Tag Archives: Sprint

PTJ 219: Blue Skies

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.

PTJ 208: Safety Patrol

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?

Lithium-Ion Battery Information

Battery University
• Why Lithium Batteries Keep Catching Fire
• How Lithium-Ion Batteries Work

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 155 News: Grin and Bear It

marshAfter 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.

As a story in last weekend’s New York Times tells it, Amazon is the modern equivalent of a massive Dickensian workhouse where everyone is overworked and crying.  As one can imagine, however, Twitter got hopping and Amazon spokespeople were quick to defend the company, fanning out across print, television and Internet to rebut The Times. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos even wrote a company-wide memo that was widely leaked, and the NYT Public Editor weighed in as well.

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.

Sprint is the latest carrier to ditch two-year cellphone contracts, following T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. As part of its service overhaul, Sprint introduced its iPhone Forever plan, which gets you the current model for $22 a month on your bill.

robokillerThe Federal Trade Commission has announced the winner of last spring’s “Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back” challenge to developers. The $25,000 prize goes to an app called RoboKiller. If you want to know how it works, check out this PDF and the Kickstarter page.

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.

Facebook is revamping its blog-like Notes feature to make it more appealing to users who have forgotten than Notes exists. Some have observed that the wide-margined new Notes templates make them look like articles on Medium. (Does anyone remember actually using Facebook Notes outside of those viral “15 Things” lists?)

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwrjAa1SgjQ

The 9to5Mac site is beefing up the details on its New Apple TV rumor coverage and is now predicting the new set-top streamer will have a new streamlined hardware design, new user interface, iOS 9, App Store access, that dedicated remote control we heard about earlier this year and Siri support.

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 Behavioral Response 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:

bearchart

Wildlife researchers do use drones in their work to observe animals from a distance, and Canada even has what the BBC calls a “goose-bothering drone” designed to scare off pesky Canadian geese in Ottawa by blasting recordings of predatory birds. And why yes, that drone is called the GooseBuster. Who ya gonna call?

PTJ 140 News: Cable Ties and Record Highs

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.

Also in cable news, ESPN is suing Verizon for breach of contract over those slimmed-down channel bundles. Fox and NBC seem poised to board the USS Lawsuit as well.

Apple announced its quarterly earnings reports this week and announced a $13.6 billion dollar profit thanks to record-breaking sales of iPhones, Macs and apps from the App Store. But while iPhone sales were up 40 percent from later, iPad sales were down 23 percent. Trouble in Tablet Town? (That iPhone 6 Plus does have a pretty big screen, come to think of it…)

The iPhone 6 line and the Apple Watch are boosting the use of Apple Pay, and Discover is the latest credit-card company to join up with Apple for mobile payments. Best Buy has also added Apple Pay to its mobile app and said its retail stores will be accepting those phone-tap payments at the cash register later this year. And speaking of those Apple Watches that started shipping last week, the Slice Intelligence research firm estimates that only 22 percent of the 1.7 million pre-ordered Apple Watched actually shipped to customers last week.

LGurbaneBut 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.

Google just added 70 cards to Google Now from its partner apps, so you can get more creepy helpfulness than ever before. Even more!

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.

SwiftKey, the popular alternative mobile keyboard app, is experimenting with a new variation that can correct multiple words or even whole sentences you’ve tapped out. The new edition is called the Clarity Keyboard and you can download the beta from the Google Play store now.

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.

tugsIn 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.

Facebook announced this week that Messenger makes the video calls from one mobile phone number to another phone number regardless of smartphone platform. And Facebook-owned Instagram has added three new filters and the ability to use emoji characters in hashtags. (Also, we have heard reports of Instagram having some crashing issues even when updating to the new app, so it’s probably them, not you. Or a bug.)

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:

itunes

Other new organizations have posted links to relief agencies and other organizations that are taking donations to help the people of Nepal. If you can, send help because we’re all in this world together.

