Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mozilla Offering Free Firefox OS Phone Workshops To Developers

App developers looking to expand their reach to the newly announced Firefox OS have a have chance to attend a recently announced workshop series designed to help spark interest in app development for the forthcoming Firefox OS. As part of the program Mozilla is offering a chance to get hands-on access to Firefox OS devs, as well as Firefox OS Developer Preview hardware.

Workshops will be taking place in Madrid, Spain on April 20th, Bogota, Columbia on May 18th and Warsaw, Poland on June 1st. All applicants must go through an application process, in which interested developers must demo their skills to gain access to Firefox OS Developer Preview hardware.

Mozilla states that space is limited to these workshops, although an official number of how many developers will be let in has been provided. This move could bode well for Firefox, and possibly give the Firefox OS a chance against Android and iOS when it hits the U.S. in 2014.

What The Workshops Will Offer

  • A great place to hack.
  • Hands-on help from Firefox OS developers.
  • Food, drink and demos. And t-shirts, of course.
  • More code, less talk.
  • Firefox OS Developer Preview phones, really!

How to Prepare

There’s more than one way to start building Firefox apps. Here are a few resources to get you started:
For those interested fill out the Firefox OS Workshop application form.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Is More About The Software Than The Hardware

During tonight's hour long "Un-Packed" Galaxy S4 announcement event one trend was quite clear, Samsung's goal was to highlight the software much more than the hardware. In fact most of the show was wrapped around the many new software features while largely ignoring the hardware side of things.

Samsung Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is now official, and it certainly looks quite impressive. The new smartphone features a full HD 5-inch AMOLED display with 441ppi, a 1.9GHz Quad core Qualcomm S4 Pro or 1.6GHz Octo-core Exynos 5 processor, 2GB of RAM, either 16, 32 or 64GB of storage and a 13MP rear and 2MP front cam. Topping things off are Wi-Fi in the forms of a/b/g/n and yes the new ac standard, 3 and 4g with LTE, NFC, microSD, a removable 2600 mAh battery and possibly one of the coolest features and IR blaster for use as a remote controle. On the software side you'll see Andriod 4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box – obviously it will still be rocking the TouchWiz UI on-top, but that looks slightly updated. (full specs here)

Impressive features to say the least, yet hardly noticeable amongst Samsung announcement. The details of the hardware improvements could easily have been overlooked and were, at least in my eyes, largely overshadowed by Samsung's array of software features that will be found on the new S4.

Features such as a new S-Translator, which provides instant translation, using text or voice translation on applications including email, text message and ChatON. This instant translation is possible both from speech to text and text to speech. Two new features that grabbed attention were the Samsung Smart Pause and Samsung Smart Scroll. Smart Pause enables you to control the screen by where you look. When you are watching a video, the video pauses when you look away then it starts right up again when you are back. Smart Scroll allows you to scroll the browser or emails up and down without touching the screen. It recognizes your face looking at the screen and movement of your wrist and then scroll the pages up or down accordingly.

One of the highly speculated features that made its debut was ‘Air View’, which much the the S-Pen on the Note II allows users to hover with their fingers to preview the content of an email, S Planner, image gallery or video without having to open it. You can even see a magnified view on the internet browser, or a phone number saved in the speed dial on the keypad. With the new ‘Air Gesture’, you can use the wave of a hand change the music track, scroll up and down a web page, or accept a call.

Some of the more impressive features will make use of the phones new larger cameras. A new ‘Dual Camera’ function will allow simultaneous use of both front and rear cameras. When capturing pictures or videos, users can choose from a variety of frame effects which blend the two pictures. Users can select 8 different ways to combine the two photos taken by the front camera and the rear camera. At the same time, the ‘Dual Video Call’ function enables you to make and receive a video call with friends and family while using the rear camera to show what you are looking at during the call.

Is there more? Of course there is! We can't pack all the hour long announcement into one post, if you want to watch that you can do so one SamsungMobile's YouTube page or you can read about the rest of the new features as well as Samsung's new service it will be offering with the Galaxy S4 here:

Say Good-Bye To Google Reader With These Alternatives

Earlier this week Google confirmed they'd be shutting down Google Reader as of July 1st, stating the once popular RSS feed reader is no longer as popular as it use to be and therefore no longer a high priority for the company to maintain. The search giant is giving Google Readers three months to find an alternative RSS reader. Current Reader data, including subscriptions, can be preserved via Google Takeout.

