Tag Archives: PBS

PTJ 179 News: Deep Writ

Is the future of digital privacy about to get totally pwned? The battle  between Apple and the United States Department of Justice has been raging since late last week, when government officials filed a motion asking a judge to make Apple help crack open an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernadino terrorists. and the company resisted.  Apple CEO Tim Cook posted an open letter to Apple’s customers concerning the issue and the company’s stance on privacy. The deadline for Apple to respond to the motion is this Friday, February 26th, but the company may even already be at work to make cracking iPhones even harder.

The Justice Department is also pursuing orders to make Apple to extract data from around 12 other iPhones involved in non-terrorist criminal cases around the country. As part of its case, the DOJ is using the All Writs Act, originally passed in the Judiciary Act of 1798 and amended in 1911 and a few times since; news outlets as diverse as Popular Mechanics and The New Yorker have weighed in on this legal tactic. Apple has asked for the ruling to go beyond a courtroom and take it to a hearing before Congress, saying what needs to be done is to . . . form a commission.

allwritsPublic option on the matter is split, as a quick poll by the Pew Research Center released earlier this week showed 51 percent of respondents siding with the government and saying Apple should be forced to unlock the iPhone. The director of the FBI said the agency could not look the San Bernadino survivors in the eye if the government did not follow this lead.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he supports Apple’s position, but Bill Gates, former Boss of Microsoft says Apple should cooperate. Meanwhile, Google announced it was working with wireless carriers on a new uniform messaging app for Android that security pros point out is a bit weak and very government friendly.

In other news, the annual Mobile World Congress trade show kicked off this week in Barcelona. As expected, Samsung revealed its Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge phones, which is pre-ordered, comes with a free Samsung Gear VR headset.  LG Electronics showed off its new LG G5 phone, which works with the new LG 360 VR headset.

HTC has a new virtual reality headset called the HTC Vive that it created with Valve, the company behind the Steam gaming service — preorders start at the end of the month. The headset will be about $800, and arrive in April. Valve also released an online Steam VR Performance Test for gamers who want to make sure their systems can handle the demands of virtual-reality software.

Sony, perhaps taking a cue from Joaquin Phoenix and the 2013 movie Her, announced the Xperia Ear, a voice-controlled gadget for communicating with your smartphone that works like an audio-only smartwatch that sits in your auditory canal.  As for the rest of the announcements, the Gizmodo blog has a good running tally of all the major things unveiled at Mobile World Congress.

Plastic-money mainstay Mastercard said it soon plans to start accepting biometric data as an alternative to passwords for making online payments. Perhaps you’ll even be able to pay for those purchases by duck face.

AT&T and Intel are working together to test drone-control technology over a 4G LTE network so the devices are more useful to businesses. Because that’s what we need: More drones up there.

linuxhackThe Linux Mint site was infiltrated and a modified version of the operating system with a handy hacker backdoor was temporarily posted. The Linux Mint blog says to be on guard if you downloaded Linux Mint 17.3 Cinnamon edition on February 20th and the site provides tools to check your installation. And also in Linux news, there’s a new distro called Subgraph OS that describes itself as an “adversary resistant computing platform.” The new variation can isolate programs that have been exploited by attackers and limit the access program have to other parts of the computer like your files and network connections.

Now in the departure lounge: Google announced this week that it was shutting down its Google Compare/Google Advisor service next month. Microsoft announced it was punting the standalone Skype Qik messaging app to the curb, or as the company’s announcement phrases it, “Skype Qik is moving” – right into the main Skype app. And the Cheezburger network, (which pretty much made LOL cats mainstream with the immortal question “I can haz cheeseburger?”) has been sold to an undisclosed buyer.

cheez

BuzzFeed has a new app out for Android and iOS called BuzzFeed Video. You can guess what it does, and yes, the clips start rolling as soon as you pause on one — then stop as you scroll on.

NASA is looking to shave some of five months it currently needs to get a spacecraft toting human passengers to Mars, but scientists there are working on a laser propulsion system that could get that trip time down from five months to three days.  Dr. Philip Lubin says the technology is there, and just needs to be scaled up. Some of Dr. Lubin’s papers on the subject are available of the University of California Santa Barbara’s Experimental Cosmology Group’s site for experimental astrophysics, including last year’s “A Roadmap to Interstellar Flight.” A recent episode of the “NASA 360” video series also explains the theories. (Chewie, check the hyperdrive!)

