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It’s hard to believe in the 21st century that train conductors are still punching tickets, but it appears that era has finally come to an end for Amtrak, who is rolling out iPhones to 1,700 conductors for a digital check-in process this summer. Hey, that makes us want to book a ticket to some far-off destination -- until we realize it’s actually cheaper to do that on a plane, and you’ll get there a whole lot faster. Oh well. In the meantime, here’s the rest of the tech news for Monday, May 7, 2012.
Riding the rails may be one of the oldest modes of transportation in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it can’t be modernized, just a little. The New York Times is reporting that Amtrak has started using the iPhone as a portable ticket scanner, with conductors trained on the handset as far back as last November. The company expects that number to reach 1,7000 conductors by this summer, with the service reaching coast-to-coast. “You don’t even need to print the document and bring it with you,” said Matt Hardison, the Amtrak rep who helped initiate the program. “We’ve made a number of important improvements for both our customers and Amtrak, all in one fell swoop.” Does this mean Tom Hanks will be out of one of his many jobs from The Polar Express? Guess he can start tapping messages to the kiddies on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard from now on...
As Twitter continues to push users toward its own photo hosting service for the microblog, the folks at Twitpic are fighting back. Announced today on the Twitpic Blog, the company has released a free, official Twitpic app for the iPhone, with an Android version promised “within the month.” In addition to having an easy way to share photos and videos, the Twitpic app allows you to view content from other users, add comments and see daily popular content, along with a built-in photo editor that offers simple editing tools and photo filters to apply to your work before sharing. The app is now live in the App Store, so you know what to do.
The Verge is reporting that the courtroom fireworks between Oracle and Google remain partially unresolved, even after the jury had a weekend to break their deadlock. The jury has found Google “liable of infringing Oracle’s Java-related copyrights,” but the issue of whether or not Google made fair use of Java APIs appears to be stuck. Needless to say, Google is calling for a mistrial, while Oracle seems to already be breaking out the victory champagne in an official statement. “Oracle, the nine million Java developers, and the entire Java community thank the jury for their verdict in this phase of the case,” the Oracle statement reads. “The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license and that its unauthorized fork of Java in Android shattered Java's central write once run anywhere principle. Every major commercial enterprise -- except Google -- has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms.” We may have to wait until May 14 to see how this plays out, when both sides must submit responses to Judge William Alsup, who will have the final word.
It should go without saying at this point, but take the following rumor with an enormous grain of salt -- we’re not sure we buy this one at all, but pass it along like so many others for readers to make of what they wish. Cult of Mac is reporting that an anonymous source claims to have seen a prototype of the fabled Apple HDTV, and actually lived to squeal about it. So what’s it look like? Think of a current LED-backlit Cinema Display, only “much bigger.” (Well, yeah… duh.) The set reportedly comes with a built-in iSight camera for FaceTime chats from the comfort of your couch, and performs a wide variety of its television duties with the help of Siri. None of that sounds too completely unbelievable, but we figure Apple’s going to have to do better than that to get most of us to toss out the HDTV currently mounted in our home theatre systems...
Looks like Microsoft is trying to get one last gold rush out of its Xbox 360 before the new model (eventually) arrives. According to Joystiq, Microsoft Stores are now offering Xbox 360 deals for a mere $99, including Kinect, Xbox Live Gold service and a two-year warranty. But there’s a catch: You’ll have to shell out $14.99 per month for the next two years to get it at that price. As the website notes, that’s about $460 spread out over the next two years, which doesn’t sound so amazing when you can get the same package for $399 (or less) by paying upfront. Hit the link to grab a coupon, should you want to take Redmond up on the deal.
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(Image courtesy of The New York Times)