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Art and Business

We've been engaged in a discussion about book covers on one writer's email discussion list. The consensus is that the cover is super-duper important because people won't click on your link or read your book if it isn't wonderful.

Being the iconoclast (and realist) that I am I suggest that maybe it takes more than a good cover to sell a book, and that there is a point of diminishing returns. By that I mean that a poor quality cover
certainly is going to not attract readers and may well discourage them from reading your book. However, on the other hand, the assumption that you need to spend lots of money on a "high quality" (read: expensive) cover to be successful, probably isn't the truth either. There is a point between good and great cover design where the sales do not justify the expense. In other words, good covers do sell more books than bad ones, but great covers do not sell a significantly higher number of books than good ones. 

Of course, this raises the obvious question: How are we defining good? While many give lip service to marketing features like title and representation of content, in practical terms, most are defining it as artistically attractive. Of course, most book cover designers plying their trade on the internet today are not marketing specialists, they are artists. They think like artists and think in terms first and foremost of symmetry, balance, color wheels, composition and design. Nothing wrong with that. However, a well designed graphic on it's own sells nothing. From a marketing perspective, the cover must not only be attractive, but must communicate enough of the content of the book to cause the reader to click through to the sales page. A less pretty book cover that communicates the content of the book is going to generate more click throughs than one that is beautiful, but does not. 

Good art does not necessarily translate into good business. Unfortunately, when you say something like that, the critics of indie publishing and even many in the field think you are talking about poor quality covers that are just thrown together. That's not the point at all. The point is that a very create, very beautiful, very expensive cover design is not necessarily a good sales tool if it's only value is beauty. 

The Kindle (or Nook or Sony or Smashwords) search engine is not an art gallery. People are not browsing in order to simply see pretty pictures. They are browsing to find something to read. And if it is an ebook, after they purchase it, they will rarely see the cover any larger than about an inch square on their reader. So, what is the value of the cover? 

The value is in it's message. A cover that has fewer artistically skilled design components, but which clearly communicates to the reader a reason to buy the book or at least read the sample is going to be more effective than a pretty cover that does none of these. 

So, from a marketing perspective what should be on the cover. 

1. A simple, but bold graphic. This graphic should not be complicated. Avoid collages. Avoid pictures with too much ghosting. By that I mean a semi-transparent figure in the background. That is a common, romance novel technique that comes from the days of selling print novels in brick and mortar stores. But as a thumbnail, those subtleties are lost.

2. A graphic that communicates the substance of the book. You know what I hate? It's book covers that have two young people on the cover, but when you get into the book, you find the main characters are middle aged. Sometimes a cover can be beautiful, but misleading. Find a graphic that communicates the substance of the book. 

3. A clear, descriptive or evocative title. For nonfiction this is easier. You have a topic and you want your title to reflect that. For instance, my next Bible study will be called "Troubled on Every Side: On Being God's People in Difficult Times." The main title will be in large letters. Someone is searching for a Bible study they will see that in big letters. In smaller, but still readable letters will be the explanatory subtitle. Nevertheless, Just "Troubled on Every Side" gives a good solid idea of the general topic to be covered. 

For fiction, it is harder. But it can suggest the theme. For instance, Stephen King's epic, The Stand, doesn't tell us everything about the book, but it gives the central idea. These people are going to take a stand. Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who mysteries. Always include a clue to the basic plot of the book. The Cat Who Sniffed Glue let's us know that glue will have something to do with the story. 

4. Clear Readable Fonts. Some people want to play games with fonts. They are looking for something clever and then the reader ends up trying to decode the title. Remember someone is likely to spend a second or less looking at your book cover, that title needs to stand out. 

Yes, you want an attractive design, but if it doesn't sell what's inside, it is pretty useless. 


Axiom Stationery Wins Top Printing Awards




Axiom’s Fire Station inspired stationery system recently stole the show at the Printing Industries of the Gulf Coast 2013 Graphic Excellence Awards – winning Best of Division One and the Judges Choice award. Influenced by the move to the restored Fire Station No. 6last year, Axiom rebranded the company literature with a nod to the new location. The stationery kit leveraged architecture of the building, as well as the No. 6 station designation, throughout all elements. The kit included letterhead, envelopes, business cards, mailing labels, thank you notes, and even included a stamp with a photo of the original Fire Station from 1914. The stationery package was designed by Axiom and printed by Bart Nay Printing. This latest award is the stationery system’s third of prominence. Axiom’s stationery system also received a Best of Category Lantern Award from the Business Marketing Associationand a Gold ADDY from the American Advertising Federation.

Verizon could owe Apple $14 billion off iPhone sales shortfall

Verizon has sold more than 10 million iPhones over the last several months, but a new report finds that the nation's largest carrier could still wind up owing Apple billions of dollars for failing to meet expectations.



Apple's iPhone has been selling more slowly than expected, thanks to the high-end smartphone market becoming somewhat saturated. A report from Moffett Research looked at the numbers and estimated that Verizon might wind up owing Apple up to $14 billion if it doesn't effectively double its iPhone sales from last year, according to the LA Times.


In 2010, Verizon reportedly agreed to $45 billion in purchase agreements through the end of this year. By Moffett's estimate, most of that money is due to Apple since Apple is one of the only manufacturers with the sway to require a purchase commitment of this fashion.


'It is likely that Apple would be reluctant to simply ignore these commitments, since many other carriers around the world are probably in a similar situation, and a simple amnesty would set an unwanted precedent,' the report reads. 'It is therefore unrealistic to think that Apple won't extract some consideration for renegotiating these shortfalls.'


In the fourth quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013, Verizon shifted more than 10 million iPhone units, with many of those being the more expensive iPhone 5. In order to meet its estimated sales commitment to Apple, Verizon would have to sell $23.5 billion worth of iPhones in 2013, or twice its 2012 iPhone sales.


Representatives from both Verizon and Apple have declined to comment on the Moffett report's contentions.


Steam Summer Sale 2013 Kicks Off With Steep Game Discounts


Steam today kicked off its annual summer sale, which will provide deep discounts on popular games until July 22.


