The Simpsons have managed to enjoy more success than any other sitcom on television, boasting 522 episodes that span over 25 seasons. In October, any fan with a cable package (important, because the show is still on the air) should turn their attention to an app due to be delivered by FXX accurately titled: The Simpsons World. Users of the app will be thrilled to discover they can stream any episode from the entire series library on any device –while also being able to browse shows, find popular quotes (using a database created by collecting text from closed captioning and imported episode scripts), and share memorable clips.
If you have seen more than a few episodes of The Simpsons, you will already be aware that the characters defy most of the laws of physics: nobody really ages (or dies, for the most part). This is why John Landgraf, CEO of FX Networks and FX Productions was particularly excited, explaining that the non-linear rights they acquired for the show are revolutionary. What does it mean for fans? You can watch whatever episodes you want, in whatever order you want (paying no heed to the original broadcast order).
Not sure where to start? Every time you launch the app, a random episode will begin to play (which the execs enjoy, noting this behaviour “mimics the kind of serendipitous way one might stumble upon any Simpsons episode in syndication on any given night on television”).
What excites me most are the themed playlists included in the app –each one celebrating classic characters or holiday seasons. A scheduled update to the app is reading for January, 2015 that promises to allow for custom playlists… so soon you can pull together your own must-see favourites!
If you aren’t an FXX subscriber, you can still download the app and enjoy an endless supply of clips –but you won’t be able to get any further than browsing the full episodes.
This app is exciting for an additional reason: it may just change the way this kind of content is handled in the digital world. Do you have a beloved show that you hope will be handled in an app of this type?
Findaway World made international headlines when they secured a massive contract with the US Navy back in March. They basically developed a super locked down e-reader with no WIFI, touchscreen or USB connection. The content was preloaded in the factory and came with thousands of eBooks and audiobooks. The Navy was very happy to get their crewmen reading in the downtime and the US Air Force has just awarded Findaway World with a $500,000 contract for their own e-reader.
The US Air Force wanted a new e-reader and Findaway World was the only vendor they were in negations with. They were looking for a secure non-web based e-reader, that disallowed the ability to access operating system, make changes, delete or add titles. They also wanted 200 pre-loaded e-books from a variety of sources, such as New York Times best seller lists, large publishers, and small or university presses. The mandate was for an eclectic collections for fiction, non-fiction and educational titles.
Findaway World fit the bill because their NERD e-reader does not have the ability to add/delete content once the eBooks are loaded onto the device.
Likely the same e-reader the Navy got is the same version the US Air Force will end up getting, the only content that will change are the eBooks.
Announced earlier this year, Classroom rounds out the free suite of tools provided within Google Apps for Education. Intended to behave as a sort of portal for Google Docs, Drive, and Gmail, Classroom aims to help teachers “create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes with ease.”
There is little question that technology is a necessary companion to a modern education, but finding the proper fit is a significant challenge. Google isn’t the first organization to offer a suite of educational support apps, but they may be among the most likely to succeed –if for no other reason than they are a known-brand with a familiar suite of tools.
Classroom boasts a feature-set that is hard to resist, including:
- Easy Configuration and Set-Up – Teachers can add students manually, or choose to share a code with their class that allows everyone to join.
- Save Time – By making assignments paperless, the process of reviewing and grading each one is faster and easier.
- Improved Organization – Students are able to see their outstanding homework assignments at a glance, in a single location, with the required reference materials easily accessible.
- Open and Enhanced Communication – Classroom makes it easy for students to ask questions and read important announcements.
- Value – Free to schools, Classroom contains no ads.
- Secure – Google promises that content and student data will never be used for advertising purposes.
