(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Google Street View

Want to see how your neighborhood has evolved over the past seven years or so? You may just be able to skip the TARDIS or DeLorean and zip back in time through Google Maps on the desktop. Google added “time travel” to its popular Street View feature last year, and it works best when you type in a specific address or landmark when you start your Google Maps search.

When Google Maps locates the address, switch to Street View if you’re not there already. (Note that it you live in a remote area, you may not have much Street to View, but Google has driven around and mapped quite a bit of the world already.)

In the upper-left corner of a Street View image, click the tiny clock icon to see a strip of series of pictures going back in time. Click the various dates on the timeline to see what the address looked like back then. Select a photo to see it bigger in the main window. In some cases, you may be able to see as far back as 2007, although your results may vary based on the address — and how often Google drove by to take a picture since it started the Street View project.

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Google’s Time Travel feature can also be a poignant visual history lesson, as you can see the new World Trade Center tower rising in lower Manhattan or parts of New Orleans slowly coming back after a the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not a complete record of a location’s evolution but it can show you that yes, time marches on — and we got pictures to prove it.

PTJ 128: Chunky, Chunky News

This week’s show is crammed full of news but J.D. still found time to help us transfer files from our iOS and Android devices using a cable. Can’t be done you say? Well just take a listen and find out how, oh skeptical one.

Also on the show, the FCC finally makes a proposal on net neutrality and the telcos and cable companies aren’t going to like it.

The very busy government agency also found time to let the Marriott Hotel chain know just how it felt about the company’s plan to block block Wi-Fi hotspots and other external networks. Reddit gets transparent, NASA gets its allowance raised, and El Kaiser cracks wise.

Same as it ever was…

PTJ 128 News: Rules, Regulations and Rude Suprises

It’s February, which is showtime for the Federal Communications Commission! As reported by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and several other news organizations, the FCC now proposes that the Internet be regulated like any other public utility.  A vote on the proposal by the full commission is scheduled for Feb. 26. While the F.C.C. is an independent agency, it takes action through a five-member commission vote.

Also in FCC news: The agency was just not having that petition from the Marriott Hotel chain to block Wi-Fi hotspots and other external networks that guests may be using for security and management reasons, so the hotel empire has withdrawn that request. Late last week, the agency updated its definition of what counts as the minimum benchmark for broadband speeds from a now-wimpy 4 megabits per second to 25 megabits per second for downloads. As The Consumerist blog points out, this reclassification could affect the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, Earlier this week, the FCC also began to consider draft legislation that would stop state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that limit cities from deploying their own municipal broadband services to compete with national mega-providers.

amIt’s not just the FCC gearing up for new rules — the National Security Agency is getting some from the White House. The Obama Administration will now be requiring the NSA to delete irrelevant personal and private information of Americans and foreigners that the agency may accidentally grab during its big data sweeps. Note that this announcement comes the week before German chancellor Angela Merkel comes to visit.

Reddit has published its first Transparency Report detailing government requests for information on its users. According to the company’s tally, it handed over information for 58 percent of all government and civil requests, and 64 percent of all US state and federal government requests.

The White House also released its budget request for the fiscal year 2016, which included a half-billion dollar bump for NASA. The budget, which allocates a total of $18.5 billon dollars to the space agency, allows for continued development on the Orion mission and the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. There’s also $30 million dollars set aside the development of a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons and possibly a place to host alien life.

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The Comcast Customer Service department is back in the news, not horribly long after last year’s incident when an aggressive company rep basically refused to let a man disconnect his cable service. This time, a customer reported that a Comcast employee had changed the name on his bill to a rather descriptive and obscene moniker after the man’s wife tried to cancel the cable to save on monthly bills. This prompted other Comcast customers to come forward with their own reports of name changes In response to the original incident, Comcast published a blog post last week called “Respecting Our Customers” that apologized for and said that the employee in question will no longer be working on behalf of Comcast. (Also in Big Telco and Customer Relations, Verizon Wireless said it plans to let its subscribers opt out of those invulnerable supercookies, or unique identifiers, that privacy advocates were so concerned about.)

