What Is Twitter? And Other Tech Questions

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Last week, All Things Considered launched its All Tech Considered series, which will air every Monday. In the first segment, Robert Siegel talked with technology expert Omar Gallaga of the Austin American-Statesman. The conversation about how to scan bar codes and comparison shop with your cell phone spurred some questions from listeners. Below, Gallaga answers a few.

In your last show you featured a program called ShopSavvy, and after looking at my iPhone for an application in iTunes, I couldn't find it. And I was curious if you had any more information about the program or something similar? — John Davidson, Indianapolis.

ShopSavvy is currently only available for the T-Mobile G1, the first phone to use Google's Android operating system. The company that made ShopSavvy, Dallas-based Big in Japan, said it has submitted an iPhone version to Apple, but it hasn't yet been approved. The problem, it says, is that the camera built into the iPhone doesn't work the way the camera on the G1 does, which makes bar code scanning more difficult on Apple's phone. But Big in Japan says it found a solution to the problem and that as soon as Apple approves the app, it should be available to everyone. Big in Japan is also working on a version of ShopSavvy for the Blackberry Storm phone.

Are there any similar applications out there for people who don't have a G1 phone?

There are, though they're not quite as flashy. Both Benjis and Pricepad help look up reviews and prices while shopping, but without the bar code scanning. And the application NeoReader does scan 2-D bar codes, but not the UPC ones you'll see on most products — at least not without an add-on lens for the iPhone camera.

I'm a 60-year-old grandmother and a Realtor, and I'm trying to stay on top of technology. I recently started Twittering , but there are so many platforms to Twitter on and so much to know. Can you discuss Twitter and the various platforms? — Marianne Snygg, Monument, Colo.

Twitter is a service where you can tell people what you're doing using very short messages, under 140 characters. It's like a very tiny blog that you can update as often as you want. People can post messages to Twitter on the Web by sending a text message or even with an instant message. The site has grown quite a bit in the past two years, and businesses like Dell, Comcast and Whole Foods are using it to help customers. Some people think Twitter is trivial, but you'd be surprised how much information people can pack into such short messages.

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