Google Gives Tablet Video Viewers A Taste Of Its Knowledge Graph With Play Movies & TV Update

Jack Black

We’ve all been there: you’ll be watching a movie when someone familiar enters the frame, and you just can’t place a name to the face. Well, if you’re watching said movie on an Android tablet, those days may soon be over. Google has just pushed out an update to its Play Movies & TV app lets users tap into the search giant’s Knowledge Graph as soon as they pause a flick.

Long story short, users who pause in the middle of a supported film or TV episode will be treated to “info cards” that display related information like related films and actor profiles. It sounds novel enough, but it’s really the little touches that seem the most impressive — tapping on a character’s face for instance prompts the app to identify the person’s face to populate the info card with the right actor info, and it’s even savvy enough to identify background music. Granted, this isn’t a strictly new concept (the Google Play Books app has been able to this for the past six months or so), but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the Google video fold.

A brief aside: for all the ink (digital and otherwise) spilt on the promise of tablets as an entertainment companion, this is easily one of the neater steps forward for mobile video that I’ve seen. Maybe it’s just me, but I hardly ever feel the compulsion to socially share my media consumption habits — well, beyond dropping the occasional Doctor Who reference in the TechCrunch backchannel that is. Other apps may focus on bringing those conversations to the fore, surfacing context-sensitive information in an unobtrusive way is a more substantive addition in my book.

Sadly, the scope of the feature is pretty limited for now — according to Google’s list those info cards will only appear in a about 192 movies (though its working to build out its library of supported titles), and even then the cards will only appear if you’re using the app on a tablet running Android 4.0 or later in the United States. Yeesh. Google eventually aims to roll out this feature on a wider scale, but there’s no word yet on when you trivia-hungry international types will be able to get in on the fun.

North Korea Cuts Off 3G Access For Foreign Visitors Just Weeks After Allowing It

Flag-map_of_North_Korea.svg

Just weeks after first allowing foreign visitors to access 3G networks, North Korea has reportedly cut off mobile Internet service for short-term tourists, reports North Korea Tech (h/t Tech In Asia), which spotted a notice on Koryo Tours’ Web site. The Beijing-based company, which specializes in arranging tours to North Korea, said:

“3G access is no longer available for tourists to the DPRK. Sim cards can still be purchased to make international calls but no internet access is available.”

Foreigners visiting North Korea were allowed to get uncensored 3G data for the first time on March 1. Typically banned services like Twitter and Skype were available on the network, which was set up by Koryolink, a joint venture of Egyptian company Orascom Telecom Holding and North Korean state-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation (KPTC). North Koreans are blocked from accessing the global Web and allowed only a few services, such as MMS messaging and subscriptions to Rodong Sinmun, the state-run newspaper.

There’s no word yet on why North Korea decided to cut off 3G access for visitors, but it could be because the government was unnerved by the worldwide interest in tweets, Instagram pics, and other online missives sent by visitors to the highly-secretive country. The news that the DPRK has suspended 3G access for foreigners comes hours after North Korean state media said that the country’s military has ordered rocket and artillery units to be on “highest alert” to strike bases on the U.S. mainland, Guam, Hawaii, and other targets in the Pacific and South Korea. In response, Seoul said it hadn’t detected any warning signs of an attack, while the Pentagon said that U.S. military bases are ready to respond to “any contigency.”

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Meet Forecast, The Web App That Has Web App Developers Drooling

forecast

Anyone remember the last time I said “Wow! Look at how pretty this web app is!”? Because I don’t.

At least, not before this morning when I saw Forecast.

Warning before anyone is like “WTF? Why is TechCrunch writing about a weather app? UNSUBSCRIIIIIBE”: Yeah, Forecast is a weather app. But it’s a really, really pretty weather app.

Brought to you by the same guys who built Dark Sky (which is already one of the prettiest native weather apps), Forecast is a rather remarkable demonstration of what web apps — in both mobile and standard form — can do with good scripting and solid design (you can <a class="colorbox" target="_blank" href="You can read all about the development of Forecast here“>read all about the development process here.)

First, check it out in your computer’s browser. Click around a bit. Tap the little Play button beneath the globe. Drag the pin around. Shift through historical weather data in the Time Machine. Your mind blown yet?

