Amazon introduces its first smartphone
The device is called, what else, the Fire Phone. It’ll be available July 25 for $199 (with a two-year contract, $649 without) and runs on AT&T’s network. Here’s some specs—it has a 4.7” 720p display, a 13-megapixel camera (with image stabilization), 2GB of RAM and is 0.35” thick and weighs 5.64 ounces with Gorilla glass on both sides…but no Bluetooth LE.
What is also offers is plenty of Amazon integration. It has a feature called Firefly that lets you scan a barcode or take a picture and shop on Amazon (it’ll even work with songs and TV shows!) but it’ll also recognize items and sends you to other sources, such as a Wikipedia entry. Fire Phone also has a much-touted 3D interface. Okay, it’s not truly 3D, but it does give you that effect on a regular screen thanks to the four infrared cameras mounted to every front corner on the phone. It’ll be interesting to see how developers play with that technology.
Nest Protect is back…and cheaper
The Protect is now only $99…but it does not include the Wave feature, which allowed users to turn the alarm off by waving their hand in front of the device. The smoke alarm was recalled in April after the company said, a “unique combination of circumstances” related to this feature could accidentally disable the alarm. Nest is now back up for sale and on store shelves for $30 less than it used to sell for (I guess that wave feature was pretty pricey 😉 ). If you already have a Nest Protect, they’re giving out $33-per-device rebates to anyone who bought one before June 15, 2014.
We’re losing tech history
Get this quote: “cloud computing is systematically throwing our software history down a memory hole.” This from Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica who wrote an interesting piece about how cloud computing is having a profound and damaging effect on recording software history. His point? Software on the cloud is constantly being updated—even if you wanted to go back and see the first version of a program, you can’t because it doesn’t exist. Only the company that owns the software would have access to preserve its own history. He’s calling on folks to document their work to preserve all the moments in cloud-computing history. Perhaps it’s because I probably should have been a librarian, but I thought this article was really fascinating. If you like culture and history, give it a read (thanks to my friend Susie, for bringing to my attention).
“Bionic pancreas” at the forefront of diabetes management
Boston University researchers have developed what is being called a “bionic pancreas.” It’s not actually a new tissue-and-tech organ. But, it is three pieces of new technology – two cell-phone sized pumps to administer insulin and glucagon, and an iPhone that connects to a glucose monitor. During the short-term experiments with both children and adults, this new type 1 diabetes solution did a better job of controlling both high and low blood sugar than conventional pumps and monitors. Researchers hope to combine the three-piece solution into on device, but in the meantime the research is ongoing, with longer trials starting soon.
Apple releases new, cheaper, iMac
The cheapest iMac you could get used to set you back $1299, but now that’s all changed for the cheaper. Apple announced a new iMac that will cost only $1099. 9to5Mac says: “The cheaper iMac features a 1.4 GHz dual-core i5 CPU, which represents a significant worsening in performance over the previous base model of iMac, which featured a processor clocked at 2.7 GHz. The CPU does Turbo Boost up to 2.7 GHz however, which does make up some of the difference.” The hard drive is also smaller at only 500GB (am I the only one who chuckles at this number? I remember the day when if you had a 50MG hard drive it was HUGE). Some are saying it’s a MacBook Air in a desktop body.
Garmin wants to help you golf better
Pencil this one in for the golfer in your life—Garmin has introduced a golf game analyzing “watch” you wear on your wrist. Called the Approach, it has lots-o-tech to help you improve your game including an accelerometer and an audio metronome, and will give you data about your swings. It also has color graphics of more than 30,000 golf courses so it can act as your virtual caddy as you play. For $399.99, it’ll set you back some, but given the cost of a good set of clubs it’s really not too bad, right? Watch for it later this month.
…and for some lighter geeky news
For STNG fans
Explore the Enterprise-D from Star Trek Next Generation at PixelTrek. It’s a virtual recreation of the Enterprise you can explore with your keyboard. You can check out private quarters, the bridge, and lots more places and angles not shown in the show. If you’ve got some time to kill (and you can use Flash on your computer), check it out.
A never ending Slinky machine
Just like it’s title says, it’s a machine that lets you watch your Slinky walk for all eternity. The creators of the Kickstarter project say the machine is, “mesmerizing, relaxing, thrilling, and aesthetically beautiful rolled into one.” I myself watch it and wonder what I could do to interrupt the motion, so clearly there is something wrong with me. Watch:
You can have your own for $58.
Forget an optical illusion, how about an audio illusion?
Gizmodo had a fun story about an audio illusion you have to hear to believe. You’ll hear a spoken sentence that sounds like complete gobbledygook after running it through a computer. After, you’ll hear the original version…and when you hear the gibberish again, it’ll sort of make sense. It’s a demonstration of, like with optical illusions, your brain uses new information to fill in the blanks.
8 ways to waterproof your gadgets
Since it’s summer and you might be out hiking, biking, boating and camping you might want some extra protection for your tech. Mashable has a list of 8 products that can help you waterproof your gadgets. Honestly, some of the cases they have here look like they might be good even if you’re only planning to hand it to your toddler, and not head out on a summer adventure. Check out the list.