A very special episode of PTJ as we present the debut of our very own repertory theater troupe “The Pop Tech Jam Players”. Actor and poet Francis Mateo joins us for a scene from William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope. In the news Google Reader goes offline; Yahoo cleans house; Sprint pulls the plug on the Nextel Network; and Windows 8 gains traction.
Cue the funeral march —as promised, Google Reader has been taken offline earlier this week. A note on Google’s site says that you now have until July 15th to download a copy of your feed file for use with another service and after that, it will be permanently deleted.
Google is not the only one dropping old services. Yahoo announced that it too, was cleaning house, and is ditching a dozen products and projects so it can focus its attention elsewhere. Say goodbye to Yahoo’s FoxyTunes browser extension for media playback, Yahoo RSS Alerts, the once-popular-in-the-90s AltaVista search engine and a bunch of services most people have never heard of. The Nextel Network was powered off this week as well.
While Google Reader and Nextel have gone down, Windows 8 has gone up — to slightly more than 5% of the worldwide desktop operating-system market as of June 2013, according to Net Applications. As Windows 8 gains more users — possibly excited by Windows 8.1 coming out as a free downloadable upgrade this fall — the system is getting more apps from developers and the Windows Store just passed the 100,000 apps mark this week. Oh, and Microsoft’s Zune replacement service, Xbox Music, now works in many desktop Web browsers.
Twitter is experimenting with a new feature that links standard tweets to Web stories where those tweets were mentioned or embedded. (When asked, Twitter did not comment on the feature at the time, leading many to believe they were, you know, field-testing and stuff.)
Apple plans to power a new data center in Reno, Nevada, with a solar panel farm that can provide 18 to 20 megawatts of power. In other Apple news, people who notice trademark filings report that Apple has registered the name “iWatch” in a number of countries, including Japan, Russia, Mexico and Taiwan.
Also on the topic of privacy: the Federal Trade Commission’s revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act went into effect this week. The new rules address modern matters and close a loophole allowing third-party plug-ins to collect children’s information without parental consent.
In hardware news that does not involve wrist-wear or fancy spectacles, Hewlett-Packard is reportedly working on its own smartphone — Android this time instead of the late Palm/web OS system. And the chief technology officer of Mozilla said the company plans to make a Firefox OS-powered tablet computer ASAP.
Finally, if you need a cheap computer, consider the JW-11, which costs less than $80 and runs on an ARM processor. The system officially supports Android, but it can run Linux, too. And you know, you can get Google Reader replacements on Linux. Just sayin’.
Fresh off its announcement last week that it sold 10 million Galaxy S4 phones in the first month of release, Samsung is already aiming for another media moment. The company said this week that it plans an event for June 20th in London. Press invitations for its Samsung Premiere 2013 event have gone out and new Galaxy and Ativ mobile devices are expected.
Also on the other side of the Atlantic, Google Maps app has added cycling directions for six more European countries. Google first added maps for cyclists in 2010 with information for the US and Canada and expanded the feature last year to include the United Kingdom, much of Europe and Australia. Bicycles aren’t the only mode of transportation Google is dabbling with this week. The company also plans to use high-altitude blimps and balloons to build wireless networks in parts of Africa and Asia that do not have the infrastructure for more traditional methods of getting people online.
Microsoft has an updated console, the Xbox One, coming out later this year, but the new product has people talking about more than just the hardware spex. For instance, there was some confusion about whether the Xbox One will play second-hand games. After hearing a lot of swirl on the forums, a Microsoft representative did put out a statement saying used games would be allowed. (Sony had its own batch of Twitter protesters tweeting angrily this week about any attempt at enforcing digital-rights management restrictions for used games on its upcoming on PlayStation 4 console.)
Microsoft also had its share of privacy concerns and questions, due to the “always on” feature of the Internet-connected Xbox One console and its Kinect motion-sense controller. These issues involve data collection and Internet safety, and a German commissioner even went as far as to call the Xbox One a monitoring device. Among other things, Microsoft did confirm that the Xbox One system can be shut down completely. Other news outlets have also expressed concern over a patent Microsoft has filed for technology that tracks TV viewing habits through the Xbox One.
A vintage Apple I computer made in 1976 sold for much more than its original $666 asking price at an auction in Germany this past weekend. The Apple antique sold for a record $671,400 dollars to an anonymous collector.
Yahoo didn’t buy the old Apple, but it seems to be bidding on everything else. Not long after the company made the move to buy the Tumblr blogging service, All Things D and other sites are reporting that Yahoo is possibly buying the Hulu video-streaming service. Hulu had revenues of about $695 million in 2012, so it could bring in some cash and help pay off that big Tumbler bill.
More new things are on the way. Mozilla is joining up with Chinese manufacturer Foxconn for a press event next week. The two have an announcement set for June 3 with speculation that a handset or tablet running the new HTML 5-powered Firefox OS could be in the making. Opera Software has released a beta version 15 of its Opera browser for Windows and Mac systems. The test version is officially known as Opera Next 15 and has been overhauled to run on Google’s Chromium engine for faster performance. (Opera has been working on its browser for 17 years, so it’s seven years older than WordPress blogging software, which celebrates its 10th birthday this week.)
Deustsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, said it plans to test small airborne surveillance drones with infrared cameras to photograph and hopefully prosecute people spraying graffiti on its rail depots. Yeah, can’t really see that sort of thing working here in New York City unless there was a Starfleet-size armada of drones — and then half of them would still show up for sale on eBay.
If you’re a fan of using peer-to-peer networks over your home broadband connection to get your entertainment, be aware that your Internet Service Provider is probably watching you. The “Copyright Alert System” went into effect this week after four years of planning. After six strikes, your service could be terminated and the Copyright Act also allows the user to be sued for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.
Remember the webOS? LG Electronics did not forget and has not acquired the system from Hewlett Packard. LG plans to use the system to power a new line of Smart TVs. LG was also making news at this week’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, showing off what it claims is the world’s smallest wireless charger.
Also in operating systems news… Mozilla’s Firefox OS platform has some takers also plan to develop hardware to run the open-standard HTML 5-heavy Firefox OS that makes the Web the platform — not the software on the phone. Twitter is another company with an eye on the Firefox OS. A blog post on the company’s site outlines plans for an HTML 5 version of its mobile app that will be ready when the hardware starts showing up. Twitter also updated its app for the Windows Phone platform this week.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 phone will be introduced on March 14th at a press conference here in New York, the rumors are circulating of production problems. Power-management issues and overheating have been mentioned on tech blogs, so maybe the phone needs its own internal diagnostic app, much like the a built-in app to monitor aspects of your personal heath. But while the new Galaxy phone is still under wraps, Samsung did announce its new Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet. (It’s also a very large smartphone.)
As part of a legal settlement, Apple has agreed to pay $5 in cash or iTunes credit to parents who sued the company because their kids could easily make hundreds of dollars worth of in-app purchases for supposedly free games. In other Apple news, security researchers have found another passcode bypass hole in the iOS 6.1 software.
Google may be developing its own subscription music service, according to reports from Bloomberg news and other sources. And Microsoft has officially released Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7, for those who were waiting around for it.
Meanwhile, up on Mars, the Curiosity Rover has eaten part of the first rock-powder sample from its February big drilling adventure. Once ingested, the rover’s internal labratories can begin to analyze the sample to see just what Mars is made of.
Curiosity has 10 science instruments on board. As part of the rover’s two-year prime mission, these tools will be used in tests to see whether that particular area of Mars ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life — so in goes the drilled powder sample. But what wine do you even pair with fine Martian rock dust? I’m gonna go with maybe a nice Cabernet Franc…