Tag Archives: Google Now

PTJ 81 News: Moves and Movie Memories

New year, new job for Satya Nadella. Microsoft announced this week that he’ll be its new chief executive officer, only the third CEO in the company’s history. His official bio on the Microsoft site says his hobbies are cricket and poetry. Meanwhile, a version of the company’s Windows 8.1 Update 1 software has escaped into the wild and has made its way onto various file-sharing sites around the Internet.

Microsoft is among the tech companies releasing more information about US government requests for customer data. Google, along with Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn all released reports this week. While the reports are a bit vague and don’t do into details about how much of a customer’s data has been collected or what exactly was snagged, the disclosures come after the Obama administration relaxed regulations enough so the tech giants could give their users some idea of what was going on.

Google has been doing some updates of its own. If you’re using the Google Now service on a mobile device, as well as with the Chrome beta browser on your Mac, Windows or Chromebook system, you can see your notifications appear on the computer. An update to Google Maps for iOS now includes a new feature that tells you when there’s a faster route available when you’re cruising along in Navigation mode. Android users have had this perk for a month already. The Goog also released a new Google Cast software development kit for its Chromecast streaming media stick that lets developers beam and stream their apps to the big screen. (And John Nack, a longtime Adobe product manager, blogger and Photoshop evangelist has jumped ship after 13 years and is joining Google’s digital photography group.)

koreaIn the hardware headlines, Microsoft’s Kinect motion-controller is being used to monitor the DMZ, or demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea. The controller works with special software to scan the area and identify anything that crosses into the DMZ. The program can tell the difference between animals and people and if a human is detected, an alert is sent to the nearest outpost. (Talk about an always-on system…)

For those who like to travel off the beaten path, Iridium says it’s not got a pocket-sized WiFi hotspot that can get you on the Internet all over the world with a satellite connection. The Iridium Go is due in the second quarter of this year, probably for less than $800 and will have its own Android and iOS apps. Expect raging speeds of about 20 kilobits per second and prepaid fees of about a buck a minute, but hey — you’re online in places you wouldn’t be otherwise. In other WiFi news, there’s a lawsuit brewing against Gogo, the in-flight Internet provider, brought on by people accuse the company of holding a monopoly over the sky-surfing business.

But wait, there’s more legal news! The Senate had some questions for Target CEO John Mulligan this week about that major data-security breach late last year that resulted in the theft of at least 40 million credit-card numbers. Several security experts were also on hand for the session. Mulligan also said this week that Target plans to overhaul its own credit-card system and move to the  smart chip-and-PIN system by early next year.

Democrats in the US Senate and House of Representatives introduced their own net neutrality bill early this week in hopes of reinstating the FCC’s recently struck-down Open Internet rules until the agency can come up with newer better regulations. The bill, H.R. 3982, is also known as The Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014.

And finally, Apple continues to note the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer with a celebratory movie shot by 15 camera crews using 100 iPhones. Want a more personalized cinematic experience? Facebook is ringing in its first decade by giving its users Look Back, a tool that creates a personalized greatest-hits video for each user from photos and other information from their timelines on the site. Here’s hoping you’ve aged better than the Macintosh 128K.

PTJ 74: Just Droning On and On and On

We’re baaaaack! In an effort to burn off some of the calories we packed on during our time off we’ve put together a super-sized show. J.D. pits voice enabled personal assistants from Google and Apple against each other in a Hunger Games-style battle to the death! Okay, that may be a little heavy on the hyperbole but she does see what each can do. Musician, recording engineer, record producer and vintage home audio enthusiast Michael Puretz visits with El Kaiser to discuss affordable high-end stereo equipment. In the news Amazon tests drone deliveries for their Prime subscribers; Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One battle each other for holiday sales supremacy; Motorola has a Cyber Monday Meltdown; Apple’s iPad grabs close 70 percent of holiday tablet sales so far; and NASA confirms that Comet ISON has largely disintegrated.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Speak Your Mind

siriVoice-activated “personal assistants” have been getting more useful and skilled over the years, offering a hands-free way to call up information on the Web, make appointments in your calendar, get the temperature and all kinds of similar chores. But if you haven’t used either of the two big players lately, Apple’s Siri and the voice-command function in Google Now, you may be surprised at what they can do.

The Siri assistant got a lot of press when it first arrived on the iPhone 4S back in 2011. Unlike the simplistic voice-driven search of the day, Siri could handle questions on a variety of topics and even add a touch of personalization when presenting answers. She even turned up as a love interest for a character on The Big Bang Theory. (The name, incidentally, means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory” in Norwegian.) Apple’s latest update to iOS 7 has improved the program and has even added a male voice option in the settings.

