Tag Archives: European Union

PTJ 273: Still the Right Stuff

Yanny or Laurel? El Kaiser was too busy mixing up podcasts to weigh in, and J.D. thought the whole thing was dumb and tuned into Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band instead — but The New York Times built a handy little tool to demonstrate how audio frequencies factor into the matter. Beyond all that, Episode 273 serves up the week’s tech news, pours one out for Tom Wolfe and contemplates the strange notion of secure and private email. Give a listen!

Links to Stories Discussed on This Week’s Episode

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 270: On the Hook

California fires a shot across the bow of the FCC’s net neutrality repeal, Amazon’s Alexa has a new do-it-yourself project for users and even aquariums aren’t safe on the Internet of Things. El Kaiser and J.D. sort through the technology news of the past 10 days before discussing a great vacation destination for aviation and NASA nerds: The Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virgina, home to the National Air & Space Museum’s big collection of airplanes and spacecraft. Jump into it all here in Episode 270 of Pop Tech Jam!

Links to Stories Mentioned On This Week’s Show

Geek Vacation Destination

A Sopwith Camel
A Hawker Hurricane
A Mercury-era capsule
The space shuttle “Discovery”
The space shuttle “Discovery”

PTJ 203 News: Irish Wakeup Call

Nothing like a $14.6 billion bill for back taxes to get your attention, eh? That’s the hefty sum Apple is facing after a European Commission ruling this week found the company’s tax deal with Ireland was illegal under European Union rules. Apple and Ireland are both vowing to appeal the ruling, and in a letter released publicly on its website, Apple stated the ruling would have an impact on investment and job creation in Europe.  The EU is also investigating Amazon and McDonald’s for similar practices.

Apple may have other legal woes brewing on this side of the pond as well. A nationwide class-action lawsuit was filed against the company by plaintiffs who claim that their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones suffer from defecting screens that make them unresponsive. The defect was dubbed Touch Disease by the repair site iFixit, who has looked at the issue and found hundreds of ailing iPhones with flickering gray bars on glitchy screens.

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Apple has set the date for its annual Fall Media Monopoly Event. As some predicted, it’ll be early this year — September 7th and at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. New iPhones and an arrival date for iOS 10 are expected to be announced for sure, and updates on macOS Sierra, watchOS, and tvOS could be in the mix, as well as hardware news about Apple Watch, the MacBook Pro laptops, the iPad Pro and other gear. But will there be One More Thing?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California tossed out a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 that accused AT&T of bandwidth-throttling customers who still had unlimited data plans after those customers went beyond customary allowances.

Twitter and Facebook may get more if the hate speech headlines, but Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to smack down the extremists and Troll Legions roaming on own online properties. In a post on one of the company blogs, Microsoft’s Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqueline Beauchere, writes, “Today we’re announcing a new dedicated web form for reporting hate speech on our hosted consumer services, and a separate web form for requests to reconsider and reinstate content.”

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Facebook’s Trending Topics section has had its ups and downs this year with charges of political bias in story selection and promotion and last week, Facebook reportedly decided to get rid of the humans who were writing story descriptions for trending list and just have the algorithms start listing popular topics based on what users were sharing. However, a lot of Facebook users were sharing a false story about broadcaster Megyn Kelly getting fired from Fox News for being a liberal — so the fake story made it onto the trending list. Whoopsie!

On to the Department of Democracy Nightmares, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says it has evidence that hackers breached two state election databases this summer. While actual vote-counting systems were not involved YET, foreign-based hackers targeted voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. Paper ballots for all this year, please.

While test drones are buzzing around the countryside of merry old England, here in the States, the Federal Aviation Administration just started giving the drone pilot’s-license test this week. More than 3300 people signed up to take the test on the first day. The Wired site has a study guide for wannabe drone jockeys.

In other drone news, Jennifer Youngman, a 65-year-old woman in rural Virginia, took down a drone in one blast from her 20-gauge shotgun earlier this summer. She lives near the actor Robert Duvall. She also chatted with the CBC about the incident.

bangbanglady

In product news, Sonos and Amazon are hooking up with a new strategic partnership. What this means is that people who own both voice-activated Echo speakers and Sonos sound systems will be able to tell the Echo speaker to play music through the Sonos system.

