Apple lets iPhone apps get down to business

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The shift of policy is seen as a boon to magazines and newspapers that can give away iPhone or iPod Touch programs featuring basic content and then sell premium articles piecemeal or by subscription.

"In App Purchase is being rapidly adopted by developers in their paid apps," Apple said in response to an AFP inquiry. "Now, developers can use In App Purchase in their free apps to sell content, subscriptions, and digital services."

Apple had previously barred suppliers of free iPhone applications from using the programs to sell content.

Suppliers of free applications can entice iPhone or iPod Touch users with free material in the hope they will eventually pay for enhanced content.

Apple gets a share of purchase prices of programs sold at the App Store and will reportedly share in revenue from sales in free applications.

The policy change comes as rumors abound that the California company behind the Macintosh computer, iPhone and iPod could release a portable tablet computer early next year that may double as an e-reader.

And not just a black-and-white e-reader but one that would boast full color and a 10-inch (25-centimeter) screen making it more of an oversized iPod Touch or a netbook computer, the increasingly popular low-cost mini-laptops.

If an Apple tablet computer does emerge, it would join an e-reader market that is becoming increasingly crowded but is undergoing tremendous growth.

An "iTablet" could also serve as an eye-pleasing platform for stories, video or other content sold through third-party applications.

Windows 7 to salvage Vista 'train wreck'

Friday, October 30, 2009

"It's a big deal for Microsoft," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley said of the Windows 7 launch. "Windows Vista was a train wreck."

While computer users may not give much thought to operating systems that serve as the brains of their machines, the programs are at the heart of Microsoft's global software empire.

Microsoft operating systems run more than 90 percent of the computers on Earth.

Importantly for Microsoft, versions of its popular programs such as Office, Outlook and Excel evolve to work better with successive Windows releases.

Winning users of new Windows systems translates into increased sales of other packaged software for the Redmond, Washington-based company.

Vista's dismal reception in the market broke Microsoft's rhythm regarding hooking people on upgraded software.

Computer users held firm to Windows XP, shunning much-maligned Vista.

"Microsoft is still a packaged software company," Enderle said. "If people don't buy their updated packages, they feel it."

Microsoft apparently learned a lesson from Vista and worked closely with computer makers, users and software developers while crafting Windows 7.

More than eight million people have dabbled with Windows 7 since Microsoft began a beta test phase in January, according to Parri Munsell, director of consumer product management for the Windows client group.

Early reviews praise Windows 7 for being everything Vista should have been.

"We always listen to our customers, but we took an even more thoughtful and pragmatic process this time around," Munsell told AFP. "We feel really good that people have been trying it for themselves."

Windows 7 features winning raves include enabling computers, televisions, radios, digital picture frames and other "smart" devices in homes to talk to each other.

Japanese car makers out to electrify Tokyo show

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Japanese automakers, pioneers in hybrid cars powered by a mixture of petrol and electricity, are now looking to take fuel-efficient motoring to the next level with vehicles that run on rechargeable batteries.

Nissan will put its electric car, the Leaf, on display to the public for the first time at the Tokyo Motor Show, which kicks off on Wednesday with press previews and opens to general visitors on Saturday.

The mid-sized hatchback, which will go on sale in late 2010 in Japan, is billed by Nissan as "the world's first affordable, zero-emission car."

It can travel more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) on a single charge, at a top speed of 140 kilometres per hour.

The world's largest automaker Toyota, which has said it aims to launch an electric vehicle by 2012, will display a new version of its electric concept car -- the FT-EV II -- at the show.

"We think the time is almost ripe for cost levels, batteries and performance to evolve one step further," said Toyota's Akihiro Yanaka, who oversees the project.

Nissan will also show off a futuristic electric concept car that leans to the side when going around bends.

The "Land Glider," just 1.1 metres (3 feet 7 inches) wide, seats two people -- one in the front and one in the back. Inspired by motorbikes and glider aircraft, it has tilting wheels that enable it to lean by up to 17 degrees.

From Honda comes the EV-N, a cute new electric concept car that can store a one-wheel personal mobility device inside its door.

The dream of an electric car, which has been around since the time of Thomas Edison, has so far failed to break into the mainstream because of the high cost and limited battery life.

But after technological advances in the development of long-lasting lithium-ion batteries, the dawn of affordable zero-emission automobiles may be approaching.

YouTube signs landmark deal to screen Channel 4 shows

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Channel 4 has signed a landmark deal with YouTube, becoming the first broadcaster worldwide to make full-length TV shows such as Skins, Hollyoaks and Peep Show available to users of the Google-owned video-sharing website.

The deal, which has been under negotiation for the last six months, will see Channel 4 make its existing 4oD online video catch-up service available via YouTube shortly after shows have aired on TV.

YouTube users can watch the shows free of charge, with Channel 4 to sell the advertising around the content. The broadcaster will also make available 3,000 hours of archive programming including shows such as Brass Eye, Derren Brown and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

The deal has been struck for an initial period of three years with Channel 4 and YouTube sharing ad revenues "on an agreed formula". Channel 4 said that the agreement will also see it sell ads around some non-Channel 4 content on YouTube for the first time.

"Making our programmes directly accessible to YouTube's 20 million UK users will financially benefit both Channel 4 and our independent production partners and help bolster our investment in quality British content," said Andy Duncan, the Channel 4 chief executive.

"It demonstrates our ability to strike dynamic commercial partnerships to help underpin our future as a commercially funded, not-for-profit multi-platform public service network."

Channel 4's TV shows will be fully available via YouTube in early 2010. The deal is non-exclusive, allowing Channel 4 to continue distributing its 4oD service via its own website,, and other third-party sites and services

70% oppose internet ban for filesharers, poll shows

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Plans to force internet service providers (ISPs) to disconnect suspected illegal downloaders have been roundly rejected in a new YouGov poll, the first time public opinion has been tested on the issue.

Nearly 70% of those surveyed said someone suspected of illegal downloading should have a right to a trial in court before restrictions on internet use were imposed. Only 16% were in favour of automatic curbs based on accusations by copyright holders such as musicians, as is proposed by the business department.

ISPs such as TalkTalk and T-Mobile complain that the government's proposals expect them to bear the costs of protecting a third party's rights. They warn that the move will not work because illegal filesharers can avoid detection by encrypting the traffic, or by hijacking someone else's IP address or using their Wi-Fi network.

