Tag Archives: iPad

PTJ 227: Special Delivery

It seems like everybody’s got something on the way this week: Samsung’s new phone waits in the wings, Amazon’s Alexa is calling in for a six pack, robots are rolling out with restaurant orders and Apple even quietly slipped a few new products into the retail channel. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — including that very special package sent down from the International Space Station.

Links to This Week’s News Stories

 

PTJ 182 News: Tales from the Encrypt

What’s up, WhatsApp?  As The New York Times reported last weekend, government officials are said to be privately debating about what to do in their similar ongoing squabble with WhatsApp. The program’s encryption is mucking up the Justice Department’s ability to peek at messages, even though it has a judge’s wiretap order to investigate. In a related story, The Guardian of London reports that Facebook, Google and Snapchat plan to step up their encryption to protect the data of their customers.

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Apple is due to appear in a federal court in Riverside, California, on March 22 to fight the order that started this most recent squabble over privacy vs. security. Perhaps not so incidentally, the company has confirmed its next Apple Event to Reveal New Products to be on March 21st, just as the Apple-watching blogs predicted. But as the legal battles rage, Adam Segal and Alex Grigsby of the Council on Foreign Relations have an essay in The Los Angeles Times that lays out what they call three realistic solutions to prevent further fights over encryption. Will anybody try them out?

The South By Southwest festival has been going on the past week, but some outlets like CNBC are reporting a diminished interest in the interactive side of the event, which could explain the relatively low-key media coverage. Or perhaps the media is just preoccupied with a certain 2016 Presidential election.

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In happier news, Microsoft announced this week that the Xbox One will soon support cross-network gameplay, meaning people using Xbox Live with their Xboxes or Windows 10 hardware could, in theory, be able to frag players using other hardware like the Sony PlayStation 4. Microsoft has also just updated the web version of Skype. and if you’re not paying attention, the company will update your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 computer to Windows 10.

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Adobe’s Experience Design CC is now out in preview for Mac users. The program was specifically created for user-experience designers who make mock-ups for interfaces and whatnot. The preview has that nice price of free.

Amazon has filed a patent that lets people pay by selfie. Smile for the cashier, please.

Google is inviting interested parties to hack its Chromebooks. Few have shown interest in doing so, but to sweeten the pot, they’ve upped the top reward for major bug discovery to $100,000.

Could robots replace salespeople in retail stores? Researchers as Osaka University in Japan have been studying and testing real-life jobs for robots and found that people react  well when the robots are used for things like foreign-language practice, or as retail associates because they don’t nag the human to do more — or buy more .

And finally, speaking of artificial intelligence, Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo computer, which we mentioned a few weeks ago on the show, has defeated the Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol in a best-of-five series of the ancient game of Go. Artificial intelligence has already kicked human butt in chess and on Jeopardy, but how will AI do at Cards Against Humanity?

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REVIEW: The Steelseries Nimbus MFi Wireless Gaming Controller

The Steelseries Nimbus wireless controller is touted as the first gamepad with official Apple TV support. I purchased mine to use with the 4th generation Apple streaming box but, truth be told, I’m playing the long game here.

The $49.95 iOS-only game controller is also compatible with iPhones, iPads and Macs, so it can pull double-duty on my television and on my iPad Pro. That is of course if I can ever afford to actually BUY an iPad Pro.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

The Nimbus looks like a cross between an Xbox and a Playstation controller but unlike either of them, it charges via an Apple lightning connector and sports a rechargeable battery that claims to offer up to 40-plus hours of life.

The joysticks, d-pad and buttons on the Bluetooth 4.1 controller are responsive and feel solid but the shoulder buttons and triggers are a tad too mushy. You can really feel the difference when comparing the Nimbus to Amazon’s proprietary game controller for the 1st generation Fire TV.

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Amazon’s controller is less “plasticy” and has a better feel while gaming and the triggers have just the right amount of give.

