Facebooks Lets You React &Like, #MWC2016 and Google AMP #yourlifeintech week 9

To like or not to like has always been the burning question on Facebook and now they’ve made it a little easier to answer by adding some love, haha, wow, sad and angry “reactions”. My reaction to this week in tech is probably “wow” and “sad”. And, despite the Mobile World Congress in Spain was going on with lots of great announcements from the Samsung S7, Oral-B Genius, Garmin Vivoactive HR and Meizu PRO 5, an Ubuntu powered smartphone, it was heavily over shadowed by the ongoing standoff between Apple and the FBI.

Then there was Time, Inc. considering to buy Yahoo! core business and Google plans to speed up the the mobile web with their new AMP project.

Oh, and Spotify moves itself onto Google’s cloud.

Here is a quick glance-summary of a few top headlines from Week 9 (Feb22-Feb28), 2016.

1 Mobile World Congress in Spain
Companies including Garmin, LG, Oral-B, Samsung, Zuckerberg, Google, Lenovo, HP and other big brands in tech made some big announcements this past week in Spain for smartphones and wearables.
Source: Pocket-Lint

2 Amazon raises minimum order for free shipping to $49
If you’re not an Amazon Prime member, shopping at the online retailer just got a little more expensive, unless you order $25 of books, then, it’s still free.
Source: Mashable

3 Sony making phones again in the US announcing the Xperia X at Mobile World Congress in Spain.
Source: CNet

4 Western Digital buys San Disk despite China investor backing out and a top shareholder in London urging Western Digital to abandon the planned buyout by arguing that the deal was too expensive, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Source: Arstechnica/WSJ

5 Siri is coming to Mac OS X 10.12 According to a new report from 9to5Mac, Siri is slated to debut as one of the flagship features on OS X 10.12 later this year. Hardly a feature Apple has ignored, the report notes that Apple has been testing Siri on the Mac for three years in order to get the functionality and implementation just right.
Source: Yahoo/9to5Mac

ad_week9Stance is an amazingly versatile, compact tripod that mounts directly into your iPhone’s charging port. Watching your favorite videos, using FaceTime®, and positioning your phone’s camera to capture amazing photos and videos. [advertisement]

Russia wants to fly spy planes with new high res cameras over U.S. to test their new advanced digital cameras. So, How does Washington respond at a time when Moscow and Washington are at odds over Syria and Ukraine and senior U.S. defense officials have identified Russia as the No. 1 existential threat to America?
Source: Washington Post

Japan considers treating bitcoin like real money and consumers will be able to swap out virtual coins for physical legal tender. However, once it becomes more regulated by country, wouldn’t that defeat the initial goals of an independent currency?
Source: engadget

Boston Dynamics upgrades Atlas with a smaller body, lighter frame and is also now battery powered. Watch the video to better understand why once the robots take over the world they’re mean to humans.
Source: engadget

Google Fiber comes to SF; AT&T sues Louisville to stop Google Fiber from using poles. The AMP project must be Google’s “plan B” in making the Internet faster because Google Fiber seems to be running into quite a few roadblocks on the Information Super Highway.
Source: Fortune

10 The battle for Net Neutrality turns 1 and many of us don’t even know what that means. Well, imagine if Comcast decides to limit your Internet connection speed to sites that aren’t owned by them or potentially even blocking them. The Net Neutrality fight is about keeping the Internet equal for everybody regards who services they purchase. Companies like Time Warner, Comcast and AT&T don’t want the Net to be like this.
Source: CNet

ad_week9Stance is an amazingly versatile, compact tripod that mounts directly into your iPhone’s charging port. Watching your favorite videos, using FaceTime®, and positioning your phone’s camera to capture amazing photos and videos. [advertisement]

The Apple Stand-off: Justice Vs. Privacy
More tech CEOs, like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and Sundar Pichai have stepped up to support Apple, but Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates has sort-of, maybe not, offered his support, as Apple and the FBI get ready to testify at a Congressional encryption hearing on Tuesday, March 1, 2016.

1 In an interview with Bloomberg TV this morning, Bill Gates said he was “blindsided” by and “disappointed” with reports that he sides with the FBI.
Source: FastCompany

2 Why The FBI Chose To Try The Apple Encryption Case In The Media. Cases like this are usually tried under seal as a national security matter, but the FBI sought a very public showdown.
Source: FastCompany

3 FBI Has Asked Apple To Unlock As Many As 17 iPhones In Last 4 Months. Newly unsealed court documents show that the FBI’s request of Apple in the San Bernardino case is probably not a one-off.
Source: FastCompany

4 NYPD wants access to ALL iPhones (with a warrant). The New York City Police Department says they’d like Apple to unlock every iPhone currently subject to a court-ordered search.
Source: Slashgear

5 Apple and FBI to testify at Congressional encryption hearing. FBI director James Comey and Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell are set to testify.

ad_week9Stance is an amazingly versatile, compact tripod that mounts directly into your iPhone’s charging port. Watching your favorite videos, using FaceTime®, and positioning your phone’s camera to capture amazing photos and videos. [advertisement]

Our favorite reviews for week 8

1 Eve Energy with Siri
http://the-gadgeteer.com/2016/02/22/control-and-monitor-any-device-plugged-into-the-eve-energy-using-siri/

2 RAVPower 20100mAh External Battery Review: Large and in Charge

RAVPower 20100mAh External Battery Review: Large and in Charge

3 Razer Blade Stealth Review: a true MacBook alternative at last
http://www.slashgear.com/razer-blade-stealth-review-a-true-macbook-alternative-at-last-26429207/

4 The SanDisk Ultra USB Type-C Flash Drive Is Ready for the Revolution!

The SanDisk Ultra USB Type-C Flash Drive Is Ready for the Revolution!

