Sunday, May 31, 2015

Google Maps Offline

Google Maps, the venerable mapping service from the world's largest search company, will soon work both online and off.

Google Maps' offline support will be launching "later this year," Google announced during its keynote address at its I/O developer confab on Thursday. The feature will allow users to download maps to their devices and get the full Google Maps experience, including turn-by-turn voice directions even when they're away from an Internet connection.

The offline push is a major departure for Google Maps, which has over 1 billion users. Since its launch in 2005, users needed to have a Web connection to use its features, which include mapping and directions, among others. Adding offline support makes the service far more useful in areas around the world where Web connections are unavailable or slow.

Google's annual conference for software developers, I/O, is one of the biggest for Google, as the company shares the latest developments in its world-leading Android mobile operating system. Google also uses the stage to talk up its wearable platform Android Wear, its in-car infotainment service Android Auto, and other services.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Smartphones: iPhones and Android

By Bayle Emlein

Basically, all devices are the same. They have different operating systems, but they all make calls; take, edit, and share pictures; can add word processing spreadsheets; text message (send and receive) shop; listen to music; and engage in other productive activities.  

Android allows the addition of memory via SD cards. USB ports allow the incorporation of any device that has a USB connector. The Samsung Note 2 allows the ability to input handwritten notes using a finger or stylus. It comes with an impact resistant case.

Android phones synch well with Google, and thus Google Calendar. iphones and other iDevices can coordinate through Exchange. Both systems allow the setting of reminders.

Apple is a closed system: you do it their way or not at all. Android has too many options.

Bookbud is a free subscription service that sends a daily email of bargain-priced books. If you're a reader, check it out.

Use the security features built into your phone. Just do it.

Never EVER do banking from an unsecured hotspot. Don't engage in any other activity that reveals personal or confidential information. Just don't do it.

The LastPass password manager app will create and store secure passwords. For a $12 upgrade, you can integrate all your devices. Then all you have to remember is your password to LastPass.

When you go shopping, be aware that a smartphone comes with a dataplan. You may be able to select among plans and networks when you are shopping, but once you've made your purchase, you have made a commitment. Another shopping tip: many sales people operate on a commission. If you are feeling pressured, go somewhere else.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Pebble Watch is Shipping

This week, smartwatch maker Pebble began shipping its latest smartwatch to the people who backed the $20 million Pebble Time Kickstarter campaign.

The first 10,000 rewards ship this week worldwide. Pebble says that all campaign contributors should receive a tracking number by mid-June. Everyone else can begin preordering the Pebble Time on June 22.

The Time is Pebble’s third smartwatch and comes with a color screen and seven-day battery life. At $200 it’s not cheap, but its more affordable than the Apple Watch. The gadget also adds voice-command capabilities and is water-resistant. For more on the watch check out our deep dive here.

The Pebble Time Watch also has a series of partnered apps that include Uber, ESPN, Fitocracy, iHeart Radio, Trip Advisor, and the Weather Channel.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

ZAGG Pocket Keyboard Update

By Bayle Emlein

Here's an updated report on the Zagg Pocket Keyboard that we reviewed in the June issue of our ePub.

In everyday real life, 2 months appears to be the outside useful life of a single charge. Of course, it has had the privilege of sharing space with my thawing, condensing lunches and long afternoons in a warm vehicle.

Recharging is quick and easy. I'm making a note to myself to recharge before an intense assignment or before going on the road. But it is definitely coming on the road with me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MSFT Adds Tablet Makers

Microsoft is adding 20 more global and local device makers to the list of companies that are bundling Office apps and services with their Android devices.

The expanded list of companies signing pre-installation deals with Microsoft include LG and Sony, according to a blog post on Tuesday announcing the list.

Most of the names on the list are regional device makers, including: Axdia International GMBH, Germany; Cube, China; DL, Brazil; General Procurement, U.S.; Grupo Nucleo, Argentina; Haier, China; Inco, Mexico; Ionik GMBH, Germany; Iview, US and Latin America; Multilaser, Brazil; Noblex, Argentina; Pacific (Vulcan), Mexico; Philco, Argentina; Positivo, Brazil; Prestigio, EMEA; Teclast, China; TMAX Digital, North America; and Wortmann, Germany.

