Facebook Announces Paper, Tries To Reinvent News

Facebook's iOS news reader Paper

With a name like Paper, it seems Facebook may be reaching for much more than a way to find stories from posts. Facebook may be shooting for the lofty goal of being a news service, and a starting point for when people read news. Given that most people want to share news on Facebook when they first hear it; Facebook seems to be in a the best position to know what news is hot, and what’s not. And, add a level of curation to the mix, and Facebook could drive eyeballs to news sites, stories and other related media. For a price.

First look: Blackberry Messenger On iOS

Blackberry Messenger LogoWith all that has kept Blackberry from releasing its Messenger tool (BBM) on the iOS and Android platforms, it might be no surprise to see the product scrapped. To get from an expected launch to an eventual install  it would take almost exactly a month. Blackberry has publicly blamed all this on a re-release version of the tool on Android, but little else is known. Now that I have BBM, I can share my thoughts on this new tool, and how this may affect the future of other related applications.

Royal Bank’s frustrating iOS application

Royal Bank LogoAt the end of August this year, Canada’s biggest bank – Royal Bank, or RBC, posted a record quarterly profit of $2.3 billion. That’s $2.3 billion of profit in just three months. To say that RBC has money to spend, might be an understatement. Yet, one of the more perplexing realities is how poorly constructed the company’s mobile iOS application is. At this point, the RBC application should be the best of breed, yet it lacks on some big levels. I thought I’d go over some of what I’ve seen in the hopes that  someone there might decide this application is a worthy investment.

A Refreshing Context

The Refresh interfaceThis week, a number of contextual horizons have been opened for me. First, I was given the chance to read (and review) a pre-release version of Robert Scoble’s book, Age of Context. I’m reading it rather slowly, but I will get there. Along the way, a column on I, Cringly introduced me to Refresh, a simple contextual iOS application that gathers information on contacts from multiple sources based on information it finds in your calendar. Context is really starting to pick up in applications, and I expect we’ll hear much more about this idea in the coming months and years.

Refresh is a great idea; it uses the information you have available (social media accounts, contacts, connections) and other data that may be freely available on the Internet to build what they call a “Dossier” on a person. Refresh can provide quite a few details from pictures, to the very personal details hidden in less obvious social media posts. What results is probably the most complete look at a person you can get without actually meeting them [1].

And, context may be a buzzword, but if you’re a programmer or application designer, context is hard. Imagine a simple relative test to figure out how many people in your immediate area prefer Heinz ketchup over that of a no-name brand. To get this kind of relevant data, you would have to have the opt-in of a large enough sample, or be able to pry the details out of a database somewhere. If you don’t have enough people or data involved, there is no context. That’s not even necessarily useful information [2].

Basics: How to get the serial number and model of an iDevice

Apple's iPad, 1st GenerationiPhone, iPad, iMac. Apple makes all sorts of devices that you may want information about. If you want to find out how old your iDevice is, or whether you qualify for warranty support  – you will need your serial number and modem number. Sometimes, it’s easy to find, but you may not know how to find it on all your iDevices. Today’s basics column covers the basic process of finding out your device’s serial number and model number.

How To: Redeem Free Drinks from Starbucks

Starbucks Gold CardNot to long ago, Starbucks made a bunch of changes to how they handled their Starbucks Card promotions. Some of the changes were good (12 drinks now get you a free drink), but some other changes are clearly causing some difficulty. One of the bigger problems is how someone might redeem a free drink now that Starbucks no longer sends out postcard-sized redemption cards.

I’ve spoken to a few people that have been confused or under-informed about this new process. You stop getting postcards about free drinks, but continue earning rewards. Even worse, you may not hear about earning the free drink reward because no email or letter accompanies the milestone. The rewards add up, but you may be unaware of how to redeem them. I’m going to show you how to find out what you’ve earned, and how to redeem the reward.

How Easy Is It To Hijack A Whatsapp User’s Account?

Whatsapp ConfirmationThe mobile messaging tool Whatsapp has been attracting some intense scrutiny recently. I do agree that the flat way Whatsapp uses contacts is worthy of question. Contact information should only be accessible and used for short periods of time, and users should be in control of what is shown. Right now, if I have Whatsapp installed, I can’t stop my account and status from being displayed on another users device so long as they have my phone number (and, provided I haven’t blocked their phone number). Being able to control what is publicly displayed would go along way to helping Whatsapp with privacy issues. But, the application appears to also be easily hijacked; that’s a problem and I’ll show you why.

Switch Your Google Mail iPhone From Exchange Sync To CardDav, CalDAV And IMAP

GoogleSwitch-3Recently, Google has announced that Google Sync about to hit end of life. Google Sync is designed to let users of Google’s Mail system access and synchronize mail, calendar and contacts as if the server was an Exchange Server. Probably the most popular use of this is setting up an iPhone for Google’s Mail and choosing the “Microsoft Exchange” option from the beginning. What Google plans to do is only allow new “paid” users into this service starting Starting January 30, 2013 (Update: Google has amended it’s previous announcement to extend parts of this to July 31). Those that already use it will continue to function. What I wanted to do, in anticipation of this change, was switch an iPhone from Google Sync to Google’s preferred method of syncing. Here’s how it turned out.

A Look At Google Maps For iOS

Google-Maps-iOS-1Downloaded 10 million times within 2 days of release, it’s quite easy to say Google’s new Maps on iOS is popular. When Maps was released for iOS, I immediately installed the app just like what seemed like every iOS user. What happened next was a complete shift from using Apple’s maps to this new offering from Google. While it would be a stretch to “technically” call the map details more accurate, using Google’s maps when driving feels better.

It does seem more accurate too. In fact, everything feels better in Google’s mapping application, from the routing, to the sound of the voice to the simple but effective interface. It just works, and is perhaps something we’ve become accustomed to. As you might expect, traffic, satellite and transit information  can be included on the map. These options are pretty heavily spaced suggesting Google might be planning to add new options in the future.

The iOS 6 Maps Backlash

You might have heard something about this recently. In Apple’s new iOS version 6,  released in tandem with the iPhone 5, replaces the previously built-in Google mapping tool with Apple’s own tool. Many are angry with the missing details, poor mapping capabilities and, in some cases, incorrect directions.