The weekend was dominated by the shocking story of a man who decided to kill a crowd of people in cold blood. As hard as that is to fathom, we pressed on here at Mashable, still searching for news and views of the tragedy that dwarfed all other stories.
Beyond that, we found all kinds of stories about a variety of topics — and we noticed one genre did particularly well: humor. So as you try to make sense of the senseless things that happened last week, take a look at this Weekend Recap, where you’ll see that there were plenty of good things going on at the same time.
News & Opinion
It’s always the case. You reach into your bag for a single charger only to pull out a tangled set of cords. Your earbuds merged with your phone’s charger that also wrapped around your computer charger.
There are solutions. Aftermarket two-way retractable chargers have been around for years. You know, the ones that feel cheap, usually break and jam? This experience in frustration is about to change thanks to a nearly successful Kickstarter campaign.
Spixi is a one-way retractable charger from the mobile device accessories maker Escargot. Marketed as “a better way to charge and sync your iPhone and Android,” the charger was born out of the familiar frustration of tangled cords. Spixi is built from polycarbonate, what Macbook chargers are made from, and a thermoplastic elastomer cable that is sturdier and more eco-friendly than standard polyvinyl chloride. At two feet in length, you can connect the USB charger to your computer and still talk as you charge.
The proposed Spixi is about the width of an iPhone 4 screen at 2.25″ and the project has raised $28,403 of their pledged $30,000. The charger will be available for the iPhone 5, iPhone 4/S and Micro-USB powered phones.
How often are you untangling cords? Is Spixi a charger you’d likely use? Let us know in the comments below.
Wearable technology like Google Glass and Jawbone could be coming to an office near you, experts say.
IT goes first
Frank Schloendorn — director of Android ecosystems at Fiberlink, a mobile device management firm — believes wearable tech will make workers more productive.
Fiberlink, which recently came out with a Google Glass platform for its mobility management software, envisions a world in which IT employees track down missing smartphones, secure company data and police the company network — all without turning on a laptop.
But this world isn’t futuristic. It’s now possible with Google Glass, which lets users execute complicated tasks — like locating GPS-enabled smartphones, deleting files and dictating emails — through voice commands and simple hand gestures.
“Using Glass, you can effectively manage devices without even taking your phone out of your pocket,” said Schloendorn. “You can see out-of-compliance events and devices with a small verbal command. You can reset an end user’s passcode by a tap of the finger. That level of access is unheard of.”
Despite his enthusiasm for wearable technology, Schloendorn doesn’t think it’s poised to overtake the smartphone or tablet market.
“We believe that wearable computing is certainly technology that corporations will purchase for employees in specific use cases,” said Schloendorn. “It just makes sense if wearable computing makes a job easier, faster or safer.”
In other words, don’t expect your company to shell out $1,500 — the cost of one Google Glass unit — for every employee to walk around with a science fiction-like accessory strapped to their face.
But you might start to see such products popping up in tech-heavy departments, like IT, where most business technologies get their foot in the door.
Happier, Healthier Employees
Google Glass — which isn’t even widely available for purchase yet — isn’t the only piece of wearable technology that might be put to work in the near future.
There’s also a whole host of health-monitoring devices — part of the quantifiable self movement — that might not seem work-friendly at first but could soon be causing a stir in business circles.
Melissa Thompson — CEO and founder of TalkSession, an online counseling platform, and staunch advocate for mental health care reform in the U.S. — believes that using wearable tech in the workplace just makes good sense.
“The use of self-monitoring devices is a personal decision,” said Thompson. “Nevertheless, it is in an employer’s best interest to encourage and support its employees in their efforts toward health and wellness improvement.”
Self-monitoring devices are designed to make people happier and healthier, Thompson said. And who benefits most from happy, healthy people? The people who employ them, of course.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression alone was estimated to cause 200 lost workdays each year, costing employers up to $44 billion,” Thompson said.
She also noted that chronic diseases, like diabetes, amount to major costs for employers as well, in both absenteeism and direct health care costs.
“The cost of self-monitoring devices is a small fraction of the overall health care costs that occur as a result of physical and mental illness,” Thompson said.
In fact, insurers are increasingly investing in preventative-care measures and gadgets that monitor blood pressure, heart rate and exercise regimens, and these gadgets might have a place in that preventative care model, Thompson explained.
Is It Legal?
