Monthly Archives: September 2011

Facebook updates, Google+ opens to public

Google+ initially saw limited adopters and mixed reviews.  The overall reaction was that while all the features and usability improvements over Facebook were great, everyone was on Facebook already…. you get the idea.  While Google+ might be fun to check out, might even seem more attractive as a social networking site, it is a challenge to get millions of users to pick up everything (online) and move to a new home.  They continue to gain momentum, however, and it seems like Facebook is helping them do it.

Facebook has become known for making substantial changes to the user interface without a whole lot of advance warning or choice for the users.  Recently, they updated their display by introducing a “Facebook within a Facebook” feed on the side bar and adding a “Top News” section at the top of the homepage.  Before that it was updates to the friends list.  These frequent updates have generally been met with more than reluctance by the user base.  Some would even say that they have been met with disgust.  Roughly 86% of users dislike the newest round of Facebook updates.  That statistic can be found on this really great infographic from SodaHead data with other details about users and opinions of Facebook, as well as on the on-going poll available on the Wall Street Journal (87.4% as of 9/25).

At the same time as Facebook’s updates (Kind of.  More updates from Facebook are imminent), Google+ is opening to the public.  The service is no longer invite-only, but is available to all.  They are also amping up the action with an added 100+ features since it was unveiled in June, and more to come.   Integration with email and document storage is only part, though it could be a game changer.  With Google’s full array of services, they are in a position to offer the consumer:

  • social networking
  • photo sharing
  • photo editing
  • email
  • document storage
  • web chat
  • video conferencing
  • search
  • advertising
  • an e-library
  • blogging
  • translation
  • news
  • geo-check ins
  • and more, all from one place

With functionality and ease of use the major item of consideration for the majority of consumers, this may mean quite a bit for the search giant.  Add to that the technology (and attitudes) that has won over the geek crowd and Google+ is in a fantastic position.

If only they can talk more users into jumping ship from Facebook.

Touchable holographic images – Up and coming tech

I recently found and read this article about a touchable 3D technology.  Researchers in Japan have been working to improve upon the current 3D technology available.  Their work has been with glasses-free 3D, for one thing. They use retro reflective surfaces to projected  images that actually appear somewhere other than the light source. I am personally very excited for glasses-free 3D, as I wear glasses or corrective lenses on a day-to-day basis, and they generally do not play nicely with the 3D glasses necessary for viewing some films and games in the 3D format they were intended for.  Where these scientists have jumped ahead of their peers and competitors is the leap into touchable 3D technology.  They use an input interface with infrared sensors that can sense where the user is and work with the 3D output to allow the 3D objects and characters to respond instantly in real time to the actions of the user. Moving forward, they are looking to bolstering the interface with a sensor that will allow the user to experience tactile feedback, possibly in the form of a glove.

While I was a little disappointed after reading the article and then watching the video, this is still exciting technology to watch in the future.

Intel’s Edge for Windows 8

You’ve heard me rave about Windows 8 before.  The raving continues.  I am so very excited about the prospect of a newer, faster, better Windows.

Not that there’s anything wrong with Windows 7.  It was the highest grossing pre-order in the history of Amazon.  It featured a boatload of new features, including a faster boot time than previous iterations.  Minor criticisms include some security flaws.

Windows 8 is likely to be something completely different, since it is created for tablets as well as traditional PCs.  Not only will the interface be very different, it is being released for both Intel and AMD as well as ARM – a processor more commonly used for mobile devices, as it is ideal for low-power products.  Adding an ARM version of Microsoft Windows 8 further stresses the fact the Microsoft is looking to move more strongly into the tablet and mobile markets with this OS.  While ARM will be more functional for low-power, mobile items, it will also support full PC systems.  However, the ARM processor version of Windows 8 will not be backward compatible with all older programs, like the Intel version will be, and as all previous Intel and AMD versions of Windows were.  That one feature will probably ensure Intel’s continued success in the processor market.

Windows 8 is expected to be available to consumers in Fall 2012.

Web Evolution Infographic

Browsing the web today, I came across the coolest interactive infographic.

This infographic does a great job of creating a “funner” timeline of the internet than one might find elsewhere.  It hits all the major points, like developments in CSS and JavaScript. Check it out.  

Were you on the web when Netscape was the only option?  I have never gotten along with Netscape, even in the mid-nineties.  However, I have heard good things from other about the old Netscape.  Apparently it was once the fastest and most reliable browser for the Mac OS.  I believe it was purchased by AOL around the end of 1998.

How about the first version of Internet Explorer?  You can still download it, as a matter of fact.  Not that you would want to.  I imagine it would break the internet pretty hard (prevent pretty much everything from displaying or functioning correctly on the internet, that is).  I know IE 6 and 9 are already doing a pretty good job of that.  I’m a big fan of Opera and Chrome, myself.  Most of the best features of Mozilla/Firefox were available in Opera first.  Plus it is so easy to customize.  Chrome is amazing because it’s so fast.  It is a slim, sleek browser that gives you the option of using a ton of great add-ins.  Where it’s different than other browsers in that respect is that all of the add-ins are opt in – you have to specifically request them.  The lack of bloatware is part of what makes Chrome so fast and reliable.

