This week J.D. has some app suggestions that will help you maintain your automobile and Pedro fills us in on his weekend tablet modding exploits. In the news, lost in last week’s CES maelstrom was the announcement of a potential Java exploit that could affect almost 1 billion computers worldwide; Facebook gets into the search business and industry experts have suggestions for Apple on how to reverse their stock price slide.
The holidays are over and we’re back to business. While Apple just announced it hit the 40 billion downloads mark for its App Store since it opened for business in mid-2008, it may not be enough to beat Google to the Million App Mark this year, as growth-rate calculations favor the Google Play Store to get there first. Google Play is currently estimated to have 800,000 apps available. Android-based devices are also taking a bite out of Apple’s iPhone sales. ComScore’s November 2012 Mobile Subscriber Market Share Report shows Samsung on top with 26.9 percent of US sales compared to Apple’s 18.5 percent of users. The iPhone also has a Consumer Reports ranking behind Samsung and LG handsets.
Way back in 2010, the Library on Congress signed an agreement with Twitter to gain access to all public tweets sent since the microblogging service went live in 2006. As of last week, the archive now holds 170 billion Twitter messages and continues to grow. If you have an unprotected Twitter account, odds are, you’ve been archived. So remember, tweet for posterity!
Walmart has enhanced its Vudu To Go app for the PC and Mac and will soon let customers do their disc-to-digital copies at home without having the schlep a bunch of previously purchased DVD and Blu-Ray discs to the nearest Wal-Mart for conversion. AT&T is also dabbling in the streaming business with its new $5-a-month U-Verse Screen Pack, although it doesn’t quite have the massive inventory of Netflix. Still, if you have AT&T U-Verse and want to stream flicks like St. Elmo’s Fire, Hudson Hawk and The Care Bears Movie all month, it’ll cost you less than a movie ticket, even with matinee pricing.
Get ready Lego Mindstorms EV3! The new kit, due out in the late summer/early fall features all kinds of fun stuff for your do-it-yourself robot. The $350 EV3 system includes an infrared sensor, the ability to be controlled by a smartphone or tablet and a Linux-based system for programming the robot. Remember kids, practice your robotics and someday maybe you can build rovers for NASA missions. (Speaking of NASA. The agency has scheduled a press conference at the Johnson Space Center next Thursday, January 17, to preview the next two missions to the International Space Station.)
And finally, Walt Disney theme parks are going high-tech with the new MyMagic+ vacation management system, which comebines a new integrated Web site, mobile app and electronic wrist bracelet called the MagicBand to handle all your scheduling, housing and monetary needs during your stay in the Mouse House. The potential for data gathering and tracking has not gone unnoticed by privacy advocates, but the MyMagic+ system won’t be mandatory. It may be a small world (after all) — but big data is growing.
The Consumer Electronics Show, also known as CES, has been around since June 1967, when it was first held in New York City. It’s packed up and headed west for Las Vegas since then, but over the years, plenty of products first introduced at the show have come and gone (the VCR, the CD, HDTV, Microsoft Bob…)
So what about this year?
Try Ultra High Definition TV. Big pixels here – 3840 x 2160 — on big screens with prices that start around $12,000 and shoot way up north from there. Samsung showed off its 85-inch UN89S9 ultra high-def set that floats on its own massive easel. No price announced yet. Want something bigger? There’s The Westinghouse UltraHD 4K TV with 110-inch screen. After the massive price tags that will certainly get cheaper, getting content in native 4K resolutions is going to be the tough part – and storing it, as some experts are calculating that a movie in the full 4K resolution will need just under 10 terabytes of space to store. So we’ll see if UHD gets any more traction than 3D HDTV.
As for smartphones, Sony announced its upcoming Xperia Z LTE phone, due out in the first quarter of this year. It runs Android Jelly Bean, has a 5-inch 1080p screen, sports a 13-megapixel camera with HDR video and runs on a 1.5 gigahertz Qualcomm qua-core processor. It also comes with built-in protection of you get a case of the dropsies. The Xperia Z has anti-shatter glass on the front and back AND it’s water-resistant; Sony claims the phone can stay submerged for up to 30 minutes and still function. As the BBC calls it, it’s a bath-friendly phone.
But aside from big TVs, phones, tablets and the usual stuff we see at CES every year, there’s always the more offbeat gadgets at every show. The memorable oddities for 2013 include:
- The Trakdot Luggage Tracker, a GPS unit for your luggage so you know where it is, even if your airline doesn’t.
- The Fitbit Flex band, a wearable wristband that monitors its wearer’s movement, sleep, and calories burned all day, every day.
- The Hapilabs smart fork, also known as the Hapifork, is a Bluetooth-enabled eating utensil that that monitors the speed of your eating so you don’t gobble too fast and make yourself sick.
- The Vuzix M100 Smart Glasses, a tiny screen that hangs out in front of your eye to provides visual access to your smartphone display, basic Web content and other info from your smartphone and applications.
Can’t get enough of CES news? Checkout the exhaustive coverage from CNET, The New York Times and Engadget for starters. And when you’ve had enough, kick back with a nice Elvis movie. It is, after all, the King’s birthday week.
El Kaiser unboxes a new addition to his tablet arsenal, Google (and Samsung’s) Nexus 10, and J.D. gives us her first impressions of Apple’s redesign of their iTunes media player and media library application. In the news, tech companies concerned over International Telecommunications Union’s reworking of a telecom treaty that may negatively impact Internet freedom, thousands of Tumblr accounts are hacked, and the text message is finally out of its awkward teen years.
