Friday, October 31, 2014

A New Number Three

Phones from Xiaomi still haven't arrived in the U.S., but the company's booming sales in China have been enough to make it the third largest smartphone vendor in the world.
Xiaomi reached the ranking, behind Apple and Samsung, in the third quarter, said research firms IDC and Strategy Analytics on Thursday.

The Chinese vendor only began selling phones three years ago but it has quickly risen to become a leading vendor in its home market, by offering feature-packed Android phones at affordable prices.

In the third quarter, Xiaomi had a 5.3 percent share of the smartphone market, still far behind second place Apple, which had a 12 percent share, according to IDC. But unlike its rivals, Xiaomi posted triple-digit year-over-year growth in smartphone shipments, of 211 percent, making it the fastest growing among the top vendors.

It is the first time Xiaomi has entered in the top five smartphone rankings, IDC said. During the quarter, the company began selling its latest flagship phone, the Mi 4, a device that has all the latest specs, but with a selling price starting at 1999 yuan (US$326).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

November issue

The November issue of our monthly ePub was emailed out this morning. As usual, it's full of interesting articles and great product reviews.

If any of our daily blog readers aren't subscribers just let us know and we'll add you to the subscriber list.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

LG Phone Sales

South Korea's LG Electronics Inc. said Wednesday its third-quarter profit jumped 87 percent over a year earlier as smartphone sales set a record high.

LG Electronics said its July-September net income reached 202.6 billion won ($193 million) on sales of 14.9 trillion won. Operating income more than doubled from a year earlier to 461.3 billion won.

LG said the improved earnings stemmed from the recovery of its handset business. Its 167 billion won profit exceeded that from televisions, LG's other mainstay business.

The company's smartphone shipments increased 40 percent from a year earlier to a record 16.8 million units, as its flagship G3 smartphone and mid-tier L series smartphone drove sales. The company said it will continue its "two track" strategy, trying to lure consumers in advanced countries with the high-end G series and expand L series models for consumers in emerging markets.

LG's mobile communications business remained profitable for a second straight quarter after three quarters of losses.

The improvement in LG's smartphone business comes as its hometown rival Samsung Electronics Co. is suffering a rapid decline in profit from its mobile division. Samsung Electronics, which is scheduled to report third-quarter earnings on Thursday, will post around 2 trillion won in profit from its mobile communications business, less than one third of its profit a year earlier, according to analysts.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wearables A Waste

A new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 33 percent of consumers who purchased a wearable item in the past year either do not use them any more or use them infrequently. The reason consumers are putting down their smartwatches is because the items failed to meet expectations and not becasue they have given up on a wearables future.
In PwC's report, The Wearable Future, more than half of millennials and early adopters said they were excited about where the category will go in the future. To get there, however, manufacturers have to overcome complaints about price, privacy and security. Even so, PwC believes there will be more than 130 million units sold by 2018, with others estimating sales could be as high as 180 million units.
PwC anticipates huge returns for brands. Media companies, in particular, were identified as having a huge amount of potential. "[Wearable technologies are] blank canvases for highly targeted message placements, especially in the form of content with greater relevancy and context to the user," PwC said. "But wearable devices won't just create more ad inventory and unleash more publishing subscription revenue—they'll provide a meaningful opportunity to drive product sales and e-commerce."
PwC sees brands connecting with consumers through richer, more interactive entertainment experiences, tighter integration with social media and rewards for loyalty. Brands could work closely with stores to push content to consumers as they shop and eat at restaurants.
"The media company of the future must combine insights with curated experiences and find new ways of monetization—not merely through conventional advertising and paid content offerings," Deborah Bothun, PwC’s U.S. advisory entertainment, media and communications leader, said in a statement. "Wearables offer media companies a huge new frontier of relevance and immersive experiences, helping to engage audiences by providing the most relevant content."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tablet Wars: Apple vs. MSFT

It's a neat juxtaposition for sure: earlier in the week Apple's fourth-quarter 2014 results showed that iPad sales sliding: 12.3 million sold, down from 14.1 million from the same period a year ago and in $5.3bn in revenue, down from $6.2bn — a decline of 13 and 14 percent respectively year-on-year.

