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October 25, 2014

Roku wants to grow its media hub empire with a public stock filing

Roku 3 player

Roku frequently comes across as the little media player company that could: its streaming box business is growing in spite of much larger competition. As healthy as it is, though, this upstart now appears eager to join the big leagues. Tipsters for both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times claim that Roku is planning to file an initial public stock offering (IPO) that could net as much as $150 million, roughly doubling what it raised through private investments. The details of just how and when this would happen are still murky, but the company said earlier this month that it's near turning a profit. It may wait until it's in the black and can put its best foot forward. If the IPO does happen, though, you should expect Roku to grow quickly. It's already striking deals with TV makers and has the support of major broadcasters -- the extra cash could both put more big-name services on your existing Roku box and improve the range of devices you can buy at the store.

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Source: Wall Street Journal, New York Times

October 25, 2014

Twitpic’s last-minute deal with Twitter keeps your old photos safe

Twitpic on a Moto X

Twitpic may not have avoided an untimely demise, but you won't have to worry about some of your older Twitter photos disappearing into the void. The defunct hosting company has reached a last-minute deal that will have Twitter take over both the Twitpic web domain and its photo archive, keeping all those legacy images intact. It's not a revival; Twitpic is no longer taking new pictures, and all that you can do now is delete or download your collection. There's also a chance that those snapshots will go offline, since Twitpic can only promise that your library is safe "for the time being." Still, the pact will give you at least a temporary place to go when you're feeling nostalgic about that first selfie.

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Source: Twitpic

October 25, 2014

Drug stores drop Apple Pay and Google Wallet to push their own payment tech

A CVS pharmacy in San Francisco

If you're bent on using Apple Pay or Google Wallet for your shopping, you may have to be finicky about your choice of drug stores. Both CVS and Rite Aid have shut off their support for NFC-based payments just days after Apple Pay went live. Try to tap your phone and you'll get an error, or nothing at all. The companies haven't publicly discussed why they're cutting off the handy feature, but this is ultimately an attempt to stifle competition. Both pharmacies are part of the Merchant Customer Exchange, a retailer group whose its own mobile wallet system (CurrentC) reaches these stores in 2015; as a memo obtained by SlashGear suggests, they'd rather deny all NFC payments than risk building support for rivals. Suffice it to say that this will be very inconvenient if you're a frequent customer, and you'll currently have to visit the likes of Duane Reade and Walgreens if you want to avoid paying with old-fashioned cash or plastic.

[Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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Source: MacRumors, SlashGear

October 25, 2014

IRL: Keeping a journal with Day One

Trying to keep a journal has always been difficult for me. Before the age of smartphones, I tried to rely on text files or a physical notepad. If I wasn't forgetting to write down my thoughts, I was losing the file or my handwriting was so bad it would make a doctor jealous. I did the LiveJournal thing, too, except it fostered too many passive-aggressive entries. Finally, while browsing the App Store I come across an interesting-looking piece of software called Day One. The features, design and presentation prompted me to give journaling another go. And I'm glad I did.

If you've never heard of Day One, here's a quick rundown: It's a journaling app with an emphasis on ease of use. MultiMarkdown text allows for cleaner, faster writing, and you can import location, activity, music and weather data from the apps. More recently, the app added a Publish feature that allows you to share entries with Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Think of it as having a personal blog without every entry being public.

With the latest version, Day One made some tweaks to take advantage of some of the new features introduced in iOS 8. Previously, I would have had to go into the app to attach a link or photo. I can now share directly from any application where developers have taken advantage of Apple's new "extensibility" feature. I can now use Touch ID to unlock my journal. Entering a PIN isn't hard, of course, but using a fingerprint feels more secure over the standard four digits. Apple also added a widget option, allowing you to view two random picture entries as well as journaling stats for the last 50 days, all from the iOS Notification Center. For the most part, these aren't the kind of changes that make or break the product. Instead, they're the type of updates that help round out an already good experience.

When I first tried Day One, I had trouble making everything work. At the time I was using an Android phone, but unfortunately, the app is iOS-only. This proved to be an issue because I had no way of capturing thoughts or photos on the go. Sure, I could have taken a picture of that awesome graffiti I saw on the street and write about it when I got home, but without fail I would end up forgetting. The desktop client offers a notification option, but it's too easy to dismiss by telling myself "I'll do it later." Getting an iPhone is what really made using Day One a more regular part of my routine.

