March 2009 Archives

Honda create mind-controlled robot, oh the possibilites!

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The video below shows a man controlling Honda's Asimo robot using just his thoughts in what is called the world's first Brain Machine Interface (BMI) technology.



The way it works is that sensors placed on someone's head can measure "slight electrical current and blood flow changes"

Towards the end of the video, they claim that the robot is 90% accurate.

This isn't the first we've heard of thought control technology with Nintendo claiming they are close to developing thought controlled games.

So, what does this mean? I know it might be obvious but my mind is a bit messed up at the moment after seeing a programme on Bravo about guys with life-like sex dolls. I've said enough.

I mean, honestly someone would have 'thought' of it sooner or later (I'm so funny). But just to let you know, do you know how many men get admitted to hospital because of hoover related accidents? Last year there were 32 in the UK alone. Think about it.

Other possiblities for the robot are cleaning and other menial tasks that would make lif easier.

Source [Register]




Microsoft kills Encarta - So many memories

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I remember doing my history homework over my friend's house because he had Encarta back in 1996.

After looking at the human body for a couple of hours we got stuck into the magic of history coming alive through the computer. We were amazed at how much we learnt using Encarta and I got an A on my test!

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OK, so that's the nice version. The truth is I plagiarised the whole thing. I still got an A so I was happy. The morale of the story? Get Encarta and don't rely on your friend.

So I did and now I work for ComputerWeekly.com writing about the death of Encarta. I'm genuinely sad. It helped me get an A on that History assignment but it wasn't the reason I got this job, that would probably be Wikipedia.

And that, my friend, is where the demise of Encarta began. Had Microsoft acted quickly, maybe they could have saved Encarta and held Wikipedia off but alas Wikipedia is great and Encarta is dead.

So here is the WIkipedia page for The Human Body. I'd like to think there's a kid out there checking it out before he starts his history homework.

Microsoft and TomTom navigate to agreement over Linux

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Microsoft and TomTom have settled for an undisclosed amount after the giant claimed that TomTom's use of Linux violated its FAT filesystem patent.

TomTom has agreed to allow Microsoft use of four of its navigation patents for free as well as the removal of some functionality in its PNDs within the next two years.

Microsoft will be delighted that they have steered clear of a full blown lawsuit and have kicked TomTom kicked to the kerb on this one. TomTom thought they were in the driving seat but after going down the path they have found it's best to reverse and take the long way home.

The agreements TomTom have accepted will be a real dent in their plans and Microsoft may see this as an opportunity to drive home their ambitions and press ahead with the court case in fifth gear.

I am here all day people.

Free, legal mp3 download wars - First Spotify and now Google

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Google has launched an ad-based MP3 download service in China which looks like it will soon compete with Spotify, Baidu (the leading Chinese search engine for websites, audio files, and images) and, more immediately, illegal downloads.

Google has obtained the backing of 14 independent labels and four of the world's largest music labels but will still struggle against Baidu which currently dominates China's MP3 download services by favouring unlicensed music.

Google's music download search service won't be offered outside China, yet. I suspect it will be just a matter of time before we get to see such services being offered over here.

Source [Register]

Skype on iPhone - what's the big deal?

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So, as expected, Skype is coming to the iPhone with calls only being made over Wifi.

Things to note:

  • You can sort your contacts alphabetically or by who's online
  • You can dial a number or quickly call a contact stored in your address book.
  • iPod Touch users will need earphones with a mic to talk.
  • The chatting feature is included.
  • During a call you can mute the line, go on hold, or put the call on speakerphone.
  • The ability to accept incoming conference calls.
So what is the big deal?

Well, it's not such a big deal since you can download and install Skype on most new phones/smartphones. I have been using VOIP on my phone for a long time and save a tonne. It's a given that most new phones will have Skype already installed.

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The main thing is that alarm bells will be ringing for most mobile phone operators. Will VOIP replace mobile phone networks? YES!

They should be terrified. It's very likely that VOIP will replace the standard phone networks and
email will replace text messaging. As wifi and HSDPA grow it will become more commonplace to use email and VOIP and why wouldn't you? The possibilities are somewhat endless as apps link and merge together.

I hope the iPhone will show how VOIP can be far superior to what we already have.

Remember when they said digital TV will change the way we watch TV? Change is coming AT&T, be afraid.

Source [Cnet]

Picture: sebastiankippe on Flickr

The MacBook Mini unveiled! Well sort of, it's either official or a fake

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Some, possibly leaked, images have appeared showing a MacBook Mini / netbook thanks to the guys at 9to5 and Gizmodo. According to the Russian magazine, it will be released sometime in 2009 for $899.

MacBook Mini technical specifications:
  • 10.4" WXGA display.
  • 1280 x 768 pixel with LED backlighting.
  • NVIDIA MCP79
  • Intel Atom Z740 1.83GHz with 1MB L2 cache.
  • 2GB DDR3-800.
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9400M
  • 64GB Solid State Drive.
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
  • 1 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Mini Display Port
  • Battery Li-Ion 5100mA


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We have been talking about this a lot lately, (Apple netbook: larger than an iPhone smaller than a Macbook and Apple Mac netbook in the pipeline according to rumours) so it's good to see there is, potentially, some progress.


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Competition/Game: Play our F1 racing game and win!

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Ready, set and... GO GO GO!

The F1 season starts this weekend and we've got an F1 flash game and competition to celebrate.

If you can complete a lap in the fastest time then you have the chance of winning the chance to drive speed around Silverstone and experience first hand what its like to be Lewis Hamilton.

