Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Google Releases Voice Search Competitor For Siri

Google has released what the company is calling the "most advanced voice search on iOS". An updated Google Search app designed specifically with iOS and Siri in mind. The new app, which uses Google's voice-recognition software and location-based awareness, provide iOS users with a new option to Apple's own voice search Siri.

The Google search App promises "faster and significantly improved voice recognition," with spoken responses via Google. You can get answers to an increasingly wide variety of questions thanks to what Google calls the Knowledge Graph, which allows you to search for things, people or places that Google knows about—landmarks, celebrities, cities, sports teams, buildings, geographical features, movies, celestial objects, works of art and more—and instantly get information that’s relevant to your query.

Here are a few of the questions that Google can answer:
  • “What does Yankee Stadium look like?” Google will show you hundreds of pictures instantly.
  • “Play me a trailer of the upcoming James Bond movie.” The trailer starts playing immediately right within Google Search. 
  • “When does daylight savings time end?” The answer will appear above the search results, so you can set your clock without having to click on a link. 
  •  “Who’s in the cast of The Office?” See a complete cast list and find out who made you crack up last night. 

    You can download the Google Search App on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch right now through iTunes.

    Google's voice search for iOS reviews

    Three Reasons to Consider Purchasing a Refurbished Laptop

    There are more and more companies now offering refurbished laptops for sale and they certainly have their advantages. However many people are often put off by the term 'refurbished' as they often mistake it with the term 'used'. In reality though, they are two totally different entities. When a person purchases goods that are 'used' they generally purchase that item 'as is'. Alternatively when you buy a 'refurbished' item you are generally buying something that has been thoroughly tested, cleaned and in the case of laptops sometimes even upgraded. In other words it is at the very least brought back up to standard.

    So with this in mind, what other reasons might you consider purchasing a refurbished laptop?


    This is most definitely a key factor for many people and even though laptops have come down in price in recent years, the consumer is generally looking to get the most for their hard earned cash. When it comes to cost, you can pick up a refurbished laptop for anywhere between 25% and 60% off the recommended retail price. It is important to remember also that the term 'refurbished' doesn't have to mean a machine that's a couple of years old. In fact, some companies offer refurbished items that have simply been store returns. This could be through unwanted gifts, or that they didn't fit the buyer's specifications. In these instances the laptop is virtually box new.

    Bang for your Buck

    Many laptops that are refurbished for resale are of high specification. This means that as a potential customer your £300 or £400 may get you a far more expensive computer with higher specifications that may otherwise cost you two or three times this amount if bought from new. In other words you can certainly get a lot more bang for your buck. Purchasing refurbished gives you the chance to buy in budget without having to sacrifice any of the features you are looking for.

    Parts Warranty Coverage

    Having a secondary or back-up laptop is a good idea if you work from home, or are a traveling student, or alternatively are simply looking to purchase a computer for the kids to do their homework on. You may not want to spend too much cash on a laptop, but need it to be of a high enough spec so that it does what you want it to do. This can be expensive if you insist on buying new. However with a refurbished model, you can achieve all of this for a much smaller budget. In addition to this, similarly to many PC retailers, refurbishment companies will offer some form of parts warranty (normally a minimum of three months and sometimes up to three years) meaning that any purchaser can feel safe in the knowledge that should something happen, their laptop is covered.

    For many companies offering refurbished laptops for sale, it will probably come as no surprise that they are seeing an increase in customers, especially with such good deals to be had. You could well be surprised at what you can get for your money and indeed the choice on offer. If you want a great deal check out SCH Trade's range of refurbished laptops.

    Tuesday, October 30, 2012

    Microsoft Surface RT Tablet Gets iFixit Teardown

    After watching those geeks over at iFixit teardown just about every geek gadget made it's nice to see that they finally get something from Microsoft, well besides the Xbox 360, to crack open. The team got their hands on the new Microsoft Surface running Windows RT and of course do what they do best, a fully detailed teardown!

    Here are some highlights from iFixit's teardown:
    • iFixit says Microsoft's Surface is a little easier to repair than the iPad 3 they tore down but it's still pretty difficult to take apart.
    • iFixit notes Surface's design allows it to be opened without fear of shattering the display glass. Also, several components are modular and replaceable without requiring desoldering, and the battery can be removed pretty easily.
    • The battery is glued in but it's "way easier to remove than on the iPad."
    • The 31.5Wh battery is manufactured by Samsung and falls between the iPad 2's 25Wh battery and the third-generaiton iPad's 42.5Wh unit.
    • The two 720p cameras -- one for the front, one for the back -- are almost identical in size and shape. "The exclusion of a multi-megapixel rear-facing camera either means cost was a big concern, or that Microsoft's designers don't expect you to use the Surface as your main camera."
    • The device has four touch-screen controllers, which likely are what allow Surface to decode both the user inputs from pressing on the glass and the Touch Cover accessory.
    • The main components suppliers included: Nvidia for the 1.4 GHz Tegra 3 Processor, Samsung for the 32 GB flash memory and the display, Micron for 2GB DDR3 RAM, and Texas Instruments for power management. Marvell, Wolfson, Atmel, and Cypress Semiconductor also provided certain chips.
    Source: iFixit Microsoft Surface Teardown

    Steam's Halloween Sale 2012

    Steam has kicked off their traditional Halloween Sale 2012 by slashing prices on more than three dozen games, including some of our favorite first person shooters and some zombie classics. For those that love shooting ghost and ghouls that have a little bit of everything. From zombie killers to alien hunters. There are even a few more mellow games for those of you that are faint of heart!

    Here's a quick list of some of the better games I noticed on the sale page:

    Almost all the games listed in the sale come in under $15 with most priced in the $5 range. Some of the lesser known games, or those more kid friendly are priced even lower.

    Monday, October 29, 2012

    Hurricane Sandy Likely To Impact Even More Sites And Services

    As the east coast prepares for the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, one of its largest hurricanes in recent history, services have been shutting things down left and right: flights have been canceled and airports closed, Google cancelled this morning's Nexus events, most universities have canceled classes, public transportation has been shut down, and plenty of offices have been closed in an attempt at keeping the public safe.

    As this massive storm moves in land it will likely impact more offices, financial services and could even negatively impact some of your favorite sites and online services. Many sites and services have offices located on the east coast that could be hit with flooding, power outages and network disruptions. So users all across the US should be aware of the potential for impact.

    Despite the fact that landfall wasn't expected until early this evening along southern New Jersey's coast by early this afternoon some 700,000 customers across the Northeast were already reportedly without power. That number is likely to increase exponentially as high winds and storm surge batter the area.

    New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. have already had states of emergency declared and the worst of the storm is still to come. The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq were both closed on Monday because of Sandy, the exchanges' first weather-related shutdown in 27 years. Both exchanges said they would remain closed on Tuesday as well, pending confirmation.

    ISP providers, cable networks and even cellphone service providers or expected to take a major hit. Verizon wireless is telling customers not to depend solely on their cell services at they are expecting widespread outages. The phones themselves, of course, have batteries which during a prolonged power outage might not be chargeable. And the cell towers that relay your calls and other messages are often equipped with backup batteries and some have generators.

    Verizon says all its sites have at least eight hours of backup power. But tower batteries run down, and refueling generators with diesel can be difficult if roads are flooded. If hurricane recovery drags on for days, cell service may go out due to a lack of "tower power." This is what took out the cellphone network in southern Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, complicating rescue and recovery efforts.

    Those impacted by Hurricane Sandy should be prepared to be in the dark without many of their major conveniences and services for at least a few days. The government has setup a website with some basic things to help anyone with tech preparedness during an emergency. Most of these are kind of common sense things but things most of us often overlook.