If you’ve been thinking about getting into barebones computing, you may be excited to hear the Raspberry Pi 2 is now on sale for the very reasonable price of $35. The little board is more just a toy — this generation of the tiny computer can actually run a version of Windows 10. Microsoft has been working with the Pi makers to create a compatible version of the operating system and invites interested parties to come register for the company’s Windows Developer Program for IoT.

rsRadio Shack seems to be headed over the financial cliff. As reported by Bloomberg News, the chain is said to be preparing a bankruptcy deal that would sell half its store leases to Sprint and shut down the other half. Bloomberg also reports that Amazon may be interested in picking up a few RadioShack locations to give the online company a little more brick-and-mortar action.

Tangerine, one of the most buzzed about movies at the recent Sundance Film Festival, was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S tricked out with the $8 Filmic Pro app, a Moondog Labs lens adapter and some external audio gear. And  Vine has introduced a new simplified version of its six-second looping video app called Vine Kids .

For the map lovers — Google Earth Pro is now free. This premium version of Google Earth used to cost $400, but now you can get the exclusive data layers and advanced measuring tools of Google Earth Pro for zero dollars. The Big G has also added Google Now info cards for about 40 different apps. (Google, in addition to all the other things it’s been working on lately, is also recreating human skin — will they call it Google Flesh?)

puffs1And finally, while we’re on the topic of medical research: Mark Shrime, a medical researcher at Harvard, wondered about the factual content of articles published in medical journals. So he decided to run a little experiment and used gibberish produced from www.randomtextgenerator.com to produce text for a fake article titled entitled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals,” authored by Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. According to Fast Company magazine, he submitted the article to 37 journals in a two-week period and at least 17 of them have accepted it. Most wanted a $500 “processing” fee, so the “call for papers” here is clearly referring to those infamous small green pieces of paper that make the world go ’round. But, hey, at least it doesn’t cost anything now to see the world spin in Google Earth Pro.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Wearing the Wire

There may come a time when you want to move big files between your phone or tablet — and not over a wireless connection. Maybe the files are huge and your network is slow, maybe there’s no secure wireless network available or maybe you want the privacy and intimate connection that only a USB cable can bring to the computer-mobile gadget relationship.

If you’ve been living the carefree wireless life and have never copied files over the wire before, here’s how — and you don’t even have to root your phone. (Unless you want to, that is.)

If you use a Windows PC and have phone or tablet running a fairly recent version of Android, you pretty much just have to find the USB cable that shipped with your device and connect the two. Windows recognizes the Android gadget and usually gives you a choice of USB connection types: MTP, or Media Transfer Protocol is the one you want. Your other option is PTP, short for Picture Transfer Protocol, and yes, you can use that to pull photos off your phone or tablet if your computer’s operating system doesn’t support MTP.

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Now what computer system wouldn’t support MTP? Oh yes, OS X. (Because Apple.) On the Mac, if you want to copy videos and other large files from your Mac to your Android device, one fairly easy way to do it is to get the free Android File Transfer program for Mac, which you can download from Google. This is what it looks like:

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Don’t like what you see? Go shopping. On the Android, side, file managers have been around for year, thanks to Google’s more open approach. One of the more popular Android-side apps, ES File Explorer, can also move files to Windows, but you can find plenty of apps in the Google Play store.

Now, as for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch players, there’s the fact that Apple keeps the iOS system largely hidden. Sure, you can sync over photos, videos, documents, apps and music by using iTunes for OS X or Windows, but not everybody likes or uses iTunes.

In that case, you, too, can find third-party apps and programs that let you do a deeper level of file management. Just rev up your search engine.

Although it’s a little spendy, there’s iExplorer for Windows or Mac (shown here), which lets you move not only music and movies between device and desktop, but other stuff like your iPhone’s text messages and voicemails. TouchCopy for Windows or Mac can harvest most of the content off your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and pull it over to the computer — there’s a demo version and the full one runs between $25-$30, depending on if there’s a sale.

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You may not need to whip out the USB cable for every little thing, but it sure comes in handy when you want to move that 500 megabyte home-ripped video file from your computer to your mobile device before you hit the road. And since the same cable is often used to charge up your phone or tablet anyway, odds are, it’s close by. Have fun slingin’ the files!