Tag Archives: Google Maps

PTJ 241: Glass Houses

After a two-week hiatus, El Kaiser and J.D. are back with the tech news of the week — including Amazon’s latest experiments for making money and Google Glass finally finding a home of sorts. And how about that Doctor Who announcement last weekend, eh? Oh, and if you have to ride the New York City subway system, do we have a tip for you!

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

 

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Go Dark

Do you long for the days of the WarGames-era VDT with the black screen and green type? Or do you just hate the glare of a bright white display? Are you coping with vision difficulties? If so,  your apps and operating system and some of your programs might include settings that make it easier on your eyes.

For example, If you don’t want to flip your whole operating system around, you can often find a dark or night mode setting in many apps — like Microsoft Edge, Twitter for Android and iOS, the Amazon Kindle and Apple’s own iBooks app, and some apps like Waze and Google Maps might flip to the night mode automatically, depending on the time of day. YouTube’s desktop site just added a dark mode, too.

But if you want things more consistently less glaring, Windows 10 has a Dark Mode available in the Settings app, as well as a High Contrast Mode in the Ease of Access controls. Dark Mode doesn’t make everything dark, mainly just the background of certain apps and system screens, but the High Contrast Mode flips the background and changes the colors of several kinds of screen type to make everything stand out better for those who have trouble discerning different tints. Apple’s System Preferences for macOS has similar controls in the Display area of the Accessibility settings.

And don’t worry — if you get tired of dark mode, you can always come back to the light.

PTJ 227: Special Delivery

It seems like everybody’s got something on the way this week: Samsung’s new phone waits in the wings, Amazon’s Alexa is calling in for a six pack, robots are rolling out with restaurant orders and Apple even quietly slipped a few new products into the retail channel. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — including that very special package sent down from the International Space Station.

Links to This Week’s News Stories

 

PTJ 222: Noises Off

On this week’s episode,  Don Donofrio returns to discuss possible paths ahead for of Apple this year as the company comes off a record-breaking quarterly profit and a surging stock price.  El Kaiser and J.D. have some things to say about Facebook’s new autoplay audio on videos, the price war between Verizon Wireless and
T-Mobile for unlimited data plans, and new tools for Google Maps. Oh, and the Queen of England is doing her part in the global war on cybercrime. Tally-ho!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 213: Server Loads and Angry Rogues

Another year, another Disney-generated Star Wars movie. And, like last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens pre-sales, the demand for advance  Rogue One tickets Monday morning knocked over the Fandango site like an AT-AT tripped up by crafty snowspeeders. But now that you’ve got your tickets, kill some time until the movie with Carrie Fisher’s new book — or catch up the recent tech news with El Kaiser and J.D., along with this week’s discussion of video streams and spam awareness. May the Force be with you!

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 199: Conventional Wisdom

Forget those grainy old newsreels of Republicans and Democrats putting on large hats and gathering every four years to nominate a candidate for president. Thanks to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and various other social platforms, wonks and watchers alike have instant access to high-definition video right from the arena floor, plus ongoing commentary from viewers around the world. Will this massive wall of easily accessible data make for a more informed body politic — or just lead to more online body slams? And what about those the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee that some say were courtesy of Russian operatives trying to influence the results of November? Journalist Laura M. Holson drops by PTJ HQ with her observations on it all.

And, after a week off so J.D. could work on her monitor tan, she and El Kaiser are back behind the mic with a summary of the week’s tech news, including Verizon’s purchase of Yahoo and summer projects from Microsoft and Google. Pour yourself a cool, refreshing beverage and settle on in for a listen!

