PTJ 88 News: Frick and Frak

Just about a year ago here on Pop Tech Jam, we were chattering about the tests the United States Navy was doing with laser weapons and this week, the Navy has announced its engineers are putting the finishing touches on a laser weapon prototype that will be the first to be deployed to a ship. The device is said to be accurate and affordable. However you feel about modern combat, this seems to be a significant step into the future. Frickin’ lasers. On a warboat.

Back in the present, the United States Supreme Court has decided to skip a case against the National Security Agency over all that bulk phone metadata surveillance. The Court denied a petition by activist Larry Klayman. Ars Technica and other sites have noted that the court giving this one a miss means that Congress will attempt to tackle the future of the phone surveillance program. However, given the past few years of Congressional productivity (or lack thereof), one is not filled with a sense of great hope on this matter.

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Over in the Department of More Things To Be Paranoid About, The New York Times has a story this week about how hackers can break into computers on corporate networks in ways most people have never imagined — including online menus from Chinese food restaurants. And if you think that’s gonna gives you heartburn, check out Heartbleed, a dangerous security flaw. GigaOM has an info-roundup on the topic here.

The Google Play app store has another embarrassing security incident to add to its list. An app called Virus Shield, which cost $4 and had a huge number of downloads, was discovered last week to be a complete scam. Seriously. It did absolutely nothing. The Android Police site even posted samples of the app’s code to show the thing was bogus. Google has since yanked the app from the store.

Microsoft’s official End of Support for Windows XP deadline was this past Tuesday. Obituaries for the 12-and-a-half year-old operating system could be found around the Web along with stories about the massive security sinkhole the outdated system poses as it continues to run unsupported on millions of machines around the world. If you (or someone you know) is still on XP for whatever reason, at least make sure the poor computer has an up-to-date antivirus and security program installed and do not use Internet Explorer on it.

Microsoft fancies itself a TV studio now, too, after seeing Netflix and Amazon jump in.  Bloomberg News reports that the company’s new Xbox television studio is producing at least six new shows that are expected to arrive this summer.

Amazon went and released its Amazon Fire TV set-top box last week. The small $99 device connects to your HDTV and pretty much serves as a rabbit hole right to Amazon’s warren of wares. Digital music and Amazon Instant Video streams, are available, of course, as is content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora and a few other services. (It has been noted that the Amazon Fire TV box has about 180 apps and channels so far, while Roku’s set-top streamer currently brings about 1,200 to your TV screen.)

Games could also be on the menu for the next version of Apple TV. Adding more weight to the rumors: a public filing to the FCC from Comcast and Time Warner Cable mentions that Apple is developing a new type of set-top box.

Speaking of set-top boxes and services, remember Google TV? Yeah, not exactly a barnburner there, with the whole Web-on-your-TV thing, but The Verge site is reporting that Google is having another go soon with Android TV. Google isn’t talking, but remember, the annual I/O conference is and the end of June in San Francisco.

Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference is set for early June, also in San Francisco, but Microsoft already had its programmer’s pow-wow last week. The annual Build Conference wrapped up last Friday after a series of announcements from the company on Windows-related matters.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of Apple’s aforementioned WWDC event, the 9to5Mac site has put together a roundup of all the rumors and leaks it’s heard on OS X 10.10 and iOS 8. (Also down Apple Way, Adobe has released a mobile version of its Lightroom program for photographers on the go with their iPads.)

Perhaps taking a page from the Facebook, Twitter is overhauling the design of user profile pages in its Web site. A post on the Twitter company blog describes its sassy new look for spring.

And finally, the Hollywood trade publication Variety is reporting that Universal is gearing up for a movie version of Battlestar Galactica. No word on casting or timing, but the site hears that the film will be developed as “a complete reimagining of the story.”
“WHYYYYYY?” so say we all.

Now let us think of happier times:

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