Today’s Microsoft Announcement

June 18, 2012

There has been plenty of guessing about what Microsoft will announce at its media event this afternoon in Los Angeles. Now, one publication claims to finally have the answer.

TechCrunch’s Peter Ha reports hearing from sources that Microsoft is planning to announce a new tablet on Monday in partnership with Barnes and Noble.

Is it the Windows 8 tablet???

As Ha points out, this would mark the first big announcement since the two companies entered into a strategic partnership back in April.It looks like it’s a “New Nook”.

Microsoft has invested $300 million in a joint venture with Barnes & Noble.

The plan is to spin out the “Nook” e-reader business from Barnes & Noble, along with its College business.

Microsoft’s $300 million investment is worth a 17% stake in the new company, which means it’s valued at $1.7 billion.

While Ha’s sources didn’t offer up many details about the new device, one source did suggest that the tablet could be the first non-Xbox device to offer Xbox Live streaming.

Based on the tablets that Barnes and Noble has introduced to date, this could end up being good news for Apple as it would suggest the new tablet would be more of a Kindle Fire-killer than an iPad killer. Then again, with two fairly cheap tablet models in its lineup already, perhaps Barnes and Noble is looking to do something a little more high-end this time around.

The tablet becomes the new PC???


What Happens To Companies Who Push Junk No One Will Buy: Engineers Cast Wary Eye on Role of Electric Cars

April 27, 2012

As an engineer, call me perplexed. Why would anyone drive a golf cart on the highway? Don’t they know how an accident would come out? What about “f = m * a”  don’t they know what that means?

Our country is big, roads are wide, speeds out of necessity are high. Accidents are brutal at those speeds. Higher mass cars fair better, for their occupants. Liberals and their large Limousines are not really affected. They are of that class, you see, where cars come with professional drivers. Like with guns, which come with professional bodyguards, in their little insolated world. It’s not real.

In my local area a trip to Home Depot would involve about a 50 mile round trip. In need of a 8 hour recharge. But if I had other stores to visit, tough luck. I would be particularly hard on an electric car, I would also run the air conditioner, as this week the temperature will be over 90 for the rest of the week.

So being smart and not wanting to end up in a “flat little car” I take a pass. Not because the electric car doesn’t work, but it simply does not do what I want of my car.

Did you know that GM turned down the Volt for production, saying it was not viable. Yep, they turned it down. Then along comes Obama … gonna buy himself a Union health care company that builds car as a sideline, to fix it. A two for one in his small undeveloped mind.

Now the engineers are noticing that no one wants one either.

Auto-industry marketers are stepping up efforts to tout electric cars and plug-in hybrids to regulators and consumers, but at a gathering of industry technologists here, senior auto-company executives offered a sharply skeptical view of electric cars, predicting they will remain a marginal part of the U.S. market well into the next decade.

In presentations Tuesday and Wednesday at the annual Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, senior auto-industry executives in charge of technology strategy, research, and regulatory issues delivered the same message: Barring an unforeseen breakthrough that significantly drops the cost of automotive batteries, this is a waste of money, and everybody knows it.

Getting down to basics … At the meeting, Mr. Winegarden presented a chart comparing the amount of energy delivered by a given volume or mass of fuel. According to the article, “On his chart, lithium-ion batteries, used in electric cars such as the Nissan Leaf and GM’s plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, were ranked close to zero compared to gasoline and diesel fuels, which delivered the most energy for the least amount of weight and cost to the consumer. ‘The rumored death of the internal combustion engine is premature,’ Mr. Winegarden said.” I guess Mr. Winegarden hasn’t been paying attention to GM’s spin on what a technological wonder the Volt is.

Other industry executives were also aware of the limitations of the much-hyped Chevy Volt along with other lesser-hyped EVs. Also from the piece, “Robert Bienenfeld, senior manager for environment and energy strategy at Honda Motor Co.’s U.S. arm, said that by 2025, a customer who buys a plug-in hybrid could wait 10 years to recover the added upfront costs, compared with a 2025 car outfitted with a more efficient gasoline engine and transmission. The payback for an all-electric car would be even longer.”

It only requires a little common sense to understand the limitations of cars like the Volt. Consider that the vehicle has a battery power source that weighs about 450 pounds and takes up a good deal of passenger and cargo area. An internal combustion engine is still utilized as a back-up. If you charge the lithium-ion based power source for 10 hours you can move the vehicle the equivalent of what about one gallon of gas can move a conventional vehicle. The good news is that you can save about two dollars a day and make up for the additional cost of the vehicle in about twenty years.