Our upcoming reviews &articles

1 Making fitness wearables and food tracking work for you
2 Skinomi® TechSkin screen protector for Apple Watch
3 Kenu Stance for iPhone

An Interview with the-gadgeteer, Julie Strietelmeier circa 1999

18_breakfastWhile scrolling through an old SQL file I stumbled into an interview I did with the-gadgeteer, Julie Strietelmeier and thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane, to an era where Palm was the biggest dinosaur in the gadget world scrimmaging with WindowsCE and playing with iPods and Zunes.

It wasn’t more than a year after the-gadgeteer launched her website, and while I was writing under the-palmguru brand, I had the opportunity to interview the ambitious, gadget-loving enthusiast, Julie Strietelmeier, and two years later, I met the gadgeteer herself at Microsoft’s Mobius group in Redmond.

This interview was originally published in March 1999. (Photo: circa 2001 at a Microsoft Cafe in Redmond, Washington eating breakfast with Rachel Luxemburg, myself, Michael Steinberg, the late Calvin O. Parker and the-gadgeteer).


gadgeteer

Julie Strietelmeier, aka The Gadgeteer, steps out of her red, 1997 GMC Sonoma pickup after her usual day job as a Software Engineering Technician and heads into her suburban Indiana home.

After greeting her Welsh Corgi, Kasey, and tossing a ball down the hall, Julie fires up her Dell, 400mhz, Windows based PC and logs onto the Internet. “Bing, Bing” the modem chirps. Kasey crooks her head, and the night-life of The Gadgeteer begins.

But how exactly did Julie get this job, that many of us envy — come on, checking out all the new, cool techno-products would be a dream for many gadget-obsessed people. However, it turns out that Julie just “walked” into reviewing products, and coined her name thanks to a few people at work.

“I was always coming into work with some new thing [gadget]. First it was the PalmPilot, then the WinCE PDA, and the people at work (only guys), always made fun me asking ‘What new gadget do you have today?'” Thus “The Gadgeteer” was born.

Starting back on Geocities, The Gadgeteer’s web site attracted an audience and niche-following that lead her to start a site using the domain name, www.the-gadgeteer.com. The new space, and branding of The Gadgeteer name, allowed Julie to review a wide variety of gadgets, including the REX, as well as the opportunity to expand her gadget-wants, sharing with me that “every time something new came out I wanted to review it”. When I asked Julie what she though made the Gadgeteer site a success, she answered, “people like [my] reviews because they [have] pictures and good content”.

Julie has been reviewing techno-gadgets as “The Gadgeteer” for about a year, and has written over 100 reviews on some of the coolest adult-toys from the introduction of Nintendo’s color GameBoy to our personal favorite (which some people would consider as their next of kin), the PalmPilot, et. al. — also her favorite gadget.

The Palm III has been Julie’s favorite gadget to review, speaking fondly of the device, “I like the Palm III because of the sheer number of 3rd party applications available — every time you turn around something new is available for it [the Palm III], making you more excited to show people the gadget”. She also likes her Palm III over other PDAs she has reviewed, that include the Newton, REX, Psion Series 5, DaVinci, and Casio E11, because it’s so easy to use — “I don’t think I have ever read the PalmPilot manual”.

“My favorite case is having it naked,” thus the perfect choice was the Slipper III (which she reviewed) by E&B Company, and Julie uses a PDA Panache Stylus to keep track of reviews in her To-Do app. And, if you want to be just like The Gadgeteer, than you need to download and register her favorite Palm OS app, Home by Shuji Fukumoto.

However, Julie seemed a bit concerned over Palm’s future, saying, “From what I hear about what’s happening with the two new models (4 and IIIx) — they seem pretty much the same as we have now,” adding, “with exception that the IIIx is suppose have a better screen, and the 4 is suppose to be more slim line”. I think that Julie speaks for many of us when she says, “I’m kind of worried that they [Palm Computing/3COM] aren’t making the Palm devices any more exciting than the 1000s were” and shockingly hinted that if something more exciting doesn’t come out soon, she might be “tempted to move on to something else for something different.”

When asked “If you could be the President of Palm Computing for one day what you do?”, Julie replied that she would first “tell them they had to change the display of the next generation PDAs and have a louder speaker that would be able to play music or something, like mpeg,” and then Julie added that she would change “the screen display. I would like it so it [the display] is the whole size of the unit, and have more resolution and be a little bigger”.

