Tag Archives: rover

PTJ 244: Across the Universe

Whether it be The Defenders kicking butt across the New York City zone of the Marvel Universe or NASA’s assorted spacecraft exploring the real universe, this week’s episode of Pop Tech Jam has you covered. El Kaiser and J.D. get their geek on with plenty of chatter about comics, consumer technology and spaaaaaace! Won’t you join us?

Links to Stories in This Week’s Episode

 

PTJ 120: NASA and the Troll Patrol

This week El Kaiser shares his ickiest Tech Term yet and J.D. tells us all about Twitter’s new “Troll Patrol”.  In the news NASA’s Orion spacecraft completes a successful test flight; the first Coder In Chief; Facebook modifies its search function; Princeton University puts thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online; Amazon rolls out 4K streams; the FCC wants wireless carriers to ste up efforts to protect consumer data; researchers discover Linux-based malware that’s been active for years; the fallout from cyber-attack on SONY’s networks continues; and the father of the videogame passes away.

PTJ 120 News: Readin’, Writin’ and Roarin’ Through Space

Yes, it’s officially  Computer Science Education Week now and companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are into it, with many sponsoring the Hour of Code project with Code.org . For instance, Apple is holding coding events at its Apple Stores and Google’s YouTube site has plenty of inspirational videos. President Obama even hosted an event at the White House with middle-school students and banged out a few lines of JavaScript, perhaps getting some training for that inevitable job switch that’ll be happening in a couple years.

mcThe past week has been great for space. Last Friday, NASA’s Orion spacecraft completed a successful test flight, with a launch at Cape Canaveral, orbit around the Earth a few times and splashdown in the Pacific less than five hours later. Just a day later, on  Saturday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft woke up out of its hibernation state just in time for its 2015 mission to observe Pluto, the celestial body many of us still consider to be a planet at the outer edges of our solar system. And lets not forget our old pal Curiosity (left) is still hard at work up on Mars. The geographical data gathered by NASA’s busy little rover over the past 28 months of exploring has helped scientists study and theorize about the lakes and streams that used to exist on the Red Planet in warmer times. (Oh, and a Canadian company wants a little cool Mars action itself – Thoth Technology is calling for a crowdfunding campaign to make, among other things, a “Beaver” rover to represent Canada on Mars.)

Facebook is tinkering once again with the site’s search function. While its Graph Search feature was released almost a year ago, its clunky semantic search engine was too much work for a lot of people. This week, Facebook announced that is was rolling out good old-fashioned keyword search.

Einstein

Princeton University has put thousands of documents written by Albert Einstein online. The site, called The Digital Einstein Papers, is part of a larger ongoing project called The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. The new site covers the first 44 years of Einstein’s life and features digitized letters, scholarly articles and other material .

In streaming video news, Amazon announced some of its Instant Video streams are now available in ultra high-def 4K. And YouTube has overhauled its app for the Apple TV, bringing predictive search, personalized recommendations and a new visual design to the screen

The Federal Communications Commission continues its rampant news grab as it still contemplates Net Neutrality. The agency has now found time to release a 140-page report on mobile phone theft and has some suggestions for wireless carriers to help protect consumers and their data.

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have discovered Linux-based malware that’s been active for years and aimed at computers in government, military, education, research and pharmaceutical networks in 45 different countries.

sonyThe recent hack of  Sony’s network is still spewing fallout. A group calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, have dumped a whole lot of confidential Sony data out into the public, including celebrity aliases and contract information, internal emails between Sony employees, personal information about said Sony employees including 47,000 Social Security numbers, and digital copies of several new and unreleased Sony films, including the remake of Annie due in theaters December 19th. According to a message posted on the GitHub code-sharing site, one of the demands was to “stop showing the movie of terrorism,” which is believed to be a reference to an upcoming Seth Rogen-James Franco film called The Interview, which is about a plot to assassinate Kim Jon-Un, the current leader of North Korea.  North Korean officials have denied involvement but have referred to it as a “righteous deed.” Sony has hired security consultants to figure out what happened (perhaps, Team America: World Police?). This would almost make for a good videogame, if only the PlayStation network wasn’t getting hacked again.

