Monday, December 8, 2014

Microsoft Adds Value with Updates to Next Lock Screen Launcher


For those of us who have been in the tech game a while, trying to figure out how Microsoft is going to survive long term has become a bit of a party game. They seemed to miss the boat on mobile hardware (despite their desperate attempts to the contrary), and the latest version of Windows was pretty much a flop, and the face of console gaming seems to be changing… but yet, trying to imagine a world without Microsoft seems almost impossible. With this in mind, they seem to be carving out a bit of a niche with productivity and business apps for a variety of platforms: not the least of which is Next Lock Screen for Android.

Designed under the Microsoft Garage project label, Next Lock Screen is a replacement launcher and home screen for your Android-powered devices. Key features include: a view of your calendar (letting you scroll through upcoming meetings and their locations), swipe to dial (letting you effortlessly join a conference call, complete with PIN), quick app launch (giving you access to your most-used apps based on your current location), all while being able to customize the look and feel with a location-driven, dynamic background.

New updates to the app have improved performance, added weather information for your location, increased compatibility with devices and Android versions, and added the ability to hide the system status bar.

What it adds up to, is an alternative launcher that is feature-rich without sacrificing performance.

Thankfully Microsoft Next Launch Screen remains free to download, so grab it while you can (and before they realize it has value).

Microsoft Adds Value with Updates to Next Lock Screen Launcher is a post from: Good e-Reader

Google Lessens Android Appeal, Piracy Apps Gone From Play Store


There isn’t an iOS user out there who hasn’t been attacked by an Android fanatic. It is unrestricted, they say. It is free, they say. It is so open, they say. It doesn’t come with the same strict (and unreasonable) rules that iOS does, they say. As it turns out, rising popularity has changed the game significantly… with an Android device now in novice hands more often than not. This reality has forced Google to realize that a little control over their operating system isn’t a bad thing, beginning with a tighter rein on the Play Store (making it look an awful lot more like Apple’s App Store).

Some of the recent changes are fairly harmless, like adding a page for your account that lists every app you have ever bought. Other are slightly more intrusive, like removing a selection of piracy-related apps (including: The Pirate Bay Premium, The Pirate Bay Proxy, The Pirate Bay Mirror, and the PirateApp) from the Play Store by citing violations of their content policy for intellectual property provisions. It gets worse: the developers responsible for those apps also received a policy strike that readies their accounts for suspension if there are repeated violations.

Of course, this attack against piracy shouldn’t really be much of a surprise. Earlier this year, Google added a content suggestion box to their search functionality that lets users easily buy or rent content found in their results. Around the same time, Google also made some adjustments that saw piracy sites losing rank –a move that hurt popular sites, but benefited those that were lesser-known.

Die-hards will still scream from the mountain-tops about how these changes aren’t a big deal if you are willing to jailbreak your device (or side load apps)… but many of the same things could be said for hacked iOS devices too. If you ask me, the real news is more about Google’s changing philosophy than it is about operating system capabilities.

What you won’t hear from those same people, is how Google pretty much rules the targeted ad game: selling your private information to make a little money (some of which goes to pay for patent licenses and other technologies that are required by their ‘free’ operating system).

So what bothers Android evangelists more: seeing Google implement screening processes for apps in their store, or realizing that Google being a little bit more like Apple is a necessary (and functional) evil?

Google Lessens Android Appeal, Piracy Apps Gone From Play Store is a post from: Good e-Reader

Bookbaby Discontinues Free & Standard eBook Publishing Package


BookBaby is a company that specializes in digital publishing and allows their authors to distribute their content to Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Copia, Kobo, and Scribd. The have built a large following partly because of their inexpensive and free account options. They also provide ease of use for your own e-Book files. Starting December 9th, Bookbaby will be suspending all of their free options.

Right now Bookbaby offers a free option for self-publishers if they already have their e-Book available in EPUB and MOBI formats.They will distribute it to major bookstores and take a 15% royalty. The lowest paid option they have is $99 and they will convert your digital book from a Microsoft Word document and optimize it. They also provide proofs to insure that the final product is flawless.