As life itself speeds you through its ups and downs, it wouldn’t be the virtual world most of us Palm users live in without a PDA horror story. Julie said that she had dropped her PalmPilot a couple of times, but nothing serious, and has never had one break. Of course, there’s always the opportunity for firsts, and just before Julie could knock on wood, she was reviewing a Palm OS product and “went to stoop down when it [the Palm device], batteries and memory door popped out and flew across my desk. I lost my data, but nothing was broken”.

Sometimes as readers (and users), we don’t take the opportunity to get to know the people behind the web sites we frequent for news, reviews, and software. So enough with this “gadgeteer” business and lets get to know the Julie Strietelmeier behind The Gadgeteer.

Personal Data Sheet:

Full Name: Julie Ann Strietelmeier
Born In: Indiana
Date of Birth: June 4
Astrological Sign: Gemini
Height: 5 foot 5.5 inches
Eye Color: Green
Hair Color: Auburn
Occupation: Software Engineering Technician
Favorite Color: Green
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla
Favorite Food: Mongolian Stir-fry
Favorite TV Program: Friends
Favorite Music Type: Acoustic guitar
Artist: John Denver (don’t laugh at me).
Favorite Movie: Sound of Music with Julie Andrews
Dream Vacation: The Smokey Mountians in Gatlinburg, Tenn.
Dream Gadget:: Palm V sized unit with a color screen, voice recognition, voice recorder, wireless modem, compact flash slot, built in webcam, and built in gps.

As I wrapped up the interview, I asked Julie where she saw The Gagdeteer in the PDA market’s “big picture”, and she replied, “I see The Gadgeteer as the authority on reviews, ” and she added “I receive email messages each week from readers saying, “I bought this [product] because I read your review”. — I can’t think of a better way to end a day, or a better reward for a job well done.

Thanks Julie for all your hard work – we appreciate it.

###

It’s wild to think that I wrote this 17 years ago and I am still excited to recommend The Gadgeteer as a great website with quality reviews. And, once again Julie, thank you for all your hard work. Gadget enthusiasts around the world appreciate your thoughts, time and passion for technology.

The eSim, 5G and Playboy Trades Nipples for Good Design #yourlifeintech week 8

Well Hell hath finally froze over with playboy trading nipples for good design as the publication pivots itself away from nude photographs for the first time in their 60 year history. Although, I wouldn’t expect to see the new SFW March issue of Playboy landing in your dentists waiting room anytime to soon, but now we can all honestly say that we read it for the “articles” and “art”. Meanwhile, Sport Illustrated is innovating the swim suit edition with Google-style VR goggles. Poor Twitter is still catching up and trying to be the cool kid again by adding video-sharing to direct messages, but it seems like all the cool kids are using Instagram. Is Twitter looking to take the same yard-sale road as Yahoo and setting itself up for a possible sale? or fly into a “public benefit corporation” like Kickstarter did last year?

Then we have Nissan’s self-parking chairs and Apple’s fix and apology for Error 53.

Here is a quick glance-summary of a few top headlines from Week 8 (Feb14-Feb21), 2016.

Yahoo takes a step towards possible sale. I bet someone somewhere is thinking what I am thinking and Yahooo! should have bought Google way back in the summer of 2002.
Source: NY Times

2 Comcast outage hit cable and internet service across U.S.  The outage affected communities including the San Francisco Bay Area; much of the East Coast from Philadelphia to Boston; parts of Florida, and Washington, D.C..
Source: Engadget

3 Samsung Galaxy 6, S6 Edge will get Android Marshmallow. This is great because for many Android customers the version of the OS installed on their phone when they buy it is the only version of Android they will ever see unless they upgrade their phone.
Source: CNet

4 A $7 smartphone is launching in India. Ringing Bells has not revealed too many details about Freedom 251, but is likely to be 3G-enabled. Sure, it’s not LTE, but would you sacrifice some speed and performance for a phone that won’t cost you $500, or $25 a month for 24 months (AT&T)?
Source: Mashable

5 Tim Cook gains support in fighting court order to unlock iPhone from Google CEO, Facebook and John MaAfee says he can hack it in 3 weeks or will eat his shoe on live TV.
Source: Wired/Mashable/Arstechnica

WaterField Designs is an innovative SF designer & manufacturer of bags & cases for the tech-savvy who want to stylishly & responsibly transport their gear. Connect with us and find that perfect bag or case! [advertisement]

6 Virgin Galactic unveils new Virgin Galactic VSS Unity and Recommits to Space Tourism. Tickets to space are on pre-sale for around $250,000.
Source: FastCompany

7 Samsung Gear S2 debuts the eSim. The specifications for eSIM were just approved by GSMA, allowing them to be used in devices like smartwatches, tablets, and fitness trackers. This is exciting stuff because soon we may finally be able to be tether-free from our phones.
Source: Slashgear

AT&T starting to test ultraspeedy 5G in Austin, Texas which  would mean a more responsive network that could let a doctor remotely perform delicate surgery with robotic hands. That sounds cool and all, but I don’t think I ever want to hear a surgeon say “can you hear me now?” to their assistant.
Source: CNet

