[Sponsored] A Geek’s How-to Guide to Pimp up your Car

Automobile technology is progressing at a phenomenal rate, and in the not too distant future, many of the vehicles on our roads may be driverless, revolutionising our journeys and experiences along the way.

Of course, till that happens, there are a lot of ways and gadgetry which you can use to revamp your car to improve the connected and digital experience on a trip.

car

In-vehicle WiFi

If you like to be connected to the Web at all times, it’s worth checking out the in-vehicle WiFi solutions now available. These systems can be easy to use and many even fit into cigarette lighter sockets.

Having fast and reliable access to the internet is especially useful for passengers, who can make better use of their journey times. Whether they want to catch up with work emails, browse information and recommendations about the destination, or anything else, they can do so with ease.

Airangel offers 3G and 4G wireless technology that is perfect for use in vehicles and all its solutions work from standard 12v or 24v systems, are self-contained and are simple to install.

Dash Cams

Even if you’re a defensive driver on the roads, it’s impossible to rule out the possibility that you’ll be involved in an accident, or be accused by your fellow motorists of misdemeanours on the highways. Having a dash cam in place can therefore boost your peace of mind and help you avoid a host of legal and financial problems.

However, for a lot of road-trip enthusiasts like me, a dash cam is a great way to record trips for sharing travel stories and adventure trails. Most dash cams feature a wide angle lens that provides an impressive field of vision and built-in microphone can be set up to record in-cabin conversations.

Enhanced in-car Entertainment

Without a quality entertainment system, long journeys can be dull. If you’re not happy with your vehicle’s current setup, it might be worth investing in a new version.

Several latest entertainment systems feature include a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity (allowing you to stream music from your smartphone) apart from the usual CD player and AM/FM radio. Also, some of the modern cars offers great integration with your smartphones allowing you to make/accept/reject calls and perform certain tasks using your voice with the entertainment system.

Sat Navs/GPS Devices

A premium sat nav is a must if you do lots of driving, especially if you often find yourself in busy and potentially confusing city centres. Of course, there are plenty of these products and most modern smartphones offer some form of navigation, but a top-of-the-line sat nav system offers comprehensive navigation features, identifies point-of-interests, and also doubles up as a multimedia device. These devices also include live traffic information allowing you to avoid heavy traffic and holdups.

Engine Data Readers

If you’re keen on engine tuning and modifying, you might want to invest in a special data reader. For example, the iODB2 Engine Data Reader plugs into your engine’s data port and, once you’ve downloaded the free app and connected via Bluetooth, you can access all sorts of information concerning your car’s performance.

Its dashboard menu also allows you to change the live data feed to your preferred readers to show values such as fuel consumption, acceleration and air intake temperature.

Breathalysers

Of course, no one would advocate getting behind the wheel while drunk, but sometimes you may not know whether or not you’re over the limit. For example, climbing into the driver’s seat early in the morning after having some drinks the night before can be risky. If you want to make sure you’re fit to drive, you can get hold of electronic breathalysers to keep in your car.

OneNote for Windows Store (Metro) Updated

multiplatform (560x254)

The OneNote team(s) have had a big release day. In addition to the OneNote for Android updates for tablets and handwriting, OneNote was also updated for Windows Store (aka Metro app). Microsoft’s OneNote team announced this update on their blog on August 19.

Printing

The OneNote team claims the ability to print pages was the number one requested feature. This feature has been added in this update and it allows printing your notes. In addition, this update allows print previews, allowing portrait and landscape orientations, and the usual printing options like multiple copies and two-sided printing.

In a subtle move away from strictly using Charms for peripherals, printing is supported via Charms, App Bar as well as the conventional Ctrl+P keyboard shortcut.

 

OneNote for Windows Metro Print Charms
OneNote for Windows Metro Print Charms

 

OneNote for Windows Metro Print App Bar
OneNote for Windows Metro Print App Bar

File attachments

Another highly requested feature added was the ability to insert files into notes. If you have an external document you want to add to your notes, you can now insert the document via the radial menu’s insert command. This adds the document into the note and makes it available as-is, and when opened, it opens as a read-only version of the document.

