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September, 2009

Google Picasa 3.5: First Look – Wow

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Hot on the heels of the latest Photoshop Elements 8 (click for full review) comes the new Picasa 3.5.

This adds a few  features across the board, such as a revamp of importing and various interface tweaks, but the clear focus of the new release is on in-depth tagging of images via a new side panel that offers three tabs for applying text-based tags, locational geodata and new face-based tags.

blog picasa face recognition

To be honest my heart sank when I heard this – what I’ve always liked about Picasa is that it keeps things simple and doesn’t treat managing your photos as a full-time job. Moreover I’d recently come away less than impressed with Photoshop Elements 8’s new face tagging not so much because the technology doesn’t work (it does though imperfectly), but rather because the gains aren’t worth the effort.

So how does the new Picasa 3.5 shape up? (more…)

Reports of CUDA’s death exaggerated?

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Nvidia-Hall

In my last post I suggested that DirectX 11’s extensive GPGPU support could mark the end of the road for CUDA. And I do expect that mass market GPU applications will quickly move to DirectX rather than restricting themselves to a single architecture.

But the other day I was discussing DX11 with Bit-Tech editor Tim Smalley, and I found him very reluctant to write CUDA off just yet. He pointed out that CUDA retains one big advantage over DX11, in that developers can knock up CUDA routines directly in C – or Fortran or even Matlab – without having to deal with the DirectX API. (more…)

All eyes on Nvidia as GTC kicks off

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Nvidia-TurbineAfter last week’s Intel Developer Forum, it’s now Nvidia’s turn. Later on today the company will open its three-day GPU Technology Conference in San Jose – a more formal affair than last year’s flashy “Nvision” expo, but still a high-profile international event, and one which yours truly is lucky enough to be attending.

(The picture, in case you’re wondering, is a strange engine-type affair that’s been set up at the entrance to the delegates’ hotel, apparently to welcome us as we arrive. I guess that’s how they communicate with one another down here in the Valley.) (more…)

How to make the Windows 7 taskbar better in an instant

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

I’m a huge fan of the new Windows 7 taskbar. From Jumplists, to pinning icons to the taskbar, to the long-overdue option to juggle icons into whatever order you wish, it makes my working day precisely 62% easier.

However, there is one thing I’m not so keen on: the habit of piling multiple windows from the same application behind one another like a deck of cards, like so:

Windows 7 taskbar icons

(more…)

Making sense of Microsoft’s downgrade rights

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Server room

Trying to work out Microsoft’s licensing policies is enough to make a grown man (or woman) cry. You always seem to be in a maze of twisty passages, all alike, and it’s hard to know whether what you are doing is actually legally correct.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Microsoft will not understand the pain and cost it imposes on its customers until it actually has to run software licensing internally. I accept that the development groups can be let off, because they are constantly installing and uninstalling beta versions of their software. Or running up the Serbo Croation version to check a typo. But the marketing arms of Microsoft have absolutely no excuses - they should run licensing and pay internally in exactly the same way that we do. If that happened, then I predict there would be massive simplication within months.

(more…)

Toshiba Satellite T110 and Satellite T130 review: first look

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Toshiba Satellite T110 and Toshiba Satellite T130 side-by-side Last night we got our first glimpse of the Toshiba Satellite T110 and Toshiba Satellite T130 for a hands-on, first-look review of the two laptops – both based on Intel’s CULV (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) processors.

Toshiba claims the new chips are a step above the Atom found in most netbooks, “They offer more performance and features, while allowing better design and battery life,” said Tony Alderson, Toshiba’s consumer product manager, at the central London event where the laptops were launched.

“To misquote Nigel Tufnel from This is Spinal Tap, they go up to 11: you get a full 11 hours of battery life.”

(more…)

Can Microsoft Security Essentials beat Norton?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

What do Microsoft and Symantec have in common? The obvious answer is that both are offering a new security package. In Symantec’s case it’s Norton Internet Security 2010, which I looked at a few weeks back. Microsoft, meanwhile, is today due to release Security Essentials, its free replacement for OneCare, formerly codenamed Morro.

They’re also both companies dogged by the sins of products past. (more…)

How many MIPS is Honeyball holding?

Monday, September 28th, 2009

One more wafer-thin Nehalem? This picture shows PC Pro contributing editor Jon Honeyball cuddling an entire fabrication wafer of Intel’s Nehalem generation of Xeons.

Pardon the overall fidelity and quality of the shot but these opportunities don’t come up often, and it was in the middle of an auditorium of journalists, waiting their chance to fondle the wafer case and go cross-eyed counting how many processors are here: we thought it might be $200,000-worth but on the other hand we couldn’t figure out which revision or clock-rate these are.

The man from Intel messed up his own presentation by bringing this lot out, because he wanted to keep a beady eye on the thing as it passed through so many hands round the hall – though if I’m honest I had no independent way to verify that this was a wafer of Nehalems; seen one naked chip, you’ve very nearly seen them all.

But it all left me wondering which year in computing history this number of Nehalems represents? That is, how many MIPS are there in that wafer, and what point would that have equalled the total number of MIPS for the entire planet. My guess is 1957, but I’m willing to be corrected…

IDF graffiti: best of the boards

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

As I mentioned in my last post, the venue for last week’s Intel Developer Forum was dotted around with whiteboards, on which delegates were invited to share their visions of the future. This may have seemed like an invitation to disaster, but by the end of the conference there were some quite entertaining (and occasionally insightful) contributions on display.

Here – with apologies for the ropey photography – are some of my favourites…

(more…)

Google’s new motto: pi** off Microsoft

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Google Chrome logoGoogle’s official motto may be “do no evil”, but I rather suspect the company has a new unofficial mission statement: “pi** off Microsoft”.

That can be the only explanation for the events of the past couple of days. First the company announced one of the most audacious moves I’ve ever seen with the Google Chrome Frame.

Not content with having its own browser, Google now wants to hijack Microsoft’s as well. Google Chrome Frame is an IE plug-in that replaces the IE rendering engine with the WebKit engine that underpins Chrome. Why? Because like the boy racers that hang around the McDonalds car park in my local town centre, Google wants to show off that it has the fastest engine.

(more…)

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