The Latest on Amazon’s Drone Delivery System

droneAfter crushing the competition and creating a new standard of online shopping, mogul retail company Amazon continues to reach new heights. To keep up with their growing sales demand (and to cut back on delivery costs), the company announced it’s looking to drones, a flying delivery device. Rather than a delivery truck stopping from house to house, these small drones carry each package, cutting back on labor, manpower, and transportation resources. Money saved by Amazon, and quicker deliveries for customers – a win-win.

But drones? The devices, which will be known as Amazon Prime Air, are the same flying robot-types used in the military, only less deadly and programed to stop at your front door. Sure it’s creepy, but is it all that inefficient? Packages will likely show up quicker, a giant truck didn’t have to travel miles to deliver a single package, and no more awkward greetings from the delivery guys.

The Timeline

In theory, one could order a package and have it delivered to their door by these robotic devices. The technology is there, all it needs is a shove (and the equipment) to get it going. Legally, however, the plan is a different story. Unmanned aircraft systems – or UAS – are illegal for commercial use. The FAA currently hosts a universal ban across the country.

Thankfully for Amazon, it doesn’t look to stay that way. Just a few weeks ago, the FAA released its plan for allowing UAS for commercial use. By September of 2015, their laws must be put into place, which is a legally bound deadline. In theory, that leaves the world less than two years of computer-delivered goods. And considering those UAS rules apply to all businesses, other companies could enlist their help as well. Pizza deliveries, car parts to stranded motorists, locating lost hikers – the possibilities rely solely on the yet-to-be-determined rules.

For now, it seems as though Amazon has a few safety issues to work out. For instance, making sure their drones don’t land on peoples’ heads. Other areas, such as timelines, battery life (the eight-chopper design takes more power to run), etc. are also being looked at. Which is why they’re happy to have the head start.

Within just a few years, however, it seems as though drone delivery systems could be a reality. Flying boxes, quicker packages, and a giant leap into futuristic technologies.

The Rise of Holiday Light Shows

houseJust a few years ago, the world was in awe as the first creative light show was set to music … at someone’s home. There was music, lights, and a steady beat that meant we couldn’t turn our eyes away. One creative family decided to put a little more effort (and pizzazz) into their regular Christmas light showings, and the idea took off like wildfire. A few news stories, millions of YouTube views, a huge increase in traffic, and now its an ongoing trend. Companies are now creating products to help make the timing easier, and businesses and commercial properties are charging fees to see their own snazzy versions. Like this one on Saks Fifth Avenue that comes with three dimensions.

Years later, and the trend doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Now folks are able to synch the music with car stereos as they drive past. (While some opt to play a local radio station.) Patterns are becoming more complex and intricate – even integrating 3D projectors, such as the video above. Lights are coming crisper and clearer, and with the right tools, they can even play to a new song by mimicking the beat. All it takes is a little know-how and the right tools to make it work.

The Equipment

In order to create your own holiday light show at home, a few pieces of equipment are needed, such as light-controlling software, a computer, speakers, extension cords, and the light controllers themselves. Depending on the size and set up, this could easily total into hundreds of dollars, though DIY equipment is also available at a smaller sum.

For those who are less electrically inclined, however, entire kits can now be purchased with everything one needs, such as channel amp controllers, software, and the instructions to make it all work. One of the more popular companies, Light-O-Rama offers these packages in varying sizes so light shows of all intensities can get a solid start.

Whether you create the light show from the ground up, or enlist in the help of a kit to get you started, there’s no doubt the neighborhood will appreciate the efforts. From small-time home shows to elaborate routines plastered on the sides of stories-high buildings, these light shows offer a technology-based bit of holiday cheer. Check out your options today to get started on this growing winter trend.

PS4 vs. Xbox One: The console wars take a new turn

Consoles

Depending on how you look at it, the game console wars just took another turn with the launch of the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One consoles.  What is even more amazing is the close and fierce competition between these two consoles in price, design, specs, and game varieties.

How do these two consoles stack up against one another?

The PS4

Playstation has always been primarily a gaming device and the PS4 stays true to the cause. The console and controller have been completely redesigned. A new controller, the Dualshock 4, comes with improved ergonomics with slightly indented trigger buttons while the analog sticks have a slightly elevated rim to keep a player’s thumb from sliding off.

