The Mass Invasion podcast and blog is simply pure, unadulterated geekery. Their mission is to up your pop-culture game but before that happens, you all must answer one very simple question.
Are you in?
The Mass Invasion podcast and blog is simply pure, unadulterated geekery. Their mission is to up your pop-culture game but before that happens, you all must answer one very simple question.
Are you in?
At last! Windows 10 was released this week and the early reviews are now rolling in. The Wall Street Journal said “Windows is actually useful again, assuming you still rely on a PC,” and “If you knew how to use Windows XP back in 2001, you’ve have no problem finding your way around Windows 10.” (So much for the Modern interface way of doing things.) The Verge chimes in with “Windows has a cycle. Windows XP saved us from Windows ME, Windows 7 saved us from the Windows Vista mess, now Windows 10 is here to save us from Windows 8. It’s nice to be on the good part of the cycle.” (If you live in New York City, you can go Windows shopping this fall, as Microsoft has plans to finally open that long-planned flagship Fifth Avenue store.
Samsung has a party of its own planned for New York. The company’s “Unpacked” media event is scheduled for August 13 and may include announcements of new phones are maybe even the company’s virtual-reality headset.
Google+ Photos got kicked to the curb last week and now we’re seeing signs of the Google+ empire getting further dismantled. The company announced this week that it was doing away with the requirement to have a Google+ profile in order to use many Google services like Gmail and YouTube. (While Google+ was busy extracting itself from other Google services, the department did have some time to do a little study on promotional app interstitial advertisements.)
Google Search rolls out new feature that hows the “popular times” for restaurants and other venues known to have lines — so you can avoid those lines. (Google uses crowd-sourced congestion data to get the information.) And if you use the Google app on an Android phone, you can say “OK, Google” and have it send messages using WhatsApp, Vivber and other texting apps.
Speaking of Android, new phones are in the works. Motorola, now owned by Chinese electronics maker Lenovo, has just announced the Moto X Pure Edition and the Moto Play, unlocked Android smartphones that will cost $400 and $180 respectively. And if you’re looking for a big-featured, lower-priced smartphone, the OnePlus 2 — dubbed the 2016 Flagship Killer — is on the way.
Not all is groovy in Android Land, however. Researchers at Zimperium have uncovered a security flaw in Android 2.2 and later that makes it possible to get hacked through a malware-infected text message. Patches have been written but are slow rolling out, given the huge number of carriers and companies who make the estimated 950 million Android phones out there.
Apple reported big fat profits in its quarterly earnings statement last week, and signs point to the Apple Watch doing better than anticipated. While it won’t likely be the overhyped posh personalized shopping journey as the Apple Store offers, Best Buy will start selling the Apple Watch on August 7th.
After a month of turmoil, Reddit has lost another high-profile female employee. Jessica Moreno, the head of community for the site, has given notice.
Pandora is making its Sponsored Listening option available to all its advertisers. This now means listeners can get an hour of ad-free listening if you agree to watch a video ad ahead of time. No you do not get to pick the movie yourself.
The National Security Agency is going to start wiping those bulk phone records it’s been hoovering up as part of the Patriot Act. In June, President Obama signed a law called the USA Freedom Act that prevents the NSA from storing the phone records and forces the agency’s investigators to request the files form the phone companies if they are needed for a case. The NSA will stop using the existing records by November 29th.
In other government news, New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced he want to provide $60 million dollars in funding for a technology that would disable a car if it senses the driver is drunk. The technology here is called Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADDS and the bill, which was introduced earlier this summer in the House as well, is called The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere (ROADS SAFE) Act of 2015. DADDS uses breath and touch sensors to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level and disable a vehicle if the level is above the legal limit.
And while we’re talking about cars, Fiat Chrysler is recalling 1.4 million cars and trucks to update software that has been proven vulnerable to hackers — a concept they’ve been proving at DefCon since at least 2013.
And finally, more cars! ThinkGeek is making fans of Knight Rider very happy. The company just released its KITT USB Car Charger that looks just like the light-up voicebox in the car from the iconic 1980s TV series staring David Hasselhoff and the voice of William Daniels. The $30 dashboard attachment provides two USB ports for charging your gear on the go, along with 11 different audio clips from the show.
Shop now. You know you want it.
Laura Holson is back! This week The New York Times reporter joins us to discuss how Hollywood is running scared from Silicon Valley, the Interwebz…and the San Diego Comic-Con?
