Friday, July 30, 2010

How to Scan Barcodes with Bing for iPhone

Earlier, the Bing iPhone app was updated with a barcode scanning function, meant to be used for comparison shopping purposes. If you’re wondering how this works, the Bing blog has just provided a handy how-to.

However, I noticed a couple of things about the way the instructions were written over there that may be confusing to new users. For one, you don’t “click” anything – you “tap.” Also, the camera is not an icon, it’s text. And you only tap to take a photo when you’re scanning cover art, not barcodes.

Based on my experiences with the Bing app, here’s how I would explain it to new users:

  1. From the Bing’s homepage, tap the word “camera” at the bottom of the page. This launches the iPhone’s camera.
  2. Point the camera at a barcode or, if a book, CD, DVD or video game, you can just point the camera at the cover art.
  3. If a barcode, the app will automatically recognize the code and perform a search. For cover art, you’ll need to tap to take a photo first.
  4. Bing will then search for results. When it finds a match, it’s displayed in a box at the bottom labeled “1 result.” (I’ve yet to scan anything where it finds more than 1 result, but that could happen, I suppose).
  5. Tap the thumbnail to see the result details. Here, you’ll find a description, images, rating, reviews and links of where to buy.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

First Microsoft Hohm Gadget Has Launched

Microsoft is launching its first Hohm-enabled gadget courtesy of a partnership with Blue Line Innovations, a Canadian-based company which sells energy monitoring and management devices. Hohm, for those unaware, is a web service designed to help consumers monitor and analyze their energy consumption and then make recommendations for cost-savings measures.

Previously, using the Hohm website, the Q&A section would have to be filled out based on what you knew about your home – but unless you already had energy-monitoring gadgets installed, your answers were estimates in several cases.

Now, with the new Hohm PowerCost Monitor and WiFi Gateway, you’ll have hard data.

The device hooks up to your home’s power meter (no wiring required!) and reads actual usage. The details are transmitted to your Microsoft Hohm account which displays the data in near real-time graphs and charts (delays are 30 seconds or so). You can also view the data from a mobile device, if desired.

This is only the beginning for Hohm-enabled gadgets: Microsoft plans to connect Hohm with smart plugs, thermostats, HVAC systems, electric vehicles (it’s already in the Ford Focus Electric) and more.

The Blue Line PowerCost Monitor and Wi-Fi Gateway are available today from Blue Line Innovations and through select retailers like Frys, Amazon, and Microsoft stores. The complete package of PowerCost Monitor and Wi-Fi Gateway is available for $249, the Wi-Fi Gateway is

also sold separately for $159.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Skype SDK Now Available for Windows

Developers interested in integrating Skype into their applications can now request access to Skype’s new SDK, called SkypeKit. Available in beta format as of June 14th, the Windows version of the developer’s kit works on Windows x86 operating systems.

Access to the kit is on an invite-only basis at the moment, and interested developers have to go to Skype’s website and fill out an online form detailing their user and organization info.

SkypeKit will allow the integration of voice and video calling and/or IM features into third-party desktop applications or compatible Internet-connected hardware devices. It also offers Skype’s super wideband audio, based on the SILK codec. Developers who use SkypeKit will be able to describe their apps as “plugged into Skype” in their marketing materials, notes a company blog post about the announcement.

To request an invite to the program, you can head over here to the sign up page now.

Microsoft Research Shows off Street Slide View

Engadget (via MIT’s Technology Review) uncovered a cool Microsoft Research project called “Street Slide” view. The project attempts to create a new interface for viewing the street-level photos used in online applications like Bing Maps Streetside View.

As explained on the project’s homepage, today’s mapping applications enable users to virtually visit cities by way of “immersive 360 degree panoramas, or bubbles.” Users move from bubble to bubble, but this doesn’t necessarily provide the best visual sense of a city street.

With Street Slide, the researchers took the best aspects of the “immersive bubbles” and transformed them into multi-perspective strip panoramas. You can actually slide out of a bubble to see the street from a different perspective – a strip that’s viewed from a greater difference. When viewed in this mode, the empty space above and below the strip could be used for business logos and building numbers (addresses), or even ads.

According to the MIT article, the researchers have already made a version of this technology for mobile devices, including the iPhone. “It broadens out your visual sense to cover a two-block radius,” says Michael Cohen, a senior scientist at Microsoft Research.

Who’s hoping for a WP7 phone implementation of this tech? I know I am. In case I didn’t explain this too well, you can see Street Slide in action in the video here.

