Tag Archives: AT&T

PTJ 119 News: Feminist Hacker Barbie Needs That Wireless Spectrum For Her Robot Army

The Federal Communications Commission is certainly keeping itself  busy when it’s not mulling Net Neutrality. The agency reached an agreement with T-Mobile on Monday that makes Big Pink accurately show consumers when their connections are being throttled. The FCC’s first wireless spectrum auction since 2008 has some ready customers. The auction has already generated $30 billion, which is about three times more than anticipated.

And yes, there’s still no decision on net neutrality at the moment, but Chairman Tom Wheeler is already facing reality. “Look, the big dogs are going to sue, regardless of what comes out,” said Mr. Wheeler. “We need to make sure we have sustainable rules. That starts with making sure we have addressed the multiplicity of issues that come along and are likely to be raised.” (Just think of it as CYA for the FCC here in the USA.)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing a set of new rules for commercial drones that could give them their corner of the sky at last. More worrisome at the moment, however, are those increasing reports of non-commercial drones flying too close to airplanes and helicopters, so expect that issue to get addressed before too long.

robotK5We’ve got robot butlers and vacuum cleaners and now Microsoft is testing out robot security guards in its Silicon Valley campus. The Knightscope K5 autonomous robots will be on the market next year, are equipped with thermal imaging, chemical sensors, license-plate and facial-recognition software. It can patrol a perimeter much like a human security guard. The K5s are about five-feet tall and look a little bit like while plastic Daleks, so really, what could go wrong?

Meanwhile, the European Union is expected to vote this week to break up Google’s business. Also in business news: Aereo has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Samsung is reportedly considering changes to its executive leadership team after sales of its Galaxy S5 smartphone fell short of expectations by 40 percent.

If you visit Apple’s online store within the next week or so, you’ll be seeing red. No, not over the premium prices, but (RED), the world organization to fight AIDS in Africa. Over the next two weeks, Apple will be donating the proceeds from certain products to the global fund. On Monday, World AIDS Day, the company will donate a portion of every item sold.

applered

The antivirus company Symantec was the first to discover a lurking piece of malware called Regin that’s a suspect in sophisticated cyber attacks against the European Union and a Belgian telecom company for the past several years. Agencies from United States and the United Kingdom are the main suspects behind Regin, according to some security experts.

The computer networks at Sony Pictures were reportedly hacked and rendered so unusable that employees were warned not to connect to the company’s corporate network or to check their work email. The group Guardians of Peace is claiming responsibility, saying it will leak confidential documents unless its undisclosed demands are met.

If you need to kill some time this long holiday weekend, check out the new Pew Research Internet Project study called What Internet Users Know About Technology and the Web and take a quiz that tests your Web IQ. Go on, you know you love those online quizzes.

babsA book published in 2010 called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer recently caught the eye of author and screenwriter Pamela Ribon. However, the book’s plot turned out to be so demeaning to not only women in technology — but women in general — that it quickly became a viral virtual skeet target. Ms. Ribon kicked things off with a post on her own blog called “Barbie [Bad Word] It Up Again” and the story revved up. Mattel yanked the title and even issued an apology on Facebook saying the book was four years old and didn’t reflect the Barbie brand’s vision.

But then something great happened. Casey Fiesler, a PhD student in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech, (who also happens to be writing her dissertation on copyright and online remix communities), rewrote the book with a positive, empowering message and posted her version online. Kathleen Tuite, a computer science PhD student at the University of Washington, stepped it up and and built the Feminist Hacker Barbie, a text editor that allows people to add in their own delightfully profane new captions for the illustrations in the original book and post them online under the hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie. As Ms. Fiesler noted, a major theme of the remix community is “If you don’t like the narrative, change it!” And that’s exactly what they did.

forceAnd finally, StarWars.com has confirmed that 30 theaters around the country will be showing an 88-second teaser trailer of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens starting this Friday, November 28th. This is not the first time word of a way-advance trailer has been announced, as Star Wars fans also lined up to see a trailer for The Phantom Menace back in November 1998. Don’t fret if you can’t get to the movies this weekend or don’t live in a trailer-worthy city, as the teaser will go wide and hit theaters everywhere in December. And how much you wanna bet that thing will be online somewhere by lunchtime Friday?

