Tag Archives: Wi-Fi

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 197 News: Eyes on the Road Ahead

It was bound to happen sooner or later. There has now been a reported fatality with one of Tesla’s Model S sedans in self-driving mode. A man in Florida was killed last month using his car in the Autopilot setting while reportedly watching a Harry Potter movie when his Tesla vehicle slammed into a truck at high speed. In a post on the company blog, the Tesla team explained why the software failed, but the incident is also a good reminder to always pay attention to your surroundings, even when the car is driving itself.

As reported in Wired, Google has added settings for its search users that ask if they want to see tailored ads based on age, gender, and search history to show up now on third-party sites as the ads currently do on Google sites. By opting in, users can edit and block ads they don’t like across any device logged in with a Google account. This compares to other ad networks, which require users to opt out of such personalization. Google has also reworked the history page where it hoards all of the old searches and viewing history you’ve previously done on Google and Google-owned sites. The new data locker is called  My Activity and it allows you to log in and delete specific entries out of your search and viewing history. In case you need to.

Android N has a full name now: Android Nougat. (Hungry for a Snickers now?)

noughat

Rumor has it Apple is pondering the purchase of Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming music service. Apple also got into a punch-up with Spotify last week. It came down to Spotify saying Apple won’t approve the new Spotify app for its App Store because it wants to cut competition for the aforementioned Apple Music and Apple saying the app was rejected because Spotify disobeyed the App Store developer guidelines for in-app purchases.

bblinkIs Big Brother 2016 watching you? Those free Wi-Fi kiosks with the video ads and phone-charging ports that are popping up around New York City streets the past few months, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union and other privacy advocates who say the kiosks can be used to spy on and collect information from people passing by them. As reported by the ReCode site after obtaining documents through public-records laws, Alphabet, parent company of Google, “wants to monitor pedestrian, bike and car traffic, track passing wireless devices, listen to street noise and use the kiosks’ built-in video cameras to identify abandoned packages.” Sidewalk Labs, the company behind the kiosks, said all data is anonymized, not sold to third parties and the cameras haven’t even been turned on. Still, the kiosks have found dedicated fans on the city streets: The New York Post reported some of the city’s homeless population was using the stations to watch free porn until the city remembered it had to put in URL filters.

The hacking of social media accounts has been in the news since a Mr. Mark Zuckerberg got jacked recently, and if you’re worried about your own Twitter account, BuzzFeed has an article up with tips on how to see if your account is vulnerable from third-party applications.

The Chicago man who hacked several celebrity iCloud and Gmail accounts in 2014 (and made actress Jennifer Lawrence extremely angry) is going to plead guilty. Edward Majerczyk could get up to five years in prison, a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act after stealing user names and password through phishing.

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Facebook announced last week that it is adding a new multilingual composer for users to write one post, but have it appear in multiple languages. Sounds like there could be some good machine-translation memes coming soon.

Comcast and Netflix have made nice and come to an agreement that will allow Netflix’s streaming video service on to Comcast’s set-top boxes. Netflix’s long march to be on every type of screen available continues.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Linkedin also was courting Google and Salesforce as potential suitors, but Microsoft’s all-cash deal won out. Let’s hope this one turns out better than the Nokia acquisition.

bbclassicedBlackBerry (remember them?) announced this week that it would no longer make the BlackBerry Classic smartphone and said earlier this year that it was ditching its own BlackBerry 10 operating system in favor of Android. Some member of the United States Congress will likely be very upset by this, as there are still some lawmakers holding on to the once-dominant platform, even though it got toasted by Android and iOS devices in the late 2000s. Without BlackBerry updates, the Senate’s IT department sent out a memo saying Senate staffers would no longer be issued official BlackBerry smartphones for office use. While the 600 BlackBerry models currently in circulation will still get tech support, for the time being. Guv’ment business and all.

And finally, NASA announced last week that nine missions by far-traveling spacecraft are getting extended because the hardware has lived beyond the original estimates. The New Horizons craft that already completed the Pluto flyby job got extended, as did the Dawn mission to Ceres. And NASA’s Juno probe, launched in 2011, has reached its destination after a five-year journey. After a 130,000-mile-an-hour trip through radiation belts and planetary clouds slowed by a 35-minute engine burn, Juno dropped into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th to start observing the solar system’s largest planet while searching for its origins. As one of the principal members of the Juno team said, “This is the hardest thing NASA has ever done.” That’s really saying something, because when you look at the History of NASA, they’ve done some pretty darn hard and impressive things since the agency was created in 1958. You go, NASA!

