Tag Archives: smartwatch

PTJ 151 News: Hacks ‘n’ Snacks

Hear about that a big giant hack of the database belonging to the dating-for-married-people Ashley Madison website last? If you’ve never heard of the popular hookup site — run by the Avid Life Media, the same company that also makes Cougar Life and Established Men a reality — you probably have nothing to worry about. If you were a patron of the service, well, you may want to pay attention. An entity calling itself The Impact Team  made the heist and large chunks of stolen confidential information have already been posted online. Security blogger Brian Krebs has been following the story and reports that the hackers did the job because they claimed Avid Life Media’s $19 “full delete” service for wiping your presence from the company’s websites was a rip-off.

The excellent KrebsOnSecurity blog also has details on the big hack of the CVSPhoto.con website last week. If you’ve ever uploaded photos and had the processed at a CVS drugstore, check your credit-card statements.

CVSPhoto

Microsoft had a little freak-out of its own late last week on the exploit front. If you haven’t already, hit up Windows Update to get the security update for a flaw in the font driver software.

Sad news to report: Joshua Greenberg, the founder of the new-shuttered Grooveshark music streaming service was found dead in his home down in Gainesville, Florida. He was 28 years old. Condolences to his family.

Twitter has made some changes on its site in the past few weeks. For one, the company removed custom backgrounds for users of its web version, replacing personalized color choices with a bright white backdrop, perhaps better to display advertising upon. Twitter also introduced a new Safety Center area of its site which is supposed to school users on Twitter’s tools for privacy and battling harassment. It’s probably not the Troll Cannon we’d all like, but it’s a start.

pebbletimeThe Pebble smartwatch line, which got early financial traction as a Kickstarter project a few years ago, is hitting the big time and the big-box stores. The $200 Pebble Time smartwatch, which had originally been available on the Pebble website, are now for sale at Best Buy and will be showing up in Target stores next month. You roll, little Pebble!

Apple’s quarterly earnings report showed profit was up 38% (largely due to 47.5 million new iPhones getting homes), but the company did not break out sales numbers on the Apple Watch. Analysts have found that Apple Watch customer satisfaction with the device was at an overall 97% and higher than it was for the first generations of the iPhone and iPad. However, The New York Times had a story this week that looked at app developers and why some, like Facebook, weren’t rushing to create wrist-sized versions of their programs quite yet. Still waiting for time to tell on the Watch-success verdict there.

goldtouchApple also found the time to finally put out an update for the iPod Touch last week. While The Washington Post wondered if anyone cared about this at all, it does give Apple yet another platform to grab new Apple Music subscribers.

Meanwhile, Samsung, which didn’t have much luck with its Galaxy S6 line against the iPhone 6, looks like it’s going after the iPad now. The company just announced two new versions of the Galaxy Tab S2 tablet, now with an iPad-esque 4:3 aspect ratio for the screen and other similarities. The new Android-based tablets, due in August, come in screen sized of 9.7 inches and 8 inches.  Pricing has yet to be announced.

ch_logoAs we know from the sad tale of Google Reader, Google giveth and Google taketh away. In the giving side, the company announced that it was providing its high-speed Google Fiber service to low-income homes in all the broadband markets it is currently in. It’s all part of the ConnectHome initiative recently launched by the White House and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help more people get online. So that’s the giveth part, as for the taketh part, well . . . Google+ Photos is being discontinued on August 1st and replaced by the newer Google Photos service.  If you don’t want to use Google Photos, you can go to Google Takeout, download your stuff and go. Didn’t see that one coming, nosiree.

Windows 10 will be here next week and Microsoft is getting Cortana, the system’s virtual personal assistant software ready for her international desktop debut. Cortana’s developers say they have done research and taken the cultural sensitivities of each country where the software will launch; these include the United Kingdom, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, along with the United States. Thanks to this regional research, Cortana’s personality will be tailored to specific areas, as Microsoft explained in a blog post on its site.  But as the Kaiser asks, “When will the Bronx Cortana arrive?”

And finally, for those who like to cook, Ten Speed Press released an updated edition of The Twinkies Cookbook last week, featuring new recipes using the long-lasting sponge-cake snack. This new 85th Anniversary Edition of the cookbook features such treats as Twinkie Corndogs and Deep-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Chocolate-Covered Twinkies. Now that’s good eatin’  — but  don’t forget to pop your cholesterol meds.

baconwinks

PTJ 135 News: Reach for the Stars

March marches on! Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference kicks off this week and early word has it that the Social Network could become a host for the content written by major media outlets.  The company in talks with big news organizations as it tests new formats for the project, in which advertising revenue (as always) could be the big lure for all parties involved.

layoutFacebook’s Instagram service has a new app called Layout that lets smartphone photographers remix up to nine images from their camera rolls into customizable collages. Layout (shown here) is free and now available for iOS users, with an Android edition, as usual, currently in the works.

