Tag Archives: satellites

PTJ 146 News: Yippie-Ki-Yay!

It liiiiiiiiives! After its batteries ran down last fall, many people forgot about the European Space Agency’s Philae lander and the whole Rosetta mission to explore a comet. But the little lander woke up over this past weekend, sending scientists scrambling to collect and analyze the data it’s resumed sending back to earth. The lander had been in hibernation after it ran out of power and shut down last November, but the comet’s travels have now brought it in better line with the sun so Philae can recharge its battery and get back to work.

How about a network of 4,000 inexpensive satellites to bring Internet access to the unwired parts of the world? That’s the plan, anyway, as SpaceX founder Elon Musk has filed the official paperwork with the government asking permission to proceed with the project. No word from the Federal Communications Commission yet on approval, but at least Mr. Musk has good timing, as Facebook recently shelved its own plans to for popping up an Internet-service satellite.

LastPass, the password-manager service, notified customers last week that it found suspicious activity on its network.  Not exactly what you want in a password-manager service.

Facebook has yet another app to help you share your personal data with the company, oh, and your friends. The Social Network announced its new Moments app this week that uses facial-recognition software to automatically recognize your Facebook friends in random snaps and then sync all the photos between you all. If this sort of thing interests you, the app is now available in the Google Play and iOS App Stores.

closedGoogle Maps wants to save you even more time and aggravation. When you punch in directions to a particular store or business, the app does its calculations and warns you if you will arrive too late because the place has already closed for the day. Creepy, helpful and handy!

Apple sleuths digging through the iOS 9 betaware say they’ve found references in the code to some sort of device with a much larger keyboard than the pixel dimensions of the current 9.7-inch iPads. Could the long-rumored large-screen iPad Pro be on the way this fall?

Amazon may be going all Uber with the package delivery and ditching official courier services like FedEx and UPS in favor or regular people with cars dropping off your orders. The company hasn’t announced anything yet, but The Wall Street Journal is talking to people in the know over there. Amazon also uses its Amazon Locker service to store deliveries for pickup in public places, and may expand those options as well.

And finally, an intrepid interactive programmer at The New York Times took a peek inside the hidden source code of Jeb Bush’s website and found quite a few paragraphs not about Republican policies, but a plot summary of the 1988 Bruce Willis movie, Die Hard. The text was not publically visible on the website and has since been removed after The Times discovered it, so here’s to you and your dreams, Die Hard-loving console cowboy.

PTJ 126 News: Dawn of a New Day

draftbillThe Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for Net Neutrality are scheduled for a vote on February 26th, but that has not stopped Congress from doing something in the meantime. Republican leaders put out draft legislation this week that prohibits the FCC from reclassifying broadband service as regulated public utility like radio, television and telephone, as President Obama proposed last year. The proposed bill does ban throttling or blocking, but has a “network management” loophole for the telecom companies. Several Internet activists like Free Press have already taken up the call to protest, so this issue certainly isn’t going to fade into the background anytime soon.

Remember when the United States government blamed North Korea for the massive hack on Sony Pictures last year and some security experts questioned how officials could be so sure North Korea did the deed? As reported in The New York Times, it turns out that the National Security Agency itself had totally pwned, er, infiltrated North Korea’s networks back in 2010 so they were familiar with some of that territory.

zombiesCloser to home, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a list of apps and services that do and do not protect you from Verizon Wireless’s user-tracking perma-cookie that was discovered by researchers last fall. The ProPublica site published a story last week about how the online ad company Turn was using Verizon’s tracking numbers to regenerate deleted cookies and keep tabs on the users who thought they deleted them. Once busted by ProPublica, Turn said it would suspend its use of these back-from-the-dead Zombie Cookie IDs — pending further evaluation.

Bloomberg News reports that like everybody else, Taiwanese electronics maker HTC is working on its own smartwatch, as well as a new flagship smartphone with a 20-megapixel rear camera and Dolby 5.1 audio. Both products are expected to be announced at the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona the first week of March.

Google Glass, which made a couple year-end lists of Biggest Flops of 2014, is getting discontinued (the original version, anyway). Microsoft, however, has Project HoloLens in the works, so people who want to compute while wearing strips of see-through plastic on their faces have a fresh new option. The company’s holographic goggles will arrive around the same time as its new Windows 10 system; both got some event love this week.

win10

One little wearables flop isn’t slowing down Google, though. The company, which took out a lease from NASA last year for the historic Hangar One in California, is doing business with other space firms as well. The Big G (and Fidelity) are making a billion-dollar investment in SpaceX for a project that would use about 700 small satellites to provide Internet access to parts of the world that don’t have it.

