Tag Archives: Xfinity

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 183 News: Screen Lock and Key

So maybe the Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t need Apple so much after all. The Justice Department postponed this week’s hot court date over that whole “you must unlock this terrorist iPhone” fight they were having with Cook & Co. It seems the DOJ has found someone else it thinks can hack and crack into the iPhone in question. The court date has been rescheduled for April 5th. (And who knows what’s behind that door, as a new report analyzing the November attacks in Paris indicated that the terrorists there were using disposable cellphones and not encryption to communicate.)

imessageApple may be fighting to keep the passcode locked, but researchers at Johns Hopkins University say they’ve found a way to decrypt encrypted iMessages. While this bug in iMessage wouldn’t have helped the FBI with the San Bernardino phone (and Apple released software updates for iOS and OS X this week anyway), the Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that some Apple encryption can be broken.

Despite the postponement of the FBI hearing, Apple’s court calendar is still filling up, though. On Monday this week, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear Samsung’s appeal of that patent infringement case a few years back that it lost to Apple over copying the iPhone’s design. Samsung would like to talk more and pay less in this case.

But lest we forget, there was one more bit of Apple News this week: The company held a small-scale event at its headquarters this week to unveil the [no surprise] 4-inch iPhone SE, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, an iOS software update, new Apple Watch bands — and a cheaper price on the Apple Watch itself. Updates on the company’s recycling efforts were also revealed:

Amazon has added a new product to its inventory: package deals for Comcast’s Xfinity television and Internet service. The goods can be found in the new Amazon Cable Store, where special offers for Amazon customers are also touted. On the down side, you have to use Comcast is you sign up.

Amazon Kindle owners also probably saw a lot of panicky stories online this week warning that if they did not update the system software on older Kindle models, those Kindles would not be able to access the Kindle bookstore to buy new books. If you missed the March 22 deadline, you’ll have to plug the Kindle into your computer, download the updates from Amazon’s site and apply those patches manually.

amazonechoOne of Amazon’s other products popped up — and piped up — earlier this month during the broadcast of a National Public Radio story about the Amazon Echo speaker and its Alexa virtual assistant. As the story unfolded on the radio, with typical NPR sound clips of people on the radio taking to Alexa on their Amazon Echos, one NPR listener said his Alexa reset the home thermostat based on a command it heard on the radio. Another Alexa in the wild began playing an NPR Hourly Summary.  (Just so you know, this was just a test. Once they get the signal from headquarters, all the Alexas will rise up together to overthrow their human oppressors.) Incidentally, Amazon Tap, which looks like it’s basically an Echo you have to touch first, will be available next week.

It’s no secret that Facebook hoovers up gobs of data from its users to help it target advertising, and recent stories show how its ad platform guesses what race a person is based on his or her online behavior. Although Facebook has been offering its its racial profiling, er,  “ethnic affinity” targeting to advertisers since 2014, the Business Insider site illustrated this practice with a story showing how different trailers for the film Straight Outta Compton were pushed out to white viewers, black viewers and Hispanic viewers. Facebook: Never missing a chance to use any of your data to sell you things.

Twitter celebrated its 10th birthday this week. The service stuck up a blog post thanking its users for the first decade and saying “Throughout the years, you’ve made Twitter what it is today and you’re shaping what it will be in the future.” (Let us please not speak of trolls and politicians.)

Hungry? Venerable pizza chain Dominos is testing an automated pizza delivery robot down in New Zealand. It’s called the Domino’s Robotic Unit, or DRU, and it has a 12-mile range, runs on battery power and has compartments for hot and cold food — including storage for up to 10 pizzas.

While America seems to be lurching toward delivery drones, ground-based delivery bots seem to be catching on in other parts of the world, including small six-wheeled vehicles dispensing packages in London this spring.

