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Recently, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed the presence of a hard drive in Apple's future iTV streaming media relay. Although useful, the revelation that the iTV could play locally stored content introduced the question of a central processor; the iTV will need processing power strong enough to decode H.264 video using at least the 640x480 resolution of videos bought through the iTunes Store. The solution may be a new Intel value chip set to be introduced in the same timeframe as iTV, reports Ars Technica. Though given the Pentium E1000 name, the new line will be a stripped-down version of the Core 2 desktop platform that (as with the mobile Celeron M 500) uses only a single core and 1MB of L2 cache. This reduction lowers the costs and power requirements to a point where a variant of the E1000 may be suitable for decoding most videos without compromising the $299 price Apple expects for its new hub. The use of the processor would also help Intel showcase its home theater PC initiatives, writes Ars' Jon Stokes.
Live audio recording is a very common feature of digital music players, but is considered an afterthought just as regularly. Few if any players let the owner adjust the recording settings or replace the microphone to improve the final result. Audio engineers, journalists, and others who record digital audio regularly outside of a studio may prefer the iKEY Plus as a more focused device. The small recorder requires an external microphone or RCA audio source, but can record 320Kbps MP3 or uncompressed WAV to any attached USB mass storage, including iPods. Pro-oriented features extend to a microphone input with phantom power, a phono pre-amp for turntables, and a 6-bar VU meter to help balance the overall volume. Manufacturer iKEY-Audio says the enhanced model will arrive in October for $239.
Improving physics is quickly becoming a priority for hardware manufacturers and game developers. As games improve in visual accuracy, the expectations of object behavior increase at the same time. Initial experiments with dedicated hardware, however, have been mixed. The Ageia PhysX pioneered the technology but has often been criticized for slowing performance. ATI recently announced that it would address this problem by letting users repurpose Radeon X1600 cards as physics processors; today, news has surfaced that its opponent NVIDIA will build a dedicated physics card that may outperform either solution. In announcing its new P5N32-SLI Premium mainboard for Core 2 Duo systems, ASUS accidentally included mention of "NVIDIA's upcoming Physics card," writes The Register. The leak occurred in ASUS' description of the board's unique third PCI Express X16 slot, indicating that NVIDIA is planning an adapter that would take advantage of the full bandwidth available to the peripheral format. Both Ageia and ATI limit their own physics processing to the much more limited X1 speed. Little else was disclosed in the announcement, but the information is likely intended to accompany a physics card launch in the near future.
GPS units almost always demand that the user choose a destination before plotting its course, but the well-known mapmaker Rand McNally today introduced a system that can suggest its own tours. While the GPS Navigator shares the standard ability to program destinations or find hotels and restaurants, its preloaded North American atlas also includes more than two dozen different suggested trips, each of which not only takes the driver to scenic locations (such as the Maine coast) but also recommends specific food, rest, and shopping at the destination points. The GPS Navigator further offers features above and beyond more basic units: a Detour button automatically finds an alternative path if the route is slow, and the Go Home button immediately calculates the return trip regardless of where the user may be. An MP3 player is also part of the software for the GPS Navigator, which starts shipping on Friday for $500.
Transmitting audio across a home without dedicated cables almost always depends upon wireless adapters, which are frequently prone to dropped signals or compression that affects the resulting quality. Pioneer has developed a new stereo system that avoids wireless broadcasting altogether: its new MT-01 Power Line Sound System uses the same lines that supply its electricity to transmit audio to remote speakers placed around the home. A central base station accepts input from multiple RCA and USB audio sources and then streams it to nearby compatible speakers; a 50W stereo speaker set is included as the primary listening source in addition to a single 5W speaker to project the sound into a nearby room (as many as six speakers are possible). Pioneer has also built in multi-source support that allows different base stations to transmit their audio to different speakers. A remote is standard with the MT-01, which has yet to receive a price or shipping date.
