Tag Archives: lawsuits

PTJ 259: Face Time

Whether it be tech giants facing Congressional committees or the Google Cultural Institute showing people the power of facial-recognition algorithms, El Kaiser and J.D.  have things to say about it all. Also in the mix: Several states and advocacy groups have fired up the Lawsuit Machine and aimed it at the Federal Communications Commission’s recent repeal of the net neutrality rules. Oh, and here are a pair of newsflashes: Apple has lots of money and Facebook maybe didn’t do so much to stop misinformation on its platform last year.  Spool up Episode 259 for the details!

Links to Stories Discussed on This Week’s Episode

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 258: WELCOME OUR *NEWEST* ROBOT OVERLORDS

The annual Consumer Electronics Show wrapped up in Las Vegas last week, leaving El Kaiser and J.D. plenty of new gadgets to mull, from “intelligent” toilets to high-concept “social-empathy robots.” But other stuff happened outside of Vegas, too — Facebook changed up its News Feed, Spectre and Meltdown patches rolled out, and half of California seems to be suing Apple over that iPhone slowdown move. Spin up Episode 258 to hear it all!

Links to Stories on This Week’s Episode

 

 

 

PTJ 206 News: Robot, You Can Drive My Car

Forget about the distant promise of Hyperloop for a minute, because the United States Department of Transportation is looking toward the near future. The agency has released its first set of government guidelines for self-driving automobiles. The document is wittily titled Federal Automated Vehicles Policy: Accelerating the Next Revolution in Roadway Safety and is available as 116-page PDF from the DOT’s website. Don’t read it while you’re driving.

Speaking of the road ahead, the first US Presidential debate is Monday night, September 26th, so be sure to warm up your fingers properly if you plan to dive into the rolling slapfight on Twitter — and remember, you get the full 140 characters now.

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Twitter also got a workout last weekend during the annual Emmy Awards. and one of its own blogs posted the top five most-discussed moments of the event.  (All the feels for the amazing Tatiana Maslany, y’all.) And the service seems to have had a good turnout online for its first live-streamed NFL game last week. According to Adweek, Twitter adding two million viewers on the livestream to the 48 million eating chips and watching the game on TV. The day before its first football adventure, Twitter released set-top apps for the Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Microsoft Xbox. Fly, little bird, fly!

Microsoft says its researchers are working to “solve” cancer by using computer science. Go on, give it a read.

Samsung’s voluntary recall of its potentially dangerous Galaxy Note 7 phones became an official government recall from the Consumer Product Safety Commission late last week. But here come the lawsuits:  A Florida man is suing Samsung because he claims he suffered severe burns on his leg and thumb when his Galaxy Note 7 exploded in his pocket.

hissWhile Samsung tries to reel in the million or so defective Galaxy Note 7 devices, Apple’s iPhone 7 rolled out last Friday and had some of the usual quirks people seem to find with new iHardware. The company is dealing with a bug in the remote control for the new Lightning-tipped earbuds that come with the iPhone 7 line. Some new owners are also claiming that the iPhone 7 makes a hissing sound. (Yes, Parseltongue jokes commenced as soon as the news broke.)

The news may not be all bad for Samsung, however. The Tom’s Guide site did a head-to-head comparison with the 12-megapixel cameras in both the iPhone 7 models and the camera in Samsung’s non-exploding Galaxy S7Edge phone — and found that the S7 Edge edged out the new iPhones.

Apple users can distract themselves by banging around on the new macOS Sienna operating system, which arrived for download this week. (If you haven’t done it yet, backup before you update. ) Productivity Software Fans: The iWork suite of Pages, Numbers and Keynote was also updated.

Google is just all kinds of busy these days. The company has scheduled an event for October 4th in San Francisco, where insiders assume new phones and maybe that rumored 7-inch Google-pure Android tablet may be unveiled. The company has also goosed the algorithm for its Google Books suggestion engine to make better recommendations on what you should read after you get done with your current Google book. Oh, and they added voice search to Google Drive to help you find your stuff by asking and updated the Google Photos software for Android, iOS and the web.

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For travelers, the Big G announced its new Google Trips mobile app for Android and iOS. The new program wants to be your portable personalized tour guide, but parts of it sound an awful lot like the Trip Bundles feature in the Inbox by Google app.

