Tag Archives: Google Maps

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.

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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!

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(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.

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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.

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PTJ 168 News: Reality Check

The world can be a very scary place and it got worse last week with multiple attacks on civilians overseas. As one might expect,  government officials from various countries (including France) are again calling for access into encrypted message apps.  Belgian officials have also said that prior to the Paris carnage, terrorists had been hiding their communication using online gaming tools like Sony’s PlayStation 4. The activist collective Anonymous announced on YouTube and Twitter this week that it was going after ISIS and stepping up its ongoing efforts to knock the group’s social media and websites offline. The chaos in Paris last Friday prompted Facebook to turn on its Safety Check feature but the site received criticism for not making the tool available to those who were in Beirut during the attacks there the previous day. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the issue on his profile page. Going forward, the company plans to make Safety Check available for other tragic incidents around the world. It’s becoming a common — yet depressing — aspect of modern life online.

Now, moving on to news that hopefully makes one less despondent about the state of the world…

Google has tweaked its search app to help it better understand the questions you ask it. According to a blog post on the Inside Search site, Google search now understands superlatives in questions as well as questions relating to data in certain points of time. Google is also on the hunt for people to legitimately review businesses and services for its Google Maps app and is offering one terabyte of Google Drive storage for those who contribute regularly to the Local Guides program. And the company’s $85 computer-on-an-HDMI-Stick Chromebit device is rolling out now.

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The Pandora streaming music service has bought parts of Rdio, another streaming music service, for $75 million dollars, acquiring its under-the-hood technology and design. While the deal is contingent on the acquired firm filing for bankruptcy, Rdio posted on its site that its customers would not see an immediate interruption, for the time being, anyway. Advertising Age reports that Pandora plans to start a subscription-based, on-demand version of its music-streaming service.

While Apple has often been lauded for its visual product aesthetic over the years, an essay on the Fast Company site says the fruit-themed toymaker is actually giving design a bad name. If you find user experience and interface design interesting — or find iOS 7 and later insanely hard on the eyes and mind — check out the essay.

Back to more privacy issues, but this time in regards to protecting your personal data from advertisers if you have one of Vizio’s smart TV sets. The ProPublica public interest site has a story on how Vizio Smart TVs track what you watch and sell the information to advertisers. Cable TV and video rental companies are banned by law from doing this sort of thing, and other smart TV companies like Samsung and LG have viewer tracking as an opt-in policy. Vizio’s so-called “Smart Interactivity” tracking is on by default, but there is a way to opt-out if you make the effort.

brownzuneAnd from the Department of We Forgot It Still Existed, Microsoft has now retired its Zune music service this past weekend. Once a challenger to Apple’s might iPod empire, the Zune hardware and software launched in 2006 and the hardware was discontinued in 2011.  Old Zunes will work as stand-alone music players and the four remaining Zune music service subscribers have been switched over to the Groove music platform.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 November Update has been rolling out to users. While the three-gigabyte download brings new features and big fixes, it has created some problems of its own, like deleted or changed default apps and other issues. While the Xbox One game console also got an update, Microsoft representatives said another big update in February.

Oxford Dictionaries has picked it 2015 Word of the Year and it’s not even technically a word — it’s the emoji called Face With Tears of Joy. Oxford University Press partnered with SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and Face With Tears of Joy was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015.

And finally, last week, Disney/Lucasfilm announced that Star Wars was going to be part of the Hour of Code this year and this week Microsoft announced it was adding a Minecraft coding tutorial to the event. Although Computer Science Education Week isn’t until Dec. 7th–13th, kids can jump in early with the Minecraft module, which is up and running now.  Go forth and code, folks, and lets build things instead of tearing them down.

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PTJ 167 News: Cracker Jacks

It’s been a week of hacking, cracking and more than a little tracking. For starters, Facebook, which is never shy about getting all up in the content you post on the site, is now testing its Photo Magic feature on its Australian users. So, what is Photo Magic? It’s a Facebook tool that jacks into your phone’s Camera Roll to look for pictures you haven’t yet posted — and then suggests that you send those images to the friends it recognizes through the Facebook Messenger app. Privacy advocates, start your engines.

Also in nosy news, a Belgian court has ordered The Social Network to stop using its special web-tracking cookie on visitors who are not Facebook members. And the Federal Communications Commission has dismissed a petition from the California-based Consumer Watchdog group that would have required big content-and-apps sites like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Netflix and others to honor the Do Not Track requests from browsers.