In the news, the Ashley Madison “dating” site is hacked; the Pebble smartwatch is about to get retail presence; Apple releases a new iPod touch; Samsung decides that if they can’t beat the Apple iPad, they’ll make their own; and Twinkies for EVERYONE!
Hear about that a big giant hack of the database belonging to the dating-for-married-people Ashley Madison website last? If you’ve never heard of the popular hookup site — run by the Avid Life Media, the same company that also makes Cougar Life and Established Men a reality — you probably have nothing to worry about. If you were a patron of the service, well, you may want to pay attention. An entity calling itself The Impact Team made the heist and large chunks of stolen confidential information have already been posted online. Security blogger Brian Krebs has been following the story and reports that the hackers did the job because they claimed Avid Life Media’s $19 “full delete” service for wiping your presence from the company’s websites was a rip-off.
The excellent KrebsOnSecurity blog also has details on the big hack of the CVSPhoto.con website last week. If you’ve ever uploaded photos and had the processed at a CVS drugstore, check your credit-card statements.
Microsoft had a little freak-out of its own late last week on the exploit front. If you haven’t already, hit up Windows Update to get the security update for a flaw in the font driver software.
Sad news to report: Joshua Greenberg, the founder of the new-shuttered Grooveshark music streaming service was found dead in his home down in Gainesville, Florida. He was 28 years old. Condolences to his family.
Twitter has made some changes on its site in the past few weeks. For one, the company removed custom backgrounds for users of its web version, replacing personalized color choices with a bright white backdrop, perhaps better to display advertising upon. Twitter also introduced a new Safety Center area of its site which is supposed to school users on Twitter’s tools for privacy and battling harassment. It’s probably not the Troll Cannon we’d all like, but it’s a start.
The Pebble smartwatch line, which got early financial traction as a Kickstarter project a few years ago, is hitting the big time and the big-box stores. The $200 Pebble Time smartwatch, which had originally been available on the Pebble website, are now for sale at Best Buy and will be showing up in Target stores next month. You roll, little Pebble!
Apple’s quarterly earnings report showed profit was up 38% (largely due to 47.5 million new iPhones getting homes), but the company did not break out sales numbers on the Apple Watch. Analysts have found that Apple Watch customer satisfaction with the device was at an overall 97% and higher than it was for the first generations of the iPhone and iPad. However, The New York Times had a story this week that looked at app developers and why some, like Facebook, weren’t rushing to create wrist-sized versions of their programs quite yet. Still waiting for time to tell on the Watch-success verdict there.
Apple also found the time to finally put out an update for the iPod Touch last week. While The Washington Post wondered if anyone cared about this at all, it does give Apple yet another platform to grab new Apple Music subscribers.
Meanwhile, Samsung, which didn’t have much luck with its Galaxy S6 line against the iPhone 6, looks like it’s going after the iPad now. The company just announced two new versions of the Galaxy Tab S2 tablet, now with an iPad-esque 4:3 aspect ratio for the screen and other similarities. The new Android-based tablets, due in August, come in screen sized of 9.7 inches and 8 inches. Pricing has yet to be announced.
As we know from the sad tale of Google Reader, Google giveth and Google taketh away. In the giving side, the company announced that it was providing its high-speed Google Fiber service to low-income homes in all the broadband markets it is currently in. It’s all part of the ConnectHome initiative recently launched by the White House and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help more people get online. So that’s the giveth part, as for the taketh part, well . . . Google+ Photos is being discontinued on August 1st and replaced by the newer Google Photos service. If you don’t want to use Google Photos, you can go to Google Takeout, download your stuff and go. Didn’t see that one coming, nosiree.
Windows 10 will be here next week and Microsoft is getting Cortana, the system’s virtual personal assistant software ready for her international desktop debut. Cortana’s developers say they have done research and taken the cultural sensitivities of each country where the software will launch; these include the United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, along with the United States. Thanks to this regional research, Cortana’s personality will be tailored to specific areas, as Microsoft explained in a blog post on its site. But as the Kaiser asks, “When will the Bronx Cortana arrive?”
And finally, for those who like to cook, Ten Speed Press released an updated edition of The Twinkies Cookbook last week, featuring new recipes using the long-lasting sponge-cake snack. This new 85th Anniversary Edition of the cookbook features such treats as Twinkie Corndogs and Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Chocolate-Covered Twinkies. Now that’s good eatin’ — but don’t forget to pop your cholesterol meds.
