Tag Archives: Federal Communications Commission

PTJ 234: Winging It

Facebook scrambles to blunt the effects of fake news on the United Kingdom’s upcoming election, John Oliver and his fans have suggestions for the Federal Communications Commission, Amazon’s been busy and could a fried-chicken sandwich be headed for space? El Kaiser and J.D. chew through this week’s headlines and Don Donofrio drops by with an Apple status update. All this and more on Episode 234 of Pop Tech Jam!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 230: Siren Songs

Things got loud last week down in Dallas, but it wasn’t just at a Mavericks game as hackers managed to set off every public-safety alarm in the city and freak out a lot of people. Meanwhile, a Russian spam king got collared, a new version of Windows 10 rolled out and Google confronted accusations about a gender pay gap at the company. This week’s episode also features the welcome return of journalist Laura M. Holson to the Pop Tech Jam recording table as she offers insight on her recent story about John Dean, the White House counsel back in Richard Nixon’s Watergate days — and a discussion on how some things never change.

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 229: Private Investigations

Protections for consumer privacy and data collection took a hit this past week, as regulations were rolled back into nonexistence — sending some concerned Netizens to software they hope will help shield their online activity.  The big question: Does it work?

Meanwhile, Yahoo and AOL take an Oath, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 reveals some enviable features, Amazon finds yet another way to get your cash and Google tries to make sure perfectly nice advertisements don’t end up on hateful YouTube videos.  Join El Kaiser and J.D. as they discuss it all in Episode 229!

Links to Stories in This Week’s Show

PTJ 220: Lost Worlds

Politics body-slammed the tech world this week, cyber-criminals have figured out yet another way to rip off unsuspecting victims and an enterprising young archaeologist has come up with a way to let volunteers help look for lost ruins from the comfort of their own homes. And when El Kaiser and J.D. finish the news, it’s time to pour one out for the Father of Pac-Man. Welcome to Episode 220!

PTJ 219: Blue Skies

Samsung thinks it’s solved the mystery of the exploding Note 7, Sprint grabs a new business partner, SpaceX returns to work and oh, cars might fly soon. On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. dive into a pile of tech-news headlines before Apple-watcher Don Donofrio drops by to discuss the company’s 2016 efforts.

PTJ 208: Safety Patrol

The crisp fall air has returned to the Northeast, as do memories of sipping apple cider in front of a roaring fire. Unfortunately for some, the only fire around was coming from their replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones…

On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. wrangle the week’s headlines, including the latest from the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Inferno, a new coat for Microsoft Paint and Sprint’s efforts to close the digital divide for low-income high-school students. El Kaiser discusses proper electronics safety and J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on how to find out what other household products might be problematic. Now, where are those marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers?

Lithium-Ion Battery Information

Battery University
• Why Lithium Batteries Keep Catching Fire
• How Lithium-Ion Batteries Work

Links to This Week’s News Stories

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Fast Living

It’s not just the gamers and the streamers clamoring for more pipe. Some national governments have even recognized that high-speed broadband is becoming increasingly important to a nation’s economic and cultural growth — just check out the Federal Communications Commission’s annual checkup or even the Queen of England announcing that “measures will be brought forward to create the right for every household to access high speed broadband” in her speech at the State Opening of Parliament last month.

On a more personal level, with more of our home entertainment coming from streaming media — and more of it in increasingly high-definition — keeping an eye on our network speeds is vital to a good, unbuffered experience. Netflix, one of the major video-streaming sites out there, knows this.

Not wanting to take heat for slow-connection choppy streams that aren’t its fault, the company has been regularly posting its monthly ISP Speed Index rankings for the United States (and the other subscriber countries) based on its own calculations on its official blog. Last month, Netflix even went so far as to release its own Internet speed test tool.

Unlike other well-known broadband-speed testing sites like MegaPath’s Speakeasy, BandwidthPlace, SpeedOfMe or Ookla’s Speedtest.net, Netflix’s testing site only measures download speed. However, it also isn’t slathered in advertisements and doesn’t use Adobe Flash.

