The iPod Classic is Dead

Breakdown ~Sad iPod

Apple has never been the company to find older products lying around. You want an older generation laptop to save money? You’ll have to look elsewhere. Apple likes to keep only the cutting edge products on the shelves. Surprisingly, however, the iPod lineup still exists. Yes, you can still buy a Shuffle, Nano and Touch brand new. Except for one iPod that gets forgotten quite frequently: the iPod Classic. Yes, after the latest Apple event, the seven year old Classic was silently removed from the website and store. This is unfortunate for music lovers with large libraries, because there really doesn’t exist an alternative to the Classic. Although a bit outdated in terms of software, the fact that it still uses a spinning disc hard drive, and the old 30 pin connector, it still served a niche that loved the device for the simplicity of it. No internet, no touch screen, just a scroll wheel and 40,000 of your favorite songs. If you still want to carry around your entire music library, if the size exceeds the highest storage size of the remaining iPods, you can either get a smartphone with an SD card, or opt for the 120 GB iPhone 6.

So rest in peace iPod Classic and the Click Wheel.

New Features in Windows Phone 8.1 and First Impressions

Microsoft released Windows Phone 8.1 to developers, and anyone that wants to pretend to be a developer, so I decided to do the latter. I bit the bullet and risked stability for new features. I now have Windows Phone 8.1 on my Nokia Lumia 1520.

Becoming a developer and installing a developer version of an OS sounds scary, but really, it was extremely simple. I signed into App Studio, downloaded the Windows Phone developer app, and immediately the updates came rolling in. It took about a half an hour to get the 8.1 installed, so if you don’t mind running beta software, I highly suggest you give it a try.

New Features in 8.1:

  • Action Center: Finally, Windows Phone has a notification center. Although the idea of the Start screen was that all of your notifications would show up in the live tiles, it didn’t always work out that way. Especially if you don’t have an app pinned to the Start screen that had a notification. If you missed that notification, then you would have no idea where that buzz came from. The Action Center allows you to receive the same notifications as your live tiles, with a way to ignore notifications by swiping them to the right, and to add five quick actions to the top to do such things as turn off WiFi or Bluetooth. You can customize the five buttons to do whatever you what in the settings.
  • Cortana: And finally, Windows Phone has a personal assistant. Apple led the way with Siri, and Google followed suit with Google Now, among other device specific apps like Samsung’s S Voice. Microsoft was left with their rather not personal voice command system. While it was ahead of its time back in the days of Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, it’s showing its age now. Microsoft tried to shoehorn in Siri-like commands by redirecting you to Bing, but it just wasn’t the same as having the device talk to you. Enter Cortana. Cortana isn’t just another Siri clone, she learns about you and the things you do and the places you go to give you better results and information. She’s powered by Bing, and that’s a really good thing considering how honestly great SmartSearch works on Windows 8.1. What’s amazing is that Cortana is still in Beta, yet it works really well so far.
  • Data Sense and WiFi Sense: Windows Phone is now a lot more aware of what’s going on and what’s around it. WiFi Sense allows your phone to automatically connect to public WiFi places like Starbucks to save on your data usage, and Data Sense keeps track of your data usage. It’s nice to have a phone look out for me.
  • Start Screen Backgrounds: Although not a traditional background, you can now put any picture you want to show up in your transparent pinned apps. Any apps that would show up as the color of your theme now show up as your photo. In my case, it doesn’t really work that well because I don’t have as many transparent apps as I thought I did, but it’s still a nice feature.
  • Keyboard enhancements: At least on my phone, the new keyboard is smaller, which believe it or not, makes it easier to type on. Also included is what Microsoft calls the Word Flow keyboard, but what the rest of the world knows as Swype, and it works really well. You can also type out words like “ship” and “smiley” and get their emoticons in the suggestions box.
  • Games show up outside the Games hub: This always confused anyone who used my phone and wanted to play a game. While it sort of makes sense to keep a collection of all your games in one place, it’s simply not what people are used to, and is not really intuitive. It’s nice they now show up in two places.
  • Photos is no longer a hub: In Windows Phone lingo, a hub is a place where either apps of a similar category show up, like a lyric app would show up in a list on the music hub, or where all your social media accounts would come together. In the past, the photos hub was where you could find your photos, but also the photo posts from Facebook, and your photo apps in a list, in a panoramic sort of view. Now, it’s just list of all your photos and albums, which includes your online accounts. Again, this is much more intuitive. Anyone that wanted to look at my photos had no idea where to find them. It’s one of those things you get used to as a Windows Phone user and you think it’s a really good idea, until you give your phone to someone who has no idea how to use it. 

