Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Hulu Flip-Flopped. Video Service No Longer for Sale Again.

Posted by J Powers at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2013

Hulu LogoI am starting to wonder if I should even read stories of Hulu being for sale…

The conglomeration of owners that is known as Hulu has once again backed out of the for sale market. The group – consisting of 21st-Century Fox, NBCUniversal and Walt Disney Company – have confirmed via press release they will once again take the streaming content service back off the market and re-invest to bring more customers.

This is not the first time Hulu has done this. Back in 2011, Hulu had a potential suitor where the deal was called off because the group wanted to re-invest.

“We believe the best path forward for Hulu is a meaningful recapitalization that will further accelerate its growth under the current ownership structure,” said Chase Carey, President and Chief Operating Officer of 21st Century Fox. “We had meaningful conversations with a number of potential partners and buyers, each with impressive plans and offers to match, but with 21st Century Fox and Disney fully aligned in our collective vision and goals for the business, we decided to continue to empower the Hulu team, in this fashion, to continue the incredible momentum they’ve built over the last few years.”

The co-owners of Hulu continued by saying they will be adding another $750 million into the service. This will go toward building a larger subscriber base.

Hulu started in 2008. They currently have content from over 400 partners, 4 million subscribers and 30 million monthly views.

Google wants to give you internet from a balloon

Posted by Alan at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2013

When I read the most recent news from Google I had to check my calendar — sure enough it is not April 1st. However, what the search giant announced sounds fantastical. What more can you say about getting internet from a high altitude balloon? Well, that is the dream the company has announced.

“But for 2 out of every 3 people on earth, a fast, affordable Internet connection is still out of reach. And this is far from being a solved problem”.

Google talks of the serious challenges facing the internet connectivity for large portions of the world. The company aims to solve this with high-altitude balloons in stratospheric orbit. “Solving these problems isn’t simply a question of time: it requires looking at the problem of access from new angles. So today we’re unveiling our latest moonshot from Google[x]: balloon-powered Internet access”.

The company thinks it might actually be possible to build a ring of balloons, flying around the globe on the stratospheric winds, that provides Internet access to the earth below.

“It’s very early days, but we’ve built a system that uses balloons, carried by the wind at altitudes twice as high as commercial planes, to beam Internet access to the ground at speeds similar to today’s 3G networks or faster. As a result, we hope balloons could become an option for connecting rural, remote, and underserved areas, and for helping with communications after natural disasters. The idea may sound a bit crazy—and that’s part of the reason we’re calling it Project Loon—but there’s solid science behind it”.

This week Google started a pilot program in the Canterbury area of New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect to the balloons. This is the first time Google has launched this many balloons (30 this week, in fact) and tried to connect to this many receivers on the ground, and promises to learn a lot that will help the company improve its technology and balloon design.

Vine Comes to Android: Get Your Wil Sasso Lemon Skits On…

Posted by J Powers at 7:24 AM on June 3, 2013

Vine-on-AndroidVine is the Twitter service that will let you push a six second video to your Twitter and Facebook fans. For a long time you could do that on your iOS devices. This morning, Twitter’s Blog announced Vine will be available for Android devices.

One interesting feature Vine has is the stop-motion option. You only record when your finger is on the record screen. Therefore, a lot of creators have been using the stop-motion capture to move action figures, show the day pass by or what Wil Sasso did – Spit out lemons.

Vine is absolutely free and available by Twitter – who bought the company in October 2012 (only a couple months after launch). On April 9th, 2013 Vine became the #1 most downloaded app on the iOS store.

Google Hangouts Easter Eggs Bring Jocularity, Ponies into Hangouts

Posted by J Powers at 2:34 PM on May 17, 2013
Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts

Right after Google announced the separation of Hangouts from Google+, users found a bunch of Easter Eggs in the system. Simple commands will bring out Ponies, change the background color, dinosaurs and even a KONAMI Cheat.

Google Hangout Easter Eggs

/ponies – watch a pony run across the chat

/pitchforks – brings and angry mob to the screen

/ponystream – more ponies. Perfect for any girl slumber parties!

/bikeshed – changes the background color for everyone

/shydino – This little dinosaur is shy. No wonder  - he’s small and the last of his kind!

KONAMI cheat – Up, Up, Down, Down, Left Right, Left Right, B – A – Enter – This changes your local background.

*more added as we find them

hashtags: #io13   #googleplusupdate   #hangouts   #easteregg

What is Klingon for “Bing”?

Posted by J Powers at 3:00 PM on May 14, 2013

Klingon

tHantlhS to bing, laH mugh vo’ English Hol tlhIngan.

Let’s translate that: Thanks to Bing, I can translate this from English to Klingon.

Bing has announced that for the upcoming release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, they will add the translations of Klingon and Klingon (Kronos) – the Klingon alphabet. You can translate from English to Klingon or Klingon to English. Words or phrases.

