Tag Archives: Fire TV

PTJ 249: “Alexa, Activate My New York Comic Con Badge!”

It’s not just the abundance of pumpkin spice revving up the Big Apple air the first week of October — it’s the buzzy excitement of New York Comic Con returning once again to the Jacob K. Javits Center on the west side of Manhattan for four days of high-octane pop-culture fun. J.D. gets an insider’s view of the expo from Rich Bernatovech and Jamie Fay, two local comics creators who’ve been attending the event for years. This week’s episode also features a ramble through the recent tech headlines — including Amazon’s avalanche of Alexa gear — and a certain El Kaiser who’s more than a little leery of Apple’s new Face ID technology. Bang! Pow! Play!

Links to Stories on This Week’s Show

Interview With Rich Bernatovech and Jamie Fay

PTJ 174: iOS Gaming and Big Bang Data

So much going on we had to supersize the show this week! El Kaiser reviews the Steelseries Nimbus wireless game controller, the first controller that officially supports the 4th generation Apple TV. J.D. is back from her jaunt across the pond and reports on a museum exhibition that explores how the “datafied” world affects us all.

We also revel in the Big Stupid with a special segment on the silliest gadgets displayed at this year’s CES extravaganza in Las Vegas and the 25 worst computer and Internet passwords.

Don’t despair, we also offer up a huge chunk of the latest tech news, now with extra snark.

PTJ 160 News: Vroom Vroom

Well, well, well… According to a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Apple is committed to producing an electric car and aims to have it tooling down the road by 2019. So I guess we’ll pencil in that grand demo for September 10th, 2019, eh?

pencilThe stuff that Apple did announce on this past September 9th is finally starting to roll out. iOS 9 hit the download channels last Wednesday and already has a 50-percent adoption rate among users with compatible iOS devices. The second version of the Apple Watch OS also arrived this week after a short bug delay. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus begin to land in stores and delivery trucks on Friday. The 4th generation of the Apple TV is due out in late October (even though iFixit has already found one and torn it down to see how it works) and the iPad Pro with the optional $100 Pencil is due in November. Apple is also issuing the rare refund in its App Store after the creator of the $3 Peace ad-blocker for iOS had second thoughts over ethics and yanked his app .

kindleAmazon is not letting Apple grab all the TV and tablet press, though. Last week, the company announced a new gaming edition of its Fire TV box, and an update to its Fire TV box that brings 4K streaming and the Alexa voice-controlled assistant. Amazon also rolled out a version of its Fire tablet for less than $50, beefier upgraded hardware for its other Fire tablet models and well as a $100 Kindle Fire tablet for kids. Choices, there are choices.

Dot-Com Collapse II on the way, or just a little wobble? Collective discounts site Groupon announced this week that it was cutting 1,100 jobs and closing down operations in at least seven countries as part of a restructuring plan. And Oyster, the so-called Netflix-for-reading company announced it was shutting down its e-book subscription service it launched in 2012. According to Re/code, however, a number of Oyster employees are headed to Google to shore up the Google Play Books store

Speaking of Google, the company just updated its Wallet app for iOS. Like the previously released Android app, the revamped Google Wallet now emphasizes sending money to friends instead of paying for merchandise in a store.

office16Also revamped and updated: Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows. It’s available to Office 365 subscribers who are paying $100 or $70 a year after the free trial period. The Home & Student edition is also available as a one-time purchase for a price of $150. Microsoft is also making its Office 2016 for Mac available for a one-time purchase. (Some people, however, prefer LibreOffice, iWork for iCloud, Google Docs or even Office Online.)

beretIn legal news, the French government agency that regulates data has rejected Google’s appeal in the right-to-be-forgotten. At this stage of the process in the French legal system, Google has no legal possibility to appeal the order and may have to pay a fine if it doesn’t comply. Russia is also mad at Google and accused the company of violating Russian anti-monopoly laws earlier this month. Penalties may ensue there as well.

vinylPandora is having a better time of it with legal matters. The music-streaming service said it was pleased that the U.S. Copyright Office agreed that Pandora’s agreement with Merlin Network, a global rights agency for independent musicians, was admissible as a benchmark in royalty proceedings. A panel of three judges known as the Copyright Royalty Board has been working on setting royalties for Internet radio and is expected to have a decision in mid-December. (Also in the music world, the Recording Industry Association of America reports that while total revenue was essentially flat for the first half of 2015. Vinyl sales were rising, though!)

