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


Rovio gets ready for tricks and treats

Posted by Alan at 5:32 AM on October 22, 2013

angry birds friends halloween

Halloween is right around the corner and, as in previous years, Rovio is celebrating via its popular mobile games. In the past this has consisted of an update to Angry Birds Seasons, but this time around the developers are taking a different approach.

The Finnish company is rolling out two updates, this time adding zombie pigs to both the Bad Piggies game, as well as Angry Birds Friends, the weekly tournament game.

“This is the Halloween when Zombie Pigs will walk the Piggy Island! A new update for Bad Piggies, called Tusk ‘til Dawn, kicked off the Halloween celebrations by introducing 30 spooky new levels with scary Zombie Pigs searching for King Pig’s candy”, the company has announced.

In addition, beginning October 23 there will be a special Halloween tournament live on Angry Birds Friends. “Don’t worry! You’ll have new custom slingshots to fight the hordes of the oinking dead. You can purchase a new slingshot with a special power that will apply to all birds shot with it. You can change the slingshots for each bird, and once purchased you can use them permanently in both web and mobile versions of the game”.

Both updates are now available in the Google Play store and the Apple store.

Angry Birds goes Kart Racing on December 11

Posted by Alan at 7:10 AM on October 15, 2013

Rovio continues to find new ways to market its industry leading mobile game franchise, Angry Birds. This time, instead of teaming with another major franchise, as it did for Star Wars, the Finnish company is heading to the race track.

Today Rovio unveiled Angry Birds Go, a new racing game set to hit app stores on December 11. “It’s a complete first for the Angry Birds series, featuring high-octane downhill racing, upgradable karts, tons of characters with unique special powers and a fully rendered 3D world”, the company announced today.

The game will be free to play, and Rovio has partnered with Hasbro to integrate TELEPODS into the racing game. For now, a gameplay trailer has been released to tease you with what can be expected this holiday season.

Virgin Mobile’s YouTube Wants to “Blinkwash” You

Posted by J Powers at 11:28 AM on September 18, 2013
Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile is running a new video on Youtube. It’s called “Blinkwashing”. You will need a webcam connected to your computer, which the YouTube page will calibrate your face and blinking. This will act as a remote control to switch the video up.

Every time you blink, the video changes. It doesn’t lose place in the video; it just moves to another video with the exact same script. Blink your eyes and you see two girls talking on the phone about Virgin mobile. Blink again and you see an aerial view of police cars and the script sounding like its coming from the CB. Blink again and two bikers are arm wrestling.

It doesn’t matter how many times you blink, the channel will change. If you don’t blink at all, the video will continue on. There is everything from a clown to a karaoke channel talking about Virgin Mobile.

virgin-blinkwash[1]When I tried this on my Macbook Pro, it worked like a charm. However, on my desktop sits an older Logitech 9000 webcam which brought problems. You won’t be able to do this on mobile devices.

Could this be the start of something new? There is a possibility. Other head movement instructions could turn Youtube videos into a “Choose your own adventure” video. Want to walk through a door on the left – turn your head to the left.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to switch over to Virgin Mobile now…

 

Zens Qi Wireless Charger

Posted by Andrew at 4:29 PM on August 4, 2013

Although I was disappointed by the Nokia DT-900, I wasn’t ready to give up on wireless charging nirvana for my Nexus 4. With a bit of searching and review-reading, I plumped for a Zens Universal Qi Single Wireless Charging Plate which garners 4.5 stars on Amazon. Although unknown to me, Zens is a young Dutch company specialising in wireless charging products, and from first appearances, it looks like they’re doing a good job.

The Zens charging plate comes in a well-presented package but is surprisingly small. It’s bigger than the DT-900 but it’s still not large and I imagine that most large screen smartphones will overhang on one side or another. However, the extra size and the rubber covering mean that most smartphones will sit comfortably on the pad. As with the DT-900, it has a DC power supply – no USB charging here, either.

Nexus 4 on Zens Charger

In use, the Zens charging plate is far better with the Nexus 4 than the DT-900. In most instances, simply placing the the Nexus onto the pad started charging and usually, I’d get a high rate of charge without any precise positioning. With a bit of practice, I was able to get a sweetspot that worked every time and an LED on the right side of the plate turns green when the pad starts charging.

The screenshot below shows the charging rate when everything is perfectly aligned and honestly, it’s not far off the rate when the Nexus is plugged in.

Zens Charge Rate

The plate also has a feature that when the phone is fully charged, the charging turns off until the the battery levels falls to about 93%. Here’s what it looks like in Battery+.