(UPDATE: It was. And the fans have already begun to dissect it.)

PTJ 118: Get Off Our Lawn, Google

J.D. will help you get to your destination by plane, train or automobile as she runs down some useful travel apps just in time for the power eating U.S. holiday known as Thanksgiving.

El Kaiser finally gets an invitation to Google Inbox and…let’s just say things don’t go smoothly.

In the news the European Space Agency is still on comet duty;  AT&T gets called out by the FCC; the Federal Trade Commission has settles a score with TRUSTe; the US State Department gets hacked;  New York City plans to convert payphones into spiffy hotspots; Facebook continues spinning off features of its service; Disney partners with Walmart’s Vudu streaming service; and Google and Stanford University work on software that uses artificial intelligence to create descriptive photo captions.

Oh, and KaiserNet is finally active… MUAH HA HA HA!

PTJ 118 News: On It Like a Comet

The Rosetta mission rolls on and scientists at the European Space Agency continue to gather information about Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After we recorded last week’s show, the Rosetta spacecraft released Philae, its small lander vehicle, onto the comet’s surface. The failure to harpoon itself to the surface — or get its solar panels in the right position to recharge its batteries — led to a shorter period of productivity than anticipated. However, there’s hope Philae could charge up its batteries if it gets a little sunlight. (The last commands the ESA were able to send the lander were for repositioning its solar panels.) Still, the lander hit a moving target way out there in space and Philae did send back some data before going dark, including evidence of organic molecules on the comet. And there’s the possibility a little sunpower will awaken it out of standby mode so it can get back to work. Philae, we salute you!

This week in Waiting for the Net Neutrality Decision news: AT&T got called out by the FCC after the telecom titan’s CEO said it may have to have to “pause” its planned 100-city high-speed Internet expansion plans due to the possibility of regulation. AT&T’s expansion plans, however, have been criticized as being vague, so the FCC sent a letter to the company asking for more information about this “expansion decision” and all documents related to it. AT&T has until November 21 to get back to the FCC with those details.

In other government-agency items of note, the Federal Trade Commission has settled a score with the TRUSTe privacy seal and certification company. Oh, the US State Department got hacked —officials said the unclassified branch of the agency’s email network was temporarily shut down this week to update security.

Payphones have never been the same since they stopped being private little rooms (and the cellphones took over anyway), but New York City has something in mind for the space and connections used by all those half-booths cluttering the sidewalks. The Mayor’s office has announced plans to convert that rotting old payphone infrastructure around town into spiffy new gigabit WiFi hotspots. A company called CityBridge is team up with the Big Apple on the LinkNYC project, which will eventually bring 10,000 “Links” — as the hot spot stations will be called — to the five boroughs. Here’s a mock-up of one in Brooklyn:

LinkNYC

Facebook has spun out the Groups function into its own standalone app. In a product announcement on the company blog, Facebook said, “we’re introducing a new Facebook Groups app that helps people share faster and more easily with all the groups in their life.” Groups, for those who don’t use them, can be public, private or secret online clubs for people all interested in the same topic or discussion. As for now, the company says you can still use Groups in the main Facebook app and on desktop. For now. (The Financial Times is reporting that so-called Facebook at Work site is in the works to provide professional networking and collaboration, but Facebook isn’t commenting.

Disney Movies Anywhere recently joined forces with Google and now the House of Mouse is linking up with Wal-Mart’s Vudu movie service. Disney Movies Anywhere is everywhere.

