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It Was My Understanding There Would Be No Math

Friday, October 24th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MATH

There’s (almost) an app for that:

I’ve seen the future and it is math less and it is awesome and it is this PhotoMath app that solves math problems just by pointing your phone’s camera at them. It’s like a cross between a text reading camera, a supremely sophisticated calculator and well, the future. Point and solve and never do math again.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The End of the Tablet?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Tim_Cook_with_iPad

Apple’s results conference call on Monday revealed another record-breaking quarter with record-breaking iPhone and Mac sales, but iPad sales were down for the third straight quarter, and down Q2Q from a a year ago. Steve Jobs famously predicted that PCs were like trucks, tablets were like cars, and most people really only needed a car. Pros, he said, would keep using trucks for the heavy lifting, but the PC era was supposed to be over.

Microsoft can’t get anywhere with the Surface, and judging by app sales and web usage stats, the vast majority of el cheapo Android tablets go unused and unloved.

So is the tablet era over before it ever began?

Hard to say. iPad still generates huge profits, back to third behind Mac sales, with tens of millions sold each year. And the company is now taking a radical (for Apple) approach to the tablet market.

Previously, Apple sold only the new model of the full-size iPad, plus last year’s model at a discount and at a single memory tier. They then added the iPad mini to the lineup. A year later when the new iPad mini was introduced, the old model continued to sell, again at a discount and again at a single memory tier. That reduced shopping confusion for consumers and helped Apple keep their SKU count low. (“Steve hates SKUs,” I once joked.) Under the Old Regime, tablet prices started at $299 for last year’s iPad mini with minimal memory, and topped out at $929 for a maxed-out 128GB iPad Air.

Now things have changed. A lot.

The two-year-old original iPad mini is still for sale, now with two memory tiers to choose from, with the starting price reduced even further. Last year’s mini (with Retina Display) is also still on sale, at the usual $100 discount, and also with two memory tiers. The new iPad mini is at the usual price, and with the usual three memory tiers — but the top two tiers offer twice as much memory as before.

The iPad Air has gotten a similar treatment. Last year’s model? Two tiers, $100 off. This year’s model? Three tiers, with the top two tiers offering twice as much memory as before.

That’s a lot more choice than Apple usually offers in its consumer range.

The buy-in price for an iPad is now just $249 for a 16GB iPad mini. That’s $50 less than Apple has ever charged to let you into their ecosystem. But the top-end price for a new-generation 128GB iPad Air has dropped from $929 to $829. The product range has expanded from four two five, but the pricing scheme has both dropped and compressed. So prices are down, value is up, and the product range has increased. As a shareholder, I’m also pleased that Apple has managed to do all that in a way which should protect its enviable profit margins.

Is it enough to boost sales again, or at least forestall further declines?

That’s the Big Unanswerable, but Apple’s new strategy shows they are nowhere close to giving up on the product category they redefined from Microsoft’s original vision of “Windows-with-a-stylus” to “the touch computer for anybody.”

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Will You Buy a Hoverboard Someday? Now You Can for $10K

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

Hat Tip: The Guardian

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The Yosemite Mini Review

Saturday, October 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

YOSEMITE

Here it is: John Siracusa’s bathysphere-deep review of OS X Yosemite. For rabid Mac lovers, skip my mini review and delve into all 25 pages of his. As always, he’s amazing.

My initial impression is twofold, the new features and the new look. Everything feels snappier, or at least as snappy as before. The new “Handoff” feature, allowing me to pick up my work seamlessly as I move from Mac to iPhone to iPad and back throughout the day — this is Mac crack, is what it is. The Spotlight search tool is now out of its upper-right-corner ghetto and is a fully-integrated experience. Moving search to front-and-center is long overdo, but it was worth the wait. I can’t say more yet, because I haven’t really had a chance to dig into Yosemite yet. For that stuff, go see Siracusa.

I love the new look, other than a few minor quibbles. That new Share button for instance looks just as ill-conceived and badly-proportioned in iOS as it has for the last year in OSX. Feh. And the Safari menu bar… it’s cohesive, but the Extensions buttons should be slightly smaller than the URL bar, for differentiation and ease of navigation. I’m also no fan of truncated URLs in the URL bar, but that’s the direction every major browser is taking. It doesn’t make much difference to people who just browse, but for those of us who live and work and practically breathe in our web browsers, it hides information we need to see at a glance. We can only hope it’s a short-lived trend.

