Tag Archives: NBC

PTJ 230: Siren Songs

Things got loud last week down in Dallas, but it wasn’t just at a Mavericks game as hackers managed to set off every public-safety alarm in the city and freak out a lot of people. Meanwhile, a Russian spam king got collared, a new version of Windows 10 rolled out and Google confronted accusations about a gender pay gap at the company. This week’s episode also features the welcome return of journalist Laura M. Holson to the Pop Tech Jam recording table as she offers insight on her recent story about John Dean, the White House counsel back in Richard Nixon’s Watergate days — and a discussion on how some things never change.

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 138: Axing the Coax

The new $15 standalone streaming service HBO Now arrived just in time for last weekend’s season premiere of Game of Thrones. Early reports showed the app held up well under the onslaught of Starks, Lannisters and new subscribers, which may convince some weary cable subscribers that it’s finally safe to cut the cord and go online to watch all the hot shows.

On this week’s episode, journalist Laura M. Holson — who got rid of her own TV seven years ago — offers her own tips for keeping up with popular programs. Yes, you can do it using nothing but a mobile screen, a sturdy broadband connection and some well-known inexpensive or free services like HuluNetflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, Crackle and Google Play, just to name a few. (Oh, and don’t forget free TV network apps and websites from PBS, ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.) To paraphrase the great Dinah Washington, streaming TV is really the thing this year.

PTJ 134 News: Clicks and Clacks

meerkatThere’s a ton of news coming out of the SXSW conference down in Austin, Texas, this week, including a new smartphone app called Meerkat that lets its users broadcast live video from their smartphones to their Twitter followers. Part of Meerket’s ease of use was that it can tap into a user’s Twitter contacts and get the party started fast. But last Friday, however, Twitter shut down access to its social graph, citing an internal policy. Twitter may have been treating Meerkat like a parasite app, and the fact that the bird-themed microblogging site quickly turned around and announced its January acquisition of Periscope seems a bit calculated. Some worry that Meerkat’s popularity and expansion will take a fatal hit unless it in turn gets bought by Facebook or Google, but the company’s founders vow to press on after all the PR at SXSW.

It’s March Madness again and we expect time-outs on the basketball court, but the Federal Communications Commission has called a time-out and stopped the clock (again) in the 180-day review periods for the pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV mergers. This time, the stoppage is due to a pending court decision about the disclosure of video-programming contracts between the service providers and content companies.

HBO’s new standalone streaming service has picked up another distributor along with Apple TV. Cablevision has announced that it, too, will allow subscribers to its Optimum broadband service sign up and stream content from HBO NOW without having to already have an HBO tithe bundled in their TV packages.

NBCBut that’s not all in streaming TV news this week! The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is talks to create a small, 25-channel bundle of TV networks that could be subscribed to and streamed across the screens of iOS gadgets and connected Apple TV boxes. Apple, of course, Is. Not. Commenting. As reported, the deal could include streams from ABC, CBS, ESPN and Fox. While NBC has been MIA on the ATV, there are reports that The Peacock Network is actually in negotiations with Apple,  too.

Apple is also said to be revamping its trade-in and recycling program for old gear to include smartphones made by other manufacturers. The current program offers Apple Store Gift Cardsfor the value of the Apple product you want to unload so you can upgrade. According to the blog 9to5Mac, Apple Store employees will determine the trade-in value for old Android, Blackberry, WinPhone and other competing handsets and even transfer address-book contacts for new iPhone owners.

Facebook has updated its Community Standards policy and is bringing down the ban-hammer on nudity, with the usual non-porn exceptions like “art.” On the other side of the coin, Google is reversing course on its recent decision on adult content. Instead of outright banning sexual images, Google’s updated policy now says you can post your non-commercial naughty bits as long as you turn on the adult content warning for your blog.

