Tag Archives: Google Play Store

PTJ 261: DISCOVERIES

On this week’s episode. El Kaiser shares his thoughts after a binge of Star Trek: Discovery and J.D. explores a new way to find things that interest you on Instagram. A roundup of the week’s tech news includes a discussion of Twitter’s fake-followers problem, Amazon looking for new ways to provide employee healthcare and Google’s attempts to root out — and boot out — bad apps from its online Android store. All this AND porgs on Episode 261 of PopTech Jam!

Links to Stories Mentioned On This Week’s Show

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 211: Jobs, Knobs and Yobs

As promised last week, this week’s episode catches up with the latest fall announcements from Microsoft and Apple. El Kaiser and J.D. also discuss the instant popularity of Google’s new Pixel phones, the withered Vine and shopping on Instagram. Happy November!

Links to News Stories

PTJ 171 News: Don’t Forget to File Your Paperwork

Attention octocopter pilots! The Federal Aviation Administration has taken the suggestions of its task force to heart and has now set up a database for drone owners to register their unmanned aircraft with the government. The new rule goes into effect December 21st and those who skip out could be subject to chunky fines. And in other government news, The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Department of Homeland Security is trying to come up with a plan to examine social media posts made by individuals applying for visas to the United States. Watch out for those Facebook hoaxes, agents.

Across the pond, the European Union is getting serious about user privacy and is putting a new directive in place that imposes fines on companies that do not clearly explain to users what personal information about them is being collected — and how that information will be used. Hit ’em up, Europe!

Facebook is taking yet another bit of functionality out of its main mobile app. As the TechCrunch blog reports, The Social Network is turning off the photo sync feature for its mobile app next month and will nag its members to download its Moments app instead.

hotwheelsHoverboards are hot items — for reals. Numerous reports of fires from the devices’ lithium-ion batteries have prompted safety concerns for some time, with the Federal Aviation Administration even encouraging airline passengers earlier this year to leave spare batteries at home. Several recently reported hoverboard fires now have the industry on even higher alert. Most major airlines — including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, Jet Blue, Alaska Airlines and others — now ban the boards in checked and carry-on luggage. Amazon began to yank certain models from its online store last week as well.

Google is trying to help you keep your plans organized with its Inbox by Gmail app. Last summer, Inbox added an algorithm that sniffs out and collects all the airline, hotel, rental car and other confirmation messages associated with travel and groups them together in a collection called a Trip Bundle. This week, Google announced one-tap sharing for all the Trip Bundle data so friends and family can get all your coordinates at once.

Google is also showing some love to those who buy a new Chromecast streaming dongle. If you pony up $35 for a Chromecast, Google kicks back $20 to go shopping for content in its Google Play store. The offer can be redeemed through the Chromecast app until January 2nd, 2016.

Careful web watchers noticed a recent post on a Microsoft blog that seems to be walking back the company’s decision to take away promised gobs of OneDrive storage because some people were abusing the privilege.  A Microsoft manager posted that while the company was not changing its overall plans, it would make some concessions to loyal customers, as long as they sign up on the OneDrive site to keep it by the end of January.

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In hacking news, Kromtech, the makers of the software utility MacKeeper, has acknowledged what it calls “a potential vulnerability in its data storage system” that was found by a security researcher.  Security blogger Brian Krebs said the incident revealed the personal information of 13 million customers was exposed. (And yes, MacKeeper is that pesky scareware program that uses pop-under ads to get people to buy it and some sites recommend against using it anyway.)

And in a follow-up to the big VTech hack last month, a 21-year-old man has been arrested in England on suspicion of “unauthorized access” to a computer. UK officials say they are still in the early stages of the investigation.

The New York State Attorney General continues the probe into advertised vs. actual broadband speeds, and is now asking the public to check their own connections at the Internet Health Test site and report the findings. AG Eric Schneiderman, who is investigating speed claims made by Verizon Communications Inc, Cablevision Systems Corp and Time Warner Cable Inc., said customers wanting to help should perform the test, take a screenshot of the results and fill in an online form on the state’s website.

