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Recommended Reading: Console Wars and inside the 9/11 museum

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.


The Rise of Nintendo: A Story in 8 Bits
by Blake J. Harris, Grantland


Nintendo has had a tough go of it lately, and now there’s a book that chronicles the battle between the company and Sega for top billing in the living rooms of the US. If you haven’t splurged for Blake J. Harris’ Console Wars just yet, there’s a lengthy excerpt from the work over at Grantland. “By 1990, Nintendo of America had sold nearly 30 million consoles, resulting in an NES in one out of every three homes,” Harris writes. Sure, there’s certainly more to be gleaned of the history from the full-length publication, but there’s more than enough to whet your appetite until you can purchase a hard copy or e-book.

A New Story Told at Ground Zero
by Leslye Davis, Alicia Desantis, Graham Roberts and Matt Ruby, The New York Times

A collection of thousands of artifacts from the tragic events of 2001 is now on display at New York City’s September 11 Memorial Museum. And thanks to The New York Times, you can take a brief interactive tour of the site from the comforts of home. “The resulting museum is the product of years of conversation among architects, designers, curators, September 11 families, psychologists and historians. Every detail has been considered, from the placement of a 58-ton steel column to the display of a woman’s shoes,” the intro reads.

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Can Apple and Beats Fix the Economics of Streaming Music?
by Kevin Roose, New York Magazine

By now you’ve likely heard some portion of the reported purchase of Beats Electronics by Apple. While views on the reason for the acquisition vary wildly, one question could prove to matter a great deal: Can the combined powers figure out a way to make money from music streaming? Kevin Roose writes, “if Apple used its heft and music-industry relationships to turn Beats Music into a sustainable streaming service that could make money while paying artists, it would be a nice side effect of the deal.”

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Google and Facebook’s Fight for the Future of Tech
by Brad Stone, Bloomberg Businessweek

It’s no secret that both Google and Facebook have been on quite the spending spree as of late. While not all of the purchases may be as flashy as Nest or Oculus, drone companies and more are being nabbed up for the next wave of innovation. But the moves are not without calculation. “Zuckerberg and Page have a powerful example of what it means to not move with speed and aggression to try to lock up new technologies,” Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Stone notes.

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Steve Ballmer on Life, Golf, Basketball — and Microsoft
by Shira Ovide, Wall Street Journal

As many newly retired folks do, Steve Ballmer has spent some time playing golf after his departure from Microsoft. He’s also toying with the idea of buying the Los Angeles Clippers, a professional basketball franchise. Shira Ovide of the Wall Street Journal sat down with Ballmer to chat about all of those things. And, yeah, they talk about Microsoft, too.


[Image credit: rapapu/Flickr]

Filed under: Misc



TED founder thinks big data needs a big makeover

Richard Saul Wurman isn’t a fan of President Barack Obama’s push for, an online repository for big data. “That’s just politicians talking,” the 79-year-old TED (technology, entertainment, design) conference founder told me. “I think there will be a pushback saying, ‘We don’t understand all this fucking data.’” The way Wurman sees it, that bulk collection of raw information has no value without a creative means of diagramming, mapping and comparing it all in a way that gives it meaning. “[You] have to have it in a form that you can understand. They’re leaving that step out,” he said. It’s that approach to the organization of data that has directly informed the creation of Wurman’s high-tech information-mapping project, Urban Observatory.

“He thinks big data is bullshit; it’s like [carbon] atoms. You could either make a nuclear bomb or a bouquet of flowers with them. It’s not helpful,” said Dan Klyn, co-founder of Michigan-based information-architecture firm The Understanding Group and Wurman’s biographer. “Some of the rah-rah-rah about big data is how precise and accurate it is,” he said. “Precision and accuracy are not in a causal relationship with understanding.”

I recently listened to Wurman (pictured lower-left) give a keynote speech at West Michigan Design Week and here’s what I learned: Earth’s largest mammal, the blue whale, has a tongue the size of a school bus; it has a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle and an aorta that’s big enough to swim through. Speaking of the VW Beetle, the first one rolled off the assembly line around the same time as the first Toyota, which, incidentally, happens to be around when Germany allied with Japan to form the Axis Powers. Oh, and that’s the same time frame during which radar was invented. It’s this type of instant association, linking data to other relevant bits of data, that Wurman finds more useful than simply telling someone that the blue whale’s heart weighs 1,300 pounds.

That need for data comprehension is the driving force behind Wurman’s ambitious Urban Observatory project. And what’s more, it’s actually an extension of something he thought of more than 40 years ago when he edited a 1971 issue of Minnesota’s Walker Art Museum publication Design Quarterly. Wurman’s idea at the time was to create a museum-like exhibit that would allow anyone to learn about and understand the makeup of different cities around the world based on a common set of comparable data. It wasn’t until last year, however, that available technology finally caught up with his vision and Wurman could launch the project.

