Tag Archives: Paris

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

A Night at the Museum

Love museums, but don’t have the time or money to travel? Or are you planning a trip to one and want to get the lay of the land before you plunge in? To the Web! While they don’t replace the feeling of seeing a work of fine art or an historical object up close, museum sites can tell you more than just the current exhibitions and the visiting hours. Many have educational sections that highlight works in the collection so you can see and learn from the comfort of the Internet. In many cases, you can also find an official mobile app to help guide your way around the collections when you do get there. (The museums mentioned below are just a sampling of what’s out there, but museums in major cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Toyko await as well, so fire up your search engine.)

Art & Design
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a jam-packed Web site, where you can browse highlights from its holdings or search for specific items. The MetMedia section of the museum’s site hosts videos, audio podcasts, interactive quizzes and a kids section. The MetShare page has links to the Met’s various social media and mobile efforts, including its contributions to YouTube, Flickr, iTunes U, plus its Twitter and FourSquare feeds. If you use the Google Goggles app on your iPhone or Android handset when you visit the museum in person, you can take a picture of an object and have the app recognize it and taker you to a page of information about it on the Museum’s Web site. The Met has created specific apps for special exhibitions, like its Guitar Heroes show a few years back or its standing Arms & Armor collection.

The Web site for The Museum of Modern Art here in New York has a collection-search feature, a dedicated online collection with objects that may not even be on regular view in the physical galleries and, (as shown below), mobile apps for iOS and Android. If you visit in person, there’s also free WiFi inside the museum itself.

MOMA

The Art Institute of Chicago has a nicely designed site you can use to search the 54,000 items in the museum’s collection, a multimedia finder, several iOS and Android apps and a feature that lets you make your own collection out of its holdings.

You can also take an online tour of the Louvre, the famous art museum in Paris and home of the Mona Lisa, shown below. The museum has a free iPad app as well.

MONA

If you like design, check out the site for the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which has videos and other information about its collections. The V&A has assorted iOS and Android apps devoted to specific art and design topics as well. (Also in London: The Design Museum, with its own free iPad app.)

History
The Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, which claims to be the world’s largest museum and research complex with 19 separate museums, a national zoo and 137 million artifacts in its holdings has a one-stop search page where you can comb through 8.1 million catalog of digital records, the Smithsonian libraries, its archives and even Smithsonian Folkways, the record label that specializes American music. The Smithsonian Institution is all over most forms of social media, has its own virtual world and has apps for iOS and Android, along with a mobile Website for other phone platforms.

buckfountainThe Library of Congress site has its own digital collections, where you can see digitalized images of things like early baseball cards, examine archived newspapers and hear more than 10,000 old 78rpm discs from 1900 to 1925 that were converted to MP3 as part of the National Jukebox Project. In the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog area, you can see and download digital copies of about a million images in the Library’s picture archive, including the poster for Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain from the WPA collection that’s shown here. As for mobile apps, you can get the daily Congressional Record or a virtual tour of the Library of Congress for iPhone or iPad, and interactive book of Aesop’s Fables for Android or iOS.

Across the pond, The British Library, which also rounds up the knowledge of the world, has many wonderful online galleries, including a Magna Carta section where you can see the Great Charter (shown below) up close. The site even offers a highlights slideshow tour and various virtual exhibitions. The Library has a handful of inexpensive mobile apps for Android and IOS devices that highlight some of the gems in its collections.

magna

The British Museum, also in London, has blogs and videos that highlight parts of its extensive collection, and you can even search the museum’s database and check out the Rosetta Stone and other well-known historical objects. You can find apps for special exhibits, like the Android and iOS app for its Pompeii and Herculaneum show; these costs about $3 or $4. There’s also an learning section for kids and an online shop with a place to order prints of artwork in the Museum.

In fact, most museum sites include a link to their online stores, so as in the real world, you can leave through the gift shop and pick up a few souvenirs.