Zens Wireless Charger - Full charge

In my opinion, the Zens charging plate knocks the DT-900 into a cocked hat, especially if you have a Nexus 4. Both are priced a little under £45 here in the UK, though the Zens charger seems quite pricey in the US at $100 (Amazon). Update – have since discovered the Zens charger on other websites for a far more reasonable $50. Recommended for all UK Nexus 4 owners.

SIM Card Security Flaw Exposing 750 Million Cell Phones

Posted by J Powers at 8:54 AM on July 22, 2013
SIM Card

SIM Card

Outdated encryption is to blame for a new risk on your cellular device. According to a report by SRLabs and research which will be presented at BlackHat on July 31st, the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card can be hacked in a few ways, including through SMS messages.

According to SRLabs, SIM cards use 56-bit DES encryption – a technology created in the 70s. Using what is called FPGA clusters, a SIM can be crackable. SRLabs is looking to make aware these issues, then recommend a better SIM card technology, SMS firewall and SMS filtering so simple hacking techniques cannot access SIM card data.

It is reported that over 750 million SIM cards are vulnerable to this hack. That is 1 in 8 SIM cards, according to Karsten Nohl of SRLabs. An improperly encrypted SMS message – along with use of a custom Java program – can open the SIM to the malware. A hacker can do anything from change your voicemail to access your personal information on the SIM card.

In some phones, most information is stored on the phone and not the SIM. In some phones, SIM data can also include bank information, passwords to websites and programs and more. However, as we move to mobile and wearable devices, more SIM cards will be used to connect people to cellular networks.

 

 

 

Rovio rolls out account sync to iOS and Android

Posted by Alan at 4:47 AM on July 19, 2013

Rovio again makes the news, this time not with a major game release racing up to the top of the download charts, but instead with the beginning of its account roll out. Why is this a big deal? Simply because customers can now put down their phone, pick up their tablet and play a game right from where they left off on the previous device.

“We’ve been gradually rolling out Rovio Account over the past couple of months, listening to feedback and ensuring a seamless sync experience for all of our fans”.

angry birds

For now, the update has only hit the original Angry Birds game, but the company has plans to begin rolling it out to all of the platforms very soon. Users will see a “sign in” option on the home screen of the app. I have used the feature, already, to bring my progress from my Nexus phone to my tablet and can report it works perfectly well.

“We know that you’ve all been waiting for a way to sync progress between devices and we really feel that we have an amazing solution in place now” Rovio announces.

Now, we only have to await the feature to be rolled out to Space, Star Wars and the rest of the company’s hit games, a process which should take place over the coming days and weeks.

It’s Time for Dual-Band Bluetooth Please!

Posted by J Powers at 12:18 PM on July 18, 2013

170px-Bluetooth.svg[1]So this first week with my Google Glass has come with a lot of fun tasks like getting out and capturing the city through this new device. Yet, it also brought some annoyances – mainly the pairing of Glass to a mobile device. Whenever I got in my car, my Jabra hands-free unit kicked the Glass out and Glass never re-paired with it unless I manually re-paired.

Its not just Google Glass. I have a ZAGG folio on my iPad. I also have a Bluetooth headphones which I cannot use at the same time. I would like to use both – listen to music or podcasts and create an article or two. Instead, I pair the headset to my phone and the keyboard to my iPad.

As we continue down the mobile plug-free road, we’re going to be faced with the same problem as HDMI ports on a LCD TV have – too many devices fighting for limited connectors. Worst yet, we don’t want another device controlling our mobile Bluetooth connections in our pockets.

One way to solve would be to create a dual-band Bluetooth standard. This would be where the Bluetooth could pair 2 devices at the same time. Then you can have your headset and your keyboard work simultaneously.

Another option is a pass-through device. For example: device 1 could be a headset and device 2 (the passthrough) could be a keyboard. You would pair device 2 with device 1, then pair device 1 with the mobile. A little more complex and only effective if you have the passthrough device around.

Currently, Bluetooth version 4.0 has a data rate of 24 Mbit/s. A keyboard might not need that high of a data rate, whereas something like Google Glass might when pushing video. That is where data packeting can shine – giving 2 devices the ability to stay paired and the mobile device not overworked.

Of course, we also have to look at power consumption. Bluetooth low energy (BLE) protocol allows for Bluetooth to be in a nocturnal state. The device would have to also work dual-band so if device 1 is on and 2 is not, it can put half the device to sleep.

At any rate, these connection problems are only going to get worse as we rely on our mobile devices to become our primary computers. Current Bluetooth standards cannot meet that demand. With the growth of mobile devices starting to outpace computers (Gartner predicts 467,000 tablets sold vs. 271,000 PC’s in 2017), the list of companies wanting to connect to that device will grow. Soon enough, we may even need 4-band (or more) Bluetooth devices.

