Apple refreshes MacBook Air, Mac mini & 27-inch display

Posted in Images,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 28th, 2011

A couple months after updating the MacBook Pros, Apple has gone ahead and reinvigorated their MacBook Air and Mac mini products. The thin-and-light ultraportable notebook now boasts faster Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, the high-speed Thunderbolt I/O port, and a backlit keyboard. The 11-inch model is available in two customizable SKUs. The base $999 model packs a 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB of memory, 64GB of flash storage, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $1,199 model upgrades the memory to 4GB and the flash storage to 128GB. Moving along to the 13-inch model, two additional SKUs are offered. The $1,299 model features a 1.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB memory,128GB flash storage, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $1,599 model upgrades the flash storage to 256GB. Certain models can be customized to feature Intel Core i7 processors (up to 1.8GHz) and upgraded flash memory (up to 256GB). The new incredibly thin MacBook Air measures 0.11-inches at its thinnest point and 0.68-inches at its thickest. Apple claims it is is up to twice as fast as the previous generation thanks to the upgraded Intel processors. The 11-inch model (at 2.38 pounds) provides up to 5 hours of battery life, while the 13-inch model  (2.96 pounds) offers up to 7 hours of battery life. It comes with a full size backlit keyboard and an improved glass Multi-Touch trackpad. Ports include MagSafe for power, 2 USB 2.0, headphone jack, Thunderbolt, and an SD Card slot (on the 11-inch model only). WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 are included; the USB Ethernet Adapter ($29) can be purchased separately. Note that the $999 MacBook Air is the base laptop Apple offers today; the white plastic MacBook has been discontinued.

Like the newly enhanced MacBook Air, the Mac mini is speedier and packs Intel Core i5 and  i7 processors and the Thunderbolt port. Additionally, graphics can be upgraded to AMD Radeon HD. Three SKUs are offered. The base $599 model comes with 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 2GB memory, 500GB hard drive, and Intel HD Graphics 3000. The $799 model upgrades the processor to 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5, the memory to 4GB, and the graphics to AMD Radeon HD 6630M. These two SKUs can be customized to feature upgraded memory (up to 8GB) and hard drive space (up to 750GB); the pricier SKU can be configured with a 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i7. The third and final SKU is the Mac mini with Lion Server and its specs include: 2.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, 4GB memory, Dual 500GB 7200-rpm hard drives, and Intel HD Graphics 3000 for $999; memory and hard drive capacities can be upgraded. Ports include Gigabit Ethernet, Firewire 800, HDMI, Thunderbolt, 4 USB 2.0, SDXC card slot, and audio in/out. WiFi 802.11n and Bluetooth 4.0 included. Notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about the Superdrive; that’s because Apple’s decided not to include a CD/DVD drive in the new Mac mini. A bold move if you ask me. BYO keyboard, mouse, and display.

Speaking of displays, in addition to updating their computers Apple has also given their Cinema Display a minor refresh. The newly branded 27-inch Thunderbolt Display features the 16:9 edge-to-edge glass design, a 2560 x 1440 resolution with IPS technology (that is, an ultra wide 178 degree viewing angle), and it’s the world’s first display to include the Thunderbolt I/O port. The display also includes includes a built-in FaceTime HD video camera for video conferencing, a 2.1 speaker system for high quality audio, an integrated MagSafe charger to keep Mac notebooks charged, three USB 2.0 ports, one FireWire 800 port, and one Gigabit Ethernet port. The cost is $999.

All three products–the MacBook Air, Mac mini, and Thunderbolt Display–are all available today. The new computers come preinstalled with Apple’s latest and greatest operating system Mac OS X Lion. Get a closer look at everything in the galleries below. Official PR sits after the break.



[Via Apple] (Click here for more…)

Google gets a makeover

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 13th, 2011

You can call it Exteme Makeover: Google Edition. Over the past few weeks Google has been rolling out a new look across many of their services, including the Google homepage, Gmail, Google Calendar, and YouTube. “The way people use and experience the web is evolving, and our goal is to give you a more seamless and consistent online experience—one that works no matter which Google product you’re using or what device you’re using it on,” explains Google. In a word they’re simply streamlining all their intertwined experiences, and the changes are ” founded on three key design principles: focus, elasticity and effortlessness.”

