On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss recent happenings at Twitter, Apple’s housing project, YouTube’s redesign and new smartphone apps from Google that are supposed to make you use your smartphone less. J.D. also takes a look at the current state of mobile wallet apps. All this and more on PTJ 321!
Fresh off the latest Facebook user-abuse apology media tour and visit with the U.S. Congress, Mark Zuckerberg made a slew of announcements at this week’s F8 Developers Conference in California, which El Kaiser and J.D. discuss on this week’s episode — along with other news from the tech realm. Episode 271 also sports a quick look at the big geek movies headed into theaters this summer and an explanation of “malvertising.” Spin up this latest installment of Pop Tech Jam to hear it all!
But now that we know who won the 2018 Academy Awards, life is still full of burning questions: Who am I? What is my place in the universe? Why do the Klingons on Star Trek: Discoverylook so different from the Klingons in the rest of the canonical series? This week, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss The Klingon Question after tackling the technology news of the moment. naDev ‘oH Qap!
Samsung thinks it’s solved the mystery of the exploding Note 7, Sprint grabs a new business partner, SpaceX returns to work and oh, cars might fly soon. On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. dive into a pile of tech-news headlines before Apple-watcher Don Donofrio drops by to discuss the company’s 2016 efforts.
The crisp fall air has returned to the Northeast, as do memories of sipping apple cider in front of a roaring fire. Unfortunately for some, the only fire around was coming from their replacement Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphones…
On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. wrangle the week’s headlines, including the latest from the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Inferno, a new coat for Microsoft Paint and Sprint’s efforts to close the digital divide for low-income high-school students. El Kaiser discusses proper electronics safety and J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on how to find out what other household products might be problematic. Now, where are those marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers?
After months of speculation, Android M has an official snack nickname in Google’s pantheon of tasty versions! Android 6.0, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, will be called Marshmallow and the software development kit is now available for those who want to build apps for it. Ever so busy, Google also just built a standalone website for its Hangouts videochat service, too.
Amazon was not the only company with a PR team in overdrive lately. The social media team at the dating app Tinder took offense to a Vanity Fair article lamenting the rise of hookup apps in general and went on a long Twitter rant against the magazine and the author of the article. During the tweetstorm, the Tinder Twitter complained the writer did not contact the company for comment and accused Vanity Fair of one-side journalism. Others noted the article wasn’t specifically about Tinder, but dating apps in general, and said the company behaved like a hurt teenage girl lashing out and seemed surprised that journalists do things differently than PR people. Salon wondered if the whole thing was “a sincerely epic case of butthurt or just a clever attention-getting ruse.”
In other online hookup news, the National Security Agency and AT&T apparently had quite a partnership in sharing customer data. As revealed in the latest document dump from Edward Snowden and reported by The New York Times and ProPublica, AT&T gave the NSA access to billions of emails crossing its domestic networks, as well as a massive amount of cellphone calling records.
As for government agencies, there are new reports out that the hack on the Internal Revenue Service was larger than originally thought. New evidence points to the hack starting several months earlier than first noted as well. So, instead of 100,000 people having their personal details swiped, it’s more than 300,000.
The same sort of malvertising campaign that infested Yahoo’s ad network seems to have spread to other sites around the Web. The Malwarebytes security team reports they’ve now seen poison adverts on aol.com, weather.com, Weather Underground, The Drudge Report and other well-traveled domains.
Comcast is said to have new video platform called Watchable waiting in the wings. According to the Business Insider site, the telecom giant has formed partnerships with digital publishers like Vox, Buzzfeed, The Onion, Mic, Vice, Refinery29 and other sites to package content for streaming on the service. (BuzzFeed, for its part, announced this week that it was getting a 200 million dollar investment from Comcast family member NBC Universal to put toward its video efforts.) The new Comcast service, if it exists, could also compete with Verizon’s upcoming Go90 mobile video service.
Boston Dynamics recently released a video (below) that showed off Atlas, its humanoid robot with a stomp through the woods in such a manner that The Washington Post likened it to “a drunk Iron Man.” For those who have forgotten, Boston Dynamics is owned by Google, which is testing Atlas as an experimental bipedal rescue machine. Try to ignore the fact that it looks like, well, a Cylon.