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Speaking of Verizon, the company has just updated it FiOS mobile app so customers can steam and watch shows they have recorded back home on their DVRs when they are out and about with their mobile devices.

Also streaming, Netflix but up a blog post this week describing its efforts to increase the quality of the video flowing over broadband connections while reducing data use by 20 percent. A story on the Variety site explains the project in detail, which basically amounts to different encoding rules for different types of video content, because after all, as a Netflix manager says, “You shouldn’t allocate the same amount of bits for ‘My Little Pony’ as for ‘The Avengers.’”

Rumors about next spring’s expected Samsung Galaxy S7 phone are beginning to emerge, and the whispers make the new model sound not unlike the iPhone 6s. According to The Wall Street Journal, Samsung is adding a pressure-sensitive screen, ala 3D Touch, and a high-speed charging port. A retina scanner for biometric security may also be in the works. Samsung is also appealing its recent patent-case loss to Apple, and is going all the way to the Supreme Court. No word yet if the Supremes will take the case.

And finally…what’s everybody doing this weekend?

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PTJ 134 News: Clicks and Clacks

meerkatThere’s a ton of news coming out of the SXSW conference down in Austin, Texas, this week, including a new smartphone app called Meerkat that lets its users broadcast live video from their smartphones to their Twitter followers. Part of Meerket’s ease of use was that it can tap into a user’s Twitter contacts and get the party started fast. But last Friday, however, Twitter shut down access to its social graph, citing an internal policy. Twitter may have been treating Meerkat like a parasite app, and the fact that the bird-themed microblogging site quickly turned around and announced its January acquisition of Periscope seems a bit calculated. Some worry that Meerkat’s popularity and expansion will take a fatal hit unless it in turn gets bought by Facebook or Google, but the company’s founders vow to press on after all the PR at SXSW.

It’s March Madness again and we expect time-outs on the basketball court, but the Federal Communications Commission has called a time-out and stopped the clock (again) in the 180-day review periods for the pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV mergers. This time, the stoppage is due to a pending court decision about the disclosure of video-programming contracts between the service providers and content companies.

HBO’s new standalone streaming service has picked up another distributor along with Apple TV. Cablevision has announced that it, too, will allow subscribers to its Optimum broadband service sign up and stream content from HBO NOW without having to already have an HBO tithe bundled in their TV packages.

NBCBut that’s not all in streaming TV news this week! The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is talks to create a small, 25-channel bundle of TV networks that could be subscribed to and streamed across the screens of iOS gadgets and connected Apple TV boxes. Apple, of course, Is. Not. Commenting. As reported, the deal could include streams from ABC, CBS, ESPN and Fox. While NBC has been MIA on the ATV, there are reports that The Peacock Network is actually in negotiations with Apple,  too.

Apple is also said to be revamping its trade-in and recycling program for old gear to include smartphones made by other manufacturers. The current program offers Apple Store Gift Cardsfor the value of the Apple product you want to unload so you can upgrade. According to the blog 9to5Mac, Apple Store employees will determine the trade-in value for old Android, Blackberry, WinPhone and other competing handsets and even transfer address-book contacts for new iPhone owners.

Facebook has updated its Community Standards policy and is bringing down the ban-hammer on nudity, with the usual non-porn exceptions like “art.” On the other side of the coin, Google is reversing course on its recent decision on adult content. Instead of outright banning sexual images, Google’s updated policy now says you can post your non-commercial naughty bits as long as you turn on the adult content warning for your blog.

Two notes from YouTube this week: The massive video-sharing site now supports interactive 360 degree videos. YouTube also announced its new YouTube for Artists effort, a resource portal for musicians seeking to get more audience engagement, as well as making money on YouTube through merchandise sales and online fundraising.

googlenowGoogle Now, the helpful-yet-creepy tool that automatically reminds you of things like restaurant reservations and flight times by using information in your Gmail, Google Calendar and other services, could be expanding its powers soon. A Google product manager said this week that the company plans to offer an open API that other companies can build into their own apps. This would move Google Now’s reach from beyond the 40 third-party services it works with already and could, in theory, add Google Now cards for things like line-wait times at theme parks, all while making Cortana and Siri feel like they need to step it up.

