We've been keeping an eagle eye out for a tablet in shining armor that can truly take on Apple's fire-breathing iPad. It now looks like Amazon will fight fire with Kindle Fire.
The Kindle Fire couldn't be much more different than the iPad. It has a 7-inch screen, runs a version of Android, doesn't have a camera, and can't connect to a 3G network.
The Fire's biggest selling point is its selling point: $199. Golly, that's a cheap tablet. At that price, a lot of people might be willing to pass on the luxuries of 3G, lots of local storage, a microphone, and extra screen real estate.
Amazon's large store of available content in the form of books, videos, and music may well keep customers busy enough to forget about iTunes.
The term "iPad killer" is popping up everywhere, but the real truth is likely to be much more complex than one or the other winning out in a bloody sales war.
There are still plenty of unanswered questions about the Kindle Fire, but that's not going to stop us from asking the Big One. Is the Kindle Fire a true iPad competitor? We know you've got an opinion. Vote in our poll and tell us more in the comments.… Read more
We now know that Americans blow billions of minutes each month on Facebook. It's no wonder folks get in a tizzy when a new feature rolls out.
This week has been a particularly busy one when it comes to Facebook-related improvements. Which of these shiny new features are you most enamored by?
Subscribe option: The subscribe button makes it easier to get just the information you want. Click on it and get updates from that profile in your news feed. This will even work for public updates from some profiles that you're not directly friends with.
Smart Lists: Smart Lists will automatically shuffle your gazillions of friends into groups related to school, work, city, and family. You can then make manual adjustments.
Skype adds Facebook for Mac: Mac users finally get the full Skype-loves-Facebook treatment that Windows users had already been enjoying. The Skype 5.4 for Mac beta lets you message friends, update your status, and read posts from within the program.
Less frequent e-mail alerts: Facebook e-mailed some users telling them to start expecting fewer e-mail notifications from the company. If you prefer to keep your e-mail alerts just the way they are, however, you can turn this new feature off.
Take a moment from updating your status to let us know what floats your social-networking boat. Which new Facebook feature are you most excited about? Vote in our poll and be sure to elaborate in the comments section.… Read more
Steve Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO this week, prompting a flood of retrospectives about the legendary businessman who rewrote the rules of the game for entire industries.
Many waxed nostalgic over the brilliant arc of Jobs' career, which has been brought low by health problems. Heck, it even made me want to dig out my Apple IIc, my first computer, and see if it can still boot Beyond Castle Wolfenstein.
From the co-founding of Apple in 1976 to the launch of the iPad in 2010, Jobs redefined our relationship to technology by introducing innovative products that have become intuitive and indispensable everyday tools.
Who would have thought that people actually wanted to own computers? And carry them around in their pockets, no less?
Apart from Apple, his achievements include the acquisition of what became Pixar, as well as the object-oriented software development model that changed the OS landscape.
"I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it," Jobs wrote in his announcement this week. If that's true, Apple will continue to change our lives profoundly.
What do you think is Jobs' greatest legacy? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below. … Read more
As Monty Python reminds us, every sperm is sacred. So why are guys putting potentially hazardous objects so close to the family jewels?
I'm talking about cell phones. This week, we told you about a recent report in the Journal of Andrology that suggested cell phone radiation can reduce sperm count and damage sperm quality.
The report reviewed the existing medical literature about phone radiation on the male reproductive system, and found that men who use cell phones have decreased sperm concentration and motility.
"These abnormalities seem to be directly related with the length of mobile phone use," the authors from Italy's University of Catania noted.
The researchers also considered a study in which rats were put in special Plexiglas cages with cell phones just 0.2 inch underneath the cage bottom. The animals were exposed to to cell phone emissions for six hours per day for more than four months.
The researchers found a 25 percent drop in the rats' live sperm. The cells also tended to adhere to one another, which would reducing their chances of fertilizing an egg. … Read more
Following the shocking riots in Britain this week, Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament his government is looking into whether social media services should be shut down when there's unrest.
"When people are using social media for violence we need to stop them," Cameron said. "So we are working with the police, the intelligence services, and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder, and criminality."
Indeed, as the country picks up the pieces and looks for culprits, Facebook, Twitter, and BlackBerry Messenger have come under heightened scrutiny as facilitators of chaos. Home Secretary Theresa May is to meet with the companies.
