Tag Archives: Game of Thrones

PTJ 243: Sound and Fury

After a discussion about the stirring audio mix used to back the film Dunkirk,  El Kaiser and J.D. make a lot of noise about this week’s technology news — including new government regulation around the world. However, if it all gets to be too much, perhaps a nice friendly drone will deliver a tureen of soup right to your door. Settle in and listen away to Episode 243!

Links to Stories Mentioned on This Week’s Show

Film Audio Discussion

PTJ 196: Tracking Your Family and Blockbuster TV

This week, J.D. shares some handy tips on how to keep track of your family’s whereabouts using tools you may already have on your computers and mobile devices. El Kaiser rants on the state of Hollywood and why he thinks movie makers need to worry. In the news, the Dynamic Duo snark it up over the latest Microsoft missteps with their Windows 10 push; Google’s plans to legally display lyrics in their search results; Facebook’s decision to go all in on slideshows and a cubic, um, BOATload of tech news. C’mon, press play already. You know you want to…

The Year in Geek: 2015 Edition

2015 has come and (almost) gone and it’s time for the media-mandated Look Back at the Year We Just Had. [Drumroll … rimshot … clown horn noise] Noted in no particular order, here’s our list of high points, low points and things that just stood out to us here at Pop Tech Jam HQ over the course of the earth’s latest loop around the sun:

• NASA: New Horizons and Beyond.— While it wasn’t quite the Apollo 11 mojo, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had a banner year with the New Horizons successful flyby of Pluto and data treasure trove that’s still trickling back from the other side of the solar system. The agency also grew lettuce, aged whiskey and ran many other experiments up at the International Space Station while its Dawn spacecraft took at look at the dwarf planet Ceres. And that Matt Damon movie was very good publicity.

Windows 10. Microsoft released its successor to the much-reviled Windows 8 this summer. Despite some major bugs and user wariness, Win10 did see relatively fast adoption rates by 8Haters, people finally upgrading from XP and those who wanted to try out the new technology as soon as they could.

• Security! Security! Security! (or Lack Thereof…). It seemed like no corporate database was safe from intrusion this year. Plenty of major companies got breached, including Anthem health insurance, the CVS Photos site, interactive toymaker VTech, the federal Office of Personal Management, the Internal Revenue Service, the Ashley Madison site for love affairs, Slack and Experian’s T-Mobile servers. Just to name, you know, A FEW OF THEM.

• Underwhelming Apple. The Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino finally released a smartwatch and a giant iPad in 2015 — just like industry types have been speculating about for years. And not only was much of the public was pretty “meh” about it all, the stock was down as well, based on fear of what comes next with iPhone sales.

• Video Streaming Goes Big. The standalone HBO Now finally arrived for Game of Thrones fans and other cord-cutters, Sling TV further chopped the coax with an over-the-top package of channels, and new voice-controlled streaming boxes from Amazon, Google, Roku, Apple and others have stepped up the battle for the living room’s big screen.

• Ad Blockers. Apple’s iOS 9 was just the latest piece of software that allows its users to block other pieces of software, namely intrusive advertising that makes reading so aggravating on mobile devices and other digital platforms. Yes, blocking ads takes money out of the content-publisher’s pocket (and may make it hard for them to keep going). But publishers and advertisers, if you don’t want people to use ad blockers, make better ads.

• E-Book Reversal. E-book sales dipped, and print titles had a slight rebound. And although some think nothing will happen, authors and publishers asked the Department of Justice to look into Amazon’s influence in the industry.

• Google, Even More Helpful But CreepyMachine-learned responses to emails, self-driving cars, Trip Bundles, parking markers, rerouted traffic navigation on the fly and the increasingly accurate predictive Google Now service that tries to guess what you want to see before you see it. Yes, the Big G had a very big year all up in your business. (But remember, you don’t have to use it.)

• Broadway Sings Social Media. Internet fan favorite and Sulu OG George Takei used Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word about this new musical Allegiance, the story of Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. Meanwhile, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of the Broadway smash musical Hamilton were all over Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other social outlets, not only to promote the show, but to add new views — like the short YouTube movie a cast member made about opening night from the actors’ perspective. The cast album for the show was available to stream free on the NPR site during the week before it arrived as an official download, and the recording’s devotees soon revved up the enthusiastic #Hamiltunes hashtag to quote their favorite lyrics. Smartphone videos of the weekly rapfest Ham4Ham — where the show’s actors perform short bits for fans clustered outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Manhattan’s West 46th Street — also got online play. And let’s not overlook the mash-up memes like #Force4Ham, which combined themes from both Hamilton and Star Wars. Now, about the latter…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sixteen years after The Phantom Menace and the turgid prequels, director and nostalgia reboot specialist J.J. Abrams revived the franchise with a record-smashing, uplifting return to form that served as a bridge between the old world and the new one in that galaxy far, far away. The Force is strong in that one.