You’ll need to download and install a companion app on your iPhone or iPad to keep the Nimbus’ firmware up to date and for a list of supported games. Rest assured, the list of games supported on the Apple phone and tablet is extensive.

New titles are popping up regularly for both the Amazon and Apple’s streaming devices but Apple holds a commanding lead over the Amazon box when it comes to available quality games.

One annoyance that came up while using the Nimbus on iOS devices was the lack of consistent controls across games. Many iPad and iPhone games do not extend controller support through menus, so you’re forced to go back and forth to the touchscreen. Of course this problem is not exclusive to the Steelseries device. All MFi (Made for iPhone and iPad) controllers will be affected by this limitation.

Overall, the Steelseries Nimbus wireless gaming controller works as advertised. It connected via Bluetooth quickly and painlessly and worked on all Apple devices and with all games I hurled at it.

You will not be blown away by its build or features but it is a solid controller and a must have for gaming on the Apple TV.

Panel Discussion

Digital comics have thankfully been around for several years now, and in that time, they’ve gone from random back issues to full same-day download distribution for some titles. Digital-first or digital-only issues are also available. Some comics now have other bells and whistles that take advantage of tablet and smartphone technology to help tell the story.

So, what else is new lately?

supergirlFor one, ComiXolgy, the sort of Amazon of digital comics that was one of the first big download shops, was actually bought by Amazon last year.  The site’s mobile Comics app — for Android, iOS and Amazon Kindle — is popular. The app’s Guided View feature and wide selection (at least 75,000 titles) are still part of the ComiXology experience. But with Amazon’s acquisition, in-app purchases on the iOS version are no longer possible because Amazon doesn’t want to give Apple a 30% bite of the pie. So iOS users have to select and pay for purchases through the ComiXology website and then download them while logged into an account. This switch upset many iPad readers who dislike the inconvenience and extra steps, so you may see some pretty negative reviews of the app online. You can still get your comics, but it’s not as easy as it used to be with the ComiXology Comics app. Android and Amazon Kindle versions? No problem.

You can also get Android and iOS apps for your favorite publishers: DC Comics and its Vertigo line, Marvel Comics (which also has its Marvel AR app for augmented reality offerings in certain titles), Dark Horse Comics and IDW Publishing, which does comics for a lot of TV shows. And we can’t forget Archie Comics. Third-party comics reader apps are also around.

madefireIf you want comics with a little something more — like motion, soundtracks and light animation, check out the Motion Books in the Madefire storefront app. Motion Books aren’t videos of comics, but technology enhanced digital books that use music, sound effects, parallax views and animated objects within the frame to build the story. Madefire has apps for many screens, and you can also look at comics on your television with its apps for set-top boxes like Android TV and now the new fourth-generation Apple TV. Madefire also makes its Motion Book software available to indie comics creators through the deviantArt website.

Don’t like the Bam! Pow! Pop! stuff? Check out the Sequential app for iOS, which specializes in indie and alternative books. As it says on the Sequential website, “We don’t do superheroes. You can get them in a lot of other places.”

Why, yes. Yes, you can.

Android 6.0 vs. iOS 9

AndroidMarshSo what’s the difference between Android and iOS anymore? While the two systems used to be more divergent, but the feature gap is closing  fast, especially with this fall’s arrival of Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and iOS 9.

For example, both systems are upping the ante for their personal assistant software, trying ios9to get ahead of Microsoft’s Cortana. As shown below, Google Now is getting tweaked, partly to provide more location-relevant suggestions and information and make it more helpful-but-creepy than ever. (“Hey what are you doing? Google Now is here for you, NOW!”) Apple’s faithful  Siri assistant is getting some location-and contextual improvements to make her more useful as well. She’ll be able to remind you to do things in certain places, find photos from specific events and look up answers in more places online.

GoogleMNow

Google and Apple continue to “borrow” features from each other. Like iOS,  Android Marshmallow  will support a standard fingerprint ID — something Apple’s devices  had for a few years in the form of Touch ID — but a feature that was a little more random across all the various Android handsets out there from different manufacturers. Of course, having a fingerprint scanner makes it easier for users to work mobile payment systems into their lives, and now Android Pay is here as the green-bot alternative to Apple Pay. Also like iOS, Android 6.0 will offer tighter control over app permissions.

