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Gadget Ogling: Up In The Air, Big Reads and Ghastly Wearables
October 25, 2014
This week in Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, a peek at newly announced gadgets that caught my eye, we're going back to the future. Yes, there's an actual hoverboard on the agenda, alongside a larger Nook tablet, a high-end Kindle, smart luggage, and the tipping point for wearable tech. As always, there are ratings for each item, which are based on how interested I am in using them.
Android Wear Gets Its First Big Update
October 24, 2014
Google's Android Wear on Thursday got its first major update, bringing GPS support and offline music capabilities to the wearables platform. "Android Wear is great for tracking things like route, distance and speed," wrote Kenny Stoltz, Android Wear product manager. "Before today, you had to keep your phone close at hand. Starting today, Wear supports watches with GPS sensors."
Amazon's Cold Fire Phone Inflames Investors
October 24, 2014
Amazon on Thursday posted a net loss of $437 million for the third quarter. For the same period in 2013, it posted a net loss of $41 million. Amazon had warned shareholders when it reported its bleak second quarter performance in July that the next quarter would be equally grim. However, that did not keep investors from reacting in surprise and dismay when the Q3 report arrived.
Google's Inbox: Beginning of the End of Email as We Know It?
October 24, 2014
Google on Wednesday introduced Inbox, a free mobile app that aims to separate the email wheat from the chaff. It's currently available to Android and iPhone users on an invitation-only basis. The software is aimed at managing email on small screens, although once set up and running on a phone, it can be accessed through Google's Chrome browser on a desktop.
Apple Is Confusing Tablet Leadership With Awesomeness
October 23, 2014
The new super thin iPad Air 2 is starting to get tepid reviews, most of which begrudgingly call it the "best tablet" in the market, while admitting it's boring. Instead of talking up all the great things about how it makes their lives better or fun, the focus is starting to turn to the glaringly obvious annoyances about what it doesn't do well at all.
Reading and Writing and Open Source
October 22, 2014
Digital textbooks with open-licensed content -- and sometimes even complete open source textbooks -- are starting to change the way students and teachers interact with subject material. The budget-busting prices of traditional printed textbooks and the ubiquity of mobile devices have provided textbook authors and educators with convincing reasons to give students an alternative.
Some Apple Pay Users Get Double-Billing and Double-Talk
October 22, 2014
Shortly after Apple Pay's Monday launch, some eager early users were unsettled to see duplicate charges on their accounts. Apple Pay lets iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus users store credit card information on their devices and then pay for products using tap-to-pay terminals in stores, or via apps when shopping online. However, in some cases, it appears to be dinging consumers' accounts twice.
Smart Nightlight Calls Your iPhone When Smoke, CO Alarms Start Wailing
October 22, 2014
Leeo on Tuesday introduced the Smart Alert Nightlight, a $99 gadget that can detect when the alarm sounds from a smoke or carbon monoxide detector and send alerts to an iPhone. About the size and shape of a coaster, the Smart Alert Nightlight plugs into a wall outlet where it does double duty as illuminator and monitor. When it hears an alarm, it uses its WiFi connection to send a push notification.
Google Takes a Flyer on Magic Leap
October 21, 2014
Magic Leap on Tuesday announced that Google was the lead investor in a $542 million round of funding for its secret endeavors. Also participating were Qualcomm, Legendary Entertainment, KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz and Obvious Ventures. Details are scarce about Magic Leap's forthcoming products, but they are likely proprietary wearable technology.
Chinese Officials Kick In Apple, MS Cloud Doors
October 21, 2014
Chinese authorities have launched man-in-the-middle attacks on Apple's iCloud.com and Microsoft's Login.live.co that are ongoing, according to Greatfire.org. Qihoo 360 browser users' local connections to iCloud.com are being rerouted to a dummy site that's identical to Apple's login page. Users of Firefox or Chrome land on a warning page instead. The attack on iCloud reportedly is nationwide.
Black Box Keeps Cybersnoops in Dark
October 21, 2014
Following Edward Snowden's revelations about indiscriminate government snooping on U.S. citizens, many Net surfers would like to find a way to lower their visibility on the Internet. There are a number of tools in cyberspace that can help a soul do that, but they can take time and savvy to set up. That's why Kerry Cox launched the Sierra Project, which he hopes to fund through Kickstarter.
Apple Pay Aims to Make Plastic Passť
October 20, 2014
Apple on Monday launched its Apple Pay mobile payment system in the U.S., for use with Apple's latest iPhones and to a limited extent its new iPads, as well. Apple Pay allows purchasing transactions to be performed with a phone swipe -- as long as a retailer has the right hardware. Purchases within apps can be completed using only the Touch ID fingerprint reader.
