Talks About Tech Weekly 112: First Digital Youth Council Meeting 2014

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Tech To Help You Get Back To School

Yes, it’s that time of the year Back_To_School_!!!_(165920274)again when everybody is going back to school. But going to school today has vastly changed from 20 years ago or even just a few years ago. Technology has played a vital role in that change and as a result, today I’m going to share with you some of my recommended technology for going back to school.

1. USB Stick – It might seem like a given in todays society but keeping a USB key on your keychain could be a life saver and with prices dropping all the time you can get very high storage at a very low cost. My recommendation is this Kingston 32GB key for only £9.

2. Phone Battery Charger – I use my phone in school all the time. It’s a great calender tool, social media device, scanner, voice recorder and so much more but that takes a huge toll on the battery. I found a really cool 3000mAh battery that will fit in your pocket or your bag so that you can charge your phone at any time without the need for a mains socket. At only £14 the Anker Astro Mini is a steal and a must for a heavy smartphone user.

3. Headphones – If you are a music fanatic a good set of cans is really important. They need to be comfortable for long periods of study and sound great but at an affordable price. My favourite headphones for the price at the moment are Sennheiser HD201. They fit over your ears for great comfort and have large drivers making them a great sounding headphone. For £18 on Amazon now they are a must have.

4. Earphones – If you need something a little bit more discreet for your daily commute to and from school maybe these ME Electronics M6 earphones could be a great option. I have had a pair for a while now and I was so happy with them that I bought two other pairs.

5. Phone – A phone is possibly the most important technology device for a student. It is small enough to fit in their pocket and powerful enough to do tasks that many PC’s struggle with. As a student you want to look for the best phone at the best price possible. My favourite Android phones at the moment are the offerings from Motorola. The Moto E is a very powerful phone with a 4.3 inch display and dual core processor but only costs £90 on Amazon right now. If you’re looking for something with a slightly larger screen, better camera and processor then the Moto G is a great option. The 4G version is available now for only £155.

6. Tablet – eBooks are becoming a very popular platform for books in schools but they can be very costly. An iPad costs upwards of €400 but there are some great options from Android too. The Google Nexus 7 is a great tablet in a compact package and for the price you can’t beat it.

7. Laptop – A few years ago a laptop was out of the picture for most students. Cheap laptops were pretty much rubbish and the higher end laptops were far too expensive but recently Chromebooks have become very popular. They run the web based operating system ChromeBook. The idea is that all of the applications on the Chromebook are web apps and everything is stored in the cloud but you have a full sized laptop screen and keyboard. The Acer C720 is probably the best value for money at the moment. It has a 12 inch display, 2GB RAM and 16GB storage but don’t let that put you off because Chrome OS does not need a lot of power.

First Digital Youth Council Meeting
Last Monday 25th August I attended the first Digital Youth Council meeting in the Science Gallery in Trinity College, Dublin. The council is the first of its kind in Europe and consists of 12 member who will discuss Technology in Ireland from a young persons point of view.

The members of the council are:

  • Harry McCann
  • Jack McCullen
  • Ciaran Flannagan
  • Lauren O’Reilly
  • Edel Browne
  • Cian Bohan
  • Cormac Kinsella
  • Jordan Casey
  • Emer Hickey
  • Ciara Judge
  • Sophie Healy-Thow
  • Daniel Kyne

I have had the honour of meeting all 12 of the members and I’m really excited to see what might happen at future meetings. I want to thank Harry McCann very much for inviting me to the meeting.

Amazon Buys Twitch
Twitch is the popular live streaming platform for gamers.
They started 3 years ago as a spin off of Justin.tv dedicated to gamers. Since then it has grown into a huge network of the worlds most popular gamers live streaming 24/7.

Last week Amazon bought Twitch for $970 million. It looks like Amazon wants to get a bit of the action in gaming. In 2012 they set up their own gaming studio and created a number of games for Facebook and they acquired the game Killer Instinct by Double Helix Games. You have to remember that Amazon sells loads of games every year. In fact they are one of the biggest vendors of video games in the world.

It has been reported that Google offered Twitch $1 billion earlier in the year.In a letter from the CEO of Twitch, Emmett Shear says that ‘We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.’
Twitch probably declined Google’s offer because they wanted it to be part of YouTube.

Talks About Tech Weekly 111: Tom McCarthy Nuclear Fusion Reactor

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yosemiteMac OS X Yosemite Beta
Apple have started releasing open beta’s of their up and coming releases of OS X and a few weeks ago they released the first open beta of OS X Yosemite. I got a chance to play around with it this week.

