Google Glass Brings Us One Step Closer to the Dystopia of Wall•E

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As you probably know, Google Glass was recently released to a select set of developers for testing. For those of you who don’t, however Google Glass is a pair of glasses that connects to the internet, has a build in webcam, and lets you talk to people and get directions.

This means a few things. First of all, you will soon be able to always have the internet readily available to you without even having to look away from what you’re doing. Secondly, the internet will become such an integral part of our daily lives that we will no longer remember what it was like without it.

Sound familiar? I don’t know if you’ve watched Wall-E, but here’s a basic synopsis: It’s way in the future, and earth was destroyed by the humans. The humans then made a giant space ship and lived on it. It was on this high tech spacecraft that everyone eventually got extremely fat by spending their lives in hover chairs. Every passenger also had a screen projected in front of them, and they were always so focused on what was on their screen that they completely neglected the outside world around them.

walle

In fact, when two people bumped into each other and were forced to interact in real life, it was a new experience for them both.

Here’s just a simple overview of what google glass looks like to a wearer. Notice any similarities?

With Google Glass you can also send and receive messages, get directions, find information from Google Now, and even record video and capture your view through a camera – all available in your eye. Soon people will be walking around completely oblivious to the existence of a real world, and augmented reality will become the only reality.

Compare this scene from Wall•E with this demo of Google Glass:

As you can tell, we aren’t quite to the point of complete social isolation. However, the widespread availability of a product like this will bring mankind one giant step closer to the Wall•e-an dystopia that we fear.

How-to: Install Facebook Home on Any Android Device

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Screenshot 2013 04 14 22 08 09

In case you missed the news, Facebook recently announced Facebook Home, a home screen replacement for android. In a nutshell, when you hit your Android device’s home button, it will bring you to a home screen where you can scroll through and interact with your friends’ posts.

Facebook announced that it would be available on the Google Play Store for a select few devices including the Galaxy SIII and HTC One X. But what about the rest of us?

Don’t fear! Where there’s a will there’s a way, and thankfully the guy with the will made the way easy enough for even the most basic of simpletons to accomplish.

Here’s how to get Facebook Home on any Android device.

First, open Settings on your android device and go to Security. Check the box that reads “Install applications from unknown sources.”

Second, go into Settings > Applications and find and uninstall any Facebook and Messenger app that you’ve already installed.

Now, go to this blog post on your Android device. To make it a little bit easier, just type in this short link: http://a.swsr.info/YouxEG

GMG TO ANDROID, DO YOU READ ME?! Good.

Now, still on your Android device, click HERE, HERE, and HERE.

In your status bar, you should notice a little download icon. Install all three of the files that you just downloaded simply by clicking them and hitting install.

Next, look in your app drawer and you’ll find Facebook home. Open it and log in, and you’re done!

 

The success of this process has varied depending on your device, however I have it working wonderfully on my Nexus 7.

Enjoy!

Credits to Modaco founder Paul O’Brien for this patch.

Firefox Jumps on the Mobile OS Bandwagon at MWC 2013

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At Mobile World Congress, a bunch of people with ties huddled into a room in Barcelona, Spain to hear what Firefox had to say.

Firefox announced Firefox OS, a new mobile operating system that will inevitably compete against Apple, Android, and the other big names. I’m not going to go into super specific details, but here’s the important stuff:

Firefox OS has secured shipments on many different devices (many of them very cheap) from LG Electronics, Alcatel One Touch, and some other unheard of companies. It won’t be coming to any devices in the US until 2014.

The big headline of Firefox OS is that they’re ditching a typical app store and instead hoping to have an “open market” of HTML5 based apps. In essence, the OS is basically a web browser. “Apps” are actually just links to websites.

Essentially, I think this is a good idea that will succeed in foreign markets but not in the US.

I’ve covered the quality+userbase=userbase++ concept in my post about Google+. In case you didn’t read that, basically, any social networking site’s best feature is more users for people to socialize with. When you have users, other users want to join, and your user base will exponentially grow. This same system can be applied to app stores. For your phone to be successful, you need apps. For developers to make apps for your phone, there need to be users. For there to be users, there need to be apps. The more users you have, the more apps you have, the more users you have, the more apps you have, and so on.

Firefox OS has the edge here because the “apps” are all HTML based (websites). This means that anyone who has ever created a website has the knowledge to create an app for Firefox OS – so there are already 8 million developers for this OS. Removing the learning curve of a new language and new library for a mobile OS will make it much more compelling to developers and, in turn, more compelling to users.