    Thursday, October 25, 2012

    Top 3 Software Essentials For Freelance Illustrators

    The following post is a guest post from fellow blogger and tech junkie Reese Jones. Reese is a tech and gadget lover, and a die-hard fan of iOS and console games. She started her writing venture last month and writes about everything from quick tech tips, to mobile-specific news from the likes of O2, to tech-related DIY. Find more about her and her work at Reese+ or tweet her @r_am_jones

    Illustrator programs give freelance artists and graphic designers the edge on creativity. By illustrating directly on a computer, artists are able to use a selection of applications that help create unique and conventional art. Even amateur artists can better their skills through state-of-the-art programs. From easy layout and graphic designs to sophisticated vector images, illustrator programs can do it all for you.

    Here are the top 3 must have programs for artists pro and amateur alike.

    3. Xara Designer Pro 7

    Graphic designers and layout artists today require the use of software editing photos and pages to get their works the professional feel. Xara Designer Pro 7 does this for you. With user-friendly features and tools at your service, this graphic design software will help young and aspiring artists fine imaging quality without difficulties and complications.

    This designer software is best for minimalists and consolidators alike. Unlike other graphic editing programs, Xara Designer Pro 7 is not a suite. All features are included in one single program. You don't have to switch to different components of a suite just to get desired results or use exclusive applications.

    So many wonderful features are present like the Design Gallery- a collection of templates for many uses like photo albums, calling cards, brochures, invitations, calendars, and many more. They can even be customized according to your preferences. Use this feature if you wish to explore the basic workarounds of this program. Panorama tool is very helpful for landscape artists or scenery photographers. This feature collates from two to six of your photos side by side and transforms it into one piece of work.

    Xara Designer Pro 7 enables artists to make basic to sophisticated designs. With webpage layouts and 3D effects giving your work more details and style. All is in one application, and this is what's best in this software.

    2. CorelDraw Graphics Suite X6

    When it comes to photo-editing and illustrating programs, CorelDraw Graphics Suite X6 features seven different applications- CorelDraw, Corel PowerTrace, Corel Wbsite Creator, Corel Photo-Paint, Corel Capture, Corel Connect and Photozoom Pro 2. This powerful graphic design software will help you achieve superb quality results with its ingenious features.

    Although you have to open individual applications for different tasks, CorelDraw Graphics Suite X6 doesn't disappoint. Each application houses many imaging features and tools if artists want to use complex designs in illustrating, 3D imaging, editing videos, web designing, and more. Albeit more complicated to use, manuals and forums will help artists adapt to Corel's workspace. With experience and further use, mastering the tools and features of this program can become an easy task.

    CorelDraw Graphics Suite X6 comes up with fresh features and tools to give artists complex vector graphics and sophisticated designs. It's a very impressive graphics suite that's very powerful and creative.

    1. Adobe Creative Suite 6

    Coming in at number 1, Adobe Creative Suite 6 Design Standard wins the competition by bringing art and technology into one powerful suite. Digital media creation has been done easy with an all-encompassing design suite. It comes with a vast collection of features and tools that will greatly benefit professional and amateur artists alike. As there are so many functions it provides, there is a steep learning curve if you wish to use the suite to its full potential.

    Here's how image editing, illustrating, and publishing work in the suite:

    Photoshop is the best image editing software for use in print and digital media. Retouch scanned pictures using different tools and procedures present in the application. Adobe Mercury Graphics engine is a welcomed addition to the suite. As it takes advantage of your graphics processing unit, editing and enhancing photos are done blazingly fast! With unparalleled speed and infinite productivity, Photoshop in CS6 is a crowning glory in the suite.

    While Photoshop gives you means to edit images, Illustrator helps you make one. A vector graphics software that gives you the edge on illustrating complex files with precision and speed, this application is a must have for you artists! No question there. With its latest incarnation in the suite, it does illustrating jobs with more organization and more power.

    Another gem for the suite is InDesign, a flexible publishing program that helps you make award winning pages. Creating typography and design in pixel-perfect control is something to be proud about. What more if you can create elegant pages for print and digital media? With a new adaptive design tool in the upgrade, publishing can be done in a jiffy!

    All the applications you want for your illustrating needs are in this suite. With a whole new experience in speed and innovation from Adobe, your computer is your canvass. Work on your graphic designs, publish pages in style, and illustrate in the most creative ways possible. With intuitive and advanced features of this creative suite, Adobe Creative Suite 6 is a must have for all creative designers in the world today.

    Windows Store For Windows 8 Has Over 7,000 Apps And Why That Doesn't Matter

    According to researcher Wes Miller, the Research VP at the third party analyst company Directions on Microsoft, the number of Windows 8 apps published in the Windows Store has topped 7,800 worldwide. Yet that hasn't stopped many detractors from claiming there are not enough apps for Windows 8 available to download from the Windows Store.

    The truth is that Microsoft has been very busy publishing a lot of apps in the store on the eve of the Windows 8 launch on Friday. The exact total that Wes Miller published was 7,873 marking an increase of over 2,000 apps compared to a week ago and represents the biggest growth spurt yet for the number of apps in the storefront. The growth spurt is undoubtedly due to the upcoming press conference and full blown release of the new operating system, making it even more likely that Microsoft will reveal even more Windows 8 apps at its press event.

    So why then has Microsoft been taking so much flack for not having enough apps to compete with the iPad?

    GameFly - Get XBox 360 Game Delivered To Your Door
    Let's step back a minute and look at what we are talking about here: Many sites that claim there are not enough applications for the Microsoft Surface are mistakenly talking about the Windows RT version and not talking about full blown Windows 8 Pro based Microsoft Surface tablets. In this instance they are correct. At this point in time there are very few Windows RT apps.

    Second we are talking about 7800+ apps that are design specifically for Windows 8 and specifically for the new touch interface. This number sounds miniscule when we are talking about 100's of thousands of apps now in the Apple App Store or in Google Play. What many of Microsoft detractors are forgetting (along with some of my fellow tech bloggers and mainstream journalists) is that the Windows 8 based devices run a full blown version of Windows. One that is capable of running almost any Windows 7 (likely even Windows XP) based application.

    So now we have to add to that 7800+ apps that are design specifically for Windows 8 to all of the applications currently on the market that are Windows compatible. I can't even guess at a number for that, what hundreds of thousands? millions?

    People are always going to find something to bash MS about. The simple fact is they are entering the market with something totally different than has been done before. When Apple hit the market with the iPad and iOS and Google hit the market with Android they had to reinvent the wheel when it pertains to their applications. For Microsoft its all about getting the key apps that people are going to want the most and working their way up.

    To add a side note: With Windows 8 you can run Android apps through emulation with something like Bluestacks or the BlueStacks powered AMD AppZone Player. You won't get full compatibility with all the apps in Google Play but AMD promises with the AppZone player that you get at least some limited access to the 500,000 mobile Android based apps available today. Can you do that with your iPad??

    Wednesday, October 24, 2012

    Create A Job This Holiday Season Shop Retail

    Un-Employment and job creation has been a hot-button issue during this year's presidential debates. Much discussion has been made over each candidate's ability to put good hard working American's back to work. Well I say let's start the movement ourselves!

    How you can help you say? It's easy! Shop retailers instead of on-line!

    The holiday shopping season is quickly approaching. Traditionally this time of year is one in which the retail and hospitality job markets open up and several people gain short term employment. Sure its low scale, and sure it may only be temporary, but hey we have to start somewhere.

    Over the past several years big box retailers have seen steady declines in sales. Yeah most of the recent drop is due to the bad economy but the decline started well before that. Online retailers such as Amazon, Newegg, and Overstock have cut into those sales significantly. These lower in-stores sales number mean the stores are hiring fewer employees, fewer employees means less job opportunities which means higher un-employment.

