Sunday, October 5, 2008

2008 Overrated and Underrated I.T. Products ever sold

2008 Overrated and Underrated I.T. Products ever sold

Overrated: Touch Interface; Underrated: A Good Keyboard

Apple's touch-screen interface makes navigation easy, but who wants to type even a haiku on that screen? Instead of endlessly stabbing at a soft keypad, give the Sidekick 2008 a try. T-Mobile's QWERTY keyboard remains the best one we've seen on any cell phone -- spacious and easily stowable. If only more smart-phone makers would follow and im­­prove on Danger's de­­sign. I wish Danger's updated Sidekick had a deeper operating system and less emphasis on the teen scene.

-- by Darren Gladstone, PC World

Overrated: Nintendo Wii ; Underrated: Sony PlayStation Portable

More than two years after their debut, Wiis are still tough to find in stores. In that time, Nintendo has re­­leased just enough great games (and non­games like Wii Fit) to tease gamers. Nintendo continues to develop new peripherals like the WiiSpeak speakerphone attachment (coming this fall), but the company says that only a handful of marquee titles will appear by the end of 2008.

In contrast, Sony's PlayStation Portable continues to gain unique titles and cool features -- if you have a Wi-Fi connection (having a PlayStation 3 doesn't hurt either). Now in its second generation, the PSP offers Skype, Internet radio, the ability to up­­load movies from a PS3 directly to your handheld, and downloadable translation travel packs. Plus, you can play games remotely and view content stored on your PlayStation 3 over a Wi-Fi network.

Overrated: Mini Notebooks; Underrated: Ultraportable Laptops

A serviceable, compact notebook for around $500? It sounds tempting if you're on a tight budget and have modest processing needs. Mini-notebooks are small and easy to love. But try doing anything fancier than sending e-mail or composing a document, and you'll long to upgrade to an Etch A Sketch. Intel's Atom CPU gives very small devices de­­cent power — but hundreds of bucks to do a handful of tasks adequately? Mmph.

Meanwhile, full-blooded laptops that can easily outperform a mini-notebook are getting more affordable every day. For ex­­ample, Lenovo's X61, a 12.1-inch, 3.6-pound ultraportable, sells for about $1,000. It offers more flexibility and will resist obsolescence better than any current or near-future mini-notebook will.

Overrated: iTunes Downloads; Underrated: Slacker and Pandora

After ripping through your stack of old CDs, you're grabbing songs from the iTunes Store. In other words, you are paying for the privilege of buying music that's locked down in DRM hell.

We'd rather start from scratch with a music streaming service like Pandora or Slacker. Enter the name of a band you like, and the site compiles sets of tunes you'll probably enjoy as well -- many of them by artists you may not know. Both of these music streamers offer free flavors of the service. Love a song? Buy it on­­line. Slacker also has a premium service with a $10 monthly fee that gives you more control of the music you get. And you can upload your play­lists to the second-generation Slacker player.

Overrated: Facebook; Underrated: Multiply

Everyone seems to be on Facebook at this point. But to what end? Countless free applications of dubious value, plus scores of plug-ins and games that draw you deeper into the Facebook rabbit hole until you're spending hours a day befriending complete strangers with whom you have nothing in common be­­yond a shared love of Raisin Bran.

Ready for a little quality control? Try, a social networking site that's less a landing page (à la Facebook) than a series of feeds. Share various as­­pects of yourself with people in different spheres of your life: Have a drinking-buddy list for happy-hour up­­dates and a family group for Aunt Helen sightings.

Overrated: Apple iPod Touch; Underrated: Microsoft Zune

The iPod has established it­­self as the Kleenex of the MP3 category, but other players offer stronger features to the discerning few. Most annoyingly, Apple charges a premium for less. News flash: A built-in accelerometer on the latest models lets you shake your iPod like a maraca to change tunes. Yay!

As a Microsoft product, the Zune is bound to earn insta-hate in some quarters. But it lets you sync your device wirelessly -- no cradles or cables needed. Though the iPod Touch has Wi-Fi too, we want more than Web browsing from our wireless connection. A recent Zune update allows users to tag music heard on the built-in FM tuner and order it when they next hook up on Wi-Fi. The Zune also lets you stream music to other Zune owners — if you can find 'em.

