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Showing posts from March 29, 2015

The iPad At Five: A Better All Round Device

It's five years since Steve Jobs introduced us to the iPad. In that time we've seen the device break sales records, single-handedly creating a market for a third-screen and succeeding where Microsoft had failed for a decade and a half.The thing is, the original iPad was pretty poor. It was heavy and unwieldy, had a decidedly average screen and was completely lacking in cameras. It was only with the arrival of the iPad 2 that it became a device worth buying. Subsequent updates have just kept the improvements coming, there's nothing on the iPad that is now anything but excellent.Five years on and the problem turns out to be that the iPad is just too good. There's no driver for users to upgrade because it's such a complete device that just doesn't age. As a result Apple is seeing sales fall off. Market share is down too, but only in the face of an onslaught of super-cheap Android and Windows tablets, a market that Apple and app developers have no interest in at a…

Why Yes, The Galaxy S6 Will Bend, So What?

Now that the new Samsung Galaxy S6(s) are in the hands of reviewers it's no surprise to find that they've been subjected to the bend test. And it's even less of a surprise to find out that they'll bend.The testers who have achieved this particular mark of insignificance have really not understood the issues that surrounded the iPhone 6 Plus when it launched.The problems with the iPhone 6 Plus was claimed to be that it warped under limited, but sustained load. Customers who were reporting the issue (rather than those who set out to stress test the device) claimed that the phone warped in their pockets - especially the front one, and were no longer sitting true on flat surfaces. Those images of destroyed iPhones, those videos of brute strength abuse and these latest S6 destructions are completely and utterly pointless.Apple replaced the phones that had suffered any warping, and a combination of the publicity and careful husbandry of their devices by their owners, has en…

Pat Pope V Garbage, Or Artists Can't Agree On Art

Here's probably the most bizarre internet spat ever. A photographer public shaming a band for asking to re-use an image that the band had already paid for, with the band responding in kind.Pat Pope is a photographer who apparently works in the music business, taking photos of artists, presumably for album covers, publicity material and the like. One of the artists he's worked with in the past was Garbage. The band is something of a shadow of its previous success, yet continues to work, publishing on its own label. One of the ways in which it sought to monetise its efforts was through the release of a book documenting its history on the 20th anniversary of its formation.Garbage apparently requested permission to re-use an image it had previously commissioned in the book. Pope's response was to post a diatribe on Facebook and his personal blog calling out the band for wanting to use his art without payment. The letter has been widely shared.Garbage responded in kind, with a …

Georgia Dogs EV Buyers

Right now anyone who lives in the State of Georgia and wants to do their bit to reduce the environmental impact of their commuting is going to be paying over the odds for the privilege.Vice reports that the state of finances in the State mean that not only is the current $5000 subsidy being removed, but anyone buying an EV will be required to pay a $200 surcharge to offset the lost tax income from petrol sales. As the State ranks second in America for EV sales that's a blow for the EV industry.It's a move that smacks of rank stupidity. Whilst the rest of the world is searching for lower emissions and improved air quality, it makes it seem like Georgia is pandering to big oil.If the reason for making this change were really to do with tax dollars, a far more logical decision would have been to bump the levy on gas and diesel sales. A couple of extra cents per gallon would have funded all the subsidies required and no doubt helped to reverse some of the budgetary mismanagement t…

Nokia Lumia 735 Review

Whatever else you might say about Windows Phone, you have to give credit to Nokia for having delivered some properly impressive hardware during the time between its leap from the 'burning platform' to its buyout by Microsoft. The Lumia 735 is a perfect example of such an achievement.The 735 is a mid-range phone by price, but certainly not by performance. Its a beautifully tactile thing, recalling the original Nokia Windows Phone, the Lumia 800, in the hand.Its a 4G phone, that packs a beautiful 720p AMOLED screen of 4.7" diagonal, NFC, wireless charging, and two very good cameras into its lightweight frame. Its removable back covers a replaceable battery and a microSD card slot, supporting up to 128GB, on top of the 8GB built-in. 1GB of RAM ensures that the 735 will cope with Windows 10 Mobile when it arrives.Two Windows Phone staples are missing though. Firstly there's no camera button and secondly the Windows Phone hardware keys have been replaced by soft keys, whi…

Microsoft Offers More Windows Phone Tools To iOS, Android Users

Microsoft has added another tool to its arsenal of apps for iPhone and Android users, bringing the Windows Phone Office Lens tool cross platform.Office Lens is a scanning application whose primary use case is capturing information into OneNote, although it can also save directly to OneDrive. It was far and away the best 'scanner from camera' app on the Windows Phone platform, and worked somewhat better than Android and iOS equivalents. Whether that performance advantage has been retained in moving cross-platform remains to be seen.For Windows Phone fans you have to question just how much value remains in the platform, as one by one its USPs are whittled away. Other than a beautiful UI its only competitive advantage is its performance on budget hardware.That surely isn't going to be enough to keep the platform growing?

