Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Android Wear 2.0

Google's Android Wear 2.0 watch platform is the company's biggest shot yet at jumping into the fitness tracking world dominated by companies like Fitbit. Is it there yet? Not quite.

The company's revamped smartwatch operating system improves upon many of the problems that plagued Android Wear watches for the past two and a half years. I've had a chance to try out some of its features on both the LG Watch Style and the LG Watch Sport.

The good news is the interface is cleaner and easier to navigate, with an on-watch Play Store for downloading apps, and watch faces that can be customized to include app shortcuts and widgets -- including Google Fit stats like steps and calorie count for one-glance use. Shortcuts to start Google Fit workouts are easier to make, too.

When the update arrives on existing watches over the next few weeks, along with newly updated apps, the revamped fitness experience could possibly rival your Fitbit. But at this point, it still has work to do.

Android Wear watches always had some basic fitness-tracking features. They could track steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes. Google Fit will also automatically log workouts. It's similar to what we have seen from Fitbit and Samsung. The watches know when you are walking, running, biking and even doing aerobics. The workout will then be logged automatically in the Google Fit app.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Get Rid of Them All, Please!!!

YouTube has announced that it will no longer support 30-second video ads that users can’t skip, starting next year.

“We’re committed to providing a better ads experience for users online. As part of that, we’ve decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement.

The change, first reported by Campaign, will not affect shorter ads, such as 20-second videos. Advertisers will continue to be able to set those units as unskippable on the platform. The short-form six-second bumper ads, introduced last year, will continue to be a focus.

The 30-second ads were designed to court traditional TV ad budgets. While advertisers might not like the shift, the argument that television commercials can translate directly to digital appears to be a losing one. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have been able to get brands on board with shorter video formats as video continues to proliferate. YouTube has long offered TrueView ads that can be skipped after five seconds.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Whoosh! Review

By George Harding

One of the very useful products I came across at CES was Whoosh!
It is a screen-cleaning product that not only clears out all the grime and fingerprints from your phone’s screen, but also  protects it from further contamination.
It works on other screens, as well. I use it on my tablet and my laptop, too. I could use it on my flat screen TV also, but haven’t yet.
The product is a spray bottle of liquid, which is non-toxic. and a polishing cloth. You spray a bit of liquid on the cloth, wipe the surface of your screen, then use a dry part of the cloth to polish the screen to a pristine finish.
The cloth has been treated with an antimicrobial product to protect the cloth from contamination.
There are several package of product, including packets of screen wipes, as well at the customary spray bottle and cloth packages. The latter come in three sizes. The product is available in most office supply and computer stores.
This is a great product to have at home or office. It gives you clean screens in a flash.
Price varies from$10 to $20

Friday, February 24, 2017

AMD Ryzen Chip

Ryzen is here. AMD said Wednesday that it plans a “hard launch” of its first three Ryzen processors on March 2, outperforming Intel’s high-end chips while undercutting its prices by as much as 54 percent.
AMD executives confidently unveiled the first three desktop chips to attack Intel’s Core i7, supported by several top-tier motherboard vendors and boutique system builders. In many cases, executives said, AMD will offer more for less. The top-tier Ryzen 7 1800X will cost less than half of what Intel’s thousand-dollar Core i7-6900K chip does—and outperform it, too. You can preorder Ryzen chips and systems from 180 retailers and system integrators today.
Like Intel, AMD’s Ryzen offerings consist of three new chip families: the premium Ryzen 7, the midrange Ryzen 5, and the cheapest Ryzen 3. AMD is rolling out its fastest, premium Ryzen 7 chips first, including the Ryzen 7 1800X ($499), the Ryzen 7 1700X ($399) and Ryzen 7 1700 ($329). AMD’s Ryzen 5 and the Ryzen 3 will ship later this year—at the moment, AMD’s not saying exactly when.
Why this matters: About the only major aspect of Ryzen that AMD hadn’t yet disclosed was its price and availability. Analysts say AMD appears to have done its homework, leaving Intel in danger of giving up market share in the bread-and-butter PC microprocessors that built its company. But Intel has its ways: Possible responses include price cuts, additional chips with more cores, and promoting its new Optane technology, they said.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

UPS Drones

United Parcel Service sees a day when your latest purchase may be dropped off not by a brown-clad delivery driver, but by an octocopter drone.

