As it announced in a recent blog post, Google is changing up its search algorithms in what some are calling an attempt to impose a “pirate penalty” on those who illegally post copyrighted content online. The new Google math is designed to push sites with valid copyright removal notices farther down in the results rankings so that legitimate content sources will rise to the top. Skeptics to the new policy are concerned that Google’s own YouTube and other popular sites like Facebook will likely escape the dragnet anyway. (And on the topic of original content, Google is buying some: the company just bought travel-guide publisher Frommer’s from John Wiley & Sons.)
Moving to Android news, HTC stated on its Facebook page that the update, also known as Android 4.0, will be rolled out by the end of August for several popular handset models including the Thunderbolt and the Desire S. Okay, who’s up for Jelly Bean?
You don’t need an invitation to join Pinterest anymore, but the FBI says you should decline the invitation to give ransomware hackers a bunch of money to unlock your virus-snarled computer. The agency has been receiving complaints about malware known as Reveton, and it and can be installed with just a drive-by click on a poisoned Web site. Check out the FBI’s Reveton warning page and tips for dealing with the scumware if it latches onto your machine. The Internet Crime Complaint Center lists other current scams as well.
Even serious stuff, let’s talk entertainment. For starters, if you want a color e-reader with a little mini-tablet mojo, Barnes & Noble just whacked the price tag on several of its Nook devices. If this weekend’s opening films on the Forever Geek movie calendar don’t pique your interest, there’s always the Saturday release of The Hunger Games on home video. Target is totally jumping in to the whole Merchandising Games, with all sorts of pricy collectibles including a $349 Katniss Everdeen replica leather jacket a solid 14-karat gold Mockingjay pin for $999. Well, at least the official District 12 socks are only $9…
Windows 8, Microsoft’s overhaul of its flagship PC operating system, isn’t due out in final form until October 26th. If you’re curious about it and just can’t wait to kick the tires, the company has a free Windows 8 Release Preview edition you can download and try out for yourself.
So, what are the system requirements to run this Win8 beta? According to Microsoft, the requirements are mostly the same for any PC running Windows 7, although there are some stricter screen-resolution requirements if you want to get 100 percent out of the experience.
As for the PC hardware you need to play along at home, here’s what the FAQ on the Windows 8 Release Preview site says:
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
Additional requirements to use certain features:
- To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch.
- To access the Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768.
- To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768.
- Internet access (ISP fees might apply)
Before you get rolling, be sure to read the Frequently Asked Questions page before you start, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Microsoft also has a Windows 8 Release Preview information page and a very colorful 25-page PDF guide to the software that automatically downloads if you click here.
Just remember, once you install the Windows 8 Preview, you can’t magically undo it and go back to your previous operating system without doing a full reinstall with all the hassle THAT involves. So if you’re going to try out the unfinished Windows 8 — which is still a technically a beta — it’s best to do it on a PC that’s not essential to your daily functioning computer life. There’s no guarantee all of your programs will function properly. There’s no real tech support outside of online forums. Consider yourself warned there — and have a great time if you just can’t wait until fall.
If you do want to wait for the finished version of Windows 8 this fall, it won’t sap nearly as much coin as previous versions of Windows used to demand. An upgrade download for Windows 8 Pro will be available for about $40 and if you’ve purchased a new Windows 7 PC since June 2, 2012, and your chosen model qualifies with Microsoft, you can get a Windows 8 upgrade for $15. (Seriously, that last one’s cheaper than the cost of a 3D IMAX movie ticket in New York City…)
If Web browsers could compete in their own Olympics this summer, Google Chrome would take the gold. For July 2012, the traffic-measurement company StatCounter, puts Chrome’s global market share at 33.8 percent. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer takes the silver with a 32 percent share and Firefox lands the bronze with 23.7 percent. Not making it to the podium: Apple’s Safari with a 7.1 percent worldwide market share and Opera, with about a 1.72 percent share of the global browser market.
Luckily for Apple, Safari is not its only piece of software and the company has been keeping busy prepping its coming iOS 6 system for iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. Google’s map cartography has already been tossed overboard for the new system, and now YouTube is getting dropped from the default apps on the Home screen. One hopes that Apple is also investigating a battery issue with its new OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion system, as a number of online complaints have popped up from folks reporting that their laptop battery charges haven’t been lasting as long since they Cougarized their Macs.
Microsoft has been keeping itself occupied as well, revamping its Windows Phone developer portal into Windows Phone Dev Center and overhauling Hotmail into its new Outlook.com Web mail site. (At least one review rather likes the new Outlook.com interface, but remember, we can’t call it “Metro” anymore.)
