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Link Round-Ups – October 29

Apple Unwraps New iPad at Big Event

For Apple, less is more.

Apple took the wraps off its much-anticipated downsized version of its iPad tablet, the 7.9-inch iPad mini, at an event in San Jose, Calif. Oct. 23.

Apple also revealed a 4th-generation 9.7-inch iPad, and updated versions of it Mac computers: a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display, a revised Mac Mini and the next generation iMac, according to an article on Businessweek.com.

With Amazon having shipped millions of 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets and Google estimated to have shipped at least a million Nexus 7 tablets, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, Apple couldn’t afford to cede a growing market to competitors.

“We sold more iPads in the June quarter than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC lineup,” said CEO Tim Cook. The iPad, he said, has been hugely popular in education and is “taking the business market by storm. … We’re not taking our foot off the gas.”

Google Takes Its Trekker Street View Cameras to Grand Canyon

Grand CanyonHey Google, go take a hike.

Google is currently taking pictures for Google Maps in a place where no vehicle has gone before — the rugged hiking paths of the Grand Canyon.

According to an article on Techcrunch.com, a Google team is on foot to capture the landscape’s panoramic views to add them to Google Maps. The move is a part of a greater effort to capture images beyond the streets. Google recently added images of landscapes from the Amazon and Antarctica to university campuses and ancient ruins.

To capture the area, the team is using wearable backpacks with a camera system on top.

“The narrow ridges and steep, exposed trails of the Grand Canyon provide the perfect terrain for our newest camera system,” Google said on its official blog. “The Trekker—which its operator controls via an Android phone and automatically gathers photos as he walks—enables the collection of high-quality imagery from places that are only accessible on foot.”

Scientists: Whale Was Trying to Imitate Human Speech

Whale I’ll be.

A white beluga whale in California has grabbed the world’s attention due to its ability to imitate the human voice. According to Discovery News, the whale named NOC was caught on audio speaking English.

“I think he was looking for feedback,” Sam Ridgway, president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) in San Diego, said in an interview with NBCNews.com. “These animals make a lot of sound, and they like feedback.”

One day, a diver surfaced from the tank and asked, “Who told me to get out?” At that moment researchers realized the sound came from their captive Beluga whale, named NOC. Researchers concluded NOC was mimicking the word “out.”

Scientists have long studied the ability of whales to imitate human sound. Their findings were recently published in Current Biology, concluding that the sounds they had heard were several octaves lower than typical whale sounds. The whales were actually trying to imitate humans, their research revealed.

The research revealed a pitch and amplitude rhythm in NOC’s voice that is comparable to human speech. As noted by Ridgway, the talking beluga spent long periods in close contact with humans, listening to them from both above and below the surface.

 

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Cloud Link Roundup – October 22

Samsung Launching Galaxy S III Mini

Samsung Vs. AppleWhen it comes to challenging Apple’s iPhone, Samsung is thinking small. The South Korean conglomerate is currently working on a smaller version of its popular Galaxy S III smartphone.

The new phone, which Samsung did not reveal when it will launch in the United States or at what price it will be, is likely targeting Apple’s newest iPhone, according to the Washington Post.

The smartphone, expected to be called, appropriately, the Galaxy S III mini, has a 4-inch screen — smaller than the 4.8-inch screen on the current iteration of the Galaxy S III smartphone but the same size as the display on the iPhone 5.

That’s not the only difference between this phone and its larger, 4.8-inch sibling. According to a specifications sheet from Samsung, the mini smartphone has a 5 megapixel camera instead of the 8 megapixel sensor on the larger phone, and it will also not operate on high-speed 4G LTE networks. That decision makes the device more of a mid-range phone, as many customers expect premium smartphones to connect to the fastest networks, according to the Washington Post.

The S III mini’s crisp Super AMOLED screen and general design borrows from the company’s top-selling smartphone. It has a 1GHZ dual-core processor and will run the latest version of Google’s Android system, Jelly Bean.

Browser Tools Can Help Block Tracking by Social Networks

The “like” button on Facebook and other social widgets on websites that track your online activity now face a growing number of startups that offer tools to keep them in check.

According to The New York Times, those little buttons on websites that let you share what you’ve read have an equally important function: They let the social networks track your travels on the Web, whether or not you click on them.