Now check it out on your Android phone or iPhone. Play with the amazingly smooth sliding drawers, and the buttery slide-in navigation bar. If your mind still isn’t blown, you’ve never tried to build something like this on the web. Or you have and you’re just way, way too cool for your own good.

I figured I was just easily impressed, but just about every code-minded person I follow on the Twitters has raved about Forecast sometime in the past two hours. Even the Hacker News crowd had nary a negative comment. I kind of wish I didn’t have to add the web app to my homescreen before I was allowed to play with it, but given the way people tend to stumble upon weather apps when they need them and then immediately forget about them once they’re done, it’s a forgivable retention trick.

Hell, even people who look at web apps all damn day are impressed. Here’s our friend Lisa Brewster, who used to fight for better web apps at Palm and now reviews web apps and web app standards for Mozilla’s upcoming Firefox OS:

Bar, set. Welcome to my home screen, Forecast. .

Malaysian Investment Firm Catcha Sets Aside $150M For Asean Startups

catcha

Catcha Group, a Malaysia-based investment firm has announced it will invest up to $150 million in Asean-based online businesses over the next five years. The funds will come both from the top as well as through the Catcha Group’s subsidiaries.

The company’s online assets are worth over $300 million together, according to reports. Catcha’s CEO, Patrick Grove, said the decision to carve out the funding is because the company is seeing a rise in ideas and entrepreneurs in the region, and is keen to make successful exists from these investments.

One of Catcha’s crowning investments was its $300,000 investment into the iProperty portal in 2007, which today is worth $170 million.

Catcha has its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and offices in Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Its digital and print publishing arm, Catcha Media, is listed on the Malaysian stock exchange’s junior board. The company’s iProperty and iCarAsia site are both listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

(via e27)

ZTE Is Betting On China's Nascent 4G Network To Bolster Its Flagging Profitability

zte-logo-001

ZTE is honing in on increased investment in 4G networks by China’s major telecom operators as it struggles to catch up with domestic rival Huawei Technologies, reports Reuters.

ZTE and Huawei are expected to compete for most 4G network contracts with China’s three major carriers (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom) because the two telecom equipment makers have support from the Chinese government.

Securing contracts is especially important for ZTE because its performance has been lagging behind Huawei. ZTE warned in January that it will post its first-ever annual loss for 2012 (its earnings release is scheduled for later this week). According to ZTE, its net loss for 2012 will be between 2.5 billion yuan and 2.9 billion yuan due to delays in network projects and a decline in handset revenue. That is the first annual loss for the company since it went public in Shenzhen in 1997.

ZTE’s strategy since the mid-1990s has been to focus on aggressively expanding overseas, taking on rivals Ericsson, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, and Nokia Siemens in emerging markets such as India. The company’s expansion has often shaved away at its profitability because ZTE offers prices so low competitors often give up instead of matching the bids. But Huawei still holds an advantage over ZTE because Huawei’s larger size gives it an edge when offering lower bids on contracts with carriers. Huawei, the world’s second-largest telecoms equipment maker after Ericsson, has forecast that its 2012 net earnings will rise 33 percent to 15.4 billion yuan.

ZTE has said that it hopes to recover and make a profit in 1Q2013 by cutting costs and focusing on developed markets like the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

Though China’s 4G network expansion will also be a key part of ZTE’s strategy, it may have to wait a bit longer for to reap the rewards because TD-LTE is still waiting for approval from the Chinese government. But China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom have already been busy building out their infrastructure. Together, the three companies will spend 345 billion yuan ($56 billion USD) on expanding their 4G networks this year.

China Mobile, the world’s biggest wireless network operator by subscribers, wants to set up trial networks in 100 large cities by the end of this year. In February, the telecom giant turned up pressure on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to start issuing 4G licenses soon by announcing that it was preparing to launch a “trial commercial” service in Guangzhou and Shenzhen with customized Galaxy S3 smartphones from Samsung. China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua said at the Mobile World Congress last month that his company’s 4G network would cover about 500 million people in 100 cities by the end of this year, and that his company is working with ZTE and HTC in addition to Samsung to develop smartphones that can run on TD-LTE networks.

LIFX Smart Bulb Opens Up Second Batch Of 100K Pre-Orders, Demos Gesture-Based Dimming

lifx-bulb

Australian hardware startup and Kickstarter success story LIFX has good news for people who missed out on backing the initial project: it’s opening up a second round of pre-orders, with a new production run of 100,000 units, sold directly through its website. LIFX sold out its pre-order allotment on Kickstarter in just six days, blowing past $1M, which is 10 times its original funding target.