On the mobile front, AT&T is launching its Mobile Share wireless plans for people with a lot of devices and who don’t want to ride herd on multiple data plans; AT&T explains the new stuff here. (The company says you can also keep your current plan and won’t shove you onto one of the new ones.)
Like satellite radio but never have time to listen to it when you want to? SiriusXM Radio has just announced its new service, SiriusXM Radio On Demand, which lets subscribers using its iOS app (or online media player) pick out and listen to their favorite episodes from 200 different shows to listen to whenever they want. And Android version is in the works.
In legal news, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio has introduced a federal law that, if passed, would put warning labels on cell phones and create a national research program to study cell phone radiation levels. The bill, formally known as H.R. 6358, is casually referred to as “The Cell Phone Right to Know Act.”
Finally, it you missed the writer Mat Honan’s sad tale of cloud power gone wrong, give it a read. It involves security flaws at Apple and Amazon, hijacked accounts, lost data and a lesson for all of us who keep part of our lives online. As a result of Mr. Honan’s misfortune, Apple and Amazon have made some changes to their policies and, there’s been a renewed interest in Google’s two-step account authentication process and helpful articles offering tips for better personal security.
If NASA’s latest mission to Mars has you all hepped up on the space program again, you don’t have to go farther than your smartphone or tablet to touch the sky. The agency itself has several software goodies, including the official NASA app for iOS and Android so you can keep tabs on the Mars Curiosity rover and other projects in the works. (Speaking of Curiosity, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory released a nifty new iOS app last month called Spacecraft 3D that lets you virtually check out the rover up close.) Remember, if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet, you can also find most of this stuff on the official NASA Web site.
For real space heads, it’s not just about NASA, though. Just search for astronomy in your local app store, and odds are you’ll get plenty of hits (even the BlackBerry PlayBook has the $2 Stellarium app in the BlackBerry App World). For example, there’s the $3 Star Chart and the free, open-source Sky Map for Android, which had a lot of input from Google and Carnegie Mellon University. Deneb Software has a similarly named app called SkyMap for Windows Phone for less than two bucks.
On the iOS side, there are plenty of astronomical options, including a pair of slick apps from Vito Technology called Star Walk (for stargazing, $3 to $5) and Solar Walk (for a 3D solar system experience and on sale right now for a buck). Many advanced astronomers favor the $7 Luminos app for iOS for views of 3D textured planet and moons in detail. Space Junk Pro is a similar app — for $5 you can track satellites, planets, stars and other stuff floating high above your head and it’s available for both iOS and Android.
Need more astronomy apps? Check out these roundups and collections for Android, BlackBerry, iOS and Windows Phone.
And while it’s not quite mapping the sky, the free Planetary app for iPad maps your music collection to a series of animated intergalactic visualizations. While the deep-space picture show may seem a little weird when listening to, say, banjo music (unless you have the right song), it really rocks the screen if you tap up a bit of Gustav Holst.
The 2012 Olympics are underway in London and although social media and streaming apps are bigger than they’ve ever been during the Games, not everything is going swimmingly. The US television network NBC has been getting some criticism as viewers complained about the Opening Ceremony commentary and for editing out a sensitive section of the show that dealt with terrorism
The tweetstorm also raged against Twitter when company suspended the account of journalist Guy Adams after he posted an NBC exec’s corporate e-mail address as part of a rant about the TV coverage. (The Adams account was soon reinstated, but the whole episode should have won Twitter a gold medal in the Synchronized Kneejerk event. But at least the company has apologized.)
Facebook, another pillar of online activity, has its own issue this week with allegations of click-fraud. Limited Run, a small startup company, said it could not verify 80 percent of the clicks on its advertisements and wonders “Who let the bots out?” Limited Run (which has deleted its Facebook page) was also involved in another spat with Facebook over changing the name of its company page. Facebook has said it’s looking into these matters.
Hulu Plus has landed on the Apple TV, but what the tech blogs are more concerned with is that Apple may be making new product announcements on September 12. While we wait to find out, we can always try out Google’s revamp of video chat for Gmail.
Not everyone is down with Valve Software’s efforts to bring Steam games to the Linux paltform. Richard Stallman, the founder of The GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation, has some concerns. Whatever your feelings on the matter, we hear Left 4 Dead 2 (4 Linux) is coming along nicely. Also on a gaming note, Ubisoft has patched a major security vulnerability in its Uplay browser plug-in. Players, please update your software.
