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TMCNet:  Beaver County Times, Pa., Michael Pound column

[February 18, 2013]

Beaver County Times, Pa., Michael Pound column

Feb 17, 2013 (Beaver County Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Our pop-culture past has done a decent job of setting the agenda for our gadgets of today -- at least in some respects.

I'm still waiting for a flying car or, even better, teleportation, but many of the things that were imagined in comic strips, movies or even in documentaries years ago have become reality -- in one form or another.

An example A YouTube clip of Walter Cronkite that circulated through my Facebook circles a couple of weeks ago shows the venerable anchor in 1967 showing us what a home office might look like in 2001.

It's remarkably accurate, predicting the use of computers to read the day's news, checking on the weather or stocks, using video chat and monitoring closed-circuit video systems -- although in the video, which is attached to the online version of this column, Uncle Walter is using four clunky monitors to accomplish what we do with our iThings.
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One I've always wanted to see A Dick Tracy-style watch, the kind the detective was using to talk with others from the day his two-way watch in the mid-1940s.

Several models exist already, although most of those range from sports watches that use GPS to monitor location, pace and distance to Bluetooth watches that let us know when someone has replied to us on FB or Twitter.

And that brings us to the hot rumor of last week: Apple is said to be working on a smartwatch. Sources told the New York Times as much last week; that report came on the heels from Chinese tech site tech.163.com that Apple was working with Intel to build a Bluetooth watch.

There is one recent development that could be the key to speeding the nice people in Cupertino down this path. It's called Willow Glass, a thin, flexible glass just developed by Corning Glass Technologies, the people who brought us the Gorilla Glass that covers many of our current devices.

In discussing the product, officials at Corning even pointed out that a watch would be a perfect application for the new glass.

What would an iThing watch look like Your guess is a good as mine. But I would hope that Apple wouldn't settle for just building something that is little more than an extension of their existing iThings. When it breaks into new platforms -- mp3 players and the iPod, smartphones and the iPhone, tablets and the iPad -- Apple tends to break new ground as well, so limiting a new watch to functioning as a notification service would be disappointing.

Maps would be awesome. Email or messaging Yes please. Video chat with detectives wearing yellow coats and hats C'mon, Apple -- that pretty much has to happen.

Unlocking the lock screen The pin-enabled lock screen is a handy way to keep any mobile device secure. Except when that lock screen can easily be circumvented.

The folks at tech blog theverge.com reported on a flaw, apparently specific to iPhone 5 running iOS 6.1, that allows people with bad intentions to bypass the lock screen and gain access to at least some of your stuff.

The hack works like this: bad guys dial an emergency number, which automatically bypasses the pin entry; that call is immediately aborted, and with a couple quick taps of the power button, the bad guys have access to your contacts, telephone functions and voice mail.

Mashable tried to replicate the hack on other iPhone models and other versions of the operating system, all without success so, fortunately, it appears that the exploit is limited.

And even better Apple told The Verge that it was aware of the problem and it will be corrected in a future update. In the meantime, keep a close watch on your phone. Like you should be doing anyway.

Finding fish frys Sometimes, the simple applications of technology are the best ones.

Last week marked the beginning of the six-week Lenten season, and as all of us -- Catholics, non-Catholics and heathens alike -- know that means one thing around here: it's also fish fry season, when churches, fire halls and other groups fire up the skillets and deep friers to prepare delicious seafood goodies every Friday night.

We all tend to have our favorites, but what happens if you want to branch out and find some others Or how do you find out specifics if you're like me, and you're more interested in, say, crab cakes or fried shrimp than in the fish that are the staples of the events Hollen Barmer, a writer at Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute, has a simple answer: You take a look at the Google map she built listing all the fish frys she could find.

Customized Google maps aren't hard to build, but I'd guess Barmer's thorough map took some time to put together; each pin includes a pop-up that lists the location, hours and menu details for each of the locations she found.

So picky people like me can figure out where I can go to grab a fried shrimp dinner while my wife chows down on a giant fish sammich.

By the time you read this, we will have already attended our first fish fry of the season -- and we'll be using Barmer's map to find us more between now and Easter.

___ (c)2013 Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.) Visit the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.) at www.timesonline.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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