Other than a few other behind that scenes tweaks, that’s about it. It’s basically playing catch-up with the competition. Which is fine, because Windows Phone has been ahead of the curve for years with its music recognition feature, good-for-the-time voice commands, and built-in social features. Now it’s time for Apple to play catch-up. ;)

First Impressions of 8.1:

For all you phablet users of Windows Phone, or anyone with a 1080p display, everything is smaller now. Smaller isn’t the best word, but it just feels like the phone is better suited for the larger resolution. I’m not really noticing any performance increases, it feels just as speedy as before. Let me tell you, I’m using Action Center a lot more than I thought I would, it just works really well.

I’m noticing that in some third-party apps, because of the smaller keyboard, there are gaps of blank space where the old keyboard would fit in. Hopefully, that will be fixed with app updates in the future. And other than the sleep button not working momentarily one time, Windows Phone 8.1 seems very stable. So if you want to experience Cortana and all the other great features, you can go here to learn how to get the new update. Once you use 8.1, you’ll wonder what took Microsoft so long.

Ubuntu is now Cloudless: Ubuntu One to be Discontinued

One of the great things about Ubuntu was the amount of things you got for free. They’ve made the experience as close to Windows or OSX as they could with support, easy user interface and cloud storage. Unfortunately, on June 1, 2014, Canoncial will be discontinuing the free cloud service.

Ubuntu One was a pretty decent cloud service. For free, you got 5 GB of storage that the Ubuntu OS would sync in the background to the cloud. Also included was a music store with music streaming to your mobile device, although you had to pay a monthly fee for that, photo backups from your mobile device, and a contact book. You could also install the file sync service to any Windows or OSX computer, so you weren’t limited to just using Ubuntu.

Canonical says they want to focus more on making Ubuntu a better platform for user experience and for developers to highlight third-party content and services, and if they want to compete with other cloud services that offer 25 GB of storage, it would take a larger investment than they are willing to make.

Any paying subscribers will get their unused fees refunded, and customer’s files will be usable until June 1, 2014, user content will be available for download until July 31, 2014.

iOS in your pocket, and now in your dashboard

We’ve heard of car companies teaming up with technology companies to create in-dash infotainment systems like Ford and Microsoft made MyFord Touch and Ford Sync. But soon, Apple will be teaming up with automakers to create a unified experience across car companies called CarPlay, which will connect with your iPhone to put Siri, Apple Maps, your iTunes library and notifications right in one place. The first car companies to support CarPlay for the 2014 model year will be Ferrari, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Hyundai, and Honda, but other companies in the future to support the platform are Nissan, Peugeot, Land Rover, BMW, Kia, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Opel and General Motors, with Ford to possibly drop Microsoft for Apple.

Right on the steering wheel will be a button to activate Siri for any voice command, as well as any buttons on the dashboard or center console to control CarPlay. In any app, you will find the menu bar, which is usually located at the top, on the left side of the screen, with a home button located at the bottom. Maps will be provided by Apple Maps, to bring turn-by-turn right to the dashboard. Any phone calls will also be handled by the system, bringing the familiar calling screen with it. Siri can also send, read and reply to your text messages to help keep your eyes on the road. The same UI that’s on your phone’s iTunes library is on the screen, so you can look through your music collection without confusion.

So far, the only phones compatible with the service are the Lightning adapter iPhones: the 5, 5c and 5s. So look out for new cars that now can support your iPhone right out of the box, or dealership.

