Monday, September 27, 2010

Media Darlings of the Computer World

The New York Times reported today on a new study put out by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. The study was aimed at determining which tech company gets the most coverage in the media. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study determined that Apple Computer gets the most media coverage, effectively making the company the Brad and Angelina of the computer world.

Apple beat out its competitors, garnering a whopping 15.1 percent of all tech-related media coverage. Its closest rival was Google, who with 11.3 percent of the coverage could perhaps be seen as the Tom and Kate of the equation, while Microsoft, with a mere 3 percent, could be regarded as the Ben and Jen of tech media coverage.

The results are as much a testament to Apple's marketing savvy as they are to its technological innovations. Steve Jobs is perhaps the closest thing to Paris Hilton the tech world has when it comes to capturing the media's attentions. His showman-like manner for unveiling new or updated iProducts two or three times a year always generates a blast of news coverage.

Starting with the iPod in 2001, going through the iPhone and into the iPad, Apple has consistently put out products that turn heads. Little stumbling blocks like the antennae problems with the new iPhone, amount to nothing more than Paris being busted for drugs or Lindsay getting nailed for drunk driving: Just a little bump in the road that for better or for worse, makes the object of our fascination that much more interesting.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Opening Up New Lanes on the Information Superhighway

The FCC is going ahead with the plan to open up unused television signals for broadband Internet. The plan, which was first approved more than two years ago, is very similar in concept to adding extra lanes to a freeway in order to relieve congestion.

On Thursday the 24th of September, the five members of the FCC voted unanimously to give broadband networks access to the bandwidth channels that exist between TV stations and are commonly known as "white spaces." The agency has dubbed the new technology "super Wi-Fi," and has high hopes for the technology. FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, has said that the new white space networks will form a "powerful platform for innovation."

Apparently the FCC aren't the only ones who are excited about the possibility of increased bandwidth and better traffic flow on the Internet. Tech giants like Google, Microsoft and Dell are also enthusiastic about developing a new market centered on the technology.

Just as freeway expansion projects are meant to ease traffic congestion, the FCC hopes the new white space networks will similarly ease congestion on the nation's increasingly bottle necked airwaves.

Like the bandwidth spectrum currently utilized for Wi-Fi, the new white space lanes will be available to users for free with no licensing fee required.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

iPad as Prius, Galaxy as Insight?

The Toyota Prius has enjoyed a five-year run as the most popular hybrid vehicle on the market. Its closest competition, the Honda Insight, is struggling to remain viable at all and rumor has in Honda is planning on scrapping it in favor of a new sport hybrid.

The iPad, like the Toyota Prius has been a very successful product that has also utterly dominated its area of the market, namely notebook computers. The iPad has enjoyed very little in the way of competition since it first hit the market back in April. Perhaps until now that is.

Samsung has just released its own new, Android-based tablet computer, the Galaxy Tab. Tech pundits everywhere are calling the Galaxy the first tablet computer, yet to appear, that may actually give the iPad a run for its money.

Its use of Linux means it will offer user greater control over security measures. And being Android based means it will provide access to the growing and open market of apps that exist for Android based devices.

Smaller and lighter than the iPad, the Galaxy certainly could give the iPad a run for its money.
The Galaxy has a 7-inch screen, compared to the iPad 9.7-incher. Some may see this as a plus for the greater portability it allows while others may regard it as a minus due to having to contend with the smaller screen size. The Galaxy is also somewhat nebulous when it comes to price. While it's expected to retail for between $200 and $300, it has a $25 monthly data plan and two-year contract attached to it that brings its actual price up to around $800.

Still in spite of these potential drawbacks, the Galaxy earns high marks in most categories. Whether it will succeed where the Honda Insight has apparently failed remains to be seen. But given Apple's blaise response to antennae problems on the new iPhone, perhaps a little competition would give the company a new lease on the idea of "user-friendliness" it seems to have lost sight of.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Souping Up Your Browser

People have been souping up cars for years now. From Chevy Malibus to Pontiac GTOs, we have all had our head turned by a pimped once or twice. Flash paint jobs, a little something extra under the hood, you know the treatment.

People generally soup up a car to make it look better and go faster. These are the qualities true gear heads prize most in their cars: looks and performance. Interestingly, these are also the very same qualities most of us value in our web browsers.

Everyone I know seems to be constantly modifying and tinkering his or her web browser, as if it were some fabulous hot rod out in the garage. We download custom dashboards we trick out the finish with skins and graphics. We get rid of anything heavy and cumbersome that would slow us down. Cookies, browser caches, and old downloads are discarded like so many bits of scrap metal that have been hacked off in the chop shop.

Google Chrome certainly seems to understand the similarities between optimizing your web browser and fixing up a muscle car. After all the browser speed test designed to optimize performance for Chrome is named after an engine. It's called the V8.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pirates on the Internet

Police in Sweden and Belgium arrested ten people today who were involved in Internet piracy. Not that Computers As Humans wishes to condone it in any way, but Internet piracy actually sounds kind of cool when you first hear about it.

However the truth is that Internet pirates just aren't as cool as real pirates were. Although they are far less violent which of course is good. These pirates weren't arrested for robbing or pillaging anyone. Their crime? Posting illegal copies of movies and television shows online.

Now I ask you, is this what piracy has come to? In the old days being branded a pirate was serious business and could get you killed. And with good reason. Pirates on the high seas stole chests full of doubloon and held damsels for ransom, often killing or maiming in the process. Nowadays being branded a pirate is apparently as easy as posting a link to an illegal copy of "Kick Ass" in a chat room.

However just as the crime of Internet piracy is generally less severe, so is the punishment. All of the people who were arrested in Sweden during today's raids have already been let go.

And where's the punishment in that? These guys have just had their street cred boosted big time. I guarantee you that tonight there will be five guys hanging around at bars in Sweden chatting up girls by saying things like, "You know I was arrested for piracy today."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Whose Working for Who?

In this writer's lifetime the computer has gone from being something that seemed mainly good for playing video games, to being at the absolute center of most people's working world. Even if your job isn't directly related to the computer the odds are it plays a major role in how you market yourself and stay in touch with friends and colleagues.

Computers, the web, cellphones, iPads, PDAs and the whole lot have us more connected than ever before. Ostensibly, they make our jobs easier, keep us in touch with what's going on and grant us more personal freedom by allowing many of us to travel and work anywhere. . .Or do they?

According to a survey conducted earlier this summer by, nearly a third of workers polled admitted to checking their work emails or voicemails while they were on vacation. Based on statistics put out by the Baltimore Sun, that's a 25 percent increase from last year.

It's ironic that all the devices and communication mediums we have created in order to master our lives now seem in danger of mastering us. Let's face it; unless you're the governor or the chief negotiator for the mid-east peace process, the odds are your job will run itself without you while you are on vacation.

As for your computer while you’re on holiday? Once you've used it to check the weather or the surf report, try turning if off. Or better yet, if you’re feeling really bold . . . leaving it behind altogether.