At Google‘s homepage you’ll surely notice the new black strip located across the top; the colorful logo is smaller and centered, the Search and Lucky buttons have a new hue, and the About, Privacy, and Advertising links have been moved to the bottom left-hand corner of the page. In Gmail and Calendar everything is bolder and more roomier to match the new homepage aesthetic. Design cues were certainly carried over from Google+. Google’s also experimenting with YouTube’s look; Cosmic Panda is the codename for the video player’s new sheen. YouTube is positively sleek in its new coat of paint.

Google’s homepage and Calendar changes have been rolling out to users automatically. To experience Gmail and YouTube’s new flairs you must enable it manually. In Gmail, select “Preview” and “Preview (Dense)” themes in the Themes tab in Gmail Settings; to play around with Cosmic Panda head over to this YouTube portal and click “Try it out.” Since Google’s still testing it out and awaiting customer feedback, you can revert back to the classic look at any time.

It will take time for every Google service to fall in line aesthetically with the new homepage, but there’s no denying that Google’s first wave of cosmetic changes is simply delightful and, well, downright sexy.

Games Hub gets spruced up in Windows Phone Mango

Posted in Images,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on June 23rd, 2011

The next release of Windows Phone is coming this fall. Windows Phone Mango includes deeper social network integration, Internet Explorer 9, and the ability to multitask. Among the 500 new features coming to the mobile OS is also an updated Xbox portal. Here’s a quick rundown of the new Games Hub:

  • A cleaner and lighter design that emphasizes your game collection and Xbox LIVE info
  • Improved overall performance and speed
  • An improved Collection view will organize and list all the games you download from the Marketplace
  • Interactive, 3D avatars
  • Improved Xbox LIVE messaging: read and reply to Xbox LIVE messages sent from another Windows Phone, a PC, or an Xbox console
  • Xbox LIVE friends are more accessible: You can search, browse, initiate, and respond to friend requests right from your Windows Phone.
  • Integrated achievements and new comparison views: See the recent games your friends have been playing, and compare gamerscores and achievements for all Xbox LIVE games played on the phone, console, or PC.
  • You can edit your Xbox LIVE profile on the go
  • Improved Spotlight content will now be complemented with rich and vibrant images
  • Improved game request notifications: You’ll receive notifications for multiplayer game or turn requests and can track them in the Requests section of the Games Hub.

In sum with Mango the Xbox on-the-go experience is going to be a helleva lot more streamlined and easier to use. Look in the gallery below to tour the updated UI.

[Via WindowsPhoneBlog]

E3 2011: Microsoft Press Conference

Posted in Images,News,Technology,[experience-it-all] by Scott Meisner on June 6th, 2011

Today Microsoft kicked off E3 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. So many game trailers, demos, and Xbox Live and Dashboard updates to talk about. Ready, set, bullet points!

