Sunday, November 30, 2014

Was I Wrong About Apple?

I have predicted the demise of Apple for many years. However, since their market value is now an unbelievable 700 Billion USD I must admit that I may, and I mean may, have been wrong.

Many, many years ago it was said the no one ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the American people. We may now be seeing another example of that phenomenon. Apple is selling a gazillion iPhones despite the fact that there are dozens of far better phones using Android available for consumers at MUCH lower prices.

Jonathan Gruber of MIT may well be exactly right, voters in America are stupid. After all, we did elect Czar Obama twice. God help us.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Pentax Black Friday Sale

The time has finally come— the biggest US Pentax lens sale is here!  From November 27th until December 1st (Black Friday Weekend + Cyber Monday), you can secure big savings on nearly ever lens in the current Pentax lineup.  The discounted prices listed in this post are at the two biggest authorized Pentax dealers in the country, so you can shop with confidence and enjoy perks such as gift card rewards and free expedited shipping.

Some of the hottest deals this year include $300 off the DA 20-40mm lens (see below) as well as record-low prices on HD Limiteds and substantial savings on Star lenses.  Also, be sure not to miss the great Pentax camera deals!

Several rock-bottom lens prices prices (listed below) are also available exclusively through the Pentax Web Store, though note that additional tax and shipping charges will apply, and the Pentax Web Store only ships to US customers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

There Will Be No Tech Post Today

Decline in Tablet Shipments

As Apple rides a cresting wave in the stock market with its market cap now dancing around $700 billion, a dark cloud moves in from IDC. The analysts report today that full-year iPad shipments will decline for the first time in its history, amid a sluggish market overall for tablets.

Apple — which ironically now offers more models of its iPad tablet than ever before — will ship 64.9 million iPad tablets in 2014, a decline of 12.7% on the total number of shipments a year ago. The bigger tablet market will see shipments of 235.7 million units, growth of 7.2% over 2013.

This is a big drop in growth. As a point of comparison, tablet shipments between 2012 and 2013 grew 52.5%.

Google’s Android operating system, following in the footsteps of its prevalence in the smartphone market, will continue to remain the most popular operating system for tablets. This year, it captured nearly 68% of the market, working out to almost 160 million devices shipped.

But this is not the whole story for OEMs. While Android will continue to keep its place as the leading operating system, Apple, with 27.5% market share, remains the single-biggest brand in the tablet market. IDC tells me that in Q3 specifically, Apple’s iPad had a 22.1% share.

So why the reason for the decline in tablet shipments? IDC appears to echo the observations of analysts like Gartner, who have been pointing out that tablets are following a sales cycle more akin to PCs than smartphones (fitting since it’s PCs that tablets are believed to be replacing).

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TaxACT and Obamacare

TaxACT Free Edition and Deluxe are updated with the latest tax law changes and 2015 ACA calculations. After consumers answer simple questions about their 2014 taxes and health insurance, TaxACT generates a personalized HealthWatch report with calculations and information for marketplace applications, including:
  • A detailed breakdown of 2014 income for a more accurate estimate of 2015 income to help recipients of the Advanced Premium Tax Credit avoid a large bill on 2015 tax returns
  • Policy numbers for any current plans held by household members
  • Basic information for each household member
HealthWatch also includes exemption guidance and an estimated individual shared responsibility payment for all of 2015 based on 2014 household and income.
"TaxACT's ACA calculations give an advantage to Americans applying for 2015 marketplace," says TaxACT President JoAnn Kintzel. "Having those exact numbers means the Premium Tax Credit and subsidy amounts you receive for 2015 are less likely to impact your refund in 2016."

Monday, November 24, 2014

MSFT Adds Dropbox to Office Mobile

Microsoft today updated the Office app for Android smartphones, adding support for Dropbox and further integration with the company's own OneDrive cloud storage service.

The update to Office Mobile -- the name of the all-in-one app that includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint -- was promised two weeks ago when Microsoft announced a partnership with Dropbox.

Shortly after Microsoft and Dropbox trumpeted the deal, the former updated its iOS apps -- Word, Excel and PowerPoint for the iPhone and iPad -- to let users connect to their Dropbox accounts from within the apps.

