Rubik’s Cube Speaker

Geeks of a certain age will undoubtedly remember when the Rubik’s Cube craze (or Magic Cube as it was originally known) spread through school playgrounds in the early 1980s. Building on the current popularity of all things retro, this Rubik’s Cube Speaker will bring back memories of success or frustration depending on whether you were able to solve the puzzle or not.

Rubik's Cube Speaker

The Cube speaker uses the USB connector for power and the 3.5 mm jack for the audio, so there’s no batteries or power adaptor required. Unsurprisingly the speaker is NOT a functioning Rubik’s Cube but you can try and impress your friends by saying that you solved it…until they spot the cables.

Available from the Science Museum Shop (and other online retailers) for £20.

Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus Smartphone Review

Samsung Galaxy NexusThe smartphone market is full of great phones running Android, iOS or Windows Phone. Regrettably none of them is running WebOS, so it was with much sadness that I decided to retire my HP Pre 3 and move on to a more current device. I tend to buy off-contract so as not to get locked in, but I don’t usually buy a top-of-the-range, just-released phone as they’re simply too expensive. With a budget of around £300, there’s plenty of choice depending on the age and features. Looking at Android phones, my main thoughts were around the Motorola Razr or one of the Xperias. But then I spotted that the Samsung Google Galaxy Nexus was beginning to be discounted with Expansys offering it for £299 and with its feature set, it’s an absolute bargain.

First impressions count and on unboxing, I couldn’t believe how big the screen was. It’s huge in comparison to the Pre 3, which in turn I thought was big compared to the Palm Pre. It’s also gloriously colourful and detailed and combined with the screen size, there’s definitely a wow-factor when I show it to someone who hasn’t seen either this or a Samsung SIII before. After a couple of days, I got used to the size and started enjoying the extra screen real estate available. It’s definitely worth it.

Secondly, although the Galaxy Nexus isn’t a new phone, it’ll update to the newest version of Android, v4.1 aka Jelly Bean. And it is sweet. The phone is very responsive, animations are smooth and everything that Google says about Project Butter is true. Combined with the lush screen, it’s a thing of beauty and a joy to use. In the few days, I’ve been using the phone, I’ve never had a slowdown, never had a crash and never had to reboot the phone. Being a Google Nexus devices, it’s pure Android without any OEM features laid on top, which in my book, is definitely a plus and I can expect regular updates from Google without having to wait for the manufacturers to revise

I haven’t found that many functional differences between Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean with one exception…Google Now. This runs all the time in the background, putting the smarts into the smartphone. Simply, it tries to help you run your life a little more smoothly using a set of cards which are like mini-apps. Here’s an example: if I have an upcoming appointment in my calendar and I’ve included the location of the appointment, Google Now will show me the place on a small map and it will tell me how long it will take to drive there. It will also alert me when it’s time to go. There are other cards available for public transport, flights, sports scores and I’m sure more will appear over time.

Other features of note…call quality is very good and a step up from the Pre 3. I can hear people clearly and by all accounts the person on the other end can hear me well too. The camera seems fine to me, taking photos up to 5MP, tracks faces, and there is a panorama mode for taking wide shots. I’m hoping that the lens doesn’t get too easily scratched as the camera seems to be located exactly where the phone rests on a flat surface. Jelly Bean includes the Face Unlock feature which works surprisingly well but I’m not sufficiently narcissistic to want to use. You may love yourself more.

On the downside…the battery life isn’t great, though it’s on a par with the Pre 3. To be fair, it’s a new phone and I tend to be doing more on the Nexus while I’m bedding it in, so I think it might end up being better than the Pre 3 once I get back to normal. I have ordered a larger battery anyway but it’s not arrived in the post yet. Another criticism is with the back cover that comes off to access the removable battery and the SIM card: it’s a bit flimsy but it is textured in the Nexus-style to make it easier to grip. I notice that there are replacement metal covers available but some come with warnings that the cover may interfere with GPS reception so I’ve not bothered. Finally, there seems to be only one speaker which is located in the bump on the lower back of the Nexus. Consequently, if the phone is put down on any kind of soft surface, the speaker easily gets blocked and can become quite quiet.

I’ll always have a soft spot for Palm, WebOS and what might have been. I bought a Palm III when I was a much younger man and have stuck with them ever since but when you can get as good a phone as the Galaxy Nexus, there’s no looking back. The only features I miss from the Pre is the wireless charging and the excellent multitasking app-card metaphor. Can’t have everything.

