Tag Archives: broadband

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Fast Living

It’s not just the gamers and the streamers clamoring for more pipe. Some national governments have even recognized that high-speed broadband is becoming increasingly important to a nation’s economic and cultural growth — just check out the Federal Communications Commission’s annual checkup or even the Queen of England announcing that “measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband” in her speech at the State Opening of Parliament last month.

On a more personal level, with more of our home entertainment coming from streaming media — and more of it in increasingly high-definition — keeping an eye on our network speeds is vital to a good, unbuffered experience. Netflix, one of the major video-streaming sites out there, knows this.

Not wanting to take heat for slow-connection choppy streams that aren’t its fault, the company has been regularly posting its monthly ISP Speed Index rankings for the United States (and the other subscriber countries) based on its own calculations on its official blog. Last month, Netflix even went so far as to release its own Internet speed test tool.

Unlike other well-known broadband-speed testing sites like MegaPath’s Speakeasy, BandwidthPlace, SpeedOfMe or Ookla’s Speedtest.net, Netflix’s testing site only measures download speed. However, it also isn’t slathered in advertisements and doesn’t use Adobe Flash.

The site is just a simple page with a logo, white background and big numbers that tell you how fast data can download to your home over your broadband connection. It’s also got a memorable URL: https://fast.com. A small link on the main page gives you a chance to cross-reference your result with Ookla’s Speedtest site.

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Now, some people claim that Internet speed tests are rigged because the ISP’s give them a fast lane when they sense a request from one of the testing servers, and that may be true in some cases — especially if you use a speed-test page provided by your own service provider. You may also get varying results depending on the time of day, the general state of Internet congestion and activity on your own network.

But keep testing, use different test sites and various times of day and let your ISP know when you’re not getting your advertised rate. Even if it’s a technical problem on your end like a weak connection or frayed cable, you want to make sure you get what you’re paying for because reliable broadband is an important part of modern life. Her Maj thinks so, too.

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PTJ 185 News: Punt, Pass and Kick

Ten years old and busting some moves on the field: Twitter caught a deal to stream 10 NFL games globally this coming season. The bird-themed microblogging service paid a reported 10 million dollars for the rights to stream these Thursday night gladiator matches for the cord-cutting population. Are you ready for some football — with lots of commentary and trolls?

Amazon has the 8th generation of the Kindle waiting in the wings, but the news didn’t come from the rumor blogs. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos teased the news himself over Twitter this week. Amazon also looks to be taking a piece out of PayPal by extending the reach of its Amazon Payments service. The company has announced its Amazon Payments Partner Program will be available to e-commerce platform providers in several countries..

The Federal Communications Commission is taking a cue from the Food and Drug Administration and has come up with information labels for broadband and mobile service that look just like those black-and-white nutrition labels you see on food.  Although the agency is not making these labels mandatory for service providers, the FCC’s current Net Neutrality rules do require the ISPs to be more transparent in their dealings with consumers.

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WhatsApp announced this week that it’s turned on full end-to-end encryption. The move locks up communications between the service’s billion users tight enough so WhatsApp employees and government watchers can’t peek. Your move, guv’ment.

That expected Sony PlayStation 4 update arrived this week. That’s the update with the remote play function for Windows and Mac and other social features.

Microsoft’s annual Build conference for developers was out in San Francisco last week. The event seemed to please developers, as Microsoft announced programmers could use the Ubuntu Linux BASH shell on Windows and the Xamarin dev tools are now free. Presentations at the Build conference also highlighted intelligent AI apps, bots, digital ink and this year’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which features enhancements to Cortana and other elements of Windows 10. (Not reported at the conference, however, was the trial run of Outlook Premium service.)

NASA is getting in on Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality system. The agency announced a new exhibit called “Destination: Mars” scheduled to open this summer at the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Guests will get a holographic tour of Mars from retired astronaut Buzz Aldrin and explore several sites on the red planet that were reconstructed using real imagery from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover.

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Umbrella-shaped Google parent-company Alphabet is not endearing itself to some of its customers. Reports around the web say Nest, (the smart-home component of the Alphabet empire), is kicking and bricking a bunch of older devices deliberately. The smart-home devices in question were made by Revolv, That company recently announced in its site that it was shutting down as of May 15 and its app and smart-home hub will no longer work.

