Tag Archives: Google Maps

PTJ 97: Descent Into Casual Gaming and Tips for Better Throwback Photos

El Kaiser makes a difficult confession: he’s traded in his first person shooters for crushing candy and fuming feathered friends.

Throwback Thursdays on Twitter and Facebook have people digging through their old photo albums but if your old snapshots haven’t held up too well over the years J.D. has tips for how to spruce them up.

In the news the onslaught of the Electronic Entertainment Expo gets underway in Los Angeles; Apple unveils a new headphone standard;  Sony debuts its new PlayStation TV; Amazon integrates Audible audiobook lineup into the Kindle ebook app; Google gets into the satellite game by acquiring of Skybox Imaging; Netflix and Verizon continue their corporate slapfight; and Wired magazine dredges up old Star Trek misfires.

PTJ 97 News: All Ears

If it’s June and the WWDC is over, it must be time for the Electronic Entertainment Expo! The show opened in Los Angeles earlier this week to show off this year’s offerings for the gaming crowd; sites like GameSpot and Kotaku have the latest news. Some early announcements included Sony’s new PlayStation TV, formerly the PlayStation Vita TV, a $99 set-top box for streaming PS4 games to other TV sets around the house.  Sony presented its new console game lineup for this year, as did Microsoft, which formerly put the new lower-priced Xbox One Without the Kinect Controller on sale for $399.

ligthingApple’s Worldwide Developers Conference wrapped up last week, but not before revealing a new standard that uses the company’s own Lighting connector (right) for headphones. The new Lightning module is supposed to provide more bandwidth and control for services like iTunes Radio. By drawing power from the iPhone through the Lightning port, for example, headphone accessory makers could do things like design noise-canceling headphones without the need for an external battery. No announcements have been made concerning the demise of the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack on iOS devices, but some people point out that Apple did just buy Beats Electronics, maker of headphones, so hello, new standards. Others, like the gang over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog argue strongly that Apple will keep the traditional headphone jack because of the massive mount of gear out there that uses the 3.5 mm plug.

The World Cup tournament kicks off this week, and Facebook and Twitter are jumping in with their own social-media fútbol features. Facebool will host a special Trending World Cup section on the Newsfeed page. Meanwhile, Twitter is promoting the official #WorldCup hashtag and encouraging fans to keep up with the news by following the official Twitter accounts like @FIFAWorld Cup and @ussoccer. (Perhaps in all the excitement of the looming soccerpalooza, Facebook accidentally released its new Slingshot messenger app to the public for a short time. Whoops!)

amazonAmazon announced the integration of its Audible audiobook lineup into the Kindle ebook app for Android and iOS. Book lovers can now listen to their audiobooks without having to use a separate app; that Kindle app upgrade is available now. Even if you don’t own the audio version of an ebook, Amazon is also offering “Whispersync for Voice,” for more than 45,000 of its Kindle titles so you can read and listen to a book at the same time. You can find out if one of your ebooks as a companion audio track with Amazon’s Matchmaker tool and then add in an audio-track upgrade for less than four bucks. (Amazon is also muscling in on Paypal’s territory with the launch of a new online payments system.)

Meanwhile, Google, which purchased a drone company in April, has confirmed its acquisition of Skybox Imaging for the low, low price of $500 million dollars in cash. Skybox is a company that makes small, high-resolution imaging satellites.

Netflix and Verizon have been having a corporate slapfight about poor-quality video streaming and who’s to blame for it. Each side has been bashing the other and Netflix went so far as to send messages to its subscribers sticking Verizon for the problems. Verizon fired back with a cease-and-desist letter telling Netflix to knock it off and accused the video company of pulling a PR stunt. On its monthly ISP Speed Index blog post, Netflix notes that Verizon FiOS and DSL service have actually gotten a bit slower in the first month of their very special friendship. Money can’t buy love, Netflix, but maybe you can get a better rental price.

