Police departments around the country are adding a new piece of gear to the standard uniform: A small video camera to record interactions with civilians. Bodycams can provide evidence of what actually happened during an altercation, but as The New York Times pondered this week, what happens when your arrest video lands on YouTube? Journalist Laura M. Holson leads a discussion on privacy concerns in the age of always-on video, whether it be captured on a cellphone, security camera or from chest of a police officer.
After we recorded last week’s episode (of course), news broke that the Comcast deal to acquire Time Warner Cable was kaput. While those worried about cable monopolies were happy the Comcast deal was scuttled, not everyone was thrilled about it — namely Time Warner Cable customers who say their quality of service is so miserable, that a Comcast takeover surely would have been an improvement. The New York Times had a story this week that talked to a few of those desperate souls trying to watch Game of Thrones from the Tenth Circle.
Apple announced its quarterly earnings reports this week and announced a $13.6 billion dollar profit thanks to record-breaking sales of iPhones, Macs and apps from the App Store. But while iPhone sales were up 40 percent from later, iPad sales were down 23 percent. Trouble in Tablet Town? (That iPhone 6 Plus does have a pretty big screen, come to think of it…)
The iPhone 6 line and the Apple Watch are boosting the use of Apple Pay, and Discover is the latest credit-card company to join up with Apple for mobile payments. Best Buy has also added Apple Pay to its mobile app and said its retail stores will be accepting those phone-tap payments at the cash register later this year. And speaking of those Apple Watches that started shipping last week, the Slice Intelligence research firm estimates that only 22 percent of the 1.7 million pre-ordered Apple Watched actually shipped to customers last week.
But as we all know, the Apple Watch is just one of many smartwatch platforms out there an the rest of them aren’t exactly sitting still. Last week, before Apple’s pricey timepiece began rolling out on FedEx trucks, Google announced an update to its Android Wear software that’s used by several hardware makers. The company outlined the new features, like support for WiFi-enabled watches, scrolling through news and notifications with the flick of a wrist, and the ability to launch apps with a tap on the watch face. Google said the new version of Android Wear would be arriving in the next few weeks to all seven watches that support it, and the fancy LG Watch Urbane (shown here) was first in line for the update. Stylish smartwatches aren’t the only devices LG Electronics is releasing this spring, as the company just revealed its new authentic leather-backed Android smartphone, the LG G4.
Google just added 70 cards to Google Now from its partner apps, so you can get more creepy helpfulness than ever before. Even more!
T-Mobile had some good earnings news of its own this week. Thanks to its inventive campaign of promotional offers and price cuts, the company added 1.1 million new monthly subscribers, which was more than analysts had predicted. Not everyone had good earninsg to report, though. Twitter’s stock price took a hit after a research company leaked the bird-themed microblogging service’s less-than-desirable quarterly earnings report.
SwiftKey, the popular alternative mobile keyboard app, is experimenting with a new variation that can correct multiple words or even whole sentences you’ve tapped out. The new edition is called the Clarity Keyboard and you can download the beta from the Google Play store now.
Microsoft got just smacked down by a judge at the US International Trade Commission who found that Microsoft was guilty of infringements on two wireless cellular patents held by another company called InterDigital Inc. As a result of the ruling, Microsoft could see an import ban that would stop its devices from coming into the country and hinder Windows Phone sales even more. The judgement needs to be reviewed, however, and Microsoft is vowing to press onward.
In robot news, those clever folks at Stanford University have developed tiny robots that can pull objects up to 2,000 times their own body weight. The little wonders are called “MicroTugs” and in addition to physics and engineering, the Stanford scientists took some cues from the natural world and incorporated techniques used by hardy ants — as well as geckos with their conveniently sticky feet for traction and climbing. You can see videos of the wee robots dragging cups of coffee and climbing with a payload are on the department’s YouTube channel.
Facebook announced this week that Messenger makes the video calls from one mobile phone number to another phone number regardless of smartphone platform. And Facebook-owned Instagram has added three new filters and the ability to use emoji characters in hashtags. (Also, we have heard reports of Instagram having some crashing issues even when updating to the new app, so it’s probably them, not you. Or a bug.)
And finally, the death toll is in the now thousands from the horrific earthquake that rocked the country of Nepal this weekend. Countless people have been displaced and the country is reeling, but tech companies are pitching in to help:
- Microsoft’s Skype and a few other services have temporarily waived fees for calls to and from Nepal, as have T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless and Time Warner Cable.
- Google has rolled out a few services including its People Finder, updated satellite imagery of the affected area, and Google Voice calls to the country for a penny a minute. (The minor charge is to dissuade spammers from overloading the network.)
- Facebook quickly put up a Safety Check feature that let its users in the quake zone let their friends know they were okay.
- Twitter’s official India account has been posting updates for those around the world wanting the latest news on the recovery efforts.
