Tag Archives: Antares

PTJ 116: No Need to Put a Quarter Up

It’s that time of year when the weather gets chillier but the Oscar race heats up in Hollywood. The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch is an early award season favorite but if you just can’t wait for the biopic of cryptanalyst,  computer pioneer, and super-boffin Alan Turing, J.D. tells us where we can get a biographical fix of the WWII hero.

In the news,  Google’s Nexus 9 tablet is now available, as is the latest iteration of their mobile OS; the Apple Pay roll-out gathers momentum;  researchers identify a costly glitch in Visa’s contactless credit cards; Microsoft joins the wearable fitness tracker game; Amazon unveils their Prime Photos cloud service; lots and lots of corporate hookups; and The Internet Archive debuts their Internet Arcade with 900 classic games.

PTJ 116 News: Zen Arcade

Apple may have hogged all the headlines in September, but so far, Google is owning November. The  Google Nexus 9 tablet is now available and Android 5.0, also known as Lollipop, is beginning to roll out to those using older Nexus devices. The system update, among other things, includes the new Material Design look. If you’re rocking a phone from another manufacturer or wireless carrier, check with those folks to see when you might get Lollipopped.

gmailGoogle also officially released that new Gmail app for Android, which works on all devices running at least Android 4.0. You can find it in the Google Play store. The Google Calendar app for Android is also getting an update; it’s available already on Lollipop devices and will be arriving in the Google Play store soon for older hardware running at least Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. (The designers at Google must have had a hellaciously busy fall, as the Google Maps mobile app has also gotten a refresh.)

So, about Apple… although CVS and Rite Aid are spurning the new Apple Pay mobile payment system, Chase, Citi and Bank of America were all on board at launch and now another wave of banks is signing on to be part of Apple’s e-wallet. Navy Federal Credit Union, US Bank, USAA and PNC are all live now — or will be very soon.

Mobile payments, along with chip ‘n’ PIN cards like the ones used in Europe, are destined to replace the antique magnetic-stripe credit cards still in use here in the United States. But chip ‘n’ PIN may have some problems of its own. Researchers at Newscastle University in the United Kingdom have published a report that says a glitch in Visa’s contactless credit cards lets them bypass the standard £20 limit and approve unlimited cash transactions up to one million dollars without requiring a PIN – as long as the amount is requested in a foreign currency. Okay, guys, fix that now, please.

One somber note to the news this week: We would like to extend our condolences for all involved in the two horrible accidents last week involving spacecraft made by commercial companies. We speak, of course, of the unmanned Antares rocket that exploded in Virginia during the launch of a resupply mission to the International Space Station and also the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two in the Mojave Desert that killed a crew member.

mbandLast week, Microsoft announced its new wearable fitness tracker — a $200 black tech bracelet with the catchy name of Microsoft Band. It works not just with Windows Phones, but Android models and iPhones as well; if you do happen to use Windows Phone 8.1 with it, you also a few other perks like vice commands to the Cortana assistant and text notifications. Now, if only the Microsoft Band did not look like a court-ordered monitor for those under house arrest…

Microsoft will be getting a new neighbor soon. The Seattle Times has confirmed that Apple is opening an engineering office up there in the Emerald City. The tech-scene corporate mixers are probably going to get a lot more interesting once Apple moves into town.

baleAccording to The Hollywood Reporter, Christian Bale (left) has decided he was not right for the part of Steve Jobs in the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic. Deadline is reporting that Michael Fassbender is up for the part now, though, and that could be interesting. Fassbender has already shown off his brooding intensity as the young Magneto in the two most recent X-Men films, so the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field should be a snap.

Amazon Prime members continue to collect perks. Amazon has released a new service for them called Prime Photos, which brings unlimited digital-picture storage to Amazon Cloud Drive.  Amazon also announced that its Prime members can take advantage of partnerships the company has set up with other retailers. For example, Prime members can now get free, next-day shipping on items purchased from the British fashion company AllSaints.com.

Looks like a few major corporations are hooking up on some deals:

cheekyAnd finally, if you loved the collection of console and PC games preserved and made available online at The Internet Archive, you’re probably going to love the site’s new Internet Arcade. Yes, now 900 classic arcade games like Defender, Millipede, Major Havoc, Stargate, Quasar and Cheeky Mouse and all those others mall-arcade faves can be relived in emulation right in your web browser.  ‘Nuff said.

PTJ 115: We Got Your Disruption Right Here

I’ve never been one to mince words so let me just drop a truth-bomb on all of you fine folk reading this. J.D. and El Kaiser are disruptors. Period. Full stop.  If there’s any doubt, quit dawdling and listen to this episode.

