Tag Archives: Travel

PTJ 227: Special Delivery

It seems like everybody’s got something on the way this week: Samsung’s new phone waits in the wings, Amazon’s Alexa is calling in for a six pack, robots are rolling out with restaurant orders and Apple even quietly slipped a few new products into the retail channel. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — including that very special package sent down from the International Space Station.

Links to This Week’s News Stories

 

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 198: PokéZombie Apocalypse

Pokémon, those whimsical little Japanese pocket monsters, are celebrating their 20th anniversary in style by taking over much of the mobile world this month with the release of the augmented reality smartphone game, Pokémon GO. But while millions of people downloaded the game to their Android handsets and iPhones in the first week of release, security experts and privacy advocates have voiced concerns. Journalist Laura M. Holson drops by Pop Tech Jam HQ to discuss how Pokémon GO works, what to worry about and why it became so popular so fast. El Kaiser and J.D. also discuss the non-Pokémon headlines of the week, including Twitter’s big plans for this month’s political conventions and some truly classic code.

PTJ 198 News: To the Moon!

tweeterDo you like reality TV? If you’re a general fan of long windy speeches, you can see the United states political machine grinding its gears later this month on Twitter. The bird-themed microblogging service announced this week that it has reached a deal with the CBS television network to livestream both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, much to the delight of trolls everywhere.

Also in Twitter news, the company has issued a cease-and-desist letter to another site that made a habit of recording and displaying the deleted tweets of politicians and celebrities. Upon receiving the letter, the PostGhost site did shut down, joining Politiwoops in the club of sites who have angered Twitter. Politiwoops, though smacked by Twitter last year, does seem to be back as part of the Sunlight Foundation for transparent government. And Twitter has increased the allowed size of animated GIF files that can be attached to tweets, which can now be up to 15 megabytes on the Twitter web interface or 5 megabytes on mobile. This has inspired some people to compress full-length movies and TV episodes into high-speed animated files, just because they can.

oldbooksThe ebook revolution seems to have hit a snag, at least with book from major publishers. The American Association of Publishers released its annual sales survey this week that showed ebook sales had declined about 11 percent in 2015. Overall, ebooks accounted for 17% of all book sales for the year and Fortune magazine thinks the drop may be in part to major publishers reining in e-sales with higher prices as a way to limit Amazon’s influence over the publishing industry. Digital formats are not all riding the down arrow though: The AAP survey also showed that revenue from audiobook sales has nearly doubled since the year 2012, from $299 million in sales up to $552 million last year.

Facebook, Apple and Google have all taken a keen interest in India as a new source of revenue. While Facebook’s Internet.org project to bring its version of the web to the country hit a roadblock with local officials and net neutrality advocates earlier this year, and Google has busted out with a new program designed to train two million local developers in the art of Android. The new initiative is called the Android Skilling program that it plans to implement in universities and training schools around India later this year. Also in international tech news, the Obama administration says the Twitter traffic of Islamic State has dropped 45 percent in the past two years due to an online counteroffensive.

benzElectric cars are picking up speed. <rimshot>  Along with your Tesla Model S, Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt and other models out there,  Mercedes-Benz is said to be prepping a concept version of an all-electric sedan that it plans to unveil at the Paris Motor Show in Paris this fall. peaking of Tesla, though, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Elon Musk’s electric car company is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to tell investors about the fatal crash of one of its cars in Autopilot mode this May.

Google is making high-speed data access easier for its Project Fi customers who are traveling. The company announced on its Android blog this week that it was giving Project Fi subscribers a $10-per-gigabyte data plan in more than 135 countries for those who don’t want to drift between Wi-Fi hotspots in hotels and cafes or fumble with the international SIM card maneuver.