If you’re looking for a great Windows Phone with a lot to offer in a big, durable package? The Nokia Lumia 920 may be for you. In comparison to the iPhone 5 and the other premium Windows Phone the HTC 8X, the 920 is a lot heavier. But that heftiness gives you a more durable phone. With its 4.5 inch  Gorilla Glass front, the phone can handle more than a few drops. Now, I got a case just to be on the safe side, but if you don’t want to spend $50 on an Otterbox, you should be safe. The phone is fast, with its Snapdragon S4 Dual Core 1.5 Ghz processor, transitions from an app to the Start screen are fluid and fast and the phone is never slow. Battery life on the 920 is pretty good on 4G. I use my phone minimally throughout the day to check Twitter and Instagram, so at the end of the day, the battery percentage is at about 70%. The front and rear facing cameras on the 920 are pretty good. The 8.7 MP rear camera takes clear photos with the dual LED flash. Overall, the Nokia Lumia 920 is a solid premium device, at a competitive price: $99, and with that you get a free wireless charging pad. It’s definitely a great deal.

For a more in depth review of the phone, watch the video above or click here.

Yahoo Screen: The Hulu Alternative

image

Over the past few months, Yahoo has been rebranding themselves to not just be that old search engine of yesterday, but a relevant modern hub of information and entertainment. One of the new additions under the Yahoo brand is a video streaming service called Screen. Much like Hulu, you can stream clips for free from TV Shows like Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central shows, but where Yahoo Screen is different is it also has shows from other internet based networks like Revision3.

When you first get to Yahoo Screen, you get a playlist of the most popular videos playing on the site, as well as the more popular playlist categories of video as you scroll down. Everything on the site feels like you’re just going through different informal playlists, not so much that you’re going through different shows. There’s no show branding, which to some people is a good thing. It means you don’t get any network graphic clutter distracting you from the video. But where that gets bad is there’s no way to find out more about a show. You just get a description of what you’re watching with no extra information. For example, on a Saturday Night Live clip, you just get a title and description of what you’re watching. Nothing about who’s in the sketch, nothing about the date it was on TV, and no link to go find out more information about the sketch. Until you mouse over the link to the video, you do get a pop-up window that does include how long it is and the date it was on TV, but you don’t get that on the video page itself. This also gets annoying with Revision3 videos. Without a link to the Revision3 site, you can’t find out more about the web show. But if you can get past all that, Yahoo Screen is like television, where you get a lot of choices all in one place without any need to go anywhere else. If you sign in with your Yahoo account, you can follow “channels”, which are the playlists of video to choose from, so you can always find your favorites with their latest videos.

One big con with Yahoo Screen is that Google doesn’t treat the site as a video site. For example, when I would try to search in Google for a Saturday Night Live clip I wanted to watch, it just shows up as a link, where the other video sites include a thumbnail with a play button. That seems like a minor drawback, but it’s easy to look past the first result, which is Yahoo Screen, because it’s just a regular link. I didn’t even know Yahoo Screen was a video streaming site until I clicked on the link accidentally. That means a lot of people also don’t know Yahoo Screen is a video streaming site. Yahoo needs to work on promoting the site more and getting Google to recognize they’re a video site, otherwise a lot of people will simply overlook the site.

Other than that, Yahoo Screen works very well, and although I would like to see a button to make the video player bigger inside the site, the minimalistic design keeps me playing through the videos. As long as Yahoo keeps making quality sites that just do what they’re supposed to without problems, I think Yahoo could become relevant once again.

Flappy Bird is No More

Flappy Bird, the game you love to hate but can’t stop playing, has been taken down from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. According to the game developer’s Tweets:

https://twitter.com/dongatory/statuses/432227971173068800

https://twitter.com/dongatory/statuses/432228383095668737

https://twitter.com/dongatory/statuses/432233975797383168

Most of the time, games that go big on any app store are built by a team of people all working together, whether it’s a company or just a group of friends.This app was made by one guy, and that one guy just couldn’t take the large amount of hate towards this one little game. A Facebook page dedicated to hating the game has 184,000 likes, and a petition to outlaw the game has 445 signatures. Sure, this all may seem like a joke to everyone else, but to Dong Nguyen, the joke has gone too far. Not even $50,000 per day in advertisement revenue can justify the hatred he received.

So congratulations, internet, you won. Flappy Bird is dead.

Secret Skype Emoticons

Skype is one of the most popular ways of communication between two or more business partners, or friends.

Skype provides many wonderful emoticons that are funny, fast, and exciting, but some are inappropriate, and just too comical to display, so in this post I’m gonna go over all the secret Skype emoticons.

To include them in an IM, you must simply type it exactly as it appears in the blue.

Emoticons

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email me at kevin@geekonin.com.