Friday, April 30, 2010
Last Friday, armed with a search warrant, California’s Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team searched the home and car of Jason Chen, editor of the popular tech blog Gizmodo, in Fremont and seized computers, digital cameras, a cellphone and other items.
Jason’s fault: last week he posted pictures and dissected details of an iPhone prototype found in a bar in Redwood City in San Mateo County. The new iPhone, which Gizmodo reportedly acquired for $5,000 from an undisclosed person, had been disguised to look like an iPhone3GS. After the scoop, Apple acknowledged the device belonged to the company, and the Gizmodo returned it.
But Apple was clearly not going to let the matter end. The search warrant issued by a Superior Court judge in San Mateo County said Chen’s computers and other devices may have been used to commit a felony. In the raid that followed, members of the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team took away several computers, hard drives, digital cameras, cellphones and other gadgets, plus Chen’s American Express bill and copies of his cheques.
Gawker Media, which owns Gizmodo, claimed the warrant was invalid as California’s shield law, which protects journalists from having to turn over anonymous sources or unpublished material to law enforcement during a search, should apply to Chen’s property too. Reports said the company is seriously contemplating a case against the sheriff’s office in San Mateo County, California for conducting the raid.
Among those backing Gizmodo is Jon Stewart of the The Daily Show who went on to term Jobs & Co “appholes” in his popular talk show on Comedy Central. He didn’t stop there and followed it up with a direct message for Jobs. “Look in the mirror, man! ... It wasn’t supposed to be this way — Microsoft was supposed to be the evil one!”
An official response from Apple is awaited, but rest assured this is not the last you have heard of the matter.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
While 3D films have been in existence in some form since the late 19th century, of late the technology of giving depth and perspective to images has branched out beyond the realm of motion pictures and gaming. Even as 3D televisions are poised to change broadcasting around the world, the technology is also revolutionising industry practices, research and design. From websites that give a virtual feel of magazines to simulations that train soldier for hostile environments, 3D technology is literally going places.
Virtual reality for many of us is associated with what we have seen in movies — but the truth is that many of these concepts are now in widespread use. The data glove that lets you move around a virtual image, for instance, is an essential tool for SolidWorks, the 3D mechanical design software. “We can train workers on how to handle very expensive equipment without actually wasting a unit for the purpose,” says Kalambi. The data glove along with force feedback equipment can tell the worker the right amount of pressure to be applied to turn a screw. “Thanks to the virtual training, the worker will have become an expert by the time he actually dabbles with real equipment,” he says, adding that the software also allows companies to go straight into the production stage without wasting time or money on prototypes.
“The technology can also be used in architecture, like to project how the façade of a certain building will look after completion,” says Kalambi, adding that users will need trackers, either on their body or somewhere in the room, to be part of, and interact with, the virtual environment.
Virtual technologies are now in a crucial phase of their development. The next big thing seems to be Augmented Reality, which blurs the line between what's real and what is computer generated. For example, you will be able to work with a keyboard projected onto your desk or move around item on your desktop by just pointing your finger on it. An extension of this technology was on display at the Berlin tech show earlier this year in the form of a TV without remotes — users can adjust volume or change channels with their fingers pointed at the screen.
But, till you get your own 3D gadget, you will have to do with flying mountains and meatball showers in the movie theatre.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
How things change. When I first started working on a computer as a kid two decades ago, the most intuitive thing on the screen used to be the blinking cursor, egging you on to type the next word. After a preview of the Microsoft Office 2010, which will be launched on May 12 and hit the stores in June, that seems like the Stone Age.
With the new Office, Microsoft hopes to reach for the clouds, quite literally. The new version will allow seamless integration across three screens — the PC, browser and phone — letting you “work anywhere and everywhere”. And in a first, Office will go beyond your PC or Windows Mobile phone as it will now be possible for you to access your files from anywhere on the cloud through Microsoft’s SkyDrive and collaborate with multiple users. Users will be able to log in and access their files, which have been synced to the cloud from the PC, from anywhere in the world and work on them using the new web apps.
