Stylish Styli

It may come as a surprise to, um, absolutely no one that El Kaiser can get very obsessive about certain things. Headphones? Check. Batman? Yup. Tablets? Uh d’uh. My latest fixation is with stylus pens for tablets and smartphones. The snazzier the styli, the better I say! On this week’s episode J.D. and I kick the tires on three stylus pens to determine which we like best.

First up was the $29.95 Hand Stylus. This weighted, pen-like stylus features a retractable nib that can be easily replaced when it wears down and is made from anodized aluminum.


The replacement nibs sell for $9.95 for a set of six.


Boxwave‘s no frills Capacitive Stylus was the next pen we tried out. The list price is $15 but retails on most websites for under $10.

capacitive_stylus_mainThe last pen we took a look at was the $25 wide-grip Cosmonaut stylus from StudioNeat. Like the Hand Stylus, the Cosmonaut began as a Kickstarter project before expanding into a retail operation.


Listen to Episode 44: Nibs! Nibs! Nibs! to see which of these very stylish styli J.D. and I select as our favorite.

Eye OS

It was a busy week for cyber-hijinks. Take, for example, the Associated Press’s official Twitter account getting hacked earlier this week with the message “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.” (Oh, for those simpler days when intruders would just post the word “Poopin’” on invaded Twitter accounts.) Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report found a lot of corporate espionage and that state-sponsored cyber attacks have become much more prevalent.

LG Electronics has an event planned for early May in New York City and where it’s expected to announce the US arrival of its Optimus G Pro smartphone with SmartVideo eye recognition technology. And a code-reader looking at the Android app that comes with the new Google Glass spectacles claims to have found a few lines referring to eye gestures as a way of controlling the glasses.

In mobile news, the popular visual blogging site, Tumblr, has rolled out advertisements for is Android and iOS mobile apps. iTunes users will also be happy to know Apple has added an option to download large purchases later if you buy new music or video over a flimsy data network connection, you now get the option to defer the actually download until you’re home on your zippy WiFi network. And Yahoo has released a new app for iOS devices that has already incorporated summaries from the Summly service it bought a month ago for $30 million dollars.

hubbleMeanwhile, out in space, the Hubble telescope has found a hidden globular cluster of stars and also celebrates its 23rd birthday this week. To celebrate, the Hubble observatory captured an image the Horsehead Nebula in infrared light. Happy birthday, Hubble! Back on (Google) Earth, the new 7.1 update to 3D globe-spinning software has added support for the Leap Motion gesture-based controller. (The $80 Leap Motion controller itself starts shipping on May 13 rolling out later this year.)

Video fans have helped Netflix bounce back from kerfuffles over its pricing plans and other issues to beat HBO in terms of total number of subscribers in America. Netflix has also been crowned the biggest bandwidth hog, chewing up 33% of downstream Internet traffic. And those who occasionally switch over the AV input to play a little Xbox can now order a pizza through the game console, as Microsoft and Pizza Hut have teamed up on an Xbox Live dashboard app that lets you order a pie with your game controller or Kinect motion sensor. Wave your arms and a pizza eventually appears…yeah, life is good.

Episode 44: Nibs! Nibs! Nibs!

J.D. shares tips on how to independently publish your own e-books and Pedro test drives some tablet and smartphone stylus pens. In the news the Associated Press has their Twitter account hacked; corporate espionage appears to be on the rise; Google Glass buzz heats up; and the Hubble Telescope celebrates its 23rd birthday.

Digital Ink, Inc.

selfpubSo, you think have the Great American Novel just bursting to get out, family recipes that would make a great cookbook or just a manifesto you’ve been mulling. What do you need to get started with e-book self-publishing?

First, you need to write the book. So write it. And do yourself and your readers a favor and have someone else proofread — and maybe even edit — the manuscript before you self-publish.  Readers notice mistakes like typos and bad punctuation, and if they get annoyed enough by excessive mistakes, they write bad reviews on Web sites — which won’t be good for sales.

Once you get that book written, proofed and edited, you need to find a place to distribute and sell it. Before you sign up with any self-publishing service, be sure to read the legal fine print concerning ownership of the work, royalty payments and other matters. It’s always good to know what you’re getting into.

As for the selling-of-the-book-and-making-money part of the adventure, you have many avenues. For example, Barnes & Noble just transformed its PUBIt service into the NOOK Press self-publishing platform. To use the service, you need to go to sign up for an account. After that, you can edit for format your existing manuscript, create new works and collaborate with others. Once you get your book done, you can sell it right on the Barnes & Noble site, where people with Nook e-readers and apps can buy it. The NOOK Press service is free to use, but once you put your book up for sale, Barnes & Noble takes a cut, which is common among e-book publishers.

Depending on the publishing site and service you use, your cut of the profits could be anywhere from 40- to 70-percent of the book’s selling price. Again, read the fine print before jumping in.

If you want to publish your book on Amazon as well (or instead), you can use the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. You need an Amazon account to get started with that service, but there your e-book is put up for sale for Kindle tablets and e-readers as well as Kindle apps. Publishing can take as little as takes five minutes and your book shows up for sale on Amazon within 24 hours. If you want to explore the option of self-publishing a print edition, Amazon also owns the CreateSpace independent publishing service as well.