Happy 2016 from Pop Tech Jam!

PTJ 138: Axing the Coax

The new $15 standalone streaming service HBO Now arrived just in time for last weekend’s season premiere of Game of Thrones. Early reports showed the app held up well under the onslaught of Starks, Lannisters and new subscribers, which may convince some weary cable subscribers that it’s finally safe to cut the cord and go online to watch all the hot shows.

On this week’s episode, journalist Laura M. Holson — who got rid of her own TV seven years ago — offers her own tips for keeping up with popular programs. Yes, you can do it using nothing but a mobile screen, a sturdy broadband connection and some well-known inexpensive or free services like HuluNetflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, Crackle and Google Play, just to name a few. (Oh, and don’t forget free TV network apps and websites from PBS, ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.) To paraphrase the great Dinah Washington, streaming TV is really the thing this year.

Watching Apple

That noise you heard Monday was not an F5 tornado — it was just the sound of Apple inhaling all the press as it held a Major Media Event to officially announce the price and availability of the Apple Watch. If you’re interested in the Watch, check out the full specs but in a nutshell, the app-driven, sensor-laden wrist computer/fitness tracker will be available for preorders on April 10th and officially released April 24th. Prices start at $349 for the smallest of the sporty versions and go far north of $10,000 for the fancy digital luxury Rolex-wannabes with the shiny 18-karat gold bits and bobs.


People who run and do a lot of fitness activities may be especially interested in the Apple Watch, as well as those with a huge pile of disposable income and a yen for fancy tech. But check out the tiny print on the Apple Watch splash page:


Yes, to use the Watch, you also need an iPhone 5 or later. This requirement led The Verge site to note that the main function of the timepiece is to spare you from taking out your phone every few minutes to check on your world when you can just glance at your wrist more discreetly. Forbes also observed that the Apple Watch seems to be in the Nice to Have category instead of the Must Have so far. However, most industry watchers are keeping an eye on those sales figures next month.

gottvThe long-awaited high-tech wristwatch was not the only thing Apple brought forth. The company also announced an exclusive three-month deal for the new standalone cable-free HBO NOW service. Subscribers will be able to stream HBO content for $15 a month when the service launches next month in time for the premiere of Game of Thrones Season 5, and there’s a free 30-day trial period for new customers who sign up through Apple. To sweeten the deal even more, Apple also knocked $30 off the price of its Apple TV set-top box that brings high-def streams of HBO and other participating providers right to your TV screen.

Apple also took time during its event to highlight its work in medical research. Executives showed off ResearchKit, its new open-source software framework for creating medical research and data collection apps for use in iOS devices.

adapterThe MacBook also got a major refresh, as Apple unveiled its latest version of the popular notebook computer. The new models weigh just two pounds, come with a 12-inch screen, a full-size keyboard, revamped battery and a Force Touch trackpad. The new MacBook is barely 13 millimeters thick, a feat that was achieved in part by lack of external ports. The new MacBook has a headphone jack and just one other port – a new USB Type C jack that handles charging, data transfer, device connection and video-out all on its own. (Need to do more than one of these activities at once? There’s a $79 Apple adapter in your future purchase plans.) The new MacBook will be out later this spring. Apple also beefed up the processors and various other components in its other laptops as well.

Reactions to Apple’s announcements from other companies ranged from “meh” to cheeky. Executives at Pebble, which announced a new addition to its own smartwatch line late last month, took to Twitter during Apple’s grand event to provide a little commentary on the proceedings:

Employees also tweeted pictures of medical research apps for Pebble watches and even retweeted snarkier posts from others, especially about the price tags:

The official Pebble Twitter account did point out, however, that everyone loves Game of Thrones. Hey, the Apple Watch may be out of the price range for a lot of people, but at least HBO is now more affordable.

PTJ 88: Laser Beams and TV Streams

Admit it, you aren’t prepared for the onslaught of “must see” television shows airing on Sunday nights this spring on U.S. networks. That under-powered cable company issued PVR just ain’t gonna cut it. Lucky for you J.D. has some strategies for dealing with your TV watching blues. In the news, the United States Navy announces its engineers are putting the finishing touches on a laser weapon prototype; the Supreme Court decides to skip a case against the National Security Agency over bulk phone metadata surveillance;  up to two-thirds of websites relying on OpenSSL might be susceptible to a critical security flaw; Google’s Play store deals with another embarrassing mishap; Windows XP officially bites the dust; and Battlestar Galactica may get “reimagined” again, but this time on the big screen.


