Tag Archives: Congress

PTJ 243: Sound and Fury

After a discussion about the stirring audio mix used to back the film Dunkirk,  El Kaiser and J.D. make a lot of noise about this week’s technology news — including new government regulation around the world. However, if it all gets to be too much, perhaps a nice friendly drone will deliver a tureen of soup right to your door. Settle in and listen away to Episode 243!

Links to Stories Mentioned on This Week’s Show

Film Audio Discussion

PTJ 194 News: Hot Sales

Summer is a great time for yard sales and farm auctions, and The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Verizon will put up $3 billion dollars for Yahoo’s web assets in the second round of bidding this week.  As Ars Technica noted, if Verizon wins the auction, the company would rule 1990s Cyberspace as the owner of both Yahoo and AOL. A grunge-rock revival could be next!

Virtual assistants continue to pop up in all kinds of hardware and now Microsoft’s Cortana is coming to the company’s Xbox One game console this summer, along with many other new features. And while there’ll be more gaming announcements next week when the E3 show rolls into town,  Blizzard Entertainment is integrating Facebook logins and live video right into its new Overwatch multiplayer game and Battle.net online service.

Apple’s Word Wide Developers Conference kicks off next week. Expect a lot of software-based announcements and maybe a few hardware things. New iPhone hardware probably won’t show up to this party, but the Nikkei Asian Review site is reporting, based on conversations with suppliers and production facilities overseas, that Apple will probably start taking three years between major iPhone model changes. This slowdown is due to a slowing market and because the company is running out of whiz-bang features to unveil every year.

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A wireless version of the popular Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones have some industry watchers assuming the next iPhone is going to be the one where Apple gets rid of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The headphones have a list price of $350 and are supposed to get about 20 hours of listening time between charges.

While 2016 is largely being forecast as a ho-hum year for smartphone innovation from several manufacturers, Bloomberg News is reporting that Samsung might be releasing phones with bendable screens next year. Will the Galaxy line become the Gumby line?

stitcherPodcasts make for fun listening no matter what kind of headphones you have, and now Stitcher Radio, one of the popular podcast apps, has just been snapped up by the old-school media company EW Scripps for $4.5 million dollars in cash. Stitcher, which streams more than 65,000 podcasts including this one, will operate under another Scripps acquisition, the podcast advertisement company Midroll Media.

This week, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Google to throw out that class-action lawsuit over where advertisements were placed through Google’s AdWords service. Last year’s ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco stands — and the class-action lawsuit can go forward.

In other legal news, tech companies and privacy groups are lining up against proposed legislation  that would let federal officials request even more types of user information in the National Security Letters they send to ISPs, banks, doctors and other recipients during investigations. The House version of the bill passed in April and the Senate version is due for a vote this week.

Microsoft Planner, its teamwork organizer app is headed to Office 365 subscribers over the next few weeks. True to its name, Planner is, uh, software for planning stuff.

twitterTwitter has redesigned its Android app to fall in line with Google’s material design standard. The update is rolling out now. Snapchat also got a fresh new look this week that, among other things, mixes Discover content with Live Stories.

They pumped it up last week and this week, astronauts opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, otherwise known as the International Space Station’s add-on inflatable bouncy castle. An air sample was taken and sensor data downloaded as astronauts prepare to actually use the module.

And finally, although news of the breach just surfaced recently, LinkedIn got hacked in 2012 and millions of user names and passwords were swiped – including those of a one Mr. Mark Zuckerberg of a little company called Facebook whose password was reportedly dadada. A hacker group called Ourmine used the swiped credentials to compromise Mr. Zuckerberg’s accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn for a short time this weekend. It’s a reminder to the rest of us to change our passwords regularly or get a password manager program. Also, don’t recycle them across accounts and don’t use easily crackable codes like. . . dadada.

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PTJ 138 News: Time Will Tell

And, they’re off…preorders for the Apple Watch started last week. Although Apple itself hasn’t released any sales figures of its own, analysts are chiming in and some watch models are now backordered until June. One research firm, Slice Intelligence, had a report that said its consumer-survey data showed that Apple took about 957,000 preorders for Apple Watches on the first day. The Apple Watch is initially available in nine countries, but compare that to last year’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus rollout, which was available in 10 countries. The phones topped four million pre-orders in the first 24 hours and went on to sell ten million in the first weekend of launch. The last time Apple launched a new product, it was the iPad in 2010, which sold 300,000 units on the first day of sales and took less than a month to hit the one-million mark. So, will the Watch move past the Apple fankids and make a splash in the mainstream?

