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Putting Out the Fire Phone

Friday, August 29th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Amazon-Fire-Phone

From The Guardian:

You could argue that if the Amazon Fire Phone under-indexes, it probably isn’t by much; you could multiply the number by 25%, based on the average of the Samsung and HTC figures. That takes you up to about 33,000 devices.

Therefore even allowing for margins of error, it seems unlikely – based on Chitika’s data and the ComScore data – that there were more than about 35,000 Fire Phones in use after those 20 days.

Amazon had not responded to a request for comment on the calculation by the time of publication.

Ouch.

Although I can’t say I’m surprised. The phone is phugly, and by nearly every account, the user interface is an unusable and clumsy mess. And it’s priced the same as an iPhone or a top-tier Android device, when clearly it’s neither.

Still, it’s comforting to know that not even Amazon’s marketing muscle — and I say this as a happy and devoted customer of theirs — isn’t enough to push people into buying overpriced craptaculence.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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There’s an App for Hijacking Your Phone

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Android

That is, there’s another app for hijacking your phone:

You are guilty of child porn, child abuse, zoophilia or sending out bulk spam. You are a criminal. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has locked you out of your phone and the only way to regain access to all your data is to pay a few hundred dollars.

That message — or variations of it — has popped up on hundreds of thousands of people’s Android devices in just the last month. The message claims to be from the F.B.I., or cybersecurity firms, but is in fact the work of Eastern European hackers who are hijacking Android devices with a particularly pernicious form of malware, dubbed “ransomware” because it holds its victims’ devices hostage until they pay a ransom.

Ransomware is not new. Five years ago, criminals in Eastern Europe began holding PC users’ devices hostage with similar tools. The scheme was so successful that security experts say many cybercriminals have abandoned spam and fake antivirus frauds to take up ransomware full time. By 2012, security experts had identified more than 16 gangs extorting millions from ransomware victims around the world.

Now those same criminals are taking their scheme mobile, successfully infecting Android devices at disturbing rates. In just the last 30 days, roughly 900,000 people were targeted with a form of ransomware called “ScarePackage,” according to Lookout, a San Francisco-based mobile security firm.

900,000 isn’t a whole lot of mobile phone users in a global market of billions — but it’s enough to generate the profits necessary to keep these illicit activities growing.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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What Resolution iPhone 6 Displays?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Want to know the resolution of the new iPhones due to be announced next month? John Gruber did the math — all of the math — to come up with the best educated guess I’ve seen:

But after giving it much thought, and a lot of tinkering in a spreadsheet, here is what I think Apple is going to do:

4.7-inch display: 1334 × 750, 326 PPI @2x
5.5-inch display: 2208 × 1242, 461 PPI @3x

@2x means the same “double” retina resolution that we’ve seen on all iOS devices with retina displays to date, where each virtual point in the user interface is represented by two physical pixels on the display in each dimension, horizontal and vertical. @3x means a new “triple” retina resolution, where each user interface point is represented by three display pixels. A single @2x point is a 2 × 2 square of 4 pixels; an @3x point is a 3 × 3 square of 9 pixels.

I could be wrong on either or both of these conjectured new iPhones. I derived these figures on my own, and I’ll explain my thought process below.

It’s a fascinating and extremely detailed (Ha! Get it?) report, explaining the difference between pixels and points on an iOS screen, and how simply increasing the pixels wouldn’t necessarily lead to fitting more stuff onto a larger screen — at least not in a sensible way, and not at resolutions other than the ones he determined.

My only hope is that the rumors are wrong, and that Apple continues to produce at least one model with the same size screen as the iPhone 5 and 5S. For me it’s the perfect size for easily sliding in or out of a pants pocket, without making too much of a bulge. This trend towards bigger phones goes against everything that was once cool about electronics, where small & light should rule the day.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image illustration via shutterstock /  alphaspirit

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‘The Team Knew It Had Electrodes In the Right Spot When the Musician’s Performance was Steady.’