Now, a growing number of start-ups offer tools that help consumers keep that kind of tracking at bay.

Social widgets that track your moves are growing across the Web. They act as eyes on the Web. They watch you as you skim the day’s news or shop online.

According to The Times, Facebook is especially ubiquitous. Academic researchers in France and Australia recently found that more than 20 percent of the 10,000 most popular Web sites have a Facebook widget. That widget allows the social networking giant to keep track of which Web sites they visit, whether or not the Internet user is logged on to Facebook at the time.

But users do have options when it comes to keeping widgets in check.

One such tool is a widget-scrubbing program recently released by PrivacyChoice. It is a browser extension that monitors the strength of your privacy settings on Facebook and Google, including the option of disabling Facebook and Google Plus share buttons. In the first 24 hours after its release, 50,000 people used the tool, which the company calls PrivacyFix and offers for free.

Woman Gets 11,100 Trillion Euro Phone Bill

Trillion Euro Cell Phone BillA woman in France might want to look into free nights and weekends.

Solenne San Jose received an 11,100 trillion euro phone bill, which was eventually fixed after her phone company admitted that it made a mistake (and people say there’s just no talking to some phone-service providers).

According to the Epoch Times, San Jose said that when she opened up her mail, her phone bill had some extra zeroes. About 12 extra zeroes. Her bill totaled 11,721,000,000,000,000 euros ($15,100 trillion).

“There were so many zeroes I couldn’t even work out how much it was,” Solenne San Jose of the Bordeaux region told the AFP news agency.

Bouygues Telecom, her phone company, told her that they could not revoke the computer-generated bill or stop the balance from being subtracted from her bank account.

Finally, San Jose was able to convince the company to admit the problem, according to the news agency. The bill was actually only 117.21 euros ($151).

Image Credit: Apple iPhone 4s vs Samsung Galaxy note / sidduz / CC BY 2.0

 

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Links of Interest – Oct 10

Apple Maps Inspires Brilliant (but Fake) New Yorker Cover

Leave it to the Mad men over at Mad Magazine to put Apple in its place over its second-rate Apple Maps effort.

The minds at Mad took illustrator Saul Steinberg’s famous New Yorker cover from 1976, showing the world as seen from Manhattan’s 9th Avenue, and gave it the Apple Maps treatment, see here on Gothamist.com.

Apple has recently taken flak for its often-incorrect mapping application in its new iOS 6, and Google has wasted no time letting mobile users know that its maps service can be found on the web and will soon be available in a native iOS app.

Google made its Street View service available in mobile browsers. To access Street View panoramic imagery, Google advises people to visit maps.google.com using a mobile device and then search for a location.

Bee Brains Help to Make Robots Smarter

One particular study in the UK is creating quite the buzz.

Researchers there are studying how bees smell and perceive the world in a project that hopes to produce a simulation of the winged creatures’ sensory systems.

The simulated bee brain will be used by a flying robot to help it make decisions about how to navigate safely, according to the BBC.

Robots involved in the project could help in search-and-rescue missions or work in agriculture by mechanically pollinating crops.

The research involves scientists from the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex. The project aims to create models of the neural systems in a bee’s brain that helps it make sense of what it sees and smells, according to the BBC.

James Marshall, a computer scientist at the University of Sheffield who is coordinating the project, said simulating a brain was one of the “major challenges” of artificial intelligence.

Many previous attempts to re-create biological brains in silicon have focused on the cognitive systems found in humans, monkeys and mice, he said.

Study Shows Baldness Can Be a Business Advantage

Baldness, a business advantage?Don’t perfect that comb-over just yet.

According to a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, men with shaved domes may seem more powerful because the look is associated with hypermasculine images, such as the military, professional athletes and Hollywood action heroes such as Bruce Willis.

The study goes on to reveal men with shaved heads are perceived to be more masculine, dominant and, in some cases, to have greater leadership potential than those with longer locks or with thinning hair, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Some executives say the look makes them appear younger and gives them more confidence than a comb-over.

“I’m not saying that shaving your head makes you successful, but it starts the conversation that you’ve done something active,” said Seth Godin, 52, a smooth-headed tech entrepreneur and writer who embraces the bare look. “These are people who decide to own what they have, as opposed to trying to pretend to be something else.”

