Apps like Evernote, Shazam, and Mint get all the glory, but there are plenty of other productivity-boosting, life-improving apps out there. Here's a roundup of five I'm loving right now--and because I'm a cheapskate (as well as The Cheapskate), they're all freebies.6500+ Cool Facts Whether you're a trivia buff or just looking to learn more about the world, this nifty little app delivers. Read a fact, then tap the screen to move on to the next one. That's the entire interface--you can't save favorites or return to previous facts--but so what? Knowledge … Read more
AUSTIN, Texas--Someone blogged that South by Southwest Interactive is just like the Internet itself: disjointed, decentralized, scattered, fast, aggressive, random, fragmented, and so on.
In fact, the main commonality between the two may be that the number of attributes to describe them is infinite. Like the Internet, the annual tech conference here is an echo chamber of an echo chamber, a place where original thought and commentary get mixed up and mashed up in a highly self-referential meta conversation.
That was already the case before Twitter entered the scene at SXSW two years ago, but the microblogging service has certainly amplified the effect. It was both comical and frightening to see the uber-individualistic geeksters at SXSW captivated by the invisible rules of an ostentatious behavioral uniformity: within 1 mile of the convention center, you could observe the strange ritual of groups of people standing or sitting together, chained to their iPhones, twittering instead of talking: "SXSW. Twittering about SXSW."
The real conversation was often limited to a quick "What's your name?" or "Where's the next party?" just to have some input for the next tweet. It is indeed a read-write generation that is coming of age in the wake of an all-dominant present, with no particular loyalty to the past and maybe not even an interest in the future (see Peggy Orenstein's recent piece on "Growing up on Facebook" in The New York Times Magazine).
Yet the rise of the social digerati is unstoppable. New data by Nielsen Online shows that social-networking sites (which encompass social networks and blogs, by Nielsen's definition) are experiencing growth rates of twice as much as any of the main destination sites (search, portals, PC software sites, and e-mail). The time spent on social networks and blogging sites is growing at more than three times the rate of overall Internet growth. Furthermore, social networks are gaining traction among new audiences. … Read more
We managed to be among the very first to snag a coveted Sony Vaio Lifestyle PC, so here are a couple of in-the-wild photos, plus some first hands-on impressions.
Despite the small overall size, we found the keyboard fairly easy to use. At first, the lack of a touchpad worried us, but the trackpoint was fast and responsive, and after 15 minutes or so, we got fairly used to navigating with it--a very light tap on the pointing stick will give you a left mouse click. We're still not entirely sold, however, and still think a touchpad is better for many tasks.
The 1,600x768 screen has a higher resolution than many 15-inch laptops. Some initial attempts at online video streaming played fine, and the built-in Verizon-powered mobile broadband worked as advertised.
Even with Vista as the operating system, the Vaio seemed to run about as well as any Intel Atom system with XP we've used (2GB of RAM and an SSD hard drive help). With Windows 7, purportedly excellent for Netbooks, it would probably fly (relatively speaking).
It's hard to convey just how small this thing actually is. In the photos below, you'll see it positively dwarfed by an HP Mini 1000.… Read more
Much like Apple, Sony likes to keep its Vaio products aimed at mid-to-high-end buyers and generally eschews the budget end of the market (although there are actually a handful of sub-$600 Vaios we've reviewed fairly favorably).
When it comes to Netbooks, it's no different; Sony's entry into the very hot minilaptop category shares a lot with Netbooks such as the Dell Mini 9 or Asus Eee PC, but clearly goes out of its way to avoid being lumped in with them.
The P-series Lifestyle PC is one of the smallest laptops we've seen; it is almost similar to a UMPC, but with a traditional clamshell laptop design. The widescreen 8-inch 1600x768 display and tiny keyboard make for a form factor that has roughly the same footprint as a standard white business envelope, and is less than 1-inch thick, weighing 1.4 pounds.
