Tag Archives: Firefox

PTJ 268: Rock ‘Em, Shock ‘Em

El Kaiser and J.D. return from Spring Break and head right into the news of the week, which includes Spotify’s initial public offering, an iPad update from Apple, background information on the latest credit-card hack and this year’s collection of April Fools jokes by corporate America. J.D. also takes a look at the revamped version of Mozilla Firefox — and new changes on the way to make it a “mixed reality” browser. Come join us for Episode 268!

Links to Stories Discussed in This Week’s Episode

Firefox Rising

PTJ 254: Charge!

Net neutrality is on the ropes, Twitter is yanking back some of those Blue Badges of Verification, Project Loon is bringing Internet connectivity back to parts of Puerto Rico and Amazon’s cashier-replacement software is getting better. El Kaiser and J.D. ponder these stories and the rest of the week’s tech news. And don’t you just hate it when your laptop battery won’t old a charge anymore — or has conked out completely? This week’s (Hopefully) Helpful Hint discusses how to monitor your battery health and how to replace that power cell when the time comes. Episode 254 is just a click away!

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 181 News: Full Court Press

fccCould the digital divide in America be closing just a bit? The Federal Communications Commission has tweaked its plan for low-cost broadband Internet access and presented a proposal to its members this week that brings broadband service for $9.25 a month. The new broadband plan is an update to its 1985 Lifeline program to subsidize landline service for qualifying low-income consumers and the 2008 enhancement to the plan to include mobile-phone help. Lifeline has gotten the usual government-program charges of fraud, waste and abuse (and other gripes) from its detractors, like what counts as average broadband speed. The FCC countered by saying it does have some fraud-prevention measures. Some providers like Sprint don’t care for the proposed reforms to the Lifeline program, but a vote on the new system by FCC members is expected on March 31st.

Facebook is making its Instant Articles feature easier to use for people who aren’t even major media organizations. The company said a few weeks ago that it was opening up the Instant Articles feature to all publishers and this week, Facebook announced a new open-source plug-in for WordPress.  The opening of Instant Articles For All is expected to happen in time for the company’s annual F8 Conference in San Francisco next month. In an even more reassuring development, Facebook also awarded $15,000 to a hacker who demonstrated how he could use basic software to crack open the account of any user on the service. Yes, Facebook has since fixed the flaw in its system.

Mozilla, which recently bailed out, er, pivoted, on its Firefox OS for smartphones, is moving into the Internet of Things, where appliances rule the 802.11 airwaves. In a post on the Mozilla blog, the company outlined four new projects designed to integrate Firefox technologies into connected devices and asked for volunteers to help test out the new stuff. If you are a developer and are interested in working on any of it, check out Project Link, Project Sensor Web, Project Smart Home or Project Vaani.

In gaming news, Capcom is spanking players who rage-quit its Street Fighter V game by docking their League Points for bad behavior.  So there! And Microsoft it just announced it was canceling development of its Fable Legends game for Xbox and closing Lionhead Studios in the United Kingdom and Press Play Studios in Denmark.

sfV

Also over in the House of Microsoft, the company has now enabled Skype chat right from OneDrive when you are collaborating on an Office Online document and just have to talk it out with your co-authors. And whispers around Redmond say Microsoft has pushed back the next big upfate to Windows 10, codenamed Redstone 2 from later this year to until spring of 2017 to better align with new device hardware on the way. No comment from Microsoft so far.

There’s a reportedly nasty piece of OS X ransomware out there, looking to lock up your Mac until you pay up. The malware, called KeRanger, only affects the Transmission BitTorrent client installer. If you use the program, here’s a link to more information. If you don’t use the program, you can skip the freak-out.

craigIn other Apple-related news, the Department of Justice is appealing last week’s federal court ruling in Brooklyn that said the government could not use the centuries-old All Writs Act force Apple to unlock a user’s iPhone. And Craig Federighi (shown here), Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering and fabulous hair, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post explaining Apple’s stance in its ongoing fight with the FBI. Security experts have also weighed in on the matter in a recent Bloomberg News article that says the FBI should just hack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone themselves since it would be faster.  There’s also some worry that if the US government forces Apple to start unlocking iPhones left and right for security reasons, the European Union privacy regulators will delay their verdict on the EU-US privacy shield agreement. (In other not-so-good legal news for Apple, the Supreme Court has declined to listen to the company’s appeal for the e-book price fixing case. Cue the sound of a very large check being written.)