Calendar got whacked, repeatedly, by the same Ugly Stick they used on the iOS version. There’s nothing wrong with the function, and there’s plenty right, too. But it’s just so eye-bleeding ugly that this might be when I finally upgrade to the much-beloved Fantastical.

And that’s about it for complaints.

My worries about transporting the iOS7/8 look to OS X were ill-founded. What could often seem busy and crowded on my tiny iPhone screen looks big, bold, clean, and most of all fresh on a 24″ screen. I get the feeling that the new look was designed with desktop screens and with the bigger iPhone 6-series screens in mind.

The new dock and its app icons are so clear and easy to read, that I was able to comfortably shrink it to a significant degree on my 24″ desktop display, freeing up valuable real estate. The same was not true on the 13″ display on my laptop.

I plan on writing up my industry-wide observations about the do’s and don’ts of translucencies at a later date.

Quibbles and minor complaint aside though, in the end I have to tell you that the new bells & whistles, and the low, low price of $0 make Yosemite an irresistible upgrade.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ring my new bells and blow my new whistles a bit more.

UPDATE: Digging through Safari’s settings, I discovered you can force it to reveal full URLs in the URL bar. That removes my only functional complaint about the new version of the browser.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The 10 Coolest Sci-Fi Technologies and How Close They Are to Reality

Friday, October 17th, 2014 - by Walter Hudson

The cell phone. The tablet. The touchscreen interface. All were once figments of imagination portrayed in science fiction. But for every imagined sci-fi technology that becomes realized, many more remain outside our grasp. Some are peaking over the horizon, while their most promising applications remain untold years away. Here are the 10 coolest sci-fi technologies, and how close they are to reality.

10. Terraforming

What It Is: While scientists have located planets with characteristics essential to supporting life, to date, the search for a habitable planet has confirmed nothing. If human beings hope to survive on a planet other than Earth without remaining confined to artificial structures, we will have to engineer methods to transform alien planets into Earth-like ones. That process is called terraforming.

Why It’s Cool: We live in a time when no real frontier remains. With the exception of the ocean’s most obscure depths, human beings have been everywhere on Earth. The ability to successfully terraform, combined with interstellar travel, would open up the galaxy to human colonization. That would provide those with the necessary means and pioneer spirit to seek new worlds where human freedom could be explored anew.

How Close to Reality: Pretty far. Terraforming Mars, the only planet in our solar system which stands as a reasonable candidate for the process, would take “several millennia” utilizing currently hypothesized methods. Giant orbital mirrors would reflect sunlight to the surface, and greenhouse gas-producing factories would work to heat and sustain the atmosphere. Basically, it’s Al Gore’s worst nightmare.

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How Many Hours Of Internet Per Day Qualifies as an ‘Addiction’?

Thursday, October 16th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

From Mediaite yesterday, “Man Gets Treated for Addiction to Google Glass“:

Addiction to technology is a real thing. So is internet addiction. But a man who was admitted to the Navy’s Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation Program recently may have one of the first ever-cases of an addiction to Google Glass.

Yeah, those digital glasses that in no way make you look pretentious or detached from the real world.

A recent paper by the National Institutes of Health explains this rather odd case. This unnamed man suffered from internet addiction disorder and, they write, “exhibited problematic use of Google Glass.”

From Tech Times yesterday: “When technology gets addicting: Internet, Smartphones, Google Glass and more”

Technology addiction is becoming more common, becoming a serious problem for those people and families caught in the issue.

The Navy’s Substance Abuse and Recovery Program is currently treating a patient for addiction to the new Google Glass eyewear, in addition to alcohol. The unidentified 31-year-old male reportedly used the technology for 18 hours a day, reporting irritability and frustration when he was unable to use the equipment. He only removed the device from his body while sleeping and bathing.

Technology addiction goes well beyond its most recent history with Google Glass. Internet addiction has been recorded for years by psychologists, beginning soon after development of the network. Internet Use Disorder (IUD) is now recognized by many mental health workers, although it has yet to be recognized as a diagnosis in the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Many other addictions, such as gambling and shopping, can also be compounded by Internet use.

Are you addicted to the internet? Do you have good excuses to justify and deny it? Will it get worse if you acquire a device like Google Glass? What do you foresee for the coming decade’s technological changes?

Or do you challenge the whole concept of internet or technology addiction?

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image illustration via shutterstock /  

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Can Microsoft Be Saved?

