January 27, 2012

megaPhone iPhone stand is rubbery, battery-free amplification

Here’s another quickie for you from CES. I’ve seen a few physical amplification attempts, some good, some bad. The megaPhone from iSimple sort of sits in-between. It’s a little rubbery megaphone for your iPhone which provides some acoustic amplification of your iPhone’s tiny speaker. There’s a port for the sync cable, and you can use it in portrait or landscape position.

How does it work? About as well as you might imagine. Enough to boost the sound a bit, but not so much that it’ll fill the room or anything. Still, it’s small (basically you can squish it) and if you need a bit of a boost in your audio without resorting to something like this, the megaPhone may be worth the $ 14.95 to you. I could see using this to placate the kiddos while waiting for food at a noisy restaurant, and I’m sure there are plenty of other uses for it.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

From Thunderbolt to Robots: Apple cast a big shadow over CES 2012

By Daniel Eran Dilger

Published: 04:50 PM EST (01:50 PM PST)
Apple didn’t need to pay for a booth at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show this week to make a big impression; the company’s products and technologies were visible everywhere, from third party demos to its competitors’ future roadmaps.

A wide range of trade show exhibitors at CES made heavy use of Macs and iOS devices, a big shift from previous years where, even at the Apple-centric Macworld Expo, third parties often demonstrated their products primarily using Windows PCs.

Segments of the CES exhibit halls were dedicated to iOS devices, or other markets dominated (or well represented) by Apple products acting as a host for third party apps, devices, accessories or services, a reflection of the growing presence of Macs and iOS devices among consumers in general.

From the GlobalVCard virtual credit card transaction system being demonstrated on an iPad 2 using video mirroring to video surveillance systems with iPad and iPhone clients such as the Withings “Smart Baby” monitor (the company also demonstrated a Smart Baby scale and builds WiFi BMI scales and an iOS blood pressure monitor) to the BigC Dino-Lite digital microscope shown attached to a MacBook, Apple’s devices were visible everywhere. That’s in part, no doubt, because Apple’s gear has a fit and finish that makes it well suited to demonstrate.

Made for iOS, Mac

Other appearances of Macs, iPads and iPhones were exclusive, ranging from iOS docks and accessories spanning from pico projectors and 3D projection devices to dye sublimation printers (using Bluetooth, not AirPlay) to remote control helicopters and model cars outfitted with cameras and controlled via apps.

Small developer Catalyst Lifestyle demonstrated its $ 69.99 EscapeCapsule, a waterproof case customized for iPhone 4 and 4S to protect the device from “water, rain, snow, sand, mud, scratches and anything else you can throw at it,” and capable of keeping it dry even emerged a few feet under water.

On the Mac side, accessories developer Belkin was showing off its new Thunderbolt Express Dock, a $ 299 unit that connects to 2011 model year Macs via Thunderbolt.

Similar to Apple’s own Thunderbolt Display, it makes available three USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire 800 port, one HDMI port for video output, one 3.5mm Audio port, one Gigabit Ethernet port and two Thunderbolt ports (one upstream and one downstream) for daisy-chaining to another Thunderbolt compatible device.

While Intel is hoping to bring its Thunderbolt interconnect to general PCs later this year, Apple embraced the new technology a year ago and rapidly rolled out support for it across its entire product line of Macs that previously lacked PCIe expansion capabilities.

On page 2 of 2: I, Robot

AppleInsider

Today At Cult Of Android: Motorola XOOM To Get Ice Cream Sandwich, MADDEN NFL 12 $.99 In The Android Market, And More…

Today At Cult Of Android: Motorola XOOM To Get Ice Cream Sandwich, MADDEN NFL 12 $  .99 In The Android Market, And More…
What’s this? Android news on Cult of Mac? Who cares? Maybe you don’t, maybe you do. Point is: these are a few of the popular topics going on in the Android world today. Maybe you’d like to know what the competition is up to, or perhaps your aunt received a Kindle Fire she needs to update. Regardless of the reason, having a resource such as Cult of Android allows you to learn more about what’s going on with the competition. You know what they say: the best way to beat the enemy is to know which way they’re moving!/em>

