Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Hey, I’m Back!

January 26, 2012

Hey folks I am back from a year’s leave from this site. My current weekly blog with GlobalTV, http://www.techuntangled.ca with vid clips from my two weekly Tech Talk segments is my current work regimen, but I will share some of my thoughts here too.

So what do you think of all this Ultrabook craze going on this year? Have they taken over tablets and pads? Not really, but there is a price to pay for these under 2 kg sleek laptops…money and lots of it.

After looking at a few at CES 2012 in Vegas a few weeks ago, I realized that Apple had indeed come out with their version of the Ultrabook more than a year ago! In fact, if you are considering buying an Ultrabook today, check out the specs on the current Mac Air models…they offer more in some respects that might make your hard earned dollar go further.

But if you are a pure Windows user, the Ultrabook re-defines portable computing in the PC world. Check out my most recent review of Lenovo’s first Ultrabook, the IdeaPad U300s and some  interesting comparisons I made with the Mac Air 13.3-inch model at

http://www.techuntangled.ca

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Intel’s New Chips on Steroids

January 3, 2011

Intel is announcing its 2nd Genereation Intel Core Processors whose new archirtecture includes much improved integrated graphics and visuals. This means fast media processing for mainstream and professional PC programs. Even Excel screems through benchmarks. Check my high level review at:

http://communities.canada.com/globaltv/blogs/techuntangled/default.aspx

Off to Vegas for the CES show. Follow my marathon 24/7 tweet at 

http://twitter.com/stevoidtech during mad rush interviews, fancy receptions and private dinners…

Intel’s Gambit has its own Kinect Moves

November 8, 2010

Intel's Gambit plays chess against humans using 3D context aware data from a 3D sensor, similar to the Xbox 360 Kinect, as it sees players moves and uses its robotic arm to take out or play pieces. University of Washington's Cynthia Matuszek looks on, awaiting the occassional driver crash of the still-in-progress player. Steve Makris Photo

Say hello to my new friend Gambit, a chess-playing robot whom
I met last week  in Seattle.

Developed by Intel Labs Seattle researchers and students
from the University of Washington, it interacts with human chess

players by watching your every move, then tells you what your move was, reaches out with its mechanical arm and either gently picks your piece off the board setting aside and/or makes its move.

Gambit can adapt to any size board, using an
off-the-shelf computer chess game player in addition to a lot of programming for its human-like moves and smarts.

On the rare occasion Gambit accidentally
drops a piece, he simply asks for your help, before continuing the game.

The 3D sensor that picks up your every move and so
accurately lifts chess pieces off the board, is the same kind used in today’s Xbox 360 Kinect, manufactured and licensed by Israeli-based www.primesense.com

Only in this case, Gambit is smarter and very human-like,
with the arm designed by Seattle-based robot designer Roberto Aimi of Alium
Labs.  For more information on Intel’s context-aware research, go to:

http://ils.intel-research.net/

Check out Gambit in action at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCZZ2uopFVE

Toronto Kinect Launch in Pictures

November 4, 2010

Last night saw the official cross-Canada Xbox Canada launch of the Kinect, a new way for gamers and non-gamers alike to play on the Xbox game console. It uses special camera sensors, doing away with regular game controllers, to follow your body movements for simple but fun game-playing, recognizing hand, torso, legs and feet movement in three dimensions as well as voice recognition.

The public launch started in Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square with game demos, entertainment and a special shopping opp for die-hards who waited in line on a cool wet night for hours and a chance pick up the Kinect, $149, at the nearby FutureShop store. The Xbox folks had a raised glass-sided living room high abouve the square complete with plush sofas and off course, a Kinect setup. The last Kinect fans in the country to take in the midnight madness were in Vancouver.

At the same time,  the VIP party, some 300 strong, was happening at the nearby Kinect Hub where Toronto music and TV personalities mixed it up with Kinect gaming and party music . But I wondered, all this line-waiting could have been avoided if Kinect fans had skipped the party and stayed in their warm homes and simply pick up their Kinect the next morning.

Here are some snaps.

