Lightstrap – a ring flash for your iPhone

Lightstrap is a new kickstarter project that brings a ring flash to your iPhone.

Lightstrap is a photographic lighting tool for iPhone 5 and 5S that enables you to shoot stunning photos and videos at night. No more blur and grain, just crisp vibrant photos with the distinctive look of a professional ring light. Lightstrap follows the flash on your phone so it works seamlessly with all camera apps.

This is a great concept. I hope it can meet its funding goal. The sample images look impressive. It claims to have 10 times the power of the built-in iPhone flash, but instead of packing it into a single spot the flash is a large rectangle. This would give a more diffuse light that would make portraits look more flattering.

But the makers Brick & Pixel do not stop there. They have also included the option to choose six different colour temperatures for different lighting conditions, and seven brightness levels so that you can specify the flash power you need. On top of that, it also functions as a video light.

I can only think of one more way to improve this product. Have a mirror in the middle of the ring flash for the selfie addicts.

Mobile wars: Microsoft predicted to overtake Apple in 3 years

Not every prediction comes true, but one of the more daring claims has surfaced from a Forbes article. According to the writer, Microsoft will be able to surpass Apple on the mobile scene in 3 years. If that does become a reality, it will be no easy feat as Apple is currently riding high with incredible profit margins and the enjoying popularity of its iPhone.

That being said, let’s not forget that Nokia is making some good inroads in emerging countries, which also means that Windows Phone is gaining some traction in those markets. If Microsoft continues and succeeds in integrating its core products, it is believable that Apple will have a strong competitor to deal with, assuming Apple doesn’t improve by leaps and bounds over the next three years. Will it come true? I guess we’ll find out in three years’ time.

Here’s Why Microsoft’s New Mobile Strategy Will Help It Overtake Apple In 3 Years

First of all, both Microsoft’s and Nokia’s dominance in emerging countries and the high demand for low cost smart phones will help propel Microsoft into the number two position globally (only the Android OS can compete here).

Second, as Microsoft rolls out its integration capabilities to business people across the enterprise through Office 365 and Windows 8.1, and to consumers through the Xbox, Microsoft will pick up a lot of new users that are looking for seamless app integration across their business and home lives. Most people will not want their information stuck in separate operating systems for much longer.

China bans its banks from dealing in Bitcoin

As Bitcoin is still very new, it’s no surprise that lawmakers around the world are scrambling to figure out how to deal with it. One country that has decided on a stance towards Bitcoin is China. The country has already banned its banks from handling Bitcoin trade. According to the Chinese government, Bitcoins are a “virtual good” and therefore should not be used as currency.

Of course, such a ruling doesn’t prevent people in China from trading in Bitcoins, but they do so at their own risk. As Bitcoins don’t require a central bank to operate, the ruling is less of an issue, but folks who are investing in Bitcoin would do well to know that governments are paying close attention to the cryptocurrency.

China bans banks from handling Bitcoin trade

Individuals were still free to trade in bitcoins but should be aware of the risks involved, said the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), adding that it planned to formalise the regulation of exchanges that dealt in the digital cash.

Experts told Reuters the PBOC was moved to make its decision because Chinese nationals were heavily involved in trading the virtual currency. Many believe this is because it helps them avoid controls on trade in the yuan.

Popular Android flashlight app has been secretly tracking you

When an app has been downloaded over a million times and garnered over 800,000 5-star ratings, you’d expect the app to be good and not dodgy. A flashlight app itself isn’t too hard to develop, but the Brightest Flashlight Free app was doing a few things without informing the user.

It turns out that the app has been secretly tracking users’ location information, along with device IDs. Not only was the information shared even when users opted out, it was also being transmitted before the user had a chance to accept or refuse the app’s terms of service.

Next we’ll have to see if the app remains in th Google Play Store and whether the app or the terms of service will be modified to be more open about what is going on.

This popular flashlight app has been secretly sharing your location and device ID

GoldenShore’s privacy policy had mentioned that information collected would be used by the company, but the FTC said location and device information was shared automatically with advertisers and other third parties–even when users opted out. In fact, before they could accept or refuse the app’s terms of agreement, the FTC said Brightest Flashlight was already collecting and sending information.

Typo keyboard case born because Ryan Seacrest wants one

When the iPhone first came out, there was plenty of debate as to whether it should have shipped with a keyboard or not. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously laughed at it. Fast forward a few years later, both BlackBerry and Windows Phone all have flagship phones without a physical keyboard.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the folks who were previously pining for a physical keyboard have changed their tune. Now celebrity Ryan Seacrest has co-founded and invested over $1 million to come up with the Typo keyboard case, which costs $99 and I hope doesn’t cause typos.

The current photos of the device show a keyboard that resembles a BlackBerry keyboard, which should be welcome for keyboard junkies. One thing I did notice was that the keyboard seemed to obscure the home button, which is a pretty important button for the iPhone.

Getting into the hardware game is never easy, but if it’s successful, it could be a useful tool for keyboard lovers out there.

Ryan Seacrest Wanted a Keyboard for His iPhone, So He Invested $1 Million in One

“The back story of Seacrest’s interest in this — for many of his friends and colleagues, carrying two phones was a habit: One for typing and correspondence and an iPhone for virtually everything else. One night, Ryan and his friend Laurence Hallier, CEO of Show Media, were out to dinner and both had phones on the table. Two people, four phones!”

