This week, J.D. shares some handy tips on how to keep track of your family’s whereabouts using tools you may already have on your computers and mobile devices. El Kaiser rants on the state of Hollywood and why he thinks movie makers need to worry. In the news, the Dynamic Duo snark it up over the latest Microsoft missteps with their Windows 10 push; Google’s plans to legally display lyrics in their search results; Facebook’s decision to go all in on slideshows and a cubic, um, BOATload of tech news. C’mon, press play already. You know you want to…
Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade has steadily grown more persistent since the software’s release last year, even to the point of practically hijacking a user’s computer to ram it on there. While the Windows forums have lit up with complaints, at least one dissatisfied customer has taken Microsoft to court over the unauthorized update. The plaintiff was awarded $10,000 to compensate for lost wages and the price of a new computer to replace the one banjaxed by an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft denied that it had done anything wrong and said it had dropped its appeal in the case to avoid additional legal expense. However, the company said it’s changing that sneaky dialogue box that starts the Windows 10 install when you click the “x” to close the box. (Also disappearing: The Xbox Fitness service.)
Due to copyright issues, many song lyrics sites used to be hosted on offshore servers, but now Google has cut a deal with the Toronto-based firm LyricFind to legally display lyrics in search results. The move both funnels money to the publishers and songwriters of the licensed songs — and might send a few people to Google Play Music as well.
Google is also expanding the tools its offers to teachers by making its Expeditions virtual reality experience available to everyone with the Android app, a network connection and a VR viewer. Expeditions offers virtual reality tours to more than 200 locations and an iOS edition of the app is expected soon. The company also released its Google Cast for Education app for Chrome for wireless screen-sharing in the classroom.
Facebook has decided that it needs to rev up the Slideshow feature that was originally included it its Facebook Moments app last year. In a new update to the Facebook mobile app, if it senses you have taken more than five pictures or videos in the past 24 hours and you go to post a status update, Facebook suggests that you make a slideshow out of the material. (The TechCrunch site has a theory that Facebook is desperate to get people to post more original content on the site.) Facebook is also adding location-based events to its main app to offer suggestions for things to do besides spend all night on Facebook, and actual humans will curate the events lists.
Twitter announced that its adding stickers to photo tweets, perhaps in an attempt to get more teenage girls to use the service.
Municipal lawmakers and the Airbnb site for easy short-term rentals have a contentious relationship in places like New York City and San Francisco because of local housing laws, and now the start-up is even suing San Francisco over a new law that says Airbnb hosts must register with the city first. The lawsuit contends that San Francisco is putting the burden on Airbnb to enforce the law by fining the site $1,000 for posting unverified-with-the-city listings on the site. As The New York Times points out, Airbnb originally helped write the law in the first place to quell protests from affordable hosing advocates. The New York Legislature also passed its own bill against Airbnb this month that would impose fines on apartments listed with the service that rent for less than 30 days if the leaseholder if not present. That bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Amazon has added a new feature to its Kindle apps and e-readers that’s designed to make it easier for you to wander around in an ebook without losing your place. The new tool is called, appropriately, Page Flip.
Medical offices have become a popular target for hackers thanks to the troves of personal patient data and now hackers have taken to selling thousands of records on the dark web after their demands for money were turned down. Speaking of hackers, Apple’s forthcoming iOS 10 software has already been poked, prodded and had its flows exposed in public by an individual who has posted it all online on the iOS Hacker Wiki.
Pinterest, which added buy buttons to some items on its mobile app last year, has added those click-to-buy buttons on its web version now. A shopping bag is also available so you can click around on either mobile or desktop and then buy all your pinned purchases at once.
And finally, summer is here and if you need some projects to occupy the kids, Bose has a $150 BoseBuild Speaker Cube kit that shows kids how to make a Bluetooth speaker that works with an iOS device while also teaching them how the principles of sound and speakers work, along with magnets, electromagnets, frequency and waveforms.
