Tag Archives: Verizon Wireless

PTJ 222: Noises Off

On this week’s episode,  Don Donofrio returns to discuss possible paths ahead for of Apple this year as the company comes off a record-breaking quarterly profit and a surging stock price.  El Kaiser and J.D. have some things to say about Facebook’s new autoplay audio on videos, the price war between Verizon Wireless and
T-Mobile for unlimited data plans, and new tools for Google Maps. Oh, and the Queen of England is doing her part in the global war on cybercrime. Tally-ho!

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 181 News: Full Court Press

fccCould the digital divide in America be closing just a bit? The Federal Communications Commission has tweaked its plan for low-cost broadband Internet access and presented a proposal to its members this week that brings broadband service for $9.25 a month. The new broadband plan is an update to its 1985 Lifeline program to subsidize landline service for qualifying low-income consumers and the 2008 enhancement to the plan to include mobile-phone help. Lifeline has gotten the usual government-program charges of fraud, waste and abuse (and other gripes) from its detractors, like what counts as average broadband speed. The FCC countered by saying it does have some fraud-prevention measures. Some providers like Sprint don’t care for the proposed reforms to the Lifeline program, but a vote on the new system by FCC members is expected on March 31st.

Facebook is making its Instant Articles feature easier to use for people who aren’t even major media organizations. The company said a few weeks ago that it was opening up the Instant Articles feature to all publishers and this week, Facebook announced a new open-source plug-in for WordPress.  The opening of Instant Articles For All is expected to happen in time for the company’s annual F8 Conference in San Francisco next month. In an even more reassuring development, Facebook also awarded $15,000 to a hacker who demonstrated how he could use basic software to crack open the account of any user on the service. Yes, Facebook has since fixed the flaw in its system.

Mozilla, which recently bailed out, er, pivoted, on its Firefox OS for smartphones, is moving into the Internet of Things, where appliances rule the 802.11 airwaves. In a post on the Mozilla blog, the company outlined four new projects designed to integrate Firefox technologies into connected devices and asked for volunteers to help test out the new stuff. If you are a developer and are interested in working on any of it, check out Project Link, Project Sensor Web, Project Smart Home or Project Vaani.

In gaming news, Capcom is spanking players who rage-quit its Street Fighter V game by docking their League Points for bad behavior.  So there! And Microsoft it just announced it was canceling development of its Fable Legends game for Xbox and closing Lionhead Studios in the United Kingdom and Press Play Studios in Denmark.


Also over in the House of Microsoft, the company has now enabled Skype chat right from OneDrive when you are collaborating on an Office Online document and just have to talk it out with your co-authors. And whispers around Redmond say Microsoft has pushed back the next big upfate to Windows 10, codenamed Redstone 2 from later this year to until spring of 2017 to better align with new device hardware on the way. No comment from Microsoft so far.

There’s a reportedly nasty piece of OS X ransomware out there, looking to lock up your Mac until you pay up. The malware, called KeRanger, only affects the Transmission BitTorrent client installer. If you use the program, here’s a link to more information. If you don’t use the program, you can skip the freak-out.

craigIn other Apple-related news, the Department of Justice is appealing last week’s federal court ruling in Brooklyn that said the government could not use the centuries-old All Writs Act force Apple to unlock a user’s iPhone. And Craig Federighi (shown here), Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering and fabulous hair, recently wrote an opinion piece for The Washington Post explaining Apple’s stance in its ongoing fight with the FBI. Security experts have also weighed in on the matter in a recent Bloomberg News article that says the FBI should just hack the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone themselves since it would be faster.  There’s also some worry that if the US government forces Apple to start unlocking iPhones left and right for security reasons, the European Union privacy regulators will delay their verdict on the EU-US privacy shield agreement. (In other not-so-good legal news for Apple, the Supreme Court has declined to listen to the company’s appeal for the e-book price fixing case. Cue the sound of a very large check being written.)