- Apple has added a page to iTunes that lets users easily donate to the Red Cross through their iTunes accounts.
Other new organizations have posted links to relief agencies and other organizations that are taking donations to help the people of Nepal. If you can, send help because we’re all in this world together.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been described as over-the-top. Yes, I’m bold and have been known to take things beyond reasonable limits but I am rarely excessive or outrageous. If you’ve ever met my family you’ll know that if anything I’m…um…under-the-bottom.
Ugh, that sounds so wrong. Let’s move on.
This week’s tech term is over-the-top application and Techopedia defines it as:
…any app or service that provides a product over the Internet and bypasses traditional distribution. Services that come over the top are most typically related to media and communication and are generally, if not always, lower in cost than the traditional method of delivery.
Sling TV from satellite TV provider DISH bundles popular cable channels that viewers can watch on Internet Connected TVs, media streamers from Roku, Apple and others plus iOS and Android devices and your Mac or PC.
The number of OTT only households is expected to rise from 8 million to 14 million by 2020 but technical concerns over loading time, buffering and crashing could keep many from giving up their cable packages.
The plain truth is that Internet infrastructure here in the US is just not ready to handle millions more OTT and live-streamers without a major overhaul. Also cable companies will not go down without a fight. Net Neutrality regulation and security concerns could stifle the nascent over the top TV boom.
See, nothing outrageous or excessive. Nice and under-the-bottom, just the way I like it!
Listen to the latest episode of the podcast HERE.
El Kaiser gets his feelings hurt by Facebook but composes himself long enough to bring you another Tech Term segment and J.D. takes a look at Apple’s new Photos app. It replaces iPhoto but all is not lost if you prefer the skeumorphic magic of the fruit-themed toymaker’s original photo organizer and editor. In the news Google modifies its search algorithm; Twitter steps up efforts to fight online abuse; and the new Star Wars trailer hits us all right in the feels.
Apple released an update for Yosemite earlier this month, and this new OS X 10.10.3 boots the crusty, trusty old iPhoto program out of the Dock to make room for a new app simply called Photos for OS X. (The new software is also intended to replace Aperture, Apple’s higher-end management tool for professional photographers.) To start using it, just click the new rainbow Photos icon in the Dock and walk through the Welcome and Setup screens Apple has provided to get your Mac’s existing pictures introduced to Photos for OS X.
So how is Photos for OS X the same — or different — from iPhoto?
If you use iOS 8, the new Photos for OS X visually looks quite similar. Same white background and borderless thumbnail images. Same browsing by groupings known as Moments, Collections and Years. Same importing powers to pull all the images off your camera card, phone or tablet into the computer’s picture library.
If you turn it on, though, there’s now online syncing and storage between your computer and iOS devices with the iCloud Photo Library in the sky. These photos are stored in your iCloud account at their original size and resolution too, so there’s so inferior quality for the uploaded versions. But remember, big photos mean big file sizes and that free 5 gigabytes of space you get with an iCloud account will get eaten up a lot faster. So you may want to acquaint yourself with Apple’s price list for additional iCloud storage.
iPhoto devotees who need to supply steady pictures of grandchildren to eager grandparents may be relieved to know you can still create photo books and other picture gifts through the new Photos program. You also have new printing options for square and panoramic shapes.
You can move around your library and navigate using the Photos, Shared, Albums, and Projects tabs at the top of the screen, And yes, you still have the cropping, color-adjustment tools, filters and other photo-editing sliders to make your pictures look better. Finding and using the tools just may take a little extra effort at first.
Apple did throw a few features overboard to make way for the new stuff. For example, although your ratings are preserved for older photos, you can’t apply star ratings to pictures anymore and have to make do with the Favorites heart.
But what about the people who hate change, forced upgrades or having to hang ten on the learning curve? Even though the update sticks a Photos icon in your dock — and removes iPhoto or Aperture from view — the actual programs are still in your Mac’s Applications folder. If you choose to go back and dig up your old editor, the Mac asks if you want to open your library there or in the Photos app. Keep in mind that any changes or edits you make in iPhoto or Aperture do not appear in Photos, and vice versa.
iPhoto was getting a little long in the tooth, and those of you with large picture libraries probably had some issues with sluggishness. So even though the user interface is pretty different, give it a try first. Apple even has a quick-start guide on its site to help you through the transition.
And if you hate it? Off to the Applications folder to dig out your old mothballed program of choice.
