Tag Archives: BBC

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.

The Turing Test

Fall has kicked into overdrive and the serious movies are all heading for the theaters in time for the Oscar nominations. Most geeks already know The Hunger Games, Mockingjay Part 1 is landing in theaters on November 21st . But there’s a smaller, much more low-budget British film scheduled to open on November 28th that gets even more serious nerd cred. It’s called The Imitation Game.

IGstill

The movie tells the story of how Alan Turing — the Cambridge mathematician, creator of the Turing Test and pioneer of modern-day computing — used his genius to help crack encrypted Nazi messages with a huge team of cryptographers at Britain’s top-secret Bletchley Park code-breaking facility. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower has even estimated that the work done at Bletchley Park shortened the war by two years. Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, it stars English actor and modern Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing (above).

bookIf you’re interested Turing’s life and want to do a little background research before seeing the film, one definitive place to start is with the extensive biography, Alan Turing: The Engima, written by Andrew Hodges. The book was originally published in 1983, but has been updated a few times since then, including in 2012 for the centenary of Turing’s birth. It’s not one of those short biographies — 600 to 770 pages depending on the edition. Upon its arrival, the book was well-reviewed and Jim Holt of The New Yorker even called it “One of the finest scientific biographies ever written.” Here in the States, Alan Turing: The Enigma is currently out now from Princeton University Press, which has posted a PDF of the first chapter if you want to try before you buy; it’s also available as an ebook from the usual suspects.

jacobiThe Imitation Game film was actually based on the Hodges biography, as was an earlier adaptation from 1996 called Breaking the Code, which starred Derek Jacobi (left) as Turing. The 90-minute BBC film is available to watch for free online on YouTube. For a more academic approach, the Turing Digital Archive, hosted by King’s College at Cambridge, has about 3,000 images of letters, photos, papers and other material related to Alan Turing.

Once you’ve tackled Turing, you can also find plenty of online resources on the science of cryptography, including a fact sheet on World War II cryptology from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, the Google Cultural Institute site devoted to Bletchley Park and the BBC’s guide to code-breaking. For a more modern-day look, there’s also a free online Coursera course in cryptography from Stanford University.

So geeks, get ready. This could be the film for you this season — and something to tide us all over until next year’s The Avengers:  Age of Ultron and of course, Star Wars VII.

P.S. Want to smarten up your wardrobe with the same Turing t-shirt the Pop Tech Bunny is modeling at the top of this post? Order it here. (Rabbit not included.)

PTJ 78: The Case of the Missing Kaisercoins

Series 3 of the BBC’s “Sherlock” finally makes its debut on PBS stations across the United States but if you can’t get enough of the deerstalker hat wearing detective, J.D. fills us in on other ways to get our Sherlock fix. Pedro deals with the disappointment of not having any cryptocurrency named in his honor by telling us what he knows about digital money.  In the news,  the U.S . Court of Appeals strikes down F.C.C. net neutrality rules; hackers mark the one-year anniversary of the death of programmer and digital-rights activist Aaron Swartz; Winamp will whip more llama ass; Google goes shopping; Snapchat continues to deal with its growing pains; and the bells begin to toll for Microsoft’s Windows 8.

Searching for Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes has been in the news more than usual the past few weeks — partly for the upcoming American broadcast of the popular BBC reboot starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman; if you haven’t seen it already, the first of the three new episodes airs here in the States on January 19th. Continue reading Searching for Sherlock

Episode 60: Hyperloop Like Nobody’s Watching

On a double-stuffed episode J.D. takes a look at movie apps and Pedro reviews the 2013 version of the Google Nexus 7 Android tablet. In the news, Elon Musk unveils plans for futuristic transport system; Facebook adds restaurant reservations and listings for movies and TV; NBC News goes shopping for user-generated content; Windows 8.1 coming soon; an LG Electronics publicity goes all “WKRP In Cincinnati”; a Bitcoin security flaw threatens Android users; and Apple rumors heat up…yet again.

Episode 60 News: Boo-Dah-Ling!

California traffic can be a bear, and this week Elon Musk showed off the design for his “Hyperloop” transport system, a futuristic solar-powered network of crash-proof capsules that would zip people from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour. Mr. Musk outlined the Hyperloop vision in a blog post and has described the system as a cross between the Concorde supersonic turbojet, rail gun and air-hockey table. Critics have said the price tag is underestimated, the Hyperloop would face serious regularity measures and also be vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attacks. Then again, it’s just an idea — but one that has a lot of people chittering about this new sort of tube travel.

Facebook, which upgraded its mobile app this week, has added restaurant reservations through Open Table and listings for movies and television show pages. The Social Network also just bought Mobile Technologies, a speech interpretation and translation company.

NBC News also went shopping this week and came home with Stringwire. Instead of buying new technology or acquiring another company, though, BlackBerry maker is looking to get bought, or perhaps find a business partner.

