Tag Archives: advertising

PTJ 175 News: In the Air

Several Twitter peeps have flown the coop recently, as the company attempts  to jump-start its growth by making the service easier to use and more appealing to Everyday People. Jack Dorsey, the company chief, did a few layoffs when he took the top spot last fall, but the revolving door continues to spin into the new year. (The bird-themed microblogging service has also gotten dinged inside and out for its lack of diversity and has been trying to improve things, although it got mixed reactions for hiring a white dude as its VP of diversity and inclusion — albeit one that was a founding member of a global LGBT leadership organization.) Twitter also busted a move this week and hired former American Express exec Leslie Berland as its chief marketing officer. Old School, meet New Media.

The Re/Code site is among those reporting that Twitter seems to be trying to keep its big famous users happy by majorly reducing the amount of ads those celebrities and notable figures see in their feeds. One site that seems to be showing more ads than before is Instagram. Facebook’s photo service did announce last year on its blog that it would be stepping up the ad game, and advertising statistics show the company has boosted ad impressions quite a bit the last five months of 2015.

vrSony and Samsung are doing a little corporate remodeling of their own. Sony announced it’ll be merging the hardware and software parts PlayStation game console business into one big company called Sony Interactive Entertainment. Out at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, Samsung executives said the company has plans to open a production studio here in New York to create virtual reality films. Samsung, as you know, makes the Gear VR headset for those emerging immersive experiences.

Spotify launched a video channel this week in its Android and iOS apps. The video channel features clips from the BBC, VICE news, ESPN, Comedy Central and others, if you’re tired of merely listening to Spotify.

Security blogger Brian Krebs recently explained how his PayPal account was hacked with the help of PayPal itself — and now Australian developer Eric Springer has a frighteningly similar story on the Medium and Ars Technica sites. This time, though, it’s Amazon’s customer service department inadvertently cooperating with an imposter and compromising account security.

fireAlso in Amazon Land, the übermega everything store apparently hasn’t given up on its mobile dreams, even though its own Fire Phone was a gargantuan FAIL. As a site called The Information reports, Amazon has been talking to Android handset hardware manufacturers about weaving Amazon apps and surfaces deep into the phone system. However, it may want to be careful, as Google has bounced Amazon products out of the Google Play store before when it felt Amazon was getting too pushy.

Google has had some less-than-saintly moments itself, but the company is donating millions of dollars to help refugees from the conflict-torn Middle East. Google’s philanthropic division is partnering with a non-profit group called NetHope on Project Reconnect, an initiative to provide 25,000 Chromebooks loaded with educational and language-learning software, which will then be distributed to groups working with refugees who made it to Germany.

Microsoft’s Cortana would also like to help you out, but it does involve getting into more of your data. In a blog post earlier this week, Microsoft announced that an upcoming update to Cortana will allow the virtual assistant to root around in your email to help you keep your promises. You WILL KEEP THEM, says Cortana.

Apple has some recent software updates of its own: The company’s tvOS 9.1.1 update for the fourth-generation Apple TV box adds the Podcasts app  to the home Screen. While Apple released a version of the Remote app that works with the 4th gen box last month, the upcoming 9.2 update for tvOS is expected to restore Bluetooth keyboard support to the latest model and add new features like app folders .

tvOS

Even though iPhone sales have dipped, rumors about a new model coming soon are floating in the breeze. The 9 to 5 Mac site reports that Apple is readying a model called the iPhone 5se that basically takes the old iPhone 5s form factor with the 4-inch screen and adds in the faster A9 and M9 processors. (It may possibly be revealed the week of March 14th, when several Mac blogs also seem to think an updated version of the Apple Watch may also arrive.) And beware the prank link going around that exploits a known text message bug that when opened in Apple’s Safari browser, crashes the iPhone or Mac and forces a reboot.

