In a move that would leave the ghost of Steve Jobs grinding his teeth, the set of features and capabilities the Apple Watch will supposedly unveil on Monday has leaked, including information on the device’s materials and construction. Not all of these qualifies as a leak, certainly, but for Jobs, who prided himself on locking away even the existence of a product prior to launch, this kind of run-up would be anathema.
First up, there’s the Financial Times, which ran a long interview with Jony Ive. In it, Ive reportedly tells the FT that “the molecules in Apple gold are closer together, making it twice as hard as standard gold. And, in case you were wondering, Apple’s cold-forged steel is 40 percent more durable than regular steel”
This is… well, this is dubious, to say the least. The cold-rolled steel claim is believable; cold-rolling steel is used to produce a smooth surface, uniform thickness, and to reduce deformation under strain. But the claim that Apple’s gold has “closer molecules?” Ars Technica offers an explanation by way of a patent, filed by Apple last year, for a gold/ceramic hybrid characterized as 18k gold, but with two to four times the hardness of conventional 18k gold.
For years, if you’ve used BitTorrent, you’ve probably used µTorrent to manage and control torrent files. The software is the most popular Torrent client online with an estimated 100 million users, and its valued for its small footprint and rich feature set. µTorrent has been including adware for several years (despite warning people in its install against installations that attempt to charge for the program), but it may have crossed a line this time — numerous users are reporting that installing the program also silently installs an application called Epic Scale.
Epic Scale is shady looking, to say the least. The company website claims a straight link between installing Epic Scale and benefiting charities — literally.
The impression the website gives is that by installing this program, you literally donate compute time to charity. It’s like [email protected], or SETI, or another equivalent project — right?
Well, no. Not exactly. A little farther down the page, the website notes:
Programming is one of the most valuable skills you can pick up in these modern times, whether for career prospects or to stretch your brain and create something awesome. If you’re just getting started on your coding journey, here are ten tips and resources to set you off on the right foot.
10. Figure Out Why You Want to Learn to Code12
The direction you go in will depend in large part on why you want to learn to code in the first place and how much time you have to devote to learning. If you want to be a professional programmer, signing up college courses might be your best bet. (Google has a list of suggested skills and courses for would-be software engineers.) If you want to build websites or games for fun (and possibly profit) in your spare time, interactive tutorials might be better. Bloc has a comparison of course options based on workload, cost, and reason you’re picking up programming. And if you’re still deciding on a tech career, Switch will recommend one based on your interests.
9. Choose the Right Language
There’s no one “best” programming language, and once you’ve learned one, it’s fairly easy to pick up another, so don’t get hung too up on choosing your first language. That said, some languages are more beginner-friendly than others. The language you choose to start with might depend, again, on your purpose. (For example, if you want to write an iOS app, you’ll need to learn Swift.) There’s a case for starting with C if you’re serious about programming, although higher-level languages, like Python, are easier to jump into right away. Here’s an infographic comparing a few popular programming languages.3
8. Start Small (and Be Patient)4
No matter which language or learning method you choose, you should start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). When David Sinsky taught himself to code in eight weeks, for example, he spent one weekend getting an introductory grasp of Python and one weekend getting an introductory understanding of Django—going through the tutorial, deleting all of the tutorial code, and working through the tutorial again from scratch. Start with the basics and be patient with yourself as you progress. To take your first coding project from start to finish, break down the project into simple steps. And if one method of learning isn’t working for you (e.g., books), try another method before giving up.
7. Try a Kids App7
Even toddlers are learning to code these days. That’s actually a great thing for all of us. Although many of the programs designed to teach kids to code are very simplistic, many of them, like Scratch, are suitable for all ages. It doesn’t matter how old you are; even kids’ animation apps can get you started with the basics of programming (edX has a new course on Programming in Scratch, by the way).
6. Use Free Online Training Sites
Free online training sites like Codecademy and other Hour of Code participants can help you write your first computer program. Tutorials from KhanAcademy, Codecademy, Code.org, and many other organizations will introduce you to the basics of programming—all while creating a new game, site, or other project. Find the resources you need according to the language you’re learning with Bento. These are good starting points, but you’ll need to take the initiative to further or continue your learning after these introductions.
5. Take a Coding Course
Online computer science courses offer a bit more of rounded educational experience compared to online training sites focusing on one language. These courses are designed to teach you fundamental skills over several months in college-level classes. I can’t personally recommend Harvard’s CS50 (which you can take for free) enough, but there are many others you can take (many listed on our Lifehacker U series). You can even build a college-level computer science education with this selection of fifteen online courses.