Long Drawn Sunday Night

Spring finally seems to have arrived in the northern hemisphere and along with daffodils and gentle breezes, many popular TV shows are either returning for their new weird little cable seasons — or coming into the last leg of their network airings before summer vacation. (You know, when all the good stuff happens and maybe we slide right into a cliffhanger until October.)There’s a lot to watch, and unfortunately, a lot of it airs for the first time on Sunday nights.

Not all of the good shows are on directly opposite each other, but many of them are. To get an idea just how jam-packed Sunday nights are now getting, the cable and broadcast prime-time block includes the bloody blockbuster Game of Thrones, the first half of the final season of Mad Men, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, The Good Wife on CBS, the new tech-startup comedy Silicon Valley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep and Gillian Anderson in the Washington-based thriller, Crisis. There’s also the fan favorite Once Upon a Time, AMC’s Revolutionary War spy drama, Turn, and if you’re into British drama on PBS, Call the Midwife and The Bletchley Circle. And on top of all this, it’s baseball season and there could be some shows you’ve never heard of that your spouse, partner or kids want to watch. As the TV critic at Time magazine tweeted a few years back, “Sunday is the night you stock up your DVR for the week. It is the Costco of television.”

beepsTV1So if you have more than a couple conflicting shows on Sunday night, you need a strategy to see them all. Having multiple DVRs on multiple TV sets is one that works for people who can afford it.

Some carriers and digital video recorder companies have units that can record six shows at once. The Roamio models in the venerable TiVo line can record four to six shows at a time and with the company’s $130 TiVo Stream device, let you take your recordings to go on an iOS device, sort of like how Slingbox lets you tap into your TV from over the Internet. If you have one of these, you’re probably covered.

But what if you have a DVR from the cable company that only lets you record two channels at once, or you don’t even have a DVR? Or you can’t afford the newer models? Then you have to get creative.

  • For starters, check your TV grid for multiple airings of shows that conflict. Cable programs often re-air late at night, so maybe you can snag the 2:00 a.m. airing instead of the problematic 10 p.m. one.
  • If your cable company offers its own DVR control app, you can use it to search the program grid for shows and then set the box to record, right from your phone or tablet.
  • If you have On Demand services build into your cable package (like those at Comcast, DirecTV or Time Warner Cable, you may be able to find a lot of the popular shows there to watch whenever it suits your schedule.
  • As we’ve mentioned before on this show, network apps and websites also let you watch episodes of your favorite shows. However, they may run a week or two behind the broadcast schedule (depending on the network) or require an existing cable subscription, like the HBO GO and Showtime Anytime apps do.
  • If you have some spare cash and want to ditch the commercials entirely, sign up for a season pass from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video or the Google Play store, although you may have to wait a day to download the episode after it airs. This option also lets you watch the show on more screens besides your TV.
  • Paid services like Hulu Plus (which is $8 a month) let you stream broadcast network shows to compatible TVs, set-top boxes or devices.

TV Guide Online has a list of shows you can buy and download and what services sell them. Oh, since this is a nerd show, if the Silicon Valley show on HBO intrigues you but you don’t get HBO, you can at least watch the first episode for free on YouTube.

One advantage to doing the download or mobile-stream approach is that maybe you can fit in a show or two during your train commute or other moment of stillness where you have the time — but are not home in front of your TV.  If Sunday is not your only night of appointment viewing, now you have to find the time to watch all the stuff leftover from Sunday. Until the next Sunday.

And thankfully, Orphan Black will be on Saturday when it returns later this month.

PTJ 87: Say It Ain’t So, Oculus VR

J.D. tells us where we can find the trendiest trends and a tanned, rested and ready Kaiser has confession to make. In the news, tech sites get foolish on the first day of April; Facebook buys Oculus Rift and breaks the heart of millions of gamers; Apple appears to be almost ready to crank out the iPhone 6; the FCC frees up even more radio frequencies; Stephen Colbert catches all kinds of heat; and settlement checks and credits from the e-book pricing case have begun making their way to customers.