Phones running Firefox OS are going to be released mainly in China and developing cell areas for a fairly cheap price. As a result, I think it will succeed in those markets where iPhones and Androids are often too expensive. I don’t think it’s going to succeed in America as the competition from Microsoft, RIM, Android, and iOS is very hot.

Overall, I think that Firefox OS is a controversial approach to the Mobile OS – websites as apps – and will thrive in less modernized countries, but fail in others.

 

Samsung’s CES 2013 Keynote: Powerful, Green Components, Bendy Displays, and Bill Clinton

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SAMSUNGINTRO

Well, once again, here I am at CES. Thanks to *you* (yes, YOU), I had enough traffic to this site to get a press pass – giving me easy access to the CES Keynotes.

This came in handy when I moseyed on past the crowds of “Industry Affiliates,” “Buyers,” and even “Exhibitors” through the security people and into the large door with “Press” above it to attend Samsung’s keynote. I was a little late to the party – I had no idea that press was allowed in an hour early. A fifth row seat isn’t too bad, though.

Samsung’s CEO Stephen Woo ran the show and talked about three main things: Processing, Memory, and Displays.

Processing

EXNOS5OCTA

The main focus of the processing portion was the new Exynos 5 OCTA
processor. This mobile processor has amazing power – enough to accomplish web searches, a restaurant finder, a GPS, and playing an HD video all simultaneously on a tablet. It also has twice as powerful 3D rendering – as demonstrated by Glenn Roland from EA and a scarily realistic Need for Speed game. The most impressive part of this processor, however, is that it uses 70% less energy than it’s predecessor. Thanks to Samsung’s partnership with ARM, the Exynos 5 OCTA features a technology called “Big Little” (how creative). Essentially, the processor has two sets of 4 cores: One set is of smaller Cortex A7s for simple, efficient browsing; The other of large, powerful Cortex A15s for complex 3D rendering and other processor-heavy tasks. This means that when you’re simply browsing the web, you’re not using a multitude of battery power, but when you open up Need for Speed you have a processing powerhouse at your fingertips.

With this new processor, Samsung showed how their Galaxy Camera would be able to support a 13 megapixel sensor. Woo then showed a video that essentially said that there is too much data on the internet, and it’s all a result of cats (and people making videos of them).

Memory

This section of the keynote was relatively boring. All of the data (that is the result of cats) is stored in data centers across the world, and if every single data center switched to Samsung’s solid state drives, enough energy would be saved to power New York City for 6 months.

Displays

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Brian Berkely Bends a Screen (Getty Images)

This is the area where Samsung got some real cheers from the crowd. Woo brought out Brian Berkely from Samsung’s San Jose Display Lab. Berkely started off talking about how displays have been undergoing a “pixel war”: All of the display manufacturers are battling to get the most pixels into the smallest amount of space. Samsung’s 10.1″ display has the best colors and highest pixel density of any tablet display ever made – 300 PPI. That’s the same resolution of a standard printer.

Berkely went on to talk about how OLED technology gives the brightest, most vivid displays. “They’re super thin and lightweight. Because OLEDS produce their own light, they don’t require thick, heavy, power consuming backlight. And now, thanks to Samsung technology, they can also be flexible.” He brought out a screen prototype and bent it around. Woo then showed a video of a phone that flips open to reveal a large tablet surface.

Then someone from microsoft came out and talked about how samsung is amazing blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah blah. He showed off Windows Phone on another bendy display. Then there was something with xbox. Here’s a link to an article written by someone who actually cares about it.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton?

Bill Clinton?

Mr. Woo went on talking about how this new technology should be available for all, and transitioned into the “Samsung Hope for Children” program – providing technology-rich education for third world countries. He then showed a video about the Bill Clinton foundation. And lo and behold, Bill Clinton walks out.

“When I became president, the average cell phone weighed five pounds… There were a grand total of fifty sites on the entire internet. Fifty. More than that have been added since I started talking.”

Then he went on talking about how technology has helped him, and he then somehow transitioned into talking about gun control.

My Thoughts

Samsung’s component announcements will mean very little to the consumer – until a product with one comes out.

Samsung’s display announcements will mean very little to the consumer – until a product with one comes out.

Samsung’s memory announcements mean very little to the consumer and only really appeals to manufacturers.