Motorola XOOM To Get Ice Cream Sandwich Soon, Soak Test Happening Now

The guys over at Android Police have confirmed that Motorola’s recent “project” for the Motorola XOOM is, in fact, Ice Cream Sandwich. It seems one of the lucky testers didn’t understand the word “confidential” and spilled the beans on the project. More…

Sony Xperia S Black Up For Pre-Order On Clove UK

The recently announced Sony Xperia S is already up for pre-order at UK retailer Clove. It’s only the black version for now, but you can reserve yours starting today for £389.99 (£467.99). Sony unveiled the Xperia S at the beginning of CES and if you missed it, it features: More…

MADDEN NFL 12 By EA SPORTS Only $ .99 In The Android Market [Deal Alert]

We’re only weeks away from Super Bowl XLVI, and EA Sports has a special treat to get you in the pigskin mood. For a limited time, you can head over to the Android Market and download MADDEN NFL 12 for a mere $ .99. That’s a great deal for football fans looking to enact virtual revenge against rival teams that squashed Super Bowl dreams. Whether your team is going to the big show or not, MADDEN NFL 12 By EA SPORTS puts you in the game with its authentic NFL action. MADDEN NFL 12 features: More…

Samsung Mobile USA Celebrates 1 Million Facebook Followers With A Giveaway – 30 Devices And 100 $ 50 Media Hub Vouchers To Be Given Away

Samsung Mobile USA recently surpassed one million Facebook followers and to celebrate this accomplishment, they’ve decided to hold a Facebook giveaway. Now until 8:59 am ET on Sunday, January 15, 2012, anyone following Samsung on Facebook can fill out one entry form per day. What are the prizes you ask? Let’s take a look at the amazing list of giveaways Samsung has planned. More…

DROID RAZR MAXX To Be Available January 26? Motorola’s Website Thinks So

We caught our first glimpse of the Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX at CES with its added (but still irremovable) 3300 mAh battery. Instead of making things easy and allowing users the convenience of swapping out batteries, Motorola decided to create an entirely new version of the DROID RAZR, this time with better battery life for the power-sucking 4G LTE. Although everything besides the new battery remained the same, we weren’t given any sort of release date for the MAXX. The keen eyes over at Droid-Life noticed that Motorola wasn’t so coy, and in fact posted a release date of January 26 on their website. More…

Friday Night Fights: What’s Better? The 3.5-Inch iPhone or Android’s 4+ Inch Superphones?

Laaaaaaaaaaadies and Gentlemen, welcome to Friday Night Fights, a new series of weekly deathmatches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?

After this week’s topic, someone’s going to be spitting teeth. Our question: What’s Better? The iPhone’s 3.5-Inch Display, or Android’s 4+ Inch Superphones?

In one corner, we have the 900 pound gorilla, Cult of Mac; in the opposite corner, wearing the green trunks, we have the plucky upstart, Cult of Android!

Place your bets, gentlemen! This is going be a bloody one. More…

LG Rumored To Be Getting First Crack At Google’s Newest Google TV Software

Google has consistently teamed up with manufactures to debut new Android software versions in a pure “Google Experience,” void of any manufacturer overlays. We’ve seen this with the smartphone Nexus line, as well as with the Motorola XOOM tablet. When it comes to Google TV however, there were actually two companies that had first crack at it, and as you already know, that didn’t go so well. For Google’s next version of Google TV, they’d like to make a better impression, and rumor has it that they may team up with LG to deliver it. More…

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Cult of Mac

Lantronix xPrintServer brings networked printers within reach of iOS devices

For enterprises and small businesses that are embracing iOS devices to empower employees, printing from those devices can be problematic. The solution for many organizations with scads of networked printers and armfuls of iPads and iPhones is to set up one or more Macs or PCs to handle print sharing via apps like Printopia. The app makes networked printers visible to AirPrint-enabled devices.

