Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Philips Hue and IFTTT

Posted by Andrew at 3:48 AM on January 2, 2014

Hue Personal Wireless LightingIn my first post on Philips Hue, I referred to “The Internet of things” where normally dumb devices such as fridges and washing machines are connected to the network. Having a washing machine with an IP address may mean that I can check whether the spin cycle has finished without getting out of my chair, but the real value of the internet of things comes when the devices start communicating among themselves. Not in a nefarious SkyNet way, but in a more practical sense: the washing machine counts the number of washes and when the soap is getting low, automatically orders your preferred brand from your preferred grocery service.

Obviously, it’s going to take a little while until this is a reality, but the web site IFTTT is beginning to show what is possible as more and more services are on-line and cloud-based. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “IThis, Then That” and reflects what IFTTT can do. It automates “If something happens, then I want that to happen”. In IFTTT-speak, a trigger on a channel generates an action on another (or the same) channel. A channel is typically an on-line or cloud-based service such as Twitter, Dropbox, Gmail, Evernote or Weather. An example of what could happen is, “If I get a tweet on Twitter, copy it to Evernote” or “Every morning at 7.00 am, text me the weather forecast”. These are recipes, as IFTTT calls them, and there’s a large range of them already cooked up on the IFTTT web site.

It’s at this point in the story that Philips Hue comes in as a channel on IFTTT, which means that the lights in your home can be controlled by external events via the recipes on IFTTT. Here are some examples of recipes already available; at sunset, turn on the lights; when it’s freezing outside, turn the lights blue; when you receive an email from a particular person, blink the links; when the stockmarket closes down, turn the lights red. Some recipes are perhaps more useful than others, but the range of channels means that there’s tremendous flexibility. There are currently 77 channels on IFTTT and you can browse by channel, so it’s easy to see all the recipes that involve Philips Hue.

Setting up your Hue to work with IFTTT is two step process but it only has to be done once. The first step is to register with the Philips Hue website and allow the site to access the bridge unit within your home. Once you’ve done this and have a username and password, you can control your lights from outside your home using the Hue app on your smartphone too, so it’s probably something that most Hue owners have already done.

Back at IFTTT, the second step is then to activate your Hue channel. You’ll need to supply your Hue username and password, and authorise IFTTT to access your account.

Activate Hue

Now I’m going reuse a recipe that someone else has already created. In this instance, I’m going to flash the lights when I receive an email with the latest GNC podcast. I’ve already activated my Gmail channel.

Gmail to Hue

All I have to do is put in the email address - geeknews at gmail.com - and any time I get an email from Todd, the lights flash. This is the basic recipe; there are others that use keywords or other information likely to be in an email. If I want to, I can choose one particular light or all of them. Once the information is typed in and the recipe has been activated, all I have to do is sit back and wait for the latest podcast email to come in. Blink, blink.

That’s it. All pretty straightforward. If you are more adventurous, you can delve deeper into the recipes to customise them to your needs but there are plenty on IFTTT to get you started and provide inspiration. Philips Hue aside, the insight into the possibilities of the “Internet of things” is incredible.

I hope you have enjoyed this short series of articles on Philips Hue. It’s the first time that I’ve done this kind of short serial, so I’d welcome feedback in the comments on whether to actively search out similar opportunities.

Thanks again to Philips for the loan of the Hue Personal Wireless Lighting System.

Atari 2600, Colecovision Comes to the Internet Archive

Posted by J Powers at 10:13 AM on December 28, 2013

xenophobeThe Internet Archive is a database of websites, media and more to try and preserve the past. The archive houses a lot of content you might not be able to find otherwise. Now you can add arcade games to the list as the Internet Archive is bringing console gaming to your computer.

The archive has added 70′s and 80′s video games from Atari, Colecovision, and Magnavox Odyssey. It’s part of Archive.org’s Console Living Room. The games currently don’t have sound, but Archivist Jason Scott stated that will be added shortly.

