Tag Archives: ebook

PTJ 217: She’ll Always Be Royalty to Us

After a tumultuous year that saw the sad passing of actress and author Carrie Fisher (as well as Kenny Baker) the year 2017 has arrived. And so, coincidentally,  is Episode 217 of Pop Tech Jam.

On this week’s show, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss some early announcements out of the Consumer Electronics Show, what Facebook’s been up to lately and explore suggestions to the Twitter’s CEO about improving the bird-themed microblogging service.

J.D. also has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint about watching the skies. While you’re looking up, raise a glass to the memories of the actors that brought Princess Leia and R2-D2 to life all those years ago. They will be with us, always.

Links to Stories in This Week’s Episode

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Free Space

Here at Pop Tech Jam, we love space and we love free stuff. If you, too, love these things, visit the Universe Today astronomy blog, which has just released a free ebook called 101 Astronomical Events for 2017 by David A. Dickinson.

The ebook is more than 200 pages long, and nicely illustrated with photos and charts. It explains all the predictable things that are going to happen in the next 12 months with the stars, planets and other celestial objects.  Mr. Dickinson is a teacher, an amateur astronomer and author who has been writing and blogging about activities Out There for years.

Meteor showers, planetary conjunctions, eclipses and other happenings are covered in 101 Astronomical Events for 2017. If you want to keep up on missions and other man-made interactions in space, though, bookmark the NASA site with its various mission pages, the Watch the Skies blog and also, the European Space Agency’s site for great photos and other interesting forays into the Final Frontier.

PTJ 181 News: Full Court Press

fccCould the digital divide in America be closing just a bit? The Federal Communications Commission has tweaked its plan for low-cost broadband Internet access and presented a proposal to its members this week that brings broadband service for $9.25 a month. The new broadband plan is an update to its 1985 Lifeline program to subsidize landline service for qualifying low-income consumers and the 2008 enhancement to the plan to include mobile-phone help. Lifeline has gotten the usual government-program charges of fraud, waste and abuse (and other gripes) from its detractors, like what counts as average broadband speed. The FCC countered by saying it does have some fraud-prevention measures. Some providers like Sprint don’t care for the proposed reforms to the Lifeline program, but a vote on the new system by FCC members is expected on March 31st.

Facebook is making its Instant Articles feature easier to use for people who aren’t even major media organizations. The company said a few weeks ago that it was opening up the Instant Articles feature to all publishers and this week, Facebook announced a new open-source plug-in for WordPress.  The opening of Instant Articles For All is expected to happen in time for the company’s annual F8 Conference in San Francisco next month. In an even more reassuring development, Facebook also awarded $15,000 to a hacker who demonstrated how he could use basic software to crack open the account of any user on the service. Yes, Facebook has since fixed the flaw in its system.

Mozilla, which recently bailed out, er, pivoted, on its Firefox OS for smartphones, is moving into the Internet of Things, where appliances rule the 802.11 airwaves. In a post on the Mozilla blog, the company outlined four new projects designed to integrate Firefox technologies into connected devices and asked for volunteers to help test out the new stuff. If you are a developer and are interested in working on any of it, check out Project Link, Project Sensor Web, Project Smart Home or Project Vaani.

In gaming news, Capcom is spanking players who rage-quit its Street Fighter V game by docking their League Points for bad behavior.  So there! And Microsoft it just announced it was canceling development of its Fable Legends game for Xbox and closing Lionhead Studios in the United Kingdom and Press Play Studios in Denmark.


Also over in the House of Microsoft, the company has now enabled Skype chat right from OneDrive when you are collaborating on an Office Online document and just have to talk it out with your co-authors. And whispers around Redmond say Microsoft has pushed back the next big upfate to Windows 10, codenamed Redstone 2 from later this year to until spring of 2017 to better align with new device hardware on the way. No comment from Microsoft so far.

There’s a reportedly nasty piece of OS X ransomware out there, looking to lock up your Mac until you pay up. The malware, called KeRanger, only affects the Transmission BitTorrent client installer. If you use the program, here’s a link to more information. If you don’t use the program, you can skip the freak-out.

craigIn other Apple-related news, the Department of Justice is appealing last week’s federal court ruling in Brooklyn that said the government could not use the centuries-old All Writs Act force Apple to unlock a user’s iPhone. And Craig Federighi (shown here), Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering and fabulous hair, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post explaining Apple’s stance in its ongoing fight with the FBI. Security experts have also weighed in on the matter in a recent Bloomberg News article that says the FBI should just hack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone themselves since it would be faster.  There’s also some worry that if the US government forces Apple to start unlocking iPhones left and right for security reasons, the European Union privacy regulators will delay their verdict on the EU-US privacy shield agreement. (In other not-so-good legal news for Apple, the Supreme Court has declined to listen to the company’s appeal for the e-book price fixing case. Cue the sound of a very large check being written.)

Also in Europe, Google, Indexer of the Past, is expanding the European court-ordered Right to Be Forgotten.  However,  Americans mortified by their pasts lurking online still have nowhere to complain, even though a consumer advocacy group petitioned the Federal Trade Commission last year to make Google allow us Yanks to forget our documented-and- digitized discretions as well.

