The race for the Chromebook market is on


Microsoft, it seems, is ready to start a war for the nacent Chromebook market. The Verge reports that there is rumours of a sub $200 laptop (basically the same design that HP uses for their Chromebooks) but running Windows 8 and using Microsoft OneDrive  for cloud storage. No release date yet.

At that price, Microsoft must be willing to “give away” their Operating System in exchange for OneDrive customers. If it works for Google, can it also work for Microsoft?  Also, how much is HP getting out of this deal, seems like there not much margin to around for everyone, does it?

XBMC changes name to Kodi

kodi-splash-600x336I heard the news today that our beloved XBMC, a program that any geek worth his salt has installed on his pc, laptop, Raspberry Pi, AppleTV, or Media Center PC has changed its name to Kodi. Apparently the switch responds to a couple of issues:

  1. The original name made reference to Xbox, a platform which is not really supported anymore by the software, and also made reference to Media Center, which the software has now outgrown as plugins have turned it into a more open entertainment platform.
  2. Kodi is a name which can be registered as a trademark and defended in case somebody tries to steal it or sue over the rights.

It’s going to be a weird getting used to the new name, but I can understand why they’re changing the name. I’m happy the project is still strong and being actively developed on so many different platforms. I use it daily at work and at home.

Read the official XBMC post about the name change here.

Sierra could be coming back


For those of us who were fans of King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and Hero’s Quest, here are some great news. The Verge has just reported that  Activision has readied a 13 second video of Sierra (the kind that you are forced to watch right before you start playing the game) for Gamescon in Germany. This could mean that Sierra could be making a comeback with some modern tech adventure games. I, for one, am keeping my fingers crossed.

WordPress for iPad

I’ve been using all sorts of tools to write on this blog. I think part of the appeal of having my very own blog is that I can try a whole bunch of different things here. I don’t use this blog very much like regular people use their blogs: to share ideas about this that and the other thing. I also don’t use the regular tools to write on this blog either. I use my phone, my iPad, different software tools, netbooks, etc.

Today, however, I’m using a tool that was built for writing on my blog: WordPress for iPad. I’m also using a bluetooth keyboard, which makes the task tons more enjoyable.

20120809-072416 p.m..jpgThe WordPress app for iOS looks nice enough. There’s a left-hand column where you can choose if you’d like to see a list of your posts, pages or comments. Selecting posts shows a list of all the posts on the blog… there’s no apparent order to the posts though, which is a bit of a pain in the rear if you have a bunch of posts. There’s also no obvious way to change the order. It would be very useful to have your posts ordered chronologically, for example.

The post editor is very simple. It has what you’d expect, a bunch of buttons to give your post a bit of formatting: Blod, Italic, Quote, Links, Ordered and Unordered lists, code, and more. There’s also buttons for adding video and pictures right from your iPad’s camera or from the camera roll. All in all it’s a pretty good app, except for the ordering thing, and also the fact that there’s no apparent way to save post for later editing, or to make time-differed post.

The only only two ways to get out of the editor are Cancel or Publish. Which is a shame because WordPress on the web has so many wonderful features that somehow never made it tot he iOS app. With that in mind, I can’t say I can recommend the app. There are so many better apps for writing. I would, though, suggest that you use your favorite editor (for writing I recommend iA Writer, a superb tool for just sitting down and writing… no frills) and later, when your writing is done, copying and pasting the text into the WordPress App for publishing.

It’s also been ages since the WordPress App has been updated… maybe there’s a better blogging app out there that I’m not aware of, but until I find it, my iA Writer and WordPress combo seem like they will work rather well.

The Delicious Raspberry Pi

I don’t think there’s a product out there that has captured my imagination as much as the recent announcement of the Raspberry Pi. The product was announced a while ago, but this past Wednesday it was finally available for purchase. The demand was so great that both sites that had the product for sale went down due to overwhelming traffic.

The product itself is not revolutionary, it’s an under-powered 700Mhz ARM processor board, with 256Mb of ram, an ethernet port, a couple of USB ports, an HDMI port, a SD card slot, and an RCA jack (seriously?). What you get is a board… no casing, and you can power it via a mini USB connector. It also comes with a Fedora Linux based distribution for ARM on an SD card.

The revolutionary part of the whole thing is the price. At $35.00, it has made every geek out there turn their heads. Suddenly every little do-it-yourself project that you’d dismissed as being to expensive to carry out comes to mind as a possibility. Quiet media-center boxes, cheap bittorent boxes, printer servers, file servers, routers, home automation boxes, robotic controllers, manufacturing automation and control, weather stations, etc.

