Tag Archives: Turn

PTJ 126 News: Dawn of a New Day

draftbillThe Federal Communications Commission’s new rules for Net Neutrality are scheduled for a vote on February 26th, but that has not stopped Congress from doing something in the meantime. Republican leaders put out draft legislation this week that prohibits the FCC from reclassifying broadband service as regulated public utility like radio, television and telephone, as President Obama proposed last year. The proposed bill does ban throttling or blocking, but has a “network management” loophole for the telecom companies. Several Internet activists like Free Press have already taken up the call to protest, so this issue certainly isn’t going to fade into the background anytime soon.

Remember when the United States government blamed North Korea for the massive hack on Sony Pictures last year and some security experts questioned how officials could be so sure North Korea did the deed? As reported in The New York Times, it turns out that the National Security Agency itself had totally pwned, er, infiltrated North Korea’s networks back in 2010 so they were familiar with some of that territory.

zombiesCloser to home, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a list of apps and services that do and do not protect you from Verizon Wireless’s user-tracking perma-cookie that was discovered by researchers last fall. The ProPublica site published a story last week about how the online ad company Turn was using Verizon’s tracking numbers to regenerate deleted cookies and keep tabs on the users who thought they deleted them. Once busted by ProPublica, Turn said it would suspend its use of these back-from-the-dead Zombie Cookie IDs — pending further evaluation.

Bloomberg News reports that like everybody else, Taiwanese electronics maker HTC is working on its own smartwatch, as well as a new flagship smartphone with a 20-megapixel rear camera and Dolby 5.1 audio. Both products are expected to be announced at the Mobile World Congress expo in Barcelona the first week of March.

Google Glass, which made a couple year-end lists of Biggest Flops of 2014, is getting discontinued (the original version, anyway). Microsoft, however, has Project HoloLens in the works, so people who want to compute while wearing strips of see-through plastic on their faces have a fresh new option. The company’s holographic goggles will arrive around the same time as its new Windows 10 system; both got some event love this week.


One little wearables flop isn’t slowing down Google, though. The company, which took out a lease from NASA last year for the historic Hangar One in California, is doing business with other space firms as well. The Big G (and Fidelity) are making a billion-dollar investment in SpaceX for a project that would use about 700 small satellites to provide Internet access to parts of the world that don’t have it.

We have yet another NASA mission to follow this year. This March, the space agency’s Dawn spacecraft will arrive for its assignment at Ceres, a 600-mile wide asteroid in the belt of flying space rocks between between Mars and Jupiter. Dawn, which launched in 2007, has previously orbited Vesta. The Dawn spacecraft combines state-of-the-art technologies tested by other recent space experiments with off-the-shelf components and spare parts and instrumentation left over from previous missions. The spacecraft will make a study of Ceres, which NASA considers to be a dwarf planet, and has already beamed back some images from about 238,000 miles away.

And one more NASA item of note: the agency says the Earth is due to get buzzed by an asteroid later this month.  The big rock should be visible to those in the Americas, Africa and Europe the night of January 26th  and the Virtual Telescope site also plans to track the asteroid starting at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time that day for those who pref to stargaze from inside the house.

Facebook wants to help you further cut down on the amount of floating garbage on your News Feed. In a company blog post this week, two Facebook staffers described an update to the News Feed mix that reduces the distribution of posted stories that have been reported as hoaxes or deleted by other users. (While this could help declutter News Feeds around Facebook, the tool does have the potential for abuse from organized campaigns to discredit, say, an environmental issue. Let’s hope Facebook has thought of this, too.)

Amazon announced this week that it has plans to develop its own original theatrical films that will also be available quite early on its Amazon Prime Instant Video service. This move comes a few months after Netflix announced it was producing a sequel to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for both IMAX theaters and its own streaming customers that will premiere this August 28th.

The new movie Blackhat opened in theaters this past weekend, and although the hacking action thrilled starring Chris Hemsworth got blown away at the box office by American Sniper, it did get a little cred from the Ars Technica site for not having completely illogical, implausible and just plain stupid technology scenes. The film’s creators hired not one, but two hacking consultants. Judging by the movie’s poor reception from critics, perhaps the producers should have sprung for a script consultant or two as well.

mariogoombaAnd finally,  over at the University of Tübingen in Germany, a group of researchers in the area of cognitive modeling have developed an artificial intelligence system that allows the videogame character Mario the plumber to  experience emotions and respond to voice commands. Mario AI is also aware of his environment, makes decisions in the game on gathered data or “learning.” Yes, there’s a video demonstrating the experiment. Maybe for the next experiment, the researchers can get the Angry Birds to talk through their feelings so they’re not quite so outraged all the time.

PTJ 88: Laser Beams and TV Streams

Admit it, you aren’t prepared for the onslaught of “must see” television shows airing on Sunday nights this spring on U.S. networks. That under-powered cable company issued PVR just ain’t gonna cut it. Lucky for you J.D. has some strategies for dealing with your TV watching blues. In the news, the United States Navy announces its engineers are putting the finishing touches on a laser weapon prototype; the Supreme Court decides to skip a case against the National Security Agency over bulk phone metadata surveillance;  up to two-thirds of websites relying on OpenSSL might be susceptible to a critical security flaw; Google’s Play store deals with another embarrassing mishap; Windows XP officially bites the dust; and Battlestar Galactica may get “reimagined” again, but this time on the big screen.


Long Drawn Sunday Night

Spring finally seems to have arrived in the northern hemisphere and along with daffodils and gentle breezes, many popular TV shows are either returning for their new weird little cable seasons — or coming into the last leg of their network airings before summer vacation. (You know, when all the good stuff happens and maybe we slide right into a cliffhanger until October.)There’s a lot to watch, and unfortunately, a lot of it airs for the first time on Sunday nights.

Not all of the good shows are on directly opposite each other, but many of them are. To get an idea just how jam-packed Sunday nights are now getting, the cable and broadcast prime-time block includes the bloody blockbuster Game of Thrones, the first half of the final season of Mad Men, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, The Good Wife on CBS, the new tech-startup comedy Silicon Valley, Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep and Gillian Anderson in the Washington-based thriller, Crisis. There’s also the fan favorite Once Upon a Time, AMC’s Revolutionary War spy drama, Turn, and if you’re into British drama on PBS, Call the Midwife and The Bletchley Circle. And on top of all this, it’s baseball season and there could be some shows you’ve never heard of that your spouse, partner or kids want to watch. As the TV critic at Time magazine tweeted a few years back, “Sunday is the night you stock up your DVR for the week. It is the Costco of television.”

beepsTV1So if you have more than a couple conflicting shows on Sunday night, you need a strategy to see them all. Having multiple DVRs on multiple TV sets is one that works for people who can afford it.

Some carriers and digital video recorder companies have units that can record six shows at once. The Roamio models in the venerable TiVo line can record four to six shows at a time and with the company’s $130 TiVo Stream device, let you take your recordings to go on an iOS device, sort of like how Slingbox lets you tap into your TV from over the Internet. If you have one of these, you’re probably covered.

But what if you have a DVR from the cable company that only lets you record two channels at once, or you don’t even have a DVR? Or you can’t afford the newer models? Then you have to get creative.

  • For starters, check your TV grid for multiple airings of shows that conflict. Cable programs often re-air late at night, so maybe you can snag the 2:00 a.m. airing instead of the problematic 10 p.m. one.
  • If your cable company offers its own DVR control app, you can use it to search the program grid for shows and then set the box to record, right from your phone or tablet.
  • If you have On Demand services build into your cable package (like those at Comcast, DirecTV or Time Warner Cable, you may be able to find a lot of the popular shows there to watch whenever it suits your schedule.
  • As we’ve mentioned before on this show, network apps and websites also let you watch episodes of your favorite shows. However, they may run a week or two behind the broadcast schedule (depending on the network) or require an existing cable subscription, like the HBO GO and Showtime Anytime apps do.
  • If you have some spare cash and want to ditch the commercials entirely, sign up for a season pass from iTunes, Amazon Instant Video or the Google Play store, although you may have to wait a day to download the episode after it airs. This option also lets you watch the show on more screens besides your TV.
  • Paid services like Hulu Plus (which is $8 a month) let you stream broadcast network shows to compatible TVs, set-top boxes or devices.

TV Guide Online has a list of shows you can buy and download and what services sell them. Oh, since this is a nerd show, if the Silicon Valley show on HBO intrigues you but you don’t get HBO, you can at least watch the first episode for free on YouTube.

One advantage to doing the download or mobile-stream approach is that maybe you can fit in a show or two during your train commute or other moment of stillness where you have the time — but are not home in front of your TV.  If Sunday is not your only night of appointment viewing, now you have to find the time to watch all the stuff leftover from Sunday. Until the next Sunday.

And thankfully, Orphan Black will be on Saturday when it returns later this month.