Tag Archives: Chrome

PTJ 279: The Long Arm of the Law

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!

Links to News Stories on This Week’s Episode

Windows 10 Timeline

PTJ 263: Put a Ring on It

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!

Links to Stories on This Week’s Show

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 255: Boom or Bust?

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!

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 189 News: Eyes on the Prize

The race is on between Sony and Samsung to patent smart contact lenses that function as cameras floating atop your eyeballs. Yes, eyeball cameras.  Sony’s design even makes it hard to tell someone is even wearing an eyeball camera. But let’s not forget Google, which received a patent for a solar-powered contact lens last year and recently just got a patent for what’s described as an intra-ocular device; it sounds sort of like a bionic eye that could perhaps be used to help with degenerative vision diseases.

riftSpeaking of eyeballs, the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset is headed to 48 Best Buy stores on May 7th, and will be included as part of a special in-store promotional kiosk called The Intel Experience. A small number of units available for sale at those particular Best Buy outlets, too. You can look up the stores involved on Best Buy’s site. Amazon and Microsoft plan to start taking Oculus Rift orders at 9 a.m. Pacific time on May 6th.

Microsoft has decided that its Cortana virtual assistant for Windows 10 is not going to be allowed to play with other company’s web browsers and search engines. No Cortana for you, Google Chrome.

Yahoo hasn’t found anybody to pick up its pieces yet, but it has cut its list of potential dance partners down to 10 companies. Whatever happens, though, Yahoo CEO (and micromanager of bad logos) Marissa Mayer will make out all right. A  Securities and Exchange Commission filing revealed she’ll get a severance package worth about 55 million bucks if she’s booted within a year of any sale. No ramen noodles and Tang dinners for you, Marissa Mayer. (Unless you want them, that is.)

bitcoinArguments about the true identity of Bitcoin’s anonymous founder have bubbled up this week. Australian businessman Craig Wright has claimed he is the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, elusive founder of Bitcoin, but the Motherboard blog over at Vice isn’t buying it.

From the ever-expanding Department of Mergers & Acquisitions News, Comcast/NBC Universal made a deal to buy the DreamWorks animation studio for $3.8 billion. Also, the online video-sharing site Vimeo has acquired VHX. And there are even more video-streaming services than ever now, as Hulu is said to be preparing its own service to bundle streams of broadcast and cable channels to paid subscribers. This would move Hulu away from being primarily a streaming TV rerun site with a few original shows to an enticing option for cord-cutters.

robotsecurityGoogle has changed the name of its own monthly Nexus Security Bulletins patch collection to the more inclusive Android Security Bulletin, and this week’s May is intended to fix about 40 vulnerabilities in the mobile operating system. Many of the holes in the Mediaserver software for Android are on the fix list here. And make sure when you do update apps on your Android device, get them from the Google Play store itself and not from a website disguising itself as an Android update site. This is because there’s a new little piece of malware on the loose that claims to be an update for Android’s Chrome browser, but it’s really an infostealer app.

Google may have found a hardware partner for its self-driving cars. Bloomberg News is reporting Fiat Chrysler plans to team up with the Big G on prototypes based on the Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

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.

gkeys

Consumer Encryption and Government Security concerns continue to clash. This week, it’s Brazil throwing a 72-hour block on the Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger service after Facebook refused to hand over information requested for a criminal investigation. Another judge in Brazil soon overturned the order.

includeSeveral women working in the tech industry have come together to form a new nonprofit venture called Project Include that hopes to help the aforementioned tech industry work on its diversity issues. Let’s check back this time next year to see if anything has changed.

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.

PTJ 170 News: Duck and Cover

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.

Several companies around the techsphere are making little tweaks and changes to their services. Google announced that it was turning on its protective Safe Browsing warning system for Chrome users on Android so it can warn mobile users about malware and phishing sites just like it does on the desktop. The company also blogged that you can now set up Reminders in Google Calendar alongside your scheduled appointments.

