When it comes to fire, you can never be too safe. Sadly, I know all too well. You see, I once lived through a fire that destroyed my apartment and all of my belongings. While it was a devastating event, I came out of it uninjured and with a new respect for fire safety.
Today, Nest announces a new product that combines technology with not only fire safety but carbon monoxide protection too.
This has been a week with a lot of news about operating systems. As we near the official release OS X Mavericks went GM and was made available to developers, while in the world of Linux Red Hat Enterprise 5.10 was also unveiled. Windows 8.1 was made available for pre-order, but a study of sales figures revealed that Windows 7 continues to grow faster than Windows 8. Ahead of his retirement sometime in the next twelve months, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer was punished for poor performance with a bonus reduction, with first generation Surface sales partly to blame.
Things look better for Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, with reports of the tablets selling out -- this is perhaps not surprising when Delta Airlines has bought 11,000 of the devices for its pilots. As well as looking forward, Microsoft also came over a little nostalgic, choosing to show off the capabilities of Internet Explorer 11 with a revived version of the classic Windows 95 game Hover.
In a blog post that looks forwards as well as backwards, Skype lays out details of planned improvements for the desktop and mobile versions of the app. Mark Gillett applauds the technological improvements that have been made over the past year and also gives a glimpse of the changes we can expect to see in the year to come. The post acknowledges that a large proportion of Skype usage is on mobile devices, and a number of mobile-friendly changes are revealed.
One particularly noteworthy feature specific to mobile users is the promise that chat synchronization across devices will be improved. This is something that anyone who used Skype on multiple devices will have noticed can be a problem. Send a large number of text based messages from the desktop version of Skype and when you launch Skype on another computer or a phone, you'll currently find that there can be quite a delay as message history is downloaded. While no details are provided, Gillet says:
Just two weeks after the release of iOS 7 Apple takes the wraps off the OS X 10.9 Mavericks GM. The latest version of the operating system, which is now only available to developers, is likely due for general release later in the month and it is extremely unlikely there will be any further changes -- barring the discovery of any serious problems, what we see now is what we'll get on release day.
The same build was released earlier to Apple employees and members of AppleSeed, and there are also updates to iPhoto and Xcode to enjoy. Within Mavericks, there are a number of changes from Mountain Lion. First off, iBooks is familiar to iPad and iPhone owners and now the ebook management system is brought to Macs -- of course, everything is kept in sync between devices.
iOS comes with its own built-in music solution in the form of iTunes, but sadly for Apple, not every customer wishes to use it, or at least not full-time. But the mobile platform allows other services to compete for your ear and now one which has already established a presence on both the web and Android is making its case to iOS users.
Earbits, an online radio and music marketing platform, is available worldwide, aiming to showcase independent artists, and promising music from more than 12,000 musicians. Much like other similar services, Earbits works on recommendations, with a premise of allowing the customer to discover new music based on current tastes. It does so not only by using what you listen to via the service, but also by examining songs stored on your device.
Microsoft is going after Apple's number two spot in the European smartphone OS market as Windows Phone is steadily approaching iOS across five major local markets, according to a new report from research firm Kantar Worldpanel. Unsurprisingly, the dominant player is Google's Android, that has yet to show any noticeable signs of weakness against its less popular rivals.
In the five major European markets -- France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK -- Android handsets accounted for 70.1 percent of all smartphones sold between June and August 2013. In second place is iOS with 16.1 percent market share, followed by Windows Phone with 9.2 percent market share. Compared to the same period, last year, iOS and Windows Phone grew by 14.18 and 80.39 percent, respectively. The latter of the two is growing much faster than its main rival, which could lead to a different hierarchy in little over a year, assuming the same growth rate is maintained.
My friend Paul Tyma (ex-Google, creator of Mailinator, occasional stand-up comic) released a mobile product this week and one thing I find interesting is the difference between how he describes it and how I describe it.
Paul: "Let’s say you had an important meeting with someone you really want to impress. A smart person would probably spend a non-trivial amount of time scouring the Internet for information about that person. What are they tweeting about? If you’re LinkedIn to them, then go check out their LinkedIn profile. If you were really interested you might go look up their house on Zillow. Or see how their company’s stock price faired today on Yahoo Finance".
Microsoft held an event in NYC to launch the Surface 2 and Brian was live-blogging. The full video of the launch is available to view online as are advertisements that show off the tablets' versatility. Microsoft is pinning a lot on the updated product after the first generation suffered from poor sales. There were no great new features, but there is a redesigned kickstand, a healthy speed boost, new dock and updated covers -- Brian was particularly impressed by the Blades.