Bing also translates to 40 other languages from Spanish, French, Hebrew, Russian and more. The Klingon language uses the Klingon Language Institute – a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation.

So whether you are having fun with your friends or trying to send the signal for peace, you can get it translated though Bing.

Has CNET Lost all Credibility due to CBS Rules?

Posted by geeknews at 2:03 PM on January 25, 2013

cnetCNET the once independent tech news service is now being told what they can, and cannot report on by parent company CBS. The once darling of the tech space is now just a pawn of the CBS owners who are not allowing CNET to be a independent news arm.

First was the fiasco at CES where CNET had to rescind an award to Dish and the Hopper, now it is the restriction of reporting on Aereo both of which are being sued by CBS. It is obvious that the parent company CBS is now completely in control of what CNET can report on.
I pity the team at CNET for having a gag order put on them by CBS. It is very obvious that this flagship tech reporting site will continue to have troubles with mother CBS!

The real question that now has to be asked can CNET be trusted to report tech news fairly with the rough handling by CBS?

Pogoplug Mobile Review

Posted by Andrew at 12:50 AM on October 25, 2012

Pogoplug LogoThe cloud is definitely where it’s at right now, but what if you don’t like the idea the idea of Google, Dropbox et al looking after your data? Then you might be interested in a Pogoplug, which allows you to create your own cloud storage that’s only limited by the size of the hard disk. A Pogoplug is a hardware gadget that connects USB storage devices to your local LAN and then makes the space available across the Internet, effectively creating a personal cloud. The data is stored in your control and if more storage is needed, plug-in a bigger hard drive.

On review here is the Pogoplug Mobile, the 3rd generation of Pogoplug device from Cloud Engines. It offers a single USB port plus an SD card slot along with the network port and power socket. Newer Pogoplugs come with USB3 ports, but as the maximum speed of the Pogoplug cloud is always going to be the speed of the Internet connection, the faster transfer speeds of USB3 are unlikely to be a significant benefit. For testing, I used a 64 GB memory stick, rather than a hard drive, which means that the unit will run silently with minimal power consumption.

Pogoplug Packaging

The Pogoplug website has downloads for Windows, Macs and Linux, and the relevant app stores have versions for Android, iOS, Blackberry and legendary WebOS. I was able to try the Windows, Linux, Android and WebOS versions. The Windows version connects to the Pogoplug and presents it as a drive letter, allowing most Windows applications to use the Pogoplug transparently. The Pogoplug software has additional backup functionality as well, which may be useful for some people. The Linux version is command line only but anyone familiar with Linux will have no trouble getting the Pogoplug mounted into the filesystem.

The Android app is simple and straightforward with a couple of nice tricks up its sleeve. Broadly you can browse files in a directory fashion or you can view music, photos and movies in a tag or meta-data based fashion, As expected, there are viewers and players for the media, though movies get handed over to the default app rather than playing within the Pogoplug app. The music player is basic and has one really irritating flaw; it doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the track number from the mp3 files and consequently orders tracks alphabetically when playing albums. This really needs to be fixed.

Back viewPerformance-wise, the Pogoplug is always going to be limited by the upload (rather than download) speed of the broadband connection when outside of the home. This usually meant a little bit of buffering before playing music but once the playback got underway, there was rarely any stuttering. There were occasional times when folders refused to refresh but my suspicion is that any problems were down to the local data connection on my phone rather than a problem with the Pogoplug. YMMV. Inside my home, the performance was excellent.

In common with other social and cloud apps, the Pogoplug app has automatic uploading of pictures and video from the devices camera. It’s also possible to set the folder where the uploaded images are to go. Frankly, this is brilliant as my wife is hopeless at remembering to copy photos off her smartphone so by setting up the Pogoplug app on her phone, any photos she takes get automatically transferred. On occasion, a photo would sometimes fail to completely upload; again I suspect the loss of 3G connectivity than any fundamental problem, but the error checking could be improved. It’s also possible to upload any image from within the photo Gallery app.

As with most cloud solutions, you can also share with friends and family, using either the app or the web interface. It’s straightforward – select the folder you want to share, select who you want to share with and an email is sent to them with the relevant link. It’s an easy way to share photos of Junior with grandma and grandpa.

Any downsides? Only two that i can see….first, there’s no direct integration with any other apps that I could find. Quickoffice and other office apps typically allow access straight into Google Drive or Dropbox but none seemed to work with a Pogoplug. Effectively I had to download a Word doc to the phone, do my edits in QuickOffice and then upload the doc back to the Pogoplug. Not slick.

The second is that when I was at home and on the same subnet as the Pogoplug, Internet access to Pogoplug’s servers was still needed, presumably to check authorisation privileges. Normally, it’s not going to be an issue, but it would be handy to have a way to bypass this when working locally and the connection to the Internet goes down.

