Tag Archives: bugs

Test Drive the Beta Bus

Do you like doing things first? Do you like discovering cool new operating system features? Do you not mind if your computer has the occasional Blue Screen of Death or Kernel Panic? If so, consider the exciting world of being a public beta tester!

While some Linux distributions are constantly open-source works in progress, Microsoft and Apple were traditionally closed systems that usually only let registered developers install the testing versions of their upcoming operating systems. But that changed a few years ago, perhaps when companies realized they could make better final software with more people banging around on the prerelease versions — and filing complaints about stuff that didn’t work.

So, what do you need to join in? For both Microsoft and Apple, you need to sign up with the respective testing program, agree to install the software and provide feedback on what you see. You also need compatible hardware on which to install the beta software. Important Point: This should be a computer or device that is NOT your primary, mission-critical machine.

Apple’s free volunteer public testing club is called the Apple Beta Software Program. You need to register an Apple ID to get in, but you can play around with prerelease versions of both macOS and iOS.

Microsoft calls its beta club the Windows Insider program. If your PC meets the system requirements and you join to become a member of the Windows Insider team, Microsoft allows you to download each new build of the next Windows version to learn, test and share your feedback. You can sign up using the Windows Insider option within the current Windows 10 Settings app — in Settings, go to Updates and Security, then Windows Update and select Advanced Options. You can also sign up for the program on the Windows Insider page on Microsoft’s website.

As with any unfinished hardware or software, proceed at your own risk. Being a beta tester isn’t for everyone and a some folks may start to feel like the kids that Tom Sawyer convinced to whitewash the fence for him. But for alpha dogs who like to be first, going beta can be very exciting.

PTJ 150 News: Sorting It Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PTJ 125 News: Borrowers and Lenders

rhinoForget the Drama Llama — the Irony Rhino went charging through the room this week. The same day President Barack Obama gave a big speech on the importance of, you know, cybersecurity , the Twitter and YouTube accounts for the US military’s Central Command were hacked by supporters of Islamic State. Wired magazine was among those who dismissed the hack as a stunt and not a deep security breach, and some experts are theorizing that the person in charge of those social media accounts got jacked, which led to the official accounts being compromised.

Other government leaders are also concerned about security, terrorist activity and other dirty deeds done dirt cheap online.  In a speech this week, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron said he would try to ban apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp in Britain if intelligence services did not have a key to the back door. And the Federal trial of the Dread Pirate Roberts, also known as Ross Ulbrict of the Silk Road site, started this week in Lower Manhattan.

Microsoft is just not having it from Google. In a post on the Microsoft Security Response Center site, senior director Chris Betz blasted the Big G for releasing information about some Windows 8.1 bugs before Microsoft could roll out its monthly Patch Tuesday fixes. Google made the Windows cracks  known in posts on its Project Zero site for security engineers, which tracks holes in Google’s (and other companies’) software.  As an incentive for the fixing, Project Zero typically has a 90-day trigger of automatic disclosure of unpatched bugs after the vendor has been notified.

win7Microsoft has started the slow countdown to the official demise of Windows 7: The company’s Product Lifecycle database notes that mainstream support for Windows 7 ended this week. Extended product support, which provides regular security updates, goes until January 14, 2020. (Windows 7 still has more than 50 percent of the Windows market at the moment, according to Net Applications.)

You’ve seen those Amber Alert notices on the news and even on electronic highway signs. Now Facebook is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to bring geographically relevant alerts to user news feeds.

The old try-before-you-buy philosophy isn’t just for demoware. Luminoid.com, which rents out cameras, tablets and other gadgets, has just started a new Home Try-On program for wearable electronics. You can borrow five health and fitness tracking devices and try them all out for seven days. If you like a model, you send back the demos and buy a new one from Luminoid. If you don’t buy, you just send them $20 for their lending and shipping efforts.

In iOS news, Google released a free iOS version of its Chrome Remote Desktop app this week. With the app on your iPhone or iPad, an extension to the Google Chrome browser on your computer and a Google account, you can log in and control your computer over the Internet. (An Android version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app was previously available.) And Apple is giving confused parents a hand with new age-appropriate subsections to the Games for Kids area of the App Store.

cnndroneAlthough unmanned drones are mostly banned for commercial use, CNN has worked out an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that would let the channel test camera equipped drones for video journalism and news-gathering. Several media companies have previously complained about the FAA’s ban on drones saying it restricts the First Amendment rights of journalists to gather news. The FAA is currently working on a new set of drone rules, so stay tuned — maybe the drone rules will land before the Federal Communications Commission gets its Net Neutrality ducks in a row.

