PTJ 118 News: On It Like a Comet

The Rosetta mission rolls on and scientists at the European Space Agency continue to gather information about Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After we recorded last week’s show, the Rosetta spacecraft released Philae, its small lander vehicle, onto the comet’s surface. The failure to harpoon itself to the surface — or get its solar panels in the right position to recharge its batteries — led to a shorter period of productivity than anticipated. However, there’s hope Philae could charge up its batteries if it gets a little sunlight. (The last commands the ESA were able to send the lander were for repositioning its solar panels.) Still, the lander hit a moving target way out there in space and Philae did send back some data before going dark, including evidence of organic molecules on the comet. And there’s the possibility a little sunpower will awaken it out of standby mode so it can get back to work. Philae, we salute you!

This week in Waiting for the Net Neutrality Decision news: AT&T got called out by the FCC after the telecom titan’s CEO said it may have to have to “pause” its planned 100-city high-speed Internet expansion plans due to the possibility of regulation. AT&T’s expansion plans, however, have been criticized as being vague, so the FCC sent a letter to the company asking for more information about this “expansion decision” and all documents related to it. AT&T has until November 21 to get back to the FCC with those details.

In other government-agency items of note, the Federal Trade Commission has settled a score with the TRUSTe privacy seal and certification company. Oh, the US State Department got hacked —officials said the unclassified branch of the agency’s email network was temporarily shut down this week to update security.

Payphones have never been the same since they stopped being private little rooms (and the cellphones took over anyway), but New York City has something in mind for the space and connections used by all those half-booths cluttering the sidewalks. The Mayor’s office has announced plans to convert that rotting old payphone infrastructure around town into spiffy new gigabit WiFi hotspots. A company called CityBridge is team up with the Big Apple on the LinkNYC project, which will eventually bring 10,000 “Links” — as the hot spot stations will be called — to the five boroughs. Here’s a mock-up of one in Brooklyn:

LinkNYC

Facebook has spun out the Groups function into its own standalone app. In a product announcement on the company blog, Facebook said, “we’re introducing a new Facebook Groups app that helps people share faster and more easily with all the groups in their life.” Groups, for those who don’t use them, can be public, private or secret online clubs for people all interested in the same topic or discussion. As for now, the company says you can still use Groups in the main Facebook app and on desktop. For now. (The Financial Times is reporting that so-called Facebook at Work site is in the works to provide professional networking and collaboration, but Facebook isn’t commenting.

Disney Movies Anywhere recently joined forces with Google and now the House of Mouse is linking up with Wal-Mart’s Vudu movie service. Disney Movies Anywhere is everywhere.

Apple released updates to both its Yosemite and iOS 8 operating systems this week. OS X 10.10.1 for Mac was intended to address Wi-Fi issues and other bugs some Mac folks have been complaining about for a month, but some users have posted on Apple support forums that the update still hasn’t fixed their disappearing Wi-Fi connections. The iOS 8.1.1 update was intended to improve performance on older hardware like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4s.

mica1Two items of note from the Wonderful World of Wearables. For one, Intel is getting into the jewelry business and teaming up with fashion firm Opening Ceremony on a fancy Internet-connected bangle called the MICA, also known as the My Intelligent Communication Accessory. One of the models is shown here, and yes, it costs around $500. And second in wearable news:  Fitbit data is now being used as evidence in court.

Streaming music service are having a bad month. First, Taylor Swift pulls her albums from Spotify, sending millions of teenage girls into a panic, and now Sirius XM lost a copyright battle in US district court with the 1960s rock band, The Turtles and may have to start paying for older music. (Also not having a good PR month: Uber.)

Google and Stanford University have been working together on software that uses artificial intelligence to more accurately describe the contents of photographs that previous programs. The rise of the machines starts with descriptive photo captions, folks.

hamAnd finally, Thanksgiving is next week and the gang over at Google Maps has looked at traffic conditions in 21 American cities for the past two years to figure out the worst and best times to leave for that homeward journey. (Hint: Wednesday afternoon blows.) Also, get your booze, pie and ham early if you want to avoid crowds.

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