Our substance is short yet to the point, and intended to challenge you to live in and nurture with IT technologies. @http://thecorlissreviewgroup.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Corliss Technology Review Group, Tech Review: Be winter-ready with these apps

Last week's snow, freezing rain and frigid temperatures were just a warm-up for winter, which doesn't start officially until Saturday. These apps will get you ready for the season by helping you track a dangerous storm or record a delightful day on the slopes.

(iOS, Android, free)

In the frightening scenario where you're stranded in your car because of severe weather or a breakdown, Winter Survival Kit goes into action. It tells you how long you can keep your engine running to stay warm before you run out of gas and sends an intermittent alarm to keep you alert. It stores contact numbers and insurance company policy numbers, making it easier when you call roadside assistance service. Just make sure you input the information during the calm before the storm.

(iOS, Android, $1.99)

This app uses information from the government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to tailor a neighborhood snow forecast by ZIP codes. The app updates NOAA information hourly and displays projected snowfall amounts over the next 48 hours on an animated map. If NOAA issues a winter-weather alert, the app shows it in a warning box.

(iOS, Android, free)

Stuck at home with cabin fever? Become a "citizen scientist." mPing, an abbreviation of the Precipitation Identification near the Ground project by the University of Oklahoma and National Severe Storms Laboratory, wants you to report on the conditions outside your window. Upload the type of precipitation -- snow, ice pellets, freezing rain or other winter weather -- and the data will be compiled by researchers. You can see the results on interactive map.

(iOS, Android; $0.99)

There are two groups of people who love an impending snowstorm: kids and skiers. If you're in the latter category, this app is for you. Ski Tracks won't tell you where to ski, but it will tell you how well you are skiing. Using GPS, it tracks your progress down the slopes and produces graphs and statistics. It doesn't use data or need a phone signal to work. The app makes it easy to share your day of schussing and half-piping with Facebook friends.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Corliss Technology Review Group, REVIEW: Will 3D tech take Lytro mainstream?

When the world’s first light-field camera, Lytro, launched in Australia last year it was immediately greeted with a slew of scathing reviews.

Review, after review warned consumers about replacing their regular camera with this device; some went as far as to embed this point in the very first sentence of their critique. For many, the product’s price tag didn’t justify its features. Being able to refocus a shot after the fact is a cool little trick but it wasn’t worth the $499 price tag.

It’s been over a year since Lytro's trial-by-fire and despite the criticism it's still alive and kicking, thanks to a pocket of enthusiasts within the global photography community. As seen on Lytro’s own online gallery, in the hands of a pro, you can do some incredible work with this nifty tool.

But Lytro isn’t satisfied with its niche appeal. The mass market beckons, and the company is pulling out all the tricks in the technology playbook to stand out from the rest of the pack.

While the core product - that funny-looking, eye-catching rectangular camera - hasn’t changed, the software surrounding the device has undergone numerous upgrades in the past year. The latest rendition of the Lytro operating system allows you to display images in 3D. It’s an obvious attempt to broaden the devices appeal beyond its fan-base. But will it work?

In short, no. It won’t. The 3D perk is another cool add-on, but it's not a reason to buy the camera. The devil you see is in the detail.

For this little trick to work you need three things: a pricey 3D-enabled TV, a PC and a means to display that PC on your TV. For our trial, we used an old MacBook Pro, a Samsung 3D TV and a Apple TV. Since we used an older MacBook, we also loaded an app called Air Parrot to enable screen mirroring between the TV and the PC.

Assuming you have all of this, and the time to fiddle around with it, the 3D effect is kind of cool. But it sadly pales in comparison to what you would see on a 3D enabled Blu-ray. Stereoscopic 3D simply looks better with moving images. It’s such a difference that it’s almost unfair to compare the two.
When you look at the rest of Lytro’s offering, it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the camera as a mainstream device. The good news is, the device still has that (possibly intended) side-effect of making its wielder the center of attention at any given function or party. If you whip it out to take some photos, be prepared to explain why you're carrying around a camera shaped like an oversize lipstick case; particularly if you're sporting the red model.