Like Apple, though, Google may be facing a rather large bill from a foreign government or back taxes. As Reuters reports, Indonesia plans to tap Google’s parent company Alphabet for more than $400 million in what it says is unpaid tax in 2015. Google says it’s paid its tax and that most of its revenue for the region is booked through Singapore.

And finally, two notes on relationships. For one, Tinder and Spotify are hooking up to let users of both services see potential matches based on musical tastes (or lack thereof). Secondly, NASA has weighed in on the recirculating rumor that it has messed with the zodiac and everyone’s astrological signs are now different so maybe Scorpios aren’t your type after all. The five-year-old story, apparently hauled out of mothballs by Glamour.com who linked to NASA’s page for kids, describes how the space agency decided to compensate for the fact that the Earth’s axis has shifted over 3,000 years and added a thirteenth sign called Ophiuchus. Someone at NASA with a with a sense of humor rose to the challenge early this week and put up a post on the agency’s Tumblr account to clarify things. Because, you know, NASA ain’t got much to do these days.

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PTJ 203 News: Irish Wakeup Call

Nothing like a $14.6 billion bill for back taxes to get your attention, eh? That’s the hefty sum Apple is facing after a European Commission ruling this week found the company’s tax deal with Ireland was illegal under European Union rules. Apple and Ireland are both vowing to appeal the ruling, and in a letter released publicly on its website, Apple stated the ruling would have an impact on investment and job creation in Europe.  The EU is also investigating Amazon and McDonald’s for similar practices.

Apple may have other legal woes brewing on this side of the pond as well. A nationwide class-action lawsuit was filed against the company by plaintiffs who claim that their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones suffer from defecting screens that make them unresponsive. The defect was dubbed Touch Disease by the repair site iFixit, who has looked at the issue and found hundreds of ailing iPhones with flickering gray bars on glitchy screens.

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Apple has set the date for its annual Fall Media Monopoly Event. As some predicted, it’ll be early this year — September 7th and at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. New iPhones and an arrival date for iOS 10 are expected to be announced for sure, and updates on macOS Sierra, watchOS, and tvOS could be in the mix, as well as hardware news about Apple Watch, the MacBook Pro laptops, the iPad Pro and other gear. But will there be One More Thing?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California tossed out a lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014 that accused AT&T of bandwidth-throttling customers who still had unlimited data plans after those customers went beyond customary allowances.

Twitter and Facebook may get more if the hate speech headlines, but Microsoft is stepping up its efforts to smack down the extremists and Troll Legions roaming on own online properties. In a post on one of the company blogs, Microsoft’s Chief Online Safety Officer Jacqueline Beauchere, writes, “Today we’re announcing a new dedicated web form for reporting hate speech on our hosted consumer services, and a separate web form for requests to reconsider and reinstate content.”

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Facebook’s Trending Topics section has had its ups and downs this year with charges of political bias in story selection and promotion and last week, Facebook reportedly decided to get rid of the humans who were writing story descriptions for trending list and just have the algorithms start listing popular topics based on what users were sharing. However, a lot of Facebook users were sharing a false story about broadcaster Megyn Kelly getting fired from Fox News for being a liberal — so the fake story made it onto the trending list. Whoopsie!

On to the Department of Democracy Nightmares, the Federal Bureau of Investigation says it has evidence that hackers breached two state election databases this summer. While actual vote-counting systems were not involved YET, foreign-based hackers targeted voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois. Paper ballots for all this year, please.

While test drones are buzzing around the countryside of merry old England, here in the States, the Federal Aviation Administration just started giving the drone pilot’s-license test this week. More than 3300 people signed up to take the test on the first day. The Wired site has a study guide for wannabe drone jockeys.

In other drone news, Jennifer Youngman, a 65-year-old woman in rural Virginia, took down a drone in one blast from her 20-gauge shotgun earlier this summer. She lives near the actor Robert Duvall. She also chatted with the CBC about the incident.

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In product news, Sonos and Amazon are hooking up with a new strategic partnership. What this means is that people who own both voice-activated Echo speakers and Sonos sound systems will be able to tell the Echo speaker to play music through the Sonos system.

