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The finite life of standard alkaline batteries is often assumed to be absolute depletion - the end of the constant chemical reactions that deliver power to the devices they run. British firm Souvenir Cranwell argues differently. Referring to a 1922 patent by Thomas Edison, the company claims that many 'dead' batteries actually have contaminated positive electrodes that prevents the still-vital battery from reacting properly. Accordingly, Souvenir Cranwell has developed a battery regenerator that is purported to restore as much as 95% of an alkaline battery's original charge simply by cleaning the affected contact inside and out to reach its factory condition. Moreover, the company claims its cleaner can regenerate a battery as many as 100 times before the chemicals inside are completely inert. This could potentially extend the weeks-long active lifetime of batteries in portable devices to months or even years. As Souvenir Cranwell is an engineering firm and not a direct manufacturer, a final product has yet to ship.
With Windows Vista delays causing anxiety amongst computer manufacturers, there have already been indications that Microsoft and partners would use incentive coupons promising an inexpensive copy of the future OS to drive PC sales during the critical holiday period. New information appears to not only confirm the program but reveals many specifics, according to a DigiTimes report. Starting in October, vendors of laptops are expected to partner with Microsoft and offer coupons for Vista upgrades to computer buyers from then until the official launch of the new software in January 2007. The primary focus, say sources, will be to spur sales of Media Center-equipped laptops by offering a free upgrade to Vista Home Premium to buyers of systems with XP Media Center Edition. Those who buy less expensive portables using Windows XP Home Edition will receive a 50% discount on the Home Premium update. Digitimes' information appears to confirm earlier news that Microsoft is attempting to raise overall Windows prices by discouraging sales of XP Home and Vista Home Basic.
Palm has always regarded its Treo line of smartphones as a component of its larger PDA line and priced the individual models, including the newer Treo 750, as high-end devices. The rapid shift towards smartphones in the market has left Palm reeling: challengers like HTC can offer simpler, less expensive smartphones that appeal to more users. Palm recognizes this and will soon introduce a budget Treo model, according to company CEO Ed Colligan. Dubbed the Treo 680, the new model would resemble the newer Treo 750 (pictured) but would strip the less essential features such as Bluetooth and WiFi, and would reduce the camera quality from its original 1.3-megapixel quality to a basic VGA resolution. EDGE support would remain, however, potentially creating one of the least-expensive smartphones capable of mobile broadband. Sources speaking to Palm news site Brighthand indicate that the 680 should be available in the US as soon as October via Cingular at prices of $200 or less without a contract.
The KRZR line of of cellphones has already been introduced in Hong Kong, but the deliberate absence of information about other regions has left Americans without definite information about the options available in their own country. A new discovery indicates that the first US carrier to receive a version of the eagerly anticipated phone will be Verizon Wireless, which has inadvertently posted an instructional guide for the unreleased model on its website. The posting reveals that Verizon will be using the less common KRZR K1m, which reduces the quality of the 2-megapixel camera to 1.3 megapixels in exchange for dedicated music playback controls on the outer shell. Verizon's choice of phone also reveals a largely unknown difference between the K1 and K1m models: unlike the GSM-based K1, the K1m connects to CDMA cellular networks and supports EVDO for high-speed mobile Internet access. Exact launch information is still unavailable, but the presence of the finalized online guide points towards a release within the next few weeks.
Questions persist about the features of the iTV and their uses. Particularly mysterious amongst these is the USB port mentioned only briefly in Steve Jobs' presentation on September 12th. Practical reasoning would dictate that the port is for simplified video chat through a USB camera, writes PBS' Robert Cringely. Noting that the iTV does not need extra hard drive space because of its dependence on networked computers, Cringely observes that Apple's new media hub is ideally suited as a simple, low-cost alternative to using a full-fledged computer for video conferencing. "It's iChat for Grandma," he says. Apple would also be able to replicate the enhanced iChat features of MacOS X Leopard by letting iTV owners display photos and videos when speaking with others. Cringely further speculates that video chat functions could be used to extend and sell more of Apple's peripherals, including .Mac and future iSight cameras. Click through for the Electronista perspective on the story.
