News: Foursquare revamps business pages to take on Yelp as web visitors hit 50 million per month As Foursquare has evolved from friend-finder to expansive recommendations engine,Yelp has emerged as the company’s most formidable enemy. Foursquare’s mobile apps have for some time stood head and shoulders above Yelp’s, but there was always one area where Foursquare lagged: the web. Today, a big update on Foursquare's web app hopes to change that — a fresh coat of paint that front-loads Foursquare's top selling points over its rival. "This is the place to make a first impression," says Foursquare’s lead web engineer Mike Singleton. 50 million people come to the site every month, which is an astounding number compared to the 33 million users Foursquare says it has. A large portion of that traffic comes from Google, Singleton says, and that’s where he sees the greatest opportunity to earn new users. In fact, the number of referrals from Google has doubled in the last year, and that trend is expected to continue. Despite ballooning web user numbers, the site had not seen a significant visual update since November 2011. Foursquare’s new business pages are far more colorful, and put a much greater emphasis on the areas where Foursquare stands out: its ability to generate relationships between similar places and judge appeal based on hundreds of signals like check-ins and likes. The service has to some extent evolved into Pandora, but for restaurants and bars. The tough part is creating pages that work for both "super users" and for the increasing number of people flocking in from Google searches. These are two very different kinds of people, Singleton says. http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/23/4256192/foursquare-revamps-business-pages-50-million-web-visitors Cry for Verizon to kill contracts grows louder A petition from Change.org needs just 30,000 more signatures before it can take it to Verizon. The calls for Verizon Wireless to drop the contract are getting louder. The petition posted on Change.org calling for Verizon to kill off its contract model has garnered nearly 120,000 signatures, with 25,000 signatures added over the weekend alone. It only needs another 30,000 before it can take it to the company. The petition was created by Verizon customer Mike Beauchamp on April 7 after Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam told CNET on the sidelines of an event held earlier this month that he would consider moving to a no-contract model if consumers demanded it, and said the process to shift to no-contracts wouldn't be difficult. The comments came shortly after T-Mobile dropped service contracts and subsidies as part of its "Uncarrier" campaign. Under the new plans, consumers pay the full price for their smartphones, but pay a lower monthly rate for cellular service, ultimately saving consumers money. A Verizon representative noted that the company already offers a month-to-month plan that requires customers to pay the full cost of a device upfront. "Verizon Wireless has for years offered many different choices for customers, including contract plans or month-to-month plans that do not require a contract," the representative said. In addition to eliminating the contract, Beauchamp challenged Verizon to come up with an affordable way for consumers to pay for that smartphone. He added that a no-contract model is a better reflection of the faster moving wireless industry, and noted that he didn't start the petition because of any dissatisfaction with the service. "I've been a long-time Verizon customer and I don't see myself ever leaving; but I want that choice myself; I don't want them making it for me and imposing stiff penalties if I do decide to leave," he said in the petition. T-Mobile, for instance, has changed the model by charging a smaller upfront fee and a monthly payment that covers the cost of the device over 24 months. Consumers can pay in advance. They can also leave whenever they want,
Show notes lost to the ether of the Internet. Sorry!
News: It’s official: Google Fiber is coming to Austin “by mid-2014” Product, pricing will be “roughly similar to Kansas City," Google says Just days after Google sent out a sneaky little announcement inviting the press to the Texas capital, the company has now confirmed what we’d all long suspected. Austin is slated to receive the gigabit speed of Google Fiber “by mid-2014,” with a “similar choice of products as our customers in Kansas City,” priced at “roughly similar to Kansas City.” Google has been reticent to say what its broader plans are for bringing Google Fiber to other communities around the US—on Monday, two Wall Street analysts concluded that Google likelywouldn’t bring it to the rest of the country. Currently, in the Kansas City area, the service comes in three options: a $120 per month package (which includes TV-over-IP and a DVR to go along with it), a $70 per month package (same gigabit speed, minus the TV), and an option to get your house “Google Fiber”-ready at a one-time construction cost of $300 (which can be split up over 12 months)—that will bring 5Mbps, for free, over seven years. “We’re also planning to connect many public institutions as we build in Austin—schools, hospitals, community centers, etc.