Category Archives: Computers

Apple brings low-cost 8 GB iPhone 5c to more countries

Apple expanded availability of the 8 GB iPhone 5c to several new countries on Wednesday. The expansion was first noted by 9to5 Mac, and Mac Rumors reports the low-cost model is now on sale in the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Sweden, Poland, Czech Republic, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Spain, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Switzerland. While prices vary by location, customers can expect roughly a €50 discount for the 8 GB model as compared to the original 16 GB version.

iPhone5c20131

The lower-cost iPhone 5c with less storage was a bit of a surprise when Apple initially announced it: The company introduced the new model last month, in the middle of a current product cycle. That’s atypical of Apple, which generally keeps iPhone product launches on an annual basis. Early sales data suggested that the iPhone 5s was outselling the iPhone 5c, indicating that Apple may not be earning the results it expected from the new iPhone 5c.

I doubt Apple will ever release sales figures specific to the 8 GB iPhone 5c — the company doesn’t break out data at that level — but I’d love to see the numbers.

My expectation? A lower-priced iPhone 5c with a meager 8 GB of storage isn’t bringing a large sales bump for the company. The limited storage certainly isn’t appealing unless you’re getting a large discount on the phone as compared to the 16 GB model. And in some countries, you’re not getting a discount at all according to one Mac Rumors commenter who says: “its hilarious cuz[sic] they introduced the 8GB one for 499€ here in Germany while every big store chain is selling the 16GB one for 489€.”

The timing of this product revision is taking place at a bad time. Until this year’s model, iPhones haven’t been sold at a discount by retailers — they kept prices the same as Apple’s own store. With the latest iteration, however, policies changed, allowing retailers to offer the phones at lower prices if they chose to do so. As a result, Apple’s offering of a discounted 8 GB iPhone 5c is competing with the newly discounted other models, making the product less desirable by comparison.

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Apple

Windows Phone 8.1 works with Apple Passbook data (but for how long?)

Although I covered many of the newest features of Windows Phone 8.1 in my review earlier today, I apparently missed one. In my defense, Microsoft hasn’t announced it. It’s only because of The Verge’s Tom Warren that we know about Windows Phone 8.1 working with Apple’s Passbook files. Warren tweeted out the following on Monday morning, showing that he has a boarding pass in his phone’s Microsoft Wallet app.

iMore’s Rene Ritchie expanded on the topic, suggesting that Microsoft is using Apple’s Passbook file format to create the files in Windows Phone 8.1. That’s likely true because it’s pretty easy to find the Passbook data file structure: A quick web search turned up all of the information, including a detailed PDF file, needed to build a specific Passbook file for a boarding pass, coupon, or loyalty code. Ritchie said that Apple code-signs the files, so it’s not clear how Microsoft is dealing with this aspect, possibly just accepting any files in Wallet whether they’re signed or not.

Regardless of whether Microsoft’s implementation is simply a test or not — Windows Phone 8.1 is in developer preview — there have already been Android apps that do the same. Passbook for Android reads .pkpass files, which are zipped Passbook data bits, to do exactly the same thing. And it’s not the only one available for Android.

I’ve reached out to Microsoft for comment to see if using Apple’s Passbook file structure is a long-term strategy for Windows Phone or if this is just a one-off test in the developer preview, and will update this post accordingly with any response.

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Apple

Why carry a big power brick when you can tote the world’s smallest laptop adapter?

It’s not unheard of for a laptop review to ding the product for a surprising reason: A bulky power adapter. What’s the point of carrying a light slim laptop if you also have to tote a near-brick sized power adapter for it? A new Kickstarter project aims to rid laptops of their bulky bricks: Enter the Dart, touted as the world’s smallest laptop power adapter.

Dart is shockingly small but provides 65 watts of power to a connected laptop. That’s plenty of juice for most notebook computers although you’ll have to pay more for Dart if you use an Apple laptop because of the magnetic power connectors on newer MacBooks. How small and light is the Dart? When I first saw a picture of it, I thought it was meant for charging phones or tablets. Here’s a video showing a closer look at the Dart:

The obvious question is how can something so small convert enough power for a laptop? According to the project team, the secret sauce is the Dart’s very high frequency (VHF) power conversion.

