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iPhone as a Tool for the Blind & New Microsoft Xbox with Kinect For $99

iPhone as a Tool for the Blind: The iPhone has become a great tool for the blind. There are iPhone apps that greatly assist blind individuals in being even more self-sufficient.  These apps include VizWiz which allows the iPhone user to take a photo of clothing they have selected and then relays to  them what color clothing they are about to put on, LookTel Money Reader which will scan paper money and tell the holder if they are holding a ten or a twenty etc. and SendrosGPS which tells the phone holder which street they are on and what the nearest cross street are.

Notable, one has to turn on the VoiceOver Accessibility function on the iPhone (and iPad too) to set the iPhone up for usage by the blind – that can be done by tapping on the Settings app which also allows one to increase the size of apps so that the visually impaired can see the information displayed on an iPhone or iPad screen more clearly.

Here’s a link to an Atlantic article titled How the Blind are Reinventing the iPhone that discusses the topic in more depth:

New Microsoft Xbox with Kinect For $99: Microsoft is issuing a new $99 Xbox with Kinect. The Xbox, for those of you who may not be familiar with it, is a gaming consoling and Kinect is a full body motion sensor game controller. And the Xbox allows you to play games with others via the Internet and stream videos from Netflix, Hulu Plus and other media companies to that large screen HDTV in your living room.

And the low price is due to the fact that this promotion is rather like a smart phone promotion – you have to sign a two year contract and pay $15 per month subscription fee to the Xbox gaming service to get the low price for the gaming console and Kinect controller.  However, for those who’d like to dip their toes into the combo online gaming and streaming video pool – the price may just be right.

Here’s a link to a Washington Post article, titled $99 Xbox console with Kinect may launch next week, but there’s a catch, on the subject:

Linda R.

Barnes & Noble & Microsoft Partner for Nook

Yesterday it was announced that Microsoft has purchased a 17.6% share in Barnes & Noble’s Nook business this strengthen sales of Barnes & Noble’s Nook E-Books and readers.

It was even announced that the Nook E-Book store will somehow be incorporated into Windows 8 – the new Microsoft operating system coming out this fall. This new business partnership should foster competition in the E-Book market so it is a good thing for E-Book readers!

Here’s a link to a New York Times article on the subject:

And here’s a link to the CNET video cast that relayed the information about the Nook store being built into Windows 8:


Linda R. 

CISPA: A Successor to the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) Bill

If you’ll recall the debate surrounding the failed SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) bill; which essentially pitted those advocating giving the federal government the broad powers outlined in the bill to combat online piracy at the expense of the privacy rights of citizens, versus people like the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Library Association that believed that act, in fact, violated the civil rights of individuals…then you might want to take a look at some articles  on a succeeding bill also created to fight online piracy which is currently before Congress. The new bill is called CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, and it too, if passed, would give the government very broad powers to obtain the Internet related records of individuals.

Here are three links to articles that discuss this subject:

The first is from CNET and is titled How CISPA Would Affect You (Faq):

The second, titled House Votes to Improve Cyber Hacking Bill is from the New York Times:

And the third is from the tech site Mashable and is titled Where CISPA’s Going: Everything You Need To Know:

Linda R.

Neat Garry Marshall Interview on NPR Weekend Edition

Happy weekend everyone! This is one of those blog postings that is going wildly off our tech topic and onto a fun popular culture topic instead. This weekend NPR has a neat nine minute interview with director Garry Marshall on Weekend Edition.

For anyone trying to recall who Garry Marshall is or scratching their head in wonder because they’ve never heard of him…those of us above a certain age will probably find his name familiar and remember him or his work. He is a director who is well know for producing a number of TV comedies and movies including Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley and Mork & Mindy. And he is also the brother of director and actress Penny Marshall who starred in the series Laverne and Shirley.

Here’s the link to the NPR article/podcast page – enjoy!

