The Daily Roundup for 02.28.2013

By David Fishman

DNP The Daily RoundUp

You might say the day is never really done in consumer technology news. Your workday, however, hopefully draws to a close at some point. This is the Daily Roundup on Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines for the past 24 hours — all handpicked by the editors here at the site. Click on through the break, and enjoy.

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From: Engadget

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason fired after ridiculously poor earnings

By Cyrus Farivar

After Groupon’s financial earnings were so bad that they caused the company’s stock to fall 25 percent in a single day on Thursday, Groupon promptly fired its CEO, Andrew Mason.

“After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family,” he wrote in a note to employees, which was published by the Wall Street Journal. “Just kidding—I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention.”

Interestingly, Wall Street seems to have responded positively to the news. As of this writing, the stock is up 4 percent in after-hours trading, hovering around $4.72 per share.

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From: Ars Technica

HTC’s Zoe Share site comes to life

By Robert Nelson

The HTC One is not available for the general public just yet, however that has not stopped some Zoe collages from appearing on the Zoe Share website. There doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming amount of the videos available at the moment, however there are enough so you can begin to get a good look at exactly what these will be. After all, sometimes things just make a bit more sense when you can see them as opposed to read about them.

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That being said, lets first briefly explain the Zoe. These are essentially a mix of video and still images. You can create a Zoe (using an HTC One) by hitting the icon for the Zoe Mode. Once here you tap the on-screen button and the phone sets about capturing some HD video and still frame images and then packages it all together in a Zoe, which is 30-seconds in length. Below is a video from the HTC One launch event that goes a bit further into detail on the Zoe.

The big thing we have heard since is that this all sounds a bit gimmicky. Well, to that we say plenty of things can have that appearance in the beginning. The one thing that may keep the Zoe clips from being super popular is the fact that they can only be created but those with an HTC One. That bit alone may keep these in the gimmick category but as always, we will have to see how this plays out once the handset is readily available.

Anyway, back to the Zoe clips that are beginning to surface. So far there have been a handful discovered by way of some social media searches. You can check them out by surfing to the following three links; Zoe (1), Zoe (2) and Zoe (3). So how about it, any thoughts on the Zoe? Do you think these will be the next big thing, or the next big flop?

[via Android and Me]


HTC’s Zoe Share site comes to life is written by Robert Nelson & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

From: SlashGear

Xbox 360 250GB Spring Value bundle now available in the US for $299

By Edgar Alvarez

Xbox 360 250GB Spring Value bundle now available in the US for $299

Sure, the next wave of gaming consoles may be arriving pretty soon, but while we wait for the PS4 and whatever Microsoft has in store for us, why not have yet another Xbox 360 bundle to choose from, right? Today the Redmond-based company released its Spring Value set, which includes that slim console with 250GB of storage space (as well as the accustomed peripherals, of course), one month gratis of Xbox Live Gold and, perhaps to make it all worthwhile, Darksiders II and Batman: Arkham City — although the latter of the two will be available via download code rather than as a physical copy. Folks that call the good ol’ US of A home can snag the fresh bundle starting today for $299, which is on par with similar bundles that Microsoft’s released in the past — granted it’s not as sleek-looking as some of the pricier ones.

Filed under: Gaming, Home Entertainment, HD, Microsoft

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Source: Major Nelson

From: Engadget

Amazon Web Services Drops Its Pricing On Messaging And Notification Services

By Alex Williams aws-logo-640

Amazon Web Services has once again dropped its pricing. This time the decrease is for two of its services:  Simple Queue Service (SQS) and the Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS).

According to AWS, SQS offers a scalable, hosted queue for storing messages as they travel between computers. Developers can  move data between distributed components of their applications that perform different tasks without losing messages or requiring each component to be always available. Amazon SQS is designed to make it easy to build an automated workflow, working in close conjunction with the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and the other AWS infrastructure web services.

SNS is a web service to set up, operate and send notifications from the cloud. It provides developers with a capability to publish messages from an application and deliver them to subscribers or other applications. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers.

The price decreases are as follows:

  • SQS API prices will decrease by 50%, to $0.50 per million API requests.
  • SNS API prices will decrease by 17%, to $0.50 per million API requests.
  • The SQS and SNS free tiers will each expand to 1 million free API requests per month, up 10x from 100K requests per month.

The new prices take effect tomorrow and are applicable in all AWS Regions with the exception of the AWS GovCloud (US).

The price drops are in line with AWS strategy. It consistently decreases prices for all aspects of its services such as AWS believes it can engage in a “virtuous circle” as it buys more servers at scale. The scaling effect means it gets volume discounts and more compute power that it can optimize for the customer. With those efficiencies, it gives AWS room to be more flexible in its pricing with its various services.