Overrated: Google Apps; Underrated: OpenOffice 3.0

Google's productivity Web apps are great for teams working online that want to share calendars and documents. But Google Apps is online only and ulti­mately is just a couple of applications. What we need is a full-fledged productivity suite that's completely compatible with Microsoft Office files, can work across multiple operating systems and is free. Oh, wait -- that suite already exists.

If you haven't taken the time to check out OpenOffice in the past, you owe it to yourself to do so now. You'll find the latest beta, OO 3.0, at

Overrated: Adobe Photoshop CS4 ; Underrated: Paint.Net

Photoshop has been the gold-standard im­­age editor for ages. It is continually upgraded with new features, and it remains one of the few image editors that supports four-color (CMYK) mode -- essential for print work. But people who work online in three colors (RGB) don't need CMYK mode. All image editors -- including Photoshop Elements, which costs a small fraction of what Photoshop CS3 costs -- can handle RGB.

But why pay at all? Paint.Net, a favorite at PC World, is free. This small, unassuming program performs many basic image editing tasks, works quickly and mimics the tools and functions that are found in other image editors (so it should be easy to learn).

Overrated: Windows XP; Underrated: Windows Vista

"Save Windows XP!" is the rallying cry of Windows users dismayed by the needless bloat of Vista. But didn't everyone have the same critique of Windows XP when it first galumphed into public view like an unsteady rubber monster?

What did Vista get right? For starters, though the User Account Control feature is like an annoying little sister who constantly pokes you, it makes Vista more secure than XP. Vista also trounces XP in handling mobile de­­vices, networking, multimedia files and photos. On top of that, it has a cleaner, more navigable interface -- one eerily reminiscent of a certain Mac operating system.

Overrated: Streaming Video; Underrated: Blu-ray Disc

Streaming video gets all the buzz: Netflix via Roku or Vudu! Hulu, YouTube and the Beijing Olympics via PC!

But we haven't seen streaming video im­­ages as impressive as those on Blu-ray Disc (and Blu-ray audio rocks, too). The detail, clarity and depth of Blu-ray trump the lower-bit-rate product that streaming video offers every time. That's not to say that streaming isn't convenient: You just click and go, with no packaging to fuss with and no disc to load. But with Blu-ray (the successor to the DVD), you don't have to worry about broadband-network data caps or hiccups in the service.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

VPA - Making modern life easier the Virtual Personal Assistants

Virtual Personal Assistants Make Life Easier

By Hanna Sistek, CNET

Too busy to book airline tickets, order takeout food, or call your parents? For $19 per month, virtual personal assistants from will run 10 such errands for you.

Virtual personal assistants (© CNET

Welcome to the world of online errand outsourcing, where on sites like and, ordinary people can get assistance with everyday tasks, for a small amount. SFGate recently ran an Associated Press article on the phenomenon, citing the growing number of Web sites that are making it easier to outsource virtual errands overseas to countries like India, China, and Bangladesh.

Some of the more unusual tasks handled by include:

  • Daily wakeup calls that also deliver the local weather report and instructions to get up, make the bed, and exercise
  • Reading bedtime stories to children over the phone
  • Buying underwear on behalf of clients (online purchase only, the company points out)
  • Talking to mom and dad in a client's stead provides its service 24-7. At, clients get a personal assistant working in time-zone-specific shifts, available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., for instance.

Virtual assistants for individuals and small businesses represent a small but growing market. Last year, the estimated revenue for these services was $250 million, according to research firm Evalueserve, which expects the market to grow to $2 billion by 2015.

For more specific tasks, there are sites like, a Pittsburgh-based company that helps employers find freelancers helping with Web design, language translation, and photography. launched its online job board in 2000 and has a rating system similar to that of eBay, with reviews from earlier customers, as well as hourly rates, yearly earnings, and locations of the freelancers.

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Another site where customers can search professionals based on rate, location, earnings, or feedback is Mountain View, Calif.-based Elance.

Elance and are not only platforms for low-wage workers in the developing world, but also for Westerners. Will sites like this level the playing field of the global economy?

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

It's official Summer Olympics Will Be Streaming to a PC Near You

It's official Summer Olympics Will Be Streaming to a PC Near You

By Melissa J. Perenson, PC World

If you're a fan of rhythmic gymnastics or badminton (or maybe you're just bored at work), this year's Summer Olympics will be a bonanza for you, as NBC plans to stream video of thousands of hours of the competition.