Android's Office Mobile now does the same.

"With today's update, you'll get the same integration in Office Mobile for Android phone, including the ability to ... add Dropbox as an online storage location, browse your files on Dropbox, [and] use Office Mobile app for Android Phones to edit your Dropbox files and automatically save them back to Dropbox," Microsoft said in a short blog post today.

Unlike Office for iOS, which Microsoft has split into separate refreshed apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Android's Office Mobile retains an older UI and the three-app grouping that was formerly the sole option for iPhone owners.

The new Android app also now lets users share a link to a OneDrive-stored document, spreadsheet or presentation via email. OneDrive is Microsoft's cloud-based storage and sync service, and competes with Dropbox.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Aereo Has Thrown in the Towel

Aereo Inc.’s quest to shake up the television industry with its online-streaming service has come to an end.

The Barry Diller-backed startup sought bankruptcy protection after the U.S. Supreme Court said its TV service violated programming copyright protections. The nation’s highest court rang the death knell for Aereo in June, handing a victory to broadcast giants including CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ABC, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and 21st Century Fox Inc.

Aereo had been striving to revolutionize broadcast TV viewing, offering live and recorded programs via the Internet for as little as $8 a month. The Internet-TV startup’s failure eliminates an alternative to cable and satellite bundles, which can cost $100 a month and include channels many subscribers don’t watch.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Beware of Lollipop

Users of Google's latest mobile operating system, Android 5.0 Lollipop, are warning others not to immediately upgrade, after experiencing broken apps, repeated crashes, and device slowdowns.

Many are reporting early issues with calling, failing Wi-Fi connectivity and sound quality — in some cases, audio fails to work altogether.

But a more pressing issue emerged: Apps built with Adobe Air have in many cases been removed from users' Nexus devices, and cannot be reinstalled.

The fifth major version of Android, dubbed "Lollipop" after Google's candy-based naming scheme, was widely lauded in a positive review by sister-site CNET. It lands with a number of improved features, including a new user interface and experience, and a consistent design across the board — from smartphones to tablets, and newer devices, such as wearables.


The Lollipop update has been hit with some harsh criticism by its users since it first landed in their hands, despite strong feedback from the tech community when it was first announced earlier this year.

Users have said they "regret" the over-the-air download, saying the older Nexus 7 tablet is "laggy, restarts, and crashes randomly." In some cases, apps were not responding.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bad News for Samsung

A U.S. judge has rejected Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s bid to put Microsoft Corp's lawsuit over smartphone patent royalties on hold while the South Korean company pursues an arbitration proceeding in Hong Kong.

In a brief order, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in New York said the lawsuit would proceed despite the arbitration. Rakoff said he would explain his reasoning in a subsequent opinion.
Microsoft sued Samsung in August, accusing it of breaching a collaboration agreement by initially refusing to make royalty payments after the U.S. company announced its intention to acquire Nokia’s handset business in September 2013.

The lawsuit claimed Samsung still owed $6.9 million in interest on more than $1 billion in patent royalties it delayed paying.

Samsung has countered that the Nokia acquisition in April violated its 2011 deal with Microsoft.
Samsung filed the request for arbitration with the Hong Kong office of the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Is Google Glass Dead?

After two years of popping up at high-profile events sporting Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin sauntered bare-faced into a Silicon Valley red-carpet event on Sunday.

He'd left his pair in the car, Brin told a reporter. The Googler, who heads up the top-secret lab which developed Glass, has hardly given up on the product -- he recently wore his pair to the beach.

But Brin's timing is not propitious, coming as many developers and early Glass users are losing interest in the much-hyped, $1,500 test version of the product: a camera, processor and stamp-sized computer screen mounted to the edge of eyeglass frames. Google Inc itself has pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market.

While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Facebook "Privacy"

Facebook lets its users control whether other people can see the information they post, but when it comes to controlling what Facebook itself gets to see, privacy-conscious users are out of luck.

In fact, Facebook doesn't think it would make sense to let users do that.

“With most online services, there’s an understanding that when you use those services to share information, you’re also sharing information with the company providing the service,” said Matt Scutari, manager of privacy and public policy at Facebook.

