Saturday, July 30, 2011

Hot 5: best yellow gadgets

Summer’s almost here, which means hunkering down in your air-conditioned flat, stocking up on ice and avoiding the red-hot sun at all costs. Still, there’s no reason you can’t use gadgets to brighten up your dreary day…
Vita Audio Selfridges Yellow R1 MkII
Pumping summer beats out of moody black hi-fi kit just isn’t right. Instead flow them through Vita’s sunshine yellow DAB radio. The battery option means you can take it outside, too.
The Kube Player
About five years ago, everyone had a pop at making the world’s smallest MP3 player. Eventually, we grew tired of that game, but the chaps at Kube didn’t get the memo. And thank God for that – they’ve emerged with this tiny, tuneful cuboid.
Soul by Ludacris SL300
Ludacris wants to give you all the fun of yellow ears, with none of the awkwardness of having to ask your mate for half his liver. These big beat cans, out this month, should do the job.
Liquid Image XSC Explorer
Headcams are doing evolution in reverse, from the land (and air) to the sea. Darwin would’ve relished finding these aquatic 8MP goggles for taking pictures of barnacles. Or reef diving.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT2
Tough people – those who wield chainsaws and hammers – wear yellow jackets. Fact. Panny’s 14.1MP FT2 does, too, plus it’s impervious to bumps, spills and – of course – boredom.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Guide to Google Plus

Google Plus is like some kind of exclusive club everyone wants to get in to, but just can’t get on that elusive guest list. If you’re one of the lucky few with access, we’ve got a few fun factoids about the latest cool kid on the social networking block…

NFC gets social
If you’re one of the few with an NFC chip nestled firmly inside your Android smartphone (like Google’s own Nexus S), now is your chance to become part of an even more exclusive club. Using the dedicated Android app, Google Plus will let you scan NFC tags and share the information with your circles. Like most NFC applications, it’s pretty limited at the moment, but its potential is huge for sharing movie trailers, checking in a la Foursquare or starting a “Huddle”.

Facebook Circles
Being able to manage and create friends within circles is one of the best things about Google Plus. Who wants to share their debauched holiday snaps with their boss and work colleagues? But you don’t need to be left out in the cold if you haven’t got an invite: thanks to a nifty little app called Circle Hack, everyone can reap the benefits. Want in? Visit CircleHack, log in to Facebook and start creating your own circles. See? Everyone’s a winner.

Web app to the rescue
We already know Apple has Google on the edge of its seat waiting in anticipation for that golden seal of approval. Fret not iPhone users, there is a way to get your Google Plus on iPhone fix in the meantime. While Android users can access the dedicated mobile app, iPhone users can rely on a good ole’ web app, enabling you to whack some Google Plus features on your mobile before the standalone app puts in an appearance. Head on over to and check out the wealth of Google Plus goodies available including Circles and Stream.

Want more? Get more
So you’ve been enjoying the slew of features on offer from Google’s social network, but you still want more. Lucky for you, a group of developers have already started creating Google Chrome extensions to make your Google Plus experience just that little bit better. Surplus neatens notifications, +Photo Zoom gives fast and simple close-ups of pics in your Stream, Extended Share gets jiggy with Twitter and Facebook and if you’re feeling particularly bad for going to the other side, you could always give your page a Facebook style makeover with Google+: Facebook.

Is Android Google Plus’ secret weapon?
As most of us are painfully aware, trying to upload multiple photos to Facebook via the dedicated app is an excruciating experience. The Google Plus Android app, however, has an opt-in feature called instant Uploads which immediately catapults, Android users’ photos into the webosphere. Photos are private by default, allowing you to go in later and share them with the people you deem worthy enough to have a peep. Best of all, there’s no limit on the number of photos or length of time your photos remain in your private album; Google will store your snaps forever.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Next Big Thing!

Monkeys in space are so old-fashioned. It’s time to send some SLR-shaming kit into orbit:

How many pixels?
A billion. In space. Oh, yes.

And this film is called…
It’s no fiction – the European Space Agency has unveiled the gigapixel digital camera for its 2013 Gaia mission. Built last month in France, over a hundred different devices set at angles to each other will together give scientists gigantic images of the universe to play with.