And then, a few days later Microsoft's first-quarter 2015 results (which actually cover roughly the same period) told a slightly different story. Sales of Microsoft's Surface 'tablet PC' more than doubled over the same quarter a year ago, hitting $908m, which the company said was driven by students, professionals and enterprises.

Microsoft CFO Amy Hood said that the new Surface Pro 3 sales were "pacing at twice the rate of what we saw with Pro 2" and that gross margin for Surface "was positive" as businesses replaced tablets and laptops with the hybrid device.  

Add to this the unexpected resurgence of the PC market (in the US and Europe PC shipments are up year on year according to Gartner) and the increasing evidence that tablets are being squeezed between phablets and hybrid devices, and you have a very different scenario to the one a year or two back, when it looked like tablets were running rampant and the PC was doomed.

In reality, of course, it's a little bit more complicated than that: Microsoft may have come up with a compelling product with the third generation of its Surface Pro, but it's still growing from a very small base and it's not clear how profitable the device is.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tim Cook points to the 237 million iPads the company has sold over the last four years and describes the drop in iPad sales as "a speed bump". His argument is that there's still plenty of growth left for the tablet — especially in the enterprise, where Apple's alliance with IBM could be a significant factor.

What these numbers really represent is a snapshot of a turbulent device market. When the iPad arrived (and the other tablets that followed), it shook up the PC market so much that it's only now recovering some sort of equilibrium.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

iFruit WiFi Woes

The cries for help from frazzled Mac owners whose Wi-Fi connections went haywire after upgrading to OS X Yosemite are being met by Apple with stone-faced silence.

Affected users have been filing a steady stream of complaints about the problem in discussion forums, blogs, and social media sites since Apple released the latest version of the operating system a week ago.

Attempts by users to isolate the cause of the issue have been fruitless so far. The problem affects a variety of Macs with dissimilar configurations and linked to many different routers. What’s clear is that the problem hit these users after installing Yosemite. In most cases, Wi-Fi becomes unstable, with connections dropping every few minutes, irritatingly slow or simply unusable.

The lucky few people who have managed to get their Wi-Fi working properly again have done so with one of at least 20 unique and unofficial “fixes” scattered among thousands of discussion forum postings. None of them seems to be a universal fix for the problem.

On Friday morning, a user identified as “Hevelius” in a Mac Rumors forum vented his frustration with the situation. “There must be about two dozen so-called fixes now on this forum. I’ve tried every single one of them and none of them work,” this person wrote, adding that until there is a fix that works for everyone, the best option is to revert to Mavericks, the previous version of the OS.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wearable Technology - Part Two

By George Harding

A recent news article caught my eye, because it dealt with this category of wearable technology. USA Today reported that Qualcomm Foundation launched a contest to reward the three companies with the best product resembling the Tricorder used in the Star Trek shows. The device is to detect 15 ailments, by continuous monitoring of blood pressure, respiration, temperature and more, and weigh less than 5 pounds.

The contest was launched in January 2012 and attracted over 300 entrants! Today, 10 finalists have been announced from countries around the world. Here is a description of some of them.

Basilleaf, USA-PA, A device to diagnose specific medical conditions, provide insight into the user’s medical condition and guide them to appropriate action.

Biodyn, Taiwan, Five devices with sensors to monitor vitals, blood, respiration and urine. Accompanying smartphone app analyzes results to diagnose disease.

CloudDX, Toronto, Necklace and cuff record biological data along with algorithms to display analysis on tablet and store in the cloud for tracking.

Mesi,  Slovenia, Includes wristband and modules to measure and record vital signs. Accompanying smartphone app displays results and, with the included questionnaire, determines possible diagnosis.