The Kinect playroom, an all glass living room with plush sofas and off course a Kinect system, stood high above the square. Steve Makris Photo

Travis Jensen, left, and his dad Carl, duke it out in Kinect Sports Boxing. Carl who liked the idea of not having to hold anything to play a game thought he got a real workout in just a few rounds. Combined photo showing the screen action. Steve Makris Photo

A long wait line under heat lamps for the early Kinect adopters waiting for the midnight sale. Steve Makris

Blake McGrath and Mia Michaels, far right, of So You Think You Can Dance Fame, walked the walk on Kinect Dance Central. Steve Makris Photo

The first Kinect buyer in Canada, Jacob Dupley from Brampton, said he was going straight home to Kinect. Steve Makris Photo

DJ sensation Christian Rich made their own grooves at the Kinect Hub nearby. Steve Makris Photo

Sanyo Japan World Press Tour

October 17, 2010

Just visited the eco ideas house at Panasonic Center in Tokyo, zero carbon foot print and enough energy left over to charge your car! It’s a comfortable home at peace with nature. Follow my tweets on the rest of my Japan trip. Stevoidtech

Dangerous Celebrities

August 19, 2010

Cameron Diaz has replaced Jessica Biel as the most dangerous celebrity to search for on the Web, according to security company McAfee, Inc. (NYSE: MFE). For the fourth year in a row, McAfee researched popular culture’s most famous people to reveal the riskiest celebrity athletes, musicians, politicians, comedians and Hollywood stars on the Web.

The McAfee Most Dangerous Celebrities™ study found movie stars and models top the “most dangerous” list this year, while politicians like Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are among the safest.

Cybercriminals often use the names of popular celebrities to lure people to sites that are actually laden with malicious software. Anyone looking for the latest videos or pictures could end up with a malware-ridden computer instead of just trendy content.

“This year, the search results for celebrities are safer than they’ve been in previous years, but there are still dangers when searching online,” said Dave Marcus, security researcher for McAfee Labs. “Through consumer education and tools, such as McAfee® SiteAdvisor® site ratings, consumers are getting smarter about searching online, yet cybercriminals are getting sneakier in their techniques.
Now they’re hiding malicious content in ‘tiny’ places like shortened URLs that can spread virally in social networking sites and Twitter, instead of on websites and downloads.”

Cameron Diaz searches yield 10 per cent chance of landing on a malicious Site McAfee research found that searching for the latest Cameron Diaz pictures and downloads yields a 10 per cent chance of landing on a website that’s tested positive for online threats, such as spyware, adware, spam, phishing, viruses and other malware.

Fans searching for “Cameron Diaz” or “Cameron Diaz and downloads,” “Cameron Diaz and screen savers,” “Cameron Diaz and wallpaper,” “Cameron Diaz and photos” and “Cameron Diaz and videos” are at risk of running into online threats designed to steal personal information. Clicking on these risky sites and downloading files like photos, videos or screensavers exposes surfers or consumers to the risk of downloading the viruses and malware.

The study uses SiteAdvisor site ratings, which indicates which sites are risky to search for celebrity names on the Web and calculate an overall risk percentage. The top 10 celebrities from this year’s study with the highest percentages of risk are as follows:

#1. Cameron Diaz – Searching for Diaz results in a one in 10 chance of landing on a risky site. She has most recently been in the spotlight with blockbuster movies, “Knight and Day” and “Shrek Forever
After.” When “Cameron Diaz and screensavers” was searched, 19
per cent of the sites were identified as containing malicious downloads.

#2. Julia Roberts – Academy Award-winning actress Julia Roberts is one of America’s sweethearts and is now in the spotlight with the release of her new movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” The overall risk of searching for Roberts is nine per cent, yet searching for “Julia Roberts and downloads” results in a 20 per cent chance of downloading a photo, wallpaper or other file laden with malware.

#3. Jessica Biel – Last year’s Most Dangerous Celebrity fell two spots with searches resulting in fewer risky sites this year. Biel continues to be in the spotlight with her on-again, off-again relationship with Justin Timberlake, and appeared in “The A-Team” in June 2010. While her overall search risk is nine per cent, searching for “Jessica Biel and screensavers” results in a 17 per cent chance of landing on a risky site.

