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Angry Birds To Launch On Facebook

If you’re like the rest of the us, you can’t get enough of those Angry Birds.

Rovio is adding more punch to the Angry Bird’s empire—the gaming company announced that our furious fowl friends are coming to Facebook.

That’s right—one of the world’s most popular mobile video games, Angry Birds, is planning to debut on the world’s most popular social networking site that has over 800 million members.

Angry Birds, which was a smash hit for smartphones and tablets since its debut in 2009, has become a global phenomenon. The Facebook version will debut on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), Rovio confirmed in a blog post Wednesday.

“Nothing says ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ like competitive pig-popping among friends,” Rovio said.

Angry Birds’ Facebook edition will add social elements, including leaderboards and monetization, with players being offered chances to buy special power-ups for USD $0.99.

Angry Birds was the top paid app for the iPhone and iPad in 2011. It was also a big selling point for Google’s social network, Google+, and Google Chrome, which offered Angry Birds in August.

Google+ To Allow User Nicknames

In a surprising move, Google has changed their policy—Google+ users will now be allowed to sign up for Google+ using nicknames and other pseudonyms.

This past summer, Google took some flak for denying users who used fake names or nicknames on Google+.

Members of the tech community, who see Google+ as a viable alternative to Facebook, criticized Google for not allowing the use of pseudonyms and nicknames on the social networking site.

Many argued that some people are better known on the internet by their assumed names, similar to an actor’s stage name.

They also noted that people who used social media as part of social movements, such as recent movements in Iran and Egypt, need to be able to conceal their identity for safety reasons.

“Today we’re pleased to be launching features that will address and remedy the majority  of these issues,” Bradley Horowitz, a vice president for product development at Google wrote Tuesday.

Starting this week, users will be able to add a nickname alongside their real name. For example, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would be an acceptable name to register on Google+.

Google+ users will also be able to change their actual name to an assumed one. For example, Madonna.

Google will still have ultimate control over the nicknames and pseudonyms used. If Google flags a name as inappropriate, users will be able to appeal and provide documentation.

Acceptable forms of proof can range a driver’s license to appearances in media to proof of an established identity online with a meaningful following, such as a blog or Twitter account.

Only a tiny percentage of Google+ users have issues with the names they submit—only about 0.1% submit name appeals. Of those, about 60 % simple want to add a nickname and 20% are businesses who tried to set up an account as an individual.

Apple Debuts 3 Education Apps

iPads are moving from recreation to education with 3 new apps Apple unveiled on Jan. 19.

The 3 free education apps aim to get students and teachers to use the iPad to read, write, plan classes and communicate with each other.

Apple seeks to make the iPad a central fixture in education, replacing the need for textbooks and bringing a durable, portable, searchable and current technology to students.

First, a new textbook store called iBooks 2, will feature digital e-books for schools.

Apple is partnering with several major textbook companies—including Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—who will make e-books for the store.

Textbooks in e-book format will make information more accessible and easily updated. It will also be affordable, with high school textbooks starting at USD $14.99.

Second, another free app called iBooks Author lets anyone create a digital, interactive textbook.

iBooks Author will allow teachers to create textbooks out of virtually any material, and then share the material in digital form.

iBooks Author has other functions outside of education, as well. Users can create history books, cookbooks, picture books and even reports for iPads with this app.

The third app is an update to current software iTunes U—software that lets teachers plan their curriculum and communicate with students over the iPad.

The new iTunes U will allow anyone, anywhere, at any time to take courses for free. This advancement is a great leap forward for those who don’t always have access to education because of distance or absence.

“If you’re an educator at a university, college, of K-12 school, now you have an easy way to design and distribute complete courses featuring audio, video, books and other content.” Apple website said. “And students and lifelong learners can experience your courses for free through a powerful new app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch.”

Apple has deep roots in the education world, and the debut of these apps can only help Apple’s goal to revitalize U.S. education through digital means.

However, skeptics are quick to point out that Apple’s success rests solely on the ability for schools and education to adopt this technology.

What do you think—Can Apple change the education landscape?

Internet Blackout Attacks SOPA/PIPA

January 18, 2012 will be remembered in history as The Great Internet Blackout (or if you prefer, The Day The LOLcats Died).

Wikipedia, Craigslist, Google, Wired, Reddit, Boing Boing, Reporters Without Borders, Pressthink, were just a few of the Web sites that joined in protest. All sites went dark for 24 hours.

Standing up against 2 bills currently up for vote in Congress—Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the Senate and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the House of Representatives—major information and media sites showed users (and politicians) exactly what life without a free and open internet would be like.

Supporters argue that the goal of SOPA/PIPA is to stop copyright infringement and confront the sale and distribution of pirated movies, drugs, music and consumer goods by rogue overseas sites.

It seems that the bills miss the mark. Instead, its broad power could in fact harm the internet—and the very innovation and creativity that come from its open nature.

Major information and media sites made their point quite clearly, calling for users to contact their senators and representatives and to ask them to pull their support for the SOPA/PIPA bills.

