Tag Archives: Google I/O

PTJ 235: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Journalist Laura M. Holson is back in the house this week with a discussion of how the cosmetics superstore Sephora is using technology and social interaction to sell beauty products. On the opposite side beauty, though, is the ugly — and last week’s massive global ransomware outbreak even got into fugly territory. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss the attack and the other notable news bits of recent days in this jam-packed episode of Pop Tech Jam.

Links to Stories Mentioned on This Week’s Show

PTJ 192 News: Someone to Watch Over Me

Another developers’ conference has come and gone as Google wrapped up its 2016 I/O conference last week — so let’s circle back to the highlights!

As expected, Android N got a further reveal from the version developers have been playing around with for the past couple months.  Google even invites Android fans to help choose the final name of the software by asking for snack ideas that start with the letter N and it set up a website for submissions. Android N will also support a new virtual reality platform coming out this fall called Daydream.

googlehomeAlso in the announcement pile: The company’s personal data-hoovering predictive helper program Google Now looks like it could be morphing into: Google Assistant (or as some would have it, just Google). No matter the name, it’s artificial- intelligence software that responds to natural language questions. Google also announced its Google Home smart speaker, clearly a rival to Amazon Alexa. As you might have guessed, Google Home is powered by . . . the new Google Assistant.

The Google Assistant shows up in the company’s new Allo messaging app, too. There’s also a new video-chat app called Duo, and both new apps are coming for Android and iOS. Android Wear 2.0 for smartwatches and other wearables also got a preview and the company introduced Android Instant Apps which can run off the web and save you the trouble of installing them on your device. Also, the Google Play store is coming to Chromebook laptops and the company updated I/O attendees on its Project Tango .

Facebook, which has gotten into live videostreams in a big way the past few months, updated that platform this week to allow its broadcasters to maintain continuous live streams, so hello more puppy and baby goat cams. As The Verge site points out, this puts Facebook in direct competition with YouTube. And also in Facebook Live news, the company told a reporter over at TechCrunch that it plans to over the audience engagement meter from a live stream on the recorded version.

chewbacca-mom-get-the-look-ftrIt’s not all Chewbacca Moms and kitten cams in Facebookland, however. The company is still smarting over the charges of bias against conservatives in its Trending News Topics content, responded with a letter to Senator John Thune after a meeting last week.  Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch addressed the matter in  blog post as well. (And for those of you still suspicious about algorithms, check out the “Machine Bias” story put up on the Pro Publica this week.)

As predicted, Twitter is pretty much going to give you all 140 characters to use for the text of your Tweet. Spotify is also giving a little back to its users in the form of an upgraded family plan that lets up to six family members enjoy the premium service, all for $14.99 a month. The new plan is available to Spotify users around the globe except, as an asterisk on the announcement indicated, *Excluding Canada. Do not be mean to Canada, Spotify.

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Good and bad news for Microsoft this week. On the good side, the company announced it has awarded Affordable Access Initiative grants to 12 businesses to help them scale their products to increase affordable Internet access in worldwide communities. But on the bad-news side of the fence, a new report from the Gartner research firm concerning global smartphone sales for the first quarter of 2016 shows that Windows Phone sales have dipped below one percent. Some tech blogs already pronounced Windows Phone dead back in January and the sales numbers here seem to back that up.

After nearly 20 years, Blizzard Entertainment has moved past games based on Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft and has released an all-new game called Overwatch for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Early reviews for the game note that it moves away from having players just kill the hell out of each other to more team-based competition and gamers can play one of 21 different characters. The pre-fab characters feature a mix of multiethnic, multispecies male and female characters, all with unique abilities and all out to restore peace to a war-torn world. That’s a skill that could come in handy these days.

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And finally, summer is unofficially here as of this weekend and with it, summer movies. While we’ll discuss the geekworthy upcoming releases in the next segment, Netflix has announced that its refreshed its film catalog just in time for the start of the lazy hazy slacking season.

PTJ 142 News: You’ve Got Sale!

This has been quite a year for mergers and acquisitions — or at least attempts thereof. This week, Verizon Communications announced it was buying AOL. Inc. for $4.4 billion dollars. AOL Inc. produces digital content and advertising and claims to be the 4th largest online property in the United States with 200 million customers.  The Huffington Post is expected to be spun off, but Verizon should keep some spare cash handy — the company also needs to pay $90 million to settle a US government probe into unauthorized charges on customer bills.

No more grand Windows OS launches? Microsoft is changing the way it does these things and says  Windows 10 is going to be its last major revision of the system. At the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago this week, Microsoft development executive Jerry Nixon said that going forward, Windows will stop being a standalone system with and become a service, with updates and improvements rolling out regularly.

androidMIt’s developer conference season at last! The Google I/O 2015 Conference is later this month, May 28th and 29th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (There may also be a celebration of Google’s self-driving car program, which has now covered 1.7 million miles and only been involved in 11 minor accidents — and none of them was the Google car’s fault.) Attendees are expected to get  the inside scoop on things like on Android M, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Auto for car infotainment, the Chrome operating system for netbooks, Google TV, wearables and other projects. Then Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference rolls into town 12 days later, starting June 8th and running through the 12th.

If fancy Apple computers aren’t in your budget, keep your eyes peeled for the CHIP (shown below), the new $9 computer envisioned by a startup called Next Thing Co.  A funding drive to build CHIP went up on Kickstarter this week with a pledged goal of $50,000 needed to buy components in bulk. As of this week, the project was closing in on $1.1 million.

CHIP

If you hate those unintentional selfies from taking pictures through windows, you’ll be glad to know that the smart folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology now have an algorithm for that. The algorithm can sense discreet dual reflections from double-paned windows and remove them from the image. The MIT team will be presenting their findings next month at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Boston.

The Warner Music Group released is second-quarter earnings report this week and had one bit of surprising news: music-streaming revenue surpassed music-download revenue, as the press released stated it “for the first time in the history of our recorded music business.” Fluke or paradigm shift? Time will tell.

There’s a new social network in town (and in beta) and it’s designed for members of the build-it yourself maker community to show off projects and share knowledge. The new site is called MakerSpace and it’s the official community for Maker Faire.

firefox-logoMozilla released Version 38 of the Firefox browser this week. In addition to the usual bug fixes and speed bumps, Firefox 38 now includes integration with the Adobe Content Decryption Module to play back copy-restricted content within the HTML 5 video tag. This could let users watch DRM-enabled content in Firefox — although only on the Windows version of the browser at the moment.

Microsoft is making it easier for more people to try the preview of the new Skype Translator for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.  While the original version required interested users to sign up for the software, Microsoft had removed that bit of electronic paperwork and now you can just go to the site and download it to get yapping with someone in another language.

Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, along with one of the company’s lawyers, did a Reddit Ask Me Anything last week and during the course of the question and answer session, it was revealed that Google does not use end-to-end encryption for its Google Hangout chats. So yeah, those Hangouts could, in theory, be wiretapped by government request.

And finally, from the Department of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Google announced this week that it had to temporarily shut down the online Map Maker component that lets users add their own content to Google Maps due to vandalism. The service has been plagued with pranks and obscenities in recent months, including an image of the green Android taking a leak in the Apple logo and an area of the White House called Edward’s Snow Den. Google said earlier this year that it planned to build a spam protection system into Map Maker, but perhaps it’s time step up those efforts. If they can make a self-driving car, how about a self-driving map bot that cruises the site looking for the naughty edits?

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