Tag Archives: government

PTJ 158 News: Fall Harvest

Oh, look! It’s September again and Apple has announced a bunch of new stuff this week, including:

• An update to the Apple Watch operating system,  new watchbands and the “Hermès Collection
• The iPad Maxi, er, iPad Pro with fancy optional accessories like the $100 Apple Pencil and a flexible Smart Keyboard
• The long-awaited hardware update to the Apple TV with Siri-powered remote and games
• The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
• The arrival of iOS 9 on September 16th

Oh, and rose gold is apparently a thing.

But Apple was in the spotlight for other reasons as well this week. A story on the front page of The New York Times highlighted the company’s national security tussle with the United States government over encryption and data access with software like iMessage, a program Apple says it can’t decrypt itself.

lgtvThe fall tech bounty does not begin nor end with the Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino, however. The annual IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin just ended this week and like the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas each January, companies preview many products and tech journalists look for trends. Meanwhile, LG Electronics did some fun stuff with flat televisions, like making a  double-sided 4K OLED set (shown here, and probably just a prototype). And if you like a lot of pixels, Canon announced that it’s developed a 250-megapixel sensor that’s still small enough to fit inside a DSLR camera.

Comcast is testing a new form of data plan in south Florida. While the company normally imposes a 300-gigabytes-a-month limit, customers can now pay an extra $30  for the Unlimited Data Option. It’s just like those old unlimited broadband plans of yore, except more expensive!

Verizon announced its new Go90 mobile streaming TV service this week. The service will be ad-supported and show programs young people want to watch.

A 7-inch display for the Raspberry Pi barebones computer went on sale this week for $60. Here’s what you can do with it:

The publishing industry and Amazon had a very public spat last year over e-book pricing, which eventually led to new distribution deals with the under mega-everything store. But while several publishers got to charge more for their e-books and lose less income to Amazon’s deep discounts, recent sales reports show that their e-book revenue declined overall in the last quarter.

EdgeMicrosoft really, really, really wants you to use its new Edge browser and has even employed its Bing search engine to steer you away from the likes of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. If you happed to search for an alternative browser with Bing on Edge, you see a little box at the top of your search results declaring that Microsoft Edge is really the best browser for Windows 10 and click this here link to learn why. However, the browser does not actually stop you from stepping off the Edge.

A writer over at BuzzFeed is disputing the recent PageFair study that estimated ad-blocking software would make sites lose $21 billion in ad revenue this year, bit even squishy numbers do not soothe The Interactive Advertising Bureau. According to Advertising Age, the trade group met this summer to discuss what to do, including filing lawsuits against companies that make ad-blocking software, but nothing major has been decided yet. The IAB did vote to move away from Adobe Flash and make HTML5 its new standard for online ads. And in related news AdBlock Plus just announced its first official ad-blocking app for iOS and than it was back in the Google Play store for Android.

NASA said late last week that it has begun its intensive data downlink phase to grab the massive amount of data the New Horizons spacecraft collected during its Pluto flyby in July.  The agency also announced that engineers at a facility in New Orleans have welded together the first two segments of the Orion crew module that will be used in a test flight to the far side of the moon in preparation for an eventual manned journey to Mars.

stormtroopersAnd finally, September 4th last week was Force Friday, the day retailers unleashed a giant wave of new officially licensed Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise into stores around the world. Global celebration events included midnight sales and twerking stormtroopers in Times Square. And as the BBC has noted, all of these merch sales could make this seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise “the biggest film ever.” December 18th, folks — or even earlier, if you happen to live in popular parts of Europe. Okay, who’s checking mid-December airfare to France now?

PTJ 142 News: You’ve Got Sale!

This has been quite a year for mergers and acquisitions — or at least attempts thereof. This week, Verizon Communications announced it was buying AOL. Inc. for $4.4 billion dollars. AOL Inc. produces digital content and advertising and claims to be the 4th largest online property in the United States with 200 million customers.  The Huffington Post is expected to be spun off, but Verizon should keep some spare cash handy — the company also needs to pay $90 million to settle a US government probe into unauthorized charges on customer bills.