Although some called the internet blackout a “publicity stunt” and “an abuse of power,” it seemed to work, as nearly 4.5 million people signed the petition on Jan. 18 alone.

Reports state that Congress’s switchboards were overloaded and several politicians have pulled their support from the bills.

Wikipedia also claims that more than 162 million people saw their message, with many speaking in defense of a free and open internet.

While the internet blackout protest has spread the message and made the public aware of SOPA/PIPA, many caution that the fight is not over.

SOPA/PIPA are still alive and it’s not too late to contact your representatives. It is our best defense to keep a free and open internet full of information and knowledge.

Apple Hits A Bullseye With Ministores

Shopping at Target is about to get even better. Apple announced its plans to open “ministores” in 25 Target locations this year.

The Apple ministores are just the latest in a series of “stores within stores”, a concept that is gaining popularity in the retail space.

Along with the Apple ministores, Target also plans to open a series of small boutique shops called The Shops at Target in May. The shops will initially be smaller, local stores, featuring their products and products exclusively for Target to be sold in 6-week increments.

While Apple already has ministores in Best Buy locations, adding the ministores to Target locations will allow Apple products to be accessible to those not shopping only for electronics.

Target currently sells Apple products—iPads and iPods—but the ministores will add the sale of Mac computers and laptops.

The addition of the Apple brand could also boost the Target brand, adding a high-end retailer into the fold of affordable, chic products. Target shoppers could now be equated to Apple product users, which can be seen as a somewhat exclusive club.

It is unclear whether the features of normal Apple stores will be integrated into the Target plan. Will Target have a series of hands-on displays that allow users to take each product for a test-drive? Will a Genius Bar be available for customer service? These are just some of the questions that remain unanswered.

One thing is certain, however—Target’s popularity (and perhaps stock) is about to go through the roof.

Turn Up The Volume On Your Showers

Who doesn’t indulge in a bit of vocal-styling in the shower? After all, the acoustics are the best with all that tile surrounding you.

With the iShower, now you can have a little musical accompaniment to your singing … and maybe even some background music to drown out your, ahem, sound.

Taking the shower radio into the digital age, the iShower is a Bluetooth-enabled shower speaker that allows you to stream your music from any smartphone, tablet or computer.

No extra apps or downloads are needed—start listening to your tunes by simply connecting your Bluetooth device! Don’t let the ‘i’ fool you, you can stream from Android devices as well.

The iShower is capable of streaming up to 15 hours of audio within a 200-foot range. Encased in waterproof plastic and boasting up to 5 Bluetooth pairings, the iShower is good for any aqua-centric environment. Take it out of the shower and put it poolside for tunes while you swim!

Unveiled at CES this week, the iShower is just one of the latest gadgets from iDevices, a company that strives to make your technology have useful household purposes. Another notable device from iDevices is the iGrill, which allows users to monitor and control their grill’s temperature wirelessly.

While the iShower is definitely a novelty, it certainly could add a little pep to your morning routine. Now only one question—how do you change the station?

The iShower will be available in March 2012 for USD $99.95.

Stream Photos, Music to Roku

Did you get a Roku for Christmas?

If you’re not familiar, a Roku is a device that lets you stream video over the Internet. You can watch Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, and much more in one convenient package!

Connecting directly to your television, Roku eliminates the need to connect an Xbox or computer to watch streaming video.

Now add the Juice app to your Android device and you can also share your photos and music to your Roku in just one click!

The Juice app, available for USD $2.99, lets you wirelessly beam your music and photos directly to your Roku. There’s no need for an intermediary computer that makes you download your media and then transfer it once more.

Juice may have a few quirks, but overall the app works well. Perhaps future versions of the app will allow you a “play all” function for your music, or let you control the speed of your picture slideshow.

Juice can also double for a Roku remote, in case yours has gone missing. Juice does a great impression of the layout and functionality of the Roku remote, and gives similar response times.

The Juice app on your Android device combined with your Roku also does a good impression of an iPhone and Apple TV. The combination of Juice and Roku make photo-sharing and music viewing easy!

Android Market Hits 400,000 Apps

Google’s Android Market hits another important milestone.

The mobile application marketplace now has over 400,000 apps available for download. Of those applications, nearly two-thirds—or 68%—of those apps are free.

400,000 apps is tremendous growth for the 3-year-old marketplace. Google announced that the Android market hit 300,000 apps in September, just 4 months ago.

At this growth rate, Google estimates that it could hit the 500,000 app mark sometime as early as May 2012, giving Apple’s App store a run for their money.

However, it remains to be seen if Google Android Marketplace can in fact catch up to Apple’s App store—it took Google 2 months longer to achieve the milestone in comparison to Apple.

Regardless of Apple, Google’s Android Market has achieved an accomplishment that few others thought could be possible. Android users have undoubtedly taken a good market share away from Apple.

Google’s Android Market also hit another milestone last month, announcing that over 10 billion apps had been downloaded. Google celebrated by having a USD $0.10 app sale for 10 days.