—at a gigabit for no charge,” the company added in a corporate blog post on Monday. Google will be hosting a conference call for reporters on Monday afternoon, and we will update this story once we’ve heard more from the call. http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/04/its-official-google-fiber-is-coming-to-austin-by-mid-2014/ Google begins rolling out Google Play revamp for Android It was only yesterday that we reported on the leaks, but it looks like Google has made it official. In a blog post on the official Android blog, Michael Siliski, group product manager for Google Play, announced the rollout of the redesigned Android marketplace for Android phones and tablets running Android 2.2 Froyo or higher. Siliski says that the redesign is focused on being “simple [and] clean” and that it's meant to help users find content faster. We've done a side-by-side comparison to show the old Google Play store—a jumbled mix of images and text—next to the revamped version. The latter shows a nicely compartmentalized interface with a dedicated row of buttons at the top for the types of media that can be downloaded from the service. The new design has bigger images that “jump off the page.” Content that belongs together is grouped together, and purchasing has been simplified so that it’s faster to check out of the Play store. Even individual categories have been given a makeover. If you haven’t received an update to Google Play just yet (we haven't), sit tight. Google says it will roll out over the next few weeks. http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/04/google-begins-rolling-out-google-play-revamp-for-android/ 60,000 Apps pulled from Google Play - http://techcrunch.com/2013/04/08/nearly-60k-low-quality-apps-booted-from-google-play-store-in-february-points-to-increased-spam-fighting/ Waiting for a 1TB SSD below $1 per GB? Crucial says wait no more Crucial announced in a press release this morning that it has begun selling its latest round of consumer-grade solid-state disks (SSDs), the M500. The 2.5-inch SATA III SSDs are the follow-up to Crucial's M4 SSDs, which are a pretty popular choice for people adding SSDs to existing systems (I think I have four or five M4s scattered in computers around my house). The drives use 20nm MLC NAND sourced from Micron (and if you're not sure what MLC NAND is, we've got a great SSD primer right here), along with a Micron-provided SSD controller. Performance for the M500 drives is what you'd expect from a drive in this class: sequential read and write speeds of 500MB per second and 400MB per second. But the big news about the announcement is the capacities. The M500 is available in standard pedestrian capacities of 120GB and 240GB,
News: 'House of Cards' coming to Blu-ray and DVD June 11th according to Amazon Sure, House of Cards has proven enormously popular among Nettflix subscribers, but someone was bound to cash in on physical media sales. Per a newly discovered listing on Amazon, Sony Pictures Entertainment will bring the political drama to Blu-ray and DVD on June 11th. As of now, Amazon indicates the HD season one set will be priced at $52.99, with the DVD offering expected to fall somewhere around $44.99. House of Cards was produced by Media Right Capital and licensed by Netflix for online streaming, but as Deadline reported back in 2011, Sony managed to secure distribution rights for the series. A June release means Netflix will have been the sole avenue for viewing Cards for a bit over four months. Unfortunately, the Amazon listing doesn't reveal what (if any) bonus material fans can expect. http://www.theverge.com/2013/4/2/4173894/house-of-cards-blu-ray-dvd-release-june-11 XCOM: Enemy Unknown coming to iOS Today at its PAX East panel, Firaxis and 2K Games announced that XCOM: Enemy Unknown is coming to iOS devices. The iPhone and iPad will sport slightly different interfaces catered to each device. Jake Solomon, lead designer of XCOM, told Shacknews that this will be a complete port of the game at a set (and so far, undecided) price, rather than charging for microtransactions or chapters as we've seen from some mobile ports.. No Android version is planned currently, but Solomon says that doesn't mean the door is shut on the possibility. http://www.shacknews.com/article/78361/xcom-enemy-unknown-coming-to-ios Amazon turns Cloud Drive into a Dropbox rival with file syncing File sync comes to Windows and Mac, but smartphones still have to wait. Amazon's Cloud Drive was unveiled two years ago for the primary purpose of letting customers store music files purchased from Amazon. Although you could upload other files to Cloud Drive, it wasn't a replacement for cloud storage services like Dropbox because it didn't automatically sync files from one computer to another. Today, that limitation is gone. "The new app for Windows and Mac now includes File Sync, which lets users easily store and access files in the Amazon Cloud from a folder on their computer," an Amazon spokesperson told Ars in an e-mail. "Files in this folder are automatically stored in Cloud Drive and can be accessed from a computer or the Web. When you install the app on a second computer all of your synced files are available there as well. The updated app makes it simple for users to put files in Cloud Drive and to access them from any of their computers, ensuring that they always have access to the latest version of their files from home and on the road." Like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Microsoft's