PTJ 138 News: Time Will Tell

And, they’re off…preorders for the Apple Watch started last week. Although Apple itself hasn’t released any sales figures of its own, analysts are chiming in and some watch models are now backordered until June. One research firm, Slice Intelligence, had a report that said its consumer-survey data showed that Apple took about 957,000 preorders for Apple Watches on the first day. The Apple Watch is initially available in nine countries, but compare that to last year’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus rollout, which was available in 10 countries. The phones topped four million pre-orders in the first 24 hours and went on to sell ten million in the first weekend of launch. The last time Apple launched a new product, it was the iPad in 2010, which sold 300,000 units on the first day of sales and took less than a month to hit the one-million mark. So, will the Watch move past the Apple fankids and make a splash in the mainstream?

WWDCAmid all the timepiece hoopla, Apple also knocked a few other projects off its To-Do List. One was an update Final Cut Pro, its professional-level video-editing program. The update includes a speed boost, support for key camera formats, workflow enhancements, 3D titles and more, along with the usual bug stomping. And those in the Apple developer program are buzzing about the new iOS 8.4 beta because it reveals the new overhauled version of the Music app. The final version of the refreshed Music app is expected to be revealed at the  World Wide Developer’s Conference that starts June 8th in San Francisco. And about WWDC — Apple has banned selfie sticks at the conference this year. No smarmy stick pics in Moscone West, got it?

Google introduced its new Designed for Families program for its Android developers this week. Look for the “family friendly” displays  soon in the Google Play store.

drone2A few weeks after the Federal Aviation Administration proposed new rules for unmanned aircraft systems and news organizations got permission to test drones in their work, Amazon seems to have finally gotten its way on the whole permissions thing with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA sent a letter to Amazon last week giving the company specific permission to test its delivery drones here in the US instead of Canada. Certain rules do apply, however, like daytime flights only and no aircraft up there weighing more than 55 pounds.

The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules were officially published in the Federal Register this week, and almost immediately, Doug Collins, a Republican congressman from Georgia, introduced a resolution called the “Resolution of Disapproval.” Under the Congressional Review Act of 1996, the resolution  gives Congress the authority to do a quick 60-day review of new regulations from government agencies and vote to disapprove them before they go into effect. It is unlikely that President Obama will sign the resolution to make it a law, though.

lawBut 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.

rrTime Warner Cable is not about to let Google Fiber horn in on its turf in North Carolina. Just a few months after Google said that it was expanding its gigabit Internet service to Atlanta, Nashville Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, Time Warner Cable announced it was “taking the next step to transform the TV and Internet experience in the Charlotte area.” The cable giant’s upgraded new service, which is up to six times faster than its old one and has already landed in other metropolitan areas (like Los Angeles and New York City), is dubbed TWC Maxx and is not to be confused with the department store TJ Maxx.  And AT&T is also giving Atlanta its own U-verse GigaPower love after Google Fiber and Comcast Gigabit Pro announced their intentions to court subscribers there.

Also getting more cost-affordable: 4K ultra high-definition television sets. Vizio, one of the brands that led the way to affordable HDTVs, has announced its 2015 lineup of Ultra HD sets and the low-end 43-inch model comes in at just $600. At the other end of the price list, the 80-inch 4K TV sells for about $4,000 but well under the hefty five figures the average UHD TV was selling for just a few years ago.

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.

redmarsMeanwhile, out in space, NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has discovered that water can exist as a liquid in the soil near the Martian surface. Even though Mars is too cold to allow water in liquid form to exist on the planet’s surface, it could just below the surface where salts in the soil have lower freezing points, possibly making for a life-sustaining liquid brine. The research was published in the Nature Geoscience journal.

A little father out in space, the Rosetta probe and its Philae lander have found that the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerisemenko is not magnetized. Scientists at the European Space Agency and elsewhere study the properties of comets in order to get insight on the role magnet fields have played in the formation of all the celestial bodies flying around in our solar system.

YodaMacAnd finally, in case you were out of town last weekend, all six Star Wars films arrived as legal digital downloads last Friday in a package called Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection. The whole saga could be purchased in bundle form for $90 — or $20 each if you hate the Jar Jar chapters. The films, which have old and new bonus extras and featurettes included, are available on all the major media download stores. And, thanks to the wide-ranging merchandizing rights, you can enjoy the movies while dining on a big bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in Star Wars Shapes. Now that’s good eatin’!