Periscope announced this week that it can take feeds from a GoPro Hero 4 action camera and stream it over Wi-Fi to the Periscope app on the iPhone. Get ready for some wacky ski and snowboarding live channels to hit the Web soon…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and conventions are popping up all over. In addition to the Creation company’s official and (officially massive) fan events around the country, ReedPop, the organizer behind New York Comic Con, is celebrating the show too — and right in New York City, the home of the first-ever full-on Star Trek convention back in 1972. ReedPop’s 2016 convention, called Star Trek: Mission New York, will be held September 2-4 at the Javits Center in Manhattan; more information and ticket sales dates will be announced soon. (Yes, that is Labor Day weekend and will compete with the Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy expo down in Atlanta the same weekend. Tough choices here, geeks.)

BBTST

And finally, two passings of note this week. Marvin Minsky, a founding member of the MIT Media Lab and a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, died in Boston on January 24th. And actor Abe Vigoda, whose incorrectly reported death by People magazine in 1982, actually passed away January 26th at the age of 94. Mr. Vigoda, a celebrated actor, became an Internet meme later thanks to the confusion over his status; updates to the sites abevigoda.com and isabevigodadead.com have been sadly updated.
Rest in peace, gentlemen.

PTJ 148 News: Ear Buds

applemusicAs promised at the World Wide Developers Conference, Apple Music officially arrived this week. Early reviews of the service have been mixed to positive, but time will tell how it stacks up against Spotify, Pandora and the others. Brian X. Chen of The New York Times finds the social networking component to be the app’s weak spot, so perhaps those “Ping 2.0” jokes weren’t too far off base. If you’re just diving into the Apple Music app yourself, iMore and several other  sites have guides .

Also launching this past week — but failing horribly — was an unmanned SpaceX cargo flight meant to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Instead, it blew up about two minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.  The loss of four tons of supplies for the space station is a bit worrisome, but astronauts have enough reserve supplies to last until the end of September with rationing. New cargo missions are planned.

Transportation disasters of any kind are tragic, but back here on Earth, Google and the government are trying to help stop car accidents at train crossings. The Federal Railroad Administration is working with the G Train to add the locations of all railroad crossings (listed by the US Department of Transportation) to Google Maps. In addition, Google will add mention of the railroad crossings in the audio and visual alerts for its turn-by-turn navigation.

Meanwhile, there could be more trouble on the way for Google, as  Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor, Michael Luca, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and the Yelp! Data Science Team have just written a paper called “Is Google Degrading Search? Consumer Harm from Universal Search.” As Bloomberg Business reports, the study was presented this past weekend at the Antitrust Enforcement Symposium at the University of Oxford. Google has not commented publicly, but the company is currently dealing with antitrust charges in the European Union.

EUflagSpeaking of the European Union, its governing body just voted to end roaming charges for customers traveling around its 28 member-countries by the year 2017. While the new rules prevent European telecom providers from intentionally slowing down any network service for customers, they do not prohibit providers from charging more for “broadband fast lines.” Net neutrality advocates are concerned.

Apple has now lost its federal appeal on the ebook price-fixing case, so $450 million in damages could be making its way to ebook customers soon.

AOL just got bought by Verizon, but the online company is stepping up to handle the majority of display, mobile and video advertising across Microsoft’s empire of properties. Microsoft also cut a deal with Uber this week. The personal taxi service is picking up a chunk of Microsoft’s mapping technology and possibly about 100 engineers on its mapping team, who all might be mapping their way to the new office soon.

Pinterest is adding buyable pins to its iOS apps this week, so if you see a blue pin with a price tag on an item you just have to have, you can now have it. For a price.

byteDom Hofmann, who was one of the creators of the looping six-second Vine video service has a new mobile app aimed at the creative types. It’s called Byte, and it’s a combination collage-creator and social network that lets you mash up photos, animations drawing tools and soundtracks together to make your own art. Then you share your creations  with other people on the Byte network. The app is in private beta for iPhone users now, but expected to roll out more widely to the public and then on to Android.

