Get ready for Coronavirus apps

businessman with smart phone

As we struggle to find ways to re-open the economy and get people back to work during this Coronavirus pandemic, we’re starting to see technology and health companies explore ways to make this transition easier and limit the spread of the virus.

Microsoft and UnitedHealth are now working together to offer companies free app to screen employees for Coronavirus. The app will set up various protocols for health screenings and testing for employees depending on their role. This customization by employee role should make the app much more effective than a “one size fits all” approach.

The availability and reliability of tests is still a big issue as we try to ramping up wide-scale workplace testing, but this app will help companies target their resources. The apps are also designed to entice customers to return to restaurants and stores by “ensuring wait staff and clerks are infection-free.” That seems overly optimistic. There is no complete assurance. But this could make customers feel more comfortable that a process is in place to minimize risk.


Bing Invites You to a Five Round Fight With Google

Well, I’ll give Microsoft and Bing this. They’re clearly not going down without a fight. In fact, thanks to their latest marketing ploy, that is exactly what they are seeking.

If you go to the website Bing It On, you can take part in a challenge that pits the search engines Google and Bing against each other in a side by side comparison. You enter a search term, and the results generated by both pages are given to you, along with the option to choose which results were better, or to declare it a draw. At the end of five searches, your score is tallied to reveal which search engine was your overall preference. Of course, to make sure that you have an open mind about the subject, this is a blind test and doesn’t make an indication as to which search engine is which when the results are displayed, Pepsi Challenge style.

Although, my guess is the average internet user is probably aware when they are looking at Google search results.

And that’s what makes this competition so bizarre. Even though the end of the test shows that overall results favor Bing at a 2-1 ratio, after taking the test three times, 15 total searches, my personal results came up with a draw once and Google coming ahead twice. While I freely admit that some of this may have been me subliminally recognizing Google and choosing it, even my Bing preferences were little more than the result of a mental “coin flip” of sorts that resulted from me not wanting to choose the draw option and cop out.

In fact the biggest conclusion I drew from this contest is that Bing is on par with Google. Congrats to them for that, but I don’t think that was ever really the question was it? Proving you’re as good as Google doesn’t make you Google, and if Bing really wants to close the gap in the search engine market share, it should probably spend more time working on what makes it different from the search giant, and not proving that if you type donuts into Bing, you get equal or slightly more appealing results for donuts than Google.

In a bit of irony about this challenge that kind of highlights that predicament, using Bing as one of the search subjects produced better results through Google, and I heard about the challenge initially using…Google.

But hey, it’s a fun little use of five minutes if you can spare it.


They Still Haven’t Built a Better Mousetrap, But Logitech Has Built a Better Mouse

I remember my old computer science teacher telling me that the computer mouse is a handicap. Her theory was that since so many features can be accomplished quicker using keyboard hotkeys, relying on a mouse to navigate your digital world was only for technologically illiterate people who don’t have a working knowledge of keyboard shortcuts. Now while she was clearly pretty hardcore in her beliefs, I’ve got to admit that I do find myself thinking back to that theory when I use a computer, as I catch myself more and more often not relying on the mouse as a default.

There is, of course, one notable exception. As well designed as Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have made their controllers over the years, there is still no gaming controller that can compete with the mouse and keyboard set up. It’s the perfect marriage. The keyboard’s comfortable and familiar array of buttons allows for a wide range of features literally at your fingertips, while the mouse provides a level of fluidity and pixel perfect accuracy that no console controller could ever hope to match.

Now accessory mainstay Logitech may have made the mouse even more useful to gaming. That’s because their new G600 gaming mouse takes some of the functionality away from the keyboard, and gives it back to the mouse, just where my old teacher always said it belonged. Equipped with 20 buttons (and a “G switch” that can double button functionality) this mouse was specifically designed to allow MMO gamers to easily access hot key features. Generally though, this little gadget is useful for all types of genres, especially RPGs and RTS games that also rely heavily on quick key access. Not to mention it boasts the extreme durability, rapid movement speed, and pinpoint accuracy you would expect from a gaming mouse, as well as vanity features like customizable color LED color schemes for the buttons and tracking.