But in the end, showing off the components in the keynote gives consumers a look into the future of what might be possible using those components.

What we can really take away from this is that the technology exists to have extremely powerful devices with long battery life, energy efficient data centers, and crazy displays.

Oh, and I still don’t understand why Bill Clinton was there.

Instagram Announces Web Profiles

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Instagram, the mobile photo sharing network that was recently bought by facebook for a large sum, has now announced a web-based interface.

In the past, to view someone’s instagram profile, you needed a mobile device with the Instagram app installed. There were many online profile alternatives that were based off of Instagram’s API, but none of them were worth writing home about.

With this update, you’ll be able to find a facebook-like profile of someone’s instagram account by simply visiting instagram.com/username.

Source: Instagram

Even more importantly, Web Profiles also brings instagram to the web. It will now be possible to like and comment on photos as well as follow other users with the new web interface, and will eliminate the mobile-exclusivity aspect.

Just like the web profile, this has been done in the past with the Instagram API – in fact, quite well in one case. However, the Instagram-made site is bound to be impressive and a nice addition to the Instagram portfolio.

One thing worth mentioning is that the updated site will still not support photo uploads from a computer as “Instagram is focused on the production of photos from mobile devices” (Press Release). I don’t believe that the functionality will ever exist for this reason, however there are ways to upload a photo not taken with a mobile device to Instagram (such as dropbox).

All of these features will be rolled out to different accounts over the course of the next week.

My account has not gotten the update yet, but feel free to check by going to http://instagram.com/maxswisher.

Also, follow me on instagram! @maxswisher

 

The Sphero

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When I arrived at my first CES, one of the first things that I saw and experienced in depth was the Sphero. They had a medium sized booth, with a little track and some ramps. There were all of these tiny little white balls rolling around on it, and I must say – it looked pretty cool. A chat and a demo later, I saw what it was. It was a little ball that rolled around and was controlled by your iPhone or iPad. That was about it. The people at the booth told me that they would be evolving it and making it into an API for any developer to use, and that the product would be sold eventually for under $100. The prototypes at the stand were functional, but barely. A small drop and they would fall apart. Upon pressing the “boost” button, they would go crazy and lose their bearings. Not to mention that those were all they had with them, so when one broke down beyond repair they were simply down one. It looked promising. The concept was cool, it seemed flexible, it could definitely be something cool. After all, it was just a ball – which left plenty of room for the imagination of customers and developers.

It’s one year later. I’m back at CES. Upon walking into the convention center, I can see a giant rotating sphere that seems to be a giant model of the sphero. Upon arriving under said banner, I saw something big – much bigger than the year before. The booth was much larger, there were tons of spheros everywhere, and there were video presentations on TV monitors and banners and everything. Much, much, MUCH bigger than last year. It looked like they had really grown. Here they had these balls that were made out of a very solid plastic, had inductive chargers, sphero logos embedded on each one, and none of them were out of control. Heck, they were rolling them down concrete stairs! I checked over and they had really gotten somewhere.

The Concept

As I said before, this thing is a ball. It now has open APIs that any iOS or Android developer can use to integrate the sphero with their apps. The range of applications has grown, and there are apps available that can make the sphero a fake golf ball or even take advantage of the sphero’s accelerometer and gyroscope to use it as a game controller. The range of applications is constantly growing, so buying a sphero isn’t just buying a ball – it’s like buying a phone, who’s functionality will keep growing with more applications and updates.

The Ball

The Sphero itself doesn’t take up much space. It’s white, hard plastic that has no spaces or anywhere that the plastic snaps together or comes apart. In fact, it doesn’t have a charging port. If one were to look inside of a sphero (which would be very difficult considering that they would need to saw or melt open the outer shell), he would find an array of devices. There’s some motors as well as a main motherboard which contains a compass, accelerometer, gyroscope, bluetooth card, and a bunch of other robotic computing stuff. They would also find the multicolor LED that lights up the ball in any color you want. The sphero contains a standard lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which is charged through an inductive charger. For those of you who don’t know what an inductive charger is, it’s basically a charger that charges a battery through a material without having any physical contacts. These are sometimes found in electric toothbrush chargers, emergency flashlight chargers, and more recently on electronic devices such as the Palm Pre or the duracell powermat. To charge the sphero, just set it in its dock with the heavier part of the sphero on the bottom. Like magic, the sphero will start charging. Cool! To wake the ball up, just shake it. Yup. No switches here, just shake it as if it were a two week old container of orange juice and it will light up and be ready to play. Set it down on the ground, open up your iOS or android device, and start rolling. The sphero connects to your device through bluetooth. A user will notice a tail-like figure on the top of it. This shows the orientation of the sphero relative to the control mechanism in the application. If one picks up the sphero and spins it, she would notice that the mechanism inside would constantly adjust to maintain the set orientation. That’s part of the robotics at work. Overall, the sphero is one intelligent, intuitive ball.