Google just pushed out a pretty chunky over-the-air patch for the Android system as part of its April Security Bulletin.  Apple has issued a patch for iOS 9.3 that was intended to correct that little crashing Safari links problem. However, an independent security researcher has posted a video and description of a bug he says the new 9.3.1 patch brings with it. As several sites have pointed out, until a proper patch arrives. the quick fix for now is to turn off Siri from using the phone’s Lock Screen. Cue iOS 9.3.2…

The Starz cable TV channel has joined the stream team. If you want to watch Outlander, Black Sails or any other Starz content on your Android or iOS device without having to get a cable subscription, you can get it for $9 a month a la carte.

ThinkGeek.com had its usual roster of stellar fake April Fools products last week,  including a Star Trek White Noise Machine. Quilted Northern went viral with a video about rustic-weave artisanal toiler paper. The Epic Fail award for 2016, however, goes to Google, for slipping in an animation featuring one of those yellow Minions characters dropping a microphone that unfortunately got into many serious and professional messages send by Gmail used. Google has apologized.

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And finally, two items of note from Department of Making Things Easier to Understand. First up, the MIT Media Lab has created a new site called Data USA, which tries to make public government data on a variety of subject easier to view and mentally process. Second, Facebook announced this week it was using artificial intelligence software to create automatic alternative text that describes the contents of photos for blind and visually impaired users with screen reader software on their iOS devices. The auto alt text is rolling out in English for iOS users first, but more languages and platforms are expected soon. But how will Facebook’s picture describing software software be able to withstand the the “Chihuahua or Muffin” meme?

PTJ 181 News: Full Court Press

fccCould the digital divide in America be closing just a bit? The Federal Communications Commission has tweaked its plan for low-cost broadband Internet access and presented a proposal to its members this week that brings broadband service for $9.25 a month. The new broadband plan is an update to its 1985 Lifeline program to subsidize landline service for qualifying low-income consumers and the 2008 enhancement to the plan to include mobile-phone help. Lifeline has gotten the usual government-program charges of fraud, waste and abuse (and other gripes) from its detractors, like what counts as average broadband speed. The FCC countered by saying it does have some fraud-prevention measures. Some providers like Sprint don’t care for the proposed reforms to the Lifeline program, but a vote on the new system by FCC members is expected on March 31st.

Facebook is making its Instant Articles feature easier to use for people who aren’t even major media organizations. The company said a few weeks ago that it was opening up the Instant Articles feature to all publishers and this week, Facebook announced a new open-source plug-in for WordPress.  The opening of Instant Articles For All is expected to happen in time for the company’s annual F8 Conference in San Francisco next month. In an even more reassuring development, Facebook also awarded $15,000 to a hacker who demonstrated how he could use basic software to crack open the account of any user on the service. Yes, Facebook has since fixed the flaw in its system.

Mozilla, which recently bailed out, er, pivoted, on its Firefox OS for smartphones, is moving into the Internet of Things, where appliances rule the 802.11 airwaves. In a post on the Mozilla blog, the company outlined four new projects designed to integrate Firefox technologies into connected devices and asked for volunteers to help test out the new stuff. If you are a developer and are interested in working on any of it, check out Project Link, Project Sensor Web, Project Smart Home or Project Vaani.

In gaming news, Capcom is spanking players who rage-quit its Street Fighter V game by docking their League Points for bad behavior.  So there! And Microsoft it just announced it was canceling development of its Fable Legends game for Xbox and closing Lionhead Studios in the United Kingdom and Press Play Studios in Denmark.

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Also over in the House of Microsoft, the company has now enabled Skype chat right from OneDrive when you are collaborating on an Office Online document and just have to talk it out with your co-authors. And whispers around Redmond say Microsoft has pushed back the next big upfate to Windows 10, codenamed Redstone 2 from later this year to until spring of 2017 to better align with new device hardware on the way. No comment from Microsoft so far.

