imac.usr writes "The Huffington Post is reporting that The Washington Post has gone through yet another round of layoffs, but this time instead of cutting editorial positions, they're apparently cutting IT positions, specifically in the mobile applications department. According to Washington, DC media blog FishbowlDC, 54 people, including the General Manager of Mobile and Director of Mobile Products, were given the axe on Valentine's Day. A particularly damning quote from the FishbowlDC article: '"[CIO and VP Shaliesh] Prakash thinks these are 'inefficiencies' – that is the exact word he uses for human beings who are not useful according to him," said a source who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "Get rid of experienced people to save money, under the garb of streamlining is the new trend inside the Post."' Given that mobile products seem somewhat more likely to succeed than printed newspapers, this seems a strange decision at best."
9to5Google cites "an extremely reliable source" in reporting that "Google is in the process of building stand-alone retail stores in the U.S. and hopes to have the first flagship Google Stores open for the holidays in major metropolitan areas. The mission of the stores is to get new Google Nexus, Chrome, and especially upcoming products into the hands of prospective customers. Google feels right now that many potential customers need to get hands-on experience with its products before they are willing to purchase. Google competitors Apple and Microsoft both have retail outlets where customers can try before they buy."
nk497 writes "Canonical has revealed that a developer preview of Ubuntu for phones will arrive next week, on the 21st of February. The touch preview will initially only be available for the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 smartphones, but Canonical plans to support more devices. The release is designed to let developers create apps — and to give 'enthusiasts' a sneak peek — ahead of the smartphone side of Ubuntu arriving in version 13.10 in October. Canonical suggested that the OS will initially only support low-end smartphones, but the group plans to also support higher-end models, too, and the OS will work across mobile devices, PCs and TVs."
coondoggie writes "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved what it says is the first bionic eye, or retinal prosthesis, that can partially restore the sight of blind individuals after surgical implantation. The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System includes a small video camera, transmitter mounted on a pair of eyeglasses, video processing unit (VPU) and an implanted artificial retina. The VPU transforms images from the video camera into electronic data that is wirelessly transmitted to the retinal prosthesis."
drdread66 writes "Reuters reports today that Research In Motion co-founder Jim Balsillie dumped his entire stake in BlackBerry at the end of 2012. While it's common to see high-level executives sell some of their shares to gain some liquidity, it's unusual to see them exit their positions completely. This has to be seen as a massive vote of 'no confidence' from someone who was on the inside long enough to know what's going on in the company."
Many of us have plug-in external batteries of one sort to recharge our smart phones when we're away from power outlets. Or we have gigantic aftermarket batteries that make our phones so fat they barely fit in our pockets. So there is this company, Lilliputian Power Systems, that is just starting to market a tiny, butane-powered fuel cell they call the Nectar that plugs into your cell phone (or whatever) through a USB port and supposedly charges it for up to two weeks. That's a lot better than an add-on battery. It looks expensive, although the power "pods" aren't too pricey at $19.99 for two. But wait a minute: Why aren't fuel cells, not internal combustion engines, the "range extenders" in plug-in hybrid cars? A decade back, fuel cells were going to revolutionize our power delivery and consumption systems. A cell phone charger is cute, but is that really all we can get fuel cells to do?
An anonymous reader writes with a link to an article at Wired with some harsh words for Microsoft's new tablet: "The Surface Pro is not a repair-friendly machine. In fact, it's one of the least repairable devices iFixit has seen: In a teardown of Microsoft's tablet-laptop hybrid, the company gave it a rock-bottom score of just one — one! — out of 10 for repairability, lower even than Apple's iPad and the Windows Surface RT."
Andy Prough writes "If you happen to be in Brazil and have 599 reals jingling in your pocket ($304 US dollars or £196), you can buy an iPhone — that runs Android. Gradiente Electronica, which registered the 'iPhone' name in Brazil in 2000, has won the right to sell its iPhone Neo One, an Android phone running version 2.3, Gingerbread. Gradiente won the ruling from the Institute of Industrial Property (INPI), despite Apple's argument that Gradiente should lose the right to 'iPhone' because it had not used the name between 2008-2012. Apple retains the right to appeal the case, and Gradiente now has the right to sue Apple for exclusivity in Brazil. If Gradiente wins, the only iPhones sold in Brazil would have a picture of a cute green robot on the box cover."
judgecorp writes "Britain is considering switching off air traffic control radar systems and using "passive radar" instead. A two year feasibility study will consider using a network of ground stations which monitor broadcast TV signals and measure echoes from aircraft to determine their location and velocity. The system is not a new idea — early radar experiments used BBC shortwave transmitters as a signal source before antenna technology produced a transceiver suitable for radar — but could now be better than conventional radar thanks to new antenna designs and signal processing techniques. It will also save money and energy by eliminating transmitters — and release spectrum for 5G services."
mask.of.sanity writes "Thousands of New Zealand frontline police will be armed with smartphones and tablets from this year in an efficiency initiative that the force hopes will save millions of dollars. NZ Police say the devices are Apple iPhones and iPads. These will be password protected and can be wiped remotely if lost. Police declined to say if the devices and their communications will be encrypted."
judgecorp writes "Vertu, the luxury phone maker formerly owned by Nokia, has chosen Android over Windows Phone for its new £6700 Vertu Ti device. The bling brand is no longer part of Nokia, so is free to shun Windows Phone — apparently because there are not enough apps there for Vertu's rich customers." Previous Vertu handsets used Symbian. Note: £6700 is just over 10,000 USD.
After disasters (or to minimize expensive data use generally, and take advantage of available Wi-Fi), bypassing the cell network is useful. But it's not something that handset makers bake into their phones. colinneagle writes with information on a project that tries to sidestep a dependence on the cellular carriers, if there is Wi-Fi near enough for at least some users: "The Smart Phone Ad-Hoc Networks (SPAN) project reconfigures the onboard Wi-Fi chip of a smartphone to act as a Wi-Fi router with other nearby similarly configured smartphones, creating an ad-hoc mesh network. These smartphones can then communicate with one another without an operational carrier network. SPAN intercepts all communications at the Global Handset Proxy so applications such as VoIP, Twitter, email etc., work normally."
jfruh writes "The Kindle Fire HD is in theory a powerful device at a reasonable price — but its Android-based OS is so oriented towards Amazon's ecosystem that it can be tricky to unlock its full potential. Still, with a little savvy you can get underneath the covers, improving battery life, getting full access to cameras and other devices, and even listening to music you've purchased through iTunes."
CowboyRobot writes "FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski recently proposed making RF spectrum publicly available, and many in the media (including the Washington Post) have been mistakenly conflating open access to WiFi signal with free Internet access; anyone can put up a wireless access point but that doesn't give them access to the Internet. The proposal will probably mean more attempts at providing free Internet access to specific neighborhoods or municipalities, but as Larry Seltzer at NetworkComputing points out, these programs also usually forget that access to signal is not the same as access to the Internet. After getting the funding to wire a city, these isn't money left to pay for the actual bandwidth usage."
TechCrunch is one of the many outlets to report that Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet computer sold out on its first day of wide availability. Business Insider points to Reddit threads complaining that "selling out" was largely a product of not having all that many in stock to begin with, in some cases not even enough to cover pre-ordered devices.