The holidays are over, but if you find yourself the owner of an iOS device with Siri and a Raspberry Pi computer, you can combine the two to automatically open up your garage door with this cool little hack by “DarkTherapy.” Using “SiriProxy running on the Raspberry Pi, along with wiringPi to access the Pi’s GPIO pins and turn a relay on/off,” DarkTherapy was able to upgrade his iPhone 5’s personal assistant with a nifty new skill — the ability to open garage doors. Brave geeks can head over to DarkTherapy’s forum post for instructions on the hack and a video of Siri the butler opening a garage door follows below.
2013 is shaping up to be the year of the “phablet” with virtually ever major handset maker preparing to challenge Samsung’s (005930) impressive Galaxy Note lineup. While there’s no clear definition on how large a phablet is, most tend to have screens that hover in the 5-inch range, though Huawei’s upcoming 6.1-inch smartphone will only push that boundary. ZTE’s newly announced Nubia Z5 packs a 5-inch display with full-HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, an aluminum case, a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, a 13-megapixel rear, a 2-megapixel front camera, Dolby sound and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It even edges out HTC’s (2498) slim DROID DNA in terms of size with slightly thinner dimensions and a larger battery: 2,300 mAh versus the DNA’s 2,020 mAh. The only deal-breaker is the Nubia Z5 likely won’t be available in the U.S., but importers drooling over its specs can pick one up in China for about $554.
In an interview with AllThingsD, Amit Singh, Google’s (GOOG) VP of Enterprise, said the company is embracing the consumerization of the enterprise in 2013 based on the successes its seen with Google Drive and Google Apps this year. Singh says Google is finally confident that it can deliver enterprise services and tools that rival those of Microsoft (MSFT) with cloud applications that scale better and have stronger security. Not only that, but Singh believes Microsoft is stuck in the past, creating services built around the desktop and not around Web services. More →
Microsoft (MSFT) is rumored to be switching to an annual release for its operating system starting with “Windows Blue” in mid-2013. According to a PCBeta forum user who goes by the pseudonym “maxy” and has been unofficially identified as a Microsoft official, “Windows Blue” or “Windows 9 Dev” as some call it, will get customization options in the form of Windows Phone 8’s resizable app tiles. Microsoft will also reportedly still keep the legacy “desktop view” around, but remove the gloss on elements including the taskbar, “flattening” it to mesh better with the Metro UI. Maxy also says a new kernel (6.3) will be used, which should give the entire OS more polish. It’s still too early to deem whether the rumor is legitimate or not, but refining Windows 8 with small nips and tucks while overhauling the underlying framework does sound highly plausible.
Google (GOOG) announced on Monday on the Official Gmail Blog that its free Gmail voice calling service will be extended through 2013 in the U.S. and Canada. The company has provided free domestic calling within the U.S. and Canada for the last two years, further extending the complimentary service repeatedly just before the new year. Google product manager Mayur Kamat didn’t detail why the company is extending the service in his post on the company’s blog. It’s still unclear why Google is keeping free Gmail voice calls separate from its Google Voice service bit either way, free is free and we’re not complaining.
Apple’s (AAPL) stock might be taking a beating, but that doesn’t mean the products dreamed up by Jonathan Ive and company aren’t still hot commodities. On the contrary, Apple products are still so hot that thefts of iOS devices helped drive New York City’s crime rate up for the first time in 20 years, according to The Wall Street Journal. The news isn’t shocking considering the data the New York Police Department released in October, which revealed Apple-related crimes were up 40% this year. Paul Browne, the New York Police Department’s top spokesman told the WSJ, “Overall crime in the five boroughs is up 3% so far this year, driven by the thefts of Apple products.” Browne said there would actually be a “slight decline in crime citywide” had thefts of Apple products remained the same.
Research In Motion (RIMM) CEO Thorsten Heins recently said during the company’s Q3 earnings call that BlackBerry 7 is still a “strong success” in the Asian-Pacific markets. Despite the company putting most of its weight behind BlackBerry 10 and the Z10 and X10, Heins said RIM will continue supporting BB7 and consumers “might expect us to even build one of the other new products” based on it. Heins suggested on the earnings call new BB7 phones will target entry-level markets with lower price points over its BB10 devices; now, MobileSyrup has posted a photo of a mystery BlackBerry phone sitting next to the BB10-powered Z10 and X10. Could this HTC (2498) Status/ChaCha look-alike be a new BB7 smartphone? It could be, but then again, it could also be a prototype that will never be released or another new BB10-powered QWERTY phone.
Shopping online is becoming more popular than ever according to market research firm comScore. The company’s latest report shows consumers spent $38.7 million online during the first 51 days of the “November-December holiday season” – a 16% increase over the same period last year. ComScore says December 17th a.k.a. “Free Shipping Day,” saw 76% in growth compared to last year with “a strong $1.01 billion in spending.” A 53% growth rate in spending was also recorded on December 21st over the same period from last year, which comScore calls “a notable accomplishment this late in the season.” More →
With online shopping on the rise every year, it’s no surprise retailers are resorting to sketchy tactics to decide how to dole out discounts. According to the The Wall Street Journal’s research, online retailers including Staples, Orbitz and Home Depot are all guilty of using “discriminatory” information such as location and income to decide how much of a discount an online shopper will receive. More →
New details on Nokia’s (NOK) rumored 10.1-inch Windows RT tablet have leaked out from The Verge. The tech blog says Nokia’s tablet will go head-on with Microsoft (MSFT) Surface tablet with its own “keyboard cover” that will also double as an external battery. The 10.1-inch slate will reportedly also have an ARM-based processor of course, a display that is “similar to Microsoft’s Surface RT screen,” two USB ports, HDMI and 10-hour battery life “with fast charging that boosts the battery capacity to 50 percent in a short period of time.” Nokia’s tablet will also have built-in support for cellular data with AT&T (T) cited as a U.S. carrier partner. Nokia is rumored to be planning an unveil at the Mobile World Congress trade show in February 2013.
Managing Facebook (FB) privacy settings can be a daunting nightmare. Facebook’s new “Privacy Shortcuts” is designed to make sharing items as transparent as possible with always-visible privacy button on the top toolbar. The update also brings “an easier-to-use Activity Log, and a new Request and Removal tool for managing multiple photos you’re tagged in.” The new Facebook privacy controls are rolling out globally starting on Friday and will arrive for all users by the end of the year. For the full details on all of the new changes, be sure to visit Facebook’s Newsroom here.
Samsung (005930) is reportedly quietly replacing faulty Galaxy S III devices according to many users on XDA Developers. The issue appears to be related to the NAND becoming corrupted and killing off the Galaxy S III’s mainboard, which causes the phone to essentially “brick” itself. Users have reported the issues have affected some devices after 150-200 days after purchase. Users on XDA Developers and Reddit are also saying Samsung is replacing affected smartphones (rooted or not) with new ones that could potentially be just as faulty in another 200 days. The Galaxy S III made headlines last week when an XDA forum member discovered that a security hole in its Exynos-4 processor was vulnerable to app-based malware attacks. Samsung has since said it will patch the hole as soon as possible.