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Preview: Battles Without Living Witnesses

Published: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 09:31:50 CDT




Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles Pg22

Fri, 01 Jun 2007 02:58:06 CDT

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles Pg18

Thu, 29 Mar 2007 12:28:59 CDT

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles CHAPTER 2

Sat, 02 Dec 2006 11:02:06 CST

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles Pg 12

Sat, 02 Dec 2006 11:02:06 CST

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles Pg 9

Sat, 02 Dec 2006 11:02:06 CST

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles Pg 5

Sat, 02 Dec 2006 11:02:06 CST

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles Pg 1

Sat, 02 Dec 2006 11:02:06 CST

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



Battles Without Living Witnesses: Battles Intro

Thu, 31 May 2007 04:47:47 CDT

optimumwound: Someone has sold Jon Starkweather out. He goes on a fact finding killing rampage. He pops amphetamines to stay awake and arms himself to the teeth. A trail of bodies are left behind. The syndicates call a truce and combine their efforts to hunt him down.



2299Frederick County Short Sales Blog

Preview: Frederick County Short Sales Blog




Washington County Real Estate Market Report for February 2012

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 19:13:00 GMT

Washington County Md Real Estate Market Report Presented by The Highland Group R eal estate sales statistics for for February 2012 have been published by MRIS *, here are the highlights: County-wide 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $143,600 $143,600 0% Median...(read more)(image)



Carroll County Real Estate Market Report for February 2012

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 16:00:00 GMT

Carroll County Md Real Estate Market Report Presented by The Highland Group R eal estate sales statistics for for February 2012 have been published by MRIS *, here are the highlights: County-wide 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $259,900 $262,400 -1% Median...(read more)(image)



Montgomery County Real Estate Market Report for February 2012

Fri, 16 Mar 2012 14:08:00 GMT

Montgomery County Md Real Estate Market Report Presented by The Highland Group R eal estate sales statistics for for February 2012 have been published by MRIS *, here are the highlights: County-wide 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $391,600 $390,000 0% Median...(read more)(image)



Thurmont Real Estate Market Statistics for February 2012

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 20:30:00 GMT

Thurmont Real Estate market statistics provided by the Highland Group. MRIS* has published February's real estate statistics. Here is the synopsis: * * * * * * Thurmont 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $172,000 $221,600 -22% Median Price $145,000 $211,500...(read more)(image)



Mt. Airy Real Estate Market Statistics for February 2012

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 18:30:00 GMT

Mount Airy Real Estate Statistics provided by the Highland Group. Mt. Airy real estate statistics for February 2012 have been published by MRIS*. Here is the synopsis: * * * * * * Mount Airy 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $320,400 $305,000 +5% Median Price...(read more)(image)



New Market Real Estate Market Statistics for February 2012

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 17:01:00 GMT

New Market Real estate market statistics provided by The Highland Group. MRIS* has published market statistics for February 2012, Here is the synopsis: * * * * * * New Market 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $260,200 $264,200 -2% Median Price $256,000 $310,000...(read more)(image)



Walkersville Real Estate Statistics ~ February 2012

Thu, 15 Mar 2012 14:30:00 GMT

Walkersville Real Estate Market Statistics provided by the Highland Group - MRIS* has published real estate statistics for the month of February 2012 , here are the highlights: Walkersville 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $201,650 $221,700 -9% Median Price...(read more)(image)



Middletown Md Real Estate Statistics ~ February 2012

Wed, 14 Mar 2012 18:22:00 GMT

Real Estate Statistics for Middletown Md - provided by The Highland Group - Frederick Md Realtors. MRIS* has published real estate market statistics for February 20112, here are the highlights: Middletown 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $254,400 $394,500...(read more)(image)



Urbana Md Real Estate Statistics ~ February 2012

Wed, 14 Mar 2012 18:11:00 GMT

Real Estate Statistics for Urbana Md - provided by The Highland Group - Frederick Md Realtors. MRIS* has published real estate market statistics for February 2012, here are the highlights Urbana 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $373,100 $395,200 -6% Median...(read more)(image)



City of Frederick Real Estate Market Report for February 2012

Tue, 13 Mar 2012 14:45:00 GMT

Frederick Md Real Estate Statistics provided by The Highland Group Statistics for February 2012 have been published by MRIS*. Here are the highlights for the three zip codes in the City of Frederick : 21701 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $231,800 $209,000...(read more)(image)



Frederick County Real Estate Market Statistics for February 2012

Mon, 12 Mar 2012 16:38:00 GMT

Frederick County Real Estate Market Report for February 2012 provided by the Highland Group, Statistics have been published by MRIS* Here are the highlights: County-wide 2012 2011 % Change Avg. Price $230,000 $230,900 ~0% Median Price $215,000 $215,000...(read more)(image)



Mortgage Insurance Premium Will Increase

Mon, 05 Mar 2012 14:12:00 GMT

The FHA will raise the mortgage insurance premium on April 1st. The upfront mortgage premium will increase from 1% to 1.75%. The annual insurance premium will also be increased by 0.1 percentage points for loan amounts under $625,000 and 0.25 percentage...(read more)(image)



Top 10 Cities for Job Growth: We're # 2!

Thu, 01 Mar 2012 18:02:00 GMT

Employment projections have been released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in February. The total U.S. employment is expected to rise 14.3 percent in this decade. Construction jobs, however, are not expected to recover their pre-2007 levels by...(read more)(image)



Should You Upgrade Before Putting Your Home on the Market?

Mon, 27 Feb 2012 00:34:00 GMT

Serious sellers want to sell their home. To sell a home, they want to do the right things to put the home in the best position to sell. But, no one wants to spend more than they should, or invest in upgrades that are unnecessary. So how much is enough?...(read more)(image)



30-Year-Fixed Rates Vs. 15-Year-Fixed Rate Mortgages

Wed, 22 Feb 2012 14:26:00 GMT

2011 was the year of historic lows in mortgage rates. 30-year-fixed rates dipped below 4% in the Fall, and now hover around 4%. Many buyers and homeowners thinking of refinancing may not be aware that the 15-year-fixed rate mortgage has also seen historic...(read more)(image)



2300Microsoft Office 15 Technical Preview Shows a Metro Touch

 

39,389 News Articles

Although the Microsoft Office 15 Technical Preview is a desktop app at heart, it's got Metro running through its veins.

That's the main takeaway from Paul Thurrott's extensive overview of the Microsoft Office 15 Technical Preview. The preview is in private beta, with its users bound to a non-disclosure agreement, but Thurrott managed to get a copy of the software and posted lots of screenshots.

To be clear, the version of Office 15 that Thurrott examined is a desktop app. It runs in a window on the desktop and has traditional desktop icons when viewed through Windows 8's Metro Start screen. (In fact, it has 19 icons, one for each of Office's individual programs and utilities, though Thurrott thinks they'll get cleaned up for the final product.)

Still, Office 15 has plenty of Metro flavor, through the use of minimal colors, sharp edges and the same font that runs through the touch-optimized side of Windows 8. The “Ribbon,” a strip of commands first introduced in Office 2007, returns in Office 15, but it's hidden by default, adding to the software's minimalist vibe.

The addition of Metro concepts isn't just about aesthetics; Office 15 also tries to introduce some ideas from Windows 8, such as the ability to connect web services such Microsoft's SkyDrive and Yahoo's Flickr. Office 2010 has cloud integration as well, but in Office 15, these web services take more of a central role, with icons for SkyDrive and other Web locations appearing alongside those for the local machine when saving and loading files.

Microsoft also tries to accommodate tablet users in the desktop version of Office 15 with a “touch mode” that increases the size of buttons and other elements. Users can also edit Word documents in full screen mode, which should prove helpful when a software keyboard is covering part of the screen.

Thurrott didn't drill too deeply into features, but has lots of screengrabs of the full Office suite, which you can check out at his blog.

Officially, Microsoft has said little about Office 15. The company has hinted that it will be a major overhaul, with PJ Hough, vice president of development for Office, calling it “the most ambitious undertaking yet for the Office Division.” Still unknown is whether Microsoft will release a proper Metro-style app as part of Office 15.

Microsoft also hasn't announced a release date for the final version of Office 15. ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley has reported that the company is trying to finish Office 15 by year end, but the software could slip to 2013. In any case, expect a public beta--and the answers to many more questions revealed--during the summer.

Follow Jared on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ for even more tech news and commentary.



2301LibreOffice Gets a Fresh Update

 

39,389 News Articles

Just a month after the release of LibreOffice 3.5, the Document Foundation on Thursday announced an update to the software that's designed to increase the stability and security of the free office productivity suite.

Targeting individual and business users alike, “LibreOffice 3.5.1 fixes the majority of the most-important bugs identified by users and is expected to be appealing for most enterprises,” the Document Foundation said in its official announcement.

LibreOffice 3.5.1 is now available as a free download for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X. It's bit-for-bit identical to the software's second release candidate, the Document Foundation notes, so users of that version need not update.

More Than 400 Developers

While not a major release the way version 3.5 was, this latest LibreOffice update offers several key improvements nonetheless.

Fourteen core bugs have been fixed just since the software's first release candidate, which itself fixed nearly 100 more since the debut of version 3.5, according to the software's change logs.

Several of the fixes this time around address bugs that caused the open source suite to crash unexpectedly, while others bolster its security.

More than 400 code developers are now involved in the project, as depicted in the chart at left. In fact, “since September 2010, a monthly average of 20 new hackers has joined the project, attracted by the copyleft license, the lack of copyright assignment, and a welcoming environment,” said Italo Vignoli, a member of the group's board of directors.

Support Partners

The Document Foundation encourages large organizations to deploy LibreOffice with the help of a support partner to assess specific requirements, help manage migration, and provide customized fixes for identified issues.

Hiring support from an official partner also helps to support the independent project financially, the group adds.

Windows users with an early version of LibreOffice installed--specifically, one prior to version 3.4.5--are advised to either uninstall that one or upgrade to version 3.4.5 before updating to this latest release, as is anyone currently running OpenOffice.



2302Toshiba Qosmio DX730-10U review

The Qosmio DX730 23in touchscreen PC, is great for multimedia and watching HD video. Its elegant TV-like appearance will blend in nicely with a home environment, and its silver and ‘precious black’ finish also has a rather executive feel to it so it wouldn’t look out of place in an office. See also Group test: what's the best all-in-one PC?

It offers a built-in hybrid digital/analogue TV tuner and features a BD-capable drive will also burn DVDs. It also features a superior sound system with Onkyo-branded stereo speakers complemented by an internal subwoofer.

Connections are well catered for, including an SD memory-card reader and two pairs of USB 3.0 ports at the side, with an additional four USB 2.0 at the rear.

Headphone and microphone jacks are included and these double up as line-in and line-out ports so you can hook up other audio devices. Toshiba’s ‘sleep-and-music’ technology lets you use the Qosmio as a set of speakers for an external device such as an MP3 player without having to boot up the PC.

You can also connect up a game console or laptop via the HDMI input port, even if the Qosmio itself can’t use external displays.

It also comes with 6GB of DDR3 memory and a capacious 2TB hard drive – perfect for storing a large number of recorded TV shows.

This top-of-the-range version is fitted with an Intel Core i5-2450M mobile processor. This is a dual-core processor rather than quad-core as found in most of the competing PCs, and results in somewhat slower performance. With a WorldBench 6 score of 133 points, it comes in joint slowest alongside MSI’s AE2211G-011EU. However, the Toshiba doesn’t come with a discrete graphics adaptor so it doesn’t offer the gaming performance of the MSI model. It’s also considerably more expensive.

If the price of £950 is a little high for you, you may be pleased to learn that the Qosmio DX730 DX730-10U is one of six DX730 models with varying prices and specifications.

Toshiba Qosmio DX730-10U Expert Verdict »

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.

Intel® Core™ i5-2450M Dual-core hyperthreading processor with 2.5GHz / 3.1 GHz (Turbo) 3MB cache
6GB DDR3 RAM
2TB hard drive
Intel HM65 Express motherboard
4x USB 2.0 (rear), 2x USB 3.0 (side)
23-inch Toshiba TruBrite® LED, Touch screen (2 touch points), 1,920 x 1,080
Intel® HD Graphics 2000
On-board Intel HD Audio with built in Stereo + subwoofer
BD-ROM / DVD Super Multi drive combo
1.3Mp Webcam
DVB-T/Analogue Tuner
Windows® 7 Home Premium 64-bit
1x mic/line-in, 1x headphone/line-out
HDMI In
Remote control
SD Card reader
561.4 x 190.0 x 439.0 mm, 8kg

The Toshiba Qosmio DX730-10U is a great Blu-ray enabled HD multimedia centre with superior sound quality and a built-in TV tuner. It has plenty of RAM and a huge 2TB hard drive for storage, but is a little lacklustre performance-wise and lacks proper gaming hardware.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.



2303Access 16 million stock photos from within Adobe's Creative Suite

 

39,389 News Articles

Adobe Creative Suite users can now access over 16 million stock photos through a plugin from Fotolia and Silicon Publishing.

Compatible with Adobe CS5 or later, the plugin lets users browse, manage and incorporate stock photos from Fotolia.com from within InDesign, Photoshop or Illustrator.

"Fotolia is proud to be the first major stock photo agency to leverage Adobe's new CS Extension technology with Silicon Publishing. Their expertise and knowledge of the creative process is amazing, and we think all designers will benefit from this technology," said Oleg Tscheltzoff, CEO of Fotolia LLC.

The plugin is available to download now here

Fotolia, an online service that provides royalty-free images, graphics and HD videos, is also offering free PSDs from various artists each month in its Ten Collection. Each PSD is made up of over 100 layers, and has been created using several images available from Fotolia's stock image library. The next PSD will be available to download free on 10 April for 24 hours.



2304Dell M110 review

If your job requires you to make travelling presentations, you’ll appreciate being able to keep the weight and bulk of kit down to a minimum. One option is to keep everyone huddled around your laptop, but this requires a laptop with a large screen and imposes practical limitations on the size of your audience. Dell’s M110 projector is the portable alternative, an ultra-small, ultra-light projector that fits easily into your laptop bag while adding hardly any weight. Based on DLP technology combined with an LED light source, it comes with a wealth of connectivity options and features and a footprint of just 10cm square.

HDMI and VGA and composite video inputs are provided with the Dell M110, with and adaptor providing component video input via the VGA port. A propriety ‘Universal I/O connector’ sits alongside a microSD card slot and USB 2.0 port. Either of the latter can be used to supplement the unit’s built-in 1GB of storage, to let you project images, video and play music directly with no computer attached. See also Group test: what's the best projector?

The USB port can also be used to hook up Dell’s optional wireless dongle which will allow you to project directly from an iPhone or Android handset using Dell’s specially-created app. This only projects still JPEGs though.

The Dell M110’s tiny proportions won’t allow for high-brightness output, but the specified 300 ANSI lumens available are surprisingly good for a projector of this size. Provided you keep your image size towards the smaller end of its 0.76m – 2.03m range, you should have no problem viewing the screen in an office environment – although dimming the lights will help.

To adjust the screen size, you’ll need to move the Dell M110 projector back and forth as the lens has no zoom option.

Low-cost projectors often produce less than impressive colour, but the Dell M110 makes presentations look super-zingy by displaying a range of colours much wider than the capabilities of most computer monitors. However, this does mean that photos and video can look a bit over-saturated without proper calibration.

Unfortunately, selecting the projector’s sRGB display mode didn’t reduce the colour gamut at all. It did however produce the best-looking results for photos.

To test video playback quality, we hooked up an LG Blu-ray player and settled down for some Batman in The Dark Knight. This is no home-cinema projector, but the M110 produced a surprisingly watchable display. If you’re fussy you’ll notice flesh tones may be a little weird, as though everyone were suffering from a mild case of sunburn.

Video playback via USB was less successful. While you may get away with short video clips, you’re much better off using an external source to drive the video as the built-in option suffers from a reduced frame rate and is far from smooth.

Photo and music playback via USB was rather more useful, but only a limited number of file formats are supported. Notably lacking are PDF and PowerPoint, although software to convert the latter into a JPEG slideshow is provided.

Somewhat annoyingly, the M110 ships with no remote control as standard. It is instead available as one of several options. A kit of spare cables comprising VGA, Composite, S-Video, HDMI, audio and USB will cost £38.40.

You can also buy a handy height-adjustable tripod stand for £21.50 and a wireless dongle for £48. The remote control itself costs £19.20.

A two-year warranty is included in the price, which includes a next business-day exchange policy.

See also: Business Advisor

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.



2305Cisco pays $5 billion for video company buy

Cisco this week said it will acquire NDS Group Ltd., a provider of video software and content security systems for service providers and media companies, for $5 billion.

More: Top tech M&A deals of 2012

NDS is the most significant acquisition for Cisco since it bought videoconferencing leader Tandberg in 2009. It's indicative of the company's intent to lead the service provider video market, where its Videoscape initiative and Scientific-Atlanta set top boxes are targeted.

"The acquisition would make Cisco the largest provider of SP video solutions," notes Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Ittai Kidron in a bulletin on the acquisition.

It also furthers Cisco's intent to build up its software and services expertise and revenue base, areas the company has said it will place more emphasis on.

ANOTHER VIDEOSCAPE ACQUISITION: Cisco to acquire video delivery startup BNI

NDS software and services are designed to create pay TV video offerings for service providers that enable subscribers to view, search and navigate digital content on any device. Its products include set-top/DVR software, program guide, software, digital-content software, and video headend systems, and customers include Cox and DirecTV, among many others.

Cisco said NDS will complement and accelerate the delivery of its cloud-based Videoscape TV offerings, which is designed to enable service providers and media companies to deliver entertainment content.

"Our strategy has always been driven by customer need and on capturing market transitions," said Cisco CEO John Chambers, in a statement. "Our acquisition of NDS fits squarely into this strategy, enabling content and service providers to deliver new video solutions that leverage the cloud and drive new monetization opportunities and service differentiation."

Acquiring NDS will also expand Cisco's reach into emerging markets, such as China and India, where NDS has an established customer footprint, the company says.

A "significant portion" of NDS's software, services and content protection business is recurring, with long-term contracts, typically with an average duration of approximately five years, Cisco says.

The acquisition has been approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

The acquisition is expected to close during the second half of calendar year 2012, subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory review in the United States and elsewhere. Prior to the close, Cisco and NDS will continue to operate as separate companies.

Upon closing, NDS's operations, including sites in the United Kingdom, Israel, France, India and China, and 5,000 employees will join the Cisco Service Provider Video Technology Group, led by Senior Vice President and General Manager Jesper Andersen. NDS Executive Chairman Abe Peled will be named senior vice president and chief strategist for Cisco's Video & Collaboration Group, of which SPVTG is a part.

Peled will report to Marthin De Beer, senior vice president, Cisco Video and Collaboration Group.

Read more about lans and routers in Network World's LANs & Routers section.



2306Akamai takes aim at mobile content for acceleration

 

39,389 News Articles

Akamai Technologies is extending the reach of its data acceleration services to better address mobile Internet use and the delivery of content from within an enterprise data center to employees or partners in the field.

With the Aqua Mobile Accelerator service and Terra Alta, a system for enterprises, Akamai is building on its existing lineup of offerings for organizations that want to improve the delivery of content and applications. Both are being announced on Tuesday for immediate availability.

Akamai made its name by caching Web content on servers around the world, bringing that data closer to Web users on PCs so it could be delivered more quickly. Now the company is trying to address the growing use of the Internet from mobile devices, as well as the need for enterprises to provide information or applications from within their own data centers over the Internet.

Demand for mobile data is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years, fueling concern about whether carriers' networks will be able to deliver good experiences to end users. But factors other than bandwidth can also come into play when it comes to how well an application or a piece of content comes across to a user.

Aqua Mobile Accelerator is designed to improve the mobile experience but isn't aimed at carriers. Instead, it's a package of capabilities designed for enterprises delivering content to mobile devices. Currently, the mobile content experience can vary widely because it's affected by the ever-changing strength of wireless network connections and the characteristics of many different mobile devices.

The new service includes Akamai Mobile Protocol, which can sense the quality of a cellular or Wi-Fi network connection in real time and continuously optimize the connection. It takes into consideration factors such as latency and packet loss and can get data to the user faster with fewer dropped connections, according to Akamai. The mobile service also takes advantage of Akamai's caching servers to speed up performance.

Another feature of Akamai Mobile Accelerator, called mobile detection and redirect, is designed to automatically differentiate between requests coming a traditional PC-based browser or a mobile platform. Akamai's software is also designed to distinguish among different types of mobile devices.

Trulia, a provider of online real estate tools and a longtime Akamai customer, has been using Akamai Mobile Accelerator and finds that the service brings its mobile websites and apps to parity with its desktop websites in terms of performance. The company has seen its monthly unique mobile visitors grow 250 percent from a year ago, and about 30 percent of all activity now is mobile, said Lee Clancy, Trulia's vice president of consumer products.

With services such as Akamai's, mobile operators will still need to invest in faster wireless networks and fatter pipes to link those with the Internet, but what Akamai is offering to content providers could help to keep carriers' customers happy, said IDC analyst Melanie Posey.

"It's possible that you might not need to add it as quickly," Posey said. Akamai is also starting to address carriers' needs directly, announcing a partnership with Ericsson last year for including Akamai caching capabilities in that company's mobile infrastructure products.

Companies that deliver news, entertainment and applications over the Internet also are faced with a growing variety of devices that consumers may use to access that content. Besides a few major mobile OSes, subscribers may be using smartphones, small or full-size tablets, or phone-tablet hybrids such as the Samsung Galaxy Note.

"If you're a content provider, it's definitely a valuable service to you to make sure it's not just people who have iPhones who have a great experience with your content," Posey said.

Akamai's Terra Alta enterprise announcement on Tuesday marks the first time the company has offered its software for use inside an enterprise's data center, according to Neil Cohen, vice president of product marketing. Virtualization made this possible, allowing Akamai to provide its software for use on a virtual machine in a virtualized data center, Cohen said.

"We've always resided just outside of your front door of your data center," Cohen said. Coming inside the data center allows Akamai to do things it couldn't before, such as Web deduplication, he said. With Web deduplication, once something has already been sent, only changes in that object needs to be sent, reducing bandwidth consumption. In addition, Akamai Instant predicts the pages most likely to be requested next by a user, eliminating the wait for some searches, the company said.

Terra Alta works with other Akamai technologies outside the data center, making it easier to combine internal resources with those from public clouds, most of which can take advantage of Akamai's global network of servers, the company said.

Having Akamai within the data center should help enterprises better serve mobile and remote users, IDC's Posey said.

"Right now, they have a lot of end users who don't necessarily access the enterprise applications from the corporate network," she said. That can include employees as well as Web customers. "The idea is to take the enterprise IT infrastructure and extend it out to the Internet," she said.

Akamai Mobile Accelerator will be priced based on the number of mobile properties that use it for performance gain. Terra Alta will be offered in packages for accelerating three, five or ten applications.

Akamai would not specify prices for either product. Both are offered as components of managed services, which are priced according to each customer's use case, the company said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com



2307EU asked to approve UK's 'Project Oscar' mobile wallet

 

39,389 News Articles

Europe's antitrust regulators are examining whether major British telecom companies should be allowed to go ahead with plans to create so-called "mobile wallets."

The joint venture from Everything Everywhere, O2 and Vodafone U.K., the U.K.'s three largest mobile operators, would allow customers to make payments via their phone using NFC (near field communication) technology. The companies want to create a system that would store debit or credit card information on handsets and enable payment by swiping the phone against a reader at the checkout.

However, the European Commission will be examining the proposal closely following complaints by 3UK, which said the project is "discriminatory" since the three companies involved represent more than 90 percent of U.K. mobile subscribers. The Commission has until April 9 to decide whether to approve the plans or to investigate further.

A similar proposal from a group of six Dutch companies is also currently under review. The joint venture, known as Travik, has already delayed plans for its launch until 2013 as it comes under regulatory review.

The British group aims for a summer launch, but this may prove optimistic as the Commission is still trying to draw up legislation on digital payments. A first proposal is expected by the end of this year, following a public consultation that ends on April 11. Data protection and reuse is certain to be one of the concerns raised by the Commission and it will likely look for reassurances regarding open standards.

Groups in other European countries including Germany, Denmark, Hungary and Sweden will be watching closely as digital wallet projects are in the pipeline despite potential competition from Google, which launched its service in the U.S. last September.



2308Apple updates report on supplier working conditions

 

39,389 News Articles

Mike Daisey may have received his comeuppance, but Apple is pressing ahead with its efforts to improve working conditions at the overseas factories that manufacture its products.

As promised, Apple is now offering monthly updates to its Supplier Responsibility website, tracking efforts to reduce extreme overtime hours worked among employees of Apple’s manufacturing partners. The update was first noted by John Gruber at the Daring Fireball blog.

Those updates show improvement.

According to Apple, weekly data in January showed that the company’s suppliers had an 84 percent compliance rate with the 60-hour maximum workweek specified in Apple’s Supplier Code of Conduct. In February, that compliance rate improved to 89 percent across 500,000 workers—and the average employee worked a 48-hour week.

“That's a substantial improvement over previous results, but we can do better,” Apple said on its website. “We will continue to share our progress by reporting this data on a monthly basis.”

Reducing excessive overtime at Apple suppliers “is a top priority” in 2012, the company said.

Apple has been under fire in recent months for practices at factories—particularly Foxconn-owned plants in China—that make its iPods, iPads, and other products. The public radio program This American Life helped stir the criticism in January with Daisey’s account of his visit to those factories—an account the show retracted on Friday, saying it contained “significant fabrications.” A series of New York Times stories, however, documented similar troubles independently of Daisey’s efforts.

In response, Apple has already published its annual Supplier Responsibility report detailing its findings about conditions at supplier factories. The company has also asked the Fair Labor Association to conduct an indepedent investigation of the plants of its final assembly suppliers. The first full report from the FLA should arrive very soon; Apple said in February that the association would begin posting its assessments online in March.



2309Developers say application security lacking

 

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Are enterprise applications really secure? It depends on whom you ask.

A recent study by the Ponemon Institute of more than 800 IT executives found a striking disconnect between perceptions of security controls between developers and security professionals. Developers largely say applications run by their enterprise are not secure, while security professionals are much more optimistic about the security of their applications.

Seven in 10 developers say security is not adequately addressed in their applications, but only half of security officers believe that. Almost 80% of developers said they have no process, or simply an ad hoc process, for building security controls into their applications. But, only 64% of security personnel said they have no formal process for building security into their enterprise applications.

READ: Cloud-based single sign-on: A business perk for customers?

READ: Soon after release, latest iPad model is jailbroken

Ponemon says the disconnect can be costly for businesses: Nearly 68% of developers say their applications have been compromised because of a security breach.

"Gaps in perceptions between security practitioners and developers about application security maturity, readiness and accountability indicate why many organizations' critical applications are at risk," the study says. "A lack of collaboration between the security and development teams makes it difficult to make application security part of an enterprise-wide strategy and to address serious threats."

Beyond a lack of collaboration between these two groups, the Ponemon Institute points to a lack of security training, noting that just over half of developers say they have no formal training in application security.

All of this is leading to enterprises that are admittedly not in compliance with security standards. The study found that less than 15% of security officials and developers say their applications meet security regulations for privacy and data protection and information security.

Ponemon recommends that enterprises take a closer look at their application security guidelines and invest in security personnel to specifically track protocols and ensure accountability.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social media. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.



2310Qualcomm adds IPv4/IPv6 to embedded Wi-Fi chip

Qualcomm has released a low-power 802.11n radio chip designed for embedded machine-to-machine wireless communications for smart building and smart appliance applications.

The new single-chip AR4100P is a highly integrated 802.11n single-stream Wi-Fi system-in-package. It's an enhanced version of Qualcomm's FCC-certified AR4100 (announced in June 2011), now with a built-in IPv4/IPv6 TCP/IP stack.

RELATED: San Jose Wi-Fi net could mark rethinking of 'muni Wi-Fi'

The new chip, from Qualcomm's Atheros division, is aimed at a burgeoning market for wireless machine-to-machine (or M2M) communications, to network a wide array of battery-operated sensors, consumer electronics, meters, medical monitoring gear and other devices. Applications include smart energy, the "intelligent home," security and surveillance, building automation, and remote health monitoring.

The original AR4100 was the smallest FCC-certified Wi-Fi system-in-package, a 8.3mm-by-9.2mm device easily used in existing component manufacturing processes. Both chips handle the full complement of Wi-Fi services, including support for the full range of Wi-Fi security protocols. That's an important feature because the growth of such networked devices offers hackers new routes to attack networks and systems.

The radio chips are designed to work with embedded microcontroller units (MCU) that are designed for using minimal power, CPU and network resources, and that send relatively small amount amounts of data infrequently. The MCUs connect to the AR4100 family via a simple serial peripheral interface bus.

The new AR4100P is included in Qualcomm Atheros' reference design for low-power IP sensors, the SP137 development kit. Also integrated in the kit is Energy Micro's EFM32 Gecko low-energy Cortex-M3 microcontroller, an ultra-low power 32-bit MCU. That MCU runs the uC/OS-III operating system, the latest real-time kernel from embedded software vendor Micrium. The kit can be run from AA batteries, and according to Qualcomm Atheros, is easily portable to other microcontrollers and operating systems.

John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World. Twitter: http://twitter.com/johnwcoxnww Email: john_cox@nww.com Blog RSS feed: http://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/2989/feed

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.



2311Free Android Apps Packed with Ads are Major Battery Drains

 

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Free Android smartphone apps loaded with advertising such as Angry Birds may be a boon for your wallet, but the apps cost your handset some battery life, according to a new study.

Researchers from Purdue University in collaboration with Microsoft claim that third-party advertising in free smartphone apps can be responsible for as much as 65 percent to 75 percent of an app's energy consumption. The study used a specially developed tool to analyze the energy use of 21 Android and Windows Mobile apps. The researchers then published an in-depth look at the energy use over a 3G connection of five popular Android apps including Angry Birds, the Android stock browser, Chess Free (the study named it Free Chess), The New York Times, and Mapquest. The study did not cover iOS apps.

[RELATED: Which Smartphone Apps are the Biggest Data Hogs?]

When you fire up Angry Birds on your Android phone, the researchers found that the core gaming component only consumes about 18 percent of total app energy. The biggest battery suck comes from the software powering third-party ads and analytics accounting for 45 percent of total app energy, according to the study. And most of that consumption amounts to what is essentially wasted battery drain. The researchers found that more than half of the energy used to serve ads is consumed during what the researchers called the "3G Tail": energy that is still expended by the app even though the process requiring that power has finished working.

Free Chess was also a big offender when it came to advertising, with 50 percent of that app's total energy usage dedicated to ads, according to the study. The New York Times spent about 15 percent of its total app energy on user tracking, while the Android browser (rendering a Google Search and the mobile version of CNN) spent about 16 percent of total app energy on user tracking.

Although they may be cheaper to download and use, free apps packed with third-party advertising have a different cost from paid apps. Not only do they appear to be responsible for a big chunk of a free app's energy consumption, but ads are also becoming more intrusive on mobile devices. A recent PCWorld report detailed how some advertising companies are using so-called push notification and icon ads on Android to sneak ads right onto users' notification and start screens.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.



2312Interest in HTML5 growing among mobile developers

 

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Mobile developers will increasingly use HTML5 in their applications during 2012, but fragmentation will make their life more difficult, according to a joint survey from IDC and cross-platform development vendor Appcelerator.

Seventy-nine percent of mobile developers report they will integrate HTML5 in their apps this year, according to the survey, which queried 2,173 developers between Jan. 25 and Jan. 27. That is much higher than many industry observers had anticipated as late as the fourth quarter, according to the two companies.

"That was a really interesting find for us," said Mike King, principal mobile strategist at Appcelerator.

Developer plans include both pure HTML5 apps and so-called hybrid apps, which are native applications that use HTML5 from some parts, according to King.

HTML5 is still a work in progress, and fragmentation poses a challenge for developers.

"It is absolutely a problem," said King.

Appcelerator keeps track of how HTML5 is implemented on browsers that visit its Web site, and comparing a large number of variables, there is a 20 percent to 30 percent difference in how different browsers consume content.

Part of the reason why there is a big difference between browsers is that there isn't a ratified standard, according to King.

Apple is still the most popular platform among developers. Eighty-nine percent of respondents say they are very interested in developing for the iPhone, followed by the iPad, at 88 percent.

At the same time, Android is struggling. This quarter, the number of developers who are very interested in Android-based smartphones dropped to 79 percent and to 66 percent for tablets. A year earlier those figures were 87 percent and 74 percent.

King blames fragmentation for the waning developer interest in Android.

"Developers feel they don't have a single platform to write to, a single monetization model or one market place that they can utilize," he said.

Google is aiming for Android 4.0 to help decrease fragmentation, but at the time of the survey, the Galaxy Nexus was the only new phone to come with the OS. Since then, new tablets and smartphones have been announced. Also, vendors like HTC and Samsung Electronics have started to roll out upgrades for existing phones.

"[Android 4.0] is supposed to reduce fragmentation, but developers are very much taking a wait-and-see approach," said King.

Google could improve the OS' standing among developers by speeding up upgrades and curtailing some of the platform fragmentation with best practices, according to King.

"It is going to be an interesting line for them to walk, because with the acquisition of Motorola Mobility the company has an opportunity to drive best-of-breed practices. But at the same time, if Motorola is given a leg-up over the competition, then it is going to be very difficult for Google to continue to entice them to build compelling hardware," said King.

But Android's decrease is nothing compared to the drop in interest for Research In Motion's BlackBerry phones. A year ago 38 percent of developers were very interested in developing apps for the RIM OS, but this year the share was just 16 percent. Also, the interest in working on RIM's PlayBook has dropped from 28 percent to only 11 percent, according to the survey.

RIM's struggles means that Windows Phone is now the third most popular smartphone OS among developers, and is holding steady at 37 percent in interest level among developers.

Developers continue to think that the partnership between Microsoft and Nokia is a good thing, but now they need to sell more phones, according to King.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com



2313Eight online banking scammers arrested in Russia

 

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The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested eight hackers who allegedly stole US$4.5 million in the last quarter alone using an online banking Trojan, security analyst firm Group-IB announced on Tuesday.

The group comprised seven Russians and one person in Abkhazia, an independent republic in a territory claimed by Georgia. The group was first noticed in the beginning of 2010 and used a Trojan to compromise systems, said Michael Sandee,security specialist at the Dutch security firm Fox IT, who assisted in many stages of the investigation.

Apart from Fox IT, Group-IB and the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian Ministry of the Interior (MVD) also worked on the investigation. The group of eight hackers was arrested on Monday, said Aleksey Kuzmin, head of Group-IB's U.S. office.

The criminals used the Caberb Trojan, aimed at wide range of Windows operating systems -- Windows 200 through Windows 7 -- according to Sandee. "That Trojan gathers an alarming amount of data," he explained in a phone interview. Caberb logged a wide variety of passwords and login data once it installed itself on a system.

Caberb would nestle itself in computers using various browser vulnerabilities, including Java and Flash browser plugin vulnerabilities. Once inside, the Trojan would launch a so-called man-in-the-browser attack. Caberb placed itself in the browser, and was used to run a protocol sniffer, detecting passwords and login credentials. The Trojan was also able to manipulate traffic to serve phishing sites without the user knowing he was visiting one.

Together with the Caberb Trojan, Rdpdor malware was used to manipulate systems. Rdpor is a program that is able to establish a full Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Sandee said, which allowed the criminals to see what the users sees on the screen, or even take over the whole machine if the criminal wanted to.

When the group obtained login credentials for online banking sites they were used for fraudulent transactions that were sent to a specially prepared account. The scammers hacked popular news media websites and online stores, among other methods, to spread the malicious software, said Group-IB in a press release.

The eight hackers mainly targeted electronic banking systems in Russia, Eastern Europe and The Netherlands, Sandee said. They were active in The Netherlands until November 2010 and then shifted their focus to Eastern Europe, mainly because there are six authentication systems in use in that area while in The Netherlands every bank uses its own authentication system.

"The Eastern European authentication systems are not bad," said Sandee, but emphasized that the small number of systems gave the cyber criminals "more value for their money."

Both Group-IB and Fox IT noted that it is fairly uncommon to be able to arrest an entire criminal chain. In typical actions against cyber criminals, only part of a group gets arrested, Sandee noted. Some people, like the leaders, are often not arrested because they are difficult to identify, he said. Usually the criminal who operates the botnet is the easiest to find.

The effort to take down the whole group is why the investigation took about a year and a half to complete. Group-IB said that the head of the group was first identified in January 2010. The investigators put a vast amount of effort in documenting his activities, which was complicated because he was constantly on the move, traveling often outside of the Russian Federation.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com



2314IT Professionals Lack Confidence in the Security of Their Systems

 

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Would you bet money on the security of your company's systems? If your answer is no, you're far from alone. Most IT professionals lack so much confidence in the security of their organizations' networks that they wouldn't bet a dime on it, according to the results of a recent survey.

The survey data speaks to both the inadequacies of corporate security measures and to the persistence of ever-growing security threats.

When asked to bet money that their networks would not be compromised in the next 12 months, 57 percent of IT professionals polled on behalf of PhoneFactor, a provider of multi-factor authentication solutions, would not take the bet. Granted, the potential wagers PhoneFactor presented were high: The company asked respondents to bet one of five amounts on the security of their networks: $0; $1,000; $5,000; $50,000 or $1 million.

Even if PhoneFactor had offered a few wagers under $1,000, respondents probably would have remained unlikely to take the bet, judging by their answers to other survey questions. For example, 84 percent of respondents think an expert hacker could infiltrate their corporate network. Of that 84 percent, nearly a quarter (23 percent) say an expert hacker could definitely gain access to their network.

If their networks were to get breached, only 25 percent of respondents are very confident that they would know they had been penetrated.

Slideshow: The Data Breach QuizSlideshow: The Future of Malware

The prevalence of malware (including root kits, zero day exploits and man-in-the-browser attacks) is the No. 1 reason respondents believe their networks are vulnerable, according to 55 percent of those surveyed.

Not quite half (45 percent) of respondents believe employees using personal devices to access corporate systems makes their networks more prone to attacks. The sheer volume of attacks ranked third, at 35 percent, followed by the widespread use of remote network access (32 percent).

More than 300 IT professionals responded to the survey, which was conducted online in February 2012.

Meridith Levinson covers Careers, Security and Cloud Computing for CIO.com. Follow Meridith on Twitter @meridith. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Meridith at .

Read more about security in CIO's Security Drilldown.



2315Researchers discover new Duqu variant that tries to evade antivirus detection

 

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Security researchers have discovered a new variant of the Duqu cyberespionage malware that was designed to evade detection by antivirus products and other security tools.

Researchers from Symantec announced the discovery of a new Duqu driver, the component responsible for loading the malware's encrypted body, on Monday via Twitter. The driver is called mcd9x86.sys and was compiled on Feb. 23, said Vikram Thakur, principal security response manager at Symantec.

Originally discovered in October 2011, Duqu is related to the Stuxnet industrial sabotage worm, with which it shares portions of code. However, unlike Stuxnet, which was created for destructive purposes, Duqu's primary goal is stealing sensitive information from particular organizations around the world.

The discovery of the new driver is a clear indication that the Duqu authors are continuing their mission, said Thakur. "No amount of public awareness about Duqu has deterred them from using it to accomplish their objective."

"I think when you invest as much money as invested into Duqu and Stuxnet to create this flexible framework, it's impossible to simply throw it away and start from zero," said Costin Raiu, director of Kaspersky Lab's global research and analysis team. "We always said that future variants of Duqu and Stuxnet will most likely be based on the same platform, but with enough changes to make them undetectable by security software. Indeed, this is the case here."

The source code of the new driver has been reshuffled and compiled with a different set of options than those used in previous versions. It also contains a different subroutine for decrypting the configuration block and loading the malware's body.

"We have seen this technique in October 2011, when the Duqu drivers were recompiled and bundled with new encryption subroutines, following the public disclosure," Raiu said.

The Duqu variant most likely uses a new command and control (C&C) server, since all previously known ones were shut down on Oct. 20, 2011, Raiu said. However, neither Symantec nor Kaspersky researchers know the exact address of the new server, because they don't have the component that contains that information.

"We do not have the full Duqu body, only the loader in the form of the driver. The loader does not contact the C&C directly, it only loads the main body which is stored in encrypted form," Raiu said.

Even if the new server would be known, it would probably be configured in a manner that it wouldn't allow anyone to get too close to the real attackers, Thakur said. The Duqu authors are confident that the malware will remain non-attributable, he said.

The organizations targeted by the new version are also unknown at the moment, but they're probably the same ones as in previous variants, Raiu said.



2316Defiant LightSquared says FCC action would violate its rights

 

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The FCC's proposal to kill LightSquared's planned LTE network would violate the fledgling carrier's property rights by taking away its spectrum and destroying its multibillion-dollar investment in mobile broadband, LightSquared will argue on Friday in a formal comment to the agency.

Shutting down its project would also violate the public interest by eliminating a potential mobile competitor that would sell network capacity to any carrier, LightSquared said. But the prospects of LightSquared ever launching its network look dim after the FCC's action and the loss of its main partner, Sprint Nextel, which terminated a 15-year network-sharing deal with LightSquared on Friday.

LightSquared hopes to build a nationwide LTE network that uses spectrum adjacent to the band used by GPS and sell service on it wholesale to other mobile operators. Under an agreement with the FCC, it is required to make service available to 260 million U.S. residents by the end of 2015. But on Feb. 15, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission proposed indefinitely suspending the company's authority to build a land-based network and canceling a conditional waiver that is key to LightSquared's plan. It acted on the basis of tests that it said showed harmful interference between the proposed network and GPS.

The proposal kicked off a period for public comment that ends this week. On Friday, LightSquared was set to submit its own comments on the FCC's plans. The document, a summary of which was provided to reporters before the filing, includes points the company has laid out before as well as positions that sound like potential arguments in a lawsuit.

LightSquared said the FCC must consider solutions to interference that LightSquared has proposed, which the carrier charged that the GPS industry has blocked. If the FCC concludes those solutions won't work, it has to work with LightSquared and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to swap the troubled spectrum for another band, LightSquared said.

"The FCC has to exhaust reasonable alternatives before it reaches for the most extreme remedy here," said Jeff Carlisle, executive vice president for regulatory affairs and public policy, on a conference call Friday to discuss the filing.

If the FCC doesn't let LightSquared build its network, the agency will be breaching its agreement with the carrier and violating its constitutional rights, according to LightSquared.

The proposed FCC action would "strip away the approval it granted and leave LightSquared and its investors holding the bag for billions of dollars of losses," the filing said. That could violate their constitutional right to due process under the law, Carlisle said.

It's hard to predict whether LightSquared's fight will end up in court or win the company permission to build a network, but the FCC has landed in a difficult position, according to Maury Mechanick, an attorney at White & Case and a former executive of satellite provider Comsat. The agency is not only seeking to vacate a conditional waiver issued to LightSquared last year, it also wants to indefinitely suspend the company's authority to build an ATC (ancillary terrestrial component) network.

LightSquared's ATC authority was granted several years ago after a process that gave GPS vendors and other opponents a full opportunity to object to the idea of a national, land-based cellular network, Mechanick said. Though a full-scale cellular network may not have been envisioned at that time, it was allowed under the ATC rules, Mechanick said. If the FCC rescinds LightSquared's ATC authority after having gone through the full process, LightSquared might be able to argue that the agency acted capriciously, he said.

The Coalition to Save Our GPS, the main opponent of LightSquared's plan, also filed a lengthy document on Friday commenting on the FCC's plans. The industry group said the agency should act as soon as possible. The FCC has the authority to revisit its past decisions in light of new evidence, and the tests of LightSquared's network last year showed that any significant use of its band may cause harmful interference to GPS, the Coalition said.

The FCC's change of heart over whether LightSquared can build a nationwide terrestrial network will undermine confidence in the FCC's policies and lower the value of spectrum across the wireless industry through uncertainty, LightSquared said in its filing. LightSquared said it would be "one of the most disastrous 'bait-and-switch' episodes in the history of telecommunications regulation."

The filing reiterated arguments the carrier has already made repeatedly, saying any interference is not LightSquared's fault, interference tests have been flawed, and the FCC granted LightSquared's predecessor company the right to build a land-based cellular network almost seven years ago.

"This is the one place where all of those different strands of fairness, of law, of technology and policy, are being brought together in one document," Carlisle said.

In the written filing and on the conference call Friday, the company sounded defiant.

"We're right on the law, we're right on the policy and we're right on the technology," Carlisle said. "We are not going away. We're in the process of [revising] our business plan to expand our financial runway to continue to move forward over a period of quarters and years."

Despite LightSquared's charges that its rights have been violated, Carlisle declined to discuss a possible lawsuit in detail. The company still believes it can reach a resolution with the FCC that lets it build a network, and if it can't, "we will examine all of our options," he said.

Carlisle said none of LightSquared's wholesale customers has canceled its contract with the carrier to his knowledge, despite the fact that at least two -- startup FreedomPop and low-cost mobile carrier Cricket -- have signed LTE wholesale deals with Clearwire since the FCC's action last month. LightSquared's network will be available to its customers once it goes live, he said.

"We hope they will hang with us through this, as we resolve this issue," Carlisle said.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com



2317Egnyte looks to tap enterprise hybrid cloud market

There are two main types of cloud synchronization services available today, according to Terri McClure, a market analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group: consumer-focused ones, such as DropBox, and enterprise-focused ones such as Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. Egnyte, a hybrid cloud provider, is looking to bridge the advantages of each with a new offering it released today.

Consumer offerings, like those from DropBox and SugarSynch, McClure says, thrive for their ease of use, user interface functions and price. But, they're not optimized for use by an enterprise IT executive, who has concerns around management of the application, security and capacity issues.

READ: Are you paying too much for cloud services?

RELATED: How to go hybrid

AWS and Rackspace, on the other hand, can require upfront investments to synchronize an existing IT environment with those from the provider, which is traditionally done through application program interfaces, or APIs.

Egnyte is attempting to have the best of both worlds: an easy-to-use interface that supports file synchronization across a range of devices, as well as security controls and capacity allowances to satisfy enterprise IT, says McClure.

Today's announced offering from Egnyte of a hybrid cloud offering aimed at enterprise customers is just the latest in a flurry of activity in the file sharing and collaboration market in the past few months, McClure says.

Egnyte has been a player in hybrid cloud offerings for the past few years, but has mainly focused its efforts on small and midsize businesses. With today's announcement, the company has increased its storage capacity and introduced new security controls to take aim at the much larger and more lucrative enterprise class market.

"Businesses are ready for the cloud, but the public cloud is not truly prepared for business," says Vineet Jain, CEO of Egnyte.

Egnyte's strategy is centered around the idea of using a hybrid cloud offering, meaning that customers' data remains on site in their own data center, but is replicated in the Egnyte cloud, which the company supports across three data centers. Data is constantly synchronized between the on-site and cloud environment, allowing end users to access the data from anywhere on any device through an Internet connection. It's important for some businesses to keep data on site though, specifically for certain applications that need a low-latency connection to the data, or for others, such as those in the financial industry, that need data on site for compliance purposes.

Egnyte has made some specific changes to support the enterprise customer. Most notably, the company now supports the storage of up to 10 million files from 10,000 concurrent users per customer, and the company's file transfer protocol can support uploads of up to 1TB in size. Egnyte's offering does not require legacy systems to be replaced, although the company uses an on-site appliance, from NetGear or NetApp, to support the hybrid cloud model. Egnyte also announced that the data is secured using a newly announced partnership with Sophos SafeGuard.

McClure, the Enterprise Strategy Group analyst, says Egnyte's offerings add to the increasingly crowded online file sharing and collaborations market consumers and businesses can choose from. Other companies that have made recent new offerings include Huddle, Team Drive and File Track, McClure says.

"I'm really bullish on this entire market," McClure says. "Consumerization is a real driving force behind it. Workers want to be able to access information across multiple devices and have those files all synchronized. The winners will be providers that can marry the ease of control that consumer offerings have shown with the managed security controls and capacities that enterprises demand."

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social media. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.



2318Music service Deezer adds offline mode to browser client

 

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Using HTML5, music service Deezer has added an "offline mode" that can be accessed directly via a browser, the company said on Tuesday.

The new feature will at first be available on Google Chrome, but it will also be available on other browsers soon, according to the company, which didn't offer any details on timing.

The "offline mode" allows Deezer Premium+ subscribers to download their music library to their computers and to access it without being connected.

This feature also anticipates the future evolution of all mobile applications toward HTML5, which will streamline the development process for services accessible on every device, according to Deezer.

One of the advantages of Web-based applications compared to native ones is that users never have to upgrade, Deezer said.

Deezer isn't the only company that thinks HTML5 has something to offer. On Tuesday, IDC and cross-platform development vendor Appcelerator published a report that detailed a growing interest among mobile developers for HTML5. Seventy-nine percent of respondents report that they will integrate HTML5 in their apps in 2012, according to a joint statement.

Thanks to its partnerships with Facebook, Orange and Belgacom, Deezer is now available in more than 50 countries and will be accessible worldwide at the end of 2012. The music service announced its global launch plans in December with the goal of launching the service in 200 countries by June.

Unlike competing services Rdio and Spotify, Deezer won't be available in the U.S., a decision the company has attributed to market saturation and low growth forecasts. Deezer has also decided not to launch in Japan for the same reasons, the company said in December, a decision it is sticking with.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com



2319DVLA plans to give IBM offshore staff access to private data

The government may allow contractor IBM's offshore staff to access to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's (DVLA) data on all the UK's drivers, it has been revealed.

Under the plans, staff in India will have access to information including registration plate numbers, addresses and credit card details, according to The Observer.

The DVLA insisted, however, that the data on millions of UK drivers would remain in the UK.

A spokesperson for the DVLA said: "All our information is stored in the UK and there are absolutely no plans to change this.

"A proposal by TfL (Transport for London) is being considered in relation to its Congestion Charge scheme, which will allow limited and strictly-controlled access to information from abroad, but this will not extend to any offshore storage of personal data or sensitive information.

The spokesperson added: "We are seeking appropriate assurances that it will not be possible for the data to be printed, copied or amended in any way when it is accessed from abroad."

IBM staff based outside the UK are expected to be able to access the data from the 18 May, the Observer said.

The newspaper reported seeing an internal email sent by IBM's commercial manager that read: "Since go live, TfL has directed what we retain within the UK certain support roles with access to data that they considered particularly sensitive.

"TfL has recently completed a risk assessment with the DVLA and the Department for Transport (DfT) and has concluded that they no longer require this additional level of control.

"As a result we have commenced a transition exercise to manage the changes to our support organisation over the next three months."

IBM, which took over from Capita on the Congestion Charge contract in 2009, said it did not comment on "client specifics".

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union feared that the move could be an indicator of more DVLA services being sent abroad in future.

A consultation - due to end tomorrow, 20 March - is currently taking place on agency's plans to close its 39 registration and enforcement offices in the UK.

"We're doubtful it's a mere coincidence that this comes as the DVLA is planning to close these offices and we fear it could pave the way for further privatisation and offshoring of DVLA services," said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

"As well as the threat to people's jobs and livelihoods, there are serious questions about the security of the personal information the company holds and has access to."

In 2009, the DVLA signed a contract extension with IBM for IT services, which means that the original 10-year deal will run for an additional three years from 2012 to September 2015.

The contract extension was signed just six months after a glitch in an IBM-run system led to 62,000 duplicate tax discs being sent out in the post.



2320IBM unveils new analysis packages

 

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IBM has unveiled three packages of services and software to help organizations analyze their data for profit and improved efficiency.

The signature solutions, as IBM calls these offerings, go beyond generic analysis software to address three different specific tasks: detecting financial fraud, predicting consumer behavior and estimating financial risk.

"Having software is important but having industry expertise and domain knowledge is also pretty essential," said Deepak Advani, IBM vice president of predictive analytics. IBM's intent behind these packages is to combine its analytic software with the lessons it has learned installing such software for clients, Advani said.

In its work of deploying systems, the IBM services arm sees a lot of the same challenges, or patterns, across different clients, Advani explained. These packages will utilize what IBM has learned deploying such systems. It also draws from the company's considerable research expertise and IBM software, such as SPSS, Cognos, Clarity and WebSphere.

Potential customers will start with a workshop to help identify which datasets they have that can be better utilized. IBM will then work with each customer to develop an analysis system, using as much of the customer's existing systems as possible. The cost for each customer will vary depending on implementation.

IBM developed the fraud detection package to help insurance agencies, health care companies and government agencies detect phony claims before they are paid out. Typically such organizations have practices in place to identify cases of fraud, but they identify the misbehavior only after the claims are paid. An IBM system could be built that recognize the subtle hints of fraud, based on analysis of historical data, Advani said.

Another package analyzes consumer actions in order to predict buying habits and other behaviors. Such a system could provide what Advani calls "next best actions" or the next behavior a consumer might take, based on prior actions. Telecommunication companies, for instance, could use such a system to predict when a customer might drop a service, which would allow the company to make a counter-offer to keep the customer.

The third package addresses financial risk. This system is suited to chief financial officers and other financial executives. Such a system would use past performance and key metrics to predict future performance. A chief financial officer, for instance, could use the system to predict how a 10 percent dip in sales would affect the organization's finances as a whole.

Beyond these three packages, IBM is also developing a number of other customized analysis offerings, though Advani did not divulge what they might be. Overall, however, the company's work is addressing a potentially huge market. IDC estimates enterprises will spend over US$120 billion by 2015 on analysis systems. IBM estimates that it will reap $16 billion in business analytics revenue by 2015.

IBM will reveal more about the three new packages at the IBM Smarter Analytics Leadership Summits Tuesday in New York and London.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com



2321Parking Frenzy 2.0 review

Parking Frenzy 2.0 is a free parking game (yes, parking!) that is designed to work on your Android smartphone or tablet. Your left thumb controls the accelerator and you move your right thumb in a circular motion to steer the car. See Stick Cricket for Android review.

The idea behind Parking Frenzy is cute: turn something mundane that no one particularly enjoys, but everyone can do, into a game that's easy to understand - much like that silly window condensation game that people played on Playstation 2's Eye camera. The only problem is that it's pretty repetitive and ultimately, parking is pretty boring. Initially the game was fun, but that didn't last very long. Like pretty much every gaming app that has ever existed, Parking Frenzy starts off by going easy on you, providing a parking space that in real life, your nan could negotiate herself into...without her glasses on. Parking Frenzy isn't real life though and controlling the car it proves to be as tricky as Paul Daniels in a particularly tricky mood. See also Top ten Android apps.

The game isn't completely ruthless with you. You're allowed to bump your car three times while attempted to park your car. Bump it a forth time though and it's 'wrecked' and you have to restart the level. See also Samsung Galaxy S3 release date, specs and rumour round-up.

 Parking Frenzy 2.0 androidParking Frenzy 2.0

Again, like most other gaming apps, your score is determined by how quick you complete each level and how well you do on each level. In Parking Frenzy's case, this means how few times you bumped your car. Don't be too hard on yourself, if you do have a little prang, it's a tricky game!

Parking Frenzy 2.0 review

If you were getting excited; thinking this is the best thing ever, now it's time to stop. It really isn't. It's pretty basic and not overly challenging if you take your time. There are only 16 levels and if you're a real keeno you can finish this game and delete it off your tablet or smartphone within 45 mins. In fact, that's the exact thing that you should do. Download this game, challenge yourself to try and finish it in under 45 mins, then delete it off your Android and part ways with only happy memories. Its heart's in the right place after all.

Parking Frenzy 2.0 Expert Verdict »

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The idea behind Parking Frenzy is cute: turn something mundane that no one particularly enjoys but everyone can do into a game that's easy to understand - much like that silly window condensation game that people played on Playstation 2's Eye. The only problem is that it's pretty repetitive and ultimately, parking is pretty boring. It was fun for a while though.

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2322Journey review

Currently polarising commentary into breathless navel-gazing reverence and snide dismissal, laconic exploration game Journey is ill-served by either extreme of opinion. From the creators of the similarly divisive Flower, this PSN exclusive dispenses with many of modern videogaming’s mainstays in favour of dialogue-free ambience and a narrative told almost exclusively by sight and music.

Journey is not the second coming, and to approach it as such actually endangers its esoteric loveliness, but it is a well-crafted and beautiful vignette. A playthrough lasts around 90 minutes, and sees you controlling a lonely-looking robed character of indeterminate identity on an odyssey across desert, sea and snow to reach a distant mountain of similarly indeterminate but, it is implied, godly purpose.  The ultimate route is set, but split into vast, distinct places which you can roam freely and which contain gentle puzzles which exist more to encourage interaction than they do to challenge.

As your journey continues, you gain the ability to jump and hover for ever-longer periods, with the initial slow plodding across the desert quickly evolving into playful bounding and then unhindered soaring across enormous open spaces. Journey alternates between such giddy freedoms and a sense of sombre arduousness, as you struggle against the elements in pursuit of a goal that always seems impossibly distant.

The journey can at times seem hard, and lonely. Then,  in an instant, it will change. If you’re online, the game will randomly introduce another, anonymous player into your world, and you into theirs. Wordlessly, you voyage and play together – able to recharge each other’s jump power upon touching, able to spin around each other, race each other, soar in concentric circles, or able to grimly ignore and ultimately abandon each other. Express yourself however you wish, but only through actions, gestures, movement – never through dialogue.

A sort of abstract mime takes the place of communication, aided only by the ability to ‘sing’ by tapping the circle button and hoping whatever implication you intended is conveyed to your unnamed companion.

 Journey

With another there, even the grimmest parts of the journey – battered by wind and snow and strange beasts – become joyful. With another at your side, even adversity becomes a source of unspoken wonder. Wordlessly, you lead each other on, show off or seek to share excitement with a frantically-tapped song. It’s a private playground for two, a chance to celebrate in light and sound. Refuse to join this celebration, stray too far apart and you’ll fade from each other’s game. Another companion may join later, or you might remain alone until you reach whatever’s on that distant mountain.

Whatever rules and logic Journey uses to summon partners when and where is arcane, and that’s the joy of it – the presence of others is never predictable, and the appearance of someone else in your game is always unsettling at first, before the caution gives way to ambient co-operation. With no option to behave badly (other than essentially running away), the shared experience can only be a positive one.

And then it ends. Only then will you find out who came along for the ride with you and how many of them there were. Then you might play again – you will meet different companions, you might explore a different ruin there or find a jump upgrade that you didn’t see last time, but broadly the journey will be the same each time. It puts on a good show of being freeform and organic, but really its puppet-masters have a tight grip on its many and effective strings.

Whether Journey ultimately being a short-lived experience whose longevity hangs more on ambiguity than on true variety is severely to its detriment is hard to say. While it lasts it is, quite simply, lovely.  No more, no less – and perhaps that’s enough.

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2323Diablo III to launch in May

 

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Blizzard Entertainment made the launch announcement Thursday, nearly four years http://us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/press/pressreleases.html?id=4606414 and acknowledging beta testing last summer. (The last edition in the franchise, Diablo II, was released in 2000.) Players of the new game can choose to be a barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, or demon hunter--then go on an "epic quest" to rid Sanctuary of the evil "Burning Hells" in a series of intense battles.

World of Warcraft players who have subscribed to that game's "annual pass" program by May 1 can get a digital copy of Diablo III for free. (Subscribers will also have access to additional World of Warcraft content.)

Digital pre-sales start immediately, and the game will be available for the Mac, as well as several different editions of Windows. Diablo III will cost $60--or, if you're a hard-core fan, $100 for the collector's edition that includes the full game on DVD-ROM, a behind-the-scenes DVD, game soundtrack CD, a commemorative book, and other items. The game is rated Mature for bloody violence.



2324Get Genius and iTunes Match to live together in harmony

 

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In a welcome move, Apple's iOS 5.1 update included, among other features, the return of Genius Mixes and Genius Playlist for subscribers to iTunes Match. At least, in theory. Initially, we--and many others, if Apple's support discussions are any indication--found that the Genius features either didn't work or didn't even appear on our iOS devices after installing the 5.1 upgrade.

Genius, which builds a playlist full of songs that you are likely in the mood to hear based on the initial song you select, and Genius Mixes, which algorithmically assemble mixes of your music based on Apple-identified commonalities, would at first glance seem to be perfect companions to Apple's $25-per-year service for storing your music in iCloud. But, when iTunes Match first launched, customers discovered that enabling it on their iOS devices caused the two Genius options to vanish.

Then along came iOS 5.1, whose release notes stated (in part) that the update included "Genius Mixes and Genius playlists for iTunes Match subscribers." iTunes Match subscribers the world over--or at least the two of us--rushed to install the update for that feature alone. But, that update didn't immediately deliver on its promise. For one thing, Genius Mixes, which used to occupy a space on the toolbar in the iPhone's Music app, were nowhere to be found.

For another, many users noticed that when they tapped the Genius icon to create a playlist based on the currently playing song, the Music app would only report that the track "does not have enough related songs," even in cases where those users had hundred or thousands of songs in their libraries--and even when those same songs successfully generated Genius playlists in iTunes on a Mac. In other cases, tapping the newly-returned Genius icon would merely cause it flash white ever so briefly, but not to create a playlist. We both found that tapping the useless icon on our iPads repeatedly could crash the Music app pretty consistently, to boot. (That did little to lessen our annoyance.)

We suspect the issue may have had something to do with Apple's servers for Match and/or Genius as opposed to the iOS itself. As of this writing, the Genius playlist and Genius Mixes features appear to once again be working correctly for both of us, although we needed to leverage a carefully implemented, scientifically sound fix first--one that didn't work before Friday. That fix?

We turned iTunes Match off and then on again on our iOS devices a few times.

That maneuver is a pretty standard one in the world of iTunes Match issue debugging, but given that it didn't work before Friday, we strongly suspect that Apple actually corrected something on its end to get the promised Genius functionality working again. And some Macworld staffers have since found that they now see Genius working properly on their iTunes Match-using iOS devices without going through the fix, so it's possible that Apple coincidentally fixed what ailed the feature literally as we were writing this piece. If you use iTunes Match and still don't see the Genius options, here are the steps to follow:

To turn iTunes Match off, visit the Settings app and tap on Music. There, slide the iTunes Match slider to the Off position. (While you're there, note with mild intrigue that iTunes Match now has its own Use Cellular Data option, which toggles whether iTunes Match can download music when only a cellular network is available. It's totally independent from the Use Cellular Data option for iTunes in the Cloud, which controls whether your purchases of Music, Apps, and Books made elsewhere are automatically downloaded to this iOS device.) As an added precaution, switch to the Music app, and wait for all your iTunes Match-sourced playlists to vanish. Once they have, return to Settings -> Music, and turn iTunes Match back on.