It’s basically a tinkerer’s dream come true.

In a world of snazzy (but expensive) portable devices and expensive proprietary solutions for almost any need, it’s refreshing to finally see a completely open product (so open in fact, that you can see and hook up to the guts of the computer itself to customize it to your own project) ready to be tinkered with and ready to be programmed to do your bidding.

iPads, Apple TV’s, iPhones, netbooks, etc. are all fantastic produtcs, but they don’t hold a candle to the excitement that the Raspberry Pi has created in me. I hope I’m not wrong in thinking that this little machine will be a game-changer… making embedded computing available to everyone with $35.00 and little time on their hands.

The battle of the social networks.

A new chapter in the battle of the social networks has started. Google Plus is a worthy opponent to Facebook. Out of the gate, it has captured the imagination of tech nerds everywhere, with innovative offerings, like hangouts and circles (which is a fun way to organize your friends).

Google Plus is like a cross between Twitter and Facebook, bringing new perspective to both paradigms. It has a stream which allows you to “subscribe” to other people, whether they acknowledge you or not, very similar to Twitter, but also lets you publish things to people of certain circles… which is like a superset of Facebook’s model.

Every day I’m thinking Facebook has a lot to worry about. At first I thought it would take longer for G+ to overtake Facebook… but now I think it will be sooner than later. All it will take, I think, is a killer mobile app. And if you really want to kill Facebook quicker, make the app work on iPhones, Android and BB.

The Future of Television?

AppleTVThis news item has been re-tweeted all over Twitter. Basically it talks about Apple working on a deal to get TV Programmers to line up and make their shows available to AppleTV and iTunes users for a flat $30.00 a month.

I think it’s worth noting that for quite a bit now, I have been consuming most of my television via download. Ironically I’m now more interested in watching live streaming shows on my computer than watching my favorite TV shows in my living room, because I know I can always watch those at my leisure later via bittorrent. Also, live web content is more interactive, whereas scripted television shows are designed to allow the viewer to veg-out.

Will Apple be able to get a deal going? I really hope so, because I have been an AppleTV user for a very long time now, and the convenience of having my favorite show stream or download directly to my AppleTV or my iPod rather than having to hunt for it on bittorrent, convert it to the correct formats and sync everything up is kind of a hassle.

If they do get a deal going though, I hope it will open the door for other players like Boxee to move in with their own offerings. Boxee is a fantastic product as it is, and has become my favorite way to watch TV shows on my Netbook.

Will this be the Future of Television? I doubt it. There are too many greedy players involved and already the big production houses fear that Apple has too much power when it comes to consumer entertainment. I’m certain the cable companies and network television don’t want to see their cash cows die, so they will undoubtedly try to somehow block the deal. Also, you can’t ignore the whole regionality thing either, where some content cannot be watched in certain areas… policing and or enforcing this could be a headache for the programmers.

I am all for Apple’s proposed model, but frankly I’m very skeptical that a deal will be struck.

Google Chrome OS / What me worry?

A lot has been written and speculated about Google Chrome OS, even though there is still nothing tangible. I think it’s rather funny that so many people are talking about a product that is frankly very far away from becoming a reality. Nevertheless, Google carries a lot of weight in the tech world, even if the product itself may not be that impressive to begin with (or even exist yet, as is the case with Chrome OS).

Most of the talk surrounding the topic has been around whether Windows, Apple, or Linux is in trouble because of the arrival of the new Operating System. Personally, I think none of the main operating systems are in trouble in the short term, and they will have plenty of time in the mid to long term to figure out effective strategies for net-based or rather net-optimized operating systems.

As we discussed in our latest episode of Latin Tech Talk, the trend towards computing on the cloud is clear. As the infrastructure is built and hardened to accommodate the new cloud-computing model, it becomes increasingly obvious that, in the mid to long term, the idea of turning on your computer in the morning instantly and being connected to the web (or a web-based interface) is going to come true. My wife, for instance, uses her brand new, shiny iMac pretty much exclusively for Facebook. It’s always on her screen… Firefox (I set it up for her) is constantly maximized on her screen with the Facebook interface blinking notices at her.

