Global TV Tech Buzz: Microsoft’s Surface and AR Drone

Microsoft Surface TabletIs Microsoft trying to be Apple?

Long a maker of software and happy to license it out to others, Microsoft has tried before to fight Apple on their profitable turf and failed. Zune anyone?

This week Microsoft re-entered the hardware battle with the latest incarnation of their Surface project. An idea that had been previously displayed as a large interactive tabletop was re-introduced as a notebook replacement.

The new Surface will come in two models, a light version that will run Windows RT featuring Metro apps. Metro is an interface that is slick, and tile based. Currently on Windows Phone 7, it is a beautiful interface that rethinks the desktop. The Windows 8 Pro edition will feel more like a laptop. It will be a complete Windows experience.

The physical aspects of Surface have it feeling like a laptop run over by a steamroller. Break off the screen from your 10″ laptop, and put an iPhone case that doubles as a keyboard (complete with trackpad) on it, and you have your Surface.

Will it work? Critics are split. Some are still waiting to hear more about the specs, software, and release date while others are saying if this had been unveiled at an Apple press event there would have been a stampede to buy it. Gizmodo called Microsoft “the most exciting company in tech.”

The good news is, Microsoft is trying. They seem ready to make this a truly 3 way fight. Microsoft, Google, and Apple are each developing their own vertical markets. Microsoft has also started the branded store route. Apple is about to open their 23rd Canadian retail outlet, Microsoft will cut the ribbon on their first in Canada later this year, when Surface will be available exclusively at those stores.

APP OF THE WEEK: Free Flight from Parrot
This is, quite possibly, the coolest remote control device you will ever see or use. The AR Drone from Parrot is a remote control flying machine that can take video, pictures, and fly obstacle courses and do dogfights. I first tried the AR Drone at CES in 2011 and was blown away.

The new edition, operated by a local wifi network from the drone with your iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Android phone takes HD video, and can fly as high as 50 metres. The app may be free, but the drone is $329.

There’s a learning curve here, but if you’re handy with remote control devices you could catch on. The problem is in the battery life of the device. You’ll only get 15 minutes of flight before waiting 90 mins to recharge the battery. So a few extra juice packs is a must. The CEO of Parrot says the idea is to take video games outdoors and that it does.

Here’s the video of the segment:

Here’s the video shot by the AR Drone that didnt make it into the segment:

Global TV Tech Buzz: Apple News and #OrangeForYYC2

“It is without doubt, the greatest computer we’ve ever built.”

That’s Jony Iove, Senior Vice President of Design for Apple talking about the new MacBook Pro that was unveiled this week in San Francisco.

Yes, the greatest computer Apple has ever built, is a laptop. Despite engineering us towards a ‘post-PC world’ with leaps like the iPhone and iPad, the greatest computer they’ve ever created is one that has a keyboard, and sits on a desk.

While some were saying the iPad was going to make notebook styled computers obsolete, it’s safe to say with this horsepower and technology put into the new MBP, the desktop computer may be obsolete.

So what’s new: retina display, thinner, all flash memory, horsepower. And it’s not cheap. Starting at over $2 000, the new MacBook Pro starter edition is almost double the cost of a starter iMac.

There were other announcements at Apple’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC). Specifically related to Mountain Lion and iOS6, the forthcoming operating systems of the Mac line, and the iPad/iPhone/iPod line.

Mountain Lion will be available as a $20 upgrade next month and brings things to the desktop we’ve seen on iPhone, like notification centre.

ios6iOS6 whispers at what will be possible with a new iPhone release anticipated this fall. Siri will soon speak “Canadian”, and will be able to perform more tasks like seek out sports scores, help with dinner reservations, and post to Facebook. In fact, there’s a lot of Facebook integration coming with iOS6. Just as Twitter was ‘baked in’ to the last upgrade, the same will happen with Facebook. Passbook has also been added to iOS6 which promises to keep all your customer loyalty cards in one place. You’ll also be able to keep movie, airline, and concert tickets in Passbook.