PTJ 117: Amazon Fires Up El Kaiser’s TV

It’s clear El Kaiser is quietly amassing a collection of streaming set-top boxes that may one day rival his tablet collection. On this week’s episode he gives us his impressions of the Fire TV, Amazon’s flagship media consumption device and his latest gadget acquisition.

Also on this week’s show J.D. helps us keep an eye on our monthly mobile device’s data allowance .

In the news President Barack Obama urges the FCC to keep the Internet open; Alibaba rakes in billions on “Singles Day”; Facebook’s Messenger app is now being used by 500 million people; NASA rents out some space; high-level corporate executives get there computers hacked into over hotel WiFi; Microsoft Office is free tablets and phones; and DARPA works on computer code that writes itself.

PTJ News 117: Pay As You Go

Congratulations, Philae, for sticking the landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as part of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission! Good job! (Now, if only you’d landed before we recorded this week’s episode, but we’ll congratulate you in person next week.)

Back on Earth, more people continue to weigh in on the Federal Communication Commission’s pending decision on net neutrality. President Barack Obama issued a statement and a video this week urging the FCC to keep the Internet open. As reported by The New York Times and others, Mr. Obama has proposed reclassifying both wired and wireless Internet service as a Title II telecommunications service under the Communications Act of 1934. Some Republican leaders have already objected to the President’s proposal, including Speaker of the House John Boenher and South Dakota Senator John Thune of South Dakota.

cartIf you think the power-shopping  stretch from Black Friday to Cyber Monday makes money (more than $3.5 billion in the past), look east. This week, the Chinese e-commerce titan Alibaba hosted “Singles Day,” named for its date of  11.11 and it took less than 18 minutes from the sale’s start  for Alibaba’s gross merchandise volume to hit $1 billion. The entire shopping event went on to make 8.5 billion dollars in one day, which is a heck of a lot of e-commerce.

FBMFacebook, which said it killed the messaging feature within its main app and forced users to download a whole separate Messenger because Mark Zuckerberg thought it would be a better experience, announced this week that said Messenger app is now being used by 500 million people. The other 500 million people on Facebook are probably still complaining about the company killing the integrated messaging function.

NASA has confirmed that it’ll be leasing out its historic Hangar One to Google’s subsidiary Planetary Adventures for $1.16 billion dollars over the next 60 years. The lease at Moffett Field also includes 1,000 acres of federal land, and Google has pledged $200 million dollars to restore the old naval-airship hangar and two others like it.

hotelAs reported in Wired, Kaspersky Lab has been researching what it calls the Darkhotel espionage campaign, in which high-level corporate executives staying in luxury hotels are tricked into installing malware over a compromised hotel Wi-Fi network. So it’s not just those prices at the mini-bar that are criminal. (And speaking of hacking, the computer networks of United States Postal Service were invaded this fall, with the personal data of 800,000 employees compromised.)

Microsoft Office for phones and tablets is now free. Well, a basic version of Office for iPad and soon-to-be-Android edition is free. If you want to do more than basic editing and viewing, you’ll need to sign up for Office 365. (The company also introduced its $200 subscription-based Work & Play Bundle this week. )

Meanwhile, Apple is close to opening a new office in Cambridge, England. The company recently hired five people from a defunct mapping company called Pin Drop based in London, so perhaps those international Apple maps will get better soon. And as TechCrunch and other blogs have noted,  Google announced a partnership with Oxford University on some artificial intelligence projects last month, so the Cambridge-Oxford rivalry could take on a new tech dimension real soon. (Apple also has a bit going on stateside with a new lawsuit over The Case of the Disappearing iMessages and a miraculous new tool that helps those still afflicted.)

Pliny_the_ElderAnd finally, DARPA, (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and Rice University, (in Houston, Texas), are teaming up on an $11 million dollar project that could make writing computer programs much easier. A new software tool called PLINY — named for the Roman author and encyclopedist Pliny the Elder — is designed to serve as an autocorrect and autocomplete function for programmers, much like similar programs today that suggest and fill in search queries for the web. Let’s just hope it works better than the autocorrect feature in those early versions of iOS.

PTJ 105: A Cat, a Dog, And a Groot

El Kaiser takes a listen to the INEARPEACE earbuds from Om Audio and likes what he hears while J.D. tells us where and how to find quality documentaries online.

In the news, Amazon continues its war with book publisher Hachette and now finds itself battling Disney; Microsoft has Xbox announcements; Apple appears to have ramped up production of the new iPad; the U.S. government creates new agencies to handle its tech woes; Akamai releases its latest State of the Internet report; we have robot news and yes, it does rattle the Kaiser; and a security researcher weaponizes his pets.

PTJ 105 News: Amazon’s Great Muppet Caper and Other Tales

Amazon, who seems to be having a year of contract battles with its merchandise providers, is dragging the Muppets and Captain America into the fray. Variety and Home Media Magazine are among those reporting that Amazon’s U.S. site is currently not offering pre-orders for many Disney movies scheduled for release on DVD and Blu-ray, including last spring’s Muppets Most Wanted, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Maleficent. This is not likely to go over well with geeks, parents and, well,  geek parents.

The übermegastore is still slugging it out on another front with Hachette over e-book pricing and the some of the people who actually write the books are piping up. More than 900 authors signed a public letter last week that demanded that the Amazon stop messing around with writer’s book distribution and sales as a negotiating tactic. The company also got some flack earlier this week for misusing — of all things — a George Orwell quote in a letter from its Amazon Books Team.

At the Gamescom tradeshow on Germany this week, Microsoft made several announcements. One big one:  the upcoming Rise of the Tomb Raider will launch as an exclusive to the Xbox when the game arrives next year. Other data points from Microsoft’s games division include the betas for the multiplayer Fable Legends starting on October 16 and the one for Halo 5: Guardians starting on December 29th and new Xbox One bundles including a shiny white version of the console this fall. The Xbox One hardware itself will be getting some additional features as well.

ipad2In Apple News, supply-chain watchers note that production of the next generation of iPads seems to be underway, probably headed to stores by mid-fall. The new models are expected to sport an anti-glare coating to make the screens easier to read and will come with the new iOS system. One of the features previewed in iOS 8 last June at the Worldwide Developer’s Conference — Healthkit — could be getting some traction. The Reuters News Agency reports that Apple has been talking about possible integration with folks at the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Mount Sinai, as well as with at least one electronic health record provider. One last Apple bite: The New York Times had a big story this week about Apple University, the company’s secret training program for employees that educates them in Apple philosophy. As the article noted, at least one Apple U. alum found the quality of the campus bathroom tissue to be superb.

The United States government seems to have realized that good, functional websites make life easier for its citizens and announced this week that it’s dedicating the new U.S. Digital Service department to the cause. The group will live in the Office of Budget and Management and there’s now a U.S. Digital Services Playbook online that outlines best practices and another online document called the TechFAR Handbook that explains Federal Acquisition Regulation to help government agencies implement their digital services. The USDS is intended to serve mostly as consultants, but there’s another department of government geeks over in the General Services Administration. The other group, called 18F, is designed to be more of a hands-on-get-in-there-and-fix-that-mess team.

Akamai has released its latest State of the Internet report and among other things, rates average Internet speed on a state-by-state basis. While data speeds may be slow in certain parts of the United States, six companies are forming a consortium to create a new $300 million dollar Trans-Pacific cable system between Japan and the US West Coast.

It’s Google Science Fair time again and one of the more notable projects from this year’s crop is called “Rethink” and it’s by Trisha Prabhu, a 14-year-old girl from Naperville, Illinois. As she outlines on the Google Science Fair site, Ms. Prabhu wanted to create a system to help cut down on cyberbullying between adolescents on social media sites and her experiment seems to have worked.

botlrIn robot news, our still-benevolent mechanical helpers are finding work this summer as bellhops and museum guides. Starwood’s Aloft hotel in Cupertino, California, is experimenting with a rolling butler called Botlr that delivers items like toothpaste and razors from the front desk up to guest rooms. The Tate Britain Museum in London is unleashing four robots into its galleries after hours to live-stream footage from the museum’s collection. The After Dark project runs five nights through August 17th and curious art lovers can log in through the museum’s online portal to follow along.

kittehAs detailed in Wired, security researcher Gene Bransfield successfully used a cat with a custom WarKitteh collar to map Wi-Fi security in his neighborhood. He explained it all in a DEF CON presentation called “Weaponizing Your Pets: The War Kitteh and the Denial of Service Dog.” As for the Denial of Service Dog project, Mr. Bransfield showed how a canine equipped with a saddlebag full of hacker gear was able to troll bars and turn off TV sets during the World Cup. (Brazil fans may have actually been grateful for the act of mercy during that notorious semi-final match with Germany.)

And finally, if you found yourself charmed by Vin Diesel’s Groot character and his limited dialogue in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, check out the 15-button Groot soundboard over on Vulture.com. And you can bring the magic along during your Web travels, grab the Grootify script button from the Us vs. Them site. It makes a number of websites so much better, as shown below.

grootweb