The summer sale from Steam, Valve's online game retailer, will offer three options for gamers: daily deals, flash sales, and community's choice.


Daily deals will provide discounts on specific games for 24 hours. Now listed on Steam's website is Bioshock Infinite for $29.99, down from $59.99, complete with trading cards. Defiance also gets a 66 percent discount, from $39.99 to $13.59, and Left for Dead 2 is 75 percent off at $4.99.


For the next 23 hours, Steam will also offer discounts on Endless Space, Mars: War Logs, Hotline Miami, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Call of Juarez Gunslinger, Toki Tori 2+, and Don't Starve.


The Steam Summer Sale also features shorter, eight-hour sales. Available now are Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition for $8.99 (down from $29.99), The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Legendary Edition for $35.99 (down from $59.99), Grid 2 for $29.99 (usually $49.99), and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for $5.09 (down from $14.99).


Are there any titles you want to buy, but don't see on sale? That's where the 'Community's Choice' section comes in. Every eight hours, Steam will offer up three games and ask players which one they want to get the discount. In the latest round, gamers have a choice between a 40-66 percent price cut on Dishonored, Borderlands 2, or Far Cry 3.


For other titles, Steam users can add games to their wishlists and get notifications when that game goes on sale.


For more, check out Too Many Games? Try the Two-Game Rental Challenge.


PC business still waning as Microsoft's Windows 8 fails to lift it


The collapse of the PC business is accelerating. Worldwide shipments fell by more than 10% year on year in the second quarter, recording an unprecedented fifth successive period of decline as the market undergoes a fundamental shift towards tablets, smartphones and touch devices.


China's Lenovo emerged as the top seller according to separate data from research companies IDC and Gartner - though even it saw a year-on-year fall in total sales.


But amid a market where Taiwan's Acer and Asus saw shipments crash by more than 30% and 20% respectively, Lenovo's emergence at the top over long-time leader HP, the American PC maker and technology company, marked a figurative passing of the torch. Its principal market was China, which represented more than 50% of its 12.7m shipments.


Gartner says worldwide PC shipments fell to 76.0m, from 85.3m in the second quarter of 2012; IDC put the figures at 75.6m, and 85.4m in 2012. Gartner also revised down its figure for PC shipments in the year-ago period, from 87.5m.



All regions saw a fall in PC shipments compared with the year-ago period - suggesting that economic factors are not the key ones.


'We are seeing the PC market reduction directly tied to the shrinking installed base of PCs, as inexpensive tablets displace the low-end machines used primarily for consumption in mature and developed markets,' said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. 'In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC. This is also accounting for the collapse of the mini notebook market.'


The fall suggests that not only is the marketing shrinking, but that the shrinkage is accelerating. The year-ago period, just ahead of the launch of Windows 8, saw an expected slowdown of 2% as PC OEMs and businesses paused while they waited for new products and new software from Microsoft.


But Windows 8 has not proved to be the hoped-for shot in the arm for the PC business, which has been losing attention as consumers - who make up half of purchasers - shift to buying tablets and smartphones.



IDC forecast in May that tablets will outsell laptops this year, and that by the end of 2015 they will outsell the entire PC segment.


The only ray of hope is that the US market - where Apple emerged as a surprise third place, behind HP and Dell, despite shipping only 1.8m units there - is showing some signs that enterprises are beginning to shift from Windows XP, which is approaching the end of its support period 12 years after launch, to Windows 7.


As well as a rise in Dell's enterprise-focused PC business - crucial if the company is to survive its shift to a private entity - Bob O'Donnell of IDC said: 'We're also starting to see more stabilisation in shipments [in the US], which we think is a reflection of PC lifetimes finally starting to even out after a long period of gradual increase. The end result should be more PC replacements, even if consumers and companies are selective in making replacements and wait until PCs are older before replacing them.'


Xbox One Sells Out At Best Buy

I'm glad to see it finally happen. I knew it was inevitable. Xbox One might finally be catching up with PS4 sales, even with the $100 extra price tag.



Best Buy has stopped taking pre-orders for the Xbox One. You can still pre-order the system from Walmart, Target, and Gamestop for the time being, but don't be surprised when those sell out too. Amazon also has pre-orders available, but not for the Day One version. I can't help but think Best Buy just didn't get as many Xbox's ordered as the other stores. What do you think?


Xbox One News: Console Sold Out At Best Buy, Find Out Where to Still Find It

By Frank Lucci | First Posted: Jul 10, 2013 12:46 PM EDT



Phil Spencer, corporate vice president of Microsoft Studios, speaks during the Xbox E3 Media Briefing at USC's Galen Center in Los Angeles, California June 10, 2013. (Photo : REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)


It appears as though stocks of next-gen systems are starting to dwindle, as several different retailers have begun reporting being sold out of the units allocated to them by Sony and Microsoft. Yesterday it was Gamestop who reported that they were out of PlayStation 4's, and now Best Buy is out of the Xbox One.


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The page for the Xbox One-Day One Edition confirms that the console is sold out online. The page also confirms that the system is not available for store pickup. Best Buy still has two different packages for the PlayStation 4 still available, however.


While Best Buy may no longer be an option for gamers to preorder the Xbox One from, many different retailers still have the system available. The standard and day-one editions of the Xbox One is available at Amazon, as well as the video game chain Gamestop and big box stores such as Target.


It is unclear if Best Buy or Gamestop will receive more units of the system's they are sold out of in the future, or if Sony and Microsoft have decided to cut the preorders off to make sure they are capable of manufacturing enough to go around. Microsoft and Sony have not made it clear what their intentions will be, so for now it looks as though gamers are running lower on options for next-gen preorders.


If Gamestop and Best Buy are starting to sell out of consoles, it may only be a matter of time before other retailers begin to sell out as well. So if you want a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One in time for Christmas, now is the time to preorder the system and reserve a console. The PlayStation 4 will be out sometime this year, while the Xbox One will be released sometime in November.