Sunday, October 12th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MICROSOFT

That almost seems like a silly question for a company 100,000 employees, two massive cash cows with Windows and Office, and what is probably the world’s best cloud service. Nevertheless, that’s what Bethany McLean is asking in a Vanity Fair interview with former Softie CEO Bill Gates and current Softie CEO Satya Nadella:

“The way I think about success is our relevance,” says Nadella.

Relevance, however, is exactly what Microsoft doesn’t have, according to its critics. “The Irrelevance of Microsoft” is actually the title of a blog post by an analyst named Benedict Evans, who works at the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. On his blog, Evans pointed out that Microsoft’s share of all computing devices that we use to connect to the Internet, including P.C.’s, phones, and tablets, has plunged from 90 percent in 2009 to just around 20 percent today. This staggering drop occurred not because Microsoft lost ground in personal computers, on which its software still dominates, but rather because it has failed to adapt its products to smartphones, where all the growth is, and tablets. Even Microsoft’s new chairman of the board, a former IBM executive named John Thompson, told Fortune last winter that “there are some attributes to Microsoft today that do look vaguely like IBM circa 1990.”

During its ’80s and ’90s heyday, Microsoft wasn’t so much relevant as it was necessary. During the ’80s, the personal computer market was so fractured that individual companies made product lines which weren’t even compatible with their own other product lines. Commodore went from the PET to the VIC-20 to the C64 to the Plus 4 (remember that stinker?) to the C128, and only an awkward emulation mode allowed the C128 to run C64 software. The other computers might have well have come from different planets. Apple? Same story with the Apple II, Apple III (another stinker), Lisa, and Mac. By the early ’90s, Apple couldn’t even keep Mac OS fully modern.

But there was Microsoft, producing one OS and boatloads of good enough software for most anything running on a x86 chip. Then along came the internet, allowing anything to share data with anything, and Microsoft (after a late entry into the Browser Wars) was there to take advantage. The resulting network effects turned computers from little boxes people worked or played on by themselves, into a massive global productivity machine.

Whatever you think of Microsoft’s products then or now, somebody had to get done what Redmond got done, and we’re all better off for it. But Microsoft missed the boat repeatedly in mobile and tablets, and the company’s necessary job has been complete now for 15 years.

I don’t doubt Microsoft will be making a lot of money for a long time to come, but it will likely never be what it once was.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Why Samsung Sings the Blues

Friday, October 10th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

samsung-galaxy-alpha.png

Via Recode.net:

The company said it would report an operating profit of $3.8 billion for the quarter ending in September — a decline of nearly 60 percent from the same time a year earlier. Sales fell to $44 billion, off 20 percent from a year ago.

The preliminary guidance, which Samsung issued ahead of its quarterly report, due later this month, failed to meet the $5.2 billion average profit estimate of 43 analysts pulled by Thomson Reuters.

The South Korean electronics giant said that while smartphone shipments increased, its operating margins fell because of higher marketing costs, fewer shipments of high-end phones and a lower average selling price for the devices.

The company said it is responding with a new smartphone lineup that will include new midrange and low-end devices, which would make Samsung’s products more competitive in markets such as China.

Scrambling for low-margin sales against even lower-margin competitors in a low-margin market doesn’t seem like the best way to increase margins.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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D-I-V-O-R-C-E for H-P

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Samsung, HP Pop-Tops Do Laptop Double Duty

HP is spinning off its PC & printer divisions into a new company:

The company said Monday that the PC and printer business will use the name HP Inc. The services business will be called Hewlett-Packard Enterprise.

HP CEO Meg Whitman will lead the Enterprise business. HP PC and printer chief Dion Weisler will be CEO of HP Inc.

“The decision to separate into two market-leading companies underscores our commitment to the turnaround plan,” Whitman said. “It will provide each new company with the independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt quickly to market and customer dynamics.”

The split, if approved by the company board, is expected to close by the end of fiscal 2015. Once complete, HP stockholders will own shares of both companies.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise has a shot at restoring some of HP’s former glory, but HP Inc is at an evolutionary dead end.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Are Cell Phones the New Cigarettes?

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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I thought about this question as I read this CNBC article about people cutting back on food, healthcare and other items in order to afford their cell phones:

Nearly half of Americans have cut back on spending, including for travel, food and health care, in order to afford their technology.

