Tag Archives: Apple Music

PTJ 246: What’s the Frequency, Siri?

After a two-week summer vacation, El Kaiser and J.D. return to the studio to catch up on the week’s technology news: Facebook ‘fesses up to a chunk of Russian ad buys during the election, Amazon looks to expand its corporate footprint, researchers have discovered a way to hack most of the popular voice-activated assistant programs by sonic frequency — and the headlines just keep on coming. El Kaiser also previews two new pieces of gear from OWC and Anker for ultrabookers who need to pack their own USB ports and J.D. reports on a couple of scams gaining steam around the Internet. Summer’s over, folks! We’re back to work here on Episode 246!

Links to Stories Mentioned in This Week’s Episode

EL Kaiser’s Gear Preview

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 178 News: Toy Story

The New York Toy Fair was in town and now we have new Star Wars action figures from Hasbro — including Rey and other female characters from the movie’s universe! At last, we know the answer to the #WheresRey question: She came to New York to make it big.

tmMattel used the Toy Fair to unveil the ThingMaker 3D printing system . The new system is an update to the old Thingmaker kit from the 1960s, and the 21st-century edition uses software co-created by Autodesk that wirelessly beams the designs from the mobile device to the child-safe 3D printer. The $300 ThingMaker 3D printer won’t be available until mid-October, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. The free ThingMaker app for Android and iOS is out already if you want to get a feel for it and work out your designs in advance.

vmThe ThingMaker printer wasn’t the only geekworthy news Mattel made at the Toy Fair. The company also announced an update to its View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer. The 2.0 model has been reworked to handle varying sizes of smartphones without the need for an adapter, and it also has improved access to the phone’s headphone jack.

Speaking of virtual reality, the technology is also starting to turn up as a tool for real-estate brokers to sell you an apartment. As a recent story in The New York Times explains, companies like Halstead are using virtual reality headsets to let prospective buyers look around apartments for sale or rent. Thanks to contractors like Virtual Xperience and ArX Solutions who create a VR rendering of the future space based on architectural plans, prospective tenants can get a feel for the place — even if it hasn’t been built yet.

AT&T, which used to be known as the American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation has been around in some form since 1875, is urging its massive workforce to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. The company started a corporate education program about two years ago that offers to help pay for its workers to take classes on their own time to update their skill-sets. One of the new technologies AT&T is working on is the next generation of mobile data networks, the so-called 5G networks. As you can imagine, AT&T is not alone in the speed race, and Verizon said it plans to start field-testing its own 5G airwaves next year. Remember when 3G was all the rage?

Google released its Android 6.0 Marshmallow system last fall, and Samsung announced this week that it was finally pushing out the software to owners of its Galaxy S6 andS6 Edge phones. Part of the multi-month Marshmallow delay was likely due to Samsung tweaking Google’s software to add new features like the new Quick Tools panel to the S6 Edge model.

galaxySamsung is also said to be gearing up to announce its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones next week and at least one blog thinks there’s going to be a Batman vs. Superman version out there for fanboys of both Android and DC Comics. The S7 is also said to be water-resistant.

Other in blog rumors about new phones: 9to5Mac claims Apple will put the new smaller 4-inch iPhone 5se and iPad Air 3 on sale March 18th after a possible March 15th unveiling. Apple is not commenting on that, but did announce its Apple Music service is now up to 11 million subscribers and online service iCloud has 782 million users. But in not so happy news for the Apple, Immersion, a company specializing in haptic feedback technology, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the fruit-themed toymaker for incorporating elements of its technology. (We haven’t even mentioned Apple’s standoff with the Department of Justice the other day…)

The notion of turning smartphones and their sensitive motion detector chips into earthquake sensors isn’t original, but there’s a new Android app called MyShake out from UC Berkeley Seismologicial Laboratory that has some research cred. The app sits quietly in the background until it senses the earth rumbling, and then it uploads a small amount of data to the centralized database created by the seismologists as an earthquake early-warning system. According to the companion paper its creators published on the Science Advances site, the app analyzes motion to see if the “newly incoming data are similar to previously defined human activities.” If it’s not a toddler birthday party or loud music, the data is sent along for further possible-earthquake analysis.