Need another educational a summer project? Make has instructions on how to make a Wi-Fi Drone Disabler with a Raspberry Pi, some telnet scripts and a cantenna, but stresses this is an educational exercise to help you “understand the security risks of wireless communications.” Yes. Yes, it is.
Smartphones and online calendars have certainly made it easier to get a handle on your daily schedule, and if you’ve gotten used to the concept of calendar events and alerts from your office or job, think of how handy these could be for keeping track of your family’s whereabouts. You can do this by setting up a shared online calendar to use for appointments, and all your family members can subscribe to it on their own smartphones and computers. When someone enters a a new event on that shared calendar, everybody else subscribed to the calendar then sees it — hopefully clearing up confusion about who’s doing what on any given day.
Sure, you can find plenty of third-party solutions like Cozi or the HUB Planner that have limited free versions and more expansive paid plans, but if your family’s needs are not complex – say, you just need to keep track of softball practice, book club, dentist appointments and so on – you might be able to get by with software you already have: The calendar component to your free email service.
Now, for iCloud. If you are an Apple-oriented group of people, you can share an iCloud calendar with others, but you don’t have to stop with just the datebook. If you have kids with their own iDevices wanting to buy stuff on iTunes, you can even set up Apple’s Family Sharing feature that lets parents approve their children’s iTunes and App Store purchases remotely, share photos and location — and yes, there’s a family calendar.
Don’t worry, Android folks, if you’re tapped into the Google Play store and spurn iTunes, there’s also a family management tool to set up and you can always use the Android Device Manager to GPS your child’s location. If you’re a Gmail family as well, check out sharing with Google Calendar.
It may take a little work to get used to having a family calendar and entering events on it, but once it’s in place, perhaps those days of forgetting to pick up Junior from soccer practice (whoops!) will be a distant memory.
After a week’s vacation El Kaiser and J.D. have returned to Pop Tech Jam HQ for this week’s episode — and they’ve brought some friends along. Journalist Laura M. Holson explores the photo-sharing trend of door and window portraits (sometimes with dogs in the picture, too), while technologist and Apple guru Don Donofrio discusses the highlights from Apple’s hefty pile of announcements from last week’s World Wide Developers Conference. And of course, there’s the usual rundown of the weekly tech, science and pop-culture headlines from around the world — and all the latest magic pony news.
Not everyone likes new stuff. Still, Microsoft took to one of its own blogs recently to make a push for its spiffy new Windows 10 browser Edge, trying to show that the software provided better battery life when surfing compared to those other companies’ browsers (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera). However, in the latest survey of desktop browser market share from Net Applications, Google Chrome version 50 was in first place with 22.65 percent of users, with two versions of IE and an older edition of Chrome right behind. Edge appears in fifth place with about 4.46 percent of users, so perhaps this battery tip hasn’t gotten around.
Also from the Department of Microsoft News, the company announced a new version of its signature game console called the Xbox One S that starts at $400 for the two-terabyte model. The S-model is smaller than the earlier Xbox One and supports 4K video; the older Xbox One now sells for $280, so up yours, Sony PlayStation.
Microsoft also bought the LinkedIn social professional network last week for $26 billion dollars, which took many people by surprise, especially because LinkedIn was not profitable and was losing a reported $150 million dollars a year. The Guardian’s opinion section didn’t think the purchase was a great idea, but others ran with it.
Facebook has had suicide-prevention resources available to users for years. This month, the site is adding even more time-saving tools designed to help friends help their friends and also offers tips from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Google has added a new feature of its own to its app: Symptom Search. Yes, now when you type in specific health woes you’re feeling like headache or foot pain, Google returns a list of medical conditions that may include your symptoms. Doctor Google advises you not to use use this in place of actual medical care.
Twitter just bought itself a $150 million dollar pony — or, more precisely, the Magic Pony Technology company, a London-based firm uses neural networks and machine learning to understand images and enhance them for a variety of uses.
