Friday, March 20, 2015

Signs Point to Android Wear Supporting iOS Devices


As smartwatches become more sophisticated, they also become more enticing. Most of us have already chosen whether we play for team Android or team iOS, but thankfully it seems like that will not have to dictate which wearable we can choose. This is especially good news for those of us with iPhones: Apple only has one watch, but Android can boast several options (most of which are significantly less expensive). It’s not bad for Android either: Apple has a large piece of the mobile marketshare pie and supporting their platform means a dramatic increase in the number of potential customers (which also happens to be a population that tends to spend more money on electronics).

Hidden inside the Android Wear 4.4W firmware is a class named “AncsHandler” –for those who may not be developers, ANCS is the Apple Notification Center Service (the functionality that pushes notifications to a wearable). Of course, nothing about this tells us much about what it would look like or how it would work. It would seem logical to assume that app support would be minimal, but standard faire features like SMS messaging, email, calendars, and GPS could easily be made cross-platform.

Keep in mind that nothing official has been announced by Apple or Google, but it’s a promising sign (it would be even more exciting if the Apple Watch does the same thing for Android, but I’m not holding my breath just yet). Either way, smartwatch manufacturers (including high-end watch makers like Tag Heuer) are likely keeping a close eye on this news… not being locked down to a particular platform is a valuable asset.

Signs Point to Android Wear Supporting iOS Devices is a post from: Good e-Reader

New Zealanders Might Soon Have to Pay GST on e-Books


New Zealand residents do not have to pay the local 20% GST on digital purchases, such as e-books. This might change as Prime Minister John Key announced that his government is looking into forcing overseas companies selling online content to pay the GST.

The primary reason why this is becoming a big issue is because recently Netflix announced it would not be charging tax because it was not a local entity. This is a blow to the rival Kiwi streaming service Lightbox that is forced to pay tax, therefore charge more money.

The NZ government is looking into the viability of starting an online service that will force publishers to apply for a GST account and make quarterly payments, based on the content that is sold. How this might affect companies that sell content in apps, such as digital newspapers, magazines and music remains to be seen.

New Zealanders Might Soon Have to Pay GST on e-Books is a post from: Good e-Reader

Alice Hoffman’s First Middle Grade Novel: Reviewing Nightbird

Alice Hoffman, the author of such popular books as The Dovekeepers and Practical Magic, just penned her first middle grade novel, Nightbird. As in her previous novels, Hoffman uses magical realism to explore life in a small town where one small girl lives a lonely life due to a centuries-old family curse.

You do not cross a witch. This is a fact that the Fowler family understands better than any other because a long time ago a curse was enacted upon them. Due to the curse, the family withdrew as much as possible from society, away from prying eyes. Twig Fowler is a lover of climbing. She loves nature, acting and her family. More than anything, Twig wants a friend. But life is not easy for the Fowlers, for what would the town's people do if they found out that what they think of as "the Sidwell monster" is actually Twig's big brother?

When new neighbors move into the vacant cottage next door, life gets more complicated. Twig struggles with wanting to be friends with Julia and knowing it's against the rules. Not only is this family a threat to the Fowler's isolation, but they are ancestors of Agnes Early, the witch who cursed the family so long ago. But what if the curse could be broken? What if there's more to the story of Agnes Early and Lowell Fowler, the long ago ill-fated sweethearts?

This was a very sweet read. Twig is a wonderful character who has a lot to deal with for one so young. She learned to keep secrets long ago and repress her desire to make friends and be well liked. Any child who has felt isolated by his peers will recognize the yearning Twig feels. I enjoyed that there was no bad guy. It gets difficult to read books where one character is blatantly bad. Instead Nightbird concentrates on misunderstandings. People in the town of Sidwell are well-meaning and the reader gets the sense of small town living.

CaptureThis is the perfect book for Middle Schoolers and a great companion to spring/summer reading lists! Hopefully Alice Hoffman continues writing for children because her first attempt was a beautiful addition to children's literature.


Kristin Milks is a Collection Analyst with OverDrive

PressReader Offers Free Forbes Daily, Kobo eReaders

PressReader, one of the industry leaders in the all-you-can-read digital magazine and newspaper space, launched two new initiatives this week that will provide free incentives to subscribers for a limited time.

The first is the announcement of a joint offer through some of PressReader‘s  content partners, and that’s the free Kobo ereader with the purchase of an 18-month subscription to one of a handful of news titles. The free Kobo Arc 7 Android tablet is suited for this type of daily reading habit, and it available to new subscribers of any of the following digital newspapers: The National Post, The Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, The Star Phoenix, Regina Leader Post, Windsor Star, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, The Province, or The Vancouver Sun.

The second announcement was the offer of a free read of the Forbes Daily replica edition, available to all consumers via the PressReader website or its app between now and April 30th. This daily edition contains business news and associated political interest news. Users will also be able to access back issues during that time, as well as comment on many of the articles.

This news came after the announcement earlier this week that PressReader is adding thirty additional titles to its catalog of nearly four thousand publications. While PressReader is a platform that powers public libraries’ digital periodical lending, as well as other service industries like in-room digital newspapers for the hospitality industry, there are individual user-based plans for subscribing to specific titles.

