Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Verizon iPhone 4 Some Questions Answered

So you've heard the great news that Verizon will finally be getting the iPhone but you aren't sure what that means. Well I've got a few answers to some of the common questions I've seen asked.

Q) I'm an existing Verizon customer can I upgrade?
A) You can check your eligibility on Verizon's Website here. If you've purchased a new Verizon handset recently you can return it within 30 days of purchase to take advantage of the iPhone 4 instead.

Q) Will my AT&T iPhone now work on Verizon?
A) No they are two entirely different networks. Verizon uses a CDMA based network whereas AT&T uses a GSM network this is the reason iPhones have never been able to be unlocked to work on Verizon. Your AT&T phone may still be unlocked to work with other GSM networks but you will need a new CDMA phone to work with Verizon.

Q) How much will the Verizon iPhone cost?
A) Verizon will offer two versions of the device: a 16-GB model for $200 and a 32-GB model for $300, both with a new two-year contract.

Q) How much will data and calling plans be?
A) At this time we don't know Verizon has yet to confirm anything. It's not clear if Verizon iPhone customers will see Verizon's standard smartphone data plans or if the carrier will tailor a plan specifically for the iPhone.

Q) Can I port my number from AT&T to Verizon?
A) If you are a current AT&T customer and you have fulfilled your contract then yes you can port your current number over. If however you are still under contract you will have to pay the AT&T  ETF's before they release your number. You are able to check your number's portability eligibility online, at any Verizon Wireless store, authorized agent location or by calling us at 1.800 2 JOIN IN.

Q) Are the AT&T iPhones different than the new Verizon iPhones?
A) The short answer is no not really. Because of the new CDMA-specific antenna there are a few minor changes to the outside of the phone that will require new cases and internally there are difference in the radio chipsets but internally not much has changed. Both phones will have the same features including FaceTime video calling, the high-resolution Retina display, a 5-megapixel camera, HD video recording, long battery life, and all the other great features of iPhone 4. There is one difference that is a big plus for the the Verizon iPhone. The new phone adds the hotspot feature which allows up to five Wi-Fi enabled device to be tethered to your iPhone. This feature costs extra on Verizon's Android smartphones. There is no mention if it will it cost extra for the iPhone 4, too?

Q) Which version of IOS does the Verizon iPhone run?
A) The Verizon iPhone's software is slightly more advanced than the current offering from AT&T it's running iOS 4.2.5, while the most current release for all other iPhones is iOS 4.2.1.

Q) Is Verizon the only one who can sell a CDMA iPhone?
A) No, Apple COO Tim Cook told reporters today that while Apple and Verizon have a "multiyear" contract, unlike the previous deal with AT&T it is not exclusive. That means other CDMA carriers like Sprint could potentially be next to sell the iPhone.

Hopefully this helps answer a few of the questions many of you have. There are several more questions and answers on the Verizon site which can be found via Verizon iPhone 4 FAQs.

Verizon iPhone Becomes A Reality

Verizon Wireless and Apple today announced that a new CDMA version of Apple's iPhone 4 will be available on the Verizon Wireless network beginning on Thursday, February 10. Qualified Verizon Wireless customers will be given the exclusive opportunity to pre-order the iPhone 4 online on February 3, ahead of general availability.

“We are pleased to introduce millions of wireless users to the industry leading iPhone 4 on the nation’s most reliable network,” said Lowell McAdam, president and chief operating officer of Verizon. “This is an important step for the industry as two great companies join forces to give wireless customers one of the most important technological additions to the mobile landscape this century.”

Verizon will offer two versions of the device: a 16-GB model for $200 and a 32-GB model for $300, both with a two-year contract. iPhone 4 will be available at more than 2,000 Verizon Wireless Communications Stores nationwide, online at  www.verizonwireless.com/iphone, at Apple Retail Stores, at the Apple Store (www.apple.com), at Apple Authorized Resellers, and by calling 1-800-2 JOIN IN.

Verizon has not mentioned what the company would charge for its iPhone data and service plans when the phone goes on sale. However there have been several rumors speculating that the company may offer customers an unlimited data service plan.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Google Offers Sneak Peek of Android 3.0, Honeycomb

Late last month Google announced the company was working on a new version of Android geared towards larger format device like netbooks and tablets. Late last week the company offered a sneak peek of Android 3.0, via the video below.

Google reports the company has spent a lot of time refining the user experience in Honeycomb, developing a brand new, truly virtual and holographic user interface.

