Tag Archives: Roku

PTJ 252: Naughty Bunnies

It’s nature gone wild: The Bad Rabbit ransomware is having a mad hop through corporate networks around the world and rubber fish are lip-syncing Amazon’s Alexa. Meanwhile, Google wants to secure your account with actual keys and Amazon wants to pop the lock on your front door for package delivery. Spin up Episode 252 to get the details from El Kaiser and J.D., plus some tips for jumping smartphone platforms if you’ve decided to leave Apple for Google — or vice versa.

And don’t forget: Stranger Things 2 is now streaming on Netflix!

Links to Stories Discussed on This Week’s Episode

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint

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

The Year in Geek: 2015 Edition

2015 has come and (almost) gone and it’s time for the media-mandated Look Back at the Year We Just Had. [Drumroll … rimshot … clown horn noise] Noted in no particular order, here’s our list of high points, low points and things that just stood out to us here at Pop Tech Jam HQ over the course of the earth’s latest loop around the sun:

• NASA: New Horizons and Beyond.— While it wasn’t quite the Apollo 11 mojo, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had a banner year with the New Horizons successful flyby of Pluto and data treasure trove that’s still trickling back from the other side of the solar system. The agency also grew lettuce, aged whiskey and ran many other experiments up at the International Space Station while its Dawn spacecraft took at look at the dwarf planet Ceres. And that Matt Damon movie was very good publicity.

Windows 10. Microsoft released its successor to the much-reviled Windows 8 this summer. Despite some major bugs and user wariness, Win10 did see relatively fast adoption rates by 8Haters, people finally upgrading from XP and those who wanted to try out the new technology as soon as they could.

• Security! Security! Security! (or Lack Thereof…). It seemed like no corporate database was safe from intrusion this year. Plenty of major companies got breached, including Anthem health insurance, the CVS Photos site, interactive toymaker VTech, the federal Office of Personal Management, the Internal Revenue Service, the Ashley Madison site for love affairs, Slack and Experian’s T-Mobile servers. Just to name, you know, A FEW OF THEM.

• Underwhelming Apple. The Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino finally released a smartwatch and a giant iPad in 2015 — just like industry types have been speculating about for years. And not only was much of the public was pretty “meh” about it all, the stock was down as well, based on fear of what comes next with iPhone sales.

• Video Streaming Goes Big. The standalone HBO Now finally arrived for Game of Thrones fans and other cord-cutters, Sling TV further chopped the coax with an over-the-top package of channels, and new voice-controlled streaming boxes from Amazon, Google, Roku, Apple and others have stepped up the battle for the living room’s big screen.

• Ad Blockers. Apple’s iOS 9 was just the latest piece of software that allows its users to block other pieces of software, namely intrusive advertising that makes reading so aggravating on mobile devices and other digital platforms. Yes, blocking ads takes money out of the content-publisher’s pocket (and may make it hard for them to keep going). But publishers and advertisers, if you don’t want people to use ad blockers, make better ads.

• E-Book Reversal. E-book sales dipped, and print titles had a slight rebound. And although some think nothing will happen, authors and publishers asked the Department of Justice to look into Amazon’s influence in the industry.

• Google, Even More Helpful But CreepyMachine-learned responses to emails, self-driving cars, Trip Bundles, parking markers, rerouted traffic navigation on the fly and the increasingly accurate predictive Google Now service that tries to guess what you want to see before you see it. Yes, the Big G had a very big year all up in your business. (But remember, you don’t have to use it.)

