Friday, November 30, 2012

Bluetooth-enabled stickers help find lost keys and cats

StickNFind sticker
The only downside is it's not waterproof, so you won't be able to find all those electronics you drop in the toilet.
(Credit: StickNFind)
You may be prone to losing things like your keys, your remote controls, or your escape-artist dog. StickNFind is raising funds to help you stick Bluetooth on all your things so you can find them without turning your house upside-down and cursing a blue streak.
StickNFind app
The app has a radar-like finding feature. (Click to enlarge.)
(Credit: StickNFind)
StickNFind stickers are equipped with Bluetooth low-energy technology. The stickers are about the size of a quarter and weigh well under an ounce. Slap a sticker on anything (or anyone) and then use the accompanying app to figure out where you put them last. Each little tag also has sound and light that can be triggered separately.
The StickNFind app can be set to work kind of like a radar or it can send you an alert when an item comes into range. You can also get a warning when an item (like Sir Fluffypants) goes out of range. The app will be available for both iOS (mostly newer iPhones and iPads) andAndroid devices that support Bluetooth Low Energy.
One of the best suggested StickNFind uses is for your luggage. No more hovering around the conveyor belt. You just wait for the app to let you know when your checked bag comes into range.
There is a bit of a Marco Polo aspect to this. The radar-style function of the app can only tell you proximity, not direction. You'll have to walk around and see where the signal gets stronger. Use this to play high-tech hide-and-seek with your cats.
Each sticker uses a replaceable watch battery. The battery life estimate is a year with 30 minutes per day of average use.
StickNFind has set an ambitious $70,000 goal on Indiegogo to put the project into full production. The early-bird pledge price for two stickers is $35. The highest pledge level is $150 for 10 stickers. It's a flexible funding campaign, so the money will go the company even if the ultimate goal isn't reached


How to create, view, update, and cancel calendar events using Siri

Complete guide to Siri commands for Calendars

Since Siri is meant to be your personal assistant, it only makes sense to have it schedule and manage your meetings and events on your iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPod touch 5, iPad 4, iPad 3, or iPad mini. Asking Siri to create a Calendar event only takes a few seconds and is much faster than creating them manually and entering all the data yourself. Whether you need Siri to schedule a meeting, tell you what's on the agenda for the day, or move an existing meeting to another time to make room for a conference call or a power nap, Siri will help make sure your schedule is set.

How to create a calendar event with Siri

If you're on the go or just want an easier way to add events to your Calendar app, Siri will happily get the job done for you. Creating an event is super simple and only takes a few seconds.
  1. Press and hold the Home button to activate Siri.
  2. Tell Siri what you'd like her to schedule. For example: "Schedule a conference call with Phil tomorrow at 9AM."
  3. Confirm the event or appointment by saying "Confirm" or tapping the button.
If there's any ambiguity about what you said, or Siri is uncertain, it will ask you to clarify. For example, if you ask to set up an appointment "tomorrow", and it's near midnight, Siri will ask you to specify the date to make sure the appointment is set up properly.
If you made a mistake or simply want to revise something immediately, instead of confirming, you can also tell Siri to "change the time", "change the title (of the appointment/event)", or simply "cancel" it entirely.

How to update a calendar event with Siri

There may be times where you'll need to make changes to existing meetings, events, or appointments. Siri can do that for you too.
  1. Press and hold the Home button to activate Siri.
  2. Tell Siri which appointment to move or cancel. For example: "Move my 4PM meeting."
  3. Siri will ask you for a new time and date.
  4. Confirm the change by saying "Confirm" or tapping the button.

How to cancel a calendar event with Siri

You can also use Siri to completely cancel a meeting or appointment.
  1. Press and hold the Home button to activate Siri.
  2. Tell Siri to cancel the appointment or meeting. For example: "Cancel my meeting with Leanna on Monday."
  3. Confirm the change by saying "Confirm" or tapping the button.
If you've got multiple meetings with someone and don't specify a specific one, Siri will ask you to confirm which meeting you'd like to cancel.

