J.D. and Pedro parse out Apple’s iPad Mini announcement; non-partisan voter guide websites; a review of Apple’s new iPod Touch; Microsoft’s huge week; Samsung debuts a new “phablet”; Amazon Web Services go down again plus much, much more.
Google is getting serious about having nice-looking apps designed for tablets running the Android system posting its “tablet app quality checklist” on the Android Developer’s site this week. That could come in handy, say for developers working on something like a 10-inch Nexus tablet co-produced by Google and Samsung. (But while the big tech companies may be slugging it out in the Tablet Wars, many of the big names are joining together with the World Wide Web Consortium to create a community resource site for developers called Web Platform Docs.)
Apple’s latest iPods are beginning to ship out to customers who pre-ordered them last month and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 handsets will be available for pre-order in the US on October 21st. If Windows 8 has your attention, Acer announced another Windows 8 tablet headed to stores on November 9th — the Iconia W510 , which joins the larger Iconia W700 tablet (due October 26th ) in the Win8Tab world.
On the malware front, Skype users on Windows machines need to keep a look out for malicious instant messages with a question about a “profile pic” and a link full of nasty software that loops the PC into a botnet. And Facebook, ever tinkering with profile layouts and everything else, is testing a new feature called “Collections” that’s aimed at retailers and those who like to shop.
Curiosity continues to rove around Mars, but that’s not the only space news this week. Despite a failed engine and a mishap with a satellite, the private company SpaceX sent up a Dragon cargo capsule on top of a Falcon 9 rocket with 882 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station.
Back on Earth, Boxee, a streaming TV set-top box, is said to be adding an HDTV antenna and a digital video recorder to its next model. Free over-the-air TV and plenty of Web streams could make you forget all about the cable company. And if you’re looking for something to watch on broadcast TV, check out TG Daily’s guide to genre TV this season. Who knows, some of these shows may help pass the time until the Doctor returns.
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.
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!”
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.
Summer is winding down and a lot of students are headed back to school. Even if you’re not stuffing your life and laundry in the back of a Honda and rolling toward campus, you can keep learning on your own. Free classes from places like MIT OpenCourseWare and Coursera are among the options for higher learning online. If you have an iOS device, Apple’s Podcasts and iTunes U apps offer plenty of brain-burning educational material that make it easy to absorb it all at your own pace—even if that pace is a steady jog down a quiet road.
The standalone Podcasts app pulls all the episode management and playback controls out of the Music app on iOS devices and gives them their own place to play. The Podcasts app is not universally loved, but it does round up all your shows nicely. It could be the only place to get them if those rumors about Apple cutting the Podcasts section of the iTunes Store loose this fall are true. Recent user reviews of the app seemed to have improved with an update earlier this month, and Apple has a Podcasts support guide for those still wrestling with it.
Podcast content ranges all over the place, but if you’re looking for something specifically educational, the iTunes U app points you to what Apple calls “the world’s largest online catalog of free education content from leading institutions.” There are about 500,000 audio and video lectures in there, plus presentations, documents—and some classes even use interactive iBooks textbooks (which are a lot lighter than those heavy old tree-based tomes that pile up, hog shelf space and fall over all too easily).
The iTunes U course topics range all over the place from science and math to literature and cultural studies. Stanford’s got a 10-week course on iPad and iPhone App Development and Harvard has a 12-week Intro to Computer Science class. Oxford University has a series of short lectures on why great writers are inspirational. The University of Arkansas has 5-minute Spanish lessons. If you like a little sociology mixed in with your Hollywood blockbusters, check out the lecture series from Emory University for video lessons with titles like The Mathematics of Spider-Man and Planet of the Apes: Species Misunderstood.
I guess it was inevitable but it still came as a shock. Not long ago I realized that I spend significantly more time on my tablet devices than I do on laptops or PCs. In fact, there are some days I don’t use keyboard and mouse driven devices at all. My iPad has become my main content consumption device as well as a crucial part of my work arsenal. One problem though. Typing more than a sentence or two on a tablet becomes an exercise in frustration and don’t even get me started on taking quick notes on it. Not to sugarcoat it but the experience really and truly stinks.
I made it a point to find a decent iPad Bluetooth keyboard that was both portable and durable. The first keyboard and case I tried was the Koolertron Wireless Bluetooth Keyboard Case for Apple iPad 2 and iPad (don’t call it) 3. What at first appeared to be brushed aluminum turns out to be cheap plastic. The keyboard feels flimsy and when the iPad is in the case it becomes top heavy and leans too far back. I expect it to snap right off the base one day. The one redeeming feature of the keyboard case is the 4000mAh power lithium battery. It can charge the iPad while you use the keyboard and it’s rated to last 55 hours although your mileage will vary.
As the name implies, the Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is a Bluetooth keyboard that doubles as a case for the iPad 2 and the 3rd generation version of Apple’s tablet. A magnetic clip, similar to the one on Apple’s Smart Cover, keeps the aluminum-backed keyboard attached to the iPad. There are compromises with the keyboard, especially when it comes to the function keys, but overall Logitech’s unique cover delivers an excellent typing experience. Two deal-breaking issues (maybe two sides of the same issue) are that the Ultrathin Cover scratches very easily and it offers a total lack of compatibility with standard iPad covers that protect the back of the tablet from dents and scratches. To use the case you must leave your iPad naked as a jaybird.
Yup, the Apple wireless keyboard is my preferred iPad input device. It sports Bluetooth connectivity, is compact, rugged and looks good. If you can live without the iPad specific function keys available on the the Koolertron and the Logitech cases you’ll find the Apple keyboard is a real workhorse.