Apple Brings An End To Its “Get A Mac” Microsoft Slamming Ads

It is the end of an era. For the last four years, Apple has been slamming anything and everything that Microsoft releases, says or does in its “Get A Mac” television advertisements. And now, Justin Long, the star of the ads who plays “Mac”, has revealed that the advertisement campaign has probably came to a close.

Although he can’t say “definitively”, he revealed in a recent interview with The A.V. Club, that his co-star, John Hodgman, who plays “PC”, has told him that Apple are “going to move on”. For the tiny minority of you out there who haven’t seen the television campaign, it’s as simple as it can get. A Mac and a PC are represented by two men, taking the stereotype of the two operating systems and the two companies to the extreme. As you’d expect, PC is a well-dressed, suited and booted middle-aged man who is dedicated to everything to do with work, but never loosens his neck-tie and doesn’t know the meaning of the word “fun”. On the other hand, Mac is a young guy, casual and happy-go-lucky, hailed for his “customer satisfaction”, his durability in design and his versatility, with incredible fun and useful software in iLife, to his work capabilities in iWork. In every new ad, Apple plays on the faults and problems that Windows users suffer, and how it’s much easier and a much better choice to “Get A Mac”.

If there’s one thing that you can say about Apple’s public image, it knows how to draw attention to itself, and its certainly considered the coolest technology company in the industry by the majority of people, so much that Fortune Magazine named Apple the most admired company in the United States in 2008, 2009 and 2010. The campaign was so successful, that all of the ads, along with some web only exclusive ones, have been uploaded to the Apple website, and an entire Wikipedia article is dedicated to the much-loved series. The campaign was even extended here in the UK, with one of our duo comedy pairs, and into Japan. Apple is not afraid to play on every fault that Microsoft and Windows have made, with good wit and taking the definition of stereotype to the extreme.

Although at times I do think that the situations were slightly exaggerated, in most cases Apple are on the money with the problems that PC users suffer. With everything from multiple editions, to hundreds upon thousands of viruses, Apple was skilled in highlighting the cracks in Windows (yes, I know, really bad pun). In any case, “Get A Mac” is one of the best advertising campaigns that I’ve ever been subjected to, and provided some great laughs during those long, boring commercial breaks.

We want to know, which “Get A Mac” ad was your favourite? Did the “Get A Mac” ads push you into purchasing a Macintosh computer? Do you admire Apple’s PR skills? Are you sad that the “Get A Mac” campaign is coming to an end?  Any other thoughts? Let us know, in a comment.

You can watch all of the “Get A Mac” ads at the Apple website by clicking here.

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You Will Have Ten Times More Followers If You Have A Twitter Profile Picture

Twitter has only been on the web since 2006, and it is only in the last year or so that its popularity has really spiraled out of control. Now, countless celebrities are on Twitter and just about any global corporation uses the social networking site – there’s two types of Tweeters: one type who post random, meaningless-to-everyone-but-their-friends tweets to let people know what they’re doing, which ironically was the original idea of Twitter, and the other, who are using it to promote their content and their business. Some, however, are doing it better than others. And according to HubSpot, an analyitics-type, “inbound marketing software” company with over 2,000 businesses looking for tips to optimize their sales and grow their traffic, those users who have a display picture have a much better chance of gaining followers.

The company says that, after analyzing nine million Twitter profiles through its feature which allows Tweeters to grade the effectiveness and popularity of their Twitter feed, users who have a personalized profile picture are much more likely to get a considerable number of followers opposed to those who don’t. In fact, on average, Twitter accounts which have a profile picture set have ten times the number of followers than those who do not.

Dan Zarrella posted on HubSpot’s Inbound Internet Marketing Blog that “it’s a good idea to upload a picture of yourself” if you want to get more followers on the site. And if I’m honest, I believe that Dan is 100% correct. The only problem that some people have is that they are an independent blogger, who doesn’t want to have their picture spilled onto the internet and want to focus on their writing. Some people are plain camera shy – and those blogs that don’t have a logo are at a loose end as to what to upload. On the other hand, I wouldn’t personally want to follow somebody who didn’t have a profile picture, mainly because it doesn’t shout individuality out to me. I can’t connect or identify with a Twitter account, or a Facebook user, or an account on YouTube if I see a small bird as the avatar, or a strangely familiar, yet rather scary, gray silhouette without a face in the shape of a man or a woman, or a gray camera as the display picture. It just isn’t appealing, and it can spark the impression that you are totally uninteresting.

I suppose in a way, however, I’m a slight hypocrit. I’ve lately not had a display picture on my Twitter feed for this blog as I searched for a suitable avatar. Not just that, but my Twitter feed isn’t largely followed either. So perhaps, that’s the reason. Therefore, I’m going to try a little experiment. I’m going to upload a display picture to my Twitter account, and we’ll see how many more followers I gain. A comment posted on the blog entry at HubSpot by Iain Duigan says that within 36 hours of putting up a photograph of himself, he went from “61 followers to 195”. Let’s see if this success carries on for our technology blog here.

Do you have a Twitter account? Do you lack a profile picture? Has this revelation sparked you to upload one? What do you find more effective? Have you seen your follower count increase thanks to an identifiable picture? Are you one of the camera shy who doesn’t like their own photo on a blog, account or Twitter feed? Are you shocked by these figures? What do you have to say, let us know in a comment.

You can read the blog post on HubSpot by clicking here.