There’s a reportedly nasty piece of OS X ransomware out there, looking to lock up your Mac until you pay up. The malware, called KeRanger, only affects the Transmission BitTorrent client installer. If you use the program, here’s a link to more information. If you don’t use the program, you can skip the freak-out.

craigIn other Apple-related news, the Department of Justice is appealing last week’s federal court ruling in Brooklyn that said the government could not use the centuries-old All Writs Act force Apple to unlock a user’s iPhone. And Craig Federighi (shown here), Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering and fabulous hair, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post explaining Apple’s stance in its ongoing fight with the FBI. Security experts have also weighed in on the matter in a recent Bloomberg News article that says the FBI should just hack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone themselves since it would be faster.  There’s also some worry that if the US government forces Apple to start unlocking iPhones left and right for security reasons, the European Union privacy regulators will delay their verdict on the EU-US privacy shield agreement. (In other not-so-good legal news for Apple, the Supreme Court has declined to listen to the company’s appeal for the e-book price fixing case. Cue the sound of a very large check being written.)

Also in Europe, Google, Indexer of the Past, is expanding the European court-ordered Right to Be Forgotten.  However,  Americans mortified by their pasts lurking online still have nowhere to complain, even though a consumer advocacy group petitioned the Federal Trade Commission last year to make Google allow us Yanks to forget our documented-and- digitized discretions as well.

Verizon Wireless is having its own issues with the concept of privacy. The Federal Communications Commission (clearly having a busy year so far) has slapped the telecom giant with a $1.35 million dollar fine and a a three-year consent decree to settle the case of the privacy-chomping supercookies that first surfaced in 2014.

fiWhen it comes to Internet service providing, Google is mainly known for its Google Fiber broadband, but the company also has a lesser-known cellphone service that piggybacks on Sprint and T-Mobile networks. It’s called Project Fi and the reason you may have not heard of it before is that it was invitation-only since it launched last year. But as of this week, anybody with a Nexus 6, 6P or 5X can  get Project Fi service. You just need to go to (where else?) the Sign Up page to get started.

Amazon, keeping an eye on Apple’s legal punch-up with the DOJ, has now weighed in and said it was going to restore the device encryption capabilities it just yanked out of its Fire OS 5 software. Amazon said it originally took out the feature because no one was using it, but has now decided to re-enable the feature in an update to the system this spring.

rayAnd finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam offer out condolences to the family of Ray Tomlinson, the programmer credited with the modern invention of electronic mail with the groovy little @ sign back in 1971. Mr. Tomlinson passed away last week at the age of 74. He was a member of the Internet Hall of Fame and said he picked the @ sign because it just “made sense.”  Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for setting the standard.

PTJ 165 News: Stream On

Oh, cord-cutters, could it be? Time Warner Cable is reportedly testing an Internet TV service this week, which would allow subscribers to go over the top and stream their television programs without having to have a cable box. All you need is a supplied Roku 3. TWC  isn’t commenting yet, but as reported by the Tech Times site, the so-called “Starter TV” package will cost $10 a month on top of usual broadband costs, and the service tiers go from there.

The Roku 3 may have gotten tapped for the rumored test, but the Roku 4 has now rolled out, bringing its 4K video streams with it. CNet reviewed the new model and said that the Roku 4 is the best way to ultra high-def 4K video at the moment —but it wasn’t so hot with voice search or gaming. But the 4K picture is nice, when you can find 4K content to watch.

The fourth generation Apple TV went on sale this week. Pre-orders started Monday and units were expected to start arriving October 30th.  VentureBeat reports that the remote is radically different than previous models and that iPhone owners can set the box up over a Bluetooth connection with the phone held near the Apple TV. Brian X. Chen of The New York Times reviewed it as well.

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Thinking of cutting the cable cord but are afraid of losing your cable-comany DVR box? Consumer Reports has an article on DVRs you can use to record shows from over-the-air signals.

You do need broadband to stream TV with these new boxes, but New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking into the speed claims made by Verizon Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., and Cablevision Systems Corp. because maybe, you know, connections aren’t as fast as advertised. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, over in Europe this week, the European Parliament voted against a set of amendments intended to protect “net neutrality” in the EU. Proponents of Net Neutrality were critical, those against said the proposed legislation was too vague. Also getting legal, another class-action lawsuit against Apple over the Wi-Fi- Assist feature in iOS 9 that turned out to be eating through user’s mobile data plans if left unattended.