LIFX’s original ship date was slated for March of 2013, but as of today co-founder Andrew Birt says the first 500 units should be rolling off the line in about four weeks time with a May/June Kickstarter shipping timeframe in mind, which isn’t that much of a delay in Kickstarter time. That’s why the company has now released the video above, which shows the production prototype in action, connecting to Wi-Fi, being controlled by the remote app with light color changing features and a demo of gesture-based dimming in action.

The new second batch of LIFX bulbs is set for a September 2013 delivery date, so they’ll come after the startup fulfills its Kickstarter pledge pre-orders. All bulb types, including Edison screw, Bayonet and Downlight mounts, start at $79 (just $10 more than the original Kickstarter single-bulb price), and all have price breaks for bulk orders.

Unlike Philips Hue, LIFX bulbs don’t require a base to connect to your network, and the Edison screw and Bayonet types are rated at 900 lumens on the LIFX (around 80w), while max brightness on the Hue is just 600 lumens (roughly 50w). Philips Hue bulbs cost $20 less per unit, but you also have to buy the starter kit which includes the base to get up and running, a $199 initial investment. Of course, the ultimate test will be in performance, so we’ll have to see how LIFX compares to the generally very positive reviews the Philips Hue is garnering.

Apple Updates Podcasts App, Adds Custom Stations With iCloud Sync And Fixes Playback Resume Bug

apple-podcasts

Apple has just issued Podcasts version 1.2, which brings a long list of improvements to the iOS app. Among the changes are a new feature that lets users generate their own custom playlists with any podcasts they choose, with auto-updating of new episodes for each. Stations are stored in iCloud and synced across devices, and users can choose to start with either the most recent episode or oldest unplayed one.

The update also adds on-the-go playlist creation and syncing of playlists back to iTunes, and fixes a problem users were reporting with playback not resuming correctly when jumping back into the app from another or the home screen. The interface has also been changed, notably doing away with skeuomorphic elements in favor of something cleaner and more in line with the native iTunes music player.

The playback issues and interface were both resulting in some pretty negative reviews from users on the App Store. Now, the app looks to be much improved, and the new Stations feature actually adds a lot of value versus the old instantiation where podcasts were simply rolled in as part of the Music app on iOS.

Apple has a lot of competition in the App Store for its own podcasts app, including Casts, Podcaster, iCatcher and PodCruncher to name a few. Its original release of Podcasts failed to impress a lot of users, but this second kick at the can looks to get a lot of things right on the surface at least, which could mean less breathing room for the non-Apple competition.

As Mashery Tops 185K Developers, CEO Says Competitor Apigee Is The Pepsi To Mashery's Coke

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 1.01.42 PM

Mashery API management platform has continued to grow steadily. After growing from 35,000 developers in its network to 100,000 in a year, the company now has over 185,000 developers on its network — that’s a roughly 15% jump from the 160,000 developers the company touted back in July.

But that doesn’t mean CEO Oren Michels is ready to rest on his laurels. In a TCTV interview with TechCrunch, Michels explained that the growth in wearable computing devices (whether it be quantified self or HUD headsets) will provide new challenges and opportunities for the company.

“These devices are compact and connected in ways where they’re bandwidth constrained and processor constrained,” said Michels. “We want to send them exactly the data they need, in the format they need it, and only what they need.”

Although this poses challenges for most API makers, Michels claims that Mashery is poised for this transition with its API Packager tool, which lets someone like a product manager (not a developer) “slice and dice” information down to what’s necessary on various platforms.

But what about competition from Layer7 and Apigee? After all, the API marketplace is far more integral to modern-day business than most people give credit for.

According to Michels, Mashery dominates its market. When asked about Apigee’s API Management products, specifically the deeper analytics platform, the CEO said that “Apigee is a great company, and when the market sees a Coke, they want there to be a Pepsi.”

“So they tend to put us in the same realm,” he admitted. Apigee is a mobile-focused API management platform that recently raised a huge round just a day after Mashery announced a $10 million Series D. The company has put a lot of focus on delivering better data analysis to its customers from its APIs.