"Many of Android’s existing features will really shine on Honeycomb," writes Andy Rubin, VP of Engineering. Android 3.0 will feature refined multi-tasking, elegant notifications, access to over 100,000 apps on Android Market, home screen customization with a new 3D experience and redesigned widgets that are richer and more interactive. Google also boost that have made some powerful upgrades to the web browser, including tabbed browsing, form auto-fill, syncing with your Google Chrome bookmarks, and incognito mode for private browsing.

Honeycomb also features the latest Google Mobile innovations including Google Maps 5 with 3D interactions and offline reliability, access to over 3 million Google eBooks, and Google Talk, which now allows you to video and voice chat with any other Google Talk enabled device (PC, tablet, etc).

For now there is no word as to when the public can expect to see tablets featuring the new OS however there were several new devices featured at this years CES that showcased Android and are expected to be released with the latest version.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Apple's Mac App Store Opens Tops One Million Downloads in First Day

Apple's newly opened Mac App Store seems to be an over night success with the company claiming more than one millions apps have been downloaded in the first day.

“We’re amazed at the incredible response the Mac App Store is getting,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Developers have done a great job bringing apps to the store and users are loving how easy and fun the Mac App Store is.”

The Mac App Store is just like the App Store for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Essentially its is an all in one repository where Apple fans can download just about everything for their Macs running OSX Snow Leopard including a few freebies.

Users can browse Mac apps by category, such as games, productivity, music, and more. Or do a quick search for something specific. Read developer descriptions and user reviews. Flip through screenshots. When you find an app you like, click to buy it. Currently there are more than 1,000 apps in listed under education, games, graphics & design, lifestyle, productivity, utilities and other categories.

To get the Mac App Store, download the Mac OS X v10.6.6 Software Update or visit www.apple.com/mac/app-store. To find out more about developing for the Mac App Store visit developer.apple.com/programs/mac.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Firefox Dethrones Internet Explorer, In Europe Anyways

According to data compiled by web analytics company StatCounter, Firefox bumped Internet Explorer (IE) as the dominant browser in Europe at the end of 2010. According to the numbers compiled by StatCounter's research arm StatCounter Global Stats during December 38.11% of internet page views involved Mozilla's Firefox web browser, while Internet Explorer fell back to second place with 37.52%. Google Chrome made a strong showing coming in third place at 14.58%.

"This is the first time that IE has been dethroned from the number one spot in a major territory," commented Aodhan Cullen, CEO, StatCounter. "This appears to be happening because Google's Chrome is stealing share from Internet Explorer while Firefox is mainly maintaining its existing share."

Google Chrome is gaining market share in Europe which shows with their strong third place ranking. The 14.58% share Google Chrome holds is nearly triple that of 2009 which in comparison was 5.06% in December last year. "We are probably seeing the impact of the agreement between European Commission competition authorities and Microsoft, to offer EU users a choice and menu of browsers from March last," added Aodhan Cullen.

The news comes on the heels of reports that IE lost 1.4 percentage points of overall usage share in December which accounts for one of the largest one-month decline in more than two years. Chrome was again the prime beneficiary of IE's slide, as Google's browser reached the 10% milestone worldwide for the first time ever. According to Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications, IE's total share fell to 57.1%, another record low for the Microsoft-made browser. IE has lost 5.6 percentage points in the last 12 months, and 10.7 points since IE8 was introduced in March 2009.

Intel's 'Sandy Bridge' CPUs Are Here

intel logoAlthough the news has been spreading around the web for the past several day today marks the official release of Intel's new Sandy Bridge processor architecture or what the company calls its "second-generation Core processors."

Today at a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show. Intel highlighted several new features, services and partnerships that combine to deliver an entirely new visual experience with processor graphics built in. Intel claims that more than 500 desktop and laptop PCs are expected from all major OEMs worldwide throughout the next year.

With their announcement Intel has officially released the product sku's of more than 20 processors as well as , wireless adapters and chipsets, including new Intel Core i7, i5 and i3 processors, Intel 6 Series Chipsets, and Intel Centrino WiFi and WiMAX adapters.

Sandy Bridge represents the latest in Intel's development strategy. The new chips are based on the 32nm "Westmere" die shrink of about a year ago, but introduces new technologies, features and capabilities that neither Westmere nor the previous "Nehalem," could claim.