The world’s largest courier took a step closer to that future on Monday, launching an unmanned aerial vehicle from the roof of a UPS truck about a quarter-mile to a blueberry farm outside Tampa, Florida. The drone dropped off a package at a home on the property, and returned to the truck, which had moved about 2,000 feet.

The test shows how UPS is looking to drones as a way to cut costs and ease delivery in hard-to-reach places. Deploying the aircraft in rural areas -- where the distance between stops drives up fuel and labor costs -- is one of the more promising applications.

“Drones won’t replace our uniformed service providers,” says Mark Wallace, UPS’s senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “That’s key, but in this case, it really is there to assist.”

Monday’s trial was the clearest indication that Atlanta-based UPS wants to use drones for home delivery, as do internet retailer Amazon.com Inc. and Google parent Alphabet Inc. Those companies and others still must overcome significant regulatory hurdles before delivery-by-drone becomes the norm.

UPS says it hasn’t calculated how much the potential shift could help cut costs, but estimates in general that reducing each driver’s mileage by a mile a day could save $50 million a year. The company operates more than 100,000 road vehicles, according to its website.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Xiaomi Update

In a nearly 5,000 square-foot ballroom at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on a Thursday morning in early January, Xiang Wang walked onto the stage to represent a young company that had been in the limelight for the past six years: Xiaomi.

As vice president for global business and intellectual property strategy, Wang is one of the people responsible for introducing the company to new markets. And on this day, at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, he was there to make perhaps the company’s most ambitious pitch to date: selling Xiaomi to the U.S.

“Most of you may know Xiaomi as an innovative smartphone company,” he said, addressing attendees that included media from around the world. “But we are so much more than that.” Wang highlighted the company’s involvement in smart TVs, internet services such as gaming, video, and financial products, as well as its work with connected devices. And while Xiaomi has already expanded beyond China into 20 countries worldwide, including India, it elected CES to educate the American public and press about what it does, even though there are no current plans to really set up shop in the country.

“Xiaomi is a six-year old company, and it’s reached a certain scale…Although there are a lot of people that know about Xiaomi, there are those that don’t fully understand Xiaomi,” explained Donovan Sung. As the director of product management, he oversees the creation of new products that are designed to appeal to specific markets, such as an air purifier for China and India. “We’ve reached a certain point in China and other global markets, and we want our story to be told in one of the most influential markets in the world,” he said, describing why Xiaomi is making its inaugural appearance at CES.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pokemon Go News

Pokémon Go is getting a whole lot bigger very soon. Today developer Niantic announced that 80 new pocket monsters are coming to the mobile game later this week. The new recruits will be culled from the Johto region from Pokémon Gold and Silver, and will include the likes of Chikorita, Cyndaquil, and Totodile. Unlike previous additions like Pichu and Togepi, players will be able to encounter the new pokémon in the wild, instead of just hatching them from eggs.

The update will cover more than new creatures to collect. Pokémon Go will also be getting what developer Niantic describes as “new encounter gameplay,” as well as two new types of berries — including one that slows down opponents — and additional outfit options to deck out trainers. There are also new evolution items that can be used to evolve the new additions to the game.

This is one of the biggest updates to the game since its debut last summer, and according to Niantic CEO John Hanke, there’s more to come as well. “Pokémon Go is a live experience which we’ll be continuing to support and evolve in new and interesting ways for years to come with new gameplay features, in-game and live events, more pokémon to discover, and much more,” he said in a statement.

Over the last few months the game has seen a number of new updates, including the addition of sponsored gyms and limited time in-game events. It also made its long-awaited debut on Apple Watch and launched in new markets like South Asia in December.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Huawei Voice Assistant

Huawei Technologies Co., the third-largest smartphone maker, is preparing to enter the competitive world of digital assistants with its own voice-powered service, people familiar with the matter said.

