PTJ 147: Who Doesn’t Crave a Little More Power?

This week J.D. has tips on how to squeeze as much battery life out of your mobile devices as possible and El Kaiser has issues with a an article about podcasting in the latest…issue…of the venerable Popular Mechanics.

In the news, pop music star Taylor Swift takes on Apple; Jay Z’s music service Tidal loses another CEO; Verizon completes deal for AOL; Facebook’s face recognition algorithm is frighteningly accurate; and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan knows a thing or two about a certain web-slinger.

PTJ 147 News: Lady Justice

Good on ya, Taylor Swift! Now, you may not care for her music or her sudden promotion to New York City’s official “global welcome ambassador,” but the young singer/songwriter knows how to stand up for herself and her fellow musicians trying to make a living. In a public post on her Tumblr page this past weekend, Ms. Swift called out Apple over the lack of artist royalties during the three-month free trial period of the company’s forthcoming Apple Music adventure — and said she’d be withholding her latest album from the service. But Apple, for its part, did the right thing. By Sunday night, the company announced that it’d be paying artists their due royalties for all the music streamed during the free trial of Apple Music. (Of course,  conspiracy theorists are suspicious about the whole thing, like they always are.)

googleplaymusicApple Music rolls out on June 30th, but Google is not waiting around for it. The Big G announced a new, free ad-supported version of its subscription-based Google Play Music service for  “giving you a new way to find just the right music and giving artists another way to earn revenue.” (Oh snap, Google.) If you’re looking for a new stream, the service is available now via the Web and will be hitting Android and IOS devices soon. If you find you like Google Play Music and want to subscribe, you get ad-free offline listening, song skips and on-demand access to more than 30 million tracks for just $10 a month. Spotify has got to be feeling a little nervous these days.

Meanwhile, the Tidal music service has hit a bit of a rough wave. The company has booted its interim CEO after three months.

In legal news, Verizon says it’s completed its acquisition of AOL on paper. The Federal Communications Commission did not actually have to approve this particular deal because AOL did not have any licenses before the FCC that would have tripped that trigger. The agency, however, has been keeping itself busy by slapping a $100 million dollar fine on AT&T for misleading consumers about unlimited data plans and throttling.

eyeballIn guv’ment news, the regular document dumps from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowdon continue. A new post over on The Intercept blog details how the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, have reverse-engineered consumer antivirus and security software products. (In more government news, the State Department of the United States is having an epic fail over in the biometrics department.)

And on the subject of biometrics, a new research paper from scientists at UC Berkeley and Facebook’s AI Research division has found that The Social Network’s facial-recognition software can often identify people in photos, even when their faces are looking away from the camera or partly obscured. The team used Facebook’s algorithm on 40,000 public photos pulled from Flickr and found it could accurately ID people about 83 percent of the time. Oh, and Facebook’s Instagram has just updated its Search tool.

echoAmazon’s Echo device is now available to members of the general public now. The voice-activated, Internet-connected  9-inch tall cylindrical Bluetooth speaker streams music and answers questions just like Siri, Cortana and Google Now. If your life needs an Echo, head over to Amazon’s site, pay up $180 and start watching the mailbox after July 14th.  Amazon is also throwing a little artificial intelligence at the problem of fake product reviews over on its main store site and is cleaning up the astroturf.

As promised, mayorships are finally back in Foursquare’s spun-off Swarm app. Let the check-in competition begin once again.

In Windows 10 news, Microsoft has tried to clarify just who gets the new system for free. Recently, there was some confusion as to whether people in the Windows Insider preview program who didn’t have legitimate copies of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 would get the free finished copy of Windows 10. (They get to stay as previewers.)

As a wrap-up of last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, The Mary Sue blog notes there are 23 games announced at the show that feature “badass playable female characters.” Lady justice, indeed.

spidermanAnd finally, with great power comes great responsibility and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan certainly knows it — as well as her old-school Spider-Man. The Court sent down a decision in the case of Kimble v. Marvel, in which the Supremes declined to overrule a precedent that kept patent-holders from collecting royalties after said patent expired. In her written opinion for the majority on the case, Justice Kagan showed off her comic-book chops with multiple Spider-Man references. Now, just imagine if she was a fan of The Punisher….