SkyDrive, the Cloud Drive desktop application (download it here) creates a new folder in your file manager. The desktop application supports all Windows versions from XP to 8 and Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8. The application requires Java. If you attempt to run the application on a Mac without Java installed, you will be prompted to install a Java runtime. On Windows, the application apparently comes with an embedded Java runtime. Java security flaws are well-known, but are mainly a problem with the browser plug-ins, which Cloud Drive doesn't require. File syncing is desktop-only for now. There is a Cloud Drive photo storage app for Android, but it hasn't been updated since February 1. Amazon told us it has "nothing specific to share" about plans to bring file syncing to iOS, Android, or other mobile platforms. Dropbox, Google Drive, and SkyDrive already support smartphones and tablets. Cloud Drive offers 5GB of free space with the option to buy more. Dropbox provides 2GB free, while Google Drive provides 5GB and SkyDrive provides 7GB. In Amazon Cloud Drive, 20GB costs $10 a year, 50GB costs $25 a year,
News: Hands on: Apple’s Podcasts app loses reel animation, gains playlists Apple's Podcasts 1.2 for iOS replaces skeuomorphism with iCloud and playlists. Last summer, Apple released the Podcasts application as a new way to play podcasts on your iOS device. Until that time, this was a job done by the built-in iPod or Music app, but as of iOS 6, podcasts disappear from Music if you have the Podcasts app installed. The initial poor performance and bugginess were addressed as the year progressed, albeit not to everyone's satisfaction. And the astonishingly accurately animated reel-to-reel tape deck displayed as podcasts played was seen as a prime example of Apple's foray in excessive skeuomorphism. But as of this week's release of Podcasts 1.2, skeuomorphism is out the door. And you know what? I actually miss the reel-to-reel tape deck animation a little. But now at least I don't have to worry about the animation using up valuable battery life. Playlists A more important change is that Podcasts now has playlists, found under "My Stations." Four different types, even: the On-The-Go playlist, custom "stations," and both smart and regular playlists synced from iTunes. The iTunes playlists behave largely as expected: you get to edit the regular ones, letting you reorder and remove episodes... but not add any. There's no editing of smart playlists, and Podcasts inherits an issue that Music has had in recent years: the order of episodes in a smart playlist set in iTunes is not carried over. Instead, episodes are sorted by the Artist field (usually the podcast's name), then the star rating from high to low, and finally alphabetically by episode name. The On-The-Go playlist doesn't suffer from these issues: it lets you add, reorder, and remove episodes. Although you can set whether episodes are shown from old to new or from new to old and, separately, whether they play oldest first or newest first for each individual podcast feed, the On-The-Go interface always adds episodes at the top. But you can also add episodes to the On-The-Go playlist through a big button on the episode's information screen. In this case, they're added at the bottom. As a strong old-goes-on-top proponent, I really hope Apple doesn't simplify all of this by making new-goes-on-top the only option. If that's the alternative, please give me this mess instead. But a global new-goes-on-top vs old-goes-on-top default setting would certainly go a long way here. Stations Last but not least, you get to build your own stations. These are basically smart playlists. Two are provided out of the box: Most Recent and All Unplayed. The Most Recent station has one episode of every podcast. Strangely, for podcasts synced from iTunes, it's the oldest episode, while for podcasts that you're subscribed to within Podcasts, it's the newest. The episodes are ordered from the newest to the oldest. The All Unplayed station obviously has all unplayed episodes in it, grouped by podcast. You also get to make your own stations. You can select which podcasts to include, and how many episodes. You only get to select the 1, 2, 3, 5, or 10 most recent ones (if you don't want to include all), but for iTunes-synced podcasts, this actually seems to mean "oldest." The episodes can then be ordered manually, in "most recent" order or in the order you've set up in "My Podcasts." Please Apple, how hard is it to add "least recent" and "alphabetically"? The ordering is important, because episodes play one after the other. (You can still avoid automatically starting the next podcast with the sleep timer, now reachable through the little clock with zz icon above the artwork in the playback screen.) Last but not least, you can include audio or video podcasts or both, and limit the station to unplayed episodes only. I listen to several science podcasts, so I make a station that collects those. I'm also catching up on some podcasts I recently discovered. For these,
News: Amazon planning to launch a $99 Kindle Fire HD, claims report Amazon may be expanding its Kindle Fire line of tablets with a new, low-cost version of the 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, according to a report from TechCrunch. Allegedly, this new Ki...
