Tag Archives: lawsuits

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.

PTJ 130 News: Safety First

February will soon be known as National Regulation Proposals Month, as the Federal Aviation Administration has finally proposed its new rules for commercial drone operation. If adopted, the new rules would allow commercial flights of unmanned aircraft up to 55 pounds, once the operator applies for approval and passes a written exam on FAA rules.  The new rules would also keep commercial drone flights to below 500 feet in the air and flights must be taken during daytime hours and within sight of the operator. Google and Amazon are probably not too happy, though, as the restrictions would keep Google’s Project Wing and Amazon’s hoped-for Prime Air delivery service out of the skies. As with other federal rule-making parties,  members of the public can comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.

The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules have made AT&T very unhappy and CEO Randall Stephenson has hinted that his company may have to get litigious if Internet service is reclassified.

Meanwhile, when not throwing shade at the FCC, AT&T is throwing down against Google Fiber in Kansas City and plans to finally launch its own Gigabit Internet service for the same price as Google — $70 a month for all that delicious speed. AT&T’s U-verse with GigaPower service has one little condition for that low, low price, though. You have to participate in the company’s “Internet Preferences” program, which lets AT&T track “the webpages you visit, the time you spend on each, the links or ads you see and follow, and the search terms you enter.” You can opt out of the program, but it’s going to cost you an additional $29 a month.

AT&T

Apple has been accused of making a lot of future products, and one of the latest rumors has the company working on a self-driving electric car. Apple if course, isn’t commenting in rumors and speculation. Google, of course, has been all over the self-driving car thing for years and the Financial Times reports Sony is working on a robot car of its own. Some naysayers have pooh-poohed the Apple car rumors and note that long-awaited iOS-powered smart television set would make more sense for the company.

The New Yorker magazine this week has a long profile of Sir Jonathan Ive and his approach to design. The article even reports that Sir Jony had dinner with J.J. Abrams at one point to discuss lightsaber design.  (Will the “flat” look be coming to our favorite energy weapons?)

isaber

And two last Apple bites: Apple’s is said to have ordered more than five million Apple Watches from its overseas suppliers ahead of the product’s planned debut this spring. Sensor problems have forced Apple to drop some of the initially planned features like blood pressure and heart-rate monitoring, though. And CEO Tim Cook spoke a White House-sponsored cybersecurity summit last Friday. In his remarks, Mr. Cook voiced his support for protecting the privacy of users and not letting governments have a free back-door key to personal data.

And speaking of government surveillance, Kaspersky Lab, a Russian security firm, says it’s discovered spyware buried deep in the firmware on hard drives made by several top manufacturers, The programs were found on computers in more than 30 countries. Although the company didn’t name names and the National Security Agency declined to comment on the matter, some former NSA employees did confirm the existence of the programs as intelligence-gathering tools.

dinowatsonIBM’s supersmart Watson software —which once aced the questions on Jeopardy! — could be headed for the toy shelves if a current Kickstarter campaign catches fire.  Elemental Path is gearing up to produce a “cognitive toy” that puts the brain of Watson into a small plastic dinosaur to interact with and entertain small children. The Green CogniToy Dino would cost about $100 and be suited for kids aged 4 to 7. It can also tell knock-knock jokes.

Those clever boffins at Oxford University are experimenting with a new form of wireless networking that can deliver data at 100 gigabits per second by converting the light from a fiber-optic network backbone into an electronic signal and beaming it across the room. Read all about it in the paper called “Beyond 100-Gigabits per second Indoor Wide Field-of-View Optical Wireless Communications” published in Photonics Technology Letters, IEEE, Volume 27, Issue 4.

sonyGoogle Glass may have flopped and given some people pause about Internet-connected eyewear, but Sony just announced that it’s taking pre-orders for its own SmartEyeGlass product. Good luck with that, Sony.

The Rosetta spacecraft has a close encounter with Comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko this past Valentine’s Day and like any dedicated follower, took some pictures. The European Space Agency has posted the detailed photos of the comet’s surface, which were taken from just six kilometers away. NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has also transmitted sharper pictures of Ceres.

legologoThe Brand Finance consultant group has done its annual analysis of the world’s most powerful brands. This year’s report finds last year’s winner Ferarri, dethroned by Lego. (Oh, snap! Snap! Snap!)