Wurman’s idea was to create a museum-like exhibit that would allow anyone to learn about the makeup of different cities around the world based on a common set of comparable data.

Urban Observatory is a joint effort including Wurman, Jon Kamen from Radical Media (the production house responsible for Mad Men‘s pilot episode) and Jack Dangermond of Esri, a geographic information system (GIS) giant. It aims to make the world’s wealth of city data both useful and interactive. By design, the system divides available data into five big categories (i.e., work, movement, people, public and systems), plus a handful of sub-categories. It then transforms digital map-related jargon, like georeferencing and clips, into information that anyone could understand.

The key to Urban Observatory, Wurman told me, is that everything stays on the same scale at the same time — something its founders claim hasn’t been done before. Let’s say, for example, a new job meant you had the choice of moving anywhere in the world, and you wanted to find an area where your kids would have the best chances of making new friends. By referencing Urban Observatory, a user would be able to look at a map of Los Angeles and see which neighborhood has the highest youth population density. Zooming in even deeper into a specific neighborhood would trigger comparison maps of other cities you’ve selected to scale accordingly. It’s a function Wurman believes will allow users to make an informed apples-to-apples comparison. You’ll even be able to map how far it is to get to a park from any point, in any city. “It’s amazing how different the cities are [for that],” Wurman told me.

Comparing London’s and New York’s urban sprawl

Future updates to Urban Observatory’s data set are limited only by what a city is willing to provide, which, it turns out, is surprisingly little. “If given the choice, a bureaucrat will keep things private,” Wurman said. “It’s a struggle getting information. That’s why we only have the cities we have.” His partner Dangermond has most, if not all, of the relevant GIS data (e.g., information about landfill locations, coastal development and agricultural expansion) at his fingertips, but can’t make use of it unless local governments give the green light.

A non-interactive prototype of the Urban Observatory project made its debut at the Esri user conference last year in San Diego with datasets from 10 major cities including Chicago, Hamburg and Abu Dhabi. Wurman said that the number will jump to 50 cities at this year’s Esri conference in July, and then to 78 next February. The initial exhibit consisted of large LCD panels stacked three high, in a roughly 30-foot-wide arc. “It looked great and ambitious. People were wowed by it, but you couldn’t understand anything,” Wurman told me. “It was too much information to understand at one time.”

“Everything I do is something I do for myself,” Wurman said. “I don’t really give a fuck about the world; I’m just trying to understand things better.”

Which is why the installation will change when it debuts at the Smithsonian Institute come February 10th, 2015. Wurman has reduced the size down to three 15-foot-wide “pods,” each with its own interactive navigation display. In a lot of ways, it’s like the Urban Observatory’s web app, which, for now, is the only way you can fiddle with the data. “Anybody at anyplace in any city could probably afford it. Or a university can afford one and have it there and have it updated all the time from the cloud,” Wurman said. He likened the Urban Observatory to a new type of museum, one filled with ideas and information instead of physical objects; one that’s the same everywhere, at all times around the world and curated by data sitting on servers in Esri’s San Diego offices. “It’ll keep on going and getting better, but eventually it’ll reach a conclusion of something I started when I was quite young,” he said.

You might think that Wurman’s involvement with Urban Observatory, or information architecture in general, is a type of philanthropy or even a way to help the world. But that’s not the case. Wurman is nothing if not unapologetically selfish with his motives and quest for knowledge, and if someone else benefits along the way, so be it. “Everything I do is something I do for myself,” he said. “I don’t really give a fuck about the world; I’m just trying to understand things better.”

[Image credit: Esri]

Filed under: GPS, Internet



Disarm a bomb with your hand, a robot arm and Leap-motion controller

Neutralizing explosives, it turns out, is a delicate and complicated procedure — but a company called Mirror Training hopes to make it simpler. “Our company has built an interface that literally uses your own hand and arm to move a robotic arm,” announced CEO Liz Alessi. “I like to call it ‘wear your robot.’” The interface uses a Leap Motion controller to detect an arm and hand movements, allowing a bomb squad robot to directly mirror its operator’s actions. In tests, Alessi says, it has allowed operators to disarm mock-bombs twice as fast as traditional control methods.

The team showed off a prototype at a recent Leap AXLR8R event; the demo rig is a little rough around the edges, but it clearly works. The arm follows Leap-detected movement with a slight, but acceptable amount of lag, and picking up and moving objects is fairly intuitive. The demo arm was also equipped with a camera, giving users a first-person view of the action, overlaid on a nearby laptop with a virtual hand. It’s an easy to use and natural control method. Best of all, it’s plug and play: Alessi says the the system was built to existing standards, and should be compatible any existing military arm and anything built in the near future.

