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JQ on Technology
J-Q.com features tech news and analysis based on over two decades of JQ's reporting for The New York Times, PC Magazine, CBS News, and others. You'll find everything here ranging from television news reports to Web site reviews. To keep up with the latest news subscribe to the newsletter or visit JQ's Blog.

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Op-Ed: Twitter vs. Journalist

Posting an e-mail address online gets an account closed--and then reinstated.


Apple and RIM Have Auto Desires

The companies are planning to make their smart phones more car friendly.


Smart Phone Alternatives

Why is Apple suing HTC? Take a look at HTC's $200 HD2 and you'll understand why.


The Summer of 3D

Electronics companies are rolling out their expensive 3D wares.


Volvo Brakes for Walkers

A first-of-its-kind auto braking system promises to change pedestrian safety forever.


Bright Ideas In LEDs

A lamp from Humanscale and speakers from Klipsch show the technology's promise.


Mercedes Safety Car

The ESF safety vehicle contains a welter of new tech that could save lives.


TV Goes Mobile

Broadcasters want to reach viewers away from home.


Google vs. China

Behind the headlines is an ongoing cyberwar of hacker vs. hacker.

CES and 3D TV

Consumer electronics companies try to push 3D TVs and disc players, plus a whole lot more.

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Wiindows 7 Ready?

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Wi-Fi for the Road

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Goodbye HDD, Hello SDD?


WebWars: A new gaming universe

Take over Google, rule BritneySpears.com, or smack down MarthaSteward.com...

Kindle e-book

Amazon's new e-book device takes a page from Apple's marketing manual.

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Earlier Today Stories
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The Death of Radio?: Streaming Internet services take aim at broadcast radio in the car

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Ray Bradbury and the End of Books
By John R. Quain
The FBI, 4K TVs, e-books, and the ironies of censorship (September 2012)

451Is technology about to accomplish what Ray Bradbury imagined in his novel Fahrenheit 451?

Bradbury passed away in June at the age of 91, and in a few months it will be 60 years since the influential science fiction writer first published his anti-censorship saga about fire men who rather than putting out fires set books ablaze. The story imagines a dystopian future in which the citizenry does not read (it's forbidden), people's lives are dominated by large, flat-panel TVs and families are mesmerized by prescription drugs and reality TV-like shows that have no bearing on reality.

Sound familiar?

It may seem quaint today, but in the 1950s such Bradbury stories seemed rebellious, even seditious, prompting the government to open an investigation into the writer. FBI documents revealed recently noted that The Martian Chronicles made Bradbury a household name and that, according to sources, "The stories were connected by the repeated theme that earthmen are despoilers and not developers." Dangerous stuff that science fiction.

Certainly, there are technologies and trends today that seem disturbingly analogous to those of Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451....



Technology (February 2011)

iPhone vs. iPhone? Get An Android

The wildly popular phone is now on Verizon, but is it too late?
by John R. Quain

3D TV segment

It's not an exaggeration to say that there's a national love affair with Apple's iPhone. Now that love affair is about to really blossom as the iPhone 4 is released from its bonds with AT&T and becomes available on Verizon Wireless. So naturally the question on every gadget lover's mind is, should I finally get an iPhone now that I have a choice?

To answer that, consider the proverbial parental admonition: If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?

It's not hyperbole to point out that the "new" iPhone 4 on Verizon is really the old iPhone 4 (essentially the same model that's available on AT&T). And that phone has already been eclipsed by other smart phones on the market--and is likely to be eclipsed by a new iPhone within a few short months.

That doesn't mean Verizon won't sell millions of the new/old iPhone. Apple has already sold more that 80 million of the handsets in the last 3 and a half years--in spite of one major fault: It doesn't work well as a phone. Most people have been more mesmerized by apps than voice calls, anyway.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of people who still like using a cell phone as a phone, so for that group of buyers that has been waiting for another carrier to offer the iPhone, their wish will be fulfilled on Thursday. Verizon's voice network is perennially more reliable than AT&T's. But caveat emptor: Verizon's network hasn't experienced such a major product launch before so it remains to be seen if it will be able to maintain voice quality with so many new subscribers.