Speaking of mobile data hogs: Facebook is rolling out is redesigned and expanded the notifications tab in its Android and iOS apps. A blog on the company site says the notifications will include things like friends’ milestones, sports scores, reminders about your favorite TV shows, upcoming events and whatnot – just like Google Now already does.

Samsung is not letting everyone else have Big Tablet Fun without it. On the heads of the iPad Pro and the 27-inch Lenovo table-top tablet, Samsung is reportedly working on a Galaxy View model with an 18.4-inch screen. Images of the Galaxy View are online.

It seems like everyone and their grandmother is launching a mobile payment system and now Chase has announced its own digital wallet service called Chase Pay. The service is expected out next year, but uses QR codes on screen with the CurrentC system instead of near-field communication connections with payment terminals like Android Pay and Apple Pay do. And MasterCard announced a new program of its own this week that will let it bring a payment system to any accessory, wearble or consumer device into a mobile payment system. (Any accessory?)

Wal-Mart  has applied for its own permit with the Federal Aviation Administration to start testing drones for warehouse inventory, home deliver and curbside pickup. The application is under review. Here’s hoping for a Drones of Wal-Mart website soon thereafter.

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If you have an Xbox One, mark November 12th on your calendar. That’s the day Microsoft plans to roll out Windows 10 to its console nation. Tech-support hotlines are standing by…

And finally, space party! A new study published in Science magazine finds that Comet C/2014 Q2 — also known by its club name, Comet Lovejoy — is spraying sugar and booze as it flies around the solar system. Analysis by scientists found ethyl alcohol and sugar in the comet’s chemical mix, at a concentration of 0.12% alcohol and 0.16% sugar. All aboard the Cocktail Comet!

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PTJ 138: Axing the Coax

The new $15 standalone streaming service HBO Now arrived just in time for last weekend’s season premiere of Game of Thrones. Early reports showed the app held up well under the onslaught of Starks, Lannisters and new subscribers, which may convince some weary cable subscribers that it’s finally safe to cut the cord and go online to watch all the hot shows.

On this week’s episode, journalist Laura M. Holson — who got rid of her own TV seven years ago — offers her own tips for keeping up with popular programs. Yes, you can do it using nothing but a mobile screen, a sturdy broadband connection and some well-known inexpensive or free services like HuluNetflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, Crackle and Google Play, just to name a few. (Oh, and don’t forget free TV network apps and websites from PBS, ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.) To paraphrase the great Dinah Washington, streaming TV is really the thing this year.

PTJ 132 News: Raise Your Glasses

Amid all the noise from both sides of the issue, the Federal Communications Commission voted last week to adopt the new rules that reclassify broadband Internet service as a public utility. The lawsuits are looming, but for now, the rules have passed. But something new to consider from it all: Mobile broadband service also falls under the new rules. As The Verge site points out, this is a total game-changer in the mobile space.

samsungs6Mobile is everywhere, and especially out at the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona this week. Among the announcements: the fancy new Samsung Galaxy S6 and its sibling the Galaxy S6 Edge (shown here). Microsoft and HTC were among the many companies announcing new smartphone models with Lumia 640 line and the One M9 respectively; BlackBerry is fighting to get back in the game with its security-enhanced BlackBerry Leap smartphone, Intel has announced the next generation of Atom processors, and LG showed off four new phones and the fancy LG Watch Urbane Smartwatch that runs on Android.

Also in Android news, Google mentioned a new forthcoming Android Pay mobile payments service to compete with Apple Pay and the newly announced Samsung Pay. The Big G also said its Project Loon adventure is floating closer to becoming reality and the company may also be considering its own wireless service. Microsoft also introduced a new Universal Folding Keyboard for people who hate to type on glass screens.

The social network formerly known as Google+ is being split up into two parts, at least internally within the halls of Google. These parts shall be known as Photos and Streams. Google Hangouts will continue as a standalone communications tool for video.

Apple has announced a Spring Forward event for March 9th, presumably to discuss the final specs and ship date for the Apple Watch. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been dropping hints about apps for the watch. And, as part of its OS X Beta program, Apple also released the first public Yosemite 10.10.3 beta for Mac participants.

hrcOh, when governments and technology collide. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is getting heat and may have broken some rules by using a personal email account to conduct government business during her tenure with the State Department. The Federal Records Act does not like it when official government business is conducted on personal email accounts with questionable security. Mrs. Clinton has since asked for the messages to be released.