Ministers have insisted that disconnection is a last option and something on which they are consulting. They are, however, facing a growing backlash, with an all-party motion urging a rethink of the policy on disconnection being led by Tom Watson, the former cabinet office minister responsible for digital inclusion.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, the organisation that commissioned the YouGov poll, called the government's plans extremist.

"This poll shows people rely on the internet, and an overwhelming majority think that access should only ever be withdrawn as the result of court action.

"Nearly a third would be much less likely to vote for a party that supports disconnection proposals.

"Clearly Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, is out of step with public opinion and should think again."

The poll also found that among younger voters, the threat of internet disconnection for online copyright infringement might be a vote-changing issue.

Meanwhile the Conservative shadow culture secretary told the Financial Times a Tory government would scrap the proposed 50p a month tax on all telephone lines, aimed at raising £150m to £175m a year to support rural broadband projects. Jeremy Hunt said it would be scrapped a "soon as possible" after the general election expected in May. He said the party was also considering reversing government plans to force the BBC to share £130m of the television licence fee with other broadcasters.

Clean Tech's Hot New Tool

Monday, October 26, 2009

Electron-beam emitters that are one-hundreth the size and cost of conventional electron emitters could usher in a wide array of new uses for the devices that could dramatically cut the energy use of industrial processes. Advanced Electron Beams (AEB), a Wilmington, MA, startup, has developed a small, low-powered electron emitter that is the size of a microwave oven, compared to the conference-room equipment now needed for electron-beam processes.
"We think AEB is the most cutting-edge industrial-efficiency technology that we've seen in the 10 years we've been doing clean-tech investing," says Charles McDermott of RockPort Capital Partners. In August, RockPort and several other venture capital firms announced the investment of $14.2 million in AEB.

Electron-beam devices have been around for decades and are used in sterilization and curing processes for coatings and paints. The units' large size, however, makes it difficult to incorporate them into assembly-line manufacturing. For example, syringes coming down an assembly line, McDermott says, currently have to be collected in batches, transported to a separate room housing the electron beam, radiated with electrons, and then returned to the assembly line. Fitting the smaller beam emitters into assembly-line operations will also make it easier to use them for curing paint, rustproof coatings, and varnishes on metals, woods, and plastics--a process that is often now done using energy-intensive drying ovens.

AEB, which sold one of its emitters to Ford Motors for research and development, estimates that the heat required for all conventional thermal curing in the United States is responsible for 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the annual output of roughly 1 million automobiles. Curing also produces an additional 250,000 tons of volatile organic compounds--gases produced by heating organic solvents--that are typically combusted in abatement treatments that yield additional carbon dioxide emissions.

To shrink the size of its electron beams, AEB simplified the design of its emitters. For example, conventional electron emitters use vacuum pumps that run continuously to maintain a vacuum space inside the emitter that is essential for generating electrons. AEB's device, however, seals the vacuum inside so it doesn't need pumps.

An additional benefit of AEB's design is that its emitters can be mass produced, and, unlike conventional emitters that are often one-of-a-kind installations, they can be easily replaced if something goes wrong. "They are like lightbulbs. If you have a failure, you swap [them] out like a lightbulb, [whereas with a] mainframe version, you are flying out a technician, and it may be down for weeks," says McDermott.

The small size and precision tuning of AEB's emitters allows them for the first time to direct a cloud of electrons inside the mouth of beverage containers. Plastic bottles holding sugary, noncarbonated drinks, including energy drinks and fruit juices, either have to go through a chemical wash and subsequent rinsing prior to being filled, or the beverage has to be poured in at 180 degrees Fahrenheit to sterilize the inside of the container. A new electron-beam emitter first unveiled by AEB in September can now send a nozzle inside bottles and sterilize the inner surface by breaking apart the chemical bonds of any lingering bacteria. Sterilization is completed in milliseconds, requires no rinse water, and, compared to thermal sterilization, cuts energy use by 40 percent.

In all, AEB has sold more than 200 of its $100,000 devices to companies and research institutions, including General Electric, which is testing the technology at its research center in Niskayuna, NY.

Building the World's Most Powerful Laser

Sunday, October 25, 2009

This March, researchers at the National Ignition Facility demonstrated a 1.1 megajoule laser designed to ignite nuclear fusion reactions by 2010. But the facility's technology, which is housed at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, cannot yet generate enough energy to drive a practical power plant. So, even as physicists look forward to next year's demonstration, they're working on even more powerful lasers that could make possible a method for a kind of laser-induced fusion called fast ignition.
This week, at the annual meeting of the Optics Society of America in San Jose, CA, researchers from the University of Texas presented plans to build an exawatt laser that would be three orders of magnitude more powerful than anything that exists today. Today's most powerful lasers operate on the order of about a petawatt, or 10 to the power 15 (one quadrillion) watts. An exawatt is 10 to a power of 18 watts. Exawatt lasers will be able to concentrate that power in areas measuring micrometers, creating tremendous intensities.

One way to increase the power of a laser is to decrease the duration of the laser pulse. But working with laser pulses on the order of picoseconds or even femtoseconds is difficult because such pulses are made up of a wide bandwidth of light frequencies that damage optical glass, including the phosphate glass often used to amplify laser light, for example at the National Ignition Facility.

Todd Ditmire, director of the High Intensity Laser Science Group at the University of Texas at Austin, reported at this week's meeting that a new type of glass should be able to handle the intense pulses of light needed to create an exawatt laser. The glass would be doped and used to create devices called amplifiers--when light from a laser shines on the glass amplifier, ions in the glass absorb the light and re-emit it at higher energy. "The glass is just a host--it's a transparent material that holds the ions," says Ditmire.

Natural Gas Changes the Energy Map

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The first sign that there's something unusual about the flat black rocks strewn across the shore of Lake Erie comes when Gary Lash smashes two of them together. They break easily and fall into shards that give off the faint odor of hydrocarbons, similar to the smell of kerosene. But for Lash, a geologist and professor at nearby SUNY Fredonia, smashing the rocks is a simple trick designed to catch the attention of a visitor. The black outcroppings that protrude from the nearby bluff onto the narrow beach are what really interest him.

