Tag Archives: XBox

PTJ 224: Uncloudy Skies

Mobile World Congress brought in the new and the old this week, Twitter and Facebook are stepping it up to help users in need and Amazon Web Services had a sad day this week. El Kaiser and J.D. discuss it all — and YouTube’s big week of views and cord-cutting measures — on this week’s weatherproof episode of Pop Tech Jam.

Links to Stories in This Week’s News Segment

PTJ 219: Blue Skies

Samsung thinks it’s solved the mystery of the exploding Note 7, Sprint grabs a new business partner, SpaceX returns to work and oh, cars might fly soon. On this week’s episode, El Kaiser and J.D. dive into a pile of tech-news headlines before Apple-watcher Don Donofrio drops by to discuss the company’s 2016 efforts.

PTJ 196 News: Windows $10K

Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade has steadily grown more persistent since the software’s release last year, even to the point of practically hijacking a user’s computer to ram it on there. While the Windows forums have lit up with complaints, at least one dissatisfied customer has taken Microsoft to court over the unauthorized update. The plaintiff was awarded $10,000 to compensate for lost wages and the price of a new computer to replace the one banjaxed by an unwanted Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft denied that it had done anything wrong and said it had dropped its appeal in the case to avoid additional legal expense. However, the company said it’s changing that sneaky dialogue box that starts the Windows 10 install when you click the “x” to close the box. (Also disappearing:  The Xbox Fitness service.)

Due to copyright issues, many song lyrics sites used to be hosted on offshore servers, but now Google has cut a deal with the Toronto-based firm LyricFind to legally display lyrics in search results. The move both funnels money to the publishers and songwriters of the licensed songs — and might send a few people to Google Play Music as well.

haze

Google is also expanding the tools its offers to teachers by making its Expeditions virtual reality experience available to everyone with the Android app, a network connection and a VR viewer. Expeditions offers virtual reality tours to more than 200 locations and an iOS edition of the app is expected soon. The company also released its Google Cast for Education app for Chrome for wireless screen-sharing in the classroom.

Facebook has decided that it needs to rev up the Slideshow feature that was originally included it its Facebook Moments app last year. In a new update to the Facebook mobile app, if it senses you have taken more than five pictures or videos in the past 24 hours and you go to post a status update, Facebook suggests that you make a slideshow out of the material. (The TechCrunch site has a theory that Facebook is desperate to get people to post more original content on the site.)  Facebook is also adding location-based events to its main app to offer suggestions for things to do besides spend all night on Facebook, and actual humans will curate the events lists.

Twitter announced that its adding stickers to photo tweets, perhaps in an attempt to get more teenage girls to use the service.

Municipal lawmakers and the Airbnb site for easy short-term rentals have a contentious relationship in places like New York City and San Francisco because of local housing laws, and now the start-up is even suing San Francisco over a new law that says Airbnb hosts must register with the city first. The lawsuit contends that San Francisco is putting the burden on Airbnb to enforce the law by fining the site $1,000 for posting unverified-with-the-city listings on the site. As The New York Times points out, Airbnb originally helped write the law in the first place to quell protests from affordable hosing advocates. The New York Legislature also passed its own bill against Airbnb this month that would impose fines on apartments listed with the service that rent for less than 30 days if the leaseholder if not present. That bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Amazon has added a new feature to its Kindle apps and e-readers that’s designed to make it easier for you to wander around in an ebook without losing your place. The new tool is called, appropriately, Page Flip.

Medical offices have become a popular target for hackers thanks to the troves of personal patient data and now hackers have taken to selling thousands of records on the dark web after their demands for money were turned down.  Speaking of hackers, Apple’s forthcoming iOS 10 software has already been poked, prodded and had its flows exposed in public by an individual who has posted it all online on the iOS Hacker Wiki.

Pinterest, which added buy buttons to some items on its mobile app last year, has added those click-to-buy buttons on its web version now. A shopping bag is also available so you can click around on either mobile or desktop and then buy all your pinned purchases at once.