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey found that 49 percent of the 805 respondents economize to afford technology. The nationwide survey, with margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent, found the top way to save for technology, chosen by about a third, is to cut back on traditional entertainment such as movies and restaurants. But 20 percent report cutting back on clothing, 11 percent purchase less food and 10 percent have reduced spending on health care….

When it comes to which technology is the most important, Americans clearly choose the cellphone. Asked which bills they definitely would pay if they ran into hard times, 39 percent said they would make sure to get a check in the mail for their cellphones, compared with 28 percent for Internet services and 20 percent for pay television, such as satellite or cable. But just 46 percent felt totally committed to paying their credit card bills, just five points above the response for paying for cellphone bills.

By contrast, 92 percent say the definitely would pay their mortgage or rent bill and 90 percent would make sure to pay the utility bills. Seniors were the most committed to paying the cable bill.

It used to be that people with less money were always talking about how broke they were but always seemed to have plenty of cash when it came time to buy cigarettes (or booze for that matter). Now, people have money for the iPhone 6 Plus and less for food and health care. With so many people giving up smoking, the addiction has turned to technology. And face it, the government and taxpayers might spot you on food and health care, but that new iPhone? Probably not as likely, though still somewhat of a possibility.

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Cross-posted from Dr. Helen, image via shutterstock/

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A Cock & Ball Story

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

BALL GAME

At Kens5.Com:

Testicular cancer survivor Thomas Cantley is pushing a giant ball across America to raise awareness for men’s health.

He quit his job and sold his house to push a six-foot ‘testicle’ from Los Angeles to New York City after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, according to his website.

He’s travelled more than 1,500 miles so far, but the story doesn’t say how much money he’s raised. “Awareness” is a more difficult measure, but there is a giant rolling testicle involved.

Traveling slightly north, we have this potentially related story from Wake Forest:

Researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are assessing engineered penises for safety, function and durability. They hope to receive approval from the US Food and Drug Administration and to move to human testing within five years.

Professor Anthony Atala, director of the institute, oversaw the team’s successful engineering of penises for rabbits in 2008. “The rabbit studies were very encouraging,” he said, “but to get approval for humans we need all the safety and quality assurance data, we need to show that the materials aren’t toxic, and we have to spell out the manufacturing process, step by step.”

The penises would be grown using a patient’s own cells to avoid the high risk of immunological rejection after organ transplantation from another individual. Cells taken from the remainder of the patient’s penis would be grown in culture for four to six weeks.

This is great news for men with congenital defects or disfiguring injuries, but I fear what will happen when the porn industry inevitably gets hold of this technology.

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cross-posted from Vodkapunditimage via Instagram

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That’s a Bug, Not a Feature

Monday, October 6th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

MIND THE GAP

9to5Google has the latest …innovation… from Samsung:

Yesterday we reported that Samsung’s earlier-than-planned September 26th launch of its new Galaxy Note 4 had been met with complaints from customers regarding a ‘screen gap’ manufacturing issue. Today, a reference discovered in Samsung’s Note 4 manual confirms that the gap is actually a feature, not a flaw (via AndroidCentral).

The manual’s troubleshooting section has the following mention of the gap around the screen noting that it’s “a necessary manufacturing feature.”

A small gap appears around the outside of the device case… This gap is a necessary manufacturing feature and some minor rocking or vibration of parts may occur… Over time, friction between parts may cause this gap to expand slightly.

So that settles it. It’s a feature, not a flaw, and it could get worse (better?) over time.

In other words, Samsung couldn’t figure out how to manufacture their new flagship, shipped it out anyway, and are telling their customers that the big-ass flaw is really a “feature.”

They are without a doubt the shittiest major electronics manufacturer in the world, devoid of ideas, and in this case at least, ruthless in their disdain for their customers.

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BlackBerry: The Endgame

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

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That’s what Jean-Louis Gassée is calling it, although it’s certainly been long in coming:

It wasn’t until 2010 that RIM acquired QNX, a “Unix-ish” operating system that was first shipped in 1982 by Quantum Software Systems, founded by two Waterloo University students. Why did Lazaridis’ company take three years to act on the sharp, accurate recognition of its software problem? Three years were lost in attempts to tweak the old software engine, and in fights between Keyboard Forever! traditionalists and would-be adopters of a touch interface.

Adapting BlackBerry’s applications to QNX was more complicated than just fitting a new software engine into RIM’s product line. To start with, QNX didn’t have the thick layer of frameworks developers depend on to write their applications. These frameworks, which make up most of the 700 megabytes Lazaridis saw in the iPhone’s software engine, had to be rebuilt on top of a system that was well-respected in the real-time automotive, medical, and entertainment segment, but that was ill-suited for “normal” use.