Scanadu, USA-CA, Device monitors vital signs (temperature, respiration, heart rate and blood pressure) and sends result to smartphone for display and analysis. Two additional sensors test urine for pregnancy and health problems.

Scanurse, London, Uses sensors to analyze breath, movement and vision to provide user with easy to understand results.

Zensor, Ireland, Monitor detects arrhythmias when they occur and transmits them to a secure server where they can be reviewed and diagnosed by a physician. Also detects respiration, temperature and motion, blood and urine.

The prizes will be awarded in early 2016. First prize is $7 million, second $2 million, and third $1 million.

It is likely that the Wearable Technology section of CES 2015 will be greatly expanded with vendors displaying many new and innovative ways to sense, record and analyze our body’s condition.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Ubuntu 14.10

Right on schedule the latest version of Ubuntu, called Ubuntu 14.10 the Utopic Unicorn, is now available. Download it for free at.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

MSFT Garage

Microsoft today launched a new section on its website: The Microsoft Garage is designed to give the public early access to various projects the company is testing right now. The team is kicking off with a total of 16 free consumer-facing apps, spanning Android, Android Wear, iOS, Windows Phone, Windows, and even the Xbox One.

Until today, Microsoft Garage was a group inside the company that supported side projects, hackathons, science fairs, and general tinkering. Started in 2009 within the Office Labs group, the goal was to create a “safe place” for Microsoft employees to build their crazy ideas and foster grassroots innovation at the company.

The group now has 32 chapters around the world with about 10,000 active members. Microsoft Garage is still going to be everything it has been so far, but Microsoft has simply decided it’s time for the public to get involved too: You can now test the wild projects the company’s employees dream up.

In short, Microsoft wants to be a better experimenting company. “The next chapter is putting these projects in the hands of real customers to help us make better driven decisions about future plans,” Jeff Ramos, Microsoft’s Manager of The Garage, told VentureBeat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Xbox One Update

Microsoft is trying to help Xbox One owners discover new TV shows and more courtesy of the upcoming November update.
In an Xbox Wire blog posted on Monday, Microsoft's Larry Hyrb, aka Major Nelson, described in details all the features headed to Xbox One users in next month's update. Through a variety of enhancements are due up, one batch focuses specifically on those who watch live TV via their consoles.
A new tab will appear in the Xbox One's OneGuide that shows you the top 20 most watched TV shows, with the list designed to display only those shows available to you. You can easily jump to a specific show by pressing the A button on your controller. Further, you can see what shows are popular on the Twittersphere by catching which ones people are talking about on Twitter. The tab will show you what your fellow Xbox One owners are watching as well.
You'll also be able to tweak your Xbox One background. Dubbed the "No. 1 fan-requested feature" by Hyrb, this enhancement allows you to choose your own color or achievement art for your background. Hyrb promised more customization options in the future. Further, you'll be able to share your location and bio in your profile so that your fellow gamers can more easily learn more about you.
The update also moves the navigation buttons for the Store pages so that you can more quickly find games, add-ons, and other items. There's also a new section specifically for apps. Internet Explorer users will be able to more easily jump back and forth between full-screen mode.
Finally, the November update adds a leaderboard feature that displays how you rank among your friends based on the number of points you've earned.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Candy Crush is Getting Crushed

Candy Crush Saga is still one of the highest grossing games on mobile, but the stock market doesn’t find this all that impressive anymore. And even double-dipping on the Candy Crush name might not help the social-gaming publisher.

King Digital’s stock is currently trading at around $11.60. That’s just a few percentage points better than its record low of $10.93, which it hit last week. King’s share price is actually down 1.7 percent today despite the company releasing Candy Crush Soda Saga, a followup to its most popular and lucrative game, on Facebook. Investors don’t seem to care that King has another Candy Crush game, as many worry that the original has peaked and the publisher won’t ever have another game to replace it.