We have yet another NASA mission to follow this year. This March, the space agency’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive for its assignment at Ceres, a 600-mile wide asteroid in the belt of flying space rocks between between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn, which launched in 2007, has previously orbited Vesta. The Dawn spacecraft combines state-of-the-art technologies tested by other recent space experiments with off-the-shelf components and spare parts and instrumentation left over from previous missions. The spacecraft will make a study of Ceres, which NASA considers to be a dwarf planet, and has already beamed back some images from about 238,000 miles away.

And one more NASA item of note: the agency says the Earth is due to get buzzed by an asteroid later this month.  The big rock should be visible to those in the Americas, Africa and Europe the night of January 26th  and the Virtual Telescope site also plans to track the asteroid starting at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time that day for those who pref to stargaze from inside the house.

Facebook wants to help you further cut down on the amount of floating garbage on your News Feed. In a company blog post this week, two Facebook staffers described an update to the News Feed mix that reduces the distribution of posted stories that have been reported as hoaxes or deleted by other users. (While this could help declutter News Feeds around Facebook, the tool does have the potential for abuse from organized campaigns to discredit, say, an environmental issue. Let’s hope Facebook has thought of this, too.)

Amazon announced this week that it has plans to develop its own original theatrical films that will also be available quite early on its Amazon Prime Instant Video service. This move comes a few months after Netflix announced it was producing a sequel to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for both IMAX theaters and its own streaming customers that will premiere this August 28th.

The new movie Blackhat opened in theaters this past weekend, and although the hacking action thrilled starring Chris Hemsworth got blown away at the box office by American Sniper, it did get a little cred from the Ars Technica site for not having completely illogical, implausible and just plain stupid technology scenes. The film’s creators hired not one, but two hacking consultants. Judging by the movie’s poor reception from critics, perhaps the producers should have sprung for a script consultant or two as well.

mariogoombaAnd finally,  over at the University of Tübingen in Germany, a group of researchers in the area of cognitive modeling have developed an artificial intelligence system that allows the videogame character Mario the plumber to  experience emotions and respond to voice commands. Mario AI is also aware of his environment, makes decisions in the game on gathered data or “learning.” Yes, there’s a video demonstrating the experiment. Maybe for the next experiment, the researchers can get the Angry Birds to talk through their feelings so they’re not quite so outraged all the time.

PTJ 98: Amazon Starts Another Fire and Security on The Go

David Perry, now a threat strategist for the international computer-security firm F-Secure, joins us on this week’s episode to discuss the current state of mobile security. Interested in testing out F-Secure’s one-button Freedome app on your Android device or iPhone? Check it out here, as well as a short message about privacy from The Hoff himself.  And a big thanks to Jocelyn Gonzales for recording this segment for us at the Heartland Brewery in Times Square.

El Kaiser takes another listen to Bowers& Wilkins C5 in-ear monitors and admits he got it all wrong the first time around.

In the news, Amazon launches their long rumored smartphone; Google lists which mail providers encrypt messages in transit; The United States government lifts restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be; the U.S. Department of Transportation looks to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles; Facebook changes its personal-data collection policy; The Museum of Modern Art adds an iPad app to its permanent collection; and the Unicode Standard thousands of new characters, including several hundred new emoji.

PTJ 98 News: Earth, Wind and Fire

That Amazon 3D smartphone first revealed in April by the Boy Genius Report blog has now been officially announced: It’s called the Fire smartphone, and let’s hope it never has an overheating battery problem. As it did with Apple’s original iPhone back in 2007, AT&T has emerged as the exclusive carrier for the phone. Amazon’s innovative new phone was developed at its secret hardware headquarters in Silicon Valley, Lab126, according to a report on the Bloomberg Businessweek site. On the software side of the news, Amazon also released its Prime Music service last week that brings unlimited ad-free music streams to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Speaking of Android, the Ars Technica site has posted a history of Google’s mobile operating system, tracing the evolution of Android 0.5 back in 2007 to the current state of chocolatey KitKat Android 4.4. Google itself is on a campaign for safer email and released a new section of its Transparency Report earlier this month showing which major mail providers encrypt messages in transit.  The company also released an early version of its new End-to-End encryption tool for its Chrome browser that uses OpenPGP to scramble messages until they’re decrypted.

