Friday, October 30, 2015

Audio Changes

Over the past few years, there’s no question that consumer audio has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity that it has not experienced in a long time. Driven by the growing use of streaming media, and the rediscovery of vinyl, people are once again listening to music, and in multichannel situations, enjoying a new era of surround sounds with formats like Dolby Atmos leading the way.

Earlier this year Nielsen released its annual music industry statistics which found that overall on-demand music streams grew by approximately 55 percent from 2013 numbers. Breaking the numbers down even further, audio streams grew by 60 percent.

At the same time physical music and download music sales are declining. During the recent Futuresource Audio Renaissance event in October, David Sidebottom of Futuresource said this year will go down as the year in which the sales scale tipped in favor of streaming media.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Samsung Galaxy View

Samsung first teased the massive Galaxy View back in September at IFA, and has now finally unveiled the massive 18.4-inch Android tablet in full. The View is built for watching movies and TVs around the home, says Samsung, and has a 1920 x 1080 resolution display, stereo speakers, a 1.6GHz octa-core processor, and up to eight hours of video playback time. Oh, and it's still got that weird handle-slash-kickstand on the back.

Samsung is billing the View as "the largest Android mobile device on the market," but it's fair to say this is a different use of the word mobile than what we're used to. It doesn't seem to be a tablet you'd want to take on the go (does the kickstand even detach? It's not clear), but it will, at least, be easy to move around the house, allowing users to take whatever they're watching with them from room to room.

As well as the video-centric hardware, Samsung says the View's software is designed with movies and TVs in mind, offering a "dedicated home screen" that pulls in content from multiple streaming services. (The promo image shows a screen with various video platforms: YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, Hulu, CNN, etc.) As well as the massive screen, the View also incorporates a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera (presumably useful for video calls) and an LTE-only NanoSIM slot. Still, with a weight of 2.65 kilograms, we're still not sure you'll want to take the View with you.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Samsung Pay Update

Samsung Electronics Co's new mobile payment service Samsung Pay has enjoyed strong repeat usage among U.S. consumers with an average of eight transactions per user, the world's top smartphone maker said on Tuesday.

Samsung Pay, which rivals mobile wallets like Apple Inc's Apple Pay and Google's Android Pay, allows consumers to pay at retail locations using their smartphones. It was launched on Sept. 28 in the United States.

Samsung's mobile wallet offers wide coverage of payment terminals where it can be used, and this is its biggest advantage, the company said at the Money 20/20 payments conference in Las Vegas.

Samsung Pay allows users to make payments by putting their phone on, or near, magnetic stripe card readers already in wide use at retailers. It has signed up credit card firms and banks such as Visa, MasterCard and Chase as partners.

By comparison, Apple Pay, launched last September, requires retailers to install new equipment that supports near field communication (NFC) compatible with its service.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Zuck Speaks in China

Mark Zuckerberg knows how to court Chinese users: In a speech this weekend at Tsinghua University in Beijing, he filled his remarks with compliments on the nation’s history and with idioms of traditional Chinese wisdom.

Calling China a nation historically known for innovation, Mr. Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, addressed students in heavily accented Mandarin and shared the now-familiar story of how he started his company on Harvard’s campus.

That Mr. Zuckerberg speaks Mandarin is no longer news. But his speech underlined Facebook’s eagerness to expand into China, where it remains blocked.

Mr. Zuckerberg told his collegiate audience that his company had already overcome doubts about its international reach.

Monday, October 26, 2015

MSFT Goes Luxury??

Most of the luxury brands on the storefronts of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, one of the world’s most famous shopping thoroughfares, seem to belong together, like the notes of a song.

There are Tiffany & Company, Gucci, Armani, Valentino, Rolex and — cue the sound of a record needle sliding off vinyl — Microsoft?

Yes, the company that brought us Windows and Office is opening a store on the street that brought us $5,000 handbags and $20,000 watches. The doors of the striking new flagship Microsoft Store will open to the public on Monday.