And finally, if you like NASA adventures, check your local PBS affiliate next week. On March 2, look for the first episode in a two-part series called A Year in Space, starring twin astronaut brothers Scott and Mark Kelly. Now there’s a family reality show we can get behind!

PTJ 174 News: Gloom and “DOOM”

No more tunneling to better streams? Netflix has announced it’s going to start blocking viewers using proxy servers and virtual private networks to get around regional restrictions on certain movies and TV shows.  Wired, however, has an article that casts a bit of doubt on Netflix actually being able to block out every type of VPN or proxy service out there. Ever feisty, Netflix also got into a little tussle with NBC over remarks made at a Television Critics Association press event this past weekend. A researcher at NBC Universal threw down the gauntlet by saying Netflix and its little herd of bingeable shows were not a threat to the traditional TV-viewership model and claimed to have ratings data on Netflix taken by a third-party company. Netflix execs, however, gave it right back to NBC, saying its survey was based on “really remarkably inaccurate data.

Also in the world of subscription services, the WhatsApp messenger service is dispensing with the 99-cent annual subscription fee and making itself available for free. And supposedly, without ads.

primeairAmazon has now enabled its voice-commanded Alexa assistant on its tubular Amazon Echo devices to read Kindle books out loud for free. The feature works with a number of Kindle titles, but don’t expect the melodious tones of a professional audiobook narrator here – it’s the Robot Lady Voice reading them to you. Also in Amazon Land: Amazon’s vice president for global public policy recently had a chat with Yahoo’s David Pogue about how Amazon Prime Air, the company’s infamous drone delivery program, is coming along; they at least have new press photos of the drones, as shown here. (Amazon, ever so busy, also announced this week that the first devices that use its Dash Replenishment service to automatically order new supplies for themselves are rolling out. Yo, better keep an eye on that printer so it doesn’t go buck wild with the toner orders.)

Apple bounced out the first beta of its upcoming iOS 9.3 software last week and the update has a lot of new features for something that doesn’t get its own big honkin’ Apple keynote event. Among others, the Macworld site wonders if Apple is perhaps changing its update strategy and just releasing a regular stream of substantial iOS improvements instead of saving them all up and making a big deal about everything at a press conference.

AOL may also be getting some changes — and perhaps even a new name. Verizon, which now owns the former America Online service, is said to be pondering an image makeover that could include a new name for the brand. Hopefully, a better logo will come along, too.

holoMicrosoft is slowly revealing more details about its coming Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality goggles. According to reports from a Microsoft event in Tel Aviv, the HoloLens will have a battery life of 2.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on the task at hand. The headset will also be able to run any universal Windows 10 app and hook up with just about any other gadget with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity.

Google is said to be testing the ability for Android users to install apps directly from the search screen in Google’s own eponymous — without having to go through the Google Play store. Because really, what could go wrong there?

The cable networks are readying their campaign teams for Election 2016, and Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio are banding together and combining their resources to bring their traditional no-nonsense approach to coverage. The PBS-NPR team-up, an early version of which was announced last year, will bring shared digital, video and audio content from the primary debates to election night to whatever happens after that.

In rocket news, SpaceX continues its testing with the Falcon 9 rocket — and getting it to land in one piece so it can be reused. After a successful Falcon 9 recovery from the ORB-COMM mission last month, a mission last week saw the returning rocket fall over and explode on the landing pad. Or, as SpaceX found Elon Musk tweeted, it had a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” event on the deck.

If you want a snapshot of how social media has evolved over the past decade or so, check out “The History of Twitter’s Rules” by Sarah Jeong on VICE’s Motherboard channel.  (Yes, trolls mucked a lot of things up.) Twitter, incidentally, had a service outage earlier this week.

And finally, old school gamers can go back to school now that one of DOOM’s creators, John Romero,  has created another level for the iconic first-person shooter after 21 years. Boom! DOOM!