Overall, the Galaxy Nexus is an absolutely cracking phone and at £300 is a steal. Find one, try one, buy one.

Disclosure – this Galaxy Nexus was a personal purchase and not a review unit.

Firefox OS Launching on ZTE Handsets Soon

Mozilla has been hard at work on a Firefox operating system that will power mobile devices, mostly of the lower-end variety.  The OS has been rumored to be launching first in Brazil in early 2013.  Now, hardware maker ZTE is rumored to be the first to get devices on the market, and they are expected very soon.

ZTE has several Android phones on the market currently, and the move to partner with Mozilla came as a bit of a surprise.  “We are trying to increase our efforts in coming up with our own operating system, while introducing products based on Android,” said ZTE spokesman David Dai Shu.”It’s all part of our wider plans to create a better balance of products using various operating systems. We won’t just rely on Android or Windows.”

With Android and iOS leading the market, and Windows Phone slowly making up ground, it will be extremely tough for Mozilla get any foothold, especially given that they are several months away from launch.  However, their attempt to aim at the low end of the market, potentially picking up those who currently use feature phones, may find a niche.

ioSafe Announces “Disaster-Proof” NAS Device

Having a NAS (network attached storage) device in your home is a smart solution for backup, but it’s far from all you need.  Obviously, in the event of a disaster like fire or flood, not only can your home computers be wiped out, but in-home backup will be gone along with it.  Now ioSafe is looking to solve that problem with a new piece of hardware that is being billed as “disaster-proof”.

The ioSafe N2 is both fire and water-proof storage for the home and small business.  The hardware can store up to 8 terabytes of content, contains a 2 GHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0, SD memory card slot, provides local and remote access and can be used as a media server and email server.

The product is being brought to market via a crowd-funding site called Indiegogo.  “Interesting point to note: the NAS project is to be funded via crowd-funding site Indiegogo. ioSafe is a small, 20-person company and this will help with the costs of bringing the product to market.”

To find out more, you can head over to ioSafe.  I still recommend a second, cloud-based, storage solution for a fail-safe, but you can certainly rest a bit easier with the ioSafe N2 in your home or office.

GNC-2012-09-17 #800 Show Special

Besides not knowing what day it is, Show 800 is a bit of a walk down memory lane and also some insights I probably have not shared before. I hope you enjoy the show and have a better understanding of where I as a host and business owner are coming from in regards to this show and the podcasting space. Enjoy show 800. I look forward to bringing you show 801 and 802 from a surprise location.

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Roomba Picks Up a Mint

The cleaning robots have joined forces! No, I don’t mean the robots connected to each other in the way that the individual parts of Voltron did in order to form a larger, more powerful, form. I am referring to a press release from iRobot Corp. that states that the company has acquired Evolution Robotics, Inc. for $74 million. Together, the two companies can make the floors and carpets of the world a little bit cleaner.

You might be aware that iRobot is the maker of the Roomba, (and the Scooba, the Looj, and the Verro). I had a Roomba once, that was given to my husband and I from his sister. The round, red, disc-like robot tried its hardest to keep up with the birdseed shells that our cockatiels threw out of their cage.

Unfortunately, the configuration of furniture in the room prevented the Roomba from doing much more than traveling in a small circle. It did a nice job of confusing our cockatiels, who seemed to be trying to figure out if it was some sort of flat, non-barking, dog. It did manage to keep the small space it could get to relatively clean.

Evolution Robotics makes an automatic floor cleaner called Mint. It is square shaped and comes in two colors: white and black. The Roomba is good at sweeping, and the Scooba is good at mopping. The Mint can do both at the same time, if you attach a Swiffer cloth to the little robot. It will be interesting to see what these two companies can come up with when they start working together. Personally, I’d like to see a little robot that can clean your bathtub for you.

Image: empty-new-room by BigStock

Shazam, Now Works with TV Shows

ShazamShazam the music recognition app has been updated to also recognize TV shows . I was trying it out today and it still needs some work. It didn’t recognize many of the shows that I was watching. It either gave back no information or incorrect information. There were times when it took multiple tries before it came back with the correct information.

I wasn’t surprise when it didn’t recognize Bleach, my favorite anime show. However, I was surprised when it didn’t recognize a Rock documentary on Rush. Not surprisingly it recognized most network programing, however it had trouble recognizing the show Major Crimes which is a new series on TNT this afternoon. This evening though it did recognize it, so the database appears to be improving all the time.

