Category Archives: Tech Term

Tech Term: Over-the-Top Applications

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been described as over-the-top. Yes, I’m bold and have been known to take things beyond reasonable limits but I am rarely excessive or outrageous. If you’ve ever met my family you’ll know that if anything I’m…um…under-the-bottom.

Ugh, that sounds so wrong. Let’s move on.

This week’s tech term is over-the-top application and Techopedia defines it as:

…any app or service that provides a product over the Internet and bypasses traditional distribution. Services that come over the top are most typically related to media and communication and are generally, if not always, lower in cost than the traditional method of delivery.

WhatsApp, Viber, FaceTime, and YouTube are all examples of OTT apps but two new TV related applications might push over-the-top usage further into the mainstream.

HBO Now allows you to stream content from the pay TV giant without needing a cable account, a requirement of the app’s sibling HBO Go.

Sling TV from satellite TV provider DISH bundles popular cable channels that viewers can watch on Internet Connected TVs, media streamers from Roku, Apple and others plus iOS and Android devices and your Mac or PC.

The release of these two apps plus OTT game changers Netflix and Hulu makes it very appealing for less tech savvy folk looking for a deal to cut the cable cord.

The number of OTT only households is expected to rise from 8 million to 14 million by 2020 but technical concerns over loading time, buffering and crashing could keep many from giving up their cable packages.

The plain truth is that Internet infrastructure here in the US is just not ready to handle millions more OTT and live-streamers without a major overhaul. Also cable companies will not go down without a fight. Net Neutrality regulation and security concerns could stifle the nascent over the top TV boom.

See, nothing outrageous or excessive. Nice and under-the-bottom, just the way I like it!


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The Galapagos Syndrome

There were two news items this week that really resonated with me. At first glance the similarities weren’t obvious but as I kept going over the findings in each story the connection became clearer.

First off, streaming audio continues to grow in 2014 with almost 80 billion streams reported. Not a surprise. Neither is the fact that CDs continue their apparent inexorable slide into oblivion, registering a 14% plunge when compared to equally dismal sales figures from 2013.

But here’s the eyeopening point. According to Rolling Stone magazine and other news sources, interest in vinyl continues to be a noteworthy music industry trend.

The 12-inch record had its best sales year in decades, moving 9.2 million units; a 52 percent increase over 2013.

Vinyl sales now account for six percent of all physical music sales.

The other fascinating business bulletin was out of Japan. Market researcher MM Research Institute noted that flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent to almost 11 million in 2014 while smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent to just shy of 28 million, down for a second year in a row.

The argument can be made that both flip-phones in Japan and vinyl records in the United States are experiencing a phenomenon known as the Galápagos Syndrome.

This term refers to an isolated development branch of a globally available product and alludes to the phenomena Charles Darwin encountered in the Galápagos Islands which helped in the development of his Evolutionary Theory.

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Japanese cell phone technology was years ahead of what electronics companies were producing in other countries. Smartphones like the iPhone have taken a huge chunk out of the Japanese market but the flip-phone is still extremely popular.

Vinyl, while technologically inferior to the CD, offers a more tactile and satisfying experience for the listener. The combination of the warmer analog sound, larger album art, and traditional liner notes and sleeves makes vinyl a much more attractive option for the music lover.

After being derided by their manufacturers and generally ignored by consumers, the 12-inch record and flip-phones continued their evolution with incremental improvements.

Record companies use heavier virgin vinyl at pressing and better quality paper for sleeves and gatefolds. Enhanced recording techniques make audio quality vastly superior to what was being produced at the height of vinyl’s popularity.

Flip-phones offer similar functionality to what’s found on smartphones and have features like physical keyboards and voice-call quality that in many cases are superior to what you’d get on a rectangular slab.

Both the record companies and electronics manufacturers believe the sales spikes are fads but come on admit it, deep down we all miss flipping our Startacs open like Captain Kirk did with his Starfleet issued communicator…

Put Your Hands in The Air and Wave Them Like You Just Want to Close an App

This is the scene that sparked my interest in gesture recognition technology. It’s a clip from the mostly forgettable mid-90’s Sci-Fi clunker Johnny Mnemonic adapted from a story by William Gibson. Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a man with a cybernetic brain implant designed to store data, allowing him to act as a courier of information deemed too sensitive to transfer across a souped-up virtual reality version of the Internet dubbed “The Net”.