P.S. Like tidy lists? Don’t miss the SplashData’s 25 Worst Passwords of 2015 and GeekWire’s Worst and Weirdest of CES 2016 observations. Both may boggle your mind, but for different reasons…

prego

PTJ 138: Axing the Coax

The new $15 standalone streaming service HBO Now arrived just in time for last weekend’s season premiere of Game of Thrones. Early reports showed the app held up well under the onslaught of Starks, Lannisters and new subscribers, which may convince some weary cable subscribers that it’s finally safe to cut the cord and go online to watch all the hot shows.

On this week’s episode, journalist Laura M. Holson — who got rid of her own TV seven years ago — offers her own tips for keeping up with popular programs. Yes, you can do it using nothing but a mobile screen, a sturdy broadband connection and some well-known inexpensive or free services like HuluNetflix, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, Crackle and Google Play, just to name a few. (Oh, and don’t forget free TV network apps and websites from PBS, ESPN, ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC.) To paraphrase the great Dinah Washington, streaming TV is really the thing this year.

PTJ 112: Get Your Anti-Grav Boots On Cuz It’s SPACE WEEK

It’s our favorite time of year. No, not fall. It’s Space Week and J.D. introduces us to some apps that are perfect for getting into that festive…um…spacey mood.

Before the PTJ crew blast off into the Cosmos, El Kaiser breaks out the rant box. Apple’s iOS 8 has frosted his rage cake and he wants you all to know about it.

In the news, banking giant JPMorgan Chase gets hacked; AT&T confirmed information is compromised, but it’s an inside job; BBC World News premieres a six-part series focusing on cybercrime; Twitter sues U.S. government over surveillance laws; after getting complaints from customers and the FCC Verizon ditches its “network optimization” plan; a Netflix competitor throws in the towel; and a Kano unveils a new computer you build and code yourself.

World Spaaaace Week!

This week is World Space Week and Pop Tech Jam is partying like comic-book nerds on a Wednesday.

wswFor those of you who forgot or who were unaware of the event, World Space Week is the largest global festival for public celebration of space exploration and discovery. (Here’s the global event map for the week.) It all got started back in 1999, when the United Nations decreed October 4th to the 10th to be World Space Week. Those dates, by the way, are significant: The Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik I, the first human-made satellite, was on October 4th, 1957, and the Outer Space Treaty — which forms the basis of international space law — was signed on October 10, 1967.

The theme of this year’s World Space Week is “Space: Guiding Your Way” and acknowledges the role satellite navigation has played in daily life. Just think of all the benefits it has brought us, like being able to find your way around the old Dutch part of Manhattan without having to drag along a paper map (which is really embarrassing if you are a NYC resident). So here’s to GPS! And while’s you’re at it, listen to Steven Johnson’s excellent 2010 TED Talk that provides a little bit of amusing history on the topic.

When you get done thanking science for giving you zoomable maps-on-demand, turn-by-turn directions, Google Earth and remote recovery tools for your smartphone, here are a few other apps to help you celebrate the World Space Week if you can’t make it to one of the official events (or you’re going to New York Comic Con).

NASAappFirst up, check out the ever-growing page of apps over on the NASA site. The main NASA app shows off much of the agency’s news and multimedia content from around the galaxy, but there are also newer programs, like NASA Spinoff for iPad, which shows how technology developed for space missions has found a place in everyday life. Apps for individual NASA projects, like the Messenger Mission to Mercury for iOS, the Curiosity app for Windows Phone or the Sector 33 air-traffic control game for Android and iOS are among the many listed on the page.

spaceracersMany of the NASA apps are educational and geared for kids, and if you have children who like adventures, check out a brand new game: Space Racers. It’s the companion app for the public-television kids show designed to get younger children interested in STEM programs; NASA even served as a technical consultant for the series. When you first open up the Space Racers app, it looks a little bit like vintage Angry Birds, but there are no in-app purchases or advertising, and the software doesn’t collect the child’s personal information. The game teaches cause-and-effect as the preschool player pilots the Space Racer ships (which are cheerful, friendly birds with wheels) through an obstacle course. Young pilots must also factor in things like wind speed and magnetic fields to make it through 32 rounds of gameplay.  Space Racers is out for iOS this week and it’s free — and a free education. (If you want to find the TV show for the kids on your local station, have a look here.)

