Tag Archives: Facebook Messenger

PTJ 216: So Long, 2016!

After a tumultuous 12 months in tech, culture and politics, this annus horribilis (as many found it) is finally on the way out the door. On this last episode of the year, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss the week’s tech news before exploring the highlights, lowlights and other notable events of 2016. Thanks for listening this year, Jammers, and we’ll be back in 2017!

Links to This Week’s Stories

PTJ 205 News: Grab and Go

fireexWell, it’s a week later and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 problem continues to grow.  Two government agencies have now issued warnings about using the new device. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is urging all Galaxy Note 7 owners to stop using the phones and to power down and stop charging them. And the Federal Aviation Administration is strongly advising passengers not to charge, turn on or even pack any Galaxy Note 7 devices in checked baggage. Samsung, for its part, is stepping up efforts with a quick-fix Galaxy Note 7 over-the-air patch designed to stop charging batteries form overheating by limiting the maximum charge to 60 percent. (And a quick correction to last week’s, it’s not just 1 percent of phones affected by the recall, it’s all of them.)

Could Google be working on a new 7-inch Android tablet to replace the retired Nexus 7 line? Several tech blogs are reporting that’s the case. (“w00t!” say we all!)

Google has also been doing some software updates this week as well. The company updated the iOS version of its Google Photos app to include a feature that turns iPhone Live Photos taken on a 6s or later into animated GIFs that can be shared more widely. And there’s also a new iOS version of the Google Cardboard Camera app for taking 3D 360-degree virtual-reality photos that look cool in your Google Cardboard Viewer. Of course, an Android version of the app has been out for awhile now.

cardboard

Facebook has also updated its Messenger platform to be much more an e-commerce engine. One of the company’s blogs has announced that the site was quote “starting to roll out ads in News Feed that drive people to chat with your bot on Messenger.” You have been warned, people.

Apple doesn’t seem to be sitting still while Facebook takes all the advertising dollars, though. The iMessage app in the iOS 10 software that arrived this week now has its own app store where users can purchase things like stickers and games.

instagramInstagram announced this week that it was adding keyword moderation tool that allows users to block comments using specific words from appearing on posts.  Twitter, are you paying attention?

But speaking of Twitter, The Verge and other blogs are reporting that the bird-themed microblogging service’s previously announced plan to stop counting links, polls and other media in the 140-character limit will go into effect on September 19th.

In Windows 10 news, Sling TV has an official Windows 10 app available in Microsoft’s Windows Store. The app allows the streaming TV service to work with Windows 10 and the Cortana virtual assistant to organize one’s television watching on the PC.

Blue Origin, the space exploration company owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, showed off some new rocket designs to the public this week. The designs were very nice.

And finally, NASA is working on that problem that another asteroid may smash into the earth and wipe out more than dinosaurs this time around. We need more knowledge on the topic, so last week, the agency launched a robot explorer craft called Osiris-REX (short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer) toward the asteroid Bennu, where it will orbit for two years. Before they part ways, Osiris-Rex will use its robot arm to reach out and take a piece of the rock before it turns around and comes back to each with the sample in tow. Talk about your takeout…

PTJ 205: Throwing Sevens

After a week to process the big iPhone 7 announcement last week, technologist Don Donofrio returns to the show to discuss the good, the bad and the stuff Apple skipped this time around. In the news segment, El Kaiser and J.D. bring updates on the increasingly combustible Samsung Galaxy Note 7 situation, rumors of Google doing another 7-inch tablet and plenty of other non-Apple news from the geekosphere. Let’s roll the dice!

PTJ 186 News: Twist of F8

Microsoft, now Facebook, then Google and Apple: The developer conference season is in full swing. Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference took place in San Francisco this week, complete with live streaming sessions and announcements about 360 degree video — as well as bots, news distribution and marketing tools for its Messenger app.

