Tag Archives: Pandora

PTJ 226: The Sound of Hacking

The Pi Day Northeast Blizzard of 2017 may have blown through, but El Kaiser is still powering through a nasty winter cold to get to this week’s tech and science news with J.D. — which features quite a bit of hacker activity, as well as an update on our old friend Boaty McBoatface. Episode 226 here also takes a look at public beta programs you can join to see the latest software first. Interested? Just push play to find out more!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 168 News: Reality Check

The world can be a very scary place and it got worse last week with multiple attacks on civilians overseas. As one might expect,  government officials from various countries (including France) are again calling for access into encrypted message apps.  Belgian officials have also said that prior to the Paris carnage, terrorists had been hiding their communication using online gaming tools like Sony’s PlayStation 4. The activist collective Anonymous announced on YouTube and Twitter this week that it was going after ISIS and stepping up its ongoing efforts to knock the group’s social media and websites offline. The chaos in Paris last Friday prompted Facebook to turn on its Safety Check feature but the site received criticism for not making the tool available to those who were in Beirut during the attacks there the previous day. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed the issue on his profile page. Going forward, the company plans to make Safety Check available for other tragic incidents around the world. It’s becoming a common — yet depressing — aspect of modern life online.

Now, moving on to news that hopefully makes one less despondent about the state of the world…

Google has tweaked its search app to help it better understand the questions you ask it. According to a blog post on the Inside Search site, Google search now understands superlatives in questions as well as questions relating to data in certain points of time. Google is also on the hunt for people to legitimately review businesses and services for its Google Maps app and is offering one terabyte of Google Drive storage for those who contribute regularly to the Local Guides program. And the company’s $85 computer-on-an-HDMI-Stick Chromebit device is rolling out now.

cbit

The Pandora streaming music service has bought parts of Rdio, another streaming music service, for $75 million dollars, acquiring its under-the-hood technology and design. While the deal is contingent on the acquired firm filing for bankruptcy, Rdio posted on its site that its customers would not see an immediate interruption, for the time being, anyway. Advertising Age reports that Pandora plans to start a subscription-based, on-demand version of its music-streaming service.

While Apple has often been lauded for its visual product aesthetic over the years, an essay on the Fast Company site says the fruit-themed toymaker is actually giving design a bad name. If you find user experience and interface design interesting — or find iOS 7 and later insanely hard on the eyes and mind — check out the essay.

Back to more privacy issues, but this time in regards to protecting your personal data from advertisers if you have one of Vizio’s smart TV sets. The ProPublica public interest site has a story on how Vizio Smart TVs track what you watch and sell the information to advertisers. Cable TV and video rental companies are banned by law from doing this sort of thing, and other smart TV companies like Samsung and LG have viewer tracking as an opt-in policy. Vizio’s so-called “Smart Interactivity” tracking is on by default, but there is a way to opt-out if you make the effort.

brownzuneAnd from the Department of We Forgot It Still Existed, Microsoft has now retired its Zune music service this past weekend. Once a challenger to Apple’s might iPod empire, the Zune hardware and software launched in 2006 and the hardware was discontinued in 2011.  Old Zunes will work as stand-alone music players and the four remaining Zune music service subscribers have been switched over to the Groove music platform.

Microsoft’s Windows 10 November Update has been rolling out to users. While the three-gigabyte download brings new features and big fixes, it has created some problems of its own, like deleted or changed default apps and other issues. While the Xbox One game console also got an update, Microsoft representatives said another big update in February.

Oxford Dictionaries has picked it 2015 Word of the Year and it’s not even technically a word — it’s the emoji called Face With Tears of Joy. Oxford University Press partnered with SwiftKey to explore frequency and usage statistics for some of the most popular emoji across the world, and Face With Tears of Joy was chosen because it was the most used emoji globally in 2015.