With apologies to the Backstreet Boys, everybody rock your body cuz NASA’s BACK! The New Horizons flyby of Planet X…I’m sorry, “dwarf planet Pluto”…was a rousing success and not a single space nerd was unmoved. This week on the show J.D. fills us in on what the U.S. space agency has in store post-Pluto and El Kaiser gets into costume in this week’s tech term.
Of course we serve up a generous dollop of this week’s tech news so put on your stretchy pants and watch out for the meat sweats cuz PTJ is back too.
Get ready to rock your body right!
Apple released an update to iTunes this week that’s intended to correct the “scrambled library syndrome” that afflicted some users after updating to iTunes 12.2. As described by a writer over at Macworld, the iCloud Music Library feature was completely “screwed up.” While the damage was contained mainly to iTunes, it’s yet another instance of Apple pushing out buggy, untested software updates on its users. The iTunes 12.2.1 update is intended to correct these issues, but as the 9to5Mac site points out, be very careful when you’re going through your music library removing tracks that got infused with the copy locks so you don’t delete the unrestricted versions. Apple has a support document that tries to help.
Apple accused Amazon of getting the Department of Justice to do its bidding on e-book price fixing a few years ago, a case that Apple recently lost on appeal to the tune of $450 million dollars. But what comes around, goes around. This week, several publishing groups, including The Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives and Authors United, sent letters to the Department of Justice asking officials to investigate Amazon in antitrust violations. Amazon’s lawyers should be warmed up, as antitrust regulators in the European Union are already investigating the company.
Turmoil at the Reddit site continues to grow, as the firing of popular employee Victoria Taylor earlier in the month led to a user uprising, lots of misogyny and then the resignation of chief executive Ellen Pao. If that wasn’t enough of the drama llama, Reddit’s former CEO Yishan Wong came out with a post this past weekend that pinned Taylor’s firing on the site’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who let Pao take the heat for it. Reddit’s chief engineer Bethanye Blout also quit her job this week, saying she’d lost confidence in the company’s direction. Ohanian’s fellow co-founder Steve Huffman is now in the CEO chair.
Comcast’s leapfrog over Google Fiber in the speed department is big — and comes with a big price tag. The company’s Gigabit Pro service, which promises 2- gigabits per second of blazing download speed compared to Google Fiber’s 1-gigabit per second, will cost $300 a month. (If you sign on for a two-year contract, though, you can get it for the promotional rate of $159 per month, however.) But that’s not all. Fine print on the Comcast site says installation may take up to 6 to 8 weeks, and then come the installation and activation fees, which could be up to $500 each. Speed also kills your wallet, too.
Even if you have regular Comcast Internet service, though, the company is thinking up ways for you to give it more of your money — like with its new Comcast Stream service, announced this week. For $15 a month, Comcast is promising a bundle of broadcast TV channels plus HBO and some on-demand movies, along with a cloud-based DVR. This would all be viewable on your computer or mobile devices, but as Wired points out, there is a catch — you actually have to be home using your Comcast Internet service to use Stream and only two devices at a time can use it simultaneously. You also need to live in a Comcast Internet service area. The service is due out later this year starting in Boston, Seattle and Chicago.
Also in the hot seat this week: Adobe Flash. Facebook’s security chief Alex Stamos issued a tweet earlier this week saying that it was time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for the security-addled multimedia software. Mr. Stamos’s death wish for Flash came after yet another security patch and warnings about other vulnerabilities just in the past week or so. Citing security concerns, Mozilla is also now blocking the all versions of Flash plugin in the current version of Firefox.
The end of the month is drawing closer, which means Microsoft is getting ready to go all out for its Windows 10 launch on July 29. (Worried about your software still working if you dare to upgrade? See if your stuff at least works with the Windows 10 Technical Preview over at the Windows Compatibility Center.)
And finally, gamers around the world are mourning the death of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Under his leadership at the company, Nintendo released the DS handheld, the Wii console and interactive toys. Mr. Iwata passed away from a bile duct growth this past weekend at the age of 55 and Nintendo fans took to social media in tribute. We here at Pop Tech Jam send our condolences to his family.
This week’s Pluto Flyby had most people at NASA in a state of giddiness by Tuesday morning, If you happened to be watching, you could see the agency folks sharing their exuberance over NASA TV, its website and all its social media channels. Here at PTJ HQ, we’ve taken a look at NASA’s apps and online presence before, but the missions just keep on coming and the online offerings just keep expanding. So it’s time for an update.