Two notes from YouTube this week: The massive video-sharing site now supports interactive 360 degree videos. YouTube also announced its new YouTube for Artists effort, a resource portal for musicians seeking to get more audience engagement, as well as making money on YouTube through merchandise sales and online fundraising.

googlenowGoogle Now, the helpful-yet-creepy tool that automatically reminds you of things like restaurant reservations and flight times by using information in your Gmail, Google Calendar and other services, could be expanding its powers soon. A Google product manager said this week that the company plans to offer an open API that other companies can build into their own apps. This would move Google Now’s reach from beyond the 40 third-party services it works with already and could, in theory, add Google Now cards for things like line-wait times at theme parks, all while making Cortana and Siri feel like they need to step it up.

Google is also said to be tightening up app submissions in the Google Play Store by having a team of reviewers analyze the programs for developer policy violations before the software gets turned loose in the store. Apps will also be labeled using an age-based ratings system.

Nintendo is trying to get back in the game of games. The company has formed a partnership with DeNA to develop games for mobile gadgets and smart devices.

Microsoft has updated its Malicious Software Removal Tool to zap the controversial and security-exploitable Superfish adware that had been preinstalled by Lenovo on many of its new laptops sold between September 2014 and February 2015. Lenovo has also released its own Superfish Removal Tool and probably feels pretty guilty about the whole thing now.

The Pew Research Center has a new report out that examines how Americans feel about their privacy (or lack thereof) after revelations and leaks from the Department of Edward Snowden. While a majority of the survey respondents are in favor of the US government monitoring communications of suspected terrorists, American leaders and foreign leaders and citizens, there was also a majority that said it was unacceptable for the US government to monitor the communications of its own citizens.

hellobarbieChild privacy advocates are forming petitions and making a ruckus over the new Hello Barbie doll, which is a Wi-Fi capable version of the iconic blonde toy lady. The Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood is one of the groups leading the charge against the new doll because it says this $75 Internet-connected Barbie uses a microphone to record children’s voices and then uploads the audio data to servers in the sky. While Mattel says this voice-recognition process is needed to make the doll interactive and respond to the kid, some parents are concerned that the company will be storing and analyzing the child’s conversations with NSA Barbie — or possibly be eavesdropping on the whole family.

And finally, the geek world lost another cherished icon last week with the death of Sir Terry Pratchett, British author of the Discworld series of fantasy novels. In honor of Sir Terry, fans and programmers have come up with a way to keep his name alive on the Internet based on a bit from his 2004 novel Going Postal. In the book, the Clacks, a telegraph-style communications system, was used to keep alive the name of one of the novel’s deceased characters by passing the code GNU John Dearheart endlessly back and forth across the network. So the fanbase came up with GNU Terry Pratchett, a snippet of code that can be added harmlessly to website HTML, mail servers and even WordPress blogs. Because:

GNUTP

PTJ 107: Naked Celebs and TV Streaming

El Kaiser has The Great Set Top Box Stream-Off of 2014 and J.D. takes a look at the geek-friendly shows the fall TV season has lined up for us.

In the news, a huge hacking scandal involving Apple’s iCloud and stolen intimate photos of various female celebrities; Apple includes restrictions in developer’s agreement for new iOS 8 HealthKit tool; Windows 8 and 8.1 slowly finds its way onto more computers; Google announces in-house drone program; the potential for drone traffic problems up in the sky; NASA gets ready to to perform some maintenance on its Mars rover; and the Internet Archive scans millions of book pages.

I Want My Geek TV

Streaming services and video-on-demand may have changed the way we consume television in recent years, but the broadcast networks still cling to the traditional fall debut for most of their new shows. This 2014-2015 season looks to have plenty of viewing options, especially for comic-book fans, so here are a few new shows (and some returning favorites) to consider for the recording queue:

