Tag Archives: App Store

PTJ 219: Blue Skies

Samsung thinks it’s solved the mystery of the exploding Note 7, Sprint grabs a new business partner, SpaceX returns to work and oh, cars might fly soon. On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. dive into a pile of tech-news headlines before Apple-watcher Don Donofrio drops by to discuss the company’s 2016 efforts.

PTJ 125 News: Borrowers and Lenders

rhinoForget the Drama Llama — the Irony Rhino went charging through the room this week. The same day President Barack Obama gave a big speech on the importance of, you know, cybersecurity , the Twitter and YouTube accounts for the US military’s Central Command were hacked by supporters of Islamic State. Wired magazine was among those who dismissed the hack as a stunt and not a deep security breach, and some experts are theorizing that the person in charge of those social media accounts got jacked, which led to the official accounts being compromised.

Other government leaders are also concerned about security, terrorist activity and other dirty deeds done dirt cheap online.  In a speech this week, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron said he would try to ban apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp in Britain if intelligence services did not have a key to the back door. And the Federal trial of the Dread Pirate Roberts, also known as Ross Ulbrict of the Silk Road site, started this week in Lower Manhattan.

Microsoft is just not having it from Google. In a post on the Microsoft Security Response Center site, senior director Chris Betz blasted the Big G for releasing information about some Windows 8.1 bugs before Microsoft could roll out its monthly Patch Tuesday fixes. Google made the Windows cracks  known in posts on its Project Zero site for security engineers, which tracks holes in Google’s (and other companies’) software.  As an incentive for the fixing, Project Zero typically has a 90-day trigger of automatic disclosure of unpatched bugs after the vendor has been notified.

win7Microsoft has started the slow countdown to the official demise of Windows 7: The company’s Product Lifecycle database notes that mainstream support for Windows 7 ended this week. Extended product support, which provides regular security updates, goes until January 14, 2020. (Windows 7 still has more than 50 percent of the Windows market at the moment, according to Net Applications.)

You’ve seen those Amber Alert notices on the news and even on electronic highway signs. Now Facebook is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to bring geographically relevant alerts to user news feeds.

The old try-before-you-buy philosophy isn’t just for demoware. Luminoid.com, which rents out cameras, tablets and other gadgets, has just started a new Home Try-On program for wearable electronics. You can borrow five health and fitness tracking devices and try them all out for seven days. If you like a model, you send back the demos and buy a new one from Luminoid. If you don’t buy, you just send them $20 for their lending and shipping efforts.

In iOS news, Google released a free iOS version of its Chrome Remote Desktop app this week. With the app on your iPhone or iPad, an extension to the Google Chrome browser on your computer and a Google account, you can log in and control your computer over the Internet. (An Android version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app was previously available.) And Apple is giving confused parents a hand with new age-appropriate subsections to the Games for Kids area of the App Store.

cnndroneAlthough unmanned drones are mostly banned for commercial use, CNN has worked out an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that would let the channel test camera equipped drones for video journalism and news-gathering. Several media companies have previously complained about the FAA’s ban on drones saying it restricts the First Amendment rights of journalists to gather news. The FAA is currently working on a new set of drone rules, so stay tuned — maybe the drone rules will land before the Federal Communications Commission gets its Net Neutrality ducks in a row.

If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own personal robot, there’s a Kickstarter campaign awaiting you. A startup called Robotbase is gathering funds for a product called Personal Robot, which looks to be the artificial intelligence of personal assistant software married to a motorized robotic rolling platform. As Sam Maggs over on The Mary Sue blog points out in her post titled “Now You Can Have Your Very Own A.I. Personal Robot Lady Friend,” the Cylon race also started out as robot butlers in the Caprica series.

And finally, the New York Public Library is leading out more than just books and videos. As part of the new Library HotSpot program, that fine institution is also making 10,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots available for six-month loans to families who have no broadband access at home. The Library HotSpot project is also receiving major support from Google, the Knight News Challenge, Open Society Foundations and New York’s Robin Hood Foundation. Both the nonprofit Internet access company Mobile Beacon and Sprint are working to get the hot spot hardware distributed to library branches around the five boroughs. And remember hot-spot recipients: security.

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.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Step by Step

They’re high-tech and very helpful, those wearable fitness trackers. You’ve probably seen them advertised, like those various models from Fitbit or the Nike Fuelband. The devices log your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and other bio-data — and come in really handy if you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain a healthier lifestyle. (Fitbit even recently came out with a new smartwatch-style wristband, so take that, Apple Watch.)

