PTJ 85 News: Burnin’ Down the House

Everyone wants to go to the annual SxSW Festival in Texas these days! With a little help from the American Civil Liberties Union, Edward Snowdon, the former National Security Agency contractor who has released thousands of confidential documents about government data collection to the public, appeared to festival attendees via a livestream from a Google Hangout video chat bounced through seven proxy servers. Mr. Snowdon chose to address the techies at SxSW because (in part), “the NSA is setting fire to the future of the Internet and you guys are the firefighters.”

The Xbox One may be lagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 in game console sales, but the release of the hotly anticipated Titanfall game for Microsoft’s platform may help even things up. The first-person shooter from Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts went on sale this past Tuesday after many awards and promo events.

Apple’s iOS 7.1 update arrived for compatible iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch players earlier this week. Along with the usual “improvements and security fixes,” iOS 7.1 brings user interface tweaks; Apple’s site has a list of the changes. And now that iOS 7.1 has landed, it’s time for the tech blogs to get all excited for iOS 8, which could arrive later this year. The 9to5Mac site reports that Apple is preparing a much-improved version of its once-maligned Apple Maps.

iOS 8 may be a while off, but Microsoft continues work on Windows 8.1, Update 1. The update has not been officially released yet, but it’s out there. According to tech writer Ed Bott, someone at Microsoft inadvertently left the final software packages on the Windows Update server last week. Mr. Bott took advantage of the opportunity to install the Windows 8.1 update on several computers and wrote up a report highlighting the major features of the update.

Google announced several new add-ons for its Google Docs and Sheets online productivity software. Meanwhile, angry parents displeased over a child’s shopping spree of unrestricted in-app purchases, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company. Google has not responded to the action, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that that 30-minute gap of time after the initial password entry “is designed to enable children to purchase in-game currency without parental permission and without having to enter a password.” Or maybe Google was just trying to help developers take advantage of those adult impulse buys…

Like everyone else, Samsung is getting into the personalized music-service business. Designed for those toting Galaxy devices, the new Milk Music radio service will include 200 ad-free and customizable stations.  And while Samsung is touting its exclusive music service, Amazon is said to be ramping up its own game-development efforts. The Daily Telegraph of London and others are reporting that Amazon has its own game console hardware in the works and plans to develop its own games to play on it.

Facebook is rolling out yet another revamped News Feed design over the next few weeks. Most people don’t seem to care anymore. (But maybe we should care more now that robots have mastered air hockey and are moving into table-tennis matches with humans.)

ComiXology continues to be one of the highest-grossing mobile apps out there for its excellent interface and wide selection of downloadable digital comics. CNBC has a report this week about the company’s effect on independent publishers and comics creators.

bunnyVMAnd finally, on the topic of independent productions, the Veronica Mars movie arrives this weekend in selected theaters and on-demand sites. The movie was financed by a Kickstarter campaign that passed its funding goal in less than a day. So, if the film is successful going outside the traditional Hollywood route, will it bust up the paradigm and open up all sorts of new possibilities for movie and TV creators? Time till tell — and if you haven’t seen the original show, the pilot is free on iTunes, (each of the three seasons is $20 there) or you can stream the episodes on Amazon Instant Video. Fans of Frozen: If you loved Kristen Bell in that Oscar-winner, you’ll enjoy seeing her even more animated as the one and only Veronica Mars.

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