So if you love motor racing and fancy the chance of driving a car around the motor racing track that is the home of the British Grand Prix then take part.

 

Hot foot from China

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If you're getting cold feet over your latest deal, here's something to comfort you. Furry slippers but not just any furry slippers; USB-powered furry slippers.

USB Slippers.JPGThe tech-crazy people at Thanko, "China product and sales getters", are proud to present slippers with a thin aluminium plate zipped inside that connects to two USB ports. This, the company says, allows full freedom to cross your legs while your toes get toasty. All for only $29.50 (£20) per pair.

Tethered like a goat, nevertheless a warm-hoofed one, may not be your idea of fun but worry not Thanko has a rechargeable, battery-operated version for $42 (£29). These have LEDs that glow blue until the charge level falls below 50% and the lights go out at below 5%. Truly, sales getters with a foot in every camp.

Don't you just love technology?

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Free iPhone - well, SIM free anyway

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Playcom iphone.jpgPlay.com has been on a schmooze cruise to la continent to find a supplier of unlocked Apple iPhones. The result is a case or two of iPhone non-Réserve Spéciale.

The phones are not tied to any telecom company - I repeat, they are supplied unlocked and legal - so just slip in a SIM and off you go. Well, after you've paid £599.99 for the 16GB version or £549.99 for the 8GB.

The offer is the result of a bit of entente cordiale between Play.com and a continental supplier. The unnamed company has access to network-free iPhones because of EU legislation. In France, in particular, there is a law that allows network-locked phones only if there is also a SIM free version available. Apple has had to comply with this to allow it to enter the market and Play.com is using the loophole to import iPhones into the UK.

The iPhones carry a full warranty and can be registered with Apple to access App Store' and its 30,000 applications.

T-mobile pre-pay first to get the ZTE touch

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ZTE Touch - FRONT.JPGT-mobile is offering the ZTE Vairy Touch handset as a pay-as-you-go phone. This is the first phone from the Chinese company to be made available in the UK and marks the beginning of its plan to become one of the top three phone vendors in five years time. Currently ZTE lies at number six in the world rankings.

The Vairy is a dual band GSM/GPRS 900/1800 handset with a 1.3mp camera, bluetooth and a novel FM radio. The standby time is quoted as 180hrs and talk time is 180min. It carries T-mobile branding, which is in line with ZTE's usual practice, and is available for £59.99 with a pre-pay deal.

The operating system is Microsoft Mobile 6.0 so the touch capabilities need a stylus which slides out of a hole on the top of the phone. It's no iPhone but neither does it carry a hefty price tag.

ZTE's growth plan is backed by a $15bn credit line from the China Development Bank which is used to fund projects globally. Some of the cash is used for "vendor financing", a loan to the customer which is then used to buy products from the lender. This is an attractive proposition during the credit crunch when banks won't lend money for business development. The loans are private so the names of companies partnering with ZTE in this way are not disclosed. T-mobile has not disclosed any such details in their dealings with ZTE.

Download Wii Menu 4.0 update - Nintendo's GDC 2009 keynote round-up

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The much anticipated Nintendo GDC keynote yesterday mainly revolved around the Wii's 4.0 menu update that is available today.

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Highlights of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata's GDC keynote:

  • Virtual Console Arcade - Basically retro games available to download through the Wii Shop Channel. Games available now are: Gaplus, Mappy, The Tower of Druaga and Starforce. They've billed this as an arcade killer but I think the arcade was dying long before this. It looks cool, but it all depends on what games become available (fingers crossed for Captain Commando).

  • Nintendo's DSiWare download store - 100 DSiWare points will equal one dollar, like Wii points. The store will be available when the DSi is launched in early April, with games available for either free, 200, 500 or 800+ points. It will also have downloadable apps like WarioWare Snapped, which uses the camera to carry out the mini-games.

  • Wii to get SDHC support - This might not sound very important but in actual fact, this adds a new dimension to the Wii allowing you to download content directly from the Wii Shop Channel to your SD/SDHC, and the card will show on the Wii's main menu.

Nintendo has shipped 50 million Wiis worldwide so far.

See also: Nintendo keynote LIVE!

The Gadget Show coming to the NEC

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Channel 5 in conjunction with PC World stores are bringing TV's The Gadget Show team to Birmingham's NEC in April.The Gadget Show Live will run from April 17-19 and promises live Gadget Show.jpgshows from the programme's presenters alongside product masterclasses and a host of product launches and demos.

Unfortunately, the show is open to the public so it will probably be crowded with sweaty kids but that's the price we pay. Well not just that, tickets bought in advance for the show cost £12.95 for adults, £5 for kids and free for the under fives.

The bad news is that advance tickets for admission on Saturday April 18 have sold out with only a small number of general admission tickets now available on Friday April 17 and Sunday April 19. Advance tickets for performances in the Super Theatre are all sold out apart from the 4pm performance on Friday but there may be some tickets available at the door on these days. For more up-to-date information, click here and move down the page.

Reality in a virtual world

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Reality is fine as far as it goes but it needs pepping up and Vuzix is determined to do that. The company makes video eyewear for viewing movies or playing games in the privacy of your own head.

LaForge.jpgvuzix vr920.jpgVuzix eyewear replaces the 3D headsets of old with normal-looking spectacles. Well, normal if you're Geordi La Forge, the chief engineer in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The Vuzix glasses contain small screens that allow the user to view videos and displays from video players such as iPods, smartphones or computers without a conventional model. The problem is that you can't see where you're going so you have to be in an obstacle-free room or remain stationary.

