News of Technology

Latest news of Technology world.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Microsoft to Start Online Book Searches


Microsoft is diving into the business of offering online searches of books and other writings, and says its approach aims to avoid the legal tussles met by rival Google.

The Redmond-based software giant said Tuesday that it will sidestep hot-button copyright issues for now by initially focusing mainly on books, academic materials and other publications that are in the public domain.

Microsoft plans to initially work with an industry organization called the Open Content Alliance to let users search about 150,000 pieces of published material. A test version of the product is promised for next year.

The alliance, whose participants also include top Internet portal Yahoo Inc., is working to make books and other offline content available online without raising the ire of publishers and authors.

Danielle Tiedt, a general manager of search content acquisition with Microsoft's MSN online unit, said the company also is working with publishers and libraries on ways to eventually make more copyright material available for online searches.

She said Microsoft is looking at several options, including models where users would be charged to access the content.

Microsoft said it has no plans right now to have targeted ads located in the search results, but the company cautioned that it was still working out the details of its business model.

"I think about the 150,000 books as a test," Tiedt said.

Rival Google has taken a markedly different approach, with plans to index millions of copyright books from three major university libraries Harvard, Stanford and Michigan unless the copyright holder notifies the company which volumes should be excluded.

The Association of American Publishers, representing five publishers, and The Authors Guild, which includes about 8,000 writers, have both sued the search engine giant over the plans.

Google has defended the effort as necessary to its goal of helping people find information and insists that its scanning effort is protected under fair use law because of restrictions placed on how much of any single book could be read.


Internet Users Cut Back Because of Fears

As identity theft has grown, so has fear of being victimized through high-tech means.

Nearly a third of Internet users are cutting back on time spent surfing the Internet and a quarter say they have stopped buying online altogether, according to a study from Consumer Reports WebWatch.

Some 80 percent of Internet users say they're at least somewhat concerned someone could steal their identity from personal information on the Internet. Fifty-three percent of Internet users say they've stopped giving out personal information on the Web.

The random telephone-based survey of 1,501 Internet users aged 18 and older was conducted May 19 to June 21. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Gates Promises Tough Battle With Google


On his first trip to Israel, Bill Gates promised Microsoft Corp. would make an aggressive push into the fast-growing market for Internet searches, taking aim at archrival Google Inc.

Gates also said Israel's vibrant high-tech sector will play an important role in the global marketplace and pledged to strengthen cooperation with the country. He offered $1.4 million for local startups and pledged to connect tens of thousands Israeli children to the Internet.

"It's no exaggeration to say that the kind of innovation going on in Israel is critical to the future of the technology business," Gates told reporters.

"Internet search as it is today will be dramatically better in a few years, whether it's us or Google," he said. "We're both going to be making dramatic improvements there."

Despite heavy investments in search technology, Microsoft remains a distant third in the area. Google processed 45 percent of U.S search requests in September, outdistancing 23 percent for Yahoo Inc. and 12 percent for Microsoft's MSN, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Gates said Microsoft is quickly branching out beyond its core business of desktop software, saying the company is developing software for use in automobiles, videogames and cell phones.

He said Microsoft is looking for new ways to use its software, "particularly making it user-centric so you can move between these various devices quite easily," he said. "Our strategy has never changed. It's a dream about software and the empowerment that software can provide."



Anti-Spyware Group Publishes Guidelines

A coalition of anti-spyware vendors and consumer groups published guidelines Thursday to help consumers assess products designed to combat unwanted programs that sneak onto computers.

The Anti-Spyware Coalition released the guidelines for public comment and also updated a separate document that attempted to craft uniform definitions for "spyware" and "adware" in hopes of giving computer users more control over their machines.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Internet users have become more cautious online because of worries about spyware and adware, which can bombard users with pop-up ads and drain processing power to the point of rendering computers unusable.

Nearly half of adult online Americans have stopped visiting specific Web sites that they fear might infect them with such unwanted programs, and a quarter have ceased to use file-sharing software, which often comes bundled with adware.

In addition, 43 percent of Internet users say they've been hit with spyware, adware or both, with broadband users generally at greater risk.

The new guidelines from the coalition assign risk levels to various practices common with spyware and adware.

High-risk practices include installation without a user's permission or knowledge, interference with competing programs, interception of e-mail and instant-messaging conversations and the display of ads without identifying the program that generated them.

Changing a browser's home page or search engine setting is deemed a medium risk, while using data files called cookies to collect information is considered a low risk.

"Although all behaviors can be problematic if unauthorized, certain ones tend to have a greater impact and are treated with more severity than others," the guidelines say.

The idea is to agree on what practices consumers should worry most about. Within the general rankings, individual vendors still have leeway to assign their own weight to each behavior in deciding whether to quarantine or remove a program when detected.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Toshiba Tecra M4 Review


With a silver lid and a black base, the Toshiba Tecra M4 convertible tablet looks right at home in the boardroom. It is solidly designed and loaded with features, but its 6.2-pound weight is a killer if you want to hold your tablet like a clipboard for any length of time. If you want a decent laptop with tablet functionality, the Tecra M4 provides top-notch performance, a comfortable keyboard, and a large 14-inch screen. If you're looking for something to use primarily as a tablet, you're better off with smaller devices such as the ThinkPad X41 or the Motion LE1600.

Measuring 12.9 inches wide, 11.4 inches deep, and approximately 1.5 inches thick, the Toshiba Tecra M4 has the same dimensions as the Toshiba Satellite R15; both are significantly larger than the other convertible tablets we've seen, such as the HP Compaq tc4200 and the Averatec C3500. Again, the Tecra M4 is one of the heaviest tablets around and really appropriate only for carrying down the hall and on occasional trips.

The large dimensions do allow for some creature comforts, including a spacious keyboard and two pointing options: an eraser-head pointing stick (similar to the TrackPoint on ThinkPads) and a touch pad. As on the HP Compaq tc4200, the pointing stick and the touch pad each has its own mouse button, and the touch pad features horizontal and vertical scroll zones. With the Tecra M4 in tablet mode, you can navigate and write on the screen with a stylus that has the bulk of a ballpoint pen and offers a good pen-on-paper feel. However, we prefer the rubberized grip and the thick Montblanc feel of the Motion LE1600's stylus. We also wish the Tecra M4's pen had a tether to keep us from losing it.

If you want to see life on the big screen, the Toshiba Tecra M4 is the tablet for you. While the Acer TravelMate C301XCi, the Gateway M275, and the Toshiba Satellite R15 all feature 14-inch screens, none can touch the Tecra M4's superfine 1,400x1,050 SXGA+ native resolution, which lets you view multiple windows while in landscape mode. Unfortunately, the screen is prone to glare and doesn't have as wide a viewing angle as we've seen elsewhere--for example, on the Motion LE1600. With the Tecra M4 in tablet mode or laid flat beneath overhead lights, we had problems viewing the screen at a 45-degree angle.

Another advantage of the Toshiba Tecra M4's size is that it can accommodate a decent mix of ports and connections. In addition to the headphone and microphone jacks, you'll find VGA, S-Video, four-pin FireWire, infrared, and three USB 2.0 ports. There are also SecureDigital and Type II PC Card slots, and you can connect to the Internet via modem, Ethernet, or 802.11b/g Wi-Fi. We like that the headphone and microphone jacks, the volume control, and a button to kill the wireless are easily accessible on the front of the machine. Small stereo speakers offer decent sound, but the lid covers them in tablet mode. The Tecra M4 lacks a fingerprint scanner, which would both provide security and make it easier to log on in tablet mode; however, it does have a Trusted Platform Module to help protect you from data theft. Like other Toshiba laptops, to keep data safe in the event that it's dropped, the Tecra M4 stops the hard drive from spinning whenever the tablet moves too fast.

The Tecra M4 runs Windows XP Tablet Edition, and our test unit came with a good selection of software, including Microsoft Office OneNote, Microsoft Works 8.0, and Zinio Reader for reading digital magazines. It also came with Toshiba's very cool ConfigFree utility, which has a neat NORAD-like radar graphic that plots the signal strength (but not the location) of nearby wireless networks.

Toshiba has always been competitive with features and has put more power under the hood of the Tecra M4 than you will find in any other tablet. Our $2,099 (as of August 2005) test unit included a very fast 2GHz Pentium M processor, 512MB of quick 533MHz SDRAM, and a smoking Nvidia GeForce Go graphics card with 64MB of dedicated video memory (rare for a tablet). In CNET Labs' performance benchmarks, the Tecra M4 performed 24 percent faster than the similar-size Toshiba Satellite R15, which has a slower 1.6GHz processor. The Tecra M4 also handily beat the 1.8GHz Pentium M-based HP Compaq tc4200 and the Averatec C3500, which has a 1.67GHz processor. Only the new Acer TravelMate C310, with its 2.2GHz processor and 14.1-inch screen, looks poised to give the Tecra M4 a run for its money.

On the downside, the Toshiba Tecra M4's battery lasted for a mediocre 2 hours, 47 minutes. By contrast, the Toshiba Satellite R15's lasted 4 hours, 42 minutes, and the HP Compaq tc4200's lasted 4 hours, 56 minutes. If you don't need the DVD drive, you might want to consider swapping it out for an additional slim SelectBay battery ($169), which Toshiba claims will give you a total of 6 hours of battery life.


