Sandeep Venugopal’s Weblog

January 31, 2008

GPS and now a CellPhone toooo! Niceeee…!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 6:45 pm
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First Apple came out with the iPhone, then Google (NSDQ: GOOG) announced its mobile-phone software development platform, and now GPS maker Garmin is entering the mobile phone market with a hybrid device called the nuvifone.

 

The nuvifone is the first mobile phone by Garmin, featuring GPS, a touch screen, and a Web browser.

The nuvifone, which Garmin unveiled this week, combines a cell phone, a Web browser, and GPS. Its slim form factor, 3.5-inch touch screen, and on-screen keypad resemble another device that took the mobile market by storm last year: the iPhone.

“This is the breakthrough product that cell phone and GPS users around the world have been longing for — a single device that does it all,” said Cliff Pemble, Garmin’s president and COO, in a statement.

Unlike the iPhone, the nuvifone is a GPS personal navigator and has built-in third-generation cellular technology for high-speed data access. The home screen features three icons: call, search, and view map for simple access to the phone’s functions. Additionally, the phone’s GPS works with the built-in camera to take pictures that are automatically tagged with latitude and longitude. Users can e-mail pictures to others, who can then navigate to the location where it was taken, said Garmin.

Once the nuvifone is docked onto a vehicle mount, the GPS turns on automatically, the navigation menu is activated, and a person is then able to make hands-free calls while simultaneously using the navigation function, according to Garmin. The phone comes with maps of North America and Europe, as well as a built-in database with millions of points of interest. It works just like Garmin’s standard GPS devices, offering turn-by-turn audible directions.

The nuvifone is also Garmin‘s first device with the Google local search application, which serves up nearby venues based on a person’s current location.

Garmin said the nuvifone will be available in the third quarter of this year, but didn’t provide details on specific markets and pricing.

There were over a billion mobile phones shipped last year, according to ABI Research. GPS, digital cameras, media players, and other capabilities are being integrated into phones to create multifunctional devices. Garmin, Google, Apple, and others see the mobile phone market as the next big opportunity, even though the companies are not traditional telephony players.

Source: Information Week

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vLite makes Windows Vista lightweight contender!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 6:41 pm
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A free software tool that promises to strip down the Windows Vista operating system — which even some Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) officials have called “bloated” — to a minimalist state is attracting big interest on the Internet. vLite, created by developer Dino Nuhagic, automatically removes a number of non-essential Windows Vista components in order to pare the OS’s heavy footprint by half or more.vLite allows users to preselect numerous Vista features for automatic removal prior to installing the OS on their personal computers. Among them: Windows Media Player, Windows Photo Viewer, MSN Installer, Wallpapers, SlideShow, Windows Mail and other utilities.

“It’s not just about hard disk space. There is also an increase in OS responsiveness and you don’t have to tolerate all kinds of things you don’t use,” said Nuhagic, in an e-mail to InformationWeek explaining why he launched the project.

vLite, however, isn’t for the technically timid. The software warns that the changes it imposes on Vista are “permanent, so be sure in your choice.”

Nuhagic said he doesn’t know exactly how many downloads vLite has seen — but a forum that asks users to submit suggestions for the next version has drawn almost 50,000 views.

The emergence of tools like vLite reflect the frustrations voiced by many computer users over Vista’s bulk and resource requirements.

Loaded with an abundance of features and tools designed to ease navigation and bolster security, the Home Premium and Ultimate editions of Vista both require a whopping 15 GBs of available disk space for installation. By contrast, Windows XP — Vista’s predecessor — requires 1.5 GB of available space for installation of the Professional version.

With Vista bearing a footprint 10 times larger than XP’s, even Microsoft officials are expressing concerns about Windows’ growing waistline. Speaking last year at the University of Illinois, Microsoft distinguished engineer Eric Traut said the operating system had become bloated.

“A lot of people think of Windows as this large, bloated operating system. That may be a fair characterization,” said Traut.

