Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

The Morning Coffee – 24 February 2014

Posted: 23 Feb 2014 09:32 PM PST

Top stories this Monday morning include even more commentary on Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings Report (link, link) including one from Eion Purcell (link), a rebuttal of George packer’s biased anti-Amazon screed in The New Yorker (link), a satirical take on reading positions (link), and more.

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First 7″ Firefox OS Tablet Revealed at MWC

Posted: 23 Feb 2014 03:01 PM PST

001Alcatel_Onetouch_Fire_7_MWC2014_35835257__610x436[1]Up until yesterday Firefox could only be found on smartphones and one 10″ tablet which is still making its way to market, but with the launch of the Fire 7 from Mozilla suddenly there’s a new temptation for this tablet owner.

According to Mozilla, the Fire 7 is a reference design that was developed in partnership with Via. It sports a dual-core 1.2GHz CPU with a Mali-400 GPU, 8GB Flash storage, 1GB RAM, and a 7″ (1024 x 600 resolution) screen. It also has Wifi and a pair of cameras (2MP and VGA), and it will run Firefox OS 1.3.

Mozilla has also gone on the record as saying that the 10″ Firefox tablet that showed up at the FCC a couple weeks back is also a reference design. The official specs include a 1GHz quad-core CPU, 2GB RAM, 16GB Flash storage, and a screen resolution of 1280 x 800.

Both designs are going to be licensed out to 3rd parties, and it looks like Alcatel might be the first in line. There are reports that this smartphone maker is going to ship a Fire 7 tablet, but I’m not sure if they can be trusted.


While the Mozilla specs for the Fire 7 reference design resemble many of the budget Android tablets currently on the market, the specs mentioned for Alcatel’s tablet do not. Cnet is reporting that Alcatel is going to ship a Fire 7 tablet, but the specs listed look like they belong to a smartphone:

It’s got a 7-inch 960×540 display, dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 0.3-megapixel front and rear cameras, a 9.9mm thickness, and 285g weight. With those specs, it looks like Alcatel plans reproduce the low-budget Firefox OS phone strategy but this time with tablets.

I’ve never seen a tablet with that screen resolution, so I have to wonder whether someone at Alcatel didn’t double check the specs before sharing them with the press.

Update: Brad Linder of Liliputing share the Alcatel press release with me. I can see now that someone didn’t bother to check for errors before sending it out. It even contradicts itself and says that the rear camera is both 2MP and VGA.

In any case, over the next 6 months or so someone (possibly Alcatel) is going to ship a 7″ Firefox OS tablet with specs about as good as many $99 Android tablets. I wonder how much it’s going to cost?

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Mozilla Unveils new Firefox OS Smartphones from ZTE, Huawei, Alcatel OneTouch, Including a $25 Model

Posted: 23 Feb 2014 02:10 PM PST

It’s still Alcatel_ONETOUCH_FIRE_C-FINAL-VERSION[1]too early to say whether Firefox OS is going to be the next webOS or the next Android, but looking at the support it’s getting today from telecoms and device makers I would say that the latter is a real possibility.

Mozilla held a press event today in Barcelona. Like many tech companies, this web browser maker is at Mobile World Congress to show off their latest mobile tech, and today that is Firefox OS.

According to Mozilla, smartphones running on Firefox OS can now be had in 15 markets on three devices from four different telecoms, including carriers in Hungary, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Greece and other countries.

Over the course of the next year Telefonica and Deutsche Telekom plan to launch even more models in markets like Germany, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, and Montenegro, as well as numerous countries in South and Central America: Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay.

mozilla firefox os 25 dollar smartphoneThe new smartphone models will be coming from a variety of smartphone makers, including LG, Alcatel, ZTE, and Huawei, and there’s even reports of a $25 smartphone running on a Spreadtrum chipset.

It doesn’t sound all that impressive, but Cnet got to play with it and they said that it’s better than you might expect given the price:

I toyed with a prototype Sunday at its debut at Mobile World Congress here, and I have to say, I’m impressed — given the price.

It’s missing things like WhatsApp, its screen is small and coarse, and it’s slower to scroll and launch apps than the state-of-the-art phones from the last decade. It’s not something a rich kid from New Jersey or a businessman from Tokyo would be caught dead with.

And while that phone is going to go after what is now the feature phone market, the other new phones are going to go after regular Android smartphones.

Alcatel, for example, launched a trio of new smartphones which run Firefox OS. These phones, which are named the Fire C, E, and S, range in size from 3.5″ to 4.5″ and will ship with either dual-core or quad-core CPUs from Qualcomm. – TNW, Engadget

ascend y300And that’s not all. Huawei officially unveiled their first Firefox OS smartphone.

They’re relaunching last year’s Ascend Y300 Android smartphone, only now it’s going to run Firefox OS 1.1. Yes, it’s an older version of the OS and not the v1.3 running on the latest smartphones, and it’s on old phone hardware as well.

This model has a 4″ screen and a dual-core 1GHz Snapdragon CPU .That’s not bad, but between the specs and the OS version I’m getting the distinct impression that Hauwei is not investing a lot of effort into Firefox OS.

BTW, the Firefox OS version of the Ascend Y300 first showed up a few weeks ago. A Hungarian gadget blog found it at a trade show and shot this hands on video:

The reviews I found of the older Android version of the Y300 weren’t terribly impressive, but that might not matter so much. I think the bigger issue could be the outdated version of Firefox OS.

