada, it should be noted, has been having a very good Games so far and has been in the top three on the medal board all week in Sochi.
Just as hearing a particular song on the radio, tasting certain foods can automatically whisk us back in time — just think of Proust and his madeleine. Little French cookies aside, what if our memories hinge on something that’s harder to get, like a dish served at a specific restaurant or some sort of regional cuisine that’s far removed from your current location?
Now, if you live if a larger city, maybe you can find reasonable facsimiles of the foods you grew up with. But what if you don’t, or the local approximations don’t measure up? That’s where the Internet comes in. If you haven’t looked lately, more and more famed regional restaurants have gotten on board with online shops and apps. It may cost a bit more to get the home delivery from across the country, but you can get another helping of those childhood food memories.
- For a taste of the Big Apple, Zabar’s, Junior’s Cheesecake and Katz’s Delicatessen are just three of the many NYC institutions that will deliver right to your door if you order online.
- Did you grow up in the Windy City and now find yourself missing the region’s distinctive pizza? Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s East both deliver deep dish by mail. You can also get Carson’s BBQ ribs, Maxwell Street Polish Sausage, Portillo’s Italian Beef at the Tastes of Chicago site.
- Fond of the head-melting shrimp cocktail sauce from the famous St. Elmo steakhouse in downtown Indianapolis? It’s $9 a bottle online.
- The Decatur Dairy ships serious Wisconsin cheese all over the country.
- If you hail from the City of Brotherly Love and miss your Tastykakes, Sweetzel’s Spiced Wafers and Philly Soft Pretzels, visit the Pennsylvania General Store.
- Craving the fine produce and natural foods from California? Check out Market Hall, where they also import the famed French tea, Mariage Frères.
- Hankering for some Texas Hill Country barbecue? The Salt Lick in Driftwood is just one of the many places you can go to order a rack for UPS delivery.
- Need an authentic New Orleans king cake for your office Mardi Gras party on March 4th (which is just a few weeks away), Gambino’s is just one of the many local bakeries that will FedEx you a king cake, beads and doubloons so that your good times may roll.
- Amazon even links up with specialty food importers so you can get overseas favorites like Jammie Dodgers sent your way.
Many fine old American roadside eateries are also getting into the online delivery business. Yes, you can get Stuckey’s pecan logs on the Internet these days. Like most chains, the Stuckey’s site has a store locator feature you can use to find the nearest franchise, just in case you’re feeling nostalgic enough for a roadtrip.
And if you’re heading out on the highway, hit up your App Store to see if your favorite establishment has figured out the mobile game yet. Just for starters, Waffle House has its own app for iOS and Android, as do many beloved chains like In-and-Out Burger (also with iOS and Android offerings) and White Castle, which even has a Windows Phone app to go with its iOS and Android offerings. In addition to locating the nearest store to your current location, you can peruse the menu and even check in on social media.
And if you are hitting the road to relieve a childhood food memory, be sure to order up some classic candy from your era from sites like Old Time Candy or the Candy Warehouse. Proust had his madeleines and yo, you can have your Squirrel Nut Zippers.
Facebook celebrates its 10th anniversary this week by allowing users to automagically create a short video highlight reel of their time on the world’s most popular social network. The decade old soc net also released a new iPhone-only mobile client dubbed Paper and J.D. gives us her review. While he believes America is beautiful in any language, the Twitter backlash to Coca-Cola’s now famous multicultural Super Bowl advertisement has left El Kaiser less than thrilled.
In the news Microsoft finally picks a new CEO as Windows 8.1, Update 1 software leaks onto various file-sharing sites around the Internet; Google updates their Google Now service on mobile devices; Iridium introduces a WiFi hotspot that can get you on the Internet all over the world with a satellite connection; and Apple continues to note the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer with a celebratory movie shot by 15 camera crews using 100 iPhones.