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Bluelounge CableBox Mini
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Bluelounge CableClip
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Bluelounge CableDrop—-
Lufdesign Leaf Ties

The Arrival:
I picked the the Dell Inspiron 17 after my college graduation. Intel i5 Core processor, let’s see what you can do! [I forgot to write down the actual model #, but oh well.]

The notebook was delivered in a huge cardboard box. Despite its starting weight of 6.8 lbs, it felt surprisingly light for its dimensions. Perhaps it was only a tad heavier than my 15″. The shell was sleek, but easy to smudge. There were ports galore.

Display:
With so much LCD real estate, it was a breeze cascading and accessing multiple windows. The experience of scrolling through websites, however, was similar to that of a smaller display (the screen height seemed unchanged).

The LCD was very bright. The lowest setting was fine, except when in direct sunlight. The biggest downside: I couldn’t escape the persistent glare from the glossy screen.


Operating System:
Windows 7 is a darling, with the crisp aesthetics of Vista and the familiarity of XP.

Mobility:
The notebook did not fit in any of my backpacks/bags. The solution was to have it ride shotgun in my car en route to the cafe. A 17″ notebook is not recommended for travelers—it’s bulky and wants to lounge around at home.

Keyboard | Audio:
The keypad felt like an add-on to fill up all the space below the display. The numeric keypad offset the keyboard & touchpad, which shifted my typing posture. Is this ergonomic? My head & eyes would naturally center on the display, but my hands were at an awkward left-ward slant.

The speakers were on the bottom of the laptop, so the audio was always muffled. The default equalizer settings were unusual; voices sounded garbled even at high volume . The left cooling fan activated sporadically and would drown out the sound from the left side of the laptop, worsening the sound quality.

I would ditch the keypad in favor of a centered keyboard with [big!] speakers by its side. I own a USB keypad and I rarely use it.

Multitasking:
Scrolling through hundreds of image & text-laden posts was absolutely seamless. No skips or misses. Same with long PDFs on Adobe Acrobat Reader. I streamed music and barreled through YouTube videos & movie trailers. I blogged and read the news. I watched seasons of Mad Men and revisited Breaking Bad, sometimes on fullscreen or minimized next to a web browser. I edited multiple files on Photoshop.

I tried all of the above, all at once. Hm. I could keep a million tabs and applications open because they never lagged. Even when I let my friend  run an unnamed engineering/modeling program in the background, the performance did not suffer. That’s awesome. It must be the Intel i5 Core processor at work.

Final thoughts:
I went back to my laptop and netbook and they seemed…slow [why aren’t you fast as an i5!?]…and the LCDs…minute. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade.

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FTC Disclaimer: I was sent an Intel i5 Core notebook to test drive for a week, as part of the Intel Youth Review Program.

  • The crucial breakthrough to completing [Christopher Nolan’s] “Inception” script was considering what could happen if multiple people could share the same dream.“Once you remove the privacy,” Mr. Nolan said, “you’ve created an infinite number of alternative universes in which people can meaningfully interact, with validity, with weight, with dramatic consequences.”
  • After years of effort to coax empathy from machines, robots and devices designed to soothe, support and keep us company are venturing out of the laboratory.
  • The psychological devices people use to manage what they express can affect social interactions in unintended ways.

MIT graduate student Robert Wang and Associate Professor Jovan Popović developed a gesture-based computing system with cheap hardware: an ordinary webcam and a pair of $1 multicolored Lycra gloves.

Other low-cost prototypes, i.e. the wearable SixthSense, have used tape on the fingertips. Wang said those were limited to “2D information” where “you don’t even know which fingertip [the tape] is corresponding to.”

Wang and Popović’s system can translate the 3D configuration of your hands & fingers on-screen with almost no lag time. (Screencap from the proof of concept video shown below).

Their software compares glove webcam images against a reference database of gestures. When a match is found, the software renders the corresponding hand position in a fraction of a second.

Hand-tracking is made possible by the distinctive glove design. The patchwork arrangement is unique to the front and back of the glove; the colors are distinguishable from each other and from background objects–under a range of lighting conditions.