© 2013 Latinos Post. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.


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Nokia Lumia 1020 Shows Up in Yellow, White and Black, New Tech Specs ...

What, you thought the rumor bonanza concerning Nokia's soon to be unveiled cameraphone was going to stop just because there was a recent flood of information via very reliable sources? Oh, you are so naïve!


As long as the EOS, I mean Lumia 1020, I mean Lumia 909 is not official, the leaks, speculations and unofficial reports will keep on coming. The latest such report emerged hours ago from WPCentral, which is another fairly trustworthy source, but the odd thing is the online publication debunks some of the info revealed earlier.


For one thing, we're back to square one in regards to the handheld's potential market name. Specifically, the Lumia 1020 moniker is back in the cards and Lumia 909 is out.


More importantly, we're hearing this latest Nokia crown jewel will come with 2 GB of RAM in tow, which would be quite the step up compared with the 1 gig inside the Lumia 920, 925 and 928. No word on the CPU powering the 1020, but if the Finns are to upgrade the RAM, I think it's not that big of a stretch to hope for Snapdragon S4 Pro heat.


The rest of the tidbits mentioned in this new report are in no way surprising and include things like 32 GB of storage, the already mythical 41 MP camera sensor, built-in OIS and NFC. As far as design goes, we have confirmation via that photo above the Nokia Lumia 1020 will come in yellow, white and black variants and look pretty nice overall, save for the ginormous hump on its back. Oh, well, you can't have it all, right?


Report: 64GB version of Nokia Lumi...


There's just a few hours to go until Nokia finally reveals its long-awaited Lumia 1020 flagship, but the rumours and leaks just keep on coming. After numerous image leaks, and yesterday's apparent disclosure of the handset's full spec sheet, there doesn't seem to be much left for Nokia to announce.



One aspect of the device's specs that raised a few eyebrows was that its storage will apparently be limited to 32GB, with no microSD card slot to allow users to expand it. That looks like it won't be a problem for buyers in some markets though, as WPCentral has got its hands on a draft press release from Telefónica, indicating that a 64GB version will be made available exclusively on the company's networks in Europe and Latin America.


Telefónica operates in parts of Europe under the O2 brand; it operates the Movistar network in Spain and Latin America, except in Brazil, where its local network offering is branded as Vivo.


The document refers to the device as the 'Eros 64GB'; we've previously heard the name 'Eros' in connection with a launch on O2 (along with a second handset known as 'Mars'). The Eros codename differs from the 'EOS' moniker that's previously been associated with the handset in earlier leaks; this could indicate that the EOS name was incorrect. The version for AT&T, which will exclusively offer the device in the US, was apparently developed under the codename 'Elvis'.


According to the document, the 64GB model will go on sale in September, but it did not reveal any details on pricing. A further leak yesterday claimed to reveal pricing - both on- and off-contract - for the handset in the United States.


Last month, Telefónica announced a one-year 'joint marketing effort' with Microsoft to help boost sales of Windows Phone 8 handsets in the UK, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile. The company said that it will 'encourage growth in market demand for Windows Phone 8 while working with suppliers to ensure the availability of high quality devices.'


Source and image: WPCentral


Nokia Lumia 925 available at T


After launching in the UK last month after a promised T-Mobile debut in the US, the carrier is finally detailing its plans for the Lumia 925 today. Available as an exclusive, T-Mobile plans to launch Nokia's latest flagship on July 17th priced at $49.99 with 24 monthly device payments of $20. The Lumia 925 is effectively a slimmer version of the Lumia 920 that launched back in November. It's made from aluminum, with a polycarbonate rear and optional colorful wireless charging covers.


T-Mobile's announcement comes just a day before Nokia will hold its 'zoom reinvented' event in New York City. The Finnish smartphone maker is expected to launch a successor to the Lumia 920 and 925, dubbed the Lumia 1020, with a 41-megapixel camera. Nokia is believed to be planning an exclusive partnership with AT&T, a rival to T-Mobile, to market the Lumia 1020 as a hero device this summer.


T

Nokia's new Lumia 925 was made official for T-Mobile back in May, but today, the carrier is finally revealing pricing and availability for the new handset. It's also T-Mobile's latest 4G LTE device, which the company ended up also launching more markets for, reaching 157 million people in the US.



The Lumia 925 will be available starting on July 17, with pre-orders beginning the day before on July 16. The phone will cost only $49.99 down, with 24 monthly payments of $20. This totals $530 for the device off-contract. The phone sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor running at 1.5GHz, with 1GB of RAM and up to 32GB of internal storage.


Like the Lumia 920, the 925 doesn't have a microSD slot, but Nokia and Microsoft partnered up to offer SkyDrive storage for these users with 7GB of free storage for Lumia 925 owners. Since the phone runs Windows Phone 8, SkyDrive is seamlessly integrated into the phone's software.



The 925 also has an 8.7-megapixel PureView camera, which Nokia has been big on touting lately. The device is covered in a 4.5-inch OLED display with an HD resolution of 1280×768. This is essentially's T-Mobile's flagship Windows Phone device, and it's their first 4G LTE device that's equipped with Microsoft's mobile OS, and it can be yours later this month.


LG Display launches world's thinnest full


LG Display has launched the world's thinnest full-HD LCD panel for smartphones.


The panel measures 5.2-inch and will enable smartphone makers to offer thinner full-HD smartphones and larger visible display space on them. The panel is 2.2mm thin and comes with a 2.3mm bezel. The company claims that its new panel is both slimmest and narrowest among existing full-HD LCD panels designed for mobile devices. Additionally, LG says the panel will make devices easier to grip as well as it's lighter in weight.


'Today's introduction of the world's slimmest full-HD LCD panel represents an exciting advancement for the high-end smartphone segment, and is possible due to our world-class expertise in IPS and touch technologies,' said Dr. Byeong-Koo Kim, Vice President and Head of LG Display's IT and Mobile Development Group. 'LG Display will continue its commitment to developing products that maximise consumer value as well as opening new doors for the mobile and tablet PC industry.'