  • The press conference got started with a demo of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It is described as being “the biggest, most exciting and epic Call of Duty ever.” I can confidently back that statement up. MW3 downloadable content will be available first on Xbox 360. Due out November 8, 2011.
  • Crystal Dynamics showed off the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara Croft is getting down and dirty in this game that shares style and gameplay with Uncharted. The developers explained that the game reveals “how an ambitious 21-year-old Lara Croft becomes a hardened survivor.” Due out Fall 2012.
  • EA Sports president (and former Xbox honcho) Peter Moore announced that four sports games will support Kinect this year and they are Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, FIFA, and Mass Effect 3. ME3 utilizes Kinect with voice control. Kinect’s built-in mic will pick up your commands. RPG decisions and tactical team controls can be carried out by your voice. Due out March 6, 2012.
  • Next up was Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. This title will also feature Kinect support, but this time it’s hand and arm gestures in addition to voice control. You can create various weapons by exploding them into their small parts using Minority Report-style gestures. This demo really wowed the crowed. Voice commands like “optimize for long range” will also piece together a weapon for you. The weapon customization process with Kinect looks very fluid, fast, and super cool. Ubisoft announced that all future titles in the Tom Clancy franchise will support Kinect in some way or other.
  • The Dashboard is getting yet another facelift. Somehow Microsoft has made it cleaner and more streamlined. It was built from the ground up specifically with Kinect voice in mind. For example, saying “Xbox, music” will bring you directly to the Music section. The new UI contains the following sections: Home, Social, Live TV, Video, Games, Music, Apps, and Settings. That’s right–I said live TV. Microsoft is forging new partnerships to bring live television to Xbox LIVE in the US and around the world, adding to their current partnerships with Sky TV in the UK, Canal Plus in France, and FOXTEL in Australia. TV listings and a DVR manager will be accessible from the Dashboard. Also coming to Xbox is YouTube, UFC, and Bing search. UFC president Dana White came out to show off the interactive UFC content. You can call fights and compare results with your friends. “You say it, Xbox finds it” is the new Bing motto when it comes to searching for and discovering content on the console. “Xbox, Bing, X-Men” will prompt the console to bring up all games and videos (including movies and TV shows) related to your query.
  • The following upcoming games are Xbox 360 exclusives: Ice-T joined Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski for a demo of Gears of War 3 (due out September 20, 2011); Crytek’s Ryse will take advantage of Kinect as you violently slash your way past enemies in Rome; To celebrate Halo’s 10 year anniversary a remastered version of the original game will release November 15, 2011 and it’s called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (co-op over Xbox Live and classic multiplayer maps included); Turn 10 Studio’s Forza Motorsport 4 releases October 11, 2011 with Top Gear content and Kinect support for voice and headtracking; Head of Lionhead Studios Peter Molyneux hopped on stage to reveal the next Fable subtitled The Journey (this game too will come packed with heavy support for Kinect, due out in 2012); Minecraft is coming to support Kinect this winter; other exclusives include Kinect-based kids games Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, and Kinect Star Wars.
  • Microsoft’s bearded man with designer shades Kudo Tsunoda came out to show off the latest updates of his pet project the Kinect. He announced that Kinect Fun Labs is a permanent addition to the Xbox Live Dashboard and it will serve as a portal for the developer community to share their latest Kinect innovations. Three Labs games were shown off. Kinect Me will capture your face and clothing to create an avatar that looks just like you; in Kinect Sparkler you make poses for the camera, it captures them, and then you can use your fingers to draw sparkling lines of light in the image in three dimensions (you can manipulate the image to make it appear as if it contains two layers); Kinect Googly Eyes allows you to scan real-life tangible objects using Kinect and them manipulate their actions on-screen (at the conference a plush toy was scanned without issue). Kinect Fun Labs is accessible today to all Xbox Live members.
  • More Kinect games coming to Xbox include: Kinect Sports Season 2 (baseball, skiing, golf, darts, tennis, football); Dance Central 2 (which now features a campaign mode, voice controls, and a revamped Break it Down mode, and simultaneous multiplayer dancing…plus all songs from the original an be imported into the sequel).
  • And then came the “dawn of a new trilogy for Xbox 360″…it’s Halo 4! A brief teaser trailer was played. Master Chief returns Holiday 2012.

And that was the Microsoft press conference. Though most of the game trailer and demos were stimulating, the overall presentation was lacking in explosive, heart-stopping content. The Dashboard update is nice, the Xbox exclusives are impressive, and the push for Kinect is full speed ahead. It will certainly be interesting to see developers make new and exciting uses of the Kinect peripheral; Microsoft seems to be goading developers into incorporating it into their games somehow. Voice control seems overly gimmicking, but at least new approaches are being made to interactivity. And I gotta say, ending the event with a tease at the birth of a new Halo trilogy was a nice touch.

I attended the press conference this morning, so make sure you check out the pictures I snapped in the gallery below!

Nintendo 3DS eShop & Internet browser become available June 6

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on June 4th, 2011

Attention Nintendo 3DS owners–your handheld’s first major system update arrives early next week, Monday June 6 to be exact. It brings the long-awaited Nintendo 3DS eShop and a handy Internet browser. The eShop contains a wide variety of downloadable content; the press release says it all:

The Nintendo eShop is a digital store for Nintendo 3DS owners that provides access to a wide variety of downloadable content, such as original 3D software, classic games that have been re-mastered in 3D called 3D Classics, Game Boy and Game Boy Color “Virtual Console” games in their original 2D glory, and more than 350 Nintendo DSiWare games. Visitors can also view video game trailers, screen shots and product information for games, including those available at retail locations.

