Tag Archives: Linux

PTJ 291: Walk This Way

There’s been a lot of movement in the tech world the past week — Google employees got to their feet to protest the company’s treatment of women, Apple rolled out new hardware and Facebook got slapped officially with a big fine for misuse of customer data. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss the tech news from the past 10 days or so, and with the U.S. elections looming, also offer a few resources for voters. Roll on over to PTJ 291!

Links to News Stories Discussed This Week

GO VOTE

Words Without Toolbars

Sometimes we just have to get a lot of writing done in a short amount of time and we don’t want distractions. Maybe it’s your family holiday newsletter, a big work report,  a 50,000-word novel for NaNoWriMo, or a thesis or dissertation. Stuff needs to get done.

Full-featured word-processing programs are around to handle everything from a grocery list to a complicated mutli-page advertising brochure. But with more power comes more toolbars, windows, widgets and other user interface elements floating around your screen all trying to pull your attention.

If you need to knuckle down and crank it out, consider a free or cheap text editor or minimalist word processors that puts less stuff in the way between you and words. Once you get that first draft banged out, then you can go back to your standard word-processor for editing and formatting.

Want cheap? Just fire up the free text editor that came with your operating system, like Notepad or Wordpad for Windows or TextEdit on the Mac. These programs may have basic toolbars for formatting things like type styles, but overall, there’s not a lot of extras. But maybe you want something with a little more power under the hood, like the ability to sync with your online storage site of choice. To get a sampling of the many options out there, fire up your search engine and look for a variation of minimal word processors or distraction-free text editors. Here are a few to consider:

  • Notepad Classic or Notepad Next (Free for Windows 8 and Windows 10). A free, customizable old-school text editors from the Windows Store. Notepad Next works on mobile devices as well as on PCs.
  • Writer (Free for the Google Chrome browser). The free Writer extension for Chrome  calls itself a big Internet typewriter. It asks you to create an account and displays a classic fullscreen plain-text window in which to start composing. You also get basic tools like a word counter and can customize the look of the interface. Documents can be exported as text or PDF files.
  • OmmWriter Dana II ($5.11 for Windows, Mac, iOS for iPad). The program wants to be your private little writing space within the confines of your computer— where you can really focus on your work. While the user interface goes minimalist, the program does provide soothing background colors and audio soundtracks to sooth your mind so you can write.
  • Write! ($25 for Windows, Mac and Linux). In addition to a simple interface for composing your thoughts, Write! gives you cloud syncing, progress trackers, unlimited undos, a smart spellchecker and a bucket of other features.
  • WriteRoom ($10 for Mac). This Mac app is another full-screen writing environment that dumps ribbons, button and menus. If you first started using computers back in the 1980s, you can go retro and opt for the familiar old VDT green-text-on-black color scheme with a blinking cursor to get you going.

Once you pick a word processor that doesn’t drag your eyeballs away, go hardcore if you really need to get something done: Unplug your computer’s network connection — or just want until all the unsecured DVRs and webcams take down the Internet again. Sweet productivity at last!

PTJ 202 News: Chew On This

Who says you shouldn’t release new products in August? Google’s all out with the shiny, releasing the final version of its Android 7.0 operating system to compatible Nexus devices. [Sorry about that, Nexus 7 owners.] For a deep review of the new system, check out what Ars Technica has to say. (Hint: Ars Technica has a lot to say.)

Yes, the month of August seems to make everyone want to shop, and not just for Trapper Keepers and sturdy jeans for school. Pinterest just bought the streamlined reader app Instapaper. Microsoft has acquired the firm Genee, which specializes in intelligent scheduling coordination and optimization, or rather, letting bots run your calendar and send you reminders. (In a blog post, Microsoft said it plans to use the Genee technology in its Office 365 suite.) Microsoft is also getting closer to Lenovo, as the China-based hardware company announced plans to preload Microsoft Office mobile apps on certain Android-based devices it sells.

babsAnd Apple’s been shopping too, acquiring Gliimpse, a startup specializing in personal health-data management. Apple also made news recently with the decision to replace the revolver emoji in the coming iOS 10 system with a squirt gun to artistically make a comment about gun violence. The iOS 10 system itself is expected out by the next month and if a certain diva is to be believed, it might just be on Friday, September 30th. Actress and recording artist Barbra Streisand told NPR that she personally complained to Apple CEO Tim Cook about the way the Siri virtual assistant pronounces her name and he agreed to fix it.

