Tag Archives: Podcasts

PTJ 261: DISCOVERIES

On this week’s episode. El Kaiser shares his thoughts after a binge of Star Trek: Discovery and J.D. explores a new way to find things that interest you on Instagram. A roundup of the week’s tech news includes a discussion of Twitter’s fake-followers problem, Amazon looking for new ways to provide employee healthcare and Google’s attempts to root out — and boot out — bad apps from its online Android store. All this AND porgs on Episode 261 of PopTech Jam!

Links to Stories Mentioned On This Week’s Show

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

PTJ 175 News: In the Air

Several Twitter peeps have flown the coop recently, as the company attempts  to jump-start its growth by making the service easier to use and more appealing to Everyday People. Jack Dorsey, the company chief, did a few layoffs when he took the top spot last fall, but the revolving door continues to spin into the new year. (The bird-themed microblogging service has also gotten dinged inside and out for its lack of diversity and has been trying to improve things, although it got mixed reactions for hiring a white dude as its VP of diversity and inclusion — albeit one that was a founding member of a global LGBT leadership organization.) Twitter also busted a move this week and hired former American Express exec Leslie Berland as its chief marketing officer. Old School, meet New Media.

The Re/Code site is among those reporting that Twitter seems to be trying to keep its big famous users happy by majorly reducing the amount of ads those celebrities and notable figures see in their feeds. One site that seems to be showing more ads than before is Instagram. Facebook’s photo service did announce last year on its blog that it would be stepping up the ad game, and advertising statistics show the company has boosted ad impressions quite a bit the last five months of 2015.

vrSony and Samsung are doing a little corporate remodeling of their own. Sony announced it’ll be merging the hardware and software parts PlayStation game console business into one big company called Sony Interactive Entertainment. Out at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, Samsung executives said the company has plans to open a production studio here in New York to create virtual reality films. Samsung, as you know, makes the Gear VR headset for those emerging immersive experiences.

Spotify launched a video channel this week in its Android and iOS apps. The video channel features clips from the BBC, VICE news, ESPN, Comedy Central and others, if you’re tired of merely listening to Spotify.

Security blogger Brian Krebs recently explained how his PayPal account was hacked with the help of PayPal itself — and now Australian developer Eric Springer has a frighteningly similar story on the Medium and Ars Technica sites. This time, though, it’s Amazon’s customer service department inadvertently cooperating with an imposter and compromising account security.

fireAlso in Amazon Land, the übermega everything store apparently hasn’t given up on its mobile dreams, even though its own Fire Phone was a gargantuan FAIL. As a site called The Information reports, Amazon has been talking to Android handset hardware manufacturers about weaving Amazon apps and surfaces deep into the phone system. However, it may want to be careful, as Google has bounced Amazon products out of the Google Play store before when it felt Amazon was getting too pushy.

Google has had some less-than-saintly moments itself, but the company is donating millions of dollars to help refugees from the conflict-torn Middle East. Google’s philanthropic division is partnering with a non-profit group called NetHope on Project Reconnect, an initiative to provide 25,000 Chromebooks loaded with educational and language-learning software, which will then be distributed to groups working with refugees who made it to Germany.

Microsoft’s Cortana would also like to help you out, but it does involve getting into more of your data. In a blog post earlier this week, Microsoft announced that an upcoming update to Cortana will allow the virtual assistant to root around in your email to help you keep your promises. You WILL KEEP THEM, says Cortana.

Apple has some recent software updates of its own: The company’s tvOS 9.1.1 update for the fourth-generation Apple TV box adds the Podcasts app  to the home Screen. While Apple released a version of the Remote app that works with the 4th gen box last month, the upcoming 9.2 update for tvOS is expected to restore Bluetooth keyboard support to the latest model and add new features like app folders .

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Even though iPhone sales have dipped, rumors about a new model coming soon are floating in the breeze. The 9 to 5 Mac site reports that Apple is readying a model called the iPhone 5se that basically takes the old iPhone 5s form factor with the 4-inch screen and adds in the faster A9 and M9 processors. (It may possibly be revealed the week of March 14th, when several Mac blogs also seem to think an updated version of the Apple Watch may also arrive.) And beware the prank link going around that exploits a known text message bug that when opened in Apple’s Safari browser, crashes the iPhone or Mac and forces a reboot.

Periscope announced this week that it can take feeds from a GoPro Hero 4 action camera and stream it over Wi-Fi to the Periscope app on the iPhone. Get ready for some wacky ski and snowboarding live channels to hit the Web soon…

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and conventions are popping up all over. In addition to the Creation company’s official and (officially massive) fan events around the country, ReedPop, the organizer behind New York Comic Con, is celebrating the show too — and right in New York City, the home of the first-ever full-on Star Trek convention back in 1972. ReedPop’s 2016 convention, called Star Trek: Mission New York, will be held September 2-4 at the Javits Center in Manhattan; more information and ticket sales dates will be announced soon. (Yes, that is Labor Day weekend and will compete with the Dragon Con science fiction and fantasy expo down in Atlanta the same weekend. Tough choices here, geeks.)