PTJ 199 News: Areas of Interest

No real surprises here: Verizon won the bidding war for Yahoo’s operating business. In an apparent quest to scoop up Yahoo’s reported one billion monthly active users (while reliving those halcyon dial-up days of  The 1990s), the telecom giant agreed to pay $4.8 billion in cash for the fading purple web pioneer.  Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is still onboard Yahoo and has said she wants to stay, even if it means losing her golden parachute severance deal of about $55 million  if she’s terminated as part of the acquisition. One thing not included in the sale: Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba.

strangerIn case you’ve been holed up binging on the new Netflix series Stranger Things, even stranger things have been happening in Cleveland and Philadelphia this month as the American political party conventions came and went. There’s already been a bit of Cold War intrigue surrounding the hacked and leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee, possibly by Russians. Given the timing of the emails’ release, some are now theorizing that Russia is trying to influence the US election by swaying voters to Republican candidate Donald Trump (who seems to be just fine with Hillary Clinton getting hacked). Whatever the case, the FBI is investigating and it’s clear that cyberwarfare is on the rise. Perhaps in a related development, The White House announced this week that it now has a new scale of classifying cyberattacks.

Speaking of security, thousands of people voluntarily gave up their Twitter passwords last week to the pop star Jack Johnson, who nicely asked his four million followers to send him their login information. Kids, it’s all feels and fame until someone gets majorly hacked. Just ask the IT department of the DNC.

trollOn the topic of Twitter, the bird-themed  is launching a new marketing campaign where it will attempt to explain why it’s a unique delivery mechanism for breaking news and gossip. However, do not expect any mention of the colossal amount of troll poop that clogs the best of timelines.

Does two-factor authentication  via SMS make you feel safer?  TechCrunch and a few other sites are reporting that the National Institute for Standards and Technology is concerned that SMS is not suitably secure and is circulating a document called the Digital Authentication Guideline while accepting comments on the GitHub site.

In international Unmanned Aviation Vehicle news, Amazon is stepping up its testing of delivery drones in Britain. The übermegaeverything store is even partnering with the UK government to expand the experiments, which are scheduled to begin immediately.  Tea drones ay five o’clock!

teadrone

Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8.1 users ends this month, so if you didn’t get it before July 29th, you probably didn’t want Windows 10 in the first place and fought hard to avoid it. If you did install Windows 10 (or bought a new computer that already had it), look out on August 2nd for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the biggest upgrade heave since last November.

Microsoft also announced updates to its Office 365 suite, including a new Researcher service for Microsoft Word that helps you find, fit in and format reliable and legitimate resources to cite in your academic papers. Word has also been updated with a virtual cloud-based writing assistant called Editor that provides better document proofreading and analysis of your writing, which might make it less painful for you to compose and others to read.

Microsoft has added a new feature called Zoom to PowerPoint as well. Zoom can easily create interactive non-linear presentations for those who really don’t care about slide order and want to go freestyle.

The Outlook mail app also got a Gmail-like “Priority Inbox” update that helps weed out distracting fluff in your mailbox.  Microsoft calls its version  “Focused Inbox” instead.

Google has done some updating of its own this week and has released updates to Google Maps for desktop, Android and iOS. The company tweaked the color scheme and design of the maps to make them cleaner, sharper and easier to read. Google Maps also has new orange-shaded “areas of interest” that show algorithmically selected pods of restaurants, bars and other attractions nearby.  According to the Android Police blog, Google Maps is rolling out notifications for mass-transit delays and a Wi-Fi only mode to help you keep your data allowance under control, too.

Nexus and Android Phone users are getting a nice gift from the Google phone app – a warning that an incoming call may be spam. If you do get a spam call, the app makes it easy to block and report the offender.

And finally, Pokémon Go dating was only a matter of time and yes, now it’s a thing. A company name RazorGo will be coming out with a site and app for Pokémon Go players to chat with their teams or privately. And you know that tune…

Love soft as an easy chair
Love fresh as the morning air
One love that is shared by two
I’ve found thanks to Pikachu

pika

Hurry Up and Wait

Flight tracker apps are great for checking the status of your flight, but what about the sheer stress you encounter before you actually get on the plane? Yes, we’re talking about the summer travel season and all the recent news stories about horrific waits in security lines. Things seem to have gotten slightly better with the lines, but still. You may not be able to avoid that annoyance, but you can at least plan for it. If you’re getting ready to take to the skies for your summer vacation, we here at Pop Tech Jam HQ have a few app suggestions.

