Tag Archives: Maps

Parks and Recreation

This summer marks the 100th anniversary of America’s National Park Service, which was founded back on August 25, 1916. Perhaps you saw the Ken Burns series, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea last spring or maybe you’re itching for a summer road trip with a side order of history, but if you’re interested in finding out more, there are plenty of sites and apps available to assist you on your journey into the park system.

If you don’t know what national parks are in your area, you can look them up on the NPS site or on Find Your Park. If you think national parks are just big expanses of preserved land, like Joshua Tree in California or the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee, hit up the site to see all the outdoor spaces and the more urban man-made monuments supervised by the National Park Service. If a major piece of American history happened there, odds are there’s a monument or museum waiting to tell the story.

In New York City, for example, there’s the old Ellis Island immigration center and museum next to the Statue of Liberty, the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, Castle Clinton in Battery Park, Federal Hall across from the New York Stock Exchange, the brand new Stonewall National Monument in Greenwich Village, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Theodore Roosevelt’s Birthplace on East 20th Street, Grant’s Tomb on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the Hamilton Grange in Harlem, Governor’s Island out in New York harbor, the Gateway National Recreation area in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

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Along with parks and public spaces like the National Mall in Washington, DC, places where wars were fought have been designated as national sites too. Battle sites like Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania and Fort McHenry in Maryland are just two of them.

In terms of apps and social media to help you plan a visit, the National Park Service is all over it. The NPS has its own Instagram and Twitter feeds, Facebook page and Flicker gallery. Many parks and national monuments have their own microsites, like the handsome Flickr pages for Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon.

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Around here in NYC, there are officially three different mobile apps dedicated to New York’s national areas., including the Manhattan & Governors Island guide shown above. The National Mall has free apps for Android and iOS, as shown farther up the page.

If you want to go with a third-party program, National Geographic has an iOS app called National Parks – the app is free, but downloads for individual parks are about $2 each. Chimani has free National Parks guides for Android, Amazon Fire and iOS that do not require a Wi-Fi or cellular signal to use — which is great if you’re visiting some of the more remote, outdoorsy locations in the system and all you have are bears and air. The outdoor gear company REI has a free National Parks app, too,  and podcasts for Android and iOS.

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Blogs and sites created by people who love the national parks also abound online; check out Live Once Live Wild or, 59National Parks, for example. You can also find guides and information on the National Parks Foundation website, which is the official charity of the park service. Many of the country’s national parks need more than government funding to stay open and must charge entrance fees, but to celebrate the centennial, the National Park Service is waiving fees for 16 days this year, including the agency’s birthday weekend of August 25th-28th this summer.

And remember, Jellystone is not a national park. Yogi Bear’s old turf is a franchise of RV campgrounds and resorts.

Happy Hundred, National Park Service!

PTJ 148 News: Ear Buds

applemusicAs promised at the World Wide Developers Conference, Apple Music officially arrived this week. Early reviews of the service have been mixed to positive, but time will tell how it stacks up against Spotify, Pandora and the others. Brian X. Chen of The New York Times finds the social networking component to be the app’s weak spot, so perhaps those “Ping 2.0” jokes weren’t too far off base. If you’re just diving into the Apple Music app yourself, iMore and several other  sites have guides .

Also launching this past week — but failing horribly — was an unmanned SpaceX cargo flight meant to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. Instead, it blew up about two minutes after liftoff from Cape Canaveral.  The loss of four tons of supplies for the space station is a bit worrisome, but astronauts have enough reserve supplies to last until the end of September with rationing. New cargo missions are planned.

Transportation disasters of any kind are tragic, but back here on Earth, Google and the government are trying to help stop car accidents at train crossings. The Federal Railroad Administration is working with the G Train to add the locations of all railroad crossings (listed by the US Department of Transportation) to Google Maps. In addition, Google will add mention of the railroad crossings in the audio and visual alerts for its turn-by-turn navigation.