President Obama has come out against new policies the Chinese government has placed on US technology companies who want to do business over there. The Chinese government’s pending new rules require tech firms to provide copies of encryption keys to Chinese authorities and to build security backdoors into systems, all in the name of counter-terrorism. The US does not like this. (To quote the comedienne Brett Butler, “Oh, Arturo, Prince of Irony.”)

AVGAnd finally, if all these government eyeballs looking at you are making you nervous, you may want to keep your own eye on the development of AVG’s “invisibility glasses.” Although still proof-of-concept and dorkier for even some of the biggest dorks around to actually wear, the idea shows a nice little spark of resistance in an over-photographed world. In the meantime, sports fans of lousy teams (New York Jets, Mets, Knicks — take your pick) have an alternative solution for avoiding recognition on camera.

PTJ 128 News: Rules, Regulations and Rude Suprises

It’s February, which is showtime for the Federal Communications Commission! As reported by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and several other news organizations, the FCC now proposes that the Internet be regulated like any other public utility.  A vote on the proposal by the full commission is scheduled for Feb. 26. While the F.C.C. is an independent agency, it takes action through a five-member commission vote.

Also in FCC news: The agency was just not having that petition from the Marriott Hotel chain to block Wi-Fi hotspots and other external networks that guests may be using for security and management reasons, so the hotel empire has withdrawn that request. Late last week, the agency updated its definition of what counts as the minimum benchmark for broadband speeds from a now-wimpy 4 megabits per second to 25 megabits per second for downloads. As The Consumerist blog points out, this reclassification could affect the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, Earlier this week, the FCC also began to consider draft legislation that would stop state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that limit cities from deploying their own municipal broadband services to compete with national mega-providers.

amIt’s not just the FCC gearing up for new rules — the National Security Agency is getting some from the White House. The Obama Administration will now be requiring the NSA to delete irrelevant personal and private information of Americans and foreigners that the agency may accidentally grab during its big data sweeps. Note that this announcement comes the week before German chancellor Angela Merkel comes to visit.

Reddit has published its first Transparency Report detailing government requests for information on its users. According to the company’s tally, it handed over information for 58 percent of all government and civil requests, and 64 percent of all US state and federal government requests.

The White House also released its budget request for the fiscal year 2016, which included a half-billion dollar bump for NASA. The budget, which allocates a total of $18.5 billon dollars to the space agency, allows for continued development on the Orion mission and the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. There’s also $30 million dollars set aside the development of a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons and possibly a place to host alien life.

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The Comcast Customer Service department is back in the news, not horribly long after last year’s incident when an aggressive company rep basically refused to let a man disconnect his cable service. This time, a customer reported that a Comcast employee had changed the name on his bill to a rather descriptive and obscene moniker after the man’s wife tried to cancel the cable to save on monthly bills. This prompted other Comcast customers to come forward with their own reports of name changes In response to the original incident, Comcast published a blog post last week called “Respecting Our Customers” that apologized for and said that the employee in question will no longer be working on behalf of Comcast. (Also in Big Telco and Customer Relations, Verizon Wireless said it plans to let its subscribers opt out of those invulnerable supercookies, or unique identifiers, that privacy advocates were so concerned about.)

If you’ve been thinking about getting into barebones computing, you may be excited to hear the Raspberry Pi 2 is now on sale for the very reasonable price of $35. The little board is more just a toy — this generation of the tiny computer can actually run a version of Windows 10. Microsoft has been working with the Pi makers to create a compatible version of the operating system and invites interested parties to come register for the company’s Windows Developer Program for IoT.

rsRadio Shack seems to be headed over the financial cliff. As reported by Bloomberg News, the chain is said to be preparing a bankruptcy deal that would sell half its store leases to Sprint and shut down the other half. Bloomberg also reports that Amazon may be interested in picking up a few RadioShack locations to give the online company a little more brick-and-mortar action.

Tangerine, one of the most buzzed about movies at the recent Sundance Film Festival, was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S tricked out with the $8 Filmic Pro app, a Moondog Labs lens adapter and some external audio gear. And  Vine has introduced a new simplified version of its six-second looping video app called Vine Kids .