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

violinist-brain-surgery

Whoa:

It’s common for brain surgery patients to stay awake. That’s how surgeons know everything is going smoothly, after all. When concert violinist Roger Frisch started suffering from tremors that are only a problem when he’s playing, however, Mayo Clinic doctors had to resort to some rather unusual technology to find out if they were installing the necessary brain pacemaker correctly. The surgical crew gave Frisch a bow equipped with a motion-tracking sensor and asked him to fiddle during the operation; the team knew it had electrodes in the right spot when the musician’s performance was steady.

I’m speechless.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Amazon Enters Retail — Again

Monday, August 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

amazonreader-inline1

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Similar to Amazon’s strategy in many of its businesses, the company aims to compete on price in the mobile payment arena. For customers who sign up for the service by Oct. 31, Amazon will take as its fee 1.75 percent of each payment processed, or each “swipe” of the card, a special rate that will last until Jan. 1, 2016. For people who sign up after Oct. 31, Amazon will take a service fee of 2.5 percent of each payment processed.

The first $10 in transaction fees will be credited back to the customer, essentially paying for the card reader.

That’s below most of its competitors’ rates. Square takes a fee of 2.75 percent of each transaction. PayPal Here takes 2.7 percent of each transaction and Intuit’s GoPayment rates start at 1.75 percent per transaction if businesses pay a $19.95 monthly rate or 2.4 percent of each transaction without a monthly payment.

That’s a helluva good deal from Amazon for small retailers, made possible by the company’s huge cash flow.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image via Wired.com

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Can You Guess Which Smartphone is Easiest to Hack?

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

finspy A leaked Gamma Group study indicates which smartphones are the easiest to hack with FinSpy spyware:

Among the major mobile platforms cited in a chart in the document, all of them were susceptible to FinSpy. The spyware was able to bully its way into Android (all versions from 2.x.x to 4.4.x), BlackBerry (versions 5.x, 6.x., and 7.x), Symbian, and Windows Mobile 6.1 and 6.5 (Windows Phone 8 is not yet supported by the software). And what of iOS? Apple’s mobile OS did make the list but only in jailbroken mode.

And what can FinSpy do? Read:

FinSpy is “designed to help Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies to remotely monitor mobile phones and tablet devices.” FinSpy can gain full access to phone calls, text messages, the address book, and even the microphone via silent phone calls. It can also trace a device to determine its location. Used by law enforcement and government agencies, FinSpy has earned a reputation for itself as a powerful but controversial tool for sneaking into mobile devices.

Scary stuff. If you need Android’s openness, there’s probably no better alternative. But the vast majority of Android buyers don’t need open — they aren’t even really smartphone users. They buy Android because it’s inexpensive and it’s good enough and it works on their carrier. But what those buyers really are is feature phone users. They’d probably be better off, and they’d certainly be more secure, sticking with simpler Symbian devices.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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10 Lessons on Abiding in Everyday Life I’ve Learned from The Dude

Sunday, August 10th, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

See the previous installment in Susan’s Dudeism series: How to Become an Official Dude in 10 Easy Steps

Warning: Given that the f-bomb is dropped in The Big Lebowski over 200 times, some of these clips will most likely be NSFW.

10. Abiding is a science as well as an art.

Patience is an inherent aspect of abiding. Other definitions include “to endure without yielding,” “to accept without objection,” and “to remain stable.” In the world of the Internet and social media technology, abiding is an anachronistic action. We have been shaped by our media to function at rapid speeds. One of the biggest goals of Common Core is to increase the speed at which students mentally process information. Not study, analyze and comprehend, but process and regurgitate the way they would like and share a Twitter or Facebook post. Abiding flies in the face of today’s high-speed reactionary culture.

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The Little Tablet that Couldn’t

Friday, August 8th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
Nearly lap-able.

Nearly lap-able.

Oops:

Microsoft provided Surface tablets to the NFL teams that played in Sunday’s exhibition football game in Canton, Ohio. It hoped coaches and players would use the devices to study game-play photos on color screens instead of black-and-white printouts.

But some players and coaches opted to punt and use the old standby paper copies instead of the newfangled interactive device. During the broadcast, players could be seen flipping through paper printouts of game action.

Microsoft’s Surface is the official tablet of the NFL, a title it bought last year in a $400 million, five-year partnership with the league.

