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Many people are buying cameras that claim to be better than they are, writes David Pogue in his latest column for the New York Times. Companies such as Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm often make their megapixel ratings the foremost advertising point, but Pogue notes that in reality, the resolution provided by high megapixels is useless if the light isn't captured properly. Lens quality can often be a much more important factor, as can sensor design and (naturally) the skill of the photographer. Ironically, high-megapixel sensors can sometimes harm image quality by introducing heat, which creates more noise at elevated ISO settings.
Microsoft has filed for approval of a wireless device that may point to the all but confirmed Zune phone, according to an FCC approval request found by MarketWatch. The listing refers to an orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) device to be used for "consumer broadband access and networking." As OFDM is typically only used for wideband wireless signals -- including large-scale WiMAX networks, digital video broadcasts, and select Wi-Fi formats -- the technology has already raised eyebrows among technology analysts who suspect that Microsoft is already completing parts of a new Zune player that would also have VoIP functions.
APIOTEK's entry into the realm of VoIP phones is highlighted by an atypical design, similar to a projector or television remote. The USB SkyPhone is also just 0.3 inches thick, and has a reflective metal back similar to an iPod. Weight is an equally modern 2.4 ounces. Supported talk applications include Skype, MSN, and Yahoo! Messenger; additionally, Windows computers (98 and up) can record voice. Macs do not support recording, but need only run Mac OS 8.6 or later. The connection for the phone is a USB 2.0 port that is backwards-compatible with USB 1.1. USB Geek is selling the SkyPhone for $39.
A Microsoft executive's departure may point towards expanded features for Apple TV, according to an interview conducted by Wired. Speaking with the online edition of the magazine, former Xbox Live Arcade manager Greg Cane said that he had chosen to leave Microsoft in favor of Bejeweled creator PopCap Games for the opportunity to expand the developer's games list to other platforms -- including the recently launched Apple TV, Cane claims.
It will be about "customizing [the catalog] for different platforms," he said, "customizing the user interface and display for Zune, ipod [sic], Apple TV, Nintendo DS, PSP."
Though ASUS premiered the Lamborghini VX2 laptop at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, only now has the company shared final performance specifications. The computer will actually ship with Windows Vista Ultimate, and will use a Core 2 Duo T7400 processor, with the video card tapped to be a GeForce Go 7700 with 512MB of RAM. System memory will come in the form of 2GB of DDR2 RAM and a 160GB SATA hard drive. Drives for external media will include an 8-in-1 card reader and a DVD S-multi Lightscribe. Other features include Bluetooth 2.0, Intel Wireless-N, and a 1.3-megapixel camera. The most unusual feature is the fingerprint scanner, a device normally reserved for more business-oriented machines. The VX2 was supposed to have been on sale by today, but it remains absent from the official ASUS product pages.
Warner Music Group has flatly rejected the idea that it should consider dropping DRM, according to the Financial Times. As part of the company's latest quarterly earnings conference call, Warner chief Edgar Bronfman refuted Apple exec Steve Jobs' open letter advocating the end of DRM, attacking Jobs' statement as "completely without logic or merit." Bronfman reasserted the idea that DRM was necessary to the survival of his label's business and compared it to the protections already in place for DVDs and computer programs.
The disagreement was made at the same time as Warner coped with an especially harsh decline in its fortunes. The company's revenues last quarter fell a staggering 74 percent compared to the same period a year ago, with even online-only downloads experiencing a slower than expected growth.
Omniscout has just launched the Portable and Portable Pro, two trackers geared towards drivers who want to protect against thieves or otherwise keep track of their vehicles. Both make use of a special hybrid of GPS and GSM-based phone data to notify the owner of trouble: while the former tracks movement, the latter automatically relays information to the owner. The GPS receiver itself is also intelligent, says Omniscout. Although the technique remains undescribed, the trackers each have an adaptive GPS system that can obtain a position even when indoors or otherwise blocked from a clear link with the navigation satellites.
The Pro separates itself from the base model by using the two-way phone link to its advantage. A driver can set flags for specific conditions that trigger an alert, such as excess speed or wandering outside of a specific radius. A dual-use car and USB charger is also packed in with the premium version. The pair of cellphone-sized receivers are already shipping to motorcycle dealers with prices starting at $499.
SanDisk chief Eli Harari has just released his own letter commenting on the state of digital music. Responding to Apple head Steve Jobs' own Thoughts on Music letter, Harari largely defended the music industry's insistence on copy protection by claiming that its Sansa music players already pleased both music labels and listeners, offering a choice of multiple stores as well as supporting unprotected music. He particularly accused Jobs of encouraging piracy by focusing only on music buyers.
"The answer is to protect the interests of everyone involved," Harari wrote, "not to chastise rights holders for trying to safeguard the entertainment they create and support."
The Sansa jukebox creator also absolved device manufacturers of responsibility for their choice of DRM, saying that only the labels themselves had the right to decide how their music is distributed. Harari further contended that a "walled garden" -- a thinly-veiled reference to Apple's iTunes approach -- was at best a short-term fix, ultimately pleasing no one. "It's time to tear down the walls," he said.
Prolific accessory maker iHome has had a new iPod speaker approved by the FCC, the iH85 iHome2Go speaker system. A clamp mounts the speaker to a bicycle, from which it can be controlled by puck-like remote (pictured) with play, pause, volume and track skip commands. The remote fastens to a bicycle's handlebar, and three different inserts allow the speaker to be used with fourth- and fifth-generation full-size iPods, as well as iPod minis and nanos. Pricing and release information has yet to be announced. [Via Mobile Whack]
CBS this morning launched a new effort to link its TV shows to the mobile world. Called CBS Mobile, the initiative lets frequent viewers keep track of favorite shows and news through video. While the company's highlight is Dave TV, a $5 per month service that downloads video highlights of the previous night's David Letterman show, options also exist for downloading entertainment, news, and sports video alerts as they surface. CBC also claims a unique approach to customizing the phone dubbed "live wallpaper:" instead of simply offering a stock set of backgrounds, a set of images from the most recent episode of a show appears just hours after the show airs.