Whisper Shouts Denials of Tracking Allegations
October 20, 2014
Whisper, an app that purports to send messages anonymously, reportedly has been tracking the location of its users, including those who have turned off their geolocation feature. Even more incendiary than the location-tracking accusation is the allegation that Whisper has identified smartphones used at military bases and has shared information gleaned from them with the Defense Department.
FBI's Comey Argues Against Encryption: Trust Us
October 20, 2014
FBI director James Comey, in a speech last week at the Brookings Institute, reiterated his concerns about encryption built into iOS 8 and Android stymieing law enforcement. "I'm a huge believer in the rule of law, but I also believe that no one in this country should be beyond the law," he said. However, the law has not kept pace with technology, Comey pointed out.
Tablet Wars: The iPad Drifts Toward Mediocrity
October 20, 2014
There have been a lot of interesting tablets launched over the last month, but Apple -- the primary driver in this market -- didn't launch one of them. Remember when the first and second iPads came out? They were magical, amazing devices. Fifty percent of the installed base is still generation 1 and 2 iPads, according to studies. Tim Cook can't get people to give them up to buy new ones.
Top 5 Ways to Make Money With Software
October 20, 2014
While app developers generally aim to make money off their creations, this goal is often relegated to second-tier status by programmers who but the product first and foremost, as they should. Therefore, in order to minimize the time needed to devote to a monetization strategy, developers generally choose one of the following tried-and-true methods.
Gadget Ogling: Apple vs. Google, a Bossy Activity Tracker, and Feeling Your Path
October 18, 2014
There was plenty of focus on the cameras at Apple's presentation, as it tries to promote the tablet as an ideal viewfinder for taking high-quality images, while adding iPhone features like time-lapse and burst mode. However, the new push of iPad photography is just encouraging even more people to look foolish by taking photos with their tablet in public. This is a plague.
The iPad Air 2 Reveals Chink in Apple's Armor
October 17, 2014
The launch of the faster, thinner, goldier iPad Air 2, revealed a gap in Apple's shiny armor. This gap is the place where competitors have a chance to attack. However, the gap remains protected by a suit of chain mail. Let me explain. The iPad Air 2 sure looks like an amazing feat of engineering -- at just 6.1 millimeters thick, it's 18 percent thinner than its super-thin predecessor.
Apple Blows the Dust Off iPad, iMac Models
October 17, 2014
Apple on Thursday held a new product event on its campus in Cupertino, California, where the stars of the show were a thinner version of its iPad tablets and a 27-inch iMac desktop with a display that has 67 percent more pixels than a 4K TV. The iPad Air 2 will have an entry point of $499 for a 16-GB model. It is only 6.1mm thick -- more than 50 percent thinner than the original iPad.
Enter the Nexus Dragon
October 16, 2014
Google on Wednesday announced three new devices in its Nexus line: a tablet, a phablet, and a streaming media game player-cum-Android TV device, all of which run Lollipop, the latest version of its Android OS. Lollipop lets users sync content from phones to tablets to TVs and use it seamlessly. It has a consistent design across devices so transitions between tasks are more fluid.
Find My iPhone? Find Me! Lost Phone Feature Helps Rescuers Locate Crashed Car
October 16, 2014
A woman whose car rolled 500 feet down an embankment near San Jose, California, was located through the Find My iPhone feature on her smartphone after spending 19 hours in the ravine where her Chevy Cruze ended up. The OnStar feature in her car triggered two calls to police, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, but neither pinpointed the location of her car.
SalesMesh Bridges Rep-Corporate Information Gap
October 15, 2014
AppMesh recently came out of the gate with Version 2.0 of its flagship product, SalesMesh -- a major leap in functionality. "CRM has made a lot of advances over the years," said cofounder Thomas Tobin. "What it hasn't addressed, however, are the needs of reps as individuals." Problem areas range from cumbersome and repetitive manual entry of data, to keeping track of conversations and leads.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Edges Out iPhone 6 Plus: Reviewers
October 15, 2014
The first reviews are out on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, unveiled last month in Berlin, and they're generally positive. "The best big-screen phone you can buy right now," screams one headline. "A phablet that can teach Apple a few things," says another. "The best Android phablet rules with a pen," declares a third. "I'm not sure where the good story is on this," said tech analyst Jeff Orr.
Lollipop Could Make Android Stickier
October 15, 2014
Google on Wednesday unwrapped Android 5.0 Lollipop, officially replacing the "Android L" code name by which the latest version of its mobile platform previously had been known. "Lollipop is our largest, most ambitious release on Android, with over 5,000 new APIs for developers," wrote Sundar Pichai, Google's senior vice president for Android, Chrome & Apps, in a blog post.

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