To Lash's expert eyes, the wide band of black shale, which runs roughly parallel to the beach, reveals hundreds of millions of years of geological history. The shale formed more than 350 million years ago when organic muck settled at the bottom of the shallow sea that covered much of what is now the eastern United States; it was once buried more than two kilometers underground but has gradually risen to the surface. Now, the exposed rock shows telltale patterns of breaks and splits. "We've demonstrated that these fractures could only have formed as a result of the generation of hydrocarbons," says Lash.

This formation is the edge of vast deposits of black shale that stretch under tens of millions of acres below western New York, much of western and northern Pennsylvania, and parts of Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky. The oldest and deepest layer is called the Marcellus shale, and if geologists like Lash are correct, it holds enough natural gas to help change the way the United States uses energy for decades to come.

Experts now believe that the country has far more natural gas at its disposal than anyone thought three or four years ago. The revised estimates are largely due to advanced drilling techniques that make it economically feasible to extract the fuel from shale. And while the Marcellus is the most recently discovered and possibly the largest shale-gas deposit, others are scattered throughout the country. The U.S. consumes about 23 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of natural gas a year, according to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency (EIA). The Potential Gas Committee (PGC), an organization headquartered at the Colorado School of Mines, put the country's potential natural-gas resources at 1,836 TCF in a biennial assessment released in June. That's 39 percent higher than its estimate of two years earlier. Add to that the 238 TCF that the EIA has calculated in "proved reserves" (the gas that can be produced given existing economic conditions) and the PGC pegs the future supply at 2,074 TCF. In other words, there is enough natural gas to supply the country for 90 years at current consumption rates. Even if we used natural gas to totally replace coal in generating electricity, domestic supplies would last for 50 years.

Head-up Displays go Holographic

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In the last few years, head-up displays (HUDs), which project information onto the driver's view of the road, have started appearing in a few high-end cars. But a more compact kind of projection device, small enough to fit inside a rearview mirror, could see this kind of display more widely deployed.

A head-up display overlays information on a normal view of the road. For example, symbols can be used to show the car's current speed or the distance to the vehicle ahead without the driver having to look away from the road.

The new projection device, developed by Light Blue Optics, based in Cambridge, UK, uses a technique called holographic projection that allows it to be far smaller than current in-car HUD systems. "We can make an HUD so small you can put it into a rearview mirror or wing mirror," says Edward Buckley, Light Blue Optics's head of business development.

Details of Light Blue Optics's prototype were presented today at the Society for Information Display's Vehicles and Photons 2009 symposium, in Dearborn, MI. The prototype projects an image through a two-way wing mirror so that it appears to be about 2.5 meters away, superimposed over the reflected road scene. The picture appears to originate from a point in space in front of the mirror, only from a narrow perspective.

Existing HUDs require relatively large liquid-crystal arrays and optics to generate an image, says Buckley. "In a BMW 5 Series, the size is about five litres," he says. "We can make it about one-tenth of the size. This means you can start to put these virtual image displays where you couldn't previously."

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is well suited to photographers who want to crop in to fine details in their photos, or who just want to shoot and print very large landscapes and portraits. We do wish some of its controls were better implemented, but it's not hard to use once you get used to it.

CANON'S EOS 5D Mark II is a digital SLR camera that's designed primarily for serious enthusiasts, yet it also has plenty to entice new D-SLR users. It's a cut above mid-range D-SLR digital cameras, so it's expensive, but you do get a lot for your money.

It has a 21-megapixel CMOS sensor that's 35x24mm. This is a full-frame sensor, and it is bigger than the sensors in mid-range D-SLRs such as the Canon EOS 50D (which has a 22.3x14.9mm 15-megapixel sensor). It is the same size as the sensor in the professional Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. The field of view of the sensor makes it a joy to frame wide-angle shots, as well as close-ups, because you get to see so much more than you would with a mid-range camera at the same focal point. Its viewfinder is comfortable to use, and it also has Live View on its 3” LCD screen.

The implementation of Live View on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is not altogether useful, as the screen does not pop out to allow you to frame shots low to the ground or high above your head. However, it can be used in a studio setting where quick framing of a subject is useful, and focusing can be done either manually or by pressing the AF-On button on the rear of the unit.

Live View also forms part of another feature: video mode. Using the LCD screen, you can shoot videos at a Full HD resolution. Depending on the lens you use, you'll be able to manually zoom in on your subject or create depth of field effects. You will have to manually focus; autofocus functions won't work while shooting video. Videos are captured in the MOV format and they looked great during our tests.

We used a Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens for our tests, and it produced clear and natural-looking images. Exposure was accurate and focusing was fast. We used manual mode to expose our shots, but aperture priority and shutter priority are available, too. You'll have to play with the metering modes when using shutter or aperture priority to ensure that highlights are not overexposed.

ASUS Eee Top ET1602

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The touch screen¿equipped Eee Top ET1602 definitely garnered a lot of attention in our test centre; but then again, most touch screens do. It's a funky little unit for basic tasks and it is suitable for kids and anyone who just wants a simple PC for getting online or creating a few documents. You shouldn't consider this unit if you want a fully fledged PC.

THE ASUS Eee Top can be described as an entry-level version of HP's TouchSmart PC - it's nowhere near as powerful or feature-rich, nor is it as good looking as a TouchSmart PC.

But for $1299, it doesn't need to be.

It's just a basic PC for the home, and it can also be used much like a kiosk PC thanks to its touch screen.

What you get with the ASUS Eee Top is a 15.6” screen with a PC built into it, based on a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 1 gigabytes (GB) of DDR2 RAM. It has a built-in Intel graphics processor and Gigabit Ethernet, as well as 802.11n wireless networking.

Storage is handled by a 160GB, 5400rpm hard drive, and there is also an SD memory card reader. The only essential feature that's missing is a DVD burner.

When you boot up the ASUS Eee Top you find yourself in the simplified Easy Mode interface, which contains essential applications across four tabs: Communication, Fun, Work and Tools. From these tabs you can tap on the icon of the application that you want to launch, without having to fumble through the Windows Start menu.

Its shortcut links include Skype, StarSuite 8 applications, the Opera Web browser and multimedia software. Eee Bar is another application that is installed. It resides in a concealed position on the left side of the Windows Desktop and can be used to start applications and also to quickly change the unit's settings.

There is also an application called Eee Memo, which will let you leave virtual post-it notes for other members of your household simply by writing on the screen; it's perfect for when you want to remind someone to tidy up their room or buy some milk. This is the sort of stuff that the ASUS Eee Top is useful for. As well, you can browse the Web, listen to music, watch videos and create documents.