Summer Olympics will be streaming to a PC near you (© PC World)

Watch live and on-demand streaming video from the 2008 Summer Olympics exclusively at on MSN

The 2008 Summer Olympics, which begin on Aug. 8, will captivate audiences worldwide. No other sporting event captures the spirit of sportsmanship and athletics quite like this quadrennial gathering. But the Olympics can be a source of frustration for remote watchers. A complex schedule that mimics a 14-ring circus often makes following your favorite sports difficult. That is, until now.

NBC Universal hopes to transform your Olympics viewing experience via an ambitious Web strategy that includes more than 2,200 hours of live streaming video (with the option of viewing up to four streams at once) and interactive data to help you move smoothly between text, such as athletes' biographies, and vid­eo of their performance.

Seeds planted in 2006

Besides streaming live video at its official Beijing Olympics Web site, NBC plans to post 3,500 hours of recorded video online at the conclusion of each event, for the duration of the Olympics. Previously, NBC's only streaming-video presentation during an Olympics was a single hockey game, which it streamed live during the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy.

"We're delivering more video content for this Olympics than in the last three Olympics combined," says Perkins Miller, senior vice president of NBC Sports and Olympics. The goal, he says, is to deliver "the most complete Olympics possible," in part by paying closer attention to sports that previous broadcast coverage typically ignored.
All of the digital content will be available at no cost, but it will be accessible only to viewers in the United States. By the terms of NBC's deal with the International Olympics Committee, its Web streaming rights mirror its broadcast rights, which are limited to the United States.

The Silverlight-Microsoft connection

NBC turned to Microsoft's Silverlight technology to get the necessary link between data available elsewhere on its Web site and the network's Olympics video. Silverlight is Microsoft's programming environment for producing slick, interactive content that can be played on any Web browser; the platform ties into Microsoft's .Net framework and its myriad services, including Microsoft Live Search. As with Flash, you must download a browser plug-in in order to support the content. Silverlight 2.0 is also supposed to have smoother video playback performance as compared with Silverlight 1.0.

NBC's player is based on the latest beta version of Silverlight, which the Democratic National Convention will also use to distribute video in August. Silverlight 2.0 is due out in the fall.
About 15 different companies are involved in the NBC Olympics streaming experience. The player itself was built by Schematic, a Web developer that won an Emmy award last year for its ABC streaming video player.

Viewing online: What to expect

NBC's media player supports three interactive modes: Enhanced, Live Control Room and Pop­up. Enhanced mode is playable in wide-aspect ratio, at full screen (1060 by 600 pixels) or at small screen (848 by 480 pixels). The player will use the highest bit rate that your PC allows -- up to 650 kbps for live events and up to 1.5 mbps for on-demand (that is, recorded) events, as deter­mined by a combination of your bandwidth, your PC's components, and your choice of live or on-demand video. (See "Better Streaming Video" for tips on how to optimize your hardware and your broadband connection.) Enhanced mode also gives you access to extra features like expert commentary and live blogging that will appear in an accompanying text window -- a handy option if you are catching the competition while at work and can't listen to the audio action.

"Our research [shows] that everybody is diving for the mute button when the video comes up, so we tried to integrate that into our design," says NBC's Miller.

Multiple simultaneous live video streams

Live Control Room mode may be the most appealing option for true Olympics junkies. It lets you view up to four live streams of video at once, via one primary window and three smaller picture-in-picture windows. The primary video in this mode is presented at 320-by-176-pixel resolution, with a 350-kbps video stream; picture-in-picture views are presented at 128-by-96-pixel resolution, with a 50-kbps video stream.

