Tag Archives: TV

Stream “Trek”

The discerning pop-culture geek has so many video services to choose from these days, all without being yoked to a pricey cable TV subscription. Netflix and Hulu are the obvious big players here, with shows like Stranger Things or Marvel’s trio of  Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage on Netflix; Hulu’s got 10 seasons of Smallville and the upcoming original adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale among its nerd bait. Cable-free fans of Game of Thrones can now watch legally with the a la carte HBO Now streaming service, while Showtime has its own standalone streamer for those who only want to watch Homeland. Life is good.

But for Star Trek fans, there’s only one service if you want to see the entire television canon — including all 22 episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series:  The CBS All Access streaming channel. Among tons of other CBS shows, the service hosts almost 700 episodes of Star Trek programs. That number will get higher soon because there’s another entry in the works.

Star Trek: Discovery is currently in production and will hopefully debut later this year (after slipping from January to May as possible arrival dates). For those who vaguely remember the announcement, the series will have a new ship, new characters and new missions, all firmly rooted within the established Star Trek Universe. The show is set about a decade before the events depicted in The Original Series and the season-long storyline reportedly revolves around “an incident and an event in Star Trek history that’s been talked about but never been explored.”

According to early reports, the new show focuses on Lieutenant Commander Rainsford, the Number One serving aboard the USS Discovery. She’s played by Sonequa Martin-Green, who many genre TV fans will recall from her work on Walking Dead and Once Upon a Time. James Frain, who played Ferdinand on Orphan Black, is in the cast as a younger version of Sarek, Spock’s father. You can’t have a Star Trek show without Klingons, and Chris Obi from Ghost in the Shell, Shazad Latif, (MI-5 and Black Mirror), and Mary Chieffo represent Team Bat’leth. And fans of Michelle Yeoh will get to see her in a recurring role as captain of the USS Shenzhou.

If you’re on the fence about plunking down either $6 or $10 a month for CBS All Access (prices varying based on limited or no commercials), you should be able to see the first episode for free when the series kicks off, as CBS plans to show it on its regular broadcast TV channels before switching over exclusively to the streaming service. The extra cost may be annoying, but some may find it a small price to pay for fresh new Star Trek stories.

PTJ 220: Lost Worlds

Politics body-slammed the tech world this week, cyber-criminals have figured out yet another way to rip off unsuspecting victims and an enterprising young archaeologist has come up with a way to let volunteers help look for lost ruins from the comfort of their own homes. And when El Kaiser and J.D. finish the news, it’s time to pour one out for the Father of Pac-Man. Welcome to Episode 220!

PTJ 211: Jobs, Knobs and Yobs

As promised last week, this week’s episode catches up with the latest fall announcements from Microsoft and Apple. El Kaiser and J.D. also discuss the instant popularity of Google’s new Pixel phones, the withered Vine and shopping on Instagram. Happy November!

Links to News Stories

PTJ 145 News: Developing Situations

Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference opened this week, and the very long Keynote on Monday morning brought a whole bunch of announcements with it. For starters , the next version of OS X will be called El Capitan, and over on the iOS 9 Preview side of the fence, a new proactive Siri is just one of the many new features that await. Apple Pay has added more card support, branched out to the UK and  the Passbook app has now been renamed with the more obvious moniker, “Wallet.” There’s a new News app that looks like it’s gunning for Flipboard. The new iOS 9 will have specific treats for the iPad , like a QuickType keyboard for easier input and split-screen views for multitasking — including a picture-in-picture view. The Swift programming language will be open-source in its next version. The Apple Watch got native apps and a bunch of tweaks to makes it less dependent on a nearby iPhone, and Apple announced its long-rumored Apple Music service.   So now we wait, at least until the public betas start trickling out.

cardboardBut 12 days before Apple’s big programmer’s party, Google held its developer’s conference and made quite a few of its own announcements at Google I/O 2015. As expected, the company provided new information and a developer’s preview for Android M, the next generation of its operating system. The new Google Photos app with its free online storage was formally unveiled. The company proclaimed support for USB Type C, (the one connector to rule them all) and announced a bunch of other stuff. While Siri is getting more proactive little Google Now, Google Now is getting a little more interactive like Siri, thanks to a new feature called Google Now on Tap.  Among other things, Google also provided details on Android Pay and an updated version of Google cardboard — a virtual-reality platform for Android and iOS users.