Here’s a factoid for you: Dolph Lundgren played the villain and was stuck in Direct-to-video Purgatory, not acting in a film with a theatrical release until 2010’s The Expendables. That’s how good it was.

Nevertheless, watching Keanu hacking is way into a Yakuza account by flailing and flapping his hands and wearing totally funky fresh VR goggles absolutely blew me away. You have to understand, the Internet was a relatively new phenomenon back then—AOL ruled the landscape when this film premiered—and virtual reality was strictly a Star Trek: Next Generation plot device.

Over the next decade Hollywood blockbusters Minority Report and the Iron Man series pushed gesture technology even closer to reality by inspiring scientists and programmers who took on the challenge of creating the “spatial operating environments” and “holotables” depicted in the films.

gesture-UI

Gesture recognition is described as interacting with computers by using gestures of the human body, typically hand movements. In gesture technology, a camera reads the movements of the human body and communicates the data to a computer that uses the gestures as input to control devices or applications.

Even onscreen the tech evolved in the few short years between releases. Tony Stark ditched the gloves John Anderton was forced to wear and was able to build his armor with barehanded computing abandon. As fanciful and mind-blowing as the gesture tech appeared on the silver screen, the introduction of gesture recognition tech to those of us living in the real world was more modest.

Hello Nintendo Wii…

The Wii console controllers and Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox, introduced gesture tech directly into our living rooms. Now we can all gesticulate and prance about like the narcissistic billionaire arms dealer with a weak heart we were destined to be.

On a related note, Kaisernet Industries is developing its own gesture-based product. The working title is the Palm-Back V but we’re open to suggestions…

Tech Term: Social Engineering

Well, this is kind of awkward. I guess it was inevitable since I am less than organized when it comes to this sort of stuff.  Quite honestly I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner when you consider how many of these vocabulary lessons I’ve actually done. Strange. You’d think I’d be more upset about it. Guess that’s the upside of not having any shame.

Oh geez, now I’m compounding the problem by burying the lede! Oh darn it, now I’m using cool newsroom jargon about beginning a story with secondary details instead of getting to the actual point.  AAUGGGH!

Great, now I’m channeling Charlie Brown

Do people use “ish” instead of issue anymore? Was that ever a thing ? Anyway, my “ish” is that there is a real possibility I may have already dissected this week’s Tech Term, Social Engineering, on a previous podcast episode.  It may have been for our old show at that huge and well-respected media empire both J.D. and I continue to happily toil for or I may have dropped some science about it here on Pop Tech Jam many, many moons ago. While I may not be all that torn up about it I do sincerely apologize if this is the case.  My bad Jammers…and Tech Talkers.

Oh right, the Tech Term! Well according to the Microsoft Safety and Security Center—I hear you snickering, be nice—Social Engineering is a technique used by criminals to gain access to your computer. The purpose of Social Engineering is usually to secretly install spyware or other malicious software or to trick you into handing over your passwords or other sensitive financial and personal information. Social engineering scams can be both online (such as an email message that asks you to open the attachment, which contains malware) and offline (such as a phone call from someone posing as a representative from your credit card company).

To this day I don’t know why they don’t just call it getting conned.  Or hustled. Swindled. Played. Scammed, fleeced, bamboozled, taken for a ride, slickered, skinned…

You get the point.

To listen to Episode 82 click here.

TECH TERM OF THE WEEK: CRYPTOCURRENCY

Our very first tech term for 2014 is a very hot topic these days. You can’t turn on a cable news channel or read the business section of a newspaper…. HA!… I said newspaper. I’m so silly. Of course I mean you can’t scroll through the tech or currency verticals of a news platform’s online product without reading a story…I did it again…without reading a post giving us the latest, and occasionally sordid, details of the antics of this geek word.

This week’s tech term is cryptocurrency. Never heard of it you say? oh yeah, you have. Does bitcoin sound familiar? Well, that my droogs, is a cryptocurrency.

You know what before we get into that, I mentioned it earlier in the show and I just wanna know why? That’s all. Have I not been the most benevolent and kind Internet Kaiser in all of Internet kaiserdom? Have I not gone out of my way to produce the greatest geek-cuture and tech themed podcast in this and all known universes? (Trademark Pending) with the one and only J.D. Biersdorfer (The latest edition of iPad: The Missing Manual available in bookstores now) Haven’t I?