The site is just a simple page with a logo, white background and big numbers that tell you how fast data can download to your home over your broadband connection. It’s also got a memorable URL: https://fast.com. A small link on the main page gives you a chance to cross-reference your result with Ookla’s Speedtest site.

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Now, some people claim that Internet speed tests are rigged because the ISP’s give them a fast lane when they sense a request from one of the testing servers, and that may be true in some cases — especially if you use a speed-test page provided by your own service provider. You may also get varying results depending on the time of day, the general state of Internet congestion and activity on your own network.

But keep testing, use different test sites and various times of day and let your ISP know when you’re not getting your advertised rate. Even if it’s a technical problem on your end like a weak connection or frayed cable, you want to make sure you get what you’re paying for because reliable broadband is an important part of modern life. Her Maj thinks so, too.

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PTJ 190 News: Hot Topics

Funny how that happens: Facebook has gone from curating Trending Topics to being one itself. Late last week, Gizmodo put up a post about how Facebook handled the actual people — mostly journalists — who were hired to curate the site’s news feeds and how those people were treated. That was last week.

This week, Gizmodo has another post up, as several former Facebook contractors came forward to say they manipulated those news topic feeds by suppressing stories that may have appealed to conservative readers.  All this brought out a statement from Facebook Trending Topics product manager Tom Stocky, and soon, an update from Gizmodo: “Several hours after this report was published, Gizmodo editors started seeing it as a topic in Facebook’s trending section. Gizmodo’s video was posted under the topic but the “Top Posts” were links to RedState.com and the Faith and Freedom Coalition.”

Still, some conservatives are really mad about this and would like to discuss it further. Perhaps in a Congressional hearing.

Amazon continues to branch out. The übermegaeverything store has just launched a new service called Amazon Video Direct that aims to take a bite out of YouTube. Spotify is also diving deeper into the world of video, with execs there telling Bloomberg News it’s making 12 original series as a way to bring in new customers.

camResearchers at Purdue University say they have developed the prototype for a  new system that would allow law enforcement officials and public-safety agencies to tap into the feeds of thousands of cameras used by city and state governments along highways, as well as around national parks, construction sites, parking garages and other public venues. This new system would work with the existing closed-circuit security cameras already available to authorized personnel. The project, dubbed “Analyze Visual Data from Worldwide Network Cameras” won a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Speaking of surveillance, Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope has announced that it’s adding a search tool to find contents, the ability to save broadcasts beyond a 24-hour period and for previously recorded events and support for drones to beam their streams from above.  Also in drone news, a collation of groups that includes the United Parcel Service Foundation, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, and startup drone-maker Zipline are coming together for a project that will be delivering vaccines and other medicine to those who desperately need them in Rwanda. Good job, drones!

googGoogle is ever-experimenting with its products and some observers recently noticed the Search Giant was trying out a new color scheme for its search results page. Google says it likes to experiment.

Apple’s earnings may have been down the other week, but the company is not alone in weaker sales figures. Shipments of personal computers and tablets worldwide were down 13 percent for the first three months of this year, dropping to a level analysts say they haven’t seen since the second quarter of 2011.

The creator the Siri virtual assistant seems to have found a way to pass the time after selling the software to Apple. At the TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York this week, developer Dag Kittlaus demoed his new artificial intelligence system called Viv for the crowd and said the new system wants to be “the intelligent interface for everything” and that it could “breathe life into the inanimate objects of our life through conversation.”

The mobile version of the Opera browser is giving a little love to iOS users. The company announced its new, free Opera VPN app that lets its users jump onto a virtual private network to disguise their true locations. Opera VPN also blocks tracking cookies.

The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission want your mobile device to be safe from malware. Both agencies issued statements this week saying they were looking into security practices and said they’ve sent letters to the major mobile carriers and eight mobile device manufacturers. The letter from the FCC to carriers asks questions about the companies’ process for reviewing and releasing security updates while the FTC asked the mobile device makers to give them a report on how they send out security updates to patch vulnerabilities in smartphones, tablets and other devices.

Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 is now running on 300 million active devices and reminds everyone that its free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends this July 29th. For those who spurn the offer now but want to update later, Microsoft said those people can get Windows 10 after July 29 by either paying $119 for it or buying a new machine. So there.