You can encode MP3 files if you want, too, but it will take a while. Our iTunes MP3 encoding test took 7min 53sec to complete, which is on par for a 1.6GHz Atom CPU, but it's about 6min slower than a typical Intel Core 2–based laptop or PC.

Photo editing will also be hard to do, especially as the screen's resolution is only 1366x768, but it's an ideal unit for viewing photos. The ASUS Eee Top sits on a desk in a manner similar to a photo frame, with an adjustable fold-out leg; it also has a handle.

It's not a truly portable unit, though, as it does not have a built-in battery - you can't just cart it around the house and plonk it anywhere you want while it is running. However, it's a small unit, and because you don't need the keyboard and mouse to navigate it can be placed in the kitchen, dining room, or even a hallway, without taking up too much space. Its touch screen is accurate enough for writing messages to people, selecting menu items and launching applications, but it's not good enough to let you draw pictures, for example.

The screen also feels a little sticky if you use your finger to navigate, but a pen is supplied; it can be tucked in to the back of the keyboard when not in use.

A couple of built-in speakers give the Eee Top enough volume to adequately fill a small room with songs and audio from movies. It will play standard-definition video files without any tearing or jittering, but its Atom CPU will struggle with high-definition video. It's a shame that there isn't a built-in DVD burner; those of you with video archives on discs will have to transfer them to a USB drive first.

There are two USB 2.0 ports located on the left side of the ASUS Eee Top and four more on the back (where they are awkward to get to). The back also has Gigabit Ethernet, headphone and microphone ports. It would benefit from an ExpressCard slot for expansion, but it's not an essential feature.

Brightness, volume and power buttons are located on the front of the Eee Top, and it also has a button that allows the screen to be switched off while the PC still runs. This is useful for when you want to listen to music in a darkened room but don't want the screen to stare at you. The screen itself has a glossy surface and it is prone to reflections in bright environments; it's best to use it away from a window and angle it away from any ceiling lights.

While it may look like a toy or a novelty, the ASUS Eee Top is suitable for families that want an easy-to-use PC for their kids. It ships with a matching keyboard and mouse (which are a little uncomfortable to use), and it also has a funky blue light that shines down onto a desk. It shouldn't be considered if you are after a full-blown PC, but as a second or third PC for Web browsing, online communications, some word processing, music listening and video watching, it will do just fine.

All for one, and one multifunction printer for your wallet

Monday, October 19, 2009

While multi-functions were originally designed to do the work of four machines – copy, fax, print and scan - recent models do a whole lot more.

Here is an overview of multi-function inkjets that will give you more bang for your buck. Click on the links to get more product information.

HP Photosmart Premium C309a

Boasting a lot of features, the HP Photosmart Premium C309a will cover everything you need out of a multi-function.

While it does the usual print, copy, scan and fax, the Photosmart offers double-sided printing, direct printing from various memory devices and has wireless connectivity, although the Wi-Fi is limited to existing networks.

The machine's print speeds are quite fast - it prints draft colour documents in 16.9 seconds and 5.6 pages per minute (ppm) when using normal quality. Printing standard 4x6-inch photos take a quick 26 seconds, while an A4 photo took roughly 1 minute 9 seconds.

At 21.2c per A4 page, the Photosmart is reasonably budget-friendly but isn't the cheapest inkjet multifunction when compared to other models.

Canon PIXMA MP980

One of the major issues you are most likely to come across with the Canon PIXMA MP980 is the agonisingly slow print speeds - but if you're willing to wait, it could pay off.

Normal black and white documents print at around 9.6ppm and colour documents print at 3.2ppm on average. This is very slow, especially when other multifunctions within this price range have faster speed.

A handy feature of the PIXMA P980 is the film negative/35mm scanning, which provides excellent quality digital versions, which is handy for photographic enthusiasts. It offers direct printing options from selected media and also comes with integrated Wi-Fi and touch screen panels.

The PIXMA is also quite expensive in the long term and will cost you around 22c a page.

Brother MFC-6490CW

The Brother MFC-6490CW is great for those who do not like being shackled to standard A4 sheets. If you have a yearning to print high quality A3 documents, then this is the printer for you.

While it is not the fastest A3 printer available, it has a host of features and is relatively cheap to run.

Printing speeds are on par with entry-level printers, with a mono document printing at 16.4ppm and a normal quality document printing at 8.1ppm. Colour documents were slower, at 14.9ppm using draft quality and 3.5ppm using normal quality. A3 mono documents averaged 6.3ppm; and normal quality at 3.4ppm. Colour A3 draft documents also ran at 6.3ppm, but using normal quality slows printing to 2ppm.

Epson TX700W

When you start using the Epson TX700W you will soon realise that the company has sacrificed quality for quantity, and lacks the essential features when compared to similar devices.

It has comprehensive connectivity, including Wi-Fi, Ethernet, media card reader, and USB; but the TX700W lacks a fax function.

One good thing about this machine is that it prints quickly. Mono text documents in draft quality will print at an average of 24.2ppm and slows to 8.7ppm when using normal quality. Graphical documents print at 25ppm in draft and 8.9ppm in normal quality mode.

It may be fast, but the TX700W doesn't provide the greatest quality.

When choosing your multifunction it is essential to take the running costs into consideration, particularly in the long-term. Ink cartridge replacements can be expensive, particularly if you print a lot. So choose wisely for your needs, and your wallet will thank you later.

Nokia E63

Sunday, October 18, 2009

NOKIA'S latest Eseries mobile phone is the little brother of the more powerful and slimmer E71. Commanding an outright price of under $400, the Nokia E63 retains most of the Nokia E71's design traits - including a full QWERTY keyboard - but it lacks built-in GPS and HSDPA connectivity.

The Nokia E63 is quite similar to the Nokia E71 in terms of its design, though it’s thicker and is made of plastic rather than shiny metal. This means it is less prone to fingerprints, but it doesn’t feel as solid or sturdy as the Nokia E71.

The full QWERTY keyboard is comfortable to type on, but the spongy keys will not suit everyone. The individual keys are slightly squashed but do provide reasonable tactility. A particular issue is just how close the first and last column of keys are to the edges of the handset, and, annoyingly, the spacebar has been shrunk when compared to the Nokia E71. The shortcut keys - home, calendar, contacts and mail - remain, as do the five-way navigational pad and selection buttons, but there are no side volume controls or buttons.