It's likely that LG is using the same panel in its upcoming flagship smartphone LG Optimus G2 which was recently spotted in leaked pictures and video. The phone is expected to feature a 5.2-inch full-HD panel and a super thin bezel. Even the volume rocker and power buttons are said to be located at the back of the phone due to this reason.


LG has used the Advanced One-Glass-Solution (OGS) technology in the panel, which it says has been deployed for the first time. The company informs that dual Flexible Printed Circuits, which are superior to a single circuit, have been inserted between the panel and touch film, reducing the number of lines on the panel by more than 30 percent. It has also used a direct bonding system which it calls Optical Clear Resin between the panel and touch film allowing the display to offer more brightness. The display panel delivers a brightness of 535 nits at maximum, which is more than what other full-HD panels deliver at this point in time, as per the company.


It says the panel's superiority in terms of resolution, brightness, and contrast ratio results in enhanced outdoor readability.


The contrast offered by the display in real-life surroundings with Ambient Contrast Ratio gives a reading of 3.74:1 based on 10,000 lux, which according to LG, indicates that the display will perform well even in strong outdoor sunlight conditions. The certification is based on the firm Intertek's testing.


The move certainly signals that high-end smartphones of the future will be thinner and have bigger displays.


ifttt Puts Internet Automation Into an iPhone App


ifttt today released a free iPhone app of the same name, which stands for 'if this, then that,' and which puts the power of Internet automation at your fingertips. The amazingly simple yet powerful service helps users create 'recipes,' such as 'if there is an upcoming event on my Google Calendar, then send me a text message reminder' without ever looking at a line of code.


While ifttt has long included text messages and phone calls among its list of supported services that you can add to recipes, the iPhone app actually adds a few mobile-specific new features. For example, it added support for several Apple apps, including Photos and PhotoStream, Contacts, and Reminders. You could now create a recipe right from your iPhone that could save all your PhotoStream photos to Dropbox. Another example would be to instruct ifttt: 'Send me a text message at 7a.m. daily with the current weather forecast.'


When you enable a phone number in ifttt for either text messaging or phone calls, you have to enter a code sent to that number, which helps ensure no one uses ifttt to send you junk.


Part of the value of ifttt is it lets you set up interactions between two or more Internet sites or services that don't necessarily have any formal integration with one another.


The new ifttt app also includes real-time feeds that show all activity your ifttt account has trigged, helping you keep an eye on your digital life. You can also turn recipes on and off from the app, and set up push notifications, too.


MIND? FACE? Good thing they called it Xbox


21 hours ago



Before Microsoft officially unveiled the Xbox One, the Internet was awash in speculation about the thing's name. Was it going to be the 'Xbox 720?' Maybe just plain old 'Xbox?' Or, God forbid, 'Xbox Infinity?' Those are all well and good, but how about something like the 'FACE 3?'


'FACE' (short for 'Full Action Center,' err, 3) is just one of the colorful monikers that very well could have been the name of Microsoft's upcoming next-generation video game device if some of the company's branding team had had their way. It could have just as easily been called - no joke - 'MIND,' an acryonym for 'Microsoft Interactive Network Device.' That's according to the video game magazine Edge, which recently compiled a list of the many other names for the Xbox that Microsoft's gaming team tossed around and eventually scrapped. Xbox may sound like a funny name in its own right, seeing how it originated as a contraction of the phrase 'DirectX Box,' a reference to the company's computer graphics software DirectX. But after scanning Microsoft's list, I have to admit that I'm glad the team decided to stick with it. You should really take a look at the full list, but here are some of our favorite highlights from what could have been:


O2 (Optimal Ozone or Optical Odyssey). Just imagine the horrible marketing campaign about how gamers need 'Halo' and 'Gears of War' almost as badly as they need oxygen.


MARZ (Microsoft Active Reality Zone). It's like a cross between that TV network and the red planet! I think it's fair to say that nothing that ever wants to be taken seriously should end with a stylized 'Z.'


EHQ (Entertainment Headquarters). It's almost like that video game company - you know, THQ (Toy Headquarters), except hopefully without the rapid-fire changes in management and unceremonious decline into bankruptcy. Team Xbox must have been relieved they threw this one in the trash after THQ finally filed for Chapter 11 protection last year.


VIP (Virtual Interactive Player). On the plus side, I guess this one would have let 'Call of Duty' bros rebrand their man caves as 'VIP lounges.'


MAX (Microsoft Action Experience). The original Xbox was first released in 2001, so I'm guessing someone at the upper echelon's of Microsoft's gaming operation must have seen the classic 1999 Simpsons episode ' Homer to the Max' to help come up with this gem. I imagine someone in the boardroom that day saying: 'There are three ways to do things: the right way, the wrong way and the Microsoft Action Experience way!' Isn't that just the wrong way? 'Yes, but faster!'


Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: ylejacq@gmail.com.

Google reportedly prepared to spend $500M marketing Moto X

The Web giant's handset unit is also taking steps to limit 'bloatware' pre-installed by carriers, sources tell The Wall Street Journal.




(Credit: Motorola)


Google is apparently going all in to support the Moto X, the first flagship handset released by Motorola Mobility since being acquired by the Web giant a year ago.


Google is expected to allow the unit to spend up to $500 million marketing the highly-anticipated smartphone in the U.S. and overseas, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. The device is expected to be available on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless this fall, sources told the Journal.


With an emphasis toward customer convenience and customization, Motorola has reportedly taken steps to limit 'bloatware,' the apps and services pre-installed on handsets by carriers that are often useless and difficult to remove without rooting the device. Customers will be able to choose the colors for the back of the device and the trim and engrave a name or message to the back cover, ABC News reported earlier this month.


CNET has contacted Google for comment and will update this report when we learn more.


Beyond a solid partnership with Verizon, Motorola has struggled to sell its Android smartphones. With Google's backing, the Moto X represents Motorola's best chance in years to make inroads against Apple and Samsung.


