Showing posts from July, 2013

Microsoft Can't Get A Break

Remember when the new Windows 8 interface was referred to as "Metro", and then, rather abruptly - it wasn't? That was because a "European partner" objected to the name as a trademark they already owned. So, Metro became "Modern" or the clunkier "Windows 8-style". Well, looks like it has happened again, this time with "SkyDrive", Microsoft's consumer cloud storage service. The UK's Sky Broadcasting Group won a judgement against Microsoft using the SkyDrive name, and apparently the folks from Redmond are backing down and are going to change the name at some point in the future. My questions is: doesn't Microsoft have any trademark lawyers on their staff that can try to avoid this kind of embarrassment? I mean, it is rather embarrassing, isn't it?

Facebook To Become A Bit Noisier

At Facebook, seemingly the only constant is change; this time, look for 15-second video ads to start showing up in your news feed later this year. The Facebook folks seem to love to tinker with the interface and other aspects of the giant social network - usually eliciting much grumbling from it's millions of users. Of course, after we grumble, we just suck it up and press on. The commercials will initially be sold on a full-day basis and can only be targeted to users based on age and gender, according to the people. That would be a break from how ad units are currently sold on Facebook, which lets marketers target ads based on location and areas of interest -- data points that television networks generally don’t offer. By relying on fewer categories, Facebook is mimicking the way television ads are purchased, an attempt to make the process more comfortable for executives accustomed to TV, the people said. Bloomberg

Leap Motion Is Finally Here

The Leap Motion controller is here at last, and almost inevitably, it does not live up to the hype - yet. The beauty of these types of hardware and software driven devices is that the software can be improved. The promise was of an accurate method of using gestures to control computer application, simply by moving your hands or fingers in mid-air; no mouse or trackball needed - reminiscent of computer interfaces like those in the movie Minority Report. Doesn't the XBox Kinect controller do that already? Yes, but it's a game-based controller and the control is less precise; Leap Motion is supposed to be suitable for use with computer apps - although based upon initial reviews, they may have some work to do. Still, it's finally here, so let's see where we go from here.

The New Nexus 7 Tablet

Google's latest iteration of the Nexus 7 tablet was announced yesterday, and it's largely more of the same. There are quite a few hardware improvements, but it's also more expensive than the previous version - by about $30 for each configuration (different storage capacities and WiFi or Wifi and Data). So, why would you buy one - particularly if you have the original? The new Nexus 7 is slimmer, comes with a more efficient battery, a higher resolution screen (now 1920x1200, and an impressive 323 pixels per inch), and has stereo speakers and the ability to recharge wirelessly. It also comes with the latest version of Android - 4.3 -which ads multiple user profiles and some other minor tweaks and fixes. If all those things are calling to you, then...

Google Chromecast Makes Waves

Google Chromecast is a $35 piece of hardware that is proving to be the new darling of the tech press since it's unveiling yesterday. It's a small device that plugs into the HDMI port of your (newer) TV, and allows you to stream content from various devices and from the Internet onto your big screen. It does need power from a USB port or from an AC adapter too, but that's a minor quibble. Apparently, the device does what it says on the box and does it well. Here are a few articles, by way of an overview:
Dongle Style - Wired

Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku - Cult Of Mac

Google Chromecast - Greatness In It's Infancy - BetaNews

Geek Week Ahead On YouTube

Following in the wake of geektastic Comic Con 2013, YouTube is presenting a showcase for it's top geek channels. YouTube Geek Week runs from August 4 through August 10, and will be highlighting a different channel each day.

Sometimes It Makes My Head Hurt

I am usually pretty sanguine about most things. Sometimes, though, my temples start throbbing and I just get irked. Such is the case with all these revelations concerning what many of us naively thought was an open Internet. Apparently, the monitoring and scrutiny of our communications is pretty much unrestrained, and the 4th Amendment to the Constitution be damned. It is now abundantly clear — as many of us have suspected all along — that governments and surveillance agencies of all stripes — Western, Eastern, democratic, and authoritarian, will pour essentially unlimited funds into efforts to monitor Internet communications." Read the rest at Slashdot 

Tech Support Scams

It's bad enough when you have to call legitimate tech support for assistance - I work in support, so I know how people are often on the ragged edge by the time they give up and actually call - but when they seemingly start calling you, that's a whole different animal. Some of the latest scams involve getting an unsolicited call from (supposedly) Microsoft or Apple or some other company with name recognition, and then the "support person" will try to baffle you with BS and want to "help" you to "fix" your computer. Note that Microsoft, Apple, Google, Adobe, HP, Dell, Samsung, etc will NOT call people out of the blue to offer assistance, so please realize that up front.  [The scammers] call, claiming to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft. They say that they’ve detected viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don’t need.
These scammers take a…

Microsoft Mum About Wonky Video

One of the critical security patches in last Tuesday's batch of updates from Microsoft is causing some users to only see half their videos. As InfoWorld reports, one of the critical security fixes included in last week’s Patch Tuesday bundle is causing problems for some users, by blacking out the top half of videos created with movie-making software.The issue appears to be related to Microsoft’s MS13-057 security update on Windows 7 (KB 2803821) and Windows XP (KB 2834904), which attempted to resolve a critical issue with how Windows handled WMV files.GrahamCluley

