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PTJ 231: Veni, Vidi, Vendi

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!

Links to Stories in This Week’s Show

PTJ 210: The Internet of Hijacked Things

Last week’s massive denial-of-service attack (and resulting Internet outage) was big news all on its own, but toss in AT&T’s latest digital land grab and you have a jam-packed few days of tech news. After the weekly discussion of the recent headlines,  J.D. explores free or cheap word processors that cut down on toolbar clutter for minimal distraction when you’re probably already procrastinating that big writing deadline anyway. Come on along for this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam! (Also, El Kaiser gently suggests that you change all your default router and device passwords.)

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 173 News: Heaving Las Vegas

If it’s early January, you know there’s going to be a warm blast of hot air coming from Nevada no matter what the actual weather forecast. Yes, it’s time for the Consumer Electronics Expo out in Las Vegas! The show is underway this week and the product announcements are popping out left and right. Creations like the OMbra, a $150 brassiere with fitness tracker tech built right inside have already snagged headlines. Wearables in general are a big trend this year, as are even more gadgets for your smart home. The Ford Motor Company is adding Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto to its 2017 models, newer, faster drones are on the way, virtual reality gear is finally here and many more products will be sporting a USB-C port in the future. Some journalists are finding this year’s crop of tech to be a tad underwhelming, though.

Bored with the current alphabet soup of 802.11 flavors? This week, the Wi-Fi Alliance announced 802.11ah, a new low-power, long-range variation that operates in the frequency bands below one gigahertz. It’s designed to work with smart home, connected car and fitness and medical wearables. This new Wi-Fi also comes with a trendy nickname: Wi-Fi HaLow. (Can Wi-Fi JLaw be next?)

win10Microsoft, ever so excited to get people moved off older versions of its operating systems, announced on one of its blogs this week that Windows 10 is now active on more than 200 million devices worldwide. Still, when it comes to computer adoption, Windows 10 hasn’t quite nudged the needle past 10 percent mark. Net Applications, which measures these things, reports that Windows 10 is now on 9.96 percent of machines out there. Windows 7 continues to lead the PC pack, nabbing just under 56 percent of usage. As one might have predicted, a Microsoft marketing exec is already expressing concern over Windows 7’s future and sounding that old “use it at your own risk” warning. Bloggers have called FUD Factory on that one and point out that Microsoft itself is supporting Windows 7 until 2020. (Oh, and Microsoft also found time over the holidays to release a new iOS called Microsoft Selfie designed to make your quick bits of photographic narcissism look better.)

Speaking of things that aren’t what they appear to be, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has tested out T-Mobile’s Binge On service. After the EEF looked a little deeper and found that T—Mobile was actually “optimizing” ALL video streams, even those from non-Binge On participants. The EFF is now calling ion the FCC to take a look into this service, which could be more accurately called Throttle On.

appleSome analysts are predicting a rough 2016 for Apple, citing a somewhat boring year of products in 2015 — the year that saw the Apple Watch, a revamped Apple TV and a great big iPad. Then again, remember that Apple has $206 billion in cash on hand and is expected to do $77 billion in sales this quarter. Apple does not care about you, analysts.

In the Department of Scary News, security blogger Brian Krebs has a recent post about how some companies don’t properly verify the identifies of their customers for things like password resets. He bolsters his argument with the story of how his own PayPal account got hacked.

Could a power outage in Ukraine last month have been the latest shot fired into the Internet of Things in the creeping cyberwar? Kalev Leetaru, a guest contributor over on the Forbes website seems to think so. He describes an incident that took place in late December where several cities in Western Ukraine lost power for about six hours and very sophisticated malware was found on the computer systems of the power company.

Twitter has plans for the first quarter of 2016 and is said to be working on a feature that gives users a 10,000 character limit for tweets, up from the current 140 characters. No specific launch date has been set and Twitter is not confirming anything. Some have already noticed that Direct Messages have a 10K character limit as well, so perhaps it’s not a totally new thing from inside Twitter HQ.

jarvisMark Zuckerberg, boss of Facebook, has some goals for the New Year. As stated on his own Facebook page, this year’s personal challenge is to build his own voice-controlled artificial intelligence powered software assistant to run his home. “You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in Iron Man,” Mr. Zuckerberg writes. We’ll check back on this one at the end of the year.

