Tag Archives: transit

PTJ 144 News: Cheese and Bacon Edition

A new day, a new dance, and Time Warner Cable has indeed found a new tango partner. As previously rumored, Charter Communications has stepped up with a $56.7 billion dollar deal to acquire the larger Time Warner Cable crew. Charter is also said to be negotiating to buy the smaller Bright House Networks cable company as well.  Time Warner Cable was spun off of Time Warner Inc. in 2008 and if the new deal with Charter goes through, the new company will be dubbed with the sprightly new moniker “New Charter.” (As opposed to, you know, Classic Charter.)

tweeterTwitter is also in acquisition discussions to snag Flipboard — but sources say apparently stalled at the moment. (The bird-themed microblogging service  also added Periscope to its Android app this week.)

The streaming-music service Spotify held a press event last week to announce it was expanding into podcasts and video clips. Some detractors have pointed out that Spotify’s audience uses the service as a background medium and a soundtrack to doing something else, which is harder to do with video because it requires direct attention.

Instagram wants your attention and has been sending out a regular Highlights message that shows off recent pictures from the people you follow on Instagram. It really hopes you’ll be intrigued enough to start using your account again.

Also in pictures — Google’s new Photos app is on the way, reports the Android Police site. as the Google I/O 2015 conference gets underway this week. Meanwhile, Google has also filed a patent for an interactive toy that even the BBC labeled as “creepy” in a headline. See for yourself, courtesy of the US Patents Office:

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Netflix has given itself a redesign for the first time in four years. The changes include showing more information about shows you might want to watch, better presentation for the tons of Netflix options available and an enhanced recommendation engine.

Microsoft wants everyone to love its upcoming Windows 10 system! For those of you who do not have Windows Phones, the company has announced a companion app for Android and iOS phones that will let you connect your device to your PC. Once installed, the Phone Companion app will make sure photos you take with your phone get saved back to the computer by way of OneDrive and notes, music and Office documents can be used between the two. Microsoft also announced a standalone Cortana app for Android and iOS.  Watch your back in the App Store and Google Play store, Cortana.

The Daily Telegraph of London recently had an extensive article on Apple’s design guru Jony Ive, written by actor Stephen Fry. The story broke one new bit of news: Sir Ive has just been promoted from Senior Vice President of Design to Apple’s Chief Design Office and will take up the new gig on July 1st.

wwdc15The usual leaks and rumors are starting to pop a few weeks ahead of Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. The iPhone 6s just may include the Force Touch screen with haptic feedback. The 9to5Mac site also says it hears the new iOS 9 will include split-screen apps for iPads, a fresh new system-wide font for the user interface, a Home app for controlling your HomeKit Internet of things and mass transit directions for the Apple Maps app. As with any iOS update, performance and security enhancements are also promised — and unusually for Apple, there’s talk that the new iOS 9 system could actually run better on older hardware like the iPhone 4s than iOS 8 did.

And speaking of new hardware, an eye doctor in Canada says he’s created bionic lens implants that can give the wearer 3 times better vision than 20/20. Cue bionic eye sound FX!

NASA’s Dawn probe has been taking a close view of Ceres and discovered some curious lights on the surface of the dwarf planet last month. So now NASA has put up an online poll asking members of the public what they think those bright spots may be.

Holiday Monday or not, NASA was busy this week, with the relocation of one of the International Space Station’s modules to make room for more docking ports to host commercial spacecraft, and the announcement of the scientific instruments to be sent on the Europa mission. And sad news for locomotive fans — the NASA Railroad has been retired. The 38-mile stretch of track was once used by three trains to haul rocket boosters for the space shuttle from the train yard over to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center.

NASA_Railroad_locomotive_2And finally, bacon has become a big part of techie culture — hence the variety of bacon-flavored products you can buy over on ThinkGeek.com. The flat, fried breakfast meat has so entrenched itself that a bacon emoji has been named as a candidate for Unicode 9.0, which is due out next year. In addition to bacon, other nominees include a dancing man that looks somewhat like John Travolta in the white disco suit from Saturday Night Fever, a wilted flower, a croissant, the face-palm gesture, a pregnant woman and a symbol that brings to mind the original Batman logo. As with most emoji, there are no words.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Anti-Freeze

Winter has slammed into most of the United States, bringing with it the inevitable bouts of bad weather and hazardous travel. Just look at the massive ice-related highway pile-ups we’ve seen already this season in New York state, Michigan, Oregon — and even closer to home just this past weekend in the Philadelphia area due to a flash-freeze on the roads.

If you have a preferred weather or traffic app on your phone, this is the season to fire up those notifications because Mother Nature has a way of throwing a hissy fit and disrupting your plans. If there’s a storm on the way, a highway closed or a train line suspended, odds are you’d like to know about it ahead of time, right? Most specialized apps can be configured to push out alerts to warn you of impending events, so have them ping you when something’s up. Most major mobile platforms — Android, iOS and Windows Phone — let you configure notifications so you can turn them on and when you want.

IMG_3768On the weather side, apps include AccuWeather and Weather Undeground for most platforms, DarkSky or NOAA Weather Radar for iOS and dozens of others. Seriously, there are a ton of weather apps for every kind of phone out there and your mobile platform of choice may have even included one. Don’t have a smartphone? The National Weather Service’s mobile site and sign-up page for third-party email and SMS text alert services can keep you in the loop.

As for traffic and transit, popular cross-platform apps like Inrix and Waze are good sources of highway and road information. If you do have to be out driving in bad weather, make sure you have an emergency kit in the trunk. The professional winter states of Wisconsin and Minnesota have especially good advice on this topic, and you can buy pre-made collections, like the AAA’s own Severe Weather Travel Kit. If you don’t have one already, it’s a good idea to get a car charger for your phone  — just in case.

