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    July 29, 2014
    Microsoft’s “Selfie” Phone

    It seems like you can’t escape selfies these days.  From television to your phone, the world is taking pictures of itself to share with its friends, and it seems like smartphone companies are getting smarter about giving the people what they want:  an easier way to take pictures of themselves.  That’s why so many phones come with forward-facing cameras, but Microsoft is doing the competition one better.  Microsoft’s new smartphone has a 5 megapixel camera just for taking selfies.  That’s more powerful than all the competition.

    The phone will be 4.7 inches and is joined by another higher-end Windows Phone in launching soon, but Microsoft employees have been given a sneak preview of the phone.  It’s the first designed by Stephen Elop, former Nokia chief who joined up with Microsoft when the company bought out the former phone manufacturer to bolster the Windows Phone division.  The first step, apparently, is to design a phone for folks to take pictures of themselves (and maybe occasionally the world around them) without sacrificing power and usefulness.

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    July 26, 2014
    Verizon To Slow Down Heavy Data Users

    Once upon a time, Verizon offered high-speed cellphone data service to everyone.  For a low monthly price,  you got all the bandwidth you could use.  That plan was discontinued in 2012, but some folks who subscribed to the service continue on as legacy users.  That plan is about to change once again.  Verizon will now have data caps on heavy unlimited users starting in October.  Their service won’t stop completely, but it will be throttled until the next billing cycle.

    The top five percent of users in data-heavy markets on 4G plans will be affected; once they top 4.7GB of data in a month, they’ll find their service slowed down until the next month, at which point it will presumably continue on as normal again.  It’s all part of Verizon’s plan to move everyone to tiered data plans; tiered data customers won’t be affected, as per usual.  Customers using 3G data plans are already under the terms of the throttling plan.

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    July 23, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Angry Bird

    Image via

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    July 19, 2014
    Facebook Rolls Out App For Celebrities

    If you’re a famous person, you have a lot of demands on your time, but there is no demand so great as the demand to interact with the fans.  Thanks to social media, a good celebrity is one who talks to his or her fans, and that’s a lot of pressure.  Not on the celebrities, but on the social media services.  Facebook has been pushed to its limits by Twitter, which offers instant ability to interact with fans.  To respond, Facebook has launched Facebook Mentions, a special celebs-only iPhone app for the famous to interact with us poors.

    “With so many people connected to public figures, it’s really hard to manage those interactions,” said Facebook product manager Allison Swope.  ”We realized we could create a way to make that easier.”

    Mentions is a great help to celebrities, as it helps them keep track of fan trends, keep up (and follow) other famous people and media influencers, and even host a live Q&A session from their iPhone directly.  According to the celebrities involved, it has made interacting with fans a lot easier, and Facebook says that it has improved celebrity use by 50 percent, though it’s still a very new service.  Facebook expects to roll it out internationally in the coming months; for now, the service is US-only.

    “My fans are so important to me,” said singer Austin Mahone.  ”They’re the reason why I make music, and I love sharing my life with them.  (Facebook) Mentions has made it even easier to keep my fans updated on what’s going on in my world, and to respond directly to their posts.”

    Feel free to check out Facebook Mentions, if you’re famous.

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    July 18, 2014
    Cat Feeder With Feline Facial Recognition

    My parents have four cats, and that means that feeding time for the kitties quickly becomes chaos.  The calico wants to eat everyone’s food.  The gray one needs special food because she’s diabetic.  The brown and white one is an adult cat who eats normal adult cat food.  The calico and the orange one are still kittens and need kitten food.  Everyone wants to eat everyone else’s food.  Believe me, it’s a mess, especially when I have to go over there and feed for them.  That’s what makes the idea of the Bistro smart cat feeder so genius.  Taiwan design team 42ARK have created the Bistro, which monitors cat eating habits and uses facial recognition to keep cats from misbehaving around the food bowl.

    Perhaps more interestingly, it can also be used to track the food intake of the cats to figure out who needs to go on a diet, who needs to eat a little more, and which cat is the one that eats everyone else’s food.  There are also weight sensors in the food bowl to make doubly sure that the right cat has the right food.