And finally, also over in England, let us turn to a jolly seafaring tale. If you are unaware of this unfolding story, here it is: The British Natural Environment Research Council thought it would be a good idea to ask the public for help in naming a brand new £200 million ocean-research ship, so it invited the public to participate and began to take online suggestions. While some well-meaning participants put forth the names of scientists or explorers, one gentleman suggested the moniker RSS Boaty McBoatface. Needless to say, that name quickly shot to the top of the polls and the NERC site even crashed from excitement at one point. A spokeswoman for the council said, “We are very much enjoying hearing everyone’s ideas,” but the agency ultimately has the final say in christening the vessel. The contest ends April 16th, so in the meantime, raise a glass of rum and let’s all sing a good shanty for the RSS Boaty McBoatface while it lasts.


Episode 51: Mavericky Mavericks

The NSA is watching, Apple decides to go flat and Microsoft and Sony officially unveil their new gaming consoles at the E3 in Los Angeles. It has been a very busy news week in tech so J.D. and El Kaiser roll up their sleeves and tell you exactly when who did what to whom…. and where. Also, J.D. explains how you can save a little money by taking your own passport photos. 

Episode 51 News: Oh, What a Tangled Web

Just a month after Facebook was rumored to be the buyer, Google announced this week that it closed the billion-dollar deal on the Waze traffic and social-mapping service. The addition of Waze to the Google portfolio is expected to make the traffic-tracking in Google Maps more powerful and also boost the company’s social-networking services.

Amazon, which has been testing its AmazonFresh delivery service around its hometown of Seattle, is now dropping off produce, meat and other supermarket staples to certain areas of Los Angeles. As a page on the site explains after a free 90-day trial, your $79 Amazon Prime membership gets automatically upgraded to an Amazon Prime Fresh membership, which costs $299 a year  AmazonFresh is expected to expand into San Francisco later this year and into at least 20 more cities in 2014.

Comcast is doing some expanding as well, adding 3,800 hotspots for its Xfinity Wi-Fi network around Washington, DC. The company is also using its Xfinity Internet subscribers to increase the reach of the Xfinity Wi-Fi network by having home users broadcast two network signals from their Comcast Xfinity Wireless Gateway router/modem combos — one for the private family network and one for the public wireless network. (Comcast is part of the Cable WiFi Alliance, a group of other cable companies that offer 150,000 WiFi hotspots for their customers to use outside the home.)

Another cable company, Time Warner, is probably not too thrilled with this, but the season finale of Game of Thrones set a new BitTorrent record, with 171,000 people sharing the episode and a million people downloading it in one day.

allseeingeyeThe uproar over that National Security Agency surveillance program that collects phone records and user data from social sites shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. The Guardian promises more to come, but it’s not the only one revved up by the revelations.

Members of Congress are calling for investigations, the American Civil Liberties Union is filing a lawsuit, Google, Microsoft and Facebook have asked the government to let them share details of their involvement and Edward Snowden, (aka The Leaker) has been fired from his $122,000-a-year job based in Hawaii and is now fighting extradition from Hong Kong. This story has more legs than a centipede and it’s gonna be a long summer. (Need some summer reading? George Orwell’s 1984 and Franz Kafka’s The Trial are getting new attention.)

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web back in the 20th century, is not happy with the way his creation has been handled by corporations and world governments. As reported by the Daily Telegraph in London, Sir Tim also said in a recent speech that “companies and governments in different places all over the world trying to take control of the Internet in different ways” and that net neutrality should be protected.

While the Web opened to the general population on April 30, 1993, Mr, Berners-Lee had been working on it since 1990 at CERN, using one of the NeXT computers (the black boxes Steve Jobs was involved with between his two separate stints at Apple). Now, researchers are trying to locate an original version of his very first Web page. Professor Paul Jones at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, heard the team was looking for it and produced a copy of the page from 1991 that he’d had all along. Professor Jones, who also had a NeXT computer, worked with Berners-Lee when he was town. Although Jones copied the first Web page off the NeXT computer at one point, he thinks the old machine may hold other ancient Web artifacts — but he can’t remember the password. Raiders of the Lost NeXT, anyone?