Also in Europe, Google, Indexer of the Past, is expanding the European court-ordered Right to Be Forgotten.  However,  Americans mortified by their pasts lurking online still have nowhere to complain, even though a consumer advocacy group petitioned the Federal Trade Commission last year to make Google allow us Yanks to forget our documented-and- digitized discretions as well.

Verizon Wireless is having its own issues with the concept of privacy. The Federal Communications Commission (clearly having a busy year so far) has slapped the telecom giant with a $1.35 million dollar fine and a a three-year consent decree to settle the case of the privacy-chomping supercookies that first surfaced in 2014.

fiWhen it comes to Internet service providing, Google is mainly known for its Google Fiber broadband, but the company also has a lesser-known cellphone service that piggybacks on Sprint and T-Mobile networks. It’s called Project Fi and the reason you may have not heard of it before is that it was invitation-only since it launched last year. But as of this week, anybody with a Nexus 6, 6P or 5X can  get Project Fi service. You just need to go to (where else?) the Sign Up page to get started.

Amazon, keeping an eye on Apple’s legal punch-up with the DOJ, has now weighed in and said it was going to restore the device encryption capabilities it just yanked out of its Fire OS 5 software. Amazon said it originally took out the feature because no one was using it, but has now decided to re-enable the feature in an update to the system this spring.

rayAnd finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam offer out condolences to the family of Ray Tomlinson, the programmer credited with the modern invention of electronic mail with the groovy little @ sign back in 1971. Mr. Tomlinson passed away last week at the age of 74. He was a member of the Internet Hall of Fame and said he picked the @ sign because it just “made sense.”  Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for setting the standard.

PTJ 166 News: Finding Space

Microsoft is very disappointed in your behavior, people. The company once grandly promised unlimited OneDrive cloud storage to its Office 365 users — but is now taking it away because a few users got a little greedy and backed up more than 75 terabytes of data each to Microsoft’s servers. New, lesser data plans are on the way for everyone now. Microsoft is also leaning on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to hurry and just upgrade already to Windows 10. Windows Update is pushing out the new operating system as an automatic update that could sprout on your system, if your PC is configured to install certain types of updates on its own.

Social media companies had a busy week: Snapchat is the latest service to revise its privacy policy and then scramble to explain itself in the user backlash.  Instagram has started its own curated video feed to snag eyeballs; themed clips are hand-picked and available under the Explore tab. And Twitter is following Facebook and changing Favorites to Likes, with a heart replacing the star icon.

Activision Blizzard is acquiring King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion dollars. Call of Duty and Candy Crush are in it together now.

cod

Mozilla just released Version 42 of the Firefox browser and touts the new privacy and tracking protections built into it. (Don’t panic.)

If you get lousy 4G LTE reception with your T-Mobile device, the company has a way to make it up to you. Big Pink is offering 4G LTE CellSpot mini cell-towers to its customers.

Amazon is going from clicks to bricks and opening up its first physical bookstore in Seattle this week. But while Amazon is getting physical with the retail, several sources report that Google is ditching plans to open its own store in New York City. Rents in New York are rather impossible these days, you know.

smartreplyGoogle took to its blog this week to say, no, no, no, we are not killing of the Chrome OS in favor of Android for laptops. The company also announced a new Smart Reply feature that actually answers mail for you with one of three calculated responses. Google’s Project Wing — better known as its drone-based package-delivery service — is scheduled to launch in 2017. The announcement came as part of an air-traffic control convention being held in Washington. Project Wing (not to be confused with Project Loon) was revealed last year. And while we’re talking about drones, aerial tech company DJI has just announced a new embedded computer designed for drones. It’s called the Manifold and it runs on Ubuntu Linux. Go, penguin, go!