If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own personal robot, there’s a Kickstarter campaign awaiting you. A startup called Robotbase is gathering funds for a product called Personal Robot, which looks to be the artificial intelligence of personal assistant software married to a motorized robotic rolling platform. As Sam Maggs over on The Mary Sue blog points out in her post titled “Now You Can Have Your Very Own A.I. Personal Robot Lady Friend,” the Cylon race also started out as robot butlers in the Caprica series.

And finally, the New York Public Library is leading out more than just books and videos. As part of the new Library HotSpot program, that fine institution is also making 10,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots available for six-month loans to families who have no broadband access at home. The Library HotSpot project is also receiving major support from Google, the Knight News Challenge, Open Society Foundations and New York’s Robin Hood Foundation. Both the nonprofit Internet access company Mobile Beacon and Sprint are working to get the hot spot hardware distributed to library branches around the five boroughs. And remember hot-spot recipients: security.

PTJ 65 News: Lyin’, Cheatin’ and Stealin’

Don’t be makin’ stuff up— the state of New York is cracking down on fake Internet reviews on sites like Yelp, Yahoo and Citysearch and issued fines of about $350,000 to more than a dozen companies who got caught singing their own praises—or paying others to do it for them, including people in other countries who had never used the services in question. The State of New York has been busy the past week or so, and also introduced “text stops” along the highway for people who need to pull over and send a message.

In other legal news, LinkedIn is getting sued by several of its customers, who claim the professional networking site hacked into their personal external e-mail accounts and downloaded the address books for marketing purposes. A post on a company blog by LinkedIn’s senior director of litigation states that the accusations are false. Stay tuned.

On a happier note, Google is revamping the way YouTube uploaders manage the comments on their sites, which may help knock the trolls farther down and out of sight. (While we’re waiting for the new system to roll out, don’t forget the Pop Tech Jam guide to blocking online comments.)

As expected, Microsoft announced the next generation of its Surface tablets. The Surface Pro 2 runs on an Intel Core i5 Haswell processor. The less-powerful Surface 2 tablet was also announced this week. While Microsoft soldiers on trying to carve out more market share for its tablets and smartphones, BlackBerry reported major losses and layoffs, and also announced it was selling itself for $5 billion to Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd, a Canadian finance firm.

Apple’s new iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s went on sale last Friday and sold more phones over the weekend than BlackBerry did for the entire last quarter. So while the battle of the fruit-themed smartphone companies has been decided, but Apple’s products are taking bites out of other firms as well. After the arrival of iTunes Radio last week, the Web radio service Pandora saw its stock from 10 percent. Apple also pushed out iOS 7 last week, and the bug hunters have been having a ball.

In other Apple news, the childhood home of the late company co-founder Steve Jobs could be made a protected site by the Los Altos Historical Commission in California.

If you thought your Gmail was slow earlier this week, that wasn’t your friends and colleagues ignoring you — that was Google having problems delivering messages and attachments to its 425 million users. The situation was resolved about 12 hours later, with a dual network failure taking the blame.

Worried about someone swiping your Android device and getting into your stuff? You can now lock a lost device remotely with the latest version of the Android Device Manager. To use it, just log into the Android Device Manager Web page with your Google or Gmail user name and password and follow along.

In gaming news, Valve is busting out its own Linux-based SteamOS designed for gaming on TV screens. The SteamOS home page has more information, and the company is also working on Steam Machines (not to be confused with those things you rent a couple times a year to get all the mashed Cheetos and Gatorade stains out of the carpet).

lasereyesDo you hate it when you take pictures of your cat and it has those weird glowing eyes? Adobe has  added a new feature to its brand new Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 software. Yes, now you can use the “Pet Eye” tool to correct those weird green and yellow distortions in the eyes of your cats and dogs, just like you can use the Red Eye tool to get the demon gaze out of human eyes.
Most of the time.