Skype phones are often single-purpose, streaming only phone calls over the local network. ASUS believes that at least some users would also like to take advantage of the necessary WiFi connection to stream more than just voice. The company's AiGuru S1 phone both controls basic music navigation on a PC using Windows Media Player and optionally plays the audio through speakers built into the phone itself. A stereo minijack connects the S1 to an outside speaker set or pair of earphones. Lastly, ASUS has also given its new VoIP phone a certain level of independence from the host PC: though it must still be in range of the computer running Skype in order to make calls, the S1 can browse the call history and contact list on its own. Pricing and shipping are not ready yet, though the region-independent nature of the phone likely means an approaching North American launch.
Flash-based music players such as the Sansa e280 and new iPod nano have set their storage threshhold at 8GB, but until recently most USB flash drives have had far less capacity. Memory vendor Corsair is reversing this trend with its 8GB Flash Voyager drive, which the company promises is both much faster and more secure than earlier versions. The new flash stick uses a dual-channel interface that almost doubles the practical transfer rate: while the previous 4GB model could read and write at 19MB and 9MB per second respectively, the 8GB version manages 31MB and 16MB per second speeds. Writing the entire block of data should take approximately 8.5 minutes. That data can also be encrypted using a 256-bit AES algorithm using special software. Corsair expects to ship the 8GB Flash Voyager soon for $155.
The SD card format was considered slow until the recent high-speed cards from Toshiba. However, users of microSD - the extra-small format designed for cellphones and other handhelds - have so far been limited to slower read and write speeds that exclude the devices from write-intensive uses such as GPS mapping. Taiwanese flash manufacturer Kingmax says its new 1GB microSD card removes that barrier by using a storage technique called single-level cell (SLC) storage. Where most flash memory adds capacity by allowing more than two power levels on a storage cell (thus allowing each cell to store more than one bit of data), the new Kingmax design only needs those two power levels to read and write to each cell. This change reduces the effort needed to access data across the entire card, improving the transfer rate substantially when combined with the extra-high 1GB capacity. Kingmax hopes the new card will encourage new features in cellphones when it ships internationally before the end of September. No price has been set.
The announcement of official PlayStation 3 hardware and pricing at E3 this past May drew massive amounts of criticism to Sony: as announced, only the high-end $599 model was to include an HDMI connector, which is virtually necessary to display Blu-Ray movies protected with the Image Constraint Token (ICT) at their full 1080p resolution. Sony has made a concession to its critics at the 2006 Tokyo Game Show, reports Gamer Scan. The company has revealed that all shipping PS3s will include an HDMI connector, including the $499, 20GB version that was originally planned to use only DVI. Both versions will support the deep color of the HDMI 1.3 format that should improve visual quality and response times on supporting televisions. In addition to the improved HDTV support, Sony also reduced the Japanese price of the entry-level PS3 to the equivalent of $430 US, already negating the advantage Microsoft claimed yesterday with the introduction of its Xbox 360 HD DVD player.
Living in an apartment frequently relegates audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts to headphones; most higher-end speakers transmit too much sound into nearby floors and walls, forcing lower volume levels. JVC has unveiled a stereo speaker technology that solves this problem by effectively targeting the sound at a specific area. The 1BOX (translated Japanese) prototype uses the same principle as active noise-cancelling headphones to prevent audio from escaping beyond a certain range - 3 feet with the current design. When finished products arrive in coming months, listeners will be able to sample a new CD or watch a movie at high volume without disturbing neighbors or even those in the next room.
The special designs of home theater PCs virtually dictates that they receive processor upgrades such as the Core 2 Duo later than more conventional desktops. In the case of computer builder Envive, however, the delay has resulted in two particularly well-equipped HTPC systems. First to be released is the E-Center Micro X (pictured), a compact system much in the same style as the Mac mini. Designed for relatively basic home theater needs, the Micro X is still capable with a 1.66GHz mobile Core 2 Duo chip, DVD-RW drive, 80GB hard disk, and a built-in IR receiver that interfaces with an included Media Center remote. DVI and S-Video out are also included. For more advanced users, the E-Center Pro adopts the shape of a home audio receiver and offers an impressive range of features. In what may be a first for home theater PCs, the Pro model will ship with two ATSC and two NTSC tuners, letting owners record at least two shows at once regardless of whether they are over-the-air HDTV or analog signals. A 500GB hard drive is standard and the system will support up to six drives total. Options for high-end users are Blu-Ray or HD DVD drives as well as HDMI output. The Micro X is available immediately for $993; Envive is taking pre-orders for the Pro at $2499 and will ship in late 2006, but warns users that the price is a deposit and depends on final specifications. A photo of the latter model is available after the jump.
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