FitBit announced two new exercise trackers this week, the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Fitbit Flex 2. You can even swin with the Flex 2, they say.

russiaAnd finally, the Centauri Dreams blog devoted to deep space exploration noted a radio telescope in Russia (shown here), had picked up “strong signal in the direction of HD164595” last year. HD 164595 is a star with at least planet in the system within the constellation Hercules, all about 95 light years from Earth. The site merely said the signal was interesting and deserved further scrutiny. Astronomers at the SETI Institute have already written a brief paper on the matter.  Seasoned experts around the web were skeptical, with one noting the signal was on the part of the radio spectrum used by the military and another posting, “It’s not our first time at this rodeo, so we know how it works,” on a SETI message board. Sure, the signal may be nothing — but it kind of makes one want to haul out the Contact DVD for some Hollywood science and reinstall the SETI@home software on your current computer, you know?

Opening shot from Contact (1997) from Single Shot Film Festival on Vimeo.

PTJ 171 News: Don’t Forget to File Your Paperwork

Attention octocopter pilots! The Federal Aviation Administration has taken the suggestions of its task force to heart and has now set up a database for drone owners to register their unmanned aircraft with the government. The new rule goes into effect December 21st and those who skip out could be subject to chunky fines. And in other government news, The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Department of Homeland Security is trying to come up with a plan to examine social media posts made by individuals applying for visas to the United States. Watch out for those Facebook hoaxes, agents.

Across the pond, the European Union is getting serious about user privacy and is putting a new directive in place that imposes fines on companies that do not clearly explain to users what personal information about them is being collected — and how that information will be used. Hit ’em up, Europe!

Facebook is taking yet another bit of functionality out of its main mobile app. As the TechCrunch blog reports, The Social Network is turning off the photo sync feature for its mobile app next month and will nag its members to download its Moments app instead.

hotwheelsHoverboards are hot items — for reals. Numerous reports of fires from the devices’ lithium-ion batteries have prompted safety concerns for some time, with the Federal Aviation Administration even encouraging airline passengers earlier this year to leave spare batteries at home. Several recently reported hoverboard fires now have the industry on even higher alert. Most major airlines — including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, Jet Blue, Alaska Airlines and others — now ban the boards in checked and carry-on luggage. Amazon began to yank certain models from its online store last week as well.

Google is trying to help you keep your plans organized with its Inbox by Gmail app. Last summer, Inbox added an algorithm that sniffs out and collects all the airline, hotel, rental car and other confirmation messages associated with travel and groups them together in a collection called a Trip Bundle. This week, Google announced one-tap sharing for all the Trip Bundle data so friends and family can get all your coordinates at once.

Google is also showing some love to those who buy a new Chromecast streaming dongle. If you pony up $35 for a Chromecast, Google kicks back $20 to go shopping for content in its Google Play store. The offer can be redeemed through the Chromecast app until January 2nd, 2016.

Careful web watchers noticed a recent post on a Microsoft blog that seems to be walking back the company’s decision to take away promised gobs of OneDrive storage because some people were abusing the privilege.  A Microsoft manager posted that while the company was not changing its overall plans, it would make some concessions to loyal customers, as long as they sign up on the OneDrive site to keep it by the end of January.

onedrive

In hacking news, Kromtech, the makers of the software utility MacKeeper, has acknowledged what it calls “a potential vulnerability in its data storage system” that was found by a security researcher.  Security blogger Brian Krebs said the incident revealed the personal information of 13 million customers was exposed. (And yes, MacKeeper is that pesky scareware program that uses pop-under ads to get people to buy it and some sites recommend against using it anyway.)

And in a follow-up to the big VTech hack last month, a 21-year-old man has been arrested in England on suspicion of “unauthorized access” to a computer. UK officials say they are still in the early stages of the investigation.

The New York State Attorney General continues the probe into advertised vs. actual broadband speeds, and is now asking the public to check their own connections at the Internet Health Test site and report the findings. AG Eric Schneiderman, who is investigating speed claims made by Verizon Communications Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc., said customers wanting to help should perform the test, take a screenshot of the results and fill in an online form on the state’s website.

health

Speaking of Verizon, the company has just updated it FiOS mobile app so customers can steam and watch shows they have recorded back home on their DVRs when they are out and about with their mobile devices.

