What happens when you find a vital piece of history falling apart due to time and neglect? If you’re Dr. Sue Black, OBE, you start a blogging and Twitter campaign to save it. That’s exactly what she did to keep Bletchley Park, Britain’s World War II codebreaking headquarters, from disappearing. Dr. Black chats with J.D. about her new book, Saving Bletchley Park: How #SocialMedia Saved the Home of the WWII Codebreakers. And, as El Kaiser and J.D. find out while rolling through the recent tech headlines, it’s all about getting what you want — whether you’re a lucky Nexus owner looking for the new version of Android, Barbra Streisand telling Siri to properly pronounce her surname or NASA finally getting back in touch with a lost spacecraft. Sometimes, you just have to go for it.
Who says you shouldn’t release new products in August? Google’s all out with the shiny, releasing the final version of its Android 7.0 operating system to compatible Nexus devices. [Sorry about that, Nexus 7 owners.] For a deep review of the new system, check out what Ars Technica has to say. (Hint: Ars Technica has a lot to say.)
Yes, the month of August seems to make everyone want to shop, and not just for Trapper Keepers and sturdy jeans for school. Pinterest just bought the streamlined reader app Instapaper. Microsoft has acquired the firm Genee, which specializes in intelligent scheduling coordination and optimization, or rather, letting bots run your calendar and send you reminders. (In a blog post, Microsoft said it plans to use the Genee technology in its Office 365 suite.) Microsoft is also getting closer to Lenovo, as the China-based hardware company announced plans to preload Microsoft Office mobile apps on certain Android-based devices it sells.
And Apple’s been shopping too, acquiring Gliimpse, a startup specializing in personal health-data management. Apple also made news recently with the decision to replace the revolver emoji in the coming iOS 10 system with a squirt gun to artistically make a comment about gun violence. The iOS 10 system itself is expected out by the next month and if a certain diva is to be believed, it might just be on Friday, September 30th. Actress and recording artist Barbra Streisand told NPR that she personally complained to Apple CEO Tim Cook about the way the Siri virtual assistant pronounces her name and he agreed to fix it.
No official word on when the annual fall Apple Special Event will be slurping up all the media bandwidth next month. Some observers like WhenIsKeynote.com are going with September 6th, the day after Labor Day, while others predict it’ll be sometime around September 13th. Major iPhone changes are not expected this year and some blogs are already skipping ahead to 2017 with the breathless anticipation of an overhauled handset design, including a curved display not unlike the Samsung Edge.
Amazon is looking to grab some more customers by going cheap. The ReCode site hears the übermegaeverything store is looking to launch a cheap streaming music service that only works on its Amazon Echo speaker assistant and may cost about $5 a month.
The state of Massachusetts is taking a stand of its own in favor of a taxi-cab industry that’s been taking it on the chin from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. As the Reuters news agency reports, the Bay State plans to levy a 20-cent tax per trip on a ride-hailing service and a nickel of that will go right to the taxi industry until the year 2021.
Also taking a stand: Dozens of human rights and civil liberties organizations who have signed a letter protesting the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed plan to screen the social media accounts for foreign visitors to the country. The comment period for the proposal ended on this Monday.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony is getting into downsizing mode with a thinner design for its PlayStation 4 console called the PS Slim. Sony is said to be planning a media event on September 7th to share the news.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Linux operating system kernel. On August 25, 1991, one Linus Benedict Torvalds posted a message in a Usenet group announcing a little project and suffice it to say, some people paid attention. Here’s to the next 25, Penguin Nation.
The enthusiasm for the Pokémon Go mobile game seems to be fading a bit. Does Pikachu get a third act?
Twitter has finally added that eye-soothing dark night mode to the iOS version of its app. Android users have been enjoying the feature since last month.
The once hot Gawker website shut down for good this week. Gawker’s founder Nick Denton put up one final post.
And finally, after two years in the wilds of space, one of the two Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft, known as STEREO-B, has reestablished contact with NASA after going silent in October 2014. The agency’s website explains how the bond was broken, in case you were wondering. NASA engineers had been trying to get back in touch with the craft for the past 22 months and were finally able to establish a lock on STEREO-B’s downlink carrier on August 21st — thanks to the Deep Space Network array of giant radio antennas. Don’t you go running off again, STEREO-B, you hear?
While Bletchley Park— the home of the World War II British codebreakers — is a thriving museum these days, the site was once perilously close to collapsing into the forgotten past. Thanks to her persistent blogging efforts and a robust Twitter campaign to raise awareness, the educator and author Dr. Sue Black, (OBE) brought attention to Bletchley Park’s plight and helped get the funding needed to preserve this important part of computer history.
