Ars Technica reviewer Casey Johnston gives a mildly positive review to the Oyster book-rental app (and associated site), which intentionally tries to be for books what Netflix has become for movies: a low-price, subscription-based, data-sifting source of first resort. For $10 a month, users can read any of the books in Oyster's catalog (in the range of 100,000, and growing), and their reading habits are used to suggest new books of interest (with some bum steers, it seems, at present). It's iOS-only for now, with an Android version expected soon. I've only grudgingly moved more and more of my reading to tablets, but now am glad I have; still, I don't like the idea of having my books disappear if I don't pay a continuing subscription.
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An anonymous reader writes with a report from Spiegel Online that the U.S. government "has the capability of tapping user data from the iPhone, [and] devices using Android as well as BlackBerry, a system previously believed to be highly secure. The United States' National Security Agency intelligence-gathering operation is capable of accessing user data from smart phones from all leading manufacturers. ... The documents state that it is possible for the NSA to tap most sensitive data held on these smart phones, including contact lists, SMS traffic, notes and location information about where a user has been." As a bonus, the same reader points out a Washington Post report according to which "The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency's use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans' communications in its massive databases ... In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."
TechRadar reports today the first major public-facing move that Microsoft has made with its newly acquired Nokia devices business: "The headline-making Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphone-cum-camera is now available for $100 less in the United States, potentially a sign that Microsoft is already ringing the changes at Nokia. The Microsoft Store stateside is now selling the 41-megapixel Windows Phone 8 handset for $199 (around £127, AU$216) on a two-year contract, compared with Nokia's lofty $299 (around £191, AU$325) launch price. The price is being matched by the AT&T network, but Microsoft is going one better (for a limited time) and chucking in the camera grip accessory for everyone who picks up the device. Early indications are that the heavily-hyped Lumia 1020 hasn't been flying off the shelves, so perhaps this price cut can offer Microsoft a boost in the early stages of its Nokia stewardship."
theodp writes "Throwing some cold water on the buzz surrounding the Galaxy Gear Smartwatch launch, The New Yorker's Matt Buchanan questions how smart a watch can really be. Calling offerings like the Galaxy Gear useful but not the stuff of dreams and revolutions, Buchanan writes, 'So there remains a strange undercurrent of hope that somebody-Apple-will figure out, soon, some grander vision for wearable technology, transforming it from something that people have vaguely imagined into something people intensely desire. It did it for smartphones, once, and again, for tablets. The question that Apple has been charged with, since nobody has definitively answered it yet, is whether the lack of an invention that truly carries us beyond the last five hundred years of wrist-mounted technology is the result of a failure of imagination or simply a fact of nature-that a watch will always just be a watch, no matter how smart it might think it is.' So, will you be an early adopter and drink Samsung's or Sony's smartwatch Kool-Aid, wait to see what Apple comes up with, or hold out for a Windows Forearm Pad 8?"
theodp writes "Back in the day, leprosy patients were stigmatized and shunned, quarantined from society in Leper Colonies. Those days may be long gone, but are our mapping, GPS, and social media technologies in effect helping to create modern-day 'Leper Colonies'? The recently-shuttered GhettoTracker.com (born again as Good Part of Town) generated cries of racism by inviting users to rate neighborhoods based on 'which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe'. Calling enough already with the avoid-the-ghetto apps, The Atlantic Cities' Emily Badger writes, "this idea toes a touchy line between a utilitarian application of open data and a sly wink toward people who just want to steer clear of 'those kinds of neighborhoods.'" The USPTO has already awarded avoid-crime-ridden-neighborhoods-like-the-plague patents to tech giants Microsoft, IBM, and Google. So, when it comes to navigational apps, where's the line between utility and racism? 'As mobile devices get smarter and more ubiquitous,' writes Svati Kirsten Narula, 'it is tempting to let technology make more and more decisions for us. But doing so will require us to sacrifice one of our favorite assumptions: that these tools are inherently logical and neutral...the motivations driving the algorithms may not match the motivations of those algorithms' users.' Indeed, the Google patent for Storing and Providing Routes proposes to 'remove streets from recommended directions if uploaded route information indicates that travelers seem to avoid the street.' Even faster routes that 'traverse one or more high crime areas,' Google reasons, 'may be less appealing to most travelers'."
