Tag Archives: New York City

PTJ 244: Across the Universe

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?

Links to Stories in This Week’s Episode

 

PTJ 118: Get Off Our Lawn, Google

J.D. will help you get to your destination by plane, train or automobile as she runs down some useful travel apps just in time for the power eating U.S. holiday known as Thanksgiving.

El Kaiser finally gets an invitation to Google Inbox and…let’s just say things don’t go smoothly.

In the news the European Space Agency is still on comet duty;  AT&T gets called out by the FCC; the Federal Trade Commission has settles a score with TRUSTe; the US State Department gets hacked;  New York City plans to convert payphones into spiffy hotspots; Facebook continues spinning off features of its service; Disney partners with Walmart’s Vudu streaming service; and Google and Stanford University work on software that uses artificial intelligence to create descriptive photo captions.

Oh, and KaiserNet is finally active… MUAH HA HA HA!

PTJ 118 News: On It Like a Comet

The Rosetta mission rolls on and scientists at the European Space Agency continue to gather information about Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. After we recorded last week’s show, the Rosetta spacecraft released Philae, its small lander vehicle, onto the comet’s surface. The failure to harpoon itself to the surface — or get its solar panels in the right position to recharge its batteries — led to a shorter period of productivity than anticipated. However, there’s hope Philae could charge up its batteries if it gets a little sunlight. (The last commands the ESA were able to send the lander were for repositioning its solar panels.) Still, the lander hit a moving target way out there in space and Philae did send back some data before going dark, including evidence of organic molecules on the comet. And there’s the possibility a little sunpower will awaken it out of standby mode so it can get back to work. Philae, we salute you!

This week in Waiting for the Net Neutrality Decision news: AT&T got called out by the FCC after the telecom titan’s CEO said it may have to have to “pause” its planned 100-city high-speed Internet expansion plans due to the possibility of regulation. AT&T’s expansion plans, however, have been criticized as being vague, so the FCC sent a letter to the company asking for more information about this “expansion decision” and all documents related to it. AT&T has until November 21 to get back to the FCC with those details.

In other government-agency items of note, the Federal Trade Commission has settled a score with the TRUSTe privacy seal and certification company. Oh, the US State Department got hacked —officials said the unclassified branch of the agency’s email network was temporarily shut down this week to update security.

Payphones have never been the same since they stopped being private little rooms (and the cellphones took over anyway), but New York City has something in mind for the space and connections used by all those half-booths cluttering the sidewalks. The Mayor’s office has announced plans to convert that rotting old payphone infrastructure around town into spiffy new gigabit WiFi hotspots. A company called CityBridge is team up with the Big Apple on the LinkNYC project, which will eventually bring 10,000 “Links” — as the hot spot stations will be called — to the five boroughs. Here’s a mock-up of one in Brooklyn:

LinkNYC

Facebook has spun out the Groups function into its own standalone app. In a product announcement on the company blog, Facebook said, “we’re introducing a new Facebook Groups app that helps people share faster and more easily with all the groups in their life.” Groups, for those who don’t use them, can be public, private or secret online clubs for people all interested in the same topic or discussion. As for now, the company says you can still use Groups in the main Facebook app and on desktop. For now. (The Financial Times is reporting that so-called Facebook at Work site is in the works to provide professional networking and collaboration, but Facebook isn’t commenting.

Disney Movies Anywhere recently joined forces with Google and now the House of Mouse is linking up with Wal-Mart’s Vudu movie service. Disney Movies Anywhere is everywhere.

Apple released updates to both its Yosemite and iOS 8 operating systems this week. OS X 10.10.1 for Mac was intended to address Wi-Fi issues and other bugs some Mac folks have been complaining about for a month, but some users have posted on Apple support forums that the update still hasn’t fixed their disappearing Wi-Fi connections. The iOS 8.1.1 update was intended to improve performance on older hardware like the iPad 2 and iPhone 4s.

mica1Two items of note from the Wonderful World of Wearables. For one, Intel is getting into the jewelry business and teaming up with fashion firm Opening Ceremony on a fancy Internet-connected bangle called the MICA, also known as the My Intelligent Communication Accessory. One of the models is shown here, and yes, it costs around $500. And second in wearable news:  Fitbit data is now being used as evidence in court.

Streaming music service are having a bad month. First, Taylor Swift pulls her albums from Spotify, sending millions of teenage girls into a panic, and now Sirius XM lost a copyright battle in US district court with the 1960s rock band, The Turtles and may have to start paying for older music. (Also not having a good PR month: Uber.)

Google and Stanford University have been working together on software that uses artificial intelligence to more accurately describe the contents of photographs that previous programs. The rise of the machines starts with descriptive photo captions, folks.

hamAnd finally, Thanksgiving is next week and the gang over at Google Maps has looked at traffic conditions in 21 American cities for the past two years to figure out the worst and best times to leave for that homeward journey. (Hint: Wednesday afternoon blows.) Also, get your booze, pie and ham early if you want to avoid crowds.