And finally, song-recognition service Shazam is also not afraid of Apple and its fancy new Music service and is adding a new feature aimed at the already-derided Connect social network component of Apple Music. Shazam has partnered up with more than 30 music artists who have agreed to publicly share the music they discover with the service. Once users update to the lastest version of the Shazam app, they can follow their favorite artists  to see what those people (or more likely, their favorite artist’s personal assistant) are “shazaming” — perhaps the new Taylor Swift single?

PTJ 114: This One’s For The Apple Lovers

If you aren’t a fan of the Cupertino-based, fruit-themed toymaker you may not want to listen to this episode. Of course you’ll miss out on all the fun (and maybe even a shenanigan or two) if you do but we won’t judge.  We’d be enormously disappointed if you din’t listen but don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. No, these aren’t tears. It’s just our allergies acting up…

This week El Kaiser kicks the tires on Apple’s Yosemite and J.D. takes the latest version of iTunes out for a spin.

In the news Google has some big announcements of its own as they unveil Android Lollipop and some new hardware to go with it;  Apple rolls out a new iPad lineup and an iMac with a 5K Retina display; HBO and CBS make cord cutters very, very happy; Staples is the latest retailer to suffer an apparent hack attack; and Marty McFly’s hoverboard makes the scene a full year earlier than expected.

PTJ 114 News: Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows

Apple had its iPad event well-planned in advance, but that didn’t stop Google from upstreaming the media cab ride by putting out quite a few announcements of its own last week. The latest version of its mobile operating system, now dubbed Android Lollipop, is rolling out and landing first on two new devices: the Nexus 6 phablet phone made by Motorola and the Nexus 9 tablet crafted by HTC. Android Lollipop also sports a redesigned Gmail app that handles mail from other providers. And after the spectacular flop of the Google Ball, er Nexus Q set-top streaming media player a few years ago, the company is having another go round with the newer, round-but-flat Nexus Player which brings apps, games and streaming video to a connected TV. Google has been very busy, indeed.

shamuThe Nexus 6, which has a 5.9-inch screen and was nicknamed “Shamu” before release, can be pre-ordered later this month for a November 12th delivery. An unlocked version is expected to cost around $650 with carrier subsidy pricing still to be announced and is expected to deliver November 12th. Prices for the Nexus 9 tablet start at $400 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model and go north from there; that new tablet arrives November 3rd. The Nexus Player is $99 and is on backorder in the Google Play store, a game controller will cost you another $40.

nexus

When not releasing a bunch of new hardware and software into the wold, Google is also attempting to take a bite out of crime, particularly online copyright violations. In an internal piracy report and blog post, the company said it would be making changes to its search engine to demote and bury results with illegal sources of content, while elevating legal alternatives like Spotify.

Okay, back to Apple. As expected, the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 were officially unveiled last Thursday, as was OS X Yosemite for the Mac. The iOS 8.1 (with Apple Pay) update for compatible iDevices arrived on Monday. So, how many of us went and tried it out at McDonald’s because we knew it had Apple Pay-ready terminals right in front of those delicious McGriddle breakfast sandwiches?

iMac

Apple also had a couple of new Mac hardware items to reveal, like the iMac with 5K Retina display, a standalone all-in-one desktop Mac with a 27-inch widescreen monitor sporting 14.7 million pixels. Prices for that one, shown above, start at $2500. Apple’s tiniest desktop computer, the Mac Mini, also got a component overhaul with faster processors, more memory and all the other good stuff and a starting price point of $500.

spotlightOne feature of the new OS X Yosemite — Spotlight Search now with website suggestions — unites Apple with Microsoft. While Google still remains the default search provider for searches done in the Safari browser, Bing has become the default search engine for Spotlight, as it is for the Siri personal assistant. The website SearchEngineLand.com read the fine print in the user agreement and noticed that Apple will be sharing search query and location information and sharing it with Microsoft.  The Washington Post popped up with a story saying Macs could automatically track your location, and soon the iMore blog jumped in with a guide to privacy for iOS 8 and Yosemite that basically said that Apple was upfront in its documentation about how that stuff worked and it was up to the user to decide to turn it off. The post also linked to Apple’s own pages devoted to user privacy and a PDF on the state of security in iOS 8, for those who want further reading.

