CES 2015: webOS, tablets and funky tv’s

The 2015 International CES is over.  Among the products and product lines shown off were curved Televisions, 4K TV, ‘quantum dot’ TV, TV dongles, tablets, smartphones and accessories, self driving cars and more computers-of all shapes and sizes. Oh, and smart watches and fitness bands. Lots of them.

So, where do we start?  Well, lets start with one of my favorite operating systems. This OS is now in televisions, phones and … soon, smart watches.  Yep, webOS is making a splash with LG spearheading the way.  They purchased the OS from HP in 2013 and began adapting it for use in smart televisions.  The first effort, while it sold five million televisions, was less than stallear. webOS 2.0, however, is said to be fast and easier to code for than the previous release.  It has also been shrunk down to watch size.  LG has, seemingly, teamed with Audi to produce a watch that can open the car doors, place calls and a plethora of things.  LG denies it and Audi was just trying to show off the car.  The Verge reports seeing an ‘about’ screen that shows the webOS version.  For a dead OS, it sure is making a splash.  The interesting thing is that, at the current rate, LG will have more webOS devices in the wild than Palm/HP Palm ever could.

Intel showed off its Compute Stick, an HDMI dongle for your Television that is a complete Windows computer on a stick.  Selling for $149, the Compute Stick features an Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and features a micro-SD slot for future expansion. So, it is a rather spartan PC, but, it is very portable and Wifi enabled,so you could just throw it in a bag, your pocket, whatever and take it with you instead of a laptop. The drawbacks, of course, are that you do need a keyboard and mouse AND an HDMI enabled display. But, if you don’t mind these limitations, the Stick might just be your travelling companion.  A cheaper, $89 version running Linux will also be available.  Though, the Linux version sports half the RAM and only 8GB of storage.

I’m no Sony fan, but, I would definitely purchase their newest 65 inch set. This thing is 4.9 mm thick. The 4K set is thinner than most current smartphones.  It is edge to edge awesomness.

In a big nod to Microsoft’s Surface tablets, a group of former Google engineers introduced the Remix. To be offered up next month via a Kickstarter campaign, the device has many of the same features of Surface, looks like the Surface and its software, another Android fork, even resembles Windows 8 applications and its mail client is a rip off of Windows 8 mail.  Still, It says much about Surface that these gentlemen would decide to ‘me too’ the tablet.

Speaking of tablets, there were plenty to choose from. From a six inch Windows tablet all the way up to a 65 inch, 4k enabled tablet from FUHU.  Perhaps the most interesting ones, however, are the under $150 Windows tablets which are going to be available in the next month or so.  There were no new Kindles, but there were a bunch of Android tablets as well. No one tablet really stood out (well, maybe that 65 incher) but they were all well represented.  Have a look on CNet’s News.Com for more.

For a complete wrap up of the events at CES, the Verge has a good summary.

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iOS 7 Upgrade: good, bad and worth it

IMG_2469Apple released iOS 7 today and reviews seem to be mixed.  I downloaded and installed the new OS and, myself, have mixed feelings about it.  Overall, I like the changes, but some are a bit on the childish side, like the choice of colors on the home screen icons. However, the typography is outstanding. It is very Windows 8 like, which I like.

So, what’s changed? Well, pretty much everything.  From the unlock screen to the settings panels to the App Store. One thing that is better is that the interface is a bit more consistent than the original interface.  The fonts, which are now adjustable, are more consistent and are, well, gorgeous.  Some of the changes appear to be there for the sake of change, like the keypad keys being round. Serves no real purpose to make them round.

Installing the upgrade was a long and tedious task. Downloading it was IMG_2461easy, but the install was long.  I was forced, about a third of the way in, to restart it but, once restarted, it took about an hour. During that time, of course, the phone was useless (and five rounds of Call of Duty helped with the boredom.) Once installed, I had to go through the awful setup again.  Funny thing, though, some of the questions it was asking, it already had the answers for, so I was a bit confused as to why it was necessary. I suppose it was just part of the normal install process, but I would think it could have checked and moved on. Be aware, however, the install requires 2.9 GIGABYTES, which is quite a problem for those of us with 8GB devices. Thanks to Apple, though, I was able to remove some apps and photos, install the upgrade and then restore the apps and copy the photos back that I wanted to stay on the phone.

