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October, 2008

Just in: Samsung NC10 netbook

Friday, October 31st, 2008

UPDATE: Read the full Samsung NC10 review here.

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It’s the one we’ve been waiting for, and now it’s arrived – rather unhelpfully, late on a Friday afternoon. The Samsung NC10 is the one we all think will challenge the Eee PC for the netbook crown, and from first impressions we remain convinced.

Samsung NC10

It’s the first netbook we’ve seen that actually looks like a laptop. It has much in common with Samsung’s larger portable models, and the manufacturer has been sure to spend a little time on the styling. Where the brilliant Eee PC 1000H looks like, well, a my-first-laptop, and the MSI Wind is curvy but feels like a toy, the NC10 has the silver trim and little style touches that make it feel like a polished, fully-fledged laptop.

Samsung NC10

The keyboard is every bit as comfortable as the Eee, and the screen looks like every other small TFT we’ve seen in the netbook range. If we have a complaint it’s that the touchpad is on the small side, and all too easy to slide off without realising. The joint mouse buttons aren’t ideal either. But we like what we see so far, and with battery life rumoured to be as impressive as the Eee, we look forward to benchmarking it thoroughly.

Samsung NC10

UPDATE: Read the full Samsung NC10 review here.

Turn on GMail’s hidden features

Friday, October 31st, 2008

GMail’s a superb tool – one that I shudder to think about living without – but it’s old. Since it emerged in 2004 it’s hardly changed at all, except for that constantly ticking maximum storage size (which is over 7GB now, I was surprised to see). Would a new feature every now and then kill Google?

To be fair, little tweaks do arrive every now and then. The SMS feature which has been gathering attention today, for example, but they’re often not enabled by default. Google keeps that BETA tag on the logo, though, so there’s really no reason for it to be squeamish about making updates.

If you’ve never tried, then you should dabble with some of these experimental features. Pop to your settings page from within GMail, then the Labs tab. Here you’ll find loads of interesting tweaks that you can turn on. (more…)

Knuth launches The Bank of San Serriffe

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Donald Knuth, creator of TeX and author of The Art of Computer Programming, used to post checks to anyone who spotted an error in one of his books – one hexadecimal dollar, or $2.56. It was a clever way to ensure that his work was as accurate as possible.

Nobody used to take the money, though. Instead the cheques are pinned up on notice boards in computer science departments all over the world as mementos. I’m lucky enough to have two, which I’ve stashed away at home.

“It turns out that only 9 of the first 275 checks that I’ve sent out since the beginning of 2006 have actually been cashed. The others have apparently been cached,” says Knuth on his website. (more…)

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Posted in: Random

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Just in: HTC’s Touch of genius

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

When we got our hands on the original Touch Diamond, HTC’s supposed spoiler for the iPhone 3G, we were seriously underwhelmed. It felt a bit plasticky, its screen wasn’t as big and it had problems with its responsiveness.

HTC Touch HDNot so the Touch HD, which has landed in the PC Pro offices in the last hour or so. First impressions are, in fact, that this is the iPhone rival that the Diamond should have been.

It’s similar in size to the iPhone, and similar in thickness too, but its screen is the point of difference: not only is it larger, but it’s also much higher resolution – 800 x 480 to be precise. And the difference this makes to browsing the web on the embedded Opera 9.5 browser is noticeable: headlines and even some body text can be read when you’re zoomed right out, making navigation without zooming much less fiddly.

Okay so it still runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional albeit with the addition of HTC’s hit-and-miss TouchFLO 3D interface enhancements, but in terms of pure hardware design, this phone puts everything else bar the iPhone in the shade.

Forget the Omnia, forget the Touch Pro, the HD is simply sumptuous. It’s gorgeously well-made with rubbery soft touch plastics at the rear and feels supremely solid. The fit and finish of this phone is BMW-like in its engineering precision.

And it stacks up well on the vital statistics front, too: HSDPA for fast mobile data, assisted GPS, a five-megapixel camera plus an accelerometer for automatic screen rotation.