How to view and check your Calendar with Siri

  1. Press and hold the Home button to activate Siri.
  2. Ask Siri to show you your schedule. For example: "What's on my calendar for today?", "What meetings do I have scheduled this Tuesday?"
Tap the calendar widget to go directly to the appointment in the Calendar app.

How to get more help with Siri

If you still need help with setting up or using Siri with your iPhone Calendar, or any other Siri feature, head on over to our Siri Forum and ask away!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Top 5 New Features In iTunes 11: iCloud Integration, New Interface, Up Next, And More

Apple just released the long-awaited iTunes 11. After downloading, users should expect a totally redesigned version. In October, the company said that there would be a one-month delay. Little has changed over the years, but today’s new version represents a major milestone and a much needed simplification in some ways.
We have picked a few major new features in iTunes 11 to give you an idea of what you should be looking for when it comes to improvements. The general philosophy of the application remains the same: iTunes is your digital hub for all your entertainment content (music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, books…) with a store to buy, rent and download new things. It is also the iOS media and software synchronization application.


The interface is totally new with more whitespace and less UI chrome. Content comes first. Among the new features, the default view is now a grid of album arts that you can expand to reveal song listings. The left-side column is gone. You can switch back to the old artist, album, song column view just like in iTunes 10.
The iTunes Store has a new design as well, in order to share the same user experience across all devices and operating systems.


The most important improvement is a deep integration with iCloud. Users are now able to browse and stream their content much more easily than before. For example in the screenshot above, you can see that this particular user has only a few downloaded songs of the Maroon 5′s album. He can stream and download the other songs that he has already bought and buy the remaining songs without leaving his music library.
It is new paradigm that will certainly boost iTunes Store purchases as most clients usually buy individual songs instead of albums. For example, a user should be able to listen to a one-minute preview without having to search the store.
It should attract a bit of backlash as well, as clogging up the interface with a dozen of songs when you only bought one song from one artist is a lot of cluster and a hard selling technique. You can switch back to the old column view, but many users don’t change default settings.
iCloud integration built-in is a much needed improvement for video content as well, as you don’t want to keep gigabytes of HD movies and TV shows on a small SSD.


A new feature, “Up next”, is very reminiscent of the “queue” feature in Spotify. It allows you to put some tracks in a queue to play automatically after the current track, without building a playlist.
For example, after starting a track in your library, you may already know what you want to play next. With iTunes 10, you can either switch back to the application after the current song or build a playlist. Now you can just queue up the song you had in mind immediately after starting the first one.
As Spotify users will tell you, it was one of the key features that made the service popular. It is a perfect party tool as well.


The mini-player is redesigned, with the ability to search directly from the small window. You can even manage your “Up Next” queue without opening the app.


In addition to being added to the mini player, the search function has been greatly improved as well. It now has a pop-up interface that returns results for artists, albums and songs with album art for each result.
To download the new version, head over to Apple’s website.

New Skype for iOS lands in the Apple App Store, adds Microsoft account support

A new Skype 4.2 version is now available in the Apple’s App Store for all the iPhones, iPads and iPods Touch running on iOS 4.3 or later.
It adds support for Microsoft accounts and you can now chat with your Messenger, Hotmail and contacts directly from within Skype. The 4.2 version also allows you to tap and hold for edit on instant messages.
Here’s the complete changelog as provided by the developers themselves:
  • Chat with Messenger, Hotmail and contacts – sign in with and merge your Microsoft account.
  • New to Skype? Create a new account right from the app.
  • Tap and hold on instant messages to edit them.
  • Choose an emoticon while typing an instant message.
  • Animated emoticons for devices with a Retina display.
  • Edit saved phone numbers right from the dial pad.
  • Bug fixes.
You can update your Skype app right now – just head to the App store



Unlocked iPhone 5 Release Date

Apple (AAPL) has already accidentally leaked its unlocked iPhone 5 pricing and now9to5Mac’s sources say the contract-free smartphones will be available for purchase on the online store as early as Thursday night at 9 p.m. Apple retail stores are reportedly receiving stock for the unlocked iPhone 5 and will begin selling them “soon.” As previously reported, the factory unlocked GSM iPhone 5 handsets will be priced at $649 (16GB), $749 (32GB) and $849 (64GB) and will be available in white/silver and black/slate. Of course, if you didn’t already know, the CDMA iPhone 5 on Verizon (VZ) comes with its nano SIM card already unlocked9to5Mac also reports Apple Stores will make a small change to its Personal Pickup program that lets shoppers reserve devices for pickup after 10 p.m. to anytime during the day.