Don’t throw away your MAME console just yet. The archived games are only home-console versions. So Pac Man and Donkey Kong will look and run like your Atari 2600 system version.

Still, there were a lot of games I played a lot in my younger days which never went past those gaming systems. These games on the archive fell into disarray, which puts the game into a grey area – legally. Tablets and smartphones can run these emulated games, which can bring new life into what we played as kids.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just have to find that one game I played on the Coleco as a kid but don’t remember the name…

 

Posting a Negative Review Could Harm You

Posted by JenThorpe at 7:05 PM on December 9, 2013

b1keyboard02What happens when you receive bad customer service? For many people, the answer to that question is that they go online and post a negative review of the company that treated them badly. It turns out that, in at least some cases, doing so can result in harm to the person who posted the negative review.

KUTV.com and CNN both have written about a situation where a woman was fined by a company that she wrote a negative review about. One might consider it a cautionary tale about what can happen if you don’t read the fine print (or if you end up dealing with a less than honest company).

John Palmer bought his wife a Christmas gift from a particular website. The gift never arrived. The company sent the money back to John Palmer’s Paypal account. His wife, Jen Palmer, wrote a negative review of the company on Ripoffreport.com.

Three years later, the company sent an email to the couple that stated that they would be fined $3,500 if their negative review was not taken down within 72 hours. Long story short, the Palmers could not simply take down the review themselves (because it wasn’t posted on a website that they owned or had control of).

The couple refused to pay the fine. The company sent it to collections agents. The Palmer’s have now had their credit score damaged as a result of the situation. There may or may not be legal battles regarding what happened, but I will not speculate about that.

This holiday season, make sure you take a close look at the fine print before you make an online purchase. Some companies are including a “non-disparagement clause” in customer agreements. It is this clause that is being used by some companies to silence negative reviews.

Image computer keys keyboard enter shift by Imageafter.

A Microsoft Future

Posted by Andrew at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2013

Microsoft Windows 8Last week’s “Microsoft Fantasy” here on GNC suggested that Microsoft was in danger of fading into irrelevance; that it should retreat to servers and gaming; that it should re-orient its mobile strategy around Android. I suggest that Microsoft is now very well positioned to offer far more than its competitors. And to negate any ad hominem attacks, I’m no Microsoft fanboy – I’ve a Linux desktop, Android tablet, Nexus smartphone and a Chromebook – but I can see a better strategy in Microsoft than defeat and retreat.

There are three players in the OS space – Microsoft with Windows, Google with Android and Apple with iOS. Each of these pairings has strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft is strong in servers, PCs and gaming. Google is good in mobile. Apple’s strength lies in PCs, entertainment and mobile. Obviously there are other players, such as Sony who are strong in gaming, but they can be discounted without OS aspirations.

Microsoft is a large organisation. It can be slow to respond and doesn’t always identify and embrace future technologies as fast as it should. The internet and Internet Explorer is a pretty good example. Other times, it moves into new markets, starting slowly and building up: look at the Xbox – it’s the market-leader. Certainly Microsoft has never been strong in the smartphone market being overshadowed previously by Blackberry and Palm, but it has a track record of trying tablet-type devices. Anyone remember Windows XP Tablet Edition? No, you probably don’t, but it existed.

But let’s think about how Microsoft’s competitors can realistically move in on their turf. For all the rise of BYOD, most large organisations use Windows on the desktop, Exchange for email, Ms Server on the tin. Google is trying hard to offer software as service in the cloud but there’s still lots of nervousness about the cloud and the leaks about US snooping aren’t going to help. Apple isn’t big in business by any stretch of the imagination and this is unlikely change. Both Apple and Google are into entertainment but neither have expressed much interest in hardcore gaming. It’s certainly not impossible for a hot Android or iOS console to come out but for now I think we can discount that.

Accepting then that Microsoft is reasonably unassailable (without being complacent) in gaming or business, let’s look at mobile and tablets in particular. Both Apple’s iPad and Android-based tablets are great devices, but even the most ardent fan will admit that tablets are generally best for consumption rather than production – it’s watching videos, surfing the web, listening to music. For creation, most people return to the keyboard and mouse on a desktop or laptop. Looking at business, while opportunities exist for tablets in business without a doubt, the bread and butter is still going to orient around Word and Excel.