And from tracking to hacking, the same group that claims to have broken into the personal email account of CIA director John Brennan an few weeks back says it recently got into a law-enforcement portal site for arrest records, agency collaboration tools and other sensitive crime-fighting information. The group, known as Crackas With Attitude, let the world know of the hack of the Joint Automated Booking System over Twitter:

Pinterest has added a new visual search tool — which it describes as “crazy fun” — to help you find the things you want on sight. To quote the Pinterest blog, “When you spot something in a Pin that you want to learn more about, tap the search tool in the corner. Then select the part of the Pin you’re interested in, and we’ll show you Pins just like it. You can even filter your visual search results by topic so you find exactly what you’re looking for.”

Tumblr has added instant messaging for its users. Go, team!

No Internet connection? Google Maps has added offline navigation and search to its Android app. Oh, and in case you were waiting for it,  the Android app version of Apple Music is now out.Google also announced that as of April 2016, it was discontinuing Chrome browser support for on Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS X 10.6 to 10.8. So long, outdated operating systems!

Like video? T-Mobile has also added a new plan called Binge On that lets its users stream content from popular video services like Netflix and HBO Now without denting their data plans. However, some critics note that because not all streaming services are included in the Binge On plan, T-Mobile may have some net neutrality issues to work out with the FCC. bingeon Apple’s iPad Pro went on sale this week, with online orders starting Wednesday and the big slab hitting shelves a few days later. The tablet with the 12.9 inch screen has a starter price of $800 for the 32-gig Wi-Fi only version and the tags go north from there. Optional accessories like the $100 Apple Pencil stylus and the $170 Smart Keyboard, which turns your iPad Pro into a Microsoft Surface, also went on sale this week. And more reasons for Apple to be happy – a federal district court judge threw out a class-action lawsuit brought by Apple Store employees who wanted to be reimbursed for the time spent in the office bag-search line to make sure they weren’t nicking the merch.

Moving on to the exciting world of cable television, Time Warner Cable officially announced its TWC TV Roku Trial program in New York City. If you’re interested, you can sign up for the trial. Also in cable news, an internal Comcast memo that got leaked and posted on Reddit admits that the company’s 300-gigabyte-per-month data caps recently imposed on customers in several southeastern cities to improve network performance is not actually about improving network performance.

Meanwhile, up on the International Space Station, astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren took an almost 8-hour space walk late last week to do a little maintenance. A tweet from the International Space Station’s Twitter account described the chores as “serious high-flying plumbing and cable work,” while NASA reported the mission as the two “restored the port truss (P6) ammonia cooling system to its original configuration.” The Space.com site has an excellent rundown of the walk.

And finally, the Hour of Code is always upon us, but this year, there’s an even bigger push to get women and people of color into programming. To help lure the kids in, the Code.org site is teaming up with Disney/Lucasfilm to have Star Wars characters help with the learning. As explained on a Disney blog, “Students will learn to write code that allows them to create games using Star Wars characters.” This is all part of the third annual Hour of Code event that’s part of Computer Science Education Week, which takes place December 7-13 this year. May the Code be with you!

PTJ 148 News: Ear Buds

applemusicAs promised at the World Wide Developers Conference, Apple Music officially arrived this week. Early reviews of the service have been mixed to positive, but time will tell how it stacks up against Spotify, Pandora and the others. Brian X. Chen of The New York Times finds the social networking component to be the app’s weak spot, so perhaps those “Ping 2.0” jokes weren’t too far off base. If you’re just diving into the Apple Music app yourself, iMore and several other  sites have guides .

Also launching this past week — but failing horribly — was an unmanned SpaceX cargo flight meant to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Instead, it blew up about two minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.  The loss of four tons of supplies for the space station is a bit worrisome, but astronauts have enough reserve supplies to last until the end of September with rationing. New cargo missions are planned.

Transportation disasters of any kind are tragic, but back here on Earth, Google and the government are trying to help stop car accidents at train crossings. The Federal Railroad Administration is working with the G Train to add the locations of all railroad crossings (listed by the US Department of Transportation) to Google Maps. In addition, Google will add mention of the railroad crossings in the audio and visual alerts for its turn-by-turn navigation.