Android Lollipop already has a Battery Saver mode, and  Marshmallow is adding the Doze feature to slow down battery burn even more. Finally, iOS 9 is adding a low-power mode so iPhone users can more easily put the brakes on battery drain without having to go in and start turning off functions one by one to conserve juice.

Google Maps (also available as a third-party app on iOS) has long owned the mobile mapping space, but iOS 9 will try to gain some ground with the new version of Apple Maps (shown here) that comes with better mass-transit information. However, people who do not live in urban areas and do not need mass-transit schedules — or those who drive everywhere anyway — may not care so much.

ios9maps

The improved Notes app and the new News app give iOS 9 users some new software to explore. The new version of Android will offer USB-C support, the same all-in-one port Apple touted for its MacBook laptops earlier this year.

But it just may be iPad users may get the most out of iOS 9. For the larger devices. Apple is adding a better keyboard for the bigger screen, split-screen multitasking with apps (shown below)  and a picture-in-picture window so you can FaceTime while also looking at apps. People rocking Android Marshmallow tablets can look forward to the multi-window mode and the spilt-keyboard function that’s been in iOS the past few versions.

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With all this feature parity, it won’t be long at all until both systems feel almost the same. With that, it all comes down to the two other factors that drive our mobile choices: hardware and ecosystem, which means you just need to pick how many megapixels you want in your phone’s camera  and where you want to download your missed episodes of Minority Report — in case, of course, you forgot to have Google Now or Siri remind you to watch in the first place.

PTJ 154 News: Salad Days

Google isn’t taking much of a summer vacation and instead, set up a whole new corporate operating structure this week.  In a blog post on the company site, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin announced a new business entity called Alphabet that will now oversee  a collection of companies underneath it, including Google. Other members of Alphabet include Nest and Google Fiber. The new structure is said to give all the companies more room to grow and embody the Google Philosophy. However, there was one little glitch with setting up the new mega-company: German automaker BMW actually owns the trademark and domain of the now-overloaded alphabet.com.  Google has abc.xyz instead, and a cheeky little Silicon Valley joke in the mix, too.

Verizon Wireless is also changing things up. Following in the steps of T-Mobile, Verizon announced late last week that it was getting rid of that whole two-year contract commitment when you buy a new cellphone and has new service plans outlined in the Verizon press release “Simplified Data Choices Match Customer Lifestyles.”  If you blow past your monthly allowance, that’ll cost you $15 per gigabyte. (On that note, Snapchat has introduced a new Travel Mode in its Android and iOS apps that stops automatic Snaps, Stories and Discovery updates on cellular connections unless the user requests it to help save data-plan bytes.)

stopA new report by Adobe and PageFair estimates that ad-blocking software will cause a $22 billion dollar loss of revenue for advertisers this year, and that could affect jobs. Advertisers worry that ad-squashing software is even starting to stifle those expensive video ads everyone’s rolling out. Many users counter those arguments by pointing out that online ads can stalk and collect data on the user, hog bandwidth and are often infected with malware. So that’s why they use software like Adblock Plus — and will do so on mobile platforms as more blocker apps arrive.

Speaking of blocking, the Internet Watch Foundation is stepping up the fight against images of child pornography online. By using hashes, also known as digital fingerprints of specific images, and compiling these hashes into a lengthy list for sites and service providers, the group hopes to prevent uploading or speed up the takedown of the illegal content.

The Internet of Things is gaining ground and a world of automated appliances and household systems looms, but the Online Trust Alliance is trying to stop it all from turning into Skynet: The Home Edition. The OTA group has proposed a set of privacy and security standards for smart devices, and released a draft of its Internet of Things Trust Framework this week.  For those who like to participate, there’s a call for public comments on the document.