To complement the software-only solutions, Lantronix has developed the xPrintServer (US$ 149.95), a device that automatically discovers networked printers and makes them all available to your iOS devices for quick and easy printing.

Why would you want such a device? Well, to enable printing you could replace all of your existing printers with AirPrint-enabled units, print to shared printers (Mac-only), or use something like Printopia as described above. You could also sync documents to your Mac or PC and then print them, but that’s time-consuming and you need a personal computer available for printing.

The device I received for review was still a beta version, and the company plans to start shipping the real thing sometime in the first quarter. The xPrintServer is about the size and shape of an iPhone, and is plugged into power and an Ethernet connection. At that point, it automatically discovers printers on the network, and then translates the iOS print format to a PDL (page description language) specific to each printer.

How many printers does the xPrintServer support? Well, I didn’t feel like counting, but it’s a very long list — over 4,000 and growing. Considering you can find everything from the Apple ImageWriter to the latest and greatest laser and inkjet printers from major manufacturers on the list, chances are very good that your office printers are covered. Lantronix says that if your printer is not currently on the list, you can email them the brand and model number and they’ll provide support where possible.

The printers need to be network-connected (wireless or wired) with one of three protocols: JetDirect (AppSocket), LPD, or IPP. The iOS devices must be running iOS 4.2 or later, covering the iPad, iPad 2, iPhone 3GS and later, and the iPod touch 3rd-generation and later.

Setup

Setup of the xPrintServer is drop-dead simple. Once you’ve plugged in the power brick and then attach the device to a router, switch or hub, it auto-discovers and auto-provisions the printers. The xPrintServer can’t auto-detect printers that are on subnets different from the one that it’s connected to, but those printers can be added later via the xPrintServer’s web GUI.

A note for our non-North American readers: the xPrintServer comes with a boxful of adapter plugs, so using the device probably won’t require the purchase of a separate adapter.

Once the device is done with the discovery and provisioning, the X on the word Lantronix pulses an orange color. At this point, you’re ready to print. Lantronix notes that the xPrintServer can support an unlimited number of concurrent printers on a network, but recommends one device for every 7 to 10 network printers on the same subnet. That means that in many office buildings, you might need one or two per floor.

Usage

In actual usage, the auto-discovery on a network with a single wireless printer on the same subnet took about 15 seconds. Not bad, considering that there was no other configuration required — the xPrintServer is truly plug-and-play, and even a corporate deployment would be fast to implement. The printer that was discovered is a rather old HP DeskJet 6800 series, and it was up and running quickly.

Printing from both a Wi-Fi connected iPad 2 and iPhone, the print times varied depending on what app I was printing from. In my initial tests, before I updated the firmware on the device, selecting a printer would sometimes take 30 – 40 seconds, and printing would take a while longer. After updating the firmware, selecting the printer and printing a single page took less than 10 seconds.

There was one issue I ran into: although the xPrintServer worked flawlessly in terms of discovery and printing, everything I printed from the iPhone and iPad came out as grayscale on a color printer. Once again, I want to emphasize that this was a beta device. The Lantronix tech support team responded immediately to my queries about this issue, and I expect it to be fixed quickly.

For businesses using a number of xPrintServers, there’s a built-in web-based administrative tool for setting security, naming the devices, installing firmware updates, and capturing diagnostic information. The firmware update process was simple and took about a minute.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a network administrator for an enterprise using a lot of iOS devices and networked printers, the owner of a small business with a couple of printers and a dozen iPads, or even an individual with a several networked printers and a desire to print without keeping a Mac running all the time, you’re going to love this product. Lantronix has done a fantastic job at making the xPrintServer easy to install for the novice, and yet provides enough tools to keep any network administrator happy.

The xPrintServer is available for pre-order now, and will ship later in the first quarter. If my gizmo intuition is correct, Lantronix is going to sell a ton of these things. As they used to say on those late-night TV ads, “order now to avoid bitter disappointment.”