Dropbox and Facebook are both pulling a Google in terms of shutting down certain underperforming apps and services. Dropbox announced this week it was giving its standalone Mailbox and Carousel products the hook and Facebook closed the door on its Creative Labs division.

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.

gigapower

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.

In NASA news, the International Space Station hasn’t had a Fresh Direct delivery in months thanks to a couple of failed cargo missions earlier this year, but a supply capsule launched on Sunday finally reached the station this Wednesday. NASA’s involvement with the International Space Station could be winding down in the next decade or so, however, as an agency official at an advisory council meeting this week said NASA plans to get out of the low-Earth orbit business as soon as possible as it looks to the moon and beyond for its explorations. And father out in space, high-resolution images of Pluto taken during the July flyby of the New Horizons spacecraft are arriving back here on Earth.  A sample:

plutoHiRez

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.

hellobarbieAnd 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.

PTJ 169 News: Feeling the Heat

Well, the Holiday Season is upon us and it’s time for…yet another epic database security breach! This time, it’s the Hong Kong-based VTech who got the personal data of nearly five million customers stolen — and  the first names, genders and birthdays of more than 200,000 kids. VTech acknowledged the breach in what is becoming the customary blog post admitting the intrusion. The hacker who did the job allegedly talked to the alternative news org VICE and told the VICE reporter, “Frankly, it makes me sick that I was able to get all this stuff.” (Dude, you are not the only one feeling that way.)

The aforementioned Bill Gates,  co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, was in Paris this week for the global conference on climate change and took to his blog to announce two related initiatives. Meanwhile, over at the place where Mr. Gates had his former day job, Microsoft took to its blog this week to announce its new PowerApps tools for businesses to make their own internal apps.  Also over on the business side, Microsoft announced its new Skype for Business service for Office 365 customers.

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.

Reports from the rumor mill say Apple is getting ready to ditch the standard 3.5-millimeter headphone port on its iPhones in lieu of an all-in-one Lighting connector and an overall thinner iPhone 7. Apple, of course, is not commenting, but soundhounds across the Internet are.

In Mac software news, the creators of the Sketch program have decided to quit selling their software in the Mac App Store, basically due to the constrictions Apple places on developers. The Sketch design software will be available as a direct-sale product from its creators. Other developers like Panic have also quit the Mac App Store for similar reasons.

sketch

Two other Apple-related deals seem to be in the works. One looks to be a sure thing: The Sonos music system will start carrying the Apple Music service this month – the beta goes live December 15th. Less confirmed, however, is the news that Amazon Prime Video may actually be landing on the new Apple TV. According to the MacRumors site, Amazon has confirmed that an app for Apple’s tvOS is in development and may even arrive by the end of the year. Good news for Apple-owning PKD fans wanting to stream The Man in the High Castle on the big screen.

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.

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If you live in the New York City area and enjoy a good nerdy museum visit, check out the “Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York” exhibit at the New-York Historical Society. It runs through April 17th and features a recreation of IBM’s pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair, a nod to Grace Murray Hopper’s contributions to programming, a model of the Bell Labs Telstar I communications satellite and extremely early video games.

If you’ve been holding on to that $30 Unlimited Data Plan from AT&T since 2007, brace yourself. Starting in February, the price will go from $30 to $35 a month.

And finally, this week marks the 20th anniversary of SOHO — not the overpriced trendy Manhattan neighborhood — but the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, a joint project by NASA and the European Space Agency. SOHO was launched into space on December 2, 1995 and quickly went to work studying the sun — and also discovering 3,000 comets out there as well. Happy 20th, SOHO. Here’s looking at you.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Variations on a Theme

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.

yahoothemes

Want to go farther with customization? Perhaps, far, far away? Gmail users who ride the Chrome browser and love Star Wars have some options here. With its new Choose Your Side campaign built around the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens film release, Google has tricked out a number of its apps with little Star Wars touches and Easter Eggs.

swmapFor 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.

GoogleWars

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: A Confederation of Articles

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.

listIf 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.

instapaperPocket 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.