"The new 2nd Generation Intel Core processors represent the biggest advance in computing performance and capabilities over any other previous generation," said Mooly Eden, vice president and general manager, PC Client Group, Intel. "The built-in visual capabilities enabled by these new processors are stunning. This, combined with improved adaptive performance, will revolutionize the PC experience in a way that is obvious for every user to see and appreciate – visibly smarter performance."

With Sandy Bridge, Intel claims that mainstream PCs will be able to perform a wider variety of actions, all while consuming less power. Intel has put particular focus on the CPUs' media prowess, from its built-in DirectX 10.1 capabilities to new programming that Intel has promised will considerably improve video transcoding, photo editing, and other similar tasks (such as watching Blu-ray 3D content).

Additional changes in Sandy Bridge also include a major revamping of Turbo Boost, which can improve performance even more for short periods of time, and new Advanced Vector Extensions driving floating point–intensive application performance.

Sandy Bridge What You Need To Know

For starters the company hasn't dropped its "Core" designation for its CPU lineup: You'll still see some of the older Core i3, i5, and i7 branded chips on the market. These older chips are still going to be based on the LGA-1156 and older LGA-1366 sockets. The new '2nd generation' chips will share the 'Core' branding and similar designation however they will not be based on the older sockets. They will require an entirely new motherboard with a new socket LGA-1155 cpu socket. These new motherboards will now feature the Intel 6 Series Chipsets. Mainly the performance-focused P67, the integrated graphics-focused H67 and the entry-level H61.

To keep the confusion over the two generation chips to a minimum Intel has added a few naming features. The number immediately following the "i" modifier will be followed by a "2" to indicate that said CPU is a part of the Sandy Bridge family, as it's a second-generation CPU. The following three numbers will indicate the specific processor SKU, so you will now see designations like Core i7-2600K, Core i5-2500K, Core i5-2400, And Core i3-2100. The letters appended to the end- "K", "S", or "T" will detail whether the CPU is unlocked for overclocking, optimized for "lifestyle" computing, or optimized for power-savings.

For the new Sandy Bridge chips Intel has optimized Intel Turbo Boost Technology to provide even more performance when needed. Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 automatically allows processor cores to run faster than the base operating frequency if it's operating below power, current, and temperature specification limits.

For the layman out there what this means is the chips will effectively 'turbo up' when more power is needed. Overclocking the chips as much as 10-15% when more power is needed and throttle the chips back down when its not.

Newer better graphics right from your cpu. That's right with Sandy Bridge Intel has design the chips to have better video support featuring DirectX 10.1. The new chips sports completely redesigned video and media subsystems that Intel claims will greatly increase performance in everyday computing as well as more specialized tasks like video editing and transcoding. There's built-in support for a wide variety of popular video codecs, as well as accelerators for commonly used filters like scaling and removing noise.

This new 'on-chip' GPU design won't be a powerhouse and shouldn't be expected to replace a discreet GPU (and probably won't be good for gaming) however Intel boasts that the new execution units present in its Sandy Bridge GPU not only come at more than twenty times the power of Intel's Generation-5 graphics, but that the cards themselves should rival integrated (and even entry-level discrete) graphics from Nvidia and ATI.

Other new features include Intel Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX), Intel InTru 3-D, and Intel Clear Video Technology HD. Intel InTru 3-D enables immersive stereoscopic 3-D to 3-D-capable HDTVs or monitors via HDMI 1.4.

Intel Sandy Bridge Reviews:

Source: Intel Press Release

Monday, January 03, 2011

Opera Previews New Touch Based Browser For Tablets And Netbooks

Opera has announced plans to launch a new touch based version of their popular web browser at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week.

The new browser will be specifically geared to work on the latest tablets and touch enabled netbooks. Offering users a full touch capable web browsing experience with smooth panning and smooth zooming.

“In 2011, tablets are a new must-have. Opera is creating waves with the first public preview of Opera for tablets,” said Christen Krogh, Chief Development Officer, Opera Software. “Opera for tablets brings the same trusted Internet experience to tablets and netbook PCs as users have come to love on their mobile phones and desktops.”

There is no word on exactly when the new version of Opera will be available on that visitors to this week's CES can preview it at the Opera booth in South Hall 2, Lower Level, #26502.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Amazon's 'Best Of 2010" List

Amazon.com today released its "Best of 2010" lists, which include the bestselling, most-wished-for and favorite gift products as determined by Amazon.com customers in 2010. 