You mean work with, right?
Probably, but who could resist playing with ultra-zoomable shots of stars? And, in fact, they’ll still only be able to see a measly one per cent of the stars in the Milky Way.

Any other tricks up their white lab coat sleeves?
As well as the colour and intensity, the camera will capture the motion of stars and asteroids in glorious 3D. It will hover for five years at a point a million and a half kilometres from Earth. Yes – that’s right, it’s a 3D gigapixel hovercam in space. The future’s arrived.

Top 5 Best Innovations

Every January at the biggest consumer tech show on the planet, also known as CES, the year’s tech trailblazers are honoured and awards doled out to the coolest kit. To honour 2011’s winners and nominees, we’ve cherry picked, for your pleasure, the tech that has caught our roving gadget eye.
Sony Internet TV & Blu-ray player powered by Google TV
Where the web-meets-television, Google TV delivers a true online, app-driven, on-demand streaming experience from the comfort of your sofa. Sony will be the first launch Google TV-fuelled hardware in the UK with its four strong NSX-GTI HDTV series and NSX-GTI Blu-ray player expected to land early 2011.

Recon Instruments Transcend
Strap on the world’s first GPS-enabled alpine goggles and a visor-mounted display will not only show your real time speed as you ski down the black run but also how far you’ve travelled, your time, altitude, temperature plus your latitude and longitude so you can relay your position to international rescue.
Paradigm MilleniaSub
Subverting the traditional large box or sphere shape for an impressively sleek profile, this active subwoofer can take up many positions in home. Mount it on the wall, slide it under the sofa or stick it behind the TV…but wherever you plonk it, MilleniaSub’s opposite facing dual woofers won’t blight your sounds with the dreaded ‘bloated’ boomy bass.
Microsoft Kinect
Few could argue Microsoft’s hands-free motion sensor for the xBox 360 is the one of the most groundbreaking piece of tech we’ve seen in 2010 and as you can see its not just Stuff who has handed over an awards gong for its innovation. Its motion prowess is impressive but the new found ability to hack and develop non-gaming apps has expanded its potential.

Sleek Audio SA7 Wireless Hybrid Earphones
Fashioned from military grade carbon fibre casing and featuring aluminium innards, these dual-drive buds sound suitably high-end. Not impressed? Well, you can even acoustically tune them to suit your music listening tastes and with KLEER tech onboard, wirelessly stream CD-quality music from a compatible device. What’s that? You want a pair?

Samsung Galaxy S 2

Building on the phenomenal success of the original Samsung GALAXY S, the GALAXY S II is a natural and powerful evolution of its predecessor and allows users to design their own smart lives. It uses Android™ 2.3 Gingerbread, the latest version of the world’s fastest-growing mobile operating system.
The new Galaxy S II smartphone is a revolutionary device that reinforces Samsung’s dedication to innovation and technological excellence. Combined with sleek design, powerful performance and advanced applications, the new device provides immersive, intelligent and integrated experiences that enrich people’s lives. The launch of this new super phone aims to grow Samsung’s leadership position within the smartphone category.

Powerful Performance
Incorporating a dual-core application processor and advanced wireless network (HSPA+ 21) connectivity, the Samsung GALAXY S II has the power and speed to provide an unrivalled mobile performance. The processor delivers fast web browsing, multi-tasking comparable to a PC-like environment, supreme graphics quality and a receptive 3D user interface. It also offers rapid mobile download speeds while the BlueTooth® 3.0+HS feature considerably reduces data transfer times. The WiFi Direct allows consumers to connect to wireless-enabled PCs and printers without the need for wireless access points.
The Samsung GALAXY S II has been equipped with an 8MP, camera and camcorder with 1080p full HD recording and playback. With Samsung’s patented AllShare technology, customers can capture, and share their experiences online. According to market requirement, the GALAXY S II is also able to incorporate Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to support emerging mobile payment and other services with mobile operators.

A New Level of Viewing Experience
The Samsung GALAXY S II is equipped with Samsung’s new crystal-clear Super AMOLED Plus screen, the most advanced mobile visual display ever created. The Super AMOLED Plus introduces the best in quality, color gamut, contrast ratio and edge sharpness. Using RealStripe screen technology and increased sub-pixel count, Super AMOLED Plus complements the mechanics of the human eye to recognize images that look clearer and more detailed than ever before. In addition, the new display is more energy-efficient than other comparably sized devices.

