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


After 5 months the Windows Store hits 50,000 apps

Posted by Alan at 12:50 PM on March 23, 2013

windows 8 store updates link

Windows 8 launched way back at the end of October last year and it has steadily grown since then, though there is a vocal minority who would like you to believe otherwise — some of whom have a vested interest in making you think that way. While the growth of the operating system itself has been rather quick — four million copies sold in less than a week — the growth of the App Store has been slower, but rather steady.

Now the web site Metro Scanner reports a new milestone has been reached. As of this writing, the store is officially as 50,304 apps. This is likely a big moment for Microsoft, as it is validation of the company’s plan and proof that people, most importantly developers, are finally coming around.

Of course, there is a long way to go. The operating system is still without a number of feature apps. Lacking still are official versions of things like Twitter, Facebook and others.

However, the growth should steadily become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As more apps appear the pressure on others to get in there will mount. The steadily growing number of users will also add additional pressure on developers to get them on the ball with this OS and Store.

gDoc Binder

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 12:33 PM on February 24, 2013

gDoc Binder gDoc Binder is the electronic version of the traditional physical binder. It has the three rings, tabs and sections just like a regular binder. gDoc Binder is a great way to organize a project. Each binder can be secured with a password and has 256AES encryption. You can store text and images in the notebook. They hope to add the ability to store audio and video files in the future.

The gDoc Binders is a Windows only application, but you can easily share the content to an iPad. You can print, copy,  share a page, a whole section or an entire notebook easily. What makes these binders great is that they help you organize information in an easily searchable and shareable format. Right now gDoc Binders is looking for users for their beta program, however they expect to sell a set of ten binders for $10.00. More information is available at the gDoc website

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net, and Daniel J. Lewis of the The Noodle.mx Network and the Audacity to Podcast

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The Joystick all-in-one remote control and hotspot

Posted by Alan at 6:13 AM on January 22, 2013

One of the cool devices that GNC found at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was the Joystick from Noitavonne. This device is kind of a one-stop-shop for many cool features.

It acts as a remote control for your devices, like an Android  phone or tablet or a Windows 8 device. When paired with your TV, it turns your big screen into an Android device and if your phone rings you can answer it through Joystick’s built-in speaker. It even has a full QWERTY keyboard to add to the functionality. The keyboard is hidden beneath a small flip-up 1080p screen.

The product is expected to be released in the spring of this year with a price point of “between $249 and $349″.

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Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

Cool space and astronomy themes for Windows

Posted by Alan at 7:31 AM on December 9, 2012

You know that those of us at GNC love space and astronomy almost as much as we love computers and technology. While we all use different operating systems — Windows, Mac, and even Linux, we can all agree that a good space theme is cool. There isn’t any shortage of those available either.

In fact, you don’t even have to look far to find one. Microsoft and other sites make them available. Even NASA themselves posts one now and again. So, it’s the weekend and news is slow. With that in mind, it’s a great time to do a quick roundup of these themes that are floating around out there.

Windows

Image of M82 or the Cigar Galaxy from NASA's Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes, and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory

Microsoft does a great job of making themes for all occasions — movie and game releases, seasons, holidays and just cool photography. The latter is the category we are looking for. Head to the personalization gallery where you can browse or do a keyword search.

Windows Observer

Richard Hay, who runs the great Windows Observer site and podcast, has created several space-based themes. Thanks to NASA images being in the public domain, anyone can do this, but thanks to Richard you don’t need to. He also posts idividual wallpapers and has even begun breaking down themes specifically for both Windows 7 and Windows 8. You can browse the themes here.

Windows 7 Themes

1

Another great web site for finding themes and wallpapers, although it’s a bit confusing to navigate. If you want to take a look then head over to this site.

There are many other sources for wallpaper and themes around the internet, just be careful of fakes when downloading anything from a web site that you aren’t familiar with.

Buffalo Launches Thunderbolt Portable SSD

Posted by Andrew at 3:13 PM on November 30, 2012

Buffalo LogoFollowing on from GNC’s review of the MiniStation Air earlier this month, Buffalo have a launched the MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD. As you might guess from the name, it’s a portable SSD with a Thunderbolt connection so it’s ideal for connecting up with Apple Macs.

Combining the SSD with Thunderbolt, the MiniStation has a read performance of more than 370 MB/s and a write performance that exceeds 250 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book. And I think those are Bytes and not bits. PC users aren’t left out with a USB 3.0 connection too, though it’s not as fast as the Thunderbolt connections.

MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD

Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo, said: “The MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD combines a highly robust and aesthetically pleasing design with exceptionally fast data transfer speed. We have seen how Thunderbolt hard drives have transformed the available speed for read and write to storage devices, but with the additional of SSD in the Buffalo range, the speed stakes are raised again providing astounding performance.