No word yet on what sort of advantage a mullet brings to the boardroom.

 

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Links of Interest – October 8

Facebook Unwraps a Gift Service

Facebook GiftsFacebook, apparently looking to join the e-commerce fray, is preparing a new service called “Facebook Gifts” that will encourage users to buy and send presents.

Initial items include gifts such as gift cards and cupcakes, but Facebook said it will add more options, according to The LA Times.

Users can send gifts from birthday reminders or when visiting a friend’s timeline.

Friends can enter their shipping information and swap gifts for different sizes, flavors or styles before the gift ships, according to Facebook.

Payments can be made as soon as users send the gift or they can choose to pay later. Their friends, meanwhile, can provide their address once they choose to accept the gift and it “will show up on their doorstep a few days late,” according to a news release from Facebook.

Ever conscious of privacy and security concerns, when you pay for a Facebook Gift, Facebook stores your credit card for future use. However, if you don’t want to have your credit card information stored on your account, you can remove it after making a purchase.

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Self-Driving Cars Bill

It seems California drivers may soon be able to catch a nap, finish writing that screenplay or do just about any activity one isn’t supposed to do while driving an automobile.

A bill sponsored by State Senator Alex Padilla will establish safety and performance regulations to test and operate autonomous vehicles on California highways, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

“Today we’re looking at science fiction becoming tomorrow’s reality — the self-driving car,” Governor Jerry Brown said. “Anyone who gets inside a car and finds out the car is driving will be a little skittish, but they’ll get over it.”

Google currently has a fleet of 12 computer-controlled vehicles that has logged more than 300,000 miles of self-driving without an accident, according to Google.

“I think the self-driving car can really dramatically improve the quality of life for everyone,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said.

Newly Found Comet Could Look Spectacular in 2013

Who says you need a darkened sky to witness a breathtaking celestial phenomenon?

A newly discovered comet, first sighted by Russian astronomers, could put on an impressive celestial display next year. The comet will be bright enough to be seen in the daytime sky, according to Space.com.

The object, named Comet ISON, was announced Sept. 24 by Russians Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. The new comet is officially known as C/2012 S1.

Comet ISON was 625 million miles from Earth and 584 million miles from the sun when it was first sighted. The comet is located in the dim constellation of Cancer. According to Space.com, it was shining at magnitude 18.8 on the reverse scale used by astronomers to measure the brightness of sky objects (the lower the number, the brighter the object). The comet is currently about 100,000 times fainter than the dimmest star that can be seen with the unaided eye.

Yet at its closest point to the sun, which is due Nov. 28, 2013, the comet has the potential to become a dazzling object, perhaps bright enough to be visible for a short time in broad daylight.

 

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Links of Interest – October 1

Samsung Confirms Galaxy Note II for All Major U.S. Carriers

Samsung has confirmed that the much-anticipated Galaxy Note II smartphone will be available on Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular in the U.S. by the middle of November.

Smartphone aficionados know the current Galaxy Note smartphone for its 5.3-inch display. Not be be outdone, the new one is even larger, and features a 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED touch screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, according to PCMag.com.

The Galaxy Note II will also come with a 1.6-GHz, quad-core Samsung Exynos processor that’s optimized for LTE, plus 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. Each Galaxy Note II has a microSD card slot that allows for expandable storage of up to 64GB.

The Galaxy Note II will arrive on each carrier preloaded with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, making it the first Samsung smartphone to run Google’s most advanced version of Android out of the gate.

Photos, Videos Bigger in Twitter Redesign

Mozy on TwitterA redesign of Twitter’s Website and mobile apps could generate new revenue streams by placing greater emphasis on photos and videos.

In other words, a picture is now worth 140 characters, writes the San Francisco Chronicle’s Benny Evangelista.

Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show, announced that the  company has completely overhauled its iPad app, updated its website and revamped its iPhone and Android apps to make visual elements such as photos and videos more prominent.

Costolo told the show hosts — including Ryan Seacrest and his nearly 8 million Twitter followers — that the microblogging service was responding to Twitter users who wanted better ways to express themselves.

“What we’ve heard over and over again from our users is they want to bring more of their personality to their profile pages,” he said.