Lots of Facebook/Messenger-related news was announced as well:  The Dropbox blog said this week that you can share files stored on Dropbox directly through and without leaving the Facebook Messenger; Ticketmaster says it will soon start selling tickets to concerts and other events directly on Facebook; and Fandango sent out an email blast about a new ticketing and movie-discovery bot for Facebook Messenger.

fandango

Speaking of that popular movie site,  Fandango completes its acquisition of the Flixster site this month, alerting users that the deal was done with an update to the privacy policy. Fandango agreed to buy Flixster, which comes with the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregation site, last February from Warner Brothers.

Less than a week after Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced it on Twitter, images purporting to be of the new Kindle Oasis e-reader popped up briefly on the Tmall.com website.

The Yik Yak social site, popular on college campuses for its easy anonymous posting ability, is said to be having some financial problems due to a slide in popularity, and this has generated an interesting post on the Medium site. It’s a good read  about what makes one app succeed and another app flop.

Microsoft seems to be makingWindows Blue Screen of Death errors easier to deal with, at least if a recent Windows Insider build of Windows 10 is any indication. Beta testers there have noticed the appearance of handy, scannable QR code on the Blue Screen of Death messages that when zapped by a smartphone QR app, takes you to a Microsoft help page to begin your troubleshooting journey.

bsod

The 9to5Mac site got a peek at a note from an investment firm that predicts Apple Watch shipments will drop by 25% in a year-on-year comparison with 2015. Time to developer that killer app now…

If you like making graffiti or ever had fantasies of being a football TV analyst where you get to draw on the video playback, Periscope has something for you. A new beta version of the live-streaming app owned by Twitter includes a tool that lets you draw on your video feeds.

After a series of unfortunate events including an exploding rocket on a resupply mission, SpaceX is back on track with both its cargo deliveries to the International Space Station — and its ability to reuse its rocket boosters. While the payload took off for the sky, the Falcon 9‘s rocket booster made a successful vertical landing on an ocean platform without falling over.

Its Dragon cargo capsule docked with the station on April 10th and brought with it 7.000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts stationed up there — including lettuce seeds, mice and an inflatable room called the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, or BEAM, for short.

BEAM1

Ransomware — malware that encrypts all the data on your computer until you pay up —has been making a comeback this year thanks to social engineering and the usual tricks, but the white hats are fighting back with a a decryption tool that can unlock files held hostage by the Petya ransomware. The decryption tool is a bit technical and probably not for the novice, but it’s a good punch in the fight against crime.

The State of New York is getting serious about distracted driving. A bill in the New York State Senate would require drivers involved in collisions to submit their phones at the crash site for analysis to see if they were texting while driving.

Also in New York, the U.S. Attorney’s office notified a federal judge in Brooklyn that the government plans to move forward with its request to make Apple help them unlock an iPhone related to a dealer in a local drug case. Encryption Wars, Round II.

Google is beta-testing its Voice Access accessibility feature that lets users open apps and navigate screens without using their hands. The beta test is full, but stay tuned.

And finally, while Google Glass may have bombed as a consumer product, the Internet-empowered eyeglasses have found fans with neuroatypical kids. Stanford University’s Autism Glass Project is using the Google specs as a learning aid for autistic teenagers trying to learn social interactions, emotions, recognize facial expressions or even make eye contact. Stanford researchers have created special software to use with the glasses and early results have shown improvement in social acuity for some participants. Perhaps Google Glass has found its mission at last.

stanford

PTJ 184 News: Never Mind

Well, after all that legal grandstanding and trying to force Apple to build a back door in its mobile operating system, the Justice Department went back to court this week to say: Never mind. Thanks to help from a third-party volunteer hacking specialist, the FBI says it is now rolling through the encrypted data that was harvested from the iPhone of the San Bernardino terrorist.

So now that the whole incident is over, what was it about? Some argue that corporate compliance is mandatory in this dangerous era of terror. Others, including famed NSA leaker Edward Snowden, have gone on record saying the FBI could have gotten into the phone on its own and the whole thing was about establishing a legal precedent. So, until next time…

Speaking of Apple’s iOS software, the company has acknowledged bugs in its recent 9.3 update. Patch on the way!

instagramInstagram’s previously announced move to using algorithms  in feeds has caused a bit of a panic in the Insta-community, so that’s why you’ve been inundated by people asking you to turn on notifications so that their posts will not get buried. No word on when that change to the system  going live, but Instagram did announce this week that it was increasing the maximum running time of posted video from 15 seconds to 60 seconds.