Samsung GALAXY S II Goes to Work
Samsung has introduced a range of enterprise mobility solutions, expanding the business capabilities of the Samsung GALAXY S. It gives customers an opportunity to have a flexible and connected mobile workforce. Samsung has collaborated with industry leaders to offer the most relevant enterprise solutions to the Samsung GALAXY S II that pays special attention to data and network security. These solutions include enhanced conferencing and connectivity services from Cisco, the most comprehensive mobile implementation of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and secure remote device management from Sybase.

A New World of Entertainment and Smart Interaction
Samsung has selected the Samsung GALAXY S II as its premium mobile product with which to launch Samsung Hubs – integrated mobile applications are designed to fit every element of your life. These include the Social Hub Premium; the Readers Hub; the Game Hub and the Music Hub. The Samsung Hubs deliver a rich and wide variety of information, entertainment, access to social networks, games and more.

Efficient Device Management
Samsung has also introduced Kies Air; an application that allows consumers to manage their smartphone content from their PC via local WiFi connections, download photos taken on the built-in camera, listen to music, check missed calls and send messages in the web browser on their PC.
The event also witnessed the launch of the new generation of Samsung Galaxy Tabs, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9, that are the thinnest tablets available in the market today. Featuring Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface implemented on the Android™ 3.1 (Honeycomb) platform, both Galaxy Tab 10.1 and 8.9 offer superior multi-tasking, navigation and user interaction.
The new GALAXY Tabs support HSPA+ network speeds of up to 21Mbps, Bluetooth® and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n connectivity to deliver rapid mobile download speeds and reduce data transfer times. In addition, the GALAXY Tabs include a 1GHz dual core application processor for a powerful multimedia and web browsing experience.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Starting from US $2,950, this flagship 46-incher is the first of the new generation of TVs out of the blocks. It's slimmer,smarter  and better connected than ever, with the latest internet TV applications and, ofcourse, 3D.

With HD Tuners on board, you have access to subscription free-HD transmissions (handy when they launch over here in future). Connect an external hard disk to one of the three USB 2.0 ports and you can turn it into a PVR too.

Samsung'ssmart hub is the place to go for catch-up TV services, web browsing,recordings,apps and more. it works like the home screen of a mobile phone, and provides access to the media you have on DLNA-compatible devices around your home. Format support is good, but to get your MKVs playing, you'll need a bang up-to-date DLNA server or plug in a USB drive.

It may have clever features coming out of its slim posterior, but you still want it to look the business when watching TV and films. And you're in luck. The Samsung's edge-lit LED LCD screen delivers punchy, colourful, sharp images whether in HD or standard definition. Motion during console gaming is smooth and it even manages to sound solid.

The remote control does the job but a 3-inch touchscreen is due shortly and is sure to make the web browsing and game-playing experiences all the better. It'll also support Twin view, mirroring whats on the big screen so you can carry it around the house.

There's one pair of SSG-3100 active shutter glasses in the box. They're comfortable enough for a Peter Jackson epic and sync via a proprietary bluetooth connection rather than infra-red, which boosts battery, combats interference and means they still work if you wander away from the TV. 3D content looks more subtle than last generation sets with only a hint of cross-talk. There is also 2D-3D conversion, though results are mixed.

Techy Gadgetz verdict....the cleverest connected TV we have seen, with stunning style, superb perfomance and excellent 3D capabilities

Friday, July 1, 2011

Google's Chrome Book, Too Far Ahead?
It isn’t often you come across a computer that makes you wish it ran Microsoft Windows. The new Chromebook Series 5 laptop manages that impressive feat.

The Chromebook, born of a partnership between Samsung and Google, is the first commercially available computer to run Google’s Chrome Operating System. The idea is that you use “the cloud” — that is, the Internet — to replace many of the functions traditionally handled by the computer hardware.

It’s a seductive notion, sort of like canceling your cable TV subscription and relying on the Net for all your video entertainment. But much like cable-cutting, it proves to be more attractive in theory than in fact.
The Series 5, which went on sale this week from and Best Buy at $500 for a 3G-enabled model and $430 with Wi-Fi only, is less than an inch thick and weighs 3.3 pounds. It has a 12.1-inch screen, two USB ports and a card reader. The keyboard is comfortable, and there’s a track pad for navigation that is generously sized but that had problems registering some clicks accurately.

