The Flock will be with you…always

If you’re a fan of the Angry Birds, then you need to listen up. If you’re a fan of George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, then you’re definitely going to be interested in one of the latest releases from Rovio – Angry Birds Star Wars. It combines the best of both worlds, and it’s a great multi-platform game that is high on my must have list.

The story starts the same way – A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… a group of desperate rebel birds faced off against a galactic menace: the Empire’s evil Pigtroopers! You command the Rebel birds, striking from a hidden base.  They have won their first victory against the evil Imperial Pigs. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the PIG STAR, and are racing to deliver the plans to the Rebel Birds.

The game plot line follows the movies with, of course, the Angry Birds bent thrown in.  You can use the Force, wield your light saber, and blast Pigtroopers.  You’re on an intergalactic journey from the deserts of Tatooine to the depths of the Pig Star.  There, you’ll face off against the terrifying Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Pigs.  It’s time to grab your light saber and join the adventure! May the Flock be with you!

I really like the Angry Birds franchise.  I usually play the games multiple times a week while commuting on the train to and from work.  Angry Birds Star Wars initially struck me as a bit tacky, but the bird abilities and powers were cool and I quickly got hooked.  You get to use light sabers, blasters and the Force throughout the entire game.  The game has more than 80 levels in iconic locations like Tatooine and the Pig Star. It’s a must have on any platform you have available to you.

download Angry Birds – Star Wars

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Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012

I first discovered Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012 on Android for the first time, and my first impression was shocking… I had a feeling that I’ve stolen something… A high quality software… For FREE! My curiosity was hungry, so I downloaded and installed it on Windows. First impression was WOW! The download package was only 39.1 MB…I wondered what kind of Microsoft Office alternative software would have that little space? Certainly there was an explanation. Kingsoft Office Suite consists only of Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets modules, the equivalent of Word, Excel and Power Point modules from Microsoft Office. But considering the free aspect, they do what they are made to do!

Many times I tried to make a document in MS Word and the text was messing with my nerves, and the text formatting was giving me the impression that it has a mind of its own that is meant to piss me off, especially if I was trying to add an in-text image or any other graphics. I really got myself consoled with the idea that this is it, and there is nothing better than that. Until I found Kingsoft Office Suite! It’s the best alternative, and it is FREE! I played with a long text (lorem ipsum samples) and with some images in the text, also paragraphs, mathematic formulas and expression, and all you need, it’s there.

I got the feeling at the first use, that I have been using this software since forever. It’s easy, the text stays in place no matter where I drag the picture with the mouse (of course, select the proper wrapping option for the image), but for the first time, the text was not messed up by the position of the image! The paragraphs can be spaced with ease, and of course, it has the thing that made a revolution in the web browsers some good years ago: TABS. This means: all your documents can be opened in a single window, in different tabs. Plus, if you need you document to be safer, you now have the build-in feature to export your file to a PDF file, with just 3 clicks!

Another cool feature is the Homepage tab. Looks more like an online store, but most of the stuffs are free. You can find here many templates for presentations, background templates, business templates, resume templates and much more. Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012 it’s the best MS Office alternative. It is free, and it’s working as it should. Also it looks very familiar and you learn to use it very fast.

Download Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2012

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Take your music anywhere you can get an internet connection with Pandora Radio

One of the hottest technologies in recent years, especially with the implementation of faster mobile broadband technology like HSPA+ and LTE, is audio streaming. While streaming in and of itself isn’t new, heck, other apps have been out for a while, one that has stood out since its introduction is Pandora Radio. It’s a music anywhere app; and its available on a computing device near you, including your Windows PC.

Regardless of where you are – in the car, at the gym, on the train – you can use Pandora Radio to listen wherever and whenever you’re in the mood for your music. The application comes in a number of mobile formats and includes a web-based version as well.

You can enjoy all of your stations right from your PC. You can also create new stations and rate songs using the standard thumbs up or thumbs down. Pandora on mobile devices is fully integrated with Pandora on the web, so everything you create and personalize on your device appears next time you’re back on the web and vice-versa.

Over and above the standard PC to mobile experience, you can easily set up and listen to all your stations in your vehicle. Some implementations of Pandora Radio even have voice support for song and station changes.

Pandora Radio is a great way to listen to your favorite music no matter where you are. As long as you have access to the internet, you can get your music no matter where you are. Its PC and mobile device integration provide a consistent experience with the software and service no matter where you are.

Download Pandora Sidebar Gadget

 

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Raspberry Pi gets its own Appstore

The tiny Raspberry Pi computer is the latest device to get its own app store. The Pi Store opened for custom on 17th December contains a range of apps from games to developers’ tools. Currently there are twenty five apps available to download in the Pi Store, but this number is expected to grow significantly in the coming months.

The Pi Store is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation, Indie City – operators of an online marketplace for independent game developers – and Velocix. The foundation launched the store with the aim to enable “young people to share their creations with a wider audience, and maybe to make a little pocket money”. Currently all apps are free to download except Storm in a Teacup. Storm in a Teacup features 50 levels of physics based puzzles and is priced at £1.99.