For the map lovers — Google Earth Pro is now free. This premium version of Google Earth used to cost $400, but now you can get the exclusive data layers and advanced measuring tools of Google Earth Pro for zero dollars. The Big G has also added Google Now info cards for about 40 different apps. (Google, in addition to all the other things it’s been working on lately, is also recreating human skin — will they call it Google Flesh?)

puffs1And finally, while we’re on the topic of medical research: Mark Shrime, a medical researcher at Harvard, wondered about the factual content of articles published in medical journals. So he decided to run a little experiment and used gibberish produced from www.randomtextgenerator.com to produce text for a fake article titled entitled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals,” authored by Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. According to Fast Company magazine, he submitted the article to 37 journals in a two-week period and at least 17 of them have accepted it. Most wanted a $500 “processing” fee, so the “call for papers” here is clearly referring to those infamous small green pieces of paper that make the world go ’round. But, hey, at least it doesn’t cost anything now to see the world spin in Google Earth Pro.

PTJ 93 News: Bending the Rules

The new rules on Net Neutrality put forth last month by the Federal Communications Commission have generated quite a bit of a backlash from people who think the agency’s fast lane/slow lane approach was misguided. More than 100 tech companies signed a letter expressing their dismay with the proposed rules.

Other opponents to the rules include Minnesota senator Al Franken, who called the proposal “the opposite of Net Neutrality.” The digital-rights advocacy group Free Press was also planning a public protest outside the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, DC, and is encouraging opponents to contact their Congresspeople. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also put up a post on its site explaining how the FCC makes its rules and explaining how members of the public can comment on policy-works-in-progress.

As first reported by The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is said to be working on some revisions to the rules and is scheduled to appear before the House of Representatives’ subcommittee on communications and technology next Tuesday, May 20. CEOs of broadband companies, however, have also warned the FCC not to go too far in the other direction with regulating the industry because it would do things like scare away business investors.

And in more exciting policy news, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that people have a right to be forgotten when it comes to showing up in Google search results. Google is also hearing in from a court in Germany. A data protection office there in Hamburg says Google is violating German law by quietly compiling users’ data from its different services without their consent. At least the new Moto E Android phone is getting good reviews.

Microsoft is taking another swing at Sony and has released a cheaper version of its Xbox One. This new $399 version of the console does not include the Kinect motion controller and saves the gamer $100. Microsoft may also be gearing up to launch a music locker service for the Xbox One. Although the company hasn’t made any announcements, a Chinese website claims to have found references to a OneDrive Music folder that can stream music from the cloud to the Xbox.

And speaking of streaming music, word of Apple’s $3.2 billion deal to buy Beats Electronics has the tech world thumping. The agreement, which was widely reported late last week and has yet to close, but it’s said to be the biggest acquisition in Apple’s company history. Beats Electronics, founded by musician Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine, makes headphones and has its own subscription music-streaming service. Billboard is among the sites speculating that the Beats founders could be making an appearance at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference next month.

Apple isn’t the only company in acquisition mode. Many sites are reporting that AT&T is quite close to a takeover of the DirecTV satellite service.

Netflix, which officially raised its subscription prices for new customers by a buck to $8.99 a month last week, sent out email messages to existing customers saying it would not hike prices on them for at least two years. But at least that side deal with Comcast seems to be paying off: The monthly ISP speed index on the company’s blog shows that Comcast has moved up another few notches to third place behind CableVision and Cox.

It seems the Office for iPad fans really were suffering until Microsoft released its official iOS tablet version of the suite in March. The suite have now rung up more than 27 million downloads in 46 days after its release.

muteAnd finally, Twitter has announced a new “Mute” feature that lets you temporarily turn off the tweets of somone you’re following.  With the U.S. midterm elections coming up later this year (and with them, the inevitable flowing poltical tweet-spew), this could prove to be a sharply timed and very popular feature. Well played, Twitter. Well played.

