Pokémon, those whimsical little Japanese pocket monsters, are celebrating their 20th anniversary in style by taking over much of the mobile world this month with the release of the augmented reality smartphone game, Pokémon GO. But while millions of people downloaded the game to their Android handsets and iPhones in the first week of release, security experts and privacy advocates have voiced concerns. Journalist Laura M. Holson drops by Pop Tech Jam HQ to discuss how Pokémon GO works, what to worry about and why it became so popular so fast. El Kaiser and J.D. also discuss the non-Pokémon headlines of the week, including Twitter’s big plans for this month’s political conventions and some truly classic code.
Do you like reality TV? If you’re a general fan of long windy speeches, you can see the United states political machine grinding its gears later this month on Twitter. The bird-themed microblogging service announced this week that it has reached a deal with the CBS television network to livestream both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, much to the delight of trolls everywhere.
Also in Twitter news, the company has issued a cease-and-desist letter to another site that made a habit of recording and displaying the deleted tweets of politicians and celebrities. Upon receiving the letter, the PostGhost site did shut down, joining Politiwoops in the club of sites who have angered Twitter. Politiwoops, though smacked by Twitter last year, does seem to be back as part of the Sunlight Foundation for transparent government. And Twitter has increased the allowed size of animated GIF files that can be attached to tweets, which can now be up to 15 megabytes on the Twitter web interface or 5 megabytes on mobile. This has inspired some people to compress full-length movies and TV episodes into high-speed animated files, just because they can.
The ebook revolution seems to have hit a snag, at least with book from major publishers. The American Association of Publishers released its annual sales survey this week that showed ebook sales had declined about 11 percent in 2015. Overall, ebooks accounted for 17% of all book sales for the year and Fortune magazine thinks the drop may be in part to major publishers reining in e-sales with higher prices as a way to limit Amazon’s influence over the publishing industry. Digital formats are not all riding the down arrow though: The AAP survey also showed that revenue from audiobook sales has nearly doubled since the year 2012, from $299 million in sales up to $552 million last year.
Facebook, Apple and Google have all taken a keen interest in India as a new source of revenue. While Facebook’s Internet.org project to bring its version of the web to the country hit a roadblock with local officials and net neutrality advocates earlier this year, and Google has busted out with a new program designed to train two million local developers in the art of Android. The new initiative is called the Android Skilling program that it plans to implement in universities and training schools around India later this year. Also in international tech news, the Obama administration says the Twitter traffic of Islamic State has dropped 45 percent in the past two years due to an online counteroffensive.
Electric cars are picking up speed. <rimshot> Along with your Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt and other models out there, Mercedes-Benz is said to be prepping a concept version of an all-electric sedan that it plans to unveil at the Paris Motor Show in Paris this fall. peaking of Tesla, though, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Elon Musk’s electric car company is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to tell investors about the fatal crash of one of its cars in Autopilot mode this May.
Google is making high-speed data access easier for its Project Fi customers who are traveling. The company announced on its Android blog this week that it was giving Project Fi subscribers a $10-per-gigabyte data plan in more than 135 countries for those who don’t want to drift between Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels and cafes or fumble with the international SIM card maneuver.
After initial delays, Oculus Rift VR headsets are now shipping within 2-to-4 business days from ordering. And developers who want to attend the company’s Oculus Connect 3 conference on early October can fill out applications for attendance starting August 2.
And finally, if you like NASA and you like programming, head on over to GitHub — if you’re not already there — and check out the source code for the onboard guidance computers used on the Apollo 11 command and lunar modules back in 1969. The pages of source code were digitized a while back for the MIT Museum and was later transcribed and uploaded into text files by a researcher in 2003. So the code itself was already in the public domain if you knew where to look, but a former NASA intern uploaded the entire collection to GitHub last week so even more people could examine the files and read the comments put in by the original NASA programmers. As PCMag.com notes, the code has a lot of humor and even some Shakespeare in the comments. And lest you think all those 1960s-era computer jocks were men in short-sleeve white dress shirts, remember that software engineer Margaret Hamilton (shown here) was one of the main programmers on the Apollo 11 project and is still an inspiration to many of today’s girls who code.
This week, a review of the IEB6 + MIC in-ear monitors from First Harmonic and the debut of a new segment we like to call “Stuff We Saw on TV”. Of course we bring you all the tech news and shenanigans you’ve come to expect from the best tech-themed podcast on this or any other galaxy.
