A few weeks ago I took a look at Lumsing's harmonica battery pack. Now from the same stables comes the lengthily titled DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger. This is a slightly different twist on the idea of providing power to travellers' devices -- this is a wall charger rather than a portable battery pack. If you're going on vacation, taking a trip, or even just hitting the office, there are your devices to consider. Your phone, tablet, MP3 player, and other bits and pieces all need power, all need their own charger.
Except they don’t. Leave all of your chargers at home, and just take a selection of USB cables -- this 5-port hub allows for up to five USB devices (obviously) to be charged from a single wall power point. The 31W/6.2A unit has two 5V 1A ports for phones, and three 5V 2A ports for tablets and devices with higher power demands. Oddly, the ports are labelled, left to right, iPad, iPad, Samsung Tab, iPhone, and Android. It would have made more sense to simply indicate which of the five were the high-powered ports, but this is a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things.
Something of a quieter week this week -- perhaps because of Independence Day and preparations there for. Still, there was plenty of news to keep us busy, including the NSA releasing a transparency report -- for what it's worth. Facebook found itself in the firing line after it transpired that the social network had been conducting psychological experiments by meddling with users' newsfeeds. Security is an on-going concern in technology, but it's something we have tendency to think about only in relation to computers and smartphones. One of the latest targets for malware and attacks is the power grid, and it's hard to tell what sort of havoc could be wreaked.
Microsoft tried to do its bit for security -- arguably in a misguided fashion -- by taking control of dynamic DNS service No-IP, and accidentally taking out a number of legitimate sites in addition to those malware-related ones -- the intended targets. In more positive Microsoft news, enhancements were made to Office 365's collaboration options. Windows Phone is still struggling in the smartphone market, but Microsoft will be hoping that this month's launch of Windows Phone 8.1 will help to improve things -- will the addition of folder support be enough? Looking further into the future, Joe pondered what Microsoft should do with Nokia. He also decided to give Windows another chance, helped along by his new Surface Pro 3.
After making factory images available for Nexus 5 and Nexus 7, Google releases the source code for the Android L preview through AOSP (Android Open Source Project) for most of its compatible Nexus devices. And for many enthusiasts this means development for the next CyanogenMod version should kick off shortly.
The team behind the popular custom distribution, however, announces that CyanogenMod 12 development will not start until the final bits of code are available. "'So let's get the flood-gates started on CM 12!' -- right? No", says the team in a new blog post, aptly named The "L" is for Later.
Google plans to make many more Nexus products despite rumors that it wants to abandon the line in favor of a partnership to work closely with Android manufacturers on bespoke smartphones.
Head of Android engineering Dave Burke confirmed that it is "still invested in Nexus" products even though Android Silver is on the way leading some to speculate that it would be the replacement for Nexus.
Google Nexus 4, 5, 7 and 10 users are in for a treat, as Android 4.4.3 KitKat is now rolling out. The latest version of the operating system is also available to customers of US mobile operator T-Mobile, which has revealed the sort of changes users can expect from the upgrade.
Android 4.4.3 KitKat is not a major upgrade over its predecessor, as T-Mobile says there are no new features in tow, but only improvements related to security and the customary fixing of bugs. The US mobile operator lists the upgrade as rolling out starting June 2, for its Nexus-toting customers.
It should come as no surprise that this week's big news was Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 unveiling. Brian had been looking forward to the NYC event and was at the event to get hands on with the new device. There's certainly a lot to love about Microsoft's third generation tablet, but there is that price to consider. If you like the look of what you see, the device is available for pre-order right now -- and if you're undecided between the Surface and a MacBook Air, Mihaita compared the two. Maybe you're one of those who thinks it’s a niche product.
The Surface Mini failed to make an appearance, but there are still lots of other tablets to choose from -- although they are yet to make much of an impression in higher education, unlike Chromebooks which have found their way into Welsh schools. Will Microsoft's tablet manage to attain the longevity of Apple's iPad? You'd be forgiven for thinking that hell itself had frozen over at the news that work is underway that will make it possible to run Android and iOS apps side by side on the same device.
If you believe the rumors -- and I rarely do, unsubstantiated -- Google+ and Nexus are over. Gossipers claim the social network will lose identity and prominence, while the Nexus 6 smartphone is no more than dust in the wind. Who is writing the script here? George R. R. Martin? Because the Google killing-spree has a "Game of Thrones" (aka Song of Ice and Fire) feel to it -- you don't know which product will be killed next. For sure, the death count is mighty since Larry Page's return as CEO three years ago.
But Google will make a huge mistake if it backs off Plus, or worse, puts Nexus to the sword. These assets' value is immeasurable. Enthusiasts are any company's best marketers, and these products command large and vocal fan bases. Enthusiasts are crucial to Google gaining and maintaining brand charm, particularly as government overlords answer competitor complaints: "Antitrust! Antitrust!" Fans aren't just good marketers, they are foot soldiers rallying against invaders, like European or U.S. trustbusters.
Tablets are über cheap these days. It seems as though just about every electronics company has them flying off the production lines. But even if you manage to pick up a cheap tablet, you still want to keep it protected -- no one wants to end up with a screen that is scratched to the point of being unusable, or a body that's smashed to smithereens. The need to protect is even greater if you have handed over a few hundred dollars / pounds for something from the Apple family, and there are all manner of cases to whet the appetite of those keen to keep things safe.