9 Hoverboards may be seized or recalled due to fire risk; Amazon offers full refund
Source: USA Today

10 Alibaba buys 33 million shares of Groupon via a Groupon: Buy $11 million shares and get 33 million – LOL – in all seriousness people seemed to like this. Groupon’s stock opened 35% higher the next morning.
Source: CNBC

WaterField Designs is an innovative SF designer & manufacturer of bags & cases for the tech-savvy who want to stylishly & responsibly transport their gear. Connect with us and find that perfect bag or case! [advertisement]

Our favorite reviews for week 8

1 Withings Activite review
http://www.wareable.com/withings/withings-activite-steel-review

2 Waterfield Designs Staad Attache review
Source: the-gadgeteer

3 Five common photo lenses & when to use them

5 Common Photo Lenses & When To Use Them

Our upcoming reviews &articles

1 Making fitness wearables and food tracking work for you
2 Skinomi® TechSkin screen protector for Apple Watch
3 Playboy March SWF Issue (maybe it will have some #yourlifeintech articles)

How Many Hubs Does It Take To Control Your Smart Lightbulb?

None. HomeBrite’s smart LED lightbulbs setup with the flip of a switch, install of an app and pleasantly don’t need an additional hub for you to control them.

I have to admit that I wasn’t too interested in automating my home until I purchased my first HomeBrite LED bulb from Home Depot for $14.95. My lack of motivation was primarily the cost of entry and the fragmented nature of protocols from the ubiquitous Wi-fi and Bluetooth to the unfamiliar ZigBee, Insteon and ZWave. The more I looked into the idea, the more complicated and expensive it became. Every manufacturer has their own app to control their smart devices from light bulbs, door locks and egg containers to garage doors and security cameras. Then I found an app called Wink, as well as a website called IFTTT and I saw the world of home automation in all its powerful possibilities and convenience for the first time, but even better, everything I needed to start dabbling now had a small startup cost of $14.95 thanks to Feit Electric’s HomeBrite LED Smart light bulb.

Feit Electric (@feitElectricInc) isn’t a newcomer to the light bulb industry. They have been around since 1978 and chances are if you unscrew a light bulb in your house you’re going to find their name on it. HomeBrite, is their new venture. They describe it as “a Bluetooth Smart Mesh LED Lighting System offering consumers an exciting new way to personalize and control home lighting, from the palm of their hand.” Products include: dimmable LED bulbs, high-CRI Enhance LED bulbs, LED retrofit kits, and Linear LED Tube offerings.

How it works and How I used it
Unscrew your old light bulb then screw in the HomeBrite LED bulb. Through either the Apple’s App Store or Google’s Marketplace, download the HomeBrite app and once installed you’re ready to flip the switch and power-on. The HomeBrite LED bulb with flicker once. This indicates that it is working and available in the Mesh network, which is basically a LAN (local area network) of connected nodes. Thankfully, you don’t need an understanding of networks to use your light bulbs. All you need to know is how to flip on a light switch and use an app.

screen12The app, self-titled “homebrite”, will automatically scan the Mesh network and add any new bulbs it finds during startup before displaying a list of your bulbs. At first they will be named “Bulb1, Bulb2, etc” but you can easily rename them to something that makes sense to you. I have one named “Bedroom – Dresser”, as well as two others named “Living Room – Fireplace” and “Living Room – Chair”.

The list view will display a lightbulb icon so you can quickly recognize the bulb type, as well as a slider where you can adjust the bulb’s brightness and a power-icon. I found that the more bulbs you connected the more valuable this view became versus the apps default wheel view. The default wheel view fills the enter screen with a lovely dashed circle representing the bulbs brightness. It easier to adjust this feature and wiping the screen to the right and left toggles between all the bulbs but as you can imagine the more bulbs you have makes this view less attractive from usability perspective. Sometimes it’s just faster to pick from a list or group.

screen9After I got my third bulb I set up some groups. The first group of bulbs was for the living room. Through HomeBrite’s group settings I added “Living Room – Fireplace” and “Living Room – Chair” to a group titled “Living Room”. The advantage to doing is that I can now control all the bulbs in the “Living Room” at the same time. If the mood strikes, I can quickly dim all the lights in the room with the slide of a finger. Putting bulbs in a group doesn’t mean that I can’t control them individually either. If am I reading on the couch and the “Living Room – Fireplace” bulb is distracting from the fire then I can easily view the list of bulbs and tap the power-icon to turn one in the group off.  By turning it off outside the group settings I won’t then change the group setting for that bulb.