For starters, you have to get to the airport first.

Salk International’s $5 Airport Transit Guide for Android and iOS offers insider travel information for 460 airports around the world for helping you get to the airport on time.

inrixIf you’re traveling domestically, traffic apps like Inrix Traffic (left) and Waze, both for Android and iOS, are among the dedicated road travel apps that tell you how long it will take to get to your destination — if you don’t want to use the services offered by Google Maps or Apple Maps. The WhatsBusy site, which is devoted to when there are lines in public places, has a section devoted to airports.

Then there’s the part of the journey that happens once you get inside the airport: Security lines. (Whee.)

You can help speed some of the process by checking in early for your flight online through your carrier’s own app or website. If you do, you can leave pre-checked luggage at the Bag Drop station and move on to the joy of the security line.

myTSAAlthough the Transportation Security Administration has been pummeled in the press for being a large part of the recent problem, its digital offerings may help travelers prepare themselves for the screening experience in a few of ways. The My TSA mobile website provides answers about what you can bring through airport security checkpoints so you’re not the cause of a snarled and snarly line; an Android app version of My TSA is available, as well as a version for iOS.

The TSA site/app also has a list of current security line wait-times, and an indicator if the airport has a TSA Pre-✓ expedited line. (Pre-✓ = Pre-Check. Get it?) You can sign up for TSA Pre-✓ or one of the government’s other Trusted Traveler programs over at the Department of Homeland Security’s site, although registration includes you providing an $85 and your fingerprints.

If you like guv’ment apps, the Federal Aviation Administration has its own mobile website with airport status and delays related to conditions outside the terminal.

miflightNewer apps like MiFlight for iOS are also designed to give you an idea of the wait times you’re in for once you hit the security line. MiFlight has nifty graphics and makes use of crowd-sourced data, but owners of some iPhone models have posted one-star reviews complaining of app crashes. Several developers make TSA and airport-related programs, so check the app store dedicated to your mobile platform to see the selection.

Once you make it through the security gauntlet, you might have some time to kill thanks to your careful planning. The GateGuru app for Android, iOS and Windows Phone might help here. Although GateGuru can function as an itinerary-tracking app while you travel, its Airport Card screens provide detailed information, maps and tips for the airports you’re in.

iFly Airport Guide for Android and iOS is another airport terminal guide with status updates. There’s a free and a pro version, depending on your whims and needs. The company also makes a TSA Wait Times by iFly app, which is $4 for  iOS.

Certain airports may have their own  terminal guides as well, so check your app store before you go. Once you get checked in, arrive at the airport and get through the security line,  you can fire up your flight tracker app and check your plane’s status.

ragerAnd remember, if you’re dissatisfied with your recent travel experience, the US Department of Transportation has a webform where you can file complaints against the airlines for safety and security reasons, along with customer service issues. It may not do any good, but you can also inform your airline’s customer-service department of your displeasure. You can find the Consumer Complaint Letter Wizard and a sample complaint letter to use as a template over at USA.gov, because if you’re going to gripe, you may as well do it officially.

PTJ 180 News: Down to Earth

From coast to coast, Apple is having quite a time with the legal system. The company may still be at a standoff with the Justice Department about unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone out in California, but here in New York’s Eastern District court, a federal judge has ruled that the government can’t use the 227-year-old All Writs Act to force the company to unlock the phone belonging to a drug dealer. The New York case is separate from the ongoing fight in California and the two situations involve different aspects of iOS encryption, however. In California, Apple filed a motion in court last week to vacate the order that it cooperate with the FBI. One of Apple’s lawyers spent his Tuesday in Washington, testifying in front of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

9to5Mac and other sources are now reporting that rumored Apple’s upcoming spring event has moved back a week from around March 15th and will now be in the week of March 21st. No invitations yet, though! It’s not real until you see the invitation!

In app news, Google has also given iPhone users a bit of parity with its Android peeps by adding the “pit stops” feature to the iOS version of Google Maps. And, in a reverse for the Reuters TV app we talked about a few months ago — the one that was that was only available for iOS — the company has now released an Android version.