When you're running around taking photos with the Lytro, it feels as if you're using a spy camera from the Bond series. In this sense, it's a joy to use. Its touch-screen options menu is easy to navigate and it takes good selfies too.

There’s nothing wrong with the use ability of the actual device.

Picture manager pain

But the real pain comes when you plug the camera into a PC and boot-up Lytro’s desktop picture manager. And it’s a shame, given that this camera sells itself on its post-shot prowess.
This software should be fluid, easy to use and quick. But it’s not. Uploading around 20 photos from the camera was painless, but converting them so you could slightly shift the perspective of the shot - another key feature of the Lytro camera - takes a good five minutes per shot. Try to do too many things at once on the Mac version of the Lytro Desktop manager, and it will simply crash, taking your photo editing progress with it.

And while your shots look impressive on that small 1.5 inch Lytro camera screen, unless you know what you're doing, they become pretty ugly on a 13-inch Mac - let alone a 50-inch Samsung TV. This further reinforces that this is not a point-and-click camera. Unless you’re willing to invest time into studying Lytro’s extensive set of video tutorials on how to use the device, then you may be better off snapping away with a regular camera.

This is Lytro’s major hurdle as a consumer-focused device, given that SLRs these days start at the same price as Lytro’s most basic camera.

It does however; give some smartphones a run for their money. To illustrate this point, I took two photos of the same bridge in Southbank, one with the Lytro and another with my 8-megapixel Samsung S4 Active. You can compare the pair below.


Perhaps the most painful point for Lytro is that as a device, with all the bells and whistles attached, it does have mainstream appeal. Consumers would more likely be willing to accept the camera’s quirks and its learning curve if it was cheaper.

Interestingly, Apple recently filed a patent for the similar line of technology to what’s seen in Lytro’s cameras. It even referenced Lytro’s solution in its patent application.

If Lytro can’t perfect its product for the mass market, I think we can all guess who will.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Corliss Technology Review Group, Avoid Christmas fraud

Online retailers are wishing themselves a Snappy Christmas, with predictions this will be their best year yet.

However, with the online boom comes the threat of internet scams.

More Australians shop on their mobile phones than any other market place and this Sunday our online shopping is tipped to have its biggest day ever.

EBay reckon they will see almost two-and-a-half million people come into their site to source Christmas gifts – and over half of those people will be on their mobile phone. That figure is up to 30 per cent on last year’s total.

While there remains worries over online shopping – such as the worry of not receiving your gift in time – for the time poor and those wishing to avoid trudging through shops, it can be more than welcome.
The online boom has prompted a warning, though.

While many business websites look professional and trustworthy, they are not always what they seem.
Rod Stowe of fair trading said: “Web sites that show bad English, grammatical errors - often that is a good indication of a scam-type site."

For the disorganized, surveys show a quarter of people buy their gifts on Christmas Eve - four per cent of them at a service station on Christmas day and eight per cent regift last year’s present.
Whatever you decide, remember there are only 21 days left.

A black mark on your credit file can follow you around for as long as seven years and can stop you getting credit.

1: Don’t apply for too many loans.
2: Pay your bills on time.
3: Get a copy of your credit file.
To find out your credit rating for free writes to:

Veda Advantage
PO Box 964 North Sydney NSW 2059

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Corliss Technology Review Group, Rare material shortages could put gadgets at risk

Modern technology is too reliant on rare materials whose scarcity could drastically set back innovation, a new report has warned.

It suggested that as more and more devices are manufactured, supplies of key elements, particularly metals, will be strained.

Potential substitute materials are either inadequate or non-existent, researchers said.

One scientist called the findings "an important wake-up call".

Andrea Sella, of University College London - who was unconnected to the study - told website The Conversation that it was the first time the issue had been explored in such detail.

Researchers at Yale University, led by Prof Thomas Graedel, analyzed the use of 62 metals or metalloids commonly found in popular technology, such as smartphones.