Bestselling Products of 2010
The following is a list of the bestselling products on Amazon.com in 2010 by total units sold:

  • Electronics: Kindle Wireless Reading Device (Wi-Fi)
  • Books: "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
  • Kindle Books: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
  • Movies: "The Blind Side" (DVD)
  • Video On Demand: "Sherlock Holmes"
  • Music: "The Gift" by Susan Boyle
  • MP3 Album: "Speak Now" by Taylor Swift
  • MP3 Song: "I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas
  • Video Games: Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Wireless & Accessories: Samsung Captivate Android Phone (AT&T)
  • Computers: Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-Inch Laptop
  • Software: Microsoft Office 2010 Home & Student
  • Home, Garden & Pets: Eureka Enviro Hard-Surface Floor Steamer
  • Grocery: Coffee People Donut Shop K-Cups for Keurig Brewers
  • Health & Personal Care: Omron Digital Pocket Pedometer
  • Beauty: Revitalash Eyelash Conditioner
  • Toys: Bananagrams
  • Baby: Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether
  • Clothing & Accessories: Levi's Men's 501 Jean
  • Shoes & Accessories: Ray-Ban New Wayfarer Sunglasses
  • Watches: Invicta Women's Square Angel Diamond Stainless Steel Chronograph Watch
  • Sports & Outdoors: P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout Program
  • Tools & Home Improvement: Black & Decker Ratcheting ReadyWrench
  • Automotive: Battery Tender Junior Battery Charger
  • Frustration-Free Packaging: Coffee People Donut Shop K-Cups for Keurig Brewers (Pack of 50)
Most-Wished-For Products of 2010
The following is a list of products that appeared most often on the Wish Lists of Amazon.com customers in 2010:
  • Electronics: Kindle Wireless Reading Device (Wi-Fi)
  • Books: "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
  • Kindle Books: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
  • Movies: "Inception" (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
  • Video On Demand: "Dexter: The Fourth Season"
  • Music: "Speak Now" by Taylor Swift
  • Video Games: Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Computers: Apple MacBook Pro 13.3-Inch Laptop
  • Software: Microsoft Office 2010 Home & Student
  • Wireless: LG KP500 Cookie Unlocked Phone
  • Home, Garden & Pets: Weber Rapidfire Chimney Starter
  • Grocery: Coffee People Donut Shop K-Cups for Keurig Brewers
  • Health & Personal Care: Crest 3D White Whitestrips with Advanced Seal Professional Effects Enamel Safe Dental Whitening Kit
  • Beauty: Coastal Scents 88 Color Makeup Palette
  • Toys: LEGO Ultimate Building Set
  • Baby: Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether
  • Clothing & Accessories: Classic Black Fedora Hat
  • Shoes & Accessories: UGG Australia Women's Classic Short Boots
  • Jewelry: Sterling Silver Marcasite and Garnet
  • Watches: Citizen Men's Eco-Drive Chronograph Canvas Watch
  • Sports & Outdoors: P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout
  • Home Improvement: SOG Specialty Knives & Tools Tactical Tomahawk
  • Automotive: Sunforce 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit
Most Popular Gift Products of 2010
The following is a list of products most frequently purchased as gifts by Amazon.com customers in 2010:
  • Electronics: Kindle Wireless Reading Device (Wi-Fi)
  • Books: "Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose" by Tony Hsieh
  • Kindle Books: "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
  • Movies: "Toy Story 3" (DVD)
  • Music: "The Gift" by Susan Boyle
  • Video Games: Just Dance 2
  • Computers: Toshiba Satellite TruBrite 15.6-Inch Laptop
  • Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 (Win/Mac)
  • Wireless: Nokia N900 Unlocked Phone/Mobile Computer
  • Home, Garden & Pets: Oregon Scientific Grill Right Wireless Talking Oven/Barbeque Thermometer
  • Grocery: Numi Tea Bamboo Flowering Tea Gift Set
  • Health & Personal Care: Chia Obama Handmade Decorative Planter
  • Beauty: Jerdon Magnification Tri-fold Lighted Mirror
  • Toys: LEGO Ultimate Building Set
  • Baby: Vulli Sophie the Giraffe Teether
  • Clothing & Accessories: Kenneth Cole REACTION Men's Passcase Wallet
  • Shoes & Accessories: BEARPAW Women's Eva Shearling Boot
  • Jewelry: Sterling Silver Amethyst Butterfly Pendant, 18"
  • Watches: Casio Men's G-Shock Classic Digital Watch
  • Sports & Outdoors: Zumba Fitness Total Body Transformation System DVD Set
  • Home Improvement: Black & Decker Ratcheting ReadyWrench
  • Automotive: Wagan Heated Seat Cushion