WWDCAmid all the timepiece hoopla, Apple also knocked a few other projects off its To-Do List. One was an update Final Cut Pro, its professional-level video-editing program. The update includes a speed boost, support for key camera formats, workflow enhancements, 3D titles and more, along with the usual bug stomping. And those in the Apple developer program are buzzing about the new iOS 8.4 beta because it reveals the new overhauled version of the Music app. The final version of the refreshed Music app is expected to be revealed at the  World Wide Developer’s Conference that starts June 8th in San Francisco. And about WWDC — Apple has banned selfie sticks at the conference this year. No smarmy stick pics in Moscone West, got it?

Google introduced its new Designed for Families program for its Android developers this week. Look for the “family friendly” displays  soon in the Google Play store.

drone2A few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration proposed new rules for unmanned aircraft systems and news organizations got permission to test drones in their work, Amazon seems to have finally gotten its way on the whole permissions thing with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA sent a letter to Amazon last week giving the company specific permission to test its delivery drones here in the US instead of Canada. Certain rules do apply, however, like daytime flights only and no aircraft up there weighing more than 55 pounds.

The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules were officially published in the Federal Register this week, and almost immediately, Doug Collins, a Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced a resolution called the “Resolution of Disapproval.” Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, the resolution  gives Congress the authority to do a quick 60-day review of new regulations from government agencies and vote to disapprove them before they go into effect. It is unlikely that President Obama will sign the resolution to make it a law, though.

lawBut that’s not all on the net neutrality front. Three trade groups representing the cable and wireless communications industry have filed lawsuits over the FCC’s new rules in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Petitioners include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which counts Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision as members, and the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, (now known by the hip moniker “CTIA — The Wireless Association”) whose members include AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile USA. The American Cable Association, which represents about 850 small and medium-sized providers, also piled on. The suits all accused the FCC of overreach and may be consolidated into one Super Suit. Experts say it could take three years for a decision in the case.

rrTime Warner Cable is not about to let Google Fiber horn in on its turf in North Carolina. Just a few months after Google said that it was expanding its gigabit Internet service to Atlanta, Nashville Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, Time Warner Cable announced it was “taking the next step to transform the TV and Internet experience in the Charlotte area.” The cable giant’s upgraded new service, which is up to six times faster than its old one and has already landed in other metropolitan areas (like Los Angeles and New York City), is dubbed TWC Maxx and is not to be confused with the department store TJ Maxx.  And AT&T is also giving Atlanta its own U-verse GigaPower love after Google Fiber and Comcast Gigabit Pro announced their intentions to court subscribers there.

Also getting more cost-affordable: 4K ultra high-definition television sets. Vizio, one of the brands that led the way to affordable HDTVs, has announced its 2015 lineup of Ultra HD sets and the low-end 43-inch model comes in at just $600. At the other end of the price list, the 80-inch 4K TV sells for about $4,000 but well under the hefty five figures the average UHD TV was selling for just a few years ago.

Seeking to regain ground and customers, Sprint will gladly sell you a new mobile phone — and they will even come to your house with the new device and set it up for you. It’s part of the company’s new Direct 2 You service and although it’s rolling out in Kansas City now, it’s expect to expand to Miami and Chicago next week and then on to the rest of the country. Sprint has hired about 5,000 roaming tech helpers through a third-party company and is mainly aimed at existing customers who are due for an upgrade.

redmarsMeanwhile, out in space, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has discovered that water can exist as a liquid in the soil near the Martian surface. Even though Mars is too cold to allow water in liquid form to exist on the planet’s surface, it could just below the surface where salts in the soil have lower freezing points, possibly making for a life-sustaining liquid brine. The research was published in the Nature Geoscience journal.

A little father out in space, the Rosetta probe and its Philae lander have found that the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerisemenko is not magnetized. Scientists at the European Space Agency and elsewhere study the properties of comets in order to get insight on the role magnet fields have played in the formation of all the celestial bodies flying around in our solar system.

YodaMacAnd finally, in case you were out of town last weekend, all six Star Wars films arrived as legal digital downloads last Friday in a package called Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection. The whole saga could be purchased in bundle form for $90 — or $20 each if you hate the Jar Jar chapters. The films, which have old and new bonus extras and featurettes included, are available on all the major media download stores. And, thanks to the wide-ranging merchandizing rights, you can enjoy the movies while dining on a big bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in Star Wars Shapes. Now that’s good eatin’!