You can follow the Internet Nut blog on Twitter for the latest news in technology with hints, tips, tricks, analysis and updates of posts to this blog. And, it does now have a display picture!

iPad Users Experience Weak Connectivity and Dropped Signals

A number of iPad users have expressed their upset and frustration on the official Apple Discussions forum that they are having a number of connectivity issues with their device, with some struggling to tune into their wireless internet connection, and others reporting issues of WiFi signals being weak and even being dropped randomly during use. Some have more recently complained about issues when trying to advance past the WiFi authentication screen and one user complained about their wireless internet connection speed being slower for their iPad than for their iPod touch.

AppleInsider caught my eye today when they reported on these issues. What surprises is me is that one of the posts notes a problem connecting to Apple’s own router system, AirPort Extreme; Apple constantly advertise themselves as being a company which creates the hardware and the software themselves, suggesting that using Apple products is easier because the devices involved come from the same manufacturer. One topic on the Apple forum complains about weak reception to their wireless network, with another seven pages of similar complaints made. AppleInsider noted that complaints were based around routers of different manufacturers and companies, meaning that the problem cannot be traced down to an issue with a particular router version or type.

Some of the issues posted includes one owner saying that their signal is “fluctuating from strong to weak” and that even when they stand in front of their router, the signal still fluctuates. They said that the router has “very strong signals as every other computer has full signal strength, even 20-30 meters from the router”. Others have said that their “signal is weak”, that “downloading anything is painfully slow” and that “it will drop the signal and go offline every 5-10 minutes”.

“I have seen weak performance too while surfing the web” said powerguru, even though Apple has said that the iPad is the best internet experience you’ll have. mbell75, however, has been quite cool about the issue, saying that “just about any brand new device is going to have some issues.” Amazingly, powerguru said that they have used the application on both their iPhone 3GS and iPad running WiFI, and the iPad download speed is “1.83 megabits/sec”, while iPhone 3GS download speed is “14.77 megabits/sec.” This is quite a scary set of numbers –  to think the iPad is running so slowly, while a much smaller device running on the same wireless network has a much faster connectivity speed. I run at around 10 megabits per second, and having used 2 megabits per second in the past, I can relate to how frustrated this owner must be feeling.

D7, however, said that their 64GB iPad is running 16 megabits per second, while their iPhone “can’t get anywhere near that speed”, even though others are complaining and are upset that they cannot go and see those at the Apple Store because they are currently closed for Easter. Dr. JB, one user suffering problems, is hoping that it was just a “bad batch” and that “Apple will replace [their] iPad”. Without a shadow of a doubt, the most common problem reported is fluctuating strength in the WiFi signals

I certainly do hope that this is just a bad batch, because more and more people seem to be logging onto the forum to voice their issues. At the time of writing this, most of the posts and topics in the WiFi section on the Apple Discussions forum are addressing issues that people are having with their connectivity. Apple have made some suggestions which can be found over at their website, but I am in two minds whether or not I agree with mbell75 about the problems of a new device. Although I’m sure there will be problems with a brand new product on the market, Apple has had some practice with iPhone and iPod touch, and I didn’t expect to see so many problems arise in this forum over this issue. Despite this however, I think after reading some of the reviews on the internet, I’m quite happy to say I will buy an iPad to test out its usability, but I’m not sure about having another device to carry around. The reason I’d probably not go for the 3G version is because of the prices here in the United Kingdom. Anything to do with technology is much more expensive in the UK, whether that be internet connection prices or mobile phones and 3G wireless internet coverage contracts. Apple hasn’t released any information about any pricing for the iPad or the connectivity yet, but I can only guess that it will be too expensive – and in any case, if I’m desparate to log onto the internet out of a WiFi area (and let’s face it, how many places nowadays do not have WiFi within reach), I’ve always got my unlimited internet usage for my iPhone.

What do you think? Have you had connectivity issues with your Apple devices? Do you own an iPad? What do you think about it? Have you had any fluctuating signals or connectivity problems? Or, is your iPad working fine? Are you wanting to buy an iPad, and would you consider the 3G version? Let us know, in a comment.

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iPad Is A Hit: Over 300,000 iPads, Over 1 Million Apps, 250,000 iBooks Sold On First Day

Apple has revealed the sale figures of its brand new tablet computer, the iPad, two days after the much anticipated product was launched in the United States. Despite the generally bad publicity that the iPad received running up to the launch on April 3, Apple has announced some staggering figures with regards to the purchases of the device and its amentities.

Apple has said that it sold over 300,000 iPads by midnight of April 3, including sales from pre-orders, deliveries to channel partners and sales made at Apple Retail Stores across the United States. Although it has not offered the exact number sold on each platform, the team of one analyst said that they counted about 730 Apple customers queuing up at the company’s Fifth Avenue store in New York waiting to be one of the first to get their hands on the product.

Not just that, but Apple has also announced that they sold one million applications from its App Store to new iPad users during the first day, and sold over 250,000 eBooks through their new iBookstore. If I’m honest, these numbers are overwhelming. Granted, new iPad users would want to start filling up their new tablet devices, but the first iPad was only in the hands of customers from 9am New York time. This is a massive success story so far for Jobs and his team – many reviews on the internet already are quite positive, and Steve has said that the device is “going to be a game-changer”. Certainly, Amazon’s Kindle device is going to have to fall dramatically in price if it’s ever going to beat the iPad, and I certainly would never consider buying a Kindle over this device. Although its not quite the 700,000 iPads that one analyst estimated, it has hit the estimation of many other professionals and, although living in the UK means that I haven’t been able to make a review of as yet, these numbers are quite fascinating.

