The countdown to the opening of the newest “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has officially begun! This week saw the release of a new trailer, an official movie poster, and pre-sale tickets. One thing noticeably absent from all the hoopla: Luke Skywalker. Also on the show, El Kaiser delivers his annual “State of the Podcast” rant and J.D. takes a look at note taking apps for mobile devices. Oh yeah, and we lots and lots of tech news.
We all have times when we need to jot down a few notes on the go. To-do list items and appointments are one thing, but notes are more: the name of a contractor, the model number of a thing you want to buy, a story idea, a recipe or paint color at the hardware store. And it’s even cooler when you can sync up your mobile thoughts with your desktop like. Here are four multi-platform apps to consider:
• Evernote is the pretty much the good standard for many a jotter — or people collaborating across different platforms on a project. Evernote works on most mobile and desktop systems and you can sync your notes and projects across them all. You can save webpages, email, audio clips, photos, charts, chats and more in your Evernote projects. It also has an extensive help section with videos, three levels of service — from free to paid to even more paid.
• Microsoft OneNote is another established digital notes-taking app that works on most major mobile and desktop platforms. It’s free and you can save mail, webpages and photos into it, plus it has integration with other apps like WordPress, Chegg, Feedly and several scanning apps. Microsoft also just announced this week that OneNote has formed a partnership with FiftyThree to support its Paper app and Pencil stylus. (OneNote will also work with the Apple Pencil, whenever that fancy $100 stick rolls into town.)
• Google Keep is the notes ‘n’ lists app for Google and Android users and stores your various types of thoughts in colorful boxes within the app on screen. If inspiration strikes, you can dictate your thoughts into the app, too. It’s all tied to your Google account, so you can get to all your kept items tucked away in the program through phone, tablet, computer or Android wearables.
• iOS 9 Notes from Apple is a major improvement over the limited notepad app that’s been in iOS since 2007. You can whip up to-do lists and checklists if you want, but you can also doodle or sketch with your finger, add maps, photos, webpages and text to your notes. And if you’re hooked into iCloud, the service will sync all your notes across your Mac and other iOS devices.
Plenty of other note-taking apps are out there to consider too. No matter which one you use, odds are it’s going to be more versatile than the scraps of paper we grew up using — and often losing.
After months of speculation, Android M has an official snack nickname in Google’s pantheon of tasty versions! Android 6.0, the next version of Google’s mobile operating system, will be called Marshmallow and the software development kit is now available for those who want to build apps for it. Ever so busy, Google also just built a standalone website for its Hangouts videochat service, too.
As a story in last weekend’s New York Times tells it, Amazon is the modern equivalent of a massive Dickensian workhouse where everyone is overworked and crying. As one can imagine, however, Twitter got hopping and Amazon spokespeople were quick to defend the company, fanning out across print, television and Internet to rebut The Times. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos even wrote a company-wide memo that was widely leaked, and the NYT Public Editor weighed in as well.
Amazon was not the only company with a PR team in overdrive lately. The social media team at the dating app Tinder took offense to a Vanity Fair article lamenting the rise of hookup apps in general and went on a long Twitter rant against the magazine and the author of the article. During the tweetstorm, the Tinder Twitter complained the writer did not contact the company for comment and accused Vanity Fair of one-side journalism. Others noted the article wasn’t specifically about Tinder, but dating apps in general, and said the company behaved like a hurt teenage girl lashing out and seemed surprised that journalists do things differently than PR people. Salon wondered if the whole thing was “a sincerely epic case of butthurt or just a clever attention-getting ruse.”
In other online hookup news, the National Security Agency and AT&T apparently had quite a partnership in sharing customer data. As revealed in the latest document dump from Edward Snowden and reported by The New York Times and ProPublica, AT&T gave the NSA access to billions of emails crossing its domestic networks, as well as a massive amount of cellphone calling records.
As for government agencies, there are new reports out that the hack on the Internal Revenue Service was larger than originally thought. New evidence points to the hack starting several months earlier than first noted as well. So, instead of 100,000 people having their personal details swiped, it’s more than 300,000.
Sprint is the latest carrier to ditch two-year cellphone contracts, following T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. As part of its service overhaul, Sprint introduced its iPhone Forever plan, which gets you the current model for $22 a month on your bill.
The Federal Trade Commission has announced the winner of last spring’s “Robocalls: Humanity Strikes Back” challenge to developers. The $25,000 prize goes to an app called RoboKiller. If you want to know how it works, check out this PDF and the Kickstarter page.
The same sort of malvertising campaign that infested Yahoo’s ad network seems to have spread to other sites around the Web. The Malwarebytes security team reports they’ve now seen poison adverts on aol.com, weather.com, Weather Underground, The Drudge Report and other well-traveled domains.