Enjoy TWO episodes of The Geekcast! Show Notes for #343: News: Target reportedly signs on with rumored Google Shopping Express same-day delivery service Google's rumored same-day delivery service may already have one major partner on board. In an alleged internal letter printed by TechCrunch, Google says that it is "excited to open Google Shopping Express to every Googler in the Bay Area," listing partnerships with "Target, Nob Hill Foods, Babies 'R' Us, and more." TechCrunch has previously said that Google Shopping Express will be priced at $69 a year, and this email says that test subscriptions will include free same-day delivery for a year for Googlers, with deliveries priced at $4.99 apiece for non-members. Google has said it has nothing to announce at this time about Shopping Express, and we still don't know when the service might launch if it is indeed in testing. It has, however, openly made several moves towards bolstering its shopping services in the past year, and something like Shopping Express would help it compete with Amazon — it's said to have started testing same-day delivery late last year. Target, meanwhile, was a launch partner with eBay Now, another same-day delivery service that recently began expanding outside San Francisco. http://www.theverge.com/2013/3/12/4093974/target-reportedly-signs-on-with-google-shopping-express Sony retail stores slash Vita 3G price in the US After Sony officially dropped the price of the PlayStation Vita by about a third in Japan last month, Sony Worldwide Studios head Shuhei Yoshida came out and said the US shouldn't expect a similar price drop. But US Sony retail stores seem to have a different idea about that, lowering the price of the more expensive 3G system by $100, to $199, ahead of a possible discontinuation of the cellular model. Joystiq was among the first to notice the price drop, which seems to be limited to a dozen or so of Sony's retail locations throughout the US. Store representatives at locations in Denver, New Jersey and Las Vegas told Joystiq the 3G unit was being discontinued, but other stores had not even registered the price drop yet. Sony's own online store is now showing a reduced price of $249, down from the original $299 price from just last night. Comparative sales for the 3G and Wi-Fi-only units aren't available for the US, but in Japan, the 3G model of the system is slightly more popular, according to recent data from Media Create. That may be due to both official and unofficial discounts provided by Sony and retailers on the 3G unit, which currently sells for the same suggested price as the Wi-Fi model in Japan. Sony has publicly admitted multiple times that overall Vita sales have been below expectations. http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/03/sony-retail-stores-slash-vita-3g-price-in-the-us/ Microsoft backs away from Flash ban in IE10 Arguing that support for Adobe's browser plug-in is an advantage, Microsoft now permits Flash by default on Windows 8 and Windows RT. Tablets that can't run Flash are merely "a companion to a PC." An about-face in Internet Explorer 10 shows Microsoft is not merely backing off from its hostility toward Flash Player, but actually warming up to the Adobe Systems browser plug-in for competitive reasons. In September 2011, Microsoft declared that browser plug-ins are a relic from the Internet's early days, calling them bad for battery life, security, reliability, and privacy, and said that it would ban them when IE10 was running withWindows 8's Metro user interface, now called the "immersive UI." But Microsoft gave Flash a reprieve in May 2012 by building a special version of Adobe's plug-in directly into IE10. It only worked, though, on sites that were specifically authorized through a Microsoft whitelist when browsing with the immersive UI on Windows 8 and on either the immersive or traditional "desktop" interface on Windows RT. Yesterday,
News: PS4 release date, news and features UPDATED PlayStation 4 is headed for a 'Holiday 2013' release date The DualShock 4 pad will launch alongside the PS4 The PS4 has been announced by Sony! At long last we've had our first look at the new Pla...
News: Outlook.com moves out of preview mode with multimillion-dollar ads aimed at Gmail users Microsoft first introduced Outlook.com back in July as a preview service designed to replace Hotmail. Starting this week, the company plans to aggressiv...