Are you an iPad user? What do you think of the iPad? Are you waiting eagerly for an iPad? Would you prefer the WiFi or 3G version? Do you think the iPad is a great or a terrible product? Were the early expectations of bloggers and journalists correct? Are you amazed by these numbers? Let us know what you think, leave a comment.

Press Release

Today Is The Day: iPad Makes Its American Debut

It’s here. Well, for America at least. Today, Saturday, April 3, the iPad will be available to buy from Apple Retail Stores across the United States. For many months, Apple’s new tablet computer was speculated – many experts conspired about its features, some went to the lengths of claiming that they knew everything about it – even if they were completely wrong. The tech-obsessed Apple community even went hunting for its name, searching WhoIs records, finding domain registrars and tracking the name iSlate directly to Apple. I suppose it came as a slight shock when it turned out it was the iPad, and not the iSlate.

The iPad has been subjected to very mixed reviews. Personally, at the start, I said I was quite unhappy of the likeness that the iPad shared with the iPhone and iPod touch and wanted some Macintosh software capabilities to be included. When it was announced by Steve Jobs in January that the iPad would run iWork, I was delighted to have some Mac capability and said that I would probably buy the product. I did, however, note how difficult I thought it would be to control the on-screen keyboard, with a doubt in the back of my mind that this Mac software would be difficult to use with a touch screen. Not just that, but I think that the ergonomic situation with the iPad means that, although it’s a great idea to embed this software, it’s never going to work if you’re wanting to type out long messages (for example, I’d never want to type out this post on an iPad).

Now, I am in two minds. I love how convenient the product would actually be: how thin, how easy, how appealing it is. There have been times where I have wished that my iPhone screen was bigger for a few minutes while I try to do something online, without the use of a computer, of which a larger screen would make it much easier.  Additionally, I love the look of the iPad Case and, although to me it seems as if Apple are somewhat saying “you’ll need this, too”, the option to add the keyboard when charging it on the dock. In another sense, I could always whip out another device, my MacBook, and use its keyboard – it’s a little heavier, but I can handle that. I couldn’t just dump my MacBook for the iPad, meaning I’d have to carry both, adding even more weight and not lessening the weight I carry as an aim of the product. Again, lack of Flash makes me doubt how effective this device actually will be for the web, after being christened by Apple as virtually the best web experience you’ll ever have. “You’re holding the internet in your hands”, Jobs said – the internet, sure, but an internet perhaps too bare for the liking of many people.

Over the last few days, there’s been some rather negative publicity, something no company wants at any point, not to mention just before the release of a product. Mike Melason of ReadWriteWeb says that “the iPad just isn’t for [him]” because he “moves around too much”.  I do agree with him when he notes that it isn’t for those who “blog or code” – as I said earlier on, I think along the same lines as him in this regard. The keyboard of the iPad, I believe, just will not allow for this, and I would assume would cause me some wrist pain after a long usage time. I do, however, find it interesting and ironic that Mealson states “[he’s] already found [his] true trusty devices – [his] 12″ netbook and [his] iPhone”. I tried netbooks, I couldn’t get along with them, and I could assume that the iPad falls somewhere in this region when taking into consideration the typing capabilities. They’re far too small for me, and even Jobs himself claimed at his keynote: “Netbooks aren’t good for anything”. Mealson does, however, add that his netbook has “nearly a full-sized” keyboard, something that mine clearly doesn’t.

Cory Doctorow of boingboing also claims that the iPad will “end innovation” and is very detailed why he won’t be buying an iPad, and why he’d discourage you buy one, also. He also connects with another list of writers who share his opinion. From the average user, the real problem would be having to plug in another device at night. Things as simple as this can be the reason why the mainstream consumer, the one who’s lives do not surround technology but are made slightly easier by it, are one of the main reasons so many people are turning away from the iPad. Even a nine year old child said that their family already owned an iPod touch, “so it’s not like we need one.” These are just some of the every day comments coming from devout Apple consumers, who don’t want another device. This article in the New York Times is very useful when discussing the mainstream consumer opinion.

I’ve dove into the news websites over the last couple of days, and I’m afraid that I can’t find any articles in praise of the iPad. All I know, is that people have been standing in queues over night to be one of the first to get their hands on the new device. With today being the big day for the iPad, and with a huge pre-order list for Apple to get through, what are your final thoughts? As I’m writing this, it’s about three hours to go before the first iPad will be sold, at 9am, New York Time.  Are you going out to buy one today, have you stood in a queue all night and, by the time you read this, already have one, have you played with one yet, or are you standing your ground, like many technologists today, and saying the iPad just isn’t for you. Let everybody know what you think in, in a comment.

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First It Was IE, Now Germany Discourages Use Of Mozilla Firefox Over Security Flaws

In January, I blogged about the German government advising its residents not to use Microsoft’s web browser Internet Explorer after it turned out that security failures in its coding led to cyber-attacks against Google, originating from China. It would now seem that Germany have changed their tune, because they’ve put out information on the web advising its residents to now turn their backs on Firefox, after they said that a vulnerability within the Firefox coding meant that hackers could use the software to run potentially dangerous programs on the computers of its users.