After months of rumors and speculation, a sign-up page for the Moto X handset finally went live earlier this month, offering users access to the product information and promotional offers. The page, which touts the Moto X as 'the first smartphone designed, engineered and assembled in the USA,' promises that the handset is 'coming soon.'


Motorola said it expects to have more than 2,000 new employees at a Fort Worth, Texas, facility building the phones. The domestic location will enable the phones to arrive in customers' hands within days of their order, according to ABC News.


Terminator 2

It's not quite as advanced as in Terminator 2, but a way of 3D printing liquid metal could offer a new range of flexible electronics.


An alloy of metals gallium and indium that is liquid at room temperature forms a thin skin when exposed to air, which is strong enough to hold the liquid's shape.


Michael Dickey of North Carolina State University in Raleigh and colleagues put the alloy in a syringe and were able to squeeze out wires, about a centimetre tall, that stood vertically despite their liquid centre.


Bendy electronics

'The fact that they are liquid means you could surround them with another material like rubber to make metallic structures that you can stretch and deform,' says Dickey. This would be useful for creating bendy electronics. The team also created towers of liquid metal droplets, all held together by the skin, illustrating how the metal can form 3D structures.


It should be easy to swap the syringe for the nozzle of a 3D printer, potentially letting you print plastic objects containing metal wiring with a single device. 'You could include this as a functional ink that you use with a 3D printer,' says Dickey.


Unlike materials such as liquid mercury, the metal is non-toxic so should be safe for commercial use, but the liquid metal won't come cheap, says Dickey - it is roughly 100 times the cost of 3D printing plastic.


If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.




Call Arnie


Hands

One of our favorites from CES 2013 is finally here with North American LTE.


At CES 2013, which was over six months ago, a smartphone caught our eyes and captured our hearts enough for us to call it one of the best things we saw at the show back in January. That phone was the Sony Xperia Z, which at the time was one of the first handsets leading the way with the new high-end 1080p display resolution. It wasn't the only phone at CES that had a full HD screen, though. So what set the Xperia Z apart? Aside from some very elegant aesthetics, it was also waterproof.


T-Mobile today is making official its plans to carry the Sony Xperia Z starting July 17 for $99.99 down with 24 equal monthly payments of $20. Those who don't want to go through T-Mobile or just want it now can get it straight from Sony for $0 down and $25 a month for 24 months, or for $579.99 upfront starting today at Sony Store at any of its 38 U.S. locations or online. Both T-Mobile and Sony are offering a free Sony Wireless Bluetooth Speaker SRS-BTV5 with the Xperia Z for a limited time. Those who want the purple colored version will have to go to the Sony Store or order online from T-Mobile.com.


So, the Xperia Z is a new phone in U.S. carrier world, but it's actually been available internationally as an HSPA+ version for several months now. Today, the smartphone landscape is a little different. Back in January, there was no Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One. While those phones were unveiled after CES, both hit the North American market before the Xperia Z touched American soil (with carrier support).


Regardless, the Xperia Z was our very favorite earlier this year, and we've gone hands-on for a longer-term test to see if it's able to hang with the other full HD phones available now.


5' 1080p HD Reality Display (1920 x 1080) powered by Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2, 443 ppi, 16 million colors, 500 cd brightness, OptiContrast panel, scratch-resistant durable tempered glass


13 MP, auto focus, Full 1080p HD video recording, Exmor RS for Mobile sensor, HDR for photo and video, noise reduction, Superior Auto, Burst mode, Sweep Panorama, 2 MP Full HD front camera with Exmor R for Mobile sensor


Up to 16GB, with microSD card expansion up to 32GB


Connectivity

3.5 mm audio jack (CTIA), aGPS, Bluetooth (A2DP), DLNA Certified, HDMI with MHL support, NFC, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Screen Mirroring, Wi-Fi calling on T-Mobile, HD Voice


Frequencies

GSM (850,900, 1800, 1900 MHz); UMTS (Bands I, II, IV, V, VIII); LTE (Band IV)


Hands-on Impressions

Initial impressions didn't change; the Xperia Z is one very elegant phone. While the HTC One is still to be admired for its superlative craftsmanship, the Xperia Z exudes class with its angular design and glass front and back. Mind you, glass isn't the most durable material, but it's been a trend that even Google validated with its Nexus 4 (based off the equally glassy LG Optimus G), and it still feels smooth and great in hand.


One thing that furthers the classy design is the lack of exposed ports. As it is waterproof, the ports all have to hide behind covers that will keep the elements out. This gives the phone a very smooth look that's appreciated until you have to remove a cover to get to the micro USB port for charging. The only external extrusions from the otherwise smooth black slab are the power button and the volume rocker, and we're sure that the Sony designers would have gotten rid of those if at all practical. Other ports accessible, but always covered, are the microSD expansion slot, headphone jack and the SIM card tray.


Out of the box, the phone comes protected by a sticker label that clearly points out where all ports are because they aren't immediately obvious. A nice preventative measure so that customers won't run back to the store when they can't figure out where to plug the charger.



Dust and Water Resistant

The most unique feature that sets it apart from the other premium smartphones out on the market today is that it's dust and waterproof (IP55 and IP57). Actually, the correct term would be water-resistant, since it's not infinitely waterproof (even though the menus on the phone itself use the word waterproof). The advertised limit is submersion at a depth of 3 feet for 30 minutes. While that's nothing compared to a diver's watch, it's definitely more than what any normal person would want to do with a smartphone.


The most impressive demonstration is underwater video recording. The Xperia Z has been available in internationally for a few months now, and there have been countless examples on YouTube, but we wanted to make one of our own.


For practical matters, the water resistance is exceptionally comforting for those who like (or need) to use their phones outside in rainy weather. There were intense thundershowers in my city at no point did I feel that I had to put the phone away in fear of water damage. It was one of the biggest downpours in city history and I didn't hesitate to keep the phone out to reschedule plans with friends and to use the taxi hailing apps Hailo and Uber to find quick and dry mode of transport. For those who can never avoid the ever-present rain (hello, Pacific Northwest), then you can keep Google Maps out without fear wherever you have to go.