For all your Pluto voyage news, visit the New Horizons mission page, where you’ve got photos, videos, animations, an illustrated diagram of the spacecraft’s instruments and even podcasts. You can also keep up with related tweets from NASA’s many Twitter accounts.
To see what else is going on out in space, visit the main Missions page to check out all the projects NASA has in the works. The Eyes on Pluto desktop app for your Mac or PC shows simulated mission data, and when you get done on Pluto, you can jump to another mission like Dawn or Juno. And it’s free.
NASA is a government agency, so in fact, most of the material on the site is free, You can find mobile apps galore and free e-books (on such topics as the Hubble Space Telescope, flight research and if you need a little light reading, a tome called Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce.) The site has general podcasts on other topics besides Pluto and even photos to liven up your day, plus audio clips and ringtones.
And don’t forget, getting kids interested in space is getting them interested in the future. NASA has a hefty amount of its own space devoted to educational material. There’s an area for older students to learn about the Pluto trip or spot the International Space Station in the night sky — or even get to know the astronauts. For the younger set, there’s the games-and-activities subsite called the NASA Kids’ Club.
And that’s just the main NASA site. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has its own chunk of the Web filled with all kinds of good science-y stuff.
Not sure where to even begin? Call up NASA’s launch schedule and plan accordingly.
As for the New Horizons team, they got even happier Tuesday night because like E.T., the spacecraft phoned home. Check it out at the end of this informative video detailing the mission and its history:
This week we go old-school PTJ and offer up a heaping helping of news along with some helpful tips about scanning documents with your mobile device and a Tech Term segment from El Kaiser. This time around he channels his inner J.D. and answers the age old question: what the heck is the difference between JPG, GIF and PNG?
Oh, yeah, almost forgot. The New Horizons spacecraft is about to get close enough to Pluto they’d be forced to marry in some states…and we couldn’t be giddier.
This summer is turning out to be a big one for space news and demoted-planet Pluto is due for its star turn next week. NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft, which woke up from hibernation last December, had a bit of a glitch that knocks it into Safe Mode on July 4th, but scientists say the craft is ready for its close flyby of Pluto on the morning of July 14th. If everything goes according to plan, New Horizons is expected to pass less than 7,800 hundred miles from the surface of little Pluto, which is relatively close in space terms; The New York Times has a great video on the topic. (And earlier this week in space, scientists on the Philae lander project were hoping to find signs of alien life on old Comet 67P, but comet experts are now pooh-poohing the notion.)
More than a dozen pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists have come together to produce a paper called “Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity By Requiring Government Access to All Data and Communications,” and in this paper, they challenge the intelligence agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom over government desires for special backdoors to be built into encrypted communications. The cryptographers find the government proposals to be unprincipled and unworkable. Many of the same cryptographers came together back in the 1990s to take down the Clinton administration’s proposed Clipper Chip, which would have provided a hardware backdoor into encrypted communications.
The British Broadcasting Corporation does more than just global news shows, historical costume dramas and Doctor Who. This week, the Beeb introduced its new initiative to help kids get into tech. The organization, along with 29 corporate partners, is giving out a programmable, pocket-sized “BBC Micro:Bit” bare-bones computer to all Year 7 students. Microsoft, ARM and Samsung were among the corporate partners on the project.
While Samsung helps out in the UK, its overall corporate intake dipped in the second quarter this year. The South Korea-based company reported a four-percent drop in 2Q, thanks in part to weaker-than-expected sales of its new phones. You can, however, get $200 off a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 if you buy it before July 26th.
Speaking of Microsoft, the Redmond giant is gearing up for its Windows 10 launch at the end of the month. The RTM, or Release to Manufacturing edition, is reportedly out the door this week, the preview of the revamped Bing Maps arrived and the Xbox Music service has now been rebranded as Groove. Xbox Video is now called Movies & TV, and there’s a special Windows 10 beta version of Minecraft on the way July 29th as well. And over in the experimental labs of Microsoft Garage, a new app called Tossup (shown here) is out now for Android and iOS smartphones.
Word from the Appleverse blogs has it that selected third-party accessory makers hoping to sell their wares in official Apple Stores will have to use new packaging co-designed by Apple itself. The reported shift is said to be part of a transition to a “premium feel” for products sold in Apple emporiums, as well as reducing clutter on store shelves.