Microsoft officials said the company now has 31 partners that "will offer Android tablets pre-installed with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype in the near future."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

More Blackberry News

Mobile device maker BlackBerry (BBRY) confirmed it plans to layoff an undetermined number of workers in its device business that will hit staffers in smartphone software development and apps.

BlackBerry, which said last month it might close its Sweden offices employing about 100 people, attributed the layoffs to its strategy to boost sales of its mobile management and security solutions to enterprise accounts. It’s unclear if BlackBerry’s Sweden office is included in this round of job cuts.

BlackBerry previously has said one of its priorities for this year is to stabilize its sales while sustaining profit levels and cash generation. Some 11 percent of the company's staff is dedicated to enterprise sales, a number the vendor wants to get to about 20 percent.

"As the company moves into its next stage of the turnaround, our intention is to reallocate resources in ways that will best enable us to capitalize on growth opportunities while driving toward sustainable profitability across all facets of our business," BlackBerry said in a statement.

"One of our priorities is making our device business profitable," BlackBerry said. "At the same time, we must grow software and licensing revenues. You will see in the coming months a significant ramping up in our customer-facing activities in sales and marketing."

The company, which employs about 7,000 people about half of whom work in Canada, declined to provide any details about the layoffs.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day

There will be no blog post on Memorial Day. It is a solemn day to remember those who fell fighting to save our freedoms.

Please spend a moment or two to remember the heroes who have died for you. We will never forget them and we hope our followers never forget either.

MSFT Office for Android Phones

Microsoft is finally closing a major gap in its Office mobile app portfolio.

Jared Spataro, general manager of Microsoft Office 365 marketing, announced on May 19 that the company has released preview versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Android smartphones such as Samsung's new flagship, the Galaxy S6. Microsoft released a limited preview of Office for Android tablets last November, before opening up the early-access program to all comers just after the new year.

"The Office for Android phone apps are modern, optimized for touch and designed for work on the go," said Spataro in a statement. First, Microsoft is requiring prospective beta testers to register with the Office for Android community on Google+. Once registered, users can click on the respective Word, Excel and PowerPoint links.

Then, they wait. "Wait for ~4 hours as Google play takes time to replicate permissions, then click above mentioned links and follow the download links to install apps using Google play store," instructs the Microsoft Office for Android Google Plus page.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Apple Watch Software Update

The Apple Watch currently ships with Watch OS 1.0. Today Apple has released Watch OS 1.0.1, the first software update for the Apple Watch wearable device. Watch OS 1.0.1 contains performance improvements and bug fixes so you should upgrade your Apple Watch as soon as you can. The software update — which has a file size of about 51.6MB — is available through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone. The software update also includes support for over 300 new Emojis that were introduced in iOS 8.3 and OS X 10.10.3.

Improvements have been made in Siri, stand activity, calorie counting for cycling and rowing, distance and pace during outdoor walking and running, accessibility and third party apps. Apple also added language support for Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Thai, and Turkish. More importantly, Watch OS 1.0.1 fixes potential exploits that have been noticed by engineers and researchers that work at Apple, Google and Kaspersky Labs. One of these exploits could have caused the Apple Watch to become vulnerable to system denials of services, according to the Apple Watch Support website.

The Apple Watch relies on the iPhone to download the update and install it. You will need to be on a WiFi connection and the Apple Watch needs to have at least 50% battery life to install the update, according to 9to5Mac. If the Apple Watch does not have at least 50% battery life, then the installation process will be paused. The Apple Watch also has to be within a certain range of the iPhone. To update your Apple Watch operating system, you will need to go to My Watch > General > Software Update in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. You will have to enter your passcode if necessary. Downloading the update and installing it takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Comcast TV Everywhere

The traditional TV is still the device that consumes the most video, but the rise of multiscreen video and authenticated TV Everywhere apps have redefined what a television is, all the way down to the way Comcast inks its distribution deals.

“You won’t see us define a TV in any of our agreements, because, how do you define a TV?” Matt Strauss, EVP and GM of video services at Comcast Cable, said Monday at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston. “You can’t define a TV by a screen size…it's any device that can render video securely.”

With platforms like X1, he said, Comcast now aims to supports not just TV-connected set-top boxes but Web browsers, tablets and smartphones, as well. “We look at blurring those lines,” he said.  “We want to make it easy and seamless for customers to get access to that content.”

