June 30, 2010

Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010

This year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (or E3 for short) was held in Los Angeles, June 15 -17. PC magazine reported on all the breaking news from the event.

Microsoft unveiled a slimmed-down version of the Xbox 360. The also unveiled the commercial release of Project Natal, which is now called Kinect. Kinect eliminates the standard Xbox controller. Instead,  the player becomes the controller through advanced motion-capture technology.

Sony also introduced a motion controller called the PlayStation Move. The Move, has the sense of fun that made the Nintendo Wii such a massive hit, while possessing the precision required to play more serious titles. The Move is due out in September.

Nintendo had the biggest hardware hit of E3. The 3DS, the successor to the company's popular Nintendo DS, delivers on Nintendo's promise of 3D graphics without glasses. That device, which doesn't have a ship date yet, also includes a 3D digital camera, a motion sensor, and a gyroscope.
You can read all about E3 here, including awards presented. Plenty of games that utilize the new technologies will be available soon. What do you think of the new gaming interfaces? Will you rush out to purchase them or will it depend on the games offered?

June 29, 2010

The Future of Web Browsers: Why You Should Be Excited Pt. 1

Believe it or not, web browsers have really not come all that far.

Yes, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome have upped the ante when it comes to speed, usability, and safety, but the basics behind how a web page is rendered is still the same as it was in 1997, when HTML 4.0 was introduced.

The good news is that, beginning with the introduction of HTML 5, web browsers are beginning to make some serious changes that will benefit all users in the future. Many browsers have added HTML 5 support already including Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome. Microsoft is planning HTML 5 support for Internet Explorer 9.

Let us look at why HTML 5 is going to help you:
  • Better looking webpages, that are faster and leaner
  • Advanced browser functionality such as "Drag and Drop" and embedded video that doesn't require a plugin, such as Flash.
  • Offline storage
You can see that some of these features are already in use on sites such as Gmail, which allows you to "drag and drop" images into your email. Youtube is also adopting HTML 5 and allows some videos to be viewed without the required Adobe Flash plugin. Instead, you are able to watch the video using the HTML 5 player.

If you are running an HTML 5 compatible browser, you can join the beta testing group here for the HTML 5 Youtube video viewer. You can then check out this video of the world celebrating Landon Donovan's game-winning goal.

HTML 5 is just the beginning of why you should be excited about the future of web browsers. Be sure to check out Part 2 next week when I talk about my favorite upcoming feature: Hardware Acceleration.

Amazon's Kindle App is Now Available for Android

Android and ebook fans can rejoice! Amazon has just released their Kindle app for Android devices.

Here's a list of the major features from the Kindle for Android website:
  • Get the best reading experience available on your Android phone. No Kindle required
  • Access your Kindle books even if you don't have your Kindle with you
  • Automatically synchronize your last page read and annotations between devices with Whispersync
  • Adjust the text size, add bookmarks, and view the annotations you created on your Kindle, computer, or other Kindle-compatible device
  • Read in portrait or landscape mode
  • Tap on either side of the screen or flick to turn pages
The Whispersync technology seems to be one of the most unique features of the Kindle app. It will synchronize where you last read on multiple kindle devices (iPhone, Android, Kindle, iPad). This a cool feature, that might help transition regular book readers into ebook readers.

You can find the Kindle application on the Android Market and the App Store for Apple Devices.

June 24, 2010

Library of Congress Preserves Recordings

The Library of Congress announced its selections for the 2009 National Recording Registry. Selections must be at least 10 years old and be culturally, historically or aesthetically significant. The Library of Congress will ensure that these recordings are always available to the American public. The selections for the 2009 registry bring the total number of recordings to 300.

Among the selections are Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama;" Loretta Lynn’s "Coal Miner’s Daughter;" Bill Cosby’s album, "I Started Out As a Child;" Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti;" R.E.M.'s "Radio Free Europe;" and the Marine Corps Combat Field Recording Collection of the second battle of Guam, which documents rare battle sounds and personal accounts by troops before, during and after the battle.

What do you think of the selections? Are you surprised by any of the inclusions? Share your comments with us.

June 23, 2010

eReaders Become More Affordable

If you are interested in buying an eBook reader, now is the time. Several new models of readers are coming out soon. Also, several popular eReaders have recently dropped in price.

As we have mentioned previously, Borders is getting into the eBook game. The company is launching its own eBook store, and will soon be selling two new eReaders. In addition to the Sony eReaders it currently sells, Borders is adding the Kobo eReader and also the Libre Pro from Aluratek to the lineup. The biggest thing about these new eReaders is their price. The Kobo eReader costs $149.99, while the Libre Pro is only $119.99. Each of these new eReaders, if purchased through Borders, will also come preloaded with 100 free classic books.