Now, hop back over to Music once more, and try out the two Genius features. Does the Genius icon successfully trigger the creation of a Genius playlist? Do you see the Genius Mixes option? (If you're not sure where to look for that one: It's under the More tab on the iPhone; on the iPad, Genius Mixes appear first under the Playlists tab.) If both Genius features are working, your work--and ours--is done.

If not, repeat the steps outlined above once more--turn iTunes Match off, wait till the Music app is empty, and then turn iTunes Match on again. (You can skip the noting with mild intrigue step on this and any successive run-throughs.) In our experience, it took a handful of tries for the features to finally show up and, in some cases, it can be helpful to force quit the Music app. To do so, double click the device's Home button, tap and hold on the Music app in the multitasking bar, then tap the red minus icon that appears in the top left corner so the icon disappears.

Macworld spoke to Apple about the Genius-related iTunes Match users early in the week, and the company indicated that it was investigating our report. At this time, we haven't gotten official word from Cupertino regarding what went wrong initially, or why toggling iTunes Match off and on a few times may be necessary for some customers to reactivate Genius functionality.



2325HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition review

The HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition does a lot for a little. The moderately priced laptop boasts sturdy, striking design, powerful speakers, a generous allotment of external ports, good battery life, and an Intel Core i5 processor. It's not perfect in every way, but it's a solid laptop for the busy audiophile on a budget, with an eye for the urbane.

The Beats brand is endorsed by rapper and hip-hop producer Dr. Dre. So it should come as no surprise that style and high-quality sound components come standard. See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?

The aesthetic appeal of the slim profile and matte-black, brushed-aluminum case of our 14-inch review model can't be denied. The HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition looks and feels great. Typing on the backlit red-on-black keys is a breeze. Just 32mm thick, this 2kg all-purpose laptop slips neatly into any work-sized bag without weighing you down.

Despite its compact frame, the HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition packs a punch and goes toe-to-toe with the specs of many laptops in its class. It has a generous allotment of three USB ports (one 2.0 and two 3.0), as well as two display ports (VGA and HDMI), an SD/MMC memory card input, and an ethernet port. Beneath its pretty shell, our entry-level test unit boasts 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, WLAN, Bluetooth, an Intel Core i5-2430M processor, 6GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and AMD Radeon HD 7470M graphics.

Of the most recent all-purpose laptops we've reviewed, the HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition's battery outlasted all but one -- the Asus U46SV, which held a charge for 6 hours, 41 minutes in our lab, more than an hour longer than the dm4's 5 hours, 23 minutes.

The HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition bested the HP Envy 15, Lenovo IdeaPad U400, and Sony VAIO S Series with a moderate WorldBench 6 score of 120. The Asus U46SV earned a slightly higher WorldBench 6 score of 123.

While the Beats series of headphones are often derided by audio enthusiasts as being of middling quality while posing as high-end (I'm not disputing it), one of this laptop's clearest strengths is the built-in speakers. Aided by the Beats Audio control interface -- which is different from the much simpler Windows sound panel -- the HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition really kicks. It can get loud without sounding overdriven, and the Beats Audio control panel is a big improvement over the Windows sound controls (with a nine-band graphic equalizer and special built-in microphone filters). What would a laptop endorsed by a rap legend be without bass? The lower frequencies really hold up coming from the on-board stereo speakers with subwoofer.

It's just a shame that HP decided to position the speakers on the underside of the front of the device. That placement only serves to ensure that you will muffle your tunes when listening with the dm4 on your lap, especially in bed, and especially since the HP Cool Sense feature on our review model lets you enjoy using the laptop on your lap without cooking your thighs. I used the HP Pavilion dm4 Beats Edition to take notes at a recent presentation in a crowded theatre. I typed away with the device on my lap for nearly 40 minutes and my legs never got too hot, nor did the bottom of the computer feel all that warm to the touch when I finished.

The cheapest, £749 inc VAT configuration of the dm4 Beats Edition, however, is certainly not for gaming. It shows average performance at low resolutions (48 frames per second when playing DiRT 3 and 40 on Far Cry 2 at 800 by 600 resolution), and much poorer frame rates as the resolution increases (22 fps on Dirt 2, and 15.1 fps on Far Cry 2 at 1024 by 768). Although its LED display (backlighting is optional) is HD-capable and decent for watching DVDs (no Blu-ray option is available) and for streaming videos, the colours are bit flat.

The £899 version most popularly on sale in the UK has a Radeon HD 7470 discrete graphics card, and has better graphics performance to match.

The trackpad can be a bit jumpy, and I often found myself pressing it a bit harder than I thought I should have to in order to engage the cursor, but the ability to double-tap the upper right-hand corner of the trackpad to disable it is nice, especially since the cursor sometimes jumps around due to poor palm detection. Also nice are the unit's multitouch gestures -- pinch to zoom, twist to rotate, and up-down/side-to-side scrolling. The fingerprint reader is a cool feature as well, though I'm not sure if I'd ever use it.

See all laptop reviews



232610 hidden must know tips for the new iPad

Apple is renowned for making silky smooth software for the iPhone and iPad in iOS. However, a lot of clever features, or ‘easter eggs’, aren't well publicised, so remain undiscovered by many owners. See also: New iPad review.

We’ve put together a list of 10 neat things that the iPad can do that you might not know about. These make the tablet much easier, enjoyable and more efficient to use. Contributing author: Jim Martin.

App multitasking

If you’re frustrated with double tapping the Home button to switch between apps, there's a faster way. Simply touch the screen with at least four fingers and swipe to the left or right to switch between active apps. The apps are arranged in the same order you'd find them in the multitasking list after double-tapping the Home button, with the most recent at the far left.

iPad gesture

Multitasking bar

If you do want to see the multitasking bar, perhaps to close some apps, you can still avoid the Home button. Swipe upwards from the bottom of the screen with four fingers an the multitasking bar will appear. You can swipe downwards to close it again.

Access the home screen without the Home button

Yet another Home-button-avoidance tactic can be employed to return to the Home screen from within an app. Pinch all your fingers together (you can use four fingers if you like), and the app will disappear and reveal the Home screen.

Access the Camera Roll from the Camera app

If you've just taken a photo or video in the Camera app, you can preview it instantly without tapping the little Camera Roll icon at the bottom-left corner. Simply swipe with one finger to the right and the last photo or video will slide into view. You can keep swiping left to see previous images.

Accurately scrub or scroll audio and video

It’s seriously frustrating when you're trying to find that specific place in a video or podcast, as the scrubbing control is so coarse. However, Apple added variable scrubbing speed control without much fanfare, so chances are, you wouldn't know it was there. When you tap on the playhead marker, which indicates how far through the track or video you are, drag your finger towards the bottom of the screen. The further away from the playhead, the finer control you get when you then move your finger left or right.

When replaying a video you've recorded with the camera, this technique doesn't work. However, if you tap and hold the playhead it expands the thumbnail view at the top, giving you better scrubbing accuracy.



2327Apple flogs three million new iPads

 

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Apple has announced it managed to sell three million new iPads in three days. See also: New iPad review.

The firm said it has had the best launch out of its three iPads with the third generation. The new iPad launched on Friday at 8am means Apple has sold the equivalent of one million per day.

Philip Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple said, "The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold?the strongest iPad launch yet. Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can't wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday."

The iPad is available in more than 10 countries with 24 more to be added this Friday including Austria, Italy, New Zealand and Spain. It comes with a 2048 x 1536 Retina display, an A5X processor with quad-core graphics and improved cameras. The tablet still starts at £399 in the UK.

However, the launch hasn’t been without its problems with some users reporting an overheating issue and a new medical condition called ‘iPad shoulder’.



2328BBC iPlayer hits the Xbox 360

 

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The BBC has at long last launched its iPlayer video-on-demand streaming service for the Microsoft Xbox 360 games console.

Much like other Xbox video services, like Netflix and LoveFilm, users will need to be an Xbox Live subscriber to use the iPlayer service. It means the BBC is the only UK content provider to make its programmes free to all Xbox 360 users in the UK, according to the firm.

Daniel Danker, BBC general manager of programmes and on-demand said, "Xbox is hugely successful in the UK. Given the BBC’s goal to reach its entire audience, I’m particularly excited that the BBC will be bringing iPlayer to all Xbox users at no extra cost as part of Xbox LIVE’s free membership."

A bonus for Xbox 360 users is the added functionality gained from the Kinect sensor. Users can control the iPlayer with hand gestures and voice recognition for the first time. The BBC said iPlayer is now available on more than 450 platforms and devices.

Stephen McGill, director of Xbox and entertainment at Microsoft said, "We are delighted that BBC iPlayer is now available on Xbox LIVE. Xbox 360 was the best-selling console in the UK and globally last year, while Xbox LIVE is one of the UK’s leading comprehensive VOD entertainment services on TVs. The addition of BBC iPlayer takes the service to the next level."

This week the BBC also announced a download service to rival Apple’s iTunes. It is codenamed Project Barcelona and will allow users to purchase content to download and watch from the archive.



2329Linux 3.3 released after minor delay

 

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Version 3.3 of the Linux kernel was released on Sunday, adding support for a new processor architecture, re-integrating the Android code base back into the main line, and introducing networking improvements.

EARLIER: Linux kernel 3.3 delayed 

A virtual switching package called Open vSwitch was added to the new variant of the kernel, in a move meant to provide more robust VM configuration options compared to the existing Linux bridge. This could be particularly helpful to companies that maintain heavily virtualized environments. Combined with improvements in the way Linux handles complex network traffic, this could make version 3.3 a substantial step forward for the data center.

Support for the Texas Instruments C6X family of single- and multiple-core processors was also integrated into Linux 3.3, as was a new type of bootloader that allows a single kernel image to be used for both EFI and BIOS.

However, the most notable change may have been the reincorporation of most of the Android mobile platform back into the main Linux tree. The decision to do so was reached at the Kernel Summit in December 2011, according to LWN, which added that the move came as something of a surprise.

The full release was expected roughly a week ago, but kernel maintainer Linus Torvalds imposed a slight delay, saying that a number of minor issues needed to be addressed.

"Things did indeed calm down during the last week," he wrote in the announcement.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.



2330New, High-End Laptop Offers Linux Preinstalled

 

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There are many ways to get Linux on a laptop, and certainly the most common option is to install it yourself.

An attractive option for many reasons, though, is to buy the laptop with Linux preloaded, as I've noted before. You typically pay a little bit more, but you also avoid any headaches that may arise from getting everything to “just work.”

Buying hardware with Linux preloaded also helps ensure that usage statistics for the free and open source operating system are a little more accurate by making sure your operating system “vote” gets officially counted.

In any case, last week Linux-focused vendor ZaReason launched a brand-new Linux laptop targeting the high end of the market, and it looks pretty attractive. Here's a quick rundown of some of the key features in ZaReason's Verix 2.5, which is available now priced starting at $1,799.00.

An i7 Option

The 15.6-inch Verix 2.5's base configuration includes a 2.3GHz Intel i3-2350M processor with two cores and four threads, but i5 and i7 alternatives with up to eight threads are also available for an extra charge.

For memory, 4GB of DDR3-1333 comes standard, but it's expandable up to 16GB; the default hard drive offers 250GB and 5400 RPM, but upgrades include a 300GB Intel SSD. Nvidia's GTX 580M serves as the video card with 2GB of DDR5 video RAM.

A bright LED backlit display offers 1920-by-1080-pixel resolution, while a subwoofer and speakers on both sides of the keyboard promise quality sound output. Bluetooth, 802.11 B/G/N WiFi, a 3.0 megapixel webcam, and a combo CD-RW and dual-layer DVD-RW drive are also included.

Numerous Linux Possibilities

Ubuntu 11.10, Debian 6, Linux Mint 12, and Fedora 16 are among the operating systems that can be preinstalled; alternatively, the machine can also be purchased with no operating system at all.

The Verix 2.5 certainly isn't the cheapest laptop out there, but it offers a number of advantages that could counterbalance that price.

If you're a Linux fan and are in the market for a high-end laptop, this could be a good one to check out.



2331Linux 3.3 released, integrates Android code

 

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Version 3.3 of the Linux kernel, now available after a short delay, includes kernel code from Android as well as an upgrade of networking features and support for an additional processing architecture.

The latest version of the Linux kernel was supposed to have been released about a week ago but at the time another release candidate was needed to fix issues related to networking, memory management and drivers. That work is now done, and the new kernel is available for download, Linus Torvalds, creator of the operating system, announced Sunday.

The big news in version 3.3 is that Android features are again part the Linux kernel, after the two camps had a falling out a few years ago.

The integration work will allow a developer to use the Linux kernel to run an Android system; to develop drivers for either the Android kernel or the Linux kernel; and to reduce or eliminate the burden of maintaining independent patches from release to release for Android kernel developers, according to the Android Mainlining Project.

In future versions of the kernel, the work on integrating Linux and Android will include the addition of better power-management features, according to Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman.

But Android code isn't the only addition in version 3.3 of the Linux kernel.

The kernel also integrates Open vSwitch, which is a multilayer virtual switch licensed under the open source Apache 2.0 license. It can forward traffic among different virtual machines on the same physical host and traffic between virtual machines and the physical network.

Linux can now also run on Texas Instruments' c64x and c66x processors, which can be used in, for example, printers, mobile base stations and medical diagnostics equipment, according to the chip maker.



2332Crackle app review

Crackle is available on Android tablets and for iOS and, on paper, sounds quite good. But beyond the headline claim of being able to offer Hollywood movies and full-length TV programmes is a very thin set of content. At its launch on Android (in conjunction with Sony and following a five million-downloads success on iOS) in mid-2011, Crackle boasted of more than 200 films and 1000 full-length TV programmes. There’s far less than this now. See also See also Samsung Galaxy S3 release date, specs and rumour round-up

We used Crackle on our Sony Tablet S running Android 3.2. Crackle crashed and left us with a splashscreen advertising the 20th anniversary of Disneyland Paris (we’d seen the trailer for this several times as it preloads whenever you try to watch a film, so were pleased to discover that most times you can click on the default sixth-of-the-screen viewing area ad it brings up a web page for Disneyland that you can close and your chosen programme then immediately starts – click the fullscreen option to the right). See all tablet reviews.

When we got programmes to play, the video quality was a disappointment, with blocky artefacts and jerky panning shots. Cartoons were a better bet, with Sin Creator Frank Miller’s Creatures Great and Small the best. Even here, the resolution was limited though. And many of the American sitcoms and Japanese anime offerings were rather young for our tastes. The Three Stooges plays well, and there’s a handful of behind the scenes making of programmes (DVD extras, we assume) but the rest of the offerings are simply clips with links to buy the full version from Amazon. Should you deicde Crackle is for you, it’s worth creating a free account so you can keep tracks on your viewing history and other personalised details. Visit Crackle - TV & Movies for Android review

Crackle app Expert Verdict »

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Size: Varies depending on platform - on average, less than 5MB
Available for iOS tablets and smartphones, Sony Tablets and smarthphone, Android Tablets and Smarthphones

If you’ve a teenager to entertain, handing them the Crackle menu may divert them for a while at no expense to you; otherwise, move on. There’s little to see here.

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2333Gamification driving corporate sustainability initiatives

 

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Gamification could be the key to driving sustainability strategies within organisations, by encouraging employees to engage in social competition with each other, rather than seeing corporate environmental initiatives as a chore.

Speaking at the Digital London conference this week, Gerd Leonhard, futurist and CEO of The Futures Agency, said that over the next decade, society needs to make the shift "from Ego to Eco".

"Global warming constitutes the biggest market failure in the history of capitalism," said Leonhard. "The world is over-heated, over-spending and over-crowded, and a continued focus on growth alone may well kill us."

He said that we are now moving from the "age of the network" to the "age of the networked", where the concerns of the masses overtake the concerns of the one percent at the top of the economic pyramid. Leonhard identifies this as a major trend in business, energy and in politics.

"Our entire system of economics and energy used to be based on systems that you had to invest in to build - and those were based on a closed system," he said. "Now, because of the internet, systems are opening up and we can be decentralised. It's no longer important that you own the power plant, because if you have a distributed network of three million wind turbines you can do the same thing."

Building on these ideas, software company CloudApps has created a business application called SuMo (Sustainability Momentum) which leverages the "networked" generation's fascination with gaming and social media to drive enterprise sustainability. This is particularly aimed at businesses that have committed to the the government's CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme.

According to CloudApps CEO Peter Grant, most companies' sustainability strategies consist of creating informative posters and sticking them around the office. However, this has very little impact and no longevity, according to Grant.

SuMo is a mobile application that sits on the Salesforce.com platform, and aims to appeal to four main categories of gamers - achievers, explorers, socialisers and killers. Developed in collaboration with Global Action Plan, it works on the basis that employees in a company can earn points and rewards by being more eco-friendly.

Employees are provided with real-time progress updates on their phones or tablets, via scores that indicate if an employee will meet their targets. These might include reducing their carbon footprint, energy consumption, waste, or by inputting the number of hours they have committed to volunteering.

Gamers move up through the levels and gain badges for their virtual trophy cabinet. They can also compare their progress with that of friends and see where they are on a leader board. Organisations can choose how to reward employees that hit their targets - for example, they might offer a bonus, an extra day off, or name them employee of the month.

"For the first time, a consumer-led revolution is leading the business world," said Grant. "What we're doing at CloudApps, effectively, is bringing together social networking, mobility and gamification to solve sustainability issues."

Employees can also get tips on how to meet goals from Global Action Plan and add their own suggestions, on which colleagues can vote. These include steps such as using video conferencing rather than travel, car-pooling schemes or reminding workers to switch off computers overnight.



2334Bharti Airtel to move Africa tower sites to solar, wind

 

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Bharti Airtel's Africa division has announced that by 2013 it will have moved away from the use of diesel at tower telecom sites in its 16 operations on the continent and instead use an energy mix that will include solar and wind energy.

So far, Airtel has reduced the number of tower telecom sites running solely on diesel by more than 50 percent.

"This milestone is the result of significant steps by Airtel taken to ensure that we reduce our fuel consumption and that we play our part in conserving the environment," said Eben Albertyn, Bharti's chief technical officer.

Albertyn said Bharti's first priority is to reduce the number of sites that are completely reliant on diesel generators.

"We are doing this by connecting these sites to grid electricity in areas where this option is feasible," he said. "Where it is not, we are exploring alternative forms of power supply, which include Hybrid battery banks and solar/wind power."

Hybrid battery banks collect the excess energy produced by the diesel-powered generator in a battery that powers the site once the generator in switched off.

According to a company statement, the Indian telecom operator has moved 60 percent of its towers from diesel to hybrid battery banks. Bharti Airtel said that it has already made significant strides in using solar panels to power sites in select markets.

"Over the last two months, 105 solar sites have already been set up in Nigeria, reducing the use of diesel generators from 24 hours a day to a meager 3 to 4 hours," the statement reads in part.

In Africa, no other practice in the mobile telecom industry is more environmentally harmful than powering several hundred thousand of off-grid base stations by burning diesel fuel. One single diesel-powered base station can consume about 20,000 liters of diesel per year, and spew tons of carbon emission into the atmosphere.

Beside the environmental cost, high diesel prices get factored into what the users has to pay per phone call.

Over the last year, Airtel has reduced the number of telecom sites running solely on diesel by overcoming the challenges of lack of grid connectivity through what it calls innovative energy models such as hybrid battery banks.

By 2013, Airtel aims to completely eradicate the constant use of diesel to power its network.

"This means no telecom site of the company will rely solely on diesel power 24 hours a day," said Michael Okwiri, the vice president of corporate communications at Airtel Africa.

Joseph Kanyamunyu, the Airtel Uganda corporate affairs manager, said the company runs more than 700 tower sites. Ninety percent of the towers run on diesel, Kanyamunyu said.

Airtel Uganda spends over 1 billion Uganda shillings (US$400,000) on fuel per month. "The major challenge with the tower sites is vandalism, where people beat up the guards and steal the hybrid batteries," Kanyamunyu said.

Hybrid battery banks have helped reduce diesel use by up to 14 hours a day. Close to 60 percent of Bharti Airtel's telecom sites in Africa are now powered using the hybrid model, resulting in a major reduction in emissions and operating costs for the company.



2335Microsoft deploys global system to gain clearer picture of carbon impact

Software giant Microsoft is hoping to gain more insight into its carbon footprint by rolling out a cloud-based monitoring and analytics system from CarbonSystems across its offices around the world.

The company, which has 640 buildings in 112 countries, is replacing a variety of "homegrown" IT solutions and databases that it had developed to track its environmental data.

Microsoft collects data from all business stakeholders and sources - including smart meters, energy providers, suppliers, waste processors, internal business systems and paper-based documents - to report its carbon emissions, energy and water use as part of the independent Carbon Disclosure Project.

It said that the CarbonSystems Environmental Sustainability Platform (ESP) Cloud application will allow it to streamline the tracking and reporting process of the data, and give it a more in-depth and real-time picture of its environmental impact.

"We're excited about the opportunities to integrate powerful analytics that add intelligence to our existing systems, helping us to uncover even more opportunities to understand the impact of our operations and identify areas where we can improve," said Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft.

With the wide range of data sources, and due to the scale of the company, Bernard said it "made sense" for Microsoft to adopt a flexible, scalable cloud-based solution like CarbonSystems.

He declined to reveal exactly how much data will be collected through the platform, but as an indication of the scale of the data, Bernard said that a recent project undertaken at Microsoft's corporate campus in Redmond, Washington to make the buildings more energy efficient resulted in more than 500 million data points being gathered and processed each day.

The CarbonSystems platform will be rolled across Microsoft's business over the next six months.

"We anticipate that we will see a fairly quick and favourable return on investment," said Bernard.



2336A Laptop Battery Owner's Guide

 

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Does your laptop battery give out a lot sooner than it used to? Are you lucky to get an hour or two of work done before you need to start searching for an AC outlet? Sounds like it's time to think about replacing the battery.

Get reader for sticker shock: laptop batteries are expensive! Prices vary from one model to another, but it's not uncommon for new power packs to sell for $100 or more. I've seen some as high as $150. When you consider that brand-new laptops now sell for as low as $300, that can be a tough pill to swallow.

Whether you’re already in the market for a replacement battery or just concerned about the inevitable day when you will be, here are three things you should know:

1. Most laptop batteries start to fail in 1-2 years. This varies depending on your usage, of course, but the average laptop battery is good for around 400 recharges (a.k.a. cycles). After that, it starts to lose its capacity to hold a charge.

That’s why the battery that once gave you, say, 3-4 hours’ worth of runtime now peters out after just 1-2 hours. And after a few years, you might be lucky to get an even an hour.

2. You can extend the life of your current battery. If you use your laptop as your primary desktop PC, you may be wasting battery cycles by leaving it plugged in all the time.

The solution: pop the battery out until you actually need to go somewhere with your laptop. As long as the latter is plugged into an AC outlet, it doesn’t actually need the battery.

Trust me on this: I’ve seen fairly new batteries that could barely last half an hour, even though the laptop rarely went anywhere. When in doubt, pop it out.

3. Investigate third-party alternatives. When you do end up needing a replacement battery, you don’t necessarily have to buy one from the laptop manufacturer--paying top dollar in the process.

Instead, search the Web for the laptop make/model and "battery" to see if there are less-expensive third-party options. If your system is a popular model, there almost certainly will be.

Also, be sure to check out Dr. Battery’s Advanced Pro Series. These replacement batteries--available for a huge range of laptop models--promise 800 recharge cycles (meaning they should last twice as long as your current battery) and come with a two-year warranty. Plus, they’re priced fairly competitively at $88 and up.

By the way, you should always, always, always recycle old laptop batteries. Stores like Best Buy, Lowe’s, and Staples have bins or kiosks where you can drop them off.

Okay, your turn: Have you shopped for a replacement laptop battery? If so, how much did you pay? Were you able to find any cheaper alternatives? Tell me your battery stories in the comments!



2337Dell XPS 14z review

Laptops with 14in screens are relatively unusual in our part of the world, where 15in laptops are king. In Asian and Far Eastern markets, though, the 14in laptop is massively popular. 

But if there ever was a 14in model to excite a western audience, the Dell XPS 14z is surely it.

Taking plenty of inspiration from Apple's MacBook Pro, the design of the XPS 14z is modern, stylish and robust. The anodized aluminium chassis looks smart and the rounded edges add to the sleek appearance. 

When it’s opened up you'll find a backlit keyboard that offers plenty of room for even the most inaccurate of typists, while still fitting in large speakers either side. We had a minor issue with the keyboard; the keys’ font, though modern, doesn't seem quite in keeping with the rest of the design.

Looking up from the keyboard, you'll spot what is probably the Dell's real achilles heel - its screen. The 1366 x 768 resolution is meagre in comparison to other models - the XPS 15z we tested had 1920 x 1080 resolution - but definition is reasonably sharp and clear. 

The colours look washed out, but it’s the glare from the glossy display that really irritated us. Reflective screens do not equate to comfortable use in most normal lighting conditions.

But we did appreciate how it takes up almost the whole width of the chassis, so you're not left with a wastefully wide bezel. This means that the 14in screen can be fitted in to a chassis that's only 10mm wider than the 13in MacBook Air.

The diminuitive frame and weight of just under 2kg mean that the XPS 14z is easy to carry around, even if it is far from attaining 'ultraportable' status. It should stand up to a battering if you do spend a lot of time on the road, though, and we're sure it'd be able to take the odd bump in its stride. The screen hinge looks particularly robust.

Blessed with a second-generation Intel Core i7 processor, the 2.8GHz i7-2640M with Turbo Boost 2.0 technology (to push it to 3.5GHz when needed), and 8GB of RAM, the XPS 14z has more power than you can shake a stick at. 

A WorldBench 6 score of 143 is highly creditable, and though the nVidia GeForce GT 520M graphics card could only hit average frame rates of 46fps in FEAR at maximum settings - far from the best score we've seen - this is still quite respectable.

For entertainment purposes, the lo-res screen and absence of Blu-ray drive means HD video is not on the cards. Sound quality is pretty good though. It's more of an all-rounder that will offer decent performance and a good turn of speed in any task you should choose to set for it, rather than an out-and-out gaming, multimedia or work-focused laptop.

The Dell has got a very capacious battery, lasting nearly 7 hours (406 mins) in our MobileMark 2007 Productivity tests. Given the quality and power of components this battery has to support, this is impressive. 

Connectivity options are decent, with two USB ports - one of thee USB 3.0 - located at the back of the unit, as well as HDMI, Mini DisplayPort and gigabit ethernet. On the left-hand side you'll find a mic input and headphone jack as well as a multi-format card reader. 

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.



2338New Verizon CEO got $16 million pay raise in 2011

Verizon chief Lowell McAdam saw his compensation more than triple after being named CEO last August.

According to a definitive Proxy Statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday, McAdam received a total compensation package worth $23.1 million that included a $1.4 million salary, $18.75 million in stock awards and $2.36 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation. In 2010, when he was still working as Verizon's Chief Operating Officer, McAdam received a total compensation package of nearly $7.2 million that included a $913,000 base salary, $4.3 million in stock awards and $1.74 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation.

MORE ON TECH CEO SALARYS: Tech's highest-paid CEOs, biggest raises and smallest salaries 

STILL MORE: CEO salaries: 10 travesties, trends and token gestures

McAdam's increased compensation is largely in line with the compensation received by outgoing CEO Ivan Seidenberg in 2011. In his last year on the job, Seidenberg received a compensation package of $26.5 million that included a $2.1 million salary, $19.5 million in stock awards and $3.5 million in non-equity incentive plan compensation. McAdam's compensation is also slightly more than the $22 million compensation package received by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson in 2011.

McAdam received his big pay raise at a time when he was publicly arguing that workers in Verizon's unionized wireline business segment needed to accept benefit cuts in order for the business to remain competitive. Verizon's attempts to implement benefit cuts resulted in 45,000 Verizon workers briefly striking last summer in protest. During the strike, McAdam wrote a letter to AT&T's management emphasizing the need for sacrifice on the part of wireline workers.

"It is clear that some of the existing contract provisions, negotiated initially when Verizon was under far less competitive pressure, are not in line with the economic realities of business today," he wrote. "As the U.S. automobile industry found out a few years ago, failure to make needed adjustments -- when the need for change is obvious -- can be catastrophic."

In 2010, the top five tech CEOs in the United States earned an average compensation of $42.42 million. Oracle's Larry Ellison topped all tech CEOs with a $70.1 million pay package, followed by Apple CEO Tim Cook ($59.1 million), outgoing IBM chief Sam Palmisano ($31.7 million) and AT&T's Stephenson.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.



2339Samsung, RIM Face Patent Suit Over Emoticons

 

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Samsung and Research in Motion are being sued for supposedly infringing on another company’s patent, yet another example of why our current patent system desperately needs a revision.

The patent, "Emoticon input method and apparatus," (U.S. Patent No. 7167731) was issued in January 2007. As its title suggests, it basically details the process of allowing users to choose emoticons from a list of preset smiley faces, instead of forcing them to type out the emoticons one character at a time. From the patent text:

"It is known that for many users, their email and instant messaging communications (also referred to as textual or non-verbal communications) often involve the use of emoticons, such as the 'smiling face' or the 'sad face.' However, few email or instant messaging applications offer any assistance to a user to enter and use emoticons in their communications."

The patent goes on to mention that some apps do try to help out the user by suggesting characters after the user types a particularly leading character (such as suggesting a ")" after the user types a ":") but this method suffers from "a number of disadvantages." For example, "only a handful of these emoticon forming character sequences are supported" and thus, "virtually no assistance is provided to a user who chooses to be creative, and uses an unconventional sequence of characters to form an emoticon."

The patent describes how the patented invention will fix this: with a button that, when pressed, pops up a menu of preset emoticons from which the user can choose. The patent is for the button, not the method of choosing emoticons.

The patent was initially granted to Wildseed Ltd. in 2007, an AOL-owned start-up. The patent now belongs to Varia Holdings, which is likely related to Varia Mobile, a company spun-off from AOL in 2007. And of course, now Varia Holdings is suing Samsung and RIM, claiming that both companies have several phones that infringe on the patent, including the Samsung Acclaim, Captivate, Epic, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S and Transform, and the BlackBerry Bold, Curve, Pearl and Storm.

Samsung tried the same thing with Apple in December. Samsung also holds a patent related to the method of entering an emoticon on a mobile device, and it used this patent in one of its many suits against Apple.

Follow Sarah on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.



2340Facebook faces antitrust suit from advertisement-sponsored skins developer

 

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Sambreel Holdings and two subsidiary companies that offered advertisement-supported skins for Facebook profile pages filed Monday an antitrust lawsuit against the social networking company in a U.S. federal court, its attorneys said.

The lawsuit charges that Facebook and third-party developers, that have their applications on Facebook, refused to deal with advertising partners that placed their ads on the browser-based PageRage application.

The social networking company also allegedly scanned computer users and demanded that they remove PageRage and the entire Yontoo platform offered by Sambreel, before accessing the Facebook site.

Sambreel in Carlsbad, California, offers software that is used to deliver advertisements. Users of the free PageRage will see additional ads placed by the company while browsing Facebook, it said on the PageRage website. These ads are not the responsibility of Facebook, it added.

Launched in October 2008, PageRage initially included the browser add-on along with an application that operated on the Facebook Platform.

By 2009, Sambreel was asked by Facebook to remove the application from its platform, according to a copy of the complaint on the website of Kotchen & Low, one of the law firms representing Sambreel in the case. Sambreel thereafter removed the application from the Facebook platform.

Facebook made it clear that it did not object to the browser add-on and even offered suggestions on how Sambreel could operate PageRage without the application, according to the complaint.

Between July 2009 and October 2010, PageRage grew significantly, to the point that it had over 1 million users per day and its revenue consistently exceeded US$1 million per month. At that point, Facebook's attitude towards PageRage changed, according to the complaint.

By the middle of July 2011, PageRage is claimed to have consistently had more than 4 million users per day. From Facebook's perspective, Sambreel had grown into a legitimate competitor in the sale of online display advertising impressions, leading Facebook by mid-2011 to allegedly boycott Sambreel's advertising partners, and demand users to remove Sambreel software, according to the complaint.

Sambreel's largest PageRage advertising partners, accounting for roughly 80 percent of the PageRage advertising revenue, are said to have ceased doing business with it.

Within two weeks of Facebook allegedly pressuring users, Sambreel is said to have lost more than one million users of its products. Facebook agreed to stop its demands on the users only after Sambreel agreed that it would no longer advertise on PageRage, and on Dec. 22 last year Sambreel took down all PageRage ads and stopped generating any revenue through PageRage, it said.

Since the start of 2012, Sambreel claims to have terminated 124 employees and contractors in San Diego County, which was more than half its workforce, stopped the development of new products, and suffered significant financial losses.

The law firm also said it filed a motion for preliminary injunction before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California to prevent Facebook from requiring Sambreel's advertising partners to boycott Sambreel and to prevent Facebook from scanning the computers of users, and forcing them to uninstall Sambreel's applications before they are allowed access to their Facebook accounts.

The plaintiffs hold that PageRage does not alter the programming of Facebook's computers or interact with its computers in any manner. Instead, PageRage operates by adding layers to the web browser residing on its users' computers, the complaint said. The designs added by PageRage are visible only to individuals who have installed the Yontoo Platform and enabled the PageRage application, it added.

"We believe this complaint is without merit and we will fight it vigorously," said Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes in an email.

The social networking company lists PageRage and other Sambreel products like Buzzdock and DropDownDeals among known adware programs on its help site.

The Kelly Law Firm in Tempe, Arizona, described PageRage as adware in a blog post in October. PageRage does not make actual changes to Facebook's site itself when it changes the social networking site's appearance on participating users' computers, and merely tweaks the way that Facebook looks when using a particular browser, it said. "It appears unlikely, then, that Facebook would have any grounds for legal action against PageRage's developers," the law firm added.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com



2341New iPad in pictures

 

Take a look at the pictures we took at the new iPad UK launch

Before we start, you should know that if you've held or seen an iPad 2 before then you're not going to notice an awful lot of difference in the physical appearance of the new iPad. It's layout is pretty much the same; but the new iPad is just a little bit thicker and heavier.

The real difference that the new iPad has in terms of external appearance, is its Retina display. 

Scroll down to the bottom to see our proffessional snaps of the new iPad.]

See also: New iPad review.

Visit Group test: what's the best tablet PC?

New iPad Display

The new iPad's display boasts 2048 x 1536 pixels, which means, assuming you hold the new iPad at 15in distance rather than the 10in of a smartphone like the iPhone, you get what Apple calls a Retina display. Which in turn means it has Pixels so tightly packed you simply cannot perceive that you’re looking at an LCD display composed of little pinpoint elements. Take a look at What's new in iOS 5.1?

To see photographs and high-definition video rendered large on the new iPad's 9.7in IPS screen with this kind of flawless quality is a new delight to the eyes.

Read Apple launches new iPad: full details

And new iPad launch: as it happened.

New iPad in pictures

The 2048 x 1536 Retina Display in all its glory

 

Camera

When you couple the Retina Display with the new iPad's an 8Mp sensor, taking a picture with the iPad is like looking through an empty picture frame. 

New iPad in pictures: Camera

The new iPad is the first Apple tablet that can be your primary camera.

 

iLife

Apple has completely revamped its iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand iPad apps. The new apps are truly impressive and are now all completely geared towards touch operation.

New iPad in pictures: iLife

Updates to the iLife suite of apps for iOS include new orchestral strings in GarageBand

Thicker and heavier

And there’s a fraction of a mil extra thickness. That extra 0.6mm, you really won’t notice it; unless perhaps you have a super-skinny case from the last gen that you want to try with the new iPad. We’ll have to see if any such cases are affected enough to make them too tight to use now.

New iPad in pictures: Thicker

 Apple iPad 2012 body: the new iPad is just like the iPad 2 but 0.6mm thicker 

The only real clue that you’re handling the new iPad: it’s fractionally heavier at 662g, where iPad 2 is 601g.

New iPad in pictures: Back

  New iPad looks much the same as iPad 2 (minus the '2')

And here's some more we took in our studio

new iPad 3 white background

iPad 3 white background

new iPad white background

new iPad 4g white background



2342Intuit wants suit over 'predatory' TurboTax fee tossed

 

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Intuit this week asked a court to throw out a class action lawsuit brought by two US taxpayers who claim their use of the TurboTax Online tax-preparation service resulted in a usurious and "predatory" fee.

Tasha and Fredierick Smith used TurboTax Online in February 2011 to file their 2010 tax return and Intuit charged them $86.90 for the tax-filing services, a fee the Smiths' opted to have taken out of their refunds, according to a complaint they filed in January in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Intuit also charged them a $29.95 "Refund Processing Fee" that set up a direct-deposit account, in which the U.S. Internal Revenue Service deposited their federal refund about two weeks later, according to the suit.

That fee amounted to a "refund anticipation loan," a "predatory" financial instrument from which companies like Intuit make ample profits, according to the suit.

"Thus plaintiffs paid $29.95 for an approximate 14-day loan of $86.90," it states. This resulted in an "exorbitant quadruple-digit interest rate" that was in violation of California's usury laws, according to the suit.

The Smiths also used TurboTax Online for tax years 2008 and 2009, and similarly deferred paying the preparation fees, resulting in the "exorbitant" $29.95 charge, it adds.

Their suit asks the court to recognize class-action status for themselves and other taxpayers who used the service. It seeks unspecified compensatory and statutory damages as well as an injunction against Intuit.

But in a motion to dismiss the suit filed on Monday, Intuit argued the Smiths' claims have no standing.

For one, "plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that the Refund Processing Service made available on Intuit's website is a 'refund anticipation loan' that violates various consumer credit statutes," Intuit said. "But merely calling something a refund anticipation loan does not make it so."

"In fact, the Refund Processing Service is nothing like a refund anticipation loan because it is neither a loan nor does it provide money to a taxpayer in anticipation of a tax refund," the filing adds. "It is merely a convenient bank service that allows taxpayers to deduct certain fees after their tax refunds are received from the IRS."

In addition, the Smiths had the option of paying for their tax-preparation fees with a credit or debit card but chose to have the cost deducted from their returns instead, the motion adds.

Intuit isn't directly responsible for the fee at issue in the case, the motion states.

"What Plaintiffs challenge--and all that they challenge--is a separate fee for the second option that was charged not by Intuit, but by a third-party bank that assisted them with the transaction," Intuit said. "To pay the TurboTax fees from their tax refunds, Plaintiffs entered into a separate contract with a bank to create a temporary bank account. The bank then received the refund from the IRS, deducted the TurboTax fees and the [$29.95] fee for electing this payment option, transferred the appropriate amount to Intuit, and paid the balance to Plaintiffs via direct deposit to their bank account."

Intuit's website describes the particulars of this fee "in plain language," the motion adds.

The Smiths in fact "got precisely the benefit of the bargain" and don't allege they misunderstood the Refund Processing Service, Intuit said. But now the couple wants the court to penalize Intuit on grounds the service "was mislabeled under technical consumer credit statutes," the motion adds.

"If Plaintiffs truly believed they had been wronged, one might expect them to have sued the banks that actually provided them the Refund Processing Service and charged them the fee," it states. "But the banks are heavily regulated under federal law, and they have arbitration provisions in their contracts. As a result, Plaintiffs have resorted to suing Intuit."

Intuit is asking the court to dismiss the Smiths' suit with prejudice, meaning it could not be brought again. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for June 1.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com



2343AT&T exec Cicconi again bashes FCC

You don't have to listen to AT&T executive James Cicconi speak very often to figure out that he's not a big fan of the current Federal Communications Commission.

Cicconi, who serves as AT&T's senior executive vice president for external and legislative affairs, strongly criticized the FCC Tuesday during the Free State Foundation's fourth annual Telecom Policy Conference. Cicconi has been a persistent critic of the current FCC's decisions and has further stepped up his attacks on the agency's policies after the FCC helped kill AT&T's proposed $39 billion merger with T-Mobile late last year.

BACKGROUND: FCC chief declares AT&T/T-Mobile merger a turkey, prepares it for slaughter 

MORE AT&T FCC BASHING: AT&T chief bashes FCC, pleads for more spectrum

Among other things, Cicconi said that the FCC had subjected AT&T to "an arbitrary process" during the attempted merger and said that the FCC's authority needs to be re-examined in light of its recent decisions.

"Do we need two agencies reviewing mergers?" Cicconi asked rhetorically. "We learned last year that the [U.S. Department of Justice] is capable of killing a merger if it wants to."

Cicconi attacked the FCC in AT&T's public policy blog late last year after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski submitted a proposal for an administrative hearing on the merger that would have forced the two companies to defend their merger plans before an administrative law judge. The FCC under Genachowski had contended that the proposed merger would not be in the public interest. Cicconi argued that the commission's analysis of the merger was "so obviously one-sided that any fair-minded person reading it is left with the clear impression that it is an advocacy piece, and not a considered analysis." Cicconi also accused the FCC of cherry-picking its facts to justify its decisions and of treating "its own speculations as if they were fact."

Cicconi continued his war against the FCC in February when he responded to objections voiced by former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt to proposed changes in the FCC's authority to conduct spectrum auctions. Among other things, Hundt objected to proposals that would have barred the FCC from designating spectrum blocks for unlicensed use and would have restricted the commission's ability to bar individual companies from acquiring spectrum in auctions in the name of competitive balance.

"Despite Reed Hundt's recollection, the FCC's track record on auctions is not an unbroken string of successes," Cicconi wrote. "In fact, Hundt's tenure saw perhaps the biggest single fiasco of this sort, the PCS C Block auction. In that situation, the FCC used its discretion in a way that set aside valuable spectrum for 'designated entities', and excluded otherwise qualified companies from bidding. Over half of the 493 licenses from that auction were later returned to the government for non-payment, and the licenses of the largest winner, NextWave, were tied up in bankruptcy litigation for years."

Cicconi's criticisms of the FCC have been echoed by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who earlier this year accused the FCC of trying to "pick winners and losers rather than let the market work."

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.



2344Atos launches university-accredited information management course

Atos, the IT services company, has partnered with the University of Derby Corporate (UDC) to set up the Atos Information Management Academy.

The academy, introduced in December 2011, is designed to help Atos employees and other IT professionals interested in information management gain a professional qualification while they work.

Topics covered by the course include personal development, data management and business intelligence (BI). In addition, students will be able to get hands-on experience of using BI and data management tools as part of the course.

Consultants from Atos' Information Management Practice deliver the course via classroom training sessions. Students will also have access to the university's online content, and content from e-learning courseware provider SkillSoft and Atos' major supplier partners.

It takes between six and nine months to complete the course, which includes three to four months comprising residential courses and work-based application. The course is the equivalent of half a final year of a degree.

So far, 12 Atos business technologists have completed the course. Between 50 and 100 graduates or IT professionals, with an interest in specialising in information management, are expected to take the course annually.

IT companies are becoming more and more involved in the development of courses that equip students with the business and soft skills - as well as the technical skills - they need to be ready for the workplace on graduation.

Sector skills council e-skills UK developed the Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) degree in collaboration with more than 60 employers, including BT, HP and Logica for example.

The degree is designed to develop graduates who have the variety of technical, business and interpersonal skills to find employment at leading firms.

Meanwhile, HP recently launched an academic partnership programme, HP Institute, which also aims to equip students with business-ready IT skills.

The vendor aims to partner with UK schools, colleges and universities to deliver a curriculum that will improve the IT skills of more than 20,000 people over the next four years.



2345Bowdoin students' love of Ocarina music app hasn't crashed the Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi use has exploded on college campuses, and none more than Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

The latest fad on the Bowdoin campus with its 1,800 students is playing the Ocarina, a mobile app that turns the iPhone into a musical instrument. The user "blow" into the instrument by using the microphone as the mouthpiece and fingering "keys" on the touchscreen.

The original Ocarina app is more than three years old. At Bowdoin, the app is becoming a potential Wi-Fi network hog as students share their tunes wirelessly and listen to tunes in real-time from players around the world.

What might be slightly unusual about Bowdoin is that the college's CIO admires the Ocarina app and the interaction between students that it fosters. He stands in contrast to the many CIOs in colleges and businesses who are pulling their hair out daily over network crowding from video and music streaming and are struggling to cope with it.

"The dramatic part is when you see all those people using that [Ocarina] app around the world at the same time, and then you [wirelessly] listen in to them playing and practicing," said Bowdoin CIO Mitch Davis. "It binds one to a community of people you don't even know, but you share a similar desire and experience in a very unique way. This one idea will spawn thousands of ideas and many more apps."

Davis sees the big picture, where the campus Wi-Fi supports the teaching mission. "When I started here eight years ago, they were seeking ubiquitous wireless to change the college, so we created a new initiative of a technology culture to match the academic goals," he said.

The Ocarina app "is just a small device, but you can tap into 100,000 people practicing with it all over, and it is sort of changing the way we use the network," Davis said. "Why shouldn't we see what the world is doing?"

But Davis is far from a dreamer. He has guided the installation over the Christmas break of a Wi-Fi upgrade using Cisco gear that cost the school more than $1 million. About 425 of Cisco's latest 3602 access points were installed in about two weeks, he said.

A set of management tools that Cisco announced Tuesday will give Davis and his team better insight to the Wi-Fi network. "We can manage the network with much more fluidity than in the past," he said. "Before, we were more reactive and now we're going to be more active about who is online and adding apps and seeing an area of the network needing more [bandwidth]."

One new tool from Cisco will allow IT staff to view an entire wireless network alongside a wired network. "Anything that can concentrate our network into a single pane is a good thing," he said.

The college's 1 GB wired backbone has 15,000 ports and connects the Maine campus to a point on the Atlantic Ocean and to New York City. But Davis sees the Wi-Fi's ubiquity as making the biggest social impact.

The 3602 AP is modular, allowing support for future upgrades to the upcoming 802.11ac wireless standard, Davis said. Today, the new 802.11n service is superior to a previous-generation Cisco Wi-Fi network, and even makes it possible, through triangulation of signals, to bring a signal into an older campus building with four-foot-thick stone walls where signals didn't reach before.

Davis evaluated Cisco's product along with other major Wi-Fi vendors and found it could perform better, including the ability to reconfigure a signal. "A group of students all converged on the chapel [where there wasn't that much traffic and only one AP] to make connections and when they all flipped on their devices they were able to use them," he explained. "The ability of the network to reconfigure itself on the fly was pretty cool."

As with many campuses, videoconferencing is becoming a big bandwidth drain, vying with the Ocarina app in popularity. "Videoconferencing is a big deal here, and students use it as if its nothing, walking around and talking into a laptop even when they go into the restroom," he said with a chuckle. The only restriction on videoconferencing might have to be what's mannerly, not the technology.

Analysts have described Cisco as a leader in Wi-Fi deployments, not just in numbers of installations, but in terms of the ability to manage Wi-Fi networks.

Maribel Lopez, an analyst at Lopez Research, said the latest tools will offer identity-based network access control, so that IT managers will know who the network's users are and what devices are being used.

The management controls will also allow an IT administrator to know what apps are allowed on the devices and what data in the network can be accessed by a user.

In other words, controls that a college would care about.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed . His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com .

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about wireless networking in Computerworld's Wireless Networking Topic Center.



2346Government kicks off NBN video conferencing pilot

 

39,389 News Articles

The Federal Government has kicked off a video conferencing pilot over the National Broadband Network (NBN) which aims to give regional Australians increased access to services such as Medicare and Centrelink.

The trial will offer customers access to services under the Department of Human Services (DHS) portfolio which is part way through consolidating Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency.

A spokesperson for the DHS told Computerworld Australia that consultations with customers began this month, while the first three pilot sites -- Sorrel, Tasmania, Armidale, NSW and Toowoomba in Queensland -- are scheduled to begin offering services in July.

According to the spokesperson, the pilot will run for a period of between two to three years with the government planning an evaluation of the program in 2015.

Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr, said the pilot would focus on improving the DHS' service to Australians.

"This pilot will be particularly beneficial for people in regional locations or families and customers facing social disadvantage who may find it otherwise difficult to get to a DHS Service Centre," Carr said in a statement.

Carr said the pilot would be designed, and sites identified, through consultation with customers, third parties, staff and key stakeholders.

Computerworld Australia is waiting for further comment from the DHS on the pilot.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU



2347PC Advisor today - top technology news, reviews and tips, 20/03/2012
"Misco"
Misco is a leading online IT reseller to the private and public sector. With over 25 years experience, and a large portfolio of products, solutions and services; Misco can help streamline your business, maximising IT budgets and saving valuable resource.



2348PC Advisor today - top technology news, reviews and tips, 19/03/2012
"Misco"
Misco is a leading online IT reseller to the private and public sector. With over 25 years experience, and a large portfolio of products, solutions and services; Misco can help streamline your business, maximising IT budgets and saving valuable resource.



2349PC Advisor today - top technology news, reviews and tips, 16/03/2012
"Misco"
Misco is a leading online IT reseller to the private and public sector. With over 25 years experience, and a large portfolio of products, solutions and services; Misco can help streamline your business, maximising IT budgets and saving valuable resource.



2350Apple to be top mobile processor company, In-Stat says

 

39,389 News Articles

Apple is an iconic consumer electronics company with a string of massively successful products, but it could also become the world's largest mobile processor company by the end of the year, according to a study due to be released by In-Stat later this week.

Apple was the world's second largest mobile processor company behind Intel in 2011, benefitting from growing smartphone and tablet shipments and a meltdown in the PC market, according to In-Stat. If that trend holds and Apple's iPhone and iPad shipments continue to grow at an unprecedented pace, Apple will likely overtake Intel as the world's largest mobile processor company by the end of this year.

Apple does not have a large gap to overcome. The company last year shipped about 176 million processors in devices such as the iPad and iPhone, representing a 13.5 percent market share. Intel took the top spot with 181 million processors shipping in mobile products such as laptops, a 13.9 percent market share.

"Apple's continued success of the iPhone and iPad, as well as the stronger growth rates of the smartphone and tablet markets than PCs" will help catch up to Intel, said Jim McGregor , chief technology strategist at In-Stat and author of the report.

Apple designs chips with ARM processors, which are found in most smartphones and tablets today. Intel's processors are used in some tablets, and the chip maker has virtually no presence in the smartphone market. Intel hopes to fight ARM's domination with a low-power Atom chip code-named Medfield, which will be used in tablets and also in handsets from Lenovo, Motorola and ZTE later this year.

The study also accounts for mobile processors in portable media players such as Apple's iPod Touch, handheld gaming devices from Nintendo and Sony, and e-readers. However, the study does not count processors in desktops and servers, a market dominated by x86 processors from Intel.

But as mobile devices grow, the emergence of Apple as a processor company will matter even more to a company like Intel, which is struggling to establish a presence in the smartphone and tablet market, McGregor said. The smartphone and tablet shipments are already outpacing servers and PCs combined in units shipped, and the gap will grow even greater in the coming years, McGregor said.

Earlier this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said it was only a matter of time before the tablet market surpassed the PC market in size, citing research firm Gartner's projection of tablet shipments reaching 325 million by 2015.

Apple serves a captive audience by using its A4, A5 and A5X mobile processors in its own devices, but that should worry Intel especially if Apple starts using its own processors in the MacBook Air laptop and other devices, McGregor said.

Mac computers currently use Intel chips, and the companies share a delicate relationship as partners and competitors. Apple's switch to homegrown technology in Macs could hurt Intel's chip shipments, McGregor said. There are rumors of Apple switching over to homegrown chips based on ARM in the MacBook Air at some point, though analysts say the possibility is remote in the near term due to technical and performance issues on ARM.

But Intel is taking protective action by pouring millions of dollars in the development of ultrabooks, which are thin-and-light Windows laptops that PC makers are pitching as an alternative to the MacBook Air.

"Why do you think Intel is putting so much into ultrabooks? It is not only to compete against tablets, but to offer competition to Apple, which could switch to the company's own products eventually," McGregor said.

Apple has also provided a boost to the ARM camp, which is also looking to challenge Intel in the PC space. Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS will work on the x86 and ARM architecture, and companies like Qualcomm are looking to introduce ARM-based PCs as an alternative to Intel-based PCs.

"The more successful Apple is, the more credibility it adds to the entire ARM camp and the more competitive the ARM camp becomes as a whole," McGregor said.

ARM is on the rise as x86 declines in the mobile processor market, according to the In-Stat study. Following Intel and Apple in 2011 mobile processor shipments were Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and Samsung, which are all ARM licensees, while x86 chip designer Advanced Micro Devices took sixth place.

But questions remain on whether ARM processors will match Intel's Core processors on performance, McGregor said. Microsoft's Windows 8 seems to run better on tablets as opposed to PCs which could help ARM, but ultrabooks with Intel chips will look more like convertible tablets in the future, McGregor said. There are also driver and application compatibility issues facing Windows 8 on ARM.

But the impact of Apple as a mobile processor company will be felt as long as the iPad and iPhone shipments grow, McGregor said.

"It will interesting to see how things play out over the next few years, but it will be the consumers that ultimately decide the fates of the companies and technologies involved," McGregor said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com



2351With tech breakthrough, Seagate promises 60TB drives this decade

Seagate announced it is the first hard drive maker to achieve a density of 1 terabit (1 trillion bits) per square inch on a disk drive platter.

The technology used to achieve the benchmark, which Seagate said it would introduce in products later this decade, will also lead to the production of 3.5-i. hard drives with up to 60TB of capacity.

Seagate reached the areal density milestone by using heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), which the company patented in 2006.

At the most basic level, HAMR uses nanotube-based lubrication to allow the read/write head of a disk drive to get closer to the surface of a spinning platter in order to store more data.

Using HAMR technology, Seagate achieved a linear bit density of about 2 million bits per inch, resulting in a data density of just over 1 trillion bits, or 1 terabit, per square inch -- 55% higher than today's areal density ceiling of 620 gigabits per square inch.

"Hard disk drive innovations like HAMR will be a key enabler of the development of even more data-intense applications in the future, extending the ways businesses and consumers worldwide use, manage and store digital content," Mark Re, senior vice president of Heads and Media Research and Development at Seagate, said in a statement.

With an areal density of 620 gigabits per square inch, today's 3.5-in. hard drives have a maximum capacity of 3TB. Laptop drives, or 2.5-in. drives, top out at 750GB or roughly 500 gigabits per square inch.

The first generation of HAMR drives, at just over 1 terabit per square inch, will likely more than double the latter capacities - to 6TB for 3.5-inch drives and 2TB for 2.5-inch models.

HAMR has a theoretical areal density limit ranging from 5 to 10 terabits per square inch, enough to enable 30TB to 60TB 3.5-inch drives and 10TB to 20TB for 2.5-inch drives.

Prior to HAMR, the most significant breakthrough in drive density was perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), which Seagate and Hitachi use in their drives today. That technology was introduced in 2006 and is also used in magnetic tape cartridge production. PMR basically stood bits upright on a platter's surface so they could be packed closer together.

PMR technology is also expected to allow companies to reach the one terabyte per square inch milestone in the next few years, but that will also mark the technology's upper limits, Seagate said.

For an analogy of how densely HAMR technology can pack data bits together, Seagate looked to the Milky Way, saying the technology can already store more bits per square inch than there are stars in the galaxy. It's estimated there are as many as 400 billion stars in the Milky Way.

Just as PMR had its challenges with overcoming disruptions caused by bit magnetization years ago, HAMR technology also faces significant hurdles. As drive manufacturers pack more bits per square inch on the surface of a disk platter, they also tighten the data tracks, the concentric circles on the disk's surface that anchor the bits. The challenge as those tracks tighten is overcoming magnetic disruption between the bits of data, which causes the superparamagnetic effect, causing bits to flip their magnetic poles resulting in data errors.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com .

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com .

Read more about storage in Computerworld's Storage Topic Center.



2352Plustek OpticFilm 8100 review

Where once dedicated film scanners were in rich supply, these days their numbers have thinned somewhat, with former big players – like Nikon and Minolta – now leaving this area well alone. 

That’s good news for Plustek, which has continued to bring out new models, such as the 7200 and 7600 over the last few years. 

Many a decent flatbed scanner can turn its hand to 35mm slides and negatives. However, the Plustek OpticFilm 8100 is aimed at those who need high quality, but don’t necessarily have huge sums to spend.   

The OpticFilm has a smartly coloured dark blue coat, and makes a rather exotic addition to your desk. Its footprint is considerably smaller than that of a flatbed, and while the 272mm depth is similar, its width measures a mere 120mm. 

Slides are clipped into one of two plastic slide holders, and these holders are then inserted into the side of the 8100. One can hold up to four mounted slides, the other for filmstrips of up to six frames.

You’ll have to make sure you have at least 175mm of airspace either side of the Plustek.

The mechanism is basic compared to older models from other manufacturers, although it does mean there’s little to break down on the 8100. 

The holders are sturdy enough, and for now at least, replacements are easy to obtain. The need to manually guide makes the Plustek unsuitable for scanning bulk slides.

The Plustek OpticFilm 8100 isn’t about scanning at speed, more about quality of image. Resolution goes up to 7200dpi. This sounds very impressive – and, compared to many flatbed scanners, it remains a searing figure.

It's worth noteing that the majority of Plustek models (some of which have been around since the middle of the last decade) have offered this same 7200dpi resolution. 

So 7200dpi was always significantly superior to the figures boasted by Nikon and Minolta models; and the Plusteks have shown again and again that they fare extremely well on quality. 

Nonetheless, it would be nice to see some rise in this figure at some point. The dynamic range of 3.6 hints at the Plustek’s attention to colour depth, and, as we shall see, this can supposedly be extended further still.

Two main sets of software come with the Plustek. The Presto titles are cheap and cheerful (not to say a trifle clunky), but will suffice for basic scans. A small icon on the taskbar allows you to adjust the default settings, and you can then hit the QuickScan button and have the Plustek work on the current slide without having to worry about any other menus. 

Scan times for most of the resolutions are fairly modest. The lowest setting of 600dpi produced a finished 2.2MB image within 36 seconds. This moved up to 45 and 53 seconds for 2400dpi and 3600dpi slides respectively. 

Only at the highest resolution of 7200dpi (where the file consumed 300MB) did the time go out to a rather long-winded 2 minutes and 17 seconds. The quality of these slides was incredibly good, with blades of grass beautifully rendered even at the lower resolutions. 

Presto’s enhancement tools, however, are very limited, and those wishing to harness the true power of the Plustek will find the SilverFast SE Plus 8 software package to be their main port of call. 

SilverFast SE Plus 8 is far more complex than Presto, but the WorkFlow Pilot does a good job of taking you through the process, and there are some invaluable tools available. 

The NegaFix option, for example, really did enhance the quality of our negative film scans. Even more useful is the MultiExposure facility, which scans the slide multiple times at various exaggerated exposure levels, and then uses this information to create a hybrid that benefits from superior dynamic range – supposedly this boosts the figure from 3.6 to around 3.9. 

We couldn’t testify as to whether the 3.9 range is achieved, but greater attention to details and handling of extreme shades was certainly evident. 

This comes at quite a cost in time, as it doubles the scanning time. Indeed, with most of SilverFast’s enhancement features switched on, the highest resolution scans require in excess of 10 minutes, and even a simple 600dpi scan took up a 1 minute and 6 seconds.

There are some features this model doesn’t come with. Should you be prepared to spend around £400 on the Plustek 8200i Ai, you’ll get an enhanced version of SilverFast. 

The 8200i Ai comes with IT8 colour calibration, while iSRD (infrared Smart Removal of Defects) should prove more effective at removing dust and scratches than the slightly underdone tools offered with the 8100.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.



2353Canon Pixma MG4150 review

This new multifunction Canon Pixma MG4150 from Canon offers printing, scanning and copying, delivered within a smart polished black design. It’s stylishly curved and looks good enough to fit into any living room or home office. 

Canon makes much of its new FastFront design. This mainly affects the method of loading in the paper. Inkjets and MFDs traditionally have a stack of paper loaded into a feeder that protrudes from the back of the printer. In the case of the MG4150's FastFront feature, though, the input tray is located at the front of the printer - directly above the output tray. 

The main strength of this arrangement is to save space on your desk. However, it also means that paper dropping into the output tray can get mixed up with the blank sheets located directly underneath. And since the output tray is itself rather flimsy and lacks depth, there's little to stop newly printed sheets tumbling into the bottom tray. 

We were a little concerned at the durability of the rather brittle output tray. FastFront also means that ink cartridges are replaced from a compartment at the front. However, the cartridge loading mechanism wasn't very easy to use, and we found ourselves having to lift up the printer in order to get a good look at what we were doing.  

This isn't a great problem, since the Canon Pixma MG4150 is rather light. But it did rather put the kibosh on the vaunted ease of use of the Canon.

A 3in colour display is built into the front. This is nicely illustrated, with a number of intriguing features. 

The system gives you plenty of tools for manipulating photos, making photocopies, and printing out templates (graph or manuscript paper, for example). You can even tap into eco and quiet settings. However, while it's very nice graphically, the MG4150's system isn't quite as easy to use as it might be.  

The screen isn't touch-sensitive, but you are presented with a wide range of different buttons. Options on the screen are chosen using the three buttons directly below the TFT. In addition, you also have a multidirectional control pad, along with a variety of different select keys. 

Moving between all of these buttons isn't as intuitive as it should be. We felt a simplified control panel might have improved the ease of use. 

The Canon's connectivity options are wide-ranging. Besides memory cards, USB, and 802.11b/g/n wireless, the Canon can also link up with Android, iPhone and other portable devices. Even Sony Playstation 3s can be hooked up. And the MG4150 embraces Cloud Computing, letting you access the Canon Image Gateway. 

Copying and scanning facilities are good. The Canon's scanning lid is lightweight and probably won't stand up to prolonged use. It is highly adjustable, though, and expanding the scanning component to accommodate large books is very straightforward. Colour reproduction is strong.

On the face of it, the MG4150 isn't the speediest of printers. At its fastest setting, it turns out pages of text at just 8.6 pages per minute. However, even in this basic mode, the quality of the text is quite strong. 