Presenting multiple simultaneous video streams in the Live Control Room is a twofold technical challenge, says Matthew Rechs, chief technology officer at Schematic, the company that built the NBC player and that has also worked on presenting interactive content on HD DVD movie discs. "When we have multiple video images on the same screen, we have to add up the bit rates to see how much bandwidth it will take to display all of that video simultaneously, without impacting the system's performance," says Rechs. "You want to intelligently manage the total bandwidth available and distribute that across the various images. There are different modes for video playback, and each mode has different bit rates available to it."
The third mode, Popup, has a smaller interface that you can keep next to open work documents while you are at the office. The basic Popup player runs at 592-by-336-pixel resolution, with a 650-kbps stream for live events and a 1.1-mbps stream for on-demand events.
Silverlight's ability to handle text data and video helps the NBC player break with the standard design of media players that display video in your browser window. For example, with YouTube, you have a media player in one quadrant of the browser and supplemental info in other quadrants; the sections are not necessarily integrated or tied together. "Silverlight will make the player look more like a TV experience, and less like a data experience," Miller promises.
With the NBC Olympics player, the user interface leaves the Web browser window and enters the player itself, as navigation icons and extra content appear within the player window. You can obtain additional info -- for example, athlete biographies tied to the competition you're watching -- from within the player.
In all, eight video streams will be available for live video and six for on-demand video. And according to Rechs, the possible player and video stream permutations are so numerous that video can't be encoded natively for each scenario; instead, a video stream may be delivered at a resolution different from the one that the playback window is designed to use. "In these cases, we are shrinking or stretching the video slightly at playback time, but we have done extensive testing to ensure the integrity of the video image," says Rechs. The Silverlight player will automatically pick the right stream to present, given your bandwidth and your viewing choice.

Where the content will come from

According to NBC, the video available for playback will hail from a mix of sources, including feeds from the International Olympic Committee's international pool of broadcasts, NBC's cameras and NBC's studio commentary operations in Stamford, Conn., and at its New York City facilities.

Though the player application was still under development two months before the start of the Games, NBC officials described some of the more-impressive plans for the project. After a competition concludes, for example, you'll be able to click on the name of an athlete listed in the competition results and then view the athlete's performance at your leisure.
"We're assigning metadata with all of the video, so as the athletes perform, we're syncing up the metadata of their results with the time code of the video," says Miller. For example, while watching a recorded gymnastics video, you'll be able to navigate to the winning moment even while scrolling through athletes' biographies or through competition results. The same approach will be used to assemble the on-demand reels of highlights.
Naturally, NBC's hopes that these digital highlight reels -- along with expanded profiles of the athletes -- will attract new viewers to these sports, as well as encouraging fans to tune in to more coverage online or on TV.
Given the immense scale of this project, NBC has taken various precautions with regard to server infrastructure to ensure that it's prepared to handle the anticipated load of online viewers. "We've spent a great deal of time with Microsoft and their networking teams, since they're hosting our video," says Miller.

Mobile streaming video planned

Access to NBC's multimedia streaming won't be limited to desktop PCs. NBC will have a dedicated live-streaming mobile channel, NBC-to-Go, that will carry feeds from NBC's television networks. However, the channel will be available only on AT&T cellular phones. Don't have an AT&T phone? Then you won't be able to watch live feeds -- but you can access video highlights of various events via a WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) version of on any WAP-enabled cellular phone.

Also in the works as of press time: NBC Olympics On-the-Go, which is designed to enable you to take prerecorded video content with you for viewing on your laptop when you travel.

Beefy broadband needed for Olympics viewing

Want to enjoy the Olympics online? You'll need a broadband pipe that's big enough to meet the demands of NBC's Silverlight video player. According to Schematic, the Popup mode (a small pop-up screen that coexists with your spreadsheets and Word docs) will require a 512-kbps broadband connection plus either a PC with a 2.4-GHz Pentium 4 CPU and 512MB of RAM or an Intel-based Mac PC.

The player's Enhanced mode and Live Control Room mode -- for viewing content and multiple video feeds, respectively -- require a 768-kbps broadband connection, a spec that lies beyond the reach of many lower tiers of DSL and even some cable broadband services. To use these modes, you must also have a PC equipped with a 3.2-GHz Pentium 4 processor and 1GB of memory, or an Intel-based Mac.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Top 50 Minds Behing the Technology of Today part 2