Apple released updates to both its Yosemite and iOS 8 operating systems this week. OS X 10.10.1 for Mac was intended to address Wi-Fi issues and other bugs some Mac folks have been complaining about for a month, but some users have posted on Apple support forums that the update still hasn’t fixed their disappearing Wi-Fi connections. The iOS 8.1.1 update was intended to improve performance on older hardware like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4s.

mica1Two items of note from the Wonderful World of Wearables. For one, Intel is getting into the jewelry business and teaming up with fashion firm Opening Ceremony on a fancy Internet-connected bangle called the MICA, also known as the My Intelligent Communication Accessory. One of the models is shown here, and yes, it costs around $500. And second in wearable news:  Fitbit data is now being used as evidence in court.

Streaming music service are having a bad month. First, Taylor Swift pulls her albums from Spotify, sending millions of teenage girls into a panic, and now Sirius XM lost a copyright battle in US district court with the 1960s rock band, The Turtles and may have to start paying for older music. (Also not having a good PR month: Uber.)

Google and Stanford University have been working together on software that uses artificial intelligence to more accurately describe the contents of photographs that previous programs. The rise of the machines starts with descriptive photo captions, folks.

hamAnd finally, Thanksgiving is next week and the gang over at Google Maps has looked at traffic conditions in 21 American cities for the past two years to figure out the worst and best times to leave for that homeward journey. (Hint: Wednesday afternoon blows.) Also, get your booze, pie and ham early if you want to avoid crowds.

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.

PTJ 112: Get Your Anti-Grav Boots On Cuz It’s SPACE WEEK

It’s our favorite time of year. No, not fall. It’s Space Week and J.D. introduces us to some apps that are perfect for getting into that festive…um…spacey mood.

Before the PTJ crew blast off into the Cosmos, El Kaiser breaks out the rant box. Apple’s iOS 8 has frosted his rage cake and he wants you all to know about it.

In the news, banking giant JPMorgan Chase gets hacked; AT&T confirmed information is compromised, but it’s an inside job; BBC World News premieres a six-part series focusing on cybercrime; Twitter sues U.S. government over surveillance laws; after getting complaints from customers and the FCC Verizon ditches its “network optimization” plan; a Netflix competitor throws in the towel; and a Kano unveils a new computer you build and code yourself.

PTJ 112 News: Kano a Kano

spearThe Hacking O’ the Giant Corporations continues! Last week, banking giant JPMorgan Chase admitted 76 million households were affected by a data breach this past summer and contact information was compromised. If you have a Chase account, expect the customary spear-phishing campaign trying to wheedle more of your info and report the phish if it happens. This week, AT&T confirmed personal information from its customers was compromised by an unauthorized employee in August. Also in security news, Yahoo is downplaying reports of a security breach to some of its systems, but says the Shellshock vulnerability was not the cause.

If the steady increase in cybercrime has you worried and you want to be more educated on how the Dark Side works, check out a new six-part series coming later this month on the BBC World News channel. The show, called Cybercrimes with Ben Hammersly, was produced in partnership with The Open University and Tern TV and debuts here Friday, October 31st. (How appropriate.) And in Vanity Fair this week, Jennifer Lawrence, a hacking victim herself, has something to say about last month’s iCloud heist of her personal photos.

Technology companies and the federal government are going back and forth over privacy, user rights and related matters. The US Justice Department had a court filing saying a federal agent could legally impersonate a woman and create a Facebook page in her name — complete with her own personal pictures — without telling her about it. That woman sued the DEA agent in federal district court for violating her privacy and putting her in danger.

twitterTwitter is suing the federal government over surveillance laws. The company filed the suit in the District Court of Northern California on Tuesday. Twitter says government regulations are blocking it from being completely transparent with its users over the full scope of surveillance they’re under, so the company is suing. Twitter is not alone in fighting government requests for user information, as companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are also dealing with it. As the BBC notes, Apple just encrypts its users data.