#4. Gisele Bündchen – The world’s highest-paid supermodel moved up two spots since last year. Searching for “Gisele Bündchen and screensavers” can prove risky, 15 per cent of the search results for this beauty can put spyware, malware or viruses on your computer.

#5. Brad Pitt – Pitt is often in the spotlight with news of his movies and his personal life. It’s no wonder why this leading man has been in the top 10 for the past three years. He moved up in rank five spots this year. Downloading photos, screensavers, or other files of Brad can potentially put adware or spyware in your computer.

#6. Adriana Lima – Searching for downloads of this Brazilian beauty can direct users to red-ranked sites. Lima is best known for being a Victoria’s Secret Angel since 2000.

#7. Jennifer Love Hewitt, Nicole Kidman – Searching for these Hollywood starlets resulted in an equal number of risky download websites.

#8. Tom Cruise – With recent buzz around his MTV Awards performance as well as his movie, “Knight and Day,” Cruise rises to the top 10.

#9. Heidi Klum, Penelope Cruz – Both of these ladies are consistently in the spotlight, and share the #9 spot. Cybercriminals use their names to lure people to risky sites. Klum hosts “Project Runway” and Cruz has been in the spotlight recently for her role in the “Sex and the City 2” movie and is expected to be in the fourth film of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series.

#10. Anna Paquin – This “True Blood” star is as dangerous on the Web as she is on the screen. Searching for screensavers of Paquin can lead you to downloads filled with malware.

“Cybercriminals follow the same hot topics as consumers, and create traps based on the latest trends,” continued Marcus. “Whether you’re surfing the Web from your computer or your phone or clicking on links in Twitter about your favourite celeb, you should surf safely, and make sure you’re using the latest security software.”

Beware of Victoria’s Secret beauties
Three of Victoria’s Secret top models are among the top 10 this year.
Searching for downloads of sexy Gisele Bündchen (#4), Adriana Lima (#6), and Heidi Klum (#9) can result in landing on a high percentage of risky sites.

Dangerous athletes
Tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick came in at #13 and #14 respectively. Most of the risky sites were uncovered when searching for screensavers featuring these sexy athletes. David Beckham ranked (#29) and Tiger Woods ranked (#33) this year.

“Bieber Fever” is not dangerous
Teen sensation Justin Bieber ranked towards the bottom of the list at #46. This young star recently broke a YouTube record with more views than Lady Gaga (#37). Other young Hollywood stars like Miley Cyrus
(#44) and Zac Efron (#40) were also relatively safe to search.

Obama and Palin at the bottom of the pack President Barack Obama (#49) and Sarah Palin (#50) are not among the most risky personalities to search; they ranked in the bottom of this year’s results, moving even lower on the list compared to last year.

Keep safe with McAfee SiteAdvisor Plus software McAfee security experts urge consumers to surf safely by using McAfee SiteAdvisor Plus software, $19.99 (http://home.mcafee.com/Store/PackageDetail.aspx?pkgid=284&eid=red_1).
It displays red, yellow and green icons on the search results page that indicates the safety-level of websites. It also checks the safety of links in e-mail and instant messaging applications, blocks risky websites, adds anti-phishing protection, and helps users more safely surf, shop and bank online. SiteAdvisor Plus software is already included with McAfee Total Protection™ software (http://home.mcafee.com/store/total-protection?eid=red_1), a comprehensive security suite that protects against antivirus, anti-spyware, and identity and firewall protection.

Consumers can also safely surf the Web by using the Yahoo! SearchScan toolbar, which only shows ratings for “red” sites that are have potentially dangerous downloads including viruses, spyware and other harmful software. Web surfers should visit the McAfee Security Advice Center (http://home.mcafee.com/AdviceCenter/Default.aspx?eid=red_1) and Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/mcafee for information on the latest threats, and tips on surfing safely.