In happier movie news, there’s a new extension for the Google Chrome browser that gives you an interactive tour of Middle-earth so you can celebrate the opening of the third-and supposedly final movie in the Hollywood “Hobbit” trilogy properly.

middleearth

And in even happier movie news, the 88-second teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed on the Web and in select movie theaters, sending geeks everywhere to analyze the visuals down to every last frame of video. Among the hot topics of discussion — the cross-hilt lightsaber and exterior modifications made to the Millennium Falcon. The lightsaber design seemed to draw the most attention, even drawing in late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. And with the official teaser comes the parody teasers, including the J.J. Abrams lens-flare edition, the George Lucas version, the Other George Lucas version, the Wes Anderson Adaptation and even an amusing parody on Saturday Night Live, a show that’s been around even longer that the Star Wars franchise itself.

And finally, let us pour one out for Ralph Baer, who died this weekend at the age of 92. Mr. Baer, who was born in Germany and fled the Nazis and was an intelligence officer in the US Army by 1943. In 1966, Mr. Baer wrote out a four-page description for a “game box” designed to let people play sports and other action games on a TV set. His work eventually resulted in the Magnavox Odyssey game system in 1972 and he also invented the electronic Simon game in 1978.

Ralph Baer, father of the videogame, we salute you.

baer

PTJ 107: Naked Celebs and TV Streaming

El Kaiser has The Great Set Top Box Stream-Off of 2014 and J.D. takes a look at the geek-friendly shows the fall TV season has lined up for us.

In the news, a huge hacking scandal involving Apple’s iCloud and stolen intimate photos of various female celebrities; Apple includes restrictions in developer’s agreement for new iOS 8 HealthKit tool; Windows 8 and 8.1 slowly finds its way onto more computers; Google announces in-house drone program; the potential for drone traffic problems up in the sky; NASA gets ready to to perform some maintenance on its Mars rover; and the Internet Archive scans millions of book pages.

PTJ 107 News: I’ve Looked at Clouds From Both Sides Now

The Summer of 2014 unofficially ended in a state of panic and outrage over cloud security with this past weekend’s iCloud Stolen Naked Celebrity Photos scandal.  Apple has now released a statement saying its iCloud security was not cracked and that the targeted accounts were compromised due to weak user passwords and easy-to-guess security questions. Apple did release a patch for its Find My iPhone tracking app Monday, as The Next Web and others had speculated about a lack of a password-lockout feature.

ios8

With personal security on its mind anyway, Apple is said to be including restrictions in the developer’s agreement for the HealthKit tools in the new iOS 8. According to The Register, the terms of the agreement ban developers from selling any user health data collected by their apps to third parties who might want to buy it. (Apple does review the apps it sells, and posted a document on its site this week that explains why it rejects certain apps.)

The HealthKit software, baked into iOS 8, is also expected to be a part of any iWatch or other wearable device Apple announces, and although such a device hasn’t even been confirmed, the Re/Code site is already reporting that Apple executives have already been talking about how much to charge for a wearable. Around $400 has been mentioned as a possible price point. And one last bite:  the whole phone-as-eWallet thing may be getting a boost from the iPhone, as Bloomberg reports that Apple is hooking up with the major payment companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express to let people buy things using their phones instead of plastic.

Net Applications, the analytics that keeps track of what people use to get to the Web, has released its report for August and found that Windows 8 and 8.1 have now managed to get to 13.4% of laptop and desktop systems out there. More than 20-percent of users, however, are still clinging to Walking Dead Windows XP.  As for other systems, Mac OS X 10.9 claimed 4.29% of the market share, while Linux had 1.67%. Go alternate operating systems!

wingThe air up there could be getting crowded soon. The Atlantic has a big story out now about Google’s newly announced in-house drone program called Project Wing. It’s been in operation for two years at Google X, the company’s top-secret research lab for big-think, long-range projects. There’s also video that shows a Google drone test flight performing – you guessed it — package delivery. Out the way, Amazon Prime Air!

While the Federal Aviation Administration has not agreed to let commercial drones fly at will, The New York Times also had a story last week looking at the future problems of drone traffic up in the sky and how all these low-flying unmanned aircraft will navigate obstacles and each other. (Domino’s Pizza went on the record and said that despite a pizza-delivery drone PR stunt last year, it was not seriously considering drones in its workforce. So no flying pepperoni for you.)