DUBS Acoustic Filters Take You From “Say What?” to “I Hear That!”

I make my living with my ears so it would be foolish, and more than a little irresponsible, if I didn’t take care of them. The older I get, the more diligent I am in my efforts to prevent hearing loss.

Rock and Hip Hop concerts are out, so are clubs and large scale sporting events.  On the rare occasion that I attend one of the above I cram my ears full of uncomfortably bulky earplugs or big, honking wads of cotton.

Longtime listeners of the show know El Kaiser has worked extremely hard at eliminating bulk and the only “wad” he’s interested in would be the cash one he dreams of someday carrying in his pocket.

getdubs-case-pink@2xWhen a friend passed along some DUBS acoustic filters I scoffed. $25 dollars for ear plugs? Calling them “advanced tech ear plugs” read like a bunch of marketing hoo-hah.

Puhleeze.

Longtime listeners of the show know El Kaiser likes to save money and detests marketing hoo-hah. He also really, really likes scoffing.

DUBS claims to reduce volume without sacrificing the clarity of sound. The reusable earplugs feature something called “Dynamic Attenuation” that promises to deliver optimal hearing protection while preserving sound fidelity.

getdubs-tech-filters

Doppler Labs are focused on developing products they’ve dubbed (pun intended) “hearables” — wearable technology for the ears and DUBS is their first product. They pledge that “whether you’re in the city, at a concert, on a plane or at the game, the DUBS protect your ears to keep you going louder, longer.”

By the way, did I mention these little suckers are very, very stylish?

Longtime listeners of the show know El Kaiser likes style almost as much as he likes saving money. Oh yes. Yes he does.

I tested the DUBS at a concert in New York City’s famed Madison Square Garden and on the infamous New York City subway. The DUBS performed exactly as advertised.

When the express trains rumbled through my regular station stop I used the snazzy pink DUBS ear plugs to help mitigate the thunderous clatter. The 12 decibal noise reduction made the commute bearable without the disconcerting muffled silence you get with traditional plugs or the ringing in the ears you get from turning up the volume way too loud on your media player.  At the concert the DUBS made the din bearable and several concertgoers complimented me on them.

getdubs-designed-differentWhile there are several cheaper alternatives to the $25 dollar DUBS from companies like Etymotic, Hearos and Earpeace none come close to matching the Doppler Labs ear plugs in design. The DUBS will keep your ears healthy without sacrificing your swag.

DUBS acoustic filters will be available for sale beginning September 27th, 2014 with an official launch at the Global Citizen Festival in NYC’s Central Park.  Best Buy retail stores will carry them in early October.

Longtime listeners of the show know El Kaiser believes Noise Induced Hearing Loss is a serious problem. Keep all your senses healthy!

PTJ 104: Internet Security? No Such Thing.

This week cybercriminals made off with billions of usernames and passwords from hundreds of thousands of websites around the world and El Kaiser was, not surprisingly, more than a little upset about it.  Sensing Pedro’s imminent panic attack, J.D. cheers him up with a segment on how to buy a new gadget at its peak of freshness.

In other news,  the Rosetta probe from the European space agency has caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko; The Shaknado sequel is a hit on TV and on social media networks;  it is once again legal to unlock your mobile phones; the Department of Transportation considers banning cellphone voice calls on commercial flights; Google helps law enforcement apprehend a pedophile; researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology develop an algorithm that constructs an audio signal from a video based on vibrations; and concerned Facebook users called 911 and the Los Angeles’s Sheriff’s Department after the social media behemoth suffers a short outage.

No, we are not kidding.

PTJ 104 News: Hack ‘n’ Sack

Here we go again — Internet Security Freakout! The New York Times reported late on Tuesday that a Russian gang of cybercriminals made off with 1.2 billion usernames and passwords from 420,000 websites around the world, (as well as 500 million email addresses), all with botnets and malware. The Milwaukee-based company Hold Security discovered the stolen data, but wouldn’t say which websites were affected due to confidentiality agreements with its clients. (Not helpful to the rest of us, Hold Security.)

Although snagging credentials off compromised websites was one big way the infohaul was reeled in, a few online observers have suggested that the Russian gang may have also bought chunks of the stolen data from other hackers. This may mean some of the information may be old and out of date, especially after the Heartbleed panic earlier this year when responsible folk went and changed all their passwords then, too. Other sites, like The Verge, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes have noted Hold Security was awfully quick to capitalize on the heist. (The Washington Post took a look at Hold Security itself and had some interesting observations.)

