When Asus brought out the Eee PC in 2007, it had a promise of providing a stripped down laptop with a low cost. That original vision has all but disappeared in many modern netbooks, as the phrase has become ubiquitous with a portable PC with somewhere between 9-12 inches of screen space. It is not surprising to see $500 netbooks now, competing against budget-friendly 15″ notebooks.
Fortunately for businesses in the developing world, IBM, Canonical, and Simmtronics are working to reverse this trend. The new Simmbook provides a very spartan last-generation netbook configuration. You know the drill: Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz, 10″ LCD with 1024×600 resolution, the essentials. More notably, they will run Ubuntu, presumably to save cost and are being paired up with IBMs productivity suite Lotus, pre-installed. They are designed to work with IBM’s cloud solutions and are obviously very work-centric. The most important point, of course, is the price: starting at $190. That is old-school Eee PC cheap.
These are business machines and probably will not be used by many home consumers. Still, it would be nice to see this trend continue back into the general netbook market and keep the netbook from becoming a novelty “toy” computer for those who can afford it.
Via Engadget, image via Simmtronics
The epic of the JooJoo Tablet continues on, and prospects for the users that have already pre-ordered it are somewhat disappointing. Fusion Garage had planned on having the JooJoo Tablet shipped by March 29th. That date has passed, and customers have yet to hear or see their beloved internet slates. Instead, Fusion Garage says they were stuck in Los Angeles and hope that by April 1st the first batch will reach its respective owners. However, the more likely date is April 2nd, and this comes after months of delays in this whole crazy saga of CrunchPad to JooJoo Tablet.
Late pre-order deliveries, however, appear only to be Fusion Garage’s last issue. The number of pre-orders from February 11 are dismal in number. So far there have only been 90. At this rate, the JooJoo Tablet will be lucky to become a collector’s item. And Fusion Garage announced it has made a break from its original merchant, PayPal, for some other more traditional route. They seem to be suffering from major issues, and all of this may very well kill any prospect for the JooJoo Tablet to become the Linux device that goes mainstream.
Oh Google, why must you squander away the good faith you had won with the China move? Google has made public today an advertising plan known as “remarketing” that stores a history of all your visited sites in their ad network, allowing for ads to pop-up on any of the eligible sites targeted to you. In other words, if you visited product X’s site in the past, you could see an ad for it on completely unrelated web page Y.
Besides adding to the massive number of ads that already lie on the internet, this program raises some thorny questions. Mainly: is Google completely throwing out whatever shred of privacy they kept for their consumers? They already had a similar program in place called “interest-based advertising”. The difference is back then it was just categories and interests that were kept, and now it is specific individual websites that you have visited.
This is being called by some a major privacy risk. Lawmakers might decide to weigh in on whether or not the practice should be regulated. Till then, you can hope that opting out of the interest based ad service here will result in you being exempt from “remarketing”.
Up north in Vancouver, the well known computer security conference CanSecWest got off to an impressive start with its famous Pwn2Own competition. The goal each year is to take down various different platforms to highlight their security holes. And this year showed that no matter what you run, you probably are not safe.
For example, German hacker “Nils” managed to take down a Windows 7 PC which was running Firefox. Using a previously unknown hole, he took total control over the PC. Before this, Charlie Miller managed to take down a Mac OS X machine running on Safari, and Dutchman Peter Vreugdenhil took down another Windows 7 PC using Internet Explorer 8.
Most disturbing, however, was probably the attack against iPhone users. Two Europeans by the names of Vincenzo Iozzo and Ralf Phillipp Weinmann managed to lead an iPhone to a webpage where in 20 seconds the entire SMS database, including previously deleted messages, was stolen. All of the bugs were reported to the software’s creators by Pwn2Own and won’t be released until they are fixed.
After a very long development process, plagued with manufacturing problems and hassles, NVIDIA finally managed to finish its first DirectX 11 capable graphics cards. And there is one thing certain: if he was alive today and understood computer hardware, nuclear physicist Enrico Fermi would be proud to have the platform named after him. The infamously long-in-development Graphics Fermi 100 (GF100) chips that started production in January this year have finally made their way onto the GeForce GTX 470 & 480 cards.