News: Comcast acquires full ownership of NBCUniversal ahead of schedule Comcast, the nation's largest cable provider, will consolidate its control over NBCUniversal by buying out the 49 percent of the media company that it doesn't already own. Comcast will pay General Electric $16.7 billion for the shares and shell out $1.4 billion for related real estate, including the iconic 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Under a deal announced in 2009, General Electric spun NBC, Universal Studios, and various other media properties off into a new joint venture and sold 51 percent of the shares, and effective control, to Comcast. The merger was intensely controversial. Critics charged that the acquisition would further cement Comcast's already dominant position in the cable market, making it impossible for competitors such as Netflix to compete on a level playing field. But regulators decided not to challenge the merger, settling for a long list of regulatory concessions. By structuring the deal so that GE initially held 49 percent of NBCUniversal, Comcast limited its downside risk: if the merger went sour, as some some media mergers have, GE would have eaten some of the losses. The original deal gave Comcast an option to buy the rest of NBCUniversal in 2014, but evidently the merger has been going well and Comcast decided to buy GE out ahead of schedule. Even after the early acquisition, Comcast evidently had cash to spare. The firm also announced a larger shareholder dividend and a $2 billion share buyback plan. As we reported when the merger was approved, Comcast will now control its massive cable network, 234 NBC affiliate stations, the Telemundo Spanish-language network, the NBC television network, TV production studios, the Universal movie studio, the Universal theme parks in LA and Florida, channels like MSNBC and CNBC, and a stake in Hulu. Prior to the merger, Comcast already owned TV channels like E! and G4, the Philadelphia Flyers NHL franchise, and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/02/comcast-acquires-full-ownership-of-nbcuniversal-ahead-of-schedule/ Factory Entertainment to release Back to the Future Shakems Factory Entertainment has acquired the Back to the Future license and they will be rolling out some cool BTTF products in 2013. Starting off with their Shakems line, which are similar to bobbleheads as in mini statues with spring action. The first four BTTF Shakems are as follows. Doc Brown Shakems Marty McFly Hoverboard Shakems DeLorean Time Machine Shakems Manure Truck Accident Shakems These are prototypes and are still in approval stages. Yes, there are no actor likeness on these products and due to the bobblehead type nature of these products, they appear to be more cartoonized versions of the characters. Still the sculpts looks good and costume details are captured quite nicely, but Marty's face needs to be more expressive. Also Doc's costume needs the orange markings and his shoes could use the brown color touch up. Overall it's refreshing to see a company releasing BTTF products beyond DeLorean models. I love the DeLorean Time Machine and I'm looking forward toHot Wheels releasing their Elite BTTF DeLorean Models in 1:43 and 1:18 scale later this year. But I also want to see more characters from the BTTF universe being released in the figure and statue format. These Shakems from Factory Entertainment is a good start towards that. And I have to say, that Biff's car filled with manure display is just brilliant. This is what I want to see, a company doing the unconventional and really embracing their acquired licenses. It's great to see that memorable and hilarious moment from the film being captured in a sculpture format like that. More movie scene specific sculptures please. Mattel acquired the BTTF action figure license along with actor likeness rights back in 2011 and then backed out from producing the figures.
News: Dell goes private in $24.4 billion deal, including $2 billion loan from Microsoft Dell has officially closed a buyout of the company, taking the company off the publicly-traded stock market and into private hands. The deal is being financed by cash and equity from CEO Michael Dell, funds from investment firms Silver Lake and MSD Capital, a $2 billion loan from Microsoft, plus debt financing from a number of banks as well as Dell's cash on hand. Dell's shareholders will receive $13.65 for each share of common Dell stock they hold, up about 25 percent from Dell's closing share price of $10.88 back on January 11th, which Dell says is the last day prior to rumors of the buying starting to circulate. Those rumors have escalated in the last week, when Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal reported that discussions to bring Dell private were serious, and that a deal could be reached in the following six weeks. Bloomberg also reports that board members met last night to vote on the move, while the Wall Street Journal cites top execs as saying company founder Michael Dell is a man "increasingly worried about his legacy." Michael Dell has reportedly lost enthusiasm for the day-to-day running of the company since reclaiming his position as CEO of the company in 2007. http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/5/3904452/dell-goes-private Note from us: At the Gartner Symposium and ITxpo97 here today, the CEO of competitor Dell Computer added his voice to the chorus when asked what could be done to fix the Mac maker. His solution was a drastic one. "What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders," Michael Dell said before a crowd of several thousand IT executives. Google Glass will speak to you by vibrating the bones in your head Google Glass’ papers have arrived at the FCC, according to filings posted Thursday. The headset, likely the Explorer edition promised to developers at Google I/O last year, includes an 802.11 b/g 2.4 GHz WLAN, a low-energy Bluetooth 4.0 radio, and—if one sentence and a corresponding patent are to be believed—a “vibrating element” for transmitting sound to the user’s head via bone conduction. Google filed a patent for a headset that uses bone conduction audio, which was granted only a week ago. The audio would work similar to that of certain children’s toothbrushes: a vibration transducer vibrates the bones in the user’s head, which translate the vibration to the cochlea, the fluid-filled cavity inside the ear, which then reads the vibrations as sound. The technology is already used in many headphones, with the advantage that such sound can be clearer than it is from the tiny speakers that