Just because wearable technology will soon be widely available, it doesn’t mean it’s ethical — or even legal — for companies to incorporate it into workplace culture.
Greg Noble, an employment attorney with O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble in Westfield, N.J., believes it’s legal for employers to require the use of the technology.
“I don’t see any illegality with an employer requiring their employees to use certain equipment,” Noble said. “If you’re a construction worker, the bosses are going to say, ‘These are the tools you’re using.'”
However, Noble also noted that there are several issues that could arise with the use of such devices in the workplace.
“It all comes down to an individual’s right to privacy in the workplace,” Noble said. “[Wearable technology] could raise some privacy concerns.”
Google Glass — which can discreetly record audio and video and snap candid photos — could certainly pose a threat to individual privacy.
And health-monitoring devices — like Jawbone UP, Fitbit Flex and Nike+ FuelBand — raise legal concerns of their own when used in the workplace, Noble said. Even if such devices are used on a strictly voluntary basis (as advocates like Thompson believe they should be), legal issues could still arise.
It all depends on who has access to the information that these health-monitoring devices collect. If employers or insurers see an employee’s personal health information and then decide to fire him or her for completely unrelated reasons, the employer could still face discrimination charges, Noble said.
But as Fiberlink’s Schloendorn pointed out, such risks are inherent to a company’s adoption of new tech tools.
“There are always concerns around new technology, especially technology that you can wear,” Schloendorn said. “Risk is very individual and different for each person and each organization.”
Schloendorn said Fiberlink thinks of wearable technology as just another manifestation of mobile devices — like smartphones, tablets or laptops.
“Restrictions on their use or adoption should be considered and should be consistent with similar devices or technology within a company,” he said.
Image: Flickr, Ted Eytan
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With the TiVo Roamio line, TiVo hopes to marry the cable TV with digital streaming services. But is it enough to keep the company relevant?
I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for TiVo. Even before I bought my first TiVo box back in 2003, I was a fan of the service and its functionality. Cable DVRs were only starting to roll out — and the interface was a gigantic mess. Moreover, my TiVo had features such as home network support, box-to-box transfers and the ability to stream podcasts. TiVo was a product literally years ahead of its time.
The problem was that the shift to HDTV worked against the company. A box that once worked well with SD channels on an HDTV didn’t adapt to the HD world. Instead, using a TiVo required cumbersome adaptors and crucial trade-offs. At the same time, it just became easier to use the DVR built into the cable company’s set-top box. Even worse, television viewing increasingly shifted to include web programming — something TiVo was late to address.
When I moved to New York City in 2011, I left my TiVo boxes behind. In spite of years of loyalty (I was a volunteer hardware and software beta tester for a number of years before becoming a tech journalist), TiVo simply hadn’t adapted to meet my needs as a TV viewer.
I say all of this to preface why I’m very seriously considering dropping $400 on the TiVo Roamio Plus, and why that’s a big deal. Welcome to 2013, TiVo. We’ve missed you.
With the Roamio Plus, TiVo has managed to satisfy the rare TV viewer who is both willing to pay for digital cable and who subscribes and consumes a lot of digital content. Fortunately, this describes me perfectly. I’m one of the only people my age that won’t even consider cutting the cord (give me HBO or give me death), but also pays for subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Aereo, Redbox Instant and Amazon Prime.
In addition to my cable subscription, I also have plenty of other devices hooked up to my TV: Roku, Apple TV, Slingbox, Boxee, Xbox 360, connected Blu-ray player, Silicon Dust HDHomeRun, Mac mini and a Windows home theater PC.
Part of the appeal of the TiVo Roamio Plus is that it can ostensibly replace all — or most — of those extra boxes, while also offering access to digital cable while digital streaming content.
The TiVo Roamio Plus can record up to six shows at once using a CableCARD. Right off the bat, that means that if you use satellite or AT&T U-Verse, the TiVo Roamio Plus won’t work for you.
If you’re not familiar with a CableCARD, it’s a PCMCIA-sized device that acts as a cable box. Cable companies are legally required to provide them upon request (in lieu of renting one of the company’s cable boxes), but depending on your provider and location, actually getting a card may require someone to come and install it.
You’ll also need to make sure to get a multi-stream CableCARD (often called an M-Card), as that’s the only kind that works with the TiVo.