“For users who are truly concerned with sharing their information with a particular platform, honestly, you might not want to share information with that platform,” he said, speaking during a conference on digital privacy in Palo Alto, California, on Friday.

“I don’t think there are many services out there who could claim they’re not using your information that you’re sharing with them for any purpose. They have to at least use that information to provide the service,” he added.

Scutari was responding to a question from the audience about what tools, if any, Facebook might provide to people who want to post and share information but keep it from Facebook itself.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

MSFT's Win8 Gamble

Even when it was launched, Windows 8 was seen as a gamble — but one that Microsoft had to make.

The stunning, out-of-nowhere success of tablets was making the PC look stodgy and out-of-date, so Microsoft had to show that Windows could still be relevant beyond its traditional desktop home. The company's response was Windows 8, with its colourful tiled interface and the emphasis on Windows as a touchscreen operating system for a new age of computing — a bet-the-company move, according to then-CEO Steve Ballmer.

To reinforce the shift,  Microsoft even developed its own new PC-tablet hybrid, the Surface, to show off the potential of the new operating system.

But despite — indeed, in many cases because of — these innovations, the reception to Windows 8 was lukewarm at best, forcing Microsoft to deliver a rapid update in the shape of Windows 8.1.

In February this year, Microsoft revealed 200 million Windows 8 licences had been sold in the first 15 months after its launch. In contrast, its predecessor Windows 7 sold 240 million in its first 12 months. Microsoft has not released new Windows 8 sales figures since then, other than to say it continues "to see momentum" around the OS.

Already, Microsoft is drawing a line under Windows 8. It was only on sale for two years at retail, until the end of last month. That's a much shorter period than Microsoft's previous operating systems, although Windows 8.1 is still available.

Friday, November 14, 2014

CrackBerry Survival

BlackBerry, which has completed the first phase of its two-year turnaround plan, is now focused on profitability and will not spread itself thin by attempting to launch too many new devices, its chief executive said.

John Chen, who took the reins at the struggling mobile technology company in November 2013, has moved rapidly to try to get the one-time investor darling back on track. The company has sold assets, struck partnerships to lower manufacturing costs and broaden app offerings, and raised cash via the sale of real estate holdings in its hometown of Waterloo, Ontario.

"Once we turn this company to profitability again, I will do everything I can to never lose money ever again," Chen told Reuters in an interview this week. "That is definitely something I am very focused on doing."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

MSFT Fixes an Old Bug

With help from IBM, Microsoft has patched a critical Windows vulnerability that flew under the radar for nearly two decades.

The bug has existed in every version of Windows since Windows 95, and would have allowed an attacker to run code remotely when the user visits a malicious website. IBM researcher Robert Freeman described the vulnerability as “rare, ‘unicorn-like’ bug found in code that IE relies on but doesn’t necessarily belong to.”

According to Freeman, the bug relies on a vulnerability in VBScript, which was introduced in Internet Explorer 3.0. Even today, the bug is impervious to Microsoft’s anti-exploitation tools (known as Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit) and the sandboxing features in Internet Explorer 11.

The good news is that there’s no evidence of anyone actually exploiting this vulnerability in the wild, and doing so would be technically tricky. IBM first reported the issue in May, and is only making it public now that a patch is available.

Of course, Microsoft’s latest patch only applies to Windows Vista and higher, as support for Windows XP ended in April. So if you’re running a 13-year-old operating system, you’ll have to grapple with a critical bug that’s even older.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Candy Crush Soda Saga

Candy Crush Soda Saga, the sister game to the enormously popular Candy Crush Saga, has launched worldwide on iOS and Android.

The Candy Crush series is one reason that mobile games are expected to overtake console revenues in 2015, according to Newzoo. The market researcher estimates mobile game revenues will grow from $25 billion in 2014 to $30.3 billion in 2015.

London-based King Digital Entertainment said the new game has 135 “yummy new levels” at the outset, with more coming on the way on a regular basis. That’s part of the formula that helped King dominate the free-to-play mobile game business during the past couple of years with Candy Crush Saga, alongside rivals such as Supercell (Clash of Clans, Hay Day), Machine Zone (Game of War), and GungHo Entertainment (Puzzle & Dragons).