So why does Kanye West and a frickin’ dog meme have a Cryptocurrency before I do?!?!?!  You know what, forget it. Obviously I haven’t worn nearly enough leather kilts or have shiny enough fur for so… don’t even bother. Despite the hurt, I’m a professional so I’ll through this.

Before we can fully appreciate the technology behind Dogecoins and Coinyes, we must first understand what puts the crypt in cryptocurrency. Cryptography, that’s what.

Cryptography is the practice of the enciphering and deciphering of messages in secret code in order to render them unintelligible to all but the intended receiver. Cryptocurrency uses cryptography for security, making it difficult to counterfeit. The digital currency uses public and private keys  for transfers from one person to another. Now keys are pieces of information that determine the functional output of a cryptographic algorithm. Without the appropriate key it would be impossible to decrypt the virtual currency.

Okay, I can’t blame you if you’re all a bit skeptical and dismiss cryptocurrencies as just some silly internet fad but the reality is there are currently over 70 of them in play with bitcoin leading the market capitalization race with over 9 billion dollars.  Oh yeah, that’s billion…with a B.

If you’re thinking cryptocurrencies might be a prime target for some hacker baddies out there you’d be right on the money. If you also think Cryptocurrency has the potential for being the preferred currency of the dark web, rest your head. It has fulfilled it’s potential.

I’m not a luddite and I’m not as paranoid as many of you seem to think (Hey, I happen to look good in tinfoil hats, thank you very much) but let’s just say you can keep your bitcoins, litecoins and peercoins. In my world cash is still king…well until some enterprising type starts mining some of that digital moolah in honor of yours truly. When that happens you can bet I’ll be making it rain cryptocheddar…

The 2013 PTJ Tech Term of the Year

This week we present our tech term of the year for 2013. I know most news sites and blogs like to do these, oh I don’t know, right around Halloween, but in all fairness we here at the greatest geek-culture and technology podcast the galaxy has ever SEEN…. um, I’m sorry, HEARD (Trademark Pending) made the decision to wait until the year was actually over before bestowing this most prestigious honor. What if there was a late surge in some previously obscure tech term that suddenly became as ubiquitous as Miley Cyrus or the Harlem Shake? We’d be left with a carton of egg on our face now wouldn’t we.

This wasn’t an easy decision to make as there were some great contenders out there but in the end we realized there was only one tech term that dwarfed all of the others. Hey, if it’s good enough for The Oxford Dictionaries Online to choose as their word of the year, then it’s good enough for us! Although, I must point out that there is a difference between the O.D.O. and the the Oxford English Dictionary. The O.D.O. focuses on current English and includes modern meanings and uses of words. The O.E.D. is a historical dictionary and it forms a record of all the core words and meanings in English over more than 1,000 years, from Old English to the present day. I’m not just throwing words at you, that comes straight from the word nerds at Oxford.

“Selfie” is the 2013 Pop Tech Jam Tech Term of the Year!

They define the newly minted informal noun as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website”

According to The New Zealand Herald the first confirmed recorded use of the word selfie is from 2002, in a photo and report of a drunken party posted to an Online forum but self-portraits have been around since well — forever.

20140109_150709

Not surprisingly, Hollywood celebrities and pop-singers are some the most devoted selfie artists out there but one look at Instagram clearly shows that many of us in the hoi polloi can shamelessly self promote with the best of them.

In an opinion piece for The New York Times actor, poet, artist, director, screenwriter, producer, teacher, author and, apparently, selfie-expert, James Franco gets to the heart of what the selfie phenomenon is all about. Beyond the vanity, the narcissism and the self-involvement Mr. Franco states, “attention is power.  And if you are someone people are interested in, then the selfie provides something very powerful, from the most privileged perspective possible.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, El Kaiser is not getting enough attention, and is not nearly powerful enough, so he must get in a few minutes of duck-face practice before the Polar Vortex freezes his lips off.

Image Macro And Memes: Same Same But Different

prototypeThis, my fellow jammers, is an example of an Image Macro but it is not, I learned recently, an Internet Meme. Well, not yet anyway. While my bit of goofy photo fun meets the Image Macro criteria (it is a captioned image that consists of a picture and a witty message or a catchphrase) it has yet to sweep through the Internet like a relentless plague on humanity like this:

Or this:

Those of you down with the memes will realize that the second link is actually an example of an Internet Meme using animated Internet Memes. I know! Head…Blown…

Now if the photo I used for my Image Macro ends up on one of the many meme generating sites like this one or that one and thousands of people start slapping captions all over it and posting it on various and sundry social networks THEN and only THEN does it become an Internet Meme. It has followed the first rule of Meme Club.