Also in Europe, Google, Indexer of the Past, is expanding the European court-ordered Right to Be Forgotten.  However,  Americans mortified by their pasts lurking online still have nowhere to complain, even though a consumer advocacy group petitioned the Federal Trade Commission last year to make Google allow us Yanks to forget our documented-and- digitized discretions as well.

Verizon Wireless is having its own issues with the concept of privacy. The Federal Communications Commission (clearly having a busy year so far) has slapped the telecom giant with a $1.35 million dollar fine and a a three-year consent decree to settle the case of the privacy-chomping supercookies that first surfaced in 2014.

fiWhen it comes to Internet service providing, Google is mainly known for its Google Fiber broadband, but the company also has a lesser-known cellphone service that piggybacks on Sprint and T-Mobile networks. It’s called Project Fi and the reason you may have not heard of it before is that it was invitation-only since it launched last year. But as of this week, anybody with a Nexus 6, 6P or 5X can  get Project Fi service. You just need to go to (where else?) the Sign Up page to get started.

Amazon, keeping an eye on Apple’s legal punch-up with the DOJ, has now weighed in and said it was going to restore the device encryption capabilities it just yanked out of its Fire OS 5 software. Amazon said it originally took out the feature because no one was using it, but has now decided to re-enable the feature in an update to the system this spring.

rayAnd finally, we here at Pop Tech Jam offer out condolences to the family of Ray Tomlinson, the programmer credited with the modern invention of electronic mail with the groovy little @ sign back in 1971. Mr. Tomlinson passed away last week at the age of 74. He was a member of the Internet Hall of Fame and said he picked the @ sign because it just “made sense.”  Thank you, Ray Tomlinson, for setting the standard.

PTJ 158 News: Fall Harvest

Oh, look! It’s September again and Apple has announced a bunch of new stuff this week, including:

• An update to the Apple Watch operating system,  new watchbands and the “Hermès Collection
• The iPad Maxi, er, iPad Pro with fancy optional accessories like the $100 Apple Pencil and a flexible Smart Keyboard
• The long-awaited hardware update to the Apple TV with Siri-powered remote and games
• The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
• The arrival of iOS 9 on September 16th

Oh, and rose gold is apparently a thing.

But Apple was in the spotlight for other reasons as well this week. A story on the front page of The New York Times highlighted the company’s national security tussle with the United States government over encryption and data access with software like iMessage, a program Apple says it can’t decrypt itself.

lgtvThe fall tech bounty does not begin nor end with the Fruit-Themed Toymaker of Cupertino, however. The annual IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin just ended this week and like the Consumer Electronics Show here in Las Vegas each January, companies preview many products and tech journalists look for trends. Meanwhile, LG Electronics did some fun stuff with flat televisions, like making a  double-sided 4K OLED set (shown here, and probably just a prototype). And if you like a lot of pixels, Canon announced that it’s developed a 250-megapixel sensor that’s still small enough to fit inside a DSLR camera.

Comcast is testing a new form of data plan in south Florida. While the company normally imposes a 300-gigabytes-a-month limit, customers can now pay an extra $30  for the Unlimited Data Option. It’s just like those old unlimited broadband plans of yore, except more expensive!

Verizon announced its new Go90 mobile streaming TV service this week. The service will be ad-supported and show programs young people want to watch.

A 7-inch display for the Raspberry Pi barebones computer went on sale this week for $60. Here’s what you can do with it:

The publishing industry and Amazon had a very public spat last year over e-book pricing, which eventually led to new distribution deals with the under mega-everything store. But while several publishers got to charge more for their e-books and lose less income to Amazon’s deep discounts, recent sales reports show that their e-book revenue declined overall in the last quarter.

EdgeMicrosoft really, really, really wants you to use its new Edge browser and has even employed its Bing search engine to steer you away from the likes of Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. If you happed to search for an alternative browser with Bing on Edge, you see a little box at the top of your search results declaring that Microsoft Edge is really the best browser for Windows 10 and click this here link to learn why. However, the browser does not actually stop you from stepping off the Edge.

