Tag Archives: set-top box

PTJ 220: Lost Worlds

Politics body-slammed the tech world this week, cyber-criminals have figured out yet another way to rip off unsuspecting victims and an enterprising young archaeologist has come up with a way to let volunteers help look for lost ruins from the comfort of their own homes. And when El Kaiser and J.D. finish the news, it’s time to pour one out for the Father of Pac-Man. Welcome to Episode 220!

PTJ 177 News: Unboxed

Might the cable bill have fewer line items in the future? The Federal Communications Commission would like to make it happen! While the intended merger of Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications is still under review and the agency is defending its net neutrality policy against attacks and appeals, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler got the cable industry in a further tizzy by announcing a proposal that would do away with the practice of customers having to rent their set-top boxes from their service providers. Cable companies: Not so happy.

budget2017President Obama sent his last budget to Congress this week, and out of the $4 trillion dollars total, the budget requested $19 billion dollars for national cybersecurity. The new plan calls for a chunk of change to finally upgrade federal workers off their ancient totally hackable computer systems. Case in point, according to VICE’s Motherboard site, an anonymous hacker has threatened to dump gigabytes of employee information grabbed off a Justice Department computer. Homeland security, indeed.

A worldwide tweetstorm began to brew over the weekend after BuzzFeed reported that Twitter was getting ready to change its real-time reverse chronological feed into a Facebook-like algorithm-run arrangement that shows you tweets the program thinks you want to see rather than what’s happening at the moment.  Wired defused some of the tweet-rage saying the new version of Twitter basically expands the While You Were Away highlights of older tweets. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also responded. Oh, and Twitter launched its First View ads this week, which are video adverts that sit on top of your newsfeed so you can’t miss them.


Speaking of Wired, the site is cracking down on ad-blocking and soon plans to start restricting access to the site for readers cruising by in a browser with an ad-blocker. You can also give them money to get rid of the ads.

Facebook’s promise of free Internet — or at least Facebook’s version of the Internet — has been rejected by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the government authority there who blocked the Social Network’s Free Basics app. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has vowed to press on.

Instagram, also owned by Facebook, had better news. The official blog announced an update to its app that allows you to add multiple accounts and then easily switch between them.

Home theater hobbyists who have been eagerly awaiting the Samsung UBD-K8500 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Player to buy won’t have to wait much longer. Samsung jumped its own expected March release date for the player to slip a few units into the Video & Audio Center out in Santa Monica, where they quickly sold out.

Google Cardboard has been the on-ramp into the world of virtual reality for a lot of people, but Google is now said to be working on a higher-end VR headset to rival the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift gear. Google is not commenting on its plans.

linuxtabletCanonical, the company that makes Ubuntu Linux, just announced the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet produced with European hardware maker BQ and is expected to go on sale next month. The Penguin Pad has a 10-inch screen and runs the touch-screen version of Ubuntu.

But be very careful when shopping for USB-C cables. The Verge site reports that the faulty or improper wiring on cheap uncertified USB-C cables has actually shorted out laptops due to incorrect power usage.  The article points to lists of cables that have been tested to work correctly, but also calls USB industry groups to come up with reliable certification procedures because nobody wants fried laptop for dinner.

StubHub is  moving into direct sales with a new ticketing platform. The new system won’t delineate between second-hand resellers and direct sales from the venue’s box office and lets StubHub give TicketMaster a lot more competition. StubHub is also partnering with the Philadelphia 76ers to sell tickets to the team’s games when the NBA season starts up this fall.

And finally, if you long for a more simpler time when computer viruses were not just out to steal your money and identity, visit the Malware Museum online at the Internet Archive. Curated by security expert Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure, the emulated selections in the museum have been cleansed of their destructive power but show you the sometimes-whimsical messages left by hackers in a gentler, DOS-based era.


PTJ 163 News: No Time Like the Present

Money makes the world go ’round, (also the conservation of angular momentum), and things were really spinning this week. That’s because Dell, maker of computers, has agreed to buy EMC, maker of data storage products, for $67 billion dollars. This, of course, is subject to regulatory approval and may take a year to complete, but if it all goes through, it creates the world’s “largest privately-controlled, integrated technology company.” Boo-yah!

When one thinks “Pepsi,” technology usually doesn’t come to mind unless it’s something like the limited-edition Pepsi Perfect bottles the company first released at New York Comic Con last week to celebrate the year depicted in Back to the Future II and 30 years since the franchise started.


However, the soft-drink company has announced a deal to work with a partner to make Pepsi-branded mobile phones and accessories in China. Pepsi’s not doing the hardware, mind you, just putting its name and logo on the Pepsi P1 phone that’s due out soon.

From the It Was Only A Matter of Time Department: Facebook is testing a shopping section that it says will act as a “single place for people to more easily discover, share, and purchase products.” And also never, ever use any other site besides Facebook.


The Hollywood Reporter asks an important question: Does the Future of Television Belong to the Device or the App? The site has a story this week about a new case before the Federal Communications Commission that’s dividing the movie and TV industry and bringing tech companies like Amazon and Google into the fray.

Speaking of control issues, Twitter suspended the accounts for the sports blogs Deadspin and SB Nation over the weekend for posting copyrighted GIFs and video highlights. Deadspin at least had a little fun at the NFL commissioner’s expense when the account was reactivated.

Now, Windows 10 officially came out this summer, but the work is not finished. Microsoft has promised it to make Windows 10 an ever-evolving system and the company just released its Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10565 version this week.

Apple updated its iMac line of desktop computers, bringing faster processors and 4K or 5K displays to the hardware. New input accessories the Magic Keyboard 2, the Magic Mouse 2 and the Magic Trackpad 2 — now with Force Touch — were also announced.