OneNote for Windows Metro Insert File
OneNote for Windows Metro Insert File

PDF printout

Unlike inserting files directly, inserting them as a PDF printout “prints” the file out to OneNote as a PDF. This way, the entire document shows up inside OneNote and then can be annotated inside the note. Both the file attachment and PDF printout were added recently to the iPad and Mac versions of OneNote recently.

OneNote for Windows Metro Insert PDF printout
OneNote for Windows Metro Insert PDF printout

Highlighting with ink

Much like the Android and iOS updates, this feature allows ink highlighting. This can be done via a stylus/pen or a finger. The radial menu now shows multiple colors of “pens” for highlighting and inking.

OneNote for Windows Metro Highlight Pens
OneNote for Windows Metro Highlight Pens

The update is now available in the Store. Let us know how you like it.

HTC Butterfly 2 Announced; Coming To Asia Next Month

Today, HTC announced the successor of its Butterfly smartphone. The Butterfly 2 will be first launched in the Japanese market exclusively for the KDDI subscribers, followed by Taiwanese and Chinese market for Chunghwa Telecom and CSL subscribers respectively. It comes with the HTC Sense 6 UI and a 13 megapixel HTC Duo Camera for advanced imaging. HTC Butterfly 2 supports WiMAX2+ and offers high speed communication up to 150 Mbps.

“HTC is dedicated to combining innovative technologies and premium techniques to create the best smartphone which meets our consumers’ expectation. HTC Butterfly 2 follows HTC’s iconic design and globally acclaimed user experience. Its elegant appearance and fantastic performance will certainly provide consumers with the best experience ever.”

– Peter Chou, CEO, HTC

htc_butterfly_2

The Motion Launch feature on this device is immediately able to detect its position and movement, thanks to the built-in motion sensors which allow you to interact with the phone without turning on the screen. HTC Butterfly 2 will go on sale in Taiwan on September 2nd, followed by Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in the next few weeks. The price of this device is still a mystery. Check out the complete specs after the break.

HTC Butterfly 2 Specifications:

  • 5 inch Full HD display
  • 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor
  • Android 4.4 (KitKat) Operating System
  • HTC Sense
  • 13 megapixel dual camera
  • Full HD (1080p) video recording
  • 5 megapixel front-facing camera
  • 2 GB RAM, 16/32 GB internal memory
  • 128 GB expandable memory
  • 4G LTE Connectivity
  • A-GPS + GLONASS
  • NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX enabled
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • DLNA, HTC Connect
  • Micro-USB 2.0, HDMI connection
  • Up to 23.9 hours talk-time
  • Up to 643 hours stand-by time
  • 2700 mAh battery

OneNote for Android Tablets Is Here

 

onenote-for-Android-tablets

Microsoft’s OneNote team announced on August 19 that OneNote for Android is now available for Android tablets. However, that was not the only update made to OneNote for Android.

Handwriting support

OneNote for Android now supports handwriting. So on the tablet, one can write and draw with a stylus (or fingers too). These notes are of course synced across all devices. Much like on the desktop version of OneNote, the inking works with images (for annotation) as well as for pure writing/drawing. For devices which come with active digitizer, the stylus can instantly invoke the inking mode so one can start writing/marking immediately.

Other features included are changing pen colors, as well as changing the paper style and color to make handwriting stand out even more.

OneNote for Android Drawing
OneNote for Android Drawing
OneNote for Android Inking
OneNote for Android Inking
OneNote for Android Annotations
OneNote for Android Annotations

Tablet support

The UI now supports a larger real estate on the screen. Much like the iPad and Windows Store versions, the Android tablet UI now shows a cascading list of notebooks, sections and pages with the selected page occupying much of the screen.

OneNote for Android Tablet UI
OneNote for Android Tablet UI

Ribbon for Android tablets

Similar to the iPad and Windows Store UI, the Android tablet UI now has the ribbon with several formatting options.

OneNote for Android Ribbon: Formatting
OneNote for Android Ribbon: Formatting
OneNote for Android Ribbon
OneNote for Android Ribbon

 

A quick video overview of the new OneNote:

Given that Android apps normally stretch to fill a larger screen, it is commendable that the OneNote team did not rely on that, but instead chose to build a separate UI for larger screens. It is also nice to see inking support in OneNote, and like the blog post says, it is directed towards the students going to or returning back to school.

