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June, 2010

Dispute Finder sorts the content from the contentious

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

After yesterday’s trip to the photonics lab, today is the ninth annual “Research @ Intel” day. (I know, I know.) I’ve been here about ten minutes and already I’ve seen an idea I love: it’s the brainchild of a young researcher named Rob Ennals and it’s called Dispute Finder.


The idea is simple: it’s a search engine (or more accurately a search engine overlay) that not only finds documents for you but also warns you when their content has been disputed elsewhere. A few sample searches should give you the idea:

In each case, you can click on the red text below the results to see where each document’s claims appear to have been contradicted. And in many cases, you will note, the software gets entirely the wrong end of the stick, focusing on irrelevant words and phrases while wholly missing the larger sense of an article. Ennals freely admits that, as yet, the system is “a bit flakey.” Ho hum.

But to carp about the implementation is to miss the point. Web searches themselves were once a decidedly hit and miss affair, but today they seem almost magical in their abilities. There’s no reason why the algorithms behind Dispute Finder can’t evolve in the same way.

And the broad idea of automatically contextualising search results is an excellent one. We already have software that warns us when web pages contain bad code; in the future, it can warn us when they contain bad ideas.

Posted in: Random


Light Peak’s dazzling potential

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010


Light Peak, in case you didn’t know, is a new universal interconnect being developed by Intel. It’s a bit like USB, but it conveys information via laser light rather than electric current. Intel plans for consumer PCs and laptops to be available with integrated Light Peak ports by the end of the year.

Is there much demand for a new interconnect? It’s notable that Intel hasn’t felt the need to build native USB 3 support into its chipsets – though that, admittedly, may be a chicken and egg scenario.

But Light Peak is a more capable technology than USB 3. It’s faster: the standard bandwidth is 10Gb/sec, with 100Gb/sec hardware already in the pipeline. And it’s more flexible, supporting not only peripherals like keyboards and printers, but also displays and direct network links between PCs. (more…)

Please, Microsoft, let Windows 8 banish passwords

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Password SecurityFor me, the most important part of the recent leak of Windows 8 material (assuming it is real, of course) is the use of facial recognition to do login authentication. We know that passwords are a pain in the bum of sysadmins all over the world. Of course, we enforce all kinds of things to attempt to make them more secure — forcing regular changes, disallowing certain words and patterns, ensuring passwords can’t be reused too quickly and so forth. (more…)

The world’s most ridiculous Terms & Conditions?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Even though I generally like the hardware Apple produces, I’m not a huge fan of Apple’s way of doing business, and in particular its habit of tying you into its systems. For precisely that reason, I’ve never bought an Apple device: nary an iPod, an iPhone or a Mac.

However, we currently have two Apple iPhone 4s on loan in the office, with our reviews editor Jon Bray grabbing one and me the other, and that means for the first time I’ve come face to face with the iTunes Store Terms & Conditions and Apple’s Privacy Policy.

I first met this on the iPhone 4 itself. I wanted to download an app, so clicked on the option to set up a new iTunes Store account. And that’s when I was faced with this screen (photographed by the other iPhone 4, just for the record):

Apple iTunes Store terms and conditions on the iPhone itself


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Posted in: Rant


Is this the world’s weirdest test bench?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Lian Li Pitstop-T1Test benches: boring, right? Unassuming slabs of bare metal used in labs to house half-built systems because putting them into proper cases is just too time-consuming.

At least, that’s what I thought until the Lian Li Pitstop-T1 arrived in the PC Pro office.

It’s a test bench by name but, when you see this intriguing creation in the flesh, benchmarking isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. The four legs, protruding PSU and tilted motherboard tray are modelled on arachnids, and it’s this inventive design that makes the Pitstop-T1 stand out. (more…)

Posted in: Random


Why cheap SSDs just aren’t worth the cash

Monday, June 28th, 2010

SSDvsHDDSSDs are the future. That’s what we’ve been told, anyway, by the companies who make them, the journalists who churn out breath-taking benchmark results, and enthusiasts who swap anecdotal stories of boot times being cut in half by the mere presence of Flash-based memory.

That’s all well and good if you’ve shelled out hundreds on the latest high-end model, but my recent tests have suggested that cheaper solid-state disks aren’t worth the PCB they’re printed on. (more…)

Posted in: Hardware


Where to get the cheapest Apple iPhone 4

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

I can’t tell you where to actually get an iPhone 4 — they’re probably going to sell out quickly, based on the insane queues snaking out of every store stocking the Apple handset.

However, I can tell you how much it’s going to cost you. Unless you’re a T-Mobile customer, as that operator hasn’t gotten around to releasing its price list yet. (more…)

Photoshop Extended vs Informatix Piranesi

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

A while back I wrote a piece asking What is the point of Photoshop Extended? The underlying technology is undoubtedly brilliant allowing you to import fully-textured 3D models into your flat images, but the implementation is awkward and intimidating. Beyond adding some extruded text (or should that be “repousséd”?) I doubt whether many users have ever even touched the 3D menu.

blog piranesi

This might suggest that I can’t see the point of trying to mix the two worlds of bitmap editing and 3D. That’s absolutely not the case. These days 3D is moving centre stream wherever you look. Moreover the combination of 3D and pixel-based handling can unleash some extraordinary creative power. It’s just that it can be done so much better…


The confusion surrounding HTML5

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

question mark

There seems to be a lot of confusion lately with regards to what HTML5 actually is. Those in the web development community generally have a good idea of what it entails, if not the nitty-gritty, at least what it may contain. Not so outside of the web development world.

As generally tends to happen, external parties grab hold of these new phrases, half-heartedly look into what they mean, jumble them together and cause a wave of confusion. The latest wave is the lumping together of HTML5 and CSS3 into the general heading of HTML5. (more…)

Toshiba Libretto W100 dual-screen laptop: first-look review

Monday, June 21st, 2010

Libretto opening shot 2

Microsoft’s Courier tablet might be languishing somewhere in a Redmond wheelie-bin, but Toshiba’s Libretto W100 has turned the keyboard-free concept into reality. With dual 7in touchscreens, a miniature netbook form factor and no sign of Intel’s weakling Atom, the Libretto takes a daring stride into the future.







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