Tuesday, March 20, 2018

HEIC pics

A photo format called HEIC means images take half
the storage space as with JPEG. But you'll need a
smartphone processor that can handle it.

The good news is that the next version of Google's
Android smartphone software, Android P, has a feature
JPEG. The bad news is there's no guarantee that every
phone will actually be able to use it.

That's because of hardware and patent licensing limits
on the technology used, called High Efficiency Image
Format (HEIF). To get full benefits, phone makers will
have to pay for high-end hardware and license patents
to use it.

You may have heard the term last year, when Apple was
championing the technology in iOS 11 and its latest iPhones.
Now Google's coming around to it.

Halving the amount of storage space that photo files
consume -- and the amount of data they siphon off your
monthly network plan when you're sharing or syncing --
is a great benefit. But it's still not clear how well HEIF will
deliver that benefit for Android users.

On iPhones, Apple made sure its chips can handle HEIF
and resolved the patent hassles. But all bets are off in the
world of Android, where there are thousands of different
phone models from hundreds of manufacturers.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Wear OS

The Android Wear brand introduced in 2014 is going
away and being replaced with a new name: Wear OS.
A new area of Google’s website has officially confirmed
the change. Wear OS even has a new slogan: “Make
every minute matter.” For now, that’s really all the news
there is; since it works on both Android and iOS, Google’s
smartwatch platform is being given a more flexible moniker
that doesn’t tie it to a specific mobile operating system.
Apple’s software platform on the Apple Watch is called

And even though Wear OS doesn’t give iPhone users
all the same features as Android users, some iPhone
owners are actually picking watches with Google’s
software over the Apple Watch. “In 2017, one out of
three new Android Wear watch owners also used an
Phone,” claims Google. Android users still make up
the majority of customers, but it’s not as lopsided as
you might think. Over 50 Wear OS watches have hit
the market so far, and fashion brands have really
gravitated to the platform. It can be a bit hard to tell
some of their offerings apart at this point.

“We’re announcing a new name that better reflects our
technology, vision, and most important of all — the people
who wear our watches. We’re now Wear OS by Google,
a wearables operating system for everyone,” Google’s
Dennis Tropper said in a blog post. “You’ll begin to see
the new name on your watch and phone app over the

next few weeks.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Nest Doorbell

Google-owned Nest today announced that its Nest
Hello video doorbell and a smart lock created with
Yale are now available for purchase. A Nest
Temperature Sensor for tracking and changing the
temperature in specific rooms in your home makes
it debut today and will begin to ship in April.

The Nest Hello debuted last fall alongside Nest’s
Yale lock has been anticipated for two years.

The Nest Hello sells for $229, Nest-Yale lock for $249,
and temperature sensors for $39 for a pack of two,
with up to six allowed per household.

Devices made available today attempt to weave
experiences through Nest  smart home products
with Google Assistant voice control and the Nest

If someone rings the doorbell, Google Assistant in
Home speakers will tell you, “Someone’s at the front
door.” Subscribers to Nest’s Aware program for 24/7
video recording will be able to identify individual
people recognized by Nest Hello’s cameras and
facial recognition AI. Nest Hello also comes with
a quiet time mode, so doorbell chimes in your home
remain silent but an alert telling you who’s at the front
door is sent to your phone.

Home speakers are also used to deliver a chime
when a sensor from Nest’s Secure home security
system senses that a door or window has been opened.

Nest Hello comes with quick responses like: “Hi there,
you can just leave it, thanks” for in-home deliveries, or
“Just a moment, we’ll be right there” if you need a

moment to get to the door.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


After tepid sales of its first smartwatch, Fitbit has a new
model for the Spring with a lower price and a more
appealing look.

The new $200 Fitbit Versa looks a lot more like an
Apple Watch, with a brighter, curvier design than the
chunky, science fiction inspired $300 Ionic model
released last year. The smaller Versa arrives in April
and should fit women’s wrists better. Available for
preorder starting on Tuesday, it also comes in a
broader range of color combinations, including a
more feminine rose gold model with a light peach
strap. The massive Ionic model only looked good
on people with big wrists and came in mostly
masculine color schemes. Some reviewers called it
flat out ugly.