Performance

The variants of the Xperia Z that's been available up until now have been the C6602 and the C6603. The one that's selling today at Sony Stores across the country and via T-Mobile in a week is the C6606, which supports LTE in North America (Band IV). Testing the Xperia Z in the freshly launched LTE network in San Francisco yielded some speedy results.




Synthetic benchmarks of the Xperia Z measure just below that of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One due to its slower clock speed and chipset. It's powered by the same Adreno 320 GPU as the aforementioned phones and the same Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro that's in Google's Nexus 4. In practical use, it feels snappy and quick. In fact, Sony's lightweight customizations of Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean versus its competitors go a long way for performance. We're fans of stock Android, and Sony's practiced restraint. The Xperia Z has kept the on-screen navigation softkeys that were first introduced in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, while the HTC One has a confusing two-button setup, and Samsung GS4 carries on with its hardware home button tradition.


Useful Android Customizations



Despite having a 2330 mAh battery, heavy users will find themselves needing a bit of a top up charge before the day is over. Sony's answer to this is another custom Android feature called Battery Stamina mode, which essentially kills all background processes while the screen is off. Of course, that by itself would also prevent push notifications from coming in, so there's a whitelist where you can allow apps such as Gmail or Facebook to continue staying connected. Those who have a short whitelist will see more dramatic battery gains than those who like to leave everything turned on (and thus defeating the main purpose of the Stamina mode).


Another customization is the camera app, which mirrors a lot of controls now found on Sony's CyberShot camera offerings. The app features a pretty good 'intelligent' auto mode that's actually pretty clever at identifying when to use macro or the backlit HDR modes. All but the most picky shutterbugs will be well-served to leave it in the auto mode. Another neat trick of the camera, which comes courtesy of Sony's 13MP Exmor RS sensor, is real-time HDR in video. It's an extremely welcome feature for those outdoor shots where you can't control the light source, or you're dealing with a moving subject. It's something that I'd have enabled all the time.


Keep it Wet

While the Sony Xperia Z can't claim to be the fastest premium Android phone on the market, it stands out with a very classy design in a very unique water-resistant package. If Sony knows how to promote this phone correctly, it will keep a bowl of water nearby for live submersion demos. The feature is unique enough that customers will select it over other phones solely on it alone.


Sony Xperia Z review: Go ahead, throw it into water


14 minutes ago



We shelter our gorgeous smartphones in bulky cases, cry when we drop them into sinks, and fear using them in the rain - all because we know that their delicate bodies can't handle a bit of water. Well, no more of that, says Sony.


Sony's Xperia Z certainly isn't the very first water-resistant phone - Samsung's Galaxy 4 Active recently hit AT&T - and it won't be the last, but it is one that you might actually like. It is a tall, slender beauty with a 5-inch display - with a 1920 x 1080 resolution - and a body that's less than a third of an inch thick. Even Apple's king of design Sir Jony Ive would likely give this thing a nod of approval. Unfortunately there's a physical downside: The phone can be incredibly awkward to hold and use if you aren't used to the XXL screens which seems to be trendy lately.


Once you get past that part, you've got a great Android device. Sony thankfully didn't go overboard when it came to skinning Google's operating system unlike some competitors - I'm looking at you, HTC and Samsung! - and it threw in a decent camera interface which is rather similar to the one found on cameras in the company's NEX lineup. (Mind you, while the interface is solid, the camera is ho-hum based on some casual snapshots. It's not the best we've seen, nor is it the worst.)


In order to run as long as possible on a charge, the Xperia Z has something called 'Stamina Mode.' This mode seems to significantly prevent battery drain during standby time by turning off some background functions. After leaving the Xperia Z in standby for several days and finding that it still had enough charge to get me through a boring wait an an airport, I'm a believer in this feature.


All in all, the Xperia Z is a decent Android device. But it becomes a fantastic Android device the first time you take it near water. Wanna listen to some music in the shower? No problem. Want to record a video while in the pool? No worries. Want to read an email while running through some sprinklers? Go for it. The Xperia Z can handle everything from a little drizzle to full submersion. (You can dip it in up to three feet of water for up to 30 minutes at a time.) The only downside is that the touchscreen isn't all that useful while covered in water.


T-Mobile is the exclusive carrier for the Xperia Z in the U.S. and will start pre-orders July 16. The phone comes in black or purple. If you purchase it from T-Mobile, it will require a downpayment of $99.99 and 24 equal monthly payments of $20. Alternatively, you can purchase it from Sony for zero down and $25/month for 24 months on your Sony credit card. You can also just plain pay $579.99 for it.' (Yes, this mess of numbers makes our heads spin a bit, too. When did purchasing a phone get to be so complicated?)


Want more tech news or interesting links? You'll get plenty of both if you keep up with Rosa Golijan, the writer of this post, by following her on Twitter, subscribing to her Facebook posts, or circling her on Google+.

T

T-Mobile will allow customers to pay $10 a month to get early upgrades to new devices twice a year.



NEW YORK CITY -T-Mobile announced a new device upgrade program for its no-contract customers Wednesday that allows its no-contract customers to get their hands on the latest and greatest phones at a subsidized price.


The upgrade program, called Jump, makes it easier for people to upgrade to new devices and pay a lower price instead of replacing their current devices at full price. To participate in the early upgrade program, customers will pay $10 a month and they will be able to upgrade their devices twice per year. The program also works as device insurance and includes protection against malfunction, damage or theft.


Earlier this year, T-Mobile announced new no-contract plans that requires customers to buy devices at full price. Customers can also pay for devices in monthly installments. But if they leave the T-Mobile service, they must pay the full price of the device.


Some consumers complained that buying devices at full price made it more difficult to get newer devices. CNET first learned of this concept in March, where CEO John Legere said it was still an idea that the carrier was tossing around.