  • gothamGotham is basically an origins tale centered around a young policeman named James Gordon, who’s on the force in a major city that’s very well-known in the DC Comics universe. Other residents of this urban sprawl include a young Bruce Wayne, Selina Kyle and Oswald Cobblepot — why yes, this is a Batman prequel now that you mention it. Gotham’s first season is scheduled for 16 episodes on Fox TV and the network has already released a 21-minute preview video to get fans in the mood. The show makes its debut on September 22nd.
  • flashThe Flash is another popular DC Comics character who’s getting another run on TV. The Scarlet Speedster, lands on the CW on October 7th. (That’s same network that shows the Arrow series, so rest assured, everyone in the cast will look fabulous.) Let’s see if this version does better than the 1990-91 edition with  John Wesley Shipp running around in that Flash suit that looked like it was made out of Play-Doh; Shipp even  has an acting gig in the this new 2014 series.
  • izombieiZombie, right out of the DC/Vertigo canon, will also be on the CW network. The show follows an overachieving Type A medical resident who gets turned into a zombie at a party. After she takes a job in the coroner’s office to earn a living and have access to a supply of delicious fresh brains, she also becomes a crimefighter when she realizes she absorbs the memories of the murder victims when she snacks on their gray matter. iZombie will be appearing mid-season, so look for it in early 2015. 

DC Comics may be dominating broadcast television, but let’s not forget that Netflix is also developing several series based on Marvel Comics properties, including a streaming reboot of Daredevil due out next year. Other members of Daredevil’s Defenders team— namely Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist — are expected to get their own Netflix series as well, with an all-star team-up Defenders series on the way, too.

LUCY LAWLESSAs for returning shows, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD survived its first year on ABC and is back with new episodes on September 23rd and Lucy Lawless (shown here) in the Season Two cast. Also on ABC, the fairy-tale action show Once Upon a Time is back September 28th for its fourth season and this year, it’s starting off with a live-action storyline from another Disney property, the animated blockbuster, Frozen.

The Big Bang Theory returns to CBS with its Season 8 opener not on its usual Thursday night, but on Monday, September 22, while the network’s Sherlock-in-New-York crime drama Elementary has a a third-season premiere on Thursday, October 30th. (You can thank Thursday Night Football on CBS for the odd dates and late-year starts.)  Big Bang’s September 22 premiere also puts it smack up against Gotham, and the return of Sleepy Hollow is also the same night on the Fox network, so set your DVRs accordingly.

selfieAnd one last program — not so much with superheroes or the supernatural, but possibly of interest to Doctor Who fans: Selfie, an ABC sitcom about a woman who has thousands of online followers but no actual friends. She hires a consultant to help her to ease off the social media and navigate real relationships with people. It stars former Doctor Who companion (and current Nebula) Karen Gillan and Reboot Sulu John Cho. The show premieres on September 30th, and after the recent cloud-based photo theft scandal, its title should definitely stick in people’s minds, even if the show doesn’t.

PTJ 62: The Swaggiest Swag In All The Land

Despite all the big tech news this week J.D. takes a few minutes to help El Kaiser work up the courage to cut the cable, um, cable. In the news Microsoft buys Nokia’s phone handset division; CBS and Time Warner finally make up; Big announcements at the IFA Berlin show;  Google acquires a smartwatch maker; U.S. retailer Target gets into the streaming video game; another government agency trips through U.S. phone records; and Skype celebrates its 10th birthday.

Ready Your Rabbit Ears

Even though the month-long hissyfit between CBS and Time Warner Cable finally ended this week, the notion that you can still watch your favorite shows without spending a huge chunk of money lives on. If you’re one of the viewers out there thinking of downsizing your monthly bills, here are a few options to consider for cheaper television:

