Thinking of spending some of your inside time recording a podcast or your own music? After a tour through the week’s technology headlines with J.D., El Kaiser offers some shopping tips on microphones that make you sound way better than the one built into your laptop. Just click the Play button to hear it all on PTJ 336 — starting with a suggestion for another binge-worthy show to pass the time in the Quarantine Life.
Early January is here at last and El Kaiser and J.D. are ready to explore all the unique creations launched on the floor of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And as with last year’s round-up, the specifications and features on the Kohler Intelligent Toilet amaze. This week’s episode also features a look at recent technology news and a rave review for the animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse film. Jump into 2019 with Episode 297!
In that quiet time of the year between developer conferences and the back-to-school sales, product announcements are scarce — but the hazy, lazy days of summer are no vacation for the legal world! As El Kaiser and J.D. discover on this week’s episode, court rulings and decisions by lawmakers dominated the news this week, with a few bug revivals thrown in for good measure. J.D. also explores the new Windows 10 Timeline feature in Microsoft’s latest operating-system update, so beat the heat and find a cool place to settle in with Episode 279!
Google delivers on its commitment to block intrusive ads in the Chrome browser, Microsoft plans to unleash a Beast Mode for Windows 10 power users and Apple. . . well, Apple’s just staining the furniture with the HomePod speaker. El Kaiser and J.D. also discuss other highlights from the week’s tech news and offer tips for rural Internet users who have little choice in broadband providers and have to watch every megabyte they use on metered cellular data plans. Punch up Episode 263 to hear it all!
The cryptocurrency Bitcoin is all over the news this month, and El Kaiser and J.D. discuss some of the more recent developments, along with the Consumer Reports verdict on the iPhone X and the legal tussle between oracle and Google. El Kaiser shares his thoughts on Crisis on Earth X and J.D. offers a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on converting those meeting notes scrawled on the office whiteboard into text you can edit on your phone. Oh, and there’s a little movie called Star Wars: The Last Jedi headed to theaters this month, so if you need something to listen to while you’re waiting around in line for it, push Play on Episode 255 here!
Some exciting typing news: The popular Google Keyboard app just got a big update this week. Also in keyboard developments, the Giphy Keys app for iOS arrived this week, making it easier than ever to add just the right animated loop to your messages. No boring messages for you, Giphy Keys user.
And finally, Ad-Block Plus, the popular ad-blocking extension, and Flattr, a micropayment service that lets its users donate money have teamed up a new service called Flattr Plus that lets you set a content budget and then send money to the sites you actually spent time reading. No money for you, clickbait sites.
Technology plays a part in all modern wars, doesn’t it? The recent uptick in violent terrorist attacks around the world has politicians looking at the situation with Internet in mind. While the hacktivist collective Anonymous has been having a go at Islamic State for months now — and has even declared December 11th to be a trolling day for online hassling — presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wants American tech companies to join the battle. And, over in France, the police forces there are asking for more powers during state of emergencies. According to a report in Le Monde, French law enforcement has asked to block free and shared Wi-Fi connections during an official state of emergency and also outlaw communications over the Tor network.
AT&T continues to roll out its GigaPower gigabit Internet service around the country and said this week is was bringing the fast fiber to 38 more cities around the country. Metro areas getting the glass include LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Pensacola, Louisville, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Memphis, Milwaukee and several other locales. Google Fiber, meanwhile, is flirting with Chicago and Los Angeles.
Mozilla is helping out iOS users who are getting pummeled by web ads. The company released its free Focus by Firefox content blocker this week. The app works with the Safari browser for iOS 9.
Apple seems to have hear the pleas of those with extensive music collections and has now upped the number of tracks matched by iTunes Match from 25,000 songs to 100,000. The increased capacity is rolling out slowly, so if you don’t have the extra space yet, just keep checking. The company also released a $100 Smart Battery case for the iPhone 6 and 6s that claims up to 25 hours talk time or 18 hours of LTE data-surfing time on a charge.
Twitter announced this week that it’s going to stop cropping photos posted in tweets. The next time you post a photo or see one in your feed, you should see it as the photographer took it and not some weird little detail of a lather image. Also in the Twitterverse…it’s December, so it must be time for the Top Twitter Trends for 2015.
Also looking at trends: Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report, which is out now. The report, which crunches data from more than 250 communications services around the world, takes a look at just how people are using their Internet connections.
And finally, it’s the holiday season, and tech toys for children are hot this year. As one might expect, interactive toys, like drones and robots, are very popular this season. Toys that talk back to your kids through a combination of voice recognition and networking are also getting a lot of attention, and even seemingly old-school categories are getting a tech upgrade. Hello Barbie and Edwin the Duck, interactive versions of the unrealistically shaped tiny woman and the yellow bathtub waterfowl respectively, are two such items putting a spin on the old analog formats and opening up new worlds. But, with the recent VTech hack, general privacy concerns and the state of Internet security in general, make sure you know the risks — as well as the rewards — with Internet-connected toys. It’s the season of giving, but you don’t want to give away anything to hackers and data stalkers.