Instead, after testing out a bunch of such offerings — and there are a lot out there as competition — it took two years of development to get to the Typo, which seems to clip onto the smartphone like a protective case (I have not tried it, as yet — though I type just fine on a virtual keyboard). It will be available first for the iPhone 5 and 5s, and then for other smartphone devices and tablets, Typo said

Bill passed to curb patent trolling

The issue of patent trolls has been around for a long time, and many companies have been on the receiving end of litigation from patent trolls that want to make a quick buck.

One of the major challenges when dealing with patent trolls is that defending your position also costs money, which isn’t something that every startup can afford. Hopefully with new legislation, the issue of patent trolls can be reduced, if not eliminated.

House passes tech backed bill to rein in ‘patent trolls’

The bill encourages judges hearing patent cases to award fees to the winner of an infringement lawsuit. The bill would also require companies filing infringement lawsuits to provide specific details on what patent is infringed and how it is used.

Android 4.4.1 to fix the Nexus 5 camera

While the Nexus 5 is a good device, its main weakness is it’s problematic camera. With the Android 4.4.1 update, which should be rolling out in the next few days, hopefully the frustrating issues such as slow focusing will be resolved.

On a personal level, I hope that such improvements and fixes cascade down to the Nexus 4 that I’m using too, as that phone has a camera that is absolutely horrible.

Fixing the Nexus 5: with a new version of Android, Google tackles the camera

The changes break down in five categories, Burke says, autofocus first among them. Mixing speed and image quality requires a fragile balance, particularly in low light, and Android 4.4 skewed too far toward image quality. “There’s a tendency to say, ‘oh, we have this cool thing that stabilizes, so lets make the shutter time longer, reduce the gain even longer, and get better shots.’” But while the Nexus 5’s optical image stabilization allowed it to get better-than-average shots in low light, in good lighting it just made for frustratingly slow shooting speeds. By speeding up the framerate and increasing how quickly the camera can read its surroundings and fire a picture, Burke and his team improved the autofocus, the exposure, and the white balance. “You fix the motion blur,” he says, “and make everything faster.”

Michael Dell wants half of his employees to work from home

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and HP CEO Meg Whitman took a lot of flak when they asked many staff who were working remotely to come back and work on campus, instead of from the comfort of their own homes.

While there will always be different working styles, Michael Dell doesn’t seem to share the view that all employees should work from the office, which is why he’s planning to have half of his 14,000 employees work from home, which should see a sharp increase in remote workers, instead of the estimated 20% of his workforce which currently works from home.

Saving Dell is a going to be a huge task, and now that Michael Dell is back, it’ll be interesting to see if his initiatives will be able to save the company.

Michael Dell Bucks The Trend: Wants Half Of His Employees To Work From Home

As part of the company’s “2020 Legacy of Good” plan, he wants to get half of his 14,000 employees in Round Rock working from home. Currently about 20% of them do, Dell’s vice president of Corporate Responsibility Trisa Thompson told KVUE’s Shelton Green.

Qualcomm Toq smartwatch wants you to cut the strap

Does Qualcomm seriously expect every new owner to manually cut the watch strap in order to make it fit? If the user dosn’t cut it at the correct length, it can’t be undone. To make matters worse, the band itself contains electronics, so you won’t be able to just go and purchase a random watch strap on the market. The designers behind this design probably weren’t thinking too much about the user experience when they came up with this.

Hands-on with the Qualcomm Toq smartwatch

Those spring-bars were the first sign of trouble: rather than using a normal adjustable watch strap, the Toq’s strap must be cut to size. The procedure for this is explained in one of the included pamphlets—you wrap the thing around your wrist, figure out where you want the strap to be, then get some scissors and cut it. Then you slide one of the spring-bars through the nearest hole in the side of the strap and attach it to the metal wrist bracket, closing the loop. After this, the watch can be worn normally.

I was a little taken aback by this design decision. I usually try not to irreversibly damage review hardware, but I didn’t really have a choice here—there’s no way to fasten the watch around your wrist without cutting the band to size. Plus, the band contains electronics—the home screen and front light are controlled by tapping the band, and replacing it with an off-the-shelf band is impossible. So… snip snip.

Three UK allows data roaming in the U.S. with your existing plan

Cell phone roaming charges are always exorbitant, but roaming charges for data have always been insanely overpriced. It’s not uncommon to hear of data roaming charges that cost thousands of dollars. T-Mobile recently introduced unlimited free data roaming in many countries as part of its “Uncarrier” marketing and now Three UK is also offering something similar.

With its Feel at Home service, users will be able to use their local UK allowances in the U.S. So if you’ve got an unlimited data plan in the UK, that plan will function in the U.S. too, as long as you stick to AT&T and T-Mobile.

With such moves by T-Mobile and Three UK, hopefully the rest of the carriers around the world will slowly begin to offer similar plans targeted at travelers. Until then, T-Mobile and Three UK will be receiving plenty of plaudits.

5 Reasons Three UK Just Changed the Global Wireless Market

Today Three, the UK’s smallest network (7.8m customers versus Vodafone’s 19.4m, O2’s 22.5m and EE’s 25.2m), announced the US has been added to its ‘Feel at Home’ service. Feel at Home means your allowances in the UK apply in the US, including all you can eat data for customers on those packages. Here are five reasons this could be a game changer in wireless: