Archive | Tech

Book Coming Out Later This Year: ‘The Art of Atari’

2016 05 02 atari

“The Art of Atari,” a book by pop culture author Robert V. Conte and designer Tim Lapetino set for publication in October, looks really amazing.

From the description on Amazon:

Sourced from private collections worldwide, this book spans over 40 years of the company’s unique illustrations used in packaging, advertisements, catalogs, and more.

And:

The Art of Atari includes behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived of, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!

There’s more artwork to marvel at on the book’s official site, ArtofAtari.com.

(Via Kottke.)

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By Me Last Week: Twitter Outshines Facebook — in Japan

The story begins:

Twitter Inc. is now bigger than its rival Facebook — in Japan, at least.

A week after quarterly earnings fueled investors’ concerns that Twitter’s user growth has stalled, the company for the first time Thursday broke out its user numbers for a country outside the U.S., saying it had 35 million monthly active users in the world’s third-largest economy as of the end of last year.

Facebook, a major competitor for advertising dollars, had 25 million monthly active users in Japan as of the end of 2015, a Facebook spokeswoman said Thursday.

Twitter’s user base has long been compared to Facebook’s, which is much larger globally. Twitter last week said 320 million users signed into the platform at least once a month in the fourth quarter, the same as in the previous three months. Facebook, by comparison, said it had 1.59 billion monthly active users as of the end of last year, up 3% from the previous three months.

It was the first time Twitter’s closely watched user growth flatlined from the previous three-month period. More troubling: the number of users in the U.S. fell to 65 million from 66 million.

Click through to read the rest.

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The 10 Must-Have Apps I Install on Every New Mac

Following my recent post about what’s on my iPhone home screen at the beginning of 2016, I decided to do the same for my must-have Mac apps.

I consider these apps requirements when setting up any new machine — essentially, I feel that I need them to use the computer effectively.

Hopefully this will give others who are looking for new or useful apps some ideas.

1. 1Password

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1Password — my password manager of choice for many years. (This one’s also on my iPhone home screen, you’ll recall.)

Strong passwords, of course, are key to protecting yourself online. You should use a different, complex password for every important account. This can be hard, though, if you’re trying to store all this info on your head.

With a password manager like 1Password, you can remember just one strong password, which you use to open the app. Then you can automatically generate ridiculously strong passwords for every account you have within the app, and access those on the fly, no matter which device you’re using.

2. Dropbox

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Dropbox — Confession time: I once ruined a one-month-old MacBook Air by spilling a full bottle of Stella Artois beer directly on the keyboard.

It’s a long story. But, BUT! I had saved all of my important documents, images and other files in Dropbox, so I lost nothing — except money and my pride, that is.

Dropbox lets you stores your files in the cloud, so that they’re accessible on various devices.

For example, I’ve long kept many of my basic lists in plain text files, and use Dropbox to keep them synced across my Mac, my iPhone, and my work machine.

3. Chrome

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Chrome for Mac — I was a loyal users of Apple’s browser, Safari, for many years. But a while back I switched over to Chrome, which, in my experience, is faster and more reliable, even though Safari looks prettier and is obviously built for the Mac.

One caveat: Some say Chrome is more resource-intensive than Safari, meaning it will drain your battery faster.

4. TextExpander

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TextExpander — this app, which I’ve been using for many years, lets you use abbreviations for frequently used bits of text.

For example, if I type “eemail,” the app will instantly insert my personal email address. If I type “eeemail,” it will insert my work email. If I type “ddate,” it will insert “February 8, 2016,” etc.

I also have so-called snippets set up for my home and office addresses, various email signatures, and much more. It’s the kind of tool that is totally indespensible.

5. PDFpen

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PDFpen — let’s get this out of the way: at $74.95, this is not a cheap app. But the ability to manipulate PDFs by typing and writing on, and signing them, is nearly magical, and makes the app well worth the price.

I’ve used PDFPen, which is made by the same folks behind TextExpander, to fill out and send back any number of forms, applications and the like.

Forget about printing out and manipulating physical documents — you can do it all digitally with PDF Pen.