Vuzix has now added an Augmented Reality Kit that adds a CamAR video camera to the front of the VR920 Virtual Reality Video Eyewear (£260) so that the viewer can see the real world simultaneously with the recorded material, rather like a heads-up display in a modern jet fighter. In addition, a PhasAR wireless augmented reality input controller that resembles the thinking-person's Wii controller allows interaction between the real and the virtual worlds.

Vuzix claims that the VR920 glasses gives an image that appears to be a 62in screen viewed at a distance of nine feet. The company premiered the glasses with their augmentation kit at the Game Developers' Conference (GDC 09) in San Francisco this week.

The Vuzix AR Accessory Kit is a technology looking for a killer app at the moment. The company hints at applications such as allowing a book to be read, or a tape book to be played and augmented with 3D images to make the stories come alive. In the business world, there is the potential to sell the dream to a potential customer by superimposing your product or a room makeover in their real world environment. Using the hand control the possibilities for 3D gaming becomes mind-boggling.

Perhaps this is where Google Street View may be heading. It's possible to envisage a future iteration of the system. As you drive along, Google images are displayed as a real world sat nav system to confirm that you are where you ought to be. By stepping the Street View images a little further ahead, you could make sure you're in the correct lane to take the right turn ahead. No more surprises and unintended detours.

The UK price for the kit is £80 and Vuzix will be demo-ing the new kit at The Gadget Show Live at the Birmingham NEC on the 17-19th April.
Vuzix AR Kit.jpg

Nintendo keynote LIVE!

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Just a quick post to say you should check out Joystiq's live blogging from Nintendo's GDC 2009 keynote.

Four tablets to cure designer headaches

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Today, Wacom is releasing four digital graphics tablets in the Intuos range designed to improve image creation and manipulation. For designers, a key element is the new pen that detects 2048 increments in the pressure applied to the tablet's surface. just a gram of pressure will create a line that gets thicker as the pressure increases, depending on software settings.

Wacom ad.jpgThe surface includes Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) panels that list what action each of the eight programmable keys are set to perform. This is a useful addition because their function changes and keeping track in the past has relied on making notes to accompany each application.

The tablets may look biased towards right-handers but, by turning the unit through 180°, the keys can be made accessible to the free hand of a left-handed operator. Change a screen setting and the text display is flipped.

The Wacom Intuos4 is available in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) but the small size lacks the OLED screens. UK prices start at £199.99 for the small size, medium £329.99, large £429.99 and £699.99 for the XL (inclusive of VAT).

Video: Microsoft Surface can make you healthy

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Still not convinced about Microsoft Surface? Some 'people' (if you can call them that) in Computer Weekly Towers think it's going to die a quick death.

That's quite a good way of putting it as Texas Health Resources have made a program to manage your medical records as well as help you share information with your doctor as the video shows below.






Have a look at our other Microsoft Surface video.

Police state UK

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So the government wants to have the right to access my friends list. Where will it all end?

In the 30s and 40s, the Nazi's reportedly used an IBM system to catalogue the religious persuasions and political beliefs of the populace. The result was persecution targeting Jews and socialists and their sympathisers on a scale and with a granularity never before seen.

Of course that would never happen in the good old UK. We are a liberal society. Every ethnic group loves every other ethnic group. The BNP has no power and relatively few followers. Immigrants are welcomed with open arms. Army coups could never happen. No dictators in my government. None of my friends are terrorists or paedophiles. I don't have a strange foreign name.

I have nothing to hide so why should I worry? If a policeman approached me in the street and asked me to name all my friends and acquaintances, I'd say, "Certainly,officer, here's my address book."


What is the point of Street View?

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Let us know what you think. Is Google Street View a case of "because we can" or does it have a practical application? Why does it use such high definition pictures where you can zoom in to look through people's windows or view items normally hidden behind fences? Is masking faces good enough to protect identities?

In most cases a long shot of a street would be enough to give a picture of what it's like. Shooting every thirty feet or so seems to be overkill. Should people be allowed to have their premises taken out of the frame?

Is it a fuss over nothing or serious invasion of privacy?

Fellow journalist Guy Clapperton disagrees vehemently with me in his post.

Google Maps and smug shots

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Driving offence - long shot.jpgDid you catch the Google guys defending Street View last weekend? What a smug bunch they are: Invasion of privacy? What invasion of privacy?

Google seems to think that because it has a complaints button almost hidden on the image, then it absolves itself of blame. What were you doing when the Google car passed you six months ago? Where were you? What are the chances of finding yourself on Street View before someone else does? Do people without Internet access have no rights?

"But we mask the faces," says Google. Not good enough, Google. I can recognise people on the screens from the clothes they wear. "We mask number plates," the company claims. In a lot of cases that's true but I know of five number plates on my neighbours cars that are unmasked and quite readable. Do they know about it?

"We don't show anything that you can't see from the street anyway" is probably the biggest lie. The camera is nine or ten feet from road level which means that it peeks over fences. Anyone with expensive statues in their gardens should immediately plant a row of Leylandii to shut out the Google snoopers. If I stuck a camera over my neighbours' fences, I hate to think what would happen to me.

Number plate over fence.jpg

Video: A look at Microsoft Surface, is it really that good?

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Last week, James (Online Editor for CW) and I went to see what Microsoft Surface had to offer. I was impressed with th eapplications already customized for the table but I couldn't help think about if the PR talk might have some substance to it.




Are you that impressed when you go to Argos and they have touch-screen kiosks you can buy your reservations from? Not really.

