Archive for March, 2014

Move over Justin Bieber. Newly crowned ‘queen of comedy’ Mindy Kaling proved one of the hottest celebrity sightings in town during Austin’s SXSW festival this week, as Seth Meyers and other stars made appearances at the event.

Kaling is the creator, executive producer, writer, and star of The Mindy Project, which was recently renewed for a third season. She also revealed that she’s working on a follow-up to her 2011 bestselling book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

With the Roku Lounge as the backdrop, Kaling spoke with us one-on-one, as a crowd of around 500 people gathered as closely as they could to listen in. At one point, a young woman sitting cross-legged on the floor about five feet away gushed over Kaling’s brightly colored beaded necklace, before asking if she could sit on the star’s pink pantsuit-clad lap.

Kaling responded demurely before shifting back to more burning hot topics, such as why she doesn’t like watching TV shows on a smartphone or tablet, “It’s too small for me, I need to be surrounded [by a big screen] … I don’t find it satisfying to watch an episode of say, Walking Dead, like I can’t be scared if it’s that little [size], and be like ‘Rick run, run, it’s a walker,’ if it’s on a screen that [tiny].”

Kaling also admitted that even though she’s a prolific tweeter and loves to share her life experiences via Instagram (including a recent trip to the White House), she does not consider herself to be very tech savvy,

“The fact that I can stream things on TV with my little Apple remote and I haven’t lost it — it’s the size of a thimble — I’m like a B-minus level.”

Posted in In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news

If you think about it, your car really is just one giant gadget, so it’s no surprise that the rush for dashboard dominance is shifting into high gear. While automakers are working to turn your next vehicle into an extension of your smartphone, consumer tech giants like Apple and Google are racing over which company will end up in the driver’s seat.

Apple recently unveiled CarPlay to mirror specific iPhone functions onto the dashboard of certain cars, just a few months after Google called “shotgun” to make Android the in-car platform of choice with Automotive Link. There’s also MirrorLink, a one-size-fits-all multimedia interface in development thanks to a collaboration of certain automakers and mobile companies.

But the path General Motors is taking could be a more direct route. Rather than turning your car into something that simply syncs with your mobile device, GM’s latest take is that your car is your mobile device. New models coming out this summer can be equipped with new connected-car technology that transforms your car into a giant Wi-Fi hotspot with high-speed 4G LTE, and an AppShop built-in.

At this week’s SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas, I went for the first hands-on test-drive of a 2014 Chevrolet Impala with a beta version of the new tech embedded in the dash. Over two days time, I zoomed, dodged, braked, and idled in the infamous festival traffic. While the final version of the technology is still being ironed out, the experience felt like something right out of a scene from that old 80’s show, Knight Rider. Remember Kitt — the talking, thinking, almost human robot car? That’s what this is like, minus the snarky attitude.

When you get in, there’s a tablet-sized center console with a vivid touchscreen front and center. Just like your iPad, a king-sized mobile gadget is nothing without the apps that make it cool. When the first cars sporting this new tech roll out, drivers will have access to built-in apps like Priceline to find a bargain on a hotel, for the all-important road trip forecast, and the just-announced streaming music service from Beats.

Navigating this display is both intuitive and easy to master — specifically designed for safe use while on the road — so you needn’t worry about tapping through complicated menus at a stop light. In fact, you can use your voice to work all of the commands, or tap the OnStar button to talk with a real person for help on the go.

One safety feature of note; you can’t use the keyboard when the car’s in gear. After all, the whole idea is to take smartphones out of people’s hands when they’re driving, and keep their eyes on the road. That doesn’t mean that a driver couldn’t still text and drive with their smartphone, but it’s a step in the right direction. This roving Wi-Fi on wheels also allows passengers to connect up to seven devices at one time.

It looks like Chevy will launch with about a dozen native apps, which is a far cry from the thousands that you access through iTunes or the Google Play stores. Chevy says that they will continue to update their AppShop with downloadable programs that people can install just as they would on their iPhone or Android device. The GM platform is open to developers, and as we’ve seen with smartphones and tablets, there’s a seemingly neverending flow of possibilities. At launch, all apps are free, but as the selection grows, I’m sure we’ll see premium and paid apps pop up as well.

According to Chevy, the AppShop and 4G LTE will be available on select new 2015 vehicles sporting the MyLink infotainment system. This means that new Impala, Malibu Volt, Silverado, and Corvette owners will be the first to experience this version of the future of connected cars. There’s no word on pricing just yet, though we’re told that if the car comes equipped with 4G LTE, you can activate a data plan and have an always-on connection that also doubles as a mobile hotspot. If you use AT&T, you’ll be able to add a vehicle as an additional device on a MobileShare plan. Or, you’ll be able to choose your own data plan.

So what do you think? Are you ready for your car to be as intelligent as your smartphone? Be sure to let us know.

