J.D. helps us get the most out of our Webmail and Pedro gives us his view on the state of the pop music scene. In the news, Microsoft prepares to unveil Windows 8.1; Samsung and Android continues it’s smartphone dominance; the latest reports from Google’s I/O conference; Archos releases a tablet specifically designed for the kitchen; Nvidia begins taking preorders for their Shield mobile gaming system; and the HTC First Facebook Phone appears to be on the road to oblivion.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
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.
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.
In 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.
As the International Telecommunications Union works to update to update a telecom treaty, representatives from companies like Google and Mozilla are among those voicing objections to the closed-door treaty process—and what more government control might do to Internet freedom around the world. The ITU, however, says it affirms the right to freedom of information online.
Google also found time to launch a new version of its Maps API and update the Gmail app for Android to version 4.2.1. The standalone Gmaill app for iPhone and iPad also got a redesign. Meanwhile, Apple finally delivered iTunes 11.
If you like gaming on the big screen, Valve’s Big Picture mode is out of beta. If you like video on the small screen and used Verizon’s V Cast service…be prepared to say goodbye, as Verizon plans to shut it down. V Cast joins The Daily, News Corp’s designed-for-the-iPad electronic newspaper, in the digital dustbin on December 15th.
Happy 20th birthday to text messages! The handy short communication form hit the big 2-0 on Monday and will be old enough to buy its own beer next year. And who knew the popular SMS shorthand “OMG” was at least 95 years old and once showed up in an epistolary exchange with Sir Winston Churchill?
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!”