An anonymous reader writes "The former chief designer of Nokia explains how the company's success and its corporate culture stopped it from taking risks and left it open to being beaten by Apple. He now sees the same warning signs emerging at Apple. Quoting: 'I look back and I think Nokia was just a very big company that started to maintain its position more than innovate for new opportunities. All of the opportunities were in front of them and Nokia was working on them, but the key word is a sense of urgency. While things were in play there was a real sense of saying "we will get to that eventually."' He worries Apple is now in a similar place: 'Nokia became more of a maintainer, more of an iterator, whereas innovation only comes in re-invention and Nokia waited too long to make the next big bold move ... that is now Apple’s challenge. Apple has arrived at a very safe place, it is responsible for something everybody loves, so it feels it has to keep it going.'" Oddly enough, this comes alongside news that a different former insider, Thomas Zilliacus (who was Nokia’s former Asia-Pacific CEO), has founded a company called "Newkia" in the wake of Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia. His goal is to take on former Nokia engineers and set them to building phones again — this time, running Android.
MojoKid writes "NVIDIA's Tegra 4 SoC is destined for devices beyond NVIDIA's own SHIELD gaming handheld. In fact, ASUS stepped out with the Tegra 4-powered Transformer Pad TF701T just yesterday and today Xiaomi steps out with the 5-inch Mi3 Android smartphone, also powered by Tegra 4. Here in the US Xiaomi might not roll right off the tongue but the Chinese manufacturer is making some serious inroads as of late and attracting top talent to boot. The new Xiaomi Mi3 is based on a 5-inch IPS display with a full HD 1080p resolution, 2GB of RAM, 64GB of on-board storage and a 13MP camera. NVIDIA's Tegra 4, with its quad-core ARM Cortex-A15 CPU and 72 GeForce GPU cores ought to make the device feel rather nimble, especially with gaming and multimedia. If the Mi3 handles anything like SHIELD did in the benchmarks, it could be the Android phone to beat on the test track in the coming weeks."
UnknowingFool writes "For consumers who had hoped that Microsoft would greatly upgrade their recent entries into the tablet market, leaks and rumors have said that both machines will receive modest hardware changes. Surface Pro 2 will sport new Haswell processors which will increase battery life to 7 hours. RAM is expected to increase from 4GB to 8GB. Surface (formerly RT) will get Tegra 4 processors. The only other confirmed change will be new kickstands that have 2 positions instead of one."
cartechboy writes "Usually, smartphones are a problem for humans transporting themselves — a massive distraction. But Honda is working on a way to use smartphones to protect pedestrians from bad drivers. The 'V2P' (Vehicle-to-Pedestrian) tech uses a smartphone's GPS and dedicated short range communications (DSRC) to warn drivers when a pedestrian say, steps out from behind a parked car. So the driver sees a dashboard message warning of an approaching pedestrian (which also notes whether said walker is using phone, texting or listening to music — which sort of shouldn't matter as you, uhm, brake.) The lucky pedestrian gets an alert on their phone telling them there's a DSRC-equipped car coming – that's if, say, actually looking at the road isn't telling you that already." The lesson here is to always keep your eyes on your smartphone when you're crossing the street. If you get an alert, stop where you are and read it! Relatedly, there's another phone app in development to help you avoid gunfire.
MojoKid writes "The smartwatch race heated up today, as Samsung showed its Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the Samsung Unpacked event in Berlin. Samsung's take on such a device has been eagerly anticipated. Samsung announced the Galaxy Gear as a companion to the new Galaxy Note 3 (or any Galaxy device). The Gear lets users make and receive calls hands-free with the built-in speaker, and it notifies you of any incoming texts, emails, and alerts and gives you a preview of whatever is coming through. A Smart Relay feature will display the full content on your Galaxy device. The Galaxy Gear sports an 800MHz processor and 1.63-inch display (320x320) AMOLED display with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, a speaker, and two microphones with noise cancellation. There's a 1.9MP camera with a BSI sensor and autofocus, and it connects via Bluetooth 4.0 + BLE. Sensors include an accelerometer and a gyroscope. Samsung plans to launch the smartwatch in October for $300."