While the telecom companies are all trying to merge with each other, the tech companies are spinning apart. This week Hewlett-Packard says it plans to split itself into two different public companies within the next year.

Verizon, after getting quite a bit of flack from its customers and a note from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has decided not to implement its network optimization measures — or as some called it, the Throttling Plan for the heaviest unlimited-data users on its 4G LTE networks during peak congestion times. (Verizon and Redbox also gave up on the Redbox Instant streaming service this week.).

wpWhen Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, some industry watchers wondered how long it would be before its content turned up as a fancy Kindle app. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a new WaPo app and will be coming soon as a preinstalled app on some Fire tablets.

This just in from the Boomerang Bureau: A few weeks after a kerfuffle where it said people had to use their real names, Facebook is said to be working on an app that lets you be totally anonymous.

Apple is expected to announce new iPads on October 16th says the Re/Code site who as usual, gets wind of these things before anybody else. According to reports, the iPad Air 2 will incorporate the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, A8 processor and gold-finish option already found in Apple’s iPhone hardware. Apple’s iOS 8 software has been out for a little more than three weeks at this point, but user adoption of the new system seems to have flatlined at around 47 percent. The MacRumors site has been looking into this.

Samsung is not having a good week. First off, the International Trade Commission is looking into allegations by Nvidia that several Samsung cellphones and tables contain graphics technology that infringes on its patents. And Samsung itself is warning investors that its third-quarter earnings are going to be disappointing due to lower-selling smartphone prices.

Adobe released a whole bunch of new or revamped apps for iOS devices this week and they are free if you have a Creative Cloud subscription; you can also get them in the App Store, where they also offer $2 in-app upgrades to add Creative Cloud storage.

And finally, if you want to get your kid into computers in a very physical way, check out Kano. It’s a $150 snap-together kit that includes a Raspberry Pi board, a speaker you assemble yourself, an orange keyboard and a storybook that explains how to put it all together with a spare monitor. But the learning doesn’t end there — once the screen is in place, the young wizard can then learn basic coding by making modifications in popular games like Minecraft and Pong. And please children, when you learn to code, please write some decent security into your programs.

kanokit

PTJ 110: Just Keep it Out of Your Pants

We’re pretty confident Steve Jobs would have advised us not to stuff the bendable iPhone 6 Plus into our pants pockets, much in the same way he helpfully suggested that we should hold our iPhone 4 differently to help alleviate antenna issues.

Also pretty confident  his pants pocket recommendation would go over just as well as his “antennagate” tip did.

This week on the show J.D. shows us where we can go for music lessons online and El Kaiser reviews DUBS “acoustic filters” from Doppler Labs.

In the news, Home Depot’s lax network security; Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba sets IPO record; UPS Stores set to offer 3D printing service; Amazon workers strike in Germany; despite reports of bendy new iPhones, Apple sells millions of them; and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft enters the orbit of the planet Mars.

PTJ 110 News: MOM Says Bring a Sweater

depotThe full effects of the Great Home Depot Hack have yet to be known, but  some of the company’s workers didn’t sound too surprised that it  happened. The New York Times reports that Home Depot employees said their IT managers relied on “outdated antivirus software from 2007 and did not continuously monitor the network for unusual behavior, such as a strange server talking to its checkout registers.” Both the Times and the Ars Technica site have details about one of Home Depot’s former security engineers currently serving time in prison for sabotaging the network of the company that fired him before he got the Home Depot gig. (Here’s hoping Lowe’s has better employee screening and security practices.)

Facebook’s initial public stock offering may have gotten more press, but the massive Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba set records last week with its own IPO valued at $25 billion. Shares of the company popped up 38 percent on the first day of trading. While this is all good for people who bought Alibaba stock, it’s not been good for Yahoo, which owns 22 percent of the company.

3dprintThe UPS Store is expanding its offerings to more than just packing, mailing, photocopies and computer-rental. The chain is now adding custom 3D printing services to more than 100 of its stores around the country.