To complicate things, the company had to struggle with its legacy, with existing applications and services. Which ones do we update for the new OS? which ones need to be rewritten from scratch? …and which ones do we drop entirely?

In reality, RIM was much more than three years behind iOS (and, later, Android). Depending on whom we listen to, the 2007 iPhone didn’t just didn’t stand on a modern (if incomplete) OS, it stood on 3 to 5 years of development, of trial and error.

BlackBerry had lost the software battle before it could even be fought.

The reason BlackBerry fell so far behind is that they failed back in 2003-04 — when iPhone development began in earnest — to imagine what could be done with the faster processors and bigger screens they had to know were coming. They seemed to think that a great email client and a crappy web browser were all anybody would want on their phones. By the time the iPhone came out, it may have already been too late. Worse, the company then spent years battling over which direction to take — keyboards or touchscreens, QNX or BlackBerry 100. In fact, BlackBerry still hasn’t figured out which direction to go — but the rest of us know exactly which way.

Counterclockwise, down the drain.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Spyware Creator Jailed

Friday, October 3rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

stealthgenie

Creepy stuff:

A Pakistani man has been indicted in the Eastern District of Virginia for allegedly conspiring to advertise and sell StealthGenie, a spyware application (app) that could monitor calls, texts, videos and other communications on mobile phones without detection. This marks the first-ever criminal case concerning the advertisement and sale of a mobile device spyware app.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia and Assistant Director in Charge Andrew McCabe of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.

“Selling spyware is not just reprehensible, it’s a crime,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Apps like StealthGenie are expressly designed for use by stalkers and domestic abusers who want to know every detail of a victim’s personal life – all without the victim’s knowledge. The Criminal Division is committed to cracking down on those who seek to profit from technology designed and used to commit brazen invasions of individual privacy.”

And when I say “creepy stuff,” I don’t just mean StealthGenie — although it’s certainly enough to make your skin crawl. I’m going to have to do some reading and thinking on this one, but my gut reaction is to ask if authoring or advertising software should really be a criminal offense?

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Going Bam-Bam on Pebbles Prices

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014 - by Stephen Green

pebble-smartwatch-100435472-large

Pebble smartwatches on sale (temporally?) for just $100. I wouldn’t be surprised if that became the permanent “sale” price, if Android Wear begins taking over the bottom end of the nascent market and Apple takes over the top. But at that price, I might just pick up one to replace the el cheapos I keep in a drawer for beach vacation.

Of course what I’m really waiting for Apple to introduce a line of dive watches…

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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A Japanese Elevator to Outer Space!

Sunday, September 28th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

ELEVATOR

A Japanese firm wants to build a space elevator by 2050:

The elevator is being designed to take researchers 96,000 kilogram (km), or 59,652 miles, into space. Robotic cars would be used to carry humans and cargo to a new space station, and they would be powered by magnetic linear motors, which are used in Europe and Asia’s high-speed rail lines.

“The tensile strength is almost a hundred times stronger than steel cable so it’s possible,” Yoji Ishikawa, research and development manager at Obayashi, said in reference to the use of carbon nanotechnology. “Right now we can’t make the cable long enough. We can only make 3-centimeter-long nanotubes but we need much more.”

Last I’d read, nanotube lengths were measured in microns, so three centimeters is a big deal. And is there any cheaper way to get into space, even just on a drawing board somewhere?

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Should You Upgrade To iOS8 on Your Old iPad?

Friday, September 26th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

ipad-with-retina-display-1

As promised, I installed iOS 8 on an older iOS device to see if it bogged down, lost functionality, or just became a pain to use. Actually, I installed it on two devices — an iPhone 4s and a first-gen iPad with Retina Display. Both devices use an Apple A5 processor, except that the iPad’s is up-armored with a better graphic coprocessor.

I didn’t do any sort of extensive testing, deciding instead it would be more useful just to mess around with them like I would in normal day-to-day use for most of a week.

The short version? Go ahead and upgrade your iPhone 4S. Mine (my four-year-old’s, really) runs just fine. If load times take longer, they didn’t take noticeably longer. Nate still plays Angry Birds just fine.