So what can you do to protect yourself? No one knows yet exactly which websites were affected, so let’s just assume it was All of Them. The Times posted some tips for dealing with the breach, so start there. And it may be time to break down and get a password-manager programs like LastPass or 1Password,  as this sort of Massive Data Protection FAIL  is unfortunately starting to become a regular occurence.

For happier news, we go to outer space, where the Rosetta probe from the European space agency has finally caught up with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko after a 10-year chase. Rosetta is now orbiting the comet and sending back photos, and yes, the pictures are on its Facebook page — or rather the European Space Agency’s Facebook page. Good hunting, Rosetta!

sharknado2Sharknado 2: The Second One, the sequel to last year’s unexpected pop-cult powerhouse, grabbed 3.9 million viewers on its original airing last Wednesday on the SyFy Channel and dominated trending topics lists. The film reportedly delivered one billion mentions in Twitter conversations throughout the day of its broadcast. The cameo-filled sequel was set in New York City and another sequel is on the way.

Some more good news: It’s now perfectly legal once again to unlock your mobile phone from the carrier you bought it from, so you can use it with another company’s compatible network after your contract runs out.  President Obama signed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act on August 1st.  In other government-and-phones news, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Department of Transportation is considering a rule to ban cellphone voice calls on commercial flights to, within and from the United States. Here’s hoping!

In other law-enforcement matters, Google recently alerted authorities to illegal images in the account of a particular Gmail user after illegal child-pornography images were detected during an automatic scan. Google had discussed its efforts in stopping child porn with London’s Daily Telegraph last year, but the news of the arrest got some privacy advocates worried about what companies can do with your mail. (Google said this is the only crime it scans for in Gmail.) In addition to its own VideoID software, Google and other companies also use Microsoft’s PhotoDNA and Friend MTS’s Expose F1 forensic programs to scan for photos and videos depicting abuse.

 

It’s the height of summer and the hackers are gathering in Las Vegas for their annual Black Hat and DEF CON conventions. Black Hat started last weekend, and in addition to a demonstration about how USB devices have huge security issues, another consultant was preparing to show how the satellite communications gear on passenger gets could be hacked by going through the aircraft’s in-flight entertainment and onboard WiFi systems.

bhc

Meanwhile, another presentation at the conference dealt with spoofing signals in wireless key fobs to unlock cars. Corporate America, please pay attention, okay? That includes you, Wearable Computing Developers. That’s because the security firm Symantec got itself a $75 Raspberry Pi computer and wrote up a blog post describing how easy it is to track people with fitness monitors and other wearable tech through wireless protocols and other security holes in the apps and software.

Prawn-CocktailAlgorithms are everywhere. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology just announced that some of its researchers, along with scientists from Microsoft and Adobe, developed an algorithm that accurately reconstructs an audio signal from a video based on vibrations. In one experiment, the researchers were able to reconstruct intelligible speech from a potato-chip bag filmed 15 feet away from the camera and through soundproof glass.

The CEO of Verizon Wireless threw shade at the chairman of the FCC over a letter the agency sent to Big Red expressing concern over treatment of customers with unlimited plans. In a blog post, Verizon had outlined what it calls its Network Optimization policy, in which bandwidth for heavy users is scaled back during peak times on overcrowded sites. Verizon 3G hogs have been “optimized” for years, but the FCC only spoke up when the company recently announced it was also going to start throttling 4G LTE users this fall. Among other points in its rebuttal, Verizon said its practices were consistent with the reasonable network management definitions laid out in the 2010 Open Internet Order and other companies were doing the same thing. So there.

Comcast, which has not had a lot of good press lately, announced this week that it will be providing up to six months of free Internet access to low-income families as part of its Internet Essentials program. Requirements for the program include being in an area where Comcast has service and having at least one child eligible for the National School Lunch Program.

Let the frothing begin: the Re/Code site is now reporting that Apple’s iPhone 6 event will be on September 9th.  

And finally, as millions noticed last Friday, Facebook suffered a major site outage. During this time, some concerned Facebook users called 911 and the Los Angeles’s Sheriff’s Department. Others took a more thoughtful approach and used the outage as an opportunity to study  Web traffic. The Chartbeat blog found that Web traffic to news sites dropped 3 percent and showed how social media drives visitors to other sites. The countries affected by the outage included the United States, India and Chile, so it did not seem to be a worldwide crash.

911

That may seem like a big dent, but compare it to last year when Google took a dive: experts said world Internet traffic dropped by 40 percent. So in addition to keeping your password-manager program at the ready these days, you may also want to pack a book for those times when various parts of the Net are down. And don’t pester 911 because Facebook or Google crashing IS NOT AN EMERGENCY. Just think of it as an offline disco nap and take a break.

PTJ 94: How Soon Is (Google) Now, Fellow Netizen?

El Kaiser looks at the Tech Term “netizen” and explains how the once innocuous mashup of “Internet” and “citizen” has come to represent a responsibility all of us should not take lightly.