hbogoHBO is finally making dreams come true for fans of its shows who do not have the full and expensive channel packages from their cable providers. The network announced late last week that it was making its HBO GO streaming service as a standalone option next year. An official rollout date and final pricing have not been announced yet, but let’s assume sometime before Game of Thrones Season 5 debuts in April 2015 and probably around $15 a month or whatever the channel is going for as part of a cable bundle.  CBS quickly said it too, was launching its own streaming service for live and stockpiled TV. The new CBS All Access service is $5.99 a month and you can watch shows on the CBS mobile app. 

Turns out Facebook was not too happy with the federal agent over at the Drug Enforcement Agency who created a fake profile for a real woman. Last week, Joe Sullivan, the chief security officer for the Social Network sent a letter to the DEA last week reminding the agency that its against the site’s rules to create fraudulent, false or deceptive profile pages, even in criminal investigations.

According to several sources, including security guru Brian Krebs, several Staples office supply stores in the Northeast seem to have been hit, as major banks are reporting a pattern of credit- and debit-card fraud. Law enforcement has been contacted to investigate the matter further and see how widespread the situation has become.

moneyLate last week, Snapchat began to roll out advertisements to users of its mostly disintegrating messaging  service. While the adverts to not appear in the personal communication between Snapchat users, they do show up in the Recent Updates area. In a company blog post, Snapchat said it was introducing advertising to the service because “we need to make money.” At least the firm being up front about its intentions.

Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and the Democrat from Vermont, wrote a letter and urged Comcast to be an example, take a stand and make a pledge against any type of Internet “fast lanes” for higher-paying customers. Your move, Comcast.

hoverboardAnd finally, the hoverboard shown in Back to the Future II, back in 1989, may be floating into some sort of reality.  Jill and Greg Henderson have developed a working hoverboard of sorts that  while limited, works. The Hendo Hoverboard, as it’s called, is not yet for sale. However, its creators have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $250,000 to further development and get it out to the marketplace. Hey, the famous Back to the Future II light-up sneakers are now finally affordable after an expensive earlier version lit up the charity auctions a few years ago, so it’s only a matter of time before the mass-market hoverboards are zipping about the city streets.

PTJ 111: Microsoft Hopes to Roll a Lucky Number 10

For some it provides welcome relief from the myriad distractions of the Internet and for others, each clack of the typebar striking the ribbon, paper, and platen imbues them with a warm, satisfying sense of accomplishment.  It was the weapon used to slay the vileness  of the blank page or the unforgiving beast we wrestled with at our jobs for countless hours a year.

The wonderful, humble, fearsome typewriter.  This week J.D. explains why typewriters are still loved by many.

In the news Microsoft feels the next iteration of their market dominant operating system is so revolutionary the name should feature double digits; Apple’s 8.0.1 update crashes and burns but the fruit themed toy maker tackles the Shellshock head-on; Facebook debuts its Atlas ad platform;  a new social network called Ello positions itself as the anti-Facebook; Akamai releases its “State of the Internet” report; Grooveshark loses its groove; and the sequel to the film classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gets an interesting distribution deal.

PTJ 111 News: Are We There Yet?

Microsoft says it’s cranking it up to 10 — and it’s no joke. The company held a big press event out in California this week to show off its new operating system and announced it was skipping Windows 9 and going right on to Windows 10. Windows 10 looks a little like Windows 7 and a bit like Windows 8, according to the Re/Code site. For those who can’t wait for the final release in 2015, preview editions of the new system will be available this week to those who sign up for the Windows Insider public beta program.

