Google Voice

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just over a year after its beta launch, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has opened its Google Voice service to all comers. During the invitation-only period, more than one million users signed up, according to the company.

It has spent that time taking feedback from those users and gearing up server capacity to take on significant growth, said Craig Walker and Vincent Paquet, Google Voice product managers, in a post on the Google Voice Blog.

One important question, though, is how many more people actually want to use the all-in-one-number service.

"It's not like the beta was keeping anyone out," Carl Howe, director with the Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld. As with past launches such as Gmail, Google Voice invitations were easy to get hold of.

"Up to this point, anyone who really wanted to use it could," he observed.
Resisting Change

Those on the very bleeding edge of communication services did indeed show some uptake on Google Voice, which allows users to distribute one phone number and route calls to that number anywhere they wish, including land lines and mobile devices.

"The real sizzle with Google Voice is the ability to have just one phone number," Josh Martin, senior analyst with Strategy Analytics, told TechNewsWorld. In addition, services such as personalized voice mail messages for different callers caught the eye of those with multiple phone numbers and groups trying to reach them.

The problem is that businesspeople and consumers switching to Google Voice had to accept and distribute a brand-new phone number to use the service.

"It's the same challenge people had years ago when changing wireless carriers," explained Martin. That is, while having access to new features might be tempting, the process of informing everyone in your life that you have an entirely new main number is daunting and can easily outweigh the benefits -- or at least delay someone's decision to switch.


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Netbook to School

Monday, June 28, 2010

stepped into the world of classroom computing Wednesday with the debut of its Mini 100e Education Edition, a netbook designed specifically for elementary-level classrooms.

HP Mini 100e Education Edition netbook
The HP Mini 100e Education Edition netbook

The 3.19-pound clamshell device is powered by a low-power Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) Atom N455 processor using the NM10 Express chipset. It comes with 1 GB of DDR3 memory and has three- and six-cell battery options.

Customers can select Windows XP Home, Windows 7 Starter or Suse Linux operating systems.

First Entry

While several other HP Mini netbook offerings have students among the customer base, the Mini 100e is HP's first effort at providing a notebook computer made specifically for the education market, Sarah Bussell, the company's senior manager of product marketing for business notebooks, told TechNewsWorld.

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

At first glance, it's easy to be taken in by Jeff Hoogland's recent post entitled "Why Ubuntu Is Harder Than Windows."

"I use Ubuntu on all my personal computers and I even recommend it to friends," Hoogland began. "I am starting to think maybe I shouldn't though, because it is obvious: Ubuntu is harder to use than Windows."

It doesn't take long, however, for the sarcasm to shine through.
'The Feature-Rich Wordpad'

On the topic of default software, for instance: "Windows offers a fantastic default software install," Hoogland writes. "Need to write a paper? No worries, Windows has the feature-rich Wordpad. Want to surf the Net? Internet Explorer has always provided a safe Web-browsing experience."

Ubuntu's default software, by contrast, is "somewhat disappointing," he asserts. "It has a full-featured word processor, spreadsheet editor and presentation creator. I know most people don't use Facebook or Twitter, but just in case you do Ubuntu includes Gwibber, a software that fully integrates your social networking with your desktop.

"For Web browsing, Ubuntu only has Firefox, and if you want to instant message, Ubuntu's Empathy only supports Facebook, AIM, yahoo, MSN, IRC ... ," he adds.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

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US' Mobile Catch-Up Game Plan

Thursday, June 24, 2010

U.S. broadband providers have gotten away with shoddy speeds and restricted access because Americans consumers are pretty clueless about what they're actually buying. A whopping 80 percent of broadband users in the United States do not know the speed of their own broadband connection, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) survey found. It's no surprise, then, that the nation is stupidly happy with the suckiest broadband speeds on the planet. Even many third-worlders are rocking rich media faster than the richest American household.

"While Europe and Japan have Fiber to the X (FTTX) services, we have not rolled out much here in the U.S. at this time," Asif Hazarika, senior director of product management at IP Infusion, told TechNewsWorld. "The issue that we see is that the U.S. has a great deal of legacy deployment and thus, to match the speeds with GPON or EPON, the cost is much higher."

Mobile broadband, says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, is a quick fix to this dilemma -- but the U.S. is dead-weight, if not dead-last, in mobile broadband too.