When it comes to X1, some of that blurring centers on the Xfinity TV app, which supports multiscreen in-home streaming of the MSO’s full linear lineup, plus access to video-on-demand, and its new cloud DVR product, which allows subs to access recordings in the home and out of the home  Comcast’s multiscreen strategy also revolves around Xfinity TV Go, its TVE app, and support for programmer-operated apps such as HBO Go.

June ePub issue

We emailed out the June issue of our fantastic ePub to all of our subscribers this morning.

If you want to become a monthly reader just email us and we'll add you to the list.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New Panasonic MFT Camera

Panasonic’s newest mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera lets users pull high-res still images from 4K video.

The Lumix G7 features the company’s 4K Photo feature, enabling users to pause and extract 8-megapixel images from 4K video. The Micro Four Thirds build means it is compatible with more than 24 compact lens options, noted Panasonic, and it has built-in Wi-Fi to let users remotely shoot and share.

The G7 can record QFHD 4K video in 3,840 by 2,160 at 30p or 24p in MP4, or FullHD 1,920 by 1,080 60p video in AVCHD Progressive or MPEG-4/H.264. Videos will be recorded in up to 4GB files.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What Does The Apple Watch Do?

The first question most people ask an Apple Watch owner is: "What does it do?"

The flip answer is easy: It tells time.

The more serious answer, and it's the one that surprises a lot of people, is that Apple's newest device can actually cut down on the digital noise in your daily life. So explains Computerworld reviewer Michael deAgonia, who was among the first batch of Watch buyers to actually receive his 42mm stainless steel Apple Watch just a few days after they arrived April 24. (Others are only now getting theirs, and recent buyers won't likely see one until June or possibly later in the summer.)

The way Apple has set it up -- you configure what the Watch does using an app on the iPhone it's paired with -- gives users a lot of control over the wearable. Don't want Facebook updates or emails showing up? Just turn them off in the app.

As a result, what many skeptics see as the Watch's chief drawback -- it's a small screen on your wrist rife with limitations -- turns out to be one of its better features. Those limitations force you to think about what you really, really want to see when you flick your wrist and look at the Watch. Other than the time of day, of course.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Next Big Move For Cameras?

From a small space in Palo Alto, Calif., startup Light is looking to turn the camera industry on its head.

Smartphones have already decimated the market for compact, point-and-shoot cameras. Now, Light says it has a plan for the smartphone to replace high-end cameras too.

The company has been working for the last couple of years on an array of small cameras, each with a different focal length, taken in aggregate, that can mimic the zoom and high resolution of a larger camera without the unsightly bulge of a traditional zoom lens. It also sees a role for such arrays inside security cameras and other small devices.

Improving camera technology for phones is not unique to Light. Apple recently bought LinX, another startup working in the field of “computational photography.” Samsung released a series of phone-camera hybrid devices, and Nokia has released a couple of camera phones with a 41-megapixel lenses.

Taking a lesson from other camera startups, such as Lytro, which have struggled to shake up the camera industry, Light isn’t going it alone. The company has licensed its technology to Chinese manufacturer Foxconn, which makes Apple’s iPhones.

“We expect them to have smartphones in the market next year,” CEO Dave Grannan said in an interview.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Apple Pay in China

Apple is in discussions with Chinese banks and Alibaba over the potential launch of Apple Pay in China.

Apple CEO Tim Cook landed in China on Monday, visiting in order to promote Apple's new environmental initiative in the country. The new scheme is focused on the protection of forestry and promoting renewable energy, and may protect up to one million acres of managed forests used for pulp, paper and wood the company uses.

At the time, speaking to the local Xinhua news agency, Cook also touched upon the subject of Apple Pay, the firm's payment service which allows consumers to pay for goods by using Apple devices such as the iPhone. Apple Pay was launched last year in the US, joining a plethora of other services which offer contactless payment..

"We very much want to get Apple Pay in China," Cook said. "I'm very bullish on Apple Pay in China."

The executive is currently negotiating the future of Apple Pay with Chinese banks and Alibaba's founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma Yun.

Listed on the NASDAQ last year, Alibaba is China's largest e-commerce and payment service -- and could prove to be a powerful ally for Apple due to its established customer base and presence in the country.