StarWalkStar-seekers of any age can ponder the universe on a mobile device with apps like the $3 SkySafari 4 for Android, iPhone and iPad. The Star Walk stargazing guide (shown here) is a nicely designed $3 app for touring the celestial skies and it’s now available for Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone and the Kindle; the revamped 3D Star Walk 2 app for newer iPhones recently landed for iOS. The Distant Suns app, which bills itself as “your own personal guide to the cosmos” is a hand-held planetarium that works available for most mobile platforms — and costs less than $10. And Android users can get Google’s own Sky Map app for free.

Want to celebrate the satellites of World Space Week 2014 with an app? The $10 GoSatWatch is a satellite tracker for iOS and the ISS Detector Satellite Tracker (free, but you need in-app purchases for the good stuff) works on Android. So remember, even if World Space Week is over by the time you see this, you’ve still got an app or two that can bring you your own little corner of the sky.
Sic itur ad astra!

PTJ 105: A Cat, a Dog, And a Groot

El Kaiser takes a listen to the INEARPEACE earbuds from Om Audio and likes what he hears while J.D. tells us where and how to find quality documentaries online.

In the news, Amazon continues its war with book publisher Hachette and now finds itself battling Disney; Microsoft has Xbox announcements; Apple appears to have ramped up production of the new iPad; the U.S. government creates new agencies to handle its tech woes; Akamai releases its latest State of the Internet report; we have robot news and yes, it does rattle the Kaiser; and a security researcher weaponizes his pets.

The Learning Channels

It’s easy to waste a lot of time looking at silly videos on the Web, but if you want to sharpen your brain cells, there are also some hidden gems – especially educational programming. If you’ve got time  to kill at the gym or winding down before bed, while not learn something with a nice documentary? You don’t even have to have to flip around the TV or spend valuable time rooting around online trying to fine them, because several sites and apps that do the work for you.

pbsFor example, the PBS app lets you stream hundreds of public-television programs including NOVA, American Masters, Time Scanners, American Experience and plenty of standalone documentaries produced by PBS member stations. (You may have to register with the PBS site to use the app, but it’s free.) You can get the app for iPhone, iPad, Amazon Kindle and a number of set-top boxes like Roku and Apple TV. While a bonafide straight-up Android app isn’t available at the moment, you can stream videos from the PBS website on Android devices or on the desktop. (PBS has acknowledged ground to make up in Android app development, but it’s working on it — for the younger set, the PBS Kids app is now out for Android, iOS and Kindle.)

smithsonianFor short clips about a particular aspect of American history or culture, visit the website of Smithsonian magazine to see videos detailing things like the history of the electric guitar or the origin of Wonder Woman. You can find more clips and full-length episodes of programs on the Smithsonian Channel’s site. The Smithsonian Channel also has its own mobile apps for Android and iOS and has begun to show up on some streamers — again Roku, Apple TV, that sort of thing.

nasaFor space nerds who want to keep up with events, the NASA Television channel and other multimedia content can be streamed from the NASA  website or its various mobile  apps.

Documentaries can also be found where you might expect them. The Internet Archive has a video section with an area devoted to cultural and academic films, as well as collections devoted to movies and classic TV. The free version of Hulu has some ad-supported documentaries as well.

patheFor modern history buffs, the British Pathé film archive has 90,000 historic clips and a YouTube channel. Keep in mind, not everything is available at full-length to watch for free, but there’s some amazing bits of 20th century history to peek at, including news footage from World War I.

Serious fans of cultural, historical and nature documentaries can indulge themselves and one of the many sites out there devoted to categorizing YouTube video by topic. TopDocumentaryFilms.com is one great place to start and here, you can find things like Simon Schama’s 15-part A History of Britain miniseries, the Planet Ocean nature film or a biography of Aaron Swartz.

schama

Similar sites like 1001 Documentaries or DocumentaryAddict.com can also help sat your craving for both streaming video and learning something in the process. And when your brain is all stuffed with new things and you need a break from the mental exercise, you can always cool down with a few cat videos.

Stack the Deck

The trending topics lists were humming last week as Netflix released all 13 episodes for Season Two of its House of Cards series on Valentine’s Day. Although the first season is available on DVD, the Netflix stream is where you can watch the fresh new episodes of this US adaptation of a British original. (If you haven’t seen the US version, it stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in a sort of Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth in Washington scenerio and it can be a bit, er, dark at times.)