You can set up the TiVo Roamio Plus without using an M-Card, but you won’t have access to any televised content. If you want a TiVo you can use with an HD antenna, you will need the $199.99 TiVo Roamio.
Once the M-Card is inserted, it’s theoretically as simple as booting up the TiVo and going through the guided setup.
The TiVo Roamio Plus has built-in gigabit Ethernet as well as built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi. The built-in Wi-Fi is actually a big deal because all previous TiVo models required the use of a USB dongle.
Since the TiVo is powered by M-Card, you don’t need to deal with infrared blasters anymore. The famous peanut-shaped TiVo remote is more refined than in years past, but has a familiar look and feel. As an added bonus, it works over RF now, which means that the response time is much faster.
The TiVo Roamio Plus replaces the entire cable interface. As a result, if you want to access cable-box specific features — like video on demand — your options are limited.
The good news is that most major cable providers have moved a lot of the on-demand content to the web or iPad. My cable company, Cablevision, offers full live TV and on-demand access from the Optimum app for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and on Mac or PC.
The TiVo setup process has not changed much over the last decade, and that’s a decidedly good thing. Confirm your channel lineup, download the latest software updates and enjoy a better TV experience.
The TiVo Roamio Plus has a 1TB hard drive equipped for some 150 hours of HD recording. It also boasts an eSATA plug if you want to add an additional 1TB of storage space to the device.
TiVo has had support for streaming services in the past, but with the Roamio Plus, the experience is much, much better.
Out of the box, TiVo Roamio Plus supports Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant (but not Amazon Prime — more on that later), Spotify, Pandora, MLB.TV and YouTube.
Comcast users in select markets can also access their on-demand content directly from the Roamio — something I really hope TiVo is able to extend to other cable companies in the future.
You can select the services individually or use the TiVo universal search. The universal search is excellent because it searches not only your local TV listing, but also the various streaming services. So if I search for “Bob’s Burgers” (the best animated show on primetime), I receive results from AdultSwim, Fox, Hulu Plus and Netflix.
Speaking of apps, the Netflix app is fantastic. It’s running on the latest version of the Netflix platform and looks very similar to the experience on the PS3 and on iOS and Android. It’s very, very fast at finding and managing content. Cablevision, my cable provider, is a Netflix SuperHD partner, and the TiVo Roamio Plus handled the video better than any of our other Netflix devices.
The Hulu Plus app is based on HTML5 and looks and functions almost identically to the Hulu Plus app for Roku. The YouTube app is close to the standard YouTube TV experience.
The TiVo Roamio Plus supports Google Cast, which Google uses for the Chromecast. This means you can send videos from your phone or tablet to YouTube running on the TiVo. This also works with Netflix, which is neat.
The Spotify and Pandora apps are serviceable and similar to what you find on other services.
The only app I was disappointed with was the Amazon Instant app. The app is absolutely ancient, both interface and functionality. It supports Amazon Instant rentals and purchases but not Amazon Prime. For me, that’s a total bummer — especially with Amazon’s growing Amazon Prime content library.
Still, if TiVo could update the Amazon app and add support for HBO Go (the only streaming service I actively use that is not supported by TiVo), the Roamio Plus really fulfills its promise of being the ultimate TV box.
TiVo has always excelled as a platform for content discovery. Returning to the Series 2 glory days, the TiVo Suggestion feature was a standout reason to go TiVo instead of to the cable DVR.
TiVo has updated its interface and layout to make it easy to browse shows currently on the air and suggestions based on your history. You can also see what shows are most popular on live TV or on the web.
The TiVo Roamio Plus also has a new TV guide interface that is such a big improvement over the traditional cable box, it’s almost sad.
Last year, TiVo released a $130 standalone box called the TiVo stream that lets users stream or download TiVo content to their iPhone or iPad. You can stream up to four programs to different devices at once.
This works like a Slingbox, but with your TiVo stuff. Right now, TiVo Stream only works inside the house, but later this fall, TiVo Stream will work outside of the house as well. As long as you’re connected over Wi-Fi, you can stream live or recorded content from the TiVo Roamio Plus to your iOS device.
I tested an early version of TiVo Stream support and found the experience to be quite solid. Overall, I still think the Slingbox 500 does a better job of providing video — but TiVo Stream is built-in and quite good.
