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Richard Cartwright's blog

Siri vs. Android Voice Actions

Siri has graced the iPhone 4S for almost a week now and reports on its witty banter, international limitations and working even when the phone is locked has bounced around the Internet. Some articles have also compared Siri in head to head contests with Android Voice Actions. There is really no comparison, as both Apple and Google took very different paths to the very different places that each application occupies in the mobile space.

While Android Natural Language Processing (NLP) applications like "Speaktoit Assistant" should be the considered similar to Apple iPhone 4S Siri - Android Voice Actions, as its name implies, will initiate a limited set of programs and features on your Android phone. You have to memorize the commands and speak them exactly. Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), the latest Android rev that is due to drop sometime next month promises to up the ante to add the ability to look up a number from the internet and dial it. The current version of Siri, can only dial numbers in the users’ contact list. Further, Android 4.0 promises spoken turn by turn navigation. However, this is a US only feature, which mirror’s Siri’s US only location based services.

ICS is touting what Goggle calls the “open microphone” feature that allows the speaker to enter voice commands without opening the phone up and crowing that Apple does not have that feature. Google may be consuming some crow regarding its open microphone claims, as Siri does appear to in fact operate even when the phone is locked. However, American tech site CNET, recently pointed out that security company Soros learned that Apple ships the iPhone 4S with a default setting that allows any random chap to send emails, texts and make calls so long as the person is in the contact list. It only takes a moment to change the setting, but based on the negative response of iPhone users for this “feature”, Google may want to at the least change their default settings. If one happens to have an iPhone 4S and wants to change the setting see below;

Apple iPhone 4S Siri


The All New Powerful Windows 8 Task Manager

Apple has dominated the tech news of late and, as its fairly certain that Apple will continue to sell every iPhone the company can make, as Monty Python would say; Now for Something Completely Different. The Windows 8 development team is planning a major overhaul of the venerable Task Manager. The handy program has saved many a Windows user from a system reboot over the years and has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Windows 3.0 looking like this:

Windows 3 Task Manager

to the current version in Windows 7 here:

Windows 7 Task Manager

The Windows 8 team started their planning process by seeing how real world users make use of the tools provided in Task Manager, such as killing applications, determine what processes were taking up the most memory and CPU resources , starting up or terminating services, checking network issues, and general system-admin tasks. Shockingly enough, approximately eighty-five percent of users’ main feature of choice in the Task Manager was to terminate programs. Included in that number was monitoring processes as well, since in many cases a misbehaving program or process is eating up memory and processor cycles thereby causing the system to be sluggish or even freeze.

iOS 5 update rained on by iCloud?

Apple iCloud Logo

The Apple iOS 5 update dropped today and Apple was not ready for the demand. As of this writing, there have been no confirmed reports of any successful updates by the tech media or users based on reports and Apple discussion groups. Apple has admitted that the installation problems are on Apple's side, and the consensus is that the iCloud servers are simply unable to completely process and verify the installation process. This does not bode well for either the estimated three million iPhone 4S devices that will be seeking communion with iCloud to get activated (and in all likelihood need software updates) or the inauguration of the Apple iCloud music service at the end of the month.

Apple has put a lot of time, treasure and credibility into the iCloud initiative. Apple envisions iCloud as follows:
"This is the cloud the way it should be: automatic and effortless. iCloud is seamlessly integrated into your apps, so you can access your content on all your devices." In order to fulfill this vision Apple has to be able to have the content accessible on demand and to accomplish that, they created a huge server farm in the state of North Carolina in the United States, spending over a billion dollars USD according to some estimates.

Steve Jobs 1955-2011 Rest In Peace

Just days ago Apple announced their new iPhone 4S and today the company's co-founder Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. Apple has officially announced to the world that Steve Jobs died October 5th, 2011 of complications of pancreatic cancer. Mr.Jobs was one of the founders of what is widely regarded as the modern personal computer industry. For many that would have been enough to rest on his laurels. Ironically, his greatest accomplishments came after he was fired in 1985 from the company he co-created in a corporate coup. From 1985 to his return to Apple in 1997, Jobs founded NeXT Computers whose operating system became the basis of Apple's iMac operating system. In addition Steve bought a small hardware subsidiary from LucasFilms that he turned into the world renowned Pixar, creator of blockbuster animated films such as Toy Story.

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple as a consultant as part of the purchase of NeXT Computing. Shortly thereafter, Jobs returned to the CEO role of a much diminished Apple. The companies fortunes had shrunk so far that Michael Dell of Dell computing once famously said that the best thing that can be done for the Apple shareholders was to dissolve the company and return the shareholder funds. Over the next fourteen years, Jobs was the visionary behind the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, catapulting Apple to become of the greatest companies in the world today. Along the way, under Job's leadership, Apple completely changed the way that the world consumed music, movies, and used cell phones. The iPad seems poised to change the way that we consume media today.

Amazon’s Silk not so smooth

One of the cornerstones of the new Amazon Fire tablet is its Silk browser. Silk promises a cloud-powered lighting fast browser experience that greatly enhances the web surfing experience and warms you to the Kindle Fire. While the Kindle Fire is only available in the United States at present, the way Amazon delivers on its promises bears a review for anyone concerned about privacy since it is probably only a matter of time before the legal and commercial issues that presently limits the Fire to the US will be overcome and the new Kindle tablet will go into wider distribution.

