Tag Archives: Alphabet

PTJ 242: So Long, Old Paint?

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is coming back for a 40th-anniversary run, but a couple of old standbys are getting boxed up for the software attic. El Kaiser and J.D. take a stroll through the week’s headlines and talk later about Google Street View — and how those who love it can make their own outdoor 360-images. Punch that Play button and come on along!

Links to Stories on This Week’s Episode

PTJ 185 News: Punt, Pass and Kick

Ten years old and busting some moves on the field: Twitter caught a deal to stream 10 NFL games globally this coming season. The bird-themed microblogging service paid a reported 10 million dollars for the rights to stream these Thursday night gladiator matches for the cord-cutting population. Are you ready for some football — with lots of commentary and trolls?

Amazon has the 8th generation of the Kindle waiting in the wings, but the news didn’t come from the rumor blogs. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos teased the news himself over Twitter this week. Amazon also looks to be taking a piece out of PayPal by extending the reach of its Amazon Payments service. The company has announced its Amazon Payments Partner Program will be available to e-commerce platform providers in several countries..

The Federal Communications Commission is taking a cue from the Food and Drug Administration and has come up with information labels for broadband and mobile service that look just like those black-and-white nutrition labels you see on food.  Although the agency is not making these labels mandatory for service providers, the FCC’s current Net Neutrality rules do require the ISPs to be more transparent in their dealings with consumers.

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WhatsApp announced this week that it’s turned on full end-to-end encryption. The move locks up communications between the service’s billion users tight enough so WhatsApp employees and government watchers can’t peek. Your move, guv’ment.

That expected Sony PlayStation 4 update arrived this week. That’s the update with the remote play function for Windows and Mac and other social features.

Microsoft’s annual Build conference for developers was out in San Francisco last week. The event seemed to please developers, as Microsoft announced programmers could use the Ubuntu Linux BASH shell on Windows and the Xamarin dev tools are now free. Presentations at the Build conference also highlighted intelligent AI apps, bots, digital ink and this year’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which features enhancements to Cortana and other elements of Windows 10. (Not reported at the conference, however, was the trial run of Outlook Premium service.)

NASA is getting in on Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality system. The agency announced a new exhibit called “Destination: Mars” scheduled to open this summer at the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Guests will get a holographic tour of Mars from retired astronaut Buzz Aldrin and explore several sites on the red planet that were reconstructed using real imagery from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover.

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Umbrella-shaped Google parent-company Alphabet is not endearing itself to some of its customers. Reports around the web say Nest, (the smart-home component of the Alphabet empire), is kicking and bricking a bunch of older devices deliberately. The smart-home devices in question were made by Revolv, That company recently announced in its site that it was shutting down as of May 15 and its app and smart-home hub will no longer work.

Google just pushed out a pretty chunky over-the-air patch for the Android system as part of its April Security Bulletin.  Apple has issued a patch for iOS 9.3 that was intended to correct that little crashing Safari links problem. However, an independent security researcher has posted a video and description of a bug he says the new 9.3.1 patch brings with it. As several sites have pointed out, until a proper patch arrives. the quick fix for now is to turn off Siri from using the phone’s Lock Screen. Cue iOS 9.3.2…

The Starz cable TV channel has joined the stream team. If you want to watch Outlander, Black Sails or any other Starz content on your Android or iOS device without having to get a cable subscription, you can get it for $9 a month a la carte.

ThinkGeek.com had its usual roster of stellar fake April Fools products last week,  including a Star Trek White Noise Machine. Quilted Northern went viral with a video about rustic-weave artisanal toiler paper. The Epic Fail award for 2016, however, goes to Google, for slipping in an animation featuring one of those yellow Minions characters dropping a microphone that unfortunately got into many serious and professional messages send by Gmail used. Google has apologized.

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And finally, two items of note from Department of Making Things Easier to Understand. First up, the MIT Media Lab has created a new site called Data USA, which tries to make public government data on a variety of subject easier to view and mentally process. Second, Facebook announced this week it was using artificial intelligence software to create automatic alternative text that describes the contents of photos for blind and visually impaired users with screen reader software on their iOS devices. The auto alt text is rolling out in English for iOS users first, but more languages and platforms are expected soon. But how will Facebook’s picture describing software software be able to withstand the the “Chihuahua or Muffin” meme?

PTJ 176: The One with Google Cardboard and Election Apps

Google’s corporate parent, Alphabet, is now the most valuable company in the world but all Pedro has on his mind is virtual reality. J.D. puts together a set of the Big G’s Cardboard VR goggles for the hapless Kaiser then fills us in on some very useful apps and sites to help U.S. voters make an informed decision on Election Day in November.

 

PTJ 176 News: A Tip of the Market Cap

The hills are alive with the sound of earnings calls! Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has now passed Apple and wins the Most Valuable Company prize. The murmurs started Monday night , when Alphabet’s market cap hit about $570 billion, shooting by Apple’s mere $535 billion.  So Alphabet is on top, for now. And like Apple, blogs are reporting that Google may be preparing to take tighter control over its own Nexus hardware line, much like Apple’s iron grip on both the hardware and software for its iOS devices.

In other good news for Google, its Gmail service now has 1 billion monthly active users, making it just about the most popular free email service in the world. Also in the One Billion Users Club: WhatsApp. As a blog post on the WhatApp site helpfully points out, that’s nearly one in seven people on the plant using the app.

Speaking of iPhones, however, 9to5Mac.com is floating the idea that Apple will be having a big media event on March 15th to announce new hardware (including an iPad Air 3), but we haven’t seen any invitations yet. One thing Apple probably won’t be talking much about is the recent death of its ad-supported iTunes Radio service which only arrived in late 2013. If you try to play an old station you created and are not an Apple Music subscriber, you will get a nag alert telling you to sign up for Apple Music, where you cangold still use the stations as part of your subscription. Also in streaming music news, The Recording Industry Association of America has said it will now include on-demand audio and video streams and a track sale equivalent for calculating those Gold & Platinum Album Awards.

As announced on its site this week with the headline “Using Qualitative Feedback to Show Relevant Stories,” Facebook is making an change to the News Feed algorithm. Because that’s never happened before.

Our favorite do-it-yourself site iFixit announced this week that it’s part of a new trade group called The Repair Association. The new organization represents professional and consumer repairers and is worth a look if you like to fix your own stuff.

As threatened, er, promised last fall, Microsoft has switched the status of its Windows 10 update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users from Optional to Recommended, so it may initiate the installation sequence on its own before it’s manually stopped. Let the howls from Windows 7 users (shown below) commence…

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If you watch A LOT of television and find that two — or even four — TV tuners are just not enough, the DISH network is ready to help you out. It just released the DISH Hopper 3, a digital video recorder with a 16 tuners and built-in 4K resolution. The Hopper 3 is available for about $15 a month to Dish Network satellite TV customers.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the European Commission and the United States have resolved that little  tussle over the old Safe Harbour system for American companies handling the privacy rights of Europeans. The new framework is to be called the EU-US Privacy Shield.

According to Open Signal’s “State of Mobile Networks: USA” report, T-Mobile has won three network comparison tests, including 3G download speeds and latency, as well as 4G speeds. Verizon had the most 4G coverage, so Big Red still gets some bragging rights.

And finally, it seems like everyone’s into selfies these days, including the Mars Curiosity Rover. The interplanetary exploratory vehicle sent back a self-portrait comprised of 57 separate images of itself — taken not with a selfie stick, but with the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera positioned at the end of Curiosity’s robotic arm. The images were also used to create a 360-degree video of the Martian landscape for Facebook. The little rover didn’t stop its social-media onslaught there: If you happen to be crushing on a fellow NASA enthusiast this month, be sure to send one of Curiosity’s special Valentine’s Day cards to the object of your affection. Ain’t love (and science) grand?

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PTJ 154 News: Salad Days

Google isn’t taking much of a summer vacation and instead, set up a whole new corporate operating structure this week.  In a blog post on the company site, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced a new business entity called Alphabet that will now oversee  a collection of companies underneath it, including Google. Other members of Alphabet include Nest and Google Fiber. The new structure is said to give all the companies more room to grow and embody the Google Philosophy. However, there was one little glitch with setting up the new mega-company: German automaker BMW actually owns the trademark and domain of the now-overloaded alphabet.com.  Google has abc.xyz instead, and a cheeky little Silicon Valley joke in the mix, too.

Verizon Wireless is also changing things up. Following in the steps of T-Mobile, Verizon announced late last week that it was getting rid of that whole two-year contract commitment when you buy a new cellphone and has new service plans outlined in the Verizon press release “Simplified Data Choices Match Customer Lifestyles.”  If you blow past your monthly allowance, that’ll cost you $15 per gigabyte. (On that note, Snapchat has introduced a new Travel Mode in its Android and iOS apps that stops automatic Snaps, Stories and Discovery updates on cellular connections unless the user requests it to help save data-plan bytes.)

stopA new report by Adobe and PageFair estimates that ad-blocking software will cause a $22 billion dollar loss of revenue for advertisers this year, and that could affect jobs. Advertisers worry that ad-squashing software is even starting to stifle those expensive video ads everyone’s rolling out. Many users counter those arguments by pointing out that online ads can stalk and collect data on the user, hog bandwidth and are often infected with malware. So that’s why they use software like Adblock Plus — and will do so on mobile platforms as more blocker apps arrive.

Speaking of blocking, the Internet Watch Foundation is stepping up the fight against images of child pornography online. By using hashes, also known as digital fingerprints of specific images, and compiling these hashes into a lengthy list for sites and service providers, the group hopes to prevent uploading or speed up the takedown of the illegal content.

The Internet of Things is gaining ground and a world of automated appliances and household systems looms, but the Online Trust Alliance is trying to stop it all from turning into Skynet: The Home Edition. The OTA group has proposed a set of privacy and security standards for smart devices, and released a draft of its Internet of Things Trust Framework this week.  For those who like to participate, there’s a call for public comments on the document.

Meanwhile, up in space, the crew on the International Space Station got together, harvested and ate lettuce actually grown on the station. It’s all part of NASA’s research on fresh food grown in microgravity. If we’re sending humans to Mars, after all, we’re gonna need to pack some sustainable food resources.

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While most of the crew was enjoying delicious space salad, two cosmonauts from the Russian Federation Space Agency went on a five-hour spacewalk to install new equipment, clean the windows and inspect the exterior of the station.

Mozilla has released Firefox version 40 with a new look for Windows 10 and more built-on security to guard against rogue third-party browser add-ons. Mozilla also seemed to be settling a score with Microsoft for setting its own Edge browser as the default in the Windows 10 express setup. Cortana searches in the new version of Firefox don’t have to use Microsoft’s Bing browser.

Since it’s mid-August,  the Applesauce rumor mill is beginning to grind faster ahead of the traditional September Apple Product Announcement and Media Lovefest. The 9to5Mac is among those guessing that the event will be on Wednesday, September 9th. The blogs are expecting Apple to reveal this year’s iPhone model with Force Touch feedback, iOS 9 and a new iOS-based Apple TV. The mythical, larger 12.9-inch iPad has also been rumored for fall.

And finally, Facebook just published a study about how the world expresses laughter online and found that the once-dominant chatroom standard LOL has become passé, giving way to chortling emojis, hehe and  hahaNelson Muntz, your time is now.