“Breaking Bad” rides off into the desert sun leaving El Kaiser wondering how it fared against other famous TV series swan songs and J.D. fills us in on the quickest ways to digitize business cards. In the news Amazon quietly releases two new Kindle models; Lenovo debuts an all-in-one desktop computer with a 29-inch display; Microsoft has a good week; Facebook expands its Graph Search results; Apple deals with more security issues; researchers develop a robotic prosthetic leg that is controlled by brain function; and Intelligent Glasses that can translate languages on the fly.
Business cards have been around for centuries. Some have traced them back to 15th-century China. Other historians point to the origins in the 17th-century European “visiting cards” passed between the servants of one rich nobleperson visiting the home of another rich or royal nobleperson, all to announce the arrival of the guest. These visiting cards had become entrenched by the reign of King Louis the XIV of France in the late 1600s.
In London and other cities, trade cards were used by business owners to provide map and directions to their establishments. By the time we get to the 18th and 19th centuries, we see social calling cards presented on trays to the lady of the house. All of this leads up to the modern-day business card, of which there are plenty. Some of them are actually works of art unto themselves.
Most people, however, end up converting the printed information to digital form so they can store it in the address books of their phones, tablets and computers. If you like the look of business cards (but left your big-wheel Rolodex back in the ’80s with your skinny ties and shoulder pads), you have plenty of ways to get that same essential business-card information — name, company, address, e-mail, phone number—into your digital contacts list without having to type it all.
- Email. If you’re contacted by email and the person includes all their contact information in the message’s signature, it’s pretty easy to save that right into the address book on your computer or mobile device. The ol’ cut-and-paste is easier than typing, but some apps may shortcut the process for you. Apple’s mail programs for OS X and iOS, for example, highlight the address information and offer to add it to your contacts when you tap it or pass the mouse over the info.
- Beaming. The act of wirelessly connecting two phones or tablets together to exchange contacts (and other files) is becoming a popular way to share your deets. We’ve all seen the commercial for the Samsung Galaxy owners sharing files by touching their phones together and transferring files with the Galaxy’s S Beam feature, but Google’s Android Beam technology brings wireless file transfer to other Android phones as long as they’re running at least Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and have Near Field Communication capabilities. Apple’s new iOS 7 system includes AirDrop, a similar wireless file transfer service that uses a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. AirDrop can be used to share contacts, photos and Web links. You don’t need a device with an NFC chip to use AirDrop — but you do need at least an iPhone 5, an iPad Mini, a 4th-generation iPad or a 5th-generation iPod Touch running the iOS 7 software.
- Apps. Aside from built-in services, you’ve got plenty of third-party apps out there for sharing files like contacts. Bump, which recently got bought by Google, is one such program that lets its users with Android handsets or iPhones gently tap their phones together to transfer data. Most app stores have other software for sharing contacts over a Bluetooth connection as well. And if you still get a lot of those little cardboard rectangles piling up from meetings and you don’t want to type in the info, check your App Store for a business-card scanning app. With most of these, you just point your phone’s camera at the card, snap a picture—and the app runs a little OCR sequence and pops the digitized info into your phone’s address book.
So much for business cards and contacts in the 21st century. Next stop: corporate mind-meld.
Apple makes a product announcement and the response is a collective “d’uh, we already knew that.” Turns out the rumors were true. The fruit-themed phone makers roll out a plastic iPhone and a refresh of their flagship smartphone. In the news, Microsoft prepares to launch new Surface tablets; Sony announces an updated version of their PS Vita mobile gaming device; Samsung unveils their smartwatch; Facebook aims to be your source for news; The NSA can crack even the most advanced encryption methods; and a lone voice makes the case for saving AM radio.
This week we bring the jam! J.D. offers up alternatives to Photoshop as El Kaiser tries to find something decent to watch on Netflix and answers listener mail. In the news, the U.S. Emergency Alert System might be vulnerable to hackers; Google patches a 4 year old vulnerability in the Android mobile OS; bookseller Barnes & Noble get out of the tablet business; and the Mars rovers continue to do their thing on the Red Planet.
Another week, another collection of software vulnerabilities…For starters, the U.S. Emergency Alert System has a critical security flaw that could allow intruders to break into it and broadcast fake messages across the country. This is according to the security firm IOActive, which discovered the issue. The problem was due to a shared private SSH key for root privileges distributed in publicly available firmware images for the servers and computers that run the alert system. (Hackers are fond of creating messages about zombie attacks over public service signs and systems, so this could be tempting.)