angry tapir writes "Phil Zimmermann's Silent Circle, which halted its secure mail service shortly after Lavabit, has released a messaging application for Android devices that encrypts and securely erases messages and files. The application, called Silent Text, lets users specify a time period for which the receiver can view a message before it is erased. It also keeps the keys used to encrypt and decrypt content on the user's device, which protects the company from law enforcement requests for the keys." Seems similar to pieces of the Guardian Project.
umarkalim writes "In an interview with Al Jazeera, Les Cottrell at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory explains how Africa will actually 'leapfrog' the need to install hard-wired cables. He says it's often overlooked that the continent is huge and that the countries are diverse. He says, 'the cost of the infrastructure is quite high, especially if you have to connect every home with copper cables and fiber-optic cables ... I think in many cases Africa will actually "leapfrog" the need to install hard-wired cables everywhere, and will be able to use different techniques such as the BRCK modem, the low-earth orbiting satellites or the 3G solutions to get connectivity to where they need.'"
theodp writes "GeekWire reports on a pending Microsoft patent that proposes to give parents a centralized dashboard on their phones for remotely monitoring and setting restrictions on other family members' mobile devices. The newly-published patent application for Automatically Quieting Mobile Devices explains how parents could use the dashboard to shut down family members' devices during certain time periods, at designated locations, during specified events, and in designated quiet zones. From the patent: 'Aspects that might be disabled include any type of interactive functions and/or features of a device (except, in some examples, initiating emergency telephone calls or emergency text messages and displaying the current time/date or information related to the quiet time may still be permitted), playing games, communicating (via phone, VOIP applications, text messaging, instant messaging, and/or email), using other applications (e.g., browsers, messaging applications, social networking applications, or consuming certain content (e.g., digital media content).' Microsoft also proposes equipping parents' phones with 'biometric detection' to thwart kids who try to circumvent 'Big Mother'."
theodp writes "Writing in The Atlantic, Phil Nichols makes a convincing case for why educational technologies should be more like graphing calculators and less like iPads. Just messing around with TI-BASIC on a TI-83 Plus, Nichols recalls, 'helped me cultivate many of the overt and discrete habits of mind necessary for autonomous, self-directed learning.' So, with all those fancy iPads at their schools, today's kids must really be programming up a storm, right? Wrong. Nichols, who's currently pursuing a PhD in education, laments, 'The iPad is among the recent panaceas being peddled to schools, but like those that came before, its ostensibly subversive shell houses a fairly conventional approach to learning. Where Texas Instruments graphing calculators include a programming framework accessible even to amateurs, writing code for an iPad is restricted to those who purchase an Apple developer account, create programs that align with Apple standards, and submit their finished products for Apple's approval prior to distribution.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Today Apple announced the launch of a trade-in program for iPhones. Users will be able to send in their older devices and get credit toward new ones. The announcement precedes an event on Sept. 10th at which Apple is expected to announce a new iPhone model. The trade-in program is being managed by a company named Brightstar, with whom trade-in value maxes out at $336 for a 16GB iPhone 5. The 16GB iPhone 4S, 4, and 3GS max out at $221, $151, and $52, respectively. (The value drops depending on the device's condition, of course.) 'With its new program, Apple steps into a crowded field of competing programs offered by companies such as Gazelle, Best Buy, GameStop, Amazon and others, all of whom accept older iPhones for money. The broader market for used smartphones has been estimated to bring in as much as $5 billion in sales by 2015. With Apple participating as well, more smartphone users may opt for the trade-in option, and could potentially send that estimate even higher. Running its own program would give Apple a way to drive more iPhone sales within its own stores rather than seeing sales from carrier partners, and drive more traffic through its retail stores as well.'"
Dave_Minsky writes "The small indigenous village of Villa Talea de Castro (pop. 2,500) in the state of Oaxaca is showing the world that it doesn't have to rely on major cellular telecommunications providers for service. With the help from indigenous groups, civil organizations and universities, village residents put up an antenna on a rooftop, installed radio and computer equipment, and created its own micro provider called Red Celular de Talea. Service costs only 15 pesos ($1.2) per month and a few pennies per minute to make calls to the United States. However, there is one catch: calls are limited to a maximum of five minutes to prevent saturation of lines."