A writer over at BuzzFeed is disputing the recent PageFair study that estimated ad-blocking software would make sites lose $21 billion in ad revenue this year, bit even squishy numbers do not soothe The Interactive Advertising Bureau. According to Advertising Age, the trade group met this summer to discuss what to do, including filing lawsuits against companies that make ad-blocking software, but nothing major has been decided yet. The IAB did vote to move away from Adobe Flash and make HTML5 its new standard for online ads. And in related news AdBlock Plus just announced its first official ad-blocking app for iOS and than it was back in the Google Play store for Android.

NASA said late last week that it has begun its intensive data downlink phase to grab the massive amount of data the New Horizons spacecraft collected during its Pluto flyby in July.  The agency also announced that engineers at a facility in New Orleans have welded together the first two segments of the Orion crew module that will be used in a test flight to the far side of the moon in preparation for an eventual manned journey to Mars.

stormtroopersAnd finally, September 4th last week was Force Friday, the day retailers unleashed a giant wave of new officially licensed Star Wars: The Force Awakens merchandise into stores around the world. Global celebration events included midnight sales and twerking stormtroopers in Times Square. And as the BBC has noted, all of these merch sales could make this seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise “the biggest film ever.” December 18th, folks — or even earlier, if you happen to live in popular parts of Europe. Okay, who’s checking mid-December airfare to France now?

PTJ 136 News: May the Force Field Be With You

April Fools’ Day was this week and the usual tech-company hijinks were on display. Google turned its Google Maps site into a location-specific version of the Pac-Man videogame that was actually fully functional — and let users navigate the munching yellow ball over city streets. Samsung, meanwhile, released a promo site for a fake Galaxy phone called the Blade Edge, which claimed to be a chef’s knife with smartphone capabilities. And Amazon’s thing called  the Dash button? The timing mades it sound fake but many outlets reported it was real (or real lame).


Hopefully not an April Fools’ Day joke: Verizon Wireless customers can now fully opt out of those mandatory zombie supercookies that were tracking their whereabouts on the Web. Verizon had promised cookie relief earlier this year when the news broke and a few members of the US Senate called for an investigation.

Need help around the house? Turns out you can order that from Amazon now, too. The company just launched its new Amazon Home Services directory.

watchGot your eye on the Apple Watch that costs as much as a car? According to the 9to5Mac site, there’s a unique “Apple Store purchasing experience”  and a “personalized journey” in the works for those who lay out the scratch for the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition. Also, you don’t have to wait in line, so there’s that.

People have been wondering what Apple has planned for the Beats music service since it acquired the company last year. News organizations began reporting last week that an overhaul of Beats and Apple’s own iTunes service is in the works.  No word on when the new services are arriving, but Apple will get some competition from Jay Z’s revamped Tidal music-streaming service, a platform owned by artists.

Thanks to bigger bandwidth, better compression and boffo hardware, high-def video keeps getting more gorgeous. YouTube is rising to the challenge with 4K video using 60 frames per second. If you have the hardware to run it, the clips are beautiful, but as the Macworld site put it, video that massive will crush your computer if your graphics card is not up to snuff.

Google continues to tinker and merge its various services. The company announced this week that photos Google+ users keep online are now also be available in Google Drive and the Gmail team has also updated its Android app to put all your Inboxes in one place.

sheepA farmer in Ireland has released a video of an aerial drone herding a flock of sheep.  Meanwhile, Facebook continues to test its solar-powered drones for delivering Internet access to part of the world that have no connectivity, much like Google’s balloon-powered Project Loon is doing. And the Guardian news organization got a visit to Amazon’s secret drone testing ground in Canada. The uber-mega-everything store is testing its Prime Air delivery service north of the border due to frustration with regulation by the Federal Aviation Administration. Still, Amazon’s keeping busy stateside — the Re/Code site noticed a patent the company recently filed that envisions a retail store that lets shoppers fill their carts and then leave without going through the cashier lane — because the store’s sensors would just bill you for the goods.

