Tag Archives: iPad

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.

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 104: Internet Security? No Such Thing.

This week cybercriminals made off with billions of usernames and passwords from hundreds of thousands of websites around the world and El Kaiser was, not surprisingly, more than a little upset about it.  Sensing Pedro’s imminent panic attack, J.D. cheers him up with a segment on how to buy a new gadget at its peak of freshness.

In other news,  the Rosetta probe from the European space agency has caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; The Shaknado sequel is a hit on TV and on social media networks;  it is once again legal to unlock your mobile phones; the Department of Transportation considers banning cellphone voice calls on commercial flights; Google helps law enforcement apprehend a pedophile; researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology develop an algorithm that constructs an audio signal from a video based on vibrations; and concerned Facebook users called 911 and the Los Angeles’s Sheriff’s Department after the social media behemoth suffers a short outage.

No, we are not kidding.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Shop Class

Back-to-school shopping is in full swing for many people, and you’d think this would be the time when all the new computers and gadgets are rolling out. Sure, Microsoft released new Surface Pro tablets a few months ago and Apple just did a minor refresh on its MacBook Pro laptops, but the big new releases typically arrive in stores just before the winter holidays. Now, just how soon before the holidays can vary, but here are some tips to keep in mind as you get ready for your next shopportunity.

  • PC makers are all over the map in terms of release, but many companies put out new desktop and laptop models around Windows upgrades. This is an off-year for that habit, though, as Windows 9 isn’t really expected until 2015. So take a look back  to when your preferred manufacturer last released new models. The companies need to keep people buying product and most won’t go more than a year without some sort of update to the line. If you don’t remember when the last round of new stuff came out, check the media area of your preferred PC manufacturer’s website and look up the old press releases — the dates should be right there. Microsoft’s site also highlights certain new models of interest throughout the year.

shopwindows

  • Hot new Android phone and tablet hardware also tends to arrive on the heels of a major OS update. Android L, the next version, was previewed at the I/O conference in June and is expected later this year. (Last year’s KitKat and Nexus 5 phone landed as Halloween treats, remember?) Android-focused blogs and gadgets sites often get wind of pending releases, so bookmark AndroidCentral.com, 9to5Google.com or a similar source to keep you on top of events concerning the little green robot.
  • Apple rumor sites have practically become a cottage industry for news about the iEmpire, and often tip off the world to coming-release timeframes. For that kind of info, iLounge, 9to5Mac, AppleInsider, Re/Code and BoyGeniusReport are among the many watchdog sites worth watching themselves. These sites are also on top of new operating system updates for iOS and OS X, if you merely want to upgrade the software on your current, perfectly fine hardware.
  • When it comes to buying your new Apple hardware at that perfect time – meaning not two days before Apple goes and releases all-new models — there’s one site in particular worth looking at: The Buyer’s Guide over at MacRumors.com. The guide has been around for years and keeps close tabs on when Apple releases new iPhones, iPads, iPods, Apple TVs and Macs. The information is detailed very nicely on the site so you can see how long it’s been since a version of the product was released, and plan your shopping trip accordingly.

shopmac

With  Apple, pattern recognition can pay off. After releasing the first three versions of the iPad in the spring, the company has shifted its new iOS gear to the fall months as of 2012 – lately, it’s been iPhones in September and iPads in October, with any new iPods, iTunes updates, Apple TVs and random laptops mixed in as well.

If you don’t care that your hardware is a generation out of date, Back to School time can be a gold mine, as some wireless carriers will bundle older models with new purchases in an attempt to clear shelf space. For example, Sprint is currently selling 16-gig iPad Mini tablets for $50 when you purchase an iPhone 5s or 5c. If you don’t need the latest and greatest, look around now.

If you can’t help yourself and buy something — only to be in geek tears when a new model comes out the next week —keep in mind that most places give you at least 14 days from your purchase date to return an item. The Apple Store, Best Buy, and Amazon all have their return policies posted, as do other companies, so check it out. Then enjoy your new hardware and rest assured that you probably have at least six weeks before all the rumors start up about next year’s model.

PTJ 96: FIFA and Apple Have The World In Motion

FIFA’s 2014 World Cup tournament is set to kickoff in Brazil  in just a few days and J.D. tracks down the apps you’ll need to stay connected to the action.