King remains a successful company. Candy Crush Saga is still the highest-grossing game in nearly 23 countries. It is in the top 10 highest grossing in more than 100 different markets. It’s maintained its popularity since its release in late 2012. But everything that goes up and makes a ton of money on mobile must eventually come down. And the market is positioning itself for that — and rightly so.

While Candy Crush Saga is almost always one of the top-grossing games, King’s player numbers have started to plateau and even drop in recent months. In August, the company reported its Q2 financial results, and it revealed that its daily average players (DAUs) were down from 143 million in Q1 to 138 million in Q2. Meanwhile, its monthly active users only increased from 481 million in Q1 to 485 million in Q2. Similarly, King’s unique gamers dropped from 352 million in Q1 to 345 million in Q2.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Nobody Ever Got Fired for Buying IBM

There used to be a time when an IT leader could sign one purchasing and support contract with a single vendor, and have all the computing hardware and software needed to conduct enterprise computing for the foreseeable future.

"Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM" was regarded as an axiom, and IT purchasers could get everything from mainframes, rack servers, thinkpads, and thinkcentres for corporate desktop needs, and everything in between.

It was an era where it made sense for those supplying computer equipment to integrate and upsell customers on as many products as they could manage.

Thus, we ended up in a place where it was conceivable, and often the reality, that a single IT vendor would not only sell hardware for datacentre, desktop, and laptop computers, but also have its own matching portfolio of software that included mail servers, office programs, communications software, and even operating systems and programming languages.

Enterprise computing was at the forefront of innovation, and it consequently set the tone for how the industry was viewed.

Then, as we all know, consumersation changed the way that computing was approached, and it turned out that those highly integrated corporate vendors that ponderously upgraded their hardware fleets at times of their own choosing were far from the be-all and end-all that customers wanted, or, more importantly, desired.

New brands with shiny hardware appeared on enterprise desktops, and, in parallel, open-source software and internet services were pushing aside the proprietary and expensive software that increasingly lacked features that users found outside of the workplace. Why wrestle with software like Lotus Notes and its associated baggage for email and calendaring when using a service such as Gmail was easy by comparison?

As the computing world shifted and left behind its old masters, those integrated multinationals found themselves increasingly irrelevant, and took to buying companies that offered a chance to reinvigorate and remake the parent corporation — but the theory rarely matched the reality, and often new and exciting companies became crushed with the weight of the parent corporation and its culture.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wearable Technology - Part One

By George Harding

One of the fastest growing segments of the technology industry is that of wearable items. These involve hardware/software combinations that sense and display information about your body and your performance.

At CES 2014, there were many vendors showing their products measuring your pulse, temperature, oximetry, steps, sleep time and even keeping track of your diet and efforts to lose weight.

Since that time, only 8 months, this field has exploded with more companies and more products examining ever deeper into you and your activities. Many of these products involve a wristband with the usual features of a watch, but are enhanced with features relating to your health.

One such is a watch by Casio that not only has all the usual features of a multi-function watch, but also measures heartbeat, notifies you of calls and email, keeps track of your workout data and more. No info yet on price.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Apple Announcements

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is ready to tackle the holiday season with a full product array including new iPads. His challenge now is luring the hordes of buyers that analysts are projecting.

Apple this week unveiled refreshed iPads and Macintosh computers at an event at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters. The iPads are thinner and include fingerprint sensors, with the Macs boasting features such as sharper displays and faster processors. The devices follow Apple’s introduction last month of larger-screen iPhones, a smartwatch and a mobile-payments system.

The lineup is ratcheting up Wall Street’s projections that Apple is entering a high growth phase, which Cook will now have to meet. The CEO is also facing calls by activist investor Carl Icahn to increase Apple’s value. Investors will get a taste of how Cook’s latest gambits are performing next week, when Apple reports fiscal fourth-quarter results on Oct. 20.