loon

Google’s high-flying effort to bring Wi-Fi to underdeveloped parts of the world is taking off. Project Loon, as it’s called, had successful test runs in places like New Zealand and parts of rural Brazil, as detailed on a Google+ page devoted to the South American endeavor. In addition to calculating wind data and enhancing balloon design to make them more efficient, the project team also had to deal with dramatic temperatures, dripping humidity and scorpions.

skyThe United States government is lifting restrictions on just how detailed satellite images can legally be, and at least one company, DigitalGlobe, will be selling even better snaps from the sky soon, with much sharper pictures taken from oh high. (Please stop scowling at the camera, privacy advocates.)

Back here on Earth, satellite imagery is often used in modern map apps, and the U.S. Department of Transportation would like to regulate those navigational smartphone and tablet apps in moving vehicles.  Congress is expected to debate the proposed legislation, part of the GROW AMERICA Act, over the next few months and to possibly make a decision later this year, but given the recent Congressional track record for getting much of anything done besides creating hot winds, we’ll believe it when we see it.

Meanwhile, another US government agency is looking into that little squabble between Netflix and Verizon over slow download speeds. Verizon is not alone, as Comcast and other ISPs are said to be under scrutiny as well. Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, issued a statement late last week on the matter.

Facebook went and changed its policy on personal-data collection from its users last week. Yes, the privacy advocates were not happy about that, either, with some yelling at the Federal Trade Commission for letting Facebook get away with it. Facebook announced the changes on its company blog and says it will now pull in information about other websites you have browsed and use that data to calculate what ads to serve you. Lifehacker, PC Magazine, VentureBeat and many other sites have already posted instructions on how to opt out of Facebook’s web-history snooping.

The folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also concerned with transparency and how someone’s private data is used by others. They’re working on a new tool dubbed “HTTP with Accountability,” or HTTPA, which will automatically monitor the transmission of private data and allow the data owner to examine how it’s being used. The new protocol will be outlined in a paper presented a security conference in July.

In entertainment news, The Museum of Modern Art has added the first iPad app to its permanent collection. It’s Biopihlia, a musical app with interactive graphics and animations developed in part by Björk Gudmunsdóttir, former Sugarcubes singer-songwriter and swan-dress model. The $13 app is available for Android and iOS.

pennysoloWe here at Pop Tech Jam would like to wish Harrison Ford a speedy recovery from his accident on the set of Star Wars VII last week. Mr. Ford is expected to be off the set for up to 8 weeks while he heals from a broken ankle suffered when a hydraulic door from the Millennium Falcon reportedly fell on him.   The Falcon is still apparently the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy, including when its parts pop off.

And finally, the Unicode Standard is getting an update to Version 7.0 and bringing with it a whole bunch of new characters — 2,834 of them to be exact. Unicode 7.0.0 supersedes all previous versions of the standard and now includes things like currently symbols used in Russia and Azerbaijan and 23 new lesser-used and historic scripts for written languages around the world. It also includes about 250 new Emoji, those little cartoony pictographic symbols common in text messages. The new Emoji include several hand gestures including 1F596 – RAISED HAND WITH PART BETWEEN MIDDLE AND RING FINGERS, also known as the Vulcan salute, and 1F595 – REVERSED HAND WITH MIDDLE FINGER EXTENDED, a more offensive gesture commonly referred to as the One Finger Salute. Can’t imagine who might find use for that sort of thing in a text message…

PTJ 97: Descent Into Casual Gaming and Tips for Better Throwback Photos

El Kaiser makes a difficult confession: he’s traded in his first person shooters for crushing candy and fuming feathered friends.

Throwback Thursdays on Twitter and Facebook have people digging through their old photo albums but if your old snapshots haven’t held up too well over the years J.D. has tips for how to spruce them up.

In the news the onslaught of the Electronic Entertainment Expo gets underway in Los Angeles; Apple unveils a new headphone standard;  Sony debuts its new PlayStation TV; Amazon integrates Audible audiobook lineup into the Kindle ebook app; Google gets into the satellite game by acquiring of Skybox Imaging; Netflix and Verizon continue their corporate slapfight; and Wired magazine dredges up old Star Trek misfires.