Also in patent news: Boeing, maker of aviation equipment and sponsor of public-television programs, has a patent for a force field that could, in theory, protect buildings and vehicles from explosions. As a conceptual video from the Patent Yogi site illustrates, the force-field would work by detecting shockwaves from nearby explosions and respond with laser pulses to absorb the blast by ionizing the air.

swcAnd finally, speaking of force fields and things that make us think of Star Wars, several fan sites are reporting that a new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, will debut at this year’s Star Wars Celebration convention next month in Anaheim, California. J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy are kicking off the show on April 16th at 10AM Pacific time, so let’s expect the trailer’s debut then and there — and for it (please) to be online five minutes later.

PTJ 128 News: Rules, Regulations and Rude Suprises

It’s February, which is showtime for the Federal Communications Commission! As reported by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and several other news organizations, the FCC now proposes that the Internet be regulated like any other public utility.  A vote on the proposal by the full commission is scheduled for Feb. 26. While the F.C.C. is an independent agency, it takes action through a five-member commission vote.

Also in FCC news: The agency was just not having that petition from the Marriott Hotel chain to block Wi-Fi hotspots and other external networks that guests may be using for security and management reasons, so the hotel empire has withdrawn that request. Late last week, the agency updated its definition of what counts as the minimum benchmark for broadband speeds from a now-wimpy 4 megabits per second to 25 megabits per second for downloads. As The Consumerist blog points out, this reclassification could affect the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal, Earlier this week, the FCC also began to consider draft legislation that would stop state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that limit cities from deploying their own municipal broadband services to compete with national mega-providers.

amIt’s not just the FCC gearing up for new rules — the National Security Agency is getting some from the White House. The Obama Administration will now be requiring the NSA to delete irrelevant personal and private information of Americans and foreigners that the agency may accidentally grab during its big data sweeps. Note that this announcement comes the week before German chancellor Angela Merkel comes to visit.

Reddit has published its first Transparency Report detailing government requests for information on its users. According to the company’s tally, it handed over information for 58 percent of all government and civil requests, and 64 percent of all US state and federal government requests.

The White House also released its budget request for the fiscal year 2016, which included a half-billion dollar bump for NASA. The budget, which allocates a total of $18.5 billon dollars to the space agency, allows for continued development on the Orion mission and the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. There’s also $30 million dollars set aside the development of a mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons and possibly a place to host alien life.


The Comcast Customer Service department is back in the news, not horribly long after last year’s incident when an aggressive company rep basically refused to let a man disconnect his cable service. This time, a customer reported that a Comcast employee had changed the name on his bill to a rather descriptive and obscene moniker after the man’s wife tried to cancel the cable to save on monthly bills. This prompted other Comcast customers to come forward with their own reports of name changes In response to the original incident, Comcast published a blog post last week called “Respecting Our Customers” that apologized for and said that the employee in question will no longer be working on behalf of Comcast. (Also in Big Telco and Customer Relations, Verizon Wireless said it plans to let its subscribers opt out of those invulnerable supercookies, or unique identifiers, that privacy advocates were so concerned about.)

If you’ve been thinking about getting into barebones computing, you may be excited to hear the Raspberry Pi 2 is now on sale for the very reasonable price of $35. The little board is more just a toy — this generation of the tiny computer can actually run a version of Windows 10. Microsoft has been working with the Pi makers to create a compatible version of the operating system and invites interested parties to come register for the company’s Windows Developer Program for IoT.

rsRadio Shack seems to be headed over the financial cliff. As reported by Bloomberg News, the chain is said to be preparing a bankruptcy deal that would sell half its store leases to Sprint and shut down the other half. Bloomberg also reports that Amazon may be interested in picking up a few RadioShack locations to give the online company a little more brick-and-mortar action.

Tangerine, one of the most buzzed about movies at the recent Sundance Film Festival, was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S tricked out with the $8 Filmic Pro app, a Moondog Labs lens adapter and some external audio gear. And  Vine has introduced a new simplified version of its six-second looping video app called Vine Kids .