Microsoft Surface Pro will hit the shelves in January, starting from $899

Roughly a month after its Windows RT sibling made it to the market, Microsoft announced pricing and availability of its Surface Pro slate. The tablet will be available in January, priced at $899 for a model with 64GB of memory, and $999 for a version with 128GB built-in.
The Microsoft Surface Pro will not come bundled with a Touch or Type cover. You will have to spend some extra cash to have one of the handy covers at your service. The tablet will however, come with a Surface pen with Palm Block technology in the box.
Despite looking exactly like the Surface RT, the Pro version will offer significantly beefier hardware than its ARM relative. The upcoming slate will feature Intel’s latest generation Core i5 CPU, Mini DisplayPort, full-size USB 3.0, as well as a copy of Windows 8 Pro, which is able to run desktop software.
The display of the Surface Pro is much sweeter too. It keeps the 10.6″ diagonal and 16:9 ratio, but boasts full HD (1920×1080 pixels) resolution. If 1080p doesn’t cut it for you, the Mini DisplayPort supports external unit with a resolution up to 2560×1440 pixels.
Overall, despite being far from cheap, the Microsoft Surface Pro seems to offer a decent amount of hardware for the money.

Apple investigating 'realistic' wireless charging technology

A new patent application reveals Apple's interest in a "realistic and practical approach" to wireless power, providing over-the-air electricity to low-power devices within a distance of one meter.

Apple's interest in wireless charging technology was detailed in a new patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Wireless Power Utilization in a Local Computing Environment," it describes a system that would rely on "near-field magnetic resonance" to provide power to nearby devices.

Apple's filing notes that transferring power wirelessly has historically been successful only in fairly limited applications. Specifically, the technology requires a power source and receiver located very close to each other.

This method may be acceptable for devices that require a very small amount of electricity. But Apple says this process is not acceptable for devices that require between a few watts to hundreds of watts.

However, Apple noted that electricity can be transferred from a power source to a receiver within a "near field," or a distance a few times larger than both objects involved in the transfer. In most scenarios, this near field would be about a meter large.

"In this way, a realistic and practical approach to wireless transferring useable amounts of power over distances suitable for limited applications can be realized," the filing reads.


By adopting wireless charging technology, Apple could minimize or eliminate what it referred to as "unwieldy" existing chargers that must be plugged into the wall.

Apple's system goes one step further than the near field, and aims to improve efficiency when transferring electricity wirelessly. It would also allow a number of peripheral devices to be charged wirelessly within the near field, thanks to "cooperation" between them.

Apple's charging accessory would be able to provide electricity to a number of devices located within the near field, or "virtual charging area." Low-power devices cited by Apple include a mouse and keyboard.

The power supply transmitter could be a stand-alone device, or it could be embedded in an existing device such as a desktop or notebook computer. The transmitter could also be portable, such as a dongle that could be connected to a legacy device via a port like USB.

Peripheral devices would need to be tuned to the appropriate frequency. This would allow them to receive power from the near-field magnetic resonance (or NFMR) power supply.

"The device being brought into the range of the NFMR power supply can communicate its initial presence using a standard communication protocol such as WiFi or Bluetooth," the application reads. "However, once incorporated into the resonance circuit, the device can use a communication back channel."

Apple's application also describes the use of a "re-resonator" that would allow electricity to be wirelessly shared between multiple accessories. In one example, a Mac desktop may not be able to adequately provide power to a wireless mouse because of an obstacle interfering with the connection between the two devices.

"In this case, (the) keyboard can act as a re-resonator such that a portion of the power delivered to (the) keyboard from the NFMR power supply can be passed on by way of a re-resonator transmission unit," the filing states.

Apple's patent filing for a wireless charging system, published this week by the USPTO, was first filed by the company in November of 2010. The proposed invention is credited to Michael F. Culbert, Brett. C. Bilbrey, David I. Simon, and Peter M. Arnold.