One Microsoft To Rule Them All

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has a new slogan, a new paradigm: One Microsoft. The huge company employs nearly 100,000 people, and has long been known as a collection of divisions that don't necessarily work together as well as you might expect. It's a problem that has apparently frustrated Ballmer to the point where he is aggressively attempting to break up those fiefdoms in a massive reorganization - and the new emphasis is on "Windows everywhere". Ballmer warned of a "fundamental shift" in Microsoft's business as he outlined his push towards a devices and services company just ahead of his riskiest product bet: Windows 8. The change wasn't immediately felt, but Thursday's reorganization seems to underline just how serious Ballmer is about changing Microsoft. After the departure of former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky, many feared Microsoft was nervous about the future of Windows. In fact, it’s clear that a fortress has been broken down tha…

Defcon To Feds: Take A Hike

As the fallout of the Snowdon revelations over NSA surveillance activities continues to fester, the hackers at the annual Defcon conference are indicating they don't want to see any Feds there this year, thank you very much. The conference is an annual tradition for hackers and security professionals, and typically has a discrete presence of "plainclothes" NSA types, gathering information and sometimes recruiting. However, this year the organizers are less than enthusiastic about that idea. In an interview with Reuters, [conference founder Jeff Moss] elaborates on the rejection, "The community is digesting things that the Feds have had a decade to understand and come to terms with.  A little bit of time and distance can be a healthy thing, especially when emotions are running high.  [But] we are not going on a witch hunt or checking IDs and kicking people out."

That's a rough shake for the feds, who mostly attend dressed in plain clothes, who long use…

New Hardware Specs For Windows 8.1

Microsoft issues hardware specifications for manufacturers from time to time, so that everyone is on the same page as to what the current version of Windows will support. They have issued new specs for Windows 8.1, which should be generally available at no cost to all Windows 8 users towards the end of 2013 (the 8.1 preview is available for download now). Support for hybrid drives and other features give an inkling as to where Microsoft thinks things are headed. If a new PC has Windows 8.1 installed and also has NFC hardware, they must use the NCI protocol, according to the new requirements. Inbox support for fingerprint readers is being added to Windows 8.1. As we reported earlier, Microsoft and Intel are also working on a better trackpad technology that will launch later this year. Windows 8.1 running on ARM PCs will require the use of the upcoming Precision Touchpads technology, but it will remain an option for x86 PCs. Neowin

To Be, Or Not To Be - Transhuman

Transhumanism is a term given to the movement seeking to develop and implement varied technologies that can either replace or augment the biological components of our human bodies - and maybe even our minds. While it sounds like science fiction, it is real and is it progressing. It's a wonderful thing to be able to offer bionic limbs and the like, restoring physical function to people who currently do not have it, or are impaired. There is also research into technologies to help profoundly disabled people, such as scientist Stephen Hawking - now almost completely immobile - to interact by directly using his mind (his thoughts, in effect). When thought through to it's logical conclusion, it perhaps brings up the question on what it is to be human at all, if we are facing a world where computer/mechanical/human hybrid beings may exist among us.

Social Media, News Media

With so many of us connected to and engaged in social media during most of our waking hours, it can become a strange but fascinating look into others lives when things go wrong. The San Francisco airline crash was Tweeted about right after it happened by at least one of the surviving passengers. David Eun, a passenger and executive with Samsung, had posted information which showed up on Twitter almost in real time: I just crash landed at SFO. Tail ripped off. Most everyone seems fine. I'm ok. Surreal... Read more at AllthingsD

Smart Watch - You Better Want One

The next "big thing" - if we go by the frantic efforts of consumer electronics manufacturers - is the Smart Watch. Older readers may think of Dick Tracy and his wrist communicator, and you're probably not far off. The Smart Watch concept is usually that of a wearable interface for an existing smartphone. Apple has been patenting the iWatch name in various countries, and Sony actually has dibs on the name Smartwatch, with their Smartwatch II device due out soon. The Apple iWatch is subject to a lot of speculation, but it's unknown at this time if it is a self-contained device or not. The Sony device is an interface for an Android phone, and the first version was a bit underwhelming. Regardless, PC maker who are scrambling for new sources of revenue in the wake of the huge current slump in PC sales are pressing on, and also seeing some signs that smartphones are beginning to saturate their respective markets. So, you can expect to have the Smart Watch concept rammed d…

Of Mice, And A Man

Douglas Engelbart, the creator of the computer mouse, passed away a couple of days ago. Considering the ubiquity of the mouse as an input device (or "human interface device", as they are called now), it's a remarkable legacy. Digital computers had been associated with a keyboard interface, and the QWERTY keyboard itself is a holdover from the days of the typewriter (remember those?). The first computer I recall seeing with a mouse was an Apple Mac (with a black and white display!), but the interaction of  a mouse-controlled pointer on the screen was fascinating - and more to the point, made sense. The grandaddy of all mouse-based graphical interfaces was actually found on the Xerox Alto (below, with clunky-looking mouse).