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Weather emergencies can seriously affect mass-transit systems as well, and some more than others. (Seriously, have you ever tried to get around the DC Metro during a snow storm?) If you’re riding the rails, the iTrans app for iOS is available for several cities and offers service alerts. There’s also the Transit app for Android and iOS. If you’re a New Yorker, the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority has a whole page of mobile apps for various phone platforms to check out.

Other information sources, like Google Now (if it has your commute in its list of info cards) and Twitter’s emergency alerts can also be useful. And don’t forget, if you’re trying to fly out for a nice vacation in a warm place, get your airline’s app and sign up for alerts that may affect your flight.

It’s winter and in much of the country, that means the roads are a giant asphalt Slushee out there, so let’s be careful. In fact, let’s just stay home and watch some more Agent Carter.

PTJ 67: Spoiler-Free, Sweetie

On a supersized episode of everybody’s favorite geek-culture podcast El Kaiser takes a turn at hopefully being helpful by detailing the steps to avoid a malware infection. With social networks making spoilers a legitimate concern for all TV watchers, J.D. introduces us to some apps that can help keep second screens from spoiling what’s on the first. In the news, more of the world gets online access and some companies help bring less expensive Internet access to developing countries; the Gold Master of OS X Mavericks is made available to developers; rumors point to Amazon releasing a set top box to compete with the Apple TV and Roku devices; Google and Hewlett Packard announce the HP Chromebook 11; and Yahoo gets to blow out 16 candles.

PTJ 67 News: Go Big Blue!

About 40 percent of the world will be online by the end of this year, says the annual report from the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union. Less-developed countries are often the ones at the bottom of list that track a population’s online access, but Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel are among 30 companies that are teaming up to bring a less expensive Internet to those parts of the world that still lack connectivity. The initiative is called the Alliance for Affordable Internet and it was officially launched this week in Nigeria.

On the Apple front, the Gold Master of OS X Mavericks 10.9 was posted for developers late last week. And although some people stopped caring about Office for the iPad after Microsoft released the poorly reviewed and oddly named Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers earlier this year for iOS and Android, outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said this week that the company did have a touchscreen Office in the works, but that the iPad would get it after the Windows mobile devices got theirs.

Amazon to the top of the TV? If you believe the Wall Street Journal, the super-uber-online megastore will have its own video-streaming box for sale before the holidays. The unconfirmed streamer doesn’t have a price or a name yet, but the 9to5Google site has noted that Amazon recently trademarked the name “Firetube.”

Google has added transit directions to its fancy interactive Google Glass eyewear and the company also teamed up with HP this week to announce the HP Chromebook 11.

Yahoo celebrates its Sweet 16th birthday! Yahoo Mail has gotten an overhaul for desktop and mobile and now comes with some features previously seen in Gmail. Intsagram is also getting older and will soon be getting ads of its own soon, as a company blog post titled “Instagram Is a Growing Business,” explains.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear is now out and receiving fair to middling reviews, and the rollout of smartwatches from other companies continues. The Filip smartwatch for kids — which also serves as a simple mobile phone between parent and child — is headed for AT&T.

LG Electronics has gone into mass production of what it claims is the “world’s first flexible OLED panel for smartphones.” Using the curved panels — made from plastic substrates instead of glass — is supposed to make the screens bendable and unbreakable and handsets featuring the new panels are expected next year.

esbunnyThe New York SciFi & Fantasy organization is trying to turn the Empire State Building a lovely shade of TARDIS blue for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who next month. The group has filed an application to the Empire State Building’s management team in hopes of creating a giant blue police box on the Manhattan skyline on November 23rd and an online petition has been started. Also in entertainment news: Gravity may have won the weekend box office, but the movie got nicked with some fact-checking criticisms over Twitter from astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam would like to congratulate Peter Higgs and François Englert on winning the Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson. Awesome boson, dudes!

Don’t Sleep in the Subway, Baby

Sure Yahoo’s been on a spending spree, but Apple has been doing some shopping of its own this summer. Last week, it acquired two location-oriented companies, Locationary and HopStop.

HopStop, for those who haven’t had it save the bacon in a strange land, offers up door-to-door transit, walking, biking, and taxi directions in over 300 cities worldwide. No word on what Apple plans to do with the service (besides nuking the Windows Phone app version), but here’s hoping the transit directions get folded into the Apple Maps app so we all don’t have to refer to other apps to figure out our train plan. So go download the app or check out the mobile site now.

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But if HopStop isn’t your thing, what else can you use to navigate the labyrinth of a major metropolitan mass transit system and not get lost for days?

If you have an iPhone, you can get free maps and directions for 12 major transit systems with Embark for iOS. Boston, Chicago, London, Long Island, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington DC and most importantly, New York are among the cities serviced here. And Embark does not require an Internet connection so you can use it when you’re on a platform underground trying to figure out which train to take when the one you need is out of service. There’s also a free version for the Embark NYC Subway for Android.

But if New York City is the town you wish explore, our own Metropolitan Transit Authority Web site has a huge collection of links to mobile apps for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and mobile Web. It’s a mix of official and third-party developers, but you can find 68 iPhone apps, 34 iPad apps, 33 Android apps, 8 BlackBerry apps and 8 Windows Phone apps listed.

Lest we forget, Google Maps for Android and iOS. The old reliable app includes transit guides for many cities and all kinds of navigational bells and whistles like audio turn-by-turn directions.

If you’re traveling or just want a really good pocket guide for your own hometown, check your phone’s app store and search for transit apps and local guides for specific cities. And while you’re loading up your phone with your transit app of choice, don’t forget to throw a few appropriate tunes on there as well. Safe travels, yo.