The middle mode sees speed fall slightly to 8.1ppm. This figure is very competitive with the competition. Characters are fairly well defined for an inkjet. Even two point font sizes are mostly clear and easy to make out. There's the occasional blurring on some letters. Mostly, though, clarity is good.

The best mode isn't significantly better, and on the whole, the Canon gets nowhere near to laser quality. Nonetheless, for an inkjet the Canon is good. 

It also comes with auto duplexing. On fast and standard modes, speed drops to 4.8 and 4.1ppm respectively.

Truthfully, speed isn't quite high enough to make people want to use the auto duplexing. But should you be economising, the option is there.

Colour reproduction is excellent. It turns out adequate speeds - 3.8, 2.5 and 1.4ppm at Fast, Standard and Best modes respectively - and even at its fastest the colour is vibrant and attractive, with only a slightly pale sheen detracting from the overall effect. 

In the Standard mode, the level of detail is very strong, and the images are beautifully textured. Use the Canon with photo paper and the results can be stunning. 

Running costs are adequate for colour, and the Canon costs around 4.5p for a page of colour. This compares very favourably with the Epson Stylus SX525WD, for example, although it can't compete with the Kodak Hero series. 

This Canon is not such good value for black-and-white work – 2.8p is quite expensive for text.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.



2354Oki C530dn review

Rather different in appearance to the Kyocera Mita FS-C5250DN, the Oki C530dn throws out the layers of midnight blue, instead plumping for a colour scheme that pairs a rather lighter grey with a bright cream. The effect is much cleaner, and at just just 242mm tall the Oki's low-slung appearance is far less imposing than the 397mm-tall Kyocera, helping it to blend in nicely.  

The Oki C530dn also benefits from a boldly marked control panel, with clearly labelled buttons and a simple pair of lights. There's very little here to confuse, and the Oki is less forbidding than a good many of the other high-end printers on the market.

Of course, part of the reason for it seeming less formidable than the Kyocera is, quite simply, because it is. You miss out on the immense capabilities of the FS-C5250DN. Take the paper handling. The standard input tray is a 250-sheet version – highly capable and found on many a laser in this feature, but it simply doesn't measure up to the Kyocera's hefty 500-sheet version. 

The additional multipurpose feeder is one of the best we've seen, and can take as many as 100 sheets. 

However, the maximum paper input of the Oki C530dn is more limited, and you can only push up the Oki to 880 sheets. This is still very strong, but for those who may need the very best paper handling they can find, the Oki comes a poor second to the meaty Kyocera Mita FS-C5250DN.

It's also worth noting that the Oki C530dn's drawer wasn't as rugged as the Kyocera's, and a couple of times we had to give it a strong shove in order to get it to slot into place.

Like the Kyocera, the Oki C530dn comes with 256MB of memory as standard, although in the case of the Oki this can only be pushed up to a maximum of 768MB - the Kyocera can go up to 1280MB. 

The 532MHz processor is a touch slow compared with the Kyocera's 667MHz version. The Oki doesn't have such a strong range of printer languages as the Kyocera, although the most important two - PCL 6 and PS3 support - are present and correct. We found the Oki C530dn to be a rather loud printer, and even when it's not printing, it can be emitting a loud hum. 

The Oki C530dn doesn't lack for speed, and while it again doesn't quite match up to the Kyocera, it comes very close. Its 22.3 pages per minute for text was very capable, and the output is reasonably crisp, if not particularly sensational in laser terms. 

Auto duplexing brings the speed down to 13.3ppm, which is a slightly larger drop than on the Kyocera. Nonetheless, even at 13.3ppm the duplex mode is viable - even if speed demons and the very impatient may prefer to stick to single-sided output. 

Colour was a little bit of an anti-climax. The speed (16.7ppm) was good, but the output wasn't as faithful to the source material as we would have liked, and some of the photos had a slightly unrealistic hue. It worked well enough for PowerPoint slides, though, and for general use the Oki is more than adequate.

As with the Kyocera, the Oki C530dn has outstanding running costs. Its text figures – just over one pence for a page of mono – were particularly strong.

The costs of 6.8p for a page of colour are still very reasonable, although not on a par with the Kyocera's ultra-generous 5.2p a page. 



2355DPC Latency Checker 1.3 review

There's a little trick that the Windows operating system uses to allow high-priority tasks such as video and audio drivers uninterrupted access to the CPU - the Delayed Procedure Call. A DPC puts off the inevitable until the system feels there's time. Unfortunately, DPCs only work to a point and can't always avoid disturbing high-bit rate audio and video recording, which requires an uninterrupted data flow.

If interrupted for too long, as with a long-delayed DPC, you will hear dropouts and static. DPC Latency Checker (free) displays the amount of time these DPCs are taking so you can tune your system by disabling tasks or hardware that cause DPC spikes. See all: PC Advisor software downloads

A display of your computer's latency (how long it takes before tasks are processed) is all there is to DPC Latency Checker--use it to tune your system for audio and video. Open up DPC Latency Checker and you'll see a real-time display of the latency of your system. If there's something generating CPU-hogging DPCs, it'll show up as spikes on the left-scrolling graph. It's much like the Performance tab found in Windows Task Manager, except it's for DPCs.

Simply keep an eye on DPC Latency Checker's graph while you disable and enable various hardware and background applications using and when the spikes disappear, you know you've found the culprit. The Wi-Fi and battery monitors on laptops are notorious for generating fat DPCs, so that might be a good place to start your hunt.

Even on a fast Intel Core i7 or Phenom system, you'll find that you can record higher bit rates and use more real time FX after you've disabled fat, DPC generating apps and hardware.

DPC Latency Checker 1.3 Expert Verdict »

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.

If you want to maximize your computer's performance with audio or video, DPC Latency Checker is a must-have tool.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.



2356iFixit Mac Mini Dual Hard Drive Kit review

Apple’s diminuitive Mac mini has been an enduring classic, ever since it launched seven years ago. It’s the most affordable of all Macs, takes up next to no desk space, and quietly gets on with its job. No fuss in a cute package.

For the first year of its life, the Tupperware box-sized computer ran a PowerPC G4 processor, but was swiftly transitioned to Intel Core Duo when Apple moved all its Macs to Intel chips in 2006.

Today more than ever the Apple Mac mini represents an incredible feat of hardware engineering, to squeeze very fast processors, memory and storage, and now even the complete power supply into one low-profile aluminium armoured case.

Packing so much into a small space makes it the anathema of the typical Windows desktop PC, a wheezy box as high as your knees – but one that's relative doddle to nip inside and replace the memory, the hard drive, and more.

The original generations of Mac mini didn’t even let you upgrade the RAM, unless you got jiggy with a putty knife and were willing to take a leap of faith as you prised the box apart, probing inside with the broad flat blade.

The new Unibody-style Mac mini at least gives you ready access to the RAM. Flip the Mac mini over, and neat tank-turret cover can be removed to reveal memory chips and a very dapper layout of wireless antenna and its perforated guard. The new Mac mini is as beautiful inside as it is sleek and svelte from the outside.

And upgrading the memory is as far as Apple will let you go before invalidating the warranty. To go beyond this point and delve inside requires a little knowledge and some nerve. But why would you want to, beside maybe upgrading the hard disk?

The answer is of course in the headline: to add a second drive.

Taking the slot

When the Apple Mac mini went Unibody in 2010, Apple created an option for a DVD-less Server edition. In place of the slot-load optical drive was a second hard disk, not just swelling capacity but enabling faster or more robust RAID storage options.

With the latest Apple Mac mini (Mid-2011), released last summer, Apple has made the slotless mini the only option, joining the MacBook Air as another computer to lose the integrated optical drive..

This leaves a nice empty space inside to add your own second drive in these non-server editions. All the pieces are in place in every modern mini – except a custom SATA ribbon cable and mounting screws for the hard drive.

Catering for these needs is the iFixit Mac Mini Dual Hard Drive upgrade kit. 

Mac mini upgrade kit

This includes all the necessary components, along with a natty set of Torx drivers to help you on your way. While you may have a good toolset already, you’re unlikely to have one specialised piece: a U-shaped tool that makes the task of removing the logic board a cinch.

The job involves a compete disassembly and rebuild of the Apple Mac mini. With good light and an hour or so of methodical work, you too can have a dual-drive Mac mini.

The upgrade is particularly compelling to add a small but affordable solid-state drive (SSD), while keeping the original 500GB hard disk for good storage capability. For OS X, a 30GB SSD is sufficient to run the operating system and install many applications.

If you intend to keep your OS X Lion user directory on the boot drive, you'll probably need considerably more space. If you can stretch to it, a 256GB capacity solid-state drive makes a good compromise between space to breath while keeping price within reach.

 Mac mini upgrade step 1

1. Down the hatch

With the Mac mini powered down and disconnected, turn upside down and remove the black plastic hatch by rotating it a few degrees anti-clockwise. Now’s a good time to attach an ESD strap to yourself to ensure you don’t destroy the delicate electronics with a tiny static spark while working inside.

Mac mini upgrade step 2

2. Cooling off time 

After marvelling at the beautiful symmetry within, start the disassembly by first removing the cooling fan, held in place with three T6 screws. After lifting carefully, pry off its power connection from the board with a spudger. Next remove a plastic cowling to the left of the fan, held in place with one T6 screw. This plastic piece will require a little wiggle to extract.

Mac mini upgrade step 3

3. Antenna plate-off

The antenna plate supports Bluetooth and one of the mini’s three Wi-Fi aerials. Remove its four T8 screws and carefully pull out, then disconnect the signal lead that attaches it to the board. Note how the semi-circle edge fits into the mini’s chassis: this will also require some alignment when you replace it later.

Mac mini upgrade step 4

4. Drive away

The installed SATA hard disk (‘lower drive’) connects to the system through a press-to-fit flat ribbon cable on the edge of the logic board. Pry this off with the spudger. At a push, you can just get the drive out now, but better to wait a few steps when it slides out much easier. You will also need to disconnect the remote IR sensor, by lifting its connector from the board, by the RAM.

There are currently no price comparisons for this product.



2357Unigine Heaven DX11 Benchmark Basic Edition review

High-end graphics cards are hungry, demanding beasts. They eat money, suck down power, run hot, and occasionally require complex driver configuration or other special care in return for the visual thrills they provide. Moreover, the benefits of such a setup can be hard to appreciate over a well-chosen mid-range alternative, especially at the time of purchase. Unless multiple monitors or very high resolutions come into play, the extra FPS and features you pay for won't matter until later, when you're able to skip next year's upgrade cycle or play games which implement those new technologies.

That's pretty thin soup for most gamers, who want to see the prowess they paid for onscreen now, not next winter. Unigine Heaven DX11 Benchmark Basic Edition is a synthetic gaming benchmark that provides next-generation graphics today, delivering the visual goods while doing its best to entertain you in the process.See also: Group test: what's the best graphics card?

Designed as a showcase for DirectX11, Unigine Heaven DX11 Benchmark Basic Edition provides a fully realized, outdoor 3D environment filled with lush vegetation and highly detailed models. The floating islands are dotted with dragons, dirigibles and other surprises lovingly rendered by an engine that supports ambient occlusion, stereo 3D, tessellation and other advanced features that are only just now starting to appear in top-shelf computer games.

The built-in flyby test provides a score for comparison to other systems, but the real fun here resides in the open nature of Unigine's world; by taking down the fences and allowing users to explore they've made Heaven the Skyrim of benchmarking.

Using simple keyboard controls familiar to most gamers you can freely navigate the environment and alter just about every visual setting in real time; a more interactive and entertaining experience than a static flyby. This instant feedback allows you to easily separate the options that run smoothly from those that stifle framerates. You can also alter the time of day (the gas lamps turn on at night), toggle the soundtrack on or off and select between several camera modes.

Although designed for DX11, Heaven also supports DX9 and 10 along with OpenGL, making it a one-stop tool suitable for a wide range of systems. It was written with higher-end rigs in mind, however, so you’ll need a beefy and fairly recent videocard to pass through Unigine's pearly gates.

While generally stable, a few curious situations occurred that suggest the code remains unfinished. Occasional DX11 error messages during startup on multi-display systems, clipping issues in free form movement and unimplemented features displayed in the settings tabs indicate a lack of polish and optimization. Fortunately, these don't appear to impact accuracy or usability.

A fantastically expensive Pro version exists, but the differences between the free and pro versions boil down to automation, data export, and commercial licensing, aspects more relevant to developers than to most gamers. While products such as 3DMark Basic may provide more comprehensive data and other frills, Heaven is faster to run, more flexible and definitely more fun. I also think it looks better than 3DMark Basic 11's murky underwater world.

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2358TiddlyWiki review

In the beginning, webpages were static documents, composed of bits of text and some images, with very little interactivity. Then JavaScript came along, and browsers got more and more sophisticated, until today we have entire applications that can be squeezed into a single HTML file and run in almost any browser. TiddlyWiki is one such application: A personal notebook with built-in search, autosaving, plugins, themes, and more - all in just a single file (plus a tiny helper file), no server needed.

TiddlyWiki screenshotTiddlyWiki lets you documents your thoughts, tasks, and other bits of knowledge quickly and effortlessly.TiddlyWiki is not new; it started its way in 2004, but development is still going strong today, eight years later. It is one of the simplest Wiki solutions available: Nothing to install, no server software to configure, and no special permissions to set. You just download a ZIP archive containing two files, open "empty.html" in your favorite browser, and off you go. The second file in the ZIP is called TiddlySaver.jar, and is a tiny (5KB) Java applet used for saving your changes to disk. It is only needed on some browsers, such as Google Chrome. See all software downloads.

Since TiddlyWiki is built as a single document, it doesn't use pages. Instead, individual topics are called "tiddlers." You can have as many tiddlers as you want and even show them all on the screen at the same time. When you're done with a tiddler, you can click its "close" link and it will be hidden away until the next time you need it. If you want to focus on just one particular tiddler, you can click "close others" to close all other tiddlers cluttering the screen.

You can edit tiddlers in place: Just click the edit button, and change anything you want. You can format text using simple wiki markup: Surround a word with double slashes to make it italic or with two sets of single quotes (like ''so'') to make it bold. You can also highlight text, underline it, and use superscript and subscript. Most importantly, you can link tiddlers using CamelCase or [[double brackets]].

Wikis can grow large, even when they are created and maintained by just one user. TiddlyWiki lets you apply tags to each tiddler, so you can see all tiddlers related to "finance" (for example) with just one click. It also has a live search feature, which brings up relevant tiddlers before you even finish typing.

While TiddlyWiki's default feature set is robust, you can tweak things even further with plugins and themes. Plugins can automatically add tables of contents to individual tiddlers (if you like keeping long tiddlers), create collapsible sections within tiddlers, and more. You can find these plugins on community website TiddlyVault, and there's a showcase of themes on TiddlyThemes.com.

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2359Social networking websites may face government regulation

Facebook, MySpace and Bebo are in the firing line from Cyber Safety Committee deputy chair, Alex Hawke, saying that Australian children younger than 13 use their websites despite the current 13+ age restriction.

Hawke said that unless social networking websites show more responsibility, Parliament may be forced to impose regulations so there are effective measures taken to protect children and deal with online bullying.

He told Computerworld Australia that the options it is considering would include age verification laws which require social networking websites to verify the age of their users.

"There has also been the question of an internet ombudsman as an option for people to have the ability to raise these problems with a central portal," he said.

"We're also encouraging social networking sites to open offices in Australia or at least have an arm which can be dealt with by Australians as a way of preventing regulatory response."

According to Hawke, Facebook is the only company to have appointed a representative in Australia.

He added that Parliamentary committees have heard the "farcical suggestions" from social networking companies that there are no children under 13 years of age on their websites.

"The problem is these social networking companies continue to say `we're offshore and there is nothing you can do about it' when we're dealing with profoundly young children using these sites and these companies really need to engage better with regulators in Australia," he said.

Hawke, who is also a Coalition MP, said that the Coalition's Online Safety Working Group is actively looking at the proposed regulations.

"If we are returned to government, we will put in place policy in this area," he said.

Computerworld Australia has contacted Facebook Australia and is awaiting comment.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU



2360Beijing's real name rules for microblogging sites goes into effect

 

39,389 News Articles

New regulations requiring China's Twitter-like microblogging sites to only allow posts from verified users have been met with reluctance from some of the nation's Internet users as the rules went into effect on Friday.

Beijing's city government announced the regulations last year, as a way to protect users and eliminate rumors on the sites. But the rules were also part of a larger effort by authorities to control the country's burgeoning social networking sites, which have often become forums to criticize the government.

One of China's largest microblogging sites, operated by Sina, has enforced Beijing's regulations by requiring new users provide state-issued ID numbers to register for an account. But as of late afternoon Friday, local time, existing users with unverified accounts on Sina's platform reported still being able to publish posts.

How long that will last is unclear. But if fully implemented, the rules have the potential to silence a large number of China's microbloggers. In the case of Sina, the company has more than 300 million registered user accounts.

Sina spokesman Liu Qi said earlier this week the company estimates 60 percent of its existing users will be verified by March 16. Sina, however, did not respond for comment on how the regulations would affect the accounts of unverified users.

China's other major microblogging site, operated by Tencent, has 373 million registered users. The company has also been following a real-name registration policy set forth by China's Guangdong province, but it only applies to new users. Tencent expects the policy will be extended to existing users in the future, said company spokeswoman Jane Yip.

China is infamous for the strict control it exerts over the Internet, going as far to block Facebook and Twitter and even detain users for fabricating rumors on the Internet. Analysts, however, expect over the long-term that Chinese users will get used to the new registration requirements, given that most people use the nation's microblogging sites mainly for entertainment purposes.

Beijing resident Qiu Yun opposes the new requirements, but said she will continue using her account with Sina. "After the real name registration goes into effect, I will be cautious about sensitive topics and radical opinions," she said. "Most people just write about their lives. They don't question, or at least don't criticize politics."

Shenzhen resident Liu Qunying said she plans to continue using her unverified account on Tencent, and would rather not provide her state-issued ID to the company. But if forced, she would probably decide to register with her real name in order to stay connected with her friends on the site.

"Ultimately, I feel the real name registration doesn't allow for enough privacy," she said.



2361Windows 8 Launch To Include Very Few ARM-Based Tablets, Report Says

 

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Microsoft reportedly has a plan to avoid consumer confusion about the differences between Windows 8 tablets based on ARM and x86/x64 chips: Allow very few ARM-based tablets onto store shelves.

When Windows 8 launches, which is expected later this year, there could be fewer than five ARM-based devices available and only three of those would be one-panel touch tablets. Meanwhile, more than 40 different Windows 8 machines using Intel chips will be available at launch, according to Bloomberg. The report did not specify if Intel chips meant the x86/x64 chip architecture (also used by AMD) or actual Intel-branded processors.

Speaking with anonymous sources, Bloomberg said the reason there will so few devices using ARM technology is that Microsoft is holding Windows 8 ARM-based devices to "rigorous quality-control standards." Also, the company reportedly wants to control the number of ARM devices available during the initial Windows 8 launch. See also: Windows 8: the complete guide

New Territory for Microsoft

Microsoft is forging into new territory with a version of Windows designed for ARM devices. ARM-based chips are widely used in smartphones and tablets since they tend to be more energy efficient than x86/x64 processors, but Windows has historically been designed primarily for Intel chips. See also: Windows 8 review.

Many critics, including myself, have wondered how Microsoft will differentiate between ARM- and x86/x64-based tablets since they offer different experiences. ARM-based devices will rely primarily on Microsoft's new touch-friendly Metro interface in Windows 8, although the devices will also include the traditional Windows desktop. The problem, however, is that legacy Windows desktop software will not work on ARM devices. So downloading AOL Instant Messenger for Windows 7, for example, should work just fine on an Intel-based Windows 8 tablet, but not a device using an ARM-based chip.

Who Will Produce Windows 8 ARM Tablets?

The fact that Microsoft is reportedly allowing just a few ARM-based Windows 8 devices onto store shelves (at least at first) suggests the company is being careful not to confuse users. But which companies will be producing those early ARM tablets is still an open question.

There are reports that Asus and Nokia are planning Windows 8 ARM tablets. Hewlett-Packard may also produce an ARM tablet, but will focus on Intel-based devices first. Dell, Lenovo and Samsung, meanwhile appear to be going with Intel-based tablets.

Bloomberg's report also says Windows 8 will be ready for launch "around October." That claim is in line with other reports, as well as Microsoft's past Windows release schedules. Windows 7 and XP were both released in October, while Vista was released to consumers in January.

[Go to PCWorld's Windows 8 special section for all the latest news on Microsoft's newest operating system.]

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.



2362Microsoft to launch Windows 8 in October, report says

Microsoft will wrap up Windows 8 this summer, according to a report by Bloomberg on Monday. See also: Windows 8 review.

Computer and tablet makers, called OEMs for "original equipment manufacturers," will have Windows 8-powered PCs and tablets ready to sell in October, Bloomberg said.

Windows 8 operating system will come in two flavours: Windows 8 for traditional PCs and business-grade slates and tablets , and Windows on ARM, or WOA, for tablets targeting consumers. See also: Windows 8: the complete guide.

Microsoft declined to comment on the Bloomberg report, which cited what the news organization called "people with knowledge of the schedule," who asked for anonymity.

Neither a summer wrap-up or an October on-sale would be a surprise: Microsoft finished Windows 7 three years ago this July and launched the OS alongside new PCs on Oct. 22, 2009.

Analysts have expected that Microsoft is shooting for a release of Windows 8 this fall, possibly in October, to follow in Windows 7's successful footsteps and avoid a repeat of Windows Vista, which missed 2006's holiday selling season when it fell behind schedule and shipped in January 2007.

Microsoft has not disclosed a release date for Windows 8, but recently hinted that it would be this year.

The release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview at the end of last month was a clue that a fall 2012 debut was in the cards.

Microsoft released the first Windows 7 developer-oriented build at the end of October 2008, offered a public beta in January 2009, and pushed the final version onto shelves the third week of October 2009.

Although Windows 8's Consumer Preview will appear about seven weeks later in the calendar than the Windows 7 beta -- at the end of February compared to the latter's early January -- Windows 8's Developer Preview launched a month earlier, in mid-September 2011, rather than Windows 7's October 2008, perhaps making the two schedules a wash.

But at least one analyst wasn't buying the idea that October was a done deal.

"No, I don't think it's realistic," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft, a research firm that tracks only Microsoft's moves, in an email reply to questions Monday. "While the Consumer Preview shows progress from the Developer Preview, it is still extremely rough, and many things are broken."

Cherry ticked off several problems he's encountered with the Consumer Preview, including an inability to link a Microsoft Bluetooth keyboard with a Windows 8 PC and the Metro-style Mail app not connecting to an Exchange server.

Although Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft's top Windows executive, made his reputation by keeping Office releases on schedule, Cherry said a stubbornness to ship Windows 8 on time, come hell or high water, may be the wrong move.

"I think it would be a mistake if they allowed themselves to be date driven," Cherry said. "One of the worst things that could happen, in my opinion, would be to ship a product for the holidays that disappoints in any way."

Microsoft, other analysts have said, is gambling big on Windows 8 -- "betting the farm," in the words of one -- because the upgrade's emphasis on touch and tablets risks alienating enterprise customers .

Although Microsoft needs to address its tablet problem -- it has nothing to compete with Apple's popular iPad , which entered its third generation last week amid record-setting sales -- analysts have argued that the touch-centric operating system will offer few reasons for businesses to upgrade their desktops and notebooks.

That leaves tablets. If Microsoft gets it wrong with Windows 8 there, it will fall even further behind Apple, and to a lesser extent, Google 's Android operating system. Perhaps irreversibly behind.

Cherry used a different schedule from Windows 7 to bolster his belief that an October release Windows 8 was overly optimistic.

After looking at the Consumer Preview, and noting that Microsoft has not publicly showed WOA except in heavily scripted demos, Cherry remained leery of an October 2012 ship date for the two editions.

"[These things] only add to the feeling this is still on a RC [release candidate] schedule three months after Consumer Preview, and RTM [release to manufacturing] three months after that," said Cherry. "And that is an optimistic schedule in my mind."

In Windows 7's case, that operating system reached RC -- where the code is considered finished, but gets one last preview to trap bugs -- in early May 2009, and made RTM in late July.

RTM is a crucial milestone because it's then that code is offered to OEMs for prepping new PCs, to third-party developers to run final tests on new and existing applications, and to other hardware vendors to ready peripherals that will coexist with the OS.

Windows 7 reached RTM just over 11 weeks after the operating system met RC, which showed up about 16 weeks after the public beta.

If Cherry's mock beta-to-RC-to-RTM schedule becomes reality, Microsoft would issue a Windows 8 RC at the end of May and the RTM at the end of August. That last milestone would be approximately a month later on the calendar than Windows 7, which could in turn push Windows 8's on-sale date into late November.

According to Bloomberg, the same sources who claimed an October on-sale date also said that Microsoft would host an event early next month, when it would brief industry partners on Windows 8's release schedule and marketing efforts.

Anti-Windows 8 momentum has been building since the Consumer Preview was released three weeks, with much of the commentary focused on the dual -- and dueling -- traditional Windows desktop interface and the new "Metro" app-like look and feel.

If Microsoft uses the same week and day to unveil Windows 8 as it did three years for Windows 7, it would host a launch event on Oct. 25.



2363Process Explorer review

Windows isn't just for hard-core geeks or just for novices. Being the most popular operating system on the planet, Microsoft must design it to fit the widest possible range of users. Even its "techy" parts, like the Task Manager, sometimes need to be toned down for general consumption. But what if Windows were aimed only at the most technical of users? Process Explorer is the Task Manager that could have been.

Process Explorer can do all kinds of tricks that Task Manager just can't do. Case in point: Fire up Task Manager right now (hit Ctrl-Shift-Esc), and click "Show processes from all users." You will doubtlessly see a bunch of processes called "svchost.exe," all helpfully labelled "Host Process for Windows Services." Great, but what are those services? With Process Explorer, you can find out just by mousing over the process name.

This may sound like an obscure technical detail (and it is, a little bit), but it can also be very useful. For example, on my system there's a single svchost.exe process taking up over 250MB of RAM--a sizable chunk by any measure. Thanks to Process Explorer, I no longer have to wonder what all that memory is used for: I know exactly what services hide under that process, and can disable them if I want to. See all software downloads.

Another very neat Process Explorer capability: graphing GPU usage. Task Manager's Performance tab lets you see CPU and RAM usage only, but if you have a discrete graphics card, you have at least one more powerful (if dedicated) processor. Monitoring the GPU is useful not only for benchmarking games, but also for keeping an eye on applications such as Bitcoin or BOINC that use the GPU for general-purpose calculations. You can also see how much of the GPU's dedicated memory is used.

When going over the list of currently running processes, unfamiliar names will doubtlessly pop up. For example, do you know what csrss.exe is? I can guarantee this process is running on your system right now, under the nebulous description "Client Server Runtime Process." With Process Explorer, you just need to click the process and press Ctrl-M, and Process Explorer will instantly search Google for that process name. It's a very handy way to find out what's what in that long list.

Here's another classic Windows annoyance: You're trying to delete or overwrite a file, but Windows insists the file is in use. Process Explorer lets you see exactly what files are used by every process in your system, and also search for a file or DLL. In other words, you can track down the process that is using that file and kill it if you want to.

Process Explorer Expert Verdict »

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Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows Vista, Microsoft Windows XP, Microsoft Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Windows Server 2003

Process Explorer looks a bit intimidating at first, and it's an acquired taste. You can start off by using it just like Task Manager and gradually grow into its unique capabilities. It even has an option called "Replace Task Manager." Once you use Process Explorer regularly, you may well use that option. Highly recommended.

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2364CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Ultra review

CyberLink's PowerDVD has long been a powerful media player. The £98 CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Ultra continues the tradition, establishing itself as the Blu-ray/DVD/music/video player to beat. It makes movies look great and audio sound wonderful, and it's entirely tweakable. Even better, the easy-to-use program plays a ton of file types, including 3D video and photos. Version 12 takes PowerDVD further toward being a truly universal media player and organizer--but it has also developed into a large and resource-hungry application.

The core reason for buying CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Ultra is its Blu-ray movie playback. In that regard, version 12 has only one new feature: TrueTheater 3D, which turns 2D movies into 3D (sort of). Previously you could use this feature on DVD movies; now, you can apply it to Blu-ray playback as well.

CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Ultra's other new features all pertain to organization, streaming media, mobile devices, and social media. The revised interface is logical, with a left-side navigating pane that lets you easily switch between functions as well as navigate the music, photo, and video libraries. A large pane to the right displays the actual data. Functionally the interface is much like iTunes, but it's styled in dark gray and black tones - not particularly warm and friendly. Also, navigating the program's media library and moving between areas was somewhat slow in the version I tested (12.0.1312.54). See all: PC Advisor software downloads

CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Ultra can now function as a DLNA server as well as a client. You can use it to stream the multimedia content on your PC across a network to other devices, as well as play content from other servers. CyberLink has produced new two-way media streaming/syncing apps (version 4) for both the IOS and Android platforms. The apps are free for CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Ultra users, but cost £14.59 for users of the less-expensive PowerDVD Professional and Standard. The company also offers a free app to turn your mobile device into a remote control for PowerDVD, a handy feature that worked remarkably well on my iPod Touch.

In addition, PowerDVD 12 integrates browsing and playing YouTube videos, freeing you from having to open a browser to do so. Facebook and Flickr are baked in, too, but although I was able to upload photos, PowerDVD didn't seem to recognize any of the nearly 100 pictures I already have on Facebook. 7digital music store access is now available, so you can shop for and download tunes; you can participate in CyberLink's MoovieLive cinema database and community site as well.

I did find one minor bug in the music player: It listed an Apple lossless file by the wrong name, and then would not play it (apparently lossless .M4A files are not supported). On the other hand, applying the TrueTheater audio effects breathes new life into old tunes. If the software only had something along the lines of Windows Media Player's SRS TruBass to give them more kick, I might switch to PowerDVD as my main music application.

Other useful new features include support for lossless pass-through of Dolby TrueHD (7.1), DTS-HD Master Audio (7.1), Ogg, and Flac formats.

The downside of all the new technology CyberLink has added to PowerDVD is that it requires a lot of resources. After installation, I counted nine separate PowerDVD-related programs running (most in the background), consuming close to 500MB of memory. Unfortunately, the software doesn't seem to provide a way to turn off features that you might not need, such as DLNA serving, to free up system resources. Actual playback performance was top-notch.

A true all-in-one media application is something that many users would appreciate and possibly spend £100 for. In its twelfth incarnation, PowerDVD comes close, and if another iteration were to add TV support--and scale back its hunger for memory and CPU cycles--that package might just fill the bill. For now, buy PowerDVD for Blu-ray playback, which it does very well.

You might opt for the £59 CyberLink PowerDVD 12 Pro version that handles Blu-ray but omits some of the streaming features and support for the 7.1 audio codecs. The £35 Standard version is a good player, but lacks Blu-ray support, which makes it hardly more useful than the free Windows Media Player or VLC.

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2365Reckless Getaway review

In Reckless Getaway you weave your way through traffic, madly trying to collect coins while avoiding the police and barriers. We tested this app using a Samsung Galaxy S2 running Android 2.3.7. It's a cool game for Android tablets and Android phones

The game presents a top-down view, making your vehicle look a bit like a toy. The graphics are cartoony but excellent, with impressive-looking explosions that sometimes fill the screen and send objects flying every which way.

Controls are simple: You steer left or right to dodge obstacles while attempting to collect as many points as possible. You rack up points by grabbing coins, jumping ramps, and ramming or overtaking other cars. A point counter in the top-right corner shows how you're doing, as does a "star counter" in the top-left corner. Stars fill up as you accumulate points, unlocking additional chapters. See also: Group test: what's the best mobile game?

Each chapter contains four courses that share a common theme (suburbia, icy roads, and so on). You must play the courses in order, finishing each course to play the next one. Finishing all the courses in a given chapter doesn't always unlock the next one: You also need to earn the appropriate amount of stars for the next batch of levels to unlock. Earning them isn't easy--I rarely finished a course with more than two stars, despite hours of gameplay. You might need to make multiple attempts before you earn a perfect score on a single level. See Best Android Apps.

Reckless Getaway has a variety of modes, each with its own set of objectives. The "Getaway" mode, the main mode of the game, can become frustrating after a while. Here, your objective is to rack up as many points (and, by extension, stars) as you can while avoiding the police. I found myself playing the same levels over and over again, repeatedly failing to get the stars I needed to unlock further content. Fortunately, the game has another mode called "Wreckless," in which you drive a big truck and earn points for destroying other cars. The courses are the same, but the action is much simpler, so I was easily able to score three stars on many of the levels.

Reckless Getaway Expert Verdict »

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Reckless Getaway can be frustrating at times, but if you're looking for fast-paced arcade action with explosions, cartoonish 3D graphics, and satisfying aerial action, this game will not disappoint.

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2366Animation-ish review

Animation-ish is a very simple, intuitive, sensibly progressive tool to learn stop-frame animation based on author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds's children's books. Although it's targeted to kids (suggested age range is four through early teens) and marketed to educators, there really are no age boundaries to this well-designed program.

(Animation-ish costs $60, which at today's rates works out at about £38. Prices are quoted in Dollars, and you are charged that way. And be warned - the purchaing process is drawn out, and requires you to give up a chunk of information.) See all Graphic Design Software reviews.

There are three skills levels in Animation-ish: Wiggledoodle-ish, FlipBook-ish, and Advanced-ish. Wiggledoodle-ish prompts you to trace your drawing and uses three frames of tracings to make the artwork wiggle. FlipBook-ish allows you to add multiple frames and either play or loop your animation. Advanced-ish is considerablly more advanced than Flip Boom Cartoon, a basic stop-motion animation program. This level allows you to set keyframes (the beginning and end point of a scene), set independent frames and timing for foreground and background, and much more. See all: PC Advisor software downloads

There are no magic tricks to Animation-ish - if you don't understand the basics of stop-frame animation, you're going to end up with a wiggledoodle however many frames you add into your animation. But the three-step progression from three frames to full stop-motion frame animation processes is a nice learning tool.

Animation-ish's drawing tools you use are basic: Brush, Eraser, Paint Bucket, and Selector to reposition pieces of your drawing; plus Grabber and Transform tools in the advanced level. You can choose from eight colours (16 in the advanced level), and change the size of your round brush. There are no layers, but you can draw behind a previously drawn object. You can import most common image files to trace, and export your artwork as Flash, Quicktime, AVI, DV Stream, or Image Sequence.

I found it hard to keep track of the paint brush size using just a slider, and I wish there were numbers attributed to the size, just for consistency in my tracings. Since it's vector-based, I wish there were a magnifying glass for the small detail: There's a zoom function in Advanced-ish, but you don't have much control. There are also no pre-set shapes, or text tool.

Do you need those features to use Animation-ish? Not really. The tools are meant to be basic, intuitive, and not overwhelming. And at that they get an A grade. But if you want a program that nurtures your own artistic style, like realistic painting program ArtRage does, you may be disappointed with Animation-ish since everything comes out looking like a Peter H. Reynolds/Quentin Blake drawing.

Animation-ish is easy to use, and the tutorials are as much about learning to use Animation-ish tools as much as they are lessons in stop-motion animation and frame editing. The Animation-ish Classroom Activity Guide includes lesson ideas for educators, but are also great jumping off places if you're short of inspiration, as are the little video short ideas presented by Peter H. Reynolds.

I can see a child of any age, including over-18s, mastering the advanced level of Animation-ish and progressing directly to MAGIX Movie Edit Pro MX Plus, Blender (free, 3D modeling and animation software), or if they love stop-motion, Pencil (free, advanced 2D stop motion animation program).

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2367iPro Lens for iPhone review

The iPhone is all the camera most people need. Even legendary celeb snapper Annie Leibovitz recommended Apple’s iPhone 4S as "the snapshot camera of today".

But Leibovitch still uses pro digital SLR cameras for her day job. She needs the interchangeable lenses, and you don’t even get a proper optical zoom on the iPhone – making it less functional than a bog standard compact.

Except that there’s a raft of excellent photo apps – such as Camera+ – that make the iPhone in some ways much more versatile than even a top-of-the-range SLR. It’s just the lens and zoom options that snub out those onboard editing software goodies.

So everyone got excited when they saw the iPro Lens system (by Schneider Optics) on display at January’s Macworld iWorld Expo.

iPro Lens is a hardware add-on set for the Apple iPhone (4 and 4S only) that allows you to screw on lenses to the mobile.

You get Wide Angle and Fisheye lenses that simply bayonet twist mount onto a special iPhone case.

There’s also a handle that can attach to either side of the case, giving you added stability when taking your photographs. What’s especially neat is that this handle offers safe storage for the lenses. The whole thing screws together like real, cool professional photo kit.

You can also attach the case to a tripod if you want further stability.

The Fisheye lens captures pictures with a 165° field of view. The Wide Angle Lens gives you a 35 percent wider field of view.

The manufacturer claims that the lenses are painted on the edge and have a multilayer anti-reflection coat to “avoid any chance of flare”.

While the fisheye lens is the most obviously fun new lens I wonder just how useful it will be. But let’s just keep it as a fun lens that creates a distorted, panoramic, hemispherical image.

You can buy cameras that only do fisheye effects, so a fisheye lens add-on for the iPhone is cute.

(That said, you can download apps that make your standard photos into fisheye images.)

One thing an app certainly can’t do to your images is get more stuff in the photo. While the fisheye lens is a fun thing, the wide-angle lens is super useful.

This lens allows more of the scene to be included in the photo. This is especially handy in landscape, interior and street-view photography where the photographer can’t move farther from the scene to photograph it.

The iPro Lens wide-angle gives an 86-degree field, compared to the iPhone’s standard 62 degrees. This gives you a 35 percent wider field of view.

So what do the iPro lenses offer the iPhone photographer? Let’s take a look at some Before & After snaps.

iPro Lens iPhone only

Above: Here's the iPhone on its own.

iPro Lens iPhone Wide Angle

Above: Now see how much more picture you get using the iPro Wide Angle lens.

iPro Lens iPhone Fisheye

Above: The Fisheye lens needs no introduction.

One annoying thing about iPro Lens is the requirement for the specific case that comes with the lenses. If you love your current iPhone case you have to ditch it for when you want to go out with the iPro. Or, rather, you need to carry the iPro Lens case with you, as otherwise the lenses won’t fit the phone.

Another worry is that the iPhone 5 will likely not fit the case, meaning you need to keep updating that part of the kit when you upgrade phones. As long as you can update the iPro case this shouldn’t be too much hassle.

On the upside fixing the handle and twisting out the lenses is akin to disassembling and assembling a sniper rifle. There’s something of the cloak-and-dagger assassin mission about the whole thing. 

The modular system of the iPro Lens means Schneider Optics can add more lenses later, and a decent telephoto lens must be the top of its priority list. Getting a decent optical zoom out of the iPhone will make most compact cameras redundant (although nearly all are much cheaper than the iPhone, of course).

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2368Apple: Samsung 'illegal, abusive, anticompetitive'

 

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The crucial legal battle between Apple and Samsung has got ugly with Apple calling Samsung all sorts of rude names.

In court Apple has accused Samsung of attempting an “anticompetitive ambush” through “illegal and abusive assertions”.

Apple and Samsung are pitting their patents against each other – embroiling the Android-device maker in a series of damaging product embargos across the world.

Intellectual property “activist-turned-analyst” Florian Mueller writes of the insults in his blog on the patent wars engulfing the tech world.

In a brief filed yesterday by Apple with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in opposition to a Samsung motion to dismiss and strike Apple's counterclaims, the iPhone maker claims that Samsung has “unlawfully acquired monopoly power”.

Apple accuses Samsung of “serial standard-setting abuses [that] inflict continuing harm on consumers, competition, and Apple alike," and “deceiving standards-setting organizations”.

"Having obtained this ill-gotten monopoly power, Samsung has engaged in a relentless campaign of illegal and abusive assertions of its declared-essential patents to try to coerce Apple into tolerating Samsung's continuing imitation of [the iPhone and the iPad].

"[The rules of a standard-setting organization] are designed to protect the telecommunications industry from the sort of anticompetitive ambush Samsung has perpetrated here."

Last week in the Netherlands Apple was granted a preliminary injunction banning Samsung from selling its Galaxy smartphones in Europe. The embargo concerns Samsung's Galaxy S, Galaxy S II and Ace smartphones. Another court upheld a preliminary injunction requested by Apple, preventing Samsung from selling its Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Germany.



2369Samsung, Android top smartphone charts

 

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Samsung retained the top spot as leading mobile phone manufacturer in the US, boasting over a quarter of all US mobile subscribers.

Fellow South Korean handset maker LG came in second, with no change at 20.9 percent – while Samsung had increased its market share by 1 percent to 25.5 percent.

Motorola, recently purchased by Android-maker Google, remained in third position, with 14.1 percent share (down 1.5%).

iPhone maker Apple increased its share by 1.2%, with 9.5 percent. BlackBerry maker RIM saw a slight 0.6% dip to 7.6 percent share.

Despite accusations that it may have altered photos of Samsung's Galaxy smartphones to strengthen its case, Apple recently succeeded in getting a Dutch court to ban the sale of three phones that it claims are too similar to the iPhone.

The comScore study – taken during the three month average period ending July 2011 – surveyed more than 30,000 US mobile subscribers.

Google Android continued to gain ground in the smartphone market reaching 41.8 percent market share.

For the three month average period ending in July, 234 million Americans ages 13 and older used mobile devices.

Smartphone platform market share

82.2 million people in the US owned smartphones during the three months ending in July 2011, up 10 percent from the preceding three month period.

Google Android ranked as the top smartphone platform with 41.8 percent market share, up 5.4 percentage points.

Apple strengthened its  number 2 position with 27 percent of the smartphone market, up 1.0 percentage points from the prior reporting period.

RIM ranked third with 21.7 percent share, followed by Microsoft (5.7 percent) and Symbian (1.9 percent).

Mobile content usage

In July, 70 percent of US mobile subscribers used text messaging on their mobile device, up 1.2 percentage points.

Browsers were used by 41.1 percent of subscribers (up 2 percentage points), while downloaded applications were used by 40.6 percent (up 2.8 percentage points).

Accessing of social-networking sites or blogs increased 2.1 percentage points to 30.1 percent of mobile subscribers.

Game-playing was done by 27.8 percent of the mobile audience (up 1.6 percentage points), while 20.3 percent listened to music on their phones (up 2.3 percentage points).

In July analysts claimed that Samsung has sold more smartphones in the past three months than Apple and Nokia.



2370CeBIT: Samsung shows off transparent LCD

 

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Samsung's components division was wowing visitors to this year's CeBIT trade fair with a transparent 46in 'Window LCD', which it claimed was a world first.

Presented to PC Advisor as "something fun" after we discussed the firm's environmentally minded 'green DDR' plans, the screen looks like a window with screen elements moving around on the glass. You can see everything on the screen quite clearly, but you can also see through to whatever's behind; a nice view, perhaps.

Samsung 46in Window LCD

Reflections are a little confusing here, but you can just make out the model buildings Samsung arranged behind the Window LCD, while screen elements remain clearly visible

Samsung 46in Window LCD

The idea is that, during the day, backlighting is not required; all necessary light is provided by the sun. A Samsung representative claimed that 90 percent of energy consumption in an LCD monitor is taken up by backlighting, making the technology a potential boon in terms of cost savings and the environment.

Once dusk falls the benefits might seem less obvious, but at this point you can switch on backlighting as usual. Samsung also showed us twin solar panels that can store up energy during the day and help to run things at night.

Samsung representatives said they hope to strike a deal to have the screens fitted into consumer products in the reasonably near future - the firm hopes that mass production will begin this year. The prototype is so early in the development process that staff couldn't reveal any more details - not even the resolution of the sample, and certainly not pricing estimates. Watch this space for more.

See also:

CeBIT: Samsung pushes 'green' 30nm memory

More CeBIT news

CeBIT video reports



2371CeBIT: Edimax's little red router

Edimax has launched its new nano router, the BR6258N. This diminutive red box, the size of a matchbox, is actually an 802.11n wireless base station.

On one side are two network ports, for incoming WAN and a single LAN connection. Power comes in through a mini-USB port, and there’s even space on the case for a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button.

Edimax BR6258N & Gerard da Deppo

Gerard da Deppo, managing director of Edimax Italy, proffers the BR6258N, perhaps the world’s smallest wireless base station

Joining the professed high-speed powerline party, Edimax now has HomePlug AV adaptors listed with 500Mb/s and 1Gb/s performance. These are named HP-5001 and HP-G100 respectively.

On the wireless side of networking, PC Advisor was shown a novel one-box solution that combined wireless-n router, four-port gigabit switch and one-bay NAS server. The NR-5470n accepts 2.5in notebook SATA drives.

With IP cameras becoming more popular, Edimax has highlighted the difficulty in setting these up and introduced its Edimax Plug n View Software system. This is said to improve plug-and-play setup of its IP surveillance cameras.

Even more intriguing, it was demonstrating an iPhone app that can control the functions of its PTZ cameras. The user can easily, if slowly, adjust pan and zoom though multi-touch gestures on an iPhone or iPad.

Edimax IP cams on iPad and iPhone

An app for the iPad and iPhone allows multi-touch control of an Edimax panning surveillance IP camera

Setting up the increasingly popular megapixel IP camera, Edimax now has 2 megapixel-resolution cameras.

The FC-11R (W) Series offers infrared LEDs for night-vision mode. These cameras are ONVIF-compliant, to assist setup and interoperability with other brands.

See also:

More CeBIT news

CeBIT video reports



2372CeBIT: Eminent shows off e-Domotica

 

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At the CeBIT trade fair today PC Advisor was given a hands-on demonstration of the e-Domotica home automation and security system, which Netherlands firm Eminent hopes to bring to the UK this year.

Based around the EM6500 e-Centre - the hub of the system, control centre and screen - e-Domotica allows users to monitor and control lights, cameras, motion sensors, sirens, smoke detectors and so on from one point. More usefully, you can configure automated responses so that, for instance, if an intruder is detected by the motion sensor, the system knows to switch on the cameras, fire up the siren and send you a text message warning you of the possible danger.

Eminent e-Domotica

EM6500 e-Centre (and camera)

The various functions of the e-Domotica system can be controlled either directly via the screen or using a remote. Commands are then passed on to the accessory units wirelessly. When we asked about security and potential problems due to interference, Eminent told us that the system would use sub-gigahertz Z-Wave wireless, which tends to be unaffected by interference and offers strong reliability.

As yet e-Domotica can't be controlled using a mobile device, but Eminent representatives hinted that this might be a function they would look at including in a future version of the product.

Indeed, PC Advisor was told that the version of e-Domotica that will appear in the UK this year - and one will definitely do so, Eminent insisted - will almost certainly be version 2. Eminent hopes to have this ready in the next few months, and quoted a speculative launch date in the vicinity of May.

It's likely to cost around 900 euros for the e-Centre together with some cameras and other accessories; the screen unit alone will be about 500 euros. Additional cameras should cost around 120 euros each, while other accessories will be 60 euros.

So not a cheap impulse purchase by any means. Although Eminent representatives were quick to point out that home automation systems are generally far more expensive than this. The firm hopes to use e-Domotica to persuade home owners that these kinds of systems are more accessible - and comparatively more affordable - than they may think.

Eminent e-Domotica

Some of the accessories available for e-Domotica

See also:

More CeBIT news

CeBIT video reports



2373Asus to launch Android-based Eee Pad in March 2011

 

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Asustek Computer plans to launch its first tablet device with Google's Android mobile operating system in March, the company's CEO said Friday.

The Android tablet will be the third in the Eee Pad family and will cost less than US$399, said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, speaking to reporters after the company's second quarter earnings conference.

Apple's iPad, by comparison, costs $499 for the version with the least amount of storage. Companies have been scrambling to put out rivals to the iPad after seeing its popularity rocket since its launch.

Asustek currently has a team of over 800 software engineers working on Android but mostly for their smartphone division. Some of those engineers will be transferred to the tablet product division, Shen said.

He declined to comment further on the device.

Asustek will launch its first tablet device in December or January, a 12-inch touchscreen tablet that will cost around US$1,000, Shen said.

What makes the device more expensive than, say, the iPad, is that it comes with a docking station that transforms it into a laptop computer.

"If you want to compete with the iPad, you have to do more than just be less expensive," Shen said. "You have to offer more features. We want to spend more time perfecting the [Eee Pad] before we launch. We're looking more at Q1 to launch the devices."

The device, officially called the Eee Pad EP121, has Microsoft's Windows 7 Home Premium operating system and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor inside.

Asustek also plans to launch a second Eee Pad in January, a tablet with a 10-inch touchscreen that does not include a docking station. It uses processing cores from Arm inside and runs Microsoft's Windows Embedded Compact 7 software. It will cost between US$399 and US$499.

The 12-inch and 10-inch touchscreen Eee Pads were first displayed by Asustek at Computex in June.

See also: Asus to release Linux-based Eee Tablet in October

See also: Over a dozen iPad killers on show at Computex

See also: Asus unveils 12in Tablet PC and e-reader



2374Asus to release Linux-based Eee Tablet in October

 

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Asustek Computer plans to launch its long awaited Eee Tablet with an 8-inch LCD touchscreen in October for around $300, though prices vary by market.

It was rumoured the device would be the first major, non-handset Android product from Asustek and that it might compete with Apple's iPad,.

But neither of those things are the case. The Eee Tablet may rival Amazon's Kindle in the e-readers market, but it does not use digital ink or specialized e-reader screens that give e-readers their long battery life.

Instead, the 8-inch touchscreen is a normal LCD display that can handle 64 shades of gray, has 1024 by 768 resolution, but does not have a backlight, said Asustek product engineers outside of the company's second quarter investors' conference in Taipei on Friday.

Enthusiasts of specialized digital ink e-reader screens say backlights cause people's eyes to tire when they read LCD screens. Users are essentially looking into a light, just as in normal laptop or desktop computing. The Eee Tablet does not use a backlight in order to make reading more comfortable.

The Eee Tablet will run a Linux OS, but not Google's Android mobile operating system, which has long been the rumour. The Linux distribution on board was developed by Asustek, said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, speaking with reporters after the conference.

He said the Eee Tablet name may also be changed to Eee Note. Asustek does not want people to confuse the product with tablet PCs.

The Eee Tablet has three key functions aimed at school students: the e-reader, note taking and Internet browsing.

Asustek added writing software to the Eee Tablet so users can take notes with a stylus on the touchscreen, and onboard software digitizes those notes. The company also included a 2-megapixel camera to the device so students can take pictures of a teacher's whiteboard instead of having to write so much. It also includes a digital audio recorder to record lectures.

The device also has a Web browser. The Eee Tablet can connect to the internet wirelessly via onboard Wi-Fi.

Asustek says the device will run for 10 hours before needing a recharge. It has 2GB of internal memory for storage and a MicroSD card slot to add more capacity.

The device will launch globally in October, though it will be available to gadget reviewers from the middle of September, according to Asustek representatives.

See also: Asus to launch Android-based Eee Pad in March 2011

See also: Over a dozen iPad killers on show at Computex

See also: Asus unveils 12in Tablet PC and e-reader



2375Over a dozen iPad killers on show at Computex

 

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Companies showed off over a dozen new rivals for the iPad at Computex this year, including a nifty 10-inch touchscreen tablet that docks into a speaker from Compal Electronics.

The number of tablets at Computex Taipei 2010 pays testimony to the trend Apple set in motion in April. Now that the company has sold 2 million iPads in just under two months, PC vendors globally want a piece of the action.

In the weeks leading up to Computex, it appeared Google might sweep the show with Android-based tablets, but Microsoft swooped in with some key victories and the launch of Windows Embedded Compact 7 software for small devices.

Computex tablet PCsOne company that says it will make tablets using Android, Windows and the MeeGo software developed by Intel and Nokia, also showed off one of the neatest devices at Computex, complete with its own user interface (UI) and speaker-dock.

Compal Electronics, the world's second largest contract maker of laptop computers, unveiled a sleek Android-based tablet with a 10-inch touchscreen and a stereo speaker it docked into. The UI is similar to Acer's Shell UI, which works on Android smartphones. The UI simplifies navigation by making the home screen a room full of objects the user taps using the touchscreen. Tapping a stereo icon, for example, starts music playing.

Demand for tablets has risen thanks to the iPad, Compal CEO Ray Chen said at the show, adding that, "we have a lot of customers that are very interested in tablets".

The company's tablet uses Android version 2.1 and is on offer to PC vendors worldwide. Compal creates designs for vendors to choose from, then manufactures the devices at factories in China.

Acer, the world's second-biggest PC vendor, offered a glimpse of its own prototype Android tablet just prior to Computex, at a news conference in Beijing. It has a 7-inch display and a keypad, but Acer didn't say when it might be released or how much it will cost.

Several smaller Taiwanese and Chinese companies had Android-based tablets at their Computex booths, including Browan Communications, Firstone Technology, Digitran and FuJian Sanxi Electronics.

Arm Holdings, which designs the processing cores popular in Android devices, estimates there will be about 40 tablet devices made using Arm-based processors this year, and several e-readers.

"Android has become remarkably popular in a short space of time," said Tudor Brown, president of Arm, at a news conference in Taipei.

Three Android tablets were on display at Arm's private showroom at Computex: Foxconn's N928-1 with a 10-inch touchscreen, the Lifepad by Prowave with a 7-inch touchscreen, and Wanlida Group's Malata brand tablet with a 10-inch touchscreen.

MSI also showed off an Android-based tablet PC called the Wind Pad 110 at a news conference, but the company will launch a Windows-based tablet first, a strategy some of its rivals also announced.

MSI's Wind Pad 100 has Microsoft's Windows 7 on board, a 10-inch display and a UI developed by MSI. It also features built-in 3G and Wi-Fi, GPS and HDMI high-definition video output. It will be available later this year.

Asus also debuted its first tablets, two Eee Pads running Windows software.

A tablet PC from Asustek with Android on board was displayed at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) early this year, but the device did not appear at Computex. Asustek Chairman Jonney Shih said he's not sure the market is ready yet for Android-based tablets.

Shih said the launch of the iPad has created a unique opportunity for tablet-style devices and he expects demand for such products to grow this year.

Apple launched the iPad on April 3 in the US and last week started selling them overseas in markets including the UK, Australia, Germany and Japan.

Computex is one of Asia's largest electronics trade shows. The exhibition usually offers a view of what products consumers will see on world markets later this year.

See more:

Computex news



2376ARM: 'Flexibility of chips leading to hyper-personalised tech'

Jeff Chu - Director of Consumer, Client Computing at ARM - took time out of his busy schedule at CES to give PC Advisor an insight into how the chip maker sees mobile and personal computing developing over the next few years.

The great thing about a show such as CES is that it offers a valuable insight into what to expect from consumer technology over the next 12 months. on that subject, ARM is in a unique position. The processor developer has literally hundreds of silicon- and hardware partners, representing a top to bottom slice of the whole tech diaspora, from white goods to Windows PCs. And Jeff told us that this broad range tells its own story.

He described the increasingly diverse range of smart goods now available as "the internet of things", and told us that "technology is becoming more engrained in every day life." Specifically referencing smart white goods such as connected refrigerators - and there are plenty of those here at CES - Jeff said that there are ARM chips already in such products, and that he expected micro controllers in smart devices to be a big growth area for the company.

"Technology is a tool to help with our daily lives," he said. "It's your world at your fingertips. Everything, everywhere."

But although in the past industry analysts have looked for a single device that will do everything, Jeff sees the increasingly diverse range of smart devices as a good thing, and a trend that is unlikely to be reversed. He perceives that there will be an even greater divergence of what he called "mobile and connected devices".

And Chu told us that the specific combination of connected devices chosen by each individual was leading to something he described as "the hyper personalisation of tech" - each individual, for home and for business, choosing and using a variety of computers ranging in size from smartphone through laptop to desktop, and supplemented by everyday devices with smart capabilities.

But surely, we said, this is unsustainable? How can devices across a broad spectrum of eco-systems hope to survive in a crowded market? There will have to be some convergance, surely?

Not so, says Jeff. "Google Android, the Amazon Kindle Fire, the iPad... they are all different, serving different people in different ways," Chu said. He said to expect some convergance around types of device, suggesting that as tablets get smaller in time we may see the rebirth of feature phones as mere, well, devices with which to phone people.

But he suggested that the important factors where flexibility of purpose, and the ability to talk to devices from different operating system families. So, for instance, there is room for Android, Windows and iOS to thrive, so long as you can edit a Word document on all of them. the exponential growth in cloud computing is crucial here, Chu told us. "Cloud enables further seamless integration of multiple products," he explained.

"Niche products are now mainstream," Chu said. And he suggested that the next big boom in mobile computing devices will happen when telcos start selling data plans to individuals to use across a range of devices. So, as with a software licence, you might get a series of SIMS to use in a series of devices, but pay only once. Chu said to expect something along these lines this year, a move that will gain greater impetus when Microsoft releases Windows 8 (able to run on ARM processors) and hardware makers grasp the potential benefits of selling an increasing range of devices.

All of this is, of course, good news for ARM. The chip maker has had a fantastic past few years, and Chu sees only further growth. He said that the company was focussing on power consumption and further innovation in chip design. He said that there are currently more than 50 ARM system on a chip products in the market, and that we should expect more.

Chu concluded by telling us that the plan for ARM was to continue producing chips to support an increasing variety of devices, ranging from smart white goods and TVs, through to PCs, smartphones and tablets. He said that controlling power consumption was the key, and that ARM will continue to offer the flexibility to support tech manufacturers in increasing the variety of personal computing devices we all use.



2377No big LTE splash for Verizon at CES this year

 

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LAS VEGAS -- Anyone expecting Verizon to unveil Stage 2 of its LTE network deployment at the Consumer Electronics Show this year came away disappointed.

Last year at this time, Verizon was fresh off launching its LTE network commercially in nearly 40 markets across the U.S., and the carrier showed off 10 different LTE devices that would run on its LTE network, including the Samsung Galaxy Tab and Motorola Xoom tablets and the LG Revolution smartphone. This year, the company did have some high-profile smartphones to announce, but most of these were sequels to previous models such as the Motorola Droid 4 and the Droid Razr Maxx. The carrier also announced that it wants all of its future devices to be LTE-compatible.

RELATED: Four cities getting Sprint LTE in the first half of 2012 

But as far as additions and improvements to Verizon's LTE network itself, there was scant news. Verizon Wireless Enterprise Sales Director Mike Wojcik said this week that the company had yet to set any dates for when it would starting selling devices equipped with Voice over LTE (VoLTE) technology and instead suggested that users who wanted to talk over the carrier's LTE network should use a third-party application such as Skype. The carrier first started testing out VoLTE on its network last year, although the company has largely been quiet on when the technology will be ready for use.

Wojcik also said that the carrier didn't have any updates for when it planned to test out LTE Advanced, the next generation of LTE technology that is expected to deliver data at average speeds up to 100Mbps. Instead, he reiterated Verizon's plans to have its entire current 3G EV-DO Rev. A network upgraded to LTE by the end of 2013.

LTE Advanced gained final approval for use from major handset manufacturers last winter at the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) conference in Taiwan. Both Ericsson and Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo conducted separate trials of LTE Advanced technology last year that achieved peak speeds of just under 1Gbps.

Verizon became the first American carrier to commercially deploy the first generation of LTE technology in 2010 when it announced rollouts that covered roughly one-third of the American population. Wojcik said that Verizon has currently deployed LTE in 190 markets in the U.S. covering 200 million points of presence (PoPs). AT&T has also been steadily expanding its own LTE network throughout the United States, as the carrier this month announced LTE services were available in New York, San Francisco and other major markets. Sprint, meanwhile, plans to have its LTE network up and running in four major U.S. markets by midyear.

Read more about anti-malware in Network World's Anti-malware section.



23785 key takeaways from CES

As is often the case, the expectations of what will be the big story at the Consumer Electronics Show are different from what actually becomes the big story.

This year, the big story was supposed to be about ultrabooks, the super-light personal computers poised to take over the space previously filled by notebooks. But as the show progressed, several other big stories came to the fore, including positive buzz for Nokia's first Windows Phone, LG and Sony's attempts to reboot the Google TV interface, and hints of future PC-tablet hybrid computers. In no particular order, then, here are the biggest takeaways from CES 2012.

PAPARAZZI: Celebrity sightings at CES

* Windows is back. OK, so Windows never really went away. But for the first time in years, it seems that Microsoft is trying something really new with its operating system by giving it a common look and feel across personal computers, tablets and smartphones. You could see this during a demonstration of the upcoming Windows 8 operating system that jettisoned Microsoft's standard Start menu for a screen full of application tiles akin to what the company currently uses as its main display for its Windows Phone mobile operating system.

Instead of clicking on the start button on your PC and getting the standard straight lists of programs and folders, you'll now get a bright and colorful display of tiles that cover the whole screen and can be arranged in whatever way you choose. While this approach seems natural for tablets and smartphones, it's nicely done with PCs as well as users can scroll through their apps by swiping across the screen with their mouse just like they were swiping with their fingers.

The show also saw the debut of Microsoft and Nokia's first Windows Phone collaborations, dubbed the Nokia Lumia 710 and Lumia 900. Both devices acted as fine showcases for the latest version of the Windows Phone operating system and including cool features such as the "People Hub" application that lets you keep tabs on your friends through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Windows Live and other big-name social networking services. And like Windows 8, the newest Windows Phone software lets you easily glide through application tiles to arrange and access your favorite apps.

While it's too early to say whether Microsoft's efforts to make Windows more mobile-friendly will be a smashing success, it's certainly the most interesting twist on Windows that Microsoft has implemented in years.

* Ultrabooks are cool, but not essential. Ultrabooks were hyped pretty big before the show, although some of us wondered if they were just Windows-based versions of the MacBook Air. After playing around with several ultrabooks on the CES floor this week, I concluded that yes, ultrabooks are Windows-based versions of the MacBook Air. But there's not anything wrong with that.

Your typical ultrabook weighs in at less than 4 pounds and comes equipped with an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, display screens of 13.3 inches or larger and internal storage in the 500GB range. Ultrabooks are also fairly inexpensive, priced at under $1,000. Among the many ultrabooks on display at CES this year were the Lenovo ThinkPad T430u, the Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook and the HP Folio 13.

