Tag Archives: Senate

PTJ 197 News: Eyes on the Road Ahead

It was bound to happen sooner or later. There has now been a reported fatality with one of Tesla’s Model S sedans in self-driving mode. A man in Florida was killed last month using his car in the Autopilot setting while reportedly watching a Harry Potter movie when his Tesla vehicle slammed into a truck at high speed. In a post on the company blog, the Tesla team explained why the software failed, but the incident is also a good reminder to always pay attention to your surroundings, even when the car is driving itself.

As reported in Wired, Google has added settings for its search users that ask if they want to see tailored ads based on age, gender, and search history to show up now on third-party sites as the ads currently do on Google sites. By opting in, users can edit and block ads they don’t like across any device logged in with a Google account. This compares to other ad networks, which require users to opt out of such personalization. Google has also reworked the history page where it hoards all of the old searches and viewing history you’ve previously done on Google and Google-owned sites. The new data locker is called  My Activity and it allows you to log in and delete specific entries out of your search and viewing history. In case you need to.

Android N has a full name now: Android Nougat. (Hungry for a Snickers now?)

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Rumor has it Apple is pondering the purchase of Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming music service. Apple also got into a punch-up with Spotify last week. It came down to Spotify saying Apple won’t approve the new Spotify app for its App Store because it wants to cut competition for the aforementioned Apple Music and Apple saying the app was rejected because Spotify disobeyed the App Store developer guidelines for in-app purchases.

bblinkIs Big Brother 2016 watching you? Those free Wi-Fi kiosks with the video ads and phone-charging ports that are popping up around New York City streets the past few months, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates who say the kiosks can be used to spy on and collect information from people passing by them. As reported by the ReCode site after obtaining documents through public-records laws, Alphabet, parent company of Google, “wants to monitor pedestrian, bike and car traffic, track passing wireless devices, listen to street noise and use the kiosks’ built-in video cameras to identify abandoned packages.” Sidewalk Labs, the company behind the kiosks, said all data is anonymized, not sold to third parties and the cameras haven’t even been turned on. Still, the kiosks have found dedicated fans on the city streets: The New York Post reported some of the city’s homeless population was using the stations to watch free porn until the city remembered it had to put in URL filters.

The hacking of social media accounts has been in the news since a Mr. Mark Zuckerberg got jacked recently, and if you’re worried about your own Twitter account, BuzzFeed has an article up with tips on how to see if your account is vulnerable from third-party applications.

The Chicago man who hacked several celebrity iCloud and Gmail accounts in 2014 (and made actress Jennifer Lawrence extremely angry) is going to plead guilty. Edward Majerczyk could get up to five years in prison, a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after stealing user names and password through phishing.

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Facebook announced last week that it is adding a new multilingual composer for users to write one post, but have it appear in multiple languages. Sounds like there could be some good machine-translation memes coming soon.

Comcast and Netflix have made nice and come to an agreement that will allow Netflix’s streaming video service on to Comcast’s set-top boxes. Netflix’s long march to be on every type of screen available continues.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Linkedin also was courting Google and Salesforce as potential suitors, but Microsoft’s all-cash deal won out. Let’s hope this one turns out better than the Nokia acquisition.

bbclassicedBlackBerry (remember them?) announced this week that it would no longer make the BlackBerry Classic smartphone and said earlier this year that it was ditching its own BlackBerry 10 operating system in favor of Android. Some member of the United States Congress will likely be very upset by this, as there are still some lawmakers holding on to the once-dominant platform, even though it got toasted by Android and iOS devices in the late 2000s. Without BlackBerry updates, the Senate’s IT department sent out a memo saying Senate staffers would no longer be issued official BlackBerry smartphones for office use. While the 600 BlackBerry models currently in circulation will still get tech support, for the time being. Guv’ment business and all.

And finally, NASA announced last week that nine missions by far-traveling spacecraft are getting extended because the hardware has lived beyond the original estimates. The New Horizons craft that already completed the Pluto flyby job got extended, as did the Dawn mission to Ceres. And NASA’s Juno probe, launched in 2011, has reached its destination after a five-year journey. After a 130,000-mile-an-hour trip through radiation belts and planetary clouds slowed by a 35-minute engine burn, Juno dropped into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th to start observing the solar system’s largest planet while searching for its origins. As one of the principal members of the Juno team said, “This is the hardest thing NASA has ever done.” That’s really saying something, because when you look at the History of NASA, they’ve done some pretty darn hard and impressive things since the agency was created in 1958. You go, NASA!

PTJ 99: Bluetooth Audio, Flickr Tips, and Tons of Google News

El Kaiser reviews Logitech’s $40 Bluetooth Audio Adapter. The device allows you to play audio from smartphone or tablet through your home stereo or powered speakers.

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Of course he (not so) secretly pines for the $250 rBlink wireless DAC from Arcam which promises superior sound quality and rock solid Bluetooth pairing to mobile devices.

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If you use Flicker and are looking to reorder your snapshots J.D. shares a Hopefully Helpful Hint that will show you how.