Mozilla has confirmed the flaw within its browser and says that a fix incorporated into the next software updated would close the gap in security. However, the current release of this update is still in its beta stages and has not yet been scrutinized for coding errors or program issues.The Federal Office for Information Security, or the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI), have recommended that computer users with internet access stop using the browser until the issue is fixed and the software has been fully tested for its effectiveness. BSI class this issue as high risk, classed 4/5 on its scale.

I find this incredibly ironic, given that it was only two months ago Germany was trying to turn its people away from Internet Explorer. What will certainly be comforting for the Germans to know, however, is that their government seems to be on the ball with ensuring that its people are informed about the latest information with regards to keeping safe on the internet and in reality, something we rarely get anywhere else in the world. On the other hand, I can see these warnings worrying the technology illiterate who may not know how to switch their web browsers or may be panicking about the vulnerability of their machines. Some may be giving up hope; if they have been turned away from two browsers in just three months, some beginners may be doubting the safety of the web and these recommendations may be tipping them over the edge as to leaving the internet altogether.

What is difficult to pin-point at the moment is where exactly on the web you will vulnerable if you’re using Firefox without the update. If you go around your web browsing carefully, without visiting any unknown, suspicious or inappropriate sites, you may get by without switching for the next few days. Firefox is due to release their fully tested update with the fix in a few days time, but if you are really concerned about these errors, and would like to update now, bearing in mind you may have usability issues with the beta version of Firefox 3.6.2, you can do so by clicking here.

What do you think? Has this recommendation torn you away from Firefox at the minute? Do you think that Germany are too sensitive to these security flaws? Do you think it’s good for the German people to have a good flow of information which keeps them up-to-day with all of the online security issues? Have you suffered any security problems in your browser? What do you have to say? Let us know, in a comment.

BürgerCERT (BSI) News About Firefox (In German)

How A Blind Soldier Can Read and See Through His Tongue

Lance Corporal Craig Lundberg was blinded by a grenade when he was on a military tour of Iraq in 2007. Since then, he has had to rely on guide dogs and canes to help him get on with his life. However, a revolutionary piece of technology which the Ministry of Defense, the British government organization responsible for the operations of the British military, have been testing recently, means that electrical impulses sent to Lundberg’s tongue can help him to mentally visualize his surroundings, and therefore gives him a better quality of life, allowing him to “see” the world around him.

The technology is called BrainPort, and thanks to it, Lundberg is able to do spectacular things that he never dreamed he would be able to do again, including identifying shapes, walking around without help and even reading. The prototype consists of a very small video camera device which is attached to a pair of black tinted sunglasses. The glasses are then connected to a tube, which is put into the user’s mouth to allow them to recognize the electrical impulses that the device will send.

The images seen by the camera are converted into the electrical impulses, and the strength of these impulses helps the brain to recognize the shapes incorporated into the surroundings. Lundberg described to a British newspaper the the sensations feel like “popping candy” on his tongue, and means that he can determine “lines and shapes,” composing a “two dimensional image on your tongue.”  He says it has potential to change his life.

The Ministry of Defense worked with the United States to help develop the technology, which has 400 different points for communicating information. However, designers of the device have said they are hoping to expand this to 4,000 points, which would “vastly upgrade the clarity of the image.”

This is an amazing development and a huge win for blind people in the United Kingdom and the United States. However, with every success, there is always a huge number of issues which need to be addressed. Firstly, one must take into account how expensive the technology will actually be – how will these countries fund this technology, will it be widely available? How much of an impact can it make on those who cannot afford it? Will these people simply be left without sight while some of their fellows can experience vision because they have a sufficient bank balance to make this possible?

Once might ask how difficult it is to have a large tube in their mouth – the truth is that the tube actually prevents them from eating or speaking whilst using the device. However, researchers have said that they are trying to make the device smaller, so that it can be used naturally without losing other abilities of the human body, such as speaking. This device has been reported in the news for a couple of years now but, because Lance Corporal Lundberg is the first person to use the technology, you can consider this the first major breakthrough in the project.

Another concern would be the charge of the device. What source of energy does the device have – does it use solar power or does it need to be plugged into a socket to charge it up? How long will the device last before the power shuts off? Does the pad placed into the mouth have to be replaced on regular intervals? There are so many different questions which haven’t been answered here, but either way I do believe that the device has massive potential for those who have lost their vision in one way or another. I’d also be very interested in how learning how quickly this product would be available, and to whom it would be available to. Would it be restricted to certain groups, or would it be available, when the technology is developed enough, for those who could afford it or are considered to need it the most?

What do you think of this device? Do you think that this is a breakthrough for blinded people? Do you have any other concerns to add to this list? What is your opinion? Do you know somebody who is blind? How would this project affect them? Let us know what you think, in a comment.

Four In Five People Think That Internet Access Is A Human Right

Of 27,000 people questioned in a recent poll, a diverse group of respondents from twenty-six different countries, four in five of them believe that access to the internet should be a “fundamental human right”.

The poll was conducted by GlobeScan, on behalf of the BBC World Service, and it has presented some very interesting figures. It probably doesn’t surprise you to know that the countries in which people believed that internet access was “fundamental” were: in third place, with 87% of respondents, China; in second place, with 94% of respondents, Mexico; and in first place with a massive 96% of respondents, South Korea. In these countries, internet access is widespread and the web is used as a tool for work, communication and social development.

More than seven in ten people questioned, or 71% of the respondents, who did not use the internet, believe that they should also have the right to have “access to the web”. Most of the people surveyed believed that having the internet gives them the ability to have greater freedom, with nine in ten saying it’s a “good place to learn” (that’s probably if you exclude the “facts” on Wikipedia marked with the ever so familiar words, “Citation Needed”).