And finally, the Onion humor site, which started the ClickHole spin-off for goofy viral video, is having a go at the countless celebrity gossip sites online. The Onion’s new site is called StarWipe. Decked out with hot pink and bright blue accents, Star Wipe currently features such headlines as “Emmys Photos We Can’t Stop Staring At Even Though We’re Supposed To Be Controlling Air Traffic” and “Rihanna Says She And Taylor Swift Have Different Fan Bases, Has Clearly Never Been To University Of Missouri Party.” StarWipe is just starting out and still has a way to go to top some of ClickHole’s triumphs like “Yes! Ham Goes Up an Escalator.” Oh, let’s watch that one again shall we?

10 Things We Talked About in 2014 That Will Be Even Bigger in 2015

    It wasn’t just us — nearly four million people took the time to file comments on the Federal Communication Commission’s website in the summer and fall of 2014. Larger corporations who do not want to see their businesses regulated are pitted against consumers, advocacy groups, digital-rights organizations and smaller companies who think the Internet should stay the way it is — and remain free and open. The FCC’s new rules are expected by February, so stand by for more chatter in the new year.
    The Sony Pictures Hack got a lot of press, but it was only one of many high-profile intrusions in 2014. JPMorgan Chase and The Home Depot also had hacking headlines, all on the heels of 2013’s big Target data heist. It all continues to be a big financial payoff for fraudsters, so batten down the hatches for 2015.
    Yes, if big corporations had better security, maybe they wouldn’t get hacked as severely, but remember, security is an issue for everyone. The Heartbleed bug and the Shellshock vulnerability were just two incidents in the past year in which our everyday computer systems were proven not to be as secure as we thought. Apple has even resorted to an automatic patch for a recent clock bug to make sure people were protected. So stay on guard  and keep on patchin’.
    Yes, we saw a lot of smartwatches hit the stores in 2014, but they were all trying to get out ahead of the Apple Watch, which was announced last fall and is expected to go on sale sometime before the end of March. Fitness trackers, like the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit line saw some action, too. It’ll be interesting to see if the fancy watches impact their sales in the new year, or of fitness and fashion shall remain divided. (And don’t forget — Google Glass is still lurking out there as well in the wearable world.)
    Again, Google Wallet and a couple other mobile payment systems were already there, but Apple dropped Apple Pay into its new hardware, and that’s all people want to talk about. Apple Pay was not without backlash, though, as some stores like CVS and Rite Aid opted not to take Apple’s system because they had one of their own in the works (hel-lo, antitrust investigation). But the drugstores’ CurrentC system is not off to a great start security-wise and it’s already had an email database breach of its own.
    Ah, devices all connected together into one big Internet of Things. As one might expect, there’s a massive push for connected-home stuff at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Expo next week. We’ve already seen connected light bulbs and thermostats get some attention in 2014, so get ready for more things talking to other things.
  1. 4K VIDEO
    Ultra high-def TV sets were all the rage at CES last year, but now prices have dropped far enough so that regular people who are Not Multimillionaires can afford some of the new models. YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are starting to stream some content in 4K, and new smartphones with faster processors that can handle 4K vid (like the Snapdragon 810) are on the way so more people can shoot their own UHD movies.
    As more women enter traditional male strongholds, like the fields of computer science or massively multiplayer videogames, some (but not all) men are feeling threatened by the changing world and lashing out protectively. Message boards, personal communication and even organized efforts like the so-called GamerGate incident have shown some uncivilized behavior towards women, who for their part, are starting to stand up and fight back — even getting coverage on the front page of The New York Times. America’s volatile year with racial issues has also spilled over into the online world, with tirades in social media and even snide remarks about a black stormtrooper in the Star Wars trailer. But people are rising above it and using technology as a tool to make a difference. Take for example, Feminist Hacker Barbie or the way social media has been used to organize peaceful protests efficiently and bring people together for to work for change. There’s still a long way to go, but things are shifting and will continue to do so.
    2014 saw more ways than ever before to stream video conent to mobile devices. Even though some companies like Aereo bit the dust in court, others like HBO have made the jump to free their programming from cable packages and make it available in standalone apps and services. New hardware like the Amazon Fire TV box and Stick — along with the growing adoption of existing products from Roku, Google and Apple — have made it cheap and easy to stream Internet video to the big screen. Online video streams to all screen sizes will only get more popular, especially as more Smart TVs with some of these services built in continue to get more affordable.
    Yeah, we talked a lot about Star Wars: The Force Awakens this year on the show. So imagine what it’s gonna be like when the movie actually opens on December 18, 2015.

Happy New Year!

PTJ 100: Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now

As we approached the century mark in episodes J.D. and I considered all the cool things we could do to mark the occasion. Sky divers, bouncy castles, and a Blade Runner marathon were all discussed but in the end we decided to offer up what all of you have come to expect from us: tech news, helpful hints, product reviews and shenanigans. Thank you for sticking with us for these past 100 episodes and we look forward to serving up many, many more!