After initial delays, Oculus Rift VR headsets are now shipping within 2-to-4 business days from ordering. And developers who want to attend the company’s Oculus Connect 3 conference on early October can fill out applications for attendance starting August 2.

hamiltonAnd finally, if you like NASA and you like programming, head on over to GitHub — if you’re not already there — and check out the source code for the onboard guidance computers used on the Apollo 11 command and lunar modules back in 1969. The pages of source code were digitized a while back for the MIT Museum and was later transcribed and uploaded into text files by a researcher in 2003. So the code itself was already in the public domain if you knew where to look, but a former NASA intern uploaded the entire collection to GitHub last week so even more people could examine the files and read the comments put in by the original NASA programmers. As PCMag.com notes, the code has a lot of humor  and even some Shakespeare in the comments. And lest you think all those 1960s-era computer jocks were men in short-sleeve white dress shirts, remember that software engineer Margaret Hamilton (shown here) was one of the main programmers on the Apollo 11 project and is still an inspiration to many of today’s girls who code.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Plane Plan

The weather this year has been one for the Buzzfeed listicles — after ass-shattering cold and way too much snow all winter, we’ve now moved on to a new season we can complain about. For example, a tropical storm grazed the South and tornadoes blew through the Midwest in the past week. We talked about keeping prepared for hazardous road travel in January, so here are tips for dealing with flight cancelations when cranky Mother Nature once again destroys your carefully laid air-travel plans.

book2First of all, before you go anywhere, sign up for push alerts from your airline. You can get messages for your  flight, either through the airline’s mobile website or smartphone app. Should anything disrupt your flight schedule, the airline should push out a text message right away. Hopefully, you’ll get this alert before you leave for the airport. If you’re watching an incoming storm on your preferred weather app — and getting that sinking feeling that your flight the next day is about to get borked — turn up the volume for audio alerts for text messages on your phone before you go to bed. Even if you’re asleep, you’ll want to get the bad news as soon as possible. This is especially helpful if you get a notice from the airline saying your flight has been flat-out canceled.

cancelThe reason you want to get this message ASAP is because it gives you time to grab an available seat on an alternate flight long before those less tech-savvy people stuck on hold with the airline’s telephone customer service hotline. (It’s possible to get rebooked in as little as 10 minutes online.) When you get a cancelation message, look for a link that takes you right to the rebooking part of the website for the list of all the alternate flights you are eligible to take.

Once you get confirmation of your rebooking, you may need to make a few other arrangements – like, for example, extending your car rental period or booking a hotel room for another night. Discount sites like Hotels.com or Priceline.com are great for finding the inexpensive last-minute room.

shuttleHotels near the airport often have free shuttles to the terminal, so if you were getting around by mass transit or cab during your stay, you may be able to take advantage of this handy amenity. And check your hotel for other services that may be useful. For example, if you have to rebook on an early morning flight and go right to work — but all you have is a suitcase full of dirty clothes — see if the hotel has a laundry service or coin-operated washers and dryers on the premises. You can kill your extended time by throwing in a load so you have fresh duds for your dash to the office after you land.

There’s no app that can change the weather — yet. Thankfully, though, there are plenty of apps out there that can make dealing with it (and the upheaval of your travel plans) just a little bit easier.

PTJ 130: Travel Accessories and The Galapagos Syndrome

This week J.D. tells us what she finds are essential tech and gadget accessories you should always have with you when you travel and El Kaiser tackles the Tech Term “Galapagos Syndrome”.

In the news,  finally proposes new rules for commercial drone operation; AT&T very unhappy with proposed FCC new neutrality rules; Apple may be looking to get into the automobile business; and the NSA may have buried malware in hard drive firmware; and much more.

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(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Gear to Go

Sure, the overloaded computer case can drag you down when you’re on the road, but these five items are fairly small and light — and can keep you powered, connected, secure and backed up while you travel for work or play. So before you go, consider one or all of these items for the various pockets of your gear bag if you don’t have ’em already. (Oh, and get some protein bars and other snacks to stuff in there, too. You know what those airport delays are like in winter.)

battery1. External Power Pack: If you’re a long way between electrical outlets and your phone’s charge is slipping away, consider toting an external battery pack along to keep your handset powered for a few extra hours. Most external batteries are tube- shaped and charge up from your laptop’s USB port or phone’s AC adapter. When your phone runs down, just grab its USB cable from your AC adapter and plug it into the external battery for another shot of juice. External batteries also come in the shape of smartphone cases, like the product line from Moiphe; the company makes an $80 PowerStation brick that will charge up just about any USB-enabeld device — like tablets and media players.

ethernet2. Ethernet Cable. While WiFi has become the most popular network connection type on the road, you can still find Ethernet jacks on your journey when you stop at some hotels and business centers. You may have to supply your own cord to connect to the jacks, but  short, travel-worthy lengths of Ethernet cable are available for just a few dollars at places like Monoprice.com or on Amazon.com. Plug in and log on!

