Sunday, May 24, 2015

POSTED: Monday, April 27, 2015, 11:41 AM
The comedian John Oliver discussed Net neutrality on his show, "Last Week Tonight," encouraging everyday Internet users to contact the FCC on the issue. Many did. (HBO)

What did John Oliver have to say last night about the aborted Comcast/Time Warner marriage and the seeming victory for  Net Neutrality-  populist uprisings  he jump started with a 13 minute rant last June on one of the earliest  episodes of his HBO Sunday night show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”?

Not a thing. The silence was deafening.  His agenda was occupied by  current crises- genocide in Armenia, the entertainment quackery of Dr. Oz, the true cost of those cheap clothes flooding American fashion emporiums (feel guilty about third world sweatshops?)

Maybe it’s not in this British comedian’s nature to gloat. Or perhaps Oliver’s team didn’t want to draw attention to the notion that HBO, his pulpit for polemics, is not a disinterested party. HBO has had a fair amount of “skin” in this game.  In a study last fall, the streaming app HBO Go was found to claim one percent of all evening traffic on the internet. As a  freebie attached to an HBO cable or satellite subscription, HBO Go is more likely to be used  in daytime than at night. But with its  $15 a month standalone streaming service HBO Now (recently launched but  long in the planning) the pay service will be totally dependent on internet service providers to deliver robust signals without “throttling”  by the  ISP   - a speed trap  (Oliver called it “blackmail”) that nudged  Netflix to make a private, direct-connection deal with Comcast.

Jonathan Takiff @ 11:41 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, April 24, 2015, 11:22 AM
Customers line up as they wait to buy the Apple Watch at an electronics store in Tokyo April 24, 2015. (REUTERS)

Only a small fraction of us million+ early buyers may actually be getting an Apple Watch in the mail today, the official “launch date” for the wearable. But take heart, fellow chumps.   Approximately 3,000 app developers, says Apple,  have also drunk the Kool Aid,  gotten behind the project. And most of their efforts will be up and running today, thus ready for Watching whenever your smart timekeeper actually does show up, in, um, two weeks to two months.

 Who’s on first? Top billed on the Apple Watch app (visible on iPhones) are the  likes of Yelp, Uber, Evernote,  Instagram, Twitter, Amazon, Target,  New York Times and Shazam. Yeah, really looking forward to ordering a cab, checking on an order, reading news headlines and knowing what tune’s playing (Shazam will also display lyrics) with a glance at my wrist.

Apple Watch-wearing Comcast video customers can also rejoice (while the now seduced and abandoned Time-Warner Cable users bemoan) that an  Xfinity TV app is also ready for the using today, to turn the wrist-commander into a voice-activated remote control.  Comcast Cable video services vp/general manager Matt Strauss describes it thusly:  “Whether at home or on the go, X1 users can now quickly and easily change the channel, manage their DVR, pause, fast-forward and rewind, all with the sound of their voice or a few taps on the Apple watch. Plus, you can search for movies, shows, actors, sports teams, musicians or speak customized search into the watch like: “What’s on tonight at 8?” or “Are there any baseball games on?” and you’ll see it soon on your TV screen.” 

Jonathan Takiff @ 11:22 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, April 24, 2015, 11:14 AM
Jonathan Takiff @ 11:14 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, April 23, 2015, 2:20 PM

Bless their pointed little heads. There’s a lot of fun ‘n games (literally), lots of  user-friendly tech mixed with the  serious stuff at this  year’s Philadelphia Science Festival, commencing Friday and concluding with the big Science Carnival on the Parkway, May 2.

Friday night’s PSF Kick Off Party – billed “Science After Hours 8 Bit-Night” -  sounds especially fun and broad in appeal for the 21+ set. As title implies, it’s devoted to the classic video games of your/our youth.  Play “Galaga” on the dome of the Fels Planetarium!  Dissect an arcade machine!  Join the fashionistas  making music  on an old-school  Gameboy ! Tap into the science that got “Frogger” and Mario hopping. And if the rush of nostalgia for  gaming’s past makes you sad, drown your sorrows with the official Yards Brewing Company’s Science Festival beer, “Parallel  Brewniverse.” All happening 7-10 p.m., Friday, April 24 at the Frankin Institute, 222 N. 20th Street.

Ripe for all ages – “Robot Build Day,” mid-day Sunday at the Next Fab makers space , shares  tricks of the trade as you learn to make your own.  And demonstrates not all robots are named “Robbie” or demand “take me to your leader.”  3D printers – a big Next Fab thing – have robotic functions, too.  10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at 2025 Washington Ave.

Jonathan Takiff @ 2:20 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Wednesday, April 15, 2015, 3:27 PM

Your obedient Gizmo Guy falls asleep during deep discussions of business-to-business software,  search engine optimization, Big Data collection and other “important” but arcane tech affairs. His eyes perked up with pleasure, though,  to see how Philly Tech Week is kicking off its fifth annual fete  on Friday  with a whole day (into evening)  geared to the marriage of Tech and Culture.  That is, to discussions  of  devices  and support systems  used to make, entertain and enlighten. Essentially, the fun and games side of tech that works both sides of the brain.  Who can’t get their heads into (and maybe learn) something like that?