That’s not as bad as the celebs Samsung pays to be seen using Galaxy phones, who then get caught snapping selfies at the Oscars or wherever with their own personal iPhones — but it ain’t good.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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This Facebook Deal’s Getting Creepier All the Time

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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You might be aware that a week or two ago, Facebook spun its mobile Messenger (which you’d be insane to use) out of the mobile Facebook app (which you’d also be insane to use), and into its own standalone app. But have you read the TOS? Sam Fiorella did:

If you’re one of those 1,000,000,000 people who have downloaded this app, take a moment to read the following. I’ve posted, word for word, a few of the most aggressive app permission you’ve accepted.

Allows the app to change the state of network connectivity

Allows the app to call phone numbers without your intervention. This may result in unexpected charges or calls. Malicious apps may cost you money by making calls without your confirmation.

Allows the app to send SMS messages. This may result in unexpected charges. Malicious apps may cost you money by sending messages without your confirmation.

Allows the app to record audio with microphone. This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation.

Allows the app to take pictures and videos with the camera. This permission allows the app to use the camera at any time without your confirmation.

Allows the app to read you phone’s call log, including data about incoming and outgoing calls. This permission allows apps to save your call log data, and malicious apps may share call log data without your knowledge.

Allows the app to read data about your contacts stored on your phone, including the frequency with which you’ve called, emailed, or communicated in other ways with specific individuals.

Allows the app to read personal profile information stored on your device, such as your name and contact information. This means the app can identify you and may send your profile information to others.

Allows the app to access the phone features of the device. This permission allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call.

Allows the app to get a list of accounts known by the phone. This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed.

The fact that social media and mobile apps are so insidious is nothing new, we all know (or should know) that no app is truly free. “Free” online apps are paid for by the provision of personal data such as name, location, browsing history, etc. In turn, mobile developers and social networks charge advertisers to serve up highly targeted ads to specific groups of people.

In a way, it pays to offer some personal information for a better experience with online ads, which we all hate so much. However, Facebook Messenger’s attempt to collect so much information and take control of our devices is unprecedented and, quite frankly, frightening.

Forget using Facebook Messenger — it’s a privacy and control breech simply having it installed.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image via Bloom Design / Shutterstock.com

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The Deadly Dongle

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

shutterstock_90240892

From Wired:

Nohl and Lell, researchers for the security consultancy SR Labs, are hardly the first to point out that USB devices can store and spread malware. But the two hackers didn’t merely copy their own custom-coded infections into USB devices’ memory. They spent months reverse engineering the firmware that runs the basic communication functions of USB devices—the controller chips that allow the devices to communicate with a PC and let users move files on and off of them. Their central finding is that USB firmware, which exists in varying forms in all USB devices, can be reprogrammed to hide attack code. “You can give it to your IT security people, they scan it, delete some files, and give it back to you telling you it’s ‘clean,’” says Nohl. But unless the IT guy has the reverse engineering skills to find and analyze that firmware, “the cleaning process doesn’t even touch the files we’re talking about.”

The problem isn’t limited to thumb drives. All manner of USB devices from keyboards and mice to smartphones have firmware that can be reprogrammed—in addition to USB memory sticks, Nohl and Lell say they’ve also tested their attack on an Android handset plugged into a PC. And once a BadUSB-infected device is connected to a computer, Nohl and Lell describe a grab bag of evil tricks it can play. It can, for example, replace software being installed with with a corrupted or backdoored version. It can even impersonate a USB keyboard to suddenly start typing commands. “It can do whatever you can do with a keyboard, which is basically everything a computer does,” says Nohl.

The malware can silently hijack internet traffic too, changing a computer’s DNS settings to siphon traffic to any servers it pleases. Or if the code is planted on a phone or another device with an internet connection, it can act as a man-in-the-middle, secretly spying on communications as it relays them from the victim’s machine.

I’ve always behaved as though if anyone can get physical hold of my computer or device, they can crack it. I behave that way because it’s true. But this new threat can be piggybacked into any USB device, opening up avenues that were only open before if someone got physical hold of your stuff.