PS4

Other improvements to the controller include a touchpad and a light bar. The touchpad dominates much of the middle space but is fairly responsive to touch especially for in-game navigation. A Playstation camera, sold separately, allows the console to detect the movement and depth of field in front of it via the light bar.

The PS4 comes with an additional app, the Playstation App, on both iOS and Android, which lets you carry your game beyond the big screen, on the go. You can purchase and download games for the PS4 on the move and even play from where you left off right within the app.

Some of the games you can start playing immediately you purchase the console include Killzone Shadow Fall and Call of Duty: Ghosts. The console debuts at $400.

The Xbox One

Xbox One comes in a completely new design in comparison to the previous Xbox 360. Xbox exclusives like Halo may not be motivation enough for you to purchase the console, but the added features like voice command support and motion control to the system via the Kinect will definitely make you want to reconsider your options despite the $500 price tag.

XBox One

What really sells it for Xbox One though is the fact that you can use it for more than just playing games. The machine comes with a cable port for watching your TV. What is even more interesting is the fact you don’t need to switch between the game and the TV. Simply tell ‘the One’ what you wanna watch. For instance, you can say, “Xbox, Watch ABC” and it will switch.

Other services you can access include Amazon, Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, Xbox Movies. You also no longer need to fire up services like Skype and Internet Explorer separately. These have been integrated with the One and you can pull them up onto the big screen just as fast.

The Xbox One also comes with the SmartGlass app for Android, iOS, and Windows.

Bottom Line

The question of which is better, the One or the PS4, is hard to answer when you have two big players with two big consoles. Never before has gaming had two such stand-out consoles to choose from. The Playstation 4 has the best bits gleaned from three generations of systems while the Xbox One offers much broader experiences.

The iPad Air is faster, lighter, and thinner, but I’m not getting one yet

iPad Air from Apple.com

When Tim Cook and company unveiled the new iPad Air a few weeks ago, I wanted one. The new A7 chip and the processing boost the Air was getting made it a very tempting device. Who wouldn’t want a faster iPad? I currently have the third generation iPad, so I figured this new model would leave mine in the dust. Imagine how great it would be in the art programs I have on the iPad (that I never use). I would be able to do so much more with it.

Not only is the iPad Air faster, but it is light and smaller too. Two more tempting features. While my iPad is light when compared to a laptop, lighter would really be nicer.

As much as I wanted the iPad Air I did not order one on launch day. If I had the extra money to get one, I might have made the purchase. However, the extra money is not lying around right now, and I am actually glad I didn’t order one after making a trip to the Apple Store earlier today and having the opportunity to try one out.

Was it thinner and lighter? Definitely. I could not believe how light it felt. It was almost as light a an iPad mini. It reminded me of how amazed I was at picking up the original iPad for the first time. The difference in size and weight is huge.

Next came the real question – how much faster is the new iPad? I was expecting to be blown away. To be honest, I wasn’t. Was it faster? Definitely, but it was not so much faster that I had to have it. Apps did not launch much faster than they do on my iPad. In fact, for basic use like email, browsing the Internet, typing notes, and even playing games I did not see much of a difference. I would have liked to have been able to test those art programs I mentioned, but they were not installed. Even if they were, I don’t know how much faster they would have been. I suspect they would have been more responsive, but I don’t know.

Part of my observations on the speed of the device are most likely due to many applications not being built to take advantage of the new processor. The other part has to do with the fact that email can only go so fast. By next year I suspect there will be plenty of apps made to run faster on the iPad Air, but by then it will be time for a new iPad that is even faster!

So, for me it is the third generation iPad for now. Will I get a new iPad in the future? Most likely. When? I don’t know. As long as my iPad does what I need it to I’ll probably stick with it.

Should you upgrade your iPad? That depends: If you have an original iPad, it probably would not be a bad idea. If you have an iPad 2 or later I would suggest doing what I did. Go out and try one. See if you notice a difference and if it is worth the money to upgrade for you.