Now, this mouse hardly breaks new ground in the field of gaming mice, as various models over the years have featured available buttons before. What I do love about this one, though, is the overall design Logitech has implemented. Not only does it look slick and smooth, and boasts stats that compete with some of best mice available, but unlike some other, similar gaming mice, this one actually looks like it was designed for human hands. Plus considering how I just cleaned house during the Steam Summer Sale, I’m starting to consider the G600s somewhat hefty $79.99 price tag an investment.


Microsoft’s New Tech Toys Are Not the Coolest Gadgets for This Summer

So, I know that there is a lot of talk going on right now about Microsoft’s big announcements concerning their new tablet and the Windows 8 phone. And why not? They’re both beautiful new machines that are set to not only eat some large holes in wallets worldwide, but maybe even eat the hearts of some Apple owners in the process (though probably not).

In fact, I was ready to add another entry into the hype machine with this article. There I was at my computer going from page to page, report to report, spec listing to spec listing, absorbing every detail along the way and furiously typing up my findings. Then, something quite embarrassing happened. I looked at my shirt and noticed that even in my moderately cool (temperature wise) apartment, I had worked up a case of the sweats. I was so flustered, in fact, that I modified my search to “rapid ways to cool off.”

That’s when I found it. The coolest invention for the summer. And as you may have guessed by the headline, it isn’t the Windows 8 phone. No, instead it comes to us from the island of Japan and is manufactured by a company called Kuchofuku. What does Kuchofuku translate to? Air-conditioned clothing, and that’s what they’re all about. Their bread and butter item is the air conditioned work shirt.

It’s actually been around for a couple of years now, so before anyone else says it, yes, this is old news. However, considering it’s currently 91 degrees in the evening in New York, I think it’s starting to feel surprisingly relevant again. There’s not much to the shirt really. It’s just a couple of AA battery powered (with optional USB charge) fans attached to the back of the shirt that pumps cool air around you while you wear it. It’s made of polyester, comes in a few different colors and sizes, and gives me some very fond memories of Marty Mcfly’s self-drying jacket from “Back to the Future 2.”

Kuchofuku isn’t just a one trick pony, though. That shirt is just one of the offerings in their diverse product line. They also offer a less than stylish air conditioned coat, and the most surprisingly practical item in their arsenal, an air conditioned bed cover that pumps cool air throughout while you sleep and costs a meager 24 cents a month to power for 8 hours a day.

These items aren’t just novelty devices either. ABC News reported that, following the Japanese tsunami disaster, these air conditioned clothes and accessories saw a tremendous spike in sales from citizens left without power who needed to stay cool during the blistering summer months. Not only that, but major companies like Toyota  started ordering these shirts for their employees to stay comfortable at work with, all while cutting down on cooling costs.

Now, there is the slight problem concerning the cost of the clothes. That shirt, for instance, retails for about $183, while the bed cover is going to set you back around $352. However, if you are one of the millions considering spending hundreds of dollars on a new Microsoft product just to look cool, why not take a part of that money and buy some clothes that will actually make you be cool. And if you don’t want to take my word for it (couldn’t blame you), here’s an actual quote from Kuchofuku founder and former Sony engineer Hiroshi Ichigaya on his product:

“People ask me, why would I want to wear a jacket when it’s so hot… I tell them, because it’s cooler than being naked.”


Verizon won’t be selling Windows Phone 7 at the onset

Hoho, I can already hear Ballmer’s ears spewing steam as the entirety of the tech blogosphere compares Windows Phone 7 to the iPhone. Bloomberg reported today that Verizon would not be carrying Microsoft’s new phone any time this year, though there are plans to support the new platform at some point in 2011.

Of course, the world says “Hey, you don’t need Verizon to be successful. Just look at the iPhone.” Yeah guys, let’s do that. When the iPhone launched, there was nothing like it in the marketplace. Nothing. No one turned to Apple and said, ‘Just look at the…’ There was nothing to look at. Now, there is. There’s the iPhone, but more importantly, there’s Android, which has a far more attractive licensing structure (free) than Microsoft will for Windows Phone 7.

If I were Microsoft, I’d be really worried. I know they aren’t. I know we’ll get to hear about how strong the relationships are with other carriers and how widespread success on those carriers will bleed over into eventual success on Verizon. I doubt it, I really do. Microsoft is late to the party. The best thing Windows Phone 7 could have done was showing up at the door with the hottest chick in school.