The range of apps on the Pi Store is already diverse. There are five games on offer including Freeciv which is an open source empire-building strategy game. OpenTTD, the popular open source transport simulation game can also be found in the store. Despotify is a Spotify client for the Raspberry Pi and is free to download, however users need a Spotify Premium account to use the app. LibreOffice brings an extensive suite of office applications to the Raspberry Pi and is compatible with Microsoft Office files. There are also several apps intended to assist Raspberry Pi developers. The Pi Store is also intended to be the hope of “Pi-related” media including the MagPi e-magazine and tutorials produced from the community.

The Raspberry Pi has widely been regarded as a success since its launch earlier in the year. Amateur and professional developers alike have written and ported a wide range of applications to run on the system but until now there has been no obvious place to find or distribute these applications. The Pi Store changes this and will greatly simplify the experience for developers and users.

A blog post on the Raspberry Pi foundation website encourages the community of Raspberry Pi users to embrace the store. The community has been asked to submit their own projects to populate the store and to review and rate the apps already on offer. The store features a clever recommendation engine which will learn about you and your preferences as you rate, review and download apps. These recommendations will improve as you interact more and more with the store.

The Pi store itself is easily browsed and well constructed. Apps can be found through their category or through their tags. There is also useful search and sort functions in the store. All apps on the store have a content rating so users know whether the content is appropriate for the recipient. Given that the Raspberry Pi is based upon an open source platform all apps also detail their associated licences so users are aware if they can modify or redistribute the app.

To download apps from the store, Raspberry Pi users must first download the Raspberry Pi Store application. Users can download the application from Raspberry Pi’s official download page.

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Browse the internet with ease with Microsoft’s premier browser for Windows and Windows RT.

Windows is perhaps the most widely used operating system in the history of computing.  In the enterprise, you can literally accept no substitute.  Most people find it a must have in the work place.  With more and more applications for both home and work use shifting to mobile, online and touch-enabled applications, I’m glad that Windows’ default web browser, Internet Explorer is keeping pace. Its perhaps one of the most widely used Windows-based web browsers around.

With the implementation of Windows 8 and Windows RT, Microsoft has taken a different tact to computing. They’re embracing a new, clean and uncomplicated interface, and IE is following suite.  IE gets out of the way when you browse. Its controls appear when you need them and vanish when you don’t, giving you full screen browsing, allowing you to see the web, not IE. When you need the controls, an easy flick of your finger can bring them back.

Speaking of fingers, all of IE’s tabs are finger sized. You won’t have to fumble with on screen elements that aren’t tablet-centric or meant for interaction with a mouse. IE 10 is meant to be touched and interacted with.  For example, IE automatically detects which page is next so it’s easy to swipe from page to page with your finger. IE 10 is fast.  The browser is quicker to start and to render pages than previous versions.

With security being such a hot topic, especially for Microsoft, IE 10 has security measures built in.  It uses the leading malware protection, blocking up to 40% more malware than other, similar apps. If privacy is a major concern, IE 10 also supports Do Not Track as well as implementing SmartScreen filtering that helps keep your personal information hidden from the public.

The windowed version of IE 10 is decent.  The MetroUI version that comes with Windows RT is a bit difficult for some to get used to. Unfortunately, the full screen or tablet version of IE 10 breaks Microsoft’s previous Window paradigm, requiring most everyone to get used to a different way of viewing the web.  While Microsoft may tout this as one of its newer features, not everyone is going to see it as a value add.  The app’s web rendering engine though is pretty awesome; and its performance may help you push aside its UI or presentation layer and just concentrate on the web as opposed to how it displays it.

Download Internet Explorer 10

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New air-cooling system based on human lungs for tablets, laptops and other devices

Researchers at General Electric has developed a new air-cooling system based on human lungs called DCJ, which adapts the technology that GE researchers originally developed for commercial jet engines. DCJ behave as a micro-fluidic bellows that provide high-velocity jets of air to cool electronic components such as a laptop processor. The turbulent air flow of the DCJ increases the heat transfer rate to more than ten times that of natural convection and is going to support the next generation of thinner, quieter and more powerful tablets, laptops and other electronic devices, the researchers at General Electric says. You’ll find a demonstration of the new air-cooling system in the video below.

“DCJ was developed as an innovative way to dramatically reduce the amount of pressure losses and loading characteristics in aircraft engines and power generation in gas and wind turbines,” said Peter de Bock, lead Electronics Cooling Researcher at GE Global Research. “Over the past 18 months we have addressed many challenges adapting this technology in areas of acoustics, vibration, and power consumption such that the DCJ can now be considered as an optimal cooling solution for ultra-thin consumer electronics products.”

Compared to conventional cooling assemblies used in electronic devices today, GE’s DCJ technology enables cooling solutions only 4mm tall, representing a more than 50% decrease in height. In addition, the DCJ is very stingy on power, consuming less than half the power of a comparable fan, and its simple construction will deliver higher reliability leading to millions of dollars in repair cost savings for OEMs.