My advice? Don’t borrow any wired keyboard or mice. And if you use an Android phone or tablet, charge it on a wall charger, period — don’t plug it into your Windows or Mac computer.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image via shutterstock /  Piti Tan

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10 Secrets Your IT Guy Won’t Tell You

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

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If you own a computer, you’re going to find yourself in need of a “techie” someday. Your computer will slow down and stop working efficiently, or worse, it will crash completely and you’ll be visited by the black screen of death. When that day comes, you’ll call an IT guy (or gal) and hand your computer and all its precious — and very personal — data over to a complete stranger.

I’m not an IT person, but I happen to be married to the guy who gets the computers after all hope is lost — after the local computer shop has told you it can’t be fixed (and after they charged you an exorbitant amount of money for not fixing it). My husband (Gary) has a day job as a programmer and senior systems analyst for a Fortune 500 company, but by night, he becomes the Computer Whisperer, bringing systems back from the abyss. He rarely charges anyone (unless you count the cookies and other treats he receives from grateful friends) but considers it a hobby and a personal challenge to rescue lost computers.  I’ve seen with my own eyes the deep magic of data recovery and the resurrection of a system that had been left for dead, so I’d like to offer a few things I’ve learned from watching him in action these many years.

Here Are 10 Secrets Your IT Guy Won’t Tell You:

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It’s the Sci-Fi Disaster Scenario That Didn’t Happen — But Barely

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

STORM

From CNet.com:

A fascinating NASA presentation suggests that in July 2012 Earth was one week away from being struck by a massive solar storm that would have had devastating effects.

NASA’s own Science News describes this event as being “perilous.” Indeed, as perilous as “an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century.”

There are plenty of people here on Earth who are already machinating to send us back to the 18th century. Clearly, there’s something alluring about olden times.

In this case, however, it’s the coronal mass ejection that’s captivating minds. This solar storm “tore through Earth orbit in 2012,” says Science News. “Fortunately Earth wasn’t there.”

I just got back from three days in the woods, with no gadgets, no electricity, no nothin’. It’s fun to get away from all the glowing screens we spend so much of our modern lives staring into, but it’s also a lot of work. I had myself, my two boys, and my young niece to take care of, which meant that by the time I’d finished cleaning up from breakfast, it was nearly time to start on lunch. The afternoons were wet, the nights were cold. At the end of the day I was too tired to even bother with the Kindle I’d brought along. Last night before bed I liberated one of Melissa’s prescription-strength Ibuprofens, just to make sure my woodland collection of aches and pains wouldn’t keep me up. There were extra batteries for a couple of LED lanterns and various flashlights — but if those wore out, then what? Well, civilization was about 45 minutes away by way of an occasionally questionable gravel road.

And if something turned off the lights in town, too?

“Getting away from it all” presumes having something to get away from — and something to get back to, too.

I’ll take modern life, thanks.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Next Big Player in the Drone Wars?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MR ROBOTO

Japan:

For decades Japan has been the world’s playground for design innovation. But now it may become ground zero for the future of something far more hostile: military drones.

The country has positioned itself as one of the unlikely players in the escalating global race for military drones, a move that’s controversial both at home and abroad.

Controversial? Sure, given Japan’s history and Article 9 of its constitution. Unlikely? Not really. Drones play on Japan’s strengths in aerospace and miniaturization, while sidestepping her major manpower weakness. I once had a daydream of a future Japan, barely populated by septuagenarians and up, protected by fully automated swarms of lightning fast and extremely deadly robots and missiles. Think of a retirement home in a dangerous neighborhood, defended by The Matrix.

Isn’t that the way Japan is already going?

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Microsoft’s Very Expensive Nokia Mistake

Friday, July 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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Microsoft announced its biggest layoffs ever, and the underlying message is that buying Nokia was a mistake. Workers at the formerly-independent phonemaker will take the brunt of the cuts.

Google tried to buy its way into relevance as a smartphone maker by buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. They sold it off barely more than two years later for less than $3 billion. Late last year Microsoft bought Nokia’s handset division for $7.2 billion, and that has already turned out not to be worth much more than the prices of several thousand pink slips and severance packages.