Do you marvel at how forward-thinking the Underground is by having touch-screen ticket machines? No.

But Surface, I find, is so much more than that. Yes it's fun zooming in and out with your fingers but its value is in the realms of possibility. My favourite example is if you could walk into a restaurant, sit down and order exactly what you had three months ago without confusing a waiter then that is something special.

And following the demontsrations I think Microsoft Surface promises to do just that and much, much more. For example in the video above you can see a pizza being created and even a virtual poker table. Not bad at all.

Microsoft Surface will be available for £8,500 which, in today's climate, may look a little steep but, as with all these things, the price will come down with the hype and I'd like to think it'll become an accepted part of our retail therapy and nights out.

I have three other videos to put up showing MS Surface so check back here soon!

Want to trip out, be arty and have a wow factor? bomomo

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Another quick post to direct you towards a website called Bomomo where you can be a modern artist with minimum effort.

I made this:

bomomo-7113.jpgNot really a gadget but this blog is so much more.


Video: Super Nintendo + Toaster = Super Nintoaster

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This may sound strange but I love toast and I love the Super Nintendo. So when I heard they were putting the two together I thought 'genius'.

This is what the internet is made for (well, that and porn).

Watch the video below:

Video: BMW factory run by robots - AMAZING

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Ever wondered if people are still needed to build cars? Not anymore. That might not come as a shock to you but the footage in the video below is quite astonishing.

This video reminds me of Terminator. Sarah Connor, Save us!!




Source [Gizmodo]

Happiness is a warm muff

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earphone muff.jpgYou know how it is, you're on the job and your ears are getting cold. With these little wonders you not only have warm ears but you can also drown out any whining sounds with music from your MP3. Are they Brazilian? Definitely not, they're by Landport in Japan and, unfortunately, only available from Japan. Maybe by next winter they'll have enough muffs for the rest of the world.

Heavy duty muff.jpgAlternatively, noise levels may be deafening so a thicker muff may required. According to the marketing spiel, these come in three variations: muffs with no external input, muffs with mono external input and muffs with stereo external input (especially useful for iPod users). The company also sells a muff bag to protect your muff from dust and inclement weather.

Muff said.

Zeebo launched, but will cool kids buy it? No, they won't.

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This morning, I opened my reader to find an article in the FT on a new console called Zeebo that is being released today and will cost $200.

The console is aimed at emerging markets such as such as Brazil, Russia, China and India and is powered by mobile phone parts.

Ok, now the niceties are out of the way I can give you my opinion!



I like the fact that they are trying to get kids to play more games, especially as they may not be able to afford a PS3 BUT I just don't think this will cut it.

It's a good idea to try and use mobile technology and 3G broadband to download games but a DS costs around the same price and you will be able to download games on the DSi. Also sadly, downloading pirate games is unbelievably easy and the equipment is cheap.

Also, I think kids would rather say "I'm playing on my DS" than "I'm playing on my Zeebo". That just sounds dirty.

One positive note is that after it dies a quick death (lets be honest, it's up againt Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) is that it'll be a cool thing to buy from eBay. The same way I bought a Gizmondo before mobile GPS, PSP and of course the DS. I was young and foolish.

Zeebo plans to launch in Brazil in May, in Mexico in the third quarter, India and Russia in 2010 and China in 2011.

Probably the best logic in the world

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An educational initiative between Rice University and Indian educators gives an indication for the shape of future gadgets.

The team has devised an electronic equivalent of the slates and chalk used in Victorian schools and currently still in use in some rural schools in India. Krishna Palem, the Rice University team leader, has devised a processor chip that uses much less power than current CPUs by trading off power usage against accuracy.

The principle used is called probabilistic computing and it abandons highly accurate Boolean logic with Palem's own mathematical system developed in conjunction with doctoral student Lakshmi Chakrapani.

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Boolean logic produces finite results but probabilistic logic uses what could be described as "best guess" answers based on probability theory. These small errors cannot be tolerated in applications such as financial calculations but when it refers to multimedia files, such as graphics or music, small errors can be tolerated. For example, if a pixel or two are the wrong colour it does not spoil the overall image. Palem argues that the trade-off results in massive power savings that would make extend battery life in mobile phones and MP3 players from days to weeks.

In the I-slate that Palem's team is developing, the use of a probabilistic chip will enable the device to be solar powered and still fulfil the aim to support a visually-based mathematics curriculum that allows children to learn by doing, regardless of their grade level or whether they have a full-time teacher.

The whole technology is in its early stages and may or may not deliver the promised benefits. A key to using the technology is finding applications, like streaming video for cell phones or low-powered video displays in I-slates, where errors can be tolerated. The new silicon piggybacks onto the CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor), that chipmakers already use and is known as probabilistic CMOS, or PCMOS.

"We expect to begin testing prototypes of the curriculum and the I-slates next spring," said Palem.

Clicky mouse quiet now

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Sometimes it's better to let the advertisers speak for themselves:

"A clicking sound of mouse would bother you when using PC in the midnight at quiet place, especially like where somebody is sleeping nearby.

"As for conventional mouse, the sound comes out by metal switch, while our Silent Mouse 2 uses Silicone instead. It is silent because the click button only pushes silicon to react as the mouse click. Since not only a click part but also a wheel part uses silicon, all the movement of a mouse has the structure of noise prevention. In addition, various measures are taken to prevent noise, such as button shape design to prevent resonance.

"Also we have fine tuned to improve feel of use including click feeling etc."

'nuff said. Cute though.