• Broadway Sings Social Media. Internet fan favorite and Sulu OG George Takei used Twitter and Facebook to help spread the word about this new musical Allegiance, the story of Japanese internment camps in the United States during World War II. Meanwhile, creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of the Broadway smash musical Hamilton were all over Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and other social outlets, not only to promote the show, but to add new views — like the short YouTube movie a cast member made about opening night from the actors’ perspective. The cast album for the show was available to stream free on the NPR site during the week before it arrived as an official download, and the recording’s devotees soon revved up the enthusiastic #Hamiltunes hashtag to quote their favorite lyrics. Smartphone videos of the weekly rapfest Ham4Ham — where the show’s actors perform short bits for fans clustered outside the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Manhattan’s West 46th Street — also got online play. And let’s not overlook the mash-up memes like #Force4Ham, which combined themes from both Hamilton and Star Wars. Now, about the latter…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sixteen years after The Phantom Menace and the turgid prequels, director and nostalgia reboot specialist J.J. Abrams revived the franchise with a record-smashing, uplifting return to form that served as a bridge between the old world and the new one in that galaxy far, far away. The Force is strong in that one.

Happy 2016 from Pop Tech Jam!

PTJ 168: Watching Apple TV

Anybody with visions of cord-cutting probably has either a TV antenna (and a house wthin range of digital television signals) or a set-top box for streaming video. If you fall in the a latter camp, choices abound — Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Google Chromecast,  Roku’s line of boxes — so many ways to snag your shows. Oh, and there’s also the latest edition of the Apple TV, which now brings apps and games to the video party as well. On this week’s episode, Don Donofrio drops by PTJ HQ to discuss the pro and cons of Apple’s latest little black box.

PTJ 162 News: Surface to Air

Now it’s Microsoft’s turn on stage! The company held a big press event on Tuesday here in New York City and showed off a great big pile of new devices all designed to run its Windows 10 operating system. There was the Surface Book, a laptop/tablet combo that starts at $1500, the Surface Pro 4 tablet with an $900 entry-level model, three new Lumia phones, and the second version of its fitness tracker called Microsoft Band 2 for $250. The Xbox One console got a Windows 10 update and Microsoft announced the HoloLens Development Edition because HoloLens headsets will start shipping out the first quarter of 2016 for $3000 each. So, who on your gift list wants Windows 10 this holiday season?

Roku was also out with The New this week and introduced  the Roku 4 set-top box, which can handle 4K video along with the now-standard voice search and gaming. Roku also has apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone to let you command the box from your mobile device. The Roku 4 is expected to ship October 21.

roku

Also fresh for the fall fashion season: Google has officially released Android 6.0 Marshmallow and is pushing out updates to recent Nexus devices. Google also updated the YouTube app for iOS with its Material Design look and tools for editing videos within the app itself, many users do not like the redesign. Not at all.

Meanwhile, over in Cupertino, Apple has purchased Perceptio, a company developing technology for artificial intelligence software for smartphones.  The Perceptio purchase goes with another recent purchase, the start-up VocalIQ, and company which makes software for processing natural language. Siri may be getting a brain transplant soon.

In Apple’s own software, the company says it has now resolved problems with the App Thinning feature promised in iOS 9 and has included it in the recent iOS 9.0.2 update. Apple has also made its keynote addresses searchable by keyword, if you search for a feature announcement by keyword.

Reddit has spun off a new site called Upvoted. The new site features some of the same content as its mother board, but none of the user comments, which are thought to. er, drive advertisers away from the main site.

upvoted

Facebook, which has discussed drones and other various ways to bring the Internet to places that don’t have access, announced this week that it would be launching a satellite with a French communications company to bring the Internet to mobile phones over large parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Facebook, your eye in the sky now, too.

The European Union Court of Justice has smacked down a deal that let companies transfer personal user data from Europe to the United States with the Safe Harbor system. The EU court ruled the system invalid because it subjects users in the European Union to spying by US government agencies.

And finally, we’ve recently talked about vinyl making a comeback, but now audio cassettes seem to be having a smaller, but similarly nostalgic return these past few years. Some people have stubbornly held on to the format for decades despite CDs and digital downloads. Cassettes peaked in the late 1980s from almost a billion units. But by 2001, they accounted for only 4 percent of all music sales and by 2005, sales had fallen to fewer than 1 million. National Audio Company of Springfield, Missouri, still makes pre-recorded and blank cassettes and sold 10 million of them last year, with sales up 20 percent this year. Do we think this might be a Guardians of the Galaxy effect? Are cassette lovers just . . . hooked on a feeling?

tape

PTJ 137: Organize Your Online Reading Life

This week we go back to basics here on the show as  J.D. and El Kaiser go over the week’s news and help you make your online reading experience better with reading list tools and apps.