PTJ 82: Food, Cheer, and Song

Sincerest apologies to the great Federico Fellini but we here at Pop Tech Jam believe life is a combination of magic … and a White Castle Crave Case®. If you have a hankering for some regional food classics that you just can’t find in your town, J.D. harnesses the power of the Internet and shows you how to get those comfort food favorites delivered right to your door.  All the talk of food has Pedro’s stomach grumbling but he was able to fight off the hunger pangs long enough to explain what Social Engineering is and how we can all be affected by it.  In the news the F.C.C. plans on introducing a new net neutrality policy; Apple loses their appeal in an attempt to ditch a  government appointed e-book monitor; Anti-malware company Kaspersky Labs claims to have discovered a global cyber-espionage  organization; Google leases more space from NASA; and Lego considers  a new building set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show.

PTJ 82 News: Free Speech *and* Free Beer

It was just about a month ago that the government’s Net Neutrality rules were kicked to the curb in court, but Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said this week the agency will have retooled rules very soon. Some opponents to government regulation fear that the FCC may use this second chance to overstep its bounds and try to start controlling everything on the Internet. However, the agency’s site states, “no one — not the government and not the companies that provide broadband service — can restrict innovation on the Internet.”  (For those who are fans of oratory, Mr. Wheeler’s lively speech included references to Abraham Lincoln’s second address to Congress from December 1862, Moore’s Law, the metaphysics of pizza delivery and Return of the Jedi — without the Ewoks).

In Apple-related news, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Apple’s request to ditch the court-appointed monitor in its ebook price-fixing case. Meanwhile, the SecureMac site says its found a new Trojan horse called OSX/CoinThief.A; it’s aimed at OS X and designed to steal login credentials for Bitcoin wallets. But on happier note, Apple’s iTunes Radio service has now gone international, with a launch in Australia this week.

Talk about your uptime: Researchers at Kaspersky Labs say they’ve discovered a sophisticated global cyber-espionage operation called The Mask. It’s been running since 2007.

Silicon Valley residents are probably familiar with Hangar One, a massive eight-acre hangar designed in 1933 as a parking garage for blimps. NASA’s in charge of Hangar One but if things work out, the space agency would be leasing the structure to Google for things like housing private jets and whatnot. Google has already leased more than 40 acres of the nearby NASA Ames Research Center to build a large Research & Development facility, and the two are working together to test the world’s first quantum computer there as well. Google is also teaming up with long-time Apple component supplier Foxconn on robotics development, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Google itself declined to comment on the matter. No word from the robots, either.

Need some do-it-yourself inspiration for your own engineering projects? Spanish hacker Jose Julio used his skills to build an air-hockey playing robot for his daughter.

Microsoft is looking for a software design engineer to create “a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics.” While Windows 8 already has a basic reader app, some are speculating that this new app with be an Xbox-branded bit of software that would work across all the company’s platforms, including Windows 8, Windows Phone and the Xbox game consoles.

XPbye

With about two months to go before the End of Support for Windows XP, Microsoft is starting to approach small and medium-size businesses about the need to get off the ancient operating system. As part of the End of Support campaign, a post on one of Microsoft’s blogs titled “Help your friends and family get off Windows XP” also went up last week, While some comments were positive or indifferent, there was a noticeable amount of backlash from readers who have no intention of doing any such thing.

The eWeek site has just compiled a list of the most popular apps on Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Flappy Bird, made the list, even though the developer, pulled the game from app stores this week. He said Flappy Bird had “ruined his simple life” by attracting too much attention and that it was an addictive product. The game, which was making $50,000 a week in advertising (and still is) involves trying to steer a poor little bird through a series of vertical green pipes. There has been speculation the game was yanked due to possible copyright violations with Nintendo’s Mario games, but a Nintendo spokesperson denied the company had taken any legal action.

Lego is considering ideas for new building sets and one of the candidates this year is a set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show. The proposed Sherlock set is just a finalist among six possible projects that also include the DeLorean from Back to the Future and a Legend of Zelda kit. The Sherlock proposal details two different sets: a 370-piece recreation of the consultation area at 221B Baker Street and a 630-piece kit that makes up the apartment’s living room. Here’s hoping!

And finally, one bit of Winter Olympic 2014 news. The Canadian athletes have extra treats in their Olympic House: a refrigerator that dispenses free beer. You have to be Canadian to use the beer fridge, however, and need to present your passport for scanning by the vending machine. Canada, it should be noted, has been having a very good Games so far and has been in the top three on the medal board all week in Sochi.