With the pain of losing Google Reader still fresh and Feedly a disappointment after repeated missteps, El Kaiser looks at RSS feed aggregators. J.D. breaks down the differences between Ultrabooks and notebooks and helps us make the right choice between the two laptop flavors. In the news, a campaign encouraging kids to try computer coding; several technology companies issue a joint statement calling for restrictions on US government spying; Microsoft helps users know when and where their accounts have been used; Google continues to add apps to its Chromecast TV streamer; and predicting weather patterns for Middle Earth.
Welcome to the tail-end of Computer Science Education Week! This year, a campaign called Hour of Code encourages kids to try computer coding for just one hour to see what it’s like; you can find out more at Code.org. Supporters of the event, including the author Douglas Rushkoff say in order to be a smart and savvy consumer of modern technology, you have to know how it works.
Executives at several major technology companies — including Google, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yahoo — have issued a joint statement calling for new legal restrictions on US government Internet surveillance programs. The group letter was addressed to President Obama and the United States Congress. And the full text can be found at ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com. (In a somewhat related story, Pro Publica, The Guardian of London and The New York Times reported this week that the NSA and the CIA have also been spying on gamers.)
Microsoft is stepping up security to help users know when and where their Microsoft Accounts have been used. The company is adding a Recent Activity page where users can log in and see all the times and locations of sign-ins, failed sign-ins due to incorrect passwords, security challenges and password-reset requests.
A couple of new iOS updates arrived this week: the latest version of the Pandora app now includes an alarm clock mode, and Amazon’s Cloud Drive Photos app now works on iPad and iPad Mini hardware. And Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition will hopefully arrive in the App Store later this month.
Google announced that 10 new apps have been added to its $35 Chromecast TV streaming dongle and fans of Google Street View may be happy to know that Google is now allowing users to create their own Street View images. (FYI, work has stalled on the Google Mystery Barge out near San Francisco, as the project is on “hiatus” until spring, much like a cable-network TV show.) What isn’t a mystery anymore is how Google might start making some money from its Google+ social network. This week, the Big G introduced a new ad type called +Post, which lets advertisers turn Google+ content into expandable display advertisements. The +Post system is still in the beta stage, but Toyota USA, Cadbury UK and Ritz crackers are among the early adopters.
Advertising is everywhere, especially in social media, but some companies have found that maybe some occasions aren’t appropriate for promoting your brand. Case in point, Campbell Soup apologized last weekend for a tweet from the SpaghettiOs account that featured the grinning circular noodle holding an American flag and encouraging followers to remember Pearl Harbor Day. Those who like to mock through creative use of image-editing software also had a field day with the tweet and transplanted the SpagehttiOs mascot into a variety of inappropriate situations.
And finally, a British climate researcher at the University of Bristol has taken J.R.R. Tolkein’s detailed maps from his books, plugged the info into a supercomputer and predicted weather patterns for Middle Earth. Dr. Dan Lunt did the work in his spare time and said the climate models he used were based on the fundamental understanding of science. He’s published a mock paper called “The Climate of Middle Earth” and it’s available in English, Dwarvish and Elvish. Perhaps it’s time for a little light reading before heading out to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug this weekend?
This week J.D. shares tips on how to use the web to get the perfect digital camera then she and Pedro discuss the recent announcement that veteran British actor Peter Capaldi will take a turn as the time travelling Time Lord, Doctor Who. In the news Comcast is working on a new system urging users to download copyrighted material legally; CBS and Time Warner Cable continue their Battle of the Gargantuans; Samsung maybe inching closer to unveiling a smartwatch; the FBI may be targeting Firefox users on the TOR network; and not even your toilet is immune from the hacking scourge.
Would you like fries with that illegal download — or at least, a Buy button? According to a report in Variety, Comcast is said to be working on a new system where ISPs that sense users downloading copyrighted material from sharing sites and then sends out a pop-up message to the user with links to legally purchase the same content. Meanwhile, the squabble between Time Warner cable and CBS continues and viewers are not amused.
In the Department of New Stuff, the National Football League has released its new mobile app for Android, BlackBerry and iOS. LinkedIn has also updated its mobile app to allow job-hunters to apply for listed positions right within the app. The Smartwatch Watch continues. PC World and other sources have reported that Samsung has filed a US trademark on the name “Samsung Galaxy Gear.”