6. Evernote

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Evernote — Somewhat sadly, I hardly ever use what had been my go-to writing app since 2007: Scrivener.

I used Scrivener to write my graduate school thesis, composed hundreds of stories on it, and even used it to tackle Nanowrimo many moons ago.

The problem: While it’s great if you only ever use on computer, it’s not so great if you want to be able to work on the same documents across machines or devices. (The company behind the product has been saying for some time that they’re working on an iOS version.)

So I’ve increasingly been using Evernote — it’s designed not as a word processor, but as a catch-all for tons of different digital material, from text and images to audio and more. But you can certainly use it for writing.

7. TweetDeck

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Tweetdeck — the best way to access Twitter on your Mac. I have several columns set up so that I can access my various Twitter lists — accounts I don’t want to miss, fellow WSJ folks, notifications when people respond to or like my tweets or stories, and more.

Note that Twitter recently released a new version of its Mac app, but I’m sticking with Tweetdeck for now.

8. Spotify

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Rdio was my streaming music choice for several years, but when it shut down last year, I switched to Spotify.

I like it a lot — especially the excellent Discover Weekly feature, in which the service automatically generates a playlist of new music for you based on your listening habits.

I mostly use Spotify on my iPhone, but the app also works well on the Mac.

9. Caffeine

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Caffeine — this tiny little app does one thing and does it well: it keeps your Mac from going to sleep.

The app lives in your menu bar, and you can simply click it to keep your machine awake if you’ll be away from it from an extended amount of time, or don’t wait it to dim or go to sleep when you’re watching a movie, for example.

  • Cost: free
  • For more and #Protips: that’s all you need to know — it simply keeps your Mac awake!

10. Noizio

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Noizio — like Caffeine, this is a small app that lives in your menu bar and has a singular task: to provide background noise.

If I’m being distracted by various sounds when I’m working on my Mac, I simply throw my headphones on and choose one of Noizio’s ambient sounds — I especially like “Paris Cafe” — and work away.

  • Cost: Free.
  • For more and #Protips: that’s all you need to know — it simply provides background noise!

 

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By Me Last Week: How Apple’s Trying to Win India

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An ad for Apple’s iPhone 6S in the Bangalore, India airport

I was in India recently working on a story about Apple’s strategy to win over consumers in the world’s second-most-populous country.

The piece, which ran last week, begins:

NEW DELHI—Amid concerns that China’s slowing economic growth could sap demand for iPhones, Apple Inc. is increasingly turning its attention to one of the last big countries it has yet to conquer: India.

The Cupertino, Calif., company has been quietly building market share in the world’s second-most-populous nation by boosting advertising, bulking up its distribution network, arranging interest-free phone loans and lowering prices.

On Wednesday, Apple said it has sought the Indian government’s approval to open its own retail stores and sell products online. Apple currently sells its products in India through a network of Indian-owned distribution companies and retailers.

“India has huge potential” for Apple, said Rushabh Doshi, an analyst at research firm Canalys in Singapore.

Click through to read the rest.

With Apple yesterday saying in its quarterly results that iPhone sales have been growing at the slowest pace since the device was introduced in 2007, emerging markets are increasingly important for the tech titan.

That’s because hundreds of millions of people, many of them young, are upgrading smartphones or buying them for the first time in countries like India, Indonesia and Brazil — while at the same time some larger markets, like China, may be getting saturated.

(Price, of course, is an issue in India: The annual GDP per capita is $1500, and Apple is trying to sell phones that cost upwards of $1000 there, though some models also cost less than half that. But as I wrote in the story, Apple offers payment plans, and still sells older, less expensive models like the iPhone 4S and 5S in the country.)

In the conference call for Apple’s earnings, CEO Tim Cook had this to say about India:

  • Cook also mentions India, saying the demographics looks good for Apple. The population is young, and Apple is putting a lot of resources into building there.

And:

To TimmyG: Cook spent a long time talking about India — longer than I was able to keep up with. But his point was yours: that this big and growing nation is made up of a young population.