Last week Rovio teased something big coming today and hinted it had to do with Angry Birds Star Wars. Most folks expected a release of new levels or, perhaps, even a new game. The latter turns out to be true, but there are complications — well, one. The Finnish game make only announced Star Wars II today.

“Today we’re extremely excited to announce the arrival of Angry Birds Star Wars II, launching on September 19 across app stores worldwide” reads the official post from Rovio.

For those who were less-than-happy with the Star Wars prequels, I am afraid this may be bad news — “the new game will tackle the prequels, introducing a wide roster of never-before-seen Angry Birds Star Wars characters”. The game will bring more than 30 new characters.

angry birds star wars ii

To add to the anticipated hype surrounding these new figures, there will also be a line of over 30 collectable TELEPODS figures from Hasbro. Placing these figures onto your phone or tablet camera will scan your character of choice directly into the game, allowing you to select new characters on the fly.

It is certainly an interesting concept — and an obvious marketing grab, but Rovio seems incapable of doing anything wrong these days and the figures will likely sell almost as quickly as the game gets downloaded.

Rovio unveils new Angry Birds levels

Posted by Alan at 10:11 AM on July 3, 2013

angry birds

Duck Mr. Piggy, there is a bird heading your way! Rovio pushes the envelope a bit further with its massive gaming franchise, rolling out new levels to its record-breaking original Angry Birds game.

The Red Bird gets his very own episode featuring new “Egg Defender” gameplay, combining Angry Birds and Bad Piggies in a frenzy of bird flinging and crazy pig contraptions. The update features 15 new levels of play in which Red defends the eggs against wave after wave of Bad Piggies advancing in their 72 crazy contraptions. In other words, this time you are fighting pigs that are moving.

To pull this off, Rovio has given the bird new powers to aid in your fight. According to the announcement, the “new powers from the Mighty Eagle himself, so he can attack with speed and pinpoint accuracy! Watch the trailer to see what’s happening to the eggs and how you can defend yourself against the pesky pigs”.

Rovio announces that “to celebrate Red Bird’s own episode, we’re also giving a 15% discount on Red Bird products in the Angry Birds Online Shop! Offer is valid until July 10, 2013″. The update is for both Android and iOS.

Welcome to the Wearable Device Revolution

Posted by J Powers at 9:18 AM on July 1, 2013

With Google Glass rolling out to a select few, copycats making a glass alternative and the rumors of an iWatch coming from Apple, it’s safe to say we are now entering into the wearable device era. This is where we get rid of the bulky desktop, laptop and even iPads and have information coming to different parts of our bodies.

Google Glass

Google Glass expands our Eyes

I am slated to get my Glass in the next couple weeks. For those who have Glass, they experience a new way to take photos, get navigation and try some of the new apps coming out for this wearable devices. In hearing all the stories of Glass, I have not heard anyone say much bad stuff about the headgear – as in wishing they never bought glass. There have been concerns about the battery being close to the head and the fact it was grossly underpowered for the $1,500 price tag.

When Glass becomes a consumer product, that $1,500 price tag will most likely drop to 1/3 that. The design looks pretty bulky right now – expect it to be more streamlined in the consumer model.

Of course, this will make our way to actual glasses with the device attached. Maybe even a contact that will use kinetic power to run.

ruputer

iWatch Expands our Wrists

The rumors of Apple coming out with a bluetooth connect watch to let us glance at our wrists without pulling out the phone for text messages, phone numbers and more (like when your Clash of Clan’s canon has been upgraded or the shield is running out). The watch will probably work like a nano – with music storage and limited apps.

Its not the first watch – related technology out there. Back in the 90′s, the Ruputer was one of the first computer watches out there that could connect to a computer. More recent, items like the pebble watch have been out for a while. Companies like Sony, Fitbit and more are using your wrists to monitor your health – which will most likely be incorporated in the iWatch.

cortex1_610x204

What is Next in Wearable technology?

I remember listening to Dr. Michio Kaku a couple years back in what he expects to see in the next 50 years. Intelligent toilets and pills that can explore the body and send the details back to a doctor are some of the things he mentioned. But what else could we see?

Maybe a T-shirt that warms you up when cold or cools you down when hot? Last week we learned about the science of a 3D printed cast they are developing – being lighter and better in the healing process because air and water can get to the arm or leg with the web-like structure. What if sensors were put in that cast so your device can monitor not only if the cast breaks but if blood flow gets obstructed during the healing process? It could then transmit to your doctor the second it detected a problem.

Remember Marty Mcfly’s shoes from Back to the Future? Those are really around the corner – and we’ve already connected shoes to a mobile device. A pacemaker has wireless connectivity to collect data and report problems.

What other items can we come up with in the next 50 years as the Wearable device revolution gets into full swing? Comment below!