Last we looked, there were still openings to register (at phillytechweek.com) for TechniCulture, the  Friday morning program hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut St.  Drexel University ExCite Center director Youngmoo Kim will rally the cause  for STEAM  ( as opposed to STEM)  education in the schools, underscoring how the addition and stimulations of ART build on our understanding  and creative application of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.  (Lots of art educators have signed up for this one.) Also in the program mix- a  bunch of  short ‘n’ sweet (TED-style) talkers will speak to the ways “techsperts” and cultural institutions are working together for the benefit of both presenters  and their audiences.  A perfect case in point is the Philadelphia Orchestra’s “LiveNote” program – which text-messages  music analysis and fun historical anecdotes to concert-goers’ smart phones while the Orchestra plays.  If you’re participating in TechniCulture, be sure to  bring (and not turn off) a smartphone or tablet for this and other interactive demonstrations.

Honestly, just a couple participants in the Philly Startup Crawl (4-8 p.m.Friday) fall at all into the day’s tech/culture mashup theme.  But just the idea of popping in and out of  eight  creative beehives  co-located in a compact,  center city corrider  for a fast look see and free beer sounds  invigorating. And better than mourning the sellout of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s on-point Tech Tour (5:30 to 7 p.m.) PMoA’s interactive tech team Ariel Schwartz, Ashley Scrivener  and Peter Alt will define their mission, successes and failures,  lead a walking tour of technologies installed and prototypes being developed for upcoming designs. Yes, there’s more to museum tech  than automated tour guide players. Take, please, their  new “mobile way finder” to lead you to the art, or touch screen companions that zoom in and explain the fine details of an oft-overlooked  Van Eyk miniature or  the ornate Chinese Temple  sitting in the Asian Wing.  

Jonathan Takiff @ 3:27 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 10:26 AM

PHILADELPHIA (April 7, 2015) –As a special birthday gift to the woman widely considered to be one of the greatest vocalists of the 20th century, The Philadelphia Music Alliance Walk of Fame is proud to welcome BILLIE HOLIDAY as its newest inductee today on the 100th anniversary of her birth in the City of Brotherly Love.

Billie Holiday, aka “Lady Day,” is only the first of this year’s inductees to be announced. The Philadelphia Music Alliance (PMA) will hold a press reception in late May to announce the rest of the Walk of Fame’s Class of 2015. Holiday and the rest of the new honorees will be formally inducted together in October during ceremonies along the Avenue of the Arts.

"The Philadelphia Music Alliance wanted to present what we think is a 'perfect' birthday gift to an extraordinary vocalist, Billie Holiday, and announce her induction on her 100th birthday," said Alan Rubens, Chairman of the Philadelphia Music Alliance.  "It will be an absolute pleasure to be able to walk down Broad Street and see her name where it rightfully belongs, on the Philadelphia Music Walk of Fame, with other homegrown jazz giants like John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, and Grover Washington Jr.”  

Jonathan Takiff @ 10:26 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Tuesday, April 7, 2015, 9:45 AM
Apple Watches are seen on display during an Apple media event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, California on March 09, 2015.(Photo: Josh Edelson (AFP/Getty Images)

Thinking about buying an Apple Watch? You can wait for Friday morning, when Apple stores will begin pre-sale previews and (five to fifteen minute) fitting sessions by appointment.

Or you can put off a decision to the launch date, April 24 (or maybe a day or two before), when Apple pundits pile on with reviews - likely to rave about the product’s polish and ease of use, to proclaim it “the first smart watch for smarties” or “the only wearable worth wearing.”

Among its special allures, Apple’s wrist computer is the first “phone-tethered” model you can actually lift to your mouth to make a call, “Dick Tracy” style. The only smartwatch that will scan in-coming messages to predictively ready one-touch responses to questions like “Chinese food or Sushi?” (Creepy and cool.) An Apple Watch can blast you with news headlines by the second, function as a charge card, use “geo-fencing” to automatically open your garage door as you near the house. Even without an iPhone (5 or 6) in your pocket, it will track footsteps, show off photos and feed music wirelessly to a Bluetooth headset. And, in case you were worrying, this thing can keep on ticking as a time keeper for three or four days between recharges, though heavier chores require a daily power-up.

Jonathan Takiff @ 9:45 AM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Friday, April 3, 2015, 1:16 PM

Gizmo Guy  loves a hot and high tech ride.  Two with local connections  have been dangled before his eyes in the last few days. He even got to test drive one.

Yesterday,  an amazing-looking entry in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 was unveiled at Franklin Institute. Why here?

Entry No. 29 – the TE Connectivity Honda – is loaded with high performance auto parts – including communicating sensors, cables and connectors  – developed by the Berwyn-based  division of global car parts giant  TE Connectivity.  All to spirit  the cause of driver Simona de Silvestro, the first and currently only female driver currently confirmed to qualify for the 500-mile race.  

Jonathan Takiff @ 1:16 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
About this blog
Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them.. Reach Jonathan at takiffj@phillynews.com.

Jonathan Takiff Inquirer Columnist