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.
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!”
The first round of the Apple-Samsung legal slapfight over patents wrapped up last week, with Apple winning a large chunk of change in the decision and asking for an injunction against the sale of several Samsung Galaxy phones. While Samsung vows to fight on in this case, the company is going about its business elsewhere, including in Germany, where it introduced three new Windows 8 desktop computers due out later this fall.
Apple isn’t sitting around basking in its legal victory either. The latest grind of the rumor mill now suggests two major Apple product announcements this fall instead of just one mega event. Amazon, in the meantime, is getting out ahead of any of Apple’s rumored showcase dates with an event of its own in southern California next week. While the shadow of iPhone 5 may loom over much of this fall’s mobile news, LG Electronics is diving in with the Optimus G, a 4G LTE Android phone with a quad-core Snapdragon processor, Bluetooth 4.0 and a big honkin’ 13-megapixel rear camera.
Dropbox, the online storage and file-sharing site, has had its share of security issues the past year. The company is busting a move, though, and has announced it’s adding two-step authentication to help keep those cloud accounts safe and sound. The procedure is still being tested and sounds a bit buggy, but will hopefully get smoother and make things safer for Dropboxers everywhere. While Dropbox’s new security system is working out the bugs, researchers from the computer science and biology departments at Stanford University are studying them. It turns out the behavior of harvester ants is quite similar to the algorithm used in the Internet’s Transmission Control Protocol. Yay, Anternet!
NASA’s mission for the Curiosity rover has gone beyond rolling around and taking pictures on the surface of Mars. The exploratory vehicle also belted out will.i.am’s “Reach for the Stars” this week — and it was the first time a song has been broadcast from another planet. Now, if only Curiosity can tap into The Walker Art Center’s star-studded Internet Cat Video Film Festival and share even more quality Earth culture with any galactic neighbors that might be around.
Microsoft’s Windows Upgrade Offer site is now taking registrations so if you’ve purchased a new Windows 7 PC since this past June 2, sign up to get Windows 8 Pro for $15. You’ll likely see Windows 8 before RIM’s BlackBerry 10 OS arrives, and we may soon see the Windows Phone platform slipping past BlackBerry in U.S. smartphone market share, if StatCounter’s extrapolated numbers hold up. Windows Phone 8 models are expected to be popping up this fall, and Nokia undoubtedly hopes to increase its customer base here in the States to match its Windows Phone domination worldwide.
If you’re worried about smishing (SMS phishing) after that iOS security researcher figured out a way to spoof SMS messages on the iPhone, check out PC World’s article for a good backgrounder on the topic. While Apple’s initial suggestion was to just stick to its iMessage service to protect yourself from phishers, maybe they could add a little code to iOS 6 to zip up that security flaw since not everyone has an iOS device.
Speaking of iOS 6 and its new features, those wanting to stay chatty in with FaceTime over an AT&T cellular connection must switch to one of the new Mobile Share data plans — a requirement some advocacy groups are questioning on legal grounds. For those who prefer the multiplatform Skype app for VoIP and video chats, the new Skype iOS apps now allow photo sharing.
Gamers should have plenty to look forward to this fall. Nintendo’s preview announcement for its new Wii U game console on September 13th. Rovio, the folks behind the insanely popular Angry Birds game, has teamed up for a new 10-level version of the game with the punk-pop band Green Day—who happens to have three new albums in the works. To give you a little taste of the action, the game trailer features a bit of the new Green Day single, “Oh Love.” And if you’re into games and trailers, check out the one for Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary, an upcoming film about how table-top roleplaying games changed the world. The movie isn’t supposed to be out until 2014 and its creators are doin’ the Kickstarter thing now, but for those who can’t wait, there’s a book called Of Dice and Men on the history of the game due out next spring.
Like a set of dice, the Mars rover, Curiosity, is rollin’…around Mars this week. Curiosity has its own Twitter feed if you feel like following, and there’s also the unofficial parody account, @SarcasticRover, if you like your robots with a little sass.
Windows 8, Microsoft’s overhaul of its flagship PC operating system, isn’t due out in final form until October 26th. If you’re curious about it and just can’t wait to kick the tires, the company has a free Windows 8 Release Preview edition you can download and try out for yourself.
So, what are the system requirements to run this Win8 beta? According to Microsoft, the requirements are mostly the same for any PC running Windows 7, although there are some stricter screen-resolution requirements if you want to get 100 percent out of the experience.
- Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
- RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
- Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
- Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver
Additional requirements to use certain features:
- To use touch, you need a tablet or a monitor that supports multitouch.
- To access the Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768.
- To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768.
- Internet access (ISP fees might apply)
Before you get rolling, be sure to read the Frequently Asked Questions page before you start, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. Microsoft also has a Windows 8 Release Preview information page and a very colorful 25-page PDF guide to the software that automatically downloads if you click here.
Just remember, once you install the Windows 8 Preview, you can’t magically undo it and go back to your previous operating system without doing a full reinstall with all the hassle THAT involves. So if you’re going to try out the unfinished Windows 8 — which is still a technically a beta — it’s best to do it on a PC that’s not essential to your daily functioning computer life. There’s no guarantee all of your programs will function properly. There’s no real tech support outside of online forums. Consider yourself warned there — and have a great time if you just can’t wait until fall.
If you do want to wait for the finished version of Windows 8 this fall, it won’t sap nearly as much coin as previous versions of Windows used to demand. An upgrade download for Windows 8 Pro will be available for about $40 and if you’ve purchased a new Windows 7 PC since June 2, 2012, and your chosen model qualifies with Microsoft, you can get a Windows 8 upgrade for $15. (Seriously, that last one’s cheaper than the cost of a 3D IMAX movie ticket in New York City…)