Meanwhile, up in space, the crew on the International Space Station got together, harvested and ate lettuce actually grown on the station. It’s all part of NASA’s research on fresh food grown in microgravity. If we’re sending humans to Mars, after all, we’re gonna need to pack some sustainable food resources.

issvege

While most of the crew was enjoying delicious space salad, two cosmonauts from the Russian Federation Space Agency went on a five-hour spacewalk to install new equipment, clean the windows and inspect the exterior of the station.

Mozilla has released Firefox version 40 with a new look for Windows 10 and more built-on security to guard against rogue third-party browser add-ons. Mozilla also seemed to be settling a score with Microsoft for setting its own Edge browser as the default in the Windows 10 express setup. Cortana searches in the new version of Firefox don’t have to use Microsoft’s Bing browser.

Since it’s mid-August,  the Applesauce rumor mill is beginning to grind faster ahead of the traditional September Apple Product Announcement and Media Lovefest. The 9to5Mac is among those guessing that the event will be on Wednesday, September 9th. The blogs are expecting Apple to reveal this year’s iPhone model with Force Touch feedback, iOS 9 and a new iOS-based Apple TV. The mythical, larger 12.9-inch iPad has also been rumored for fall.

And finally, Facebook just published a study about how the world expresses laughter online and found that the once-dominant chatroom standard LOL has become passé, giving way to chortling emojis, hehe and  hahaNelson Muntz, your time is now.

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.

World Spaaaace Week!

This week is World Space Week and Pop Tech Jam is partying like comic-book nerds on a Wednesday.

wswFor those of you who forgot or who were unaware of the event, World Space Week is the largest global festival for public celebration of space exploration and discovery. (Here’s the global event map for the week.) It all got started back in 1999, when the United Nations decreed October 4th to the 10th to be World Space Week. Those dates, by the way, are significant: The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I, the first human-made satellite, was on October 4th, 1957, and the Outer Space Treaty — which forms the basis of international space law — was signed on October 10, 1967.

The theme of this year’s World Space Week is “Space: Guiding Your Way” and acknowledges the role satellite navigation has played in daily life. Just think of all the benefits it has brought us, like being able to find your way around the old Dutch part of Manhattan without having to drag along a paper map (which is really embarrassing if you are a NYC resident). So here’s to GPS! And while’s you’re at it, listen to Steven Johnson’s excellent 2010 TED Talk that provides a little bit of amusing history on the topic.

When you get done thanking science for giving you zoomable maps-on-demand, turn-by-turn directions, Google Earth and remote recovery tools for your smartphone, here are a few other apps to help you celebrate the World Space Week if you can’t make it to one of the official events (or you’re going to New York Comic Con).

NASAappFirst up, check out the ever-growing page of apps over on the NASA site. The main NASA app shows off much of the agency’s news and multimedia content from around the galaxy, but there are also newer programs, like NASA Spinoff for iPad, which shows how technology developed for space missions has found a place in everyday life. Apps for individual NASA projects, like the Messenger Mission to Mercury for iOS, the Curiosity app for Windows Phone or the Sector 33 air-traffic control game for Android and iOS are among the many listed on the page.

spaceracersMany of the NASA apps are educational and geared for kids, and if you have children who like adventures, check out a brand new game: Space Racers. It’s the companion app for the public-television kids show designed to get younger children interested in STEM programs; NASA even served as a technical consultant for the series. When you first open up the Space Racers app, it looks a little bit like vintage Angry Birds, but there are no in-app purchases or advertising, and the software doesn’t collect the child’s personal information. The game teaches cause-and-effect as the preschool player pilots the Space Racer ships (which are cheerful, friendly birds with wheels) through an obstacle course. Young pilots must also factor in things like wind speed and magnetic fields to make it through 32 rounds of gameplay.  Space Racers is out for iOS this week and it’s free — and a free education. (If you want to find the TV show for the kids on your local station, have a look here.)