Still, Michels said that Mashery’s developer network is 10x the size of the next competitor’s, and that he sees Apigee and Mashery as coming from two very different places.

“They started as a hardware router and software router company and have added some API management stuff,” he said. “We started as a multi-tenant SaaS platform for APIs and have been doing that for the last seven years.”

With over 185,000 developers currently, and over 50,000 apps using Mashery APIs as of July, Mashery continues to try and increase outreach with developers. The company often provides data back to developers, like when they should implement ecommerce applications during times of increased purchasing activity. Mashery also held over 80 hackathons last year to promote use of its APIs.

“Developers seem pretty happy with what we provide,” said the CEO.

Along With Acquisitions In The U.S., Yahoo Is Also Beefing Up In EMEA With 200 Hires This Year

yahoo

Yahoo has been moving swiftly to bring talent back into the company — with a number of acquisitions (one only yesterday) and etudes made to ex-employees to return to the purple fold. It’s also, it appears, staffing up internationally as well. Today the company announced that it would be hiring 200 more people over the next 12 months for jobs covering the EMEA region, specifically based out of Dublin and in areas like customer support, technology, operations, HR and finance.

Expanding staff in the region is a sign of how the company intends its recovery strategy to go beyond what it is doing in the U.S. and to attempt to hold on to market position that it has globally. It has a long way to go in this part of the world, though. In UK search engine rankings from the end of last year, Yahoo was a distant third (along with equally distant number-two Bing), behind Google, which pushes 90% market share.

The moves come after a period where Europe was not immune to some of the larger staff reductions at Yahoo. When the company laid off 2,000 employees under then-CEO Scott Thompson — one of the bigger and deeper rounds of cuts at the company prior to the arrival of Marissa Mayer to replace Thompson — Europe faced hundreds of cuts as a result. Ironically, Rich Riley, who had been the head of EMEA at the time, then left Yahoo himself following Thompson’s exit.

In addition to more localized operations in cities like London, where Yahoo has a team of people working in advertising sales, Yahoo has had an operations center in Dublin for 10 years, and it shares the city as a regional HQ with the likes of Google and Facebook. 

VC Firm E.ventures Makes Its Internal Tracking Tool, The Daily Gieselmann, Available To All

eventures-logo

A few years ago, E.ventures co-founder Tom Gieselmann decided to try to use data to give his firm a competitive advantage. And so he built a tracking tool to keep tabs on how different web properties were growing over time. The Daily Gieselmann, named ater its founder, has been used by the company internally over that time. But it’s now being opened up for anyone to use.

Rather than rely strictly on metrics provided by the companies that E.ventures was looking to invest in, the Daily Gieselmann gave the firm a more objective look at how potential and existing investments were doing. The platform also keeps screenshots of every new site indexed, so that users can quickly see what they are.

Using third-party data from Alexa and other providers, the internal dashboard helped the firm determine which companies were adding users and increasing engagement, which were stalled, and which were actually declining. It’s also a great way to discover under-the-radar companies to put money into.

The platform enables folks at E.ventures to get updates on these companies daily. But more importantly, it sees the effects of user growth over time. Gieselmann sends out a weekly newsletter with new entrants to the growth index, and also makes note of companies and websites that are already on it, but have hit record highs.

While Alexa is generally an imperfect tool for absolute traffic or page rank, E.ventures has found that it does a pretty good job of measuring growth over time. That said, rather than rely solely on the company’s trending data, E.ventures actually captures the rankings daily and does its own trend analysis based on the data over time.

Also, it’s not just Alexa — The Daily Gieselmann also takes into account data from iTunes, taking into account the App Store, eBooks, Movies, and TV purchases. (Gieselmann says he’s not that interested in music, which is why the dashboard doesn’t also track music sales.) Using the CrunchBase API, the Daily Geiselmann also lets users cross-reference ranking and trend data across company and investor into that has been collected their over the years.

While the internal E.ventures dashboard was useful to people like Gieselmann, who knew the right tags to tease data out of it, it wouldn’t be very useful to the average user. That is, until recently, when the team threw a more useful user interface on it. Now, other data junkies can mine the data that E.ventures has collected over the years.

Uber Drivers Gather Outside SF Office To Protest Dismissals, Payment System, Lack Of Input

uber logo

A group of current and former Uber drivers gathered outside the startup’s San Francisco headquarters to protest what they said was unfair treatment by the company. When I arrived at around 5:45pm, a group of 30 were chanting, “No respect, no Uber!” every time someone left the building.