FitBit announced two new exercise trackers this week, the Fitbit Charge 2 and the Fitbit Flex 2. You can even swin with the Flex 2, they say.

russiaAnd finally, the Centauri Dreams blog devoted to deep space exploration noted a radio telescope in Russia (shown here), had picked up “strong signal in the direction of HD164595” last year. HD 164595 is a star with at least planet in the system within the constellation Hercules, all about 95 light years from Earth. The site merely said the signal was interesting and deserved further scrutiny. Astronomers at the SETI Institute have already written a brief paper on the matter.  Seasoned experts around the web were skeptical, with one noting the signal was on the part of the radio spectrum used by the military and another posting, “It’s not our first time at this rodeo, so we know how it works,” on a SETI message board. Sure, the signal may be nothing — but it kind of makes one want to haul out the Contact DVD for some Hollywood science and reinstall the SETI@home software on your current computer, you know?

Opening shot from Contact (1997) from Single Shot Film Festival on Vimeo.

PTJ 196 News: Windows $10K

Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade has steadily grown more persistent since the software’s release last year, even to the point of practically hijacking a user’s computer to ram it on there. While the Windows forums have lit up with complaints, at least one dissatisfied customer has taken Microsoft to court over the unauthorized update. The plaintiff was awarded $10,000 to compensate for lost wages and the price of a new computer to replace the one banjaxed by an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft denied that it had done anything wrong and said it had dropped its appeal in the case to avoid additional legal expense. However, the company said it’s changing that sneaky dialogue box that starts the Windows 10 install when you click the “x” to close the box. (Also disappearing:  The Xbox Fitness service.)

Due to copyright issues, many song lyrics sites used to be hosted on offshore servers, but now Google has cut a deal with the Toronto-based firm LyricFind to legally display lyrics in search results. The move both funnels money to the publishers and songwriters of the licensed songs — and might send a few people to Google Play Music as well.

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Google is also expanding the tools its offers to teachers by making its Expeditions virtual reality experience available to everyone with the Android app, a network connection and a VR viewer. Expeditions offers virtual reality tours to more than 200 locations and an iOS edition of the app is expected soon. The company also released its Google Cast for Education app for Chrome for wireless screen-sharing in the classroom.

Facebook has decided that it needs to rev up the Slideshow feature that was originally included it its Facebook Moments app last year. In a new update to the Facebook mobile app, if it senses you have taken more than five pictures or videos in the past 24 hours and you go to post a status update, Facebook suggests that you make a slideshow out of the material. (The TechCrunch site has a theory that Facebook is desperate to get people to post more original content on the site.)  Facebook is also adding location-based events to its main app to offer suggestions for things to do besides spend all night on Facebook, and actual humans will curate the events lists.

Twitter announced that its adding stickers to photo tweets, perhaps in an attempt to get more teenage girls to use the service.

Municipal lawmakers and the Airbnb site for easy short-term rentals have a contentious relationship in places like New York City and San Francisco because of local housing laws, and now the start-up is even suing San Francisco over a new law that says Airbnb hosts must register with the city first. The lawsuit contends that San Francisco is putting the burden on Airbnb to enforce the law by fining the site $1,000 for posting unverified-with-the-city listings on the site. As The New York Times points out, Airbnb originally helped write the law in the first place to quell protests from affordable hosing advocates. The New York Legislature also passed its own bill against Airbnb this month that would impose fines on apartments listed with the service that rent for less than 30 days if the leaseholder if not present. That bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Amazon has added a new feature to its Kindle apps and e-readers that’s designed to make it easier for you to wander around in an ebook without losing your place. The new tool is called, appropriately, Page Flip.

Medical offices have become a popular target for hackers thanks to the troves of personal patient data and now hackers have taken to selling thousands of records on the dark web after their demands for money were turned down.  Speaking of hackers, Apple’s forthcoming iOS 10 software has already been poked, prodded and had its flows exposed in public by an individual who has posted it all online on the iOS Hacker Wiki.

Pinterest, which added buy buttons to some items on its mobile app last year, has added those click-to-buy buttons on its web version now. A shopping bag is also available so you can click around on either mobile or desktop and then buy all your pinned purchases at once.

