Facebook’s public-relations department probably had another busy week, with all sorts of walkbacks and investigations concerning the company’s products and practices. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss some of the major events, as well as changes to the way Twitter enforces its rules and the State of New York investigating the net neutrality comments wars. J.D. also offers a look at the SmartNews app — which as its name implies — tries to gather online news in an intelligent way. Set your nav computer for Episode 290!
Fresh off the latest Facebook user-abuse apology media tour and visit with the U.S. Congress, Mark Zuckerberg made a slew of announcements at this week’s F8 Developers Conference in California, which El Kaiser and J.D. discuss on this week’s episode — along with other news from the tech realm. Episode 271 also sports a quick look at the big geek movies headed into theaters this summer and an explanation of “malvertising.” Spin up this latest installment of Pop Tech Jam to hear it all!
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!
Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade has steadily grown more persistent since the software’s release last year, even to the point of practically hijacking a user’s computer to ram it on there. While the Windows forums have lit up with complaints, at least one dissatisfied customer has taken Microsoft to court over the unauthorized update. The plaintiff was awarded $10,000 to compensate for lost wages and the price of a new computer to replace the one banjaxed by an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft denied that it had done anything wrong and said it had dropped its appeal in the case to avoid additional legal expense. However, the company said it’s changing that sneaky dialogue box that starts the Windows 10 install when you click the “x” to close the box. (Also disappearing: The Xbox Fitness service.)
Due to copyright issues, many song lyrics sites used to be hosted on offshore servers, but now Google has cut a deal with the Toronto-based firm LyricFind to legally display lyrics in search results. The move both funnels money to the publishers and songwriters of the licensed songs — and might send a few people to Google Play Music as well.
Municipal lawmakers and the Airbnb site for easy short-term rentals have a contentious relationship in places like New York City and San Francisco because of local housing laws, and now the start-up is even suing San Francisco over a new law that says Airbnb hosts must register with the city first. The lawsuit contends that San Francisco is putting the burden on Airbnb to enforce the law by fining the site $1,000 for posting unverified-with-the-city listings on the site. As The New York Times points out, Airbnb originally helped write the law in the first place to quell protests from affordable hosing advocates. The New York Legislature also passed its own bill against Airbnb this month that would impose fines on apartments listed with the service that rent for less than 30 days if the leaseholder if not present. That bill awaits the governor’s signature.
Amazon has added a new feature to its Kindle apps and e-readers that’s designed to make it easier for you to wander around in an ebook without losing your place. The new tool is called, appropriately, Page Flip.
And finally, summer is here and if you need some projects to occupy the kids, Bose has a $150 BoseBuild Speaker Cube kit that shows kids how to make a Bluetooth speaker that works with an iOS device while also teaching them how the principles of sound and speakers work, along with magnets, electromagnets, frequency and waveforms.
Need another educational a summer project? Make has instructions on how to make a Wi-Fi Drone Disabler with a Raspberry Pi, some telnet scripts and a cantenna, but stresses this is an educational exercise to help you “understand the security risks of wireless communications.” Yes. Yes, it is.
Microsoft seems to be makingWindows Blue Screen of Death errors easier to deal with, at least if a recent Windows Insider build of Windows 10 is any indication. Beta testers there have noticed the appearance of handy, scannable QR code on the Blue Screen of Death messages that when zapped by a smartphone QR app, takes you to a Microsoft help page to begin your troubleshooting journey.
If you like making graffiti or ever had fantasies of being a football TV analyst where you get to draw on the video playback, Periscope has something for you. A new beta version of the live-streaming app owned by Twitter includes a tool that lets you draw on your video feeds.
Ransomware — malware that encrypts all the data on your computer until you pay up —has been making a comeback this year thanks to social engineering and the usual tricks, but the white hats are fighting back with a a decryption tool that can unlock files held hostage by the Petya ransomware. The decryption tool is a bit technical and probably not for the novice, but it’s a good punch in the fight against crime.
