Tag Archives: Project Loon

PTJ 166 News: Finding Space

Microsoft is very disappointed in your behavior, people. The company once grandly promised unlimited OneDrive cloud storage to its Office 365 users — but is now taking it away because a few users got a little greedy and backed up more than 75 terabytes of data each to Microsoft’s servers. New, lesser data plans are on the way for everyone now. Microsoft is also leaning on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users to hurry and just upgrade already to Windows 10. Windows Update is pushing out the new operating system as an automatic update that could sprout on your system, if your PC is configured to install certain types of updates on its own.

Social media companies had a busy week: Snapchat is the latest service to revise its privacy policy and then scramble to explain itself in the user backlash.  Instagram has started its own curated video feed to snag eyeballs; themed clips are hand-picked and available under the Explore tab. And Twitter is following Facebook and changing Favorites to Likes, with a heart replacing the star icon.

Activision Blizzard is acquiring King Digital Entertainment for $5.9 billion dollars. Call of Duty and Candy Crush are in it together now.

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Mozilla just released Version 42 of the Firefox browser and touts the new privacy and tracking protections built into it. (Don’t panic.)

If you get lousy 4G LTE reception with your T-Mobile device, the company has a way to make it up to you. Big Pink is offering 4G LTE CellSpot mini cell-towers to its customers.

Amazon is going from clicks to bricks and opening up its first physical bookstore in Seattle this week. But while Amazon is getting physical with the retail, several sources report that Google is ditching plans to open its own store in New York City. Rents in New York are rather impossible these days, you know.

smartreplyGoogle took to its blog this week to say, no, no, no, we are not killing of the Chrome OS in favor of Android for laptops. The company also announced a new Smart Reply feature that actually answers mail for you with one of three calculated responses. Google’s Project Wing — better known as its drone-based package-delivery service — is scheduled to launch in 2017. The announcement came as part of an air-traffic control convention being held in Washington. Project Wing (not to be confused with Project Loon) was revealed last year. And while we’re talking about drones, aerial tech company DJI has just announced a new embedded computer designed for drones. It’s called the Manifold and it runs on Ubuntu Linux. Go, penguin, go!

Fans of the Plex media server will be happy to know there’s now a free version of the software that now works with the latest Apple TV. You can find it in the Apple TV app store.

This week marks the 15th anniversary of astronaut occupation aboard the International Space Station. Time flies — and so do the shuttles and cargo craft keeping the ISS going.

stAnd finally, we knew it wouldn’t stay away forever, but now Star Trek is returning to television — but in a new way. Instead of exploring space through standard network or syndicated broadcasts, this new show will be shown on the $6-a-month CBS All Access service. Will enough Trekkers pile on board to let CBS give Netflix, Hulu and Amazon a run for their money in the original content department? We’ll find out in 2017 when the series leaves port. The Star Trek franchise celebrates its 50th birthday in 2016, having debuted back in 1966. Yes, Star Trek will soon be eligible to join the AARP — and that roadside assistance may come in handy when the timing belt snaps on one of the Enterprise’s  impulse engines out in the middle of nowhere.

PTJ 136 News: May the Force Field Be With You

April Fools’ Day was this week and the usual tech-company hijinks were on display. Google turned its Google Maps site into a location-specific version of the Pac-Man videogame that was actually fully functional — and let users navigate the munching yellow ball over city streets. Samsung, meanwhile, released a promo site for a fake Galaxy phone called the Blade Edge, which claimed to be a chef’s knife with smartphone capabilities. And Amazon’s thing called  the Dash button? The timing mades it sound fake but many outlets reported it was real (or real lame).

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Hopefully not an April Fools’ Day joke: Verizon Wireless customers can now fully opt out of those mandatory zombie supercookies that were tracking their whereabouts on the Web. Verizon had promised cookie relief earlier this year when the news broke and a few members of the US Senate called for an investigation.

Need help around the house? Turns out you can order that from Amazon now, too. The company just launched its new Amazon Home Services directory.

watchGot your eye on the Apple Watch that costs as much as a car? According to the 9to5Mac site, there’s a unique “Apple Store purchasing experience”  and a “personalized journey” in the works for those who lay out the scratch for the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition. Also, you don’t have to wait in line, so there’s that.

People have been wondering what Apple has planned for the Beats music service since it acquired the company last year. News organizations began reporting last week that an overhaul of Beats and Apple’s own iTunes service is in the works.  No word on when the new services are arriving, but Apple will get some competition from Jay Z’s revamped Tidal music-streaming service, a platform owned by artists.

Thanks to bigger bandwidth, better compression and boffo hardware, high-def video keeps getting more gorgeous. YouTube is rising to the challenge with 4K video using 60 frames per second. If you have the hardware to run it, the clips are beautiful, but as the Macworld site put it, video that massive will crush your computer if your graphics card is not up to snuff.

Google continues to tinker and merge its various services. The company announced this week that photos Google+ users keep online are now also be available in Google Drive and the Gmail team has also updated its Android app to put all your Inboxes in one place.

sheepA farmer in Ireland has released a video of an aerial drone herding a flock of sheep.  Meanwhile, Facebook continues to test its solar-powered drones for delivering Internet access to part of the world that have no connectivity, much like Google’s balloon-powered Project Loon is doing. And the Guardian news organization got a visit to Amazon’s secret drone testing ground in Canada. The uber-mega-everything store is testing its Prime Air delivery service north of the border due to frustration with regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration. Still, Amazon’s keeping busy stateside — the Re/Code site noticed a patent the company recently filed that envisions a retail store that lets shoppers fill their carts and then leave without going through the cashier lane — because the store’s sensors would just bill you for the goods.

Also in patent news: Boeing, maker of aviation equipment and sponsor of public-television programs, has a patent for a force field that could, in theory, protect buildings and vehicles from explosions. As a conceptual video from the Patent Yogi site illustrates, the force-field would work by detecting shockwaves from nearby explosions and respond with laser pulses to absorb the blast by ionizing the air.

swcAnd finally, speaking of force fields and things that make us think of Star Wars, several fan sites are reporting that a new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, will debut at this year’s Star Wars Celebration convention next month in Anaheim, California. J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy are kicking off the show on April 16th at 10AM Pacific time, so let’s expect the trailer’s debut then and there — and for it (please) to be online five minutes later.

PTJ 98: Amazon Starts Another Fire and Security on The Go

David Perry, now a threat strategist for the international computer-security firm F-Secure, joins us on this week’s episode to discuss the current state of mobile security. Interested in testing out F-Secure’s one-button Freedome app on your Android device or iPhone? Check it out here, as well as a short message about privacy from The Hoff himself.  And a big thanks to Jocelyn Gonzales for recording this segment for us at the Heartland Brewery in Times Square.

El Kaiser takes another listen to Bowers& Wilkins C5 in-ear monitors and admits he got it all wrong the first time around.

In the news, Amazon launches their long rumored smartphone; Google lists which mail providers encrypt messages in transit; The United States government lifts restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be; the U.S. Department of Transportation looks to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles; Facebook changes its personal-data collection policy; The Museum of Modern Art adds an iPad app to its permanent collection; and the Unicode Standard thousands of new characters, including several hundred new emoji.