Friday, October 17, 2014

HBO Web-only Version

HBO says it’s finally ready: Sometime in the next year the pay-TV service will be selling a Web-only offering.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler, speaking at an investor presentation hosted by HBO parent company Time Warner, said the company will start selling in 2015 a digital version of its service that won’t require a pay-TV subscription.

Plepler said the company will go “beyond the wall” and launch a “stand-alone, over the top” version of HBO in the U.S. next year, and would work with “current partners,” and may work with others as well. But he wouldn’t provide any other detail.

Even that vague statement is a milestone for HBO, Time Warner and the TV business in general. For years, Time Warner and HBO have said they’re happy with the existing system, where HBO is sold to consumers by TV providers, and is usually only available to customers who are already buying another bundle of TV networks.

That arrangement helped generate $4.9 billion in revenue for HBO last year, and also kept pay-TV providers like Comcast* happy.

But now, under pressure from investors to show that Time Warner can extract more value from HBO, Plepler and Time Warner seem willing to risk upsetting that structure. The move will also be seen as a response to the rise of Netflix, which has more than 50 million subscribers for its Web video service, and may generate more revenue than HBO this year.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New Google Tablets

Google's Nexus family keeps on getting bigger.
The Internet giant on Wednesday introduced the Nexus 9, a tablet with an 8.9-inch display manufactured by Taiwanese hardware maker HTC, the Nexus 6, a smartphone with a 6-inch display made by Motorola Mobility, and the Nexus Player, a streaming media player by Asus and the first device running Android TV. As with past Nexus launches, the devices serve as a showcase for the latest version of Google's Android mobile operating system, dubbed Lollipop, but previously referred to as "L."
The Nexus 9 and Nexus Player will be available for preorder on October 17, and will hit stores on November 3. The 16GB version of the Nexus 9 will cost $399, the 32GB version will cost $479 and the 32GB version with LTE will cost $599. The Nexus Player and remote control will cost $99 with an optional controller for $40.

The Nexus 6 will be available for preorder on October 29 and available in November, sold unlocked or through carriers. Sprint, US Cellular, AT&T and T-Mobile will sell the Nexus 6 in the US. The 32GB version of the Nexus 6 will cost $649 unlocked, while the 64GB version will cost $699.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Huawei Ascend Mate2 at Newegg

Consumers can now purchase the Huawei Ascend Mate2 4G LTE on Newegg, the leading electronics-focused e-retailer in North America. The device is offered online at in both black and white colors, and retails for $300.00 USD. There is no sales tax for customers outside of California, Indiana, New Jersey or Tennessee. Consumers who purchase the device also receive one reverse charge cable, free of charge.

Since its launch, the Ascend Mate2 has received critical acclaim for its powerful quad-core 1.6 GHz processor and a long-lasting 3900mAh lithium polymer battery that lets you enjoy a half-day of web surfing on a single charge. Featuring unique power-saving technology that improves performance by more than 30 percent versus other smartphones in its class, a single charge can let you: stream three movies in a row, surf the web for 12 hours, talk for 25 hours, or listen to 100 hours of music. The Ascend Mate2 is like a hybrid of bests: the best battery, the best screen, the best selfie experience – all rolled into one.

To learn more about the Ascend Mate2, visit

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Google Phablet

Google this month expects to release its largest smartphone, intensifying competition in the fast-growing market for super-sized mobile devices known as phablets, according to three people familiar with the situation.

The new phone — code-named Shamu after a killer whale — will have a 5.9-inch screen, a high-resolution display and be sold under the Nexus brand, two of the people said. Motorola Mobility, the phone maker that Google is selling to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd, is manufacturing the phone, the people added. A Google spokeswoman declined to comment.

The new phone will be larger than Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, which is 5.5 inches, and the Samsung Galaxy Note, the first truly successful phablet, which is 5.7 inches. Google plans to release a new version of its Android mobile-operating system at the same time. Tech blog The Information reported in July that Motorola was working on a Nexus phablet with Google.

