Tag Archives: Rogue One

PTJ 215: Death Patches and Death Stars

If you’re still clinging to a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 — even though the highly flammable device has been officially recalled — Samsung is coming for you with a phone-bricking update in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, the bacon emoji has arrives in iOS 10.2, Netflix is getting all up in the virtual reality and you can now use Dropbox from your Xbox. Also in this week’s episode, El Kaiser presents his Tech Term of 2016 and J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on replacing your smartphone battery. Just press Play!

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 213: Server Loads and Angry Rogues

Another year, another Disney-generated Star Wars movie. And, like last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens pre-sales, the demand for advance  Rogue One tickets Monday morning knocked over the Fandango site like an AT-AT tripped up by crafty snowspeeders. But now that you’ve got your tickets, kill some time until the movie with Carrie Fisher’s new book — or catch up the recent tech news with El Kaiser and J.D., along with this week’s discussion of video streams and spam awareness. May the Force be with you!

Links to This Week’s News Stories

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Vote Early

As you may have heard, the United States of America is holding a presidential election next month. In fact, the election is already happening in many states, where early voting has begun.

Want to get in ahead of the crowd? Early voting often allows you to avoid long lines and crowd hassle on Election Day, but not every state offers it. If you’re not sure if your state allows early voting, just fire up the Google search engine and search for “how to vote.”

As described in a blog post last summer, Google provides geographically relevant info as to where and when you can vote. You can also find information on absentee voting, if it’s not too late in your state. (And if you live in Oregon, everyone there can vote by mail.)

If you do plan to vote in person on November 8th, you can also find out what type of identification you need to bring with you. On your local Board of Elections site, you may also be able to see a preview copy of your local ballot — which may include independent candidates who are not on a national ticket.

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The campaign season — which started last year with candidate declarations and even a few bare-knuckle primary debates — has been comparatively volatile. Yet, in the midst of all the screaming from the super-sized personalities, it’s sometimes hard to hear the actual issues. If you haven’t been paying attention until now and want to know where the candidates and their parties stand on topics like healthcare, job creation, immigration and more, roll on over to the campaign’s website:

If you want to see the party’s official platform, you can find that online easily too:

The Washington Post also has a handy state-by-state voter guide with links to state elections sites and the Vote411.org site from the League of Women Voters is full of useful information, including what types of voting machines are used in your state. And if you’re tired of blathering cable-news heads bringing you the campaign news of the day, cruise by the C-SPAN site for thorough (but low-budget) coverage of the election and other government goings-on.

Already voted? Tired of the whole political season? Just want some escapist entertainment?  A new trailer for this December’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped last week, which for many, already has a much more compelling storyline.

Star Wars: The Choice Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed in movie houses last December and like clockwork four months later, the film is just about to roll out on home video. For fans of the franchise, the digital ‘n’ disc release to the masses means we can see The Force wake up all over again — but now with the power to fast-forward/rewind/obsess over all those little tidbits that whizzed by on the original big-screen viewing(s).

And of course, home video traditionally means: BONUS FEATURES.

Disney is not holding back with this one. Not only do most versions of The Force Awakens have extra video treats, you can also choose between delivery formats — and even the packaging for your copy.

And you don’t have long to wait. Digital high-def downloads from various legitimate sources will be available this Friday, April 1st, while physical discs — Blu-ray and DVD — hit stores Tuesday, April 5th.

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So, what do you get if you buy the film? Deleted scenes, of course! These snippets from the editing-room bin have already been officially teased by Disney, spoiled here and there and leaked in various places online. There are said to be six official deleted scenes for disc buyers, and a seventh clip for the digital-only releases.

And what would a home-video release be without a few behind-the-scenes minidocs? Sure, the offerings may vary by retailer, but here are the ones most retailers are advertising (complete with original breathless blurbs from Disney):

• Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic JourneyFor the first time, discover the complete story behind the making of The Force Awakens, revealed through in-depth footage and exclusive interviews with the actors and filmmakers in this feature documentary.

• The Story Awakens: The Table ReadCast members familiar and new reflect on the memorable day they all first came together to read the movie’s script.

• Building BB-8See how the filmmakers brought the newest droid to the screen, creating an instant fan favorite in the Star Wars universe.

• Crafting CreaturesWatch movie magic as the filmmakers bring a cast of new creatures to life.

• Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow FightGo deeper into the epic, climactic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren.

• John Williams: The Seventh SymphonyThe legendary composer shares personal insights of his work on Star Wars and The Force Awakens.

• ILM: The Visual Magic of The ForceAn insider’s look into the remarkable digital artistry of the movie’s visual effects.

• Force For ChangeHeroes come in all shapes and sizes. See how the Star Wars: Force for Change initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe to help others.

Can’t wait four days for a disc and going for the digital downloads? You can get it from all the usual suspects on Friday.

You can find the film on the Google Play store, Apple’s iTunes Store, the Microsoft Store and Walmart’s Vudu service. Most are charging $19.99 for an HD download of the film with bonus content included, and $14.99 for a standard-definition widescreen edition with no extra features. Amazon of course, likes to undercut everyone in price, and is charging $17.99 for the HD download with bonus material and $14.99 for the standard. (You be you, Amazon.)

Want a hard copy of the film on a good ol’ shiny disc? You can get one of those next Tuesday — and you have some options there as well. Film buffs will probably go for the Blu-ray/DVD combo back that also gives you a digital copy for your devices. The combo pack has a list price of $29.99 but you can find it cheaper if you look around. The straight-up DVD will cost around $18.99.

Four big retailers are doing their own packaging as well. These include:

• BEST BUY. The Best Buy Blu-ray Combo pack features sturdy SteelBook packaging for $29.99.