If you want to extend the TiVo Roamio Plus experience to another TV, you can use the $99 TiVo Mini as a way to expand the experience to another room. When you consider that the TiVo Roamio Plus can record six shows at once and has 1TB or storage (so like 150 hours), it makes sense that you might want to spread the wealth.
Up to eight TiVo Mini boxes can be connected to the TiVo Roamio Plus, but since you need a spare tuner to use the TiVo Mini, you might not be able to use them all at the same time. The TiVo Mini also lets you access digital streaming services.
Awesome, but Expensive
If you’re the rare-breed of TV lover that has an affinity for both digital cable and digital streaming, the TiVo Roamio Plus is the best, most full-featured set-top box to date.
Unfortunately (and not unexpectedly), all this awesomeness comes at a hefty price: $399.99, plus $15 a month for TiVo service.
(As an aside, TiVo sells lifetime TiVo service for $500, but keep in mind: That’s the lifetime of the unit, not your lifetime. In other words, you’ll need to use the TiVo for 34 months before it pays for itself. Oh, and if the TiVo breaks out of warranty, your lifetime subscription is usually no longer valid. I’ve fallen into the lifetime subscription trap in the past and generally don’t recommend it. Existing TiVo owners can buy a lifetime subscription for $399.99.)
TiVo also offers a TiVo Roamio Pro for $599.99 with the exact same features as the TiVo Roamio Plus, but it has a 3TB hard drive instead of 1TB. That offers a whopping 450 hours of HD recording instead of 150. Still, for most aficionados, I think the TiVo Roamio Plus is probably the better value.
TiVo does sell a lower-end TiVo Roamio for $199.99. It can record four shows at once, but if you want to stream programming to an iOS device, you’ll need to spend another $120 for a TiVo Stream box. It also has only 500GB of storage for 75 hours of HD recording.
Of course, in theory, TiVo is saving you some money. You can cancel the DVR fee from your cable company, and if you don’t already have a Roku or Apple TV, you can skip getting one of those devices, too.
Still, make no mistake about it: The TiVo Roamio Plus (or Pro) is an expensive proposition.
That said, for the target audience of TV lovers, it’s absolutely worth it.
I’ve spent the last two weeks using a TiVo for the first time in years and I genuinely do not want to go back to the cable box DVR. That’s why when I pack up the TiVo Roamio Plus review unit, I’ll almost certainly be placing an order for one from TiVo.
I don’t know if the TiVo Roamio line is enough to save TiVo as a company, but it’s a great product.
Ultimate cable TV experience
Extremely intuitive to use, especially when compared to standard cable box
Netflix app is best-of-breed
Chromecast-like features for Netflix and YouTube are an added bonus
It’s expensive; spending $400 or $600 for a box and $15 a month will only to appeal to certain users
The Amazon app is outdated and ugly
TiVo Stream only supports iOS for now
Bottom Line: It’s expensive, but the TiVo Roamio Plus is hands-down the best all-in-one solution for cable subscribers who also love digital content.
Images: TiVo; Mashable composite
Mashable’s Gift of the Day series highlights cool, interesting and fun products for that special someone on your holiday list.
The days of traditional note-taking are over. Laptops, tablets and smartphones have revolutionized the way we record and store everyday data, making the paper note a secondary and often unnecessary tool.
Livescribe, however, is revitalizing pen and paper and enhancing productivity for anyone using them. The Oakland, California-based company created the Sky Wi-Fi smartpen, which digitally records everything the user writes and hears and was recently updated for smartphone capabilities and social integration.
The Sky smartpen syncs wirelessly to your Evernote account, for which you get 500 MB of additional memory. Your smartpen notes and audio are then accessible on any computer, iOS or Android device.
By writing on “smart paper,” which contains a series of microdots, you can tap anywhere on the page with the Sky to hear what was recorded at that moment in time. You can even print out your own smart paper, as long as you have a compatible printer.
The Sky is available with three storage capacities: 2GB, 4GB and 8GB, allowing you to find the pen with the perfect amount of memory, whether it’s for a high school student or a full-time journalist. No matter what, the person using this smartpen will be able to record hours of audio and thousands of pages of notes.
Price: $169.95 – $249.95
They may be late to the app store with this one, but it will still make lots of customers happy. Bank of America has updated its iPhone app to allow users to deposit checks without having to go to the bank or an ATM.
You simply snap a picture of the front and back of the check using the app, and your money is deposited. Banking is finally truly mobile.
