Jan 31 2010

MSI Revamps C-Line To Use Intel Core-i Processors

MSI C-Line
MSI’s “Classic” series has commonly been known as MSI’s budget line of notebooks, lacking a fancy exterior or other premium characteristics.  That isn’t stopping MSI, however, from putting Intel‘s brand new line of  Core i Series CPUs in three C-line models: the CX420, CR420, and CR720.

Overall there isn’t much difference between the three laptops. The CX420 and CR420 will come with relatively plain 1366×768 14″ screens, while the CR720 will have a much larger 1600 x 900 17″ screen.  In addition, the CX420 will have the special honor of getting a discrete ATI Radeon HD5470 for graphics with 1 GB dedicated VRAM.  Other than that, expect vanilla features across the board.

Still, despite the lack of aesthetics or exceptional screen resolution, these may still be products worth watching.  Equipped with Core-is, the MSI C-series computers will most likely be more powerful budget laptops than their mainstream American counterparts.  Pricing will be key.

Via Gizmodo, image via MSI.

Jan 31 2010

Yahoo and Ubuntu: An Odd Couple

A peculiar announcement came from Ubuntu’s development staff earlier this week.  On Tuesday, Rick Spencer of Canonical posted that it planned on making several minor and ultimately cosmetic changes to Firefox on Ubuntu’s next release.  The first is relatively benign, making the default Firefox homepage be the selected default search engine for Firefox’s search bar. However, the interesting part is that the new default search engine for Ubuntu will no longer be Google, but instead Yahoo!. This also effectively makes Yahoo! the new default home page.

So what’s Canonical’s explanation for this sudden and strange shift? It seems to be that the company has established a new revenue sharing deal with Yahoo! in order to help fund the Ubuntu project.  However, this will undoubtedly be unsavory to much of the original Ubuntu base for a number of reasons.

First of all, it arguably shows  that Canonical is caving into corporatism and losing the puritanical openness it’s known for.  Secondly, Yahoo! is now powered by Bing, which means this effectively becomes a revenue sharing deal between Canonical and Microsoft.

Google already has two distributions of Linux (albeit each is far from traditional distros) in the works –  Android and Chrome OS – and Microsoft has ownership over one of the most major players of Linux, Novell’s SUSE.  Whether or not Microsoft has some sort of interest in Ubuntu is unsure at best, and is probably unlikely.  However one thing is evident: major corporations will play a role in shaping Linux and open-source’s fate, regardless of what its users and adherents would wish.

Via Canonical Development Boards, image via Yahoo!.

Jan 31 2010

ExoPC Slate Comes On The Heels Of the iPad

A French computer maker has added another combatant in what has become a war between Apple’s iPad and the netbooks.  Similar to the HP Slate, the ExoPC is a new tablet form factor netbook, featuring 8.9″ of  multitouch goodness.  It looks similar to the iPad, though most tablets in this field are probably going to have the same characteristic bevel layout.

This is a full-fledged netbook, minus the keyboard. Specs are standard: Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz, 2 GB DDR2 RAM, 32 GB SSD w/ expandable SD slot.  Naturally, the ExoPC will be running Windows 7,  allowing for a much more functional if not visually pleasing  environment than the modified iPhone OS.  This also allows ExoPC to promise “the web without compromise,” a reference undoubtedly pointed towards the iPad’s lack of flash support.

There is one place where the ExoPC shows some weakness, and that’s in the battery life department.  At only 4 hours, it lacks the godly battery life that we have come to expect from netbooks, but it is at least user replaceable.  Still at $599 and release date in March it is placing itself as a direct competitor to its iPad counterpart.

Via Engadget.

Jan 31 2010

Why We Cannot Pre-Order the iPad

Screenshot from Apple's website where users can be notified when the iPad is available

The iPad, Apple’s much-hyped device that was announced this past week, will not be available for about three more months. But surprisingly enough, you can’t even pre-order the iPad at this point. This may appear shortsighted on Apple’s part, since many people would probably pay in advance for this device without even seeing it. But the reason why the iPad is not available for pre-order may surprise some: it’s not legal yet.