And finally, last week, Disney/Lucasfilm announced that Star Wars was going to be part of the Hour of Code this year and this week Microsoft announced it was adding a Minecraft coding tutorial to the event. Although Computer Science Education Week isn’t until Dec. 7th–13th, kids can jump in early with the Minecraft module, which is up and running now.  Go forth and code, folks, and lets build things instead of tearing them down.

minecraft

PTJ 160 News: Vroom Vroom

Well, well, well… According to a report in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Apple is committed to producing an electric car and aims to have it tooling down the road by 2019. So I guess we’ll pencil in that grand demo for September 10th, 2019, eh?

pencilThe stuff that Apple did announce on this past September 9th is finally starting to roll out. iOS 9 hit the download channels last Wednesday and already has a 50-percent adoption rate among users with compatible iOS devices. The second version of the Apple Watch OS also arrived this week after a short bug delay. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus begin to land in stores and delivery trucks on Friday. The 4th generation of the Apple TV is due out in late October (even though iFixit has already found one and torn it down to see how it works) and the iPad Pro with the optional $100 Pencil is due in November. Apple is also issuing the rare refund in its App Store after the creator of the $3 Peace ad-blocker for iOS had second thoughts over ethics and yanked his app .

kindleAmazon is not letting Apple grab all the TV and tablet press, though. Last week, the company announced a new gaming edition of its Fire TV box, and an update to its Fire TV box that brings 4K streaming and the Alexa voice-controlled assistant. Amazon also rolled out a version of its Fire tablet for less than $50, beefier upgraded hardware for its other Fire tablet models and well as a $100 Kindle Fire tablet for kids. Choices, there are choices.

Dot-Com Collapse II on the way, or just a little wobble? Collective discounts site Groupon announced this week that it was cutting 1,100 jobs and closing down operations in at least seven countries as part of a restructuring plan. And Oyster, the so-called Netflix-for-reading company announced it was shutting down its e-book subscription service it launched in 2012. According to Re/code, however, a number of Oyster employees are headed to Google to shore up the Google Play Books store

Speaking of Google, the company just updated its Wallet app for iOS. Like the previously released Android app, the revamped Google Wallet now emphasizes sending money to friends instead of paying for merchandise in a store.

office16Also revamped and updated: Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows. It’s available to Office 365 subscribers who are paying $100 or $70 a year after the free trial period. The Home & Student edition is also available as a one-time purchase for a price of $150. Microsoft is also making its Office 2016 for Mac available for a one-time purchase. (Some people, however, prefer LibreOffice, iWork for iCloud, Google Docs or even Office Online.)

beretIn legal news, the French government agency that regulates data has rejected Google’s appeal in the right-to-be-forgotten. At this stage of the process in the French legal system, Google has no legal possibility to appeal the order and may have to pay a fine if it doesn’t comply. Russia is also mad at Google and accused the company of violating Russian anti-monopoly laws earlier this month. Penalties may ensue there as well.

vinylPandora is having a better time of it with legal matters. The music-streaming service said it was pleased that the U.S. Copyright Office agreed that Pandora’s agreement with Merlin Network, a global rights agency for independent musicians, was admissible as a benchmark in royalty proceedings. A panel of three judges known as the Copyright Royalty Board has been working on setting royalties for Internet radio and is expected to have a decision in mid-December. (Also in the music world, the Recording Industry Association of America reports that while total revenue was essentially flat for the first half of 2015. Vinyl sales were rising, though!)

And finally, the Onion humor site, which started the ClickHole spin-off for goofy viral video, is having a go at the countless celebrity gossip sites online. The Onion’s new site is called StarWipe. Decked out with hot pink and bright blue accents, Star Wipe currently features such headlines as “Emmys Photos We Can’t Stop Staring At Even Though We’re Supposed To Be Controlling Air Traffic” and “Rihanna Says She And Taylor Swift Have Different Fan Bases, Has Clearly Never Been To University Of Missouri Party.” StarWipe is just starting out and still has a way to go to top some of ClickHole’s triumphs like “Yes! Ham Goes Up an Escalator.” Oh, let’s watch that one again shall we?