In all seriousness, I do believe that the internet is one of the world’s most powerful and important platforms that is known to man. Not only is it an amazing place to connect with people, it is an incredible method of learning new skills, gaining valuable knowledge and educating yourself. I have written blog posts in the past which have made explicit the hundreds of different ways of learning how to do “just about anything” using the internet. One of the major downsides to educating yourself through the internet is the reliability of the content that you are reading. Far too many people believe that whatever Wikipedia says, must be the truth. I’ve reverted numerous acts of vandalism on sites like Wikipedia, one memorable occasion being when somebody claimed that the capital of one Eastern country was quite an offensive name for one of the female reproductive organs. In a world where anybody can edit just about anything that is written on Wikipedia, where sources become outdated and people can either knowingly or unknowingly give false information about topics, you just can’t rely on everything you read. What’s even worse is the answers provided on the big answer sites – many of their contributors answer questions that they have no experience in, no knowledge about, and many of them post utter rubbish and have no idea what they’re talking about. Nevertheless, I’m very thankful that many people use their sense to verify what they read on the internet, by checking in libraries, watching documentaries and verifying their sources with others that are available.

Another interesting revelation that the poll has shown is that just about half of the respondents believed that it was safe to voice their opinions online, whereas the other half did not think this. I think that this is simply down to which country you are in and which type of government you live under. In some countries, expressing your opinion on the internet is banished – criticizing anybody or anything, whether that be the government or the monarch, or showing support for things which are illegal or frowned upon in certain areas, such as homosexuality, is illegal and dangerous. In the United Kingdom, where I live, and in the majority of Western countries, you are free to speak your mind and express yourself how ever you wish. I would speculate the reason for this great divide is simply based upon where the respondents came from. Surprisingly, however, most people in France and Germany believe that they are not safe to voice their opinions on the internet – more than those in China. On the other side, the majority of Indians and Kenyans do believe they are safe to do this. Does this have to do something with how identifiable people are, for example through the population in the country, and how easily people can be tracked down? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

More than half of the respondents believed that the “internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere”, large majorities coming from South Korea, Nigeria and Mexico. I agree with the fact that governments should not have the authority to control information posted on the internet, for example, a criticism of somebody with a negative opinion, like some governments do now, but if we are discussing control in terms of internet service providers, I certainly believe that the internet has to be monitored, because otherwise it could create a huge hub for illegal activities, even more than there are now.

Although millions of people use the internet to buy products from places like eBay and Amazon, only 5% of people say that this is the best feature that the web has, with research and learning about any topic being the aspect of the web most valued. 32% of people said that fraud on the internet worried them the most, so perhaps this is why only 5% of people describe buying products as the best feature of the internet, given the platform for fraud to occur is primarily through online markets.

I’d love to know what you all think of these different statistics. Do you think that internet access is a human right? What do you fear about the internet? What do you think is the best feature about the internet? Do you find these statistics interesting? Do you fear about how openly you say things or express your opinion on the web? Do you have something else to say? Your comments are more than welcome.

To view the full report, click here. You will require Adobe Acrobat Reader. The free software can be downloaded from here.

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How Your Inbox Can Prioritize Your E-mails For You

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania have been developing a system which would teach computers to look into the content of e-mails in tightly-packed inboxes to help those who have lots of e-mail prioritize which ones to view and respond to first. The system, appropriately named Reflective Agents with Distributed Adaptive Reasoning, or RADAR, is programmed by humans which select words in the subject or body of an e-mail which may suggest that the message needs an urgent response, or that it is in the best interest of the recipient to make that e-mail their top priority.

Andrew Faulring, the leader of this project and research programmer at the Human Computer Interaction Institute, has been working with his team to help develop what he calls an “intelligent personal assistant”, which can “effectively handle common office tasks, such as managing their calendars, handling e-mail, writing reports, maintaining web sites, allocating project space and so forth.”

The effectiveness of the project was tested by Faulring and his colleagues, who asked a number of volunteers to plan a conference, with nothing more than a bulky number of e-mail messages in their e-mail inbox to help them. NewScientist reports that some of the e-mails were key to the success of the conference, whereas others were useless and made no difference to how smoothly it would run. Faulring reported that those volunteers who had the RADAR system installed in their inboxes “significantly outperformed” those that did not, supposedly making fewer mistakes in the planning process, and wasting less time.

We know that there are a number of applications on the market, and one new one in the App Store, named Siri, which are programmed to help busy people navigate around their working day, and to help relieve them of some of the somewhat tedious yet time-consuming tasks, such as organizing calendars, calling taxis and finding places. However, some of them have turned out to be unsuccessful and haven’t caught on as well as their creators would of liked. If the findings of this experiment are true, and the RADAR system is effective at prioritizing e-mails, then this could make the working day much easier and much more efficient than it currently is. However, one of my concerns is that many people distrust computer systems – they suspect, and are probably right, that at one point in time, the system will inappropriately deem a very urgent e-mail as useless, and put it to the bottom of the pile. Some people will always consider new technology to be unstable, particularly the more adventurous tasks that many believe only humans can cope with.

Other than that, if this can help tasks to run more efficiently and effectively, then it would benefit businesses and organizations to look into this type of recognition. Not only is it time consuming answering every e-mail, but it is also time consuming going through e-mails to determine which one should be answered first. This system could save that trouble.