"The U.S. is definitely behind the rest of the world in mobile broadband access, both from pricing and access speeds," explained Hazarika.

Genachowski insists that 4G mobile broadband is the best way to "drive innovation, to drive broadband's success, and to drive competition in broadband" prices and accessibility. But is mobile broadband a true fix or just a patch for the American "best country in the world" psyche?


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Fears rise over kids hooked on gaming and virtual worlds

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SCHOOL children are becoming dangerously hooked on computer games, with one being offered live-in treatment at adolescent psychiatric facilities to wean him off his addiction.

The first teenager admitted to hospital partly due to computer addiction was living full-time at Sydney's Rivendell Adolescent Unit at Concord, receiving therapy and doing schoolwork.

But psychiatrists said they were receiving a flood of calls from distressed families seeking help for children who had fallen victim to the condition known as "pathological internet use".

Mental health professionals said schools were reporting students falling asleep in class after marathon online sessions playing highly addictive games such as World Of Warcraft.

The teen, who cannot be identified, was being treated by Rivendell for mental illness along with serious problems arising from computer gaming.
He slept in the unit from Monday to Friday and returned home at weekends.

The Year 11 boy, at Rivendell voluntarily, accepted that he needed to be separated from his computer if the treatment was to be successful.

Last year the first retreat for internet addicts opened its doors in Washington State in the US, welcoming a teen who had become a captive player of World Of Warcraft.

Mental health experts said Australia may soon need similar specialist rehabilitation facilities.

In the most extreme cases, teens and young adults were spending up to 50 hours almost non-stop playing online computer games.

Psychiatrists had confirmed anecdotal evidence that some wear nappies during long sessions so they won't have to take a toilet break.

A Sydney mother who had sought professional help for her 18-year-old daughter said yesterday the problem was widespread among young people.

iPhone 4

Friday, June 18, 2010

We may have seen some grainy images of the new iPhone leaked onto a website earlier than Steve Jobs would have liked but the Apple boss still had plenty of surprises up his sleeve when he officially revealed iPhone 4 today.

The new iPhone 4 features an all-new look and design, an updated operating system and the ability to make video calls.

Jobs took the stage to deliver his keynote address for the WorldWide Developers Conference (WWDC) at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco today for the expected new iPhone reveal.
“Stop me if you’ve seen this before,” Jobs said tongue-in-cheek on stage in reference to the incident which saw an early version of the new iPhone end up lost/stolen in a Redwood City bar and turn up on the Gizmodo tech blog.
Not so co-incidentally, Gizmodo was not invited to today’s keynote.

iPhone 4, which will be available in Australia in July, is just 9.3mm thick – which is 24 per cent thinner than the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3G S.

In fact, Jobs called the iPhone "the thinnest smartphone in the world" .

iPhone 4 will be available in black or white and in 16GB and 32GB capacities.

“This is our new baby, we hope you love it as much as we do,” Jobs said.

The iPhone 4 is framed with an aluminium band which is designed to not only provide structural strength and more volume to cram in all the technology but it is designed to work as the phone’s antenna as well.

How do you stop an asteroid from hitting Earth?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

SCIENTISTS have begun gathering in the South Australia outback to collect a tiny space capsule that could help reduce the threat of asteroids colliding with Earth.

The capsule, from a Japanese spacecraft called Hayabusa, is expected to land at Woomera on Sunday night.

Hayabusa was launched by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2003 in the hope of learning more about how the solar system was created and how to deflect any celestial objects on a collision course with Earth.

The spacecraft rendezvoused with the Itokawa asteroid, 2.9 billion kilometres from Earth, in late 2005.

Any dust collected from the asteroid may help researchers learn how to reduce the threat of a potential asteroid impact in the future, says NASA'S Michael Zolensky.

"If you want to mitigate that hazard you have to know about the physical properties of asteroids, what they are made of, so they are important for that reason as well," Dr Zolensky said.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

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One Tablet per Child

Monday, June 14, 2010

The philanthropic organization One Laptop per Child (OLPC) never quite managed to hit its price point for its "$100 laptop," but now the organization is sketching a concept for a $75 tablet computer that it hopes will further decrease power consumption and pioneer the first flexible LCD display.
"A tablet is simpler than a laptop, so it's easier to make a tablet cheaper," says Ed McNierney, OLPC's chief technology officer. But beyond that basic advantage, he says, the key to achieving super-low cost while also innovating is by working to establish common designs that can be broadly adopted and customized by other companies.