Microsoft has in the past touted the choice of stores that use the Windows Media music format, which is not tied to any particular service. Buyers unhappy with the usage rights at one store could choose another without switching programs or portable music players. However, an updated set of release notes for Windows Media Player 11, the next iteration of Microsoft's jukebox designed for both Windows XP and Vista, reveals that the company is quickly reducing the usage rights for copy-protected Windows Media files. The document states that users of the new version can no longer backup the rights data that permits playback of purchased songs and videos - effectively preventing purchasers from legitimately copying DRM-protected music to other computers unless they receive permission to download new licenses for each computer every time content is bought. Problems also arise if users copy-protect their own media: if license rights are lost, users will have only a limited number of opportunities to restore their usage rights through the Internet even if the music was transferred from a CD. Microsoft's use of independent license files contrasts sharply against Apple's, whose iTunes Store embeds licenses in the files themselves and requires only that users authorize a particular computer once to play songs or videos for a given account, regardless of how the file was transferred to the computer.
Regular smartphone users dissuaded by the larger size of BlackBerries or concerned about the availability of Zenum's Opus Operis in North America should soon have the option of a new model from Samsung. The SGH-i600, revealed today in an FCC filing, uses a 2.3-inch screen that slims the profile of the Windows Mobile-based phone without sacrificing the 320x240 resolution or full keyboard common to many recent, larger smartphones. Samsung has also added a significant number of features that are rare in these devices: cameras on the front and back exist for video calls as well as standard photos and videos, WiFi connects the phone to local networks, and HSDPA mobile broadband (with EDGE legacy support) is present for faster online access. The timing of the FCC document points to a likely release of the i600 in the US before the end of the year.
Though Dell's decision to use AMD processors marks the latest in a series of defections that are breaking Intel's once unshakable grip on mainstream computer builders, much attention has been drawn to Apple's exclusive use of Intel chips in its Mac lineup. Comments by AMD's CEO Hector Ruiz at a San Francisco dinner late Wednesday now suggest that Apple will eventually use AMD processors in future systems, according to Bloomberg. Presenting to the event's guests, Ruiz observed that Apple will ultimately use AMD's platform for some models as it does not want to be a 'hostage' to exclusive pricing deals from Intel, as Dell and other manufacturers have been. The CEO also criticized Intel for reducing competition to a matter of price through its earlier monopoly of computer architecture.
As the most common form of high technology on Earth, cellphones pose an especially acute danger in terms of pollution: the handhelds require much more power than landlines and are thrown away by the millions each year, often leaking toxic chemicals. An initiative to curb the waste generated by these phones was launched on Thursday, says Reuters. Proposed by Nokia, the plan would have multiple cellphone makers (including US-based Motorola), carriers such as Vodafone, and the World Wildlife Fund all cooperating to reduce the pollution created by mobile phones at every step of their useful lifespans. Models released in 2007 should use fewer toxins and less overall power, says Nokia, and will have alerts that tell users to unplug wall chargers when a phone's battery is full. Similarly, carriers have pledged a greater emphasis on recycling and take-back programs and the WWF will educate cellphone owners on environmentally-friendly use.
The Core 2 Duo has already captured the high-end of mobile computing, appearing in systems ranging from portable media centers to slim-profile desktops such as Apple's iMac. Intel is now set to address the increasingly important entry-level with a new line of Celeron M chips based on the Core 2 architecture, writes DailyTech. A roadmap obtained by the site notes that two low-cost processors based on the improved chip design are expected to make their debut in the first quarter of 2007 as the first models in the new Celeron M 500 series. The new models will reduce costs by disabling one of the cores of the existing Core 2 Duo design and reducing the level 2 cache to 1MB. Clock speeds for the two versions will reach 1.6GHz and 1.73GHz respectively and communicate with the rest of the system on a 533MHz bus. The base model is expected to sell for $134 each when bought in bulk by stores and system builders, opening the possibility of truly inexpensive 64-bit laptops.
Already under pressure from the European Commission for alleged antitrust violations and its threatening a delay of its upcoming OS launch on the continent, Microsoft today encountered further opposition from American software developers lobbying EC officials, according to the Wall Street Journal. Both creative suite designer Adobe and security firm Symantec have told European regulators that built-in features of Windows Vista will hurt the smaller companies' ability to compete in the market. Microsoft's inclusion of PDF creation and viewing support should be removed, says Adobe, whose Acrobat software is the origin of the format. In turn, Symantec objects to the integration of anti-spyware tools and other protections in Vista that will dissuade users from buying third-party security software such as Norton Internet Security. The EC has already brought up doubts about the fairness of bundling security software with the OS.
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