Despite Chinese superstition, “8” has not been a lucky number for Apple, either, as it had to hurriedly yank back its iOS 8.0.1 update last week after early adopters howled that it broke their iPhones. Bloomberg News has reported that the update faceplant may have been related to the infamous Apple Maps fiasco of 2012. Apple refused to comment on that situation but did get its iOS 8.0.2 patch out last Thursday. The 8.0.2 fix seems to have worked for most people, although the Mac Rumors site is saying they’ve got user reports of other problems with it.

This week,  Apple also released a patch for the security flaw known as Shellshock or the Bash bug for the Bash UNIX shell used by OS X; you can download it from its site. Many Linux vendors, including Red Hat, have also issued patches for the exploit.

bash

Facebook is still trying to find new ways to use your personal data to make advertisements more appealing to you. This week, the Social Network fired up Altas, a platform that lets advertisers buy ads through Facebook that appear on sites besides, well, Facebook. These ads were made for stalking.

The sheer amount of advertisements and data-grabbing has turned many people off Facebook, and helped gin up interest in a new social network called Ello. It’s still in the beta phase and invitation-only, but the simple, six-week-old service is getting attention for its pledge to make social networking a transparent tool for empowerment and that its users are not products, as stated below.

ello

The ad-free Ello was created by graphic designers and techies and is gaining thousands of new users a day, even though some complain the site’s design is a bit confusing and the inevitable geek “it’s so over” backlash has begun. Ello, which plans to make money by charging users a small fee for premium services, is also big enough now to have been hit by a DDOS attack this week.

Akamai has released its quarterly State of the Internet report again and as usual, it highlights all kinds of facts and figures about who’s using the Internet for what and how fast they’re doing it. In terms of overall broadband global broadband speed, South Korea and Hong Kong are still smoking the rest of the world with peak speeds of more than 72 megabits per second compared to a peak of 45.3 megabits per second here in the States. (Hong Kong may have speed, but it’s probably not doing much good for the citizens protesting changes to the city’s elections policy; as NPR, Gizmodo and others have reported, the protestors are thwarting government efforts to stifle communication by using mesh-networking apps like FireChat.)

Next year will be a big one for eBay. The online auction site announced to shareholders this week that it plans to fully separate from its PayPal payment system business and create two independent, publicly traded companies.

sharkChanges are coming to a couple of online music services. For one, a judge has ruled against Grooveshark for copyright infringement because it did not have licenses for all the music it offered to its 35 million users to stream. And eMusic, another online service and one that started selling downloads by subscription way back in 1998, is ditching track sales from mainstream labels like Warner, Universal and Sony to focus exclusively on sales from independent music companies.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out a new line of slim-line HP Stream tablets and laptops in colorful cases. The devices offer 4G connectivity and a lot of online storage, and the most expensive new laptop in the batch, the one with a 13.3 inch screen, will only set you back $230. The 7-inch tablet is about $100 and the new gear will be available in November, just in time for the gift-giving season. But yes, they come with Windows 8.1.

New York Comic Con is next week in Manhattan and one of your esteemed Pop Tech hosts is moderating a panel or two. If you’re going, be sure to get the app and wear comfortable shoes (or boots, if you’re doing cosplay).

myeohAnd finally, fans of the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may have to wait until next August to see the sequel, but they won’t have to go very far to do so. Netflix and the Weinstein Company have signed a deal to release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend simultaneously in selected IMAX theaters around the world and on Netflix. Two starts of the original film, Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen will be back, and the sequel arrives next August 28. Windows 10, Star Wars Episode VII, Crouching Tiger 2 — 2015 should be dubbed the Year of the Geek.

PTJ 84: Facebook Drones And Bitcoin Heists

J.D. goes all Winslow Homer on us this week and introduces us to apps she uses to convert photos into digital works of art on her smartphone.  In the news, Samsung reportedly spends $20 million on Oscars product placement; Facebook looks to fill the sky with drones; Radio Shack closes 1100 of its retail stores; the US Department of Justice sides with broadcasters in fight with Aereo; Google barge ordered to pull up anchor and scram; Sony’s PS4 arrives in Japan; and Pizza Hut developing an interactive touchscreen pizza-ordering table.