Google, ever helpful (and sometimes creepy), is touting its new Data Saver mode for its Chrome browser for Android. Google estimates this could help users have 70 percent of their data downloads. Other browser, (Like Opera Mini for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, also have tools for compressing images to help save time and money.) And, feeling sort of Pinteresty, Google has also made it possible to “star” photos you find on Google Image Search for later looking. The feature is available on the Android and iOS versions.
Adobe has been busy the past week as well. The company has rolled out updates to its Creative Cloud software and managed to rename its Adobe Flash Professional program as “Adobe Animate,” perhaps because the name “Flash” has become synonymous with “giant gaping security hole.” And another update: the Adobe Premiere Clip video-editing mobile app is now available for Android along with iOS.
We spend a lot of time in our inboxes, don’t we? If you want to add a few personal touches to the browser window to brighten things up a bit, you can. (Well, most of the time, unless you are a hardcore iCloud Mail user.)
In general, you do not have to settle for the default settings for background and text size with your preferred webmail service of choice. True, iCloud webmail is a little boring, but Microsoft’s Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail and Google’s Gmail all let you add a little bit of personal choice to your inbox. Hit up your settings and pick a new theme or color to admire while you wade through the daily onslaught of mail and spam effluvia.
For example, plot a driving route in Google Maps and see your position dot get turned into the Millennium Falcon! Have your YouTube progress bars converter to shimmery lightsaber animation! Fill your Google Calendar with Star Wars-related dates! Yes, Google has added Star Wars goodies to Android Wear, Chrome, Chromecast, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Now, Google Search, Google Translate, Waze, and YouTube.
To use it, you need to sign up with a Gmail address at google.com/starwars and choose your allegiance: Light side or Dark side. The Star Wars skinning works across Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks, and desktop standard versions of programs for Mac OS X and Windows; note that the Forcification of the Chrome browser, Gmail, and YouTube can only be experienced on the desktop.
If you get bored with it all — or hate the movie — and want to ditch the whole thing, go back to google.com/starwars. Drag your avatar back to the center of the screen and click Back to Default to have your Google apps return to their regular state. Google will automatically turn off the Choose Your Side skins and return to its regular appearance by February 1, 2016.
Oh, and one last Easter Egg, if you haven’t done it already: Open Chrome or the Google search app, type in “A long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away” and hit the Enter key. You know you want to.
Yes, there is a cubic buttload of stuff to read online, but you don’t have to skip that long article that looks sort of interesting because you’re slammed with work (or life) at the moment. Just remember your friendly Reading List feature or extension in your Web browser. With a read-later tool, you can quickly bookmark an article to a special area of your browser — and get to it when you actually have the time to sit down and read.
If you’ve never used a save-for-later extension, they’re easy to add to your browser. Your operating system may even have tools in place already. For example, Apple’s Safari browser has had a Reading List built into its OS X and iOS versions for the past few years. When you find an article you want to stash for later, tap the Share icon and then tap Save to Reading List. (On the Mac keyboard, press Command-Shift-D to add the open page to the Reading List.) To get to your saved articles in Safari, click or tap the Bookmarks icon and then select the Reading List icon, which looks like a pair of glasses. If you’re hooked into the same iCloud account on all your devices, your saved articles appear in the Safari Reading List on all your screens, so you can save an article on your iPhone on Monday and read it that night on your iPad.
Windows 8 has a similar Reading List app that you can get for your system, but even if your operating system doesn’t have such a tool built in, you can always add one on with a browser extension. These services usually require you to sign up for an account and then you can sync your saved articles across all your reading screens.
Pocket is one such add-in, with versions for Chrome and Firefox that can sync articles to your mobile device. The Instapaper app (shown here) works for Android, Kindle and iOS, and has desktop browser extensions to save articles to your Instapaper account. Readability, with its Android and iOS apps, is another comparable service. As a bonus, many of these services even offer a “reading view” that strips out all the clutter of ads and toolbars on the original page for distraction-free reading.
You have plenty of options in this area, so look around until you find one you like. And once you do, start marking those articles. You can even save stuff throughout the week and then go back to your long reads — on a quiet weekend morning over a cup of caffeine. Think of it as your own personally curated weekly reader and the civilized way to keep up with the world on the Web.
The independent audio magazine devoted to mashing up pop culture, technology and more. J.D. Biersdorfer and Pedro Rafael Rosado are your hosts. It's an Internet Radio revolution!