Giulia D'Amico, Business Development VP for One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) talks about the new OLPC tablets, which are now available in the U.S. through Target, Amazon, Walmart, and other retailers, with some of the $150 sales price for each tablet going to support the OLPC project in places like Uruguay, Cambodia, Rwanda, and other countries where a tablet loaded with teaching software is a way better deal than trying to supply all the books a child needs for six or eight years of school. While there are many Android tablets for sale for less than $150, Giulia points out that the OLPC tablets contain up to $300 worth of software. Plus, of course, just as with almost any other Android device, there are many thousands of apps available for it through Google Play. And let's not forget the original OLPC laptop. It has been redesigned, and renamed the OLPC XO-4 and looks much cooler than the original. You can learn more about it through olpc.tv, which has videos from the introduction of both the OPLC tablet and the XO-4 at CES 2013. OLPC has shipped close to 3 million laptops so far, and is working to port Sugar to Android so that the laptop and the tablet can use the same software. One more thing: OLPC is now focusing on software rather than hardware. When the project started at MIT, back in 2006 or so, there was no suitable hardware available. Today, many companies make low-cost tablets and keyboards for them, so there's no real need for OLPC to make its own instead of using existing hardware.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Sue Marek reports at Fierce Wireless that the mobile virtual network operator business is booming again, with new MVNOs launching nearly every week and operators like Sprint and T-Mobile hungry for MVNO partners because MVNOs offer a good economic return and can help them to grow their market share and reach into markets where they might not have visibility. 'It's a good strategic play for us,' says Matt Carter, president of Sprint wholesale and emerging solutions. 'It's another army to help us garner more subscribers on the network.' But unlike the MVNO craze of the 2005-2006 era--highlighted by high-profile failures like ESPN Mobile, Disney Mobile, Amp'd Mobile and Helio, today's high-profile MVNOs like FreedomPop, Republic Wireless, Solavei and Ting offer innovative service plans, marketing techniques and, in some cases, devices that they hope will draw consumers to their offerings. Today's MVNOs can be successful with a seemingly tiny number of customers. For example, Tucows' MVNO Ting, which sells mobile usage by minutes, text messages and megabytes, announced they currently have around 25,000 total customers, and that the business is on track to cross the break-even threshold in the fourth quarter of this year. Virtual carriers now also get the latest phones like the Moto X at launch and don't have to wait for new Android handsets to trickle down."
Today Nintendo announced a new handheld gaming console called the 2DS. It will play all games from the DS and the 3DS, but games from the latter will be shown in 2-D (essentially as if the 3DS's depth slider was turned all the way down). The 2DS abandons the clamshell design of the earlier handhelds; instead, the device is a slightly wedge-shaped tablet with two small LCD screens — thicker at the top and thinner at the bottom. "It's a design that seems calculated to reduce manufacturing costs and durability issues, but it also seems fated to make the system nearly impossible to fit inside most pants pockets. The buttons and controls that were on the bottom half of previous DS and 3DS systems are now shifted toward the top, so you can reach the shoulder buttons that now rest above the top screen. This means you grip the 2DS from the sides rather than supporting it from the bottom with the corners resting in palm of your hand, like previous DS models." Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said the new console is target at younger children, as the 3DS is recommended for players age 7 and up. It's also cheaper than the other models at $130.
First time accepted submitter lager_monste sent in a tidbit from Mashable about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch: "Samsung will launch its smart watch, the Galaxy Gear, on Sept. 4 ahead of the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin, Germany. Lee Young-hee, VP of Samsung's mobile business, confirmed the date and some details about the device in an interview with The Korea Times." Ars Technica notes that the Gear is nothing like what was expected from a patent filing for a watch with a flexible OLED. Maybe next generation.