IMG_2473The Fisher Price like home pages are just awful, though I found making the background one of the gradients helps the eyesore a bit.  As I have an iPhone 4, I do not see the parallax animation that Apple made such a big deal about during the iOS 7 reveal. In fact, many of the cooler features are missing because the phone is a 4. 

As iOS 4 is a hodgepodge of ideas taken from other operating systems, there are a few things that stand out, such as the new task switchIMG_2461er/killer. The card concept, lifted right out of webOS, the best phone/tablet OS out there. This, along with the typography, is what makes iOS 7 worth the upgrade. To use the feature, double tap the home button and then flick from left to right to see the cards. Each card represents a running application.  To activate that application. tap the card. To kill it, flick it up and the app is killed. Simple.

IMG_2461The Apple supplied applets are vastly improved. The calendar is far more useful, mail is nicer and the App Store is very nice.  They all seem faster too, thought the speed increase could be due to the new OS install.

Overall, it is a step up but, like Windows 8, it is a dramatic change from previous iterations and will not be well received from many out there.  Like Windows 8, I think the biggest complaints will be for the home screens. I also think that by the time iOS 8 rolls, this will be a dated look and will be changed again and the haters will claim victory.

Go over to the Verge or CNET to read much more in depth reviews, complete with screen shots and video.

Amazon’s Fire: does anyone really use it?

I’m a podcast junky. I love listening to them, it makes my work day go by much easier.  Since I am a geek at heart, I tend to listen to technology oriented podcasts (No Agenda is, for now, the lone exception.) As such, I listen to the ‘biggies’ like TWiT, Windows Weekly, The Vergecast, Macbreak Weekly and the Engadget podcast to name a few. The past few weeks, these podcasts have focused on tablets, Windows 8 and Android.  Of course, the announcement of the new Android tablet from Google has most of these people speculating that it will shut down other competitors like the Kindle Fire.

For some reason, the press (and these podcasters) have turned on Amazon and the Fire. I’ve heard things like ‘sales fell like a brick after the Christmas frenzy’ and ‘no one uses them.’  That last one I have heard repeatedly since that Google announcement. It makes me wonder…just how do they arrive at this conclusion?

Well, they usually use internet web access analytics.  And, surprise, the Kindle is barely a speck on that chart. iPad, by far, takes the lions share of the mobile numbers. Android is right there at number two.  Kindle Fire? way down in the bowels of the chart. Windows Mobile 6 seems to have higher numbers.  Why is this? Amazon sold a few million Fires. Surely, these people use the fire online, right? Well, maybe yes, maybe no.  I know myself, I use it for Facebook and…not much else. Sometimes, depending on where I am, I may use it to hit up News.com, the Verge or CNN. Mainly, though, I use apps to get my internet related content. Things like Flipboard and USA Today. I read PC Magazine on the Fire. I also use it for reading the books I’ve purchased and, yes, I listen to podcasts on the device when I neglect my Zune (which, unfortunately, seems to happen a lot these days…I must be getting old or something.)

Now, mind you, I may not be a typical user, but my instinct says that I use my Fire quite a lot like most would and, since it is sold by Amazon and marketed primarily as eReader, I suspect most will use if for that purpose and not for browsing. So, for these ‘reporters’ and podcasters to make such a statement, based solely on numbers for web pages, is just ludicrous. Of course, many of these same people also claimed that the Wii was used once or twice and put in a closet. Right. For nearly five years, the Wii sold like hotcakes and so did software for the device. The top ten in software sales would be dominated by Nintendo for four of those five years. Yet, according to the ‘experts’, no one played it. Funny, we have two and they still get quite a lot of play. Nothing tops Mario and as for the Fire, it’s a dandy tablet. Good size, decent performance and does not cost a bloody arm and a leg, only a Wii and Mario Kart.

Mac OS Ken

I realize that countless stories and postings about the cult of Apple get tiresome, and I am guilty of it as well, but it has to be one of the most fascinating subjects in the tech world.  I know some really devoted Microsoft fans-I’ve been accused of being one myself-but the Apple fans I know are even more devoted, though not to the point of such people as Key Ray, Alex Lindsay and Scott Bourne.  The latter two are at least entertaining and likable people and it is easier to over look the Apple fandom.  Key Ray, however, is a different story.