Another notable change will be the intuitive Ribbon which will now be visible across all applications. By being context sensitive, the new Ribbon UI will try and bring to the fore all those function which users otherwise tend to ignore or overlook. For instance, if you are incorporating a table in your Word file, the Ribbon will automatically change, showing functions that allow you to do more with a table or chart. Moreover, you can personalise it to suit your specific requirements.
What is obvious is the deliberate attempt to reduce the number of screens users have to be logged into and cut the number of steps to reach a particular feature or function. While there are numerous new features that will make your work simpler, here is a quick look at the changes that will gee up home users.
Since the new Office also links the mobile phone, the Outlook will feature a unified inbox with your mail, voice messages and even SMS. The inbox will even be able to transcribe your voice messages, just in case you can’t switch on the speakers. Mails are managed better and they will be linked together as conversations with a particular user. Click on a contact, and all your interactions with the user — including Facebook, Twitter updates and meetings attended together — will appear on the screen. Most importantly, there will also be the option of ignoring users who keep sending pesky forward mails.
There are loads of new animations and transitions for you to play around with, but where the new PowerPoint scores is by almost negating the use of a second application or programme to modify your inserts. For instance, you can tweak, edit images without opening a photo editing software. Similarly, videos too can be edited in PowerPoint itself. Plus, you can insert video into a presentation directly from the web by pasting the link. Then there is the option of adding bookmarks to the inserted clip, so that you can just skip to the relevant parts of the footage. In short, you can create a professional quality presentation sitting at home.
While 2010 makes Excel a limitless endeavour, it also acknowledges the power of the micro with the new Sparklines features. These tiny graphs that show up within a cell in the worksheet chart trends in the particular row or column of entries. That, as statisticians will tell you, can be a whole new story. Then, like the other application in Office 2010, there is the option of collaborating or sharing the spreadsheet with others, all without actually letting them run riot on the original document. Plus, there are many other filtering options like the Slicer to help you find the relevant data faster.
Like PowerPoint, the new formatting tools give that professional edge to everything you create using the latest Word. There are new effects which you can play around with along with the new SmartArt that lets you add visual elements that help you communicate better with your audience. Plus, the Document Map feature lets you organise the document better. Once again, you have the option of working with another user on the same document, and communicating with him at the same time without opening another application.
The backstage view runs across all applications and lets you do much more with the files you create. Everything from print preview to sharing authorisation can now be done with this single view, which is more like an advanced file manager. It also lets you directly publish your document as a blogpost or convert it into a PDF file.
There will be five versions of the new Office — the Pro Plus and Standard for enterprise and Office Home & Student, Office Home & Business and Office Professional for Home users and SMEs. There is no word on the price yet.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
The day of reckoning finally came when Steve Jobs unveiled a thin slate-like product called Apple iPad in front of an awed audience. While many were prudish enough to think this was the first tablet, others thought Apple’s official foray into the Tablet PC segment would pose more of a headache for e-readers, especially the Kindle.
But while the iPad brings in a lot of bling and versatility, tablet PCs have been here for nearly a decade. The trend started in 2001 when Microsoft announced its Windows XP-based tablet, defined as a pen-enabled computer. Things have moved on since.
The most popular tablet PCs now are convertibles which are almost like regular notebooks but have a screen, usually touch-enabled, which can swivel 180 degrees. There are also hybrids with a detachable keyboard, and slates with touch-enabled keyboards or s stylus for data input. The latest entrant is the booklet dual touchscreens that fold like a book.
Here is a look at what the iPad is up against.