“It is well known in power electronics that increasing switching frequency is key to reducing size, weight, and cost. However, it is critical (and very hard) to switch faster while maintaining high efficiency. This is because modern power converters repeatedly deliver small packets of energy to the electronic device in cycles called switching cycles. Switching isn’t a perfect process and during every cycle some energy is wasted in the form of heat. At FINsix, our technology allows us to waste far less energy with each cycle. Thus, we can cycle up to 1000x faster without wasting any more energy than a conventional power converter. Cycling faster means we can transfer a smaller packet of energy to each cycle – and make the power converter a lot smaller.”

Aside from powering most laptops with such a small converter, the Dart can also pull double duty and charge mobile devices as well. Dart includes a 2.1 Amp / 10.5 Watt in-line USB port that can be used even while the laptop battery is charging. That added functionality, along with the Dart’s small size is certainly appealing: The Kickstarter project is already nearing its $ 200,000 funding goal on the very first day.

dart charger

Early backers can get a Dart in their choice of five colors for $ 89 as the first round of $ 79 backers is already gone. The Dart team expects to deliver the first batch of products in November; at that time, expect to pay the full retail price of $ 119. And if you plan to use Dart with a Mac full retail will be $ 199 although there are currently early bird deals costing $ 148.

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Apple

Hands on with Adobe Lightroom Mobile for iOS

In my quest to make 2014 the Year of the iPad, a professional photo editing program that interfaces with my Lightroom-based workflow was a big gap. This week Adobe released Lightroom Mobile (Free, but subscription required) and I took a look how it could help my photo workflow.

Lightroom Mobile allows you to perform basic editing and photo culling features. It can also sync with your Adobe Lightroom 5.4 desktop client. There is, however, a huge gotcha for that.

Pricing

The biggest thing that annoys me about Lightroom Mobile is the pricing. It requires either a Creative Cloud license or at the minimum a Photoshop Photography Program license. Those run from $ 9.99 to $ 600. That’s a lot.

Unlike Office for iPad, the app simply will not work without a subscription. While Office at least gives you the option to read files without an Office365 subscription, Adobe Lightroom Mobile greets you with a login screen when you launch the app. I also have a standalone Lightroom 5 license, but without a Cloud license I can’t sync my photos to Lightroom Mobile. Given the limited feature set of the mobile app, I think this is a huge miss for Adobe.

What the app can and can’t do

The biggest draw to Lightroom Mobile is that it can handle RAW files in a non-destructive manner. It can also sync with my collections on Lightroom 5.4. It has a small amount of presets and cropping tools you can use to adjust photos with, but they are pretty standard and about as good as most existing photo apps available. What I did like is that you can adjust the white balance either via presets, or picking a reference point on the photo. You can also adjust the contrast, brightness, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, clarity, vibrance and saturation. You can also undo all edits to a photo.

What it can’t do is the advanced editing you use Lightroom Desktop to do. You cannot have custom presets, adjust curves, sharpening, noise reduction, lens correction and the like. It’s also not a professional-level tool. For starters, your iPad display is not calibrated. In my case, being color blind and shooting down to black-and-white most of the time, this is not a problem for me.

Hopefully, Adobe will add more features soon. Right now, the feature set is just too limited to justify a $ 10/month subscription.

crump-IMG_0478

Syncing with Lightroom 5.4

Setting up syncing with Lightroom 5.4 is pretty easy. You go to the collection you want to share and check off a box next to the name. From there, Lightroom syncs down a Smart Preview of the photo. Smart Preview files are a new lightweight, smaller, file format based on the lossy DNG file format introduced in Lightroom 4. They also let you edit files not directly attached to your Mac. I use them to edit photos on the go when I’m not attached to my main drive at home. On the iPad, this helps keep the file size to a manageable level.

You can also create collections on Lightroom Mobile and sync those back to the desktop version as well. You can import photos from your iPad’s camera roll, but not your PhotoStream.