And finally, summer is here and if you need some projects to occupy the kids, Bose has a $150 BoseBuild Speaker Cube kit that shows kids how to make a Bluetooth speaker that works with an iOS device while also teaching them how the principles of sound and speakers work, along with magnets, electromagnets, frequency and waveforms.

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Need another educational a summer project? Make has instructions on how to make a Wi-Fi Drone Disabler with a Raspberry Pi, some telnet scripts and a cantenna, but stresses this is an educational exercise to help you “understand the security risks of wireless communications.” Yes. Yes, it is.

PTJ 187 News: Standards & Practices

Facebook mess with the News Feed? Really!?!  But seriously, according to Mashable and a few other sites, images of a new tabbed news feed screen for mobile devices have been spotted on Twitter. Facebook did confirm that it is indeed testing the new design, but did not say if or when it would actually launch.

YouTube is stepping up its virtual-reality game with a couple of new features. As announced on the company blog, YouTube is introducing 360-degree live streaming on the site, which adds on to last year’s support for uploaded 360-videos. YouTube also launched spatial audio for on-demand videos. If you want to hear what all that means, check out the company’s special spatial audio playlist for Android devices.

siriWe’re just about a month away from Google’s annual I/O developer’s conference, and now Apple has finally gotten around to announcing when its own World Wide Developer’s Conference. The first word on the dates for some people, however, did not come from an email announcement, but from the Apple’s Siri virtual assistant, as the 9to5Mac site reported. A press release on Apple’s website confirms it all Apple fans are already murmuring about the show, wondering if OS X will be renamed macOS to fall better in line with iOS, tvOS and watchOS.

Apple didn’t wait for its next big media event to make new hardware announcements, though. This Tuesday, it quietly updated its 12-inch Macbook laptop model with better hardware on the inside.  The laptop is available in a few different processor and storage configurations and comes in four colors now: Gold, Silver, Space Gray and Rose Gold. And in other news, Apple has hired a former vice president of vehicle engineering from Tesla. The company also killed off QuickTime for Windows and the Department of Homeland Security has advised PC users to uninstall it RIGHT AWAY.

In legal news, it appears that Google’s massive book-scanning project that triggered a copyright lawsuit buy an author’s group is in the clear. The Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge from the Authors Guild over the legality of the Google Books project, so last year’s lower court ruling from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York stands.

Also in Google news, the company’s Android Security 2015 Annual Report was released this week.  The company touts its monthly security updates, better screening for potentially harmful apps in the Google Play store and greater adoption of its app verification service as factors in making Android devices safer than before, but it notes that there are still a steady number of malware, ransomware and other nasty apps lurking out there.

Speaking of software and malicious intentions, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the machine-learning startup company PatternEx have come up with a new system predicts 85 percent of cyber attacks.

Amazon is taking a shot at Netflix’s monthly streaming fees by making its own Amazon Prime service available as, you guessed it, a monthly subscription instead of an annual fee. And speaking of Netflix, that company is raising its monthly fees by 25 percent for longtime streaming customers next month.

Yahoo’s deadline for financial suitors to present themselves has come and gone and Verizon has emerged as the only major player to maintain interest in the sagging company.

murphyMicrosoft introduced Skype video bots a few weeks ago for developers and consumers to interact with and announced this week that the bots are now available for Mac and web users. Some of the stock bots available include Murphy, a bot to find and create images for when questions can’t be answered by words alone and Summarize, a bot designed to give an overview of a web page if you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

As expected, the  Name That Research Ship contest over in the United Kingdom has ended and Boaty McBoatface won in a tidal wave. However, UK Science Minister and total buzzkill Jo Johnson told BBC Radio 5 Live this week that “there is a process now for us to review all of the public’s choices. Many of them were imaginative; some were more suitable than others.” Even if the RSS Boaty McBoatface never sails the seas as a government science ship, the contest did inspire an Australian racehorse owner in Sydney to name one of his geldings Horsey McHorseface and an English rail worker temporarily named the Portsmouth to Waterloo line Trainy McTrainface.

And finally, if you love NASA and you live vintage graphic design and branding standards, you can now buy a copy of the space agency’s official graphics manual first published in 1976. The book is 220 pages with 129 image plates and comes individually packages in a static-shielding pouch. This is actually a reissue of the original book, of which only 40 copies were originally printed. The new version is a Kickstarter project that can now be ordered only for $79 a copy.