Apple’s Siri assistant can do more than just set calendar appointments and look up baseball scores. The program was credited with saving the life of a teenage boy in Tennessee when he was pinned under his truck after the tire jack collapsed. While he was shifting around trying to get out from under the 5,000-pound Dodge Dakota, he heard the familiar Siri bleep coming from his back pocket and was able to get the app to call 911 for help with a life-saving butt-dial.
And finally, it’s not just shotgun owners and other privacy minded people who are annoyed by unmanned drones buzzing around overhead. Bears in the woods do not like drones either. Researchers at the University of Minnesota put health-tracking monitors on six black bears and recorded the ursine reaction to 17 drone flights. The heart rates of all the bears increased when the drones were within 21 years overhead — which indicates stress. The 15-page paper titled “Bears Show a Physiological but Limited BehavioralResponse to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” was published online in the journal Current Biology and concludes that more research is needed to see if the bears would get used to the drones over time. The study, in one convenient image:
After we recorded last week’s episode (of course), news broke that the Comcast deal to acquire Time Warner Cable was kaput. While those worried about cable monopolies were happy the Comcast deal was scuttled, not everyone was thrilled about it — namely Time Warner Cable customers who say their quality of service is so miserable, that a Comcast takeover surely would have been an improvement. The New York Times had a story this week that talked to a few of those desperate souls trying to watch Game of Thrones from the Tenth Circle.
But as we all know, the Apple Watch is just one of many smartwatch platforms out there an the rest of them aren’t exactly sitting still. Last week, before Apple’s pricey timepiece began rolling out on FedEx trucks, Google announced an update to its Android Wear software that’s used by several hardware makers. The company outlined the new features, like support for WiFi-enabled watches, scrolling through news and notifications with the flick of a wrist, and the ability to launch apps with a tap on the watch face. Google said the new version of Android Wear would be arriving in the next few weeks to all seven watches that support it, and the fancy LG Watch Urbane (shown here) was first in line for the update. Stylish smartwatches aren’t the only devices LG Electronics is releasing this spring, as the company just revealed its new authentic leather-backed Android smartphone, the LG G4.
T-Mobile had some good earnings news of its own this week. Thanks to its inventive campaign of promotional offers and price cuts, the company added 1.1 million new monthly subscribers, which was more than analysts had predicted. Not everyone had good earninsg to report, though. Twitter’s stock price took a hit after a research company leaked the bird-themed microblogging service’s less-than-desirable quarterly earnings report.
Microsoft got just smacked down by a judge at the US International Trade Commission who found that Microsoft was guilty of infringements on two wireless cellular patents held by another company called InterDigital Inc. As a result of the ruling, Microsoft could see an import ban that would stop its devices from coming into the country and hinder Windows Phone sales even more. The judgement needs to be reviewed, however, and Microsoft is vowing to press onward.
In robot news, those clever folks at Stanford University have developed tiny robots that can pull objects up to 2,000 times their own body weight. The little wonders are called “MicroTugs” and in addition to physics and engineering, the Stanford scientists took some cues from the natural world and incorporated techniques used by hardy ants — as well as geckos with their conveniently sticky feet for traction and climbing. You can see videos of the wee robots dragging cups of coffee and climbing with a payload are on the department’s YouTube channel.
And finally, the death toll is in the now thousands from the horrific earthquake that rocked the country of Nepal this weekend. Countless people have been displaced and the country is reeling, but tech companies are pitching in to help:
Google has rolled out a few services including its People Finder, updated satellite imagery of the affected area, and Google Voice calls to the country for a penny a minute. (The minor charge is to dissuade spammers from overloading the network.)
But that’s not all on the net neutrality front. Three trade groups representing the cable and wireless communications industry have filed lawsuits over the FCC’s new rules in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Petitioners include the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which counts Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision as members, and the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, (now known by the hip moniker “CTIA — The Wireless Association”) whose members include AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile USA. The American Cable Association, which represents about 850 small and medium-sized providers, also piled on. The suits all accused the FCC of overreach and may be consolidated into one Super Suit. Experts say it could take three years for a decision in the case.
Seeking to regain ground and customers, Sprint will gladly sell you a new mobile phone — and they will even come to your house with the new device and set it up for you. It’s part of the company’s new Direct 2 You service and although it’s rolling out in Kansas City now, it’s expect to expand to Miami and Chicago next week and then on to the rest of the country. Sprint has hired about 5,000 roaming tech helpers through a third-party company and is mainly aimed at existing customers who are due for an upgrade.
Facebook and its sister site Instagram had a major outage this week, going offline Tuesday morning for about an hour. Facebook said the faceplant was due to an internal glitch and not the Lizard Squad hacking group, which posted vague claims of responsibility on Twitter. The sites for Tinder and Hipchat were also down around the same time, but came back without incident.
The Facebook mobile app can be a bit of a space and resource hog, but the company is slimming things down for that new crop of inexpensive Android smartphones aimed at emerging markets overseas. Facebook Lite, as it’s known, is less than one megabyte in size and designed to work even on slow 2G cellular connections.
The merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable still looms. While many advocates on either side of the deal have shared their views with the Federal Communications Commission, some of those views seem a little…familiar. As The Verge blog revealed after examining public records, several politicians who have sent in personally supportive letters praising Comcast’s business practices were actually sending in letters ghostwritten by Comcast communications specialists. Comcast said it was just helping to provide information on the pending deal.
Google also continues its push into high-speed fiber optic networks for residential use. In a post on the Google Fiber blog, the company announced that Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville and Raleigh-Durham would be joining Kansas City, Austin and Provo in the Gigabit Internet Club, which as we know, as speeds about 100 times faster than most normal broadband.
Snapchat and Twitter are trying to swim deeper in the revenue stream. Snapchat has begun to integrate content (with advertisements) from media companies like CNN, the Food Network and People magazine as part of the app’s Discover section. And Twitter’s blog announced this week that group Direct Messages and mobile video were rolling out. The new video feature — which is available in the Android and iOS apps — can record, edit and post short clips to your Twitter feed so all your followers can share the experience when 140 characters just aren’t enough.
If you’ve ever used the Waze traffic app to note the location of police cars on the highway, note that officials in the Los Angeles Police Department would like to shut down that part of the program. The LAPD fear the feature could be “misused by those with criminal intent to endanger police officers and the community.” No response from Waze-owner Google yet on the fate of the po-po button.
And finally, the Federal Trade Commission just released a 71-page report that says companies making smart appliances and gadgets should monitor connected devices throughout the product’s entire life cycle, patch security holes, and grab the reins on how much personal data a device collects from the user. The FTC, which has filed complaints against companies before for things like lax security, also calls on Congress to pass new legislation like broader privacy protections for consumers and a National Data Breach Notification Law. Some industry think-tanks and at least two Republican lawmakers have raised issues with the report, saying basically that overregulation smothers innovation and jobs. Still, with reports of hacked baby monitors and other connencted devices becoming more frequent, forcing companies to secure their hardware and software doesn’t sound like too much to ask, y’know?
Forget the Drama Llama — the Irony Rhino went charging through the room this week. The same day President Barack Obama gave a big speech on the importance of, you know, cybersecurity , the Twitter and YouTube accounts for the US military’s Central Command were hacked by supporters of Islamic State. Wired magazine was among those who dismissed the hack as a stunt and not a deep security breach, and some experts are theorizing that the person in charge of those social media accounts got jacked, which led to the official accounts being compromised.
Other government leaders are also concerned about security, terrorist activity and other dirty deeds done dirt cheap online. In a speech this week, United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron said he would try to ban apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp in Britain if intelligence services did not have a key to the back door. And the Federal trial of the Dread Pirate Roberts, also known as Ross Ulbrict of the Silk Road site, started this week in Lower Manhattan.
Microsoft is just not having it from Google. In a post on the Microsoft Security Response Center site, senior director Chris Betz blasted the Big G for releasing information about some Windows 8.1 bugs before Microsoft could roll out its monthly Patch Tuesday fixes. Google made the Windows cracks known in posts on its Project Zero site for security engineers, which tracks holes in Google’s (and other companies’) software. As an incentive for the fixing, Project Zero typically has a 90-day trigger of automatic disclosure of unpatched bugs after the vendor has been notified.
Microsoft has started the slow countdown to the official demise of Windows 7: The company’s Product Lifecycle database notes that mainstream support for Windows 7 ended this week. Extended product support, which provides regular security updates, goes until January 14, 2020. (Windows 7 still has more than 50 percent of the Windows market at the moment, according to Net Applications.)
The old try-before-you-buy philosophy isn’t just for demoware. Luminoid.com, which rents out cameras, tablets and other gadgets, has just started a new Home Try-On program for wearable electronics. You can borrow five health and fitness tracking devices and try them all out for seven days. If you like a model, you send back the demos and buy a new one from Luminoid. If you don’t buy, you just send them $20 for their lending and shipping efforts.