amtComputer scientists have been arguing for the past few days whether a computer program has actually beaten the Turing Test. The Turing Test was introduced by computer pioneer and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing (left) in a 1950 academic paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” The test challenges a computer’s ability to show intelligent behavior equivalent or indistinguishable from that of a human being. In the recent Turing Test 2014 competition over at the Royal Society in London, a computer program named Eugene Goostman convinced 10 out of 30 judges that it was a real live person. To pass the test, the computer must fool human judges 30 percent of the time, which led some to say the program had passed. Other said the computer flunked the test by using advantageous factors like claiming to be a teenage non-native English speaker — which could account for some odd responses to questions.

stVAnd finally, Wired points out that this week marks the 25th anniversary of what’s arguably the worst film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. For those who have blocked it out after years of therapy, the film was directed by Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. It featured a storyline in which Kirk and crew up against Spock’s half-brother Sybock, who jacks the Enterprise to go find God. The film currently averages a one-star rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site, but thankfully, the franchise’s shields were strong enough to deflect the damage and move on. To be fair, just about every long-term series has an enormous clunker or two back down the road, Case in point: A  certain galaxy far, far away suffered not only The Phantom Menace, but The Star Wars Holiday Special as well.

PTJ 89: Amazon Just Might Have Your Number

J.D. tells us how we can make a correction on a Google Map and  Pedro hopes The Big Apple finally gets its recommended daily allowance of Google Fiber. In the news, Amazon is said to be working on its own line of smartphones;  Facebook is ripping out the messaging functionality from its smartphone apps; Google purchases Titan Aerospace out from under Facebook; Samsung’s Galaxy S5 makes its official debut; Windows Phone 8.1 is getting raves; and a Linux distribution that leaves no trace on the host computer.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Maps and Legends

Even though it sometimes feels like they feel like it’s been around since the Web was invented, the Google Maps service has been available to the public for less than a decade. The Web version of Google Maps went live in 2005 and within months, had incorporated now-familiar features like satellite imagery and directions. The standalone Google Earth program, with its inventive use of satellite photos and 3D navigation, also arrived that year. (2005 was a very good year, indeed.)

The mobile version Google Maps app got a huge new user base in 2007 when the iPhone arrived to kick off the smartphone races. Google has been a dominant force in the world of online maps long before Apple’s ill-fated adventures in digital cartography showed the superiority of the Google Maps app.

Google itself diligently updates the material with its Street View cars, fresh satellite images, and other enhancements and it recently revamped Maps Web site. But one of the reasons Google Maps may seem so thorough is that the company allows users to help update the content and even make corrections to maps that are out of date — or just plan wrong. If you know an area of town and see a mistake on a Google Map, there’s a Report a Problem link right there on the page so you can let somebody at Google Maps HQ know.

beepsmapsBut Google Maps invites much more participation than just corrections. With the free Google Map Maker tool, you, local citizen, can add places to a Google map, edit a place that’s already there, and add buildings, roads, hiking trails, bike lanes or other points of interest to a map. You can also review edits and additions made to maps by other Google users. When you go to the Google Map Maker site, you can get basic step-by-step instructions for editing maps and there’s a Getting Started Guide for the Map Maker Interface online. There’s also a Google Map Maker Help Center, MapUp meet-ups and an official forum available.

A couple of caveats: not every country is mapped by Google and yes, your own edits are reviewed by experts and others before they officially become part of the map so you can not name your neighbor’s house Jackhole Estates or anything.

So if you’ve every been led astray by an outdated Google map (perhaps a closed road or a point of interest that’s since closed), here’s you’re chance. Jump in, correct the record and save the world — or at least that part of the world for people who are lost in it.

Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Baby

Sure Yahoo’s been on a spending spree, but Apple has been doing some shopping of its own this summer. Last week, it acquired two location-oriented companies, Locationary and HopStop.

HopStop, for those who haven’t had it save the bacon in a strange land, offers up door-to-door transit, walking, biking, and taxi directions in over 300 cities worldwide. No word on what Apple plans to do with the service (besides nuking the Windows Phone app version), but here’s hoping the transit directions get folded into the Apple Maps app so we all don’t have to refer to other apps to figure out our train plan. So go download the app or check out the mobile site now.

