Newsweek magazine makes a splashy return on paper with a cover story claiming to have found the father of Bitcoin. In his Tech Term of the Week, El Kaiser explains doxxing and why Internet denizens are so ticked off at the weekly news magazine. The computer mouse has been with us for half a century and J.D. explains why it may stick around for awhile longer. In the news Google dives into wearable computing; Apple releases an 8-gigabyte version of the iPhone 5C — but not in the United States; the Windows XP Death Watch continues; The Big Bang Theory may have been proven; and say hello to robot fish.
Your eyes are not enough for Google. This week, the Big G announced Android Wear, a version of the mobile operating system for smartwatches and other gadgets strapped to other parts of the body. The first Android Wear watches and monitors will arrive later this year but there’s a developer’s preview out now for anybody who want to sling some wearable code. (Speaking of potential gym gear, the 9to5Mac site has an update on what it says is Apple’s new Healthbook software for fitness tracking.) Oh, and Google and Viacom have finally settled a seven-year marathon of litigation.
Apple, perhaps in a move to get some of the international smartphone market back from Google and Android, released at 8-gigabyte version of its colorful iPhone 5C model this week in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia and China. Oh, if anybody cares, Mac rumor sites are reporting that Microsoft is preparing the official Office for the iPad for its public debut next week at a media event on March 27th. And in other Apple news, the company has finally retired the iPad 2 from March 2011 as the entry-level option for its full-size iPad line; the iPad 2 is succeeded by the fourth-generation iPad with Retina display that was first released in October 2012.
Speaking of old things, the Windows XP Death Watch continues to spiral downward to the April 8th deadline, when Microsoft says it’s seriously, totes mcgoats for real pulling the support plug this time. The Washington Post reports that hundreds of thousands of US government computers are running behind on their upgrades from Windows XP to a safer, secure and actually still supported operating system. Also missing some upgrade deadlines? Banks around the world, many of which didn’t make their deadlines for upgrading their ATMs.
Way to go, banks!
Some people are cutting the cord and ditching those pricy cable packages. According to the Leichtman Research Group, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and other providers lost 1.1 million customers in 2013. Broadband subscriptions, however, are up for many cable providers.
The Big Bang Theory (no, not the TV show), that the scientific notion about the expansion of the universe, may have been proven. New research suggests that astronomers have found the first direct evidence of the cosmic inflation. An experiment at the South Pole led by John Kovac of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced it had detected ripples from gravitational waves created in a violent inflationary event at the dawn of time. And while we’re out in space, it you haven’t caught the first few episodes of Cosmos: A Spacetime Adventure hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, you can check ’em out online with the Fox Now app or Fox on Demand service. (Also in your favorite app store: the official NCAA Basketball Tournament app. Yes, it’s March Madness once again.
And finally: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently announced advances in soft robotics. The school has released a video and details on its new robot fish that’s capable of rapid body motion and can quickly change direction when needed, just like a real fish. And the Cubestormer 3, a Lego robot powered by a Samsung Galaxy S4, solved the Rubik’s Cube in 3.253 seconds, which scored it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. We look forward to the eventual Guinness record for fastest Rubik’s Cube solution by a robot fish. Any day now.
If you’ve listened to this week’s COLLECTOR’S EDITION 50th EPISODE OF POP TECH JAM (shame on you if you haven’t) you know all about my travails attempting to root a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. I don’t want to spoil things for anyone so let’s just say it did not go well.
One of the main reasons for my attempted rooting was to allow installation of awesome new applications from small, nimble developers that are passionate about what they do. I looked forward to loading bar-raising apps that would extend the functionality of Samsung’s well regarded new flagship phone far beyond what its bloatware ladened factory image would allow. Ironically, the app that has most dramatically improved the phone’s functionality and usability is as far from revolutionary as you can get and was developed by a huge corporate behemoth. Oh, and it doesn’t need superuser permissions.
Google Keyboard, free from Google’s app market Play, is the same stock Android keyboard found on the Nexus series of tablets and phones and on plain vanilla installs of Android made available as a standalone application. While the Galaxy S4 is an exceptional smartphone, its most glaring weakness, beyond the many useless apps it crams onto the phone, is the keyboard. The Samsung keyboard is inaccurate, offers up terrible predictions and is pretty much useless for anyone who has large fingers.
In contrast, the free Google keyboard app is accurate, has a voice dictation option and a gesture typing feature that lets you slide your finger across the keyboard without lifting it from the screen to enter a word. The Swype app from Nuance does a much better job at this sort of modified “keying” but Google’s version is very effective. I would rate it above Swiftkey’s Flow for accuracy but below Swype.
If you find the Samsung Touchwiz or the HTC Sense keyboards difficult to use or just too inaccurate to trust try Google Keyboard before shelling out cash for a replacement app. While the other apps may offer more fancy features the Google app does yeoman’s work. And did I mention it’s free? We LOVE free around here…