A team of more than a hundred engineers is in the early stages of developing the technology at its Shenzhen, China offices, one of the people said. The efforts are extensive and are aimed at Apple Inc.'s Siri, Amazon.com Inc.'s Alexa, and Alphabet Inc.'s Google Assistant, not smaller players, the person said.

Huawei's assistant would communicate in Chinese languages and target domestic users while the company will continue to work with Google and Amazon outside China, one of the other people said. They asked not to be identified as the details are private.

Building its own answer to Siri may help Huawei devices stand out in a crowded Chinese market, where many Google services that come with the dominant Android smartphone operating system are blocked.

Huawei is targeting $33 billion in sales from its consumer business this year. The company trails only Apple and Samsung Electronics Co. in global smartphone shipments as it pushes upmarket with premium features.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

MSFT Scraps Security Update

Microsoft this week canceled February’s slate of security updates for Windows and its other products, including Office, just a day after saying that the fixes would only be delayed.
Patch experts struggled with the decision, pointing out that known vulnerabilities will go unpatched and that IT planning had been disrupted.
“I was shocked,” said Chris Goettl, product manager at patch management vendor Ivanti, formerly Shavlik. “I was really expecting [the patches to release] next week.”
On Tuesday, just hours before the month’s Patch Tuesday updates were to appear, Microsoft announced a delay. “We discovered a last-minute issue that could impact some customers and was not resolved in time for our planned updates today,” the company said at the time. The implication was that February’s security fixes would ship as soon as that “last-minute issue” was resolved.
But in a Wednesday revision to the original announcement, Microsoft said, “We will deliver updates as part of the planned March Update Tuesday, March 14, 2017.” (Microsoft prefers the label “Update Tuesday” to the more universal “Patch Tuesday.”)
Skipping a month’s update slate was unprecedented. Although Microsoft has not issued updates on four Patch Tuesdays since the 2003 debut of regularly-scheduled updates—most recently in March 2007—those were instances when no patches had been prepared. It has never missed a month when there were clearly fixes prepped and ready to go.
“This isn’t like before when no updates meant nothing was ready,” said Susan Bradley, the moderator of the PatchMangement.org mailing list, where business IT administrators discuss update tradecraft. “Patches were ready. They just—for whatever unknown reason—couldn’t be delivered.” Bradley also writes about Microsoft’s patching processes for the Windows Secrets newsletter.
Microsoft has not said what prompted the delay, or what triggered the expansion of that into the month’s cancelation.

What Are They Afraid Of?

We recently heard on Facebook of a company called Sentio that makes a product called the Superbook. It sounds like the perfect product for the modern user whose phone is their life. It’s a laptop computer that connects to your phone and turns the smartphone into a full sized laptop. What a great idea!

We contacted them and received a reply almost immediately: they will not be sending out review units! All we can say is what do they have to hide? My guess is that the device doesn't work as advertised. Why else would that not want free publicity?

Friday, February 17, 2017

The End of the Home Button

The iPhone's home button may not be long for this world.

Apple has been granted a patent for an "interactive display panel with IR diodes" -- a method that would let users activate a device through a virtual home button placed within the touchscreen. The technology, described in a filing made public Tuesday by the US Patent and Trade Office, could replace the physical home button that's traditionally occupied the space below the iPhone's screen. The patent was first spotted by Apple-tracking site AppleInsider.

Ever since Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, the round home button has been a focal point for navigating the gadget. But rumors of its demise began to swirl in 2013, when Apple introduced Touch ID, a fingerprint security sensor that allowed users of its iPhone 5S to bypass typing in a password. The Touch ID sensor is built into the home button today.

That speculation only increased in 2015, when Apple filed a patent application to move the fingerprint sensor beneath the glass of the touchscreen, eliminating the need for a home button.

As Apple marks the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone, the rumor mill is being fed by reports about big hardware changes expected on the next-generation phone many are calling the iPhone 8. The elimination of a physical home button is one of the rumored changes, as is a glass and steel body with a curved edge display; wireless charging; and even using an iris scanner as one way to unlock the device.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Huawei P10

Mobile World Congress is fast approaching, and companies are teasing what to expect from the conference in ever-increasing numbers as we get closer to the event. That includes Huawei, which confirmed that the next iteration of the company’s P-series devices, the P10, will be announced later this month at MWC.