These troubles are nothing unique to Google or to Microsoft — mergers & acquisitions are hard, and rarely work out as planned. And that’s if they work out at all. Ford and GM went on a buying spree of foreign automakers (SAAB, Jaguar, Aston-Martin, etc) and proceeded very quickly to drive them all into the dirt. It’s very difficult for a company to buy its way into relevancy in new markets. Ford had about as much business building Jaguars as Google did building its own smartphones.

When buyouts do work, it tends to be when a much bigger company is the buyer of a much smaller company, to gain needed technology or desired expertise, and then impose its own corporate culture on the buy-ee. Marriages usually work best as a partnership of equals; buyouts usually work best when one company completely loses its identity.

It’s an expensive lesson, but business leaders never seem to tire of learning it.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit, image illustration via shutterstock / Ivan1981Roo

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What TV Shows Were the Most Ahead of Their Time?

Thursday, July 17th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Pop Culture Debates!

In partnership with the new fiction publishing platform Liberty Island, PJ Lifestyle is going to begin promoting and co-hosting a series of debates and discussions about popular culture. The goal is to figure out what works and what doesn’t so that in the future we can promote and create better fiction and culture of our own. These are public brainstorming sessions for writers and culture advocates interested in developing a more vibrant popular culture. You’re invited to submit your answers to any of these questions — or a related one of your own! — that interests you:

A) in the comments

B) Via email to PJ Lifestyle editor Dave Swindle.

C) at your blog, then let us know in the comments or via email. 

The most interesting answers may be linked, cross-posted, or published at PJ Lifestyle. 

Also check out Monday’s question “Is The Prisoner Actually a Continuation of Secret Agent?,” Tuesday’s question: “Is The Prisoner TV’s Greatest Cult Classic?,” Wednesday’s question:What Are the Top 5 Episodes of The Prisoner? and Francis Poretto’s great essay. “Escaping The Village: Freedom And The Prisoner.”

Andrew X, yesterday:

You want “ahead-of-its-time”? “Ahead-of-its-time???

Take a look at this episode list for ‘Max Headroom’.

Max Headroom [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Max_Headroom_(TV_series)]

When the show debuted in 1985 (UK), the computer mouse had been on market just one year. Windows, in so far as it existed, was a DOS interface. Few knew what a modem was, and a standard one would probably load this web page in about six hours. Cell phones for millionaires were the size of a brick. (Cue ‘Wall Street’ beach scene ref.) The Internet was eight years away.

Read that list, then let’s talk about “ahead-of-its-time”.

MaxHeadroom_Comp_anim

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Historic Apple/IBM Mobile Agreement

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

ibmpcvsappleiiSomething like 98% of Fortune 500 companies were already considering or had already deployed (with the accent on “deployed”) iOS devices with their employees. But now IT might not grumble so much about having to do it:

Apple has announced a strategic partnership with IBM that will see the enterprise giant transfer over 150 of their enterprise and IT apps and tools to Apple platforms natively, and will also have IBM selling Apple iPhones and iPads to its business clients all over the world. In an interview with CNBC, Apple CEO Tim Cook and IBM CEO Virginia Rometty both told the network that Apple and IBM are like “puzzle pieces” that fit perfectly together.

“We knew that we needed to have a partner that deeply understood each of the verticals,” Cook told CNBC. “That had scale, that had a lot of dirt under their fingernails so to speak from really understanding each of these verticals and we found a kindred spirit in IBM.”

Apple touts the access the partnership gives them to IBM’s big data and analytics capabilities, and talks about how the apps that it produces with IBM will be developed “from the ground up for iPhone and iPad.” These apps will supplement new cloud services aimed at iOS specifically, including security and analytics solutions, and device management tools for large-scale MDM deployments.

That’s big. How big? BlackBerry shares pretty much disintegrated in afterhours trading. IBM calls it “MobileFirst,” which should give you some indication of where Android ranks in their plans. Or as Larry Dignan reports:

The biggest challenge for team Android is that Google and Samsung, two partners with enterprise ambitions, will have to herd cats to reach corporations. Android will need channel, integration and services support and there are few players that can match IBM’s reach.