“Looking forward, we’re going to continue to evolve,”
CEO James Park said on Monday at a presentation
for reporters. “We do strongly feel that there’s
significant opportunity for us to gain more share through
the launch of more mass appeal devices in the category…
most importantly all at the right price point.”

The move to revamp its smartwatch push comes after
a difficult holiday shopping season for Fitbit’s entire line
of watches and trackers. Ionic was supposed to offset
falling sales of simpler fitness trackers, but it was too
niche. Fitbit sold only 5.4 million total devices in the
fourth quarter, down from 6.5 million a year earlier and
8.2 million sold back in 2015. Ionic failed to meet
“aggressive goals” that the company had set, CEO Park
has admitted. Total sales in the 2017 quarter declined
1% to $571 million and fell short of the $588 million that
analysts had expected.

Fitbit’s stock hit an all-time low of $4.67 after the fourth
quarter report, though it has since bounced back a bit
to close at $5.31 on Monday. Still, that represents a loss
of almost three-quarters since Fitbit (FIT, -1.48%) went

public in 2015.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Alexa News

Alexa calling, the feature that lets users place voice
now coming to tablets. Amazon announced this
morning added support for calling as well as messaging
features on tablets, including iPads, Android tablets
and, of course, its own Fire tablets.

On the Fire HD 10, Alexa calling and voice messages
will be available hands-free — you can just ask Alexa
to take action. Meanwhile, on the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8
or older generation Fire tablets, you’ll instead press the
Home button to place a call or send a message. The
devices will also support Drop In — the feature that lets
you use Alexa devices as an intercom system of sorts,
where you can instantly connect with other devices
around the home, or in friends’ and families’ homes,
if you choose to enable it.

To use the calling and messaging features, you’ll need
the latest version of the Alexa app and will need to verify
your phone number and import your contacts.

The expanded support for voice calls and messaging is
the latest example of how Amazon’s Alexa app is becoming
more than a utility for managing the settings on Echo
devices or Alexa’s smart home integrations.

Amazon had announced in January that the app would
also be expanded to include voice integration, meaning
users could speak to Alexa in a dedicated app instead
of only through Alexa devices (or oddly, the Amazon
shopping app, which got Alexa integration first.)

With support for calling, messaging and voice commands,
Amazon has a way to establish a presence on mobile,
where it had earlier failed with its own Amazon-branded
Fire Phone smartphones. It gives Amazon a chance to
dive into social and messaging, too, where it had never
directly competed before.

The new calling support is available in the latest version

of the Alexa iOS and Android application, says Amazon.

Happy Pi Day

We would like to wish a Happy National Pi Day (3/14) to all!!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Amazon Alexa News

Amazon's Echo line of devices gets a new feature in
the form of "follow-up" mode, which lets users spit out
command after command without repeating the wake
word each time. Alexa won't nest one request into
another, but it will accommodate multiple requests back
to back.’

That means it's still not possible to perform two commands
in the same sentence. So, users can't say something like,
"Alexa, dim the lights and search for romantic comedies on
Netflix." They still have to divide those into two, but now
without needing to say "Alexa" each time.

The new feature works because Alexa now continues to
listen five seconds after a command, indicated by the blue
ring on the hardware staying lit. Once that fades, it means
Alexa has returned to sleep mode and will only be accessed
again via the wake word.

There are potential problems here, though. There's the
fact that for it to determine a command is indeed a follow-
up, Alexa must first be "confident" that the second
command isn't just background noise from people
chattering or a dialog from a TV program.

Amazon didn't provide a lot of details on how Alexa
determines follow-up commands, but there's reason to
believe this won't work 100 percent of the time initially.
After all, until they received an update, Echo units were
shown to be prone to following commands from the TV.
Interestingly, Amazon says that users can now
deliberately prevent Alexa from listening to commands

by saying "stop" or "thank you."