Tag Archives: Lab126

PTJ 124 News: The Long View

The Consumer Electronics Show has lumbered into Las Vegas for its annual Unveiling O’ the Gadgets. As suspected, lots of smarthome systems, fancy TVs and wearables are in the spotlight. We’ll have a full rundown of the show next week, but some bullet points include:

Netflix has long had its suggested videos area to help you find things to watch based on your viewing preferences, and now the streaming service is going to start anointing new television sets as worthy. (It was just four years ago at CES 2011 when Netflix announced some manufacturers were adding a Netflix button to their remote controls.) Roku is also one of the companies that will offer Netflix recommended models in its Roku TV line of sets, the latest of which will also support 4K Ultra HD streaming content.

roku

ESPN is following HBO out into the world of untethered-to-a-cable subscription apps. The sports network will be among the channels available on the new Sling TV service from the DISH network.

Facebook has just acquired Wit.AI, a company that turns spoken words into instructions that robots can understand. Perhaps in the near future,  the Roomba will be able to handle your status updates as well…

Gogo, which provides inflight Internet services to many airlines, does not want its users to stream video and hog bandwidth enroute and has gone so far as to issue a fraudulent HTTPS certificate to anyone onboard who dares to visit YouTube during their flight. The company was busted by Adrienne Porter Felt, an engineer on the security squad for Google’s Chrome browser, and she even posted a screenshot to her Twitter feed of the fake certificate. Gogo’s chief technology officer Anand Chari then posted a statement on his company’s blog explaining Gogo’s actions. And so it goes.

Another week, another lawsuit against Apple. This time, two plaintiffs are suing the company because they say their 16-gigabyte iOS devices do not really come with 16 gigabytes of storage, and that the iOS 8 system takes up even more precious space. Apple had no comment.

For those who like to complain, the Federal Communications Commission has launched a new site called the Consumer Help Center. You can use it to file complaints about various FCC-regulated industries.

FCC

Yahoo Mail has updated its app for iOS and now it can track your packages for you. Here’s hoping the hackers don’t get ahold of this.

Behind every flop, there’ a story, and Fast Company has a very detailed long read about the development and fallout of Amazon’s failed Fire Phone. The site has an additional post about post-Fire Phone changes at Lab126, the quasi-secret R&D arm of Amazon that develops the company’s hardware.

The Internet Archive has now added more than 2,300 old MS-DOS games to its Software section. Duke Nukem 3D, Cannon Fodder 2 and Prince of Persia are among the early 1990s titles you can play with emulation software right in your browser.

DOS

And finally, 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope. To celebrate, NASA has released a new high-def version of the classic “Pillars of Creation” image from the Eagle Nebula that was originally photographed in 1995. Although the Hubble won’t last forever and eventually degrade, NASA has its successor: the James Webb Space Telescope is in the works and the agency hopes to launch it this decade — and there’s an eye in the sky that we don’t actually mind one bit.

PTJ 98: Amazon Starts Another Fire and Security on The Go

David Perry, now a threat strategist for the international computer-security firm F-Secure, joins us on this week’s episode to discuss the current state of mobile security. Interested in testing out F-Secure’s one-button Freedome app on your Android device or iPhone? Check it out here, as well as a short message about privacy from The Hoff himself.  And a big thanks to Jocelyn Gonzales for recording this segment for us at the Heartland Brewery in Times Square.

El Kaiser takes another listen to Bowers& Wilkins C5 in-ear monitors and admits he got it all wrong the first time around.

In the news, Amazon launches their long rumored smartphone; Google lists which mail providers encrypt messages in transit; The United States government lifts restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be; the U.S. Department of Transportation looks to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles; Facebook changes its personal-data collection policy; The Museum of Modern Art adds an iPad app to its permanent collection; and the Unicode Standard thousands of new characters, including several hundred new emoji.