Juggle five USB devices simultaneously

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How many USB devices do you have and how many ports are there on your computer? The answers are usually too many and not enough, in that order. Tottenham Court Road's Inkino (I Never Knew I Needed One) is taking stock of the situation.
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From March 25 the company will have a five-port USB, mains-powered plug that will charge or power your gadgets wherever you are in the world - as long as they use UK, US, Asian or European socket standards.

"Aha," you may say, "I can see only four ports in the picture." Well done, Eagle-Eye, but what you missed is the extra miniUSB lead wrapped around the adaptor. There is also a cover that stops the miniUSB from unravelling in transit but leaves the standard ports available for use.

The unit costs £29.95 from Inkino.

Wanna really free iPhone?

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Some people can't use the iPhone, or choose not to use it, because of the O2 lock-in. Businesses are a little more open to variations in service suppliers but if they have a fleet agreement for phones with, say, Vodafone, then using an iPhone is out of the question...

unlock SIM.jpg...or is it?

Web site www.unlockanyiphone.net sells piggyback SIM cards to unlock any iPhone and, as yet, Apple and O2 haven't been able to neutralise this solution. When passing the phone on or sending it for repair, the SIM can be slipped out and the iPhone is back where it started. All for around £30.

Of course we seriously condemn this solution and do not recommend it. How dare anyone try to break the Apple/O2 stranglehold... no... monopoly... no... exclusive marketing agreement.

Wanna free iPhone, guv? Nah, kosher, not a Chinese knock-off

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From April 3, O2 will be offering free iPhone 3Gs to customers but, before you rush to their Website, there's a catch. You have to sign up to pay £34.26 a month for two years to qualify and it only applies to the 8GB version.

It marks a move downscale from the old tariff where you had to commit to £44.05 for 18 months to get a free 8GB phone. Here, too, there's a change. With this higher tariff spread over 24 months comes a free 16GB model.

Free iphone.jpg

Let's look at the arithmetic. Under the 18-month tariff you have to pay an extra £96.89 to get the 8GB iPhone. The extra six months on the new tariff will cost £205.56. That means the phone appears to cost an extra £108.67. However, you get six months more of "free" calls and texts which would cost 205.56 under the old tariff. Ergo, as the old Latin scholars would say, the phone is truly free.

On the higher tariff, the extra six months costs the same as the current 18 months plus six extra months so the saving on the 16GB iPhone offer is £57.74 (the current charge on the 18 month offer).

OK enough of the financial blah. Yes, you get a free iPhone but you are committed to a two year commitment. This means that O2 may insist that you stick with your phone for the full duration of the agreement. So 2011 you'll have a phone that is two years out of date - and that's a long time in iPhone model upgrades. On the other hand, O2 may offer deals and swaps that allows you to pay less over time or get a new phone mid-term. As Dirty Harry would say, "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya punk?"

TomTom turnaround

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Rather than bowing down before the financial might of Microsoft, TomTom is fighting back with a counter-suit. According to Microsoft, the Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation company is taking exception to elements of its Streets & Trips application which links into satellite systems using a USB GPS device.

TomTom is claiming that M$ wilfully infringed four of its patents even though TomTom had notified M$ that this was the case. As yet, M$ is still planning to let the courts decide rather than meeting TomTom in a back alley to slug out their differences.

Whether this is brinksmanship on the part of M$ is disputable. If the conspiracy theorists have it right, the company may be testing the strength of its position before taking aim at other Linux companies that it feels are infringing other M$ patents.

WEEE Wiis for free

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Steptoe.jpgFollowing the success of an initiative to collect unwanted electrical goods from homes in Aldershot, Farnborough and Guildford late last autumn, it seems the days of Steptoe & Son are being reborn. As gadgets and batteries become part of the throw-away society disposal can be a problem but the EC's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive is seeing positive action in the responsible disposal of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).

Aldershot-based recycler Midex is launching a free national household collection service. The WEEEcollect.IT service collects dead batteries, TVs, phones, computers, printers and just about everything that uses electricity, except fridges and freezers, for total, secure destruction.

The company intends to give every home in major towns and cities advance notification of when to expect the arrival of a WEEECollect.IT van. Midex MD Chris Spooner commented,  "We have been absolutely bowled over by the response we have been receiving from the public. It's incredible to see people standing outside waiting for the arrival of our van. It's rather like being the original rag and bone man."

Under the WEEE directive consumers are being encouraged to throw away electrical items in an environmentally-friendly manner. Local civic amenity sites will accept WEEE items but there is a possibility that data-carrying items may not be destroyed. Midex promises to shred electrical equipment into 25mm squares making it safe from hackers and identity theft.

weeeCollect.jpg

Fishy uber gadget

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River and sea polluters better watch out because robofish is out to get you. An EC-funded experiment will be taking place at the end of next year in the port of Gijon, Spain, using 1.5 metre robofish to detect and track down the sources of pollution.

Each robot resembles a carp and undulates like a real fish as it swims around at one metre per second to find leaks from ships and underwater pipelines. Pollution is detected by chemical detectors and the results are radioed back to the research team via a Wi-Fi link allowing the research team to map out the source and effect of the leaks. The fish swim autonomously around the port rather than being steered remotely and they can also find their way back home for recharging at the end of an eight-hour shift.

Each fish costs around £20,000 and five are being engineered by a robotics team headed by Professor Huosheng Hu at Essex University's  School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.