No more grand Windows OS launches? Microsoft is changing the way it does these things and says  Windows 10 is going to be its last major revision of the system. At the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago this week, Microsoft development executive Jerry Nixon said that going forward, Windows will stop being a standalone system with and become a service, with updates and improvements rolling out regularly.

androidMIt’s developer conference season at last! The Google I/O 2015 Conference is later this month, May 28th and 29th at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. (There may also be a celebration of Google’s self-driving car program, which has now covered 1.7 million miles and only been involved in 11 minor accidents — and none of them was the Google car’s fault.) Attendees are expected to get  the inside scoop on things like on Android M, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, Android Auto for car infotainment, the Chrome operating system for netbooks, Google TV, wearables and other projects. Then Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference rolls into town 12 days later, starting June 8th and running through the 12th.

If fancy Apple computers aren’t in your budget, keep your eyes peeled for the CHIP (shown below), the new $9 computer envisioned by a startup called Next Thing Co.  A funding drive to build CHIP went up on Kickstarter this week with a pledged goal of $50,000 needed to buy components in bulk. As of this week, the project was closing in on $1.1 million.

CHIP

If you hate those unintentional selfies from taking pictures through windows, you’ll be glad to know that the smart folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology now have an algorithm for that. The algorithm can sense discreet dual reflections from double-paned windows and remove them from the image. The MIT team will be presenting their findings next month at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Boston.

The Warner Music Group released is second-quarter earnings report this week and had one bit of surprising news: music-streaming revenue surpassed music-download revenue, as the press released stated it “for the first time in the history of our recorded music business.” Fluke or paradigm shift? Time will tell.

There’s a new social network in town (and in beta) and it’s designed for members of the build-it yourself maker community to show off projects and share knowledge. The new site is called MakerSpace and it’s the official community for Maker Faire.

firefox-logoMozilla released Version 38 of the Firefox browser this week. In addition to the usual bug fixes and speed bumps, Firefox 38 now includes integration with the Adobe Content Decryption Module to play back copy-restricted content within the HTML 5 video tag. This could let users watch DRM-enabled content in Firefox — although only on the Windows version of the browser at the moment.

Microsoft is making it easier for more people to try the preview of the new Skype Translator for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10.  While the original version required interested users to sign up for the software, Microsoft had removed that bit of electronic paperwork and now you can just go to the site and download it to get yapping with someone in another language.

Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, along with one of the company’s lawyers, did a Reddit Ask Me Anything last week and during the course of the question and answer session, it was revealed that Google does not use end-to-end encryption for its Google Hangout chats. So yeah, those Hangouts could, in theory, be wiretapped by government request.

And finally, from the Department of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, Google announced this week that it had to temporarily shut down the online Map Maker component that lets users add their own content to Google Maps due to vandalism. The service has been plagued with pranks and obscenities in recent months, including an image of the green Android taking a leak in the Apple logo and an area of the White House called Edward’s Snow Den. Google said earlier this year that it planned to build a spam protection system into Map Maker, but perhaps it’s time step up those efforts. If they can make a self-driving car, how about a self-driving map bot that cruises the site looking for the naughty edits?

mapmaker

PTJ 112: Get Your Anti-Grav Boots On Cuz It’s SPACE WEEK

It’s our favorite time of year. No, not fall. It’s Space Week and J.D. introduces us to some apps that are perfect for getting into that festive…um…spacey mood.

Before the PTJ crew blast off into the Cosmos, El Kaiser breaks out the rant box. Apple’s iOS 8 has frosted his rage cake and he wants you all to know about it.

In the news, banking giant JPMorgan Chase gets hacked; AT&T confirmed information is compromised, but it’s an inside job; BBC World News premieres a six-part series focusing on cybercrime; Twitter sues U.S. government over surveillance laws; after getting complaints from customers and the FCC Verizon ditches its “network optimization” plan; a Netflix competitor throws in the towel; and a Kano unveils a new computer you build and code yourself.

PTJ 112 News: Kano a Kano

spearThe Hacking O’ the Giant Corporations continues! Last week, banking giant JPMorgan Chase admitted 76 million households were affected by a data breach this past summer and contact information was compromised. If you have a Chase account, expect the customary spear-phishing campaign trying to wheedle more of your info and report the phish if it happens. This week, AT&T confirmed personal information from its customers was compromised by an unauthorized employee in August. Also in security news, Yahoo is downplaying reports of a security breach to some of its systems, but says the Shellshock vulnerability was not the cause.