    Unfortunately fewer shoppers in-store not only impacts the stores you visit but also other locations like restaurants, coffee shops and fast food places. You see when you get out and shop you are more likely to stop into other places as well. So less shoppers means less customers for other convenience locations as well. This again means they will higher fewer employees.

    So what about creating jobs? Well like I said its simple, get out and shop!

    I know I know shopping online is much more convenient. I'll admit dealing with crowds and standing in those long lines isn't the most fun and sure sometimes you can get a better deal online. Some of that has changed though. Best Buy and Target have both announced that they will price match on-line competitors this holiday season. So you might be able to get that smoking hot deal on that new laptop or TV and be able to take it home with you right then and there. As for dealing with crowds, well that just can't be helped, though packing the stores is really the point here. The more people we pack in the more jobs that could be created.

    Early Microsoft Surface With Windows RT Reviews

    The new Microsoft Surface isn't due for a full public release until October 26, but of course, several of our favorite tech blogs like The Verge, Engadget, AnandTech and Laptop Mag have already had their chance to get hands on some of the new Surface tablets for review purposes. Keep in mind these are early reviews and might show a bit more bias that what you'll see from the general public or those that have to plop down their hard earned cash, But they will give you a good idea of what that $499 for the 32GB, $599 for the 32GB with touch cover, or $699 for the 64GB with touch cover, will get you.

    We've coupled a few excerpts from each review along with the final thoughts. As you can see most reviewers thought the tablet was a good start for Microsoft but still lacked some of the polishing touches needed to make it a market leader.

    Engadget: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT review

    When combined with either of the keyboards that Microsoft offers at launch, this becomes a surprisingly capable laptop replacement. Or surrogate, at least.....

    If gaming and music and movies and reading are what you're looking to enjoy, then we might advise sitting this one out for a few months just to make sure that all your bases will indeed be covered. If, however, you're looking for an impeccably engineered tablet upon which you can do some serious work, a device that doesn't look, feel or act like a toy, then you should get yourself a Surface with Windows RT.

    Ars Technica: Microsoft’s first stab at a tablet: Surface reviewed

    Surface is very well built and extremely well designed. It’s easily among the best built products I’ve had the opportunity to handle, and definitely puts a lot of earlier attempts from far more experienced companies to shame. I wouldn’t say that it looks better or worse than the iPad, it’s simply different. I talked about perspectives earlier, Microsoft’s perspective on tablets is a bit more utilitarian than Apple’s and Surface’s design reflects that reality.....

    As a device, Surface is incredibly well executed. It makes sense that Microsoft’s OEM partners are feeling the pressure as there’s very little that I would change about Surface from a design perspective. The chassis is well built and the integrated kickstand is seriously one of the most useful features to ever meet a tablet. The optional Touch and Type Covers complete the package. While a full sized notebook is going to deliver a better typing experience, when paired with its Touch/Type covers Surface results in a more productive platform than any other tablet.

    Laptop Mag: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT Review

    Though it can't run desktop or "legacy" apps, Windows RT does have a desktop environment that looks just like the desktop mode in Windows 8, right down to its color scheme and default wallpaper. The preloaded copy of Microsoft Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and One Note) runs in desktop mode only. If you want to copy or manage files and folders, you'll need to use Explorer on the desktop. There's also a desktop version of Internet Explorer 10 that runs in a window, even though there's also a full-screen Modern UI version of the same browser.....

    The Surface with Windows RT proves that Microsoft can beat its own partners on hardware. Between the build quality, kickstand, and truly innovative Touch Cover, this is a tablet whose design and fresh interface will turn heads away from the iPad. But for how long? For a flagship product with a premium price, Microsoft compromises on too many things by including poor cameras, weak speakers, slow internal memory and a screen that, while better than most, isn't as good as the iPad's Retina display.

    Gizmodo: Microsoft Surface RT Review: This Is Technological Heartbreak

    We hadn't looked forward to something this much in a long, long time. Now it's here. And it's been just as long a time since a gadget has been so disappointing. Surface is good, but Surface RT sure isn't the future. Not yet....

    Should you buy it? No. The Surface, with an obligatory Touch Cover, is $600. That's a lot of money. Especially given that it's no laptop replacement, no matter how it looks or what Microsoft says. It's a tablet-plus, priced right alongside the iPad and in most ways inferior....As much as it looked (and even felt) like it for a bit, the future isn't here quite yet.

    PC Mag: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT
    So should you buy a Microsoft Surface instead of an iPad or Android tablet? If you use Microsoft Office for work or school, then it's a no-brainer: Get a Microsoft Surface (or one of the other upcoming Windows RT tablets). Even though Pages and QuickOffice are pretty good programs, you really can't beat a real copy of Office when your work is on the line. If you use Office programs constantly, the Surface is the tablet and laptop replacement your inner road warrior has been searching for. Discounting Office, the Windows Store's limited selection holds us back from giving the Surface an unequivocal recommendation, since the iTunes Store and the various Android stores have significantly more vast collections of apps. There's no doubt that the most popular apps will be ported over to Windows 8 and Windows RT, but when that will happen is still up in the air. If there's an app you can't possibly live without, then you should check if it's on the Windows Store before plunking down your money for the Surface. It's because of the limited selection in the Windows Store that we can't give the Microsoft Surface the tablet Editor's Choice over the Apple iPad or the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. But we see the potential. If you're a tech pioneer or someone who appreciates well executed design, then you probably have already put the Microsoft Surface on order. In that case, enjoy.

    If these reviews sway you one way or the other we'd like to hear it in the comments below. I know I'm personally waiting to see some of the new Windows 8 Pro tablets and see if we can get them at as good a deal as we see with some of the RTs. If you are interested in either you can preorder the Surface to your specifications here. The tablet goes on sale October 26.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2012

    Get Free Games This Holiday Season With AMD's 'Never Settle' Game Bundles

    It seems like the holiday shopping is starting a bit early this year with companies already kicking off some promotion. For you gamers out there that are planning to add a little more graphics power to that gaming machine AMD has a new promotion just for you!

    As part of the Never Settle Game Bundle, AMD is offering customers to three free games, plus get a coupon for 20 percent off Medal of Honor Warfighter with the purchase of select graphics cards. The best part? This is a direct from AMD promotion meaning it isn't tied to any specific GPU partner.

    That means you can head over to Newegg or Amazon and buy one of the AMD card specified to qualify for the promotion. In addition to the 20 percent voucher, games up for grabs include Far Cry 3, Hitman Absolution, and Sleeping Dogs, all of which are free with the purchase of an AMD Radeon HD 7900 Series either the AMD Radeon HD 7970, AMD Radeon HD 7950 or the AMD Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition Graphics Cards.

    To obtain copies of the Games, each Participant must purchase an eligible AMD product (see "Eligible AMD Products") from a participating retailer and obtain from the participating retailer an AMD Unique ID. The AMD Unique ID is submitted on the site to obtain a Steam Game Key for Hitman: Absolution, a Steam Game Key for Sleeping Dogs, an UBIShop Game Key for FARCRY 3, and an EA Origin Discount Game Key for 20% off Medal of Honor Warfighter Deluxe Edition when purchased through EA Origin Store. Game Keys and Discount Game Keys are redeemed at,, and

    The promotion begins October 22, 2012 and ends on March 31, 2013. Medal of Honor Warfighter Digital Deluxe 20% discount expires December 31, 2012. Game Keys must be used to obtain Free Game downloads by April 30, 2013 and Discount Game Keys must be used to obtain discounted purchase of discount Game on or before December 31, 2012, after which the Game Keys and discount game keys are void, except that FARCRY 3 game keys are valid for a period of 1 year starting October 22, 2012 and will expire on October 22, 2013.

    For more details on the promotion head over to the AMD Never Settle Page or visit this link for the full terms and conditions.

    Apple Updates The iMac As It Becomes Super Thin

    We previously mentioned that Apple unveiled the iPad Mini today but that wasn't the only thing in Apple bag of goodies. Apple also revealed updated version of its Macbook Pro, now with retina display, and two super slim ultra-sleek iMac desktop computers.

    These brand new all-in-one machines feature an impressive looking display with an aluminum and glass enclosure that Apple has managed to trim down to 40 percent less volume than its predecessor. The edge measures a scant 5 mm thin thanks to something called “friction stir welding.” The display comes in two sizes: The 27-inch model has a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, and the 21.5-inch model has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. There’s a 178-degree viewing angle and over 300 nits of brightness (that’s really bright). It’s also fully laminated so it reduces reflection by 75 percent.

    For internals the new desktops will feature third generation quad-core Intel Core i5 processors that can be upgraded to Core i7. For graphics users will find options featuring the latest NVIDIA GeForce 600 graphics processors. Every new iMac comes standard with 8GB of 1600 MHz memory and a 1TB hard drive, and customers can choose to configure their iMac with up to 32GB of memory and a new 3TB hard drive, or 768GB of flash storage for ultimate performance. There is also the option of Apple's newly introduced Fusion drive that mixes 1TB or 3TB of normal storage and 128GB of flash. Fusion Drive adapts to the way you use your iMac and automatically moves the files and apps you use most often to flash storage to enable faster performance and quicker access.

    The new iMac gets rid of the optical drive, much like the latest Macbooks but adds two Thunderbolt ports as well as 4 USB 3.0 ports, a headphone port, SD card slot, Gigabit Ethernet port, and naturally, it comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse.

    Pricing & Availability
    The 21.5-inch iMac is available with a 2.7 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.2 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GT 640M for a suggested retail price of $1,299 (US); and with a 2.9 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.6 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M for a suggested retail price of $1,499 (US). The 21.5-inch iMac will be available in November through the Apple Online Store (, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

    The 27-inch iMac is available with a 2.9 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.6 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M for a suggested retail price of $1,799 (US); and with a 3.2 GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost speeds up to 3.6 GHz and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX for a suggested retail price of $1,999 (US). The 27-inch iMac will be available in December through the Apple Online Store (, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers.

    Source: Apple - Press Info All-New iMac Features Stunning Design, Brilliant Display & Faster Performance and for more details view the full video of the Apple event here.

    Apple Officially Unwraps The iPad Mini And A 4th Gen iPad

    During today's "a little more to show" event, Apple unveiled the long-rumored iPad mini along with a major surprise, a new fourth-generation standard model iPad. Today's release comes just six months after unveiling the third-generation iPad which marks a major step up for Apple's traditional release cycle.

    The iPad mini features a 7.9-inch Multi-Touch display with a 1024-by-768 resolution. It runs on Apple’s dual-core A5 chip which is the same chip that also runs not only the iPad 2 but also last year's iPhone 4S. It has a FaceTime HD front-facing camera and a 5 megapixel iSight camera on the back. It gets the same LTE capabilities as the fourth-generation iPad with LTE and faster Wi-Fi. For adapters it uses Apple's new Lightning connector.

    Apple says that, like the other iPads in the lineup, it still offers ten hours of battery life; the company boasts that the iPad mini uses the largest and thinnest battery Apple’s ever made.

    “iPad mini is every inch an iPad. With its gorgeous 7.9-inch display, iPad mini features the same number of pixels as the original iPad and iPad 2, so you can run more than 275,000 apps designed specifically for iPad,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “iPad mini is as thin as a pencil and as light as a pad of paper, yet packs a fast A5 chip, FaceTime HD and 5 megapixel iSight cameras and ultrafast wireless―all while delivering up to 10 hours of battery life.”

    The iPad mini will be available in a variety of configurations. The 16GB model will cost $329, the 32GB model will cost $429, and the 64GB model will cost $529. If you add in the option for cellular connectivity, those prices increase by $129. Pre-orders for the iPad mini will start on Friday, October 26. The Wi-Fi versions will ship starting on November 2, in many countries. Two weeks later, they’ll start to ship the iPads with cellular—first in the U.S., and then later around the world.

    The new fourth generation iPad features only minor upgrades. It has a 9.7-inch Retina display and includes a new Apple-designed A6X chip that Apple says delivers up to twice the CPU performance and up to twice the graphics performance of the A5X chip. Other new features include a FaceTime HD camera, twice the Wi-Fi performance when compared to previous iPad models and support for additional LTE carriers worldwide.

    Like the third-generation iPad, the fourth-generation iPad comes in black in white. It keeps the same pricing: The base 16GB model starts at $499, with 32GB at $599 and 64GB at $699. Cellular-ready models are available for $130 extra, at $529, $629, and $729 for 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB respectively.

    Source: Apple - Press Info - Apple Introduces iPad mini

    Thursday, October 18, 2012

    Move Over HD Here Comes 'Ultra HD'

    The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has voted to endorse a new industry naming scheme recommending the term “Ultra High-Definition or Ultra HD” as related to performance and attributes of so-called “4K” high-definition display technology for the home.

    The name and related minimum performance characteristics are designed to help consumers and retailers understand the attributes of this next generation of superior television and display technology beginning to roll out this fall. The vote came during the Board’s meeting at CEA’s annual CEO Summit and Board Retreat held here through Friday.

    “Ultra HD is the next natural step forward in display technologies, offering consumers an incredibly immersive viewing experience with outstanding new levels of picture quality,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO, CEA. “This new terminology and the recommended attributes will help consumers navigate the marketplace to find the TV that best meets their needs.”

    The group also defined the core characteristics of Ultra High-Definition TVs, monitors and projectors for the home. Minimum performance attributes include display resolution of at least eight million active pixels, with at least 3,840 horizontally and at least 2,160 vertically. Displays will have an aspect ratio with width to height of at least 16 X 9. To use the Ultra HD label, display products will require at least one digital input capable of carrying and presenting native 4K format video from this input at full 3,840 X 2,160 resolution without relying solely on up-converting.

    Consumers can expect a break out year in 2013 for devices with the new standard with Ultra HD technology expected to be prominently displayed at the upcoming 2013 International CES which will be held January 8-11, 2013, in Las Vegas.

    Apple Update Removes Java From All OS X Browsers

    A recently released update to Mac OS X has been found to completely remove all installed Java plugins from all Mac-compatible Web browsers.

    Apple is taking a proactive approach when it comes to security vulnerabilities generated by third party software. When recent security vulnerabilities plagued Oracle's Java software framework the company issued an update that turns off Java in the browser when it shows that users hadn't shown recent use of the software. With a Mac OS X update released on Wednesday the company appears to be taking things one step further as the new updates appears to completely remove not just Oracle's Java plugin but Apple's own plug-in for Java.

    "This release updates the Apple-provided system Java SE 6 to version 1.6.0_37 and is for OS X versions 10.7 or later. This update uninstalls the Apple-provided Java applet plug-in from all web browsers," Apple's Java for OS X 2012-006 advisory says. "To use applets on a web page, click on the region labeled "Missing plug-in" to go download the latest version of the Java applet plug-in from Oracle."

    For users who install the update but still visit Java enable pages you will find a browser placeholder when you encounter Web-based content that requires the software. If you want to run Java applets in your browser on Mac OS X you will be prompted to install the official Oracle Java runtime to run alongside Apple's own software on your system. This of course isn't needed, and isn't really recommend for users that don't need or want Java. But it will mean an added step and an added application that users will need to stay updated on down the line.