Sun looks for users running rival OSes

Sun Microsystems on Wednesday is expected to announce that its Java Enterprise System server software now supports Microsoft's Windows and Hewlett-Packard's UX operating systems.

JES--a suite of enterprise middleware--already supports Sun's Solaris 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Support for Windows and HP-UX was originally due in the first quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, Sun won't add JES support for IBM's AIX. "If we saw demand for that we would do it. We have not seen demand," John Loiacono, executive vice president of software at Sun, said Tuesday in a meeting with reporters here. The company had suggested in the past that it might deliver AIX support at the same time as Windows and HP-UX support.

Sun sells six JES suites, five of which are priced at $50 per user per year. For all those five, the company charges $140 per user per year. Bundling options for the sixth suite--a SeeBeyond software integration suite--have not been determined. The suites include an application server, collaboration software and identity management software.

Sun is proud of the software's sales pace, Loiacono said.

"We are rapidly approaching 1 million subscribers," he said. Wednesday's announcement is for JES version 4, which was actually been made available last week, he said.

The expanded operating system support is one of several examples of Sun branching out from Solaris. Windows support starts with Windows 2000, and a Windows Server 2003 version is due in 90 days, Sun said.

Linux desktop play Additionally Sun is looking to expand the reach of its Java Desktop System software to cover more flavors of Linux. Sun has a new "JDS partners program" for Linux makers, which it hopes will bring the desktop software suite to Linux versions such as Gentoo, Yellow Dog, Red Hat and SuSE.

Previously the company had moved away from efforts to sell JDS on Linux and focused on Solaris.

JDS includes the GNOME desktop environment, StarOffice productivity suite, Mozilla Web browser, Evolution mail and calendar client, and Java 2 Platform Standard Edition to run Java applications. Sun today offers JDS on Solaris, on a variant of SuSE's Linux and on its Sun Ray thin clients.

"We want to expand our play in that area and want to make it prolific on all desktop distributions," Loiacono said. There are no commitments yet from Linux providers, but Sun is close to striking some deals, he said.

Solaris 10 momentumWhile adding support for rival operating systems, Sun also sees momentum for its own Solaris 10. Since its release at the end of January, Solaris 10 has been licensed to run on 3 million computers, the company said.

"This has been the fastest adoption of our software in the history of our company," said Tom Goguen, vice president of operating platforms at Sun.

More than 534 systems from various hardware makers support Solaris 10, Sun said. The company has submitted the operating system for a high-level(vis by ZDnet)



Panasonic R4 ASpec


Panasonic has finally adopted the Sonoma God in its line-up, so here we are face-to-face with the new R4 series, and more specifically its strongest member, the R4 ASpec.

Specifications

So the R4 is Sonoma (you kinda figured that by now) and this implies a 915 chipset, a Dothan 753 at 1.2Ghz, a 915GMS Express graphics chipset with 128Mb of (shared) memory and DDR2. Here we look at the R4 ASpec, which means that the machine already 1Gb of RAM as of standard and a 80Gb HDD (as opposed to the usual 40Gb). This model also has a regular qwerty-keyboard layour with the Japanese characters.

A guided tour

The casing is identical to the R3's, so nothing new here.

A wolf in sheep's clothing
This PC still weighs less than 1kg and Panasonic announces a battery life of 9h, but we estimate it 6-7h, which is still impressive nevertheless.

QWERTY keyboard?

As you can see, the ASpec models (be it the R, W or Y series) all come with a qwerty layout without Japanese characters.

Bench

The only differences between the R3 we tested and this R4 ASpec are:
1) the Sonoma platform and the 128Mb of shared video memory
2) more RAM and a bigger HDD

RAM and video memory are influencing factors in these benchmarks, and they could explain the 109 points of difference between the R3 and R4. Not being an expert in these matters, I'll let the pro's draw their conclusions.

Conclusion:
We already thought the R3 was clos to perfection, and this R4 comes even closer with more RAM and a bigger HDD. The Sonoma chipset offers more video memory, which allows the machine to feel more at ease in certain domains. The Panasonic PC's are tailored to the needs of demanding users, because the R4, W4 and Y4 are built to withstand a pressure of 100kg (on any part of the casing) without breaking (not even the screen?). All in all, the ideal computer for demanding customers.


Plus:
The weight
The dimensions
A real XGA screen
Battery life
1Gb of RAM
80Gb HDD
VERY WELL BUILT
Fanless (no fan for the CPU)

Minus:
SD Slot SD is difficult to access
No CD or DVD drive

Canon Invests in Fuel Cell Future

As portable electronics become more accessible, prolonging battery life is the number one industry problem. Whether its cellphones, laptops or digital cameras, we’ve all been caught holding dead pieces of equipment, wishing we had some extra juice. To assuage this, Canon has announced that it will begin developing tiny fuel cells that will eventually replace conventional batteries for its printers and digital cameras. Canon’s new system would take hydrogen straight from a refillable cartridge, making it more environmentally friendly. The company is also looking into replacing LCDs with Organic Light-Emitting Diodes that it will produce in-house. Other companies diligently working on fuel cell technology include technology include Toshiba, NEC and Hitachi.(via by gizmodo)



Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Choosing and using DVD formats




Finding a way through the recordable DVD maze

There are several recordable DVD formats around.The good news is that your Sony HDD/DVD recorder supports virtually all of them. If you are confused about the number of different recordable DVD formats available, then you’re probably not alone.

