Tag Archives: Google Search

PTJ 232: Love and Rocket

Love is all around as the unofficial 2017 Geek Summer Movie Season gets ready to roll next week with the arrival of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in theaters ‚ with Wonder Woman, King Arthur, and another Spider-Man right behind.  After a stomp through the week’s tech headlines (including the hunt to shoot down fake news and drones you can fly with your head) El Kaiser and J.D. discuss some of the most anticipated films on the way over the next few months.
Ooga-chaka-ooga-ooga!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 196 News: Windows $10K

Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade has steadily grown more persistent since the software’s release last year, even to the point of practically hijacking a user’s computer to ram it on there. While the Windows forums have lit up with complaints, at least one dissatisfied customer has taken Microsoft to court over the unauthorized update. The plaintiff was awarded $10,000 to compensate for lost wages and the price of a new computer to replace the one banjaxed by an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft denied that it had done anything wrong and said it had dropped its appeal in the case to avoid additional legal expense. However, the company said it’s changing that sneaky dialogue box that starts the Windows 10 install when you click the “x” to close the box. (Also disappearing:  The Xbox Fitness service.)

Due to copyright issues, many song lyrics sites used to be hosted on offshore servers, but now Google has cut a deal with the Toronto-based firm LyricFind to legally display lyrics in search results. The move both funnels money to the publishers and songwriters of the licensed songs — and might send a few people to Google Play Music as well.

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Google is also expanding the tools its offers to teachers by making its Expeditions virtual reality experience available to everyone with the Android app, a network connection and a VR viewer. Expeditions offers virtual reality tours to more than 200 locations and an iOS edition of the app is expected soon. The company also released its Google Cast for Education app for Chrome for wireless screen-sharing in the classroom.

Facebook has decided that it needs to rev up the Slideshow feature that was originally included it its Facebook Moments app last year. In a new update to the Facebook mobile app, if it senses you have taken more than five pictures or videos in the past 24 hours and you go to post a status update, Facebook suggests that you make a slideshow out of the material. (The TechCrunch site has a theory that Facebook is desperate to get people to post more original content on the site.)  Facebook is also adding location-based events to its main app to offer suggestions for things to do besides spend all night on Facebook, and actual humans will curate the events lists.

Twitter announced that its adding stickers to photo tweets, perhaps in an attempt to get more teenage girls to use the service.

Municipal lawmakers and the Airbnb site for easy short-term rentals have a contentious relationship in places like New York City and San Francisco because of local housing laws, and now the start-up is even suing San Francisco over a new law that says Airbnb hosts must register with the city first. The lawsuit contends that San Francisco is putting the burden on Airbnb to enforce the law by fining the site $1,000 for posting unverified-with-the-city listings on the site. As The New York Times points out, Airbnb originally helped write the law in the first place to quell protests from affordable hosing advocates. The New York Legislature also passed its own bill against Airbnb this month that would impose fines on apartments listed with the service that rent for less than 30 days if the leaseholder if not present. That bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Amazon has added a new feature to its Kindle apps and e-readers that’s designed to make it easier for you to wander around in an ebook without losing your place. The new tool is called, appropriately, Page Flip.

Medical offices have become a popular target for hackers thanks to the troves of personal patient data and now hackers have taken to selling thousands of records on the dark web after their demands for money were turned down.  Speaking of hackers, Apple’s forthcoming iOS 10 software has already been poked, prodded and had its flows exposed in public by an individual who has posted it all online on the iOS Hacker Wiki.

Pinterest, which added buy buttons to some items on its mobile app last year, has added those click-to-buy buttons on its web version now. A shopping bag is also available so you can click around on either mobile or desktop and then buy all your pinned purchases at once.

And finally, summer is here and if you need some projects to occupy the kids, Bose has a $150 BoseBuild Speaker Cube kit that shows kids how to make a Bluetooth speaker that works with an iOS device while also teaching them how the principles of sound and speakers work, along with magnets, electromagnets, frequency and waveforms.

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Need another educational a summer project? Make has instructions on how to make a Wi-Fi Drone Disabler with a Raspberry Pi, some telnet scripts and a cantenna, but stresses this is an educational exercise to help you “understand the security risks of wireless communications.” Yes. Yes, it is.

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.

minecraft

PTJ 152 News: Roll The Windows Down

At last! Windows 10 was released this week and the early reviews are now rolling in. The Wall Street Journal said “Windows is actually useful again, assuming you still rely on a PC,” and “If you knew how to use Windows XP back in 2001, you’ve have no problem finding your way 5tharound Windows 10.” (So much for the Modern interface way of doing things.) The Verge chimes in with “Windows has a cycle. Windows XP saved us from Windows ME, Windows 7 saved us from the Windows Vista mess, now Windows 10 is here to save us from Windows 8. It’s nice to be on the good part of the cycle.”  (If you live in New York City,  you can go Windows shopping this fall, as Microsoft has plans to finally open that long-planned flagship Fifth Avenue store.

Samsung has a party of its own planned for New York. The company’s “Unpacked” media event is scheduled for August 13 and may include announcements of new phones are maybe even the company’s virtual-reality headset.

Google+ Photos got kicked to the curb last week and now we’re seeing signs of the Google+ empire getting further dismantled. The company announced this week that it was doing away with the requirement to have a Google+ profile in order to use many Google services like Gmail and YouTube. (While Google+ was busy extracting itself from other Google services, the department did have some time to do a little study on promotional app interstitial advertisements.)

Google Search rolls out new feature that hows the “popular times” for restaurants and other venues known to have lines — so you can avoid those lines. (Google uses crowd-sourced congestion data to get the information.) And if you use the Google app on an Android phone, you can say “OK, Google” and have it send messages using WhatsApp, Vivber and other texting apps.