Indeed. Stay tuned to see how Apple fares in the quarters and years ahead.

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By Me and a Colleague: Islamic State Using Telegram Messaging App to Communicate with Radicals in Indonesia, Malaysia

The story begins:

Communications app Telegram Messenger is in the spotlight after the deadly terrorist attacks in Jakarta last week, with experts in Indonesia and Malaysia saying Islamic State radicals in Syria have used the platform to recruit members from Southeast Asia.

The revelations underscore both the apparent popularity of the Berlin-based app among members of the terror organization and the challenges it poses to authorities in tracking its private, encrypted chats.

Malaysian police on Saturday said its counterterrorism unit last week arrested four suspects, three of whom were recruited to join Islamic State in Syria by a Malaysian national via Telegram and Facebook Inc.’s social-networking platform.

Telegram, which in November said it blocked 78 of its public channels across 12 languages related to Islamic State, was one of the first apps to explicitly cater to privacy enthusiasts after reports in 2013 alleging widespread surveillance by U.S. intelligence.

Islamic State has used Telegram, a free platform that can be accessed via mobile devices and desktop computers, to disseminate public statements, such as its claim of responsibility for the November attacks in Paris.

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My iPhone Home Screen, Early 2016

2016-01-05iphone

I’ve seen a few people posting about what they’ve got on their iPhone home screens now, with the new year upon us, and was inspired to do the same. I look forward to seeing how this changes over time.

Here goes:

On the top row, I’ve got the standard calendar app (I’ve tried the popular iCal alternatives, notably Fantastical, but was never sold on them), then the Photos app, standard Camera app, and — of course — Instagram. I like to keep all three photo-snapping-related apps in the top row, where I can reach them easily.

The second row holds the standard Clock app, Safari browser, the Voice Memos app (for easy access when conducting interviews; I use my iPhone to make backup recording should my stand-alone digital audio recorder fail), and Google Maps.

Row three contains 1Password, an insdispensible password manager that is one of the very first apps I install on any iDevice or Mac); the Settings app, Notesy (a simple app I’ve used for years that allows note taking via plain text files, syncable via Dropbox), and the standard Twitter app.

In row four I’ve got the excellent Pomodoro Timer, which I use to track quick dashes of uninterrupted work, per the pomodoro technique; the Pedometer++ app, for measuring steps; my favorite podcast app, Overcast; and, of course, the WhatsApp messaging app.

The fifth row is a row of containers. I love messaging apps so much I have an entire folder dedicated to the practice; it contains no fewer than 13 apps. Then Web/social is where I keep Facebook, Vine, and my favorite Pinboard app, Pinswift.

Apple Misc. contains the Apple stuff I mostly only deal with when I have to: the App Store, iTunes Store, etc. The red 1,374 represents the huge number of unread emails in my Gmail account. More on that below.

News contains our WSJ app, the NYT app, Quartz, Newsblur (a replacement I found when Google Reader died, and which I still love), and my favorite app for keeping track of English Premier League scores, theScore.

In row six are a couple more containers: Utilities, which holds the excellent calculator killer, Soulver; the Aeropress Timer (yes, an app for making coffee) and more. Navigation holds transport apps like GrabTaxi and Uber. And then there’s my two main reading apps, Kindle and Instapaper.

In the very bottom row are the Phone icon — unlike some, I still often use my phone for actual voice calling — and the app for my Gmail replacement, the awesome Fastmail. (I switched from Gmail to Fastmail not long ago. I may write about that in the future.)

Then there’s the normal SMS text message icon, and my latest streaming music service of choice, Spotify.

I wonder how this will look this time next year…

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Recent Stories: Google CEO Visits India

I was in India recently covering the first offiical visit Google CEO Sundar Pichai has made to his home country.

In the scenesetter, I wrote about the importance of India to Google — and other big U.S. tech companies, like Facebook:

NEW DELHI— Alphabet Inc.’s Google became a global technology titan serving developed-world consumers on their personal computers, but it is now increasingly turning to a new kind of customer for growth: people on low-cost smartphones in poor countries.