But the price decrease also illustrates how fierce competition is getting. Google Compute Engine (GCE) and Windows Azure also continue to drop prices. OpenStack will lead to more infrastructure availability. The competition is only increasing, and a race to drop pricing can only have so much value.


From: TechCrunch

The 5 Commandments Of Data And Why Analytics Efforts Are Still A Big Old Mess

By Alex Williams datacenter

The perception that big data is still incredibly complex to understand is right on the money. There are examples of how the complexity is getting abstracted. But still, even when I talk to data scientists they will say how they are still mastering the tools to simply show data in something besides a spreadsheet.

Marck Vaisman, a freelance data scientist, said in an interview that the issue for most everyone is as much about the technology’s complexity as it is about the people who are trying to figure out what to do. Too often, only a few people actually understand how to use the data that they have. And their ability to explain it is limited. Further, there are few organizations that take holistic approaches to doing data analytics, leaving instead a fragmented array of projects that have differing approaches and overlap and do little to provide value.

Pitfalls abound but the fundamentals are what matters. Vaisman distills it down to five commandments, a set of principles he has developed and written about in a book by O’Reilly Publishing called “The Bad Data Handbook.”

In this confusion, we find vendors who promise great speed and ability. But often, what companies need is a more calibrated approach that matches the amount of data they want to work for them with applications that have a correlating velocity. Executives from Accenture, which has built a practice around data analytics, outlined how they view the market in a brief interview I also did at Strata.

Data has to be a strategic asset. The presence of consultants at a conference like Strata shows how much confusion people still have in realizing how to get the value that vendors promise in such bountiful amounts.


From: TechCrunch

Nokia “Head Up”: How Lumia’s future is sharper than Glass

By Chris Davies

Are wearables like Google Glass the inevitable future for smartphones? Not if you ask Nokia, where simply floating a display in your line of sight doesn’t quite satisfy the self-imposed “head up” challenge its designers and engineers are facing. The evolution of Lumia isn’t just bigger displays or faster chips, it’s a new way of interacting with the digital world. SlashGear sat down with Jo Harlow, EVP of Smart Devices, Marco Ahtisaari, EVP of Design, and Stefan Pannenbecker, VP of Industrial Design at Mobile World Congress this week to talk “people versus robots”, rolling back the clock on convergence, and how the Finns want to pry our eyes away from smartphone screens, even if we’re looking at a Lumia.

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Spend any time talking future tech to Nokia’s executives, and you realize there are two themes running through their predictions. First, and perhaps most familiar to most industry watchers, there’s the relentless advance of sensors and the complexity of devices, with capabilities always evolving. Nokia differs in some respects in how its management see the form-factor of those devices: rather than a single, increasingly powerful phone in your pocket, all three VPs talked about a resurgence in dedicated devices; products that, as Marco Ahtisaari described it, “do a few things really well.”

Secondly, and arguably a more contrarian stance than others in the segment, is a desire to actually reduce the attention that’s paid to smartphones and mobile devices. Ahtisaari coined the phrase “heads up” internally to describe it, though it’s become an ethos for the long-term shared by others in the design team, like Stefan Pannenbecker.

“How can we get the “heads up”?”

“We see sometimes couples, out in a restaurant, romantically texting each other, or broadcasting… so that type of phenomena is interesting, and in a way bugs us a little bit, because the question is how can we get the “heads up”?” the Industrial Design chief explained to us. “So we do a lot of work on all kinds of levels in order to think that scenario through: what does that mean? So we’re interested in that type of topic, how do we get people’s heads up again.”

Nokia isn’t expecting to address that question in the next few months, or even the next couple of years. As Marco Ahtisaari told us, it’s an example of the company’s longer-term planning, though as an internal culture of design it has an impact on the Lumia devices we’ll see over the coming years. “The one thing I would say is that I talk about the “heads-up” principle in the studio, it’s like a 20-year principle. Creating computing technology that’s with us that doesn’t require more attention” he said.

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“And part of this pinning-to-Start [in the Windows Phone homescreen] is one example of that; things we’ve done with the glanceable, low-power mode on our devices in the past is an example of that; the NFC work we’re doing is an example of that,” Ahtisaari counted off. “You just touch the environment: the world becomes your interface, rather than having to go through twelve swipe-swipe-swipe. So that’s another component of that future, I think, and very important as we go to more distributed objects that do only a few things.”

Having got to a point where a person’s smartphone is often also their camera, their music player, their fitness tracker, and more, it might seem counter-intuitive to be considering breaking apart those components and turning again to individual gadgets. However, there’s a strong feeling within Nokia that specificity has its own advantages.

“There’s room again for devices that do a few things really well”

“I think there’ll be room for more and more dedicated devices that do a few things really well again” Ahtisaari predicts. “And that is slightly a contrarian view, but I think what we’ll see is increasing complexity and ability… you can either shortcut through the environment, but this means also space for dedicated devices that do a few things really well. Yes, a phone, but other functionalities too.”

