Net neutrality is on the ropes, Twitter is yanking back some of those Blue Badges of Verification, Project Loon is bringing Internet connectivity back to parts of Puerto Rico and Amazon’s cashier-replacement software is getting better. El Kaiser and J.D. ponder these stories and the rest of the week’s tech news. And don’t you just hate it when your laptop battery won’t old a charge anymore — or has conked out completely? This week’s (Hopefully) Helpful Hint discusses how to monitor your battery health and how to replace that power cell when the time comes. Episode 254 is just a click away!
Whether it be The Defenders kicking butt across the New York City zone of the Marvel Universe or NASA’s assorted spacecraft exploring the real universe, this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam has you covered. El Kaiser and J.D. get their geek on with plenty of chatter about comics, consumer technology and spaaaaaace! Won’t you join us?
After a two-week hiatus, El Kaiser and J.D. are back with the tech news of the week — including Amazon’s latest experiments for making money and Google Glass finally finding a home of sorts. And how about that Doctor Who announcement last weekend, eh? Oh, and if you have to ride the New York City subway system, do we have a tip for you!
Are we ready for the vending machines to silently judge us based on our snack habits? Some New Yorkers will find out soon as new models equipped with artificial intelligence are making their way to town. Meanwhile the disruptors are getting some disruption themselves, Facebook’s F8 conference brings new announcements, there’s a new Star Wars trailer out and El Kaiser and J.D. wonder if it’s time for iTunes to retire. Grab a bag of chips or your favorite meat-stick product and settle in for a listen here on Episode 231!
If you’re still clinging to a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 — even though the highly flammable device has been officially recalled — Samsung is coming for you with a phone-bricking update in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, the bacon emoji has arrives in iOS 10.2, Netflix is getting all up in the virtual reality and you can now use Dropbox from your Xbox. Also in this week’s episode, El Kaiser presents his Tech Term of 2016 and J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on replacing your smartphone battery. Just press Play!
It’s been a loooong campaign and Election Day is just a few weeks away. If you want to beat the crowds, J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on how to see if your state allows early voting — and what you need to bring to the polls. Meanwhile El Kaiser has a few new headphones to inspect. In the week’s tech news Google checks facts and flights, Samsung is still scrambling to douse the Galaxy Note 7 fires, Facebook Messenger has some suggestions for your online discourse and there is a squadron of Taunting Drones buzzing drivers south of the border. Want to find out more? Just press Play.
As reported in Wired, Google has added settings for its search users that ask if they want to see tailored ads based on age, gender, and search history to show up now on third-party sites as the ads currently do on Google sites. By opting in, users can edit and block ads they don’t like across any device logged in with a Google account. This compares to other ad networks, which require users to opt out of such personalization. Google has also reworked the history page where it hoards all of the old searches and viewing history you’ve previously done on Google and Google-owned sites. The new data locker is called My Activity and it allows you to log in and delete specific entries out of your search and viewing history. In case you need to.
Android N has a full name now: Android Nougat. (Hungry for a Snickers now?)
Is Big Brother 2016 watching you? Those free Wi-Fi kiosks with the video ads and phone-charging ports that are popping up around New York City streets the past few months, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates who say the kiosks can be used to spy on and collect information from people passing by them. As reported by the ReCode site after obtaining documents through public-records laws, Alphabet, parent company of Google, “wants to monitor pedestrian, bike and car traffic, track passing wireless devices, listen to street noise and use the kiosks’ built-in video cameras to identify abandoned packages.” Sidewalk Labs, the company behind the kiosks, said all data is anonymized, not sold to third parties and the cameras haven’t even been turned on. Still, the kiosks have found dedicated fans on the city streets: The New York Post reported some of the city’s homeless population was using the stations to watch free porn until the city remembered it had to put in URL filters.
The hacking of social media accounts has been in the news since a Mr. Mark Zuckerberg got jacked recently, and if you’re worried about your own Twitter account, BuzzFeed has an article up with tips on how to see if your account is vulnerable from third-party applications.