While visiting New York City this week, Dr. Black was kind enough to drop by the Pop Tech Jam microphone and chat about her recent book with Stevyn Colgan, Saving Bletchley Park: How #SocialMedia Saved the Home of the WWII Codebreakers. (You can listen to the episode here.) The book’s chapters weave together 1940s wartime history showing just how important Bletchley’s work was in stopping the Nazis, with Dr. Black’s memories of discovering the crumbling facility in 2003 and the race to save the place before it was too late.
Bletchley Park was also an important milestone for women in technology. Thousands of women were employed there in all kinds of jobs during the war — and some even cracked codes right alongside the men. For those wanting a little more background on the topic (and a working copy of the Adobe Flash plug-in), check out The Women of Station X video created by the British Computer Society‘s women’s networking group, BCSWomen.
Dr. Black, (who is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Computer Science at University College London and a Senior Research Associate at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge) also shared her experiences with #techmums, a group she founded to help women help themselves through technology.
So, if you like codebreaking, military history, World War II, computer history or want to know more than what was on screen in The Imitation Game or The Bletchley Circle, check out Saving Bletchley Park. And compared to recent times, it’s also a Twitter story with a happy ending. We love those!
Google released its previously announced Duo video-calling software this week. Like Microsoft’s Skype app and Facebook Messenger, Duo allows cross-platform video calls between Android and iOS phones. Some have called it No-Frills FaceTime — but with an Android version. However, as of now, Duo users cannot use the spiffy new app to connect to other Google communications software like Hangouts. And speaking of Hangouts, Google is dumping the live-streaming version of it, Google+ Hangouts On Air, on September 12. If you want to live-stream your video on a Google product, so on over to YouTube Live.
In other Google news, the company’s Politics blog has been updated with all kinds of links and information for those who want to participate in this November’s US Presidential election. As the post states, “Whether you’re a first-time voter, a resident in a new state, or your state laws have changed since the last time you voted, you can now come to Google for information on how to vote in the upcoming election.”
Spotify is changing the notion of what a children’s audio category might be with the relaunch of its Kids category. Instead of the usual children’s music jukebox, the service includes playlists that highlight language-development activities and vocabulary-building.
Twitter, like Facebook, is wading deeper into the live streams with its National Football League deal that will have the service showing its first game on September 15th, but as Mike Isaac writes in The New York Times, the bird-themed microblogging service is talking to Apple about making a Twitter app for the Apple TV set-top box. Twitter also announced this week that it was introducing custom stickers that companies can create on their own to promote their brands. Uh, Pepsimoji, anyone?
If you’ve been waiting for that Oculus Rift edition of Minecraft to arrive, your wait is coming to an end. Microsoft announced this week that it had released a free update to its Minecraft Windows 10 Edition Beta that flips on the VR switch for Oculus users. The Redmond giant is teaming up with Intel to create a virtual reality headset that will work with compatible Windows 10 PCs running the Windows Holographic software scheduled for release next year. Get ready to hear the phrase “mixed reality” a lot.
Hackers gonna hack and sometimes, they’re gonna hack each other, as the security firm Sophos has noted. A blog post on the company site details how some cybercriminals are selling malware to other online crooks — and the merch is actually malware itself.
And TechCrunch has a big story this week about how a hacking group called The Shadow Brokers have raided a staging server and stolen malware possibly connected to the National Security Agency. Because of course he has, fugitive former NSA employee Edward Snowden has chimed in on Twitter.
You’re welcome, @NSAGov. Lots of love.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) August 16, 2016
LinkedIn has had just about enough of people who use bots to scrape user profiles from their site. The Microsoft-owned site has now filed lawsuits against 100 individual bot wranglers for illegal data harvesting, citing the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
And finally, let us pause to consider a Pizza ATM. Yes, a machine that dispenses a fresh, fully cooked pizza whenever you want one. Xavier University in Cincinnati has indeed installed what it claims is America’s first hot pizza vending machine in the lobby of one of its dorms. America, heck yeah!
Podcasting as we know it has been around for about a dozen years and is now enjoying something of a boom thanks to popular shows that have caught the listening public’s ear and reignited interest in the medium. So, what’s happening in the pod world these days? Audio producer and educator extraordinaire Jocelyn Gonzales joins El Kaiser and J.D. this week to discuss the state of the art and some of the many popular podcasts she currently produces, including Strings and Things, The MashUp Americans and Inside The New York Times Book Review. Listen for the segment right after El Kaiser and J.D. discuss two of Netflix’s recent streamers and the notable tech news of the week. (Two words: Pizza ATM!)