UK company BMT Group is co-ordinating the project and its senior research scientist Rory Doyle said, "While using shoals of robotic fish for pollution detection in harbours might appear like something straight out of science fiction, there are very practical reasons for choosing this form. In using robotic fish we are building on a design created by hundreds of millions of years' worth of evolution which is incredibly energy efficient. This efficiency is something we need to ensure that our pollution detection sensors can navigate in the underwater environment for hours on end."

Has Cisco flipped?

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Does anyone else think Cisco is pouring money down the drain by buying Pure Digital Technologies, makers of the Flip MinoHD and Flip Video cameras?

OK, so two million sales in the States is quite a nice figure but how long before Taiwan starts churning out me-toos or before phones butt into the market? $590m is a lot of money in these crunching times so it'll be interesting to see what the Cisco kids have in mind.

A little night music

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You're tucked up in bed. It's been a hard day at work and your brain is buzzing. The wintry wind is howling but you're warm and cosy and in need of some soothing sounds so you put on your earphones and switch your music player on. In the morning, you wake up with earache and Led Zeppelin blasting in your head because you rolled over on your player in the night.
Sound Asleep.jpg
Sound Asleep has the solution. It's a pillow with a built-in speaker and a mini jack that fits most players. The company claims that only you can hear the sounds so, if you sleep with a partner, they can sleep in peace. Apart from relaxation, the sound asleep pillow can be used to dim the effects of tinnitus or lure insomniacs to dreamland. It's educational, too, if you select a good talking book or a language course. You can even plug a radio in if that's your preference.

Because of the speaker, the pillow is not machine washable but can be wiped clean and air dried - which worries me a little bit on health grounds. Also the Health and Safety gods request that you ensure that the connecting cable is tucked out of the way so you don't strangle yourself in the night.

The Sound Asleep pillow is available from several outlets including Asda and Tesco for around £20. Buy four from Sound Asleep and you get a free MP3 player which you can pillow fight the rest of your family for.

http://www.soundasleeppillow.co.uk

TomTom's birthday blues

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Tomtom 5.jpgNavigation specialist TomTom is celebrating its fifth birthday but uninvited guest Microsoft is claiming a slice of the birthday cake.

It's funny how some gadgets feel as if they've been around forever. How on earth did people navigate before? Well, it wasn't so much Tom Tom as Mimi, JoJo or whatever the female partner was called (back in 2004 men always drove the car, except at the end of a night out - since then women have achieved equality, bless 'em). Today the nagging that was at your left hand side is now moveable, can be shut up instantly without an argument or changed to a male voice if you lean that way.

Anyway, Microsoft is claiming that some of the Linux bits in all TomTom products infringe its patents. Three bits in total and all to do with the file system. There are also five other car navigation issues that M$ lays claim to inventing. American patents can be so loose nobody can guess which way this case will go.

More worrying is that, outside the court case, M$ also claims that the Linux kernel infringes a further 232 patents. The fear is that if the company succeeds against TomTom it will go after other Linux-based vendors - and let's face it, with TomTom under its belt, M$ knows where they all live.

Android Vs. iPhone - Which is better for you?

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This is just a quick post to point you into the direction of Lifehacker. They have written a brilliant comparison piece between Android and the iPhone.

Best part of it is the table that makes it clear what you get from each operating system and how 3.0 differs from 2.2.1.


Google & Sony join forces for e-reader library. It's Kindle worrying

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As the e-reader battle between Sony and Amazon starts hotting up, I find myself excited having heard that Google Book (currently a PC app) is to back Sony's e-reader.

That means they will now be able to offer over  half a million public domain titles FOR FREE. Sony's library can now boast that it is the largest available (that includes the Kindle library).

Google's contribution here is more than just scanning the books, but they have also converted the text to the ePub/eBook format, which allows formatting. Something that PDFs haven't mastered yet.

rex_798432e.jpg

source [gizmodo]
picture [rex features]

Flipin 'eck! Cisco to buy Flip maker for $590m - that's $3.6m Flips

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Cisco has announced its intention to buy the makers of the Flip Video camcorder, Pure Digital.

According to Ned Hooper, senior vice president of Cisco's Corporate Development and Consumer Groups, the "acquisition of Pure Digital is key to Cisco's strategy to expand our momentum in the media-enabled home and to capture the consumer market transition to visual networking."

A quick history of Cisco acquisitions:

  1. Linksys, 2005 for $500 million
  2. Scientific Atlanta, 2005 for $6.9 billion
  3. PostPath, 2008 for $215 million
  4. Jabber, 2008 for unknown

flip.jpg
Source [engadget]

Google Maps street view - I can see my house from here!

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Google maps now has street view for pretty much the whole of the UK.

Is this the coolest thing ever? Yes, yes and hell yes!

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I haven't been this excited about seeing my house since I got my first pair of glasses.

So what are the benefits/uses of this?

  1. Meeting people: Now when you say I'll meet you here, you can actually say "I'll meet you by the Tesco. Yeah I'll meet you where the blonde girl is on Street View".
  2. GPS: They'll probably incorporate this into a GPS system which would be, as the French say: Tres Cool.
  3. Getting places: You can get a visual of where you should be as oppose to a map that tells you where you're not.
  4. Moving house or business planning: Checking an area before you move there.
  5. Holidays and office boredom: You can spend hours looking at places, sort of a 'wish I was there' for holidays.
  6. Stalkers and thieves: Yes, sadly this will come up at some point (probably tomorrow) where some people will use it for evil. 

big ben.jpgThe navigation makes me feel like Superman.


Google Chrome 2.0 beta released (Beta the devil you know)

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So the new version of Google Chrome, 2.0 beta, is faster (25% to 35%) and has some new features like form autofill, full page zoom and autoscroll.