That’s just scratching the surface, there are more than 200 features added to iOS6. Check out Andy Ihnatko‘s easy to read play-by-play of the event to get more insight as to what’s on the way.

All in all, it was 2 straight hours of geekery that had many people waving their credit cards in the air for the new hardware and excited about the possibilities the new software will bring.

HASHTAG NONSENSE

So what’s with all the #OrangeForYYC2 you’ve been seeing in my twitter stream of late? It’s all part of a charity contest ING Direct is holding to promote a panel they’re hosting on June 21. I’ll be on the panel with Lori Stewart and Peter Aceto.

As part of the 3 Things for Calgary initiative, the panel will be discussing social media and community involvement in the city. ING Direct has put $3333 on the line to the panelist that can have their hashtag mentioned the most before the event. ING Direct CEO, Peter Aceto, is supporting Boys and Girls Clubs. Lori Stewart is supporting Making Changes. I’m supporting Team Diabetes.

If you’d like to join the event on Thursday, free tickets are still available. Regardless if you can make it or not, I’d love it if you hashtagged everything #OrangeForYYC2 on Twitter until Thursday.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Father’s Day Gadgets

A new survey says that Dads don’t want tickets to the big game, a home made meal, or time with their buddies for Father’s Day – they want gadgets.

So here’s a list of gear you could grab for Dad from Future Shop in advance of Father’s Day.

Sharp In-Car Plasmacluster Ion Generator [$99.99]
If dad has a job (or hobby) where he sweats a lot, or a habit that might cause his car to have a less than fresh scent, ditch the pine tree and grab him this air cleaner. It fits in the cup holder, and plugs in to the car charger.

Acer Iconia 7″ 8GB Tablet [$249.99]
Not every guy is an Apple guy. The list of Android devices is long, and many of them are great. If dad has an Android phone he likes, get him a tablet that will play nice with his data and apps – this one from Acer.

Nikon J1 10.1MP Interchangeable Lens Camera with 10-30mm VR Lens [$529.98]
The power of a big interchangeable lens camera in the tight compact form factor of a point and shoot. If Dad likes to take pictures, this gives him all the tools he’ll love in a package that’s easier to carry around.

GoPro HD HERO2 Outdoor Helmet Camcorder [$349.99]
These cameras and mounts are for the hardcore dad. Mount it on your helmet for skiing, mountain biking, snowmobiling, whatever and take the video of that awesome day.

Dyson 10″ Air Multiplier Desk Fan [$379.99]
Dyson’s inventions are beautiful. These “fans” work by blowing a stream of air over a vibrating rim. They’re quiet, sleek, bladeless, and expensive.

Margaritaville Frozen Drink Maker [$219.99]
Drop in a bunch of ice, and your mix and you’re done. Margaritaville shaves the ice, blends the drink and serves them up to your guests on the patio all summer long.

XBOX 360 4GB Kinect Family Bundle [$299.99]
My oldest is 5, I’ve been resisting the video game purchase for our family, and I don’t know how much more I can hold off. This would be my system of choice.

Mophie iPhone 4/ 4S Juice Pack [$79.99]
An iPhone case that also doubles your battery life? Genius. Want.

APP OF THE WEEK
euro 2012 appEuro 2012 is underway in Poland and The Ukraine. How many time zones is that? The best part of the official Euro 2012 app [free] is that it lists the game in local time, as in Calgary, or Toronto, or New York, or wherever you have your phone. No need trying to do the math and ask yourself “What time is it in Krakow? Lyiv? Kiev? Warsaw?” This app does it for you.

And it also gives you all the latest news updates, scores, and insight into your favourite team. Allez les bleus.

If you missed the segment, here’s the video:

Global Tech Buzz: Backup Reminder

When was the last time you did a backup?

I got a reminder of that this week when my MacBook Pro hard drive started to fail and the gang at the Apple Store wanted to do a full hard disk replacement.