We have it on good authority that Bookbaby is suspending the free and $99 tier on December 9th. They are reworking their packages and likely the entry level cost will be $299. This will allow authors to keep 100% of the royalties and be able to tap into the support network Bookbaby has established and they also give discounts on cover art.

Bookbaby Discontinues Free & Standard eBook Publishing Package is a post from: Good e-Reader

Kobo Starts Selling e-Readers and e-Books in Saudi Arabia


Kobo has opened up a digital bookstore with over 4.2 million titles and started to sell their latest generation e-readers in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

Kobo is selling the Kobo Touch, Kobo Aura and Kobo H2o in 34 stores in the G.C.C. region in the Dubai Duty Free Stores, Virgin Megastores and Xcite. If you feel like forgoing the holiday crowds you can opt into purchasing them online at  Modvito, and Jado Pado.

"Digital reading continues to rise across the globe and we're thrilled to be entering G.C.C. countries to offer readers with best in class E Ink eReaders and eBookstore," said Jean-Marc Dupuis, Managing Director of EMEA, Kobo. "The Kobo Touch, Kobo Aura and Kobo Aura H2O offer different capabilities and price points, so there is definitely something for every reader. G.C.C. countries are still in the early adoption stages of reading digitally and we are pleased to lead the transformation of this market."

Kobo Starts Selling e-Readers and e-Books in Saudi Arabia is a post from: Good e-Reader

Airlines Start Adopting eBooks, Magazines and Newspapers


North American and European airlines have adopted the gate to gate use of e-readers, smartphones and tablets. One of the big problems is that your devices have to be put in airplane mode and the vast majority of of vessels do not have wireless internet access. This has prompted a number of notable companies to offer eBooks, magazines and newspapers as part of the in-flight entertainment system to fill the void.

Jetblue has partnered up HarperCollins will be providing excerpts from a selection of bestselling eBooks, and each digital sample will include buy buttons to a variety of retailers. Excerpted titles include Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, and Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James Dean.

Jetblue has also established a relationship with Time Inc, and passengers will have the option to buy digital editions of a number of  magazines, including InStyle, Real Simple, Southern Living, Essence, Health, Travel + Leisure, People en EspaƱol and Golf when they use JetBlue's free WiFi.

China Southern is the largest airline in Asia by fleet size and the fifth largest airline in the world by number of passengers. They have adopted a new Android platform that allows customers to buy and read e-Books right in the in-flight entertainment system. Virgin also offers an eBook delivery service in the form of Virgin Red.

e-Books are not the only digital content to be embraced on airplanes and the airports themselves. Newspaper and Magazine company PressReader offers their content in Virgin Australia lounges, which allows guests to access over 2,000 publications. They have also ironed out an agreement with flyDubai to have about a hundred papers available in the in-flight entertainment system to read in the air. Prior to takeoff guests can use their own devices to download thousands of issues for free and can read them whenever they want.

Some airlines have been forgoing extensive in-flight entertainment systems altogether and making digital versions for Android or iOS. Some of the most notable ones include;  BoardConnect (Lufthansa Systems on Virgin Australia, Lufthansa, Condor and El Al), eXW (Panasonic on Air Canada Rouge) and AVA (Thales on LAN).

One of the big trends that has been occurring is airlines developing their own apps to facilitate digital reading. Air France has released ‘Press’ Air France 'Press' which lets passengers download 13 newspapers and 12 magazines up to 12 hours before departure.  On a similar note, passengers on Air France's new regional carrier HOP!  are able to download the digital version of their local daily newspaper, as well as the local newspaper of another city of their choice.

Finally, All Nippon Airlines (ANA) in early 2013 introduced its 'ANA Lounge Digital Service' in its domestic lounges at 14 airports across Japan. Passengers who download the 'ANA Lounge eBook Viewer' can connect their device to access digital content ranging from magazines to manga comics, information on Japanese culture and inside tips from ANA cabin crews. Most of the content can be accessed for 3 hours after being downloaded and can only be accessed inside the ANA lounge, although select titles can be viewed outside the lounge as well.