Fans of the Plex media server will be happy to know there’s now a free version of the software that now works with the latest Apple TV. You can find it in the Apple TV app store.

This week marks the 15th anniversary of astronaut occupation aboard the International Space Station. Time flies — and so do the shuttles and cargo craft keeping the ISS going.

stAnd finally, we knew it wouldn’t stay away forever, but now Star Trek is returning to television — but in a new way. Instead of exploring space through standard network or syndicated broadcasts, this new show will be shown on the $6-a-month CBS All Access service. Will enough Trekkers pile on board to let CBS give Netflix, Hulu and Amazon a run for their money in the original content department? We’ll find out in 2017 when the series leaves port. The Star Trek franchise celebrates its 50th birthday in 2016, having debuted back in 1966. Yes, Star Trek will soon be eligible to join the AARP — and that roadside assistance may come in handy when the timing belt snaps on one of the Enterprise’s  impulse engines out in the middle of nowhere.

PTJ 150 News: Sorting It Out

Apple released an update to iTunes this week that’s intended to correct the “scrambled library syndrome” that afflicted some users after updating to iTunes 12.2. As described by a writer over at Macworld, the iCloud Music Library feature was completely “screwed up.”  While the damage was contained mainly to iTunes, it’s yet another instance of Apple pushing out buggy, untested software updates on its users. The iTunes 12.2.1 update is intended to correct these issues, but as the 9to5Mac site points out, be very careful when you’re going through your music library removing tracks that got infused with the copy locks so you don’t delete the unrestricted versions. Apple has a support document that tries to help.

justicedApple accused Amazon of getting the Department of Justice to do its bidding on e-book price fixing a few years ago, a case that Apple recently lost on appeal to the tune of $450 million dollars. But what comes around, goes around. This week, several publishing groups, including The Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, the Association of Authors’ Representatives and Authors United, sent letters to the Department of Justice asking officials to investigate Amazon in antitrust violations.  Amazon’s lawyers should be warmed up, as antitrust regulators in the European Union are already investigating the company.

Turmoil at the Reddit site continues to grow, as the firing of popular employee Victoria Taylor earlier in the month led to a user uprising, lots of misogyny and then the resignation of chief executive Ellen Pao. If that wasn’t enough of the drama llama, Reddit’s former CEO Yishan Wong came out with a post this past weekend that pinned Taylor’s firing on the site’s co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who let Pao take the heat for it. Reddit’s chief engineer Bethanye Blout also quit her job this week, saying she’d lost confidence in the company’s direction. Ohanian’s fellow co-founder Steve Huffman is now in the CEO chair.

gigabitproComcast’s leapfrog over Google Fiber in the speed department is big — and comes with a big price tag. The company’s Gigabit Pro service, which promises 2- gigabits per second of blazing download speed compared to Google Fiber’s 1-gigabit per second, will cost $300 a month. (If you sign on for a two-year contract, though, you can get it for the promotional rate of $159 per month, however.) But that’s not all. Fine print on the Comcast site says installation may take up to 6 to 8 weeks, and then come the installation and activation fees, which could be up to $500 each. Speed also kills your wallet, too.

Even if you have regular Comcast Internet service, though, the company is thinking up ways for you to give it more of your money — like with its new Comcast Stream service, announced this week.  For $15 a month, Comcast is promising a bundle of broadcast TV channels plus HBO and some on-demand movies, along with a cloud-based DVR. This would all be viewable on your computer or mobile devices, but as Wired points out, there is a catch — you actually have to be home using your Comcast Internet service to use Stream and only two devices at a time can use it simultaneously.  You also need to live in a Comcast Internet service area. The service is due out later this year starting in Boston, Seattle and Chicago.

flashAlso in the hot seat this week: Adobe Flash. Facebook’s security chief Alex Stamos issued a tweet earlier this week saying that it was time for Adobe to announce the end-of-life date for the security-addled multimedia software. Mr. Stamos’s death wish for Flash came after yet another security patch and warnings about other vulnerabilities just in the past week or so. Citing security concerns, Mozilla is also now blocking the all versions of Flash plugin in the current version of Firefox.