About 2,000 workers in four of Amazon’s German distribution centers refused to show up for their shifts early this week to protest management’s refusal to hold wage talks. Amazon’s war with the Bonnier publishing group still rages on over ebook pricing, but the company did find the time to release nthe  Kindle Voyage e-ink reader, two Kids editions of the Kindle Fire tablet, a new 6-inch Kindle Fire HD  and an revamped 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX. The models will also sport the upgraded Fire OS 4 operating system that’s based on Android KitKat.

AT&T just launched a new broadband package that includes its U-verse basic TV channels, Amazon Prime Instant Video and HBO for a monthly price of $39. And for those looking for even more streaming options, Sony is finally delivering its PlayStation TV service here in the States on October 14th. The basic PlayStation TV box starts at $100 and you can get a bundled version with a DualShock controller and the Lego Movie videogame for $140. I

gumbyApple continues to bust its buttons over the demand for its new iPhone 6 models (while hopefully looking into reports that some iPhone 6 models are bending in their owners’ pocket and trying to fix the disastrous iOS 8.0.1 update that broke a bunch of stuff before it got yanked out of circulation). A week after the company put out a press release announcing that it’d gotten four million pre-orders for the new models in the first 24 hours, Apple announced this week that it’d sold 10 million new iPhones worldwide over the launch weekend. An Apple spokesperson also took the rare turn in the media this week to flatly deny a TechCrunch post that claimed the company was shutting down the Beats Music service.

As one may expect, however, Samsung is not just sitting around waiting for Apple to suck the reaming three oxygen molecules out of the press room. The Korean electronics giant is heavily promoting its new Samsung Galaxy Alpha model, which arrives here in the States this Friday on AT&T. And there are more Android tablets on the way from HTC. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Taiwanese company is teaming up with Google to be the official hardware partner for a planned 9-inch Nexus tablet.

Turning to robot news, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University are giving robots and their little gripper hands new dexterity with tactile sensors. (Once the robots conquer plugging in USB cables, opening tight jam jars should be the next test of their new powers.)

robots

And finally, up in space, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft entered the orbit of the planet Mars this past weekend and has begun its research into the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere. MAVEN arrived after blasting off from Cape Canaveral last November.  The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft  also dropped into the Martian orbit this week, after launching from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center last year. The craft is on a weather-watching expedition, just like all those other MOMs who regularly keep an eye on the weather.

PTJ 99: Bluetooth Audio, Flickr Tips, and Tons of Google News

El Kaiser reviews Logitech’s $40 Bluetooth Audio Adapter. The device allows you to play audio from smartphone or tablet through your home stereo or powered speakers.

Logitech_Bluetooth_Audio_Adapter

Of course he (not so) secretly pines for the $250 rBlink wireless DAC from Arcam which promises superior sound quality and rock solid Bluetooth pairing to mobile devices.

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If you use Flicker and are looking to reorder your snapshots J.D. shares a Hopefully Helpful Hint that will show you how.

Lots of Google news this week as the Big G kicked off its annual I/O developers conference in San Francisco by announcing a new version of Android. Google takes another swing at the living room with Android TV and releases a new software update to the Chromecast streaming dongle.  Their recent acquisition Nest, maker of Internet-connected smart-home thermostats and fire alarms, has opened its platform to outside developers and buys security firm Dropcam. The search and advertising behemoth experiments with its own domain registration service.

In other news, Yahoo releases a replacement app launcher for Android.  Dating sites get hit on hard by phishing scam; Cloud storage prices drop; both houses of Congress hold hearings about proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV; the Supreme Court rules against Aereo, a service that allows subscribers to view live and time-shifted streams of over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices, in th the Internet company’s battle with broadcast networks; and finally Google, the Girl Scouts, the MIT Media Lab, TechCrunch, the National Center for Women & Technology and others launch the “Made with Code” website.