If the steady increase in cybercrime has you worried and you want to be more educated on how the Dark Side works, check out a new six-part series coming later this month on the BBC World News channel. The show, called Cybercrimes with Ben Hammersly, was produced in partnership with The Open University and Tern TV and debuts here Friday, October 31st. (How appropriate.) And in Vanity Fair this week, Jennifer Lawrence, a hacking victim herself, has something to say about last month’s iCloud heist of her personal photos.

Technology companies and the federal government are going back and forth over privacy, user rights and related matters. The US Justice Department had a court filing saying a federal agent could legally impersonate a woman and create a Facebook page in her name — complete with her own personal pictures — without telling her about it. That woman sued the DEA agent in federal district court for violating her privacy and putting her in danger.

twitterTwitter is suing the federal government over surveillance laws. The company filed the suit in the District Court of Northern California on Tuesday. Twitter says government regulations are blocking it from being completely transparent with its users over the full scope of surveillance they’re under, so the company is suing. Twitter is not alone in fighting government requests for user information, as companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are also dealing with it. As the BBC notes, Apple just encrypts its users data.

While the telecom companies are all trying to merge with each other, the tech companies are spinning apart. This week Hewlett-Packard says it plans to split itself into two different public companies within the next year.

Verizon, after getting quite a bit of flack from its customers and a note from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has decided not to implement its network optimization measures — or as some called it, the Throttling Plan for the heaviest unlimited-data users on its 4G LTE networks during peak congestion times. (Verizon and Redbox also gave up on the Redbox Instant streaming service this week.).

wpWhen Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, some industry watchers wondered how long it would be before its content turned up as a fancy Kindle app. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a new WaPo app and will be coming soon as a preinstalled app on some Fire tablets.

This just in from the Boomerang Bureau: A few weeks after a kerfuffle where it said people had to use their real names, Facebook is said to be working on an app that lets you be totally anonymous.

Apple is expected to announce new iPads on October 16th says the Re/Code site who as usual, gets wind of these things before anybody else. According to reports, the iPad Air 2 will incorporate the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, A8 processor and gold-finish option already found in Apple’s iPhone hardware. Apple’s iOS 8 software has been out for a little more than three weeks at this point, but user adoption of the new system seems to have flatlined at around 47 percent. The MacRumors site has been looking into this.

Samsung is not having a good week. First off, the International Trade Commission is looking into allegations by Nvidia that several Samsung cellphones and tables contain graphics technology that infringes on its patents. And Samsung itself is warning investors that its third-quarter earnings are going to be disappointing due to lower-selling smartphone prices.

Adobe released a whole bunch of new or revamped apps for iOS devices this week and they are free if you have a Creative Cloud subscription; you can also get them in the App Store, where they also offer $2 in-app upgrades to add Creative Cloud storage.

And finally, if you want to get your kid into computers in a very physical way, check out Kano. It’s a $150 snap-together kit that includes a Raspberry Pi board, a speaker you assemble yourself, an orange keyboard and a storybook that explains how to put it all together with a spare monitor. But the learning doesn’t end there — once the screen is in place, the young wizard can then learn basic coding by making modifications in popular games like Minecraft and Pong. And please children, when you learn to code, please write some decent security into your programs.

kanokit

PTJ 105: A Cat, a Dog, And a Groot

El Kaiser takes a listen to the INEARPEACE earbuds from Om Audio and likes what he hears while J.D. tells us where and how to find quality documentaries online.

In the news, Amazon continues its war with book publisher Hachette and now finds itself battling Disney; Microsoft has Xbox announcements; Apple appears to have ramped up production of the new iPad; the U.S. government creates new agencies to handle its tech woes; Akamai releases its latest State of the Internet report; we have robot news and yes, it does rattle the Kaiser; and a security researcher weaponizes his pets.