When all of these things combine to make Classroom seem a little too good to be true, the only way to give it proper consideration is to evaluate the opinions, experience, and concerns being publicly expressed:
|Outsourcing vs. In-House||Though it is the subject of great debate, it seems that the IT departments at most schools lack the skills and available cycles to adequately create and support a custom suite of educational apps. To this end, subscribing to an external system makes good sense.||With considerable competition for the dollars invested in education, desire to have complete control over these kinds of tools needs to be weighed against the availability of services like Classroom that may not be custom but should be considered good enough.|
|Data Storage||Overwhelmingly, the idea of educational data storage is uncharted territory. Everybody agrees in principle that the security of student data is critical, but few can agree on the best way to ensure its security.||While many believe that schools housing their own data is the only reasonable choice, many experts suggest that the IT expertise available with organizations like Google may offer superior protection.|
|Ongoing Support||When schools relinquish control over their educational systems, they are at the mercy of outside organizations. If a software vendor goes out of business or decides to sunset an application suite, little can be done.||While Google has a history of abandoning projects that no longer entertain them, it seems unlikely that they would sacrifice an entire educational initiative without careful thought and planning. It should also be understood that no solution is future proof: developers that work on custom in-house projects leave or retire, third-party software vendors go out of business or sunset application suites and cease their support, and technology changes… consider that 5-6 years ago, universities would have placed their entire mobile focus on BlackBerry devices.|
|Registration||Using Classroom requires that each participating student has an account with Google.||While it may seem like cause for concern, use of any system would require an account of one sort of another (along with the acceptance of a corresponding ‘Terms of Service’ agreement). It could be argued that Google’s agreements are publicly available and therefore quite transparent.|
|Compatibility||Organizations are overwhelmingly BYOD (bring your own device). Students and their families are no different.||This is one area where Classroom is likely to be the undisputed leader. Google is well-used to the challenges that accompany being cross-platform while accommodating a wide variety of laptops, tablets, and smartphones.|
|Learning Curve||Students have enough difficulty learning the material covered by the curriculum, let alone needing to understand how to use the technology required to consume that information.||Gmail is Gmail is Gmail. By using already-familiar Google tools and technologies, students and parents will enjoy a much shorter learning curve.|
|Cost||Everybody loves a bargain, but those same people tend to misunderstand the difference between cost and worth.||If the system is free, what’s in it for Google? Just like Apple’s strategy in the 1980’s, Google understands that families tend to be brand loyal –getting students on board, gets parents on board. This means more use of other Google products and services, including the sale of more Chromebooks and Nexus mobile devices.|
Pilot projects have been running across North America to mainly rave reviews, but it shouldn’t be discounted that most schools test-driving Classroom haven’t worked with any competing service in the past. Also important is understanding that this is the first release –what is documented now as being underwhelming or simplistic should be seen as a basic foundation. What counts now is how Google moves forward: subsequent versions will need to respond to feature requests while maintaining stability and security.
Ultimately, only time will be able to tell if Classroom is a success. What can be said for certain is that Google is providing a viable solution for schools, teachers, and students… but they aren’t alone in this arena, Microsoft and Apple are also trying desperately to secure their own pieces of this emerging educational market (don’t forget: competition drives innovation).
Star Wars Commander is an attempt to cash in on the entire Clash of Clans phenomenon. The premise of the game is to enhance your resources, upgrade your town hall and build defensive walls to keep your enemies out. There is a big army component to it, and depending if you choose the Rebels or the Imperials a host of custom troops, mechanized and airstrikes that can turn the tide during a pitched battle.
One of the things I liked about Commander was the RPG aspects to it. During all of the big missions you get a sense on who the major players are, from bounty hunters to legendary AT&ST pilots.
This is one of those titles you can play without having to spend any money on micro transactions. You simply have to log yourself in a few times a day and squirrel away all of your gold and alloy. You can use this in-game currency to make troops or engage in some research to make your favorite army type more powerful.
In the end, you will complete the game in about a week, but new chapters are issued monthly. The big problem I have with this title is the inability to control where my troops are going. Their AI really seems indiscriminate and it takes getting used to. Its a free game, so you can check it out for Android or iOS.
In 2002 PayPal became a wholly owned subsidiary of eBay and has been used to facilitate payments on the e-commence site. Due to the increasing pressures of the modern economic reality with Apple Pay, Alipay and Square, eBay and Paypal have agreed to part ways and Paypal will now be its own publicly traded company in 2015.
Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces, to become CEO of new eBay company following separation and American Express executive Dan Schulman joins PayPal immediately as President and CEO designee for PayPal post-separation.
PayPal has been on pace to overtake eBay’s core marketplace by sales. In the June quarter, the payments unit boosted sales 20% to $1.95 billion and added 4.1 million new active customers from the first quarter, to 152.5 million. PayPal facilitates one in every six dollars spent online, eBay said. At its namesake marketplace, revenue rose 9% to $2.17 billion as the number of active accounts increased by 3.8 million to 148.9 million.
“The payments landscape is hyper-competitive, the pace of change is accelerating and everyone is gunning for PayPal,” said Forrester analyst Denee Carrington. “The split will give PayPal greater agility to help it achieve its full potential.”
PayPal has been expanding beyond online and mobile payments and offering other financial services. It began lending money to small business customers late last year. And eBay bought Braintree, a payment processor used by startups such as vacation rentals site Airbnb and cab-hailing app Uber, a year ago for about $800 million and will be part of the PayPal unit.