In the news, Roku adds features to their existing streaming devices; rumors swirl that the new Apple TV will not support 4k streams; Samsung Galaxy S6 might be bendy, just like the Apple 6; new Aluminum batteries that charge in a New York minute; and a happy National Robotics Week to one and all!

PTJ 137 News: Sticks and Phones

roku3Spring is full of popular television shows returning with fresh new episodes, and streaming TV boxes are busting a move. Roku has upgraded its Roku 3 and Roku 2 set-top streaming boxes with improved features like alphabetical search and a movie watchlist. A software update for existing Roku boxes also adds these features. The $100 Roku 3 (shown here) now has voice search — and a headphone jack — in its remote control. The $70 Roku 2 is pretty much the same streaming box without the fancy remote. Oh, and Roku just updated its Android app and is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version this week.

BuzzFeed New, which was the first to publish reports on the new updated Apple TV box expected later this year, has new information on the forthcoming device, mainly that it will not initially support those big but glorious 4K video streams. Apple is not commenting.

With new phones, come new complaints from early adopters — and PR moves to quell the unrest.  Samsung responded to a video from mobile-warranties dealer SquareTrade that purported to show a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge being bent and then broken. While arguing about the test’s methodology, Samsung released its own “Three-Point Bend Test” video. (The company also says that contrary to reports from developer forums, pre-installed apps on its Galaxy S6 phones cannot be uninstalled, just hidden from view.)

Ever quoted a tweet but had no room for your own comment due to Twitter’s character limit?  Twitter said this week that it was tweaking the “quote tweet” feature, which should give the quoters another 116 characters for snark or bark on the original.

Researchers at Stanford University are testing a new aluminum-ion battery that could one day replace the current lithium-ion and alkaline power cells we use today. They charge faster and catch on fire less, which is an improvement over current batteries all around.

oliverTV comedian John Oliver of the HBO show “Last Week Tonight” interviewed NSA leaker Edward Snowden to discuss government surveillance reform. Oliver broke down the topic into parts the average user who does not care about the complexities of government surveillance can understand.  In other Snowden news, activists placed a large sculpture of Edward Snowden in the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn his week. City workers quickly removed it, but a second activist group then began to project a hologram in the same place dedicated to Snowden.

Facebook is apparently being used to officially serve divorce papers. Will Facebook weddings be legal soon, too?

Apple Maps has now added content from TripAdvisor and Booking.com on certain hotel reviews. Hopefully, the maps themselves have gotten better, too.

surface3Speaking of products that originally arrived with a deep thud, Microsoft just released a new version of its tablet computer. The Surface 3 is thinner and lighter than previous versions. Prices start at $499. The Surface 3 is the less-corporate version of the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft’s touted laptop-replacement tablet that starts at $799.

Microsoft is middle-aged now. The company, which was founded on April 5th, 1975, just celebrated the big 4-0 this past weekend and is shopping for future relevance along with a little red Corvette.

Microsoft may have gotten rich selling PC software, but the PC hardware itself has slimmed down quite a bit over the years. As shown at the top of this post, Intel’s Compute Stick, (which started pre-orders this week), is an extremely narrow portable PC that plugs into the HMDI port on a big monitor or TV. With a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, it turns it into a Windows 8.1 or Linux computer.  You can’t shake a Compute Stick at the competition, though, as Google’s Chromebit offers a colorful alternative to the system-on-a-stick approach.

A new Microsoft update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 includes a little code for the future, reports the Myce.com site. There’s a Windows 10 downloader quietly nestled in the update code, just waiting for its cue to make Windows 8.1 users deliriously happy.