That’s all… just my two cents.  Again, check out the infographic for details on the evolution of some of the things you use to access the internet.

Getting Organized for Fall

Shopping completed, it’s time for most students to head back to school.  With so many distractions out there, it’s important to stay organized through the school year.  Pro tip: get a planner. Or make a note with smartphone. The time you’ll spend writing things down is worth it to not get a late grade on that big paper.  That goes not just for college  students, but for high school and elementary, as well.


I’ve always found that it helps to get settled back in for the new year. (September seems more like a new year than January to me.  January isn’t even a change of seasons.)  For me this means devoting some time to getting things arranged the way I like them:  stapler tucked away over here, scissors in this box, pen cup over there…  It seems to help me be more productive.

And never forget to add some style.  Unless you like the minimalist look, make sure you have at least one funky piece of desk-stuff.  Get a flowery pen cup/bag, or decorate your binder/inbox with photos.  Make your work space both organized and unique, to make this year as productive as possible.

Java Jabber

Today at work, most of us are probably cradling our coffee pretty close. It sometimes feels necessary to get that extra boost, especially in the midst of a long work week, or on the way out that door before its even light outside. The only thing keeping me from the third cup sometimes is the knowledge that it isn’t terribly healthy for me.

But!

Good news!

We all know coffee can help you stay alert and awake when you’re short on sleep, and it can also increase physical performance. Now, a study on nutrition and cancer done last year has shown that coffee also helps slow cancer’s spread as well as helping increase the effectiveness of treatment. Another series of studies from 1995 – 2003 showed that “long-term caffeine use has been found to reduce the risk of brain damage, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, epileptic seizures and even stroke.”  Unfortunately, the benefits of caffeine in women begins to decrease after about 3 cups per day, whereas it seems to continue to increase in men.  A different set of studies in 1993 and 2005 indicates that coffee drinking can help protect your liver.

And for those of you who feel that you just cant live without coffee, don’t do anything drastic.  Another study from 1993 has actually shown that coffee decreases the risk of suicide in women by 13% for every cup consumed daily.

E-Wallets

Credit cards may soon be a thing of the past.

 

A not-so-new technology called, “near-field technology” allows devices to communicate wirelessly at close range.  The application of this technology currently making headlines is as a way to store and use credit card information.  Rather than swiping a card or waving it at the machine, if you have one of those new-fangled cards with the little squiggly lines, you would simply hold your phone near the terminal to pay.

 

Currently, there are two major frontrunners.  The ubiquitous Google has made a bid with Google Wallet, supported by Master Card and Sprint. The other frontrunner, Isis, has the support of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well as Visa.  Though it seems like Isis has the lead with the three largest phone networks and the largest credit card company in the US, Google seems to be the first out of the gates, and that head start could mean big profits.

 

In any case, at this point, both systems claim that their eventual goal is to be open – that is, to support all credit card companies.  Being carried on multiple phone networks wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

 

This is actually a pretty exciting development to me.  I hate having to dig in a wallet for a card.  Now, I’m not one of those up-to-your-eyeballs-in-plastic-debt types, but I do carry something like a half dozen credit and debit cards on a daily basis a number that isn’t terribly strange.  It would be very nice to pare down to a phone that I carry anyways.

 

The sticking point here is saturation and adoption.  Few point-of-sale terminals support the little wavy thing, which has been around for what seems like ages. (Just checked, this was originally called, “blink” technology.)  Neither Isis nor Google Wallet will be able to pull ahead or succeed until they are able to convince a large number of consumers and businesses to use their technology.

 

What would you use an electronic wallet for?

 

School Shopping!

It’s almost that time again.  You know what I mean.

 

School.

Families everywhere are scrambling to prepare.  On their first day back, most parents want their students to have all of the important things:

  • New gym sneakers
  • Number-two pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Crayons, markers, glue
  • A calculator for the older students
  • An iPad?

Although I am of the so-called digital generation, that seems a bit strange, even to me.  Though I understand the benefits of browsing on the go, it is still hard for me to see the iPad as an educational-must have.  It is and will probably continue to be more of a convenience or toy to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I like that I can check my email, the news, play Angry Birds…  But I will never be able to research and write an essay on a tablet.  There’s no keyboard!  I can’t open side by side windows.  While it’s true they have word processing packages, they are not free, and you have to load them.

 

At this point, I have to inject: if you are going to buy your student something as expensive as a tablet, consider another route.  Get a notebook.  They are of a comparable price, nearly as portable (depending upon the model), and come with both a keyboard and more functionality.

 

The Chester Classmate, for example, comes with everything a student could need, including colored keys for typing prowess, internet capability, and a swivel touch screen which can also function as a tablet.  All this, plus the Classmate features ultra-rugged construction designed to withstand anything your student puts it through.