PTJ 131 News: Game of Thrones

The Federal Communications Commission voted this week to approve new Net Neutrality rules that reclassify broadband Internet service as  a public utility. As expected, Big Telco jumped aboard the Pantload Express and has vowed to fight the decision in court. The opposing political party is not too happy either, so expect this story to keep on giving throughout the year.

Twitter is another company coming out in favor of the FCC’s proposal to reclassify broadband service as a public utility. A blog post on the company’s site states, “Empowering ‘lesser’ or historically less powerful voices to express themselves and be heard globally is at the core of Twitter’s DNA.”

youtubekidsThere’s also news from YouTube’s official blog. The video-sharing supersite and colossal archive of pet videos has just released a YouTube Kids app for Android and iOS. The new kid-friendly app (video demo here) is supposed to “make it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore” and includes a set of parental controls.

Yahoo’s chief information officer, Alex Stamos, had some very firm questions for the NSA at the “Cybersecurity for a New America” conference in Washington DC this week. Mr. Stamos is not in favor of giving encryption keys to governments.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Android and iOS still hog most of the mobile platform and new numbers from the International Data Corporation prove it. The latest report shows the two had 96.3 percent of all smartphone shipments worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Google announced this week that it was banning pornography on its Blogger site.  Anticipating an exodus, Google has also posted instructions for exporting your blog so you can take it elsewhere.

emojiApple is adding a little diversity to the world of emoji. New beta versions of OS X and iOS reveal emoji characters with varying skin tones. Users can press and hold down a character to see the variations and select one of six different shades. (There has been some backlash to the new character set, however.)  In other news from Cupertino, Apple is said to be overhauling its Genius Bar experience, starting next month.

The Apple Watch is looming on the horizon this spring, but it’s not scaring off every other smartwatch maker out there. Scrappy little Pebble, which got a big boost from its Kickstarter campaign in 2012, is back at the fundraising site to gin up cash and pre-orders for its new Time smartwatch. The Time model has a new operating system, color e-paper display, 7 days of battery life, a microphone for responding to notifications and a thinner case. It’ll be out in May with a price tag of $200.

The Apple Watch isn’t going to be hogging all the mobile payment action, either. Google just acquired Softcard, a mobile payments app backed by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, and also got a distribution deal to pre-install the Google Wallet payments app on Android phones sold by those carriers.

voyagerIf you’re a fan of spacecraft and the history of human exploration in our galactic backyard, check out a new book by planetary scientist Jim Bell. It’s called The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission and details NASA’s missions with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft launched back on the 1970s. NPR’s All Things Considered segment about the project is worth checking out, space fans.

The Mobile World Congress event kicks off next week in Barcelona, so odds are we’ll be hearing about a new Galaxy S6 phone from Samsung and a bunch of other mobile gear. And later in the month, the SXSW festival opens in Austin, Texas.

And finally, if March — and warmer weather — still feels so far away from where you live this winter, a spot of toilet humor may help with the winter fatigue. There’s video on the web featuring David Goldberg of Maryland, who attached a snowplow to a motorized commode and was see clearing off the sidewalks around his suburb of Washington DC. Because after this kind of winter for much of the country, a do-it-yourself dude shoving a pile of snow out of the way atop a souped-up ceramic throne just makes sense.

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