The results are incredible. They soundly destroy their closest AMD/ATI competitor, the Radeon HD 5870, and elevate the bar to an insanely high standard. The most impressive component of this card is the Tessellation Engine, and its near-linear scaling bodies allow for a practically flawless SLI setup. The 480 has 480 CUDA cores with 1536 MB of GDDR5 RAM, while the 470 has 448 cores and 1280 MB.
While this is all very impressive, one wonders if it is actually worth buying. The power consumption on the GTX 480 is an absolute disaster, after all, requiring a 600W PSU for a single card, and a minimum of a 1000W for SLI. Power users might need to consider something on the order of a 1200W PSU. And there is still no word on OpenGL 4.0 support. All this is coupled with the fact the 480 costs $500 and the 470 costs $350, meaning the HD 5870 is far from dead. The Fermi line might need some work before it becomes practical for many people to use. This card is more like the Intel Core i7 980X of graphics than anything else.
It will be out on April 12 for those who want to play Crysis while running up their energy bill.
The world’s attention has been focused on Apple’s purportedly revolutionary iPad since its introduction a few months back. Apple, of course, managed to astound the world despite its lack of Flash support. However, there were plenty who complained about this lack of Flash, which got other tablet makers thinking how to exploit this complaint. And OpenPeak took this iPad weakness to its unfortunate logical extreme.
Behold: the OpenPeak OpenTablet 7. It is a Linux tablet running on the Intel Moorestown 1.9 GHz chip. For those of you who don’t remember, Moorestown is an Atom-derived CPU for mobile platforms like smartphones. What is more interesting, however, is the fact that the Linux base is all wrapped up under a Flash interface layer. Despite this, the UI is well polished and very responsive. The screen is a 7” 1024 x 600 LCD. There are some other interesting features like a 1080p front facing webcam, 5 MP rear camera, microSD slot, and HDMI out.
Still, to use a Flash interface is peculiar, as Flash isn’t exactly cherished for its performance abilities. Moreover, Flash is a dying technology. The Apple detractors do not claim that Flash will stay as a permanent application platform, they simply point out the lack of Flash allows Apple and software developers to remake free Flash sites into pricey apps. The OpenPeak tablet is targeted to very niche markets, namely home automation and video conferencing based on the press interviews. It will be paired up with AT&T and will probably be priced comparably to the iPad. Let’s see if it can stay alive long enough to be relevant.
Dell’s backbone to its netbook line, the Inspiron Mini 10, looks to be bringing the next generation of mobile internet to everyday users. There were hints that one day it would have WiMAX thanks to records at the FCC. Now, plans to attach that modem to an actual network have come out. The news came via CTIA and from wireless internet provider Clearwire, which will be providing a 4G-capable version of the Mini 10s for $249 starting on April 1st.
What is unusual is that Clearwire will only be offering it “through select Clear retail locations, telesales and Clear.com.” This makes the program sound a bit experimental, and it’s hard to see what the company has up its sleeve.
This news shows we are essentially beginning the 4G era. With all the tablets and the iPad offering only 3G modems and SIMs, it is interesting to wonder how long they will run without upgrading or risk becoming obsolete. Sprint has been advertising 4G for sometime, and is already putting out phones capable of utilizing it. A netbook on a 4G network might be able to survive the latest tablet storm, thanks to peoples’ insatiable desire for speed.
Via Engadget, image via Dell
Google, after months of rhetoric and final plans announced only a week ago, has officially stopped hosting a separate site for Google.cn. All people going to the old domain name are being rerouted to the uncensored Hong Kong site. This is the result of a long standing row between the world’s largest search engine and the world’s most populous country. For those of you who forgot how it all started, in January Google complained of several Chinese hackers breaking into email accounts in what it called a “sophisticated cyber attack originating from China”.
Three months and several failed negotiations between the Chinese government and Google later, Google has refused to operate in China if it needs to conform with censorship laws. The US government expressed disappointment that the issues could not have been worked out between the two superpowers. Meanwhile, China chastised Google’s decision, saying Google had violated its written promise when coming to work in China, and that it was in league with the US government.
While many bystanders and bloggers have criticized the Google decision as rash and too idealistic, I believe this is a decision that was long overdue on the part of Google. Google has today made a move that the most powerful democracies in the world have been too afraid to: snub China for its censorship and human rights record. Google was simply being used as a puppet by the Chinese regime to deflect concerns of a non-open society. Now the contradiction known as Google.cn is gone, and Google has a chance at re-attaining the “Do No Evil” motto they so dearly held to long ago.