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    July 18, 2014
    Amazon Launches Kindle Unlimited

    If you’re rapidly running out of reading material for your Kindle, then you’re not alone.  There are a lot of services that offer all the books you care to read for a certain price per month, but not all of them come with the ease of use that Amazon Prime’s one book a month offers.  So that’s why Amazon, who started out as an online book seller, is getting back to their roots and offering a great book deal.  Amazon is launching Kindle Unlimited today; Kindle Unlimited is an all-you-can-read-and-listen-to plan for $9.99 a month.  Unlimited books AND unlimited audiobooks, all for one low price.

    For someone like myself, who doesn’t have a lot of time to read, it’s not a great deal.  However, if I could listen to audiobooks in the car or at work or wherever I might happen to be… well, then the deal is looking a lot better, especially if these are unabridged audiobooks rather than truncated versions.  If I’m listening to something, I want to listen to the whole thing, not just the hits.

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    July 15, 2014
    Microsoft Pushing For $199 Laptops

    The Chromebook isn’t the best computer out there, but for the price point, it’s a pretty top notch device.  It can’t do everything, but it can enough to take care of the needs of most users.  Of course, that is what’s going to cause some issues for Microsoft, the company behind Windows and one of the biggest software providers in the world.  Chromebooks are an attack on their partners, and that’s an attack on Microsoft’s operating systems.  Microsoft is fighting back, cutting prices for OEM software and pushing for $199 laptops.

    “We are going to participate at the low-end,” says Microsoft COO Kevin Turner.  ”We’ve got a great value proposition against Chromebooks, we are not ceding the market to anyone.”

    HP has been the first company to announce their $199 laptop, the HP Stream device.  They didn’t announce much about it, but the fact that it even exists–alongside a couple of other $99 table-style offerings–is great news for the lower end of the marketplace.  The more inexpensive computers in the world, the better off everyone will be.  .


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    July 15, 2014
    Clogging The Tubes

    Posting has been a bit slow around these parts, but it’s been for a very important reason.  Or rather, for a very irritating reason.  Right now, there are seven different devices around me that either can connect or are connected to the Internet:  four laptops, two tablets, the cable box, and my Blu-Ray player (that streams Netflix).

    Not all of these devices are currently on or currently drawing bandwidth, but when there are two or three of them running at one time, there’s a little problem.  When I moved to my house, we had to downgrade from high-speed Internet to DSL Internet connectivity.  Normally, that’s fine; 6MB is enough to do most normal activities online; however, the purchase of a new laptop means there has to be a backup of iTunes from the ancient MacBook Pro, which is too old to connect to the cloud.  So the files from iTunes have to be moved from the MBP to Google Drive, and that means that my bandwidth is all gone whenever those files are being moved.

    It’s not as though I can free up more bandwidth just by willing it, and we can’t get any non-Time Warner high-speed Internet at our house, which means we can’t get any high-speed Internet service at the house.  So that means for vast swaths of time, I haven’t even been able to connect to the Internet, let alone do my usual writing and blogging work.  It’s very frustrating, and it’s a good example as to why you should get as much broadband as you think you’ll need, because too little is not good.

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    July 10, 2014
    LG’s Kid-Tracking Kizon Smart

    So you’re wondering just where your child is, and while you can probably just call them on their phone, that won’t tell you if your child is actually somewhere safe or if they were out somewhere doing something dangerous.  That’s where technology comes in.  There are probably some tracking apps out there, but good luck getting the kid to use said app, or not disable said app.  That’s where the Kizon comes in; it’s a cool-looking wearable device that keeps a parent app updated with location information.  LG has announced the Kizon, a child-tracking smartband that pairs allows parents to keep tabs on their child.

    It’s not just a band, though.  The Kizon is also a phone, and parents can control just who calls, who the child can talk to, and so on.  If the child doesn’t answer the phone, the Kizon automatically activates its microphone so you can hear what’s going on.  And if your child happens to need you, you can preprogram a phone number into the device that the child can call with the push of a button.  Privacy concerns aside, that’s a really cool way to keep tabs on your little ones, should they need that.

    If you’d like more information, check out LG’s Kizon website.

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    July 9, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Stickers

    Via:  Cory Doctorow

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