While Apple didn’t announce a new Apple TV model or fancy remote at WWDC, Google added a bunch of content to its Android TV pltform, namely an online store with 600 apps that can be arranged in a sort of program-guide like grid and intermingle with live broadcast channels.  Cable TV is growing less and less mandatory…

win10Trying not to get lost on all the kerfuffle: Microsoft. The company announced last week that July 29th is its release date for Windows 10. Just follow the steps to reserve your copy of the new operatiing system. Once you make your reservation, Microsoft will let you know later when your update is ready to download. Microsoft has a set of Frequently Asked Questions on its site for those of you who want more information. The company also upgraded its Xbox One game console to a version with a 1-terabyte drive and has revamped its wireless controller. The terabyte model is $400, the 500-gigabyte version of the Xbox One is now $350 and the wireless controller will be $60 when it’s released in July.

marsNASA is keeping up its busy schedule and tested an experimental vehicle shaped like a flaying saucer this week as part of the research for its manned mission to Mars one day. The test seems to have failed after a 100-foot-wide parachute ripped during the craft’s test flight.  Meanwhile, the European Space Agency must have really liked the old Space 1999 show, as its announced plans to start building an inflatable town on the moon. The ESA plans to send up a lunar lander in 2018 to get things rolling and start construction on the habitat in 2024 using 3D printers to create the necessary parts right them and there. The structure would not be called Moonbase Alpha, but rather, Lunarville. You know, like the band.

If anyone out there is a fan if the scary longread, check out the New York Times Magazine’s recent story about the Russian Ministry of Trolls that spends its days spreading hoaxes, rumors and misinformation over social media to raise havoc. The story is called The Agency.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge is over and the team from South Korea has won the $2 million prize. A highlight reel is on YouTube.

pacmanAnd finally, the first six members of the World Video Game Hall of Fame have been announced. The classics DOOM, Pac-Man, Pong, Super Mario Bros., Tetris and World of Warcraft made the inaugural cut. The World Video Hall of Fame is part of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, and yes, you can visit. Bring a bag of quarters in case you have to exit through the gift shop.

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’!

“Star Trek”-worthy Products from CES 2015

Those 170,000 captives and 3,600 exhibitors have finally escaped the 2.2 million square feet and unrelenting hype of the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. Thousands of new products were introduced, demoed and otherwise bandied about. However, to prevent a mental core meltdown, here are just a few items from this year’s popular categories that can really make a Trekker stop and fantasize.

Virtual Reality

holodeckWe’re not in Holodeck territory yet, but Virtual Reality technology impressed some people at CES this year, while others griped that the offerings are still too passive. Oculus, now owned by Facebook, wowed attendees with a preview of the Crescent Bay prototype and its $200 Samsung Gear VR for the Galaxy Note 4. Another company, Razer, part of the Open-Source Virtual Reality ecosystem, has a $200 OSVR Hacker Dev Kit coming out this June for developers who want to dive into VR gaming. While it’s not quite a VR experience, Samsung also showed off the prototype of an 8K TV with a 110-inch screen and a 3D feature that didn’t require you to wear dorky glasses.

Big TVs

screenAs expected, CES 2015 had a ton of 4K Ultra High Definition TVs that would look right at home on the bridge of a starship so you could yell at pesky Romulans from the comfort of your captain’s chair. Samsung, for example, has blown by mere UHD and was showing off its fancy new SUHD TV sets, which offer more color, better contrast, curved panels and brighter displays than regular UHD TVs, all thanks to quantum dots, (or nanocrystals) that boost the image quality. But Samsung is not Boss of the Q-Dots, by any means — LG Electronics has its own quantum dot TVs and Sony brags of its Triluminos technology which is basically the same thing. High Dynamic Range video — which goes beyond what we all know from our smartphone camera apps — is coming to TVs full-force as well. Warner Brothers has a few movies coming out in Dolby Vision HDR and companies like Panasonic, Philips, Samsung and Sony are have compatible hardware hardware.