One such offering is the 360° Case from Everything Tablet (operating in the US and Canada as well as the UK) which features a folio-style wrap-around design. I took a look at the Nexus 7 model and my previously svelte 7 incher was transformed into something resembling a leather-bound personal organizer from the 80s. Such is the price one pays for protection, I guess.
It seems that the world of technology is much like the world of politics and religion -- oh yes, we are going down that road -- you pick your side and you stick to it. While it is great to be decisive in what you believe in, it can also be very limiting. It creates a sense of black and white, ignoring the myriad shades of grey that undeniably exist. It stunts the palate and narrows the mind. This is the effect that Google has had on the world, or the world of technology at least. Just as many people will unquestioning accept what is proffered by their religious text of preference, too many people fail to look outside of what Google has to offer.
It seems that Google is a god to many people, and this is worrying. My colleague Joe Wilcox has written extensively about the importance of writing for one's audience rather than for Google. Refusing to tailor one's content to meet the demands of Google's ever-changing algorithms may mean fewer hits, but it will almost invariably mean higher quality content and a more enjoyable, readable and unique experience for readers. And at the end of the day, that is what matters. Google is not my god. I'm an atheist -- and I'm extremely glad to be.
There's a new Nexus in town -- not a Nexus 7 or a Nexus 8 or a Nexus 10, but a slightly updated Nexus 5. The difference? This time around it is purely cosmetic. No hardware changes of any description, just a new coat of paint. The latest addition to the Nexus 5 range is the red variant -- but not just any red, a capitalized Bright Red, no less. This new release supplements the previously available black and white versions, bringing the color total to three.
As the only change that has been made is to the hue of the handset, it should come as no surprise that there has been no change to pricing either. The 16GB model can be picked up for $349, while the 32GB model will set you back an extra $50 at $399. The Nexus 5 is the phone that was eagerly anticipated, but proved to be slightly disappointing when it finally arrived on the scene -- to Brian, at least -- but it is still one that manages to pique people's interest.
YouTube, like many other websites, undergoes changes, and it has taken on a number of guises over the years. Some looks have lasted for a long time, while others have been shorter lived. There are also experimental looks, not all of which end up being released, but even when a redesign is rolled out, it can take a while to make its way around the world. Currently in the experimental stage is a center-aligned layout which includes a cleaned up interface a new menu and a few other tweaks.
In the new design, a top navigation bar is now locked to the top of the screen, remaining in place while the rest of the page scrolls. There is a customizable carousel and a new Upload button encourages visitors into sharing. It's not yet clear quite when this new interface will be officially released to a waiting world, but it's something you can enable now; all it takes is a quick cookie tweak.
Nexus smartphones and tablets have developed a cult following among enthusiasts mainly due to Google's ability to deliver updates to the latest versions of Android in a timely manner. The software also has little to no customizations over the code that is available in AOSP, unlike that of many devices that have been offered throughout the years by Android vendors, such as HTC and Samsung. Android enthusiasts often refer to Google's distributions as "pure Android", even though that is no longer the case exactly with the new Nexus 5, that has introduced a launcher not officially found on any of its siblings (or available in AOSP for that matter).
Nexus devices were also supposed to usher Android vendors into releasing smartphones and tablets that adhere to the design guidelines established by Google. This is one area where the search giant's brand has failed to become a trendsetter, as the likes of HTC, LG and Samsung continue to apply their own vision on how their Android handsets should look at the software and hardware levels. Remember how physical buttons were supposed to go away from the front of Android devices? Well, they are still alive and kicking even in 2014 and even on tablets (even though there were clear signs pointing to slates only adopting on-screen keys). It could, therefore, be argued that the Nexus ethos has already ran its course and it is time for Google to move on. So should Google move on?
This past year has been incredibly busy, and a huge amount of hardware has passed through my hands. Some of it has impressed, a lot has disappointed, but a handful was great enough to make it to my list of favorites for the year.
While I've tried out a great deal of software, this has been a year in which it has been hardware that has caught my eye. So here it is: my favorite tech from 2013.
I've worked my way through a fair share of tablets over the years. An iPad 2 with its 9.7 inch screen, a Sony Tablet S with a slightly smaller 9.4 inch display, followed by a series of 7-inchers -- the Nexus 7, Tesco's Hudl and the GOCLEVER Aries 7o. Oh, and the Surface Pro; I have a tendency to forget this is a 10.6 inch tablet as I use it in laptop mode.
All of my tablets have been used for much the same things: checking email, writing the odd document, viewing photos, watching videos, updating Facebook and Twitter, browsing the web and playing a few games. Taking the Surface Pro out of the equation, I've always found the circa 10-inch tablets too big. I thought I was settled on 7 inches as offering the best dimensions. It seems I might have been wrong.
Things are starting to get festive, and that means there's also a lot going on. This past week has been quite a busy one! It might not come as a surprise, but the figures are in -- Windows 8.1 is not performing anywhere near as well as Windows 7 in terms of sales. Part of the reason for the slower adoption could be the Start screen and the absence of the Start menu. There has been some debate here at BetaNews about the possibility that the Start menu could make a return. Brian is very much opposed to the idea, I think it's probably a good idea, particularly for business users, while Wayne showed us how to get the Start menu back right now.
The backlash against NSA surveillance continues, and now Microsoft, Apple, Google and a number of other big names have joined forces and written to President Obama asking for reform. Joe was not impressed. To help protect user accounts, Microsoft beefed up security.