Hopefully that now Paypal will be an autonomous entity they could really redeem themselves in the eyes of internet users. We have all heard of the horror stories of Paypal being used to facilitate Kickstarter payments, only to have the money put on hold and the developers have to jump through months of hoops to get any of it back, if they do get any of it back.
BookShout is getting a solid reputation in the publishing industry by delivering eBooks in bulk. The eBooks are redeemed by by using their official app for Android or iOS and many television stations are using the allure of eBooks as an incentive to people during telethons. Today, the company has announced that they have distributed 9.4M ebook codes in the past 12 months, and expects to double that number by early 2015.
With more than 3,000 bulk ebook orders placed by major corporations and universities, BookShout! has experienced accelerated growth as more and more organizations request mass quantities of ebook for events, corporate rewards, and client retention. BookShout! has served Microsoft, Intel, CareerBuilder, Lockheed Martin, Marriott, and Teach for America to name a few.
BookShout! works with more than 2,000 publishing partners worldwide, including HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan, Perseus Books Group, Simon & Schuster and Workman Publishing—as well as corporations throughout the U.S., U.K., and Canada.
Authors are also getting in on the action by taking eBook cards and text-to-buy campaigns to their speaking events and live online chats. Campaigns may even be set up to allow all attendees of an event to buy the book individually at a pre-set price determined by the publisher.
German artist Christoph Niemann has created The New Yorker’s first-ever animated GIF cover. This is the first time the publication has ever done something like this.
“When I arrived in New York for the first time, it was pouring” said Niemann. “Maybe that’s why, to my mind, there’s no place on earth where being stuck in traffic on a rainy day is more beautiful.”
“One of the ways that he expresses himself recently has been in animated GIFs,” says Françoise Mouly, art director at The New Yorker. Mouly had given thought to using one of his earlier GIFs for the cover, but held off until now.
The New Yorker apparently had big problems integrating the cover and making it work on their website and line of apps for Android and iOS. At one point there were technical issues that caused the GIF to render as a blank space on the web. Mouly says she became “distraught.” But the team persevered and the GIF was brought to life.
The gaming market is set to become a predominately online based pastimes in the years to come, a recent study. Research has found that consumers are moving away from the more traditional PC based games, in favour of an online alternative and the figure is set to rise by a high one-digit percentage in the years leading up to 2017.
With social media platforms becoming increasingly popular, the amount of users partaking in social gaming has also risen. Users are able to play against their friends or family via the social network with the ability to “share” the result, leading to this becoming a more attractive approach to gaming. The developments in smartphone technology has also led to a hike in the figured for games played online and on social spaces.
According to a recent survey, the introduction on online gaming has given a dramatic boost to the number of web gamers, with over 40% of internet users partaking. The results have proven how fast growing the industry is, spanning across a range of various platforms and devices. Gambling games have proved to be particularly popular on social, which have drawn 11,240,000 gamers every day.
On the European market, Germany leads the way in terms of mobile gaming users, with gamers generating an astounding $3.7 billion dollars, with a year year-on-year growth amounting to 5%. China are dominating the Asian industry, with several hundreds of million people who play both mobile and online games, but also South Korea have been engrossed with a messaging app that has recently been transformed into a gaming platform, proving to be one of the most popular of its kind amongst gamers. Mobile gaming is currently the largest revenue consuming segment in the U.S. online gaming market and is set to continue growing in popularity in the next few years.
In terms of the gender divide, men tend to make up the majority of online gaming users, however gaming companies are intending to attract more women players by adding more female characters into their games. Marvel Comics, for example, have made changes to their Thor character and will now be a depicted as a female. By attracting new consumers such as more female gamers, the online gaming market will grow even further. Women tend to be more prone to social gaming so by appealing to them, the audience for online gaming will expand and grow.
Head of Consumer PR at Ladbrokes Casino David Williams discusses that;
“The rate at which social gaming is growing is undoubtedly one of the most exciting developments on our landscape. Being in the right place at the right time to influence consumer behavior and offer discerning customers precisely what they want – and more – will be key to leveraging the cash benefits of social gaming for big firms.”
Online gaming is a great environment for the gambling industry as it provides consumers with the ability to play in a social, fun way and has become a multi-billion dollar business. With women becoming more interested in the trend, social platforms such as Facebook have attracted many social gamblers who try their luck in popular casino-based games.
The future of the gambling business looks to have its eyes set towards online games and internet users. With mobile technology constantly expanding and growing, it is no surprise that the gaming industry will grow alongside it. New markets and targets are emerging with women becoming more intrigued by the industry which sets the gambling gaming industry to have a bright future.
