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Girl Scout Cookies Sales Have Gone High Tech!

How many times have you passed a stand of Girl Scots selling those yummy, once a year cookies only to realize you don’t have any cash on you? Well, about 200 troops in northeast Ohio are changing the way Girl Scouts do business and I hope it catches on across the entire nation. For the first time, the girls are accepting credit cards using a device called GoPayment, a free credit card reader that clips onto smart phones in hopes of getting customers who aren’t carrying cash to place orders for their cookies.

I love this idea! My hips don’t like the thought of it very much but my tastes buds are yelling, “three boxes of Thin Mints please.” These Girl Scouts are already Gadget Girls and well on their way to becoming Geek Divas!  Take a look…

SXSWi 2011 with Foursquare, Mashable & Women in Tech

Sxsw_me

I recently returned from my second year at the Interactive track of South by Southwest, often affectionately referred to as the “Spring Break for Geeks.”  SXSWi 2011 brought us exciting panels and events by thought leaders, innovators and presentations who represent the brightest minds in emerging technology. It is here where new digital works, mobile apps, video games and innovative ideas get rolled out to those of us who are always looking for the next “big thing”. As we converged on Austin Texas March 11 – 20, my first impression of SXSWi 2011 was how much it has grown from last year. With more venues and attendees than ever, this was a Geek Diva, Gadget Girl dream.  One of the hottest trends, by far, what the incorporation of Group Texting and I’m excited to see where this technology is going. Another highlight for me was getting a chance to interview some of the power brokers and power users that I only see or communicate with online.

I got a chance to talk to Dennis Crowley, CEO and Founder of Foursquare at the Pepsi Max Foursquare Playground.

I also caught up with Pete Cashmore, CEO Mashable, which by the way was named  the most buzzed about brand during SXSWi in a study by Ad Age  and I also got a chance to talk to Romany Malco who hosted Geek Games at the Mashable House.

But the real highlight for me, as always, is geeking out with the Geek Divas.  I got a chance to speak with a couple of of the veteran SXSWi attendees, Lynne d Johnson, Senior Social Media Strategist at R/GA and SXSWi panelist Shireen Mitchell, founder of the no-profit Digital Sisters/Sistas.  I also spoke with first timer Beverly Jackson, Director of Marketing and Social Media for The Recording Academy/The GRAMMY Awards along with returning attendee and marketing professional, Shannon Mouton about the diversity, or lack thereof at SXSWi 2011. 

Here is what they had to say about Blacks in Tech and Women in Tech at SXSWi 2011. 

Get More From Your iPad

Did you know that you can stream movies from your PC to the iPad, use it as a secondary monitor, connect USB speakers and keyboards? Here are some ways to get even more use out of your iPad.

Amplify’d from www.pcworld.com

Turn Your iPad into a Secondary Desktop Display

With its big, high-resolution display, it’s a shame to just park an iPad when switching to a computer. Instead, Air Display ($10) makes your iPad a second screen for your Mac, extending the desktop. The tool has just been submitted to the App Store and should be released soon; I checked out a beta.

You install a utility on the computer and connect with the Air Display System Preference. (It’s Mac-only at launch, but a Windows version is coming.) The iPad then behaves just like an extra screen. You reposition it in the Displays System Preference like a real monitor, in a portrait or landscape view. Although it lags a little when showing video, it refreshes quickly enough for most work. You can even tap on the iPad to click.

If you can’t wait for Air Display’s release, you can check out iDisplay ($5) now. But this buggy competitor needs an update to match Air Display’s ease.

Stream Movies From Your PC

Air Video--click for full-size image.Air Video can stream 720p video from your PC, and convert transcode video formats in real time.

Even if you bought the largest-capacity iPad, if it can’t fit all of your videos, it’s too small. Instead of trying to cram everything into the device, you can stream videos from a local or online PC. The process has one main caveat; if you bought movies or TV shows from the iTunes store, DRM restrictions block those files. (Podcasts and music videos should work.). But you can watch your own videos or DRM-free downloads without taking up iPad storage.