The Tidal music service got a big boost in the App Store because it had exclusive rights to distribute Kanye West’s new album, “The Life of Pablo,” but a glitch in the system left a reported 4,000 fans with credit-card charges and no new album. And then there are the pirates splashing the Tidal wave.

Tax scams are in the air, because people are filing and hackers are hacking. The Internal Revenue Service says it’s stopped an automated attack from identity thieves on its Electronic Filing PIN application on the IRS.gov site.

NASAAnd finally, if you’ve got the qualifications to be an astronaut, well, NASA is hiring this month. It’s the first time in four years the agency put out the word for new talent, and the folks they’re looking for might just end up on a mission to Mars. Other open positions in the NASA job board include IT specialist at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and Research Geophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. And the agency offers benefits, and hopefully an employee discount on the cool stuff.

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…


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?


PTJ 169 News: Feeling the Heat

Well, the Holiday Season is upon us and it’s time for…yet another epic database security breach! This time, it’s the Hong Kong-based VTech who got the personal data of nearly five million customers stolen — and  the first names, genders and birthdays of more than 200,000 kids. VTech acknowledged the breach in what is becoming the customary blog post admitting the intrusion. The hacker who did the job allegedly talked to the alternative news org VICE and told the VICE reporter, “Frankly, it makes me sick that I was able to get all this stuff.” (Dude, you are not the only one feeling that way.)

The aforementioned Bill Gates,  co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, was in Paris this week for the global conference on climate change and took to his blog to announce two related initiatives. Meanwhile, over at the place where Mr. Gates had his former day job, Microsoft took to its blog this week to announce its new PowerApps tools for businesses to make their own internal apps.  Also over on the business side, Microsoft announced its new Skype for Business service for Office 365 customers.

Google, ever helpful (and sometimes creepy), is touting its new Data Saver mode for its Chrome browser for Android.  Google estimates this could help users have 70 percent of their data downloads. Other browser, (Like Opera Mini for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, also have tools for compressing images to help save time and money.) And, feeling sort of Pinteresty, Google has also made it possible to “star” photos you find on Google Image Search for later looking. The feature is available on the Android and iOS versions.

Reports from the rumor mill say Apple is getting ready to ditch the standard 3.5-millimeter headphone port on its iPhones in lieu of an all-in-one Lighting connector and an overall thinner iPhone 7. Apple, of course, is not commenting, but soundhounds across the Internet are.

In Mac software news, the creators of the Sketch program have decided to quit selling their software in the Mac App Store, basically due to the constrictions Apple places on developers. The Sketch design software will be available as a direct-sale product from its creators. Other developers like Panic have also quit the Mac App Store for similar reasons.


Two other Apple-related deals seem to be in the works. One looks to be a sure thing: The Sonos music system will start carrying the Apple Music service this month – the beta goes live December 15th. Less confirmed, however, is the news that Amazon Prime Video may actually be landing on the new Apple TV. According to the MacRumors site, Amazon has confirmed that an app for Apple’s tvOS is in development and may even arrive by the end of the year. Good news for Apple-owning PKD fans wanting to stream The Man in the High Castle on the big screen.

Adobe has been busy the past week as well. The company has rolled out updates to its Creative Cloud software and managed to rename its Adobe Flash Professional program as “Adobe Animate,” perhaps because the name “Flash” has become synonymous with “giant gaping security hole.” And another update: the Adobe Premiere Clip video-editing mobile app is now available for Android along with iOS.


If you live in the New York City area and enjoy a good nerdy museum visit, check out the “Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York” exhibit at the New-York Historical Society. It runs through April 17th and features a recreation of IBM’s pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, a nod to Grace Murray Hopper’s contributions to programming, a model of the Bell Labs Telstar I communications satellite and extremely early video games.

If you’ve been holding on to that $30 Unlimited Data Plan from AT&T since 2007, brace yourself. Starting in February, the price will go from $30 to $35 a month.