Creating new entries is an easy experience. Whether I'm writing an entry or snapping a picture, the app makes it effortless. One feature I didn't think I'd fully appreciate is MultiMarkdown. This style of text input allows me to write new entries with detailed formatting -- without HTML messing up the flow. Simply wrapping a word in an asterisk can italicize it, or if I want to create a link, I can use brackets and parentheses instead of writing a full HREF statement. The app even has a swipeable bar to quickly input different Markdown tags so I'll never forget how to bullet a list or insert a link. It seems silly to spend time discussing writing syntax, but it makes for more efficient writing.

Tagging -- a pretty standard feature in any archiving service -- is also present in Day One. This has always been beneficial with bookmarks, but I'm getting a lot of utility out of it with journaling, too. I use it for tracking potential medical issues as well as my hobbies. For example, I have one called "Invisalign" where I've been writing once a week about my experience with this alternative to traditional braces. Before my next visit, I can pull up the tag to quickly remind myself of any issues I ran into. I'm also a huge coffee fan. I enjoy trying out different roasters, but tracking the various bags can be time consuming. Using a modified Launch Center Pro action, I can quickly create an entry with pre-filled fields. Triggering the actions brings me to a series of boxes asking for roaster, origin, method, rating and tasting notes. All of this gets formatted into a clean-looking table, then auto-tagged for easy reference later.

With the help of If This Then That (IFTTT) and Launch Center Pro I can also automate some of my entries to make life a little easier. Using the two services, I can notify my phone of any photo I post to Instagram with the tag #dayone. Interacting with the alert will pre-populate a new post with the image and the text from the tagged 'gram. I also combine them with Strava to auto-create entries for any new activities I complete. This allows me to stay on top of my training log, something I've tried to do numerous times over the years to little or no effect.

The downsides to Day One? As I mentioned, there's no Android app -- it's currently only available for iOS and OS X. Unfortunately, Windows and Linux users are out of luck, too, though the team does link to a few tools for generating entries. As for Android, I've seen a few apps offering import/export abilities, but I personally haven't used them so I can't report on how well they work. Additionally, you may be turned off by the prices: $4.99 for the iOS app and $9.99 for the desktop client, or $15 total. That's something I questioned at first since there are cheaper journal solutions, but after using Day One for a while, I'm convinced the cost is more than justified.

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October 25, 2014

Investigating the science in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar’

Even the most well respected filmmakers have been known to bend the truth a bit when it comes to depicting science on the silver screen, throwing accuracy to the wind in favor of trivialities like "plot" and "drama." We kid, of course. But how does this fall's sci-fi epic Interstellar from director Christopher Nolan hold up under a microscope (no pun intended)? The folks at Popular Science have taken the Dark Knight helmsman's latest to task, exploring the feasibility of traveling through wormholes, the type of spaceship we'd need for humanity to travel 'round the stars and a few other concepts explored in the film.

The research was based off of existing trailers, and more to the point, PopSci says that Interstellar's real-world theoretical physicist flat-out refused to speak with its writers. So, if you're on total media blackout for fear of spoilers, this might not ruin aspects of the flick for you. Are you lucky enough to live somewhere close to a 70mm IMAX screening of the movie in a few weeks? What about a cineplex with an Oculus setup? Let us know in the comments.

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Source: Popular Science

October 25, 2014

Sony wants to show you how PS4′s online game-sharing works

When next Tuesday's 2.0 update hits for the PlayStation 4, Sony will finally turn one of the most ambitious promises it made when the console was first announced a reality. We're talking about Share Play, of course. We know: the ability to virtually hand a controller off to a pal via the internet and have them work through a game's tricky section for you sounds kinda like magic -- the type that only Disney is capable of. But, in theory it sounds pretty simple, and the catch-up king has recently released a video that walks through the process step by step. From the looks of it, the new feature is added as an option from the DualShock 4's Share button. Naturally. How well it all works in the wild, however, remains to be seen.