PTJ 152 News: Roll The Windows Down

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 5tharound 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+ Photos got kicked to the curb last week and now we’re seeing signs of the Google+ empire getting further dismantled. The company announced this week that it was doing away with the requirement to have a Google+ profile in order to use many Google services like Gmail and YouTube. (While Google+ was busy extracting itself from other Google services, the department did have some time to do a little study on promotional app interstitial advertisements.)

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.

hackdroidNot all is groovy in Android Land, however. Researchers at Zimperium have uncovered a security flaw in Android 2.2 and later that makes it possible to get hacked through a malware-infected text message. Patches have been written but are slow rolling out, given the huge number of carriers and companies who make the estimated 950 million Android phones out there.

Apple reported big fat profits in its quarterly earnings statement last week, and signs point to the Apple Watch doing better than anticipated. While it won’t likely be the overhyped posh personalized shopping journey as the Apple Store offers, Best Buy will start selling the Apple Watch on August 7th.

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.

nsaThe National Security Agency is going to start wiping those bulk phone records it’s been hoovering up as part of the Patriot Act. In June, President Obama signed a law called the USA Freedom Act that prevents the NSA from storing the phone records and forces the agency’s investigators to request the files form the phone companies if they are needed for a case. The NSA will stop using the existing records by November 29th.

In other government news, New York Senator Chuck Schumer announced he want to provide $60 million dollars in funding for a technology that would disable a car if it senses the driver is drunk. The technology here is called Driver Alcohol Detection System for chuckSafety, or DADDS and the bill, which was introduced earlier this summer in the House as well, is called The Research of Alcohol Detection Systems for Stopping Alcohol-related Fatalities Everywhere (ROADS SAFE) Act of 2015. DADDS uses breath and touch sensors to determine a driver’s blood alcohol level and disable a vehicle if the level is above the legal limit.

And while we’re talking about cars, Fiat Chrysler is recalling 1.4 million cars and trucks to update software that has been proven vulnerable to hackers — a concept they’ve been proving at DefCon since at least 2013.

kittAnd 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.

PTJ 75: The Scintillating 75th Episode

With the pain of losing Google Reader still fresh and Feedly a disappointment after repeated missteps, El Kaiser looks at RSS feed aggregators. J.D. breaks down the differences between Ultrabooks and notebooks and helps us make the right choice between the two laptop flavors. In the news, a campaign encouraging kids to try computer coding; several technology companies issue a joint statement calling for restrictions on US government spying; Microsoft helps users know when and where their accounts have been used; Google continues to add apps to its Chromecast TV streamer; and predicting weather patterns for Middle Earth.

PTJ 75 News: Cloudy With a Chance of Orcs

Welcome to the tail-end of Computer Science Education Week! This year, a campaign called Hour of Code encourages kids to try computer coding for just one hour to see what it’s like; you can find out more at Code.org. Supporters of the event, including the author Douglas Rushkoff say in order to be a smart and savvy consumer of modern technology, you have to know how it works.

reformExecutives at several major technology companies — including Google, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yahoo — have issued a joint statement calling for new legal restrictions on US government Internet surveillance programs. The group letter was addressed to President Obama and the United States Congress. And the full text can be found at ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com. (In a somewhat related story, Pro Publica, The Guardian of London and The New York Times reported this week that the NSA and the CIA have also been spying on gamers.)

Microsoft is stepping up security to help users know when and where their Microsoft Accounts have been used. The company is adding a Recent Activity page where users can log in and see all the times and locations of sign-ins, failed sign-ins due to incorrect passwords, security challenges and password-reset requests.

A couple of new iOS updates arrived this week: the latest version of the Pandora app now includes an alarm clock mode, and Amazon’s Cloud Drive Photos app now works on iPad and iPad Mini hardware. And Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition will hopefully arrive in the App Store later this month.

Google announced that 10 new apps have been added to its $35 Chromecast TV streaming dongle and fans of Google Street View may be happy to know that Google is now allowing users to create their own Street View images. (FYI, work has stalled on the Google Mystery Barge out near San Francisco, as the project is on “hiatus” until spring, much like a cable-network TV show.) What isn’t a mystery anymore is how Google might start making some money from its Google+ social network. This week, the Big G introduced a new ad type called +Post, which lets advertisers turn Google+ content into expandable display advertisements. The +Post system is still in the beta stage, but Toyota USA, Cadbury UK and Ritz crackers are among the early adopters.