"There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we're pouring all of our energy into fewer products," Alan Green, a Google software engineer, wrote in a blog post. "We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience."

Saying So Long To Google Reader Step One: Find a New RSS Reader

First things first, you need to narrow down your choices and find the options that best suite your needs. If you are like me and read your RSS feeds across several devices then you'll want to look at online web or cloud based services similar to what Google Reader is now. These will allow you to sync pull in your feeds from any device anywhere. For those of you that only have a single device or only want to read your feeds from your desktop then you can go with desktop readers or widgets (depending on your device).

Here are a few options to get you started:

Feedly: This is by far one of the most popular and widely suggested options for those who need one reader on all their devices. Desktop-wise it runs in Chrome and Firefox via extensions and in addition to standard Android and iOS apps, you can also find it on Kindle. Feedly has also said that they'll have a "seamless" transition method in place when Reader goes down.

NewsBlur: This is another solid alternative that many of you will find a bit more familiar than Feedly. The interface is more Google-Reader-esque and you can try it out on the spot. There are two options, a free account which maxes out at 64 feeds, or an unlimited subscription for only $1 a month.

Netvibes: Their service has been around for about as long as Google Reader and offers another great choice. Its basic service is free, and users can pay more for features like analytics, alerts and sentiment. Netvibes even has directions on how to import Reader information using Google Takeout.

For those looking for desktop solutions:

Most Operating systems and browsers offer an RSS reading widget or in browser options. However, I like to add a few more features they don't have. For Firefox I use Feed Sidebar. This great little extension gives you the option to view and feeds saved in your Live Bookmarks in the sidebar and with Firefox Sync you can use it with several computers. For Chrome users I use and suggest Slick RSS. This extensions displays your feeds in a single pane and all of the articles in the many body of a tab. It makes reading a breeze!

For those looking for a standalone application FeedDemon would generally by my suggestion since it was largely the most popular RSS reader for Windows for years. However sadly with Google Reader being shuttered, so to is FeedDemon. So for now I can't make a strong suggestion

Step Two: Import Your Google Reader Feeds

Once you've decide which RSS reader is right for you, you should import your Google Reader feeds so you don't have to re-subscribe to everything. Luckily, migrating your feeds from Google Reader is very simple. Here's what you need to do:
  1. Head to Google Takeout's Reader page and click the Create Archive button. It'll start building a file with all your feeds, the people you follow, starred items, and more (though most of these won't be importable to other sites).
  2. Once it's finished building, click the Download button that appears to get your subscriptions.
  3. Open up the ZIP file you just downloaded and go through the folders inside. Inside the Reader folder, you should see a file called subscriptions.xml. Extract that to your desktop.
  4. Open up your new feed reader of choice, head into its settings, and find the Import option. Select it, and choose the subscriptions.xml file you just extracted. All of your feeds should appear in your new reader.
This won't import your starred items or know which articles you've already read on Google Reader, but at least you'll still have all your subscriptions.

Forget the RSS

Honestly with all that social media has to offer who really needs RSS these days. Sure I hate to have to wade through the tide of Tweets or posts but you can find all the latest news with Twitter or Facebook. For news junkies, Twitter is definitely the fastest way to get news--but that doesn't always mean it is the best, most reliable, or even the most relevant.

Either way you go I have to say I think its a sad day for us news junkies. I liked seeing my feeds cleanly sorted and ready for me to read on a daily basis.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Samsung Building More Hype As The "Next Galaxy Unpacking" Event Nears

The unveiling of Samsung's newest Galaxy Android handset is almost upon us and the company is doing plenty to build on the anticipation they started things off with an invitation to the unpacking event in NYC, followed up by two videos featuring "Jeremy", the secret messenger of Samsung UNPACKED 2013. Then earlier this week they gave Galaxy fans a bit of a teaser when they Tweeted the picture below.