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Bloomberg: iPad 3 production underway, to launch in March

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 05:15 PM EST (02:15 PM PST)
Rumors surrounding Apple’s upcoming iPad 3 have been swirling as an expected March launch date quickly approaches, and now sources say the yet-to-be-announced tablet will include LTE and be made by Chinese manufacturer Foxconn.

Citing information from three Chinese sources close to the matter, Bloomberg on Friday said that the iPad 3 entered mass production earlier in January, and Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partners are working around the clock to get the highly-anticipated product out by March.

One of the sources claims that manufacture is quickly ramping up and should reach full volumes by February. Factories are expected to take a break during China’s Lunar New Year, and will hit peak capacity shortly following the holiday.

Sources also corroborated previous rumors that the iPad 3 will feature a new quad-core processor, LTE functionality and a high-resolution Retina Display that has more pixels than some high-definition TVs.

LTE compatibility has been rumored since a line of code was found in GSM iPhone 4 and iPad 2 builds of iOS 5, and there have been ongoing rumblings of a Retina Display being developed akin to the one found on the iPhone 4.

Apple has yet to announce any work on a new processor, but Samsung is expected to supply the company with a next-generation A6 quad-core CPU that was rumored to be in testing since August 2011.

The company refused to comment on availability, but rumors of a March release have remained stable and pictures of alleged parts for the tablet continue to crop up.

AppleInsider

With iPad, You No Longer Have To Learn Board Game Rules [CES 2012]

With iPad, You No Longer Have To Learn Board Game Rules [CES 2012]

LAS VEGAS, CES 2012 – For Christmas, I bought my kids the immensely popular board game Settlers of Catan. We haven’t played it though, because no one can be bothered to learn the rules.

iPad versions of popular board games solve this problem, as I learned talking to the makers of Ticket To Ride.

Ticket To Ride is a $ 50 board game that has sold 1.85 million copies — a huge blockbuster by board game standards. It’s a simple game, but the biggest hurdle faced by board game publishers is getting people to learn the rules.

“People love playing board games but hate learning them,” said Mark Kaufman, co-founder of Days of Wonder, which publishes Ticket To Ride. Last year, his company released iPhone and iPad versions of Ticket To Ride.

The iPad version takes care of the mechanics of the game — whose turn it is, score keeping, and following the rules.

But it also has a simple wizard, which allows novice players to dive right in without looking at the rules.

“People can play it without knowing any of the rules because the game makes you follow the game path,” Kaufman explained.

To his surprise, the digital versions of the game drove sales of the physical board game. “People buy the board game because they know the rules,” he said. The company saw an uptick in sales after release of both the iPhone and iPad versions.

The digital versions have online player, so it’s always easy to find someone to play online, even in the middle of the night.

Kaufman said he used to love playing the game with his son, who has just left for college.

He still plays him online. “Somehow he manages to turn every game into a drinking game,” Kaufman said. “No difference with this.”

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Cult of Mac

Lorex Home Video Monitoring System links with Skype, has wireless monitor

One accessory category that always seems to stir up reader interest is wireless webcams. We’ve seen our share of them over the last year: the Stem Innovations iZon (US$ 129.95), the iBaby Monitor ($ 199.95), and the WiFi Baby 3G ($ 279) among others. Lorex, a manufacturer of a number of security cameras, has joined the fray with the $ 299.99 LW2031 Live Connect Home Video Monitoring System.

Design

What makes this system so different from any other webcam I’ve reviewed recently is its integration with Skype. You actually set up a Skype account for the webcam, and then make a call to that account to view your webcam feed. Most other webcams either have a way to be viewed directly through an app or have a website that you can visit to see your feed. Using Skype as an intermediary is quite smart — many people already use the app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and PC, and are familiar with the steps required to make a video phone call.

The camera itself is similar to many of the webcams that we’ve reviewed here on TUAW. It requires an external power connection (in this case, through a mini-USB port), has infrared LEDs for night viewing, and uses Wi-Fi for connectivity to the world. The camera features a fixed focus and cannot be swiveled remotely, but you can add multiple cameras to a specific installation.