And finally, speaking of familiar brands — Oscar Mayer. The meat-maker’s beloved Wienermobile spun out of control this weekend and smashed into a pole on an icy Pennsylvania road near the state’s   Harrisburg capital. There were no reported injuries, but the hot-dog shaped vehicle did suffer a busted-up front end and a shattered windshield. Just remember: winter driving is treacherous for everyone, so let’s be careful out there.

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.

PTJ 112 News: Kano a Kano

spearThe Hacking O’ the Giant Corporations continues! Last week, banking giant JPMorgan Chase admitted 76 million households were affected by a data breach this past summer and contact information was compromised. If you have a Chase account, expect the customary spear-phishing campaign trying to wheedle more of your info and report the phish if it happens. This week, AT&T confirmed personal information from its customers was compromised by an unauthorized employee in August. Also in security news, Yahoo is downplaying reports of a security breach to some of its systems, but says the Shellshock vulnerability was not the cause.

If the steady increase in cybercrime has you worried and you want to be more educated on how the Dark Side works, check out a new six-part series coming later this month on the BBC World News channel. The show, called Cybercrimes with Ben Hammersly, was produced in partnership with The Open University and Tern TV and debuts here Friday, October 31st. (How appropriate.) And in Vanity Fair this week, Jennifer Lawrence, a hacking victim herself, has something to say about last month’s iCloud heist of her personal photos.

Technology companies and the federal government are going back and forth over privacy, user rights and related matters. The US Justice Department had a court filing saying a federal agent could legally impersonate a woman and create a Facebook page in her name — complete with her own personal pictures — without telling her about it. That woman sued the DEA agent in federal district court for violating her privacy and putting her in danger.

twitterTwitter is suing the federal government over surveillance laws. The company filed the suit in the District Court of Northern California on Tuesday. Twitter says government regulations are blocking it from being completely transparent with its users over the full scope of surveillance they’re under, so the company is suing. Twitter is not alone in fighting government requests for user information, as companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are also dealing with it. As the BBC notes, Apple just encrypts its users data.

While the telecom companies are all trying to merge with each other, the tech companies are spinning apart. This week Hewlett-Packard says it plans to split itself into two different public companies within the next year.

Verizon, after getting quite a bit of flack from its customers and a note from the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has decided not to implement its network optimization measures — or as some called it, the Throttling Plan for the heaviest unlimited-data users on its 4G LTE networks during peak congestion times. (Verizon and Redbox also gave up on the Redbox Instant streaming service this week.).

wpWhen Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, some industry watchers wondered how long it would be before its content turned up as a fancy Kindle app. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, a new WaPo app and will be coming soon as a preinstalled app on some Fire tablets.

This just in from the Boomerang Bureau: A few weeks after a kerfuffle where it said people had to use their real names, Facebook is said to be working on an app that lets you be totally anonymous.

Apple is expected to announce new iPads on October 16th says the Re/Code site who as usual, gets wind of these things before anybody else. According to reports, the iPad Air 2 will incorporate the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, A8 processor and gold-finish option already found in Apple’s iPhone hardware. Apple’s iOS 8 software has been out for a little more than three weeks at this point, but user adoption of the new system seems to have flatlined at around 47 percent. The MacRumors site has been looking into this.

Samsung is not having a good week. First off, the International Trade Commission is looking into allegations by Nvidia that several Samsung cellphones and tables contain graphics technology that infringes on its patents. And Samsung itself is warning investors that its third-quarter earnings are going to be disappointing due to lower-selling smartphone prices.

Adobe released a whole bunch of new or revamped apps for iOS devices this week and they are free if you have a Creative Cloud subscription; you can also get them in the App Store, where they also offer $2 in-app upgrades to add Creative Cloud storage.

And finally, if you want to get your kid into computers in a very physical way, check out Kano. It’s a $150 snap-together kit that includes a Raspberry Pi board, a speaker you assemble yourself, an orange keyboard and a storybook that explains how to put it all together with a spare monitor. But the learning doesn’t end there — once the screen is in place, the young wizard can then learn basic coding by making modifications in popular games like Minecraft and Pong. And please children, when you learn to code, please write some decent security into your programs.

kanokit

PTJ 85: Naming That Tune

This week J.D. and El Kaiser play “Stump the Music Recognition App”.  In the news, the annual SxSW Festival in Texas is in full swing; the release of a potential new tent-pole game for the XBox One; Apple quietly rolls out an update to iOS 7; Windows 8.1, Update 1 is leaked; Google announces several new add-ons for Google Docs and Sheets; Samsung gets into the personalized music-service business; and the ‘Veronica Mars’ film based on the cult TV favorite makes it to the big-screen after hugely successful crowd-funding campaign.

PTJ 85 News: Burnin’ Down the House

Everyone wants to go to the annual SxSW Festival in Texas these days! With a little help from the American Civil Liberties Union, Edward Snowdon, the former National Security Agency contractor who has released thousands of confidential documents about government data collection to the public, appeared to festival attendees via a livestream from a Google Hangout video chat bounced through seven proxy servers. Mr. Snowdon chose to address the techies at SxSW because (in part), “the NSA is setting fire to the future of the Internet and you guys are the firefighters.”

The Xbox One may be lagging behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 in game console sales, but the release of the hotly anticipated Titanfall game for Microsoft’s platform may help even things up. The first-person shooter from Respawn Entertainment and Electronic Arts went on sale this past Tuesday after many awards and promo events.

Apple’s iOS 7.1 update arrived for compatible iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch players earlier this week. Along with the usual “improvements and security fixes,” iOS 7.1 brings user interface tweaks; Apple’s site has a list of the changes. And now that iOS 7.1 has landed, it’s time for the tech blogs to get all excited for iOS 8, which could arrive later this year. The 9to5Mac site reports that Apple is preparing a much-improved version of its once-maligned Apple Maps.

iOS 8 may be a while off, but Microsoft continues work on Windows 8.1, Update 1. The update has not been officially released yet, but it’s out there. According to tech writer Ed Bott, someone at Microsoft inadvertently left the final software packages on the Windows Update server last week. Mr. Bott took advantage of the opportunity to install the Windows 8.1 update on several computers and wrote up a report highlighting the major features of the update.

Google announced several new add-ons for its Google Docs and Sheets online productivity software. Meanwhile, angry parents displeased over a child’s shopping spree of unrestricted in-app purchases, have filed a class-action lawsuit against the company. Google has not responded to the action, which was filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that that 30-minute gap of time after the initial password entry “is designed to enable children to purchase in-game currency without parental permission and without having to enter a password.” Or maybe Google was just trying to help developers take advantage of those adult impulse buys…

Like everyone else, Samsung is getting into the personalized music-service business. Designed for those toting Galaxy devices, the new Milk Music radio service will include 200 ad-free and customizable stations.  And while Samsung is touting its exclusive music service, Amazon is said to be ramping up its own game-development efforts. The Daily Telegraph of London and others are reporting that Amazon has its own game console hardware in the works and plans to develop its own games to play on it.

Facebook is rolling out yet another revamped News Feed design over the next few weeks. Most people don’t seem to care anymore. (But maybe we should care more now that robots have mastered air hockey and are moving into table-tennis matches with humans.)

ComiXology continues to be one of the highest-grossing mobile apps out there for its excellent interface and wide selection of downloadable digital comics. CNBC has a report this week about the company’s effect on independent publishers and comics creators.

bunnyVMAnd finally, on the topic of independent productions, the Veronica Mars movie arrives this weekend in selected theaters and on-demand sites. The movie was financed by a Kickstarter campaign that passed its funding goal in less than a day. So, if the film is successful going outside the traditional Hollywood route, will it bust up the paradigm and open up all sorts of new possibilities for movie and TV creators? Time till tell — and if you haven’t seen the original show, the pilot is free on iTunes, (each of the three seasons is $20 there) or you can stream the episodes on Amazon Instant Video. Fans of Frozen: If you loved Kristen Bell in that Oscar-winner, you’ll enjoy seeing her even more animated as the one and only Veronica Mars.