The trend to mobile has been going on for years: from the desktop to the laptop to the tablet. But it’s extension to new devices, not extinction of the old. When laptops came out, did all the desktops go away? No. And it will be no different with tablets. We can see the rebalancing in the slow down of PC sales but this is entirely to be expected.

And this is Microsoft’s killer advantage – a potentially seamless suite of devices and form-factors from servers, through desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Business in particular want to use what they have already invested in – ActiveDirectory, Group Policies, Sharepoint. Microsoft and its partners are responding to this with devices that offer both a touch interface via the Modern UI and a traditional desktop for legacy applications where a keyboard and mouse is needed. The bottom line is that there’s no longer any need to shoehorn in Apple or Android onto the infrastructure at extra cost.

But what about the consumers? They’re not businesses, they’ve no investment, they’re not going to be swayed by ActiveDirectory concerns. They want apps! Absolutely, but let’s be honest about apps – most key apps and popular games are available across all platforms, and the relative low cost of apps means that it is easier to jump ship to a different OS.  Windows 8 isn’t perfect, but I would lay good money that if a 7″ Windows-based tablet was available for Nexus 7 money, they’d sell shed-loads. A similar argument follows for smartphones and Windows Phone has actually been doing quite well recently with solid gains according a recent IDC survey.

Microsoft is ahead of the game in recognising that the future is not a tablet future, but a touch future, and building touch into the core of Windows is a winner. For me, all Microsoft needs to do it get the prices down, tweak the usability of Windows 8 and continue with the “Windows Everywhere” advertising. It’s a Microsoft future.

GoDaddy first to launch new vanity domains

Posted by Alan at 3:54 PM on November 8, 2013
GoDaddy logo

GoDaddy logo

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has been opening the playing field recently, allowing for more top-level domain names. The days of the simple .com, .net. info and the rest are becoming a thing of the past. Replacing, well complimenting, then is a whole new breed that opens the floodgates to your wildest imagination.

At the forefront of this new wave is GoDaddy who today announced “today begins a new chapter in the expansion of the Internet, with the introduction of new Internet domain names.  GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain name registrar, is the first registrar to sell pre-registrations on the new, ICANN-approved domain name extensions, as part of a new program designed to expand the inventory of Internet website addresses”.

What’s included in this big update? According to the company, customers can now get ” .UNO, .MENU, .BUILD and .LUXURY, and more than 700 additional domain names are expected to launch over the next 24 months”.

There are some things to be considered before jumping feet first into this fire — “Each of the new domain extensions launching today for pre-registration have unique attributes. .UNO is a place online dedicated to Spanish speakers. .MENU gives restaurants a relevant name for their businesses. Contractors, designers, builders and more can use .BUILD. Those looking to appeal to a more affluent clientele, .LUXURY is available”.

Prices and exact rollout plans were not announced as part of this news,

YouTube’s New Features: Offline Viewing, Play On

Posted by J Powers at 7:19 AM on September 20, 2013
youtube logo

YouTube

Your Android and iOS apps are getting some interesting upgrades. Especially one that allows you to go offline and still watch the video.

YouTube announced a host of new updates on their official blog, as well as letting partners know of the upcoming changes:

We’re always exploring ways to bring more viewers to your content. As part of this effort, later this year we’ll launch a new feature on YouTube’s mobile apps that will help you reach fans — even when they’re not connected to the Internet.

This upcoming feature will allow people to add videos to their device to watch for a short period when an Internet connection is unavailable. So your fans’ ability to enjoy your videos no longer has to be interrupted by something as commonplace as a morning commute.