How fast can someone hack a mobile phone? As 60 Minutes correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi found out, the answer is: Not very long at all — especially if you have a room full of experts on the job. Speaking of security issues, the videos below are unfortunately in the dreaded Adobe Flash format and useless for most mobile devices, but here’s the segment called “Hacking Your Phone” that ran last weekend, plus the additional web-based 60 Minutes Overtime segment. (You can always check them out, plus the transcriptions, on the 60 Minutes website yourself if the embed here is problematic.)
Consciousness raised? Through the roof.
Microsoft is very disappointed in your behavior, people. The company once grandly promised unlimited OneDrive cloud storage to its Office 365 users — but is now taking it away because a few users got a little greedy and backed up more than 75 terabytes of data each to Microsoft’s servers. New, lesser data plans are on the way for everyone now. Microsoft is also leaning on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to hurry and just upgrade already to Windows 10. Windows Update is pushing out the new operating system as an automatic update that could sprout on your system, if your PC is configured to install certain types of updates on its own.
Activision Blizzard is acquiring King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion dollars. Call of Duty and Candy Crush are in it together now.
If you get lousy 4G LTE reception with your T-Mobile device, the company has a way to make it up to you. Big Pink is offering 4G LTE CellSpot mini cell-towers to its customers.
Amazon is going from clicks to bricks and opening up its first physical bookstore in Seattle this week. But while Amazon is getting physical with the retail, several sources report that Google is ditching plans to open its own store in New York City. Rents in New York are rather impossible these days, you know.
Google took to its blog this week to say, no, no, no, we are not killing of the Chrome OS in favor of Android for laptops. The company also announced a new Smart Reply feature that actually answers mail for you with one of three calculated responses. Google’s Project Wing — better known as its drone-based package-delivery service — is scheduled to launch in 2017. The announcement came as part of an air-traffic control convention being held in Washington. Project Wing (not to be confused with Project Loon) was revealed last year. And while we’re talking about drones, aerial tech company DJI has just announced a new embedded computer designed for drones. It’s called the Manifold and it runs on Ubuntu Linux. Go, penguin, go!
Fans of the Plex media server will be happy to know there’s now a free version of the software that now works with the latest Apple TV. You can find it in the Apple TV app store.
And finally, we knew it wouldn’t stay away forever, but now Star Trek is returning to television — but in a new way. Instead of exploring space through standard network or syndicated broadcasts, this new show will be shown on the $6-a-month CBS All Access service. Will enough Trekkers pile on board to let CBS give Netflix, Hulu and Amazon a run for their money in the original content department? We’ll find out in 2017 when the series leaves port. The Star Trek franchise celebrates its 50th birthday in 2016, having debuted back in 1966. Yes, Star Trek will soon be eligible to join the AARP — and that roadside assistance may come in handy when the timing belt snaps on one of the Enterprise’s impulse engines out in the middle of nowhere.
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 Hulu, Netflix, 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.
If you aren’t a fan of the Cupertino-based, fruit-themed toymaker you may not want to listen to this episode. Of course you’ll miss out on all the fun (and maybe even a shenanigan or two) if you do but we won’t judge. We’d be enormously disappointed if you din’t listen but don’t worry about us, we’ll be fine. No, these aren’t tears. It’s just our allergies acting up…
This week El Kaiser kicks the tires on Apple’s Yosemite and J.D. takes the latest version of iTunes out for a spin.
In the news Google has some big announcements of its own as they unveil Android Lollipop and some new hardware to go with it; Apple rolls out a new iPad lineup and an iMac with a 5K Retina display; HBO and CBS make cord cutters very, very happy; Staples is the latest retailer to suffer an apparent hack attack; and Marty McFly’s hoverboard makes the scene a full year earlier than expected.
Apple had its iPad event well-planned in advance, but that didn’t stop Google from upstreaming the media cab ride by putting out quite a few announcements of its own last week. The latest version of its mobile operating system, now dubbed Android Lollipop, is rolling out and landing first on two new devices: the Nexus 6 phablet phone made by Motorola and the Nexus 9 tablet crafted by HTC. Android Lollipop also sports a redesigned Gmail app that handles mail from other providers. And after the spectacular flop of the Google Ball, er Nexus Q set-top streaming media player a few years ago, the company is having another go round with the newer, round-but-flat Nexus Player which brings apps, games and streaming video to a connected TV. Google has been very busy, indeed.