While it makes life more convenient, this feature is not new. USAA Bank was the first to offer it almost three years ago. Chase Bank made it available to its customers the following year.
Bank of America was the subject of public backlash and many online petitions last year when it instituted a $5 per month fee for debit card users. The fee was eventually rescinded and Bank of America’s Tara Burke tells Mashable in an email there are no fees associated with this service.
The bank is also enhancing their Person-To-Person Email and Mobile transfers, which allow customers to transfer money from a smartphone, using just a mobile number or email address. There are apps that let you do this, such as Bump Pay, but they work with third party services like PayPal.
Burke says mobile check deposit capability is also available as an iPad app, and will be available on Android phones in the near future.
Will you use an app to deposit your money in the bank? Do you think it’s as reliable as going to a teller? Let us know in the comments.
LAS VEGAS — Cross-country and international travel is expensive. Three or four trips to London, Paris or Taiwan a year and you’re spending at least $16,000. What if you could spend that much and be in Europe and at home as often as you want? That’s what Suitable Technologies’ Beam Remote Presence System promises.
The roughly 5.5-foot-tall system is available now and on display at CES 2013. I got to take it for a drive and have to say, it’s a pretty cool system.
Here’s how it works. Beam connects to your network via a Wi-Fi or cellular broadband connection. It has a large LCD screen atop two slim bars and a rolling base. There’s also a charging station. Beam usually starts there so it’s fully charged when you’re ready to “travel.”
If you’re controlling Beam, your view is via your computer or laptop. You drive Beam with a joystick or, more commonly, the arrow keys on your keyboard, while Beam cruises along at up to 3 miles per hour. Your webcam beams your face to the Beam device, so your disembodied head looks like you’re wherever your Beam is. It’s like your own personal transporter, without the dangerous (and currently impossible) Star Trek hardware.
Controlling Beam is remarkably easy. I got a 30-second tutorial and was soon following someone around Beam’s Palo Alto offices. The display helps guide you by showing directional overlays on top of the video feed that mimic the direction and driving directions you’re sending to the remote presence device. Beam’s two cameras show you what’s ahead of you and what’s at your “feet.”
When you’re done with your remote meeting or making the rounds at a hospital, you simply drive Beam back to its charging station, spin around and back into the charging base.
I had a great time driving Beam around and meeting people at Suitable Technologies’ offices. What would you do with a remote presence device? Let me know in the comments.
More CES 2013 Coverage
Microsoft’s Surface tablet isn’t even on sale yet, but it looks like the software giant is already working on the next version. A series of job ads on the Microsoft career site says the company is expanding the line.
When Microsoft unveiled Surface, some observers thought Microsoft’s foray into building its own hardware would be a one-time thing. Once Surface completed its ostensible job of jump-starting the market for Windows 8 tablets, Microsoft would probably back off and let its hardware partners take the reins, and the Surface would slowly fade into the background, or perhaps be discontinued outright.
Now it looks like that’s not going to happen. From the job ads, it appears Microsoft is seriously committed to enhancing and expanding the Surface line. The company has posted total of 13 positions directly related to the “Surface team” since June 18 (the day the tablet was unveiled).
Among the recent jobs advertised for the Surface team: senior hardware engineer, senior component engineer, electrical engineer and mechanical engineer — not positions Microsoft would need if it were planning only incremental upgrades to the hardware and software.
If that wasn’t enough evidence, every ad for a Surface job begins the same way:
Are you passionate about building cool devices and technologies? The Surface Team focuses on lighting up Microsoft experiences with touch first computing. A fundamental part of our strategy is having desirable and powerful devices that enable the experiences people want, and elicit their excitement. Creating these devices involves a close partnership between hardware and software engineers, designers, and manufacturing. We are currently building the next generation and Surface needs you!
Note the last line, which says plainly Microsoft is working on the next-generation Surface, which many have dubbed the Surface 2. Microsoft reps told Mashable the company had no comment on the job postings.
It seems Acer’s fears that Microsoft is now fully competing with its hardware partners — at least in the tablet market — are founded.
Of course, the Surface still needs to prove itself to consumers, and it has stiff competition. It’s entering a market where there is a strong leader, the iPad, and many low-cost Android competitors. How well the Surface does will depend greatly on how much it costs, and Microsoft has said very little about that so far.
Are you excited about the launch of Surface? What features would you like to see in the next version? Have your say in the comments.