Tag Archives: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

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.


Long Drawn Sunday Night

Spring finally seems to have arrived in the northern hemisphere and along with daffodils and gentle breezes, many popular TV shows are either returning for their new weird little cable seasons — or coming into the last leg of their network airings before summer vacation. (You know, when all the good stuff happens and maybe we slide right into a cliffhanger until October.)There’s a lot to watch, and unfortunately, a lot of it airs for the first time on Sunday nights.

Not all of the good shows are on directly opposite each other, but many of them are. To get an idea just how jam-packed Sunday nights are now getting, the cable and broadcast prime-time block includes the bloody blockbuster Game of Thrones, the first half of the final season of Mad Men, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, The Good Wife on CBS, the new tech-startup comedy Silicon Valley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep and Gillian Anderson in the Washington-based thriller, Crisis. There’s also the fan favorite Once Upon a Time, AMC’s Revolutionary War spy drama, Turn, and if you’re into British drama on PBS, Call the Midwife and The Bletchley Circle. And on top of all this, it’s baseball season and there could be some shows you’ve never heard of that your spouse, partner or kids want to watch. As the TV critic at Time magazine tweeted a few years back, “Sunday is the night you stock up your DVR for the week. It is the Costco of television.”

beepsTV1So if you have more than a couple conflicting shows on Sunday night, you need a strategy to see them all. Having multiple DVRs on multiple TV sets is one that works for people who can afford it.

Some carriers and digital video recorder companies have units that can record six shows at once. The Roamio models in the venerable TiVo line can record four to six shows at a time and with the company’s $130 TiVo Stream device, let you take your recordings to go on an iOS device, sort of like how Slingbox lets you tap into your TV from over the Internet. If you have one of these, you’re probably covered.

But what if you have a DVR from the cable company that only lets you record two channels at once, or you don’t even have a DVR? Or you can’t afford the newer models? Then you have to get creative.

  • For starters, check your TV grid for multiple airings of shows that conflict. Cable programs often re-air late at night, so maybe you can snag the 2:00 a.m. airing instead of the problematic 10 p.m. one.
  • If your cable company offers its own DVR control app, you can use it to search the program grid for shows and then set the box to record, right from your phone or tablet.
  • If you have On Demand services build into your cable package (like those at Comcast, DirecTV or Time Warner Cable, you may be able to find a lot of the popular shows there to watch whenever it suits your schedule.
  • As we’ve mentioned before on this show, network apps and websites also let you watch episodes of your favorite shows. However, they may run a week or two behind the broadcast schedule (depending on the network) or require an existing cable subscription, like the HBO GO and Showtime Anytime apps do.
  • If you have some spare cash and want to ditch the commercials entirely, sign up for a season pass from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video or the Google Play store, although you may have to wait a day to download the episode after it airs. This option also lets you watch the show on more screens besides your TV.
  • Paid services like Hulu Plus (which is $8 a month) let you stream broadcast network shows to compatible TVs, set-top boxes or devices.

TV Guide Online has a list of shows you can buy and download and what services sell them. Oh, since this is a nerd show, if the Silicon Valley show on HBO intrigues you but you don’t get HBO, you can at least watch the first episode for free on YouTube.

One advantage to doing the download or mobile-stream approach is that maybe you can fit in a show or two during your train commute or other moment of stillness where you have the time — but are not home in front of your TV.  If Sunday is not your only night of appointment viewing, now you have to find the time to watch all the stuff leftover from Sunday. Until the next Sunday.

And thankfully, Orphan Black will be on Saturday when it returns later this month.

PTJ 86: The Big Bang And That XP Thang

Newsweek magazine makes a splashy return on paper with a cover story claiming to have found the father of Bitcoin. In his Tech Term of the Week, El Kaiser explains doxxing and why Internet denizens are so ticked off at the weekly news magazine. The computer mouse has been with us for half a century and J.D.  explains why it may stick around for awhile longer.  In the news Google dives into wearable computing; Apple releases an 8-gigabyte version of the iPhone 5C — but not in the United States;  the Windows XP Death Watch continues; The Big Bang Theory may have been proven; and say hello to robot fish.

PTJ 86 News: Robot Fish & Chips with Guinness

Your eyes are not enough for Google. This week, the Big G announced Android Wear, a version of the mobile operating system for smartwatches and other gadgets strapped to other parts of the body. The first Android Wear watches and monitors will arrive later this year but there’s a developer’s preview out now for anybody who want to sling some wearable code. (Speaking of potential gym gear, the 9to5Mac site has an update on what it says is Apple’s new Healthbook software for fitness tracking.) Oh, and Google and Viacom have finally settled a seven-year marathon of litigation.