My favorite features of the HomeBrite app, however, are scheduling and setting timers. You can can schedule an individual bulb or a group of bulbs. I use this feature to control the “Bedroom – Dresser” bulb to automatically come on at 6:25 AM. On these darker winter mornings, it makes it a lot easier to wake up in a bright room. I also have the same bulb scheduled to come on at 5:03 PM so when I get home the bedroom isn’t dark. The only big downside that I found with scheduling is that you can’t control the brightness, so your bulbs will come back on at the previous brightness level last set.

screen15

Sometimes, if you know you’re heading to bed or leaving a room early and just don’t want the lights left on, you can override the schedule by selecting the individual bulb from the wheel view and turning on a timer. It’s easy and amazing how often I use this feature. Since it’s a one-off action, the timer settings do not effect any room or bulb schedules or scenes. Scenes simply modify a groups setting.

Unfortunately, one other downside is that these Bluetooth bulbs do not connect to the Internet. If they did, you could set a savvy schedule through IFTTT so when you arrive home (at a specific GPS location) the “Living Room” group of bulbs will turn on. Although, Bluetooth can interface with Wi-Fi networks and maybe through a HomeBrite firmware update, Wink or Smart Things Hub this one day could be possible. Until then we are stuck in a more or less static schedule realm, which is still cool and I don’t have to remember to turn my living room lights off before I call it night and go to bed.

screen17But, what happens if the person controlling the lights with their phone isn’t home? You can still turn the bulbs on and off like a normal light. However each time the bulb is turned back on at the switch it will blink once. this could get annoying which is why I avoided installing the bulbs in locations where on/off frequency was high. You can also create an account through the HomeBrite app and save your apps settings to the “cloud” and then someone else can install the app on their phone and using the same login could also control the bulbs as well as configurations. It’s not an ideal solution but it works.

The app works well but has some bugs and room for improvement. One bug is that the bulb’s state is not always accurately represented. This is more obvious when viewing a group of bulbs than viewing the individual list of bulbs. Another bug is sometimes the app won’t discover the Mesh network and require your phone’s Bluetooth to be turned on and off. These bugs are certainly are not deal breakers in my opinion and as HomeBrite’s smart-product line grows I am sure we will see the app mature not only in design and user experience but also reliability.

Pros

  • Easy Bluetooth setup.
  • No account needed for basic use.
  • Affordable.
  • LED bulbs will last 25,000 hours. That’s more than 22-years based upon the average use of 3-hours per day.
  • Easy sharing with other family members if settings are synced with HomeBrite account.

Cons

  • UI/UX of app doesn’t support Retina screens.
  • Schedules don’t support dimming.
  • Syncing settings back to your account is not automatic.
  • Only can control through a Bluetooth Mesh network where your phone needs to be in the same area in order to control.
  • No HomeKit integration

What it could do better
Again, the bulb itself is perfect. The app, however, could use some smarter UI/UX design.

Buy or Not buy?
Definitely buy; maybe even 3 or 4.

Source
Purchased product at Home Depot $14.95/ea

Website
http://www.feit.com/homebrite/

Online Support
http://www.feit.com/homebrite/homebrite-support.html

Plant Your Focus and Grow A Tree with Forest

Are you that type of person who gets “squirreled” by your phone easily? That is, you can’t stay focused for more than 5 minutes before remembering a Wunderlist task you have to add, or you have to update your Facebook status, or you have to read an iMessage that just alerted your phone. Me too, and is why I splurged the 99 cents for Forest, an app (and browser extension) with a promise to help you put your phone and modern-tech aside while rewarding your focus-time with virtual trees.

According to digital analytics firm Flurr, smartphone and tablet users spend an average of 2 hours and 57 minutes on them each day, and this is just on your phone. How much time do you also spend distracted while working on your computer by visiting time-munching websites like facebook, twitter, linkedin, pinterest, reddit or engadget? You’re note alone, according to another survey by Global Web Index, the average person spends 1.72 hours on social media websites. The real world as well as the Internet world provides plenty of time-sucking “squirrels”, but do apps like Forest really help keep us focused?

How Forest works
Every 30 minutes of focused time grows you a new tree and earns you some gold coins. More than 30 focused-minutes at one time will earn you more gold coins that you can cash-in for different kinds of trees: a pine tree maybe, or a tree with flowers or a tree with a clubhouse or for 2,500 gold coins Forest will plant a real tree on your behalf in somewhere like Zambia or India through WeForest.

real_tree_share forest_4-1

Focused-time, on the iOS/Android/Windows Mobile app is defined as time not spent interacting with your phone. Using the browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox focused-time is defined as time spent not visiting your blacklisted websites. Regardless of app or browser extension, to get started you tap the “Plant/Start” button and watch the timer begin counting down and your tree grow. If you leave the app or visit a blacklisted website your tree dies and you have to start over. And, to help remind you that you failed, Forest will show a tiny dead-root looking stem on your plot of land.

forest_1-1 Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 5.02.21 PM

Discovering the Chrome and Firefox extensions definitely changed my experience with Forest. It allowed me to more densely and quickly grow my daily plot of land. However, you can only set the clock for 30 minutes per session through the browser extension, unlike the app, where it can bet set up to 120 minutes and you can grow a tree with a fort! By lunch time I had grown 4 trees and a dead root using browser extensions, where as when I was only using the phone app, I would on average grow 1 or 2 trees in an entire day. This made the user experience fairly boring and wasn’t motivating enough for me. Even after a day using both the app and browser extension for Chrome I found there wasn’t much value or fun in continuing to play the game.