Bluebox Security found a big ol’ hole in Android last week — something about any app potentially turning into a nasty Trojan horse to get all up in your business. Google quickly whipped up a patch and pushed it out to smartphone OEMs for distribution and spokesperson said even though there’s a flaw, most users don’t have to worry about it.
As for Android, new numbers from Google this week that show that the Jelly Bean flavor of the system, (versions 4.1 and 4.2), have now combined to beat out the older Gingerbread 2.3 on active devices, with Ice Cream Sammich (version 4.0) firmly in third place. Samsung’s Galaxy S3 and S4 phones are thought to be behind the surge in Jelly Bean use over the past year or so. So now we wait for a slice of Key Lime Pie.
The Boy Genius Report Web site claims to have news of Amazon’s plans for its next batch of Kindle Fire tablets. According to the BGR, Amazon has three new versions of the Kindle Fire in the works to debut this fall. While Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablets are doing well, Barnes & Noble Way announced last week that it was getting out of the tablet business and leaving third-party hardware companies to build any future Nook tablets and the B&N CEO has now resigned. Not surprisingly, Microsoft has been mentioned as a potential buyer for the Nook business. Some are speculating that Barnes & Noble ditched the Nook in order to save its brick-and-mortar bookstores from extinction.
As promised earlier this year, Facebook is now rolling out its Graph Search feature across user accounts here in the US. (Graph Search is the new Facebook tool that lets users make very specific searches. If you’ve been on Facebook for a while, this might be a good time to review your privacy settings. In other social-networking news, Twitter updated its mobile apps this week with improvements to its own mobile search tool and direct message sync across all devices and platforms.
Apple TV, which added a few premium channel apps for cable subscribers last month, is reportedly in talks with Time Warner Cable to let subscribers watch their channels on the little black set-top box, according to Bloomberg News. And CNET reports that Beats Electronics is hoping to partner with AT&T for its new music subscription service.
Meanwhile, up on Mars, the Curiosity rover took a video of a Martian moonrise and its older sibling, the Opportunity rover just celebrated the 10th anniversary of its launch toward the Red Planet. While Martians used to be the stuff of fantasy, there’s a recent essay by Judith Shulevitz in the current New Republic magazine called “And the Martians Shall Save the University — Why Do We need the Liberal Arts? Because It Gave Us Sci-Fi.” If you like science, science fiction — or just find it really cool that a writer can dream up fantastic inventions to inspire engineers and researchers to build for real, give it a read. But first, go check your Facebook privacy settings.
If you’re a fan of using peer-to-peer networks over your home broadband connection to get your entertainment, be aware that your Internet Service Provider is probably watching you. The “Copyright Alert System” went into effect this week after four years of planning. After six strikes, your service could be terminated and the Copyright Act also allows the user to be sued for damages of up to $150,000 per infringement.
Remember the webOS? LG Electronics did not forget and has not acquired the system from Hewlett Packard. LG plans to use the system to power a new line of Smart TVs. LG was also making news at this week’s Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, showing off what it claims is the world’s smallest wireless charger.
Also in operating systems news… Mozilla’s Firefox OS platform has some takers also plan to develop hardware to run the open-standard HTML 5-heavy Firefox OS that makes the Web the platform — not the software on the phone. Twitter is another company with an eye on the Firefox OS. A blog post on the company’s site outlines plans for an HTML 5 version of its mobile app that will be ready when the hardware starts showing up. Twitter also updated its app for the Windows Phone platform this week.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 phone will be introduced on March 14th at a press conference here in New York, the rumors are circulating of production problems. Power-management issues and overheating have been mentioned on tech blogs, so maybe the phone needs its own internal diagnostic app, much like the a built-in app to monitor aspects of your personal heath. But while the new Galaxy phone is still under wraps, Samsung did announce its new Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet. (It’s also a very large smartphone.)
As part of a legal settlement, Apple has agreed to pay $5 in cash or iTunes credit to parents who sued the company because their kids could easily make hundreds of dollars worth of in-app purchases for supposedly free games. In other Apple news, security researchers have found another passcode bypass hole in the iOS 6.1 software.
Google may be developing its own subscription music service, according to reports from Bloomberg news and other sources. And Microsoft has officially released Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7, for those who were waiting around for it.
Meanwhile, up on Mars, the Curiosity Rover has eaten part of the first rock-powder sample from its February big drilling adventure. Once ingested, the rover’s internal labratories can begin to analyze the sample to see just what Mars is made of.
Curiosity has 10 science instruments on board. As part of the rover’s two-year prime mission, these tools will be used in tests to see whether that particular area of Mars ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life — so in goes the drilled powder sample. But what wine do you even pair with fine Martian rock dust? I’m gonna go with maybe a nice Cabernet Franc…