And finally, while Google Glass may have bombed as a consumer product, the Internet-empowered eyeglasses have found fans with neuroatypical kids. Stanford University’s Autism Glass Project is using the Google specs as a learning aid for autistic teenagers trying to learn social interactions, emotions, recognize facial expressions or even make eye contact. Stanford researchers have created special software to use with the glasses and early results have shown improvement in social acuity for some participants. Perhaps Google Glass has found its mission at last.
9to5Mac and other sources are now reporting that rumored Apple’s upcoming spring event has moved back a week from around March 15th and will now be in the week of March 21st. No invitations yet, though! It’s not real until you see the invitation!
One of Google’s self-driving cars smacked into a city bus in California last month, which has the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority investigating things. Google admitted its Lexus RX450h auto-piloted vehicle bears “some responsibility” for the incident.
McDonald’s has noticed the low-budget virtual-reality craze brought on by the Google Cardboard viewer and is busting a move of its own — in Sweden. The fast-food giant is launching a promotion there over the next couple weekends, and it lets kids fold their Happy meal boxes onto VR viewers to see a smartphone-based VR game especially created for the occasion. These special meal containers are called Happy Goggles and yes, you get fries with that.
Sony has a new beta out for its PlayStation 4 software. Although the version 3.5 beta doesn’t contain the feature that allows you to remotely play PS4 games on a Mac or PC, the feature is coming along sooner than many anticipated.
At last! Windows 10 was released this week and the early reviews are now rolling in. The Wall Street Journal said “Windows is actually useful again, assuming you still rely on a PC,” and “If you knew how to use Windows XP back in 2001, you’ve have no problem finding your way around Windows 10.” (So much for the Modern interface way of doing things.) The Verge chimes in with “Windows has a cycle. Windows XP saved us from Windows ME, Windows 7 saved us from the Windows Vista mess, now Windows 10 is here to save us from Windows 8. It’s nice to be on the good part of the cycle.” (If you live in New York City, you can go Windows shopping this fall, as Microsoft has plans to finally open that long-planned flagship Fifth Avenue store.
Samsung has a party of its own planned for New York. The company’s “Unpacked” media event is scheduled for August 13 and may include announcements of new phones are maybe even the company’s virtual-reality headset.
Google Search rolls out new feature that hows the “popular times” for restaurants and other venues known to have lines — so you can avoid those lines. (Google uses crowd-sourced congestion data to get the information.) And if you use the Google app on an Android phone, you can say “OK, Google” and have it send messages using WhatsApp, Vivber and other texting apps.
Speaking of Android, new phones are in the works. Motorola, now owned by Chinese electronics maker Lenovo, has just announced the Moto X Pure Edition and the Moto Play, unlocked Android smartphones that will cost $400 and $180 respectively. And if you’re looking for a big-featured, lower-priced smartphone, the OnePlus 2 — dubbed the 2016 Flagship Killer — is on the way.
After a month of turmoil, Reddit has lost another high-profile female employee. Jessica Moreno, the head of community for the site, has given notice.
Pandora is making its Sponsored Listening option available to all its advertisers. This now means listeners can get an hour of ad-free listening if you agree to watch a video ad ahead of time. No you do not get to pick the movie yourself.
And finally, more cars! ThinkGeek is making fans of Knight Rider very happy. The company just released its KITT USB Car Charger that looks just like the light-up voicebox in the car from the iconic 1980s TV series staring David Hasselhoff and the voice of William Daniels. The $30 dashboard attachment provides two USB ports for charging your gear on the go, along with 11 different audio clips from the show.
Shop now. You know you want it.
If you have a preferred weather or traffic app on your phone, this is the season to fire up those notifications because Mother Nature has a way of throwing a hissy fit and disrupting your plans. If there’s a storm on the way, a highway closed or a train line suspended, odds are you’d like to know about it ahead of time, right? Most specialized apps can be configured to push out alerts to warn you of impending events, so have them ping you when something’s up. Most major mobile platforms — Android, iOS and Windows Phone — let you configure notifications so you can turn them on and when you want.