Via BBC News
The European Union won a very decisive victory in the anti-trust case against Microsoft and its integration of Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system. The greatest spoil of war was of course the Browser Choice Screen. This gives Windows users in the EU an initial choice of web browser, rather than dropping IE on them without formal consent. Opera has already announced that it has had impressive gains in downloads across Europe. However, this trend isn’t exclusive to Opera.
Mozilla has also posted steady gains, and anticipates even more when the screen is used on new computers. 200 million computers have already used the system. And Microsoft is feeling the burn: France has seen a 2.5% drop of IE users, Britain had a 1% drop, and Italy had 1.3% drop. Still, IE holds a massive 62% market share and it will likely need some time before it is equalized out.
This is one of the better looking concepts for an Android tablet, but its not so much a concept as an actual selling product. Yes, this cute little Android machine has been released at the exceptionally low price of $155. Read that again: $155. Seriously, their site was shut down because of the overflow of orders. Here are the specifications:
- 5” LED Glossy 800×480 resolution
- Resistive touchscreen with stylus
- Samsung 6410 533/667 MHz Processor
- 256 MB DDR RAM
- 1 GB on board flash w/ included 8 GB microSD
- Android 1.6
- Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
- GSM/EVDO support
- 6 Hour Battery on Wi-Fi
Is it the best specced tablet in the market? Of course not, but with a 5” screen it is only competing with Dell Mini 5 (or now the Streak) and other MID/PMPs like the iPod Touch and Zune HD. There is an optional GPS for $25 and the GSM is an additional $35. At a total of $210, it is still very competitively priced.
There are times where it really seems as if Android tablets just grow off trees. Indian-based EAFT is providing us with yet one more of these times. The Magic Tile is another minor brand’s attempt at providing a tablet for Android to run off of. Let’s see how the specs line up for this one:
NVIDIA Tegra 2
7-Inch 1024 x 600 Touchscreen
Front mounted 1.3 MP webcam
8 hours of battery life
Not bad, not bad at all… until you look at the image. Very bad. That logo and body in general have some serious work to be done if this machine wants fit within the last decade. Still, if it’s your taste it will be coming out sometime during Q3 this year.
However, that’s not the only Android tablet news for today: Compal announced in Mumbai that it is releasing a similar tablet. The specs include a 7-inch screen, Tegra 2, 3 MP camera, and 512 MB DDR2 RAM. What it most notably doesn’t include is any form of Wi-Fi. How useful is an internet tablet without Wi-Fi, anyway?
Hacker Charlie Miller has been snooping around Mac OS X, poking at its core elements to see if there are any major flaws in Apple’s security net. In his attempts to remotely control OS X machines and steal various files from them, it appears he has racked up quite a list of problems. Rounding up no less than 20 holes, he is planning on reporting at the upcoming CanSecWest security conference in Canada. He has made several appearances there before, showing multiple flaws in Apple’s OS.
Ultimately, Miller points out that there are multiple elements in Mac OS X that put it at risk: a combination of open-source components, 3rd party closed-sourced apps, and Apple’s closed sourced pieces. He sums it up with the sentiment, “Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town.” Read, Mac users: be grateful you are such a small demographic, because otherwise you would run a serious risk of being hacked.
MSI Wind is one of the most common family of netbooks in the world. Usually most netbooks are about the same when it comes to performance, but the Wind 12 is a clear exception. Using an AMD Athlon Neo X2 L335 CPU, it makes quick work of its Atom counterparts. Its closest competition, the mighty HP Mini 311, is blown out of the water with every benchmark and test. Indeed, the current generation of netbooks cannot stand a chance against the U230, and Testfreaks’ review leaves no doubt that a departure from the traditional Intel Atom platform yields impressive performance.
What is the reason for such awesome power? It is a combination of the AMD Athlon Neo X2, dual cores at 1600 MHz, the ATI Radeon HD 3200 with shared memory, and the speedy Seagate Hard Drive. Of course, this causes a hit to battery life, leaving it at 4 hours, and a boost in price, coming out to be $479 for pre-order. At the 12.1” 1366 x 768 screen and all these other factors, one has to wonder, is this so much a high-end netbook as a low-end ultra-light notebook?
