Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two Updated Evernote Clients

Busy day yesterday, so just now getting around to mention two great updates to the Evernote clients for Mac and for IOS (iPad/iPhone).

The Mac 3.0 version now supports the new Lion Operating System.

Features include a full screen mode, and a Favorite Bar.  Follow the link above to their blog post about the upgrade.

The upgrade is available in the Mac App Store or from Evernote directly.

And, the newest version for the iPhone and iPad now has Rich Text Editing, the ability to view shared notebooks, search within a note, and more.  The link takes you to their blog describing it more.

The upgrade is in the App Store.

Earthquakes are stalking me

I have to admit, as someone who lived in California for 20 years and had a front row seat to the 7.2 Loma Prieta Quake in 1989, I didn't take yesterdays 5.8 here in Virginia too seriously. However, turns out that quakes here travel a lot further because the Earth's crust here is older, and much harder.

There is also more damage here with a 5.8 then there would be with a quake of that size in San Francisco. There is a lot of masonry construction here, something unheard of in California. Schools are mostly make of concrete bricks. Schools in the epicenter community of Mineral VA had already opened for the year but now will be closed until after Labor Day.

And worrisome news, inspectors in a helicopter saw cracks in the upper reaches of the Washington Monument.

On another note, yesterday's Northern Virginia quake was the fourth strongest I'd experienced. While one scared the crap out of me, the others were just interesting.

And one was amusing; the 6.2 on April 24, 1984. I was at work in the stand alone computer store then in Macys San Francisco when it struck. I was talking to two business men visiting from Utah when it hit. We all stopped talking for a moment while it went through and I remember thinking, "I need to stay calm to keep them calm." Soon it was over, and they asked if it was a big one. I assured it was no big deal.

A couple minutes later, a salesperson from small electronics walked in the doorway of the department and was waited to get my attention. When I could, I asked if he needed me. "Sorry to interrupt, but we are having a pool."

I handed him a dollar, and said "Put me down for a 5.7.".

The Utah business men were astonished. "This really is a common thing for you!"

Update :  Funny related story on Google Plus this morning by the author of the XKCD comic:

Relevant comic

Google Plus link

Randal Munroe wrote :

I once heard a story (originally told by Kevin Young) about Gerson Goldhaber, who was a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. He was talking on the phone with another physicist at SLAC near Stanford University near the end of the day on Tuesday, October 17, 1989. The SLAC physicist suddenly interrupted with, "Gerson, I have to go! There's a very big earthquake happening!" and then hung up. So Gerson stepped out into a group of people in the hall, made a big show of yawning and checking his watch, then said, "Aren't we about due for an earthquake?" Before anyone could respond, the Loma Prieta earthquake reached Berkeley, and he became a legend.
My best friend from college is from Mineral, VA, a town of a few hundred people and one stoplight, which was at the epicenter of yesterday's quake. A few years ago, he moved to Sendai, Japan, where he got an apartment just a few miles from the coast. Fortunately, he survived the March earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. Last I heard from him, he was moving back home. He really can't catch a break.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Family Tech: Building a bridge over the digital divide

As kids head back to school, some are at a major disadvantage before they even enter the classroom.  Kids on the far side of the digital divide live in homes unable to afford $45 a month for broadband.

Now, Comcast is offering $10 a month internet to children eligible for the National Free Lunch program.

That, and other free tools to help bridge the Digital Divide is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.

Trying to make sense of HP

I never really thought the HP Touchpad had much of a chance.  Too little, too late.  With any kind of platform, it is all about apps.  Developers can handle developing for at most two platforms.

In fact, I suspect most want to develop for two.  Having all your apps on just one platform is putting all your eggs in one basket.  As Amazon found with Apple, a platform can pull the rug out from under a developer pretty quick by suddenly demanding, as Apple did, a 30% cut of the action that they had not previously.  Amazon recovered nicely with their HTML5 app that bypasses Apple's AppStore.  The mere existence of Android as competition should keep some of Apple's avarice at bay, at least to some degree.

Back to the Touchpad.  A third platform needs apps, and thus developers to make them.  Getting the hardware out there was part of the battle,  Courting the developers takes time.  Which is why HP's impatience with the platform seemed odd.

Today, Daring Fireball has a possible explanation that makes so much sense, I suspect it is right.

In a nutshell, Palm was purchased by the previous CEO.  The new CEO is the former CEO of SAP.  He does not know, nor care about, the PC or Tablet world.  He is an Enterprise guy.  His acquisition is Autonomy, an SAP like company.

So he has been planning to transform HP into an SAP like company.  The hardware business has to go.