Comcast is said to have new video platform called Watchable waiting in the wings. According to the Business Insider site, the telecom giant has formed partnerships with digital publishers like Vox, Buzzfeed, The Onion, Mic, Vice, Refinery29 and other sites to package content for streaming on the service. (BuzzFeed, for its part, announced this week that it was getting a 200 million dollar investment from Comcast family member NBC Universal to put toward its video efforts.) The new Comcast service, if it exists, could also compete with Verizon’s upcoming Go90 mobile video service.
Facebook is revamping its blog-like Notes feature to make it more appealing to users who have forgotten than Notes exists. Some have observed that the wide-margined new Notes templates make them look like articles on Medium. (Does anyone remember actually using Facebook Notes outside of those viral “15 Things” lists?)
Boston Dynamics recently released a video (below) that showed off Atlas, its humanoid robot with a stomp through the woods in such a manner that The Washington Post likened it to “a drunk Iron Man.” For those who have forgotten, Boston Dynamics is owned by Google, which is testing Atlas as an experimental bipedal rescue machine. Try to ignore the fact that it looks like, well, a Cylon.
The 9to5Mac site is beefing up the details on its New Apple TV rumor coverage and is now predicting the new set-top streamer will have a new streamlined hardware design, new user interface, iOS 9, App Store access, that dedicated remote control we heard about earlier this year and Siri support.
Apple’s Siri assistant can do more than just set calendar appointments and look up baseball scores. The program was credited with saving the life of a teenage boy in Tennessee when he was pinned under his truck after the tire jack collapsed. While he was shifting around trying to get out from under the 5,000-pound Dodge Dakota, he heard the familiar Siri bleep coming from his back pocket and was able to get the app to call 911 for help with a life-saving butt-dial.
And finally, it’s not just shotgun owners and other privacy minded people who are annoyed by unmanned drones buzzing around overhead. Bears in the woods do not like drones either. Researchers at the University of Minnesota put health-tracking monitors on six black bears and recorded the ursine reaction to 17 drone flights. The heart rates of all the bears increased when the drones were within 21 years overhead — which indicates stress. The 15-page paper titled “Bears Show a Physiological but Limited Behavioral Response to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” was published online in the journal Current Biology and concludes that more research is needed to see if the bears would get used to the drones over time. The study, in one convenient image:
Wildlife researchers do use drones in their work to observe animals from a distance, and Canada even has what the BBC calls a “goose-bothering drone” designed to scare off pesky Canadian geese in Ottawa by blasting recordings of predatory birds. And why yes, that drone is called the GooseBuster. Who ya gonna call?
El Kaiser has a new toy and he can’t wait to tell you all about it. This week he reviews the Mont Blanc E12 portable headphone amplifier from FiiO. Let’s face it, ebooks are here to stay. J.D. fills us in on how to make margin notes and highlight our favorite passages on all the popular digital book readers.
In the news the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo; Lytro unveils a new camera; Rumors circulate that an Amazon smartphone will sport a radical new UI; Comcast reports its subscriber numbers are up; AT&T wants to beat Google in the Fiber Race; the AOL mail site is hacked; and Apple announces it plans to power all of its stores, data centers and offices with renewable energy sources.
Ebooks have grabbed quite a few eyeballs with their lower prices, wide selection and ability to be read on a tablet, reader or computer with a minimum of fuss. While ebooks do have their conveniences, some people are still pondering how to make margin notes or underline their favorite passages in the text, which can come in handy for study or book club reference. But scribbling digitally in your ebooks is rather easy on most of the major platforms.
Take the Amazon Kindle, for example. Whether you’re using a Kindle e-ink or Fire tablet, (or even the apps Amazon makes available to read Kindle books on Windows, OS X, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone), you can annotate your ebooks. You typically just need to press and hold the word or passage until it highlights or you get an option to make a note within the text.
The notes and highlights you make in your Kindle books are also stored in your account on Amazon’s website — just log in to see them. If you choose, you can make your notes public so other Kindle users can see them on Amazon’s site. Although it can do so anonymously, Amazon’s site also keeps a public list of the most popular highlights from books, if you want to see what other people found noteworthy.
Barnes & Noble’s NOOK e-readers and apps have a similar tap-to-highlight passages and make notes. (You can share your favorite passages on social media if you want to brag on your literary taste.) Kobo, which has a line of e-readers and jumped into welcome users of Sony’s now-defunct Reader hardware also lets you mark up your ebooks.
Got Google Play books, say, on your Android phone or tablet? You can take notes and highlight text there, too. Apple’s iBooks app for its iOS devices and OS X Mavericks Macs adds colorful highlight colors and notes with a tap or click. On the book’s Contents page, you can see all your musings throughout the text listed all in once place for easy reference. Like the Kindle, your annotations sync up between all the iBooks devices you use.
While notes and highlighted passages in electronic books may lack the smudged immediacy or mental scorch-marks from the burst of late-night energy, they do have one major advantage — thanks to search and sync, they’re a lot easier to find within your books. And you also won’t wake up from a cram session with yellow Hi-Liter smeared all over your face.