Tag Archives: eBay

PTJ 227: Special Delivery

It seems like everybody’s got something on the way this week: Samsung’s new phone waits in the wings, Amazon’s Alexa is calling in for a six pack, robots are rolling out with restaurant orders and Apple even quietly slipped a few new products into the retail channel. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — including that very special package sent down from the International Space Station.

Links to This Week’s News Stories


PTJ 111: Microsoft Hopes to Roll a Lucky Number 10

For some it provides welcome relief from the myriad distractions of the Internet and for others, each clack of the typebar striking the ribbon, paper, and platen imbues them with a warm, satisfying sense of accomplishment.  It was the weapon used to slay the vileness  of the blank page or the unforgiving beast we wrestled with at our jobs for countless hours a year.

The wonderful, humble, fearsome typewriter.  This week J.D. explains why typewriters are still loved by many.

In the news Microsoft feels the next iteration of their market dominant operating system is so revolutionary the name should feature double digits; Apple’s 8.0.1 update crashes and burns but the fruit themed toy maker tackles the Shellshock head-on; Facebook debuts its Atlas ad platform;  a new social network called Ello positions itself as the anti-Facebook; Akamai releases its “State of the Internet” report; Grooveshark loses its groove; and the sequel to the film classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gets an interesting distribution deal.

PTJ 111 News: Are We There Yet?

Microsoft says it’s cranking it up to 10 — and it’s no joke. The company held a big press event out in California this week to show off its new operating system and announced it was skipping Windows 9 and going right on to Windows 10. Windows 10 looks a little like Windows 7 and a bit like Windows 8, according to the Re/Code site. For those who can’t wait for the final release in 2015, preview editions of the new system will be available this week to those who sign up for the Windows Insider public beta program.

Despite Chinese superstition, “8” has not been a lucky number for Apple, either, as it had to hurriedly yank back its iOS 8.0.1 update last week after early adopters howled that it broke their iPhones. Bloomberg News has reported that the update faceplant may have been related to the infamous Apple Maps fiasco of 2012. Apple refused to comment on that situation but did get its iOS 8.0.2 patch out last Thursday. The 8.0.2 fix seems to have worked for most people, although the Mac Rumors site is saying they’ve got user reports of other problems with it.

This week,  Apple also released a patch for the security flaw known as Shellshock or the Bash bug for the Bash UNIX shell used by OS X; you can download it from its site. Many Linux vendors, including Red Hat, have also issued patches for the exploit.


Facebook is still trying to find new ways to use your personal data to make advertisements more appealing to you. This week, the Social Network fired up Altas, a platform that lets advertisers buy ads through Facebook that appear on sites besides, well, Facebook. These ads were made for stalking.

The sheer amount of advertisements and data-grabbing has turned many people off Facebook, and helped gin up interest in a new social network called Ello. It’s still in the beta phase and invitation-only, but the simple, six-week-old service is getting attention for its pledge to make social networking a transparent tool for empowerment and that its users are not products, as stated below.


The ad-free Ello was created by graphic designers and techies and is gaining thousands of new users a day, even though some complain the site’s design is a bit confusing and the inevitable geek “it’s so over” backlash has begun. Ello, which plans to make money by charging users a small fee for premium services, is also big enough now to have been hit by a DDOS attack this week.

Akamai has released its quarterly State of the Internet report again and as usual, it highlights all kinds of facts and figures about who’s using the Internet for what and how fast they’re doing it. In terms of overall broadband global broadband speed, South Korea and Hong Kong are still smoking the rest of the world with peak speeds of more than 72 megabits per second compared to a peak of 45.3 megabits per second here in the States. (Hong Kong may have speed, but it’s probably not doing much good for the citizens protesting changes to the city’s elections policy; as NPR, Gizmodo and others have reported, the protestors are thwarting government efforts to stifle communication by using mesh-networking apps like FireChat.)

Next year will be a big one for eBay. The online auction site announced to shareholders this week that it plans to fully separate from its PayPal payment system business and create two independent, publicly traded companies.

sharkChanges are coming to a couple of online music services. For one, a judge has ruled against Grooveshark for copyright infringement because it did not have licenses for all the music it offered to its 35 million users to stream. And eMusic, another online service and one that started selling downloads by subscription way back in 1998, is ditching track sales from mainstream labels like Warner, Universal and Sony to focus exclusively on sales from independent music companies.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out a new line of slim-line HP Stream tablets and laptops in colorful cases. The devices offer 4G connectivity and a lot of online storage, and the most expensive new laptop in the batch, the one with a 13.3 inch screen, will only set you back $230. The 7-inch tablet is about $100 and the new gear will be available in November, just in time for the gift-giving season. But yes, they come with Windows 8.1.