4. Grab Some Free Programming Books
When you get stuck on a problem or just need to look something up, reference books come in very handy. There’s a huge collection of over 500 free programming booksposted on GitHub, and another collection of Ebooks covering 24 programming languages.
3. Play Coding Games
Often the best way to learn is through games. While plenty of coding tutorials have youbuilding simple or complex games yourself, a couple of teaching sites are literally games: Code Combat and CodinGame are two you might have fun with.
2. Get a Mentor (or Teach Someone Else)
The programming community is full of people who are willing to help the next generation of programmers. Hack.pledge() is one site that will connect you to a mentor, or you can sign up to mentor someone else. Even just planning to teach what you’ve learned can help you retain the information better.
1. Hack Someone Else’s Code
When you reverse engineer someone else’s code, testing each line to see how it works, you get a better understanding of the big picture. Thanks to tons of open source code, you can learn just about anything—and keep learning through the incremental-hacking cycle. Just remember to share your code back with the community if you improve on a program.
Clippy was an idea ahead of its time—just horribly executed. The overly friendly paper clip has since become an endless joke that even Microsoft rips on every once in awhile. But as Cortana’s conquest across Windows 10 and the new Spartan browser continues, it seems the popular voice assistant will also be coming to Office.
According to The Verge’s Microsoft news guru Tom Warren, the company is testing a “Work Assistant” app that will let people open, edit, and share content just with voice commands and Cortana. Citing sources familiar with the app’s plan, Warren says Microsoft intends to bring the feature to both desktop and mobile.
But perhaps the most interesting implication is that the app might bring Cortana features to software platforms because of Microsoft’s current multi-OS obsession of late. Warren explains:
Given Microsoft’s recent launches of Office for iOS and Android, and a continued focus on making its services and apps available across all platforms, it shouldn’t be surprising that Cortana will eventually make the leap. Business Insider reported in November that Microsoft’s Julie Larson-Green confirmed Cortana will make its way to other operating systems, and Office integration is part of a number of plans for the digital assistant.
To say Cortana will be Clippy 2.0 isn’t exactly accurate. Clippy was a bug-eyed paper clip who would butt in when it thought you needed help, whereas Cortana will most likely be a much more subtle and useful option. But nontheless is basically a similar idea of bringing automated help to Office. Hopefully this time around, Microsoft will actually be proud of the assistant they create.
There’s a danger that once you’ve replied to a thread in Gmail it can sink lower and lower down your priority list and eventually get forgotten about altogether. If you want to make sure that you’re following up important messages when they don’t get a response, then this popular browser extension is one way to go about it.
Head to the Boomerang download page to get it installed for Chrome, Firefox or Safari and let it start working its magic with your Gmail inbox. Right off the bat you’ll notice a new Boomerang icon up at the top of the web interface. Click on this to manage messages that you’ve sent and to change the plugin’s settings.
The key Boomerang feature appears when you’re composing a new message or replying to an existing thread. Check the box labelled Boomerang this and then enter a time frame; if the email has not had a response in this time, it returns to your inbox to remind you that it still needs dealing with. You can opt for something vague like tomorrow afternoon or specify a precise date and time when you want the message to boomerang back.
The venerable piracy site The Pirate Bay has traveled down a bumpy road as of late. Along with other prominent piracy sites, The Pirate Bay was taken down in a raid around two months ago. However, like the aftermath of Superman’s death back in 1992, no one truly felt The Pirate Bay was dead for long, and pretenders rose to claim the throne in the interim. More than seven weeks after its demise, The Pirate Bay has risen from its own ashes, sporting the symbol of a phoenix to mark its return.
Back in January, a retainer appeared on the old Pirate Bay website depicting a countdown clock and a little pirate ship sailing toward what appeared to be a port. The retainer page was also home to a code that, when it was finally deciphered, linked to a supercut of Arnold Schwarzenegger saying his most famous line — the one about coming back. Over the weekend, The Pirate Bay fulfilled Arnold’s promise and returned.
Functionally, the returning site is quite similar. The usual pirate ship graphic that emblazoned the front page has been replaced by a phoenix signaling the site’s return, and the user accounts are in working order. Unlike the previous iteration — and likely to the joy of users — the returning site does not yet serve ads.