That multi-camera capability means that the Lorex system comes with something that is unique among many home video monitoring systems — a wireless gateway. The gateway requires its own power plug and must be connected directly to a home router. In my testing, I connected it directly to an Apple AirPort Extreme.

Setup of the Lorex system was fairly straightforward. Once the camera and gateway were plugged in and powered up, I launched Safari and clicked the “Open all bookmarks” button. Clicking on the Bonjour (zero-configuration discovery) icon, I immediately saw the Lorex gateway appear on a list of devices. Double-clicking the gateway icon brings up a configuration website allowing you to set the time zone and Skype name of the device.

Once the configuration is complete, you can use Skype to call the gateway. The IM area at the bottom of the Skype screen shows the connection being made, and then the image appears. At first, the image is usually quite pixelated, but it clears up after a few seconds. Lorex notes that this is caused by the system configuring the bandwidth settings.

If you have more than one camera working through your Lorex gateway, the Skype instant message capability is used to switch between cameras. For instance, to switch to camera 2, you’d send the word cam2 to the gateway. Up to four cameras can be connected to one gateway.

One very cool feature of the Lorex system is the wireless monitor, a small white box roughly the size of an iPhone with a small built-in LCD screen. This can be used to switch between cameras or to watch and listen to each of the cameras. The box comes with a micro-SD card slot for capturing images that you see on the screen, perfect if you want to capture your baby’s first steps while you’re in another room or snap a photo of the dog soiling your favorite Turkish rug.

Functionality

I wasn’t particularly overwhelmed with the image provided by the Lorex camera. Even after the pixelation cleared, the images were still quite fuzzy and the colors were way off. By comparison, the much less expensive iZON camera appears much sharper and provides accurate color. If it’s any consolation, the Foscam webcam that I also have does a lousy job of matching colors — I think it’s an artifact of these cameras with infrared lighting for good night viewing.

Speaking of that infrared lighting, the Lorex cameras come with a detector that automatically turns on the lights when it gets dark. When illuminated, the infrared lights glow a dull red and they do an excellent job of lighting up the scene up to 22 feet away. The built-in microphone is very sensitive and you need to be sure that the wireless monitor (see below) is far enough away that you don’t experience feedback.

The response time of the Lorex camera through Skype was excellent, registering motion with almost no lag. The iZON has a tremendous lag of about 15 seconds, and the Foscam webcam shows about a 1 or 2 second lag.

The wireless monitor is a nice feature, but seems redundant in this day of smartphone and tablet ubiquity. Why have yet another device to carry around, charge, and possibly lose? I was able to connect flawlessly with the webcam using Skype for iPad, but was unable to connect with the iPhone Skype app over Wi-Fi. It worked great over 3G, which is fine since that’s a common use scenario.

One feature I like about the cameras is that they contain their own battery and can therefore survive a short power outage or even be moved to a location away from a power outlet for brief periods.

Conclusion

While the Lorex Live Connect Home Video Monitoring System is quite a bit more expensive than other systems I’ve tested for TUAW, it’s also the most expandable and the only system that includes a separate portable monitor. Setup is relatively easy and very well documented in the user manual that is packed in the box.

I was initially quite skeptical about Lorex’s use of Skype as the preferred monitoring application, but after using the system I can see where it makes sense. Rather than come up with a proprietary app that would require constant updating, using Skype as the monitor gives Lorex one less component to worry about.

I did have one minor gripe, as one of the three generic power bricks that came with the unit failed during testing. Fortunately, I’m well equipped with those adapters and was able to recover from the loss quickly.

I’d recommend the Lorex Home Video Monitoring System for anyone who needs a multiple camera setup and is already familiar with setting up and using a Skype account for video calls. While the image quality of the cameras could be better, the system provides sufficient capabilities to monitor your home, your baby or your pets whether it’s day or night.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Matias Slim One keyboard at CES

Yesterday I got a chance to chat with Steve McGowan of the Matias Corporation about one of their new products, the Slim One Keyboard. It’s a fabulous idea, really: Take the form factor of the Apple Wireless Keyboard, and give it a button in the top right that says “iPhone”. You’ve got your iPhone on a dock or syncing, and you get a text message. Hit that magical little iPhone button, and boom! Your keyboard is now bluetoothed up to your iPhone so you can reply to that text, then a second press of the iPhone button disconnects from your iPhone and your typing goes back to your computer.