Source: Amazon Media Room: News Release

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Unlock Your Radeon HD 6950 To An HD 6970 Via Firmware Unlock

It has been common practice over the years to release GPUs and CPUs built on the same design only with some of the features disabled in order to lower the cost. A few weeks ago AMD released the Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950 both cards where based on the same reference design, same chips and same base configuration. The difference, the HD 6950 was clocked down to an 800mhz GPU clock and 1250mhz memory clock with only 1408 unified shaders versus the HD 6970 which features a 880 GPU clock, 1375 memory clock and 1536 unified shaders.

According to a recent post over at TechPowerUp, with few basic steps and a few pieces of software the new Radeon HD 6950 can be unlocked and transformed to a Radeon HD 6970 by unlocking 128 unified shaders and overclocking your HD 6950.

Full instructions along with links for all the software you'll need are available here. Unlocking the additional shaders is done by flashing the card with an HD 6970 BIOS. Overclocking can be achieved with any of your favorite GPU clocking applications.

There is no guarantee that your card will overclock to the higher speeds or that your card will handle the unlocking correctly. However with AMD's new dual bios option that allows for easy recovery should something go wrong you really can't miss.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays From Geek News

The holidays are officially upon us and I'd like to take the time out from celebrating with my friends and family and wish all of the readers of Geek News a happy holidays and a happy New Year.

Hope all you geeks out there get a ton of geeky presents this year!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sony Debuts 'Music Unlimited' In The UK

For awhile now we've heard rumors that Sony may be launching their very own music service to compete with Apple iTunes. Today the company finally took the wraps of the new service when they announced the debut of "Music Unlimited powered by Qriocity".

The new cloud based digital music service initially launched in the U.K. and Ireland and will eventually be rolled out in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and of course the U.S. by some time next year.

This subscription based service will be priced at £3.99 a month for Basic access, £9.99 for the Premium stuff which gives you full on-demand access to over 6 million tunes. The basic plan works as an ad-free radio station and subscribers can listen to dozens of personalized channels - categorized by genre, era as well as mood through SensMe - without the requirement to download or manage their music files.

The premium subscription plan offers a one time 30 day Premium free trial enabling users to listen in full to every song on-demand, create personal playlists of favorites, and gain access to premium Top 100 channels which are regularly updated with the latest hits.

Being that it is a cloud based service there is nothing to download. Users select the songs they want and stream them to their Sony PS3, Bravia TV, web-connected Blu-ray player or to a PC such as the Sony Viao. Sony is also promising future support for "a wide range of Sony's portable devices" and Android-based smartphones.

My Thoughts

It'll be interesting to see if Sony can break into the music service business. They have some great portable music devices out now and several smartphones that would be well paired with this type of streaming service. The down side is they are so late to the game that most established services and/or devices like the iPod and iTunes almost have an insurmountable lead making it hard for them to get a good foot hold.

Source: Sony Press Release

Review: 8GB Sony Bloggie Touch MHS-TS20 Pocket HD Camcorder

Flip may be the leader of the pack when it comes to pocket camcorders however several companies including Creative, Kodak, JVC, Pentax and Sony are gunning for that top spot. Sony has a few products on the market today that are competing for the crown but the latest gadget from the electronics giant, the Bloggie Touch MHS-TS20, is the one the company hopes can knock Flip from its throne.

Bloggie Touch MHS-TS20 Features
  • 8GB Internal Memory (4 GB on the MHS-TS10)
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • 12.8MP Digital Still Images
  • Full 1080P Video Resolution at 1920 x 1080
  • 3" Capacitive Touch-Screen
  • Sony Face detection Technology
  • Sony SteadyShot Image Stabilization
  • Outputs - Mini HDMI and Flip-out USB Arm

First Thoughts

When I was first introduced to the Bloggie Touch I was immediately impressed not only by the specs but the look and feel of this little camcorder. Specs wise the Bloggie Touch is at the top tier and I could almost say second to none in this category. Most gadgets in the pocket camcorder category only shoot in 720p and very few feature still image capabilities let alone the ability to shoot at 12MPs. Add to that the Touch's brushed metal case and that big 3" touch screen and you have a device that, on paper at least, WOWS you.