are in earbuds. In its FCC filing, Google makes only one mention of a “vibrating element” in the headsets, wherein a video stored within the headset plays and transmits audio via vibration. The video test was conducted as part of testing the Bluetooth Low Energy mode. Google has also indicated plans for user input to the headsets, including number pads projected onto surfaces and gesture interpretation from the headset’s camera. Google co-founder Sergey Brin stated shortly after the 2012 Google I/O that ideally the company would get the Glass headsets into developer hands “early” this year. Google has already held one developer conference this past week in San Francisco, and a second conference is currently in progress in New York. http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/02/google-glass-will-speak-to-you-by-vibrating-the-bones-in-your-head/ iPhone 5, iPad mini jailbreak now available All iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and iPad mini models running iOS 6 can now be jailbroken thanks to the evasi0n tool It's taken around five months since the release of the iPhone 5, but the moment many of you have been waiting for has finally arrived: an untethered jailbreak for iOS 6.1 has been released. The tool, dubbed evasi0n, is available for Mac, Windows, and Linux,
News: THX Tune-Up iOS app will have your new HDTV looking better than ever Can an app make your TV look better? According to THX, the answer to that question is yes. Today the company is releasing THX Tune-Up, a calibration app for iOS it claims can help you get the best performance from your home theater setup. Tune-Up arrives just in time for the rush of HDTVs being sold ahead of this weekend's Super Bowl, and there's good reason for new TV owners to give the app a look. True, there are those people that will pull a $1,500 big-screen TV out of its box, plug it in, and live happily ever after with their new purchase. Considering the investment high-end HDTVs demand, though, it's worth doing some extra work to ensure you're getting the optimal viewing experience. That's where calibration comes in, but why is it necessary to begin with? … BRINGING CALIBRATION TO THE IPHONE THX Tune-Up marks the first time we've seen a smartphone assist users with setting up their home theater centerpiece. Even so, the execution here is largely similar to optical media solutions. Tune-Up displays various visual patterns on your TV with step-by-step audio and text instructions guiding you through each test. They're all extremely straightforward, and a photo sample paired with each test helps you better understand how each change impacts image quality. THX has also come up with a clever substitute for those plastic color filters; since the company can't exactly include physical accessories with a digital app, it uses the iPhone's camera to mirror their utility. As for the included sound system tests, they're a bit simpler but will help you verify that audio is being routed through the proper speaker. Just how do you go about connecting Tune-Up to your HDTV? There are a few methods, none of them free. The first is AirPlay mirroring over the $99 Apple TV, though THX cautions this isn't an ideal solution since you can't run audio tests thanks to current limitations with Apple's protocol. The company would instead prefer that you use Apple's official AV cables and tether directly over HDMI. And while the app is free (for a limited time), those cables aren't cheap — the Lighting AV cable is $50 — and may convince some to skip Tune-Up entirely in favor of cheaper solutions or free online resources like AVS Forum. But those that do try out THX's method will be rewarded with modest improvements. In our tests, it worked as advertised. Speaking to The Verge, company reps made clear that Tune-Up isn't meant to be a substitute for having a professional visit your home for a thorough calibration. Instead, it's a tool that can (fairly quickly) help your new TV look better than it did the first time you turned it on. And as an added bonus, you'll be able to play the famous "deep note" that moviegoers hear before THX-certified movies in lossless audio. Available in the App Store now, THX Tune-Up is free for one week, after which it will run $1.99 in the US and abroad. An Android version is planned for spring 2013. http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/29/3927728/thx-tune-up-calibration-app-iphone-home-theater Apple announces 128GB iPad with Retina display, available February 5th starting at $799 Just as the rumors foretold, Apple has just anounced a 128GB version of its fourth-generation iPad with Retina display — the Wi-Fi model costs $799, while the Wi-Fi plus LTE model costs a whopping $929 — that's nearly as expensive as the base model MacBook Air. The new iPad model isn't available in the store yet, but Apple says it will be on sale as of February 5th. In Apple's press release, the company cites a few specific use cases for such a giant iPad. Specifically, AutoCAD files and multi-track music files — we've been seeing lots of evidence of the iPad's growing prominence in music-making, so it's not unreasonable to imagine those power users requiring more storage. Unfortunately for prospective iPad mini owners craving this capacity bump,
News: RIM CEO says company is open to licensing new OS, stock jumps 10 percent A week before BlackBerry 10's launch, exec says firm undergoing major "review." After Research in Motion's CEO told a German newspaper the company may be considering big changes, the company's stock shot up on the Toronto Stock Exchange, ending Monday more than 10 percent up, at CAN$17.41 ($17.41). In an interview with Die Welt (The World), Thorsten Heins, the German-born executive, suggested that the company could sell the company’s hardware division, or license its upcoming operating system, known as BlackBerry 10—as part of the company’s “comprehensive review.” "The main thing for now is to successfully introduce Blackberry 10. Then we'll see," he told the German paper (Google Translate). Given the company's struggles in recent years—against the iPhone and Android—it seems likely that licensing the OS would be one way of shoring up the company's finances. In a hands-on with the new OS at CES earlier this month, Ars editor Florence Ion found it to be very gestures-heavy, noting that “upon first use, we had a difficult time understanding which gestures to use and how to swipe between screens without bringing up something we weren't trying to.” That said, Canadian financial analysts seemed to be relatively bullish on the