My first impressions are that this is a huge overall in the look and feel department for OS X. Apple have made many iOS 7 like appearance changes to keep a consistent look across both platforms and it looks pretty nice. Apple have done a good job to give OS X a new, fresh look although I’m a huge fan of the clean look of Mavericks. I sort of feel like Yosemite adds a little bit of clutter and certain chosen colour schemes are a little hard to read (like in the mail app for example) but it’s all in the name of design which I suppose is an adequate sacrifice.

If you are interested you can try out the Yosemite beta at: appleseed.apple.com/sp/betaprogram. I will warn you that it is a beta version of the software and is in no way a finished product so I wouldn’t recommend installing it on your main computer.

Justin.tv Shutdown
This week justin.tv posted a notice on their website saying that they had shut down the site and you will no longer be able to use it.

This comes weeks after Justin.tv announced that they were going to stop archiving live streams. It isn’t that surprising that justin.tv decided to shut down as YouTube have been interested in buying its sister company Twitch for some time. However, what is surprising is the urgency of the shutdown. They did not give any notice before hand.

The Biggest Hack Ever!
This week the New York Times reported what they called ‘The Biggest Hack Ever’. According to the article over 1.2 billion accounts were hacked, 500 million unique email addresses over 420,000 websites. The hack was from a Russian hacker group called CyberVor. Yep. CyberVor. Class name lads!

The company behind exposing the hack is the private security firm, Hold Security. However, there has been a lot of controversy with the story. It sure does seem to have a few issues.

1. If you want to find out if your details have been hacked, you must pay $120 per year subscription. Initially the company were asking for $200 per month but after complaints they decided to offer a 30 day free trial and a $120 per year subscription instead. Hold Security say that the cost is to recuperate some of the money it cost to track the hack. However, there is something wrong with a company warning people about cybercrime and then asking you to pay up.

2. The hacker group probably didn’t hack any major websites. Why? Because if that was the case Hold Security would be the first to let everyone know.

3. The data on the hack comes from hundreds of thousands of compromises over the course of months, not in one go like what was initially implied. Maybe the hack wasn’t a big as was first implied? It sure would be in Hold Security’s best interest to hype it up.

4. Possibly the strangest thing is what the hacking group appears to be doing with the account information. Nope, their not selling it on the black market for a killing; their using it to spam Twitter accounts.

All of the information for this story was from Russell Brandom’s article on The Verge at: http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/6/5973729/the-problem-with-the-new-york-times-biggest-hack-ever

Tom McCarthy Interview
I met Tom at a recent Tech Startup Galway meeting in the NUI Galway college bar. Tom is working on a nuclear fusion reactor in his shed! I was really interested at the concept so I had to have him on the show.

You can follow Tom’s progress on the project at: tommccarthyprojects.com and follow him on twiter @fusorfusion. I wish Tom the best of luck in this incredible project.

Talks About Tech Weekly 110: The Right To NOT Be Forgotten

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Samsung’s Profits Down
It’s that time of year when companies report their Q3 earnings and it’s not looking like a good one for Samsung. Profits fell 25% compared to this time last year down to $7.03 billion. Samsung are one of the largest mobile devices manufacturers in the world so why did this happen?

Firstly, there has been a decline in tablet sales recently and every tablet manufacturer has taken a hit as a result but that is only partly to blame. Samsung’s global smartphone market share has dropped from 32.3% to 25.2% in the last quarter. So why the huge sudden drop? Many analysts are leaving this up to poor quality, plastic devices in an economy where design is important to set apart from the rest of crowd. Phones such as the Nexus 5, One Plus One and handsets from Chinese manufacturers such as Huawei are simply providing better quality at a lower price point.

What does Samsung need to do? Analysts are saying a huge revamp in the look and feel of their devices rather than greater specs. People want a better overall experience rather than a better processor to boast about. Possibly a metal design with a premium touch and feel. That’s isn’t something that Samsung does well though. Samsung started out by making copies of Nokia feature phones at a really cheap price. Nothing about their phones was original and that tradition remains to this day. Maybe Samsung need to simply think outside the box (in a good way) and be a little bit innovative.

Beats Now Available From The Apple Store
This week Beats by Dr. Dre launched a new site and a new store. Now if you want to buy Beats on the website it redirects you to this Apple Store. This is after the official confirmation of Beats joining Apple. Apple posted this on their website this week to welcome Beats:

Apple Welcome Beats

Right to be Forgotten Update
In a recent letter that Google made public, Google outlined a lot of interesting and important information about the right to be forgotten in Europe.