Using The Bloggie Touch

Now you may notice I said on paper that is because the 'wow factor' quickly dissipated for me. The metal case and that extra sharp touchscreen are nice but they are fingerprint magnets. I found myself constantly cleaning smudges from the screen and the back of the case. Something that grew more and more tiresome as the days went on.

The overall size and shape are nice the device measures just 2 1/8" x 4 1/4" x 5/8" and weighs a scant 4.4oz (125g). This is considerably smaller than most of the Flips and other similar devices. Unlike the square shape of the Flips the Bloggie Touch features a curved back which made for an almost perfect for carrying in any pocket. This curvature also gave it a better feel when holding it.

Sadly button layout was not thought out well. You have a large center facing record button for videos yet the button for shooting stills in on the side fairly close to the power button. Several times I powered the device off instead of snapping a photo. The microphone was placed higher on the same side and quickly became a favorite target of my finger when I was shooting anything on the horizontal.

Sony was nice enough to include a section on the manual giving users suggestions on holding the Bloggie but what self respecting Geek would read the manual?

Video and Image Quality

So we are down to the nuts and bolts of it. Does the Bloggie provide high quality videos and images?

If you are in a well lit area not trying to shoot anything further than 5-6 feet away or anything that moves much you will love your Bloggie Touch. The true 1080p videos come out very crisp with a good sharp quality. Images are decent, I wouldn't say they are bad just not as good as I'd like. Unfortunately the real down side comes in to play if like me you like to shoot in less than perfect lighting and shoot action shots. Here is were the Bloggie really fails and you will not be impressed.

For starters there is no flash so pictures in anything but great lighting will not turn out. Most of the devices in the category don't have the ability to shot pictures nor do they have a flash so that may not be the deal breaker for some that it was for me. The image below was taken side by side, one with plenty of light, the other with basic lighting as you'd get in a nightclub or other night time environment.

As you can tell the quality with good lighting is decent however the image in a dark setting is horrible! For videos you can get by with less light than you can for photos as they tend to turn out a little brighter. The auto-focus will have a much worse response time but your videos will be slightly more viewable.

While I'm discussing the auto-focus I should mention that I found it very lacking. With only slight movement my Bloggie Touch would want to re-focus on something other than what I was shooting. There also seemed to be a fairly noticeable amount of lag when initially focusing on a subject.

Shooting in good lighting conditions with a subject that wasn't moving much produced a very high quality video. All the detail and crispness expected with 1080p video was definitely there. Because of the issues with the auto-focus I found shooting actions shots lacking due to the videos fading in and out occasionally or focusing off subject. Picture quality in well lit situations was ok just not great. Sony's products have a reputation for high quality images and in my opinion the Bloggie fails to live up to that reputation.

My Conclusion

I'm very critical of my gadgets, especially the ones that cost $200, so I might be overly critical of the Sony Bloggie Touch. I know these devices aren't meant to do everything and aren't loaded with the same features you find in a camcorder, nor should they be. Having visited TestFreaks.co.uk and reading some of the reviews I just expected so much more. Many of the reviews give it higher rankings than I could ever give it.

I will say I was impressed by the design, one area that the Bloggie clearly excels. I was also impressed by the on-board software and user interface. The ability to tag items for upload directly to Facebook or YouTube was nice.

Sadly none of that overcomes the shortfalls I found in the function of the Bloggie.

One major suggestion is that you buy a longer USB Extension Cable as the one included in the box is only about three inches long and is pretty much worthless. I says this because I for one don't like the idea of my Bloggie hanging out of my USB port by the USB arm. Accidents happen and I'd hate to ruin something either in the Bloggie or on my PC.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best Buy Gives Customers A Christmas Gift, Dumps Restocking Fees

Being a computer geek and general tech junkie one of my biggest complaints has always been restocking fees. I absolutely hate shopping sites or stores that charge me just because I buy something and then either don't like it or just find the need to return it. But we all know that when it comes to electronic items, restocking fees are a fact of life. After all, retailers can't sell an item for full price once it's returned in an open/used state, even if it was only used for a few minutes. So to recoup some of the loss associated most companies make the customer eat some of the cost with a 10-15% restocking fee.

After years and years of customers complaints Best Buy has finally caved and recently announced that as of 12/18/2010 the company will be doing away with their traditional 15% restocking fee. The company posted the following notice on its website:

Best Buy continually listens to our customers, and they told us they want to give confidently this holiday season and every other day of the year — and with that comes easier returns. Effective Saturday, December 18, Best Buy is improving its return policy by removing restocking fees for all products except special orders. Customers can visit BestBuy.com for further information.

