Tag Archives: Star Wars

PTJ 231: Veni, Vidi, Vendi

Are we ready for the vending machines to silently judge us based on our snack habits? Some New Yorkers will find out soon as new models equipped with artificial intelligence are making their way to town. Meanwhile the disruptors are getting some disruption themselves, Facebook’s F8 conference brings new announcements, there’s a new Star Wars trailer out and El Kaiser and J.D. wonder if it’s time for iTunes to retire. Grab a bag of chips or your favorite meat-stick product and settle in for a listen here on Episode 231!

Links to Stories in This Week’s Show

PTJ 228: A.I., Ay Yi Yi

It’s not been a great week for the algorithms:  Elon Musk downloaded a few concerned thoughts on the state of artificial intelligence to Vanity Fair, the F.B.I.’s facial recognition database has some glitches and Amazon’s shopper-tracking software gets confused when you put something back on the wrong shelf. But on the bright side, Hidden Figures,  story about real human intelligence, arrived as a digital home-video download, so the week wasn’t all bad. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — and a bunch of other tech news in between — on this week’s handcrafted episode of Pop Tech Jam.

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 217: She’ll Always Be Royalty to Us

After a tumultuous year that saw the sad passing of actress and author Carrie Fisher (as well as Kenny Baker) the year 2017 has arrived. And so, coincidentally,  is Episode 217 of Pop Tech Jam.

On this week’s show, El Kaiser and J.D. discuss some early announcements out of the Consumer Electronics Show, what Facebook’s been up to lately and explore suggestions to the Twitter’s CEO about improving the bird-themed microblogging service.

J.D. also has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint about watching the skies. While you’re looking up, raise a glass to the memories of the actors that brought Princess Leia and R2-D2 to life all those years ago. They will be with us, always.

Links to Stories in This Week’s Episode

PTJ 215: Death Patches and Death Stars

If you’re still clinging to a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 — even though the highly flammable device has been officially recalled — Samsung is coming for you with a phone-bricking update in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, the bacon emoji has arrives in iOS 10.2, Netflix is getting all up in the virtual reality and you can now use Dropbox from your Xbox. Also in this week’s episode, El Kaiser presents his Tech Term of 2016 and J.D. has a (Hopefully) Helpful Hint on replacing your smartphone battery. Just press Play!

Links to This Week’s News Stories

PTJ 213: Server Loads and Angry Rogues

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!

Links to This Week’s News Stories

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Vote Early

As you may have heard, the United States of America is holding a presidential election next month. In fact, the election is already happening in many states, where early voting has begun.

Want to get in ahead of the crowd? Early voting often allows you to avoid long lines and crowd hassle on Election Day, but not every state offers it. If you’re not sure if your state allows early voting, just fire up the Google search engine and search for “how to vote.”

As described in a blog post last summer, Google provides geographically relevant info as to where and when you can vote. You can also find information on absentee voting, if it’s not too late in your state. (And if you live in Oregon, everyone there can vote by mail.)

If you do plan to vote in person on November 8th, you can also find out what type of identification you need to bring with you. On your local Board of Elections site, you may also be able to see a preview copy of your local ballot — which may include independent candidates who are not on a national ticket.

whyowhyo

The campaign season — which started last year with candidate declarations and even a few bare-knuckle primary debates — has been comparatively volatile. Yet, in the midst of all the screaming from the super-sized personalities, it’s sometimes hard to hear the actual issues. If you haven’t been paying attention until now and want to know where the candidates and their parties stand on topics like healthcare, job creation, immigration and more, roll on over to the campaign’s website:

If you want to see the party’s official platform, you can find that online easily too:

The Washington Post also has a handy state-by-state voter guide with links to state elections sites and the Vote411.org site from the League of Women Voters is full of useful information, including what types of voting machines are used in your state. And if you’re tired of blathering cable-news heads bringing you the campaign news of the day, cruise by the C-SPAN site for thorough (but low-budget) coverage of the election and other government goings-on.

Already voted? Tired of the whole political season? Just want some escapist entertainment?  A new trailer for this December’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped last week, which for many, already has a much more compelling storyline.

Star Wars: The Choice Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens landed in movie houses last December and like clockwork four months later, the film is just about to roll out on home video. For fans of the franchise, the digital ‘n’ disc release to the masses means we can see The Force wake up all over again — but now with the power to fast-forward/rewind/obsess over all those little tidbits that whizzed by on the original big-screen viewing(s).

And of course, home video traditionally means: BONUS FEATURES.

Disney is not holding back with this one. Not only do most versions of The Force Awakens have extra video treats, you can also choose between delivery formats — and even the packaging for your copy.