Advertising is everywhere, especially in social media, but some companies have found that maybe some occasions aren’t appropriate for promoting your brand. Case in point, Campbell Soup apologized last weekend for a tweet from the SpaghettiOs account that featured the grinning circular noodle holding an American flag and encouraging followers to remember Pearl Harbor Day. Those who like to mock through creative use of image-editing software also had a field day with the tweet and transplanted the SpagehttiOs mascot into a variety of inappropriate situations.

Meanwhile, up on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity Rover is still hard at work. Researchers on the project published six different papers this week.

And finally, a British climate researcher at the University of Bristol has taken J.R.R. Tolkein’s detailed maps from his books, plugged the info into a supercomputer and predicted weather patterns for Middle Earth. Dr. Dan Lunt did the work in his spare time and said the climate models he used were based on the fundamental understanding of science. He’s published a mock paper called “The Climate of Middle Earth” and it’s available in English, Dwarvish and Elvish. Perhaps it’s time for a little light reading before heading out to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug this weekend?

PTJ 73 News: MAVEN and Mavis

The Console Race is on! The Sony PS4 went on sale last Friday in North America and has already made a lot of money, selling more than one million units in the first 24 hours of release. As with any massive launch, there were reports of server overload and dud consoles harshing some gamer joy, but Sony’s PS4 support site and live chat technicians are trying to keep up with and resolve the complaints. Microsoft’s Xbox One enters the fray later this week.

Samsung says its sold 800,000 units in the two months since it released the $300 Galaxy Gear. And Bloomberg News is reporting that leaks from “people familiar” with the company’s future plans point to an upcoming Galaxy smartphone next year with a three-sided display that wraps around the edges of the handset so messages can be read at an angle.

Google announced this week that it will soon display warnings above the search results on 13,000 terms it believed are associated with child sexual abuse and pornography; Microsoft is following suit with Bing. While the companies first made the change at the request of Prime Minster David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Google said it plans to display the warnings worldwide. Detractors of the new policy question its usefulness as pedophiles tend to surf anonymously.

As many news organizations reported late last week, Facebook has amended its privacy policy to basically say, why yes, we are gonna use anything of yours that you post that we want to and turn it into advertising to bombard your friends. Meanwhile, Marissa Mayer over at Yahoo took to the corporate blog this week with a post titled “Our Commitment to Protecting Your Information.” In the post, she reiterated Yahoo’s commitment to keeping its users mail private and away from the watchful gaze of snoops, governmental or otherwise.

Sprint and Best Buy are teaming up to help out students this holiday season. Those young academics who buy a smartphone with Sprint service from Best Buy, will get a free year of unlimited talk and text on the phone and one gigabyte of data month. The iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S class and several LG models are included in the deal, but keep in mind that because you’re buying the phone without a two-year contract, you’re paying full price for the device up front.

Slingbox — that handy piece of hardware that hooks up to your TV and lets you watch your programs on tablets and computers over the Internet — has updated its apps for Android and iOS to add support for the Roku box. The new SlingPlayer 3.0 is available now and an app for Windows 8.1 is due next month.

The Google Play Music app has also arrived for iOS at last, optimized for the iPhone and ready to go. Those with iOS devices can now stream their $10 a month Google Music All Access subscriptions although new users on Apple gadgets get that first month free. All Access is Google’s stake in the online radio station game where Pandora and iTunes Radio also play, but unlike other services, Google’s radio does not limit the amount of songs listeners can skip.

Also in the Google-Apple mix, the Big G has agreed to pay $17 million dollars to 37 states and the District of Columbia to settle that lawsuit over Google blowing by the privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser. In brighter legal news, Google did win 8-year-old library book-scanning lawsuit last week.