The end of the month is drawing closer, which means Microsoft is getting ready to go all out for its Windows 10 launch on July 29. (Worried about your software still working if you dare to upgrade? See if your stuff at least works with the Windows 10 Technical Preview over at the Windows Compatibility Center.)

marioAnd finally, gamers around the world are mourning the death of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Under his leadership at the company, Nintendo released the DS handheld, the Wii console and interactive toys. Mr. Iwata passed away from a bile duct growth this past weekend at the age of 55 and Nintendo fans took to social media in tribute. We here at Pop Tech Jam send our condolences to his family.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: A Confederation of Articles

Yes, there is a cubic buttload of stuff to read online, but you don’t have to skip that long article that looks sort of interesting because you’re slammed with work (or life) at the moment. Just remember your friendly Reading List feature or extension in your Web browser. With a read-later tool, you can quickly bookmark an article to a special area of your browser — and get to it when you actually have the time to sit down and read.

listIf you’ve never used a save-for-later extension, they’re easy to add to your browser. Your operating system may even have tools in place already. For example, Apple’s Safari browser has had a Reading List built into its OS X and iOS versions for the past few years. When you find an article you want to stash for later, tap the Share icon and then tap Save to Reading List. (On the Mac keyboard, press Command-Shift-D to add the open page to the Reading List.) To get to your saved articles in Safari, click or tap the Bookmarks icon and then select the Reading List icon, which looks like a pair of glasses. If you’re hooked into the same iCloud account on all your devices, your saved articles appear in the Safari Reading List on all your screens, so you can save an article on your iPhone on Monday and read it that night on your iPad.

Windows 8 has a similar Reading List app that you can get for your system, but even if your operating system doesn’t have such a tool built in, you can always add one on with a browser extension. These services usually require you to sign up for an account and then you can sync your saved articles across all your reading screens.

instapaperPocket is one such add-in, with versions for Chrome and Firefox that can sync articles to your mobile device. The Instapaper app (shown here) works for Android, Kindle and iOS,  and has desktop browser extensions to save articles to your Instapaper account. Readability, with its Android and iOS apps, is another comparable service. As a bonus, many of these services even offer a “reading view” that strips out all the clutter of ads and toolbars on the original page for distraction-free reading.

You have plenty of options in this area, so look around until you find one you like. And once you do, start marking those articles. You can even save stuff throughout the week and then go back to your long reads — on a quiet weekend morning over a cup of caffeine. Think of it as your own personally curated weekly reader and the civilized way to keep up with the world on the Web.

Browser History

It seems like Web browsers have been around forever. Along with email, a browser is probably the other piece of software that the average computer user fires up every single day. It’s part of the routine.

But browsers have come a long way since 1993, when Mosaic and Arena were the popular point-and-click windows to the World Wide Web. Yes, Netscape Navigator dominated the scene when it arrived in 1994 — the year before Microsoft launched both Internet Explorer and Windows 95. Internet Explorer v. 1 (shown here) was not much to look at, but then again, there wasn’t much to look at on the Web, either.

IE1

Time flies. This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Internet Explorer’s debut. IE wasn’t the first graphical browser — nor will it be the last — but it had a hold on the surfing public. At one time around 2002-2003, the program was used by about 95 percent of people surfing the Web. Suffice it to say, that is a dominant piece of software.

The Opera browser, with its small legion of fans, landed in 1996 and Apple’s Safari browser, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome all arrived in the 2000s. Still, Internet Explorer was boss of them all.