It’s an expensive gamble on a retail strategy that is still a long way from paying off. It does not take a detective to see that the foot traffic is often light at the Microsoft stores the company has opened — the Fifth Avenue store will be its 113th — over the last six years. That’s a contrast with the jamborees usually found over at Apple’s stores, inevitably a few blocks away or across the mall from Microsoft’s electronics boutiques.

“You always want more,” said Dave Porter, the Microsoft corporate vice president in charge of its retail stores. “We try to activate one customer at a time.”

Friday, October 23, 2015

Do You Believe Apple?

Apple Inc told a U.S. judge that accessing data stored on a locked iPhone would be "impossible" with devices using its latest operating system, but the company has the "technical ability" to help law enforcement unlock older phones.

Apple's position was laid out in a brief filed late Monday, after a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn, New York, sought its input as he weighed a U.S. Justice Department request to force the company to help authorities access a seized iPhone during an investigation.

In court papers, Apple said that for the 90 percent of its devices running iOS 8 or higher, granting the Justice Department's request "would be impossible to perform" after it strengthened encryption methods.

Those devices include a feature that prevents anyone without the device's passcode from accessing its data, including Apple itself.

The feature was adopted in 2014 amid heightened privacy concerns following leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about NSA surveillance programs.

Apple told U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein it could access the 10 percent of its devices that continue to use older systems, including the one at issue in the case. But it urged the judge to not require it to comply with the Justice Department's request.

"Forcing Apple to extract data in this case, absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand," Apple's lawyers wrote.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Waterproof Nook

Barnes & Noble is still making Nook e-readers?

Apparently. The company's new $129.99 Nook GlowLight Plus is, hands down, the slickest e-reader the company has ever produced. It's also waterproof, which means you can read all the e-books you want in the pool or in the bathtub, without worrying about destroying it.

The GlowLight Plus ditches the plastic back for an aluminum one, which looks more premium and is sturdier. The 6.4-inch screen has a built-in backlighting system for reading in the dark and has a 300 dpi resolution that renders text sharper and with better contrast. The GlowLight Plus is also light (6.9 ounces) enough to fit into inner jacket pocket and not bulge out.

The new waterproofing means the GlowLight Plus can be submerged in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. In addition, the e-reader is dustproof. Barnes & Noble says the battery life will last up to six weeks on a single charge.

There's also more storage for digital books: 2.6 GB of internal storage.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Version of Google Maps

Google Maps is your new best friend when it comes to satisfying that coffee craving or finding the cheapest gas during your road trip.

With the version 9.16 update, Maps will factor such stops into your overall trip and even give you helpful details like gas prices. This way you don’t have to recalibrate the entire navigation just because you need to fill up.

Google Maps also will recalibrate your journey to factor this detour into the entire trip. This way you don’t need to re-enter your destination details and start the entire navigation event from scratch.

The search icon works as a floating action button, popping out with options for gas stations, restaurants, grocery stores, and coffee shops. Touch the icon again if there’s another place you want to stop that doesn’t fit into those categories.

You can do a general search for “gas stations” even if you’re not using navigation. However, prices aren’t available for every station on the planet yet, so your results may vary depending upon where you live and which stations are nearby.

Google Maps 9.16 is rolling out in the Play Store. You can grab it now from APK Mirror.

The impact on you: A great benefit of Android is speedy Google Maps feature rollouts. Google tends to bring new tricks to Android first, well, because it can. Also, there are often many small tweaks hidden in each update, so it’s worth playing around with the new version to see what you can come up with.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Drone Registration

Concerned about rising reports of close calls and safety risks involving drones, the government announced Monday it will require many of the increasingly popular unmanned aircraft to be registered.

Pilot sightings of drones have doubled since last year, including near manned airplanes and at major sporting events, and there are reports of interference with wildfire-fighting operations, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said at a news conference.

"These reports signal a troubling trend," said Federal Aviation Administration chief Michel Huerta. Registration will increase pressure on drone operators to fly responsibly, he said, adding, "When they don't fly safely, they'll know there will be consequences."