Also in challenges, Dean Kamen’s FIRST organization is kicking off the year in robot-building. More than 350 New York City high school students are set to participate in the regional FIRST Robotics Competition next week in Brooklyn and Manhattan, with the regional contest due for March at the Jacob K. Javits Center  (which New Yorkers can now get to easily by SUBWAY after all these years.)

floppyAnd finally, the DriveSavers company has been called upon by many to rescue digital data from crashed hard drives and other unfortunate incidents, and the engineering team there has now been credited with excavating text files from 200 old 5.25-inch floppy disks that belonged to the late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Although DriveSavers said it got about 95 percent of the text back, one thing it couldn’t talk about was the content of the files, which was subject to privacy agreements with Roddenberry’s family. But let’s keep an eye out for some “recently discovered” Roddenberry scripts in the next new months.

PTJ 111: Microsoft Hopes to Roll a Lucky Number 10

For some it provides welcome relief from the myriad distractions of the Internet and for others, each clack of the typebar striking the ribbon, paper, and platen imbues them with a warm, satisfying sense of accomplishment.  It was the weapon used to slay the vileness  of the blank page or the unforgiving beast we wrestled with at our jobs for countless hours a year.

The wonderful, humble, fearsome typewriter.  This week J.D. explains why typewriters are still loved by many.

In the news Microsoft feels the next iteration of their market dominant operating system is so revolutionary the name should feature double digits; Apple’s 8.0.1 update crashes and burns but the fruit themed toy maker tackles the Shellshock head-on; Facebook debuts its Atlas ad platform;  a new social network called Ello positions itself as the anti-Facebook; Akamai releases its “State of the Internet” report; Grooveshark loses its groove; and the sequel to the film classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gets an interesting distribution deal.

PTJ 111 News: Are We There Yet?

Microsoft says it’s cranking it up to 10 — and it’s no joke. The company held a big press event out in California this week to show off its new operating system and announced it was skipping Windows 9 and going right on to Windows 10. Windows 10 looks a little like Windows 7 and a bit like Windows 8, according to the Re/Code site. For those who can’t wait for the final release in 2015, preview editions of the new system will be available this week to those who sign up for the Windows Insider public beta program.

Despite Chinese superstition, “8” has not been a lucky number for Apple, either, as it had to hurriedly yank back its iOS 8.0.1 update last week after early adopters howled that it broke their iPhones. Bloomberg News has reported that the update faceplant may have been related to the infamous Apple Maps fiasco of 2012. Apple refused to comment on that situation but did get its iOS 8.0.2 patch out last Thursday. The 8.0.2 fix seems to have worked for most people, although the Mac Rumors site is saying they’ve got user reports of other problems with it.

This week,  Apple also released a patch for the security flaw known as Shellshock or the Bash bug for the Bash UNIX shell used by OS X; you can download it from its site. Many Linux vendors, including Red Hat, have also issued patches for the exploit.

bash

Facebook is still trying to find new ways to use your personal data to make advertisements more appealing to you. This week, the Social Network fired up Altas, a platform that lets advertisers buy ads through Facebook that appear on sites besides, well, Facebook. These ads were made for stalking.

The sheer amount of advertisements and data-grabbing has turned many people off Facebook, and helped gin up interest in a new social network called Ello. It’s still in the beta phase and invitation-only, but the simple, six-week-old service is getting attention for its pledge to make social networking a transparent tool for empowerment and that its users are not products, as stated below.

ello

The ad-free Ello was created by graphic designers and techies and is gaining thousands of new users a day, even though some complain the site’s design is a bit confusing and the inevitable geek “it’s so over” backlash has begun. Ello, which plans to make money by charging users a small fee for premium services, is also big enough now to have been hit by a DDOS attack this week.

Akamai has released its quarterly State of the Internet report again and as usual, it highlights all kinds of facts and figures about who’s using the Internet for what and how fast they’re doing it. In terms of overall broadband global broadband speed, South Korea and Hong Kong are still smoking the rest of the world with peak speeds of more than 72 megabits per second compared to a peak of 45.3 megabits per second here in the States. (Hong Kong may have speed, but it’s probably not doing much good for the citizens protesting changes to the city’s elections policy; as NPR, Gizmodo and others have reported, the protestors are thwarting government efforts to stifle communication by using mesh-networking apps like FireChat.)