 DISNEY STORE. The Disney Store Blu-ray Combo comes with an exclusive lithograph set. That’s all while supplies last, and the package rings in at $24.99.

• TARGET. The $24.99 Target Blu-ray Combo pack comes with its own special packaging and an added 20 minutes of bonus content. Target claims to have never-before-seen interviews with new stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, plus a deep dive into at the movie’s costumes and weaponry.

• WALMART. Wallyworld’s own Blu-ray Combo pack comes with spunky BB-8 packaging and a Star Wars Galactic Connexions trading disc. List price is $39.99, but it’s on sale for $19.98.

And all these are just for the 2D editions — a 3D version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be available later this year. Finally! Something to keep us busy until Rogue One arrives on December 16th.

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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.)

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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.

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PTJ 139 News: Spring Cleaning

The Googleverse got  a little rattle this week as the company began rolling out its mobile-friendly update. As one might imply from the name, this new tweak to the new Google Search algorithm boosts the rankings of sites that are designed for (or have responsive versions for) mobile devices. The mobile-friendly update also applies only to mobile searches, so if you’re using a desktop web browser, your results won’t be affected. So, relax — unless you’re a website developer with an unresponsive site.

Google has also made it possible now for you to download a complete copy of your Web search history with the site. That is, all the searches you made, (good, bad or naughty), when you were logged in with your Google account for Gmail or another G-service. Remember, though, this is just a copy of your web-search history and doesn’t remove the original information from Google’s records. But you can go into your account’s search and browsing history and delete the information there.

youtube_apiGoogle’s YouTube is also clearing out a little old history. According to a blog post on the YouTube house engineering blog, the company will be retiring its Data API v2. So, why should you care? Here’s why:  A help page on the YouTube site said “select devices” manufactured in 2012 or earlier will be affected and will no longer be able to use the YouTube app. This includes second-generation and earlier Apple TV boxes, Apple devices running iOS 6 or older, some Sony and Panasonic Internet-connected television sets and Blu-Ray players and hardware running older versions of Google TV. Third-generation Apple TV boxes can upgrade to the new version of the YouTube app. Smart TVs and game consoles left out in the YouTube cold may be able to use the site through their web browsers. Bummer if you have the three-old hardware, but this is ultimately a GoogTube decision.

Twitter is also making some changes to its service. The company has added that previously announced feature that, when you turn it on in your account settings, lets anyone in the Twitterverse send you a direct message. At least this is optional and not on by default.

Twitter also stepped up its efforts to fight abuse on its network. The company has updated its policy on violent threats and target abuse, as explained on its website. Violating the policy first results in a temporary account suspension. In addition to the updated abusive behavior policy and a detailed support articled instructing users how to report abuse, the company is also testing what’s basically a bozo filter. The Twitter blog explains it all for you. (One more Twitter-related note: The Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team announced this week that it was going to sell a limited number of playoff tickets via Twitter.)

destinations

Early reports from last fall claiming that Amazon would be launching a hotel-shopping service has proven true. The new site is called Amazon Destinations and goes beyond the previous hotel deals offered by  Amazon Local for regional deals near you. So far, your destination with Amazon Destinations is just limited to Los Angeles, New York and Seattle, and you need to get there by car or ground-based transport because it’s local. But it’s a start.

Hewlett Packard is tossing out Snapfish after 10 years of ownership. The computer maker is cleaving itself into two companies, (one for enterprise, one for personal computers and printers) and is selling the Snapfish photo-sharing site to District Photo. Snapfish customers will continue to use HP printing services even after the sale, however.

Many modders love the Cyanogen open-source operating system based on Google’s Android.  Microsoft seems to love it enough to form a strategic partnership with the company. Microsoft services like Skype, OneDrive, Outlook, OneNote, Office and Bing will be integrated into future versions of the Cyanogen OS .

frogMeanwhile, researchers at the Costa Rican Amphibian Research Center have published a report in the Journal Zootaxa documenting a new species of glass frog that some observers say looked very similar to one Kermit the Frog. The similarity is noted on the little creature’s Wikipedia page, which describes it as “The frog is a lime-green coloured amphibian with translucent skin on its underside and has a horizontally shaped pupil that makes it look like Kermit, the Muppet.” Okay, that deserves a bonafide Kermit Flail:

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Facebook has some tweaks of its own to its News Feed algorithm and says content posted directly by friends will show up higher than promotional posts or updates from liked brands and Pages.

Well now. Apple’s recent Yosemite update 10.10.3, was supposed to fix some bugs and security holes but experts are saying that one known vulnerability was not fixed in the patch. The Rootpipe flaw, a potential backdoor in OS X that apparently dates back to 2011, is still present in 10.10.3. Here’s hoping the sequel to that update does the job. Security experts have also pointed out that about 1,500 iOS apps in Apple’s App Store have security vulnerabilities as well.

bothansAnd finally, last week’s new teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens not only put a lump in the throat and a hope in the heart of many a Generation Xer, it also gave a bump to Disney’s stock price. Although the stock got a brief $2 billion dollar goose after the trailer’s debut, share prices dipped back into normal territory the next day. But The Force Awakens was not the only Star Wars news last week. At the Star Wars Celebration expo in California, Disney and Lucasfilm executives shared details for a new film Rogue One, which will be a standalone chapter in the new Star Wars Anthology series. Rogue One is set between the events of Episode III and IV and is supposed to tell the story of how the rebels stole the plans to the Death Star in the first place. The new film is said to be darker in tone than the films in the two trilogies, and is due out December 2016. Let’s raise a glass to the Bothans for finally getting their story told. L’chaim, Bothans!