Apple 12 Days app offers 'Hugo' or 'Home Alone' for free

iPhone and iPad users able to tap into Apple's 12 Days of Gifts app can score a free film as Monday's treat.

Through the app, Apple has been doling out free downloads since December 26 and will continue playing virtual Santa until January 6. The gifts vary based on your country.

People in the US or Canada can download "Hugo," a 2011 film from renowned director Martin Scorsese. Folks outside the US and Canada instead get "Home Alone," the 1990 Christmas comedy directed by Chris Columbus and starring Macaulay Culkin.

The 12 Days app … Read more

Xiaomi Wi-Fi router makes 'some assembly required' a perk, not a problem

The words "some assembly required" are rarely auspicious, but Chinese electronics company Xiaomi is betting the idea can be a selling point.

Customers buying unassembled flat-pack furniture or bicycles usually get extra work in exchange for a lower price. For Xioami's new Mi Wi-Fi 802.11ac router, the company apparently thinks building it will be half the fun.

"We're shipping the new Mi Wi-Fi router to our first 500 beta users unassembled in a beautiful wooden box, complete with white anti-static gloves," said Hugo Barra, vice president of Xioami Global and Google's former … Read more

Hugo Barra's challenge: Grow a Chinese phone maker beyond China

PARIS -- Selling 18 million phones this year may sound like a success, and for Chinese phone maker Xiaomi, it's better than the 7 million Android smartphones it sold last year. But it's not enough.

In China, consumers doubled smartphone ownership in the last year to about 500 million total -- including 340 million Android phones and 140 million iPhones. To find growth in a very crowded market, the company a few months back hired Hugo Barra, Google's former director of Android product development.

"I'm joining the team to help us go outside China," … Read more

Barra, Xiaomi aim to conquer the world

Former Google VP Hugo Barra was a major player in the Android business, but the lure and promise of Chinese phone maker Xiaomi apparently convinced him to make a career change.

Barra left his role at Google last month and is prepping to join Xiaomi in October where he'll be responsible for "international business development and Android strategic partnerships." Xiaomi manufactures Android phones for the Chinese market, and so already had close ties with Google.

While Xiaomi isn't well known today, at least outside of China, Barra aims to change that.

"The aspiration for the … Read more

Google loses Android VP to Chinese firm

For the second time in less than a year, Android has suffered a major executive loss.

Android's vice president of product management, Hugo Barra, has left Google for Chinese firm Xiaomi. His resignation was first reported by All Things D.

Barra was an increasingly public face for Android, demonstrating new Android devices such as the July debut of the second Nexus 7 tablet throughout his five years at the company.

A Google spokesperson said that Barra would be missed at the company.

Android co-founder Andy Rubin relinquished leadership of the division in March to longtime Googler and Chrome honcho … Read more

How to self-destruct on Twitter

Tweet us not into temptation, but deliver us from ourselves.

Famous people are, after all, just like us. They might have more money. They might have more fame. But when their mood is difficult and their Twitter machine is at hand, self-expression is but a few characters away from self-destruction.

Famous English golfer Lee Westwood -- by most accounts a thoroughly congenial man -- had to apologize Monday after he let Twitter's hissing snakes lead him into the putrid pit where they live.

As ESPN reports, he spent three Twitter hours on Sunday night excoriating and expectorating upon those … Read more

Google has a 'near perfect' universal translator -- for Portuguese, at least

Google continues its efforts to bring us the world of "Star Trek" and life on the U.S.S. Enterprise four centuries ahead of schedule -- minus the really hard stuff like the warp drive. The company's latest effort along these lines, according to Android product guru Hugo Barra, is a real-time universal translator.

Barra told the U.K. Times that "several years" from now, he envisions devices (likely Android phones or something similar) that allow people to travel around the globe without having to be concerned about language barriers. Barra also spoke of the … Read more

Hugo Chavez dies and the Twitter town square reacts

Hugo Chavez passed away after a two-year battle with cancer. The colorful and controversial socialist Venezuelan president, who once called President George W. Bush a "donkey" and President Obama a "fraud," was popular among the disenfranchised in his country and on Twitter, with more than 4 million followers. He made the Internet more accessible in Venezuela, creating hundreds of community "infocenters" with computers and free Internet service throughout the country. Simultaneously, he waged war on the free press in his country.

Chavez was absent from Twitter after Nov. 1, 2012, as he underwent more … Read more

Why 'Rango' and 'Hugo' won at the Oscars

If there's been one thing you could count on every year since the Academy Awards started honoring animated features, it's that Pixar would walk away with the Oscar. Through last year, six of the studio's eight films won golden statuettes.

But Pixar's 2011 entry, "Cars 2," a box office success but a critical failure, not only didn't win on Sunday, it wasn't even nominated. And that meant a golden opportunity for a slew of other animated filmmakers.

In the end, it was "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski's &… Read more

Familiar names dominate Oscar visual effects nominations

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its Oscar nominations this morning, there were some very familiar names among the honorees.

Joe Letteri, for example. And Tim Burke and Scott Farrar.

These may not be people that appear regularly in the pages of "Us Weekly," but to those who follow the visual effects industry, they're on par with Meryl Streep and George Clooney.

Only one film can win the Oscar for best visual effects, but today, five films were nominated.

As usual, George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic was honored, this year for its … Read more