Outside of the operating system, software doesn’t reside on the computer itself; instead, you use online alternatives like Gmail and Google Docs to create your word-processing, spreadsheet and other documents. And you don’t store those documents locally on a hard drive; they live in the cloud too, where they’re accessible to you through any Web-connected computer anywhere.

Under the hood, not that it matters all that much, are an Intel Corp microprocessor, two gigabytes of memory and 16 gigabytes of solid-state storage, which is less than you’ll find on many smart phones.
Anyone who’s ever suffered through the wait for a Windows computer to boot up — which is to say, everyone who’s ever used a Windows computer — will be grateful for the Series 5 experience.
Thanks to the lightweight nature of the operating system and the solid-state storage, I clocked the time from startup to login screen at a mere eight seconds. And battery life is good enough that you’re more likely to just close the lid rather than turn the computer off, in which case you’re back in business in three seconds.
Samsung claims the battery will last 8 1/2 hours in normal use; I got more than six hours in my torture test, which included cranking up the screen brightness and streaming a continuous series of “Simpsons” episodes.

As for ease of use, if you know how to work a Web browser, you know how to work Chrome. All functions — even accessing files, playing games or watching movies — run through the browser. You can acquire new apps customized for the operating system, including The New York Times and “Angry Birds,” from the online Chrome Web Store. And upgrades to the operating system can come in the form of incremental, over-the-air improvements.

But the Series 5’s speed and ease of use were offset by a series of problems I encountered that should fairly be laid at Google’s feet rather than Samsung’s.
I ran into the first one within moments of pulling the computer out of the box. Even though it had embedded 3G service from Verizon Wireless, it required a Wi-Fi connection to activate, and it wouldn’t log on to Bloomberg’s Wi-Fi network.

It isn’t like there’s anything exotic about our setup; I’ve used it for legions of tablets, e-readers and even phones running Google’s own Android operating system. But it turns out that Google didn’t include support for the authentication standard we use -- a strange oversight in a device that, without an Internet signal, might be more accurately labeled a Chromebrick.

I finally activated the Chromebook by pulling out a spare wireless phone, calling the carrier to activate its mobile-hotspot function and using it to connect. Once I got over that hurdle, I was able to use the built-in Verizon service when I was in the office or otherwise didn’t have a usable Wi-Fi signal.
The price of the 3G model includes 100 megabytes of data per month; beyond that, Verizon offers prepaid month-to-month data plans starting at $20, and a $9.99 unlimited day pass.

An even bigger problem is the lack of an offline mode for Google Docs, Gmail and Google Calendar. So if you’re on an airplane or someplace where you can’t get an Internet signal, you can for now forget about being able to do anything productive. (Google says it expects to introduce offline functionality sometime this summer.)

At least you can lean back and watch a movie — as long as you’ve remembered to download it first to an SD card or USB thumb drive.
As for printing: It’s complicated. In most cases, you’ll first have to enroll the printer you want to use with Google’s Cloud Print service, then send your document via the Internet. Hooking the Series 5 directly to the printer with a USB cable won’t work. It’s all enough to make you yearn for the simple pleasures of installing a Windows printer driver.

You might put up with the hassles if the Series 5 were really, really cheap. It isn’t: For the same cost, you can have a choice of highly capable Windows machines. (PC maker Acer is coming out with a couple of slightly lower-priced Chromebooks, but I haven’t tested them yet.)
Someday, when the Internet is even more ubiquitous than it is now and connectivity is as available as oxygen, the Chromebook may make sense. For now, though, it dwells in a netherworld, neither as convenient as a tablet nor as potent as a PC.


Keep Your Privacy Online!

I would like my browsing and Google searches to be private. I don’t want targeted advertising and I don’t want to feel that anonymous companies are harvesting my clicks to learn all about me. I’d also like to avoid being filtered as described in Eli Pariser’s How the net traps us all in our own little bubbles.

What’s the best combination or (preferably free) tools I could use?

