Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bad software will kill you

Now here's a truly ugly idea: create a mobile face-recognition tool for soldiers designed to help them decide who's worth shooting in a crowd. There's a creepy logic to the idea; after all, decision support is nothing new, and I can see how you might think that if you see the same face at more than one protest march or demonstration, they may be more likely to be "opposition players." Still, the idea that software could come to take over the process of deciding to take a life is very scary. Think of the average soldier overseas right now; odds are he/she is in the 18- to 25- year old range, scared, and quite willing to pull the trigger to save their skin (understandably). Now you've gone and given that soldier an easy out. "It wasn't my idea to take him out, Sarge, the software gave me 90% probability he was al-Qaeda..."

See the Engadget story below:

http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/27/face-recognition-system-identifies-terrorists-so-soldiers-dont/

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Forget dual-core; try 80 cores !!!

Not content with releasing the exquisitely thermo-efficient core 2 Duo and torturing us mortal users with tantalizing glimpses of upcoming quad-core chips, Intel has come out and announced that they have successfully created a prototype 80-core chip, which can process 1 trillion floating-point operations per second.

Aack! I wonder how much power that sucker draws...

The story can be found at:

http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/26/intel-developers-forum-roundup-four-cores-now-80-cores-later/

Sony's ebook to ship by Halloween


(image from http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/26/sony-reader-prs-500-hands-on-connect-reader-screenshots/)

OK, so it has an amazing screen, it's lightweight and the battery life is spectacular. Sony's new PRS-500 ebook reader, which will ship by October 31st, will cost USD $349 and supports only the proprietary BBeB file format, PDF, TXT and Doc files. Sony's online store, (http://ebooks.connect.com/) currently sports some 10,000 books from six publishers.

Not impressed.

What I'd like to see is a high-viz e-ink reader that supports ereader.com's excellent .PDB format! (http://www.ereader.com)

If it ships on Halloween, Dracula's favorite day of the year, does that mean somehow it's gonna suck?

Multiple OS's at the same time - for a price



In the never-ending battle to create ever-smaller, pricier ultra-portable platforms, Black Diamond Technology have just announced their new SwitchBack rugged UMPC. The specs aren't that interesting right now (Celeron-based, with a 40GB hard drive), the device will soon be able to simultaneously run XP, Linux, Windows CE and Windows Mobile. Price hasn't been announced - and therefore in the nosebleed range, since the 3-pound device seems to be destined primarily for military applications.

The Engadget post can be found here:

http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/26/switchback-ruggedized-umpc-can-rock-multiple-oses-simultaneously/

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Leaked photos of upcoming LG minitablet.



What you're looking at are some spy photos taken through a cell phone by "Talon 88," and apparently showcase an ultra-portable LG tablet with a 10-inch screen. Also, as the next photo shows, the device will feature similar "integrated-SIM" features to the equally unreleased Fujitsu p1610 - see earlier post on this blog.



Full series can be found here:

http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=79031

Encode DIVx 10 to 30 times faster?

It seems that ATI is threatening to unleash a whole new class of acronym soup on the world - stream processing and GPGPU. In a nutshell: what if you could "steal" some of the intense processing power locked in your $600 video card to speed up your computing tasks?

Check out the plain English explanation on Engadget here:

http://www.engadget.com/2006/09/21/ati-to-announce-stream-computing-on-september-29/

Much more detail here:
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/19/ati_gpgpu/print.html

Looks like it's a going to take a while to get out, and the coding issues aren't trivial. Still, a "Firestream" videocard might be just what you need to accessorize that 8-core CPU...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Fujitsu to upgrade its ultra-portable Tablet

















The Fujitsu P1510 is an extraordinarily nifty little convertible tablet, weighing in at about two pounds. Depressingly, at the time of its release, there was no room for a PCMCIA card, and the touchscreen digitizer was famously prone to registration errors. As I write this, Fujitsu is poised to release a major upgrade, to be called the P1610. See
http://fabiandietrich.wordpress.com/2006/09/13/fujitsu-p1610
or
http://jkontherun.blogs.com/jkontherun/2006/09/hugo_fondles_th.html

Both of the above credit Hugo Ortega, Australia's tablet evangelist, for a first glimpse of the new device in a YouTube video. Unfortunately, it looks as though someone has pressured Hugo into removing the video. When you click on the YouTube link, you get a message saying it is a private video. I suspect Fujitsu wants to sell out its inventory of P1510's before rolling out the upgraded version...

Hugo's blog can be found at:
http://ubertablet.blogspot.com/

Hey! Who killed the Pocket PC?

Somehow, over the past year and a half or so, the most high-powered Pocket PC PDA's have disappeared. Say goodbye to the good iPaq's (eg the hx4700), the Toshiba e800 and others. Everywhere you look, you see Smartphones and the like, a delightful move that reduces options for most consumers since mobile phones are often a corporate purchase and most of us don't get to pick the device our employer assigns to us. Meanwhile, so-called "consumer" PDA's are overpriced, fragile, and light on features and specs. If you're looking for the kind of mobile productivity a good Pocket PC provided, you almost have to go with a UMPC - which costs twice the price and has half the battery life. Sure, you can argue that UMPC's deliver more functionality, have fat hard drives, etc. All true, but the darn things are huge! It's probably just sour grapes on my part, but I miss the Pocket PC.

Why Tablet PC Will Disappear

Are Tablet PC's a good thing?
Much has been written about the disappointing sales of Tablet PC's - the fact that "only" 5 million units were sold last year is seen as somehow uncommercial in comparison to the number of traditional laptops sold. Somehow, tablets have garnered the image of an obscure, specialized technology that only appeals to doctors or engineers. Further, the stellar Wacom digitizer technology used in most tablets adds a significant price premium. In Canada, you can get a bargain-basement laptop for $1,000-1200, while modestly equipped convertible tablets go for about $1500. What you get for this money is, bar none, the best application of computer technology I've ever seen, and I've been around for a while. The current version of the Tablet PC OS provides flawless stability, while the digitizer provides flexible and speedy input whenever you want. So far, Tablet PC is a good thing.

Why aren't tablets selling better?
You just don't see too many tablets in retail outlets. Regardless of marketing efforts by Microsoft and the OEM's, there's been no easy way to get your hands on a tablet and actually try it out. In my case, it took a $3000 act of faith - I purchased a Fujitsu Stylistic slate tablet over the phone. Of course, I did a great deal of research ahead of time - I wasn't disappointed. In addition, I followed the golden rule and waited for the second generation of the OS before making my move. No consumer should ever be expected to operate this way - it jusn't doesn't make sense for most people to operate this way.

Windows Vista - the kiss of death for Tablet PC (it's a good thing)
Microsoft has confirmed that several versions will integrate tablet features directly into the OS. OEM's will therefore be free to implement whatever digitizing solution they see fit - from Wacom to Finepoint or much cheaper touchscreens. As the cost of tablet components declines, you'll see OEM's start to add tablet functionality in order to differentiate their gear from everyone else's. Hey, even Dell is looking into tablets! Monkey see, monkey do: once the larger manufacturers see increased sales on the tablet side, you'll see all the others jump on the bandwagon. It's a plain fact that when people get their mitts on a tablet, they want one. I'm convinced that Bill Gates is right, and that inking will become a laptop essential, just like USB ports and LCD displays are now. Once that happens, there will be no further need for the TabletPC brand. (As a sidebar, I'm frequently amused at the fact that Apple hasn't caught on to inking for the masses; their oh-so-hip TV ads don't recognize just how banal the Macbook design is)

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