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Mighty Savin’ Power Rangers

Don’t you hate it when you’re frantically working away on battery power, watching that little icon drain with no electrical outlet in sight? It can be a nerd nightmare but thankfully, most major operating systems have a battery-saver utility — or at least some settings tweaks — to help you squeeze out a few precious minutes of juice until you can recharge. Here’s how.

Mobile devices
The Battery Saver mode in Android 5.0 (Lollipop) is supposed to add an additional 90 minutes of device life by temporarily putting a stop to mail and message syncing, vibrating alerts and other power-draining activities. To turn it on, open the Settings icon from the apps screen, select Battery and then tap the three-dot icon in the upper-right corner to get to Battery Saver in the menu. (You can also swipe down on the home screen to get the Quick Settings box and then jump to Battery preferences from there.) Once in the Settings, you can turn Battery Saver on or off manually, or have it automatically kick in when the battery is down to 5 or 15 percent of its power. You can find third-party apps that claim to boost your battery, but some Android phone-makers have their own tools — Samsung, LG and HTC are among them. Tech sites like AndroidPit usually offer advice for saving energy, too — like using dark wallpaper on your gadget.

Got a Lumia? Microsoft has its own Battery Saver mode for its Windows Phones you can use to achieve similar savings.

As announced a few weeks ago, Apple is adding a new Low Power Mode feature in iOS 9. Until then, the company has a page of tips for prolonging your battery’s charge, and a bunch of apps in the App Store to help you monitor and manage your power consumption.

Like other versions before it, Windows 8.1 lets you set up an alternate power plan that automatically dims the screen and tweaks other settings to save battery life when you’re not plugged into power.

Likewise, Apple has a page of tips for OS X Yosemite and its own power plans for laptops. Apple’s site suggests several ways to adjust your Mac’s Energy Saver preferences (shown here) to get a dimmer display, automatic graphics switching and other tweaks that take less of a hit on your MacBook battery.


If you’re a Linux user, you probably have similar settings in whatever distribution you use. Ubuntu’s community documentation has suggestions and the third-party TLP power management tool works with Ubuntu and Linux Mint.

When used in time, some of these little tricks can save you a few minutes of juice here and there. If you find your battery is always edging into the red, consider a replacement or even an external power source to keep you going until that next electrical outlet appears like an oasis in the desert.

PTJ 146: Life is More Fun if You Play Games

The Electronic Entertainment Expo is wrapping up in the City of Angels and along with the usual flood of game titles there were big hardware announcements from two of the “Big Three” game console manufacturers.

Microsoft revealed that the Xbox One will support over 100 Xbox 360 games with the new backward compatibility feature.

They also debuted an  “Elite” wireless controller that is a more customizable version of the standard Xbox gamepad.

Minecraft for HoloLens, Microsoft’s  augmented reality headset,  is now official and in confirmation of news that broke a few weeks ago, gamers will soon be able to stream XBox One games via Windows 10 and view them through Facebook’s  Oculus Rift VR headset. Engadget reports that you can do the same with some Xbox 360 games.

Sony has gone “all-in” with virtual reality by announcing that Project Morpheus will finally gets a game that uses the PlayStation-based VR headset.

The Japanese electronic behemoth also announced that their Playstation Vue over-the-top streaming service has expanded into its fourth and fifth metro areas.

Nintendo did not make any major hardware announcements at E3 and their new lineup of game titles underwhelmed fans but they are celebrating Mario Bros. 30th anniversary in style by allowing players to create their own Super Mario Bros. game levels.

Of course we have more than just gaming news on this episode so sit back, relax and  click the link at the top of this post to enjoy all of our shenanigans.

