Sincerest apologies to the great Federico Fellini but we here at Pop Tech Jam believe life is a combination of magic … and a White Castle Crave Case®. If you have a hankering for some regional food classics that you just can’t find in your town, J.D. harnesses the power of the Internet and shows you how to get those comfort food favorites delivered right to your door. All the talk of food has Pedro’s stomach grumbling but he was able to fight off the hunger pangs long enough to explain what Social Engineering is and how we can all be affected by it. In the news the F.C.C. plans on introducing a new net neutrality policy; Apple loses their appeal in an attempt to ditch a government appointed e-book monitor; Anti-malware company Kaspersky Labs claims to have discovered a global cyber-espionage organization; Google leases more space from NASA; and Lego considers a new building set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show.
It was just about a month ago that the government’s Net Neutrality rules were kicked to the curb in court, but Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said this week the agency will have retooled rules very soon. Some opponents to government regulation fear that the FCC may use this second chance to overstep its bounds and try to start controlling everything on the Internet. However, the agency’s site states, “no one — not the government and not the companies that provide broadband service — can restrict innovation on the Internet.” (For those who are fans of oratory, Mr. Wheeler’s lively speech included references to Abraham Lincoln’s second address to Congress from December 1862, Moore’s Law, the metaphysics of pizza delivery and Return of the Jedi — without the Ewoks).
In Apple-related news, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected Apple’s request to ditch the court-appointed monitor in its ebook price-fixing case. Meanwhile, the SecureMac site says its found a new Trojan horse called OSX/CoinThief.A; it’s aimed at OS X and designed to steal login credentials for Bitcoin wallets. But on happier note, Apple’s iTunes Radio service has now gone international, with a launch in Australia this week.
Talk about your uptime: Researchers at Kaspersky Labs say they’ve discovered a sophisticated global cyber-espionage operation called The Mask. It’s been running since 2007.
Silicon Valley residents are probably familiar with Hangar One, a massive eight-acre hangar designed in 1933 as a parking garage for blimps. NASA’s in charge of Hangar One but if things work out, the space agency would be leasing the structure to Google for things like housing private jets and whatnot. Google has already leased more than 40 acres of the nearby NASA Ames Research Center to build a large Research & Development facility, and the two are working together to test the world’s first quantum computer there as well. Google is also teaming up with long-time Apple component supplier Foxconn on robotics development, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Google itself declined to comment on the matter. No word from the robots, either.
Need some do-it-yourself inspiration for your own engineering projects? Spanish hacker Jose Julio used his skills to build an air-hockey playing robot for his daughter.
Microsoft is looking for a software design engineer to create “a groundbreaking interactive reading app on Windows, which incorporates books, magazines, and comics.” While Windows 8 already has a basic reader app, some are speculating that this new app with be an Xbox-branded bit of software that would work across all the company’s platforms, including Windows 8, Windows Phone and the Xbox game consoles.
With about two months to go before the End of Support for Windows XP, Microsoft is starting to approach small and medium-size businesses about the need to get off the ancient operating system. As part of the End of Support campaign, a post on one of Microsoft’s blogs titled “Help your friends and family get off Windows XP” also went up last week, While some comments were positive or indifferent, there was a noticeable amount of backlash from readers who have no intention of doing any such thing.
The eWeek site has just compiled a list of the most popular apps on Android, the world’s most popular mobile operating system. Flappy Bird, made the list, even though the developer, pulled the game from app stores this week. He said Flappy Bird had “ruined his simple life” by attracting too much attention and that it was an addictive product. The game, which was making $50,000 a week in advertising (and still is) involves trying to steer a poor little bird through a series of vertical green pipes. There has been speculation the game was yanked due to possible copyright violations with Nintendo’s Mario games, but a Nintendo spokesperson denied the company had taken any legal action.
Lego is considering ideas for new building sets and one of the candidates this year is a set based the BBC’s Sherlock TV show. The proposed Sherlock set is just a finalist among six possible projects that also include the DeLorean from Back to the Future and a Legend of Zelda kit. The Sherlock proposal details two different sets: a 370-piece recreation of the consultation area at 221B Baker Street and a 630-piece kit that makes up the apartment’s living room. Here’s hoping!
And finally, one bit of Winter Olympic 2014 news. The Canadian athletes have extra treats in their Olympic House: a refrigerator that dispenses free beer. You have to be Canadian to use the beer fridge, however, and need to present your passport for scanning by the vending machine. Canada, it should be noted, has been having a very good Games so far and has been in the top three on the medal board all week in Sochi.
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.
In 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.