Complete Dual Compatibility

The first thing to remember is that your Sony HDD/DVD recorder is 'Complete Dual RW' compatible. This means that it can record and play back DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R and DVD-RW discs. The only format that Sony¹s DVD recorders do not support for playback or recording is DVD-RAM. On one level, then, it doesn¹t really matter whether you choose to make your recordings on +R/RW or ­R/RW media. Your Sony HDD/DVD recorder is also compatible with DVD+R double layer discs, which can hold around 1.8x as much material as a standard single-layer disc. So in the highest-quality, HQ recording mode, for example, you can record 108 minutes on a double-layer disc, compared to 60 minutes on a single-layer disc.


Record once or record many times ?

Although there are lots of formats to choose from, things are, in fact, not quite as complicated as they first appear. DVD+R and DVD+RW are simply recordable and rewriteable versions. Recordable means that you can only record on to the disc once. Rewriteable means that you can record on to the disk hundreds of times. So you would use a recordable disc to make an archive copy of a favourite film or maybe a home video. But you would use a rewritable disc for short-term copies, things you want to watch and then erase. Or for situations where you want to archive something but it is so short that you want to
use the remaining disc space to archive something else.


Which format is best?

DVD+R and DVD-R are so similar that it is impossible, and indeed pointless, to say whether one is better than the other. What is certain is that the recordable, write once formats, DVD+R and DVD-R offer better compatibility with existing DVD players than the rewritable, DVD+RW and DVD-RW formats. So if you want to share your recordings with family and friends, the write-once formats, DVD+R and DVD-R, are better. On the other hand, if you want the ability to reuse the disc, erasing old recordings to make way for new ones, then you must use one of the rewritable formats, DVD+RW or DVD-RW.

Which rewritable format is best?

Where it is difficult to rate DVD+R against DVD-R, each of the rewriteable formats does have an edge over the other, depending on what you want to do with your recordings. DVD-RW has two recording modes. These are the standard DVD-Video mode and VR mode. VR mode offers much more flexibility than DVD-Video mode, especially when it comes to editing your recordings. Using VR mode, you can, for example, create different playlists of scenes from a recording, without changing or removing any of the original recording. So from the same disc, you could play back a version of your summer holiday home movie lasting 10 minutes, and another one lasting an hour. So if you plan to edit your recordings, DVD-RW is the better rewritable format. If, on the other hand, you have no need to edit your recordings, but plan to play them back on other DVD players around the house, or share them with family and friends, DVD+RW discs are a better rewritable option. This is because they do not need to be finalized before being played back on other DVD players.

Although finalizing is a straightforward procedure, it does take a few minutes, so from a time-saving perspective, this gives DVD+RW discs an advantage over DVD-RW discs.

Other disc types

In addition to the recordable DVD formats your Sony HDD/DVD recorder can cope with, it can also play back regular DVD-Video discs, as well as many other types of disc. These include CD, CD-R (recordable), CD-RW (rewritable), Video CD, Data CD and Data DVD. And, in addition to DVD and CD soundtracks, your Sony HDD/DVD recorder can also play back CDs or DVDs containing MP3 audio files, or JPEG digital still photos. It’s a very versatile device.







Sony RDR-GX310 DVD Recorder


* DVD-R/DVD+R/DVD-RW/DVD+RW Recording (dual RW compatibility)

* Simultaneous Record and Playback only on DVD-RW VR Mode.

* Chasing Playback only on DVD-RW VR Mode.

* Precision Cinema Progressive with 12 bit/108 MHz DAC.

* DVD Video/CD/Video CD Playback

* DTT STB

* 8 Day EPG / Favourite Channel list / Channel Lock / Digital Text ( View/Rec )

* 30 Freeview digital TV and 20 digital radio channel

* CD-R/RW Playback and MP3 Playback

* DVD-R/DVD-RW/DVD+R/DVD+RW Playback

* Visual Search.

* SmartLink.

* D-Matrix Noise Reduction.

* Intelligent Scene Chaptering.

* DVD +R Double Layer ( 8.5 GB ).

* Quick Timer.

* S-Video In/Out, Analog AV In/OUT, Digital Audio Output

* 2X Scart (1 including RGB input)


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