Google seems to be on a bit of a space travel kick lately. The search-giant recently launched Google Maps for Mars and the Moon. At first, that seemed a bit odd; I mean, other than some NASA nerds, who really cares to view those terrains? Before you raise your hand and say you do, please know I did it extensively as a test, and saw nothing but rocks and craters. Quite frankly, I would sooner explore Dollywood; at least there is something to see.
Sure enough though, Google seems committed to space, as today, the company announces that users of Google Chrome can get involved with ISEE-3. Don't know what that is? I didn't either. Google explains it by saying, "originally launched in 1978 to study the Sun, it was the first spacecraft in the world to fly by a comet and has been orbiting the sun for billions of miles since 1986". Damn, it's been travelling since the last time the Mets won the World Series!
Nerds and exercise are like oil and water. This is why it is fairly comical that Google is planning a fitness platform. Even though Android enthusiasts will probably line up to take advantage of Google Fit compatible apps and devices, I doubt they will actually use them for anything other than a tech demo. I can picture sloth-like teenagers laying on the couch watching TV and tweeting about how awesome Google Fit is, as they suckle on a Gogurt.
Today, Google announces that a preview of the Google Fit SDK is available. No, this does not mean that users can start utilizing the platform. What it does mean though, is that developers can finally get started at developing for the platform. For the sake of the world, I hope I am wrong and that this actually gets people in shape (including me).
The world is not a perfect place. Unfortunately, there are many bad guys in the world leveraging technology in nefarious ways. This is a shame, because many technological advances are created with good intentions. As an example, cell phones are used to keep friends and family in touch, but terrorists use them to detonate bombs. Tiny cameras can assist doctors in surgical procedures, but perverts hide them in bathrooms.
In other words, no matter how positive something is, it can usually be used in a negative way. Today, Google announces that it is bringing Street View to 36 new college campuses. In theory, this makes it easier for prospective parents and students to check out a school that they are interested in. The reverse of the coin, however, is that creeps can use it to familiarize themselves with the campus and plan attacks.
In the technology world, it is fashionable to bash Internet Explorer. There is that old joke that people only open IE once -- to download Chrome or Firefox. To some extent, that is true; however, Microsoft's web browser has been improving leaps and bounds. When I am on Windows, I enjoy using version eleven very much.
Unfortunately, the reason Internet Explorer got a bad reputation with some tech nerds, is that it was more susceptible to malware than other browsers. There was truth to this and I experienced it first-hand, when fixing and cleaning the computers of friends and family. Today, Microsoft announces that Internet Explorer is getting more secure by blocking outdated ActiveX controls.
Everyone is jumping on the smartwatch bandwagon lately. The problem is, the watches often aren't all that smart. You see, manufacturers seem intent on making them extensions of smartphones. In theory, linking the two together makes sense; however, to be truly smart, the watch should be an independent device.
Today, famed watch-maker Timex bucks that trend and announces its new smartwatch -- the Ironman One GPS+. Not only does the watch work without a smartphone, it has its own cellular data connection. Intrigued? Read on.
We recently celebrated the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, which saw Neil Armstrong become the first man to set foot on the moon. As a young man, I remember respecting astronauts, such as Mr. Armstrong, as American heroes. Quite often, I would stare into the night sky and dream of exploring the moon's surface like them. Sadly, from what scientists have told me, it is not made of cheese.
Even without mozzarella or muenster, I still want to experience other planets and moons. While private trips to space are becoming a reality, it is reserved for the super-wealthy. Average working folks, like you and I, will just have to keep on dreaming, right? Not so fast. Today, Google announces the ability to explore Earth's moon and Mars in Google Maps. Your impossible dream of space travel can now be achieved!
While email may be falling out of favor with today's youth, I still prefer it as my main means of digital communication. It may be all the rage to send pictures of your private parts on Snapchat, selfies on Instagram and messages to your BFF on Whatsapp, but I'll stick with good ol' electronic mail, thank you very much.
Unfortunately, email hasn't changed very much over the years -- there has not been a lot of innovation. Even worse, email addresses have forever been limited to Latin characters. The problem with this is email and the internet are global and not all countries use Latin characters in their language. If they do, they may also integrate accented Latin characters too, such as an accent (á) or a tilde (ñ). Today, Google is stepping up to bring support for both non-Latin and accented Latin characters, in its very popular Gmail service.
Amazon's Fire phone does not have access to Google's Play Store. I want to get that out of the way first, as it may be a consumer's biggest concern about the phone. However, that said, it might not be a big deal. In fact, it is quite refreshing to experience Google's Linux-based operating system without Google. In my opinion it is dangerous for Android to become synonymous with Google's store.
With Android, you do have the ability to add 3rd party stores without rooting or hacking. Unfortunately, on most devices, only Google's Play Store comes installed. While I have seen some devices come with the Amazon Appstore preloaded too, make no mistake, the Play Store is always the main focus. The Fire phone bucks that trend and puts Amazon's store into the spotlight and that is not a bad thing. Actually, as I will explain later, you can add additional app stores and even install some of Google's apps.
Faster is almost always better. While computer enthusiasts are continually trying to get an edge and squeeze out more performance, they are often stopped by one thing -- a lack of money. Yes, in the computer world, you must pay to play and hardware is not always cheap. Often manufacturers will trot out something so remarkable (and expensive), that nerds start drooling and dreaming about owning it, but never actually achieve it.