If you’re doing a picture, multimedia or textbook — and want to sell it mostly to iPad owners — there’s the free iBooks Author program for Mac OS X. With this iBooks Author, you get templates for creating your own interactive books and you can sell the finished creation in the iBookstore. You need an account with Apple to sell your books there and you should check out the iBooks Author Frequently Asked Questions and support pages so you can read up before you sign up.

Beyond the Big Three here, you have smaller self-publishing sites like Smashwords and Lulu as well. So if you’ve got something to say, write it down, format it and sell it — it e-book self-publishing could be one of those great do-it-yourself projects that creative and financial fulfillment if people find and like your work. And it’s a way easier path to bestsellerdom than printing the book yourself and selling copies out of the trunk of your car.

Mad Props

Big, big thanks go out this week to Jocelyn Gonzales for her make-me-wanna-go-find-my-vinyl-NOW! interview with Colleen Murphy of Classic Album Sundays. If you like to really listen to music (or want to learn how to better tune your ears to it), be sure pop on over and visit the CAS YouTube page, which has some great clips and links to the group’s other social media feeds; the documentary on the lasting power of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is a great place to start.

And as always, we send a massive note of appreciation here to the gang at BROS for hosting the show, and this blog, each and every week. Check ’em out here!

Episode 43: With a Little Help From the Web

Our intrepid roving reporter Jocelyn Gonzales talks to radio broadcaster, club DJ, and music producer Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy about high-end audio and her Classic Album Sundays events. Also J.D. has tips for how to get to accurate and timely information during times of chaos. In the news, Microsoft considers changes to Windows 8 boot options and may also be jumping back into wearable computing business; Mozilla almost ready to unleash Firefox OS on the world; and Apple gears up for a new iPhone.

Episode 43 News: Googley Eyes and Cable Ties

While the numerous interface changes in Windows 8 may have kept a few people from voluntarily upgrading to the new system, some sources have told The Verge site that Microsoft is currently testing versions of Windows Blue (also known as Windows 8.1) that gives users the option to boot the computer directly to the desktop environment. With that, and maybe those third-party tools that restore the Start menu, future versions of Windows could be much more comfortable for some people. Word has it that Microsoft is also preparing for another whack at a smart watch of its own, since Apple and Samsung seem to be tinkering around with the notion. Hopefully this decade’s attempt will fare better than the Microsoft Smart Personal Objects Technology of Yore.

Ever wonder why there’s no official mobile version of the Firefox browser available for iOS? According to Mozilla’s departing chief executive, it’s because his company wants to use a different Web engine than the one Apple uses to power iOS browsers. So there probably won’t be an iOS Firefox browser for the next version of the iPhone, which could be going into production soon. The Wall Street Journal reports that Foxconn, the company that actually manufactures many Apple hardware products in China, has been recruiting about 10,000 assembly-line workers there since the end of March. (On the topic of Apple hardware, if your third-generation Apple TV is having flakey Wi-Fi issues, here’s some info about the replacement program underway.)  And in mobile-security news, a new report from NQ Mobile says that mobile malware threats were up 163 percent in 2012 — with 95 percent of that aimed at Android devices. Buckle up, ‘droids!

Facebook is said to be talking to Apple and Microsoft about bring some version of the immersive Facebook quasi-OS to the iPhone and Windows Phone handsets. No word on how those talks are going, but Facebook released an update to its iOS app this week and it includes a variation of Facebook Home’s “Chat Heads” visual messaging app.

Kobo has just announced a limited-edition Aura HD e-ink reader, which claims to be the highest resolution e-ink display currently on the market. In other e-book related developments, publisher Simon & Schuster has announced a 1-year trial program with the New York Public Library that makes its titles available for electronic lending.

The first wave of Google Glass spectacles are done and heading to the shipping department for those who signed up early. For those with a bucket of cash to burn, the craving to adopt early and the desire to Wear a Thing on Your Head, the company has also released the spec sheet for Google Glass.

TWCTVIn video news, Netflix is dropping Microsoft’s Silverlight multimedia plug-in for video delivery and is reportedly moving its streams to HTML 5. Comcast has confirmed that it’s starting to scramble its basic cable channels, a power the FCC granted last year as long as they help their customers with the transition by providing free or cheap adapters. The move is not so good for those who pilfer cable or record programs on the computer with the coaxial cable plugged into a TV tuner card.

Time Warner likely has happier customers, though, as a new version of the TWC TV app for iOS devices released this week now lets registered Time Warner customers watch video on demand and live TV programming from certain channels wherever they are — including away from their home Wi-Fi networks, which had been a previous limitation. Alas, Android users must wait a bit longer for the updated version of the app to come their way.

And finally, a noble number cruncher out there has created an extensive turn-based role-playing game called Arena.XIism inside a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. True, the imagery may not quite be in the Battlefield 3 or BioShock Infinite league, but you probably won’t stress out your graphics card, either.