If the name sounds familiar, Matias has previously made waves with their Tactile One keyboard, which uses switches like the Apple Extended Keyboard II used, so it is a very responsive (and clacky) keyboard.

You can see a demo of the Slim One Keyboard in the video below. It is available in Mac and Windows flavors for the iPhone.



TUAW – The Unofficial Apple Weblog

Apple recycling efforts expanded in France, Germany and UK

By Mikey Campbell

Published: 04:22 PM EST (01:22 PM PST)
Apple has added the iPhone and iPad to its hardware recycling initiative France, Germany and the United Kingdom, further extending its worldwide environmental green footprint campaign.

In updates to its country-specific European webpages on Friday, Apple announced the extension of a recycling program first introduced in the U.S. that allows customers to bring in used Macs, iPods, iPhones and iPads to be exchanged for store credit or cash, reports German language Apple blog Macerkopf.de (machine translation).

The expansion brings the three European countries in line with the company’s U.S. version by adding iPhones and iPads to the existing list of accepted products, which include Macs, iPods and PCs. European electronics recycler Dataserv Group will be handling intake of the used devices.

Unlike the U.S. initiative, which offers store gift cards and discounts, the European program directly deposits cash into the bank accounts of customers who recycle their used electronics.

Apple states on its website:

“Whether it’s an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC computer, working or not, we’ll take it and determine if it qualifies for reuse and has a monetary value. If it does, the amount will be credited directly into your bank account. If it doesn’t, you can recycle it responsibly through one of our free recycling programs.”

The most recent changes to the program reflect Apple’s ongoing effort to be environmentally conscious, and extends the company’s recycling efforts that began with the U.S. and Canada in 2001.

Apple currently operates free recycling programs in the U.S., Canada, Australia, parts of Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Brazil and Costa Rica. More information on rewards and availaility can be found at the company’s website.

AppleInsider

Meet the iPad’s Unlikely Cheerleader: SAP CIO Oliver Bussman

Meet the iPad’s Unlikely Cheerleader: SAP CIO Oliver Bussman

SAP’s Bussman and his iPad at Appnation Enterprise. @Cultofmac.

Oliver Bussman, CIO of SAP, makes an unlikely cheerleader for Apple’s iPad — but one who is bound to get noticed. (If you’re now picturing him in a varsity sweater shaking pom-poms, sorry).

But Bussman is unabashedly enthusiastic about Apple’s magical tablet computer.
SAP deployed some 14,000 iPads to employees last year, making the stodgy German business management software colossal the second largest corporate iPad user worldwide. (Korea Telecom handed over 30,000 to its workers).

“It’s an exciting time. The line between consumer and corporate is fading and we’ve been aggressive in regards to the iPad,” he said. “There’s a  huge opportunity to be in driver’s seat.”

Calling the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) movement “unstoppable,” Bussman spoke of his company’s internal app store which has 40 apps and Afaria, the company’s mobile device management software from Sybase, with which they can deploy services to 3,000-4,000 devices in a month.

Fresh from CES in Vegas – where he also cheered about role of the iPad in SAP – he made the remarks at San Francisco’s Appnation Enterprise keynote.

Bussman believes in employing multiple mobile devices – they will start rolling out Androids soon, though he says it lags about a year behind i0S – and is excited about the overall implications for big data, mobile medical uses (his iPad presentation featured brain CAT scans) and accelerating the world of HR, thanks to the iPeople Sovanta app.

While Bussman does not foresee tablets replacing laptops for employees entirely in the near future – editing or creating complex documents like presentations or spreadsheets on the road is still too problematic – he is a firm proponent of mobile.

“Overall, a CIO has two choices: step aside…or embrace the mobile mindset, loosening policies about bring-your-own devices and bringing end users into the process.”

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Cult of Mac