Meanwhile, there could be more trouble on the way for Google, as  Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor, Michael Luca, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and the Yelp! Data Science Team have just written a paper called “Is Google Degrading Search? Consumer Harm from Universal Search.” As Bloomberg Business reports, the study was presented this past weekend at the Antitrust Enforcement Symposium at the University of Oxford. Google has not commented publicly, but the company is currently dealing with antitrust charges in the European Union.

EUflagSpeaking of the European Union, its governing body just voted to end roaming charges for customers traveling around its 28 member-countries by the year 2017. While the new rules prevent European telecom providers from intentionally slowing down any network service for customers, they do not prohibit providers from charging more for “broadband fast lines.” Net neutrality advocates are concerned.

Apple has now lost its federal appeal on the ebook price-fixing case, so $450 million in damages could be making its way to ebook customers soon.

AOL just got bought by Verizon, but the online company is stepping up to handle the majority of display, mobile and video advertising across Microsoft’s empire of properties. Microsoft also cut a deal with Uber this week. The personal taxi service is picking up a chunk of Microsoft’s mapping technology and possibly about 100 engineers on its mapping team, who all might be mapping their way to the new office soon.

Pinterest is adding buyable pins to its iOS apps this week, so if you see a blue pin with a price tag on an item you just have to have, you can now have it. For a price.

byteDom Hofmann, who was one of the creators of the looping six-second Vine video service has a new mobile app aimed at the creative types. It’s called Byte, and it’s a combination collage-creator and social network that lets you mash up photos, animations drawing tools and soundtracks together to make your own art. Then you share your creations  with other people on the Byte network. The app is in private beta for iPhone users now, but expected to roll out more widely to the public and then on to Android.

And finally, song-recognition service Shazam is also not afraid of Apple and its fancy new Music service and is adding a new feature aimed at the already-derided Connect social network component of Apple Music. Shazam has partnered up with more than 30 music artists who have agreed to publicly share the music they discover with the service. Once users update to the lastest version of the Shazam app, they can follow their favorite artists  to see what those people (or more likely, their favorite artist’s personal assistant) are “shazaming” — perhaps the new Taylor Swift single?

PTJ 146 News: Yippie-Ki-Yay!

It liiiiiiiiives! After its batteries ran down last fall, many people forgot about the European Space Agency’s Philae lander and the whole Rosetta mission to explore a comet. But the little lander woke up over this past weekend, sending scientists scrambling to collect and analyze the data it’s resumed sending back to earth. The lander had been in hibernation after it ran out of power and shut down last November, but the comet’s travels have now brought it in better line with the sun so Philae can recharge its battery and get back to work.

How about a network of 4,000 inexpensive satellites to bring Internet access to the unwired parts of the world? That’s the plan, anyway, as SpaceX founder Elon Musk has filed the official paperwork with the government asking permission to proceed with the project. No word from the Federal Communications Commission yet on approval, but at least Mr. Musk has good timing, as Facebook recently shelved its own plans to for popping up an Internet-service satellite.

LastPass, the password-manager service, notified customers last week that it found suspicious activity on its network.  Not exactly what you want in a password-manager service.

Facebook has yet another app to help you share your personal data with the company, oh, and your friends. The Social Network announced its new Moments app this week that uses facial-recognition software to automatically recognize your Facebook friends in random snaps and then sync all the photos between you all. If this sort of thing interests you, the app is now available in the Google Play and iOS App Stores.

closedGoogle Maps wants to save you even more time and aggravation. When you punch in directions to a particular store or business, the app does its calculations and warns you if you will arrive too late because the place has already closed for the day. Creepy, helpful and handy!

Apple sleuths digging through the iOS 9 betaware say they’ve found references in the code to some sort of device with a much larger keyboard than the pixel dimensions of the current 9.7-inch iPads. Could the long-rumored large-screen iPad Pro be on the way this fall?

Amazon may be going all Uber with the package delivery and ditching official courier services like FedEx and UPS in favor or regular people with cars dropping off your orders. The company hasn’t announced anything yet, but The Wall Street Journal is talking to people in the know over there. Amazon also uses its Amazon Locker service to store deliveries for pickup in public places, and may expand those options as well.

And finally, an intrepid interactive programmer at The New York Times took a peek inside the hidden source code of Jeb Bush’s website and found quite a few paragraphs not about Republican policies, but a plot summary of the 1988 Bruce Willis movie, Die Hard. The text was not publically visible on the website and has since been removed after The Times discovered it, so here’s to you and your dreams, Die Hard-loving console cowboy.