Assuming it can, that might be reason enough for those folks who've lusted after the iPhone to finally make the switch. Unfortunately, there's not much price competition. Verizon charges about what AT&T charges: if you agree to a 2-year contract with Verizon it's $200 for a 16-gigabyte iPhone and $300 for the 32 GB model (and no, you still can't add memory on your own or swap out the battery). The cheapest monthly plan you can get and still be able to use voice, text, and surf the Web without worrying about added charges is $90. That includes unlimited surfing, which AT&T no longer offers. (Verizon also has a feature that lets you share the wireless Internet connection with other devices, but that starts at an additional $20 a month.)

This all sounds pretty good, but there are two important differences to note. more

Technology (May 2010)

Video Cameras To Watch From Afar

How to keep an eye on your home while you're on the road
by John R. Quain

3D TV segment Daydreams about getting away for the summer (or for just the weekend) can quickly lead to anxiety: Will my home be safe while I'm away? Will the kids obey the rules or throw some wild party? Is my neighbor really checking on the cats?

Enter the high-tech solution: Video cameras to monitor your place from afar.

While Web cams have been around for many years, they have typically been either expensive standalone systems (meaning professional installation required) or about as much fun to set up as chewing tin foil. Thankfully, a new generation of Web cam monitoring systems promises to be easier to install and easier on the wallet.

The classic approach to monitoring your home on your own is to use a video camera that can be connected directly to a home network without the aid of a PC. Panasonic has long been one of the leaders in this area (the company also makes professional surveillance systems). The company's $200 BL-C210A Network Camera can be plugged directly into a home router and accessed through its own Internet address (supplied for free by Panasonic).

Such an arrangement means all the computers at home can be off (or have crashed, as mine tend to do), and you'll still get a picture from the Panasonic camera over the Internet connection. You can pan and tilt the image remotely over the Web, and it can even be viewed on a mobile phone. The camera can even detect motion, heat, and sound, and then send you an e-mail alert should something pass across its view. If you can't string cables, a wireless version of the same camera is available from Panasonic for $300.

Easier still, but not quite as versatile, is Logitech's $300 Indoor Video Security Master System. The basic package includes a camera, a power line adapter that plugs into a computer, and Logitech's WiLife control software. It only takes about 20 minutes to set up. The adapter and camera communicate using the existing electrical circuits in the home, but it requires that the computer that it's connected to be on and connected to the Internet.

For more about Vue and Alarm.com watch the segment or click more for the full story. more

Are We Ready for 3D TV?

More to the point, can we afford 3D TV? Xpand 3D Glasses

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas 3D television is being pushed--and pushed hard. Not only is there a new 3D version of Blu-ray coming, there's also a slew of new 3D-capable HDTVs headed to stores later this year. Of course, sceptics like myself point out that you have to wear goofy, uncomfortable glasses to watch it. On the other hand, ESPN, Sony and Discovery, and Twitter Bad Boy Mark Cuban are all promising new HD channels (with DirecTV waiting in the wings). So are we ready for 3D TV? Find out here.

Looking for the last-minute gifts segment, try the JQ on TV page.

Motorola Droid: The iPhone Killer Cometh

Its hits long forgotten, Motorola debuts a possible blockbuster
by John R. Quain

JQ on Droid Ever since Google debuted its Android software for mobile phones and devices, people have been waiting for a sophisticated phone with a sexy design to really make it shine. That phone has arrived in the form of the Motorola Droid.

The Droid is available on Verizon, a response to all those iPhone users who complain about poor AT&T service. It also has a larger, sharper screen than the iPhone, a better camera, a memory card slot, and a removable battery (no more visits to the Apple store just to replace a dead battery). The Droid also has a great slide-out keyboard. (No more of those error-ridden text messages from iPhone users.)

And where the iPhone has a more femine physique (there, I've said it: it's a chick phone), the Droid is all manly angles and corners. It looks destined to become the Thinkpad of smartphones.

There are some reviewers who have whined that the iPhone platform offers 100,000 applications (according to Apple) while the Android platform only has 10,000. But how many stupid Bic lighter or pouring milk apps do you need? All the best and most useful applications are also available on the Android phones, like the Droid. Moreover, more sophicated applications are available for the Droid because the phone can multitask, which the iPhone cannot. A perfect example is the free (yes, free) turn-by-turn navigation program on the Droid.

Want to know more about the Motorola Droid, watch JQ's segment by clicking on the photo above.

Internet Radios Making Waves

Tivoli Audio, Philips, AR, iLuv and others offer new models

Cricket matches from the U.K. Trip hop from Iceland. Classic rock from Canada. (Canada?) You are no longer limited to local radio stations--or even satellite radio for that matter.