And finally, summer is here and if you need some projects to occupy the kids, Bose has a $150 BoseBuild Speaker Cube kit that shows kids how to make a Bluetooth speaker that works with an iOS device while also teaching them how the principles of sound and speakers work, along with magnets, electromagnets, frequency and waveforms.

bosebuild

Need another educational a summer project? Make has instructions on how to make a Wi-Fi Drone Disabler with a Raspberry Pi, some telnet scripts and a cantenna, but stresses this is an educational exercise to help you “understand the security risks of wireless communications.” Yes. Yes, it is.

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.

sfV

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.

Ten Forward

Technical preview versions of Windows 10 have been out there for months and have already started to get reviews from testers, but Microsoft had a big Windows 10 event last week anyway. Part progress report and part consumer preview, the event also served as a reminder than the much-maligned Windows 8.1 is not long for this world.

One thing that got immediate attention: Microsoft announced that for the first year, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users. Windows Phone 8 users also get the free update.

To recap previous peeks, yes, the Start Menu — or a variation thereof — is back into the system, no add-on software required. Also, instead of having the old familiar Windows Control Panel in the Desktop Mode and the colorful “Change PC Settings” world of Windows 8 off the Charms bar, Windows 10 brings all the system settings into one place.

desktop

And speaking of that frustrating hybrid of desktop and Modern UI, there’s a Continuum feature  that automatically switches the interface between the more desktop-y mode with floating windows to the full-screen app style of the touch interface. The Notifications Center, or Action Center, will let you adjust settings with one click.

That new streamlined  “Project Spartan” browser (still a code name) has been confirmed for the Windows 10 mix. Among other things, it’s got markup and a reading list function built in so you can spend more quality time with your webpages.

As previously leaked to Windows Watchers, Cortana, the voice-activated personal assistant from Windows Phone is coming to Windows 10. You can verbally command Cortona to pull up files and photos, just like those computers do in the movies. The Xbox and Windows X, er 10, are also going to be getting a lot closer.

holoHowever, it was the HoloLens headset and its gesture-based holographic projection system that got most of the attention at the Microsoft event. These augmented-reality goggles were demoed (and some journalists got to try them out) for the first time in front of an audience, and earned a number of predictable ooohs and aaahs.

hologram

Microsoft managed to cram in quite a bit into the event (check out the video supercut from The Verge to see the highlights) and the company’s shift into a more nimble, less-tied-to-selling-boxed-copies-of-Windows way of life has gotten praise.  But it may be the HoloLens that got developers and other techies excited about Microsoft again — after the high-tech goggles were unveiled, tickets for Microsoft’s 2015 Build Conference sold out in less than an hour. Game on, Apple and Google.

Put Your Hands in The Air and Wave Them Like You Just Want to Close an App

This is the scene that sparked my interest in gesture recognition technology. It’s a clip from the mostly forgettable mid-90’s Sci-Fi clunker Johnny Mnemonic adapted from a story by William Gibson. Keanu Reeves plays the title character, a man with a cybernetic brain implant designed to store data, allowing him to act as a courier of information deemed too sensitive to transfer across a souped-up virtual reality version of the Internet dubbed “The Net”.

Here’s a factoid for you: Dolph Lundgren played the villain and was stuck in Direct-to-video Purgatory, not acting in a film with a theatrical release until 2010’s The Expendables. That’s how good it was.

Nevertheless, watching Keanu hacking is way into a Yakuza account by flailing and flapping his hands and wearing totally funky fresh VR goggles absolutely blew me away. You have to understand, the Internet was a relatively new phenomenon back then—AOL ruled the landscape when this film premiered—and virtual reality was strictly a Star Trek: Next Generation plot device.

Over the next decade Hollywood blockbusters Minority Report and the Iron Man series pushed gesture technology even closer to reality by inspiring scientists and programmers who took on the challenge of creating the “spatial operating environments” and “holotables” depicted in the films.

gesture-UI

Gesture recognition is described as interacting with computers by using gestures of the human body, typically hand movements. In gesture technology, a camera reads the movements of the human body and communicates the data to a computer that uses the gestures as input to control devices or applications.

Even onscreen the tech evolved in the few short years between releases. Tony Stark ditched the gloves John Anderton was forced to wear and was able to build his armor with barehanded computing abandon. As fanciful and mind-blowing as the gesture tech appeared on the silver screen, the introduction of gesture recognition tech to those of us living in the real world was more modest.

Hello Nintendo Wii…

The Wii console controllers and Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox, introduced gesture tech directly into our living rooms. Now we can all gesticulate and prance about like the narcissistic billionaire arms dealer with a weak heart we were destined to be.

On a related note, Kaisernet Industries is developing its own gesture-based product. The working title is the Palm-Back V but we’re open to suggestions…

PTJ 123 News: Same Old Lang Syne

Will the Drama Llama ever leave Sony’s living room?  While US officials are thinking North Korea had some help or perhaps subcontracted the job, the hermit kingdom is still denying involvement and threatening retaliation, (as it often does). Not everyone is convinced North Korea did the hit, however, as some cybersecurity experts are questioning the FBI’s investigation into the matter and are now dubious as to the assumed motives and methods.

Speaking of The Interview, the film made about $3 million in theaters and about $15 million in online streams at Google Play, YouTube and Xbox Video on Christmas Day. Also on Christmas Day: hackers took down Sony’s PlayStation network, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox Live network in what was thought to be a opportune-yet-unrelated-to-North-Korea attack by the Lizard Squad.

And yet, a hacker’s work is never done. A member of Europe’s Chaos Computer Club is claiming he can fake a fingerprint and potentially fool a fingerprint scanner with high-quality digital photos of the aforementioned finger taken from afar and commercially available software. A video of the demonstration is on YouTube, but it’s in German. (Sprechen Sie Deutsch?) The Chaos Computer Club has claimed to have beaten Apple’s Touch ID scanner on the iPhone 5S before, and say vulnerabilities still exist in the iPhone 6.

There are a lot of iPhone 6’s out there now after the gift-giving season. According to the analytics firm Flurry, 51% of new device activations around the world from December 19th to December 25th were for Apple devices. Samsung had second place with 18% of new device activations and Microsoft had third place with 5.8%. (Apple also got a patent for a “smart stylus” this week, so get ready for those iSty and Apple Pen rumors.)

apple stylus

Sony may have had a rough year, but its old PlayStation 3 game consoles are doing their part for science, like helping crunch data in the study of black holes and gravitational waves. The New York Times has the story of how a scientist in the University of Dartmouth’s Physics Department has been making his own supercomputers by networking together stacks of old PS3s.

In space news, a recently discovered comet called 2014 Q2, also known as Lovejoy, should be visible in the night sky on the Northern Hemisphere for much of January if you live in an area free of light pollution.  For experienced stargazers, the comet is currently near the constellation Lepus the Hare and is passing close to Orion’s belt on its way to the constellation Taurus the Bull by January 9th.

lovejoy

It the Department of Out with the Old, Yahoo has now shut down its long-serving Yahoo Directory, a page of categorized topic links that had been around since 1994. And while it seems like Internet Explorer has been Microsoft’s browser since the dawn of Web Time, but new reports say that the company is building an entirely new browser codenamed Spartan for its upcoming Windows 10 system.

In legal news, the United States Bankruptcy Court here in Manhattan has ruled that Aereo — the now-squashed teeny tiny antenna company that got sued out of business for redistributing broadcast TV signals — can sell off its technology to the highest bidder.

Facebook has apologized for its Year in Review feature, an algorithm that created an automatic slideshow from a user’s photos that could be shared with Facebook friends. While it was meant to be a celebration of the year’s best moments, all capped with the tagline “It’s been a great year” some users complained that the software pulled in photos from sad events they’d rather not highlight. (For those who didn’t have tragedy but hated the photos Facebook pulled, keep in mind you can edit the results.)

yir

The Consumer Electronics Association’s CES tradeshow opens next week in Las Vegas and its planners say the 2015 show will be “the largest ever Internet of Things showcase” with more than 900 exhibitors rolling out their future wares. New products for home security and climate control systems, automotive connectivity, kitchen appliances and more are expected, as well as new innovations in sensor technology.

And finally, the Alternet site has put out its list of Biggest Product Fails of 2014. At the top of the flop list: the Amazon Fire Phone. At least the Fire Phone is topping a list somewhere, although it’s probably not the one Amazon had in mind. Happy 2015, y’all!

fire

PTJ 91: All is Right With the Galaxy

Before J.D. and El Kaiser head over to the Ziegfeld movie palace to queue up for tickets to Star Wars *SQUEE*, they test Domino’s updated iPad app and its 3D Pizza Builder feature. They virtually make it rain pizza toppings. *SQUEE*

In the news the Federal Communications Commission announces its latest stab at finding constitutional rules for governing the Internet; the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal continues to draw detractors; Netflix strikes a speed deal with Verizon Communications; Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business is finally complete and the software behemoth confirms a rather gaping vulnerability in all versions of its Internet Explorer browser;  the Heartbleed bug may affect the Internet of Things; and the official cast has been announced for Star Wars: Episode VII confirming the return of original cast members. *SQUEE*

PTJ 91 News: Old Games

Here we go again: Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced its latest stab at finding constitutional rules for governing the Internet. Critics called the new proposal a “two-tier” system with high-speed fast lanes for those who can pay and slower connections for those who can’t — all decidedly problematic for the concept of net neutrality. In a rebuttal to detractors, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler posted a defense on the FCC’s website. Mr. Wheeler is scheduled to testify in front of the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications this month.

The proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal continues to draw its own detractors. Univision exec Randy Falco said the merger of the two cable companies could be “bad for Hispanic audiences” and was a “cause for concern.” Comcast owns NBC Universal, which owns Telemundo, the second-biggest Spanish-language TV network after Univision. Comcast quickly released a statement denying any bad things will happen. As part of its preparations for acquiring Time Warner Cable, Comcast announced a deal with Charter Communications this week too. (The Comcast corporate communications department must be awfully tired these days. )

Netflix announced that it has struck a speed deal with Verizon Communications, not unlike its agreement with You Know Who. By getting direct access to Verizon’s network for a fee, Netflix streams should improve for those customers.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business is now complete. The new division is now called Microsoft Mobile, but future devices will likely get a new brand that is called neither Microsoft Mobile nor Nokia. In other Microsoft news, the company just upped its online storage allotment for its OneDrive for Business customers from 25 gigabytes to 1 terabyte. There is currently a standalone version of OneDrive for Business is available as a $5-per-month option with the Office Online Web-based productivity suite.

In hardware news, Apple has upgraded the processor in its lightweight-but-don’t-call-it-a-netbook laptops in the MacBook Air line and knocks $100 off the starting price tags.

Now for the Security portion of this blog post. Microsoft has confirmed a rather gaping vulnerability in all versions of its Internet Explorer browser. The security research firm FireEye found this latest zero-day exploit, which it said could be used with Adobe Flash files to execute remote code. As a result of all this, government computer security teams in the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden have advised users to stop using IE and switch to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox until Microsoft addresses the issue.

The Apple Developer site recently had its own massive security issue that made the personal information of its members accessible. A white-hat found the issue and contacted the 9to5Mac.com site, which out up an in-depth post on the exploit after Apple filled in that security pothole. That is the correct sequence of events, folks.

One final note of security concern: Wired has a story about how the Heartbleed bug affects the Internet of Things and it’s worth a read if you’re into that Big Picture sort of view.

In an announcement to its investors this week, Yahoo announced its plans for a couple original long-form video programs, plus two new shows with Katie Couric and a new Live Nation channel for streaming concerts. As it did with the technology part of its site, Yahoo has also launched a digital magazine-style version of Yahoo Travel.

AT&T said it plans to launch a high-speed 4G LTE-based in-flight connectivity service for airline passengers for fast broadband in the air. AT&T said its new network could be available as soon as late next year. Hopefully, it will feel faster than dial-up on those long flights. The stock for Gogo, the current big player in inflight Internet, dropped 18 percent after AT&T made its announcement.

The executive behind Google+ is leaving the company, which has at least one tech blog setting the egg timer on Google’s often-forgotten social network. A representative for Google representative has denied the demise of Google+. In brighter news for the company, Google’s self-driving cars have now logged more that 700,00 miles on their own and according to a post on the official Google blog, the auto-autos are mastering the art of city driving, at least around Mountain View, California. A video on the blog shows a Google car navigating a variety of situations without mayhem.

flopsNews from the Land of Obsolete Technology:  60 Minutes found that that part of the computer system responsible for controlling the launch of the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles depends on data loaded from 8-inch floppy disks, which most likely makes the storage media older than some of the Air Force personnel working down in the silos. Air Force officials said the system is extremely safe and secure but some upgrades and budget request are on the way.

The Legend of the Landfill turned out to be true. Video archeologists digging in the New Mexico desert found a large festering pile of Atari’s old E.T. cartridge game, just as it had been whispered about for more than 30 years. The dig was part of a documentary called Atari: Game Over, that will be released through the Microsoft’s Xbox console later this year.

And finally, the cast of “Star Wars, “Episode VII” was officially announced this week.  The movie opens galaxywide on December 18, 2015. Until then — and as always this time of year — May the Fourth be with you.

Pie In the Sky

Domino’s revealed its latest update for the iPad last week, and unlike most app updates, this one had a press release. The updated software now includes a realistic 3D Pizza Builder photo animation that lets you build your pie from the crust up. The app depicts your dinner as a work in progress as you tap through your order, from picking a crust style to the showers of toppings raining down as you crown your achievement with meatballs and banana peppers.

The high-rez food photography is brilliant and (at least for the waistline) evil. Those tasty-looking pizza pictures will probably inspire a few customers to tap the back button and increase the size of their pizza, add more toppings or experiment with various combinations they wouldn’t normally consider. As with previous versions of the Domino’s app for Android, iOS and Kindle, as well as its website, you can use the Domino’s Tracker progress bar to follow your order as it gets made, baked, boxed up and delivered.

Dominos

But Domino’s is not the only national pizza chain with its own app. Papa John’s has Android and iOS apps to complement its mobile website. With the apps, you can tap together your order (which has its own pizza pictures), set certain pizza combinations aside as repeatable favorites for even faster ordering — and pay by credit card through the phone.

PapaJohns

Don’t forget Pizza Hut, which made headlines a few months ago with its prototype pizza-ordering table. The Hut has its own mobile apps for iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone. You can also get an app for your Xbox 360, although TiVo beat the Xbox by about five or six years when it came to ordering pizza through the TV.

PizzaHut

The dedicated mobile apps usually offer more streamlined experiences than just using the mobile web on your phone, and can do other things like send push alerts for coupons and special offers. According to The Wall Street Journal, about 40 percent of Domino’s sales come from online ordering, so there is a significant user base driving the digital delivery.

But are you one of those pizza purists who dislikes the somewhat-predictable taste of national chain pizza? (Yes, New Yorkers, we are talking to you.) If your preferred local pizza joint does not have its own app or site where you can place your order, see if you can find them on Seamless or GrubHub, sites that provide online ordering from a huge directory of restaurants  in cities across the country. You may be able to get your favorite order sent right to your door — all without having to spell your name on the phone or actually talk to anybody but the delivery person.