More than anything, ultrabooks are the next generation of laptops that will be loved by business users who do a lot of traveling and want a powerful PC that is easy to bring wherever they go. In particular, you can bet that many a long-suffering tech journalist used to lugging a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 around convention floors will lobby their bosses to invest in ultrabooks.

* LTE is now a must for smartphones. Most of the big smartphones to make a splash at CES, including the Nokia Lumia 910, the Motorola Droid 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S, were LTE-ready. And not to put too fine a point on it, Verizon this week said that device manufacturers shouldn't bother to create tablets or smartphones for Verizon if they don't come embedded with LTE chipsets. (We'll wait and see if Verizon maintains this take-it-or-leave-it attitude if the next iPhone still doesn't have LTE capability.)

The bottom line here is that LTE is now a must-have feature for any self-respecting smartphone, especially with Sprint's announcement that it will have LTE up and running in at least four markets in the first half of 2012. Not bad for a technology that was only available on one carrier and that covered just over one-third of the U.S. population just a year ago.

* Google TV gets a reboot. Give Google credit: Although its Google TV platform has flopped so far, the company isn't giving up on it. In fact, Google scored a big win at CES when both Sony and LG announced that they had developed brand-new solutions for Google's television platform. Sony's upcoming Network Media Player set-top box, powered by the latest version of Google TV, made some nice strides in simplifying the experience of navigating the Google TV menu by ditching its previous 70-button monster remote for a controller that featured a touchpad on one side and a full qwerty keyboard on the other. LG, meanwhile, wasn't content to release just a set-top box and instead released an HDTV with the Google TV platform fully integrated. LG also gave its own take on how to make an efficient Google TV remote control by showing off its Magic Remote that lets users navigate around the screen simply by waving the remote around using Magic Motion technology. Like the Sony remote, LG's controller also has a full qwerty keyboard on the bottom.

While these two products by themselves aren't enough to make Google TV ubiquitous anytime soon, it does show that there is still strong developer interest in the platform and that even more enticing versions of the platform could drop in the near future.

* Tablet-PC hybrids appear on the horizon. One of the cooler gadgets on display this year was the Samsung Galaxy Note, a cross between a smartphone and a tablet that utilized an electronic "S Pen" that allowed users to write digitally on documents downloaded onto the device. The goal of this, said Samsung, was to create a device that combined the portability of tablets with some of the work functionality of personal computers.

We saw a similar concept on display with the Asus Transformer Prime TF700T, a tablet that runs on Android 4.0 ("Ice Cream Sandwich") and also plugs into a laptop dock, giving users the mobility of tablet with the functionality of a full qwerty keyboard.

And Sony displayed a prototype of its own tablet-PC hybrid device behind a glass case in its exhibit area.

Call me crazy, but having tablets that can double as PCs seems like a pretty swell idea whose time will come at some point in the near future. CES 2013, perhaps? We'll have to see.

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2379Colour saturation 'key to new iPad wow factor'

 

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While the increased resolution of the new iPad's screen is impressive, the colour saturation is also responsible for the display's "wow" factor, according to a new analysis.

Display calibration software provider DisplayMate has published its findings of a detailed examination of the new iPad and praises Apple for realising that "a top notch display is the key to a successful product" - a fact which it belives other tablet manufacturers are yet to latch on to.

"The Apple Retina Display is pure marketing brilliance. While the enhanced screen resolution is getting most of the attention, the enhanced colour saturation is equally responsible for its wow factor. These are the two wonders of the new iPad," said Dr Raymond M Soneira, the President of DisplayMate Technologies Corporation.

DisplayMate ran comparative tests between the new iPad and the iPad 2, as well as the iPhone 4S, in a number of different categories: Screen Reflections, Brightness and Contrast, Colours and Intensities, Viewing Angles, Display Backlight Power Consumption, and Running Time on Battery.

"The new iPad has a virtually perfect 99 percent of the Standard Color Gamut (a 38 percent improvement over the iPad 2). The colours are beautiful and accurate due to very good factory calibration - they are also "more vibrant" but not excessively so or gaudy like some existing OLED displays," Dr Soneira concluded.

The very accurate colours and picture quality, he adds, mean that the new iPad is likely to be the best quality display you own, unless you happen to own a calibrated professional display. In fact, with just some minor calibration tweaks the new iPad would qualify as a studio reference monitor, Soneira says.

However, DisplayMate's overall conclusions make it clear that there is still plenty of room for improvement in the new iPad.

"The new iPad's picture quality, color accuracy, and gray scale are not only much better than any other Tablet or Smartphone, it's also much better than most HDTVs, laptops, and monitors.

"While Apple has zeroed in on sharpness and done an excellent job of it, and improved the color saturation and color accuracy to an impressive level, there are still plenty of other very important display issues that need to be addressed by all of the Tablet and Smartphone manufacturers, including Apple," Soneira said.

Areas such as screen reflectance, the ambient light sensor, automatic brightness, the display user interface, RGB LED backlights, OLED technology and size still need more attention from Apple and other manufacturers, DisplayMate believes.



2380Forgotten password for Windows XP PC

 

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When a reader couldn't access his Windows XP PC because he had forgotten the password, our Helproom Editor was happy to help.

QUESTION I've forgotten the password that's required to access my remote XP PC from a Windows 7 PC using Windows Remote Connection. I have tried the Passview utility without success. Will uninstalling and reinstalling this Windows component allow me to create a new password? Derek Sewell

HELPROOM ANSWER It sounds as though the password you've forgotten is the one on the remote XP machine. To regain access you'll need to perform a password recovery or reset on that PC, not your local Windows 7 system.

To reset your XP password you'll need physical access to the PC, or be able to pass on our instructions to someone who does.

By default, XP creates an Administrator account with a blank password. If this hasn't been changed, you can log in as the Administrator and reset the password for the User account you want to access.

Restart the PC, then press Ctrl, Alt, Del twice to bring up the login window. Enter Administrator as the username and leave the password field blank (unless you changed it previously). Click Start, Run, type control userpasswords2 and click Ok.

Select the Users tab in the window that pops up, then click the account you wish to remotely access. Choose Reset Password. Enter a new password, confirm that password, then click Ok.

Restart the XP PC. You should now be able to access it from your Windows 7 PC using the new password.

If you can't log into the Windows XP system as an Administrator, you'll need to use a password-recovery tool. We like Rekeysoft Windows Password Recovery Tool and Stellar Phoenix Password Recovery.

See all How to articles. Get free tech support in the Helproom Forum.

Visit Windows 7 Advisor for more Windows advice.



2381Forwarding images in Windows Live Mail

 

1,319 Tutorials

Having problems forwarding image files in Windows Live Mail? Our Helproom Expert is here to help.

QUESTION I use Windows Live Mail and can view email with photo attachments without problems. However, when I forward these messages the recipients report that the pictures are missing or displayed as a slideshow. I can get around the problem by saving the email as a document, then creating a new message and attaching the saved email, but there must be an easier way. Philip M Crook

HELPROOM ANSWER Microsoft's forums reveal that plenty of Windows Live Mail users are finding the same problem, Philip. You've already found an effective workaround, but can reduce the number of steps required by clicking on the small down arrow next to the Forward button and choosing ‘Forward as attachment', rather than first having to save the message.

The drawback with this method is that you won't be able to edit the original message or remove its sender and recipient information before forwarding.

We recommend you instead try the free Mozilla Thunderbird email client to run your Windows Live Mail account .

See all How to articles. Get free tech support in the Helproom Forum.

Visit Windows 7 Advisor for more Windows advice.



2382Four Easy Tricks for Better Photos

 

1,319 Tutorials

There are about a million books about photography on the shelf of your local bookstore. I should know, because mine is one of them. But you don't need to remember a book's worth of tips and tricks to improve your photography; for the highlights, you might want to play with an online camera simulator. And when you get right down to it, there are just a handful of easy things you can do to make a dramatic improvement to your photos.

1. Remember the Rule of Thirds

Want to improve your photographic composition? Stop putting your subject in the center of the frame. The "rule of thirds" tells us that photos (and video--watch TV and movies for proof) look better when the subject is off-center, aligned about a third of the way from the right or left side. Here, you can see that the wolf's face is positioned on the line of thirds on the right side of the photo, and his eyes are almost exactly a third of the way from the top as well.

There are actually a slew of rules that can help you compose eye-catching and engaging photos, but this one rule is perhaps the single most important one. To be precise, draw two lines through a photo, dividing it into nine squares that looks something like a tic-tac-toe board. The rule of thirds says that the most visually interesting parts are along any one of the lines, or at any of the points at which the lines intersect. That gives you a lot of ways to arrange your subject, so experiment.

2. Minimize Your Depth of Field

This is one of those rules that begs to be broken (try some hyperfocal photography, for example), but if you're just starting out, you'll get some great results by following it to the letter, at least to start with. Shoot your photos so the subject is sharply in focus, but the depth of field is shallow enough that the background is blurry. This creates visual separation and emphasizes the importance of your subject. It also looks really cool.

Depth of field is a measure of how much of the picture is in sharp focus, and you control that with your camera's aperture setting. A small f/number will give you a relatively small depth of field--you can dial in a small f-number directly in Aperture Priority mode, or you can set your camera to a scene setting like Portrait mode, which will do the same thing.

3. Use a Fast Shutter to Get a Sharp Photo

One of the easiest ways to ruin a photo is by shooting with a shutter speed that's too slow, so you get dreaded camera shake. The antidote is pretty simple: Shoot with a faster shutter speed. But how fast is fast enough? There's actually a handy rule of thumb that has served photographers for 75 years: The shutter speed should be no slower than the inverse of the lens's focal length.

What?

That's not as complicated as it might sound. Suppose you are shooting with a camera that has a 50mm lens. You can safely capture a sharp photo if the shutter speed is 1/50 second or faster. If you have a 200mm lens, the shutter speed should be 1/200 second or faster. And remember that for this guideline to work, you should refer to the lens's "35mm equivalent" focal length.

4. Eliminate Red Eye by Avoiding the Flash

Do you get a lot of red-eyed people in your photos? That happens when the light from your flash reflects off the retina in the back of your subject's eyes, giving them that tell-tale demonic glow.

Now that you know why it happens, you can avoid it. You can avoid shooting in dark situations, you can turn off your flash and rely on ambient light. Increase your camera's ISO to make the most of the available light. Or (if you have a digital SLR), you can mount an external flash on a bracket to get it further from the lens. Read more about this in "Avoid the Red Eye Effect."

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Great news! For a limited time (from March 1 till August 31, 2012), Hot Pic of the Week winners will receive one free downloadable copy of Corel PaintShop Pro X4.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 800 by 600 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "X-Ray" by Philip Gentili, Overland Park, Kansas

Philip says: "I wanted a picture that exhibited the starkness of winter. To add visual interest without impacting the starkness, I copied the top portion of the tree, inverted it, and placed it beneath the tree to simulate the root system."

He shot this image with a Canon T2I and edited it in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

This week's runner-up: "Edinburgh" by Paul Bild, Vancouver, British Columbia

Paul says he captured this photo with his Canon PowerShot G12, converted it from RAW, and then turned it into a black-and-white image using Topaz Software Detail 2.

To see last month's winners, visit our February Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.



2383iStorage introduces diskAshur DT

 

iStorage has launched the diskAshur DT, a 3.5-inch military grade portable hard drive.

The firm said the diskAshur DT is the world’s first portable 3.5” hard drive with military grade hardware encryption and PIN code access. It also has USB 3.0 connectivity and comes in a capacity of up to three 3TB.

John Michael, managing director of iStorage said, “Data security remains of paramount importance for organisations and individuals, especially in light of the ICO’s powers to fine those guilty of serious Data Protection Act breaches. diskAshur DT’s integrated digital and physical security functionality including real time AES 256-bit hardware encryption, 6-16 digit PIN access, on-board keypad and brute force hack defence mechanisms, deliver peace of mind for those looking for an ultra-secure mass storage solution.”

To keep the stored data secure the iStorage diskAshur DT uses military grade AES 256-bit hardware encryption along with a ‘wear-resistant’ keypad with 6 to 16 digit PIN code activation. The hard drive is housed in a strong aluminium case.

Furthermore, the diskAshur DT has a Mission Impossible –style self-destruct mechanism to protect the device against brute force attacks. This is aided by tamper-resistant epoxy-coated circuitry.

Other security features include Variable Time Circuit to protect against timed attacks and auto-lock to shut the drive down if unattended for too long.

The iStorage diskAshur DT is available in three capacities of 1TB, 2TB and 3TB priced at £214, £238 and £334, respectively. It is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X and Linux operating system without the need for drivers.



2384Sony announces Xperia Sola smartphone

 

Sony has announced the Xperia Sola as the latest addition to the Xperia family of smartphones, the Xperia S, Xperia P and Xperia U. The Xperia Sola will be available in black, red or white in the second quarter.

The Sola comes with a 3.7-inch (480 x 854) Reality Display with Sony’s Mobile Bravia Engine. The floating touch technology allows the user to navigate a web page without touching the screen.

Sony said it works by allowing a finger to be hovered above the screen which acts like a moving cursor. Floating touch will "evolve with new user functionality and applications through software updates and engagement with developers."

Calum MacDougall, head of Xperia marketing at Sony Mobile said, "Xperia sola comes with the power of Sony and a sense of magic with floating touch, giving consumers a fun new way to browse the web and latest technology to show off."
 
The Sola will ship with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and Sony has promised an upgrade to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich “during summer 2012”. It will be powered by a 1GHz dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM, 5GB of internal storage.  

It also has a 5MP rear facing camera, xLOUD and 3D surround sound audio technology and near field communication (NFC) technology. Sony said customers will have access to the Sony Entertainment Network for content such as films and music.

Sony Xperia Sola

Sony has bundled the Xperia Sola with some NFC Xperia SmartTags. Each one can be customised with a different profile of settings. Simply touching one with the phone applied that SmartTag’s profile and settings.



2385Samsung announces Galaxy Pocket smartphone

 

Samsung has added yet another device to its ever growing Galaxy line-up in the form of the Galaxy Pocket smartphone.

The smartphone gets its name from the fact it has a small 2.8-inch display and a ‘slim’ 12mm profile making it portable. It has Google’s Android 2.3 Gingerbread operating system and an upgraded TouchWiz user interface.

Samsung Galaxy Pocket

Simon Stanford, vice president of Telecommunications and Networks Division at Samsung said, "With the Samsung Galaxy Pocket, we are building on the features we know our customers enjoy and get the most out of. This new device adds further breadth to the choice of smartphones we currently offer and provides a smartphone experience for even more customers at an affordable price."

The Galaxy Pocket has a 832MHz processor, 3GB of internal storage and a 2MP rear facing camera. It also has built in WiFi, Bluetooth and an FM radio. Storage can be expanded by up to 32GB via the microSD card slot.

Samsung has, like usual, included its Samsung Apps, ChatON, Kies and Social Hub features to the Galaxy pocket.

No specific release date has been revealed by Samsung yet but the handset will be launched later this year in the UK. Samsung hasn’t given a price either but going by the specifications we expect the Galaxy Pocket to be a budget friendly device.



2386National Security Agency Pressed to Reveal Details on Google Deal

 

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is locking horns with the National Security Agency over a secret deal the agency cut with Google following an attack on Gmail by Chinese hackers in 2010.

The information center has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NSA to obtain information about the deal. That request was rejected by the agency. That rejection was upheld by a federal court. The hearing on the appeal of that decision is being held today in Washington, D.C.

In its Freedom of Information Act request [PDF], the information center is requesting:

  • All records concerning an agreement or similar basis for collaboration, final or draft, between the NSA and Google regarding cybersecurity
  • All records of communication between NSA and Google concerning Gmail, including but not limited to Google's decision to fail to routinely encrypt Gmail messages prior to Jan. 13, 2010
  • All records of communications regarding NSA's role in Google’s decision regarding the failure to routinely deploy encryption for cloud-based computing service, such as Google Docs.

In rejecting the Freedom of Information Act, the NSA declined to either confirm or deny the Google deal. Confirming or denying the Google deal, it argued, would reveal whether the agency had determined that vulnerabilities or cybersecurity issues pertaining to Google or certain of its commercial technologies could make U.S. government information systems susceptible to exploitation or attack.

In addition, it asserted that acknowledging a relationship between the NSA and Google could potentially alert adversaries to the NSA.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center counters that the NSA's reasons for denying the FOIA are "vague and conclusory" and don’t meet the legal standards for refusal of such a request.

Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon sided with the NSA. In a decision [PDF] handed down in July 2011, the judge wrote that the agency properly explained the relevance of the requested information to the NSA's "Information Assurance" mission to national security and the harm that could be caused by acknowledging the existence/nonexistence of the information.

He called the NSA's response to the Freedom of Information Act "both logical and plausible" and said it satisfied the legal requirements for such matters.

In its appeal [PDF] of Leon's decision, the information center argued that the admitting of a deal with Google doesn't compromise national security.

"While the agency may choose to assert several statutory exemptions if it wishes to withhold records in its possession, acknowledging the existence of unsolicited third-party e-mails sent to the NSA does not reveal any information about the NSA’s functions and activities," the center argued.

The 2010 Gmail attacks were controversial because they targeted U.S. government officials and because Google claimed the hackers behind the phishing sorties were sponsored by the Chinese government, an allegation that China denies.

One casualty of the attacks was Microsoft Windows, which Google employees began deserting following the incident.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.



2387Google Explains Gmail's Spam Filtering Process

 

For those who have always wondered why some e-mails arrive in Gmail’s spam folder, Google has updated the service to explain to what determines that spam is spam.

Ela Czajka, a software engineer with the Gmail team, blogged about the new feature and its various levels of detection. Starting now, when you click on a message in Gmail's spam folder, an explanatory note appears at the top, warning of suspicious hyperlinks, reminding you that you have previously marked a sender as a spammer, or denoting that a particular e-mail has been deemed shady by the filter itself.

Czajka also included a link to Gmail's recently updated Hub of Spam, where all things spam are explained -- such as what phishing scams are, how Gmail uses content filters and the behavior of other Gmail users to label spam, and more. Gmail's labeling practices are pretty interesting, and are a perfect match with the Gmail setting "Authentication icon for verified senders," which can be enabled in Gmail Labs and adds a little key next to a verified sender's name, guaranteeing the e-mail is coming from a legit source.

If you're like me and simply hit "delete forever" on every spam message, or just ignore the folder altogether, this tiny improvement may not mean much, but it's good to know that should you suddenly become gullible and your PC is feverish with malware, Gmail has got your back.



2388Linux Unites With Android, Adds Business-friendly Features

 

Linux founder Linus Torvalds announced the release of the 3.3 Linux kernel on Sunday, bringing a host of fixes and updates that were long overdue--most importantly, the merging of Android into the main Linux source tree.

Now, developers and hardware vendors can plan to build (and build on) Android-compatible Linux devices, and utilize Linux advances that haven't made it to Android beforehand. The code integration, a long time in coming, puts to rest the idea that ideological and technical differences would interfere with ever bridging the two kernels.

Since Android is open source, anyone can work on its code to create something new and wonderful; Amazon's Kindle Fire, which is using the older Android 2.2 kernel, springs to mind. And with this merging of code, a much wider base of programmers will be able to work on additions and enhancements to improve Android.

This means that the Linux community can now fully support the Android mobile OS, and that theoretically you'd be able to boot an Android device with an unchanged, base Linux 3.3 kernel.

For typical users, there won't be a noticeable change, but for Android developers it will be a godsend enabling easier migration and support for issues that crop up when working on new kernels for phones or customized ROMs. (A ROM is a customized image flashed on your rooted or "jailbroken" mobile device to add extra functionality, such as overclocking or further customization.)

It might also lead companies beyond Amazon try to make a play at creating their own mobile operating systems, based off of Google's Android success.

In addition, this release offers a ton of changes to benefit enterprise-level companies running Linux systems.

Another important change is teaming, a replacement for the current bonding driver that is used in the creation of virtual interfaces. You will now be able to make a virtual interface that merges together multiple ethernet devices for speed and reliability applications. Teaming is a large improvement over the current round-robin style mode on virtual interfaces, which had each interface sending a packet at a time, one after the other.

Version 3.3. also introduces the new capability to restripe Btrfs, the scalable Linux filesystem designed for large enterprise storage systems. Striping means creating a logical volume atop multiple drives. Your system will see one disk, and your data will span from one to the next to maximize the speed in which it's accessed. You can have many drives connected in this fashion, and when they fill up, re-striping the drives is a chore for systems as the data has to be moved in the proper order.

But now, if you run out of space in a striped volume, you can add a disk and re-stripe the logical volume over all of the disks. This will be a godsend to IT departments that currently only run time-consuming drive replacements at night. The new Btrfs can pause and resume a balance operation, give updates as to status of the distribution, and even restripe between RAID levels.

The addition of Open vSwitch to the mainline Linux kernel is another important addition. Open vSwitch will replace the Linux bridge in the case of more complex switching needs, such as for virtualized server environments. It supports all of the management interface standards, and it's compatible with modern switching chipsets. Being able to change to a different RAID level in Btrfs is an added bonus, and the newly included balancing and debugging tools will keep that operation easy to manage and efficient.

With additional updates to network priority traffic, EFI boot support, memory management, cryptography, and security, the 3.3 kernel is a big deal. It even introduces support for a new hardware architecture, TI C6X from Texas Instruments. If your business runs the cutting edge of Linux hardware and software, this is an upgrade you don't want to miss.

Read the full announcement here from Linus Torvalds.

Jason Kennedy is an IBM-trained systems administrator turned writer interested in all things Linux, mobile, and science-related. He's a curator of terrible sci-fi movie and book knowledge, and a reformed competitive FPS and MMO gamer. Find Jason on Twitter and Google+.



2389New iPad price round-up

Updated 16/03/12: Apple will start selling its new iPad at 8am tomorrow morning. But if you haven’t pre-ordered one and aren’t sitting in the queue already then you might be wondering what your options are.

Here’s a round-up of where you can buy the new iPad and how much it will cost for the different models with various deals. See also: New iPad review.

Apple

You can, of course, buy your iPad straight from Apple, either by walking into a store or online. There are six options to choose from; A Wi-Fi only model in 16GB, 32GB or 64GB capacities and a Wi-Fi and 4G model in the same storage capacities. Prices start at £399 for the Wi-Fi only 16GB and up to £479 and £559 for the 32GB and 64GB models. You can add £100 to these prices to add 4G connectivity.

At the time of writing a new iPad from Apple will be dispatched in two to three weeks.

New iPad delay

Three

Three will be selling the new iPad from tomorrow, offering all six variations of the tablet. The contacts last 24 months and all provide 15GB of data usage per month. Here’s a breakdown of the deals.

  • new iPad 16GB £99 up front. £29 a month
  • new iPad 16GB £159 up front. £25 a month
  • new iPad 32GB £169 up front. £29 a month
  • new iPad 32GB £229 up front. £25 a month
  • new iPad 64GB £249 up front. £29 a month
  • new iPad 64GB £299 up front. £25 a month

Another option with Three is to opt for a one month rolling contract. There’s a £7 per month SIM which offers 1GB of data per month or a £15 per month with 10GB of data.

Orange

Like Three, Orange is another mobile operator which will sell the iPad tomorrow. Orange’s 24 month contract comes with 1GB of anytime data, 1GB of quiet-time data (12am-4pm) and unlimited access to BT Openzone Wi-Fi. Below is a table of the upfront cost for the new iPad with Orange.

Orange iPad prices

Orange is also offering the new iPad with a choice of iPhone starting at £66 per month on a 24 month contract.

Vodafone

Vodafone’s set of contracts are yet again 24 months long for £27 per month. The deal includes a 2GB data allowance and 1GB of BT Openzone. Here’s a breakdown of the upfront cost for the different iPad models.

  • new iPad 16GB £199 up front.
  • new iPad 32GB £275 up front.
  • new iPad 64GB £345 up front.

The firm is also offering the iPad 2 on the same contract with the same data allowances with an upfront cost of £139 for the 16GB model. Alternatively, a 30 day SIM only plan is available similar to Three’s. Paying £15 per month gets you the same data allowance as the 24 month contract while £7.50 gets 500MB of data ant 1GB of BT Openzone.

O2

O2 has said it will not be selling the new iPad directly but an O2 microSIM can be purchased with the tablet straight from Apple.

Get your own deal

Altough getting an iPad on a contact reduces the upfront cost of the device, you can end up paying a lot of money over the two year period. A money saving method is to get the Wi-Fi and 4G model of the iPad and buy a SIM only deal from the mobile operator. For example, Giff Gaff does a £5 per month SIM which comes with 500MB of data.

A secondary advantage here is that you’re not locked down to a contract so you can opt out as and when you like. This way when the next generation iPad comes out you can simply sell your current model and upgrade without the hassle of being mid-way through a two year contract.

iPad 2

If your wallet can’t stretch to a new iPad then you can pick up an iPad 2 from Apple for £329 for a WiFi only model. You can also get one for even less if you pick up a refurbished model, starting at £289.



2390New iPad: is 16GB enough storage?

 

With new HD features, space could become a problem

Apple's third-generation iPad - the new iPad, reviewed here - is available in the same 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities as iPad 2, with no possibility of storage expansion via removable memory.

With the 32GB and 64GB models starting at £479 and £559 respectively, we think most people will be attracted to the cheaper £399 16GB iPad. But with all the HD features Apple has unveiled, how quickly will they find themselves running out of space?

The new iPad has a quad-resolution 2048x1536-pixel screen that will make watching full-HD films an even more tempting proposition. But these videos take up considerably more space than standard-definition (SD) movies.

Apple has promised to start offering 1080p films through iTunes, although we could only find 720p available to buy or rent in the UK at present. Still, at around 4GB for an existing 720p download, there won't be a lot of space on a 16GB model once you've loaded up with a few apps too.

Then there's the new 5Mp rear stills camera, also capable of filming video at 1920 x 1080 resolution. Combined with Apple's very simple to use iPhoto and iMovie for iOS apps, there'll be a lot more creative photography and film making happening on Apple's new iPad. See also: New iPad retina screen - What you need to know

New iPad: Resolutionary gameplay

If you play games on the iPad, be prepared to store them. Existing action games can take many megabyte of storage space. Retina resolution will herald a new wave of ultra-detail games that will almost certainly require more space again on the iPad's flash memory.

Although the new iPad's 4G LTE mobile connection is of no use in the UK for the foreseeable future, it could one day allow faster internet access for streaming or downloading even more high-definition content.

If you use the iCloud service, iTunes-bought content such as music and films can be stored on a compatible iPhone, iPad, iPod or Mac. The media is stored in Apple's cloud and also downloaded (rather than streamed) to any other so-configured Apple devices you own.

Depending on how it's set up, iCloud’s synchronisation of devices will have the potential to consume a large helping of your iPad's storage space.

A free iCloud account offers 5GB of storage space – separate to your music, books or photos – but if you store email up there, for example, you'll quickly use that space up.

It's also important to remember that before you begin filling up your iPad, the operating system and related files will consume a certain amount of storage capacity. Expect to find around 14GB of usable storage for your files on a 16GB iPad, for example.

How much capacity you need for your personal media content – that's your non-synced music, video, films, photos, e-books, documents and email – is of course entirely dependent on your intended use of the iPad.

Remember that broadly speaking, video content is the space hog, followed by music and photos, while text-based documents usually take relatively no space at all.

For new users, bear in mind that whatever you originally bought the iPad for, it's quite likely to expand as you come to realise the device's potential.

Even veteran iPad users might base a purchasing decision on how much space they used up on the iPad 2; in fact, they may find themselves suddenly wanting to use the iPad's full-HD camera and Retina display for editing lots of HD images or watching films.

However, our best advice is to check the size of your current media library in iTunes before you choose which iPad model to buy. Then double it to get an idea of how much space you'll soon need. See also: What's new in iOS 5.1?



2391How to choose a smartphone

Whether you're looking to buy a smartphone outright or commit to a pay-monthly contract, the sheer number of handsets can be bewildering. Don't be limited by what's on offer by your current mobile provider, though, as it's fairly painless to switch to another and take your number with you.

See also:

The first thing to consider is what you will use your smartphone for. For most people, the answer is calls, texts, email and web browsing. Any smartphone will allow you to do these things, but if you'll be sending lots of texts and emails, you may prefer a hardware keyboard rather than an on-screen model. BlackBerrys aren't the only smartphones with physical keys, but you might be surprised how quick and easy it is to type on a virtual touchscreen keyboard.

Apps are the other major consideration, as third-party programs vastly expand the capabilities of your smartphone. Apple's App Store and Google's Android Market have hundreds of thousands of apps to choose between, covering just about every possible task from finding train times to organising recipes. If you're also thinking of buying a tablet, it's worth choosing the same platform as many apps you buy will work on both devices.

Operating system

There are four main choices: Apple iOS, Google Android, BlackBerry OS and Windows Phone. Apple and RIM don't licence their mobile operating systems to other manufacturers, so your choice of handset is limited to the firms' own ranges. Google and Microsoft let a variety of manufacturers use their operating systems, so the choice is wider.

Apple's iOS is a slick-looking, easy-to-use interface but you're tied to iTunes to load content onto your phone. It's a similar situation with Windows Phone devices: you have to install and use Microsoft's Zune software.

With Android handsets, you can drag and drop files just as you would with a USB flash drive, making them much more flexible. This open design has disadvantages, though. It's possible that the handset won't be able to view or play the files you've uploaded – they may use a codec that isn't supported, for example. Although you're much more locked down with iOS and Windows Phone, you can be pretty sure that everything will work.

It's a similar story with apps. Apple and Microsoft vet the apps in their app stores, but Google doesn't. There's no guarantee of quality with Android apps, or that they're free from malware.

It's worth popping in to your local phone store to try out each of the operating systems to find out which one you like best.

Storage

When it comes to storage, think big. Even if you're not planning to keep a large music library on your phone or watch a lot of videos, it's worth having lots of space for apps. This is especially important on handsets such as the iPhone which can't be expanded with memory cards. Consider 16GB as a sensible minimum.

Capacity isn't such an issue if you choose a handset with a MicroSD Card slot or if you're likely to stream music using a service such as Spotify.

Screen size

Smartphones are personal devices, and some people prefer a tiny phone that will fit easily in a pocket while others would rather have a big screen that's good for watching movies. Screen sizes range from around 3in to over 5in, but the largest phones can be quite bulky. Conversely, smaller screens may not have enough room to display a Qwerty keyboard when upright and the resulting combined keys are much more cumbersome to use.

Screen resolution also varies widely. Some smartphones have screens with 320x480 pixels, and this appears much blockier than the ‘quarter HD' screens which have a 540x960 resolution. More pixels mean that text and photos look sharper, and more information can be shown on screen at once.

Entertainment

The iPhone has been widely criticised for not supporting Flash, but this is now far less of a problem as dedicated apps allow you to use many websites (such as YouTube) that ordinarily rely on the technology for videos and other content.

Flash is slowly being replaced by HTML5, but if you need to use a website that still uses it, you'll want a smartphone that supports it. Android does, but look for a powerful processor – at least 1GHz – as Flash demands plenty of grunt.

Games can also be power hungry, so a fast processor and graphics chip are things to look for if you want to play games such as racing simulators and first-person-shooters. In general, a dual- or even quad-core processor is worth having over a single-core CPU as it makes the smartphone more responsive when running multiple apps.

Security

Data security might be important to you, particularly if want to buy anything or store personal information on your phone. All smartphones have security in one form or another, with most providing PIN-protection when the handset is turned on. On Android smartphones, a swipe pattern to unlock the device is common.

The apps you install and the social networks you use also pose security risks. Apps such as Lookout can help check the integrity of items you attempt to download, but location-tracking apps and messaging apps can also be problematic in their own way. iPhone and BlackBerry handsets are more secure than the open-source Google Android platform, but you should still practice caution.

BlackBerry and iPhone smartphones can be remotely tracked – handy if you lose your phone – and can also be remotely wiped, so if a thief steals it, you can delete the contents.

Price

Price is arguably the main factor for a lot of people, but the price of the smartphone is usually worked into the monthly contract price. For example, it's common to see even expensive handsets offered free if you sign up for an 18- or 24-month contract at £30 per month. The amount of included call time, text messages and data (for internet and downloads) varies, so it pays to compare tariffs carefully.

Calculate the total price you'll pay over the duration of the contract, as it might work out cheaper to buy the handset outright and opt for a SIM-only contract, or a pay-as-you-go deal. If you buy a smartphone outright, it will be unlocked which means it will work on any mobile network.

Handsets that are bought on a contract are likely to be locked to the network you signed up with. You may have to pay to have it unlocked to switch to another provider.

See our latest smartphone reviews.



2392Group test: what's the best projector?

 

PC Advisor reviews the best projectors you can buy in the UK today.

5. Dell M110

Dell M110

The Dell M110 delivers much more than you might expect from such a small device. It’s easy to use and delivers great-looking presentations on smaller screens. It’s also extremely portable and can function without the need for an attached laptop. Supported file formats are limited, however and you’ll have to pay extra for the remote control.

4. BenQ W1000+

The BenQ W1000+ doesn’t pack a perfect image. But, for this money, you shouldn’t expect perfection. Instead it creates a very pleasing colour palette while projecting a sizeable picture. It works well with today’s HDMI devices, while the specifications are mostly very good for the money. Film enthusiasts who can stretch to four figures will find the extra expenditure worthwhile. But the BenQ W1000+ is a remarkably cost-effective means of conjuring up a cinematic experience in the comfort of our own living rooms.

3. NEC NP43

NEC NP43

The NEC NP43 is attractive, highly portable and comes with relatively high brightness capabilities. Add the highly customizable settings and excellent features like the Auto Focus, and this will prove a great choice for businesses on the move.

2. Vivitek Qumi Q2

Vivitek Qumi Q2

The Vivitek Qumi Q2 costs a lot more than the typical pico projector. But it offers rather more too, impressing with specifications that go beyond the norm for this size of device. If you need a projector that’s highly portable, but want to be able to create a vibrant image under a variety of light conditions, the Vivitek Qumi Q2 hits the mark.

1. InFocus ScreenPlay SP8600

InFocus ScreenPlay SP8600

We've seen budget 1080p projectors before, but few are able to offer the level of quality and features required to go beyond mere resolution and deliver smooth life-like moving images. The InFocus SP8600 takes such tasks in its stride and is available for less than the Vivitek H1080FD upon which is it based. This is a truly excellent projector at the £799 asking price.



2393Group test: what's the best technology reference book?

 

PC Advisor reviews the best technology books you can buy in the UK right now.

5. Photoshop Elements 10 In Easy Steps

Photoshop Elements 10 In Easy Steps

An excellent start point and reference guide for those new to Photosho; Photoshop Elements 10 In Easy Steps will be a good buy at £10.99. But only beginners will find this book useful, and Elements' excellent help section may suffice.

4. Book review: The iPhone Pocket Guide 6th Edition

Book review: The iPhone Pocket Guide 6th Edition

My only real criticism would be that the book is just slightly bigger than pocket sized. The tone of the book is perfect for beginners but its informal tone did start to get a little bit annoying and I feel the images all though a great size could of done with being in colour to make them stand out and easier on the eye. All in all a good read, perfect for the beginner and slightly more experienced users.

3. Using Your Digital SLR Camera In Simple Steps

Using Your Digital SLR Camera In Simple Steps

A useful, easy to read and well put together book for inexperienced DSLR photographers, we like Using Your Digital SLR Camera In Simple Steps.

2. Beginning Android 4

Beginning Android 4

It doesn't have much info that's specific to Android 4.0, and absolute beginners need not apply, but Beginning Android 4 will be a useful reference for app developers.

1. How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 10

How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 10

How to Cheat in Photoshop Elements 10 covers the basics without drowning the reader in advanced techniques and doesn't claim to make you an expert in a couple of hours. It will either be a reference volume for dipping into occasionally and when you need a reminder or it will become addictive, driving you onwards to master every technique available.



2394Group test: what's the best PC optimisation software?

 

5. Uniblue PowerSuite 2012

Uniblue PowerSuite 2012

The three applications combined in Uniblue's PowerSuite sit naturally together and work to improve the overall running of a Windows PC. We found a small but measurable difference to startup time, although there's also the feeling that some of the changes are similar to Sheldon Cooper arranging cereal boxes in increasing order of fibre content.

4. Avanquest SystemSuite 12 Professional

Avanquest SystemSuite 12 Professional

Avanquest offers a 5-PC licence for £41, which seems good value. The improvements SystemSuite can make to a PC are worth having, and the start-up and program analysers can help make sensible choices about a Window PC's setup and hence improve its day-to-day speed. Some of the ratings and reports are hard to fathom and a bit more transparency on what the software is actually doing would improve things.

3. Avanquest Fix-It Utilities 12

Avanquest Fix-It Utilities 12

It would be good to say that Fix-It Utilities 12 handles all the key housekeeping tasks needed to keep your PC running clean. To a large extent, it can. The problem we had with the Temporary Files Cleaner, though, which prevented the Fix and Maintain index ever rising above 41 percent, detracts from an otherwise strong performance. It might not happen on your PC, of course and £31 for a five-PC licence is good value.

2. Iolo System Mechanic 10.5

Iolo System Mechanic 10.5

Iolo System Mechanic 10.5 is a great example of what people want from a Windows performance tool – something which works without much intervention and makes discernible improvements to the performance of their systems. In a four-PC home, not that unusual these days, it's going to cost around £5 per computer per year – a potentially good investment.

1. DriverScanner 2012

DriverScanner 2012

DriverScanner 2012 offers an easy and complete way to update your drivers and keep tabs on the overall health of your PC. It's easy to use and quickly updated all of my outdated drivers.



2395The 10 Most Exciting Games of 2012

 

All signs point to this being a vintage year for videogames – and here’s ten of the very best from what’s due over the coming months.

2012 might have had a bit of a quiet start in terms of new games releases - although this month's The Darkness II, Kingdoms of Amalur and Soul Caliber V and Final Fantasy XIII-2 have very much got the ball rolling - but the best is very much yet to come. There are dozens of games due between now and Christmas that we can't wait for, but if pushed, we'd name these 10 titles as the ones we're most shivering with anticipation for... (For more games reviews, games news and our games forum, visit GamePro UK.)

BioShock: Infinite

BioShock: Infinite

Publisher – 2K

Developer – Irrational

Formats – PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Release month - TBC

With first-person shooters increasingly defined by the militaristic machismo of Call of Duty and whatever response to it EA come up with each year (rumour has it there’ll be another Medal of Honor in 2012), the time is more than right for a new BioShock game. Like its predecessors, Infinite promises to meld action with thoughtful storytelling, a choice of how to play and a painful moral dilemma or two. The big difference is that it moves away from the failed undersea utopia that was Rapture, and into the failed flying utopia project of Columbia. This means wide open spaces, dramatic skyrail travel and, perhaps most enticingly, a city that’s still alive and inhabited by civilians. We’ll also see time travel, a near-constant companion character in the form of the otherworldly Elizabeth, and giant mechanical bird-men. BioShock: Infinite remains a mystery in a great many ways – but that’s a big part of the appeal.

Max Payne 3

Max Payne 3

Publisher – Rockstar

Developer – Rockstar

Formats – PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Release month  - May

It’s been long years since oft-betrayed New York city cop Max Payne last did his slo-mo, Matrix-inspired dance with legions of thugs and gangsters, but in May he’s dragging himself into action one more time. The setting has moved to South America, the dark and wintery streets of NYC replaced with sunshine and favelas, and Max’s distinguished hairdo and sharp suit with a big fat belly and a shiny bald head. Developers Rockstar are claiming Payne 3 offers a reinvention of shooting, thanks to a whole new targeting system and, of course, those slow-motion powers, but fans’ fears that it’s too much of a stylistic departure from the first two Maxes may take some allaying.

Dishonored

Dishonored

Publisher – Bethesda

Developer – Arkane

Formats – PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Release month - TBC

With last year’s confident Deus Ex comeback proving there’s a clear appetite for cerebral shooters with generous lashings of player freedom, Dishonored looks to be exploring similar territory in a much weirder way. Set in an alternate reality where plagues, empires and steampunk defence systems rule the land, you take the role of a disgraced imperial assassin who, as well as being a master of stealth and guns, can possess animals to find alternative routes to his target. Or he can freeze time. Or, if you prefer, he can just blow a hole in everything that moves. The plan is that no two players will have quite the same experience.

Diablo III

Diablo III

Publisher – Blizzard

Developer – Blizzard

Formats – PC, Consoles TBC

Release month - TBC

From the makers of World of Warcraft, this hack’n’slash roleplaying game has been in ‘coming soon’ status for what feels like forever. Even after a successful beta late last year, creators Blizzard decided much still needed improving – so there’s still no sign of a definite release date. One thing’s for sure: it’ll be huge. Fusing the compulsive qualities of World of Warcraft with the more guided gratification of singleplayer roleplaying games, this’ll end up on almost every gaming PC the world over. Recently, a console version was confirmed too: it’s almost a mercy Diablo III isn’t out yet, because once it is, we won’t be able to escape it.

Mass Effect 3

Mass Effect 3

Publisher – EA

Developer – Bioware

Formats – PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Release date - March

Speaking of things we can’t escape, Mass Effect 3’s marketing blitz has been long and constant: presumably we’re all supposed to have been brainwashed into believing it’s the ultimate sci-fi adventure by this point. But, while there will indeed be sex, violence and robots, what Mass Effect has traditionally done best is storytelling and the opportunity to shape your character and their crew into a reflection of your light or dark heart. Finding out how Earth’s last stand against the merciless mechanical Reapers, and what terrible sacrifices Commander Shepherd must make to stop them, is hopefully going to be a darkly dramatic journey to savour.

Next page - five more of the best



2396Stronghold 3 preview

All this glossy action and ambitious role-playing has made 2011 a memorable enough year for games, but there’s been at least one genre left in the cold - the humble strategy game. With the exception of a new Total War title a few months, there really hasn’t been much to shout about in terms of ushering tiny men across a battlefield.

Fortunately, a familiar name has sloped back into view. Castle-building series Stronghold has been slumbering for some years, but back in 2001 this British-made medieval strategy gem was popular enough to outsell Grand Theft Auto 3 in Euro-zones such as Germany.

As some time with an early build proves, a few years of rest have done Stronghold 3 the world of good. A brand new graphics engine and a salient sense of mistakes made in the over-complicated second game point to something slick and smart. Most of all, it’s going back to basics - those basics being to build an enormous castle of your own devising, make sure it’s got a watertight economy then defend it from the slings and arrows of dastardly rival lords. In turn, naturally, you’ll want to go siege your enemy’s castles, primarily in the form of lobbing bloody great rocks at them.

Stronghold’s main draw is actual building. Where most strategy games settle for pop-up structures capable of spitting out perfectly-formed armies, here it’s all about how you place your castle’s individual walls and buildings. Some layouts will provide more effective defence; others might include critical weak points that a canny opponent will exploit; others still might actively seek a weaker, more open structure but that allows its inhabitants to more efficiently go about their daily tasks.

Your castle’s economy is what powers its expansion, so simply building a grim, towering fortress of solitude won’t get you too far. You’ll need woodcutters gathering the timber you need to construct arrows for your archers, a few chaps quarrying stone to build those precious walls, and the likes of bakers to keep your populace happy. It’s a delicate balancing act, but developer Firefly promises that it’s removed the arduous over-complexity the second Stronghold was guilty of in favour of something that accentuates the best parts of the castle-lord fantasy.

Stronghold 3

Part of that, quite naturally, is warfare. The new graphics engine means walls are procedurally-generated: a fancy-soundin’ term that in practice means when you pelt a castle with catapult fire, it gradually and visibly disintegrates until eventually collapsing, rather than removing neat, pre-determined chunks. It lends the sense that the castle’s really there, rather than being simply a graphic. Same goes for building the thing - walls and towers and whatnot snap together and mesh into one another rather than awkwardly jutting out or being restricted only to certain angles (as was the case in the previous Strongholds).

The night-time sieges look to be the game’s most spectacular conflicts. This isn’t just a matter of things being a bit darker - any area that you haven’t placed a light source in will be pitch black to you. Any invader worth their salt will spot this and try and sneak up to your castle under cover of darkness, meaning if you’ve planned badly you’re likely to find your walls crumbling and your archers tumbling to their doom before you even know there’s an enemy nearby.

Next page: Angry dogs and diseased badgers...



2397The rise of free-to-play games

 

Like it or loathe it, it seems fairly inevitable that more and more games are going to experiment with going free to play in the not-too-distant future. Valve’s multiplayer shooter titan Team Fortress 2 did it last week, Ubisoft are planning a whole new version of Ghost Recon that does it, there are two versions of Battlefield that do it, more and more big-name MMOs such as City of Heroes and Lord of the Rings Online are doing it… Perhaps it’s not the future, but it’s certainly a big part of the future.

It’s hugely important to note, though, that ‘free to play’ means a whole lot of things. To some minds, it evokes the unpleasantness (for traditional gamers) of Facebook games such as FarmVille - a cynical system that’s constantly trying to coax pennies out for you simply for the option to keep playing rather than waiting a few hours until some arbitrary energy bar recharges. For others, such as the currently protesting denizens of Eve Online, it means their beloved virtual home suddenly wanting them to cough up extra money.

The game remains subscription-based (with the two-tier pricing really not helping matters) but its creators have been vocal about how important they think microtransactions are to its future. So they’ve introduced stuff like a pretend shirt that, controversially, costs $25 - as much as a real-life shirt.

When one of Eve’s senior producers claimed this was because the game’s players should think of in-game fashion as being the equal of real-life fashion and the value (or lack) thereof, there was uproar. Almost 6000 players claim to have cancelled their subscriptions in response to Eve’s rather aggressive introduction of high-priced vanity items - if those guys stick to their guns, that’s enough to cost the game’s creator, CCP, as much as $1 million in annual revenue.

Eve Online

What such drama proves is that there’s a very delicate line to be trodden. The ‘free’ part of ‘free to play’ doesn’t fool many long-term gamers, and neither do optional microtransactions. When it’s a matter of buying features, and especially features that don’t amount to much more than a fancy graphic, what it creates in too many players is a fear that parts of their game are being carved off and pitched at the players with the most disposable income rather than the most passion - or the most skill.

Next page: charging for content?



2398Replicants like any other machine

 

Affordable premium products

Everyone likes a bargain, and we hate to pay over the odds for a product or service that’s available cheaper elsewhere.

There are brands that have a reputation for premium quality (and prices), and there are those that put themselves forward as the people’s champion, supplying decent products at everyday prices.

Samsung is a perfect example. The technology giant puts sophisticated consumer goods into our hands at affordable prices. South Korea’s super-brand has huge economies of scale to tap into, driving prices down. With the help of its mass-production of microwaves, washing machines, televisions, cameras, phones and computers, boxes of modern conveniences have filled the needy corners of our houses and our lives.

Copycat technology

Innovation isn’t the company’s strong point. Instead, Samsung majors in surveying the market to see what’s popular, what works, what sells, and then making its own version. In established areas of tech, such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners, there are few wheels to reinvent, so it can go along with other appliance-churners.

But when Samsung sets its eye on cutting-edge computing and smartphone technology, the competition can take exception at what it sees as copying its original ideas. Few people will have missed the on-going soap opera that is Apple and Samsung winning frequent-flyer seats in international high courts. The stakes are high, as much in brand reputation as in the financial reward from awarded damages or by removing the infringing product from sale.

On one side is Samsung, with its popular Galaxy phone and tablet tributes; on the other is Apple trying to protect its ideas and designs from being diluted by lookalike products, and looking like a sulking spoilsport for its troubles.

Can it be coincidence that Samsung’s most popular smartphone and tablet PC, the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Tab 10.1, bear a close resemblance to the iPhone and iPad?

One gets the idea that Apple would really rather retaliate against Google for emulating its mobile OS in the first place, more than just Samsung for selling Android on hardware that tries so hard to copy its product. But this war is by proxy so far, with Samsung in the firing line.

And the fact remains that people like a bargain. While the Galaxy Tab ultimately failed to make much of a dent in iPad 2 sales, Samsung’s Galaxy S II has picked up numerous awards as a winning smartphone. That’s as much for the value it seems to offer: all the touchscreen goodness of the iPhone, available in your pocket for less.

Google smartphones like the Galaxy fill an important place for people who don’t mind if their smartphone’s only almost as good as the original. They’re good enough for those who can overlook minor shortcomings, such as flaky browsers and frictional interfaces.

And Google phones are compelling for anyone who likes to tinker or install apps outside of a single point of delivery. The semi-open-source nature of Android appeals to hackers and hot-rodders.

But Android’s huge market share mostly comprises people who just want what they see as a bargain, a phone that can surf the net and play games and give them their Facebook updates. A phone they think or have been told is every bit as good as an iPhone, but ?is cheaper to buy on a monthly subscription plan.

Premium Google phones are nipping at the heels of the iPhone, and the Galaxy Nexus is the latest Samsung-Google co-production to define the state of the Android art. Read our review to see how the Nexus 3 squares up as the everyman alternative.



2399Blu-screen thinking

 

Floods in the far east triggered a minor famine in storage across the world. Prices of hard drives are finally beginning to settle down, with 2TB of spinning storage costing closer to £100 than the £200 mark it was a few months ago.

But like Wikipedia disappearing for a day, you don’t always realise how much you need something until it’s not there. And if you’re looking to keep all your data securely squirrelled in an online repository, you’ll need an array of still-pricey hard disks, nesting in one neat NAS chassis. For major storage requirements, look to a six-bay professional unit like the Qnap TS-659 Pro II.

Those inflated hard-disk prices started to make even flash storage look cheap. We’ve standardised on testing 256GB SSDs, since that capacity is enough to keep the essentials in one place. But remember a few years ago when 80GB was a decent size for a PC drive? You might still get by with just 64GB, and SSDs of this capacity can really rocket your PC experience. One such option is the A-Data S599 64GB; we've also reviewed the Samsung 830 Series 256GB.

Optical storage offers more permanent security for your precious data, and the Blu-ray Disc is a good option for archiving multiple gigabytes. But the medium was built for HD video. Windows users have had that option for years; Mac users weren’t so well catered for.

“Blu-ray is a bag of hurt,” said the late Steve Jobs when asked why no Blu-ray hardware or software was provided by Apple. “I don’t mean from the consumer point of view... the licensing is so complex. We’re waiting until Blu-ray takes off before we burden our customers with the cost of licensing and the drives.”

And Blu-ray Disc drives certainly have been expensive since Sony spearheaded the format 10 years ago. Even now, a Blu-ray writer is still around three times the price of a full-featured dual-layer DVD+/-RW mechanism. You’ll find several affordable examples in our Blu-ray writers group test, however.

And a large hole in the otherwise comprehensive multimedia capabilities of a modern Macintosh has also been filled, in part at least, by Macgo's Mac Blu-ray Player.



24002012 predictions: What to expect in technology in 2012

 

Our special 200th issue of PC Advisor (onsale in newsagents and as a digital magazine from January 5th) includes a look back at the ground we’ve covered over the past 16 years. But let’s briefly look forward to the immediate future of computer technologies we can expect to see over the coming year.

Intel has already started the ball rolling with thinner, lighter laptops, which it’s calling ‘Ultrabooks’. Very much inspired by Apple’s achievement with its MacBook Air, these ultraportables are becoming more affordable – although, from what we’ve seen so far, the best value ultrabook remains the original Air, and its overall user experience is still very much second to none. We've looked at one of the first ultrabooks, the Acer S3-951.

In a few months’ time we should see the next generation of ultrabook, fitted with Intel’s latest 22-nanometre 3-D Tri-Gate processor. This CPU’s transistors are stacked vertically to enable even smaller die sizes, and thereby faster performance with the same power consumption – or the same performance, but even longer battery life. It’ll be interesting to see how closely Intel can approach upstart rival ARM in power-efficient computing.

So Intel’s ‘Ivy Bridge’ family of processors, successor to the ‘Sandy Bridge’ chips seen in many of our desktop PC and laptop reviews, is now on the horizon. These CPUs also promise integrated graphics that can drive very-high-resolution displays. Since 1440x900 pixels is enough for an ultraportable’s 13in screen, you’d be forgiven for wondering why we need to pack more pixels into a small screen.

The answer is a new concept in ultra-high-resolution graphics: HiDPI. This will give the same kind of photographic realism we’ve seen in the iPhone’s Retina display. We’ve been experimenting with HiDPI in OS X Lion, letting a 2560x1600 screen render its interface with 1280x800 readability, but with incredible grain-free graphics.

The same type of ‘dotless’ displays should also be appearing in tablets in just a few months, and the ongoing battle between Apple and Samsung in the tablet market will be fought on this graphical battleground. Watch this high-resolution space to see how invisible pixels will transform our vision of 21st-century computing.



2401Google tracked web activities of Apple iPhone owners

Google has been accused of tracking the web activities of Apple iPhone owners that used their handset to browse the net.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the search engine was among a number of advertising companies, including Vibrant Media, Media Innovation Group and PointRoll, that used a programming code that allowed them to monitor users online behaviour when surfing the web using Safari, despite the fact the browser blocks user tracking through cookies by default, unlike other browsers.

The WSJ said code was spotted by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer and subsequently confirmed by an independent technical adviser, Ashkan Soltani. In tests, Soltani discovered the Google tracking code was installed on a PC via ads on 22 of the top 100 websites, while ads on 23 sites installed the same code on an iPhone browser.

"The Journal mischaracterises what happened and why. We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It's important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information," Google said in a statement.

Safari stops cooking being installed unless a user interacts directly with a website. However, Google's code made the browser believe a web users had submitted a form to the website, allowing the cookies to be installed. However, while the code tracks the sites a users visit, it does not collect any personal information

Google has since disabled the code.

"Unlike other major browsers, Apple's Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies, such as 'Like' buttons," said Rachel Whetstone, senior vice president of communications and public policy, in a statement.

"Last year, we began using this functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari who had opted to see personalised ads and other content - such as the ability to '+1' things that interest them," said Whetstone.

Google said it created a "temporary communication link" between Safari and Google's servers, to identify Safari users that had opted for this type of personalisation.

"We designed this so that the information passing between the user's Safari browser and Google's servers was anonymous – effectively creating a barrier between their personal information and the web content they browse," said Whetstone

"We didn't anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers. It's important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information."

Meanwhile, Apple added it had "put a stop to the circumvention of Safari privacy settings".



240241% of Brits getting bored of social networks

More than two in five (41 percent) Brits are 'getting bored' on social networks such as Facebook, says YouGov.

According to the research firm, 65 percent of UK web users have visited Facebook within the last month. In fact, the majortiy (95 percent) of those aged 16 to 20 and nearly three quarter (74 percent) of 21 to 24 year olds admitted to accessing the social network within the last month.

YouTube is the next popular social network, with half of UK web users saying they've visited the site in the past month. Twitter comes third with 23 percent.

However, Facebook's popularity appears to be waning. Just under a quarter (23 percent) of UK web users that actively use Facebook say they use the social network less than they did last year. Furthermore, 19 percent expect to use it even less in one year's time.

YouGov highlighted that consumer financial advice site, Moneysavingexpert.com, now has as many active users as Twitter. The site not only offers financial information but also lets users create profiles, leave comments and interact in similar ways to other social media sites.

"This points towards a new phase - the rise of social sites with slightly more purpose than just connecting to people for the sake of it," YouGov said.

Use of LinkedIn appears to be surging, also reflecting Brits are seeking social networks that offer a purpose. While, only 13 percent of those surveyed said they've used the business-based site in the last month, 53 percent of UK web say they use the site more than the same time last year and 30 percent expect to use it more in one year's time.

However, YouGov revealed it thinks there is less benefit for brands when it comes to social networks than was originally thought. More than two in five (44 percent) of UK web users would not feel more positive about a product if their friends has followed and/or liked and 43 percent admitted they are unlikely to talk about a brand on a social media site even if they heard something positive about it.

Furthermore, 47 percent said they do not like seeing adverts on social media services that are based on their profile activities.

"It appears that whilst social media can be a key tool in the brand marketer's armoury, in particular to maximise commitment amongst those already highly engaged with the brand, it has not quite reached the effectiveness necessary to be considered as a truly mass media marketing too," said Dan Brilot, media consulting director.

"With the ability to share, tweet and interact on any kind of site, almost a given, social media services increasingly need to have an extra raison d'etre beyond merely being 'social' to make an impact in today's crowded market."



2403How to put a SIM in an Apple iPhone 4 or above

 

1,319 Tutorials

Apple's iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S use a micro SIM, which measures just 15x122mm, rather than a traditional sized SIM that measures 25x15mm. It is also located in a different place than previous models of the iPhone. We show you how to insert the SIM into your iPhone 4.

Step one
Contained within the manual for your iPhone is a small pin designed for use in removing the micro-sim. However, if you're not in possession of this, a bent paper clip will do the same job. Insert this into the tiny whole located on about half-way up on the right-side of the handset to remove the Micro-SIM tray.

Step two
Insert the SIM, contact side down into the tray and then push it back into the smartphone. It will click when it has been fully inserted. Now switch the phone on and wait for it to boot-up.



2404Short smartphone battery life? Blame free apps

 

39,389 News Articles

Smartphone battery life has taken a nose-dive recently. Long gone are the days when your mobile phone could last a weekend, or in some cases more. Today you're lucky if your phone lasts just one day. But who's to blame? Abhinav Pathak, a computer scientist at Purdue University, Indiana, suggests that adverts in free apps are the primary battery bandits. Visit How to Boost a Smartphone's Battery Life.

In an article featured on the New Scientist website - using the aforementioned Abhinav Pathak's research - free apps such as Angry Birds and the NYTimes needed only 10-30 percent of their overall app battery consumption to run their core function. The report goes on to claim that up to 75 percent of the remaining battery consumption from the app, was used by the the app collecting and transmitting information, such as GPS location, back to the app's advertisers.

Computer scientist Abhinav Pathak will present are more detailed report of his findings at the EuroSys conference in Switzerland next month.

The obvious short-term solution to prevent free apps stealing all of your phone's juice is to turn off all unnecessary GPS and data services while using free apps. However battery life is one of the main concerns with smartphone users today, and in order to tackle the problem properly, it is something that should be looked at from the top down; with both Google Android and Apple having already been challenged about the way they allow smartphone user's personal information to be collected. See Apple to Ban Apps that Harvest Personal Data

 



2405'iPad Mini' launching later this year

 

39,389 News Articles

Apple's fierce rivalry with Samsung has taken a turn for the worse recently, as an unnamed official at Samsung revealed that his company have a contract to make certain pieces of hardware for the iPad 'mini'. See also Samsung makes $9.7bn from Apple

Speaking to The Korea Times the Samsung official revealed that Samsung was already making huge amounts of money supplying hardware for the current iPads “The amount of the current contract is around $9.7 billion”. Visit: New iPad review.

The official went on to reveal more than Apple would have liked “The contract is expected to rise to $11 billion by the end of this year as Apple is planning to release a smaller iPad, probably with a 7.85-inch screen, and to sell more of its MacBook Air PCs using Samsung’s faster solid state drive storage.”

The news that Apple is to produce a smaller version of the iPad is a clear indication that the company is wiling to go against Steve Jobs' will on certain occasions. In 2010 Jobs said the following about the possibility of a smaller iPad "One naturally thinks that a seven-inch screen would offer 70 percent of the benefits of a ten-inch screen. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth. The reason we won't make a seven-inch tablet isn’t because we don’t want to hit a lower price point, it’s because we think the screen is too small to express the software."

If Apple is to launch a new eight-inch device, they will be entering a market that already has a considerable amount of competition as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 (8.9-inch), Kindle Fire (7-inch), BlackBerry Playbook (7-inch), LG Optimus Pad (8.9-inch), HTC Flyer (7-inch), Viewsonic ViewPad 7 (7-inch), Acer Iconia Tab A100 (7-inch).



240647% primarily surf the web on Desktop PCs

 

39,389 News Articles

Last week PC Advisor hosted a poll, to find out what device the majority of people used "the most 'to surf the web' ". After a massive 1,178 votes in just under a week, Desktop PCs still appear to be the device of choice when it comes to accessing the internet - gaining just under half of the poll's vote (47 percent).

Coming in second place to Desktop PCs were Laptops with a third of the vote (33 percent). This gave traditional methods of accessing the web a whopping four fifths of poll's votes (80%).

What's interesting is that Tablet PCs gained five percent more of the poll than smartphones (12 percent and 7 percent respectively). The Financial Times reports that 46% of the UK population now owns a smartphone, while TabletPCExpert claims that tablet ownership in the UK is as low as one in ten, this in turn suggests that those who do invest in a tablet PC tend to then use them as their primary source of internet access.

Amazingly only four respondents use their games console as their main point of access to the internet. Smart TVs didn't do any better either, with just two voters using the device as their primary internet source. The remaining nine voters said they used another device to surf the web.

As ever, poll respondents were encouraged to let us know more about their web surfing preferences on our forum. Most comments were simply stating their second and third preferences for surfing the web. However rawprawn made the telling point that he surfs the web with an "iMac, iPad, and Windows Laptop in that order" but that "6 months ago it was simply my Laptop." Highlighting, not only a move away from Windows, but also the sudden impact Tablet PCs have had on his internet habits.

Forum user Fruit Bat // also left an insightful comment stating: "I suspect this will be an age thing; with us oldies using the desktop or laptop, and the youngsters using the latest smartphones. I use [a] Desktop but my youngest daughter is always on [her] smartphone. Smartphones appear to be great for "spur of the moment" browsing, whereas [a] desktop or laptop is better for more serious browsing".

 



2407Best cases and covers for the new iPad

UPDATED: 19th March 2012

The iPad 3, reviewed, is finally here. Whether the new retina screen is the killer feature that's persuaded you to buy, or you're upgrading from an older iPad, you'll want some protection for it. That's why you're here, of course.

So, without any further chit-chat, let's get to the point: which case, cover or sleeve should you buy? The new iPad is virtually identical to the iPad 2 (see our detailed comparison of the two), but it's fractionally thicker.

We've spoken to all of the case manufacturers featured here and some say their existing iPad 2 cases will fit, while others say they most definitely won't. Our advice is to be cautious of specific-fitting cases as there's no guarantee that it will fit properly, nor have a compatible camera cutout (the new iPad's camera lens is larger than the old one).