Internet-based streams from stations all over the world are available on radios that can connect to your stereo, sit on the kitchen counter or snuggle up on your bedside table. Ranging in price from $130 to over $700, Internet radios offer a variety of features. Some can play music from your computer's hard drive; some can tune in local FM stations; and some will connect you to online services like Rhapsody and Pandora.

For a quick rundown of several of the newest models, watch JQ's segment on Fox Business.

New Kindle Sparks Academic Interest
By John R. Quain
Bigger screen Kindle is aimed at college crowd (May 6, 2009)

Kindle DX

Amazon has announced its third version of the Kindle electronic book reader. Aimed at textbook and newspaper readers, the Kindle DX (for deluxe) has a display that's 2 and a half times the size of previous models. It can also store more books--up to 3,500--but it's a lot more expensive. To find out more, watch the video above.


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Smart Phones Choices
by John R. Quain
A quick take on three alternatives
No one in the civilized world has escaped the terror of Blackberries incessantly pushing e-mail messages to their legions of fans--and in the process generally annoying the heck out of anyone attempting to have a conversation with a Crackberry addict. But like it or not, smart phones are entrenched (for now) in our society. So in recognition of this fact, JQ took a quick look at 3 of the leading smart phone options. (To watch the segment on Fox Business, click on the image at left.)

Apple iPhone
Exclusive Carrier: AT&T
Price w. contract: $400 ($500 for 16 GB)

The iPhone boasts a big screen and some fine software that's relatively easy to follow. And this is probably the most popular elevator pitch device I've ever seen (people have pitched businesses on an iPhone to me in airports, cabs, and, of course, elevators).

Audiovox Rear View Camera ImageUpside:
- large crisp screen, perfect for photos and Web
- excellent software
- built-in Wi-Fi
- sex appeal

- slow Internet connection
- poor texting skills
- no stereo Bluetooth
- no GPS
- no removable storage

LG VoyagerVoyager
Exclusive Carrier: Verizon
Price w. Contract: $300

Currently the state of the art in smart phones, the Voyager has everything anyone could want: a nice touch screen on the outside, plus a miniature keyboard and second screen inside for inveterate e-mailers and texters. So what's it missing? Just that apple logo.

- tactile touch screen that vibrates
- separate keypad for messaging
- GPS for navigation and location-based services
- quick EV-DO network for Web access Voyager Open
- stereo Bluetooth
- V Cast Mobile TV
- superior call quality
- micro SD slot for adding memory

- no Wi-Fi

Samsung Ace
Carrier: Sprint
Price w. contract: $200

The Ace doesn't have all the features of the other leading smart phones on the market, but it's a good alternative for Blackberry e-mail addicts and it runs Windows Mobile 6 (so it's good at working with Windows files).

Samsung AceUpside:
- good for e-mail and messaging
- quick EV-DO network for Web access
- Windows Mobile 6
- micro SD slot for adding memory
- unlocked feature means it can work in Europe (separate SIM card required)

- no Wi-Fi
- no GPS
- small screen

Watch JQ try to juggle the phones, live on the Fox Business channel.


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Taxes, Again

If you're reading this, you're too close to the deadline
by John R. Quain

If you still haven't done your taxes (and we know who we are) you don't have time to read this article. So click on the video, left.

If you can't play the CBS report, here's the quick rundown:

Those earning $54,000 or less can file their federal returns for free online at IRS.gov. As a come-on, the IRS is claiming that those who file electronically will receive their rebate checks sooner.

While servers will doubtless start to become overwhelmed as the April 15 deadline approaches, there are three software packages/online filing services we typically find to be the most reliable: TaxAct, TaxCut, and TurboTax.

TaxAct is the least expensive at about $17 to file both federal and state forms. However, it's a bit slow (one question per page) and it won't find deductions for you. However, for EZ filers, TaxAct is a good choice.

TaxCut, about $45 for both forms, is from the folks at H&R Block. It has steadily improved each year, and this season it has even more relevant advice, such as pointing out how certain deductions get phased out according to income. However, TaxCut doesn't have all the data importing abilities of TurboTax.

TurboTax, starting at about $50, is from the makers of Quicken. In terms of completeness, this is the market leader. TurboTax makes it easy to import W-2s and 1099s directly from many employers and financial institutions. There's also a new audit risk meter (hey, doing your taxes can be like playing a game—not!).

But do-it-yourselfers shouldn't get too sanguine. The closer you get to the deadline, the tougher it will be to get support calls through. So get to it.

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