PTJ 105 News: Amazon’s Great Muppet Caper and Other Tales

Amazon, who seems to be having a year of contract battles with its merchandise providers, is dragging the Muppets and Captain America into the fray. Variety and Home Media Magazine are among those reporting that Amazon’s U.S. site is currently not offering pre-orders for many Disney movies scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray, including last spring’s Muppets Most Wanted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Maleficent. This is not likely to go over well with geeks, parents and, well,  geek parents.

The übermegastore is still slugging it out on another front with Hachette over e-book pricing and the some of the people who actually write the books are piping up. More than 900 authors signed a public letter last week that demanded that the Amazon stop messing around with writer’s book distribution and sales as a negotiating tactic. The company also got some flack earlier this week for misusing — of all things — a George Orwell quote in a letter from its Amazon Books Team.

At the Gamescom tradeshow on Germany this week, Microsoft made several announcements. One big one:  the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch as an exclusive to the Xbox when the game arrives next year. Other data points from Microsoft’s games division include the betas for the multiplayer Fable Legends starting on October 16 and the one for Halo 5: Guardians starting on December 29th and new Xbox One bundles including a shiny white version of the console this fall. The Xbox One hardware itself will be getting some additional features as well.

ipad2In Apple News, supply-chain watchers note that production of the next generation of iPads seems to be underway, probably headed to stores by mid-fall. The new models are expected to sport an anti-glare coating to make the screens easier to read and will come with the new iOS system. One of the features previewed in iOS 8 last June at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference — Healthkit — could be getting some traction. The Reuters News Agency reports that Apple has been talking about possible integration with folks at the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Mount Sinai, as well as with at least one electronic health record provider. One last Apple bite: The New York Times had a big story this week about Apple University, the company’s secret training program for employees that educates them in Apple philosophy. As the article noted, at least one Apple U. alum found the quality of the campus bathroom tissue to be superb.

The United States government seems to have realized that good, functional websites make life easier for its citizens and announced this week that it’s dedicating the new U.S. Digital Service department to the cause. The group will live in the Office of Budget and Management and there’s now a U.S. Digital Services Playbook online that outlines best practices and another online document called the TechFAR Handbook that explains Federal Acquisition Regulation to help government agencies implement their digital services. The USDS is intended to serve mostly as consultants, but there’s another department of government geeks over in the General Services Administration. The other group, called 18F, is designed to be more of a hands-on-get-in-there-and-fix-that-mess team.

Akamai has released its latest State of the Internet report and among other things, rates average Internet speed on a state-by-state basis. While data speeds may be slow in certain parts of the United States, six companies are forming a consortium to create a new $300 million dollar Trans-Pacific cable system between Japan and the US West Coast.

It’s Google Science Fair time again and one of the more notable projects from this year’s crop is called “Rethink” and it’s by Trisha Prabhu, a 14-year-old girl from Naperville, Illinois. As she outlines on the Google Science Fair site, Ms. Prabhu wanted to create a system to help cut down on cyberbullying between adolescents on social media sites and her experiment seems to have worked.

botlrIn robot news, our still-benevolent mechanical helpers are finding work this summer as bellhops and museum guides. Starwood’s Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California, is experimenting with a rolling butler called Botlr that delivers items like toothpaste and razors from the front desk up to guest rooms. The Tate Britain Museum in London is unleashing four robots into its galleries after hours to live-stream footage from the museum’s collection. The After Dark project runs five nights through August 17th and curious art lovers can log in through the museum’s online portal to follow along.

kittehAs detailed in Wired, security researcher Gene Bransfield successfully used a cat with a custom WarKitteh collar to map Wi-Fi security in his neighborhood. He explained it all in a DEF CON presentation called “Weaponizing Your Pets: The War Kitteh and the Denial of Service Dog.” As for the Denial of Service Dog project, Mr. Bransfield showed how a canine equipped with a saddlebag full of hacker gear was able to troll bars and turn off TV sets during the World Cup. (Brazil fans may have actually been grateful for the act of mercy during that notorious semi-final match with Germany.)

And finally, if you found yourself charmed by Vin Diesel’s Groot character and his limited dialogue in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, check out the 15-button Groot soundboard over on Vulture.com. And you can bring the magic along during your Web travels, grab the Grootify script button from the Us vs. Them site. It makes a number of websites so much better, as shown below.

grootweb

PTJ 86: The Big Bang And That XP Thang

Newsweek magazine makes a splashy return on paper with a cover story claiming to have found the father of Bitcoin. In his Tech Term of the Week, El Kaiser explains doxxing and why Internet denizens are so ticked off at the weekly news magazine. The computer mouse has been with us for half a century and J.D.  explains why it may stick around for awhile longer.  In the news Google dives into wearable computing; Apple releases an 8-gigabyte version of the iPhone 5C — but not in the United States;  the Windows XP Death Watch continues; The Big Bang Theory may have been proven; and say hello to robot fish.

PTJ 86 News: Robot Fish & Chips with Guinness

Your eyes are not enough for Google. This week, the Big G announced Android Wear, a version of the mobile operating system for smartwatches and other gadgets strapped to other parts of the body. The first Android Wear watches and monitors will arrive later this year but there’s a developer’s preview out now for anybody who want to sling some wearable code. (Speaking of potential gym gear, the 9to5Mac site has an update on what it says is Apple’s new Healthbook software for fitness tracking.) Oh, and Google and Viacom have finally settled a seven-year marathon of litigation.

Apple, perhaps in a move to get some of the international smartphone market back from Google and Android, released at 8-gigabyte version of its colorful iPhone 5C model this week in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and China. Oh, if anybody cares, Mac rumor sites are reporting that Microsoft is preparing the official Office for the iPad for its public debut next week at a media event on March 27th.  And in other Apple news, the company has finally retired the iPad 2 from March 2011 as the entry-level option for its full-size iPad line; the iPad 2 is succeeded by the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display that was first released in October 2012.

reaperSpeaking of old things, the Windows XP Death Watch continues to spiral downward to the April 8th deadline, when Microsoft says it’s seriously, totes mcgoats for real pulling the support plug this time. The Washington Post reports that hundreds of thousands of US government computers are running behind on their upgrades from Windows XP to a safer, secure and actually still supported operating system. Also missing some upgrade deadlines? Banks around the world, many of which didn’t make their deadlines for upgrading their ATMs.
Way to go, banks!

Some people are cutting the cord and ditching those pricy cable packages. According to the Leichtman Research Group, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other providers lost 1.1 million customers in 2013. Broadband subscriptions, however, are up for many cable providers.

The Big Bang Theory (no, not the TV show), that the scientific notion about the expansion of the universe, may have been proven. New research suggests that astronomers have found the first direct evidence of the cosmic inflation. An experiment at the South Pole led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced it had detected ripples from gravitational waves created in a violent inflationary event at the dawn of time. And while we’re out in space, it you haven’t caught the first few episodes of Cosmos: A Spacetime Adventure hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, you can check ’em out online with the Fox Now app or Fox on Demand service. (Also in your favorite app store: the official NCAA Basketball Tournament app. Yes, it’s March Madness once again.

And finally: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced advances in soft robotics. The school has released a video and details on its new robot fish that’s capable of rapid body motion and can quickly change direction when needed, just like a real fish.  And the Cubestormer 3, a Lego robot powered by a Samsung Galaxy S4, solved the Rubik’s Cube in 3.253 seconds, which scored it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. We look forward to the eventual Guinness record for fastest Rubik’s Cube solution by a robot fish. Any day now.

PTJ 81: Facebook’s Paper Beats Scissors

Facebook celebrates its 10th anniversary this week by allowing users to automagically create a short video highlight reel  of their time on the world’s most popular social network.  The decade old soc net also released a new iPhone-only mobile client dubbed Paper and J.D. gives us her review.  While he believes America is beautiful in any language, the Twitter backlash to Coca-Cola’s now famous multicultural Super Bowl advertisement has left El Kaiser less than thrilled.

In the news Microsoft finally picks a new CEO as Windows 8.1, Update 1 software leaks onto various file-sharing sites around the Internet; Google updates their Google Now service on mobile devices; Iridium introduces a WiFi hotspot that can get you on the Internet all over the world with a satellite connection; and Apple continues to note the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer with a celebratory movie shot by 15 camera crews using 100 iPhones.