There have been over 91,000 submissions to date asking for over 328,000 links to be removed. Just over half of the requested links have been removed. Here is a breakdown of the requests:

  • Around 17,500 requests have been made under French law, involving around 58,000 URLs.
  • Around 16,500 requests have been made under German law, involving around 57,000 URLs.
  • Around 12,000 requests have been made under UK law, involving around 44,000 URLs.
  • Around 8,000 requests have been made under Spanish law, involving around 27,000 URLs.
  • Around 7,500 requests have been made under Italian law, involving around 28,000 URLs.
  • Around 5,500 requests have been made under Dutch law, involving around 21,000 URLs.

These stats were posted in a public Google Doc that Google themselves published for transparency. This is part of recent talks with the EU commission about the Right to be Forgotten Law. It looks like there will be a few more revisions to this law made in the near future.

Kevin Bought a Canon T3i/600D
This week Kevin received a brand new camera, a Canon T3i/600D. He’s going to be using this camera mostly for videography and cinematography for upcoming video projects. Cinematographers love DSLRs because of their 30mm film like appearance. This is because of their large sensors which give great depth of field.

The 600D was a perfect choice for Kevin because it was a great combination of price to performance. We will be doing a video review on the Talks About Tech YouTube channel in the near future.

DIY LED Light
I am currently working on a DIY LED lighting panel. For a new video project that I’m working on I’m going to need some very bright lighting so I went online and bought a 10M LED strip on Amazon for under £30. Then I went to my local Woodies and bought a metal picture frame. The idea is that I cut the strips to length and stick them to the back of the picture frame. I’m currently in the process of making the light and I’ll let you know how I got on when the project is finished.

Talks About Tech Weekly 109: Harry McCann Interview

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kidtechHarry McCann is the founder and MD of KidTech, a technology courses business. Harry set up KidTech after he became a mentor at his local Coder Dojo. Most recently he has also set up the Digital Youth Council Ireland, a group of 12 influential young people in technology in Ireland.

In This Episode We Discuss:

  • Harry’s business KidTech
  • The Digital Youth Council Ireland
  • What has to be done in the classroom to teach students about technology
  • Using technology to teach in schools

Where to Find Out More About Harry:
Twitter: @KidTechCourses, @DYC2014, @TheHarryMcC

Talks About Tech Weekly 108: The Right To Be Forgotten

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This week Microsoft announced the largest-ever layoffs in the history of the company with 18,000 layoffs. This is a total of 14% of their workforce. Most of these changes will be made within the next 6 months and all layoffs will be before the next fiscal year in June 2015.

However it is not all as it seems. Included in these layoffs are half of the 25,000 employees inherited from the Nokia acquisition earlier this year.

Although it is never a good thing to see people losing their jobs the newly appointed CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella sees this as a new step for Microsoft. He says that Microsoft are still hiring in certain strategic areas and many of those let go will be offered jobs in other sectors of the company. This drastic change in Microsoft is not because of a decline in business but because of the need for a dramatic restructuring of the company.

Nadella has a very clear vision and one that I agree with for the most part. Nadella’s restructuring is focusing on cloud services such as Azure, Office 365 and OnDrive and putting less emphasis on hardware devices such as phones and surface tablets.

Apple & IBM Deal
The last time IBM and Apple formed a partnership was in 1991 with the introduction of PowerPC. Since then they haven’t exactly been friends but they are teaming up once again in the enterprise market this time.

Apple is teaming up with IBM to become one of the largest competitors in the enterprise market. As part of the deal IBM will produce apps of the iOS platform for enterprise clients allowing employees at large companies to use their much loved iPhone and iPads in the work place.

This is definitely a win for Apple who are already growing at a very rapid rate in the mobile enterprise market. IBM is also going to greatly benefit from the deal because now they can directly benefit financially from Apples success in the enterprise market. This is a great deal for both companies and a great deal for large enterprises around the globe.

Search Engines Right To Be Forgotten
Google has launched a webpage where EU citizens can request that links to information about them be taken off search results in Europe. This is in response to a new European law called “Right To Be Forgotten” which outlines that anybody has the right to remove data from the internet.

Google is one of the first companies to implement this new change and is also the biggest search engine holding 90% of all search engine searches on the internet.

To make a request a person must submit a digital copy of an official identification. Since the ruling Google have been receiving thousands of requests everyday. There were over 41,000 requests from people hoping to delete individual results that turn up for their name in the first four days.

Obviously there are many problems associated with this option that Google and other search engines are now providing in the EU. The route cause of these problems however are the vagueness of the law. The law states that anyone has the right to be forgotten but does not state the cases in which they have the right to forgotten. This then leaves the search engines to decide for themselves and produces incredible inconsistencies.

Another issue is that the EU parliament only has jurisdiction in the EU so if you access search engines outside of the EU you can get access to all of the blocked search results. I personally feel like in Europe we now have a filtered version of the internet.