While I take most of my videos and pictures and put them in the cloud, I didnt have a full backup. I went home, and ran Time Machine on an external drive, and now I’m good to go.

Having a backup is VITAL. And you can’t just burn something to a disc, or put something on an external drive – you need to have multiple copies in multiple locations to be truly backed up.

By having multiple copies in multiple locations, you’re protecting against your media or hardware becoming obsolete. You’re protecting against your backup service being compromised or going out of business. You’re protecting against theft or destruction at home.

The most important things we want to save are images, videos, and some documents. You can do most of that for free.

IN THE CLOUD:
There are many free options to back things up in the cloud. You can toss your photos on Facebook, Flickr, or Picasa. You could put your videos on YouTube, or Vimeo.

If you’re worried about privacy, you can password protect your images, or restrict who views them.

When it comes to pay services, you can use a service like Carbonite which works in the background to make continuous backups of your system over the internet. You could also expand your storage space on a service like Dropbox which gives you instant access to your files in multiple locations from the cloud.

When it comes to documents, I do everything in Google Docs. My email, and my documents are through Google. Despite losing my computer (since Thursday!), I was still able to do all my writing, and research because my notes were saved to Google Docs, giving me access to my files on my iPhone, iPad, or my wife’s PC (ewww).

Here’s a long list of other online services you can use for backup.

EXTERNAL:
You can burn important files to disc, or an external memory key, or even a hard drive, but remember to not have them sitting next to your computer. If someone steals your computer, they’ll grab everything on that desk, that includes your backups. So keep it in another part of the house, or better yet, another building. Have a couple of external disks you swap from work or home, so you always keep them apart.

You can get 1TB of storage for around $100, that should be plenty to do any sort of backing up you need. Apple’s Time Machine program does backing up automatically, Windows has backup wizards too.

If you need a reminder to have multiple backups, in multiple locations, watch this video about how Toy Story 2 was saved after the movie file was corrupted, and they discovered the on site backup had been failing for 2 months. The movie was rescued only because the Technical Director had another backup – at home.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Running Gadgets

With the Calgary Marathon running this weekend, thousands of people are fully into the running season. If you’re a fair weather runner, and just getting started, there are many apps, gadgets and wesbites to help you do your best.

First up you have to get your training done properly. Runners’ World Magainze’s Smart Coach [.99c iPhone] is my go-to every time I start up training for a race. You give it your recent run times, how hard you want to train, when your upcoming run is, and it will populate an entire schedule you can keep on your phone or email to print off and hang on the fridge.

Once you know how far you need to run, you need to measure that distance and there are a number of ways to do that. Nike+ GPS [$1.99 iPhone] turns every training run into a race. It can automatically tweet our your times to friends. You can compare times on routes with friends via Nike’s social forums, and it keeps track of your totals to encourage you to go further. You can get audio queues during your run at intervals to get your splits.

nike+ gps

RunKeeper [free iPhone] was one of the first apps to offer this sort of GPS tracking, it was a paid app for a long time and it’s a great deal now that it’s free.

iMapMyRun+ [$2.99 iPhone] offers a chance for people to follow you virtually. It does all the GPS tracking of pace and time and distance, but also posts the information on the web. Doing a big marathon and friends and family want to track you to know where to go to cheer? If you want, this app will broadcast your exact distance online so people can chase you down. The Map My Run forums online are also a great way to find new routes to run. People break them down by distance and location.

If you’re wanting to run with your iPhone, you probably don’t want to carry it around on each trek. Armbands are a great, easy, comfortable way to keep your iPhone with you to measure your distance, and also let you listen to the music or whatever. While I like the comfort level of things like the Belkin Armband, I find they make it difficult to use the iPhone. If you want to pause your time, or switch your audio, the plastic screen is not a simple one to use. Also, it’s hard to tell your pace when you’re running because the screen is facing outwards on your upper arm. You can’t tilt it to view.

garmin forerunner 405cxThe inability to see the screen is why I still run with a GPS watch. My choice is the Garmin Forerunner 405CX. It’s a small watch, and while the bezel is a little finicky to use, once you get used to it, it’s fine. You can track time, distance, heart rate, and you can upload your runs to the web for tracking. For me, it’s the best way to do training or races and see all the information I need in just a glance.

