Apple unleashes a second fall product announcement and while most of the updates were expected, they still managed to surprise. J.D. has a Hopefully Helpful Hint detailing how to configure Twitter and other services to deliver emergency alerts directly to your smartphone. In the news, Nokia holds what could be their last phone hardware event before the unit becomes part of Microsoft; Microsoft’s new Surface 2 tablets arrived in stores and Windows 8.1 was finally made available to the public — but not without problems; Lenovo launches a new Android-based convertible laptop/tablet; BlackBerry releases the long-awaited Android and iOS versions of its popular BlackBerry Messenger software; Google provides free voice calling; Netflix continues its surge; and a British mathematician develops a formula for the perfect pizza. The podcast revolution continues…
Twitter, in addition to serving as a personalized news service for people who like to follow the feeds of their favorite Web sites, newspapers and TV stations, recently introduced its own emergency alert system. Although it’s not to be confused with the government’s Wireless Emergency Alerts, more than 100 Federal, state and local agencies are participating in Twitter Alerts as well.
To sign up for an alert from an agency like NOAA or FEMA, visit the page of participating organizations on Twitter’s site. Click the ones you want and fill in your information. You’ll get alerts by text message, push notification and as entries in your news feed.
In addition to Twitter, you probably some news and weather apps on your phone as well. Most newsy apps let you set up notifications on your phone when they have important information to push out — things like wildfires, winter storms, traffic problems or breaking news events. Apple has information about using Notifications in iOS here and Google has similar information for Android here.
Red Sox or Cardinals fan? Yeah, you’ve probably got your alerts set up already, even if you’re watching the games.
As the storms of the past few weeks — Hurricane Sandy, the US elections, a snow-spewing Nor’easter on the East Coast, it’s time to take a minute and regroup before hurling into the holiday season. Geeks everywhere were goggling over the news that Disney bought Lucasfilm and Star Wars 7 is headed for theaters in 2015; the screenwriter for the project has already been hired.
Princess Leia didn’t need no “Floral Kiss” pink blaster to pop those stormtroopers. She got the job done just fine with standard-color armaments, so sorry, product designers of little pink computers and little pink cars, you’re going to have to try harder with some of us out here. (At least a certain Hoosier songwriter already called dibs on little pink houses.)
Meanwhile, out in Redmond, Microsoft giveth and taketh away: A new Xbox Surface gaming tablet us said to be underway, but those who love Microsoft Messenger will be booted off the system next year when Microsoft retires Messenger to focus on Skype.
Amazon is said to be testing out a $7.99-a-month version of its Amazon Prime service for those who’d rather pay more in installments that cough up the $79 annual fee all at once. The Massive Superstore of Everything also signed up Staples to host its Amazon Lockers that hold your Amazon packages when you’re not home to get ‘em.
Instagram is getting some Facebook-like enhancements like profile pages and desktop access, which also seems to have generated some Facebook-like privacy concerns among advocates. Still, the mobile space is still where Instagram rules. Oh, and Mary Meeker popped up before her next annual report with some thoughts on the current state of Android, iOS, Windows and other systems people use to get in the Internet.
Mobile devices were often the only way some people on the East Coast had to communicate in the wake of Hurricane Sandy two weeks ago when the power went out in many towns and cities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a guide for what to do before, during and after a major storm and the folks at NBC’s Rock Center news show have compiled a list of Hurricane Sandy relief organizations and efforts for those wanting to help.
Hurricane season traditionally runs from June 1 to November 30 each year, so it’s not over yet, and then we move into winter storm season in the northern and western parts of the country. Having a cellphone car charger or hand-cranked turbine/solar unit (USB charger, flashlight, radio) on hand in times of emergency can really help, so if you’re compiling a holiday shopping list, perhaps one of those might make a more useful gift than another necktie or pair of fancy slippers. (Or those freaky singing robot fish that were way too popular a few years back…)
And if you see a storm headed your way on the TV, the Web, your weather app or your other source of weather news, be prepared. Stock up on emergency supplies of food, water, battery, candles, flashlights and all that. Fill up the car’s gas tank, batten down the hatches and bunker in until the storm passes. And if you’re going to be stuck inside while the weather rages outside, red-velvet cupcakes and a nice bourbon make excellent comfort food.