There’s not much information about the actual device itself in the teaser, which tells viewers to “Change the way the world sees you,” along with a double eye motif that all but guarantees that the P10 will include a dual-camera system, similar to that found on last year’s P9 (or Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus). The P9 was a surprisingly great handset that was able to keep up with some of the biggest mobile devices of last year, hopefully a trend that Huawei will continue.

We’ll find out more when Huawei formally announces the P10 on February 26th.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

URB-E News

Last week over 2,700 viewers watched our Facebook Live Show!

And this week, for our Facebook Live Show we'll be showcasing our all new multi-terrain URB-E Pro and URB-E Pro GT models!

A storm is coming to Pasadena this Friday, so we thought it would be a perfect time to show off the URB-E Pro's skills in the rain.

Friday, February 17, at 12pm PST (3pm EST). 

Save the date!

On Friday, we're going to cover these top of the line models in depth, showcasing their individual features, as well as answering any questions you might have, live from Pasadena, California.

And then tune into our Facebook page on Friday at 12pm PST to see us broadcasting live from Pasadena, California!

Also, if you have a question, please post in the Facebook Live event or reply to this email and we'll add it to the list to answer!

Please feel free to share this email with your friends - we're excited to have a great turnout for this live broadcast.

4K TVs

4K Ultra HD (UHD) as a home entertainment format has firmly planted its stake in the market, according to Futuresource Consulting, but it remains some way off reaching levels of mass market adoption.
Futuresource Consulting have been monitoring the 4K UHD format for over two years as part of its media and entertainment tracking services. This latest edition highlights that UHD Blu-ray has built a leading position in the software market in 2016, with sales elevated by the disjointed approach of digital service providers including limited availability and marketing of content as well as poorer quality of playback compared to UHD Blu-ray.

Over the past 12 months there has been strong progression across the Ultra HD hardware markets, particularly 4K UHD TVs which were prominent within the 2016 Black Friday ‘Door Busting’ promotions, which retailers used to drive consumers into the shops. However, many of the sets on offer had either none or a poor quality/early development of HDR. Nevertheless, the focus from the industry is now firmly on HDR. Tristan Veale, Market Analyst, Futuresource Consulting commented that, “Unlike the upgrade to UHD resolution, which was a quantifiable improvement, HDR is subjective feature and the Consumer Electronics Show highlighted this is the key industry focus as manufacturers are continuing to push the boundaries in terms of peak brightness, peak black levels and a wider colour spectrum represented.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CES Quick Looks

By Robert Sanborn
What surprises me a lot about CES is how many new products that are announced are still not yet available and will be rolling out in the first half of this year. Prior to the start of CES, the show formerly known as "The Consumer Electronics Show", was two days of events for the press and media. It looked like this year, there were over 3,500 people covering the show for media outlets from traditional newspapers, television, cable, to websites like this one and the hundreds of blogs. People streaming content were everywhere and you saw everything from sophisticated video cameras to smartphones mounted on selfie sticks. So for two days, I was treated to press events, news releases, and exhibits, like CES Unveiled, that may or may not make it to the show floor when CES actually opens.

First up was Honor. They are part of the huge Chinese phone maker Huawei and want to make a splash in the US Market with some pretty neat phones. Their press event was standing room only and worldwide, Honor already has over 100 million fans and users. A first tier company in China, they are number one in their market with a ton of goodies like dual camera, high speed, powerful battery and the like. Available for the US Market at Best Buy

Tech Trends told us that over 165,000 people will attend to see over 3,800 exhibitors at CES. Trends include voice recognition that is matching human parity which is an error rate of only 5 or 6 %. This allows the next computer interface to be voice and that doesn't surprise me at all considering sometimes it is like my daughter talks to Siri more than to me. You will see it more in the Smart Home, Smart Cars, Smart Cities, and with digital personal assistants; and of course, you will be wearing them. We used to dream of robots everywhere and now they are here. the 2020s will be the age of adaptive automation. Don't forget the drones and Virtual Reality.