PTJ 127 News: Waze and Means

Microsoft reported its quarterly earnings this week and things were better than expected, thanks to big sales in cloud computing software, Nokia Lumia phones and Surface tablets — all that primetime product placement on network television finally paid off! While this was all good news, the company’s stock did drop 4 percent in after-hours trading that day, due to that big multicolored elephant in the room — Windows for the PC, which continues to lose ground in a mobile world. (Meanwhile, Apple’s earnings call revealed that the company sold a ton of new iPhone 6 models and that the Apple Watch is supposed to ship in April.)

fbfailFacebook 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’s  new wireless service in partnership with Sprint and T-Mobile may let your connection bounce around between WiFi or whichever wireless carrier has the strongest signal at the time. It won’t be ready for several months, though, but is said to be similar to a WiFi-heavy phone service called Freewheel from Cablevision,

googfiberGoogle 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.

IoTsecurityAnd 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?

PTJ 125 News: Borrowers and Lenders

rhinoForget 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.

win7Microsoft 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.)

You’ve seen those Amber Alert notices on the news and even on electronic highway signs. Now Facebook is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to bring geographically relevant alerts to user news feeds.

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.

In iOS news, Google released a free iOS version of its Chrome Remote Desktop app this week. With the app on your iPhone or iPad, an extension to the Google Chrome browser on your computer and a Google account, you can log in and control your computer over the Internet. (An Android version of the Chrome Remote Desktop app was previously available.) And Apple is giving confused parents a hand with new age-appropriate subsections to the Games for Kids area of the App Store.

cnndroneAlthough unmanned drones are mostly banned for commercial use, CNN has worked out an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that would let the channel test camera equipped drones for video journalism and news-gathering. Several media companies have previously complained about the FAA’s ban on drones saying it restricts the First Amendment rights of journalists to gather news. The FAA is currently working on a new set of drone rules, so stay tuned — maybe the drone rules will land before the Federal Communications Commission gets its Net Neutrality ducks in a row.

If you’ve ever dreamed of having your own personal robot, there’s a Kickstarter campaign awaiting you. A startup called Robotbase is gathering funds for a product called Personal Robot, which looks to be the artificial intelligence of personal assistant software married to a motorized robotic rolling platform. As Sam Maggs over on The Mary Sue blog points out in her post titled “Now You Can Have Your Very Own A.I. Personal Robot Lady Friend,” the Cylon race also started out as robot butlers in the Caprica series.

And finally, the New York Public Library is leading out more than just books and videos. As part of the new Library HotSpot program, that fine institution is also making 10,000 free Wi-Fi hot spots available for six-month loans to families who have no broadband access at home. The Library HotSpot project is also receiving major support from Google, the Knight News Challenge, Open Society Foundations and New York’s Robin Hood Foundation. Both the nonprofit Internet access company Mobile Beacon and Sprint are working to get the hot spot hardware distributed to library branches around the five boroughs. And remember hot-spot recipients: security.

PTJ 115: We Got Your Disruption Right Here

I’ve never been one to mince words so let me just drop a truth-bomb on all of you fine folk reading this. J.D. and El Kaiser are disruptors. Period. Full stop.  If there’s any doubt, quit dawdling and listen to this episode.

Pedro breaks down Disruptive Innovation in a Tech Term segment and J.D. explains how  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right on your phone.

In the news  Google has plans for a paid version of YouTube; Motorola unveils a new Droid; Verizon Wireless force feeds some users perma-cookies; The Federal Trade Commission has files a complaint against AT&T; Not all retailers are jumping on the Apple Pay bandwagon; HTML5 is finally official; Amazon takes on the Chromecast; And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains why Apple killed off the iPod Classic.

PTJ 115 News: Charged Up

Want your cat music videos and surfing dog clips without having to sit through five seconds of annoying ads? Got cash? A vice president who heads the YouTube division at Google said this week the company is planning a paid version that will also be ad-free. No word on pricing yet, but they’re still working things out.

turboIf you’re not thrilled with any of the new phones so far this season, here’s a new one. Motorola’s latest handset is called the Droid Turbo and it boasts some impressive specifications, including a 21-megapixel camera, a 5.2-inch screen and claims of up to 48 hours between charges on the battery. (The included “Turbo charger” also claims to give you eight hours of power with just 15 minutes of juicing time.) The Turbo comes in red, black or white and it’s on sale through Verizon Wireless as of October 30.