The Race to be the Coolest PC

January 19, 2010

LAS VEGAS – Computers gone wild! That was the theme at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Years of boring desktop computers and predictable laptops got the most dramatic makeover from big and small-name manufacturers. The biggest engineering change was the use of smaller processors found in smart phones. If you think Netbooks were cool in 2009, then feast upon these innovative designs:

Hybrid Notebook - The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid Notebook shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is unique in that it if two computer-in-one. In its clamshell mode it runs off an Intel Core2 Duo chip and Windows 7, but when the screen is detached in slate mode, it runs in Skylight mode, run by Linux and Qualcomm ARM Snapdragon processor as well as its own battery.

-Lenovo turned heads with the most impressive smart design in every kind of computer. HP and Dell should pay attention to the Chinese-once-IBM computer maker which is fusing the best designer minds from North America and China. Unquestionably, the IdeaPad U1 Hybrid Notebook is unique in that it is two computers-in-one. In its clamshell mode it runs off an Intel Core2 Duo chip and Windows 7 Premium and keyboard. But when the screen is detached from its transparent outer shell, it becomes an ultra light slate running on a smaller Qualcomm ARM Snapdragon processor (used in smart phones) and switches to Lenovo’s new Skylight interface. In slate mode it runs on Linux but looks and feels like Windows. It has its own second set of batteries and can synchronize its files with the base unit when connected again. The high-resolution 11.6” LED backlight display, 16:9 widescreen with integrated wec cam is two-finger multi-touch in either mode. It 1.7kg in notebook mode and only 750 grams in slate mode. Very cool.

Ultra portable - Lenovo's Skylightsmartbook, shown at the Consumer Elctronics Show in Las Vegas is powered by a cellphone processors, runs on Linux, invisible to users and runs for more than 11 hours. It has WiFi and alwasy connected cellular 3G.

 Lenovo’s Ultra portable Skylight smart book, is also powered by efficient cell processors most of us have never heard of. It runs on a Lenovo user interface on Linux, although you wouldn’t know it when using it. One battery charge gives you 11 hours on the go. It has WiFi and always – connected cellular 3G. It basically bridges what has been missing between smart phones and Netbooks.
The Lenovo IdeaCenter A300 desktop is the first serious contender to iMacs. It features the thinnest all-in-one desktop 21.5″ screen and the computer guts are built in the swivel base. The optimized boot and shutdown process, rich multimedia capabilities including a face tracking web cam and HDMI in and out and easy system maintenance tools. With up to Intel® Core™2 Duo processors, the A300 comes with wireless Bluetooth keyboard and as well as the Lenovo Rescue System software to quickly and easily recover data if a document is lost or becomes corrupt.
-HP’s (and Dell’s) comeback attempt to re-introduce the now eight-year old Tablet PC got a boost when shown as the only new device by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer during his keynote address at CES. Too bad it wasn’t the  much awaited and rumored Microsoft Courier Tablet PC. But neither “slate” will be

around nor will  pre-empt  Apple’s soon-to-be anounced tablet.  Industry observers called the hastily assembled Windows-based  Slates an attempt to head off Apple’s expected announcement of its first tablet.If you check Apples’ screen touch patents over the past two years, which go past traditional multi-finger touch to body and hand gesturing, you can imagine how advanced their Tablet will be, likely to be announced at a media gathering called by Apple on January 27.

The Alex eReader, an elctronic book reader on steroids, featuring a companion colour LCD touch screen that goes online like a PC.

-The most impressive eReader comes from springdesign.com and is ahead of its time. Called the Alex, it sports a 6-inch Electronic Paper Display and a fully functional 3.5-inch 320×480 LCD touch screen which can be turned off/on separately. This means WiFi Internet connectivity, web browsing, music and video to accompany the monochrome book screen. The ingeniously designed eReader also features built-in stereo speakers and will be available in February for $350 US. It includes 2GB or external microSD memory and headphones.

BATTLE OF THE MICRO FOUR THIRDS CAMERAS

December 19, 2009

 

Panasonic's LUMIX GF1, with shutter preview effect, left and Olympus PEN E-P2 with high-def digital eyepiece, offer much, from cool features, quality to extreme portability.