The irony is workstation-class. In 1981, Apple gently teased IBM [See print ad above] for being late to the personal computer revolution, when they introduced the IBM PC four years after the Apple II debuted. Behind the scenes Steve Jobs was deeply worried, and thought the Macintosh, then under top secret development, was the Rebel Alliance’s only hope for saving the galaxy from IBM — he could be a little dramatic sometimes. When the Mac debuted, it was to Ridley Scott’s famous “1984” Super Bowl ad, in which Big Blue was Big Brother.

Could this deal have happened under Jobs, or was Tim Cook a necessary ingredient? I don’t know; both companies are very different, and in very different positions, than they were 33 years ago. But in the Apple vs Android wars this is a typical Apple-like move. Instead of going against Android’s strengths by trying to sell cheaper iPhones and iPad, Apple is increasing the utility of their existing, premium devices with a strategic partnership.

Android won’t be going away, simply because it enjoys too much utility as a perfectly serviceable OS for OEMs who don’t want to (or can’t) spend much money on little things like the user experience. But Apple just got a huge leg up with the corporate buyers who place orders for thousands of devices at once.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Time for Windows Is Closing

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

BROKEN WINDOWS

Ouch:

With Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella battling to shoehorn Windows into more and more devices, the OS behemoth is forecast to swell by – er – half a percentage point from close of last year to the end of next.

Folks at Gartner told us Windows accounted for 13.96 per cent of the 2.33 billion devices shipped globally in 2013, and that they expect a dip this year to 13.7 per cent of the 2.43 billion units that will find a home. The analyst house added that the operating system is projected to climb to 14.4 per cent of the 2.59 billion PCs, smartphones, tabs and Ultrabooks estimated to be flogged in 2015.

“Microsoft is still trying to transition beyond PCs into ultra mobile and phones,” said research director Ranjit Atwal. “They are not making inroads, the volumes are still pretty small relative to the overall market.”

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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5 Cool Tech Stories From This Week

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 - by Bryan Preston

1. J.K. Rowling almost broke the Internet. She published a Harry Potter short story and civilization nearly ended.

2. A Turkish student has come up with a 3D printed cast that supposedly heals bones as much as 80% faster than conventional casts.

It’s pretty cool-looking.

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14 Fascinating Inventors and Innovators from the South

Sunday, July 6th, 2014 - by Chris Queen

Made in the South Pocket Tee  White Large

After my post a few weeks ago debunking myths about the South, the idea came to me to look into different inventors from Dixie.

I found that, as with many regions of the country, most Southern inventors came up with products we don’t use anymore or don’t really think about. But some really fascinating inventions and innovations originated in the minds of Southern men and women.

From agricultural advances to technological breakthroughs to revolutionary beverages, the South can claim quite a few innovations. Here are fourteen of them…

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BlackBerry’s Late, Great Hope

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

PASSPORT

Longer version…

It’s big. Really big. CrackBerry got their hands on a preview copy, and it weighs almost twice as much as an iPhone 5S. The reviewer, who seems to love it, says ” it fits in your pocket… it fits and it’s snug.” This reminds me of when Ford bragged about the “road-hugging weight” of the Pinto, because that was the best thing they could think to say about their new pony car. The camera is nice, but takes three whole seconds to take a single HDR picture. My son’s hand-me-down iPhone 4S from 2011 does it in about one second, and my 2013-vintage 5S takes them nearly-instantaneously. The keyboard is excellent, and the predictive typing might just be the best in the business, but it’s impossible — even for CB’s large-handed review — to type with one hand. His thumb couldn’t even reach the entire screen.

Did I mention it weighs just shy of seven ounces? A full-size, 10-inch iPad Air only weighs 16 ounces; an iPad Mini just 11.

There’s probably a niche left for this monster, but it certainly isn’t going to win back any Android or iPhone users.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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65 Movies & Shows Come to Netflix in July. Here Are 10 You Should Watch

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids

I suppose in one sense, Netflix serves the same purpose as Facebook: perpetual high school reunion and never-ending nostalgia fests, reminders of a time before adulthood and the weight of responsibilities.

