Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cellphone Unlocking May Soon Be Legal Again

Did you know that as of Jan 26, 2013, it was "illegal" to unlock your phone? Today however, the tides have changed and the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act by a vote of 295-114. The new bill would make it entirely legal for any consumer to 'unlock' any device (no longer on subsidies we suppose) and take said device to any carrier of their choosing.

For those unfamiliar, service providers like AT&T and Verizon typically lock their devices so they can only be used with their service. If unlocked, phones can be taken over to other carriers. This is hugely important for promoting healthy competition and empowering consumer choice, not to mention being very useful for travel.

A provision of the DMCA and federal copyright laws has always made it illegal to circumvent phone locking software and unlock phones to use on a different carrier without the original carriers permission. Until last year that provision was granted exemption by the Librarian of Congress who is allowed to grant exceptions, and did until his October 2012 decision to allow the DMCA to regulate cell phone locking.

Fast forward to Jan 26th, when the exceptions expired, and the software used to lock phones quickly lost its exemption and once again became covered under the same digital copyright laws as most other software. Meaning users could no longer bypass those locks or software, or create any software that could be used at unauthorized attempts at unlocking phones.

Under current law, those unlocking their phones without permission could face legal ramifications, including jail. The notion of undoing that law has had wide support from both Republicans and Democrats as well as many consumer groups since the bill's introduction in the House in 2013.

If passed within the Senate, and signed into law, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would repeal the Library of Congress (LOC) rulemaking determination and reestablish the previous exemption to those provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) prohibiting such circumvention and permitting the use of computer programs, in the form of firmware or software, to unlock phones.

This would be great news for consumers looking for choice in their wireless plans. Major carriers, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US and U.S. Cellular, in December made a voluntary pledge to make it easier for consumers to unlock their cellphones. However, there have still been several hurdles to for consumer to clear and the process has been anything but painless.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Would You Buy A $25 Firefox OS Based Smartphone?

We've know for awhile now that Mozilla has been working on a Firefox OS based smartphone and now it looks like we have a bit more detail as to what those phones might look like and how much they might cost.

Mozilla, the company all geeks should know as the parent to the Firefox web browser, has teamed with mobile SoC maker Spreadtrum to come up with a prototype for a smartphone that costs just $25. The key to the prototype is an ultra-cheap processor from Spreadtrum, the SC6821 SoC. The chip’s predecessor, the SC8620, sells for about $1.40 in mass quantities. Meaning even if the new chip cost a bit more, a $25 device running Firefox OS would be well within reach.

For $25, Spreadtrum says you’ll be able to get a humble 3.5″ HVGA display, rear-facing camera, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and FM radio support. Full specs aren’t being discussed yet, and that’s because they’ll be left up to the individual OEMs that actually build handsets using Firefox OS and the Spreadtrum SC6821 chip. Spreadtrum is providing the necessary internals, and Mozilla’s worked with them to ensure full hardware support within Firefox OS.

While Mozilla and Spreadtrum have said the initial goal is to bring their low cost entry level Firefox OS phones to emerging markets in developing countries they have not ruled out the option of offering them to US based carriers. So they question begs, would you be interested in the low cost phones or would you hold out for something with a bit more substance?

Personally I prefer higher end devices, which we are also starting to see with various new operating systems. For instance, Mozilla has also announced several new Higher Performance Firefox OS devices which include the ZTE Open C and Open II, Alcatel ONETOUCH Fire C, Fire E, Fire S and Fire 7 tablet, all using Snapdragon processors from Qualcomm Technologies Inc. We've also seen reports that we should expect an influx of Ubuntu based smartphones in 2014.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

InfoGraphic: The Internet of Things Explained

Every geek knows what "The Internet of Things" means right? Well if like some you aren't entirely sure then this new infographic will help make sense of the often confusing term. 

For those not into infographics here is our brief explanation: The term “the internet of things” is an all encompassing reference to the plethora of devices which can communicate and share data with each other. Devices like smart watches, health monitors, and even household items like internet connected refrigerators, blenders, smoke detectors and security systems. All with sensors and intelligence built into those physical objects. These devices will talk to and monitor each other, regardless of distance or power consumption.

According to Gartner there will be nearly 26 billion devices on the Internet of Things by 2020. According to ABI Research more than 30 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the Internet of Things (Internet of Everything) by 2020. Cisco created a dynamic "connections counter" to track the estimated number of connected things from July 2013 until July 2020 (methodology included).

Check out the infographic below for a visual explanation of the internet of things, and how it works.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

As Galaxy S5 Launch Date Nears Samsung Talks KitKat 4.4

If rumors are true, and we highly expect them to be, then Samsung's newest flagship device the Galaxy S5 will launch next week at the Samsung 2014 Unpacked Event. Ahead of that launch date we've seen plenty of rumors surrounding the newest addition to the Galaxy family. Many of which revolve around the devices hardware. One major rumor though involves the potential of a new TouchWiz UI and perhaps even a major change in operating systems.