HTC One (M8) for Windows Announced

HTC-One-M8-for-Windows_2_blog

After weeks of seeing leaked images and specifications of the device, we now have confirmation that HTC is releasing their flagship Android device, the HTC One M8 in a Windows Phone variant. The HTC One (M8) for Windows was announced on August 19 as a Verizon wireless exclusive.

Even though Samsung’s Ativ SE was similar to their Android devices, the HTC One for Windows is the first true “clone” of an Android device running Windows Phone. Recently, Microsoft made it possible for OEMs to build Windows Phone hardware on their Android device chassis by relaxing the guidelines and minimum specifications in their reference design. One of the key changes made were relaxing the requirement to have three physical buttons on the front (Back, Start, Search) and to have a physical button for the camera. With those restrictions lifted, and adding support for accessories like cases to interact with the phone, as well as widespread support for Bluetooth LE and the like, the road was cleared for OEMs to re-purpose their devices for Windows Phone with minimal changes. An additional key barrier removed was the license fee for Windows Phone which went to zero dollars.

The impact of these relaxed guidelines was the signing of a dozen-odd new OEMs, primarily in the Asia-Pacific and India regions. These current low-cost Android device makers would now be able to put Windows Phone on those low-cost Android devices. These device makers are of course playing in the high volume markets where a large population of feature phone users are moving to their first smartphone. It is therefore crucial for Microsoft to have a significant presence in the region or risk being completely cut out of the next big platform play.

Back to the HTC One for Windows, it comes with all the goodness we have seen in the Android variant like HTC BlinkFeed, HTC BoomSound, Duo Camera with UltraPixel technology, a 5MP wide-angle front-facing camera and support for the HTC Dot View case. Additionally, the Windows Phone 8.1.1 OS adds Cortana, the personal digital assistant and a host of other features as I detailed in an earlier post.

Key specifications for HTC One (M8) for Windows

SIZE: 146.36 x 70.6 x 9.35 mm
WEIGHT: 160 grams
DISPLAY: 5.0 inch, Full HD 1080p

CPU: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 801, 2.3GHz quad-core CPU

STORAGE/MEMORY

  • Total storage: 32GB
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Expansion card slot supports microSD™ memory card for up to 128GB additional storage

CONNECTIVITY

  • 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
  • NFC
  • Bluetooth® 4.0 with aptX™ enabled
  • Wi-Fi®: IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 & 5 GHz)
  • DLNA® for wirelessly streaming media from the phone to a compatible TV or computer,
  • micro-USB 2.0
  • Microsoft Project My Screen
  • Miracast
  • Support consumer infrared remote control

CAMERA
Duo camera

  • Primary camera: HTC UltraPixel™ camera, BSI sensor, pixel size 2.0 um, sensor size 1/3”, f/2.0, 28mm lens
    HTC ImageChip 2
    1080p Full HD video recording with HDR video
    Secondary camera: capture depth information

Front camera

  • 5MP, f/2.0, BSI sensor, wide angle lens. with HDR capability, 1080p Full HD video recording
  • Gallery with UFocus™, Dimension Plus™, Foregrounder

HTC’s previous stab at Windows Phone, the HTC 8X/8S, was a well-designed phone which got no love at all after being released. Let’s hope, for the sake of Windows Phone, that this iteration gets some marketing push as well as support in terms of future updates.

Are you going to get this device? Let me know in the comments.

Xbox One August Update Rolling Out Generally Now

xbox-one-august-update-header

As announced on the Xbox Wire blog, the latest update to Xbox One (“August Update”) is now generally available and is being rolled out to consoles. This update continues the monthly cadence in which updates are being rolled out to Xbox One. This is presumably made easier due to the fact that Xbox One is essentially a Windows 8 machine so updates are applied to the console like Windows updates are applied to PCs on a monthly basis.

The features made available in these Xbox One updates are now primarily driven by the user feedback provided over at the Xbox UserVoice site at Xbox Feedback.