Google is also said to be tightening up app submissions in the Google Play Store by having a team of reviewers analyze the programs for developer policy violations before the software gets turned loose in the store. Apps will also be labeled using an age-based ratings system.

Nintendo is trying to get back in the game of games. The company has formed a partnership with DeNA to develop games for mobile gadgets and smart devices.

Microsoft has updated its Malicious Software Removal Tool to zap the controversial and security-exploitable Superfish adware that had been preinstalled by Lenovo on many of its new laptops sold between September 2014 and February 2015. Lenovo has also released its own Superfish Removal Tool and probably feels pretty guilty about the whole thing now.

The Pew Research Center has a new report out that examines how Americans feel about their privacy (or lack thereof) after revelations and leaks from the Department of Edward Snowden. While a majority of the survey respondents are in favor of the US government monitoring communications of suspected terrorists, American leaders and foreign leaders and citizens, there was also a majority that said it was unacceptable for the US government to monitor the communications of its own citizens.

hellobarbieChild privacy advocates are forming petitions and making a ruckus over the new Hello Barbie doll, which is a Wi-Fi capable version of the iconic blonde toy lady. The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is one of the groups leading the charge against the new doll because it says this $75 Internet-connected Barbie uses a microphone to record children’s voices and then uploads the audio data to servers in the sky. While Mattel says this voice-recognition process is needed to make the doll interactive and respond to the kid, some parents are concerned that the company will be storing and analyzing the child’s conversations with NSA Barbie — or possibly be eavesdropping on the whole family.

And finally, the geek world lost another cherished icon last week with the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, British author of the Discworld series of fantasy novels. In honor of Sir Terry, fans and programmers have come up with a way to keep his name alive on the Internet based on a bit from his 2004 novel Going Postal. In the book, the Clacks, a telegraph-style communications system, was used to keep alive the name of one of the novel’s deceased characters by passing the code GNU John Dearheart endlessly back and forth across the network. So the fanbase came up with GNU Terry Pratchett, a snippet of code that can be added harmlessly to website HTML, mail servers and even WordPress blogs. Because:

GNUTP

PTJ 129 News: Identity Crisis

Those massive corporate data breaches just keep rolling on like an endless Mardi Gras parade, don’t they? Last week’s big heist from the Anthem health insurance company  may have actually started almost nine months ago, though. Brian Krebs, keeper of the excellent Krebs on Security blog, is among those reporting that open-source information used to analyze the attack suggests that the first Anthem network intrusions took place in April 2014. When the hack ‘n’ heist was announced last week, Anthem quickly put up an information page and frequently asked questions page for its customers. Some experts have also suggested putting a security freeze on your accounts if you really want to throw up a roadblock.

Also hacked: The Twitter account of Anthony Noto, the chief financial officer of Twitter. Oops.

The White House is at least trying to get an agency together to help sort out online security incidents. The Cyber Threat and Intelligence Integration Center is expected to serve as a portal for members of the intelligence community to share and compare cyber threat data.

Google is also celebrating Safer Internet Day until February 17th, The company put up an online Security Checkup tutorial that guides you through reviewing your permissions and security settings. It takes about two minutes to complete and has a reward, Google will give you a permanent two-gigabyte bump in your Google Drive storage space. So that’s win-win, but perhaps Google ought to to some safer Internet housekeeping and clean out those nasty adware apps posing as games in its Google Play store.

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On a happier health-related note, Google announced this week on its Google Blog that it was adding fact-checked medical information to its Knowledge Graph feature of Google search. Who knows what else they’ll be adding to search by the time the annual I/O conference rolls in — it’ll be May 28th & 29th this year.

Smart TVs may be getting a little too smart for some people. There’s chatter around Samsung’s Smart TV this week, particularly the voice activation feature that can be used to control the set by talking when it was revealed that the TV can eavesdrop and record private conversations that take front of the TV and transmit the information to third-party companies.