How to reduce, remove, and block profanity online

word filterAs the Internet grows, the ability in which it’s used is constantly expanding. Teens, adults, and even kids of all ages are logging in and seeing what posts the net has to offer. Likewise, they’re sharing, sending, and commenting along for the world to see … whether or not their content is appropriate. Whether containing curse words, questionable photos, or suggestive text, in many areas of the net, there’s virtually no filter to weed out offensive messages. Users are free to post what they want, when they want, leaving the content for anyone to see.

So as a parent, teacher, or someone who just doesn’t appreciate reading the X-rated, what do you do? How do you filer out this inappropriate content?

Report It

On social media, content can easily be reported for being less than kosher. All users need to do is click the “report” button for the content to be sent into Twitter, Facebook, or alternative social media platform. Each post will then be reviewed and determined whether or not it should be taken down. Punishments are even given out to repeat offenders, such as limiting their log-on time or suspending them from a site.

Block It

For those with young Internet surfers, it may be a good idea to invest in blocking software, which doesn’t allow the use of certain websites without parent permission. Settings can be adjusted, based on desired freedom level and age, but the general idea is to keep kids from seeing anything too “advanced” for their years. Parents can purchase a program or subscribe to a monthly service.

This software is often found in schools or public libraries as well.

Scan It

web purifyA new way to look out for cursing or adult content comes by way of scanning. Companies like WebPurify work to check content directly from one’s web browser. By enabling the monthly service filer, users can avoid profanity from any corner of the web, thanks to an algorithm that constantly updates itself. With the service, users can block four-letter words, or a custom list of phrases, in multiple languages. Much similar to page-blocking software, WebPurify charges a monthly fee in order to keep one’s online searches curse-word free. However, the two differ in that scanning services place responsibility on the website owners to stop inappropriate content from reaching kids, not the parents or searchers.

No matter your approach to keeping the Internet clean, there are plenty of options to consider. Through the help of specialized software and workers who are dedicated to keeping sites safe, users of all backgrounds and ages can enjoy a more appropriate virtual space.

How to send your Android device’s photos to Apple iPhoto with Dropbox

android-logoA friend of mine recently got his first smartphone, and it happens to be an Android phone. He asked me how he could get his photos and video off of the phone and into iPhoto on his Mac. I had no idea, so I told him to try to connect the phone to the Mac via USB and see if it shows up in iPhoto like a camera. Unfortunately, that would be too easy and did not work.

The Dropbox solution

After researching the problem on the Internet I determined that the easiest method would be to use Dropbox and its automatic photo upload feature.

Step 1: Install Dropbox on your Mac

Before getting started you need to have a Dropbox account, if you don’t have one already. An account is free and comes with 2GB of storage (with ways to get more free storage through referrals and more). You then need to download and install Dropbox onto your Mac. The application will download automatically when you set up an account. You will need you login information when you install Dropbox on the computer.

Step 2: Install Dropbox on your Android phone and enable automatic photo uploads

Once the account is set up and Dropbox is installed on your Mac, you will want to install the Dropbox app from Google Play on your phone. Once installed on your phone, open the app and follow the steps to set it up using your account information. At one point in the setup you will be given the option to turn on the ability to automatically upload photos from your phone to Dropbox. You want to do this. There will also be an option to only enable this feature over WiFi. If you are on a limited data plan you will want to use the WiFi only option. Uploading photos uses data and you do not want to burn up your plan sending photos to Dropbox. Let the phone do this when you are connected to WiFi instead. If your plan is unlimited the choice is up to you, since you don’t have to worry about a data limit.

Once you complete this step, the phone will begin uploading the images already on your phone to your Dropbox account to a folder called Camera Uploads. It will also automatically upload any photo and video you take to Dropbox from this point forward.

Now you want to go back to your Mac and open your Dropbox folder . The easiest way to do this is to go to the Dropbox icon in your menu bar and click “Dropbox Folder.” The folder will open and you should notice a folder called Camera Uploads. This is the same folder that the phone is not loading your photos and videos into. If you open it you should see all of you content appearing.

dropbox

Step 3: Add your photos to iPhoto

Now you have to get those photos into iPhoto. To do this make sure you are in the Dropbox folder. Drag and drop the Camera Uploads folder to iPhoto in your dock. All of the content in the folder will be placed into an event in iPhoto and you are free to edit and share from iPhoto.

