Archive for January, 2011

January 30, 2011

Meet Samsung’s sexy new mini-camcorders

by Avinash Saxena
Samsung’s new HMX P100 and P300 debuted at CES earlier this month. The sexy, slim new mini-camcorder was designed by the Feiz studio, a Dutch design firm.
The “shoot and share camcorder” includes a built-in usb arm to easily upload to the web and microSD recording. It features ‘smart pause’ technology, which permits momentary pauses in filming before continuing to record in the same file, making it easier in post-production to edit footage.
The P100 has a backside-illuminated 5-megapixel CMOS sensor for better low-light recording, a fixed focal length f2.2 lens, and a 2.3-inch LCD with an 80-degree viewing angle.
The HMX-P100 is the cheaper version of the more elegant HMX-P300. The P300′s backside-illuminated CMOS sensor is 8-megapixel with a 3x f2.8 zoom lens and a 3-inch touch screen. Both cameras can capture at 1080/30p, 720/60p, and 720/30p and feature autofocus, digital image stabilization.
The P100 will be available n February for $149 and comes in black, blue, silver and pink. The P300 will be available one month later in the same colors for $199.
January 30, 2011

Plug Hub Makes That Mess of Cables Disappear

by Avinash Saxena
Time to get organized? Here’s the Plug Hub, innovatively designed to hide that rat’s nest of cables, wires and plugs underneath your desk.
Run your power cords through one of the three holes in the top, then you can plug them into a power strip sitting on its shelf below. I especially like the way you can mount it on a wall or under the desk, where all of those power adapters and wires can be hidden away where people can’t see them unless they’re crawling on the floor.
I’ve tried a similar organizer before, and while the Bluelounge Mini did the job of hiding away cables, it wasn’t as compact as the Plug Hub, nor could it be side-mounted to a desk, or possess a “cord anchor” inside where cables could be wrapped around. Now all this needs is a power strip with room for those huge “wall wart” power adapters, and it’ll tidy up the messiest part of my house.
Why is this organizer so well designed? More than 568 people helped influence this product, according toQuirky, the site that uses crowdsourcing to develop products. If enough people preorder this $24 Plug Hub, it’ll actually be manufactured and shipped. Like that super snow scrapin’ Snowdozer we showed you the other day from Quirky, this one gets my vote.
January 29, 2011

Google to Hold Android Honeycomb Event Next Wednesday

by Avinash Saxena

Google will be holding a press event next Wednesday, February 2, at its Mountain View headquarters to show off Android Honeycomb, the company’s tablet-optimized OS.

The invitation, which just landed in our inboxes, asks us to join the search giant “for an in-depth look at Honeycomb, Android ecosystem news and hands-on demos.” The stage presentations will begin at 10:00 a.m. PT. Google is calling it the event “A Taste of What’s New from Android.”

Google is also sharing the Android love with the rest of world; the event will be live streamed

Honeycomb, Android 3.0, is the first Google OS built specifically for the tablet form factor. It features a revamped interface, faster plane switching, deeper multimedia integration and a slew of redesigned Android applications. We’ve had the chance to play with Android Honeycomb during our Motorola Xoom demo, even sneaking in some time to play with some of its yet-to-be-announced features.

We’ll be at Google’s event next Wednesday to bring you all the Android news live. In the meantime, check out the demo video, and in the comments, let us know what you think this Android press event might reveal.


January 29, 2011

Futuristic VW To Hit the Streets, Gets 260 MPG

by Avinash Saxena

It looks like something from a science fiction movie, but this Volkswagen Formula XL1 plug-in hybrid vehicle will actually be available for sale to real drivers like you and me.

Concept cars such as this are usually built one at a time, gracing trade shows and the pages of flashy auto publications. But according to German site Automobilwoche, this bulbous futuremobile is destined to be a regular production car, albeit part of a small batch of just 100 to start out. The first VW Formula XL1 will be available in Germany, and after that, they’ll roll out in the United States and China.

The XL1 could become more conventional before it hits the production line; we can’t be sure if it’ll look the same or have the same power plant as its futuristic showpiece ancestor. That car was introduced at the Qatar Motor Show, and it had an unusual combo under the hood, including a lithium-ion battery-powered electric motor that’ll propel the car for about 22 miles on a charge, after which a tiny 0.8-liter two-cylinder turbodiesel engine kicks in to assist. That sounds vaguely similar to the upcoming Chevy Volt.

Keeping the car hyper-efficient is its super-lightweight carbon fiber body panels. Sounds expensive, but Volkswagen says even though the car has the second-highest number of carbon fiber parts (the million-dollar Bugatti Veyron has the most carbon fiber on board), its body will cost a mere $6,800. No one’s talking price of the overall vehicle just yet, nor are they saying exactly when the first XL1 will be available.

Look in the gallery for a variety of views of this dolphin-shaped conveyance, and don’t miss its unusual seating arrangement, in which the passenger sits slightly behind the driver, said to increase fuel efficiency even more. Fuel-efficient or not, we are all filled with want. This looks like the cars they showed at the World’s Fair in the ’60s when they were talking about “The Future.”


January 29, 2011

Visualizing Egypt’s Internet Blackout

by Avinash Saxena

A scientist at the network security company Arbor Networks has used data from 80 Internet service providers around the world to create an image of the Internet block in Egypt.

The graphic, which was compiled using anonymous traffic engineeringstatistics, shows traffic to and from Egypt dropping sharply around 5:20 p.m. ET. As of about three hours ago, traffic has not picked back up.

Craig Labovitz, the creator of the graphic and chief scientist at Arbor Networks, says that he found no evidence of Internet disruption in Syria, debunking a report from Al Arabiya earlier Friday that suggested all service in Syria had been cut off.


January 28, 2011

Has the App Store killed the point-and-shoot?

by Avinash Saxena

The Casio Tryx might be the first step to having a camera that runs apps.

(Credit: Casio)

My first thought when I saw the Casio Tryx camera announced at CES 2011 was that Casio took a smartphone and turned into a single-function device. The Tryx is 0.6 inch high by 2.3 inches wide by 4.8 inches deep, has a 3-inch touch screen, and a fixed focal length f2.8 21mm-equivalent ultrawide-angle lens (that means no optical zoom). Take away the swiveling and rotating screen and lens design and you essentially have the body of a smartphone.
On top of that, one of the Tryx’s key shooting features is high dynamic range (HDR) photos. HDR photography isn’t new, but the use of it in the iPhone 4 certainly broadened awareness (for better or worse). If you’re unfamiliar with it, basically, the camera takes several photos at different exposures and then combines them to bring out details that would otherwise be lost in the highlights and shadows of a scene. The Tryx can also do this for artistic effect by adjusting the strength of contrast throughout a photo. In other words, this camera does what apps like TrueHDR and Pro HDR do for iPhone users.
So what you have in the Tryx is a high-powered smartphone-like camera with an app. One app. It does do other things, of course, and I’m sure Casio’s argument would be that it performs better than any multipurpose mobile device can, and that’s probably true. However, I keep hearing from readers, friends, and co-workers that they’ve pretty much abandoned their point-and-shoot cameras for their smartphones. Not because the photo quality is fantastic, but because it’s always with them, because they can share photos instantly, and because of all of the apps. A good app can turn a bad or boring photo into something worth sharing. (Ask anyone who’s ever used Hipstamatic.) While smartphones are not going to kill point-and-shoots anytime soon, camera manufacturers can’t compete with apps. At least, not right now.
Current camera systems are ridiculously closed off (Canon hacking aside), so people can’t just start developing apps for them. And camera manufacturers can’t be left to develop their own software because, well, the software would suck. Right now the manufacturers’ solution is to add in special scene modes or give users creative art filters. However, neither option matches the fun or the flexibility of most photography apps. Add in instructional and editing and other utility apps and you can start to see why people are giving up on their simple pocket cameras.
The Tryx seems like an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em attempt at going after smartphones. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go far enough. I don’t know if Apple will ever make a new QuickTake camera and have it run on the iOS. However, there is some hope that an Android-based smartcamera isn’t too far off.
System-on-a-chip manufacturer Ambarella has developed the iOne, a chip designed for digital still and video capture that has full support for the Android OS. Match it with a good lens, a large touch-screen display, Wi-Fi and/or 3G mobile broadband, and the ability to load it full of fun and useful photography apps, and that might be worth sticking in the pocket your phone’s not in.
January 28, 2011

Facebook for Android Gets Updated with Deals

by Avinash Saxena
Facebook for Android has been upgraded to version 1.5.1, bringing access to Facebook Deals and fixing a number of bugs.
Deals, which are only available in the U.S. at the time, show up when you check into a place, with the surrounding places displaying a yellow icon if they offer deals.
Unfortunately, Android’s fragmentation rears its ugly head here, as many of the comments on the official Facebook post complain about bugs not being fixed, new bugs appearing or some features going missing – depending on what version of Android the commenters use.
The new version of the app is available free in the Android market
January 28, 2011

Internet Access & SMS Blocked in Egypt as Protests Escalate

by Avinash Saxena
Reports are coming in that Egypt is now under an Internet and SMS blackout, just hours before a new series of major protests are planned against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.
Sebone, a major Egyptian service provider based in Italy, is reporting that no Internet traffic is entering or exiting the country as of 12:30 AM Egyptian time. Reporters and citizens on-the-ground are also reporting that they are experiencing Internet and SMS outages.
Egypt has been enveloped in unrest over the presidency of Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981. The protests have been partly inspired by the successful revolution in Tunisia that forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali out of power after 23 years. Facebook, Twitter and social media were key communication tools used by protesters to organize rallies.
Just like Tunisia, Egyptian protesters have been utilizing social media to organize their own protests, using hashtags such as #Jan25 to communicate. In response to the protests, Egyptian authorities blocked Twitter and Facebook. Egyptian police have been cracking down on protesters using water cannons and tear gas.
“I suspect the internet cutoff is just a fraction of what the government has in store for Friday,” CNN’s Ben Wederman, who is on the ground in Egypt, said on Twitter earlier today.
January 27, 2011

First witness video moments after Moscow Domodedovo airport bombing

by Avinash Saxena
January 26, 2011

The Golden Olympia!!

by Avinash Saxena
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