All aspects of CBS Mobile are active today and should work with most phones from larger US carriers. Entertainment news costs $4 per month, the network says, but news and sports are free outside of normal text rates. The move parallels the company's earlier expansions into web-based TV and TiVo downloads.
Brando today introduced its friendly-looking USB Panda Webcam. As suggested by its name, a camera is nestled inside the plush figure of the iconic Chinese animal. The body is soft enough to be easily picked up and handled, Brando writes, which makes it an ideal choice for kids. Its lens is also manually adjustable for a 50mm to infinity focus range and comes with onboard automatic exposure as well as white balance correction.
Video capture performance is modest, with full-speed recording taking place at 320x240 while running at a half rate of 15 frames per second at a much larger 640x480. The Panda Webcam works as a USB camera for almost any video chat software and exports from Brando for $24.
Intellinav has just released the IN-PND-350 GPS receiver. Technically a standard 3.5-inch touchscreen mapping unit, the 350 is unusual in its class for adding automatic text-to-speech voice navigation. Street names and other details are read aloud in any one of six different languages. Intellinav's system also covers a slightly larger region than many other American units, covering both Canada and the US on its preloaded 1GB SD card alongside Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
The company notes that the receiver is suited to both in-car and handheld use, coming with both a windshield mounting kit and an internal battery that lasts for up to 5 hours on a charge. It ships today from Newegg and other online shops for $350. [via NaviGadget]
iLuv today announced the onTime TV for Mac. The receiver is one of the few to bring Japan's 1Seg digital broadcast TV to Apple's computers and comes with its own 6.7-inch antenna for boosting reception indoors. The Mac-friendly tuner supports the same electronic program guides as its Windows counterpart for scheduling show recording, but includes a number of specific touches for its distinct audience, iLuv adds. Audio and video are captured in AAC and H.264 respectively for easy transport to iTunes; viewers also have the choice of navigating channels through the Apple Remote on a Front Row-equipped Mac.
The special edition of the onTime TV requires either a 1.6GHz G5 or 1.66GHz Core Duo Mac using Mac OS X Tiger or better and is planned for a late February launch at the equivalent of $122. [via New Launches]
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the long-rumored update to the Xbox 360 will ship by April. According to GamersReports, an "inside source" has informed them that Microsoft wants the Australian chain Myer to prepare for a 360 with 120GB hard drive and an HDMI port. A new piece of information is that the color of the upgrade should be black, which (if true) would conflict with the current all-white accessories.
The timing of the upgrade would not be coincidental. Sony's Playstation 3 will finally release in Australia on March 23rd, and Microsoft may be worried that the greater storage and HD capabilities of the PS3 will lure customers away. It may also be a necessary step for Xbox Live users, since Microsoft's Video Marketplace can rapidly fill the existing 20GB 360 hard drive. The price of the new console is expected to be $749 AU ($583 US).
Media jukebox designer Archos has had its latest device leaked to the public, according to an FCC filing. The currently unannounced device is larger still than the company's earlier 604 Wi-Fi with a 5-inch LCD and is described by the testing group as a "mobile DVR," indicating a likely ability to record live video. No TV tuner appears to be part of the design, however. Wireless support for 802.11b/g is certain and should allow the 704 to browse the Web as well as stream media to and from a local network.
Few other features were revealed in the leak, but the device is known to have a notebook-class hard drive for storage as well as flash memory and fast DDR2 memory for caching. A launch date was not provided; however, Archos' confidentiality request for the 704 Wi-Fi expires in 15 days and will likely be followed soon afterwards by a formal announcement. [via DailyTech]
Nokia today revealed that its Mobile Search tool would now turn inwards, searching the content of the phone itself as well as the Internet. Much as with the search tools built into Mac OS X and Windows Vista, the updated software automatically indexes the entire data on the phone -- allowing searches for metadata including song information, contacts, and keywords that appeared in earlier SMS text messages. The technology works with virtually every N-series phone as well as the E6x, E70, and 3250 models and should be a free download as of today.
Samsung on Thursday unveiled what it says is one of the world's most advanced smartphones. Closely resembling the minimalist design of the iPhone, the Ultra Smart F700 is conspicuously targeted at "the recent trend" in touchscreens, according to the Korean company. A 2.8-inch, 440x240 screen is used to control calling, Internet, and music functions. It further includes VibeTonz, a vibration system introduced in the recent W559 that simulates tactile feedback to touchscreen presses. A further resemblance to its American counterpart is a singular navigation button. In contrast to Apple's device, however, the F700 also contains a slide-out physical keyboard for messaging and heavy-duty browsing.
More details and photos after the jump.
Microsoft this morning made an early announcement for the 3GSM expo by announcing Windows Mobile 6, the latest version of its OS for cellphones. Divided into three editions -- Classic for PDAs, Standard for intermediate smartphones, and Professional for more advanced communicators -- the new software represents a much tighter integration with the Internet. Key to the upgrade is integration with Windows Live, Microsoft says: Mail, Messenger, Search, and Spaces are all built-in. A new feature called Direct Push is also integrated and sends not only live e-mail but also calendars and contacts.
Crucially, however, the phone OS includes a number of features that hope to remedy weaknesses Apple claims to have addressed with its iPhone. Optimizations with the Device Center in Windows Vista now let Mobile 6 automatically sync music, photos, and other media without requiring separate software.
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