Apple does not have necessary approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to release the iPad. Though this may seem strange, it’s actually quite in character for Apple. After all, the iPhone was announced before it was officially approved by the FCC. No one expects Apple to have any problems getting FCC approval for the iPad. The FCC is pleased with Apple right now because Apple reversed its policy against VOIP calling on AT&T’s 3G network.

Apple announced in an email to its customers that the iPad has not received FCC authorization. It also said that some iPad “features and applications are not available in all areas,” a strange statement that most analysts are not sure what will mean.

Via Wired, image via Apple.

Jan 31 2010

Google Will End IE6 Support

Google is really not happy with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 6. After all, it was a vulnerability in IE6 that allowed Chinese hackers to mount an attack against Google and target Chinese human rights activists’ Gmail accounts. Beginning on March 1, Google has said that some services, such as Google Docs, will not work properly with IE6, and recommended that users upgrade to a later version of the browser.

After the attack against Google was made public, people were urged to switch to a more secure browser. The French and German governments, as well as security analysts, urged users to upgrade or switch browsers for their own safety.

Approximately 20 percent of users are still using IE6. Many developers have expressed a desire to see IE6 phased out soon. However, Microsoft has promised to support IE6 until 2014. It released an update designed to correct the vulnerability and recommended that all users install the update or upgrade their browser.

Microsoft said it has known about the vulnerability since September 2009 and planned to patch it in February. The negative publicity in the wake of the attacks against Google have helped rival browsers such as Firefox gain market share. In fact, in Europe Firefox has almost as large a share as Internet Explorer, and even surpasses IE in some countries.

Via BBC News, image via Microsoft.

Jan 30 2010

ASK NBB #8 Revealed!

It’s been a while, but we’re back at it. ASK NBB #8: Netbooks With Big Batteries And SSDs has been revealed! Check it out here.

Jan 30 2010

Intel’s Disappointing Pine Trail CPU

Diamondville PlatformPine Trail Platform
The Intel Atom Pine Trail platform, which was originally thought to be a grand step forward for netbooks, has not met our expectations.  It may be in part due to over-hyping by followers of its development, but ultimately the performance gains provided by the new line were marginal at best and irrelevant at worst.  So what caused this discrepancy?

Those hailing the Pine Trail as a godsend to netbooks graphics ultimately misconceived what the GMA 3150 controller could do. Compared to Nvidia’s Ion platform (currently the only way to get good graphics on a netbook) it is completely out of its league, and only looks good compared to the original Atom’s GMA 950.

But the real issue is what happened when Intel condensed the “Diamondville” platform from the original Atom to “Pine Trail”.  A quick glance at the image up top (“Diamondville” left, “Pine Trail” right), clearly shows us that nothing really happened. Same cores and the same interfaces.  And the problem is that while Intel was busy integrating the memory controller onto its chips for the i7 on desktops, they got lazy about Pine Trail on netbooks.  The memory controller still needs to be interfaced via the front-side bus, so no lower memory latency, no drastic performance improvement.  And to point out the obvious, the exact same core is being used on the old and new Atoms.

Is it fair for Intel to say that Pine Trail is a better product in terms of performance than the Atom 330?   Arguably, yes.  But really this whole affair simply shows that Intel is sitting unchallenged in the netbook market, as AMD has yet to provide a platform for it and ARM lacks the resources to take on Intel.  And this gives them the ability to take easy, cheap, sloppy routes for chip development, while also hurting the consumer by trying to prevent a product like the Ion 2 from making its way to netbooks.  Plain and simple like the early 2000s: a complacent Intel is a bad Intel.

via AnandTech

Jan 30 2010

Next Generation of Touchscreens Ready For Pressure

One of the greatest effects of the widespread success of the iPhone was the introduction of the capacitive touchscreen to the masses.  Capacitive screens gave us a more natural experience as opposed to the resistive interfaces from the past.  Now, there is much effort being spent towards the creation of pressure sensitive screens.  While there are many approaches towards this problem, one seems to claim that it is the end-all solution.

This comes from a specialized company called Peratech.  It is placing all of its money on a technology called quantum tunneling composite.  The way it works is by utilizing the fact that two conductors close to each other but separated by an insulating layer, will still cause electrons to jump back and forth. The special part is that they are using an polymer which reacts to the changes by pressure by changing its resistance.