And finally, SpaceX has done it again – this time completing what was called its hottest and fastest landing yet, as it successfully set down one of its reusable rocket boosters on a drone ship at night. Before it happened, SpaceX itself was unsure of the mission’s chances, noting that the landing was “unlikely” — and using a barge called “Of Course I Still Love You” as the booster’s target. However, once the booster nailed it, company founder Elon Musk issued a series of excited tweets, including one that said “Woohoo!” and another that said, “May need to increase the size of rocket storage hanger.” Congratulations again, SpaceX!

PTJ 188 News: Medieval Times

It’s felt like a blast from the past lately with all the big players in the airline industry, publishing business and now the telecommunications world merging themselves into near-monopolies. This week, the Department of Justice — with conditions — approved the marriage of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications. The Consumerist blog took a look at what the merger means and came up with a few salient points to think about.

In less-worrisome TV and video news, the Turner company, the force behind the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, is teaming up with the Criterion Collection folks for a brand new streaming service called Filmstruck. With such a cinephile pedigree, however, it’s doubtful you’ll be able to find newer classics like Paul Blart, Mall Cop in the Filmstruck library.

filmstruck

Spotify spokespeople have denied the site was hacked this week, but according to TechCrunch, some actual Spotify users have reported that their account emails had been changed or their list of saved songs had been altered. And Forbes is reporting that the personal information from 1.1 million members of the BeautifulPeople.com dating website is up for sale in the dark corners of the web.

Amazon is just not having any paid or fake reviews for products on its site. The übermegaeverything store filed a lawsuit last week against several sites that offered to write glowing reviews in exchange for a fee.

YouTube has overhauled its mobile apps for Android and iOS with a new focused design and improved recommendation engine to keep you watching more videos. The service also rolled out new six-second bumper ads to complement rather than replace the current formats it sells to advertisers and yes, you cannot skip the bumpers.

youtube

Many members of the tech press recently observed the one-year anniversary of the Apple Watch . A few noted that sales for the Watch were actually better than the iPhone’s first year of sales back in the day, some 12 million watches compared to six million phones. While some lamented the fact they every ponied up the bucks for the expensive digital timepiece, others were hopeful that the next generation of the product — which may include its own cellular chip and more functions to separate it from the iPhone — may fare better. Perhaps we’ll see in September.

Apple, of course, refused to comment on any speculation about future products, but the company did have a media moment this week with its quarterly earnings report to investors. Although the company knew it was coming, it did have to report its first quarterly loss since 2003 thanks to shrinking iPhone sales. And in one more Apple note, the FBI says it actually knows so little about how that terrorist iPhone was cracked a few weeks ago that the agency says there shouldn’t be an internal review to decide if it should tell Apple how it was done.

Although Facebook tried a stand-alone camera app a few years ago only to kill it off due to lack of user interest, the company seems to be trying again. Reports describe a prototype for an app that would open to a camera and that users could record video and share live streams as well as snapping photos. The Wall Street Journal does say that its sources have not confirmed this latest go at a camera app is a done deal for Facebook.

photoNokia, which many people forgot still existed after Microsoft bought its phone handset business a few years ago, is still in business. And with that, Finland-based Nokia announced this week that it plans to acquire Withings SA, a company that makes digital health products like blood pressure monitors and wireless gadgets to monitor one’s body.

Speaking of Microsoft, that company pushed out a public preview of its new Skype for Business software for the Mac this week. If you are so inclined (or bored), you can request an invitation from Microsoft to participate in the preview program.

SpaceX, which had a successful landing of one of its reusable rocket boosters the other week, is lining up for another go. The company plans another launch and hopeful landing of a Falcon 9 booster rocket on May 3 to send up a Japanese communications satellite.

And finally, there’s a battle raging at the Unicode Consortium, the organization behind the standards for converting typed characters and pictographs into code that all computers can read. It seems battle lines have been drawn between academics and scholars who want official Unicode characters for things like medieval Cornish punctuation and those who want to create emoji for things like stuffed flatbread sandwiches.

punct

If you feel strongly about either side of the argument, you can weigh in financially with the Unicode Consortium’s Adopt a Character to sponsor your favorite Unicode character, which in turn helps the non-profit Unicode Consortium continue its work. And perhaps a compromise between the two warring tribes can be reached . . . a proper Cornish pasty emoji, anyone? Anyone?