It’s also important to note that your photos are not synced through Adobe’s cloud services. So you can’t bring your iPad to a shoot, create a collection and have the photos already on your desktop when you get back to your desk.

crump-Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 7.40.01 PM

How it will integrate with my workflow

My photo workflow is pretty basic. I import my photos from my camera’s SD card to Lightroom. I then go through the photos and pick or reject my photos. From there I do the needful on the photos via a collection of custom presets. Lightroom Mobile can certainly help with the culling process. I find using the iPad to go through photos a very relaxing part of the process. You can import your photos during a shoot and then view them with model to see what ones he or she likes. This saves a ton of time and helps eliminates the need to book other sessions for a reshoot.

Other than that, I don’t see me doing any heavy photo editing on my iPad. I might see how a photo will look in B&W, but all my post-processing will still be done in Lightroom 5.4.

Is it worth the subscription?

If you do not have a Photoshop Photography Program subscription already, I see little reason to subscribe just to get Lightroom Mobile. Unlike Office365, where all apps can access files stored on your OneDrive, Lightroom Mobile does not access your Creative Cloud storage. If it did, and I had the ability to sync down a collection at will, that might make the subscription palatable. As it is now, the app should just be free since it’s more of a companion app to Lightroom 5.4.

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Apple

Why features, not speed, determine how people select iOS browsers

There is an almost-secret battle going on behind the scenes of the mobile platform wars; and that is the battle for mobile browser market share. What makes the battle to become the dominate browser on mobile different than on the desktop is that the battle lines are drawn predominately along device and platform boundaries.  When you take a closer look at the race to become the top browsers on the iOS platform, you will find is that it is features rather than speed that users are choosing.

Mobile browser market share

While comScore data may show that more people are using their mobile devices than they are using their personal computers, this does not seem to apply when it comes to browsing the web. Looking at data collected from StatCounter: 24.9 percent of all web traffic is coming from mobile devices in April 2014. This is up from 13.9 percent in April 2013. While this does show that mobile browsing will likely overtake desktop browsing sometime in the future, it has not happened quite yet.  Any time markets grow this fast, there will inevitably be competition and a race to the top.

StatCounter - Desktop vs Mobile - 200812-201404

When it comes to mobile browser market share, the dynamics of changing market share is indicative of desktop browsers wars of the past. Looking at the top 9 mobile browsers from the last 12 months, you can see that Chrome is fast becoming the dominant browser across all of mobile, climbing from 2.29 percent in April 2013 to 13.59 percent in April 2014, overtaking Opera in the number 3 position according to StatCounter.

StatCounter - Top 9 mobile browsers -  201304-201403

Benchmarking results on iOS

When choosing which browser to use on iOS, the following data shows is that it can not be performance that is the driving factor. This is interesting as browser speed continues to be one of the major factors influencing which desktop browser to use.

For the benchmarking tests, the iPad version of each browser was used on an 128GB iPad Air running the latest iOS 7.1 update. Three different test suites were used to test the performance of the nine different web browsers;Sunspider v1.0.2Octane 2.0 and V8 Benchmark Suite v7.

iOS Browser Benchmarks

 

Looking at the results, you can see what Jay Sullivan, Mozilla’s vice president of product, was referring to back in March of last year. You may recall that Mozilla pulled its Firefox Home app from the App Store and halted all development of a iOS browser due to the fact that Apple restricted third-party browser developers to using the UIWebView rather than there own rendering and javascript engines.

As a result almost every third-party browser tested lags behind Apple’s own Safari mobile browser where performance is concerned. The results show that each browser, including Google’s own Chrome browser, perform at nearly identical performance levels.

That is, until you look at the results coming from the Puffin mobile browser for iOS. Puffin outperformed Safari in all three tests. Another notable exception was the fact that Opera was unable to complete any of the benchmark tests. Seeing as how Opera for iOS has not been updated since October of 2012, it is no wonder that it could not execute any of the latest tests.