The FAA now receives about 100 reports a month from pilots who say they've seen drones flying near planes and airports, compared with only a few sightings per month last year. So far there have been no accidents, but agency officials have said they're concerned that a drone weighing only a few pounds might cause serious damage if it is sucked into an engine or smashes into an airliner's windshield.

Toys and small drones that don't present a safety threat are likely to be exempt from the requirement. Drones that weigh only a pound or two or that can't fly higher than a few hundred feet are considered less risky, but heavier ones and those that can fly thousands of feet pose more of a problem.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Kirin Selfie Machine

Tourists who visit Japan often remark upon the startling amount and variety of vending machines, which sit on practically every street corner. In addition to regular consumables like soft drinks and water, there are also machines that dispense books, umbrellas, underwear, USBs and so much more.

Kirin, one of the country's leading brewers and soft drink companies, has collaborated with Line Corp to develop a selfie-taking vending machine, which it has been rolling out around the country this month. Complete with a large LCD display and camera, and vending machine takes a customer's photo against various backdrops before sending it to their smartphone through the Line messaging app, which is widely used in Japan.

The pictures -- which are technically not selfies but are marketed as such -- are free with each purchase of a drink, with the customer(s) getting three attempts to get their shot just right.

Japan has had a long history with self-photography and even more-so with 'purikura' photo-booths, where groups of friends pose as the booth edits in make-up, smooths out skin and adds accentuation to the eyes. Kirin is looking to fuse a ubiquitous facet of Japanese culture with a machine that's ubiquitous in the country' streets.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Money From MSFT

Microsoft is offering up to $300 to US consumers who trade in their old PC or Mac for a Windows 10 device - but a lot less for consumers elsewhere.

Looking to kick-start Windows 10 sales, Microsoft has rolled out its Easy Trade Up promotion to select markets, offering cash for used hardware when purchasing a Windows 10 device with a minimum value.

The terms are different in each market, and Windows 10 buyers in the US appear to be offered roughly twice as much for their old kit as consumers elsewhere. However, purchases in the US must be made directly from Microsoft, whereas the promotion will run through third-party retailers in other markets.

Starting with the US, consumers will receive $300 cash back for a MacBook or iMac and $200 for a Windows laptop when they purchase a Windows 10 PC valued at $599 or more.

The product must be purchased from a Microsoft Store in the US by October 20, 2015, according to Microsoft.

The traded-in device also needs to meet a few conditions to qualify, including not having serious defects or major damage such as a smashed screen. Acceptable trade-in devices include all-in-ones, laptops, two-in-one devices, Apple's MacBook and iMac.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Apple Loses Another One

Apple could be facing up to $862 million in damages after a U.S. jury on Tuesday found the iPhone maker used technology owned by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's licensing arm without permission in chips found in many of its most popular devices.

The jury in Madison, Wisconsin also said the patent, which improves processor efficiency, was valid. The trial will now move on to determine how much Apple owes in damages.

Representatives for the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and Apple could not immediately be reached for comment.

WARF sued Apple in January 2014 alleging infringement of its 1998 patent for improving chip efficiency.

The jury was considering whether Apple's A7, A8 and A8X processors, found in the iPhone 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, as well as several versions of the iPad, violate the patent.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Gamestop Will Be Closed on Thanksgiving Day

GameStop has announced the video game retailer’s brick-and-mortar locations will remain closed on Thanksgiving, the latest in a new trend this holiday that sees some retailers opting not to compete as aggressively for sales that day.

Over the past several years, retailers have increasingly pushed back store opening times to kick off the holiday season. First they inched earlier and earlier on “Black Friday,” which is the day after Thanksgiving when the holiday selling season traditionally began. Then, they began to open their doors on the actual Thanksgiving holiday. That prolonged trend even earned a nickname among retail reporters, who were calling it the “Black Friday creep.”

Now there appears some are saying “No thanks” to sales on Turkey Day. GameStop  on Monday said the move was made so that the company’s employees, as well as customers, could spend time with their families and friends to enjoy the holiday. When office-supplies retailer Staples earlier this month said it wouldn’t open its doors on that day, it had a nearly identical motivation.