Latest Apple Rumours
iPhone 6
Marques Brownlee on his YouTube channel MKBHD on July 7th put out a test of the new to-be-released iPhone 6 sapphire glass front panel. He proved that the iPhone 6 will withstand knife stabs, key scratches and even bending. Currently Apple uses Sapphire Crystal glass on the camera and home button on the iPhone 5S. It seems now like Apple will use Sapphire Crystal glass on the whole front of the phone now as well.

The rumours still stand with two new 4.7 inch and 5.5 inch versions of the phone however people are now saying that the 5.5 inch version will be launched a few months after the 4.7 inch.

Other features include a new A8 processor with battery performance enhancements, 13 megapixel camera and a 2mm thick battery with better performance especially in the 5.5 inch version.

iPad Pro
There have been some unconfirmed rumours about Apple possibly creating an iPad Pro to compete with the Microsoft Surface Pro. It will have a huge 12.9 inch display.

It would probably run a version of iOS 8 optimised for the larger display with split screen multitasking as well as a number of other features designed for the larger screen. Apple filed a patent recently for a keyboard case for the iPad which would allow the iPad Pro to be used on a desk easily similarly to the Surface Pro.There is also the possibility of a stylus which would be with the combination of that 12.9 inch display would be very good for design work. But we all know what Steve Jobs said about styluses!

There will probably be 64GB, 128GB and 256GB versions available with Apples Touch ID home button, a 2K or possibly even a 4K display, a modified version of the Apple A8 processor and a full HD front facing camera.

The thing is we are most certainly in a post PC era if we weren’t before. PC sales have seen large dips in recent times and are now beginning to level out. Tablet sales have also declined for the first time and smartphone sales are increasing very rapidly. Most people just use their smartphones to do pretty much everything they would have done on a PC before.

Talks About Tech Weekly 107: Bottle Boats

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Magnet 1Gbps Broadband
Magnet is putting 1Gbps fibre broadband into 120 apartments on the Stilorgan Rd, Blackrock, Dublin. This is part of a test that Magnet is doing to see how feasible something like this would be large scale and also what kind of interest there is nationally about the project.

The fibre will be directly fed into the apartments and will provide 1,000Mbps download and 1,000Mbps upload synchronous. This means that I could upload a HD video episode of Talks About Tech Weekly in a whopping 4 seconds as long as your server supports uploading at those speeds! For comparison, currently a HD episode of the podcast would take 4 hours to upload!

If you want to find out more about the project you can go to: magnet.ie/project-leap.

ESB & Vodafone Joint Fibre Venture
Speaking of fibre this week Vodafone and the ESB signed a €450 million deal to allow the use of ESB electricity lines to run fibre into homes. This is all part of an effort to bring fibre broadband to rural areas across Ireland. This is a particularly interesting deal for Vodafone who are benefiting greatly from the deal. The government reassessed the National Broadband Plan in April this year. They realised that they need to use private enterprise to help with the roll out. It seems like the funding they gave to Eircom for E-Fibre didn’t work out too well. Now Vodafone is getting a chance to show what they have to offer.

The speeds are looking promising. Vodafone claim speeds of 200Mbps to 1Gbps. This will also be the first time in Europe that an ISP will use the electricity cabling for internet use. This certainly beats E-Fibre with max speeds of 100Mbps because it’s running copper into the house. 50 towns and cities across Ireland and will receive the service in over 500,000 households. The first roll out will start in 2015 and is scheduled to be finished by 2018.

Carphone Warehouse Virtual Carrier
An update to the Three and O2 merger is this week Carphone Warehouse signed a deal to come onboard as a virtual carrier along with UPC to run off Three’s network infrastructure. This is a great thing for the mobile economy in Ireland as in introduces much more competition that will surely try to undercut Three’s current pricing.

The biggest question here is plan structure. The reason that I’m with Three is because I can get unlimited texts to any network and unlimited (yes truly unlimited!) internet with 4G. It really is the best deal in Ireland at the moment! If Carphone Warehouse and UPC could provide the same for less money I would definitely be willing to get on board.

My mobile strategy at the moment is to buy my smartphone unlocked. This does mean that I have to pay full price but I can put any prepaid SIM I want in my phone and get some incredibly good cellular deals on no contract. It’s worth it! I can also have as many SIM’s as I want. I could have a Vodafone SIM, Three SIM and O2 SIM and use whichever one I want. It’s really useful.

Bottle Boat – World Robotic Sailing Championship
The international bottle boat sailing championship is coming to Galway this year on September 13th 2014. Previous events were held in Austria, Portugal, Canada, Germany, Wales, France and more so this is a big event for Galway!