Pedro breaks down Disruptive Innovation in a Tech Term segment and J.D. explains how  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right on your phone.

In the news  Google has plans for a paid version of YouTube; Motorola unveils a new Droid; Verizon Wireless force feeds some users perma-cookies; The Federal Trade Commission has files a complaint against AT&T; Not all retailers are jumping on the Apple Pay bandwagon; HTML5 is finally official; Amazon takes on the Chromecast; And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains why Apple killed off the iPod Classic.

PTJ 115 News: Charged Up

Want your cat music videos and surfing dog clips without having to sit through five seconds of annoying ads? Got cash? A vice president who heads the YouTube division at Google said this week the company is planning a paid version that will also be ad-free. No word on pricing yet, but they’re still working things out.

turboIf you’re not thrilled with any of the new phones so far this season, here’s a new one. Motorola’s latest handset is called the Droid Turbo and it boasts some impressive specifications, including a 21-megapixel camera, a 5.2-inch screen and claims of up to 48 hours between charges on the battery. (The included “Turbo charger” also claims to give you eight hours of power with just 15 minutes of juicing time.) The Turbo comes in red, black or white and it’s on sale through Verizon Wireless as of October 30.

Speaking of Verizon Wireless, astute observers including those at Wired magazine have noticed that Verizon Wireless has been quietly inserting a string of alphanumeric characters into the data flying between its wireless customers and the websites they visit.  Verizon calls that string of characters a “Unique Identifier Header,” or UIDH. It’s part of the company’s Internet advertising program and basically functions as a serial number or a “perma-cookie” that advertisers can use to identify you. As one can imagine, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy-minded groups are not happy about this. If you want to see if your mobile device has been tagged with a tracking number, visit lessonslearned.org/sniff.

Verizon is not the only one getting a growl from the watchdogs. The Federal Trade Commission has  filed a complaint against AT&T alleging that the company has mislead consumers with its unlimited data promises — by not informing those customers that part of their unlimited data plans include having their data throttled by up to 90 percent. Go get ’em, FTC!

Apple Pay has been up and running for the past week or so, but some companies are banding together to promote other contactless-payment services instead. CVS and Rite Aid are among those declining to take Apple Pay at the cash register now, reportedly choosing the just-hacked CurrentC instead. Walgreens, however, is happy to take your Apple tap.

HTML5Even though it’s been in use for several years, the official standard for HTML5 has been published in its final and approved form by the World Wide Web Consortium this week. (Now that that’s done, it’s on to the HTML 5.1 standards draft for the ever-busy W3C!)

Microsoft has issued a security advisory for vulnerability in its PowerPoint software and other programs that use the Microsoft OLE code. The issue effects pretty much all supported versions of Windows out there. So expect a patch soon, check out the security advisory for suggested workarounds and don’t open PowerPoint presentations or other Office documents from strangers.

In Not Scary Microsoft news, the company has knocked another $50 off the price of an Xbox One game console. The sale starts November 2, and brings the price of a basic Xbox One down to about $350. Your move, Sony.

firestickAlthough Amazon’s weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings and epic dud known as the Fire Phone may have its investors a bit cranky, the MegaÜberEverything Store is cranking out new products. This week, Amazon announced its new Fire TV Stick, a $39 competitor to Google’s similar Chromecast HDMI dongle.

All those sassy TV ads and data-deal promotions seem to have paid off for T-Mobile. The carrier just reported its largest financial quarter in its company history and now has 52.9 million total customers and Sprint in its targeting computer.

cometMeanwhile, up in space, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is still chasing comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko. Rosetta’a sensors have even been able to detect the chemical composition of the flying ice ball — down to what it smells like.  According to a blog post on the European Space Agency’s site, “The perfume of 67P/C-G is quite strong, with the odour of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulphide), horse stable (ammonia), and the pungent, suffocating odour of formaldehyde.” Or, as Cnet put it, the comet smells like “rotten eggs and pee.” (Which is not unlike certain subway stations in the New York City metropolitan area on a Sunday morning.)

While the explosion of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket this week was most unfortunate, the space mission goes on. NASA is getting ready to test its new Orion unmanned spacecraft in early December and if you hurry and sign up before midnight on October 31st, your name can go up on the test flight. As part of its public awareness and outreach efforts, the space agency taking the names of everyone who signs up for an “Orion boarding pass” online and inscribing them to digitized list on a  microchip inside the capsule. NASA is also inviting social media users to apply for credentials to attend Orion launch events at several of its facilities around the country.

orion

And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained why Apple killed off the beloved-by-many iPod Classic last month. Said Mr. Cook at a tech conference this week: “We couldn’t get the parts anymore, not anywhere on Earth.” NASA, you have a new mission.