Tag Archives: rockets

PTJ 223: Ahead, Warp Factor Four!

Things down here on Earth may be business as usual — mergers, lawsuits, taxes, paradigm shifts, feature updates and so on — but exciting things are happening Up Above as well as Out There. SpaceX had another successful rocket launch and resupply mission to the International Space Station, the Juno craft decided to take the long way around Jupiter for bonus science, NASA announced the discovery of seven possibly life-supporting exoplanets and Winston Churchill was writing about life beyond Earth way back in the 1930s. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all on this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam, so Mr. Sulu, take us out!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 219: Blue Skies

Samsung thinks it’s solved the mystery of the exploding Note 7, Sprint grabs a new business partner, SpaceX returns to work and oh, cars might fly soon. On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. dive into a pile of tech-news headlines before Apple-watcher Don Donofrio drops by to discuss the company’s 2016 efforts.

PTJ 195 News: Living On the Edge

Not everyone likes new stuff. Still, Microsoft took to one of its own blogs recently to make a push for its spiffy new Windows 10 browser Edge, trying to show that the software provided better battery life when surfing compared to those other companies’ browsers (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera). However, in the latest survey of desktop browser market share from Net Applications, Google Chrome version 50 was in first place with 22.65 percent of users, with two versions of IE and an older edition of Chrome right behind. Edge appears in fifth place with about 4.46 percent of users, so perhaps this battery tip hasn’t gotten around.

Also from the Department of Microsoft News, the company announced a new version of its signature game console called the Xbox One S that starts at $400 for the two-terabyte model. The S-model is smaller than the earlier Xbox One and supports 4K video; the older Xbox One now sells for $280, so up yours, Sony PlayStation.

Microsoft also bought the LinkedIn social professional network last week for $26 billion dollars, which took many people by surprise, especially because LinkedIn was not profitable and was losing a reported $150 million dollars a year. The Guardian’s opinion section didn’t think the purchase was a great idea, but others ran with it.

Facebook has had suicide-prevention resources available to users for years. This month, the site is adding even more time-saving tools designed to help friends help their friends and also offers tips from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Google has added a new feature of its own to its app: Symptom Search. Yes, now when you type in specific health woes you’re feeling like headache or foot pain, Google returns a list of medical conditions that may include your symptoms. Doctor Google advises you not to use use this in place of actual medical care.

Twitter just bought itself a $150 million dollar pony — or, more precisely, the Magic Pony Technology company, a London-based firm uses neural networks and machine learning to understand images and enhance them for a variety of uses.

pony

Video is also on Twitter’s mind this week, as the company announced that clips posted on the site can now be 140 seconds long instead of just 30 seconds. (Everybody’s got to have live-streaming service and now Yahoo’s Tumblr site is jumping into the mix with its own version of the feature.)

China is still winning at supercomputers. The new top performer, the Sunway TaihuLight, is capable of performing some 93 quadrillion calculations per second (petaflops, dudes). The TaihuLight is roughly five times more powerful than the fastest supercomputer in the United States.

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos backs a little rocket company called Blue Origin, which had a successful test flight of a rocket and capsule landing out in Texas last weekend. Blue Origin is developing flights for space tourism that could begin blasting off in 2018.

The Federal Aviation Administration has finalized its rules for commercial drone operators. In other government news, Reuters and other organizations are reporting that Republicans in the United States Senate have set up a vote this week to expand the surveillance powers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Instagram announced it hit the 500-million-user mark this week. And remember, you don’t have to use only square photos anymore.

Those who do not know Internet history are doomed to…try and read it on outdated formats and dead links. It may seem like it’s been around forever, but the concept for what was then called the Intergalactic Network came into focus in the early 1960s and picked up steam in the early 1970s when Vint Cerf of Stanford co-created the TCP/IP protocol that let different computer networks talk to each other. These days, Mr. Cerf (shown here), now working for Google as Chief Internet Evangelist, is working to create a decentralized backup of the Web so that the Wayback Machine over at the Internet Archive is not the only repository for our accumulating collective digital history.

VCerf

Cerf, who has previously warned of an Internet Dark Age where data is lost because systems become obsolete, was part of the Decentralized Web Summit conference earlier this month in San Francisco. Wired has the story on the backup and preservation efforts.

And finally, the summer box office is heating up and Pixar’s latest production, Finding Dory, just broke the box office record for the highest-grossing animated film debut. The sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo  made with the voice of Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, melded to Pixar’s cutting-edge, state-of-the-art animation technology — made more than $136 million dollars at the box office. Finding Dory passed the DreamWorks film, Shrek the Third, as top-earner. Pixar’s former top debut Toy Story 3 debuted with about $110 million back in 2010, but it looks like Dory will give a lot of people the urge to go fishing in the next few weeks.

PTJ 190 News: Hot Topics

Funny how that happens: Facebook has gone from curating Trending Topics to being one itself. Late last week, Gizmodo put up a post about how Facebook handled the actual people — mostly journalists — who were hired to curate the site’s news feeds and how those people were treated. That was last week.