As competition for users increased, the capability of the humble web browser began to evolve. New tools like tabs and private browsing modes became commonplace.  Add-on extensions for showing the headlines, the weather forecast or even controlling your computer’s music player added to the browser’s functionality. Handy buttons to share links to Twitter and Facebook began to appear.  A “reading view” to strip out ads became popular with serious readers. Synchronization between devices — computers. phones and tablets — has made sure we can pick up reading wherever we left off.

Of all the browsers, though, Internet Explorer has been showing age lately, especially in regards to security. Its once-mighty user share has declined below 68 percent.

Microsoft is aware of its stubborn user base that hates to change once it gets everything working. The company even launched a cheeky website a few years ago to get people to STOP using Internet Explorer 6, the old, unsecure version that persists in popularity, thanks to its ties to Windows XP. (The Escape From Windows XP game with the giant evil Clippy is an especially fun part of the aforementioned site. But we digress.)

escapeWXP

Things in Browser Land are changing. As revealed in a Windows 10 demo last January, Microsoft has a new surfboard on the horizon. It’s called Project Spartan (for now) and it may be the browser that gets a lot of Windows users to quit Internet Explorer for good.

The new browser will have a new rendering engine and compatibility with modern programming. Don’t worry though: It’ll load up the IE11 engine when it comes across a page written for the older browser. (Windows 10 users dependent on legacy code will still be able to use Internet Explorer as well, so fear not government workers with your weird proprietary sites.)

Could Project Spartan be the beginning of the next Browser Age? It’s too early to tell, especially since the official code hasn’t been released yet, but Microsoft has revealed some intriguing features that bring it into line with what a lot of other browsers have been doing.

Like Safari (and extensions you can get for other browsers), Spartan will have a distraction-free view, which peels away all the junk that normally clogs up a page, like ads. You’ll be able to annotate Web pages without extra tools like Scrible so you can mark up the parts you need for projects and research. Microsoft is also adding voice integration for its Cortana assistant, aiming to give Google Voice Search and Chrome — or Siri on iOS — a run for their money. And because Microsoft is trying to link every device that runs Windows 10 together for a consistent experience, it’s trying to make Spartan (shown here) work and act the same everywhere.

spartan

Project Spartan is not the only newly built browser revving its rendering engine the starting line. A new browser called Vivaldi is already out in its second technical preview and has some geeks interested.

Vivaldi, created by the former CEO of Opera software, wants to be a browser for power users. The streamlined interface (shown below) includes stackable tabs you can but on any side of the browser window and Quick Commands that let you open a ton of settings with just one keyboard shortcut. There’s also a Notes command that lets you stash your thoughts and screenshots in a side panel. Vivaldi can also run many extensions written for Google Chrome because it’s built on the open-source Chromium software from Google.

vivaldi web

As new as Project Spartan and Vivaldi seem, it probably won’t be long before the others change up or catch up. With new looks and well-integrated features that make life easier, however, it’s the first time in a long time where the good ol’ Web browser actually feels like a fresh piece of software — and that’s kind of exciting.

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.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Shortcuts to Shortcuts

Tablets and smartphones may be making a lot of our productivity mobile, but for some people, getting work done means sitting down in front of a real physical keyboard and pounding those keys until the job is done. (And yes, this counts even if you add a Bluetooth keyboard to your tablet or phone.)

To make things even faster for repetitive tasks like formatting or navigation, many programs include keyboard shortcuts that save you the mousework and move things along. Some programs even let you add your own custom shortcuts, which can be handy, say, if you’re a southpaw and find the defaults awkward — or there’s an obscure menu command that has no built-in shortcut.

Sure, you can look in the Windows or OS X menus to see the shortcuts listed, but that can be time-consuming until you start remembering them. If you don’t know a lot of the commands off the top of your head, here’s the Pop Tech Jam roundup of keyboard quickies for common operating systems and popular programs.
Print ’em out and go.