Dick Cheney did not want Google Maps to show satellite images of the vice presidential residence when he was living there and now the government of Norway is telling Apple to step off. The Norwegian government recently denied a request from Apple to do a 3D mapping of the capital city of Oslo.

Windows 8.1 is said to be arriving in just a few months. The almost-final beta version of 8.1 includes smaller Live Tiles, built-in tutorials to help confused users, and an integrated Bing-powered search engine. Could be a good time to upgrade — Microsoft will stop patching Windows XP then and security experts are saying it will be hacker heaven next April. (In other Microsoft news, the list of requirements for using the upcoming Xbox One console seems to be getting more reasonable. (If you want people to be watching you, though, Microsoft did release a new version of Skype for the latest iPhone and iPad models that now includes HD video.)

Well, a PR stunt in Seoul, Korea, didn’t turn out as planned for LG Electronics. What LG didn’t count on was hopeful contenders showing up with BB guns, knives and pointed sticks. (But really, who plans for pointed sticks except for Monty Python and Games of Thrones fans?) On a much calmer note, camera sites are leaking that Sony Electronics is working on a Lens Camera attachment for smartphones.

If you like smart tech podcasts, check out “The Digital Human,” a BBC Radio 4 series. The show is hosted by a Jammer friend and Guardian/BBC writer, Aleks Krotoski, and all 20 episodes are now available for your listening pleasure.

podcast

Bitcoin developers are warning of an security flaw with the Android wallet feature that could lead to theft of your digital currency. An upgrade to patch the hole is on the way. And if you liked the idea of the Google Chromecast but can’t get one yet, consider the Cheapcast. Although it’s still in beta, the free Cheapcast app promises to turn your Android phone or tablet into a target screen for streaming.

It must be August because the Apple rumors have started to include mention of a date for the company’s big annual fall announcement. Just a few years ago, the fall date referred to iPods, but with media players pretty much taking a backseat to everything else in the company’s product line these days, it sounds like the iPhone will be the star of this year’s show, which is now rumored for September 10th. Other sources like Bloomberg News are reporting that the next iPad will sport a thinner design, the Mini will get that spiffy Retina display and none of them will be released until the final three months of the year.

And finally, if you’ve been listening to that little tri-tone sound that Apple devices make by default when you get a text message, check out the essay by the creator of that distinctive composition. Former Apple software engineer Kelly Jacklin tells the tale in his essay, “The History of the Boo-Dah-Ling Sound.”  If you drive in California and have an iPhone, you’ve probably heard enough of that Boo-Dah-Ling sound — but its story is quite fascinating.

Guides for the Perplexed

doctorsDoctor Who celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The mighty Star Trek franchise is not far behind, as almost 47 years have passed since it first beamed up on the television airwaves back in 1966. That’s a lot of history and backstory for these two shows, and some of it even pops into current episodes – just think of the recent Season 7 finale for the Doctor and characters from the new Star Trek Into Darkness movie. But let’s face it: long-running television shows have built up complex mythologies and continuities that can be hard to remember over the decades. And what if you came to the show late? How do you figure stuff out and find your way? (Like, who is this character and when did he first appear?)

So, with that in mind, here are a few sites to help fill in the backstory on some very popular parts of the entertainment universe.

Doctor Who
While the BBC One (and BBC America) official Web sites can be generally helpful for show news, recent events and even a beginner’s guide, visit the TARDIS Data Core Wiki if you really want to dig deep into collective Whovian history. The site compiles character backgrounds, plot points, actor bios and more, even incorporating material from minisode clips and other random bits. Looking for something specific? The search box invites you to “probe the data core!”

Star Trek
The official Star Trek site owned by CBS Studios has full episodes of the original TV series and all the spin-offs (including the animated adventures that first aired in 1973), as well as pages devoted to franchise news, events and trinkets to purchase. Roddenberry Entertainment runs the Trek Initiative wiki, which has its own video clips from the family archives and other exclusive material. Want to delve even deeper? Visit the Star Trek Memory Alpha wiki for more than 35,000 pages devoted to the total Trek universe.

Star Wars
The official Star Wars site has its own encyclopedia, online gaming portal and exclusive video clips, along with links to fan sites, the official Star Wars blog, a social-media roundup page, and of course, a shop where you can buy lots and lots of Star Wars stuff. Serious Star Wars scholars will want to check out (or even contribute to) the The Wookiepedia, a dedicated wiki with more than 103,000 pages.

Thanks to Wikia, fan-created wikis have popped up all over the Web for several other popular shows and entertainment properties, including:

Odds are, if a show has more than three dedicated fans, there’s probably a wiki on it out there somewhere. Can’t find a wiki out there for your favorite cult obsession, TV or otherwise? Start one yourself!