To fit a reasonably full-featured PC into a chassis this small, some sacrifices had to be made, and we're worried the lack of a standard touch pad (instead there's a ThinkPad-like pointing stick), will keep this new system from being as useful as it could be. It does, however, include a 3G mobile broadband antenna, 802.11n Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth, with mobile broadband service provided by Verizon.
Like several other laptops we've seen recently, there's a pre-Windows instant-on operating system, which uses the familiar Sony cross-media bar menu found on the PlayStation 3 and handheld PSP consoles. Once you boot into Windows, instead of the XP variety found on most Netbooks, it has Vista, although the 2GB of RAM (up to 4GB capacity) should help it run smoothly.
Sony told us it was planning on marketing this almost clutch-size laptop specifically to women, but we didn't take them seriously until we saw these lines in the official press release:
"Designed for the fashionista in all of us, it's the ideal companion..." "The spacing between keys has also been engineered to help reduce typing mistakes making it perfect for long fingernails."
The P-series Lifestyle PC will retail for about $900, and options include solid state (up to 128GB) or standard hard drives and a variety of colors, including garnet red, emerald green, onyx black, crystal white, and classic (matte) black, with matching accessories including a fitted leather case. More photos are after the jump. … Read more
It's the classic conundrum: everybody wants the smallest possible speakers and subwoofer, but nobody wants to give up sound quality. Then reality sets in and you hear the size constraints taking their toll on the sound.
Namely, little speakers don't make bass, and even bolstered by a subwoofer, the bass and oomph limitations become painfully obvious with action packed films like Master & Commander.
Two Canadian speaker companies, Energy and Mirage, believe they have devised effective engineering solutions to the size problem. They were in Manhattan last week to show-off their itsy-bitsy creations, and I have to say … Read more
The latest of many announcements from the don't-call-it-an-ad-network media firm is that it has launched a "Wellness" division, opening up its ad services to sites in the health, fitness, and "green" niches.
With hippie food brand SoyJoy as a sponsor, Glam's Wellness channel has already ushered in about 20 sites that deal with "mind-body-spirit, empowerment, and a healthy planet," according to a release Monday. Among them are BeThree, Conscious Living TV, Ecofabulous, Low Impact Living, … Read more
The easiest way to describe Spire, a new community site that made its debut Monday, is as a more grown-up, cultured Yelp: the latter offers expert advice on the best dive bars in Brooklyn, whereas the former focuses on four-star restaurants and hotels across the river in Manhattan. Calling itself a "social resource," it's devoted to advice and recommendations on topics like luxury vacations and dining, high-end shopping, and spa getaways.
When you're signing up for Spire, you're asked to fill out a profile. The lowest option for the "age" field is "… Read more
Jonah Staw, co-founder and CEO of LittleMissMatched, heads-up a lifestyle brand that is based on "innovative and creative mixing and mismatching." LittleMissMatched launched in 2004 with a collection of mismatched socks sold in odd numbers to encourage girls of all ages to express themselves. The "nothing matches but anything goes" philosophy knocked people's socks off, and sales jumped from $5 million to $25 million in just three years. Today, the LittleMissMatched product line includes everything from socks, winterwear, and sleepwear to books, bedding, and furniture for mismatched mavens of all ages. LittleMissMatched products range in … Read more
The magazine cites a Mercer study covering 232 multi-national corporations, stating that the numbers of GNEs have increased by more than a third in recent years and now outnumber traditional expats (who return home) and long-term expats (who finally settle in their new place).
For GNEs, home is where they're going to, not where they're coming from. … Read more
After reading and talking so much recently about the concept of "democratic exclusivity" (first coined by Ed Cotton on the Influx Insights blog and then promoted by the relentless Piers Fawkes), I was delighted to finally experience it myself when I was strolling the streets of Paris last week. I spent a day (a micro-vacation!) in the not-so-touristy 6th district around Metro Vavin in Montparnasse (in fact, I rarely left it, which was a much more satisfying experience than zig-zagging from the left to the right bank all the time as I used to) and discovered "Le Timbre,&… Read more