Tag Archives: Fitbit

PTJ 237: Days of Wonder

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference opened this week, bringing a ton of announcements and new-product demos to the faithful. Don Donofrio drops by to sort it all out with El Kaiser and JD. Meanwhile, governments fight with the Internet on multiple fronts and a certain Amazon Princess conquers the worldwide box office. All this and more on Episode 237!

Links to Stories in This Week’s Episode

 Apple Stuff

 

PTJ 233: Tweet TV

Twitter continues its experiments with live streaming video, Facebook is handing out coupons, there’s a new flavor of Windows 10 coming to town — and also maybe an Apple-branded talking Siri speaker on the way. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all on this week’s episode, while throwing a Tech Term and a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint into this week’s mix as well. Join us!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 203 News: Irish Wakeup Call

Nothing like a $14.6 billion bill for back taxes to get your attention, eh? That’s the hefty sum Apple is facing after a European Commission ruling this week found the company’s tax deal with Ireland was illegal under European Union rules. Apple and Ireland are both vowing to appeal the ruling, and in a letter released publicly on its website, Apple stated the ruling would have an impact on investment and job creation in Europe.  The EU is also investigating Amazon and McDonald’s for similar practices.

Apple may have other legal woes brewing on this side of the pond as well. A nationwide class-action lawsuit was filed against the company by plaintiffs who claim that their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones suffer from defecting screens that make them unresponsive. The defect was dubbed Touch Disease by the repair site iFixit, who has looked at the issue and found hundreds of ailing iPhones with flickering gray bars on glitchy screens.

ifixit

Apple has set the date for its annual Fall Media Monopoly Event. As some predicted, it’ll be early this year — September 7th and at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. New iPhones and an arrival date for iOS 10 are expected to be announced for sure, and updates on macOS Sierra, watchOS, and tvOS could be in the mix, as well as hardware news about Apple Watch, the MacBook Pro laptops, the iPad Pro and other gear. But will there be One More Thing?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California tossed out a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 that accused AT&T of bandwidth-throttling customers who still had unlimited data plans after those customers went beyond customary allowances.

Twitter and Facebook may get more if the hate speech headlines, but Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to smack down the extremists and Troll Legions roaming on own online properties. In a post on one of the company blogs, Microsoft’s Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqueline Beauchere, writes, “Today we’re announcing a new dedicated web form for reporting hate speech on our hosted consumer services, and a separate web form for requests to reconsider and reinstate content.”

hatespeech

Facebook’s Trending Topics section has had its ups and downs this year with charges of political bias in story selection and promotion and last week, Facebook reportedly decided to get rid of the humans who were writing story descriptions for trending list and just have the algorithms start listing popular topics based on what users were sharing. However, a lot of Facebook users were sharing a false story about broadcaster Megyn Kelly getting fired from Fox News for being a liberal — so the fake story made it onto the trending list. Whoopsie!

On to the Department of Democracy Nightmares, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says it has evidence that hackers breached two state election databases this summer. While actual vote-counting systems were not involved YET, foreign-based hackers targeted voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. Paper ballots for all this year, please.

While test drones are buzzing around the countryside of merry old England, here in the States, the Federal Aviation Administration just started giving the drone pilot’s-license test this week. More than 3300 people signed up to take the test on the first day. The Wired site has a study guide for wannabe drone jockeys.

In other drone news, Jennifer Youngman, a 65-year-old woman in rural Virginia, took down a drone in one blast from her 20-gauge shotgun earlier this summer. She lives near the actor Robert Duvall. She also chatted with the CBC about the incident.

bangbanglady

In product news, Sonos and Amazon are hooking up with a new strategic partnership. What this means is that people who own both voice-activated Echo speakers and Sonos sound systems will be able to tell the Echo speaker to play music through the Sonos system.

