Author Archive | Matt Peckham

Dragon Go! Voice Search for iPhone is Surprisingly Intelligent

The other day I received a package, or I should say what in hindsight seems a waste of one: a large box, inside which lay a jumbo-sized cardboard egg, from within which I plucked a tiny rectangular piece of colored paper slightly larger than a business card. On the card, a picture of an iPhone, a greenish tongue of flame, and the words “Introducing…. Dragon Go!”

This is apparently someone’s savvy marketing idea to get my attention (or squander cardboard), perhaps hoping to conjure some latent connection to the dragon eggs featured in HBO’s recently completed (and as of today, multi-Emmy-nominated) first season of Game of Thrones. Intentional or no, I’m making my way through the HBO series now, and here I am, writing about Dragon Go!. Mission accomplished, outsourced PR person!

Dragon, as many of you may know, is the call sign for a suite of speech-recognition tools, the forerunner of which, DragonDictate, was released in the early 1980s for DOS. It’s since been recognized as perhaps the most accurate of the consumer-grade speech recognition utilities (at one point, employed as a computer systems engineer, I provided tech support to a quadriplegic who used Dragon Naturally Speaking—as it was called by 1997—to run his entire home office).

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Now Nintendo Admits It Was Hacked, Says No Customer Data Stolen

As this week’s E3 games conference and debut of Nintendo’s Wii successor looms, Nintendo’s admitting that Sony’s not the only victim of hacktivist ne’er-do-wells—yep, Nintendo was hacked, too.

Nintendo acknowledged a security breach in a statement yesterday, explaining that its U.S. servers came under cyber-fire a few weeks ago, but stressed that no personal user data was in breach. By comparison, Sony’s seen troves of sensitive personal data repeatedly stolen (and reportedly distributed) as hackers took turns assaulting the electronics conglomerate’s many corporate facets.

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If Cell Phones Cause Cancer, What About Laptops?

Cell phones are “possibly carcinogenic”? Potentially brain-cancer-causing? Comparable to pesticides and the stuff your car spits out? So sayeth the World Health Organization? The reputable science-minded subsidiary of the United Nations?

Bummer. Thank goodness I use ear buds, and don’t talk on the phone much—though when on the go, I do tote my iPhone in my pants pocket, where it’s usually pressed flush against my leg. So much for keeping the phone “as far as possible” from my body. Again, thank goodness I’m not “on the go” much.

My laptop’s a different story. Since I started writing full-time in late 2005, I’ve held laptops on my lap daily. And for the past eight months, I’ve been trying to have a kid. No luck so far, but then—all other things being equal—they say the odds of conception are still just one in four each month. I don’t blame my laptop, but I’m done taking chances. I recently opted for one of those “chill pad” coolers, to hold the machine an inch or so off my legs, and cool the all-aluminum frame—one guess what kind of laptop I own—with a fan.

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Verizon: “iPhone 5” Will Compete with AT&T for Global Coverage

noticed this story late last night, basically another ‘iPhone 5’ tease that’s even bigger news from where I sit than whatever newfangled whatsits Apple’s tucked under the hood: global Verizon iPhone support.

The tipster: my wife. She wants a phone she can take on business trips abroad (like the U.K., or more recently, the Middle East). But the phone has to be all things. It has to work across the pond, but also in her tiny northwest Iowa hometown. Actually out of town a couple miles to where her parents’ farmhouse sits, nestled behind a tower-blocking hill, flush with trees, cows, and a compost pit. Lest you think we’re asking the moon for cheese, Verizon’s had bumper voice and data coverage across the area for years, while—nothing against them otherwise—AT&T offers neither.

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The Internet Costs More Today, Thanks to AT&T

So long cheap Internet, we hardly knew ya: AT&T’s broadband data caps go into effect today, reigning in data gobblers and dashing the dreams of high volume file-sharing freebooters. Ahoy, thar be usage checks ahead.

Actually “data caps” isn’t accurate. They’re not caps at all. They don’t cork up your DSL or fiber line when you hit your plan’s magic number. Say you do–AT&T just dings you with an extra service fee. AT&T U-Verse customers ride free until they hit 250GB a month, while AT&T DSL customers top out at 150GB. Go over those marks, and you’ll now pay $10 a month more, plus $10 again every 50GB thereafter.