Barnes and Noble is also releasing a new version of its popular Nook eReader. The new Nook Wi-Fi costs $149, and has almost all of the same features as the Nook that was released last year. The only difference is that the Nook Wi-Fi does not have built-in 3G connectivity, so you can only directly donwload books to your Nook if you have a Wi-Fi connection. Barnes and Noble has also dropped the price on the older version of the Nook, now called the Nook 3G, to $199.

Not to be outdone, Amazon has dramatically cut the price of its Kindle 2 eReader, to $189. Just recently, it was selling for $259. The Kindle is now also available for purchase in Target stores.

Meanwhile, sales of the the Apple iPad show no signs of slowing down. Apple announced that, in only 80 days, it has sold over 3 million iPads. Compare this to estimated sales on the Kindle, which in approximately 2 years has sold 3 million units.

With the many different eReaders now available at a wide range of price points, now is an excellent time to try one out.

June 20, 2010

Giveaway of the Day -- Free Software Daily

Today I realized that I had not mentioned my favorite free software giveaway site, Giveawayoftheday.com on this blog and it certainly deserves mention. The Giveawayoftheday.com website gives this description of their services: "Every day we offer for FREE licensed software you’d have to buy otherwise!"

I've used Giveawayoftheday.com to pickup some excellent licensed software that otherwise would have cost me a significant penny. The software they offer also ranges from screensavers to advanced video conversion programs.

It's a great site to monitor for excellent deals on great software. Check it out!

June 15, 2010

PDFtoWord.com Does Exactly What It Says

Today we ran into an issue in the Technology Center: A patron was trying to convert a PDF (Portable Document Format) into a Microsoft Word document. For those of you that do not know how PDFs work, they are similar to a picture in that you can view them, but you cannot change their contents. PDF files do not allow editing with any free software, nor do they allow the user to save them in the Word format. This can be problematic for users.

This is where PDFtoWord.com steps in. This site does exactly what you would think: it converts PDF files into editable Word documents. It is very easy to use: Simply click on Browse, upload your file, and provide an email address where you want to receive your your converted file. Note: Be sure to un-check the "Receive PDF to Word news from Nitro," beneath where you enter your email address.

PDFtoWord.com is free to use, and great for handling your PDF to Word conversion needs!

Keep Your Software Current With FileHippo's Update Checker

Ask a typical computer user what software is on his or her computer, and he or she may be able to tell you some basic information such as which version of the operating system or browser is installed. Maybe.
But ask what version of Flash she or he is using, the current browser version, or what the latest edition of Adobe Reader is, and you will most likely be met by blank stares.

Here at the Troy Public Library's Technology Desk we are adamant about informing our users to keep their software up to date. We stress making sure that automatic updates are on for Windows, and that the latest definitions for anti-virus programs are downloaded. However, with the multitude of plugins that are used to make website content dynamic, some software updates can often be overlooked. It is easy to not have the latest versions of Flash, QuickTime, Silverlight, and other programs. Sometimes, not having the latest version may just be an inconvenience. Others times, it could open you up to malicious attacks.

One excellent way to keep your software up-to-date is to use FileHippo.com's Update Checker. Downloading and installing the Update Checker is straightforward. When you run it, the Update Checker will scan your system. If it detects out-of-date software on your computer that is available from FileHippo.com, it will provide links to download the latest versions. FileHippo.com is a software hosting site that hosts downloads for a variety of free software. Popular software such as Firefox, iTunes, Flash, and more can be downloaded from FileHippo.

I use FileHipopo's Update Checker once a week. It doesn't take long to run and install new programs, and it provides me with peace of mind knowing that I am using the newest software on my computer. Give it a try and let us know what you think.

June 11, 2010

Fun Friday: World Cup Edition

Today, the World Cup started in South Africa. Billed as the world's largest sporting event, this international soccer (or should I say, football?) competition brings together 32 national teams to compete in a month long tournament to see who is best in the world. Web sites around the globe are covering and promoting the World Cup. Here are several fun sites to help celebrate this worldwide sporting event.

World Cup 2010 Twitter Replay
This site, from the Guardian newspaper in London, shows real-time replays of what people were talking about on Twitter during each World Cup game. This is a fascinating way to look at sports.

This is the website for the Federation Internationale de Football Association, the organization that puts on the World Cup. It features stats, schedules, news, and more. Also, it has a feature called Matchcast that allows you to track games that are in progress.

Firefox Cup
OK, so this site isn't directly related to the games that are happening at the World Cup. However, you can use it to dress up the Firefox web browser to show support for your favorite team.