Operating Systems

Productivity Suites

Webmail

Browsers

Social Media

Music & Multimedia

Adobe Creative Software

Want to see the all the shortcuts at once? Printable crib sheets listing Windows shortcuts can be found around the web with a quick search. Mac utilities like CheatSheet (free) and Dashkards stick with the stock shortcuts, but display them in an easy-to-read format on screen, KeyCue does the same thing with more customization options, but charges 20 euros for the full version.

If mere keyboard shortcuts aren’t enough, programs that let you use hotkeys to create and run your own macros can give your productivity an even bigger boost. Check out Hotkey Utility for Windows or AutoHotKey (also for Windows). Similar programs for Mac users include the $30 QuicKeys or iKey (also $30).

Siri, Cortana and OK Google aside, computing is still mostly a hands-on activity on one form or another. So until we get the next great input system in place, speeding up your clicks with the keys is one way to make the most of your time.

Episode 43 News: Googley Eyes and Cable Ties

While the numerous interface changes in Windows 8 may have kept a few people from voluntarily upgrading to the new system, some sources have told The Verge site that Microsoft is currently testing versions of Windows Blue (also known as Windows 8.1) that gives users the option to boot the computer directly to the desktop environment. With that, and maybe those third-party tools that restore the Start menu, future versions of Windows could be much more comfortable for some people. Word has it that Microsoft is also preparing for another whack at a smart watch of its own, since Apple and Samsung seem to be tinkering around with the notion. Hopefully this decade’s attempt will fare better than the Microsoft Smart Personal Objects Technology of Yore.

Ever wonder why there’s no official mobile version of the Firefox browser available for iOS? According to Mozilla’s departing chief executive, it’s because his company wants to use a different Web engine than the one Apple uses to power iOS browsers. So there probably won’t be an iOS Firefox browser for the next version of the iPhone, which could be going into production soon. The Wall Street Journal reports that Foxconn, the company that actually manufactures many Apple hardware products in China, has been recruiting about 10,000 assembly-line workers there since the end of March. (On the topic of Apple hardware, if your third-generation Apple TV is having flakey Wi-Fi issues, here’s some info about the replacement program underway.)  And in mobile-security news, a new report from NQ Mobile says that mobile malware threats were up 163 percent in 2012 — with 95 percent of that aimed at Android devices. Buckle up, ‘droids!

Facebook is said to be talking to Apple and Microsoft about bring some version of the immersive Facebook quasi-OS to the iPhone and Windows Phone handsets. No word on how those talks are going, but Facebook released an update to its iOS app this week and it includes a variation of Facebook Home’s “Chat Heads” visual messaging app.

Kobo has just announced a limited-edition Aura HD e-ink reader, which claims to be the highest resolution e-ink display currently on the market. In other e-book related developments, publisher Simon & Schuster has announced a 1-year trial program with the New York Public Library that makes its titles available for electronic lending.

The first wave of Google Glass spectacles are done and heading to the shipping department for those who signed up early. For those with a bucket of cash to burn, the craving to adopt early and the desire to Wear a Thing on Your Head, the company has also released the spec sheet for Google Glass.

TWCTVIn video news, Netflix is dropping Microsoft’s Silverlight multimedia plug-in for video delivery and is reportedly moving its streams to HTML 5. Comcast has confirmed that it’s starting to scramble its basic cable channels, a power the FCC granted last year as long as they help their customers with the transition by providing free or cheap adapters. The move is not so good for those who pilfer cable or record programs on the computer with the coaxial cable plugged into a TV tuner card.

Time Warner likely has happier customers, though, as a new version of the TWC TV app for iOS devices released this week now lets registered Time Warner customers watch video on demand and live TV programming from certain channels wherever they are — including away from their home Wi-Fi networks, which had been a previous limitation. Alas, Android users must wait a bit longer for the updated version of the app to come their way.

And finally, a noble number cruncher out there has created an extensive turn-based role-playing game called Arena.XIism inside a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. True, the imagery may not quite be in the Battlefield 3 or BioShock Infinite league, but you probably won’t stress out your graphics card, either.