PTJ 84 News: 11,000 Drones to Go, Hold the Anchovies

Everyone wants to be near those little gold men out in Hollywood. Samsung reportedly spent $20 million on advertising for this year’s Academy Awards show and also got huge product placement with the Selfie Seen Round the World when Bradley Cooper used a Galaxy Note 3 to snap a group shot with Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt and several other celebrities during the show. According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung and its media-buying firm negotiated to have the phone integrated into the broadcast at various points (although there didn’t seem to be any Samsung ads on those pizza boxes that arrived midway through the show). TheOscar selfie and its retweet (times two million) is said to have crashed Twitter Sunday night. All in all, it was a busy few days for Twitter, which also apologized to a small number of its users on Monday after unintentionally sent them unnecessary password reset notices.

Facebook is reportedly in talks to by Titan Aerospace, a company that makes near-orbital, solar-powered drones that can fly for five years without having to land. As one of the major backers for the Internet.org initiative, the company seems to be doing its part to bring affordable Internet access to some of the five billion people around the world who have no online resources. TechCrunch says it hears Africa may be one of the first areas to see Facebook’s NetDrone Squadron if this all works out.

RadioShack announced earlier this week that it will be closing up to 1,100 of its retail stores this year as it tries to find its place in the 21st century. As Business Insider pointed out,  a RadioShack ad from 1991 shows products that have all been replaced by the smartphone, so the chain could definitley do with some reinvention.

Aereo, the tiny-antenna company known for its service that provides streams of broadcast television channels over the Internet, may also be in for a future bummer. In papers filed recently, the US Department of Justice has sided with the television broadcasters who are currently suing Aereo for harvesting their over-the-air signals without paying the standard retransmission fees. The major broadcast television networks said last week that a Supreme Court decision in favor of Aereo would destroy the broadcast TV model. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case on April 22th.

Officials in San Francisco have ordered Google to stop work on its mystery barge out in the Bay and tow the structure 80 miles to the Port of Stockton. (No permit? No mystery barge, Google.)

Verizon Wireless has rebooted its prepaid wireless service with its new AllSet plans. The new no-contract plans now let customers carry over unused data allowances from one month into the next. Plans start at $35 a month for regular phones and 500 voice minutes and $45 a month for smartphones with unlimited messages and 500 megabytes of data.

The annual Mobile World Congress event took place in Barcelona last week when we were on vacation, but just to recap the big announcement: the Samsung Galaxy S5 will have a 16-megapixel camera, fingerprint scanner, heart-rate monitor, 5.1-inch screen and Android KitKat, as well as $500 worth of gifted news, productivity and fitness apps when it arrives next month. Other stuff got announced, too.

Cortana, Microsoft’s own personal virtual assistant software is expected in the next update to the Windows Phone software. More details should arrive early next month at Microsoft’s Build conference.

Apple’s “iOS in the Car” project has formally emerged as CarPlay, and is the company’s system for linking the iPhone with the dashboard infotainment system built into certain automobile models. CarPlay is expected to show up later this year on models from Ferrari, Volvo and Mercedes.

Coming sooner: Apple’s iOS 7.1. a major update to last fall’s love-it-or-hate-it iOS 7, should be out any day now. (Also in Apple news, Microsoft may be looking to bring its Xbox Live gaming network to Android and iOS devices.)

Sony’s PlayStation 4 launched in Japan late last month and sold 370,000 units in its opening weekend. The company says it’s now sold 6 million PS4 consoles worldwide.

Georgetown U is headed to the annual SxSW conference down in Texas. The university will be hosting a panel called “Designing the Future University From the Inside,” which will look at the school’s own experiments in finding alternative ways to deliver a quality education and how universities can be proactive in their evolution in today’s world of technology and globalization.