The person leading the chants, Rajab Alazzeh of SF Best Limo, had apparently been asked by the other drivers to serve as an unofficial spokesman, and he rattled off a number of demands. He said that Uber needs to lower the company’s payment cut from 20 percent to 10 percent, to designate a specific portion of the payment as tip that’s paid directly to drivers, to offer health insurance (which Alazzeh said had been promised), to make the drivers into full employees with W2 paperwork, and to stop bringing on “unlicensed, illegal, unsafe operators” who don’t have TCP certificates and permits.

One of the big grievances was the fact that drivers have been dismissed for low ratings. Alazzeh said that Uber always takes the side of the passenger in these situations, even if the passenger was drunk and the driver was sober. He added that Uber doesn’t want to make the drivers employees, yet it essentially has the power to hire and fire them. Another driver, Karim Harcha of Actor Limousine Services, complained that Uber cut all three of his cars from the service four days ago because of user ratings.

In the past, I’ve heard Uber drivers grumble about the launch of the more affordable service UberX, which black car drivers said had hurt their business. I asked Alazzeh if that was also one of his grievances, and he answered, “We have no input. They call us partners, but that’s just in word.”

I also why they decided to hold their demonstration now, and Alazzeh said it was because 500 drivers were dismissed in February.

“But the treatment has been going on for more than a year,” he added. “They treat us like slaves. We helped them build this business here in San Francisco, and this is the payment they show us.”

Alazzeh also said that this was a nationwide demonstration, with drivers protesting in other cities include New York and Philadelphia, but that the biggest concentration was in SF, since this was the main office. In San Francisco at least, most of the drivers had dispersed by about 6:45pm.

I’ve emailed Uber to ask about Alazzeh’s statements and will update if I hear back.

The Samsung Galaxy S 4 And Its De-Googling Of Android Suggests We Might See A Split

img_white_origin_08

Samsung did something fairly surprising given that it included the most recent version of Android, 4.2.2, on its brand new Galaxy S 4 smartphone: it didn’t talk about that much at all last night at the special launch event. Maybe the company was too busy trying to cram as many song and dance numbers into the show as possible, but maybe that’s because Samsung will soon take what it needs from Android and go its own way.

Which isn’t to say it would get rid of Android altogether – just that it might choose to follow Amazon’s example and build a version of Android that’s virtually unrecognizable on the surface from the Google mobile OS that will be running on the vast majority of other OEM handsets. The more control Samsung has over the OS running on its devices, the greater its take of revenue resulting from software and media use, and the better it can solidify its position at the top of the global smartphone market.

More than any other Android device manufacturer, Samsung made a point with its latest generation of flagship device to outline software features that help it stand apart: Dual-Shot, Sound Shot, Drama Shot, Air Gesture, Air View, S-Travel, S-Health, S-Voice, S-Translator, S-Voice Drive Knox, Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, Group Play, etc. The list of features that were Samsung-specific was long, and many of those actually included services that can be considered alternatives to Google’s own offerings: S-Voice and S-Translator can do a lot of what Google’s own software offerings can provide, for example, and use Nuance tech, not Google’s, to get it done.

Even leaving the major software service announcements aside, small things like the new Bluetooth controller and ability for S-Health to plug into third-party devices signal a desire to start attracting more content to Samsung’s own OEM-specific ecosystem.

Samsung also offers its own Samsung Apps for delivering software specific to its devices, and has signed on Swiftkey to provide its software keyboard, another way to differentiate itself from those using stock or skinned Android input mechanisms. Samsung Apps itself isn’t new, but a key effort from the Korean company to attract more developers to that platform is aiming to make it more of a destination for developers and consumers. Samsung announced a campaign in February to sign on indie developers to Samsung Apps, offering 100 percent of all revenue from software sold there to developers.

That’s a big incentive over the standard revenue split of 70/30 in the Google Play marketplace, and one made even more attractive by the fact that even if developers target only Samsung devices, at this point they’re still reaching the vast majority of Android smartphone users worldwide. Likewise, Samsung should be able to use its market advantage to add even more content to its own dedicated media marketplaces (including the music store powered by 7digital), which could get a boost in terms of consumer interest from the new Group Play collaborative media sharing feature introduced for the Galaxy S 4.