By the way, want to see what many consider to be the very first Image Macro? Turns out it predated LOLCats by about 100 years.  In 1905 photographer Harry Whitter Frees dressed a cat in a robe, sat it on a chair, snapped a picture and added a caption that read: “What’s Delaying My Dinner?” Yes, I think it is more than a little bit creepy.

delayingmydinner

Tech Term of the Week: Cramming

Let me be perfectly clear from the outset, I am not condoning illegal activity nor am I suggesting that those folks who make a parasitic living by cheating hardworking people out of their money should be admired or presented as role models in any way. Furthermore, I am certainly not looking to be controversial with this particularly embarrassing admission: I’ve always had a grudging respect for scammers.

Connivers, tricksters, you know the type. The sociopaths that dedicate their lives to finding new and inventive ways to sell suckers a box full of rocks. I can’t help but be impressed by their complete lack of scruples. I guess that speaks volumes about me but hey, I’m just keeping it real.

This week’s Tech Term is cramming and from my introduction it’s pretty clear that this doesn’t mean studying for an exam at the very last minute. According to the FCC cramming is the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges on your telephone bill. Crammers rely on confusing telephone bills in an attempt to trick consumers into paying for services they did not authorize or receive, or that cost more than the consumer was led to believe.

Ooooohhh, rascally!

The charges are often for non-basic services such as Caller ID or Voice Mail but more recently text message cramming has become popular on mobile devices. Slick SMS services will text you with an offer for their product but buried in the message will be an opt-out option. You will be billed for the service unless you respond to the text.

Tricksy, very tricksy

You know, crammers really do give con-men a bad name. Where’s the artistry? This scam shows no creativity at all. No need to lay on the charm, no elaborate rouse to gain the trust of a mark. Crammers simply rely on the majority of us that rarely, if ever, analyze our phone bills and just pay. According to The New York Times a U.S. Senate committee investigation into land-line cramming put the dollar amount at $2 billion a year. That’s BILLION, with a B.

Obviously an excellent way to protect yourself from getting crammed is by going over your phone bills every month and immediately disputing any suspicious charges. If you’ve been the victim of cramming you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission if you see suspect non-telephone services on your telephone bill.

Cramming, your Pop Tech Jam tech term of the week.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 06

Tech Term of the Week: Tumblelog

And now it’s time for the Pop Tech Jam Tech Term of the week where I do my level best to explain the geekspeak, nerdwords and communications jargon you may encounter on the Internet.

I’m sure most of you listening to this have at least a passing familiarity with the social network Tumblr. I recently had some issues with my Tumblr account and was forced to contact their tech support. In every interaction I had with the support team they kept referring to my “Tumblelog”. Not my “page” or my “blog” but my “Tumblelog”.

At first I thought it was just their way of branding their product with a snazzy marketing term but buried in the deep recesses of my memory I recalled having coming across the word tumblelog at least a year before Tumblr went live. When I actually remember something that happened more than a week ago I stand up and take notice. This was obviously developing into a real chicken and egg situation and because stuff like this keeps me up at night I had to look into it immediately. TO THE BROWSER!!!!

The most concise definition I could find for a tumblelog describes it as a stream of consciousness. A series of images, links, videos, quotes, and short blurbs that don’t necessarily share a common thread, but can collectively be pieced together to form a personality. If a conversations exists, it doesn’t exist on the tumblelog itself, but throughout the entire internet.

Wait, that sounds just like a microblog! TO WIKIPEDIA!

According to Wikipedia, the word tumblelog was first used way back in 2005 and Tumblr was born in August of 2007. They also claim the the term microblog has replaced tumblelog in web vernacular. EUREKA! The egg obviously came first in this caper. Tumblr was keeping the term alive and branding it as their own. Smart!

Other microblogging sites include Twitter, Plurk, and Jaiku. I tweet like a maniac, as most of you know, but I’ve never…um…plurked. Or Jaikued. Luckily I do have  personal tumblelog…um…microblog at mynameisnotpablo.com. What? The cheap shameless l=plug was a little too much? Okay, I’m sorry about that…

Tumblelog, your Pop Tech Jam tech term of the week.

(That’s www.mynameisnotpablo.com…)

Be sure to check out Episode 03 of Pop Tech Jam!