Also streaming, Netflix but up a blog post this week describing its efforts to increase the quality of the video flowing over broadband connections while reducing data use by 20 percent. A story on the Variety site explains the project in detail, which basically amounts to different encoding rules for different types of video content, because after all, as a Netflix manager says, “You shouldn’t allocate the same amount of bits for ‘My Little Pony’ as for ‘The Avengers.’”

Rumors about next spring’s expected Samsung Galaxy S7 phone are beginning to emerge, and the whispers make the new model sound not unlike the iPhone 6s. According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung is adding a pressure-sensitive screen, ala 3D Touch, and a high-speed charging port. A retina scanner for biometric security may also be in the works. Samsung is also appealing its recent patent-case loss to Apple, and is going all the way to the Supreme Court. No word yet if the Supremes will take the case.

And finally…what’s everybody doing this weekend?

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PTJ 148 News: Ear Buds

applemusicAs promised at the World Wide Developers Conference, Apple Music officially arrived this week. Early reviews of the service have been mixed to positive, but time will tell how it stacks up against Spotify, Pandora and the others. Brian X. Chen of The New York Times finds the social networking component to be the app’s weak spot, so perhaps those “Ping 2.0” jokes weren’t too far off base. If you’re just diving into the Apple Music app yourself, iMore and several other  sites have guides .

Also launching this past week — but failing horribly — was an unmanned SpaceX cargo flight meant to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Instead, it blew up about two minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.  The loss of four tons of supplies for the space station is a bit worrisome, but astronauts have enough reserve supplies to last until the end of September with rationing. New cargo missions are planned.

Transportation disasters of any kind are tragic, but back here on Earth, Google and the government are trying to help stop car accidents at train crossings. The Federal Railroad Administration is working with the G Train to add the locations of all railroad crossings (listed by the US Department of Transportation) to Google Maps. In addition, Google will add mention of the railroad crossings in the audio and visual alerts for its turn-by-turn navigation.

Meanwhile, there could be more trouble on the way for Google, as  Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor, Michael Luca, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and the Yelp! Data Science Team have just written a paper called “Is Google Degrading Search? Consumer Harm from Universal Search.” As Bloomberg Business reports, the study was presented this past weekend at the Antitrust Enforcement Symposium at the University of Oxford. Google has not commented publicly, but the company is currently dealing with antitrust charges in the European Union.

EUflagSpeaking of the European Union, its governing body just voted to end roaming charges for customers traveling around its 28 member-countries by the year 2017. While the new rules prevent European telecom providers from intentionally slowing down any network service for customers, they do not prohibit providers from charging more for “broadband fast lines.” Net neutrality advocates are concerned.

Apple has now lost its federal appeal on the ebook price-fixing case, so $450 million in damages could be making its way to ebook customers soon.

AOL just got bought by Verizon, but the online company is stepping up to handle the majority of display, mobile and video advertising across Microsoft’s empire of properties. Microsoft also cut a deal with Uber this week. The personal taxi service is picking up a chunk of Microsoft’s mapping technology and possibly about 100 engineers on its mapping team, who all might be mapping their way to the new office soon.

Pinterest is adding buyable pins to its iOS apps this week, so if you see a blue pin with a price tag on an item you just have to have, you can now have it. For a price.

byteDom Hofmann, who was one of the creators of the looping six-second Vine video service has a new mobile app aimed at the creative types. It’s called Byte, and it’s a combination collage-creator and social network that lets you mash up photos, animations drawing tools and soundtracks together to make your own art. Then you share your creations  with other people on the Byte network. The app is in private beta for iPhone users now, but expected to roll out more widely to the public and then on to Android.

And finally, song-recognition service Shazam is also not afraid of Apple and its fancy new Music service and is adding a new feature aimed at the already-derided Connect social network component of Apple Music. Shazam has partnered up with more than 30 music artists who have agreed to publicly share the music they discover with the service. Once users update to the lastest version of the Shazam app, they can follow their favorite artists  to see what those people (or more likely, their favorite artist’s personal assistant) are “shazaming” — perhaps the new Taylor Swift single?