Twitter celebrated its 10th-anniversary last week and this week, the company’s Periscope app for live-streaming video celebrated its one-year anniversary from its official launch date. Periscope has reportedly been used for 200 million live video broadcasts and not all of them were Game of Thrones or House of Cards bootlegs.

People poking around in Facebook Messenger code say they’ve found evidence that points to the potential to make purchases in retail stores and fund them with Apple Pay, all without leaving the Messenger app. Facebook has made no announcements yet, nor on reports that it’s also working on Snapchat-like self-destructing messages called Secret Conversations. (But, while we’re talking bout Snapchat, that company has just released what it calls Chat 2.0, which lets users easily tap between text, audio and video chat.)

riftIn gaming news, reviews of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset are starting to pop up around the web, including one from Brian X. Chen at The New York Times who called it a well-built hardware system brimming with potential. However, the first wave of apps and software will probably only appeal to hard-core gamers.

Sony is also stepping up the graphics in its console games and said it plans to release an updated version of its PlayStation 4 machine later this year. The current PlayStation 4 model would stick around, but it would add a newer version with enough mojo to handle virtual reality and other visually intense gaming experiences.

Vimeo announced this week that it’s made some updates to its channel on the Roku set-top box. As explained in a blog post on the company site, you can now you can rent or buy films and video series directly from their creators right there on your Roku TV.

Audio-sharing site SoundCloud is also stepping things up with a new subscription service here in the States called SoundCloud Go.

Oracle is not happy with Google over a little matter of copyright and is suing the Big G for use of Java in the Android operating system. Oracle seeking 9.3 billion dollars in damages. Google, for its part, has other things on its mind this week, like its new Fiber Phone service, which brings unlimited and nationwide phone calls to homes with Google Fiber broadband service for $10 a month.

fiber

Yahoo’s financial woes have not gotten any better this year and the company announced it’ll be accepting bids for its web business and Asian assets. The Wall Street Journal reports the company has set an April 11th deadline for preliminary bids from interested buyers. Perhaps Yahoo can throw a few departments up on eBay.

And finally, if you don’t live in the States or you’re too broke to buy one of those handy Amazon Echo speakers that does your bidding when you give it verbal commands, you can build your own with an inexpensive Raspberry Pi barebones computers and a little time. Novaspirit Tech has a demo video:

Lest you think this is an unauthorized adventure, Amazon itself has posted its own instructions on GitHub for getting the hardware working with its Alexa Voice Service. So, if you need a summer project this year when you’re not picking up Yahoo properties at a weekend tag sale, consider the DIY Raspberry Echo.

 

PTJ 140 News: Cable Ties and Record Highs

After we recorded last week’s episode (of course), news broke that the Comcast deal to acquire Time Warner Cable was kaput. While those worried about cable monopolies were happy the Comcast deal was scuttled, not everyone was thrilled about it — namely Time Warner Cable customers who say their quality of service is so miserable, that a Comcast takeover surely would have been an improvement. The New York Times had a story this week that talked to a few of those desperate souls trying to watch Game of Thrones from the Tenth Circle.

Also in cable news, ESPN is suing Verizon for breach of contract over those slimmed-down channel bundles. Fox and NBC seem poised to board the USS Lawsuit as well.

Apple announced its quarterly earnings reports this week and announced a $13.6 billion dollar profit thanks to record-breaking sales of iPhones, Macs and apps from the App Store. But while iPhone sales were up 40 percent from later, iPad sales were down 23 percent. Trouble in Tablet Town? (That iPhone 6 Plus does have a pretty big screen, come to think of it…)

The iPhone 6 line and the Apple Watch are boosting the use of Apple Pay, and Discover is the latest credit-card company to join up with Apple for mobile payments. Best Buy has also added Apple Pay to its mobile app and said its retail stores will be accepting those phone-tap payments at the cash register later this year. And speaking of those Apple Watches that started shipping last week, the Slice Intelligence research firm estimates that only 22 percent of the 1.7 million pre-ordered Apple Watched actually shipped to customers last week.