    Moving away from Java really isn't a major issue. Most of the top websites use JavaScript, not Java. And for sites that do use Java, there's generally an alternative for another service. Very few sites rely solely on the software framework these days.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2012

    Target Follows Suit Will Price Match Online Retailers During Holidays

    Not to be outdone by other retailers, Target has announced that for the first time ever it plans to price match selective online retailers during the holiday shopping period between November 1 and December 16.

    Following the lead set by Best Buy’s own announcement, this holiday season Target will allow price matching of several online retailers including,,, and As with many brick and mortar retailers Target has been reluctant to price match online deals. Typically only price matching deals that can be purchased at local competitors. But now pressure from online retailers and a likely drop in in-store business has forced the company to rethink its policies.

    Much like Best Buy's new policy Target's isn't a open match free for all. The policy does have a couple stipulations when it comes to price matching Amazon. Target will not honor the price of a third-party retailer that lists their products on Amazon. In addition, anyone that wants to price match a specific item will have to visit the guest services area to obtain the same price for an Amazon product, they will then need to verify and accept or decline the price match.

    Target Corp.'s CEO Gregg Steinhafel made the announcement to about 80 reporters at a company media conference Tuesday. "We're proud of our prices," Steinhafel told the audience. "We believe this plays into our strength. But we also wanted to ensure our (customers) that they can shop with confidence."

    In addition to the new prce match policy Target has added a few new features to draw customers and their holiday cash. For the first time this year, Target's shoppers can shop from television spots, bus shelter ads and catalog pages by using their mobile phones to send a text or scan a QR codes. For Apple users the company has also launched a Passbook application that allows you to save and store mobile coupons.

    Marketing featuring the new scan-able QR codes will begin Nov. 7 and last through the holiday season.

    Source: Bloomberg

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Apple Finds Its Way Into The Presidential Debate

    During tonight's presidential debate between President Barrack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney the question was raised about how each planed to return manufacturing jobs to American in particular when it related the manufacturing of such American-designed devices as the the "iPhone, Mac, and iPad" which despite being designed by Apple are currently assembled in China

    Romney, who replied first, stuck to his tough line approach on China, suggesting that his presidency would be more aggressive about currency manipulation by the Chinese government that he said helped their exports to the detriment of the United States. Romney also mentioned the sale of counterfeit Apple products in China, talked about the threat of hacking from China, and may have been referencing Apple's patent battles with Chinese companies when he said China had been "stealing our intellectual property; our designs, our patents, our technology." Romney finished his response with a pledge to make the U.S. more attractive to entrepreneurs.

    MacMall Best Sellers
    Obama addressed the question far more directly, saying bluntly that "there are some jobs that are not going to come back," specifically low-wage, low-skill jobs like those seen in the factory work in China. The president stressed the need to invest in advanced manufacturing and "to make sure that we've got the best science and research in the world" to equip American workers, not for jobs on iPhone assembly lines, but for higher paying work.

    The debate over outsourcing jobs and China and has been a hot topic one. This however is the first time we've heard direct reference to a major player like Apple. Despite being the world's largest company by market cap, and one of America's most successful companies, Apple employes relatively few workers (other than retail jobs) in America and almost none in manufacturing. Instead opting to outsource almost all of those jobs to Asia.

    Over the course of the last few years Apple has come under fire for many of its practices related to American workers as well as its tax practices. Earlier this year Apple had to answer to legal tax dodging questions a case in which the company used legal loopholes to dodge billions of dollars in taxes in several countries including United States.

    In more recent cases related to the outsourcing of work Apple and their manufacturing partner Foxconn found themselves in the sport light and under public scrutiny when a series of well-publicised suicides in 2010 and reports of labor abuses, such as excessive overtime, threw a spotlight on conditions inside the plants. Even more recently Foxconn acknowledged hiring teenagers as young as 14 in a Chinese factory, in breach of national law. Surprising none of these issue made their way into either candidates responses.

    As a side note, Lenovo, which just happens to be China's largest PC maker, said last week that it will assemble tablets, laptops, and desktops in an existing facility outside of Greensboro [in North Carolina]. So, obviously creating high-tech-device product-assembly jobs in the U.S. is not nearly as impossible are as hard as president Obama would have us believe.

    How To: Dual Boot Windows 8 With Windows 7 or Windows XP

    With the official release of Windows 8 just a few days away I figured I'd give readers a quick easy how-to for setting up a dual boot between Windows 8 and either Windows 7 or Windows XP. This guide will give you a chance to see how easy (or difficult) it might be to setup both operating systems on your machine, and hopefully give you an idea of what to expect before potentially upgrading.

    I'm assuming your PC is already running fine and is either currently running Windows 7 or Windows XP. If its not and you are going to do fresh installs of either operating system then the procedure is a but easier. Just note that if you are planning to re-install or do fresh installs of the two OS's you want to dual boot you need to install the older operating system first.

    Step 1: Back-up, Back-up, Back-up!

    You should already have a back-up plan or option in place. If you don't now is a good time to get one started. Setting up a dual-boot or even upgrading an installation generally isn't that risky but problems can occur and from time to time mistakes can be made. I strongly suggest backing-up anything important on your current install.

    Step 2: Creating a new partition for Windows 8

    Anytime you install a secondary operating system you'll need either a second partition on your hard drive or even better a secondary drive. If you don't have two hard drives or two partitions that is fine. We'll just need to create one so you'll need to make sure you have plenty of empty space on your hard drive. If you don't then you'll need to clean-up some space.

    To create a new partition you may need to use third-party tools such as the Partition Wizard or GParted, both are free tools and fairly easy to use. They will allow you to set aside some of the current free space on your drive for the new partition. This will in turn become your Windows 8 partition.

    A partition with a minimum 20GBs free space is the bare minimum according to the Windows 8 system requirements. Personally I'd start with no less than 40GBs because you'll want plenty of space for applications. If you are a heavy application user you might even want significantly more

    If you already have an existing secondary partition or drive you can format that and use it as well. Simply open My Computer, right-click on the drive that you want to format and select Format option to open Drive Properties. Here, select File System as NTFS and then click Format button to quickly format the drive.

    If you plan on doing a fresh install of Windows 7 or Windows XP you can also simply format your existing drive (after moving and backing up your data) and setting up two partitions right from the start.

    Step 3: Installing Windows 8

    Assuming you have your secondary partition created and your older version of Windows is already installed its time to install Windows 8. For this you'll need your boot-able install media. This can either be your DVD or USB drive depending on how you purchased it through Microsoft.

    To get started you are going to have to make a few changes to the computer's bios settings. Insert your Windows 8 DVD into the optical drive or connect Windows 8 USB drive to your PC. Reboot the computer and enter the bios. Entering the bios is a bit different on each computer so check your manual for instructions. Usually you'll press one of the 'F' keys or delete. You'll need to look for the boot options and set it to boot from USB or DVD (depending on your needs). After making the necessary changes to the BIOS and selecting "save" your PC should restart. If you have connected a bootable USB, the setup should begin automatically. And if you have used a bootable DVD, you may need to press any key when you see Press any key to continue message.

    Once the installation steps begin you should see a license agreement followed by an options screen. Be sure to choose Custom, not Upgrade. Next you'll see a list of available partitions; click Drive options (advanced), then select the unallocated space you created earlier. This is very important: Make sure you are selecting the empty space and not the partition or drive with information on it. The partition you want should display the full amount of available space, in which case go ahead and click Apply.

    Follow the standard Windows 8 installation procedures. If you've ever installed an operating system then is fairly familiar and there shouldn't be any surprises. The entire install should take about 20 minutes, after which your system will boot Windows 8 and run you through the usual initial-setup stuff. (You might have to remove your flash drive or DVD so the installer doesn't try to run again. It did on my system.)