But the question remains: how much is this altruism and how much is this a savvy business move? Opening up on Thanksgiving is costly as retailers need to pay employees holiday wages. The additional costs might not be justified if sales that would have been generated on Black Friday are simply moved up to Thanksgiving. Retailers can also opt to run online-exclusive sales for Thanksgiving, while keeping their physical doors closed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Win 10 Threshold 2

Threshold 2, the first big official upgrade to Windows 10 since its July 29 launch, is on schedule for arrival next month. Members of the Windows Insider program have been testing previews of the new builds for the past month and the latest Threshold 2 preview release, build 10565, contains a welcome change.

For Windows 10, Microsoft radically revised its activation rules, effectively eliminating the role of product keys in most upgrades.

The current rules, as revised for the July 29 public release, make it easier to reinstall Windows 10 on a PC that's already been activated. That's because Microsoft's activation servers can recognize the hardware fingerprint, match it with the saved activation record, and automatically approve the activation request online.

But those same rules cause headaches for Windows purists who prefer to start with a squeaky clean install when moving to a new operating system. In the initial public release (build 10240), Windows 10 required at least one upgrade install over a fully activated Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 PC to enroll the PC's Windows 10 license on Redmond's activation servers. After that enrollment is successful, those servers are able to activate the PC automatically when the proper edition of Windows 10 is installed later, assuming the hardware hasn't been significantly changed.

Monday, October 12, 2015

PC Sales Continue to Drop

Global personal-computer shipments fell 7.7 percent in the third quarter on slower desktop sales and higher dollar-based prices, market researcher Gartner Inc. said.

PC manufacturers shipped 73.7 million units, compared with 79.8 million a year earlier, Gartner said in a statement Thursday. The introduction of Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows 10 operating system had a “minimal impact” as many upgrades went on existing PCs instead of new ones, the company said. Researcher IDC reported a similar drop in shipments.

The decline, following a 9.5 percent drop in the prior quarter, underscores the persistent challenges facing PC makers as more shoppers opt for smartphones and tablets. The stronger dollar is making computers more pricey abroad even as companies try to lure buyers with new types of devices.

"The global PC market has experienced price increases of around 10 percent throughout the year, due to the sharp appreciation of the U.S. dollar against local currencies,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sony Drops Playstation Price

Sony's PlayStation 4 is finally getting its price cut.

The electronics giant announced it will trim the price of the video game console from $399.99 to $349.99 in the U.S. beginning October 9. It's the first time Sony has slashed the price of PS4 in the U.S. since it launched November 2013.

"Our goal at PlayStation has always been to offer the best place to play at a compelling value to gamers," said Shawn Layden, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America in a statement Thursday. "We're continuing to deliver on that commitment with this new price for PS4, making the console even more accessible to a broader audience this holiday."

Sony jumped out to an early lead on console sales thanks to a lower initial price of $399, compared to rival Xbox One and its $499 price point. That prompted Microsoft to aggressively cut the price of Xbox One to $349 and ditch its motion sensor Kinect as an additional accessory.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Overpriced Speakers

The latest Beats By Dr. Dre speakers has a new look and an app to go along with it.

The new Beats Pill+ wireless Bluetooth speaker ($229.95), available in black and white, will be available at retail and on next month. Slightly larger than the original Pill speaker, the Beats Pill+ has two tweeters and two woofers -- the previous model used four small woofers -- for improved sound.

Beats engineers have employed a two-way active crossover, an approach not often used for a small Bluetooth speaker, says company president Luke Wood. "Everything is very specific and concise as to what is going to what speaker," he said. "We think that gives us the control over tonality and the kind of sound field dispersion you don’t get with other technologies."

The speaker, which charges in three hours and has a 12-hour battery life, comes with a lightning cable that connects to its USB port so that you can charge an iPhone or iPad as it's used as a music source.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Apple Malware

For almost a year, Chinese hackers have leveraged a novel one-two punch to compromise iOS devices, including non-jailbroken iPhones, then seed them with adware, a security company said today.
The malware, dubbed "YiSpecter," was written in China by Chinese hackers, and what screen text was displayed was in Chinese, said Ryan Olson, director of the Unit 42 threat intelligence unit at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Palo Alto Networks, in an interview. The malware was distributed almost exclusively in the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Taiwan.