You’ll be glad you did…

PTJ 146 News: Yippie-Ki-Yay!

It liiiiiiiiives! After its batteries ran down last fall, many people forgot about the European Space Agency’s Philae lander and the whole Rosetta mission to explore a comet. But the little lander woke up over this past weekend, sending scientists scrambling to collect and analyze the data it’s resumed sending back to earth. The lander had been in hibernation after it ran out of power and shut down last November, but the comet’s travels have now brought it in better line with the sun so Philae can recharge its battery and get back to work.

How about a network of 4,000 inexpensive satellites to bring Internet access to the unwired parts of the world? That’s the plan, anyway, as SpaceX founder Elon Musk has filed the official paperwork with the government asking permission to proceed with the project. No word from the Federal Communications Commission yet on approval, but at least Mr. Musk has good timing, as Facebook recently shelved its own plans to for popping up an Internet-service satellite.

LastPass, the password-manager service, notified customers last week that it found suspicious activity on its network.  Not exactly what you want in a password-manager service.

Facebook has yet another app to help you share your personal data with the company, oh, and your friends. The Social Network announced its new Moments app this week that uses facial-recognition software to automatically recognize your Facebook friends in random snaps and then sync all the photos between you all. If this sort of thing interests you, the app is now available in the Google Play and iOS App Stores.

closedGoogle Maps wants to save you even more time and aggravation. When you punch in directions to a particular store or business, the app does its calculations and warns you if you will arrive too late because the place has already closed for the day. Creepy, helpful and handy!

Apple sleuths digging through the iOS 9 betaware say they’ve found references in the code to some sort of device with a much larger keyboard than the pixel dimensions of the current 9.7-inch iPads. Could the long-rumored large-screen iPad Pro be on the way this fall?

Amazon may be going all Uber with the package delivery and ditching official courier services like FedEx and UPS in favor or regular people with cars dropping off your orders. The company hasn’t announced anything yet, but The Wall Street Journal is talking to people in the know over there. Amazon also uses its Amazon Locker service to store deliveries for pickup in public places, and may expand those options as well.

And finally, an intrepid interactive programmer at The New York Times took a peek inside the hidden source code of Jeb Bush’s website and found quite a few paragraphs not about Republican policies, but a plot summary of the 1988 Bruce Willis movie, Die Hard. The text was not publically visible on the website and has since been removed after The Times discovered it, so here’s to you and your dreams, Die Hard-loving console cowboy.

Requirements Reading

San Francisco’s Moscone Center is still standing after a busy spring of developer conferences, where this year’s major new operating systems have now all been previewed on the way to release. If Windows 10, Android M, El Capitan or iOS 9  has caught your eye — but you’re not quite sure if your hardware can handle it — here’s a quick refresher on the system requirements you’ll need to update. Keep in mind, though, that some of these specs are based on pre-release software and could change by the time the final edition hits the download queue. And remember,  if you have older hardware, you may have limited functionality and not get all the features in that new release, so don’t expect to suddenly get things like Siri or Apply Pay with iOS 9 on an iPad 2.

Windows 10

Windows 10 is arriving at the end of next month, so it’ll likely be the first new system here. The official specifications are still being tweaked, but the system as been in preview for months, so expect to meet these requirements from Microsoft:

Latest OS: Make sure you are running the latest version either Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update.
Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster processor or SoC
RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) for 32-bit or 2 GB for 64-bit
Hard disk space: 16 GB for 32-bit OS 20 GB for 64-bit OS
Graphics card: DirectX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver
Display: 800×600

These are minimum requirements and more power, memory and space are always better for happy computing.