No official word on when the annual fall Apple Special Event will be slurping up all the media bandwidth next month. Some observers like WhenIsKeynote.com are going with September 6th, the day after Labor Day, while others predict it’ll be sometime around September 13th. Major iPhone changes are not expected this year and some blogs are already skipping ahead to 2017 with the breathless anticipation of an overhauled handset design, including a curved display not unlike the Samsung Edge.

echoAmazon is looking to grab some more customers by going cheap. The ReCode site hears the übermegaeverything store is looking to launch a cheap streaming music service that only works on its Amazon Echo speaker assistant and may cost about $5 a month.

The state of Massachusetts is taking a stand of its own in favor of a taxi-cab industry that’s been taking it on the chin from ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. As the Reuters news agency reports, the Bay State plans to levy a 20-cent tax per trip on a ride-hailing service and a nickel of that will go right to the taxi industry until the year 2021.

Also taking a stand: Dozens of human rights and civil liberties organizations who have signed a letter protesting the Department of Homeland Security’s proposed plan to screen the social media accounts for foreign visitors to the country. The comment period for the proposal ended on this Monday.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sony is getting into downsizing mode with a thinner design for its PlayStation 4 console called the PS Slim.  Sony is said to be planning a media event on September 7th to share the news.

tux25This week marks the 25th anniversary of the Linux operating system kernel. On August 25, 1991, one Linus Benedict Torvalds posted a message in a Usenet group announcing a little project and suffice it to say, some people paid attention.  Here’s to the next 25, Penguin Nation.

The enthusiasm for the Pokémon Go mobile game seems to be fading a bit. Does Pikachu get a third act?

Twitter has finally added that eye-soothing dark night mode to the iOS version of its app. Android users have been enjoying the feature since last month.

The once hot Gawker website shut down for good this week. Gawker’s founder Nick Denton put up one final post.

And finally, after two years in the wilds of space, one of the two Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory spacecraft, known as STEREO-B, has reestablished contact with NASA after going silent in October 2014. The agency’s website explains how the bond was broken, in case you were wondering. NASA engineers had been trying to get back in touch with the craft for the past 22 months and were finally able to establish a lock on STEREO-B’s downlink carrier on August 21st — thanks to the Deep Space Network array of giant radio antennas. Don’t you go running off again, STEREO-B, you hear?

stereoB

 

PTJ 137 News: Sticks and Phones

roku3Spring is full of popular television shows returning with fresh new episodes, and streaming TV boxes are busting a move. Roku has upgraded its Roku 3 and Roku 2 set-top streaming boxes with improved features like alphabetical search and a movie watchlist. A software update for existing Roku boxes also adds these features. The $100 Roku 3 (shown here) now has voice search — and a headphone jack — in its remote control. The $70 Roku 2 is pretty much the same streaming box without the fancy remote. Oh, and Roku just updated its Android app and is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version this week.

BuzzFeed New, which was the first to publish reports on the new updated Apple TV box expected later this year, has new information on the forthcoming device, mainly that it will not initially support those big but glorious 4K video streams. Apple is not commenting.

With new phones, come new complaints from early adopters — and PR moves to quell the unrest.  Samsung responded to a video from mobile-warranties dealer SquareTrade that purported to show a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge being bent and then broken. While arguing about the test’s methodology, Samsung released its own “Three-Point Bend Test” video. (The company also says that contrary to reports from developer forums, pre-installed apps on its Galaxy S6 phones cannot be uninstalled, just hidden from view.)

Ever quoted a tweet but had no room for your own comment due to Twitter’s character limit?  Twitter said this week that it was tweaking the “quote tweet” feature, which should give the quoters another 116 characters for snark or bark on the original.

Researchers at Stanford University are testing a new aluminum-ion battery that could one day replace the current lithium-ion and alkaline power cells we use today. They charge faster and catch on fire less, which is an improvement over current batteries all around.

oliverTV comedian John Oliver of the HBO show “Last Week Tonight” interviewed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to discuss government surveillance reform. Oliver broke down the topic into parts the average user who does not care about the complexities of government surveillance can understand.  In other Snowden news, activists placed a large sculpture of Edward Snowden in the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn his week. City workers quickly removed it, but a second activist group then began to project a hologram in the same place dedicated to Snowden.

Facebook is apparently being used to officially serve divorce papers. Will Facebook weddings be legal soon, too?

Apple Maps has now added content from TripAdvisor and Booking.com on certain hotel reviews. Hopefully, the maps themselves have gotten better, too.

surface3Speaking of products that originally arrived with a deep thud, Microsoft just released a new version of its tablet computer. The Surface 3 is thinner and lighter than previous versions. Prices start at $499. The Surface 3 is the less-corporate version of the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft’s touted laptop-replacement tablet that starts at $799.

Microsoft is middle-aged now. The company, which was founded on April 5th, 1975, just celebrated the big 4-0 this past weekend and is shopping for future relevance along with a little red Corvette.

Microsoft may have gotten rich selling PC software, but the PC hardware itself has slimmed down quite a bit over the years. As shown at the top of this post, Intel’s Compute Stick, (which started pre-orders this week), is an extremely narrow portable PC that plugs into the HMDI port on a big monitor or TV. With a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it turns it into a Windows 8.1 or Linux computer.  You can’t shake a Compute Stick at the competition, though, as Google’s Chromebit offers a colorful alternative to the system-on-a-stick approach.

A new Microsoft update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 includes a little code for the future, reports the Myce.com site. There’s a Windows 10 downloader quietly nestled in the update code, just waiting for its cue to make Windows 8.1 users deliriously happy.

The new YouTube Kids mobile app is already coming under fire from parental groups. Some have asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a look at the program, which they says deceptively targets toddlers with advertising. Google denies the accusations, saying it worked with numerous child advocacy groups on the app.

It’s National Robotics Week! The annual event features more than 250 events around the country designed to get kids interested in the science of robotics. iRobot, the IEEE Spectrum and Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines are pitching in for the event and have even released a set of all-star real robot trading cards that you can download in PDF form, and IEEE Spectrum also has a free Robots app for the iPad that lets kids see and interact with 158 robots from 19 different countries. Because real robots are even cooler than movie robots (most of the time).

robotcards

PTJ 120: NASA and the Troll Patrol

This week El Kaiser shares his ickiest Tech Term yet and J.D. tells us all about Twitter’s new “Troll Patrol”.  In the news NASA’s Orion spacecraft completes a successful test flight; the first Coder In Chief; Facebook modifies its search function; Princeton University puts thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online; Amazon rolls out 4K streams; the FCC wants wireless carriers to ste up efforts to protect consumer data; researchers discover Linux-based malware that’s been active for years; the fallout from cyber-attack on SONY’s networks continues; and the father of the videogame passes away.

PTJ 120 News: Readin’, Writin’ and Roarin’ Through Space

Yes, it’s officially  Computer Science Education Week now and companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are into it, with many sponsoring the Hour of Code project with Code.org . For instance, Apple is holding coding events at its Apple Stores and Google’s YouTube site has plenty of inspirational videos. President Obama even hosted an event at the White House with middle-school students and banged out a few lines of JavaScript, perhaps getting some training for that inevitable job switch that’ll be happening in a couple years.

mcThe past week has been great for space. Last Friday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft completed a successful test flight, with a launch at Cape Canaveral, orbit around the Earth a few times and splashdown in the Pacific less than five hours later. Just a day later, on  Saturday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft woke up out of its hibernation state just in time for its 2015 mission to observe Pluto, the celestial body many of us still consider to be a planet at the outer edges of our solar system. And lets not forget our old pal Curiosity (left) is still hard at work up on Mars. The geographical data gathered by NASA’s busy little rover over the past 28 months of exploring has helped scientists study and theorize about the lakes and streams that used to exist on the Red Planet in warmer times. (Oh, and a Canadian company wants a little cool Mars action itself – Thoth Technology is calling for a crowdfunding campaign to make, among other things, a “Beaver” rover to represent Canada on Mars.)

Facebook is tinkering once again with the site’s search function. While its Graph Search feature was released almost a year ago, its clunky semantic search engine was too much work for a lot of people. This week, Facebook announced that is was rolling out good old-fashioned keyword search.

Einstein

Princeton University has put thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online. The site, called The Digital Einstein Papers, is part of a larger ongoing project called The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. The new site covers the first 44 years of Einstein’s life and features digitized letters, scholarly articles and other material .

In streaming video news, Amazon announced some of its Instant Video streams are now available in ultra high-def 4K. And YouTube has overhauled its app for the Apple TV, bringing predictive search, personalized recommendations and a new visual design to the screen

The Federal Communications Commission continues its rampant news grab as it still contemplates Net Neutrality. The agency has now found time to release a 140-page report on mobile phone theft and has some suggestions for wireless carriers to help protect consumers and their data.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have discovered Linux-based malware that’s been active for years and aimed at computers in government, military, education, research and pharmaceutical networks in 45 different countries.

sonyThe recent hack of  Sony’s network is still spewing fallout. A group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, have dumped a whole lot of confidential Sony data out into the public, including celebrity aliases and contract information, internal emails between Sony employees, personal information about said Sony employees including 47,000 Social Security numbers, and digital copies of several new and unreleased Sony films, including the remake of Annie due in theaters December 19th. According to a message posted on the GitHub code-sharing site, one of the demands was to “stop showing the movie of terrorism,” which is believed to be a reference to an upcoming Seth Rogen-James Franco film called The Interview, which is about a plot to assassinate Kim Jon-Un, the current leader of North Korea.  North Korean officials have denied involvement but have referred to it as a “righteous deed.” Sony has hired security consultants to figure out what happened (perhaps, Team America: World Police?). This would almost make for a good videogame, if only the PlayStation network wasn’t getting hacked again.

In happier movie news, there’s a new extension for the Google Chrome browser that gives you an interactive tour of Middle-earth so you can celebrate the opening of the third-and supposedly final movie in the Hollywood “Hobbit” trilogy properly.

middleearth

And in even happier movie news, the 88-second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed on the Web and in select movie theaters, sending geeks everywhere to analyze the visuals down to every last frame of video. Among the hot topics of discussion — the cross-hilt lightsaber and exterior modifications made to the Millennium Falcon. The lightsaber design seemed to draw the most attention, even drawing in late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. And with the official teaser comes the parody teasers, including the J.J. Abrams lens-flare edition, the George Lucas version, the Other George Lucas version, the Wes Anderson Adaptation and even an amusing parody on Saturday Night Live, a show that’s been around even longer that the Star Wars franchise itself.

And finally, let us pour one out for Ralph Baer, who died this weekend at the age of 92. Mr. Baer, who was born in Germany and fled the Nazis and was an intelligence officer in the US Army by 1943. In 1966, Mr. Baer wrote out a four-page description for a “game box” designed to let people play sports and other action games on a TV set. His work eventually resulted in the Magnavox Odyssey game system in 1972 and he also invented the electronic Simon game in 1978.

Ralph Baer, father of the videogame, we salute you.

baer

PTJ 119: Giving Thanks For Star Wars Trailers And Keyboard Shortcuts

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us here in the United States the team at PTJ HQ can’t thank you all enough for supporting us so passionately over these last few years. Both J.D. and I don’t have plans of stopping any time soon since we continue to have a wonderful time doing the show. We promise to keep serving up our special brand of insight and shenanigans—along with the occasional surprise—if you promise to keep coming back for more.

A very special thanks to the BROS!

When we say we wouldn’t be here without them that is a 100% accurate statement. They convinced us to make the leap to doing the show on our own and have supported us every step of the way.  A heartfelt bushel of gratitude from all of us at HeadStepper Media and Pop Tech Jam!

This week on the show, J.D. is thinking of linking and shares a slew of helpful keyboard shortcuts with us. In the news the FCC reaches an agreement with T-Mobile about their throttling practices; the Federal Aviation Administration is prepares a set of new rules for commercial drones; the European Union is expected to vote on breaking up Google’s business; Apple sees (RED); the United States and the United Kingdom are suspects behind a sophisticated series of cyber attacks against the European Union; Barbie (and Mattel) **** it up again; and the first teaser trailer of  Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters this weekend.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Shortcuts to Shortcuts

Tablets and smartphones may be making a lot of our productivity mobile, but for some people, getting work done means sitting down in front of a real physical keyboard and pounding those keys until the job is done. (And yes, this counts even if you add a Bluetooth keyboard to your tablet or phone.)

To make things even faster for repetitive tasks like formatting or navigation, many programs include keyboard shortcuts that save you the mousework and move things along. Some programs even let you add your own custom shortcuts, which can be handy, say, if you’re a southpaw and find the defaults awkward — or there’s an obscure menu command that has no built-in shortcut.

Sure, you can look in the Windows or OS X menus to see the shortcuts listed, but that can be time-consuming until you start remembering them. If you don’t know a lot of the commands off the top of your head, here’s the Pop Tech Jam roundup of keyboard quickies for common operating systems and popular programs.
Print ’em out and go.

Operating Systems

Productivity Suites

Webmail

Browsers

Social Media

Music & Multimedia

Adobe Creative Software

Want to see the all the shortcuts at once? Printable crib sheets listing Windows shortcuts can be found around the web with a quick search. Mac utilities like CheatSheet (free) and Dashkards stick with the stock shortcuts, but display them in an easy-to-read format on screen, KeyCue does the same thing with more customization options, but charges 20 euros for the full version.

If mere keyboard shortcuts aren’t enough, programs that let you use hotkeys to create and run your own macros can give your productivity an even bigger boost. Check out Hotkey Utility for Windows or AutoHotKey (also for Windows). Similar programs for Mac users include the $30 QuicKeys or iKey (also $30).

Siri, Cortana and OK Google aside, computing is still mostly a hands-on activity on one form or another. So until we get the next great input system in place, speeding up your clicks with the keys is one way to make the most of your time.

PTJ 111: Microsoft Hopes to Roll a Lucky Number 10

For some it provides welcome relief from the myriad distractions of the Internet and for others, each clack of the typebar striking the ribbon, paper, and platen imbues them with a warm, satisfying sense of accomplishment.  It was the weapon used to slay the vileness  of the blank page or the unforgiving beast we wrestled with at our jobs for countless hours a year.

The wonderful, humble, fearsome typewriter.  This week J.D. explains why typewriters are still loved by many.

In the news Microsoft feels the next iteration of their market dominant operating system is so revolutionary the name should feature double digits; Apple’s 8.0.1 update crashes and burns but the fruit themed toy maker tackles the Shellshock head-on; Facebook debuts its Atlas ad platform;  a new social network called Ello positions itself as the anti-Facebook; Akamai releases its “State of the Internet” report; Grooveshark loses its groove; and the sequel to the film classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gets an interesting distribution deal.

PTJ 111 News: Are We There Yet?

Microsoft says it’s cranking it up to 10 — and it’s no joke. The company held a big press event out in California this week to show off its new operating system and announced it was skipping Windows 9 and going right on to Windows 10. Windows 10 looks a little like Windows 7 and a bit like Windows 8, according to the Re/Code site. For those who can’t wait for the final release in 2015, preview editions of the new system will be available this week to those who sign up for the Windows Insider public beta program.

Despite Chinese superstition, “8” has not been a lucky number for Apple, either, as it had to hurriedly yank back its iOS 8.0.1 update last week after early adopters howled that it broke their iPhones. Bloomberg News has reported that the update faceplant may have been related to the infamous Apple Maps fiasco of 2012. Apple refused to comment on that situation but did get its iOS 8.0.2 patch out last Thursday. The 8.0.2 fix seems to have worked for most people, although the Mac Rumors site is saying they’ve got user reports of other problems with it.

This week,  Apple also released a patch for the security flaw known as Shellshock or the Bash bug for the Bash UNIX shell used by OS X; you can download it from its site. Many Linux vendors, including Red Hat, have also issued patches for the exploit.

bash

Facebook is still trying to find new ways to use your personal data to make advertisements more appealing to you. This week, the Social Network fired up Altas, a platform that lets advertisers buy ads through Facebook that appear on sites besides, well, Facebook. These ads were made for stalking.

The sheer amount of advertisements and data-grabbing has turned many people off Facebook, and helped gin up interest in a new social network called Ello. It’s still in the beta phase and invitation-only, but the simple, six-week-old service is getting attention for its pledge to make social networking a transparent tool for empowerment and that its users are not products, as stated below.

ello

The ad-free Ello was created by graphic designers and techies and is gaining thousands of new users a day, even though some complain the site’s design is a bit confusing and the inevitable geek “it’s so over” backlash has begun. Ello, which plans to make money by charging users a small fee for premium services, is also big enough now to have been hit by a DDOS attack this week.

Akamai has released its quarterly State of the Internet report again and as usual, it highlights all kinds of facts and figures about who’s using the Internet for what and how fast they’re doing it. In terms of overall broadband global broadband speed, South Korea and Hong Kong are still smoking the rest of the world with peak speeds of more than 72 megabits per second compared to a peak of 45.3 megabits per second here in the States. (Hong Kong may have speed, but it’s probably not doing much good for the citizens protesting changes to the city’s elections policy; as NPR, Gizmodo and others have reported, the protestors are thwarting government efforts to stifle communication by using mesh-networking apps like FireChat.)

Next year will be a big one for eBay. The online auction site announced to shareholders this week that it plans to fully separate from its PayPal payment system business and create two independent, publicly traded companies.

sharkChanges are coming to a couple of online music services. For one, a judge has ruled against Grooveshark for copyright infringement because it did not have licenses for all the music it offered to its 35 million users to stream. And eMusic, another online service and one that started selling downloads by subscription way back in 1998, is ditching track sales from mainstream labels like Warner, Universal and Sony to focus exclusively on sales from independent music companies.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out a new line of slim-line HP Stream tablets and laptops in colorful cases. The devices offer 4G connectivity and a lot of online storage, and the most expensive new laptop in the batch, the one with a 13.3 inch screen, will only set you back $230. The 7-inch tablet is about $100 and the new gear will be available in November, just in time for the gift-giving season. But yes, they come with Windows 8.1.

New York Comic Con is next week in Manhattan and one of your esteemed Pop Tech hosts is moderating a panel or two. If you’re going, be sure to get the app and wear comfortable shoes (or boots, if you’re doing cosplay).

myeohAnd finally, fans of the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may have to wait until next August to see the sequel, but they won’t have to go very far to do so. Netflix and the Weinstein Company have signed a deal to release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend simultaneously in selected IMAX theaters around the world and on Netflix. Two starts of the original film, Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen will be back, and the sequel arrives next August 28. Windows 10, Star Wars Episode VII, Crouching Tiger 2 — 2015 should be dubbed the Year of the Geek.