Episode 19 News: Busy Bees

Google has passed Microsoft to become the world’s second-largest technology company, which was not the only bummer for the gang from Redmond this week. The analytics firm Net Applications put out some numbers this week that showed that with Windows 8 due at the end of the month, users are five times less likely to be running the brand new operating system than they were when everyone was counting down to the arrival of the Windows 7 system back in 2009.

Facebook is trying to head off another user meltdown over its privacy practices when it comes to advertisers. In a post on the company blog, Joey Tyson, Facebook’s privacy engineer, explained a bit more about its new efforts and deal with the Datalogix company for user data. At least the allegations of people’s private Facebook messages showing up in public Timelimes seem to be false.

Also false: the promise that Motorola Atrix 4G smartphone owners would get the Android 4.0 update. Sorry Atrix 4G owners, no Ice Cream Sammich update for you. But while Google plows ahead with Android development for newer phones, its Chrome desktop browser has not been able overtake Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox in worldwide browser share.

On the security beat, a White House official confirmed an attempted cyber attack last month. Everybody needs to watch out for those spear phishing schemes.

After all the hoo-hah of the iPhone 5 release, Apple ended September in a more subdued manner. Chief Exec Tim Cook issued a written apology last week for the sad state of the Apple Maps app in iOS 6 and Ping — its largely ignored social network for music lovers — closed its doors for good this week. Rumors of the rumored announcement for the rumored iPad Mini may lift the mood though, as some sites are whispering that Apple may be sending out invitations next week for the rumored event.

Still, Apple is probably not happy that a U.S. court lifted the ban on sales of Samsung’s Galaxy 10.1 tablet here in the States or that Samsung has now added the iPhone 5 to its own patent suit against Apple. All of these patent punch-outs are heating up as more people take the plunge and buy a tablet computer. Studies from the Pew Research Center report that 25% of all adults in the US have a tablet computer. (If you just got a tablet and your kid is all over it, you might want to know that Netflix has added a Just for Kids section to its streaming video app for the iPad.)

Meanwhile, scientists continue to study nature for better ways to construct artificial systems. While Stanford University is looking at ants for networking tips, researchers from the English Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are working on a project that studies bees. They plan to use collected information about bee brains and sensory systems to create neural models for a simulated bee brain in a flying robot. A flying robot with embedded bee wisdom can hopefully navigate better and make its own basic decisions up in the air on search-and-rescue missions and other peaceful activities.

And finally, this weekend marks the 60th Anniversary of the humble barcode. The invention  made inventory tracking easier, sped up checkouts at the grocery store and led to more modern day versions like Mobi Tags and QR Codes. All together now, “Yes, we SCAN!”

 

Comics Relief

For East Coasters, New York Comic Con rolls into the Javits Center from October 11-14, bringing fans and creators together on the West Side of Manhattan. But even if you’re not making the schlep to NYCC, if you’re a current or lapsed reader and haven’t checked out the digital side of comics, you have plenty of options for keeping up (and catching up) with your favorite titles on an Android or iOS device.

Many serious aficionados of the digital comic book favor the app simply called Comics by ComiXology, which has versions for Android, iOS and the Kindle Fire. The Comics app is best known for its huge selection of titles from mainstream and indie publishers and its Guided View mode, which shows you one page panel at a time in sequence. This can be great for reading big pages on the small phone. ComiXology also has a junior version of its comics-store-and-reader for iOS called Comics4Kids, which keeps the adult material out of sight.

If you are seriously partisan — either DC Comics or Marvel Comics — you can get specific apps for each, but both are powered under the cape by ComiXolgy’s technology. Marvel’s site has links to the Marvel Augmented Reality App, which lets you unlock exclusive bonus content when you scan Marvel products with your Android or iOS device; the site also has a Marvel Events app for conventions. DC Comics has other apps as well, like the family-friendly DC Nation. And DC has two apps tied to The Dark Knight Rises, but they only work on Nokia Windows Phones.

Some comic-book publishers have their own standalone apps, like Dark Horse and Star Trek comics. Other notable comics apps for iOS and Android include Comics+ and Komik Reader for Android and Panefly for iOS. You can also find some trade graphic novels in Apple’s iBookstore, Amazon’s Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store.

Even if you read your comics on your phone or tablet, you may find yourself missing the hustle and bustle of your favorite comics shop on a Wednesday afternoon. If you want to mix and match your media, check the app store. Your store may have an app of its own — like good ol’ Midtown Comics here in Manhattan, which has an app for pre-orders, pickups and product searches. It’s the best of both worlds, and we’re not talking about Earth 1 and Earth 2.