In fact, is Forest a game? Maybe it should be. Making the app, or “Forest experience” more game like could change your whole forest. Unfortunately, the current interaction between “friends” is so limited that it might as well not be present. I wasted more time inside the app trying to figure out how the “friends” feature worked that I probably could have grown a few trees. Then, when I finally connected with a friend we each grew trees and there was no interaction what-so-ever. Not even a notification. Completely pointless.

So, if you dig into the apps settings you can actually send a suggestion. I sent: “show notifications of when friends build a tree”, the developer responded with “thanks for your suggestion We will consider it.” I also suggested, “a graphical representation of my plot of land for the week or month and not just day” and received a more favorable response, “We are working on it now. Please stay tuned.”

I think Forest has a great opportunity to thrive, providing social and phone addicted people like myself with a motivation to improve our time-management skills as well as disconnect and avoid modern-day tech savvy squirrels. However it has some growing to do and I hope strengthening its community will be the plant they decide to water.

Source:
Purchased via App Store for 99¢

Website:
http://www.forestapp.cc/

Twitter
https://twitter.com/forestapp_cc

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/forestapp.cc

Sneaky Cards “Play It Forward,” (and Track) Your Good Karma Card Game Comes To Web

“Tag! You’re It” — That was the first card I drew from the colorful Sneaky Card deck, “Play It Forward”, by game creator Gamewright. My mission, if I chose to accept it, was simple: Tap someone on the shoulder and tell them they’re “It!”. Then hand them the card. No tag backs!

A-04Or, shuffle the deck and you never know what Sneaky Card missions you may draw: take a selfie with a stranger, give an anonymous gift, become a flash mob of one or leave a generous tip. Each card inspires you to step outside your comfort zone and “spread joy, art and intrigue to an unsuspecting public”.  Once the card is out in the real-world you can track the joy its spreading online at sneakycards.com.

Rules of the game are simple. “The main object of Sneaky Cards is to get rid of all the your cards. Each card contains all the details of your mission. Play over the course of many days and during everyday life or competitively, with the winner being the first player who completes all their objectives. Get out there an play it forward.”  There are five card types: Engage, Connect, Surprise, Care, Grow and Create.

The blue Engage cards encourage and test your audacity and “chutzpah”. Connect cards are red and you have to find things and not just objects.  The yellow Surprise cards use your sneakiness and espionage skills. Green cards do good and give to others, thus Care. Purple cards challenge yourself to grow in new and interesting ways, and finally Pink cards create, making art with a purpose. Starting game play isn’t specific, but I simply shuffled the cards and then divided them by the number of people who wanted to play. We set a time-frame of 30 days and on ready, set, go we started “playing it forward”.

However, a few days after I played the “Tag, You’re It!” card at a Starbucks in Reno, Nevada, I noticed they weren’t playing along, or the card wasn’t being tracked online as the inspiring part of the game intended. The problem: tracking the card and seeing how many people you inspire through your play-it-forward-attitude is not as simple and fun as deciding what card to use or choosing the person to pass your cards legacy onto. It requires you to take a photo of your card, so you won’t forget the sneaky card number and then log through a website.

This where I found the game starting to become a little un-fun and unravel the ball of excitement that I was playing with. The website’s user experience isn’t thought through as well as the game rules nor designed as pretty as the game cards. Most disappointing was the lack of a mobile app. I know right, everything has an app these days but Sneaky Cards, and unfortunately it really sours the overall experience of the game, making it less convenient to track new cards and share experiences of cards played, not just by you, but everyone everywhere playing the game. Gamewright really missed a golden and viral-making opportunity. The game felt a little half-baked at this point for me.

Instead of an 8-digit code you had to type into a desktop browser, imagine each card having a QR-code that represented that code and a Sneaky Card app that will sign you up for free, allow you to register a deck and add players to it, see nearby logged cards, scan the QR-code and log a card, submit comments or micro stories with your game play and then share-it-forward using social media. Now, that’s a fully baked game with modern tech flare!
Screen-Shot-2016-02-16-at-8-blurr2And, here is how the interactive, tech side really works. The first time I visited the Sneaky Card web site to log a card the options I saw were “Track A Card” and “Play Now”. I clicked “Play Now” thinking that this will setup everything up for me, where as “Track A Card” meant I could see where a card has been and not necessarily was to initiate the tracking process. This was not the the experience. As soon as you enter that card number into the form, the browsed requests your location and logs the card. I have accidentally logged cards from my home, in preparation of putting them into play, as well as Starbucks, logging them after they are in play because I have to use a desktop browser. This is the number one reason an app for this game is absolutely needed. With an app, I could have put the card into play and then standing in the same general location immediately logged it with a fun story, as well as demonstrate to someone unfamiliar with the game what it’s all about and how to do it.