Step 4: Manage your limited Dropbox space

There is one final and important step. Your Dropbox account is not unlimited storage. You want to empty the Camera Uploads folder each time you import into iPhoto and free up that space. To do this open your Camera Uploads folder and choose “Select All” from the Edit menu. Next choose “Move to Trash” from the File menu. At some point you will want to empty the trash, but that is not required right now. This will empty the folder and free up that space. Keep in mind that this only deletes the photos from your Dropbox account. It does not delete them off the phone.

If you followed these steps correctly you are set and able to take photos and video off your Android phone and import them into iPhoto thanks to some help from Dropbox.

Should We Save the Optical Drive?

disc drivesIt’s nothing new to hear that Apple’s latest MacBook models come without a disc drive. They’re sleeker and thinner, and leaving out the “dated” technology allowed the company to pack in more features in less computer. They first did it with the MacBook Air in 2008, and with soaring sales, it’s likely the company didn’t see much of a draw back.

And because few people actually need their disc drive on a regular basis, computer engineers argue that the change is simply moving with the times. Games and CDs now come with digital download capabilities, and most software and entertainment can now be purchased completely online. As for CD lovers, audio book nerds, or vintage game players, a simple attachment can help cross this technological jump.

But what about the rest of computer companies? For now, most full-size laptops are still including a disc drive, but that isn’t the case for ultrabooks or tablets, which are being used more frequently as full-time computer substitutes. Due to both cost efficiency and technology trends, more and more people are finding it’s better to leave the drive behind. Custom models can still be ordered to include it, but not without a hefty price tag. And within only a few years, older models that still host the slot will become outdated, eliminating the pre-made option as well.

In time, it looks as though the disc drive may be almost completely extinct.

What We Lose

Without the ability to physically hold our own copy of music, movies, software, etc., a great deal can be lost. Digital copies are difficult, if not impossible, to lend to others because of DRM. Many downloads are given a one-click lifespan, meaning if a connection is lost or there’s a technical difficulty, you’re usually on the phone with customer support. And once you upgrade to a new device, replacing all your programs becomes a huge headache.

Even with completely legal tensions in mind (no illegal copies, etc.), losing the disc itself takes away a multitude of freedoms. Another issue comes with price, as few digital copies account for much of a discount. Despite not spending funds on physical materials, sales companies offer only a small price difference between their digital and in-person products. If you’re going to take away our ability to lend, can’t we at least save some cash?

Time will tell what’s really in store for our disc drives, and until then, we’ll be sure to borrow and share as many CDs as our drives will allow.

How much social media usage is too much?

social mediaIn a time where social media rules the Internet, it’s easy for users to become overwhelmed with the vast amount of profiles they can host. Between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, etc., where does one draw the line as to how many profiles are enough? Especially when each platform is trying so hard to draw you in. Now companies host Facebook logins, and they’re constantly tweeting information that can only be seen by card-carrying members. They’re enticing us, and it’s working.

But there does come a point when all the social media is truly overwhelming. When too much time is being spent each day just keeping up with what others are doing online. We comment, like, share, and retweet all their best post from the day. And then we have to post things too, so other people can see them. Before long, keeping up with social media becomes a part time job.

Of course, celebrities can hire others to do it for them. When their day gets too busy, some social media professional is behind the keyboard, telling everyone about their busy day. Then thousands of responses come in. But what about the layman? Those who are logging in and putting up each post the old fashioned way?

Everyday Social Media

On Parks and Recreation, social media addict Tom Haverford is arrested for wrecking while tweeting. His tweets “Gotta pass this lady on the ejkerkj.” And “Just hit a fire hydrant, but I survived. #Unbreakable #WhatsMrGlassuptothesedays? #Whynosequel?” gave him away. As punishment, the judge took away all technology. No email, no phone, no mobile devices.

Should the rest of the world see the same punishment? When overwhelmed with technology, should we cut back? Cold turkey, no more electronics until a solid break has been had?

Of course, usage is different for everyone; we all have that friend who seems to be tweeting every second of the day. But after profile upon profile has been created, even the occasional users get bogged down with social media.

There’s truly no way to say how much to too much time online; that’s up to the individual. But to avoid a scene like Tom’s, or to just keep our heads straight between Facebook and all its minions, be sure to schedule break time each day. Otherwise we may just see what the effects of too much social media can do.