And you don’t have long to wait. Digital high-def downloads from various legitimate sources will be available this Friday, April 1st, while physical discs — Blu-ray and DVD — hit stores Tuesday, April 5th.

chirp

So, what do you get if you buy the film? Deleted scenes, of course! These snippets from the editing-room bin have already been officially teased by Disney, spoiled here and there and leaked in various places online. There are said to be six official deleted scenes for disc buyers, and a seventh clip for the digital-only releases.

And what would a home-video release be without a few behind-the-scenes minidocs? Sure, the offerings may vary by retailer, but here are the ones most retailers are advertising (complete with original breathless blurbs from Disney):

• Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic JourneyFor the first time, discover the complete story behind the making of The Force Awakens, revealed through in-depth footage and exclusive interviews with the actors and filmmakers in this feature documentary.

• The Story Awakens: The Table ReadCast members familiar and new reflect on the memorable day they all first came together to read the movie’s script.

• Building BB-8See how the filmmakers brought the newest droid to the screen, creating an instant fan favorite in the Star Wars universe.

• Crafting CreaturesWatch movie magic as the filmmakers bring a cast of new creatures to life.

• Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow FightGo deeper into the epic, climactic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren.

• John Williams: The Seventh SymphonyThe legendary composer shares personal insights of his work on Star Wars and The Force Awakens.

• ILM: The Visual Magic of The ForceAn insider’s look into the remarkable digital artistry of the movie’s visual effects.

• Force For ChangeHeroes come in all shapes and sizes. See how the Star Wars: Force for Change initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe to help others.

Can’t wait four days for a disc and going for the digital downloads? You can get it from all the usual suspects on Friday.

You can find the film on the Google Play store, Apple’s iTunes Store, the Microsoft Store and Walmart’s Vudu service. Most are charging $19.99 for an HD download of the film with bonus content included, and $14.99 for a standard-definition widescreen edition with no extra features. Amazon of course, likes to undercut everyone in price, and is charging $17.99 for the HD download with bonus material and $14.99 for the standard. (You be you, Amazon.)

Want a hard copy of the film on a good ol’ shiny disc? You can get one of those next Tuesday — and you have some options there as well. Film buffs will probably go for the Blu-ray/DVD combo back that also gives you a digital copy for your devices. The combo pack has a list price of $29.99 but you can find it cheaper if you look around. The straight-up DVD will cost around $18.99.

Four big retailers are doing their own packaging as well. These include:

• BEST BUY. The Best Buy Blu-ray Combo pack features sturdy SteelBook packaging for $29.99.

 DISNEY STORE. The Disney Store Blu-ray Combo comes with an exclusive lithograph set. That’s all while supplies last, and the package rings in at $24.99.

• TARGET. The $24.99 Target Blu-ray Combo pack comes with its own special packaging and an added 20 minutes of bonus content. Target claims to have never-before-seen interviews with new stars Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, plus a deep dive into at the movie’s costumes and weaponry.

• WALMART. Wallyworld’s own Blu-ray Combo pack comes with spunky BB-8 packaging and a Star Wars Galactic Connexions trading disc. List price is $39.99, but it’s on sale for $19.98.

And all these are just for the 2D editions — a 3D version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be available later this year. Finally! Something to keep us busy until Rogue One arrives on December 16th.

home

PTJ 178 News: Toy Story

The New York Toy Fair was in town and now we have new Star Wars action figures from Hasbro — including Rey and other female characters from the movie’s universe! At last, we know the answer to the #WheresRey question: She came to New York to make it big.

tmMattel used the Toy Fair to unveil the ThingMaker 3D printing system . The new system is an update to the old Thingmaker kit from the 1960s, and the 21st-century edition uses software co-created by Autodesk that wirelessly beams the designs from the mobile device to the child-safe 3D printer. The $300 ThingMaker 3D printer won’t be available until mid-October, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. The free ThingMaker app for Android and iOS is out already if you want to get a feel for it and work out your designs in advance.

vmThe ThingMaker printer wasn’t the only geekworthy news Mattel made at the Toy Fair. The company also announced an update to its View-Master Virtual Reality Viewer. The 2.0 model has been reworked to handle varying sizes of smartphones without the need for an adapter, and it also has improved access to the phone’s headphone jack.

Speaking of virtual reality, the technology is also starting to turn up as a tool for real-estate brokers to sell you an apartment. As a recent story in The New York Times explains, companies like Halstead are using virtual reality headsets to let prospective buyers look around apartments for sale or rent. Thanks to contractors like Virtual Xperience and ArX Solutions who create a VR rendering of the future space based on architectural plans, prospective tenants can get a feel for the place — even if it hasn’t been built yet.