To celebrate the introduction of the eShop on the 3DS Nintendo will offer the classic NES game Excitebike remastered in 3D as a free download until July 7. The company promises that new content will be added to the eShop every Thursday. Ninty hints that upcoming Virtual Console content includes Game Boy games Super Mario Land, Alleyway, and Radar Mission. Another free application that’ll be offered for eShoppers is Pokédex 3D; it lets you collect data for more than 150 Pokémon from the Pokémon Black and White Version games and view them in 3D with animated motion and sound. Data can be shared with friends using the wireless SpotPass feature.

Additionally the update also gives Nintendo DSi owners the ability to transfer “most” of their previously downloaded Nintendo DSiWare games to their new Nintendo 3DS systems. So that’s nice. Note that this system update does not include the short-form video service that will bring 3D movie trailers, comedy clips and music videos to the handheld; the company is saving it for “the near future.” Same goes for Netflix.

When the evening of June 6 rolls around, head over to System Settings from the Home Menu and select System Update to pump new life into your maturing 3DS.

[Via Nintendo] (Click here for more…)

Twitter brings photos and videos to the forefront, improves search

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on June 1st, 2011

Hello Twitterverse! Today I have some exciting news to share with you. Twitter has teamed with Photobucket to introduce an integrated photo-sharing service for all users. The company will be releasing a feature that allows you to easily upload a photo and attach it to your Tweet directly within Twitter.com. Additionally you’ll be able to easily do this from all of the official Twitter mobile apps, too. If you don’t own a smartphone the company’s working with mobile carriers to figure out a way to send photos via text message. And here’s the best part. Twitter is rolling out “a completely new version of Twitter search” the brings tagged photos and videos into the mix. For example, if you upload, attach, and tweet a picture from a shuttle launch and include the hashtag #launch, you will be brought to all of the most buzzed-about tweets, pictures, and videos relevant to that specific hashtag. Relevant and expansive photo and video clouds are just a click away. In addition, the revamped search engine promises to deliver more relevant Tweets when you search for something or click on a trending topic.

So when can you expect to see all these new features hitting the social network? The improved search engine is being rolled out today, the Twitter.com photo upload service will make its way to users over the next several weeks, and the mobile apps will see an upgrade that’ll bring these enhancements “soon.” Jump after the break to see the new search+photo services in action.

[Via Twitter] (Click here for more…)

Windows Phone Mango update to bring over 500 new features this fall

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on May 24th, 2011

Today Microsoft previewed the next major release of Windows Phone. Codenamed Mango, the update will bring more than 500 new features to the growing platform. It aims to make the mobile operating system “smarter and easier” by injecting new life into the communications, apps and Internet experiences. In order, shall we?

Communications: (1) Deeper social network integration: In addition to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now integrated into contact cards. (2) Threads: Now you can easily switch between SMS, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation. In other words, conversations can be had across various messaging platforms. For example, if you begin a conversation with friend at home over Facebook chat you can continue this conversation when you’re on the go via SMS and the back-and-forth banter will be streamlined in the same conversation window. (3) Groups: You can group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see your friends’ latest status updates from the home screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to a whole group. For example, you can create a “family” group and store your parents and siblings inside a Live Tile. From there you can easily converse with them under one roof or check their social status updates. (4) Linked inbox: Now you can see multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Also, email now supports threading and calendar Facebook events. (5) Hands-free messaging: Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting. If you’re listening to music and receive a text the phone will read the incoming message aloud to you. Then you can speak a reply and the phone will convert your speech into text and send it off.