PressReader Offers Free Forbes Daily, Kobo eReaders is a post from: Good e-Reader

Piper: Learning electronics with Minecraft

At Raspberry Pi, we’re interested in many of the different ways that computers and education converge. To hear more about a new approach, I’ve invited Mark Pavlyukovskyy to write about his project, Piper, which you can find on Kickstarter now. Here’s Mark:

I was a junior in college when I first heard about the Raspberry Pi. It seemed miraculous that you could have a full Linux board, that could run off of your phone charger, that cost only $35. While I imagined hundreds of different projects that I would want to make with the Pi, I realized that at such a low price point, the board would be perfect for giving kids in all over the world a way to hack and play with technology. It could democratize who had access to creating with technology.


My first project was to add peripherals like screens and keyboards to the Pi and send these cheap mini-computers to Africa and India for kids to learn about computer hardware and software. Today you can be a software developer from anywhere in the world, and I wanted to use the Pi to serve as an interactive instruction manual to let anyone get started with programming. Not only was it logistically difficult to ship dozens of black boxes with wires and electronics to different countries, but the biggest challenge was actually getting kids interested. For the majority of the students we worked with, the interface or the games we made didn’t interest them as much as putting together the pieces and seeing a working computer as a result of their efforts.

We went back to the drawing board to figure out a way to let kids not only build a computer, but to continue building and creating; to spark their curiosity and show them that they could build real things themselves. After doing dozens of workshops with schools back in the US, we found the hook that would get kids interested – Minecraft. Minecraft is a virtual building blocks game that allows kids (and adults) to create anything they want in virtual reality; even if that anything is virtual replicas of Hogwarts, the Starship from Star Wars, or the city of Beijing. And luckily for us, the Pi had a version of Minecraft that we could modify with Python. The other beauty of the Pi was the GPIO pins. These programmable input/output pins allowed us to create a modified Minecraft that kids could alter by adding their own hardware and electronics to the Pi. We could modify the game, so that once kids built the correct hardware and connected it to the pins on the Pi, the Minecraft would react in some way.

Fav 4_00000

We designed and created a storyline, where you were sending a robot to a different planet, and on the way over, his hardware was damaged, so you had to repair his hardware on the Raspberry Pi right in front of you in order to advance through the levels. In each level of the game you would have to physically build a power-up, such as a button, a switch, a row of LED lights, and these power-ups would give an advantage in the game. The switch for example opens hidden doors, while the row of LEDs serves as a proximity sensor for finding diamonds, so the closer you are to diamonds, the more lights light up.


And as we started showing this to kids, we couldn't get them to stop playing. It was really amazing how interested kids were in both the Minecraft and the hardware. For many, they had played regular Minecraft, and were fans, but modifying it by adding your own real gadgets was a novel concept, and excited them. Many kids had never built anything physical prior to Piper, and they got excited because it showed them that the in-game possibilities were endless.

We are currently creating a sandbox platform that will allow players to make their own levels and add custom hardware, and then share their creations with friends. Because as kids see the endless possibilities of what they can create in the game with Piper, we know that they will remember these lessons, and eventually see the whole world around them as full of possibilities which they can create and invent. We want Piper to inspire an entire generation to believe that they are superheroes not just in the virtual world, but in the real world too. Not to see technology as a black box that works on magic, but as something anyone can remix and create. And together with the incredible community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts like you, we can bring this vision to life! Please join us in bringing Piper to inventors and creators all over the world!

Rovio Disappointed By Declining Profits From Angry Birds Franchise


Since 2009 it has been difficult to throw a stone and not hit something branded with Angry Birds. It may have started with a single video game, but it quickly branched into a wide array of consumer products (including toys, clothing, sweets, and bedding). That said, nobody can accuse the Angry Birds developers at Rovio of lacking ambition –they are taking aim at the likes of Disney with plans for an educational playground, feature-length animated movie (due out in 2016), and a spin-off television series. Unfortunately for those plans, Rovio’s operating profit took a 73% loss last year (due in large part to their licensing business).

The original Angry birds title was among the first of its kind –using a slingshot to send birds flying like weapons through levels of physics-based game-play. After quickly becoming number 1, Rovio decided to capitalize on their new-found fame by creating (milking) sequel, after sequel, after sequel, after sequel… until even the most addicted players stopped caring. Sure it was nice to have the extra levels in titles like Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio, but eventually there were just too many to keep up with.

It also didn’t help that other game developers were watching Rovio’s early success and learning from their formula at a much higher level, instead of just copying it (though there were a few that tried that as well). Since 2009, the number of apps available has increased dramatically –and just like Angry Birds, many of the most successful titles include colourful graphics and loveable characters (not to mention level-based, addictive play).

Critics of the Angry Birds franchise are not surprised by the decline, with many calling it a one-hit wonder (that just kept repeating itself); others accuse the game of lacking the kind of sophistication that causes players to develop longer-term relationships with it.

When asked, Rovio confirms their disappointment regarding the drop in profits while noting that the upcoming movie should inspire renewed interest in merchandise sales. With the film still a year away, and the mobile world moving at faster and faster speeds (meaning there are exponentially more apps available and ready to compete all the time), that seems like a lot like trying to hit a moving target.

Rovio assures gamers that the company is also striving to build new characters that will be expanded into new games (and of course, new consumer products). What they don’t say, is whether those new games will actually be fresh and different… or more of the same. Rovio also admits to making shifts toward free-to-play games and monetizing using in-game purchases and advertising –which is a wise move, but should likely have been addressed at the height of their popularity and not on the downward slope.

There is little doubt that Angry Birds will always hold a special place in the hearts of early mobile gamers, but in the end… it’s no Super Mario.

Do you still play Angry Birds? Are you still quick to download new versions when they are released?

Rovio Disappointed By Declining Profits From Angry Birds Franchise is a post from: Good e-Reader