Possible applications are in video games or in engineering. For example, designers could use this system to manipulate 3D models of commercial products or civic structures.

Wang is expanding his idea and plans to design similarly patterned shirts for use in whole-body motion capture.

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Those gloves are pretty rad on their own…is it bad that I want a pair to wear and not compute with? A shirt would be fantastic.

This alpine white Dell Mini 10 was a present from Intel.

I’m using my awesome Asus Eee PC 1000HA as a benchmark. Yes, I’ve cut out an Apple-shaped logo out of black duct tape and stuck it on for kicks.


First impressions of the Dell Mini 10:

  • Oh, the default appearance settings for Windows XP are ugly. Let’s fix that ASAP.
  • This Dell Dock, a custom ObjectDock for organizing shortcuts, is cool.
  • The 1.33Ghz Atom Z520 processor feels sluggish (my Asus has the 1.60Ghz N270).
  • Bonus points for the sleek clamshell design.
  • It has the same ports, with the exception of the HDMI in place of VGA.

Other observations:

  1. The netbook has a smaller screen angle. My Asus can flatten out like a book.
  2. The ElanTech Smartpad is great. Shortcuts can be enabled for two and three finger taps, swipes, and pinches. The “cover gesture” is my favorite–plant your hand over the trackpad to minimize all open windows. The left and right bottom corners of the trackpad are clickable.
  3. The keyboard seems nearly full-size. But it’s not as snappy.
  4. The Dell Mini 10 is noticeably lighter and feels more compact.

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Unfortunately, I love my all-white ASUS because it has more battery life. So I am passing the Dell Mini 10 off to my little brother. I’m going to need to buy an HDMI to VGA adapter…hm.

In late February, a group of tech-savvy bloggers and social media enthusiasts dropped by Intel headquarters to learn more about the world’s leading computer chip maker.

Last year, Intel launched an global ad campaign to highlight the company’s forward-thinking, technophile culture. The campaign, taglined “Sponsors of Tomorrow,” humorously highlights the major achievements of Intel’s engineers. This is one of the TV commercials:

In the spirit of the ad campaign, the company hosted an immersive event to expose “youth rock stars” to their latest breakthroughs and unique corporate culture (the commercials don’t lie).

At the start of the summit, participants faintly associated Intel with computer chips. After a whirlwind tour of Intel, a maze-like complex with odd splashes of color, participants revised their opinions. The connection was clear: Intel = innovation.

Demos of Intel’s R&D projects included forays into clever home-management devices, online services, and mind-boggling video analysis software.

Attendees discovered that Intel works from the “inside,” upgrading data transfer and computer processing power by leaps and bounds, to enable the development of tomorrow’s business and consumer electronics. Intel sets the standard for future markets today.

Left to right: a USB stick, an 80-core processor, and a typical Intel elevator
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Facts:

  • Intel’s has hypnotic, glowing, color-changing walls.
  • 80% of Intel’s processors are for more powerful computers.
  • An emerging market for netbooks are 6-11 years old, who are fighting to use the laptop/desktop at home.
  • Intel is committed to Moore’s Law, which suggests that computing speed doubles roughly every 1.5 years.

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Cool stuffs from Intel:

1. Light Peak, originally USB 4.0, is a high-speed optical cable capable of moving 10 Gb/s–with the potential to scale up to 100 Gb/s. With Light Peak, a single port type could connect peripherals, displays, drives, and more. The cable will be flexible and light (cutting down on wire jungles); and laptops can be made thinner (the VGA port is a fatty). The modules below can transfer 20 Gb/s (each wire is 10 Gb/s), so you could download a Blu-Ray movie in seconds.

2. The fully featured, 13.4″ Dell Adamo XPS is a jawdropper.

3. The Home Energy Management System monitors your appliances, reminds you to avoid peak hours (and water your plants), notifies you of needed repairs, and shows how you can use electricity more wisely. It connects to the Internet and has all sorts of live widgets. Also, it doubles as a clock.

4. I can’t remember what this was called, but it’s an algorithm that can look at real-time video feeds and identify specific parameters. In the pictures below, it’s detecting pedestrians and surrounding motor traffic in a moving vehicle. You need an 8-core processor for this.