This week El Kaiser takes a listen to Bowers & Wilkins flagship P7 headphones and J.D. makes using your set top boxes a whole lot easier.

In the news, Facebook experiments with its users; the NSA takes a particularly strong interest in Linux users; protocols for the Internet of Things popping up like weeds;  Python is more popular than Java in schools; and The Beatles film “A Hard Days Night” gets the remastering treatment.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Remote Locations

Set-top boxes are great for streaming all kinds of new video from the Internet onto your TV screen, but have you ever noticed what a pain it is to enter network passwords or YouTube search terms by tapping around with the remote control? It’s like trying to type one letter at a time with a chopstick clenched between your teeth.

Most people are running the handy Google Chromecast stick from their phone or computer already, but what about those bigger boxes — the Roku, the Amazon Fire TV and the Apple TV? Thankfully, there are apps with virtual keyboards, like the Roku Mobile app for Android, iOS and Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone (shown below):


For those with an Apple TV parked on the entertainment center, Apple’s own Remote app (shown below) gives you much more control over the little black box than the thin silver stick that ships with it. Once you load up the Remote app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, you can control your Apple TV and iTunes library — and even type in search terms with the virtual keyboard.


The Amazon Fire TV has a remote with voice search for stuff Amazon sells. But if nothing but a real keyboard with clicky little keys works for you, you have other options. Logitech’s $150 Harmony Smart Keyboard Remote (shown below) works with the Roku box, the Apple TV and even the Fire TV now for good old-fashioned text entry; the keyboard also works with a lot of other stuff on your home-entertainment system. Apple TV owners can also pair up their Apple Bluetooth keyboards (or other Bluetooth keyboard models) to the set-top box and type away, perhaps without having to go buy additional hardware.


In addition to easier typing and navigation, using a remote app or keyboard offers another usability bonus: There’s less of a chance you’ll lose your mobile device or keyboard in the couch cushions.

PTJ 96: FIFA and Apple Have The World In Motion

FIFA’s 2014 World Cup tournament is set to kickoff in Brazil  in just a few days and J.D. tracks down the apps you’ll need to stay connected to the action.

What’s that you say? You’re looking for tech news too?  And you want it chunky and packed with snark? Well look no more my friends, J.D. and El Kaiser have you covered.

Apple unveils new versions of (don’t call it Mac) OS X and iOS 8 at their annual developers convention; Samsung launches its first smartphone running the long awaited Tizen operating system; Instagram is out with a new version of its mobile app;  US authorities say they’ve caused a disruption in the GameOver Zeus botnet; Comedian John Oliver unleashes Internet trolls on the FCC; Researchers create bakable robots; and the cast of the new Star Wars sequel finally gets around to casting more women.



BeepsWCIt’s a major event every four years, and it gets people around the world watching intensely. No, not the Olympics, not the ever-contentious US presidential elections, and not your favorite action-franchise sequel. It’s the World Cup, the preeminent men’s soccer tournament where 32 international teams battle it out over a month of matches for a big gold trophy and bragging rights as truly the world’s best team. This year, the tournament officially gets started June 12th with a match pitting host country Brazil against Croatia, and runs to the championship match on July 13th.


Serious fútbol fans have likely stocked up their mobile devices and browsers with everything they need to follow the trophy quest. If you’re new to the sport or just starting to follow it closely, you can find everything you need to know to keep up with the Cup on the Internet. Several third-party apps for following the sport are available in your local app store, but the people running the show (and the TV networks that will be broadcasting the event) have a bit of an edge when it comes to news, photos, and videos from the matches.

For example, FIFA, or Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the sport’s governing body and offers its official mobile apps for Android and iOS on its site (shown below). The FIFA site also has a PDF of the match schedules you can download of you like hard copy.


For those watching the international news, it should be noted that FIFA is having its share of controversy these days with allegations of match-fixing in the 2010 World Cup played in South Africa, and bribes made to FIFA officials to vote for Qatar as the host of the 2022 tournament. Social unrest over the cost of hosting the tournament and treatment of indigenous people are making headlines in Brazil as well, but the country’s leaders say the games will go on safely.

Here in the States, ESPN and its assorted sibling networks will be carrying the tournament in full. According to Sports Illustrated, “All 64 matches of the World Cup will be broadcast live and in high definition on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 in English, and on Univision broadcast and cable networks in Spanish.”