We’re into August (and our 10th episode!) and there’s still time to enjoy the idle pleasures of just parking it for summer with visits to state parks, car trips to National Parks and all-day passes to theme parks. Just wait until they fix the Superman Ultimate Flight roller coaster at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in California before you hop aboard, okay?
If you’re like The Kaiser, though, you may be spending your lazy days of summer upgrading your computers. (Ubuntu Linux frequently releases updates and that little company in Cupertino just popped out a new cat called OS X 10.8, you know.) As he reports this week, make sure your Mac has the hardware chops to wrestle the Cougar and prepare it properly before you jump into the App Store and slap down an electronic Jackson. The loss of the RSS Feeds feature in Safari and Mail is a bummer, but as with most things, there’s a hack to recover your lost Mail feeds for use elsewhere and a handful of other options for RSS fans who might be a tad peeved about the situation. Now that the brave and fearless early adopters have taken the Mountain Lion plunge, it won’t be long for the rest of us to catch up. Probably best to get it done before September 12th, just in case there are new things to occupy one’s attention.
Many people communicate in more than one language and today’s technology keeps up with this global worldview. While your phone or tablet’s operating system may have a default language for the menus and interface, you can go multilingual when it comes to dashing off texts, e-mail messages and other bits of writing.
Apple makes this quite easy to do on its iOS devices and offers a wide range of languages to choose from, including Arabic, most European and Asian languages and Cherokee. You can even choose regional variations like French Canadian or Brazilian Portuguese. Emoji, those popular little pictographs favored by teenage girls, are also an option.
If you are linguistically gifted, you can set up multiple keyboards for all the languages you need and just toggle between them by tapping the globe key that now appears on your iOS keyboard. Apple has instructions for setting up international keyboards on iOS devices right here.
Most Android devices also let you add international keyboards to your typing arsenal, but the steps for doing so vary by phone model, carrier, Android version, moon phase, sun sign and other assorted fragmentary factors. (Just kidding about a couple of those, but you knew that already.) Here’s one walkthrough for adding a keyboard, but check with your phone or tablet’s manual for precise instructions of you need them. If you want more flexibility, consider an alternative keyboard app. Yes, Google Play has Emoji options for Android as well.
Hardcore trolls will still hide behind their handles YouTube (owned by Google, you know) is encouraging members to link their user names on the video site to their real names on the Google+ service. The whole universal Google-wide identity thing is not going over well with everyone — most notably with the actor Wil Wheaton, who went on a rant last spring after being asked to sign up for Google+ in order to give the thumbs up to a video he liked on YouTube. (Quick tip: Got Firefox and want to filter out the more offensive spew in the comments area? Try the YouTube Comment Snob add-on for cleaner living.)
Need some beach reading? The Justice Department has released its lengthy response to public comments on the proposed final judgment on its e-book price-fixing lawsuit. Apple, which is heavily involved in the e-book case, is also battling Samsung Electronics over patent issues and would like $2.5 billion for its troubles. That rock’em, sock ‘em court battle is scheduled to begin next week. With all this litigious action, it’s a wonder Apple has time to make all the products people are whispering about online. (Yes, the amount of sheer speculation on Apple’s plans can cause problems, but even Apple CEO Tim Cook knows you can’t stop the chatter.)
Amazon is reportedly cranking out a fresh pile of tablet hardware as well (and so, for some reason, is RIM with a new BlackBerry Playbook). For the camera hardware fans, Canon finally hit that sweet spot between pocket point-and-shoot and bug burly digital SLR with its Canon EOS M mirrorless model. (Some folks have even tested it out already, even though it’s not due in stores until October.)
Hey, if you jumped in early with the Windows 8 Preview, the 7digital music service is right there with you and has a preview version of its Windows 8-ready app available to try out. The store has several AC/DC covers, so you can rock out just like the Iranian nuclear scientists, who have been supposedly hit by a new cyberattack that makes their computers blast “Thunderstuck” in the wee hours. (While accounts of this latest worm seem dubious and unverified, admit it: It does get you duck-walking, doesn’t it?)
And finally, we note the passing of Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. Thanks, Dr. Ride, for smashing through the glass ceiling and take the dreams of young geek girls right into orbit with you.
Need an app that lets you keep up with the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London? If you’re cruising the mobile Web on an Android or iOS device, quite a few await you. The London 2012 Organising Committee, for example, has three apps of its own, including Join In and Official London 2012 Results. The Results app is also available for BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 users. If you need to pass the time between events, there’s also a game app where you can actually play a few sports on the screen while you’re waiting to find out who won men’s single canoe slalom.