Apps: (1) Multitasking: It’s been a long time coming–with Mango you can quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background. (2) Improved Live Tiles: Live Tiles pinned to the home screen can hold more information and allow you to get real-time information from apps without having to open them. For example, if there’s an HDTV you’ve been saving up for you pin a Best Buy product page to your home screen and it will live there as a dynamic Live Tile. Instead of just sitting there as a simple bookmark, the Live Tile will animate and inform you when the TV is in stock and how far away it is for pickup. (3) App Connect: Apps can be tied tightly together to search results and Hubs to make for a smarter and more intuitive experience. For example with Bing Vision (more on this below) you can scan a book, see information about it, and with a single tap jump into the Amazon Kindle Store and purchase the book there and start reading.

Internet: (1) Internet Explorer 9: The updated browser supports HTML5 and full hardware acceleration. Unfortunately Flash and Silverlight support still isn’t here yet. (2) Local Scout: This new integrated service provides “hyperlocal search results” and recommends nearby restaurants, shopping and activities in an easy-to-use guide. When you enter Bing search, you can click the new Scout icon, the phone will automatically determine your location, and then it will provide you with information directly related to where you are instantly. Data is separated into the following categories: eat+drink, see+do, shop, favorites, and highlights. (3) Bing Vision: Also in Bing search you will find the icon for Bing Vision, another new integrated experience that allows you to capture a tangible product and get more information about it. It’s like Google Goggles, but it’s limited to barcodes, QR codes, book, DVD, and music covers. What’s neat is that the decoding process is nearly instant. Once you’re inside Bing Vision, the phone’s camera is turned on and all you have to do is point it at a product and results are revealed (pricing, availability, and relevant apps to learn more about the product at hand). (4) Quick Cards: When searching for a product, movie, event or place in the browser, you will see a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps, presented to you. For example, if you search “Pirates of the Caribbean” you will be presented with movie times at local theatres, plot synopsis, a means to purchase tickets, etc.

With Mango Microsoft plans to expand the Windows Phone ecosystem through new partnerships with Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE and support for additional languages. The following handset manufacturers are confirmed to deploy Mango devices: in addition to the aforementioned new partnerships, Samsung, LG, HTC, and Nokia. That’s right, the first batch of Nokia phones following Microsoft’s strategic alliance with the Finnish company will run the Mango update. Developers will soon be able to get their inventive hands on the free Windows Phone Developer tools featuring Mango (within the next 24 hours, Microsoft promises). And when can consumers expect to see the update hit their Windows Phones? It pains me to say that Microsoft plans to unleash Mango as an over-the-air update this fall. Why the dreadful wait? Beats me. At least fragmentation is being avoided. Microsoft says that all existing Windows Phone 7 devices will receive the update in due time, and all future handsets will come loaded with the latest version on board.

Jump after the break to watch Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demonstrate a bunch of the new features described here. As exciting and forward-looking as they may be, the wait until autumn is a wrench in the system. By the time Mango is released who knows what kind of magical dust will be spewing from Apple’s latest creation that will be iOS5.

Update: A curious commenter asked about copy and paste functionality. This long-awaited feature was added to Windows Phone 7 back in late March under the update codenamed NoDo. It goes without saying that it will carry over to all devices that receive the Mango upgrade.

[Via Microsoft] (Click here for more…)

Google I/O 2011: Music Beta, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Android@Home, Chrome OS, Chrome Web Store

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on May 11th, 2011

Yesterday and today Google hosted its renowned developer’s conference dubbed Google I/O 2011. Literally thousands of developers flocked to San Fransisco’s Moscone Center to find out what Google’s been cooking up on their end. This year’s event proved to be leaps and bounds more exciting than last year’s conference. Google introduced their new cloud-based music service called Music Beta; they unveiled Ice Cream Sandwich, the next version of Android that promises to bridge the gap between Gingerbread and Honeycomb; Android is going into the home automation business with Google’s impressive initiative Android@Home; Chrome OS is finally ready for the big leagues–Samsung and Acer are prepping Chromebooks for mass consumption; and Angry Birds has landed in the browser!

So much to discuss–it’s all a hop, skip and a jump after the break. (Click here for more…)

Apple refreshes iMac with Intel quad-core processors, next-gen AMD graphics, and Thunderbolt

Posted in Images,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on May 5th, 2011

This week Apple temporarily shut down their online shop and when it came back it was freshly stocked with the brand new iMac. Just like the last product refresh, things look the same on the outside. On the inside, however, Apple has raised the bar for the all-in-one package. The new iMac features “Sandy Bridge” Intel quad-core processors across the line, next-gen AMD graphics, and it joins the MacBook Pro in sporting the speedy Thunderbolt port. Pricing starts at $1,199 for the base 21.5-incher and $1,699 for the 27-inch model.