The project starts with processor technology from a commercial partner, Marvell, known for super-low power consumption--potentially as little as one watt, compared to the five watts consumed by OLPC's flagship machine, the XO. Marvell is already customizing tablet platforms for use in U.S. schools.

Building on this, OLPC wants to add a new screen technology. Starting with its existing LCD technology--which is itself pioneering in that its pixels both transmit backlight for indoor use and reflect ambient light, similar to e-books, for outdoor use--OLPC wants to take it one step further by replacing a glass layer with a rugged plastic layer capable of withstanding impacts and slight bending.

Colorful Quantum-Dot Displays

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Liquid-crystal displays, or LCDs, found in televisions, computers, and cell phones, are very inefficient: their complex optical layers discard over 90 percent of the light they produce internally, some of it because it's not quite the right color. Displays that will be in products made by Korean electronics company LG at the end of the year will have a better color gamut and save battery life by using more of the light that normally gets tossed out.
The displays incorporate nanomaterials called quantum dots that convert light from the backlight into narrowly defined bands of color that are matched to the display's filters. Depending on the design of the display, the addition of quantum dots made by Palo Alto, CA-based company Nanosys improves power efficiency by more than 10 percent and significantly improves the color gamut of the display. LG demonstrated a cell-phone-sized display incorporating the quantum-dot technology last week at the Society for Information Display's annual meeting in Seattle. The company has not yet announced what particular product the quantum-dot backlight will be used in first.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

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Cell-Phone Speeds

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Starting today, there's a new, faster breed of cell phone Web access out there. HTC's EVO 4G, available on Sprint, is the first phone that uses WiMAX, a technology that allows fast wireless Internet over long distances. This week, Technology Review previewed this new era of mobile connectivity.
The EVO is the most powerful phone running the Android operating system on the U.S. market. With the Qualcomm 1GHz Snapdragon processor (also found in Google's Nexus One) and 512 megabytes of random-access memory, it packs more punch than both the Nexus and the latest iPhone. The EVO is also a physically bigger beast, with a chunky, cuboid shape and 4.3-inch LCD touch screen, compared to the Nexus One's 3.7-inch window and the 3.5 inches of the iPhone 3GS.

But the real news here is the EVO's WiMAX chops, which have never been seen before in the cell-phone market. Sprint says its "4G" service--as it brands its WiMAX network--makes the EVO capable of downloading up to 10 times faster than today's 3G network.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

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Apple's New iPhone

That's how Steve Jobs closed his keynote at the annual WWDC conference just before noon PDT in San Francisco's Moscone Center today. Job's is now a proud father of four iPhones, and his presentation on the latest addition to the family, the iPhone 4, laid down the gauntlet to all other vendors of mobile software and hardware.

"Stop me if you've seen this," Jobs said as he unveiled the new design, referring to the infamous leaked phone obtained by Gizmodo, "and trust me, you haven't."

The iPhone 4 look much like the photos of the leaked phone, but until now we'd seen nothing of the new features it offered. With the same basic shape as iPhones past the most obvious observations to make about the new phone are that it is squarer, significantly thinner--just 9.3 mm thick, the thinnest smart phone yet--and circled with steel. That steel band around the edge is more than just eye candy: as well as providing the basic structure it doubles up as the antenna for the voice, data, and GPS functions. This, Jobs claimed, helped make more room for the bigger battery that allows up to 40 per cent more talk time than with a 3GS.

He spent a lot of time talking about the phone's screen, the "retina display." Its pixels are at a density of 324 per inch, making images and text sharp, and curves smooth. As a point of comparison, the standard resolution that photos are printed at is 300 dots per inch. The camera has also been improved considerably, and a smaller camera now features on the front of the phone.

Jobs also revealed that the phone now contains a gyroscope, making it possible to track rotation about any axis as well as acceleration in three directions, enabled by the now-standard accelerometers of previous models.

As usual, though, Jobs saved "one more thing" for the finale. Grabbing an iPhone 4 he dialed long-term collaborator and Apple lead designer Jonathan Ives, and tapped a button to switch to a two way video call.

The feature is called FaceTime, and is built deep into the iPhone 4. Anyone with the phone can instantly switch on video when calling another person with the same device without the need to set up a new account or buddy list. For now it only works on Wi-Fi.

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