PTJ 97 News: All Ears

If it’s June and the WWDC is over, it must be time for the Electronic Entertainment Expo! The show opened in Los Angeles earlier this week to show off this year’s offerings for the gaming crowd; sites like GameSpot and Kotaku have the latest news. Some early announcements included Sony’s new PlayStation TV, formerly the PlayStation Vita TV, a $99 set-top box for streaming PS4 games to other TV sets around the house.  Sony presented its new console game lineup for this year, as did Microsoft, which formerly put the new lower-priced Xbox One Without the Kinect Controller on sale for $399.

ligthingApple’s Worldwide Developers Conference wrapped up last week, but not before revealing a new standard that uses the company’s own Lighting connector (right) for headphones. The new Lightning module is supposed to provide more bandwidth and control for services like iTunes Radio. By drawing power from the iPhone through the Lightning port, for example, headphone accessory makers could do things like design noise-canceling headphones without the need for an external battery. No announcements have been made concerning the demise of the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack on iOS devices, but some people point out that Apple did just buy Beats Electronics, maker of headphones, so hello, new standards. Others, like the gang over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog argue strongly that Apple will keep the traditional headphone jack because of the massive mount of gear out there that uses the 3.5 mm plug.

The World Cup tournament kicks off this week, and Facebook and Twitter are jumping in with their own social-media fútbol features. Facebool will host a special Trending World Cup section on the Newsfeed page. Meanwhile, Twitter is promoting the official #WorldCup hashtag and encouraging fans to keep up with the news by following the official Twitter accounts like @FIFAWorld Cup and @ussoccer. (Perhaps in all the excitement of the looming soccerpalooza, Facebook accidentally released its new Slingshot messenger app to the public for a short time. Whoops!)

amazonAmazon announced the integration of its Audible audiobook lineup into the Kindle ebook app for Android and iOS. Book lovers can now listen to their audiobooks without having to use a separate app; that Kindle app upgrade is available now. Even if you don’t own the audio version of an ebook, Amazon is also offering “Whispersync for Voice,” for more than 45,000 of its Kindle titles so you can read and listen to a book at the same time. You can find out if one of your ebooks as a companion audio track with Amazon’s Matchmaker tool and then add in an audio-track upgrade for less than four bucks. (Amazon is also muscling in on Paypal’s territory with the launch of a new online payments system.)

Meanwhile, Google, which purchased a drone company in April, has confirmed its acquisition of Skybox Imaging for the low, low price of $500 million dollars in cash. Skybox is a company that makes small, high-resolution imaging satellites.

Netflix and Verizon have been having a corporate slapfight about poor-quality video streaming and who’s to blame for it. Each side has been bashing the other and Netflix went so far as to send messages to its subscribers sticking Verizon for the problems. Verizon fired back with a cease-and-desist letter telling Netflix to knock it off and accused the video company of pulling a PR stunt. On its monthly ISP Speed Index blog post, Netflix notes that Verizon FiOS and DSL service have actually gotten a bit slower in the first month of their very special friendship. Money can’t buy love, Netflix, but maybe you can get a better rental price.

amtComputer scientists have been arguing for the past few days whether a computer program has actually beaten the Turing Test. The Turing Test was introduced by computer pioneer and World War II codebreaker Alan Turing (left) in a 1950 academic paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.” The test challenges a computer’s ability to show intelligent behavior equivalent or indistinguishable from that of a human being. In the recent Turing Test 2014 competition over at the Royal Society in London, a computer program named Eugene Goostman convinced 10 out of 30 judges that it was a real live person. To pass the test, the computer must fool human judges 30 percent of the time, which led some to say the program had passed. Other said the computer flunked the test by using advantageous factors like claiming to be a teenage non-native English speaker — which could account for some odd responses to questions.

stVAnd finally, Wired points out that this week marks the 25th anniversary of what’s arguably the worst film in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. For those who have blocked it out after years of therapy, the film was directed by Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner. It featured a storyline in which Kirk and crew up against Spock’s half-brother Sybock, who jacks the Enterprise to go find God. The film currently averages a one-star rating on the Rotten Tomatoes site, but thankfully, the franchise’s shields were strong enough to deflect the damage and move on. To be fair, just about every long-term series has an enormous clunker or two back down the road, Case in point: A  certain galaxy far, far away suffered not only The Phantom Menace, but The Star Wars Holiday Special as well.