In unofficial news, Facebook seems to be testing a phone dialer and Caller ID app of its own, although it doesn’t seem to be announced yet or anything. The Android Police site was the first to report on the new app, which the site says is called Phone. Facebook has confirmed the app’s existence, but has not said what it plans to do with it. (Perhaps  it was just some leftover code from the failed Facebook-powered phone a few years back?)

Oh, and the Toronto Globe and Mail is among those who noticed that Facebook seems to be making corporate and brand pages less of a place for angry customers to post angry rants about lousy customer service and product complaints. A recent tweak by Facebook collapses user comments so they are not as easily visible — and readable — on corporate pages.

Samsung seems to be grabbing the reins on the bloatware. People posting in the XDA Developers Forum online are chattering that many pre-installed apps for the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones can be easily removed without hassle. Removable apps are said to include Samsung’s S Voice and S Health apps, Google’s troika of Gmail, YouTube and Google+ and Microsoft’s OneNote, OneDrive and Skype. Microsoft and Samsung aren’t parting wys across the board, though, as the two companies announced earlier this week that Samsung will pre-install Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype and a few other company apps on certain Samsung Android tablets this fall.

pebbleOn the wearables beat, the Kickstarter campaign for the competing Pebble Time smartwatch saw a healthy spike around and during Apple’s media event a few weeks ago and is close to 20 million dollars, making the crowdfunded, less expensive smartwatch a player in the game. And Google Glass, despite having its original model discontinued, is not dead yet.

Just a week after we mocked it here for hardware stagnation, there are early leaks to BuzzFeed News about the Apple TV set-top box getting an upgrade and makeover, maybe right in time for the World Wide Developers Conference in June. According to sources, the revamped box would include a beefier processor, voice control with a Siri-esque digital assistant and have its own App Store to load up your home screen. As Wired noted, this alleged new hardware would go real good with the also-rumored live-streaming TV channel bundle.

steveThe biography of Steve Jobs written by journalist Walter Isaacson in 2011 went on to sell millions of copies, but many people close to Mr. Jobs felt the book focused a little too much on his periodic-but-infamous bad behavior. Now Becoming Steve Jobs has arrived in stores this week. Although Mr. Issacson’s volume was authorized by its subject and used official interviews with Jobs as part of its source material, Becoming Steve Jobs is already earning high praise for its accuracy by those who worked with him and knew him best.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for net neutrality. Yes, these are probably the first of many.

skeetAmazon has gotten approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to test out commercial drones. The super-uber-mega-everything store has been issued an “experimental airworthiness certificate” from the FAA that allows Amazon to conduct the research it says it needs to train crew and further develop its Prime Air package delivery system. Amazon’s ambitions do have some skeptics, the Network World site for example, which points out that the problem with drone deliveries is practical, not regulatory. Amazon thought the whole FAA-approval process was way too slow.

And finally, if you love spectacular photos of rockets, space and other celestial subjects, NASA’s official website and dozens of social media feeds have traditionally been great places to go for new and interesting material, but now even the private space contractors are sharing their snaps. SpaceX, which makes cargo capsules, rockets and other spacecraft, has now put a number of breath-taking images on its Flickr page. The SpaceX pictures also sport a Creative Commons license that allows noncommercial re-use without a license with attribution, so hey, that photo at the top of this post is totally courtesy of SpaceX. So if you need a handsome photo for your blog or lesson plans, check it out. And don’t forget to grab a few inspiring pix for your desktop wallpaper, too.

PTJ 131 News: Game of Thrones

The Federal Communications Commission voted this week to approve new Net Neutrality rules that reclassify broadband Internet service as  a public utility. As expected, Big Telco jumped aboard the Pantload Express and has vowed to fight the decision in court. The opposing political party is not too happy either, so expect this story to keep on giving throughout the year.

Twitter is another company coming out in favor of the FCC’s proposal to reclassify broadband service as a public utility. A blog post on the company’s site states, “Empowering ‘lesser’ or historically less powerful voices to express themselves and be heard globally is at the core of Twitter’s DNA.”

youtubekidsThere’s also news from YouTube’s official blog. The video-sharing supersite and colossal archive of pet videos has just released a YouTube Kids app for Android and iOS. The new kid-friendly app (video demo here) is supposed to “make it safer and easier for children to find videos on topics they want to explore” and includes a set of parental controls.

Yahoo’s chief information officer, Alex Stamos, had some very firm questions for the NSA at the “Cybersecurity for a New America” conference in Washington DC this week. Mr. Stamos is not in favor of giving encryption keys to governments.

In case you hadn’t noticed, Android and iOS still hog most of the mobile platform and new numbers from the International Data Corporation prove it. The latest report shows the two had 96.3 percent of all smartphone shipments worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2014.