“With new tablet and netbook roadmaps moving to platforms measuring less than 6mm high, it is clear that consumers are demanding thinner and more powerful electronic devices.” said Chris Giovanniello, VP Microelectronics & Thermal Business Development at GE Licensing. “GE’s patented DCJ technology not only frees up precious space for system designers, but it consumes significantly less power, allowing as much as 30 minutes of extra battery life. Best of all, DCJ can be made so quiet that users won’t even know it’s running. Thermal management is becoming a big problem for many companies trying to miniaturize their electronics, and as a result we are getting strong demand to evaluate the DCJ technology in many markets, from consumer electronics, to automotive, to telecom and industrial sectors.”

GE is currently providing DCJ demonstration kits for OEMS wishing to evaluate the DCJ technology for their next generation products.

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Microsoft Surface – I am SO Disappointed…

Increasing availability isn’t going to help Microsoft much…

I’ve been in computing since computing was done with cassette recorders. I may have just dated myself, perhaps a bit too much, but I’ve been in the game since before Microsoft was Microsoft and before Apple was Apple. I understand a bit about the challenges that MS is facing right now, and honestly, they’re blowing it. They really are. Here’s why…

As far as the tablet game is concerned, there are really two players…Just two, kids. That’s it – Apple and their arch nemesis, Samsung. As much as Google with their Nexus 7 and Asus with their Transformer and other vendors with their <pick a product> may want to say they’re a contender, they’re not. Apple is the defacto leader here. They wrote the book on tablets with the introduction of their iconic iPad. Their ecosystem was designed to lock users in; and their elegant industrial designs attract more and more users everyday. Its going to be hard for them to blow this gig.

Samsung is really the only real successful Android tablet maker in my mind. Their Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note lines of tablets have set the bar on the Google side of the house and have left nearly every other tablet in the dust, including Google’s own Nexus branded offering, in my opinion. They’ve really set the bar here. Yes, the Amazon Kindle line of tablets is a serious contender, but the way they’ve positioned their products and structured their ecosystem, there’s not much room for innovation in my opinion.

There are really no other tablet platform offerings; or at least there weren’t until Microsoft introduced Windows 8 and Windows RT and their Surface branded tablets. Microsoft had a real opportunity here. They had a chance to establish themselves as a real contender in the tablet arena. They blew it when they priced their tablets higher than most of their hardware partners are pricing their value-line laptops.

There have been a lot of stories in the media lately about how MS never intended Surface to be a direct competitor with Apple, and how they don’t want it widely distributed. I’m not buying that. I would think that they would want the tablets, both Surface RT and Surface Pro devices, in as many retail locations and end users hands as possible. Their recent activities to make Surface tablets available at other retail/POS outlets contradicts what the media is reporting.

I honestly don’t get the strategy behind what MS is doing with Surface RT and Surface Pro. If given the opportunity, I’d make them dirt cheap and get them in as many end users hands as possible. I’d even provide device subsidies back to their hardware partners to help them lower the prices of their RT and Pro devices, too.

In my opinion, the only way Microsoft can establish themselves as a serious tablet player is to flood the market with extremely affordable, competitively performing devices. Apple and Samsung, heck even Amazon, are too much in command of the tablet market right now for Surface NOT to be taking this tactic. The only way MS makes headway is to make them a cost competitor, and unfortunately…they didn’t do that.

It’s a disappointment, because I think they’ve likely marketed themselves into a corner, and recovering from that is going to be difficult for them. Increasing availability won’t help. Lowering the price and making it a more attractive purchasing decision…? Yeah. That will help.

 

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Google Kills off Google Apps Standard

Current users and domains won’t be effected, but the free version of Google Apps is gone.

Back in 2008 when Google introduced Google Apps, their online Office Suite, it came in two different versions.  Small businesses and those Gmail users that wanted to implement a custom mail domain (50 users or less) without having to set up a dedicated mail server or incurring any additional expense could use Google Apps Standard.  Larger groups (51 or more users) were required to pay a subscription fee and use Google Apps for Business.  Today, Google Apps Standard was discontinued.

Current users of Google Apps Standard won’t have to subscribe.  Google Apps Standard is still free for educational customers. New users will need to subscribe to Google Apps Premium.

I am a current Google Apps Standard user for my personal site, iTechGear.org. I rarely use any of the office suite apps. I use it mainly for Gmail and a customized email address (xxxxx@itechgear.org).  Users that want to use Google Apps for that, who are not educational customers, must now pay for Google Apps for Business.

Pricing for Google Apps for business can be seen here.  Basically, its $5 per user per month or $50 per user a year.  That includes 25GB of Gmail storage and 5GB of Google Drive Storage.  You can also use a customized email address if you wish.

For casual users like me, this would be a bit pricey. I wouldn’t choose this option if I had to do this now.  For small businesses and one to two man operations, this isn’t a good option, in my opinion. Thankfully, I’m grandfathered in…for now. This is likely not the end of this type of move by Google, either. There are a number of Google Standard users out there, and I think it’s only a matter of time before they get move to the Google Apps for Business realm and will be required to pay a subscription or lose their use of the service.

Time will tell, however; and until then, I’m glad I got in early.

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