The next potential problem with Sneaky Card website is that you can “Track A Card” anonymously. This has its pros and cons. If the site design was focused around tracking cards I think it could actually work, but there is no way to differentiate between tracking and logging. Perhaps including a timeline of tracked cards on the homepage, a standard login box, or a box to enter the card’s code. Currently they are one of the same, so whenever you enter in the card number you create a location based log entry. It also doesn’t allow you to enter notes about your play experience.
Screen-Shot-2016-02-16-at-8-blurrTo help alleviate some of the confusion you can create an account. When you do this, the cards you “tracked” are displayed on the dashboard in your account after logging in. This allows you to easily view the tracking logs and map of the cards you’ve played. It’s a great idea, but having to visit a website isn’t convenient or as fun as an app would make it.

On December 28, 2015, I played card, A-857380-04 and as of posting date of this review, the young, high-school kids that “I tagged” in a local Starbucks have not logged it, thus most likely ending the cards journey. At this point there isn’t anything you can do. You can’t ping it or put it back in play so it would be nice if the site also let you filter the list by activity. And, just imagine how Sneaky Cards could incorporate Twitter, Facebook and Instagram into the cards life and really bring this game to life!

Unfortunately Gamewright dealt a joker on this version of Sneaky Cards, although the game is fun and the card’s actions are still worth playing and the games mission is still worth sharing, the interactive part isn’t worth the time in its current state. Hopefully version two, or an expansion pack with a new app and QR-codes (fingers crossed) will ignite new inspiration to playing it forward.

Source
Purchased at Barnes and Noble for $8.99

Buy or not buy?
Buy. Even with the poorly designed interactive side of the game it’s fun and not too expensive.

Website
http://sneakycards.com

IRS hacked, Moore’s Law Is Dead and Google shuts-down Picasa #yourlifeintech week 7

Twitter’s iconic little blue bird flew itself all over last week announcing a change to their timeline that has left everyones feathers a little ruffled. Twitter announced that will be displaying timeline content by relevancy, departing from its chronological roots, which as their active user base shrinks in Q4 may have not been the wisest decision.

Instagram FINALLY supports multiple user login, kickstarter reached their 100,000 project milestone, Runkeeper jogged into the arms of Asics, Google’s AI software can now be legally considered the “driver” of a car and plenty of new rumors about Apple’s iPhone 7 as well as the release date of Samsung’s S7 announced.

And, India banned Facebook Basics.

Here is a quick glance-summary of a few top headlines and our favorite reviews from Week 7 (Feb07-Feb14), 2016.

1 Obama’s new cybersecurity plan sticks to the basics
Keep your operating system and apps up to date, two-factor authentication and please, please use some common sense when surfing the Internet and opening e-mailed attachments from people you don’t know. And, maybe hire a professional.
Source: Wired

2 Donate Your Old USB Drives to Fight North Korean Brainwashing
One of my favorite stories this week. Instead of tossing your old USB flash drives into that never-seen-again junk drawer, consider sending your chunk of cheap flash memory into North Korea, and it becomes a powerful, even subversive object—one that a new activist project wants use to help chip away at the intellectual control of the hermit kingdom’s fascist government.
Source: Wired

3 More signs Verizon is reportedly looking to buy Yahoo! and Time Warner buys MySpace
Back in the early days of the Internet these two dinosaurs ruled the territory, but maybe now it’s time to let evolution take its course.
Source: USA Today/Engadget

4 The RIAA now counts audio visual streaming numbers towards artists total album sales and still gets it all wrong, but are you really surprised?
Source: Wired

5 IRS website attack nets 101,000 e-filing taxpayers credentials.
Maybe they should have piloted President Obama’s Cybersecurity Plan? LOL
Source: Arstechnica

Need a case for your iPhone, Galaxy, Nexus, LG or Apple Watch? Spigen: Sleek, simple, and smart accessories for your mobile device. Connect with us for new products, special events, and fun giveaways! [advertisement]

6 GMail now warns you if your freinds aren’t using secure email
With more and more net-security stories taking shape these last fews weeks, with the IRS being hacked, Mac OS X Sparkle hijacking and hackers exploiting power-grids through air conditioning units, maybe using secure email isn’t that bad of an idea or inconvenience.
Source: Arstechnica

7 Thousands of Mac OS X apps vulnerable to hijacking
You don’t hear the words Mac, hijacking and vulnerability in one sentence all too often, but this exploit is actually a scary one for Mac users and fixes may be slow coming since it requires all developers using Sparkle to update their apps and there isn’t anything Sparkle can do universally.
Source: Arstechnica

8 Einstein theory of general relativity confirmed as LIGO detects gravitational wave from black hole merger
Yes, space, gravity, or something like that has waves just like the ocean, but I will let the die-hard Big Bang Theory fans explain it all.
Source: Forbes

9 Moore’s law is dead or nearing to very close to it’s end
Yep, another one of those brainy news stories that rippled through the tech world that I am going to let the brainy people explain; something about circuits doubling every year on computer chips.
Source: Arstechnica/Fast Company

