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Sunday, March 15, 2009

IE8 to be the last IE-engine based Microsoft browser?

Could IE8 be the end of the line for the most popular (though declining) browser in the world? There have been rumors floating that indicate Microsoft may be making such a move, potentially switching development to a browser built off an entirely different engine. Whether based off the alpha “Gazelle” browser Microsoft has already introduced or the growing WebKit platform, there seem to be a lot of signs pointing towards IE8 being the last Internet Explorer to appear.

Some will certainly cheer such a change but others may dread it. There is a massive base of IE-only applications that exist around the world, from banking interfaces to media players to numerous pieces of software, all which bet on people most likely using (or willing to use) IE. For all of those, IE8 being the end means that inevitably they would need to move away from ActiveX and all other IE-backwards-compatible components. There's also the embedded application factor, where many programs use IE's engine to render content or perform other functions. It's a big change, and one that indicates Microsoft may be re-thinking their browser strategy altogether.

Of course, this is just speculation. There's a lot of good reasoning behind it, and Microsoft could potentially benefit greatly in doing so, but by the same token seek to lose a lot too. Part of their browser dominance originally focused around support for proprietary protocols and APIs, which gave them overwhelming advantages in many situations. If the software giant does ditch IE-based browsers, it'll represent a fundamental change in how many view the browser market. What's your take: should Microsoft dump IE in favor of something new?


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Microsoft-Novell partnership yielding little results

When Microsoft and Novell partnered some time back, many people predicted doom and gloom. Open source advocates said that the IP sharing and cross-licensing Novell had agreed to was detrimental to Linux and ultimately was just a trap to any potential customers that would sign up. Businesses tasked with running mixed-operating system environments seemed to initially welcome the deal, though, and the two actually expanded their alliance with further investments back in August.

Specifically, the software giant agreed to purchase up to $100 million of additional Suse Linux Enterprise Server certificates – paid in $25 million increments starting last November as the certificates were distributed. But things are now slowing down in the Novell-Microsoft relationship, as it turns out, the companies didn’t sign a single large customer during the most recent quarter. Novell's approach to this loss of sales has been to blame itself, claiming that their reseller channel is insufficient rather than pointing fingers at Microsoft.

Novell also said that they have to date invoiced $199 million, or 83 percent, of the original $240 million agreement. So why did Microsoft prepay $25 million for a new batch of certificates when it still had $41 million lying around? It’s clear that Novell needed the cash, the company reported disappointing first-quarter earnings and a slide in its Linux business, but Microsoft’s motivation for the move seems unclear.


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Download of the Week: Miro

The increasing adoption of broadband has made it easier than ever to enjoy digital media and online videos in particular – whether it is user generated or professionally produced content that you are looking for. With the growing sources for online video, though, sometimes you just need the right tool to stay on top of it all. Miro is a desktop player that doubles as your video library and can download online video from a number of sources just as well.

This free cross-platform application is a combination of a video and audio podcast player with a built-in BitTorrent client and media player (based on VLC under Windows). There is a comprehensive programming guide that can be set to download new videos via RSS or you can just subscribe to content on your preferred torrent site, all while keeping track of what you've watched already and what is queued up for you. It’s most recent version, Miro 2.0, brings integration with streaming sites, a windowed video player, and much-improved performance.

Unfortunately, support for streaming video still feels half baked as it merely loads up websites like in a browser inside the application to play the videos rather than using its own player. Regardless, it does offer the advantage of bringing together a bunch of video sources from around the web and putting them together in a single, clean interface.


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Online gaming grows on consoles, Xbox 360 leads the way

Although PCs are still the most widely used platform then it comes to online gaming, consoles are quickly rising in popularity. This according to a recent survey among 20,000 U.S. gamers by market research firm NPD, which found that consoles now account for a quarter of all online playtime, a “statistically significant” increase from 19 percent a year ago.

The Xbox 360 was second overall and the leader for online gaming using consoles, with 50 percent of the market, despite being the only one not giving out this functionality for free. Meanwhile, online use amongst Nintendo Wii owners rose from 18 percent to 29 percent. Specific figures for other platforms were not provided, but the company said that the PS2 fell dramatically and PS3 moved up from fifth place to third place among consoles. Additionally, the report claims online gaming has also become more popular among younger users, increasing 5 percent in gamers aged 13 to 17, while decreasing slightly among older gamers.


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Amazon uses DMCA to prevent third-party eBook sales

Apple isn't the only company with a proprietary device that they want total sale control over. Amazon's Kindle, for instance, is also designed to make use of online shopping exclusively through sanctioned Amazon avenues. Thus, when the retailer learned about a third party method used to extract the PID information from a Kindle, with the end goal being content delivery from a non-Amazon source, they acted quickly.

MobileRead published instructions on how to use a small piece of software to get your Kindle’s PID, and ended up receiving a DMCA cease and desist notice from Amazon, telling them to immediately pull the software and the instructions on how to use it. Though the site doesn't necessarily admit any wrongdoing, they complied with Amazon – but not before many mirror sites began replicating the content.

Their goal was simple: allow people to buy eBooks for the Kindle from anywhere. Given how much Amazon has invested into the device, you can't really blame them for waving the DMCA at anyone who would try to circumvent their direct channel to it. Many other companies, such as Apple, do exactly the same – despite protests from users who think the choice should lie with whoever owns the device. Amazon is resolute, though, claiming that information like the Kindle's PID is protected by the DMCA and users have no right to extract it.

This instance is yet another in a series of conflicts between hardware/software manufacturers and users, where the question asked every time but still unanswered remains: Who really “owns” the device, the user or the manufacturer?


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Apple goes to court over exploding iPod Touch

No matter what type of portable devices you carry around you certainly don’t want them to explode on you. Unfortunately, as we have seen in the past few years, there is always the small possibility of portable batteries overheating or having some other issue. Sony’s defective battery scandal was just one of many reminding us of that, and there have been isolated reports here and there about batteries that catch on fire or even explode. Even if it's a one in a million chance, it only takes that one incident for an irate customer to file a lawsuit. That's exactly what happened to Apple, in regards to an iPod touch that supposedly exploded, and must now face the courts.

We've seen several of these cases before, though many of them ended up being an instance where the device had a clone battery not sanctioned by the manufacturer or some other issue. Given that the iPod Touch doesn't have a user-replaceable battery, though, this case is likely to get more attention. The lawsuit isn't asking for millions upon millions of dollars, which most do, but rather less than a quarter million – a more reasonable figure, but one that Apple is still likely to defend themselves against. The company of course has issued no comment on the matter, but it will be interesting to find out the details of the exploding iPod.


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Microsoft details new changes to Windows 7

Following on from its previous update, Microsoft has unveiled 27 more changes it plans to make before upgrading Windows 7 from beta to release candidate. Once again, these are small tweaks based on user feedback aimed at improving the desktop experience, and more such adjustments are expected to come as Microsoft rushes to get their next operating system out the door.

This time the company has made some usability tweaks to how the taskbar thumbnail overflow feature works, modified the Control Panel Jump List so that it offers quick access to recently used items, and particularly focused on improving several aspects of the Windows Explorer file manager. Interestingly, Microsoft also decided to trim the shutdown and logoff sounds to gain up to 400 milliseconds because “every little bit counts.” The rest of the changes involve a number of different performance and operating areas, you can check out the full list on the Engineering Windows 7 blog.


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Opera tests server-side optimization technology

Opera has unveiled its latest innovation for faster browsing and posted a test version for those who would like to take the technology for a spin. In a nutshell, Opera Turbo is a server-side optimization and compression technology that provides improvements in browsing speeds by compressing network traffic. This will come in handy not only for those with slow internet access but also for connections with a monthly cap or people on a pay per usage plan.

When turned on, Opera Turbo will display the average compression rate along with the amount of bandwidth saved at the bottom of the screen. The company warns that, as a result of compression, images on a website may appear with a considerably lower resolution but the layout and text will look exactly the same. Also, for those worried about their privacy, Opera assures them that encrypted traffic will not go through their servers.