The new YouTube Kids mobile app is already coming under fire from parental groups. Some have asked the Federal Trade Commission to take a look at the program, which they says deceptively targets toddlers with advertising. Google denies the accusations, saying it worked with numerous child advocacy groups on the app.

It’s National Robotics Week! The annual event features more than 250 events around the country designed to get kids interested in the science of robotics. iRobot, the IEEE Spectrum and Georgia Tech’s Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines are pitching in for the event and have even released a set of all-star real robot trading cards that you can download in PDF form, and IEEE Spectrum also has a free Robots app for the iPad that lets kids see and interact with 158 robots from 19 different countries. Because real robots are even cooler than movie robots (most of the time).

robotcards

10 Things We Talked About in 2014 That Will Be Even Bigger in 2015

  1. NET NEUTRALITY
    It wasn’t just us — nearly four million people took the time to file comments on the Federal Communication Commission’s website in the summer and fall of 2014. Larger corporations who do not want to see their businesses regulated are pitted against consumers, advocacy groups, digital-rights organizations and smaller companies who think the Internet should stay the way it is — and remain free and open. The FCC’s new rules are expected by February, so stand by for more chatter in the new year.
  1. HACKING
    The Sony Pictures Hack got a lot of press, but it was only one of many high-profile intrusions in 2014. JPMorgan Chase and The Home Depot also had hacking headlines, all on the heels of 2013’s big Target data heist. It all continues to be a big financial payoff for fraudsters, so batten down the hatches for 2015.
  1. SECURITY
    Yes, if big corporations had better security, maybe they wouldn’t get hacked as severely, but remember, security is an issue for everyone. The Heartbleed bug and the Shellshock vulnerability were just two incidents in the past year in which our everyday computer systems were proven not to be as secure as we thought. Apple has even resorted to an automatic patch for a recent clock bug to make sure people were protected. So stay on guard  and keep on patchin’.
  1. WEARABLES
    Yes, we saw a lot of smartwatches hit the stores in 2014, but they were all trying to get out ahead of the Apple Watch, which was announced last fall and is expected to go on sale sometime before the end of March. Fitness trackers, like the Microsoft Band and the Fitbit line saw some action, too. It’ll be interesting to see if the fancy watches impact their sales in the new year, or of fitness and fashion shall remain divided. (And don’t forget — Google Glass is still lurking out there as well in the wearable world.)
  1. MOBILE PAYMENTS
    Again, Google Wallet and a couple other mobile payment systems were already there, but Apple dropped Apple Pay into its new hardware, and that’s all people want to talk about. Apple Pay was not without backlash, though, as some stores like CVS and Rite Aid opted not to take Apple’s system because they had one of their own in the works (hel-lo, antitrust investigation). But the drugstores’ CurrentC system is not off to a great start security-wise and it’s already had an email database breach of its own.
  1. INTERNET OF THINGS
    Ah, devices all connected together into one big Internet of Things. As one might expect, there’s a massive push for connected-home stuff at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Expo next week. We’ve already seen connected light bulbs and thermostats get some attention in 2014, so get ready for more things talking to other things.
  1. 4K VIDEO
    Ultra high-def TV sets were all the rage at CES last year, but now prices have dropped far enough so that regular people who are Not Multimillionaires can afford some of the new models. YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are starting to stream some content in 4K, and new smartphones with faster processors that can handle 4K vid (like the Snapdragon 810) are on the way so more people can shoot their own UHD movies.
  1. SOCIAL ISSUES ONLINE
    As more women enter traditional male strongholds, like the fields of computer science or massively multiplayer videogames, some (but not all) men are feeling threatened by the changing world and lashing out protectively. Message boards, personal communication and even organized efforts like the so-called GamerGate incident have shown some uncivilized behavior towards women, who for their part, are starting to stand up and fight back — even getting coverage on the front page of The New York Times. America’s volatile year with racial issues has also spilled over into the online world, with tirades in social media and even snide remarks about a black stormtrooper in the Star Wars trailer. But people are rising above it and using technology as a tool to make a difference. Take for example, Feminist Hacker Barbie or the way social media has been used to organize peaceful protests efficiently and bring people together for to work for change. There’s still a long way to go, but things are shifting and will continue to do so.
  1. VIDEO EVERYWHERE
    2014 saw more ways than ever before to stream video conent to mobile devices. Even though some companies like Aereo bit the dust in court, others like HBO have made the jump to free their programming from cable packages and make it available in standalone apps and services. New hardware like the Amazon Fire TV box and Stick — along with the growing adoption of existing products from Roku, Google and Apple — have made it cheap and easy to stream Internet video to the big screen. Online video streams to all screen sizes will only get more popular, especially as more Smart TVs with some of these services built in continue to get more affordable.
  1. STAR WARS
    Yeah, we talked a lot about Star Wars: The Force Awakens this year on the show. So imagine what it’s gonna be like when the movie actually opens on December 18, 2015.