The Interface

Sphero provides a few apps to demonstrate the basic functionalities of the sphero. The main app, Sphero Drive, simply allows the user to drive the sphero around. Here you won’t find any steering wheels or throttle nonsense – just a circle with a little sphero-shaped control in it. This eliminates the confusion that often comes when you’re driving a device towards you. With a steering wheel, it ends up becoming reversed, but with this interface, it’s not a problem. Put two fingers on the screen and rotate them, and you’ll see a blue dot on the sphero. Point it right towards yourself, then pushing the sphero in the app forward will cause the sphero to roll forward. Pushing it right will make it roll right. It’s as simple as that.

Apps

At the moment, Sphero has been releasing many different apps. One of them is the standard “Sphero Drive” application that I was mentioning up there. Others like Chromo use the sphero as a controller, and one app allows the user to play golf with it. At the moment, there are many different applications being developed and there’s always new ones available. Conclusion The Sphero is available from both Sphero’s website and now many brookstone stores for $130. I will say, that it is not a cheap toy – but think of it as a console, where there’s always new games out that you can buy. If you’re a developer, you can use Sphero’s open API to integrate it into your applications for free. Check out the sphero website for available apps, purchasing the Sphero, and using their free API. http://gosphero.com

P.S. Thank you Sphero for sending me the finished product!

Sales of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus are Illegal.

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Seriously people, I’m not kidding.

The phone that I just recently purchased (and love) is now illegal to be sold in the United States.

The culprit? Apple, as expected.

Apple filed a boatload of patent infringement lawsuits against samsung, and where there’s money there’s power. Apple won the lawsuit against Samsung with flying colors, and now the sales of the flagship android device are banned in the United States.

I’m one of those people who thinks that Apple is using its patents too harshly against the competition. It’s like a towel company saying to another towel company “HEY! We have white towels! You’re not allowed to! We’re the only ones who can sell white towels!!”

This isn’t the first time this has happened. Apple has fought (and mostly won) many different lawsuits with Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and every other company who dares set food in the world of creating a smartphone that could possibly compete with the iPhone. Apple went against HTC for the user interface. Motorola initiated the lawsuits against Apple saying that they infringed some their, then Apple said that Motorola infringed THEIR patents, then Motorola said that Apple infringed MORE patents, and the story goes on. In fact, nobody really knows what the patents were about in te first place.

The list goes on. In fact, there’s an entire wikipedia article full of them!

I don’t like the way Apple does things. That’s for sure. Profitable or not, it’s just not fair.

Koush Brings us Root Free Tethering

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Koush, you have improved the lives of android users once again.

In case you don’t know, Koush is the creator of ClockworkMod, the custom recovery that is used by rooters worldwide.

Koush has now brought us a root free USB tethering solution, for all of you who are either having problems with rooting (like if you have a rooted Galaxy Nexus and you updated to 4.0.4 OTA and your root is gone and no matter what you do you can’t get it back, *cough* *cough*) or if you don’t want to root your phone out of fear of destroying it.

It’s an extremely simple application. On your phone, you download the app for free from the android market Google Play. The free app is a 14 day trial, but you can buy the full version as an in-app purchase for $4.99 (worth it!).

Once you’ve downloaded the app on your phone, you just need to get the drivers for your computer. Now, you’re probably going to be downloading this app because at the time you don’t have internet, and Koush has thought of that as well. In the android app, you can download the app files onto your phone then transfer them onto your computer for installation. Genius!

The small connection application is available for Mac, Windows, and even Linux. Ubuntu users rejoice!

Once you’ve installed the driver, you’re ready to go. Tap the USB icon on your phone, click start on your computer, and in a few seconds, your computer will be connected to the internet through your phone’s network. Easy as that!

If this comes in handy for you, I highly recommend that you buy the app. Koush has created some amazing things for android, and without him flashing ROMs would be nearly impossible.