This is a limited time release but the company hopes to eventually make Opera Turbo a part of its desktop client. It should work with any type of connection. However, to get the most out of it, Opera claims users need to be on a situation with limited bandwidth.


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Free POP3 access hits Hotmail users worldwide, finally

Microsoft began rolling out free POP3 support to Windows Live Hotmail users back in January, albeit only on a few select markets. The company had previously offered this feature by asking users to pay $19.95 a year for a premium “Hotmail Plus” account, but with other online email services such as Gmail and Yahoo allowing it free of charge, Hotmail had to follow suit eventually – and it only took them a few years.

In all fairness, Microsoft has been offering a free way for synchronizing web services with offline clients since last year using their proprietary DeltaSync protocol. Another alternative for users is to use the Windows Live Mail desktop client which has built-in support for Hotmail. Neither solution, despite having their advantages over POP3, is more commonly used and accepted than the latter protocol.

Thus, those who had still been waiting for the update to hit their country will be happy to know that it has finally rolled out to every customer. Check out the details on how to setup your email client after the break.

POP server: (Port 995)
POP SSL required? Yes
User name: Your Windows Live ID, for example
Password: The password you usually use to sign in to Hotmail or Windows Live
SMTP server: (Port 25 or 587)
Authentication required? Yes (this matches your POP username and password)
TLS/SSL required? Yes

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VIA launches 1080p-capable chipset for netbooks

Via has launched a new chipset today described as a highly integrated ‘media system processor’ that meets the needs of today’s netbooks and other mobile devices. Dubbed VX855, the new part offers support for the Via Nano, C7, and Eden processor lines at 400 to 800 MHz FSB speeds while also integrating a DDR2 memory controller that handles up to 4GB of RAM and several input/output capabilities (including support for up to six USB 2.0 ports) in a single chip.

A new Chrome9 HCM graphics engine is also present to provide some modest 3D graphics – this is still a DirectX 9 part. Its main selling points, however, are its ability to deliver 1080p video playback while using a maximum of just 2.3W of power. The hardware supports a variety of video standards, including H.264, MPEG-2/4, VC-1 and WMV9.

Although it seems a bit unnecessary for a netbook to be capable of 1080p video decoding, considering the lack of a large display, it is a feat that Intel's current netbook platform is still unable to claim. Nvidia’s Ion platform, on the other hand, does offer such functionality but we've yet to see a retail product using it. Via could take advantage of this if it can get the VX855 chipset into a netbook soon.


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OLPC to use ARM processors on the XO-2?

The OLPC foundation has hinted today that it might be dropping x86 processors in their next generation XO-2 laptops in favor of an ARM based solution. Apparently the move is aimed at improving battery life while cutting costs, using a system-on-chip design, but this could also come at the expense of losing compatibility with Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The current XO model already uses an average of only 5 watts but the company claims power draw is still their biggest problem. A typical ARM processor, on the other hand, uses significantly less than a watt. Microsoft has traditionally declined to make a full-blown Windows OS for ARM, but then again, as Nicholas Negroponte states, the XO-2 is still 18 months away from release and a lot can change in that time frame.


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IE8 release date set for March 20?

The next (and potentially last) iteration of IE8 has been reviewed many times, demoed across several platforms and anticipated by many for a variety of reasons. Throughout development Microsoft has never given a solid release date for the browser, though there's been a lot of speculation that it would be out sometime this month. Now, however, Microsoft Taiwan representatives are offering a more specific date saying that the local version of Internet Explorer 8 will be released just over a week away, on March 20.

If true, it could also mean that the company has already ended development on the browser and is planning to unveil its final version, stateside, at MIX09 the day before. This is supported by the fact that, in the most recently leaked builds of Windows 7, the version information of IE 8 in the About screen does not reflect a release candidate status. It also means that IE7 has had a development lifespan of only two and a half years, compared to about five for its predecessor, and it can easily be said that the success of other browsers (most notably Firefox) fired up Microsoft's development team to try and keep up.


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Can Mozilla survive without Google?

Is Mozilla in danger of losing their biggest financial backer? The creator of the Firefox browser considers that a possibility. Currently, Mozilla sources nearly all of their monetary support from a partnership with Google, providing them with the top spot for searching, and in turn receiving a nice financial kickback. All in all, Google is responsible for footing nearly 90% of Mozilla's funds.

The reason Mozilla sees themselves in danger is due to Chrome. It's possible that due to Google pushing their own browser, they may not see any incentive to continue funding Firefox development. If Chrome usage rises to significant levels, Google may want to redirect their resources, after their three year contract with Mozilla expires in 2011. The search giant hasn't commented on any plans they have, though there's still a substantial benefit in working with Mozilla. After all, Chrome has yet to really take off and Firefox has a very large market share to play with.

The bottom line, as I see it, is that Firefox was not born with Google in mind and the browser will certainly not disappear should Mozilla suffer a massive revenue loss. A change in business, for sure, and it is also possible that development would be affected. Google may be king of search, but there are still other players, such as Microsoft and Yahoo – and there's nothing preventing Mozilla from working with them as well.


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News around the web: Battery that 'charges in seconds'

Battery that 'charges in seconds' @ BBC News
Scratch-proof cars on the way? @ Reuters
Q&A: The robot wars have arrived @
The Untold Story of the World's Biggest Diamond Heist @ Wired
See more articles and reviews.

Five years ago in TechSpot:
Jobs draws $1 paycheck again

SuperTalent Godfather Series 16GB USB Drive Review @ PCSTATS
Super Talent The Godfather 16GB USB Flash Drive Review @ OCC

CrossFire vs. SLI @ InsideHW
ATI Budget GFX Overview @ Driverheaven
XFX Radeon HD 4870 XXX 1GB video card review @ Elite Bastards

Evolution Gaming Gear MP2 Mouse Pad @ Overclockers Online
An Interview With The Developers Of FFmpeg @ Phoronix

FiiO E3 & E5 Portable Headphone Amplifier @ techPowerUp

Power Supplies
Topower Powerbird 1100 SE Power Supply @ Pro-Clockers

Cooler Master ATCS 840 @ PureOverclock
Xigmatek Achilles S1284C CPU Cooler @ TweakTown

Music Players
SanDisk Sansa slotMusic Music Player Review @ Futurelooks

A look at DDR2, DDR3 and SSD At Cebit 2009 @ Madshrimps

ECS 945GCT-D @ Legion Hardware
Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-DS4H AM2+ Motherboard Review @ Legit Reviews

Casio EXILIM EX-FH20 Digital Camera @ HardwareZone


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Apple set to unveil iPhone OS 3.0 next week

Apple has sent out invitations today to a press event where it will provide a sneak peek at the iPhone 3.0 operating system. Few details are available at the moment but, of course, speculation on what the update might include is already off and running. There are plenty of features iPhone users have been clamoring for since its release, such as Bluetooth stereo audio as well as native support for MMS and copy/paste functionality. Apple could also introduce tethering via Bluetooth and USB.

Perhaps the most significant enhancements the company could make to the device would be multi-tasking or the ability to run self contained web applications – the timing would be just about right to slow down all the hype behind the Palm Pre. Whatever it is that Apple plans to unveil we will know for sure on March 17. In the meantime, what are you hoping to see in iPhone OS 3.0? Let us know in the comments.


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Monday, February 2, 2009

YouTube works with Hollywood agency for new content

YouTube's video profile is set to expand, following a deal with the William Morris Agency. At its core, the agreement would see more content that doesn't make it to prime time television or movie screens released on YouTube. Some frustration has developed with William Morris, along with YouTube, over a lack of newer and fresher content available. Even with ad-supported videos, big media giants have been reluctant to release much on the video sharing site, for a variety of reasons.