PTJ 136 News: May the Force Field Be With You

April Fools’ Day was this week and the usual tech-company hijinks were on display. Google turned its Google Maps site into a location-specific version of the Pac-Man videogame that was actually fully functional — and let users navigate the munching yellow ball over city streets. Samsung, meanwhile, released a promo site for a fake Galaxy phone called the Blade Edge, which claimed to be a chef’s knife with smartphone capabilities. And Amazon’s thing called  the Dash button? The timing mades it sound fake but many outlets reported it was real (or real lame).

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Hopefully not an April Fools’ Day joke: Verizon Wireless customers can now fully opt out of those mandatory zombie supercookies that were tracking their whereabouts on the Web. Verizon had promised cookie relief earlier this year when the news broke and a few members of the US Senate called for an investigation.

Need help around the house? Turns out you can order that from Amazon now, too. The company just launched its new Amazon Home Services directory.

watchGot your eye on the Apple Watch that costs as much as a car? According to the 9to5Mac site, there’s a unique “Apple Store purchasing experience”  and a “personalized journey” in the works for those who lay out the scratch for the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition. Also, you don’t have to wait in line, so there’s that.

People have been wondering what Apple has planned for the Beats music service since it acquired the company last year. News organizations began reporting last week that an overhaul of Beats and Apple’s own iTunes service is in the works.  No word on when the new services are arriving, but Apple will get some competition from Jay Z’s revamped Tidal music-streaming service, a platform owned by artists.

Thanks to bigger bandwidth, better compression and boffo hardware, high-def video keeps getting more gorgeous. YouTube is rising to the challenge with 4K video using 60 frames per second. If you have the hardware to run it, the clips are beautiful, but as the Macworld site put it, video that massive will crush your computer if your graphics card is not up to snuff.

Google continues to tinker and merge its various services. The company announced this week that photos Google+ users keep online are now also be available in Google Drive and the Gmail team has also updated its Android app to put all your Inboxes in one place.

sheepA farmer in Ireland has released a video of an aerial drone herding a flock of sheep.  Meanwhile, Facebook continues to test its solar-powered drones for delivering Internet access to part of the world that have no connectivity, much like Google’s balloon-powered Project Loon is doing. And the Guardian news organization got a visit to Amazon’s secret drone testing ground in Canada. The uber-mega-everything store is testing its Prime Air delivery service north of the border due to frustration with regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration. Still, Amazon’s keeping busy stateside — the Re/Code site noticed a patent the company recently filed that envisions a retail store that lets shoppers fill their carts and then leave without going through the cashier lane — because the store’s sensors would just bill you for the goods.

Also in patent news: Boeing, maker of aviation equipment and sponsor of public-television programs, has a patent for a force field that could, in theory, protect buildings and vehicles from explosions. As a conceptual video from the Patent Yogi site illustrates, the force-field would work by detecting shockwaves from nearby explosions and respond with laser pulses to absorb the blast by ionizing the air.

swcAnd finally, speaking of force fields and things that make us think of Star Wars, several fan sites are reporting that a new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, will debut at this year’s Star Wars Celebration convention next month in Anaheim, California. J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy are kicking off the show on April 16th at 10AM Pacific time, so let’s expect the trailer’s debut then and there — and for it (please) to be online five minutes later.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Google Street View

Want to see how your neighborhood has evolved over the past seven years or so? You may just be able to skip the TARDIS or DeLorean and zip back in time through Google Maps on the desktop. Google added “time travel” to its popular Street View feature last year, and it works best when you type in a specific address or landmark when you start your Google Maps search.

When Google Maps locates the address, switch to Street View if you’re not there already. (Note that it you live in a remote area, you may not have much Street to View, but Google has driven around and mapped quite a bit of the world already.)

In the upper-left corner of a Street View image, click the tiny clock icon to see a strip of series of pictures going back in time. Click the various dates on the timeline to see what the address looked like back then. Select a photo to see it bigger in the main window. In some cases, you may be able to see as far back as 2007, although your results may vary based on the address — and how often Google drove by to take a picture since it started the Street View project.

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Google’s Time Travel feature can also be a poignant visual history lesson, as you can see the new World Trade Center tower rising in lower Manhattan or parts of New Orleans slowly coming back after a the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. It’s not a complete record of a location’s evolution but it can show you that yes, time marches on — and we got pictures to prove it.

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.