In response to such concerns, Traut said Microsoft has adopted a new, modular approach to OS development that will yield more streamlined products beginning with Windows 7 — a successor to Windows Vista that’s expected to be available some time in 2010.

The approach calls for Windows developers to use a bare bones version of the OS — dubbed MinWin — as the building block for their next programming effort. MinWin is built on about 25 MBs of data — making it smaller than Windows Vista by an order of magnitude.

Until it’s ready, there’s always programs like vLite.

Source: Information Week

 

If God were to release Ads…!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 5:08 pm
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January 30, 2008

Asus hopes upcoming Eee desktops are Eeequally Eeenticing!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 10:08 pm
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Asus’ ultraportable Eee has been a tremendous success for the company since it launched last October. Although not without its flaws, the device has proven extremely popular. As we first reported back in November, Asus is looking to take advantage of the Eee’s popularity by launching additional Eee-affiliated product lines.As DigiTimes reports, Asus has released additional information on these upcoming products and what markets they’ll be targeted at. The E-DT desktop will become the second Eee-branded product to hit the market, and should launch in April or May. The system will be based around a Celeron processor, but Asus plans to transition the E-DT to a Diamondville core and the 945GC chipset later this year. Price range on the system should be in the $200-300 range.

Next up, there’s the E-Monitor. Set to debut in September, the all-in-one system will be built around 19-21″ screens and ship with a built-in TV tuner. The E-Monitor will be built on Intel’s Shelton’08 platform and presumably offer equivalent performance to an E-DT, but with the added benefit of a built-in monitor. Asus expects to sell the unit for $499 and cutely notes just how much cheaper this is than the equivalent price of an iMac ($1,199-2,299) or an XPS One ($1,499-2,399).

Lastly, there’s the E-TV. As the name suggests, Asus is merging some aspect of the Eee into its 42″ LCD displays. Exactly what functionality the company is referring to is unknown. Asus could theoretically embed an Eee directly into the television and ship the device with a keyboard+mouse, but the whole “use your TV as your web browser/computer” concept has never caught on well.

Asus’ decision to base both the E-DT and the E-Monitor on Intel’s Shelton platform may impact the attractiveness of both products. The Shelton’08 standard describes a system built around a 1.6GHz single-core Diamondville processor, a 533MHz FSB, single-channel DDR2, a solid-state USB/PATA drive, and an 802.11g WiFi module. That particular set of components makes a lot of sense for a UMPC/MID device, but it’s difficult to imagine such a system would drive a compelling desktop experience, even when running a relatively lightweight Linux distribution. Asus hasn’t committed to using the entire Shelton’08 platform in the E-DT desktop, but these systems will still be built on the relatively lightweight Diamondville core.

VIA’s new Isaiah CPU could make the fight over low-priced hardware quite interesting. As we recently discussed, Isaiah represents a major leap in CPU performance and could potentially garner significant wins in the ultra-low-end desktop market if it delivers better performance than Intel’s Diamondville. As for Asus, their new products have “wait and see” stamped all over them, as it’s not clear if the company has found the right balance between performance, price, and features consumers actually want.

Source: Ars Technica

Stranded at the airport? Don’t forget Rule 240

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 10:49 am
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How many of you got stranded at airports?… I have been… many many times… wish I knew about the Rule 240 during that time… I would have at least given it a shot… guess its not too late as I am prone to getting stranded at airports :)… Hope u find this article by Peter Greenberg helpful too…

A few years ago, at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, I noticed something strange on the departure boards. American Airlines had three flights scheduled that afternoon from ORD to Boston, and all were apparently operating on time. United, on the other hand, had three flights scheduled from ORD to Boston, but none were operating on time. In fact, all three United flights showed “canceled.”

I smelled a rat. I went to the United counter and asked the reason for the cancellations. “Weather.”

Weather? The airlines couldn’t have it both ways. Either American Airlines pilots were irresponsible, crazy air jockeys who were going to tease the gods and fly into the face of serious storms, or United’s official cancellation reason was a convenient untruth.

