Tag Archives: Android Auto

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

Car entertainment systems have been around since at least 1930, when a brand new company called Motorola designed one of the first successful AM radio systems for an automobile. 87 years later, even base-model cars are on the dealer’s lot with streaming stations right in the console, USB ports for connecting music players and Bluetooth chips for wirelessly linking smartphones.

Tech companies are also getting their software directly into the dashboard to integrate smartphones and cloud services. Platforms include Google’s Android Auto, Apple’s CarPlay and Microsoft Connected Vehicle.  And Amazon’s Alexa assistant will be showing up soon in some Ford and Volkswagen models.

As they did with 8-track and cassette tape decks, though, carmakers are slowly phasing out compact disc players as installed features in favor of digital audio files and streaming connections. But if you have CDs you want to play — say, educational lectures you don’t feel like ripping to MP3 — and your car dealer has no aftermarket solutions to suggest, it is possible to hack together a system for $50 or less.

Most dashboard entertainment systems still have an auxiliary audio port available; check your car’s manual for the location on the dashboard if you don’t see the port. In most cases, you can use this port and a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary audio cable to connect the headphone jack on an inexpensive battery-powered portable CD player. Set the audio input on the dashboard to AUX and push the play button on the CD player.

Check your car’s manual (yes, it has one) to find out about the types of audio devices you can connect to your dashboard entertainment system. If you do not have an old portable CD player on hand, you can still find options at stores like Amazon, Best Buy and Target. Prices generally start around $20, but get a shock-resistant player because American infrastructure has seen better days.

An auxiliary audio cable costs $5 and up. If you don’t want to keep feeding the player batteries, an electrical adapter for the car’s 12-volt power port takes care of the juice.

Most new cars support Bluetooth wireless connections, so if you hate cables, swap in a Bluetooth adapter with its own 3.5-millimeter plug that connects to the CD player. Once you pair the adapter to the car’s Bluetooth system, you can stream the audio from the CD player to the sound system. Taotronics and Mpow are among the companies that make Bluetooth adapters for less than $35 and there are plenty more online.

No matter what you’re using to boom your tunes in the cabin, though, drive safely.

PTJ 173 News: Heaving Las Vegas

If it’s early January, you know there’s going to be a warm blast of hot air coming from Nevada no matter what the actual weather forecast. Yes, it’s time for the Consumer Electronics Expo out in Las Vegas! The show is underway this week and the product announcements are popping out left and right. Creations like the OMbra, a $150 brassiere with fitness tracker tech built right inside have already snagged headlines. Wearables in general are a big trend this year, as are even more gadgets for your smart home. The Ford Motor Company is adding Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto to its 2017 models, newer, faster drones are on the way, virtual reality gear is finally here and many more products will be sporting a USB-C port in the future. Some journalists are finding this year’s crop of tech to be a tad underwhelming, though.

Bored with the current alphabet soup of 802.11 flavors? This week, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced 802.11ah, a new low-power, long-range variation that operates in the frequency bands below one gigahertz. It’s designed to work with smart home, connected car and fitness and medical wearables. This new Wi-Fi also comes with a trendy nickname: Wi-Fi HaLow. (Can Wi-Fi JLaw be next?)

win10Microsoft, ever so excited to get people moved off older versions of its operating systems, announced on one of its blogs this week that Windows 10 is now active on more than 200 million devices worldwide. Still, when it comes to computer adoption, Windows 10 hasn’t quite nudged the needle past 10 percent mark. Net Applications, which measures these things, reports that Windows 10 is now on 9.96 percent of machines out there. Windows 7 continues to lead the PC pack, nabbing just under 56 percent of usage. As one might have predicted, a Microsoft marketing exec is already expressing concern over Windows 7’s future and sounding that old “use it at your own risk” warning. Bloggers have called FUD Factory on that one and point out that Microsoft itself is supporting Windows 7 until 2020. (Oh, and Microsoft also found time over the holidays to release a new iOS called Microsoft Selfie designed to make your quick bits of photographic narcissism look better.)