LGurbaneBut as we all know, the Apple Watch is just one of many smartwatch platforms out there an the rest of them aren’t exactly sitting still. Last week, before Apple’s pricey timepiece began rolling out on FedEx trucks, Google announced an update to its Android Wear software that’s used by several hardware makers. The company outlined the new features, like support for WiFi-enabled watches, scrolling through news and notifications with the flick of a wrist, and the ability to launch apps with a tap on the watch face. Google said the new version of Android Wear would be arriving in the next few weeks to all seven watches that support it, and the fancy LG Watch Urbane (shown here) was first in line for the update. Stylish smartwatches aren’t the only devices LG Electronics is releasing this spring, as the company just revealed its new authentic leather-backed Android smartphone, the LG G4.

Google just added 70 cards to Google Now from its partner apps, so you can get more creepy helpfulness than ever before. Even more!

T-Mobile had some good earnings news of its own this week. Thanks to its inventive campaign of promotional offers and price cuts, the company added 1.1 million new monthly subscribers, which was more than analysts had predicted. Not everyone had good earninsg to report, though. Twitter’s stock price took a hit after a research company leaked the bird-themed microblogging service’s less-than-desirable quarterly earnings report.

SwiftKey, the popular alternative mobile keyboard app, is experimenting with a new variation that can correct multiple words or even whole sentences you’ve tapped out. The new edition is called the Clarity Keyboard and you can download the beta from the Google Play store now.

Microsoft got just smacked down by a judge at the US International Trade Commission who found that Microsoft was guilty of infringements on two wireless cellular patents held by another company called InterDigital Inc.  As a result of the ruling, Microsoft could see an import ban that would stop its devices from coming into the country and hinder Windows Phone sales even more.  The judgement needs to be reviewed, however,  and Microsoft is vowing to press onward.

tugsIn robot news, those clever folks at Stanford University have developed tiny robots that can pull objects up to 2,000 times their own body weight. The little wonders are called “MicroTugs” and in addition to physics and engineering, the Stanford scientists took some cues from the natural world and incorporated techniques used by hardy ants — as well as geckos with their conveniently sticky feet for traction and climbing. You can see videos of the wee robots dragging cups of coffee and climbing with a payload are on the department’s YouTube channel.

Facebook announced this week that Messenger makes the video calls from one mobile phone number to another phone number regardless of smartphone platform. And Facebook-owned Instagram has added three new filters and the ability to use emoji characters in hashtags. (Also, we have heard reports of Instagram having some crashing issues even when updating to the new app, so it’s probably them, not you. Or a bug.)

And finally, the death toll is in the now thousands from the horrific earthquake that rocked the country of Nepal this weekend. Countless people have been displaced and the country is reeling, but tech companies are pitching in to help:

itunes

Other new organizations have posted links to relief agencies and other organizations that are taking donations to help the people of Nepal. If you can, send help because we’re all in this world together.

PTJ 117: Amazon Fires Up El Kaiser’s TV

It’s clear El Kaiser is quietly amassing a collection of streaming set-top boxes that may one day rival his tablet collection. On this week’s episode he gives us his impressions of the Fire TV, Amazon’s flagship media consumption device and his latest gadget acquisition.

Also on this week’s show J.D. helps us keep an eye on our monthly mobile device’s data allowance .

In the news President Barack Obama urges the FCC to keep the Internet open; Alibaba rakes in billions on “Singles Day”; Facebook’s Messenger app is now being used by 500 million people; NASA rents out some space; high-level corporate executives get there computers hacked into over hotel WiFi; Microsoft Office is free tablets and phones; and DARPA works on computer code that writes itself.

PTJ News 117: Pay As You Go

Congratulations, Philae, for sticking the landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission! Good job! (Now, if only you’d landed before we recorded this week’s episode, but we’ll congratulate you in person next week.)