When it comes to headphones for a run, I’d recommend Yurbuds. These ear buds have little bumps on them so they click in to your ear and won’t slip out as easily (especially if you’re a sweater). They also don’t get stuffed right into your ear (like the white iPod ones), they sit on the outside of your ear canal so they are very very comfortable.

Global TV Tech Buzz: Facebook Is Public, Here’s How To Be Private

Facebook is now public. The more than 900M users of the social network can now each claim ownership (should they choose to buy stock) of the site they have made.

It is the information that is poured into Facebook daily that makes it so valuable. From where we live, to where we work, who we’re friends with, parties we go to, movies we like, and more, some have suggested that Facebook has more intelligence about people on the planet than the CIA.

We’re hooked.

300M photos are uploaded to the site daily. 526M people hit the site each day. 400M people are active on Facebook at least 6 of 7 days a week.

Now that Facebook is public, something Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want to do but was forced into by investment rules, it’s the perfect time to take your profile more private. A third of female profiles, and more than half of male profiles are totally public, no privacy settings whatsoever. Everything you do online is visible by anyone, friend or not.

I like to play a game I call “Facebook the Bad Guy”. When you see a terrible person in the news, put their name in Facebook and look at their profile. More often than not it’s not a shock the person was busted.

Social networks are filterless, what we post is stream of consciousness, and they really do give a sense of who a person really is.

It’s hard to keep tabs on the constantly shifting privacy settings. Just this Monday, they were holding a Q&A on yet another set of information use changes. Last week they took the many different bits and pieces of the privacy document and made it one item. One 7 000 word item. Who’s going to read that?

Still look how privacy on the site has changed over the last 8 years. What used to be locked to the site, is now open to the internet

Here are 3 privacy settings you should check, and lock down.

FRIENDS WITH ONLY FRIENDS
First things first, cull your friends list. Jimmy Kimmel started National Unfriend Day to run every November, but if you’ve never celebrated it, don’t wait. You don’t have to be friends with every person you met at a club, dinner, charity event, high school, etc. While it may seem social norm to accept every friend request, not every friend request is worthy of knowing everything about you.

MANAGE WHO SEES WHAT
There are two parts to this. If you do have many different people, you can sort them into lists to manage the privacy settings of each group. When you add a status, say baby pictures, you can touch a corner of the status box and set the level of who sees what. The lists also help you sort what you see, so you don’t get inundated with updates from people you barely know but need to be connected to.

MANAGE APPLICATIONS
The privacy page will also let you manage applications. When you access sites that let you login with Facebook Connect, you’re often giving them access to your profile. Have a look at which sites you’ve let access in the past, see if you’re still using them. If you’re not, delete them. Don’t let it become a junk drawer.

Facebook also has frictionless sharing now. That means if you click on a news story from an app, like Yahoo! or Washington Post, everyone can see that you read it. Check to see if you have those apps and make sure you are fine with everyone knowing everything you read online.

The entire privacy settings page is much easier to understand and should be reviewed. You can set the levels of your visibility in search, who sees your posts, who can friend you, who can tag you, and more.

Facebook went public, but it’s okay for you to still be private.

Global TV Tech Buzz: How To Geocache

downtown calgary geocache mapNow that the weather is turning for the better, it’s time to get out and explore Calgary. One of the best ways to do that is by geocaching.

Geocaching is a game of hide and seek that combines GPS coordinates with real-life treasures that kids (and kids at heart) can find.

Start by visiting geocaching.com and typing in your home address. Instantly little flags will pop up showing you where geocaches are. There are more than 1.7 million around the world, and hundreds in Calgary, so finding one near you won’t be tough.