PTJ 98: Amazon Starts Another Fire and Security on The Go

David Perry, now a threat strategist for the international computer-security firm F-Secure, joins us on this week’s episode to discuss the current state of mobile security. Interested in testing out F-Secure’s one-button Freedome app on your Android device or iPhone? Check it out here, as well as a short message about privacy from The Hoff himself.  And a big thanks to Jocelyn Gonzales for recording this segment for us at the Heartland Brewery in Times Square.

El Kaiser takes another listen to Bowers& Wilkins C5 in-ear monitors and admits he got it all wrong the first time around.

In the news, Amazon launches their long rumored smartphone; Google lists which mail providers encrypt messages in transit; The United States government lifts restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be; the U.S. Department of Transportation looks to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles; Facebook changes its personal-data collection policy; The Museum of Modern Art adds an iPad app to its permanent collection; and the Unicode Standard thousands of new characters, including several hundred new emoji.

PTJ 98 News: Earth, Wind and Fire

That Amazon 3D smartphone first revealed in April by the Boy Genius Report blog has now been officially announced: It’s called the Fire smartphone, and let’s hope it never has an overheating battery problem. As it did with Apple’s original iPhone back in 2007, AT&T has emerged as the exclusive carrier for the phone. Amazon’s innovative new phone was developed at its secret hardware headquarters in Silicon Valley, Lab126, according to a report on the Bloomberg Businessweek site. On the software side of the news, Amazon also released its Prime Music service last week that brings unlimited ad-free music streams to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Speaking of Android, the Ars Technica site has posted a history of Google’s mobile operating system, tracing the evolution of Android 0.5 back in 2007 to the current state of chocolatey KitKat Android 4.4. Google itself is on a campaign for safer email and released a new section of its Transparency Report earlier this month showing which major mail providers encrypt messages in transit.  The company also released an early version of its new End-to-End encryption tool for its Chrome browser that uses OpenPGP to scramble messages until they’re decrypted.

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Google’s high-flying effort to bring Wi-Fi to underdeveloped parts of the world is taking off. Project Loon, as it’s called, had successful test runs in places like New Zealand and parts of rural Brazil, as detailed on a Google+ page devoted to the South American endeavor. In addition to calculating wind data and enhancing balloon design to make them more efficient, the project team also had to deal with dramatic temperatures, dripping humidity and scorpions.

skyThe United States government is lifting restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be, and at least one company, DigitalGlobe, will be selling even better snaps from the sky soon, with much sharper pictures taken from oh high. (Please stop scowling at the camera, privacy advocates.)

Back here on Earth, satellite imagery is often used in modern map apps, and the U.S. Department of Transportation would like to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles.  Congress is expected to debate the proposed legislation, part of the GROW AMERICA Act, over the next few months and to possibly make a decision later this year, but given the recent Congressional track record for getting much of anything done besides creating hot winds, we’ll believe it when we see it.

Meanwhile, another US government agency is looking into that little squabble between Netflix and Verizon over slow download speeds. Verizon is not alone, as Comcast and other ISPs are said to be under scrutiny as well. Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, issued a statement late last week on the matter.

Facebook went and changed its policy on personal-data collection from its users last week. Yes, the privacy advocates were not happy about that, either, with some yelling at the Federal Trade Commission for letting Facebook get away with it. Facebook announced the changes on its company blog and says it will now pull in information about other websites you have browsed and use that data to calculate what ads to serve you. Lifehacker, PC Magazine, VentureBeat and many other sites have already posted instructions on how to opt out of Facebook’s web-history snooping.

The folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also concerned with transparency and how someone’s private data is used by others. They’re working on a new tool dubbed “HTTP with Accountability,” or HTTPA, which will automatically monitor the transmission of private data and allow the data owner to examine how it’s being used. The new protocol will be outlined in a paper presented a security conference in July.

In entertainment news, The Museum of Modern Art has added the first iPad app to its permanent collection. It’s Biopihlia, a musical app with interactive graphics and animations developed in part by Björk Gudmunsdóttir, former Sugarcubes singer-songwriter and swan-dress model. The $13 app is available for Android and iOS.

pennysoloWe here at Pop Tech Jam would like to wish Harrison Ford a speedy recovery from his accident on the set of Star Wars VII last week. Mr. Ford is expected to be off the set for up to 8 weeks while he heals from a broken ankle suffered when a hydraulic door from the Millennium Falcon reportedly fell on him.   The Falcon is still apparently the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, including when its parts pop off.

