All posts by J.D. Biersdorfer

PTJ 232: Love and Rocket

Love is all around as the unofficial 2017 Geek Summer Movie Season gets ready to roll next week with the arrival of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in theaters ‚ with Wonder Woman, King Arthur, and another Spider-Man right behind.  After a stomp through the week’s tech headlines (including the hunt to shoot down fake news and drones you can fly with your head) El Kaiser and J.D. discuss some of the most anticipated films on the way over the next few months.
Ooga-chaka-ooga-ooga!

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PTJ 231: Veni, Vidi, Vendi

Are we ready for the vending machines to silently judge us based on our snack habits? Some New Yorkers will find out soon as new models equipped with artificial intelligence are making their way to town. Meanwhile the disruptors are getting some disruption themselves, Facebook’s F8 conference brings new announcements, there’s a new Star Wars trailer out and El Kaiser and J.D. wonder if it’s time for iTunes to retire. Grab a bag of chips or your favorite meat-stick product and settle in for a listen here on Episode 231!

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PTJ 230: Siren Songs

Things got loud last week down in Dallas, but it wasn’t just at a Mavericks game as hackers managed to set off every public-safety alarm in the city and freak out a lot of people. Meanwhile, a Russian spam king got collared, a new version of Windows 10 rolled out and Google confronted accusations about a gender pay gap at the company. This week’s episode also features the welcome return of journalist Laura M. Holson to the Pop Tech Jam recording table as she offers insight on her recent story about John Dean, the White House counsel back in Richard Nixon’s Watergate days — and a discussion on how some things never change.

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PTJ 229: Private Investigations

Protections for consumer privacy and data collection took a hit this past week, as regulations were rolled back into nonexistence — sending some concerned Netizens to software they hope will help shield their online activity.  The big question: Does it work?

Meanwhile, Yahoo and AOL take an Oath, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 reveals some enviable features, Amazon finds yet another way to get your cash and Google tries to make sure perfectly nice advertisements don’t end up on hateful YouTube videos.  Join El Kaiser and J.D. as they discuss it all in Episode 229!

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PTJ 228: A.I., Ay Yi Yi

It’s not been a great week for the algorithms:  Elon Musk downloaded a few concerned thoughts on the state of artificial intelligence to Vanity Fair, the F.B.I.’s facial recognition database has some glitches and Amazon’s shopper-tracking software gets confused when you put something back on the wrong shelf. But on the bright side, Hidden Figures,  story about real human intelligence, arrived as a digital home-video download, so the week wasn’t all bad. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — and a bunch of other tech news in between — on this week’s handcrafted episode of Pop Tech Jam.

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

Car entertainment systems have been around since at least 1930, when a brand new company called Motorola designed one of the first successful AM radio systems for an automobile. 87 years later, even base-model cars are on the dealer’s lot with streaming stations right in the console, USB ports for connecting music players and Bluetooth chips for wirelessly linking smartphones.

Tech companies are also getting their software directly into the dashboard to integrate smartphones and cloud services. Platforms include Google’s Android Auto, Apple’s CarPlay and Microsoft Connected Vehicle.  And Amazon’s Alexa assistant will be showing up soon in some Ford and Volkswagen models.

As they did with 8-track and cassette tape decks, though, carmakers are slowly phasing out compact disc players as installed features in favor of digital audio files and streaming connections. But if you have CDs you want to play — say, educational lectures you don’t feel like ripping to MP3 — and your car dealer has no aftermarket solutions to suggest, it is possible to hack together a system for $50 or less.

Most dashboard entertainment systems still have an auxiliary audio port available; check your car’s manual for the location on the dashboard if you don’t see the port. In most cases, you can use this port and a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary audio cable to connect the headphone jack on an inexpensive battery-powered portable CD player. Set the audio input on the dashboard to AUX and push the play button on the CD player.

Check your car’s manual (yes, it has one) to find out about the types of audio devices you can connect to your dashboard entertainment system. If you do not have an old portable CD player on hand, you can still find options at stores like Amazon, Best Buy and Target. Prices generally start around $20, but get a shock-resistant player because American infrastructure has seen better days.

An auxiliary audio cable costs $5 and up. If you don’t want to keep feeding the player batteries, an electrical adapter for the car’s 12-volt power port takes care of the juice.

Most new cars support Bluetooth wireless connections, so if you hate cables, swap in a Bluetooth adapter with its own 3.5-millimeter plug that connects to the CD player. Once you pair the adapter to the car’s Bluetooth system, you can stream the audio from the CD player to the sound system. Taotronics and Mpow are among the companies that make Bluetooth adapters for less than $35 and there are plenty more online.

No matter what you’re using to boom your tunes in the cabin, though, drive safely.

PTJ 227: Special Delivery

It seems like everybody’s got something on the way this week: Samsung’s new phone waits in the wings, Amazon’s Alexa is calling in for a six pack, robots are rolling out with restaurant orders and Apple even quietly slipped a few new products into the retail channel. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — including that very special package sent down from the International Space Station.

Links to This Week’s News Stories

 

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!