Nowadays when I go back and watch some film that was fun or memorable from childhood or adolescence I tend to see it more from the parents’ perspective, relating to those characters, rather than the kids. I wonder how Honey, I Shrunk the Kids will hold up when rewatching it. Rather than experiencing it as a child wandering through the grass and inner-tubing in a cheerio, I’ll consider it as the father searching for his lost children…

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What Not to Wear

Monday, June 30th, 2014 - by Stephen Green
Not an actual smartwatch.

Not an actual smartwatch.

Who wears Android Wear? Not Steve Kovach:

I used one of the new Android Wear smartwatches, Samsung’s Gear Live, for several hours Thursday, and my wrist hasn’t stopped buzzing since I synced the device with my phone.

New email? Buzz. New text? Buzz. The thing won’t shut up. I’m one of those guys who obsessively checks his phone, but this is too much for me. Plus Android Wear ties in with Google’s digital assistant service Google Now, which attempts to help you out by notifying you about stuff it thinks you want to know about like upcoming flights or package deliveries.

So there are even more things to look at.

This isn’t the answer. Instead of solving the problem of whipping my phone out several times a day, Android Wear makes me nervous and anxious from all this hyper-connectivity. If I’m to ever go all in on a smartwatch it needs to be simpler than this.

The problem is that Gear Live is too simple — that is, nobody at Samsung put any effort into what a smartwatch should actually do, and what it shouldn’t. So instead of being a smart watch, it chirps at you with absolutely every little detail, like when my older son is showing off his latest LEGO scorpion creation.

That’s cute in an eight-year-old kid; less so in something you wear on your wrist during, say, a business meeting. Or when driving your car.

A smartwatch should be simpler, yes — but creating simplicity requires sweating out every detail and a lot of hard design choices by the manufacturer. So when Kovach says that the copycats at Samsung did neither of those things in their rush to bring a craptaculent product to market, I’m not at all surprised.

Supposedly Apple will introduce an iWatch this fall. Maybe once Samsung has somebody to crib off of, they’ll do a better job.

(H/T, Gruber.)

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The 10 Most Terrible, Overrated Shows on Netflix Streaming You Must Avoid

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

10. Amish Mafia

I think it’s with Amish Mafia that the “reality TV” trend jumped the shark. It was at this point that premises for shows had to start becoming so outlandish and ridiculous that viewers could no longer be expected to put up with the charade that they’re watching something “real.” With Amish Mafia the show has to be upfront about the fact that the footage is all actually “reenactments.” It’s the TV version of non-alcoholic beer.

The show’s amusing novelty — hearing the Pennsylvania Dutch spoken by some Amish subtitled and saying thuggish things — wears off quick.

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This Is Not the Mac You’re Looking For

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

iMac

Apple announced a new “budget” iMac last week, starting at $1099 for an Intel i5 machine with Apple’s gorgeous 21.5″ IPS display. But there’s a catch:

As you can read in our full benchmark report, there is now a wide performance gap between the low-end iMac and the next step up the product line. The new $1099 iMac was slower across the board, and 54 percent slower overall, than the $1299 21.5-inch system. One thing to note: We weren’t crazy about the $1299 model when it shipped. It offered just modest speed improvements over the October 2012 system and most of that was due to the $1299 iMac’s use of Iris Pro graphics—which are not included in the new $1099 system.

Back when I was buying bleeding-edge Windows machines from various vendors, the sweet spot on the price/performance curve was to buy Intel’s second-fastest CPU and match it with the second-fastest GPU from whoever was the hot name at the time. I always aimed above the sweet spot, which is how I ended up with a 200mhz Pentium Pro with a Number Nine video card (remember them?), which at the time was the absolute fastest all-SCSI beast you could buy.

Within months, Intel debuted MMX multimedia instructions on their regular Pentium chips, and GFX put Number Nine on the curb with affordable 3D graphics. Sometimes, top-end buyers get burned.

But bottom-end buyers always get burned, if they’re looking for any kind of performance. For about 17% more money, you can buy yourself more than 50% more performance. Maybe you don’t need a screaming gaming rig, but even just a little future-proofing can go a long way.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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