The Nokia E63's display is slightly smaller than the E71's, but it retains an identical resolution and offers similar performance. It isn't outstanding, but viewing angles are good and its performance in sunlight is passable.

The Nokia E63 runs the popular Symbian S60 platform, and it includes plenty of business features, including the ability to read and edit Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents and access PDF files. One of the best features of the Nokia E63 is its speed - applications open and close in a flash, and despite running multiple programs we didn't experience any lag or slow down.

The Nokia E63 commands a much lower price point than the E71 and as a result lacks some of the latter's features; namely, built-in GPS and HSDPA connectivity. While we can live without GPS, HSDPA connectivity should be standard fare in a business device, so this is definitely a big omission. The Nokia E63 is still 3G-capable, but the maximum data speed is just 384Kbps. If you're a heavy mobile Web user you'll definitely notice the drop in speed. Thankfully, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth with A2DP are included.

The Nokia E63 works with the Microsoft Exchange Server in addition to personal e-mail accounts like Gmail and Yahoo! Mail. Setting up an e-mail account is a hassle-free experience, as after entering your name and password it will automatically search for the settings required. Despite the lack of a built-in GPS receiver, the Nokia Maps application is still included on the Nokia E63.

The handy mode switcher present in the Nokia E71 is also found on the E63. You can switch between business and personal modes and edit a number of settings including enabled applications, notifications and themes. You can then toggle between the two modes - for example you could block access to your work e-mail and tools when in the personal mode if you wish.

The Nokia E63 is a handy multimedia device and has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack - the first we've seen on a Nokia Eseries device. The screen displays video quite well, but it's a little small to use frequently. The camera has been downgraded to 2 megapixels and a fixed focus, but it does include an LED flash and self-portrait mirror. The E63 also has a flashlight function that allows the camera flash to be used as a torch, activated by holding down the spacebar.

Sony DCR-HC52

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

THE Sony DCR-HC52 can be viewed as both the elderly gent and the squalling infant of its handycam family.

Recording standard-definition video to Mini DV tape, it’s a stubbornly old-school device that also happens to be the company's entry-level product.

While somewhat antiquated compared to other video formats, it remains a reasonable choice for people who want a dirt-cheap camcorder for occasional home movies. It also comes with a 40x optical zoom, which is sure to come in handy.

However, we feel that most users would be better off spending a few extra dollars on fresher technology. There are plenty of newer and more exciting options on the market that cost around the same price as the DCR-HC52. In other words, only Luddites and DV traditionalists need apply.

As you’d expect from a sub-$350 camcorder, the Sony DCR-HC52 is not the best looking unit on the block. Bulky, plastic and depressingly drab, it lacks the glossy chic exhibited by its bigger brothers.

On the plus side, the unit fits comfortably into the hand and is pleasantly lightweight given its blocky size. We also liked the 2.5” touchscreen, which helped to make menu navigation simple and intuitive. The inclusion of a viewfinder is also a nice touch - this means you can close the LCD and save on battery life.

All up, the DCR-HC52 camcorder shouldn't give you any problems during operation, regardless of your experience level.

Leica C-LUX 3

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

IF your memory harks back to the analog era, you'll doubtlessly remember a time when cameras were esoteric nerd-boxes bereft of any semblance of style. My, how times have changed.

These days, sleek good looks are just as essential as healthy pixel counts, with the ability to turn heads high on every shopper’s wish list. This is something that the Leica C-LUX 3 has in spades.

With its curvy metal casing, prestige branding and high-gloss finish, it can be viewed as the luxury sports car of ultra-compacts - with an over-inflated price tag to match. Fortunately, the camera excels in another area prized by budding photographers; namely, the ability to take great pictures with a minimum of fuss. Sporting a 10.1-megpaixel (Mp) CCD sensor, a wide-angle lens and a 5x optical zoom, its inner workings easily match its impressive exterior. If only it were just a little bit cheaper.

Indeed, the Leica C-LUX 3 is essentially a classier re-imagining of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX38. Both models share the same 25mm Leica DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens with 5x optical zoom, 1/2.3” 10.1-megapixel CCD sensor and user-friendly feature set. Unfortunately, this puts the C-LUX 3 in a disadvantageous position - at $1099, it costs nearly a third more than the Lumix model, which offers a very similar performance. What you’re basically paying for is a snazzier appearance and prestige brand name; questionable premiums at best.

With that being said, you can definitely see where the extra money went. As gadget-cum-fashion accessories go the Leica C-LUX 3 is nearly in a class of its own, rivalled only by the obnoxiously gold-plated Motorola MOTORAZR2 V8. With dimensions of 95.8x51.9x22mm and weighing just 126g, it’s also one of the smallest compacts we’ve tested. Needless to say, if you’re looking for a camera that can double as a status symbol, you won’t be disappointed. Our only gripe has to do with the prominent Leica badge on the front of the camera - it looks like a pizzeria logo from the 1950s. This retro styling clashes uncomfortably with the camera’s sleek design, though we freely admit it’s a small and petty quibble akin to complaining about the horse motif on a Porsche.

Thanks to its close ties to the Lumix DMC-FX38, the Leica C-LUX 3 benefits from all the user-friendly features found on Panasonic’s cameras. This includes custom white balance, auto ISO and exposure, face recognition technology, 25 scene modes and the all-encompassing Intelligent Auto mode (here re-branded as Automatic Scene Recognition).

The camera also comes with the same optical image stabilisation system, which does an excellent job at keeping pictures shake-free. Another neat feature offered by the Leica C-LUX 3 - and something that its Lumix DMC-FX38 rival lacks - is high-definition video recording. This captures footage in the 16:9 format at a maximum resolution of 720p, making it ideal for playback on widescreen HDTVs.

While the plethora of automatic functions is bound to go down well with casual users, serious photographers may not be so enthused. Other than manual exposure control, hands-on features are pretty thin on the ground. This is especially galling given the unit’s premium price tag, though we doubt their absence will be sorely missed by most users. After all, this is a point-and-shoot model first and foremost, an area in which it excels.