When the web was young, and a lot less shiny, web pages were fixed (static) and – barring browser quirks – everybody saw much the same thing. Today, much of the web is dynamic, which means that what you see has been adapted or possibly constructed on the fly just for you.

A site may use dozens of pieces of information to do this, including where you appear to live (geolocation), computer details such as your browser and operating system, and knowledge of other sites that you have visited. Among the most important sources of information are the small text files known as cookies – or, perhaps, the dozens of cookies – that sites have stored on your hard drive. These record any preferences that you set in earlier visits.

From your point of view, the advantage is that the websites you visit will be personalised to suit your needs and tastes. From the website’s point of view, the advantage is that it can also personalise its prices and advertising to try to suit your needs and tastes, and increase your propensity to click and buy. This is, after all, the quid pro quo for your free access to a vast amount of expensive information. If nobody buys anything via web-based advertising, most of the web will die.

On the web, the rule is: if you’re not paying, then you are what’s being sold.
Still, there are lots of ways to reduce the amount of personalisation and the number of advertisements. These include using a proxy server, blocking cookies, using an ad blocker, using secure (https) connections whenever possible, and turning off JavaScript programming. You may also be able to delete some of the information that is held about you online, such as Google searches.

Probably the simplest way to reduce personalisation is to use an anonymising service. Instead of accessing the web directly, you access it via a third-party proxy server, so your requests are mixed in with thousands of others. These services usually allow you to control cookies, turn JavaScript on and off, withhold “referrer details” and so on. Also, all data between your PC and the proxy server should be encrypted so your internet service provider won’t see it either.

However, companies that offer anonymous browsing services also need to protect themselves. Most have strict rules about what you can do, and you can expect their terms to ban you from accessing many things. Free services will prevent you from using too much of their shared bandwidth and will probably ban access to videos and downloads. Even with paid-for services, sites that use Java or JavaScript apps may not work.
Nonetheless, it’s often useful to have access to an anonymous proxy service, and everybody should find one they like. Examples include The Cloak, Megaproxy, Proxify and ID Zap. There are also networked open source privacy systems such as Tor and I2P.

If you have a Google account, click the cog icon, select Web History, and log in. Click the link that says “Clear entire Web History”, which will also pause the collection of data about your searches. But bear in mind that you can use other search engines that either don’t collect information, or delete it quickly, or allow you to manage your privacy better than Google. Examples include ixquick and Starting Page, DuckDuckGo, and Blekko.

Google also tracks your progress across hundreds of thousands of websites via Google Analytics. To opt out of this, install the Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on (Beta), which Google offers for Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Opera. However, some sites use different analytics software or track visitors in other ways you will be unaware of. Ghostery may help reduce these.

When it comes to cookies, you can use CCleaner (free) to clear out existing cookies, then set your browser to ban them or only allow certain types. Some sites will not work properly without cookies, so it’s a good idea to run your browser in a sandbox such as Sandboxie, which insulates it from the rest of your computer. It also makes your computer much more secure. (Chrome and IE9 have sandboxing built in.)
If you use Chrome, Google has an extension called Keep My Opt-Outs to reduce cookie tracking, while Firefox 4 has Do Not Track to block third-party cookies. IE9 lets you install Tracking Protection Lists. IE8 lets you control cookies using a slider: go to Tools, select Internet Options and click the Privacy tab. Firefox users can also install an add-on called BetterPrivacy.

The Europe Union passed a “cookie law” (Privacy and Communications Directive) in 2009, and from last month, sites were supposed to get your permission to install cookies. However, the law has been widely ignored, and the UK government has given companies another year to comply. The Americans are still trying to pass S. 913: Do-Not-Track Online Act of 2011.

Finally, Facebook Connect is a potential privacy problem because it “allows users to ‘connect’ their Facebook identity, friends and privacy to any site”. You can turn it off using Facebook settings. However, have a look for browser add-ins and extensions that prevent it from working.
Examples for Chrome include Facebook Disconnect, Facebook Blocker, Facebreak. Firefox has a limited Facebook Blocker but AdBlock Plus and some pointers from Tom Hermann may help.
In general, the more you do online – social networking, cloud computing etc – the more your privacy and security are at risk. Reducing that risk involves effort and inconvenience, so it’s up to you to find an acceptable compromise.