Google announced this week that it was banning pornography on its Blogger site.  Anticipating an exodus, Google has also posted instructions for exporting your blog so you can take it elsewhere.

emojiApple is adding a little diversity to the world of emoji. New beta versions of OS X and iOS reveal emoji characters with varying skin tones. Users can press and hold down a character to see the variations and select one of six different shades. (There has been some backlash to the new character set, however.)  In other news from Cupertino, Apple is said to be overhauling its Genius Bar experience, starting next month.

The Apple Watch is looming on the horizon this spring, but it’s not scaring off every other smartwatch maker out there. Scrappy little Pebble, which got a big boost from its Kickstarter campaign in 2012, is back at the fundraising site to gin up cash and pre-orders for its new Time smartwatch. The Time model has a new operating system, color e-paper display, 7 days of battery life, a microphone for responding to notifications and a thinner case. It’ll be out in May with a price tag of $200.

The Apple Watch isn’t going to be hogging all the mobile payment action, either. Google just acquired Softcard, a mobile payments app backed by AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, and also got a distribution deal to pre-install the Google Wallet payments app on Android phones sold by those carriers.

voyagerIf you’re a fan of spacecraft and the history of human exploration in our galactic backyard, check out a new book by planetary scientist Jim Bell. It’s called The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager Mission and details NASA’s missions with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft launched back on the 1970s. NPR’s All Things Considered segment about the project is worth checking out, space fans.

The Mobile World Congress event kicks off next week in Barcelona, so odds are we’ll be hearing about a new Galaxy S6 phone from Samsung and a bunch of other mobile gear. And later in the month, the SXSW festival opens in Austin, Texas.

And finally, if March — and warmer weather — still feels so far away from where you live this winter, a spot of toilet humor may help with the winter fatigue. There’s video on the web featuring David Goldberg of Maryland, who attached a snowplow to a motorized commode and was see clearing off the sidewalks around his suburb of Washington DC. Because after this kind of winter for much of the country, a do-it-yourself dude shoving a pile of snow out of the way atop a souped-up ceramic throne just makes sense.

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 86: The Big Bang And That XP Thang

Newsweek magazine makes a splashy return on paper with a cover story claiming to have found the father of Bitcoin. In his Tech Term of the Week, El Kaiser explains doxxing and why Internet denizens are so ticked off at the weekly news magazine. The computer mouse has been with us for half a century and J.D.  explains why it may stick around for awhile longer.  In the news Google dives into wearable computing; Apple releases an 8-gigabyte version of the iPhone 5C — but not in the United States;  the Windows XP Death Watch continues; The Big Bang Theory may have been proven; and say hello to robot fish.

PTJ 86 News: Robot Fish & Chips with Guinness

Your eyes are not enough for Google. This week, the Big G announced Android Wear, a version of the mobile operating system for smartwatches and other gadgets strapped to other parts of the body. The first Android Wear watches and monitors will arrive later this year but there’s a developer’s preview out now for anybody who want to sling some wearable code. (Speaking of potential gym gear, the 9to5Mac site has an update on what it says is Apple’s new Healthbook software for fitness tracking.) Oh, and Google and Viacom have finally settled a seven-year marathon of litigation.

Apple, perhaps in a move to get some of the international smartphone market back from Google and Android, released at 8-gigabyte version of its colorful iPhone 5C model this week in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and China. Oh, if anybody cares, Mac rumor sites are reporting that Microsoft is preparing the official Office for the iPad for its public debut next week at a media event on March 27th.  And in other Apple news, the company has finally retired the iPad 2 from March 2011 as the entry-level option for its full-size iPad line; the iPad 2 is succeeded by the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display that was first released in October 2012.

reaperSpeaking of old things, the Windows XP Death Watch continues to spiral downward to the April 8th deadline, when Microsoft says it’s seriously, totes mcgoats for real pulling the support plug this time. The Washington Post reports that hundreds of thousands of US government computers are running behind on their upgrades from Windows XP to a safer, secure and actually still supported operating system. Also missing some upgrade deadlines? Banks around the world, many of which didn’t make their deadlines for upgrading their ATMs.
Way to go, banks!

Some people are cutting the cord and ditching those pricy cable packages. According to the Leichtman Research Group, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other providers lost 1.1 million customers in 2013. Broadband subscriptions, however, are up for many cable providers.

The Big Bang Theory (no, not the TV show), that the scientific notion about the expansion of the universe, may have been proven. New research suggests that astronomers have found the first direct evidence of the cosmic inflation. An experiment at the South Pole led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced it had detected ripples from gravitational waves created in a violent inflationary event at the dawn of time. And while we’re out in space, it you haven’t caught the first few episodes of Cosmos: A Spacetime Adventure hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, you can check ’em out online with the Fox Now app or Fox on Demand service. (Also in your favorite app store: the official NCAA Basketball Tournament app. Yes, it’s March Madness once again.