Meanwhile, there could be more trouble on the way for Google, as  Tim Wu, a Columbia Law School professor, Michael Luca, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School and the Yelp! Data Science Team have just written a paper called “Is Google Degrading Search? Consumer Harm from Universal Search.” As Bloomberg Business reports, the study was presented this past weekend at the Antitrust Enforcement Symposium at the University of Oxford. Google has not commented publicly, but the company is currently dealing with antitrust charges in the European Union.

EUflagSpeaking of the European Union, its governing body just voted to end roaming charges for customers traveling around its 28 member-countries by the year 2017. While the new rules prevent European telecom providers from intentionally slowing down any network service for customers, they do not prohibit providers from charging more for “broadband fast lines.” Net neutrality advocates are concerned.

Apple has now lost its federal appeal on the ebook price-fixing case, so $450 million in damages could be making its way to ebook customers soon.

AOL just got bought by Verizon, but the online company is stepping up to handle the majority of display, mobile and video advertising across Microsoft’s empire of properties. Microsoft also cut a deal with Uber this week. The personal taxi service is picking up a chunk of Microsoft’s mapping technology and possibly about 100 engineers on its mapping team, who all might be mapping their way to the new office soon.

Pinterest is adding buyable pins to its iOS apps this week, so if you see a blue pin with a price tag on an item you just have to have, you can now have it. For a price.

byteDom Hofmann, who was one of the creators of the looping six-second Vine video service has a new mobile app aimed at the creative types. It’s called Byte, and it’s a combination collage-creator and social network that lets you mash up photos, animations drawing tools and soundtracks together to make your own art. Then you share your creations  with other people on the Byte network. The app is in private beta for iPhone users now, but expected to roll out more widely to the public and then on to Android.

And finally, song-recognition service Shazam is also not afraid of Apple and its fancy new Music service and is adding a new feature aimed at the already-derided Connect social network component of Apple Music. Shazam has partnered up with more than 30 music artists who have agreed to publicly share the music they discover with the service. Once users update to the lastest version of the Shazam app, they can follow their favorite artists  to see what those people (or more likely, their favorite artist’s personal assistant) are “shazaming” — perhaps the new Taylor Swift single?

PTJ 115: We Got Your Disruption Right Here

I’ve never been one to mince words so let me just drop a truth-bomb on all of you fine folk reading this. J.D. and El Kaiser are disruptors. Period. Full stop.  If there’s any doubt, quit dawdling and listen to this episode.

Pedro breaks down Disruptive Innovation in a Tech Term segment and J.D. explains how  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right on your phone.

In the news  Google has plans for a paid version of YouTube; Motorola unveils a new Droid; Verizon Wireless force feeds some users perma-cookies; The Federal Trade Commission has files a complaint against AT&T; Not all retailers are jumping on the Apple Pay bandwagon; HTML5 is finally official; Amazon takes on the Chromecast; And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains why Apple killed off the iPod Classic.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Step by Step

They’re high-tech and very helpful, those wearable fitness trackers. You’ve probably seen them advertised, like those various models from Fitbit or the Nike Fuelband. The devices log your heart rate, steps taken, calories burned and other bio-data — and come in really handy if you’re trying to lose weight or just maintain a healthier lifestyle. (Fitbit even recently came out with a new smartwatch-style wristband, so take that, Apple Watch.)

But what if you like the idea of a dedicated fitness tracker, but you’re on the fence about buying one because but you don’t want to drop $60 or more for a doo-dad that might end up on the junk drawer after two months of increasingly guilt-inducing non-use?

It you have a fairly modern smartphone,  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right there, thanks to the motion chip and other sensors inside. These technobits let the phone double as a pedometer, and may even be able to show you other things like your walking routes on a map or the calories burned during your stroll.

The only thing you need to buy is (maybe) a special app for a couple bucks,  if that much. Granted, your phone may not be as rigidly precise as a dedicated pedometer or other fitness band, but for many people, it’s close enough and the price it right.

moves2So take, for example, Google’s Nexus 5 phone. It’s one of the many phones out there with pedometric capabilities. You just need one of the many fitness apps available in the Google Play store that lets you graphically display the data that your phone’s collecting. The Moves app (free, easy to use and shown here), and one helpfully called Pedometer, are two Android options. You have plenty of programs to choose from, both free and paid – with usually means more features and no ads. fit_prod_2Many other Android phones can also use these types of fitness apps, so do a search for “fitness trackers” and check the Play store description to see if it’s compatible with your device. Also Club Android: the Samsung’s Galaxy S5, (left), which has heart-rate sensor, a pedometer and S Health software for tracking your fitness routine; the Galaxy S4 is also privy to S Health.

msnMany handsets running the Windows Phone software can also measure your steps and record other bio-stats. The Nokia 630 and Nokia 635 models are among them, and you can download the free MSN Health & Fitness app or another program from the Windows Phone store to get tracking. (The app may actually be called “Bing Health & Fitness” these days, as Microsoft’s blog calls it one thing and the Windows Phone website still has it listed as “MSN Health & Fitness.”)

healthAnd then there’s Apple. The new Health software baked into iOS 8 tracks your steps automatically as you carry the phone around and can show you your step-count and stairs climbed on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. The App Store has a dedicated section for programs that hook specifically into the iOS 8 Health software, as well as a large collection of health apps that work with earlier versions of iOS and older devices. And don’t forget, many later versions of the iPod Nano and iPod Touch work with the Nike + iPod shoe sensor and Nike+ fitness website, and the past several versions of the Nano even had a basic pedometer built right in that doesn’t need any additional gear. And who knows, once you get into the swing of logging your exercise, steps and other info, you may realize that you really want a dedicated fitness-tracking device — or that your phone works just fine for the data you want to collect.

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

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

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

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

PTJ 98 News: Earth, Wind and Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 18 News: X Marks the Spot. Or Not.

Another iPhone hitting stores isn’t big news, but an Apple FAIL does tend to generate some buzz. As many users complained, the new iOS 6 Maps app still seems to be a work in progress with entire towns and cities missing, duplicate islands, misplaced location pins, incorrect names and stores that have long been out of business.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak even commented on the situation at an Apple event in Australia. If you’re an Apple Maps user and find a mistake, you can report the problem to Apple in hopes of getting it corrected. And/Or you can post a funny picture to the Amazing iOS6 Maps Tumblr. While Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Apple would have to approve a new standalone Google Maps app in the App Store, the company is said to be working on it. While the iOS Maps app may take a few months to arrive, Google did find some time in its schedule to update its own Google Play Books app for Android this week.

Samsung continues to pester Apple with TV and print ads touting its Galaxy S3 smartphone over the iPhone 5, but according the The Next Web, a security researcher has found a bug in certain Android smartphones. If exploited, the flaw may allow an attacker to perform a factory reset on vulnerable devices, just by embedding a link on a website or sending a text message. A video shows a phone running the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android displaying the flaw. (Malware has also popped up in Twitter direct messages, so be on guard from friends who send a link about you being in a Facebook video.)

And speaking of The Social Network, Facebook is working with the data-mining firm Datalogix in the hopes of showing to marketers that consumers who see ads on the social network actually buy the products advertised. Facebook users are automatically included in these Datalogix advertising studies, and cannot directly opt out through their Facebook settings. Instead, they must go to the Datalogix privacy page and opt out there. And in other Facebook Paranoia news, reports from France earlier this week claim the site is posting private messages from 2009 and earlier on users’ public timelines; Facebook denies these claims. (Still if Facebook annoys you and Google+ doesn’t thrill you, hey, there’s always Myspace —which is getting ready to bust out a redesign.)

Also hoping for a comeback: Research in Motion. The BlackBerry 10 system is going into another beta. BB10’s new features include the ability to have separate personal and work profiles—with the ability to run apps from both simultaneously while keeping the data from each profile separate.

Barnes & Noble isn’t letting Amazon and Apple have all the Big Tablet Fun, and introduced its own new Nook HD tablets this week, along with a streaming video service. Like video, videogames may be bypassing the console streaming directly to your television sometime in the near future, too.

And finally, the Orlando Sentinel is reporting that NASA officials would like to construct a “gateway spacecraft” that would hover in orbit on the far side of the moon. The project is still a long way off from becoming a reality, but when it does, Google will probably map it first — and more accurately.