It found that none of the 62 had alternatives that performed equally well. Twelve had no alternative, Prof Graedal found.

The scope for serious disruption because of material shortages is increasingly troubling technology companies.
Rare materials are expensive to extract, and their processing comes with considerable environmental concerns.
In April 2012, the BBC's Ian Hardy discovered the effect that mass flooding in Thailand had on the technology supply chain

Political factors also play a part: in 2010, China restricted the export of some materials, known as rare earth elements.
It said this was because of environmental issues, but some observers noted that the restrictions had two distinct effects - the price of the elements increased fivefold, and Chinese companies were simultaneously given the upper hand in using the precious materials at lower cost.

Natural disasters bring another unpredictable risk.

In 2011, serious flooding in Thailand disrupted global supply chains as the country is a hub for hardware manufacture.
Shortages of storage devices extended well into 2012, according to research company IHS iSuppli, with hard-drive supplies the hardest hit.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Corliss technology review group, Microsoft disrupts online fraud botnet Zero Access

London: Microsoft and law enforcement agencies have reportedly disrupted one of the world's largest botnets, ZeroAccess that triggered online fraud.

The botnet is a network of computers infected with malware that hijacks web search results and redirects users to potentially dangerous sites to steal their details.

According to the BBC, the botnet, also generates fraudulent ad clicks on infected computers then claims payouts from duped advertisers and has infected about two million computers.

Also called Sirefef botnet, Zero Access targets search results on Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines and is estimated to cost online advertisers 2.7million dollars per month.

Microsoft said that it had been authorized by US regulators to block incoming and outgoing communications between computers located in the US and the 18 identified Internet Protocol (IP) addresses being used to commit the fraudulent schemes.

Executive director of Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit, David Finn said that the disruption will stop victims' computers from being used for fraud and help in identifying the computers that need to be cleaned of the infection.

Microsoft said that due to its botnet architecture, Zero Access is one of the most robust and durable botnets in operation today and was built to be resilient to disruption efforts, but the latest action is expected to significantly disrupt the botnet's operation, the report added.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Corliss Technology Review Group, Bitcoin price tumbles after warning from Chinese central bank

The People's Bank of China has issued a warning that the currency is not legally protected and has no 'real meaning'.

The Chinese central bank has warned the country's financial institutions not to trade in bitcoin, saying that the digital currency doesn't have "real meaning" and lacks legal protections.

However, no explicit risk to China's financial system was identified by the bank, and it reiterated that individual citizens were free to use bitcoin provided they were aware that they were taking the risk on themselves.

The bank also identified money laundering and other illegal uses of the currency as areas of concern.
Bitcoin has recently achieved a measure of popularity in China, with FiatLeak and other
bitcoin trading information sites showing large inflows of the currency through Chinese exchanges.
China Telecom, the largest mobile phone provider in the country, launched a promotion allowing a Samsung phone to be bought with bitcoins, and Baidu, the Chinese Google, is accepting payments for its firewall service in the currency.

But there's also suspicion that a large measure of the bitcoin's Chinese popularity is the result of fringe-legal uses. The currency is perfect for getting around the country's tight capital controls, which prevent rich Chinese citizens from moving too much money overseas.

While bitcoin remains unregulated, it is easy for users to buy a large sum in Chinese yuan and sell it in US dollars, evading those regulations.

The potential of bitcoin in China is seen as a large part of the reason for the currency's seven-fold increase in price over November, and the news that the Chinese central bank is taking a less-than-welcoming stance to it has sent markets tumbling.

The value of one bitcoin fell by 28% over two hours on Thursday morning, before settling into its more normal pattern of rapid large price swings in both directions.

The warning follows a similar cautionary tone from the Dutch central bank, which noted that there is no central issuer which can held liable for bitcoin, and no deposit guarantee scheme in the event of bitcoin banks failing.
The former head of the Dutch bank even compared the bitcoin bubble to the Netherlands' tulip mania in the 17th century – but pointed out that at least when that bubble burst, investors were left with tulips at the end.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Corliss Technology Review Group: Protect yourself from online fraud this festive season

A new report by the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net) takes a look at the scams faced by consumers when shopping online.