Unique Browser Features

Uniques features drive choice

Puffin Web Browser ($ 3.99, Universal) has been able to achieve its wicked fast performance on iOS due to the fact that it is not running on iOS. Puffin is a browser that utilizes cloud-computing to render web pages. Not only does the cloud behind Puffin make Puffin a fast performing browser, it also allows Puffin to support Adobe Flash Player 11.9. To help users utilize flash sites that were originally built for the mouse, Puffin has a virtual gamepad when playing online games built with Flash, as well as a virtual trackpad that simulates all mouse operations like a personal computer. Puffin allows you to change your user agent setting which makes it a good browser choice when you are trying to replace your personal computer with your iPad. While it can sync your browser tabs with Chrome using your Google account, it does not sync your bookmarks or history.

Google Chrome for iOS (Free, Universal) definitely has its appeal to users that are using the desktop version of Chrome, and there are a lot of users using Chrome on the desktop. Chrome is the dominant browser used on the desktop with a commanding 46.49 percent share on StatCounter. Being able to sync your history, bookmarks and tabs across all of your devices and desktop can certainly be more important than having the fastest browser. Google really has done a great job at integrating their online services into the apps that they build for iOS. Many third-party apps now support “Open in Chrome” as one of their supported sharing options.

Safari Mobile (free, Universal) can sync your bookmarks, reading list, open tabs and history with all of your other devices, including Safari on OS X. What you may not know is that you can sync your bookmarks with Internet Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome on Windows using the iCloud Control Panel 3.1 for Windows. To do so you do need to create an iCloud account, but you do not have to use iCloud’s email services. In fact, you can use your any email address when creating the iCloud account that you want to sync your bookmarks with. That way you can use Safari’s fast browser on your iOS device, and any browser on your Windows desktop.

iCab Mobile Web Browser ($ 1.99, Universal) has one unique feature that may appeal to anyone that shares their iOS device with others. It can support multiple users on the same device.  With iCab you can add accounts that maintain their own preferences, profiles, and browsing history. Like Chrome, iCab has also done a great job when it comes to partnering with other third-party developers that supporting iCab as your device browser of choice. It also has enhanced support for filling lout forms online as well as uploading and downloading content from the web.

Dolphin Browser (Free, iPhone Free, iPad) has extensions for Safari, Chrome and Firefox that enable you to sync history, bookmarks, passwords and open tabs on your devices and your desktop that it calls Dolphin Connect. It has its own integrated voice search, Sonar, that you activate by shaking your device. You can also use gestures to launch your favorite URLs. If there happens to be another Dolphin user near by, you can quickly share a link with them using the WiFi broadcast feature. When it comes to creating a rich set of unique and innovative browsing experience, Dolphin has really outdone itself.

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Apple

Time for iOS device spring cleaning: How to replace your old apps with new ones

If there was ever a good time to spring clean your iOS devices, this weekend would be it.

First of all, the week started out with world backup day on Monday. Just last week Apple reported that 85 percent of devices are now running iOS 7 but by my count 49 percent of apps in the app store have not been updated yetWithin just 72 hours of its release, 18 percent of devices jumped on to the 7.1 update. Perhaps they were looking for a little crash relief. That, and it is spring after all.

If you did update to the latest iOS version, and are still experiencing some difficulties that none of your attempts to reset your device have remedied? Then perhaps it is time for a fresh start.

Getting stuff off your device

 

Getting stuff off your device

Photos and videos - Before you start erasing and resetting your device, it is always a good idea to copy your photos and videos off of the device first. On OS X you can use iPhoto, Aperture or the Image Capture utility to safely remove your photos. On Windows you can use Windows Explorer or the Windows Photo Gallery. This takes care of items in your Camera Roll, but what about all your other files?

iTunes File Sharing - Apps that you use on your device may allow you to access their content by through File Sharing from within iTunes on your Mac or PC. Simply attach your device via USB, launch iTunes and click on the Apps tab associated with your device. On the bottom of the screen you will see a section titled File Sharing. Here you can select each app one at a time and manually offload all of their shared content.