The Apple CEO described the launch of Apple Pay in the US as a "huge start," but believes the payment service could be even bigger in China. In October last year, Cook said he hopes to adapt all of Apple's technology to work for the Chinese market, which he considers a "key" factor for the tech giant's future.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Win 10 Versions

On Tuesday, Microsoft outlined the Windows 10 versions you’ll know, love and buy when the new operating system launches this summer. But the company withheld key details, such as how it will eventually make money on it.

As with Windows 7, 8, and now 10, Windows 10 will be sold in two versions for consumers: Windows 10 Pro, and Windows 10 Home. The Windows Phone brand, as Microsoft has indicated previously, is going away: It will be renamed Windows 10 Mobile, and will ship on phones and small tablets. Businesses and enterprises will also receive their own versions: Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise and Windows 10 Education.

And yes, Windows 10 will be a free upgrade—at least for consumers: “As we announced earlier this year, for the first time ever, we are offering the full versions of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 Pro as a free and easy upgrade for qualifying Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the first year after launch,” Microsoft’s Tony Prophet, the company’s corporate vice president of Windows and search, wrote in a blog post. “Once you upgrade, you have Windows 10 for free on that device.”

Microsoft has said previously that Windows 10 beta testers, known as Insiders, will receive a free upgrade to the so-called “RTM” version of the software, the same version that will be shipped to stores and to hardware makers. Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 users will be able to upgrade for free, as long as they do it within the first year that the OS ships,

Microsoft did not say, however, what Windows 10’s eventual price would be, nor did the company say whether it would be offered on a subscription model (or what that subscription cost would be).

Thursday, May 14, 2015

BitTorrent Bleep

BitTorrent’s anonymous peer-to-peer messaging app Bleep is now available on iOS after almost a year of testing.

You don’t need to sign up to use Bleep. Like the chat rooms of the olden Internet days, all you have to do is pick a screenname to get started. You can verify your email address and phone number with the app to help people discover and add you in the app, or you can share your Bleep key out to trusted friends. BitTorrent doesn’t use the cloud or store your messages, photos, or data.

BitTorrent has been working on Bleep for quite some time, and has already built out a solid messaging app that includes free voice calling with end-to-end encryption. With iOS, the company is rolling out a new Snapchat-like feature, Whisper, which introduces disappearing messages to the already secure app. You can switch between ephemeral and standard messages as you see fit, even in the same thread if you want.

BitTorrent put some screenshot protections in place just in case your contacts don’t understand the point of a disappearing message. If someone tries to screenshot your whispered message, they won’t be able to capture your nickname—it’s blurred out. If they want to see your nickname, tapping the eye icon will blur out the message and unblur the name, so the two can never be viewed simultaneously.

Why this matters: BitTorrent Bleep is entering a crowded field of messaging apps, but it’s one of the few that doesn’t collect metadata or store your information in a company cloud somewhere. In the post-Edward Snowden era, Bleep might be able to build a base of users who are tired of expecting a complete invasion of privacy from tech companies. Bleep is also available on PCs, Macs, and Android.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New AT&T Tablet

AT&T is coming out with its first branded tablet, even though global shipments of the devices are flattening out.

The Trek HD tablet will be available from the company starting Tuesday for as low as $49.99 with a two-year mobile contract. Buyers can also choose to pay a total sum of $200 over 20 months.

AT&T already offers a host of tablets from companies including Apple, Samsung, LG, Asus and others. The Trek HD would be its cheapest model outside of the refurbished LG G Pad 7.0, refurbished Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 and new Asus MemoPad 7 tablets, which are offered for free as part of its mobile contract plans.

The Trek HD, which has an 8-in. screen and Android 5.0, code-named Lollipop. The tablet offers eight hours of battery life.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is Win 10 the Last Version of Windows?

As Microsoft made clear last year by skipping Windows 9 when going from Windows 8 to Windows 10, Windows version numbers are an arbitrary thing.

That's why all this talk about Windows 10, the upcoming version of Microsoft's operating system, being the "last version of Windows" is a "nothing to see here" moment.

Many of us Microsoft watchers had been saying that Threshold (Windows 10) would be the last major version of Windows for months, if not a year. (Windows 10 is due to start rolling out around the middle of the year.) Microsoft Developer Evangelist Jerry Nixon said the same thing last week at Ignite in a session titled "Tiles, Notifications and Action Center."