Trailrunner7 writes, quoting Threat Post "By tweaking the firmware on certain kinds of phones, a hacker could make it so other phones in the area are unable to receive incoming calls or SMS messages, according to research presented at the USENIX Security Symposium. The hack involves modifying the baseband processor on some Motorola phones and tricking some older 2G GSM networks into not delivering calls and messages. By 'watching' the messages sent from phone towers and not delivering them to users, the hack could effectively shut down some small localized mobile networks. Essentially the hacked firmware ... can block ... pages by responding to them before the phones that were initially intended to receive them do, something Kevin Redon and company called during their research 'the race for the fastest paging response time.'" Thanks to the power of Osmocom BB, which has implemented Free Software baseband for several GSM devices. Also see the research paper.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "L. J. Williamson writes in the LA Times that with no running water, no plumbing, and no electrical outlets Burning Man isn't the kind of place to expect full bars on your smartphone and for many of the participants that's a big part of its charm. 'If you want to partake in the true Burning Man experience, you should leave your phone at home,' says Mark Hansen. In past years, the closest cellular towers, designed to serve the nearby towns of Empire (population 206) and Gerlach (population 217), would quickly get overwhelmed each August when Black Rock City (population 50,000 or so) rose from the featureless playa. Although Burning Man attracts a sizable Silicon Valley contingent including tech giants like Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin — the feeling of being 'unplugged' has become an integral part of the Burning Man experience. But another part of the event is an intrepid, DIY ethos, and in that spirit, David Burgess, co-creator of OpenBTS, an open-source cellular network software, brought a homemade in 2008, an 'almost comical' setup that created a working cellular network that routed a few hundred calls over a 48-hour period. In each subsequent year, Burgess has improved the system's reach and expects to have about three-quarters of this year's event covered. Burning Man proved an ideal test bed for development of Burgess' system, which he has since made available for use in other areas without cellular networks. 'People who have a lot of experience in international aid say Burning Man is a very good simulation of a well-organized refugee camp,' says Burgess. 'Because there's no infrastructure, it forces us to contend with a lot of problems that our rural customers have to contend with in very remote places.'"
jarold writes to point out an intriguing entry in the expanding smart-watch field: the Omate TrueSmart watch. Production of samples is about start on the watch after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Unlike some of the smart watches now out (or promised for soon), the TrueSmart is capable of making voice calls, sending texts, and using social media messaging without a separate smartphone or tablet. The specs are impressive, for something you wear on your wrist: Android 4.2.2 running on a dual core Cortex A7 and half a gig of RAM, 4GB of storage (expandable via micro-SD slot).
iFixit's been breaking devices and voiding warranties for years now; latest on their chopping block is the new Moto X from Motorola, a phone hawked as much for its customizability and place of manufacture (the U.S.) as for anything else. You might expect a highly hyped, ultra-customizable phone to be made of high-end components and ultra-repairable as well. iFixit's teardown commentary has both some good and only-middlin' things to say about the innards, but very little bad. They call out the highly modular headphone jack, and say "a considerable amount of effort went in to the internal design of this device; the number of clips and contacts we've found so far is a great testament to that."
Google has captured lots of attention with its municipal fiber efforts in Kansas City and Austin; Amazon, say some anonymous sources, is experimenting with a networking project of its own (distinct from its Whispernet 3G content delivery service) to connect users' devices to the internet. Rather than fiber, though, Amazon's tests involve spectrum controlled by satellite communications company Globalstar Inc., according to sources "who asked not to be identified because the test was private. ... Amazon continually tries various technologies, and it’s unclear if the wireless network testing is still taking place, said the people. The trial was in the vicinity of Amazon’s Lab126 research facilities in Cupertino, the people said. Lab126 designs and engineers Kindle devices."
New submitter xanadu113 writes "I help out with a large outdoor festival each year (Seattle Hempfest), and we use 4G hotspots on-site for our internet needs. Due to being at the bottom of the hill (in Myrtle Edwards park in downtown Seattle, WA right on the sound), we have problems with loss of signal, bandwidth switching (going between 4G/3G/2G, etc.). As wireless internet is our only option on site, we need to do something about improving the signals. What would be the best way to do a site survey of the 4G signals to select the best locations for hotspots, as well as the best carrier to use? We need potentially up to 10 devices per hotspot, and up to 10 hotspots or so. Also, would putting up a 4G repeater be a good option to solve this problem?"
jfruh writes "Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader line has largerly been regarded as a botched attempt to compete with the Kindle, whose failure has contributed to the bookseller's financial woes. Well, despite earlier statements that the company was abandoning it as a hardware platform, now the B&N CEO insists that the company is committed to the product line and the new Nooks are in development."