Lots of Google news this week as the Big G kicked off its annual I/O developers conference in San Francisco by announcing a new version of Android. Google takes another swing at the living room with Android TV and releases a new software update to the Chromecast streaming dongle.  Their recent acquisition Nest, maker of Internet-connected smart-home thermostats and fire alarms, has opened its platform to outside developers and buys security firm Dropcam. The search and advertising behemoth experiments with its own domain registration service.

In other news, Yahoo releases a replacement app launcher for Android.  Dating sites get hit on hard by phishing scam; Cloud storage prices drop; both houses of Congress hold hearings about proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV; the Supreme Court rules against Aereo, a service that allows subscribers to view live and time-shifted streams of over-the-air television on Internet-connected devices, in th the Internet company’s battle with broadcast networks; and finally Google, the Girl Scouts, the MIT Media Lab, TechCrunch, the National Center for Women & Technology and others launch the “Made with Code” website.

 

PTJ 99 News: Gonna Party Like It’s Episode 99

mdGoogle’s I/O Conference is happening at the Moscone Center out in beautiful downtown San Francisco this week. As happens at these Big Dev Lovefests, major announcements are made. Among other things, Google previewed its upcoming “Android L” release, which is said to be the biggest update to the mobile operating system yet. “Android L” features 5,000 new APIs for developers and plenty of interface changes for users with the “Material Design” approach that is supposed to add subtle depth and perspective to elements in screen. And after Google TV flopped, the company is taking another swing at the living room with Android TV — which like other streamers from companies with big content ecosystems, ties your phone and tablet to the television more tightly.

The Chromecast dongle, Google’s low-end entry into streaming, also got an update. Developers also got previews of Android Wear, the version of the system for wearables like watches and Android Auto, for the connected dashboard in your motor vehicle.

In other Google News, its newly acquired Nest company, maker of Internet-connected smart-home thermostats and fire alarms, has opened its platform to outside developers and also bought the security firm Dropcam for a reported $555 million dollars. Dropcam makes WiFi enabled video cameras with night vision, microphones and zoom capabilities. (This is not scary, right?) Google is also experimenting with its own domain registration service. It’s called Google Domains, but it’s still in the early-beta invite-only stage. And good news for the Google Play store — in the past year, quarterly revenue from its app sales has more than doubled, thanks to games and free apps that offer paid in-app upgrades.

aviateBut it’s not all Google this week. Yahoo, which has been trying to get attention for its editorial content lately, has a new software product out now in the Google Play store. The app is called Yahoo Aviate, and it’s a simplified replacement app launcher for Android. Aviate basically takes the concept of Google Now — useful little chunks of information displayed on your home screen — and displays them when it thinks you’ll need them, roughly linking your info to the time of day.

Over in Apple Land, a code explorer poking around the beta version of the iOS 8 software claims to found an unpublicized  “City Tours” feature buried in the Apple Maps app. Samples of the feature are on the 9to5Mac site.

Match.com, eHarmony, PlentyOfFish, Christian Mingle and other dating websites are getting hit on hard by phishing scams. Netcraft, an Internet monitoring company, has detailed the attacks, in which hundreds of fraudulent PHP scripts out there stealing user names and passwords to compromise paid accounts. What can you do with a stolen dating-site subscription? For one: dating fraud.

Cloud storage prices are coming down, with users getting more space for less money. Microsoft has added a bonus 8 gigabytes to the 7 gigs OneDrive customers already get for free, making it a total of 15 gigs of server space. Office 365 subscribers using the OneDrive for Business option will soon be going from 25 gigs to 1 terabyte of space. Microsoft, known for its Windows Phone line, just launched its first Android smartphone. It’s the Nokia X2 and it is running a modified version of Android that kind of makes it look like…Windows Phone.

Both houses of Congress held hearings about the proposed merger between AT&T and DirecTV this week as part of their anti-trust investigations.  C-SPAN streamed the hearings, for those who had an interest or insomnia.

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About that other major merger: the Comcast-Time Warner deal, the merger could also be affected by an FCC report on Internet broadband speeds. The report found that DSL was lagging behind fiber optic and cable, so how much choice do consumers actually have out there? This sort of puts a dent in one of Comcast and Time Warner’s big arguments for merging.

In related news, the Washington Post recently had an interesting piece about how the state of New York could but a big dent in that deal if it decides it’s not a good thing for the people of the Empire State. Because New York has its own cable franchise laws in place, it could block the merger from happening within state boundaries.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has his own investigation underway.

Governors aren’t the only ones weighing in on fairness, competition and Net Neutrality. The mayors of several major cities at the US Conference of Mayors have adopted a resolution, which calls on the FCC “to enshrine the values of what is commonly referred to as net neutrality.”

pigThe Supreme Court has handed down its ruling in that case of Every Major National TV Broadcaster v. Aereo, the feisty startup with the teeny-tiny antennas. Bad news for Aereo – the Supremes ruled 6 to 3 that the company’s retransmission of signals without paying a fee to the broadcasters does violate the Copyright Act. Aereo’s chief executive has said before that losing this case pretty much ends it for the company.