Silk accomplishes its promise of a fast browsing experience by taking browser information requests and communicating it back to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud 2 (Amazon EC2) which returns a cache of the desired web site optimized for Amazon Silk. In short, Amazon EC2 does all the heavy lifting in terms of processor cycles and shoots the result by to the Fire tablet. Amazon EC2 is part of the little known Amazon Web Services (AWS) arm of Amazon. AWS provides back end computing services, including storage, e-commerce and web hosting to a surprising number of businesses who don’t want to run extensive IT departments and/or server farms.

Browsing the web discloses a lot of information such as your interests, political, prurient and commercial. Amazon already knows a lot about what you buy, and Silk makes it even easier because it tracks where you go on the web when you are not on Amazon’s web site. The process that Silk uses has to communicate everything, including encrypted information through the Amazon EC2 servers. In many cases, the optimized web page is in fact a cached copy based on a prediction of what you are likely to ask for next. For example, if you are reading an article on line about the World Rugby Cup the service is likely to cache the entire article and perhaps rugby related content in the expectation that is what you will ask for next.

Microsoft Security Essentials hates Google Chrome

Google Chrome

In an development first reported by Ryan Naraine, the free antivirus and anti-malware program Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) has been deleting the popular Google Chrome browser claiming that it was a piece of malware from the Zeus family of trojans. The Chrome help forum logged over 289 comments in less than 2 hours on this issue. Affected users all reported that MSE advised them that they had a malware attack, and asked if they wanted MSE to remove it. If the user said yes, (and who would not?) then the “malware” was removed by MSE. As part of the removal process the user was asked to restart the affected machine. Once rebooted, Chrome was gone.

The Zeus Trojan has been responsible for over $70 million USD in losses to banks and businesses, according to the American Federal Bureau of Investigation. There are reports that the Zeus source code has been recently released into the public domain, making it a serious risk for businesses. Also, as business IT departments look for more ways to save deployment costs, Chrome and MSE are being seen on more and more desktops in businesses, not just home computers.

Microsoft delivering fast boot times for Windows 8

Among the many promises of Windows 8 are phenomenally fast boot times. A recent Microsoft Developer blog post explained how Microsoft engineers are using a hybrid system to combine the features of a cold boot and hibernation with existing PC hardware to go from off to desktop in less than 40 seconds.

Fast Windows Booting

One of the major frustrations for current Windows users is the time it takes to turn the computer on to being able to do work in Windows. Tales of workers turning on the computer, going to get a cup of tea or coffee and coming back just as the desktop appears are all too common, and true. Users have worked around slow Windows boot times for years, with many simply leaving the system on all the time in sleep mode. Leaving ones machine in sleep mode brings its own set of problems as, even the best configured systems will slow over time and require a full stop and restart if for no other reasons to make sure all updates are in place. Further, many feel that it is wasteful to keep systems drawing even the small amount of power required for sleep mode if they are unproductive.

Adobe gives Steve Jobs a going away present-flash less Flash

Anyone who uses an iPad or iPhone knows that they can’t run Flash applications. In fact, Steve Jobs famously called out Adobe last year in an open letter explaining why iOS would not support Flash. In the same letter, Jobs appealed to Adobe to step up its game and move beyond Flash’s processor and power hungry ways. Adobe has responded with the announcement of Flash Media Server 4.5 at the 2011 IBC in Amsterdam. This new technology promises bridge the gap between Flash and iOS powered devices.

Samsung and Microsoft team up to create hardware for Windows 8 Tablet

Samsung seems to be hedging its bets with Google and Android by joining with Microsoft to design the next generation tablet computer running Windows 8. Samsung has long used Microsoft’s operating system, but this the first time the two companies have worked together on hardware building a device from the ground up. Several sources have reported that a prototype version of Samsung’s new tablet will be shown at the upcoming Microsoft BUILD conference in to be held next week in California. A few sites have even speculated that there will be a giveaway of the tablets at the keynote event to encourage developers to write for Windows 8.

Not much is known about the latest version of Microsoft Windows other than rumors that it may be able to run Windows Phone applications as well as Windows 7 applications. Samsung is a major smart phone, PC and tablet maker and would benefit with a closer relationship with Microsoft to lessen dependence on the Android operation system. In light of Google’s recent purchase of Motorola Mobility and subsequent statements that Google may start treating its new handset acquisition as first among equals in deployment of Android updates, it is wise to have other options.

Have American Tech Companies lost their way?

The last couple of weeks have seen amazing announcements by giant American tech companies. However, all the announcements were linked by how horribly they were handled by the respective corporate leaderships.

First, Hewlett-Packard, in one earnings call, 18 August, 2011, not only killed all production on webOS-based hardware, the Veer, the TouchPad and Pre 3, but effectively killed the future of the webOS operating system. However, this was collateral damage compared to what HP CEO Leo Apotheker did to the Personal Systems Group (PSG), the part of the company that actually makes laptops, desktops, monitors and printers. Mr. Apotheker announced that:
“We see the opportunity for PSG to compete and win in the PC marketplace and our Board has authorized to us explore strategic alternatives for PSG. We intend to evaluate a range of options that may include, among others, a separation of PSG from HP to a spinoff or other transaction.”

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