Video is also on Twitter’s mind this week, as the company announced that clips posted on the site can now be 140 seconds long instead of just 30 seconds. (Everybody’s got to have live-streaming service and now Yahoo’s Tumblr site is jumping into the mix with its own version of the feature.)
China is still winning at supercomputers. The new top performer, the Sunway TaihuLight, is capable of performing some 93 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflops, dudes). The TaihuLight is roughly five times more powerful than the fastest supercomputer in the United States.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos backs a little rocket company called Blue Origin, which had a successful test flight of a rocket and capsule landing out in Texas last weekend. Blue Origin is developing flights for space tourism that could begin blasting off in 2018.
The Federal Aviation Administration has finalized its rules for commercial drone operators. In other government news, Reuters and other organizations are reporting that Republicans in the United States Senate have set up a vote this week to expand the surveillance powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Those who do not know Internet history are doomed to…try and read it on outdated formats and dead links. It may seem like it’s been around forever, but the concept for what was then called the Intergalactic Network came into focus in the early 1960s and picked up steam in the early 1970s when Vint Cerf of Stanford co-created the TCP/IP protocol that let different computer networks talk to each other. These days, Mr. Cerf (shown here), now working for Google as Chief Internet Evangelist, is working to create a decentralized backup of the Web so that the Wayback Machine over at the Internet Archive is not the only repository for our accumulating collective digital history.
Cerf, who has previously warned of an Internet Dark Age where data is lost because systems become obsolete, was part of the Decentralized Web Summit conference earlier this month in San Francisco. Wired has the story on the backup and preservation efforts.
And finally, the summer box office is heating up and Pixar’s latest production, Finding Dory, just broke the box office record for the highest-grossing animated film debut. The sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo — made with the voice of Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, melded to Pixar’s cutting-edge, state-of-the-art animation technology — made more than $136 million dollars at the box office. Finding Dory passed the DreamWorks film, Shrek the Third, as top-earner. Pixar’s former top debut Toy Story 3 debuted with about $110 million back in 2010, but it looks like Dory will give a lot of people the urge to go fishing in the next few weeks.
No summer lull for us here at PTJ HQ! This week El Kaiser breaks down the tech term “social media engagement”, as only he can, and J.D. helps us satisfy our need for (Internet) speed. They also offer up a heaping helping of technology news, seasoned with a dash of snarkiness and whole lot of silliness.
Pop Tech Jam: still the best tech-themed podcast in the business!
Summer is a great time for yard sales and farm auctions, and The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Verizon will put up $3 billion dollars for Yahoo’s web assets in the second round of bidding this week. As Ars Technica noted, if Verizon wins the auction, the company would rule 1990s Cyberspace as the owner of both Yahoo and AOL. A grunge-rock revival could be next!
Virtual assistants continue to pop up in all kinds of hardware and now Microsoft’s Cortana is coming to the company’s Xbox One game console this summer, along with many other new features. And while there’ll be more gaming announcements next week when the E3 show rolls into town, Blizzard Entertainment is integrating Facebook logins and live video right into its new Overwatch multiplayer game and Battle.net online service.
Apple’s Word Wide Developers Conference kicks off next week. Expect a lot of software-based announcements and maybe a few hardware things. New iPhone hardware probably won’t show up to this party, but the Nikkei Asian Review site is reporting, based on conversations with suppliers and production facilities overseas, that Apple will probably start taking three years between major iPhone model changes. This slowdown is due to a slowing market and because the company is running out of whiz-bang features to unveil every year.
A wireless version of the popular Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones have some industry watchers assuming the next iPhone is going to be the one where Apple gets rid of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The headphones have a list price of $350 and are supposed to get about 20 hours of listening time between charges.
While 2016 is largely being forecast as a ho-hum year for smartphone innovation from several manufacturers, Bloomberg News is reporting that Samsung might be releasing phones with bendable screens next year. Will the Galaxy line become the Gumby line?