Top 50 Minds Behing the Technology of Today part 2

11. Gordon Moore
Gordon Moore (© PC World)
You can't go wrong with a guy who's got his own scientific law, can you? Moore's Law, posited in 1965, three years before Gordon Moore founded a little company called Intel, predicted that the number of components on a computer chip would double every year (later, he amended it to every two years). As Intel notes, Moore's Law remains the "guiding principle for the semiconductor industry"; but, in truth, every field of high-tech -- from hard drives to TVs -- validates to some degree the almighty Law of Moore. Moore remains involved with Intel, which -- at 40 years old -- may be No. 1 on the list of companies that Silicon Valley could not exist without.
12. Bill Atkinson
Bill Atkinson (© PC World)
Mouse up to your PC's File menu, open a new window, and thank Bill Atkinson for being able to do that. His early ideas regarding user interface design elements like the menu bar became graphical user interface standbys not just on Apple computers (where he worked), but on every major operating system that has followed. As a programmer, Atkinson designed MacPaint, QuickDraw and HyperCard, a sort of proto-Web system that clearly inspired the creation of the World Wide Web. After starting his own company, General Magic, Atkinson mostly retired from tech to work as a nature photographer.
13. Steve Case
Steve Case (© PC World)
Don't laugh. The brainchild of Steve Case, America Online, was a big deal back in the early 1990s. The timing was perfect for a service that offered online training wheels for millions of intrigued but anxious people looking for an introduction to the World Wide Web. AOL pioneered more than just the chat rooms for which it became infamous. Case launched "Neverwinter Nights" -- one of the first MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) -- was an early champion of user avatars, and (most notoriously) started the blending of online and big media by selling out to Time Warner in 2001. Not such great timing there, alas.

Martin Cooper (© PC World)
Quick, check your pockets. Whether you're toting an iPhone, a Razr or an enV, you owe a debt to Martin Cooper and his 1973 patent responsible for the mobile phone as we know it. His invention, created during his tenure at Motorola, weighed just shy of 2 pounds, and 10 years would pass before mobile phones broke the 1-pound barrier. Cooper is still active in the telephone business. His company ArrayComm develops antenna technology so today's 2-ounce phones can reach their network.
15. Nolan Bushnell
Nolan Bushnell (© PC World)
Atari is synonymous with video gaming -- so much so that the name remains in use (though now far removed from founder Nolan Bushnell, the undisputed father of video gaming) 36 years after it originated. Bushnell's inspiration -- a world where everyone could play games in the comfort of their own home -- is a rare instance where the vision panned out almost exactly as envisioned. Though no one is thrilling over Atari's consoles any more, Atari and Bushnell paved the way for every video game platform that has followed.
16. Vint Cerf
Vint Cerf (© PC World)
Turing Award. National Medal of Technology. Presidential Medal of Freedom. Vint Cerf has one of the most impressive résumés in technology. Cerf's work as an Internet pioneer has largely taken place in universities and government agencies, which in the early 1970s led directly to the creation of ARPANet, the predecessor to today's Internet. Cerf now works for -- who else? -- Google.
17. Don Estridge
Don Estridge (© PC World)
IBM veteran Don Estridge is widely known as "the father of the PC," at least in its Big Blue incarnation. Estridge developed a number of computer systems, even tinkering with NASA radar equipment. But he is best known for his work as a manager -- leading a "skunk works" staff of just 14 people that ultimately produced the IBM PC, an "open" platform that could run third-party software and accept third-party upgrades, that would become the standard for business. Tragically, Estridge died in a plane crash in 1985 and never saw his creation achieve ubiquity.
18. Michael Dell
Michael Dell (© PC World)
The origin story of Dell Computer Corp. is so well-known it has become part of the canon of the tech business. Michael Dell started his company, PC's Limited, at age 19 out of his dorm room at the University of Texas. Eventually he dropped out of school to found Dell Computer, which grew at breakneck pace throughout the 1990s. Dell's marketing philosophy turned the industry on its ear: Rather than offer predetermined configurations, Dell's machines were totally customizable and built to order. Eventually almost every competing PC manufacturer followed suit -- or went out of business.
19. Alan Kay
Alan Kay (© PC World)
A jack-of-all-tech-trades, Alan Kay lays claim to at least two watershed innovations, starting with HP's original Dynabook, one of the first usable mobile laptop computers. Kay's ideal was to design a laptop that weighed no more than 2 pounds. We still aren't there yet, but Kay's contributions to software -- which include shepherding the idea of object-oriented programming and the notion of multiple, overlapping windows in a GUI -- rank as essential milestones in computing.
20. Marc Andreessen
Marc Andreessen (© PC World)
The Mosaic Web browser, devised by Marc Andreessen, may seem quaint now, but bits and pieces of Mosaic code remain standard software components of most of today's commercial browsers. It's a safe bet that many of Andreessen's other creations will leave similar legacies: Netscape, the company he founded, set off the tech stock craze of the 1990s, and his Ning Web site continues to grow in popularity as an outlet where anyone can build a topic-oriented social network. He even finds time to blog regularly about all this stuff.
21. Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds
Given the exorbitant cost of most Apple computers, Linus Torvalds is the godfather of what may be the last, best hope for an affordable alternative to Windows. The Linux operating system has been in continuous development since Torvalds conceived it in 1991, and has experienced steady gains in popular acceptance every year. And at long last, Linux is making the jump from server rooms to large numbers of desktop PCs, most visibly in low-cost laptops like the Asus Eee PC. The OS now has a market share in excess of 2 percent on the desktop.
22. Chuck Thacker
Chuck Thacker (© PC World)
Chuck Thacker has had his hands in a surprisingly wide array of tech projects, from the development of Ethernet to the first laser printers. His most enduring legacy, however, involves a product that never reached market: the fabled Xerox Alto. The Alto, which Thacker designed, was the first computer with a GUI (and a mouse); as the story goes, it directly inspired Apple to build the Macintosh after Steve Jobs paid a friendly visit to Xerox. Thacker now works for Microsoft.
23. Bob Metcalfe
Bob Metcalfe (© PC World)
Moore's Law may be better known, but the law formulated by Bob Metcalfe has wider general application. Posited around 1980, Metcalfe's Law conjectured that the value of a telecommunications network is equal to the square of the number of nodes on the network. In other words, even a small increase in the size of a network makes it worth far more because of the enlarged number of new connections that each user can make. Metcalfe's invention of Ethernet and his founding of 3Com are essential tech milestones as well, but his eponymous law -- now in use to quantify value in the Facebook/MySpace milieu -- will be around long after wired networking has passed on.