New York Comic Con is next week in Manhattan and one of your esteemed Pop Tech hosts is moderating a panel or two. If you’re going, be sure to get the app and wear comfortable shoes (or boots, if you’re doing cosplay).

myeohAnd finally, fans of the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may have to wait until next August to see the sequel, but they won’t have to go very far to do so. Netflix and the Weinstein Company have signed a deal to release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend simultaneously in selected IMAX theaters around the world and on Netflix. Two starts of the original film, Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen will be back, and the sequel arrives next August 28. Windows 10, Star Wars Episode VII, Crouching Tiger 2 — 2015 should be dubbed the Year of the Geek.

Keys to the Past

It may be a digital world but just like vinyl records, other analog artifacts from our recent past refuse to go away completely. Take for example, the humble typewriter. That clackity-clack racket of little metal keys hitting paper has been heard since at least the 19th century with the early Remington models. Unless you had your own printing press and could set your own type, typewriters (some of them very stylish) were the way to create professional correspondence and records, book manuscripts and all sorts of official documents for more than a century. But as computers and word-processing software began to creep into the market in the 1980s and beyond, typewriters began to fade from use and memory.

For some people, anyway. The Kremlin has reportedly resumed composing top-secret documents on typewriters to avoid computer leaks. (The Times of London, while not reissuing IBM Selectrics to its staff, did pipe the sound of typewriters clacking into its newsroom a few weeks ago to see if it helped productivity.) Thanks to other holdouts — like famous authors still clinging to their Olivettis, hipsters soaking in the retro cool or people who just want to write slow — typewriters are still with us.

poptypejamIf you’re nostalgic for the Age of the Typewriter, you can indulge yourself, whether you actually have an old metal writing machine or not.  If you have a broken-down model in the attic or garage that needs fixing, find a repair shop or service while you still can, as typewriter repair and maintenance is a dying art. For New Yorkers, one shop in Manhattan, Gramercy Typewriter Co.,  has been going strong since 1932 and does fine work. (The shop recently serviced the official Pop Tech Typewriter, a circa 1977 Smith-Corona Galaxie 12 manual model in the peppy yellow “sunburst” color, shown here warming up on mic.)

If you want to buy a typewriter, the same shops that repair the machines often sell reconditioned models, so ask around. You can also find machines for sale at specialty shows, on eBay or even through high-end collectors’ markets.

Want to write on a typewriter for creative reasons — but are worried about eventually converting your pages to digital form? Make sure you have a good dark ribbon in the machine, a scanner and OCR software, and you can convert your typed pages onto editable text document later in your writing process. Don’t want to invest in a dedicated OCR program? If you have the full Adobe Acrobat software, you can use that software’s built-in OCR function to convert scanned PDFs to text. Some free OCR software can be found around the Web as well.

usbtypeThanks to steampunk, typewriters fused with computer screens have become a distinct look. In fact, a hacker-engineer named Jack Zylkin has started a company called USB Typewriter. Here, you can buy a conversion kit to turn an old typewriter into a USB keyboard for your Mac, PC or iPad. The site has videos and instructions, but if you’re not handy with a soldering iron, you can also buy a pre-made typewriter computer keyboard or iPad dock for about $700 or $800. And get this: The typewriter still works even after its USB conversion, so you can create a hardcopy while you word-process.

hanxBut if all that’s too much real-world analog for you, just remember, there’s always an app for that, like the $2 TypeWriter for Android, which simulates old-school typing. While plenty of other apps can do the typewriter simulation, a recent iPad app that was developed in part by actor Tom Hanks is one that does it nicely. The free Hanx Writer app (shown here) turns your iPad screen and keyboard into a virtual 1940s typewriter and also works as a word-processor for your tablet correspondence. Just don’t forget what you’re typing on and slap on the Wite-Out.

Episode 25 News: Don’t Delete December!

Good design is an integral part of a successful product, which may explain why Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system has been getting hammered since its official release last month. This week, the Web design guru Jakob Nielsen gave a rather scathing critique of the new software on his blog. (Still, PC makers like Lenovo are trying to make the best of Win8 with models that can contort themselves between tablet and laptop form.) Also adding to Microsoft’s woe: problems with new Windows Phone 8 handsets spontaneously rebooting, and leaked old videos showing its discontinued Kin phone spectacularly flunking usability tests.

But no matter how bad a week Microsoft is having, at least they can’t be accused of deleting December, which Google did for some Android 4.2 users. (They’re looking into it.) In addition to restoring the 12th month of the year, Google is said to be working on an open alterative to Apple’s AirPlay wireless streaming technology for beaming music and videos around the speakers and screens in your house.

Apple has had a week of ups and downs itself, with iCloud and some of its Web-based services being, well, down. But on the upside, the company finally snagged the AC/DC catalog for iTunes and is reportedly experimenting with an eBay storefront to sell refurbished Apple computers, iPods, iPads and other gear — at refurbished prices. While iOS gamers will still have Apple’s Game Center network, developers and players on other platforms should note that the OpenFeint gaming network is shutting down on December 14th.

Perhaps the long-awaited Nintento Wii U console that arrived last weekend (review roundup here) with ease some of the pain—once the device gets a good library of games that maximizes the potential of the GamePad controller. Oh well, at least you can watch Amazon Instant Video on the console while you’re waiting around.