One of Google’s self-driving cars smacked into a city bus in California last month, which has the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority investigating things. Google admitted its Lexus RX450h auto-piloted vehicle bears “some responsibility” for the incident.

Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality headset looks like it’s actually becoming a reality for developers. The dev kit edition is now available for pre-order from the company, with a chunky $3,000 price tag and delivery on March 30th.  Also new, but slightly cheaper: The Raspberry Pi 3 barebones computer is now on sale for a mere $35.

drone4

In drone developments, a new model from DJI has the ability to sense and avoid obstacles in its way, and also, to track people and animals. The DJI Phantom 4 costs about $1400 and follows its subjects automatically using cameras, sensors and ActiveTrack technology. Also tracking: Sleep cycles. Over on the Medium site, a Danish developer posted the results of a little project he did that used the Last Active timestamp data gleaned from the web-based version of Facebook’s Messenger service to figure out the sleeping patterns of his Facebook pals. Facebook was not too happy about his work and someone else using the same data they collect about you themselves, and was fussing because he posted the code for the project online.

McDonald’s has noticed the low-budget virtual-reality craze brought on by the Google Cardboard viewer and is busting a move of its own — in Sweden. The fast-food giant is launching a promotion there over the next couple weekends, and it lets kids fold their Happy meal boxes onto VR viewers to see a smartphone-based VR game especially created for the occasion. These special meal containers are called Happy Goggles and yes, you get fries with that.

The Brita filter people have joined up Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service to create the $45 Wi-Fi Brita Infinity Smart Water Pitcher that automatically orders more Brita filters when it needs them. No word on if the pitcher has any tiny cameras embedded in its lid so it can scope out what else in in your fridge and report back to Amazon.

Sony has a new beta out for its PlayStation 4 software. Although the version 3.5 beta doesn’t contain the feature that allows you to remotely play PS4 games on a Mac or PC, the feature is coming along sooner than many anticipated.

And finally, Commander Scott Kelly is back on Earth this week after 340 days aboard the International Space Station.  Welcome home, sir!

scottkelly

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Variations on a Theme

We spend a lot of time in our inboxes, don’t we? If you want to add a few personal touches to the browser window to brighten things up a bit, you can. (Well, most of the time, unless you are a hardcore iCloud Mail user.)

In general, you do not have to settle for the default settings for background and text size with your preferred webmail service of choice. True, iCloud webmail is a little boring, but Microsoft’s Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail and Google’s Gmail all let you add a little bit of personal choice to your inbox. Hit up your settings and  pick a new theme or color to admire while you wade through the daily onslaught of mail and spam effluvia.

yahoothemes

Want to go farther with customization? Perhaps, far, far away? Gmail users who ride the Chrome browser and love Star Wars have some options here. With its new Choose Your Side campaign built around the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens film release, Google has tricked out a number of its apps with little Star Wars touches and Easter Eggs.

swmapFor example, plot a driving route in Google Maps and see your position dot get turned into the Millennium Falcon! Have your YouTube progress bars converter to shimmery lightsaber animation! Fill your Google Calendar with Star Wars-related dates! Yes,  Google has added Star Wars goodies to Android Wear, Chrome, Chromecast, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Now, Google Search, Google Translate, Waze, and YouTube.

To use it, you need to sign up with a Gmail address at google.com/starwars and choose your allegiance: Light side or Dark side. The Star Wars skinning works across Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks, and desktop standard versions of programs for Mac OS X and Windows; note that the Forcification of the Chrome browser, Gmail, and YouTube can only be experienced on the desktop.

If you get bored with it all — or hate the movie — and want to ditch the whole thing, go back to google.com/starwars. Drag your avatar back to the center of the screen and click Back to Default to have your Google apps return to their regular state. Google will automatically turn off the Choose Your Side skins and return to its regular appearance by February 1, 2016.

Oh, and one last Easter Egg, if you haven’t done it already: Open Chrome or the Google search app, type in “A long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away” and hit the Enter key. You know you want to.

GoogleWars