As for traffic and transit, popular cross-platform apps like Inrix and Waze are good sources of highway and road information. If you do have to be out driving in bad weather, make sure you have an emergency kit in the trunk. The professional winter states of Wisconsin and Minnesota have especially good advice on this topic, and you can buy pre-made collections, like the AAA’s own Severe Weather Travel Kit. If you don’t have one already, it’s a good idea to get a car charger for your phone — just in case.
Weather emergencies can seriously affect mass-transit systems as well, and some more than others. (Seriously, have you ever tried to get around the DC Metro during a snow storm?) If you’re riding the rails, the iTrans app for iOS is available for several cities and offers service alerts. There’s also the Transit app for Android and iOS. If you’re a New Yorker, the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority has a whole page of mobile apps for various phone platforms to check out.
Other information sources, like Google Now (if it has your commute in its list of info cards) and Twitter’s emergency alerts can also be useful. And don’t forget, if you’re trying to fly out for a nice vacation in a warm place, get your airline’s app and sign up for alerts that may affect your flight.
It’s winter and in much of the country, that means the roads are a giant asphalt Slushee out there, so let’s be careful. In fact, let’s just stay home and watch some more Agent Carter.
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!
If Thanksgiving is next week, you can bet your sweet bippy it’s time for the Pop Tech Jam roundup of sites and services to make your journey home for the holidays slightly less tense. Whether you’re going air, rail or highway, here are some apps to consider ahead of Big Food Thursday.
Planes Navigating flight schedules, airport delays and other joys of modern domestic air travel this season? You can get mobile boarding passes and other tools from your airline’s app (and text alerts if anything affects your flight), but a good all-around air-travel app can help you track other flights besides your own. There are plenty to choose from — including Flight Aware, FlightTrack or FlightStats — for Android and iOS, and FlightAware also works on Windows Phone and Windows 8. The Flight Update line of travelware works for iOS devices. The Kayak mobile app, which can book flights, as well as track them, is also available for Android, iOS, Windows Phone and the Amazon Kindle Fire.
Trains If your journey home involves a locomotive of some kind, you have plenty of programs to handle schedules, travel alerts and often, tickets. The national rail company, Amtrak, has its own app, as do the major rail lines for the New York City area — including the Metropolitan Transit Authority (for the NYC subway and bus system), Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road.
If you’re sticking along the Northeast corridor, New Jersey Transit has an app for mobile tickets and information. If you’re in the Philly area, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has apps for Android and iOS. Farther north, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has apps and an online trip planner for those in the Boston area; Washington’s Metro has a similar site. The transit systems for Chicago and San Francisco have mobile options listed on their respective sites. Want an app or mobile site that can handle different mass-transit systems? Try and the Embark or HopStop.
Automobiles There’s nothing like the hell of holiday traffic, but with the right app, you may be able to get a heads-up before you get stuck in a maddening mass of highway congestion (or as many call it, I-95). Several popular apps use real-time crowd-sourcing along with other data to map out the road ahead, so check out Inrix, Waze or Beat the Traffic if you want to see what’s between you and your destination. For another angle, there’s Traffic Cam Viewer for Android or iOS, which taps into Internet-connected highway cameras for a bird’s-eye view of the road. And if you’ve got a long trip with a few stops along the way for bio-breaks and leg-stretching, apps like Road Ninja and iExit tell you want to expect at the end of each interstate off-ramp you pass.
On the road — but not doing the driving yourself? Check your local bus line for mobile offerings. Nationally, Greyhound, Trailways, the Bolt Bus and MegaBus have schedules, service advisories and other info online.
These are just a few of the hundreds of travel-related apps out there. Odds are, you may already have one or more if them loaded up on your device to help ease some of the uncertainly of travel. You don’t need that extra stress — after all, you’ll probably get enough of that from the family once you get there.
The independent audio magazine devoted to mashing up pop culture, technology and more. J.D. Biersdorfer and Pedro Rafael Rosado are your hosts. It's an Internet Radio revolution!