But the redesign also signals new advertising opportunities for Twitter, which has reported success with ad products like its text-based Promoted Tweets. Could there be a Promoted Photos in the works?

Snow on Mars: NASA spacecraft spots ‘dry ice’ snowflakes

A spacecraft orbiting Mars has detected carbon dioxide snow falling on the Red Planet, making Mars the only body in the solar system known to host this weird weather phenomenon, according to Space.com.

The snow on Mars fell from clouds around the planet’s south pole during the Martian winter spanning 2006 and 2007, with scientists discovering it only after sifting through observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The Martian south pole hosts a frozen carbon dioxide — or “dry ice” — cap year-round, and the new discovery may help explain how it formed and persists, researchers said.

“These are the first definitive detections of carbon-dioxide snow clouds,” lead author Paul Hayne, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. “We firmly establish the clouds are composed of carbon dioxide — flakes of Martian air — and they are thick enough to result in snowfall accumulation at the surface.”

 

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Cloud Links of Interest – September 17

Why the iPhone 5 Launch Will Be the ‘Biggest Upgrade in Consumer Electronics History’

Why the iPhone 5 Launch Will Be the 'Biggest Upgrade in Consumer Electronics History'The iPhone 5 launch isn’t just going to be big, according to Topeka Capital analyst Brian White, it’s going to be the “biggest upgrade in consumer electronics history.”

White lists a number of reasons why he thinks the iPhone 5 will be a big hit — bigger screen, LTE capability, faster processor, iOS 6 — but in the analysis he misses the wood for the trees, according to an article on ZDNet.com.

He fails to mention that the vast majority of Apple customers don’t care about the hardware specifications at all. It’s going to be big because it will be the first major redesign of the iPhone since the iPhone 4 was released back in June 2010, ZDNet’s Adrian Kingsley-Hughes writes.

“Consumers like a redesign because it means that their new handset doesn’t look like everybody else’s handset,” writes Kingsley-Hughes. “To people who like to pore through endless specification sheets and hardware teardowns, it seems odd that people will base their purchasing decision on something as simple as a product looking different, but they will.”

New App MindMeld Heralds the Era of Anticipatory Computing

Shouldn’t computers know what you need without you having to tell them? A new app from Expect Minds and entrepreneur Tim Tuttle called Mindmeld hopes to think ahead and help deal with more and more data, according to an article on GigaOm.com.

MindMeld is an iPad app that uses Facebook’s open graph and identity to help create quick audio or video conferences. Add a few people and start talking. But here is where things get interesting: As you speak (or other participants speak), the app listens and starts surfacing information pertaining to what you are talking about, according to GigaOm.

Om Malik writes ”For instance, if you are talking about an upcoming meeting with, say, someone like [Malik], then in near realtime, it would show you my Wikipedia page, surface my recent blog posts, show GigaOM location on a map, and other such information. And as fast as the topic shifts, the system brings up relevant information for that new topic. Sometime in the future, the company will be able to access data from your Dropbox or Google Docs account and when it does, Cisco’s WebEx division should reach for a proverbial bottle of migraine medicine.”

Tim Tuttle started Expect Labs, the company behind the app, two years ago to develop a platform that would “continuously pay attention to what happens in your life and pick up ambient information and then start to surface relevant information.”

Tuttle believes computing habits are evolving from desktop-bound to completely mobile, essentially changing usage behavior for users everywhere.

Cloud Computing Revs Up the Auto Industry

Cloud computing has already changed several industries and the next stop looks like the auto industry and the driving experience as we know it, according an an article on CloudTweaks.com.

Three main areas of the automobile industry could experience the greatest impact of cloud computing: partnerships and integration, the manufacturer-dealer-customer chain and auto infotainment.

 

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Links of Interest – September 3

New iPhone Not Expected to Slow Android Growth

Despite the highly anticipated release of Apple’s iPhone 5, analysts expect Google’s Android mobile operating system to continue to dominate the smartphone market.

Android already leads the market, accounting for approximately 60 percent of all smartphone shipments in the first half of 2012, according to an article on PCMag.com. But even with the forthcoming launch of the next-generation iPhone, Android market share is expected to grow to 70 percent of the global market in the second half of the year, Digitimes Research senior analyst Luke Lin estimated.

