Tag Archives: Massachussets Institute of Technology

PTJ 110: Just Keep it Out of Your Pants

We’re pretty confident Steve Jobs would have advised us not to stuff the bendable iPhone 6 Plus into our pants pockets, much in the same way he helpfully suggested that we should hold our iPhone 4 differently to help alleviate antenna issues.

Also pretty confident  his pants pocket recommendation would go over just as well as his “antennagate” tip did.

This week on the show J.D. shows us where we can go for music lessons online and El Kaiser reviews DUBS “acoustic filters” from Doppler Labs.

In the news, Home Depot’s lax network security; Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba sets IPO record; UPS Stores set to offer 3D printing service; Amazon workers strike in Germany; despite reports of bendy new iPhones, Apple sells millions of them; and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft enters the orbit of the planet Mars.

PTJ 110 News: MOM Says Bring a Sweater

depotThe full effects of the Great Home Depot Hack have yet to be known, but  some of the company’s workers didn’t sound too surprised that it  happened. The New York Times reports that Home Depot employees said their IT managers relied on “outdated antivirus software from 2007 and did not continuously monitor the network for unusual behavior, such as a strange server talking to its checkout registers.” Both the Times and the Ars Technica site have details about one of Home Depot’s former security engineers currently serving time in prison for sabotaging the network of the company that fired him before he got the Home Depot gig. (Here’s hoping Lowe’s has better employee screening and security practices.)

Facebook’s initial public stock offering may have gotten more press, but the massive Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba set records last week with its own IPO valued at $25 billion. Shares of the company popped up 38 percent on the first day of trading. While this is all good for people who bought Alibaba stock, it’s not been good for Yahoo, which owns 22 percent of the company.

3dprintThe UPS Store is expanding its offerings to more than just packing, mailing, photocopies and computer-rental. The chain is now adding custom 3D printing services to more than 100 of its stores around the country.

About 2,000 workers in four of Amazon’s German distribution centers refused to show up for their shifts early this week to protest management’s refusal to hold wage talks. Amazon’s war with the Bonnier publishing group still rages on over ebook pricing, but the company did find the time to release nthe  Kindle Voyage e-ink reader, two Kids editions of the Kindle Fire tablet, a new 6-inch Kindle Fire HD  and an revamped 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HDX. The models will also sport the upgraded Fire OS 4 operating system that’s based on Android KitKat.

AT&T just launched a new broadband package that includes its U-verse basic TV channels, Amazon Prime Instant Video and HBO for a monthly price of $39. And for those looking for even more streaming options, Sony is finally delivering its PlayStation TV service here in the States on October 14th. The basic PlayStation TV box starts at $100 and you can get a bundled version with a DualShock controller and the Lego Movie videogame for $140. I

gumbyApple continues to bust its buttons over the demand for its new iPhone 6 models (while hopefully looking into reports that some iPhone 6 models are bending in their owners’ pocket and trying to fix the disastrous iOS 8.0.1 update that broke a bunch of stuff before it got yanked out of circulation). A week after the company put out a press release announcing that it’d gotten four million pre-orders for the new models in the first 24 hours, Apple announced this week that it’d sold 10 million new iPhones worldwide over the launch weekend. An Apple spokesperson also took the rare turn in the media this week to flatly deny a TechCrunch post that claimed the company was shutting down the Beats Music service.

As one may expect, however, Samsung is not just sitting around waiting for Apple to suck the reaming three oxygen molecules out of the press room. The Korean electronics giant is heavily promoting its new Samsung Galaxy Alpha model, which arrives here in the States this Friday on AT&T. And there are more Android tablets on the way from HTC. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Taiwanese company is teaming up with Google to be the official hardware partner for a planned 9-inch Nexus tablet.

Turning to robot news, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northeastern University are giving robots and their little gripper hands new dexterity with tactile sensors. (Once the robots conquer plugging in USB cables, opening tight jam jars should be the next test of their new powers.)

robots

And finally, up in space, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft entered the orbit of the planet Mars this past weekend and has begun its research into the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere. MAVEN arrived after blasting off from Cape Canaveral last November.  The Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft  also dropped into the Martian orbit this week, after launching from India’s Satish Dhawan Space Center last year. The craft is on a weather-watching expedition, just like all those other MOMs who regularly keep an eye on the weather.

PTJ 101 News: Song of Dice and Ire

openThis past Tuesday was supposed to be the end of the first-round public comment period for the proposed Net Neutrality (or Open Internet) rules but forth by the Federal Communications Commission. Due to an overwhelming volume of people trying to deposit their $0.2, however, the FCC has now extended the initial round of comments until Friday, July 18th, at midnight. [Quick! To the Rantmobile!] The FCC’s website even has a chart showing the huge flurry of messages coming in through the site’s Electronic Comment Filing System on this particular topic. In addition to mere mortals, several large tech companies  have stated their support for an open internet and thirteen US senators also called on the FCC to support net neutrality. A decision could come in September, after the next round of comments.

The FCC is also hearing it from the DISH network, which has formally asked the agency to block the pending Comcast-Time Warner merger due to serious competitive concerns. (By the way, the FCC just picked its panel last week to review that looming deal.) DISH also doesn’t like the proposed AT&T and DirecTV merger, but the company should be celebrating the recent court ruling in favor of its Hopper DVRs.

Adding to the alphabet soup: the FAA and the FTC: A few weeks ago, the Federal Aviation Administration said it wasn’t authorizing drones for commercial use, but Amazon is persisting. Last week, the megamoo überstore filed an official request to the administrator of the FAA to ask for an official exemption from the No Commercial Drones rule.  In other Amazon news, the battle with publishers over ebook pricing drags on and oh, by the way, the Federal Trade Commission just sued the company for improperly billing parents for in-app purchases made by their children.

drones

If the rumors are to be believed, the iPhone 6 will come on two sizes, (a 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch screen model) but are whispers from analysts that the 5.5-phablet-size version will be delayed due to complications with components and the manufacturing process.  So if you want to buy the thing that doesn’t offically exist yet, you may have to wait a little longer.

Microsoft, which is starting to but cloud and mobile moves of its own, has plans for a $199 Windows laptop from HP in time for the holiday season, as well as similar low-cost laptops from Acer and Toshiba for about $249. Take that, Google Chromebooks.

After a month of drama, diving and oh, fútbol, the 2014 World Cup wrapped up in Brazil this past weekend as Germany won the large gold trophy. Along with setting new records for global television viewership, the tournament was also the biggest streaming multimedia video event in history. The Spanish-language channel Univision Deportes got 81 million total viewers for the tournament and was up 34% in viewership from the 2010 World Cup.

Also up in recent numbers — album sales on vinyl. Nielsen Soundscan’s mid-year report shows the once-dominate format for audio recordings has clawed its way back to 4 million units from near-extinction at the hand of CDs and digital downloads .

In robot news, the folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on phase-changing material made from wax and foam that could allow robots to become “squishy” or shift between hard and soft states. These robots are intended for good works.

supermoonNow, if you missed the supermoon on July 12th, there’s another one on August 10th, and some are calling it the superdupermoon because it will be even brighter and larger than the previous mere supermoon. August 10th will see the moon’s perigree coincide with the hour that the moon itself is most full. There will also be a supermoon hat-trick this year, with another (but dimmer) one occurring on September 9th.
Mark your calendars.

The frostiness between Samsung and Google is probably going to get a little more polar vortex-y as Samsung has opened its own Android app store that its users can shop instead of Google Play. The new store is called Galaxy Apps and claims hundreds of exclusive programs just for Samsung shoppers.

Samsung is also working with Google’s Nest division on their own Internet of Things standards club called Thread Group.  They are not alone.

And finally, Dungeons & Dragons is not just a role-playing game, it’s a skill-builder for writers and programmers. As The New York Times reported earlier this week, several renowned authors like Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Junot Díaz, Sherman Alexie, Sharyn McCrumb and yes, George R.R. Martin were all influenced by the game and said it helped with their development as writers. D&D’s ability to teach players creativity, narrative and problem-solving skills is nothing new. In his 1998 Gen X memoir, Extra Life: Coming of Age in Cyberspace, author Davis S. Bennahum said the complexity of the game even got him into computer programming. Perhaps there’s hope for the younger generation today, who have grown bored with repetitive casual games. Wizards of the Coast just released a Dungeons & Dragons Starter Kit for $20 this week.  Get rolling!

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.

loon

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…