The march to the holiday season is upon us and e-reader companies have all revealed their complete product lineup. There is a ton of different models to choose from and sometimes it may be difficult to make an informed buying decision. We ran a poll on Good e-Reader from September 15th to September 29th 2014 and people all over the world weighed on what was most appealing.
During our polling period 1,221 people cast their vote and by a landslide the new Kindle Voyage and Kindle Basic with a touchscreen won with over 469 votes. This really drives home the point that readers everywhere prefer the Amazon line of devices and something is really compelling about their new product lineup.
In second place with 284 votes was the first waterproof e-reader to be issued by a mainstream company, the Kobo H2O. This device features a very vibrant 6.8 inch display and can be used on the beach, bath or on vacation. For the first time ever, literary fiends will be able to use their device in all environments.
3rd place is where the field got fairly even with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus garnering 81 votes, followed by the first tablet that Barnes and Noble has issued in awhile, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 Nook.
The full list of devices and statistics are in the above picture, so I want go into much more details. What surprised me the most though, was the fact there is a severe lack of demand for the next generation Kindle Fire tablets. Amazon made a huge announcement with five new devices, one appealing to kids and others hitting every conceivable price point possible. Only 32 people had any sort of plans to upgrade to or buy one for the first time.
Advertising itself as the magazine of your life, Flipboard is an app that brings together all of the news you care about (from social networks, publications, and blogs) into a single, beautiful, package. Fortunately for Windows phone users, Flipboard is also available right now as a free download.
Designed as a sort of news aggregator, Flipboard does a beautiful job of displaying content in a way that makes even the driest articles a joy to read. For those who are hardcore about the feeds they follow, Flipboard is really more form over function –lacking the ability to mark stories as already read or syncing across devices.
The real news of this story is that popular apps are finally making their way to the Windows phone platform. If Windows-based mobile devices are destined to compete and survive in this market, a well-stocked app marketplace is one of the secrets to success.
Are you any more likely to consider a Windows phone when you next upgrade than you were in the past?
William Gibson will be releasing a new eBook on October 28th 2014 and will be his first full length novel since 2010’s Zero History. Gibson has stated that it will be set in multiple futures and it is currently unknown whether this book will be apart of a trilogy.
Much of Gibson’s reputation has remained associated with Neuromancer, but his work has continued to evolve. After expanding on Neuromancer with two more novels to complete the dystopic Sprawl trilogy, Gibson became an important author of another science fiction sub-genre—steampunk—with the 1990 alternate history novel The Difference Engine, written with Bruce Sterling. In the 1990s, he composed the Bridge trilogy of novels, which focused on sociological observations of near-future urban environments and late capitalism. His most recent novels— Pattern Recognition (2003), Spook Country (2007) and Zero History (2010) —are set in a contemporary world and have put his work onto mainstream bestseller lists for the first time.
What exactly is the Peripheral all about? The synapses states “Where Flynne and her brother, Burton, live, jobs outside the drug business are rare. Fortunately, Burton has his veteran’s benefits, for neural damage he suffered from implants during his time in the USMC’s elite Haptic Recon force. Then one night Burton has to go out, but there’s a job he’s supposed to do—a job Flynne didn’t know he had. Beta-testing part of a new game, he tells her. The job seems to be simple: work a perimeter around the image of a tower building. Little buglike things turn up. He’s supposed to get in their way, edge them back. That’s all there is to it. He’s offering Flynne a good price to take over for him. What she sees, though, isn’t what Burton told her to expect. It might be a game, but it might also be murder.
Some time around the year 2020, in a trailer park in the Deep South, a young woman witnesses a murder. She is in a video game, and watches with horror as a drone strike kills a child. At precisely the same moment, one hundred years in the future, a boy is remotely killed on the streets of London’s great skyscrapers. The perpetrator remains anonymous.
Interweaving two strange futures, from a ramshackle community of US army veterans, to the teeming masses of a mega city, The Peripheral tells the story of a brave new world of drones, outsourcing and kleptocracy, and of a crime that can only be solved across time.”
I for one have already pre-ordered this book from Amazon and hopefully will be one of the great reads of 2014. Gibson, Neil Stevenson and Bruce Sterling all started their careers around the same time and really pioneered the modern science fiction genre. Gibson’s work has influenced bands like Sonic Youth, U2 and Billy Idol. The film The Matrix drew inspiration for its title, characters and story elements from the Sprawl trilogy. The characters of Neo and Trinity in The Matrix are similar to Bobby Newmark (Count Zero) and Molly (“Johnny Mnemonic.”