Dave_Minsky writes "About 600 students will enter Lynn University's freshman class this year, the largest since 2007, and they will all be using iPad Minis instead of textbooks. The iPads will cost $475, saving students up to 50% of what a semester's worth of textbooks would cost, estimates Lynn. Students will be able to access core curriculum classes on their iPads that are 'enhanced with custom multimedia content,' and will come with 'at least 30 education, productivity, social and news-related iOS apps — some free and some paid for by the university.' This seems to be the beginning of a new era for American colleges. The Boca Raton university is not the first to give iPads to students instead of textbooks. Back in 2010, New Jersey-based Seton Hill University announced it would give students the tablets rather than books."
colinneagle writes "A lot of people don't password-protect their smartphones, and even those who do employ a simple four-digit passcode to at least keep it a little convenient. Their phones aren't really protected, as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends a 12-character random password. Those who check smartphones 50 times a day would probably get tired of that. So Motorola developed the Skip, an NFC-based unlocking tool smartphone users can clip to their clothes. Tapping an NFC-enabled phone to the Skip unlocks it. The Skip also comes in sticker form, so users can install one in their cars or at their desks." That's why the muggers want your jacket, too.
onehitwonder writes "The race to build out advanced cellphone networks in the U.S. has contributed to a spike in deaths among tower workers, making this one of the industry's deadliest years and drawing fresh scrutiny from federal regulators, according to The Wall Street Journal. At least 10 workers have died in falls from communication towers so far this year, and three more were seriously injured. The accidents, nine of which were related to cellphone network work, come during one of the biggest building booms in years, as Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile US Inc. ramp up major network upgrades in an attempt to catch up with Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The crowdfunding campaign to build an Ubuntu-powered smartphone has fallen short of its ambitious goal. Canonical, which works with the open-source community to support Ubuntu worldwide, decided to fund its Ubuntu Edge smartphone via crowdfunding Website Indiegogo. The funding goal was set at $32 million, and at first it looked as if the project had enough momentum to actually succeed: within the first 24 hours of the project's July 22 launch, some $3.45 million had poured in. But that torrent of cash soon slowed to a trickle. In the end, the campaign managed to amass $12,809,906 by its August 21 closing. Nonetheless, Canonical did its best to put a brave face on the situation. 'While we passionately wanted to build the Edge to showcase Ubuntu on phones, the support and attention it received will still be a huge boost as other Ubuntu phones start to arrive in 2014,' the organization wrote in a posting. 'Thousands of you clearly want to own an Ubuntu phone and believe in our vision of convergence, and rest assured you won't have much longer to wait.'" Update: 08/22 16:14 GMT by T : Oops -- headline edited to reflect that the Edge was an Indiegogo project, rather than Kickstarter.
SmartAboutThings writes "It seems that LG is going to join Alcatel, GeeksPhone and ZTE in the Firefox OS market. During an interview with Bulgarian online outlet Dnevnik.bg (in Bulgarian), LG's mobile communications head in Bulgaria spilled the beans on company's plans for the future. While he tried to refer only to plans that regard Bulgaria, it's obvious that he also spoke about LG's global strategy. Mister Valev said that LG is also looking to come up with a new Android tablet, phablet and even a smartwatch. Valev said LG is already working on a Firefox OS that could possibly be released in the first quarter of 2014."
hypnosec writes "If you are a BlackBerry owner, navigate to BlackBerry World (or just visit the website) and you will find that developer S4BB has developed over 47k apps for the BB platform. Unsurprisingly, most of them are just spammy apps that don't add any value. Apps like 'Restart Me Free,' 'Daily Quote,' 'Lock for SMS,' 'Search for Amazon,' 'Silent Foto Free' are just a few among the thousands of apps on BlackBerry World that actually have no utility whatsoever. BlackBerry announced back in May that developers were increasingly interested in making apps for the platform, and that BlackBerry World had more than 120,000 apps. This raises questions about the authenticity of the claims, and about the approval process that's been accepting these apps. S4BB may have a few useful apps for the platform, but that doesn't mean all of their apps are of 'A' quality. A statement from BlackBerry said, 'Developers in all app stores employ a number of different monetization tactics. BlackBerry World is an open market for developers and we let market forces dictate the success or failure of these tactics.'"
jfruh writes "One of the biggest challenges Microsoft has faced with its Windows Phone platform is that it's far behind in the apps race against iOS and Android. One way to close the gap is to lower the barrier to entry for new app devs, and Microsoft has done so with Windows Phone App Studio, a hosted service that lets you build applications without actually writing any code. The description of how App Studio works may leave you wondering how useful or exciting the apps created will be, but a surge of developer interest during the current beta program has surprised even Microsoft with its scope."
jfruh writes "On Friday, Dell was selling Windows RT tablets for as low as $300. By this morning, the cheapest one on offer was $479. The difference? The only tablets they're selling now come bundled with keyboards, which may indicate that customers are finding even the Metro-focused RT version of Windows 8 too irritating to navigate by touch alone. (If you really want a 10-inch Dell tablet without a keyboard it looks like you can still get one on Amazon, at least for the time being.)"
Volanin writes "The Ubuntu Edge has now passed the $10.2 million mark, thus making it the most pledged-to crowd-funder in history. While the Ubuntu Edge campaign is to be commended for reaching such a mammoth milestone as this, it can't quite claim ultimate victory yet, since it's just short of making one-third of its $32 million goal with a little less than a week left."
cartechboy writes "Americans have enough trouble keeping from texting their way to dangerous — or worse — situations in cars. But now car makers, looking to differentiate with tech integrations and after jamming iPhone everywhere, are working hard at integrating Google Glass into vehicles. Consider this quote: 'Within seconds, I've got step-by-step directions to a coffee shop down the street beamed directly to my eyeballs.' Aside from being a little Jetsons, sounds potentially problematic. (Note, Mercedes had been doing R&D since July.) It goes without saying that someone is working on an integration of their own with a Tesla Model S. There is a coolness factor, there may be some utility — but not sure this is a great idea."
angry tapir writes "Smartphones that support NFC have been making their way onto the market, but many handsets still don't support the wireless technology. As an alternative, Microsoft researchers have prototyped a system that instead uses a phone's microphone and speaker to transmit and receive data. The P2P data transfer system uses a novel technique of 'self-jamming' to stop nefarious third parties from monitoring transfers, and the researchers believe it's more secure than standard NFC communications. No word on whether it sounds like the squeal of a 56k modem."
First time accepted submitter jradavenport writes "I've been keeping a log of the health of my MacBook Air battery for the past year, taking samples every minute I use the computer (152,411 readings so far!). This has allowed me to study both my own computing/work habits, but also the fascinating rapid decay of battery capacity. Comparing it to my previous 2009 MacBook Pro, the battery in this 2012 Air is degrading much faster."
Meshach writes "A study in the journal Computers & Education found that students who took notes on a laptop got lower marks then student who took notes the traditional way with pen and paper. The study's author hypothesized that using a laptop leads to multitasking (i.e. surfing the net or checking email), which reduces concentration."
melios sends this quote from an University of Washington news release: "[E]ngineers have created a new wireless communication system that allows devices to interact with each other without relying on batteries or wires for power. The new communication technique, which the researchers call 'ambient backscatter,' takes advantage of the TV and cellular transmissions that already surround us around the clock. Two devices communicate with each other by reflecting the existing signals to exchange information. The researchers built small, battery-free devices with antennas that can detect, harness and reflect a TV signal, which then is picked up by other similar devices."
hypnosec writes "The CyanogenMod team has announced the release of version 10.2 nightly builds, which are based on Google's latest Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. The current nightly builds have been released for the Google Galaxy Nexus, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy S3, LG Optimus G, Sony Xperia Z, and Motorola Razr among others. As always, CyanogenMod team reminds that these are experimental."
gurps_npc writes "I have seen several technology holsters. There are a lot of good ones for cell phones, but I am looking for something larger — for a tablet (Nook/Kindle/Nexus/iPad). There is, however, a direct trade-off between being discreet and having decent carrying capacity. Has anyone found an ideal balance? I would love to hear from people with direct experience. Do you look like the worst kind of geek hipster while wearing it? Any feature I should look for? I found one from a company called techslinger, but it looks a bit too geeky for me (double-sided makes it really stand out)."