What are your thoughts on this project? Would you use the RADAR system? Do you use a “virtual personal assistant”, such as Siri, and how does it effect your life? Have you been looking for a system like RADAR for a long time? Do you think it will work well or do you have any additional concerns? Let us know, in a comment.

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Smaller Web Browsers Want More Attention From Microsoft

Last month, I blogged about Microsoft finally unveiling their new browser choice screen – users of Microsoft’s web browser Internet Explorer would be faced with an official pop-up screen, informing users about other browsers that are available and the benefits of using them. The other web browser companies have commented on how much this would contribute to the competition and rivalry and give them the opportunity to increase their market share. The move came after the European Commission said that, to restrict the automatic dominance of Microsoft and to keep people informed about other browsers available, they must offer the ability to change browsers whilst in Internet Explorer.

Some of the browsers advertised on the screen include Opera, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari. However, the screen actually shows twelve different browsers, but users have to scroll to the right in order to see the others which aren’t listed first. Other browsers shown include Avant, Flock, Maxthon, Green Browser and Slim. Six of these browser companies have now signed a petition to be sent to the EU, which complain about the fact that their browsers can’t be seen initially, claiming that it leaves “the vast majority of users unaware that there are more than five browsers to choose from”.

The companies say that all they want is “a small addition” of text or a small graphic which would indicate to users that there are more browsers listed by scrolling to the right. While some of the browsers listed first say that they are seeing their market share increasing, there have been no similar reports from those that are listed later on.

If I’m honest, I think that it wouldn’t be too harmful for Microsoft to add a small piece of text or graphic which would satisfy the other companies. I think it’s quite obvious that the biggest, most popular browsers have been listed first, and I don’t have a problem with that, but because those people who aren’t aware of other browsers are the computer novices, they may also not know that you can scroll right or left on a page, and therefore will be missing out on the information. I think, to keep things fairer, it should be more obvious that there are other browsers listed, or they should all be displayed at once. Many people will either disregard the screen altogether, or look at the first few and won’t look at the ones listed last on screen. Maybe a fairer way of doing this would be in alphabetical order, or would you agree that it should still be in the order of popularity?

Which browser do you use? Are you happy with your browsers? Even though Microsoft is complying with the regulations, do you think they could grant the wishes of the other companies? Do you think this is fair or unfair? Let us know, in a comment.

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How To Charge Your Cell Phone Using Your Shoes

Researchers at the University of Princeton say that with every brisk step that a human being takes, they can produce about 70 watts’ worth of power. Dr Michael C. McAlpine and his colleagues believe that the energy that we produce through the movements of our body could be used to help charge electrical items such as music players and cell phones, among other devices, in the future.

The team at Princeton say that they have managed to print piezoelectric crystals onto flexible material which would be used as the base of shoes. When these crystals are bent, they produce an electric current, and it is this form of energy which the researchers say could be use to help charge our electrical items when we’re on the go.

For all electricity is so widely available and is just about everywhere we look, there are those inevitable times when we just don’t have access to that electricity. I cannot tell you how many times I have been stuck far away from a power socket, only to see that my iPhone has 10% battery remaining, or that my iPod is about to cut out on me as I sit in the socket-less economy class of a plane. This theory suggests that we should print these crystals onto the rubber-like material, use that material as the base of shoes, and as we walk, electricity will be produced and we can therefore charge our electrical device with no power socket at all.

Dr. McAlpine and his colleagues have already started to develop protoypes, in which the crystals are first created “in a series of narrow ribbons, on a rigid substrate of magnesium oxide”, The New York Times reports. Within the crystals, tiny wires are placed, therefore allowing the electricity to be harvested. To finish the process, an additional layer of PDMS would be added, both to protect the device and to protect the human body; as the crystals contain lead, it would be pretty negligent otherwise.

What’s even more exciting is, that although the energy produced by the shoe theory is enough to help power electrical devices, a more powerful generator is a potential concept which could be implanted into the body, producing even more electricity for more heavy duty items and for other human uses.

I was very excited when I read this on The New York Times website today. It is a very ambitious concept, and it would make life much easier, but I have a couple of concerns. Firstly, would I need to permanently have my electrical device connected in some way, and would it have to wired directly to my shoes? Wires dangling all over me could well steer me clear of the idea, and having a device permanently connected would prove some problems if I want to use it at the same time. If I didn’t have to have my device permanently connected to the energy source, would I connect it when my device ran out of battery or was about to run out of battery? Clearly, this idea has some flaws; if I’m sitting in an airport during long delays and I’m constantly using my iPhone, if I want to charge it I would need to walk around the airport terminal. Obviously, this becomes tiring, and exactly how much charge would the concept provide, and how long would it keep my device charged for? How expensive will it actually be? Other than these concerns, I’ll be extremely interested to see how this technology turns out, and will be even more interested to find out how well it catches on.

Are you excited about this concept? Would you consider charging your device in this method? Would this make your life easier? Do you have any dead-battery experiences? Do you think that this is a good or bad idea? Have you tried other on-the-go charging methods, like portable solar panels? What is your opinion? Let us know, in a comment.