Airlines Start Adopting eBooks, Magazines and Newspapers is a post from: Good e-Reader

Sales and Deals on Tablets and eReaders – 12/8/2014

Cyber Monday was one week ago today, but there weren’t many tablets and ereaders on sale this year. Today is Green Monday (apparently that’s a thing now too) and there’s some better deals than Cyber Monday. Tablets LG G Pad 8.3 Tablet – On sale for $179 on eBay via Newegg. Probably the best deal […]

PiWars – Cambridge Jam. With robots.

On Saturday, something rather special happened in Cambridge. Tim Richardson and Mike Horne, who run the regular CamJam, were holding a special event: a robotics Raspberry Jam, with competitions for attending teams who had built their Pis into a robot.

Eben and I were judging. Someone had parked some reindeer outside.


The Raspberry Pi robots in attendance varied from the minuscule:

To the terrifyingly large and whizzy.

Two hundred competitors and spectators turned up. I was a bit busy running around tweeting from my phone and asking penetrating judgey questions with a clipboard to take any video, but happily Matthew Manning from Raspberry Pi IV Beginners was there to cover the whole day. If you’ve ever wanted to watch a Raspberry Pi robot navigate an obstacle course full of polished pebbles and see-saws, now’s your chance.

One of the best things about working at Raspberry Pi is being able to get to know the amazing community that’s grown up around the device. The number of kids attending as competitors and as viewers on Saturday made us incredibly proud: and it was good to see some of the young people’s teams winning in the individual categories. (Big congrats especially to Team Vector, a school group who made my favourite robot in the Most Innovative section, with its modular 3d-printed case which could be altered to maximise the robot’s chances in each event; and to eight-year-old Amy, whose soldering is neater than the soldering of some people I know with much bigger hands.)

Here’s MrUkTechReviews’ video of the day’s events:

I know that more video and a podcast are on their way from the event, so this post will be updated with more as the week goes on. Mike’s also working on a complete table of times and winners, which will likely go live on Wednesday; we’ll add a link when it’s up. Enormous thanks to Mike, Tim and all the team of Jam Makers for making this event go off with a real bang.

If you’re looking to take part in something like this yourself, check out the Raspberry Jam page, where you’ll find details on upcoming Jams across the world (there are usually fewer in December than there are in other months because of that thing with the tree and the turkey that happens at the end of the month), and information on how to set up your own. We hope to see you at one soon!

How Kobo Leverages their Biggest Fans to Make Firmware Better


Kobo is an anomaly in the e-reader world because they perfectly blend ease of use, for the general public and super advanced options for the hardcore readers. The Toronto based company simply did not get to this point overnight and unlike their competition, they frequently speak with the general public, programmers and beta testers.

If you have ever used a Kobo e-reader, likely you are familiar with the ability to change the type of font you want your e-Book to use. Advanced users know that if you are not happy with the stock fronts that the e-readers employ, there is a special directory where you can upload your own. Its these types of options that makes the Kobo brand especially appealing to a broad audience.

The first Kobo e-reader came out in March 2010 and by September their lead programming team had established themselves on the MobileRead forums. If you have never heard of this website before, it is basically an online community where folks from all over the world congregate to talk about the latest news and share tips with each other. The Kobo team has been leveraging this community in order to solicit feedback on ideas they have for future firmware updates. Hardcore users can also talk directly to some of the senior programmers to give their take on new coding conventions or to present comprehensive analysis on problems they see with existing firmware, or just to give advice on how to make the software better.  The Kobo team also uses the people who contribute great ideas to test the functionality of the firmware, as its been developed, so all of the bugs can be worked out.

Kobo has an ulterior motive with crowd-sourcing ideas and suggestions to improve their product.  Their programming team is smaller than Amazon and Barnes and Noble and they rely less on focus groups, saving them money. This assists them in lowering company costs in this specific department so they can focus more on promoting the product and international expansion.

The global e-Book market  is big business and has recently been valued at $14.5 billion dollars and is expected to reach more than $22 billion by 2017. Amazon controls roughly 70% of the North American and European digital book sales, while Kobo is sitting pretty in second place.

How Kobo Leverages their Biggest Fans to Make Firmware Better is a post from: Good e-Reader