The program could also deliver sports highlights (game-winning goals, failed plays, etc) or follow a particular player. With facial recognition software tacked on, you could gather the most epic or tragic scenes in your favorite television drama.

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FTC disclaimer: Intel provided all participants (that’s me) with a free Dell Mini 10 netbook and full accomodations at the Santa Clara Marriott.

The Skiff, the largest eBook reader on the market, debuted at this year’s  Consumer Electronics Show. The device is optimized for newspaper and magazine content and boasts an 11.5-inch touchscreen with 1600×1200 resolution and 3G+WiFi connectivity. Price TBA.

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LG has developed a 19″ flexible electronic-paper screen that “only requires power when the screen is refreshed.” I wonder what the battery life will be?

In mid-December, Google detected a sophisticated cyber attack on its corporate infrastructure.

Further investigation revealed that Google was among a number of Silicon Valley businesses and entities–from the finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–that fell under siege. The attackers may have succeeded in the theft of intellectual property, e.g. corporate data and software source codes, by exploiting an IE browser vulnerability.

Additionally, Google discovered that dozens of Gmail accounts belonging to Chinese human rights activists appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These activists were based in China, as well as Europe and the US. The search-engine giant suspected these attacks originated from China.

From the Official Google Blog:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China.

We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

McAfee’s Chief Technology Officer, George Kurtz, said the Google hack comprised the “largest and most sophisticated cyberattack we have seen in years targeted at specific corporations“.

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Updates:
Foreign Journalists in Beijing Hit by E-Mail Hackers [NYT]
France, Germany Say Avoid IE Until Security Vulnerability Patched [eWeek]
Google probing possible inside help on attack [Yahoo]

The Lenovo Skylight is the industry’s first smartbook, an ultraportable laptop based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor (a low-power phone chipset with integrated WiFi & 3G connectivity). It features a full-size keyboard, 10.1″ high-resolution display, and a custom Linux OS for easy web access.

Lenovo estimates up to 10 hours of usage, delivering on Qualcomm’s claim for an “all-day” battery. Much like a cellphone, the device is meant to be charged overnight and used during the day with no strings attached. At under 2 lbs, the Skylight is thinner and lighter than most netbooks.

The Skylight will be available in April 2010 and retail for $499. Those who sign up for AT&T data plans will get discounted pricing. [View a quick hands-on at Engadget.]

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Vocab Review

Netbook: mobile mini-laptop with the brains of a Windows PC (Intel Atom), runs Windows
Smartbook: mobile mini-laptop with the brains of a smartphone (Qualcomm Snapdragon), strictly non-Windows

The differences are in weight, price, battery life, storage, and OS.

Question of the day:
If Verizon has the larger 3G network in the US, why do netbook and smartbook companies continue to partner with AT&T?

eReaders and tablets have flooded this year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Advances in technology have made it possible to manufacture these devices with a longer battery life and at an “ever-decreasing cost,” according to the NY Times.

“There are a billion and a half Internet users on the planet today, and a lot of them are primarily using it for entertainment and social networking,” said Glen Burchers, director of global consumer segment marketing at Freescale, a chip company hoping to power the new tablets. [via A Deluge of Devices for Reading and Surfing]

Consumers will soon be able to pick and choose from a wide range of products specifically designed for reading and/or surfing the Internet, for around the price of a netbook. Perhaps these WiFi-ready reading devices will help to rescue, or at least keep afloat the floundering print & publishing industries.

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Bonnier R&D and design firm BERG partnered to explore the future of digital magazines. Below is a conceptual video for  Mag+, a prototype for a future issue of Popular Science. According to Bonnier, they tried to capture the essence of magazine reading and create an experience where “high-quality writing and stunning imagery build up immersive stories.”

Sports Illustrated has their own take:

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3D HDTV was another buzzword at CES 2010, but the technology has been hyped up too much.

Watching Avatar 3D was a great experience, but I can’t imagine having to wear bulky 3D glasses over my glasses every time I wanted to watch TV. That would be a (dizzying) pain. I hope 3D TV doesn’t become standard.

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