What’s that you say? You’re looking for tech news too?  And you want it chunky and packed with snark? Well look no more my friends, J.D. and El Kaiser have you covered.

Apple unveils new versions of (don’t call it Mac) OS X and iOS 8 at their annual developers convention; Samsung launches its first smartphone running the long awaited Tizen operating system; Instagram is out with a new version of its mobile app;  US authorities say they’ve caused a disruption in the GameOver Zeus botnet; Comedian John Oliver unleashes Internet trolls on the FCC; Researchers create bakable robots; and the cast of the new Star Wars sequel finally gets around to casting more women.

 

GOOOAAALLLL!

BeepsWCIt’s a major event every four years, and it gets people around the world watching intensely. No, not the Olympics, not the ever-contentious US presidential elections, and not your favorite action-franchise sequel. It’s the World Cup, the preeminent men’s soccer tournament where 32 international teams battle it out over a month of matches for a big gold trophy and bragging rights as truly the world’s best team. This year, the tournament officially gets started June 12th with a match pitting host country Brazil against Croatia, and runs to the championship match on July 13th.

WCGroupChart

Serious fútbol fans have likely stocked up their mobile devices and browsers with everything they need to follow the trophy quest. If you’re new to the sport or just starting to follow it closely, you can find everything you need to know to keep up with the Cup on the Internet. Several third-party apps for following the sport are available in your local app store, but the people running the show (and the TV networks that will be broadcasting the event) have a bit of an edge when it comes to news, photos, and videos from the matches.

For example, FIFA, or Fédération Internationale de Football Association, is the sport’s governing body and offers its official mobile apps for Android and iOS on its site (shown below). The FIFA site also has a PDF of the match schedules you can download of you like hard copy.

fifa

For those watching the international news, it should be noted that FIFA is having its share of controversy these days with allegations of match-fixing in the 2010 World Cup played in South Africa, and bribes made to FIFA officials to vote for Qatar as the host of the 2022 tournament. Social unrest over the cost of hosting the tournament and treatment of indigenous people are making headlines in Brazil as well, but the country’s leaders say the games will go on safely.

Here in the States, ESPN and its assorted sibling networks will be carrying the tournament in full. According to Sports Illustrated, “All 64 matches of the World Cup will be broadcast live and in high definition on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 in English, and on Univision broadcast and cable networks in Spanish.”

If you aren’t home or near a sports bar to watch, all 64 matches on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ABC will also be available on computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles and connected devices through WatchESPN. If you’re not familiar with it, the WatchESPN app (shown below) is a TV streamer and you can get it for Android and Kindle Fire devices, Roku set-top boxes, iOS gadgets and the Apple TV, Amazon’s Fire TV box and Windows 8. (You do need a cable subscription and login from your service provider to make full use of the app.)

ESPNGO

ESPN has also spiffed up its website for the occasion, rolling out its ESPNFC.com to cover the 2014 World Cup and other international football matches. And where you’ve got desktop, you’ve got mobile apps, at least for the major platforms. You can get the ESPN FC app (shown below) for Android, iOS, Ovi, Windows 8 and Windows Phone.  The UK versions are here.

espn

The Univision Deportes app for Android (shown below) and iOS promises live streaming and 24/7 World Cup coverage, as well as other international league play after the big event. You can use the app in either Spanish or English.

univision

The World Cup tournament will be over all too soon for many fans, the beautiful game plays on. Thankfully, the Women’s World Cup is right around the corner in 2015.

PTJ 92: With a LIttle Help From Their Friend

It’s our very first crossover episode as comedian Mike Robles of the Robles & Rosado podcast stops by to help El Kaiser while J.D. is away. Mike reveals the details of the very special relationship he shares with his smartphone and tries his best to understand what drives Pedro’s notorious gadget lust.

In the news, Target’s CEO takes the bullet for the department store’s recent data theft messGregg Steinhafel steps down after a 35 year career with the retailer. 

Antivirus software is dead according to Symantec, manufacturers of Norton Antivirus, one of the top selling anti-malware software in the world.

Fresh on the heels of their announcement of a merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast gets into the video game business with the announcement of a streaming arrangement with EA Games for the cable giant’s new X1 platform.

And finally, if you’re anything like El Kaiser  #AmazonCart Might be just what you have been waiting for. The new hashtag lets you add items to your Amazon shopping cart directly from your Twitter feed.