Contributing to its growth, several major Android handset vendors like Samsung, Huawei, and ZTE are starting to increase shipments, while second-tier and regional vendors are “aggressively” launching new entry-level Android handsets in China, Lin said.

See Every Hurricane of the Last 150 years on One Map

HurricanesWith hurricane season upon us, one mapmaker offered up an informative and visually impressive look at hurricanes that have struck over the last century and a half.

If it looks a little odd at first, it’s because this hurricane map offers a unique perspective of the Earth; Antarctica is smack in the middle, and the rest of the planet unfurls around it like the petals of a tulip, according to an article on msnbc.com.

The effect is not only informative — more than 150 years of hurricane data show that certain regions are consistently in the storms’ crosshairs — but also visually arresting.

Mapmaker John Nelson, the user experience and mapping manager for IDV Solutions, a data visualization company, said that this oddball point of view was the best way to tell the story of the data.

“When I put it onto a rectangular map it was neat looking, but a little bit disappointing,” Nelson told OurAmazingPlanet. But the unorthodox, bottom-up perspective allowed the curving paths the storms make across the world’s oceans to shine, he said.

Sick on the Road? Try the Grocery Store

If you’re planning one more trip before the end of summer, it might be a smart idea to familiarize yourself with some ways to cope with ailments while in a foreign land.

Some physicians, pharmacists and scientists have suggested grocery items available almost anywhere that can help cure several ailments, according to a recent article in The New York Times.

“You don’t need to pack a medicine chest on holiday,” said Dave Harcombe, a pharmacist in Doncaster, England. “I rely on traditional medicine to pay my mortgage,” he added. “But in certain cases, home remedies are as good as drugs. There’s a place in the world for both of them.”

Harcombe used his travel experience and that of his customers to create a list of items that he posted on silvertraveladvisor.com. Debbie Marshall, editor of the site, said the response has been enthusiastic. “It is well worth knowing some of the healing properties of common foods when traveling,” she said, noting that acquiring and using conventional medicines in certain countries can be complicated. “Pharmaceutical labels may be written in an unfamiliar language, quantities can be ambiguous and quite often nature has a remedy that will bridge the gap until more conventional aid can be found.”

Some of these over-the-counter remedies help combat upset stomachs, bug bites, poison ivy and what to do when you’re having trouble with your contact lenses.

Super Mario Bros. ‘Demake’ Boasts Atari 2600 Graphics

Call it an artistic step forward while relying on graphics from the early ’80s.

An old-school style is making a comeback, and “demakes” are apparently all the rage.

“Demakes” adapt modern games to the standards of older platforms, sometimes even programming them for dead hardware, such as the Atari system.

Atari Age forum member Sprybug spent his free time demaking Super Mario Bros. as an actual Atari 2600 game, according to an article on Dvice.com.

If you thought Super Mario Bros. looked bad on the Nintendo Entertainment System, wait until you see what it would have looked like on the Atari 2600. In its current demo form, the graphics are fairly decent for an Atari 2600 game, although Sprybug admits there are some problems with collision detection.

So far, Sprybug’s Super Mario Bros. demake has 16 levels (World 1-1 to 4-4) stuffed into a compact 32k file.

 

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Ways Back to College Has Changed Since the 80s

September means many things to many people.

For football fans, it’s the beginning of how they will shape their lives for the next five months as the NFL gets its season underway.

For the parents of youngsters, it’s a small sigh of relief as school once again resumes, bringing more of a set schedule to their children and more peace to the household.

Here at the Jersey Shore, it means the fist-pumping, club-going crowds that unfortunately represent this scenic stretch of coastline return to points north, a sort of migration carried out under the power of Escalades and new Camaros.

Ways Back to School Has ChangedAnd for a good percentage of those who graduated high school in the spring, it means heading off to college and entering one of the most important phases of a young adult’s life. While nearly all colleges and universities are physically the same as they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s, there are some pretty significant differences in how incoming freshmen from decades past and those who are a part of the class of 2016 settle in to campus life.

Here is a look at the differences between heading off to college in the age of Facebook and text-speak  and going off to college in the awesome ‘80s.