    Step 4: Verifying your installation

    Once installation of Windows 8 is complete reboot your PC and make sure that you get Earlier version of Windows option in the boot menu. Windows 7 users should see two options, one listed as Windows 8 and one as Windows 7. For Windows XP users you should see the option listed as "Earlier version of Windows". If you can’t see your Windows XP entry (Earlier version of Windows entry) in the boot menu, follow the next steps in step 5 to add Windows XP entry to the boot loader.

    From now on, when you boot your PC you'll see a start-up menu that gives you a choice between your other version of Windows and Windows 8 -- and it'll proceed with booting the latter by default. If you want Windows 7 or Windows XP to remain the go-to operating system, click Change defaults or choose other options while this menu is visible, then click Choose the default operating system.

    Step 5: For XP users only - adding Windows XP to the boot menu

    Reboot your PC and boot into Windows 8. Open Run dialog box, type sysdm.cpl and hit the enter key to open System Properties dialog. Switch to Advanced tab, and click Settings button under Startup and Recovery section. Here, select Earlier version of Windows as default operating system. Click Ok and then Apply button. Reboot your PC and you should have successfully added Windows XP boot entry to the boot loader. Reboot your see Earlier version of Windows (Windows XP) entry in the boot menu. If you are still having issues seeing the option to boot to Windows XP you might need to try the Start-up repair tool or boot recovery options. For this you'll need to boot to your Windows 8 media and select repair.

    Final thoughts:

    I've ran dual-boot setups for years, primarily for testing new operating systems before completely upgrading. If you are simply testing Windows 8 (or another OS) I strongly suggest using separate hard drives and instead of running a traditional dual-boot setup disabling the second drive while installing the second operating system. This won't give you the option at start-up but it will make life easier if you decide not to keep the newer operating system. If you plan on keeping Windows 8 for the long haul then following the procedure about will work fine.

    These instructions will also work for testing the Windows 8 Release Preview, which I suggest doing before you plop down some cash on the new OS. I've tested Windows 8 and it has some new features that I liked, but it has a lot more than I didn't.

    Apple Event Invite Hints At iPad Mini

    There has been much speculation and rumors about what Apple might be unveiling during their previously rumored Oct 23rd event. However, following the issuance of event invites today it appears as though it might be all but confirmed that Apple will be presenting the iPad Mini. Or we could be way off base and Apple who is well known for secrecy might have something else altogether up their sleeve. Either way in true Apple fashion it is likely that we'll see more than one device introduced. So consumers should also expect news on something like a refresh to the Mac Mini lineup or even a Retina Macbook Pro or perhaps even something else entirely new and different, sometimes with Apple you just don't know.

    The invitation (seen below) simply states that Apple has “a little more to show” which could be a major play on words, or it could be signaling that the event is all about updating and showing off their little or mini devices.

    For those following along with the iPad Mini rumors the device is said to be a e 7.85″ iOS device. It has been speculated that it will go on November 2nd starting at $249 and offer the same incremental price and feature options as the iPhone and iPad. Apple Insider speculates that Apple is plotting two dozen iPad configurations, with expectations that the $250 model will feature a mere 8GBs of storage and come in either black or white.

    Microsoft Unveils Surface Tablet Pricing $499 For The Base Model

    Microsoft has officially announced pricing and availability of their much anticipated Surface Tablet and the pricing might just be what the doctor ordered to get Microsoft into the tablet game.

    The Microsoft Surface with Windows RT will initially be available in three SKUs: a 32GB version priced at US$499, a 32GB version bundled with a black Touch Cover priced at US$599 and a 64GB version bundled with a black Touch Cover priced at US$699. Standalone Touch Covers in black, white, magenta, cyan, and red will retail for $119.99. Type Covers—a clicky keyboard with actual key switches—will come in black only, and cost $129.99.

    Sadly today's announcement did not contain information or details about the Windows 8 version of Microsoft's Surface Tablets, which personally I think more consumers will be drawn too. Windows 8 is slated to launch on October 26 and Microsoft has already confirmed a Windows 8 Pro is expected to launch after the Windows RT version.

    Surface With Windows RT Specifications

    • Software - Surface with Windows RT comes with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview (2) (which includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote)
    • Exterior - 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37 inches, 1.5 pounds, VaporMg casing, dark titanium color, volume and power buttons
    • Storage - 32 GB (3); 64 GB
    • CPU - NVIDIA T30, 2 GB of RAM
    • Wireless - Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0 technology
    • Cameras - Two 720p HD cameras, front- and rear-facing
    • Audio - Two microphones, stereo speakers
    • Ports - Full-size USB 2.0, microSDXC card slot, headset jack, HD video out port, cover port
    • Sensors - Ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass
    • Power Supply - 24W power supply
    • Warranty - One-year limited hardware warranty
    • Apps (included) - Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 RT Preview (2) (Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote), Windows Mail and Windows Messaging, SkyDrive, Windows Internet Explorer 10, Bing, Xbox Music, Xbox Video, and Xbox Gam

    Microsoft has said a special limited-quantity will be available for pre-order and they would be available starting at 9 a.m. PDT. Those who want to learn more or pre-order can visit Surface will be available for purchase beginning Oct. 26, 2012, at all Microsoft Store locations in the United States and Canada, including in all 34 new holiday stores. In addition, Surface will be available for sale online in eight markets across the world: Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. See for more details.

    Source: Microsoft Announces New Surface Details

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

    Best Buy Plans To Price Match Match Online Retailers And Offer Free Shipping

    Looking to regain some of their in-store business Best Buy has announced plans to price match any online retailers’ lower prices as well as offering free in-home delivery of any products purchased in-store that aren't currently in-stock.

    Price-matching is effective immediately but only runs through Dec. 24 and doesn’t apply during Thanksgiving week or on Cyber Monday. Best Buy also said in their statement that it’s “giving our front line employees the opportunity to match a competitor’s price when it makes sense.” In other words, if you find one of those crazy ridiculous deals like a $10 PlayStation 3, Best Buy most likely isn’t going to match it. In general though, the company’s new plans gives the guys and gals in blue shirts fairly wide discretion to give customers discounts that get them to the checkout counter.

    Best Buy customers were already offered a price-matching guarantee in plan, however in the past the company was reluctant to price match online sales from even other brick and mortar locations let alone e-tailers. This new plan is directly aimed at competing against online retailers such as Newegg and Amazon.

    As more customers have moved their shopping online Best Buy has had to rethink many of their in-store policies. The changes to the price match policy is just the latest move by the company to get consumers back into their stores. A few years ago the company dropped their restocking fees so that customers no longer had to worry about loosing money on their returns. Earlier this year they extended their Perfect Match Promise a program which provides customers with 30-day price matching, free support, and returns.

    More details on the retailer's price match policy for local competitors can be seen at website.

    Source: Wall Street Journal

    Thursday, October 11, 2012

    Google Gives Street View Its "Biggest Update Ever"

    Google announced today that the company has given Street View what it is dubbing the service's "biggest update ever"more than doubling the number of special collections coverage and broadening the service in 11 countries, including the U.S., Sweden, the U.K., Italy and Singapore, and special collections have been launched for South Africa, Japan, Spain, France, Brazil, Mexico and other countries. In all Google has updated over 250,000 miles of roads around the world.

    With today's update you can now use Google Maps to explore more new featured attractions and new places around the globe, including parks, city centers, castles and tourist attractions like Catherine Palace and Ferapontov monastery in Russia, the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall in Taiwan, or Stanley Park in Vancouver. You can even walk through the urban jungle of Singapore's Fort Canning Park.