SmartAboutThings writes "We've been hearing quite a lot lately about the Firefox OS, but there are actually only a few Firefox OS phones launched on the market. ZTE Open is one of them and is actually the first Firefox OS phone for consumers. Even if Firefox OS has support from carriers all over the world, it's pretty hard to sell devices in more locations across the world. To remedy that, ZTE is going to sell the Firefox OS Open phone on eBay for eighty dollars, which is actually ten dollars less than the launch price. A real great thing is that the handset will be off-contract and unlocked which means you will be able to use it on all mobile networks. ZTE didn't mention when exactly the device will go on sale on eBay, the company just mentioning 'soon.'"
An anonymous reader writes "In a fascinating post from Kelly Jacklin, the long time Apple software engineer details how he helped create the default text alert sound on the iPhone — a sound otherwise known as 'Tri-tone.' The history of the the pleasant text alert sound that we've all come to know and love stretches all the way back to 1998, nearly 10 years before the iPhone ever hit store shelves." Here's Jacklin's post.
schwit1 asks "How can I automatically have my wi-fi turn off when I leave the house unless I specifically turn it back on?" and provides this excerpt from Wired to illustrate why that would be useful: "Hundreds of thousands of pedestrians walking past 12 locations unknowingly had the unique MAC address of their smartphones recorded by Renew London. Data including the "movement, type, direction, and speed of unique devices" was recorded from smartphones that had their Wi-Fi on. First reported by Quartz, the data gathering appears to be a Minority Report-esque proof-of-concept project, demonstrating the possibility for targeted personal advertising. 'It provides an unparalleled insight into the past behavior of unique devices — entry/exit points, dwell times, places of work, places of interest, and affinity to other devices — and should provide a compelling reach data base for predictive analytics (likely places to eat, drink, personal habits etc.),' reads a blog post on the company's site. In tests running between 21-24 May and 2-9 June, over 4 million events were captured, with over 530,000 unique devices captured. Further testing is taking place at sites including Liverpool Street Station." (The name sounds a bit like a government project, but Renew London is actually an advertising / marketing firm.)
In the wake of AOSP maintainer Jean-Baptiste Quéru's resignation, there was speculation that there would be no factory images or binary drivers released for Google's new Nexus 7 tablet. Happily, that's not the case — whatever other open source gaps there are in the Android world, Ars reports that those images and binaries have been released for the Nexus 7.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that certain models of Samsung phone violate Apple patents, and are likely to be blocked from import to the U.S. From the article: "The patents in question are U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949, which relates to a touch screen and user interface and U.S. Patent No. 7,912,501 which deals with detecting when a headset is connected. The ITC said Samsung didn’t infringe on the other two patents. In a statement on the matter, the ITC said the decision is final and the investigation has been closed. ... As was the case with the previous ruling that saw Apple devices banned, the ban on Samsung devices won’t go into effect until 60 days but can be blocked by a favorable ruling following a presidential review. That seems unlikely as such a block has only been issued once since 1987 – last’s week’s ruling in favor of Apple."
itwbennett writes "Google launched its Mountain View, CA public public Wi-Fi network in August 2006. It was one of the first public wireless Internet services in the U.S. and was intended to provide free service across the city. But in 2012, one year after Google signed a 5-year agreement to continue the service, it started a slow decline to the point of being unusable. 'We started noticing it in very large files, things like operating system updates, but now it's on files as small as 500 kilobytes,' said Rajiv Bhushan, chief scientist of pharmaceutical startup Livionex and a long-time user of the network. A recent test by IDG News Service resulted in a total failure to get a working Internet connection at a dozen sites around Mountain View, including in the city's main downtown area and directly in front of Google's headquarters." I've had disappointing results trying to connect to several other public wireless nets around the U.S., both privately sponsored and municipal. Do you know of any that work especially well?
itwbennett writes "The Wall Street Journal has a handy online calculator to help you sort out which phone plan is best for you. But one thing you'll notice is that shared or 'family' plans rarely offer any real savings, or benefits beyond the convenience of having a single bill, says blogger Kevin Purdy, who is bracing himself to propose a phone plan separation with his wife."