Filed under: Misc



Game of Thrones’ author explains why he writes with an ancient DOS computer

Game of Thrones Season 3 Premiere Red Carpet

You may have heard that Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin writes on a decades-old computer. Well, it’s (still) true: he hones his craft on a DOS-based PC running WordStar 4.0, the same technology he used when he started his fantasy series in 1991. But… why? Thanks to a sit-down with talk show host Conan O’Brien, we know. As he puts it, the ancient hardware does everything he needs in a word processor, and nothing more. Automatic spelling checks in modern software would actually get in the way; you’d get frustrated, too, if you had to watch out every time you wrote “Winterfell” or “Daenerys Targaryen.” Martin has a modern PC for everything else, but he makes a good case for using only the technology you need to get a job done. Let’s just hope he has backups — he won’t get much help if that old machine eats his Winds of Winter manuscript.

[Image credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP]

Filed under: Desktops, Misc


Via: Washington Post

Source: Team Coco (YouTube)


Yahoo updates Mail app with weather, sports, and more


Yahoo’s Mail app is receiving a fresh update with some new features.  The app will now include the ability to browse news, catch up on sports, watch videos and browse Flickr, all in the same place, without switching between apps.



Some unique features that are Android exclusive, is the ability to swipe left or right to move between your inbox, news stream, and what is happening today!  Check out the Play Store link below and let us know what you think in your comments below!

Source: Yahoo!

The post Yahoo updates Mail app with weather, sports, and more appeared first on AndroidGuys.


New chatter calls for death of Nexus line

Nexus 8 Chromium issue tracker

If you have been patiently waiting for Google to release the latest Nexus device, well, we have some “unofficially” sad news.  Renowned leaker @Evleaks has taken to Twitter with two separate tweets, one is sad, but one provides some light at the end of the tunnel.

Nexus 1 Nexus 2


We have been hearing this for awhile now, but with Evleaks backing this up, it might as well be true.  However, Android Silver looks to be a Nexus like program.  Silver is a program that requires a smartphone to adhere to certain requirements such as, pre-loaded apps and timely updates.  In return, Google would offer to help pay for advertising and in-store placements for devices.

Nothing is official until we hear it from Google, but coming from Evleaks, it just might be.  I know I am sad to see the “Nexus” go, but maybe this is opening new doors for more manufactures to create devices that can compete along side the big dogs.  Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Source: TNW

The post New chatter calls for death of Nexus line appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Android Silver coming next February?

Android Silver

Just recently we heard from Evleaks’ twitter account that the Nexus program was being put down and Android Silver was stepping in.  I’m still in a state of shock, because I loved my high end and affordable Nexus 4/5.  But now another leak from Evleaks states:

Android Silver, circa February 2015.

Ok, so let me get this straight and if I am wrong, drop me a comment.  Nexus 5 release: October 2013, if the Nexus line is really over with and Android Silver isn’t due till February 2015, we are looking at 16 months of no device release from Google.  I have definitely grown accustomed to the yearly roll outs of the Nexus line, but maybe all this waiting will pay off?

What do you think? With the Moto E and OnePlus One joining the Android lineup could we see a new era of smartphones?

Source: Evleaks Via: XDA

The post Android Silver coming next February? appeared first on AndroidGuys.


Add Apple CarPlay to your existing ride with Pioneer’s latest head units

If you’re an iPhone user who’s dying to try out the new auto-friendly CarPlay interface, but can’t quite shell out the big bucks for a new Ferrari, Pioneer has good news for you: It recently announced that all of its 2014 NEX head units will be CarPlay-compatible. Indeed, if you already purchased one of Pioneer’s five aftermarket receiver models that were released earlier this year, you too can have CarPlay with a simple firmware update that’s coming out in a few months. I had the opportunity to see this in action with a Pioneer AVIC-8000NEX installed in a Toyota Sienna a couple days ago, and it’s exactly how it would appear in a car with CarPlay already built in.

All you need to get started is to plug your iPhone (it needs to be one with a Lightning cable) to the NEX unit and the CarPlay interface will appear. Just as we saw at the Geneva Auto Show in March, CarPlay’s interface mirrors that of iOS, even right down to the app icons. You’ll get access to the features that you want most when you’re driving around — voice calls, messaging, maps and music. The latter includes your iTunes library, of course, but CarPlay will also support third-party audio apps like iHeartRadio and Spotify at launch. Interacting with apps on the Pioneer head unit is the same as with a built-in system — you can either tap the screen or hit a button to activate Siri voice commands.