The objective of the competition is to create an autonomous motorboat or sailboat made from a max of 2 plastic 2 litre bottles. There will be GPS coordinates given on the day to help your boat to navigate the course.

You can check out the website for the championship here. I highly recommend that you go to the festival from September 8th – 13th.

Messing Around With The Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is an extremely powerful hobbyist computer. There are so many Raspberry Pi projects out there and I’ve always been meaning to do one of these projects myself. I decided that this week I would try out of these projects. I wanted to do a project that I could use on a daily basis. I have a very expensive Axis IP camera in the studio that streams low latency 720p HD video over the LAN.

I thought ‘what if I could do this with a webcam and a raspberry pi?’. Essentially I would be turning my webcam or any video source into an IP video source. Pretty cool, right? Well I have done the preliminary test and it has worked great. The next step is to implement this with the Raspberry Pi. I will keep you updated on my progress with this project.

Humming Board
I also came across a new Raspberry Pi competitor today called the Humming Board. It has pretty much the exact same form factor. In fact you can even use the same enclosures as the Raspberry Pi. The difference? It comes with a faster 1GHz Arm 7 processor and a completely swappable RAM slot and CPU. The pricing starts at $45 for the 512MB version and the 1GB model with a slightly faster processor costs $100. You can find out more about the HummingBoard and purchase the computer here.

CorribDigital.com
I have been working very hard for the last month setting up my new business Corrib Digital. If you are looking for someone to create and design your website for you, you can contact me at michael@corribdigital.com. My prices for a simple website with 10 hours of work are €480 and I will set up a domain name and hosting for you. If you need someone to maintain your site or you want someone to overhaul your site for you I will also do that for a very reasonable price.

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Talks About Tech Weekly 106: My Shiny Brand Spankin’ New Microphone!

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superlux e205I’m what many people would consider to be an audio geek. I can admit that I an obsessed with great audio quality. Although I make a weekly technology podcast I also record music in my studio. I can spend days perfecting a mix of song myself and Kevin record but when it comes to the podcast the most important part of the sound is the microphone. The microphone is used to capture your voice in the most accurate way possible and if it doesn’t achieve that, well…you don’t have a very good microphone.

I have used Samson Q2U (also known as the Audio Technica ATR2100) for the past year and a half or so and I loved the mic. It sounded quite good to me and it is a dynamic microphone which is better for untreated studios. Unfortunately the electronics started going on my mic and Kevins mic at the exact same time so I needed to get a new one quickly! I got on on Thomann and looked at their selection of microphones.

One of the first I came across was the Superlux E205. I needed a microphone quick and for only €39 I thought there wasn’t much to lose. There were a few issues I was aware of. Firstly, this microphone is a condensor which means that it will be much more sensitive to background noise and other noises. However, the E205 has a super cardiod pickup pattern which means that it does a much better job at background noise rejection. Although my studio isn’t treated it has a pretty nice natural sound for recording so I wasn’t too worried about bringing a large diaghram condensor microphone into the studio. I use them all the time in my music production anyway.

I ordered the microphone with a high quality oktava shock mount and a really nice metal mesh pop filter also from oktava. I plugged it in and boy does this mic sound good!

This microphone is smooth! It sounds like it was made to make your voice sound as natural and as accurate as possible. You don’t need any EQ or compression. This microphone just sounds great! Also, that background noise issue that I was a little concerned about. Not an issue. In fact it picks up less background noise than my old Samson Q2U. In comparison the Q2U sounds muffled and not very present. One of my favourite things about this mic is the proximity effect. It doesn’t really have one! It’s amazing. I can back up about a foot from the microphone and there is pretty much no volume drop-off and I can get up really close on the mic and it doesn’t get too bass heavy or muffled. This is truly a great mic and for the price of €39 I’m going to say you can’t beat it. I used to recommend the Q2U but now I’m recommending this mic! It’s brilliant. And if you need a USB version they have one of those too! Although the E205U costs about €10 more bringing it to a staggering €49 it is well worth the price and it’s still under €50! Incredible!

Now as for the accessories, their great too! I had one issue with the shock mount and that was that the stock mount that came with the microphone wasn’t long enough to go through the hole in the bottom of the shock mount. Fortunately I had a space mount from another microphone around that was long enough and I just used that. If you are looking to buy this though and you don’t have a spare extra mount you’re going to have to get one or you could buy the official superlux shock mount which unfortunately was not available when I was going to order my microphone.

The pop filter is great. It’s really small and compact and it just clips onto the shock mount very easily. The great thing about this pop filter is that it doesn’t get in the way at all like those annoying massive pop filters of yesterday. If you are recording video it will stay out of site rather than taking up your entire face in the video. The metal mesh filter does a great job of breaking up the air from your mouth. You absolutely need to use a pop filter with this mic and this one is much better than any little foam sock or other pop filter I’ve used before. Great option!

