Things got loud last week down in Dallas, but it wasn’t just at a Mavericks game as hackers managed to set off every public-safety alarm in the city and freak out a lot of people. Meanwhile, a Russian spam king got collared, a new version of Windows 10 rolled out and Google confronted accusations about a gender pay gap at the company. This week’s episode also features the welcome return of journalist Laura M. Holson to the Pop Tech Jam recording table as she offers insight on her recent story about John Dean, the White House counsel back in Richard Nixon’s Watergate days — and a discussion on how some things never change.
The hills are alive with the sound of buzzing drones, leaking data and the thwack of fake news getting smacked down. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all, as well as Shazam’s jump into augmented reality, smaller Windows 10 updates and Consumer Reports stepping it up to evaluate the security of new smart-home devices. Just press Play to get a fresh helping of the week’s news, a Tech Term and a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint — all in one episode!
Another year, another Disney-generated Star Wars movie. And, like last year’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens pre-sales, the demand for advance Rogue One tickets Monday morning knocked over the Fandango site like an AT-AT tripped up by crafty snowspeeders. But now that you’ve got your tickets, kill some time until the movie with Carrie Fisher’s new book — or catch up the recent tech news with El Kaiser and J.D., along with this week’s discussion of video streams and spam awareness. May the Force be with you!
Thanksgiving is gone, Black Friday is over and even Cyber Monday is back there over the horizon. No denying it, the Holiday Season is here. But just as tax season brings a wave of specialized spam and scams, so do “the most wonderful time of the year.” In addition to the usual onslaught from botnets and the like, 2016 has even seen the emergence of so-called artisanal spammers, who target smaller groups of people in hopes of avoiding junk filters.
As always, beware the legit-looking spoofs, like fake order confirmation messages from Amazon or other online retailers asking you to log in from supplied email links. It’s a big problem and Amazon even has a guide to identifying bogus messages, dealing with them and reporting them. If you have any doubt, skip the message and log into your account directly on the retailer’s website. If you get mail about you didn’t order, check your order-history page to make sure nothing got charged to your card – or that you didn’t forget you ordered something in the first place.
Watch out for the messages with the fake invoice, fax, or other attachments sent to your inbox. If the subject matter seems unfamiliar (but the sender is not), call or text to confirm the situation. Otherwise, you’ve just opened that attachment and loaded malware or ransomware into your computer. Fake breaking news alerts are another delivery mechanism.
Apple is aware of the problem and is starting to block invites from identified spam merchants. In the meantime, workarounds include turning off the iCloud Photo Sharing invite feature, moving spam invitations to a special iCloud Junk calendar and then deleting it in the iOS calendar app – or adjusting your iCloud settings to have calendar invitations sent instead to your mailbox for easy filtering and deletion.
Scammers never run out of ideas. A new category of fraud called whaling is also on the rise, in which thieves masquerade as senior-level executives asking junior associates to transfer corporate money on their behalf. The FBI noted an upward trend in this type of business scam earlier this year.
So, as we head to the end of the year, keep your junk-mail filters tuned, your computer’s anti-malware software up to date and trust no one.
Forget those grainy old newsreels of Republicans and Democrats putting on large hats and gathering every four years to nominate a candidate for president. Thanks to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and various other social platforms, wonks and watchers alike have instant access to high-definition video right from the arena floor, plus ongoing commentary from viewers around the world. Will this massive wall of easily accessible data make for a more informed body politic — or just lead to more online body slams? And what about those the hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee that some say were courtesy of Russian operatives trying to influence the results of November? Journalist Laura M. Holson drops by PTJ HQ with her observations on it all.
And, after a week off so J.D. could work on her monitor tan, she and El Kaiser are back behind the mic with a summary of the week’s tech news, including Verizon’s purchase of Yahoo and summer projects from Microsoft and Google. Pour yourself a cool, refreshing beverage and settle on in for a listen!
On the topic of Twitter, the bird-themed is launching a new marketing campaign where it will attempt to explain why it’s a unique delivery mechanism for breaking news and gossip. However, do not expect any mention of the colossal amount of troll poop that clogs the best of timelines.
Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer for Windows 7 and 8.1 users ends this month, so if you didn’t get it before July 29th, you probably didn’t want Windows 10 in the first place and fought hard to avoid it. If you did install Windows 10 (or bought a new computer that already had it), look out on August 2nd for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the biggest upgrade heave since last November.
Microsoft also announced updates to its Office 365 suite, including a new Researcher service for Microsoft Word that helps you find, fit in and format reliable and legitimate resources to cite in your academic papers. Word has also been updated with a virtual cloud-based writing assistant called Editor that provides better document proofreading and analysis of your writing, which might make it less painful for you to compose and others to read.