Might have been nice to pickup an Touchpad for $99.  Or five.  As my brother said early in the life of the iPad, he wants them cheap enough to have in every room of the house.  But on the other hand, with Android tablets coming in now under $400, having an unsupported tablet makes little sense.  Maybe hackers will get Android running on it, but how well?  I had a period in my life when I tried to get also rans to behave like the big guys.   I actually owned a PCJr. at one time, and had a floppy drive for my Radio Shack Model 100.  Never as satisfying as a "real" solution.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Google Stuns the Mobile World

As an Android devotee, I was a bit worried about Android's exposure to patent law suits.  Today, Google went a long way to solving that problem by buying Motorola Mobility.

As the photo shows, Motorola has been around the mobile communication business a while.  Their patent trove should give pause to anyone wanting to challenge Google.

Google pledges to run Motorola as a separate business.  They are trying to balance their need to own a company like Motorola without ticking off the other manufacturers that support Android.

Hopefully, they will use Motorola though to come out with some awesome phones and tablets to serve as reference designs for other manufacturers, sort of what they have done with the Nexus phones produced to their specs by various manufacturers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wonder if Apple sees the Irony?

When the iPhone was released, Steve Jobs was asked if outside developers were going to be able to produce apps for it.  He replied that there was no need, that developers could produce HTML5 web apps and not need to access the phone.

Primarily as I recall, he attributed it to the cell phone networks worrying about their networks security if outside apps could interact with their networks.

Was he speaking the truth, or vamping until they could finish the developer tools and open the App Store?  He has a history of saying Apple had no intention of entering a market because it was not good for the customer, only to do so later.

Now, the Apple App store and development tools are good money earners for Apple.  And they want to sweeten the deal for themselves by demanding apps can only have in-app-store purchasing where Apple then lays claim to 30% of the revenue.

Not a big deal for game makers selling virtual weapons, but for Amazon and others selling books, the book sellers do not have 30% of margin to give away.  They would have to raise the prices to cover Apple's tax.  Meanwhile, Amazon could sell a book for less on Android tablets since Google does not charge that kind of premium.

Now Amazon has gotten around the program by, wait for it, building a Kindle Reader in HTML5 that seems at first blush to be as good as the IOS Kindle app.  Readers can even save their books to the local machine and read them when not connected to the web.

Amazon took Apple's advice from 2007 and nipped Apple's greed painfully.

Friday, August 12, 2011

This could be revolutionary

The next version of Chrome will be able to execute C++ and other code directly inside of the browser.

If I understand this correctly, this basically makes the browser real close to an operating system, and makes web only devices like the Chromebook even more functional.

One criticism of the the all-web-apps approach taken by the Chromebook is there are certain apps that do lend themselves to being a web app.  Video editing is one, it takes way too much processing power, and you can not have the editing on a server, and then the display downstream via the web.  Latency would be an issue; the video would be slow and jumpy.

By being able to execute code inside the browser, a browser only PC can do serious apps, like video editing.

This is going to lead to a new generation of web apps.

This article by TechCrunch says this is a long time coming, and refers to a talk in 2010 when Google first mentioned this.

In reality, this is what Microsoft feared starting at the dawn of the internet and why they fought hard to preempt other browsers or "choke off Netscape's air supply" as a Microsoft executive was quoted as once saying.

A browser back then able to execute code would have threatened the Windows OS dynasty.  And it would have let any upstart write a word processing program, host it on their server and entice users to visit the site and use their app.  Someone once said that it was easier to start a new airline then to get a word processor into the market to challenge Word.  This would have made it possible.

As well as apps like Google Docs does confronting Word using just Javascript, it will be much snappier and fully featured if redone in C++.

My next compute may be a Chromebook after all.

One huge fly in this ointment.  Using a Chromebook exclusively requires a net connection.  Not problem, we have a reliable one at home, and where I would want to do computer work when outside my home usually have good wifi connections.

It's the download caps my ISP, Comcast, has in place that's an issue.   Their 250 gig a month limit is ostensibly to protect my neighbors from users from me hogging all the bandwidth on the street.  In truth, many feel, and I agree, it is to limit our ability to enjoy video via streaming.  They want to protect their market in video.

My family has come much closer to hitting that limit the last couple months then ever before as my son is home and enjoying a lot of net video.

And it is not as if they simply charge more when we hit 250, but rather they cut off users for up to a year for violating the 250 gig if you do it two months in a row, as I understand it.

This alone may make me switch to FIOS which does not have the limit.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Evernote for Windows Upgraded

My favorite tool, Evernote, offered up a new version of their Windows client today.  The new version offers the ability to do audio notes.

Personally, I do not see much use for that, but one thing I've learned about Evernote is that no two people use it exactly the same way.  Audio notes might just be what some users desperately need.

Also, Evernote added the ability to customize the layout of the toolbar.

To get the upgrade, in your Windows Evernote client, go to the Help menu, Check for updates.