Unveiled is the CES event where they show products and companies making a splash or hoping to make a splash in the consumer electronics market. This image is of the Ability3d Printer that creates metal objects on your desktop. Like many of the other companies here, Ability3D won't be available soon and they will be starting a Kickstarter campaign. In fact, wandering through Unveiled, one of the most common questions you ask is when will it be available. Will be priced under $3,000.

Airthings, like many new devices for the home, is a Smartphone enabled device that will give you information about a new kind of Radon detector as well as temperature and humidity inside the home. Take a look at the Airthings website for an excellent look at what Radon is and why you should be concerned about especially those of us that live in the Midwestern USA.  A very cool unit that non only connects to your phone, but also instantly tells you if you have a problem. Simple to connect, and simple to use. Coming in March and it will be around $199.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bluetooth 5

In a few months, Bluetooth 5 will finally arrive in smartphones and tablets. But you can already test the technology on developer boards being shipped by hardware makers.
Bluetooth 5 is a major step ahead for the venerable technology, which was introduced in 1999 to hook up devices wirelessly. It is two times faster than predecessor Bluetooth 4.2, has four times longer range, and boasts cool new connectivity features.
It can transfer data at speeds of up to 2Mbps (bits per second) and has a realistic range of 120 meters. The range could be even longer in a clear line of sight, the standards setting organization Bluetooth Special Interest Group said.
That’s good news for those who pair mobile devices or PCs to peripherals like wireless speakers. There will be fewer connection drops.
A Bluetooth device will also transmit data from one device to many, a feature that will be beneficial in smart homes. For example, if a surveillance system detects a thief, it could use Bluetooth 5 to simultaneously activate the safety light and the alarm system.
The new wireless standard can also broadcast richer data, like location information and URLs. That could be useful in retail stores or even self-driving cars, which transfer navigation data.
Bluetooth 5 will reach devices in two to six months, the Bluetooth SIG said in December. Some of the first devices could be smartphones and tablets with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chips, which has Bluetooth 5 in the chipset.
But you can start testing Bluetooth 5 with wireless boards now shipping. The boards will be particularly handy for tinkerers prototyping gadgets or developing internet of things devices for automation or industrial settings.

Friday, February 10, 2017

SpotCam Sense

SpotCam Inc., this week announced the SpotCam Sense camera series, a comprehensive all-in-one home monitoring and security solution for families. SpotCam Sense is smarter than most home IP security cameras, featuring built-in humidity, temperature, and lux meters to keep track of home vitals. Bundled with free 24-hour recording, it’s the best option for monitoring the home or office. SpotCam Sense Pro, an IP65-rated weatherproof version is also available for outdoor installation.
Professional Video Quality for Live Monitoring and Recording
The SpotCam Sense series has full HD 1080P high resolution and a 155° ultra wide viewing angle, a vast improvement from most other cameras in the market which only provide angles below 100°. It has high viewing performance in the dark with twelve high-power IR LEDs. The camera uses the same Sony Exmor image sensor found in top-end Sony cameras, for high dynamic range and outstanding low light performance.
Don’t Just See – Sense the Home’s Surroundings
SpotCam Sense is more than just a regular IP camera – it includes built-in humidity, temperature, and lux sensors to monitor home vitals. Users can set their SpotCam to notify them if the temperature drops below or rises above a certain level, or if lights are turned on when no one should be home. Together with advanced motion and sound detection alerts, these options provide families more information than ever for monitoring their home – perfect for those with sensitive plants, pets, furniture, or loved ones requiring delicate controlled conditions.
Increase Awareness with SpotCam’s Built-in Siren
SpotCam Sense’s included siren can be configured to alert users at home even when their phones are off or unavailable, e.g. if the baby wakes up, or the temperature suddenly drops. The siren can also be set to ward off possible intruders when no one is home.
The Only Free 24/7 Cloud Video Storage
SpotCam is the only company offering full 24/7 cloud video recording. Most other companies only store short clips triggered by motion detection. SpotCam Sense allows users to review their last 24 hours of recorded video without requiring any subscription fee. Plus, each device includes built-in memory, so in the event of connection loss the device continues to store video without interruption. After Internet is restored, SpotCam Sense automatically uploads that footage to the cloud so no moment is lost.
Free Time-Lapse Function and Two-way Audio Recording
SpotCam Sense includes a built-in speaker and microphone for two-way audio to communicate with pets and loved ones. It supports up to 8x digital zoom. Users can also use the SpotCam website to easily make time-lapse videos from recorded video  – convenient for reviewing hours of footage in a short period of time, or just for sharing with friends!
Keep Watch Outside the Home with SpotCam Sense Pro
Those who would prefer to have SpotCam keep watch of their backyard, garage, or other outdoor properties can opt for SpotCam Sense Pro – it includes all of the Sense’s features, but in a resilient, IP65-rated weatherproof enclosure.
Works with Most Popular Smart Home Platform - IFTTT
SpotCam also offers IFTTT integration for 3rd party applications, such as Amazon Alexa, Nest Thermostat, and Phillips Hue, to connect your house to the world. Also, the SpotCam cloud service offers social media integration to share that special video moment to Facebook or YouTube with only one click.
Price and Availability
SpotCam Sense and SpotCam Sense Pro is available from February for $199 and $249 respectively in the US.