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Samsung acknowledged the practice in its user agreement for the TV and said users can turn off voice activation whenever they want and other users have gone to more extreme measures Samsung, realizing that clumsy wording its is EULA was causing uproar, later went to its corporate blog to clarify that the Smart TV does not randomly record private living room conversations and its really just about transmitting the spoken-word commands to Nuance for translation into action. Still, many people have noticed a similarity to the spying telescreens of Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel 1984.

Hey, a $10,000 Ethernet cable? Some gearheads are clearly a bit skeptical, but if this sort of thing appeals to you, we also hear there’s a super-cool bit of New York City real estate over there for sale, too.

scribdScribd, the service that offers unlimited access to certain ebooks for a monthly fee, is bringing the same approach to comics — yes, unlimited access to the company’s digital comics offerings for $9 a month. No DC Comics, though. Yet, anyway. But look! Up in the sky! At least you can use Apple Pay on JetBlue starting this month.

Apple is also hard at work on the next couple versions of its iOS software. Several tech blogs are reporting that there’s an iOS 8.4 update down the road when the Apple Watch arrives this spring and that one may include a new streaming Beats music service. And later this year, look for iOS 9.

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And finally, the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum announced this week that it has some long-lost space artifacts from Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 mission to the moon. Although Mr. Armstrong died in 2012, his widow contacted the museum recently and said she found a white bag known as a “McDivitt purse” in one of Mr. Armstrong’s closets. The random objects inside the bag turned out to be about 10 pounds of hardware related to the original moonwalk — including the 16mm Data Acquisition Camera that was mounted in the window of the lunar module Eagle to record the historic landing and “one small step” step. Here’s hoping the Smithsonian does an Inside Neil Armstrong’s Historic Space Purse exhibit soon!

PTJ 122 News: Hyper Holidays

Will the drama of the Sony Pictures, North Korea and a certain Massive Network Hack every end? After announcing last week it was canceling the theatrical release of The Interview, Sony said on Tuesday that it was making the picture available to theaters who wanted to start showing it on the original Christmas Day release date. That was Tuesday. On Monday of this week, Internet access to, from and within North Korea, went dark for about nine hours in a complete network failure and was still unstable at least a day later.

opBack in the USA, Sony is still trying to get itself back together. At least one Sony employee has spoken to the press about what it was like to work in a place that suffered a catastrophic breach (hint: not fun) and in a sternly worded letter, the company has threatened to sue Twitter unless it removes the accounts of people who’ve been shared data leaked from the hack. The beleaguered entertainment company has also said to be working with crisis manager Judy Smith, a consultant and inspiration for the Olivia Pope character on the ABC drama Scandal.  It’s apparently that bad.

It’s been a bad year for corporate IT departments.  A report in The New York Times this week says the massive hack of JPMorgan bank earlier this year might have been blocked if one server on the company’s very large network had been upgraded to handle two-factor authentication.  Hackers were reportedly able to get into the network after swiping the login credentials from a bank employee.

mac updateMeanwhile, Apple isn’t leaving it to sysadmins or mere users to update their Macs. While the company usually pushes out its patches and pesters with popups to install them, an update to fix a vulnerability in the system’s network time protocol was delivered over the Internet and automatically installed. (In other Apple news, the company has recently added a Tumblr blog and an Instagram account for iTunes.)

If you use Facebook, you’ve probably gotten a message from the site about the yet-again revamped privacy policy that goes into effect in January 2015. In a nutshell, the letter describes a new tool called Privacy Basics and some other modifications to the policy.

failThe proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable has been given a time out. The Federal Communications Commission paused its regulatory review of the $45 billion dollar deal this week when it discovered that thousands of requested documents from Time Warner were improperly withheld from the agency and another 31,000 did not get submitted properly due to “vendor error.” The FCC sent a letter to Time Warner, Comcast and Charter Communications saying it was going to “stop its informal 180-day transaction clock until January 12, 2015.”

lyricsMany of us have looked up song lyrics on the web for various reasons, but if you use Google for the search, you just may get those lyrics back at the top of your results page in that Knowledge Graph area. Not every song-lyrics search out there returns Google’s own results, but for those that do, you also get a link to the Google Play store for the full set and a link to buy the corresponding song. Google’s intentions may be a bit transparent there, but not as crystal-clear as the latest version of its own Transparency Report that tracks government requests for information. In a post on the Google Public Policy Blog, legal director Trevor Callaghan reports that from June to December 2013, Google received 3,105 government requests to remove 14,637 pieces of content.