Verizon Wireless is having its own issues with the concept of privacy. The Federal Communications Commission (clearly having a busy year so far) has slapped the telecom giant with a $1.35 million dollar fine and a a three-year consent decree to settle the case of the privacy-chomping supercookies that first surfaced in 2014.

fiWhen it comes to Internet service providing, Google is mainly known for its Google Fiber broadband, but the company also has a lesser-known cellphone service that piggybacks on Sprint and T-Mobile networks. It’s called Project Fi and the reason you may have not heard of it before is that it was invitation-only since it launched last year. But as of this week, anybody with a Nexus 6, 6P or 5X can  get Project Fi service. You just need to go to (where else?) the Sign Up page to get started.

Amazon, keeping an eye on Apple’s legal punch-up with the DOJ, has now weighed in and said it was going to restore the device encryption capabilities it just yanked out of its Fire OS 5 software. Amazon said it originally took out the feature because no one was using it, but has now decided to re-enable the feature in an update to the system this spring.

rayAnd finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam offer out condolences to the family of Ray Tomlinson, the programmer credited with the modern invention of electronic mail with the groovy little @ sign back in 1971. Mr. Tomlinson passed away last week at the age of 74. He was a member of the Internet Hall of Fame and said he picked the @ sign because it just “made sense.”  Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for setting the standard.

PTJ 82: Food, Cheer, and Song

Sincerest apologies to the great Federico Fellini but we here at Pop Tech Jam believe life is a combination of magic … and a White Castle Crave Case®. If you have a hankering for some regional food classics that you just can’t find in your town, J.D. harnesses the power of the Internet and shows you how to get those comfort food favorites delivered right to your door.  All the talk of food has Pedro’s stomach grumbling but he was able to fight off the hunger pangs long enough to explain what Social Engineering is and how we can all be affected by it.  In the news the F.C.C. plans on introducing a new net neutrality policy; Apple loses their appeal in an attempt to ditch a  government appointed e-book monitor; Anti-malware company Kaspersky Labs claims to have discovered a global cyber-espionage  organization; Google leases more space from NASA; and Lego considers  a new building set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show.

PTJ 82 News: Free Speech *and* Free Beer

It was just about a month ago that the government’s Net Neutrality rules were kicked to the curb in court, but Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said this week the agency will have retooled rules very soon. Some opponents to government regulation fear that the FCC may use this second chance to overstep its bounds and try to start controlling everything on the Internet. However, the agency’s site states, “no one — not the government and not the companies that provide broadband service — can restrict innovation on the Internet.”  (For those who are fans of oratory, Mr. Wheeler’s lively speech included references to Abraham Lincoln’s second address to Congress from December 1862, Moore’s Law, the metaphysics of pizza delivery and Return of the Jedi — without the Ewoks).

In Apple-related news, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Apple’s request to ditch the court-appointed monitor in its ebook price-fixing case. Meanwhile, the SecureMac site says its found a new Trojan horse called OSX/CoinThief.A; it’s aimed at OS X and designed to steal login credentials for Bitcoin wallets. But on happier note, Apple’s iTunes Radio service has now gone international, with a launch in Australia this week.

Talk about your uptime: Researchers at Kaspersky Labs say they’ve discovered a sophisticated global cyber-espionage operation called The Mask. It’s been running since 2007.

Silicon Valley residents are probably familiar with Hangar One, a massive eight-acre hangar designed in 1933 as a parking garage for blimps. NASA’s in charge of Hangar One but if things work out, the space agency would be leasing the structure to Google for things like housing private jets and whatnot. Google has already leased more than 40 acres of the nearby NASA Ames Research Center to build a large Research & Development facility, and the two are working together to test the world’s first quantum computer there as well. Google is also teaming up with long-time Apple component supplier Foxconn on robotics development, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Google itself declined to comment on the matter. No word from the robots, either.

Need some do-it-yourself inspiration for your own engineering projects? Spanish hacker Jose Julio used his skills to build an air-hockey playing robot for his daughter.

Microsoft is looking for a software design engineer to create “a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics.” While Windows 8 already has a basic reader app, some are speculating that this new app with be an Xbox-branded bit of software that would work across all the company’s platforms, including Windows 8, Windows Phone and the Xbox game consoles.


With about two months to go before the End of Support for Windows XP, Microsoft is starting to approach small and medium-size businesses about the need to get off the ancient operating system. As part of the End of Support campaign, a post on one of Microsoft’s blogs titled “Help your friends and family get off Windows XP” also went up last week, While some comments were positive or indifferent, there was a noticeable amount of backlash from readers who have no intention of doing any such thing.

The eWeek site has just compiled a list of the most popular apps on Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Flappy Bird, made the list, even though the developer, pulled the game from app stores this week. He said Flappy Bird had “ruined his simple life” by attracting too much attention and that it was an addictive product. The game, which was making $50,000 a week in advertising (and still is) involves trying to steer a poor little bird through a series of vertical green pipes. There has been speculation the game was yanked due to possible copyright violations with Nintendo’s Mario games, but a Nintendo spokesperson denied the company had taken any legal action.

Lego is considering ideas for new building sets and one of the candidates this year is a set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show. The proposed Sherlock set is just a finalist among six possible projects that also include the DeLorean from Back to the Future and a Legend of Zelda kit. The Sherlock proposal details two different sets: a 370-piece recreation of the consultation area at 221B Baker Street and a 630-piece kit that makes up the apartment’s living room. Here’s hoping!

And finally, one bit of Winter Olympic 2014 news. The Canadian athletes have extra treats in their Olympic House: a refrigerator that dispenses free beer. You have to be Canadian to use the beer fridge, however, and need to present your passport for scanning by the vending machine. Canada, it should be noted, has been having a very good Games so far and has been in the top three on the medal board all week in Sochi.