Posted in In The Press, TechNow, Top tech news

Quite possibly the best invention since whatever came before sliced bread, a new iOS device wakes you up with the sweet scents — and sounds — of sizzling bacon. We all knew it was just a matter of time before a “smell-o-phone” came along, but leave it to the genius minds behind the Wienermobile to create the ultimate baconator: the Wake Up And Smell The Bacon.

Fresh from the The Oscar Mayer Institute for the Advancement of Bacon, the porky plug-in is filled with bacon-scented liquid. The tiny accessory slides into the headphone jack of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod (sorry Android and Windows Phone fans), where you pair it with the free companion app, set an alarm, and then bask in the heavenly bacon-filled cloud wafting your way come morning.

I’m absolutely addicted to it. It actually smells sweeter than you might expect, the sizzle sounds beat the nails-on-a-chalkboard screeching alarm beep any day, and a man’s gentle voice also serves up a hearty dose of Baconisms the longer you wait to turn it off. My favorites so far are, “A world without bacon is like the Earth without the world,” and “Time passes and civilizations crumble, but bacon is forever.” Sigh.

So now that you’re sitting in your computer chair, with drool dripping down your chin, you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on this little slice of gadget goodness? The marketing minds at Oscar Mayer know how much we crave our salty strips of heaven, but they’re not going to sell their magically meaty device in stores. You’ll have to win one by entering your details on the Wake Up And Smell The Bacon website between March 6th and April 4th. Now clean your keyboard, you’re making a mess.

This isn’t the first time Oscar Mayer has had some fun with America’s still booming bacon-mania obsession. Last year it launched an e-commerce site encouraging people to give bacon gifts for Father’s Day, with it’s awesomely schmaltzy, Say It with Bacon campaign. Just a few months ago, popcorn brand Pop Secret made a similar play for our senses with Poptopia plug-in and app pairing, which released the smell of buttered popcorn.

How about an egg to go with that bacon?

All this talk of bacon makes me think of eggs, which is a weird but oddly effective segue-way into another gadget that I can’t get enough of this week — the new Bass Egg speaker. It’s a small, portable Bluetooth speaker that turns virtually any surface into an amplified subwoofer.

It’s truly magical: You simply place Bass Egg on any surface you see fit, whether it’s your desk, the kitchen counter, your car, (the start-up guide tells you not to put it on pets, which cracks me up because of course, you’ll want to) and the powerful little instrument transfers vibrations to produce audio. Music is really quiet on the device until you set it down. Then, it totally booms. And different surfaces can add funky touches to your tunes. For example, a wood surface produces a much different vibe than metal or glass.

You can sync the Bass Egg up with any device that supports Bluetooth speakers, including your iPhone, Android, and Windows smartphones, so you can rock out to egghead music while your bedroom smells like bacon. It’s a dream come true!  Unlike its pork-scented breakfast counterpart from Oscar Mayer, you can buy the Bass Egg, which comes in black or silver hues for $99.95. But be warned, you’ll need to budget for several hours of time that you’ll run around your house putting it on every surface imaginable before you realize that yes, it really does turn your entire house into a massive speaker system. If only it could make everything smell like bacon too.

Want more bacontopia? Be sure to check out the video with this column, as well as the new Wake Up and Smell the Bacon commercial.

Posted in Great Gadgets, TechNow, Top tech news

From USA Today’s Tech Now with Jennifer Jolly (click here to watch the video):

You already know how to make yourself look good in the real world — or at least try: a bit of hair product, an outfit that compliments your eyes, and your favorite shoes are a good start. But shining up your digital self can be a bit trickier. Your Facebook profile is almost always your most visible virtual self, so here are a few insider tricks to keep in mind whether you hope to be loved by all or simply want to keep your friends and family from pretending they don’t know you.


Your Facebook account is like a living person, and its face is your profile picture. It’s the first thing other people see about you and it can instantly make either a good impression or a bad one.

Keep your profile picture free of anything offensive. For example, downing a giant mug of beer or wearing an obnoxiously skimpy Halloween costume might not bode too well with a future boss, significant other, or even some of your own relatives. But don’t be afraid to add some personality. A charming photo from a recent vacation, getaway, or otherwise happy times are your best bet for giving your digital face a good vibe.

Don’t forget to give your cover photo a similar treatment. Any scenic photos you happen to have will do fine, but you get huge bonus points if it matches your profile photo. Just get back from the beach? How about a smiling profile photo of you with the ocean at your back and a cover photo of the beach? That’s a perfect combination that will not only get smiles from your friends, and let visitors know you put some thought into your social presence.

When something changes in your appearance — like a drastically new hair style or a shiny new pair of glasses — make sure you update your digital “face” as well. Your profile photo should be as close to a current representation of you as possible. One of my most liked photos of all time? Nope, not a photo of me and someone famous. Not a photo of the Grand Canyon. It was a photo of a new haircut, me showing the world my new bangs.