If you’re on a bit of a tight budget, however, you can download a free PDF copy of the original manual from NASA’s website and print it yourself because hey, it’s a taxpayer-funded government agency. And after just staggering through another tax season, we’ll take all the perks we can get.

PTJ 167 News: Cracker Jacks

It’s been a week of hacking, cracking and more than a little tracking. For starters, Facebook, which is never shy about getting all up in the content you post on the site, is now testing its Photo Magic feature on its Australian users. So, what is Photo Magic? It’s a Facebook tool that jacks into your phone’s Camera Roll to look for pictures you haven’t yet posted — and then suggests that you send those images to the friends it recognizes through the Facebook Messenger app. Privacy advocates, start your engines.

Also in nosy news, a Belgian court has ordered The Social Network to stop using its special web-tracking cookie on visitors who are not Facebook members. And the Federal Communications Commission has dismissed a petition from the California-based Consumer Watchdog group that would have required big content-and-apps sites like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Netflix and others to honor the Do Not Track requests from browsers.

And from tracking to hacking, the same group that claims to have broken into the personal email account of CIA director John Brennan an few weeks back says it recently got into a law-enforcement portal site for arrest records, agency collaboration tools and other sensitive crime-fighting information. The group, known as Crackas With Attitude, let the world know of the hack of the Joint Automated Booking System over Twitter:

Pinterest has added a new visual search tool — which it describes as “crazy fun” — to help you find the things you want on sight. To quote the Pinterest blog, “When you spot something in a Pin that you want to learn more about, tap the search tool in the corner. Then select the part of the Pin you’re interested in, and we’ll show you Pins just like it. You can even filter your visual search results by topic so you find exactly what you’re looking for.”

Tumblr has added instant messaging for its users. Go, team!

No Internet connection? Google Maps has added offline navigation and search to its Android app. Oh, and in case you were waiting for it,  the Android app version of Apple Music is now out.Google also announced that as of April 2016, it was discontinuing Chrome browser support for on Windows XP and Vista, Mac OS X 10.6 to 10.8. So long, outdated operating systems!

Like video? T-Mobile has also added a new plan called Binge On that lets its users stream content from popular video services like Netflix and HBO Now without denting their data plans. However, some critics note that because not all streaming services are included in the Binge On plan, T-Mobile may have some net neutrality issues to work out with the FCC. bingeon Apple’s iPad Pro went on sale this week, with online orders starting Wednesday and the big slab hitting shelves a few days later. The tablet with the 12.9 inch screen has a starter price of $800 for the 32-gig Wi-Fi only version and the tags go north from there. Optional accessories like the $100 Apple Pencil stylus and the $170 Smart Keyboard, which turns your iPad Pro into a Microsoft Surface, also went on sale this week. And more reasons for Apple to be happy – a federal district court judge threw out a class-action lawsuit brought by Apple Store employees who wanted to be reimbursed for the time spent in the office bag-search line to make sure they weren’t nicking the merch.

Moving on to the exciting world of cable television, Time Warner Cable officially announced its TWC TV Roku Trial program in New York City. If you’re interested, you can sign up for the trial. Also in cable news, an internal Comcast memo that got leaked and posted on Reddit admits that the company’s 300-gigabyte-per-month data caps recently imposed on customers in several southeastern cities to improve network performance is not actually about improving network performance.

Meanwhile, up on the International Space Station, astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren took an almost 8-hour space walk late last week to do a little maintenance. A tweet from the International Space Station’s Twitter account described the chores as “serious high-flying plumbing and cable work,” while NASA reported the mission as the two “restored the port truss (P6) ammonia cooling system to its original configuration.” The Space.com site has an excellent rundown of the walk.

And finally, the Hour of Code is always upon us, but this year, there’s an even bigger push to get women and people of color into programming. To help lure the kids in, the Code.org site is teaming up with Disney/Lucasfilm to have Star Wars characters help with the learning. As explained on a Disney blog, “Students will learn to write code that allows them to create games using Star Wars characters.” This is all part of the third annual Hour of Code event that’s part of Computer Science Education Week, which takes place December 7-13 this year. May the Code be with you!