Speaking of things that aren’t what they appear to be, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has tested out T-Mobile’s Binge On service. After the EEF looked a little deeper and found that T—Mobile was actually “optimizing” ALL video streams, even those from non-Binge On participants. The EFF is now calling ion the FCC to take a look into this service, which could be more accurately called Throttle On.

appleSome analysts are predicting a rough 2016 for Apple, citing a somewhat boring year of products in 2015 — the year that saw the Apple Watch, a revamped Apple TV and a great big iPad. Then again, remember that Apple has $206 billion in cash on hand and is expected to do $77 billion in sales this quarter. Apple does not care about you, analysts.

In the Department of Scary News, security blogger Brian Krebs has a recent post about how some companies don’t properly verify the identifies of their customers for things like password resets. He bolsters his argument with the story of how his own PayPal account got hacked.

Could a power outage in Ukraine last month have been the latest shot fired into the Internet of Things in the creeping cyberwar? Kalev Leetaru, a guest contributor over on the Forbes website seems to think so. He describes an incident that took place in late December where several cities in Western Ukraine lost power for about six hours and very sophisticated malware was found on the computer systems of the power company.

Twitter has plans for the first quarter of 2016 and is said to be working on a feature that gives users a 10,000 character limit for tweets, up from the current 140 characters. No specific launch date has been set and Twitter is not confirming anything. Some have already noticed that Direct Messages have a 10K character limit as well, so perhaps it’s not a totally new thing from inside Twitter HQ.

jarvisMark Zuckerberg, boss of Facebook, has some goals for the New Year. As stated on his own Facebook page, this year’s personal challenge is to build his own voice-controlled artificial intelligence powered software assistant to run his home. “You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man,” Mr. Zuckerberg writes. We’ll check back on this one at the end of the year.

Also in challenges, Dean Kamen’s FIRST organization is kicking off the year in robot-building. More than 350 New York City high school students are set to participate in the regional FIRST Robotics Competition next week in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with the regional contest due for March at the Jacob K. Javits Center  (which New Yorkers can now get to easily by SUBWAY after all these years.)

floppyAnd finally, the DriveSavers company has been called upon by many to rescue digital data from crashed hard drives and other unfortunate incidents, and the engineering team there has now been credited with excavating text files from 200 old 5.25-inch floppy disks that belonged to the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Although DriveSavers said it got about 95 percent of the text back, one thing it couldn’t talk about was the content of the files, which was subject to privacy agreements with Roddenberry’s family. But let’s keep an eye out for some “recently discovered” Roddenberry scripts in the next new months.

PTJ 99: Bluetooth Audio, Flickr Tips, and Tons of Google News

El Kaiser reviews Logitech’s $40 Bluetooth Audio Adapter. The device allows you to play audio from smartphone or tablet through your home stereo or powered speakers.


Of course he (not so) secretly pines for the $250 rBlink wireless DAC from Arcam which promises superior sound quality and rock solid Bluetooth pairing to mobile devices.


If you use Flicker and are looking to reorder your snapshots J.D. shares a Hopefully Helpful Hint that will show you how.

Lots of Google news this week as the Big G kicked off its annual I/O developers conference in San Francisco by announcing a new version of Android. Google takes another swing at the living room with Android TV and releases a new software update to the Chromecast streaming dongle.  Their recent acquisition Nest, maker of Internet-connected smart-home thermostats and fire alarms, has opened its platform to outside developers and buys security firm Dropcam. The search and advertising behemoth experiments with its own domain registration service.

In other news, Yahoo releases a replacement app launcher for Android.  Dating sites get hit on hard by phishing scam; Cloud storage prices drop; both houses of Congress hold hearings about proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV; the Supreme Court rules against Aereo, a service that allows subscribers to view live and time-shifted streams of over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices, in th the Internet company’s battle with broadcast networks; and finally Google, the Girl Scouts, the MIT Media Lab, TechCrunch, the National Center for Women & Technology and others launch the “Made with Code” website.


PTJ 99 News: Gonna Party Like It’s Episode 99

mdGoogle’s I/O Conference is happening at the Moscone Center out in beautiful downtown San Francisco this week. As happens at these Big Dev Lovefests, major announcements are made. Among other things, Google previewed its upcoming “Android L” release, which is said to be the biggest update to the mobile operating system yet. “Android L” features 5,000 new APIs for developers and plenty of interface changes for users with the “Material Design” approach that is supposed to add subtle depth and perspective to elements in screen. And after Google TV flopped, the company is taking another swing at the living room with Android TV — which like other streamers from companies with big content ecosystems, ties your phone and tablet to the television more tightly.