If you aren’t home or near a sports bar to watch, all 64 matches on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ABC will also be available on computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and connected devices through WatchESPN. If you’re not familiar with it, the WatchESPN app (shown below) is a TV streamer and you can get it for Android and Kindle Fire devices, Roku set-top boxes, iOS gadgets and the Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV box and Windows 8. (You do need a cable subscription and login from your service provider to make full use of the app.)


ESPN has also spiffed up its website for the occasion, rolling out its ESPNFC.com to cover the 2014 World Cup and other international football matches. And where you’ve got desktop, you’ve got mobile apps, at least for the major platforms. You can get the ESPN FC app (shown below) for Android, iOS, Ovi, Windows 8 and Windows Phone.  The UK versions are here.


The Univision Deportes app for Android (shown below) and iOS promises live streaming and 24/7 World Cup coverage, as well as other international league play after the big event. You can use the app in either Spanish or English.


The World Cup tournament will be over all too soon for many fans, the beautiful game plays on. Thankfully, the Women’s World Cup is right around the corner in 2015.

PTJ 95 News: Catching Fire

Amazon, which has been locked in a heated battle over e-book prices for weeks with book publisher Hachette, is hoping customers warm up to its new Fire TV box with a little taste of the action. The company’s website is currently running an offer for selected (and interested) users  can sign up for a free 30-day test drive with the Fire TV box .

The Oculus Rift technology may have a bigger future than just creating a virtual world for Facebook users. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, (club name: DARPA), has been experimenting for the past few years with using the virtual reality headsets for cyberwar training. The project is called Plan X and Wired has a detailed look at it.

Speaking of games, a new PlayStation 4 system update from Sony allows customers to download pre-ordered games in advance so you don’t have to sit there and wait for it to crawl down your wires on release day before you can play. Destiny, a first person shooter due out for the PS4 in September, is the first game to support pre-loading.

Spotify is telling its Android users of a security breach concerning user data and is advising people using its Android app to upgrade to a new version. Those using the Windows Phone or iOS apps are not affected.

Malware is everywhere, including on the Mac, and Google has just released an OS X upload client for its VirusTotal meta scanner. Elsewhere in the Googleverse, the company has added its Google Now-style Voice Search to its Chrome desktop browser. To get rolling with it, you just need to do a bit of setup, then point Chrome to Google.com. From your desktop, you can ask Google the same sort of questions you may ask your mobile device running the Google Search app.

checkbookThe spring shopping trend in the tech world continues. Intuit, maker of the personal finance mainstay Quicken has dropped $360 million for the mobile bill-paying app Check. (And yes, after weeks of rampant whispers, Apple sealed the deal with Beats this week.)

Rumors about Apple’s forthcoming announcements at next week’s World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco have already started to fly, and the Financial Times says its sources point to a new software platform for the “smart home.”  Apple does plan to livestream the keynote address next Monday at 10 a.m. Pacific.

The Internet of Things has raised all kinds of discussion, including excitement about the remote control of one’s home to security fears about appliance rebellion. For deep thoughts, consider the upcoming philosophy conference devoted to The Internet of Things. It starts July 3rd at York St. John University in England.

The audio software Pro Tools is partly responsible for a new compilation of unreleased songs by the rock band Queen. The album is mixed from unreleleased vocals by Freddie Mercury, the group’s late lead singer, and new instrumental tracks by living members of the band. Dr. Brian May, a guitarist, songwriter and backing vocalist for the group, as well as an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, recently confirmed the plans to The Guardian of London. The new album, tentatively titled Queen Forever, is due out by the end of the year.


And finally, if you like antique computers, want to feel old or like to see the kids confused by technology for once, check out The Fine Brother’s “Kids React to Old Computers” video that’s been lighting up YouTube the past few days. The 8-minute clip shows a variety of pre-teens trying to figure out how to use an Apple II-like PC. Kids, back in the Olden Days, we had green-on-black VDTs and 300 baud modems to connect to our BBS’s, uphill both ways. And, not to get philosophical about it or anything, we liked it.

PTJ 95: Another Rootin’ Tootin’ Good Time

The Pop Tech Jam crew couldn’t help getting their geek on over this past U.S. holiday weekend.

J.D. spent her time off digging up online Cultural goodies from the British Library and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art while El Kaiser tried valiantly to install customized versions of the Android mobile operating system onto his Samsung and Google branded devices.

In the news Amazon offers selected users the opportunity to sign up for a free 30-day test drive of the Fire TV set-top box ;  Oculus Rift technology may become an integral tool in the training of cyberwarriors;  Sony will allow customers to download pre-ordered games in advance for the PlayStation 4 game console; Intuit, makers of Quicken, goes shopping; technology paves the way for a new album from Queen with Freddie Mercury on vocals; and the Fine Brother’s “Kids React to Old Computers” video lights up YouTube.