Anyone buying a Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 earns themselves a SkyDrive upgrade. Purchase a new device and your online storage gets upgraded to 200GB, but the same amount of space is available for $100 per year. Moving away from Surface-related news, Microsoft turned its guns on Google Docs, highlighting user complaints to demonstrate the superiority of Office 365.
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is calling on the games industry to avoid pressuring children into making in-app purchases in games and potentially running up large bills. Back in April, an investigation began into the ways in which children are pressured into making in-app purchases. 38 web and app-based games thought to appeal to children were looked at, and the results of the investigation are available in the Children's Online Games report.
The OFT aimed to determine whether the way in-app purchases were presented could be considered "misleading, aggressive or otherwise unfair". As a result of the investigation, the OFT has drawn up a set of eight proposed principles that apps and games should follow. The principles include clearly and prominently informing app users about the potential for costs to be incurred through the app. It is suggested that users should be able to fully understand the current and future costs associated with any app they download.
Some habits are hard to kick. Even though the world is trending towards a digital lifestyle, many business users still use Post-it Notes. I am guilty of using these low-tech pieces of paper daily. Sometimes, I need to quickly jot-down a note or phone number; a piece of paper can be faster than unlocking my smartphone or workstation. However, at the end of the day, I find my desk littered with these things. I have often wished for an easy way to transfer them to my computer.
Apparently, I am not alone as today, Evernote announces a partnership with Post-it which aims at organizing these notes. The company says, "for us at Evernote, Post-it Notes are a Hero Product. We strive for the sort of flexible, instantly-understandable usefulness that draws hundreds of millions of people to purchase Post-it brand products. There is one drawback. As ubiquitous as they are, they’re also, well, attached to stuff. That’s where Evernote comes in. Evernote is giving Post-it Notes a digital life and whole new set of tricks".
Twitter announces details of its new Twitter Alerts service which will make it possible to disseminate information when other methods fail or when large groups of people need to be notified about something. What does this mean? In times of national emergency, crisis or natural disaster, Twitter Alerts could be used to provide details about what is happening and what steps are being taken by authorities.
In times of emergency, it is very common for people to turn to the internet. But as we know all too well, the internet is home to a wealth of misinformation so this could end up to be less helpful than it should be. A number of international organizations have already signed up to be part of Twitter Alerts including the American Red Cross, FEMA, the World Health Organization, and various police and fire departments. Other interested organizations are invited to take part.
The release of iOS 7 seems like as good a time as any to reassess the mobile operating system market, and this is precisely the thinking of Pfeiffer Consulting. The firm pitted Android, Blackberry 10, iOS 7, iOS 6 and Windows Phone 8 head to head (to head to head to head), comparing the aspects of the OS that have direct impact on user experience. Rated in four key areas, Windows Phone 8 came bottom of the list in terms of overall usability.
The results are quite damning. Looking at what the report terms "cognitive load" (how easy it is to pick up the OS), Windows Phone 8 actually fared well, receiving the same rating as iOS 7 and being praised for its "streamlined user interface". However the OS is criticized for reducing the overall user experience and efficiency.
Twitter is in the process of rolling out a new notification system designed to help users find interesting people to follow. It is not an entirely new system -- the micro blogging site is basing the feature on its @MagicRecs account, which started off as an experiment earlier in the year, making "magic recommendations" about who Twitter users might like to follow.
@MagicRecs monitors the activity of the people you follow and people in your network and sends out direct messages letting you know when several people you are connected to follow a particular user. The thinking is that if two or more people are interested in following someone else, there's a high chance that you will be too. In a blog post, Senior Software Engineer, Venu Satulur explains how the recommendation system has been tweaked and updated.
Just days after the launch of Apple's iPhone 5s, German security and privacy group Chaos Computer Club, claims to have found a way to bypass the Touch ID fingerprint reader. The group says that this demonstrates that "fingerprint biometrics is unsuitable as an access control method" but the "hack" is longwinded enough to mean that it is unlikely to be of concern to most people.
The Chaos Computer Club (CCC) goes as far as explaining precisely how it managed to bypass Touch ID using a fake fingerprint fabricated from a photo of a print.
Apple stole the limelight from just about everyone else this week. The big news was, of course, the release of the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. Just about as soon as online orders opened up, delays in shipping started to lengthen; Joe was somewhat skeptical about the limited supplies.
Before the new hardware hit the stores, iOS 7 was released to mixed reviews -- I hated it, Wayne loved it. A couple of security holes were found in the operating system including one that allowed for Siri to be used to post messages and access phone details even on locked handsets. There was also a new iOS 7 inspired look for iCloud and the addition of a bookmark syncing option.