Hop on after the break for the full rundown.

(Click here for more…)

Netflix on Xbox 360 now supports Kinect hand gestures and voice commands

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on April 14th, 2011

The next time you load up Netflix on your Xbox 360 you’ll be required to download and install a free update for the video streaming application. This latest update brings Kinect support to Netflix; you can use hand gestures and voice commands to browse a library of TV shows and movies and control video playback. But there’s a catch, unfortunately. The Kinect-enhanced Netflix menu only allows you to browse the “Suggestions for You” section that shows you content based on your viewing habits and instant queue. You cannot use Kinect to access the other Netflix sections; if the software does not produce worthy suggestions it advises: “For more choices and search, use your controller.” You can’t even say “Xbox, search Arrested Development.” Bummer, I know. In time hopefully Microsoft will let loose another update that brings more functionality to this new Netflix/Kinect partnership. Full PR after the break.

[Via Joystiq] (Click here for more…)

Disney gives the Haunted Mansion a ghostly revamp

Posted in EXPERIENCE,Video by Scott Meisner on April 9th, 2011

Disney’s Imagineers have been working hard to retool the Florida theme park’s famous Haunted Mansion ride and now it’s finally ready for the public at large to experience the newly installed frights. If you’ve been on the ride before, you should know that in the ride’s final moments (spoiler alert) ghostly figures appear next to you in the Doom Buggy through the magic of mirroring. Disney decided to upgrade this portion of the ride by making things a bit more interactive. The hitchhiking ghosts referred to as Ezra, Gus, and Phineas not only appear in your cart but they can now rip off passengers’ heads, blow them up like one would with a balloon, and send it flying in the air and it eventually lands back on the shoulders of the unsuspecting passenger. Disney pulls off the neat trick in grand fashion and you can sneak a peek at it in the video above. Obviously little justice is served here, so you ought to check it out first-hand the next time you visit the Magic Kingdom.

[Via InsideTheMagic]

First major Windows Phone 7 brings copy & paste functionality, at long last

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 23rd, 2011

This week Microsoft let loose the first major Windows Phone 7 update for those branded handsets. Codenamed NoDo, the update brings copy & paste functionality and among other improvements including faster load and resume times for apps, refined Marketplace search, WiFi, Outlook, messaging, camera, and audio improvements, and better Facebook integration. Click the source link below to read more about the update, or simply wait for your WP7 device to notify you about the download.

Update: Haven’t received the update yet? Well that’s because Microsoft is rolling it out gradually depending on your location and device. Check your status here and learn more about the rollout process here.

[Via Microsoft]

Flash 10.2 coming to Android Market March 18th

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 11th, 2011

Today Adobe announced that they’re delivering on their promise to bring updated Flash support to Android devices next week. Flash Player 10.2 will be available for download via Android Market on March 18th. The new player will work on the three most recent versions of Android–that is, 2.2 (Froyo) and 2.3 (Gingerbread), and 3.0 (Honeycomb). It remains in beta form for the tablet version of the OS. The update is detailed after the break, PR-style.

[Via Engadget] (Click here for more…)

Windows 7 SP1 out now

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on February 23rd, 2011

For those of you who have been holding out on switching over from XP to Microsoft’s latest OS, now there’s absolutely no reason not to move on to the next one. Windows 7’s first service pack is now available to download. Though you won’t notice any UI enhancements, SP1 promises to keep lingering bugs in check and grants you access to all of Microsoft’s future OS improvements and updates. If Windows Update has yet to inform you about the news, manually check for the update or click here. (And as for you non-converts Windows 7 may share aesthetics with its buggy predecessor Vista, but you’ve nothing to fear, especially with SP1 under its belt.)