Overall this is a great microphone. It is my new go to recommendation if someone asks me what mic they should buy. It’s really cheap, super easy to get accessories for, it looks the part and most importantly it sounds amazing!

Google I/O
This Wednesday was the opening and press conference for Google’s annual developer conference I/O held every year at Moscone Centre in San Francisco. Many of the things Google announced at this years event were responses to recent announcements from Apple and Amazon but Google also some interesting new technologies too.

Android L
I was really looking forward to Android Lollipop this year but the naming team at Google got lazy and decided to call it L. That’s Ok although the new sign outside Google will just be an L sign. You can give a guess what that stands for.

One of the biggest new features of Android L is the new design language called Material Design. Material Design will run across Android phones and tablets, Chrome OS, smartwatches and the web. At the moment this design is very much in the idea stage. Google have only implemented this new design on a few apps such as the phone and calculator app but hopefully by the end of the year Google will have converted all of their apps to this new design language. This new design looks really cool as long as it doesn’t hinder functionality or hide certain features.

Android L is also introducing new performance improvements promising to bring PC-like gaming to phones and tablets and battery optimisation features. It will also integrate with Android Wear devices to authenticate your phone when it’s connected. If your Wear device is connected you don’t have to put in a passcode.

Google announced their new initiative Android One aimed at bringing high quality, affordable devices to developing countries like India.

Android Wear
Android Wear is Google’s new OS dedicated to working on wearable devices. It is designed to sync with your Android phone and when you download a new app the Android Wear version will automatically install onto the device. Notifications only display overviews or the most important notifications and information as well as from Google Now. If you get a message on your phone you will also receive it on your watch.

Android Wear will also track fitness stats such as your daily steps and heart rate if your watch supports those features.

The LG G Watch and Samsung Galaxy Gear Live are the first two Android Wear devices and are available now for $199 and the Motorola Moto 360 will go on sale later this Summer. The Moto 360 is definitely the best looking with its circular edge-to-edge design.

Android Auto
Android Auto is Googles connected car solution similar to Apple CarPlay. The system is nearly completely voice enabled and allows you to control navigation, phone calls and text messages, music and more all through the Google Now enabled voice control system.

Google already has over 40 partners for integration with this system via Open Automative Alliance launched by Google earlier this year. Developers will be able to develop apps for the car with the Android Auto SDK which will be ‘published soon’ and Android Auto will come out later this year along with the release of Android L.

Android TV
Android TV combines live TV, Android Apps and Google play services. Google have introduced a new interesting way to navigate your TV called easy searching. It is voice-enabled searching and it works way better than typing in letter-by-letter or by using a full size keyboard. You can also search using and Android Wear smartwatch. Android TV also supports Google Cast which means it will act like a Chromecast if you want.

Google also announced a number of new features to Googles $35 TV dongle. You no longer have to be connected to the same Wifi network for Chromecast to work. This means you don’t have to give someone else your wifi password for them to show something on the Chromecast. Chromecast mirroring support for phones and tablets not just your desktop chrome browser.

Google is partnering with Sony and Sharp to create Android TV enabled TV’s and Razer and Asus are going to be making gaming specific boxes. There is no date for when this is going to be available but we will definitely see this before the end of the year.

Chromebooks
The new Material Design is an attempt for Google to bring Chrome OS and Android closer to create a more unified experience between the two platforms. Android notifications and eventually Android apps will be coming to Chromebooks. Notifications feature will allow you to view an incoming call, text message and battery level notifications directly on your desktop. Vine, Flipboard and Evernote are already working on Chromebook versions of their Android apps. It is still in early development and there is no specified date for when we will see this.

Google Fit
This is Googles new platform for tracking health and fitness information. The platform will be open to developers and an SDK will be available in the coming weeks. Fit will serve as the hub for all your health and fitness data and will use data collection sensors from phones and wearable devices to provide relevant recommendations. Early partners are Noom, Nike+, Adidas, Basis, Runtastic, RunKeeper, Polar, Withings, HTC and Motorola.

CorribDigital.com
I have been working very hard for the last month setting up my new business Corrib Digital. If you are looking for someone to create and design your website for you, you can contact me at michael@corribdigital.com. My prices for a simple website with 10 hours of work are €480 and I will set up a domain name and hosting for you. If you need someone to maintain your site or you want someone to overhaul your site for you I will also do that for a very reasonable price.