But on the topic of remote-controlled gadgets, the Opportunity rover up on Mars has been behaving a bit erratically and now NASA’s rover team has plans to reformat the Opportunity’s flash memory. This is Opportunity’s first reformat in the 10 years it’s been on Mars.

archiveAnd finally, the Internet Archive has uploaded more than 2.4 million images scanned from old books to its bulging Flickr account. The new material is called The Commons, and features old engravings, technical drawings, illustrations, sheet music and other material. The images in the collection largely predate the copyright era and range in original  publication date from about 1500 to 1922.  They can be downloaded right from Flickr, so Meme Hunters and Clip Art Collectors, you may now go to town.

PTJ 103 News: Shoot the Messenger

Facebook’s move to shove users onto its separate Messenger app is reportedly coming soon — if it’s not here already by the time you read this. Millions of people are already using it, and Facebook says the Messenger app is a faster and more efficient for sharing text and multimedia messages. The company has plans to monetize Messenger with a payment system as well. The Messenger app’s Terms of Service is causing some concern with the privacy-minded, though, and some users are complaining about the forced march.

Splitting up app services seems to be a popular move. Foursquare recently divided its eponymous mobile software for checking into places and reviewing them into two apps They are Foursquare and the new Swarm app, available for Android and iOS. Swarm is now the app required for all the check-in-with-your-pals activity, while Foursquare has been transformed into a user-reviews database. The split has gotten media criticism and a fair amount of backlash from users who are checking out of Swarm, but the company did just release another update earlier this week. (Yelp, the service Foursquare seems to competing with most, updated its own mobile app this week and now allows users to add short video clips to their reviews.)

fakefoxAnd about apps… there are new reports of a security problem with the way apps are identified by Google’s Android operating system. The research team at Bluebox Security says the new “Fake ID” vulnerability that it has just discovered allows malicious applications to essentially copy the identity certificates and credentials of trusted apps and get into places where malware is normally not allowed. The research team said this security hole has been around since Android version 2.1 in January 2010 and devices that haven’t been updated with last April’s patch for Google bug 13678484 are vulnerable.  Bluebox waited 90 days to publicize its findings so Google had time to get out the April patch.

Apple has just purchased BookLamp, a book-recommendation service in what’s said to be a shot across Amazon’s e-book bow. Also in Apple’s shopping cart: Swell, the podcasting app described by some as “Pandora for talk radio.” The Re/code site reports that Apple is scooping up Swell for about $30 million and could put Apple’s own poorly reviewed Podcasts app out of its misery or boost iTunes Radio. (Apple has now  quietly confirmed the dealthe Swell website has been shut down now and the app has been removed from the App Store.)

This summer marks 15 years since the Napster peer-to-peer file-sharing service stormed onto the scene and made MP3-swapping all the rage. At its peak, Napster claimed 80 million users before its original incarnation was shut down by court order for copyright violations in 2001. After several years of being bought and sold, the remains of the company eventually merged with the Rhapsody streaming service and this week announced it had just hit the two-million subscriber mark. On the way back up at last!

Beats Electronics, another of Apple’s more recent acquisitions,  is getting sued by Bose Electronics. Bose, which makes a line of high-end and very popular noise-cancelling headphones says Beats infringed on five of its patents. Sounds like QuietComfort is getting ready to rumble…

Microsoft is also finding itself in a spot of legal bother this week, as the Chinese government is investigating the company for violations of its antitrust laws. Chinese officials have also investigated Qualcomm for alleged anti-trust violations in recent times.

Legal troubles overseas haven’t dampened Microsoft’s sense of fun when it comes to giving Apple a virtual wedgie on TV. The mighty Redmond giant is running a new television commercial for Windows Phone that shows off its Cortana virtual assistant being much more talented and helpful than Apple’s Siri software. The general theme of the ad is similar to last year’s Microsoft spots that touted its Surface tablets over Apple’s iPad.

raspberryMicrosoft is also cooking up its own recipe for Raspberry Pi. But while the bare-bones Pi computer (shown here) costs a mere $40, Microsoft’s own version of the naked circuit board computer is called Sharknado 3, er,  The Shark’s Cove and runs about $300. The Shark’s Cove is intended to be a serious dev board for programmers and less of a hobbyist gadget like the Pi. The Microsoft Shark board does come with a copy of Windows 8.1 and the oomph to actually run it.

