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Democrats are proposing that iPods and other MP3 players be given to every child in Michigan, according to an editorial in the Detroit Free Press. The party's state house speaker Andy Dillon suggested the idea as part of a larger spending bill, suggesting that it would help students learn. The idea has already triggered a major controversy in the state for the cost it would inflict on the already ailing government, taking $38 million away from Michigan's budget when the territory faces a $600 million deficit this year and an even greater $2.1 billion gap in 2008.
The new Drobo by Data Robotics is promoted as the "world's first storage robot." In reality it is actually a hard drive enclosure, but with the unusual ability to automatically detect and format up to four 3.5-inch SATA drives of any capacity. Perhaps more importantly, the Drobo handles a number of maintenance tasks automatically, such as creating redundancy, and sensing and repairing data corruption. When attached to a Mac or PC via USB 2.0, the computer sees the Drobo as a unified drive. Colored LED lights indicate the status of each bay: yellow for instance indicates low space, while flashing red indicates failure. An empty Drobo enclosure costs $699.
Samsung on Friday introduced the SyncMaster 275T, its first 27-inch computer LCD. The display sits directly between 24-inch and 30-inch models as a choice for those who would prefer to sit further back from their PCs for watching movies; the 1920x1200, HD-friendly resolution matches those of smaller screens but doesn't bring the cost and size of the 30-inch model. To suit its role, Samsung loads the device with HDCP-supporting DVI input as well as component and S-video for analog sources. Colors are purportedly vivid with a 3,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.
The 275T is intended for a worldwide audience and should be available in North America later this year. It currently ships to Korea for $1,449.
Magic Home Entertainment has unveiled the Moodseer, its particular twist on multi-room music systems. A base station with either 200GB or 1.5TB of storage both streams music wirelessly to remote hubs known as Moodspots. In contrast to other hubs, its music can be sorted into any of a dozen mood categories and cued on command, saving the trouble of picking individual artists or albums or crafting playlists. The entire system is controlled through Nokia-made wireless tablets that can set music independently for each zone through Ethernet or Wi-Fi. Music is either transferred directly to the base or ripped through CDs.
The central Moodseer sells now for $4,100 with a tablet; Moodspots sell for $1,500 each. [via CEPro]
The overwhelming amount of advertising and trial software installed on modern Windows PCs is killing the user experience, the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg wrote on Friday. The columnist noted that his new Sony VAIO SZ and most other Windows PCs come preloaded with large quantities of third-party programs that help subsidize the system's cost but which frequently harm its performance and pop up interfering dialog boxes. Security software also created problems by forcing interested owners to deal with configuring and scanning their systems before they can actually be used.
A red version of the Zune will be available this summer, says Jason Reindorp, Microsoft's marketing director for the product. Originally sold in just black, white and brown, Reindorp notes that response to new colors has been excited, and that Microsoft is "having a lot of fun playing and experimenting with them." Aside from the red player, Microsoft has already confirmed news that a pink version should ship in early May. A lack of color options has been one of the minor complaints about Apple's iPod video -- while the nano is sold in five different colors, buyers wanting more than 8GB of storage are limited to black or white. [via Zune-Online]
Fastmac today launched what it claims is the first and only Blu-Ray optical drive upgrade for Apple's PowerBook, iBook, and MacBook Pro laptops. The new slimline, slot loading drive uses one of the fastest and most compatible Blu-ray mechanisms to provide up to 50GB of storage on one disk, according to FastMac, without sacrificing compatibility with standard DVDs and CDs. The new drive supports reading, writing, and re-writing to single and dual layer Blu-ray media at 1x speeds. The drive upgrade is scheduled to ship within 10 days, and is available for pre-order with an introductory price of $800. Each drive carries a 1-year warranty and a 30-day money back guarantee.
Intel is working on a sequel to its current ultra-mobile PC design that could make them much more viable for the road than they are today, according to leaked slides and details. Nicknamed McCaslin, the platform would seemingly take a step backward in its CPU clock speed from 900 to 800MHz (with a 600MHz option) but would represent several steps forward in speed and battery life. The chipset would be paired with Intel's newer X3000 integrated graphics for better 3D and Vista acceleration; a drastic reduction in he size of the CPU and the circuitry would not only help fit the architecture into UMPCs as small as 5 inches but would also almost double battery life from 2-3 to 4-5 hours courtesy of power reduction.
Already subject to a number of legal and financial problems, VoIP carrier Vonage may be facing a more immediate danger, says the Wall Street Journal. A federal judge has ordered the company to stop signing up new customers until it can avoid infringing on patents held by Verizon, whose networks may soon become off-limits to Vonage should the dispute not be resolved. A $58 million penalty was already paid earlier in March. Though the new ruling will not take effect until April 12th, any income is critical to Vonage at this point, as its stock price has fallen 80 percent since a 2006 IPO. Its only safety net is VoIP Inc., which may be able to help bypass Verizon networks.
Although the device in question has yet to be released, authors are already readying help books for the iPhone, spottings on Amazon have shown. Famed Houston Chronicle columnist Bob LeVitus and co-author Ed Baig are already said to be developing iPhone for Dummies, according to a new entry, and have also provided a brief outline explaining how it will help newcomers to the device, including using the camera and safeguarding private data.