Rest assured that all the cases here DO fit the new iPad and we'll be adding more cases as they become available. Quite a few manufacturers haven't been able to get new iPads early enough to release new cases for the launch date and, with plenty of great new designs, be sure to bookmark this page and check back.

Specific-fit cases

Brunswick England, £120

This all-leather folio should appeal to executives. It's well padded and adds plenty of protection. A fold in the rear allows it to function as a stand in two positions: one raised up for presentations, and a lower one that's still a little too high for typing. Folded back flat gives a shallow angle that's better for typing, but still not ideal.

Magnets in the cover turn your iPad on when you open it, but there's nothing to keep the cover shut. Magnets are meant to do the job, but they're simply not strong enough. All ports are accessible without removing the iPad from the case, though. The camera cutout is a touch too low, and left photos with a dark vignette at the top.

Also available in brown and cranberry.

Buy from: www.proporta.com

Brunswick England leather iPad case

Griffin Elan Folio, £35

Folio cases are perhaps the most common choice for an iPad, and Griffin's Elan Folio is a stylish choice. It's available in a variety of designs, from colourful notebook-esque styles (the Cabana range) to those with a more demure, business look.

Built-in magnets wake the iPad when you open it, and put it to sleep when you close it. Inside is a soft lining to protect the screen, and there's an elastic loop for a stylus. The cover can be flipped back to turn it into a stand, either for watching videos in landscape mode, or typing with the rear raised slightly from the desk.

Buy from: www.johnlewis.com

Griffin Elan Folio

Proporta Smart Recycled Leather, £40

If you want a real leather case, but don't want to pay a fortune, this recycled version could be ideal. The leather has a matt finish and looks slightly grey rather than black, but looks good. It's similar to Proporta's Leather Style range, which is the same price. However, this one doesn't covert into a stand. It's held shut by a popper and has a hessian lining with a pocket for A5 documents.

Although the camera cutout isn't quite in the right place, there was no vignetting. At the top right corner, a small tie keeps the front and back of the case together while still allowing access to the power and volume controls.

Buy from: www.proporta.com

Proporta recycled leather case

Maroo Awanui Nylon Cover, £50

Attention-grabbing cases don't come much brighter than this: the Awanui's garish graffiti pattern is sure to get you, and your new iPad, noticed. The back is made from faux black leather, and it's a convincing look. We like the matching graffiti tab on the rear which the front slots into in order to turn the Awanui into a stand.

The blue suede lining provides a nice contrast, and there's a rubber insert which clamps the four corners of your iPad in place, providing protection at the same time. Inside the front cover are elastic corner straps to keep the Awanui closed, plus a couple of slots for business cards. As ever, there's a range of other designs to choose from. It isn't the cheapest, but we still like the Maroo.

Buy from: www.coversandcases.com

Maroo Awanui

STM Skinny 3 for iPad 3rd generation

STM’s skinny range has been expanded to include the third-generation iPad. The Skinny 3 has a hard shell back, which the iPad clips securely into.  The front is protected by flap, which can automatically wake your iPad. It also allows users to position the iPad in a typing position and a position ideal for FaceTime.

The micro-suede lining left us feeling confident that our iPad’s Retina display won’t be scratched, and there are cut-outs that allow access to all of the ports, buttons and functions including the camera. A minor quibble is that slotting the strap into position can be fiddly, but it’s designed to keep your iPad secure.  

 The Skinny 3 is available in Royal Blue, Black Pink, Mushroom or Berry.

Buy from: www.amazon.co.uk

STM Skinny 3

NEXT PAGE: Sleeves

Want to learn more about the Apple iPad 2? Pick up a copy of The Complete Guide To The Apple iPad 2 and become an iPad expert in no time.




2408iPad 3 queues shorter than iPad 2

 

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There's usually plenty of excitement and atmosphere at Apple's big London stores on iPhone and iPad launch days. Not for the new iPad, though. We headed down to the Regent Street store to see the first fans emerge with their new iPad this morning, but there was much less of a buzz.

See also:

The store's staff were doing their best to create one, but the early opening and chilly weather certainly put a dampener on events. Not much more than 30 minutes after the store opened its doors to let the hard-core queuers in, the pavement was empty.

In total, less than 400 people waited outside the store, almost 250 less than for last year's iPad 2 launch. Timing is likely to have been a factor, since the store opened at 5pm last March, and the queue built up over the whole day.

At the firm's Covent Garden store queues were longer, but some savvy buyers had already bought their new iPad from PC World on Tottenham Court Road. PC World opened at 12.01am giving 600 people a chance to own the new tablet before anyone else.

Dynamo PR surveyed the queue at Regent St and found that a surprising 45 per cent of people were buying their first tablet. Thirty one per cent in the queue were planning to buy the top model (64GB Wi-Fi and 4G). Almost two-thirds of the queuers solely use Windows, and just one-third owned Macs.

Here's a selection of photos from the queue.

Regent St Apple iPad queue

The queue around the corner from Regent St

Zohaib Ali

Zohaib Ali at the front of the Regent St. queue

Apple staff

Apple staff try to whip up the crowd

Craig Fox

Craig Fox bought his iPad from PC World just after midnight

Regent St queue empty

By 8.40am, the queue had disappeared completely

Hannover St empty

In Hannover Street around the corner, workers sweep up



2409Install Siri on an iPhone 4 or 3GS

 

1,319 Tutorials

We know there's a huge demand for Siri from iPhone 4 and 3GS owners, and Apple has yet to annouce any plans for allowing the beta service to run on these devices, along with iPod touches.

See also: How to control your iPhone 4S using Siri

Don't fret, though, as you can have Siri on your iPhone 4 today, and it's all legal and above board. It's also free, and it works. Sound too good to be true? Well, there is a catch: you need to jailbreak your iphone first. If that's meaningless to you, read our full guide to jailbreaking. This will take you step-by-step through the process.

Once you've jailbroken your phone, fire up Cydia (the alternative to the App Store) and search for Spire. Spire downloads the files required to install Siri on your iPhone 4, 3GS or fourth-generation iPod Touch. As with all Cydia installers, you'll see details of the files being copied along with a progress bar.

 Spire installing

Once installed, go to the normal iOS Settings app. In General you should see a new Siri option. Tap this and slide the toggle to enable it. Return to the main Settings menu and look for Spire. It will be in a block of settings for Cydia apps. Enter https://i4sirifree.mooo.com as a Proxy Host (note the 's' at the end of http, and three 'o's in the URL).

Spire settings

Finally, in Safari, browse to http://i4siriserver.com/installcertificate.html and click Install when prompted. You can now long-press the Home button to launch Siri, and ask it to do something.

Siri assistant

Unlike previous attempts to get Siri working on non 4S handsets, this one doesn't rely on procuring authentication keys from an iPhone 4S. Instead, a dedicated team have worked hard to set up its own servers which use Google's speech recognition service instead of Nuance's as with 'real' Siri.

Siri with location services

Bear in mind that personal information is sent to (but not stored on) the proxy server. Also, don't expect the full set of Siri functions, as the i4Siri project has only just been made public. Reminders, for example, are still being developed. Interestingly, though, location services do work: something that even 4S owners don't have in the UK yet. For more information, visit i4siri.com.



2410New iPad infographic: evolution of the iPad

 

This infographic shows the history of the development of the Apple iPad, from its launch only two years ago, to the birth of the third-generation iPad yesterday. It explains the changing iPad specification, the success of the iPad, and how each generation of the iPad differs from the last. See also: Apple new iPad vs iPad 2 comparison review.

Apple began taking orders for the first generation iPad - from US customers only – only as recently as on March 12 2010. Given that the iPad was a reboot of the moribund tablet market, at the time it seemed staggering that 300,000 iPads were sold on the first day the iPad was available. (Particularly given the lukewarm reception HP and Microsoft's attempt to reboot the tablet world had received earlier that year at CES.)

But sold those iPads were, and so began a remarkable success story that reached stage three yesterday, when Apple announced its new iPad to a waiting world. This infographic, produced by internet marketing agency Elevate Local, shows how the iPad has developed over the past two years.

It details in graphical form the sale of 15 million first generation iPads before the iPad 2 launched, and how the second generation iPad built on and expanded that success, and led on to the new iPad (see New iPad review). More importantly, it details the way in which the specification has developed over that time, so that we now have an HD iPad with dual-core processor, 4G connectivity and that amazing screen.

The way that the iPad specification has developed over three generations is remarkable, shown here in graphic form.

The evolution of the iPad



2411Apple launches new iPad: full details

Apple today launched the third generation of its Apple iPad tablet at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Apple also announced iOS 5.1, which is available today, and new iLife and iWork apps. See also: New iPad review.

The new Apple tablet is known only as 'iPad', and is available to pre-order in the UK today. We can buy it on March 16, in white or black. The iPad 2 will remain onsale, at a lower price. The new iPad has an A5X chip, and a high-resolution Retina display. It still offers 10 hours of battery life, and is thin at 9.4mm (albeit that is a little thicker than the iPad 2). It has a much improved HD camera, and Siri voice-recognition and control, like the iPhone 4S. The new iPad also has 4G LTE connectivity, and can be used by up to five devices as personal hotspot. Oh, and in a trick that only Apple can pull off, it costs the same as the iPad 2 used to (starting from £399). Which is, frankly, staggering.

The new Apple iPad, according to CEO Tim Cook: "Makes amazing improvements to the most fundamental features of the device while retaining everything that millions of people have grown to love about it."

Senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple Phil Schiller said: "We think the new iPad will really change what people believe is possible with this device."

Cook said: "With the amazing new iPad, a new affordable price for the very popular iPad 2, and amazing software like iPhoto and the rest of the iLife and iWork suites, we have redefined once again the category that Apple created just two years ago with the original iPad."

See also: iPad launch as it happened

New iPad: Retina display

The first new feature Apple demonstrated was its high-definition 'Retina' display: "Until you see it, you can't understand how amazing it is." The display is the highest definition ever on a mobile device, at 2048 by 1536 pixels, or over 3.1 million pixels.

Apple said that it would make graphics, text, and icons 'sharper than you can imagine'. He said that "text is going to rival anything that you've seen in print... everything that you do is just going to look stunning... surfing the web, reading emails... and photos are going to look amazing."

Existing apps will look great, according to Apple, but app developers have the option of taking advantage of the extra graphics processing power and create extra detail. Apple invited games developers to show this off, including Infinity Blade: Dungeons, which will be coming soon to the iPad.

New iPad: iWork and iLife apps

Schiller also unveiled new iterations of iWork apps. "You may recall when we launched the first iPad, we launched a few apps along with it to show how far you could go with creativity software." Well now, Schiller said, the iWork apps have been updated to take advantage of the new display. They cost the same to buy, and it is a free update.

iLife apps such as Garage Band, and iMovie have also been updated, and iPhoto added. Intriguingly, with Garage Band up to four iPads can play music together over Wi-Fi. These apps are also available now, for the same price as before but with a free update.

iPhoto is the most important app, and it's new, Schiller said. It will replace current photo apps, he said, being great for everyday, with the same photo library, but great new browsing. He said is has new ways to edit with multi-touch editing, professional-quality effects, brushes for applying those effects, and there's Photo Beaming to let you beam high resolution photos between your devices.

Photo Journals help you share photos with friends, and there are a bunch of new touch interface navigation features. Also, you can edit up to 12 megapixels of a photo, and all the photo-editing functions you would expect are present in a full feature  photo editor, all non-destructive.

New iPad: iSight camera

The new iPad  has an 'iSight camera'. On the front of their devices, they have a FaceTime camera. This is, according to Apple, capable of HD video recording at 1080p resolution, with video stabilisation. It also offers auto face detection, auto exposure lock and auto focus lock. There's also temporal noise reduction for low light photography.

New iPad: Siri, and 4G LTE

The new iPad also has Siri voice recognition input and navigation, like the iPhone 4S. Supporting British, US and Australian English, as well as French, German, and Japanese. And, as many had predicted, it is 4G capable (much good it will do us on this side of the pond - although it won't hurt in pressuring telcos to upgrade). That said, the new iPad is all-round great at wireless connectivity, as it  adds HSPA+ with a max downlink of 21 Mbps, dual carrier HSDPA with a max of 42 Mbps, and LTE with a max of 73 Mbps download, to the already impressive EV-DO with a maximum downlink of 3.1Mbps, and HSPA with a max downlink of 7.2.

Critically, you can share the cell connection with up to five devices - something that is likely to make iPad sales people (and users) jump for joy. Just the one SIM required, thanks. It's a personal hotspot.

New iPad

During the event, Cook said: "We think that the iPad is the poster child of the post-PC world." He said the company had sold 15.4 million iPads in the past quarter alone. This is, according to Cook, more than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC line worldwide.

iPad screen

"This is incredible when you remember that this device has been on the market for less than two years." 

He added that in order to succeed the iPad has to be the best device for the things you do the most often. Browsing the web, checking email. He said that Apple customers told him this was the case (but then he would say that).

Cook said that the iPad succeeded because of its screen, and because there were so many apps designed specifically for it. He then took the unusual - for Apple - move of showing a rival Samsung tablet for disparaging comparison. Apple sure hates Samsung right now.

Cook also said that movies and TV shows in the iTunes Store will now support 1080p HD, and that iCloud supports movies.

At the start of the event, Apple CEO Tim Cook appeared on stage in an untucked, collared shirt, saying he was 'very excited' about the launch. He was joined on stage by senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Apple, Phil Schiller.

iPad 3

Cook followed his predecessor Steve Jobs' lead by describing what the Apple founder called 'the post-PC world'. He said that the PC is no longer the centre of our computing world, and that our most important devices now needed to be 'more portable, more personal and easier to use'.

He referenced what he described as the 'three blockbuster products of the post-PC world', the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, a: "revolutionary device that redefined a whole new category".

And how! According to Cook, in 2011 alone Apple sold 172 million 'post-PC devices', accounting for 76 percent of their revenues - which explains why plain old 'Apple' is no longer 'Apple Computer'. Cook also said that Apple Stores were crucial, as they created a space where people would get to know their new devices (and - what he didn't say - spend an absolute fortune in comfort). According to Cook there are now 362 Apple retail stores around the world.

Apple said that key to the success of the iPad, iPhone and iPod is iOS: "Our customers tell us that they love it." iOS 5.1 is available today, Cook said, and Siri will be rolled out across Japan in the next few months.

Apple also said that Apple now has more than 100 million customers of its iCloud service. And that iCloud now supports movies. You can redownload movies you purchased on any of your devices. Movies and TV shows in the iTunes Store will now support 1080p HD, he said.

On stage, Apple demonstrated  Photo Stream. When he took a photo on his iPhone, it appeared on his Apple TV without having to do anything at all. Photos displayed full screen, at 1080p.

Prior to the event Apple was typically coy about it's new iPad, but it confirmed that a tablet would be released when it sent out invitations that simply stated "We have something we want you to see... and touch" with pictures of a hand touching an iPad (it's the image on the top left of this page).

You can follow the Apple iPad 3 launch live with our liveblog from the event: Live: Apple iPad launch. Rumours had been rife about the exact specifcation of the third generation iPad, as you can see if you check out PC Advisor's own: iPad 3 release date and features rumour round-up.

iPad launch



2412Blu-ray buyers' guide: what you need to know

Everything you need to know if you are buying a Blu-ray Disc drive, or a Blu-ray Disc player.

For the complete Blu-ray set-up, you'll want a Blu-ray Disc drive with which to create Blu-ray Discs, and a Blu-ray player with which to enjoy their HD and 3D contents - unless you are happy watching Blu-ray content on your PC. For more advice, visit Digital Home Advisor.

Let's start with the basics. Why would you want a Blu-ray Disc drive or -player? One word: space. A single Blu-ray Disc holds the equivalent of 35 CDs or five DVDs. A Blu-ray might look like a DVD, but because it utilises a shorter wavelength and a narrower laser beam spot, it can hold greater capacity. The laser's blue, but the way, but you guessed that.

Even this wouldn't be at all interesting, storage capacities being what they are, but Blu-ray is the storage methodology of choice for HD and 3D content. The extra detail takes up more virtual storage, the Blu-ray disc takes no more physical space.

When purchasing a Blu-ray Disc drive for your PC, there are several factors to consider. Perhaps the most banal, but arguably the most important, is whether to get an internal drive that you fit into your PC's chassis, or an external drive you simply plug in to any available port. External drives are easier to install, portable, and can be shared between computers, but they will cost you considerably more than internal models, and may not be as quick.

If you go for an internal drive, you must ensure you have a slot for it in your PC, as well as the physical space to fit it, and the expertise to do so. Most internal drives now use a SATA interface, so check that you've got a compatible port. If you have a laptop and it doesn't already have a Blu-ray drive, you are unlikely to be able to fit one.

Next consider what DVD formats you to which you wish to be able to read and write. There's a lot. A LOT. To handle the bewildering array of DVD recording and playback formats, we recommend buying an optical drive that supports as many as possible. Look for labels such as LG and NEC's SuperMulti or Lite-On's Super All Write.

Don't obsess about writing speeds. You should be able to get 16-speed DVD writing, but it's not worth paying more to save seconds - not least because the same information will write to a Blu-ray disc in a fraction of the time it will take to burn to DVD. it's worth remembering that you need to be able to purchase the media in order to enjoy maximum write speeds. Six-/eight-speed BD-R (Blu-ray Disc writable) capabilities are the basic standard, but bear in mind that even six-speed BD-R media is still rare.

See also: Group test: What's the best Blu-ray writer?

You may, of course, be happy watching Blu-ray content only on your PC, but if you wish to enjoy HD content from Blu-ray Discs on your TV, you need a set-top player. You'll need an HDMI cable to connect Blu-player to HD TV. This will deliver high-quality, high-definition content, but don't be upsold. An HDMI cable is an HDMI cable, regardless of how much it costs.

Features to look out for on Blu-ray players include the ability to record TV, internet connectivity and BD Live. The former will be useful if you don't have a PVR (Sky+ box or similar), or you want only one set-top box. The latter two combine to ovver extra content via the web. One of the best Blu-ray players is the PlayStation 3, simply because it adds so much extra functionality to the simple function of playing Blu-ray discs.

Your Blu-ray player should have the ability to play existing DVDs, and will even upscale them to make them look better - although beware of false promises in this area.

See also: Group test: what's the best Blu-ray player?



2413PC Advisor launches smartphone guide on Amazon Kindle

 

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PC Advisor has released a new eBook for Amazon Kindle, packed with buying advice and reviews of the latest smartphones.

Put together by PC Advisor’s team of experts, Smartphone Buyers’ Guide 2011 includes essential advice for anyone considering buying a new handset, or upgrading their current phone.

See also: Amazon Kindle Fire review

As well as helping people choose between the major smartphone platforms this extensive guide provides in-depth advice on core smartphone features that are often overlooked when searching for a new handset, such as battery life, display quality and call quality.

Furthermore, the new Kindle eBook includes hands-on reviews of the latest smartphones running the iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7 operating systems, and highlights the best 100 apps for each platform.

Smartphone Buyers’ Guide 2011 is available exclusively for Amazon Kindle for just £2.99, including VAT.



2414Asia Pacific CE desires surveyed

 

39,389 News Articles

Among Chinese respondents, HDTVs were the second most cited device when considering CE purchase intentions in the next six months, according to a recent trio of surveys conducted by ABI Research on the Asia Pacific consumer electronics markets.

Smartphones were number one, with nearly 60 percent of respondents; only 43 percent of respondents were interested in HDTVs.

Purchase intent was similar in South Korea, with smartphones and HDTVs representing the top two device categories at 47 percent and 22 percent of respondents, respectively. 

In India, mobile phones (29 percent of respondents), edged out HDTVs (27 percent of respondents) to take the second position behind smartphones (35 percent of respondents). 

Considering the current economic conditions, developing markets will continue to serve as key targets by many CE companies. 

ABI digital home practice director Jason Blackwell says, “The maturing North American and Western European markets, in conjunction with the worldwide economic situation, are making growth increasingly difficult for many companies. 

In corroboration of this view, a considerably higher number of US and Western European respondents claimed to have no purchase intentions over the next six months. 

China continues to hold considerable growth opportunities, but one of the key challenges for international companies is penetrating a market that tends to favor domestic brands.”          

In terms of HDTV brands favoured by Asia Pacific countries, 50 percent and 46 percent of South Korean respondents (those who have at least one HDTV) claimed to own Samsung and LG HDTVs, respectively; the next closest TV manufacturer was Sony at a mere 3 percent.

This trend in sticking to domestic brands was also mirrored in China, with Changhong, Haier, HiSense, Konka, Skyworth, and TCL among the top 12 most common HDTV brands owned by respondents. 

In India the results were mixed, with Sony, Samsung, LG, and Philips rounding out the top four brands listed by respondents.



2415Microsoft puts 'Windows 8' on Arm at CES

 

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Microsoft demonstrated the next version of Windows running on Arm processors in the opening keynote of CES – a big move for the company as it attempts to adapt Windows for tablet PCs, and reduce the operating system’s reliance on x86 chips from the likes of Intel and AMD.

Other than a few announcements related to the Xbox 360 and Microsoft’s Kinect controller system, much of the keynote was underwhelming. But the appearance of the next version of Windows – albeit a version that currently still uses the Windows 7 interface – on chips made by Qualcomm and Texas Instruments (TI) was the hot topic.

See also: Microsoft Windows 8 review

A handful of manufacturers have launched tablet PCs running Windows 7, but the OS is regarded as too much of a power hog to run smoothly on slim and lightweight slate PCs.

But Microsoft claims Windows 7’s replacement will run seamlessly on the low-power chips that are popular with the latest generation of portable computers, and showed a future build of Windows running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, as well as Microsoft Word running on an OMAP processor from TI.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the move to support Arm would help the company deliver the same Windows experience on multiple platforms, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Also during the keynote, Mike Angiulo, a Microsoft general manager, showed off several upcoming Windows 7 PCs with unusual designs. One of them, from Acer, had two large touchscreens connected together like a laptop. Touching all 10 fingers on the bottom screen turned that screen into a virtual keyboard for typing.

He also showed a Samsung laptop with a screen that can slide closed over the top of the keyboard. When the device is closed the screen faces out so it can be used as a tablet. And he showed an Asus tablet PC that has a separate wireless keyboard and a particularly bright screen that he said is easy to view from almost any angle.

All the PCs were running Windows 7 and will be available in the next few months, Ballmer said. “They’re on the leading edge of new devices that offer it all,” he said.

While Windows remains the focal point of Microsoft’s strategy for computers of all shapes and sizes, the software giant hopes to place the Xbox 360 at the centre of your living room. And the company’s Kinect motion-sensing controller could be the key.

For instance, subscribers to Zune on Xbox Live in the US can currently use Kinect to bypass the traditional remote control when watching movies – users simply speak a command and use hand gestures to play and pause movies. That functionality will soon come to other movie services in the US, such as Netflix and Hulu, providing Xbox 360 users with a controller-free way to enjoy the latest films.

Also coming soon is Avatar Kinect – a free service to Xbox Live Gold subscribers allowing groups of users to gather in different virtual spaces. Avatar Kinect can mirror users’ movements on screen – and even read and represent facial movements such as a raised eyebrow or a smile.

Earlier in the keynote, Ballmer said that Microsoft had sold 50 million Xbox 360s worldwide, and that there were now 30 million Xbox Live subscribers.

Kinect shipments exceeded 8 million units in the first 60 days on sale, 3 million higher than Microsoft had originally anticipated.

See all CES news

See all CES video

With additional reporting from Nancy Gohring



2416How to shop safely online

 

1,319 Tutorials

What to do when things go wrong

PC Advisor explains the selling regulations that exist to protect your purchase online, and what to do if you are unhappy with a product you have purchased over the web.

The purchase of goods and services over the internet, by phone or mail order, is subject to the same consumer rights as if you had bought the item on the high street. However, because you weren't physically face-to-face with the supplier, these purchases are also subject to Distance Selling Regulations.

If no date is specified, delivery of goods or the commencement of a service must occur within 30 days of the order being placed. If the goods don't arrive in this period, you are within your rights to cancel the order and demand a full refund.

How to shop safely online: Fit for purpose

All purchased goods are required to "conform to contract". They must be as described, fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality – in other words, not inherently faulty at the time of sale. It is the seller, not the manufacturer, who is responsible when goods do not conform to contract. A consumer is then able to request a repair or replacement.

If the goods are faulty, incorrectly described or not fit for purpose, then you are entitled to your money back – provided that you act quickly. You don't have to accept a credit note.

How to shop safely online: Necessary replacement

If the retailer claims that a repair is "disproportionately costly" and insists on a replacement, you must accept this decision. If, on the other hand, a replacement is said to be "disproportionately costly", you must accept a repair. Remember that any remedy must be carried out "without significant inconvenience" and within a "reasonable time" for the consumer.
 
You could, of course, seek damages instead – in fact, the trader could be liable to compensate you for up to six years.

How to shop safely online: 'All goods should last six years'

Not true. Six years is the time limit for bringing a court case against a retailer in England and Wales. In Scotland, you are required to do so within five years of the time of discovery. An item only needs to last as long as is reasonably expected, taking all factors into account. For example, an oil filter wouldn’t usually last longer than a year, but that wouldn’t mean it was unsatisfactory.

Those purchasing goods by credit card over the value of £100 are also protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974: if the seller fails to honour the contract, they can claim costs from the credit-card company.

According to the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002, the goods remain at the seller's risk until they are delivered to the consumer. Thus, the supplier is liable should the goods not arrive.

How to shop safely online: What if there's a problem?

First, ask the supplier to put things right. Put your complaint in writing.

If you want to give an item back and get your money back, under the Sale of Goods Act you have the right to 'reject' an item that is not of 'satisfactory quality'. But you must act quickly: you have only a limited time – usually a few weeks – to reject something.

Under the Sale of Goods Act, if something is not of 'satisfactory quality', you have the right to have it replaced or repaired free.

You can ask the retailer to do either, but it is allowed to choose the cheaper option.

If the retailer refuses to repair the goods, you may have the right to arrange for someone else to repair it and then claim compensation from the retailer. For more advice, visit the PC Advisor Consumerwatch Forum.

If it can neither repair or replace the item, you can either have your money back minus an amount for the use you have had of it, or keep the item and get a reduction on the price you paid.

Remember: you have six years (or five in Scotland) to take a claim to court, so there's plenty of time to resolve the issue.

See also: PC Advisor's Christmas 2010 gift guide



2417Know your consumer rights

 

39,389 News Articles

Don't rely on an online merchant for protection

Many of us struggle to comprehend the complexities of the UK’s consumer-protection legislation but, worryingly, it’s not just consumers to whom that statement applies. According to a recent report from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), many online retailers are ignorant of the laws that apply to their businesses.

In June 2007 the OFT published the results of a detailed market study designed to gauge just how well online shoppers knew their legal rights. Then, in December 2007, the OFT partnered with Trading Standards to assess the extent to which the UK's top websites were complying with some of the key requirements of online-shopping laws. The results of both studies were disturbing, to say the least.

What don’t you know?

Based on results from the two studies, the OFT learned the following:

  • More than half (56 percent) of internet shoppers surveyed didn’t know about their right to cancel an order under the terms of the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 (DSRs). And 29 percent didn’t know where to get related advice.
  • Some 28 percent of traders were unaware or slightly aware of online shopping laws; 67 percent had never sought advice on them.
  • At least 20 percent of the e-commerce sites reviewed didn’t provide an email address, as they are required to by law.
  • A fifth of online electrical retailers didn’t think buyers had a right to cancel.
  • A majority of sites (59 percent) appeared to impose conditions that could prevent or at least deter consumers from exercising their cancellation rights.

In breach

Of the 392 sites surveyed by the OFT and Trading Standards that were selling products to which DSRs apply, 209 (53 percent) were thought to be in possible breach of the regulations by failing to provide consumers with information on the right to cancel, forgetting to mention the correct cancellation period and/or imposing restrictions on cancellation refund rights.

None of this will come as a surprise to regular visitors to our online ConsumerWatch forum – questions relating to consumer legislation are common and, over the years, we’ve found that many retailers are ill-informed when it comes to the laws affecting internet trading. The OFT and Trading Standards have identified the areas that need attention and Trading Standards will pass details of non-compliant businesses to the relevant authority.

That’s great, but it’s only a small part of the answer. The survey covered just 439 sites and there are thousands more out there. It falls on our own shoulders to exercise caution when choosing a supplier, and to know where to go for advice.

Your local Trading Standards office can advise you on consumer law and, of course, you’re always welcome at PC Advisor's ConsumerWatch forum.



2418Battle of the botnets: is your PC up to no good?

 

39,389 News Articles

Beat cybercriminals and keep your PC locked up

Botnets are networks of computers that have fallen under the control of cybercriminals, capable of accumulating revenues of millions of pounds per year – and it's possible that your PC be 'one of the gang' without your knowledge.

On 11 February 2008 a US teenager (cybername: Sobe) pleaded guilty to surreptitiously installing adware on hundreds of thousands of computers. The machines had been hijacked and enlisted into a network of computers known as a ‘botnet’.

Botnets are networks of computers that have fallen under the control of cybercriminals. Such villains use these networks for malicious purposes, and the owners of the affected PCs remain none the wiser to their system’s underworld antics. According to Symantec, home users account for 95 percent of all botnet PC owners.

Visit Security Advisor for the latest internet threat news, and internet security product reviews

The truth about your PC

Botnets are mostly used to send spam and harvest private data from infected machines, but can also be used to deluge websites with data to knock them offline and to host phishing sites and other illegal content – the possibilities are endless. "[Botnets] make easy money for the controller and are in huge demand," says DC Bob Murls, of the Met’s police computer crime unit.

The ease with which a budding cybercriminal can get hold of necessary technology has led to growing concern among law-enforcement agencies. Bot controllers (or ‘herders’) lease their networks to spammers and criminals for commercial gain, and it’s a lucrative business – those with an interest in accessing thousands of machines will pay highly for the privilege.

US investigators estimate that the revenue from botnets in America runs into hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and the size of the problem is increasing at an alarming rate; the FBI has identified at least one network that consists of more than a million PCs.

It all sounds pretty frightening. Having your machine hijacked for nefarious purposes certainly doesn’t sound like a lot of fun – even less so when you consider the amount of personal data that’s stored on the average home computer.

It’s not a one-sided fight. As the criminal fraternity rushes to embrace the botnet, law-enforcement agencies are hot on their heels. The result is a technological arms race.

Murls, who spends most of his time breaking botnets, describes himself as being on the "bleeding edge" of the battle with hackers, and botnets are a top priority.

"Botnets are an emerging threat," he said. "They’re complex investigations, they’re very time-consuming and they cross international boundaries, but we’re making progress."

NEXT PAGE: what you can do to defeat botnets > >

Visit Security Advisor for the latest internet threat news, and internet security product reviews



2419Xerox 7600i multi-function scanner arrives

 

Xerox has unveiled a flatbed scanner that can be used to scan in and digitise documents and then share and organise them. The Xerox 7600i can scan documents up to A4 in size at a resolution of 1200x1200 dots per inch. It supports a colour depth of 48bit. 

The 1.6kg scanner can be powered from a USB port on a laptop or PC and has a removable lid to make it easier to scan in large items such as pages from coffee table books or magazines. Xerox includes Visioneer OneTouch scanning software to automate most of the settings and to handle post-scanning functions such as sending the digital document to a specific location for storage or sharing. 

The £67 flatbed scanner has three preconfigured but customisable buttons on its front to scan, copy or email documents. Once scanned, documents can be sent for archiving or sharing via Google Docs, Evernote, Dropbox and Box.net. 

The device is available in Europe now. Further information, include details of UK stockists, can be found at www.xeroxscanners.com. 



2420Logitech TouchMouse M600 mimics Apple's

 

Logitech has created a button-less mouse for use with Windows PCs that offers similar touchscreen controls as the Mighty Mouse for Apple Macs. As with a multi-touch trackpad on a laptop, using the Logitech TouchMouse M600 users can use glide, scroll and swipe gestures in order to navigate their computer. 

Logitech says a benefit of the touchscreen control approach is that it allows for free-flowing movements across the screen. With a scrollwheel mouse or one that has only buttons, a series of repetitive finger-flicking or arm movements are required in order to cover large areas of the screen or to move through several pages. 

The £59.99 TouchMouse M600 offers optical tracking, allowing for precision placement, and can be used on almost any surface with no need for a mousemat. It will go onsale in Dixons stores in the UK, with a further rollout this summer. 



2421Maxell AirStash A02 frees up smartphone space

 

This unassuming gadget could be your saviour if you’ve filled your smartphone or tablet with music and photos. Essentially an SD Card reader, the AirStash A02 can read Secure Digital SD and SDXC storage cards of almost any capacity. However, it also has 802.11n Wi-Fi built in, allowing your iPhone or Android phone to access the contents over an ad-hoc wireless network. Items can be sent to several devices at once too, making it useful for sharing digital content.

The idea is that you can use the internal storage on your smartphone for apps and hive off the photos and other gubbins that you don’t always need to be able to access to the AirStash. Since the iPhone has no card reader slot or USB port, the ability to pull across photos stored on one should be a boon. A dedicated iPhone and iPad app helps you navigate through your photo library.

The AirStash has a USB 2.0 port means you can easily transfer items from your PC or laptop to the device. This same port is used to charge the AirStash. It should last for around seven hours before needing to be recharged.

The Maxell AirStash costs £109 for the 8GB version while the16GB AirStash version is £129. Both are available through Play.com. 

airstash.com



2422Gadget bonanza at 2012 Ideal Home Show

 

39,389 News Articles

With technology making greater inroads into the domestic home every year organisers at the Ideal Home Show have tripled the size of the event’s Home of the Future area, making it the largest theatre show the Ideal Home Show has ever produced.

The Gadget Show’s celebrity geek Suzi Perry will be at the tech section at various points of the show, demonstrating and discussing the best gadgets for the season ahead.

The zone features an interactive walkthrough of the future home, which will showcase a selection of new product launches and a wide variety of market-leading gadgets, toys and future innovations in domestic technology.

Ideal Home Show 2012 Suzi Perry

The Ideal Home Show, sponsored by Everest, opens its doors on March 16, at London’s Earls Court, on the same day that Apple releases its new iPad, reviewed. 

The Home of the Future section is sponsored by Virgin Media, and will see the traditional stage triple in size with a 300-seat auditorium, within the central pool area of Earls Court.

Latest gadget reviews

The new-look feature will incorporate the latest entertainment devices, cooking technology and gadgets from the kitchen, to ultra space-saving bathroom solutions. The latest gadgets and gizmos will be on display, as will a range of family concepts cars.

“Domestic technology is increasingly becoming a focal point for all modern homes. Our visitors are always craving new ideas and the latest in consumer technology, so we decided to give our usual feature a lift, by incorporating more entertainment and performance within this section," commented Anthony Goodey, Feature Manager from Media 10, organisers of the Ideal Home Show.

“The new design offers a much more entertaining and interactive feel for our visitors, while offering a more engaging way for our brands to demonstrate their products to their key target publics.”

In the show’s 104-year history the technology section and Home of the Future feature has seen some iconic launches.

In 1912 the show saw the launch of the vacuum cleaner. In 1947 the first ever microwave was shown, and in 1930 the show launched the first electric kettle. Iin 1959 the Teasmade made its first public appearance.

The Ideal Home Show 2012 will open its doors for 17 days from 16 March to 1 April, at London’s Earls Court. It is open daily from 10am-6pm, with late-night Thursdays open until 9pm. 

Tickets can be either booked online or by calling the Ticket Hotline on 0844 858 6763.



2423Will the 4G iPad work with 3G?

 

39,389 News Articles

The new iPad, reviewed, is available in two versions: one connecting to the internet via Wi-Fi, the other via the more-exciting-sounding 4G.

The trouble is that the UK isn’t ready for 4G yet. In fact nowhere is really – the new iPad uses 4G LTE. LTE isn’t short for Lite, it stands for Long Term Evolution. But it might as well as be Lite, because 4G LTE is pegged back at 73Mbps rather than 4G’s potential 100Mbps.

That said, it’s much faster than what we’re used to with 3G – up to 10/15 times as fast, O2 suggests.

(Of course you have to be able to get a new iPad first. There is currently a delay of 2-3 weeks on UK new iPad availablility if you didn't order when the tablet was announced.)

The good news is that the new iPad is compatible with the current 3G data plan you might be using with the old iPad 2 (max speed a measly 14.4Mbps). There’s no need to ditch your 3G contract if you buy a 4G iPad.

In fact the 4G iPad works on GSM/UMTS worldwide network technologies, including HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA – which Apple claims are the fastest 3G networks out there. Downlink speeds up to 42Mbps with DC-HSDPA and up to 21.1Mbps with HSPA+ are possible.

Think of HSPA+ as 3.5G, somewhere between 3G and 4G.

Read the excellent “4G LTE in the UK: what you need to know” for many more UK technical 4G and 3G iPad facts.

T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 21 is available on over half the carrier’s network, and the company claims it will be completed in later this summer, delivering around a 50 percent increase in data download speeds.

Currently Vodafone has claimed its 3G service will run on the new iPad at speeds of up to 28.8Mbps – for users in major cities. Travel out to the suburbs and that will drop to a maximum 21.1MBps.

21.1Mbps is the maximum speed claimed by the UK carriers O2, Three and Everything Everywhere.

All carriers are promising they're working on plans to reach 42Mbps 3G speeds, although don't expect to see such performance until the very end of the year.

Latest Tablet reviews



2424Smartphone accessories worth $20 billion

 

39,389 News Articles

It’s not just Apple, Samsung and HTC making money from the burgeoning smartphone market. The mobile accessories sector is booming, too – and not just for the new iPad.

Smartphones will drive $20 billion in aftermarket accessory revenues in 2012, accounting for more than half of the $36 billion that all aftermarket handset accessories will produce – according to ABI Research.

Smartphone reviews

By 2017, smartphone accessories will grow to $38 billion in revenues, says ABI, while non-smart feature phone accessory revenues decline to $12 billion.

“The increasing penetration of smartphones is driving a more ubiquitous digital consumer who expects the data capabilities of the smartphone to be available in any device with which the smartphone interacts,” says Michael Morgan, senior analyst, mobile devices.

Feature phone consumers will spend an average of $28.17 on accessories per device, while smartphone owners will spend $56.18 on accessories per device. 

The difference in spending is driven by a combination of consumers spending more per accessory and purchasing more accessories for smartphones as compared to feature phone owners.

Smart accessories do not represent a unique segment, but are the results of accessory OEMs adapting traditional accessory value propositions to a new data-centric usage paradigm. 

Consumers continue to use accessories as they always have, but increasing capabilities and expectations of consumers and their devices are changing the way accessories are designed.

“To address this shift in consumer behaviour, accessories must focus on delivering tighter integration with smartphone functionality and features offering a more intelligent accessory product or smart accessory,” says ABI’s Kevin Burden, vice president and practice director, mobile devices.



2425Mac Pro: External ports and connectors
Headphone jack

Connect headphones to your Mac Pro through the headphone jack. When a headphone plug is inserted into the headphone jack, the built-in speaker is muted.

Hi-Speed USB 2.0 (Universal Serial Bus) ports (2 in the front).

Connect your Mac Pro to USB keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, iPods, speakers, microphones, and hubs. You can connect both USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 devices to these ports. All of the USB ports use USB Type A connectors, which have four pins each. The USB 2.0 ports support low-speed, full-speed, and high-speed data transfers at up to 1.5 megabits per second (Mbit/s), 12 Mbit/s, and 480 - 800 Mbit/s, respectively. Your display may also have USB ports.

FireWire 400 port and FireWire 800 port (2 in the front)

Connect your Mac Pro to FireWire digital video (DV) cameras, scanners, and external hard drives. Connect and disconnect FireWire devices without restarting. The FireWire 400 port supports data rates up to 400 megabits per second (Mbps). The FireWire 800 port supports data rates up to 800 Mbps as well as backwards compatibility with 100, 200, and 400 Mbps.

Power socket

Connect the power cord that came with your Mac Pro. Do not use ordinary power or extension cords.

USB 2.0 ports (3 in the back)

Connect your Mac Pro to USB keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, iPods, speakers, microphones, and hubs. You can connect both USB 2.0 and USB 1.1 devices to these ports. All of the USB ports use USB Type A connectors, which have four pins each. The USB 2.0 ports support low-speed, full-speed, and high-speed data transfers at up to 1.5 megabits per second (Mbit/s), 12 Mbit/s, and 480 - 800 Mbit/s, respectively. Your display may also have USB ports.

FireWire 400 port

The Mac Pro features one 400 Mbit/s FireWire (IEEE 1394a) port which can provide up to 7 watts of power to a connected peripheral. 400 Mbit/s is a theoretical maximum load, and actual rates will vary. This port is used by older iPods as well as third-party devices such as video cameras or external hard drives or optical drives.

FireWire 800 port

The Mac Pro features one 800 Mbit/s FireWire (IEEE 1394b) port which can provide up to 7 watts of power to a connected peripheral. 800 Mbit/s is a theoretical maximum load, and actual rates will vary. This port is used by devices such as video cameras or external hard drives or optical drives. You can also use a 9-to-6-pin Firewire cable to connect Firewire 400 devices to the Firewire 800 port, if you need a second Firewire 400 port.

Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports with jumbo frame support (2)

Connect your Mac Pro to a high-speed Ethernet network to access the Interent or network resources such as printers and servers, and share information over the network using a CAT 5e cable.

PCI Express expansion slots (3)

Expand your Mac Pro by installing up to three Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) Express cards in the covered slots labeled 2, 3, and 4.

DVI display port (2)

DVI display ports Connect displays that use a Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connector to the DVI display ports. Connect an Apple display, such as the 20-, 23-, or 30-inch Apple Cinema Display, to either port. For full resolution, connect the 30-inch Apple Cinema HD Display to port 1. You can also connect displays that us a video graphics array (VGA) connector with the Apple DVI to VGA Display Adapter that came with your Mac Pro.

Audio line-in/line-out port

Connect your Mac Pro to a line-level microphone audio equipment. Analog audio line-in port connects self-powered microphones, MP3 and CD players, and other devices with analog capability. Analog audio line-out port Connect self-powered analog speakers and other devices with analog output capability.

Optical digital audio in/out port

Connect to decks, receivers, digital instruments, and 5.1 surround-sound speaker systems using standard Toslink cables or fiber-optic cables with a 3.5 mm plastic or nylon optical plug. You can transfer stereo or encoded 5.1 audio using the S/PDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) protocol and Toslink cables.



2426Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters: Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

About the Apple Mini DisplayPort and high-definition content:

  1. What is a Mini DisplayPort?
  2. Does my computer have a Mini DisplayPort connector?
  3. What are the system requirements for Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters?
  4. Which Mini DisplayPort adapters are available from Apple?
  5. Can other adapters be connected or "daisy-chained" to Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters?
  6. What about HDMI?
  7. What is HDCP?
  8. Does my Apple Mini DisplayPort adapter support HDCP?
  9. What is the difference between active and passive adapters?
  10. Should I use a passive or active adapter?

About the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter:

  1. How is the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter different from the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter?
  2. Which displays should I use with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter?
  3. What can I do if my external display is not working properly when I use it with a Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter?

About the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter:

  1. Why doesn't the DVI connector for my external display fit my Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter?

About the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter:

  1. What should I do if I have flickering or compatibility issues with my Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter?
  2. What is the maximum resolution available when using the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter?

1. What is a Mini DisplayPort?

A Mini DisplayPort delivers a pure digital connection to external displays. It gives you plug-and-play performance with the Apple LED Cinema Display and works with single-link DVI, dual-link DVI, and VGA displays with the appropriate adapters. 


2. Does my computer have a Mini DisplayPort?

The Mini DisplayPort looks like this:

An Apple computer with a Mini DisplayPort will have this symbol next to the Mini DisplayPort:

On Apple portables, iMac, and Mac mini computers the Mini DisplayPort is located with the other ports and connectors. For the Mac Pro, the Mini DisplayPort is on the graphics card. Refer to the manual for your Mac for specific details about the location of ports and connectors on your computer.


3. What are the system requirements for Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters? 

Your computer needs Mac OS X v10.5.6 or later and a Mini DisplayPort to use these adapters. Note: When you use the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter, your Mac should also have a free USB port. 


4. Which Mini DisplayPort adapters are available from Apple?


5. Can other video adapters be connected or "daisy-chained" to Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters?

No, you should not connect Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters to any other video adapters. Connect your computer directly to an external display via one Mini DisplayPort adapter.


6. What about HDMI?

Apple does not manufacture a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. For more information on Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapters, see this article.


7. What is HDCP?
HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is a form of digital copy protection that requires compatibility between a source—such as your computer and video adapter if present—and a receiver, such as a high-definition television. If any of these devices or cabling do not support HDCP, your content may not play, may present a warning message, or may play back at a lower resolution than expected. An example of content that supports HDCP is an HD movie on the iTunes Store. Note: For information about whether your cabling, receiver, or television supports HDCP, refer to the manufacturer of the device.


8. Does the Apple Mini DisplayPort adapter support HDCP?
Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters that offer digital connections—such as the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter and the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter—support HDCP content. Apple Mini DisplayPort adapters that offer analog connections—such as the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter—do not support HDCP content.


9. What is the difference between an active adapter and a passive adapter?

An active adapter can convert a signal from one connector to another. The Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI and Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapters are active adapters. A passive adapter acts as a pass-through from one connector type to another and does not convert a signal. The Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter is an example of a passive adapter. 


10. Should I use a passive or active adapter?

On some Apple computers, like the Mac Pro (Mid 2010), you can connect three displays to a single graphics card. In this scenario—to connect to three display to use three ports—use active adapters to connect the Mini DisplayPort ports to your external displays. Two displays can connect via Mini DisplayPort and one via DVI. Note: Learn more about supported display configurations for the Mac Pro.


11. How is the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter different from the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter?

The Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter works best with displays that operate at dual-link resolutions, which are resolutions above 1920 x 1200. For displays that do not support dual-link DVI resolutions (displays that operate at resolutions of 1920 x 1200 or lower) you should use the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter instead. 


12. Which monitors work with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter?

Use the Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter to connect your computer to a 30-inch display that includes a dual-link DVI connector, such as the Apple Cinema HD Display. Note: For such displays, be sure to connect the USB connection on the adapter to the USB port on your Mac; also connect the USB connection from the display to the USB port on the adapter.


13. What can I do if my external display is not working properly with the Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter?

If you are using an external display that is not dual-link DVI, use the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter for best performance.

Try these steps if your dual-link DVI display has video issues while it is connected with the Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter:

  1. Reset the Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter by disconnecting its Mini DisplayPort and USB connections from the computer for few seconds.
  2. Reconnect the cables to the computer to see if the issues persist.
  3. If your issue is still unresolved, disconnect the Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI adapter as described in step 1, then power off the monitor.
  4. Reconnect all cables and power on the display. 
  5. If issues continue to persist, restart the computer.

14. Why doesn't the DVI connector for my external display fit my Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter?

Important: The DVI connector on the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter is for digital connections only. Some DVI connectors use additional pins on the connector to send analog information from the display to the computer. Connectors with additional pins are not compatible with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter.

The Apple DVI to VGA adapter has four additional pins around the thin connector on the left. Those pins provide an analog signal and are not used with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to DVI adapter.


15. What should I do if I have flickering or compatibility issues with my Apple Mini DisplayPort adapter?

Be sure to install the latest update for your Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter. If you have flickering issues using your Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter with certain displays, learn how to update to an adapter with Firmware version 1.03.


16. What is the maximum resolution available for use with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter?

The resolution available with the Apple Mini DisplayPort to VGA Adapter is 1920 x 1200. VGA displays that use higher refresh rates (such as 85 Hz) at resolutions of 1600 x 1200 or greater may not generate video properly until you lower the refresh rate.



2427OS X Lion: iMac may not automatically reconnect to Wi-Fi network after waking from sleep

Products Affected

OS X Lion, iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2009), iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2010), iMac (21.5-inch, Mid 2011), iMac (27-inch, Late 2009), iMac (27-inch, Mid 2010), iMac (27-inch, Mid 2011)

Symptoms

After waking an iMac running OS X Lion v10.7.3 from sleep, the computer may not automatically reconnect to the Wi-Fi network it was associated with prior to sleep.

Resolution

Download and install the iMac Wi-Fi Update, which resolves an issue that may cause an iMac to not automatically connect to a known Wi-Fi network after waking from sleep.
 

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2428New iPad Tops Three Million
 CUPERTINO, California―March 19, 2012―Apple® today announced it has sold three million of its incredible new iPad®, since its launch on Friday, March 16. The new iPad features a stunning new Retina™ display, Apple’s new A5X chip with quad-core graphics, a 5 megapixel iSight® camera with advanced optics for capturing amazing photos and 1080p HD video, and still delivers the same all-day 10 hour battery life* while remaining amazingly thin and light. iPad Wi-Fi + 4G supports ultrafast 4G LTE networks in the US and Canada, and fast networks around the world including those based on HSPA+ and DC-HSDPA.**

“The new iPad is a blockbuster with three million sold―the strongest iPad launch yet,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Customers are loving the incredible new features of iPad, including the stunning Retina display, and we can't wait to get it into the hands of even more customers around the world this Friday.”

The new iPad is already available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and the US Virgin Islands and will be available in 24 more countries starting at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday, March 23 through the Apple Online Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers, including Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

The new iPad Wi-Fi models are available in black or white for a suggested retail price of $499 (US) for the 16GB model, $599 (US) for the 32GB model, $699 (US) for the 64GB model. iPad Wi-Fi + 4G for either AT&T or Verizon is available for a suggested retail price of $629 (US) for the 16GB model, $729 (US) for the 32GB model and $829 (US) for the 64GB model. iPad is sold in the US through the Apple Online Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores and select Apple Authorized Resellers. Additionally, the incredible iPad 2 is now offered at a more affordable price of $399 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi model and just $529 (US) for the 16GB Wi-Fi + 3G model.

*Battery life depends on device settings, usage and other factors. Actual results vary.

**4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the U.S. and on Bell, Rogers, and Telus networks in Canada. Data plans sold separately.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Press Contacts:
Trudy Muller
Apple
tmuller@apple.com
(408) 862-7426

Natalie Kerris
Apple
nat@apple.com
(408) 974-6877



2429Apple Announces Plans to Initiate Dividend and Share Repurchase Program
CUPERTINO, California—March 19, 2012—Apple® today announced plans to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program commencing later this year.

Subject to declaration by the Board of Directors, the Company plans to initiate a quarterly dividend of $2.65 per share sometime in the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2012, which begins on July 1, 2012.

Additionally, the Company’s Board of Directors has authorized a $10 billion share repurchase program commencing in the Company’s fiscal 2013, which begins on September 30, 2012. The repurchase program is expected to be executed over three years, with the primary objective of neutralizing the impact of dilution from future employee equity grants and employee stock purchase programs.

“We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure. You’ll see more of all of these in the future,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Even with these investments, we can maintain a war chest for strategic opportunities and have plenty of cash to run our business. So we are going to initiate a dividend and share repurchase program.”

“Combining dividends, share repurchases, and cash used to net-share-settle vesting RSUs, we anticipate utilizing approximately $45 billion of domestic cash in the first three years of our programs,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO. “We are extremely confident in our future and see tremendous opportunities ahead.”

Apple will provide live streaming of a conference call to discuss its plans beginning at 6:00 a.m. PDT on Monday, March 19, 2012 at www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/call31912. The Company will not be providing an update on the current quarter nor will any topics be discussed other than cash. This webcast will also be available for replay for approximately two weeks thereafter.

This press release contains forward-looking statements including without limitation those regarding future business outlook and plans for dividends and share repurchases. These statements involve risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ. Risks and uncertainties include without limitation the effect of competitive and economic factors, and the Company’s reaction to those factors, on consumer and business buying decisions with respect to the Company’s products; continued competitive pressures in the marketplace; the ability of the Company to deliver to the marketplace and stimulate customer demand for new programs, products, and technological innovations on a timely basis; the effect that product introductions and transitions, changes in product pricing or mix, and/or increases in component costs could have on the Company’s gross margin; the inventory risk associated with the Company’s need to order or commit to order product components in advance of customer orders; the continued availability on acceptable terms, or at all, of certain components and services essential to the Company’s business currently obtained by the Company from sole or limited sources; the effect that the Company’s dependency on manufacturing and logistics services provided by third parties may have on the quality, quantity or cost of products manufactured or services rendered; risks associated with the Company’s international operations; the Company’s reliance on third-party intellectual property and digital content; the potential impact of a finding that the Company has infringed on the intellectual property rights of others; the Company’s dependency on the performance of distributors, carriers and other resellers of the Company’s products; the effect that product and service quality problems could have on the Company’s sales and operating profits; the continued service and availability of key executives and employees; war, terrorism, public health issues, natural disasters, and other circumstances that could disrupt supply, delivery, or demand of products; and unfavorable results of other legal proceedings. More information on potential factors that could affect the Company’s financial results is included from time to time in the “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” sections of the Company’s public reports filed with the SEC, including the Company’s Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended September 24, 2011 and its Form 10-Q for the fiscal quarter ended December 31, 2011. The Company assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements or information, which speak as of their respective dates.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Press Contact:
Steve Dowling
Apple
dowling@apple.com
(408) 974-1896

Investor Relations Contacts:
Nancy Paxton
Apple
paxton1@apple.com
(408) 974-5420

Joan Hoover
Apple
hoover1@apple.com
(408) 974-4570



2430Apple Conference Call
WHAT: Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, and Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO, will host a conference call to announce the outcome of the Company’s discussions concerning its cash balance. Apple® will not be providing an update on the current quarter nor will any topics be discussed other than cash.

WHERE: Via conference call. The dial-in number for press is (877) 616-0063 (toll-free) or (719) 219-0041. Please enter confirmation code 592016.

WHEN: Monday, March 19, 2012 at 6:00 a.m. PDT/9:00 a.m. EDT

REBROADCAST: The conference call will be available as a continuous rebroadcast beginning Monday, March 19 at 9:00 a.m. PDT/12:00 p.m. EDT through Monday, April 2 at 9:00 a.m. PDT/12:00 p.m. EDT. The dial-in number for the rebroadcast is (888) 203-1112 (toll-free) or (719) 457-0820. Please enter confirmation code 6274937.

WEBCAST: Apple will provide live audio streaming of its conference call using Apple’s industry-leading QuickTime® multimedia software. The live webcast will begin at 6:00 a.m. PDT on March 19, 2012 at www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/call31912 and will also be available for replay for approximately two weeks thereafter. The webcast is available on any iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch® or any Mac® or PC running QuickTime 6 or later. If you do not have QuickTime installed on your Windows PC, it is available at www.apple.com/quicktime.

This recording is the property of Apple and protected by U.S. copyright law and international treaties. Any reproduction or distribution is strictly prohibited without prior written approval from Apple. Please contact Apple Public Relations or Investor Relations with any questions.

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

Press Contacts:
Steve Dowling
Apple
(408) 974-1896
dowling@apple.com



2431The New iPad is Here



2432New iPad: A Million More Pixels Than HDTV

Apple’s iPad could be described as a personal display through which you see and manipulate text, graphics, photos and videos often delivered via the Internet. So, how has the company chosen to improve its wildly popular tablet? By making that display dramatically better and making the delivery of content dramatically faster.

There are other changes in the new, third-generation iPad — called simply “iPad,” with no number, which goes on sale on Friday at the same base price as its predecessor, $499. But the key upgrades are to those core features — the 9.7-inch screen and the data speed over cellular networks. These upgrades are massive. Using the new display is like getting a new eyeglasses prescription — you suddenly realize what you thought looked sharp before wasn’t nearly as sharp as it could be.

Boosting those particular features — the screen and the cellular speed — usually has a negative impact on battery life in a digital device. But Apple has managed to crank them up them while maintaining the long battery life between charges that has helped give the iPad such an edge over other tablets.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t other trade-offs. Mostly to make room for a larger battery, the new iPad weighs about 8% more and is about 7% thicker than the prior model. That means the company can’t claim to have the thinnest and lightest tablet, as it boasted last year with the iPad 2. (It’s still thinner and lighter than the original iPad.)

I’ve been testing the new iPad, and despite these trade-offs, its key improvements strengthen its position as the best tablet on the market. Apple hasn’t totally revamped the iPad or added loads of new features. But it has improved it significantly, at the same price.

It has the most spectacular display I have ever seen in a mobile device. The company squeezed four times the pixels into the same physical space as on the iPad 2 and claims the new iPad’s screen has a million more pixels than an HDTV. All I know is that text is much sharper, and photos look richer.

If you already own an iPad 2, and like it, you shouldn’t feel like you have to rush out to buy the new one. However, for those who use their iPads as their main e-readers, and those who use it frequently while away from Wi-Fi coverage, this new model could make a big difference.

The optional, extra-cost, 4G LTE cellular-data capability made it feel like I was always on a fast Wi-Fi connection. I loved the photos and videos I took with the greatly improved rear camera. And the battery life degraded by just 11 minutes, a figure that is still much better than on any tablet I’ve tested.

Along with the unmatched collection of 200,000 third-party programs designed for its large screen, and the large catalogs of music, books, periodicals and video content available for it, I can recommend the new iPad to consumers as their best choice in a general-purpose tablet.

The exceptions would be people who prefer a smaller size for one-handed use, or those who find the weight a burden. While the weight gain was noticeable, I didn’t find it a problem even for long reading or video-watching sessions. The extra thickness was barely discernible.

For the weight conscious, and for those who can’t swing the $499 entry cost, there is an out. Apple for the first time is making and selling the prior iPad model at a reduced price. The iPad 2 will now be available starting at $399, with just one choice of storage capacity — 16 gigabytes. The new iPad can be bought in 16, 32 or 64 GB capacities, at prices up to $829. The optional cellular capability costs the same as the slower 3G capability, both up front and in monthly fees from Verizon and AT&T.

The Display

It’s not as if people are complaining about the screens on their iPads, a device so attractive and useful that Apple sold about 55 million of them in two years. But this display is a big leap forward.

It’s hard to illustrate on a Web page or in print how brilliant this new display is. You have to see it. Apple calls it a “retina” display because, at normal viewing distance, there are so many pixels per inch, the human eye can’t pick them out individually. This display packs 264 pixels into every inch, twice as many as on iPad 2. Overall, the resolution is 2048 x 1536, versus 1024 x 768 for the iPad 2.

My epiphany came when I placed my iPad 2 next to the new model, with the same text on the screen. Letters and words that had seemed sharp on the older model five minutes earlier suddenly looked fuzzier.

As I tested the new model over five days, I found I was able to use smaller font sizes to read books and email. The same photos I had enjoyed on the older model looked much better on the new one, not only because of the increased resolution, but because Apple claims it increased color saturation by 44%. One thing Apple hasn’t fixed: like all glossy, LCD color displays, this one still does poorly in direct sunlight.

The Speed

The new iPad is hardly the first device to use 4G LTE cellular technology, but it marks a huge difference from the iPad 2. On Verizon’s network in Washington and Austin, Texas, I averaged LTE download speeds of over 17 megabits per second, faster than most home wired networks. A colleague using a new iPad on AT&T’s LTE network averaged over 12 mbps. My iPad 2 running Verizon’s 3G network averaged just over 1 mbps. Of course, you can get a Wi-Fi only model, at $130 less. The base $499 model is Wi-Fi only.

There is another dimension to speed: the overall responsiveness of the device. The new iPad is just as buttery smooth to use as the iPad 2. Apple beefed up the processor, especially its graphics capabilities.

The Battery

Apple claims up to 10 hours of battery life between charges, and up to nine hours if you are relying strictly on cellular connectivity. In my standard battery test, where I play videos back to back with both cellular and Wi-Fi on, and the screen at 75% brightness, the new iPad logged 9 hours and 58 minutes, compared with 10 hours and 9 minutes for the iPad 2. Other tablets died hours sooner in the same test. In more normal use, the new iPad lasted more than a full day, though not as long as the iPad 2 did.

The Rear Camera

Like the iPad 2, the third-generation iPad has front and rear cameras. The front camera, meant mainly for video chats, hasn’t changed. But the rear camera, which was awful for photos on the iPad 2, and was estimated at less than a single megapixel of resolution, has greatly improved. It’s now a 5-megapixel shooter with improved optics. I loved the photos and videos it took, indoors and out.

Other features

The new iPad is the first that can be used, like many smartphones, as a personal hot spot — a base station to connect laptops and other devices to the Internet. In my tests, this worked fine.

It also allows you to dictate, rather than type, emails and other text. I found this surprisingly accurate. And Apple now has a brilliant new version of its iPhoto software that has been rewritten for the iPad, reviewed this week by Katie Boehret.

Bottom Line

Since it launched in 2010, the iPad has been the best tablet on the planet. With the new, third-generation model, it still holds that crown.

Write to Walt at mossberg@wsj.com.



2433Mac 101: Connecting a home stereo, iPod, iPad, musical instruments, or speakers

Playing and streaming music from your Mac, iPod, or iPad  

You can play music from your Mac using iTunes, or, stream it wirelessly to external speakers using an iPod, iPhone or iPad.  

If you need to use a third-party audio device to connect your speakers to your Mac, it needs to be plugged-in using a FireWire, USB or S/PDIF cable.  If drivers are required for the audio device, you should install them first, before plugging the device into the Mac for the first time.  If you aren't sure if a driver needs to be installed for your audio device, check with the documentation which was included with it, or, consult the manufacturers web site.  Class compliant audio devices do not require a software driver to work with a Mac, whereas non-class compliant audio devices require a driver for correct operation.  The most obvious clues that a required driver has not been installed for a third party audio device include no sound, constantly blinking lights on the audio device itself and/or difficulty choosing the device as an input (or output) in the Sound system preferences.      

You can also stream music (as well as videos and photos) from your iPod, iPad, or iPhone using AirPlay. Additionally, with iOS 5, you can wirelessly sync your iOS device (including music) over a shared Wi-Fi connection.
 

Connecting your home stereo to a Mac

If you want to digitize your vinyl record or cassette tape collection, or other sound source, you can easily connect your home stereo to your computer, then use audio recording software such as GarageBand to record the music on your Mac.