And, they’re off…preorders for the Apple Watch started last week. Although Apple itself hasn’t released any sales figures of its own, analysts are chiming in and some watch models are now backordered until June. One research firm, Slice Intelligence, had a report that said its consumer-survey data showed that Apple took about 957,000 preorders for Apple Watches on the first day. The Apple Watch is initially available in nine countries, but compare that to last year’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus rollout, which was available in 10 countries. The phones topped four million pre-orders in the first 24 hours and went on to sell ten million in the first weekend of launch. The last time Apple launched a new product, it was the iPad in 2010, which sold 300,000 units on the first day of sales and took less than a month to hit the one-million mark. So, will the Watch move past the Apple fankids and make a splash in the mainstream?
Amid all the timepiece hoopla, Apple also knocked a few other projects off its To-Do List. One was an update Final Cut Pro, its professional-level video-editing program. The update includes a speed boost, support for key camera formats, workflow enhancements, 3D titles and more, along with the usual bug stomping. And those in the Apple developer program are buzzing about the new iOS 8.4 beta because it reveals the new overhauled version of the Music app. The final version of the refreshed Music app is expected to be revealed at the World Wide Developer’s Conference that starts June 8th in San Francisco. And about WWDC — Apple has banned selfie sticks at the conference this year. No smarmy stick pics in Moscone West, got it?
A few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration proposed new rules for unmanned aircraft systems and news organizations got permission to test drones in their work, Amazon seems to have finally gotten its way on the whole permissions thing with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA sent a letter to Amazon last week giving the company specific permission to test its delivery drones here in the US instead of Canada. Certain rules do apply, however, like daytime flights only and no aircraft up there weighing more than 55 pounds.
The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules were officially published in the Federal Register this week, and almost immediately, Doug Collins, a Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced a resolution called the “Resolution of Disapproval.” Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, the resolution gives Congress the authority to do a quick 60-day review of new regulations from government agencies and vote to disapprove them before they go into effect. It is unlikely that President Obama will sign the resolution to make it a law, though.
But that’s not all on the net neutrality front. Three trade groups representing the cable and wireless communications industry have filed lawsuits over the FCC’s new rules in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Petitioners include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which counts Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision as members, and the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, (now known by the hip moniker “CTIA — The Wireless Association”) whose members include AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile USA. The American Cable Association, which represents about 850 small and medium-sized providers, also piled on. The suits all accused the FCC of overreach and may be consolidated into one Super Suit. Experts say it could take three years for a decision in the case.
Time Warner Cable is not about to let Google Fiber horn in on its turf in North Carolina. Just a few months after Google said that it was expanding its gigabit Internet service to Atlanta, Nashville Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, Time Warner Cable announced it was “taking the next step to transform the TV and Internet experience in the Charlotte area.” The cable giant’s upgraded new service, which is up to six times faster than its old one and has already landed in other metropolitan areas (like Los Angeles and New York City), is dubbed TWC Maxx and is not to be confused with the department store TJ Maxx. And AT&T is also giving Atlanta its own U-verse GigaPower love after Google Fiber and Comcast Gigabit Pro announced their intentions to court subscribers there.
Also getting more cost-affordable: 4K ultra high-definition television sets. Vizio, one of the brands that led the way to affordable HDTVs, has announced its 2015 lineup of Ultra HD sets and the low-end 43-inch model comes in at just $600. At the other end of the price list, the 80-inch 4K TV sells for about $4,000 but well under the hefty five figures the average UHD TV was selling for just a few years ago.
Seeking to regain ground and customers, Sprint will gladly sell you a new mobile phone — and they will even come to your house with the new device and set it up for you. It’s part of the company’s new Direct 2 You service and although it’s rolling out in Kansas City now, it’s expect to expand to Miami and Chicago next week and then on to the rest of the country. Sprint has hired about 5,000 roaming tech helpers through a third-party company and is mainly aimed at existing customers who are due for an upgrade.
Meanwhile, out in space, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has discovered that water can exist as a liquid in the soil near the Martian surface. Even though Mars is too cold to allow water in liquid form to exist on the planet’s surface, it could just below the surface where salts in the soil have lower freezing points, possibly making for a life-sustaining liquid brine. The research was published in the Nature Geoscience journal.
A little father out in space, the Rosetta probe and its Philae lander have found that the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerisemenko is not magnetized. Scientists at the European Space Agency and elsewhere study the properties of comets in order to get insight on the role magnet fields have played in the formation of all the celestial bodies flying around in our solar system.
And finally, in case you were out of town last weekend, all six Star Wars films arrived as legal digital downloads last Friday in a package called Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection. The whole saga could be purchased in bundle form for $90 — or $20 each if you hate the Jar Jar chapters. The films, which have old and new bonus extras and featurettes included, are available on all the major media download stores. And, thanks to the wide-ranging merchandizing rights, you can enjoy the movies while dining on a big bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in Star Wars Shapes. Now that’s good eatin’!
The new $15 standalone streaming service HBO Now arrived just in time for last weekend’s season premiere of Game of Thrones. Early reports showed the app held up well under the onslaught of Starks, Lannisters and new subscribers, which may convince some weary cable subscribers that it’s finally safe to cut the cord and go online to watch all the hot shows.