company and its pending launch of BlackBerry 10 on January 30. "There are several emerging datapoints that suggest this may be a more successful product cycle than many expected," Tom Astle of Byron Capital, wrote in an investor’s note, raising his price target from CAN$14 to CAN$18. http://arstechnica.com/business/2013/01/rim-ceo-says-company-is-open-to-licensing-new-os-stock-jumps-10-percent/ Atari files for bankruptcy protection in bid to save legendary brand The leadership of Atari Inc., what’s left of the gaming legend behind Pong and the Atari 2600, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in an effort to free the company from French parent Atari SA, formerly Infogrames, reports the Los Angeles Times. An unnamed "knowledgeable person" says that the plan is to develop Atari, Inc. into a "modest" business based on "digital and mobile platforms," presumably along with licensed merchandise, which CEO Jim Wilson says brings in about 17 percent of the company's revenues. The report notes that Atari Inc.’s fortunes have been improving lately, thanks in part to the success of mobile titles like Atari Greatest Hits. And according to the Times, the company has several offers on the table for the $5.25 million it needs in debtor-in-possession financing in order to continue its operations. If its Chapter 11 efforts are successful and Atari finds a new buyer, it could possibly make a comeback, unobstructed by its considerable debt to London-based BlueBay Asset Management. http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/21/3898962/atari-files-for-bankruptcy-protection-in-bid-to-save-legendary-brand Mozilla devs working on Firefox for OUYA Sure the OUYA may have captured the imagination of indie game developerseverywhere, but open-source fans will be glad to know it's sparked the interest of Mozilla's Firefox team as well. According to an OUYAForum post by administrator Ed Krassenstein, a Mozilla developer had sent him a note detailing the process of bringing the popular browser to the Kickstarter-funded gaming console. The team apparently managed to get it running after some preliminary patches, but it still has a ways to go -- WebGL, Canvas and relevant API support are still lacking. The dev in question has since been identified as mobile platform engineer Chris Lord, who tweeted the revealing picture above along with the note that it's "kinda unusable" for now. Still, they do have around three months before the console ships, which could be enough for them to perfect an OUYA version of the foxy browser just in time for launch day. http://www.engadget.com/2013/01/22/mozilla-firefox-for-ouya/
News: Facebook Unveils a Smarter Search Engine Now we know what Facebook is building: a better internal search system. Speaking at a much-hyped event at Facebook HQ, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a raft of improvements to "graph search" — that is, the ability to search within your social graph for specifics. The search improvements involve the ability to ask questions in regular English, such as "which of my friends live in New York?" The search is now intelligent enough to rank your friends based on how much interaction you've had — so that closer friends will appear higher up the results list. It can also search based on stories or photos you've Liked. One example Zuckerberg offered: the site can now display which of his friends have Liked the HBO show Game of Thrones. You can search for people who Like multiple products or services, which seems likely to be a bonanza for marketers. Photos can also be ranked by which have the most Likes, based on the people most important to you in your Friends list. And one of the most useful use cases appears to be searching for local businesses that have received a thumbs-up from friends (and their friends). Graph search starts today in beta, and will appear as a large blue search bar at the top of your Facebook page. http://mashable.com/2013/01/15/facebook-graph-search/ Exclusive: CBS forced CNET staff to recast vote after Hopper won 'Best in Show' at CES The Dish Network's Hopper wasn't simply in the running: it had actually taken the top prize On Friday, news broke that CNET had been forced by its parent company CBS to remove the Dish Network's Hopper set-top box from its "Best of CES" awards due to ongoing litigation between the two companies. CBS has been battling the Dish Network in court over the Hopper's ability to skip past commercials automatically (NBC, ABC, and Fox are also taking action). CBS Interactive representatives told The Verge that the Hopper with Sling had been "withdrawn from consideration" from the "Best of CES" awards due to CBS's lawsuit with Dish; that the ban on coverage is limited only to specific products implicated in ongoing litigation with CNET's parent company; and that the ban only applied to product reviews and that news coverage would be exempt. That policy appears to have been hastily put in place. Prior to the move Friday, CNET had reviewed the Hopper and written extensively about the device. But the problems may go deeper than that. The Verge has now learned that the facts of the case are somewhat different than the story CNET and CBS had previously shared with the public. According to sources familiar with the matter, the Hopper was not simply an entrant in the Best of CES awards for the site: it was actually chosen as the winner of the "Best of Show" award (as voted by CNET's editorial staff). Apparently, executives at CBS learned that the Hopper would win "Best of Show" prior to the announcement. Before the winner was unveiled, CBS Interactive News senior-vice president and General Manager Mark Larkin informed CNET's staff that the Hopper could not take the top award. The Hopper would have to be removed from consideration, and the editorial team had to re-vote and pick a new winner from the remaining choices. Sources say that Larkin was distraught while delivering the news — at one point in tears — as he told the team that he had fought CBS executives who had made the decision. http://www.theverge.com/2013/1/14/3874682/exclusive-cbs-forced-cnet-editors-to-recast-vote-after-hopper-win Internet prodigy, activist Aaron Swartz commits suicide Aaron Swartz, an Internet savant who at a young age shaped the online era by co-developing RSS and Reddit and later became a digital activist, has committed suicide. Swartz's body was found Friday evening in Brooklyn, said Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman with the New York medical examiner's office. The 26-year-old had hanged himself in his apartment.