The Nexus 6, which has a 5.9-inch screen and was nicknamed “Shamu” before release, can be pre-ordered later this month for a November 12th delivery. An unlocked version is expected to cost around $650 with carrier subsidy pricing still to be announced and is expected to deliver November 12th. Prices for the Nexus 9 tablet start at $400 for the 16GB Wi-Fi-only model and go north from there; that new tablet arrives November 3rd. The Nexus Player is $99 and is on backorder in the Google Play store, a game controller will cost you another $40.
When not releasing a bunch of new hardware and software into the wold, Google is also attempting to take a bite out of crime, particularly online copyright violations. In an internal piracy report and blog post, the company said it would be making changes to its search engine to demote and bury results with illegal sources of content, while elevating legal alternatives like Spotify.
Okay, back to Apple. As expected, the iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 were officially unveiled last Thursday, as was OS X Yosemite for the Mac. The iOS 8.1 (with Apple Pay) update for compatible iDevices arrived on Monday. So, how many of us went and tried it out at McDonald’s because we knew it had Apple Pay-ready terminals right in front of those delicious McGriddle breakfast sandwiches?
Apple also had a couple of new Mac hardware items to reveal, like the iMac with 5K Retina display, a standalone all-in-one desktop Mac with a 27-inch widescreen monitor sporting 14.7 million pixels. Prices for that one, shown above, start at $2500. Apple’s tiniest desktop computer, the Mac Mini, also got a component overhaul with faster processors, more memory and all the other good stuff and a starting price point of $500.
One feature of the new OS X Yosemite — Spotlight Search now with website suggestions — unites Apple with Microsoft. While Google still remains the default search provider for searches done in the Safari browser, Bing has become the default search engine for Spotlight, as it is for the Siri personal assistant. The website SearchEngineLand.com read the fine print in the user agreement and noticed that Apple will be sharing search query and location information and sharing it with Microsoft. The Washington Post popped up with a story saying Macs could automatically track your location, and soon the iMore blog jumped in with a guide to privacy for iOS 8 and Yosemite that basically said that Apple was upfront in its documentation about how that stuff worked and it was up to the user to decide to turn it off. The post also linked to Apple’s own pages devoted to user privacy and a PDF on the state of security in iOS 8, for those who want further reading.
HBO is finally making dreams come true for fans of its shows who do not have the full and expensive channel packages from their cable providers. The network announced late last week that it was making its HBO GO streaming service as a standalone option next year. An official rollout date and final pricing have not been announced yet, but let’s assume sometime before Game of Thrones Season 5 debuts in April 2015 and probably around $15 a month or whatever the channel is going for as part of a cable bundle. CBS quickly said it too, was launching its own streaming service for live and stockpiled TV. The new CBS All Access service is $5.99 a month and you can watch shows on the CBS mobile app.
Turns out Facebook was not too happy with the federal agent over at the Drug Enforcement Agency who created a fake profile for a real woman. Last week, Joe Sullivan, the chief security officer for the Social Network sent a letter to the DEA last week reminding the agency that its against the site’s rules to create fraudulent, false or deceptive profile pages, even in criminal investigations.
According to several sources, including security guru Brian Krebs, several Staples office supply stores in the Northeast seem to have been hit, as major banks are reporting a pattern of credit- and debit-card fraud. Law enforcement has been contacted to investigate the matter further and see how widespread the situation has become.
Late last week, Snapchat began to roll out advertisements to users of its mostly disintegrating messaging service. While the adverts to not appear in the personal communication between Snapchat users, they do show up in the Recent Updates area. In a company blog post, Snapchat said it was introducing advertising to the service because “we need to make money.” At least the firm being up front about its intentions.
Patrick Leahy, the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman and the Democrat from Vermont, wrote a letter and urged Comcast to be an example, take a stand and make a pledge against any type of Internet “fast lanes” for higher-paying customers. Your move, Comcast.