Nokia Lumia 925 available at T


After launching in the UK last month after a promised T-Mobile debut in the US, the carrier is finally detailing its plans for the Lumia 925 today. Available as an exclusive, T-Mobile plans to launch Nokia's latest flagship on July 17th priced at $49.99 with 24 monthly device payments of $20. The Lumia 925 is effectively a slimmer version of the Lumia 920 that launched back in November. It's made from aluminum, with a polycarbonate rear and optional colorful wireless charging covers.


T-Mobile's announcement comes just a day before Nokia will hold its 'zoom reinvented' event in New York City. The Finnish smartphone maker is expected to launch a successor to the Lumia 920 and 925, dubbed the Lumia 1020, with a 41-megapixel camera. Nokia is believed to be planning an exclusive partnership with AT&T, a rival to T-Mobile, to market the Lumia 1020 as a hero device this summer.


Instagram adds Web embeds


An example of an embedded photo from Instagram. (Photo: Instagram)


Photo-sharing service Instagram is making it easier for its users to share their photos and videos on the Web.


On Wednesday, the service will add Web embeds, allowing users to grab a special block of text that they can paste into a blog, article or web site.


The service will only be available to users with public profiles.


Content displays similarly to Instagram's web site, where viewers can see the user who uploaded the photo or video as well as an area for likes and comments.


The new feature follows Instagram's larger endeavor into the video realm. Last month, they added the option to capture videos lasting up to 15 seconds long. It also includes custom cover frames and stabilization to fix shaky clips.


Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @bam923. USA NOW Deja vu for Clinton, Palin? | USA NOW video

Coursera Hits 4 Million Students

Daphne Koller (Photo credit: clibou)

Coursera founders Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng don't think small. Their Palo Alto, Calif., online-education company is less than two years old, yet it already has attracted more than 4 million student signups. Now Coursera has raised $43 million in fresh venture capital, tripling its cash available for growth.


Coursera is one of a handful of fast-growing startups (others include Udacity and EdX) that use the internet to provide free, college-level instruction. Subjects span everything from computer science to history, poetry and health-care policy. Coursera's instructors include globally known professors from at least 73 universities worldwide, ranging from Brown to the University of Tokyo. The U.S. accounts for less than half of Coursera's overall student enrollment; other prominent countries include Brazil,India, China, Canada, Britain, Russia and Germany.


So what comes next?


Some clues can be found in Coursera's latest choices of backers. When the company raised $22 million last year, it tapped primarily into mainstream Silicon Valley venture capital firms (Kleiner Perkins and New Enterprise Associates.) This time around, Coursera is raising much of its fresh $43 million from three specialized ed-tech funds (GSV Capital, Laureate Education and Learn Capital.) Other funds are coming from the World Bank's investment arm (International Finance Corp.), as well as from Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner.


The implicit message: Coursera's next frontiers involve better pedagogy and greater globalization. In an interview, Koller said she wants to enhance Coursera's technology, so that students can have 'an even better experience' when they take classes online. She noted that Coursera has started building up a mobile-devices team, so that students in emerging markets - who may not have round-the-clock access to computers with Internet connectivity - can still get some of their coursework done via smartphones or tablets.


Also on Koller's list: opening up Coursera to applications developers, so that individual instructors or student groups can cook up customized apps that will allow easier, more fruitful interactions among students. 'People learn better in a social setting,' Koller observed.


Coursera is likely to keep pushing to add more participating universities, more classes, and more students. But rampant growth for its own sake can be associated with superficial student engagement that translates into low completion rates, listless participation in discussions, and flimsy record-keeping that can leave doubts about how much students actually learned.


Coursera has adopted a two-track approach, letting big free enrollments persist while also created a Signature Track program in which the most-committed students pay to take a digitally proctored exam that verifies their identity and achievements. Koller said Coursera booked more than $600,000 in revenue from its Signature services in the quarter ended June 30, up from $220,000 the previous quarter. She also noted that more than 90% of students opting for the signature track go on to successfully complete their courses - far above the usual retention rate.


Like Udacity and EdX, Coursera makes heavy use of interactive, Web 2.0 tools in its massive open online courses, or MOOCs. That's a sharp contrast with the 'taped lecture' approach that had been a hallmark of earlier distance-learning efforts. Even though an individual MOOC may attract 100,000 or more students worldwide, each course offers personalization on several levels, in a bid to keep students engaged.


Within the central instruction module, snap quizzes - with instant online grading - typically break up instructors' material every few minutes. That's meant to ensure that students grasp key concepts and aren't just blinking idly as new concepts stream past. Meanwhile, students keep participating between formal sessions, through various online forums and chat groups with their peers.


Looking ahead, Koller said she thinks it's unlikely that Coursera will seek to sell itself to an existing education company. 'I'm not sure that the companies that might want to buy us would have the right goals,' she explained. 'And our university agreements are very flexible. If the schools aren't comfortable with a new direction, they could leave and go do something else. We aren't interested in being acquired.'


Could a public stock offering lie ahead instead? 'I don't think we have a choice,' Koller said. 'We have outside investors, and they expect a return.'


YouSendIt Changes Its Name To Hightail As It Aims To Become Known For More ...

YouSendIt has accumulated some 43 million users since it was founded back in 2004, with a straightforward name and a straightforward mission of helping people store and send data on the web.


Thanks to a rebrand occurring today, those millions of users are about to have to learn a new name for their service. Out with YouSendIt, and in with Hightail.


The folks at YouSendIt/Hightail say the change is happening because the pioneering file sharing company has actually evolved its offerings to go beyond its core 'sending' capabilities, through some smart acquisitions as well as through organic product development. The brand new name is meant to fit its modern identity.


The name change is just the latest in a series of big moves that have been occurring at YouSendIt/Hightail under the leadership of Brad Garlinghouse, who took the helm at the company as CEO just over a year ago.


It's a bold move in the middle of a time of big growth and change in the cloud storage space, so we invited Garlinghouse to stop by TechCrunch TV to explain more about the name change and what this means for the company and its services going forward. Check that all out in the video embedded above.