And finally, this week marks the 20th anniversary of SOHO — not the overpriced trendy Manhattan neighborhood — but the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, a joint project by NASA and the European Space Agency. SOHO was launched into space on December 2, 1995 and quickly went to work studying the sun — and also discovering 3,000 comets out there as well. Happy 20th, SOHO. Here’s looking at you.

PTJ 167 News: Cracker Jacks

It’s been a week of hacking, cracking and more than a little tracking. For starters, Facebook, which is never shy about getting all up in the content you post on the site, is now testing its Photo Magic feature on its Australian users. So, what is Photo Magic? It’s a Facebook tool that jacks into your phone’s Camera Roll to look for pictures you haven’t yet posted — and then suggests that you send those images to the friends it recognizes through the Facebook Messenger app. Privacy advocates, start your engines.

Also in nosy news, a Belgian court has ordered The Social Network to stop using its special web-tracking cookie on visitors who are not Facebook members. And the Federal Communications Commission has dismissed a petition from the California-based Consumer Watchdog group that would have required big content-and-apps sites like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Netflix and others to honor the Do Not Track requests from browsers.

And from tracking to hacking, the same group that claims to have broken into the personal email account of CIA director John Brennan an few weeks back says it recently got into a law-enforcement portal site for arrest records, agency collaboration tools and other sensitive crime-fighting information. The group, known as Crackas With Attitude, let the world know of the hack of the Joint Automated Booking System over Twitter:

Pinterest has added a new visual search tool — which it describes as “crazy fun” — to help you find the things you want on sight. To quote the Pinterest blog, “When you spot something in a Pin that you want to learn more about, tap the search tool in the corner. Then select the part of the Pin you’re interested in, and we’ll show you Pins just like it. You can even filter your visual search results by topic so you find exactly what you’re looking for.”

Tumblr has added instant messaging for its users. Go, team!

No Internet connection? Google Maps has added offline navigation and search to its Android app. Oh, and in case you were waiting for it,  the Android app version of Apple Music is now out.Google also announced that as of April 2016, it was discontinuing Chrome browser support for on Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS X 10.6 to 10.8. So long, outdated operating systems!

Like video? T-Mobile has also added a new plan called Binge On that lets its users stream content from popular video services like Netflix and HBO Now without denting their data plans. However, some critics note that because not all streaming services are included in the Binge On plan, T-Mobile may have some net neutrality issues to work out with the FCC. bingeon Apple’s iPad Pro went on sale this week, with online orders starting Wednesday and the big slab hitting shelves a few days later. The tablet with the 12.9 inch screen has a starter price of $800 for the 32-gig Wi-Fi only version and the tags go north from there. Optional accessories like the $100 Apple Pencil stylus and the $170 Smart Keyboard, which turns your iPad Pro into a Microsoft Surface, also went on sale this week. And more reasons for Apple to be happy – a federal district court judge threw out a class-action lawsuit brought by Apple Store employees who wanted to be reimbursed for the time spent in the office bag-search line to make sure they weren’t nicking the merch.

Moving on to the exciting world of cable television, Time Warner Cable officially announced its TWC TV Roku Trial program in New York City. If you’re interested, you can sign up for the trial. Also in cable news, an internal Comcast memo that got leaked and posted on Reddit admits that the company’s 300-gigabyte-per-month data caps recently imposed on customers in several southeastern cities to improve network performance is not actually about improving network performance.

Meanwhile, up on the International Space Station, astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren took an almost 8-hour space walk late last week to do a little maintenance. A tweet from the International Space Station’s Twitter account described the chores as “serious high-flying plumbing and cable work,” while NASA reported the mission as the two “restored the port truss (P6) ammonia cooling system to its original configuration.” The Space.com site has an excellent rundown of the walk.

And finally, the Hour of Code is always upon us, but this year, there’s an even bigger push to get women and people of color into programming. To help lure the kids in, the Code.org site is teaming up with Disney/Lucasfilm to have Star Wars characters help with the learning. As explained on a Disney blog, “Students will learn to write code that allows them to create games using Star Wars characters.” This is all part of the third annual Hour of Code event that’s part of Computer Science Education Week, which takes place December 7-13 this year. May the Code be with you!