New beverage technology can identify “spiked” drinks

cupsIt seems that each day a new piece of technology is being invented. From new electronics, to items that allow us to live “greener” lives, to those that seem practically unnecessary, creative types are bringing new items into the world. One recent invention, however, can actually help create a safer nightlife environment. By combining chemical reactions to everyday items – plastic cups and straws – bar drinking can now be made safe.

Thanks to Drink Savvy, all users need to do is use a specific cup to know their beverage is free of common date-rape drugs, such as GHB, Rohypnol, and ketamine. Though they host many different street- or nick- names, these are the three main active components in date rape drugs, and each will almost immediately show up when present in Drink Savvy products.

How it Works

Drink Savvy items – plastic cups, straws, and swizzle sticks – react and change colors when date rate drugs are present. The cups contain spots or stripes, depending on the type of cup, when drugs are detected, while the straws and swizzle sticks turn bright red. As a chemical reaction takes place, the color changes, warning the drink owner the drink has been tampered with.

The cups can be purchased by bars or anyone throwing a party. Glass versions are even in the works for a sturdier, earth-friendly way to test one’s drinks. And when the cups can’t be easily obtained, consumers can throw in a swizzle stick or straw for easy identification on the go.

Similar products come in the form of testing strips, which can be dipped into one’s drink. But with beverage products that double as testers, there’s no need to worry about re-testing or waiting for results to come in.

What it Means

With more and more date rape drugging taking place each year, the introduction of products like these means consumers can stay safe while still having a good time. By combining science with actual products that users can transport, Drink Savvy’s efforts bring mobile stability to any party. Thanks to this growing area of technology, practices like drink spiking can soon be greatly reduced, if not stopped altogether.

Though this drink testing technology is not yet available, Drink Savvy is staying active to make others aware about their new inventions. Head to Drink Savvy’s website to find out more on product and research.

Facebook Ads primed to replace Google Ads

facebook_vs_google_featuredFor years, Google has proven to be the giant in Internet marketing with returns paralleled to none. With statistics predicting a growth of up to 77.3 percent this year, you should be expecting Google to make a fortune out of the business that it has continually monopolized courtesy of its firm control over search traffic, YouTube and Google Adsense.

Statistics Show that a new Giant is on the Rise in the Market

Google’s dominance faces challenges from upcoming Facebook, which is taking the ad market by a storm courtesy of its convenient support for mobile devices. In 2012, Facebook claimed $390 million off the ad market. Even though this is a mere 9.5 percent of the total market and minimal compared to what Google earns, it is an improvement for Facebook that experts believe will hold with the values for this year expected to climb to 13.2 percent.

This apparently trivial market percentage covers for over 88 percent of Facebook’s revenue collection in the past 12 months.  Even though Facebook has shown its intent of being more than a social site by venturing into search engine service provision with its Facebook Graph, the ads constantly popping up on your Facebook for Android or iOS app are still the main revenue sources for Mark Zuckerberg and his team.

Is the Growth just for a Season or is it Here to Stay?

facebook-mobile-ads

As the number of smartphone owners grows by the day, the number of hours people spend in front of their computer screens decreases exponentially. The number of people accessing their social site pages and other Internet services through their mobile devices is on the rise making ads placed on such platforms more viable that those targeting PC users. Since Facebook strongly focuses on access while on the go, I believe that it has what it takes to capitalize on this new Internet use trend.

Though Google Ads might still command more clicks per unit time, the price revenue generated per ad on mobile is comparatively lower than what Facebook has on offer. Experts argue that Facebook has an upper hand in the move from fixed to mobile computing since it was born in the era and has had to work out its solutions from scratch, unlike Google which has had to modify its strategies.

Facebook-Mark-zuckerberg

Facebook’s ability to merge mobile and desktop ads (unlike Google that needs different designs for each platform) makes it easier for advertisers to deliver the same content to their audience without incurring extra cost. With Facebook ad efficiency this high, demand for advertising space is bound to go up, and so will the total revenue generated per fiscal year. In essence, Facebook has the winning formula it needs to make it big in desktop and mobile advertising!