Tag Archives: Atlas

PTJ 155 News: Grin and Bear It

marshAfter months of speculation, Android M has an official snack nickname in Google’s pantheon of tasty versions! Android 6.0, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, will be called Marshmallow and the software development kit is now available for those who want to build apps for it. Ever so busy, Google also just built a standalone website for its Hangouts videochat service, too.

As a story in last weekend’s New York Times tells it, Amazon is the modern equivalent of a massive Dickensian workhouse where everyone is overworked and crying.  As one can imagine, however, Twitter got hopping and Amazon spokespeople were quick to defend the company, fanning out across print, television and Internet to rebut The Times. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos even wrote a company-wide memo that was widely leaked, and the NYT Public Editor weighed in as well.

Amazon was not the only company with a PR team in overdrive lately. The social media team at the dating app Tinder took offense to a Vanity Fair article lamenting the rise of hookup apps in general and went on a long Twitter rant against the magazine and the author of the article. During the tweetstorm, the Tinder Twitter complained the writer did not contact the company for comment and accused Vanity Fair of one-side journalism. Others noted the article wasn’t specifically about Tinder, but dating apps in general, and said the company behaved like a hurt teenage girl lashing out and seemed surprised that journalists do things differently than PR people. Salon wondered if the whole thing was “a sincerely epic case of butthurt or just a clever attention-getting ruse.”

In other online hookup news, the National Security Agency and AT&T apparently had quite a partnership in sharing customer data. As revealed in the latest document dump from Edward Snowden and reported by The New York Times and ProPublica, AT&T gave the NSA access to billions of emails crossing its domestic networks, as well as a massive amount of cellphone calling records.

As for government agencies, there are new reports out that the hack on the Internal Revenue Service was larger than originally thought. New evidence points to the hack starting several months earlier than first noted as well. So, instead of 100,000 people having their personal details swiped, it’s more than 300,000.

Sprint is the latest carrier to ditch two-year cellphone contracts, following T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. As part of its service overhaul, Sprint introduced its iPhone Forever plan, which gets you the current model for $22 a month on your bill.

robokillerThe Federal Trade Commission has announced the winner of last spring’s “Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back” challenge to developers. The $25,000 prize goes to an app called RoboKiller. If you want to know how it works, check out this PDF and the Kickstarter page.

The same sort of malvertising campaign that infested Yahoo’s ad network seems to have spread to other sites around the Web. The Malwarebytes security team reports they’ve now seen poison adverts on aol.com, weather.com, Weather Underground, The Drudge Report and other well-traveled domains.

Comcast is said to have new video platform called Watchable waiting in the wings. According to the Business Insider site, the telecom giant has formed partnerships with digital publishers like Vox, Buzzfeed, The Onion, Mic, Vice, Refinery29 and other sites to package content for streaming on the service. (BuzzFeed, for its part, announced this week that it was getting a 200 million dollar investment from Comcast family member NBC Universal to put toward its video efforts.) The new Comcast service, if it exists, could also compete with Verizon’s upcoming Go90 mobile video service.

Facebook is revamping its blog-like Notes feature to make it more appealing to users who have forgotten than Notes exists. Some have observed that the wide-margined new Notes templates make them look like articles on Medium. (Does anyone remember actually using Facebook Notes outside of those viral “15 Things” lists?)

Boston Dynamics recently released a video (below) that showed off Atlas, its humanoid robot with a stomp through the woods in such a manner that The Washington Post likened it to “a drunk Iron Man.” For those who have forgotten, Boston Dynamics is owned by Google, which is testing Atlas as an experimental bipedal rescue machine. Try to ignore the fact that it looks like, well, a Cylon.

The 9to5Mac site is beefing up the details on its New Apple TV rumor coverage and is now predicting the new set-top streamer will have a new streamlined hardware design, new user interface, iOS 9, App Store access, that dedicated remote control we heard about earlier this year and Siri support.

Apple’s Siri assistant can do more than just set calendar appointments and look up baseball scores. The program was credited with saving the life of a teenage boy in Tennessee when he was pinned under his truck after the tire jack collapsed. While he was shifting around trying to get out from under the 5,000-pound Dodge Dakota, he heard the familiar Siri bleep coming from his back pocket and was able to get the app to call 911 for help with a life-saving butt-dial.

And finally, it’s not just shotgun owners and other privacy minded people who are annoyed by unmanned drones buzzing around overhead. Bears in the woods do not like drones either. Researchers at the University of Minnesota put health-tracking monitors on six black bears and recorded the ursine reaction to 17 drone flights. The heart rates of all the bears increased when the drones were within 21 years overhead — which indicates stress. The 15-page paper titled “Bears Show a Physiological but Limited Behavioral Response to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” was published online in the journal Current Biology and concludes that more research is needed to see if the bears would get used to the drones over time. The study, in one convenient image:

bearchart

Wildlife researchers do use drones in their work to observe animals from a distance, and Canada even has what the BBC calls a “goose-bothering drone” designed to scare off pesky Canadian geese in Ottawa by blasting recordings of predatory birds. And why yes, that drone is called the GooseBuster. Who ya gonna call?