Of the many options available, I like Air Video ($3) the best. (A free version includes the same functions but limits the number of files you can browse in each folder). Similar to competitors, you run a server utility on your PC or Mac in order to route data to the iPad. In my tests, Air Video played most resolutions smoothly, including 720p video files over an 802.11n Wi-Fi network.

That resolution stutters on an 802.11g network, but if you reach a file that’s too big—or just not in an iPad-friendly QuickTime format, including AVI, WMV, ASF, MKV, DIVX, and FLV—you can have the PC remotely convert the clip. Just hit a button from the iPad interface and stream it when ready, or have a speedy PC process it and stream it live. It even supports subtitles and TV output. The iPad can send video to a TV at 1024 by 768 resolution via its $29 Dock Connector to VGA adapter; 576p and 480p with the $49 Apple Component A/V Cable, and 576i or 480i with an Apple Composite Cable (also $49).

Connect More Than a Camera

Apple’s iPad Camera Connection Kit ($29) does so much more than its stated purpose. Instead of just transferring photos and videos from your camera or SD card, the adapter’s USB port attaches a range of devices.


Many USB keyboards work. The iPad presents a warning that the device isn’t supported (shown left), but if it doesn’t draw much power, you can ignore the message. Volume and media keys usually work, and you can even use desktop commands such as Command-Z. (Don’t forget that the iPad also officially supports Bluetooth keyboards and Apple’s iPad Keyboard Dock).

USB audio devices can work, too–including speakers, headsets, and microphones. If a device draws too much power and balks (as when I connected a Zoom H2 mic and Logitech V20 PC speakers), no problem: just attach the device to a powered USB hub, and connect the hub to the Camera Connection Kit adapter. You can even attach different devices—such as a keyboard and speaker set—at the same time.

Read more at www.pcworld.com

 

iPad 2 Picture Getting Clearer as Rumors Ramp Up

Here is comes folks… the iPad… only better. That’s the rumor anyway. We’ll have to wait to see if any of these things actually pan out. One thing is for sure, Apple consistently delivers a product that’s much better than the one that preceded it. The other thing I know for sure, I’m very glad I waited for the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5. Yes Apple, you have taught me patience. Strange how that works… I’ve been trying to master patience and delayed gratification all my life. Niow, when are these new versions coming out already?!?! I’ve been waiting long enough. Maybe I have a little more work to do.

Amplify’d from gigaom.com

The iPad 2 is said by some to be arriving as early as February or April (at least in the U.S.), and as is always the case when Apple hardware nears the end of a product cycle, the rumor mill starts working overtime. As consensus grows and independent reports start coming in from multiple sources, we end up with a much better picture of what to expect from Apple’s next iPad.

SD Card Slot

The latest rumor making the rounds is that the iPad will indeed have an SD memory card slot. This isn’t the first time such expansion is a possibility for the iPad 2, but now it’s been reported by a “trusted source” talking to Engadget, and it’s showing up in case designs from multiple manufacturers, as identified separately by AppleInsider and MIC Gadget. Since Apple already offers a way to access SD cards via the iPad Camera Connection Kit, there’s no good reason the company would object to building in the same functionality. In fact, it’s possible the only reason an SD slot wasn’t included the first time around was that it wouldn’t fit in the case.

Mini DisplayPort

The same case designs that back up the SD card slot rumor also indicate that another port will be introduced at the top of the device. The cutout for this alleged port is quite small, leaving few options for what it might be. Mini DisplayPort is a likely candidate, since even though it would eliminate the need for the iPad dock connector-to-VGA adapter, Apple could still sell various Mini DisplayPort converter accessories. A far less likely possibility for the spot is a micro-USB port, but there’s no way Apple would include that and still keep the dock connector.

“Retina” Display

The iPhone 4 introduced the world to the Retina Display, a 960×640 pixel screen with 331 ppi, a pixel density apparently beyond the threshold of human detection that makes for super crisp text and graphics. According to recent rumors stemming from resources found in the latest version of Apple iBooks app (1.2), the iPad will get twice the resolution it currently enjoys, bringing the total from 1024×768 to 2048×1536. As Kevin notes, that only adds up to a pixel density of 265 ppi, which, while not at the same level as the iPhone, is still a massive improvement, and will probably still be granted the “Retina” from Apple’s marketing department. Simply doubling the display resolution makes sense, since it’ll allow existing iPad apps to be compatible with the iPad 2 through zooming, though image quality will be somewhat degraded.

