As Pop Tech Jam hits the canonical 300-episode mark, El Kaiser and J.D. ponder the skill (or lack thereof) needed to create a good grilled-cheese sandwich — before discussing the week’s technology news and a roundup of public-safety and information apps. Cook yourself up a toastie and have a listen!
This week, Gizmodo has another post up, as several former Facebook contractors came forward to say they manipulated those news topic feeds by suppressing stories that may have appealed to conservative readers. All this brought out a statement from Facebook Trending Topics product manager Tom Stocky, and soon, an update from Gizmodo: “Several hours after this report was published, Gizmodo editors started seeing it as a topic in Facebook’s trending section. Gizmodo’s video was posted under the topic but the “Top Posts” were links to RedState.com and the Faith and Freedom Coalition.”
Researchers at Purdue University say they have developed the prototype for a new system that would allow law enforcement officials and public-safety agencies to tap into the feeds of thousands of cameras used by city and state governments along highways, as well as around national parks, construction sites, parking garages and other public venues. This new system would work with the existing closed-circuit security cameras already available to authorized personnel. The project, dubbed “Analyze Visual Data from Worldwide Network Cameras” won a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Apple’s earnings may have been down the other week, but the company is not alone in weaker sales figures. Shipments of personal computers and tablets worldwide were down 13 percent for the first three months of this year, dropping to a level analysts say they haven’t seen since the second quarter of 2011.
The creator the Siri virtual assistant seems to have found a way to pass the time after selling the software to Apple. At the TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York this week, developer Dag Kittlaus demoed his new artificial intelligence system called Viv for the crowd and said the new system wants to be “the intelligent interface for everything” and that it could “breathe life into the inanimate objects of our life through conversation.”
The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission want your mobile device to be safe from malware. Both agencies issued statements this week saying they were looking into security practices and said they’ve sent letters to the major mobile carriers and eight mobile device manufacturers. The letter from the FCC to carriers asks questions about the companies’ process for reviewing and releasing security updates while the FTC asked the mobile device makers to give them a report on how they send out security updates to patch vulnerabilities in smartphones, tablets and other devices.
Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 is now running on 300 million active devices and reminds everyone that its free Windows 10 upgrade offer ends this July 29th. For those who spurn the offer now but want to update later, Microsoft said those people can get Windows 10 after July 29 by either paying $119 for it or buying a new machine. So there.
And finally, SpaceX has done it again – this time completing what was called its hottest and fastest landing yet, as it successfully set down one of its reusable rocket boosters on a drone ship at night. Before it happened, SpaceX itself was unsure of the mission’s chances, noting that the landing was “unlikely” — and using a barge called “Of Course I Still Love You” as the booster’s target. However, once the booster nailed it, company founder Elon Musk issued a series of excited tweets, including one that said “Woohoo!” and another that said, “May need to increase the size of rocket storage hanger.” Congratulations again, SpaceX!
Technology doesn’t just happen: It evolves out of a lot of science, math, creativity, ingenuity and late-night hours often fueled by caffeine and Skittles. Much of the technology we use today started out as great ideas years ago (like GPS, for example). To get an inkling of what’s down the road, take a peek at some of the work being done in labs today.
Judging by its website, Google’s Research division looks like it’s well-staffed and consistently busy. To help develop its products, the company employs a huge number or researchers in many specialized fields, including natural language processing, algorithms, data mining, quantum artificial intelligence, machine translation and more. Many of these researchers and scientists write papers on what they’re working on — and some papers you can even read yourself. Some of these treatises are thick with stiff academic writing style and deep math, but others are more accessible to the novice. Still, if you’re interested, you can find hundreds of papers on the site. Google’s research team also keeps a regular blog highlighting some of their projects, like AlphaGo:
Microsoft has its own research site showcasing the work of the engineers and scientists working on its past and future products in its labs around the world. In addition to information about projects its researchers have developed, the site has a page of free apps and downloads for developers and interested parties to sample. For example, experience ChronoZoom, an app (shown below) that lets you visualize the history of everything right in your browser, or tinker around with Kodu, an icon-based programming language for building PC and Xbox games.
If you want a more down-to-earth practical page of progress, check out Microsoft Garage, the company’s outlet for experimental projects that includes mobile apps, or Google’s Gmail Labs page where you can experiment with other people’s experiments designed to make your Gmail experience easier. (Google once had a whole other Google Labs division for making cool stuff outside of Gmail, but that was discontinued in 2011.)
True, certain projects can be way over the heads of the average user and some may come to nothing. In others, though, you may be able to see around the corner into what’s coming up — or maybe even get a few ideas of your own.
The independent audio magazine devoted to mashing up pop culture, technology and more. J.D. Biersdorfer and Pedro Rafael Rosado are your hosts. It's an Internet Radio revolution!