Nexus 4 glass back could crack with temperature change

Although not a lot of people have managed to get their hands on Google’s latest and greatest smartphone, we have already started seeing some complaints from the early adopters. One of the major issues so far has been a buzzing in the earpiece that a significant number of owners are reporting.
But by far the biggest pain point is the glass back on the Nexus 4, which has an affinity to crack when the device is dropped. However, it seems that dropping may not be the only way to break the glass. It can also break with something as simple as temperature change.
One of the editors at Droid Life happened to break the back of his Nexus 4 just like that. He had been using the phone, which resulted in the back getting warm from the heat of his hand. Then when he gently placed the phone on his room temperature countertop (I’m assuming the room temperature was quite low), the glass could not bear the sudden drop in temperature, resulting in the rather enormous crack you see in the picture above.
Apparently, the Nexus 4 is not the only device suffering from this issue. The Optimus G, also manufactured by LG, also has a similar problem. Then again, Corning manufactures the glass for LG, so LG can’t take all the blame. Either ways, if you have or planning to buy a Nexus 4, it would be best to get a case for it.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 review:

A great little pocket camera

See all models 

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The good: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 offers excellent features for automatic snapshots and speedy shooting performance, and nice photo and video quality for its class.

The good: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 offers excellent features for automatic snapshots and speedy shooting performance, and nice photo and video quality for its class.
The bad: The WX50's controls might be too small for some users and its photos aren't sharp enough for pixel peepers.
The bottom line: The tiny Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 is a lot of camera for the money, with solid shooting performance, and good photo and movie quality.