In addition to everything else, the first Macintosh was funny. On January 24th, 1984, 30 years ago today, Steve Jobs first revealed the computer he’d been talking about so much onstage at the Flint Center at DeAnza College in Cupertino, and he let it speak for itself.
27-year-old Jobs was all but unrecognizable from the turtleneck-wearing, polished presenter he would become. With long black hair, a gray suit that appears too large, and a green bow tie, he looks like a hippie dressed up for a relative’s wedding. As he unzips an odd, cooler-sized bag and pulls out a Macintosh with one hand, he appears less confident than relieved. Even moments before he took the stage, then-CEO John Sculley told CNET, Jobs was panicked: “I’m scared shitless,” he told Sculley. “This is the most important moment of my life.”
But as the word “MACINTOSH” scrolled slowly across its 9-inch screen, as Jobs stood smiling while the Chariots of Firetheme song accompanied pictures of a calculator and a primitive drawing application, as the crowd of Apple investors went suitably insane, Jobs just smiled and began to talk more about the boxy beige computer he believed would change everything.
Now, with the benefit of 30 years’ hindsight, Jobs may have been right. Macs no longer cost $2,495; they no longer weigh 22 pounds; and changing font sizes isn’t exactly noteworthy anymore. But Apple’s vision for how a computer should work, and more importantly how it should fit into our lives, hasn’t changed a bit in the last 30 years. The first Mac ads told us to “try the computer you already know how to use,” and though that promise lives on mosty intact in iOS, Apple’s never stopped making computers for real people.
Microsoft brings a Clippy-like helper to its refreshed Office Web Apps
Microsoft is refreshing its Office Web Apps this week with a new user interface and some feature additions. The most significant change is a new “Tell Me” bar that sits at the top of documents and allows users to simply type out questions when they need document help. Not to be confused with Microsoft’s TellMe voice service, the Office Web Apps “Tell Me” feature will surface features based on the query. Given the complexity of the desktop versions of Office, it’s not unreasonable to assume this same feature might make its way to those apps in future. It’s not quite the animated Clippy of old, but it’s a basic helper that includes similar features and is a lot easier to use than Microsoft’s help documentation.
Surprisingly, out of Amazon’s top three best-selling laptops this holiday season, two of them are Chromebooks. Even weirder, according market research company NPD, Chromebooks account for 21% of all commercial US laptop sales so far this year, and 10% of all computers and tablets sold in the US. In 2012, Chromebooks accounted for just 0.2% of all computer and tablet sales. Is this really happening? Is Google doing it again, first with Android taking the world by storm, and now Chrome OS? Is the low-cost, netbook-in-sheep’s-clothing Chromebook the surprise breakout hit of 2013?
Now, there’s no arguing with the relative success of Chromebooks in 2013 compared to 2012. This was mostly due to the fact that, until October 2012 and the release of the Samsung Series 3 Chromebook, there wasn’t really a good-and-cheap Chromebook on the market. The Samsung Chromebook, priced at around $250, has sat at the top of Amazon’s best-selling laptop list since it launched. Acer’s line of C7 Chromebooks, also priced at around $250, has also done well since it launched in November 2012, and was third place on Amazon’s list of best-selling laptops this holiday season. There is no doubt that Chromebooks are selling better at the end of 2013 than at the end of 2012.
In this review of the Nexus 5, I will attempt to answer one simple question: is Google capable of making a flagship, best-in-class smartphone it can sell for $349 off-contract? And I don’t just mean a nice, okay, swell, good, decent, better-than-the-last-one phone. I mean a phone that stacks up against the iPhone 5S, Galaxy S4, HTC One, or Lumia 1020. A phone that people want to buy. A phone that can win hearts and minds.
I’m asking this question because I believe Google is asking the same one. The Nexus line of phones may have just started as developer editions, or platforms for the latest version of Android, but unless Google’s marketing department and PR team are reading from different sheet music, it seems like Google wants its Nexus phones to be the kind of consumer facing devices that its Nexus 7 tablet clearly is.
And why shouldn’t it be? The Nexus 5 is stacked in the hardware department, touts a handful of future-facing improvements, and most importantly runs the latest version of Android — a visual and functional upgrade called KitKat (or 4.4, if you love numbers). It’s a big deal.
Google clearly wants you to see the Nexus 5 as the ultimate Android device. Hell, that’s what they’ll tell you if you ask them. This is supposed to be the best the platform can offer. The best hardware combined with the best software. But is it?