The Hyperloop, the Elon Musk futuristic mass-transit project we talked about on the show last year could be moving farther from fantasy and closer to fact. JumpStartFund, the project’s developers have released a 76-page white paper detailing the current state of the system. The project’s managers are also thinking that the Hyperloop could be a reality within 10 years. Buckle up.

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Roberto Orci is not going to be sitting in the director’s chair for Star Trek 3, but Deadline.com and a few other Hollywood publications are reporting that Jason Lin — known for his work on the Fast & Furious franchise — will be taking over on the third film. It’s due out in July 2016, just in time for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek‘s first broadcast in September 1966.

NASA’s Orion space capsule is home for the holidays. After its post-orbit splashdown in the Pacific on December 5th, the capsule took a week-long cross-country roadtrip back to Cape Canaveral, arriving on December 18th. Scientists are digging into the data collected during its trip around the Earth, and NASA has released images and video taken by the Orion capsule as it reentered the Earth’s atmosphere.

The VentureBeat site claims Amazon is working on an update for its epic fail of a smartphone. No comment from Amazon, but the Fire Phone 2 is rumored for 2016. The six people who bought the original Fire Phone will probably be due for an upgrade by then.

810And finally, even though that hotly anticipated Fire Phone 2 may not be out next year, Mashable as a story on five smartphone innovations that are coming out in 2015. The predictions are based on the arrival of Qualcomm’s powerful new Snapdragon 810 processor and what it can do for the smartphone experience. If the predictions hold up, we’ll be using these powerful new phones as PCs and gaming consoles when we’re not enjoying their superior video and audio capabilities. It’s something to look forward to in the new year, along of course, with the return of Orphan Black on BBC America in April and Star Wars: The Force Awakens in December.

PTJ 85: Naming That Tune

This week J.D. and El Kaiser play “Stump the Music Recognition App”.  In the news, the annual SxSW Festival in Texas is in full swing; the release of a potential new tent-pole game for the XBox One; Apple quietly rolls out an update to iOS 7; Windows 8.1, Update 1 is leaked; Google announces several new add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets; Samsung gets into the personalized music-service business; and the ‘Veronica Mars’ film based on the cult TV favorite makes it to the big-screen after hugely successful crowd-funding campaign.

PTJ 85 News: Burnin’ Down the House

Everyone wants to go to the annual SxSW Festival in Texas these days! With a little help from the American Civil Liberties Union, Edward Snowdon, the former National Security Agency contractor who has released thousands of confidential documents about government data collection to the public, appeared to festival attendees via a livestream from a Google Hangout video chat bounced through seven proxy servers. Mr. Snowdon chose to address the techies at SxSW because (in part), “the NSA is setting fire to the future of the Internet and you guys are the firefighters.”

The Xbox One may be lagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 in game console sales, but the release of the hotly anticipated Titanfall game for Microsoft’s platform may help even things up. The first-person shooter from Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts went on sale this past Tuesday after many awards and promo events.

Apple’s iOS 7.1 update arrived for compatible iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch players earlier this week. Along with the usual “improvements and security fixes,” iOS 7.1 brings user interface tweaks; Apple’s site has a list of the changes. And now that iOS 7.1 has landed, it’s time for the tech blogs to get all excited for iOS 8, which could arrive later this year. The 9to5Mac site reports that Apple is preparing a much-improved version of its once-maligned Apple Maps.

iOS 8 may be a while off, but Microsoft continues work on Windows 8.1, Update 1. The update has not been officially released yet, but it’s out there. According to tech writer Ed Bott, someone at Microsoft inadvertently left the final software packages on the Windows Update server last week. Mr. Bott took advantage of the opportunity to install the Windows 8.1 update on several computers and wrote up a report highlighting the major features of the update.