The benefit for YouTube is to get more “premium” content, which allows them to ultimately generate more advertising revenue. Ad-generated revenue on YouTube is lower than what Google expects, primarily because the majority of videos on YouTube are submitted by individuals, not by companies. This William Morris deal could result in “made for YouTube” videos with professional actors, an attractive beacon for the service and a way for money to be generated through ads. This is all around good news for YouTube, and I expect that we'll see only more of this in the future, though hopefully not at the expense of what made the site popular in the first place: user generated content.


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Console sales: Wii leads, PlayStation 3 closes in on 360

New information on how well the current generation of consoles is doing has been posted. There are two interesting things to note this time around, the first of which is the sheer number of consoles Nintendo has managed to deliver. The most recent figure puts the Wii at nearly 45 million sold worldwide, an impressive number no matter which way you look at it. A little under 18 million of those were sold in the U.S., showing that the Wii has a wide international appeal which is contributing to the console's success. From the perspective of the U.S. alone, it is number three for all-time sales, trailing the Nintendo DS and the PlayStation 2, which still remains number one.

The other interesting thing to note is the shortening difference between the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. The 360 is no slouch, sitting at around 28.5 million units worldwide. Their sales have not stopped, though they certainly have waned, which may be due to the PS3. Sony's beast has seen a growth spurt of sorts and now touts over 21 million consoles sold, narrowing the game between themselves and Microsoft to only around 7 million. A taste of things to come or merely the market filling out? This is a bit hard to predict at this point, as both Microsoft and Sony have a lot of things going for them.

Neither Sony nor Microsoft, however, can really hold a candle to Nintendo at this time. The Wii is still outselling both consoles at nearly a 2 to 1 ratio. Can that continue for very much longer? Sony's biggest hurdle, in my opinion, still remains their price. Microsoft has the cheapest console and Nintendo has the greatest sales, whereas Sony has both the highest price and the lowest sales. While it's not completely that simple, it's not a coincidence either.


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Download of the Week: Windows 7 Beta

With less than two weeks remaining until the general availability for Windows 7 Beta downloads ends (well, at least from the official site) we wanted to encourage those who may be waiting for a final release to go ahead and give it a try. Of course, this being a beta we wouldn’t recommend using it for any critical stuff but, if you are anything like us and enjoy tinkering with new software, then Windows 7 is definitely worth a look if just for its revamped taskbar and improved window management.

The user interface received some welcome changes, with elements that are both pretty and useful, such as the new jump lists, live thumbnails and Aero Peek. Microsoft also put a lot of work into making backups easier, simplifying the task of setting up networks and sharing media, and tweaking the Windows Explorer so it feels more intuitive. While the release isn't bug free, overall it is pretty stable for a first beta and certainly feels more responsive than Vista. It is also said to be feature complete.

Should you decide to give it a try, a copy of Windows 7 is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit form. Also, to get you started, we have posted a guide to dual boot Windows 7 with XP/Vista in three easy steps, and another one to reverse the process in case you want to go back to your single OS setup. Minimum requirements detailed after the break.

Minimum recommended specs:
o 1 GHz 32-bit or 64-bit processor
o 1 GB of system memory
o 16 GB of available disk space
o Support for DirectX 9 graphics with 128 MB memory (to enable the Aero theme)
o DVD-R/W Drive

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Apple pulls MacBook graphics update

After numerous complaints over flickering on external displays, Apple crafted a patch for MacBook users that would supposedly fix this. It was deemed a software-fixable problem, and it only cropped up when using integrated GPUs as opposed to discrete GPUs. Unfortunately the patch seems to have made the problem worse and, as a result, Apple has made the decision to pull the update for now, while they look into the true cause of the problem.

Complaints started to appear on Apple's boards post-update indicating that for some people the problem was still around, while others found it was amplified. Given that some people actually found the fix to work as designed, it is possible the problem is wider in scope than Apple realizes, with multiple types of hardware being affected. Apple is not yet sharing if it actually is a hardware problem or a driver/software issue.


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AMD releases Catalyst 9.1 drivers with full OpenGL 3.0 support

AMD has unleashed its first update to the Catalyst driver pack for this year, version 9.1, which comes complete with full OpenGL 3.0 support on Radeon cards and a host of bug fixes. Among the long list of changes mentioned in the release notes are fixes related to the Catalyst Control Center, video playback, general stability, and other miscellaneous software. AMD does not mention any particular improvements in games but some slight gains in Crysis and FarCry 2 have been reported. The new Catalyst 9.1 driver package is available right now for Windows Vista, Windows Vista 64-bit, Windows XP and Windows XP Pro 64-bit.

Linux users also get some interesting new features, such as Hybrid CrossFireX support for systems featuring an AMG 780G/780D and an ATI Radeon HD 3400 or HD 2400 series GPUs, support for Ubuntu 8.10, MultiView and full OpenGL 3.0 support. Similarly, you can get these drivers in both 32-bit and 64-bit flavors.


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Xbox 360 a gold mine for Netflix growth?

Netflix reaching out beyond just the PC as a streaming platform was a tremendously good move for the company – most people do not want to sit in front of their PC when watching a movie or shows. Now that they have the Roku and third-party hardware with streaming options, Netflix has seen a surge in new accounts. The Xbox 360 however has been cited by analysts as a huge player in that, perhaps the most significant one, and will continue to be so.

With at least 10 million Xbox Live Gold subscribers, they might be right. You already have an audience that doesn't mind paying for online services and makes use of their console on the Internet often enough. In addition, you have the unknown number of Xbox Live Silver subscribers, who might see the addition of Netflix functionality to be all the motivation they need to subscribe. All in all, the estimate is that Netflix might gain an additional 1 million customers, making the 360 trounce even their own Roku for streaming subscribers.

Now, if only Netflix can solve the issue of having nowhere near the streaming selection that their standard DVD library boasts. For all of you Xbox 360 users out there, have you made use of the Netflix streaming service on it, or would you if the selection was better?


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Palm's VP of design shows off Pre features

If there is one smartphone shaping up to actually pose a threat to the iPhone behemoth, it has to be the Palm Pre. The device produced quite a great deal of buzz at CES earlier this month. The completely reworked webOS operating system runs fast (at least telling from the footage we’ve seen so far), the user interface seems really polished with great attention to the usability front and, unlike the iPhone, it offers true multitasking allowing you to switch between active apps.

They have also paid a lot of attention to the industrial design and even packaging. In a couple of recently posted videos with VP of design Peter Skillman we can see some of that along with a hands-on demonstration of the Touchstone inductive charger and other cool features you may have missed, such as the video player and the Amazon music store. Check out a second, 25 minute video after the break.


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Higher capacity Intel SSDs to arrive in Q4

Following the release of X18-M and X25-M solid state drives for general consumers late last year, and later on an X25-E Extreme variant for the enterprise market, a recently leaked roadmap suggests Intel has plans to broaden its SSD line with higher-capacity models in the fourth quarter of 2009.

According to the roadmap, Intel will double the size of its current X25-E drives to 64GB and 128GB, while introducing a new 320GB model in its mainstream X18-M and X25-M series on top of the current 80GB and 160GB capacities. VR-Zone notes that the upcoming drives will all use 34nm flash memory chips – which is a sizeable shrink compared to the current 55nm process technology – and updated controllers to improve performance. There is no mention of an actual release date or pricing for the drives nor has Intel offered any comment as to what performance improvements we can expect.


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Google and partners to expose network meddling

As promised several months ago, Google and a group of partners have formed the Measurement Lab platform, an open project of distributed servers meant to help researchers gauge just how well an internet connection is working and conversely help customers determine if their ISP is blocking or throttling particular applications.

As part of the plan, Google will provide M-Lab with 36 servers in 12 locations in the U.S. and Europe to run a set of tools which initially include: a network diagnostic tool, which reports the upload and download speeds and also attempts to determine what problems limited these speeds; a tool to detect whether your ISP is performing application-specific shaping; and network and path application diagnosis (NPAD), which diagnoses some of the common problems affecting the last network mile and end-users' systems.