And finally: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced advances in soft robotics. The school has released a video and details on its new robot fish that’s capable of rapid body motion and can quickly change direction when needed, just like a real fish.  And the Cubestormer 3, a Lego robot powered by a Samsung Galaxy S4, solved the Rubik’s Cube in 3.253 seconds, which scored it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. We look forward to the eventual Guinness record for fastest Rubik’s Cube solution by a robot fish. Any day now.

PTJ 63 News: Golden Apples

appleAs expected, Apple announced two new iPhone models on Tuesday. The first was the lower-end iPhone 5C with a plastic back in white, pink, green, blue or yellow and specs similar to the now-discontinued iPhone 5. The second was the high-end iPhone 5S, a 64-bit handset with a fingerprint reader, better camera and three color options: gold, silver and “space gray.” Not sure about taking a bite and upgrading? As with every tech-acquisition decision, there are pros and cons.

In other news, Apple announced that its own iApps — iMovie, iPhoto, and the iWork trio of Pages, Numbers and Keynote — will now come free with newly purchased devices running iOS 7. As for iOS 7, Apple’s new flatly designed mobile operating system will be available for download on September 18th. And with iOS 7, you get iTunes Radio. Not mentioned during this week’s Apple press event: iPads, iPods, iTunes, OS X Mavericks, MacBook Pro updates, Apple TV updates, mythical iTV sets or imaginary iWatches. Maybe next month.

Try as it might, Apple could not hog all the headlines this week. Microsoft is preparing to launch the Surface 2 tablets later this month. Hoping not to get lost in the press for iTunes Radio, Microsoft also launched mobile apps for its Xbox streaming music service. Users can now stream the service on iOS and Android devices. Xbox Music has about 30 million songs in the jukebox.

Sony’s PlayStation 4 console is on the way later this fall, as is a new version of its handheld PS Vita and its PlayStation Vita TV hardware. The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch made its official debut last week. The fancy timepiece can link with Android devices running version 4.3 or later.

Facebook seems to be trying to catch up with Twitter as the social-media place people go to get and discuss news events and other topics that trend. The Social Network released a pair of new tools for news organizations that could give those companies a better understanding of real-time social conversation surrounding things like breaking news, TV events like Sharknado or live sports. Google+ has added embedded posts and author attribution to its world. Google+ sign-ins are now integrated with Google’s Authorship program. Google+ also follows Twitter and Facebook into the world of embedded posts. And Twitter, perhaps looking to make some money in advertising, just bought the MoPub mobile advertising exchange for $350 million dollars.

FilmOn, one of the streaming broadcast TV services we mentioned recently here, has lost a major court battle over copyright in the District of Columbia and has been ordered to shut down by preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs in the case, which include ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, were pleased with the decision but FilmOn has vowed to fight on with an appeal. FilmOn’s rival, Aereo, is no doubt watching these events closely.

The National Security Agency can apparently crack most forms of digital encryption.

And finally, AM radio, perhaps the original wireless network that brought people together, has been losing audience and influence for years, but a lone member on the Federal Communications Commission is trying to get his agency to overhaul the technology and save it. In today’s world of satellite channels and audio streaming into your computer or phone from around the world, it’s easy to forget the crackly comfort of good ol’ amplitude modulation, but AM radio is still a vital part of rural communities and a beacon of information in times of emergency. (For a historical perspective on radio’s influence on the world, check out the excellent 1992 documentary Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio by Ken Burns, which is available on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.) If you’re now feeling nostalgic, go on — dig up that old transistor radio you’ve got tucked away in the junk drawer, pop in some fresh batteries and give the dial a spin for old times’ sake.

PTJ 63: Never Mind the Applesauce

Apple makes a product announcement and the response is a collective “d’uh, we already knew that.” Turns out the rumors were true. The fruit-themed phone makers roll out a plastic iPhone and a refresh of their flagship smartphone. In the news, Microsoft prepares to launch new Surface tablets; Sony announces an updated version of their PS Vita mobile gaming device; Samsung unveils their smartwatch; Facebook aims to be your source for news; The NSA can crack even the most advanced encryption methods; and a lone voice makes the case for saving AM radio.

PTJ 62: The Swaggiest Swag In All The Land

Despite all the big tech news this week J.D. takes a few minutes to help El Kaiser work up the courage to cut the cable, um, cable. In the news Microsoft buys Nokia’s phone handset division; CBS and Time Warner finally make up; Big announcements at the IFA Berlin show;  Google acquires a smartwatch maker; U.S. retailer Target gets into the streaming video game; another government agency trips through U.S. phone records; and Skype celebrates its 10th birthday.