Browser History

It seems like Web browsers have been around forever. Along with email, a browser is probably the other piece of software that the average computer user fires up every single day. It’s part of the routine.

But browsers have come a long way since 1993, when Mosaic and Arena were the popular point-and-click windows to the World Wide Web. Yes, Netscape Navigator dominated the scene when it arrived in 1994 — the year before Microsoft launched both Internet Explorer and Windows 95. Internet Explorer v. 1 (shown here) was not much to look at, but then again, there wasn’t much to look at on the Web, either.

IE1

Time flies. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Internet Explorer’s debut. IE wasn’t the first graphical browser — nor will it be the last — but it had a hold on the surfing public. At one time around 2002-2003, the program was used by about 95 percent of people surfing the Web. Suffice it to say, that is a dominant piece of software.

The Opera browser, with its small legion of fans, landed in 1996 and Apple’s Safari browser, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome all arrived in the 2000s. Still, Internet Explorer was boss of them all.

As competition for users increased, the capability of the humble web browser began to evolve. New tools like tabs and private browsing modes became commonplace.  Add-on extensions for showing the headlines, the weather forecast or even controlling your computer’s music player added to the browser’s functionality. Handy buttons to share links to Twitter and Facebook began to appear.  A “reading view” to strip out ads became popular with serious readers. Synchronization between devices — computers. phones and tablets — has made sure we can pick up reading wherever we left off.

Of all the browsers, though, Internet Explorer has been showing age lately, especially in regards to security. Its once-mighty user share has declined below 68 percent.

Microsoft is aware of its stubborn user base that hates to change once it gets everything working. The company even launched a cheeky website a few years ago to get people to STOP using Internet Explorer 6, the old, unsecure version that persists in popularity, thanks to its ties to Windows XP. (The Escape From Windows XP game with the giant evil Clippy is an especially fun part of the aforementioned site. But we digress.)

escapeWXP

Things in Browser Land are changing. As revealed in a Windows 10 demo last January, Microsoft has a new surfboard on the horizon. It’s called Project Spartan (for now) and it may be the browser that gets a lot of Windows users to quit Internet Explorer for good.

The new browser will have a new rendering engine and compatibility with modern programming. Don’t worry though: It’ll load up the IE11 engine when it comes across a page written for the older browser. (Windows 10 users dependent on legacy code will still be able to use Internet Explorer as well, so fear not government workers with your weird proprietary sites.)

Could Project Spartan be the beginning of the next Browser Age? It’s too early to tell, especially since the official code hasn’t been released yet, but Microsoft has revealed some intriguing features that bring it into line with what a lot of other browsers have been doing.

Like Safari (and extensions you can get for other browsers), Spartan will have a distraction-free view, which peels away all the junk that normally clogs up a page, like ads. You’ll be able to annotate Web pages without extra tools like Scrible so you can mark up the parts you need for projects and research. Microsoft is also adding voice integration for its Cortana assistant, aiming to give Google Voice Search and Chrome — or Siri on iOS — a run for their money. And because Microsoft is trying to link every device that runs Windows 10 together for a consistent experience, it’s trying to make Spartan (shown here) work and act the same everywhere.

spartan

Project Spartan is not the only newly built browser revving its rendering engine the starting line. A new browser called Vivaldi is already out in its second technical preview and has some geeks interested.

Vivaldi, created by the former CEO of Opera software, wants to be a browser for power users. The streamlined interface (shown below) includes stackable tabs you can but on any side of the browser window and Quick Commands that let you open a ton of settings with just one keyboard shortcut. There’s also a Notes command that lets you stash your thoughts and screenshots in a side panel. Vivaldi can also run many extensions written for Google Chrome because it’s built on the open-source Chromium software from Google.

vivaldi web

As new as Project Spartan and Vivaldi seem, it probably won’t be long before the others change up or catch up. With new looks and well-integrated features that make life easier, however, it’s the first time in a long time where the good ol’ Web browser actually feels like a fresh piece of software — and that’s kind of exciting.

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.