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But if HopStop isn’t your thing, what else can you use to navigate the labyrinth of a major metropolitan mass transit system and not get lost for days?

If you have an iPhone, you can get free maps and directions for 12 major transit systems with Embark for iOS. Boston, Chicago, London, Long Island, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC and most importantly, New York are among the cities serviced here. And Embark does not require an Internet connection so you can use it when you’re on a platform underground trying to figure out which train to take when the one you need is out of service. There’s also a free version for the Embark NYC Subway for Android.

But if New York City is the town you wish explore, our own Metropolitan Transit Authority Web site has a huge collection of links to mobile apps for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and mobile Web. It’s a mix of official and third-party developers, but you can find 68 iPhone apps, 34 iPad apps, 33 Android apps, 8 BlackBerry apps and 8 Windows Phone apps listed.

Lest we forget, Google Maps for Android and iOS. The old reliable app includes transit guides for many cities and all kinds of navigational bells and whistles like audio turn-by-turn directions.

If you’re traveling or just want a really good pocket guide for your own hometown, check your phone’s app store and search for transit apps and local guides for specific cities. And while you’re loading up your phone with your transit app of choice, don’t forget to throw a few appropriate tunes on there as well. Safe travels, yo.

Episode 51: Mavericky Mavericks

The NSA is watching, Apple decides to go flat and Microsoft and Sony officially unveil their new gaming consoles at the E3 in Los Angeles. It has been a very busy news week in tech so J.D. and El Kaiser roll up their sleeves and tell you exactly when who did what to whom…. and where. Also, J.D. explains how you can save a little money by taking your own passport photos. 

Episode 49 News: Somebody’s Watching Me

Fresh off its announcement last week that it sold 10 million Galaxy S4 phones in the first month of release, Samsung is already aiming for another media moment. The company said this week that it plans an event for June 20th in London. Press invitations for its Samsung Premiere 2013 event have gone out and new Galaxy and Ativ mobile devices are expected.

Also on the other side of the Atlantic, Google Maps app has added cycling directions for six more European countries. Google first added maps for cyclists in 2010 with information for the US and Canada and expanded the feature last year to include the United Kingdom, much of Europe and Australia. Bicycles aren’t the only mode of transportation Google is dabbling with this week. The company also plans to use high-altitude blimps and balloons to build wireless networks in parts of Africa and Asia that do not have the infrastructure for more traditional methods of getting people online.

Microsoft has an updated console, the Xbox One, coming out later this year, but the new product has people talking about more than just the hardware spex. For instance, there was some confusion about whether the Xbox One will play second-hand games. After hearing a lot of swirl on the forums, a Microsoft representative did put out a statement saying used games would be allowed. (Sony had its own batch of Twitter protesters tweeting angrily this week about any attempt at enforcing digital-rights management restrictions for used games on its upcoming on PlayStation 4 console.)

xbox

Microsoft also had its share of privacy concerns and questions, due to the “always on” feature of the Internet-connected Xbox One console and its Kinect motion-sense controller. These issues involve data collection and Internet safety, and a German commissioner even went as far as to call the Xbox One a monitoring device. Among other things, Microsoft did confirm that the Xbox One system can be shut down completely.  Other news outlets have also expressed concern over a patent Microsoft has filed for technology that tracks TV viewing habits through the Xbox One.

A vintage Apple I computer made in 1976 sold for much more than its original $666 asking price at an auction in Germany this past weekend. The Apple antique sold for a record $671,400 dollars to an anonymous collector.

Yahoo didn’t buy the old Apple, but it seems to be bidding on everything else. Not long after the company made the move to buy the Tumblr blogging service, All Things D and other sites are reporting that Yahoo is possibly buying the Hulu video-streaming service. Hulu had revenues of about $695 million in 2012, so it could bring in some cash and help pay off that big Tumbler bill.

More new things are on the way. Mozilla is joining up with Chinese manufacturer Foxconn for a press event next week. The two have an announcement set for June 3 with speculation that a handset or tablet running the new HTML 5-powered Firefox OS could be in the making. Opera Software has released a beta version 15 of its Opera browser for Windows and Mac systems. The test version is officially known as Opera Next 15 and has been overhauled to run on Google’s Chromium engine for faster performance. (Opera has been working on its browser for 17 years, so it’s seven years older than WordPress blogging software, which celebrates its 10th birthday this week.)

Deustsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, said it plans to test small airborne surveillance drones with infrared cameras to photograph and hopefully prosecute people spraying graffiti on its rail depots. Yeah, can’t really see that sort of thing working here in New York City unless there was a Starfleet-size armada of drones — and then half of them would still show up for sale on eBay.

Episode 29 News: Terms of Servitude

Diplomacy (or lack thereof) has been getting a real workout this month. After recent negotiations in Dubai, the US refused to sign the International Telecommunication Union global treaty over Internet-freedom issues. Apple, quickly releasing an update to November 29th’s iTunes 11 software, fixed a bunch of bugs and also restored the much beloved Display Duplicates menu item to iTunes 11.0.1.

Google continues to offer its own alternatives to built-in iOS apps, including the new YouTube Capture app for video recording and sharing. It also set forth the triumphant return of the Google Maps app for iOS — which was downloaded 10 million times in the first 48 hours as users fled the native Apple Maps app for more familiar territory.

instarageHulu Plus is up to three million subscribers, but Instagram may be down a few after a Terms of Service kerfuffle that stated the service could basically do what it wanted with its members’ photos, including shilling them out for use in ads. After the Internet became very angry about this and the How to Leave Instagram and Instagram Alternatives blog posts began popping up in droves, Instagram piped up again and said it had been misinterpreted.

Facebook, which owns Instagram now and was already having a banner week in annoying its user base, was also rumored to be readying 15-second autoplay video advertisements on its members’ news feeds next year. Perhaps the other whispers about Facebook doing a new “self-destructing” message app for people who are sending text and photos that maybe they don’t want hanging around after the initial thrill will be better received.

Celebrities sending naughty photos of themselves to their romantic partners may want to consider a self-destructing message app themselves, although the Florida man accused of hacking Scarlett Johansson’s phone to get her naked pictures just got sentenced to 10 years in Federal prison.

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, wants to create an ultra-fast wireless network that can support speeds of 100 gigabits per second, just like fiber-optic networks can do on land. The agency is also taking submissions from folks who have their own ideas how to make such a boss network, so sign up now.

And finally, IBM is out with its annual list of The 5 in 5 — five technology predictions for the next five years. This time around, the company concentrates on cognitive computing and the five senses of touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell. Hopefully, the same machines won’t get all five senses at once and begin to learn the way humans do, because the next thing you know, they have a plan and they may not be so diplomatic about it.

Episode 27 News: OMG!

As the International Telecommunications Union works to update to update a telecom treaty, representatives from companies like Google and Mozilla are among those voicing objections to the closed-door treaty process—and what more government control might do to Internet freedom around the world. The ITU, however, says it affirms the right to freedom of information online.

Google also found time to launch a new version of its Maps API and update the Gmail app for Android to version 4.2.1. The standalone Gmaill app for iPhone and iPad also got a redesign. Meanwhile, Apple finally delivered iTunes 11.

Also this week, Yahoo acquired a startup company called OnTheAir and Tumblr acquired a nasty worm. Oh, and Nexflix acquired a new deal with Disney.

If you like gaming on the big screen, Valve’s Big Picture mode is out of beta. If you like video on the small screen and used Verizon’s V Cast service…be prepared to say goodbye, as Verizon plans to shut it down. V Cast joins The Daily, News Corp’s designed-for-the-iPad electronic newspaper, in the digital dustbin on December 15th.

In NASA news, the Mars Curiosity rover is down in the dirt, while Voyager 1 is headed out on the magnetic highway— hopefully with the windows rolled down and Steppenwolf  shredding the stereo.

Happy 20th birthday to text messages! The handy short communication form hit the big 2-0 on Monday and will be old enough to buy its own beer next year. And who knew the popular SMS shorthand “OMG” was at least 95 years old and once showed up in an epistolary exchange with Sir Winston Churchill?