Front and Back Cameras

If there is any “sure thing” for the iPad 2, it’s that it will have two cameras: one in front for FaceTime, and one in the back for… well, actually, on a 9.7-inch tablet, probably mostly for occasional FaceTime use, too. Using it for general photographic and film-making seems incredibly awkward, even if the iPad 2 does sport a lighter, smaller body design.

Lighter, Smaller Body Design

Case designs and an actual iPad 2 mock-up used by a developer at CES earlier this month seem to support the idea that the next iPad will be smaller and slimmer than its predecessor. This is a standard improvement for new iterations of Apple gadgets, and it could help appease customers asking for a 7-inch iPad, something the company seems unwilling to provide. AppleInsider recently reported on an Apple patent that would allow the company to reduce the thickness and power consumption of capacitive touchscreens, which could be partially responsible for a new, smaller physical footprint in iPad 2.

Improved Processing and Graphics Power

The iPad 2 (along with the iPhone 5) is expected to get a new version of Apple’s custom A4 system-on-a-chip. According to a source talking to AppleInsider, the new version will have dual graphics cores to support the new Retina Display, and to allow for 1080p video playback (the current version tops out at 720p). The new graphics cores support OpenCL to share the burden of general purpose computing tasks with the GPU. The new chip will also pair the dual graphics cores with a dual core ARM Cortex-A9 chip for general processing. With a huge crop of potential iPad competitors unveiled at CES, these kinds of performance improvements are almost a necessity, but as is always the case with Apple products, hardware specs take a backseat to actual user experience, so if we see more modest improvements I won’t be surprised.

Read more at gigaom.com

 

5 Lessons Every Blogger Can Learn From The AOL TechCrunch Acquisition

TechCrunch has inspired technology (and other) bloggers to establish themselves as legitimate sources of important news, even while mainstream media has often scoffed and dismissed us. There is no denying that bloggers are here to stay. To help us along the way, here are five things that SocialTimes.com says we should keep in mind as we move forward in this new media age.

Amplify’d from www.socialtimes.com

1) Patience

Michael Arrington started TechCrunch in 2005.  He was an aggressive early adopter who ensured that his site was constantly breaking news.  But he didn’t get his first break until a few years later, and he was patient with the site.  If you look at his earlier posts, you can see a ton of breaking news, but also more experimentation with smaller, less relevant news.  He took his time while experimenting to find his voice.

TechCrunchAlexa

An Alexa.com chart showing growth for TechCrunch in just the past year.

2) Passion

As Om Malik, founder of GigaOM and friend of Michael Arrington, puts it, “Michael took his doggedness and heart-on-sleeve passion for all things startup-related and turned it into TechCrunch.”  The key here was that he enjoyed the writing, and that’s what gave him the patience and perseverance necessary.  He has a background in law but clearly chased his passion when he made the jump to technology companies, and quickly found that there was no central place to hear all the news that he was hearing, and was so important to him.  That kind of passion is what gives you the perseverance to stay with an idea.

3) Sensationalism

Michael is notorious for ‘calling it as it is’, but sometimes that means coining terms like “Scamville”, which is viral, catchy and sensationalist.  He knew and knows that the world of media is in fact as much about personality and opinion as it is about fact, and he took seemingly personal vendettas against companies and products that disservice their customers.  He took Offerpal to task, accusing their CEO of being the Queen of Scams.  This kind of rhetoric goes a long way (unfortunately).

4) Breaking News

TechCrunch breaks tech news consistently.  They made their first break when they revealed Google buying YouTube, and that marked a huge shift for the blogging industry.  If CBS wanted to know about the video industry and keep abreast of what’s going on in tech to-the-second, how can they ignore TechCrunch?  By establishing itself (and himself) as axis upon which the technology world spins, TechCrunch became the place where people went to to break news.