  • Antennas. A good old-fashioned antenna won’t help for premium cable channels, but could yank down digital broadcast signal from the regular TV networks if you live within range and do not have any major obstructions. (Time Warner Cable was even offering a limited amount of free antennas at one point, with $20 coupons to pick up one at your local Best Buy instead; Radio Shack does some bang-up antenna business in some parts of the country too.) Next time you’re at the newsstand, check out the October issue of Consumer Reports magazine, which tests some digital antenna options priced between $10 and $80. Antennas in big cities can be hit or miss, but the magazine reported that testers got anywhere from no channels to more than 40 over the air. Consumer Reports also pointed out that even without a cable company-network dispute, an antenna could come in handy in other situations like ditching a set-top box for that bedroom TV you only use to watch network shows anyway, or as a backup if the cable service goes out. (Just remember that all TV signals are digital now after the switchover from analog a few years back, so your television set needs to either be digital or have a converter box attached to get the broadcasts with the antenna.)
  • Network Web sites and mobile apps. You may be able to watch some shows on the TV network’s own Web site or through its mobile apps. CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX and PBS all have some shows available.
  • Third-party streaming TV services. Although mired in legal battles of their own and not available everywhere, services like the Aereo and FilmOn can bring local broadcast channels right to your computer, tablet, smartphone or other compatible device. Aereo, which is available in New York, Boston, Atlanta and Salt Lake City so far, starts at $8 a month and also includes 20 hours of online DVR recording so you don’t miss your stories; your first month is free. FilmOn has a variety of subscription plans with $20 a month for HD streams as a starter course and you can pick up online DVR recording as well. You can also watch local broadcast stations in standard definition for free, with ads. And don’t forget Hulu or if you’re catching up on older seasons of some shows, Netflix.

rabbitears

  • Legal downloads. Many shows are available the next day from services like Amazon Instant Video and the iTunes Store. Sure, you may be paying a la carte (unless you’re an Amazon Prime member) and the show you want is available, but hey, a season pass for a couple of shows is cheaper than taking the family out to the movies in New York City. Plus, you don’t have to sit through commercials and you get to keep the show for rewatching whenever you want.
  • Slingbox. The Slingbox connects to a regular TV and lets you watch live and recorded shows from that TV over the Internet on your laptop or mobile device. The Slingbox isn’t cheap — $180 or $300 —depending on the model, but even if you keep the cable around, you can watch your shows in more places than just on the TV linked to the cable company’s set-top box.

If you do decide to totally slice the coax and lose the cable bill, you can put those savings toward a really nice television set or tablet. And the next time the local cable carrier starts dropping or blocking channels due to a corporate smackdown, you won’t have to care.

Episode 20: Find Your Inner Code Monkey

In a Hopefully Helpful Hint segment J.D. takes a look at some inexpensive websites that will show you how to become a programmer. In the news Google pushes for quality Android tablet apps; a new rumor making the rounds claims the aforementioned Google and Apple nemesis Samsung are teaming up to develop a Nexus branded 10″ tablet; and tech giants band together to create the Web Platform Docs project, a new community-driven site for web developer documentation.

Episode 10: Apple, Y U No Call It Cougar?

NBC and Twitter get taken to the woodshed, bots may be pumping up Facebook’s ad numbers, and rumors suggest Apple will launch iPhone 5 in a few weeks. Pedro on Apple’s 10.8 “Mountain Lion” version of their flagship OS and J.D. on changing the keyboard language of your mobile devices.

Gold Medal Apps for the 2012 Olympics

Need an app that lets you keep up with the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London? If you’re cruising the mobile Web on an Android or iOS device, quite a few await you. The London 2012 Organising Committee, for example, has three apps of its own, including Join In and Official London 2012 Results. The Results app is also available for BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 users. If you need to pass the time between events, there’s also a game app where you can actually play a few sports on the screen while you’re waiting to find out who won men’s single canoe slalom.

NBC, which has the U.S. broadcasting rights for the Games has a mobile Web site for phones with browsers, plus two apps for Android and iOS users. The NBC Olympics app offers live event updates, medal counts, video clips, photos and more. If you have a user name and password from your cable or satellite provider, you can use the NBC Olympics Live Extra app for real-time streams and full video replays of all 302 events in the Summer Games. (For those in the U.K., the BBC has its own app action.)

Want to know more about the athletes on the American squad? The United States Olympic Committee has a free app called Team USA. The USOC app takes a personal look at members of the US Olympic and Paralympic teams, with bios, photo galleries and video clips, plus social media connections for Facebook and Twitter. And if sports photography is your cup of tea, the Thomson Reuters news service also has its own London Olympics 2012 app for iOS devices. Now then, let the Games begin!

P.S. The official London 2012 mascots still kind of creep me out… Are they staring at you, too?