It’s not often that two digital camera makers introduce new competing models using the same underlying technology standard.

Although both models were in my last Journal Gift Guide, it’s challenging to pick the better of the two. Because they share the same mechanical standards, it’s like comparing apples to apples.

The new Olympus PEN E-P2 and Panasonic LUMIX DMC-GF1 “hybrid” cameras are unique in that they use an agreed upon technology by several manufacturers in their body and lens design. It’s called the Four Thirds Micro, which allows interchangeable lenses between them, as well as lenses from Leica and Sigma.

They will also accept all older Four Thirds lenses from their larger full size DSLR sibling cameras with adapter rings. Micro lenses are smaller and lighter and just as sharp. Another advantage of all the Four Thirds cameras, lenses and flashes is that they can be updated by simply plugging the body with a USB cable to an Internet-connected PC using included software.

What makes these new cameras so special?

They are not DSLR cameras, which means no flipping mirror or prism, so they are smaller and lighter. When equipped with their ultra-flat, fixed focal length “pancake” lenses, they easily fit in a coat pocket.

They also use the same size image sensor as the same brand DSLR models for exceptional picture quality rivalling bulky mid-level DSLR cameras. They rely on a large, live-view screen for composing and instantly seeing the pictures you take. They have powerful features like follow focus, customized settings and an all-important complete auto setting.

These camera types are not cheap. The bodies start at about $850, while an E-P2 with 17 mm f2.8 pancake lens and electronic viewfinder retails for $1,199.99, compared to the GF1 with 20mm f1.7 pancake lens and live view finder for $1,299.99.

Which is better? Like all things digital, each model has its own strengths, so here is what stands out for each model.

Olympus PEN E-P2 12.3 megapixel:

— It has a faster sequential frame mode, which is good for sports.

— The seven live art filters, applied to stills and movies simply rock, with stunning Photoshop-like effects.

— Multiple exposures, during shooting or after, with selectable layer transparency, let’s you get infinitely creative on combining images together, even planning how you will shoot them beforehand.

— The optional VF-2 90-degree flip digital eyepiece viewer is sharper than the rear-view screen, perfect in bright places and magnifies the image more. It’s like being in the front row of a movie theatre screen. The rear-view screen has the best side-view quality when holding the camera high or low for creative shots.

— Menu screens can be challenging, but several options for changing your settings are the fastest in any camera.

— The additional noise filter makes for cleaner pictures when shooting in high ISO settings.

— Hand-held, available-light shooting with slower shutter speeds are sharper with three built-in image stabilization options which work on any lens.

— The video movie shooting quality is superior — 1280 x 720 with demonstrably better audio, but it takes up more room, requiring one GB of memory for four minutes of video.

— Includes more powerful picture editing software.

The Panasonic GF1 12.1 megapixel:

— The opposite from Olympus, it has an exceptionally sharper rear viewfinder screen but lacklustre optional Live View Finder.

— You can see the pictures you just shot sooner and shoot single images more frequently, as well as scroll through your photos faster.

— There are 27 physical buttons or wheels you can use directly to change settings.

— The Panasonic built-in flash adds more value compared to the optional but more powerful flash for the Olympus E-P2.

— There is a better, more expensive selection of LUMIX lenses, but all are interchangeable between brands.

— The camera body is lighter.

— There are seven choices of motion video shooting quality, the best being AVCHD Lite/H, which can record better than DVD quality movies requiring one GB of memory for ten minutes of video.

THE SKINNY

The GF1 is a complete camera with built-in flash and more responsive shooting, while the E-P2 has better anti-blur image stabilization, artistic and creative features.

For more information go to:

http://www.panasonic.ca

http://www.olympuscanada.com

http://www.four-thirds.org

Is LED TV a new kind of TV?

September 2, 2009

Since my last two TV stories, I have received emails asking me about what the new LED TVs are about. Even TV stores I frequently visit, are getting questions from consumers asking to see the LED models.