King recently reported third-fiscal quarter earnings that were better than expectations, as it now makes 49 percent of its revenues games besides Candy Crush. But the blockbuster is still huge, generating $264 million in gross bookings in the quarter. Candy Crush Soda Saga’s mission is to keep the fervor for Candy Crush going. King has more than 495 million monthly active players for all of its games on mobile, social, and the Web.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

We would like to thank all of the Veterans who have served their countries for their service. 

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to have traveled to several countries on this day of the year. We have seen many very moving tributes to all of those who have fallen in the line of duty.

Once again, thanks you for your service.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy 239th Birthday

On November 10, 2014, we celebrate the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. In honor of this occasion, GoDaddy created a video to celebrate the men and women who proudly fight to keep America safe. Happy Birthday Mother Green – Happy Veterans Day - and thank you to everyone who has served, is serving or will serve in the future.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Political HUH??

President Obama did something extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented, in his post-election news conference Wednesday: He claimed a mandate on behalf of voters who didn't vote.

"To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you," the president said. "To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too."

What did that mean? What did those non-voters say?

It would probably be more useful to ask what the president heard. And apparently Obama heard expressions of support from non-voters across the land.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Google Versions

Google today updated its Platform Versions page for Android, and the news is quite good. Android 4.4 KitKat was the only release to gain adoption share, as all previous versions slipped.

Android 4.4 KitKat is now on nearly a third of mobile devices running Google’s mobile OS, though it still has a long way to go before catching up to Jelly Bean. While the Nexus 9 officially launched today with Android 5.0 Lollipop, the latest mobile operating system version naturally won’t show up in the chart just yet:

More specifically, here are the changes between September and November:
  • Android 4.4 KitKat: Up 5.7 points to 30.2 percent
  • Android 4.1/4.2/4.3 Jelly Bean: Down 2.9 points to 50.9 percent
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich: Down 1.1 points to 8.5 percent
  • Android 2.3 Gingerbread: Down 1.6 points to 9.8 percent
  • Android 2.2 Froyo: Down 0.1 points to 0.6 percent

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Apple Beats MSFT

CNN anchors used their Microsoft Surface tablets during election night coverage, but only to prop up their iPads.

The cable news channel had the Surface tablets prominently displayed in front of each anchor and panelist on during Wednesday night's telecast, but many preferred the more ubiquitous Apple tablet.

This is the latest in a number of setbacks Microsoft has had in trying to gain traction in the Apple-dominated tablet market.

As seen from the main camera angle, CNN on-air talent appeared to be happily tapping away on their shiny new Surface tablets.

But the jig was soon up when different camera angles were used.

Chief White House correspondent Jake Tapper was most notably seen pecking away on his iPad, stashed behind a Surface, while other panelists talked on-camera.

Other members at the CNN desk were seen with iPads, but only Tapper was caught actively using it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

MSFT Gives Up..... Again.

Just days after launching the Microsoft Band smartwatch, Microsoft has ditched it for a partnership with Fitbit to launch its new Lumia 830 phone in the United States.

Beginning Nov. 7, customers can buy the Lumia 830 from AT&T for $99 with a two-year contract, Microsoft said Monday. And if they do, they’ll receive the Fitbit Flex, normally another $99, for free.

That sounds fantastic, and if the announcement had come a week or so ago, it might be seen as a nice complement to the Lumia 830, which contains the motion sensor package that Microsoft has included inside its recent Lumia phones. While the Lumia 830 and the associated Bing Health & Fitness app can track your steps, it can’t monitor your sleep or the calories you expend as well as a fitness tracker.  

Unfortunately, however, Microsoft has since launched the Microsoft Band, a bigger, more expensive, and bulkier fitness tracker that doubles both as a smartwatch as well as a fitness band. The problem is that first impressions of its technical capabilities haven’t been totally favorable. And that of course leads one to wonder whether Microsoft is giving up on the Band before it even takes off.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

New Samsung Smartphone

In rock music, the Edge is the watch-cap-wearing guitarist for U2. In smartphones, the Edge is the latest curveball that Samsung is bringing to smartphone design.

