This week in tech: 4-8 November

We covered off on Apple, Microsoft, Vodafone, Brisbane’e new CDO, farming technology, Bitcoin, and paperless flight plans

If you’re into tablets and phones, and, let’s face it, most of you are, then this week was a good one for you. Not only did the Apple iPad Air tablet go on sale in Australia, Google’s Nexus 5 smartphone went on sale and was snapped up very quickly. Well, the black version was, anyway. We don’t know anyone who bought the white version. Here’s our first impression of the Nexus 5.

From the moment you take it out of that colourful box the Nexus 5 is striking, but it's an odd kind of strike. Where many competing devices immediately stand out, the Nexus 5 is very unassuming. It's a large, black slab with minimal highlights and it actually does its best not to stand out. It appears as if Google simply wanted the hardware to blend into the background, which makes sense given the real star of the Nexus show is software.

Via Good Gear Guide.

A double-dose of Surface Pro 2 action

Windows fans weren’t forgotten this week either, as we published two Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablet reviews within as many days, one here at Good Gear Guide, and another over at PC World New Zealand. As usual, our NZ reviewer was a little tougher on the product than we were, rewarding it one quarter lower in the overall star rating (3.75 vs 4 stars). One thing’s for sure though, we both ended up scratching our respective review devices early on in the piece (the scratches on the Good Gear Guide sample are quite bad).

Within days of unboxing my Surface Pro 2 review sample, the rear of the casing was covered in fine scratches. I’m careful with review products – I treat them with the same kid-gloves as I do my own technology. My three-year-old personal laptop still looks brand-new, and it’s been around the world with me. The Surface looks like it’s been through a warzone, when in reality it’s only been back and forth between my home and office, tucked safely into a leather satchel.

Via New Zealand PC World.

One thing that we absolutely hate about the Surface Pro 2 is just how easily it can get scratched. The first lot of scratches we noticed were caused by us just carrying the tablet around in our backpack with its power supply, which is a small brick of 93x49x28mm (LxWxH) with a two-pronged cord that’s quite short (about 480mm). The tablet rubbed against some other gear in our bag, and scratches that exposed the metal underneath became plainly obvious on the rear of the kickstand. However, what’s more problematic is the scratching that was noticeable on the edge of the kickstand.

Via Good Gear Guide.

Brisbane hopes to develop its digital economy, hires a CDO

Here’s an interesting one from CMO Australia: the city of Brisbane has appointed a chief digital officer (CDO). It’s only the second such appointment made to a city anywhere in the world (New York also has one), and it’s all about driving economic prosperity. Go Brissie!

The Australian Government defines the digital economy as the “global network of economic and social activities that are enabled by information and communications technologies, such as the internet, mobile and sensor networks”. Success must be driven by a combination of government, industry and community, it stated in its Digital Economy report.

With this in mind, the first of O’Hea’s key targets is to double the number of businesses selling online in Brisbane to 60 per cent over the next five years. His second goal over the same period is to help foster the development of 250 digital-oriented start-ups by assisting to put infrastructure and support mechanisms in place, under the Digital Start-Up Kickstart program.

Via CMO.

Vodafone bucks data trend, offers more gigabytes in time for the holidays

Vodafone’s hoping to win back some customers by increasing data caps, and we’re all for it.

The telco announced today that all new month-to-month voice plans (SIM-only) of $45 and above, and all new contract plans of $60 and over will receive double the regular data allowance, provided customers sign up by Friday, 3 January 2014.

The bonus data deal will apply to any new customers signing up to a postpaid contract plan, or a SIM-only plan, as well as any existing Vodafone customers who upgrade their plan.

For 12 or 24 month contract plans, the double data offer will be valid for the life of the plan, while SIM-only plans will receive the double data rate for a period of 24 months.

Vodafone Australia's Chief Marketing Officer, Kim Clarke, said cutting data allowances was an "industry trend" that the company does not want to follow.

Via Good Gear Guide.

Aussie start-ups support Bitcoin

The online currency is accepted by some new Australian start-ups, who are taking a more ‘tech’ approach to business.

Accepting Bitcoin for payment may be an effective way to drum up more business with fewer fees and greater privacy for customers, according to startup companies.

Tomcar Australia, which manufactures all-terrain vehicles in Melbourne, announced today that it will accept payments in Bitcoin. The company previously used Bitcoins to pay one of its suppliers, according to the startup’s CEO David Brim.

“We thought, if we’re using Bitcoin, why not accept it?”

Via Techworld.

Data-driven farming is the way of the future

Staying competitive is always hard for farmers, but a new data-driven approach to farming practices might be able to help them come up with more efficient ways of producing. CIO has some examples of this ‘precision agriculture’.

Colin Griffith, director of the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation with the CSIRO, forecasts Australia’s food exports to Asia will double over the coming decade. To keep up with future demand, farmers will need to work in smarter ways to increase productivity.

Precision agriculture is being touted as the way to do go about that. This data-driven approach to farming uses technologies such as sensors and GPS to assists farmers in making better decisions around operations and management of crops and livestock in order to increase productivity.

Demonstration farms have been set up the purpose of testing how different precision agriculture technologies can be used to achieve better results in farming, ranging from soil mapping to wireless tracking of cattle.

Via CIO.

Aussie flight planning app gets a high-profile investor

Simon Hackett, the founder of Internet service provider, Internode, has bought into AvPlan, which is an Australian company that has developed a flight planning app for iOS. The app has been officially approved by CASA and can be used in favour of paper-based plans in a pilot’s flight bag.

“When I first discovered this software, I had no idea you could do this on an iPhone or iPad,” Hackett said. “I flipped overnight to using AvPlan after having previously used an old Windows program. To paraphrase Victor Kiam who bought Remington in 1979, I liked this software so much, I bought into the company.”

According to AvPlan founder, Bevan Anderson, Hackett’s investment will enable the company to diversify its product portfolio and accelerate a US expansion.

Via ARN.

Working from home is the way of the future

Finally this week, we’ve known for a long time that working from home can increase productivity. As journalists and product reviewers, the time saved in commuting is just one of the benefits we reap from doing so, and, inevitably, we end up putting in more hours and producing better work (we think so, anyway). Microsoft (a company that makes tools to facilitate working remotely) has had some research done for it by Research Now to find out more about this working-from-home phenomenon.

Of the respondents who did have an option to work flexibly, half felt pressured to go into the office anyway. Two in five workers felt they were in an environment where only senior employees could work from anywhere at any time. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) said they had their most creative and innovative ideas just before going to sleep, while 15 per cent revealed the shower as their creative hotspot.

In contrast, only one in 10 of those polled felt the office was conducive to their creativity. The survey further revealed that workers believed savings in travel time and the ability to ‘get more done’ as the top reasons for wanting to flexibly work.

Via ARN.

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Elias Plastiras

Elias Plastiras

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