PTJ 111: Microsoft Hopes to Roll a Lucky Number 10

For some it provides welcome relief from the myriad distractions of the Internet and for others, each clack of the typebar striking the ribbon, paper, and platen imbues them with a warm, satisfying sense of accomplishment.  It was the weapon used to slay the vileness  of the blank page or the unforgiving beast we wrestled with at our jobs for countless hours a year.

The wonderful, humble, fearsome typewriter.  This week J.D. explains why typewriters are still loved by many.

In the news Microsoft feels the next iteration of their market dominant operating system is so revolutionary the name should feature double digits; Apple’s 8.0.1 update crashes and burns but the fruit themed toy maker tackles the Shellshock head-on; Facebook debuts its Atlas ad platform;  a new social network called Ello positions itself as the anti-Facebook; Akamai releases its “State of the Internet” report; Grooveshark loses its groove; and the sequel to the film classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gets an interesting distribution deal.

PTJ 111 News: Are We There Yet?

Microsoft says it’s cranking it up to 10 — and it’s no joke. The company held a big press event out in California this week to show off its new operating system and announced it was skipping Windows 9 and going right on to Windows 10. Windows 10 looks a little like Windows 7 and a bit like Windows 8, according to the Re/Code site. For those who can’t wait for the final release in 2015, preview editions of the new system will be available this week to those who sign up for the Windows Insider public beta program.

Despite Chinese superstition, “8” has not been a lucky number for Apple, either, as it had to hurriedly yank back its iOS 8.0.1 update last week after early adopters howled that it broke their iPhones. Bloomberg News has reported that the update faceplant may have been related to the infamous Apple Maps fiasco of 2012. Apple refused to comment on that situation but did get its iOS 8.0.2 patch out last Thursday. The 8.0.2 fix seems to have worked for most people, although the Mac Rumors site is saying they’ve got user reports of other problems with it.

This week,  Apple also released a patch for the security flaw known as Shellshock or the Bash bug for the Bash UNIX shell used by OS X; you can download it from its site. Many Linux vendors, including Red Hat, have also issued patches for the exploit.

bash

Facebook is still trying to find new ways to use your personal data to make advertisements more appealing to you. This week, the Social Network fired up Altas, a platform that lets advertisers buy ads through Facebook that appear on sites besides, well, Facebook. These ads were made for stalking.

The sheer amount of advertisements and data-grabbing has turned many people off Facebook, and helped gin up interest in a new social network called Ello. It’s still in the beta phase and invitation-only, but the simple, six-week-old service is getting attention for its pledge to make social networking a transparent tool for empowerment and that its users are not products, as stated below.

ello

The ad-free Ello was created by graphic designers and techies and is gaining thousands of new users a day, even though some complain the site’s design is a bit confusing and the inevitable geek “it’s so over” backlash has begun. Ello, which plans to make money by charging users a small fee for premium services, is also big enough now to have been hit by a DDOS attack this week.

Akamai has released its quarterly State of the Internet report again and as usual, it highlights all kinds of facts and figures about who’s using the Internet for what and how fast they’re doing it. In terms of overall broadband global broadband speed, South Korea and Hong Kong are still smoking the rest of the world with peak speeds of more than 72 megabits per second compared to a peak of 45.3 megabits per second here in the States. (Hong Kong may have speed, but it’s probably not doing much good for the citizens protesting changes to the city’s elections policy; as NPR, Gizmodo and others have reported, the protestors are thwarting government efforts to stifle communication by using mesh-networking apps like FireChat.)

Next year will be a big one for eBay. The online auction site announced to shareholders this week that it plans to fully separate from its PayPal payment system business and create two independent, publicly traded companies.

sharkChanges are coming to a couple of online music services. For one, a judge has ruled against Grooveshark for copyright infringement because it did not have licenses for all the music it offered to its 35 million users to stream. And eMusic, another online service and one that started selling downloads by subscription way back in 1998, is ditching track sales from mainstream labels like Warner, Universal and Sony to focus exclusively on sales from independent music companies.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out a new line of slim-line HP Stream tablets and laptops in colorful cases. The devices offer 4G connectivity and a lot of online storage, and the most expensive new laptop in the batch, the one with a 13.3 inch screen, will only set you back $230. The 7-inch tablet is about $100 and the new gear will be available in November, just in time for the gift-giving season. But yes, they come with Windows 8.1.

New York Comic Con is next week in Manhattan and one of your esteemed Pop Tech hosts is moderating a panel or two. If you’re going, be sure to get the app and wear comfortable shoes (or boots, if you’re doing cosplay).

myeohAnd finally, fans of the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may have to wait until next August to see the sequel, but they won’t have to go very far to do so. Netflix and the Weinstein Company have signed a deal to release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend simultaneously in selected IMAX theaters around the world and on Netflix. Two starts of the original film, Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen will be back, and the sequel arrives next August 28. Windows 10, Star Wars Episode VII, Crouching Tiger 2 — 2015 should be dubbed the Year of the Geek.