Some of the new features added in this month’s update:

Mobile Purchase

Much like Windows Phone, Xbox One now allows you to buy games and other add-on content from xbox.com or Xbox SmartGlass app and have it remotely download to the console. This way, the content can download while you are away and it is ready when you get to your console. No more waiting for gigabytes of downloads.

Activity Feed Updates

Several updates to the activity feed are included in this update. The list is now a single column and it enables more viewable content. Now, one can post to the feed, comment or like content in the feed. Sharing anything is now possible, and that sharing can be made public by adding to the stream, or private by sending as a message. One will now see a notification for new comment, like, etc. Finally, SmartGlass now lets you see what friends have shared on their activity feed, and “like” the same.

Low Battery Notification

The controller’s low battery indicator is now available as a notification on the screen.

Disable Notifications During Video

Now it is possible to disable notification pop-ups when playing video.

3D Blu Ray

This update enables 3D Blu Ray playback on the Blu Ray player.

Last Seen Online

Based on user feedback, this feature shows how long it has been since a friend was online.

This is a lot of stuff to be applied in a monthly update, but like much of Microsoft, this is now expected of the Xbox team. They have picked several items directly off the feedback site, and are serious about making sure the console remains fresh in terms of the functionality and features. Unlike the past consoles where updates were at best annual, this incremental update process makes customers see changes happen more frequently.

A quick video overview of this update by Xbox’s Major Nelson (Larry Hyrb)

What features are you waiting for? Anything in this month’s update that you were looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below.

Samsung Unveils Galaxy Alpha Smartphone With Metal Frame And Octa Core Processor

Samsung has always been criticized for its plastic design. Today, Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy Alpha smartphone with iPhone-like design and a metal frame. This handset comes with a Finger Print Scanner and Ultra-Power Saving Mode, which was previously seen in the company’s flagship smartphone. Samsung Galaxy Alpha is touted to be one of the slimmest Galaxy devices. It is also compatible with Samsung Gear Fit, Gear Live and Gear 2 wearables.

samsung_galaxy_alpha

“The Galaxy Alpha was built and designed based on the specific desires of the consumer market. With an entirely new appearance, the Galaxy Alpha focuses on both beauty and functionality combining a stunning metal frame and slim, light weight design with the same powerful hardware and features users expect from a flagship Galaxy mobile device.”

– JK Shin, CEO of IT & Mobile Communication at Samsung Electronics

Samsung Galaxy Alpha will go on sale at the beginning of September. This handset will be available in Charcoal Black, Dazzling White, Frosted Gold, Sleek Silver and Scuba Blue colors. The price of the device will be announced soon. Until then, check out the complete specs below.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha Specifications:

  • 4.7 inch HD Super AMOLED display
  • 1280 x 720 pixels resolution
  • Octa Core (Quad 1.8GHz + Quad 1.3GHz) processor
  • Android 4.4.4 (KitKat) Operating System
  • 12 megapixel rear camera with selective focus
  • 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera
  • UHD 4K video recording @30fps
  • 2 GB RAM, 32 GB expandable memory
  • No MicroSD card slot
  • Ultra Power Saving Mode
  • WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0
  • NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • 1860 mAh battery

Oppo Launches N1 Mini In India For INR 26,990

As expected, Oppo finally launched the mini version of its flagship smartphone. The Oppo N1 Mini comes with a rotating 13 megapixel camera similar to its bigger brother, which acts as a rear as well as a front-facing camera. It runs on the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean based Color OS.

oppo_n1_mini

“Customer orientation is deeply rooted in the culture at OPPO. We strive to give users what they really look for. OPPO N1 Mini stems from this philosophy of ours. It brings to users the unique design and technology for which the OPPO N1 won a lot of accolades, but in a sleeker and more compact body. For OPPO, a fusion of technology and affection has always been the essence of our product design and development. We believe that today’s youth will find OPPO N1 Mini as a device that is mini in size and max in fun.”

– Tom Lu, CEO, OPPO India

Oppo N1 Mini comes with a price-tag of INR 26,990, which is almost double than the market price of Xiaomi Mi3 which comes with much better specifications. This handset measures 148.4 x 72.2 x 9.2 mm and weighs 150 grams. Oppo N1 Mini will be available in Light Blue, White and Lemon Yellow colors.