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Finally, Microsoft Offers A Choice Of Browsers

Microsoft has said that, from March 1, users of its browser Internet Explorer will be given the choice as to whether or not they want to continue using that browser, or switch to a different one. The company say that IE users will see a pop-up screen when opening Internet Explorer, after installing a software update, which will inform people of alternative browsers and allow people to install them. Microsoft will notify people about the software update automatically through the balloon notices in the Windows XP taskbar, and in Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Microsoft’s Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Dave Heiner, announced the news today in a blog post on the Microsoft On The Issues blog. He said that the pop-up notice would allow people to automatically install alternative browsers, simply by selecting them. Microsoft will offer further information and a button to install either Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari or Opera in the notice, but it will also give users the opportunity to install Internet Explorer 8, if they are using an earlier version of Microsoft’s browser.

The move comes after the resolution of the European Commission in December with regards to a long-running competition case. Microsoft said that it was “pleased” with the agreement, in which they committed to continue to allow manufacturers and users to “install any browser on top of Windows, to make any browser the default browser on new PCs, and to turn access to Internet Explorer on or off”. They also agreed to this “browser choice” screen, which would be displayed to users of Internet Explorer to help them make an educated choice of browser they wish to use. Testing of this new screen is taking place in the United Kingdom, France and Belgium.

Mitchell Baker, chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, said that this was “an important milestone towards helping people take control of their online lives.” Personally, I think that this is a fantastic way of helping people to make their own choice with regards to their browsers. How successful for other browsers it will actually be is arguable – some less tech-savvy users, who don’t know about alternative browsers already, may stop and read the notices and make a choice from there, but others will undoubtedly shy away from change and won’t want to do anything they aren’t sure of, in the fear of “breaking the computer”.

I’m not entirely sure which way this will go, or how much of a difference it will make in the shares of the browser market. As I say, some people will automatically ignore what the notice has to say, but those who do stop and read it will be doing a favor for themselves. It is providing other browsers with a good chance, but either way, I’m glad that people are being given a more upfront opportunity to make their own mind up and I’m sure that the other browsers will not be happy to have a fair crack at the whip of gaining users.

Do you use Internet Explorer? Would you consider changing browsers? Are you happy more people will know about the alternatives? Do you think that other browsers will gain a bigger market share through this move? Anything else to say? Let us know, in a comment.

“The Browser Choice” Blog Post

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Steve Jobs To Finally Spill The Beans?

Over the years, there have been a number of aspiring authors who have attempted to write a biography about Steve Jobs – trying to be neutral and informative about the childhood, the experiences, the knowledge and the public image of a man who is one of the most recognized faces of technology. Personally, I think Steve Jobs contributes a lot to the company, in terms of his passionate and demanding attitude for his role. He has been known for his want to pursue the technology of the future, and he and Steve Wozniak, another fantastic, friendly face in tech, created something amazing when they founded Apple Computer Inc.

As high-profile as Steve’s business life is, it is fair to say that he hasn’t been too happy when it comes to people trying to reveal his personal life – he has authorized a very limited number of biographies about his life, and he has even banned the products of one publisher from Apple retail stores after they printed an unauthorized biography about him. Of course, it’s reasonable that somebody does not want so-called “conspiracy” stories about themselves being published, or biographies which dig into the depths of a person’s private events.

According to an article on The New York Times website, techno bookworms may soon be in for a treat – two people “briefed” on the project say that Steve has agreed to collaborate with Walter Isaacson, once editor of TIME magazine and author, to help cover his entire life in a new authorized biography, disclosing everything from “his youth in the area now known as Silicon Valley through his years at Apple”. And if the rumors are true, readers are sure to have a quality book on their hands, for Isaacson has already penned two biographies, one about Albert Einstein and the other on Benjamin Franklin, which have sold incredibly well in America and elsewhere.

So how true are the rumors? Well, Isaacson and Apple have both refused to comment on the situation, and that can be a sign that the rumor is likely the truth. I can certainly say that I’d be looking forward to learn a little more about this figurehead, just as I enjoyed reading about The Woz in his autobiography iWoz.

What do you think? Would you read a Steve Jobs biography, with true input from the man himself? Are you a fan of Steve’s work for Apple and would like to learn more about his life and how he got to the position he is at now? Have you looked at some of the other biographies, authorized or otherwise? What were your reactions? Let us know your opinion, in a comment.

Could This Be The Death Of The App Store? 24 Industry Leaders Develop A New App Alliance

One of the most annoying aspects of the existence of applications is the devices for which they are available. If a developer decides to design their application for the iPhone, or the Android, they will then go and approach the application store owned by that company and sell it in that specific location, for that specific device. Unfortunately, many customers become angry and disappointed when they find out that the perfect application they’ve just heard about is not available for their mobile phone. Today, an alliance has been unveiled, made up of 27 worldwide industry leaders in the mobile technology market, with the aim to create a “simple route” through which developers and companies will be able to provide access to applications, “irrespective of device or technology”.

Some may doubt that this project would get off the ground – but when you consider that this alliance already has access to three billion customers worldwide, you may reconsider the effectiveness of an alliance which stands for “openness and transparency.” Confirmed members of the alliance include AT&T, Vodafone, Samsung, LG, Sony Ericsson, Telefonica, Orange, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon Wireless and SingTel, among other huge providers and manufacturers in this market. The group say this will mean that customers will have access to a “broader choice of innovative applications and services…on a wider choice of devices than ever before.”

In theory, the idea sounds fantastic, and would make the job of developers a hell of a lot easier. This is because developers would only have to create one version of their application which can be used on multiple types of devices and operating systems. At present, if developers want to make their products available to as many people as possible, they are forced to create numerous version of their applications, which are fit to run on the different mobile devices available. This option can also be rather costly, because most application stores have a developer fee, meaning that to access as many customers as possible, the developer would also have to pay the respective fees of each application store – he would empty his pockets before he started making any money. However, this did have its benefits – with access to a bigger market, you can make bigger profits.