StarWalkStar-seekers of any age can ponder the universe on a mobile device with apps like the $3 SkySafari 4 for Android, iPhone and iPad. The Star Walk stargazing guide (shown here) is a nicely designed $3 app for touring the celestial skies and it’s now available for Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone and the Kindle; the revamped 3D Star Walk 2 app for newer iPhones recently landed for iOS. The Distant Suns app, which bills itself as “your own personal guide to the cosmos” is a hand-held planetarium that works available for most mobile platforms — and costs less than $10. And Android users can get Google’s own Sky Map app for free.

Want to celebrate the satellites of World Space Week 2014 with an app? The $10 GoSatWatch is a satellite tracker for iOS and the ISS Detector Satellite Tracker (free, but you need in-app purchases for the good stuff) works on Android. So remember, even if World Space Week is over by the time you see this, you’ve still got an app or two that can bring you your own little corner of the sky.
Sic itur ad astra!

Keys to the Past

It may be a digital world but just like vinyl records, other analog artifacts from our recent past refuse to go away completely. Take for example, the humble typewriter. That clackity-clack racket of little metal keys hitting paper has been heard since at least the 19th century with the early Remington models. Unless you had your own printing press and could set your own type, typewriters (some of them very stylish) were the way to create professional correspondence and records, book manuscripts and all sorts of official documents for more than a century. But as computers and word-processing software began to creep into the market in the 1980s and beyond, typewriters began to fade from use and memory.

For some people, anyway. The Kremlin has reportedly resumed composing top-secret documents on typewriters to avoid computer leaks. (The Times of London, while not reissuing IBM Selectrics to its staff, did pipe the sound of typewriters clacking into its newsroom a few weeks ago to see if it helped productivity.) Thanks to other holdouts — like famous authors still clinging to their Olivettis, hipsters soaking in the retro cool or people who just want to write slow — typewriters are still with us.

poptypejamIf you’re nostalgic for the Age of the Typewriter, you can indulge yourself, whether you actually have an old metal writing machine or not.  If you have a broken-down model in the attic or garage that needs fixing, find a repair shop or service while you still can, as typewriter repair and maintenance is a dying art. For New Yorkers, one shop in Manhattan, Gramercy Typewriter Co.,  has been going strong since 1932 and does fine work. (The shop recently serviced the official Pop Tech Typewriter, a circa 1977 Smith-Corona Galaxie 12 manual model in the peppy yellow “sunburst” color, shown here warming up on mic.)

If you want to buy a typewriter, the same shops that repair the machines often sell reconditioned models, so ask around. You can also find machines for sale at specialty shows, on eBay or even through high-end collectors’ markets.

Want to write on a typewriter for creative reasons — but are worried about eventually converting your pages to digital form? Make sure you have a good dark ribbon in the machine, a scanner and OCR software, and you can convert your typed pages onto editable text document later in your writing process. Don’t want to invest in a dedicated OCR program? If you have the full Adobe Acrobat software, you can use that software’s built-in OCR function to convert scanned PDFs to text. Some free OCR software can be found around the Web as well.

usbtypeThanks to steampunk, typewriters fused with computer screens have become a distinct look. In fact, a hacker-engineer named Jack Zylkin has started a company called USB Typewriter. Here, you can buy a conversion kit to turn an old typewriter into a USB keyboard for your Mac, PC or iPad. The site has videos and instructions, but if you’re not handy with a soldering iron, you can also buy a pre-made typewriter computer keyboard or iPad dock for about $700 or $800. And get this: The typewriter still works even after its USB conversion, so you can create a hardcopy while you word-process.

hanxBut if all that’s too much real-world analog for you, just remember, there’s always an app for that, like the $2 TypeWriter for Android, which simulates old-school typing. While plenty of other apps can do the typewriter simulation, a recent iPad app that was developed in part by actor Tom Hanks is one that does it nicely. The free Hanx Writer app (shown here) turns your iPad screen and keyboard into a virtual 1940s typewriter and also works as a word-processor for your tablet correspondence. Just don’t forget what you’re typing on and slap on the Wite-Out.