Overall, the Pogoplug is a handy device that gives you control over your data rather than entrusting it to a megacorp. A few glitches spoil what is otherwise a neat little solution that potentially gives as much data storage space as you need, without paying per GB per annum. For the low cost of the Pogoplug unit (about $50 / £35), it’s a bargain.

Disclaimer – this was a personally purchased device.

FreedomPop Hits Beta

Posted by Alan at 3:09 PM on October 13, 2012

Perhaps you have heard about a service called FreedomPop that aims at freeing you from paying for internet service, on a limited basis at least.  The service was launched by Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom and has been in the works for some time now.  Today, they quietly began sending out emails for a private beta test.

“FreedomPop is LIVE and we’re accepting a limited number of signups for our 100% free high speed Internet service during our beta period.

We’re only accepting a limited number of signups during our beta period, signup today before its too late!”

If you were lucky enough to receive the above message then you are in the hunt, but still not guaranteed a spot.  You will need to enter your location information and hope that the test will be run in your area.  Most people probably will not be that lucky.
At first glance the service may sound too good to be true, but they do have a method for monetizing in mind.  Users will receive a level of free data and anything used above that threshold will be subject to a per MB charge.  FreedomPop has partnered with Sprint for the data network and also plans a series of WiFi hotspots around the country to augment the 4G service.
Info: FreedonPop

Discovery Communications Buys Revision3

Posted by JenThorpe at 11:09 PM on May 4, 2012

Discovery Communications, parent company of Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, and more, has purchased Revision3, which is a special interest video network that produces shows that people watch online. It is an odd, and perhaps, unexpected, partnership (of sorts) between Cable TV and Web Video, (which many see as opposing forces).

It wasn’t all that long ago that people were speculating that Cable TV was nearing its end. Personally, my husband and I stopped paying for Cable years ago. The cost was more than we cared to pay for it. We didn’t like the idea of being forced to pay for channels that we knew we would never have an interest in watching just so we could get access to the ones that we enjoyed. It felt insulting to pay for the service and then have to sit through a barrage of ads that interrupted the shows.

Instead, we were using legal online resources in an attempt to be able to watch what we wanted to watch when we were ready to watch it. Hulu used to give free access to a plethora of television shows, including entire seasons, for free. It also used to play recent episodes of shows that were currently airing, (but only for a limited time). Eventually, though, what a person could watch for free through Hulu dramatically shrunk, which was disappointing.

That didn’t make us rush out and pay for Cable, though. Instead, we got Netflix. It was less expensive than Cable, it didn’t make us sit through ads, and it let us watch what we wanted to when we wanted to watch it.

My husband and I haven’t hit the point where we have exhausted the resources on Netflix yet, but, I have heard that this is possible. This week, I got an email from Netflix informing me that they have created a Netflix original series called Lilyhammer. So maybe we won’t run out of stuff to watch through Netflix after all.

I find it interesting that Discovery Communications, which is one of the big Cable networks, decided to purchase Revision3. Is this a way for Cable companies to add “new blood” to what they can offer consumers? I’m unsure if I should expect some of what Revision3 currently offers viewers for free to appear on Discovery Communications, essentially behind a “pay wall” of sorts. Or, could it mean that the Revision3 website will soon require people to pay before they can watch the shows? Somehow, my experiences with Cable TV leaves me with little trust in this situation.

VPN Usage On The Rise Where Internet Surveillance Increases

Posted by AndrewH at 4:21 AM on May 3, 2012

Young Swedes Going Covert On Internet With VPNs

As lawmakers across the globe attempt to pin down a wriggling Internet with rules aimed at stemming file sharing between users (but, curiously, increasing file sharing between governments and corporations), among other things, there appears to be a growing movement towards purchased privacy by the Internet community – particularly the younger folks.

TorrentFreak shared a study this week done by a research group from Lund University in Sweden showing a significant increase in the number of 15 to 25 year-olds buying and using VPN (virtual private network) services – some 40% more since late 2009.

As TorrentFreak points out, Sweden’s Internet community faces a unique strain of web surveillance with its spacious bandwidth and status as homebase to The Pirate Bay – the leading location on the Internet for getting things for free. That puts a lot of eyes on the Internet users of Sweden and, according to Lund University’s Cybernorms research group, 700,000 Swedes are paying for VPN services designed to hinder access to – and surveillance of – their online activities.

Compared to 500,000 Swedes using VPNs in 2009, the demographic pushing the nearly 30% increase in users looking to limit snooping on their web behaviors are young people in the 15 to 25 year-old age bracket. That demo comprises 15% of the total and is up by about 10% from 2009.

It’s not hard to see the pattern. As surveillance (by governments and private entities like Facebook and Google and other Internet entities) continues to heighten under the guise of hunting for file sharers, the technology to prevent such snooping will not only get better, but more people will be willing to shell out a few bucks for it.

If interested in learning more about VPNs, TorrentFreak put together a great list of which VPN providers actually do what they claim, and which ones don’t.

Image: VPN Net from BigStockPhoto.com