Podcasts make for fun listening no matter what kind of headphones you have, and now Stitcher Radio, one of the popular podcast apps, has just been snapped up by the old-school media company EW Scripps for $4.5 million dollars in cash. Stitcher, which streams more than 65,000 podcasts including this one, will operate under another Scripps acquisition, the podcast advertisement company Midroll Media.
This week, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Google to throw out that class-action lawsuit over where advertisements were placed through Google’s AdWords service. Last year’s ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco stands — and the class-action lawsuit can go forward.
In other legal news, tech companies and privacy groups are lining up against proposed legislation that would let federal officials request even more types of user information in the National Security Letters they send to ISPs, banks, doctors and other recipients during investigations. The House version of the bill passed in April and the Senate version is due for a vote this week.
Twitter has redesigned its Android app to fall in line with Google’s material design standard. The update is rolling out now. Snapchat also got a fresh new look this week that, among other things, mixes Discover content with Live Stories.
They pumped it up last week and this week, astronauts opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, otherwise known as the International Space Station’s add-on inflatable bouncy castle. An air sample was taken and sensor data downloaded as astronauts prepare to actually use the module.
And finally, although news of the breach just surfaced recently, LinkedIn got hacked in 2012 and millions of user names and passwords were swiped – including those of a one Mr. Mark Zuckerberg of a little company called Facebook whose password was reportedly dadada. A hacker group called Ourmine used the swiped credentials to compromise Mr. Zuckerberg’s accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn for a short time this weekend. It’s a reminder to the rest of us to change our passwords regularly or get a password manager program. Also, don’t recycle them across accounts and don’t use easily crackable codes like. . . dadada.
It’s not just the gamers and the streamers clamoring for more pipe. Some national governments have even recognized that high-speed broadband is becoming increasingly important to a nation’s economic and cultural growth — just check out the Federal Communications Commission’s annual checkup or even the Queen of England announcing that “measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband” in her speech at the State Opening of Parliament last month.
On a more personal level, with more of our home entertainment coming from streaming media — and more of it in increasingly high-definition — keeping an eye on our network speeds is vital to a good, unbuffered experience. Netflix, one of the major video-streaming sites out there, knows this.
Not wanting to take heat for slow-connection choppy streams that aren’t its fault, the company has been regularly posting its monthly ISP Speed Index rankings for the United States (and the other subscriber countries) based on its own calculations on its official blog. Last month, Netflix even went so far as to release its own Internet speed test tool.
Unlike other well-known broadband-speed testing sites like MegaPath’s Speakeasy, BandwidthPlace, SpeedOfMe or Ookla’s Speedtest.net, Netflix’s testing site only measures download speed. However, it also isn’t slathered in advertisements and doesn’t use Adobe Flash.
The site is just a simple page with a logo, white background and big numbers that tell you how fast data can download to your home over your broadband connection. It’s also got a memorable URL: https://fast.com. A small link on the main page gives you a chance to cross-reference your result with Ookla’s Speedtest site.
Now, some people claim that Internet speed tests are rigged because the ISP’s give them a fast lane when they sense a request from one of the testing servers, and that may be true in some cases — especially if you use a speed-test page provided by your own service provider. You may also get varying results depending on the time of day, the general state of Internet congestion and activity on your own network.
But keep testing, use different test sites and various times of day and let your ISP know when you’re not getting your advertised rate. Even if it’s a technical problem on your end like a weak connection or frayed cable, you want to make sure you get what you’re paying for because reliable broadband is an important part of modern life. Her Maj thinks so, too.
Spyware isn’t just for hackers and sleazy software makers these days. Oppressive governments are also using it to crack down on dissidents, according to a recent story in The New York Times. In other ominous privacy news, a report from Reuters and other sources report that Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace has decreed that “Foreign messaging companies active in the country are required to transfer all data and activity linked to Iranian citizens into the country in order to ensure their continued activity.” The council has given companies one year to make the move. The Telegram messenger app, which was created by the Durov brothers, has a huge user base in Iran and could be a target here.
The Internet and politics can be a volatile mix, but the European Commission announced this week that it had worked with Microsoft, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to come up with a code of conduct and policies designed to stop the spread of illegal hate speech online in Europe. Meanwhile, over here in the States, enthusiasm seems to have fizzled out for new legislation that would require technology companies like Apple to provide handy back doors into their products for law-enforcement officials.
Not long after it snapped up AOL, Verizon is still shopping and in contention to buy up the crumbling Yahoo empire. If you’re wondering why, the Fast Company site has a big story out about how it all adds up to Verizon’s quest to complete with Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix with content and services.
Despite dips in PC sales, people are still making laptops and ASUS is going after Apple’s MacBook Air for the thinnest ‘n’ lightest ultrabook prize. The ASUS ZenBook 3, which has a body made of aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, was announced this week at the Computex show in Taipei. Like the newer MacBooks, the ZenBook 3 only has a USB-C port for peripheral connectivity, but the Windows-based device sports a 12.5-inch screen and weighs in around two pounds — just a few ounces lighter than the 12-inch MacBook Air.
ASUS announced new smartphones and a few other products, but the one that most people were talking about was its Zenbo Robot. The Zenbo is billed as “your smart little companion” can roll around the house at will doing all kinds of things. The Zenbo has a list price of $599 and will be available this year. Here’s a video of it:
One firm that seems to be getting out of the moving household robot business, however, is Google. The company bought Boston Dynamics in 2013, but now Google has put it up for sale. Some relationships just don’t work out.
A team of German researchers is trying to design a system that teaches robots how to feel pain. The paper describing the system is called “An Artificial Robot Nervous System To Teach Robots How To Feel Pain And Reflexively React To Potentially Damaging Contacts.”
Also from the world of academic journals — Jack Ma, an engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and his team published a paper in the publication Advanced Functional Materials that describes tiny integrated circuits that adhere to a person’s skin like a temporary tattoo. The technology could have future use in biomedical devices or a really personalized integration with the Internet of Things.
And about that Internet of Things, the consulting firm Chetan Sharma reports that a third of new cellular service customers for Q1 2016 were cars.
Some people poking around an upcoming update to the Google Photos Android app say there are hints in there that certain users will get free unlimited online storage for photos and videos in their original resolutions. And who are those lucky users? People using Google’s own Nexus hardware, of course!
Scientists studying samples from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft have detected the amino acid glycine and other organic molecules in the cloud surrounding Comet 67P/ Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Researchers say this helps prove the theory that comets may have brought water and organic molecules from space to a very young, newly formed baby planet Earth.
Also showing signs of life — or at least the potential for it — is a little planet about 1,200 light years away called Kepler-62f. NASA announced the discovery of Kepler-62f back in 2013 and said the planet was in the habitable zone. Last month, researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles and the University of Washington released a study called “The Effect of Orbital Configuration on the Possible Climates and Habitability of Kepler-62f” that detailed the results of computer simulation models that tried to determine of the planet could sustain life.
After an unsuccessful first try, the team on the International Space Station were able to fully inflate the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module last week, giving astronauts a little more room to move up there. As you may recall, the BEAM bouncy space castle was delivered in April by one of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo capsules this past April.
SpaceX itself is having a pretty good couple of months. The company just made its third successful rocket booster landing at sea this year after launching the Thaicomm 8 communications satellite into orbit.
And finally, still in space, Pluto may have gotten busted down in status, but the United State Post Office is celebrating the dwarf planet and last year’s NASA New Horizons mission with a set of commemorative stamps. And not just any stamps — Forever Stamps. As in, “Pluto, you’ll forever be a full-size planet to us!”
The summer travel season has yet to hit high gear in the U.S. but delays at security lines at airports are already extensive and don’t look to get better anytime soon. This week J.D. offers up a rundown on apps and websites that can help alleviate the stress of airport travel in the 21st Century. Also on the show, El Kaiser joins J.D. for a detailed roundup of the weeks technology news.
Remember, at Pop Tech Jam we’re always optimized for fun!