Speaking of Verizon Wireless, astute observers including those at Wired magazine have noticed that Verizon Wireless has been quietly inserting a string of alphanumeric characters into the data flying between its wireless customers and the websites they visit.  Verizon calls that string of characters a “Unique Identifier Header,” or UIDH. It’s part of the company’s Internet advertising program and basically functions as a serial number or a “perma-cookie” that advertisers can use to identify you. As one can imagine, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy-minded groups are not happy about this. If you want to see if your mobile device has been tagged with a tracking number, visit lessonslearned.org/sniff.

Verizon is not the only one getting a growl from the watchdogs. The Federal Trade Commission has  filed a complaint against AT&T alleging that the company has mislead consumers with its unlimited data promises — by not informing those customers that part of their unlimited data plans include having their data throttled by up to 90 percent. Go get ’em, FTC!

Apple Pay has been up and running for the past week or so, but some companies are banding together to promote other contactless-payment services instead. CVS and Rite Aid are among those declining to take Apple Pay at the cash register now, reportedly choosing the just-hacked CurrentC instead. Walgreens, however, is happy to take your Apple tap.

HTML5Even though it’s been in use for several years, the official standard for HTML5 has been published in its final and approved form by the World Wide Web Consortium this week. (Now that that’s done, it’s on to the HTML 5.1 standards draft for the ever-busy W3C!)

Microsoft has issued a security advisory for vulnerability in its PowerPoint software and other programs that use the Microsoft OLE code. The issue effects pretty much all supported versions of Windows out there. So expect a patch soon, check out the security advisory for suggested workarounds and don’t open PowerPoint presentations or other Office documents from strangers.

In Not Scary Microsoft news, the company has knocked another $50 off the price of an Xbox One game console. The sale starts November 2, and brings the price of a basic Xbox One down to about $350. Your move, Sony.

firestickAlthough Amazon’s weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings and epic dud known as the Fire Phone may have its investors a bit cranky, the MegaÜberEverything Store is cranking out new products. This week, Amazon announced its new Fire TV Stick, a $39 competitor to Google’s similar Chromecast HDMI dongle.

All those sassy TV ads and data-deal promotions seem to have paid off for T-Mobile. The carrier just reported its largest financial quarter in its company history and now has 52.9 million total customers and Sprint in its targeting computer.

cometMeanwhile, up in space, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is still chasing comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko. Rosetta’a sensors have even been able to detect the chemical composition of the flying ice ball — down to what it smells like.  According to a blog post on the European Space Agency’s site, “The perfume of 67P/C-G is quite strong, with the odour of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulphide), horse stable (ammonia), and the pungent, suffocating odour of formaldehyde.” Or, as Cnet put it, the comet smells like “rotten eggs and pee.” (Which is not unlike certain subway stations in the New York City metropolitan area on a Sunday morning.)

While the explosion of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket this week was most unfortunate, the space mission goes on. NASA is getting ready to test its new Orion unmanned spacecraft in early December and if you hurry and sign up before midnight on October 31st, your name can go up on the test flight. As part of its public awareness and outreach efforts, the space agency taking the names of everyone who signs up for an “Orion boarding pass” online and inscribing them to digitized list on a  microchip inside the capsule. NASA is also inviting social media users to apply for credentials to attend Orion launch events at several of its facilities around the country.

orion

And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained why Apple killed off the beloved-by-many iPod Classic last month. Said Mr. Cook at a tech conference this week: “We couldn’t get the parts anymore, not anywhere on Earth.” NASA, you have a new mission.

PTJ 94: How Soon Is (Google) Now, Fellow Netizen?

El Kaiser looks at the Tech Term “netizen” and explains how the once innocuous mashup of “Internet” and “citizen” has come to represent a responsibility all of us should not take lightly.

In her (Hopefully) Helpful Hint segment J.D. takes a look at Google Now, the interactive virtual assistant from the “Big G” and tells us how it is slowly evolving and trying to stand out when compared to Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana.

In the news  AT&T has sealed the deal to buy DirectTV;  YouTube rumored to be buying the videogame-streaming company Twitch;  FBI arrests over 90 suspected cyber-criminals;  Verizon continued rolling out its zippier XLTE service across the country;   and Facebook is testing an Ask button on user profiles allowing a user to inquire about  the relationship status of your online acquaintance.