Thank you Koush for all of your contributions to Android!

Click here to download the app for Android.

How to Wirelessly Transfer Files to a Galaxy Nexus

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As you may know, the Galaxy Nexus does not have an option for USB Mass Storage. To transfer any files directly from a computer to the phone, it is necessary to plug it in with a USB Cable and open Google’s proprietary Android File Transfer application.

But what if you don’t have a cable? What then?

There’s a couple things you could do. Email works for smaller files, however for larger files things may go slowly and fall apart.

If you have a server or CloudApp or Puush account, you could upload it and then email  the link to yourself. This would work usually, however the Galaxy Nexus’s download manager often will download most of it, then suddenly fail at the end.

There’s also Bluetooth, which is often unreliable. I can’t transfer any files between my Mac and my Nexus over bluetooth, as it gives me a random warning which is just not worth trying to figure out.

There’s really only one good way: DROPBOX.

In case you don’t know, Dropbox is a service that allows you to have a folder on all of your computers that constantly stay in sync. When one file is added on one computer, it magically appears in the Dropbox folder of all of the other computers too. You have 2GB of space, and the real important part is that they have an Android app as well.

Simply open your Dropbox folder, transfer the file in, and wait a few moments for it to upload to the cloud. Then, open the free app on your Nexus. Tap the file that you just uploaded from your computer, and it should download and open. Voila, that’s how to wirelessly transfer a file from your computer to your Nexus without using bluetooth, servers, or anything else that’s ridiculously unreliable and confusing.

Download Dropbox for your Computer

Download Dropbox for Android

Spotify for Android gets Overhauled

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Pretty new artist page

Spotify is by far the best music service I have ever come across. For $10 a month, I get all of the new songs streamed to my computer and phone. For the price of one album a month, I can have as many songs and listen to all of them as many times as I want without any ads or issues. It’s magical!

The only problem is the the android app. It really lacks – the interface is a little bit hard to use, it doesn’t offer as much functionality as the desktop app, and the graphics are quite low resolution.

Well, not anymore. Spotify has released a preview of their new app, which features facebook- and twitter-like slide-out menus, cleaner, easier graphics, and a nicer, more refined playing menu. The interface is also a lot faster in general.

A nice new player interface

The application isn’t available on Google Play quite yet, as they’re working on adding a few more features like Last.fm scrobbling, folders, and more. However, if you’d like to update now, you can still download the preview of the new app.

First, you’ll need to open Settings > Applications and check the box that allows you to install applications from unknown sources. Next, open this post on your phone and tap here. The apk file should download. Next, pull down the notifications and tap the downloaded file. Follow the steps and in a few taps you’ll be enjoying the new spotify interface!

I’m excited that spotify is finally cleaning up their Android app – it was getting a bit, well, old.

Instagram Bought by Facebook for $1 BILLION

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Remember Instagram, the fun little quirky photo sharing service that just released an Android application?

As you may know, they’ve been growing in size since their launch and Instagram has become an extremely large and popular service.

Because of this, it was inevitable that they would eventually be purchased by an extremely large company… and who better than facebook?

First of all, $1,000,000,000 is a lot of money. A LOT. I didn’t really think that Instagram could be worth that much.

Second, a little note to Zuck and the whole facebook crew: Please, please, please, please don’t screw this up. Please don’t force it to be built in to the facebook interface. Don’t try to stick instagram into facebook, you’d be doing everybody a disservice. Also, don’t just get rid of the entire thing to eliminate competition.

We will have to see what Facebook is hoping to do with this photo-sharing giant, and I honestly hope that they don’t screw it up.

Instagram for Android

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Finally. At long, long, long, long, long, long, long last. Instagram has released their official Android Application.

In case you don’t know, Instagram is a photo-sharing platform which incorporates different fun-style effects and third party sharing into the mix. It’s been available for the iPhone since late 2010 and has collected over 30 million users. Yeah. Whow.

There were many speculations of an Android App over the past while, but no confirmed release date.

Now that Instagram has released their Android version, they are well on their way to a giant user base. After all, Android does have more of a market share than the iPhone.

As far as the application goes, it’s the exact same as the iPhone with one important exception: The android application does not have the tilt-shift function, a popular option among Instagrammers. (Tilt-shift is where a selected part of the photo is in focus and the rest is not.)

If you are an android user longing for some instagrammal love, click here to download the free app for android. Enjoy!