Via Engadget, image via Testfreaks
Viacom’s one billion dollar case against Google over distribution of its copyrighted video on YouTube just took a turn for the worse. Google has made the very damning accusation that Viacom actually supported in efforts to have its content put on YouTube as pirated material, only to demand from YouTube later to pull the infringing videos. If these allegations are true, they would severely case Viacom’s legitimacy in the suit that began in March 2007 against YouTube for allowing 160,000 of Viacom’s videos to be posted.
The opening briefs of the case were released on Friday, and Google posted a scathing blog entry in the Official YouTube blog about this whole case. The first portion of it is dedicated to the ideological factor of this case. It points out that when content is made, regardless of who is the maker, there is a copyright on it, and the responsibility falls on the creator to whether or not it should be legal for the video to be hosted online. The hosting service provider, in this case YouTube, does not need to make this distinction.
The earth-shattering stuff comes later on. Google begins describing a very systematic and sophisticated process used by Viacom to enhance the problem of pirated videos:
“For years, Viacom continuously and secretly uploaded its content to YouTube, even while publicly complaining about its presence there. It hired no fewer than 18 different marketing agencies to upload its content to the site. It deliberately “roughed up” the videos to make them look stolen or leaked. It opened YouTube accounts using phony email addresses. It even sent employees to Kinko’s to upload clips from computers that couldn’t be traced to Viacom. And in an effort to promote its own shows, as a matter of company policy Viacom routinely left up clips from shows that had been uploaded to YouTube by ordinary users. Executives as high up as the president of Comedy Central and the head of MTV Networks felt “very strongly” that clips from shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report should remain on YouTube.”
Already, these are pretty steep accusations which question Viacom’s rationale regarding this whole case. It gets even worse when Viacom suddenly decided to demand YouTube remove videos en masse, only to ask for some of them to be reposted. The situation is best summed up with line: “In fact, some of the very clips that Viacom is suing us over were actually uploaded by Viacom itself.” If Google can show these allegations to be true, then Viacom’s entire case might be in the trash.
The great thing about having an open source operating system is that so many different manufacturers can install it on their product and users get a wide array of choices to choose from. The not so great thing is that it might take some time before that operating system finds a champion. Well, yet another company has announced the newest fad in mobile computing: an Android tablet. German company Neofonie has plans and the oh-so necessary renders for their WePad.
The specs are not bad:
- 11.6” 1366×768 LCD Display
- 1.66 GHz Intel Atom N450
- 16 GB Flash w/ expandable SD
- 2 USB Ports
- WLAN, Bluetooth 2.1, GSM
- SIM Card Slot
- 6 hour battery life
- Flash support
Of course, the last two are snipes at their obvious competitor: the Apple iPad. Still, Neofonie wants to bring its own legitimate elements into this field. It will have a WePad App Store and be Google-certified with the Android Market. It also has a “publishing ecosystem” plan to become a mainstream eReader. Of course, as with all Android products, the most important point will be price.
Ubuntu 10.04 Beta 1 is finally out, a month before the version’s final release. Lucid Lynx, as it is codenamed, is a major release which will replace 8.04 for long-term support (LTS). That means Canonical will support the desktop version for three years and the server version for five. The most noticeable difference come in a sudden shift of theme and coloring. Gone is the famous (or infamous) brown theme we had grown up with, and replaced with a theme that is distinctly purple. This represents the beginning of a potentially different philosophy of Ubuntu Linux in general.
Aside from the surface changes, the focus of Ubuntu 10.04 is the social world. The MeMenu is supposed to integrate social networking into the operating system. Gwibber plays a much more dominate role now, providing the micro-blogging interface. Firefox now has Yahoo! as its primary search engine and homepage, GIMP has been dropped, but Pitivi, a simple video-editor, has been added. Also, the nVidia-restricted drivers have been updated, but not selected by default. Instead, Canonical is encouraging usage of the open-source nouveau drivers.
Expect the final release to be out in April, but feel free to download an ISO or upgrade your current version of 9.10.