HTC M8 To Live On As Mid-Range Phone

If you were disappointed by the limited updates that HTC brought to the HTC One M9 (and it looks like you'll probably be disappointed by the camera if nothing else) the M8S might be a more interesting phone for you. Mixing some upgrades and downgrades, this might actually be the most attractive One yet.The M8S carries over the design, screen and features of the outgoing M8, but improves the Duo camera (13mp) and adds a bigger battery. As a tradeoff, you'll drop down to a weaker (though still octacore) processor.Seems like a reasonable swap to me. The M8S will also be a bit cheaper than the top of the range M9, with UK prices of around £380, compared to over £500 for the flagship.

Amazon Dash Button Is Real. Really Real.

Either Amazon has misunderstood the limited lifetime of an April Fool joke or the Dash Button is real. Very real.
In case you missed it, the Dash Button is an IoT connected device that serves one purpose, to add a single item to your Amazon shopping list. Sounds crazy, but the concept has legs, if you consider how it works from Amazon's point of view.
First of all the company will be giving these away to Amazon Prime customers and they will only be for specific products. I'm guessing that Amazon will be working with manufacturers to get them to pay for the buttons, after all what better way of ensuring customer loyalty to your project by give them a zero effort re-order button?
There's also the limited utility - how many buttons are you prepared to plaster on your fridge? Just how unconcerned with the aesthetics of your home do you need to be to plaster it in mini-adverts for the products you buy?
For those who buy into the concept Amazon have a winner here. The question …

The Guardian Goes On The Offensive With The Gates Foundation

Bill and Melinda Gates' charitable foundation has received a lot of positive publicity for the way that it champions worthy causes, as well as providing funding for research and improvements. However the foundation is now the target of The Guardian newspaper's Keep It In The Ground campaign, which seeks to end the exploitation of fossil fuels.
The Guardian Group has divested itself of all shareholdings relating to businesses involved in extraction and is calling on the Gates Foundation to do the same - a request it claims hasn't been warmly received.
It's going to be a difficult judgement call for the Foundation. Its good work is funded by the success of its investments and those companies that do best are those which are involved in the extraction of oil from the ground. It's not for nothing that Bill Gates gives away billions of dollars every year and ends up with more money than he started with.
Ultimately the Foundation is going to have to balance the needs of…

Asus Turns Your TV Into A Chromebox

Asus launched a couple of interesting new products yesterday, the Chromebook Flip, which is a Lenovo Yoga aping touchscreen convertible and this, the Chromebit, which promises to make any TV with a HDMI port into a Smart TV using Chrome OS.
The Chromebit packs a full sized USB port and will presumably support Bluetooth and Wifi (not much point in it as a device if it didn't I suppose). The chipset is the same Rockchip device being used in cheaper Chromebooks being announced now, with 16GB of eMMC based flash and a reasonable 2GB of RAM.
If the price is right - and the rumours are that it will come in below $100 - it should certainly be popular, given that current Opera-based Smart TV software performs less than brilliantly. The wide range of Chrome apps and the promise of decent performance should be all the USP it needs.

Microsoft Surface 3 Looks Like A Pricing Miscue

Microsoft announced a new Surface today, replacing the previous ARM-based, Windows RT toting Surface 2 with the shiny new Surface 3, which riffs on the successful Surface Pro 3 in design and capability, at a reduced scale.
The Surface 3 packs the latest Intel Atom processor and a 4:3 10.8" screen. It supports the same Surface Pen as the SP3 and runs full fat Windows 8.1. Battery life is a reputed 10 hours. The fabulous kickstand of the SP3 has reverted to a three position stand though, which isn't great news.
Still, sounds mostly positive so far.
Until we get to the pricing and then it all goes a bit pear-shaped. The Surface 3 starts at just £419 for the 2GB/64GB combination, which sounds good on paper. Until you look at the big brother SP3, where the entry level version gets you an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, a bigger, higher resolution screen and the real deal in the kickstand, all for just £579. 
That's £160 well spent in my book.
Things get substantially wor…

Tidal: Is It Washed Up Already?

Music streaming services gained a new high-profile competitor yesterday, as Jay-Z relaunched the Tidal music service he purchased for an eye-watering $56m earlier this year.
Eye-watering? Well, yes. The service has a reputed 27,000 subscribers who, if they are all paying for the top-tier high quality service (which they probably aren't) generate a maximum $0.5m a month in revenue. Of that presumably Tidal pays a similar royalty rate to other streaming services, which would suggest that 70% of that revenue exits the door in the direction of the music publishers. Leaving $150k per month to pay for all of the costs related to running the service before any thought of a profit can be considered.
If the only competition out there was from Spotify then perhaps Tidal would have a chance, with its relaunch message being about artist ownership and a bigger cut being paid to the artist. But Apple is almost certainly going to go big with its Beats streaming service any time now - and Tidal …

Zinio On An iPad Points To The Death Of Print

There are other magazine reading apps, there are digital editions of some titles which pack in large amounts of multimedia content to make best use of the medium. That rather gets away from the object of having a magazine, which is to disconnect from the rampant activity of the internet world and immerse yourself in the written word in a long-form factor.