The rub of it is that every function other than screen sharing (meaning, controller passing and a virtual second player controller hand-off) requires a PlayStation Plus subscription. What's more, these virtual sharing sessions are limited to an hour apiece. After all, Sony's in the business of selling games -- letting you stream a pal's indefinitely probably isn't good for the bottom line.

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Source: PlayStation Blog

October 25, 2014

Who’d have thought the Power Mac G5 made a good bench?

Like it or loathe it, you have to admit that the design of the Power Mac G5 was a very clever way of getting around the system's legendary thermal issues. It was no surprise that the ol' cheesegrater was kept around for the Mac Pro, at least until last year's solid-state revolution. But what of the numerous G5 chassis that are now lingering in attics, skips and warehouses? If you don't want to gut one to use for your own high-end PC, then Klaus Geiger is more than happy to turn them into furniture. As part of his Benchma[(R)]c project, two G5 cases and a plank of Walnut is all you need to make a pretty nifty park bench. There's more images down at the source, but you'll have to excuse us, as we're just off to put our collection of Rodrigo Alonso furniture on eBay.

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Via: The Verge

Source: Projektgalerie (Translated)

October 25, 2014

Robotic hand uses the power of static electricity to pick up objects

A cheap robotic hand developed by a company called Grabit offers something most of the other mechanical limbs we've seen before don't: the ability to pick up objects using electrostatic attraction. Even if you're not familiar with term, you've likely encountered the phenomenon at least once. Ever rubbed a balloon on your hair for fun, so you can stick it to the wall? How about getting plastic of bits of styrofoam stuck on your hand while handling a package? Yep, that's all thanks to attraction caused by static electricity. Grabit's mechanical hand takes it step further by using powered electrodes to sustain the phenomenon, as the charge naturally disappears over time. It also has the technology to prevent dust from clinging onto the fingers.

This robotic limb wasn't made to be used by amputees, though -- it's meant for the manufacturing industry as a replacement for robots that use suction cups or other means to pick up objects. In fact, Grabit made its fingers out of flexible materials that have electrostatic properties, so it can manipulate objects of different shapes and sizes. The limb can also distribute weight more evenly than other manufacturing robots, allowing it to handle delicate materials such the components needed to assemble solar cells. Grabit presented its technology last week at the RoboBusiness conference in Boston, but if you weren't there, you can always watch how the hand works in the videos below.

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Source: Technology Review

October 25, 2014

Amazon has made its Appstore for Android obsolete

Since its creation, the Amazon Appstore stood apart, banned from being offered in the official store for Android apps, Google Play, until now... sort of. When Amazon recently updated its main Android app, it got a new "Apps & Games" department that duplicates the content found in the standalone Appstore app -- effectively making it both unnecessary and obsolete. Naturally, because Amazon's still delivering apps outside the confines of Google Play, you need to change your device's security settings to accept downloads from unknown sources to install them. The change is a welcome one -- reducing app clutter's a good thing -- and the convenience factor afforded by this consolidation should have Amazon selling more apps. Still, we're pretty sure that's not enough to make up for the Fire phone's hit to the company's bottom line.

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Source: TechCrunch

October 25, 2014

Netflix has two more TV shows for 2015: ‘Bloodline’ and ‘F is for Family’

Concerned there's not enough to watch on Netflix, or that the big studios and networks might hold stuff back for their own streaming services? Rest easy, the video streamer has plans for a slew of exclusive content over the next few years, and this week it revealed details about two more shows to go along with its latest Canadian project. First up is the new show we'd heard about from Todd A. Kessler, Glenn Kessler and Daniel Zelman, who were the creators of Damages. That show has a name now -- Bloodline -- and an appropriately creepy teaser trailer (embedded after the break).

Also in the works is F is for Family, an animated series created by comedian Bill Burr that's about a different (funnier) kind of family than the one in Bloodline and is set in the 1970s. The show is executive produced by Burr and Vince Vaughn, and will feature voices from Laura Dern and Justin Long. Before that arrives though, Burr will premiere his new stand-up special I'm Sorry You Feel That Way on Netflix December 5th. Of course if you just need something to watch this weekend, Netflix just launched a comedy special from Wyatt Cenac on Tuesday, and today it premiered E-Team, a documentary about people who investigate allegations of human rights abuses.

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Source: Netflix