All these great services like Flickr, web-mail, YouTube, Hulu, GoogleDocs, Ms Office for web, are starting to give us an idea as to what the future will be like, but let’s not kid ourselves… it’s still a long way off before we ditch our desktops with their video editing software, local music libraries, video games, productivity software, etc. Why? Because we still have to figure out new models of doing all these things remotely, and seriously, the infrastructure is not quite there yet.. but.. it’s coming.

Apple and MS are the kings of the desktop at the moment. Their products are mature and the amount of things you can do with them are simply amazing, which is something that will take many years for a web or cloud based system to even match. And, when the infrastructure and new paradigms are finally feasible… there is nothing to stop you from using your desktop from taking advantage of it, plus the myriad of other things you can do with a fast local processor.

There has also been a lot of talk about the Linux community losing out because of Google’s efforts, which I think is also kind of crazy. The linux community has the most to gain from Google’s efforts because the model of working on Open Source is so drastically different from traditional development models. The development of the new OS, drivers, display layer, etc. will all be Open Source… meaning: if its proves to be a winner, there’s no stopping you from incorporating it into your distribution.

Just as Google is benefiting from using the open source kernel that is linux, plus all the great GNU and open source projects out there, all the other distributions and projects will benefit from the open software and patches Google returns to the community. I find it funny that people still think of linux distros as competitors, when in truth they turn out to be great collaborators and move the whole platform forward. In the end, users have choice, and the better executed or most popular ideas will grab hold and get implemented into all the other distros as well. It’s a very organic way of development that corporations tend to have difficulties with, but communities strive on.

This is why I think Linux, in the end, will be the biggest winner from all this. No doubt MS and Apple will come out with their own ideas and products to take advantage of the future web-world, and it will be very interesting times… but I predict the constant growth and adoption of Linux and the open model will prevail in the very long term, precisely because the model is just so disruptive.

Who knows, perhaps MS will concentrate in the future on software as a web-service, and leave the basic OS stuff to the linux crowd, or come out with it’s own MS-Linux subscription (with Chrome or Firefox as the defaut browser), and of course all the MS support your $75 a year can buy! Most likely not, but a fellow can dream, right? More likely we’ll see Windows 7, Windows 8, etc. etc. etc., each one inching more towards the MacOS and Linux model of doing things.

Apple, I think, will focus even more on elegant hardware. They have already benefited greatly from the open source community by adopting most of it’s MacOS and Safari browser from open source projects. Will there be an Apple Linux… nope… MacOSX is already as close and useful as a Linux as anything out there. Where Apple will shine is in Hardware, and that is something they know and keep pushing constantly.. they are the BMW of the computer world, and I foresee them to stay in that spot for a long time yet. And the iPhone, iPod Touch and whatever next touch-based device they come out with, based on MacOsX (Darwin Un*x) will undoubtedly create much buzz and revenue for the company and keep them positioned as the innovators of the gadget world.

All of this, however is many years into the future.. for the time being, the desktop (or laptop) is king and it will take a lot more than Chrome OS to change that.

Ubuntu 8.04 finally here

It’s here… and again it has been a pleasure to upgrade from 7.10 to 8.04. The upgrade in my aging AMD Athlon XP2400 with 512Mb of ram went flawless. Everything downloaded and installed properly. I left the process running over-night, and I was pleasantly greeted by a dialog asking me to reboot the machine to boot into the new kernel. I pressed the reboot button on the dialog and my machine rebooted without any problems at all.

Just like magic.

Everything works, all my settings from the previous installs prevail… including, I’m happy to report, all my Firefox settings and add-ins. I bring this up, because Ubuntu 8.04 now has Firefox 3 Beta5 installed.. and I’m extremely happy that the upgrade did not kill all my settings and ask me to download my plug-ins again. I’m sooo happy with the upgrade that I’m downloading the install CD as I type this to install it on my main Windows Machine and my work laptop.

It’s just a pleasure to work in Ubuntu and I just love it when things JUST WORK RIGHT!

Soon.. I’ll write up an official review of the product and the new programs that it ships with. But so far, all the older programs that I used regularly in the previous release are still there, and their newer versions work extremely well if not better than the older releases.

Yahoo live streaming Video!

I’ve been using Ustream for all my live video streaming needs. And I must say I like what they do, because they do it well. Today, however, Yahoo launched it’s uStream competitor called In order to test it out, I changed my webcam page to use Yahoo’s service… Please let me know if you see me online there… and give me your review of the image quality, sound quality, etc.

Also, if you go to my page, and you have a mic and webcam set up, you can participate and talk with me! Very cool way of making the conversation a two-way street!

See you around!