Keep It Light

In the ‘80s, things were bigger. Hair was bigger (although it still is at the Jersey Shore). Microwaves were bigger. TV’s were bigger. And PCs were bigger and something your girlfriend’s nerdy older brother had in his bedroom (along with Dungeons & Dragons posters). Moving into your dorm room in the ‘80s required some heavy lifting, as it seems electronics of the ‘80s defied logic and physics (how could a black-and-white TV with a 13-inch screen require three people to carry it?)

Flat-screen TVs of today can be carried under one arm while keeping your other hand free to take video of your first steps on campus while simultaneously checking out your new roommate’s Facebook photos.

Make a Connection

Keeping in touch with family back home and friends now scattered throughout the country once required breaking out pen and paper and finding a stamp (a “stamp” is something issued by the government that allowed you to send something hundreds, even thousands, of miles away for just pennies) and mailing a letter.

Or if you really wanted to summon the wrath of your parents, who just shelled out $1,500 for your first year of university schooling (yes, things were cheaper in the ‘80s), you’d dial up your buddy at UNLV, talk on a land line for 20 minutes, and rack up a $75 phone bill (yes, some things were more expensive in the ‘80s).

Today, there really is no disconnect. Communicating is for the most part cheaper, and something you can do instantaneously. Perfect for requesting more Top Ramen or a regional delicacy from home, such as pork roll. Pork roll is a Jersey thing, often traded like a precious metal on faraway campuses.

Book Smart, Pound Foolish

Doing research and writing papers used to require a bit more heavy lifting, from the 42-pound word processor used to churn out Psych 101 papers to the 8-inch-thick book on Chaucer checked out from your school’s library.

Of course, students today still use books and libraries, but there is a growing reliance on, and acceptance of, using tablet computers for everything from note-taking to conducting research to actually replacing college textbooks.

Fashion-Forward

One would like to say the fashion of the ‘80s remains just where it belongs – 30 years in the past and seen only in dog-eared photographs in some forgotten box in the attic. But what’s old is new again, and from neon sunglasses to polos with the collar raised, elements of the ‘80s are alive and well at today’s institutions of higher learning.

Let’s just hope these don’t make a comeback.

Fast facts from August 1986 and August 2012

Weekend Box Office:

1986: Stand By Me, Top Gun

2012: The Expendables 2, The Bourne Legacy

Top of the Charts:

1986: Madonna, “True Blue”; Top Gun Soundtrack

2012: Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Getting Back Together”; Flo Rida, “Whistle”

Car of Choice:

1986: Chevrolet Celebrity; Ford Escort

2012: Ford F-Series truck; Toyota Camry

Cost of Annual Tuition, Private, Non-Profit Four-Year School:

1986: $10,000

2012: $35,000

Siri, Texas Ranger

In the 1967 classic film “Cool Hand Luke,” one of the main characters, the Captain, utters one of the most classic lines in cinema: “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s a phrase that lends itself well to a number of circumstances. Like Apple’s Siri.

Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant on the iPhone 4S, was last summer’s must-have smartphone feature. This summer? Not so much. To back up this claim, see what the New York Times had to say about Siri last summer compared to this summer.

Last year, the Times’ David Pogue was clearly taken with Siri’s responses to certain questions. His headline: Siri Is One Funny Lady.

“If you don’t laugh at some of Siri’s responses, there’s something wrong with your funnybone,” Pogue wrote then, in response to these tidbits:

You: “I need to hide a body.”

Siri: “What kind of place are you looking for?”

Siri then offers you a list of choices like Reservoirs, Metal Foundries, Mines, Dumps and Swamps.

You: “Who’s your daddy?”

Siri: “You are. Can we get back to work now?”

You: “Open the pod bay doors.”

Siri: “I’m sorry, Joshua. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Sure, the responses were funny the first time, but as time wore on and the benefits of Siri waned, the dynamic with Siri also changed. There was a failure to communicate. Just see how the Times switched up its tune.

Last month’s headline: With Apple’s Siri, a Romance Gone Sour

Writer Nick Bilton chronicled how things went south between him and Siri.

“We met at an Apple product announcement in Cupertino, Calif. She was helpful, smart and even funny, cracking sarcastic jokes and making me laugh. What more could a guy ask for?

“Since then, we have had some major communication issues. She frequently misunderstands what I’m saying. Sometimes she is just unavailable. Often, she responds with the same, repetitive statement.”

Funny, but true.