Overall, we were very impressed with the quality of our test shots. Though occasionally on the soft side, images remained well-detailed and relatively crisp: if you’re interested in making large-sized prints of your photos, the Leica C-LUX 3 will be more than up to the task. Chromatic aberration levels were slightly high for a sub-$1000 camera, but they were by no means deal-breaking. Complex high-detail images - such as overlapping tree branches - retained a good level of clarity with minimal digital smearing.

Colour balance, meanwhile, was uniformly rich and excellent, particularly when it came to greens and blues. The camera was also proficient at handling noise. We noticed minimal graininess or speckling in our photos at up to ISO 800, which is pretty impressive for an ultra-compact. Naturally, the wide-angle 25mm lens is particularly adept at taking landscape shots and group photos, making it a good all-rounder.

In summary, the Leica C-LUX 3 would have been a top-notch camera if wasn’t so ridiculously expensive. Simply put, there are cheaper alternatives on the market that will do an equally good job; they just don’t look as pretty while doing it. As it stands, only the wealthiest fashion-junkies need apply.

Nikon D3X

Monday, October 12, 2009

THE Nikon D3x digital SLR is the newest addition to Nikon's full-frame camera line-up and it offers a giant jump to 24.5 megapixels (Mp).

This makes it suitable for extreme detail photography such as nature and landscape shooting as well as the traditional sports and news photography that its predecessor was suited to. However, the Nikon D3x lacks some of the functionality of the Nikon D3, such as high ISO settings and fast continuous shooting speeds.

The Nikon D3x has everything you could want in an all-weather, all-conditions digital camera. A magnesium-frame body with rubber and plastic outer coating is resistant to shocks and drops, and all the buttons are large and embossed enough to be pressed while wearing gloves. At 1220g it is slightly lighter than the D3, but its dimensions are similar.

The ergonomics and design of the Nikon D3x are largely similar to Nikon's D3 and D2X professional models. Buttons and dials are labelled with recognisable symbols, while two screens on the top and rear of the camera provide all necessary information about ISO, aperture and shutter speed. A 640x480 3” screen is used for Live View, playback and menu adjustment and is very sharp - it can easily be used for focusing in Live View mode.

If you have any experience with an SLR, it is possible to get acceptable shots just through fiddling with the D3x’s fully manual settings - this is a camera that anyone can use, albeit with a little training.

There are no automatic settings, scene modes or smile shutters to be seen here. This digital SLR camera is designed for the professional who wants constant control over every facet of photography, and as such there are switches and dials for everything you can think of.

Dedicated buttons for ISO, white balance and quality allow for adjustments to be made on the fly without delving into on-screen menus, while aperture and shutter speed dials surround both the top-mounted and side-mounted shutter buttons - the Nikon D3x is designed to be easy to use for either portrait or landscape photography.

If you do have to delve into menus, the on-screen system is well laid out and offers easy adjustment for every conceivable setting, whether directly related to photography, playback or on-camera editing and adjustment.

Live View is implemented well on this camera - we are not usually fans of it and prefer viewfinders, but with such a sharp and detailed LCD screen and the ability to easily adjust focus it proved itself useful in a number of situations.

We tested the Nikon D3x with three premier Nikkor lenses - an AF-S 50mm f1.4G prime, an AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED and a AF-S 14-24mm f2.8G ED ultra wide-angle lens. These are FX (full-frame) lenses; DX lenses are also able to be mounted on the camera, with a selectable DX crop mode. Shooting in either JPEG Fine or RAW delivered images that had exceptional levels of detail with enough dynamic range in both bright and dark areas - high-resolution pores and stubble have never looked so good - and consistent sharpness on all portions of the sensor thanks to its adjustable 51-point autofocus system.

The high megapixel count means the D3x is suitable for environments where ultra-high resolutions are a necessity, like landscape photography - with a fast lens (we stuck to the 50mm f1.4 prime for this reason) intricate detail is captured even in low-light and gloomy conditions without any complicated studio lighting or flashes. Like other pro-level DSLR cameras the Nikon D3x does not have an in-built flash, but provides a hot-shoe and external flash connector.

ISO settings aren't as extensive as the Nikon D3’s 200-6400 range. The Nikon D3x only ranges from 100 to 1600 - understandable since a higher resolution at identical sensor sizes is a recipe for higher noise. Interpolated image noise only becomes noticeable at ISO 1600, so the D3x is appropriate for low-light photography if you are willing to sacrifice a few of those glorious megapixels of detail.

There has also been a drop in frames per second in the D3x's continuous shooting mode. The Nikon D3 could pump out nine frames a second at its 12.1 megapixel maximum resolution, while the D3x can only manage five frames every second. If you consider this in overall megapixels captured per second of photography, the D3x’s count of 122 is not significantly higher than the D3’s 108. If the nine frames per second speed could have been maintained with the D3x, it would have made been a great step forward for high-speed photography. Start-up and shutter time speeds are near-instant, with only 0.12 seconds and 0.04 seconds required, respectively.

There is no question that the D3x is one of the best cameras that Nikon has made in its over 90 years of history, thanks to the camera's massive megapixel count. But while some of its specifications are an improvement over the D3, the new D3x stumbles on high-speed capturing and high ISO functionality. An astronomical price further adds to the pain, but if you want the one of the best professional cameras from Nikon - and need the all-round quality boost that a higher megapixel count brings over the D3 - then the D3x is the camera to get.

Pimp your iPhone or iPod Touch with applications

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The addictive Facebook application has been accessible on Apple's products for a while now. While its design is simplistic, it is perfect for keeping an eye on your profile – even if you have already checked it ten times today.

The application includes the Facebook basics – a homepage with a news feed, your profile, your list of friends, chat and your message inbox.

Updating your profile is easy, but the application is not without its flaws. You cannot check your events, change your personal settings or save those drunken images directly to your iPod.

A strangely mesmerising application, ColorSplash focuses on selective desaturation.

Basically, it allows you to remove the colour from a select area of your images leaving a dominant colour to brighten your images.

But the application does not allow to change the remaining colours, meaning only the photos original colours are used – you are unable to use the colours that you desire.

The interface is well-designed and allows you a lot more freedom with the touchscreen when viewing the images. You are able to zoom out instantly to see the full photo and you can move the image anywhere on the screen.

One handy feature is the autosave session which means that if you accidentally hit the home screen button you will not lose your work.

collect3 Picture Safe

Private photos can be protected with this application as it can quickly hide your pics from nosy onlookers.