FitBit announced two new exercise trackers this week, the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Fitbit Flex 2. You can even swin with the Flex 2, they say.

russiaAnd finally, the Centauri Dreams blog devoted to deep space exploration noted a radio telescope in Russia (shown here), had picked up “strong signal in the direction of HD164595” last year. HD 164595 is a star with at least planet in the system within the constellation Hercules, all about 95 light years from Earth. The site merely said the signal was interesting and deserved further scrutiny. Astronomers at the SETI Institute have already written a brief paper on the matter.  Seasoned experts around the web were skeptical, with one noting the signal was on the part of the radio spectrum used by the military and another posting, “It’s not our first time at this rodeo, so we know how it works,” on a SETI message board. Sure, the signal may be nothing — but it kind of makes one want to haul out the Contact DVD for some Hollywood science and reinstall the SETI@home software on your current computer, you know?

Opening shot from Contact (1997) from Single Shot Film Festival on Vimeo.

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

  1. NET NEUTRALITY
    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.
  1. HACKING
    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.
  1. SECURITY
    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’.
  1. WEARABLES
    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.)
  1. MOBILE PAYMENTS
    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.
  1. INTERNET OF THINGS
    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.
  1. SOCIAL ISSUES ONLINE
    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.
  1. VIDEO EVERYWHERE
    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.
  1. STAR WARS
    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 118: Get Off Our Lawn, Google

J.D. will help you get to your destination by plane, train or automobile as she runs down some useful travel apps just in time for the power eating U.S. holiday known as Thanksgiving.

El Kaiser finally gets an invitation to Google Inbox and…let’s just say things don’t go smoothly.

In the news the European Space Agency is still on comet duty;  AT&T gets called out by the FCC; the Federal Trade Commission has settles a score with TRUSTe; the US State Department gets hacked;  New York City plans to convert payphones into spiffy hotspots; Facebook continues spinning off features of its service; Disney partners with Walmart’s Vudu streaming service; and Google and Stanford University work on software that uses artificial intelligence to create descriptive photo captions.

Oh, and KaiserNet is finally active… MUAH HA HA HA!

PTJ 118 News: On It Like a Comet

The Rosetta mission rolls on and scientists at the European Space Agency continue to gather information about Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After we recorded last week’s show, the Rosetta spacecraft released Philae, its small lander vehicle, onto the comet’s surface. The failure to harpoon itself to the surface — or get its solar panels in the right position to recharge its batteries — led to a shorter period of productivity than anticipated. However, there’s hope Philae could charge up its batteries if it gets a little sunlight. (The last commands the ESA were able to send the lander were for repositioning its solar panels.) Still, the lander hit a moving target way out there in space and Philae did send back some data before going dark, including evidence of organic molecules on the comet. And there’s the possibility a little sunpower will awaken it out of standby mode so it can get back to work. Philae, we salute you!

This week in Waiting for the Net Neutrality Decision news: AT&T got called out by the FCC after the telecom titan’s CEO said it may have to have to “pause” its planned 100-city high-speed Internet expansion plans due to the possibility of regulation. AT&T’s expansion plans, however, have been criticized as being vague, so the FCC sent a letter to the company asking for more information about this “expansion decision” and all documents related to it. AT&T has until November 21 to get back to the FCC with those details.

In other government-agency items of note, the Federal Trade Commission has settled a score with the TRUSTe privacy seal and certification company. Oh, the US State Department got hacked —officials said the unclassified branch of the agency’s email network was temporarily shut down this week to update security.

Payphones have never been the same since they stopped being private little rooms (and the cellphones took over anyway), but New York City has something in mind for the space and connections used by all those half-booths cluttering the sidewalks. The Mayor’s office has announced plans to convert that rotting old payphone infrastructure around town into spiffy new gigabit WiFi hotspots. A company called CityBridge is team up with the Big Apple on the LinkNYC project, which will eventually bring 10,000 “Links” — as the hot spot stations will be called — to the five boroughs. Here’s a mock-up of one in Brooklyn:

LinkNYC

Facebook has spun out the Groups function into its own standalone app. In a product announcement on the company blog, Facebook said, “we’re introducing a new Facebook Groups app that helps people share faster and more easily with all the groups in their life.” Groups, for those who don’t use them, can be public, private or secret online clubs for people all interested in the same topic or discussion. As for now, the company says you can still use Groups in the main Facebook app and on desktop. For now. (The Financial Times is reporting that so-called Facebook at Work site is in the works to provide professional networking and collaboration, but Facebook isn’t commenting.