PTJ 119: Giving Thanks For Star Wars Trailers And Keyboard Shortcuts

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us here in the United States the team at PTJ HQ can’t thank you all enough for supporting us so passionately over these last few years. Both J.D. and I don’t have plans of stopping any time soon since we continue to have a wonderful time doing the show. We promise to keep serving up our special brand of insight and shenanigans—along with the occasional surprise—if you promise to keep coming back for more.

A very special thanks to the BROS!

When we say we wouldn’t be here without them that is a 100% accurate statement. They convinced us to make the leap to doing the show on our own and have supported us every step of the way.  A heartfelt bushel of gratitude from all of us at HeadStepper Media and Pop Tech Jam!

This week on the show, J.D. is thinking of linking and shares a slew of helpful keyboard shortcuts with us. In the news the FCC reaches an agreement with T-Mobile about their throttling practices; the Federal Aviation Administration is prepares a set of new rules for commercial drones; the European Union is expected to vote on breaking up Google’s business; Apple sees (RED); the United States and the United Kingdom are suspects behind a sophisticated series of cyber attacks against the European Union; Barbie (and Mattel) **** it up again; and the first teaser trailer of  Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters this weekend.

PTJ 119 News: Feminist Hacker Barbie Needs That Wireless Spectrum For Her Robot Army

The Federal Communications Commission is certainly keeping itself  busy when it’s not mulling Net Neutrality. The agency reached an agreement with T-Mobile on Monday that makes Big Pink accurately show consumers when their connections are being throttled. The FCC’s first wireless spectrum auction since 2008 has some ready customers. The auction has already generated $30 billion, which is about three times more than anticipated.

And yes, there’s still no decision on net neutrality at the moment, but Chairman Tom Wheeler is already facing reality. “Look, the big dogs are going to sue, regardless of what comes out,” said Mr. Wheeler. “We need to make sure we have sustainable rules. That starts with making sure we have addressed the multiplicity of issues that come along and are likely to be raised.” (Just think of it as CYA for the FCC here in the USA.)

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Federal Aviation Administration is preparing a set of new rules for commercial drones that could give them their corner of the sky at last. More worrisome at the moment, however, are those increasing reports of non-commercial drones flying too close to airplanes and helicopters, so expect that issue to get addressed before too long.

robotK5We’ve got robot butlers and vacuum cleaners and now Microsoft is testing out robot security guards in its Silicon Valley campus. The Knightscope K5 autonomous robots will be on the market next year, are equipped with thermal imaging, chemical sensors, license-plate and facial-recognition software. It can patrol a perimeter much like a human security guard. The K5s are about five-feet tall and look a little bit like while plastic Daleks, so really, what could go wrong?

Meanwhile, the European Union is expected to vote this week to break up Google’s business. Also in business news: Aereo has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and Samsung is reportedly considering changes to its executive leadership team after sales of its Galaxy S5 smartphone fell short of expectations by 40 percent.

If you visit Apple’s online store within the next week or so, you’ll be seeing red. No, not over the premium prices, but (RED), the world organization to fight AIDS in Africa. Over the next two weeks, Apple will be donating the proceeds from certain products to the global fund. On Monday, World AIDS Day, the company will donate a portion of every item sold.

applered

The antivirus company Symantec was the first to discover a lurking piece of malware called Regin that’s a suspect in sophisticated cyber attacks against the European Union and a Belgian telecom company for the past several years. Agencies from United States and the United Kingdom are the main suspects behind Regin, according to some security experts.

The computer networks at Sony Pictures were reportedly hacked and rendered so unusable that employees were warned not to connect to the company’s corporate network or to check their work email. The group Guardians of Peace is claiming responsibility, saying it will leak confidential documents unless its undisclosed demands are met.

If you need to kill some time this long holiday weekend, check out the new Pew Research Internet Project study called What Internet Users Know About Technology and the Web and take a quiz that tests your Web IQ. Go on, you know you love those online quizzes.

babsA book published in 2010 called Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer recently caught the eye of author and screenwriter Pamela Ribon. However, the book’s plot turned out to be so demeaning to not only women in technology — but women in general — that it quickly became a viral virtual skeet target. Ms. Ribon kicked things off with a post on her own blog called “Barbie [Bad Word] It Up Again” and the story revved up. Mattel yanked the title and even issued an apology on Facebook saying the book was four years old and didn’t reflect the Barbie brand’s vision.