24. Vic Hayes
Vic Hayes (© PC World)
Wi-Fi has long been one of technology's messiest standards -- and without Vic Hayes, it might never have come together at all. In the Hayes-less universe we might be left to wallow in a morass similar to the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD swamp with multiple incompatible wireless standards. In 1990, Hayes formed the Wireless LAN working group and rallied some 130 companies to work together to develop open standards. The result: 802.11, and the cutting of a very firmly attached cord. Hayes continues to be actively involved in Wi-Fi development today.
25. Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston
Dan Bricklin (left) and Bob Frankston (© PC World)
Accounting departments around the world would be lost without the work of Dan Bricklin (left) and Bob Frankston, who worked together in 1979 to develop VisiCalc, the world's first spreadsheet and arguably the first "killer app" written for a personal computer. The 27KB program can run on PCs today, and its simplicity is a big reason why early PCs sold in droves, especially to business customers. But never mind the bean-counters: You probably owe a lot to VisiCalc yourself. After all, if it weren't for Bricklin and Frankston, you might not be getting your paycheck regularly.
26. Grace Murray Hopper
Grace Murray Hopper (© PC World)
That's Admiral Hopper, bud. Naval officer "Amazing" Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer who cut her teeth in the calculator era. Later she worked on the team that developed the UNIVAC, the world's first commercial computer, and wrote the compiler software for it (the first such software ever developed). Hopper was instrumental again in the development of the COBOL and FORTRAN programming languages, and she remained a major figure on the technology scene until her death in 1992. Even our language owes a debt to Hopper: She popularized (and possibly coined) the term "bug" after a moth was found in a computer relay during her years at Harvard.
27. Jeff Hawkins
Jeff Hawkins (© PC World)
Portable computing was shaped in large part by Jeff Hawkins, who invented the acclaimed PalmPilot, and then followed that up by spearheading development of the Treo six years later. Both Palm and Treo became household names, though Palm as a company has suffered numerous setbacks in recent years. Hawkins is now working on a start-up called Numenta with his longtime partner Donna Dubinsky, focusing on the subjects of machine learning and neuroscience, which Hawkins has long had a deep interest in.
28. Fujio Masuoka
Fujio Masuoka (© PC World)
If anything is positioned to challenge the dominance of Al Shugart's hard drive (see #33 below), it's Flash memory -- an invention of Fujio Masuoka. Masuoka developed solid-state storage during his tenure at Toshiba (Masuoka says that the company initially tried to demote him after he came up with the technology). The technology is now seen as a possible way around the fragility of hard drives, as capacity ramps up and prices fall. For smaller gadgets, Flash has become essential...or would you prefer to be saving your digital pictures on floppy disks still?
29. Jonathan Ive
Jonathan Ive (© PC World)
Aside from its showman/CEO Steve Jobs, Apple tends to keep its employees out of the limelight, but Apple VP and design guru Jonathan Ive has broken that mold. That's appropriate, since he broke another mold too, killing off the beige boxes and bricklike pocket gizmos that had become standard-issue in the tech industry. Ive's designs for the original iMac and for the iPod got people thinking about tech products as fashion accessories and decorative items instead of as impersonal and purely utilitarian objects.
30. Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos (© PC World)
Long scorned by Wall Street, -- the creation of Jeff Bezos -- is today the one Internet service that many people can't live without. But Bezos hasn't stopped at hawking "Harry Potter" on the Web. His company has also become one of the leading providers of Web services, online storage and by-the-hour CPU rentals, as Bezos pushes Amazon toward becoming a platform that anyone can use to sell anything that Amazon itself doesn't.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Top 10 Signs you're Addicted to Google

