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    April 16, 2014
    Google’s Project Ara: What You Need To Know

    Google seems to be a company bound and determined to shake up the cellular phone industry.  From the Android operating system that took the world by storm to buying (and selling) Motorola, Google has been very actively trying to get into your pocket, and for the most part it’s been successful.  However, now it’s going to try to supplant your smart phone and try to change the way smart phones work by transitioning the business to a more computer-like model.  Google’s Project Ara is a modular smart phone, meaning it’s a smartphone you can take apart and upgrade piece by piece.  If you want a faster processor or more memory or whatever, odds are Project Ara can provide you with that, either as something you can do yourself or something your provider will do for you.

    Google is looking at it as “Android for hardware” and is pitching the phone as being infinitely customizable, with the basic model costing only $50 and the most expensive being… well, however much you want to spend, I’d assume.  Everything from the case inward is completely customizable, and it’s for those that want bleeding edge technology.  Indeed, some of the phone’s components are going to be 3D printed, which means that you can have a phone like what you’re wanting in a matter of hours.  Here’s 12 things you’ll need to know about Project Ara; you’ll have a little time before you have to make a decision about your next phone, but this is definitely something to consider once it becomes available in the United States.

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    March 29, 2014
    Office For iPad: What To Know

    One of the most unsurprising developments of the software world is the app-ization of standard software.  You have a program you use on your desktop or laptop, you’re going to want to slap the same program on your iPad so you can do whatever it is you do on the go.  I was just complaining in my previous post about the lack of Blizzard games on my tablet, and now one of the world’s leaders in productivity software has stepped to the plate and gotten with the times.  Apps are the future of everything, and Microsoft, for once, is ahead of the game.  Microsoft has released Microsoft Office for iPad.

    Of course, there are catches.  The apps, Office, Excel, and Powerpoint, are free to download and have limited functionality.  If you want the full range of powers, you have to subscribe to Office 365, which is $100 a year but features licenses for up to 5 devices.  A second flaw is that the three apps have to be downloaded separately, rather than together as is the case with Office Mobile.  There are other issues, like being forced to use SkyDrive and being unable to print or insert videos into PowerPoint presentations, but those may well be resolved in the future.  Still, it’s better than nothing!

    As for me, I’ll be waiting for an Open Office or Star Office for Kindle.  I stopped paying for word processing software years ago and I could not be happier with my free, functional, and universal options.

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    March 5, 2014
    Wordless Wednesday: Firefox

    Image via Emergency Fox

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    February 19, 2014
    Google Eyes Fiber Expansion To 34 Cities

    Good news everyone!  Google Fiber is expanding, and it has picked out 34 potential cities to join the Fiber train alongside Google Fiber’s current home bases of Provo, Kansas City, and Austin.  The cities appear to be clustered around major points in the country’s tech, financial, and entertainment industries.  Are you near a potential Google Fiber city?

    Among the places Google is considering expanding to are several cities in California clustered around Silicon Valley (like Santa Clara, San Jose, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Palo Alto); the Durham, North Carolina Research Triangle area; Charlotte, North Carolina–America’s credit card center; Atlanta and several surrounding communities; Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe; Portland; San Antonio; and Salt Lake City.

    Some of these are probably guaranteed winners (Mountain View is Google HQ, they probably should’ve started Fiber there; SLC isn’t far from Provo) and others are possibly pipe dreams who are setting up for future rounds of expansion.  The cities have to clear the way for Google to find space on utility poles, install new fiber, and clear the way from a regulatory standpoint for Google to come in.  If you’re a city who is looking for Fiber service (pay attention here, Louisville), then you can look at what other companies have offered Google and prepare your offer sheet the next time Google is looking to string out their Fiber.

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    February 5, 2014
    NBC’s Richard Engel Hacked “Almost Immediately” In Sochi

    Anyone with any sense is concerned about security for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  There’s the ever-present threat of terrorism from one of Russia’s breakaway republics.  There’s the threat of other terrorist groups making their presence felt at the games.  There’s the specter of crime, muggers and robbings and breaking and entering and that sort of thing.  And then, there’s cyber security.  As it turns out, going to one of the world’s most popular events makes you a target for all sorts of hackers and crackers and whatnot.  NBC’s Richard Engel found this out when his phone and computer were hacked the moment he first used them in Sochi.

    Engel took two computers and a smartphone with him.  All of them were brand new and all of them were set up with fake identities to protect Engel’s actual information.  The moment he connected his computers to the Internet, they were both hacked.  Within 24 hours, his phone was hacked as well, letting the hackers record and monitor pretty much any conversation Engel might have had through the phone.

    “It doesn’t take long here for someone to try to tap into your laptop, cellphone or tablet,” said Engel on Tuesday.  ”In a minute, hackers were snooping around.  The same thing happened with my cellphone — it was very fast and very professional.”  Engel added, “The State Department warns that travelers should have no expectation of privacy.  Even in their hotel rooms.  And as we found out, you are especially exposed as soon as you try and communicate with anything.”