Also in regulatory news, The German Publishers and Booksellers Association has submitted a complaint against Amazon to the country’s anti-trust author. And one more bummer for Amazon — the Federal Aviation Administration has ruled that the company cannot use drones for package delivery, at least for the immediate future. Policies do change with the times, however.

And finally, one last word on Google — but it’s not about I/O, acquisitions or product news. Last week, the Big G teamed up with the Girl Scouts, the MIT Media Lab, TechCrunch, the National Center for Women & Technology and others to launch the “Made with Code” initiative. As one might guess from the name, “Made With Code” is designed to get girls interested in coding, or as it’s called these days, the new literacy.

You go, girls. Future coders can find plenty of free instruction on the web. In fact, we talked about this back on Episode 20 and here’s our own Pop Tech Jam roundup of free instructional sites. Summer’s here and it’s time to work on your monitor tan!

PTJ 81: Facebook’s Paper Beats Scissors

Facebook celebrates its 10th anniversary this week by allowing users to automagically create a short video highlight reel  of their time on the world’s most popular social network.  The decade old soc net also released a new iPhone-only mobile client dubbed Paper and J.D. gives us her review.  While he believes America is beautiful in any language, the Twitter backlash to Coca-Cola’s now famous multicultural Super Bowl advertisement has left El Kaiser less than thrilled.

In the news Microsoft finally picks a new CEO as Windows 8.1, Update 1 software leaks onto various file-sharing sites around the Internet; Google updates their Google Now service on mobile devices; Iridium introduces a WiFi hotspot that can get you on the Internet all over the world with a satellite connection; and Apple continues to note the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer with a celebratory movie shot by 15 camera crews using 100 iPhones.

PTJ 81 News: Moves and Movie Memories

New year, new job for Satya Nadella. Microsoft announced this week that he’ll be its new chief executive officer, only the third CEO in the company’s history. His official bio on the Microsoft site says his hobbies are cricket and poetry. Meanwhile, a version of the company’s Windows 8.1 Update 1 software has escaped into the wild and has made its way onto various file-sharing sites around the Internet.

Microsoft is among the tech companies releasing more information about US government requests for customer data. Google, along with Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn all released reports this week. While the reports are a bit vague and don’t do into details about how much of a customer’s data has been collected or what exactly was snagged, the disclosures come after the Obama administration relaxed regulations enough so the tech giants could give their users some idea of what was going on.

Google has been doing some updates of its own. If you’re using the Google Now service on a mobile device, as well as with the Chrome beta browser on your Mac, Windows or Chromebook system, you can see your notifications appear on the computer. An update to Google Maps for iOS now includes a new feature that tells you when there’s a faster route available when you’re cruising along in Navigation mode. Android users have had this perk for a month already. The Goog also released a new Google Cast software development kit for its Chromecast streaming media stick that lets developers beam and stream their apps to the big screen. (And John Nack, a longtime Adobe product manager, blogger and Photoshop evangelist has jumped ship after 13 years and is joining Google’s digital photography group.)

koreaIn the hardware headlines, Microsoft’s Kinect motion-controller is being used to monitor the DMZ, or demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea. The controller works with special software to scan the area and identify anything that crosses into the DMZ. The program can tell the difference between animals and people and if a human is detected, an alert is sent to the nearest outpost. (Talk about an always-on system…)

For those who like to travel off the beaten path, Iridium says it’s not got a pocket-sized WiFi hotspot that can get you on the Internet all over the world with a satellite connection. The Iridium Go is due in the second quarter of this year, probably for less than $800 and will have its own Android and iOS apps. Expect raging speeds of about 20 kilobits per second and prepaid fees of about a buck a minute, but hey — you’re online in places you wouldn’t be otherwise. In other WiFi news, there’s a lawsuit brewing against Gogo, the in-flight Internet provider, brought on by people accuse the company of holding a monopoly over the sky-surfing business.

But wait, there’s more legal news! The Senate had some questions for Target CEO John Mulligan this week about that major data-security breach late last year that resulted in the theft of at least 40 million credit-card numbers. Several security experts were also on hand for the session. Mulligan also said this week that Target plans to overhaul its own credit-card system and move to the  smart chip-and-PIN system by early next year.

Democrats in the US Senate and House of Representatives introduced their own net neutrality bill early this week in hopes of reinstating the FCC’s recently struck-down Open Internet rules until the agency can come up with newer better regulations. The bill, H.R. 3982, is also known as The Open Internet Preservation Act of 2014.

And finally, Apple continues to note the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh computer with a celebratory movie shot by 15 camera crews using 100 iPhones. Want a more personalized cinematic experience? Facebook is ringing in its first decade by giving its users Look Back, a tool that creates a personalized greatest-hits video for each user from photos and other information from their timelines on the site. Here’s hoping you’ve aged better than the Macintosh 128K.