PTJ 87 News: Checks and Balances

Another year, another pile of April Fools’ Day Jokes from tech companies. As usual, general wackiness ensued and even the CERN site played along as it announced a move to Comic Sans as its typeface for official communications. Try as they may, however, nobody is ever going to top the ThinkGeek site for April Fools’ whimsy. The nerd emporium had its usual display of fake products up for April 1st. This year’s crop included Rosetta Stone® for Klingon, a Laser-Guided Tactical Necktie and a Flux Capacitor Car Charger.

rosetta stone

Back in the non-prank world, Facebook did actually agree to pay two billion dollars for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset company last week. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post that games are just the start. The move did put virtual reality back in the news, long after everyone stopped talking about Second Life. But Facebook is looking at the future here and it’s not alone. As part of a series on the World Wide Web at 25, the Pew Internet and American Life Project had several big thinkers predict digital life in the year 2025.

Microsoft has updated its Bing search engine to include a Snapshot feature to help flesh out queries. Yahoo continues its move to be more of a media and social media company and less of a search-and- services site. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is in talks to buy the News Distribution Network video service, along the deal is still unconfirmed at this point.

While we’re touring downtown Rumorville: Reuters and other news organizations are reporting that Apple is gearing up to make parts for the iPhone 6. It’ll be fall before you know it. (And finally in the Not a Rumor column: The Amazon Fire TV box, to be discussed on next week’s show.)

Lawyers for Apple and Samsung picked jurors Monday for their latest patent infringement fight.  Opening arguments in the case — Apple, Inc. v. Samsung Electronics Company Limited 12-00630 — began Tuesday morning.

In government news, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has mandated that all vehicles less than 10,0000 pounds include review video cameras to cut down on backup-related accidents. That smartphone kill switch law proposed by members of the U.S. Senate a few months back could potentially save consumers $2.6 billion dollars if it’s passed, according to a report from researchers at Creighton University. (The wireless industry has previously spoken out against the bill, saying hackers could wipe people’s phones for fun, although some sources have pointed out that smartphone companies and carriers could lose money on those smartphone insurance policies they sell to customers.) And the Federal Communications Commission voted this week to open up another bunch o’ megahertz for use by Wi-Fi devices on the 5 GHz band.

Online protest, or clicktivism, is back in the news as the OkCupid dating site called out Mozilla’s new CEO Brenden Eich for his past views on same-sex marriage and his donation to California’s 2008 Proposition 8 campaign. Mr. Eich, for his part, put up a post on his personal blog talking about the issue and his devotion to diversity at Mozilla and a company blog reaffirmed its commitment to equality. (OkCupid yanked the Firefox protest screen after a few days. UPDATE: On Thursday, April 3, Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla.)

Stephen Colbert, who plays the overstuffed host of a mock political show, also faced a heated campaign on Twitter after the account connected to his show tweeted a message that some found racially offensive. Colbert addressed the controversy with a dream sequence on his show this week and Twitter co-founder Biz Stone appeared to shut down the @ColbertReport account.

Have you ever wondered who looked at your Google+ profile page? If so, you may have noticed Google recently added the number of page views since October 2012 to your profile page. (Oh, and in case you like anniversaries, this week marked the 10th year of Gmail.)

Google is also cracking down on bad app behavior; check out the update to the Google Play Developer Program Policies. The sharing of intellectual properly and copyrighted works is a standard issue these days and will likely be back in the news this weekend when Game of Thrones returns for its fourth season on HBO. A Twitter post last weekend about Dropbox blocking copyrighted material from being shared saw thousands of retweets from people wondering if the online storage site was going through people’s stuff.  The short answer? No, but the TechCrunch blog has a good breakdown of how the Dropbox system works.

As mentioned back in January, the Rosetta spacecraft woke up from hibernation and was preparing to trail Comet 67P/Churyumov- Gerasimenko as part of its mission from the European Space Agency. Rosetta has now begun to beam back its first photos of the comet taken from a distance of about three million miles. The pictures should be a little closer to the actual comet by this summer.

And finally, watch your mailboxes. Settlement checks and credits from the e-book pricing case have been rolling out over the past few weeks. Some online retailers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble, are issuing customer credits and have guides on their sites. It may just be a few dollars, but with those low, low ebook prices, surely you can find something good to read.

PTJ 67: Spoiler-Free, Sweetie

On a supersized episode of everybody’s favorite geek-culture podcast El Kaiser takes a turn at hopefully being helpful by detailing the steps to avoid a malware infection. With social networks making spoilers a legitimate concern for all TV watchers, J.D. introduces us to some apps that can help keep second screens from spoiling what’s on the first. In the news, more of the world gets online access and some companies help bring less expensive Internet access to developing countries; the Gold Master of OS X Mavericks is made available to developers; rumors point to Amazon releasing a set top box to compete with the Apple TV and Roku devices; Google and Hewlett Packard announce the HP Chromebook 11; and Yahoo gets to blow out 16 candles.