BBTST

And finally, two passings of note this week. Marvin Minsky, a founding member of the MIT Media Lab and a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence, died in Boston on January 24th. And actor Abe Vigoda, whose incorrectly reported death by People magazine in 1982, actually passed away January 26th at the age of 94. Mr. Vigoda, a celebrated actor, became an Internet meme later thanks to the confusion over his status; updates to the sites abevigoda.com and isabevigodadead.com have been sadly updated.
Rest in peace, gentlemen.

Come Fly With Me

This week’s Pluto Flyby had most people at NASA in a state of giddiness by Tuesday morning, If you happened to be watching, you could see the agency folks sharing their exuberance over NASA TV, its website and all its social media channels.  Here at PTJ HQ, we’ve taken a look at NASA’s apps and online presence before, but the missions just keep on coming and the online offerings just keep expanding. So it’s time for an update.

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For all your Pluto voyage news, visit the New Horizons mission page, where you’ve got photos, videos, animations, an illustrated diagram of the spacecraft’s instruments and even podcasts. You can also keep up with related tweets from NASA’s many Twitter accounts.

To see what else is going on out in space, visit the main Missions page to check out all the projects NASA has in the works. The Eyes on Pluto desktop app for your Mac or PC shows simulated mission data, and when you get done on Pluto, you can jump to another mission like Dawn or Juno. And it’s free.

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NASA is a government agency, so in fact, most of the material on the site is free, You can find mobile apps galore and free e-books (on such topics as the Hubble Space Telescope, flight research and if you need a little light reading, a tome called Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce.) The site has general podcasts on other topics besides Pluto and even photos to liven up your day, plus audio clips and ringtones.

And don’t forget, getting kids interested in space is getting them interested in the future. NASA has a hefty amount of its own space devoted to educational material. There’s an area for older students to learn about the Pluto trip or spot the International Space Station in the night sky — or even get to know the astronauts. For the younger set, there’s the games-and-activities subsite called the NASA Kids’ Club.

And that’s just the main NASA site. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory has its own chunk of the Web filled with all kinds of good science-y stuff.

Not sure where to even begin? Call up NASA’s launch schedule and plan accordingly.

As for the New Horizons team, they got even happier Tuesday night because like E.T., the spacecraft phoned home. Check it out at the end of this informative video detailing the mission and its history:

PTJ 103 News: Shoot the Messenger

Facebook’s move to shove users onto its separate Messenger app is reportedly coming soon — if it’s not here already by the time you read this. Millions of people are already using it, and Facebook says the Messenger app is a faster and more efficient for sharing text and multimedia messages. The company has plans to monetize Messenger with a payment system as well. The Messenger app’s Terms of Service is causing some concern with the privacy-minded, though, and some users are complaining about the forced march.

Splitting up app services seems to be a popular move. Foursquare recently divided its eponymous mobile software for checking into places and reviewing them into two apps They are Foursquare and the new Swarm app, available for Android and iOS. Swarm is now the app required for all the check-in-with-your-pals activity, while Foursquare has been transformed into a user-reviews database. The split has gotten media criticism and a fair amount of backlash from users who are checking out of Swarm, but the company did just release another update earlier this week. (Yelp, the service Foursquare seems to competing with most, updated its own mobile app this week and now allows users to add short video clips to their reviews.)

fakefoxAnd about apps… there are new reports of a security problem with the way apps are identified by Google’s Android operating system. The research team at Bluebox Security says the new “Fake ID” vulnerability that it has just discovered allows malicious applications to essentially copy the identity certificates and credentials of trusted apps and get into places where malware is normally not allowed. The research team said this security hole has been around since Android version 2.1 in January 2010 and devices that haven’t been updated with last April’s patch for Google bug 13678484 are vulnerable.  Bluebox waited 90 days to publicize its findings so Google had time to get out the April patch.

Apple has just purchased BookLamp, a book-recommendation service in what’s said to be a shot across Amazon’s e-book bow. Also in Apple’s shopping cart: Swell, the podcasting app described by some as “Pandora for talk radio.” The Re/code site reports that Apple is scooping up Swell for about $30 million and could put Apple’s own poorly reviewed Podcasts app out of its misery or boost iTunes Radio. (Apple has now  quietly confirmed the dealthe Swell website has been shut down now and the app has been removed from the App Store.)

This summer marks 15 years since the Napster peer-to-peer file-sharing service stormed onto the scene and made MP3-swapping all the rage. At its peak, Napster claimed 80 million users before its original incarnation was shut down by court order for copyright violations in 2001. After several years of being bought and sold, the remains of the company eventually merged with the Rhapsody streaming service and this week announced it had just hit the two-million subscriber mark. On the way back up at last!

Beats Electronics, another of Apple’s more recent acquisitions,  is getting sued by Bose Electronics. Bose, which makes a line of high-end and very popular noise-cancelling headphones says Beats infringed on five of its patents. Sounds like QuietComfort is getting ready to rumble…

Microsoft is also finding itself in a spot of legal bother this week, as the Chinese government is investigating the company for violations of its antitrust laws. Chinese officials have also investigated Qualcomm for alleged anti-trust violations in recent times.

Legal troubles overseas haven’t dampened Microsoft’s sense of fun when it comes to giving Apple a virtual wedgie on TV. The mighty Redmond giant is running a new television commercial for Windows Phone that shows off its Cortana virtual assistant being much more talented and helpful than Apple’s Siri software. The general theme of the ad is similar to last year’s Microsoft spots that touted its Surface tablets over Apple’s iPad.

raspberryMicrosoft is also cooking up its own recipe for Raspberry Pi. But while the bare-bones Pi computer (shown here) costs a mere $40, Microsoft’s own version of the naked circuit board computer is called Sharknado 3, er,  The Shark’s Cove and runs about $300. The Shark’s Cove is intended to be a serious dev board for programmers and less of a hobbyist gadget like the Pi. The Microsoft Shark board does come with a copy of Windows 8.1 and the oomph to actually run it.

A lower-cost cable plan that brings broadband, basic channels and HBO for about $49-a-month is said to be in the works. The budget package had a trial run with Comcast last year. Game of Thrones for fewer bones, perhaps?

marscakeAnd finally, up on Mars. We’d like to congratulate NASA’s Opportunity Rover for setting an off-world driving record. The rolling robot has been cruising around the Red Planet since 2004 and in that decade, racked up just over 25 miles on its little odometer.  And a big “Happy Birthday” this week to NASA itself. The agency came into existence on July 29, 1958, after Congress and President Eisenhower made it so with the creatively named National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. The mission? “To provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.”  It’s not quite as poetic as, To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before,” but hey, you have to start somewhere.

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.

Episode 13: Who you callin’ Triskaidekaphobic?

The lowdown on Apple’s Podcasts and iTunes U apps and a 60 second review The Dark Knight Rises. In the news this week Microsoft’s Windows Upgrade Offer site is now taking registrations; the Windows Phone platform may slip past BlackBerry in U.S.; and prepare yourself for possible smishing attacks on your iPhone. Your hosts are J.D. Biersdorfer and Pedro Rafael Rosado.

Apple for the Teacher

Summer is winding down and a lot of students are headed back to school. Even if you’re not stuffing your life and laundry in the back of a Honda and rolling toward campus, you can keep learning on your own. Free classes from places like MIT OpenCourseWare and Coursera are among the options for higher learning online. If you have an iOS device, Apple’s Podcasts and iTunes U apps offer plenty of brain-burning educational material that make it easy to absorb it all at your own pace—even if that pace is a steady jog down a quiet road.

The standalone Podcasts app pulls all the episode management and playback controls out of the Music app on iOS devices and gives them their own place to play. The Podcasts app is not universally loved, but it does round up all your shows nicely. It could be the only place to get them if those rumors about Apple cutting the Podcasts section of the iTunes Store loose this fall are true. Recent user reviews of the app seemed to have improved with an update earlier this month, and Apple has a Podcasts support guide for those still wrestling with it.

Podcast content ranges all over the place, but if you’re looking for something specifically educational, the iTunes U app points you to what Apple calls “the world’s largest online catalog of free education content from leading institutions.” There are about 500,000 audio and video lectures in there, plus presentations, documents—and some classes even use interactive iBooks textbooks (which are a lot lighter than those heavy old tree-based tomes that pile up, hog shelf space and fall over all too easily).

The iTunes U course topics range all over the place from science and math to literature and cultural studies. Stanford’s got a 10-week course on iPad and iPhone App Development and Harvard has a 12-week Intro to Computer Science class. Oxford University has a series of short lectures on why great writers are inspirational. The University of Arkansas has 5-minute Spanish lessons. If you like a little sociology mixed in with your Hollywood blockbusters, check out the lecture series from Emory University for video lessons with titles like The Mathematics of Spider-Man and Planet of the Apes: Species Misunderstood.

Since it arrived last January, the iTunes U app itself has been downloaded 14 million times already. Yay, rah, Fightin’ Downloaders!