PTJ 143 News: Red-Letter Days

Who says the epistolary arts are dead in this age of text and email? As user-privacy rights and national-security concerns continue to clash, stern words are still the weapons of choice.  This week, a coalition of 140 technology companies, security experts and other industry players sent a letter to President Obama asking him to “reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products.” The letter comes in response to recent remarks by Administration officials that suggested American companies not use (or create) products secured by encryption —unless a backdoor key was provided to the government. No word on a White House reply yet, not even from the President’s new official Twitter account. (Perhaps Mr. Obama was busy joshing with Mr. Clinton.)

The White House was not the only place that got a note of concern this week. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, received a group letter of opposition signed by 67 digital rights groups who don’t like the idea of the company’s Internet.org project because it stifles the concept of net neutrality, freedom of expression and all that stuff.

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Also in letter writing news, the Federal Trade Commission has asked the bankruptcy court handling the RadioShack case to protect the personal information of former RadioShack customers. As more companies eventually go bust and their data assets are up for grabs, the FTC will likely be writing a lot more letters.

Worried that the telcos will backslide on those new Net Neutrality rules from the Federal Communications Commission? Internet activists have launched an Internet Health Test site  that checks the quality of your broadband connection and looks for any sign of speed degradation, perhaps by an ISP throttling. Your results are then shared as compiled data in the public domain. Meanwhile, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who once threatened to pause developments of fiber networks if the FCC’s new rules were passed, said AT&T would keep investing in its infrastructure because he is now confident the new rules will be overturned.

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Federal investigators are looking into the claims of one Chris Roberts, a security researcher who said he was able to hack into the computer systems on an United Airlines flight. He said he could gain enough control to do things like drop the oxygen masks, mess with the cockpit’s alert system or even cause the plane to move sideways. Um, yeah, Federal officials, please look into this.

According to an investigative piece out this week from Advertising Age, Google has a crack squad of Antifraud Specialists fighting the ad-bot hucksters. And speaking of  exploits, there’s a new one out that shows a proof-of-concept address-spoofing attack using a bug in Apple’s Safari web browser.

In other Apple News, the fancy new 15-inch MacBook Pro with the ForceTouch trackpad is available now, as is a cheaper version of the 27-inch iMac with 5K Retina display. Prices start at about $2,000 for either. If the Internet can be believed,  Apple is getting ready to roll out some fresh code for both the Apple Watch and the Apple TV; the new version of that set-top box is expected  next month at the World Wide Developers Conference. Oh, and The Wall Street Journal has a story this week that explains why Apple hasn’t jumped into the full-on television market yet.

The Internet has come to the rescue again! After it was canceled by Fox, Mindy Kaling’s sitcom, The Mindy Project, was picked up by TV-streaming service Hulu for a fourth season of 26 new episodes.

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Google and the University of Washington have teamed up for an inventive project that uses 86 million pictures from photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa to create amazing time-lapse videos. The researchers wrote up their findings in a paper whimsically titled “Time-Lapse Mining from Internet Photos.”

And finally, Microsoft is celebrating 25 years of Solitaire on Windows. Woo hoo! Microsoft’s solitaire collection, which includes the standard Klondike version, plus the FreeCell, Spider, TriPeaks, and Pyramid variations, is available free in the online app store for Windows Phone and Windows 8.1. Here’s to a quarter century of lost productivity in offices across the globe!

PTJ 138 News: Time Will Tell

And, they’re off…preorders for the Apple Watch started last week. Although Apple itself hasn’t released any sales figures of its own, analysts are chiming in and some watch models are now backordered until June. One research firm, Slice Intelligence, had a report that said its consumer-survey data showed that Apple took about 957,000 preorders for Apple Watches on the first day. The Apple Watch is initially available in nine countries, but compare that to last year’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus rollout, which was available in 10 countries. The phones topped four million pre-orders in the first 24 hours and went on to sell ten million in the first weekend of launch. The last time Apple launched a new product, it was the iPad in 2010, which sold 300,000 units on the first day of sales and took less than a month to hit the one-million mark. So, will the Watch move past the Apple fankids and make a splash in the mainstream?