Cue the headlines claiming that Microsoft has now officially declared Windows 10 the end of the Windows trail.

As those who've been paying attention know, Windows 10 technically isn't the last Windows release. It might or might not be the last Windows release granted a new version number. But that's basically a branding decision.

Monday, May 11, 2015

MSFT Makes More Money

Microsoft loves subscriptions.

Moving a corporate customer from "transactional" purchases of Office -- the once-traditional practice of purchasing one-time, perpetual licenses that let workers use the suite as long as their firms want -- to Office 365 rent-not-buy subscriptions results in almost a doubling of revenue for Microsoft.

"Over the lifetime, the increased reach, the increased frequency in this example, as well as some yield, adding some incremental services, results in a 1.8 times lifetime value of that user in the transition," said CFO Amy Hood in a meeting with Wall Street last week.

Transactional customers buy Office once every five to seven years, said Hood. But by convincing businesses to subscribe to Office 365, specifically the E3 plan, Microsoft can realize an 80% increase in revenue over the years-long relationship. Office 365 E3 includes the core Office application suite, as well as cloud-based Exchange, SharePoint and Skype for Business, shifting those services from on-premises systems to Microsoft's servers.

In other words, for every $100 Microsoft earned the old way, it reaps $180 under the newer subscription regime over the long haul.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A $9.00 Computer

A small team of engineers and artists that make up Next Thing Co. launched a Kickstarter campaign today for Chip, their $9 single-board computer that boasts Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a larger processor than Raspberry Pi's most powerful models.

The tiny device runs a 1 GHz R8 ARM processor, and comes with 512MB of RAM and 4GB of storage. In comparison, the Raspberry Pi B and B+ models feature a 900 MHz quad-core ARM Cortex 7 processor. The Chip comes with a built-in composite output to connect to monitors and supports adapters for VGA or HDMI. It runs Debian Linux and comes preloaded with the Scratch programming language for those who might be new to coding.

Friday, May 8, 2015

LibreOffice News

The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 4.4.3, the third minor release of the LibreOffice 4.4 "fresh" family, with over 80 fixes over LibreOffice 4.4.2. New features introduced by LibreOffice 4.4 are listed on this wiki page:

The Document Foundation suggests to deploy LibreOffice in enterprises and large organizations with the backing of professional support by certified people (a list is available at:

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ubuntu vs. Windows

Despite the recent announcement that Windows 10 phones will be able to be used as PCs when connected to an external monitor, Ubuntu—the first operating system to toy with the idea—hasn’t conceded the smartphone-PC convergence race to Microsoft just yet.

“While I enjoy the race, I also like to win,” Ubuntu Foundation founder Mark Shuttleworth said during a Ubuntu Online Summit keynote, before announcing that Canonical will partner with a hardware manufacturer to release a Ubuntu Phone with smartphone-PC convergence features this year.

Unlike Windows 10 for PCs, Windows 10 for phones won’t be released this summer, so Ubuntu may still get there before Microsoft.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


You may have read about furniture retailer IKEA's plans to introduce wireless smartphone charging in some of its furniture. Its Selje nightstand includes a Qi-compatible charger, for example. Charge your phone wirelessly while you slumber, and only for $60.
Well, that's just the beginning of the future for the 315-store, 9,500-product company. IKEA's future kitchen ideas include networked devices, shelves that act as refrigerators, tabletops that cook, and instant food delivery by drone.

IKEA has been displaying some of its concepts at the 2015 Milan Design Week in Italy and has opened a temporary "pop-up" shop to display its future ideas for 2025.

IKEA collaborated on the project with IDEO, a major design and consulting firm, and design students from Lund University in Sweden and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Riv is Closed

The 60-year-old Riviera Hotel and Casino, once home to members of Frank Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” and vintage Las Vegas glitz, shut off the lights for good Monday, May 4.

Scores of movies and TV shows were filmed at the hotel, including the original “Ocean’s 11.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority bought the 2,075-room building and 26 acres it sits on in February. The publicly funded tourism agency plans to tear down the casino-hotel and expand the Las Vegas Convention Center to the Strip.

“The Riv” is among the few remaining hotel-casinos that got its start in Sin City’s early mob-led days. The property has struggled in recent years as development around it went dormant, deterring walk-in traffic.