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Talks About Tech Weekly 105: Amazon Fire Phone

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719px-WC-2014-BrasilIt’s one week into soccers biggest event, the World Cup. It seems like even people who are not soccer fans follow the World Cup religiously purely because of its popularity. I wouldn’t call myself a soccer fanatic or even someone who enjoys watching a game of soccer but I have seen myself watching all the big games at this years event.

It may not seem relevant to talk about the World Cup on a technology podcast but there are actually some really cool technologies being used at this years games. All of the matches and main events are being recorded in 4k. Although a 4k stream won’t be available for most games, three games including the final will be streamed in 4k and there will be a highlights video created in 4k too.

Helping me to keep track on the stats, statistics and match fixtures is the official FIFA app. I have been using this app a huge amount over the past week. It is extremely well designed and it allows me to easily look at group scores, match fixtures, team rankings and more. It also gives me a live match interface with live statistics such as score, time, possession and more during a match. It will alert me every time a match starts or finishes, whenever there is a goal and you can configure it for even more alerts if you want.

If you are trying to keep up with the World Cup this year the FIFA app is a must and it’s completely free. Highly recommended.

Amazon Fire Phone
Amazon-Fire-PhoneThis Wednesday Amazon announced their first ever phone, the Fire Phone. I remember rumours of an Amazon phone as far back as two years ago but it never seemed to come to light. The specs for this phone seem promising. A 4.7inch display, 720p display, 13-megapixel camera. These are all very decent, high end specs.

This phone isn’t about specs though. Any manufacturer can make a phone with high end specs but the experience is what really matters. Amazon have introduced quite an innovative new feature that they call dynamic perspective. Many people said that the Fire Phone would have 3D functionality. Dynamic perspective is not quite 3D but it’s a similar idea. There is a camera at each corner of the display which tracks your head as you use the phone. Dynamic perspective apps allow you to peer around the edges of the phone providing a parallax like effect. Apple have already tried to do something like this with iOS 7 but because the Fire Phone tracks your head it will probably be more effective.

The other big feature of this phone is Firefly. This app allows you to scan and identify a product to get information about it and of course buy it on Amazon if it’s available. Despite its similarities to Google Goggles it’s still pretty cool and useful although do expect to get kicked out of a shop if you use this app there to compare prices.

The Fire Phone also runs a custom skin of Android called Fire OS. It has absolutely no similarities to Android. In fact it doesn’t even have the Google Play store available. You have to rely on the Amazon App Store for all of your app needs.

This phone is priced at $199 on a 2 year contract in the U.S or $650 unlocked which is a price that competes with some of the highest end smartphones on the market now. Is the price too steep? We’ll just have to find out. If you live in the U.S you can pre-order the Fire Phone now and it is scheduled to be released in a months time.

YouTube Music Streaming Service
Rumours started a few months ago that YouTube was going to start a premium, paid music streaming service. I think we even talked about it briefly on the show. However, this week YouTube confirmed to the Financial Times that they will be launching such a service this summer. This means that YouTube will be directly competing with Spotify and other music streaming services. It seems like every company wants to get into the music streaming market these days.

An interesting thing about this service is that there will be no free subscription models. You will pay a fixed monthly price and you will be able to listen to ad free music, full albums and you will also be able to listen to music offline if you need that. The biggest question is what will happen to all of the free music available on YouTube currently. Artists use YouTube all the time to promote new albums, tours and more. YouTube say that free music currently available on YouTube will stay that way. However, YouTube have a lot of power and I’m sure that there will be a catch.

Talks About Tech Weekly 104: E3 2014

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e3primer6E3 2014, one of the biggest gaming events of the year took place last week in the Las Vegas convention centre. Although last year was the year of the next generation consoles there have been some interesting new announcements this year too.

Microsoft at E3
Microsoft took a different approach this year. Last years Microsoft presentation completely focused on the Xbox One hardware. This year they dedicated their presentation to games. These games include the Halo Master Chief Edition for all of you Halo fans, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2 and Halo 5 coming next year. People who order the Halo Master Chief Edition will also get early beta access to the Halo 5 game.

Sony at E3
Sony decided that they were going to put out some new hardware this year and it looks quite impressive. The Playstation TV is a serious competitor to the Roku, Apple TV and the newly released Amazon Fire TV but it has something else to offer. Gaming. You can play PS Vita games and PS1 games, stream PS2 and PS3 games using Playstation Now and stream PS4 games using remote play. At $99 you can’t go wrong and if you pair that with a PS4 it could be a really useful device.

Sony also released a somewhat limited edition White Playstation 4. Games included in the Playstation presentation include Entwined, InFamous First Light, Little Big Planet 3, Bloodborne, Dead Island 2, Magicka 2, Uncharted 4 and more.