CNN Money and other sites are reporting that some of the Android sales figures may be erroneously based on so-called Android TV sticks and set-top boxes commonly used in certain parts of the world to bootleg movies. But on a more legitimate commerce note, Google is opening snow-globe-shaped popup stores called Winter Wonderlabs in six cities around the country. Step into the globe and check out the Google merch.

If you were planning on making a trip top New York City to see the Broadway musical, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark, you may want to hurry. The big-budget show, which had a very rocky and accident-plagued start, is scheduled to close in New York early next year and move to Las Vegas for a run beginning in 2015.

cowrobotOxford Dictionaries has announced its Word of the Year and the 2013 winner is….selfie.  And speaking if Australia, researchers at the University of Sydney are testing a four-wheeled robot to herd cows.

In NASA news, the agency successfully blasted off its Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission on Monday from Cape Canaveral. When it arrives, hopefully on September 22, 2014, the 8-foot, cube-shaped MAVEN spacecraft will fall into an elliptical orbit above the Red Planet to study the atmosphere.

Celebrations and anticipations for the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who are running high this week. The special episode, “The Day of the Doctor” will be globally simulcast around the world this Saturday. In the meantime, you can find plenty of interviews, episode marathons and retrospectives on various BBC outlets, including Radio 4’s audio archive and the BBC and BBC America sites. And in the slim chance that you haven’t seen it yet, DO NOT MISS the prequel Webisode, The Night of the Doctor, that We Shall Not Spoil Here.

And finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam note the passing of Mavis Batey, one of the top female codebreakers at Bletchley Park during World War II. Ms. Batey, who died last week at the age of 92, was the last of the great break-in code crackers, and the messages she helped decipher from Nazi Enigma machines played a significant role in the Allied effort, especially for the D-Day landings in 1944. Thank you, ma’am!

PTJ 73: Eco-Friendly Cans and Private Picture Shows

Pedro reviews new on-ear headphones from two companies that are doing their best to keep things friendly between them and this big, blue marble we call earth: House of Marley’s EM-JH073 “Liberate” and ThinkSound’s On1 Studio Monitors. J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint™ for those of you dreading the photographic evidence of your antics guaranteed to flood your social networks this holiday season. In the news, Sony sells more than 1 million PlayStation 4s with Microsoft’s XBox One on-deck; Samsung claims Gear smartwatch sales are brisk; Google and Bing get set to take on pedophiles; Facebook confirms that anything you post on their service is fodder for advertising; Sprint and Best Buy offer students a deal on phones; and the world awaits the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who. 

Online Radio Days

startWill Apple do for streaming radio what it did for podcasts? The company did make it incredibly easy for people looking to create their own customized audio experiences, after all. And how much do those other services (Pandora, Slacker, Spotify et al.) need to worry now? Time will tell, but with the arrival of iTunes Radio last week, 11 million people went to check it out. Like those other radio streamers, you can use the service on your mobile devices, you can use it on your computer and it’s all very easy to have a steady flow of music whenever you want it.

If you’re at all curious but don’t know where to start, check out Apple’s guide to iTunes Radio. If you’re already an iTunes user, it’s a fairly pleasant addition to the overstuffed program. (If you’re happy with a different streaming radio service, never mind.) At any rate, iTunes Radio might actually be useful for some people and it’s already more interesting than Apple’s last attempt to get social with music.

PTJ 65: iRadio Ga Ga

This week JD takes a listen to Apple’s new iTunes Radio service and breaks it down for us; Pedro wrestles with a rare tie-less day in the studio; and gives us his observations on everything from “Breaking Bad”, iOS 7 and the updated edition of JD’s book, “iPad: The Missing Manual”. In the news New York State goes after fake online reviews; LinkedIn gets sued for allegedly hacking user accounts; Microsoft debuts new Surface tablets; Blackberry throws in the towel; iPhone sets a sales record for their new smartphones; Google’s Gmail service slows to a crawl; Valve announces their own Linux based OS; and Adobe updates their consumer photo apps to eliminate the dreaded “Pet Eye”. (Stop frontin’, you know you wanted it…)