To do this, you will need a USB or FireWire audio interface that has dual RCA inputs, or if your Mac has an audio input, you can use a 1/8-inch stereo mini plug to dual RCA female connectors adapter.
 

Follow these steps to record from your home stereo to your Mac.

  1. Connect the RCA connectors to your stereo receiver's auxiliary (Aux) output. (This may also be called "Record" or "Tape Out" on some receivers)
  2. Connect the other end of the cable either to the audio input port on your Mac, or, to your Mac-connected audio interface.
  3. Turn on your home stereo.
  4. Make sure your stereo is set to output via auxiliary.
  5. From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences, then click Sound.
  6. Click the Input tab and select your audio interface or the audio line In.

Connecting headphones and speakers

Macs have built-in speakers, but you may also consider connecting a set of headphones for personal listening, or, connect external speakers (which are sometimes also referred to as monitors) to your computer for audio mixing or other tasks.  You don't even need to install additional software to do so, unless you have a surround sound speaker system which requires a driver to be installed on your Mac.

To use headphones, just plug in your headphone cable into the headphone/line out port on your Mac, if your headphones have a 1/4-inch stereo plug, you will need a 1/4-inch stereo female phono connector to 1/8-inch stereo mini phono plug adapter.

Depending on your speaker connections and your computer's ports, you will need to connect them to your computer's headphone/line out jack, USB port, FireWire port, or optical digital audio output port. Generally, regardless of what type of connector you use, you'll need to connect one main cable to the appropriate port on your Mac to then "feed" the audio signal to your speaker system. Please consult the instructions that came with your speakers for information and about hooking up your speaker system. Your speakers instructions may also contain suggestions for ideal speaker placement locations.

Tip: If surround sound content plays on only two speakers of a 5-speaker (or more) surround sound setup, it may indicate a configuration problem with the speakers, or the application being used to play the content on the Mac doesn't support surround sound output.  For best results, always use either the iTunes or DVD Player applications to enjoy surround sound content on your Mac.

Attaching an audio interface

Using a third-party audio interface allows you to easily and quickly record yourself singing or playing a musical instrument on your Mac, and allows you to output your Mac's audio to professional speakers even if they use different connection types than your Mac has.

If you want to record instruments on your Mac, USB or FireWire audio interface devices are the easiest and fastest way to get started!  A variety of third-party audio interfaces are available to connect your musical gear (which uses connections such as XLR, 1/4 inch phono, RCA jacks, S/PDIF or MIDI) to your Mac.

A number of third-party companies produce Mac-compatible audio interface devices that allow you to quickly and easily record yourself, including Alesis, Apogee Digital, Digidesign, Roland, MOTU, PreSonus. 

 

This combined FireWire/USB interface (the Audio Express by MOTU) features a built-in audio interface and supports a wide range of audio connections


Once you've selected a third-party audio interface device, install any drivers (if needed) and then connect it to your Mac.

  1. Follow the setup instructions that came with your audio interface device and install the software drivers first, as necessary.
  2. If you have a USB audio interface, connect it to a USB port on your computer, using the cable that came with your device. If you have a FireWire audio interface, attach it to your computer's FireWire port, using the appropriate FireWire cable.
  3. Turn on your audio interface and connect its accompanying power supply, if needed.
  4. To make your Mac use the audio interface as its audio input or output, choose System Preferences from the Apple () menu.
  5. From the View menu, choose Sound. This opens the Sound preferences pane.
  6. Click the Input tab.
  7. Choose your audio interface in the list to select it for use. Note: If you don't see your interface in the list, be sure that you've installed the correct driver.
  8. Click the Output tab.
  9. Choose your audio interface in the list to select it for use.  

Plug in your guitar, bass, keyboard or microphone

If you are connecting a musical instrument to your Mac, its recommended that you use an audio interface as they typically provide the preamp boost needed to bring up audio levels for instruments and mics. If you don't have one but your Mac has an 1/8-inch audio input port, you can still attach a guitar, bass, or microphone.

You'll need a 1/8-inch stereo mini plug to 1/4-inch phono adapter to bridge the connection from computer to guitar, bass, or mic with 1/4-inch phono connector, or a 1/8-inch stereo mini plug to XLR connector adapter for professional mics. Many professional mics require 48-volt phantom power. These will not work plugged directly into the audio input of the computer, even with the stereo mini to XLR adapter cable.

Once you've got an adapter, simply connect the 1/8-inch mini plug end to your computer's audio input port and the other end to your instrument or microphone. From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences, click Sound, click the Input tab, and make sure that the audio Line In is the selected input device.

Sound preferences

To use your computer's audio input port as a sound input, select it in the Sound Input pane of System Preferences

Connect a USB musical keyboard

If you have a musical USB keyboard or controller, you can easily connect it to your Mac and set it up for use. If you have a MIDI keyboard, you'll need an audio interface that contains a MIDI In and Out port. See "Attaching an Audio Interface" above.

Simply install the third-party device driver for your keyboard if needed, restart your computer if prompted and then connect the keyboard to a USB port on your Mac. From the Apple () menu, choose System Preferences, click Sound, click the Input tab, and select your keyboard controller in the list to make it the sound input source.



2434PowerBook G4 Computers: How to Identify Different Models

Determine the size of your PowerBook G4
The first step to distinguish which model of PowerBook G4 you own is to determine what size screen it has. PowerBook G4 computers are available in three screen sizes (measured diagonally): 12-inch, 15-inch, and 17-inch.

12-inch PowerBook G4 computers

PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI), PowerBook G4 (12-inch 1.33GHz), and PowerBook G4 (12-inch 1.5GHz)

The PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI) is distinguishable from the previous model by the DVI port on the side of the computer. The DVI port is the one outlined in red in Figure 1.

Figure 1 PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI) DVI port

The PowerBook G4 (12-inch 1.33GHz) is physically indistinguishable from the PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI) except for processor speed. The sticker inside the battery bay will give the processor speed of the computer.

The PowerBook G4 (12-inch 1.5GHz) is physically indistinguishable from the PowerBook G4 (12-inch DVI) and PowerBook G4 (12-inch 1.33GHz) except for processor speed. The sticker inside the battery bay will give the processor speed of the computer.

PowerBook G4 (12-inch)

  • Two USB and one FireWire ports are located on the left side of the computer.
  • Stereo speakers are located on the back of the computer.


Figure 2

PowerBook G4 (12-inch) speaker locations

15-inch PowerBook G4 computers

PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.67/1.5GHz) computers

The PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.65/1.5GHz) looks almost exactly like the PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW 800) and PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.5/1.33GHz). The only visible distinctive characteristic is that the AirPort Extreme door inside the battery bay in previous models is no longer there in the PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.67/1.5GHz).

 

Figure 3 PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW 800) or PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.5/1.33GHz) AirPort Extreme door

PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW 800) and PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.5/1.33GHz) computers

The PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW 800) is distinctive in that it has a 15-inch display and the ports are all on the right and left sides of the computer. In previous models of 15-inch PowerBooks, all the ports were on the back of the computer.

The PowerBook G4 (15-inch 1.5/1.33GHz) is physically indistinguishable from the PowerBook G4 (15-inch FW 800) except for processor speed. The sticker inside the battery bay will give the processor speed of the computer.

PowerBook G4 (DVI) and PowerBook G4 (1 GHz/867 MHz) computers

The PowerBook G4 (DVI) computer can be distinguished from previous models in that it has a DVI video-out port, rather than the VGA ports previous models had.

Figure 4 PowerBook G4 (DVI) - DVI port is labeled "4"

The PowerBook G4 (1 GHz/867 MHz) is physically indistinguishable from the PowerBook G4 (DVI) except for processor speed. The sticker inside the battery bay will give the processor speed of the computer.

PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) and previous PowerBook G4 computer

The PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) computer has three key external identifying features that differentiate it from the previous PowerBook G4 computer:

  • The keyboard layout
  • The rear port cover
  • The lack of vents on the bottom of the computer

The easiest way to tell the difference between the PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) computer and the previous PowerBook G4 computer is to look at the door that covers the expansion ports. The PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) computer has a set of vents in the middle of the door, while the previous PowerBook G4 computer had a solid door without vents.


Figure 5 PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) expansion port door

On the bottom of the computer, the vents that were on the previous PowerBook G4 computer have been removed from the PowerBook
G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) computer.

The PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) computer also has a redesigned keyboard layout that is similar to the iBook (Dual USB computer). One of the layout changes includes the placement of the Command (Apple) key to the right of the space bar as shown in Figure 5.

Figure 6 PowerBook G4 (Gigabit Ethernet) keyboard layout

17-inch PowerBook G4 computers

PowerBook G4 (17-inch), PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.33GHz), PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.5GHz) and PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.67GHz) computers

The PowerBook G4 (17-inch), PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.33GHz), PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.5GHz) and PowerBook G4 (17-inch 1.67GHz) computers are not physically distinguishable from each other, except by processor speed. You can use Apple System Profiler or look at the sticker in the battery bay to determine processor speed. PowerBook G4 (17-inch) computers had 1 GHz processors; the other models have their processor speeds in their names.

PowerBook G4 (17-inch)

  • 17-inch display
  • One USB, one FireWire 400, and one FireWire 800 port are located on the right side of the computer.
  • Stereo speakers are located on left and right side of the keyboard.



2435Upgrading and Migrating

Thanks to OS X Lion, it’s never been easier to install, set up, and manage a server. The set of applications in OS X Lion Server turns just about any Mac into a powerful server that’s perfect for home offices, businesses, schools, and more. Lion Server is available from the Mac App Store for $49.99.

The all-new Server app is your go-to place for practically everything related to your server, and it couldn’t be easier to set up. It includes a setup assistant that guides you step by step through the configuration process. Just a few clicks and you’re off and running. You get local and remote administration of features and services such as users and groups, file sharing, calendaring, email, contacts, chat, Time Machine, VPN, web, and wiki services. Want to know how your server is performing? The Server app can tell you. It displays graphs for monitoring access and server performance and gives you an overview of your hardware configuration and storage use. The Server app even lets you configure your server to send you email alerts if problems arise or if new software updates are available.

Profile Manager offers you simple yet powerful ways to set up and remotely manage computers running Lion and iOS devices such as iPad and iPhone. It also simplifies the creation of new configuration profiles and user accounts for mail, calendar, contacts, and chat; enforcement of restrictions; PIN and password policies; configuration of system settings; and more. Because it’s integrated with the Apple Push Notification service, Profile Manager can send out updated configurations over the air automatically. And it includes web-based administration, so you can manage your server from any modern web browser. Profile Manager even gives users access to a self-service web portal where they can download and install new configuration profiles, as well as clear passcodes and remotely lock or wipe devices that are lost or stolen.

Wiki Server 3 brings even more ease of use and control to your wikis. Use Wiki Server to host a website or wiki where your users can add content using the new Page Editor. Your wiki includes a document repository where users can upload, preview, and download files to their computers, making sharing and collaboration a breeze. With the new navigation bar, users can quickly switch to the server’s home page, My Page, Updates, Wikis, People, or Podcasts. People Browser lets you discover and share information outside a wiki. And automatic email notifications let users know when a page has been updated or when new comments have been added.

Now anyone can maintain schedules, appointments, and to-dos. iCal Server 3 lets you share a calendar with colleagues, family, and friends. So multiple people can access the same calendar to add events or update meeting details. You can also create a shared to-do or reminders list whose items can be prioritized and marked as completed by anyone with access to the shared calendar.

Mail Server 3 includes new features that enhance client services. With attachment searching, users can search the content of message attachments stored on the server. Searching works with all standard file formats, including iWork and Microsoft Office documents, PDF files, and QuickTime videos. Mail Server includes a new webmail service with a modern web design. It supports rich text and HTML messages, multiple languages, drag-and-drop message management, and threaded message listings.

Now built into OS X Lion, the Xsan file system allows any Mac with appropriate connectivity to access an Xsan volume. Lion Server includes the Xsan Admin application for hosting and configuring Xsan volumes. And for improved performance and simplicity, you can create case-insensitive Xsan volumes that act like traditional HFS+ volumes and do not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase characters in filenames. Lion also supports industry-standard multipathing and failover, so Xsan can be used with a variety of Fibre Channel RAID storage arrays.



2436Open Directory Administration

Thanks to OS X Lion, it’s never been easier to install, set up, and manage a server. The set of applications in OS X Lion Server turns just about any Mac into a powerful server that’s perfect for home offices, businesses, schools, and more. Lion Server is available from the Mac App Store for $49.99.

The all-new Server app is your go-to place for practically everything related to your server, and it couldn’t be easier to set up. It includes a setup assistant that guides you step by step through the configuration process. Just a few clicks and you’re off and running. You get local and remote administration of features and services such as users and groups, file sharing, calendaring, email, contacts, chat, Time Machine, VPN, web, and wiki services. Want to know how your server is performing? The Server app can tell you. It displays graphs for monitoring access and server performance and gives you an overview of your hardware configuration and storage use. The Server app even lets you configure your server to send you email alerts if problems arise or if new software updates are available.

Profile Manager offers you simple yet powerful ways to set up and remotely manage computers running Lion and iOS devices such as iPad and iPhone. It also simplifies the creation of new configuration profiles and user accounts for mail, calendar, contacts, and chat; enforcement of restrictions; PIN and password policies; configuration of system settings; and more. Because it’s integrated with the Apple Push Notification service, Profile Manager can send out updated configurations over the air automatically. And it includes web-based administration, so you can manage your server from any modern web browser. Profile Manager even gives users access to a self-service web portal where they can download and install new configuration profiles, as well as clear passcodes and remotely lock or wipe devices that are lost or stolen.

Wiki Server 3 brings even more ease of use and control to your wikis. Use Wiki Server to host a website or wiki where your users can add content using the new Page Editor. Your wiki includes a document repository where users can upload, preview, and download files to their computers, making sharing and collaboration a breeze. With the new navigation bar, users can quickly switch to the server’s home page, My Page, Updates, Wikis, People, or Podcasts. People Browser lets you discover and share information outside a wiki. And automatic email notifications let users know when a page has been updated or when new comments have been added.

Now anyone can maintain schedules, appointments, and to-dos. iCal Server 3 lets you share a calendar with colleagues, family, and friends. So multiple people can access the same calendar to add events or update meeting details. You can also create a shared to-do or reminders list whose items can be prioritized and marked as completed by anyone with access to the shared calendar.

Mail Server 3 includes new features that enhance client services. With attachment searching, users can search the content of message attachments stored on the server. Searching works with all standard file formats, including iWork and Microsoft Office documents, PDF files, and QuickTime videos. Mail Server includes a new webmail service with a modern web design. It supports rich text and HTML messages, multiple languages, drag-and-drop message management, and threaded message listings.

Now built into OS X Lion, the Xsan file system allows any Mac with appropriate connectivity to access an Xsan volume. Lion Server includes the Xsan Admin application for hosting and configuring Xsan volumes. And for improved performance and simplicity, you can create case-insensitive Xsan volumes that act like traditional HFS+ volumes and do not distinguish between uppercase and lowercase characters in filenames. Lion also supports industry-standard multipathing and failover, so Xsan can be used with a variety of Fibre Channel RAID storage arrays.



2437Server Field Guide (Beta)

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Use your iPhone or iPod touch to check this beta version of the Server Field Guide when you're in front of a server rack and aren't sure about:

• which Xserve models you're looking at
• what kind of memory to install and how
• how to choose a front-panel startup option
• which PCI slots accept which cards

Use Safari on your iPhone or iPod touch to go to: http://help.apple.com/server/guide/



2438Get Started with Developer ID

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The Mac App Store is the safest place for users to get software for their Mac, but we also want to protect users when they download applications from other places. Developer ID is a new way to help prevent users from installing malware on their Mac. Along with Gatekeeper, a new feature in OS X Mountain Lion, signing applications with your Developer ID certificate provides users with the confidence that your application is not known malware and has not been tampered with. Get started with Developer ID today and prepare your applications for Gatekeeper. Learn more.

2439Sandboxing Deadline Extended to June 1

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We have extended the deadline for sandboxing your apps on the Mac App Store from March 1st to June 1st to provide you with enough time to take advantage of new sandboxing entitlements available in OS X 10.7.3 and new APIs in Xcode 4.3. Get more details about sandboxing your app and find answers to FAQs. Learn more.

2440OS X Mountain Lion Developer Preview Now Available

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OS X Mountain Lion introduces great features inspired by iPad, re-imagined for the Mac. With the Developer Preview, you can explore Game Center, Notification Center, Documents in the Cloud, new sharing capabilities, advanced security features and so much more. Read more about OS X Mountain Lion and download the Developer Preview today. Learn more.

2441Apple Denies New IPad Overheating Concerns

Apple Denies New iPad Overheating ConcernsApple Tuesday denied any overheating concerns on the new iPad, saying that the product operates well within its thermal specifications.

Apple's new iPad became available on Friday of last week and the company said it sold over 3 million units in the first three days. But overheating concerns have sparked a discussion on Apple's website, with posters saying the new iPad was noticeably warmer than predecessors.

An Apple representative denied the tablet overheats and said that users should contact customer support if they have issues.

While some new iPad owners noticed no heating issues, others said the tablet gets warmer on the lower left bottom of the tablet. Multiple posters in the forum claimed to measure the temperature on the glass reaching 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Users also said the iPad became warm when playing games or running intense applications. Reviewers have also noted the new iPad being warmer than its predecessors.

The tablet has an operating temperature range of 32 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees to 35 degrees Celsius), which is the same as iPad 2. The A5X graphics core has two more graphics cores than its predecessor. The new iPad has a 42.5 watt-hour battery, which is denser than the 25 watt-hour battery in the iPad 2, according to the tablet teardown by iFixit.

Batteries have many times been the reason for overheating in laptops. Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony and Toshiba have in the past recalled lithium-ion battery packs as they could overheat, posing fire and burn hazards.

Apple in the past replaced some first-generation iPad Nanos sold between September 2005 and December 2006 due to overheating issues after tracking down the issue to a battery with a manufacturing defect.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com



2442Western Digital Puts 2TB of Storage in Palm of Your Hand for $250

Western Digital Puts 2TB of Storage in Palm of Your Hand for $250Western Digital's New Passport Portable Hard DrivesWho needs the cloud when you can have two terabytes of storage in the palm of your hand?

That's what Western Digital offers with its latest line of Passport portable drives announced Tuesday. The new drives are offered in four capacities--500GB ($129.99), 750GB ($149.99), 1TB ($199.99) and 2TB ($249.99)--and five colors--white, black, silver, blue, and red.

Along with massive storage, the new drives include software for backups and security. The WD SmartWare software can be configured for backups that are automatic and continuous­--when you change a file, it's immediately altered in the backup on the drive. WD Security can password-protect the drive and encrypt the data on it.

Western Digital also says that it has improved the casing for the portable drive line, which makes it more resistant to scratches and fingerprints.

To achieve 2TB, Western Digital uses four 2.5-inch platters, which pack in 500GB of data per platter, in a 15mm z-height drive. That means you won't be seeing this drive in a laptop anytime soon; laptops typically have accommodation for a 9.5mm z-height hard drive. The company's current 1TB drive uses only three platters.

The 2TB drive measures 4.4 by 3.2 inches, and support USB 3.0.

Western Digital is one of the largest producers of hard drives in the world. It recently purchased the assets of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies after agreeing with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to sell off some of its hard drive assets to Toshiba to address anti-competitive concerns of the agency. Without the agreement, the Hitachi purchase would have made Western Digital one two companies controlling the worldwide market for desktop hard drives.

Additional reporting by Melissa J. Perenson.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.



2443International Travel and Your Laptop

Shanta Hasan asked me for advice about traveling internationally with a laptop.

Many travel concerns are identical whether or not you're crossing international borders. I'll start with those and then go on to specifically international issues.

Travel Concerns No Matter Where You're Going

Your laptop could be stolen at the airport, in your hotel, or when you're walking down a street. A few precautions should provide protection.

  1. Carry it in a case that doesn't look like a laptop case. There's no reason to walk around visually screaming "I've got expensive equipment here!"
  2. When you're in public, always keep an eye or a hand on that case. No one should be able to touch it without you knowing it.
  3. If you're going to leave the laptop in your hotel, secure it. If there's a safe in your room, use that. If not, ask if it can be locked in the hotel safe. Or bring a secure laptop cable. Both Kensington and SecurityKit.com make them.
  4. If someone threatens you with violence, give them your laptop. It's not worth your life.

If your laptop is stolen, you don't want to lose more than the hardware. Protect all of your data by backing it up, and further protect your sensitive data by encrypting it.

Do a thorough backup before hitting the road, and carry a flash drive for backing up new and changed files on the road. Keep the flash drive in your pocket, not in the laptop bag. (You don't want your backup stolen with the laptop.)

I recommend TrueCrypt for encrypting your sensitive files. It's free, simple to use, and pretty-near unbreakable. At least it is if you use a strong password.

International Concerns

If you're traveling outside of the country, you will have to go through customs at least twice. And custom officials may have the right to examine the contents of your hard drive.

You should therefore delete anything that might get you into trouble. Sure, you could encrypt the problematic files. But if the customs officer asks if you have anything is hidden on the drive, you're safest if you can tell the truth.

You'll want to recharge your laptop on the trip, so you'll have to think about electricity. AC power plugs and voltages vary from country to country.

Voltage shouldn't be a big problem. Every laptop power adapter I've examined in the last decade can handle voltages from 100-240v. Examine the tiny text on your power brick to make sure it can handle that range.

But you will need an adapter for the plug. These are easy to find and often cost less than $10. Just use your favorite search engine to look for ac plug adapter and the name of the country.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.



2444Remove an Email Address in Gmail

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MLStrand56 asked the Answer Line about something that should be easy: How do you delete an email address in Gmail?

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2445Windows 8: Two Operating Systems Barely on Speaking Terms

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Ericuse165 asked people on the Windows forum what they thought of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. I offer my two cents.

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2446Understanding Your Camera's ISO Control

A few weeks ago, I wrote that photography is often called "painting with light." In response, a reader asked me what you do when there isn't any--light, that is. Well, unless you're shooting inside a closet or at the bottom of a mineshaft, there's always some light around. Your job as a photographer is often to make the most of whatever light you have access to. I've explained how to get the best results with your flash, but there's a way to maximize the natural light in your scene as well: Using your camera's ISO control.

ISO in a Nutshell

I get a lot of questions about ISO--many photographers don't seem to understand exactly what it does. Your camera's ISO control determines how sensitive the camera's sensor is to light. On most cameras, ISO starts at 100 and goes up from there; the higher the number, the more sensitive the sensor will be.

Of course, that begs the question: Why wouldn't you always just leave the ISO as high as it can go all the time?

That's because ISO is a bit of a mixed bag. Higher ISO values give your camera a better light response, so you can take sharper photos with shorter shutter speeds in low light, but this comes at the expense of more digital noise in your photo. On the same camera, a picture captured at ISO 800 will tend to look noisier--random pixels that resemble grain on an old film camera or static on a television screen--than a photo shot at ISO 100. On the left is an enlarged detail of a photo taken at ISO 1000. Notice the rough, sandpaper-like quality of everything in the scene, including the wall and the girl's complexion.

Use ISO Strategically

It's a good idea to always shoot with the lowest possible ISO you can get away with. On many cameras, that means dialing in ISO 100 and leaving it there unless you have a good reason to increase it.

What kinds of reasons? Imagine you're outdoors late in the day trying to take some photos and your flash won't illuminate the scene because it's too large or far away. In that case, crank up the ISO until the camera stops giving you a slow shutter warning. I'd suggest going with the lowest ISO that'll give you a satisfactory photo in order to avoid introducing too much noise in the image. But don't fret too much about this: It's a lot better to capture a sharp photo with some noise in it than a shaky photo that was shot too slow for the available light.

You might also be able to rely on your camera's Auto ISO setting. Check your camera's user guide for details. On many cameras, you can set the ISO to Auto and it'll dial the ISO up and down on its own when you shoot in certain modes (like Automatic exposure mode). I'm not a huge fan of Auto ISO because I don't know exactly what the camera is doing, but it's a convenient way to ensure you get the sharpest results without sweating over the settings.

ISO Math

It's also worth pointing out what the ISO numbers mean. What, for example, is the difference between ISO 100 and ISO 200? Thankfully, cameras use a fairly consistent set of conventions, so that doubling the ISO doubles the light sensitivity. So in this sense, ISO is like shutter speed or aperture. If you go from ISO 100 to ISO 400, that's two stops of exposure change (doubled and then doubled again), so that's equivalent to changing the shutter speed from 1/60 second to 1/15 second.

Put another way, suppose your camera is currently trying to take a photo at a shutter speed of 1/15 second at an ISO of 100. Change the ISO to 400, and the camera will now be able to take the same photo at 1/60 second, which is probably good enough to take a sharp photo. Change the ISO to 800, and the shutter speed will be 1/125 second.

ISOs Go Really High Now

I'm old enough to remember when an ISO of 800 was very aggressive and 1600 was all but unheard of. These days, the party has barely started at ISO 1600. Camera manufacturers have made dramatic improvements in sensor technology in just the past few years, and these days many cameras come with ISOs as high as 12,800. That's a range of 7 stops, and it gives you incredible freedom to freeze the action with a fast shutter speed in extremely dim settings. There are cameras that offer even higher ISO--the Nikon D3s, for example, goes as high as 102,400, which is ten stops of exposure control. Of course, you will see a significant amount of noise at those stratospheric ISOs, so if you use them, it pays to use some noise reduction software.

Cutting Down on Noise

Many photo editing programs, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements and Corel Paint Shop Pro, have a nose reduction filter that cam significantly reduce the stray pixels of noise you get when shooting at a high ISO. Remember the noisy photo we saw earlier? Take a look at the photo on the right, after it met a noise reduction filter.

You can find a noise reduction tool in Photoshop Elements. Choose Filter, Noise, Reduce Noise.

That said, you'll get better results with a program that's designed specifically to eliminate noise. My favorites--and ones I've recommended many times before--are Noiseware and Noise Ninja.

There's a free version of Noiseware called Noiseware Community Edition, which is a great starter tool, but be aware that the program limits your photos to a JPEG quality level of 90 percent. Give it a shot, and if you like it, purchase the commercial version of Noiseware for about $50.

I like Noise Ninja even more, and in fact Noise Ninja is considered the gold standard by many photographers. It is built into the new, excellent Corel AfterShot Pro photo editing program, in fact. A Noise Ninja license costs about $35 and lets you apply a custom noise profile to your photos based on your specific camera, so it can remove noise in an extremely accurate and detailed way. If you shoot a lot of high ISO photos, definitely check out Noise Ninja.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Great news! For a limited time (from March 1 till August 31, 2012), Hot Pic of the Week winners will receive one free downloadable copy of Corel PaintShop Pro X4.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 800 by 600 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Signal Mountain Milky Way" by Mike Keller, Towson, Maryland

Mike says: "I shot this in the Grand Teton National Park around 10 p.m. in pitch black. I intended to capture the Tetons at under the Milky Way, but this turned out to be more complicated than I expected--not only was it so cold that I had to wear gloves when I wasn't adjusting the camera, but I had to work under a dark blanket in the middle of the night. Luckily, my wife had a little flashlight with her, otherwise, I probably wouldn't have been able to get this image. I shot the picture with a Canon EOS D50 with a 30 sec exposure at f/4 and ISO 2500. I made a few minor adjustments with Photoshop CS4--mainly, I eliminated a little noise in the sky and altered the composition."

This week's runner-up: "Tower Theater" by Chris Opfell, Calabasas, California

Ryan writes: "I took this photo of the marquee of the shuttered Tower Theater in downtown Los Angeles. I used a Canon S90."

To see last month's winners, visit our February Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.



2447Finding an Alternative to the Free Picnik Photo Editor

If you haven't yet heard the news, allow me to bring you some sad tidings: Google is shuttering Picnik, the superb free online photo editor that Google had acquired back in 2010 and that I've recommended in the past.

You have until April 19 to get your fill of Picnik--that's when the site crops its last pixels. If you've used Picnik and have some photos there that you'd like to preserve when the site goes offline, that's easy to do. Picnik Takeout is a one-click tool that collects all of your online photos and zips them up for download.

There is some good news in all of this. While you previously had to pay for the advanced features found in Picnik Premium, Google has shut down the cash registers and made the premium edition free for all from now until the doors close in April. So you have another 6 weeks or so of full-strength Picnik goodness at no cost.

I'll be sad to see Picnik go--it was an elegant online photo editor. But after we pay our respects, what are the alternatives? Here are a few other sites you can use to satisfy your need for online photo editing.

Pixlr

You could do the lion's share of your photo editing in Pixlr and never need to open a desktop photo editing program at all. Pixlr is a family of photo editing tools provided for free by Autodesk. You can visit the Pixlr home page and choose the service you want, or go directly to your favorite editor.

Pixlr Editor, for example, is a full-featured photo editor that looks the part--like Adobe Photoshop or Corel Paint Shop Pro, it has a vertical toolbar packed with selection and editing tools, support for multiple layers, and even an array of filters like blur, unsharp mask, and simulated HDR. It's really a complete photo editor that runs in your Web browser.

When you don't need the power or overhead of a complete editor, check out my favorite online photo tweaker, Pixlr Express. Express has a streamlined interface, just a handful of buttons at the bottom of the browser window for photo adjustments, special effects, overlays, borders, and entering text. Each one of those buttons unleashes a bevy of options, though, giving you a surprising amount of power and flexibility to edit and improve your photo.

Phoenix

Phoenix, from Aviary, is not unlike Pixlr Editor--it's an impressively advanced photo editing program that lives in your Web browser. Although it does not offer specialty features such as HDR processing and panoramic stitching, you'll be hard pressed to think of a standard photo editing feature that Phoenix does not include. The Flash-based interface is smooth and elegant, if perhaps a little sluggish at times (it's significantly slower to upload a photo from your PC than Pixlr, for example). I love the flyouts on the program's vertical toolbar--they're attractive, easy to use, and clearly identify all of your editing options. Aviary includes a slew of tutorials (77, in fact), arranged by difficult from beginner through expert, to help you master the program. That said, I'd still give the edge to Pixlr if you use Microsoft Internet Explorer, as Phoenix seems to be more compatible with Mozilla Firefox and generates some errors in IE.

The Best of the Rest

These are far from your only choices. There are a slew of other photo editors out there, including FotoFlexer, SplashUp, and Photoshop Express Editor. You can read more about them in "Edit Your Photos Online for Free."

I'd also be remiss not to mention a few reader favorites: Irfanview, Paint.Net, and GIMP (a quirky open-source offering) are all downloadable (and free) image editors.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Great news! For a limited time (from March 1 till August 31, 2012), Hot Pic of the Week winners will receive one free downloadable copy of Corel PaintShop Pro X4.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 800 by 600 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Peace" by Melissa Carrington, Parma, Ohio

Melissa says that she took this photo on the North Shore of Oahu with her iPhone 4.

This week's runner-up: "Busy Bee" by Ryan Murtagh, Hobart, Australia

Ryan writes: "I took this photo with my Nikon Coolpix S8000 in my backyard. I used Macro mode at a distance of roughly 1cm from the bee. I added a little sharpening to add some definition to the bee's hairs."

To see last month's winners, visit our February Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.



2448Three Free Email Reminders Reviewed: Followupthen.com, Followup:cc, Boomerang for Gmail

Many of us use our email inbox as a to-do list. Keeping that to-do list organized and easily accessible is a daunting task--especially with scores of new messages arriving daily. Each of these programs and services has its own spin on reminders.

Followup.cc

Followup:cc screenshotFollowup:cc handles the basics of email reminders.The Followup.cc service can help you stay on top of your email tasks, by sending you handy reminders when you need them most. Followup.cc is available in four versions: Free, Personal ($5 per month), Plus ($10 per month), and Premium ($15 per month).

Followup.cc's email reminders make it easy to press snooze and push those reminders off a little longer. All four versions work with any type of email account, including Web-based email services such as Gmail and Hotmail, desktop clients like Outlook and Thunderbird, and on mobile phones. The reason Followup.cc works with any email service is because it's entirely email-based itself: To use it, you simply send an email message to a Followup.cc address. Then, Followup.cc emails you a reminder at the time you've determined.

Read the full review and sign up for Followup.cc (free to $15 per month, depending on level of service).

Followupthen.com

Followupthen.com screenshotFollowupthen.com uses natural language for scheduling its reminder emails.Followupthen.com has a whole lot in common with rival Followup.cc. Both work with any type of email account, including Web-based email services such as Gmail and Hotmail, desktop clients like Outlook and Thunderbird, and on mobile phones. That's because Followupthen.com is, like Followup.cc, an email-based service: To use it, you simply send an email to a predetermined address. The service then responds with a reminder to you, at the time you've determined. Boomerang for Gmail is a similar service, but it's a Firefox/Chrome plug-in that works only with Gmail and Google Apps Email.

Followupthen.com does have a couple of advantages over Followup.cc. For one, it lets you send an unlimited number of reminders for free; Followup.cc's free version tops out at 25 reminders a month. And it uses more natural language when scheduling reminders. You can, for example, email 2minutes@followupthen.com if you want to receive a reminder in two minutes. Followup.cc uses abbreviations (2mi), which can be challenging to remember.

Read the full review and sign up for Followupthen.com (free).

Boomerang for Gmail

Boomerang for Gmail screenshotIf you use Gmail, Boomerang for Gmail's enhanced feature set makes it a more full-featured reminder and email scheduler..Wouldn't it be great if your email client could read your mind? You know, sending messages at just the right time. Reminding you when people don't reply to your messages. And taking messages out of your inbox when you don't need them, but returning them to the top of your message pile later on, when you do. Boomerang for Gmail offers all of these features. This free Firefox/Chrome extension can't quite read your mind, but sometimes it feels like the next best thing.

Boomerang for Gmail lets you compose messages now and then send them later.Once installed and given permission to access your Gmail or Google Apps email account, Boomerang appears adds a "send later" button on the top of messages you compose, next to Google's own "Send" button. Pressing "Send Later" lets you choose between sending the message at a set interval (in a certain number of hours or days) or at a certain date and time in the future. This feature is handy when you're composing a message at a time when it could get lost in the shuffle, such as over the weekend or during off-hours, and would like to send it at a time when it's more likely to get noticed.

Read the full review and install Boomerang for Gmail (free).



2449Four Driver Update Utilities: Which Ones Can You Count On?

Out-of-date drivers can keep devices form working properly. Manually updating drivers is a dull, tedious task easily forgotten. PCWorld recently reviewed several automatic driver update utilities that pledge to make the task less onerous. Some of these programs (particularly the free and demo versions) identify driver updates for you. The full-featured, more expensive ones will update them as well. We show you which programs are worth the download, and which you should give a miss.

Driver Reviver

Like its rival Perfect Updater, ReviverSoft's Driver Reviver begins to scan your PC for out-of-date drivers as soon as you launch the app. I prefer the approach taken by another rival, DeviceDoctor.com's Device Doctor, which waits to begin scanning until you've manually started the process. But you can pause the scan, and in all other areas, both PerfectUpdater and Driver Reviver drastically outperform Device Doctor.

Read the full review and download Driver Reviver ($30, free demo).

Device Doctor

Device Doctor screenshotDevice Doctor's bland interface tells you little of what you need to know about your drivers.DeviceDoctor.com touts the Device Doctor utility as a free and simple solution to PCs plagued with out-of-date drivers. This application delivers on its promise of simplicity as you begin to use it, but it doesn't deliver everything you need in order to get your PC's devices current.

Device Doctor begins on the right foot: After you launch the app, it tells you to connect all your hardware devices and then asks you to begin the scan manually. Unfortunately, things go downhill from there, and quickly: whereas PerfectUpdater and both correctly identified more than 20 out-of-date drivers on my Windows 7 PC, Device Doctor found only seven.

While Device Doctor does actually allow you to update drivers in its free version, the process is clunky. Instead of handling it within the app itself, you're bumped to Device Doctor's Web site, where you see an ad touting the $30 Device Doctor Pro, which promises automatic driver updates.

Read the full review and download Device Doctor (free).

PerfectUpdater

Raxco Software's PerfectUpdater isn't perfect, but this application is one of the best solutions I've found for locating and fix out-of-date drivers on a Windows PC. Once PerfectUpdater has located your out-of-date drivers, it presents them to you in a neatly organized list that makes it easy to see just how old they are. It correctly identified 21 out-of-date drivers.

If you're using the free trial of PerfectUpdater, your experience ends here. But if you are using the paid version, you can move on to the updating process: You can select which drivers you'd like to update, and once it begins, the process is seamless. And it even creates a system restore point for you automatically--a useful thing that's all too easy to neglect to do manually.

Read the full review and download PerfectUpdater ($30, free demo).

DriverScanner

DriverScanner's dashboard makes it easy to gauge the overall health of your PC.Uniblue's DriverScanner 2012 works very much like rivals Perfect Updater and Driver Reviver. It scans your Windows PC for out-of-date drivers as soon as you launch the app, and quickly reports back to you on the status of your system. DriverScanner 2012 has an attractive visual interface. The offending items are listed with an icon that immediately makes it apparent whether your drivers are "old," "very old," or "ancient." DriverScanner uses large icons to identify the drivers, too, making it easier to tell when the application is talking about a sound controller instead of a USB controller, for example.

I don't like how the app devotes time to hawking Uniblue's other products, but I do like how DriverScanner's overview tab makes it easy to gauge the overall health of your PC. Much like Driver Reviver, it offers a summary of your PC's current state, listing the number and severity of outdated drivers. Unlike Driver Reviver's text-heavy list, though, Driver Scanner uses a graphical "System Barometer" that is easy to check at a glance.

Read the full review and download DriverScanner ($30, free demo).



2450Three 3-D Modeling Programs, From Free to Fancy: Blender, 3DCrafter, Poser

Ever dream of designing three-dimensional models for games and animated movies? We examine two free options and a new version of a well-known professional 3-D modeling program. Each has its own niche and can produce excellent results--but if speedy creation is your goal, you may get what you pay for.

Blender

Blender screenshotPowerful and complex, Blender seems best suited to designers with a coding background.Blender is pretty daunting to someone who's never used 3D modeling or animation software. For me, using Blender 2.60a was somewhat like having to know exactly how my car works before I can drive it: a no-brainer for some people, but it's not for everyone.

Using Blender to draw objects from scratch is pretty daunting, especially if you are trying to create something highly complex. You start from scratch, and--unless you happen to be an Autodesk Maya expert--should expect that you are going to have to read the manual, follow the tutorials, and do lots of homework. Lots. Unlike any 2D art or 3D design software I'm familiar with (Adobe Creative Suite, CorelDRAW, Xara Designer Pro, Poser 9, etc.), Blender seems to favor users who also are programmers or gamers, or at least engineering-inclined. But since Blender is entirely free, it's worth the effort if you are serious about 3D art and animation, whether amateur or pro, and have a lot of artistic talent and perseverance.

Read the full review and download Blender (free).

3DCrafter

Amabilis Software's 3DCrafter is a modeling and animation tool that promises drag-and-drop control. Don't be fooled into thinking this is easy, though: You need both artistic talent and a knack for engineering. Using 3DCrafter 9.1.1 is a bit like building a Lego model without instructions. With chopsticks.

Floating built-in tutorials make 3D Crafter easy to start learning, but some artistic talent and a penchant for engineering are a must if you are to master the program's many features. I found 3DCrafter's many non-intuitive buttons and lack of menus daunting and a little disappointing. 3DCrafter either has missed the point of drag-and-drop simplicity, or has so many features it's impossible to organize them all in a logical way.

For a beginner, compared to the frustration level of a program like Blender, 3DCrafter has hit the mark on one thing at least: tutorials. The Help menu includes the usual content and search features, but also a tutorial viewer that includes tutorials for all levels, from first-user to pro. There is also a "tip of the day" pop-up feature. It's not quite detailed enough to be useful on its own, but coupled with the help search, can help you learn a new trick or two.

Read the full review and download 3DCrafter (free).

Poser

Poser 9 is not just for geeks wanting to create their very own Weird Science. The program makes it so easy to get started with 3D modeling, it's the go-to tool anytime you need to manipulate or animate a 3D figure. Whether that figure is an animal, human, or alien, Poser 9 can make it dance.

Poser screenshotPoser's main strength is its power and ease of manipulation.Poser 9 comes bundled with more than 1.7 GB of skeleton, nude, animal, and cartoon/fantasy/anime characters plus clothing, hair, props, scenery, and textures. You can import your own in a number of formats as well. You may also purchase (and sell) additional manipulative creations from Content Paradise, a "Poser market" Web site operated by Smith Micro, Poser's publisher.

Although Poser 9 can create scenery and props--even things as complicated as cars--the program excels at the manipulation of figures. Poser 9 has perfected the simplicity of controlling features, expressions, and detail like skin tones. It's very easy to change everything from chin (forward/backward, pronounced/recessed, retracted/jutting, shallow/deep, small/large, short/tall), to ethnicity, age, and gender.

Read the full review and download Poser ($250, buy-only).



2451Game Designers: Failing Until They Make It

Most conferences are non-stop parades of tech hype. As a member of the press, you’re usually bombarded by PR agents eager to tell you how fantastic their company’s new product / technology / game is.

The Game Developers Conference is different. It has already been two weeks since game developers swarmed the streets of San Francisco, but GDC is always an enlightening experience. The developers who attend GDC are of course eager to tell you all about their successes. But they’re also willing to open up about the pains of making a game, in an environment where they typically find themselves nestled among their own kind.

Consider “The Failure Workshop,” a panel where 6 different designers broke down their biggest missteps. The most amazing thing about these admissions of failure is also likely the main reason these conversations keep cropping up: when given a chance to respond, the audience is supportive, showing a heightened level of respect for developers willing to admit they’ve met their match.

This approach isn’t limited to the small, indie developers. Valve’s Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw, two of the writers behind first-person-puzzler Portal 2, discussed at length the many different failed versions of Portal 2 that never saw the light of day. The pair revealed that their first attempt at a sequel to Portal threw out almost everything that made the first game great, including the game’s heroine, it’s iconic villain Glados, and even the physics-defying portal mechanic itself.

Much time was spent chasing dead ends. One of their most difficult tasks, for example, was effectively scripting the ability to drop Wheatley, the metallic orb that serves as your AI sidekick for the first portion of the game. The team recorded enormous amounts of dialogue and scripted collision detection for different ways Wheatley could be dropped, but it was all ultimately scrapped. In the end all of this work was abandoned: playtesters simply weren’t all that interested in the nuances of dropping an animated metal ball.

The writers went on to show four early builds of the game, including a pair of lengthy opening sequences. Both were hilarious, well animated re-introductions to the world of Portal. And both ended up on the cutting room floor, when they didn’t mesh with the overall game. Once again, the audience listened intently. Instead of jumping on the team for their missteps, the conversation evolved into figuring out how the team managed to learn from their mistakes so effectively.

There’s more going on here than just good game design. The polite and supportive questions from the audience, more than anything else during the week, reminded me about the real community of people behind these games. This is, after all, the game developers conference. Many of those who attend every year have worked on games of their own, and when a speaker talks about something going horribly wrong, folks commiserate – they’ve been there themselves. That’s an experience that’s hard to get at bigger, flashier game conferences.



2452The Gamer's Guide to the iPad

Apple's OS X isn't exactly a gamer's paradise. But the same can't be said about iOS--especially when it comes to the iPad. In some ways the iPad is the perfect gaming handheld: It has great battery life, and games are cheap. But before you run out to give Apple all of your money, there are a few things you should know before using the iPad as a gaming device.

Choosing an iPad

There are a few different iPad models, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Do you get a Wi-Fi only version, or do you spring for a model with LTE? Will 16GB be enough, or do you plan on downloading hundreds of games? Should you buy the latest iPad, or pick up an older model on the cheap? These are all questions you'll need to ask yourself before you make your way to the Apple Store.

A 16GB Wi-Fi only model of the latest generation iPad will set you back about $499 (before taxes), with the 32GB and 64GB versions going for $599 and $699, respectively. The new iPad has a high definition Retina display, and apps optimized for a Retina display will require more storage than their standard definition counterparts did. Consider your budget and go for the iPad that has the largest amount of storage that is within your price-range.

If you can't rationalize spending over $500 on something you're just primarily using for mobile gaming, then you might want to consider picking up an older generation model instead. Apple is currently selling the iPad 2 for $100 less than the new iPad. Other online retailers might still have some extra stock of the first generation iPad left that you can pick up on the cheap. What you lose in specs and extra features, you make up for by getting a tablet while still having enough money left over for rent, and a few apps. Be warned: Some games won't run on the first generation iPad, and those performance limitations will only grow.

The new iPad can connect to 4G LTE networks, meaning you'll be able to download games and play online while away from a Wi-Fi connection. A new iPad with a cellular connection will set you back an extra $130, and you'll have to choose whether you want to use a Verizon or AT&T. Both networks are fast, and plans are pay-as-you go so you can turn on and off the service whenever you need it. If you plan on play a lot of multiplayer games far from a Wi-Fi connection, you'll want to get a plan with at least 2GB of data. Verizon offers 2GB for $30 while AT&T will give you 3GB for the same price. But if you are never far from a Wi-Fi connection, then a Wi-Fi only model should still fill your needs.

Game Center and Achievements

In iOS 4, Apple added Game Center to their iDevices. Game Center keeps track of games you played, and compares your progress to your friends'. Game Center is also lists achievements you've earned while playing games. Achievements work in the same way that they do on the Xbox 360: After completing a task in game, you'll get a small notification telling you which achievement you've unlocked. Each achievement is worth a certain amount of points, but not all games will have achievements. You can tell which games in the App Store are compatible with Game Center, thanks to an icon that appears under the game's price.

The Games

There are over half a million apps in the App Store--a good chunk of which are games. Every game genre under the sun, from casual games to first-person shooters, are available to download the moment you connect online. Some games will cost you between $0.99-$20.00, but a handful of games are free. Here is a breakdown of games you'll want to check out for your new iPad.

Asphalt Racing

Asphalt 6: Adrenaline plays a lot like Need For Speed.If you're looking for an arcade-style racing game, look no further than the Asphalt series by Gameloft. Similar to Need For Speed, you'll participate in a variety of race modes, picking up power-ups to give you an edge over the competition. The more races and crazy stunts you pull off, the more money you earn that can be put towards new cars. Feeling confident? You can challenge your friends in local multiplayer or take on the world in online races.

Asphalt 6: Adrenaline HD | Price: $0.99

Real Racing

Real Racing is great for car enthusiasts. For the car enthusiasts that want a more serious racing experience, Real Racing by Firemint should be your first stop in the App Store. With 30 real world cars, stunning visuals, and a variety of tracks, Real Racing is the closest you'll get to Forza on the iPad.

Real Racing 2 | Price: $2.99

Modern Combat

Modern Combat 2 will have you schlepping around taking out bad guys.While not as cinematic as Call of Duty or Battlefield, Gameloft's Modern Combat series does a decent job at keeping up with the big boys. You'll shoot your way through a variety of set pieces in the campaign mode, then take your skills online to show off how good you are at getting headshots. There is even DLC in the form of extra multiplayer map packs.

Modern Combat 2 | Price: $6.99

Shadow Gun

Shadow Gun uses the same cover mechanics you'd find in Gears of War.One of the best third-person shooters on the iPad, Mad Finger's Shadow Gun has all the makings of an epic. You'll explore huge levels, fight your way past waves after waves of bad guys, and take down massive bosses. The latest update added an expansion pack, giving you another adventure once you finish the main storyline. No multiplayer in the iPad version quite yet, but chances are we'll see it in a future update.

Shadow Gun | Price: $4.99

Final Fantasy 3

Final Fantasy 3 still holds its own after all these years.The most expensive game on this list, Square-Enix's Final Fantasy 3 should need no introduction. Redone with 3D visuals, Final Fantasy 3's gameplay still holds up in an era where games like Skyrim and Mass Effect 3 take center stage. But it's still the classic, Japense role-palying game we've grown to love. Final Fantasy 3 may cost a lot more than most apps, but it is definitely worth the price of admission.

Final Fantasy 3 | Price: $16.99

Civilization Revolution

Civilization Revolution on the iPad lets you conquer the world.Another game series that most gamers should be familiar with is Sid Meier's Civilization. The turn based strategy game works extremely well on the iPad, allowing you to quickly get a game going or resume where you left off. You still have a wide variety of leaders you can choose to lead your civilization, everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Cleopatra, and you'll sink in a lot of hours leading your people to victory. Besides, what other game lets you have the Aztecs develop battleships?

Civilization Revolution | Price: $5.99

Infinity Blade 2

The sequel to Chair's best-selling hit, Infinity Blade 2 is even better than the original.Chair has done it again with Infinity Blade 2. This hack and slash action adventure RPG will have you fighting off enemies of all shapes and sizes in your quest to rid yourself of the infamous Infinity Blade. If you played the first one, you know you're in for countless of hours of gameplay coupled with breathtaking graphics. Once you've been through the campaign once or twice, try out the Arena for even more challenges.

Infinity Blade 2 | Price: $6.99

Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP

Swords and Sworcery is a feast for the eyes and ears.It's difficult to describe Capybara Games' Swords and Sworcery. One part adventure game, one part amazing soundtrack, I often found myself just sitting there listening to the music rather than actually playing the game. Once you're done being mesmerized by the awesome music, you'll be poking around the 8-bit landscape, looking for the right path to take or the puzzle to solve that will allow you to continue in your adventure. The game is short, but Swords and Sworcercy is a must have for any iPad owner.

Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP | Price: $4.99

Triple Town

Triple Town is addictive but don't let your town be overrun by bears.Forget Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, Triple Town by Spry Fox is the new hotness when it comes to casual games. The premise couldn't be more simple. You build a town by matching three similar objects. Once matched, those objects merge into a new item and you get points. While the items that are created don't make very much sense (how do three trees become a house?), the challenge comes from having to deal with the bears (and ninja bears) that get in the way of your matchmaking. Triple Town is the perfect example of a game that is easy to learn but difficult to master.

Triple Town | Price: Free

Beat Hazard Ultra

Lady Gaga's voice is deadly in Beat Hazard Ultra.Beat Hazard Ultra is a twin-stick shooter that uses music to dictate the gameplay. The louder and more intense the music, the more powerful your weapons become and the more bad guys you'll have to face on screen. The game comes with several original tracks for you to play around in, but the real fun comes from using your own music. If your iPad is too full of games and doesn't have any music on it, you can also connect to one of several online radio stations that play different genres of music.

Beat Hazard Ultra | Price: $1.99

We only covered a fraction of the games available in the App Store and there are loads more to be discovered. If you have a favorite game that you think everyone should play, feel free to leave it in the comments below.



2453Free Friday: Star Wars: The Old Republic, CUBE, and The Stairwell

Who doesn’t like free stuff? Up this week: Bioware is offering a sample of their new MMO, there's a nifty new mod based on Valve's source engine, and a bit of abject terror. All for no money!

Weekend Pass for Star Wars: The Old Republic

If you haven’t taken a crack at Bioware’s new massively multiplayer role playing game, they’re offering a free Weekend Pass to give you a taste.

The Old Republic features gameplay that’s, ahem, evocative of Blizzard’s World of Warcraft. But it really amps up the storytelling, with the voice work and moral decisions Bioware has become known for from games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age. The game may not have the polish of Blizzard’s magnum opus, but it’s certainly got more than enough content to keep you busy for a weekend. Maybe it’ll be enough to get you to subscribe?

CUBE

Take the plot of the movie Cube, the look and feel of hit first person shooter/puzzler Portal, and pack it all into a mod using Valve’s Source engine, and you’ll get CUBE. It’s a puzzle game featuring hours of gameplay and multiple endings. I’ve only managed to scratch the surface of so far, but despite some bugs, it’s definitely worth checking out.

The Stairwell

Maybe you don’t really like puzzles. Maybe you’d rather spend the weekend scared out of your mind. The Stairwell is based off of a creepy little Internet short story called SCP-087. about a seemingly endless staircase that’s home to some kind of malevolent force. The Stairwell has you locked in the stairwell with nowhere to go but down. Check that one out at your own peril. If you’re intent on getting your scare on, poke around the SCP site for a few hours. Yikes.



2454Tesla Coils Play Nyan Cat Theme: Best Rendition Yet?

Here at GeekTech, we're no stranger to the ultra-cute (or perhaps annoying!) Nyan Cat meme being incorporated into projects. From progress bars to Lego sets, even Spotify added the Poptart cat subtly into its music player. However, bring Nyan Cat to tesla coils, and the result is literally electrifying.

Eric Goodchild is an electrical engineering student with a passion for high voltage instruments. His favorite to experiment with however, are tesla coils. One thing project Eric worked on was the "Tesla Synth", which is a musical synthesizer rigged to tesla coil.

The controller, which took two years to perfect, works by making use of the variety of frequencies emitted by tesla coils and turning them into what sound like notes. Add in some slightly more complicated software, and tunes such as the Nyan Cat theme can be played by electrical currents.

For this project, Eric used two seven-foot solid state tesla coils, using 24 kilowatts of power combined. Not only do you get a cover-version of the pixel cat's theme, but also a pretty impressive light show!

Check out the video below of the tesla coils in action (you might want to turn your volume down initially!) and visit Eric's YouTube channel to see more examples of the Tesla Synth.

[YouTube]

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2455GeekBtyes: The 8-Bit Musical (And Other Things We Didn't Cover)

Happy Monday! I hope your work week is off to a good start--or at least as good a start as possible. It's just after 5PM on the West Coast as I write this, so before you lig off for the day, take a few minutes to check out these bits of awesome we didn't have the chance to fully cover.

I'm not one to sing the praises (no pun intended) of musical theatre. It's just not my thing. That said, even I can appreciate this one. Compatibility is a musical about an aspiring sci-fi writer who bides his time working at an electronics repair shop. As geeky as that sounds, the best part of this production is the fact that it'll have a musical score inspired by music from classic 8-bit video games. Nice!

Compatibility is currently in Kickstarter mode, but its creators have yet to raise a penny of its $300 goal. If you want to help this production get off the ground, head on over to its Kickstarter page.

In Friday's installment of GeekBytes, we mentioned the Lego recently announced a 2100-plus-piece R2-D2 set. Norm over a Tested had a chance to get a close-up look at this sweet-looking Lego kit. Head on over there for plenty of pictures, and try not to drool on your keyboard.

A few weeks ago, we spotted a sofa modeled after the icon video game Space Invaders. It was impressive and all, but Becky Stern over at Adafruit may have one-upped it with this sofa that looks like it came straight out of Tron. The couch has EL wire attached around its edges, and if you see it in a dark room, you might feel like you've been transported to the Grid. Visit Adafruit for full instructions, and check out the sofa on video:

[via Make]

Ever wanted to program using a Kinect, but were never quite sure where--or how--to start? The new book Making Things See: 3D vision with Kinect, Processing, Arduino, and MakerBot, might be a good place to start. The book covers various topics regarding Kinect programming, and we can't wait to check it out. The book retails for $40, and you can grab it on Amazon. [via The Verge]

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2456Meet The Robotic Luggage That Follows You Like a Dog

The last thing you want to do after a long, tiring journey is to drag your heavy luggage around until you get to your destination. If only luggage bags and suitcases could sprout feet and walk themselves. Well, thanks to modder Ben Heck, they now can!

Ben, alongside design engineer Jesse Robinson, went about creating a luggage robot that's capable of following you around so you don't have to pull it. The tall luggage robot, nicknamed Doug, has two main wheels but and a stabilizer to keep it from tipping over, so the finished result looks a little like R2-D2.

Doug uses ping sensors to track and follow you. The sensor on your person (hooked up to your belt) will send a "ping" signal to the sensor on the luggage bot to determine how far away it is from you, and how the Doug should respond. Once paired with you, the robot will know when to follow a you and when to stop. Of course, you can disable the sensors as needed, and the bot comes with a handle so you can carry it onto your flight or bus.

Doug can fit into an overhead compartment on a plane, so it might just make the perfect carry on bag. The downside? It can only move at a steady 2mph, so it's best suited to those who can't walk particularly fast or just want to take their time.

While a little slow, this is a great project for first-time autonomous robot modders. Check out the video below to find out more about the sensors and overall project:

[element14]

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2457Resume YouTube Videos Where You Left Off

YouTube videos are getting longer all the time. Heck, you can now watch full-length movies on the site thanks to integration with Google's new Play service.

So where's the in-video bookmark option? What happens if you get interrupted in the middle of a clip and have to close your browser, shut down your PC, or whatever? Without a lot of pesky clicking and searching, how can you find your way back to where you were?

Look no further than Pause for Later. True to its name, this browser extension marks your spot in YouTube videos and lets you easily resume them later. It also keeps a record of the videos themselves, thus saving you from having to bookmark them or search YouTube again.

To get started, just head to the Pause for Later site and sign up for a free account. Then install the extension that matches your browser; the developers have one for Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari--though in some cases you might be installing a bookmarklet instead of an extension. No matter--the end result is the same.

Now, when you need to pause a video, you click the newly added pause button (or the bookmarklet) instead of the actual YouTube pause control. That'll steer you directly to the Pause for Later site, where you can view all your paused videos--and, with a single click, resume any one of them.

By clicking the Action button alongside any video, you can also restart from the beginning, mark it as unwatched, copy the link to your clipboard, and more. It's a decidedly handy way to manage YouTube content--and a lot less cluttered and confusing than YouTube's own video manager.

Pause for Later also promises to work with Hulu and Vimeo, though in my tests it didn't actually save my spot in videos from those services; it merely saved a link to them.

Basically, if you've ever had to leave a YouTube video in the middle and wished for a way to save your place, now you've got one. Check it out.

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.



2458Create a Different, Secure, Easy-to-Remember Password for Every Site

PasswordsIs there a bigger hassle than password management?

Based on ample evidence showing that a majority of users opt for simplistic, easy-to-guess passwords like "123456" and, sadly, "password," I'd say no.

Here's the problem: You need a robust, virtually impossible to crack password. You need a different one for each and every site and service you use (to limit the fallout if hackers steal a password database). And you need an easy way to remember those passwords.

There are a number of utilities and browser plug-ins that can both generate secure passwords for you and plug them in when you sign into a site--thus eliminating the need to remember them.

But what if you're using someone else's computer, or a smartphone or tablet? Then you won't have easy access to those passwords.

That's why I've started using a different method for password generation and management, and I've found it pretty effective. Check it out:

1. Come up with a single, secure password you can commit to memory, one that mixes letters, numbers, and symbols. In my case, I might use a familiar word like HassleFree, but modified thusly: Hassl3fr33!. All I did was replace each "e" with a "3" and tack on an exclamation point. That's now my baseline password (for purposes of this example--not in real life).

2. Whenever I sign up for a new service, I use the name of that service as the prefix, then add my unique password. Thus, for something like Amazon, my password would be AmazonHassl3fr33!. For eBay, it would be EbayHassl3fr33!. And so on.

Presto! I've got a lengthy, secure, unique password for every site, one that I can easily remember.

Is it the perfect solution? When it comes to passwords, I'm not sure there's any such thing. A hacker who steals a password database could probably extrapolate my method--if he looked closely and really thought about it.

But this works for me, and if you're routinely struggling to come up with and remember passwords, it might work for you, too.

Got a better system? Tell me about it in the comments!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums.Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.



2459Change Your Facebook Profile Photo

I've made no secret of my distaste for Facebook's interface, which is equal parts messy, confusing, and outright maddening.

For example, suppose you want to change your profile photo. Seems like the kind of option you might find in, say, Account Settings. Nope, not there. Privacy Settings? Nuh-uh.

Well, maybe if you click your name to open your profile, you'll find the option there. Let's see... no, there's nothing that says "change profile photo." Oh, here we go, I'll bet if you click Update Info...

Another strike. What's that, now, four?

This is yet another of Facebook's ridiculously obscure settings that's actually hiding in plain sight. (Previous offender: location sharing.) To change your profile photo, do this:

1. Open your profile by clicking your name, either on the left side (below the Facebook logo) or the right edge of the toolbar up top.

2. Mouse over your current photo picture, click Edit Profile Picture, then choose an option (Choose From Photos, Upload Photo, Edit Thumbnail, etc.) from the drop-down menu that appears.

That's right! All this time, the option was right there--provided you hovered your mouse in the right spot. Come on, Facebook, you can do better. (Quick note: If you happened to install one of the Facebook-photo-zoom tools I mentioned the other day, you may find that the pop-up image obscures the Edit Profile Picture tool. Bleh.)

There is, admittedly, another way to go about this. If you want to turn a photo that's already in your Facebook library into your profile picture, you can--but, again, finding the option can be maddening unless you know where to look.

Find the photo you want, then click it to bring up the full-size version in its own window. Now, see that tiny gear icon in the upper-right corner? Click it, and then choose Make Profile Picture. Why there's not a button for this alongside Tag Photo, Add Location, etc. is beyond me.

Does this aggravate you as much as it does me? Or do you think I'm being overly harsh? Either way, share your thoughts in the comments!

Contributing Editor Rick Broida writes about business and consumer technology. Ask for help with your PC hassles at hasslefree@pcworld.com, or try the treasure trove of helpful folks in the PC World Community Forums. Sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.



2460Samsung Galaxy S: How Does It Measure Up to the Competition?

This spring, Samsung introduced the Samsung Galaxy S, a super Android smartphone to rival the HTC EVO 4G, the various Droids (both Motorola's and HTC's) and of course, the iPhone 4. Versions of the Galaxy S will be making its way to U.S. shores this summer in four different form factors to all four major U.S. carriers. I was lucky enough to get my hands on the original European Galaxy S and did some quick side-by-side comparisons with the other hot phones of the summer.

Design and Display

When I first picked up the Galaxy S, I was amazed with how thin and lightweight it was. I was also surprised by how familiar it looked. The design is actually very iPhone 3GS-like with an all black, shiny plastic body and minimal buttons on the phone's face. It is thinner than both the EVO 4G and the Droid X measuring 0.39-inches thick, but slightly beefier than the ultra-slim 0.37-inch iPhone 4. It is the lightest of the bunch, weighing a scant 4.2 ounces.

The Galaxy S's feather-light weight is due in part to the Super AMOLED technology, which the Samsung first introduced at Mobile World Congress on the Samsung Wave. Super AMOLED technology has touch sensors on the display itself as opposed to creating a separate layer (Samsung's old AMOLED displays had this extra layer) making it the thinnest display technology on the market. Super AMOLED is fantastic; you really have to see it in real life to experience it. Colors burst out of the display and animations appeared lively and smooth.