Third-party tools - As for all of the other stuff you may want to copy off of your device, consider using either Ecamm’s PhoneView for OS X, DigiDNA’s DiskAid for OS X or Macroplant’s iExplorer for both OS X and Windows. All three apps can copy your contacts, voicemail, call lists, music, movies, and other data on your iOS device onto your Mac. Using such an app was how I have been able to backup and restore my Minecraft worlds.

iCloud and iTunes backups - It is also a good idea to perform one final backup before you start over. With iCloud backups you can perform your backups from almost anywhere. Unfortunately you cannot access the backup files. When you perform a backup using iTunes, the backup files are stored locally on your Mac or PC. Using tools like addPod’s JuicePhone for OS X, or Macroplant’s iExplorer (mentioned above), you can browse and extract files from your devices’ iTunes backups.

Erase all content and settings

Erase all content and settings

Don’t restore from backup - To truly start over fresh, after performing the Erase all Content and Settings operation from within the General settings, you would not restore from either an iCloud or iTunes backup. Instead you will set up your iOS device as a new device. Just keep in mind that this will remove all data from all apps as well as the apps themselves.

Choose a different device name - In order to keep a lifeline to the backups you have stored in iCloud, you will need to name your device differently. This can be done on the device from within the About section of theGeneral settings on the device. If you name your device the same name as it was before, then you will likely overwrite your previous backup. Sometimes it is a good idea to retain a backup for a few days following a reset. Keeping multiple backups however does come at a cost, and that cost is iCloud storage space.

Review your iCloud storage - All iCloud accounts come with 5GB of storage space for free. To check how much space you are currently using go to the iCloud section of the settings and tap on Storage & Backup for iOS, if you are on OS X click on the Manage button from within the iCloud settings of the System Preferences, then Manage, and finally for Windows launch the iCloud Control Panel app in order to click on the Manage button. What you will see in addition to how much space your backups take is how much space other apps are using. For any apps that you are absolutely sure you will not be using anymore, you can remove their data from iCloud.

Replacing old apps with new ones

Replacing old apps with new ones

Apps not on this device - Within the App Store on iOS, you can access all of your prior purchases from theUpdate tab. By scrolling down, you will reveal a search bar at the top of the screen that you can use to search your list of purchased apps. Searching within the purchased apps section of the iOS app store is limited to the name of the app only. Not the developer’s name, not any keywords that the developer has set, and certainly not the description. Once you find the app you are looking for you can download it onto your device by tapping on the cloud with an arrow pointing through it.

Hide the bad apps - As you begin to add apps back onto your device, you may come across a few apps that you regret purchasing, and have vowed that you would never install again. For such apps, you can hide them from your previous purchase list. You will first need to log on to your account from either the Mac or PC version of iTunes. Then go to the Purchases section of the iTunes Store and select the Apps tab. Mouse over the icon of the app you want to hide and click on the little “X” in the top left corner. This is of course reversible from within your account settings, just in case you suffer from ‘hiders’ remorse.

Version history and reviews - Before you rush to add your old apps back on to your device, consider looking at how often your favorite apps have been updated. At the bottom of the app’s description you will see a section titled Version History. If the app has not been updated in the last year, check the recent reviews and see if anyone has been having issues with the app on iOS 7. It may surprise you how many apps have fall into this category. Of the 2,313 apps in my personal iTunes library, only 1,176 have been updated since iOS 7 was launched. And Looking at data from 148apps.biz, 383,602 of the 1,539,342 apps that have been available on the app store are no longer active.

Becoming an app shopping genius - With the announcement of iOS 7 in June of last year, Apple pulled the Genius feature from the app store. A feature that attempted in part to find apps similar to the ones you already own. What you can do instead is take a look at the Related tab within the apps description on the store. If that does not produce a list of comparable apps worth trying, you can turn to online services like AppShopper,AppAdvice and apptap to help find a good replacement for your outdated app. Even with their help, app discovery is still a big problem facing the App Store.