Disney Movies Anywhere recently joined forces with Google and now the House of Mouse is linking up with Wal-Mart’s Vudu movie service. Disney Movies Anywhere is everywhere.

Apple released updates to both its Yosemite and iOS 8 operating systems this week. OS X 10.10.1 for Mac was intended to address Wi-Fi issues and other bugs some Mac folks have been complaining about for a month, but some users have posted on Apple support forums that the update still hasn’t fixed their disappearing Wi-Fi connections. The iOS 8.1.1 update was intended to improve performance on older hardware like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4s.

mica1Two items of note from the Wonderful World of Wearables. For one, Intel is getting into the jewelry business and teaming up with fashion firm Opening Ceremony on a fancy Internet-connected bangle called the MICA, also known as the My Intelligent Communication Accessory. One of the models is shown here, and yes, it costs around $500. And second in wearable news:  Fitbit data is now being used as evidence in court.

Streaming music service are having a bad month. First, Taylor Swift pulls her albums from Spotify, sending millions of teenage girls into a panic, and now Sirius XM lost a copyright battle in US district court with the 1960s rock band, The Turtles and may have to start paying for older music. (Also not having a good PR month: Uber.)

Google and Stanford University have been working together on software that uses artificial intelligence to more accurately describe the contents of photographs that previous programs. The rise of the machines starts with descriptive photo captions, folks.

hamAnd finally, Thanksgiving is next week and the gang over at Google Maps has looked at traffic conditions in 21 American cities for the past two years to figure out the worst and best times to leave for that homeward journey. (Hint: Wednesday afternoon blows.) Also, get your booze, pie and ham early if you want to avoid crowds.

PTJ 115: We Got Your Disruption Right Here

I’ve never been one to mince words so let me just drop a truth-bomb on all of you fine folk reading this. J.D. and El Kaiser are disruptors. Period. Full stop.  If there’s any doubt, quit dawdling and listen to this episode.

Pedro breaks down Disruptive Innovation in a Tech Term segment and J.D. explains how  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right on your phone.

In the news  Google has plans for a paid version of YouTube; Motorola unveils a new Droid; Verizon Wireless force feeds some users perma-cookies; The Federal Trade Commission has files a complaint against AT&T; Not all retailers are jumping on the Apple Pay bandwagon; HTML5 is finally official; Amazon takes on the Chromecast; And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains why Apple killed off the iPod Classic.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Step by Step

They’re high-tech and very helpful, those wearable fitness trackers. You’ve probably seen them advertised, like those various models from Fitbit or the Nike Fuelband. The devices log your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and other bio-data — and come in really handy if you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain a healthier lifestyle. (Fitbit even recently came out with a new smartwatch-style wristband, so take that, Apple Watch.)

But what if you like the idea of a dedicated fitness tracker, but you’re on the fence about buying one because but you don’t want to drop $60 or more for a doo-dad that might end up on the junk drawer after two months of increasingly guilt-inducing non-use?

It you have a fairly modern smartphone,  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right there, thanks to the motion chip and other sensors inside. These technobits let the phone double as a pedometer, and may even be able to show you other things like your walking routes on a map or the calories burned during your stroll.