Oppo N1 Mini Specifications:

  • 5 inch IPS display
  • 720 x 1280 pixels resolutio
  • 1.6 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor
  • Color OS 1.4
  • 13 megapixel camera with auto-focus and LED flash
  • full HD video recording
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • microUSB 2.0
  • A-GPS
  • 2140 mAh battery

Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 Developer Preview Is Here: Internet Explorer Even Better Now

Cortana Windows Phone 8.1 Update

As communicated by Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore on Windows Blogs on July 30, the first update to Windows Phone 8.1 is now rolling out to devices with the preview program. The update, simply called Windows Phone 8.1 Update (although it has been referred to as Update 1 too), brings Cortana to more markets in beta and alpha form, adds a Live Folders feature, adds a Live Tile to the Store icon, allows multiple SMS merge/delete operations, brings new Xbox Music app, adds a new feature called App Corner and increases privacy and security by enabling consumer-level VPN when connected to wifi hotspots.

Among the several unnamed changes and fixes are “hundreds of fixes” made to mobile Internet Explorer 11 to make it more compatible with the mobile web. The irony here is that on the desktop web developers had to code specifically for Internet Explorer 4 or 5 because it had several non-standard features. Now, Internet Explorer (both on the desktop and mobile) is promoting coding to web standards whereas web developers have catered their site for Webkit and specifically for iOS. This unfortunate reality made the Internet Explorer team re-think their strategy, and for their customers’ benefit, they made some tweaks to mobile IE that make it appear as an iOS browser to websites. Therefore, many sites which have browser sniffing enabled, will now provide the iPhone version of their site to mobile IE visitors as well.

As the blog post on Internet Explorer blog depicts, websites render very differently before and after this update:

 

Twitter on IE11 before update
Twitter on IE11 before update
Twitter on IE11 after update
Twitter on IE11 after update
Twitter on iPhone
Twitter on iPhone
Hawaiian Airlines before IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines before IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines after IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines after IE11 update
Hawaiian Airlines iPhone
Hawaiian Airlines iPhone

 

After reading that blog post, I was very curious to see how Google’s websites render after this update. Another irony here is that Google, the company that beats the standards drums, has most of their properties coded for Webkit and/or detects mobile IE as a feature phone browser. The result is that GMail, Google News, etc. render very poorly.

I am happy to say that these changes in mobile IE11 do make the experience better, at least at first glance. See the comparisons below:

 

GMail before IE11 update
GMail before IE11 update
GMail after IE11 update
GMail after IE11 update
Google News before IE11 update
Google News before IE11 update
Google News after IE11 update
Google News after IE11 update
Google Calendar after IE11 update
Google Calendar after IE11 update
Google App Drawer after IE11 updateGoogle App Drawer after IE11 update
Google App Drawer after IE11 update

Apps Corner is much like Kids Corner where one can set one or a few apps to be available in a “corner” so when it is activated, no other apps are visible or accessible. This has good uses in the enterprise setting but it is clearly not only targeted to enterprises.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Setup
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Setup
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Exit
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Apps Corner Exit

Live Folders is an interesting take on folders. Live Tiles have been a distinguishing feature of Windows Phone since it launched as Windows Phone 7. Instead of creating “dumb” folders which just hold the icons included in the folder, Live Folders presumably show the live tile contents of all the tiles included in the folders. This is neat because now you can reclaim some of the real estate on the Start Screen but not have to give up on one of the key features of the platform. It is also good to see that the icons included in the folders retain their tile size inside the folders, and the folder tile itself can be set to any size.

 

Windows Phone icons without Live Folders
Windows Phone icons without Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders expanded
Windows Phone 8.1 Update Live Folders expanded

 

I don’t see how I can enable the consumer VPN feature, but that sure sounds extremely useful if I understand it correctly, which is, when connected to wifi hotspots, one would be connected to a VPN server right away. I may have misunderstood the feature so I will wait on reserving judgement until I actually find out more, or experience it myself when I connect to a public hotspot.

Have you downloaded the update? What are your thoughts?

Know your technology head on