According to popular consumer affairs blog The Consumerist the new policy applies to all items including iPads, iPhones, notebook computers, and digital cameras. In addition, a company email notes that customers who were charged a restocking fee between November 17 and December 17 can come back to a Best Buy store to get the fee refunded.

All I can say is its about time! Walmart did away with restocking fees years ago and a few other places like Staples has followed suite.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Gawker Now McDonalds, Walgreens and deviantART

It would seem as though hackers have been busy of late. First we were informed of a breach over at Gawker, where not only email address but usernames and passwords were stolen. Now we have news from Silverpop Systems, Inc. of Atlanta, Georgia, a company that serves a host of top-tier business, that databases containing user emails from two of their clients have been breached. What sites you may ask. None other than McDonalds and deviantART. This follows a similar report from Walgreens that databases congaing user emails and dates of birth had been breached.

In the case of Walgreens it is unclear if the breach is related to the other two Silverpop breaches or not. The company did not reveal how the data was stolen, but coincidentally, the drugstore chain shares a business partner with McDonald's. Both companies use the marketing services firm Arc Worldwide — the company that hired Silverpop Systems, according to reports, to manage McDonald's database. Either way millions of users have been affected in the recent breaches.

Details for consumers

Walgreens recently posted the following:
Dear Valued Customer,

We recently became aware of unauthorized access to an email list of customers who receive special offers and newsletters from us. As a result, it is possible you may have received some spam email messages asking you to go to another site and enter personal data. We are sorry this has taken place and for any inconvenience to you.

We want to assure you that the only information that was obtained was your email address. Your prescription information, account and any other personally identifiable information were not at risk because such data is not contained in the email system, and no access was gained to Walgreens consumer data systems. As a company, we absolutely believe that all customer relationships must be built on trust. That is why we believe it is important to inform you of this incident. Online security experts have reported an increase in attacks on email systems, and therefore we have voluntarily contacted the appropriate authorities and are working with them regarding this incident.

We encourage you to continue to be aware of increasingly common email scams that may use your email address to contact you and ask for personal or sensitive information. Always be cautious when opening links or attachments from unsolicited third parties. Also know that Walgreens will not send you emails asking for your credit card number, social security number or other personally identifiable information. So if ever asked for this information, you can be confident it is not from Walgreens.

If you have any questions regarding this issue, please contact us at 1-888-980-0963. We take your privacy very seriously, and we will continue to work diligently to protect your personal information.

Sincerely, Walgreens Customer Service Team

Here's is the McDonalds notice to customers:
Unfortunately, a third party was able to defeat the security measures put in place by the email database management firm to protect the information you provided to us. Law enforcement authorities have been notified and are investigating the matter.

And deviantART recently informed customers:

Silverpop Systems, Inc., a leading marketing company that sends email messages for its clients, told us that information was taken from its servers. This was probably part of a sweep by spammers. As a result, email addresses belonging to deviantART members were copied. Corresponding usernames and birth date may also have been removed.

We can assure you that nothing occurred on our systems with respect to this incident and no access was gained to private information on deviantART’s servers.

As a member of deviantART, you certainly have a right to know when an incident of this kind occurs. Unfortunately spammers are an unavoidable part of living on the Web.

The likely result of this event might be an increase in spam to your email. Experts have told us that there is an increase in email scams out there on the Internet and you should be cautious. Only click links or download attachments from people you know, particularly if they ask for personal information, and be sure that your email service provider has adequate spam filters.

Because we value the information that members give us, we have decided not to rely on the services of Silverpop in the future and their servers will no longer hold any data from us.

"It appears Silverpop was among several technology providers targeted as part of a broader cyberattack," Silverpop said in a statement. Further statements made by Silverpop Chief Executive Bill Nussey today would suggest the company wants to make it very clear that they are not the only company that has suffered a breach. "In parallel to our customer and security-focused efforts, we continue to work with law enforcement to identify the criminals that have targeted us and several other companies in our industry, " Nussey writes.

Never heard of Silverpop, well you aren't alone. In fact before the recent breaches I had never heard of the company myself. However chances are you or someone you know has an email address associated with one of their many clients. The company after-all has over 105 rather big name customers!