The only miss seems to be onboard data storage – it’s limited at 288MB – but with a microSD slot ready for expansion that won’t pose too much of a problem.

Make sure you check back for the full review next week…

Tesco touches up shopping software

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

If you had to put money on which software developer would have been among the first to take advantage of Windows 7’s new touch technology, few would have placed a tenner on Tesco.

Yet, the supermaket goliath joined Microsoft on the stage here at PDC in LA this week, to unveil a prototype shopping application that the company hopes will be launched by the second half of next year.

Although not a solely Windows 7 touch application – it works with a mouse/keyboard and XP/Vista too – the software gives a glimpse into how touchscreen PCs could be used in places like the kitchen, where there’s not always space for a mouse and keyboard.

Tesco app

(more…)

What’s been taken out of Windows 7?

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Windows Media Player is one app that will still be built inMicrosoft has announced with great fanfare all the new features that are in Windows 7, but with a little less fanfare it’s also removed some. Although things aren’t quite as straightforward as they may seem.

On the face of it, Windows Calendar, Contacts, Mail, Movie Maker and Photo Gallery will all now exist as applications in their own right, downloadable from the Windows Live Essentials site.

(more…)

Developers, developers, developers: a day in the life

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

More than 6,000 developers have descended on LA for Microsoft’s 2008 Professional Developers Conference. We reveal what life’s really life at code camp.

7:00am The bunfight begins as scores of shuttle buses begin ferrying weary developers from their hotels to the LA Convention Center. Red-shirted staff (or the “Bus Nazis”, as one cheesed-off coder brands them) ensure that coaches from the outlying hotels are only half-full, to give those a little closer to the Center a sporting chance of clambering aboard. Those left behind are distinctly unamused.

PDC crowds (pic by Mike~Dunn!)(pic by Mike Dunn~!)

 

(more…)

Can Microsoft convince us to take touch?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

HP TouchsmartGone – probably for ever – are the days when Microsoft could force the computer industry to adopt a technology through sheer force.  Nowadays it has to convince and cajole PC makers, dev elopers and customers to adopt its wares.  And it certainly has a fight on its hands convincing all of us to enthusiastically embrace the multitouch technology that has become a cornerstone of Windows 7.

If this week’s PDC is anything to go by, Microsoft is certainly winning over the dev elopers. The Surface tables that are dotted around the convention centre are attracting attendees like bees round a honeypot. So, to a lesser extent, are the demonstrations of Windows 7 running on HP Touchsmart PCs. 

I’ve just come from a session devoted to helping developers adapt their applications for multitouch, and whilst the sizeable hall wasn’t full, there must have been 300-400 people listening and tapping out notes on the demonstrations.

(more…)

New E Ink turns up with speed-up

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I was disappointed earlier this month when an eBook reader landed on my desk to be reviewed. Every time I turned the page, so to speak, there was a second or two’s lag. It was irritating, and it led to me ranting about the need for a new screen technology that can refresh instantly, if eBook readers are ever to take off.

This morning I saw a video that made me re-think all that. The new AM 300 developer’s kit from E Ink can handle animation pretty smoothly, and instant page turns, too. It uses the same technology as previous versions – little balls, black on one side and white on the other, which physically rotate to create areas of colour – but handles it all a lot faster.

This is down to the chips and firmware that control it. The importance of this is often underestimated; rival television manufacturers may use the same panel from the same factory, but the image quality of a TV is largely down to software. Even the performance of Formula One cars is largely down to their engine management and braking control software.

I’m waiting eagerly for the first reader to use the new kit. I just hope that the next generation of models won’t mess up all of this hard work by putting the buttons where I can’t reach them.

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Posted in: Hardware

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Amazon takes shopping next-gen

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

If anyone’s going to change the way we shop online it’s Amazon. It sells pretty much everything you could ever wish to buy on a high street, usually at lower prices, with fast, often free delivery and (in my experience) excellent customer service.

But the one problem online retailers have is capturing the browsing shopper. With only a home page to compete with the highly visible displays in most shop windows, it’s not easy to simply wander around an online store and spot something you may not have been looking for.

Step forward Amazon WindowShop. (more…)

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