Tag Archives: Minecraft

PTJ 248: Knock, Knock

Who’s there? It’s this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam, with ideas for coping with the current state of the world. From SEC hackers to Nest’s new indoor/outdoor security system to Equifax still doing harm to its customers, it’s been a busy seven days. But hey, NASA has a free illustrated ebook on the recent Cassini mission you can download, so the week wasn’t all bad and El Kaiser offers up a review of two audio amplifiers to make your tunes sound better through your headphones when you’re on the go.  In light of Mother Nature’s recent activities, J.D. shares a few lists of places you can send money to help earthquake and hurricane disaster recovery efforts in Mexico, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the other Caribbean islands.
PTJ 248 is here to help!

Links to Stories on This Week’s Episode

iPhone Audio Amps

(Hopefully) Helpfully Hint: How to Effectively Donate to Disaster Relief Funds

PTJ 216: So Long, 2016!

After a tumultuous 12 months in tech, culture and politics, this annus horribilis (as many found it) is finally on the way out the door. On this last episode of the year, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss the week’s tech news before exploring the highlights, lowlights and other notable events of 2016. Thanks for listening this year, Jammers, and we’ll be back in 2017!

Links to This Week’s Stories

PTJ 168 News: Reality Check

The world can be a very scary place and it got worse last week with multiple attacks on civilians overseas. As one might expect,  government officials from various countries (including France) are again calling for access into encrypted message apps.  Belgian officials have also said that prior to the Paris carnage, terrorists had been hiding their communication using online gaming tools like Sony’s PlayStation 4. The activist collective Anonymous announced on YouTube and Twitter this week that it was going after ISIS and stepping up its ongoing efforts to knock the group’s social media and websites offline. The chaos in Paris last Friday prompted Facebook to turn on its Safety Check feature but the site received criticism for not making the tool available to those who were in Beirut during the attacks there the previous day. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the issue on his profile page. Going forward, the company plans to make Safety Check available for other tragic incidents around the world. It’s becoming a common — yet depressing — aspect of modern life online.

Now, moving on to news that hopefully makes one less despondent about the state of the world…

Google has tweaked its search app to help it better understand the questions you ask it. According to a blog post on the Inside Search site, Google search now understands superlatives in questions as well as questions relating to data in certain points of time. Google is also on the hunt for people to legitimately review businesses and services for its Google Maps app and is offering one terabyte of Google Drive storage for those who contribute regularly to the Local Guides program. And the company’s $85 computer-on-an-HDMI-Stick Chromebit device is rolling out now.

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The Pandora streaming music service has bought parts of Rdio, another streaming music service, for $75 million dollars, acquiring its under-the-hood technology and design. While the deal is contingent on the acquired firm filing for bankruptcy, Rdio posted on its site that its customers would not see an immediate interruption, for the time being, anyway. Advertising Age reports that Pandora plans to start a subscription-based, on-demand version of its music-streaming service.

While Apple has often been lauded for its visual product aesthetic over the years, an essay on the Fast Company site says the fruit-themed toymaker is actually giving design a bad name. If you find user experience and interface design interesting — or find iOS 7 and later insanely hard on the eyes and mind — check out the essay.

Back to more privacy issues, but this time in regards to protecting your personal data from advertisers if you have one of Vizio’s smart TV sets. The ProPublica public interest site has a story on how Vizio Smart TVs track what you watch and sell the information to advertisers. Cable TV and video rental companies are banned by law from doing this sort of thing, and other smart TV companies like Samsung and LG have viewer tracking as an opt-in policy. Vizio’s so-called “Smart Interactivity” tracking is on by default, but there is a way to opt-out if you make the effort.

brownzuneAnd from the Department of We Forgot It Still Existed, Microsoft has now retired its Zune music service this past weekend. Once a challenger to Apple’s might iPod empire, the Zune hardware and software launched in 2006 and the hardware was discontinued in 2011.  Old Zunes will work as stand-alone music players and the four remaining Zune music service subscribers have been switched over to the Groove music platform.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 November Update has been rolling out to users. While the three-gigabyte download brings new features and big fixes, it has created some problems of its own, like deleted or changed default apps and other issues. While the Xbox One game console also got an update, Microsoft representatives said another big update in February.

Oxford Dictionaries has picked it 2015 Word of the Year and it’s not even technically a word — it’s the emoji called Face With Tears of Joy. Oxford University Press partnered with SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and Face With Tears of Joy was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015.

And finally, last week, Disney/Lucasfilm announced that Star Wars was going to be part of the Hour of Code this year and this week Microsoft announced it was adding a Minecraft coding tutorial to the event. Although Computer Science Education Week isn’t until Dec. 7th–13th, kids can jump in early with the Minecraft module, which is up and running now.  Go forth and code, folks, and lets build things instead of tearing them down.

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PTJ 149 News: BBQ and Robots, Too!

This summer is turning out to be a big one for space news and demoted-planet Pluto is due for its star turn next week. NASA’s New Horizon’s spacecraft, which woke up from hibernation last December, had a bit of a glitch that knocks it into Safe Mode on July 4th, but scientists say the craft is ready for its close flyby of Pluto on the morning of July 14th. If everything goes according to plan, New Horizons is expected to pass less than 7,800 hundred miles from the surface of little Pluto, which is relatively close in space terms; The New York Times has a great video on the topic. (And earlier this week in space, scientists on the Philae lander project were hoping to find signs of alien life on old Comet 67P, but comet experts are now pooh-poohing the notion.)

More than a dozen pre-eminent cryptographers and computer scientists have come together to produce a paper called “Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity By Requiring Government Access to All Data and Communications,” and in this paper, they challenge the intelligence agencies of the United States and the United Kingdom over government desires for special backdoors to be built into encrypted communications. The cryptographers find the government proposals to be unprincipled and unworkable. Many of the same cryptographers came together back in the 1990s to take down the Clinton administration’s proposed Clipper Chip, which would have provided a hardware backdoor into encrypted communications.

BBmicrobitThe British Broadcasting Corporation does more than just global news shows, historical costume dramas and Doctor Who. This week, the Beeb introduced its new initiative to help kids get into tech. The organization, along with 29 corporate partners, is giving out a programmable, pocket-sized “BBC Micro:Bit” bare-bones computer to all Year 7 students. Microsoft, ARM and Samsung were among the corporate partners on the project.

While Samsung helps out in the UK, its overall corporate intake dipped in the second quarter this year. The South Korea-based company reported a four-percent drop in 2Q, thanks in part to weaker-than-expected sales of its new phones. You can, however, get $200 off a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 if you buy it before July 26th.

tosserSpeaking of Microsoft, the Redmond giant is gearing up for its Windows 10 launch at the end of the month. The RTM, or Release to Manufacturing edition, is reportedly out the door this week, the preview of the revamped Bing Maps arrived and the Xbox Music service has now been rebranded as Groove. Xbox Video is now called Movies & TV, and there’s a special Windows 10 beta version of Minecraft on the way July 29th as well. And over in the experimental labs of Microsoft Garage, a new app called Tossup (shown here) is out now for Android and iOS smartphones.

Word from the Appleverse blogs has it that selected third-party accessory makers hoping to sell their wares in official Apple Stores will have to use new packaging co-designed by Apple itself. The reported shift is said to be part of a transition to a “premium feel” for products sold in Apple emporiums, as well as reducing clutter on store shelves.

Also in Apple news, many Kaisers, er, users were up in arms last week when it was discovered that the iOS 8.4 update that brought the Apple Music service into the world also took away the longstanding music Home Sharing feature. Home Sharing, which had been around since iTunes 9 back in 2009, allowed the streaming of one’s music library between devices and Macs and PCs running iTunes. While most people assumed the feature was yanked due to the legal tangle of music rights wadded up in Apple Music, Eddy Cue, Apple Senior VP and Taylor Swift best buddy, said the company is working to restore Home Sharing in the upcoming iOS 9.

Photographers who like Instagram but feel the 640 x 640 resolution was way too low for quality presentation will be happy to know that the service has quietly goosed up the rez to 1080 x 1080 pixels. A company representative said the Instagram apps for Android and iOS are bring updated to take advantage of the new feature.

goproAlso in photography news, GoPro, which makes those small wearable video cameras for recording first-person action adventures, now has an even smaller camera on the way. The company’s new model, the Hero4 Session, is half the size of the Hero4 Black model. The new tinycam is expected to start shipping next week and has a decidedly not-tiny price tag of $400.

Twitter has added the ability for users to list their birthdays on their Twitter profiles. If you have a massively public feed or draw a lot of hate tweets, though, perhaps you want to skip the sharing there.

Giant robot battles just aren’t for the movies anymore. Last week, MegaBot USA threw down the big iron gauntlet at Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry and challenged the company to a giant robot duel with a video. Naturally, Suidobashi responded with its own video to accept and the battle is on for next year. Get ready for some mecha-stomping good times!

bbqbotAnd finally, summer is here and the backyard grilling and barbecuing is in full flame. Texas and the rest of the South may get all the press for the quality barbecue eats, but don’t forget about that Yankee ingenuity. Way up yonder in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 16 engineering students from Harvard University have built what Wired is calling “the ultimate BBQ Bot” that brings science to the smoke. Admit it: you are totally hungry now, aren’t you?

PTJ 109 News: “You Get an Album! You Get an Album! Everybody Gets an Album!”

Despite all the attention after the Big Media Lovefest last week, Apple felt a few hot, bitter blasts of user rage after it force-gifted U2’s new Songs of Innocence album to iTunes users far and wide. To add insult to injury for people who have privacy issues (or just hate U2), it was also very hard to delete the tracks from one’s library until Apple but up a dedicated U2 Album Removal Page to permanently rid themselves of the download.

U2_Removal

Future Apple Pay competitor PayPal also added to the anti-Apple mix this week, taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times that tweaked the Cupertino crew on its security after the recent iCloud Naked Pictures uproar. Despite the bad press and U2 overstep, Apple did have a good week in the money-making department. A press release from the company stated it sold more than four million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models within 24 hours of pre-orders going live. (Oh, and the company finally stepped it up on two-step verification for iCloud accounts as well.)

In Microsoft news this week, the Redmond Giant  snapped up Mojang, the Swedish company behind the very popular game Minecraft. Microsoft also announced an event dedicated to its upcoming Windows 9 operating system. The preview edition could land in a couple weeks, and although there’s no word on an official release date, many industry watchers assume that the final version of Windows 9 will likely arrive next year.

cm-1Panasonic is really stepping up the game for smartphone camera hardware. The new Panasonic Lumix CM1 smartphone runs Android and packs a 20-megapixel camera with a 1-inch sensor. The phone also has a Leica lens, manual control ring, and the ability to shoot 4K video — plus a hefty price tag. It’s going on sale in Germany and France this November for 900 euros. Achtung, baby!

Lower price points for different Android phones can be found in India, where three models in the Android One line of practical, affordable smartphones can be found contract-free  for the equivalent of about $105 dollars.

CCPNASA has picked SpaceX and Boeing for its Commercial Crew Program. Those companies will be taking over the astronaut commuter route to the International Space Station in 2017.

The deadline for the second round of public comments concerning the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules was this past Monday and  records were indeed broken. The agency received more than three million comments regarding its net neutrality proposals. No deadline set has been for a final FCC ruling and the agency is hosting a couple Open Internet roundtable events on Friday. The FCC also held discussion events this week on the topic of mobile broadband and whether or not wireless carriers should be exempt from Net Neutrality standards. And in other Government Agency News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced this week that its biometric Next Generation Identification system has full operational capability.

Speaking of governments, Google’s recent update to its publicly posted Transparency Report says that government demands for user information have risen 150 percent since 2009. This latest update covers demands for user information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters, as well as standard government demands for the first half of 2014.

Roku, maker of set-top streaming TV boxes, announced that it’s sold 10 million of its players here in the United States since the product debuted in 2008. Apple TV, the Google Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV have some catching up to do.

threeAnd finally, Wolfram, the company behind the Wolfram Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine, launched a web-based version of its Mathematica software this week. Mathletes who want to do serious technical computing in the cloud, you may now go to town — exponentially, and and in 3D if you want.