Once you know where the caches are, getting to them is the next step. You can get the geocaching app for your smartphone [$9.99 iTunes].

Just open the app when you want to find a cache and it will use your location information to show you all the caches around you. You can then zoom in to navigate directly to the cache. Some of them are small, and cleverly hidden, so you might need the hints and description found with each cache.

2010-08-21 geocache Patterson hillYou can also use GPS devices, the kind you might use to navigate the backcountry with. If you don’t have one, you can borrow GPS devices from any City of Calgary library. They have 34 of the units spread across the 17 libraries and anyone with a library card can borrow one for a week for free.

The City of Calgary has gone into the geocaching game the past year or so. They celebrated the Parks and Recreation’s 100th Anniversary by hiding 100 caches around the city with coupons for community facilities.

This year, they’re back at it with a fun intro to geocaching event this afternoon at the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary. On May 26-27, there’s a huge event to start the season called Calgary Cache and Release.

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll start hiding your own caches. They can be as clever or as obvious as you like. My son and I have hid some in and around our favourite neighborhood playgrounds. It’s our way to introduce people to our area. It’s also a great way to explore the city, and find the secrets of parks, pathways, and more.

If you missed the segment, here it is:

Global TV Tech Buzz: Mother’s Day Ideas

mother's day

As you would expect, when I go Mother’s Day shopping, I go to a place like Future Shop. Check out these gift ideas that are both old school, and new school.

NEW SCHOOL:

Griffin Survivor iPad 2/new iPad Case [$79.99]
Independently tested and certified to meet US Department of Defence Standard 810F, Griffin’s Survivor Extreme-Duty Case is designed to protect your iPad from extreme conditions… dirt, sand, rain, shock, vibration, and a host of other environmental factors (like toddlers).

Init Laptop Bag [$89.99]
This laptop bag fits up to 16″ laptop. It’s durable polyester fabric with metal feet on the bottom for better protection. It comes with short and long detachable shoulder straps. A trolley slit pocket is also included.

Sony Swarovski In-Ear Headphones [$39.99]
Swarovski crystals and a silver cord are the perfect complement to an extraordinary level of sound quality and comfort.

iPad Folio [$69.99]
A full iPad cover is much more professional and protects the screen and the back. This folio is elegant, and professional.

iTunes Gift Card [$40] – You can get $50 iTunes gift cards until May 10 for just $40 at WalMart. Great deal!

Apple One on One [$99] – if you’re helping Mom make the switch to Mac, getting some One on One lessons is a great way to help her do that. When you buy your Mac, you can, for $99, get one year of one-on-one time at the Apple Store. They’ll help you learn whatever you want. My mom has been going and is now teaching me tricks.

OLD SCHOOL:

Dyson DC37 Vacuum [$599.99]
It’s light, it’s portable, it cleans under beds and tables easily, it goes up and down stairs no problem. It sucks, it’s great on floors, it works on carpet.

Cuisinart Blend & Cook Blender [$159.99]
Soups to Smoothies in one Blender! This multifunctional machine sautés, cooks and blends homemade soups and sauces right in jar. Simply add pre-cut ingredients and machine sautés, blends and keeps the soup warm until serving. Three temperature settings (low, medium & high) and four blending speeds, plus a stir function, lets you blend ingredients to perfect consistency.

Keurig Single Serve Coffee Maker [$99.99]
This single serve brewer allows you to make always fresh coffee, tea or Hot Chocolate and offer a wide variety of brands and flavours. Select your preferred cup size from 8 & 10 oz.

If you missed the segment, here’s the video:

Global TV: Social Media Monitoring The Alberta Election

Alberta goes to the polls on Monday in an election that has been fought in the trenches of social media. What sailed along as a simple campaign for the first few weeks, descended into chaos when Twitter users started to dig through candidate backgrounds and the viral nature of sharing spread the message.