In her (Hopefully) Helpful Hint segment J.D. takes a look at Google Now, the interactive virtual assistant from the “Big G” and tells us how it is slowly evolving and trying to stand out when compared to Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.

In the news  AT&T has sealed the deal to buy DirectTV;  YouTube rumored to be buying the videogame-streaming company Twitch;  FBI arrests over 90 suspected cyber-criminals;  Verizon continued rolling out its zippier XLTE service across the country;   and Facebook is testing an Ask button on user profiles allowing a user to inquire about  the relationship status of your online acquaintance.

PTJ 94 News: The Urge to Merge

Spring is in the air and plenty of companies seem to be in a spending mood. For starters, AT&T has sealed the deal to buy DirectTV for close to $49 billion dollars. (AT&T can walk away from the agreement the National Football League decides to take its NFL Sunday Ticket package elsewhere.) Yes, opponents of the pending Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal and telecom mergers in general are also speaking out about this one, too.

Although neither party is talking yet, Variety reports that YouTube, owned by Google, has crafted a deal to buy the videogame-streaming company Twitch for one billion dollars. While it had the checkbook out, Google also bought a company called Divide for an undisclosed purchase price. And while it’s not a done deal, the Re/Code site reports that Twitter may be considering an acquisition of SoundCloud.

On to fighting crime: Manhattan US Attorney and the FBI Assistant Director-in–Charge announced more than 90 arrests and law-enforcement actions in a massive global cyber-law enforcement operation. Meanwhile, the United States Department of Justice has unsealed an indictment of five members of Unit 61398 of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on hacking charges.  (In a probably unrelated incident, China has banned the use of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system on its own government computers.)

Although the Asian market may have just gotten a bit smaller with the news, Microsoft announced some new hardware this week. Going against the trend of smaller tablets, the company unveiled a bigger version of its Windows-based Surface Pro tablet. The Surface Pro 3 has a 12-inch diagonal high-def screen and a bunch of other laptop-like features.

In happier news back home, Verizon is revving up the 4G LTE networks for some of its customers down south in Alabama. The new technology, called XLTE offers more wireless capacity and improved performance for wireless data customers; Verizon has been steadily adding XLTE service in many other markets around the country, including New York City. (If you’re burning your battery down uploading all those photos on the superfast network here in the Big Apple, be sure to visit one of AT&T’s mobile charging stations around town — all five boroughs get some love.)

streetcharge

In addition to thinking up new rules for Net Neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission does enforce other laws relating to telecommunications. The FCC Enforcement Bureau has come down on Sprint with a $7.5 million spanking for its failure to respect the Do Not Call List.

And finally, in case you were wondering if a certain friend is single or in a relationship, Facebook is testing an Ask button on user profiles that lets you send a gentle inquiry as to the relationship status of your acquaintance. So let’s see if Facebook’s statistics for blocks and unfriending go up in the next few weeks — or perhaps the arrival of the Step Off reply button.

Sorry Johnny T and the NFL, New York City Is PTJ Territory

Let me just set the record straight: Super Bowl 48 (I don’t do Roman Numerals) is NOT in New York City. The Giants and Jets abandoned us decades ago for Northern New Jersey and THAT is where the game will be played.  No dome.  No warm weather climate.  Just a New Jersey swamp.  I, of course, have christened this event the “Swamp Bowl”.  Let Bill Lumbergh break it down for us:

FCjE0MV

[BTW: I really dislike that whole blue shirt, white collar look. It’s so indecisive.  Pick a color and stick with it, dangit. ]

Now don’t go thinking I’m hating on the Garden State because I’m not.  Personally, I think New Jerseyans should be offended. The NFL’s massive marketing machine has gone out of its way and are pulling out all the stops to brand this as a New York event. Why all the heat for Jersey?  It has to sting a little if you live on the paying side of the George Washington Bridge.  Of course the game’s proximity to my beloved Big Apple ensures this side of bridge will be overrun with people looking for the sights, sounds, and experiences only the greatest city on the planet can offer.

This week on the show I discuss some of my favorite apps designed to help tourists get around and enjoy their time in New York City.

New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority offers an app gallery at their  website with a variety of free and paid apps that will help you get around using mass transit.

If you need more practical tips for your trip to New York City, take a peep at this video from a puppet with almost as much attitude as El Kaiser:

 

Episode 52: Look, Up In The Sky!

J.D. has a Helpfully Helpful Hint about how to avoid comment trolls and Pedro gives us his thoughts on the two big superhero films of the summer, “Man of Steel” and “Iron Man 3”. In the news, Facebook adds hashtags; Samsung plans to give away Jay-Z’s new album to Galaxy smartphone owners; Microsoft drops the price of the Surface RT tablet; and Yahoo continues its spending spree.