Professional bloggers are also taking their first steps into writing books for Apple's new handset, the early product pages show: both Jason Chen from Gizmodo and Adam Pash of Lifehacker are reportedly involved in creating a book titled How to Do Everything with Your iPhone that should offer similar content.
Two new monitors are in development at NEC, specifically designed for business uses such as offices and digital signage. The LCD4020 and LCD4620 will arrive first in Japan, and are 40- and 46-inch models, with specifications similar to dedicated TV sets. Each will have HDMI and DVI-D ports for instance, and a maximum resolution of 1366x768. Brightness meanwhile is rated at 500cd/m2, with a contrast ratio of 1,200:1. Owners with automation systems will be able to make use of RS-232C support. Both monitors will go on sale May 18th of this year; the 4020 should be priced at 483,000 yen ($4,071), and the 4620 at 612,150 yen ($5,159). [via Akihabara News]
Corel has announced its decision to pull the current AACS key from WinDVD, its video playback software. AACS is the protection scheme used in both Blu-ray and HD DVD movies; as previously reported however, that scheme was cracked by diligent hackers, and various movies have begun to seep into illegal distribution. By pulling the key, Corel as well as "partners and other industry organizations" hope to stem the use of WinDVD as an aid to piracy. To continue viewing HD discs through the software, users will need to download an update from their PC or drive manufacturer's website. Corel is so far the first and only company to respond to the AACS crack. [via CDRLabs]
Responding to newspaper reports, Bell Canada has denied reports that it is looking for a buyout from a private equity firm. Bell is the one of the largest media providers in Canada, running not only wireless and landline phone services, but Internet provision and satellite TV as well. If the suggested deal were to go forward, Bell would be acquired by the New York-based Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in a deal worth $30 billion CAD -- considerably more than Bell's estimated $24 billion market cap. Regulations on foreign ownership, however, would likely block KKR from owning more than a minor stake in Bell. [via Light Reading]
Eizo on Friday launched a special edition of its largest LCD display. Called the S2411W-TS, the 24-inch screen comes in its namesake Titanium Silver color and is also optionally bundled with matching Bose Companion 5 speakers to generate a virtual surround effect with only a 2.1-channel system. The display itself boasts a large, dynamic 3,000:1 contrast ratio and should be ready for multiple PCs through the rare inclusion of dual DVI ports and HDCP encryption support for specially-protected HD videos.
Japan's MSI has built a 17-inch laptop with atypical flexibility in its configuration. Though the video card in the MS-1037 is restricted to a 256MB GeForce Go 7600, users can choose from three levels of CPU performance: a Core Solo, a Core Duo or a Core 2 Duo, allowing potentially drastic savings or speed boosts. The hard drive likewise appears to offer plenty of choice, with the option to install virtually any 2.5-inch SATA product. Accessories on the laptop include Bluetooth, FireWire and a six-in-one card reader, as well as both PC Card and ExpressCard slots. Prices begin at 136,986 yen ($1,154). [via Akihabara News]
Rogers Wireless today opened up a new choice for subscribers to its 3G wireless network by launching the Option GT Max. A PC Card adapter for older notebooks, the GT Max packs a tri-band HSDPA radio to connect at download speeds up to 3.6Mbps on Rogers' HSDPA network -- with the possibility of an upgrade for 7.2Mbps through software, according to Option. Fallback support for EDGE and the older-yet GPRS exist for territories where the faster HSDPA standard isn't active, and a butterfly-style antenna stows inside the card to keep it safely plugged in when the host notebook put in a bag or backpack.
Toshiba is readying a new version of its flagship Qosmio media center notebooks, according to leaked product shots and details. The Qosmio G40 will trade its signature black for white while also getting major performance upgrades. A 2GHz Core 2 Duo will remain, but the system will get much faster 512MB GeForce Go 8600 GT video for better 3D performance and an HDMI 1.3 output for producing deeper color on attached HDTVs. Toshiba will also fulfill its promise of HD DVD burning with an HD DVD-R drive and should back this up with dual 200GB hard disks for storage and 2GB of RAM.
Though not yet official, the G40 is expected to sell in Europe in June for 2999 Euros ($4,024). Pricing will likely be closer to $2999 in the US with a similar release date. A full photo of the system is available after the jump. [via PC INpact]
Verizon today officially listed the VX8700, LG's flip-phone based on the brushed metal look of the Shine. The release confirms the final launch details of the 2-megapixel camera phone, which also sports Bluetooth, EVDO broadband, and a microSD slot for music and videos.
The phone is available today from Verizon's online shop for $180 when paired with a two-year service plan.
Online music shop eMusic may stand to benefit from Apple's deal to drop DRM on EMI music, according to Crave. Although iTunes will only begin offering protection-free music beginning in May, eMusic has depended on unguarded MP3 files as part of its business model. The decision by EMI could draw attention to eMusic's subscription-based service, which offers a set number of downloads per month.
The move may also pave the way for the store to sell its first music from a major label. EMI has so far refrained from announcing any deals beyond that with Apple but has openly invited other stores to adopt similar plans, including for different music standards such as MP3 and WMA.
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