Pokémon, those whimsical little Japanese pocket monsters, are celebrating their 20th anniversary in style by taking over much of the mobile world this month with the release of the augmented reality smartphone game, Pokémon GO. But while millions of people downloaded the game to their Android handsets and iPhones in the first week of release, security experts and privacy advocates have voiced concerns. Journalist Laura M. Holson drops by Pop Tech Jam HQ to discuss how Pokémon GO works, what to worry about and why it became so popular so fast. El Kaiser and J.D. also discuss the non-Pokémon headlines of the week, including Twitter’s big plans for this month’s political conventions and some truly classic code.
Do you like reality TV? If you’re a general fan of long windy speeches, you can see the United states political machine grinding its gears later this month on Twitter. The bird-themed microblogging service announced this week that it has reached a deal with the CBS television network to livestream both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, much to the delight of trolls everywhere.
Also in Twitter news, the company has issued a cease-and-desist letter to another site that made a habit of recording and displaying the deleted tweets of politicians and celebrities. Upon receiving the letter, the PostGhost site did shut down, joining Politiwoops in the club of sites who have angered Twitter. Politiwoops, though smacked by Twitter last year, does seem to be back as part of the Sunlight Foundation for transparent government. And Twitter has increased the allowed size of animated GIF files that can be attached to tweets, which can now be up to 15 megabytes on the Twitter web interface or 5 megabytes on mobile. This has inspired some people to compress full-length movies and TV episodes into high-speed animated files, just because they can.
The ebook revolution seems to have hit a snag, at least with book from major publishers. The American Association of Publishers released its annual sales survey this week that showed ebook sales had declined about 11 percent in 2015. Overall, ebooks accounted for 17% of all book sales for the year and Fortune magazine thinks the drop may be in part to major publishers reining in e-sales with higher prices as a way to limit Amazon’s influence over the publishing industry. Digital formats are not all riding the down arrow though: The AAP survey also showed that revenue from audiobook sales has nearly doubled since the year 2012, from $299 million in sales up to $552 million last year.
Facebook, Apple and Google have all taken a keen interest in India as a new source of revenue. While Facebook’s Internet.org project to bring its version of the web to the country hit a roadblock with local officials and net neutrality advocates earlier this year, and Google has busted out with a new program designed to train two million local developers in the art of Android. The new initiative is called the Android Skilling program that it plans to implement in universities and training schools around India later this year. Also in international tech news, the Obama administration says the Twitter traffic of Islamic State has dropped 45 percent in the past two years due to an online counteroffensive.
Electric cars are picking up speed. <rimshot> Along with your Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt and other models out there, Mercedes-Benz is said to be prepping a concept version of an all-electric sedan that it plans to unveil at the Paris Motor Show in Paris this fall. peaking of Tesla, though, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Elon Musk’s electric car company is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to tell investors about the fatal crash of one of its cars in Autopilot mode this May.
Google is making high-speed data access easier for its Project Fi customers who are traveling. The company announced on its Android blog this week that it was giving Project Fi subscribers a $10-per-gigabyte data plan in more than 135 countries for those who don’t want to drift between Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels and cafes or fumble with the international SIM card maneuver.
After initial delays, Oculus Rift VR headsets are now shipping within 2-to-4 business days from ordering. And developers who want to attend the company’s Oculus Connect 3 conference on early October can fill out applications for attendance starting August 2.
And finally, if you like NASA and you like programming, head on over to GitHub — if you’re not already there — and check out the source code for the onboard guidance computers used on the Apollo 11 command and lunar modules back in 1969. The pages of source code were digitized a while back for the MIT Museum and was later transcribed and uploaded into text files by a researcher in 2003. So the code itself was already in the public domain if you knew where to look, but a former NASA intern uploaded the entire collection to GitHub last week so even more people could examine the files and read the comments put in by the original NASA programmers. As PCMag.com notes, the code has a lot of humor and even some Shakespeare in the comments. And lest you think all those 1960s-era computer jocks were men in short-sleeve white dress shirts, remember that software engineer Margaret Hamilton (shown here) was one of the main programmers on the Apollo 11 project and is still an inspiration to many of today’s girls who code.
They were created pre-Internet but are more popular than ever. J.D. gives us the lowdown on the ubiquitous animated GIF. In the news, NYC-based tech startup Aereo continues to ruffle the feathers of major television broadcasters; Sony announces cheaper and smaller Ultra HD TVs; Google removes thousands of apps from the Play Store; the U.S. Nave deploys the first laser weapon; and Facebook releases Home, their new front-end app for next generation Android devices.
They’ve been lurking in the background for years, but animated GIFs have had a comeback in popular culture lately. People use the format to create humorous Internet memes, low-resolution video clips of events like cool sports plays or their own mini-cartoons. Tumblrs are spilling over with animated GIFs, El Kaiser has created an excellent Pop Tech Jam GIF and BuzzFeed even had a list of favorites for 2012. (Like wildlife? Check out the Animal PerfectLoop site.)
Not bad for a file typet that’s been around since the Reagan administration. The GIF format was first introduced in 1987 by CompuServe. GIF itself stands for Graphics Interchange Format and some have argued how to pronounce the acronym. (The creators of the format have said they pronounce it like a certain peanut butter-brand chosen by choosy mothers, although some dictionaries support both pronunciations.)
Animated GIF files are generally smaller than the average video file and only support 256 colors. An animated GIF, which is a series of still pictures (frames) combined together to create action or motion, does not contain sound like most video formats do. Video files also typically have at least 24 frames per second or higher to create fluid motion in a wider range of colors. This small file size of the animated GIF and its compatibility led to their relative popularity in the early days of the Web when dial-up connections were too slow to handle streaming video (or much of anything else besides text).
Before you decide how you want to make your animated GIF file, you should select the images to use for the project, like a sequence of pictures of say, a hamster on its wheel or the best three seconds of a video clip. If you’re using still photos or illustrations, all the images used should be sized to the same dimensions. The fewer pictures used, the faster and choppier the animation will be in the final GIF file. Some basic animated GIF files just use four images. For more fluid, video-like motion, use more images in the sequence.
Recent versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements, a popular photo-editing program designed for home users, can make animated GIFs using the Layers feature. If you have one of these programs, you can use it to create animated GIFs:
You can also use snippets of video and convert the clip to an animated GIF. The How-To Geek site has instructions for converting bits of YouTube clips to animated GIFs here and the Switched blog has a tutorial on the same topic here.
Plenty of Web sites also offer simple GIF conversion. You upload a series of images (or a short video clip) and the site crunches your upload into a GIF for you. MakeaGIF and Gifninja are two sites that can handle the job.
Want to animate your GIFs on the go? Check out your app store for options. Gifboom is one such mobile app with iOS and Android versions available.
But really, the technical stuff isn’t so hard. The hard part of finding that perfect GIF-able moment, but when you do, you feel like this: