Tag Archives: headphones

PTJ 295: Smokin’!

The year is winding down, but the movie selection at the local cineplex is heating up with several sizzling releases this month. Also in the hot seat: Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, who got to have his belated chat with Congressional members, and social-media companies who missed the massive amount of misinformation spread across their platforms in 2016 and beyond. And for those don’t want to burn a lot of cash on wireless headphones, El Kaiser has a a review for you.  Fire up Episode 295!

Links to Stories Discussed on This Week’s Show

The El Kaiser Hardware Review

PTJ 209: Fights and Flights

It’s been a loooong campaign and Election Day is just a few weeks away. If you want to beat the crowds, J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on how to see if your state allows early voting — and what you need to bring to the polls. Meanwhile El Kaiser has a few new headphones to inspect. In the week’s tech news Google checks facts and flights, Samsung is still scrambling to douse the Galaxy Note 7 fires, Facebook Messenger has some suggestions for your online discourse and there is a squadron of Taunting Drones buzzing drivers south of the border. Want to find out more? Just press Play.

Headphone Review Models

Status Audio CB-1 Closed Black Studio Monitors
• thinksound On2 Monitor Series

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 194 News: Hot Sales

Summer is a great time for yard sales and farm auctions, and The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Verizon will put up $3 billion dollars for Yahoo’s web assets in the second round of bidding this week.  As Ars Technica noted, if Verizon wins the auction, the company would rule 1990s Cyberspace as the owner of both Yahoo and AOL. A grunge-rock revival could be next!

Virtual assistants continue to pop up in all kinds of hardware and now Microsoft’s Cortana is coming to the company’s Xbox One game console this summer, along with many other new features. And while there’ll be more gaming announcements next week when the E3 show rolls into town,  Blizzard Entertainment is integrating Facebook logins and live video right into its new Overwatch multiplayer game and Battle.net online service.

Apple’s Word Wide Developers Conference kicks off next week. Expect a lot of software-based announcements and maybe a few hardware things. New iPhone hardware probably won’t show up to this party, but the Nikkei Asian Review site is reporting, based on conversations with suppliers and production facilities overseas, that Apple will probably start taking three years between major iPhone model changes. This slowdown is due to a slowing market and because the company is running out of whiz-bang features to unveil every year.

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A wireless version of the popular Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones have some industry watchers assuming the next iPhone is going to be the one where Apple gets rid of the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. The headphones have a list price of $350 and are supposed to get about 20 hours of listening time between charges.

While 2016 is largely being forecast as a ho-hum year for smartphone innovation from several manufacturers, Bloomberg News is reporting that Samsung might be releasing phones with bendable screens next year. Will the Galaxy line become the Gumby line?

stitcherPodcasts make for fun listening no matter what kind of headphones you have, and now Stitcher Radio, one of the popular podcast apps, has just been snapped up by the old-school media company EW Scripps for $4.5 million dollars in cash. Stitcher, which streams more than 65,000 podcasts including this one, will operate under another Scripps acquisition, the podcast advertisement company Midroll Media.

This week, the United States Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Google to throw out that class-action lawsuit over where advertisements were placed through Google’s AdWords service. Last year’s ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco stands — and the class-action lawsuit can go forward.

In other legal news, tech companies and privacy groups are lining up against proposed legislation  that would let federal officials request even more types of user information in the National Security Letters they send to ISPs, banks, doctors and other recipients during investigations. The House version of the bill passed in April and the Senate version is due for a vote this week.

Microsoft Planner, its teamwork organizer app is headed to Office 365 subscribers over the next few weeks. True to its name, Planner is, uh, software for planning stuff.

twitterTwitter has redesigned its Android app to fall in line with Google’s material design standard. The update is rolling out now. Snapchat also got a fresh new look this week that, among other things, mixes Discover content with Live Stories.

They pumped it up last week and this week, astronauts opened up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module, otherwise known as the International Space Station’s add-on inflatable bouncy castle. An air sample was taken and sensor data downloaded as astronauts prepare to actually use the module.

And finally, although news of the breach just surfaced recently, LinkedIn got hacked in 2012 and millions of user names and passwords were swiped – including those of a one Mr. Mark Zuckerberg of a little company called Facebook whose password was reportedly dadada. A hacker group called Ourmine used the swiped credentials to compromise Mr. Zuckerberg’s accounts on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn for a short time this weekend. It’s a reminder to the rest of us to change our passwords regularly or get a password manager program. Also, don’t recycle them across accounts and don’t use easily crackable codes like. . . dadada.

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PTJ 187: New Earbuds and Insecure Phones

This week, a review of the IEB6 + MIC in-ear monitors from First Harmonic and the debut of a new segment we like to call “Stuff We Saw on TV”. Of course we bring you all the tech news and shenanigans you’ve come to expect from the best tech-themed podcast on this or any other galaxy.

PTJ 108 News: Arrivals and Departures

We’re rolling into September and new phones are everywhere.  Samsung released two new models in the Galaxy Note phablet line, the Galaxy Note 4 and the Galaxy Note Edge, the latter of which has a screen that curves around the side of the device. Then there’s Amazon! The company released its first Fire smartphone just a few months ago and this week, it dropped the price from about $200 to a mere 99 cents. Can we say…

FireSale

Also heating up: The Net Neutrality debate. Netflix joined Reddit, Kickstarter and tons of other websites in an online protest this Wednesday in which the participating sites displayed the “loading” graphic so common with slow connections, along with more information about the FCC’s proposal. California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler asking him to reclassify the broadband as a telecommunications service to protect consumers.

The FCC sure is getting a lot of mail these days. Discovery Communications is one of the latest companies to speak out against the intended union. In a letter to the agency, Catherine Carroll, a Discovery’s vice president, said the merger would create monopoly-like conditions and had several bullet points to back up the argument. (Meanwhile, the Ars Technica site has noticed that Comcast is using Javascript to inject self-promotional ads for its services into Web pages on devices that are connected to one of its many public WiFi hotspots.)

TwitterTwitter announced on the company blog this week that it was rolling out a Buy button on posts from certain retailers that lets users purchase products advertised in tweets. Will people buy as impulsively as they tweet?

If you’ve used you credit card at a Home Depot recently, keep an eye on your statements, as the big orange do-it-yourself supply store has been hit with a Target-like security breach. A new variant of the same malware used in the Target attack has been found on Home Depot’s point-of-sale terminals and the breach had been reportedly going on since last spring.

delveMicrosoft continues to develop its Office 365 tools for business users and is rolling out a new presentation and internal service app that looks an awful lot like Flipboard. The new tool is called Office Delve. And Google Play Movies & TV for iOS got an update this week so users can download videos and play them offline.

The run-up to the holiday season also means new videogames, like Destiny, which landed on Sony and Microsoft consoles this week. To help players really get into the science-fiction shooter, Sony has announced new gaming headsets coming this fall for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. The models include the $99 PlayStation Gold Wireless Headset with 7.1 virtual surround sound and the $70 Silver Wired Headset, also with 7.1 surround.

tivo-megaAnd finally, TiVo, which announced a $50 over-the-air recorder a few weeks ago, is swinging to the other end of the price-tag spectrum with its new TiVo Mega recorder, which costs $5,000 — and comes with 24 terabytes of room. That’s  enough to record 26,000 hours of standard-def TV or 4,000 hours of HD video. The TiVo Mega also includes six TV tuners. The recorder isn’t due to arrive until 2015, so you have plenty of time to figure out how you can fill up that bad boy.

Oh, and one more thing…

applelivestream

Apple had an event this week. Among the announcements:

Not announced? The quiet death of the iPod Classic, the last click-wheel, hard-drive based iPod and the most direct descendant of the simple white block that put Apple back on the map as an innovative  technology company. Be thou at peace, iPod Classic.

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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 103 News: Shoot the Messenger

Facebook’s move to shove users onto its separate Messenger app is reportedly coming soon — if it’s not here already by the time you read this. Millions of people are already using it, and Facebook says the Messenger app is a faster and more efficient for sharing text and multimedia messages. The company has plans to monetize Messenger with a payment system as well. The Messenger app’s Terms of Service is causing some concern with the privacy-minded, though, and some users are complaining about the forced march.

Splitting up app services seems to be a popular move. Foursquare recently divided its eponymous mobile software for checking into places and reviewing them into two apps They are Foursquare and the new Swarm app, available for Android and iOS. Swarm is now the app required for all the check-in-with-your-pals activity, while Foursquare has been transformed into a user-reviews database. The split has gotten media criticism and a fair amount of backlash from users who are checking out of Swarm, but the company did just release another update earlier this week. (Yelp, the service Foursquare seems to competing with most, updated its own mobile app this week and now allows users to add short video clips to their reviews.)

fakefoxAnd about apps… there are new reports of a security problem with the way apps are identified by Google’s Android operating system. The research team at Bluebox Security says the new “Fake ID” vulnerability that it has just discovered allows malicious applications to essentially copy the identity certificates and credentials of trusted apps and get into places where malware is normally not allowed. The research team said this security hole has been around since Android version 2.1 in January 2010 and devices that haven’t been updated with last April’s patch for Google bug 13678484 are vulnerable.  Bluebox waited 90 days to publicize its findings so Google had time to get out the April patch.

Apple has just purchased BookLamp, a book-recommendation service in what’s said to be a shot across Amazon’s e-book bow. Also in Apple’s shopping cart: Swell, the podcasting app described by some as “Pandora for talk radio.” The Re/code site reports that Apple is scooping up Swell for about $30 million and could put Apple’s own poorly reviewed Podcasts app out of its misery or boost iTunes Radio. (Apple has now  quietly confirmed the dealthe Swell website has been shut down now and the app has been removed from the App Store.)

This summer marks 15 years since the Napster peer-to-peer file-sharing service stormed onto the scene and made MP3-swapping all the rage. At its peak, Napster claimed 80 million users before its original incarnation was shut down by court order for copyright violations in 2001. After several years of being bought and sold, the remains of the company eventually merged with the Rhapsody streaming service and this week announced it had just hit the two-million subscriber mark. On the way back up at last!

Beats Electronics, another of Apple’s more recent acquisitions,  is getting sued by Bose Electronics. Bose, which makes a line of high-end and very popular noise-cancelling headphones says Beats infringed on five of its patents. Sounds like QuietComfort is getting ready to rumble…

Microsoft is also finding itself in a spot of legal bother this week, as the Chinese government is investigating the company for violations of its antitrust laws. Chinese officials have also investigated Qualcomm for alleged anti-trust violations in recent times.

Legal troubles overseas haven’t dampened Microsoft’s sense of fun when it comes to giving Apple a virtual wedgie on TV. The mighty Redmond giant is running a new television commercial for Windows Phone that shows off its Cortana virtual assistant being much more talented and helpful than Apple’s Siri software. The general theme of the ad is similar to last year’s Microsoft spots that touted its Surface tablets over Apple’s iPad.

raspberryMicrosoft is also cooking up its own recipe for Raspberry Pi. But while the bare-bones Pi computer (shown here) costs a mere $40, Microsoft’s own version of the naked circuit board computer is called Sharknado 3, er,  The Shark’s Cove and runs about $300. The Shark’s Cove is intended to be a serious dev board for programmers and less of a hobbyist gadget like the Pi. The Microsoft Shark board does come with a copy of Windows 8.1 and the oomph to actually run it.

A lower-cost cable plan that brings broadband, basic channels and HBO for about $49-a-month is said to be in the works. The budget package had a trial run with Comcast last year. Game of Thrones for fewer bones, perhaps?

marscakeAnd finally, up on Mars. We’d like to congratulate NASA’s Opportunity Rover for setting an off-world driving record. The rolling robot has been cruising around the Red Planet since 2004 and in that decade, racked up just over 25 miles on its little odometer.  And a big “Happy Birthday” this week to NASA itself. The agency came into existence on July 29, 1958, after Congress and President Eisenhower made it so with the creatively named National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. The mission? “To provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.”  It’s not quite as poetic as, To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before,” but hey, you have to start somewhere.

PTJ 102: Making The Leap From Windows to OS X

This week on a super-sized edition of the best geek culture web radio show on the planet we answer a question from a longtime listener who is about to make the dramatic leap from a Windows PC to a shiny new Mac. J.D. and El Kaiser offer suggestions on how to make the transition painless.

In the news, Apple edges closer to official i-branded wearable tech; a forensic scientist and hacker claims there are a slew of attack points, system backdoors and surveillance mechanisms purposely built into iOS devices; The Electronic Frontier Foundation has developed its own browser plug-in that prevents third party online snoops;  Facebook tests new “buy now” and “save for later” features; The FCC closes out the first round of public comments on its proposed new rules for Net Neutrality;  Samsung gets into the luxury headphone game; and The Simpsons get the marathon treatment.

PTJ 102 News: It’s About iTime

Could Apple’s mythical smartwatch be edging closer to reality? The iWatch watchers were all titter earlier this week when the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a patent for an electronic wristband. The original paperwork was actually filed back on January 31, 2011, and the patent just granted this past Tuesday, but it’s full of sketches and diagrams — and the working name “iTime.”

itime

Things are not all shiny with Apple, as Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensic scientist (who also happens to be a hacker and an author of five books on iOS-related topics) revealed what he says are attack points, system backdoors and surveillance mechanisms purposely built into iOS devices — and that these entry points could give user information to government agencies. Apple, for its part, denied that it has ever worked with government agencies to create drive-thru windows for personal data pickup, but said that diagnostic functions were built into iOS for enterprise IT departments, developers and Apple itself for purely troubleshooting purposes.

While it hasn’t had any major public privacy flaps of its own this week, Facebook is tinkering with new ways to buy and save — as detailed in a pair of recent posts on company blogs. First, The Social Network announced it was testing a Buy button on advertisements and product pages so users could purchase goods right there. Second, the company is rolling out a Save feature that lets users mark a post or link for reading later.

On to the next round. After overwhelming demand, system crashes, and a deadline extension, the Federal Communications Commission finally closed out the first round of public comments on its proposed new rules for Net Neutrality. The Consumerist blog has gathered up a selection of the highlights for your reading pleasure. (Oh, and Netflix, a company that would really like to see the Net stay neutral for its own corporate well-being, just announced it hit the 50-million global subscriber mark and the second season of Orange Is the New Black, helped bring in some new members who’d heard good things.)

One of those big telecom companies, Verizon Wireless, just launched a rewards program for its customers. In order to participate in the Smart Rewards program, you need to consent to let Verizon track you around the Web. In other Verizon news, the FiOS broadband department is rolling out faster upload speeds for customers. FiOS customers will soon have symmetrical upload and download speeds. Take that, cable!

Amazon launched its Kindle Unlimited plan last week. The service costs $10 a month and gives readers access to about 640,000 ebooks and audiobooks. Not everything Amazon sells in the Kindle format is available, though, so many people are already complaining about the limits of Kindle Unlimited.

Google is working on a new file type called WebP. Google’s developer page said the format makes for smaller and richer images that help make the Web faster.  (And while Google would like to change image formats to make the Web faster, Italy would like Google to change its data-use practices.)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is one of the groups here in the States that consistently fights for the digital privacy and rights of the common user, and now the group has taken its own action. The EEF has developed its own browser plug-in that’s supposed to block third parties from snooping on your Web travels. The plug-in, which is just out of alpha and into beta now, is called Privacy Badger, and it works with Chrome and Firefox so far.

badger

The P-Badger is just one of the options out here for people who’d like to avoid being tracked — or want to know just who is tracking them. The Ford Foundation has also helped sponsor Lightbeam, an add-on for Firefox that provides interactive visualizations for the first and third-party sites you encounter while surfing. AdBlock Plus, Disconnect and Ghostery are even more options for shielding yourself.

Samsung is not letting Apple and Google make all the expansion and acquisitions this year. The South Korean company has its own “Level” line of fancy high-end headphones available now in the States. The products in the family cover most headphone styles and are available on the Gilt.com luxury-product site. So while it has its own high-end headphones like Apple now has with its Beats acquisition, Samsung is also trying to keep up with Google in the Internet o’ Stuff department and has reportedly bought a company called SmartThings, which develops home-automation software.

Refugees pining for the return of the real Windows Start menu button might have some hope next year. Leaked screenshots, (like the one below) supposedly of Windows 9 in development, show Microsoft getting closer to the Start button known and loved from Windows 95 to Windows 7.

win9

Speaking of tech nostalgia, Sony is still tinkering with its Walkman line, first released in 1979 and the iconic personal cassette player that changed how we ignore each other on the subway. Sony’s new upscale NWZ-ZX1 Walkman, however, costs $700 but offers 128 gigabytes of storage for high-quality lossless music files.

And finally, if you are a fan of The Simpsons, the FXX cable network will soon be holding the longest-running marathon in TV history. The network plans to show all 552 episodes of the classic animated series, as well as The Simpsons Movie, in chronological order from August 21 to September 1. That’s 25 seasons of quality Bart jokes and tidbits for mathletes. In case you’re on vacation or your DVR melts, wait until October, when the company launches Simpsons World, streaming on-demand portal (with apps) for all the episodes and plenty of extras. Bulk-buy your snack food of choice and settle in through Labor Day!

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

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

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

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