The only thing you need to buy is (maybe) a special app for a couple bucks,  if that much. Granted, your phone may not be as rigidly precise as a dedicated pedometer or other fitness band, but for many people, it’s close enough and the price it right.

moves2So take, for example, Google’s Nexus 5 phone. It’s one of the many phones out there with pedometric capabilities. You just need one of the many fitness apps available in the Google Play store that lets you graphically display the data that your phone’s collecting. The Moves app (free, easy to use and shown here), and one helpfully called Pedometer, are two Android options. You have plenty of programs to choose from, both free and paid – with usually means more features and no ads. fit_prod_2Many other Android phones can also use these types of fitness apps, so do a search for “fitness trackers” and check the Play store description to see if it’s compatible with your device. Also Club Android: the Samsung’s Galaxy S5, (left), which has heart-rate sensor, a pedometer and S Health software for tracking your fitness routine; the Galaxy S4 is also privy to S Health.

msnMany handsets running the Windows Phone software can also measure your steps and record other bio-stats. The Nokia 630 and Nokia 635 models are among them, and you can download the free MSN Health & Fitness app or another program from the Windows Phone store to get tracking. (The app may actually be called “Bing Health & Fitness” these days, as Microsoft’s blog calls it one thing and the Windows Phone website still has it listed as “MSN Health & Fitness.”)

healthAnd then there’s Apple. The new Health software baked into iOS 8 tracks your steps automatically as you carry the phone around and can show you your step-count and stairs climbed on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. The App Store has a dedicated section for programs that hook specifically into the iOS 8 Health software, as well as a large collection of health apps that work with earlier versions of iOS and older devices. And don’t forget, many later versions of the iPod Nano and iPod Touch work with the Nike + iPod shoe sensor and Nike+ fitness website, and the past several versions of the Nano even had a basic pedometer built right in that doesn’t need any additional gear. And who knows, once you get into the swing of logging your exercise, steps and other info, you may realize that you really want a dedicated fitness-tracking device — or that your phone works just fine for the data you want to collect.

King of All Gadget Gatherings

The Consumer Electronics Show, also known as CES, has been around since June 1967, when it was first held in New York City. It’s packed up and headed west for Las Vegas since then, but over the years, plenty of products first introduced at the show have come and gone (the VCR, the CD, HDTV, Microsoft Bob…)

BunVegas

So what about this year?

Try Ultra High Definition TV. Big pixels here – 3840 x 2160 — on big screens with prices that start around $12,000 and shoot way up north from there. Samsung showed off its 85-inch UN89S9 ultra high-def set that floats on its own massive easel. No price announced yet. Want something bigger? There’s The Westinghouse UltraHD 4K TV with 110-inch screen. After the massive price tags that will certainly get cheaper, getting content in native 4K resolutions is going to be the tough part – and storing it, as some experts are calculating that a movie in the full 4K resolution will need just under 10 terabytes of space to store. So we’ll see if UHD gets any more traction than 3D HDTV.

As for smartphones, Sony announced its upcoming Xperia Z LTE phone, due out in the first quarter of this year. It runs Android Jelly Bean, has a 5-inch 1080p screen, sports a 13-megapixel camera with HDR video and runs on a 1.5 gigahertz Qualcomm qua-core processor. It also comes with built-in protection of you get a case of the dropsies. The Xperia Z has anti-shatter glass on the front and back AND it’s water-resistant; Sony claims the phone can stay submerged for up to 30 minutes and still function. As the BBC calls it, it’s a bath-friendly phone.

But aside from big TVs, phones, tablets and the usual stuff we see at CES every year, there’s always the more offbeat gadgets at every show. The memorable oddities for 2013 include:

  • The Fitbit Flex band, a wearable wristband that monitors its wearer’s movement, sleep, and calories burned all day, every day.
  • The Hapilabs smart fork, also known as the Hapifork, is a Bluetooth-enabled eating utensil that that monitors the speed of your eating so you don’t gobble too fast and make yourself sick.
  • The Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses, a tiny screen that hangs out in front of your eye to provides visual access to your smartphone display, basic Web content and other info from your smartphone and applications.

Can’t get enough of CES news? Checkout the exhaustive coverage from CNET, The New York Times and Engadget for starters. And when you’ve had enough, kick back with a nice Elvis movie. It is, after all, the King’s birthday week.