The Windows 10 Preview had a few other bullet points that will likely still hold true for the final release:

  • Windows 10 will scan your system for a current subscription to an AV product and sideline incompatible versions.
  • If you have Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro with Media Center, or Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center and you install Windows 10, Windows Media Center will be removed.
  • Watching DVDs requires separate playback software.
  • Windows 7 desktop gadgets will be removed as part of installing Windows 10.
  • Windows 10 Home users will have updates from Windows Update automatically available.
  • Solitaire, Minesweeper, and Hearts Games that come pre-installed on Windows 7 will be removed as part of installing the Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft has released our version of Solitaire and Minesweeper called the “Microsoft Solitaire Collection” and “Microsoft Minesweeper.”
  • If you have a USB floppy drive, you will need to download the latest driver from Windows Update or from the manufacturer’s website.
  • If you have Windows Live Essentials installed on your system, the OneDrive application is removed and replaced with the inbox version of OneDrive.
  • Cortana is only currently available on Windows 10 for the United States, United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.

Android M

The next version of Google’s mobile operating system is expected in the third quarter of this year, or as normal people call it, autumn.  Nexus devices will get the good first and an official preview of Android M is already available for the Nexus 5,6, 9 and Nexus player devices. Android fan sites are busy compiling projected release schedules for non-Nexus devices.

MThe Android Police blog is reporting that Google plans to guarantee major system updates for Nexus devices for two years, and security patches for three years from an Android version’s release date. But on that timetable, several existing Nexus devices would not get the Android M update, including the Nexus 4, Nexus 10 and Nexus 7 (2012). But the older tablets will still receive security patches and the Nexus 7 of 2013 should still be eligible if this is Google’s plan. (Then again, many owners of older Nexus devices complained that Lollipop sandbagged their gadgets and they wanted to downgrade, so maybe missing the M train here is not a bad thing.)

OS X 10.11 El Capitan

elcapNewer systems are always going to run better on newer hardware, but basically, if your Mac can run OS X Yosemite or OS X Mavericks, it can probably to run OS X El Capitan. All Macs released over the past five years are supported. Specifically, the supported minimum Mac model list includes the following hardware:

iMac (Mid-2007 or newer)
MacBook (13-inch Aluminum, Late 2008), (13-inch, Early 2009 or newer)
MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid-2009 or newer), (15-inch, Mid / Late 2007 or newer), (17-inch, Late 2007 or newer)
MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)
Mac Mini (Early 2009 or newer)
Mac Pro (Early 2008 or newer)

The Mac must have a 64-bit CPU, so that pretty much means an Intel Core 2 Duo or later under the hood. You’ll also need a few gigabytes of available disk space to install the final version on your Mac, which is typical for updating any system software.


Can’t remember when you got your Mac or the chip it’s got beathing under its aluminum or plastic skin? From your desktop, go to the Apple menu ( ) to About this Mac. For Macs running older versions of OS X, click More Info, otherwise select Overview to see your machine’s details (as shown here) and plan accordingly.


ios9logoExpect the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system to land during the annual breathless media event that’s traditionally held in September to unveil new iPhones. Making the move to iOS 9 may be much easier than that heavy lift to iOS 8 that some people experienced. Remember when you needed a massive 4.6 GB of free storage space to download and wedge the update on your device last year? Apple says iOS 9 will only require 1.3 GB by comparison, so even 16GB iPhone and iPad users will have an easier time upgrading.

Space issues aside, as a general rule of thumb, if your iDevice is currently chugging along on either iOS 8 and iOS 7, it can run iOS 9. Apple says supported hardware includes:

iPad Air
iPad Air 2
iPad Mini
iPad Mini 2
iPad Mini 3
iPad 4th generation
iPad 3rd generation
iPad 2
iPhone 6 Plus
iPhone 6
iPhone 5S
iPhone 5C
iPhone 5
iPhone 4S
iPod Touch 5th generation

Oh, and before all these upgrades start flying? Back up your current computer and/or device regularly, especially right before you download a new operating system. Those tears you shed should be from joy at your groovy new software — and not frustration because something went horribly wrong and you have no backup.

PTJ 145: Just Give Chris Pratt the Fedora and Whip Already

Apple and Google had big splashy product announcements while we were away but don’t despair, J.D. fills us in on what the two tech behemoths are foisting on us and what the technorati have to say about it.