Google insisted that the effort was not just another means to push Net neutrality and said it believes that consumers should have the right to clearly understand the exact nature of the connection they’re paying for. To help with that goal, M-Lab says two additional tools should arrive shortly, DiffProbe and Nano. The first will attempt to detect if an ISP is classifying certain kinds of traffic as “low priority” (a technique Comcast began using not long ago), while the latter will attempt to detect if an ISP is degrading the performance of a certain subset of users, apps, or destinations.


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Weekend tech reading: Intel Atom could hurt the hardware and software industries, says Nvidia

Nvidia CEO says Intel's Atom could hurt the hardware and software industries's Mark Spoonauer sat down with Nvidia CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang, who had some very outspoken things to say about Intel's Atom processor, including "Atom could potentially hurt the software industry." TG Daily.

Adobe, Apple working together on Flash for iPhone Once thought to be building Flash for the iPhone mostly on its own, Adobe has mentioned at the World Economic Forum that it's not only continuing work on the animation plug-in but has teamed up with Apple to make it a reality. Apple Insider.

"This site may harm your computer" on every search result? If you did a Google search between 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST this morning, you likely saw that the message "This site may harm your computer" accompanied each and every search result. This was clearly an error, and we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our users. Google Blog.

What's Behind the First 3D Super Bowl Ads Two spots will debut on Sunday: a 30-second trailer for the DreamWorks animated movie, Monsters vs. Aliens, and a second spot highlighting Sobe LifeWater energy drinks. A 3D-encoded version of the NBC show "Chuck" will be shown the day after the Super Bowl. ExtremeTech.

Swiss police spy marijuana field with Google Earth Swiss police said Thursday they stumbled across a large marijuana plantation while using Google Earth, the search engine company's satellite mapping software. Associated Press.


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Evidence suggests Apple is testing next-gen iPhone

The recently released firmware update 2.2.1 for iPhone and iPod Touch users may have not been so dull after all. The eagle eyed fellows at have found an interesting reference that suggests the possibility of a new iPhone model being developed.

Buried into the latest firmware is a product string for an iPhone2,1 device. This is a version of the handset that has never been publicly available or else visible in a previous firmware, seeing as the original iPhone was internally called iPhone1,1 whereas the iPhone 3G was designated as iPhone1,2. The larger jump in product number could be an indication that we’ll see some rather dramatic changes arrive with the allegedly upcoming new model. At least that was the case with the second generation iPod touch, which is listed as iPod 2,1 and includes faster and additional internal hardware as well as a significant external redesign compared to its predecessor.

Of course, this only confirms the obvious: Apple will eventually update its wildly successful smartphone. Interestingly however some further evidence suggests that prototypes are already being tested, with an anonymous developer that uses PinchMedia to serve ads in his iPhone application noticing this unannounced model showing up in his monthly report.

There are lot of rumors and no actual information regarding the next-generation iPhone. Some speculate it could offer more advanced graphics to improve its potential as a mobile gaming platform, newer ARM processors or new communications chips that would permit faster 3G cellular data. Perhaps we will learn more around June, which would fall in line with previous launches.


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Clickjacking vulnerability in Chrome discovered

Anyone who uses Chrome should be aware that an interesting and potentially dangerous vulnerability has been discovered. In the most current version of the browser, it is possible for someone to be fooled into viewing a site or submitting data to a page using a method known as clickjacking. As the links can be disguised, it can be difficult to tell when it is occurring. An example is a link that will appear normal in the browser, including the URL preview pane, but then redirect the user to a different page.

A proof of concept page was put up for demonstration. Google has confirmed that it is already working on a fix for the flaw, but until that arrives, it’s easy to see how this can be abused with dummy pages setup to look like the real thing. Upon redirection, people may not pay attention to what shows up in the address bar, and give away information they shouldn't.


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Samsung intros 4Gbit DRAM, touts memory modules of up to 32GB

Using its 50nm technology, Samsung claims it's made the world’s first 4 gigabit DDR3 DRAM chip, which is double the density of earlier chips and could yield memory modules with up to 32GB capacity. They are also said to consume considerably less power than previous chips, which the company is pitching as a selling point to the enterprise segment saying it will “lead to a reduction in data center costs by requiring fewer machines, improve server time management and increasing overall efficiency.”

A 16GB module, for example, can consume 40% less power using these new chips rather than 2 gigabit versions because the higher density means it uses half the number of chips – 32 versus 64. Samsung's latest development is not targeted at data centers and servers exclusively, as the 4 gigabit chips will also be used to produce 8 GB DIMMs for workstations, desktops and laptops as well. With the majority of the consumer market still using 32-bit systems, however, I wouldn’t expect these massive desktop memory modules to be widely available any time soon.


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Microsoft has no plans for additional Windows 7 betas

It was only a few weeks ago that Microsoft publicly released the Windows 7 beta, letting anyone who wants to get a sneak peak at what awaits many desktop PCs in the near future. The incredible demand for the beta ultimately led to Microsoft being forced to pull the beta, restoring it only after they were able to cope with traffic. That won't be happening a second time, however, as it's been revealed that build 7000 will be the only public beta available before the OS is released.

If you followed the development of Windows XP and Windows Vista, you'll recall that numerous betas for each were released. They were often missing features present in the final build, which isn’t the case this time around because build 7000 is supposed to be a “feature complete” release, meaning that from here they're only focusing on bug fixes. After progress is made on that, any future releases before it goes gold will be a release candidate. That leads more credence to the belief some have that 2009 will be the year Microsoft launches Windows 7, though the company itself has warned their partners and distributors that it may not come until 2010. Whether or not it arrives this year, there will be no more betas.


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FTC fines DNC offenders $1.2 million

The FTC has levied fines on another set of violators of the Do Not Call registry, the national database that restricts telemarketers from calling people. Several companies had charges brought against them for not referencing the list before they called, and as a result a total of $1.2 million has been issued out in fines. At the same time, the FTC took the opportunity to cite the success of the DNC registry, elaborating on numerous cases they have dealt with. All in all, over $17 million has been collected from offenders.

The Do Not Call list is taken very seriously, as we have seen in the past. The FTC has proved true to their word that they will fine violators of the list, ranging from trivial fees to tens of millions of dollars. Of course, that has no effect on criminals who might use the list for other purposes, operating outside of the law. Even if that is the case, I am glad to see that at least sometimes regulatory agencies will work for the people, as opposed to against them.


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Monday, January 26, 2009 compromised again

In what many hope is not becoming a pattern, has found themselves at the wrong end of a malicious attack, once again. The site was abused recently, and while Monster is revealing almost no details of the attack, they did admit that account names, passwords, email addresses, names, phone numbers and more were all compromised to some extent. The scope of the attack isn't clear, but the company is urging their customers to change their passwords and to be cautious about any emails they receive claiming to be from them.

This is the third time in two years that has been compromised, the last coming at the end of 2007. What makes this new attack particularly interesting is that after the second attack, the site promised their customers an increased level of protection of sensitive data. Whether those heightened security measures were never put in place or were ineffective isn't mentioned.

Any reassurance Monster might give at this point will probably be ignored, as obviously the company has issues with security. I for one would have a hard time signing up with a company that has such a bad history of data breaches.


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Wikipedia tests edit moderation

If you ever needed to argue about what the most powerful aspect of Wikipedia is, you'd probably cite the ability for anyone to edit it. The anonymous editing with relatively few restrictions has helped make the site a worldwide success. Above all, the greatest strength of Wikipedia is its users. Does the strength need to be curbed? Some of the people responsible for maintaining Wikipedia think so, and are considering limiting anonymous editing on the site.

The reasons are obvious. They want to avoid situations in which false or misleading information is posted by anonymous users, whether due to malicious intent or not. The new editorial process, currently in pilot through the German Wikipedia site, would queue edits for approval by a trusted editor. This system would still allow anyone to submit an edit, even anonymously, but it would require approval before it would actually be posted. “Trusted” editors would be able to submit content instantly.