WWDCAmid all the timepiece hoopla, Apple also knocked a few other projects off its To-Do List. One was an update Final Cut Pro, its professional-level video-editing program. The update includes a speed boost, support for key camera formats, workflow enhancements, 3D titles and more, along with the usual bug stomping. And those in the Apple developer program are buzzing about the new iOS 8.4 beta because it reveals the new overhauled version of the Music app. The final version of the refreshed Music app is expected to be revealed at the  World Wide Developer’s Conference that starts June 8th in San Francisco. And about WWDC — Apple has banned selfie sticks at the conference this year. No smarmy stick pics in Moscone West, got it?

Google introduced its new Designed for Families program for its Android developers this week. Look for the “family friendly” displays  soon in the Google Play store.

drone2A few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration proposed new rules for unmanned aircraft systems and news organizations got permission to test drones in their work, Amazon seems to have finally gotten its way on the whole permissions thing with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA sent a letter to Amazon last week giving the company specific permission to test its delivery drones here in the US instead of Canada. Certain rules do apply, however, like daytime flights only and no aircraft up there weighing more than 55 pounds.

The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules were officially published in the Federal Register this week, and almost immediately, Doug Collins, a Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced a resolution called the “Resolution of Disapproval.” Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, the resolution  gives Congress the authority to do a quick 60-day review of new regulations from government agencies and vote to disapprove them before they go into effect. It is unlikely that President Obama will sign the resolution to make it a law, though.

lawBut that’s not all on the net neutrality front. Three trade groups representing the cable and wireless communications industry have filed lawsuits over the FCC’s new rules in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Petitioners include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which counts Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision as members, and the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, (now known by the hip moniker “CTIA — The Wireless Association”) whose members include AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile USA. The American Cable Association, which represents about 850 small and medium-sized providers, also piled on. The suits all accused the FCC of overreach and may be consolidated into one Super Suit. Experts say it could take three years for a decision in the case.

rrTime Warner Cable is not about to let Google Fiber horn in on its turf in North Carolina. Just a few months after Google said that it was expanding its gigabit Internet service to Atlanta, Nashville Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, Time Warner Cable announced it was “taking the next step to transform the TV and Internet experience in the Charlotte area.” The cable giant’s upgraded new service, which is up to six times faster than its old one and has already landed in other metropolitan areas (like Los Angeles and New York City), is dubbed TWC Maxx and is not to be confused with the department store TJ Maxx.  And AT&T is also giving Atlanta its own U-verse GigaPower love after Google Fiber and Comcast Gigabit Pro announced their intentions to court subscribers there.

Also getting more cost-affordable: 4K ultra high-definition television sets. Vizio, one of the brands that led the way to affordable HDTVs, has announced its 2015 lineup of Ultra HD sets and the low-end 43-inch model comes in at just $600. At the other end of the price list, the 80-inch 4K TV sells for about $4,000 but well under the hefty five figures the average UHD TV was selling for just a few years ago.

Seeking to regain ground and customers, Sprint will gladly sell you a new mobile phone — and they will even come to your house with the new device and set it up for you. It’s part of the company’s new Direct 2 You service and although it’s rolling out in Kansas City now, it’s expect to expand to Miami and Chicago next week and then on to the rest of the country. Sprint has hired about 5,000 roaming tech helpers through a third-party company and is mainly aimed at existing customers who are due for an upgrade.

redmarsMeanwhile, out in space, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has discovered that water can exist as a liquid in the soil near the Martian surface. Even though Mars is too cold to allow water in liquid form to exist on the planet’s surface, it could just below the surface where salts in the soil have lower freezing points, possibly making for a life-sustaining liquid brine. The research was published in the Nature Geoscience journal.

A little father out in space, the Rosetta probe and its Philae lander have found that the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerisemenko is not magnetized. Scientists at the European Space Agency and elsewhere study the properties of comets in order to get insight on the role magnet fields have played in the formation of all the celestial bodies flying around in our solar system.