PTJ 164 News: Eyes in the Sky

The air up there isn’t completely full of drones yet, but the skies have gotten way more crowded in the past few years. This week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced that a task force had been created to develop ideas and recommendations on a registration process for Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Recommendations are due November 20th — will drone license plates be coming soon?

Speaking of government agencies, John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency reportedly had his email hacked by a high school student. The young hacker in question told Wired.com how he did it. The account is question has been disabled and it was an . . . AOL account.

Facebook is here for you. In a blog post on the company site, Alex Stamos of The Social Network said: “Starting today, we will notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state.”

If you need a daily reminder of what planet you live on, check out NASA’s new website devoted to photography from the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera aboard its Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite. While the Deep Space Climate Observatory’s main mission is to track solar wind and storms that could disrupt the world’s electrical grid, air travel and communications systems, it’s handy Earth-facing camera promises a picture every day.

The free trial period of Apple Music has run out for the first wave of people who signed up and Tim Cook, the company CEO said at a technology conference this week that the service retained 6.5 million subscribers who switched over to paying monthly. Cook also reported another 8.5 million people are currently participating in the 90-day free trial, and that orders for the fourth-generation Apple TV will start on October 26th.

Apple will be kicking a few apps out of its App Store for violating the company’s privacy policy. Researchers at SourceDNA found about 256 apps that were secretly gathering user information like email addresses, serial numbers and other bits of data that could be used to identify and track users. To the curb, appholes.

Google is very proud of its Google Docs productivity suite, (with its recent additions of Voice Typing and other useful features) and is telling enterprise customers who have contracts with other software vendors that it will cover their Google Apps fees until their commitments with those other places run out. In other Google news, the  Waze navigation app  has gotten a redesign.

Table-top PC’s make a run for glory every few years and now it’s Lenovo’s turn with its 27-inch Lenovo Yoga Home tablet with its own tabletop operation system overlay called Aura that runs atop Windows 10. The current price is about $1500 and you can apparently play air hockey on it.


This week marks the 30th anniversary of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s released here in the United States. All those who played a few rounds of Super Mario Brothers, raise a glass Nintendo’s way.

And finally, many nerds sat through the first half of Monday Night Football game to see the brand new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Early tickets for the film’s December shows also went on sale last Monday night and the anxiety was made worse when the websites for Fandango, AMC Theaters and other ticket outlets went grinding and crashing down.

As expected, the trailer did produce a lot of reaction, including the hashtag #BoycottStarWarsVII for a social-media campaign purporting to complain that the new film wasn’t dominated by white people and all good racists should avoid the film. Trolls are now claiming the whole thing was a joke designed to stir up controversy. Remember people, never feed the trolls. Now, let’s watch the trailer again. And again.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Ask Me (Almost) Anything

Apple’s Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana are the Charlie’s Angels of personal virtual assistants, each with their own strengths and weaknesses in the battle to do good. As assistants go, none of them are very old: Siri first arrived in iOS 5 in 2011, Google Now debuted in 2012 and Microsoft’s Cortana stopped being a Halo entity and rolled out to Windows Phones in 2014; she landed on Windows 10 this summer.

In less than five years, though, assistant software has gone from fielding basic questions (“What’s the weather today?”) and handling a good-natured HAL 9000 joke now and then to opening apps, doing currency conversions, identifying songs, finding pictures from specific events and more. No pushing buttons here: Thanks to the voice commands “Hey, Siri,” “Okay Google” and “Hey Cortana,” you don’t even have to lift a finger to get results.