Introduction to Project Hilo

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Project “Hilo” is a series of articles and sample applications that demonstrate how you can leverage the power of Windows 7, Visual Studio 2010 and Visual C++ to build high performance, responsive rich client applications. Hilo provides both source code and guidance that will help you design and develop compelling, touch-enabled Windows applications of your own. Join Yochay Kiriaty and James Johanson for an introduction of Project Hilo, a quick tour of its architect and design principles.

Additional information about the project can be found in the Introducing Project HILO post, and on MSDN – Hilo: Developing C++ Application for Windows 7

Monday, March 8, 2010

Acer Frameless Laptop & Touchscreen Keyboard?

Would you believe that Acer is working on a frameless laptop with touchscreen keyboard? As far-fetched as the idea might be, it's certainly plausible, expected even. The idea, as rumored by DigiTimes, involves doing away with the display's frame by printing colors directly onto the back of the display's reinforced glass substrate from Corning (a la Gorilla Glass presumably). Coupled with a touchscreen keyboard, the rumored device should be impossibly thin by traditional laptop comparisons. Keep in mind that we've already seen this Frame Zero concept pictured above from Fujitsu and Acer's arch-rival ASUS has been showing off its dual-display laptop prototype with touchscreen keyboard for months. Even the OLPC XO-3 plans to eschew the clickity keyboard in favor of a touchscreen version. And anyone who has ever seen a scifi movie knows that tactile keyboards and display bezels have no role to play in our computing future anyway, so we might as well get things started now -- or in the second half of 2010 according to DigiTimes' sources.

Aiptek PocketCinema Z20 Packs Pico Projector

Watch out, Flip, because here's one tough guy that you don't wanna mess with. Joining Aiptek's family of pocket camcorders is the PocketCinema Z20 -- a fine mix of 720p camera (courtesy of a 5 megapixel sensor) and pico projector of an unknown resolution, powered by a two-hour battery (which we'll believe when we see it). Users will be spoiled by a long list of features: 2GB of internal memory, microSDHC expansion, built-in 2.4-inch LCD, HDMI output, composite video input (iPod adapter included) and remote control. Want it? You can pre-order now for €349 or about $476 ahead of its mid-April launch. Meanwhile, enjoy Aiptek's cheesy promotion video after the break.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

GPS and Sensor-laden ski Goggles

Remember those mind-melting Recon Instruments goggles that we caught wind of late last year? Admit it -- you never, ever expected those things to actually make it to market. Despite your pessimism, it seems as if those very specs are indeed making a beeline to the consumer realm, with Zeal Optics jumping in, working a bit of magic and relabeling 'em Transcend. Deemed the planet's first GPS and sensor-laden ski goggles, these things are purportedly capable of logging speed, altitude, temperature and time details, and the side-mounted toggle switches will enable you to view said data in real time (or not, if you're paying attention to the 50 foot drop ahead of you). Peek the read link for further details on the $350+ wearables (demoed after the break), and get ready to hit the slopes with a whole new mindset this October. more

eVouse Concept Mouse

We're not going to lie, it was a major let down when we found out that this glowing V-shaped mouse with faux Microsoft branding is nothing more than a splendiferous concept, but we're holding back the tears as best we can. The super futuristic-looking eVouse doubles as both a regular mouse and a pen sensor (in theory, anyway) or as its designer Marcial Ahsayane says, "it's a mix between a classic mouse and a tablet PC." We assume that means you can -- you know -- write digitally with it, but it will also work as an air mouse with touch sensitive buttons. Maybe you can discern a little more from the images below where it seems to morph into a boomerang of sorts, but in the meanwhile we'll be in the corner wishing this thing had a ship date attached to it. You hearing this, Microsoft? (

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The 10 Golden Rules of Systems Analysis

The 10 golden rules of Systems Analysis by John E. Gibson, William T. Scherer, William F. Gibson.

Rule 1: There Always Is a Client
Rule 2: Your Client Does Not Understand His Own Problem
Rule 3: The Original Problem Statement is too Specific: You Must Generalize the Problem to Give it Contextual Integrity.

Rule 4: The Client Does Not Understand the Concept of the Index of Performance
Rule 5: You are the Analyst, Not the Decision-Maker
Rule 6: Meet the Time Deadline and the Cost Budget
Rule 7: Take a Goal-Centered Approach to the Problem, Not a Technology-Centered or Chronological Approach
Rule 8: Nonusers Must be Considered in the Analysis and in the Final Recommendations
Rule 9: The Universal Computer Model is a Fantasy
Rule 10: The Role of Decision-Maker in Public Systems is Often a Confused One