Right now, all three executives are coy on what, exactly, Nokia’s portfolio of answers to these questions might look like. However, they’re more vocal on what they probably won’t be, and the approach seems less “in your face” than Glass, and more cautious than the “confident” search and prediction of Google Now.

nokia_frame_concept

“I’m not going to speculate [about Glass] because time will tell with regards what is the right execution with regards to this idea of “heads-up”, so I think we’ve a lot of work to do, frankly, so I’m not going to speculate about that” Pannenbecker said. “But I think, as I said, this is for me an area that we want to engage in, I mean, this topic of heads-up not this particular solution for example. As I said, there’s a whole bandwidth of opportunities, and I think we as a company need to look very deeply into these opportunities, and then commit.”

For Harlow, the question is of need: or, more accurately, the balance of plain geek appeal – as perhaps Google Glass embodies – against relevance to mass-market consumers. “I think that it’s just as true in any of these new areas that you have to solve the fundamental consumer problems, and you can’t… you innovate for the sake of innovation” the smartphones boss argued. “Usually there’s a small number of people who find them really cool, and the vast majority don’t see a reason why. That the use case is so on-the-point that they don’t see it.”

In fact, there’s a sense among all three that the Glass strategy – that is, taking what components might usually be associated with a smartphone, and making them something you can wear – is too easy a way out. Yes, there are battery challenges, and persistent wireless demands, and the need to craft an interface and interaction paradigm that suits a more hands-off usage style, but a wearable computer doesn’t necessarily address either user-need nor go far enough in liberating users from the tyranny of persistent, connected distraction.

“Either they solve latent needs, or unknown problems”

“I think that’s why you see fitness all over the place, because clearly if people stick with it then it can help solve a problem” Harlow explains, “but that’s where I think the energy will really come from, either that they solve latent needs that consumers can’t necessarily articulate, or solve unknown problems that they have and that sensors would solve.”

While the most attention has been paid to Nokia’s evolving Windows Phone handset range, the company has also been working on matching accessories, pushing ideas like wireless charging and NFC pairing. That focus on a well-designed, integrated ecosystem looks likely to spawn a family of shared technologies, each delivering its own component part of the overall usability.

nokia_morph_concept

“That’s something which we’re working on, and I’m not in a position… I will not talk about specific solutions to that, but absolutely that is a challenge for us” Pannenbecker agreed. “For us as designers. Because ultimately again it comes to better problems. This is more what we think a smartphone is supposed to be [holds up phone], but I think obviously there’s other ways of doing that.”

Nokia hasn’t been afraid of riffing on those possibilities in the past with concept designs, however. Its 2009 “Mixed Reality” headset predated Google Glass, and was envisaged with its own suite of accessories and sensors: a motion-tracking wristband for navigating a wearable display, for instance, along with wireless audio. Meanwhile, the idea of paring back information in a more context-driven way has also been explored, such as the Nokia-prompted “Frame” concept device that rethought the smartphone into a window that blurred the physical and digital worlds. Arguably it’s an idea that has expressed itself in Nokia City Lens, the augmented reality app now publicly available for Windows Phone.

Just as Google Now relies on its context engine, so has Nokia Research been pushing its own predictive technologies to better focus the user-experience. We mentioned the 2009 “Linked Internet UI Concept” from Nokia Research to Marco Ahtisaari, a project which learned from social networking attention and prioritized updates and geo-location of those people it calculated the user was most interested in, and asked him where the company’s roadmap was on integrating such ideas into its software.

“Partly that’s a question of focus” he said, pointing out that Nokia needed first of all to prove itself with a successfully selling Lumia range of phones. “Like I said, the most important thing we can do now is show momentum. These are things we definitely work on.”

However, he also argued that there is risk in making mobile devices too intelligent – or portraying them as having intelligence – because you run the risk of leaving the user feeling at odds with their device, not enabled by it. “If this makes sense there’s robots and people. People versus robots” Ahtisaari said, somewhat cryptically. “We’re on the side of people, in general. What I mean by that is certain personalization you can do, goes a long way. And the other example, if you took that, would be “hello, we just reconfigured your phone, it’s got all the people here, and we set it up for you”.”

“We’ve got the auto-magic today, it’s just making it not feel creepy”

In fact, Nokia could already integrate that sort of contextual technology into its phones today; the reservation is one of how the mainstream user – not the Glass aficionado – might react to that. “We’ve all of that auto-magic today, it’s just doing it in a way that doesn’t feel creepy, or has violated what you do” he argued. “It’s striking that balance. But definitely, the two things you’ve mentioned – contextually and prediction – are important.”

nokia_lumia

It’s early days for Nokia to look too far beyond smartphones; the Lumia line-up has only just reached five Windows Phone 8 handsets, the platform itself still holds an extreme minority share, and there’s no sign of a tablet on the horizon, at least not publicly. Nonetheless, it seems we can expect something other than a set of Windows Phone goggles.