News: Walmart and Straight Talk Wireless Now Carrying iPhone 5 Walmart and Straight Talk Wireless are now carrying the iPhone 5, offering a $45 unlimited talk, text and data plan with no contract. It was previously reported by That's It Guys. Straight Talk is a subsidiary of TracFone, and its iPhone customers will use AT&T's network. There is no indication of whether the phones will support AT&T's LTE network or not. Like other prepaid plans such as Virgin Mobile, users must pay full price for their iPhones without having them subsidized by the carrier. Unlike Virgin Mobile, Walmart is offering holders of the Walmart credit card a no-interest fixed payment plan for $25/month. This allows customers to have a unlimited talk, text and data plan for a total of $70/month before taxes and fees. Walmart and Straight Talk Wireless, America’s largest and top rated no-contract cell phone provider, today put the power back in the hands of customers with an industry game changing offer. Starting on January 11, 2013 in more than 2,000 Walmart stores and online at Walmart.com, customers now have access to the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4 on Straight Talk’s $45 no contract unlimited talk, text and data plan. To make this offer even more affordable, Walmart will be offering customers who purchase the phone in the store, a no interest fixed-monthly payments special financing offer for only $25 a month with a Walmart Credit Card. The Straight Talk wireless no contract plan, exclusive to Walmart, saves consumers on average $950 a year when they switch from conventional contract plans with similar unlimited plans. To learn more about how Straight Talk Wireless saves consumers $950 a year, please visit:www.straighttalk.com. The iPhone 5 is available in black or white for $649 for the 16GB model only, and the iPhone 4 is available in black or white for $449 for the 8GB model. http://www.macrumors.com/2013/01/08/walmart-and-straight-talk-wireless-now-carrying-iphone-5/ Prima Cinemas PRIMA Cinema is a California-based company that can make you a Hollywood insider. PRIMA members can enjoy newly released films at home as soon as they’re released in theaters. All they have to do is download (not stream) the movie for $500 (apiece) from the PRIMA unit, which connects via HDMI. The company promises that PRIMA will deliver much higher quality than Blu-ray disks as well as top-notch sound in lossless PCM or Dolby TrueHD. For security purposes, the unit even comes with a remote fingerprint reader, so that only the owner can play the movie. PRIMA also supports full HD and 3D films, with a particular focus on opening-weekend releases, and each device comes with 2TB of storage, which allows for 50 full-length films. Todd Lokken, PRIMA's senior vice president of marketing, says that private screening parties are popular among members. “Many of our clients hold their own 'premiere' parties, just like in Hollywood -- but with a much smaller audience, obviously,” says Lokken. Red carpet not included. I should note that it’s not cheap. At a cost of $35,000 for PRIMA alone, the unit is for the early adopters and the elite. And to think I was upset about Netflix jacking its price up a few dollars two years ago. On the bright side, no athlete wants to get caught in public sobbing to "Les Miserables." While PRIMA officials say that athletes and team owners have already purchased the system, they’re keeping the names under wraps out of respect for client privacy. Still, I have the perfect spokesperson in mind for the system -- none other than former NFL receiver Terrell Owens, who already has his own built-in catchphrase: “PRIMA, get your popcorn ready!” Stay tuned daily as I spotlight more noteworthy gadgets from the CES show floor that sports fans and even pro franchises should watch. http://espn.go.com/blog/playbook/tech/post/_/id/3582/prima-cinema-tricks-out-home-theaters