But what if you like the idea of a dedicated fitness tracker, but you’re on the fence about buying one because but you don’t want to drop $60 or more for a doo-dad that might end up on the junk drawer after two months of increasingly guilt-inducing non-use?

It you have a fairly modern smartphone,  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right there, thanks to the motion chip and other sensors inside. These technobits let the phone double as a pedometer, and may even be able to show you other things like your walking routes on a map or the calories burned during your stroll.

The only thing you need to buy is (maybe) a special app for a couple bucks,  if that much. Granted, your phone may not be as rigidly precise as a dedicated pedometer or other fitness band, but for many people, it’s close enough and the price it right.

moves2So take, for example, Google’s Nexus 5 phone. It’s one of the many phones out there with pedometric capabilities. You just need one of the many fitness apps available in the Google Play store that lets you graphically display the data that your phone’s collecting. The Moves app (free, easy to use and shown here), and one helpfully called Pedometer, are two Android options. You have plenty of programs to choose from, both free and paid – with usually means more features and no ads. fit_prod_2Many other Android phones can also use these types of fitness apps, so do a search for “fitness trackers” and check the Play store description to see if it’s compatible with your device. Also Club Android: the Samsung’s Galaxy S5, (left), which has heart-rate sensor, a pedometer and S Health software for tracking your fitness routine; the Galaxy S4 is also privy to S Health.

msnMany handsets running the Windows Phone software can also measure your steps and record other bio-stats. The Nokia 630 and Nokia 635 models are among them, and you can download the free MSN Health & Fitness app or another program from the Windows Phone store to get tracking. (The app may actually be called “Bing Health & Fitness” these days, as Microsoft’s blog calls it one thing and the Windows Phone website still has it listed as “MSN Health & Fitness.”)

healthAnd then there’s Apple. The new Health software baked into iOS 8 tracks your steps automatically as you carry the phone around and can show you your step-count and stairs climbed on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. The App Store has a dedicated section for programs that hook specifically into the iOS 8 Health software, as well as a large collection of health apps that work with earlier versions of iOS and older devices. And don’t forget, many later versions of the iPod Nano and iPod Touch work with the Nike + iPod shoe sensor and Nike+ fitness website, and the past several versions of the Nano even had a basic pedometer built right in that doesn’t need any additional gear. And who knows, once you get into the swing of logging your exercise, steps and other info, you may realize that you really want a dedicated fitness-tracking device — or that your phone works just fine for the data you want to collect.

PTJ 107: Naked Celebs and TV Streaming

El Kaiser has The Great Set Top Box Stream-Off of 2014 and J.D. takes a look at the geek-friendly shows the fall TV season has lined up for us.

In the news, a huge hacking scandal involving Apple’s iCloud and stolen intimate photos of various female celebrities; Apple includes restrictions in developer’s agreement for new iOS 8 HealthKit tool; Windows 8 and 8.1 slowly finds its way onto more computers; Google announces in-house drone program; the potential for drone traffic problems up in the sky; NASA gets ready to to perform some maintenance on its Mars rover; and the Internet Archive scans millions of book pages.

PTJ 107 News: I’ve Looked at Clouds From Both Sides Now

The Summer of 2014 unofficially ended in a state of panic and outrage over cloud security with this past weekend’s iCloud Stolen Naked Celebrity Photos scandal.  Apple has now released a statement saying its iCloud security was not cracked and that the targeted accounts were compromised due to weak user passwords and easy-to-guess security questions. Apple did release a patch for its Find My iPhone tracking app Monday, as The Next Web and others had speculated about a lack of a password-lockout feature.

ios8

With personal security on its mind anyway, Apple is said to be including restrictions in the developer’s agreement for the HealthKit tools in the new iOS 8. According to The Register, the terms of the agreement ban developers from selling any user health data collected by their apps to third parties who might want to buy it. (Apple does review the apps it sells, and posted a document on its site this week that explains why it rejects certain apps.)

The HealthKit software, baked into iOS 8, is also expected to be a part of any iWatch or other wearable device Apple announces, and although such a device hasn’t even been confirmed, the Re/Code site is already reporting that Apple executives have already been talking about how much to charge for a wearable. Around $400 has been mentioned as a possible price point. And one last bite:  the whole phone-as-eWallet thing may be getting a boost from the iPhone, as Bloomberg reports that Apple is hooking up with the major payment companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express to let people buy things using their phones instead of plastic.