10 Apple owned 2/3 of Smartwatch market in 2015
Source: TechCrunch

11 Google plans to shutdown Picasa Spring 2016
Source: The Verge

Need a case for your iPhone, Galaxy, Nexus, LG or Apple Watch? Spigen: Sleek, simple, and smart accessories for your mobile device. Connect with us for new products, special events, and fun giveaways! [advertisement]

Our favorite reviews for week 7
1 Killing the password with wearables
http://www.wareable.com/wearable-tech/kill-the-password-pin-2290

2 MiPow Playbulb Sphere Lights The Night…Anywhere
http://geardiary.com/2016/02/12/mipow-playbulb-sphere-lights-the-night-anywhere/

3 Double the storage of your macbook
http://the-gadgeteer.com/2016/02/13/tardisk-can-double-the-storage-of-your-macbook-in-5-minutes/

4 Booq Cobra Brief
http://geardiary.com/2016/02/14/booqs-cobra-brief-is-a-traveling-professionals-best-friend/

Our upcoming reviews &articles
1 Moov Now, your AI personal trainer
2 Lose It!
3 Making fitness wearables work for you

Fitbit’s New Alta, Yahoo Layoffs, Apple Pay and Elon Musk gets Mad #yourlifeintech week 6

Happy Birthday Me! & Facebook. On February 4, Facebook turned 12, and I like to think that I just “leveled-up”. The bigger the number in games is usually better, right? Anyhow, it wasn’t me or Facebook that took center stage this past week. Oh no, it was Elon Musk, who didn’t appreciate a fellow venture capitalists critical blog comments over having to wait an extra 2 hours for Musk to show up to a Tesla event where he was of course the headline show. So in Musk’s disapproval of the criticism, he cancelled the fellow’s Tesla order publicly via Twitter. Lesson to learn is not to piss off Musk or he will cancel your order. Although, I’d like to know the reason Musk was late. Did his Tesla run out of power? or, maybe it was that electric plane he is trying to build? or, even worse, did he get stuck in his own Hyperloop. Humor aside, maybe one of his 6 kids had a basketball game that ran late? Either way, in my opinion, both were inappropriate in their of handling of the situation. You can read more at FastCompany. Oh, and there was Yahoo laying off 1500 or so people.

Here is a quick glance-summary of a few top headlines from Week 6 (Jan31-Feb07), 2016.

1 Fitbit blazed into the week announcing their new fashionable Alta, but is it sexy enough to win over the hearts of the consumer and compete with similar fashionable activity trackers like Fossil’s Q series or even the Jawbone UP?
Source: Arstechnica

2 Dutch police are training Eagles to grab drones from the sky. Now this is actually a pretty cool idea. What animals could we train next? How about dope smelling Squirrels?
Source: Mashable

3 Sesame Launches a venture arm to invest in startups that help kids. Don’t misread that headline. Although, some toddlers may have some creative and innovative ideas.
Source: Fast Company

4 Google is now the most valuable company on Earth. Sorry, I should have this saved space to link to something that we already didn’t know, like if you actually had somewhere in the ballpark of $500 Billion dollars how would you spend it? On a fleet of Lexus self-driving cars which are now roaming in a suburb of Washington? or maybe smart bathroom mirrors that update you on news events and current weather?
Source: Mashable/Fortune

5 Yahoo lays off 1500 workers, shuts down Games and announces make or break plan. Unfortunately the link to this article on Yahoo! News was removed. Nah, kidding, just google it.
Source: CNET/Wired

You’ve seen Lose It! on the Today Show, in the NY Times, or heard it mentioned on Howard Stern. Isn’t it time to join the millions of others who have downloaded Lose It! and give it a try yourself?[advertisement]

6 Amazon Retail Store goes beyond books but probably won’t be opening hundreds of bookstores like some stupid CEO was quoted saying.
Source: Recode/CNET

7 Oral Roberts University and Christian college says mandatory Fitbits won’t track sex, but they will track hand-jobs if you have your dominant wrist set appropriately. You can switch from left-to-right as needed in the Fitbit app’s settings.
Source: Engadget/ORU

8 Apple Pay adds 32 new US Banks and Credit Unions to Apple Pay. This is great news but still lacks the merchant support. 6/10 stores I visit daily still do not accept Apple Pay.
Source: iMore

9 Microsoft buys AI powered keyboard App SwitftKey for $250 million
Source: Mashable

10 Microsoft wants to put data centers at the bottom of the sea Aye, Aye matey! Modern day Pirates will now be able to enjoy free Wi-Fi while pillaging the open seas.
Source: Engadget

You’ve seen Lose It! on the Today Show, in the NY Times, or heard it mentioned on Howard Stern. Isn’t it time to join the millions of others who have downloaded Lose It! and give it a try yourself?[advertisement]

Our Favorite Reviews for Week 6
1 Flowstate. If this app had a free version I would totally try it, but right now I can just as easily press the backspace button.

2 Smartwatches, like the Fossil Q Founder, are coming for the mainstream, but what defines these devices as “smartwatches”? Yes, they tell time, but outside of displaying notifications what makes them “smart”?

Our Upcoming Reviews
1 HomeBrite Smart LED Bulbs
2 Moov Now
3 Lose It!