Speaking of Android, new phones are in the works. Motorola, now owned by Chinese electronics maker Lenovo, has just announced the Moto X Pure Edition and the Moto Play, unlocked Android smartphones that will cost $400 and $180 respectively. And if you’re looking for a big-featured, lower-priced smartphone, the OnePlus 2 — dubbed the 2016 Flagship Killer — is on the way.

hackdroidNot all is groovy in Android Land, however. Researchers at Zimperium have uncovered a security flaw in Android 2.2 and later that makes it possible to get hacked through a malware-infected text message. Patches have been written but are slow rolling out, given the huge number of carriers and companies who make the estimated 950 million Android phones out there.

Apple reported big fat profits in its quarterly earnings statement last week, and signs point to the Apple Watch doing better than anticipated. While it won’t likely be the overhyped posh personalized shopping journey as the Apple Store offers, Best Buy will start selling the Apple Watch on August 7th.

After a month of turmoil, Reddit has lost another high-profile female employee. Jessica Moreno, the head of community for the site, has given notice.

Pandora is making its Sponsored Listening option available to all its advertisers. This now means listeners can get an hour of ad-free listening if you agree to watch a video ad ahead of time. No you do not get to pick the movie yourself.

nsaThe National Security Agency is going to start wiping those bulk phone records it’s been hoovering up as part of the Patriot Act. In June, President Obama signed a law called the USA Freedom Act that prevents the NSA from storing the phone records and forces the agency’s investigators to request the files form the phone companies if they are needed for a case. The NSA will stop using the existing records by November 29th.

In other government news, New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced he want to provide $60 million dollars in funding for a technology that would disable a car if it senses the driver is drunk. The technology here is called Driver Alcohol Detection System for chuckSafety, or DADDS and the bill, which was introduced earlier this summer in the House as well, is called The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere (ROADS SAFE) Act of 2015. DADDS uses breath and touch sensors to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level and disable a vehicle if the level is above the legal limit.

And while we’re talking about cars, Fiat Chrysler is recalling 1.4 million cars and trucks to update software that has been proven vulnerable to hackers — a concept they’ve been proving at DefCon since at least 2013.

kittAnd finally, more cars! ThinkGeek is making fans of Knight Rider very happy. The company just released its KITT USB Car Charger that looks just like the light-up voicebox in the car from the iconic 1980s TV series staring David Hasselhoff and the voice of William Daniels. The $30 dashboard attachment provides two USB ports for charging your gear on the go, along with 11 different audio clips from the show.
Shop now. You know you want it.

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 76: The Desolation of El Kaiser

This week J.D. helps us deal with holiday travel by sharing tips on making the experience a little easier and Pedro helps us stuff our stockings — and our ears — with a review of two new earphones from RBH Sound and Bowers & Wilkins. In the news Twitter changes its blocking policy but has an immediate change of heart; Facebook rolls out auto-play video ads; Samsung gets set to release its own Android gamepad; Apple announces its iTunes year-end Top Ten; The Museum of Science Fiction is set to open in 2017; and Flash Gordon could be headed for a serious big-screen remake.

PTJ 76 News: Flash Back

Twitter briefly changed its blocking policy last week but reversed the decision after a whopping backlash. The change — which critics say allowed stalkers and abusers access to the posts of people who had blocked them instead of making those posts invisible — led to a huge public outcry from people who favored the old blocking function. Twitter reversed course and announced the move in a blog post titled “Reverting the changes to block functionality.”

Meanwhile, Facebook is starting to roll out auto-play video ads into user news feeds as it describes in its own blog post titled, “Testing a New Way for Marketers to Tell Stories in News Feed.” Also looking for the story: Researchers at Facebook and Carnegie-Mellon University who released a study this week looking at self-censorship on the Social Network. (While a story that appeared about the study on Slate.com implied Facebook reportedly tracking what you type on the site even if you don’t post it, other more technically oriented sites have read more closely and debunked some of the points.) Speaking of Facebook, the Wall Street Journal has an article this week about how the company and other technology Bigfoots like Google and Amazon are trying to take control over more Internet backbone and infrastructure.

Moving on to lighter fare, Samsung is releasing its own Android gamepad controller for its Galaxy line of phones and Apple announced its 2013 year-end Top Ten charts from the iTunes and App Stores. (For those looking for a new browser for the iPad, Opera has just released an update for its Coast browser.)

If you have an HP Chromebook 11, be aware that Google and HP are recalling the power adapter for the laptop due to safety issues; contact Google for a replacement. Over Microsoft way, the Verge site reports that the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 software will include a Siri/Google Now-like personal assistant and an Android/iOS-like Notifications center for alerts and messages.

imageThe Museum of Science Fiction is expected to open in our nation’s capital in 2017 and a promo video for the project promises robots, aliens and full-size space vehicles — and the latest technology to explore the offerings. In the Department of Future Stuff, Flash Gordon (that the 1930s space adventurer who got that Queen-fueled big-screen remake in 1980), could be headed for a serious remake as 20th Century Fox plans to adapt the Mark Millar Starlight graphic novel for film. Also, the Las Vegas Guardian Express newspaper reports that Disney CFO Jay Rasulo told an investor’s conference that a Han Solo origin film is in the works for 2016, with similar films exploring the backgrounds of Yoda and Boba Fett in 2018 and 2020.

And finally, as this is our last Pop Tech Jam news summary of 2013, it’s time to take a look back at the year through Google Search, as the Big G has just released its list of top 10 global trending searches of 2013. The Harlem Shake — it seems so long ago now, doesn’t it?