Also on the show our good friend and frighteningly talented reporter Laura M. Holson joins us to discuss the recent TEDWomen conference and, more importantly, her initial reactions to the latest CGI filled dino-romp “Jurassic World” starring the always entertaining Chris Pratt.

And speaking of Mr. Pratt.

If the producers of the rumored Indiana Jones reboot would just size the man up for a fedora and a whip, that would be great.

PTJ 145 News: Developing Situations

Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference opened this week, and the very long Keynote on Monday morning brought a whole bunch of announcements with it. For starters , the next version of OS X will be called El Capitan, and over on the iOS 9 Preview side of the fence, a new proactive Siri is just one of the many new features that await. Apple Pay has added more card support, branched out to the UK and  the Passbook app has now been renamed with the more obvious moniker, “Wallet.” There’s a new News app that looks like it’s gunning for Flipboard. The new iOS 9 will have specific treats for the iPad , like a QuickType keyboard for easier input and split-screen views for multitasking — including a picture-in-picture view. The Swift programming language will be open-source in its next version. The Apple Watch got native apps and a bunch of tweaks to makes it less dependent on a nearby iPhone, and Apple announced its long-rumored Apple Music service.   So now we wait, at least until the public betas start trickling out.

cardboardBut 12 days before Apple’s big programmer’s party, Google held its developer’s conference and made quite a few of its own announcements at Google I/O 2015. As expected, the company provided new information and a developer’s preview for Android M, the next generation of its operating system. The new Google Photos app with its free online storage was formally unveiled. The company proclaimed support for USB Type C, (the one connector to rule them all) and announced a bunch of other stuff. While Siri is getting more proactive little Google Now, Google Now is getting a little more interactive like Siri, thanks to a new feature called Google Now on Tap.  Among other things, Google also provided details on Android Pay and an updated version of Google cardboard — a virtual-reality platform for Android and iOS users.

While Apple didn’t announce a new Apple TV model or fancy remote at WWDC, Google added a bunch of content to its Android TV pltform, namely an online store with 600 apps that can be arranged in a sort of program-guide like grid and intermingle with live broadcast channels.  Cable TV is growing less and less mandatory…

win10Trying not to get lost on all the kerfuffle: Microsoft. The company announced last week that July 29th is its release date for Windows 10. Just follow the steps to reserve your copy of the new operatiing system. Once you make your reservation, Microsoft will let you know later when your update is ready to download. Microsoft has a set of Frequently Asked Questions on its site for those of you who want more information. The company also upgraded its Xbox One game console to a version with a 1-terabyte drive and has revamped its wireless controller. The terabyte model is $400, the 500-gigabyte version of the Xbox One is now $350 and the wireless controller will be $60 when it’s released in July.

marsNASA is keeping up its busy schedule and tested an experimental vehicle shaped like a flaying saucer this week as part of the research for its manned mission to Mars one day. The test seems to have failed after a 100-foot-wide parachute ripped during the craft’s test flight.  Meanwhile, the European Space Agency must have really liked the old Space 1999 show, as its announced plans to start building an inflatable town on the moon. The ESA plans to send up a lunar lander in 2018 to get things rolling and start construction on the habitat in 2024 using 3D printers to create the necessary parts right them and there. The structure would not be called Moonbase Alpha, but rather, Lunarville. You know, like the band.

If anyone out there is a fan if the scary longread, check out the New York Times Magazine’s recent story about the Russian Ministry of Trolls that spends its days spreading hoaxes, rumors and misinformation over social media to raise havoc. The story is called The Agency.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge is over and the team from South Korea has won the $2 million prize. A highlight reel is on YouTube.

pacmanAnd finally, the first six members of the World Video Game Hall of Fame have been announced. The classics DOOM, Pac-Man, Pong, Super Mario Bros., Tetris and World of Warcraft made the inaugural cut. The World Video Hall of Fame is part of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, and yes, you can visit. Bring a bag of quarters in case you have to exit through the gift shop.