5) Personality & Branding

TechCrunch is Michael Arrington.  Everytime you see one, you see the other.  That’s branding at its best.  I would even say that a verb should be created, where “to Arrington” something means to analyze, sensationalize and boost publicity (positive or negative) to a product or service.  For me, I hear the name Arrington at least a few times a day, from people who are attempting to legitimize their product because they got a review from Arrington, or a blog that wants to network to us because they know somebody who knows Arrington.  If you want to succeed in blogging, you have to be the kind of person who doesn’t mind saying your own name… a lot.

Read more at www.socialtimes.com

ivi TV Sues Major Media, Claiming Right To Internet TV

Here’s a nice twist on the side of the digital video company. Chalk up one for the tech team!

Amplify’d from www.mediapost.com

IVI-TV-B

Another digital video company has ridden the wrong side of some copyright issues in running television programming via the Internet. But in an unusual twist, the company — Seattle-based ivi TV — has decided to sue first. 

The company launched last week and immediately received cease-and-desist notices from all the big TV broadcasters and media companies: NBC Universal, CBS, Walt Disney, ABC, The CW Television Stations, Fox Television, Major League Baseball, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, WGBH, WNET.org, and Seattle-based TV station group, Fisher Communications.

Because of its technology, ivi TV said it complies with copyright laws, and in a complaint filed earlier this week says “secondary transmission of an over-the-air primary transmission is not an infringement of copyrights in the works contained in the primary transmission.”

The complaint was filed in the United States District Court in Seattle, Washington, on Monday, as “a preemptive move to discourage needless litigation from big media.”

Todd Weaver, founder and CEO of ivi TV, says: “ivi is not another Pirate Bay or Napster trying to gain from others’ works. Rather, ivi wishes to work with content owners in helping them to realize new revenue streams and reach more viewers from around the globe.”

The company says ivi TV “gives people what they have wanted for years, easy-to-use live Internet TV anytime, anywhere to almost any bandwidth speed on a growing number of Internet-connected devices.”

Read more at www.mediapost.com

The Heart of Tomorrow’s High-Tech Cars: Smartphones

Last week, even GM’s OnStar decided to take the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach, announcing that it would start running popular smartphone apps such as the social-networking phenomenon Facebook and online music service Pandora on its connected car systems. I’m still not sure WHY?!?

Amplify’d from www.foxnews.com

Jeffrey Sauger/General Motors

Rather than struggle to keep pace with new technology, car manufacturers are increasingly relying on smartphones to provide tech features.

While technology races ahead, gear built into cars is increasingly left in the dust. And that’s about to change: Your car is about to join the app revolution.

For years, car manufacturers have struggled to keep pace with new technology. They add old wireless connections even as faster, newer standards are introduced. They hide hard drives in headrests while larger, cheaper drives keep coming out.

Just look at GPS navigation: A new $170 portable navigation device is more accurate and has more features than the built-in $2,000 option the dealership wants to sell you. That’s because it takes years for a car to make it from the drawing board to the showroom, while new gadgets and apps appear every day.

So automakers like BMW, Ford, and GM are changing their tack. Instead of trying to stuff dashboards with the latest technology, like gigabytes of memory or dedicated computer systems, they’re designing more streamlined systems that simply connect to drivers’ smartphones. 

The idea is to rely on those devices to provide the communications

and computing power to deliver new services and features. After all, what’s more current, your iPhone or your 6-year-old SUV — which was designed before there was such a thing as Facebook, or Twitter?

Read more at www.foxnews.com

Apple iTunes 10 and Ping: Problems… and then some…

OK Steve Jobs, you can’t have this world-wide press event, open it to the public, get us all jazzed about the new Apple offerings then have the new apps crash on us, have your new music social networking site… well… not be very social… and then have new features cause more harm than good.