Ted Cardenas, Pioneer’s VP of marketing, took me on a little drive around San Francisco to get a real-world feel for CarPlay. What surprised me the most about the experience was how Siri really comes into its own as a way to deal with your phone while in the car. As an iPhone user, I’ll admit I almost never use Siri, preferring instead to just tap, swipe and type on the touchscreen. Of course, in a car, that’s a very unwise thing to do, which makes Siri invaluable. You can play music by saying, “Play,” and then the name of a song; make calls simply by saying, “Call,” followed by the person’s name; and say, “Read unread messages,” to prompt Siri to do just that.

When you get a new message, CarPlay will temporarily mute the song you’re listening to and you’ll hear a slight, unobtrusive ping. From there, you can tap the new-message banner, at which point Siri will tell you who it’s from. To ensure safety, CarPlay will never display the full message on the screen and defaults to Siri reading it out to you. From there, you can reply to the message by saying something like, “Tell John I’m running late.”

And because Siri lets you use natural language, getting directions to a place is as easy as saying, “How do I get to,” followed by the name of your destination. Compared to most in-car systems, where you have to follow a strict voice script, like adding your city and state and having to spell out an address, Siri seems a lot more user-friendly. And because Siri is connected to your phone, you can use it for other functions too. Cardenas demonstrated that you can tap the Siri button to request reminders or ask for the latest scores of a baseball game.

There are a few important caveats, however. For one thing, Pioneer’s NEX units won’t fit in every car. Vehicles that integrate climate control with entertainment, for example, can be difficult to accommodate. Further, some cars have steering wheel buttons that can be mapped to prompt Siri, while others don’t. You’ll still be able to use the touchscreen and the buttons on the Pioneer head unit, so it’s not a total loss, but the NEX’s compatibility with your car’s selector and volume controls can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Last but not least, the Pioneer NEX receivers are not cheap. The cheapest — the AVH-4000NEX — will cost you close to $700, while the top-of-the-line AVIC-8000NEX is priced around $1,400 retail. That said, $1,400 is still a lot more affordable than getting a shiny, new luxury car from Ferrari, Mercedes or Volvo, especially if all you want is CarPlay. Pioneer tells us that if you bought a new NEX unit already, you can update it with a simple USB stick to get CarPlay, but if you wait until later in the year to get one — we’re hearing “early summer” — it’ll already be pre-installed. Until then, we suggest you peruse through the gallery above or view our hands-on below from the Geneva Auto Show to see if CarPlay is worth waiting for.



Android Silver is coming in February 2015, Nexus line will cease to Exist

android silver

Image courtesy of Android Police

Late last month, we heard the rumour that the Nexus line would be ending to make way for something called the ‘Silver’ line, from the sounds of which won’t quite have the same stock Android the Nexus devices had. Today, we’ve had our second mention of such a rumour and this time it’s from none other than leak extraordinaire, @evleaks. According to a series of tweets he sent out earlier today, the Nexus line will be ending (hence, no Nexus 6) and implies that something called Android Silver will be replacing it in February 2015.

From the sounds of these corroborating rumours, it sounds increasingly likely that this Android Silver line of devices is going to be a reality come 2015, though how closely it will resemble the Nexus device ecosystem is still up in the air. One of the more interesting assertions in these tweets is the suggestion that there will be no Nexus 6; some Chromium code earlier this week appeared to suggest the existence of not only a Nexus 6 but a Nexus 8 as well. Whatever the real truth is, we’ll be finding out sooner or later; we can always hope that an announcement is made during the Android section of the Google I/O proceedings in just over a month.

What do you think about the Android Silver devices replacing the Nexus line? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Source: Twitter (1), (2), (3)

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Likely Samsung Galaxy S5 Google Play Edition spotted getting Bluetooth SIG Certified

Samsung Galaxy S5 Google Play EditionDevices that are often on the imminent path to release have to go though Bluetooth SIG certification, so it’s not unusual to see rumoured devices passing through Bluetooth SIG’s website on their way to market. Sometimes though, it’s hard to tell exactly what the devices are as they only bear model numbers in the database, and a certain SM-G900FG has perked up everybody’s attention. It’s been suggested that this device will end up becoming the Samsung Galaxy S5 Google Play Edition that we’ve assumed is coming ever since the Galaxy S5‘s launch.

While there’s no real concrete evidence to say that this device actually is the Galaxy S5 GPe, the two corroborating facts being used are the fact that the model number for the international Galaxy S5 is SM-G600F and that the Galaxy S4 GPe tacked a “G” at the end of the international Galaxy S4′s model number (i.e. SM-I9505G). The release of the Galaxy S5 GPe will likely be good news for those Android enthusiasts who are yet again disappointed by the bloated TouchWiz UI but want the hardware prowess under the hood.

Would you buy the Samsung Galaxy S5 Google Play Edition if/when it is released? Let us know your opinion in the comments.

Source: Bluetooth SIG via SamMobile

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