A lower-cost cable plan that brings broadband, basic channels and HBO for about $49-a-month is said to be in the works. The budget package had a trial run with Comcast last year. Game of Thrones for fewer bones, perhaps?

marscakeAnd finally, up on Mars. We’d like to congratulate NASA’s Opportunity Rover for setting an off-world driving record. The rolling robot has been cruising around the Red Planet since 2004 and in that decade, racked up just over 25 miles on its little odometer.  And a big “Happy Birthday” this week to NASA itself. The agency came into existence on July 29, 1958, after Congress and President Eisenhower made it so with the creatively named National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. The mission? “To provide for research into problems of flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes.”  It’s not quite as poetic as, To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before,” but hey, you have to start somewhere.

PTJ 83 News: Deals and Wheels

Cable companies are hooking up — with each other. Late last week, Comcast announced it had reached an agreement to take over Time Warner Cable for $45 billion dollars. Criticism over the deal flared up quickly, including a statement from former FCC commissioner Michael Copps, who said the merger would let the two companies “run roughshod over consumers in the end.” Several consumers took to the Internet themselves, lamenting a possible future of even more high prices and bad service. (Last year’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index survey ranked Internet providers and cable companies even lower than the airlines, another industry that’s seen a lot of mergers and a dwindling number of choices over the recent years.) The deal, which has not gotten the official government seal of approval yet, includes no breakup fee if it falls through. The Ars Technica site has an analysis of the proposed deal and how it might play out if the FCC steps in. In addition to consumer fears, the Comcast-Time Warner deal could derail a deal between Time Warner Cable and Netflix.

Meanwhile, much smaller cable company RCN is teaming up with TiVo and Opera Software are all joining forces together to bring the Opera TV Store to certain TiVo’s recorders. (Never heard of RCN? It’s a smaller outfit with service mainly along the major East Coast cities and Chicago.)

On the phone front, Federal lawmakers have followed the California Senate in proposing a new law that would require a kill switch on smartphones. Dubbed the Smartphone Theft Protection Act, the bill aims to cut down on theft and save consumers $30 billion a year in lost hardware and related costs. The wireless phone industry is not too keen on being told how to build phone hardware, however. Whatever happens, at least there are basic remote recovery tools in many phone operating systems now, like Android Device Manager, Find My iPhone or Windows Phone remote wipe.

Details about the Samsung Galaxy S5 phone are starting to percolate. Bloomberg News reports that the S5 will have a 5.2-inch display screen that’s sharper than the screen on the current S4 model, and have an improved camera and better battery life. Other sites claim the new model will have a fingerprint sensor and a spiffy new physical design.

The Kickstarter crowdfunding site got hacked this past weekend. If you’re a member of the site, change your password if you haven’t already. In a post on the Kickstarter company blog, CEO Yancey Strickler said no customer credit-card information had been accessed.

girlsclubSony’s PlayStation continues to outsell its main rival the Microsoft Xbox One. Sony announced it’s sold 5.3 million PS4 consoles since the hardware debuted last November, comparde to Microsoft’s sales of 3.9 million Xbox One units since its own November debut. Nintendo’s Wii U console has sold about 6 million units since it arrived in November 2012. Nintendo may be zeroing in on a certain segment of its user base, however. Over in the United Kingdom, the company has launched a new YouTube channel aimed at female gamers. It’s called Nintendo Girls Club and it features videos from British actors and bloggers on the latest gameplay and trailers.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day last week, Facebook added more than 40 new gender terms for users to use with their profiles on the site, expanding from the binary male/female to include transgender, intersex and a whole lot more. While many called the move progressive move into the modern world of gender identity, and editorial in the Guardian suggested that Facebook should get really radical and remove all gender options instead.

Also in the V-Day vibe, the Facebook Data Science group did a series of posts last week, sharing some of its research. One post was called “The Formation of Love,” and explained how Facebook can tell when you’re about to start a new relationship.