And last but not least ZTE also had a new Firefox OS smartphone on display, the Open C. Like the Y300 this is described as a budget phone, albeit a slightly better one. It’s running v1.3 on a dual-core 1.2GHz SnapDragon CPU with a 4″ screen, 512MB RAM, and a 2MP camera.


Engadget wasn’t impressed with the Open C, describing it as chunky and plastic. But to be fair, only one of the smartphones mentioned in this post wasn’t a budget model like the Open C. That was the Fire S froM Alcatel, and it had a 4.5″ screen and a quad-core CPU.

Mozilla, Cnet


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Next Windows 8 Update Coming This Spring, Includes Improved Support for Mouse

Posted: 23 Feb 2014 10:24 AM PST

If you’vemicrosoft-windows-8-logo[1] been avoiding Windows 8 because of the horrible Metro interface then I have some good news for you. Microsoft held a press conference today where they shared a few details about the next update for Windows 8 and Windows RT, and it looks like MS is finally bowing to market pressure.

Microsoft is in Barcelona this week for MWC, and they kicked off the week with a press conference where they share details about new updates for Windows and Windows Phone.

The new version of Windows is due out in the next few months, and Microsoft says that it will expand the options for hardware makers to tablets for the budget market, include compatibility for use in schools and large business, and improve the non-touch user interface controls.


According to Joe Belfiore, VP of operating systems for Microsoft, the updates adds a new mouse user interface, giving users new ways to access Start and to close apps. It will also be easier to launch and switch between apps through the task bar, and Microsoft is also adding search, power, and settings icons on the Start screen. Those icons can currently be found on a menu accessed by swiping from the right of the screen, making them difficult to access if you have a mouse and not a touchscreen.

When Microsoft announced Windows 8 at CES 2011, many looked on with a sense of dismay as MS showed just how obsessed they were on pushing the touch-focused Metro interface.

Unfortunately for MS, the market doesn’t seem to have liked the idea nearly as much as MS. Today’s presentation also revealed that only 40% of Windows 8 devices are equipped with a touchscreen, meaning that MS developed an interface that won’t function properly on 60% of the devices it’s running on.

The Metro interface is so unpopular that dual-boot Android/Win7 devices made an appearance at CES 2014, close to 18 months after Windows 8 shipped. Metro is in fact so unpopular that in the past few months several laptop makers brought back Windows 7 as an alternative.

In other news today, Microsoft is also making moves to go after the budget end of the device market. A few days ago they lowered the license fee for Windows 8 and Windows RT, and today they lowered their minimum hardware requirements.

According to reports,Windows 8 devices that retail for less than $250 have had their license fee slashed by 70%. The new minimum requirement is 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. That’s not exactly a budget device when compared most of the bottom of the barrel Android tablets, but it is considerably cheaper than Microsoft’s previous standard.

Many are viewing these changes as a move against Chromebooks, which have made some headway in the educational market. That’s probably true, which might explain the new IE8 compatibility mode for Internet Explorer 11.


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Gajah Unveils the InkCase Lite – Adds an E-ink Screen to Nearly Any Smartphone

Posted: 23 Feb 2014 07:58 AM PST

Lastgajah inkcase IC3510 summer Gajah (aka Oaxis, their consumer brand) unveiled a trio of smartphone cases which added E-ink screens to the back of the iPhone 5 and 2 of Samsung’s smartphones. As cool as these products may have looked, they suffered from an unfortunate limitation: they only worked with specific models.

Gajah is back again today with a new modular case system that overcomes this limitation.

They’ve designed a new smartphone accessory with a 3.5″ screen which is designed to snap into a variety of smartphone cases, and they are going to be showing it off at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

Do you remember that 3.5″ ereader slash smartphone accessory I discovered at CES 2014? That is part of the new InkCase Lite universal smartphone case. I didn’t see the other half of the modular case at CES, but I did get a number of details on and photos of the ebook reader.

OAXIS INKCASE LITE MWC gajah inkcase IC3510 gajah inkcase IC3510 3 gajah inkcase IC3510 4 gajah inkcase IC3510 5 gajah inkcase IC3510 2

The IC3510 is designed to pair with smartphones over Bluetooth, and it has its own battery, CPU, and a limited amount of storage. And according to the signs I saw in the E-ink booth, it also has a 3.5″ Mobius E-ink screen with a screen resolution of 360 x 600, or around 200 ppi.

The InkCase Lite is the second consumer product to use E-ink’s new flexible screen tech, which was unveiled last Spring. It’s far smaller than Sony’s 13.3″ E-ink writing slate and it also boasts a sharper screen resolution, and like its larger sibling this smartphone case has a screen that is more durable and rugged than most E-ink screens – or most smartphone screens, for that matter.

The InkCase Lite will work with the apps developed for the earlier InkCase models, though that’s not saying much. When I reviewed the InkCase N2 last Fall, I found that there really wasn’t much I could do with it due to the lack of compatible apps. That model had the guts of an ebook reader, but it could do little more than display photos and images sent from its companion smartphone. I could read ebooks on it, yes, but only a single page was sent at a time.

In the months since I posted that review, only a couple new apps have been released. One was mentioned in press release, InkCase Sports, which acts as a bike sports timer. Gajah has reportedly released an SDK so developers can develop apps for the InkCase Lite, but I don’t have any details as to how one would gain access.

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iPad Thin Air Video Takes Apple Satire to a New Level

Posted: 23 Feb 2014 06:44 AM PST

We all deeply enjoy making fun of Apple, so I’m sure you’re going to get a kick out of the following video.

Over the years Apple has released iPads that are faster, and iPads that are thinner, and there’s not much that they can do to improve upon the existing model – unless they took inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen, that is.

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