Peratech has already signed on with a major screen maker and its products could hit the market by April of this year.  We will have to wait to see how they change the way we use touch interfaces till then.

Via Technology Review, image via Peratech

Jan 29 2010

Apple’s iPad Could Revolutionize Tablet Market

Apple’s latest product, the iPad, was announced on Wednesday and it already has loads of people talking. I personally was disappointed by it, but some analysts are saying that it is just the sort of thing that the tablet market needs.

Tablets have been around for a while—Microsoft introduced one in 2001—but they have never really taken off. (I actually think I could count on one hand the number of people I have seen using tablets.) Some analysts have nothing but praise for the iPad. Van Baker, an analyst with Gartner Research, calls the iPad a “winning product,” adding that he “can use it in the living room, the classroom, for light work and at the coffee shop.”

Steve Jobs said in order for customers to buy the iPad, it had to offer a new sort of experience that other devices cannot offer. But according to some analysts, this is precisely the problem: the iPad does not offer anything new. MG Siegler of TechCrunch says, “Unlike the iPhone, which filled an already well-established need, there is no existing need the iPad fills.”

Apple does have a history of creating small niche markets that grow into larger ones. The iPod is an excellent example—other companies offer competing MP3 players, but it was Apple that really created this niche market. The iPad could do the same thing and inspire other manufacturers to offer competing tablets.

Only time will tell if the iPad will be successful, especially considering that it will not be released for another few months.

Via BBC News, image via Apple.

Jan 29 2010

Microsoft’s Sales Increase

Apple is not the only company that is having great sales. Microsoft has seen a 60 percent increase in profit, due largely to “exceptional demand” for Windows 7, which was released in October 2009. (Windows 7 is in high demand probably because Windows Vista was just so bad.) Microsoft’s net profit for the last three months of 2009 was $6.66 billion, up from $4.18 billion at that same time of year in 2008. Its revenues were $19.2 billion, beating analysts’ predictions.

The company’s profits were probably helped by an increase in computer sales leading up to Christmas. A large portion of Microsoft’s profit comes from the Windows operating system and the Microsoft Office software. The sales in these two areas were higher than expected, but Xbox sales were below expectations.

Chief operating officer Kevin Turner said he was thrilled by the response to Windows 7, adding that, “This is a record quarter for Windows units.”

Via BBC News, image via Microsoft.

Jan 28 2010

Hack A LED Keyboard Light Onto Your Netbook

Everyone’s looking for mobility in new gadgets, but there’s one frontier few manufacturers have sought to expand – the path to the dark side.

Sometimes you just have to take things into your own hands, and that’s just what some hackers at HackADay have done. By adding an LED light into the lid of the netbook, the keys will be illuminated for a very low cost.

While USB powered reading lights accomplish the same thing, hacker Vikash didn’t want to carry around another device to light up his machine – a Dell Vostro, or Dell Mini 9.

To get this one done, you need to hook up the LED to the Ctrl key with a small programmable chip, controlling the LED light independently of the OS. He’s got the code for that, if you want to go all out.

Check it out here.

Image via HackADay.

Jan 28 2010

The Suede CaseCrown Netbook Sleeve

CaseCrown’s soft suede netbook sleeve is a classy but functional piece that’s will complement any 10-12 inch netbook on the market today. It has a faux-suede exterior and a bright orange nylon interior lining, which adds a bit of energy to the setup.

The CaseCrown netbook sleeve has an exterior zipped pocket, ideal for accessory storage and transport. It comes with a detachable shoulder strap, so you can travel light with just your netbook or stow it in your backpack or briefcase when you have more to lug around.

The 7mm thick lightweight padding on the inside will protect your netbook from light knocks and falls, and the non-scratch zipper will ensure that your machine remains pristine.

You can get this piece of art from Gearzap for only £19.47 ($31.50) with a 12-month warranty.