Avatar Kinect gives you more control over your Xbox doppelganger

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on January 9th, 2011

Microsoft has announced a new Kinect-specific update for Xbox 360 owners.  Here’s out the makers explain it: “With Avatar Kinect, you can control your avatar’s facial expression, head, and arm movements. As you talk, frown, smile, or scowl, your voice and facial expressions are enacted by your avatar, bringing your avatar to life!”  In other words, the update will give you a more detailed level of control over your avatar.  Right now the Kinect captures basic movements, such as arm flails, moving side-to-side, jumping, and ducking.  With Avatar Kinect, the sensor will be able to recognize a new slate of physical actions.  Microsoft is highlighting a virtual hangout where you can meet up with up to seven friends and converse with them using your avatars.  You’ll be able to select from 15 virtual environments.  Think of it as Wii’s Mii Plaza, except this space will allow for broader interaction (detailed avatar movements performed by you, voice support).  Avatar Kinect will hit Xbox 360s later this spring.  Look after the break to see it in action.

In related Kinect news… At CES 2011 Microsoft announced that they sold 8 million Kinect sensors worldwide during its first 60 days on the market; they sold 3 million more devices than they had predicted they would during that launch window.  More news… In a spring update, Hulu Plus will be joining Netflix, expanding users’ options when it comes to TV and movie content.  In addition, the two services will be Kinect-compatible.

[Via Xbox] (Click here for more…)

Skype brings video calling to the iPhone

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on December 30th, 2010

Today Skype updated its official iPhone app and version 3.0 brings with it video calling over WiFi and 3G.  Two-way Skype-to-Skype video calling can take place between two phones and between phones and computers (Windows, Mac, or Linux) at no charge.  In addition to the iPhone 4, the app is also compatible with the iPhone 3GS, the newest iPod touch, the third gen iPod touch, and the iPad all running iOS 4.0 or higher.  Since the latter two devices do not feature back and front-facing cameras they are restricted to only receiving video.  And note that since the 3GS does not pack a front-facing camera it will only broadcast video from the back-facing camera.

I gave the app a test drive and it worked flawlessly…over WiFi, that is.  With that stable connection I was able to successfully connect to a desktop Skype client and video chatting worked as advertised.  With the iPhone 4 you have the option to broadcast video from the front-facing camera and switch it to the back one on the fly, as well as options to mute the conversation and switch between portrait and landscape modes.  When I disabled WiFi and attempted an iPhone 4-to-desktop video chat the video appeared noticeably more pixelated and laggy until it decided to cut out completely and drop the call.  But that’s 3G for you; heck, at least it works.

The free Skype update is available to download now at the App Store.  Apple might have had a leg up on the video conferencing competition with FaceTime since iPhone 4’s introduction, but with Mac and Windows support–plus 3G support–plus a giant user base in the millions–Skype is enabling the futuristic functionality for a significantly larger community of iOS users.  Press release and (creepy) introductory demonstration video after the break.

[Via Engadget] (Click here for more…)

Your Facebook profile page is about to receive yet another facelift

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on December 6th, 2010

Another day, another Facebook revamp–am I right?  Though most people love to share their gripes about Facebook’s incessant need to change the way it looks, this particular change to our profile pages is actually (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) a good one.  Read on to find out why.

When you receive the profile page update and head over to your page, the first change you’ll notice is up top where your name is located.  Tabs are gone (they’ve been moved to the left-side pane, but more on that later) and under your name now you’ll find “a quick summary of who you are”, as Facebook so eloquently describes it.  What looks like a jumble of words at first is actually a list of key information pertaining to you.  For example, if you provide info. like your relationship status, where you go to school and what you’re studying, where you live, where you’re originally from, where you work, what languages you speak, and your birthday–all of this will be listed under your name and viewable by friends.  Directly beneath this “about me” section is a collection of recently tagged photos featuring you.  Keep in mind these highlighted photos are static; you cannot change the order of them.  All you can do is tap a small “x” to hide a particular recent photo and it will be replace by the next most recent tagged photo. Pretty cool way to “show what you’ve been up to lately”, I guess. (Click here for more…)

Today in Apple news: iOS 4.2, Apple TV 4.1 get unleashed; MobileMe Find My iPhone feature goes free