adapter3. Ethernet Cable Adapter. A wired Ethernet connection can be a fast and reliable on-ramp to the Internet, but many ultrabooks have tossed the RJ-45 Ethernet port overboard when designing slimmer machines. Many of Apple’s newer laptops have ditched the jack, but you can get a Thunderbolt Port-to-Ethernet adapter or a similar USB-to-Ethernet adapter. If you have a Windows-based ultrabooks, check with your laptop’s manufacturer (Lenovo, for example) or at an accessories shop for a compatible adapter that provides a port for an Ethernet cable. Most adapters cost about $30.

token4. VPN Token or Service. The public networks you encounter in your travels may have little or minimal security. If you’re traveling for work and have access to your corporate virtual private network (VPN), be sure to pack the security token you got from the IT department. If you don’t have access to a VPN through work, you can find VPN services around the Web for a relatively low price — TunnelBear, HotSpot Shield and F-Secure’s Freedome are among the many options .

usb5. USB Flash Drives. For years, these little portable pals have been a convenient way to stash, move or back up files without a network connection — and they’re cheaper than ever. You can get 8 gigs of space for $5 to $10 at plenty of places around the Web. Seriously, buying a carbonated beverage at the airport can cost more, so grab a flash drive or two and rest assured your files are backed up securely right to your pocket.

PTJ 76: The Desolation of El Kaiser

This week J.D. helps us deal with holiday travel by sharing tips on making the experience a little easier and Pedro helps us stuff our stockings — and our ears — with a review of two new earphones from RBH Sound and Bowers & Wilkins. In the news Twitter changes its blocking policy but has an immediate change of heart; Facebook rolls out auto-play video ads; Samsung gets set to release its own Android gamepad; Apple announces its iTunes year-end Top Ten; The Museum of Science Fiction is set to open in 2017; and Flash Gordon could be headed for a serious big-screen remake.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hints: Fly the Less-Crabby Skies

Yes, it’s Holiday Travel Season time once again, and that means it’s time for our annual list of tips that can make the experience slightly easier:

  1. Get the app for your airline. You can check in for your flight, get updated gate information, get alerts about delays and even download your electronic boarding pass. United Airlines, Delta Airlines and American Airlines are among the major air carriers packing their own apps for the popular mobile platforms. If you’re packing an iPhone, you can usually download your boarding pass to Apple’s Passbook app so it pops up on your lock screen, ready to scan, on the day of your flight.
  2. Check the weather. Winter travel has already proved a little insane due to the Thanksgiving and early December snowstorms this year, so hit up your phone’s app store and download one of the forecast apps that tell you what may be messing up your travel plans — so you can get to work on contingency options.
  3. Track the flight. If you’re on the go or picking up family at the airport, a flight tracker app or mobile site can also come in handy for alerts about delays, cancellations and other news you need on the go. FlightView, FlightAware, FlightTrack and Flight Update are just some of the options and paid versions of some apps also include bonus features like alternate flights and airport maps; check out a few apps here. The free Kayak app can also track flights and maybe even help you find a cheap hotel room near the airport of the weather screws up your plans.
  4. ipadcafeStay charged. When you get to the airport, scope it out thoroughly to find the charging stations for your phone or tablet. And keep in mind, some airlines like Delta are even sprucing up their waiting areas with free loaner iPads to help you pass the time before you fly. As shown here at Terminal D at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, some terminals are even getting high-tech refurb jobs with plenty of charging stations and free loaner iPads that can help you pass the time — and even order a pricey diner breakfast while you wait to board your early-morning flight.

And if you’re looking for easier, the Transportation Security Administration is expanding its TSA Pre✓™ program that lets you keep your shoes, belt and laptop where they were when you left the house. Every little bit helps.

Safe travels to 2014, Pop Tech Jammers.

PTJ 75: The Scintillating 75th Episode

With the pain of losing Google Reader still fresh and Feedly a disappointment after repeated missteps, El Kaiser looks at RSS feed aggregators. J.D. breaks down the differences between Ultrabooks and notebooks and helps us make the right choice between the two laptop flavors. In the news, a campaign encouraging kids to try computer coding; several technology companies issue a joint statement calling for restrictions on US government spying; Microsoft helps users know when and where their accounts have been used; Google continues to add apps to its Chromecast TV streamer; and predicting weather patterns for Middle Earth.