Once the show is recognized  it will show the songs that are played on the show. You can play samples of the music. If you are a Spotify premium member you can play the whole song. You can also view the song on Youtube if it is available. You can also view the lyrics, get tour information and buy ringtones. You can also read the latest celebrity buzz, get the cast information, read the latest Tweets. If you are using it on an iOS device you can share to Facebook or Twitter. If you are on Android you can share thru any app that you have, including Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus

IntoNow, a Yahoo product recognized more shows than Shazam, however once a show was recognized, Shazam had more options available. Get Glue the other media sharing app, is just that a way to share what you are watching. It doesn’t have the information that is available through either Shazam or IntoNow. Shazam needs to improve its recognition of non network shows. However it is on the right path and I do recommend downloading it if you like to share what you are watching to your favorite social network.

New Universal Root for Android ICS, Jelly Bean Devices

The folks over at XDA Developers are a resourceful bunch.  The crew has come up with ways to root and flash almost every Android device, sometimes within hours of it’s release.  They previously rolled out a universal root method for all ICS (Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) devices.  Now one of the developers there, who goes by the name Bin4ry, has released a root method that goes one step further by covering both ICS and 4.1 Jelly Bean hardware.

The new release should be compatible with almost every device, but unfortunately there is no list you can check, so you will have to take a bit of a chance when you run it.  Instructions are dead simple to follow and no data will be wiped from your phone or tablet during the process.  With that said, I would still do a backup first if I were you….

Instructions:

1.) Download attached file.
2.) Extract it using 7zip
3.) Double click the RunMe.bat and follow instructions!

If you decide to take the plunge and try this out then let us know how you made out by posting a comment below and be sure to include what device you were using.

Download: XDA Forums

So what is Podcast Dedication?

I don’t want to brag.. But you all know I am dedicated to putting out a show so that you are always in the loop of what is happening in the tech space.

Tomorrow I record show 800 of my podcast. I am proud to have been at this now close to 8 years mid October will be my 8 year anniversary.

So consider this. I record 2 shows a week here are the hard numbers!

If you think about it there are 52 weeks in a year 52 wks per year * 8 yrs = 416 * 2 shows a week = 832

So if I am about to record show 800.. 832 Possible Shows – 800 actual show = 32 I missed / 8 years = 4 shows per yr missed on average!

Yes I have only missed an average of 4 shows a year. Tell me that is not dedication to my listeners.

I am doing my part now I hope you will do yours, I encourage all of my Ohana to become an GNC Insider, get access to the private insider mailing list and be part of the team that drives this show forward.

Determination Overcomes An Obstacle Photo Courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

Apple Excitement? Not So Much.

I have a number of Apple products and I’ve been a bit of a fan in the past. Apple products of the past represented genuine value. Not only would the operating system continue to work well on aging hardware, but Apple products used to be repairable.

I’ve had a Sprint HTC Evo 4G for about two and a half years. The original Evo is still a great phone, but it obviously cannot work with Sprint’s new LTE network, so it was time to upgrade.

About a month ago I was seriously considering an iPhone 5. However, the details about the new iPhone 5 screen size began to emerge and I didn’t like what I was hearing – it was only a 4” inch screen. My Evo had a 4.2” inch touch screen, and I didn’t want to go to a smaller screen size – if anything I wanted an even bigger screen.

The original Evo was admittedly a battery hog – I knew that would be the case with it going in. Fortunately, the original Evo has a user-changeable battery. I changed batteries twice in two years. The way I use my phones, I destroy batteries – I MUST be able to easily replace them myself. So besides the smaller 4” inch iPhone 5 screen, it has a sealed battery. (Incidentally, the latest HTC Evo LTE also has a sealed battery, also making it a non-starter for me.)

So, I ended up getting a 16 gigabyte Samsung Galaxy S3 from Sprint. The S3 has a gorgeous AMOLED 4.8” touchscreen along with a user-replaceable battery, which tipped the balance for me in the end. I have the unlimited data “Simply Everything” plan, so I am able to use my phone as my podcast aggregator as well as the playback device. I transferred the 32 gigabyte Micro SD chip from the Evo to the S3 and can even go to a 64 gigabyte chip if the need should arise.

Apple revolved around Steve Jobs and his innovative brilliance. Steve Jobs had some serious personality flaws, but he was able to succeed in spite of those flaws. Now that Steve is gone, I fear that Apple as a company has embraced Jobs’ personality quirks as if they were the source of innovation.

Having high-priced products that cannot easily be repaired for me is a deal-breaker.

By the way, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is an awesome device and I could not be happier with my choice.