Keep Calm and Carry On(line)

yankeesThe Internet has changed how information is shared during times of crisis, largely for good (and sometimes for a little bit of bad). While the events in Boston earlier this week were horrific, they certainly won’t be the last given the state of the world. And let’s not forget Mother Nature’s ability to stir up chaos stew with hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, blizzards, earthquakes and other natural disasters. When you find yourself in times of trouble and have Internet access, here are some suggestions that may help you better evaluate the situation at hand:

  1. Follow the unfolding story on live-update blogs from verified sources like major news organizations, or state and local government sites.
  2. Twitter, Facebook and Reddit have become places where people share information and these can often be great for getting news through hashtags and official feeds. Viral hoaxes can run rampant on these sites though, so to avoid spreading fertilizer, verify an item with an established news source before retweeting or reposting.
  3. You may be out of the listening area, but online radio streams, especially the local National Public Radio affiliate or a dedicated news station are often good, solid sources of information. Online sites and apps with live streams for police, fire and emergency scanners may also be useful for finding out if something is going on, but keep in mind, but keep in mind that scanner chatter is often rushed and frantic as officials try to suss out developing situations.
  4. If you have relatives in the area, text or e-mail them instead of calling during the crisis as not to jam and overload voice-network circuits. In large-scale catastrophes, sites like Google Person Finder may help.
  5. Beware the online scams that happen during and just after a disaster or man-made tragedy. The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy brought them out and jackals were looking for people to dupe quickly during the calamity of the Boston Marathon incident. The Department of Justice has a Disaster Fraud Task Force and offers tips for avoiding such scams.

Be safe, be well and be informed.

Episode 42 News: Home Invasion

antennaphoneFox and some other networks are threatening to leave the broadcast airwaves for a more exclusive life as paid cable channels. This is all due to a court spat with Aereo, a startup live-broadcast-TV-over-the-Web service that uses tiny TV antennas to reel in over-the-air network TV shows that its subscribers can then watch on the Web through computers and mobile devices. The tiny antenna part seems to be what gets around legal issues since you’re basically getting your own little roof rack when you subscribe and that skirts the Copyright Act since hey, an antenna’s an antenna.) As you can imagine, broadcast TV stations are very, very, very angry, especially because they aren’t getting paid for their signals like other TV providers who want to show the programs on cable and satellite systems. Aereo has won multiple legal battles so far, but the war likely isn’t over. Stay tuned, as they say in the TV business.

Sony has announced 55- and 65-inch Ultra HD TVs, and those are respectively priced at $4,999 and $6,999. And because getting ultra high-def content may be hard to do for early adopters, Sony also announced a $700 FMP-X1 4K media player that comes pre-stocked with 10 movies in the big beefy 3840-by-2160 resolution. Blade Runner is not one of them, but you can see The Bridge on the River Kwai and last year’s webslinger reboot, The Amazing Spider-Manamong the offerings.

Spring is in the air and Google has freshened up its Google Play online store with a visual redesign and reorganization to help shoppers find content more easily. Google has also cleaned up from of the crappier apps lurking about the virtual shelves. According to a report on the TechCrunch blog, 60,000 apps were removed in February, as Google has begun to crack down on non-compliant apps and those whose main function seems to be spewing spam.

In the near future, the US Navy will be firing laser beams at unmanned drones that try to attack the Navy’s boats and the United States Air Force has designated six cybertools as designated weapons for budgetary and planning purposes. No details on these cybertools have been shared, and as far as futuristic weapons, go, the White House has already ruled out building a Death Star.

Microsoft may be announcing the new version of its Xbox game console on May 21, and some other rumors point to a lack of backward compatibility with Xbox 360 games if they switch processors to make cross-platform development with PC games easier. As many tech sites have pointed out, this week marks the beginning of the end of extended support for Windows XP, which ends on April 8, 2014.  In an attempt to sweeten the deal so holdout will pleasepleaseplease upgrade, Microsoft is currently offering a 15-percent discount for companies that upgrade their computers and licenses to Windows 8 and the standard edition of Office 2013. (Despite its busy schedule Microsoft also found the time recently to join Nokia in a complaint to the European Union over Google’s perceived monopoly on the mobile space.)

Facebook had a press conference to announce its new Facebook Home software that basically skins an Android handset and turns it into a total wormhole to The Social Network. As one might expect, those who worry about privacy issues are a little bothered by Facebook Home. If you fall into this camp, check out the post on GigaOm site that ponders the implications. For its part, Facebook addresses these concerns in a Q&A on its site. If it all makes you just want to chill out and take a break from it all, there are plenty of other sites on the Web — the total number of top-level domain names has now passed the 252 million mark. Grab another cool refreshing beverage and keep surfin’…


Episode 42: False Starts and Tiny Antennas

They were created pre-Internet but are more popular than ever. J.D. gives us the lowdown on the ubiquitous animated GIF. In the news, NYC-based tech startup Aereo continues to ruffle the feathers of major television broadcasters; Sony announces cheaper and smaller Ultra HD TVs; Google removes thousands of apps from the Play Store; the U.S. Nave deploys the first laser weapon; and Facebook releases Home, their new front-end app for next generation Android devices.