Britain does have legal provisions to protect against network users suspected of inciting violence, but it would require new legislation to prevent online incitement to crime in real time, according to a lawyer quoted by The Guardian.
Social networks are being used to identify rioters, and even Manchester police are using Twitter to publicize those convicted.
But are authorities justified if they try to shut down online activity, as Egypt did in January, to ward off threats?
On Thursday, operators of San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) subway system shut down cell service to deal with a protest over a shooting by a BART Police officer. BART said its move was meant to avoid service disruptions.
The ACLU of Northern California condemned the action, saying, "Shutting down access to mobile phones is the wrong response to political protests, whether it's halfway around the world or right here in San Francisco. You have the right to speak out. Both the California Constitution and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protect your right to free expression."
What do you think? Is shutting down online communication ever justified? Vote in our poll and leave your comments below. … Read more
You're going out of town for a week and could use some extra cash. Why not rent out your home through a travel marketplace like Airbnb? It can match you with a traveling stranger and you could come home richer.
That's what a San Francisco woman known as "EJ" hoped for until she came back to a ransacked apartment with her personal items stolen or destroyed. She has described her experience with Airbnb as "utter hell."
Airbnb has apologized and implemented new protection measures such as $50,000 for damages for users who rent out their homes.
That hasn't stopped many people from blaming EJ for being so trusting as to leave her credit card, birth certificate, passport, and other important documents at home when her unpleasant guests arrived. She has written about the online vilification of her, which is really blaming the victim.
While the incident was no doubt an exception to the many uneventful and even wonderful transactions that happen through sites like Airbnb and VRBO, it has rekindled discussion of travel marketplaces and the wider issue of trusting online strangers.
What do you think? Has the Airbnb debacle affected your views about accommodations sites? Would you consider using one (as either a homeowner or guest) if you haven't already? Vote in our poll and add your comments below.
And, of course, bon voyage! … Read more
During a recent visit to the doctor, I marveled that all the patient files were still in paper form, filling up multiple filing cabinets in the small office.
Well, they're having none of that old-time clutter at the New York University Langone Medical Center, which started scanning palms last month to reduce paperwork and prevent identity theft.
Instead of asking patients for insurance cards, the hospital uses a PatientSecure device to scan palm vein patterns with infrared light, associating unique biometric traits to electronic health records.
This certainly isn't the first palm scanner in use, but its presence in a hospital may signal growing acceptance. The hospital says more than 22,000 patients have already used the system.
The system is optional, the data is protected by law, and it's designed to increase efficiency. Still, it wasn't surprising that at least one patient wasn't keen on the high-tech palm reading.
"It was the kind of intrusion that, if government needed it, you'd have to be under arrest or something," the patient was quoted by the New York Daily News as saying.
What do you think? Would you mind having your palm scanned at the hospital if it could protect your identity and speed up service? Vote in our poll and be sure to add your comments below. … Read more
Imagine designing the user experience for Facebook, where even the slightest change has the potential to irritate millions of users. Not a job for the weak-minded.
Facebook recently altered the appearance of its chat feature for those viewing the site in a Web browser--and not everybody is happy about it. Previously, the simple chat system would show a list of online friends in a small box on the lower right side of the browser window. It was easy to use and unobtrusive.
In contrast, the new chat sidebar stretches from top to bottom on the right side of the window. The social area no longer is a small list of only those who are online, but rather a group of people the popular social-networking site thinks you'll want to speak to, regardless of whether they're online.
There is no option to edit the list of people in this area. If those predetermined "top" friends aren't online, the chat box has an option to send them a message. Online friends not on this list must be searched for manually, which is slightly frustrating. … Read more
I love music, but I hate downloading songs, and I can never get iTunes to run smoothly on my PC. That's why I'm intrigued by popular European music-streaming service Spotify, which hit the U.S. this week.
The U.S. version of Spotify is invite-only for now, but will apparently open for general use later. Currently, Spotify has a free, ad-based service that's time-limited.
There are also $5 and $10 monthly plans that allow users to listen to their music on mobile devices.
As CNET's Donald Bell explained, Spotify definitely has competitors like Grooveshark but it's hoping its free service will lead to a base of paying subscribers.
Our editorial roundtable noted that Spotify has a tricky search engine, and some tunes are missing from albums.
Overall, though, they gave it the thumbs-up. But what do you think? Is Spotify for you? Vote in our poll and add your comments below. … Read more