With apps, Netflix has built its streaming service into a variety of devices, including Smart TVs, TiVo recorders and set-top streaming boxes that connect to a television. Three of the popular options, the Roku box, the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast HDMI stick, all include Netflix — and a whole lot more.

These streamers also include plenty of other sources for movies, TV shows, news, sports, cat videos and even games. If you live in an area where you don’t get a lot of broadcast channels or the cable package is just too expensive to consider, a device that pulls in video content from the Internet broadens your TV-viewing options considerably.

roku3Of the three, Roku’s boxes offer the most channels, or content streams, with more than 1000 to choose from. The company also creates a variety of hardware models for a wider range of television sets. These include the bare-bones $50 Roku LT that works on just about any TV set to the blue-chip $100 Roku 3 for HDTV models. In addition to Netflix, you get Hulu Plus (if you subscribe), Amazon Instant Video, HBO GO (if you subscribe through your cable provider), plus news and sports channels. There’s a kids section and a dedicated Latino channel for Spanish-language programming. The Roku 3 can also play games like Angry Birds, as if you didn’t have enough places already to play Angry Birds.

AppletvFor people with a lot of investment in the iTunes ecosystem, the $100  Apple TV has its advantages. While it doesn’t have as many content channels a the Roku, it’s got a fair amount of them, including subscription biggies (Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, yadda yadda yadda), as well as PBS, YouTube, the Smithsonian Channel, several sports networks and some Disney options for the kids. Where the Apple TV comes in really handy, however, is if you have an iOS device, because you can stream your videos and music from the iTunes Store, your photos and other media to the big screen via Apple’s AirPlay technology. You can also mirror games on your iPad to the TV through the Apple TV, as well as the screen contents of late-model Mac laptops. Apple knows it doesn’t have the content channels of the Roku, but rumors have recently surfaced of a possible deal with Time Warner Cable to get programming for cable subscribers streaming through the device. (However, this deal may be sunk if the Comcast merger goes through.) Whispers of a new Apple TV model showing up as early as next month are also circulating, with a TV tuner, DVR capability and gaming powers all mentioned as possible new features.

chromecastNow, if you’re on a budget and have a tablet or smartphone, there’s the Google Chromecast. It’s not technically a set-top box that pulls down its own online video streams, but a small doo-dad that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. With it, you play the video on your Android or iOS device – or even in the Chrome browser on your computer. But it’s $35 and a cheap way to watch content from your smaller screen all nice and fancy on your bigger screen. And the Chromecast works with several video services itself, including the aforementioned Netflix, Hulu Plus and HBO GO. It’s a Google product, so of course, you get YouTube and you can stream music, movies and TV shows from the Google Play Store. There are a few other channels like the Vevo music videos, but you can also beam photos or anything else you can see in the Chrome browser to the TV. The Chromecast is the most limited of the three devices right now, but Google recently released a software development kit that will let developers go wild.

So if you’re looking for a way to stream content from the major subscription services — or just want to increase your viewing options with more than just the channels in your cable package — consider a streamer. And you’ve already binged your way through Season Two of House of Cards, rest assured. The folks at Netflix have already ordered up Season Three.

PTJ 78: The Case of the Missing Kaisercoins

Series 3 of the BBC’s “Sherlock” finally makes its debut on PBS stations across the United States but if you can’t get enough of the deerstalker hat wearing detective, J.D. fills us in on other ways to get our Sherlock fix. Pedro deals with the disappointment of not having any cryptocurrency named in his honor by telling us what he knows about digital money.  In the news,  the U.S . Court of Appeals strikes down F.C.C. net neutrality rules; hackers mark the one-year anniversary of the death of programmer and digital-rights activist Aaron Swartz; Winamp will whip more llama ass; Google goes shopping; Snapchat continues to deal with its growing pains; and the bells begin to toll for Microsoft’s Windows 8.

Searching for Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes has been in the news more than usual the past few weeks — partly for the upcoming American broadcast of the popular BBC reboot starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman; if you haven’t seen it already, the first of the three new episodes airs here in the States on January 19th. Continue reading Searching for Sherlock