Jan 28 2010

Apple iPad Pricing

iPad Docked
The pricing has been fully broken down for the iPad.   Basically, it is variable on two factors: storage and 3G.  There will be the classic 3 flavors of storage sizes for the iPad: 16 GB, 32 GB, 64 GB.   Adding 3G network compatibility will cost you $130. Prices start at $499. Here is the full table:

16 GB 32 GB 64 GB
WiFi Only $499 $599 $699
WiFi + 3G $629 $729 $829

However, 3G will end up costing more due to the need for a data plan.  Mind you, there is no contract necessary, which is a refreshing change from the norm of mobile pricing. AT&T is also offering surprisingly low data plans: 250 mb/month for $15/month, and unlimited data for $30/month, opposed to the traditional $60/month unlimited for laptops.   The final hidden costs will be in accessories, most notably a keyboard dock (similar to earlier rumors), for people who don’t want to deal with extended virtual keyboard typing, and other things like cases and cords.  Expect the WiFi model to be available in March and the 3G capable one in April.

Via Engadget, image via Apple

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Jan 28 2010

Apple Announces Disappointing iPad

Today, at a special event, Apple showed off its newest creation to the world. It’s called the iPad and it’s a huge disappointment. Perhaps we set ourselves up to be disappointed because there were so many rumors about how glorious the device would be, so anything that Apple came up with would fall short of our expectations.

I think the iPad will be a failure for Apple. The main problem I see for it is that there is no market for such a device. There is nothing that the iPad can do that cannot be done by a laptop, iPhone, or iPod Touch. There is no incentive for customers to spend, at a minimum, $499 on this device.

Another problem is the storage on the iPad. It comes in 16, 32, and 64 GB sizes, priced at $499, $599, and $699, respectively. That is really not a lot of storage space, especially for music, movies, games, and other entertainment-related content.

Speaking of different versions of the iPad, it also comes in a version that has 3G connectivity. Considering that the device is meant to be portable, the 3G iPad is the better one to get. However, users will have to pay for an AT&T plan to take advantage of 3G. The plan is priced at $15 a month for 250 MB of data, or $29.99 for unlimited. For users who want to stream movies, the unlimited plan is probably the one to choose, raising the price even more.

The iPad can run larger versions of iPhone apps. In fact, Apple is going to introduce a new version of iWork for the iPad. Each part of iWork will be sold separately, costing $10 per app. There still will be no multitasking for apps—only one can be running at a time (except for apps made by Apple).

Finally, the iPad is an e-reader as well. Apple is offering a new system called iBooks which will offer content from major book publishers. This is one of the few redeeming features of the device.

Another shortcoming on the iPad is the fact that it does not support Adobe Flash, just like the iPhone and iPod Touch. When will Apple learn that we really want Flash support on our mobile devices?

I admit to being a bit surprised at Apple. Usually Apple products are better than this. The design and the name are even uninspired, to say nothing of the features. The iPad is an excellent idea that unfortunately was not realized to its full potential.

Via CNET, image via Apple.

Jan 27 2010

Apple iPad Hardware Revealed

Apple TabletThe much anticipated Apple Tablet, now officially iPad, was announced this morning by Steve Jobs. The full specifications list known thus far shows some of the previous rumors were right, while others are very surprising.

The focal point of the iPad of course is the screen, and it is packing a 9.7″ IPS display, which is a type of TFT LCD allowing for a wide angle of view. It will support up to 1024×768 resolution and will output 480p through composite video. Naturally, the iPad is inheriting a full capacitive-touch screen from it’s smaller counterpart, the iPhone.

A lot of the other features derive from the iPhone as well: Bluetooth 2.1, 802.11n WiFi, accelerometer, speaker, microphone, etc. However one truly new component is the custom processor being used for the iPad: the “Apple A4”. It is a 1.0 GHz CPU able to decode HD video and maintain a 10-hour battery-life, blowing the Tegra and Snapdragon out of the field in terms of efficiency.

The final component is the iPad’s network support. While WiFi will be standard for all iPads, there will be optional 3G provided, with AT&T being the preferred provider.  This gives the option of mobile web to iPad users should they pay the extra premium.  More details on pricing ahead.

Via Gizmodo, image via Apple

Jan 27 2010

McGraw-Hill CEO Speaks Freely About Apple Tablet

With tomorrow being heralded across the blogosphere as one of the most momentous potential product announcements of all time, a bit of a surprise occurred during a CNBC interview. The surprise was not so much what was being revealed as it was who was the one revealing it. Howard McGraw III, CEO of the famous textbook maker and financial company McGraw-Hill, confirmed everyone’s assumptions about tomorrow’s announcement while being interviewed by CNBC’s Erin Burnett:

Yes, they’ll make their announcement tomorrow on this one [tablet]. We have worked with Apple for quite a while. And the Tablet is going to be based on the iPhone operating system and so it will be transferable.