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 22nd, 2010

If you are a proud owner of an iOS device today is your lucky day.  Apple has finally unleashed iOS 4.2, and it brings oh-so-much to the aging iPad and a handful of sweet features to the iPhone and iPod touch.  Here’s the laundry list of new features coming to the iPad: multitasking, folders (you can store up to 20 apps inside a folder), Game Center, and updates to Mail (Unified Inbox, fast inbox switching, a threaded message view).  In other words, it’s playing catch up with the iPhone and touch.  Also bear in mind that the physical toggle switch on the iPad’s side no longer acts as an orientation lock; now it’s a mute switch, just like it is on the iPhone.  The lock has been moved to the dock tray that also houses the iPod controls.  With the new update, all iOS devices will gain the ability to find and highlight specific words and phrases on web pages in Safari, select new fonts in Notes, beam video and audio with AirPlay, and print wirelessly with AirPrint.  Let’s talk about the latter two new features because they are exciting additions.  With AirPlay you can stream music, video, and photos wirelessly from your iOS device to Apple TV and AirPlay-enabled speakers.  On the video front, you can only stream files you’ve purchased from iTunes (or managed to convert to make playable in iTunes) and from YouTube.  If you try to beam video content from Netflix or the ABC app, for example, only the audio will cross over.  Bummer, I know.  If you want to print wirelessly with AirPrint, you must own a compatible printer; Apple says HP Photosmart, HP LaserJet Pro, and HP Officejet will be the first to support it.  iOS 4.2 is compatible with iPad, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, second and third generation iPod touch, and the latest iPod touch.  You’ll be prompted to update the next time you open iTunes.

Right on cue Apple TV owners received the 4.1 firmware update today, granting them the ability to harness the power of AirPlay.  That is, of course, if they also own a compatible iOS device.

Last, the MobileMe Find My iPhone feature no longer requires a MobileMe subscription to access and use.  Apple has turned it into an app, and it’s available in the App Store today.  In case you forgot, Find My iPhone helps you locate your missing device on a detailed map.  You can also have it display a message or play a sound to make finding your missing device easier.  And if you are forced to give up the search, you can remotely lock or wipe data from the lost device.  The free Find My iPhone feature is available for iPhone 4, iPad or new iPod touch (4th generation).

Look after the break for Apple’s PR.

[Via Engadget, herehere] (Click here for more…)

Twitter intros push notifications for @mentions

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 17th, 2010

This week Twitter introduced a neat new feature for mobile users: push notifications for @mentions.  Whenever you are mentioned in the Twittersphere you can make it so that you receive a text message or push notification from the Twitter app so that you’re instantly notified about it.  The push notification part only works with the latest version of Twitter for iPhone, for now.  Twitter is also bringing push notifications for Messages to Twitter for iPhone, a feature that Blackberry users have already been privy to.  To enable these new notifications, tweak your settings at twitter.com/devices.  Twitter says they’re working on bringing these new slate of features to Android and Windows Phone 7 users soon.

[Via TwitterBlog]

Boxee Box launches with promise of Netflix & Hulu Plus integration on the way

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on November 11th, 2010

Last night the developers at Boxee hosted a launch party in NYC to celebrate the debut of the Boxee Box by D-Link.  We already know everything there is to know about the Internet streaming box, so I’ll jump right into the juicy new details shared at the launch party.  First, Netflix and Hulu Plus are coming to the Boxee Box; the former is expected to arrive before the end of the year, and there’s no release window for the latter though Boxee promises they’re working on it.  They’re also working on an updated version of the 2-sided Boxee remote (one side control buttons, the other a QWERTY keyboard for search) that will include a dedicated Netflix button.  VUDU, TED, VEVO, and VICE videos will be accessible to browse and stream on the Box, too.  There’s also been some changes to the user interface since it was last previewed in the beta.  The home screen is a lot more streamlined, making it easier to find your content and view featured content.  A new drop down menu provides quick links to Home, Shows, Movies, Apps, Files, and a search bar.  Music and photos have been pushed into the Files category until the Boxee team can find time to give it some more “TLC.”

And that about does it.  Boxee Box can be yours today for a cool $199.99.

[Via BoxeeBlog]