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.”

Still, some conservatives are really mad about this and would like to discuss it further. Perhaps in a Congressional hearing.

Amazon continues to branch out. The übermegaeverything store has just launched a new service called Amazon Video Direct that aims to take a bite out of YouTube. Spotify is also diving deeper into the world of video, with execs there telling Bloomberg News it’s making 12 original series as a way to bring in new customers.

camResearchers 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.

Speaking of surveillance, Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope has announced that it’s adding a search tool to find contents, the ability to save broadcasts beyond a 24-hour period and for previously recorded events and support for drones to beam their streams from above.  Also in drone news, a collation of groups that includes the United Parcel Service Foundation, the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, and startup drone-maker Zipline are coming together for a project that will be delivering vaccines and other medicine to those who desperately need them in Rwanda. Good job, drones!

googGoogle is ever-experimenting with its products and some observers recently noticed the Search Giant was trying out a new color scheme for its search results page. Google says it likes to experiment.

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 mobile version of the Opera browser is giving a little love to iOS users. The company announced its new, free Opera VPN app that lets its users jump onto a virtual private network to disguise their true locations. Opera VPN also blocks tracking cookies.

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!

PTJ 172 News: Wake-Up Call

Talk about your Rey of light! The seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise opened last Thursday night and went on to make $247.9 million dollars in its first weekend and broke several other records along the way, Many people stayed off the Internet and social media to avoid spoilers until they saw the film, and Google Trends set up a whole page of Star Wars: The Force Awakens-related lists based on the terms people were using in Google Search. The countdown for Rogue One (December 16th, 2016) and Episode VIII (May 26th, 2017) has begun!

Meanwhile, in a galaxy much closer to home, the folks at SpaceX must be breathing a sign of relief after the company was able to launch — and land — a Falcon 9 rocket in Florida this week. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, delivered 11 low-earth satellites into orbit for the ORBCOMM company and then returned safely and in one piece about 10 minutes later. After previous mishaps and an explosion earlier this year, SpaceX redesigned the Falcon 9 rocket and the company plans to reuse the booster for another mission. (Let’s hope they clean the crew cabin between flights, unlike some domestic airlines around here.)

spacex

Like tarting up images and then sharing them online? Adobe, maker of Photoshop, has a new free iOS app called Adobe Post. It’s described in detail on an Adobe blog, and yes, the company says an Android version is in the works. As Macworld points out, though, you have to share the app with a friend to get rid of an watermark Post puts on your pictures. Also in picture news, Facebook is adding support for the Live Photos created by Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models. While the new feature is slowly rolling out, only users with the iOS version of Facebook’s app will be able to see the mini moving pictures. Oh, well.

It sounds like Microsoft and Google are talking over each other, at least when it comes to the Cortana assistant app on Android devices. In a recent update to the app for the American version, Microsoft has disabled the voice-activated “Hey Cortana” feature apparently due to microphone conflicts with the “OK, Google” voice command. Microsoft also announced this week it was going to crack down on aggressive adware that makes PC users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. As of March 31st next year, Microsoft plans to yank or block adware that defies its policies.

The Nielsen folks have released their list of the top apps of 2015 as measured by the number of users.  Odds are, you’re probably using one or two of the winning apps.

visitorJuniper Networks, which makes firewall for business enterprise customers, had to issue the advisory last week that so company remotely related to online protection wants to release: the Security Bulletin outlining multiple issues with one of its products.  A short FAQ on the incident. patches and workarounds were also posted. Wired reports that researchers now think the National Security Agency was at least partially responsible, and cryptography expert Matthew Green even has a blog post describing how hackers used an existing back door to make one of their own. Also in government snooping news, Apple is pushing back at a bill in the United Kingdom that seeks to expand Parliament’s investigatory powers and could give the government the power to make Apple decrypt its iMessage service.

The Federal Trade Commission has chased down the Oracle Corporation and charged that the company bamboozled customers about the safety of security updates to its Java software.  Thanks to a legal order, Oracle must provide an uninstall tool so users can pry the old Java crapware off their systems and make sure future updates actually provide the promised security.

hellkittyAnother week, another database leak. And another one that involves information about kids — Hello Kitty, of all things. Several sites have reported on the incident, but the one called The Office of Inadequate Security over at www.databreaches.net and the Salted Hash site lay it down: “Database Leak Exposes the 3.3 Million Hello Kitty Fans.”  The issue was discovered by security researcher Chris Vickery, who has been having a banner year of fail-hunting, and appears to be more of a server misconfiguration thing rather than hacker tracks. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, posted a statement on its site saying credit-card info was not at risk and yes, they fixed the problem.

While passwords can be a pain, especially when they’re hacked, Google is experimenting with a new way of logging in via smartphone notification. Yahoo, which has had its own security problems, updated its Yahoo Mail mobile app last fall that also did away with passwords in favor of a push notification to a mobile device. Just don’t lose your phone.