There are of course flaws to that system. It can take days or even weeks before a change is approved, which can be a big concern when you have multiple people contributing to an article. Then you also have the issue of the sheer number of edits overwhelming those who approve the edits. Because of that, Wikipedia is asking for input for other solutions. Ultimately this boils down to a lack of trust. If Wikipedia wants to become a more trustworthy source of information, one that people can rely upon, it'll need some sort of sanity checking system in place. Can they accomplish this through moderation, or is a more complex solution needed?


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Google remains profitable despite earnings drop

Google impressed investors this week posting a significant profit during this past quarter. The company managed to pull in a $382 million profit despite of the adverse economic climate, beating Wall Street estimates. This includes some heavy financial setbacks after investing in Clearwire and Time Warner.

However, even mighty Google is not immune to slumping markets, something the company has discovered first-hand in recent days. The search giant, while still strong overall, posted a significant drop in profits with Q4 ending 68% lower than the year prior. What's more, the company itself sees troubled times ahead. Recently they laid off a significant number of employees and axed several services showing their willingness to cut up their business if needed.

If their profits continue to drop, you can expect more of that to occur. Probably not YouTube, despite it continuing to be a money sink, but other services may not have the benefit of popularity to protect them. Many of us use Google services on a daily basis, knowing full well that they remain free because Google turns a profit on advertising. What else will Google find expendable?


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Facebook almost double the size of MySpace worldwide

It seems like only yesterday that Facebook was slipping past MySpace in terms of global monthly traffic, and yet the popular social networking site is now close to breaking another milestone. According to statistics from ComScore, Facebook is now pulling in nearly twice as many unique visitors worldwide as its News Corp-owned rival, with 222 million people visiting the site compared to 125 million for MySpace.

MySpace still has a notable edge in the advertising race, though. The now second largest social networking site in the world still dominates in terms of U.S. audience, where the bulk of online advertising revenues reside, and claims their international revenue is up 30 percent year over year. However, with Facebook showing a 10.8 percent month over month growth rate, it is probably just a matter of time before they overtake MySpace as the largest U.S. social network too – just how well they can monetize this remains to be seen.


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Google bails on print advertising

After axing some of its more unsuccessful web projects and announcing a round of layoffs, Google has revealed plans to stop selling ads in print newspapers as well, saying the effort failed to deliver the impact it wanted. The move marks another cutback for the company in the face of a slumping economy and a failed attempt to help embattled newspapers bolster their ad revenue as the publishing industry gradually moves online.

The program launched in 2006 with 50 newspaper partners and expanded to 800, but it is now slated to close by the end of February. With this, the company hopes to free up resources to try and “come up with new and innovative online solutions that will have a meaningful impact for users, advertisers, and publishers” – which makes me wonder what the future of their other offline ad efforts, like radio and TV, might be.


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YouTube tries out downloadable videos

Users have long been able to use third party applications to grab content from YouTube, instead of just streaming it, but apparently the popular video sharing site is now embracing the idea of downloadable content itself. Just don’t expect to start downloading all your favorite clips just yet, as only a few political videos have the new download option for now.

Specifically, the “Weekly Address” videos on President-elect Barack Obama’s YouTube page now sport a “Click to download” link below the play button, which gives users a full-quality H.264 file. If and how this feature will expand remains to be seen, but of course Google Video has provided this feature for a while now, and following Google’s recent decision to end user uploads maybe this option will soon be available on YouTube as a standard publishing feature for those who enable it on their clips.


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YouTube comes to gaming consoles, but not Xbox 360

Google’s popular video sharing site YouTube has already made its way into Apple TV and TiVo devices, but the internet giant is looking to invade even more living rooms with a revamped version of YouTube for Television, a feature announced last summer and highlighted recently at CES which is now available via Wii and PS3 game consoles.

By visiting from either console, users can view a streamlined version of the site that makes it easier to browse and search through videos. The interface has bigger text and simplified navigation tools, videos can be set to go full-screen by default and there’s an auto-play option that enables users to view related videos sequentially. Check out a video demo pulled from the Sony PlayStation blog, after the jump.

Google says it hopes to expand the number of TV-connected devices capable of supporting YouTube viewing, though notably absent from that list will be the Xbox 360, due of course to its lack of a browser.


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Windows Live Hotmail finally gets free POP3 support

In a long-overdue move, Microsoft has begun rolling out free POP3 support to Windows Live Hotmail users in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands – with more countries to come soon. The much requested feature was previously available for $19.95 per year as part of Windows Live Hotmail Plus, despite other email services offering it for free.

It's been speculated for a while now that Microsoft had plans to offer POP3 access to all users and finally that day has arrived. Check out the full details here. Additionally, another new feature that is rolling out is “Quick Add,” an expandable or collapsible sidebar that enables users to quickly search for maps, addresses and more allowing the contextual information to be quickly transferred to an email at the click of a button.


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Google kills off unpopular services, announces layoffs

It appears that the bad economic times are catching up with Google, as the search giant has announced that it will shut down – or at least stop supporting – various of its more unpopular web based services in an effort to streamline its operations in a recessionary economy. Included among the affected services are: Google Notebooks, Google Catalogs, Dodgeball, Google Video, Google Mashup Editor and Jaiku.

Google will not be shutting down all of these services though. For instance, all existing content in Google Video will remain viewable and be searchable but the ability to upload new stuff will be switched off in a few months from now. As for Jaiku, the less popular Twitter clone, will become a part of Google Apps and should be released later on as open source while Catalog Search and Dodgeball, the mobile social networking service, will be discontinued. Lastly, the Mashup Editor is being replaced by App Engine and Google Notebook will continue to function for current users but will no longer accept new ones.

The company said on its corporate blog that it will be hiring at a reduced rate, but still laying off 100 recruiters and reshuffling 70 engineering staff to other locations worldwide.


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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Microsoft's Ballmer touts 'best version of Windows ever'

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN) -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer kicked off the 2009 International Consumer Electronics Show on Wednesday with an impassioned endorsement of PCs and a sneak peek at the company's future Windows 7 operating system.

As expected, Ballmer announced that Microsoft is releasing a beta version of Windows 7, which will be available for download beginning Friday. The news suggests the world's largest software maker may be giving up efforts to rehabilitate its often-maligned Vista operating system, which was released worldwide in January 2007.

"We are on track to deliver the best version of Windows ever," Ballmer told an audience of several thousand tech professionals and journalists inside a cavernous ballroom at the Venetian hotel. "We're working hard to get it right and get it ready."

Without mentioning the security and compatibility issues that have dogged Vista, Ballmer promised that Windows 7 will make PCs faster and easier to use. He didn't offer a timetable for its official release, although Windows Vista went on sale more than two years after it was issued in beta form.

Early reviews of Windows 7, which was leaked to the Internet in beta form in late December, have been positive. Will you try Windows 7? Are you attending CES?

The forthcoming operating system will have touch-screen capability, side-by-side windows for comparison shopping and a "Peek" feature that makes open windows transparent, allowing users to see the icons on their desktop.

"Windows 7 makes it easier to move between the things on your desktop," said Microsoft group project manager Charlotte Jones, who gave a brief demonstration of the system on the hall's giant display screens. Jones said the new system also makes it easier to send files back and forth between home computers.

Ballmer later yielded the stage to Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division, who praised the explosive growth of the company's Xbox Live online gaming community. Bach also announced forthcoming releases of new versions of Microsoft's popular "Halo" game series: "Halo Wars," due Feb. 28, and "Halo 3: OSDT," which will ship in the fall.

Wednesday's address marked the energetic Ballmer's debut as CES keynote pitchman, a job that had been handled for the past decade by Microsoft chairman and industry pioneer Bill Gates. Ballmer's presentation came two days after a similar, high-profile keynote at the Macworld show in San Francisco by Apple, Microsoft's chief rival, and its vice president Philip Schiller, filling in for the ailing Steve Jobs.