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So Long First-Gen iPad, We Hardly Knew You

Here comes the iPad 2 again, like the world’s smallest, sleekest freight train, and in its wake, a trail of “while supplies last!” ads and deals and ballyhoo touting Apple’s original slate. Get it while it’s not-hot.

Apple’s iPad 2 (see our review, “It’s Still the One”) already debuted in the U.S. on March 11, but it’s still looming in the UK, Canada, and over 25 other countries. In goes global at last this Friday.

That’s not stopping customers from snapping up the original iPad in droves, if tales of sold out stores and online listings are true. They may well be. Apple’s knocked the price down $100 on original iPads, and it seems buyers are making a run on remaining stock. The 16GB model with Wi-Fi’s apparently already MIA.

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Banning Gay “Cure” Apps and Police Tipoff Tools: Are We Overreacting?

Between the controversies over gay “cure” apps and police checkpoint tipoff tools, it’s been a tough week for Apple’s App Store. But while it’s pretty clear that an app designed to “cure” homosexuality verges on hate speech, are we courting trouble, turning which apps are “acceptable” and which ones aren’t into a political nannying game?

Take “police avoidance.” Senators Frank Lautenberg, Harry Reid, Charles Schumer, and Tom Udall are asking Apple, Google, and RIM to scupper mobile applications designed, it seems, to help inebriated drivers dodge police. The senators also dispatched letters to the companies that designed the apps, requesting they either pull them or excise a “DUI checkpoint” feature.

The apps allow users to view realtime updates of checkpoints reported by others, a kind of “citizen awareness” system designed to give drivers who may or may not be inebriated a tactical edge. Think of it as a more sophisticated version of the light-blink signal oncoming driver sometimes give to warn of a speed trap up the road in the other direction.

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Unsettled: Judge Says Google Book Deal Would be Monopoly

It looks like Google’s attempt to bury the hatchet with authors and publishers in its bid to digitize a world’s worth of books may be in jeopardy after a New York federal judge on Tuesday rejected a $125 million settlement reached in October 2008.

Google promotes that settlement on its Google Books page as “with a broad class of authors and publishers to make the world’s books even more accessible online,” but Judge Denny Chin was having none of it. Chin said the deal would “arguably give Google control over the search market,” and that its terms went too far. Specifically: That the settlement would give Google a “de facto monopoly” on digitized content.

You may have heard that Google wants to scan and convert to text every book in the known universe. You may have heard that notion sold by politicians like John Conyers as possibly “the greatest innovation in book publishing since the Gutenberg press.” You may also have heard it called “a disaster for scholars,” or as UC Berkeley language professor and longtime NPR contributor Geoffrey Nunberg puts it, “a mishmash wrapped in a muddle wrapped in a mess.”

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China Denies Google Claims of Beijing Gmail Frame-Up

The tension’s definitely ratcheting up as Google and China trade accusations and denials over who’s responsible for weeks of sluggish Gmail service.

Google recently claimed no foul and blamed China for turning the country’s version of Gmail into a slideshow. The company then took it one further, suggesting the slowdown was “a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail” (though Google didn’t offer technical evidence to illustrate the problem).

As the slowdown continues to morph into an “all but” shutdown, it’s China’s turn to deny. Beijing officially rejected Google’s claims yesterday, its Foreign Ministry spokesperson calling the accusations “unacceptable” at a routine news conference, though that’s all she said.

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Hold It: Apple Shelving iPad 2s to Ease Inventory Pressure?

Let’s say you’ve arrived at your local Apple Store with intent to purchase an iPad 2, but alas, the salesperson tells you they’re out of stock. Tragic, right?

But what if they’re really in stock after all? What if the next time you’re politely turned away with one of those frowning smiles, there’s actually a stack of perfectly salable iPad 2’s nesting comfortably in the store’s back room?

Why would Apple (or anyone) hang on to iPad inventory? Well, because they’re Apple, and they work in magical-mysterious ways, but also–according to an AppleInsider tipster–because the company’s hoping to ease pressure on store inventory checkers, who’ve apparently been pretty stressed getting new iPad 2 shipments properly catalogued before they land on store shelves.

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