The Stormy World of E-Books From Tea Cup To Hurricane in Five Years

The growing popularity of E-Books today can be seen in E-Book sales which are way, way up and the big brouhaha involving the Big Six Publishers, Apple and Amazon.  I’m sure everyone has heard of or read a story or two about the anti-trust suit the U. S. Justice Department has filed against Apple and some of the “Big Six” Publishers alleging that they colluded to raise the price of E-Books via something called “The Agency Model.”  Just a little bit of related background information regarding the situation! The term the “Big Six” Publishers refers, collectively, to the six largest traditional publishing houses in the U.S.: Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hatchette and Random House.  The DOJ suit has been filed against Apple and all of the Big Six Publishers sans Random House.  And the Agency Model is a departure from the traditional “Whole Sale” method of selling print books which allows book stores to purchase books from publishers and then set the sale price of the books – that is the bookstores set the price consumers actually pay for the books they sell. In contrast, the Agency Model has the publishers offering their E-Books for sale to booksellers at a set price and telling those booksellers that if they wish to sell their E-Books they have to agree to sell them at the price the publishers dictate or they cannot sell them.

Notably, three of the Big Six Publishers named in the suit, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan & HarperCollins have already settled the matter with DOJ. And with this story, like most stories, there are many sides to the situation. Apple and the Big Five Publishers involved in the suit are loudly proclaiming that A. They have not colluded to raise the price of E-Books and that B. The Agency Model is the best defense against the proverbial 300 pound gorilla in the room – the retail giant Amazon. Amazon introduced the first wildly successful E-Reader the Kindle in 2007. Amazon is seen as a big threat by the publishers because they initially used the “Whole Sale” model of selling E-Books and sold them at cost, or in some cases under cost, in order to spur sales of its Kindle E-Readers. And all of that was one thing in 2007 when E-Book sales accounted for less than 1% of the entire book market. However, this year E-Books sales are expected to rise to account for 40% of the entire book market thus the brouhaha between the DOJ, Apple, The Big Six Publishers and Amazon – as any issue over E-Books and E-Book prices isn’t about just a little bit of money now — it is about a lot of money. So the issue of E-Books and what is the best business model to use to benefit publishers, authors and customers has gone in a scant five years from being a storm in a tea cup to a major league hurricane. With that in mind another side of the E-Book equation, and one that the Big Six Publishers aren’t expounding loudly, is the fact A. their old print based business model is out of date and on the road towards becoming obsolete and B. They are in large part to blame for the partial monopoly they say Amazon has had in selling E-Books due to the DRM software they insist that any bookseller selling their E-Books incorporate into those E-Books. That the old print based way of doing business in the publishing world is changing isn’t surprising as the transformation of the preferred reading format from print to digital is indeed revolutionary – after all it has been more than five hundred years since Gutenberg perfected his printing press and the written word went from truly being written on parchment to being printed on paper and bound in printed books. So the fact that E-Books are taking off as a format and changing the way people read and thus purchase reading material is bound to upset the traditional way publishers have done business in the five hundred year print era. And DRM is, as a Gigaom article well stated late last year, a stick the publishers gave Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony and other E-Book sellers to beat them with. This is because the restrictive DRM software locks customers into an E-Book platform. What that means in plain American English is that if you own a Kindle or a Nook and buy E-Books for it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble you cannot read those E-Books on other devices – you can’t, for example, buy E-Books for your Kindle and then read those E-Books on your Nook or vice versa. So if you bought a Kindle in 2007 and have 45 E-Book on it you’re going to be hesitant to buy the new Glowlight Nook because you can’t transfer the E-Books you purchased from Amazon to your new Nook. And likewise if you bought a Nook and have purchased 30 E-Books for it and then decide you’d like to upgrade to a Kindle Fire you can’t read the Nook Books you previously purchased on your Kindle Fire. Thus the publishers have indeed given the E-Book sellers a stick to beat them with because most people are going to stick with buying E-Books from the company they started buying E-Books from to begin with so they can access all the E-Books they previously purchased.