The Mountain View, Calif., company’s efforts to reach users in emerging markets will be in the spotlight this week, when Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai makes his first official visit to India since taking the top job in August.

In the next story, from Delhi, I wrote about what Pichai says Google is doing, specifically, to try to get more people online in India:

NEW DELHI— Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, on Wednesday outlined the technology titan’s plan to increase Internet access in India, underscoring its focus on the world’s second-most-populous country.

A partnership with the Indian government to offer free Wi-Fi at railway stations across the country is on track to open in 100 stations by the end of 2016, Mr. Pichai said during his first official visit to the country in which he was born since taking the top job in August.

Mr. Pichai told a conference for software developers in New Delhi that the first station to get the Wi-Fi service will be Mumbai Central, in the city on India’s west coast, next month. The initiative was announced in September.

The 43-year-old Mr. Pichai also said that Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is pushing ahead with Project Loon, which aims to use high-altitude balloons to provide Internet access in remote areas of the country.

I also wrote about a talk Pichai gave to university students in Delhi. The brief story, which proved especially popular online, is headlined Google’s Sundar Pichai on How India Can Produce More Tech Leaders Like Him:

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai on Thursday said the Indian education system, which nurtured him, needs to allow students to take risks, and to fail, if it wants to produce more global technology leaders.

Mr. Pichai also reiterated his message that Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., is bullish on growth in India, “an amazingly young, vast country,” he told students packed into a gymnasium on the campus of Delhi University.

On Wednesday, Mr. Pichai outlined at a conference for software developers more of the Mountain View, Calif., company’s plans to boost Internet access in India as it looks to the fast-growing country for future growth.

The 43-year-old, who was raised in the southern Indian city of Chennai and attended the elite Indian Institute of Technology before moving to the U.S., said he has been struck by how much India’s startup sector has grown over the past few years and also by the enthusiasm of its entrepreneurs.

There is a “unique opportunity” to build new tech companies in the country because of its huge scale, he said.

Asked how India might improve its educational system to create more executives like him, Mr. Pichai, who joined Google in 2004 and took the top job in August, said “It is important to teach students to take risks.”

 

 

 

 

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Does Social Media Make TV a Better Entertainment Medium for Our Time than Film?

This snippet in Richard Brody’s recent New Yorker piece on the best movies of 2015 struck me:

The cinema’s self-conscious modernity arose when its makers put a virtual mirror into its lenses and revealed the filmmaking process in the films themselves. They reflected the world around the movie within the movie, the director on the screen. But television has outrun the cinema here, too, by replacing the mirror with an echo chamber; by means of social media, television has gone beyond reflexivity to become participatory. It has become its own story. “Transparent” isn’t about an elderly father who comes out as a transgender woman; it’s about the making of a show on that subject. “Mad Men” is about the making of a show about advertising people in the nineteen-sixties. Unlike movies, where reflexivity is a matter of aesthetics, TV has made it a matter of ethics, politics, and sociology.

Food for thought.

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By Me Yesterday: Lyft Teams up with India’s Ola and Singapore’s GrabTaxi

The story begins:

The international alliance of Uber Technologies Inc.’s ride-hailing competitors is growing stronger.

San Francisco startup Lyft Inc. confirmed Thursday it is teaming up with Southeast Asia’s GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd. and India’s Ola to allow users of each app to hail rides from drivers of the other apps while they are traveling to the other country. Lyft and Chinese startup Didi Kuaidi Joint Co. announced a similar arrangement in September, when the Journal also reported that they were in talks with GrabTaxi and Ola.

Each service will collect payments from its own users in their native currency so that, for example, Indian visitors to the U.S. can open their Ola app to order and pay for rides on Lyft, after which Ola will remit that money to Lyft. The companies said the connected system will go live in the first quarter of next year.

The alliance will connect four services in nine countries, potentially bolstering the competitive field against the much larger Uber. Now in 350 cities around the world, Uber is currently raising up to $2.1 billion more in funding at a valuation as high as about $65 billion, according to a document reviewed by the Journal.

 

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