If your profile photo is your face, then your posts are most definitely your voice. That means you don’t want them to be annoying, obnoxious, or over-the-top.

Your Facebook posts should be timely and relevant. If you’re just catching up on a TV show from the ’80s, that’s probably not the kind of thing your digital comrades are going to care too much about, so keep it fresh. Tell your friends about a new book you just read or an album you discovered that they might not have heard about. Share funny moments in your daily life, and make sure your digital self has a good sense of humor.

Every time you post a comment, remember everyone who may see it. Posting risqué details about a recent party or disparaging comments about your boss will probably end up being read by people who shouldn’t be seeing it. Keeping your voice positive and professional at all times is your best bet.


Your Facebook profile is more than just your online eyes and ears; It’s also a collection of everything that is important to you. Pages you’ve “Liked” in the past never leave your profile unless you make them. If you’ve been on the social network for more than a couple of years, your tastes have likely changed, and so should your likes!

Browse through any old Music, Movies, TV, and other media pages you’ve liked in the past and make sure it represents present-day you. This is also a great time to add some new pages you may have forgotten about. If someone visits your profile page and sees that the newest show you’ve liked is half a decade old, it’s a dead giveaway that you’ve been phoning in your virtual personality.


The single greatest mistake many social network users make is devoting themselves to their digital lives in fits and starts. Don’t post 10 times today and disappear for the next two weeks or you’re going to become an instant candidate for de-friending.

Keep a consistent presence, and don’t overdo it. If you feel like you have a lot to say today, maybe you should save half of it for tomorrow. If you overwhelm your friends and then vanish mysteriously, there’s a good chance they’ll eventually grow tired of it.

But whatever you do, have fun with your digital self! Facebook turn you into whoever you want to be, so make that person someone worth knowing.

Posted in TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news

From USA Today’s Tech Now with Jennifer Jolly (click here to watch the video):

Did you know that your cherished iPhone hides secrets from you? That’s right, a simple nod of the noggin could shift the way you use this precious gadget.

Apple’s iPhone is a revolutionary gizmo that has changed the mobile landscape forever, but even if you’ve had one for years, there are still a few things you probably don’t know about it. Each major update that Apple rolls out — and there have been many — brings new features and changes. Here are just a few of the things you’ve likely missed along the way.


The iPhone is a “smartphone,” but it might be even smarter than you ever thought. There is a special control option built into it that lets you use tilts of your head to perform various functions. It’s part of a feature called Switch Control, and you can enable it in the Accessibility menu of the iPhone settings.

IPAD TIPS: 5 things you had no idea your iPad could do

You can set up a Switch Control command to notice when you tilt your head to the left or to the right, and use that movement as input for things like pressing the home button or checking the notification center. It’s built into the phone to assist those with certain disabilities, but it can also be convenient for controlling your device when your hands are busy with other tasks — like when you’re wrist-deep in dinner preparation, and don’t want to get goo on your gadgets.


Tapping quickly on a tiny screen with our big ole’ clumsy thumbs means typos are an annoying and inevitable part of life. So rather than send texts laden with errors, just give your iPhone a little shake, as I show you in the accompanying Tech Now video. That motion brings up a prompt to undo the typing or cancel and continue. It also works if you accidentally select, copy or paste text you didn’t want to. Seems so simple, yet can be so satisfying, when it comes to dealing with this daily digital dilemma.


Taking an important photo only to have it turn out poorly is one of the most frustrating things in the world, but you can greatly increase the chances of capturing the moment perfectly by using your iPhone’s burst photo feature.

Normally when you take a photo you simply tap the on-screen capture button, which produces just a single photo, but if you hold down the button you’ll automatically activate burst mode. Using burst mode, your phone will capture a ton of photos in rapid succession, and save them in a small gallery. Taking photos this way ensures that between the inevitable blinks and giggles, you’ll snag a perfect photo.


Have you ever gotten home and realized that you forgot to pick something up from the store? How about arriving at a relative’s house and remembering that you have something for them back at home? Believe it or not, your iPhone can help with this common occurrence using its Reminders app, one of the most underutilized iPhone functions.

All you need to do is set up a Reminder as you normally would — and if you’ve never set up a reminder before, it takes just a few seconds — and then tap on the information icon that pops up. From this menu you can activate the location feature, which will use the iPhone’s GPS to notify you of the reminder whenever you enter or leave a specific location. It’s like having a personal assistant with you at all times!


Is there a telemarketer who just doesn’t get the hint to leave you alone? What about a texting service that you accidentally gave your number to, that buzzes you at all hours of the day and night? You can easily block those annoying communications using your iPhone!

Head into the Phone menu of your iPhone settings and add any offending numbers to the Blocked list. That’s it! Now, if the bothersome calls and texts continue, you’ll never hear a peep. Peace of mind at last.

What are some of the magic tricks you use on your iPhone? Be sure to let us know.

Posted in Great Gadgets, TechNow, Tips & Tricks, Top tech news