Samsung said Monday its big-screen Galaxy Note Edge smartphone will be available in the US starting November 14.

The electronics giant unveiled the new phone in September, offering up a 5.6-inch display that curves around the side of the device. Users can see quick notifications along the right edge of the screen, such as sports scores, or click on app shortcuts, even while watching a video on the main screen.

The Galaxy Note Edge is one of the first major smartphone design gambles Samsung has taken that it is releasing globally. Typically, it introduces new features -- such as a concave display in the Galaxy Round or metal frames in the Galaxy Alpha smartphones -- in only a limited number of test markets, such as its home country of South Korea. Many of its more innovative devices have never reached the US.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Office for Mac Support Extension

Microsoft's decision to launch the next edition of Office for the Mac in the second half of 2015 will likely result in the company extending support for the four-year-old Office for Mac 2011.                            
On Friday, Microsoft revealed a very general timetable for the next Office for Mac, saying it would offer a public beta in the first half of next year, followed by a final release in the second half.

That will put customers using the current Office for Mac 2011 in a pinch, as support for that edition is to cease in less than 14 months, perhaps within weeks of the debut of its replacement. According to the support schedule now on Microsoft's books, the firm will deliver the last security updates -- patches for vulnerabilities in the Office applications -- on Jan. 12, 2016.

A several-month-long migration window won't be sufficient for companies that have adopted Office for the Mac, whether they've acquired the suite through the subscription-based Office 365 or by purchasing perpetual licenses.

Rather than put customers between the rock of a soon-to-be-retired Office and the hard place of vulnerable applications, Microsoft will probably do what it did in 2009: Extend support.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

North Korea Strikes Again

North Korean authorities have reportedly blocked access to Facebook and Twitter for the few people in the country with open Internet access.

The move came into effect earlier this week, according to a report by the Russian ITAR-TASS news agency, which is one of the few foreign news services to maintain a bureau in the country.

Most North Koreans don’t have access to a computer, and those who do are restricted to a nationwide intranet. Available through universities, libraries and other state-run establishments, the intranet has websites that include government propaganda, information about science, technology and culture, and even cooking recipes.

Access to outside information is tightly curtailed by the government, which jams foreign radio broadcasts and restricts international phone calls and texts. North Korea is consistently ranked among the worst counties for press freedoms and human rights.

The handful of foreign residents who live there, many of them aid workers and business people, are permitted to access the Internet through fixed and wireless connections, but even over those links, access to Facebook and Twitter has been cut, ITAR-TASS reported.

The report couldn’t immediately be verified, and neither Facebook nor Twitter responded to requests for comment.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

MSFT Loves Linux

Some things don't go together: Cats and dogs, New York Yankee and Boston Red Sox fans, Linux and Windows... or do they? In San Francisco, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, and I quote, "Microsoft loves Linux."


That's a heck of a long way from Steve Ballmer proclaiming back in 2001 that "Linux is a cancer." In the years since then Microsoft certainly attacked Linux like it was a cancer — doing everything from sponsoring SCO's copyright attack on Linux to claiming that Linux violated unnamed Microsoft patents to endless FUD assaults.

So, how did we get from Linux as Microsoft enemy number one to "love"?
Nadella actually told us the heart of the story, which I can boil down to that classic detective approach: "Follow the money."

Nadella told Wired that he's not interested in fighting old battles — especially, when, like it or not, Linux has become a vital part of today's business technology. "If you don’t jump on the new,” he said, you don’t survive."

There's nothing new about Linux, which at 22 is old enough to drink. But two things are new: First, Microsoft's fortunes now lie not with the desktop or desktop programs, but with its Azure cloud and cloud-based programs such as Office 365. Second, Linux, even on the Azure cloud, is used by businesses large and small.

Indeed, Nadella admitted that 20 percent of the operating systems on Azure are Linux. The open-source operating system is already contributing a lot to Microsoft's bottom line. Today, Azure — while it doesn't support the top business Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) — already supports CoreOS Linux, CentOS, Oracle Linux, SUSE, and Ubuntu on Azure.