The Chicago man who hacked several celebrity iCloud and Gmail accounts in 2014 (and made actress Jennifer Lawrence extremely angry) is going to plead guilty. Edward Majerczyk could get up to five years in prison, a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after stealing user names and password through phishing.
Facebook announced last week that it is adding a new multilingual composer for users to write one post, but have it appear in multiple languages. Sounds like there could be some good machine-translation memes coming soon.
Comcast and Netflix have made nice and come to an agreement that will allow Netflix’s streaming video service on to Comcast’s set-top boxes. Netflix’s long march to be on every type of screen available continues.
No summer lull for us here at PTJ HQ! This week El Kaiser breaks down the tech term “social media engagement”, as only he can, and J.D. helps us satisfy our need for (Internet) speed. They also offer up a heaping helping of technology news, seasoned with a dash of snarkiness and whole lot of silliness.
Pop Tech Jam: still the best tech-themed podcast in the business!
On a more personal level, with more of our home entertainment coming from streaming media — and more of it in increasingly high-definition — keeping an eye on our network speeds is vital to a good, unbuffered experience. Netflix, one of the major video-streaming sites out there, knows this.
The site is just a simple page with a logo, white background and big numbers that tell you how fast data can download to your home over your broadband connection. It’s also got a memorable URL: https://fast.com. A small link on the main page gives you a chance to cross-reference your result with Ookla’s Speedtest site.
Now, some people claim that Internet speed tests are rigged because the ISP’s give them a fast lane when they sense a request from one of the testing servers, and that may be true in some cases — especially if you use a speed-test page provided by your own service provider. You may also get varying results depending on the time of day, the general state of Internet congestion and activity on your own network.
But keep testing, use different test sites and various times of day and let your ISP know when you’re not getting your advertised rate. Even if it’s a technical problem on your end like a weak connection or frayed cable, you want to make sure you get what you’re paying for because reliable broadband is an important part of modern life. Her Maj thinks so, too.
Also in the announcement pile: The company’s personal data-hoovering predictive helper program Google Now looks like it could be morphing into: Google Assistant (or as some would have it, just Google). No matter the name, it’s artificial- intelligence software that responds to natural language questions. Google also announced its Google Home smart speaker, clearly a rival to Amazon Alexa. As you might have guessed, Google Home is powered by . . . the new Google Assistant.
It’s not all Chewbacca Moms and kitten cams in Facebookland, however. The company is still smarting over the charges of bias against conservatives in its Trending News Topics content, responded with a letter to Senator John Thune after a meeting last week. Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch addressed the matter in blog post as well. (And for those of you still suspicious about algorithms, check out the “Machine Bias” story put up on the Pro Publica this week.)
As predicted, Twitter is pretty much going to give you all 140 characters to use for the text of your Tweet. Spotify is also giving a little back to its users in the form of an upgraded family plan that lets up to six family members enjoy the premium service, all for $14.99 a month. The new plan is available to Spotify users around the globe except, as an asterisk on the announcement indicated, *Excluding Canada. Do not be mean to Canada, Spotify.
Good and bad news for Microsoft this week. On the good side, the company announced it has awarded Affordable Access Initiative grants to 12 businesses to help them scale their products to increase affordable Internet access in worldwide communities. But on the bad-news side of the fence, a new report from the Gartner research firm concerning global smartphone sales for the first quarter of 2016 shows that Windows Phone sales have dipped below one percent. Some tech blogs already pronounced Windows Phone dead back in January and the sales numbers here seem to back that up.
After nearly 20 years, Blizzard Entertainment has moved past games based on Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft and has released an all-new game called Overwatch for the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Early reviews for the game note that it moves away from having players just kill the hell out of each other to more team-based competition and gamers can play one of 21 different characters. The pre-fab characters feature a mix of multiethnic, multispecies male and female characters, all with unique abilities and all out to restore peace to a war-torn world. That’s a skill that could come in handy these days.