CES, Belkin and Linksys

By Robert Sanborn

One of the holy grails of the home computer user is a simple, consistent, and strong internet connection throughout your house or office. I have had low power routers and high powered routers. I have probably used a dozen different repeaters and range extenders. And right now, to get just decent coverage in my house that is not really that big, I use a big Netgear Nighthawk up in my office and another Netgear as a repeater downstairs and still, we have connection problems. There are five different hotspots in my house and of course, there is no way to seamlessly go from one location to another without disconnecting and reconnecting. Oh sure, if I lose signal in one part, the phones and tablets will automatically switch to the signal it finds but what happens when the signal is still there but very weak. It doesn’t switch and you get crappy connections.

So at CES this year, I ran into the folks at Belkin who have taken over Linksys and they tell me that they have the solution to my problem in what is called a “Mesh”.  I will get into how it works in a minute but let me say, my eyes glazed over when they tell me it will solve all my problems. I have heard that way too many times. Today the box arrived.

The Linksys VELOP whole home Wi-Fi. I must say the packaging is impressive and elegant, I mean, whoever designed the packaging should win an award. Flip the lid and you see three white towers that are seven and a half inches high by two and a half inches on each side. The first interesting part about setting it up is that you download the Linksys app from either the Apple App Stor or on Google Play. Not for your home computer.

Setting it up is easy to start. Download the app, plug in your first node and the app finds it. It was rather slow to find it so you need to be patient. Same with connecting to the modem you have and in my case, I needed to power down the Spectrum cable modem because it did not connect to it the first time and of course, depending on your modem, can take a while to power back up. This time, it appears to have connected.  From here, you create your Wi-Fi network name (SSID) and password.

The rest of the setup is very intuitive as it checks your signal strength as you add devices to other locations. After just setting up two devices, I could easily tell that my signal strength in different parts of my home were already higher. Netgear has a nifty tool for your phone called the Wi-Fi Analyzer to tell you what the signal strength in different locations are and also what Wi-Fi hotspots are close to you. Try it in the airport and you will find a ton of signals.  Once a new node is set up, it checks to let you know that you have good signal strength in that location. It didn’t say but I suspect if it was not good, you could simply unplug it and move it to another location.  I waited over an hour before setting up the final node and the only snag was that the power did not come on when I plugged it in. there is a power switch on the bottom so you can turn it off and back on and there is even a reset switch in case you need to start over with that particular node.

Once you are set to go, it then goes out and downloads the latest firmware, installs it, and restarts the devices.

Of course, the acid test will be when my daughter takes her iPhone and iPads to different rooms to use them. The phone App seems to work quite well and I turned on outage notices so will be interesting and I hope I hear nothing at all. From the analyzer above, it appears that the signal strength everywhere is very high (above 80%) nearly all the time. The other good news is that now I don’t have to keep switching hotspots in my home because of the different signal strengths.

Part two will be posted tomorrow.