Via Ars Technica
We all remember or at least know of the famous Microsoft anti-trust trials of the late 90s and early 2000s, and of course its result was the creation of the mandatory browser selection screen in the European Union. At first, there were questions on whether or not it would be truly a useful addition in spreading knowledge about alternatives to Internet Explorer. Common opinion held that people who hadn’t gone through the effort of finding a different browser on their own would simply pick IE and not worry about it.
Opera, however, seems to be reporting results to the contrary. According to them, a “dramatic uptake on downloads” has occurred, and they have the numbers to back it. They have experienced a 328% download increase from Poland due to the choice screen, meaning that 77% of the downloads of that country are due to the choice screen. Across the EU, 53% of their downloads come from the choice screen. It’s a shame that the US doesn’t have a similar policy.
HTML 5 has exciting prospects for web applications. It will hopefully result in the end of plug-ins, like Flash, and allow for a more universal standard across the internet. One possibility would to be able to have 3D graphics in web pages. The result could be high-end games directly available on web pages, not suffering from the performance load caused by Flash.
It is interesting to note that this announcement comes on the heels of Microsoft’s release of its new IE9 platform, which introduces HTML 5 and Direct2D hardware rendering. It showed off some very impressive SVG based demos. Google is taking the Microsoft threat very seriously, and has an added stake due to its browser based OS, Chrome OS.
It was not that long ago that Google acquired internet video giant YouTube. At a price of a staggering $1.7B, it was unsure if Google would really profit all that much from bringing YouTube under its wing. The advertising revenue from internet video is indeed massive, but it is constrained to primarily PC markets. Google wants more revenue, and it is looking at the true and tested world of television to get it from.
It was revealed that Google would be joining forces with Intel and Sony to create a set-top box called Google TV, to deliver internet content into the dens and living rooms of families everywhere. The situation is supposed to be a win-win for all parties involved. Sony wants to integrate the technology into its own TVs first, Intel would be providing the hardware such as Atom chips, and Google would have a whole new stream of advertising revenue. Furthermore, Logitech, creators of the Harmony series of remotes, is joining in with a brand new specific remote controller designed to make Google TV easy to use. It is a monumental effort, incorporating the titans of multiple fields.
Not much has been released about this project. Google TVs will naturally use Android OS and Chrome as a browser. The users could watch TV shows, stream movie rentals, interact with social networking, or surf the web. Currently, there is small-scale testing with Dish Network, and an SDK is to be released soon. Even so, Google will need to do much to prevent its product from becoming the laughing stock that is Apple or MSN TV.
It is every anti-XP’s fan favorite time of the week: when yet another interesting news tidbit marks the end of Windows XP. This week it is doubled by the fact that this tidbit it is a hope (and fear) of every anti-IE user of the world.
Microsoft released the test platform for Internet Explorer 9 at MIX 10 yesterday. Normally, the internet just does a big yawn whenever a new IE is released, as it is just a rehashing of the same old flawed and vanilla browser known as Internet Explorer 6. Microsoft has known for years that, even amongst non-geeks and home users, it was losing a significant market share, and kept mocking our intelligence with the marginally improved releases of IE7 and 8. However, a new dawn has risen over Redmond, and for once Microsoft seems to care about being relevant in the browser wars.
Internet Explorer 9 plays a major game of catch-up, implementing many overdue features. The most notable of these of course is HTML 5. HTML 5, the supposed godsend for the Internet destined to end the tyranny of plug-ins like Flash everywhere, has been sitting on Firefox, Chrome, and Safari for some time now. Still, it is good to see Microsoft joining the fray, and it is holding back no punches in updating support for the new web under HTML 5. It has weighed in on the HTML video wars, showing off H.264 support on YouTube.
Still, IE9 has one ace up its sleeve: Direct2D Acceleration. That’s right, Microsoft has drastically improved the render graphics quality and performance for IE by using hardware acceleration. The result is much smoother HTML 5 video viewing and and SVG rendering than the norm of HTML 5 browsers. There is really no comparison between IE9 and the others for rendering. However, the cost for this is using drivers that only came into play after Windows Vista. You guessed it: there’s no Windows XP support. XP has no future in Microsoft’s world, and it probably shouldn’t in yours either.
If you want to play around with the IE9 platform, feel free to go on its website. IE9 isn’t even in the alpha stages yet, and the platform just renders webpages so far and not much else. You have a pop-up box to input URLs and no forward and back buttons. Still, if you are into web development, it might be worth a look.