Walmart, the original übermegaeverything store before Amazon.com waltzed into town, announced this week that it was going to buy Amazon competitor Jet.com for $3 billion in cash and about $300 million in stock. As both Walmart and analysts have stated, the acquisition of the e-commerce start-up will give Walmart a big boost in its online sales presence and help it keep up with Amazon. Or try to, anyway.
As for Amazon, the company seems to be going ahead with authorized major delivery drone tests in the United Kingdom, even though it’s not officially saying so. Local residents near the college town of Cambridge say they’ve seen unmanned aircraft buzzing around above a 2,000-year-old Roman road in the area, which has distressed historical preservationists and those who like quiet walks in the English countryside. But while Amazon is neither confirming nor denying it’s joyriding drones around Cambridge, the company’s job board says otherwise: A position for Community Affairs, Prime Air, based in Cambridge has been posted. Apply now!
Facebook makes a lot of its money in serving up ads to its users and the company announced this week that it was going to block ad blockers on the desktop version of its site. While some question the ethics of using ad-blocking software — because after all, that site you’re using for free needs to make money some way — Facebook’s blog post announcing the move acknowledged that “Bad ads are disruptive and a waste of our time.” The post also touted new controls users have to control the type of ads they see on The Social Network.
Speaking of banning things, Iran has outlawed the Pokémon Go game, claiming “security concerns” for children. The ruling comes from Iran’s High Council of Virtual Spaces, not to be confused with the country’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace. Iran is not the first country to take action against the high popular mobile game. A cleric in Saudi Arabia has issued a religious edict against Pokémon Go (that’s actually an update of the country’s original 15-year-old ban on the Pokémon card game), on the grounds that the franchise violates Islamic prohibitions on gambling and also displays forbidden images.
Security researchers from Kaspersky Lab and Symantec say they’ve found malware that’s been hiding for five years on computers and quietly spying on its host. The malware is called Project Sauron and researchers say they’ve found it burrowed into government, military and other high-level computers in Iran, Russia and Rwanda. The malware, which researchers think is sophisticated enough to be a professional state-sponsored job, can log all keystrokes, steal files and create backdoors into the computers it’s infested.
Delta Airlines got itself into a major mess this week when a power outage in its Atlanta offices knocked its worldwide computer system offline for six hours and disrupted service around the world. Passengers complained Delta was initially slow to inform them that they weren’t going anywhere The president of the company later released a video apology to customers and affected travelers were given fee waivers and $200 vouchers. While hacking came to the mind of many as the possible cause, Delta spokespeople said there was no indication of foul play and that they had a backup system in place, but key network computers did not fail over to the backup. They just failed.
Twitter says it eventually plans to open up its Moments features to all users on the service, even though was originally only available to few select publishing partners. So now everyone can have their Moments. (Admit it, you saw that one coming.)
NBC Universal is getting all hep with the Snapchat and plans to start producing original shows for the service. The Wall Street Journal reported NBCU’s E’! entertainment network is gearing up to debut an exclusive show only on Snapchat called The Rundown and existing NBC stalwarts The Tonight Show and Saturday Night Live will create original content for the service as well. And yes, there will be advertising, but maybe some bonus Kate McKinnon.
Hulu is ditching the free ad-supported variation of its streaming video service in favor of al all-subscription menu. Curiously enough, the demise of the free version of Hulu comes a week after Time Warner announced it’d bought a 10% stake in the company. Hmm.
The Roland music equipment company is acquiring V-Moda, a manufacturer of headphones. A Bluetooth speaker is said to be the first product to come out of the union. Headphones with a built-in drum machine next?
Apple is said to be gearing up for its annual fall Media Hogging event next month, which means the rumor mill has been spinning at Warp 2 all week. Among the whispers, an Apple Watch 2 with better water resistance, new GPS functions and improved performance. And Bloomberg is murmuring about the iPhone 7, saying the next model will have a dual camera system for sharper photos, a Home button with haptic feedback and yes, the dreaded NO traditional 3.5mm headphone jack.
And finally, 25 years ago this month, the world’s first website went online to the public. The site, created by World Wide Web pioneer Time Berners-Lee, arrived on August 6, 1991. It was a short summary of the World Wide Web project with hypertext words that linked to other pages, and it invited other interested parties to collaborate with him. Guess it worked out.
Four years after it rose from the ashes of that other podcast, Pop Tech Jam has reached its 200th episode and we’re ready to party with our friends! Journalist Laura M. Holson and actor/poet/writer Francis Mateo join El Kaiser and J.D. after the news segment this week to discuss the ever-churning evolution of popular culture and consumer technology in the four years since Episode 1 hit the Interwebs. And yes, there might even be a mention of Star Wars…
And, as always, a big thanks to the BROS for hosting the party since 2012!