Experian, one of the bureaus out their keeping tabs on people’s credit, got hacked last week. Brian Krebs, who runs the Krebs on Security blog, has a story about how the bureau’s security practices have lapsed over the past few years due to attrition, dissatisfaction and other factors.

Google Cardboard is expanding internationally. The little fold-together virtual reality viewer that works with your smartphone and a special app is now is available in 39 languages and over 100 countries on both Android and iOS devices.


And finally, with The Martian topping the movie box office two weeks in a row and the Red Planet getting lots of press anyway, NASA released a document detailing its next steps in it Journey to Mars project, which it has been working on for some time. It may sound farfetched, but it it took less than ten years from President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon to NASA’s Apollo 11 mission making it a reality. And speaking of the Apollo missions, check out the Project Apollo Archive that was recently published on Flickr. Science! It just makes you want to . . . break into song sometimes, doesn’t it?

The 1st Annual (and probably only) TV Streaming Smackdown

The participants in this contest represent the top three contenders for Internet streaming dominance. The test was simple; how fast could each device load up Netflix for two kids impatiently waiting for their weekly fix of “Wild Kratts” and “My Little Pony”.

ROKU 2 XS – $89.99 (Discontinued)


This is my old warhorse. While the user interface won’t blow your socks off it did deliver where it counted. Netflix loaded up in about 30 seconds. Roku offers up a ton of channel selections, many of which I would never watch but if you want variety, it’s the only option. All the big channels you’d expect, including Amazon Prime.

APPLE TV – $99.99


The UI is classic Apple, easy to navigate and intuitive. Channel selection isn’t very good but if you download your content from iTunes exclusively this is the set top box for you. No Amazon Prime but I can stream my iTunes library through it, which makes me a happy Kaiser. Netflix loaded up quicker and looks better than the Roku.



The setup was clunky and is not a true set top box in the traditional sense. You essentially stream apps from your mobile device to the Chromecast which I had directly connected to an open HDMI port on my television. Netflix took forever to load up but looked great through the 2.4 Ghz WiFi connection once it got going (no 5 Ghz option). Limited channel selections but Google has been updating the device regularly since its debut.

As many of you with kids have already figured out this was pretty much my Kobayashi Maru. There is no device on earth that can load up Netflix fast enough for two restive young’uns.

I put my Roku 2 XS out to pasture and the Google Chromecast will become a permanent part of my travel arsenal. The Apple TV is my current go to set top box.

It is the current (and probably only) winner of the Pop Tech Jam Annual TV Streaming Smackdown.

PTJ 67: Spoiler-Free, Sweetie

On a supersized episode of everybody’s favorite geek-culture podcast El Kaiser takes a turn at hopefully being helpful by detailing the steps to avoid a malware infection. With social networks making spoilers a legitimate concern for all TV watchers, J.D. introduces us to some apps that can help keep second screens from spoiling what’s on the first. In the news, more of the world gets online access and some companies help bring less expensive Internet access to developing countries; the Gold Master of OS X Mavericks is made available to developers; rumors point to Amazon releasing a set top box to compete with the Apple TV and Roku devices; Google and Hewlett Packard announce the HP Chromebook 11; and Yahoo gets to blow out 16 candles.

PTJ 67 News: Go Big Blue!

About 40 percent of the world will be online by the end of this year, says the annual report from the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union. Less-developed countries are often the ones at the bottom of list that track a population’s online access, but Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel are among 30 companies that are teaming up to bring a less expensive Internet to those parts of the world that still lack connectivity. The initiative is called the Alliance for Affordable Internet and it was officially launched this week in Nigeria.

On the Apple front, the Gold Master of OS X Mavericks 10.9 was posted for developers late last week. And although some people stopped caring about Office for the iPad after Microsoft released the poorly reviewed and oddly named Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers earlier this year for iOS and Android, outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said this week that the company did have a touchscreen Office in the works, but that the iPad would get it after the Windows mobile devices got theirs.

Amazon to the top of the TV? If you believe the Wall Street Journal, the super-uber-online megastore will have its own video-streaming box for sale before the holidays. The unconfirmed streamer doesn’t have a price or a name yet, but the 9to5Google site has noted that Amazon recently trademarked the name “Firetube.”

Google has added transit directions to its fancy interactive Google Glass eyewear and the company also teamed up with HP this week to announce the HP Chromebook 11.

Yahoo celebrates its Sweet 16th birthday! Yahoo Mail has gotten an overhaul for desktop and mobile and now comes with some features previously seen in Gmail. Intsagram is also getting older and will soon be getting ads of its own soon, as a company blog post titled “Instagram Is a Growing Business,” explains.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is now out and receiving fair to middling reviews, and the rollout of smartwatches from other companies continues. The Filip smartwatch for kids — which also serves as a simple mobile phone between parent and child — is headed for AT&T.

LG Electronics has gone into mass production of what it claims is the “world’s first flexible OLED panel for smartphones.” Using the curved panels — made from plastic substrates instead of glass — is supposed to make the screens bendable and unbreakable and handsets featuring the new panels are expected next year.

esbunnyThe New York SciFi & Fantasy organization is trying to turn the Empire State Building a lovely shade of TARDIS blue for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who next month. The group has filed an application to the Empire State Building’s management team in hopes of creating a giant blue police box on the Manhattan skyline on November 23rd and an online petition has been started. Also in entertainment news: Gravity may have won the weekend box office, but the movie got nicked with some fact-checking criticisms over Twitter from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam would like to congratulate Peter Higgs and François Englert on winning the Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson. Awesome boson, dudes!