Quick Bytes

Edition: November 2012 - Vol 20 Number 11
Article#: 4105
Author: Repertoire

Group chat

Video conference calls are no longer just for business. With the recent launch of Zoom.us, up to 15 people – whether at work or calling family and friends – can take advantage of free, high-definition group video calls. The independent service, provided by Zoom Video Communications, works over wired and Wi-Fi Internet connections, or via cellular 3G and 4G networks. In addition to group video chatting, Zoom.us also features text chatting and permits group members to share a computer screen with one another. The program is compatible with Macs, Windows PCs, iPhones and iPads, and group calls can be made with a mix of these devices. The company is expected to introduce an Android version later this year. The free Zoom app can be downloaded and installed for PCs and Macs from the http://zoom.us website. Or, for iPhones and iPads, from Apple’s app store.

Online shopping

Too busy to stay on top of your wardrobe? Thanks to a new iPhone app by Gilt Groupe, a company known for its time-sensitive sales of designer clothing, users can easily search for apparel that matches the clothing they own. Reportedly streamlined, with better visuals, the app is expected to include such features as a built-in color tool, which employs the iPhone camera to detect the color of something the user is wearing, and then search Gilt.com for matching clothing.

Smartwrists

Just when it looked like wristwatches were on their way out, companies such as Apple, Nike and Sony, along with dozens of start-ups, have launched – or are nearing the launch – of wrist devices designed to connect with smartphones – and tell the time. The new wrist devices aren’t meant to replace smartphones, but rather connect to them, eliminating the need to dig a smartphone out of one’s pocket or purse. And, they reportedly will provide more information than the most advanced G-Shock watch available today, or the most expensive chronometer. For example, Sony recently released the Smartwatch, a 2-inch square screen that can display e-mails, Twitter posts and other pieces of text. The Nike Fuelband, a black band with an array of colored lights, not only tells time but also measures the energy one exerts on a daily basis and sends it to a smartphone. Jawbone sells the Up, a unisex bracelet that tracks a user’s daily activity and sends the information to an iPhone application. The wrist becomes an extension of the smartphone. A couple of bonuses: The wrist devices will allow business executives to interact with their phones in meetings without being rude; and airlines don’t require passengers to turn off their watches before a flight. To attract a broad following, the devices are expected to balance technology with fashion.

Conserving energy

There’s more than one way to conserve battery power on one’s laptop. The sleep and the hibernate modes built into the Windows operating system are both power-saving states, designed to conserve the battery when the user is not actively using the computer. Yet, they differ somewhat. Of the two, the hibernation mode uses less juice. Hence, the hibernation mode is designed to be used for longer stretches of inactivity than the sleep mode. When a laptop is put to sleep, the system stores open files and settings in the computer’s memory, which needs a small bit of battery power to maintain itself. In comparison, the hibernation mode stores the open files on the hard drive and turns off the computer.

Keeping tabs

Finding it tough to keep track of receipts? The Doxie Go portable scanner ($199) is a cordless device that scans receipts or documents while away from the office. It comes with a USB cable, permitting the user to transfer all of the day’s scans from the Doxie Go to a laptop or computer. Or, an Eye-Fi SD memory card enables the user to store data, as well as create a wireless connection to a compatible computer or notebook. If the internal memory is not enough, receipts and documents can be scanned directly to the SD memory card or USB flash drive. Default scanning resolution stands at 300 dpi, although there is the option to scan a document at 600 dpi through a single tap of the power button. When necessary, there is room for manual adjustment. With the press of a button, a document can be saved in pdf format.

Express checkout

Using one’s smartphone to check out at department and grocery stores appears to be catching on more quickly than one might have thought. Wal-Mart is testing an iPhone checkout system at its Rogers, Ariz., Super center. The technology allows shoppers to scan items using their iPhones before paying at a self-checkout counter. The procedure is expected to reduce checkout times, as well as associated labor costs. Indeed, Wal-Mart reports that the move could save a portion of the $12 million it spends in cashier wages, every second at its U.S. stores. The test does not allow users to pay with their phones. Rather, the application transfers the customer-scanned item list to the checkout lane, and the shoppers complete the sale using the regular pay process.

iPad mini

Apple is expected to introduce a mini version of the iPad this fall. TPK Holding Company and Yeh Cheng Technology, which are handling the lamination process, have revealed that the display of the new iPad is 7.85 inches in diagonal measure – slightly smaller than the current 9.7 inches of the full iPad, but larger than any other device in the seven-inch class. The new iPad will be 40 percent larger than its main competitors, the Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire, both of which have displays that are currently exactly 7 inches across diagonally. Improvements in touch sensitivity technology will attempt to overcome past criticism that seven-inch screens are too small to accurately use icons and manipulate programs satisfactorily, without the aid of a stylus.