Top 10 Signs you're Addicted to Google

10. Your kids still believe the Googlebot is bringing the Christmas

9. When someone asks “How are you?” you mouse-click in mid-air at
them and say “I'm feeling lucky.”

8. You shout at the librarian when she takes more than a tenth of a
second to find your book.

7. You just lost a case in court to name your newborn son “Google.”

6. Google is your second-best friend... and you're thinking maybe it
should be first.

5. Your Google shirt is losing color.

4. When people talk to you, you try to optimize their keywords.

3. Your last three Sunday family trips have been to the Googleplex.

2. You are convinced “What’s your PageRank?” is a good pick-up line.
And the number one sign you are addicted to Google:
1. You are completely clueless without a computer.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Ingenius Way to Stop Laptop Thieves in their tracks

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Don't let hooligans handle your hardware. Here are eight ways to keep your notebook from being pinched -- or to get it back if it is stolen.

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // Kensington MicroSaver Keyed Retractable Notebook Lock (© PC World)
Lock It Up
Your first line of defense against laptop theft is to secure the machine with an actual, physical lock. Though serious thieves won't be deterred by one of these small cable locks, trying to break one may prove enough of a hassle to deter casual grab-and-dashers. This $30 Kensington MicroSaver Keyed Retractable Notebook Lock offers good visibility but packs away quickly when you have to hit the road.
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Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // Belkin Bulldog Security Kit (© PC World)
Heavy-Duty Locks
Lightweight travel locks provide minimal security, in part because they're only as strong as the tiny security slot on your notebook's chassis. For greater strength and security, a lock like the $24 Belkin Bulldog Security Kit isn't nearly as elegant as its lightweight counterparts, but its steel anchoring plates and heavy-duty lock will last a little longer against a more determined thief. It also comes with a $500 anti-theft warranty.
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Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // Belkin USB Laptop Security Alarm (© PC World)
Notebook Alarm
To prevent your laptop from disappearing in the event that a thief does manage to break through the lock, consider arming the notebook with a security alarm. The $55 Belkin USB Laptop Security Alarm sounds if someone disconnects the cable. Of course, that helps only if you're nearby when your laptop is stolen.

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Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // Doberman Laptop Defender Portable USB Computer Alarm (© PC World)
Motion-Sensing Alarm
The $30 Doberman Laptop Defender Portable USB Computer Alarm incorporates a motion sensor that triggers a loud alarm if the device attached to it is moved.

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Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // Absolute Software's Lojack for Laptops (© PC World)
Software Recovery Services
If a thief takes your laptop, tracking and recovery software can help you get it back. Absolute Software's Lojack for Laptops ($50 per year), Brigadoon's PC PhoneHome ($30 lifetime), Inspice's Inspice Trace ($30 per year), XTool's Laptop Tracker ($40 per year for the Small Business Edition) and zTrace Technologies' zTrace Gold ($50 per year) are tracking utilities that connect periodically to a central server. When such a utility does so, the associated service can trace your laptop's location on the Internet and summon the local police to recover it. Absolute Software claims that Lojack for Laptops can survive on a laptop even if the thief successfully reinstalls the operating system, reformats the hard drive or (in some laptop models) swaps out the hard drive.

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Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // BoomerangIt (© PC World)

Recovery Tags
Recovery services report recovery rates of 75 percent and higher on tagged items. Evidently, most people who find laptops are honest, and by offering prepaid returns and a reward on the tag (which lists an 800 number), the service makes doing the right thing easy.