The Modbook actually was the second biggest crowd puller at the MacWorld Expo 2007 after the I-phone. You can either buy a brand new Modbook, which is a MacBook that is modified and sold directly by Axiotron, or send a Macbook to be modified by the company with top shell made of magnesium alloy with metal finish, a aircraft grade magnesium alloy frame, a new LCD screen and a Force Glass display to track the response of the stylus. While a brand new Modbook costs around $1700, a customer-sent Macbook can be modified for as low as $500. Features include Intel chipsets, MACOS X v10.5 Leopard, up to 4 GB RAM, 500 GB SATA hard drive, an optical drive and a GPS device.
The most anticipated product after the iPad, Microsoft’s courier booklet has captured the tech world’s imagination since popular tech blog Gizmodo showcased a preview late last year. The Courier will contain two seven-inch multi-touch screens that respond to a stylus or finger touch. A 3-megapixel digital camera with 4x zoom is integrated into the prototype, and the final model may contain an inductive charging pad for charging batteries wirelessly. However, it remains to be seen how much of these features actually make it to the final product.
SAMSUNG Q1 ULTRA PREMIUM
This slate from Samsung is ideal for taking business to the road. Featuring Vista Business Edition and an Intel Core Solo Processor ULV U1500, the Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium can support all PC applications and still weighs just under two pounds. It sports an ultra bright 7” touchscreen, and the latest Intel Ultra Low Voltage CPU. Plus, the unique QWERTY keyboard makes typing easier than on a touchscreen.
ELECTROVAYA SCRIBBLER SC4000
The Scribbler looks much like the iPad, but costs four times more at $ 2,049. It runs on a 1.06GHz Intel Core 2 Duo ULV processor and has 1GB of RAM. The 12.1” XGA TFT screen has a sunlight readable display. The 3.3lbs unit also has a 1.3MP camera and Bluetooth 2.0.
HP TOUCHSMART tm2t
The latest offering from the HP Touchsmart stables is the economically priced HP Touchsmart tm2t which features some smart and slick options like the Intel Core 2 Duo Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processor, Radeon graphics up to 8 GB DDR3 RAM and hard drives that are expandable till 500 GB. HP has been in the tablet business for sometime with its flagship Tablet PC becoming quite a hit in India, but whether this one will live up to the recently launched demons like the I-Pad is something that we will have to wait and watch out for. As of now the product is available for a decent $950 and considering the high end pricing of most convertible notebooks this one looks like an option worth considering.
This one takes the cake as far as hard-hitting tablets are concerned. No we are not talking about Ecstasy pills but outside the Panasonic ToughBook, which was a convertible notebook, the Armor X10 is a tablet PC that literally can take a lot of pounding. Featuring the IntelCoreDuo Mobile Technology, a large 10.4-inch LCD display, readablility even in direct sunlight, the DuraCase aluminum housing for maximum strength and ShutOut sealing technology that allows for open connectors this tablet sure can take and pack a punch.
FUJITSU LIFEBOOK P1630
A convertible laptop which costs a steep $1900 or more, the LifeBook has garnered rave reviews for its usability. Packed with features like an Intel Core2 Duo processor, DDR2-667 SD RAM upgradeable up to 2 GB, a 8.9. inch LCD display and 120 GB shock proof S-ATA 150 hard drive it comes with a host of connectivity options. It also has a SD card reader slot on board. The straight looks of the Lifebook and the fact that it is apt for business has been a great deal maker for people who are always on the move.
Ever since Jobs revealed the iPad, Fujitsu has been wondering what the hoopla is all about. Its lightweight slate has already been raking in rave reviews as the “ideal option for mobile workers”. The 3.4 pound unit features a 10.4 XGA, indoor/outdoor viewable screen, ultra low voltage Intel Pentium M processor and MS Windows XP Tablet PC Edition. It’s also got two USB port — iPad has just one — Infrared, External monitor, modem, Ethernet, IEEE 1394 and system interface connector. The RAM is expandable up to 2GB while the hard drive can be 40 or 60 GB ATA. It also has PC card slots, another feature missing in the iPad.
So, do you still want to buy the iPad?