I’m ready, let the Apple bashing begin (I still have your back Jobs.. but let’s work out some of these issues in the testing phase before it’s rolled out to the world… I’m just saying…)

Amplify’d from reviews.cnet.com

With any program being updated, there will be a few quirks at first while the new features get used in various people’s setups and configurations. The same goes for iTunes 10, where people are finding a few oddities that seem to be feature changes or bugs that need to be ironed out.

iPhone 4 apps causing crashes
Some people have been experiencing crashes in iTunes 10 when connecting theiriPhone 4 devices and selecting applications to transfer. If this happens, try resetting the iPhone and also try removing iTunes’ preferences (called com.apple.iTunes.plist and stored in the /username/Library/Preferences/ folder). You can also try launching iTunes in Safe Mode by holding the Option-Command keys when launching iTunes.

Album lists no longer resize
Album artwork resizing in list views is no longer possible. The only way to have resizable artwork is to use the sidebar’s album viewer window and then optionally click the artwork to open it in a dedicated window.

Removing “Ping”
Though social networking is a popular Internet development that companies are eager to take advantage of, it is not for all of us and many people prefer to avoid it. You have the option to ignore Ping in the sidebar, and you can also remove it by disabling the iTunes Store (provided you do not purchase items through the Store).

To do this, go to the iTunes preferences and in the “Parental” section select “Disable iTunes Store.”

AirPlay not working
A few people have reported the iTunes AirPlay feature is not working as it did in older versions of iTunes. For some their AirPort Express devices are selectable but no sound seems to be coming out of the unit.

If this happens, try setting the master volume in iTunes to its highest level, and do the same for your various wireless AirPort devices in iTunes. This can be done in the “Multiple Speakers” window (available from the “Window” menu). If your AirPort Express devices do not show up in iTunes, try unplugging them and shutting down your computer for a few minutes, then plug them in and start everything back up. Sometimes a quick reset like this is the easiest way to force-detect items and have them show up again.

“Nathan Volker” being followed in Ping
A few people have found the name “Nathan Volker” to be in their Ping profiles, and have wondered what is going on. Apparently this person created an account with the name “Steve Jobs” and then changed the name, resulting in some odd behavior. The account has been removed by Apple and should not affect anything. You should be able to stop following this account in Ping if you see it appear.

Read more at reviews.cnet.com

To Win Over Users, Gadgets Have to Be Touchable and it’s Only Natural

New science shows that technology that mimics what we do naturally and plays to our senses, like that of touching, will win us over in the user experience. Some are predicting that” the next generation of screens might not even need a touch. Instead, they will understand the gestures of people standing in front of them and pick up on eye movement and speech”. Are the users setting the trends for technology or the other way around?

Amplify’d from www.nytimes.com

Whoever said technology was dehumanizing was wrong. On screens everywhere — cellphones, e-readers, A.T.M.’s — as Diana Ross sang, we just want to reach out and touch.

Sony

The Sony Reader Touch Edition, to be introduced Wednesday. Researchers say people take naturally to touch screens.

Scientists and academics who study how we interact with technology say people often try to import those behaviors into their lives, as anyone who has ever wished they could lower the volume on a loud conversation or Google their brain for an answer knows well. But they say touching screens has seeped into people’s day-to-day existence more quickly and completely than other technological behaviors because it is so natural, intimate and intuitive.

And so device makers in a post-iPhone world are focused on fingertips, with touch at the core of the newest wave of computer design, known as natural user interface. Unlike past interfaces centered on the keyboard and mouse, natural user interface uses ingrained human movements that do not have to be learned.

“It’s part of the general trajectory we’re on in the computing industry — this whole notion of making computers more open to natural human gestures and intentions,” said Eric Horvitz, distinguished scientist at Microsoft Research.

The latest is a new line of Sony e-readers that the company will introduce Wednesday. For the first time, all have touch screens; Sony decided on the technology after watching person after person in focus groups automatically swipe the screen of its older, nontouch e-readers.

Research in Motion now makes touch-screen BlackBerrys, Amazon.com is expected to make a Kindle with a nonglare touch screen, and Garmin has introduced touch-screen GPS devices for biking, hiking and driving. New Canon and Panasonic digital cameras have touch screens and Diebold, which makes A.T.M.’s, says that more than half the machines that banks order today have touch screens.