The Chromecast dongle, Google’s low-end entry into streaming, also got an update. Developers also got previews of Android Wear, the version of the system for wearables like watches and Android Auto, for the connected dashboard in your motor vehicle.

In other Google News, its newly acquired Nest company, maker of Internet-connected smart-home thermostats and fire alarms, has opened its platform to outside developers and also bought the security firm Dropcam for a reported $555 million dollars. Dropcam makes WiFi enabled video cameras with night vision, microphones and zoom capabilities. (This is not scary, right?) Google is also experimenting with its own domain registration service. It’s called Google Domains, but it’s still in the early-beta invite-only stage. And good news for the Google Play store — in the past year, quarterly revenue from its app sales has more than doubled, thanks to games and free apps that offer paid in-app upgrades.

aviateBut it’s not all Google this week. Yahoo, which has been trying to get attention for its editorial content lately, has a new software product out now in the Google Play store. The app is called Yahoo Aviate, and it’s a simplified replacement app launcher for Android. Aviate basically takes the concept of Google Now — useful little chunks of information displayed on your home screen — and displays them when it thinks you’ll need them, roughly linking your info to the time of day.

Over in Apple Land, a code explorer poking around the beta version of the iOS 8 software claims to found an unpublicized  “City Tours” feature buried in the Apple Maps app. Samples of the feature are on the 9to5Mac site.

Match.com, eHarmony, PlentyOfFish, Christian Mingle and other dating websites are getting hit on hard by phishing scams. Netcraft, an Internet monitoring company, has detailed the attacks, in which hundreds of fraudulent PHP scripts out there stealing user names and passwords to compromise paid accounts. What can you do with a stolen dating-site subscription? For one: dating fraud.

Cloud storage prices are coming down, with users getting more space for less money. Microsoft has added a bonus 8 gigabytes to the 7 gigs OneDrive customers already get for free, making it a total of 15 gigs of server space. Office 365 subscribers using the OneDrive for Business option will soon be going from 25 gigs to 1 terabyte of space. Microsoft, known for its Windows Phone line, just launched its first Android smartphone. It’s the Nokia X2 and it is running a modified version of Android that kind of makes it look like…Windows Phone.

Both houses of Congress held hearings about the proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV this week as part of their anti-trust investigations.  C-SPAN streamed the hearings, for those who had an interest or insomnia.


About that other major merger: the Comcast-Time Warner deal, the merger could also be affected by an FCC report on Internet broadband speeds. The report found that DSL was lagging behind fiber optic and cable, so how much choice do consumers actually have out there? This sort of puts a dent in one of Comcast and Time Warner’s big arguments for merging.

In related news, the Washington Post recently had an interesting piece about how the state of New York could but a big dent in that deal if it decides it’s not a good thing for the people of the Empire State. Because New York has its own cable franchise laws in place, it could block the merger from happening within state boundaries.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has his own investigation underway.

Governors aren’t the only ones weighing in on fairness, competition and Net Neutrality. The mayors of several major cities at the US Conference of Mayors have adopted a resolution, which calls on the FCC “to enshrine the values of what is commonly referred to as net neutrality.”

pigThe Supreme Court has handed down its ruling in that case of Every Major National TV Broadcaster v. Aereo, the feisty startup with the teeny-tiny antennas. Bad news for Aereo – the Supremes ruled 6 to 3 that the company’s retransmission of signals without paying a fee to the broadcasters does violate the Copyright Act. Aereo’s chief executive has said before that losing this case pretty much ends it for the company.

Also in regulatory news, The German Publishers and Booksellers Association has submitted a complaint against Amazon to the country’s anti-trust author. And one more bummer for Amazon — the Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the company cannot use drones for package delivery, at least for the immediate future. Policies do change with the times, however.

And finally, one last word on Google — but it’s not about I/O, acquisitions or product news. Last week, the Big G teamed up with the Girl Scouts, the MIT Media Lab, TechCrunch, the National Center for Women & Technology and others to launch the “Made with Code” initiative. As one might guess from the name, “Made With Code” is designed to get girls interested in coding, or as it’s called these days, the new literacy.

You go, girls. Future coders can find plenty of free instruction on the web. In fact, we talked about this back on Episode 20 and here’s our own Pop Tech Jam roundup of free instructional sites. Summer’s here and it’s time to work on your monitor tan!