Palo Alto's Claud Xiao was the prime researcher behind the discovery of YiSpecter's capabilities. Xiao has been on a roll of late: He was also a driver behind the analysis of XcodeGhost, another adware campaign that used a different-but-just-as-unusual infection vector.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Apple Pay is a Dud So Far

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has called 2015 the “year of Apple Pay.” So far it’s been underwhelming.

The mobile-payments system, which marks its one-year anniversary this month, has failed to catch on with consumers, accounting for only 1 percent of all retail transactions in the U.S., according to researcher Aite Group. The service -- which allows users to pay for purchases by tapping their iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch on a device at cash registers -- has suffered from a lack of promotion and limited number of terminals available in stores. Plus Apple Pay is only available on newer iPhones.

“People don’t know why it is they’d use Apple Pay,” said Jared Schrieber, CEO of InfoScout, a shopper-research firm. “They are satisfied with the current methods and they don’t know how Apple Pay works.”

Apple, which relies on new products to sustain growth, entered a nascent market when it introduced its mobile-payments system last year. A similar feature had been available in Google Inc.’s smartphones through Wallet since 2011, yet adoption was anemic, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Like most things Apple, expectations were high for the payment service, which was seen as a potential rival to PayPal. In January, Cook spoke of “momentum” for Apple Pay, which, he said, was “off to a very strong start” and being implemented by banks, credit unions and numerous merchants.

Competitors have followed -- Samsung Pay and Google’s Android Pay were both introduced this year -- but the consumer hasn’t yet. Merchants who adopted the system say that demand has been tepid.

Monday, October 5, 2015

iOS Users Are STUPID!!

After Apple released the new OS X El Capitan on Wednesday, users streamed to a Microsoft support discussion forum to report that Office 2016 for Mac regularly crashed, crippling their productivity.

"This is beyond the Pale. We basically can't use Office on our computers," wrote Watson Scott Swail today on the longest thread related to the crash problem.

Let me see now…. MSFT builds a product for a specific version of iOS. The user changes versions and it’s MSFTs fault?

Gimme a break!! Apple iOS users are really dumb!!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Amazon To Stop Selling Apple and Google Video Products Inc. will stop selling media-streaming devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily compatible with its video service, the latest example of the company using its clout to promote products that fit with its own retailing strategy.

The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling the Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast since those devices don’t "interact well" with Prime Video. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Prime Video doesn’t run easily on its rival’s hardware.

Roku Inc.’s set-top device, Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox and Sony Corp.’s PlayStation, which work with Amazon’s video service, aren’t affected, it said. Amazon’s Fire TV stick, which plugs into an HDMI port to connect televisions with streaming services such as Netflix and Prime Video, is the company’s best-selling electronic device.

The move, coming just before the year-end holiday shopping season, shows how Amazon is willing to sacrifice sales of popular brand name products -- Apple and Google have the best-selling media streaming devices generally -- to bolster its own video-streaming service. Amazon has invested heavily in online content, including producing its own exclusive shows such as the award-winning transgender comedy "Transparent", as a way to attract new Prime subscribers, who pay $99 a year for speedy shipping and access to video and other services.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Google and MSFT Come to Agreement

Peace has broken out between Google and Microsoft, which agreed to dismiss all of their pending patent lawsuits against each other.

The agreement, the terms of which were not disclosed, mean that about 20 different lawsuits in Germany and the United States involving issues as varied as mobile phones, wireless networking, video decoding and other technologies will go away. In a joint statement, the companies said the cases included those related to Motorola Mobility, the smartphone maker that Google sold last year to Lenovo.

The companies also said they agreed to “collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers.”

Although Microsoft has struggled to compete in the marketplace against smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system, it has struck patent licensing agreements with many of the biggest makers of Android smartphones, including Samsung. (Microsoft settled a lawsuit this year involving a contract with Samsung over patent royalty payments. Analysts estimate that it earns billions of dollars a year in such royalty payments.