With the next iPhone release expected somewhere in the near future, let’s hope one of the improvements made to the otherwise stellar device involves Siri. After all, she was released as a beta, meaning there were bugs to be worked out and a conceded room for improvement. She could use a bit of an upgrade.

But before I write her off completely, I figured I’d ask a few questions not so much for their humorous aspect, but in the event you find yourself in a do-or-die, “Walker, Texas Ranger” style situation. Walker, if you remember, was a character played by Chuck Norris who somehow always found himself battling it out with an assortment of Japanese gangs or corrupt parole officers.

Me: “How do you untie knots?”

Siri: “Checking on that for you. How about a Web search for ‘How do you untie knots?’”

Google pointed me to a climbing site and a YouTube video on how to untie a square knot. At least she understood the question.

Me: “How do you unlock a trunk from the inside?”

Siri: “Hmmm. Let me think. How about a Web search?”

A Web search turned up a helpful wikihow page titled “7 Tips on How to Escape From the Trunk of a Car.”

Walker would be impressed. I’m sure he would’ve benefited from having Siri as a sidekick. Which isn’t a bad idea if this voice-activated digital assistant gig doesn’t work out. Siri could always help Chuck Norris battle bank robbers and prove the innocence of the wrongfully accused.

One final question.

Me: “How do you stop Chuck Norris?”

Siri, in a beautifully redeeming moment, came back with a video. That video was called “You Can’t Stop Chuck Norris.”

Smart lady.

Image Credit: Chuck Norris Action Jeans / Sarah B. Brooks / CC BY 2.0

Cloud roundup and links of interest – August 15

Google Street View Offers Tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

Visitors from almost anywhere on Earth can “see” and explore NASA’s Kennedy Space Center through a collaboration with NASA that allowed Google’s Street View equipment to capture 360 degree color images and place them online for a new generation of spaceflight fans

The panoramic images include such iconic vessels as the Apollo 14 command module capsule that returned three astronauts from America’s fourth mission to the moon in February 1971 and the Space Shuttle Atlantis which flew on its maiden voyage in October 1985.

Virtual visitors can browse the collection by clicking on the images and then “steering” through the exhibits using a control wheel on the top left of each image. Using the controls, visitors can roam around the KSC displays to learn more about its contents and history, according to an article on eWEEK.com.

The new KSC images are the latest in the Google Street View collection, which also includes panoramic views of notable places around the globe, including Historic Italy, California National Parks, and highlights of must-see sites in the United States, Poland, Israel, Russia and the magnificent Swiss Alps, says eWEEK.

Tired of Facebook Friends’ Endless Photos of Their Kids? Unbaby.me Can Help

Too many baby pictures on Facebook?Too many of your friends’ baby pictures cropping up on Facebook? There’s now a sure-fire (if slightly off-beat) way to fight back: Unbaby.me.

The photo-replacing plug-in is the brainchild of three New Yorkers — Yvonne Cheng, Chris Baker and Pete Marquis — who work together at the advertising agency BBDO. They are, unsurprisingly, in their late 20s and early 30s, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We were having drinks one night after work and were joking around about how Facebook is just lousy with babies, and wouldn’t it be funny if you could replace all those photos with cats,” Cheng said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

The plug-in will scan your Facebook feed for key words such as “cute,” “adorable” and “first birthday” — trigger words that indicate a baby photo may be attached. You can also add your own key words. Then it replaces the offending baby photo with a different photo from an RSS feed of pictures. The current default feed is cat photos.

“Personally, I don’t hate babies. I love babies. But I do get tired of looking at babies,” Cheng said.

Nokia Windows Phone 8 Reveal in Early September Tips Insider

Nokia’s first Windows Phone 8 smartphones could be revealed as early as September, as the Finnish company attempts to beat Apple to the next-generation handset unveil, according to an article on Slashgear.com.

New phones running Microsoft’s latest smartphone OS are set to be announced next month, though availability is only said to be in time for the holiday shopping season.

Apple isn’t expected to confirm the iPhone 5 until midway through September. However, the company is likely to have the much-anticipated handset up for grabs within a month of that.

Exactly what the new Nokia devices will look like is unclear, but the company will probably stick to a style similar to the Lumia 800 and Lumia 900, Slashgear reports.

 

Mozy Stash