YodaMacAnd finally, in case you were out of town last weekend, all six Star Wars films arrived as legal digital downloads last Friday in a package called Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection. The whole saga could be purchased in bundle form for $90 — or $20 each if you hate the Jar Jar chapters. The films, which have old and new bonus extras and featurettes included, are available on all the major media download stores. And, thanks to the wide-ranging merchandizing rights, you can enjoy the movies while dining on a big bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in Star Wars Shapes. Now that’s good eatin’!

PTJ 135 News: Reach for the Stars

March marches on! Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference kicks off this week and early word has it that the Social Network could become a host for the content written by major media outlets.  The company in talks with big news organizations as it tests new formats for the project, in which advertising revenue (as always) could be the big lure for all parties involved.

layoutFacebook’s Instagram service has a new app called Layout that lets smartphone photographers remix up to nine images from their camera rolls into customizable collages. Layout (shown here) is free and now available for iOS users, with an Android edition, as usual, currently in the works.

In unofficial news, Facebook seems to be testing a phone dialer and Caller ID app of its own, although it doesn’t seem to be announced yet or anything. The Android Police site was the first to report on the new app, which the site says is called Phone. Facebook has confirmed the app’s existence, but has not said what it plans to do with it. (Perhaps  it was just some leftover code from the failed Facebook-powered phone a few years back?)

Oh, and the Toronto Globe and Mail is among those who noticed that Facebook seems to be making corporate and brand pages less of a place for angry customers to post angry rants about lousy customer service and product complaints. A recent tweak by Facebook collapses user comments so they are not as easily visible — and readable — on corporate pages.

Samsung seems to be grabbing the reins on the bloatware. People posting in the XDA Developers Forum online are chattering that many pre-installed apps for the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones can be easily removed without hassle. Removable apps are said to include Samsung’s S Voice and S Health apps, Google’s troika of Gmail, YouTube and Google+ and Microsoft’s OneNote, OneDrive and Skype. Microsoft and Samsung aren’t parting wys across the board, though, as the two companies announced earlier this week that Samsung will pre-install Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype and a few other company apps on certain Samsung Android tablets this fall.

pebbleOn the wearables beat, the Kickstarter campaign for the competing Pebble Time smartwatch saw a healthy spike around and during Apple’s media event a few weeks ago and is close to 20 million dollars, making the crowdfunded, less expensive smartwatch a player in the game. And Google Glass, despite having its original model discontinued, is not dead yet.

Just a week after we mocked it here for hardware stagnation, there are early leaks to BuzzFeed News about the Apple TV set-top box getting an upgrade and makeover, maybe right in time for the World Wide Developers Conference in June. According to sources, the revamped box would include a beefier processor, voice control with a Siri-esque digital assistant and have its own App Store to load up your home screen. As Wired noted, this alleged new hardware would go real good with the also-rumored live-streaming TV channel bundle.

steveThe biography of Steve Jobs written by journalist Walter Isaacson in 2011 went on to sell millions of copies, but many people close to Mr. Jobs felt the book focused a little too much on his periodic-but-infamous bad behavior. Now Becoming Steve Jobs has arrived in stores this week. Although Mr. Issacson’s volume was authorized by its subject and used official interviews with Jobs as part of its source material, Becoming Steve Jobs is already earning high praise for its accuracy by those who worked with him and knew him best.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for net neutrality. Yes, these are probably the first of many.

skeetAmazon has gotten approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to test out commercial drones. The super-uber-mega-everything store has been issued an “experimental airworthiness certificate” from the FAA that allows Amazon to conduct the research it says it needs to train crew and further develop its Prime Air package delivery system. Amazon’s ambitions do have some skeptics, the Network World site for example, which points out that the problem with drone deliveries is practical, not regulatory. Amazon thought the whole FAA-approval process was way too slow.

And finally, if you love spectacular photos of rockets, space and other celestial subjects, NASA’s official website and dozens of social media feeds have traditionally been great places to go for new and interesting material, but now even the private space contractors are sharing their snaps. SpaceX, which makes cargo capsules, rockets and other spacecraft, has now put a number of breath-taking images on its Flickr page. The SpaceX pictures also sport a Creative Commons license that allows noncommercial re-use without a license with attribution, so hey, that photo at the top of this post is totally courtesy of SpaceX. So if you need a handsome photo for your blog or lesson plans, check it out. And don’t forget to grab a few inspiring pix for your desktop wallpaper, too.