YouSendIt provides tools that empower you to share and control your content like a professional. They are the easiest way to securely share, store, manage and keep tabs on your digital content. They have been amongst the most successful companies in their space by delivering the simplicity of a consumer application but with the security and reliability of expensive enterprise solutions. The company has over 40 million registered users in 193 countries and active usage in...



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Some Observations upon Completion of my Last Private Commission

I rarely use this space for purely personal observations. I have done the occasional rant, but it's mostly about "out there." However, I decided to return to the original use of blogs as public versions of personal journals just to work through a few feelings.

About a half hour ago, I completed work on a web design project for a client. I helped him format and publish his ebook and then set up a webpage for him. I still have to upload his new website to the webhost, but that's just mopping up stuff.

What makes this important to me is that it is my last private client. When I retired a  year ago, I thought I would probably be teaching part time at my former college , writing books and doing a lot of private advertising work. Well, it turned out
that my college had to cut just about all adjunct faculty positions in my department. But I did have several private jobs. Seemed like a plan.

Along the way, I started publishing a lot of my own materials including novels, books on writing and Bible study guides. But I never seemed to have enough time because of the private projects. In February, I took a weekend retreat. I got a hotel away from all distractions and went into prayer. I got a very clear direction from God about what I should be doing. It wasn't advertising, PR or web design for other people. That had been a corner stone of my business. I didn't have any clients at the time, but a few weeks later, my hair stylist was striking out on her own and needed a website and I got an email from an author in Hong Kong who needed help with putting his novel on Kindle.

I took the jobs, but I kept getting behind. My health is not what it used to be. I have a bad back and bad asthma. If I have to go out into the outside air where I live, it can take me a couple of days to recover at certain times of the year. Also, colds and flu bugs get to me. I don't have the stamina I used to have either.

Unfortunately, I kept falling behind on my projects. But I also felt so guilty that I didn't put up new projects or wrote much on my own novels and books. I just couldn't when I had those hanging over my head.

But, I had only myself to blame. I went against what I believe sincerely God showed me. That money looked good. But interestingly enough, during that same time, I made more money from my indie publishing than I did from the big jobs. It was just delivered to me monthly and not in a lump sum at the end of the project.

I know this is the end of doing the private work. I am looking forward to working on my own projects. I want to do more self-paced online courses. I want to get back to my novels and Bible studies. I've fallen behind. I should have about 30 up by now and I only have about 20.

But I also feel guilty. I turned down an inquiry the other day. It was hard to do. But I had to be true. Also, it isn't right to the client because I can't set a reasonable deadline and meet it anymore. Still, that money came in handy and I have some obligations that don't only involve me, but also other people.

I remember something Henry Blackaby said in one of his books. "Doing the will of God is costly to you and those around you." I do believe this is the will of God and I am really willing to pay the price, but it hurts when that price is shared at least temporarily by others.

And there is a bit of sadness. I do enjoy doing that type of work. But more specifically, I'm sad because once again my health has taken something from me. I retired early because of my health. I have to figure that going shopping is going to land me in bed for a couple of days if the air quality is "moderate" or below. I know part of this is a consequence of getting older. I accept that, and in light of the alternative, I'll happily take it. Still, it is a passage that I was forced to take.

I hope this hasn't sounded too rambling. Maybe some of you have been facing your own transitions and have conflicted feelings. Feel free to share them below.

Google Maps For Android Gets A New UI, But Drops Latitude And Offline Maps ...

Remember that new version of Google Maps for Android that Google previewed back at I/O in May? It's here! The new app began rolling out to Android devices this morning, bringing with it a new interface (including one built just for tablets) and a handful of new features. The iOS build, meanwhile, should be updated in just a few days - and it'll bring proper Google Maps support back to the iPad, to boot.


Alas, the interface revamp means a few old features had to get the chop.


Google says the update should be 'gradually rolling out to Android 4.0.3+ users over the next few weeks'.


Here's the old and new interface, side-by-side (though the differences are much more apparent in the video below):

If you've been running the Maps app that Google released for iOS back in December (three months after Apple ditched Google Maps in favor of their own, not-at-all-ready-for-prime-time app), the new Android interface probably looks pretty familiar - and it should. The core of the interface, that big ol' fullscreen map view, is almost identical on both platforms now. The menus which once dropped down now slide out from a drawer on the side, instead.


Interfaces aside, this new Android release has a few tricks that it's iPhone counterpart doesn't have (quite yet):


Realtime traffic rerouting - If an accident happens on the road ahead and an alternative route would now be the faster one, Maps will reroute accordingly. Traffic Incident Reports - If an accident is reported, its location and description will appear on the map. Curiously, Google says neither this feature nor the aforementioned rerouting make use of the Waze technology Google acquired last month. A new interface optimized for tablets Zagat reviews - Making use of Google's 2011 acquisition of Zagat, Maps now pulls Zagat reviews and lists directly into the interface. If the restaurant you're looking at is on Zagat's 'Best Of San Francisco' list, for example, it'll be marked as such and provide a quick link to the full list. Business review averages now show as numbers (i.e 4.3) rather than just stars, because, as Google Maps director Daniel Graf put it to me earlier, 'the [real world] difference between a 4.3 and a 4.6 can be huge'

Don't be sweatin' too hard over the lack of realtime traffic rerouting and all that other stuff on your platform, though, iOS users; from what I gleaned during the meeting, it sounds like the iOS version of the update - complete with proper iPad support - is just waiting for Apple's oh-so-crucial greenlight. Once it's released, the Android and iOS builds of Maps should be a near feature-by-feature match for the first time in ages.


As mentioned, though, there's a catch or two. Dumping the old interface and bringing in a whole new one meant a few features got the boot, if only temporarily. The 'Make Available Offline' button (which, as labeled, let you save maps for offline use) has been pulled. According to Graf, it just wasn't quite ready. On the upside, I learned a little easter egg that kinda-sorta brings it back - more on that in a post later today.


Google Maps has also dropped support for Latitude, their service that lets you share your location with friends and stalk them accordingly (with permission, of course). It'll be integrated into Google Plus moving forward.


Here's a video demo of the new Maps app:

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