Layoffs are a fact of life in the tech industry and Toshiba is taking a hit now. The company, which claims to have released the world’s first mass-market laptop back in 1985 and affordable models in the 1990s, has been steadily losing ground to rival companies in Asia. The company, which also had a major accounting scandal this summer, said Monday it plans to cut about five percent of its workforce .

rosieThe Consumer Electronics Show is still about three weeks away, but the advance press releases are already starting to trickle out. Cleaning fans take note, LG plans to reveal what it calls “the world’s first augmented reality vacuum cleaner” at CES next month. The company’s HOM-BOT Turbo+ uses three camera sensors to record its surroundings to keep track of where it has already cleaned — and  to transmit a real-time feed to its owner’s smartphone. The human just needs to tap an area of the room displayed on the screen to have the HOM-BOT go over there and clean it. Because the vacuum has motion sensors along with its cameras, it can also be used to keep an eye on the place, but the HOM-BOT doesn’t quite sound like its up to a Terminator level of protection . . . yet.

bot

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.

LittleFlags

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.

eyes

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 135 News: Reach for the Stars

March marches on! Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference kicks off this week and early word has it that the Social Network could become a host for the content written by major media outlets.  The company in talks with big news organizations as it tests new formats for the project, in which advertising revenue (as always) could be the big lure for all parties involved.

layoutFacebook’s Instagram service has a new app called Layout that lets smartphone photographers remix up to nine images from their camera rolls into customizable collages. Layout (shown here) is free and now available for iOS users, with an Android edition, as usual, currently in the works.

In unofficial news, Facebook seems to be testing a phone dialer and Caller ID app of its own, although it doesn’t seem to be announced yet or anything. The Android Police site was the first to report on the new app, which the site says is called Phone. Facebook has confirmed the app’s existence, but has not said what it plans to do with it. (Perhaps  it was just some leftover code from the failed Facebook-powered phone a few years back?)

Oh, and the Toronto Globe and Mail is among those who noticed that Facebook seems to be making corporate and brand pages less of a place for angry customers to post angry rants about lousy customer service and product complaints. A recent tweak by Facebook collapses user comments so they are not as easily visible — and readable — on corporate pages.

Samsung seems to be grabbing the reins on the bloatware. People posting in the XDA Developers Forum online are chattering that many pre-installed apps for the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones can be easily removed without hassle. Removable apps are said to include Samsung’s S Voice and S Health apps, Google’s troika of Gmail, YouTube and Google+ and Microsoft’s OneNote, OneDrive and Skype. Microsoft and Samsung aren’t parting wys across the board, though, as the two companies announced earlier this week that Samsung will pre-install Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype and a few other company apps on certain Samsung Android tablets this fall.

pebbleOn the wearables beat, the Kickstarter campaign for the competing Pebble Time smartwatch saw a healthy spike around and during Apple’s media event a few weeks ago and is close to 20 million dollars, making the crowdfunded, less expensive smartwatch a player in the game. And Google Glass, despite having its original model discontinued, is not dead yet.

Just a week after we mocked it here for hardware stagnation, there are early leaks to BuzzFeed News about the Apple TV set-top box getting an upgrade and makeover, maybe right in time for the World Wide Developers Conference in June. According to sources, the revamped box would include a beefier processor, voice control with a Siri-esque digital assistant and have its own App Store to load up your home screen. As Wired noted, this alleged new hardware would go real good with the also-rumored live-streaming TV channel bundle.

steveThe biography of Steve Jobs written by journalist Walter Isaacson in 2011 went on to sell millions of copies, but many people close to Mr. Jobs felt the book focused a little too much on his periodic-but-infamous bad behavior. Now Becoming Steve Jobs has arrived in stores this week. Although Mr. Issacson’s volume was authorized by its subject and used official interviews with Jobs as part of its source material, Becoming Steve Jobs is already earning high praise for its accuracy by those who worked with him and knew him best.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for net neutrality. Yes, these are probably the first of many.

skeetAmazon has gotten approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to test out commercial drones. The super-uber-mega-everything store has been issued an “experimental airworthiness certificate” from the FAA that allows Amazon to conduct the research it says it needs to train crew and further develop its Prime Air package delivery system. Amazon’s ambitions do have some skeptics, the Network World site for example, which points out that the problem with drone deliveries is practical, not regulatory. Amazon thought the whole FAA-approval process was way too slow.

And finally, if you love spectacular photos of rockets, space and other celestial subjects, NASA’s official website and dozens of social media feeds have traditionally been great places to go for new and interesting material, but now even the private space contractors are sharing their snaps. SpaceX, which makes cargo capsules, rockets and other spacecraft, has now put a number of breath-taking images on its Flickr page. The SpaceX pictures also sport a Creative Commons license that allows noncommercial re-use without a license with attribution, so hey, that photo at the top of this post is totally courtesy of SpaceX. So if you need a handsome photo for your blog or lesson plans, check it out. And don’t forget to grab a few inspiring pix for your desktop wallpaper, too.