PTJ 185 News: Punt, Pass and Kick

Ten years old and busting some moves on the field: Twitter caught a deal to stream 10 NFL games globally this coming season. The bird-themed microblogging service paid a reported 10 million dollars for the rights to stream these Thursday night gladiator matches for the cord-cutting population. Are you ready for some football — with lots of commentary and trolls?

Amazon has the 8th generation of the Kindle waiting in the wings, but the news didn’t come from the rumor blogs. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos teased the news himself over Twitter this week. Amazon also looks to be taking a piece out of PayPal by extending the reach of its Amazon Payments service. The company has announced its Amazon Payments Partner Program will be available to e-commerce platform providers in several countries..

The Federal Communications Commission is taking a cue from the Food and Drug Administration and has come up with information labels for broadband and mobile service that look just like those black-and-white nutrition labels you see on food.  Although the agency is not making these labels mandatory for service providers, the FCC’s current Net Neutrality rules do require the ISPs to be more transparent in their dealings with consumers.

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WhatsApp announced this week that it’s turned on full end-to-end encryption. The move locks up communications between the service’s billion users tight enough so WhatsApp employees and government watchers can’t peek. Your move, guv’ment.

That expected Sony PlayStation 4 update arrived this week. That’s the update with the remote play function for Windows and Mac and other social features.

Microsoft’s annual Build conference for developers was out in San Francisco last week. The event seemed to please developers, as Microsoft announced programmers could use the Ubuntu Linux BASH shell on Windows and the Xamarin dev tools are now free. Presentations at the Build conference also highlighted intelligent AI apps, bots, digital ink and this year’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which features enhancements to Cortana and other elements of Windows 10. (Not reported at the conference, however, was the trial run of Outlook Premium service.)

NASA is getting in on Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality system. The agency announced a new exhibit called “Destination: Mars” scheduled to open this summer at the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Guests will get a holographic tour of Mars from retired astronaut Buzz Aldrin and explore several sites on the red planet that were reconstructed using real imagery from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover.

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Umbrella-shaped Google parent-company Alphabet is not endearing itself to some of its customers. Reports around the web say Nest, (the smart-home component of the Alphabet empire), is kicking and bricking a bunch of older devices deliberately. The smart-home devices in question were made by Revolv, That company recently announced in its site that it was shutting down as of May 15 and its app and smart-home hub will no longer work.

Google just pushed out a pretty chunky over-the-air patch for the Android system as part of its April Security Bulletin.  Apple has issued a patch for iOS 9.3 that was intended to correct that little crashing Safari links problem. However, an independent security researcher has posted a video and description of a bug he says the new 9.3.1 patch brings with it. As several sites have pointed out, until a proper patch arrives. the quick fix for now is to turn off Siri from using the phone’s Lock Screen. Cue iOS 9.3.2…

The Starz cable TV channel has joined the stream team. If you want to watch Outlander, Black Sails or any other Starz content on your Android or iOS device without having to get a cable subscription, you can get it for $9 a month a la carte.

ThinkGeek.com had its usual roster of stellar fake April Fools products last week,  including a Star Trek White Noise Machine. Quilted Northern went viral with a video about rustic-weave artisanal toiler paper. The Epic Fail award for 2016, however, goes to Google, for slipping in an animation featuring one of those yellow Minions characters dropping a microphone that unfortunately got into many serious and professional messages send by Gmail used. Google has apologized.

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And finally, two items of note from Department of Making Things Easier to Understand. First up, the MIT Media Lab has created a new site called Data USA, which tries to make public government data on a variety of subject easier to view and mentally process. Second, Facebook announced this week it was using artificial intelligence software to create automatic alternative text that describes the contents of photos for blind and visually impaired users with screen reader software on their iOS devices. The auto alt text is rolling out in English for iOS users first, but more languages and platforms are expected soon. But how will Facebook’s picture describing software software be able to withstand the the “Chihuahua or Muffin” meme?