Ken Burns, a documentary filmmaker so iconic that he got a special effect named after him in Apple’s iPhoto software, now has an iPad app of his own. It, too, is called Ken Burns. Software Ken Burns is free to try and $10 to buy.

jetstreamMany New Yorkers have not been shy in complaining about the winter weather this year, but is there science behind it? (The weather, not New Yorkers complaining.) A study recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, research was presented that suggested warmer temperatures in the Arctic have caused the jet stream to shift father south and take a longer path across the globe — and making for more sustained weather systems.

And finally, NASA says it’s solved the mystery of the jelly-shaped donut rock on Mars that seemed to suddenly appear in front of its Opportunity rover last month. The rock, as Mars-watchers know, looked like it showed up out of the blue in pictures the rover sent back to earth within the span of 12 Martian days. This set off all sorts of speculation about just how the rock got there, but NASA now says it was a broken-off piece of another rock that the rover ran over while it was exploring the area. Let’s hope Opportunity has its insurance card in the glove compartment in case the Martians file a claim.

PTJ 75: The Scintillating 75th Episode

With the pain of losing Google Reader still fresh and Feedly a disappointment after repeated missteps, El Kaiser looks at RSS feed aggregators. J.D. breaks down the differences between Ultrabooks and notebooks and helps us make the right choice between the two laptop flavors. In the news, a campaign encouraging kids to try computer coding; several technology companies issue a joint statement calling for restrictions on US government spying; Microsoft helps users know when and where their accounts have been used; Google continues to add apps to its Chromecast TV streamer; and predicting weather patterns for Middle Earth.

PTJ 75 News: Cloudy With a Chance of Orcs

Welcome to the tail-end of Computer Science Education Week! This year, a campaign called Hour of Code encourages kids to try computer coding for just one hour to see what it’s like; you can find out more at Code.org. Supporters of the event, including the author Douglas Rushkoff say in order to be a smart and savvy consumer of modern technology, you have to know how it works.

reformExecutives at several major technology companies — including Google, Microsoft, AOL, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yahoo — have issued a joint statement calling for new legal restrictions on US government Internet surveillance programs. The group letter was addressed to President Obama and the United States Congress. And the full text can be found at ReformGovernmentSurveillance.com. (In a somewhat related story, Pro Publica, The Guardian of London and The New York Times reported this week that the NSA and the CIA have also been spying on gamers.)

Microsoft is stepping up security to help users know when and where their Microsoft Accounts have been used. The company is adding a Recent Activity page where users can log in and see all the times and locations of sign-ins, failed sign-ins due to incorrect passwords, security challenges and password-reset requests.

A couple of new iOS updates arrived this week: the latest version of the Pandora app now includes an alarm clock mode, and Amazon’s Cloud Drive Photos app now works on iPad and iPad Mini hardware. And Baldur’s Gate II: Enhanced Edition will hopefully arrive in the App Store later this month.

Google announced that 10 new apps have been added to its $35 Chromecast TV streaming dongle and fans of Google Street View may be happy to know that Google is now allowing users to create their own Street View images. (FYI, work has stalled on the Google Mystery Barge out near San Francisco, as the project is on “hiatus” until spring, much like a cable-network TV show.) What isn’t a mystery anymore is how Google might start making some money from its Google+ social network. This week, the Big G introduced a new ad type called +Post, which lets advertisers turn Google+ content into expandable display advertisements. The +Post system is still in the beta stage, but Toyota USA, Cadbury UK and Ritz crackers are among the early adopters.

Advertising is everywhere, especially in social media, but some companies have found that maybe some occasions aren’t appropriate for promoting your brand. Case in point, Campbell Soup apologized last weekend for a tweet from the SpaghettiOs account that featured the grinning circular noodle holding an American flag and encouraging followers to remember Pearl Harbor Day. Those who like to mock through creative use of image-editing software also had a field day with the tweet and transplanted the SpagehttiOs mascot into a variety of inappropriate situations.

Meanwhile, up on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity Rover is still hard at work. Researchers on the project published six different papers this week.

And finally, a British climate researcher at the University of Bristol has taken J.R.R. Tolkein’s detailed maps from his books, plugged the info into a supercomputer and predicted weather patterns for Middle Earth. Dr. Dan Lunt did the work in his spare time and said the climate models he used were based on the fundamental understanding of science. He’s published a mock paper called “The Climate of Middle Earth” and it’s available in English, Dwarvish and Elvish. Perhaps it’s time for a little light reading before heading out to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug this weekend?