On this week’s episode, journalist Laura M. Holson — who got rid of her own TV seven years ago — offers her own tips for keeping up with popular programs. Yes, you can do it using nothing but a mobile screen, a sturdy broadband connection and some well-known inexpensive or free services like Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, Crackle and Google Play, just to name a few. (Oh, and don’t forget free TV network apps and websites from PBS, ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.) To paraphrase the great Dinah Washington, streaming TV is really the thing this year.
This week we go back to basics here on the show as J.D. and El Kaiser go over the week’s news and help you make your online reading experience better with reading list tools and apps.
In the news, Roku adds features to their existing streaming devices; rumors swirl that the new Apple TV will not support 4k streams; Samsung Galaxy S6 might be bendy, just like the Apple 6; new Aluminum batteries that charge in a New York minute; and a happy National Robotics Week to one and all!
Spring is full of popular television shows returning with fresh new episodes, and streaming TV boxes are busting a move. Roku has upgraded its Roku 3 and Roku 2 set-top streaming boxes with improved features like alphabetical search and a movie watchlist. A software update for existing Roku boxes also adds these features. The $100 Roku 3 (shown here) now has voice search — and a headphone jack — in its remote control. The $70 Roku 2 is pretty much the same streaming box without the fancy remote. Oh, and Roku just updated its Android app and is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version this week.
BuzzFeed New, which was the first to publish reports on the new updated Apple TV box expected later this year, has new information on the forthcoming device, mainly that it will not initially support those big but glorious 4K video streams. Apple is not commenting.
With new phones, come new complaints from early adopters — and PR moves to quell the unrest. Samsung responded to a video from mobile-warranties dealer SquareTrade that purported to show a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge being bent and then broken. While arguing about the test’s methodology, Samsung released its own “Three-Point Bend Test” video. (The company also says that contrary to reports from developer forums, pre-installed apps on its Galaxy S6 phones cannot be uninstalled, just hidden from view.)
Ever quoted a tweet but had no room for your own comment due to Twitter’s character limit? Twitter said this week that it was tweaking the “quote tweet” feature, which should give the quoters another 116 characters for snark or bark on the original.
Researchers at Stanford University are testing a new aluminum-ion battery that could one day replace the current lithium-ion and alkaline power cells we use today. They charge faster and catch on fire less, which is an improvement over current batteries all around.
TV comedian John Oliver of the HBO show “Last Week Tonight” interviewed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to discuss government surveillance reform. Oliver broke down the topic into parts the average user who does not care about the complexities of government surveillance can understand. In other Snowden news, activists placed a large sculpture of Edward Snowden in the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn his week. City workers quickly removed it, but a second activist group then began to project a hologram in the same place dedicated to Snowden.
Facebook is apparently being used to officially serve divorce papers. Will Facebook weddings be legal soon, too?
Apple Maps has now added content from TripAdvisor and Booking.com on certain hotel reviews. Hopefully, the maps themselves have gotten better, too.
Speaking of products that originally arrived with a deep thud, Microsoft just released a new version of its tablet computer. The Surface 3 is thinner and lighter than previous versions. Prices start at $499. The Surface 3 is the less-corporate version of the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft’s touted laptop-replacement tablet that starts at $799.
Microsoft is middle-aged now. The company, which was founded on April 5th, 1975, just celebrated the big 4-0 this past weekend and is shopping for future relevance along with a little red Corvette.
Microsoft may have gotten rich selling PC software, but the PC hardware itself has slimmed down quite a bit over the years. As shown at the top of this post, Intel’s Compute Stick, (which started pre-orders this week), is an extremely narrow portable PC that plugs into the HMDI port on a big monitor or TV. With a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it turns it into a Windows 8.1 or Linux computer. You can’t shake a Compute Stick at the competition, though, as Google’s Chromebit offers a colorful alternative to the system-on-a-stick approach.
A new Microsoft update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 includes a little code for the future, reports the Myce.com site. There’s a Windows 10 downloader quietly nestled in the update code, just waiting for its cue to make Windows 8.1 users deliriously happy.
The new YouTube Kids mobile app is already coming under fire from parental groups. Some have asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a look at the program, which they says deceptively targets toddlers with advertising. Google denies the accusations, saying it worked with numerous child advocacy groups on the app.
It’s National Robotics Week! The annual event features more than 250 events around the country designed to get kids interested in the science of robotics. iRobot, the IEEE Spectrum and Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines are pitching in for the event and have even released a set of all-star real robot trading cards that you can download in PDF form, and IEEE Spectrum also has a free Robots app for the iPad that lets kids see and interact with 158 robots from 19 different countries. Because real robots are even cooler than movie robots (most of the time).