“I’m not going to speculate [about Glass] because time will tell with regards what is the right execution with regards to this idea of “heads-up”, so I think we’ve a lot of work to do, frankly, so I’m not going to speculate about that” Pannenbecker demurred. “But I think, as I said, this is for me an area that we want to engage in, I mean, this topic of heads-up not this particular solution for example. As I said, there’s a whole bandwidth of opportunities, and I think we as a company need to look very deeply into these opportunities, and then commit.”

Though the strategies may be very different, there’s one thing Nokia and Google do agree on: the name of the game is elevating users from the voracious attention-soak of the touchscreen, not finding more ways of putting it in front of them. “If they require as much attention as a smartphone, then no more human contact” Ahitsaari concluded. “That’s the perspective we have, we’re still in the people-connecting business.”


Nokia “Head Up”: How Lumia’s future is sharper than Glass is written by Chris Davies & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

From: SlashGear

OUYA's Kellee Santiago talks game publishing, her new role as Head of Developer Relations

By Ben Gilbert

When Kellee Santiago resigned from her previous gig as president of thatgamecompany, she left behind a job running one of the most highly acclaimed indie game studios in the industry. But she left on a high note, having helped craft Journey — not just one of the best games of 2012, but a high mark on the medium. Her next move is similarly bold, taking the reins of the Android-powered OUYA console’s digital content library as “Head of Developer Relations.” On Santiago’s LinkedIn profile, she describes her new job as, “curator of content for the games section on OUYA” (among other things); a job she’s plenty qualified for given her time on the board of the Indie Fund (an angel investment group of successful indie game devs). “This role seems almost like a logical extension of everything I’ve done up to this point,” Santiago told us in an email interview this afternoon. Indeed it does. In her new role at OUYA, Santiago will be “working with many developers globally and in different capacities,” she said, as well as managing the digital library that users at home see.

“I’m very passionate about empowering new voices in game development so we can have more variety in game content — that’s what initially led me to co-founding thatgamecompany, and Indie Fund, and working with the Independent Games Summit, and IndieCade,” she added. The job of course includes courting devs, even if that means OUYA assists in the funding and publishing of those devs’ games. “OUYA is doing both,” Santiago told us — that’s no doubt assisted by the $8.5 million OUYA pulled in during its Kickstarter funding campaign.

Despite her passion for indies, she said there’s no “arbitrary restrictions for developing on OUYA,” and that her guiding principle is identifying, “developers and content that for whatever reasons wouldn’t be able to exist on any other console.” In other words, there’s no reason one of the biggies — think EA, Activision, Ubisoft and others — couldn’t get in on the action. Square Enix has already promised a variety of titles, so it seems a given that others will sign on. One developer who’s still curiously uncertain about the console, however? Santiago herself. Though she teased on Twitter earlier today that she’ll, “still be making stuff, too,” and not to worry, she wouldn’t offer us any more details about her plans for development on OUYA. Again, it seems a given, but we can’t help but want to know more sooner than later.

Filed under: Gaming, Software, HD

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From: Engadget

Google CFO says the Motorola pipeline doesn't 'wow,' hasn't heard of the Osborne Effect

By Jon Fingas

Google CFO says the Motorola pipeline doesn't 'wow,' may want to read up on the Osborne Effect

Common wisdom would suggest that executives talk up their existing device lines to keep customers buying until the next generation is ready. Leave it to Google CFO Patrick Pichette to think outside the box, if not necessarily for the better. He told guests at the Morgan Stanley Technology Conference that the current roster, while good, doesn’t “‘wow’ by Google standards” — it reflects the 18-month device pipeline that fell in Google’s lap when it acquired Motorola last year. As such, we won’t see the full fruits of collaboration until Google has owned Motorola for long enough to put its own spin on products. While the remarks stoke the fires of anticipation for any future flagships, they may have unintentionally produced an Osborne Effect: however advanced Motorola’s phones will be in the near term, customers may still have the nagging suspicion that something better is just around the corner.

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile, Google

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Source: The Verge

From: Engadget

Bradley Manning Pleads Guilty For Supplying WikiLeaks, Says Newspapers Ignored Calls

By Gregory Ferenstein bradley-manning

Private First Class Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to leaking classified government documents to WikiLeaks. Reading from a 35-page statement, Manning said he leaked diplomatic cables to “spark a domestic debate as to the role of the military and foreign policy in general,” but denies aiding the enemy. Perhaps most revealing, Manning said that he first attempted to go to media outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, but his calls were rerouted to voicemail.