Wearables

badgeNo universal translator or combadge yet, but everybody and their grandmother’s startup seemed to have a wearable fitness tracker or smartwatch on the CES show floor. And to go with the smart shirts we saw last tear, Sensoria also introduced sensor-filled Smart Socks for runners that monitor things like foot-landing and cadence. The initial bundle of socks, charger, mobile app and other gear is listed at $200.

3D Printers

replicattorIt’s not a full replicator and you can’t get a steaming cup when you bark “Tea! Earl Grey. Hot” into it, but the 3D Food Printer from XYZprinting or the Foodini from Natural Machines let you make three-dimensional shapes for things like cookies, pizza, pasta and other baked goods. Once you put in the ingredients and punch in the design of your food — which you can also load from a USB drive or the Web — the machine forms your edible item according to plan and outputs it. The next step is usually baking. The 3D Food Printer is expected later this year and will likely cost around $2000.  The Foodini, based in Europe, is expected to go into production this year and cost around $1,300. Just try not playing with your food.

Connected Devices

If you want that Picard-worthy hot Earl Grey tea, however, there’s always the  WiFi-enabled kettle from Smarter. It comes with a mobile app so you can start the kettle boiling remotely. And yes, you can yell “Make it so!” as you put the kettle on from afar.

earl

PTJ 90: Court Cases and Fiber Races

El Kaiser has a new toy and he can’t wait to tell you all about it. This week he reviews the Mont Blanc E12 portable headphone amplifier from FiiO.  Let’s face it, ebooks are here to stay. J.D. fills us in on how to make margin notes and highlight our favorite passages on all the popular digital book readers.

In the news the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in  American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo; Lytro unveils a new camera; Rumors circulate that an Amazon smartphone will sport a radical new UI; Comcast reports its subscriber numbers are up; AT&T wants to beat Google in the Fiber Race; the AOL mail site is hacked; and Apple announces it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources.

PTJ 90 News: Now With More Fiber

The Supreme Court heard the legal arguments in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo this week, a case that pits traditional over-the-air broadcast television companies against the feisty TV-streaming start-up with the wee antenna farms. Legal eagles and advocacy groups are watching closely and everyone  awaits the Court’s decision, which is expected by June.

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Creative types have some new outlets for expression. Serious photographers are buzzing about the new camera from Lytro and the Blurb service has made it easier for photographers and other visual artists to sell their works directly on Amazon.

And on the subject of Amazon, Bloomberg News is reporting on a study that shows Amazon’s sales numbers are down in states that collect online sales tax. (About 20 states currently tax Amazon purchases.)  Perhaps the company can make up the loss in spectacular smartphone sales. The Boy Genius Report site has more details on what it claims to be Amazon’s upcoming handset, including tilting gestures for control and navigation. (Could the smartphone UI paradigm be tilting — or maybe even shifting — as well?)

Even before its planned merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast continues to get larger. The company reported that its subscriber numbers were up for the second straight quarter, adding 24,000 new customers.

Comcast’s increasing size is what is driving monopoly fears in some people about the Time Warner Cable acquisition, and Netflix is one of the more recent companies to come out and voice its opposition to the pending deal. In a letter to its shareholders this week, Netflix said that with the decline of DSL in the broadband space, a combined Comcast and Time Warner Cable would have more than 60 percent of the broadband in US households.  Comcast quickly put up a response to Netflix on its website, claiming that “Netflix’s opposition to our Time Warner Cable transaction is based on inaccurate claims and arguments.” (Also mentioned in that Netflix shareholder letter: prices for new subscribers are about to get higher. )

Google has been making noise about bringing superfast Internet fiber to 34 cities in nine major metropolitan areas, but now AT&T is jumping into the game and says it’s considering adding its own fast fiber to 100 cities in 21 major metro areas. Nothing has been built yet, but AT&T is at least talking about it.

Google has other things on its plate besides fast fiber. The company has combined SMS text and Hangout chats into the same conversation so everything’s all in the same place. That’s new with the Hangouts 2.1 app for Android. The Venturebeat site quotes sources at The Goog who say the company is looking into ways to make end-to-end encryption tools like PGP easier to use with Gmail so that users can keep their mail locked up against prying eyes from the government or otherwise.

AOHellIf you abandoned an old AOL mail account for Gmail back in the day — or even if you still use AOL — you may see messages from your old address spewing spam across the Internet this week. The AOL Mail site was hacked over the weekend and spoofed accounts are sending phishing mail to addresses on AOL contacts lists. AOL has confirmed the hacking and said accounts had also been spoofed by spammers.

And finally, it was Earth Day this week, and Apple took the opportunity to announce that it has free recycling for all used Apple products and says it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources. The company’s redesigned Environmental Responsibility site has a video clip narrated by CEO Tim Cook that outlines Apple’s approach to green living. Critics of Apple’s approach point out that the company video neglects to mention that most of its products are built in China and that many Apple products are difficult to repair, especially for the do-it-yourself crowd who strives to keep old gear functioning and out of landfills. Hopefully, the Mighty Oak of Sustainability will one day grow out of Apple’s Acorn of 2014 Environmental Promises — or at least they’ll start designing gear with long-lasting batteries that are easy to replace and recycle.

PTJ 66: Bigger, Stronger, Faster

“Breaking Bad” rides off into the desert sun leaving El Kaiser wondering how it fared against other famous TV series swan songs and J.D. fills us in on the quickest ways to digitize business cards. In the news Amazon quietly releases two new Kindle models; Lenovo debuts an all-in-one desktop computer with a 29-inch display; Microsoft has a good week;  Facebook expands its Graph Search results; Apple deals with more security issues; researchers develop a  robotic prosthetic leg that is controlled by brain function; and Intelligent Glasses that can translate languages on the fly.

PTJ 66 News: We Have the Technology

The march of New Fall Products continues. Amazon quietly released two new Kindle models last week and Lenovo’s going widescreen with what it claims is an all-in-one desktop computer with the world’s first 29-inch display with a 21:9 aspect ratio.

It’s been a good week for Microsoft. Windows Phone is also clawing its way to the 10-percent mark in smartphone share, and according to analytics firm Net Applications, Windows 8 was running on almost 10 percent of devices using a Microsoft operating system last month. Windows 8 will soon give way to Windows 8.1 later this month, and Microsoft announced it’s rolling out its new optical character recognition feature for the SkyDrive online service that makes photos and PDF documents searchable in the cloud. The OCR feature will also be available through the Windows 8.1 Smart Search tool.

On the topic of search, Facebook is opening up Graph Search results to include user status updates and posts. So now publicly shared status updates, comments on anything, photo captions, Notes, and check-ins are all searchable. (Here’s a Graph Search settings checklist and some more information about adjusting your privacy settings if this sort of thing makes you at all nervous.)  In other Facebook news this week, the Social Network and its bird buddy Twitter, will start sending reports of your Likes and tweets about television shows to the major networks.

According the Engadget blog, Google has announced three dedicated Google Play vending machines in Japan that can dispense 18 different games. (As far as vending machines go, apps are not the most unusual things being dispensed.)

Apple is dealing with more security issues in iOS 7. The company just out its iOS 7.0.2 update to fix some reported lock screen holes and now another researcher has demonstrated how the Siri personal assistant technology can be used to start up a FaceTime call, which could allow hackers to invoke another security glitch in the iOS 7 software to access the phone app.

Speaking of holes, the US government shut down this week after weeks of squabbling among the houses of Congress and the executive branch. Here are some links to information about what’s still functioning in Washington. (Alas, the PandaCam has gone dark for the duration of the standoff, but some folks are trying to fill the PandaCam void.) Other parts of the Web were creaky and crashing as well, namely Affordable Healthcare Act servers for new customers trying to sign up. For those still trying to parse the new plans, the Health Law Helper site from Consumer Reports may be useful.

In other research:

legs

And finally, mobile giant NTT DoCoMo showed off the prototype of its so-called Intelligent Glasses that can translate text in an unfamiliar language into something the wearer of the glasses can read. The future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades — and who knows, those shades just might be able to direct you to a restroom in Rio or decipher a menu in Milan. Someday.