Amazon had it backwards: it started off trying to stake out its own territory apart from Google’s own Android encampment. Samsung instead is taking what it needs from Android and slowly building up reserves to strike out on its own. It still has a ways to go before it gets there (Play is still just a far better ecosystem than Samsung’s own media and software stores), but eventually the chance to strike off on its own and own a more direct relationship with customers by forking Android development could be just too tempting the next time a new flagship update rolls around.

Why There's No Protest Over Government Surveillance

cispa-passes-house

The Internet’s biggest organizations collectively rose up in outrage over a potential act of government censorship, yet have been conspicuously silent as Congress mulls sweeping new government surveillance authority. In 2012, most major websites staged a massive global blackout in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which would have granted authority to shut down websites associated with piracy. Yet as congress considers broad new sensitive data-sharing rules under the eerily named, Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), there is not even a hint of outrage. The deafening silence reveals a culture within Silicon Valley that cares far more about information than civil liberties.

A Muted Meeting With Obama Over Surveillance 

According to those who attended a recent meeting between top tech CEOs and President Obama, the consensus was that the government should have a “light touch” over their data sharing practices. CISPA would grant immunity to top Internet sites for sharing personal information that aids authorities in combating malicious cyber threats. The bill’s original mandatory safety provisions have been slimmed down to voluntary guidelines after tech and business-friendly legislators blocked the requirements as overly-burdensome.

But, on the subject of civil liberties, there seems to be little concern.

Big Business Likes CISPA, But Why Other Big Orgs? 

The legal entitlements to big companies make it easy to see why they have a vested interest in supporting CISPA, but why no outrage from other web organizations that protested SOPA? Alexis Ohanian, founder of the widely popular aggregator, Reddit, explained to me why he hasn’t seen the same reaction from his community over privacy concerns,

“The big reason is the imminent threat of shutting down things we love (like reddit, all of social media etc) that sopa/pipa provided. Whereas the obliteration of 4th amendment rights to privacy online isn’t as blatant, sadly, so it’s harder to rally around,” he writes.

Information Over Individualism

However, Ohanian’s argument doesn’t fully explain the lack of outrage, given that the Internet community has risen up over other issues. When Washington D.C. tried to impose fees on beloved car-ride sharing service Uber, tech blogs and twitter lit were incensed. “Wow, a business (Uber) is prevented from lowering its prices.. wait.. what? We live in America, right?” tweeted Google Venture Partner, and Digg Co-Founder, Kevin Rose.

The same Internet flash lobby has spontaneously organized over free access to academic research, a Wikipedia slander law in Malaysia, and a sedition law in the Philippines.

The truth is, web culture is far more attached to the free flow of information than notions of individualism. The web is founded on interdependence, innovation, and discovery. These are the values that ignite the passions of those who create (and control) the World Wide Web. Civil liberties are a concern, but don’t trigger the same sense of urgency. Privacy, ownership, sovereignty, expression, and choice, will all be overshadowed by transparency, sharing, global citizenship, and wisdom.

Government watchdog groups can try to spark protest all they want, but the actions of the Internet community has already spoken: civil liberties are not a priority.

Read more of this argument at The Washington Post.

[Image: Lumin Consulting]

White House Launches ‘Being Joe Biden' Portal. Can't…Get…Enough…Folksy

joebidenfanclub640

In case you can’t get enough of the folksy musings of “America’s Happy Warrior,” the White House has launched the Being Joe Biden Portal. “If you want to keep people away during an earthquake, buy some shotgun shells,” said Vice President Biden, in response to a question about assault weapons bans during a Google+ hangout last January. If Biden’s first broadcast is any indication, the audio series will surely bring weekly smiles from the Veep’s lovable down-home charm.

“Hey folks, I want to tell you about this picture you’re looking at,” says Biden. “These are a couple of guys in their hunting shirts that I’m serving a meal to.”

Biden’s adorable mix of brash honesty and middle-America anecdotes has made him something of a curious icon, as the man second in line to the world’s most powerful position.

To his credit, he’s has been a great sport with the Internet’s prodding over his deflection of regality. Early last year, one of the Veep’s tweets went viral, after he referenced The Onion’s TransAm parody of him.

You can get your timely giggles and/or inspiration at his portal, here.

[Image: Diesel Sweeties]