The soldier, who has been held in detention for over 1,000 days, has become an icon of open information and civil liberties. Manning was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize after being widely credited for helping to spark the Arab Spring of 2010. Leaked documents corroborated long-held suspicions of Tunisia’s corrupt government, inciting the citizens to overthrow their leader and inspire similar revolutions throughout the Middle East.

While Manning’s lengthy detainment and bouts of solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day have been harshly criticized, a court found that he “has not been denied a speedy trial despite his lengthy pretrial confinement.” President Obama himself once explained that “he broke the law” in an implicit agreement with Manning’s treatment.

Manning, who pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges of misusing classified information, faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.


From: TechCrunch

Hardware Startup Outex Takes To Kickstarter To Fund Its Go-Anywhere SLR Camera Housing

By Darrell Etherington outex

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I like to use my SLR, but there are many times when I leave it behind because I’m not sure whether it’ll be able to handle the conditions I plan to be using it in. LA-based hardware startup Outex is trying to make sure that photographers can use their cameras anywhere, without having to fork over north of $1,000 for environmental protection gear, and it’s taking to Kickstater to fund the latest piece in its product puzzle.

The Outex is a flexible casing for DSLR and other interchangeable lens cameras (it works with mirrorless systems, too) created by founder JR deSouza and his cousin Roberto Miglioli based on their shared love of photography, a hand-me-down from their grandfather, and a lack of good affordable options on the market for protecting cameras during use in harsh conditions. DeSouza told me in an interview that he and his cousin needed something that would work for surfing, kayaking, shooting around the pool, military applications and more, but that didn’t mean sacrificing portability or spending a mint to buy.

In a little over a year, the company has already managed to rack up some impressive customers, including photographers working for Red Bull, National Geographic, Outside Magazine and Vogue. The Outex is being used by a lot of videographers now, too, and the company wanted to build a solution into its product that better serves that market, while also opening up new possibilities for still photography. That’s what this Kickstarter project is about: funding the creation of the “Big O,” an LCD viewfinder window for the Outex.

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DeSouza says they came up with the window after first toying with the idea of adding some kind of external LCD monitor to the Outex, and then realizing that the simpler, better and more widely compatible solution would be to simply add a glass window to the case (which itself resembles a kind of camera wetsuit) that would allow the built-in monitors on cameras to be used in any circumstances. Being able to see the viewfinder while the camera was in the Outex was one of the most common customer requests, however, according to deSouza, so coming up with some kind of solution was necessary.

Seeking Kickstarter backing is a first for Outex, and deSouza explained that the reason it went the crowdfunding route this time around was actually the result of a combination of factors.

“I felt that Kickstarter would be a good opportunity to accelerate our development,” deSouza explained. “The key is to be genuine and to do Kickstarter for what it is, and it becomes a great opportunity to get the word out and discover other things[...] I really do think there’s value to the community and the discovery process that also comes along with Kickstarter.”

Outex isn’t meant to be hardcore scuba gear like the Ikelite protectors favored by professional photographers, but where those cost around $1,500, a $375 pledge gets you everything you need to outfit your SLR with protection for up to 10 meters of submersion, as well as a host of other environmental perils. With the cost of high-quality photo gear coming down, it’s only fitting that a hardware startup emerges to so challenge the price tag on some of the more expensive accessories, too.

From: CunchGear

Fujitsu’s Senior-Focused Smartphone Is A Thoughtful Use Of Android That Tucks Away Complexity

By Natasha Lomas stylistic-homescreen-2

Japanese electronics company Fujitsu has taken its time pushing beyond its home smartphone market. The company is best known for slick, slender high end smartphones in Japan but earlier this month it announced a European play — eschewing the crowded top tier of devices in favour of a niche in the seniors space, with a custom skinned Android-based smartphone. The Stylistic S-01 is designed to be easier for older people to use. Fujitsu is bringing the device to France in partnership with France Telecom/Orange in June but was showing it off at Mobile World Congress, where we went hands on.

Now Fujitsu is not the first to enter the senior mobile space. Other established players include Emporia, which basically makes simplified feature phones, and Doro, which makes a mix of devices (including dabbling in tablet software). Doro was showing off its own Android-based seniors phone at MWC last year so, again, Fujitsu is a follower here too. But late to the party though it is, it has crafted what feels like a solid and well thought through first offering.

The handset has a rubberised coating to add grip and more curves than the sleek, slick high end smartphones du jour so rests nicely on the palm and feels less inclined to take a tumble than the average slab phone. On the front, there’s a clearly labelled home button below the 4 inch touchscreen. The button is slightly convex making it stand out so it’s easy to press. The buttons on the side of the device — power and volume up & down keys on one side, plus a dedicated camera key on the other — are also labelled (albeit with icons). These keys are raised slightly but don’t feel like they stick out enough to press accidentally.