NBC, which has the U.S. broadcasting rights for the Games has a mobile Web site for phones with browsers, plus two apps for Android and iOS users. The NBC Olympics app offers live event updates, medal counts, video clips, photos and more. If you have a user name and password from your cable or satellite provider, you can use the NBC Olympics Live Extra app for real-time streams and full video replays of all 302 events in the Summer Games. (For those in the U.K., the BBC has its own app action.)
Want to know more about the athletes on the American squad? The United States Olympic Committee has a free app called Team USA. The USOC app takes a personal look at members of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams, with bios, photo galleries and video clips, plus social media connections for Facebook and Twitter. And if sports photography is your cup of tea, the Thomson Reuters news service also has its own London Olympics 2012 app for iOS devices. Now then, let the Games begin!
P.S. The official London 2012 mascots still kind of creep me out… Are they staring at you, too?
Thievery and hacking never go away, and tech nerds like us always advise coming up with “strong,” hard-to-guess password for your computer or other accounts. But many people don’t exactly know what exactly constitutes a strong password. Fortunately, you can get some password-creation advice on your computer — right there in the control panel where you go to change your password in the first place. Isn’t that convenient?
In Windows, just go to the Start menu to Control Panel to User Accounts and Family Safety to User Accounts. Click on Change Your Password. This opens up the box where you type in your old and new passwords. If you need some help with the strong stuff, look closer. Right in the box is a link called “How to create a strong password” (circled below). Click there for advice. Microsoft also has a site that checks the strength of your chosen password.
On a Mac, just pop open the System Preferences box from the Dock or Apple menu and click on the Users & Groups icon. Make sure your user account is selected on the left side of the box and then click the Change Password button. Here, you also get the familiar Old Password/New Password box, but look on the New Password line. As circled below, there’s a key icon there. Click that icon to call up the Mac OS X Password Assistant, which offers a strength indicator and can even generate strong passwords for you so you don’t have to burn the brain cells thinking them up yourself.
There. You now have no excuse for still using password as your password. It’s time to show your strength!
Yahoo is busting a move and has nabbed Marissa Mayer, an engineer and one of the earliest employees at Google, to be the company’s new chief executive. Yahoo has had a rough time of it in the CEO department the past year, so here’s hoping Mayer gets the ship back on course. (Maybe give Flickr a tune-up? Pleeeease?)
A lot of people watch TiVo, but who knew TiVo was watching back? The digital recorder company said this week that it was buying the advertisement research company TRA Inc. for about $20 million. The TRA technology allows networks and advertisers to measure the effectiveness of advertisements on television and which networks sell stuff the best. (Hey, does the old TiVo 30-Second Skip trick still work?)
Microsoft continues to churn out announcements and updates this summer. This time, the news concerns the company’s flagship business software, Microsoft Office. A public beta preview version of the new software, Office 2013, is now available for the curious and the company is also revving up its cloud version, Office 365, to draw users away from the likes of Google Docs and Apple’s iWork/iCloud combo.
And now, a paragraph about robots — because the PTJ blog here has not had a paragraph about robots in awhile. Navy scientists are working with several research institutions with an ultimate goal of to creating mine-sweeping autonomous robots for dangerous missions under the sea. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is in on the project with some spiffy new algorithms and there’s more information and some cool video on the MIT site.
Valve Software is dedicating a team to bring the Steam gaming service to the Penguin Nation. A blog post on the Valve site states that the team’s current goal is to get the Steam service fully working on Ubuntu Linux 12.04, the system otherwise known as Precise Pangolin.
Samsung may be having trouble with Apple in the Federal courts, but the South Korea-based electronics company is winning in the people’s court of retail sales. According to a Reuters poll, from April 1 to June 30, analysts estimate that Samsung had sold over 50 million smartphones, overshadowing Apple’s projected sales of 30.5 million iPhones. Keep in mind that an iPhone 5 looms and people may be holding back on Apple purchases in anticipation.
Also, in anticipation by Batman fans everywhere: The Dark Knight Rises, and he rises this weekend in movie theaters. The Los Angeles Times is predicting big box office for the third film in the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale take on the Caped Crusader. Early reviews have been largely positive, but there was a bit of a dust-up for those expressing more negative views on the film. Please folks, leave the explosives to the mine-sweeping robots with their fancy MIT algorithms, okay?