PTJ 98 News: Earth, Wind and Fire

That Amazon 3D smartphone first revealed in April by the Boy Genius Report blog has now been officially announced: It’s called the Fire smartphone, and let’s hope it never has an overheating battery problem. As it did with Apple’s original iPhone back in 2007, AT&T has emerged as the exclusive carrier for the phone. Amazon’s innovative new phone was developed at its secret hardware headquarters in Silicon Valley, Lab126, according to a report on the Bloomberg Businessweek site. On the software side of the news, Amazon also released its Prime Music service last week that brings unlimited ad-free music streams to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Speaking of Android, the Ars Technica site has posted a history of Google’s mobile operating system, tracing the evolution of Android 0.5 back in 2007 to the current state of chocolatey KitKat Android 4.4. Google itself is on a campaign for safer email and released a new section of its Transparency Report earlier this month showing which major mail providers encrypt messages in transit.  The company also released an early version of its new End-to-End encryption tool for its Chrome browser that uses OpenPGP to scramble messages until they’re decrypted.

loon

Google’s high-flying effort to bring Wi-Fi to underdeveloped parts of the world is taking off. Project Loon, as it’s called, had successful test runs in places like New Zealand and parts of rural Brazil, as detailed on a Google+ page devoted to the South American endeavor. In addition to calculating wind data and enhancing balloon design to make them more efficient, the project team also had to deal with dramatic temperatures, dripping humidity and scorpions.

skyThe United States government is lifting restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be, and at least one company, DigitalGlobe, will be selling even better snaps from the sky soon, with much sharper pictures taken from oh high. (Please stop scowling at the camera, privacy advocates.)

Back here on Earth, satellite imagery is often used in modern map apps, and the U.S. Department of Transportation would like to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles.  Congress is expected to debate the proposed legislation, part of the GROW AMERICA Act, over the next few months and to possibly make a decision later this year, but given the recent Congressional track record for getting much of anything done besides creating hot winds, we’ll believe it when we see it.

Meanwhile, another US government agency is looking into that little squabble between Netflix and Verizon over slow download speeds. Verizon is not alone, as Comcast and other ISPs are said to be under scrutiny as well. Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, issued a statement late last week on the matter.

Facebook went and changed its policy on personal-data collection from its users last week. Yes, the privacy advocates were not happy about that, either, with some yelling at the Federal Trade Commission for letting Facebook get away with it. Facebook announced the changes on its company blog and says it will now pull in information about other websites you have browsed and use that data to calculate what ads to serve you. Lifehacker, PC Magazine, VentureBeat and many other sites have already posted instructions on how to opt out of Facebook’s web-history snooping.

The folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also concerned with transparency and how someone’s private data is used by others. They’re working on a new tool dubbed “HTTP with Accountability,” or HTTPA, which will automatically monitor the transmission of private data and allow the data owner to examine how it’s being used. The new protocol will be outlined in a paper presented a security conference in July.

In entertainment news, The Museum of Modern Art has added the first iPad app to its permanent collection. It’s Biopihlia, a musical app with interactive graphics and animations developed in part by Björk Gudmunsdóttir, former Sugarcubes singer-songwriter and swan-dress model. The $13 app is available for Android and iOS.

pennysoloWe here at Pop Tech Jam would like to wish Harrison Ford a speedy recovery from his accident on the set of Star Wars VII last week. Mr. Ford is expected to be off the set for up to 8 weeks while he heals from a broken ankle suffered when a hydraulic door from the Millennium Falcon reportedly fell on him.   The Falcon is still apparently the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, including when its parts pop off.

And finally, the Unicode Standard is getting an update to Version 7.0 and bringing with it a whole bunch of new characters — 2,834 of them to be exact. Unicode 7.0.0 supersedes all previous versions of the standard and now includes things like currently symbols used in Russia and Azerbaijan and 23 new lesser-used and historic scripts for written languages around the world. It also includes about 250 new Emoji, those little cartoony pictographic symbols common in text messages. The new Emoji include several hand gestures including 1F596 – RAISED HAND WITH PART BETWEEN MIDDLE AND RING FINGERS, also known as the Vulcan salute, and 1F595 – REVERSED HAND WITH MIDDLE FINGER EXTENDED, a more offensive gesture commonly referred to as the One Finger Salute. Can’t imagine who might find use for that sort of thing in a text message…