Sony’s project Morpheus also made a debut at E3 this year. Project Morpheus is a competitor to the critically acclaimed Oculus Rift. Virtual Reality is looking very promising. It looks like it isn’t quite ready yet but it’s nearly there. I’m just afraid that it will turn into another gimmick like the kinect.

Nintendo at E3
Nintendo has been known in recent years to have somewhat gone out of fashion. Their latest attempt at the living room console, the WiiU, hasn’t had much success. However, this year they tried to gain back some of the old school Nintendo fans. They launched new titles such as Yoshi’s Woolly World, Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker, Super Smash Bros on the 3DS and the WiiU and Mario Maker.

 

Talks About Tech Weekly 103: Three and O2 Merger

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Telefonica-O2-logoOn this episode we talk about uber, three and o2 merger and more.

Uber Raises $1.2 Billion Funding
Uber originally started as a way to get a premium taxi from one place to another. Today Uber is the go to for low-cost black taxi services with UberX as well as premium taxi’s. You can simply find the closest taxi to you and hail it directly from the iPhone or Android app.

On Friday Uber confirmed that they have raised over $1.2 billion funding from a number of sources including Fidelity Investments, Wellington Management, BlackRock Inc, Summit Partners, Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures and Menlo Ventures. This obviously shows how many people and companies value this service.The company has also recently been valued, pre funding, at $17 billion.

This is a perfect example of how technology can be used to make services that have been around since the beginning of time more convenient and cost effective.

Three Buys O2
Talk of this deal started at this time last year but it’s only now that the acquisition has somewhat become officially official now that 02 has put up a notice on their website.

The EU Commission has now approved the acquisition which means that Three will now control 37% of of the market with over 2 million subscribers just below Vodafone with 39% and above Meteor with 20%. The EU Commission previously had issues with the acquisition due to the lack of competition but it seems like these problems have been solved.

The €850 million deal means that 02 Ireland will no longer exist and will merge with Three. Eircom has insisted that it also gets something from the deal. The EU commission gave them a permanent network-share between Meteor and Eircom’s E-mobile. Vodafone is taking Three to court to try to make the case of monopolising. They want something out of it too. As part of the deal, Three has to give some of its newly acquired spectrum to Eircom and allow 2 new virtual networks to be set up on their network.

For us this means that there will now be one less major carrier in Ireland. This means that there will be less competition and therefore potentially higher mobile services prices. I do think however, that the EU commission are doing everything they can to make sure that it doesn’t effect us negatively but only time can tell.

UPC Report on Internet in Ireland
This week UPC and Amárach Research released an interesting although slightly biased report on the internet in Ireland. Here are some of the highlights of the report:

Life Online

  • In just two years since the first UPC Report, 30% of Irish adults are now subscribing to broadband speeds of 30 Mbps or higher – compared to just 10% in 2012 – which places Ireland ahead of the EU-28 average of 18.2% for these higher speeds. 44% of Irish homes can access speeds of up to 200 Mbps.
  • Consumer spending online which currently stands at just under €6bn a year in 2014 is set to rise to almost €13bn by 2020.
  • People said that if their Internet connection was to disappear tomorrow, they would want €130 a month or up to €1,500 a year to replace this loss for them, an indication of the consumer surplus and value that people place on their Internet service.
  • 60% of parents have installed parental control software which blocks or filters certain website types.

Enterprise and Innovation

  • Irish businesses anticipate higher levels of growth through digital productivity and expect 21% of their sales to be online in 2014.
  • Ireland is far ahead of the EU average for business social media adoption and 53% of Irish firms say they are influenced by online feedback from consumers and customers.
  • 75% of Irish enterprises have websites but as many as 47,000 SMEs / SOHOs are missing out on the digital opportunity.
  • Encouragingly, 59% of businesses surveyed intend to recruit in the next 18-24 months with a strong emphasis on digital skills including analytics, programming social media and digital marketing. Over half of Irish businesses said they plan to sell to more customers outside of Ireland by using the internet over the next two years.
  • 75% of Irish enterprises have websites but as many as 47,000 SMEs / SOHOs are missing out on the digital opportunity.
  • Encouragingly, 59% of businesses surveyed intend to recruit in the next 18-24 months with a strong emphasis on digital skills including analytics, programming social media and digital marketing. Over half of Irish businesses said they plan to sell to more customers outside of Ireland by using the internet over the next two years.

The Digital Future

  • The internet economy in Ireland directly employed the full-time equivalent of 49,000 people in 2012.
  • 79,000 extra new jobs will be directly employed through the internet economy by 2020.
  • As many as 150,000 direct and indirect new jobs are forecasted from continuing digitisation by 2020.