I checked the weather in both Chicago and Boston: totally clear.

I went back out to the United gates and informed the counter agents that I knew the weather was fine and also explained that all the American flights were operating without problem. And then I invoked Rule 240 — which states that in the event of any flight delay or cancellation caused by anything other than weather, the airline would fly me on the next available flight — not their next available flight, which might not leave for another 24 hours.

And guess what happened? A lot of United passengers made it to Boston that day — on American.

Then, a year later, I was scheduled to fly on Delta from Pensacola to Miami. When I got to the counter, the agent told me the flight was canceled. She volunteered nothing else. So I calmly suggested that she invoke Rule 240. Once she knew that I knew the rule — and only then — did she rewrite my ticket, and those of the passengers in line behind me, and we got to Miami that day on an unusual routing: Pensacola to New Orleans and then on to Miami. Rule 240 allowed me to get to where I needed to go.

I’ve written about Rule 240 for years. And yet, every time I tell people about it, there are those who claim that my information is either out of date or plain wrong. That’s led to more confusion, and in at least one case a writer argued that I had simply fabricated Rule 240 out of thin air.

Well, I didn’t make up Rule 240. It was created by the old Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) way before the days of airline deregulation. And the rule clearly stated what an airline’s responsibilities were to passengers in the event of a flight cancellation or delay.

Rule 240 mandated that an airline facing a delayed or canceled flight had to transfer you to another carrier if 1) the second carrier could get you to your destination more quickly than the original line and 2) it had available seats. In pre-deregulation days, all the big U.S. airlines adhered to this practice.

In the days of regulation, the U.S. government required all airlines to submit tariffs containing fares, fare conditions, baggage rules, and what this meant is that the airlines also had to submit details about what they would and would not do in a wide range of circumstances. Those tariffs, in effect, constituted the contract between airlines and travelers. And in an interesting semantic approach, the tariff paragraphs were described as “rules.”

In its day, paragraph 240 was perhaps the most pro-passenger rule ever enacted to protect air travelers. And then, when the CAB was deregulated out of existence in 1978, the rule survived the transition. Flight delayed or canceled? An airline counter or gate agent could easily invoke Rule 240 to endorse your ticket over to another carrier. In colloquial airline usage, the rule soon became a verb, as in … “Hey, could you ‘240’ me?” Airlines would … and did just that.

Of course, in today’s deregulated environment, when airlines no longer have to post tariffs, the argument can be made that Rule 240 therefore no longer exists. Officially, that’s true, but in practice a majority of airlines still honor the old rules, 240 among them. The newer carriers — those that do not have interline agreements with the major legacy airlines, like JetBlue, Southwest and Air Tran, never had Rule 240 to deal with, and thus don’t, as a matter of company policy, endorse tickets over to other carriers (although JetBlue has been known to outright buy tickets on other carriers to accommodate some of its passengers).

In the past few years, just about every cash-strapped airline has amended its “contract of carriage” to try to change the definition of Rule 240. Still, in practice, airlines continue to reluctantly use it — to our advantage — every day. They reluctantly use it because of financial realities — to endorse a ticket over to another carrier also means the airline loses that revenue.

It’s really an issue of semantics and interpretation. I’m here to tell you Rule 240 does exist. In fact, in the last few weeks, I’ve used the rule twice when flights were delayed — and it worked like a charm. But more on that later.

On the official level, this is what airlines now say they will do in the event of a delay or cancellation:

United Airlines changed its language to say that in the event of a delay or cancellation, it would still fly you on a competitor, but not necessarily in the same class of service as on your original United flight. Delta still has a Rule 240 in its contract of carriage, but conveniently omits the section in which it used to say it wold fly you on another carrier in the event of a “flight irregularity.” American only promises to get you out on one of its own flights. Alaska and Northwest airlines have stayed with most of the original paragraph 240 language.