So listen up folks. LED HDTVs are still LCD TVs but instead of the traditional panel lighting source, they use LED light instead. It’s brighter, offers wider contrast, energy efficient and displays pure whites. Most LED  LCD TVs use backlight LED, where the LED lamps are evenly spaced out behind the glass panel. But with some smart engineering, like Samsung’s new one-inch-thick UN46B7000 46-inch LED LCD TVs, you get the best of both worlds…anLCD on steroids that is a third the thickness of competitors and looks just as evenly lighted as backlight LCD LED sets.  To read my latest story on what is new in TVs in stores now, go to:

http://www2.canada.com/edmontonjournal/columnists/story.html?id=190b3a76-9441-4db5-9574-271af663fa96

Palm Pre arrives in Canada for surprise visit

May 7, 2009

BUT YOU WILL HAVE TO WAIT FOR BELL’S NEWEST PHONE

Toronto media got a short-notice invite Wednesday morning for a same-day sneak-peak of the new Palm Pre smartphone, available at Bell in the second half of this year. Reporters could not take pictures but they could see the phone.

A touch of drama for a phone that won’t be in Canada for months and that we all knew about at CTIA Las Vegas earlier this year.

You will have time to think about your next cellphone upgrade, Bell hopes. Should you wait? Before I get into some details about the Pre phone, here is the skinny:

Unless you don’t like everything that the hottest last-quarter top-selling PDA does, the BlackBerry Curve (yes, it outsold the iPhone in the U.S.) or the cool design functionality of the Samsung Omnia or you crave for the seamless multimedia, 35,000 (and counting) cool apps and best Internet experience of the iPhone, don’t bother waiting.

But if you want to manage your wireless life in different ways, Palm’s way, read on.

The Palm Pre is unique in many ways. You can read and see all the details on www.palm.com but briefly, it is a smart-looking PDA with curved sides, even front panel, designed with its own new WebOS platform, does deep multi-tasking and unobtrusive notifying, turns the large screen backlight off when outside for longer battery life and has a large touch screen but no touch keyboard opting for a real slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It’s loaded with 8 GB internal memory, all the goodies like 3 megapixel camera, Wifi, Bluetooth and GPS. Much thought seems to have gone into the Palm Pre from a diversified Palm engineering and design team.

As an option, it has an inductive power charger (a bit slower than a wall plug kind). You can set up HTML or pop email accounts. Palm does not have its own server, like RIM, so unless you get the Pre connected through work with email servers to do the pushing, consumer email accounts will not respond as fast as a BlackBerry phone.  

 Still, there are smart connections with social networking sites on the go, like Facebook, with automatic updates of other Facebook users on your Palm Pre device, when they change their contact information. You can organize and have faster access to both your business and personal contacts. Cool.

“The Palm Pre allows you to keep many applications and Internet sections open at once and move them around the screen with the touch of a finger, even moving them aside so the content isn’t lost,” said Bell Canada spokesperson Julie Smithers.

Palm is pushing the phone’s new WebOS platform claiming it is ready for prime-time application web development with new apps (no business model announced yet) that will be easier to develop than  competitors and the ability to run older Palm software in emulation, in native speed.

Where does the Palm Pre fit for you? It is a new offering, a fresh start from Palm who has managed to outlive its critics. Will it manage to carve itself a niche for customers who don’t care for BlackBerry, iPhone or Windows Mobility phones?

Matt Crowley Palm Product Line Manager in California, was straight forward:

“We are not competing with the multimedia aspect of the iPhone or the full business focus of the BlackBerry. It’s a consumer experience that is not a corporate environment and not 100 per cent competing in the multimedia crazy space of iTunes.”

At first glance from a distance,  I think the Palm Pre is a cool-looking PDA, smart in organizing your information, with a bit of iPhone and BlackBerry envy.

Bell is obviously excited about this phone. “We normally don’t pre-announce a device but we only do so when it’s unique,” said Smithers, adding Bell is the second carrier in the world to announce the Palm Pre offering, one more notch to its already largest Palm line-up in Canada.

 So with that, I will have to wait for a first-person experience for this “I’m no iPhone or BlackBerry” device for a final opinion.