Happy New Year!

PTJ 109 News: “You Get an Album! You Get an Album! Everybody Gets an Album!”

Despite all the attention after the Big Media Lovefest last week, Apple felt a few hot, bitter blasts of user rage after it force-gifted U2’s new Songs of Innocence album to iTunes users far and wide. To add insult to injury for people who have privacy issues (or just hate U2), it was also very hard to delete the tracks from one’s library until Apple but up a dedicated U2 Album Removal Page to permanently rid themselves of the download.

U2_Removal

Future Apple Pay competitor PayPal also added to the anti-Apple mix this week, taking out a full-page ad in The New York Times that tweaked the Cupertino crew on its security after the recent iCloud Naked Pictures uproar. Despite the bad press and U2 overstep, Apple did have a good week in the money-making department. A press release from the company stated it sold more than four million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models within 24 hours of pre-orders going live. (Oh, and the company finally stepped it up on two-step verification for iCloud accounts as well.)

In Microsoft news this week, the Redmond Giant  snapped up Mojang, the Swedish company behind the very popular game Minecraft. Microsoft also announced an event dedicated to its upcoming Windows 9 operating system. The preview edition could land in a couple weeks, and although there’s no word on an official release date, many industry watchers assume that the final version of Windows 9 will likely arrive next year.

cm-1Panasonic is really stepping up the game for smartphone camera hardware. The new Panasonic Lumix CM1 smartphone runs Android and packs a 20-megapixel camera with a 1-inch sensor. The phone also has a Leica lens, manual control ring, and the ability to shoot 4K video — plus a hefty price tag. It’s going on sale in Germany and France this November for 900 euros. Achtung, baby!

Lower price points for different Android phones can be found in India, where three models in the Android One line of practical, affordable smartphones can be found contract-free  for the equivalent of about $105 dollars.

CCPNASA has picked SpaceX and Boeing for its Commercial Crew Program. Those companies will be taking over the astronaut commuter route to the International Space Station in 2017.

The deadline for the second round of public comments concerning the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet rules was this past Monday and  records were indeed broken. The agency received more than three million comments regarding its net neutrality proposals. No deadline set has been for a final FCC ruling and the agency is hosting a couple Open Internet roundtable events on Friday. The FCC also held discussion events this week on the topic of mobile broadband and whether or not wireless carriers should be exempt from Net Neutrality standards. And in other Government Agency News, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced this week that its biometric Next Generation Identification system has full operational capability.

Speaking of governments, Google’s recent update to its publicly posted Transparency Report says that government demands for user information have risen 150 percent since 2009. This latest update covers demands for user information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and through National Security Letters, as well as standard government demands for the first half of 2014.

Roku, maker of set-top streaming TV boxes, announced that it’s sold 10 million of its players here in the United States since the product debuted in 2008. Apple TV, the Google Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV have some catching up to do.

threeAnd finally, Wolfram, the company behind the Wolfram Alpha Computational Knowledge Engine, launched a web-based version of its Mathematica software this week. Mathletes who want to do serious technical computing in the cloud, you may now go to town — exponentially, and and in 3D if you want.