And then there’s Google Now. It’s also a virtual assistant that helps keep track of your daily life and interests  and can take spoken commands. Google Now with voice actions is available in the Google Search app for Android and iOS devices; the company recently released an extension for its Chrome browser that brings voice search to to the desktop when you utter the magic hotwords, “OK, Google.”

Although Google has had manually activated voice search for years, the Google Now software arrived in the summer of 2012 with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and has been growing ever since. The latest version of Android — 4.4, also known as KitKat — has more than 60 voice commands you can use with Google Now.

Want to give Siri or Google Now a shout? If you have Siri open on your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch screen, tap the question mark in the corner for a list of sample questions or just ask away.Otherwise, just hold down the Home button on your iOS device until you hear the Siri beeps and see “What can I help you with?” appear on the screen. The Tech Blog has its own list of Siri commands and MacTrast’s infographic on the topic is also helpful.

If you’ve got the Google app open, tap the microphone icon at the top of the screen or say “OK, Google” and then ask your question. If you like visuals, check out Trendblog’s handy chart for what you can ask the latest version of Google Now. Google has its own list of Voice Action commands as well.

And even though it’s winter holiday time, don’t forget the Easter eggs!

Episode 45 News: “Now” and Then

We’ve moved into the month of May, so fans of summer movies and Macs are buzzing. Six weeks ahead of Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference, the 9to5Mac site claims it has exclusive information about the next release of OS X. The upcoming iOS 7 software is said to be sporting a new look as well — possibly moving to the “flat” design currently favored by Google and Microsoft, where plain backgrounds are accented with bold color buttons devoid of 3D effects like rendered shadows and gradations.

While LG Electronics is moving from flat to curvy with what it calls the world’s first curved OLED screen, the whole “flat” seems to be working for Microsoft, on the mobile front, anyway. According to the firm Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the Windows Phone OS grew from 3.7 percent of the US market share at the end of March 2012 up to 5.6 percent the first quarter of 2013. (Maybe those sassy TV ads for Windows Phone are also helping.) But Microsoft is doing more with voice-work than just pumping out handsets — the company now has the make-Skype-calls-directly-from-your-Outlook.com-inbox feature up and running, in the United Kingdom anyway, with more countries on the way.

Google Now, the Big G’s voice-assisted life helper program for mobile devices, arrived this week for iOS as part of an update to the Google Search app. Battery-burn accusations aside, Business Insider and other sites report that Google Now actually seems to be more useful than Apple’s own Siri assistant, while also noting the irony that Google Now doesn’t actually work on a lot of phones running older versions of Google’s own Android system.

graceA new study from North Carolina State University has found that older programmers know more than their younger counterparts about recent software platforms and that the skills and knowledge of the veteran coders improves over time. The full paper is titled “Is Programming Knowledge Related to Age?” (Code wranglers and others who work odd hours might want to know that McDonald’s may be expanding availability of its delicious breakfast meals.)

In security news, the Syrian Electronic Army, which claimed it was behind last week’s hack attack on the Twitter feed of the Associated Press, is also targeting other organizations like the Guardian, National Public Radio and Al Jazeera. The Twitter account of Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA and notable controversial newsmaker himself, was also compromised.

Like the airline industry, the travel search-and-bookings business is getting a little smaller thanks to mergers and acquisitions. As announced last fall, Priceline.com bought the sprightly little Kayak service and last month, Expedia.com bought Trivago, a German hotel search site. As detailed in a story in the New York Times this week, some travel industry analysts don’t think the companies will tamper with the search-engine formula, but the British Office of Fair Trading is taking a closer look.

The Internet — and the Web in particular — have made travel, shopping, cat videos and plenty of other things in life much easier, and it’s time to wish it a happy birthday this week. On April 30, 1993, CERN made the announcement that the World Wide Web would be expanding from its scientific and research origins and become free to anyone out there in the public domain. The CERN site has a short history of the Web, along with a link to a 1993 copy of the first Web site.

And finally, while some people may not have predicted just how popular the World Wide Web would be 20 years later, others are actively campaigning for a pre-emptive international ban on…killer robots. Yes, there is  an official movement known as the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and the group seeks to halt the production of weapons that can attack targets without human intervention. For those who want to know more, a 50-page report released last fall from Human Rights Watch outlines many of the ethical concerns over fully autonomous weapons and the danger to civilians. Here’s hoping the future turns out to be more like The Jetsons and less like The Terminator

Episode 45: Summer Movie Spectacular

Okay, maybe it isn’t exactly a “Spectacular” but J.D. does update the summer’s geek movie calender while El Kaiser hashes out the differences between an Image Macro and a Meme. In the news rumors abound that Apple is getting set to unveil new versions of their OSes; Windows Phone gains traction; Google debuts their virtual personal assistant software; and McDonald’s gets set to offer breakfast all day.