Net Applications, the analytics that keeps track of what people use to get to the Web, has released its report for August and found that Windows 8 and 8.1 have now managed to get to 13.4% of laptop and desktop systems out there. More than 20-percent of users, however, are still clinging to Walking Dead Windows XP.  As for other systems, Mac OS X 10.9 claimed 4.29% of the market share, while Linux had 1.67%. Go alternate operating systems!

wingThe air up there could be getting crowded soon. The Atlantic has a big story out now about Google’s newly announced in-house drone program called Project Wing. It’s been in operation for two years at Google X, the company’s top-secret research lab for big-think, long-range projects. There’s also video that shows a Google drone test flight performing – you guessed it — package delivery. Out the way, Amazon Prime Air!

While the Federal Aviation Administration has not agreed to let commercial drones fly at will, The New York Times also had a story last week looking at the future problems of drone traffic up in the sky and how all these low-flying unmanned aircraft will navigate obstacles and each other. (Domino’s Pizza went on the record and said that despite a pizza-delivery drone PR stunt last year, it was not seriously considering drones in its workforce. So no flying pepperoni for you.)

But on the topic of remote-controlled gadgets, the Opportunity rover up on Mars has been behaving a bit erratically and now NASA’s rover team has plans to reformat the Opportunity’s flash memory. This is Opportunity’s first reformat in the 10 years it’s been on Mars.

archiveAnd finally, the Internet Archive has uploaded more than 2.4 million images scanned from old books to its bulging Flickr account. The new material is called The Commons, and features old engravings, technical drawings, illustrations, sheet music and other material. The images in the collection largely predate the copyright era and range in original  publication date from about 1500 to 1922.  They can be downloaded right from Flickr, so Meme Hunters and Clip Art Collectors, you may now go to town.

PTJ 79: Welcome to Kaiser Town

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these podcasters from sharing their hi-jinks and shenanigans! Well, actually gloom of night might give us pause… This week J.D. gives us some helpful hints on how to prevent our children from making unapproved in-app purchases and Pedro tells us what apps to use to navigate and experience NYC like a native. In the news, Verizon buys Intel Media’s OnCue Internet-based television service; the Internet of Things gets hacked; the video game console war rages on; Hewlett-Packard brings back Windows 7; Samsung Galaxy S5 rumor mill picks up the pace; a comet chasing spacecraft wakes from a long nap; and The New Yorker magazine reminds us that there is still nothing quite like the power and reach of live over-the-air radio.

Control Issues

inappsThe problem of unapproved in-app purchases was back in the news last week, as the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Apple in that case over children’s iOS shopping sprees without parental consent. Apple will be paying out at least $32.5 million in refunds to parents who suddenly found a whole pile of unexpected charges on their credit-card bills after letting the kids use their phones and tablets. As part of the settlement, Apple must change its billing practices to show that it has obtained informed consent from the credit-card holder before charging them for extra power packs, coins, weapons, lives and other virtual merchandise typically sold inside a mobile app itself — and not as a separate download from the App Store.

The FTC’s report said Apple failed to warn parents that by entering a password for what many assumed was just a single in-app charge, they were also giving their kids 15 minutes to make unlimited purchases without further parental permission or passwords. As many parents know, that’s plenty of time for some kids to rack up a few hundred dollars in charges. Since the suit, Apple has released an online guide to in-app purchases in its stores and more parents have educated themselves, (and are perhaps watching the kids a little more closely now).

The FTC-Apple case also gave Consumer Reports a reason to go looking at the Google Play Store, to see what its in-app purchase policies entailed. The magazine reported its findings in an article titled “Google Play Store lets your kid spend like a drunken sailor.” As Consumer Reports reminds everyone, Google Play has a policy of giving an in-app buyer 30 minutes of unsupervised shopping time before the store password needs to be re-entered.

Both Google and the FTC aren’t saying if the Google Play store is under similar scrutiny for failure to notify or require explicit permission for in-app purchases even within the gaping 30-minute window, but given the Apple settlement, it wouldn’t be surprising if discussions underway. (Stories about how to get refunds if the kids do go wild are available around the Web and Google has refund info on its site as well.) A Google spokesperson did state to Consumer Reports that: “We always appreciate feedback and are currently working on new features that give our customers even more information and control over their Google Play purchases.”

In the meantime, if you have kids and mobile devices, take advantage of the available  parental controls to keep your children from not only buying things from online app stores directly, but from even using certain apps on the phone or tablet without supervision. After all, the HBO GO app has a lot of great shows you can stream, but you probably don’t want your pre-teen kids gawping through a Sex and the City marathon while you’re at work.

Here are a few ways to lock down various systems and devices:

restrictions2

While software parental controls may not be as effective as real-time human parental controls, they can help virtually corral the kids  during those times when Mom and Dad are doing something else — like paying bills.