Back on Earth, more people continue to weigh in on the Federal Communication Commission’s pending decision on net neutrality. President Barack Obama issued a statement and a video this week urging the FCC to keep the Internet open. As reported by The New York Times and others, Mr. Obama has proposed reclassifying both wired and wireless Internet service as a Title II telecommunications service under the Communications Act of 1934. Some Republican leaders have already objected to the President’s proposal, including Speaker of the House John Boenher and South Dakota Senator John Thune of South Dakota.

cartIf you think the power-shopping  stretch from Black Friday to Cyber Monday makes money (more than $3.5 billion in the past), look east. This week, the Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba hosted “Singles Day,” named for its date of  11.11 and it took less than 18 minutes from the sale’s start  for Alibaba’s gross merchandise volume to hit $1 billion. The entire shopping event went on to make 8.5 billion dollars in one day, which is a heck of a lot of e-commerce.

FBMFacebook, which said it killed the messaging feature within its main app and forced users to download a whole separate Messenger because Mark Zuckerberg thought it would be a better experience, announced this week that said Messenger app is now being used by 500 million people. The other 500 million people on Facebook are probably still complaining about the company killing the integrated messaging function.

NASA has confirmed that it’ll be leasing out its historic Hangar One to Google’s subsidiary Planetary Adventures for $1.16 billion dollars over the next 60 years. The lease at Moffett Field also includes 1,000 acres of federal land, and Google has pledged $200 million dollars to restore the old naval-airship hangar and two others like it.

hotelAs reported in Wired, Kaspersky Lab has been researching what it calls the Darkhotel espionage campaign, in which high-level corporate executives staying in luxury hotels are tricked into installing malware over a compromised hotel Wi-Fi network. So it’s not just those prices at the mini-bar that are criminal. (And speaking of hacking, the computer networks of United States Postal Service were invaded this fall, with the personal data of 800,000 employees compromised.)

Microsoft Office for phones and tablets is now free. Well, a basic version of Office for iPad and soon-to-be-Android edition is free. If you want to do more than basic editing and viewing, you’ll need to sign up for Office 365. (The company also introduced its $200 subscription-based Work & Play Bundle this week. )

Meanwhile, Apple is close to opening a new office in Cambridge, England. The company recently hired five people from a defunct mapping company called Pin Drop based in London, so perhaps those international Apple maps will get better soon. And as TechCrunch and other blogs have noted,  Google announced a partnership with Oxford University on some artificial intelligence projects last month, so the Cambridge-Oxford rivalry could take on a new tech dimension real soon. (Apple also has a bit going on stateside with a new lawsuit over The Case of the Disappearing iMessages and a miraculous new tool that helps those still afflicted.)

Pliny_the_ElderAnd finally, DARPA, (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Rice University, (in Houston, Texas), are teaming up on an $11 million dollar project that could make writing computer programs much easier. A new software tool called PLINY — named for the Roman author and encyclopedist Pliny the Elder — is designed to serve as an autocorrect and autocomplete function for programmers, much like similar programs today that suggest and fill in search queries for the web. Let’s just hope it works better than the autocorrect feature in those early versions of iOS.

PTJ 103: Company’s Shopping and Records Dropping

This week we channel our inner AV club as El Kaiser reviews a USB headphone amp and digital to analog converter called the Dragonfly from Audioquest and J.D. takes a look at how to deal with DVD region codes. Yes, DVDs. You remember? Shiny disk that looked like CDs and every PC and laptop used to have a drive that could read them…

In the news Facebook officially splits off their popular Messenger feature; Foursquare looks to improve it’s new Swarm app; Yelp allows users to post videos along with their reviews; Google addresses another major Android security vulnerability; Apple goes shopping; Napster announces it has passed the 2 million user mark, Bose and Beats Electronics go toe to toe over noise cancellation; the Chinese government investigates Microsoft over anti-trust concerns; and the Mars Opportunity Rover breaks a record.

PTJ 89: Amazon Just Might Have Your Number

J.D. tells us how we can make a correction on a Google Map and  Pedro hopes The Big Apple finally gets its recommended daily allowance of Google Fiber. In the news, Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones;  Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps; Google purchases Titan Aerospace out from under Facebook; Samsung’s Galaxy S5 makes its official debut; Windows Phone 8.1 is getting raves; and a Linux distribution that leaves no trace on the host computer.