A Week for Geeks 2

Slacker radio

AT&T Data Plan Changes

Two days before at&t raised their smart phone early termination fee (ETF), I cancelled my contract with at&t.  There were just too many places where I couldn’t get service.  I have since been suffering terribly from iPhone withdrawal.  However, I have a sense of freedom similar to that an abused spouse must have when they finally pull away from the house with all their stuff loaded in the car.  Good-bye at&t. Looks like that happened just in time.  If I wanted to finally enjoy tethering on my iPhone, I would have to have given up my unlimited data plan.  Previously my data was only limited by the fact that at&t’s 3G service was so hard to find.  Now, there is a “reward” for finally getting tethering or just buying an iPhone, as Gizmodo put it, “AT&TJust Killed Unlimited Wireless Data (and Screwed Everybody in the Process)”.  The iPhone blog noted that the $29.99 plan given to the original iPad 3G purchasers will not be available to new users.  However, the unlimited plan is still good available this weekend.  After answering the question, “How Much Video Can You Actually Stream With AT&T’s New Data Plans?“, Gizmodo suggests “Run, don’t walk, to get your iPad 3G before the end of the weekend.”  (Joy has the wi-fi iPad and we use a mobile hotspot when we don’t have wireless access.)

Wonder why these announcements didn’t happen until after the June 1 increase in ETF? The good news is that there are rumors that Verizon is experimenting with data plans for the iPad.  Need some tunes to tide you over when passing through an at&t data hole?  Phone Scoop says that the Slacker app will now be storing music locally on your iPhone.

Google News After Google IO

In the past I have marked Google Doc’s spreadsheet web app down for lacking some of the power of Zoho’s.  Google continues to close the gap this week with the introduction of more advanced sorting controls as well as a smattering of other improvements. Reuter reports that the Google OS is now scheduled to appear in late fall.  I remember when that news would have been more exciting, but it seems like we’ve been hearing that it is coming soon forever. Google also implemented a new feature to their search page.  Now, “you [can] add a favorite photo or image to the background of the Google homepage.”  I guess if you use the search page as your opening tab (like Mom does) that might be of interest.  She might want to see a picture of me there, right?  Right, Mom? On the philanthropic front, Google’s YouTube volunteers for nonprofits celebrates a year of volunteer geeks making videos for charity.  A tip of the hat to you.

Microsoft Freshens Up It’s Live Suite

Techcrunch reports a significant upgrade in Windows Live is just around the corner.  Their writer was most enthused about improvements to the already strong Windows Live Photo Gallery.  It adds face recognition and a the ability to fuse multiple shots into one.  I’m excited to see that Microsoft is finally showing Movie Maker some love, adding the Animoto special effect that previously required more serious software like Corel Studio Pro X3 or Sony Vega.  (I’m wishing for but not expecting some HTML5 video capability in the form of support for H264 and WebM.  However, PCWorld reports support for HD output.)

Android Keeps Getting Cooler

One area in which I was not jealous of Joy’s Eris, was the way that Google Listen handled podcast subscriptions.  We found Listen to be buggy and would have preferred to handle podcasts from the music player as we do on her iPad.  I’m not a big fan of DoubleTwist’s desktop application.  On the plus side, the desktop is a handy place to find Android apps, shop for music, and import playlists to sync with one’s phone, but it is also painfully slow and the item by item display is awkward for those of us with extremely large music and podcast libraries.  That being said, the new DoubleTwist Android app [TechCrunch] looks and appears to act great on the Eris.  I haven’t decided whether I will stick with MediaMonkey on the desktop, but Joy is happy with DT on the Eris and that makes me happy.  Now, they need to get on making a widget. For those lacking someone else at home to call their phone, Where’s My Droid? might just be the app they are looking for.  It gives them the flexibility of ringing their phone from the web [Lifehacker].

The Social Web

For those of us whose friends insist on living in another state, across the continent, or across the seas, social media is a blessing.  But it can also enrich relationships with those friends nearby.  Oh, and it can be fun. Do You Want to Date My Gravatar?  Social media can also be confusing.  Is this really my friend Tom on Orkut or is it someone with the same name.  One site that helps cut through the identity confusion is gravatar.  By making one avatar available to the same person across multiple sites, gravatar helps us to know who is who on which site.   Now, Pirillo tells us that we can go to someone’s gravatar profile and see all of the applications that go with that individual.  I prefer Google Profile, but there is completely a need to be filled here.

I don’t really want to talk about Facebook Privacy any more.  But they do.  I just wish my friends would all get on the Buzz wagon.  Tweetdeck is my desktop means of keeping tabs on their Facebook activity.  Brizzly is my web app for that.  Brizzly has enhanced their service with something called Picnics where you can tweet DMs to a group with sidebar conversations whispered to just one individual.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m glad to see Brizzly staying in the game.  I like the way they display pictures inline with tweets.  I’ll hang with Brizzly on line at least until Tweetdeck introduces their eagerly awaited (at least by me) HTML5 web app.

Yelp! is one of the applications behind the big Facebook privacy stink.  Like Pandora and Microsoft, Facebook had forked over your profile information by default.  (Users had to block them.)  Now, Yelp! is increasing their integration further by the logical addition of OpenTable.  If you like what others posted on Yelp! you can make a reservation using OpenTable from within their site [NYTIMES].  I haven’t withdrawn from Yelp! over their complicity in the Facebook scandal and I suspect I’ll use this new feature if I ever decide to eat somewhere besides Fiesta Mexicana or Pittsburgh Pizza & Wings


Windows Media Center

If, like me, you always rush to get to the movie in time to watch the trailers, you might be interested in the new plug-in, imaginatively named Trailer Library, that lets you watch trailers from your Windows Media Center.  Also, the new version of Media Browser plays more nicely with MyMovies [The Digital Life]. I’m sure next week we’ll have more Apple-icious news.  I haven’t bought my Droid Incredible yet because I’m hoping that in Monday afternoon’s keynote my friend (that’s the sound of me sucking up) announces what I most want to hear, that the iPhone 4G/HD will be available on Verizon.  And remember he promised we wouldn’t be disappointed.

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