Unlike Schiller, Ballmer tackled the struggling economy head-on in his remarks. He said that although the recession has created "a period of reduced expectations," the tech companies that push forward now with innovative research will fare better in the long-term than the companies that scale back.

Ballmer said the convergence of screens on computers, TVs and mobile phones is revolutionizing how people communicate with each other.

"Our digital lives will continue to get richer. There's really no turning back from the connected world," he said. "We're on the verge of the kind of technological transformation that only happens once every 10 or 15 years."

As if to prove his point, Ballmer also welcomed onstage program manager Janet Galore, who gave brief demos of some Microsoft product prototypes, including a tabletop-like touch screen and a flexible, wafer-thin digital screen you can roll up like a piece of paper.

In a gentle swipe at Apple, which has gained market share against Microsoft in recent years, Ballmer said the PC remains the best choice for consumers seeking "value and power" in a computer.

"That's why we say, 'I'm a PC and proud of it!" he bellowed -- a reference to a new Microsoft ad campaign that play off similar ads by Apple.

Ballmer also announced that Microsoft has formed a partnership with Verizon Wireless to add Live Search tools to all Verizon smart phones in the U.S.

He also announced a partnership with Dell, which will soon come loaded with Microsoft's Windows Live suite of software, and links between Windows Live and the social-networking site, Facebook.

Reaction to the 90-minute presentation, which also included a performance by Australian musical-comedy trio Tripod, was mixed. Attendees praised the lively pace of Ballmer's talk, but wished he had made more news.

"I really loved what I heard tonight. There's definitely a lot of things to look forward to," said Sebastian Mineau, a Montreal-based blogger with MSN Canada. "It [Windows 7] wasn't a big surprise. But it was still nice to get the confirmation straight from the lion's mouth."

"It was very disappointing," said Ben Sillis, a reporter with ElectricPig, a British tech site. "CES is supposed to be about new products, new stuff. And this had all already been leaked. There was nothing new."

Some 2,700 exhibitors and 130,000 attendees are in Las Vegas for CES, the nation's largest consumer electronics trade show. The event runs through Sunday.


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Friday, January 2, 2009

UMID UMPC (Mini-Netbook)

In size its rival would be the Nintendo DS, but in function it can rival some decent laptops. With 1GB of RAM, a 1.3 mega-pixel webcam, a mini-USB port, wireless connectivity (WIMAX, WiBro, HSDPA), and a card reader, the UMID is a formidable netbook. It probably would not be considered a netbook, though. Like the IMOVIO iKIT handtop computer, it’s more of a mini-netbook. You could almost call it a pocket-sized laptop. It’s screen is 4.8", touch screen enabled, and runs at 1024×600 resolution. The device is powered by Intel’s Atom processor @ 1.33 GHz. It packs quite a punch for such a small device. Some sources on the Internet claim the mini-netbook can support Linux, Windows XP, and even Windows Vista.

The casing looks great, even though there hasn’t been any word on the exact dimensions. It almost looks like the new PDAs or stylish cell phones, but a little bigger. It’s not available outside of Korea yet, but we’re just excited as everyone else. Pricing information should be available soon.


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Apple iPhone 2G (1st Generation) and 3G (2nd Generation) Compared

Whether you love or hate Apple, you must admit that the iPhone revolutionized cell phones as we know them today. Before the 1st generation iPhone hit the market, the top selling phone for the past three years was the Motorola RAZR. However, not too long ago, the iPhone and Apple enjoyed monumental achievement by becoming the best selling phone in the third-quarter of 2008. It’s been almost two years since the release of the original iPhone, and only a few months ago Apple released the iPhone 3G. Both phones are still missing some basic features, but there has been an improvement in the latter version. In this article, we will cover the differences between the iPhone 2G (or first generation) iPhone and it’s newer counterpart, the iPhone 3G.

Design and Dimensions
Even though there aren’t too many differences in the exterior of the models, we are going to point them out before we get to the hardware. The screen size is exactly the same at 3.5" on both models, which provides for an ultra-clear 480×320 screen resolution. The rear of the original iPhone has a smooth metal finish with a black strip at the bottom. The front of it has a shiny metal piece that surrounds the side of the phone and ends behind the screen. The iPhone 3G has a smooth piano black or white finish. It also has the shiny metal piece around the outside of the screen. The iPhone 3G features buttons that are made from a shiny metal, excluding the home button. This gives them a sturdier feel compared to its predecessor. The shape of the 3G phone is a major difference as the original iPhone is a little thicker and completely flat when set down. The 3G has more of a round feel to it that flattens out slightly around the edges. It has been said that the screen of the 3G heats to a warmer temperature than that of the original iPhone.

Features & Technical Specifications
Apple iPhone 2G/3G Size and weight

Once we get under the hood, we begin to see where the 3G separates itself from it’s older brother. The iPhone 2G only supported WiFi, GSM, and Bluetooth. This means its speed surfing the Internet were quite limited. The iPhone 3G introduced 3G speeds to Apple’s flagship model, and it also supports WiFi, GSM, and Bluetooth. This makes for a better experience surfing, watching Youtube videos, and downloading data onto the phone from the Internet. The first generation iPhone supported the following frequencies: GSM and Quad-Band (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz). The iPhone 3G supports all of those frequencies, but added to the list quite a few more to enable running at 3G speeds, including UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz). The iPhone 3G also supports GPS, which was not included in the original iPhone.

Both phones have a 2MP camera, but do not feature a video recorder. The iPhone 3G weighs 4.7 ounces compared to the 2G’s weight of 4.8 ounces (not a notable difference). The only downside to 3G capabilities is that it eats into battery life. The iPhone 2G beats out the newer version in that regard by providing up to 8 hours of talk-time compared to 5 hours with the 3G.

Bottom Line
Comparing two great phones is always hard, but Apple made a great move by creating the 3G iPhone. The iPhone 2G is impressive, but with the features the 3G provides and the transition with new phones all moving to 3G, it’s a definite requirement if Apple wants to maintain its new status as the #1 selling phone in the US.

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CyberLink PowerCinema 6 Total Media Entertainment Center Review

CyberLink PowerCinema 6 helps turn a regular PC into a HDTV and a multimedia entertainment center. Released on November 13, 2008, Powercinema 6 includes features for watching television, viewing photographs, enjoying music and DVF movies, and even listening to the radio. With simple channel management and support for HDTV, PowerCinema 6 gives users the versatility of being able to view high-definition television straight from their computers.

With Schedules Recording and Time-Shift Playback, PowerCinema 6 turns your computer into a personal television recorder, which frees users from the chains of regular television. The software offers support for MPEG-4 AVC hi-def video. Multiple subtitles and audio tracks can also be recorded, which enables you to change the language while watching recorded television.

PowerCinema 6 also comes loaded with a number of new usability features. The Entertainment Interface categorizes your media, including Entertainment which would be DVDs, music, radio, TV and Memories that consists of videos and photos. It also automatically detects the size of your screen and sets video display to either 4:3 playback or widescreen. With color-coded hotkeys, you can easily navigate your way to key features of the software. You can use these color keys either on the screen or by separately purchasing the Cyberlink Remote Control. You have the option to Quick Review your recent photos/videos/music, and PowerCinema 6 also enables you to select a group of files to play or edit.

PowerCinema 6 provides quick access to your favorite audio as well. You can easily locate your music using Quick Music Search, which uses meta data information to find the desired track. Power Cinema 6 supports MP3, WAV, WMA, and Audio CD (CDA) formats.


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Google Chrome Extension Support

Alternate browsers are becoming increasingly popular, even though Internet Explorer still has a stronghold when it comes to market share. Some of the most popular alternate web browsers available include Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Google’s new Chrome web browser.

Still in beta, Google’s "Chrome" has attracted less than 2% of the Internet browser market at its peak, but Google engineers are working to enhance the software to make it more appealing and useful to its users. One very popular idea for improving Chrome is the addition of an extension system, which will enable third-party developers to produce plugins for any number of add-on features, ranging from browser enhancements to RSS readers, calendar/reminder extensions, etc.Chrome users can then install the plugins to complete tasks that Google did not integrate into the web browser.

Mozilla Firefox, a browser that holds the record for the most downloads in a single day, has the ability to integrate third-party plugins, which has been perhaps the greatest factor in achieving its 20% web browser market share.

One of Google’s developers made the announcement that Google is looking into integrating third-party browser plugins for Chrome. They also released a design document that provided an outline for what needed to be done in order to add plugin support. This functionality is certainly at the top of the wishlist for most Chrome users, and Google seems to be working on providing the support as quickly as possible. The first plugins planned for integration include Flash and an ad blocker (ironic), which are some of the more popular plugins for Mozilla Firefox.

Unfortunately, Google has yet to announce when this implementation will be complete, but at least we know that they plan on offering extension support in the near future.


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The 50 Most Significant Moments of Internet History

CNET’s Crave web site has posted the 50 most significant moments of Internet history. It’s definitely an interesting collection of events that we can recommend checking out.


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LG DP889 8″ Portable DVD Player and Digital Photo Frame

The LG DP889 combines a portable DVD player and digital photo frame into a single 8" display. It features internal memory for up to 250 photos, a 3-in-1 memory card slot, USB port for direct connection to a digital camera, A/V input and output, and full DVD / DVD±R / DVD±RW / Audio CD / CD-R / CD-RW support. The LG DP889 is available online from Circuit City for $200.


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KODAK Zi6 Pocket Video Camera

Kodak has released the Zi6, a PDA-size camera that has the capability to record HD video of the utmost clarity. Consumers can record in multiple modes, including camera photos (of course), HD60, HD, and VGA. The device offers AV and HD ports to facilitate connection to an external display for instant, high definition viewing. When waiting immediately is not required, the content can be uploaded to PC via the provided USB port. It also comes with software that can be used to upload video to Youtube with ease. Kodak opted to run the camera on two AA batteries, of which two rechargeables are included, along with a battery charger.

The controls for the camera are extremely easy and can be learned in a matter of seconds. The Kodak Zi6 uses a joystick - tap once to record, another time to stop, to the left to play a video, and to the right to stop. The setup is great for those not as tech savvy, allowing everyone to use the camera because of its simple control scheme.

The USB port, of course, makes it simple to transfer video and photos to your PC. A Macro mode feature is available that boosts image quality when focusing on something close up. It has a large LCD screen for viewing videos and photos captured. A mirror is also integrated on the back for those who wish to take pictures or video of themselves. The camera also includes built-in speakers so that video content can be accessed with sound immediately after recording.

The camera is an excellent option for those who like to record video on the go, and could make for a special gift to unwrap on December 25th.


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Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 HD Webcam

There was a time when having a webcam was only for the wealthy. Those days are long gone. Today almost every household in the U.S. is able to connect to the Internet. With the boom of the Internet came social networking, online dating, instant messaging, and even online business meetings. No longer do we have to worry about the low quality, blurry, spherical webcams provided in the past. The future is here, and webcam quality has risen so much in such a short time it’s astonishing, with Logitech leading the way. They released their Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 not too long ago, and we’re lucky enough to be able to give you a quick overview of it.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the camera is the Carl Zeiss lens located on the left side of its uniquely horizontal body. The microphone is located on the right, and you’ll also find a button beside the lens that allows you to take pictures. Around the Logitech logo is an indicatory illuminated circle that lets you know when the QuickCam Pro 9000 is on. It has a very unique, two-hinged support structure that bends in different shapes so that you have the versatility to either secure the webcam to a CRT or LCD monitor or stand it on a table.

Regardless of the features a webcam has, it must be able to transmit great image and sound for it to be a worthy solution. With a 2 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens, Logitech’s new QuickCam quickly put all our other webcams to shame. Everyone that we had a video chat with via instant messaging said the image transmitted was extremely sharp and of astonishingly high quality. Using the high resolution setting on the QuickCam, we were able to enjoy full screen video chat with contacts without image noise. One of the best features of the camera is HD recording, which allows you to record in HD, for those who love to make high quality videos and host them on your PC or online.

The QuickCam Pro can be purchased for about $113, which is affordable for the quality provided. You definitely won’t need another webcam for awhile if you purchase the new Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000.


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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Windows 7 Features and Performance

There’s much anticipation for Microsoft’s next operating system release, Windows 7. Enthusiasts are still speculating on the official launch date, and as of writing, there is no official word from Microsoft. Below is a list of new features that enthusiasts can look forward to enjoying, most of which are confirmed in the current pre-release version that is nearly at a "feature-complete" state.

User interface Features

User interface features affect nearly every user. While it is not the most important part of an OS, user interface features often go a long way towards the impression of an OS, and will likely draw many comparisons to other Microsoft operating systems. Windows 7 comes with a stylish end-user interface. You can expect icons to respond with quick animated movements, which is done to enhance the user experience. So far, compliments for the speed and ease of use of the user interface have been dominant for the new OS.

The desktop is clearly much cleaner and better organized, and comes with docking options that are similar to the Mac’s OS. New applications and improvements to existing applications have been added as well. For example, you will find the calculator to be much improved and more powerful. It supports real life conversions and calculations, like weight and length converters.

If you are in the habit of placing sticky notes all over your monitor and work area, you will surely welcome the new stick notes application that comes with the desktop. You can stick as many virtual notes on your desktop, and delete them as you work. Now your workstation will certainly look cleaner and more organized. You are also saving trees by using less paper!

A new version of Windows Media Center will also launch with this release. New gadgets are being integrated into the Media Center and Windows Explorer. Gadgets are standalone applications that sit on the desktop (some are hosted on another server). There are web gadgets, sidebar gadgets, and sideshow gadgets (run on external displays).

System Performance Features

Windows 7 now offers support for virtual hard disks and boasts improved performance on multi-core processors, improved boot performance, improved SSD support and performance, and improved kernel performance. Obviously, performance is a key goal for Windows 7. With the current pre-release version, even at an unfinished state, it appears that Microsoft is doing extremely well in achieving this goal. The pre-release version tested is remarkably stable and offers noticeably better performance than Windows XP with the latest hardware.

If you visit the control panel, you will find that many new items are added, including Accelerators, Display Calibration Wizard, Gadgets, Recovery, Troubleshooting, and more. Windows Security Center is now known as Windows Solution Center, and it is responsible for maintaining the security of the system.

Unique Features

The touch screen feature is a new and unique feature that enables many interesting touch applications. For instance, you can have a touch app that works exactly like a keyboard. This means you can type an entire document without the use of an additional piece of hardware. You can also use this feature to play the piano or do a painting. The feature is something that has not been previously available in earlier versions of the Microsoft OS.

Other unique features include speech and hand writing recognition. Hand writing recognition technology can help convert human handwriting into digital text.

Developer Features

Developers can look forward to using a new networking API to develop SOAP based web services in native (or machine) code. There are also new features that reduce application install times. Development of installation packages is simplified in the new OS as well.


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China Approves 3G Licenses

China agreed to start issuing licenses for its 3G mobile data network, but questions remain about which companies will get a slice of the estimated $41 billion in government contracts over the next two years.

For network infrastructure providers like Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia-Siemens, the Chinese market could be a bright spot in an otherwise dreary market. But the Chinese government may require the state-owned carriers to utilize domestic equipment manufacturers for the bulk of the 3G rollout. Companies like Huawei Technologies, Datang Telecom, and ZTE are not as large or experienced as the foreign competitors, but they have received the largest 3G contracts to date.

