Tag Archives: e-books

The Year in Geek: 2015 Edition

2015 has come and (almost) gone and it’s time for the media-mandated Look Back at the Year We Just Had. [Drumroll … rimshot … clown horn noise] Noted in no particular order, here’s our list of high points, low points and things that just stood out to us here at Pop Tech Jam HQ over the course of the earth’s latest loop around the sun:

• NASA: New Horizons and Beyond.— While it wasn’t quite the Apollo 11 mojo, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had a banner year with the New Horizons successful flyby of Pluto and data treasure trove that’s still trickling back from the other side of the solar system. The agency also grew lettuce, aged whiskey and ran many other experiments up at the International Space Station while its Dawn spacecraft took at look at the dwarf planet Ceres. And that Matt Damon movie was very good publicity.

Windows 10. Microsoft released its successor to the much-reviled Windows 8 this summer. Despite some major bugs and user wariness, Win10 did see relatively fast adoption rates by 8Haters, people finally upgrading from XP and those who wanted to try out the new technology as soon as they could.

• Security! Security! Security! (or Lack Thereof…). It seemed like no corporate database was safe from intrusion this year. Plenty of major companies got breached, including Anthem health insurance, the CVS Photos site, interactive toymaker VTech, the federal Office of Personal Management, the Internal Revenue Service, the Ashley Madison site for love affairs, Slack and Experian’s T-Mobile servers. Just to name, you know, A FEW OF THEM.

• Underwhelming Apple. The Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino finally released a smartwatch and a giant iPad in 2015 — just like industry types have been speculating about for years. And not only was much of the public was pretty “meh” about it all, the stock was down as well, based on fear of what comes next with iPhone sales.

• Video Streaming Goes Big. The standalone HBO Now finally arrived for Game of Thrones fans and other cord-cutters, Sling TV further chopped the coax with an over-the-top package of channels, and new voice-controlled streaming boxes from Amazon, Google, Roku, Apple and others have stepped up the battle for the living room’s big screen.

• Ad Blockers. Apple’s iOS 9 was just the latest piece of software that allows its users to block other pieces of software, namely intrusive advertising that makes reading so aggravating on mobile devices and other digital platforms. Yes, blocking ads takes money out of the content-publisher’s pocket (and may make it hard for them to keep going). But publishers and advertisers, if you don’t want people to use ad blockers, make better ads.

• E-Book Reversal. E-book sales dipped, and print titles had a slight rebound. And although some think nothing will happen, authors and publishers asked the Department of Justice to look into Amazon’s influence in the industry.

• Google, Even More Helpful But CreepyMachine-learned responses to emails, self-driving cars, Trip Bundles, parking markers, rerouted traffic navigation on the fly and the increasingly accurate predictive Google Now service that tries to guess what you want to see before you see it. Yes, the Big G had a very big year all up in your business. (But remember, you don’t have to use it.)

• Broadway Sings Social Media. Internet fan favorite and Sulu OG George Takei used Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word about this new musical Allegiance, the story of Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. Meanwhile, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of the Broadway smash musical Hamilton were all over Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other social outlets, not only to promote the show, but to add new views — like the short YouTube movie a cast member made about opening night from the actors’ perspective. The cast album for the show was available to stream free on the NPR site during the week before it arrived as an official download, and the recording’s devotees soon revved up the enthusiastic #Hamiltunes hashtag to quote their favorite lyrics. Smartphone videos of the weekly rapfest Ham4Ham — where the show’s actors perform short bits for fans clustered outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Manhattan’s West 46th Street — also got online play. And let’s not overlook the mash-up memes like #Force4Ham, which combined themes from both Hamilton and Star Wars. Now, about the latter…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sixteen years after The Phantom Menace and the turgid prequels, director and nostalgia reboot specialist J.J. Abrams revived the franchise with a record-smashing, uplifting return to form that served as a bridge between the old world and the new one in that galaxy far, far away. The Force is strong in that one.

Happy 2016 from Pop Tech Jam!

Episode 61: Twerk the Pain Away

Roving correspondent Jocelyn Gonzales is back with a report on do-it-yourself iPad magazines and the online service that helps put them together while Pedro barely keeps his inner-Miley at bay as J.D. explains how a user can get a complete archive of their Twitter posts. In the news, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announces his retirement; Nokia gets set to launch a Lumia tablet; Samsung and Apple plan big September announcements; Apple TV gets more channels; and Kevin Spacey lays the truth down on the television industry.

Episode 61 News: Content Is King

In case you were on vacation last week like we were, you may have missed the non-Batman news from the West Coast…Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced he would be retiring within the next 12 months and with no obvious successor in view, it seems like it might be a bit of a PopeWatch thing there in Redmond. Windows 8.1, thought to be the corrected version of Windows 8, is due for release on October 17th for current users who wish to upgrade.

Nokia, the company that makes the Lumia smartphone for Microsoft’s Windows Phone system is also said to be working on its own tablet that will run the much-mocked Windows RT software. According to the Verge tech site, the Nokia Sirius will have a 10.1-inch screen, look like a big Lumia phone and be price around $500. If it’s real, let’s see how they do with that.

Summer’s pretty much in the archive now anyway, and September is shaping up to be a big month for the announcements aside from Nokia. Samsung has confirmed it will be introducing its Galaxy Gear Smartwatch at the IFA Consumer Electronics show in Berlin on September 4th. Apple has not officially confirmed it, but major media sources are reporting the company will introduce its next round of iPhone at a press event on September 10th, with the new models possibly being available on September 20th.

All Things D and 9to5Mac are among the sites reporting that Apple is prepping the program will allow customers to trade in their old iPhones for credit toward a new model. While Apple had no comment on that, the company issued an update for Apple TV this week that brings the Disney Channel, the Weather Channel, Vevo Music Videos and the Smithsonian Channel all to the main screen’s channel lineup. And one more bite of Apple news here — the company’s legal team has responded to the Department of Justice’s proposed punishment in that e-book case this summer. (Hint: Apple is not happy.)

The Federal government has been looking into other tech business as well, and just released a memo on mobile malware findings. According to the report, 0.7% of all mobile malware affected Apple’s iOS system, while 79% was aimed at Android and 12% was targeting the Symbian OS.

While we’re talking about national security, it seems US fugitive Edward Snowden did not need to have a sophisticated scheme to steal all those 20,000 leak-worthy documents from the National Security Agency. The investigations team over at NBC News did some digging and reports that multiple intelligence community sources told them all Snowden needed was a few USB thumb drives and the willingness to exploit a gaping hole in an antiquated security system — all without leaving a trace. (Hint: The NSA is not happy, nosireee.)

In other product news, Facebook is starting to roll out shared photo albums this week. Feedly has just announced the general availability of Feedly Pro. Feedly Pro offers Evernote integration, but if you really like Evernote — and writing in journals by hand — check out the Evernote Smart Notebook from Moleskine.

zombiesIn the casual gaming world, the sequel to the popular PopCap Games title Plants vs. Zombies arrived this month for iOS. The new game, Plants vs. Zombie 2: It’s About Time had 16 million downloads during its opening week. The game itself is free but has many in-app purchase opportunities for coin packs and additional plants. No word on when the game will be available for Android.

Actor and producer Kevin Spacey had some words of warning for TV executives at the Edinburgh Television Festival in Scotland last week. (Hint: Content and story make people happy — while schedules and devices don’t matter.)

And finally, the old ways do work well for some people. Instead of going all digital video that some of the franchise’s previous installments, Star Wars VII will be shot on good old-fashioned 35mm film stock to recapture the feel of movies from the 1970s. The news comes in the same month that Gilbert Taylor, the cinematographer for the original Star Wars, passed away at the age of 99. In addition to Star Wars and many other films, Mr. Taylor shot Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Day’s Night and some episodes of The Avengers TV series. Before his film career took off, rhe spent six years with the Royal Air Force Force during World War II and filmed night raids after a request from Winston Churchill. Rest in peace, Mr. Taylor — and thanks for all the amazing work.

Episode 44: Nibs! Nibs! Nibs!

J.D. shares tips on how to independently publish your own e-books and Pedro test drives some tablet and smartphone stylus pens. In the news the Associated Press has their Twitter account hacked; corporate espionage appears to be on the rise; Google Glass buzz heats up; and the Hubble Telescope celebrates its 23rd birthday.

Episode 16 News: The World Is Flat

Well, the first flurry of Apple fall product announcements finally hit this week with the revelation of the iPhone 5, a revamp of a few iPods and a sneak peak at the next version of iTunes. The iOS 6 software and the phones will be out next week, but everything else isn’t available until October. Google, wasting no time after Apple removed the built-in YouTube app from the iOS Home screen, released its own free standalone iPhone YouTube app.

Amazon certainly wasn’t waiting around for Apple to hog all the limelight either, announcing big updates to its Kindle line of tablets and e-readers last week. (While all the new Kindle Fire HD tablets were going to include spam — whoops — Special Offers on the Home screen, Amazon says users can now opt out of that for $15.) A slight upgrade to Amazon’s original Kindle Fire tablet is now selling for $160. This is just $10 more than the new tablet-for-kids announced by Toys R Us this week.

Also on the Apple front, as a follow up to last week’s story about 12 million Apple device ID numbers that were not hacked off an FBI computer — it turns out the compromised machine belonged to the Florida-based app developer BlueToad, which assured and apologized to its customers in a company blog post. (GoDaddy, the domain-name and site-hosting service was thought to have suffered a hack attack itself earlier this week that took many of its sites offline for hours, but the company said it was an internal glitch that keelhauled all those Web sites.) When it is not defending itself from false hacking claims, the FBI has found time for a billion dollar upgrade to its biometric identification technology systems, although some privacy advocates are feeling a whiff of the Orwell on this one. The FBI has some info about its Next Generation Identification technology here.

Now then, contrary to popular reports, other hardware besides smartphones and tablets is headed to stores this fall. Pentax announced new mirrorless and DSLR cameras. And thin is in at Western Digital — the company has just launched a super-skinny 5 millimeter thick hard drive for ultrabook laptops.

Hey, remember the Bookmobile rolling library coming to your neighborhood? It’s the 21st century and now there’s a Digital Bookmobile sponsored by OverDrive making the rounds;  check the calendar here.

Housed in an 18-wheel tractor trailer, the Digital Bookmobile travels around the country and shows people how to use e-book lending services from their local libraries with instructional videos, interactive workstations and a gadget gallery with all the popular e-reader models. There’s also a section for audiobooks inside the truck. Remember kids, reading is fundamental, no matter how you do it.