For the map lovers — Google Earth Pro is now free. This premium version of Google Earth used to cost $400, but now you can get the exclusive data layers and advanced measuring tools of Google Earth Pro for zero dollars. The Big G has also added Google Now info cards for about 40 different apps. (Google, in addition to all the other things it’s been working on lately, is also recreating human skin — will they call it Google Flesh?)

puffs1And finally, while we’re on the topic of medical research: Mark Shrime, a medical researcher at Harvard, wondered about the factual content of articles published in medical journals. So he decided to run a little experiment and used gibberish produced from www.randomtextgenerator.com to produce text for a fake article titled entitled “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals,” authored by Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. According to Fast Company magazine, he submitted the article to 37 journals in a two-week period and at least 17 of them have accepted it. Most wanted a $500 “processing” fee, so the “call for papers” here is clearly referring to those infamous small green pieces of paper that make the world go ’round. But, hey, at least it doesn’t cost anything now to see the world spin in Google Earth Pro.

PTJ 115: We Got Your Disruption Right Here

I’ve never been one to mince words so let me just drop a truth-bomb on all of you fine folk reading this. J.D. and El Kaiser are disruptors. Period. Full stop.  If there’s any doubt, quit dawdling and listen to this episode.

Pedro breaks down Disruptive Innovation in a Tech Term segment and J.D. explains how  you may already have a basic fitness tracker right on your phone.

In the news  Google has plans for a paid version of YouTube; Motorola unveils a new Droid; Verizon Wireless force feeds some users perma-cookies; The Federal Trade Commission has files a complaint against AT&T; Not all retailers are jumping on the Apple Pay bandwagon; HTML5 is finally official; Amazon takes on the Chromecast; And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explains why Apple killed off the iPod Classic.

PTJ 115 News: Charged Up

Want your cat music videos and surfing dog clips without having to sit through five seconds of annoying ads? Got cash? A vice president who heads the YouTube division at Google said this week the company is planning a paid version that will also be ad-free. No word on pricing yet, but they’re still working things out.

turboIf you’re not thrilled with any of the new phones so far this season, here’s a new one. Motorola’s latest handset is called the Droid Turbo and it boasts some impressive specifications, including a 21-megapixel camera, a 5.2-inch screen and claims of up to 48 hours between charges on the battery. (The included “Turbo charger” also claims to give you eight hours of power with just 15 minutes of juicing time.) The Turbo comes in red, black or white and it’s on sale through Verizon Wireless as of October 30.

Speaking of Verizon Wireless, astute observers including those at Wired magazine have noticed that Verizon Wireless has been quietly inserting a string of alphanumeric characters into the data flying between its wireless customers and the websites they visit.  Verizon calls that string of characters a “Unique Identifier Header,” or UIDH. It’s part of the company’s Internet advertising program and basically functions as a serial number or a “perma-cookie” that advertisers can use to identify you. As one can imagine, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and other privacy-minded groups are not happy about this. If you want to see if your mobile device has been tagged with a tracking number, visit lessonslearned.org/sniff.

Verizon is not the only one getting a growl from the watchdogs. The Federal Trade Commission has  filed a complaint against AT&T alleging that the company has mislead consumers with its unlimited data promises — by not informing those customers that part of their unlimited data plans include having their data throttled by up to 90 percent. Go get ’em, FTC!

Apple Pay has been up and running for the past week or so, but some companies are banding together to promote other contactless-payment services instead. CVS and Rite Aid are among those declining to take Apple Pay at the cash register now, reportedly choosing the just-hacked CurrentC instead. Walgreens, however, is happy to take your Apple tap.

HTML5Even though it’s been in use for several years, the official standard for HTML5 has been published in its final and approved form by the World Wide Web Consortium this week. (Now that that’s done, it’s on to the HTML 5.1 standards draft for the ever-busy W3C!)

Microsoft has issued a security advisory for vulnerability in its PowerPoint software and other programs that use the Microsoft OLE code. The issue effects pretty much all supported versions of Windows out there. So expect a patch soon, check out the security advisory for suggested workarounds and don’t open PowerPoint presentations or other Office documents from strangers.

In Not Scary Microsoft news, the company has knocked another $50 off the price of an Xbox One game console. The sale starts November 2, and brings the price of a basic Xbox One down to about $350. Your move, Sony.

firestickAlthough Amazon’s weaker-than-expected third-quarter earnings and epic dud known as the Fire Phone may have its investors a bit cranky, the MegaÜberEverything Store is cranking out new products. This week, Amazon announced its new Fire TV Stick, a $39 competitor to Google’s similar Chromecast HDMI dongle.

All those sassy TV ads and data-deal promotions seem to have paid off for T-Mobile. The carrier just reported its largest financial quarter in its company history and now has 52.9 million total customers and Sprint in its targeting computer.

cometMeanwhile, up in space, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe is still chasing comet 67P/Churyumov Gerasimenko. Rosetta’a sensors have even been able to detect the chemical composition of the flying ice ball — down to what it smells like.  According to a blog post on the European Space Agency’s site, “The perfume of 67P/C-G is quite strong, with the odour of rotten eggs (hydrogen sulphide), horse stable (ammonia), and the pungent, suffocating odour of formaldehyde.” Or, as Cnet put it, the comet smells like “rotten eggs and pee.” (Which is not unlike certain subway stations in the New York City metropolitan area on a Sunday morning.)

While the explosion of Orbital Science’s Antares rocket this week was most unfortunate, the space mission goes on. NASA is getting ready to test its new Orion unmanned spacecraft in early December and if you hurry and sign up before midnight on October 31st, your name can go up on the test flight. As part of its public awareness and outreach efforts, the space agency taking the names of everyone who signs up for an “Orion boarding pass” online and inscribing them to digitized list on a  microchip inside the capsule. NASA is also inviting social media users to apply for credentials to attend Orion launch events at several of its facilities around the country.


And finally, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained why Apple killed off the beloved-by-many iPod Classic last month. Said Mr. Cook at a tech conference this week: “We couldn’t get the parts anymore, not anywhere on Earth.” NASA, you have a new mission.

PTJ 102: Making The Leap From Windows to OS X

This week on a super-sized edition of the best geek culture web radio show on the planet we answer a question from a longtime listener who is about to make the dramatic leap from a Windows PC to a shiny new Mac. J.D. and El Kaiser offer suggestions on how to make the transition painless.

In the news, Apple edges closer to official i-branded wearable tech; a forensic scientist and hacker claims there are a slew of attack points, system backdoors and surveillance mechanisms purposely built into iOS devices; The Electronic Frontier Foundation has developed its own browser plug-in that prevents third party online snoops;  Facebook tests new “buy now” and “save for later” features; The FCC closes out the first round of public comments on its proposed new rules for Net Neutrality;  Samsung gets into the luxury headphone game; and The Simpsons get the marathon treatment.

PTJ 102 News: It’s About iTime

Could Apple’s mythical smartwatch be edging closer to reality? The iWatch watchers were all titter earlier this week when the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a patent for an electronic wristband. The original paperwork was actually filed back on January 31, 2011, and the patent just granted this past Tuesday, but it’s full of sketches and diagrams — and the working name “iTime.”


Things are not all shiny with Apple, as Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensic scientist (who also happens to be a hacker and an author of five books on iOS-related topics) revealed what he says are attack points, system backdoors and surveillance mechanisms purposely built into iOS devices — and that these entry points could give user information to government agencies. Apple, for its part, denied that it has ever worked with government agencies to create drive-thru windows for personal data pickup, but said that diagnostic functions were built into iOS for enterprise IT departments, developers and Apple itself for purely troubleshooting purposes.

While it hasn’t had any major public privacy flaps of its own this week, Facebook is tinkering with new ways to buy and save — as detailed in a pair of recent posts on company blogs. First, The Social Network announced it was testing a Buy button on advertisements and product pages so users could purchase goods right there. Second, the company is rolling out a Save feature that lets users mark a post or link for reading later.

On to the next round. After overwhelming demand, system crashes, and a deadline extension, the Federal Communications Commission finally closed out the first round of public comments on its proposed new rules for Net Neutrality. The Consumerist blog has gathered up a selection of the highlights for your reading pleasure. (Oh, and Netflix, a company that would really like to see the Net stay neutral for its own corporate well-being, just announced it hit the 50-million global subscriber mark and the second season of Orange Is the New Black, helped bring in some new members who’d heard good things.)

One of those big telecom companies, Verizon Wireless, just launched a rewards program for its customers. In order to participate in the Smart Rewards program, you need to consent to let Verizon track you around the Web. In other Verizon news, the FiOS broadband department is rolling out faster upload speeds for customers. FiOS customers will soon have symmetrical upload and download speeds. Take that, cable!

Amazon launched its Kindle Unlimited plan last week. The service costs $10 a month and gives readers access to about 640,000 ebooks and audiobooks. Not everything Amazon sells in the Kindle format is available, though, so many people are already complaining about the limits of Kindle Unlimited.

Google is working on a new file type called WebP. Google’s developer page said the format makes for smaller and richer images that help make the Web faster.  (And while Google would like to change image formats to make the Web faster, Italy would like Google to change its data-use practices.)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is one of the groups here in the States that consistently fights for the digital privacy and rights of the common user, and now the group has taken its own action. The EEF has developed its own browser plug-in that’s supposed to block third parties from snooping on your Web travels. The plug-in, which is just out of alpha and into beta now, is called Privacy Badger, and it works with Chrome and Firefox so far.


The P-Badger is just one of the options out here for people who’d like to avoid being tracked — or want to know just who is tracking them. The Ford Foundation has also helped sponsor Lightbeam, an add-on for Firefox that provides interactive visualizations for the first and third-party sites you encounter while surfing. AdBlock Plus, Disconnect and Ghostery are even more options for shielding yourself.

Samsung is not letting Apple and Google make all the expansion and acquisitions this year. The South Korean company has its own “Level” line of fancy high-end headphones available now in the States. The products in the family cover most headphone styles and are available on the Gilt.com luxury-product site. So while it has its own high-end headphones like Apple now has with its Beats acquisition, Samsung is also trying to keep up with Google in the Internet o’ Stuff department and has reportedly bought a company called SmartThings, which develops home-automation software.

Refugees pining for the return of the real Windows Start menu button might have some hope next year. Leaked screenshots, (like the one below) supposedly of Windows 9 in development, show Microsoft getting closer to the Start button known and loved from Windows 95 to Windows 7.


Speaking of tech nostalgia, Sony is still tinkering with its Walkman line, first released in 1979 and the iconic personal cassette player that changed how we ignore each other on the subway. Sony’s new upscale NWZ-ZX1 Walkman, however, costs $700 but offers 128 gigabytes of storage for high-quality lossless music files.

And finally, if you are a fan of The Simpsons, the FXX cable network will soon be holding the longest-running marathon in TV history. The network plans to show all 552 episodes of the classic animated series, as well as The Simpsons Movie, in chronological order from August 21 to September 1. That’s 25 seasons of quality Bart jokes and tidbits for mathletes. In case you’re on vacation or your DVR melts, wait until October, when the company launches Simpsons World, streaming on-demand portal (with apps) for all the episodes and plenty of extras. Bulk-buy your snack food of choice and settle in through Labor Day!

PTJ 93: Now With More Pop!

This week we really do put the pop in the Pop Tech Jam and debut a new single from singer and multi-instrumentalist Mario Ceara. Yes, Mario is El Kaiser’s nephew but don’t let that stop you from listening. He comes from the side of the Kaiser clan with real talent!

Mario recorded and produced his single on his laptop using software and peripherals that have made it possible for musicians to quickly and professionally produce music and make it available to their audience at lightning speed.

J.D. is back from her secret mission to parts unknown with some tips on how to stay connected with your smartphone while traveling overseas without breaking the bank.

In the news, new rules on Net Neutrality have generated quite a bit of a backlash; the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that people have a right to be forgotten on Google; Microsoft released a cheaper version of its Xbox One and may also be gearing up to launch a music locker service for the console;  Apple’s $3.2 billion looks to buy Beats Electronics; And Twitter has announced a new “Mute” feature that lets you temporarily turn off the tweets.