The drive is bus-powered and will be available in two storage sizes, at a recommended price of £229.99 for the 128 GB product and £349.99 for the 256 GB version. There’s a .pdf spec sheet here.

Hopefully GNC will be bringing you a review of the MiniStation Thunderbold SSD in the not-too-distant future.

3 apps to customize Windows 8 to your liking

Posted by Alan at 7:31 AM on November 27, 2012

Microsoft made major changes with the move to Windows 8. Many users love the new operating system, but it also seems to have it’s detractors and they tend to be the loudest voices. Yes, the new OS is different, but Microsoft has always made Windows pretty customizable and features that aren’t readily so can be changed by third-party apps. That hasn’t changed in Windows 8.

Skip Metro Suite

I personally don’t mind the new Start screen, although I rarely use it. I don’t mind having to hit the Desktop icon after boot up and I genuinely like the Charms menu. With that said, my opinions aren’t shared by all and Skip Metro Suite will help those who don’t share my views. It will let you skip the Start screen on boot up, disable the switcher, disable the Charms menu and remove edge panels.

Start8

The lack of the now familiar Start button has probably been the biggest cause of concern for Windows traditionalists. Again, I find no reason to bring this back — using the Charms menu Search feature to open an app is perfectly acceptable. However, many seem to feel they simply can’t live without this Windows 95 leftover.

For those of you who want that feature back, there are a number of apps that have sprung up to take care of it. Perhaps the best is Start8 from Stardock. It isn’t free, but the $4.99 price tag isn’t too steep if this is truly what you want.

QTTabBar

Now here is an app that I really like! Not that the previous two aren’t good, but only that they do things that I don’t find necessary. You see, Microsoft did update Windows Explorer by adding the ribbon interface which became popular in Office. However, the company failed to add perhaps the most requested feature – tabs. Tabs like those Chrome, Firefox and even Microsoft’s Internet Explorer have had for some time.

QTTabBar is perhaps the simplest way to add tabs to Explorer. It’s also free and open source software, which makes it even better.

So, what apps do you like to use with Windows 8? I am always looking for suggestions.

What Did Windows 8 Look Like When it was Young?

Posted by Alan at 9:05 AM on November 20, 2012

Windows 8 is here to stay regardless of if you like it or not. Microsoft is now looking to get the operating system boosted to worldwide appeal and doing so through a variety of advertising means. But, regardless of all of that, the company also “released” some early screenshots from the development days to show how far the operating system has come.

The image was published by Long Zheng, who was a member of the Chevron Windows Phone unlock team, and was sent to him by an unnamed Microsoft insider. The screenshot in question came from a UX Week 2012 presentation by Microsoft’s Jensen Harris.

The interface is not vastly different from the new Metro Start screen that we all love or hate. The basic format is already there in this image, but it lacks the now familiar Microsoft apps like Mail, People, Store and the rest.

While this image doesn’t really mean a whole lot, it is a nice insight into the early mock-ups and ideas that Microsoft started with when building Windows 8.

The jury is still out regarding if the OS will be a success or if it will it fail miserably.

Windows 8 Mini-Review

Posted by Andrew at 9:22 AM on November 19, 2012

Microsoft Windows 8If you are thinking about upgrading to Windows 8 from Windows 7, my suggestion would be to stop thinking about it and save your money for something else. Cheap as the upgrade is, the user interface is terrible.

It’s like Microsoft have taken the new user interface (previously known as Metro) and smashed into the traditional desktop interface, with the interface layers competing for the user’s attention. Some components have gone completely – the Start button – and other components are hidden in unintuitive places: how do I shutdown the PC? Charms slide in from the right – even the name gives no clear idea as to what charms do. The new front page pops up in the bottom left. The desktop appears sometimes. Apps are windowed or full-screen but you can’t get from one to the other. It’s truly awful.

Before anyone accuses me of being an old dog resistant to new tricks, I have bought every single previous version of Ms DOS and (consumer) Windows as it came out, (with the exception of Windows ME). Not this time, though. I’m sticking with Windows 7.

I like the Windows Phone 7 / 8 user interface and it’s great on a phone or tablet but on a desktop or a laptop with a mouse, it’s a disaster. Here’s my prediction….Windows 8 will be to Windows 7 what Vista was to XP. That’s how bad it is.

Sorry, Microsoft, but you’ve got this really badly wrong.

Angry Birds Star Wars Lands on Android, iOS, Windows Phone

Posted by Alan at 2:18 PM on November 8, 2012

Angry Birds Star Wars

Depending on what time zone you live in you may or may not have been ready to grab a copy of Angry Birds Star Wars when it blasted onto mobile platforms and computers at 11pm PST last night, complete with an online launch event.  Rovio even held a live-streaming event for those who were awake at that hour, which I suppose was morning in Finland where Rovio is based.