    With the addition of the new locations Google has amassed an amazing gallery of Street View Collections. You can now travel through Antarctica, dive the ocean, ski down some of your favorite ski slopes and even grab a birds eye view of your favorite theme parks or universities.

    Wednesday, October 10, 2012

    eBay Rolls Out New Features And Design

    Auction giant eBay has completed its new design which includes an interesting new logo, new customizations and a few new features. eBay introduced some the new features via a "Welcome To The New eBay" page which not only shows off some of the new design features but also offers up an explanation of what changes will be made and why the company has decided to make such dramatic wide sweeping changes.

    "We're delivering a cleaner, contemporary look and feel; a more intuitive, convenient way to browse, decide and buy -- both globally and locally; and a new personal way to curate your own shopping experience and discover items perfect for you," eBay President Devin Wenig said.

    According to the New eBay page the changes were made in hopes to simplify the site design to offer more streamlined navigation along with larger images and key product information, enabling customers to find what they want more quickly and easily. Alongside these changes is the additional of a new feature called eBay Feed. This new home page looks and acts a lot like a Pinterest page, creating windowed style view of images taken from your shopping favorites. This new feature is available for opt-in in the U.S. here.

    In addition to the site redesign eBay launched a new app, eBay Now, for same-day delivery service. The service is currently only being tested in San Francisco but eBay promises more cities will follow. Shoppers can order items from a variety of retailers -- Finish Line, GNC, Home Depot, Macy's, Office Depot, RadioShack, Target, Toys R Us, and Walgreens -- and get them delivered to their door, usually within an hour.

    My thoughts:

    As a long time eBay user I have to say seeing some of these changes leaves me longing for the good old days. They call this simplified, yet I found the old eBay much easier to navigate and much easier on the eyes. I hope this new Pinterest style page with tiles is going to be opt-in only. Because I can't stand the cluttered design. eBay is also promising more integration with Pay-Pal. I'm not certain how much more integrated they can get! 

    All I can really say is I hope they leave the options available to allow some of us more traditional users to customize our experience to a more minimalistic view. Something that leaves all this media-centric web 2.0 clutter behind.

    Tuesday, October 09, 2012

    Valve Looking For Seattle Area Gamers For Beta Testing Of Software and Hardware

    Valve is currently looking for potential beta testers of unreleased software and hardware in the Seattle/Bellvue area. The popular gaming developer recently announced on the Steam forums that it's currently looking for candidates to playtest both unreleased software and hardware prototypes.

    Currently the testing will be limited to participants that are localized to the Seattle/Bellevue area as testers will need to be able to drop by Valve's office and give the beta products a thorough testing. Gamers in other areas don't worry, Valve said it will eventually open up testing to gamers nationwide, eventually even offering international support.

    Via the Steam forums:
    Valve Playtester Survey
    We're looking for folks to come to Valve and playtest both released and unreleased versions of our games as well as play around with some of our hardware prototypes. If you have interest in stopping by (most sessions last around an hour), please fill out the survey below. We're looking for people local to the Seattle/Bellevue area, but you're welcome to fill out the survey no matter where you live as we may have plans for remote playtests in the future.

    Thanks for your interest in helping us make better products!

    Click here to take the Playtester survey

    The survey, linked above, asks only general questions. Things like your gaming background including favorite video game, the average difficulty setting, the number of systems and games actually owned, and so on. Valve also wants to know if candidates actually like first-party titles like Half-Life, Counter-Strike and Left 4 Dead, and what title(s) they have actually purchased and played.

    NVIDIA launches GeForce 650 Ti With $150 Assassins Creed 3 Bundle

    NVIDIA has announced the new GeForce 650 Ti, a beefier version of the company's GTX 650 with extra Cuda cores and up to 40 percent more performance than the regular 650. That new card will fill the gap between the $229 GeForce GTX 660 and $109 GTX 650 cards and run $149 (estimated), with a free copy of Assassin Creed III.

    The Assassin's Creed 3 bundle offering won't be offered with every version of the GTX 650 Ti, so you need to check that the card you're buying includes a download coupon for the game. A quick check on Newegg showed versions of the GTX 650 Ti from Asus, EVGA, Gigabyte, MSI, and Zotac all included the Assassin's Creed 3 bundle. Prices on Newegg started at $155.

    GeForce GTX 650 Ti Specifications

    Specifications GeForce GTX 660 Ti GeForce GTX 660 GeForce GTX 650 Ti GeForce GTX 650
    CUDA Cores1344960768384
    Base Clock915 MHz980 MHz925 MHz1058 MHz
    Boost Clock980 MHz1033 MHzN/AN/A
    Memory Configuration2 GB2 GB1 GB1 GB
    Memory Speed6.0 Gbps6.0 Gbps5.4 Gbps5.0 Gbps
    Memory Bandwidth144 GB/s144 GB/s86 GB/s80 GB/s
    Power Connectors2 x 6-pin6-pin6-pin6-pin
    Price$299 $229 $149 (estimated)$109

    GeForce GTX 650 Ti Benchmarks and Reviews

    Related articles:

    Malicious Links Targeting Skype Users

    Skype users be warned a new piece of malware has been detected that specifically targets you! A new piece of malicious software has been using Skype to send malicious instant messages. These message appear to come from users in your own contact list, however they contain malicious links that download a Trojan horse virus onto your machine.

    The virus, which was first reported on Friday by GFI Labs, takes advantage of the Skype API to spam out messages that appear to come from a user in your contact list. These message similar to the one below instead send you a link that contains software for download:
    lol is this your new profile pic?[REDACTED]?img=[USERNAME]
    Clicking on the suspicious links leads to the download of a ZIP files (variously called or that contains executable files detected by anti-virus products as Troj/Agent-YCW, Troj/Agent-YDC, TROJ_DLOADER.IF or Trojan.Win32.Generic!BT. The Trojan horse opens a backdoor, allowing a remote hacker to take control of infected PCs, communicating with a remote server via HTTP.

    The virus which is known as the Dorkbot worm (WORM_DORKBOT.IF or WORM_DORKBOT.DN) is previously known for targeting users of Twitter and Facebook. Once installed the virus uses its host computer to engage in click fraud leading an infected users computer to other malicious sites and eventually installing further ransomware that locks the user out of the machine. Once installed the ransomware displays screens saying that they user's data will be deleted unless a $200 "fine" is paid in the next 48 hours.

    Skype officials have said they are "working quickly to mitigate" the attack. They also advise users to ensure they're running the most up-to-date version of the Skype client.

    "Skype takes the user experience very seriously, particularly when it comes to security. We are aware of this malicious activity and are working quickly to mitigate its impact. We strongly recommend upgrading to the newest Skype version and applying updated security features on your computer. Additionally, following links – even when from your contacts – that look strange or are unexpected is not advisable.

    Friday, October 05, 2012

    Remembering Steve Jobs

    A year ago today the tech world lost one of its own when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away. Today Apple dedicated the front page if its website with a video montage and a letter from CEO Tim Cook which features a few words in remembrance of Jobs.

    "Steve's passing one year ago today was a sad and difficult time for all of us," said Cook in the letter. "I hope that today everyone will reflect on his extraordinary life and the many ways he made the world a better place."

    short video clip features a slideshow of Jobs photos, from the early days of Apple in the 70s to more recent shots of the iconic CEO at his company's much-hyped press events. As the photos flash by, Jobs can be heard in a voice-over discussing some of his favorite philosophies and introducing some of Apple's most popular products.

    For this having trouble viewing the video I embedded it below. It seems Firefox doesn't want to display it properly. You can also connect directly to the video via this link

    Thursday, October 04, 2012

    Acer Sets The Bar With The New Iconia W700 Windows 8 Tablet

    As the release date for Microsoft's newest iteration of Windows draws near, more and more leaked information about possible Windows 8 based tablets and their pricing has cropped up. Much of it to the dismay of the general public.