Results were less clear on that old iPad, however.

iOS 8 feels like it’s ramped up multitouch sensitivity, which in and of itself is no bad thing. And the touchscreen doesn’t have any problems handling the increased sensitivity. But the display itself does sometimes have trouble keeping up — on occasion I get very un-iOS-like hesitations, instead of the instantaneous reactions I’m used to getting. As a result, I sometimes try the same action twice, only to have initiated a second action instead.

It’s not a huge deal, and I don’t know for sure if iOS 8 really does increase touch sensitivity. But that’s how it feels, and the A5X CPU is just a little too old and slow to pump 2 million pixels as quickly as iOS 8 demands.

If that’s a concern to you, don’t upgrade — and I’ll post on this again when the inevitable 8.1 release comes out.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Will Advances in Radar Make Stealth Jets Obsolete?

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Will radar technology advances render stealth jets obsolete, as one Russian military expert claims? Probably not, but it does add another element to a constantly-changing equation. Joe Trevithick has the story:

It’s not for no reason that the U.S. Navy is taking its time acquiring stealth fighters, and is instead focusing on building more and better EA-18G electronic-warfare jets that can jam enemy radars instead of avoiding them.

Likewise, consider Washington’s renewed interest in extremely long-range, fast-flying hypersonic weapons. These super-fast weapons could help make up for the decreasing effectiveness of stealth. An attacking warplane wouldn’t need to fly so close to enemy radars if it could simply attack from long range with a weapon that’s really, really hard to intercept.

Even aging and portly B-52 bombers—which are anything but stealthy—could lob hypersonic projectiles at targets from hundreds or thousands of miles away. The speedy missiles could zip right through enemy defenses.

In theory. In reality, the Americans—as well as everyone else—have struggled to get hypersonics to work. Just like it’s hard getting stealth to work. And just like better sensors also require intensive development and investment over many decades.

Perhaps most importantly, Moore’s Law—the idea that computing power doubles every two years or so—has never been repealed, so to speak. The fact is, stealth like any advanced technology was always bound to face challenges from any number of other technologies, particularly those that hinge on improvements in computer processing.

But future plane designs will still incorporate stealth features, even if those features don’t represent a major advantage. Stealth might not be a panacea, but having no stealth at all just might be aerial suicide. New sensors work even better again non-stealthy jets than they do against stealthy ones. [Emphasis in original]

I’m reminded of what almost killed Volvo as a make of automobile. While most carmakers sold models based on horsepower and performance, or luxury and status, and later gas mileage and economy. Volvo took a different tack, selling cars to consumers concerned about safety. “Boring but safe” was for years Volvo’s brand.

But then seatbelts were mandated, followed by airbags. And a host of other safety features like crumple zones and anti-lock brakes became standard features on just about every car made. “Safe” became the lowest common denominator of every new car sold, leaving Volvo with nothing but “boring.” The brand nearly died as a result.

Stealth is now the “safety” of modern jet fighters, and increasingly of bombers, too — you’ve got to have it just to have a chance at all. What’s telling is how difficult it’s proving for anyone but American aerospace companies to develop fully-stealthy fighters. China is trying with the Chengdu J-20, but development is slow going. Further hindering the effort might be that China still doesn’t even have a fully homegrown fourth-generation fighter, much less a stealthy fifth-gen. Russia has upgraded their aging fourth-gen designs with much-improved avionics and some stealth-type features, but also has floundered trying to develop a true fifth-gen fighter. The Europeans and the Brits are kinda-sorta trying, but their tiny defense budgets probably can’t handle the strain.

But stealth-defeating radars and missiles are a helluva lot easier to develop than fleets of fighter aircraft. And even if they don’t totally obsolete our F-22s and F-35s, advanced detection certainly complicates things for us.

So we’d best find the money to stay a step ahead of the game, or risk going where not even Volvo has gone before.

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Open the iPod Bay Door, HAL

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 - by Stephen Green

LOCKED DOWN

I’m sorry, Dave, Apple can’t do that:

Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.

The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that prevents the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — from gaining access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers.

It will be difficult for Google and Microsoft not to follow suit, which is good news for consumers everywhere.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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iPhone: To Upgrade or not to Upgrade?

Saturday, September 20th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

JUMP

That is the question for iPhone 4S owners, and opinions differ on whether it can properly handle the load of iOS 8:

So yes, it’s entirely possible for you to download the brand new iOS on your brand-old iPhone. And by doing so you’ll get a lot of goodies like more keyboard options (finally) and fun widgets. Ars ultimately concludes that it’s a trade-off you should go ahead and make.