Click to view slideshow.

Fujitsu has made the Stylistic S-01′s capacitive touchscreen deliberately less sensitive to cut back on erroneous key presses for a target group of users which isn’t likely to be as dexterous as the average mobile owner. The screen didn’t feel awkwardly unresponsive during my hands on but on-screen buttons did sometimes need a more deliberate press — which seems like a reassuring feature for the intended user-base.

There are a couple of odd hardware touches. The Micro USB port sits behind a cover which has to be prised off with a fingernail. The cover has likely been included because the phone is dust and waterproof but it does mean that accessing the charging port isn’t as easy as it could be.

The phone is also equipped with an alarm — in case of emergencies. This makes a loud noise to alert people in the vicinity that the owner is in trouble and also dials out pre-chosen contacts. The alarm is located on the back of the device, to the left of the camera lens. The physical switch is rather small and again has to be pushed out with a fingernail or similar. Of course it’s no good having the alarm go off accidentally but in an emergency it could prove a little difficult to activate.

Android but not as you know it

Moving on to the software, this is where the phone really stands out from the Android crowd, thanks to a simplified custom UI that foregrounds key functions, tucks away complexity and does a spot of thoughtful hand-holding — with help buttons and guides and even a phone manual included on the device. The homescreen is divided up into large, clearly labelled icons that decrease in size as you scroll down to reach functions that are likely to be accessed less. The two largest buttons are the call button, and the phonebook (a much more senior-friendly way to describe contacts).

Messages and email also appear on screen at the top of the homescreen, along with three numbered buttons that can be pre-set with specific functions for quick access. Scroll further down and there’s an info widget displaying news updates and weather. Below that, there are a variety of phone functions laid out in a grid of squares — and again clearly labelled. These include Internet, camera, maps, video, gallery, a help forum and a manual. The only button that stands out as slightly obtuse is the one labelled ‘Play Store’ (thanks Google).

Android apps can be downloaded to the phone via the Play Store, or via a ‘download apps’ button. Other preloaded apps are tucked away under ‘More applications’ and ‘Orange services’ — so although the phone has been simplified, the functionality has not been removed entirely. Rather they are cleared out of harm’s way until the user feels confident enough to drill a little deeper.

There are lots of thoughtful little touches in the design, such as the Phonebook app being made to resemble a traditional filofax, and the button called ‘My number’ to help users out who can’t remember their phone number. The gallery also includes a ‘Take a picture’ button, to steer anyone who went into the gallery looking for the camera in the right direction. The back button is also clearly labelled with the word ‘back’ — rather than having a cryptic symbol to confuse people. And the browser has a question mark button at the top which leads to a help page to explain the browsing process for first time mobile web users.

Elsewhere apps are nicely stripped down, simplified and clearly labelled — such as the camera app, which has just a camera button and a flash toggle button, and the dialler app which has two folder-style tabs to show either a dial option, or history (for call log). Time has clearly been well spent by the UI designer figuring out an intelligent way to layer a smartphone for a senior user-base that will probably feel most comfortable taking small steps away from telephones in order to get to know smartphones.

Click to view slideshow.

From: CunchGear

The Chubby vWand Stylus Can Bring NFC Support To Non-NFC Smartphones And Tablets

By Chris Velazco vwand

NFC has always struck me as one of those things that everyone says is going to get really big next year, and the growing number of smartphones and tablets that come bearing support for the standard is proof that at least a few people care about it. But what if you want to experience the NFC lifestyle but your gadget(s) of choice don’t play nice with it? Enter Spain-based Sistel Networks, and its vWand stylus.

Put very simply, the vWand is part capacitive stylus, part Bluetooth-friendly NFC adapter — once it’s linked up to your tablet or smartphone of choice via Bluetooth you’ll have a pen that’s capable of reading from and writing data to NFC elements.

The vWand is a chubby little thing, but it’s not overly heavy thanks to its lightweight, plasticky (but comfortable) body. A pair of LEDs ride high on the vWand’s shaft to let the user know when it’s on and ready to scan, and a more-than-adequate chunky capacitive nib (not entirely unlike the end of Wacom’s Bamboo Stylus) allowed me to doodle to my heart’s content in Paper for a few moments. The real magic happens on the other end though — tapping the vWand’s butt to a set of preset NFC tags at the vWand booth prompted the connected Android tablet to fire up the messaging app, bring up the dialer, or load particular web pages.



As neat as the vWand concept sounds, chances are you won’t be linking this up to your iPad or Galaxy Note anytime soon. At this stage it’s meant mostly as a b2b device, and Sistel Networks is looking to pick up traction in a slew of fields ranging from healthcare (think doctors scanning NFC-enabled wristbands or something) to retail and logistics though company representatives didn’t completely rule out the notion that consumers would one day be able to buy one too. In fairness, the vWand certainly makes sense as a tool to be used in those lines of business, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting one just to muck around with.

From: CunchGear

Expand Photo Contest: Win a Samsung Galaxy Camera!

By Barb Dybwad

Engadget Expand Photo Contest Win a Samsung Galaxy Camera!
Our first ever Expand event is around the corner, this March 16-17 in San Francisco. In addition to oodles of interesting speakers, there’ll be shiny sights to see: robots, retro games, of course gadgets galore and a few surprises we haven’t even unveiled yet. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to record said sights with your own state-of-the art camera?

Show us you can shoot an awesome photo of your favorite gadget, and you could win a Samsung Galaxy Camera! We described it thusly: “Samsung’s Android-powered Galaxy Camera is a bit of a wild card, marrying Google’s Android Jelly Bean OS with a 16-megapixel camera – heck, it’s even got a 4.8-inch 1,280 × 720-pixel (308 ppi) touchscreen display… the entire back consists of that 4.8-inch screen, edge-to-edge…” Check out our full review for all the details and specs.

Want a chance at nabbing this bad boy for your very own? Step 1 is to Like the Expand Facebook page. Step 2 is to use the entry form on our Facebook page to submit a photo you’ve taken of your favorite gadget, title the photo, and give a short description about why it’s your chosen top device. Team Expand will judge entries based on creativity, style and skill. Show us why you deserve a new camera!

Good luck, and may the best shot win — you have until this coming Monday, March 4 at 2pm PST to get your entry in. To be eligible to enter, you must be 18 years of age and a U.S. resident (please peruse the full rules).

Filed under: Announcements, Meta, Samsung

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From: Engadget

Groupon Stock Goes Up In After-Hours Trading On News That CEO Andrew Mason Has Been Fired

By Colleen Taylor andrew-mason-groupon1

Andrew Mason’s loss may just be Groupon’s gain — at least as far as its shareholders are concerned.

Groupon’s stock price got a rapid and marked boost in after-hours trading today in the first minutes after it was announced that longtime CEO Andrew Mason has been ousted from the company. Within the first minutes of the news, Groupon’s stock had shot up more than six percent from the $4.53 per share price at which it closed the official trading day.

Share prices change by the second, of course, so it’s a bit of a horse race to obsessively monitor how the market responds to big news like this. But the fact that there was a tangible initial pop shows that some investors saw Mason’s ousting as a positive step.

Even so, Groupon has a long way to go: The company’s stock was priced at $20 per share for its November 2011 initial public offering. It has been steadily lagging for months now, and took a big dive this week after the company announced particularly lackluster quarterly results.

Though many staffers at Groupon will certainly be sad to see Mason go, he personally seems to be taking today’s events in stride. In a very candid memo to Groupon employees that has been posted online, Mason said that his removal as CEO was justified:

“I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.”


From: TechCrunch

Oakland mayor apologizes for promoting local lockpicking class

By Cyrus Farivar

The City of Oakland is both wonderful and problematic, as Ars editor Joe Mullin and I can attest, given that we’re both denizens of this fine city. It has incredible natural beauty and vibrant culture, but also a notoriously mismanaged police department and a climbing crime rate.

It’s understandable, then, that some Oakland residents would be slightly annoyed at an upcoming workshop entitled “Introduction to Lockpicking,” which was mentioned in Mayor Jean Quan’s weekly newsletter (PDF) this week. The class is scheduled this coming weekend at Sudoroom, a relatively new hackerspace in downtown Oakland. (Disclosure: I am a paying member at Sudoroom.)

According to the Oakland Tribune, some Oaklanders are miffed that the city would seem to endorse such a practice—the mayor has subsequently apologized.

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From: Ars Technica

Facebook acquisition of Microsoft Atlas confirmed

By Craig Lloyd

As we reported yesterday, Facebook and Microsoft have indeed announced plans for the acquisition of Microsoft’s Atlas ad server to Facebook. The rumors have been flowing for a few months now, so today’s announcement isn’t all that surprising, and with Facebook wanting to bolster its advertising prowess, this acquisition isn’t too crazy.

facebook

Facebook says that the acquisition will help advertisers keep track of their ads on the social network, as well as what sort of returns they are getting with them. Facebook says that marketers have been struggling to understand “how their efforts across different channels complement and strengthen each other.” This results in marketers adopting “siloed marketing strategies for each channel, leading to poor and inconsistent end-user experiences.”

However, Facebook says that Atlas is one of the only solutions to that problem. Atlas has capabilities that allow for marketers to get a “holistic view” of their advertising performance, which in turn will allow them to do a much better job at targeting audiences, and will give them a “deeper understanding of effectiveness.”