This is part of our ongoing updates to give people more opportunities to enjoy videos and channels on YouTube mobile. Check out the YouTube blog when this launches in November for more details on how this will work for viewers.
The YouTube Team

Other new features include a new explorer feature: you can keep looking through YouTube while your video is playing in the bottom-right corner. You can also search and browse channels for playlists on mobile apps, then watch the videos back-to-back. Finally, Youtube added the Cast button so you can send your videos to Chromecast, PS3, Google TV or other devices that accept the protocol.

These options (other than offline viewing) are available with the update.

GoGo Wifi Plans for 60 MBps In-Air Wireless with Ground to Orbit (GTO)

Posted by J Powers at 8:22 AM on September 12, 2013

Gogo Logo

Imagine being 30,000 feet in the air and doing wireless business, watching a Netflix movie or even downloading and installing updates to your computer. With new initiatives, that could happen very soon.

Gogo In-flight wireless – a leader in in-flight connectivity – announced a new program called Ground to Orbit (GTO). This combines satellite feeds with Gogo’s air-to-ground Wifi capabilities. The added satellite would basically download content, while air-to-ground sends your http requests, emails, uploads and more.
Virgin America will be the first to offer this new hybrid service starting next year (2014).

Gogo has proven time and again that it’s the leader in developing new technologies that will bring more bandwidth for the buck to the aero market.  GTO is the next step in our technological evolution and is a ground breaking new technology for the commercial aviation market in North America,” said Gogo’s president and CEO, Michael Small.  “When we launched our in-flight Internet service five years ago, we were able to deliver 3.1 Mbps per aircraft through our Air to Ground network.  About a year ago, we began rapidly deploying our next generation Air to Ground service that took peak speeds to 9.8 Mbps.  GTO will now take peak speeds to more than 60 Mbps. That’s a 20-fold increase from where we started.”

Virgin-america-logo

Gogo will be initializing the Ku antenna developed specifically for receive only functionality. Ku is two times more spectrally efficient and half the height of other antennas. The Ku anntenna system also allows Gogo to install new technologies without installing new antennas. This could ultimately lower the cost of Gogo hardware needs.

Faster In-Air Internet Initiatives

A few months ago, the FCC approved a new spectrum for Wifi on aircrafts. Switching the Wifi spectrum to the 14.0-14.5 GHz range could add up to 60 Gbps for planes with in-flight Wifi. This would serve all airplanes with wireless across the US. Speeds up to 60 Mbps per user match those you might find from home Internet.

Of course with any wireless initiative like this, weather can still be a factor in your internet connection. From storms to sunspots your speeds may vary in the air. Still, to be able to rent a movie, download an album or even participate in a meeting 30,000 feet in the air sounds very promising.

 

GoDaddy.com’s New Direction: Less Provocative, More SMB Focused

Posted by J Powers at 5:59 PM on September 5, 2013

LogoWTaglineToday I got an email from current CEO Blake Irving, regarding the changes at Godaddy.com. Being a loyal customer of the service for over 7 years now, this new direction looks to be very serious and even more attractive for people trying to start a website.

Today, GoDaddy’s front page got a revamp. Gone is Danika Patrick and those provocative GoDaddy commercials you saw during the Superbowl, World Series, NBA finals and other events. Who replaced her?

Jean Claude Van Damme?

This is part of GoDaddy’s new era – “It’s go time“. A great marketing slogan that can point to GoDaddy and their new direction.

In the email, Irving wrote:

Blake Irving, Godaddy“Today, GoDaddy is the world’s largest web host and domain provider — and sites registered or hosted with us make up a massive portion of what we know as the Internet today. That statement, however, says little about who you are, our customers, or how we can serve you best. So earlier this year we embarked on an effort to learn more about you, what makes you so incredibly unique, and the values you all have in common. In the process, we learned an equal amount about ourselves, and we’re making changes to reflect that new clarity. ”

Irving goes on to say they want to know more about you and how to make you succeed. They started by streamlining the website – making things easier and “more intuitive”. GoDaddy also highlighted their Award winning customer support (awards from CareerBuilder’s Top Companies to Work for Award, to  Fortune 100 “Best Companies to Work For”).