It was long suggested that the Galaxy S5 would be running Android KitKat 4.4. However, at least a few sites have suggested that might not be the case. The rumor mill has suggested we might see a GS5 running Samsung's Tizen OS. While we'll have to wait to see if those rumors hold true we do now know that Samsung will be updating all most all of their current devices to Android KitKat 4.4.

KitKat 4.4

Samsung verified that most of its Galaxy devices will soon be upgraded to the newest offering by Google. According to the posting, beginning today several U.S. gadgets will start seeing the roll out. Some carrier such as Sprint have already started rolling out the update to GS4 owners. With US Cellular rumored to be releasing theirs tomorrow.

Scheduled to receive the update include select carrier variants of the Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy Note II, Galaxy S4, Galaxy S4 Mini, Galaxy S4 Active, Galaxy S4 Zoom, Galaxy S III, Galaxy S III Mini, Galaxy Mega, Galaxy Light, Galaxy Note 8.0, Galaxy Tab 2, Galaxy Note 10.1, and Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition.

The upgrade provides a number of innovative, easy-to-use features that enhance the user experience, including a more intuitive user interface, enhanced messaging capabilities and updated applications:

  • Location Menu: An integrated location menu enables users to easily activate GPS, Wi-Fi and mobile networks, while simultaneously checking the battery usage of apps running location service capabilities.
  • Enhanced Messaging: Enables users to choose between Messages or Hangouts as their preferred default messaging application, and select from a larger assortment of updated Emoji icons.
  • Upgraded Google Mobile Service (GMS) apps: Users can automatically back up photos and video and can open, view, rename and share Google Docs and files.

As with all of Samsung's updates availability will vary by carrier and product. Which means even though the updates are said to be beginning today some devices and some carrier might not see them for awhile as Samsung has said the roll will be ongoing and continuing throughout the coming months.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Microsoft Asks OEMs To End Windows 7 PC Sales Oct 31st

Microsoft has set a deadline for OEM PC manufacture's such as Dell, HP and others to stop the sale of Windows 7 equipped home PCs as of Oct. 31st. End of sales refers to the date when a particular version of Windows is no longer shipped to retailers or Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

On the Windows Lifecycle site where it posts such policies, Microsoft now notes that Oct. 31, 2014, is the end-of-sales date for new PCs equipped with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium or Ultimate.The setting of such deadlines is nothing new to Microsoft, and users wanting to get their hands on per-manufactured machines will still have the option of business machines equipped with Windows 7 Professional.

Windows 7 Boxes

Microsoft's practice, first defined in 2010, is to stop selling an older operating system in retail one year after the launch of its successor, and halt delivery of the previous Windows edition to OEMs two years after a new version launches. The move is an intentional one, with Microsoft hoping to spur sales of its newest operating systems as well as keeping consumers updated to the latest versions.

Often citing high consumer demand, some OEMs, notably Hewlett-Packard, have made headlines for marketing PCs with previous version of Windows Pre-loaded. Most notable in the case of Windows Vista and Windows XP. Poor feedback and low consumer demand for Vista prompted many OEM's to release PCs with downgrade options to XP.

Microsoft's Windows 8 originally showed impressive numbers, hitting 100 million licenses sold as of last May. However, since then sales have slumped and the new OS continues to lag behind its predecessor.

Tami Reller, Microsoft's executive vice president of marketing, announced that Microsoft has sold 200 million Windows 8 licenses in about 15 months. That's way ahead of Windows Vista, which only hit 180 million licenses after 18 months, but well behind Windows 7, which only took a year to reach 240 million licenses sold.

With Windows 7 still holding a dominate market share one would have to question why Microsoft would be pushing so strongly to stop the sales of the popular OS. Perhaps they are looking to avoid the fiasco of Windows Vista and Windows XP?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Adobe Offers 45 Min Video For Photoshop Beginners

For those that are new to Photoshop the experience can quickly become overwhelming. Even with its much more friendly design and more intuitive tools Photoshop is still an immensely powerful program with a fairly steep learning curve. The sheer volume of features alone makes picking up even the basics in the application a daunting task for many users.

While most user might choose to jump right in, others will opt for searching the web for Photoshop tutorials or how to guides. However, even these can be confusing, enter Adobe's Terry White. Terry has put together an excellent 45 minute video showing you how to accomplish "10 Things Beginners Want to Know How To Do".

The video runs through a gamut of useful tools, like spot correction, layers and adjustment layers, cropping, fixing exposure and white balance, content aware fill, and more. So if that sounds like something you'd like to learn, carve yourself out a block of time, and get yourself an education.

Now for those of you who are advanced Photoshop geeks, obviously, this video isn't aimed at you, and even an intermediate user might find some of the content a bit redundant. But someone just starting out will probably find the videos Terry has created are invaluable—and the rest of us might just pick up a new method or two along the way, too.

If you like this video Terry has several more Adobe Creative Cloud Videos available on Adobe Creative Cloud TV or for more videos from other Adobe Evangelists and Experts checkout Adobe TV.