So, what commands can you use these days for Siri, Google Now or Cortana? These sorts of lists just keep growing and growing:

And, in a pinch, you might be able to just ask your assistant:


PTJ 150 News: Sorting It Out

Apple released an update to iTunes this week that’s intended to correct the “scrambled library syndrome” that afflicted some users after updating to iTunes 12.2. As described by a writer over at Macworld, the iCloud Music Library feature was completely “screwed up.”  While the damage was contained mainly to iTunes, it’s yet another instance of Apple pushing out buggy, untested software updates on its users. The iTunes 12.2.1 update is intended to correct these issues, but as the 9to5Mac site points out, be very careful when you’re going through your music library removing tracks that got infused with the copy locks so you don’t delete the unrestricted versions. Apple has a support document that tries to help.

justicedApple accused Amazon of getting the Department of Justice to do its bidding on e-book price fixing a few years ago, a case that Apple recently lost on appeal to the tune of $450 million dollars. But what comes around, goes around. This week, several publishing groups, including The Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives and Authors United, sent letters to the Department of Justice asking officials to investigate Amazon in antitrust violations.  Amazon’s lawyers should be warmed up, as antitrust regulators in the European Union are already investigating the company.

Turmoil at the Reddit site continues to grow, as the firing of popular employee Victoria Taylor earlier in the month led to a user uprising, lots of misogyny and then the resignation of chief executive Ellen Pao. If that wasn’t enough of the drama llama, Reddit’s former CEO Yishan Wong came out with a post this past weekend that pinned Taylor’s firing on the site’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who let Pao take the heat for it. Reddit’s chief engineer Bethanye Blout also quit her job this week, saying she’d lost confidence in the company’s direction. Ohanian’s fellow co-founder Steve Huffman is now in the CEO chair.

gigabitproComcast’s leapfrog over Google Fiber in the speed department is big — and comes with a big price tag. The company’s Gigabit Pro service, which promises 2- gigabits per second of blazing download speed compared to Google Fiber’s 1-gigabit per second, will cost $300 a month. (If you sign on for a two-year contract, though, you can get it for the promotional rate of $159 per month, however.) But that’s not all. Fine print on the Comcast site says installation may take up to 6 to 8 weeks, and then come the installation and activation fees, which could be up to $500 each. Speed also kills your wallet, too.

Even if you have regular Comcast Internet service, though, the company is thinking up ways for you to give it more of your money — like with its new Comcast Stream service, announced this week.  For $15 a month, Comcast is promising a bundle of broadcast TV channels plus HBO and some on-demand movies, along with a cloud-based DVR. This would all be viewable on your computer or mobile devices, but as Wired points out, there is a catch — you actually have to be home using your Comcast Internet service to use Stream and only two devices at a time can use it simultaneously.  You also need to live in a Comcast Internet service area. The service is due out later this year starting in Boston, Seattle and Chicago.

flashAlso in the hot seat this week: Adobe Flash. Facebook’s security chief Alex Stamos issued a tweet earlier this week saying that it was time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for the security-addled multimedia software. Mr. Stamos’s death wish for Flash came after yet another security patch and warnings about other vulnerabilities just in the past week or so. Citing security concerns, Mozilla is also now blocking the all versions of Flash plugin in the current version of Firefox.

The end of the month is drawing closer, which means Microsoft is getting ready to go all out for its Windows 10 launch on July 29. (Worried about your software still working if you dare to upgrade? See if your stuff at least works with the Windows 10 Technical Preview over at the Windows Compatibility Center.)

marioAnd finally, gamers around the world are mourning the death of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Under his leadership at the company, Nintendo released the DS handheld, the Wii console and interactive toys. Mr. Iwata passed away from a bile duct growth this past weekend at the age of 55 and Nintendo fans took to social media in tribute. We here at Pop Tech Jam send our condolences to his family.

PTJ 149 News: BBQ and Robots, Too!

This summer is turning out to be a big one for space news and demoted-planet Pluto is due for its star turn next week. NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft, which woke up from hibernation last December, had a bit of a glitch that knocks it into Safe Mode on July 4th, but scientists say the craft is ready for its close flyby of Pluto on the morning of July 14th. If everything goes according to plan, New Horizons is expected to pass less than 7,800 hundred miles from the surface of little Pluto, which is relatively close in space terms; The New York Times has a great video on the topic. (And earlier this week in space, scientists on the Philae lander project were hoping to find signs of alien life on old Comet 67P, but comet experts are now pooh-poohing the notion.)

More than a dozen pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists