Tag Archives: movies

PTJ 218: Some Bot to Watch Over Me

The Consumer Electronics Show is over for another year, leaving a pile of press releases, product releases and demo videos in its wake. El Kaiser and J.D.  discuss the highlights of the 2017 mega-gadgetfest, and sample a few other stories in the tech headlines this week. Also on the show, J.D. points NASA fans in the direction of the new movie Hidden Figures — and the apps and sites celebrating these inspiring women. Through hardships to the stars, indeed.

Links to This Week’s News Stories

I have seen the future: Alexa controls everything (Ars Technica)

All the cool new gadgets at CES 2017 (CNET)

Battle of the CES 2017 coffee and tea robots (CNET)

Nokia 6, Asus ZenFone AR and Other CES 2017 Launches, Vodafone’s Rs. 499 Plan, More News This Week (Gadgets360)

Marissa Mayer is resigning from Yahoo’s board (Business Insider)

After Verizon deal, Yahoo to become ‘Altaba’ and Marissa Mayer to step down from board (The New York Times)

United State Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K

Facebook is going to start showing ads in the middle of its videos and sharing the money with publishers (Recode)

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities identified in St. Jude medical’s implantable cardiac devices and Merlin@home transmitter (FDA Safety Communication)

Commission proposes high level of privacy rules for all electronic communications and updates data protection rules for EU institutions (EU Commission press release)

Our continuing commitment to your privacy with Windows 10 (Windows blog)

One place to manage your privacy (Microsoft)

Announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15002 for PC (Windows blog)

Coming Soon to Windows 10 (Microsoft)

Facebook, Google face strict EU privacy rules that could hit ad revenues (Ars Technica)

KGI: 3 new iPads to debut next quarter will slow decline in sales, 10-10.5 inch model wildcard (9to5Mac)

Apple releases fix to MacBook Pros in response to Consumer Reports’ battery test results (Consumer Reports)

Subject: The iPhone turns 10: a visual history of Apple’s most important product (The Verge)

Phil Schiller on iPhone’s launch, how it changed Apple, and why it will keep going for 50 years (Backchannel)

PTJ 195 News: Living On the Edge

Not everyone likes new stuff. Still, Microsoft took to one of its own blogs recently to make a push for its spiffy new Windows 10 browser Edge, trying to show that the software provided better battery life when surfing compared to those other companies’ browsers (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera). However, in the latest survey of desktop browser market share from Net Applications, Google Chrome version 50 was in first place with 22.65 percent of users, with two versions of IE and an older edition of Chrome right behind. Edge appears in fifth place with about 4.46 percent of users, so perhaps this battery tip hasn’t gotten around.

Also from the Department of Microsoft News, the company announced a new version of its signature game console called the Xbox One S that starts at $400 for the two-terabyte model. The S-model is smaller than the earlier Xbox One and supports 4K video; the older Xbox One now sells for $280, so up yours, Sony PlayStation.

Microsoft also bought the LinkedIn social professional network last week for $26 billion dollars, which took many people by surprise, especially because LinkedIn was not profitable and was losing a reported $150 million dollars a year. The Guardian’s opinion section didn’t think the purchase was a great idea, but others ran with it.

Facebook has had suicide-prevention resources available to users for years. This month, the site is adding even more time-saving tools designed to help friends help their friends and also offers tips from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Google has added a new feature of its own to its app: Symptom Search. Yes, now when you type in specific health woes you’re feeling like headache or foot pain, Google returns a list of medical conditions that may include your symptoms. Doctor Google advises you not to use use this in place of actual medical care.

Twitter just bought itself a $150 million dollar pony — or, more precisely, the Magic Pony Technology company, a London-based firm uses neural networks and machine learning to understand images and enhance them for a variety of uses.

pony

Video is also on Twitter’s mind this week, as the company announced that clips posted on the site can now be 140 seconds long instead of just 30 seconds. (Everybody’s got to have live-streaming service and now Yahoo’s Tumblr site is jumping into the mix with its own version of the feature.)

China is still winning at supercomputers. The new top performer, the Sunway TaihuLight, is capable of performing some 93 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflops, dudes). The TaihuLight is roughly five times more powerful than the fastest supercomputer in the United States.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos backs a little rocket company called Blue Origin, which had a successful test flight of a rocket and capsule landing out in Texas last weekend. Blue Origin is developing flights for space tourism that could begin blasting off in 2018.

The Federal Aviation Administration has finalized its rules for commercial drone operators. In other government news, Reuters and other organizations are reporting that Republicans in the United States Senate have set up a vote this week to expand the surveillance powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Instagram announced it hit the 500-million-user mark this week. And remember, you don’t have to use only square photos anymore.

Those who do not know Internet history are doomed to…try and read it on outdated formats and dead links. It may seem like it’s been around forever, but the concept for what was then called the Intergalactic Network came into focus in the early 1960s and picked up steam in the early 1970s when Vint Cerf of Stanford co-created the TCP/IP protocol that let different computer networks talk to each other. These days, Mr. Cerf (shown here), now working for Google as Chief Internet Evangelist, is working to create a decentralized backup of the Web so that the Wayback Machine over at the Internet Archive is not the only repository for our accumulating collective digital history.

VCerf

Cerf, who has previously warned of an Internet Dark Age where data is lost because systems become obsolete, was part of the Decentralized Web Summit conference earlier this month in San Francisco. Wired has the story on the backup and preservation efforts.

And finally, the summer box office is heating up and Pixar’s latest production, Finding Dory, just broke the box office record for the highest-grossing animated film debut. The sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo  made with the voice of Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, melded to Pixar’s cutting-edge, state-of-the-art animation technology — made more than $136 million dollars at the box office. Finding Dory passed the DreamWorks film, Shrek the Third, as top-earner. Pixar’s former top debut Toy Story 3 debuted with about $110 million back in 2010, but it looks like Dory will give a lot of people the urge to go fishing in the next few weeks.

PTJ 192: Geeky Summer Movies

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of Summer here in the U.S. but the unofficial Summer Movie season kicks off around Valentine’s Day nowadays. The blockbusters have been unspooling at local multiplexes for months now but June, July and August are when the blockiest of blockbusters are unleashed upon us.

This week on the podcast J.D. and El Kaiser geek out over some highly anticipated films and of course they run down all the latest tech news with their unique brand of silliness and attitude.

Slather on the suntan lotion, pop in those earbuds and have a little Summer fun with PTJ this holiday weekend.

PTJ 172 News: Wake-Up Call

Talk about your Rey of light! The seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise opened last Thursday night and went on to make $247.9 million dollars in its first weekend and broke several other records along the way, Many people stayed off the Internet and social media to avoid spoilers until they saw the film, and Google Trends set up a whole page of Star Wars: The Force Awakens-related lists based on the terms people were using in Google Search. The countdown for Rogue One (December 16th, 2016) and Episode VIII (May 26th, 2017) has begun!

Meanwhile, in a galaxy much closer to home, the folks at SpaceX must be breathing a sign of relief after the company was able to launch — and land — a Falcon 9 rocket in Florida this week. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, delivered 11 low-earth satellites into orbit for the ORBCOMM company and then returned safely and in one piece about 10 minutes later. After previous mishaps and an explosion earlier this year, SpaceX redesigned the Falcon 9 rocket and the company plans to reuse the booster for another mission. (Let’s hope they clean the crew cabin between flights, unlike some domestic airlines around here.)

spacex

Like tarting up images and then sharing them online? Adobe, maker of Photoshop, has a new free iOS app called Adobe Post. It’s described in detail on an Adobe blog, and yes, the company says an Android version is in the works. As Macworld points out, though, you have to share the app with a friend to get rid of an watermark Post puts on your pictures. Also in picture news, Facebook is adding support for the Live Photos created by Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models. While the new feature is slowly rolling out, only users with the iOS version of Facebook’s app will be able to see the mini moving pictures. Oh, well.

It sounds like Microsoft and Google are talking over each other, at least when it comes to the Cortana assistant app on Android devices. In a recent update to the app for the American version, Microsoft has disabled the voice-activated “Hey Cortana” feature apparently due to microphone conflicts with the “OK, Google” voice command. Microsoft also announced this week it was going to crack down on aggressive adware that makes PC users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. As of March 31st next year, Microsoft plans to yank or block adware that defies its policies.

The Nielsen folks have released their list of the top apps of 2015 as measured by the number of users.  Odds are, you’re probably using one or two of the winning apps.

visitorJuniper Networks, which makes firewall for business enterprise customers, had to issue the advisory last week that so company remotely related to online protection wants to release: the Security Bulletin outlining multiple issues with one of its products.  A short FAQ on the incident. patches and workarounds were also posted. Wired reports that researchers now think the National Security Agency was at least partially responsible, and cryptography expert Matthew Green even has a blog post describing how hackers used an existing back door to make one of their own. Also in government snooping news, Apple is pushing back at a bill in the United Kingdom that seeks to expand Parliament’s investigatory powers and could give the government the power to make Apple decrypt its iMessage service.

The Federal Trade Commission has chased down the Oracle Corporation and charged that the company bamboozled customers about the safety of security updates to its Java software.  Thanks to a legal order, Oracle must provide an uninstall tool so users can pry the old Java crapware off their systems and make sure future updates actually provide the promised security.

hellkittyAnother week, another database leak. And another one that involves information about kids — Hello Kitty, of all things. Several sites have reported on the incident, but the one called The Office of Inadequate Security over at www.databreaches.net and the Salted Hash site lay it down: “Database Leak Exposes the 3.3 Million Hello Kitty Fans.”  The issue was discovered by security researcher Chris Vickery, who has been having a banner year of fail-hunting, and appears to be more of a server misconfiguration thing rather than hacker tracks. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, posted a statement on its site saying credit-card info was not at risk and yes, they fixed the problem.

While passwords can be a pain, especially when they’re hacked, Google is experimenting with a new way of logging in via smartphone notification. Yahoo, which has had its own security problems, updated its Yahoo Mail mobile app last fall that also did away with passwords in favor of a push notification to a mobile device. Just don’t lose your phone.

Layoffs are a fact of life in the tech industry and Toshiba is taking a hit now. The company, which claims to have released the world’s first mass-market laptop back in 1985 and affordable models in the 1990s, has been steadily losing ground to rival companies in Asia. The company, which also had a major accounting scandal this summer, said Monday it plans to cut about five percent of its workforce .

rosieThe Consumer Electronics Show is still about three weeks away, but the advance press releases are already starting to trickle out. Cleaning fans take note, LG plans to reveal what it calls “the world’s first augmented reality vacuum cleaner” at CES next month. The company’s HOM-BOT Turbo+ uses three camera sensors to record its surroundings to keep track of where it has already cleaned — and  to transmit a real-time feed to its owner’s smartphone. The human just needs to tap an area of the room displayed on the screen to have the HOM-BOT go over there and clean it. Because the vacuum has motion sensors along with its cameras, it can also be used to keep an eye on the place, but the HOM-BOT doesn’t quite sound like its up to a Terminator level of protection . . . yet.

bot

PTJ 166: Let’s All Go to the Movies

It’s that time of the year when the big, ‘splody summer tentpole flicks are making their way to Blu-Ray and DVD for holiday stocking stuffing, making room for the Oscar bait to unspool at your local movie megaplex. J.D. has a Hopefully Helpful Hint about how to catch up on what’s coming up on the silver screen. Also on the show, Pedro is not a happy Kaiser as his beloved media center suffers a serious blow. And of course we have a heaping helping of the latest tech news.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Trailer Park

The heart of the Geek Movie season traditionally runs from late spring through the summer, with the superhero films and action flicks rolling into theaters for the warm-weather months. There are exceptions, however: The adaptation of the final installment in the The Hunger Games series arrives later this month and there’s a little flick called Star Wars: The Force Awakens that opens in mid-December. Still, the last two months of the year traditionally see the serious films, aiming for Oscars and more viewer attention span with people taking time off around the holidays. If you’ve lost track of what else is on the way to your local cineplex, here are a few sites to keep you in the loop.

ComingSoon.net not only features trailers for a huge selection of upcoming theatrical films headed your way, you can get sneak peeks for upcoming TV episodes, home video releases on DVD and Blu-ray and even videogames. ComingSoon.net also has the latest Hollywood box-office figures as well as industry news and is really a one-stop shopping trip for entertainment information. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and RSS feeds keep you up to date.

comingsoon

imtApple’s iTunes Movie Trailers collection focuses mainly on theatrical films, but also sports exclusive clips and early previews. The site also has a Twitter feed and RSS to alert you to new material, plus a Top 25 list. You can view the trailers on the Web, but if you have an iOS-based gadget, you can use the official iTunes Movie Trailers app. You can also watch through the Apple TV’s app. Both feature a calendar view that places each trailer on a grid, which can be helpful for planning your weekends.

YouTube, repository of almost all online video, has a trailers section with links to a lot of clips – and YouTube channels from other trailers sites.

If your tastes run toward more independent efforts, check out the IndieWire site. It does cover the mainstream movie and TV culture, but gives the smaller productions a bigger share of the spotlight.

And if you’re feeling nostalgic and have a few hours to kill, visit the Archives at Movie-List.com to see many of the Generation X Classics as they were first presented in trailer form. Airplane!, Escape From New York, Ghostbusters, Raiders of the Lost Ark, WarGames…they’re all here in one convenient place, waiting to take you back to the 1980s, when movie tickets were cheap and a bucket of popcorn was affordable.

And with the trailer buzz for Star Wars: The Force Awakens still echoing, how about a nostalgic trip over to the trailer for the original Star Wars from the mid-1970s? It certainly had a more low-key unveiling back in its day, and it and perfectly illustrates the power of the John Williams soundtrack — by not actually having the iconic score rumbling around in the in the background.

PTJ 141: Let’s All Go To The Movies

This summer is shaping up to be a Geek movie lover’s dream with Disney’s Marvel and Disney studios dominating multiplexes but do not despair! Their are many other geektastic offerings unspooling over the next few hot and sticky months and we’ll list a few of them for you.

Go ahead and grab a bucket of popcorn and a barrel of your favorite soft drink and join J.D. and El Kaiser at the picture show!

Hollywood, Disrupted

Thanks to inexpensive tools, new distribution systems and crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, filmmaking and technology are grooving together better than ever these days. Journalist Laura M. Holson drops by PTJ HQ this week with some insights on how the traditional methods of making and watching movies are changing — while giving more young filmmakers a chance to show their stuff, whether it be on YouTube, Vimeo, Amazon, Netflix or any of the other emerging sites dedicated to producing and streaming original content.

PTJ 133 News: Legacies

It’s been a rough few weeks for geek fandom and its iconic actors. Harrison Ford continues to recover from this private plane crash last Thursday, which came less than a week after the death of Leonard Nimoy on February 27th. We here at Pop Tech Jam wish Mr. Ford a hyperdrive-quick recovery and send our condolences to Mr. Nimoy’s family.

Since Mr. Nimoy’s passing, tributes continue to pop up around the cultural landscape, including a nod at the end of last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory and multiple Spock statues showing up in-world around the Star Trek Online game. And in a thoughtful essay over on The Guardian’s website, Jason Wilson writes how Trekker culture now rules the world, as it introduced a productive creativity into fandom that long pre-dated Facebook, Twitter or even the commercial Internet itself. Live long and prosper, indeed.

Now, in hardware news, Samsung’s newly announced Galaxy S6 family of phones has retailers excited. A report in The Korea Times notes that Samsung received 20 million pre-orders for the new phones from wireless carriers and retail stores around the world.

androidGoogle is pushing out Android 5.1 starting this week. Also curious explorers over at the Android Police site who were peeking into the code for Google Drive 2.2 claim to have found lines written into the program that shift the old auto photo backup feature of Google+ to Google Drive.

Hillary Clinton held a press conference this week to deal with the controversy surrounding the revelation last week that she was using a private email account to conduct government business during her tenure as Secretary of State. The reason? She said she just wanted to stick with one email account and one device. (Yeah, this flap isn’t closing any time soon.)

Wikimedia is among those suing the National Security Agency for its mass surveillance programs that violate protections built into the United States Constitution. In a separate security note, The Intercept site says it has documents detailing how the Central Intelligence Agency spent years trying to break the encryption used on Apple’s iOS devices.

In NASA news, the Dawn spacecraft became the first piece of human-made hardware to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet last Friday when the sprightly little probe began to circle Ceres. Go, Dawn, go!

Meanwhile, over on Mars, scientists hope the arm on the Curiosity Rover can get back to work after its built-in drill began to suffer from an intermittent short-circuit problem a few weeks ago. Engineers have been running diagnostic tests while the rover has been parked. Even though Curiosity hasn’t been rolling around the red planet wince late February, it’s still been taking scientific observations from its position and monitoring the Martian weather.

opportunityNASA’s other active Mars rover, the 11-year-old Opportunity, is working its mission to study the Martian terrain and has rolled more than 26 miles on its most recent quest to study unfamiliar rocks. Despite its advanced age, Opportunity is still knocking around and recently got a new version of its software installed remotely from the rover team back on Earth. It’s also scheduled for a little memory reformat in the near future as a maintenance procedure. May all our space explorers — factual and fictional — live on in our hearts and minds.

PTJ 126 News: Dawn of a New Day

draftbillThe Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for Net Neutrality are scheduled for a vote on February 26th, but that has not stopped Congress from doing something in the meantime. Republican leaders put out draft legislation this week that prohibits the FCC from reclassifying broadband service as regulated public utility like radio, television and telephone, as President Obama proposed last year. The proposed bill does ban throttling or blocking, but has a “network management” loophole for the telecom companies. Several Internet activists like Free Press have already taken up the call to protest, so this issue certainly isn’t going to fade into the background anytime soon.

Remember when the United States government blamed North Korea for the massive hack on Sony Pictures last year and some security experts questioned how officials could be so sure North Korea did the deed? As reported in The New York Times, it turns out that the National Security Agency itself had totally pwned, er, infiltrated North Korea’s networks back in 2010 so they were familiar with some of that territory.

zombiesCloser to home, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a list of apps and services that do and do not protect you from Verizon Wireless’s user-tracking perma-cookie that was discovered by researchers last fall. The ProPublica site published a story last week about how the online ad company Turn was using Verizon’s tracking numbers to regenerate deleted cookies and keep tabs on the users who thought they deleted them. Once busted by ProPublica, Turn said it would suspend its use of these back-from-the-dead Zombie Cookie IDs — pending further evaluation.

Bloomberg News reports that like everybody else, Taiwanese electronics maker HTC is working on its own smartwatch, as well as a new flagship smartphone with a 20-megapixel rear camera and Dolby 5.1 audio. Both products are expected to be announced at the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona the first week of March.

Google Glass, which made a couple year-end lists of Biggest Flops of 2014, is getting discontinued (the original version, anyway). Microsoft, however, has Project HoloLens in the works, so people who want to compute while wearing strips of see-through plastic on their faces have a fresh new option. The company’s holographic goggles will arrive around the same time as its new Windows 10 system; both got some event love this week.

win10

One little wearables flop isn’t slowing down Google, though. The company, which took out a lease from NASA last year for the historic Hangar One in California, is doing business with other space firms as well. The Big G (and Fidelity) are making a billion-dollar investment in SpaceX for a project that would use about 700 small satellites to provide Internet access to parts of the world that don’t have it.

We have yet another NASA mission to follow this year. This March, the space agency’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive for its assignment at Ceres, a 600-mile wide asteroid in the belt of flying space rocks between between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn, which launched in 2007, has previously orbited Vesta. The Dawn spacecraft combines state-of-the-art technologies tested by other recent space experiments with off-the-shelf components and spare parts and instrumentation left over from previous missions. The spacecraft will make a study of Ceres, which NASA considers to be a dwarf planet, and has already beamed back some images from about 238,000 miles away.

And one more NASA item of note: the agency says the Earth is due to get buzzed by an asteroid later this month.  The big rock should be visible to those in the Americas, Africa and Europe the night of January 26th  and the Virtual Telescope site also plans to track the asteroid starting at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time that day for those who pref to stargaze from inside the house.

Facebook wants to help you further cut down on the amount of floating garbage on your News Feed. In a company blog post this week, two Facebook staffers described an update to the News Feed mix that reduces the distribution of posted stories that have been reported as hoaxes or deleted by other users. (While this could help declutter News Feeds around Facebook, the tool does have the potential for abuse from organized campaigns to discredit, say, an environmental issue. Let’s hope Facebook has thought of this, too.)

Amazon announced this week that it has plans to develop its own original theatrical films that will also be available quite early on its Amazon Prime Instant Video service. This move comes a few months after Netflix announced it was producing a sequel to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for both IMAX theaters and its own streaming customers that will premiere this August 28th.

The new movie Blackhat opened in theaters this past weekend, and although the hacking action thrilled starring Chris Hemsworth got blown away at the box office by American Sniper, it did get a little cred from the Ars Technica site for not having completely illogical, implausible and just plain stupid technology scenes. The film’s creators hired not one, but two hacking consultants. Judging by the movie’s poor reception from critics, perhaps the producers should have sprung for a script consultant or two as well.

mariogoombaAnd finally,  over at the University of Tübingen in Germany, a group of researchers in the area of cognitive modeling have developed an artificial intelligence system that allows the videogame character Mario the plumber to  experience emotions and respond to voice commands. Mario AI is also aware of his environment, makes decisions in the game on gathered data or “learning.” Yes, there’s a video demonstrating the experiment. Maybe for the next experiment, the researchers can get the Angry Birds to talk through their feelings so they’re not quite so outraged all the time.