These days, there's not a lot of love for small point-and-shoots that don't have long zoom lenses or big image sensors. That's understandable since a 5x zoom such as the one on the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 doesn't provide that much more range than a smartphone's fixed-lens camera, and its small sensor doesn't improve photo quality enough for enthusiasts.
However, in picture and video quality it's still better than a smartphone because of things like a bright f2.6 25mm wide-angle lens with optical image stabilization and Sony's Exmor R BSI (backside-illuminated) CMOS sensor and Bionz image processor. It doesn't have all the control you'd get from a higher-end enthusiast compact, but it's overflowing with automatic shooting options.
Shooting performance for a point-and-shoot is excellent, too, so if you want something better than your phone, but still small and light enough to take everywhere, put the SX50 on your short list.
Photo quality
With its f2.6 maximum aperture and BSI CMOS sensor, the WX50's photo quality is very good indoors and out. What's disappointing is that photos aren't very sharp, even at its lowest ISO, and they really aren't usable at full size because subjects just look soft and painterly. Basically, you won't want to do any enlarging and heavy cropping, but photos up to ISO 400 look very good and can be printed up to 13x9.
Noise reduction kicks in more at ISO 800, though, which smears details and dulls colors some. There's a noticeable increase in noise and noise reduction at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, making colors look more washed-out and subjects appear even more painterly; you'll probably want to reserve these two highest sensitivities for emergencies when you need to shoot in low-light conditions or get a faster shutter speed regardless of the results. Forget about using ISO 6400 and ISO 12800; I'm pretty sure they're included just for marketing purposes.
On the other hand, if you're shooting a stationary subject, the WX50's Handheld Twilight mode improves low-light results by reducing noise and blur from hand shake. In fact, there's a mode to help with just about every typical shortcoming of point-and-shoots. You might not be able to make huge prints or do a lot of heavy cropping, but for snapshots the results are excellent.
Part of the reason the WX50's photos are so nice is its color performance. While blues and reds may not be as accurate as other colors, they are bright and vivid. Plus, they're consistent up to ISO 800; above that, things get slightly washed out and muddy-looking. Exposure and white balance are good as well, though highlights tend to blow out. The camera does have shooting options to help with those things.
Movies captured by the WX50 are excellent as well, on par with a very good pocket video camera or high-end smartphone. The 60i frame rate and image stabilization make for some smooth movement, too. You will see some ghosting with fast-moving subjects, though, and things look a little oversharpened on occasion. It won't replace a high-end HD camcorder, but if you'd like a single device for capturing good photos and videos, this is one of the better options available. The optical zoom does work while recording (though you may hear it moving in quiet scenes), and the stereo mic is a nice extra.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Shooting performance
Editors' note: We recently updated our testing methodology to provide slightly more real-world performance information, so the results aren't necessarily comparable with previous testing. Until we're finished refining our procedures, we will not be posting comparative performance charts.
For its size and price, the WX50 is a fast performer. From off to first shot is 1.5 seconds with a shot-to-shot time of 1 second. Turning on the flash slows the camera down to 4 seconds between shots. Its shutter lag time -- how quickly a camera captures an image after the shutter-release button is pressed -- is excellent at 0.2 second in bright lighting and 0.4 second in dim conditions with less subject contrast; in very low light it goes up to 0.9 second.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
The camera's burst-shooting mode is capable of up to 10 frames per second. However, this burst shooting sets focus and exposure with the first shot, and once you've fired, you're stuck waiting for the camera to save the photos, generally a second or two per photo.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Design and features
Design is usually one of Sony's strong suits with its point-and-shoots, but it's one of this camera's few weaknesses. It's not that it's an ugly camera or it's too big and heavy; it's actually incredibly small for how powerful it is. And that's the problem: many of the controls are very small and several of them are flat and flush with the body, including the power button. Plus, the mode dial-directional pad combo is slightly frustrating to use and could accidentally move you out of your chosen shooting mode if you're not careful with your thumb.
Key specsSony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50
Price (MSRP)$199.99
Dimensions (WHD)3.8 inches by 2.1 inches by 0.8 inch
Weight (with battery and media)4.1 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder2.7-inch LCD, 640K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)5x, f2.6-6.3, 25-125mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video)JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video)4,608x3,456 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 60fps (interlaced; 24Mbps)
Image stabilization typeOptical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated lifeLithium ion rechargeable, 240 shots
Battery charged in cameraYes; via USB to AC adapter or computer
Storage mediaSD/SDHC/SDXC; Memory Stick Pro Duo; Eye-Fi Connected support
Bundled softwarePlayMemories Home (Windows); Music Transfer (Windows, Mac)
There are a couple other aspects of the design to be aware of. For Sony's 2012 Cyber-shots that use Exmor R sensors, including the WX50, the camera's battery is charged in the camera via USB. You can charge it by connecting to a computer or the included wall adapter. It's a standard Micro-USB port, so cables are easy to come by. But, if you purchase extra batteries (shot counts are good, but not great) you'll probably want to buy an external charger as well, or just plan ahead.
Like all of Sony's higher-end cameras, the DSC-WX50 has a lot of shooting options that take advantage of its fast Exmor R sensors and Bionz image processors. For those who like to leave it in auto, there are three options: Easy, Intelligent Auto, and Superior Auto. Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. Intelligent Auto picks from 10 scene types and turns on face detection, dynamic range optimization, and image stabilization. Superior Auto takes Intelligent Auto and adds three multishot modes: Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, and Backlight Correction HDR. While they all work very well, the Superior Auto mode performs best when your subject is completely still.
General shooting optionsSony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50
ISO sensitivity (full resolution)Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800
White balanceAuto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent white, Fluorescent natural white, Fluorescent day white, Incandescent, Flash, Custom
Recording modesEasy, Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program, 3D Still Image, SCN, Background Defocus, Intelligent Sweep Panorama, Movie
Focus modesMulti AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)
Macro1.9 inches (Wide); 3.3 feet (Tele)
Metering modesMulti, Center, Spot
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)10 shots
These multishot modes are also selectable as distinct modes in Scene options, along with 13 others such as Soft Skin, Gourmet, Pet, and an Underwater option for use with an optional marine housing.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
There is a Program mode if you want to take more control over your results, but you won't find any semimanual or manual shooting modes; the WX50 is really made for automatic snapshots. That said, Sony gives you a lot of extra auto shooting options, including nine picture effects such as miniature/tilt-shift, HDR, high-contrast black-and-white, 3D stills, and easy pan-and-shoot panoramas.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX50 gives great value for the money. If you can, I recommend trying it out before you buy; the controls would keep me from buying this camera because they made it less enjoyable to use. If they don't bother you, however, it's an excellent camera.