The 3G technology may be a factor as well, as China's network will include TD-SCDMA, WCDMA, and CDMA. China likely will favor the homegrown TD-SCDMA standard partly to avoid paying costly royalties, and the large China Mobile will utilize that standard. Companies like Ericsson and Motorola have embraced the standard somewhat reluctantly, but some technology companies say the government should open the market to foster competition and innovation.

The 3G rollout also is potentially good news for handset manufacturers, as the Chinese market already has more than 600 million wireless subscribers. The majority of subscribers use entry-level phones that are only capable of making calls and sending text messages, but customers increasingly are upgrading to sophisticated handsets that can surf the Internet, play multimedia, and receive e-mail. For example, In-Stat reports there are already more than 400,000 unlocked iPhones in the country, as well as countless iPhone clones.

China estimates it could have about 150 million 3G subscribers by 2010. The majority of these subscribers will be buying new handsets, which could boost cell phone manufacturers during a time when other regions are holding off on upgrading their phones because of the global economic slowdown.


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Bulletproof MySpace Game Poised to Challenge Mafia Wars

A new MySpace game has recently surfaced that is poised to give Mafia Wars some stiff competition. Named Bulletproof, the game offers players a number of advantages over Mafia Wars, especially considering the recent frustration Zynga has caused for many of its players.

With Mafia Wars, you must endlessly get other MySpace game players to become friends with you on MySpace and then request approval to become family members inside the game. Your player’s strength is greatly affected by the number of family members you have. Bulletproof does not require this, which gives you a lot more time to actually play as well as preventing all the hassle of working to get all the family members (500).

Since your character in Mafia Wars should have so many family members, you also have to equip each with weapons, defense, and vehicles. Bulletproof only requires that you look out for yourself and build your own character.

Ability points are more challenging to come by in Bulletproof, which makes them very precious. This also makes the game more of a challenge, and thus more entertaining.

One of the best aspects of Bulletproof is how interactive it is. While Mafia Wars will offer you a special item every once in a while (that is not really beneficial since they are never used when you already have the napalm), that’s about it. On the other hand, Bulletproof is highly interactive with several special items, competitions with other players to get items better than those you can obtain normally in the game, and more.

Bulletproof offers a comprehensive selection of jobs, investments, and inventory, with more on the way. In fact, new content will be added on an ongoing basis.

The fight list is structured in such a way that only players within the same level range are able to fight during normal game-play. This is especially useful for new players, but also high-level players since higher level opponents can typically withstand more hits, and therefore yield more experience. In Mafia Wars, there are ongoing problems with the fight list that prevent you from facing comparable opponents.

Additional extras not present in Mafia Wars include an armory (which requires a special badge obtained by defeating an enforcer for access), junkyard for obtaining rare items not available elsewhere that are available occasionally by random, ranking system details, and more player information. Being sent to jail is actually implemented in Bulletproof also. While you can see a jailed count in the Mafia Wars stats, it doesn’t seem to be used at all during game-play.

Bulletproof is also being actively developed. Therefore, suggestions and new ideas are being considered, and the game is being improved continuously. Bulletproof seems to be a better game than Mafia Wars in virtually every aspect. All it needs is more players. Join in on the fun! A support and community chat is also available for the game here.


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Lenovo ThinkPad X301

Earlier this year Lenovo released their ThinkPad X300, a great notebook for the business minded. Recently, the X300 has been updated to the ThinkPad X301 model. With many improvements from its already great predecessor, you can expect great things from the X301.

Familiar, Sturdy Design
When it comes to design, the Lenovo X301 has the same look as most other ThinkPad notebooks that have come before it. It’s a personal choice if you like the ThinkPad design. Some think it’s dull, some people believe it to be simple and effective. It’s a matter of opinion either way. However, there’s no argument that ThinkPad machines have some strong characteristics that stand out from the competition. The X301 laptop weighs a little less than 3.5lbs with an 8X DVD burner and a 6-cell battery equipped. The X301’s exterior is squared off and has a matte black finish. It’s dimensions are 12.5 x 9.1 x 0.9, and just like it’s predecessor the X300, the sides are slightly tapered. The X301 is a beautifully constructed machine with Lenovo’s internal roll cage design and a carbon and class fiber interior, which according to Lenovo, is not only stronger but lighter than titanium.


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The Internet's Cool, But TV Remains Ad King

The Internet is growing in importance in advertising, but old-fashioned television remains the most influential medium, a study shows.

In a wide-ranging survey of more than 2,000 Americans from ages 14 to 75, consulting firm Deloitte found that TV is still king in the ad world, followed by magazines and the Internet, which tied for second.

Among those people who look at magazines, six in 10 pay greater attention to ads in the publications that on the Web. Among newspaper readers, more than half say the same for newspaper ads. The survey also found that willingness to pay for ad-free content declined 9 points from the same survey last year, but a quarter of respondents still said they were ready to pay to not see advertising.

Digital video recorders continued to play an important role in watching TV, particularly among people ages 26 to 42. The so-called Generation Xers filtered 56% of their TV viewing through a DVR.

On mobile phone use, the survey found that a third of the respondents use their cell phones to entertain themselves. More than half of people from ages 14 to 25 used their phones for entertainment, which could include listening to music, watching video or playing games.

On discs versus downloads, 66% of respondents preferred physical DVDs and CDs when thinking about how they would like to engage in entertainment media in the future. But that doesn't necessarily mean the growth rate of music downloads would slow.

U.S. Internet users downloaded more music from online retailers and peer-to-peer sites in the third quarter this year, as CD sales among the same consumers continued to fall, according to the NPD Group. Apple's online store iTunes is the top music retailer in the United States, surpassing Wal-Mart.

The Deloitte survey also found that nearly six in 10 U.S. consumers would like to easily integrate their televisions with their computers to download or watch online content. Fully 59% of Americans are listening to music online and 52% are watching movies and other videos over the Web, the study found. And 39% of the respondents said they would download more video, if their connection speeds were faster.

Deloitte plans to officially release its survey at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which runs from Jan. 8-11.


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Treasure Hunter Claims Google Maps Treasure Find

A treasure hunter testified in a Texas courtroom Tuesday that he used Google Maps to locate a shipwreck.

Houston Chronicle writer Mary Flood reported that Nathan Smith, a 39-year-old musician and filmmaker from Los Angeles, has been fighting representatives of an estate in Refugio County, Texas, for the right to excavate his claimed find.

Smith seeks to prove that the wreck lies in navigable waters rather than on privately owned land.

The case, Nathan Smith v. The Abandoned Vessel, was filed in March 2007. The significant documents, including the initial complaint, are under seal to hide the location of the supposed shipwreck.

In the publicly accessible depositions, much of the questioning has to do with the area in and around Melon Creek and Melon Lake, near the Mission River.

On Monday, according to the Houston Chronicle, Smith described the circumstances in 1822 by which the ship allegedly ran aground and sank in the mud near the Mission River while trying to avoid a hurricane. He claimed that half the crew died during the voyage and the remaining crew was killed by a local cannibal tribe.

Describing a seemingly implausible sequence of events, Smith testified that Comanche Indians found the ship's gold and buried some of it after encountering the cannibals and fleeing, the Chronicle reported.

The plaintiff's exhibit list mentions "Google Aerial photographs taken in 2007." Google has traditionally licensed its satellite imagery from companies like DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, and TerraMetrics.

The court exhibit list also includes Lost Treasures Of American History by W.C. Jameson. Presumably, the book has some relevance to the claimed shipwreck. The exhibit list also mentions a 1958 family manuscript, Nicholas Fagan: Texas Patriot, by Mrs. Tom O'Connor Sr.


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Microsoft blames leap year for Zune freeze

Zune 30 users report that their players get stuck on the Zune logo screen as it appears to load, and efforts to unjam the device are mostly fruitless.

Microsoft said late Wednesday that a leap year issue caused problems with the 30-gigabyte versions of its Zune digital music player. The statement followed a flood of online customer complaints about the devices freezing up.


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