The Galaxy S' 4-inch display is larger than the iPhone's (3.5-inches), but smaller than the HTC EVO 4G and Motorola Droid X's displays (4.3-inches). Despite its smaller size, the Galaxy S outshined both the Droid X and the EVO 4G in my casual side-by-side comparisons. The side-by-side with the iPhone 4 was a closer call. The iPhone 4's display appeared slightly sharper, but I thought the Galaxy S's colors looked more natural. It is really hard to declare a winner--both displays are stunning.

Samsung TouchWiz 3.0 with Android 2.1

The Samsung Galaxy S runs Android 2.1 (Eclair) with Samsung's own TouchWiz 3.0 user interface. Overall, this version of TouchWiz is a lot better than the version on the Samsung Behold II for T-Mobile, which was slow and difficult to navigate. But while this version is an improvement, I encountered some familiar issues with TouchWiz 3.0. Despite the 1GHz Hummingbird processor, the phone lags when launching apps, flipping through menus and scrolling down contact lists or Web pages. This could be due to the fact that this is a pre-production unit, however, and not everything is in perfect working order.

Like HTC Sense, Samsung has its own social media aggregator. Social Hub combines streams from your Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts into a single view. It is a useful feature if you need a simple way to keep track of your networks. One odd feature is Mini Diary, which lets you create blog entries with photos, weather info, texts and more. This would be a great feature if you could actually sync this information to your blog or Facebook profile--but weirdly, you can't.

Camera

We put the Galaxy S's 5-megapixel camera through a modified version of our PCWorld Lab Test for point-and-shoot digital cameras along with the iPhone 4, the Motorola Droid X and the HTC EVO 4G. Unfortunately our test panel was not very impressed with the Galaxy's photo quality. The Galaxy S phone earned the lowest score out of the four and an overall word score of "Fair." It finished ahead of the Evo 4G in terms of exposure quality, but finished in last place in our color accuracy, sharpness, and distortion tests.

On the other hand, it took second place in overall video quality. Its performance was skewed heavily toward good performance in bright light. According to our panel, bright-light footage looked a bit underexposed and slightly grainy in a full-screen view, but great at smaller sizes. The Galaxy S's auto-focus searches a bit before locking onto a crisp image. Its microphone actually picks up audio a bit too well: our audio clip sounded far too loud and blown-out, while it was barely picked up at all by some of the other smartphones in this comparison. In low light, the footage was a bit too murky and undefined to earn a better rating. Read the full test results in our Smartphone Camera Battle: iPhone vs. the Android Army.

Keep an eye out for full reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S phones including the Samsung Epic 4G (Sprint), Samsung Vibrant (T-Mobile) and the Samsung Captivate and the Samsung Fascinate (Verizon).



2461Samsung N230 Netbook Promises 13.5 Hours of Battery Life

Samsung announced a new netbook model today in the N230. At first blush, it doesn't seem like anything particularly special: a 10.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1024 by 600, Intel Atom N450 or N470 CPU, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and a weight of around 2.2 pounds. The eye-catching part is the company's claim that this netbook will last for 13.5 hours on a single charge. How is it achieving such astounding battery life from a regular Windows-running netbook? Samsung talks about their efficient LED display and "proprietary Enhanced Battery Life (EBL) solutions" in its press release, but upon closer examination we can see what's really going on...

The N230 netbook has a high, but not especially amazing, battery life of 7 hours with the standard battery. The 13.5 hour claim comes when you use the optional 65 watt-hour long-life battery. Samsung doesn't say exactly what this battery will do to the netbook's bulk or weight. Still, this is an impressive feat, if the real battery life is anywhere close to Samsung's claims. We have tested netbooks with extended batteries before, and none have quite come close to that sort of runtime. Then again, we often find the battery life claims of manufacturers to be a bit...optimistic...compared to our lab tests.

Samsung says the N230 is available now and should cost around $400, but we haven't seen it pop up on our favorite shopping sites just yet.

Check out our Top Netbooks Chart .

Follow Jason Cross on Twitter .



2462Another Apple iPhone 4 Flaw: A Glitchy Proximity Sensor

It happened to me on my first phone call with the new Apple iPhone 4: The display screen flashed on during the call, and I managed to inadvertently put the call onto speaker. Twice.

Now, I could crack a joke about having a talented cheek, but this isn't a joking matter: I never had these problems with my iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS. I didn't feel as if I was holding the phone any differently; I even paid close attention over the course of subsequent e-mails, and confirmed I wasn't doing anything different.

What I did notice as the weekend wore on, however, was this was not a one-off occurrence. I regularly activated the touchscreen during a call. Typically, I managed to activate the keypad (and subsequently dialed numbers), mute button, or speaker; sometimes I ended up going into the contacts screen, or activating FaceTime (which in turn gave me an error message, given that I wasn't on Wi-Fi).

The clear suspect in this bizarre behavior appears to be the iPhone 4's proximity sensor, mouthful of a term that describes the sensor that detects your face's location relative to the screen, and enables or disables the display accordingly. On the iPhone 3GS, the proximity sensor was located to the left of the earpiece speaker. But that space on iPhone 4 is now occupied by the front-facing camera, and the proximity sensor is above the earpiece.

What's not clear is whether the iPhone 4 screen's misbehavior is due to the new location of the sensor, or it's because Apple tweaked the sensor's responses in any way. It could even be a combination of both.

In use, I observed out of the corner of my eye that the screen would blink on and off intermittently, depending upon how I held the phone. It was almost an assumption that I'd see this behavior if the phone slipped just slightly away from or up from my face. And it happened consistently whenever I rested the phone between my head and my shoulder-a common position, albeit one my neck never particularly appreciates.

(Separately, the new proximity sensor location is a major reason why you shouldn't attempt to use an iPhone 3GS case while waiting for an iPhone 4 case, even though the latest-gen cases are almost as hard to find right now as an actual device. It's also one of the reasons why many case designs remain in development and are not yet available, according to Ramsey Oten, CEO and case designer for Sena Cases. Notice that the earliest designs are either pouches, or form-hugging designs like Apple's own bumper, and similar designs from Sena and Incipio.)

While little official is known about this issue yet, I found it incredibly annoying to have my calls routinely interrupted. I asked around and found my colleague, Ginny Mies, had similar experiences. And some digging online shows Apple has an open discussion thread running 19 pages long, and counting. There, a user reports that an Apple Store Genius tech said it was "probably a software issue" but still put that user in line to swap out the phone when they get more in.

Sadly, I wouldn't get your hopes up on a swap helping matters. I'm already on my second handset, and have experienced the proximity sensor problem with both. Each was a "clean" install, meaning I didn't restore from a backup or anything else that might have impacted iOS 4's settings. To be fair, that first handset had other issues, too--the phone app froze up twice, each time requiring a reboot, and multiple times, the touchscreen didn't respond, period (among other things). But shortly into my second call with the second handset, the proximity sensor problem kicked in again, and I activated the keypad. In my experience, I'd say it's not an isolated hardware issue.

In these early days, it's not clear if every handset is affected--heck, many users have gone straight to using a Bluetooth headset or haven't really used the phone for conversation. Nonetheless, it is clear that this is yet another iPhone 4 launch problem Apple needs to address. Soon.

In fact, I'd put this call interruptus problem right up there with the reception issues. Yes, like so many others, I can hold the iPhone 4 in the so-called death grip and watch its signal strength deteriorate bar-by-bar, but I have not dropped calls because of this problem; I just drop calls in the same locations where my iPhone 3GS always dropped calls. At least the reception issue can be solved by using a case, something most of us will do, anyway, once cases become widely available. But short of using a headset--which no phone should require--the continuous and awkward call interruptions appear unavoidable until a fix comes along.

Have you experienced wonky behavior from your iPhone 4's touchscreen and proximity sensor? Tell us in the comments.



2463Patch Now: Microsoft RDP Exploit Code Is in the Wild

When Microsoft released its March 2012 Patch Tuesday security bulletins last week, security experts were unanimous that MS12-020 needed to be patched urgently. A few days later, the threat got even more real when proof-of-concept (PoC) exploit code was discovered online. Patching MS12-020 is no longer just urgent, it’s imperative.

The MS12-020 security bulletin addresses flaws in Microsoft RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) that could be used in remote attacks. Because RDP generally doesn’t require additional network credentials, and it’s typically used by IT admins as a way to remotely manage servers the vulnerabilities pose an even greater risk.

Patch WindowsIt is crucial that you apply the MS12-020 patch as soon as possible...or sooner.Andrew Storms, Director of Security Operations for nCircle, stressed, “Patch this one immediately, if not sooner.”

Security experts were concerned that attackers would quickly develop an exploit—possibly even a worm reminiscent of threats from the Golden Age of malware like Nimda and SQL Slammer. Exploit code appeared much quicker than anticipated, though, when PoC code was discovered online. It is being speculated that the exploit code was developed internally at Microsoft to test the vulnerability, and may have been leaked from Microsoft’s MAPP (Microsoft Active Protection Program).

A blog post from Symantec on Friday confirmed that the PoC exploit code was discovered in the wild. It emphasized the fact that the PoC code does not deliver a payload, but cautioned that with the PoC code in hand attackers could find a way to weaponize and spread the attack much more quickly.

Lamar Bailey, Director of Security Research and Development for nCircle, warned that exploits with malicious payloads may only take a day or two to develop, and that within a week we could see multiple malicious payloads. He also believes that it’s inevitable that we will see a worm developed to exploit the RDP flaws.

Bailey says, “This is a serious threat to enterprise security because most firewalls are open to RDP to allow access to multiple systems. Patch it now or pay later. This should be at the top of every enterprise security teams list every day until their entire network is completely patched.”

I know it seems a bit melodramatic, and it’s easy to dismiss security experts claiming the “sky is falling”. But, when SQL Slammer wormed its way around the world and crippled the Internet in under an hour, it exploited a flaw that Microsoft had published a patch for many months earlier. Don’t let MS12-020 become another SQL Slammer. Patch it now.

Tony Bradley

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, his Google+ profile, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com. He also tweets as @TheTonyBradley.



2464Pinterest Is Fertile Ground for Online Scams

Pinterest has exploded onto the social networking scene as the new hot thing to use. Beware what you click on or "pin," though. The skyrocketing popularity of the site isn’t lost on cybercriminals, and the very nature of the site makes it ripe for exploitation by online scammers.

At the root of the issue is that Pinterest is built on a behavior that is generally frowned upon from a security perspective--clicking on things around the web. Users pin linked images to virtual corkboards, and followers click on the images and links to see what all the fuss is about, and perhaps re-pin it to their own Pinterest boards.

PinterestBe careful what you pin and re-pin on Pinterest--it could be a scam.So, what happens when someone inserts an image that's already linked to a malicious script or site? According to Symantec, survey scammers have discovered the wonder of Pinterest, and have begun to take advantage of it.

Survey scams usually come with the promise of some reward: “Just take 30 seconds to complete our survey and we’ll reward you with a $100 gift card.” If a Pinterest user takes the initial bait and clicks on the image, he or she is redirected to an external website, and that is where the “fun” begins.

First, these scams typically require that the user re-pin the image to their own Pinterest boards in order to continue on to access the survey and earn the reward. Re-pinning the image helps propagate it to a wider audience of Pinterest users who will likely click on the image as well because the person re-pinning it is a person they trust. Rinse and repeat, as those users click through and also re-pin the image to participate in the survey themselves.

Eventually, the scam will ask the user to complete a survey, register for something, share personal information, or some other shady thing the Pinterest user should not do. According to Symantec, the scams are typically tied to some sort of cost-per-action-based compensation network. Each duped Pinterest user represents somewhere between one and 64 dollars.

These attacks may be new to Pinterest because Pinterest itself is new. But, the concept of survey scams and other phishing attacks is certainly nothing new. The same security practices and common sense that shield users from attacks on Facebook, or Twitter, or the Internet at large apply on Pinterest as well.

Simply put: Don’t click on anything if you don’t know what it links to. Granted, as mentioned earlier that’s virtually impossible on Pinterest. The whole point of Pinterest is to share things visually, and click on stuff in order to find out what it is.

But, users should still exercise some cautious skepticism and be careful. When a link starts taking you to sites that seem shady, or demands that you re-pin the image as a condition of learning more, take that as red flag.

Tony Bradley

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, his Google+ profile, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com. He also tweets as @TheTonyBradley.



2465Microsoft Issues Urgent Patch for 'Wormable' RDP Vulnerability

Microsoft released six new security bulletins today for the March 2012 Patch Tuesday. Six is a very reasonable number--far short of some of the overwhelming barrages typical of many 2011 Patch Tuesdays. But, one of the six is a dangerous flaw in RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) that evokes post-traumatic stress flashbacks to the CodeRed, Nimda, and SQL Slammer days.

The other five include one Moderate and four Important security bulletins. They address issues in things like DNS, Windows kernel-mode drivers, and Visual Studio. Admins are free to follow normal patch operating procedure when it comes to assessing and deploying these fixes. But, when it comes to the one Critical update--MS12-020--security experts say you can’t patch fast enough.

Malware wormSecurity experts are concerned that the RDP flaw could be exploited by a worm.I spoke with Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek, and Director of Vulnerability Labs Amol Sawarte. Both stressed that the RDP flaws revealed in MS12-020 are very dangerous. RDP allows remote access to systems--often to servers so admins can manage them remotely--and an exploit would not even require network credentials.

Microsoft emphasized in a Microsoft Security Response Center blog post that organizations using NLA (Network Level Authentication) are at significantly less risk. NLA adds an authentication layer that would make it much harder for an exploit of the RDP flaws to work.

Applying the MS12-020 fix requires a server reboot, though, and many organizations are reluctant to apply patches without first testing them properly. As a temporary workaround, Microsoft has developed a one-click, no-reboot Fix-It that enables NLA to mitigate the issue.

Kandek warns, however, that NLA is only native on Windows Vista and later versions including Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2. There is, however, client software available to make NLA work with Windows XP if necessary.

Here’s some additional commentary to underscore the urgency of the MS12-020 security bulletin. Andrew Storms, Director of Security Operations for nCircle, says “It’s a ‘red alert’ day for IT security--many enterprise systems just became vulnerable to a serious worm attack vector,” adding, “This is also a very serious security issue for the millions of servers residing in public clouds because user-enabled RDP is likely to be the method for access.”

Tyler Reguly, Technical Manager of Security Research and Development for nCircle declared, “Today is a flashback of the bad old Patch Tuesdays.”

Reguly says he’s surprised that Microsoft waited until Patch Tuesday to address this very serious issue rather than releasing a more urgent out-of-band update.

Storms sums up with the importance of MS12-020: “Patch this one immediately, if not sooner.”

Tony Bradley

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, his Google+ profile, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com. He also tweets as @TheTonyBradley.



2466Three Ways Web Browsing Changes With IE10 in Windows 8

While Metro apps for both Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome have been recently announced, users are getting a chance to actually use the Metro app for IE10 in the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Providing a full-screen browsing window and touch friendly controls, the desktop experience feels like using browsers on smartphones and tablets, even on a desktop or laptop, though less intuitive when using a mouse.

In the Building Windows 8 blog on Tuesday, Rob Mauceri, group program manager for Internet Explorer, explains the changes to IE10 and how the Metro interface is different. The new additions can be broken down into these three categories.

1. Metro Styling

IE's navigation bar and tabs differ wildly from previous editions.IE's navigation bar and tabs differ wildly from previous editions.The first thing apparent in IE10’s Metro interface is that the browser fills your entire screen, “edge-to-edge”, and though a navigation bar appears at the bottom of the screen when you first open the app, it disappears when not needed. Without visible controls on the screen, new users will take some time to learn how to navigate.

Touch-friendly gestures such as swiping left or right work on touch-capable devices, but those with a mouse and a keyboard will find the interface less intuitive. Moving towards the left or right edges of the screen with a mouse reveals arrows equivalent to the forward and previous page commands in most browsers.

Right-clicking reveals the navigation bar on the bottom of the screen, necessary for typing in a new URL, and it displays any open tabs or windows at the top of the screen, providing the ability to switch between them. When typing a URL, “Navigation Tiles” appear that show frequently visited sites and those you’ve previously pinned to the Start screen. The tiles are filtered as you type, providing a way to click or tap a site after only a few keystrokes.

2. Connecting Sites & Apps

IE10 can share rich information with supported apps.IE10 can share rich information with supported apps.Since Metro is a web-like interface, Mauceri points out it that “blurs the boundaries between the web and apps”. This becomes apparent when using the Snap feature, which allows the screen to be shared by two apps. IE10 can take up the majority of the screen with a web page, while what looks like a sidebar can contain another app like Messaging or Mail.

While in IE10, the Charms that open on the right edge of the screen are supported, with Search using your default Internet search engine, Settings providing options for how the browser behaves, and Share sending “a rich link preview with image, description, and hyperlink” to apps like Mail that support it. The tiles for websites that are pinned to the Start screen can display dynamic information like notifications or messages if the website supports that feature.

3. Security & Privacy

'Snap' allows IE10 to share the screen.'Snap' allows IE10 to share the screen.IE10 uses the same security and privacy-related features that were included in IE9. This includes SmartScreen, XSS filtering, Application Reputation, InPrivate browsing, Tracking Protection, and hang detection and recovery. IE10 improves on InPrivate browsing by allowing it to be run on individual tabs, which prevents browsing in that browser tab from leaving behind any cached data, including history or cookies.

New to IE10 is “Enhanced Protected mode”, which is meant to better isolate website content when multiple tabs are open, preventing a malicious web page from accessing any of your other open tabs.

Change for the Better?

The drastic changes in the Metro version of IE10 were done for a very specific reason: to make web-browsing more accessible to touch-friendly devices. Users of Windows 8 on a tablet will find IE10 intuitive and easy to use. For those who haven’t browsed on a mobile device and are using a mouse and keyboard on a desktop or laptop, the IE10 Metro app will be confusing and inefficient, at least at first. Those users will find the desktop version of IE10, which is very similar to previous versions, to be a better choice.

Joseph Fieber has 25 years of experience as an IT pro, with a background in computer consulting and software training. Follow him on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter, or contact him through his website, JosephFieber.com.



2467Three Reasons the iPad Will Lead the Tablet Pack for Business

The iPad seems unstoppable. Pre-orders for the new iPad sold out in less than a week. But it’s not just consumers that are interested; eighty-four percent of businesses prefer the iPad over its competitors, according to a survey by ChangeWave Research. With its current lead in the market, momentum could keep demand high for a number of reasons.

The survey, done in February 2012 before the release of the new iPad, and released Tuesday, found that one in five businesses was planning to buy a tablet in the second quarter of the year. Demand for the iPad increased 7 percent since the last survey from November, while all eight competing products in the survey saw a decrease.

In an informal PC World survey last week, 67 percent of respondents said they were likely to purchase an iPad, while only 34 percent had no such plans. Of those planning to buy the tablet, 8 percent were just as likely to buy either the new iPad or the iPad 2, but 48 percent wanted the new iPad--suggesting that demand could grow even higher.

Here are three reasons why the interest in iPad by businesses will continue an upward climb.

1. Developers

Being first to market with an app store, Apple discovered the importance of apps to a mobile device ecosystem. The number of quality apps available for a device is an important factor in choosing a mobile platform. Apple leads with over 600,000 apps available, and over 25 billion have sold thus far. Developers of business apps are most likely to invest their time in creating apps for the biggest business platform, which the iPad clearly offers. Businesses will buy the device that runs the software they need, so as the apps continue to come, so will sales.

2. Hardware

Compare the iPad against popular Android tablets.Compare the iPad against popular Android tablets.In the same way that app developers write for the leading market, hardware developers create products for the most popular devices. In the consumer market, this can be seen by the number of speaker docking stations that are iPod/iPhone compatible, while very few are available for other platforms.

As more iPads find their way into businesses, expect hardware accessories that are specific to iPads to proliferate. From Point-of-Sale (POS) stands to bar-code scanners to medical devices, businesses will find it easier to extend the functionality of an iPad than for competing devices, and that will drive sales.

3. Numbers

There was a saying in the 1970s, "No one ever got fired for buying IBM." The implication was that at the time, IBM was a safe bet, a popular choice, and that one couldn’t go wrong by selecting it. The same could now be said about Apple, considering the lead it holds in the tablet market. There is safety in numbers.

While HP’s TouchPad is dead, and survival of RIM’s PlayBook seems in question, there is no doubt the iPad will continue to be around. Businesses want the reassurance that their products will continue to be supported, and Apple’s currently in the strongest position to provide that.

What About Cost?

All of the reasons above boil down to numbers. Apple has them, and it will fight to hold on to its advantage. Can the iPad remain the top tablet forever?

The most likely way for other tablet makers to compete is on cost. If competitors could offer similar features but at a significant savings, some businesses would be interested and a market shift could begin. Unfortunately for them, however, Apple holds numbers here as well, paying less for its parts due to the high volume it can promise. Though this makes selecting a tablet easy, stronger competition would likely provide better options for businesses to select from. How can the iPad’s competition stand out and become noticed by businesses?

Joseph Fieber has 25 years of experience as an IT pro, with a background in computer consulting and software training. Follow him on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter, or contact him through his website, JosephFieber.com.



2468We Saw Where You Went: App Traces Workers' Steps Abroad

EY Tracer App tracks your locationApparently the news that people don’t like having their whereabouts known, tracked, and compiled hasn’t reached all corners. Over the past year, Google and Apple have come under governmental scrutiny for collecting users' location information, and the topic was hot last weekend at the South By Southwest confab in Austin, Texas.

That didn’t stop tax and consulting firm Ernst & Young from announcing on Monday the release of EY Tracer, an app for iOS, Android and BlackBerry that "tracks current location, home location, and whether time spent abroad has been a work day, travel day, or vacation day," according to a news release. At the same time, the company insists that "no personal identifiable information is transmitted."

The app, which is similar to the firm’s existing Traveler Risk and Compliance (TRAC) application, is designed to ensure that businesses comply with corporate tax and immigration rules in more than 100 countries. If that’s true that it doesn’t track personal information, then how does it ensure that any one employee doesn’t overstay their time in a particular country?

Were you really working here?Were you really working here?"Multiple visits to the same country in a single year can trigger tax and immigration risks," said Dina Pyron, an Ernst & Young director, in the release. "A combination of our existing traveler risk and compliance services, together with our smartphone technology and Tracer app, will help companies send their people where they need to and stay on the right side of the law.”

But even if the app itself doesn’t compile personal information, it would be fairly simple for an IT department to correlate the IP address of a smartphone with the location data compiled by the app, and then match it with a specific employee.

From there, watch out. As companies increasingly offer employees the choice of using their own smartphone or tablet for business use, these kinds of questions of personal privacy are only going to come up more frequently.

Were you really working the day you were in Cannes, or were you sunbathing on the beach? What if the data shows that you were spending a little too much time in the environs of your employer’s biggest competitor? How much does your boss really need to know about you? Can your location data be subpoenaed in a divorce case?

Employers may have a legitimate legal compliance reason for asking employees to download applications like EY Tracer. But the tracking of this kind of data--no matter whether it’s done by individual apps or by the devices themselves--veers into some pretty shadowy areas.



2469Online Archive Service Digitizes Docs and More for Free

A physical document archive isn't working very hard if it's in a filing cabinet. Instead, if you digitize all of those old papers, you could search them from a PC. You could even store them online and browse from anywhere. Instead of relying on a scanner to manually make this transition, fax in files to the free-to-a-point online service, DepositDox.

You'll sign up, and secure a personal, toll-free number to which you'll send files. From your office, just load up the fax machine and fire them into the service.

When new files arrive, DepositDox runs character-recognition software, turning into PDFs and storing them in your online archive. The service uses secure HTTP to encrypt files you view and retrieve in a web browser. The company also encrypts files on its servers.

DepositDox can also function as a fax line replacement. Paying subscribers can send outgoing faxes and even port over their old fax line to the service. Paying and free members can also forward new documents to their email inbox automatically instead of having to get them through the website.

Free service limits you to 1,000 stored pages. After the first month, you can only upload a single page each day, and the search function expires. So for long-term use, consider the $5.95/month paid account, which gets you 100,000 pages of storage plus that outgoing fax function. Licensing is for individual users, so if multiple people need the service in your office, get several accounts. And DepositDox is currently offering 20% off with the sign-up code 9003.

DepositDox is versatile enough to replace a fax machine, eliminating the cost for that phone line and hardware. But I like it best as a document digitizing and storage center. You can upload and save documents from anywhere you have a fax machine, plus you can search and retrieve files from any web browser.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.



2470Free Screen-Sharing Tool Helps Businesses Collaborate

A screen-sharing program can help train workers or update clients. They'll see your PC as if looking over your shoulder, even if they're across the office or around the world. But before you splurge on a paid service with unlimited connections, consider free and cheap alternatives. You can save if you only need to share a few times a month, or scale up if you need to buy more functionality.

One sharing service, Yuuguu fulfills my biggest demand for online collaboration; participants don't have to install anything. They just connect through a Flash-enabled web browser on any computer.

As the host, you'll download and install the free tool on a Windows, Mac, or Linux system and sign up for a free account. You'll launch a web conference through Yuuguu, and just give the participants the URL and access code to enter.

Up to 5 people can work in a free session together, and you're limited to 100 minutes of browser-based sharing each month. If each person installs the Yuuguu software, that time limit is waved; you could take this thrifty step within a business, but it's probably too much to ask clients or outsiders to install a program.

Paid subscription options expand these limits, starting at $15/month for a single user. Up to 30 people can join sessions, and you can conference with browser-based participants as long as you want. Yuuguu also sells a $30/month plan for 20 users, and other alternatives.

Yuuguu also provides voice conferencing through Skype on PCs or standard telephones. United States participants can dial in for free--less the cost of any national long distance fees--and international callers are charged on a per-minute basis.

While screen-sharing presentations make Yuuguu most appealing to me, additional features might suit your business. The host computer's keyboard and mouse control can be passed around in screen-sharing sessions, turning the service into more of a live collaboration tool. You can text chat throughout sharing, plus Yuuguu works as a general instant messaging client, connecting to users on AIM, Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo, and MSN Messenger.

Yuuguu's paid screen-sharing options might be compelling enough for your business to buy. But its free core connects to anyone in a web browser without spending anything.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.



2471Host Free Conference Calls

Conference call service--like most telecommunications--has become a commodity. Dump costly companies, and save your business money with one of many free options.

While the name and URL sounded like a typical Internet scam, FreeConference.com, lives up to its promise for basic service. Up to 150 people can join the call, giving ample headroom for nearly any small- or medium-business situation.

You'll either schedule the call in advance or set up an access number for an impromptu meeting at anytime. Planned calls let you input a few extra controls, such as the organizer being able to mute the entire group of callers.

In either case, participants call into what is likely a long-distance number, enter an access code, and chatter away. Everyone can talk for up to four hours on a scheduled call or three hours on an unplanned meeting. You're only charged--from your own phone company--for any long-distance fees.

FreeConference.com sells upgrades if you need more features. A $9 monthly fee enables either call recording or PC desktop sharing tools. (Pay twice for both.) Or you can add either service to a single call for $6.50 each. If you want participants to dial into an 800 number, it'll cost the host $.10/minute per participant, billed to the host's credit card.

You might consider those extras in certain situations, such as allowing clients to call in on an 800 number. But depending on your needs, there's a good chance you'll get by with the free service for most--or all--calls.

Zack Stern is building a new business from San Francisco, where he frequently contributes to PC World.



2472Dell and HP Are Key to Success of Windows 8 Tablets

Dell is committed to joining the tablet fray once again--this time with Windows 8 tablets aimed at going head-to-head with the Apple iPad. That is good news for Microsoft because Windows 8 tablets will essentially be dead on arrival without strong support from Dell and HP.

The concept of a worthy Windows tablet has been a sort of Holy Grail since the launch of the Apple iPad. Windows 8, with its Metro interface, and compatibility with ARM architecture devices has established an expectation that Windows 8 tablets will fill the void Android tablets have been unable to, and provide some worthwhile competition for Apple--especially in the business market.

Windows 8Windows 8 tablets may have what it takes, but Microsoft needs Dell and HP to deliver.There are tons of vendors lined up to jump on the Windows 8 tablet bandwagon. Lenovo showed off its unique IdeaPad Yoga Windows 8 tablet concept at CES in January, and it has vowed to be first out of the gate with a Windows 8 tablet when they launch. Other vendors like Nokia, Asus, and others also appear to be on board.

But, the success or failure of Windows 8 tablets may be made or broken by whether or not businesses embrace them. Because of the dominant role that Dell and HP play as preferred providers of servers and PCs for businesses, it’s crucial that these two come to the party with tablets that can deliver unique advantages compared to an iPad at a reasonable cost.

The potential is there as long as Dell, HP, and others can package it all into a compelling device at the right price. A device that is directly connected to the traditional Windows network, seamlessly integrated with the tools and network resources businesses are already using, and provides a consistent experience at the desk, or from a mobile platform is a recipe for success. Of course--as my PCWorld peer Ian Paul points out--it’s also a potential recipe for confusion.

Don’t for one second, though, make the mistake of thinking that Windows 8 tablets are a slam dunk destined to crush the iPad in the enterprise. If Microsoft doesn’t get Windows 8 right, and if developers don’t deliver the apps businesses want, and if hardware vendors don’t create tablets with the performance and price to make them attractive, Windows 8 tablets will fail. That’s a lot of pretty big “ifs”.

Apple iPadBusinesses are already adopting the iPad, so Microsoft has its work cut out for it.Onuora Amobi points out in a recent Windows8Update blog post that the challenge runs even deeper than that. While there is demand in the market for Windows 8 tablets, that demand is coming primarily from the IT department. Unfortunately, the IT department is an expense, and is treated like a necessary evil.

In most cases the IT department must bend to the whims of the departments that actually conduct business and contribute to the bottom line. If executives and business units can get their jobs done more efficiently on Apple iPads, demand from the business units will generally trump the IT department.

Although Microsoft is coming late to the tablet party, the inability of Android tablets to compete against the iPad leaves Microsoft with a huge opportunity. It had better work very closely with app developers, and key vendors like Dell and HP, though, to ensure the entire Windows 8 tablet experience is phenomenal and capable of competing with the iPad.

Tony Bradley

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, his Google+ profile, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com. He also tweets as @TheTonyBradley.



2473Why the Demise of Print Media Is Bad for Humanity

In case you haven’t heard--after 244 years as the foremost authority among printed reference material--Encyclopaedia Britannica is officially out of the encyclopedia printing business. The end of the print edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica is indicative of a larger trend from print to digital that yields a variety of tremendous benefits. Ultimately, though, the demise of print media may be bad for humanity as a whole.

The Upside

Personally, I’m a huge fan of digital media. First of all, it is the primary means by which I make a living. Secondly, as a consumer I prefer to buy my books in digital format, and I prefer to read my news digitally.

Wikipedia logoA digital encyclopedia has many benefits, but its lack of permanence is a serious issue.Digital media is faster. As quickly as a writer such as myself can turn words into bits and bytes, they can be instantly available around the world.

Digital media is cheaper financially and ecologically as well. Print media requires trees to be cut, paper to be produced, material to be printed, and the resulting product to be shipped and distributed. It takes natural resources, energy, and fuel that cost money and damage the Earth.

With digital media, simply push a button and the material is live. The costs involved are basically the same whether it is read by 10 people, or 10 million.

I appreciate that I can carry an entire library in a tablet or e-reader that is thinner than most magazines, and weighs next to nothing. Kids can carry text books without lugging around a 50-pound backpack, and people can get new reading material in seconds from virtually anywhere.

There is a huge downside, though: Digital media doesn’t have the permanence of print media.

Unlocking History

The Rosetta Stone is the famous artifact that helped experts unlock the code to understanding ancient Egyption hieroglyphs. It contains the same script written in three different languages--one of which is Ancient Greek. Because we already understood Ancient Greek, experts were able to cross-reference the two and decipher the hieroglyphs.

The Rosetta Stone represents the ancient equivalent of print media. Without a physical, written text, much of history may be lost forever.

Rewriting History

What’s worse than losing history? Changing it. Printed material represents a moment in time. We can travel through time through the written word and learn about events, discoveries, triumphs, and tragedies from accounts written hundreds or thousands of years ago.

With digital media, that may not be so easy. First of all, the media itself evolves rapidly. The written word on stone or paper has existed relatively unchanged for millennia, but if you stored a digital document on a 5.25 inch floppy disk twenty-five years ago it would be a challenge to access it today.

Even if you can access archived digital media, it is impermanent. I may have written something five years ago about how Palm Pilot would take over the world and crush Apple and Microsoft (I didn’t, but I could have). I could go online today, though, and modify such an article to instead predict the catastrophic demise of the once great company.

What about history itself? History is somewhat flawed in the first place because it is generally written by the victors. The history of the United States as it is recorded and taught probably differs significantly from the version you might have if it were written by surviving members of the Mohican or Cherokee tribes.

Print media gives us a snapshot that can’t be undone. Even if subsequent histories are rewritten, the original texts still reveal a different truth. If our only source of written history is digital, though, it can be altered to fit the whims or ruling political agenda of the day, and basically can never be fully trusted.

I love Wikipedia and use it frequently as a resource. I am also conscious, though, that the information it contains could be wrong, and is subject to change. The information printed in Encyclopaedia Britannica is--or at least was--not subject to such arbitrary or capricious alteration.

I am a huge fan of digital media and digital reference sources. I don’t really lament the demise of Encyclopaedia Britannica because I see its transition to digital as an evolution rather than an ending.

But, I am concerned about the lack of permanence, and the loss of the point-in-time snapshot that physical print media provides. As a part of the shift from print to digital media, we also need some method of marking the moment in time and archiving it with some permanence--like cached pages on a Google search, but for the Internet as a whole and all it contains.

What do you think? Is the decline in print media with the transition to digital media a good thing? Are there solutions out there to address the lack of permanence?



2474Searching for a More Secure Internet

Have you heard of TIM? The Trustworthy Internet Movement is a new initiative launched a few weeks ago at the 2012 RSA Security Conference. The goal of TIM is to bring together experts, industry stakeholders, and others in an effort to build a safer and more secure Internet.

TIM was founded by Philippe Courtot, chairman and CEO of Qualys. But, TIM is a non-profit organization that is entirely independent of Qualys.

MalwareTIM seeks to pool resources and find collaborative solutions for a more secure Internet.I spoke with Courtot a few days before the official unveiling of TIM at RSA. He described to me how TIM was borne over time from countless conversations he’d had with other security professionals. Courtot believes that there are fundamental issues with Internet security that can not be resolved by any single tool, or even any single company.

Courtot is dedicated to ensuring the reliability, privacy, and security of the Internet, and he feels that the best way to meet that goal is to create an environment where security experts, cloud providers, and other Internet stakeholders can cooperate to find innovative solutions to defend against the rising tide of threats on the Internet. Courtot believes strongly enough in this initiative that he pledged $500,000 of his own money to get the project off the ground.

There is definitely something to be said for this approach. In the wake of the attacks against Google and others in China, various affected parties worked together collaboratively with Internet security providers and law enforcement agencies. The key lesson from that effort was that sharing information cooperatively lets all involved see the bigger picture and helps to identify issues and develop resolutions faster.

Various companies and security experts are already hard at work on different solutions to address problems with privacy, reliability, and security on the Internet, and many of those solutions will succeed on some level. But, rather than developing competing or conflicting approaches to the same problem, TIM might be able to harness those efforts to develop innovative solutions that are greater than the sum of the individual parts.

Obviously, the companies or individuals involved in a collaborative effort like TIM all have a vested interest in their own success and profit. But, the Internet is essential to business, news, entertainment, and mainstream culture in general, and there is something to be said for working together for the greater good.

If you’re interested in learning more about TIM, or you’d like to join the cause and contribute your skills and resources, visit the site.

Tony Bradley

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page, his Google+ profile, or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com. He also tweets as @TheTonyBradley.



2475How To Get a Free iPhone 3GS

I would consider myself a gadget freak. One of the benefits of being an entrepreneur is that buying gadgets that are used for business purposes is tax deductible. However, getting the latest cool gadget, the iPhone 3GS-for free-is even better. Here's how I did it.

I bought the first generation iPhone for $500 and I thought it was really expensive (comparatively between weight and cost) but I wanted it bad enough to pay for it. I have had the original iPhone for almost 2 years now.

About 4 months ago, I was perusing the American Express Awards website to see what gifts I can get for our team and stumbled upon an Apple Store Gift Card offer. They had a $300 Apple Gift Card that I could use our points to buy and we had close to a million points at one time.

I bought the card with our points and was about to trade it in for the 3G but found out the same day that the 3GS was coming out soon so I waited and waited and waited. Finally today after dinner, I went with my boys to the Apple Store to proudly trade in my gift card for the new 3GS 32GB Black color iPhone.

Here is how we as a business can get so many points from American Express: We charge as much stuff on our credit card as possible. Every dollar we charge is an award point we add to our arsenal of points.

For example, we charge all of our Internet Marketing with Google, Yahoo and Bing through our credit cards. Each year we rake up hundreds of thousands of points from American Express from just this alone, and we use the points to buy gifts that we can give to our associates or clients. If possible, pay your phone bill or any vendors with credit cards. Don't pay with checks if you can pay with credit cards. (Just make sure to pay off your bill every month.)

After you start doing this for a few months with your business expenses, it will add up very quickly and your iPhone 3Gs will be waiting for you.



2476Line of Business Software

As your business matures to the point that you have begun to develop systems, processes and methodologies, your business will need to decide on tools to manage these processes and enforce the best practices.

For example, my business is a professional services company, so the following are key processes for us: performing estimation, authoring proposals, tracking time, invoicing for time. This is effectively the "Operations" of our business, and therefore the software that supports these operations could be referred to as "line of business" software.

If your business has any data associated with its operations (yes, this means 100 percent of you), you need line of business software. This software will, over time, accumulate the data that you will study and analyze to learn about your company's effectiveness as well as to identify shortcomings and opportunities for improvement.

For example, in my business, I might like to know the following:

  • How much administrative time do we spend each week?
  • What types of tasks do we typically over/under-estimate?
  • What is the typical ratio of Project Management to Software Development time on different types of projects
  • Which developers are strong at estimation? Which need improvement?
  • How can we know if we're ahead/behind on a given project before we come to a milestone/deliverable?


Answers to these and other questions allow me to improve the service to my clients as well as guide mentorship and training investments in my staff.

What are the essential processes of your business? Do your employees have the tools that they need to be successful? Many times, you are asking them to do the job "the way [you] would do it." Can you really hold them accountable to replicate the success that you have had personally if they do not have the proper tools? Line of business software is the toolset that your information workers need to be successful.

Finally, to acquire line of business software for your business, you should consider these three options:

  • Buy (typically either a “horizontal” solution, like ERP/Accounting/HR or a “vertical” solution specific to your industry)
  • A Combination of Build and Buy (integrate several off the shelf options)


A good software consulting company can help you with this decision.



2477Virtual Office Models (Part 2)

In my first “Virtualization” post, I looked at the idea of a virtual office at a very high level, starting with some of Ubertor CEO Steve Jagger’s ideas and then outlining three distinct models. Today I will drill down a little more on the models and characterize them in a bit more detail.

Full: Totally Virtual with Zero Office Space

The Totally Virtual model has employees loosely banded together and all working from remote locations via multiple enabling technologies. Collaboration takes place through web conferencing, screen sharing, RSS feeds, and other remoting platforms. Often location transparency is provided by a combination of local number forwarding and internet-based telephony services such as Google Voice or Skype. Most roles in the company are probably filled with non-employee outsourced solutions, and therefore the company must rely heavily on repeatable process to have any scale. Technology clearly plays a huge part as an enabler in this model.

Basic: Central War Room

The Central War Room model requires having some minimum footprint of open-plan, multi-use office space. The space is generally used for either isolated “hotel-style” workers (5 desks = 200 hours of office space per week / 40 employees = 5 hrs of office time per employee per week) or for a fully collaborative space where team members can come together to draw, point, and interact in person on occasions that merit direct communication. Typically in the second mode you would find all usable vertical space covered with a substance which can be used as a dry erase medium. In any case, desk space, Wi-Fi and whiteboards are the three main resources in these spaces.

Light: Traditional Office with Some Virtualized Business Functions

Can’t get rid of the office? Outsource for some non-core business functions:

  • Get rid of your phone system (Use cell phones or the aforementioned VOIP offerings

Find an outsourcing specialist for the following:

  • Marketing (millions of web marketing firms)
  • Sales (Telemarketing companies, appointment setting firms, sales rental companies, channel marketing firms, affiliate networks)
  • Accounting (Most companies don’t file their own taxes, but think about bookkeeping: bank reconciliation, payroll processing, etc.)
  • Software Development (ranges from higher-end software consulting companies like mine, to off-shoring firms)
  • IT (Many different offerings here from reactive break/fix to proactive monitoring)
  • Hosting (rackspace is one of the world’s leading hosting providers)
  • Drafting (Software tools mean Engineers no longer need draftsmen in their offices)
  • Legal work (Pre-paid Legal is the simplest of these)
  • HR (everything from head-hunters for hiring, to PEOs for maintenance, to Insurance networks for benefits)

One other thought on this model: Do you think you’re absolutely the best and cheapest for what you do? Unless the answer to this question is unequivocally, “Yes!” you may be leaving some margin on the table by not outsourcing.

Comparing the Models

In the next entries of this series, I will further explore these models and cover more specific aspects of virtualizing your business.



2478Comcast May Now Regret Suing the FCC Over Net Neutrality

Comcast may now be wondering whether suing the FCC to fight net neutrality was such a good idea, for while it won the lawsuit, it now stands to lose the battle in a very big way.

Instead of neutrality regulations only, the FCC now plans sweeping regulation of broadband with an uncertain outcome, now and in the future.

While the current FCC promises restraint, once broadband becomes regulated as a common carrier a future FCC would have wide power to make changes far beyond those sought today.

Late Wednesday, the FCC announced it would seek to regulate broadband transmission under Title II of the Communications Act. Such a move would give the FCC sweeping--and some fear heavy-handed--control over broadband, precisely what Comcast hoped to avoid in filing its lawsuit.

Today, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the U.S. District Court's ruling in favor of Comcast left the Commission two options: To not regulate broadband or to classify broadband as a common carrier, subject to potentially much harsher regulation enacted during the heyday of the old Bell System.

Genachowski, after some public wavering, eventually decided broadband required regulation, but promised to exempt the industry from many of Title II's provisions, including a requirement to share lines with competitors.

A "Restrained Approach"

Obama's FCC chief called this a "restrained approach" to achieving net neutrality, without hampering Internet growth. He described his "third way" as being "carefully balanced to unleash investment and innovation while also protecting and empowering consumers."

In response to Thursday's announcement, Comcast said it regretted the Commission's decision.

Genachowski's announcement was a major blow to big telecom and its lobbying power, wrote Josh Silver of FreePress.net in an e-mail to neutrality supporters.

"Today, Chairman Julius Genachowski blinked," Silver wrote. "He backed away from the cliff and announced he was moving to implement broadband policies that will preserve the open Internet and promote universal access.

"This decision was an epic loss for AT&T and Comcast and their multi-million dollar lobbyists, but a solid victory for the rest of us," Silver added.

Corporations applauding Genachowski's action included Google, DISH Network, Amazon.com, Sony, eBay, Netflix, and others.

Business Going Forward

It is expected that the FCC will soon issue a series of notices that will end with a decision to regulate broadband under Title II. These will include a Notice of Inquiry, raising the issue for public comment, to be followed by a Notice of Forbearance, explaining what Title II rules will and will not be applied to broadband.

Genachowski is expected to receive support from the other two Democrats on the FCC, giving him a 3-2 majority over Republicans, who have already expressed reservations.

However, with the clock nearing the halfway point in the first Obama Administration and with Democrats looking over their shoulders in preparation for the mid-term elections, Genachowski may have reason to fast-track broadband regulation as much as possible, particularly if congressional action should at some point become necessary--it is not right now.

My take: Yes, there is a moral to this story, and a simple one. Before filing a lawsuit, it's a good idea to ask yourself, "What happens if we win?"

When Comcast challenged the FCC's ability to impose net neutrality, did it think a win would make the FCC back away?

Comcast got the win, but the FCC's response is likely to leave Comcast and other broadband carriers in a much weaker position than where they started.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and posts to Facebook. He is best contacted via his Web site.



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2480Feds Threaten Apple's Control of iPhone and iPad

With the Feds reportedly only "days away" from launching a full-scale antitrust inquiry, Apple is reportedly tweaking its iPhone and iPad developer program to dodge a probe into its business practices. At issue may be Apple's ability to tightly control the mobile platforms it has invented.

For all the noise Steve Jobs has made about the technical weaknesses of Adobe Flash, the fight is really about Apple's ability to control the software that runs on its platforms. Jobs wants to protect the iPad and iPhone from being watered down by generic, cross-platform mobile applications, including those based on Flash.

Jobs has done this through recent changes to Apple's developer agreement that have the effect of preventing applications built for his company's devices from running on other companies' mobile devices.

Now, investigators are reportedly ready to look at whether the agreement is anticompetitive and violates federal law. I wish they'd back off, and I think customers will be better for it if they did.

Apple wants its developers to build apps that differentiate its products from all others, incorporating whatever magic Apple chooses to build into them. Apple wants apps that highlight its platforms' strengths and disguise their weaknesses.

Cross-platform applications, such as those created with Adobe's new CS5, might be easier for developers to build and their efforts could be leveraged across Apple, Google, Research In Motion, and Microsoft mobile devices.

In response, Apple changed its developer agreement to require iPad/iPhone apps to be created using only Apple's own tools. Further, Apple said it would refuse access to the Apps Store for Adobe Flash-based applications, effectively barring them from customers using Apple's hardware.

Non-Apple-Approved Apps

Again, the issue isn't Flash, per se, but the ability of developers to use Adobe CS5 to build a single Flash-based application that can run on all the most popular mobile devices.

Those apps, however, might be limited to a set of most-common cross-platform features, causing them to look and behave the same on all platforms that supported them. This could destroy the aura of exclusivity that Apple enjoys, as well as the total control it today enjoys over its platforms.

In short, if you're Steve Jobs and Apple, cross-platform applications are a headache to be avoided at all cost, except perhaps, having to fight government regulators in court.

Keeping Apple Honest

My take: It is easy to paint Steve Jobs as the evil menace here. It's easy to say Apple gets away with control tactics that Microsoft never tried, even in its most dominating moments. And those things may be true.

But, it is also true that forcing developers to build Apple-specific applications is the best way for Apple to move its platform forward. It allows Apple to release new technologies, decide how they will be used and by whom, and limit the ability of those same apps to appear on other companies' devices.

I don't see anything wrong with that.

As the market grows, other platforms will--if they give customers value--see their application libraries and developer communities grow. I am not sure Google, Microsoft, et al, could ever be as exclusive (and excluding) as Apple, but it's possible.

Or maybe having applications that run across multiple devices will become a big win for customers and Apple will be forced to relent, as it is already doing by adding multitasking features to the next version of iPhone OS.

Apple has done an excellent job of giving customers what they want. While Apple dominates mobile devices today, its large, well-heeled competitors will gain strength over time. Especially, if Apple does things to slow the innovations that customers want to buy.

Android, Windows Phone 7, and BlackBerry, along with Adobe's Flash and CS5 development suite, should be enough to keep Apple honest. For now, I don't believe federal help is required.

My advice to Apple: Stick to your guns, and your developer agreement.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and posts to Facebook . He is best contacted via his Web site .



2481Are Tablets and Smartphones a Pain in the Neck?

Are Tablets and Smartphones a Pain in the Neck?Tablets, such as the iPad and Kindle, are rapidly gaining popularity. However, Tony Kochhar, also known as the 'UK's leading shoulder doctor' says that these devices are causing a rise in shoulder injuries.

Kochhar says that he has been treating up to 20 patients a week for shoulder problems caused by using iPads, also known as 'iPad Shoulder': "Holding the tablet lower down means users have to gaze downwards more sharply. This is increasing the pressure on their joints".

These problems are not exclusive to tablet users, but also smartphone owners too, according to Kochhar. This is due to mobiles being held between the ear and shoulder, and from frequent texting and browsing.

Doctor Kochhar suggests that iPad and iPhone users should try not to hunch over the device--the ideal screen position is level with your face. He also recommends that users take regular brakes from using their devices, and do some gentle neck and shoulder stretches during these breaks.

Kochhar reminds users to switch the iPad between the right and left arm, and also to look out for tell-tale signs of 'iPad Shoulder', which include aches all over one side of the back of the shoulder blade, or pain down the upper arm.



2482How to Make and Publish Movies for Free

free audio and video editing for moviesIt's never been cheaper or easier to make movies, but the initial expense of purchasing a good camera and audio equipment still discourages many budding amateur filmmakers. Fortunately, if you know where to look, you can find plenty of free content that's available for public use. And you can turn that raw material into creative and inventive works of cinema by combining a few free video-editing tools, some hard work, and a place to share your movie with friends and family.

Before considering where to find grist for your movie-making mill, let's review the types of gear you'll need to start making your own movies. Though you may own a PC or smartphone with basic audio and video recording capabilities, but all you need before plunging in is a computer that has Internet access.

Find Free Audio and Video

You can find and download lots of free multimedia content from the Web, including audio clips for your soundtrack and full-length videos that you can cut and edit as you please. The lion's share of such content comes from two sources: the public domain and the Creative Commons. The Creative Commons website has an excellent search tool that lets you find works with Creative Commons licenses across various websites, including YouTube and the Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons licenses enable content creators to release their works for public use without giving up the other protections provided by copyright (for example, work with certain Creative Commons licenses can't be republished for profit). At this writing, more than 400 million works have been licensed under Creative Commons, so you have plenty of material to sort through.

If you want to conduct a more specific search for particular content, check out dedicated free-media websites such as the Free Music Archive, which hosts a ton of music licensed under Creative Commons. If you need shorter audio clips (explosions, screams or other sound effects) check out Freesound, an online database of sound effects created by users and freely available for use under the Creative Commons license.

If you're a history buff, you might consider grabbing some classic images and video clips for your project. Numerous popular websites (including Wikipedia and Wired) license their images for use under Creative Commons, and you're probably already familiar with one of the best sources for free high-quality images: Flickr.

How to Make and Publish Movies for FreeUse Flickr's Advanced Search features to find pictures and video that have been uploaded with a Creative Commons license.

To find the pictures you need, start a new search on Flickr and select Advanced Search next to the search bar. Scroll down Flickr's Advanced Search page to find the Creative Commons search option, which allows you to filter your Flickr search to find images that you can legally use in your movies. Check the Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content box, and make sure that your movie uses only images whose license permits you to modify, adapt, or build on them for commercial and noncommercial purposes.

Flickr's archive hosts some great video clips uploaded by users under a Creative Commons license, but there are better sources of free video assets. YouTube is an excellent place to find Creative Commons video; just open the filter dropdown menu on any YouTube search result page, and select Creative Commons on the lower right to get a list of video clips that are free for public use. Plenty of successful amateur filmmakers have made movies composed entirely of clips from YouTube--and you can too.

If you can't find what you need in the Creative Commons, it may be time to start rooting through stuff in the public domain, which includes commercial works that have fallen out of copyright and are now free for public use. It takes quite a while for a commercial copyright to expire (in the United States, many such copyrights expire 70 years after the author's death), so if you're looking for some post-modern indie rock for your soundtrack, the public domain won't be of much use. On the other hand, tons of great movies from the silent era are available for your personal projects, as are a lot of classical recordings.

The Internet Archive has an exceptional collection of old photos, video clips, and audio clips available for use in the public domain, but not everything stored in the Archive is free to use. And unfortunately, there's no one-step way to filter your Internet Archive search results to display only works of all different ages that are available in the public domain.

You can, however, use this trick to ensure that all of the results you get are in the public domain: Open the Internet Archive Advanced Search and filter your search results to show only media published before January 1, 1923; any works published before that date have fallen into the public domain and are free to use.

Get Started With Free Video-Editing Software

Once you have enough material to work with, you'll need some robust video-editing software to make your movie. The technical process of editing video is intricate enough to demand a separate article; in this guide I'll simply point you to some great free software that can help you get the job done. If you need a little additional assistance getting started, consult these timeless video-editing tips.

Almost every Windows user has access to Microsoft's free Windows Movie Maker video-editing software, since it comes preinstalled on most Windows PCs. Though Windows Movie Maker doesn't offer many flashy features, you should have no trouble importing your video and audio clips and stitching them together, thanks to Movie Maker's storyboard layout. To get started, select the photos and/or videos that you'd like to include in your finished product; Movie Maker will automatically arrange them into a storyboard-style layout.

How to Make and Share Movies for FreeWindows Movie Maker is a respectable video-editing utility that you can download for free.

Mac OS users can edit their clips into a single movie even more easily with iMovie, which comes preinstalled on every Apple PC. Simply import the audio, images, and video that you've collected for your project into iMovie, and stitch them together by dragging and dropping clips onto the timeline. You have fewer options for editing clips in iMovie than in a full nonlinear editor like Final Cut Pro, but you can still create great movies by cropping, editing, and adding transitions to your media clips.

If you're a Linux user, check out OpenShot, an open-source video editor that's free and (relatively) simple to use. Like most free video editors, OpenShot presents you with a timeline that you can use to arrange pictures, audio, and video clips before knitting them into a single cohesive film. If none of these options works for you (or if you just don't want to bother downloading anything), you can always take advantage of the free YouTube Video Editor, which lets you upload all of your video clips to YouTube and combine them to create your masterpiece.

Publish and Share Your Video for Free

Once you've completed your movie you'll want to share it with friends and family, so head on over to the venerable YouTube or its upstart rival Vimeo. Both websites let users upload videos to their servers for free, though they also offer paid accounts. Vimeo has a reputation for hosting high-quality HD films, but now that YouTube supports watching videos in HD there's no practical difference in potential video quality between the two services.

YouTube permits you to upload as many movies as you'd like as often as you'd like, but the movies can't be longer than 15 minutes unless you verify your YouTube account by providing a mobile phone number. Vimeo imposes no time limits on individual uploaded videos, but it does limit you to 500MB of video uploads per week. The first video you upload each week will be viewable in 720p high definition, but anything else you publish that week will appear in standard definition unless you pony up for a Vimeo Plus account.

Unless you're planning to become a full-time video producer, a free account with YouTube or Vimeo should satisfy all of your video-publishing needs. Now that you've read up on the fantastic free tools available for creating and sharing your movie ideas, it's time to get started!



2483Intel May Muscle into Crowded Streaming Internet TV Business

Intel May Muscle into Crowded Streaming Internet TV BusinessIntel is next in the long line of companies dreaming of killing cable and launching a streaming Internet TV subscription service, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The Journal says the company has been meeting with content providers, hinted at building its own set-top box and hopes to launch the service by the end of 2012.

Though details are sparse, it sounds like Intel isn't simply making a Netflix or Hulu knockoff. Instead, Intel is attempting to bump the infrastructure of traditional cable TV subscriptions onto the Internet with a "virtual cable operator" that would "offer U.S. TV channels nationwide over the Internet in a bundle similar to subscriptions sold by cable- and satellite-TV operators."

Overthrowing traditional cable has been a long-standing aspiration for many other bigger companies, so it's a little strange to hear that Intel -- typically content building the chips that power PCs, OS X machines, and now smartphones -- is trying to succeed where Apple, Microsoft and Google (Intel briefly supported Google TV with its processors) have all failed.

Intel May Muscle into Crowded Streaming Internet TV BusinessOne problem I can see right away are how oversaturated we are with set-top boxes for streaming content. Unless Intel options out its cable service to other devices, likely in the form of apps, consumers would be stuck with yet another little plastic box to share bandwidth with Internet-connected TVs and stack atop their Apple TV, Roku, TiVo, and Xbox 360.

Also, in the marketing scheme of things, Intel has comparatively little brand awareness. It's a household name, but only in certain neighborhoods. And when consumers are faced with the choice of going with familiar and beloved brands, like Apple or Amazon, choosing Intel somehow seems all the less likely.

Then there's the money. It's expensive securing premium content and can get even more expensive trying to keep it -- just think of how Netflix lost Starz even after offering $300 million for a slightly longer contract. Plus, most premium content providers aren't willing to relinquish their goods for any price. HBO is a great example here. HBO has its own streaming service, HBO Go, which is slowly being released to other devices but still requires an old-school monthly cable subscription.

Intel May Muscle into Crowded Streaming Internet TV BusinessNot to say that Intel doesn't have the money; its current market value is $137 billion, and when you compare that to potential competitors like Netflix ($6 billion), Intel's chances of scoring premium goods improves. However, compare that to Amazon ($83 billion) or Apple ($521 billion), add in the Journal’s projected cost of yearly content licenses ($38 billion), and financial feasibility gets even more dubious.



2484Apple TV Update: Hands On

On Wednesday, Apple introduced a new version -- the third generation -- of its Apple TV media player, adding support for 1080p video and debuting a major update to the device’s user interface with a number of new software features.

But just as welcome to many Apple TV fans was the announcement that all of the software improvements in the new model are also available immediately to the previous model via Apple TV Software Update 5.0. Which means that if you have a second-generation Apple TV, even though you won’t be able play 1080p video, you’ll gain the rest of the new features of the latest model without spending a cent.

Your Apple TV should notify you that the update is available; if not, you can navigate to Settings: General -> Check For Updates.

We’ll have a full review of the third-generation Apple TV next week, but here’s a quick look at what the new Apple TV software brings.

The Apple TV's old (left) and new (right) interface

Interface overhaul

The first time you start up an Apple TV running Software Update 5.0, it’s obvious that Apple has revamped the user interface considerably. There’s still a row of images across the top of the screen, representing whatever content you’ve selected below, but the previous drop-down, textual menus -- Movies, TV Shows, Music, Internet, Computers, and Settings -- have been replaced by large, iOS-app-like icons, one for each content source: Here in the U.S., those are Movies, TV Shows, Music, Computers, Netflix, NBA, NHL, Trailers, MLB.TV, WSJ Live, YouTube, Vimeo, Podcasts, Radio, Photo Stream, MobileMe, and Flickr. There’s also a Settings icon.

You navigate these icons, using the Apple Remote or Remote iOS app, just as you did the previous menus, using the arrow buttons (on the Apple Remote) or swiping your iOS device’s screen (using the app) to move the selection up, down, left, or right, and then pressing Select (on the Apple Remote) or tapping the screen (using the app) to open the selected item. Pressing Menu takes you back up a level or, in some screens, brings up the poster/cover row at the top of the screen. (For the latter, another press of Menu takes you up a level in the menus.)

You'll find all the same options and sub-menus as in Apple TV 4.4.4 (the last software update prior to Wednesday), but most things are easier to access. For example, instead of having to navigate to the Internet menu to access Netflix, NBA, NHL, WSJ Live, YouTube, Vimeo, Podcasts, Photo Stream, MobileMe, Flickr, or Radio, each of those items is accessible with a single click from the home screen. Similarly, whereas movie trailers were buried at the bottom of the Movies menu, there’s now a big Trailers button -- that looks exactly like the Apple’s Trailers app for iOS -- right on the home screen.

The new Movies screen

For most of these content channels -- sorry, Roku, it’s the best word here—the experience is similar, if not exactly the same, as it was under Apple TV 4.4.4. However, the Movies and TV Shows items have each lost their home-screen menu of options, with each menu item leading to a different screen. Instead, each of these two channels has combined its various screens into a single one, with the menu of options -- Purchased, Top, Wish List, Genius, Genres, Networks (for TV shows), and Search -- across the top of the screen. This makes it easier to switch between options, as you no longer have to back out of, say, the Top Movies screen to get to the Search screen; instead, you just scroll to the top of the screen and select Search. Selecting an item from this horizontal menu, or scrolling down the Movies or TV Shows screen, hides the menu; pressing Menu or scrolling back to the top of the screen displays it again.

The new interface is already inspiring debate among users -- I’ve seen plenty of online praise and complaints. But overall, I think it’s an improvement, as it makes particular content easier to find -- you don’t have to remember which top-level menu hosts the content you want to access -- and it makes previously buried content more discoverable. (Didn’t realize the Wall Street Journal has its own video channel on the Apple TV? Now you can’t miss it. And my family loves that Radio is now a top-level item.) And when viewing the home screen, a down-arrow press hides the poster row to show just the 18 content icons. In fact, my biggest complaint is that whenever you return to the home screen, the poster/image area at the top of the screen is visible. I’d prefer to always see the all-icon view.

I also find that the new interface makes using the Apple Remote -- one of the Apple TV’s biggest weaknesses -- a slightly better experience, thanks to the large icons and reduced menu navigation. And a change that appeared in a previous version of the Apple TV software is just as useful now: Pressing and holding the Menu button at any time takes you all the way back to the home (top-level) screen, saving you from having to press Menu, Menu, Menu, Menu when you’re deep in a particular menu branch.

The Apple TV's new home screen, showing just icons

Opening the door?

Of course, one look at the new iOS-home-screen-like layout, and your mind starts imagining other icons -- like, say, one for Hulu, and another for HBO - filling up spaces in the grid. Indeed, this new UI seems to me like an obvious first step towards allowing content-provider-specific apps, as well as perhaps other types of apps.

That said, the new home screen already feels a bit crowded, and if Apple does eventually allow additional content sources or apps, it’s only going to get more cramped. The company will eventually have to let users manage those sources and apps -- which ones appear, which are hidden, and how they’re arranged -- the way Roku did when it introduced channels to its media players. Otherwise, you’ll end up navigating endless screens of icons. (Wait, this is starting to sound familiar…)

Movies in the Cloud, Easier Account Setup

One new addition to the Movies menu is a Purchased option. This option debuted on Wednesday for both Apple TV 5.0 and 4.4.4, and it provides quick access to a list of movies you’ve purchased, letting you stream previously purchased movies directly over the Internet, rather than requiring you to stream those movies from a computer on your local network running iTunes. You can also now purchase movies directly from your Apple TV. (These features have been around for TV shows and music for a while.) One hitch here is that movies from Fox and Universal aren’t currently eligible.

Another new feature relating to online accounts is that you can now sign up for an account for some third-party content providers -- such as Netflix -- directly from the Apple TV, and pay for those subscriptions using your Apple ID (iTunes account). For those setting up a new account for use primarily with the Apple TV, this is likely more convenient than having to use your computer and the provider’s own setup and billing system.