And I will admit two things in relation; firstly, that if you have a tablet like the iPad you can download the Amazon and Barnes & Noble apps to it and access E-Books purchased through either store via that tablet through the appropriate app. But tablets cost more than dedicated E-Readers and you can’t access all E-Books from all vendors on all tablets. For example, the first e-reader I purchased was a Sony Reader and I have all the pre-2010 Dresden Files E-Books on it – I bought them but I can’t access them on my iPad because there isn’t a Sony Reader app for iPad.  And secondly, that there is software that allows you to unlock the DRM software and thus access the E-Books you’ve purchased so you can read them on any device you own; however, that is a legal grey area as according to the users agreements for E-Books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others you aren’t really buying an E-Book when you click that “Buy” button – you are instead buying a license to it – so technically you are not supposed to unlock the restrictive DRM software so you can read your Kindle Books on your Nook or your Nook Books on your Kindle.

And now for the links! You knew there’d be some for further reading – and here they are:

Here’s a link to a Chicago Tribune Editorial, titled Mystery solved! Artificially raising e-book prices simply to preserve an outdated business model is bad for the publishing business and readers that discusses the issues of the changing publishing landscape:,0,1423394.story

Here’s a link to a Huffington Post article, titled The Big Six Book Publishers Need to Innovate Like the Good Americans That They Are that in essence discusses how publishers need to change and offer creative and innovative E-Books to keep pace with the changing technology and consumer demands:

Here’s a link to a Paid Content article, titled “Why I break DRM on e-books”: A publishing exec speaks out, which relays the experience of a publishing executive who thinks publishers should discontinue the restrictive practice of creating E-Books in the DRM format:

Here’s a link to a PEW Research article titled The Rise of E-Reading which discusses the growing popularity of E-Books and the corresponding rise in E-Book sales:

And as a final thought here’s a link to the December 2011 gigaom article titled How publishers gave Amazon a stick to beat them with which also discussed how the use of DRM software has backfired on publishers:

Linda R. 

Newsy For Roku, New Movie Theater Sound System & The New B&N Nook

Newsy App For Roku: The folks that put out the Newsy app, and maintain the corresponding Newsy website, have now come out with an app for the Roku media player. For those of you not familiar with Newsy it is a news app that won the 2011 Appy Award for best News App, that offers video news stories cited from multiple sources. The app is free and already available for both Apple and Android devices. And now you can get one for your Roku player and watch the news stories in a great variety of categories on that large HDTV in your living room.

It is a fun news app – I tried it out on my Roku player last night!

And here’s a link to a WebProNews article on the subject:

New Movie Theater Sound System: In the near future when you go to the movies and the characters on the screen experience an earthquake or a thunderstorm you’ll be able to experience them too! You’ll be able to feel the vibrations of the earthquake or thunderstorm courtesy of a new Doby sound system called Doby Atmos.

So we can look forward to even more realistic movie experiences in the near future!

Here’s a link to a New York Times Bits article on the subject:


New Barnes & Noble Glowlight Nook: I already mentioned the new Glowlight Nook in this blog last week. However, notable New York Times tech columnist David Pogue has written an article, titled New E-Book Reader Sheds Light on Every Page, which praises the new Nook as the first E-Ink reader with a built in illumination feature so I thought I’d share the link to his article:


Linda R.

Great Adventure Travel & Scenic Photography iPad Apps

If you like to travel and like scenic photographs you should check out the new iPad apps created by Fotopedia. Fotopedia is a company created by a long time Steve Jobs associate named Jean-Marie Hullot. Mr. Hullot credits the late Mr. Jobs with instilling in him an attention-to-detail and make-the-product-as-perfect-as-it –can possibly be type of attitude. And that quest for perfection shows in the visually stunning Fotopedia apps for iPad. The apps range from one on the National Parks, to ones on Paris, Japan and even covering Wild Friends for those who enjoy seeing photos of animals in their natural settings. These apps are all free from the App Store and you really should check them out as they are visually stunning. In fact the apps look so good they just might inspire you to actually take a trip as they feature helpful travel planning tips for each location they cover as well as gorgeous photos.

The New York Times Bits Blog has an article on these visually sumptuous apps today, here’s the link:

Linda R.