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    February 1, 2014
    Microsoft Slashes Tablet Prices

    In the wake of the less-than-successful launch of the Microsoft tablet line, it looks as if the company is ready to make a deal and you, the interested tablet consumer, is looking to benefit from that.  Microsoft is cutting prices across its tablet line at the Microsoft store, dropping the price for units from Dell, Lenovo, and Toshiba.  Some of the tablets are now priced at $250, which makes them a pretty good deal.

    Of course there’s a limited amount of time for these deals, with the Venue Pro 8 price running out tomorrow and the other tablet deals will run out on February 9.  Apparently the Windows 8.1 upgrade that’s coming down the pipe will do wonders for the performance issues that the tablets had been experiencing according to some people, so keep that in mind when you’re considering making the purchase.  A tablet at $250 is a pretty good deal, all things considered.

    Check out the Windows Store for more information.

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    January 24, 2014
    Happy 30th Birthday To The Mac

    On January 24, 1984, Apple founder Steve Jobs and CEO John Sculley prepared a big public announcement.  At the Super Bowl, Apple ran a huge 60-second commercial from director Ridley Scott that promised, “On January 24, Apple will introduce Macintosh.  And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ’1984.’”  As it turns out, Macintosh was a personal computer from Apple with a revolutionary new interface, a mouse, icons on a GUI, and that sort of thing.  It ended up being revolutionary, if only because Apple put as much care into making it look good as it did in making it function.  Happy 30th Birthday, Macintosh!  Here’s an interesting account from someone who was at the launch event.

    As it turns out, the Macintosh has always been a little ahead of its time, or at least a product of its time.  It was one of the first computers to drop the floppy disk drive, it was one of the first computers to encourage networking, and it was one of the first laptops to feature back-lit keyboards as a prominent feature.  Here are 20 ways the Apple Mac changed everything, courtesy of Time Magazine.  It’s a good list to celebrate the Mac’s 30th birthday.

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    January 21, 2014
    HP Brings Back Windows 7

    PC sales continue to decline, and every company that depends on computer sales is trying to think of a way to stimulate sales.  Computers are a need more than a want these days; however, people are making computers last longer than ever, and one of the world’s biggest computer manufacturers thinks it might be Windows 8 that’s the problem.  HP is bringing back Windows 7 as an operating system choice.  Of course, it’s only available on five systems (two laptops and three desktops), but at least it’s still there, and if it’s successful, the offering list will probably expand.

    The move is a very smart one for HP.  After all, Windows XP is soon to be officially phased out, and that means a lot of companies are going to need to upgrade their computers in a pretty quick hurry.  Continuing to offer Windows 7, rather than forcing people to adopt Windows 8 and its unfamiliar Metro system, is a pretty good business decision.  Much less learning curve with Windows 7, after all.  Even though Windows 8 now has a more familiar user interface, it’s still not the same as the classic Windows look, and that might be what has been scaring people away.

    Even if it’s not, what does HP have to lose by publicizing its Windows 7 offerings?

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    January 17, 2014
    Power On The Go With The Torpedo Charger

    The Brunton Torpedo Charger looks very cool.  Indeed, Boing Boing said it looks like a lightsaber handle, and they’re not wrong.  However, even cooler than the device’s look is its functionality.   These days, you can’t go anywhere without seeing someone on their phone, or someone charging their phone.  In fact, I’ve seen people charging their phones at restaurants during their meals just because they happened to be sitting close to the power outlet and they needed a little juice.  That’s no way to live.  That’s where the Torpedo Charger comes in.  The Brunton Torpedo Charger is a car charger that’s also a portable battery, meaning you can charge your car in the phone, take your Brunton with you, then charge your phone twice more during the day before you need to recharge the whole unit!

    The Brunton Torpedo Charger is a plug-in charger, using USB trickle chargers to refill two devices while you’re driving around.  When you get to your destination, you simply take the charger in with you and when you need a little boost, you simply plug your phone into it again.  The Brunton Torpedo Charger contains enough juice for two charges on the go, so your need to search for an unattended electrical outlet will be significantly diminished no matter how abysmal your smartphone’s battery life might be.

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    January 14, 2014
    Time’s CES Tech Awards

    I’ve always wanted to attend a massive public event.  From San Diego Comic Con to the Consumer Electronics Show, going to conventions, wandering through booths, watching demos, getting to play with new technologies and talk to people?  That’s pretty fun to me, especially when I can control when I enter and leave and don’t have to stand in too many lines.  That’s one of the big reasons why I don’t go to anything larger than a regional convention, but then there are people who go to CES and bring back detailed reports on all the cool stuff.  Time Magazine has given out some “Arbitrary CES Awards” to the coolest products at CES 2014.

    Some of this stuff seems awesome, like the curved TVs and the particularly exciting idea of Dolby Vision.  Ditto the above-pictured smart TV from LG, which is powered by WebOS (remember the HP touchpad firesale ages ago?) and looks to be a pretty awesome home media center.  Granted, some of this stuff may never happen, and it may be too expensive for the bulk of the world even when it finally makes it to market, but eventually… these ideas will be on/in/making up your television.  It’s only a matter of time.

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