Mr. Ray is the host of Mac OS Ken, a daily podcast devoted to all things related to the company of fruit.  His podcast is one that I listen to, all at once, once a week.  Listening to it daily would be pushing it.  Actually, his podcast is OK.  Technically speaking, he does a fine job.  The quality of the audio is really good and consistent, his presentation is fine and the music is not all that bad.  It it the content that is questionable.  Now, the information-the Apple oriented stuff, anyway-is usually very accurate.  It is when he begins talking about anything that is remotely competitive with Apple and its products or anything related to Microsoft where he goes astray.  He cannot report any of that type of news in a straightforward manner or even give the most recent version of the facts.  Sometimes he will present ‘facts’ that may not be correct as if they were, even if later it was proven they were wrong.  I have never heard him retract something, unless it makes Apple look good.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he is dishonest, because from what I can tell, he’s an honest guy.  But he just does not report any corrections to the non-Apple stories he relays.

While I’ve learned to get used to the anti-Microsoft slant from him and other Apple fankids, it’s the attacks on other companies that just really puzzle me.  Take, for instance, the Palm Pre.  The Pre is, no doubt, going to be competition for the iPhone.  Already, before the device is even released, he is right there crapping on the product.  He is, in effect, doing exactly what he and the other fankids were complaining about prior to iPhone being released.  It is as if he and other fruities are scared crapless that the Pre will steal thunder from the fruit company phone.  I will wager that had Pre met with less enthusiasm than it has, he and the others would fret far less-if at all-than they are now.

Given that the iPhone is such a nice and elegant device (did I just type that?) and ‘just works’, why are these people so bent out of shape over the Pre? I can’t wait to see the anti Zune HD dribble these people will, no doubt, put out.  The HD is getting very good early reviews.  I can’t wait for Mr. Ray’s take on it.  No doubt, he will crap all over it with out even seeing it.  Yep, this will be very entertaining indeed.

You can subscribe to his podcast in the ZUNE Marketplace.

Web site link.

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Leo Laporte and the Twit ‘network’ now on video

I am a huge fan of Leo and TWIT and was delighted when he announced that he would be doing video.  Leo has been doing video for a few months now, but he’s only doing live streaming of the TWIT podcasts.  The problem for me is that most of his live streaming is during the day and I do still have a day job and they would not be keen on me sitting there watching TWIT streaming all day.  Kind of kills productivity and bandwidth as well.  Leo did mention that he was going to, at some point, offer downloads.  Unfortunately, he needs manpower to edit, encode and make available that video.  He is waiting to see how things are at the start of 2009 before he can commit.  This is understandable and I am not complaining.  Fortunately, there is a pretty solution.

Enter ODTV.  ODTV, which stands for On-Demand Twit Video. The site is run by Chris Pearson and features MP4 videos recorded from Leo’s live stream.  Chris records the streams on his Mac and it looks pretty good.  The process he uses is (taken from his FAQ):

Q4: How do you capture video from Leo’s netcast flash stream?

A4: We (@kiwinerd) did it this way:-

  1. watch the official live.twit.tv netcast in Firefox 3 on a Mac Pro;
  2. capture the show’s video and audio in real time using ShinyWhiteBox’s app iShowU;
  3. compress the movie down to a manageable size using SWB’s Stomp app – or VisualHub.

 

Leo knows about the site and talked about it on a recent Windows Weekly when Paul Thurrot, seemingly by surprise, asked about video downloads for Windows Weekly.  According to the FAQ, Chris got permission from Leo to do this and states that he’d take the site down if asked to do so.  I have no doubt that this is true.

I usually listen to the podcasts on my Zune while I work.  Being able to watch a few of them on my tv at home is pretty darn cool.  I’d like to thank Chris for making them available as well as thanking Leo and company for the great shows.

Links:

Windows 2 Apples Video News

Just a quick reminder about the new Windows 2 Apples Video News podcast.  The podcast features posts from this blog as well as from Windows 2 Apples.   Windows 2 Apples is a great podcast that features one person’s use of both Windows and the Macintosh.  Sam, the host, does a nice job balancing the two worlds and being fair in his posts and shows when comparing the two platforms or simply talking about a feature or product on the two platforms. 

The Video News podcast features an animated host that serves as the anchor person for the news program.  In episode 28 of the Windows 2 Apples podcast, Sam talks about how he puts the new show together.  It’s pretty cool stuff.

You can subscribe to Video News here and Windows 2 Apples here.  Both are available via iTunes as well.  And, as a bonus, the video podcast plays very nicely on the Zune.

Windows2Apples Video News web page