So, the real bottom line here is that while no one airline is legally mandated to follow Rule 240, many of them do — if they want to. And the real key is that you have to ask — not demand — and in many cases, you’ll be accommodated.

Having said all this, is Rule 240 a myth? An urban legend? Hardly. A month ago, I was trying to fly from St. Thomas to New York en route to Los Angeles. The originating flight was running about three hours late, which meant I would miss my connection in New York. I asked the airline — in this case, American — to “240” me. And without hesitation, the agent did just that — routing me from St. Thomas to San Juan and then on the airline’s nonstop flight to Los Angeles. Piece of cake.

And as recently as three days ago, I was trying to get to Denver from the East Coast. After checking in for my United flight, I watched both the departure and arrival boards with growing concern. The aircraft taking me to Denver was actually coming from Denver, and while the departure board showed an on-time departure for Denver, the arrivals board told a different story — at least a two-and-a-half-hour delay. I asked the United agent for the real story on the incoming aircraft. He told me that the plane had left the gate at Denver, but then turned around and went back to the gate. “Seems there’s a mechanical,” he said. I quickly looked up at the departure board and noticed that Frontier had a flight leaving for Denver in 20 minutes. I hadn’t checked any bags. I asked if he could “240” me over to the Frontier flight, and within about two minutes he handed me an e-ticket receipt and told me to race to the Frontier gate, where the counter agent honored the ticket and off I went.

So, for those of you who insist that 240 doesn’t exist, I have to differ. It does exist, it does get implemented. Maybe not always in a friendly manner, maybe not always volunteered by the offending airline — but that’s not the point. Gate and counter agents still have the discretion — and more often than not, the power — to invoke Rule 240 and help passengers when a flight is delayed or canceled by anything other than weather. The only real change? You can’t demand to invoke Rule 240 because it’s no longer a rule. But you can ask. And people do that successfully every day. So perhaps the most important rule to remember here about 240: If you don’t ask, you don’t get ….

Source: MSNBC

January 29, 2008

Qtrax free music player disappoints

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 10:13 pm
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Qtrax had promised a working beta last night, but we knew there was going to be problems after visiting the website. The company warned that downloads weren’t yet available and posted this message on the site.

“We’re thrilled with the massive response we’ve received. To ensure the best user experience, we’re activating accounts in stages. In the meantime, enjoy all the functionalities of the Qtrax player like importing and playing your music and searching for artist-related content.”

Disregarding the warning, we downloaded the 9.4 MB install program anyways. After the install, the program scans your hard drive for music and appeared to crash several times during the process. We had to continually close and restart the program to get Songbird working again.

We then tried downloading a few music clips and at first everything appears to be ok. You are presented a description of the CD and songs. You are even given a nice shiny download button, but a pop-up box saying “Downloads Coming Soon” appears when you click the button.

But don’t be completely disappointed folks, at least Qtrax got the ads to work correctly. Take a look at our screenshot gallery and you’ll see some giant Samsung banner ads appearing along the top and side of the Qtrax player.

Source: TG Daily

HDDVD tries to ressurect with $3M Superbowl ad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 10:06 pm
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During next week’s Super Bowl, viewers will be treated to an HD DVD commercial, but won’t see any mention of the competing Blu-ray format. The ad will feature Toshiba’s three lowest-priced players, the HD-A3, A30, and A35, and is the biggest advertising move for any high-def disc medium to date, reports Home Media Magazine. According to industry reports, the 30-second TV spot is expected to run Toshiba nearly $3 million.  It is a crucial move that Toshiba hopes will bring consumers to HD DVD instead of Blu-ray, which has a significant early lead in the format war.

“It has always been our strategy to reach HDTV owners, using advertising on football is just one vehicle,” said Toshiba to Home Media.  Within the last part of 2007, an estimated two million people bought an HDTV specifically because of the Super Bowl.  A 30-second advertising slot during the game this year is estimated to cost $2.7 million. The Blu-ray Disc Association will not be represented during the huge sporting event because it was not able to create an ad in time, according to the magazine.  BDA spokesperson Andy Parsons put down the move by saying, “Running a Super Bowl ad is not likely to convince consumers that HD DVD will win the format war.” And he’s right, this fight is most likely over: hail the Blu-Ray, new king!