And finally, the hoverboard shown in Back to the Future II, back in 1989, may be floating into some sort of reality. Jill and Greg Henderson have developed a working hoverboard of sorts that while limited, works. The Hendo Hoverboard, as it’s called, is not yet for sale. However, its creators have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise $250,000 to further development and get it out to the marketplace. Hey, the famous Back to the Future II light-up sneakers are now finally affordable after an expensive earlier version lit up the charity auctions a few years ago, so it’s only a matter of time before the mass-market hoverboards are zipping about the city streets.
El Kaiser has The Great Set Top Box Stream-Off of 2014 and J.D. takes a look at the geek-friendly shows the fall TV season has lined up for us.
In the news, a huge hacking scandal involving Apple’s iCloud and stolen intimate photos of various female celebrities; Apple includes restrictions in developer’s agreement for new iOS 8 HealthKit tool; Windows 8 and 8.1 slowly finds its way onto more computers; Google announces in-house drone program; the potential for drone traffic problems up in the sky; NASA gets ready to to perform some maintenance on its Mars rover; and the Internet Archive scans millions of book pages.
Streaming services and video-on-demand may have changed the way we consume television in recent years, but the broadcast networks still cling to the traditional fall debut for most of their new shows. This 2014-2015 season looks to have plenty of viewing options, especially for comic-book fans, so here are a few new shows (and some returning favorites) to consider for the recording queue:
- Gotham is basically an origins tale centered around a young policeman named James Gordon, who’s on the force in a major city that’s very well-known in the DC Comics universe. Other residents of this urban sprawl include a young Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and Oswald Cobblepot — why yes, this is a Batman prequel now that you mention it. Gotham’s first season is scheduled for 16 episodes on Fox TV and the network has already released a 21-minute preview video to get fans in the mood. The show makes its debut on September 22nd.
- The Flash is another popular DC Comics character who’s getting another run on TV. The Scarlet Speedster, lands on the CW on October 7th. (That’s same network that shows the Arrow series, so rest assured, everyone in the cast will look fabulous.) Let’s see if this version does better than the 1990-91 edition with John Wesley Shipp running around in that Flash suit that looked like it was made out of Play-Doh; Shipp even has an acting gig in the this new 2014 series.
- iZombie, right out of the DC/Vertigo canon, will also be on the CW network. The show follows an overachieving Type A medical resident who gets turned into a zombie at a party. After she takes a job in the coroner’s office to earn a living and have access to a supply of delicious fresh brains, she also becomes a crimefighter when she realizes she absorbs the memories of the murder victims when she snacks on their gray matter. iZombie will be appearing mid-season, so look for it in early 2015.
- Constantine follows the adventures of John Constantine, a occult detective/supernatural con man from Alan Moore’s DC Comics/Vertigo series Hellblazer. The show stars Welsh actor Matt Ryan and premieres on NBC on October 24th. (Certain changes to the character’s background made by this production do have some fans griping already, but will the show’s trailer be enough to lure them over?)
DC Comics may be dominating broadcast television, but let’s not forget that Netflix is also developing several series based on Marvel Comics properties, including a streaming reboot of Daredevil due out next year. Other members of Daredevil’s Defenders team— namely Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist — are expected to get their own Netflix series as well, with an all-star team-up Defenders series on the way, too.
As for returning shows, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD survived its first year on ABC and is back with new episodes on September 23rd and Lucy Lawless (shown here) in the Season Two cast. Also on ABC, the fairy-tale action show Once Upon a Time is back September 28th for its fourth season and this year, it’s starting off with a live-action storyline from another Disney property, the animated blockbuster, Frozen.
The Big Bang Theory returns to CBS with its Season 8 opener not on its usual Thursday night, but on Monday, September 22, while the network’s Sherlock-in-New-York crime drama Elementary has a a third-season premiere on Thursday, October 30th. (You can thank Thursday Night Football on CBS for the odd dates and late-year starts.) Big Bang’s September 22 premiere also puts it smack up against Gotham, and the return of Sleepy Hollow is also the same night on the Fox network, so set your DVRs accordingly.
And one last program — not so much with superheroes or the supernatural, but possibly of interest to Doctor Who fans: Selfie, an ABC sitcom about a woman who has thousands of online followers but no actual friends. She hires a consultant to help her to ease off the social media and navigate real relationships with people. It stars former Doctor Who companion (and current Nebula) Karen Gillan and Reboot Sulu John Cho. The show premieres on September 30th, and after the recent cloud-based photo theft scandal, its title should definitely stick in people’s minds, even if the show doesn’t.