This essentially seems to be a guarantee that the Apple Tablet will be similar to a larger iPod touch. Also he stated McGraw-Hill has big plans to send its library over to whatever app store would come with the tablet. Now all that is left to do is wait for Jobs to deliver the final announcement tomorrow.

Via Gizmodo, image via Slashgear

Jan 27 2010

Apple Needs to Revamp iTunes

We are still awaiting the announcement of Apple’s tablet (Apple is on Pacific Time, keeping the rest of the United States eagerly awaiting this morning) which, according to McGraw-Hill, will run off of an iPhone-based operating system. This probably means that the tablet will integrate with iTunes.

Which brings us to an important point: Apple needs to rebuild iTunes. Yes, it is a good application, but it could be better. It uses a lot of processing power and takes forever to load on Windows (and even sometimes on Macs, or at least my Mac). It’s time for a complete revamp of iTunes. It’s slow and bloated and apparently isn’t even making any money—Apple is breaking even on the iTunes store.

Apple needs to introduce a streaming music service. It has the capability because of its acquisition of Lala, a streaming music service Apple acquired in late 2009. An Apple streaming music service could help combat illegal music downloads. Right now, an astounding 95 percent of all music downloads are illegal, according to the head of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

The Apple event today should focus on more than just introducing the tablet. Hopefully an iTunes revamp will be mentioned as well.

Via Wired, image via Apple.

Jan 27 2010

Google Will Issue Nexus One Patch

Google’s smartphone, the Nexus One, has not really lived up to its expectations. Many analysts had high hopes for the phone before it was released, but such hopes were dashed when consumers began to complain about it. The phone is the first one sold by Google itself and runs Android, the open-source mobile OS.

The Nexus One has had problems with the 3G network. It has unreliable connectivity and will switch to the slower EDGE network. Users are annoyed with this, as well as Google’s poor customer service. Luckily, there may be a solution to the 3G problem. Google has said it is going to release a patch soon that will fix 3G connectivity in most cases. The patch should be available within the next week or so.

Via Wired, image via Google.

Jan 27 2010

Apple Should Confront AT&T on 3G Problems

The iPhone is a great device. Most people who own it seem to love it. Still, it does have its problems, most of which involve AT&T’s cell phone service. Stories of dropped calls and poor reception are common.

That is why Apple’s chief operating officer’s statements about AT&T are frustrating to iPhone users. After Apple announced its earnings on Monday, a Wall Street analyst asked about Apple’s deal with AT&T. (There have been rumors that Apple will be dropping AT&T as the exclusive carrier of the iPhone.) Apple’s COO Tim Cook gave a rather disappointing response, saying that most iPhone customers are “having a great experience” with AT&T’s network. He also said that AT&T has promised to improve the 3G network.

Cook seems a bit out of touch with reality if he actually believes this. Innumerable iPhone users have complained about reception in major cities. AT&T’s network has had trouble handling the influx of data generated by iPhone use and AT&T does not seem to be making any moves to fix this. If Apple does not do something, it could lose customers to companies with more reliable networks, like Verizon.

Via PC World, image via AT&T.

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Jan 27 2010

Apple is a Phone Company

Judging by the latest figures on Apple’s sales, Apple is turning into a phone company. There’s no disputing the fact that the iPhone is popular and it is responsible for an impressive amount of Apple’s sales.

Under old accounting rules, Apple did not show most of the revenue related to the iPhone for two years, thus masking the iPhone’s true impact. But under new accounting rules everything has been revealed, and the iPhone’s influence is clear. The iPhone counted for 36% of Apple’s revenues in the fiscal 2010 first quarter. Computers and iPods were responsible for considerably less. The iPhone has been responsible for doubling Apple’s sales over the past three years. Though computer sales have increased, iPod sales have stayed the same.

There are definite advantages for the iPhone’s influence on Apple. There are many apps available for the iPhone in the App Store and the phone integrates well with iTunes. However, if sales slowed down due to competition, this could be troublesome for Apple.

Via The Wall Street Journal, image via Apple.


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