Who’d have thought Gmail drafts and online privacy would be tangled up in the current US military sex scandal that’s rolling through the news cycle like that big boulder bearing down on Indy in Raiders of the Lost Ark? For anyone who still thinks Webmail accounts are a good cover for anonymous online activities, InformationWeek’s “Petraeus Fallout: 5 Gmail Security Facts” is worth a read. The Google Transparency Report, which counts user data requests from courts and government agencies, also adds perspective.
Speaking of courts, a judge in the United Kingdom has found Apple’s apology to Samsung less than sincere and ordered the Cupertino crowd to cough up some bucks for bad behavior. Also shaking things up on the Apple campus: Scott Forstall, who handled the iOS platform over at Apple, is parting ways with the company early next year.
Microsoft has its own personnel changes — Windows and Windows Live president Steve Sinofsky is leaving the company, an announcement made in the same week as the modest sales (so far) of the company’s new Surface tablets and Windows 8 system. Although Apple’s Mountain Lion is clawing
Windows 8 in the upgrade race, some executives still think Windows tablets will eventually outpace Android devices, as the flat system of choice for businessfolk — once they get some apps, that is.
Tablets still continue to be the object of affection for many people, including Linux lovers who have successfully gotten Ubuntu Linux up and running on the Google Nexus 7 tablet. Development is still early, but signs point to the Ubuntu desktop software making a concentrated the jump to mobile devices over the next few years. Ubuntu has appeared on other devices before, including Android smartphones with multi-core processors and a Samsung Chromebook. A TV set-top box version is also in the works. For those keeping track of the animal code names, the next version of the often-updated Ubuntu system, version 13.04, has been dubbed Raring Ringtail.
Google’s Nexus 4 smartphone sold out in less than an hour after it went on sale across the pond — a bit of good news for a company that may be facing a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission for stacking the search-results deck with its own services. (But YouTube is cleaning things up: the the site is weeding out about 60 percent of its channels from last year.)
For those still firmly gripping their BlackBerry phones in hand amidst the onslaught of Android phones, iPhones and Windows Phone handsets, the future is on the way. Research in Motion is planning a January 30th, 2013, launch event for its BlackBerry 10 operating system.
While the BlackBerry platform has gotten shoved aside by those other phones in recent years, many people still hang on to it for the BlackBerry Messenger service, which, like Apple’s iMessage system, has taken a big bite out of text-message volume over the wireless carrier networks. In fact, a new report shows that old-school SMS text messaging in the U.S. is in decline for the first time. But no matter how you direct your text traffic, be sure to do it safely and not in traffic. As a TV sage use to say, “Let’s be careful out there.” Same goes for using Webmail, making apologies and unlocking the bootloader on your Nexus 7 so you can Penguinize your Google tablet.
This week J.D. lists some useful apps that will get you through the Thanksgiving Holiday and Pedro laments the lack of decent gaming controllers for his tablets. In the news, a political scandal with a tech twist; high-level changes in the executive ranks at Apple and Google; RIM is finally ready to unveil the Blackberry 10 OS; and Youtube distributes cancellation slips.
Windows 8 and its new Surface tablets hit stores at the end of this week and they have at least one major fan – former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates. In a busy week, Microsoft updated the Xbox 360 with new features, including Web browsing on the TV with Internet Explorer on the Xbox and voice search through the Kinect controller. The company also put its new Office Web apps on its SkyDrive cloud service and Outlook.com. The Office Web Apps allow users to share and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in a Web browser.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note II big phone/little tablet arrived this week, as T-Mobile stores received their shipments and AT&T getting them on November 9th. Sprint, which has been added to the cellular carrier list for the iPad, continues to build up its 4G LTE network around the country.
After months of rampant speculation and rumors (garbled at times or otherwise), Apple announced a bunch of stuff this week, including a new Mac Mini, updated iMacs, a 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro, and oh yeah, new iPads maxi and mini. (Should they just rebrand the iPod Touch the iPad Micro at this point?) Also, word has it that Apple is testing an update to iOS 6 that’s supposed to fix several issues with the software on the current crop of iOS hardware.
One of Amazon’s cloud computing data centers had a little power outage this past Monday, so if you were trying to use the Foursquare, Pinterest, Reddit or TMZ sites and couldn’t, that was probably why. Amazon Web Services was restored later, but not before several people complained on Twitter. And BlackBerry also had some woes, as a prominent Federal agency has decided to end its contract Research in Motion and issue Apple’s iPhones to its employees. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency liked the iPhone’s tighter controls over hardware and software compared to other mobile platforms out there.
Android had more security woes this week as researchers tested 13, 500 popular apps in Google’s Play store and found that 8% failed to protect bank account and social media logins. (Yes, data is worth money in many ways, and an executive at IBM has even called Big Data one of our most valuable emerging natural resources.) Another government agency had news this week as well — the Federal Trade Commission, released its official Best Practices document for companies using facial recognition technology.
And finally, PopCap Games, maker of the addictive Plants vs. Zombies videogame, is teaming up with the American Dental Association to promote good oral hygiene in this candy-laden time of the year. PopCap is making coupons for free downloads of Plants vs. Zombies available for parents to dispense to trick-or-treating children as a healthier alternative to candy. Check it out here, and be sure to brush after those Halloween treats you do score next week.
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.
In a Hopefully Helpful Hint segment J.D. takes a look at some inexpensive websites that will show you how to become a programmer. In the news Google pushes for quality Android tablet apps; a new rumor making the rounds claims the aforementioned Google and Apple nemesis Samsung are teaming up to develop a Nexus branded 10″ tablet; and tech giants band together to create the Web Platform Docs project, a new community-driven site for web developer documentation.