From that Scandinavian country the company has reached out and dominated the mobile markets on Android and iOS devices and even is available now on Windows Phone and OSX and Windows computers.

The last big release from the Finnish game studio, Bad Piggies rocketed to number one on the download charts in under three hours, making it the most successful release in history, surpassing Angry Birds Space.  At the same time, the original Angry Birds game remains in the most popular download list in the Google Play Store.

You can grab a copy now.  There are both free and paid versions.  You will find some very different birds here thanks to the Star Wars branding. The game play, while similar to Angry Birds Space, is also a bit different thanks to the George Lucas (recently purchased by Disney) influence.

Pogoplug Mobile Review

Posted by Andrew at 12:50 AM on October 25, 2012

Pogoplug LogoThe cloud is definitely where it’s at right now, but what if you don’t like the idea the idea of Google, Dropbox et al looking after your data? Then you might be interested in a Pogoplug, which allows you to create your own cloud storage that’s only limited by the size of the hard disk. A Pogoplug is a hardware gadget that connects USB storage devices to your local LAN and then makes the space available across the Internet, effectively creating a personal cloud. The data is stored in your control and if more storage is needed, plug-in a bigger hard drive.

On review here is the Pogoplug Mobile, the 3rd generation of Pogoplug device from Cloud Engines. It offers a single USB port plus an SD card slot along with the network port and power socket. Newer Pogoplugs come with USB3 ports, but as the maximum speed of the Pogoplug cloud is always going to be the speed of the Internet connection, the faster transfer speeds of USB3 are unlikely to be a significant benefit. For testing, I used a 64 GB memory stick, rather than a hard drive, which means that the unit will run silently with minimal power consumption.

Pogoplug Packaging

The Pogoplug website has downloads for Windows, Macs and Linux, and the relevant app stores have versions for Android, iOS, Blackberry and legendary WebOS. I was able to try the Windows, Linux, Android and WebOS versions. The Windows version connects to the Pogoplug and presents it as a drive letter, allowing most Windows applications to use the Pogoplug transparently. The Pogoplug software has additional backup functionality as well, which may be useful for some people. The Linux version is command line only but anyone familiar with Linux will have no trouble getting the Pogoplug mounted into the filesystem.

The Android app is simple and straightforward with a couple of nice tricks up its sleeve. Broadly you can browse files in a directory fashion or you can view music, photos and movies in a tag or meta-data based fashion, As expected, there are viewers and players for the media, though movies get handed over to the default app rather than playing within the Pogoplug app. The music player is basic and has one really irritating flaw; it doesn’t seem to be able to pick up the track number from the mp3 files and consequently orders tracks alphabetically when playing albums. This really needs to be fixed.

Back viewPerformance-wise, the Pogoplug is always going to be limited by the upload (rather than download) speed of the broadband connection when outside of the home. This usually meant a little bit of buffering before playing music but once the playback got underway, there was rarely any stuttering. There were occasional times when folders refused to refresh but my suspicion is that any problems were down to the local data connection on my phone rather than a problem with the Pogoplug. YMMV. Inside my home, the performance was excellent.

In common with other social and cloud apps, the Pogoplug app has automatic uploading of pictures and video from the devices camera. It’s also possible to set the folder where the uploaded images are to go. Frankly, this is brilliant as my wife is hopeless at remembering to copy photos off her smartphone so by setting up the Pogoplug app on her phone, any photos she takes get automatically transferred. On occasion, a photo would sometimes fail to completely upload; again I suspect the loss of 3G connectivity than any fundamental problem, but the error checking could be improved. It’s also possible to upload any image from within the photo Gallery app.

As with most cloud solutions, you can also share with friends and family, using either the app or the web interface. It’s straightforward – select the folder you want to share, select who you want to share with and an email is sent to them with the relevant link. It’s an easy way to share photos of Junior with grandma and grandpa.

Any downsides? Only two that i can see….first, there’s no direct integration with any other apps that I could find. Quickoffice and other office apps typically allow access straight into Google Drive or Dropbox but none seemed to work with a Pogoplug. Effectively I had to download a Word doc to the phone, do my edits in QuickOffice and then upload the doc back to the Pogoplug. Not slick.

The second is that when I was at home and on the same subnet as the Pogoplug, Internet access to Pogoplug’s servers was still needed, presumably to check authorisation privileges. Normally, it’s not going to be an issue, but it would be handy to have a way to bypass this when working locally and the connection to the Internet goes down.

Overall, the Pogoplug is a handy device that gives you control over your data rather than entrusting it to a megacorp. A few glitches spoil what is otherwise a neat little solution that potentially gives as much data storage space as you need, without paying per GB per annum. For the low cost of the Pogoplug unit (about $50 / £35), it’s a bargain.

Disclaimer – this was a personally purchased device.