Apple, perhaps in a move to get some of the international smartphone market back from Google and Android, released at 8-gigabyte version of its colorful iPhone 5C model this week in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and China. Oh, if anybody cares, Mac rumor sites are reporting that Microsoft is preparing the official Office for the iPad for its public debut next week at a media event on March 27th.  And in other Apple news, the company has finally retired the iPad 2 from March 2011 as the entry-level option for its full-size iPad line; the iPad 2 is succeeded by the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display that was first released in October 2012.

reaperSpeaking of old things, the Windows XP Death Watch continues to spiral downward to the April 8th deadline, when Microsoft says it’s seriously, totes mcgoats for real pulling the support plug this time. The Washington Post reports that hundreds of thousands of US government computers are running behind on their upgrades from Windows XP to a safer, secure and actually still supported operating system. Also missing some upgrade deadlines? Banks around the world, many of which didn’t make their deadlines for upgrading their ATMs.
Way to go, banks!

Some people are cutting the cord and ditching those pricy cable packages. According to the Leichtman Research Group, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other providers lost 1.1 million customers in 2013. Broadband subscriptions, however, are up for many cable providers.

The Big Bang Theory (no, not the TV show), that the scientific notion about the expansion of the universe, may have been proven. New research suggests that astronomers have found the first direct evidence of the cosmic inflation. An experiment at the South Pole led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced it had detected ripples from gravitational waves created in a violent inflationary event at the dawn of time. And while we’re out in space, it you haven’t caught the first few episodes of Cosmos: A Spacetime Adventure hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, you can check ’em out online with the Fox Now app or Fox on Demand service. (Also in your favorite app store: the official NCAA Basketball Tournament app. Yes, it’s March Madness once again.

And finally: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced advances in soft robotics. The school has released a video and details on its new robot fish that’s capable of rapid body motion and can quickly change direction when needed, just like a real fish.  And the Cubestormer 3, a Lego robot powered by a Samsung Galaxy S4, solved the Rubik’s Cube in 3.253 seconds, which scored it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. We look forward to the eventual Guinness record for fastest Rubik’s Cube solution by a robot fish. Any day now.

PTJ 67: Spoiler-Free, Sweetie

On a supersized episode of everybody’s favorite geek-culture podcast El Kaiser takes a turn at hopefully being helpful by detailing the steps to avoid a malware infection. With social networks making spoilers a legitimate concern for all TV watchers, J.D. introduces us to some apps that can help keep second screens from spoiling what’s on the first. In the news, more of the world gets online access and some companies help bring less expensive Internet access to developing countries; the Gold Master of OS X Mavericks is made available to developers; rumors point to Amazon releasing a set top box to compete with the Apple TV and Roku devices; Google and Hewlett Packard announce the HP Chromebook 11; and Yahoo gets to blow out 16 candles.

PTJ 67 News: Go Big Blue!

About 40 percent of the world will be online by the end of this year, says the annual report from the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union. Less-developed countries are often the ones at the bottom of list that track a population’s online access, but Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel are among 30 companies that are teaming up to bring a less expensive Internet to those parts of the world that still lack connectivity. The initiative is called the Alliance for Affordable Internet and it was officially launched this week in Nigeria.

On the Apple front, the Gold Master of OS X Mavericks 10.9 was posted for developers late last week. And although some people stopped caring about Office for the iPad after Microsoft released the poorly reviewed and oddly named Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers earlier this year for iOS and Android, outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said this week that the company did have a touchscreen Office in the works, but that the iPad would get it after the Windows mobile devices got theirs.

Amazon to the top of the TV? If you believe the Wall Street Journal, the super-uber-online megastore will have its own video-streaming box for sale before the holidays. The unconfirmed streamer doesn’t have a price or a name yet, but the 9to5Google site has noted that Amazon recently trademarked the name “Firetube.”

Google has added transit directions to its fancy interactive Google Glass eyewear and the company also teamed up with HP this week to announce the HP Chromebook 11.

Yahoo celebrates its Sweet 16th birthday! Yahoo Mail has gotten an overhaul for desktop and mobile and now comes with some features previously seen in Gmail. Intsagram is also getting older and will soon be getting ads of its own soon, as a company blog post titled “Instagram Is a Growing Business,” explains.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is now out and receiving fair to middling reviews, and the rollout of smartwatches from other companies continues. The Filip smartwatch for kids — which also serves as a simple mobile phone between parent and child — is headed for AT&T.

LG Electronics has gone into mass production of what it claims is the “world’s first flexible OLED panel for smartphones.” Using the curved panels — made from plastic substrates instead of glass — is supposed to make the screens bendable and unbreakable and handsets featuring the new panels are expected next year.

esbunnyThe New York SciFi & Fantasy organization is trying to turn the Empire State Building a lovely shade of TARDIS blue for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who next month. The group has filed an application to the Empire State Building’s management team in hopes of creating a giant blue police box on the Manhattan skyline on November 23rd and an online petition has been started. Also in entertainment news: Gravity may have won the weekend box office, but the movie got nicked with some fact-checking criticisms over Twitter from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam would like to congratulate Peter Higgs and François Englert on winning the Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson. Awesome boson, dudes!