During initial set up you are asked to choose and verify a PIN, which guards access to the photos you choose to protect. Images can be imported through the iPhone's photo album or by taking photos from within the app itself.

It features Quick Hide, which is like a boss key – it rapidly displays a graph when the user double-taps the screen.

This app will definitely come in handy when you want to keep photos of your loved ones or more confidential material private.

These are just a select handful of applications that are quite useful but there a lot more out there – both free and for a price, for both normal and jailbroken iPods and iPhones.

So pimp your iPhone your own way.

Sharp LED TV LC-40LE700X

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

FROM next month every television sold in Australia will carry an energy rating just as you see on a fridge or dishwasher in an electrical store.

Apart from choosing between LCD or plasma, the amount of power the panel uses is likely to be another factor in the purchase decision.

Sharp's impressive new LED TV will tick all of the boxes for those looking for a good picture and an electricity bill that doesn't look like a credit-card statement.

The LC-40LE700X is Sharp's first LED panel and has a new backlight system with a pixel control feature to give clear full high definition.

Around the 101cm (40-inch) screen is a narrow bezel that gives the panel the appeal of a large screen but doesn't dominate the room.

The biggest energy saving comes from the LED technology which provides excellent brightness and clarity but produces less heat than regular LCD backlights.

Another benefit of the LED system is the minimal light leakage and the ability to focus brightness in the parts of the screen that need it.

The result is finely defined and natural colours and deeper blacks courtesy of the dynamic contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1.

For movie and sports lovers eyeing off a new TV, the Sharp delivers on both fronts.

The Sharp LC-40LE700X can support signal inputs at 24 frames per second to recreate a viewer's experience in the cinema.

Sports fans will also appreciate the 120Hz frame rate and a fast pixel response time of 4 milliseconds so the action stays smooth and doesn't degenerate into a blur.

Apart from good pictures, the Sharp panel can also produce great sound thanks to the SRS TruSurroundHD and Bass Enhancer audio features. With connectivity there are plenty of inputs to connect high-definition devices to take advantage of the pristine 1920 x 1080 resolution, whether it's a gaming console or a Blu-ray Disc player.

Philips Lightframe

Monday, October 5, 2009

PARTICIPATING in modern life means spending a lot of time staring at a computer monitor each day, whether in the office or at home.

This practice, especially if it is part of work, is unavoidable and often results in eyestrain and occasional headaches.

Philips has come up with a solution to these health risks in the shape of the Lightframe LCD monitor.

What sets this screen apart from its competitors is the frame around the screen that emits light.

That so-called Lightframe was developed by Philips and is designed to create a subtle blue glow around the display area of the monitor. According to Philips, the Lightframe softens the edges of the display and therefore reduces the strain on the eyes.

By radiating blue light, the frame replicates the colour of the summer sky that has been proven to make people feel more energetic.

It is the same concept used to treat those suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder: a depressive state commonly called the winter blues.
Blue light triggers photo receptors in the eye, which transport signals to help with the increase in brain activity. But those interested in the screen will be pleased to know the 22in monitor provides more than just a fancy light show.

It has a resolution of 1680x1050 and a 16:10 aspect ratio along with a smart response time of two milliseconds, which means the picture will be smooth, whether you are playing a computer game, surfing the web or watching a movie.

Picture quality is improved thanks to another piece of Philips technology called SmartImage, which can adjust and optimise the contrast and colour on the screen in real time by analysing the content being displayed.

And because monitors are used by graphic designers and artists, who value colour accuracy, Philips has developed a technology called TrueVision.

TrueVision ensures display performance compliance even before the monitors leave the factory thanks to fine-tuning and rigorous testing.

The 30,000:1 contrast ratio also assures respectable and vibrant colours along with deep blacks and bright whites.

The Philips Lightframe screen has analogue VGA and digital DVI connections, in addition to a USB 2.0 port to give users one extra connection for a digital camera, USB memory stick, printer or to add a USB hub for even more connections.

So will this screen stop your eyestrain? It depends on how long you look at its blue hues.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

THE SONY PlayStation comes in a few forms, but one new model could revolutionise the way its fans play and buy games.

The PSPgo is the most radical change to the PlayStation Portable since its arrival in 2005.

The games machine, due in stores on October 1, is not only alarmingly smaller and lighter than its predecessors, but it now has a slide-out panel for game controls, compatibility with wireless headphones, new controls, and software to transfer your music, videos and photos to it.

But the PSPgo also features one fundamental change: it has no room for game discs or cartridges. This slender machine instead has a 16GB memory for players to fill with game downloads.

So will hand-held gaming fans go for the new Go system? Connect secured an advance issue of the new mini console and put it to the test.

Small form
PLAYSTATION Portable fans have seen the PSP shrink in size before.

Sony shaved 19 per cent off the original model in 2007, and added a microphone and screen brightness to the hand-held console last year.

The PSPgo, however, is not an incremental makeover. Side by side, the two machines look like brothers of different ages.

Sony says the new PSP is 43 per cent lighter than before, and at 158g it is only as heavy as some smartphones.

But the most immediately noticeable change is to its form. The PSPgo looks at least a third smaller than its predecessor and it has a footprint similar to an iPhone. It now genuinely slips into a pocket for easy travel.

The new form is not just smaller, though. Like a mobile phone, its screen slides up to reveal game controls. Thankfully, the new PSP has such a solid build this addition does not feel flimsy.

This screen is just as detailed as before (480x272) though it is 1.2cm smaller. However, given its prominence on the gadget's face, this reduction isn't striking.

Despite the remake, its controls are similar and close to their original locations. The arrow and function pads sit on either side of the new lower panel, and the analog stick now sits between them.

The PlayStation button is beside the screen for easy access, while trigger buttons sit atop either side of this machine's lower panel, hiding beneath the screen when it's extended.

Pressing these trigger buttons when the device is closed lets users toggle between a large clock and a calendar. The PSP's shrinking form has forced the volume and screen controls to the top of the lower panel, making them a little tricky to access when the screen is extended.

Other controls include a switch for WiFi, another for power that can also lock the machine's keys, and a covered slot for an M2 Memory Stick Micro to boost its storage. Current PSP owners will notice that this is a different type of memory card to the last, however, so further investment will be required.

Also, old peripherals including Talkman's microphone and the Go!Cam camera are not compatible with this new machine.

No more discs
THE game-changing element of this new PlayStation is not its lack of weight or new inclusions.
What sets this portable game machine apart is what it omits.