AT&T, which used to be known as the American Telephone & Telegraph Corporation has been around in some form since 1875, is urging its massive workforce to keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. The company started a corporate education program about two years ago that offers to help pay for its workers to take classes on their own time to update their skill-sets. One of the new technologies AT&T is working on is the next generation of mobile data networks, the so-called 5G networks. As you can imagine, AT&T is not alone in the speed race, and Verizon said it plans to start field-testing its own 5G airwaves next year. Remember when 3G was all the rage?

Google released its Android 6.0 Marshmallow system last fall, and Samsung announced this week that it was finally pushing out the software to owners of its Galaxy S6 andS6 Edge phones. Part of the multi-month Marshmallow delay was likely due to Samsung tweaking Google’s software to add new features like the new Quick Tools panel to the S6 Edge model.

galaxySamsung is also said to be gearing up to announce its Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge phones next week and at least one blog thinks there’s going to be a Batman vs. Superman version out there for fanboys of both Android and DC Comics. The S7 is also said to be water-resistant.

Other in blog rumors about new phones: 9to5Mac claims Apple will put the new smaller 4-inch iPhone 5se and iPad Air 3 on sale March 18th after a possible March 15th unveiling. Apple is not commenting on that, but did announce its Apple Music service is now up to 11 million subscribers and online service iCloud has 782 million users. But in not so happy news for the Apple, Immersion, a company specializing in haptic feedback technology, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against the fruit-themed toymaker for incorporating elements of its technology. (We haven’t even mentioned Apple’s standoff with the Department of Justice the other day…)

The notion of turning smartphones and their sensitive motion detector chips into earthquake sensors isn’t original, but there’s a new Android app called MyShake out from UC Berkeley Seismologicial Laboratory that has some research cred. The app sits quietly in the background until it senses the earth rumbling, and then it uploads a small amount of data to the centralized database created by the seismologists as an earthquake early-warning system. According to the companion paper its creators published on the Science Advances site, the app analyzes motion to see if the “newly incoming data are similar to previously defined human activities.” If it’s not a toddler birthday party or loud music, the data is sent along for further possible-earthquake analysis.

The Tidal music service got a big boost in the App Store because it had exclusive rights to distribute Kanye West’s new album, “The Life of Pablo,” but a glitch in the system left a reported 4,000 fans with credit-card charges and no new album. And then there are the pirates splashing the Tidal wave.

Tax scams are in the air, because people are filing and hackers are hacking. The Internal Revenue Service says it’s stopped an automated attack from identity thieves on its Electronic Filing PIN application on the IRS.gov site.

NASAAnd finally, if you’ve got the qualifications to be an astronaut, well, NASA is hiring this month. It’s the first time in four years the agency put out the word for new talent, and the folks they’re looking for might just end up on a mission to Mars. Other open positions in the NASA job board include IT specialist at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and Research Geophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. And the agency offers benefits, and hopefully an employee discount on the cool stuff.

PTJ 172 News: Wake-Up Call

Talk about your Rey of light! The seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise opened last Thursday night and went on to make $247.9 million dollars in its first weekend and broke several other records along the way, Many people stayed off the Internet and social media to avoid spoilers until they saw the film, and Google Trends set up a whole page of Star Wars: The Force Awakens-related lists based on the terms people were using in Google Search. The countdown for Rogue One (December 16th, 2016) and Episode VIII (May 26th, 2017) has begun!

Meanwhile, in a galaxy much closer to home, the folks at SpaceX must be breathing a sign of relief after the company was able to launch — and land — a Falcon 9 rocket in Florida this week. The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, delivered 11 low-earth satellites into orbit for the ORBCOMM company and then returned safely and in one piece about 10 minutes later. After previous mishaps and an explosion earlier this year, SpaceX redesigned the Falcon 9 rocket and the company plans to reuse the booster for another mission. (Let’s hope they clean the crew cabin between flights, unlike some domestic airlines around here.)

spacex

Like tarting up images and then sharing them online? Adobe, maker of Photoshop, has a new free iOS app called Adobe Post. It’s described in detail on an Adobe blog, and yes, the company says an Android version is in the works. As Macworld points out, though, you have to share the app with a friend to get rid of an watermark Post puts on your pictures. Also in picture news, Facebook is adding support for the Live Photos created by Apple’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models. While the new feature is slowly rolling out, only users with the iOS version of Facebook’s app will be able to see the mini moving pictures. Oh, well.

It sounds like Microsoft and Google are talking over each other, at least when it comes to the Cortana assistant app on Android devices. In a recent update to the app for the American version, Microsoft has disabled the voice-activated “Hey Cortana” feature apparently due to microphone conflicts with the “OK, Google” voice command. Microsoft also announced this week it was going to crack down on aggressive adware that makes PC users vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks. As of March 31st next year, Microsoft plans to yank or block adware that defies its policies.

The Nielsen folks have released their list of the top apps of 2015 as measured by the number of users.  Odds are, you’re probably using one or two of the winning apps.

visitorJuniper Networks, which makes firewall for business enterprise customers, had to issue the advisory last week that so company remotely related to online protection wants to release: the Security Bulletin outlining multiple issues with one of its products.  A short FAQ on the incident. patches and workarounds were also posted. Wired reports that researchers now think the National Security Agency was at least partially responsible, and cryptography expert Matthew Green even has a blog post describing how hackers used an existing back door to make one of their own. Also in government snooping news, Apple is pushing back at a bill in the United Kingdom that seeks to expand Parliament’s investigatory powers and could give the government the power to make Apple decrypt its iMessage service.

The Federal Trade Commission has chased down the Oracle Corporation and charged that the company bamboozled customers about the safety of security updates to its Java software.  Thanks to a legal order, Oracle must provide an uninstall tool so users can pry the old Java crapware off their systems and make sure future updates actually provide the promised security.

hellkittyAnother week, another database leak. And another one that involves information about kids — Hello Kitty, of all things. Several sites have reported on the incident, but the one called The Office of Inadequate Security over at www.databreaches.net and the Salted Hash site lay it down: “Database Leak Exposes the 3.3 Million Hello Kitty Fans.”  The issue was discovered by security researcher Chris Vickery, who has been having a banner year of fail-hunting, and appears to be more of a server misconfiguration thing rather than hacker tracks. Sanrio, the company behind Hello Kitty, posted a statement on its site saying credit-card info was not at risk and yes, they fixed the problem.

While passwords can be a pain, especially when they’re hacked, Google is experimenting with a new way of logging in via smartphone notification. Yahoo, which has had its own security problems, updated its Yahoo Mail mobile app last fall that also did away with passwords in favor of a push notification to a mobile device. Just don’t lose your phone.

Layoffs are a fact of life in the tech industry and Toshiba is taking a hit now. The company, which claims to have released the world’s first mass-market laptop back in 1985 and affordable models in the 1990s, has been steadily losing ground to rival companies in Asia. The company, which also had a major accounting scandal this summer, said Monday it plans to cut about five percent of its workforce .

rosieThe Consumer Electronics Show is still about three weeks away, but the advance press releases are already starting to trickle out. Cleaning fans take note, LG plans to reveal what it calls “the world’s first augmented reality vacuum cleaner” at CES next month. The company’s HOM-BOT Turbo+ uses three camera sensors to record its surroundings to keep track of where it has already cleaned — and  to transmit a real-time feed to its owner’s smartphone. The human just needs to tap an area of the room displayed on the screen to have the HOM-BOT go over there and clean it. Because the vacuum has motion sensors along with its cameras, it can also be used to keep an eye on the place, but the HOM-BOT doesn’t quite sound like its up to a Terminator level of protection . . . yet.

bot

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Variations on a Theme

We spend a lot of time in our inboxes, don’t we? If you want to add a few personal touches to the browser window to brighten things up a bit, you can. (Well, most of the time, unless you are a hardcore iCloud Mail user.)

In general, you do not have to settle for the default settings for background and text size with your preferred webmail service of choice. True, iCloud webmail is a little boring, but Microsoft’s Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail and Google’s Gmail all let you add a little bit of personal choice to your inbox. Hit up your settings and  pick a new theme or color to admire while you wade through the daily onslaught of mail and spam effluvia.

yahoothemes

Want to go farther with customization? Perhaps, far, far away? Gmail users who ride the Chrome browser and love Star Wars have some options here. With its new Choose Your Side campaign built around the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens film release, Google has tricked out a number of its apps with little Star Wars touches and Easter Eggs.

swmapFor example, plot a driving route in Google Maps and see your position dot get turned into the Millennium Falcon! Have your YouTube progress bars converter to shimmery lightsaber animation! Fill your Google Calendar with Star Wars-related dates! Yes,  Google has added Star Wars goodies to Android Wear, Chrome, Chromecast, Gmail, Inbox by Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Now, Google Search, Google Translate, Waze, and YouTube.

To use it, you need to sign up with a Gmail address at google.com/starwars and choose your allegiance: Light side or Dark side. The Star Wars skinning works across Android phones and tablets, iPhones, iPads, Chromebooks, and desktop standard versions of programs for Mac OS X and Windows; note that the Forcification of the Chrome browser, Gmail, and YouTube can only be experienced on the desktop.

If you get bored with it all — or hate the movie — and want to ditch the whole thing, go back to google.com/starwars. Drag your avatar back to the center of the screen and click Back to Default to have your Google apps return to their regular state. Google will automatically turn off the Choose Your Side skins and return to its regular appearance by February 1, 2016.

Oh, and one last Easter Egg, if you haven’t done it already: Open Chrome or the Google search app, type in “A long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away” and hit the Enter key. You know you want to.

GoogleWars