The limitations of the Chevy Volt have not stopped proponents from touting the vehicle as a technological marvel.

I still fail to understand how a car that cost twice as much as a conventionally powered vehicle and only saves about a gallon of gas a day by traveling about 30 or 35 miles on a charge before switching to premium fuel is such a “technological moon shot.” Ever heard of diesels? Probably not. It appears that politics is playing more of a role than herd mentality as supporters continue to attack any critics of the Chevy Volt. The crowd that normally wants the wealthy to pay their fair share now supports subsidies to rich buyers of the Volt and other plug-in vehicles. Low consumer demand, however, belies the media hype for the vehicle.

Look, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or an honest GM executive (something I was beginning to believe was an oxymoron) to realize that the Chevy Volt in its present form is doing practically nothing to save America from foreign oil dependence. Taxpayers are paying a ridiculous price to help cars like the Volt succeed, if you consider selling a few thousand cars a month a success. Congratulations to Mr. Winegarden for coming clean about the limitations of EVs and the Chevy Volt. Now, if only he can talk some sense into Obama-appointed GM CEO, Dan Akerson.

And as soon as Obama leaves, the industry for this unwanted crap will go with him.


Intel Buys RealNetworks Patents

January 26, 2012

Intel has purchased 190 patents and 170 patent applications from RealNetworks for $120 million.

The patents include technology invented to create next-generation video codecs, which encode or decode video so that it can be sent over networks efficiently. It’s one more example of a giant company “armoring up” to deal with potential patent wars in the future.

As part of the deal, Intel will acquire RealNetworks’ foundational streaming media patents, expanding Intel’s diverse portfolio of intellectual property.

Intel said the deal enhances its ability to “continue to offer richer experiences and innovative solutions to end users across a wide spectrum of devices, including through Ultrabook devices, smartphones and digital media.”

“Selling these patents to Intel unlocks some of the substantial and unrealized value of RealNetworks assets,” CEO  Thomas Nielsen said in a statement. “It represents an extraordinary opportunity for us to generate additional capital to boost investments in new businesses and markets while still protecting our existing business.”

The two companies also agreed to collaborate on future support and development of the video codec software and related products.

RealNetworks will retain certain rights to continue using the patents in current and future products.


‘Jailbreaking’ Exemption to DMCA Expires Soon — EFF Pushes to Ensure Jailbreaking Remains Legal

January 26, 2012

The exception to the DMCA that allows jailbreaking and rooting is about to expire.

The act of jailbreaking or rooting smartphones may once again become illegal, as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) exemption set in place back in July 2010 by the Copyright Office is set to expire soon.

According to the exemption, jailbreaking an iOS device or rooting an Android device is perfectly legal as long as it doesn’t circumvent copyright. Apple, a public advocate which strives to keep a closed, secure platform, wasn’t keen on the ruling, and even indicated that jailbreaking would still void any official Apple warranty. Like Apple, some device manufacturers still claim that jailbreaking violates Section 1201 of the DMCA, which carries stiff penalties.

So what does that mean for consumers if the exemption runs out? “Modifying a device to run independent software – known as jailbreaking – is important to programmers, enthusiasts, and users,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation states.

Essentially users wouldn’t be able to get rid of the bloatware-ridden version of Android and replace it with a clean, untainted version. It would mean that iPhone and iPod Touch users wouldn’t be able to download and install apps released outside Apple’s prison walls. Downloading modified Android ROMs would again be considered as a crime. Many developers may even lose their jobs.

“The recent download and usage statistics which relate to the new Absinthe jailbreak tool clearly show that jailbreaking is not only still popular, but is a thriving and expanding community,” The Redmond Pie reports. “Not only do we need to think about the end users who pay a large premium for the device and should ultimately have the freedom to do whatever they want with it, within the realms of the law, but a growing number of developers actually make their living from the software and tweaks which they sell on Cydia.”

Absinthe jailbreak for iPhone 4S, iPad 2 saw 1M first day downloads

There’s also another issue: the current exemption doesn’t cover the iPad and gaming consoles. That said, anyone jailbreaking a tablet or the Xbox 360 now are theoretically breaking the law. To ensure that the exemption is renewed by the Copyright Office, and to add tablets and gaming consoles to the list of devices, the EFF is now calling on consumers to sign a petition.

You can also visit jailbreakingisnotacrime.org to sign a petition supported by EFF and Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, author of Hacking the Xbox.