Great, fantastic, brilliant - well done.

The only thing that's got me scratching my head is that they have gone back to calling it a 'beta'. It must have been difficult to remove the beta tag in the first place but to put it back on makes the polished giant look a bit edgy.

Don't get me wrong, the beta tag is justified and there are some decent improvements but I always find beta is used to say 'this might be a bit crap'.

I'm sure that's not the case for Chrome because Google rarely get it wrong... right?

Source: [http://chrome.blogspot.com/]

Go Go Gadget to go

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Inspector Gadget logo.jpg
Our namesake Inspector Gadget is now available on iPhone and iPod Touch. Namco has developed the game in conjunction with Cookie Jar Entertainment, the producer of the cartoon series which started 25 years ago.

Players can adopt the roles of the mechanically-enhanced detective, his niece Penny or Gadget's dog Brain. By switching from one character to another the evil Dr Claw can be pursued across six levels and eventually foiled in his evil plot to rule the world.

Inspector Gadget.jpg
The game features both Story mode and Quick Play mode. If Dr Claw's MAD agents and devilish creatures defeat you every time on a particular level, you can use Quick Play to access any level to practice until you get it right and then return to Story play to battle through the six levels sequentially.

You navigate through the game using on-screen touch controls and away you go go. Gadget's favourite 'copter, umbrella and trenchcoat tools are also available to overcome the challenges.

The 7.9MB game is available via the iTunes App Store for £2.99.

DJ in your pocket coming atcha

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If  I didn't have enough problems with voices in my head, Apple's new Shuffle adds another one. Whatever next? It paves the way for a personal DJ. There is enough information in the file tags to make it feasible to have DJ links. "And now another golden oldie from the 1980's". Plenty of space to store the necessary aphorisms, cliches and inanities to make virtual DJ's sound lifelike.

More likely is that online music stores will follow the Spotify model and offer reduced prices or free content if you opt for an advertising service between every dozen or so tracks.

Apple iPhone OS3.0 Preview

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Apple held a press conference today, primarily it would seem to introduce the Dev community to the new features they have devlioped for OS3.0 for the iPhone, but it was a good oppurtunity for the random Joe to see what will be available in June for the upgrade.

So they finally decided to add cut and paste, in a very nifty touch screen friendly way, but there is more.

MMS wil be supported, as will superior push technology - something that is needed as you can't flip through apps without the app stopping, which is no good if you are using an IM client, for example.

Lanscape typing is going to be supported, which will be a welcome relief to those of us who have sausage fingers, and this will be supported in all major apps. There's a nifty search feature called Spotlight coming in (sounds familiar?).

In Application buying to bolt on extras is becoming available.

Also on the horizon is voice memos and peer to peer connections - useful for a quick game on the train home from work.

What also looks very promising is the ability for developers to add functionality to accessories added to the iPhone, one example of this was a blood pressure application, and also an app for diabetes blood sugar testing. No sign of the groovy tricorder function all iphone users are yearning for...yet.

The upgrade will be rolled out in June, the Beta is available for devs now, and the upgrade is free for all iPhone users, and will cost $9.99 (UK price TBA) for iPod Touch users. the upgrade will be available for all iPhones, but with a slightly limited functionality for 1st gen iPhone users.

All in all it looks pretty impressive, as usual, or am I biased?

Video: The future of business cards, I'm not taking the Poken

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Ever thought 'there must be a better way of exchanging contact information than business cards'? Well now there is! It's called Poken and it might be the next big thing amongst kids but I see other uses for it. Watch the video below for a demonstration and explanation.


HTC to give birth to Google Android triplets in nine months

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HTC's CEO has announced that they will release at least three smartphones using Google Android this year.

The announcement came at the Merrill Lynch technology conference in Taipei. HTC CEO Peter Chou was asked whether or not a report saying HTC will market five Android-based handsets this year was true to which he replied that there would be "at least' three.

HTC last month announced a second Google phone (the HTC Magic, I'm gonna call it G2) that will be sold by Vodafone in Europe.


716_30_Vodafone-HTC-Magic.jpgSo, what do we think these HTC phones will include? Well let's think about it for a second.

They have to release THREE in nine months (yes they're giving birth to triplets). I'm guessing they will have one flagship phone to directly rival the iPhone with a touchscreen qwerty keyboard (the Magic? I guess), an improvement on the G1 with slider and my guess is they will have a cameraphone to rival the Sony Ericsson Idou (do you? I don't).

The first will be called Magic (above), the second will be called the HTC Jordan and finally the HTC Shaq Attack to honour the NBAs basketball stars. Ok, that's not true but would be very cool if it happened.

We expect more announcements very soon. Maybe one of those baby scans where all you're trying to see is if it's a boy or a girl. It's about time they made those in colour, I mean welcome to the 21st century!

Source: PC World
Image source: HTC

Video: Cupcake update has weekly update, cupcake :)

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A Google Android develper has put the latest build of the Cupcake update on his phone and is posting a weekly run-through every Sunday. Below is the first video.

From the video you can see live folders and the latest version of the software keyboard, .





See also: Google Android screencast.


Source: [Phandroid].

Happy Birthday Linux!!

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Everyone at computerweekly.com/Inspect-A-Gadget would like  to wish Linux a Happy 15th Birthday!

This year you can look forward to acne and tackling your GCSEs.

We did a whip round and got you a virtual cake. Virtual cakes are not tasty but not fattening either.

