PTJ 226: The Sound of Hacking

The Pi Day Northeast Blizzard of 2017 may have blown through, but El Kaiser is still powering through a nasty winter cold to get to this week’s tech and science news with J.D. — which features quite a bit of hacker activity, as well as an update on our old friend Boaty McBoatface. Episode 226 here also takes a look at public beta programs you can join to see the latest software first. Interested? Just push play to find out more!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

Test Drive the Beta Bus

Do you like doing things first? Do you like discovering cool new operating system features? Do you not mind if your computer has the occasional Blue Screen of Death or Kernel Panic? If so, consider the exciting world of being a public beta tester!

While some Linux distributions are constantly open-source works in progress, Microsoft and Apple were traditionally closed systems that usually only let registered developers install the testing versions of their upcoming operating systems. But that changed a few years ago, perhaps when companies realized they could make better final software with more people banging around on the prerelease versions — and filing complaints about stuff that didn’t work.

So, what do you need to join in? For both Microsoft and Apple, you need to sign up with the respective testing program, agree to install the software and provide feedback on what you see. You also need compatible hardware on which to install the beta software. Important Point: This should be a computer or device that is NOT your primary, mission-critical machine.

Apple’s free volunteer public testing club is called the Apple Beta Software Program. You need to register an Apple ID to get in, but you can play around with prerelease versions of both macOS and iOS.

Microsoft calls its beta club the Windows Insider program. If your PC meets the system requirements and you join to become a member of the Windows Insider team, Microsoft allows you to download each new build of the next Windows version to learn, test and share your feedback. You can sign up using the Windows Insider option within the current Windows 10 Settings app — in Settings, go to Updates and Security, then Windows Update and select Advanced Options. You can also sign up for the program on the Windows Insider page on Microsoft’s website.

As with any unfinished hardware or software, proceed at your own risk. Being a beta tester isn’t for everyone and a some folks may start to feel like the kids that Tom Sawyer convinced to whitewash the fence for him. But for alpha dogs who like to be first, going beta can be very exciting.

PTJ 225: Shazam!!

The hills are alive with the sound of buzzing drones, leaking data and the thwack of fake news getting smacked down. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all, as well as Shazam’s jump into augmented reality, smaller Windows 10 updates and Consumer Reports stepping it up to evaluate the security of new smart-home devices. Just press Play to get a fresh helping of the week’s news, a Tech Term and a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint — all in one episode!

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Notification Nation

We’ve all gotten used to alerts popping up on our phones, telling us of Twitter replies, weather warnings, fresh mail, breaking news flashes and other important information to know while we’re on the go. If you miss having a consolidated set of notifications on your computer when you’re actually sitting at your desk, check out Apple’s Notifications Center panel for the Mac operating system and Microsoft’s Cortana assistant on Windows 10.

On either platform, you can customize and configure what you want to see when you pop open the info panel. On the Mac, click the icon in the top-right corner of the menu bar to pen the Notifications Center. Within the Notifications pane, you have two tabs: Today and Notifications. The Today tab shows you the date, time from world clocks you’ve added, news stories from favorite websites, Twitter trending topics, a stock ticker and other widgets you can add. Click the Notifications tab to see a collection of alerts you’ve received, Twitter mentions, your current iTunes track and more.

On a Windows 10 system, you can add information about the topics you want to see in Cortana in the Cortana Notebook. You can see your weather reports, track flights, check your calendar, get traffic updates, browse the latest news headlines and info on your favorite sports teams when you pop open Cortana.

Desktop notifications have another advantage: You’ve got more screen real estate and can multitask with other open programs and windows. Trying doing that on a 5.5-inch phone screen…

PTJ 224: Uncloudy Skies

Mobile World Congress brought in the new and the old this week, Twitter and Facebook are stepping it up to help users in need and Amazon Web Services had a sad day this week. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — and YouTube’s big week of views and cord-cutting measures — on this week’s weatherproof episode of Pop Tech Jam.

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Twitter Lists

Is your Twitter feed is feeling like a firehose these days? Are you afraid you’ll miss posts on topics you care about as the hyperactive scroll flies by? If so, get organized! You can create lists — topical collections of accounts you follow — right in the Twitter apps for Android and iOS.

Twitter’s site has instructions for setting up lists in the Android and iOS apps — and even on the Twitter web site, if you still use it that way. (Some people apparently do.)  With a list, you can group the people you follow based on what they usually tweet about — and find them all in one convenient place.

Once you have created a list, you can switch to it from your main Twitter feed on the Android and iOS apps by selecting your profile or menu icon in the upper-left corner of the app and choosing Lists from the menu. On the list of Lists, pick the one you wish to browse. It’s a helpful way to focus on all the posts about that particular topic (like Politics, Comics, Arby’s or whatnot) before heading back into the flood of your main feed.