For that Zinio is peerless, offering a wide selection of magazine, as well as integrating with lending libraries around the world to offer more choice. And the best magazine reading experience is definitely found on the iPad Air 2. The resolution of the screen, its great colour reproduction and amazing weight mean that its more comfortable to read and lighter to hold whilst you do, then either a traditional print magazine or one of its Windows or Android rivals.
Print is a messy, resource and finance consuming effort; whereas bringing a magazine to the Zinio store is quick, easy, cheap and delivers ads in the same way as its print s…

Careful What You Photograph: Arkansas Street Photography Ban

Arkansas will shortly be signing into a law that makes street photography difficult if not completely impossible. The Personal Rights Protection Act is designed to protect an individual's rights by making it illegal to photograph or film them in a public place unless prior written consent has been received.
For street photographers this is untenable, placing an impossible burden on them to gain consent from potentially hundreds of people.
Sports stadiums and sports photographers may well need to rethink their modus operandi too, given the issues that capturing potential thousands of recognisable faces in the background of action shots present.

Is Apple About To Bump The iPhone 5C's Internals

Apple surprised everyone with the iPhone 5C, twice. Firstly that its cheap iPhone wasn't cheap, which caused many to suggest it wouldn't sell. Then by selling it by the bucketload despite the higher price. The 5C was a pretty shrewd move from Apple, boosting the retained value in each sale by utilising the iPhone 5's internals but packing a new case. The 5C didn't have the stigma of being a 'cheap' iPhone. Instead it was seen as a fun iPhone. For customers the price of the 5C met the perceived value it offered them.
Those iPhone 5 internals are getting a bit dated now though, so it's no surprise to find a revised version is being planned. Dubbed 6C by rumour-mongers, the new phone is tipped to retain a 4" screen.
I'd guess the reason for this will be a jump to using internals from the iPhone 5S, which will disappear from the range when the next iPhone update is released later this year. A good indicator is that leaked rear shells have an oval hole…

Semble Delivers Phone Based Payments To Kiwis

Semble, a Kiwi joint venture that brings together eftpos provider Paymark and mobile networks Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees; opened up its phone based contactless payment system to New Zealanders this afternoon, with the news that ASB and BNZ bank customers will now be able to use their phones as contactless payment cards wherever the Visa payWave or Master Card PayPass cards are accepted.
To join the service customers of the banks will have to own an approved Android phone (the list is long and appears to include pretty much anything modern with an NFC chip) and replace their current SIM with a Semble enabled secure one.
Then it's just a matter of adding a bank card and heading off to the shops.
ANZ and Westpac customers can't join in the fun, as the two banks are working on their own digital wallets. iPhone customers will have to wait for Apple Pay to arrive here - which isn't likely to be soon.
Given the huge number of contactless terminals in use around the country, it…

Nurburgring Fatality Highlights The Dangers Of Flying Cars

This weekend's Endurance Championship race at the Nordschleife - the historic circuit at the Nurburgring - was halted early after Jann Mardenborough's Nissan GT-R became airborne at the Flugplatz on the descent from Quiddelbacher Höhe, leaving the track and cartwheeling off the barriers over the safety fence and into the crowd.

Authorities confirmed that one spectator had died at the scene, whilst many more were injured. Mardenborough was uninjured and out of the wreck very quickly. The German police have impounded the remains of the Nissan, and no doubt will be looking for mechanical failure as a possible cause of the accident. The German racing authorities have banned high performance GT3 cars from the circuit indefinitely.

F1: How Ferrari Pegged Mercedes Back In Malaysia

To say that Sebastian Vettel's first win for Ferrari, in only his second race with the team, was a shock would be something of an understatement. Mercedes utter domination in Melbourne two weeks previously promised nothing but more of the same in Malaysia. By the time the chequered flag dropped though, Mercedes were licking there wounds, having been beaten fair and square for the first time since the end of 2013.
How could this have happened?

Hey Siri, Can I Have Raise To Speak Back Please?

One of the new features that iOS 8 brought was the ability to invoke Siri by saying 'Hey Siri' whenever your device is plugged in. That's great, especially in-car, where it makes for completely hands free interaction.
However whilst Apple was giving with one hand, it took away with the other. Specifically it removed the Raise to Speak option, which whilst not 100% reliable, made Siri usable in crowded areas or where you'd prefer not to broadcast your instructions and responses to the wider world.
It seems that Raise to Speak has been removed to allow Lift to Speak in the Messages app. However there's no reason why this should be the case - it should be possible to offer users a choice between actions - or give priority to Lift to Speak when the Messages app is in the foreground.
Its one of the things I'd like to see restored in the next iOS update, Apple. Pretty please.