But then something great happened. Casey Fiesler, a PhD student in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech, (who also happens to be writing her dissertation on copyright and online remix communities), rewrote the book with a positive, empowering message and posted her version online. Kathleen Tuite, a computer science PhD student at the University of Washington, stepped it up and and built the Feminist Hacker Barbie, a text editor that allows people to add in their own delightfully profane new captions for the illustrations in the original book and post them online under the hashtag #FeministHackerBarbie. As Ms. Fiesler noted, a major theme of the remix community is “If you don’t like the narrative, change it!” And that’s exactly what they did.

forceAnd finally, StarWars.com has confirmed that 30 theaters around the country will be showing an 88-second teaser trailer of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens starting this Friday, November 28th. This is not the first time word of a way-advance trailer has been announced, as Star Wars fans also lined up to see a trailer for The Phantom Menace back in November 1998. Don’t fret if you can’t get to the movies this weekend or don’t live in a trailer-worthy city, as the teaser will go wide and hit theaters everywhere in December. And how much you wanna bet that thing will be online somewhere by lunchtime Friday?

(UPDATE: It was. And the fans have already begun to dissect it.)

PTJ 93 News: Bending the Rules

The new rules on Net Neutrality put forth last month by the Federal Communications Commission have generated quite a bit of a backlash from people who think the agency’s fast lane/slow lane approach was misguided. More than 100 tech companies signed a letter expressing their dismay with the proposed rules.

Other opponents to the rules include Minnesota senator Al Franken, who called the proposal “the opposite of Net Neutrality.” The digital-rights advocacy group Free Press was also planning a public protest outside the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, DC, and is encouraging opponents to contact their Congresspeople. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also put up a post on its site explaining how the FCC makes its rules and explaining how members of the public can comment on policy-works-in-progress.

As first reported by The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is said to be working on some revisions to the rules and is scheduled to appear before the House of Representatives’ subcommittee on communications and technology next Tuesday, May 20. CEOs of broadband companies, however, have also warned the FCC not to go too far in the other direction with regulating the industry because it would do things like scare away business investors.

And in more exciting policy news, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that people have a right to be forgotten when it comes to showing up in Google search results. Google is also hearing in from a court in Germany. A data protection office there in Hamburg says Google is violating German law by quietly compiling users’ data from its different services without their consent. At least the new Moto E Android phone is getting good reviews.

Microsoft is taking another swing at Sony and has released a cheaper version of its Xbox One. This new $399 version of the console does not include the Kinect motion controller and saves the gamer $100. Microsoft may also be gearing up to launch a music locker service for the Xbox One. Although the company hasn’t made any announcements, a Chinese website claims to have found references to a OneDrive Music folder that can stream music from the cloud to the Xbox.

And speaking of streaming music, word of Apple’s $3.2 billion deal to buy Beats Electronics has the tech world thumping. The agreement, which was widely reported late last week and has yet to close, but it’s said to be the biggest acquisition in Apple’s company history. Beats Electronics, founded by musician Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine, makes headphones and has its own subscription music-streaming service. Billboard is among the sites speculating that the Beats founders could be making an appearance at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference next month.

Apple isn’t the only company in acquisition mode. Many sites are reporting that AT&T is quite close to a takeover of the DirecTV satellite service.

Netflix, which officially raised its subscription prices for new customers by a buck to $8.99 a month last week, sent out email messages to existing customers saying it would not hike prices on them for at least two years. But at least that side deal with Comcast seems to be paying off: The monthly ISP speed index on the company’s blog shows that Comcast has moved up another few notches to third place behind CableVision and Cox.

It seems the Office for iPad fans really were suffering until Microsoft released its official iOS tablet version of the suite in March. The suite have now rung up more than 27 million downloads in 46 days after its release.

muteAnd finally, Twitter has announced a new “Mute” feature that lets you temporarily turn off the tweets of somone you’re following.  With the U.S. midterm elections coming up later this year (and with them, the inevitable flowing poltical tweet-spew), this could prove to be a sharply timed and very popular feature. Well played, Twitter. Well played.