Other Changes at Godaddy.com

GoDaddy is bringing on new Top Level Domains, such as .app, .web and more (over 700 new gTLD from ICANN).

They started a new video ad campain using Jean Claude Van Damme to show how serious – yet still jockular – they can be. The first video includes a baker who not only gets new orders through his GoDaddy website, but a full solo from Van Damme who motivates while telling him “It’s Go Time”.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Founder and previous CEO Bob Parsons brought a lot of controversy, not only on GoDaddy for viral content, but also on his personal life. He left when GoDaddy was purchased in 2011. Interim CEO Warren Adelman made some changes, but it was not the direction the board was looking for. It took two years to bring Blake Irving on as CEO (former EVP at Yahoo! and VP of Windows Live Platform at Microsoft). Irving’s approach is for Small Business owners (SMB).

In an interview he did earlier this year, he talked about how he has a full open door policy. He talks about how he walks around campus in jeans and t-shirts, talking to people and finding out what matters to them.

Irving’s Direction is no Joke, though…

Irving states: “This is the radical shift we knew we had to make and it’s more than just marketing. A brand is a promise to our customers and a commitment to understand their needs. Our mission is to ‘fight the good fight for the go getter’ … the small business owner … or anyone who labors for the love of it and wants the benefits of the latest technology without having to be an expert.”

With a new look and a different direction, GoDaddy seems to be focusing less on viral content and more on the SMBs they need to appease. From Domains to hosting, SSL certificates and more.

What are YOUR THOUGHTS on GoDaddy’s new direction? Comment below!

20 Percent of Adult Americans Don’t Use the Internet

Posted by J Powers at 11:33 AM on August 19, 2013

internet_mapI have a friend that hates the Internet. She cringes when the words “Facebook” or “Google” even come up. She’s been on only a couple of times – but otherwise I’ll get a call asking to print off some document she needs.

Even though more homes are investing in broadband Internet, the New York Times reports roughly 20 percent of American adults do not use the Internet at home, work or via mobile. Some are by choice, yet others do not have the money for this amenity.

76% of white American households and 57% of African-American households use the Internet. Approximately 50% of people 65 and older go online, while 75% under 65 use the Internet.

Average home Internet costs are around $30 a month.

Could You Live Without Internet for a Day? A Year, Perhaps?

Back in April, one man decided to go off-line for one year to see how he would fair. Paul Miller chronicled his life for the 365 days without an Internet connection. A very eye-opening article that makes you think about how different you might live.

Of course, that is Internet and not technology in general. It sounded like Paul still had a cell phone and used other technology to commute, eat, drink and get by.

I think back to around 1994, when I didn’t have a cell phone and I was on the Internet ever so sparsely. I had a university email address at that time and the University library was where I connected up. I spent more time building other things – I was a music major, so I also practiced a lot.

If that was to go away, I believe I could survive. I definitely would have to figure out a new path in life from podcaster/blogger.

What would you do if you went off-line for a year? Read more? Build projects? Let us know!

Shared.com Gives 100 GB of Storage Space

Posted by J Powers at 10:53 AM on July 25, 2013

shared-logoShared Media have announced a new service where you can share files with others instantly – up to 100 GB in the freemium model with 2 GB upload cap.

Shared.com has come out of the gate with a higher storage capacity to hopefully grab early adopters and get some of the Mega and Dropbox clientele. With Shared.com, you can share a file with the public or just have it ready at your fingertips between devices.

Shared.com Pro and Pro Plus models have also been added – For $9.95 a month you can upload 5 GB files with a 2 TB storage area and Pro Plus allows for up to 10 GB files with unlimited capacity.

Coming options will include mobile apps so you can access your files on the go.

There have been legitimate concerns to sites like this after what happened with MegaUpload in 2012. However, a shared file resource is a great way to distribute legal files to the masses. Shared.com says they will be following DMCA rules and resolve any disputes on their service.

In the meantime – its a great way to send photos of the family to loved ones, post a video of you doing something silly or a document that you need shared information on.