The company states it is working with law enforcement officials and the FBI to uncover who is behind the breach but until then it is advised that you beware your inbox, even if the email is from a know source!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AMD Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 Have Arrived

AMD today released the company's twp top dawgs the Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950. The two new cards are meant to complete AMD’s Radeon HD 6000 single-GPU card family which was introduced back on October 21st. At that time, only the Radeon HD 6870 and Radeon HD 6850 were launched.

The Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950 are completely identical in shape and size in fact they are essentially the same cards visually. Specifications aside the only major difference is that the 6970 requires one 8-pin and one 6-pin connector, while the 6950 requires two 6-pin connectors. Both cards support dual-link DVI and HDMI 1.4a natively. There is also support for a two miniDP outputs, version 1.2. Eyefinity is also fully supported.

A new feature added to the Radeon HD 6970 and Radeon HD 6950 is a dual-BIOS on board. AMD has implemented this dual-BIOS is so that people flashing their BIOS’s will not brick their video cards. One BIOS on video card contains the factory default which is protected. The other BIOS is open and allows you to flash to it. If you screw up your BIOS flash, all you have to do is switch the video card back (via an actual switch on the side of the card) to the protected BIOS and re-flash the other BIOS. Saving the user from bricking their pricey add-on.

Based on the early reviews the cards perform pretty much as expected with both the Radeon HD 6970 and HD 6950 showing very fine price-to-performance ratios. The 6970 manages to keep pace with the much pricier NVIDIA GTX 580, but is priced similarly to NVIDIA's GTX 570. The much cheaper HD 6950 seems to have hit the real value price point with a a great price-to-performance ratio making it the new bang-for-the-buck leader.

Radeon HD 6970 Specifications
The AMD Radeon HD 6970 packs 2.64 Billion transistors and 1,536 streaming processors running at 880MHz core clock speed on the 40nm process. There are 96 texture units, 32 ROPs and 128 Z-Stencil. There is 2GB of GDDR5 running at 5.5GHz on a 256-bit memory bus. This provides 176GB/sec of memory bandwidth.

Radeon HD 6950 Specifications
The Radeon HD 6950 is also based on the 40nm process with the same 2.64 Billion transistors. There are 1,408 streaming processors running at 800MHz core clock speed. There are 88 texture units, and the same 32 ROPs and 128 Z-Stencil count. There is also 2GB of 5GHz GDDR5 RAM being used which provides 160GB/sec of bandwidth.

Benchmarks and Reviews

Related Articles

Best Buy Begins Selling Nexus S Thursday Morning

For you cellphone geeks out there that are chomping at the bit to get your hands on Samsung's Google-branded cellphone the new Nexus S you'll only have to wait a few more days. Best Buy has announced the company will begin selling the hot new phones in their retails stores at 8SM local time this Thursday, Dec 16th.

The Nexus S is available in all Best Buy and Best Mobile specialty stores. Exact inventory will vary by store and the phone will be sold out on a first-come, first-serve basis with a limit of 2 per customer.

Pricing: The Nexus S is an unlocked phone and can be purchased without contract for $529. The Nexus S can also be purchased for $199 with a TMobile two-year service agreement and qualifying voice and data plan or for $249.99 for add-a-line activations.

Source: Engadget via Best Buy

Google eBookstore Now Open For Business

Late last week Google officially announced the creation of the new Google eBookstore. A site dedicated to those of you that love reading your books electronically.

With one of the many devices that are compatible with Google eBooks users can browse and search through millions of what Google is calling the largest ebooks collection in the world. In fact Google states there are currently more than three million titles including hundreds of thousands for sale.

Browsing the site you'll find the latest bestsellers like James Patterson’s Cross Fire and Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom as well as popular reads like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken and classics like Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and Gulliver’s Travels.

As mentioned the eBookstore offers support for a range of devices. They support not only the latest Apple devices including the iPhone, iPod and iPad but all Android devices and a large list of eBook readers including the Barnes & Noble Nook.

Sorry Amazon Kindle owners, currently, Google eBooks are not compatible with Amazon Kindle devices, though they have said they are open to supporting them in the future.

Perhaps the best feature of the new eBookstore is that Google eBooks are stored in the cloud, so there is no file to download if you want to read on your computer, phone or tablet. To read online using the web reader, simply click the read button on any free or purchased ebooks. Once you open your book using the mobile reader app, your book will sync to your device and you can continue reading it online or offline. Your ebooks will be stored within your Google account, which allows you to save your page positions and sync across all your devices as you continue reading.

You can click here to learn more about using multiple devices to read.