If you’re undecided, and want to keep track of some last minute volleying for support, the #abvote hashtag is the hub of the discussion on Twitter.

You can access that discussion forum without a Twitter account, it’s free to sit on the sidelines and see the links and discussions fly. Head to search.twitter.com and simply type in #abvote to see all the tweets talking about the election. Hashtags for the leading parties are #wrp, #ndp, #abparty, #ablib and #pcaa.

Search Twitter for #abvote

If you want to branch out from the Twitter website and have a detailed comparison of the debate as it happens, you can use apps like TweetDeck or HootSuite. These applications can create side by side windows of hashtags that automatically update so you can compare things in realtime.

monitoring hashtags with hootsuite

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to place your vote, it’s easy to find where to vote at elections.ab.ca. You can check if you’re registered, make sure you have the ID requirements handy, and find your polling place.

Elections Alberta

APP OF THE WEEK:
It’s going to be gorgeous today, sunny and 20 something. If you’re not in yard, you will be outside, so why not wander the trails and pathways of the city. Better yet, go and head to an area of the city you’ve never been to before.

Pick the opposite quadrant and go and get lost. Actually, don’t get lost use the City of Calgary’s Pathways and Bikeways free app to find some new places to explore.

Here’s video of the segment:

Global TV: The Instagram Deal and Alternatives

instagram alternatives

Facebook bought Instagram for $1B this week. For a company that was barely 500 days old and had only 13 employees, that’s a lot of money.

Instagram had something Facebook needed – a mobile strategy. Facebook had something Instagram needed – a monetization scheme.

The general consensus is Facebook bought Instagram to get a hold of the user generated data that accompanies our pictures. Many photos are geotagged with the exact time and place they were taken. Facebook has struggled with its Places function to get people to “check in”. Now, with something like Instagram in the fold, Facebook will know exactly where and when you were. Why? To better service you ads, of course.

People love Instagram for two reasons: photos are easy to share, photos are easy to make beautiful. You can create and follow a social network on Instagram to browse photos, but you can also add all sorts of filters and frames to your images to make the otherwise low light, blurry image something more artsy

So now that Instagram is in Facebook, if you don’t want Facebook to know the where and when you are, but still want to easily share images that look great, here are 3 alternatives you can use:

Hipstamatic [$1.99]
This app emulates an old school camera. You dont see a full screen when you’re taking a picture. You have to load film, and choose lenses and flashes. Unlike Instagram, you dont get to do much editing after the fact, the picutre you take is the picture you get – the app even takes some time to “develop” your image, so it’s not an instant gratifier. The images it produces are artsy, much like the Instagram shots, but each “pack” is an in-app purchase for 99c.
There’s also a print option, where you can order your images to be printed, right from the back of the phone.

Camera+ [99c]
This app has become my camera. Taking a picture is simple, and the post photo editing has many options. From dozens of filters, to cropping, and editing – this lets met quickly and easily do everything I want with my photos. It also has easy sharing to your favorite social networks

Camera Awesome [free]
This recently released app from SmugMug falls along the lines of a camera bag replacement. You can access 36 filters for free, and in-app purchases can expand your editing capabilities. The app also features an “awesomize” button which promises to do all the heavy lifting for you and process a perfect image if you dont want to edit on your own. A ‘time machine’ is included in this app that brags it records video for 5 seconds before you press the button. Full export to social networks is supported.

Pinweel [free]
This is probably closest to the model of Instagram. It’s built around social sharing of photos. You’re prompted to create an album and sort your images before you even take one. Once you take a photo you can choose a variety of filters (like on Instagram) and then your images and albums are viewable by the public, or your contacts, depending how you adjust your privacy. There’s also easy sharing to Twitter and Facebook.

8mm [$1.99]
As a bonus, if the artistic filters of these photo apps is what attracts you to them, try 8mm for the video buttons on your iPhone, iPod and iPad.

If you missed the segment, here’s the video:

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