But to us, cramming that shiny new software into the 4S’s cozy yet slightly musty house is a tight fit that will leave phone and user alike groaning. New features like widgets and alternate keyboards are nice, but not at the cost of so much screen space and speed.

Another report shows however that the increased load times aren’t exactly intolerable, with the worst offender (Safari) jumping from 1.25 seconds to 2.16 seconds. The other apps tested measured increases of just small fractions of a second — and the inevitable 8.01 or 8.1 update might tweak those times down a bit.

My boys, ages 4 and 8, are plenty happy running iOS 7 on Melissa and my old 4S phones, but I’m curious to see how well the new iOS really does work. It’s a risk though, since you can’t roll back to the previous version.

So I’m going to be a naughty dad and install iOS 8 on the younger boy’s phone and hope he doesn’t notice if it sucks. He doesn’t use it much, anyway, preferring the big screen on my ancient iPad 1. I’ll report the results back to you in the next few days.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Gentlemen, Start Your Profit Engines

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

DEMAND

Wow:

“Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October,” the company added.

On Monday, Apple said it had received a record 4-million pre-orders of the iPhone 6 in the first 24 hours, exceeding expectations in what the company described as an “incredible” response.

One report estimates Apple is on track to sell a record 60 million iPhone 6 models in the December quarter for yet another sales record for any phonemaker.

I won’t be joining the party, however. There’s still a year left on my perfectly fine iPhone 5S, and the bigger phones just aren’t my thing. Judging by sales though, people love big phones.

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Robot Cheetah Sounds Like An Animated TV show For Grownups, But No

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

Via Gizmodo:

A lot of robots in development are able to perform amazing feats in a laboratory setting when they’ve got plenty of tethers and cables keeping them perpetually powered and safe. The real test of their capabilities is when they’re forced to explore and interact in a real-world environment, like the robot cheetah that researchers at MIT are developing, which recently took its first untethered steps outside.

The developers admit the current version is limited to 10MPH, but that they aren’t far off from developing a high-speed robot cheetah.

I smell a Hollywood blockbuster.

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cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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What Innovations Will iMedicine Bring?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

shutterstock_169505039

Apple’s HealthKit — coming this week to iOS 8 for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and next year to Apple Watch — is becoming much more than a simple fitness tracker:

Stanford University Hospital doctors said they are working with Apple to let physicians track blood sugar levels for children with diabetes. Duke University is developing a pilot to track blood pressure, weight and other measurements for patients with cancer or heart disease.

The goal is to improve the accuracy and speed of reporting data, which often is done by phone and fax now. Potentially doctors would be able to warn patients of an impending problem. The pilot programs will be rolled out in the coming weeks.

Apple last week mentioned the trials in a news release announcing the latest version of its operating system for phones and tablets, iOS 8, but this is the first time any details have been made public. Apple declined to comment for this article.

Apple almost never comments. The company’s former PR chief, Katie Cotton, elevated not saying anything to an art form. But that’s another story.

Mu question after reading this story is, just how many sensors are they packing into Apple Watch, and what do they plan to pack into future iterations?

*****

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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TiVo Goes Big, Really Big

Saturday, September 13th, 2014 - by Stephen Green

TIVO MEGA

My second TiVo was the first model they produced capable of recording and capturing full 1080p video. It could store up to 30 or 40 hours worth, if memory serves, with a large-for-the-time 250gb hard drive. They’ve gone and topped that, if only very slightly:

The TiVo Mega, slated to ship early next year, will pack 24TB of hard disk space—eight times the storage on the TiVo Roamio Pro, the current top-of-the-line model. Put another way, that’s enough to stash more than three year’s worth of standard-definition television on one DVR.

That’s a little too late for recording that just-completed Simpsons marathon of every episode ever, but what can you do?

The cost of all this storage? The Mega’s exact price hasn’t been announced, but TiVo officials put the price tag around $5000. The super-sized DVR is expected to ship in the first half of 2015.

TiVo says it will store about 4,000 hours of HD video.

I put together a 6TB Drobo with an EyeTV unit plugged into a spare Mac to act as my DVR for significantly less. Still, it’s more work to maintain than TiVo, and I miss those green and red Thumbs-Up/Thumbs-Down buttons on that iconic and lovely TiVo remote control.

There’s a market for this product. It’s niche, but that niche will crave the Mega.

cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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