The PSPgo has no room at its back for UMD discs of old. This exclusion significantly cuts its girth, and means travelling players can fit their console and its games library into a pocket.

But this also means users will only be able to play the games they download. Old game discs are of no use to the new-generation PSP, so fans will need to keep their old machines working to use discs.

If you're too attached to your collection to make the switch, it's worth noting that this new machine is not designed to replace the PSP-2000 but only to supplement it.

PSPgo owners will have to establish a PlayStation Network account and visit the PlayStation Store through their console to load games to it. This means they must add funds to their PlayStation account (commonly by credit card) and have broadband internet access.

There is a reasonable selection of titles already available in the PlayStation Store, including Lemmings, Resistance: Retribution and Buzz! Brain of Oz. Upcoming games include Gran Turismo and LittleBigPlanet, which will both be making their PSP debut.

Sony Computer Entertainment Australia communications manager Larissa Hazel says the company will add more older titles to the online store, and will offer Gran Turismo as a free download for those who buy a PSPgo between October 1 and 10.

Sony will also add video, comic book and mini game downloads to the PSP catalogue by the end of the year.

But while game downloads can be a convenient model, it can have its drawbacks too.

Mini games will download in minutes, but some games are very large. Gran Turismo will be a 1GB download when it launches in October, taking what could be a significant chunk of your monthly broadband allowance.

As a test, we downloaded the $49 LocoRoco 2. The 1.5GB game took more than five hours to download and install over a cable broadband connection. Unless you are prepared to do this as you sleep, going to a physical game store would save time.

OTHER than its new 16GB internal flash memory, the PSPgo has just a handful of extras.

They include Bluetooth connectivity so you can link the machine to wireless headphones, a proprietary port for charging and connecting the PSP to a computer, and new PC software called Media Go that will let you add media to the device, back up your games and convert files into PSP-friendly formats.

The PSPgo also comes with the same bright screen and built-in microphone of the last edition, and Skype comes pre-installed.

THE PSPgo is the most portable of the portable PlayStations and its new size and light weight should not be underestimated.

The machine's 16GB memory for games should also make it a hit with travellers, and the screen is just as crisp and bright as you could want.

Hardcore PSP fans might mourn the passing of the UMD game disc, though, and anyone with a strict download limit need not apply. Those who can meet its internet demands will reap rewards.

Ecogear laptop bags

Saturday, October 3, 2009

For this week's installment of the weekly Crave giveaway, we're going green with not just one, but three Ecogear bags made with "planet-friendly organic cotton, PVC-free materials, recycled plastics, and toxic-free dyes and components." That's great, but we also like the design of the bags, which are tech-friendly as well. (We particularly like the roomy Black Rhino, which also features a removable laptop sleeve that comes in handy when you're dealing with airport security).

Normally, this collection of Ecogear products would cost you about $125, but you have the chance to get it gratis.

So, how do you try to win the Ecogear bags? Let me enumerate the basic rules. Please read them carefully; there will be a test.

  • Register as a CNET user. Go to the top of this page and hit the "Join CNET" link to start the registration process. If you're already registered, no need to register again.
  • Leave a comment below. You can leave whatever comment you want. If it's funny or insightful it won't help you win, but we're trying to have fun here, so anything entertaining is appreciated.
  • Leave only one comment. You may enter this specific giveaway only once. If you enter more than one comment, you will be automatically disqualified.
  • The winner will be chosen randomly. The winner will receive (1) set of Ecogear Tiger, Black Rhino, and Mohave Tui bags. Approximate retail value is $125.
  • If you are chosen, you will be notified via e-mail. Winners must respond within three days of the end of the contest. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen.

Is the iPhone hurting AT&T's brand?

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Apple iPhone has boosted AT&T's subscriber numbers, but network problems and a bevy of complaints from

frustrated customers are likely hurting the company's reputation.

While a recent survey by the consulting firm CFI Group found that iPhone users are the most loyal smartphone users with 90 percent saying they'd recommend the device to a friend, half of all iPhone owners surveyed said they would like to jump ship to another provider if given the chance.

And for the first time, AT&T has scored worse than all four major U.S. wireless operators in terms of overall customer satisfaction for smartphones. According to the survey, AT&T scored 69 out of 100 among users, and 73 among non-iPhone owners. Verizon Wireless was the most satisfying carrier with a score or 79 out of 100 among smartphone users. Even Sprint Nextel, which has struggled to retain customers due to its poor reputation, scored better than AT&T among smartphone users. It got a 74 out of 100 in terms of customer satisfaction.

The figures are among the first to quantify growing dissatisfaction with AT&T's network.

"AT&T has never fared great in customer satisfaction surveys," said Doug Helmreich, program director with CFI Group. "But they've never been last. Now AT&T is coming up last among smartphone users. The iPhone has been a cash cow for AT&T, but that cash comes at a cost in terms of overall satisfaction."

Public relations and brand experts warn that if AT&T doesn't take steps now to correct its image that it could come back to haunt the company in the future. The main issue for customers is that many users, especially those in urban areas, report poor network coverage and service. Problems with AT&T's 3G wireless have been widely reported on blogs, Twitter feeds, and even in published reports from BusinessWeek and The New York Times.

Customers all over the country have complained about dropped calls and the inability to connect to the 3G network. CNET News writer Elinor Mills documented her frustrating experience with her iPhone in a blog post recently. The story hit a nerve among fellow iPhone users, and more than 400 comments were left on the story. Most of the comments corroborated the writer's plight. And the follow-up story on the same issue garnered at least another 300 comments from readers.

AT&T's company line
And yet, AT&T has not admitted any problem with its network. When questioned about potential problems with the AT&T network being overburdened by iPhone users, Mark Siegel, an AT&T spokesman, reiterated the company line: "We have a strong, high-quality mobile broadband network. It is the nation's fastest 3G network, now in 350 major metropolitan areas."

In fairness to AT&T, the company has acknowledged that it is upgrading its network to deal with increased demand from the iPhone. Siegel said the company plans to spend $17 billion to $18 billion on improving its wireless and wireline broadband networks in 2009. Of course, this is a few billion dollars less than what the company spent in 2008. During that year, AT&T's annual report indicates it spent $20.1 billion on capital expendituresfor its wireless and wireline networks. Still, $17 billion is nothing to sneeze at.