Next year will be a big one for eBay. The online auction site announced to shareholders this week that it plans to fully separate from its PayPal payment system business and create two independent, publicly traded companies.

sharkChanges are coming to a couple of online music services. For one, a judge has ruled against Grooveshark for copyright infringement because it did not have licenses for all the music it offered to its 35 million users to stream. And eMusic, another online service and one that started selling downloads by subscription way back in 1998, is ditching track sales from mainstream labels like Warner, Universal and Sony to focus exclusively on sales from independent music companies.

Hewlett-Packard is rolling out a new line of slim-line HP Stream tablets and laptops in colorful cases. The devices offer 4G connectivity and a lot of online storage, and the most expensive new laptop in the batch, the one with a 13.3 inch screen, will only set you back $230. The 7-inch tablet is about $100 and the new gear will be available in November, just in time for the gift-giving season. But yes, they come with Windows 8.1.

New York Comic Con is next week in Manhattan and one of your esteemed Pop Tech hosts is moderating a panel or two. If you’re going, be sure to get the app and wear comfortable shoes (or boots, if you’re doing cosplay).

myeohAnd finally, fans of the 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may have to wait until next August to see the sequel, but they won’t have to go very far to do so. Netflix and the Weinstein Company have signed a deal to release Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend simultaneously in selected IMAX theaters around the world and on Netflix. Two starts of the original film, Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen will be back, and the sequel arrives next August 28. Windows 10, Star Wars Episode VII, Crouching Tiger 2 — 2015 should be dubbed the Year of the Geek.

PTJ 109 News: “You Get an Album! You Get an Album! Everybody Gets an Album!”

Despite all the attention after the Big Media Lovefest last week, Apple felt a few hot, bitter blasts of user rage after it force-gifted U2’s new Songs of Innocence album to iTunes users far and wide. To add insult to injury for people who have privacy issues (or just hate U2), it was also very hard to delete the tracks from one’s library until Apple but up a dedicated U2 Album Removal Page to permanently rid themselves of the download.

U2_Removal

Future Apple Pay competitor PayPal also added to the anti-Apple mix this week, taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times that tweaked the Cupertino crew on its security after the recent iCloud Naked Pictures uproar. Despite the bad press and U2 overstep, Apple did have a good week in the money-making department. A press release from the company stated it sold more than four million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models within 24 hours of pre-orders going live. (Oh, and the company finally stepped it up on two-step verification for iCloud accounts as well.)

In Microsoft news this week, the Redmond Giant  snapped up Mojang, the Swedish company behind the very popular game Minecraft. Microsoft also announced an event dedicated to its upcoming Windows 9 operating system. The preview edition could land in a couple weeks, and although there’s no word on an official release date, many industry watchers assume that the final version of Windows 9 will likely arrive next year.

cm-1Panasonic is really stepping up the game for smartphone camera hardware. The new Panasonic Lumix CM1 smartphone runs Android and packs a 20-megapixel camera with a 1-inch sensor. The phone also has a Leica lens, manual control ring, and the ability to shoot 4K video — plus a hefty price tag. It’s going on sale in Germany and France this November for 900 euros. Achtung, baby!

Lower price points for different Android phones can be found in India, where three models in the Android One line of practical, affordable smartphones can be found contract-free  for the equivalent of about $105 dollars.

CCPNASA has picked SpaceX and Boeing for its Commercial Crew Program. Those companies will be taking over the astronaut commuter route to the International Space Station in 2017.

The deadline for the second round of public comments concerning the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules was this past Monday and  records were indeed broken. The agency received more than three million comments regarding its net neutrality proposals. No deadline set has been for a final FCC ruling and the agency is hosting a couple Open Internet roundtable events on Friday. The FCC also held discussion events this week on the topic of mobile broadband and whether or not wireless carriers should be exempt from Net Neutrality standards. And in other Government Agency News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced this week that its biometric Next Generation Identification system has full operational capability.

Speaking of governments, Google’s recent update to its publicly posted Transparency Report says that government demands for user information have risen 150 percent since 2009. This latest update covers demands for user information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters, as well as standard government demands for the first half of 2014.

Roku, maker of set-top streaming TV boxes, announced that it’s sold 10 million of its players here in the United States since the product debuted in 2008. Apple TV, the Google Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV have some catching up to do.

threeAnd finally, Wolfram, the company behind the Wolfram Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine, launched a web-based version of its Mathematica software this week. Mathletes who want to do serious technical computing in the cloud, you may now go to town — exponentially, and and in 3D if you want.