Microsoft has added a new feature called Zoom to PowerPoint as well. Zoom can easily create interactive non-linear presentations for those who really don’t care about slide order and want to go freestyle.
The Outlook mail app also got a Gmail-like “Priority Inbox” update that helps weed out distracting fluff in your mailbox. Microsoft calls its version “Focused Inbox” instead.
Google has done some updating of its own this week and has released updates to Google Maps for desktop, Android and iOS. The company tweaked the color scheme and design of the maps to make them cleaner, sharper and easier to read. Google Maps also has new orange-shaded “areas of interest” that show algorithmically selected pods of restaurants, bars and other attractions nearby. According to the Android Police blog, Google Maps is rolling out notifications for mass-transit delays and a Wi-Fi only mode to help you keep your data allowance under control, too.
Nexus and Android Phone users are getting a nice gift from the Google phone app – a warning that an incoming call may be spam. If you do get a spam call, the app makes it easy to block and report the offender.
And finally, Pokémon Go dating was only a matter of time and yes, now it’s a thing. A company name RazorGo will be coming out with a site and app for Pokémon Go players to chat with their teams or privately. And you know that tune…
Love soft as an easy chair Love fresh as the morning air One love that is shared by two I’ve found thanks to Pikachu
El Kaiser has a new toy and he can’t wait to tell you all about it. This week he reviews the Mont Blanc E12 portable headphone amplifier from FiiO. Let’s face it, ebooks are here to stay. J.D. fills us in on how to make margin notes and highlight our favorite passages on all the popular digital book readers.
In the news the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo; Lytro unveils a new camera; Rumors circulate that an Amazon smartphone will sport a radical new UI; Comcast reports its subscriber numbers are up; AT&T wants to beat Google in the Fiber Race; the AOL mail site is hacked; and Apple announces it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources.
Google has other things on its plate besides fast fiber. The company has combined SMS text and Hangout chats into the same conversation so everything’s all in the same place. That’s new with the Hangouts 2.1 app for Android. The Venturebeat site quotes sources at The Goog who say the company is looking into ways to make end-to-end encryption tools like PGP easier to use with Gmail so that users can keep their mail locked up against prying eyes from the government or otherwise.
And finally, it was Earth Day this week, and Apple took the opportunity to announce that it has free recycling for all used Apple products and says it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources. The company’s redesigned Environmental Responsibility site has a video clip narrated by CEO Tim Cook that outlines Apple’s approach to green living. Critics of Apple’s approach point out that the company video neglects to mention that most of its products are built in China and that many Apple products are difficult to repair, especially for the do-it-yourself crowd who strives to keep old gear functioning and out of landfills. Hopefully, the Mighty Oak of Sustainability will one day grow out of Apple’s Acorn of 2014 Environmental Promises — or at least they’ll start designing gear with long-lasting batteries that are easy to replace and recycle.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these podcasters from sharing their hi-jinks and shenanigans! Well, actually gloom of night might give us pause… This week J.D. gives us some helpful hints on how to prevent our children from making unapproved in-app purchases and Pedro tells us what apps to use to navigate and experience NYC like a native. In the news, Verizon buys Intel Media’s OnCue Internet-based television service; the Internet of Things gets hacked; the video game console war rages on; Hewlett-Packard brings back Windows 7; Samsung Galaxy S5 rumor mill picks up the pace; a comet chasing spacecraft wakes from a long nap; and The New Yorker magazine reminds us that there is still nothing quite like the power and reach of live over-the-air radio.
According to the security firm Proofprint, the Internet of Things has been hacked. (Didn’t take long now, did it?) Researchers for Proofprint report that along with hacked laptops and tablets, more than 100,000 smart, Internet-connected appliances like multimedia set-top boxes, game consoles, routers, television sets and even a refrigerator were compromised by intruders, looped into a botnet and used to send out more than 750,000 malicious email messages. (Keep in mind, though, that the company making this discovery did have a dedicated interest in putting out a press release on the incident as quickly as possible.)
Photos purporting to be the new Samsung Galaxy S5 are leaking out online, and those who have seen the new user interface describe it as “looking like an attractive Google Now.” While officially unconfirmed by Samsung at the moment, most expect the schmancy new phone and UI to make a splash at next month’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona.
Meanwhile, out in space, NASA reports that the Rosetta spacecraft woke up from a 957-day hibernation on January 20th and is getting back to work on its mission of chasing Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The Rosetta project, which began back in 1993, is actually a mission of the European Space Agency, but scientists from NASA contributed three of the 25 scientific instruments the spacecraft will use to monitor the roaming comet.