Phablets, defined as smartphones with displays five inches or larger, were once ridiculed as unwieldy bricks for short-sighted, older consumers. But as phones have evolved from calling devices into computers for work tasks and watching videos, larger devices have caught on.
In 2011, phablets accounted for 1% of global smartphone shipments. This year, these big phones will make up 24% of the market, according to consultants Strategy Analytics. Stats like that forced Apple to drop its aversion to larger iPhones this year and now Google is responding.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Selfmite Worm

A new version of an Android worm called Selfmite has the potential to ramp up huge SMS charges for victims in its attempt to spread to as many devices as possible.

The first version of Selfmite was discovered in June, but its distribution was quickly disrupted by security researchers. The worm -- a rare type of malware in the Android ecosystem -- spread by sending text messages with links to a malicious APK (Android Package) to the first 20 entries in the address book of every victim.

The new version, found recently and dubbed Selfmite.b, has a similar, but much more aggressive spreading system, according to researchers from security firm AdaptiveMobile. It sends text messages with rogue links to all contacts in a victim's address book, and does this in a loop.

"According to our data, Selfmite.b is responsible for sending over 150k messages during the past 10 days from a bit more than 100 infected devices," Denis Maslennikov, a security analyst at AdaptiveMobile said in a blog post Wednesday. "To put this into perspective that is over a hundred times more traffic generated by Selfmite.b compared to Selfmite.a."

At an average of 1,500 text messages sent per infected device, Selfmite.b can be very costly for users whose mobile plans don't include unlimited SMS messages. Some mobile carriers might detect the abuse and block it, but this might leave the victim unable to send legitimate text messages.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

QBIC Video Camera Review

By George Harding

Anyone with a smart phone has a video camera at his/her disposal. So what makes QBIC so different?

Well, first of all, it’s small, about 2” X 2” X 1.5”. It doesn’t make calls and can’t text. It doesn’t require a cell or any other type of subscription.

Here’s why it’s so different and why you will want one: it has its own Wi-Fi network and it can cover from  135 to 185 degrees of horizontal visual space.

It can be used to cover sporting events, travel, landscapes, field trips, family gatherings and more. It records in full HD (1080p) at up to 60 frames per second with high quality stereo sound.

It can take photos as single shot, interval mode, self-timer mode or burst mode. Burst mode is what you would use for fast moving sporting events. QBIC takes 10 shots rapidly in a burst.

The Wi-Fi network is generated by the device itself. You connect with it using either iOS or Android by downloading an app from the App Store. You connect the QBIC directly to your smartphone or tablet by way of this network and are not tethered to a static network.

You can use the photo or video function, record to QBIC on the SDHC card (not included) and view it simultaneously on your smart phone or tablet. It is possible to control QBIC from this application, so you need not hold it in order to use it. You can also download the recorded files to a computer through a cable connection (micro-USB to USB).

The device is very light, only 3.5 oz. It is also water-resistant. One other feature that’s interesting is the ability to take a close-up picture, as near as 1 inch.

There are various types of mounts available that make it possible to mount the device on your head, your bike, your water ski or just about anything else.

The kit comes with the camera, a cable (micro-USB to USB), a Start-Up Guide and a small metal holder for the camera to attach to your smartphone. The Guide is very small and has correspondingly small type – almost too small to read. There is a downloadable PDF of the Guide, which is much preferable. You need to have  a SDHC disk in order to store any files.

I tried both the iOS and the Android app. The iOS app works very well and did everything I wanted to do. It is responsive, with the only limitation being the size of my iPhone screen. I was able to download pictures and videos to my laptop, though it’s not a speedy process.

The Android app was not as efficient, although I could take pictures and videos. My tablet would not allow me to download pictures or videos, but that’s the fault of the tablet, not the app. My video was abruptly stopped and the app exited without warning, but the video file was saved. I also found that the Android app was not as responsive as the iPhone app.

This is an interesting and useful tool for taking videos and pictures in situations where you are not able to physically hold the device.

QBIC by Elmo                                      
 Price $260