Google announced several new add-ons for its Google Docs and Sheets online productivity software. Meanwhile, angry parents displeased over a child’s shopping spree of unrestricted in-app purchases, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company. Google has not responded to the action, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that that 30-minute gap of time after the initial password entry “is designed to enable children to purchase in-game currency without parental permission and without having to enter a password.” Or maybe Google was just trying to help developers take advantage of those adult impulse buys…

Like everyone else, Samsung is getting into the personalized music-service business. Designed for those toting Galaxy devices, the new Milk Music radio service will include 200 ad-free and customizable stations.  And while Samsung is touting its exclusive music service, Amazon is said to be ramping up its own game-development efforts. The Daily Telegraph of London and others are reporting that Amazon has its own game console hardware in the works and plans to develop its own games to play on it.

Facebook is rolling out yet another revamped News Feed design over the next few weeks. Most people don’t seem to care anymore. (But maybe we should care more now that robots have mastered air hockey and are moving into table-tennis matches with humans.)

ComiXology continues to be one of the highest-grossing mobile apps out there for its excellent interface and wide selection of downloadable digital comics. CNBC has a report this week about the company’s effect on independent publishers and comics creators.

bunnyVMAnd finally, on the topic of independent productions, the Veronica Mars movie arrives this weekend in selected theaters and on-demand sites. The movie was financed by a Kickstarter campaign that passed its funding goal in less than a day. So, if the film is successful going outside the traditional Hollywood route, will it bust up the paradigm and open up all sorts of new possibilities for movie and TV creators? Time till tell — and if you haven’t seen the original show, the pilot is free on iTunes, (each of the three seasons is $20 there) or you can stream the episodes on Amazon Instant Video. Fans of Frozen: If you loved Kristen Bell in that Oscar-winner, you’ll enjoy seeing her even more animated as the one and only Veronica Mars.

Episode 58: A Buttload of Geeky Fun

This week El Kaiser explores the Deep (Dark) Web and J.D. has a Hopefully Helpful Hint for Jammers looking to improve their writing skills. In the news researchers hack cars at DefCon; abusive trolls force Twitter to promise the addition of an abuse button in the U.K.; Google debuts new hardware and updates the Zagat restaurant guide; Apple rumors heat up…again; and Netflix will add Klingon and Vulcan subtitles to classic Star Trek film.

Episode 26 News: The One Where We Just Blogged It

And now, some news!

Microsoft, in the midst of taking a swipe at Google for what is says are suspect ranks for shopping searches, says Windows 8 is selling just fine, thankyouverymuch. Not everyone’s convinced, though. Some sites like InformationWeek would like, well, more information about the numbers.

The manager for Apple’s misbegotten Maps app is probably looking for new directions himself after getting fired earlier this month, and Tony Fadell, the man known as the Godfather of the iPod does not seem to be too broken up about Scott Forstall — another previously released Apple exec — getting the sack. Apple itself is said to be working with TomTom to make the iOS 6 maps app better, while map fans wait in hope for a standalone Google Maps app for iOS. At least iTunes 11 finally showed up this week.

Google has had about enough of anonymous trolling on app reviews in its Google Play Store. Reviews must now be accompanied by the user’s Google+ name and profile photo. The move should cut down on the number of astroturfed reviews for an app, and trolls will just have to drive up Google+ membership stats with fake accounts if they want to continue fragging apps in public forums.

Hoping to get its buzz back, Research in Motion is showing off a new BlackBerry in advance of its new BlackBerry OS 10 system due out early next year. And while not exactly fresh news, AT&T is still hanging out in the basement of the Consumer Reports customer satisfaction survey for US wireless carriers; the company’s 4G LTE network got better marks. Verizon Wireless was tops among the major national carriers.

But enough about tech, how about some pop? With the big summer movies now landing on Blu-ray and DVD for the holidays, director Christopher Nolan has some thoughts on the ending of the The Dark Knight Rises. Now, if they can just get Hugh Jackman jacked in to the X-Men: Days of Future Past with the rest of the gang