Ubuntu 12.04 LTS with HUD May Arrive in April

January 26, 2012

Most know I am an Ubuntu user … one of my daily driver PC uses Ubuntu LTS.  And I may switch to Ubuntu HUD LTS when it allegedly becomes available in April.

If you use an iPad you will be familiar with “touch selection experiences” …

Shuttleworth is working on the Ubuntu menu system …

The menu is a core element of the graphical user interface developed by Xerox, and it has been adopted by virtually all popular computing environments ever since. Even in this supposedly post-PC world, the menu is still very much alive and kicking – they may have remarketed them as pop-overs or “touch selection experiences” or whatever, but don’t be fooled by that nonsense. A menu is a menu.

Shuttleworth seems to believe it’s time to retire the concept entirely – or at least offer an alternative. Menus are awesome in that they’re generally in the same place, there’s a fair level of consistency (even cross-platform), and, well, they’re familiar. They have downsides, too, though; it’s hard to find something within menus and nested menus have a tendency to close accidentally.

The HUD does things differently. As complicated as Shuttleworth’s long blog post makes it out to be, it’s just a search field which only searches within menu items of one application. That’s it. In all honesty, it’s actually quite brilliant, and I’d love to have it on my applications right now.

Here is a video of HUD: Introducing the HUD to Ubuntu

We think of it as “beyond interface”, it’s the “intenterface” notes Mark Shuttleworth. “This concept of ‘intent-driven interface’ has been a primary theme of our work in the Unity shell, with dash search as a first class experience pioneered in Unity. Now we are bringing the same vision to the application”, he added.

This new system will be fully compatible with the present apps as well as menus. In fact, the report also confirms that voice input will also be introduced but not when Ubuntu 12.04 LTS arrives in April. To integrate voice into the apps it will take some more time but hopefully it will happen very soon.

The big issue that I see, however, is that it doesn’t look like a replacement just yet. Only when you specifically know what command you want to invoke is the HUD useful; otherwise, it offers no discoverability features. In that sense, it’s the exact opposite of Microsoft’s ribbon. Luckily for us, the HUD will supplement the traditional menu at first, but Shuttleworth does plan to abolish the menu altogether eventually

They’re still working on the HUD, and Shuttleworth acknowledges the discoverability issue – they’re still working on a solution. I’m curious where they’re going to take this idea, but I’m happy they’re trying.


Nvidia & AMD Say HDD Shortage is Impacting GPU Sales

January 26, 2012

In the summer of last year, Thailand was hit with some disastrous flooding that continues to affect HDD companies and and the supply of hard drives. It’s not unusual to hear HDD companies and tech analysts talk about the flooding and how it is affecting the industry. However, joining the refrain are companies with no stake in the HDD industry. They say that the shortage of hard drives has impacted PC shipments and, as such, had an effect on their businesses.

The Verge reports that both AMD and Nvidia have said the shortage of HDDs resulting from the flooding has had an impact on sales. Though neither expected to see any impact from the 2011 floods, recent earnings calls have revealed that they are feeling a squeeze due to the hard drive shortage.

Nvidia yesterday told investors it earned approximately $116 million less revenue than it had anticipated and is putting at least some of the blame on the hard drive shortage. Meanwhile, AMD also told investors that it was seeing “a little bit of pressure” thanks to the shortage.

Though neither are in the hard drive business, they say the decline in computer shipments has affected graphics processor sales because fewer computers shipped means less demand for components.


Netflix Bounces Back With a Q4 Beat, but Says Amazon Is Coming

January 26, 2012

First look at Netflix Q4 earnings: Earnings of $0.73 per share and revenue of $876 million. Wall Street was expecting around $0.54 a share and $857 million.

But at least as important are the company’s subscriber numbers and guidance, which should give us a much better sense of whether consumers have forgiven/forgotten its missteps of 2011. Netflix has already warned investors that it would lose money through much of 2012, largely because of its international expansion plans.

Q4 Domestic streaming: 22 million subs
Q4 Domestic DVD: 11.17 subs
Q4 International: 1.86 million subs

Outlook: The company had already warned that it may not turn a profit in 2012, and it is now being more explicit about that, citing expansion costs and diminishing DVD revenue: “We expect modest quarterly losses, as well as losses for the calendar year”.

Netflix ended the year with 24.4 million U.S. subscribers. That’s up 25 percent from the previous year, and — crucially — up from the previous quarter’s total of 23.79 million subs. That doesn’t mean its customer base has completely forgiven the company, but at the very least it means it is growing again.


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