CakeBatter copy.jpg

Apple to preview iPhone 3.0 on March 17

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Just a quick note to say that Apple have sent invites out to preview the new iPhone OS 3.0 at  Apple HQ on March 17 at 10:00 a.m (5.00pm GMT).

We're not sure what new features this will include but that's the point of having a preview!

Check back with IAG (this blog duh) for more info.

Apple Shuffle speaks to me

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So Apple have announced a new Shuffle that will has a VoiceOver function says the names of songs, artists and playlists. It's fluent in 14 languages.

The new Shuffle will hold up to 1,000 songs on a 4gb flash drive and is around the size of a battery. Apple says the battery will last up to 10 hours.

shuffle.png

It will go on sale some time this week and will be priced at $79.

I'm quite interested to find out how it'll work. I can't help but think it's gonna be really annoying. You're usually trying to drown out voices (inside and outside your head) not add to them.

I still think they could've just added a small screen and this is Apple trying to be too clever. Then again other micro mp3 players do not have a screen or this function (but they're probably a lot cheaper).

Still, let's give Apple some credit for trying something different.

Image: Apple


Apple Mac netbook in the pipeline according to rumours

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There has been a lot of speculation lately that Apple is set to an announce development of an Apple Mac Netbook or an Apple e-reader.

Searches for the terms 'Apple netbook' and 'Mac netbook' have gone through the roof lately and following some investigation of my own, I can confirm that the speculation is at the moment just speculation. Having said that, Apple's silence continues to fuel rumour mill.

untitled.JPG

Speculation with foundation?

A source close to Wintek, a Taiwanese company that already makes small screens for Apple iPhones, says Apple have placed an order for 10-inch touchscreens, according to Reuters.

It looks certain now that Apple will follow the iPhone and iPod touch with an Apple Mac netbook / e-reader to rival the Kindle). It's also possible that they will first release an e-reader and follow it up with a touchscreen 10-inch Mac.

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Image Source: Freescale

The source, that works close to Wintek asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to talk to the media and added that he did not know what the final product would be, or who would make it.

The rumour mill has been going into overdrive lately with The H reporting that Freescale were to produce the Mac netbook.

If Apple produce an e-reader, I will be severely disppointed because I can read books on my iPhone. But if they produce a netbook at an affordable price, which is more likely, then I think they will throw down the gauntlet (once again) to it's rivals the same way the iPhone did last year.

Watch this space.


See also: Apple netbook: larger than an iPhone smaller than a Macbook



Microsoft to release Arc Mouse and Notebook Cooling Base

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The Microsoft Arc Mouse will be available for $50 this month while the Notebook Cooling Base will be available in July for $30.

When I first heard about these products I thought 'So what' and for the Notebook Cooling Base, it's now 'Oh that's cool, but still not a big deal' but having seen the Arc Mouse I'm like 'I want one'.

Maybe it's because it looks cool and reminds me of Star Trek Communicator (and for those non Trekkies the rolling battle droids in Star Wars).

03-10ArcArray_lg.jpg

For the Arc Mouse, Microsoft says:
Sleek, collapsible design folds to reduce the mouse's size by almost half, giving consumers the comfort of a full-size mouse with the portability of a notebook mouse. Flipping the mouse shut automatically turns the power off to save battery life.

I work a lot on the move and yeah, a small mouse is annoying so I give this four out of five.

Snap-in magnetic micro-transceiver is smaller than a dime and uses a magnet to effortlessly snap into the bottom of the mouse, making packing up easier than ever.

Ermmm... So it has magnets? One out of five.


03-10CBFOB_lg.jpg

For the Notebook Cooler, Microsoft says:

The stylish Notebook Cooling Base provides reliable cooling with a built-in fan and efficient cooling channel to prevent overheating.

Hold on, stylish? really? I know there isn't much you could do with it but to call it stylish is like calling a donkey a horse. Two out of five.

The base is easy to use with any notebook and is contoured to rest on both desks and users' laps, providing a comfortable typing angle.

So does my cushion. One out of five.

The Notebook Cooling Base has a slim, portable design at only 1.16 inches thick, a cable management clip to allow the cable to be neatly stored when not in use, and is USB-powered so no batteries are needed.

Fair point. No batteries and slim makes this more appealing. I like, four out of five.

Overall, I like the mouse a lot and the notebook cooler is nice. Look out for these in the coming months and some copycat versions soon after.

Source: Microsoft


Reading between the pixels

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Whoopee! Apple is offering software to allow Kindle format books to be read on the iPhone. Well, maybe there are celebrations in the US but everywhere else in the world we're still waiting for the Kindle, the software and the pleasure of buying digitised books from Amazon.

In another part of the e-book format universe, ereader.com has been offering software to allow books to be read an iPhone or Touch iPod. It even supports Windows Mobile and Symbian. Support for Palm Trio is kind of expected as it was software developed by Palm that spawned this particular market.

The whole idea of books on mobile devices is contentious. People seem to love the smell, the look, the feel of books - its almost a fetish. In the business world, books are not loved so dearly. They are often weighty manuals and ideal for digitising. Phones are ubiquitous but have small screens. Notebooks and even Netbooks are not really convenient, with the exception of costly Tablet PCs. Enter the Kindle and Sony Reader.

These devices could be the engineers tool of the future. Kindle is still rather proprietary (and not available outside the US) so not really applicable but the Sony is much more versatile. Support for the open ePub format means that proprietary material can be converted for use on the Sony device - and it can play MP3s to give you music while you work.

Maybe it's time we inspected this particular gadget.

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