But with this concept, developers wouldn’t have any worries at all as to accessing as many potential buyers as they can – with the backing of such major manufacturers and mobile providers, and an automatic potential customer base of three billion, this is already covered. What’s more, the alliance says that this “single gateway for developers” will be available at a “limited cost”, and therefore this will allow developers to make a “maximum possible return on [their] investment”. This is the problem that developers have at the moment with the costs going to each individual application store.

I think that the concept itself is very good, and it’s obvious having the backing of all of these companies is beneficial to the project, not just in the case of knowing what works and what doesn’t based on prior experience, but also because marketing across all of these networks will be very strong. Not only that, but the initiative also has the backing of the GSMA. However, with such dominance in with the App Store and the Android Market, and with the fantastic reputation these two stores have developed for themselves, I’m not sure if people would want to divert their attention from the current big players to a new idea. Also, I would wonder how Apple and other companies would react – would they allow those developers who provide their application through this concept to also have their application available in the App Store? The aim of the alliance is to help prevent the need to go to multiple platforms to sell the application, but some developers will still want to be somewhere that is highly recognized, and has been for sometime. At the minute, very few people actually know what the Wholesale Application Community actually is.

Time will tell how successful this project will be. Will they be able to overpower the dominance of the application specialists? I’m not entirely sure – but I’m sure that this option will be attractive to developers. Just so you know, the announcement about the alliance was made today at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and I’m eager to find out more.

What do you think? Are you a developer? Does this option seem attractive to you? Would you prefer a concept like this to a specific application store for specific manufacturers? What is your opinion? Are you a customer who supports this idea? Do you think that this idea will be successful? Are you impressed by the concept? Let us know what you think. Comments are always welcome.

Wholesale App Community

MIT Work On 3D Food Printer For Effortless, Exact Meals – But It’s Not Supposed To Replace Cooking

What are you going to have for dinner today. And more importantly, who is going to prepare and cook it? Imagine a world where all you have to do is tell a machine what meal you’d like to eat, and it will make it for you, with no effort on your part. You can dictate the exact taste and texture. According to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, this technology is not too far away, and apparently prototypes are well underway.

Technology which would make our lives much easier has been the subject of science-fiction films for decades; with every passing day, we are getting closer and closer to these technologies becoming a reality. Marcelo Coelho and Amit Zoran, two researchers working at MIT, say they want to create a “three-dimensional food printer”, which they hope will “bring digital into food”. The idea is quite simple, but is masked behind extensive research and great precisions of detail. The machine would mean that we wouldn’t need to put any effort into preparing and cooking meals –  in effect, the device should do all this for us.

However, the pair have said that there isn’t a fully-working model of the machine yet, and one won’t be ready for at least two years, but they say that there are a number of first prototypes already made and the foodstuffs they has prepared and cooked are “pretty good.” The device is being called “Cornucopia” at present – prototype images of the machine are said to have the resemblance of a microwave. However, there are a number of fundamental differences. When microwaves were first invented and released onto the market, it was said that they would change the way we would cook for ever, that they would almost eradicate every other cooking method. This failed to come true, as the number of foods we can cook in a microwave are extremely limited, but perhaps this new concept will have a bigger impact.

The device consists of a protected chamber in which the cooking would take place. Above it, a number of tubes sit upright; these tubs contain the ingredients, and are so advanced, that they will actually refrigerate the ingredients, and therefore protect it from bacterial growth. These ingredients would be sent down the tube into the mixer, where all of the ingredients would be brought together and mixed. A “printer-head” would then receive the food – this part of the device will also heat and cook the food.

Excitement is growing around the project, simply because it will give us the opportunity to dictate the exact texture and taste of whatever food the machine is preparing and cooking. The researchers are saying that it will give you “finer control of everything”. I mentioned precision earlier – and this is why: Coelho says, “Imagine you want to make a croissant. You’ll be able to have a one thousandth of a millimetre layer of butter, followed by the same sized layer of bread, followed by butter, and so on.

And, according to Coelho, the device should help us lead healthier lifestyles. He says that if the device owner is on a  diet and wants to consume less fat and calories, then they can program the machine to replace ingredients so that you can keep the amount of calories that you can consume to a minimum. He insinuated that people care more about video games than cooking and find it more interesting, saying that if “cooking was closer to playing a video game, maybe people will be more engaged with it.” The technology uses a method of “printing” the food, which the machine mixes together.

This project came to light last month, but further developments have been made and more has been revealed. I was reading about this in a national British newspaper, and I was quite astounded by it. It really made me think about the speed at which technology is coming along. When I originally read the details, and heard what the researchers were trying to do, I thought that they were going to say that the project would not be ready for a decade or so. To here that it could be ready in little over a couple of years shocked me; the team say that it isn’t supposed to be an alternative to cooking, but I’d probably treat it like it. It seems incredibly convenient and I think that it would surely benefit the public’s health – if they have a better control of what they eat and how much nutritional value it has, then it will easier for us to help cut down the obesity levels.

Are you looking forward to this technology? Would it make your life easier? Have you another futuristic idea you’d like to see come true? Are you experienced in this field, or are you researching something similar? Do you think this will have health benefits, or do you think it’s a long way off and it is over-rated. Let us know, your comments are always welcome.