Other Changes

Going through the Apple TV Software Update with a fine-toothed comb, there are a few other changes and improvements that aren’t immediately obvious. Here’s a quick list:

  • Music: When browsing your iTunes Match music, you now get options for Genius Playlists and Genius Mixes. These were previously options only when streaming music from a computer on your local network. (These iTunes Match options came to iOS devices with the iOS 5.1 update.)
  • Photo Stream: You can now delete photos from Photo Stream.
  • Settings -> General -> iTunes Store has been moved to Settings -> iTunes Store, reflecting the increasing emphasis Apple is placing on a direct connection to the iTunes Store, rather than connecting to iTunes on a computer.
  • The options in Settings -> iTunes Store -> Video Resolution, which determines what the Apple TV downloads when you purchase or rent video, have changed from Standard Definition/HD to Standard Definition/720p HD/1080p HD (although 1080p HD will appear only on third-generation Apple TVs).
  • Under Settings -> General -> Language, there are now 13 additional languages.
  • A new Settings -> General -> Troubleshooting option displays a few suggestions for troubleshooting problems, including checking your network connection, making sure you’re in range of your Wi-Fi base station, restarting the Apple TV, and reducing your video resolution if your Internet connection is slow.
  • A new Settings -> General -> Restart option -- a welcome addition -- means you no longer have to unplug your Apple TV, or remember a special Apple Remote button combination, to restart it.
  • Under Settings -> Screen Saver -> Photos, there’s a new National Geographic set of nature photos.

Note that although Apple lists Genius recommendations for movies and TV shows -- based only on previous iTunes rentals and purchases—as a new feature in Apple TV software 5.0, that feature actually appeared under Apple TV software 4 back in February. Similarly, although Apple noted during Wednesday’s event that Photo Stream photos are automatically pushed to the Apple TV, that feature debuted with iCloud, not with Apple TV 5.0. Finally, a number of other interface changes, such as those to the Netflix channel and movie-trailers screen, are handled on the server side and are thus being pushed out to both the previous and new Apple TV software versions.

Stay tuned for our full review of the new Apple TV hardware.

Macworld
For more Macintosh computing news, visit Macworld. Story copyright © 2011 Mac Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.



2485avast! Free Antivirus

Description of avast! Free Antivirus

The world‘s most popular antivirus is now even better. avast! Free Antivirus version 7 offers hybrid cloud technologies, for file-reputation warnings and real-time streaming updates; remote assistance, for easy help from your geek friends; a new web-based management portal; and more. And all for free. These are just a few reasons avast! has the most users in the world.



2486Avira AntiVir Personal

Editorial Review of Avira AntiVir Personal

Its excellent malware detection, disinfection, and scan speed earned Avira AntiVir Personal the top spot in our August 2009 ranking of free antivirus software. Its interface could be better, though, and using the app means putting up with daily pop-up ads.

In AV-Test.org tests, AntiVir's 98.9 percent overall malware detection rate was the best among the software on our chart (the unranked Panda Cloud Antivirus outperformed it). AntiVir was also tops in proactive-protection tests that use two- and four-week-old signature databases to simulate the detection of new, unknown malware, with rates of 52.7 percent and 45.5 percent, respectively.

The strong performance continued in disinfection tests. AntiVir found and disarmed all of the rootkits and other malware infections tossed at it, though (like all the free antivirus software we tested) it tended to leave some remnants, such as relatively harmless Registry changes, in place.

Avira's program was not just the most thorough tool of the group, but also the fastest. It led in speed tests for both on-demand scans (which you schedule or start manually) and on-access scans (which happen automatically during tasks such as copying files).

If AntiVir's interface were as polished as its malware-fighting ability, it would be a no-brainer recommendation. But its daily pop-up ads for Avira's paid ID-theft protection software could easily annoy many users, and at times its interface feels better suited to advanced users. For example, the program's installer prompts you to select among 'extended threat categories.' Some are obvious, such as games or jokes, but you might be forgiven for not knowing whether to pick 'unusual runtime compression' (listed in Avira's online help as 'Files that have been compressed using an unusual tool and are therefore suspicious').

In a similar vein, its detection pop-ups offer too many choices and don't suggest the option most appropriate for the average user. It checks the 'Deny access' option by default, but that choice would leave the discovered malware sitting on your PC; you would continue to receive warnings until you opted to delete or quarantine the discovery (you can also choose to rename or ignore the file).

Such less-than-friendly default behaviors make Avira AntiVir Personal a better choice for tech-savvy users who know how to muck about in the settings. If you're willing to put up with a somewhat clumsy interface and the recurring pop-up ads, in return you'll enjoy top-notch, free protection against malware. It's not a bad trade-off by any means.

--Erik Larkin

Description of Avira AntiVir Personal

Avira offers: 1.Extensive Malware Recognition of viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, worms, etc.

2.Automatic incremental updates of antivirus signatures, engine and entire software

3.Permanent virus protection, with Virus Guard real time monitoring

4.Install and configuration in just a couple of steps, setup to protect your PC in minutes

5.Virus protection against known and unknown threats, using an advanced heuristic system

6.Scheduler where you can set the scanner to make automatic virus scans or updates on your system

7.Forum and phone support, Knowledge Base with virus descriptions available on web site. It constantly and rapidly scans your computer for malicious programs (such as viruses, Trojans, backdoor programs, hoaxes, worms, dialers etc.), monitoring every action executed by the user or by the operating system and being able to react promptly when a malicious program is detected.

Actions include repair, delete, block, rename and quarantine programs or files. Through the permanent update of the detection engine, the protection is ensured constantly: the user can set the product to download any updates when available, thus keeping you clean and safe.

NEW: - Vista Support; New Avira AntiVir Rootkit Detection and Removal. - The Installation Kit comes fully featured.

If you require additional features and protection that include Adware and Spyware detection, Advanced set-up, Antispam, Antiphishing etc you can purchase Avira AntiVir Premium Security Suite license from www.avira.com. Five euros of every online sale goes to the Auerbach foundation that supports various social, scientific, cultural and charitable projects.



2487Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Editorial Review of Kaspersky Anti-Virus

dThis download has moved. Please visit PC World's review to download the software.

Description of Kaspersky Anti-Virus

Product Highlights * Three protection technologies against new and unknown threats: 1) Hourly automated database updates, 2) Preliminary behavior analysis, 3) On-going behavior analysis. New! * Protection from viruses, Trojans and worms * Protection from spyware and adware * Real-time scanning for email, Internet traffic and files * Protection from viruses when using ICQ and other IM clients * Protection from all types of keyloggers. Improved! * Detection of all types of rootkits. Improved! * Automatic database updates Additional Features * Rollback of unwanted changes on your computer * Self-defense of the antivirus program from being disabled or stopped * Tools for creating a Rescue Disk * Free technical support



2488HP to Combine Its PC and Printer Divisions, Report Says

HP to Combine Its PC and Printer Divisions, Report SaysHP is set to combine its PC and printer divisions into a single business unit, a move that will see Vyomesh "VJ" Joshi, the longtime head of HP's printer division, leave the company, according to a report published Tuesday.

HP plans to announce the move later today, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal's All Things D blog, which cited unnamed sources. An HP spokesman said the company declined to comment on the report.

It would be the first sweeping change at HP since former eBay chief Meg Whitman took over as CEO last September. Whitman was brought in to right HP's ship after the company replaced two CEOs in a little over a year and appeared to lose its direction.

HP's Personal Systems Group, which makes its PCs and laptops, is the biggest division at the company, puling in $8.9 billion in revenue last quarter. The Imaging and Printing Group, traditionally one of its most profitable groups, brought in $6.3 billion last quarter. Together, the two groups account for about half of HP's total sales.

Under Tuesday's reorganization, HP's Imaging and Printing Group will be subsumed by its Personal Systems Group, and the combined division will be led by Todd Bradley, the executive vice president who today runs the Personal Systems Group, All Things D reported.

Joshi, who has been at HP since 1980, will leave the company, the paper reported.

Former CEO Leo Apotheker announced a plan last August under which HP might sell or spin off its PC division. It was a controversial move in part because of the uncertainty it created for HP customers, and Whitman was quick to announce after she came on board that HP would keep the PC group after all.

The move is part of an effort to cut costs at HP and simplify its business, a source told All Things D. The plan is to have the groups more tightly integrated, so they can more easily approach customers with combined offerings.

Combining the divisions might make sense since there's a lot of overlap in terms of customers and how the two groups market and sell products, said NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker. "In that sense there's probably a lot of synergy," he said.

While selling ink cartridges has been a profit driver for HP, PCs and printers are both essentially commodity hardware businesses, he said, meaning there's overlap in how they should be managed. An exception is HP's commercial printer business, which might not fit so comfortably in the PC division.

HP considered a similar plan several years ago, Baker said, but at that time it was the PC division that would have been subsumed into the printer group.

Nowadays, HP may see better long-term prospects for its PC division, said analyst Roger Kay at Endpoint Technologies. New form factors such as ultrabooks and tablets are keeping the PC market alive, whereas people print less documents these days and printer sales are declining.

"The growth just isn't there, and as HP looked out in the future I think they're not seeing it there either," Kay said.

The printer business has been a lucrative one for HP historically, and financial analysts have urged HP in the past to spin it off into a separate division. But the group's profit margins are not as high as they once were, Baker said.

The operating margin for HP's printer division last quarter was 12.2 percent, down from 17 percent a year earlier. Both the PC and printer divisions reported declining sales last quarter.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com



2489Apple Could Become Top Mobile Processor Company, In-Stat Says

Apple to Be Top Mobile Processor Company, In-Stat SaysApple is an iconic consumer electronics company with a string of massively successful products, but it could also become the world's largest mobile processor company by the end of the year, according to a study due to be released by In-Stat later this week.

Apple was the world's second largest mobile processor company behind Intel in 2011, benefitting from growing smartphone and tablet shipments and a meltdown in the PC market, according to In-Stat. If that trend holds and Apple's iPhone and iPad shipments continue to grow at an unprecedented pace, Apple will likely overtake Intel as the world's largest mobile processor company by the end of this year.

Apple does not have a large gap to overcome. The company last year shipped about 176 million processors in devices such as the iPad and iPhone, representing a 13.5 percent market share. Intel took the top spot with 181 million processors shipping in mobile products such as laptops, a 13.9 percent market share.

"Apple's continued success of the iPhone and iPad, as well as the stronger growth rates of the smartphone and tablet markets than PCs" will help catch up to Intel, said Jim McGregor , chief technology strategist at In-Stat and author of the report.

ARM Processors

Apple designs chips with ARM processors, which are found in most smartphones and tablets today. Intel's processors are used in some tablets, and the chip maker has virtually no presence in the smartphone market. Intel hopes to fight ARM's domination with a low-power Atom chip code-named Medfield, which will be used in tablets and also in handsets from Lenovo, Motorola and ZTE later this year.

The study also accounts for mobile processors in portable media players such as Apple's iPod Touch, handheld gaming devices from Nintendo and Sony, and e-readers. However, the study does not count processors in desktops and servers, a market dominated by x86 processors from Intel.

But as mobile devices grow, the emergence of Apple as a processor company will matter even more to a company like Intel, which is struggling to establish a presence in the smartphone and tablet market, McGregor said. The smartphone and tablet shipments are already outpacing servers and PCs combined in units shipped, and the gap will grow even greater in the coming years, McGregor said.

Earlier this week, Apple CEO Tim Cook said it was only a matter of time before the tablet market surpassed the PC market in size, citing research firm Gartner's projection of tablet shipments reaching 325 million by 2015.

Apple serves a captive audience by using its A4, A5 and A5X mobile processors in its own devices, but that should worry Intel especially if Apple starts using its own processors in the MacBook Air laptop and other devices, McGregor said.

Mac computers currently use Intel chips, and the companies share a delicate relationship as partners and competitors. Apple's switch to homegrown technology in Macs could hurt Intel's chip shipments, McGregor said. There are rumors of Apple switching over to homegrown chips based on ARM in the MacBook Air at some point, though analysts say the possibility is remote in the near term due to technical and performance issues on ARM.

But Intel is taking protective action by pouring millions of dollars in the development of ultrabooks, which are thin-and-light Windows laptops that PC makers are pitching as an alternative to the MacBook Air.

"Why do you think Intel is putting so much into ultrabooks? It is not only to compete against tablets, but to offer competition to Apple, which could switch to the company's own products eventually," McGregor said.

Apple has also provided a boost to the ARM camp, which is also looking to challenge Intel in the PC space. Microsoft's upcoming Windows 8 OS will work on the x86 and ARM architecture, and companies like Qualcomm are looking to introduce ARM-based PCs as an alternative to Intel-based PCs.

"The more successful Apple is, the more credibility it adds to the entire ARM camp and the more competitive the ARM camp becomes as a whole," McGregor said.

ARM on the Rise

ARM is on the rise as x86 declines in the mobile processor market, according to the In-Stat study. Following Intel and Apple in 2011 mobile processor shipments were Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and Samsung, which are all ARM licensees, while x86 chip designer Advanced Micro Devices took sixth place.

But questions remain on whether ARM processors will match Intel's Core processors on performance, McGregor said. Microsoft's Windows 8 seems to run better on tablets as opposed to PCs which could help ARM, but ultrabooks with Intel chips will look more like convertible tablets in the future, McGregor said. There are also driver and application compatibility issues facing Windows 8 on ARM.

But the impact of Apple as a mobile processor company will be felt as long as the iPad and iPhone shipments grow, McGregor said.

"It will interesting to see how things play out over the next few years, but it will be the consumers that ultimately decide the fates of the companies and technologies involved," McGregor said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com



2490Acer AX1930-UR10P: Boring, but Fast

PCWorld Rating

2.5

2.5 / 5 - PCWorld, Mar 19, 2012

Pros

  • Great general performance
  • Small chassis

Cons

  • Ho-hum storage capacity
  • Limited connectivity options

Bottom Line

You can’t expect a miracle from a $500 budget PC; this Acer machine couples solid speeds with a cookie-cutter design.

Images (click to enlarge)

The Acer AX1930-UR10P is a bit of a bore: Its Sandy Bridge-based speed is the only element we truly enjoy on this $500 desktop, as the rest of what Acer brings to the table is unexciting--even when we factor in the typical constraints of budget desktops.

The AX1930’s Intel Core i3-2120 CPU delivers two cores of processing power (expanded to four with the chip’s built-in hyperthreading) at a clock speed of 3.3GHz. That, coupled with four gigabytes of memory, does much to help the AX1930 achieve great scores for the budget category on our WorldBench 6 suite of tests. In fact, its score of 136 is right up there with some of the best budget desktops we’ve tested with a comparable price.

The system’s included hard drive sits at 500 gigabytes, but some competing $500 systems touch a full terabyte. Only a standard DVD combo drive and multiformat card reader grace the front of the AX1930’s compact chassis. While it’s difficult to find Blu-ray support on a system at this price, it’s not impossible: the Micro Express MicroFlex 23B does it for only $100 more (with plenty of other extra features, to boot).

Internally, well, there’s not much to discuss. The system’s small case has no room to add any more hard drives or optical drives--you’d have to replace what is already there, and you better clear out your entire afternoon schedule before you start digging for the AX1930’s hard drive. On the plus side, the budget PC comes with a free PCI Express x16 and x1 port--but again, this small system won't accommodate a beefy discrete video card.

That’s unfortunate, too, as the AX1930’s integrated graphics aren’t geared for modern gaming in the slightest (go figure). We could achieve playable frame rates on our Unreal Tournament benchmark only when we dialed back the resolution to 1024 by 768 (on both medium and high-quality settings).

The front of the system comes with two USB ports; that’s it. The system’s rear bumps the total number of USB ports to eight, but you won't find any other connections for external devices--just good ol’ USB 2.0. A single VGA port, an HDMI port, and a gigabit ethernet port round out the list.

While we appreciate that Acer tosses next-generation geeks a bone with the HDMI support, we didn’t see a DVI converter included with our review unit. Those with slightly older monitors that support just DVI or VGA will have to go shopping for a converter or drop down to a lesser connection--an annoying extra step, if you ask us.

The keyboard and mouse that came with the AX1930 PC were both wired. While the two-button mouse (with scroll wheel) was generic and simple, the keyboard did contain a number of extra function buttons launching applications and controlling playing media. It’s a subtle, but enjoyable touch--we do love having all the power at our fingertips that we can get.

It’s hard to find the perfect combination of features on a system that hovers around the $500 price point. Competing desktops might not offer better load-outs across all areas, but they at least give potential purchasers something to work with for a few categories--and they generally don’t demand much more cash. Except for its speed and diminutive size, the AX1930 is unremarkable any way you want to slice it.



2491Reader Q&A: Troubleshoot DVD Drive, Customize Windows Media Player

It's been a few months since I last devoted a Hassle-Free to reader questions, and I apologize for being remiss. So this week I help Deborah out with a mysterious DVD drive problem and tell Jim how to tweak Windows Media Player--and you can follow along.

Troubleshoot a DVD Drive That Windows Sees as a CD Drive

Reader Deborah has a Toshiba laptop running Windows 7. A few weeks ago, the system starting treating the DVD-ROM drive as a mere CD-ROM drive. It could play and burn CDs, but wouldn't have anything to do with DVDs.

Deborah says she scanned for viruses, checked for updated drivers, and ran Windows' DVD troubleshooter--all smart steps, but all to no avail.

Here's where it gets weird: "Third-party DVD burning programs all recognize this drive for what it is and it works fine," she says. In other words, the problem is limited to Windows itself.

Here's where it gets weirder: About a week later, the same problem cropped up on Deborah's HP desktop. She tried all the same troubleshooting steps, but in the end was left with two DVD drives that Windows thinks are CD drives.

Now this is a tricky one.

My guess is that either a Windows update or a newly installed (or uninstalled) program corrupted the Windows Registry, hence the OS thinking you've got CD drives while other programs see DVD drives. Very strange that it would happen on two PCs, especially so close together, which is why I think some errant Windows update is what gummed up the works.

Microsoft has a knowledge-base entry and Fix-it tool that may help. I say "may" because the problem described therein doesn't exactly match what Deborah is experiencing. But it's worth a try. (Always, always use System Restore to create a restore point before attempting any fixes like these.)

The good news is that you obviously have third-party software that works, so your hassle is exactly that; it's not interfering with your everyday operation.

Add More Music Locations to Windows Media Player

Reader Jim has a laptop running Windows 7, and wants Windows Media Player to scan the music stored on an external hard drive and add it to his library.

No problem, Jim! But let's make sure to clarify a few things in this setup.

By default, Windows Media Player 12 looks for songs stored in the My Music and Public Music folders. On my system, that would be a problem right from the start, as I typically store my music in a folder called MP3s--one that's not stored in either of the aforementioned locations.

Fortunately, it's pretty easy to tell WMP to look elsewhere for music. Here's how:

  1. Run Windows Media Player. (Note that I'm matching Jim's setup of Windows 7 and Windows Media Player 12.)
  2. Select Organize, Manage libraries, Music.
  3. Click Add, then navigate to the folder you want to add. Click it, and then select Include folder.

Note those key words: "include folder." What you're telling WMP to do is scan the designated folder, then add those songs to your music library. However, no songs are actually copied or imported anywhere; they stay where they are.

Therefore, while it's no problem to add songs from an external drive, flash drive, network drive, or any other source, you have to make sure that source remains available, otherwise your songs won't play.

In other words, if you tell WMP to scan an external drive and then unplug that drive, you'll lose access to those songs.

The simple fix, of course, is to copy all that music to your laptop's hard drive, then let WMP update its library. If you don't have room, well, you'll have to leave that external drive connected and running.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: hasslefree@pcworld.com. You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.



2492Envizen Home Roam TV Review: Tote Your TV Around the House

PCWorld Rating

2.5

2.5 / 5 - PCWorld, Feb 10, 2012

Pros

  • Easy-setup kit for watching content on a display
  • Works with any device with composite video output
  • Moderate price

Cons

  • Can't control video source
  • Very low-resolution video
  • Prone to interference over crowded 2.4GHz band

Bottom Line

The Envizen Home Roam TV lets you wirelessly transmit home entertainment center video to a portable display, but the video quality is poor and you can't control the video source, which limits the device's usefulness.

Envizen Home Roam TV has a simple purpose—to let you watch any home entertainment center video on a small, low-res display you can carry around the house—and it gets the job done for a modest $160. But the gotchas are so numerous—starting with no ability to control the remote device—that it’s difficult to recommend it.

Home Roam TV is basically a two-piece kit. A small transmitter box connects to any media source with AV (composite audio-video) out ports, and sends the signal wirelessly to a portable 7-inch display. The transmitter has one set of standard AV ports for a direct connection (using a provided cable) between the transmitter and a primary media source (most likely a TV or cable/satellite box), and three additional ports that accept a single-pin adapter cable to which you attach a standard AV cable, so that you can connect up to four AV sources, total. Envizen includes one adapter cable, but you must buy additional cables yourself.

The display unit is fairly lightweight (1 pound) and, while not tablet-skinny, its 0.9-inch thickness certainly does not make it super-bulky, either. It has a headphone jack as well as its own auxiliary input port, so you can use it as a monitor by directly connecting it to a media source using the adapter and AV cables. Buttons for selecting the video source (corresponding to the inputs on the transmitter) are conveniently situated on the bezel, to the right of the display.

Setup was a breeze. The transmitter and the display’s receiver communicate over a peer-to-peer 2.4GHz connection—this gadget does not depend on a home network, and Envizen pairs the transmitter and display at the factory. I was up and running with Home Roam TV in a matter of minutes once I screwed in included antennas to the transmitter and display, connected the transmitter to my cable box, and plugged the transmitter and receiver into their power supplies. (The display has a rechargeable battery, so you can use it without its power supply for a couple of hours.)

Now for the drawbacks. Image quality wasn’t great, in part because of the limitations of composite video output—Home Roam TV’s analog hookups obviously can’t capture the pristine digital signal that my cable box sends to my big-screen set via HDMI—but also because the device downsizes the high-res image to fit its 480-by-234-pixel display. That's very low resolution, even for a small screen.

The wireless transmission also introduces problems: Home Roam TV uses the same wireless frequency as many Wi-Fi networks (802.11b/g and 2.4GHz 802.11n), Bluetooth devices, microwave ovens, and some cordless phones, which means the signal is highly prone to interference, especially in densely populated areas. This can degrade video quality, and I did in fact notice some stuttering and frame loss in my tests in downtown San Francisco.

Even if you’re content with mediocre video, you might be frustrated by the device's complete inability to control the media source—in other words, you can’t change channels, watch on-demand content, switch to a DVR built into a connected cable box, start or stop a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, or do anything but watch whatever the media source was playing when last you were in front of it with a remote close at hand. Home Roam TV does have its own volume controls, but that’s it. And even those volume controls don’t work if you choose to use the display unit as an auxiliary monitor.

Home Roam TV might meet some specific needs—say, for a sports buff who has to leave the room for a few minutes and doesn't want to miss a single moment of the big game—but its poor video quality and lack of remote control features make it a nonstarter for prolonged use. Too many other ways are available to access TV content (Monsoon's Vulkano line comes to mind) that don't demand so many compromises.



2493Microsoft Pushes Metro on Win 8 Developers

Microsoft's message to apps developers: Fit into the Metro style of Windows 8 to make things easier on end users, according to two developers.

Microsoft is trying to change users' expectations about applications in general by creating an environment that remains similar app to app, according to the developers, and that means complying with Metro style and tapping into features grounded in the operating system itself. (See also "Windows 8 Consumer Preview: Initial Impressions.")

TEST YOURSELF: The Windows 8 Quiz

MORE: Windows 8 tablets may reject Firefox, Chrome, Safari

Dictionary.com, which has written a Windows 8 application for its search service, uses the Windows 8 Search charm -- an icon -- that appears on the right side of the screen. That way users who want to make a search of the machine don't have to call up the application and execute a separate search command, says David Wygant, vice president of product and general manager of mobile at Dictionary.com.

Similarly, salespeople go to the same Search charm when they want to look for a given customer's data in a custom CRM application that has been written by Sonoma Partners for one of its clients.

Over time users will learn that the search charm is where to look for the search function when they are on a Windows 8 machine, regardless of what application they want to search with so long as all developers follow Microsoft's suggestions, Wygant says. He calls this overarching search feature "persistent search."

Dictionary.com wrote its application at Microsoft's request and it is one of the apps available for free download when users download Windows 8 Consumer Preview. It was written with input from Microsoft on how the application should look and be navigated to fit in with the overall Windows 8 user interface, Wygant says.

Microsoft is promoting a global design standard for Metro-style apps so users will feel comfortable on Windows 8 machines regardless of what application they are using and no matter whether they have used it before. Functions specific to applications should reside in an application bar across the bottom of the screen that remains hidden until a finger swipe calls it up. In the Dictionary.com application that includes a verbal pronunciation of words, favorites and pinning.

Having such features located in the same place application to application makes learning new ones faster, Wygant says.

His company's application also makes use of Live Tiles, a Windows 8 feature that places a tile -- a colored square or rectangle -- on the computer's Start screen. It is said to be live because it displays dynamic content, such as Dictionary.com's word of the day. Users touch the tile to access the full application. "Live tiles let you consume part of the application without opening up the application," he says.

The Metro style strips away the chrome from applications, chrome being a term for the graphic decorations that can clutter a screen. "Dictionary is about words, content," Wygant says. "That's appealing for us. The user double-taps on a word within a definition, and it will look up the definition of that word without additional navigation."

Microsoft approached Dictionary.com in December 2011 to produce an application for Windows 8, and the company delivered it in January, a rapid turnaround time for one of its apps, Wygant says. Microsoft loaned Dictionary.com a Windows 8 touchscreen tablet to help in the process, but the company has been using the application on an iPad via Parallels and on PCs with a mouse and keyboard.

Wyant recommends picking the right programming language for the application being written. He says a graphics-heavy or processor-intensive app would better be written in C# than Java Script. Java Script works great for apps like Dictionary.com, but he would use C3 if he were writing a game.

As for the other application developer, Sonoma Partners, its application was written for a beer maker that has decided already to turn its mobile CRM application over to Windows 8 tablets. New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colo., is a Microsoft shop and sticking with Windows for its mobile devices fits with the IT department's expertise.

The brewers had tried a generic CRM mobile app for cellphones, but the app was so unwieldy that the 100-person salesforce -- called beer rangers -- didn't use it, says Jim Steger, a principal with Sonoma Partners. A slate proved too big, but a tablet the size of an iPad is about right, he says.

After riding around with beer rangers, his team got a good idea of what they wanted the application to do and wrote it up. The rangers need to tap into sales databases, check call schedules, enter survey information and drop orders into the backend workflow system.

The application is also hooked into the device's GPS so it can advise when a beer ranger is within driving distance of a prospective customer.

New Belgium's application, called Ultimate Beer Ranger, uses the Windows 8 Share charm to post entries to Facebook accounts the rangers have set up. They don't have to actually access Facebook, just enter the post and press a tile, Steger says. The app uses the Search charm as well to search CRM data.

It's still up in the air whether custom applications like Ultimate Beer Ranger will be allowed on Windows on ARM (WOA) devices, Steger says. Microsoft has said WOA machines will be maintained via Windows Update and will support applications only from Windows Store.

But having to put custom proprietary apps in the store would stymie development, he says. He wouldn't want to post such applications where they could be reviewed by competitors. He's told Microsoft about his concerns and he expects the company to address them by the time Windows 8 and WOA tablets are available, possibly sometime early next year.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

For more information about enterprise networking, go to NetworkWorld. Story copyright 2011 Network World Inc. All rights reserved.



2494249524962497249824992500250125022503FutureAdvisor Launches Comprehensive Investment Advice Website

FutureAdvisor launched Tuesday a financial services website that displays, analyzes and offers advice about a user's entire investment portfolio.

The website, which was previously in private beta, works like Mint.com for investments, compiling information about multiple accounts in one place and offering analysis of the user's overall financial picture. But while Mint.com's financial advice comes in the form of paid advertising, FutureAdvisor's investing advice is its own work product.

The company, which consists of both software engineers and finance experts, relies on algorithms to deliver relevant parts of investing best practices advice to diverse users. According to cofounders Jon Xu and Bo Lu, financial advisers share a set of "well-known best practices" when it comes to structuring an investment portfolio, which includes, for example, balancing stocks and bonds.

Lu said the algorithm that powers the advice is "definitely complex -- that's one of the reasons that no one's built it."

FutureAdvisor claims to be the first company to offer online financial analysis and advice across multiple investment accounts. Websites Betterment and WealthFront offer similar services, but their advice only applies to a single account a user opens through them. Personal Capital displays multiple accounts but doesn't offer advice.

The co-founders hope their service will do for financial advising what Expedia and Hotwire did for the travel industry: "Disintermediate the human in the middle who in a very non-transparent way is taking a cut," Lu said. Investors pay fees whenever they invest through mutual funds or IRAs, but the fees are often only clarified in the fine print. Moreover, as recent financial scandals have revealed, advisers often operate under pressure to sell particular products.

But can a computer offer good financial advice, when each person's financial picture is so different? "In theory, yes," said Gartner analyst Ray Valdes. In practice, it remains to be seen whether [FutureAdvisor's] particular artificial implementation is worth handing over the wheel of the financial vehicle to a software adviser. The proof is in the pudding."

The security of their financial information may give would-be users pause. FutureAdvisor, which was supported by Y Combinator, uses Yodlee as an authentication system. Yodlee, which originally powered Mint.com's access to user accounts, has offered its platform to select Y Combinator-backed startups. FutureAdvisor only reads user data, it cannot move money, and all data is encrypted using 256-bit encryption.

Nevertheless, security will remain an issue for FutureAdvisor. Valdes said, "The bad guys have been getting smarter and more sophisticated over the last five years and the question is, are the good guys keeping pace? For me personally it's a question mark. But the success of Mint shows that there are plenty of consumers that are comfortable entrusting some of their financial future to a piece of software."

FutureAdvisor operates on the popular freemium model. Use of the site is free, but the company's revenue will ironically come from premium users who pay for personal advice, via video conference, from staff advisers. FutureAdvisor maintains that these advisors are better because their fees are transparent and they don't receive any incentives to push particular products.

With Tuesday's launch, the company also announced that it can now guide investors in their use of 100 major IRA plans.

Cameron Scott covers search, web services and privacy for The IDG News Service. Follow Cameron on Twitter at CScott_IDG.



2504Duqu Trojan Mystery Programming Language Identified as "Old School" C

Duqu Trojan Mystery Programming Language Identified as "Old School" CThe Duqu Trojan which some believe is a relative of the Stuxnet worm used to attack Iran was partly programmed in Object-Oriented C (OOC) by a traditional "old school" enterprise programming team, Kaspersky Lab researchers have concluded.

Kaspersky has spent months analysing Duqu in the hope of unravelling its mystery, only two weeks ago hitting a blank with a section of payload code that appeared to have been written in an unknown programming language.

After an appeal to the developer community for help, the answer they have come up with throws up yet more questions about Duqu's baffling provenance.

According to Kaspersky, the mystery code section was written in a custom object-oriented C framework, a format never before encountered in the company's analyses of cybercriminal malware. The compiler used was Microsoft Visual C 2008, optimised to produce a small footprint.

If this sounds slightly arcane, the inferences that can be drawn from it could be hugely significant in understanding the origins and purpose of the most perplexing family of malware ever discovered.

Duqu was most likely the work of a large team that included traditional professional programmers of the sort who might see a use for the efficiency, portability and standardisation of a language as specialised as OOC. The language was also popular among old-style Mac OS developers.

It is also possible that some of the developers wrote the code without a full appreciation of the whole programme they were building, which is to say they might not have known its ultimate purpose.

"It seems like this is civil code from normal software developers, not cybercriminals. It looks like the normal style for coding enterprise applications," said Kaspersky's chief malware expert Vitaliy Kamlyuk, a comment backed up by his colleague, Igor Soumenkov

"These techniques are normally seen by elite software developers and almost never in today's general malware," said Soumenkov.

The company has also released a binary image of Duqu and Stuxnet (see above segment) to underline what they believe are the strikingly similar designs of the two programmes. The company has previously said that the two were created using the same software platform.

"The guys behind Duqu and Stuxnet tried to hide and they did it by not using any language inside the files. They tried to stay language-independent," said Kamlyuk, referring to the lack any traces of English or other natural languages in the code.

Kaspersky remains unwilling to be explicit on their suspicions as to who might have written Duqu and for what purpose, but it said it could have been aimed at infecting a small group of individuals rather than as a general malware infection.

Discovered in September 2011, several theories have circulated on Duqu's origins, most of which now accept it has a sinister connection to Stuxnet. The latter became infamous in 2010 for the disruption is caused to the Siemens SCADA industrial systems connected to Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

Many assume it was the work of the U.S., Israel or the United Kingdom--Iran's enemies--although the evidence of this is circumstantial at best.



2505Stolen Encryption Key Compromised Symantec Certificate

When Kaspersky Lab last week spotted code-signed Trojan malware dubbed Mediyes that had been signed with a digital certificate owned by Swiss firm Conpavi AG and issued by Symantec, it touched off a hunt to determine the source of the problem.

The answer, says Symantec's website security services (based on the VeriSign certificate and authentication services acquisition), is that somehow the private encryption key associated with Conpavi AG certificate had been stolen.

BACKGROUND: Kaspersky Lab spots malware signed with digital certificate

"The private key for Conpavi was exposed," says Quentin Liu, senior director of engineering at the Symantec division. "Someone got hold of the private key." For this type of digital certificate, the private key is held by the certificate owner, in this case, Conpavi. Whether the private encryption key was stolen by an insider at Conpavi or outside attacker isn't known. But the incident points out the risks associated with private encryption keys for this type of digital certificate and the need to safeguard them.

Symantec has revoked the Conpavi certificate that was used to digitally sign the Mediyes malware and is assisting the Swiss firm in analyzing what occurred and helping them prevent this from happening again.

The incident also highlights why malware authors want to sign the code they write, which in the case of Mediyes, is a so-called dropper file used to seed computers so they can be easily manipulated for other purposes. In the case of the Mediyes Trojan, the purpose was to intercept browser requests sent to search engines so the attackers could earn money in a fraudulent pay-per-click scheme.

Kaspersky last week estimated 5,000 users, mainly in Western Europe, including Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France and Italy, had been exploited with the Mediyes Trojan for this purpose.

Criminals are increasingly using stolen digital certificates to sign their malicious code, Symantec acknowledges. The advantage in code-signing for them is it gives these attackers a boost up in having the malicious code evade detection by antivirus and other types of anti-malware software.

"We have seen more being signed, sometimes with stolen certificates," says Liam O Murchu, manager of Symantec security response. "It lends an air of legitimacy to the file."

Compromised digital certificates with stolen keys are available in criminal black markets online in places where you might find other stolen items, like credit card numbers and the like, he points out.

As Symantec has evolved its malware protection method, a risk-based score based on several factors will be used to quickly determine if code is benign or malevolent. Digitally signed code gets an advantage in this scoring system, says O Murchu. If attackers are effectively figuring out how to get around detection this way, this scoring system will need to be recalibrated, O Murchu acknowledges.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

For more information about enterprise networking, go to NetworkWorld. Story copyright 2011 Network World Inc. All rights reserved.



2506Mozilla May Support H.264 Video Codec in Firefox to Compete on Mobile Phones

Mozilla Foundation is considering adding support for the H.264 video codec in mobile versions of the Firefox browser, a move it has avoided up to now because H.264 is encumbered by patents. Mozilla's policy up to now has been to support only open codecs, but it is relaxing that rule because support for the codec is important in mobile browsers, the foundation's chair said.

"It's time to focus on shipping products people can love now, and to work on developing a new tactic for bringing unencumbered technology to the world of audio and video codecs," Mitchell Baker wrote in a blog post on Sunday.

Mozilla has so far relied on Adobe's Flash to implement H.264 for Firefox users, but that may not be an option for the Android version of Firefox, as Adobe has announced that it will not develop Flash on mobile devices, Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich wrote in a separate post.

H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile, Eich said. "I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile," he said. Boot to Gecko (B2G) is Mozilla's platform for mobile devices.

The foundation had been counting on Google to push WebM, based on the VP8 video compression format, to the exclusion of H.264 on Chrome for Android, as part of its focus on open codec technologies, Eich said. But that is unlikely to happen as Apple ships hardware with support for H.264, he added.

WebM is an open, royalty-free, media file format designed for the web. The project was launched in 2010 to use the VP8 open video compression format as the video format for HTML5. VP8 was released under a royalty-free license after Google acquired its developer, On2 Technologies.

"Apple sells a lot of H.264-supporting hardware. That hardware in general, and specifically in video playback quality, is the gold standard," Eich said. Google is in his opinion not going to ship mobile browsers this year or next that do not play H.264 content that Apple plays perfectly, he added.

Andreas Gal, director of research at Mozilla, has proposed using operating system and hardware-based H.264 decoding capabilities on Android and B2G.

"We have never rejected encumbered formats handled by plugins, and OS-dependent H.264 decoding is not different in kind from Flash-dependent H.264 decoding in my view," Eich said. But he concluded with, "Losing a battle is a bitter experience. I won't sugar-coat this pill".

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com



2507Microsoft: Don't Hate on IE 10

Microsoft says its latest version of Internet Explorer clears out a lot of clutter and creates a more immersive browser experience when paired with Windows 8's touch environment, and that it can be navigated by mouse and keyboard as well, although from the sounds of it not as elegantly.

In the company's most recent Building Windows 8 blog, the company explains the features new in IE 10, which comes with the download of Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

The browser adapts many of the features of Metro style, the term Microsoft uses for the Windows 8 user interface that relies on monochromatic squares and rectangles branded with words rather than icons to move around the system.

The overhaul from IE 9 is major and requires some learning on the part of users, particularly those familiar with the older browser and how to get around.

For example, the new browser has no visible address or task bars, giving the site being visited top-to-bottom, side-to-side real estate that makes for more immersive viewing. Microsoft says this was inspired by versions of browsers used on mobile phones which feature less "chrome" - hiding tools until they are needed.

These commands can be accessed via "charms," which are icons that pop in from the edges when called up with either taps or mouse clicks, depending on whether the device has a touchscreen. The charms include Search, Share, Devices (printer, projector, etc.) and Settings (clear history, etc.).

The browser has its own Start screen similar to the one for the operating system. It includes a set of brightly colored tiles that show popular sites, frequently visited sites and favorites that get filtered out as users type in URLs in the address bar that appears across the bottom of the screen.

Windows 8 also supports pinning favorite sites to the main Windows Start page, so users can click on a tile for a Web site there and the browser will call it up, rather than launching the browser and seeking it via a tile on the IE Start screen.

Tabs are gone. Rather than a string of them across the top of the screen, a mini image of the last 10 tabs used can be drawn from the top or bottom with a finger swipe, typing Windows Key/Z or a mouse click.

For touchscreen devices, a touch keyboard is customized for browsing, including a "/" key to the left of the spacebar and a ".com" key to the right. Similarly, when users are filling in email forms, the "/" key becomes an "@" key.

Web sites that offer a Metro style app can put a box on their sites that when clicked, bring users to that app in the Windows Store where they can download it.

Internet Explorer 10 bumps up security and privacy by extending InPrivate browsing to be run per-tab to block cookies, history and cached data rather than blanket for all tabs.

While it's not a how-to, the blog does point up important features for trailers of Windows 8 to check out. It does compare and contrast how to perform some functions both by touch and by keyboard and mouse, which reveals the comparative simplicity of touch.

Users familiar with using mouse and keyboard for older versions of IE will find that there are new and often unintuitive ways of getting around the new browser, a possible source of frustration.

Read more about software in Network World's Software section.

For more information about enterprise networking, go to NetworkWorld. Story copyright 2011 Network World Inc. All rights reserved.



2508NVidia Asks to See Apple's New iPad Benchmarks

Graphics chip vendor nVidia has asked Apple to provide information about how it carried out performance tests comparing the new iPad's A5X processor with the nVidia Tegra 3.

After Apple claimed last night that the new A5X chip was four times faster than the Tegra 3 in terms of graphics performance, ZDNet asked an nVidia spokesperson for his thoughts. (See also "Processors: What to Expect From CPUs in 2012.")

Though Ken Brown said that nVidia was flattered to be used as a comparison, it had not been provided with any data about which benchmarks had been run or how the tests were carried out.

"We have to understand what the application was that was used. Was it one or a variety of applications? What drivers were used? There are so many issues to get into with benchmark," he told ZDNet.

nVidia will be among those buying a new iPad on launch day, Brown said, in order to better understand how Apple arrived at those conclusions, so expect to hear more about this story.

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2509Graphics Cards: Top Picks for Budget and Performance PCs

Graphics processing units aren’t just about performance. A good GPU will speed up many of your image and video tasks, whether you’re touching up casual vacation photos or compressing movie footage. The right graphics card will also allow you to connect multiple monitors to your PC. And, of course, it will make all the difference on new games--will they be visual feasts, or merely interactive slideshows?

Budget

AMD Radeon HD 6850 ($140)
Adding a discrete graphics card to your machine is a simple way to enhance its performance. Graphics cards aren’t merely about power, however--you might discover that a card’s flexibility and features are more important to you. If you’re building a budget system, I recommend the AMD Radeon HD 6850. This card doesn’t break records, but the price is fair, and the performance is strong: In our tests using the rally racer Dirt 2, it pumped out an average of 40 frames per second when we ran it at 1920-by-1200-pixel resolution, at maximum settings.

AMD Radeon HD 6850 graphics cardAMD Radeon HD 6850; photograph by Robert CardinThe HD 6850 has treats in store for nongamers, too. AMD’s Eyefinity Display technology lets you drive up to three displays on one card. The board has two mini-DisplayPort connectors, two DVI ports, and an HDMI connector, which leaves you plenty of options when you’re shopping for a monitor. And the card supports AMD’s HD3D, for fully hardware-accelerated 3D playback, including 3D Blu-ray.

However, if none of those features interest you, and if you’ve picked a motherboard that supports integrated graphics, feel free to skip the discrete graphics card entirely, or to choose a less-expensive option.

Performance

Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 ($350)
Cream-of-the-crop graphics cards will cost you upwards of $500 each, and models at the highest end remain difficult to find due to supply constraints. So I’m going to keep things sensible here, and recommend the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570, a mainstream card.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 graphics cardNvidia GeForce GTX 570; photograph by Robert CardinThe GTX 570’s main advantage is sheer power. For example, in Dirt 2, it posted an average frame rate of 99 frames per second, a significant improvement over my budget choice. And in our test using the shooter Crysis 2 at a resolution of 1920 by 1200 with 4x antialiasing, the GTX 570 reached 42.6 fps, noticeably higher than the 34.8-fps rate of a direct competitor, the AMD Radeon HD 6970.

Beyond that, though, the GTX 570 is a bit less feature-filled than the HD 6850. For instance, if you want to run three displays simultaneously, you’ll need to buy a second graphics card. Nvidia’s display options on this board are limited compared to AMD’s, as well, consisting of just two DVI connectors and a Mini HDMI connector. On the plus side, the GTX 570 supports 3D Vision, Nvidia’s 3D technology. 3D Vision has been on the market for years now, and as a result you can find a slew of monitors and games that support it.



2510Looking for an Information Program

Pilege21 asked the Other Software & Services forum to recommend a program that can provide hardware information.

For a wide variety of information, I'd go with the free, portable version of System Information for Windows (SIW). Why the portable version? Because in my opinion, you shouldn't have to install a program for this particular chore. You're not going to run it all that often.

Besides, you can put the portable version on a flash drive and use it to help other people with their computers. Indeed, if I had known that there was a portable version of SIW when I wrote The Bootable Maintenance Flash Drive, I would have included it there.

So what can you find out with SIW? All sorts of things. Click on the CPU section under Hardware, and you'll see the number of cores and logical processors, the chip's name and code name, the socket type, and whether virtual technology is enabled--to name just a few options.

You can get similarly information-dense pages on Memory, BIOS, Storage Devices, and other physical parts of your computer. The software section will tell you about your version of Windows, installed programs, your drivers, and more.

Via the icons on the toolbar, you can save an HTML report, check CPU and memory usage or network traffic, and even test the speed of your Internet connection.

You'll almost certainly find what you're looking for in SIW, but the information can easily overwhelm you. That's probably why, in the original forum discussion, both LiveBrianD and compnovo recommended another program: CPU-Z. This provides much less information--all on hardware--but it's easier to find what you're looking for.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.



2511Best Motherboards for Budget and Performance PCs

When you're shopping for a motherboard for your custom-made PC, look for a few important features. First is support for USB 3.0, which prepares you for the future. Second is 6-gbps SATA ports, which will support faster data-transfer rates on newer hard drives and on solid-state drives (not to mention the fact that more SATA ports will allow room for attaching more devices). Third, if you’re using a Sandy Bridge CPU such as the Core i5-2500K or Core i7-2600K, you’ll need a motherboard with the 1155 Socket.

Budget

Intel: ASRock P67 Pro ($99)
For a budget Sandy Bridge-based computer, I recommend the ASRock P67 Pro. This motherboard is built on the P67 chipset, which takes advantage of the overclocking potential of the unlocked Core i5-2500K, but doesn’t support the CPU’s integrated-graphics features. (If you’d rather not have a graphics card but want to keep costs low, you’ll need to select a motherboard with the H61 chipset instead.)

This motherboard offers four DIMM slots to accommodate a maximum of 32GB of RAM, and it supports overclocked RAM at speeds up to 2133MHz. You’ll also find a pair of 6-gbps SATA ports, as well as four 3-gbps SATA ports. The ASRock P67 Pro supplies six USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports, as well, but only a single PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot; this arrangement limits you to one graphics card, but that should suffice for a budget PC.

Gigabyte GA-970A-D3 motherboardGigabyte GA-970A-D3; photograph by Robert CardinAMD: Gigabyte GA-970A-D3 ($90)
For systems using AMD processors, motherboards with the AM3+ socket are the way to go. Although the Gigabyte GA-970A-D3 is inexpensive, this motherboard doesn’t scrimp on features. Built on the AM3+ socket, the GA-970A-D3 offers four DIMM slots to hold up to 32GB of RAM, with support for memory overclocked to speeds of up to 2000MHz. It also provides a pair of PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, six 6-gbps SATA ports, eight USB 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. For just $90, you’re getting an excellent package here.

Performance

Intel: Asus P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 ($204)
For a high-performance PC, select a board with at least one PCI-Express 3.0 slot. Currently, not too many products take advantage of PCI-E 3.0’s extra bandwidth, but you’ll want the capability in the future.

My choice is the Asus P8Z68-V PRO/GEN3 (yes, that name just rolls off the tongue). It’s built on the new Z68 chipset, which essentially combines the P67’s overclocking support and the H61’s integrated-graphics support. The latter gives you access to Intel’s Quick Sync technology, which speeds up video-conversion tasks immensely. The integrated graphics also can step in when your graphics tasks are less strenuous--say, when you’re watching a YouTube video--allowing your discrete graphics card to power down, and saving a bit of energy. On top of that, the chipset supports Intel’s Smart Response technology, which lets you section off part of an SSD to serve as a cache for a conventional hard drive, speeding up performance.

This motherboard has four DIMM slots for up to 32GB of RAM, and it supports overclocked RAM at speeds up to 2200MHz. Notable features include two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (which makes room for two graphics cards working in tandem); four 6-gbps SATA ports and four 3-gbps SATA ports; Bluetooth, VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports; two USB 3.0 ports; and six USB 2.0 ports. Among my favorite features are the built-in power and reset switches, which are helpful for troubleshooting when you’re tinkering inside the PC.

Asus Crosshair V Formula motherboardAsus Crosshair V Formula; photograph by Robert CardinAMD: Asus Crosshair V Formula ($219)
You can find lots of motherboard options for high-end PCs built on AMD CPUs, but I like the Asus Crosshair V Formula. It too packs four DIMM slots for up to 32GB of RAM, and it supports memory overclocked to speeds of up to 2133MHz. You get six 6-gbps SATA ports, 12 USB 2.0 ports, and six USB 3.0 ports. This board adds a third PCI-E 2.0 slot; the slots support x16 data-transfer lanes, but the board throttles power down to x8 lanes when two or more graphics cards are installed. You can use that third slot for a third graphics card, a Wi-Fi adapter, or a TV-tuner card.

RAM: A Great Bargain for Any PC

As you're selecting components for your tailor-made PC, you'll probably find that settling on the amount of memory is the easiest decision you'll have to make. Since RAM has become incredibly cheap, you have little reason not to grab a hefty amount.

G Skill Ripjaws 1600MHz DDR3 RAMG Skill Ripjaws 1600MHz DDR3; photograph by Robert CardinG Skill Ripjaws 1600MHz DDR3, 8GB ($50)
The G Skill Ripjaws are speedy, and equipped with heat spreaders to regulate temperatures. The modules themselves happen to look great, too (if RAM turns you on, that is). More important, you can find 8GB of this memory for as little as $50. Faster RAM is available on the market, but if you’re simply looking to minimize multitasking bottlenecks, this choice of RAM is a steal.



2512Free ISP NetZero Goes Wireless

NetZero, a brand best remembered for giving away dial-up Internet service around the turn of the century, is back with a new offer of free wireless broadband.

The new NetZero service runs on Clearwire's WiMax network and includes 200 MB of data per month for up to one year. To sign up, users must purchase either a $50 USB stick or a $100 wireless hotspot and pay $20 shipping and handling for either device.

Unlike the old dial-up service, NetZero's free wireless Internet is ad-free. According to GigaOM, parent company United Online is operating the free service at a loss, hoping to lure customers over to its paid data plans.

A basic paid plan costs $10 per month for 500 MB. Higher tiers include $20 per month for 1 GB, $35 per month for 2 GB and $50 per month for 4 GB. There are no contracts to sign, and service shuts off when users go over their limit, so they don't get stuck with overage charges.

Still, for the two highest tiers, major wireless carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer an equal or better value, so NetZero's paid service only makes sense if you're not using a lot of data.

As for the free service, it may be worth considering if you're traveling a lot in the year ahead, but check the coverage map on NetZero's Website first. Also, keep in mind that if you switch to a paid plan during those 12 months, you can't go back to the free service.

Just in case you're wondering, NetZero still offers up to ten hours a month of free dial-up. It might be worth it just to hear that beautiful modem sound again.

Follow Jared on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ as well as Today @ PCWorld for even more tech news and commentary.



25132514Intel Chases Smart TV Business With New Chip

Intel hopes to find a foothold in the lucrative smart TV market with the introduction of a chip for TVs and set-top boxes.

The Atom CE5300 media chip, announced on Tuesday, will allow users to watch broadcasts, access the Internet and videoconference through smart TVs or set-top boxes, according to an Intel presentation. Intel also will provide a set of networking and multimedia technologies for multiple TV streams to be sent from a set-top box simultaneously to PCs, tablets and other devices.

The new chip represents a renewed effort by Intel to chase the smart TV market after the company wound down its retail digital TV business in October last year. The company has reassigned engineers from the retail TV business to the new Service Provider Division, which is focusing on Internet-based content delivery.

The CE5300 chip succeeds Intel's previous TV chips, which were built into branded consumer products such as Sony's TV sets and Logitech's Revue set-top box, which had Google TV software. Failure of the products led Intel to exit the retail TV business. This new dual-core chip is aimed at cable operators, satellite companies and telecommunication companies delivering Internet and TV services.

The Atom CE5300 chip is now available, an Intel spokeswoman said. The company already has some customers such as Amino, which will show the Freedom Live Media Gateway set-top box with the chip at the IP&TV World Forum in London from March 20 to March 22.

Intel's previous attempts to enter the TV business have failed, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64. Intel is trying multiple business models to see which one sticks and working with service providers could be provide an easier path for Intel chips to reach living rooms.

The earlier effort to put chips directly in branded products failed because Google TV software was not ready for prime time and people did not readily buy set-top boxes, Brookwood said. Service providers delivering set-top boxes to paying TV customers represent a better chip volume opportunity for Intel.

Intel also failed in the branded-product strategy because TV buyers don't consider the processor, Brookwood said. People don't buy TVs as frequently as PCs, so buyers don't run out and upgrade a TV just for a new quad-core chip.

The CE5300 chip will provide gesture control and high-definition video and gaming capabilities, according to Intel's presentation. Depending on the service provider's needs, the company hopes to provide modems, routers, tuners and voice gateways for devices to access Internet services and stream content over Internet Protocol networks. Some providers may also use set-top boxes as media servers, and the company will supply parts for that, according to the presentation.

But challenges await Intel as it tries to find a place in the TV business, Brookwood said.

"They have silicon that offers good value, but they are competing against other companies like MIPS that offer lower cost," Brookwood said.

Intel also has to contend with ARM, which is already filling Intel's shoes in the retail TV business. Marvell in January announced an ARM-based chip for televisions that will run Android and Google TV software, which could fill in for failed Intel Inside products such as the discontinued Logitech Revue.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com



2515Report: HP to Fold Printing Biz into Personal Systems Group
HP corporate

Hewlett-Packard is preparing to announce that it is folding its printer business into its PC unit, according to AllThingsD. The report, published Tuesday, cited unnamed sources as saying that long-time Imaging and Printing Group (IGP) head Vyomesh Joshi will leave HP as part of the rumored reorganization.

An HP spokesperson told PCMag that the company was not commenting on the AllThingsD report.

Last August, HP briefly flirted with the idea of exiting the PC business altogether when then-chief executive Léo Apotheker and the HP board authorized "the exploration of strategic alternatives for its Personal Systems Group (PSG)," including "a broad range of options that may include, among others, a full or partial separation of PSG from HP through a spin-off or other transaction."

But Apotheker's ouster later in 2011 and Meg Whitman's arrival as the new CEO of HP apparently ended any consideration the company may have had for spinning off PSG.

"HP objectively evaluated the strategic, financial, and operational impact of spinning off PSG," Whitman said in an October statement announcing that the company would remain in the PC business indefinitely. "It's clear after our analysis that keeping PSG within HP is right for customers and partners, right for shareholders, and right for employees. HP is committed to PSG, and together we are stronger."

If PSG does absorb IPG as AllThingsD predicts, it would bring together two once-thriving HP business units that have performed less well of late. HP is still the biggest manufacturer of non-tablet PCs in the world, but the rise of tablets like Apple's iPad has hurt the company's ability to grow its PC business at the pace it had since acquiring Compaq in 2002.

The printing business under Joshi, who joined the computing giant in 1980, was once HP's crown jewel but has also seen its financials slip in recent quarters.

Todd Bradley currently runs PSG for HP. He would also oversee the combined PSG-IPG business, according to AllThingsD, which would become "easily the biggest group inside HP." The two business units combined for about $65 billion in sales in 2011, more than half of HP's total revenue last year.

For the top stories in tech, follow us on Twitter at @PCMag.



2516What Would You Do With 60TB?

New Seagate technology promises hard drive storage capacities of up to 60 terabytes in the next decade. Could this much room render the cloud obsolete?

Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Desk (4TB)

There has been a lot of news in tech recently about the new iPad, Windows 8, the Motorola-Google deal, among other stories. To me, though, the big item of the week is that Seagate has broken the one terabit barrier and promises 60TB drives in the future. It announced the news yesterday in a press release. An excerpt reads:

Seagate has become the first hard drive maker to achieve the milestone storage density of 1 terabit (1 trillion bits) per square inch, producing a demonstration of the technology that promises to double the storage capacity of today's hard drives upon its introduction later this decade and give rise to 3.5-inch hard drives with an extraordinary capacity of up to 60 terabytes over the 10 years that follow. The bits within a square inch of disk space, at the new milestone, far outnumber stars in the Milky Way, which astronomers put between 200 billion and 400 billion.

Seagate reached the landmark data density with heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR), the next-generation recording technology. The current hard drive technology, Perpendicular Magnetic Recording (PMR), is used to record the spectrum of digitized data – from music, photos, and video stored on home desktop and laptop PCs to business information housed in sprawling data centers – on the spinning platters inside every hard drive. PMR technology was introduced in 2006 to replace longitudinal recording, a method in place since the advent of hard drives for computer storage in 1956, and is expected to reach its capacity limit near 1 terabit per square inch in the next few years.

First of all, can you imagine a standard hard disk with a 60TB capacity? (Of course, Costco will sell it for $100.) I have to keep asking people, exactly why do you need the cloud with this sort of capacity on your desktop?

Right now, I cannot come close to filling up a full terabyte, although if I begin to collect HD video clips, I suppose I could fill a disk. But once I'm up to 60TB, I doubt a lifetime of photography and video editing could ever fill the drive.

This is not a minor breakthrough from the sounds of it. When such advancements are made, something else usually happens to take advantage of what amounts to a paradigm shift. When the first hard disks became popular, all of a sudden we saw desktop database programs and other uses for computers that nobody thought would be done locally.

Since the inception of the first microcomputers in the 1970s, computing has been a battle of local versus remote computing and both sides win certain battles. I, for example, do not have my e-mail server at home; it's all done remotely at a professional facility. I do not run my own crawlers when I search for websites; I simply use Google. That said, I know plenty of people who do cache their searches locally.

You can already employ a number of open-source and specialty Web search products to index part of the Web for you and store the results on your own hard disk. With 60TB available on one drive, however, you could probably create a massive personal index locally and add to it the results and the cache of all the results of everything you've ever searched. This would be essentially your own personal Web archive.

You'll have plenty of room to do this and the reason you'd want to, of course, is to do away with the problem of tracking down a lost website. Maybe it shut down, moved, or was Google-washed, but now you have everything in a cache, forever.

Massive capacity hard disks also open the door to what is apparently a Holy Grail at Microsoft. Finally, an indexing system could actually allow users to search within files for keywords or phrases instantly since the entire hard disk would be fully archived. Yes, there is some sort of index on the newest Microsoft operating systems, but using it to find a single phrase within a word document is anything but immediate.

There are probably other cool uses for massive capacity hard disks apparent to engineers out there working on certain problems that are capacity restrained. I'm sure a slew of good ideas will explode onto the scene.

Meanwhile, you have to ask yourself, when will the impressive increase in hard disk capacity finally come to an end? Not anytime soon, it seems.


You can Follow John C. Dvorak on Twitter @therealdvorak.

More John C. Dvorak:
•   What Would You Do With 60TB?
•   Newspaper Ad Revenues Are Slow to React
•   Pew Finds Searchers Attitudes Toward Privacy Are Changing
•   Where is the Britannica's Kindle Edition?
•   Can an Ex-Microsoftie Fix Windows 8?
•  more

Go off-topic with John C. Dvorak.




2517Touch-Screen Desktops: The Next Phase

Windows 8 is supposed to herald in the next phase of touch-screen computing, but you can get a taste of it today with touch-screen desktops.

Asus ET2410IUTS-B018C

OB Roundup

Hollywood has been predicting the widespread use of touch-screen desktops for about as long computers have existed. Watch the movies, and you'd think we should've gone from punch cards directly to the touch-screen interface, without the intervening years of using keyboards and mice. While we all know physical keyboards will be hard to give up, the touch screen is a primary feature on PCs in 2012, at least if Windows 8 is any indication. For the time being, you can only get Windows 7 pre-installed on a PC, but touch screens are becoming more and more common. Mark my words, you'll see Windows 8 PCs with "ten finger multi-touch" screens before long.

When buying a touch-screen PC, consider if you're going to be using the touch screen once in a while or all the time. If the touch screen is rarely going to be used, any touch-screen setup will do the job. However, if you know you're going to be using the touch screen the majority of the time, look for a touch screen that reclines past the usual 25- to 30-degree tilt in favor of one that leans back 60 to 90 degrees flat. Your tired arms will thank you.


FEATURED IN THIS STORY:

Lenovo ThinkCentre M71z

$917 Direct
The Lenovo ThinkCentre M71z is the touch-screen all-in-one business desktop for the majority of your workers. It combines a nice price, decent design, and corporate cred in a package that will satisfy the rank and file. Read the full review ››





HP TouchSmart 520-1070

$1,399.99 direct
The HP TouchSmart 520-1070 all-in-one desktop PC isn't for the budget set, but a quad-core Intel processor, 2TB hard drive, and a slew of entertainment features make it a worthwhile purchase. Read the full review ››



Samsung Series 7 (DP700A3B-A01US)

$1,099 direct
The Samsung Series 7 (DP700A3B-A01US) is a sleek all-in-on touch screen PC with features like HDMi-in, integrated Wi-Fi and Blutooth wireless, and a fast Core i5 processor, but a wobbly monitor prevents it from earning a higher recommendation. Read the full review ››



HP TouchSmart 620-1080 3D

$1,899.99 Direct
The HP TouchSmart 620-1080 3D all-in-one desktop is the PC for people who want both the excellent TouchSmart 610 design and 3D video and photo viewing in one package. For those few niche players, it's a win. However, you really have to be a 3D zealot to want this system. Read the full review ››









2518iLuv ArtStation Pro iMM514

  • B&W Zeppelin Air

    With B&W, you pay for the look as much as the audio quality, but this wireless dock doesn't disappoint.

  • Edifier Breathe iF600

    The Edifier Breathe offers an eye-catching look and solid performance. Just don't expect extras.

Spotlight

The SoundSticks III is mainly a cosmetic upgrade of previous models, and a subtle one at that, but this 2.1-channel PC speaker set remains our Editors' Choice.

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2519Zvox Z-Base V220

  • B&W Zeppelin Air

    With B&W, you pay for the look as much as the audio quality, but this wireless dock doesn't disappoint.

  • Edifier Breathe iF600

    The Edifier Breathe offers an eye-catching look and solid performance. Just don't expect extras.

Spotlight

The SoundSticks III is mainly a cosmetic upgrade of previous models, and a subtle one at that, but this 2.1-channel PC speaker set remains our Editors' Choice.

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2520Pioneer S-MM75IRU

  • B&W Zeppelin Air

    With B&W, you pay for the look as much as the audio quality, but this wireless dock doesn't disappoint.

  • Edifier Breathe iF600

    The Edifier Breathe offers an eye-catching look and solid performance. Just don't expect extras.

Spotlight

The SoundSticks III is mainly a cosmetic upgrade of previous models, and a subtle one at that, but this 2.1-channel PC speaker set remains our Editors' Choice.

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