However, Facebook plans to also improve Atlas’s capabilities and they want to enhance the current tools available to advertisers on both desktop and mobile. Facebook’s end goal is to make Atlas “the most effective, intuitive, and powerful ad serving, management and measurement platform in the industry.”


Facebook acquisition of Microsoft Atlas confirmed is written by Craig Lloyd & originally posted on SlashGear.
© 2005 – 2012, SlashGear. All right reserved.

From: SlashGear

Retro City Rampage creator makes a real, playable NES port

By Kyle Orland

When Brian Provinciano released Retro City Rampage last year, he managed to beautifully capture the retro look and feel of ’80s-era NES games while adding a decidedly modern twist. But a lot of players no doubt wonder how much of the game would actually have been possible on real NES hardware and how much was only achievable by using modern computing technology to emulate that feeling. Well wonder no longer, because Provinciano is releasing ROM City Rampage, a prototype version of the game actually built to be “100% hardware-accurate” to the specifications of Nintendo’s first home console.

ROM City Rampage actually takes Retro City Rampage back to its development roots in 2004, when Provinciano set out to create “a real 8-bit game that ran on the real thing.” He eventually moved on to development on modern platforms in order to make a better game without so many hardware limitations, but he decided to dive back in and finish his old prototype once Retro City Rampage was finished. Provinciano discusses the intricate process of squeezing a modern (if retro-inspired) game into NES hardware in an entertaining video that manages to provide a lot of good technical detail without being completely baffling to non-programmers.

The biggest challenge in porting the game backward a few decades, it seems, was simply getting everything to fit inside the NES’ 10KB of RAM, 32KB of program ROM, 256KB of background graphics ROM, and 4KB of sprite graphics ROM for each sprite that was available back in 1989. Provinciano had to scale down the world map a bit, get rid of some of the one-off joke signs seen on background buildings, and remove most of the cars and characters littering the streets just to pack everything in there.

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From: Ars Technica

Salesforce 4Q Revenues Up 32% With $3.05B For The Fiscal Year

By Alex Williams Image (1) CRM-salesforce.com_.jpg for post 338076

Salesforce.com has announced its fourth-quarter earnings with revenues of $835 million, up 32%, compared to last year. Non-GAAP earnings per share were 51 cents. Financial analysts had expected revenues ranging from $825 million to $830 million. EPS was estimated to come in at 40 cents.

For the full fiscal year 2013, the company reported revenue of $3.05 billion, an increase of 35% from the prior year.

Salesforce.com is reporting that revenue for the company’s first fiscal quarter is projected to be in the range of $882 million to $887 million, an increase of 27% to 28% year-over-year. Revenue for the company’s full fiscal year 2014 is projected to be in the range of $3.82 billion to $3.87 billion, an increase of 25% to 27% year-over-year.

For the company’s full fiscal year 2014, non-GAAP EPS is expected to be in the range of $1.93 to $1.97.

(More about the Salesforce.com earnings to come as information becomes available.)


From: TechCrunch

Sony intros MDR-X05 headphones: massive Simon Cowell-endorsed bass, small footprint

By Joe Pollicino

Sony intros MDRX05 headphones massive Simon Cowellendorsed bass, small footprint

Is this really happening, again? Why, yes, it is. Following up on its massive MDR-X10 bass-pumping headphones from last year, Sony and Simon Cowell have introduced the MDR-X05. As you might take from the name, the cans are basically a smaller addition to the series, packing 40MM drivers (down from 50) and a few more color options (red/black, red/red, white/silver, red/silver and black/silver) — some of which do the headphones more justice than the silver/red colorway we got our mitts on previously. As far as we can tell, by the way, these are very likely a re-badge of the MDR-X400 headphones for the American market. As you’d expect, the cans fold flat for storage and feature an iDevice-compatible inline remote and mic.

Unlike the X10, the tangle-proof flat cabling isn’t removeable and connects using both earcups, but the connections seem robust enough to handle a good bit of torture. Because the same materials and finish are used on the X05 as the X10, the headphones feel virtually the same in-hand — a bit plasticky, but solid overall. The headphones may be smaller, but they still manage to feel nearly as cosy and isolate a fair amount amount of external noise as their bigger brother, mostly because they’re packing the same style of plush memory foam earpads. As far as sound quality goes, the bass push on these is just as smooth and open-sounding as the X10, but the high-end is noticeably harsher — we definitely felt the need to turn on “treble reducer” in our iPhone’s EQ settings. If you’re bass-hungry ears are interested, the X05 headphones are up for pre-sale at Sony’s online store for $200 (100 less than the X10), but the smaller discount won’t make them look any less loud on your ears while you’re out and about. You can expect ‘em to hit shelves March 22nd. For now, find more details in the press release after the break.

Filed under: Wearables, Sony

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Source: Sony

From: Engadget