The services have you register each item on the Web, with identifying information; afterward they contact you to arrange return if an item is found. The price is nominal, usually around $5 to $10 per tag, with quantity discounts. Vendors that offer labeling and recovery services include ArmorTag, BoomerangIt (pictured), StuffBak, TrackItBack, and zReturn.

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Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // BitLocker (© PC World)

BitLocker (for PCs)
Enabling hard-drive encryption can help you protect your personal information or valuable business data in case your laptop does go missing. Windows Vista Enterprise and Ultimate editions include a drive-encryption feature called BitLocker. Not all laptops have the necessary Trusted Platform Module to enable BitLocker, but if yours does, BitLocker could make the difference between losing just your laptop and losing your identity.

(Update: Reader Eric Vaccaro points out that there is a workaround for BitLocker which allows a flash drive to store the software's encryption keys in lieu of a TPM.)

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Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop

Stop Thieves From Stealing Your Laptop // FileVault (© PC World)
FileVault (for Macs)
Macs come with their own hard-drive encryption software, known as FileVault. Like Windows Vista's BitLocker, it secures the data on your drive from prying eyes in the event that thieves get away with your laptop.

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Next time you got something valuable under the hood of your laptop be sure to be pack with any of these features to get those thieves scratching their head!

Good Day to all Laptop Owners

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Apple's New Line of iPods for 2008

Apple's New Line of iPods for 2008

Palm-sized Nano

Leading up to Apple's grand unveiling of its refreshed iPod line, the chatter was all about the so-called "phat" iPod Nano. Turns out the "phat" Nano is anything but: Sure, it's wider than the previous slim Nano stick; but, its form is actually svelte, stylish, and lightweight. The new Nano is packed with more capabilities--namely, video playback and casual gaming--than its music-only predecessor. Plus, it carries a rated battery life of 24 hours for audio, and 5 hours for video--about enough to get you through the first two installments of The Pirates of the Caribbean series.

How Far We've Come?

In early 2005, the second-generation 6GB Apple iPod Mini, seen at left, shipped. That model sported a 1.67-inch monochrome display, weighed 3.6 ounces, and measured 3.6 by 2 by 0.5 inches. At the time, its size was considered fairly compact. Fast forward more than two years later to the new iPod Nano (the first Nano replaced the Mini in Apple's lineup), seen at right. The tiny Nano is a marvel, with a 2-inch color screen and less than half the Mini's weight and half its depth. The Nano weighs just 1.7 ounces, and measures 2.8 by 2.1 by 0.26 inches.

Stack o' Colors

The new Nano comes in 4GB and 8GB capacities, and carries an attractive price of $149 and $199, respectively. The Nano ships in five colors: The 4GB model only comes in silver, while 8GB model ships in the full color spectrum of metallic teal and metallic pale green, silver, black, and Apple's socially conscious (Product) Red. Notice the Nano's remarkably slim profile in this view: It's barely more than a quarter-of-an-inch thick.

iPod Touch

The iPhone's most innovative features characterize the best of the iPod Touch: The 3.5-inch multi-touch display for slide-and-glide and pinch-and-squeeze navigation; Cover Flow music navigation; an accelerometer that automatically detects the device's position and orients the screen accordingly; integrated YouTube; 802.11b/g wireless and the full-on graphics of the Safari Web browser. Even better, it does so in a device that's lighter and thinner than the iPhone--the Touch is just 0.3 inches thick. The 8GB version will sell for $299; the 16GB version will sell for $399.

Choose Your Own Headphones

The iPod Touch uses a standard 3.5mm headset jack, which means you can use the headphones of your choice with this model, no adapters required. This is an improvement over the iPhone, which has the headset jack inset into the unit, and requires an awkward dongle in order to accommodate a headphone other than the one the unit ships with. You may want your own headset of choice for all that music you'll be listening to: Apple rates the Touch for up to 22 hours of audio play, and 5 hours of video play.

Coming Soon

The iPod Nano and the newly dubbed iPod Classic (80GB for $249, a gargantuan 160GB for $349) will ship soon. The Nano could be in stores by Friday, this weekend--or even Monday. According to Apple's online store, a Nano ordered today would ship out for delivery on Monday, at the earliest. The iPod Touch is expected to be available by September 28.