    Most companies have shown target price ranges of nearly $800 for the tablet alone, with the additional costs for docking stations or keyboards pushing the pricing for the device to well over $1000, and this is for the basic entry level models with lower end Intel Atom based CPUs.

    Acer might just have raised the stakes a bit. Today the company formally announced its new Acer Iconia W700 Windows 8 tablet, which will ship with a cradle and keyboard included at a mere $800. This isn't just an entry level Atom based device either. The Iconia W700 will feature an Intel Core i3 CPU, 4GBs of RAM and an 64GB SSD. For those willing to spend a bit more and want a bit more horsepower there will also be an option for for an Intel Core i5 or the addition of extra storage with a 128GB SSD.

    The W700 has a rather impressive 11.6-inch touchscreen IPS display boasting a Full HD 1080p (1920x1080) resolution. It will feature a front facing 1-megapixel camera capable of shooting 720p video and a rear 5-megapixel camera capable of 1080p video. The Iconia W700 it measures less than half an inch thick and weighs only 2.3 pounds. Acer says it provides up to eight hours of battery life.

    The tablets include one USB 3.0 port, a Micro HDMI port, a microSD card slot, and a headphone jack while the included cradle adds and additional three USB 3.0 ports. You will also get a slim-lined Bluetooth keyboard along with an HDMI-to-VGA dongle for those wanting to use their tablets with a larger screen.

    The Acer Iconia W700 will be available on Oct. 26 at leading retailers across the U.S. in several configurations. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices range from $799.99 to $999.99.

    While pricing seems a bit on the high side in comparison to other equally equipped tablets or even similarly spec'd Ultrabooks the price for the Iconia W700 isn't nearly as bad as it sounds. An iPad or Android tablet with 64GBs of storage space and a keyboard would be fairly comparable.

    Update: Here’s a quick breakdown of the three W700 models and what they offer:
    Acer Iconia W700-6691
    • Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz Processor w/Turbo Boost up to 2.6 GHz
    • 11.6″ 1920 x 1080 resolution LED backlit TFT LCD display w/ 10-point multi-touch screen
    • 4GB of DDR3 RAM
    • Intel HD Graphics 4000 w/128MB RAM
    • 64GB SSD
    • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
    • 5MP, 1080p rear-facing camera
    • 1280×1024, 720p front-facing camera
    • 1 USB 3.0, 1 Micro-HDMI, 1 3.5mm headphone/mic jack
    • Up to 9 hours battery life
    • 17″ (L) x 3.28″ (W) x 9.25″ (H), 2.09 lbs
    Acer Iconia W700-6465
    • Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz Processor w/Turbo Boost up to 2.6 GHz
    • 11.6″ 1920 x 1080 resolution LED backlit TFT LCD display w/ 10-point multi-touch screen
    • 4GB of DDR3 RAM
    • Intel HD Graphics 4000 w/128MB RAM
    • 128GB SSD
    • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
    • 5MP, 1080p rear-facing camera
    • 1280×1024, 720p front-facing camera
    • 1 USB 3.0, 1 Micro-HDMI, 1 3.5mm headphone/mic jack
    • Up to 9 hours battery life
    • 17″ (L) x 3.28″ (W) x 9.25″ (H), 2.09 lbs
    Acer Iconia W700-6607
    • Intel Core i3-3317U 1.8GHz Processor
    • 11.6″ 1920 x 1080 resolution LED backlit TFT LCD display w/ 10-point multi-touch screen
    • 4GB of DDR3 RAM
    • Intel HD Graphics 4000 w/128MB RAM
    • 64GB SSD
    • 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.0
    • 5MP, 1080p rear-facing camera
    • 1280×1024, 720p front-facing camera
    • 1 USB 3.0, 1 Micro-HDMI, 1 3.5mm headphone/mic jack
    • Up to 9 hours battery life
    • 17″ (L) x 3.28″ (W) x 9.25″ (H), 2.09 lbs

    Wednesday, October 03, 2012

    Where To Watch The Presidential Debates Online

    Tonight marks the kick off the 2012 presidential debates with President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney engaging in an 1.5-hour discussion to be held from 9-10:30 p.m. EST at the University of Denver in Colorado. For those who can't catch the debates on TV, or like me like to stay glued to the computer so we can engage in our own debates on Twitter or chat with friends on Facebook there are plenty of Internet-based options so you won't have to miss a single sound bite.


    Google's media service will be live-streaming the presidential and vice presidential debates for the first time via its Elections Hub, as well as on the ABC News YouTube channel. The YouTube Election hub will also include commentary and analysis from media partners like ABC News, Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed, Larry King, The New York Times, Phil DeFranco, Univision, and the Wall Street Journal. Univision will offer a version of the debates translated into Spanish, live, and all coverage will be archived to


    Ustream will livestream the debate via PBS NewsHour and CBS News. For those of you that might be looking for something a bit different, various Ustream channels will offer other options, including coverage of protests outside the debate halls, commentary from "Show Interrupted's" Hooter Girls, a drinking debate livestream and other debate panels.

    Comcast Xfinity Customers

    The cable company has launched Election Central for Xfinity TV, which will provide 24/7 live-breaking news, event coverage, speeches and both the presidential and vice presidential debates, as well as on-demand campaign-related videos. Customers can stream CNN's debate coverage live online at and through the CNN app. All the debates will also be available the next day via Xfinity On Demand,, and the Xfinity TV apps.

    Microsoft/Xbox Live

    Microsoft is inviting Xbox Live subscribers to watch the debates live via the game console and participate in interactive polls about the candidates' responses and views. Xbox live users can submit poll questions on Twitter by using the hashtag #XboxPoll.


    C-SPAN is building an online "debate hub," similar to the hubs it provided for convention coverage.
    C-SPAN's hub will feature livestreams, separated clips of each question and answer, behind-the-scenes footage and social engagement on the #cspan2012 Twitter hashtag.


    NPR will livestream each debate -- including analysis and fact-checking liveblogs --online and on its mobile apps.


    Twitter fans, while the site won't be live streaming any of the debate they have setup a page to help us cut through some of the clutter for this years debate with the Twitter hastage #Debates page The page features some tweets with insider perspective from journalists, politicians and other well know public figures.

    Facebook Wants You To Pay To Promote Your Own Posts

    To some it may seem a bit narcissistic to want to force your friends to read all of your social media updates. However to Facebook its a new money making opportunity. Today the social media giant announced that it is turning on its "promoted posts" feature for U.S. users. The new, which has been in testing overseas, allows users pay to highlight their own posts on their friends' news feeds.

    So how does Facebook Promoted Posts Work?

    Lets say you have something important to get out there like a birthday party, anniversary , engagement announcement or whatever you feel is important for all your Facebook friends to see. With the Facebook Promoted Posts feature you would pay Facebook a small fee of $7 for each post you want to highlight. These posts would then stay near the top of your friends' and subscribers' news feeds for a longer period of time than a traditional post so they would be much more likely to see it.

    "Every day, news feed delivers your posts to your friends," Doshi wrote. "Sometimes a particular friend might not notice your post, especially if a lot of their friends have been posting recently and your story isn't near the top of their feed. When you promote a post – whether it’s wedding photos, a garage sale, or big news – you bump it higher in news feed so your friends and subscribers are more likely to notice it."

    Once you promote a post, it will be marked "Sponsored" and Facebook will provide you with tracking features so you'll have a general idea of how many more views your posts has gotten. the new service might be a great way to spread the word about upcoming events or it might just be a new way to annoy your friends. Either way the posts might look a bit like ads or spam so if you use the service expect a bit of feedback from your friends.