Today they took the show to the streets of New York with a flash mob. The mob featured dancers outfitted with bowler hats and black suits with the number 4 on the back. The dancers emerged from a paneled box entitled "Be Ready 4 The Next GALAXY." The troupe performed the old soft-shoe routine before dancing back into the box.

Samsung describes the video as a "a cool flash mob for the 'Be Ready 4 The Next GALAXY' in New York." I'm not sure I'd really describe it as a flash mob, but you certainly get the idea. Samsung is going above and beyond to build some hype around their newest phone.

While we'll have to wait until tomorrow for anything official some of the rumored features for the new Galaxy phone include an eight-core Exynos processor, a separate eight-core graphics processing unit, a 4.99-inch SuperAmoled display, and 2GB of memory. The S4 will also reportedly sport a 13-megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capability and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The latest flavor of Android 4.2.2, aka Jelly Bean, should be part of the package as well.

From a recent Bloomberg article it looks like some of these details might well be confirmed. Citing “two people familiar with the product” they have said the Galaxy S4 will have a 5-inch screen and that the US model will have a quad-core Qualcomm chip. This same report also mentions the rear-facing camera as being a 13 megapixel.<

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Pwn2Own Comes To A Close With Record Payouts

The annual Pwn2Own hacking competition ended last week with security teams taking home a record total award payout for the two day event amounting to $480,000 overall. Hackers at the event, which runs along side the CanSecWest event in Vancouver, successfully exploited all but two of the potential victims, leaving Apple's Safari browser running on OS X Mountain Lion untested and failing to take down Google's Chrome OS.

Several security teams tried but couldn't break Google's latest version of Chrome OS in the company's Pwnium 3 contest, leaving the record $3.14159 million (yes, that's Pi, for those keeping track at home) in prize money untouched. "Pwnium 3 has completed and we did not receive any winning entries," a Google spokeswoman said in an email late Thursday. "We are evaluating some work that may qualify as partial credit."

Security teams were able to exploit all of the browsers tested, which included Google's Chrome browser IE10 and Firefox, along with the browser based plugins Flash and Java, a new addition to the contest this year.

Pwn2Own organizer HP TippingPoint and its Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) bug bounty program had been offering $65k for the exploit of Safari while Google had been offering up to $150,000 per exploit, depending on specifics -- top prizes were earmarked for those who found device-persistent hacks (i.e., those that would remain in place even after a reboot), while $110,000 was offered for less thorough attacks.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Big Changes Coming To Your Facebook News Feed

These days it seems as though everyone is tinkering with their sites trying to gain more exposure, or perhaps place more ads in the eyes of users. Facebook has been on a roll, rolling out several changes over the past year or so. Despite the fact that many haven't set well with users they are at it again, this time promising "bigger" things for your news feed.

Earlier today Facebook unveiled a new look for the social site's news feed, showing larger images and offering different feeds based on users' interests. The social media giant says the plan is to make News Feed more customized for each user, offering different feeds that focus on friends, music and photos, for instance. Users can choose to view their News Feed chronologically, or they can opt for an All Friends feed, for instance, which shows users what their friends are sharing, or they could choose a Following feed that will show the latest news from the pages, businesses, bands and organizations a user follows.

"The stories around you are intricate and detailed and should be displayed with more than just text," Zuckerberg said. "We believe that the best personalized newspaper should have a broad quality of content... socially and locally updated from people around you. A front page or top news or most important news going on across all topics. And the ability to drill down into any topic you want."

We've completely rebuilt each story to be much more vibrant and colorful and highlight the content that your friends are sharing, Facebook said in its blog . Photos, news articles, maps and events all look brighter and more beautiful.

The company is rolling out the redesigned feature for the Web today. Mobile and tablet platforms will roll out in the next few weeks.

My thoughts and opinions!

Just looking at the images Facebook shared in its blog posting I can tell you right now this is not going to go well. Sure advertisers want really rich things like big pictures or videos but historically speaking users, especially those on Facebook, haven't. The big draw to the site has generally been the lack of intrusive ads and overbearing images. Now they are adding in more of both and think telling users its something "they" wanted is going to keep them appeased?

Hate to say it but if they keep pushing out these major changes users are going to start looking for the next big thing and jumping ship!