And finally, the Unicode Standard is getting an update to Version 7.0 and bringing with it a whole bunch of new characters — 2,834 of them to be exact. Unicode 7.0.0 supersedes all previous versions of the standard and now includes things like currently symbols used in Russia and Azerbaijan and 23 new lesser-used and historic scripts for written languages around the world. It also includes about 250 new Emoji, those little cartoony pictographic symbols common in text messages. The new Emoji include several hand gestures including 1F596 – RAISED HAND WITH PART BETWEEN MIDDLE AND RING FINGERS, also known as the Vulcan salute, and 1F595 – REVERSED HAND WITH MIDDLE FINGER EXTENDED, a more offensive gesture commonly referred to as the One Finger Salute. Can’t imagine who might find use for that sort of thing in a text message…

PTJ 88: Laser Beams and TV Streams

Admit it, you aren’t prepared for the onslaught of “must see” television shows airing on Sunday nights this spring on U.S. networks. That under-powered cable company issued PVR just ain’t gonna cut it. Lucky for you J.D. has some strategies for dealing with your TV watching blues. In the news, the United States Navy announces its engineers are putting the finishing touches on a laser weapon prototype; the Supreme Court decides to skip a case against the National Security Agency over bulk phone metadata surveillance;  up to two-thirds of websites relying on OpenSSL might be susceptible to a critical security flaw; Google’s Play store deals with another embarrassing mishap; Windows XP officially bites the dust; and Battlestar Galactica may get “reimagined” again, but this time on the big screen.

 

PTJ 88 News: Frick and Frak

Just about a year ago here on Pop Tech Jam, we were chattering about the tests the United States Navy was doing with laser weapons and this week, the Navy has announced its engineers are putting the finishing touches on a laser weapon prototype that will be the first to be deployed to a ship. The device is said to be accurate and affordable. However you feel about modern combat, this seems to be a significant step into the future. Frickin’ lasers. On a warboat.

Back in the present, the United States Supreme Court has decided to skip a case against the National Security Agency over all that bulk phone metadata surveillance. The Court denied a petition by activist Larry Klayman. Ars Technica and other sites have noted that the court giving this one a miss means that Congress will attempt to tackle the future of the phone surveillance program. However, given the past few years of Congressional productivity (or lack thereof), one is not filled with a sense of great hope on this matter.

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Over in the Department of More Things To Be Paranoid About, The New York Times has a story this week about how hackers can break into computers on corporate networks in ways most people have never imagined — including online menus from Chinese food restaurants. And if you think that’s gonna gives you heartburn, check out Heartbleed, a dangerous security flaw. GigaOM has an info-roundup on the topic here.

The Google Play app store has another embarrassing security incident to add to its list. An app called Virus Shield, which cost $4 and had a huge number of downloads, was discovered last week to be a complete scam. Seriously. It did absolutely nothing. The Android Police site even posted samples of the app’s code to show the thing was bogus. Google has since yanked the app from the store.

Microsoft’s official End of Support for Windows XP deadline was this past Tuesday. Obituaries for the 12-and-a-half year-old operating system could be found around the Web along with stories about the massive security sinkhole the outdated system poses as it continues to run unsupported on millions of machines around the world. If you (or someone you know) is still on XP for whatever reason, at least make sure the poor computer has an up-to-date antivirus and security program installed and do not use Internet Explorer on it.

Microsoft fancies itself a TV studio now, too, after seeing Netflix and Amazon jump in.  Bloomberg News reports that the company’s new Xbox television studio is producing at least six new shows that are expected to arrive this summer.

Amazon went and released its Amazon Fire TV set-top box last week. The small $99 device connects to your HDTV and pretty much serves as a rabbit hole right to Amazon’s warren of wares. Digital music and Amazon Instant Video streams, are available, of course, as is content from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Pandora and a few other services. (It has been noted that the Amazon Fire TV box has about 180 apps and channels so far, while Roku’s set-top streamer currently brings about 1,200 to your TV screen.)

Games could also be on the menu for the next version of Apple TV. Adding more weight to the rumors: a public filing to the FCC from Comcast and Time Warner Cable mentions that Apple is developing a new type of set-top box.

Speaking of set-top boxes and services, remember Google TV? Yeah, not exactly a barnburner there, with the whole Web-on-your-TV thing, but The Verge site is reporting that Google is having another go soon with Android TV. Google isn’t talking, but remember, the annual I/O conference is and the end of June in San Francisco.

Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference is set for early June, also in San Francisco, but Microsoft already had its programmer’s pow-wow last week. The annual Build Conference wrapped up last Friday after a series of announcements from the company on Windows-related matters.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of Apple’s aforementioned WWDC event, the 9to5Mac site has put together a roundup of all the rumors and leaks it’s heard on OS X 10.10 and iOS 8. (Also down Apple Way, Adobe has released a mobile version of its Lightroom program for photographers on the go with their iPads.)

Perhaps taking a page from the Facebook, Twitter is overhauling the design of user profile pages in its Web site. A post on the Twitter company blog describes its sassy new look for spring.

And finally, the Hollywood trade publication Variety is reporting that Universal is gearing up for a movie version of Battlestar Galactica. No word on casting or timing, but the site hears that the film will be developed as “a complete reimagining of the story.”
“WHYYYYYY?” so say we all.

Now let us think of happier times:

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PTJ 66: Bigger, Stronger, Faster

“Breaking Bad” rides off into the desert sun leaving El Kaiser wondering how it fared against other famous TV series swan songs and J.D. fills us in on the quickest ways to digitize business cards. In the news Amazon quietly releases two new Kindle models; Lenovo debuts an all-in-one desktop computer with a 29-inch display; Microsoft has a good week;  Facebook expands its Graph Search results; Apple deals with more security issues; researchers develop a  robotic prosthetic leg that is controlled by brain function; and Intelligent Glasses that can translate languages on the fly.

PTJ 66 News: We Have the Technology

The march of New Fall Products continues. Amazon quietly released two new Kindle models last week and Lenovo’s going widescreen with what it claims is an all-in-one desktop computer with the world’s first 29-inch display with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

It’s been a good week for Microsoft. Windows Phone is also clawing its way to the 10-percent mark in smartphone share, and according to analytics firm Net Applications, Windows 8 was running on almost 10 percent of devices using a Microsoft operating system last month. Windows 8 will soon give way to Windows 8.1 later this month, and Microsoft announced it’s rolling out its new optical character recognition feature for the SkyDrive online service that makes photos and PDF documents searchable in the cloud. The OCR feature will also be available through the Windows 8.1 Smart Search tool.

On the topic of search, Facebook is opening up Graph Search results to include user status updates and posts. So now publicly shared status updates, comments on anything, photo captions, Notes, and check-ins are all searchable. (Here’s a Graph Search settings checklist and some more information about adjusting your privacy settings if this sort of thing makes you at all nervous.)  In other Facebook news this week, the Social Network and its bird buddy Twitter, will start sending reports of your Likes and tweets about television shows to the major networks.

According the Engadget blog, Google has announced three dedicated Google Play vending machines in Japan that can dispense 18 different games. (As far as vending machines go, apps are not the most unusual things being dispensed.)

Apple is dealing with more security issues in iOS 7. The company just out its iOS 7.0.2 update to fix some reported lock screen holes and now another researcher has demonstrated how the Siri personal assistant technology can be used to start up a FaceTime call, which could allow hackers to invoke another security glitch in the iOS 7 software to access the phone app.

Speaking of holes, the US government shut down this week after weeks of squabbling among the houses of Congress and the executive branch. Here are some links to information about what’s still functioning in Washington. (Alas, the PandaCam has gone dark for the duration of the standoff, but some folks are trying to fill the PandaCam void.) Other parts of the Web were creaky and crashing as well, namely Affordable Healthcare Act servers for new customers trying to sign up. For those still trying to parse the new plans, the Health Law Helper site from Consumer Reports may be useful.

In other research:

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And finally, mobile giant NTT DoCoMo showed off the prototype of its so-called Intelligent Glasses that can translate text in an unfamiliar language into something the wearer of the glasses can read. The future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades — and who knows, those shades just might be able to direct you to a restroom in Rio or decipher a menu in Milan. Someday.

PTJ 63: Never Mind the Applesauce

Apple makes a product announcement and the response is a collective “d’uh, we already knew that.” Turns out the rumors were true. The fruit-themed phone makers roll out a plastic iPhone and a refresh of their flagship smartphone. In the news, Microsoft prepares to launch new Surface tablets; Sony announces an updated version of their PS Vita mobile gaming device; Samsung unveils their smartwatch; Facebook aims to be your source for news; The NSA can crack even the most advanced encryption methods; and a lone voice makes the case for saving AM radio.