Dang it Google : App Inventor to be discontinued

I've written before about a Google Labs jewel called App Inventor.  It allows non-programmers, or hobbyist programmers like myself, to create programs for Android phones and tablets.

Now news that as part of Google's elimination of many of their Labs ( their source of not fully realized products and add-ons), App Inventor will be discontinued.

Per Google :
With the winding down of Google Labs, Google will discontinue App Inventor as a Google product and will open source the code. Additionally, because of App Inventor’s success in the education space, we are exploring opportunities to support the educational use of App Inventor on an open source platform.
As a result of these changes App Inventor will be available through the end of the year but users should expect the current App Inventor URL, to change sometime in the next 90 days. Please subscribe to the App Inventor Announcement forum for future updates.
And then, almost cruelly, the post goes on to talk about how great App Inventor is.

With Android tablets now reaching sub-$300 price points, I'd anticipated more and more students getting access to tablets.  I know of an Autism teacher using an iPad very successfully with her students.  Many parents look on and wish they could afford an iPad.  The less expensive Android tablets are getting into their reach.

I could see special apps being designed for individual student's needs using App Inventor.

Let's hope App Inventor stays available for those of us not in a University setting.

And hopefully, maybe..., some company will take the App Inventor code and enhance it further and make it more usable   Right now, it is a useful toy, but with a little development effort, that it won't be getting from Google now, it could be a great tool.

I've written about App Inventor before.

Via: Jason Howell on Google+

Monday, August 8, 2011

$10 Broadband to Families that need it most

There seems to be more and more every day that can only be done online.  Finding out what your kid is doing at school, emailing your boss, emailing your kids teacher, finding a better job, finding work at all, and so much more.

Thankfully libraries offer free internet access to those that do not have access to the net otherwise.  However, that time is limited and for someone in a bad place in life, finding the time maybe while working two jobs to take a bus or two to the library to get online for an hour is daunting.

In exchange for approval of the acquisition of NBC by Comcast, Comcast agreed to make broadband available for $10 a month to low income families.

Comcast has a website now explaining the program.  If a family has even one child in the free lunch program, they are entitled to inexpensive internet.

Some are saying those of us all ready overpaying for broadband are subsidizing this program.  True.  But, our costs wouldn't go down if this program is eliminated, and it is not going up because of it.  More access to the net by all is a good thing for society.  Finland thinks this so strongly it considered broadband access to be a basic human right.

Until we can figure out a way to make the duopoly that controls our broadband to provide higher speed access for the great rates often seen in other countries (PDF link). this $10 a month internet for needy families is the best we can do.

iPad for College Revisited

A year ago in a Family Tech column I concluded the iPad was not yet ready to be a student's sole machine at college.  I revisited that topic in this week's Family Tech column.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Special to Readers of this Blog

I am going to try to avoid the words that will let non-readers find out about this through a web search, so if the wording seems odd, that is why.

If you would like to join a certain huge web search companies new social site, you know, the product that starts with a G and has the opposite of a minus sign as part of the name, then click this link.  I have 150 of the opportunities available.

If you do join and you add me to a circle, email me and let me know you have so I can put you in a circle back.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Setting up a new Android Phone

Alas, it will be another 17 months before my contract expires and I get to setup a new Android phone, but if you are facing the task, Lifehacker.com just published an excellent guide for those new to Android.  Besides today's "How to Setup your New Android Phone", don't forget Keven Purdy's excellent ebook "The Complete Guide to Android".

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Affordable Charging Solutions

I finally got around and ordered the four port USB charging device I mentioned a couple posts back.  My first impression is good.  It is small, about the size of my cell phone.  It worked fine for my phone and an iPod touch at the same time.

It's only rated at 500mah, and the packaging does not say it works for the iPad.  When I hooked up my iPad when it was at 10% if could not keep up with my using the iPad.  I went down to about 4% while I worked.

I then left it hooked up while not using it, but with the iPad on with screen off, and it went up to 16% in an hour.

I then hooked the iPad up to its normal charger it and it gained about 30% in the first hour it was hooked up.  I haven't solely charged the iPad on the device yet overnight, but I think as long as it is hooked up for nine hours or so it will charge.  Test yourself to be sure.

Overall for just shy of $7 US, its a pretty handy device.  It definitely goes into my travel pack.

There is a unit on Amazon claiming iPad compatibility with only 2 ports and for $18.

Thanks go the European Union for mandating a few years ago that all cell phones had to use a standard charger.  That is why we now see cell phones all using the same charger; manufacturers do not want to have different models for the US and another for Europe so we benefit too. Remember when you could only order the charger from your cell provider for like $40 and then it was obsolete when you bought a new phone?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Family Tech : Apps for Students

College is project management. It is full of tasks, deadlines, etc. just like project management. I found a few smart phone apps that help students track all their tasks, deadlines, exams, professions and schedules. This is the topic of this week's Family Tech column.