Category Archives: SCI-TECH

Casio adds modern tech to the classic G-Shock watch

Casio released the first G-Shock watch in 1983. The original set the bar for tough watches with incredible shock resistance to protect the quartz module. It’s a classic and still available for purchase in several forms in 2018.

Recently, Casio released an all-metal version of the watch that features the iconic design but with modern technology like Bluetooth connectivity. This isn’t a smartwatch, but simply a watch that’s a bit smarter than most.

The Bluetooth function is simple and worth a look. It gives owners an easy way to access settings. Instead of navigating through the menus on the watch, owners can use a smartphone app to sync the watch to the phone’s time, adjust settings and set alarms and reminders. It takes just one button press on the watch and for the owner to launch the app. The watch does not have to be connected through the phone’s Bluetooth menu; the app takes care of it all.

I found the experience a refreshing update. I don’t need a smartwatch all the time but there are advantages to connecting a watch to a phone. If this is a glimpse at the future of timekeeping, I’m all in. I enjoy a complicated complication as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s overwhelming to set the primary timezone let alone the alarm. I don’t mind when an app can do it for me.

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Google Map almost thrice as popular as iPhone’s own Map

Japan Rail Tokyo

This survey from TesTee Lab looked at iPhone mapping apps.

I’m on Android, but I’d be lost (groan) without Google Map. I’ve only tried Yahoo! Map through web sites like Facebook, but I’ve not been impressed. In Japan, Google is very bilingual-friendly (too friendly sometimes, as it sometimes searches in the wrong language) and the memory of places one has previously visited is exceptionally useful. The trains are full of adverts for NAVITIME, and it looks good and exceptionally detailed, but although it claims to be free for basic features, I worry it will be nagware, so I’ve never bothered trying. Its vehicle navigation features appear to be almost as good as dedicated car navigation systems, but as I only drive when I rent a car, and the cars come with navigation as standard, I never bother with smartphone apps.

One thing I did learn from the report was the abbreviation NPS, Net Promoter Score, which is a value indicating how much people love or hate a particular brand, etc. I’m not sure how useful the figures are in this case, so rather than report the exact numbers, I’ll just summarise the outcome (hint: people hate Apple’s stock app).

Here’s why you want to use a map app when you’re in Japan; this is just a fraction of the Tokyo area lines – the subway and all private lines are missing for a start:

Then again, I survived quite happily long before apps were ever invented; kids today, bah humbug!

Research results

Q1: Do you use a mapping app? (Sample size=4,219)

All Male Female
All ages 73.6% 73.9% 73.3%
Teens 74.8% 73.2% 76.3%
Twenties 77.0% 77.0% 76.9%
Thirties+ 69.6% 71.6% 67.7%

Q2: Which mapping apps do you normally use? (Sample size=map app users, multiple answer)

Google Map 77.5%
Apple Map 40.3%
Yahoo! Map 17.5%
NAVITIME 11.6%

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Nintendo’s ‘souped-up’ NES Zelda loads you with gear for an easier adventure

Nintendo has set a strange new precedent with the release of Legend of Zelda SP on the Switch: it’s essentially the original NES game but with Link starts loaded up with good gear and cash. In a way it’s no different from a cheat code, but the way it’s executed feels like a missed opportunity.

The game itself (SP stands for “special”) is described by Nintendo in the menu as a “souped up version” of the original: “Living the life of luxury!” It’s a separate entry in the menu with all the other NES games you get as part of the company’s subscription service.

You’re given the white sword, big shield, blue ring and power bracelet, plus 255 rupees to replace that shield when a Like-like eats it. Basically they’ve given you all the stuff you can find on the overworld (including max bombs and keys), but no items you’d get from inside a dungeon. You also have six hearts, and traveling around a little bit I determined these were awarded by raiding nearby hidden areas, not simply assigned. Secret passages are already revealed, and so on.

Because it skips the title screen and save game selection it seems like someone must have essentially played through the game to this point (or more likely edited the values in game RAM) and then walked to the classic starting point and made a save state that automatically loads when you start or reset the game. This means the only way to save is to use the Switch’s built-in save states, not the rather inconvenient save method the game used.

It’s plain enough that this will be a less frustrating way to explore this famously difficult game, but it seems untrue to Zelda’s roots. I understand perhaps …continue reading

    

Google’s latest hardware innovation: Price

more Google Event 2018 coverage

With its latest consumer hardware products, Google’s prices are undercutting Apple, Samsung, and Amazon. The search giant just unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, tablet, and smart home device and all available at prices well below their direct competitors. Where Apple and Samsung are pushing prices of its latest products even higher, Google is seemingly happy to keep prices low and this is creating a distinct advantage for the company’s products.

Google, like Amazon and nearly Apple, is a services company that happens to sell hardware. It needs to acquire users through multiple verticals including hardware. Somewhere, deep in the Googleplex, a team of number crunchers decided it made more sense to make its hardware prices dramatically lower than competitors. If Google is taking a loss on the hardware, it is likely making it back through services.

Amazon does this with Kindle devices. Microsoft and Sony do it with game consoles. This is a proven strategy to increase market share where the revenue generated on the backend recovers the revenue lost on selling hardware with slim or negative margins.

Look at the Pixel 3. The base 64GB model is available for $799 while the base 64GB iPhone XS is $999. Want a bigger screen? The 64GB Pixel 3 XL is $899, and the 64GB iPhone XS Max is $1099. Regarding the specs, both phones offer OLED displays and amazing cameras. There are likely pros and cons regarding the speed of the SoC, amount of RAM and wireless capabilities. Will consumers care since the screen and camera are so similar? Probably not.

Google also announced the Home Hub today. Like the Echo Show, it’s designed to be the central …continue reading

    

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is a big watch for big adventures

The Casio Rangeman GPR-B1000 is comically large. That’s the first thing you notice about it. Based on the G-Shock design, this massive watch is 20.2mm thick and about 60mm in diameter, a true dinner plate of a watch. Inside the heavy case is a dense collection of features that will make your next outdoor adventure great.

GPR-B1000, which I took for an extended trip through Utah and Nevada, is an outdoor marvel. It has all of the standard hiking watch features including compass, barometer, altimeter, and solar charging, but the watch also has built-in GPS mapping, logging, and backtracking. This means you can set a destination and the watch will lead you and you can later use your GPS data to recreate your trek or even backtrack out of a sticky situation.

This is not a sports watch. It won’t track your runs or remind you to go to your yoga class. Instead it’s aimed at the backwoods hiker or off piste skier who wants to get from Point A to Point B without getting lost. The watch connects to a specialized app that lets you set the destinations, map your routes, and even change timezones when the phone wakes up after a flight. These odd features make this a traveler’s dream.

The watch design is also unique for Casio. Instead of a replaceable battery the device charges via sunlight or with an included wireless charger. It has a ceramic caseback – a first for Casio – and the charger fits on like a plastic parasite. It charges via micro USB.

It has a crown on the side that controls scrolling through various on-screen menus and the rest of the functions are accessed easily from dedicated buttons around the bezel. The watch is mud- and water-proof to 200 meters and it can survive …continue reading