Brides-to-be can scroll through bridesmaid dresses on a Hewlett-Packard touch-screen computer at Priscilla of Boston bridal boutiques, and a liquor store in Houston uses the H.P. screen as a virtual bartender, giving customers instructions for mixing drinks. The screens also show up on exercise machines, in hospitals, at airport check-in terminals and on Virgin America airplanes.

“Everyone who touches or takes a reader in their hand, they touch the screen,” said Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading division. “It’s what we do.”

Read more at www.nytimes.com

The hottest new technology… of the ’80s!

If you came of age in the ’80 then beside the memories of our bad hair you must also remember your first answering machine (why could my parents not get the concept), our BIG, gigantic, cell phones and the portable Walkmen. We thought we were so cutting edge!

Amplify’d from www.howstuffworks.com

80s computer equipment
­Do you remember having a walkman and watching VHS?

If you lived through the 1980s, then you know it was an amazing decade. It seemed like every month some cool new technology came onto the market. Many of the most popular consumer products today made their mark in the 1980s.

To see just how much happened in this decade, here are a dozen technologies that became popular in the 1980s:

  • Personal computers
  • Graphical user interface
  • CDs
  • Walkmans
  • VCRs
  • Camcorders
  • Video game consoles
  • Cable television
  • Answering machines
  • Cell phones
  • Portable phones
  • Fax machines

­

Get started with the first technology gadget from the 1980s on the next page.

Read more at www.howstuffworks.com

SXSWi: A Geekie, Gadget Girl’s DREAM!

The South by Southwest Festival officially ended yesterday in Austin, Texas.  I was in Austin for  SXSW® Interactive which featured five days of compelling presentations from the brightest minds in emerging technology and tons of exciting networking events.  This year’s festival brought out record crowds for the interactive, film and music tracks drawing in web developers and designers, bloggers, mobile innovators, content producers, programmers, widget inventors, new media entrepreneurs and social media consultants from around the world. The five-day interactive festival showcased the latest ideas, the brightest minds and the coolest innovations of the future.  Yet, I couldn’t help be a little jealous when the energy changed as SXSW kicked off with the music track, bringing in thousands of artists that totally changed the energy to something that was just magical to watch.

My old music days aside, SXSW Interactive met all my expectations and in some cases surpassed them.  I was able to meet many of the geeky, techie folks I’ve been communicating with online over the past year.  Clearly one of the highlights for me was meeting Dave Grossman, one of the founding members of Amplify, which has become an addiction of mine.  Mostly I was able to learn, engage and connect with so many people on a variety of subjects from app development and monetizing your blog to privacy issues and protecting copyrighted material on the Internet.  But if I had to sum up my SXSWi experience in just five takeaways it would be this:

  1. Some of the hottest apps and tools are made at SXSWi.  Last year Twitter was the buzz during SXSWi and now they are getting over 17 million hits per day.  This year Foursquare was the favored app and they received 300,000 hits the first day of SXSWi alone.  If you have a product, SXSWi is the place to roll it out and if you have an iPhone you will be able to get the coolest apps around.  By the way, The Foursquare guys were the coolest, nicest fellas.
  2. SXSWi puts the “social” in “social networking”.  You have to get from behind your keyboard, unplug from your computer and move away from your laptop long enough to actually engage face-to-face with people to get the real SXSWi experience.
  3. Privacy remains a hot topic for the technology community.  One thing I will walk away with, however, is fact that how much information you do or do not share online is up to each individual and under the users control.
  4. There is still a place for good story telling online and it is the foundation for communication.  However, online, good stories are a three-way street; they include the storyteller, the audience and in third place, a shared experience together.
  5. Don’t be afraid of negative responses.  People are going to talk about you anyway so you might as well know what they are saying.  Then ask yourself, are you willing to change when you get feedback, be it negative or positive?

Good story telling, seeking feedback, talking to people face-to-face and taking control of your privacy… not something you would expect to hear from a group of people who live, work and play online, as I do.  How refreshing to know that the human element is not dead in Social Media.  In fact, we need humanity in order survive in the digital space.  I would have never drawn this conclusion before SXSWi but I’m glad to know the humans are still in running the show and are still in control.  Let’s see what next year brings!