While we were on vacation last week, the Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange collapsed in a $460 million pile of FAIL. Hackers were said to have made off with the big bucks; the company also has another $27 million missing from its bank accounts. Wired has an excellent rundown of The Great Bitcoin Banjax.

A new survey reported in the Los Angeles Times and elsewhere finds that 1 in 10 Americans think HTML is a sexually transmitted disease. It was perhaps not the most scientific survey with the most rigorous methodology, but remember, not everyone out there is a geek. (If you know some non-geeks, though, warn them of the fake Netflix phishing scam going around.)

xppopSpeaking of warnings, Microsoft is starting to sent out pop-up alerts to Windows XP users telling them that April 8th is the last day of support and to please, please, please upgrade. The company is trying to lighten the upgrade load by providing free copies of Laplink’s PCmover Express migration software that copies the files and settings on an XP machine to a Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 machine. If you’re interested in upgrading, click here. (If XP users need to migrate programs as well, Laplink is offering its PCmover Professional program for $24, which is 60 percent off the regular price.)

And finally:  Chaotic Moons Studio, which has been helping Pizza Hut develop mobile apps for online ordering, has a new concept project. It’s the interactive touchscreen pizza-ordering table. It’s still a concept, but you can bet if it ever goes mainstream, you’ll be able to play Angry Birds on it while you wait for your pie.

Episode 56: Proudly Flying Our Geek Flag

This week El Kaiser wrestles with an identity crisis and J.D. gives us the lowdown on how the micro-blogging service Twitter determines what is trending. In the news, taking down websites that offer access to pirated content by targeting their wallet; the NSA gets sued; Buzzfeed and Facebook have a slap fight; manufacturers ditch the Thunderbolt port; rumors heat up about a Microsoft smartwatch; Blackberry drastically drops the price on its flagship Z10 smartphone and Nasa discovers a new moon orbiting Neptune.

Episode 21 News: It’s an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World

Another shot has been fired in the Tablet Wars of 2012 this week, as Microsoft’s Surface went on sale for pre-orders. Apple finally sent out invitations for its second fall event, to be held on October 23 — will we soon be able to stop speculating about the iPad Mini? Archos is doing the opposite of mini with its Archos Arnova FamilyPad. which reportedly sports a 13.3-inch screen.

As for this week’s helping of privacy and paranoia, Google’s privacy policy has angered data-protection officials in the European Union, Verizon Wireless is monitoring its customers’ habits and selling the data, and the Direct Marketing Association is gearing up for a campaign to convince the general public that they shouldn’t be worried about being hounded all over the Web by ads. (Okay, how long until we get biometric personalized advertisements tracking us through the mall? Really? That soon?)

Facebook, which is usually in the middle of some sort of privacy squall itself (but not this week), expanded its Anti-Virus Marketplace and added mobile offerings this week. This is all part of the site’s efforts to shore up security, which also includes the mailbox for reporting phishing attempts that was set up earlier this year. And LinkedIn, hoping to be more social itself, redesigned its profile pages this week.

That new Boxee cloud-based DVR with HDTV antenna box that was just a rumor a few weeks ago now has a price tag and arrival date: $99 and November 1.

If you bought a lot of ebooks from certain publishers, you may even get some cash back for a Boxee purchase or other goodie, thanks to the settlement from that big ebook pricing lawsuit.  If you bought a lot of digital titles between April 2010 and May 2012, check your mailbox because you may have gotten an email message from your book dealer about potential refunds. Amazon already has a FAQ page set up for its customers on the topic.

And finally, is your smartphone cool enough to be seen in public? A story in The New York Times this week takes a look at BlackBerry users who are ashamed of their devices in a world of hipster touchscreen smartphones. Seriously, folks, if you mainly just use the phone as a phone and don’t need the apps, forget the peer pressure to get a cooler phone, embrace it — and go full honkin’ retro.