The report focuses on fraud in cross-border e-commerce and what consumers can do to protect themselves from online fraud. It has been prepared based on the complaints reported by consumers to ECC-Net in 2012.

The EU Commissioner for Consumer Policy, Neven Mimica said: "On-line shopping is booming as consumers take advantage of the digital single market. But the risk of fraud is rising too. The ECC report is a timely reminder to consumers that they need to 'shop smart' and avoid the fraudsters' traps“.

It has been estimated that savings from online shopping amount to €11.7 billion equivalent to 0.12% of the EU’s GDP However many consumers are missing out. Studies show that 62% of consumers cite fear of fraud as the reason why they do not go online to shop.

According to the results of the Euro barometer on Cyber Security, the highest figures of internet users that say they have experienced online fraud are in Poland (18%), Hungary (17%), Malta (16%) and UK (16%), while respondents in Greece (3%), Slovenia (6%) and Spain (7%) are least likely to have experienced online fraud.

The report highlights a number of tips and tricks to avoid being scammed online. For example always use a secure payment method and never transfer cash. The tips also include advice on how to screen unfamiliar online traders and what to do if you happen to fall victim to a fraudulent site.

The most common kind of fraud highlighted by the participating ECCs (70%) were scams involving fraudulent sites which require a bank transfer purchase and never deliver the products offered. The second highest type of online fraud, mentioned by 45% of participating centres, involves second hand cars sold online, followed by sale of counterfeit goods and fraudulent ticket sales. The report also analyses emerging issues in online fraud with malicious software targeting mobile phones, and scams involving gaming and online dating sites.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Corliss Review Group: When emoji just isn’t enough, ubertxt

Who is not fond of cute little stuff that appears on your text messages, it somewhat adds excitement on the conversation. It feels like your texts lack a little something, maybe twirly bits and spangles and animation. Something more that emoji then welcome to ubertxt.

Youngsters may find the world twisted, it may seem turned upside down for these 12 years olds.

We may not be aware of this but there are some good reasons for why this has been happening, maybe one reason is, adults are constantly proving that adulthood is incompetence basking in the rays of power.

So as a replacement for making mental progress, we disappear into our phones and express ourselves with words and smiley faces.

Now and again, while, plain texts aren’t enough, simple emoji seem not to provide us the excitement that they used to.

So there is a solution for that, presenting the ubertxt. We know you’ve been waiting for something like this for at least 15 days — something that makes your new iPhone 5C an even happier place to live.

Ubertxt present the skill to make your texts seem as warm and sincere as how you would really want the person you sent the message feel like they are close to your soul.

Its creator, Teresa Rucinski, told me that there’s nothing quite like it. Creators tend to believe that.
She said: “The closest competition would be color text messaging apps on App Store such as Color Text, Pimp My Text. However, they only offer standard/generic wallpaper animated backgrounds at best.”

Come to think about it, if you’re going to make your texts exciting, it’s personally shameful to use generic wallpaper, isn’t it? What does that say about you? That you’re sad and that you’re prepared to use an app with “pimp” in its name.

Try to imagine, with ubertxt your “OMG” SMS can seem like it came out of the palette of Picasso or, at least, from the needle of your local tattoo artist.

Rucinski told me: “ubertxt is the only app to offer animated/MOVING text, professionally designed animated templates/backgrounds, and custom photo & GIF functionality.”

Note the caps used for “MOVING.” And you can even insert your emoji into ubertxt.
Ubertxt is already racing up the App Store charts in the appropriate categories.

Rucinski went to Harvard and used to work for Google but you will be wondering whether is 17 years old and this is her high school art project.

Without a doubt, she has a belief in — and an understanding of — your inner child. You know the one that, with the help of technology, has become your outer child.