PTJ 98 News: Earth, Wind and Fire

That Amazon 3D smartphone first revealed in April by the Boy Genius Report blog has now been officially announced: It’s called the Fire smartphone, and let’s hope it never has an overheating battery problem. As it did with Apple’s original iPhone back in 2007, AT&T has emerged as the exclusive carrier for the phone. Amazon’s innovative new phone was developed at its secret hardware headquarters in Silicon Valley, Lab126, according to a report on the Bloomberg Businessweek site. On the software side of the news, Amazon also released its Prime Music service last week that brings unlimited ad-free music streams to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Speaking of Android, the Ars Technica site has posted a history of Google’s mobile operating system, tracing the evolution of Android 0.5 back in 2007 to the current state of chocolatey KitKat Android 4.4. Google itself is on a campaign for safer email and released a new section of its Transparency Report earlier this month showing which major mail providers encrypt messages in transit.  The company also released an early version of its new End-to-End encryption tool for its Chrome browser that uses OpenPGP to scramble messages until they’re decrypted.

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Google’s high-flying effort to bring Wi-Fi to underdeveloped parts of the world is taking off. Project Loon, as it’s called, had successful test runs in places like New Zealand and parts of rural Brazil, as detailed on a Google+ page devoted to the South American endeavor. In addition to calculating wind data and enhancing balloon design to make them more efficient, the project team also had to deal with dramatic temperatures, dripping humidity and scorpions.

skyThe United States government is lifting restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be, and at least one company, DigitalGlobe, will be selling even better snaps from the sky soon, with much sharper pictures taken from oh high. (Please stop scowling at the camera, privacy advocates.)

Back here on Earth, satellite imagery is often used in modern map apps, and the U.S. Department of Transportation would like to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles.  Congress is expected to debate the proposed legislation, part of the GROW AMERICA Act, over the next few months and to possibly make a decision later this year, but given the recent Congressional track record for getting much of anything done besides creating hot winds, we’ll believe it when we see it.

Meanwhile, another US government agency is looking into that little squabble between Netflix and Verizon over slow download speeds. Verizon is not alone, as Comcast and other ISPs are said to be under scrutiny as well. Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, issued a statement late last week on the matter.

Facebook went and changed its policy on personal-data collection from its users last week. Yes, the privacy advocates were not happy about that, either, with some yelling at the Federal Trade Commission for letting Facebook get away with it. Facebook announced the changes on its company blog and says it will now pull in information about other websites you have browsed and use that data to calculate what ads to serve you. Lifehacker, PC Magazine, VentureBeat and many other sites have already posted instructions on how to opt out of Facebook’s web-history snooping.

The folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also concerned with transparency and how someone’s private data is used by others. They’re working on a new tool dubbed “HTTP with Accountability,” or HTTPA, which will automatically monitor the transmission of private data and allow the data owner to examine how it’s being used. The new protocol will be outlined in a paper presented a security conference in July.

In entertainment news, The Museum of Modern Art has added the first iPad app to its permanent collection. It’s Biopihlia, a musical app with interactive graphics and animations developed in part by Björk Gudmunsdóttir, former Sugarcubes singer-songwriter and swan-dress model. The $13 app is available for Android and iOS.

pennysoloWe here at Pop Tech Jam would like to wish Harrison Ford a speedy recovery from his accident on the set of Star Wars VII last week. Mr. Ford is expected to be off the set for up to 8 weeks while he heals from a broken ankle suffered when a hydraulic door from the Millennium Falcon reportedly fell on him.   The Falcon is still apparently the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, including when its parts pop off.

And finally, the Unicode Standard is getting an update to Version 7.0 and bringing with it a whole bunch of new characters — 2,834 of them to be exact. Unicode 7.0.0 supersedes all previous versions of the standard and now includes things like currently symbols used in Russia and Azerbaijan and 23 new lesser-used and historic scripts for written languages around the world. It also includes about 250 new Emoji, those little cartoony pictographic symbols common in text messages. The new Emoji include several hand gestures including 1F596 – RAISED HAND WITH PART BETWEEN MIDDLE AND RING FINGERS, also known as the Vulcan salute, and 1F595 – REVERSED HAND WITH MIDDLE FINGER EXTENDED, a more offensive gesture commonly referred to as the One Finger Salute. Can’t imagine who might find use for that sort of thing in a text message…