Source: Martin, PC World, TG Daily

AMD introduces new HD card: Radeon 3870 X2

AMD on Monday launched a two-chip graphics card that it hopes will give it a lead in price and performance over rival Nvidia.The ATI Radeon HD 3870 X2 combines two graphics processors on a single board, giving it nearly double the performance of the single-chip Radeon HD 3870 introduced in November 2007, according to AMD. The latest graphics card tops a Teraflop, or 1 trillion floating point operations per second, which is the equivalent of a trillion mathematical calculations per second. AMD’s latest product would compete with Nvidia’s GeForce 8800 Ultra that starts at $630. The Radeon HD 3870 X2 has a suggested retail price of $449.

 

AMD’s new graphics card will also support the company’s CrossFire X technology, which makes it possible to use up to four cards on a single computer to further boost performance. CrossFire X competes with Nvidia’s scalable link interface, or SLI. AMD plans to release software to enable CrossFire X support for the HD 3870 X2 late in the current quarter. Market researcher Jon Peddie, head of Jon Peddie Research, said AMD’s new card is 170% faster than the single-chip HD 3870, making the new product faster than having two separate cards on a motherboard, which only increases performance by 150%.

Source: Martin, InfoWeek 

January 28, 2008

Sony removes 80GB version of PS3 from shelves

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 10:53 pm
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A memo to Best Buy employees indicates that Sony may be discontinuing the 80GB model of its PlayStation 3, leaving no backwards-compatible versions of the PS3 on store shelves. According to the memo, Best Buy and some other retailers will stop selling the $499 PS3 on January 28. Sony late last year stopped selling the 60GB version of the PS3, the only other version of the console that was backwards-compatible with PlayStation 2 games. This memo only affects North American gamers, as the UK and Japanese markets have already moved to a single-SKU model (the 40GB PS3).

 

If Sony removes the 80GB PS3 from store shelves and ceases all production of that model, there will no longer be a new-SKU PS3 that plays PS2 games. The 60GB PS3, long since gone at retail, used hardware to enable PS2 games to play on the PS3. The 80GB version, which is apparently on its way out, used software emulation to enable playback for many, but not all, PS2 games. With both versions gone, the question begs to be asked: is Sony working on yet another version/configuration of the PS3 that will support PS2 playback, or is it leaving consumers high and dry with their PS2 game libraries?

Source: Martin, Dailygame, Techspot

Qtrax: 25 million songs in mp3 for free

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sandeep @ 10:50 pm
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iTunes better look out because a new music service will soon offer millions of songs for free. New York-based Qtrax is launching a beta application that will aggregate up to 25 million songs from peer-to-peer networks. Of course the old saying of, “there is no free lunch”, applies here and users will have to endure ads to listen to their songs. The service works by centralizing music from P2P sites and then reoffering the songs with some extra DRM attached. Songs are downloaded to the listener’s computer, but they can only be played back inside of the Qtrax ad-supported player. The player expands to fill the user’s screen, but don’t fret because you can still surf the web with a Mozilla-based browser inside of the player.

For those of you old enough to remember the dot-bomb days, think of the Qtrax player as a music version of the much loathed NetZero web browser. While a full-screen player plastered with ads will probably turn off many people, we believe this could bring new life to your unwanted laptops and desktops. Just download and play the songs on the spare computer while you continue working on your primary machine. The company promises to share ad revenue with the song owners and claims that deals have been made with the four major record labels: Universal Music, Sony-BMG, Warner Music Group and EMI. Interestingly enough, those labels haven’t yet confirmed any plans. According to the Qtrax website, a PC beta program will be available at midnight Eastern Standard Time. Wow, this looks more than promising!

Source: TG Daily

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