Today, HGST shows off what it is calling the world's fastest SSD. Unfortunately, it is so fast that most people will not be able to afford it any time soon. With that said, it is only a tech-demo for now, but today's demos are tomorrow's consumer products. Are you ready for a cheetah-like SSD in your system?
Very rarely in the technology world, do we get to experience a truly game-changing product. Sure enough though, the world was treated to just that in 2014 with the Surface Pro 3. Don't get me wrong, the previous iterations of the Surface Pro were good and fundamentally the same, but the 3rd finally achieved the original vision. You see, the iPad was revolutionary, but forced the user to think of devices as home computing vs. mobile. In other words, the user had to compromise and give up productivity for portability and convenience. The Surface Pro 3 literally rewires one's brain to no longer think of computing as dichotomy -- you can have your cake (tablet) and eat it too (laptop).
Recently, I wanted to achieve root access on an Android tablet. Of course, the process required Windows. So what did I do? I connected the Android tablet to the Surface Pro 3 with USB and accomplished my goal. I came away from that experience feeling like the Android tablet was a toy. To use a car analogy, with the USB cable between them, it was like the Surface Pro 3 was a Ford F150 and it was jump starting a Fiat. Well today, the F150 -- I mean, Surface Pro 3, gains two more models in addition to the existing Core i5. Yes, the less expensive i3 and more powerful i7 have arrived!
Creative is a company that is very hit or miss. Over the years, I have enjoyed many of its products -- mostly sound cards. However, while much of the company's hardware is solid, software and drivers have been dreadful. In fact, driver support and performance in Windows Vista and 7 were so bad, that many users decided to boycott the company altogether. If a card actually worked, it was often subject to random cracks, pops and screeches -- painful for ears. I spent many nights in Creative's forums witnessing the atrocities of both its drivers and poor customer support.
With all of that said, I am not one to hold grudges and never want to see a company falter. Yes, I am willing to start looking at Creative products again after a long hiatus since my X-Fi Elite Pro woes from years ago. Today, the company announces some inexpensive speakers that appear to be a good value -- the T3250 Wireless Bluetooth 2.1 Speakers.
Nerds love things that are "limited edition". Once we hear that something will be in limited supply, we just have to have it. If a company released a limited edition Game of Thrones Pet Rock for $500, it would probably sell out. Make them individually numbered and you can probably get double.
Of course, some limited edition items are rather cool. Hell, I have been known to get caught up in the hype, buying limited edition art prints and vinyl figures. Most recently I scoured the internet in search of a limited edition Titanfall Xbox One controller and I don't even own that console or game! Why did I need it then? I wanted it to use on my Windows machines, and I couldn't be caught dead using the normal black one, right? Today, Microsoft announces another limited edition peripheral -- the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 Halo Limited Edition: The Master Chief (phew, long product name!). This is being released to celebrate Halo: The Master Chief Collection for Xbox One.
Growing up as a computer nerd, I remember thinking that I would learn how to program, so I could develop my own video games. I think this is a dream that many nerds share. I remember that my dad bought me a huge book on programming and after about 5 pages, I gave up and began reading comic books instead. The moral of this story is not that I'm stupid (although that is debatable), but that not everyone is cut out to be a programmer. My dreams of creating a video game were dead.
Or were they? Today, Logitech announces that it will be crowdsourcing a video game. This means that the direction of the game will be handled by fans on the internet -- pretty cool, eh? The best part is, no technical skills are required. In other words, my dream of contributing to a video game is alive and well.
We all know Google is the darling of the mapping world. If you are going on a trip, the search-giant's navigation solutions are arguably the best. However, it is dangerous to allow one company to essentially own an entire aspect of technology. Luckily, there are additional solutions like Apple Maps and Nokia HERE, to at least offer some semblance of competition. As a Windows Phone user, I have learned to love Nokia HERE as an excellent alternative to Google Maps and navigation. While HERE is lacking in some areas, it has the potential to be great.
Even though I love Windows Phone, I love Linux too -- shocking right? Yes, believe it or not, you can love both Microsoft products and open-source. Not all Linux users have tattoos of penguins urinating on the Windows logo. Hell, I own an iPad too -- the horror! Well, today, Canonical announces that it has formed an agreement with Nokia HERE to provide A-GPS technology to Ubuntu computers, including phones. Don't worry you strict Linux enthusiasts, Microsoft does not own Nokia HERE -- it was not part of the Nokia acquisition.
PC gaming is a really awesome pastime. While some people prefer console gaming, it is strictly a matter of preference. I like both, but I particularly like the gamification of PC gaming hardware. In other words, the actual building of the gaming PC and buying of cool peripherals can be as fun as the games themselves. Hell, it can sometimes be more fun.
One of the most fun peripherals to buy for a gaming PC is the mouse. Unfortunately, far too much emphasis has been put on appearance lately, instead of performance. Don't get me wrong, a gaming mouse should look cool and sexy, but only as a secondary focus. Today, Logitech announces a mouse that meets the needs of performance and appearance-driven consumers, with the G402 Hyperion Fury. The company claims that it is the world's fastest gaming mouse. Is it faster than Speedy Gonzales?