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Apple

Kinvey bulks up its support for HTML5 development

Kinvey, one of a handful mobile platform providers still on its own, is upping its game when it comes to HTML5 development, adding new libraries for Backbone.js, Ember.js and Angular.js JavaScript frameworks in addition to enhancements to its PhoneGap and Appcelerator Titanium modules.

Previously, Boston-based Kinvey offered a basic JavaScript library, a native module for PhoneGap with some added features for client-side data encryption and online/offline data caching) and documentation to help developers connect web apps directly to Kinvey’s REST API.

Most enterprises delivering apps for mobile devices know that they have a native app development skills gap, said Kinvey CEO Sravish Sridhar, via email. “It is far quicker and cheaper for them to [keep using] their existing web technology skills to launch their mobile initiatives. At the same time, they want choice around the kinds of modern JavaScript web frameworks they can use, instead of being locked down by vendors that only support a few. “

He said Kinvey’s support of all these frameworks will let those enterprise developers keep using the tools they know best.

AnyPresence, Appcelerator and FeedHenry, also offer enterprise-focused mobile app development tools (the tortured term for them is Mobile Backend as a Service or MBaaS.) but there’s been consolidation in this market.  In February, PayPal bought Stackmob and incorporated that team into its mobile payments organization; Facebook acquired Parse a year ago. Meanwhile, industry giants  AmazonGoogle  and Microsoft are building out more of their own mobile capabilities. Google is also partnering with Kinvey.

 

kinvey client libraries

 

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Apple’s WWDC set for June 2–6, and you must apply to attend

The date for Apple’s annual developers conference, is set and people can start applying for tickets starting now. On Thursday morning the company said that its Worldwide Developers Conference will take place in San Francisco from June 2 to June 6. The 5,000 slots for developers will be offered via random selection and cost $ 1599. From the release:

Developers can apply for tickets via the WWDC website now through Monday, April 7 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, and tickets will be issued to attendees through random selection. Developers will know their status by Monday, April 7 at 5:00 p.m. PDT. There will also be 200 Student Scholarships available, giving students around the world the chance to earn a free ticket (developer.apple.com/wwdc/students). This year the National Center for Women & Information Technology and its alliance partners will help promote scholarships to female engineers and coders.

Good luck.

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Apple reportedly buying the display division of Japanese chip firm

Apple appears to be continuing on its path to ever more vertical integration as Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported that the consumer electronics giant is in talks with Japan’s Renesas Electronics to take over a unit that supplies all of Apple’s iPhone liquid crystal displays. Displays aren’t only the “face” of the phone, they are also the largest consumer of battery power. With such IP in-house, I’m sure Apple’s engineers can not only create a reliable supply of these components, but also improve the most important customer-facing aspect of a phone or tablet. Apple is reportedly seeking to buy a 55 percent stake of Renesas SP Drivers, a joint venture Renesas has with Sharp and Powerchip.

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Apple

Report: Apple to begin production of new iPhone screens in May — and they’re big

Apple will soon begin manufacturing the displays for this year’s iPhones. Judging by leaked screen specs, the upcoming phones promise to be much bigger devices than previous generations, according to a report from Reuters.

The report, which cites unnamed sources in Apple’s supply chain, says there will be two screen sizes — a 4.7-inch screen, which is already considerably larger than the iPhone 5 series’ 4-inch displays, and a plus-sized 5.5-inch screen. While Japan Display, Sharp and LG Display have all been tapped to start making the 4.7-inch screen in May, there’s a delay in the planned production of the 5.5-inch display while Apple decides some technical issues, Reuters says.

The Reuters story adds more credence to the rumors Apple will go big in its next generation of smartphones. Larger screens would definitely put Apple in line with the trend toward heftier smartphones with broad swaths of real estate to view and swipe. The difference in the reported sizes between the screens would also mean that Apple may be doing more to differentiate the iPhone line within each generation of device.

Last year was the first time that Apple launched two distinct iPhones, the 5s and the 5c. Both were the same size, the main differences being cosmetics and internal hardware. Apple has already split the iPad line into bigger and smaller devices, and the iPad mini has proven a hit. Maybe it could do the same with a monster-sized iPhone 6.

 

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