No one one’s surprise, Google announced the new Moto X smartphone last week. In a move that surprised pretty much everyone in media, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, bought the Washington Post newspaper this week for $250 million dollars, or the change in the cushions of his couch.
New malware found in sites hosted by Freedom Hosting is targeting Firefox users on the Tor network. Because the malware sends the user’s information to someplace in Reston, Virginia, some security researchers are thinking the FBI may be involved in the hack.
Last week, we worried about cars getting hacked. This week, high-tech toilets could fall victim to foul play. Trustwave, a security company, recently put out a warning about the Android app used with luxury Satis smart toilets made by Lixil. Because the Bluetooth PIN for the app is hardcoded to 0000, a hacker could grab a copy of the app, pair up a device with your toilet and then assume control of the bidet function or abuse the high-tech commode’s Direct Vortex Flush. (With ABC television executives talking to folks in Disney’s new Lucasfilm division about possibly producing a live-action Star Wars TV show, maybe they could use some new characters — like Direct Vortex Flush, Sith apprentice.)
Need a tablet computer? Microsoft has dropped the price on its pricier Surface Pro tablet computers. Apple’s iPad saw a sales decline of its own during this past quarter. According to IDC, the iPad went from having 60.3 percent of the tablet market last year at this time to 32.4 percent here in 2013. The new hardware rumors are starting to heat up for fall, though, with “a Retina display iPad Mini with different color options that arrives next month” as one of this week’s whispers.
In other quick Apple bites, the company is offering to replace third-party chargers. Apple is also set to restore the rest of the services on its developer site this week, as it finishes overhauling the system in wake of last month’s security issues (and just in time to push out a fifth beta for its iOS 7 software due out this fall). Oh, and Electronic Arts has announced that Mac gamers can play Sim City starting August 29th. Mark your calendars.
And finally, we have two notable milestones to acknowledge this month. August 5th marked the the first anniversary of the Curiosity rover landing on Mars — NASA has a video. August also marks the 50th anniversary of the humble cassette, which made its official debut at a radio show in Berlin in 1963. Still have a recorder and a few old blank tapes out in the garage? Here are some song ideas for a Mars-worthy mix.
This week we bring the jam! J.D. offers up alternatives to Photoshop as El Kaiser tries to find something decent to watch on Netflix and answers listener mail. In the news, the U.S. Emergency Alert System might be vulnerable to hackers; Google patches a 4 year old vulnerability in the Android mobile OS; bookseller Barnes & Noble get out of the tablet business; and the Mars rovers continue to do their thing on the Red Planet.
Another week, another collection of software vulnerabilities…For starters, the U.S. Emergency Alert System has a critical security flaw that could allow intruders to break into it and broadcast fake messages across the country. This is according to the security firm IOActive, which discovered the issue. The problem was due to a shared private SSH key for root privileges distributed in publicly available firmware images for the servers and computers that run the alert system. (Hackers are fond of creating messages about zombie attacks over public service signs and systems, so this could be tempting.)
Bluebox Security found a big ol’ hole in Android last week — something about any app potentially turning into a nasty Trojan horse to get all up in your business. Google quickly whipped up a patch and pushed it out to smartphone OEMs for distribution and spokesperson said even though there’s a flaw, most users don’t have to worry about it.
As for Android, new numbers from Google this week that show that the Jelly Bean flavor of the system, (versions 4.1 and 4.2), have now combined to beat out the older Gingerbread 2.3 on active devices, with Ice Cream Sammich (version 4.0) firmly in third place. Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and S4 phones are thought to be behind the surge in Jelly Bean use over the past year or so. So now we wait for a slice of Key Lime Pie.
The Boy Genius Report Web site claims to have news of Amazon’s plans for its next batch of Kindle Fire tablets. According to the BGR, Amazon has three new versions of the Kindle Fire in the works to debut this fall. While Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets are doing well, Barnes & Noble Way announced last week that it was getting out of the tablet business and leaving third-party hardware companies to build any future Nook tablets and the B&N CEO has now resigned. Not surprisingly, Microsoft has been mentioned as a potential buyer for the Nook business. Some are speculating that Barnes & Noble ditched the Nook in order to save its brick-and-mortar bookstores from extinction.
As promised earlier this year, Facebook is now rolling out its Graph Search feature across user accounts here in the US. (Graph Search is the new Facebook tool that lets users make very specific searches. If you’ve been on Facebook for a while, this might be a good time to review your privacy settings. In other social-networking news, Twitter updated its mobile apps this week with improvements to its own mobile search tool and direct message sync across all devices and platforms.
Apple TV, which added a few premium channel apps for cable subscribers last month, is reportedly in talks with Time Warner Cable to let subscribers watch their channels on the little black set-top box, according to Bloomberg News. And CNET reports that Beats Electronics is hoping to partner with AT&T for its new music subscription service.
Meanwhile, up on Mars, the Curiosity rover took a video of a Martian moonrise and its older sibling, the Opportunity rover just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its launch toward the Red Planet. While Martians used to be the stuff of fantasy, there’s a recent essay by Judith Shulevitz in the current New Republic magazine called “And the Martians Shall Save the University — Why Do We need the Liberal Arts? Because It Gave Us Sci-Fi.” If you like science, science fiction — or just find it really cool that a writer can dream up fantastic inventions to inspire engineers and researchers to build for real, give it a read. But first, go check your Facebook privacy settings.
New to Doctor Who and don’t know what a K9 is? Feeling left out of the conversation when you and your Trekker friends get together? Well, don’t despair! J.D. will have you geeking out with the best of them. Also on the show, El Kaiser gives us his thoughts on Samsung’s newest flagship phone, the Galaxy S4 and digs into movie box office numbers. In the news Yahoo buys Tumblr and starts handing out storage by the terabyte over at Flicker; Microsoft unveils their new gaming console and hopes it will be The One that rules them all; and more proof that Science rocks and it rocks the hardest!
All those fast and furious rumors at the end of last week about Yahoo buying Tumbler turned out to be true. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer herself posted the informal announcement of the acquisition on the company’s blog Monday. (Mergers must be in the spring air, as GrubHub and Seamless hooked up this week as well, united in their mission to deliver takeout potatoes to couch potatoes.)
Yahoo owns Flickr as well, and that site got a redesign this week. Owners of free accounts now have a terabyte of online store to roll in. Holders of the paid Flickr Pro accounts still have their unlimited space for photo storage, but Yahoo is retiring the Flickr Pro account option in favor of new pricing plans. (Also going into retirement: Google Checkout.)
Microsoft unveiled the next version of its Xbox game console. A new gamepad and Kinect motion controller were also introduced, and the company announced a forthcoming live-action TV show based on the Halo game.
Tired of of not being able to do videochat over an AT&T cellular connection? AT&T says it’s working on it. Also in mobile news this week: some sources looking at the leaked 4.2.2. firmware planned for Samsung Galaxy S3 phones whisper that the update includes several new features. And Dell Computer, not really known for its prowess beyond desktops and laptops for years, will go really mobile and have a sticktop computer out this July. It’s called Project Ophelia, and is expected to cost about $100 bucks.
The annual World Science Festival is coming up soon in New York City The five-day fest starts May 29th and will have 50 events taking place across all 5 boroughs. Here’s the event list so you can start making plans.
Speaking of science fairs and festivals, an 18-year-old California girl’s science project has just won her the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award. Eesha Khare’s winning project is called Design and Synthesis of Hydrogenated TiO2-Polyaniline Nanorods for Flexible High-Performance Supercapacitors. And meanwhile, up on Mars, the Curiosity rover drilled into a second rock this past Sunday to obtain a sample. Science rocks!
This week we go big on Pop Tech Jam! Technology expert and author Phil Simon talks to J.D. about his new book, Too Big to Ignore: The Business Case for Big Data and Pedro reviews two new headphones in his never-ending quest for the perfect subway headphones. In the news, Amazon’s Cloud Drive service takes on Dropbox; Microsoft’s Windows Phone making inroads against Apple and Android’s dominance; Google’s new privacy czar; and mobile ads that talk back.
J.D. fills us in on apps to get you through the madness of March basketball and Pedro calls Shenanigans on on ICANN. In the news, cyber-attacks top the threat list in Washington; updates from SxSW; Marvel Comics expand their online and mobile offerings; and Tivo gets into the miniaturization game.