Also in Apple news, many Kaisers, er, users were up in arms last week when it was discovered that the iOS 8.4 update that brought the Apple Music service into the world also took away the longstanding music Home Sharing feature. Home Sharing, which had been around since iTunes 9 back in 2009, allowed the streaming of one’s music library between devices and Macs and PCs running iTunes. While most people assumed the feature was yanked due to the legal tangle of music rights wadded up in Apple Music, Eddy Cue, Apple Senior VP and Taylor Swift best buddy, said the company is working to restore Home Sharing in the upcoming iOS 9.
Photographers who like Instagram but feel the 640 x 640 resolution was way too low for quality presentation will be happy to know that the service has quietly goosed up the rez to 1080 x 1080 pixels. A company representative said the Instagram apps for Android and iOS are bring updated to take advantage of the new feature.
Also in photography news, GoPro, which makes those small wearable video cameras for recording first-person action adventures, now has an even smaller camera on the way. The company’s new model, the Hero4 Session, is half the size of the Hero4 Black model. The new tinycam is expected to start shipping next week and has a decidedly not-tiny price tag of $400.
Twitter has added the ability for users to list their birthdays on their Twitter profiles. If you have a massively public feed or draw a lot of hate tweets, though, perhaps you want to skip the sharing there.
Giant robot battles just aren’t for the movies anymore. Last week, MegaBot USA threw down the big iron gauntlet at Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry and challenged the company to a giant robot duel with a video. Naturally, Suidobashi responded with its own video to accept and the battle is on for next year. Get ready for some mecha-stomping good times!
And finally, summer is here and the backyard grilling and barbecuing is in full flame. Texas and the rest of the South may get all the press for the quality barbecue eats, but don’t forget about that Yankee ingenuity. Way up yonder in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 16 engineering students from Harvard University have built what Wired is calling “the ultimate BBQ Bot” that brings science to the smoke. Admit it: you are totally hungry now, aren’t you?
Are you the type who needs to collect and file receipts — for work, taxes, reimbursements and so on? If you’re tired of carrying crumpled little pieces of paper around in your pockets and wallet and losing them anyway, you have a handy digital alternative. Sure, you can plunk down the bucks for in a table-top or handheld document scanner to convert paper to pixels for easy filing. Or you could just use your smartphone.
With the right app, you can use the phone’s camera as a mobile scanner to make instant PDF files or JPGs of your paper receipts. You can then store them on the phone, online — or send them to your computer by mail or message for electronic filing and printing.
You may already have an app that scans, and even if you don’t, scanning apps are not hard to find, especially those that can scan and sync documents to an online storage account. (Just remember the usual caveats about storing files with deeply personal information in The Cloud, a k a Somebody Else’s Hackable Servers.)
But back to that free option. If you have an Android device with a camera and the complimentary Google Drive app (shown here), you can scan documents and save them as PDF files, and better yet, delightfully searchable PDF files.
Just open the Google Drive app and touch the red-circled plus button in the bottom corner. Point the device’s camera at the document you want to capture and then tap the Scan button from the menu. If you don’t like the resulting preview, tap the Refresh button or a do-ver. If it’s a multi-page document like a contract or something, tap the + button to scan each page. When you’ve scanned them all, tap the checkmark button to have the file as a PDF to your Google Drive. And if you like home-screen timesavers, there’s a shortcut to the Google Drive scan command in the Android widget library.
If you have the iOS version of the Google Drive app, you don’t get the full Save-As-PDF option, but you can take a picture of the document and store the photo in your online Google locker. For those with iOS and a love of Evernote, however, there’s the free Evernote Scannable app that scans documents to PDF or JPG and instantly stores them in your Evernote collections. Among other things, you can also mail or message the resulting scans.
CamScanner is a standalone scanner app that works with Evernote if you want it to, but you can also use it to scan and share files across multiple devices. The app comes in mobile versions for Android, Windows Phone and iOS for either iPhone or iPad. The free version gives you 200 megabytes of online storage, but a $5-a-month premium account gets you 10 gigs of space and way more features. Genius Scan is another cross-platform scanner with free and premium editions, and the $3 TurboScan (shown here) for Android and iOS is yet another inexpensive option with helpful features and a good review from Engadget. However, The Sweet Setup site favors the $2 ScanBot software (for Android, iOS and Kindle) as top scanner app and explains why in a nice little article that also throws in a bit of document-scanning history.
If you don’t like any of those, you can find more in your respective app store. Even if you have to pony up $2 to $5 for an app, you’ll probably save at least that much by not losing those receipts you need to file and submit in the first place.