November 11, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Review

Ubuntu is a community-developed operating system that is perfect for laptops, desktops and servers. Whether you use it at home, at school or at work, Ubuntu contains all the applications you'll ever need, from word processing and email apps, to web server software and programming tools. Ubuntu is and always will be free of charge. You do not pay any licensing fees. You can download, use and share Ubuntu with your friends, family, school or business absolutely for free.


· Ubuntu will always be free of charge, including enterprise releases and security updates.
· Ubuntu comes with full commercial support from Canonical and hundreds of companies around the world.
· Ubuntu includes the very best translations and accessibility infrastructure that the free software community has to offer.
· Thousands of software packages available for download
· Easy to install
· Easy to use

Right after Ubuntu's fifth birthday it was time to celebrate once more, because a Karmic Koala was released, and it brought with it a lot of reasons to upgrade. If Ubuntu 9.10's smart looks haven't convinced you yet, maybe the fast boot times and overall enhanced performance will. You still don't know what Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) is all about? Then read on, we will clue you in.

While writing this review, I tried to put myself in the "shoes" of a new Ubuntu user. This meant that I didn't go on to installing my favorite programs or setting up everything as I like right after installing the operating system, but instead I tried to make do with what Ubuntu provides in the default installation. Also, I tried to stay away from the terminal and, largely, succeeded in doing so. We've tested Ubuntu 9.10 over a period of one week on the following systems:

· AMD K8 nForce 250Gb Motherboard
· AMD Sempron 2800+ Processor
· Nvdia GeForce FX5500 Video Card
· 512 MB RAM
· IDE HDD 80 GB Maxtor
· 17" LG Flatron L1730S LCD · Intel Gigabyte GA-965P Motherboard
· Intel Pentium 4 3 GHz
· Nvidia Leadtek Geforce 7300GS 256 VRAM
· SATA HDD 80 GB Seagate
· Samsung WriteMaster CD/DVD RW Drive
· 19" DELL LCD


· Notebook HP ProBook 4510s
· Intel Core2 Duo CPU T6570 2.10GHz CPU
· Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X4500 HD
· 4 GB 800 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
· 250GB 7200RPM HDD
· LightScribe DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
· 15.6" WXGA HD LCD · Notebook Fujitsu-Siemens AMILO M1437G
· Pentium M 760 2.00 GHz CPU
· ATI Mobility Radeon X700
· 768 MB DDR2 533 MHz SDRAM
· 80GB 5400RPM HDD
· DVD+/-RW Optical Drive
· 15.4" WSXGA LCD


· AMD K8 nForce 250Gb Motherboard
· AMD Sempron 2800+ Processor
· Nvdia GeForce FX5200 Video Card
· 1.5 GB RAM
· IDE HDD 80 GB Hitachi
· 19" Samsung SyncMaster 910N LCD · Intel Gigabyte GA-73PVM-S2 Motherboard
· Intel Core 2 Duo 7500 2.98 GHz Processor
· Nvdia ASUS GeForce 7300GT Video Card
· 4 GB DDR2 RAM Mushkin
· SATA2 HDD 250 GB WesternDigital
· 22" Samsung SyncMaster 2233 LCD
(tested with Ubuntu 9.10 AMD64)

Installing Ubuntu

So, you download this freshly-prepared ISO image, write it to a CD, then you pop that back into the disk drive and reboot your computer. Assuming that your BIOS settings are correct, Ubuntu should start loading and, after a while, present you with an almost empty GNOME desktop. If you just want to see what this operating system is all about, you're free to wander around the menus and try out the applications – since this is a live session, the chances of doing something that will alter or destroy valuable data are slim to none. But if you're talking business, the Install icon is right there on the desktop, waiting for you to double click it. The average installation takes about 15 minutes, depending on the language options that you select and whether you have an active Internet connection or not, but you can be done with it in less than 10 minutes if you install from a USB drive. Most of the complicated partitioning schemes, like dual booting setups, are greatly automatized, and if you want to dedicate an entire hard drive to Ubuntu then your installation will be trouble-free for sure.

Softpedia has covered the changes that the latest Ubiquity installer incorporates, and I think that the feature slideshow is a great addition that gives a brief but diverse overview of what Ubuntu has to offer, just perfect for new users as it may serve as a quick "which application does what" rundown. If you have installed previous Ubuntu versions, you won't have any problems in getting 9.04 on your machine.

First impressions

When the (short) installation process is done, restart the machine and get a real feel for the new and very polished boot process. At first you will get a minimalistic-looking splash screen with the Ubuntu logo in solid white on a black background, but after a few seconds the new X-based bootsplash will kick in. The developers were hoping to design a streamlined boot process that would be able to start XSplash very early and they nearly did just that in Alpha 6, but the kernel output was destroying its smooth and professional look so they decided to cover up the text with a (albeit short) USplash session.

If you didn't enable automatic logins while installing, GDM (GNOME Display Manager) a.k.a. "the login screen" will disrupt the smooth journey to the desktop by asking you to pick a username and provide a password. The overall look is in line with the USplash theme, rendering a minimalistic and unobtrusive appearance, albeit a little too dark for my taste. After the credentials have been supplied, XSplash will return for a little while, which can be quite annoying.

There is a good side to XSplash's extended presence on your screen. By the time GNOME has finished loading in the background, the X-based bootsplash will fade out and you will be given access to a completely ready desktop environment, no hidden load times here. The view to the wallpaper is unobstructed, the graphic itself being quite an improvement over the abstract and brownish ones that were included in previous Ubuntu versions, or the animal themes in the last few releases. At least for me, the golden sand dune can be too bright at times, but that can be mitigated by lowering the Gamma value in your video card control panel or by simply changing the wallpaper altogether, because you have a wide choice of stunning backdrops right from the get-to.

The new icon set complements the minimalistic look that is present throughout various components, and the libnotify popups integrate well with everything else, sporting smooth fades and transparencies.

Initial setup

Probably the first thing that you notice and which you are familiar with is the Firefox icon on the top panel, next to the Help launcher. By using it you can quickly access a browser session, provided by Firefox 3.5.3 (version 3.5.4 was made available three-four days after the official release). As you're probably well-accustomed to this web browser, I won't go on about its security features and the customization possibilities. All you need to know is that it's there, and it's ready to be used.

Let's see what the Ubuntu developers included for instant messaging. In the Internet menu is the Empathy IM Client, it can't be more obvious than that. You start it up and a wizard appears. I was expecting to configure my XMPP account in one go, but apparently Empathy's creators thought that everyone would be using's service, so they didn't provide a way to enter an alternative address in the wizard. The good thing was that the Network Error notification that followed suit had a big "Edit Account" button on it, but unfortunately the server setting was hidden under yet another "Advanced" group.

After you've configured Empathy and your Contact List gets filled with your buddies, it's time to drop them a line and, preferably, some emoticons to express your feelings about this operating system that you have installed. Well, calling the chat window simple would be an overstatement; it's stripped down to the bare basics in fact. There are no formatting controls and, well, no buttons in it. If you want to insert an emoticon (not type one), you will either have to right-click the text area or click the "Conversation" menu and go into the "Insert Smiley" list. For me, that is pretty limited and cumbersome.

When you close the Contact List, it simply disappears. You can access it from the Indicator Applet, but it takes a while to get used to not having a dedicated IM icon in the notification area. Aside from the lack of features, chatting in Empathy works as expected, and I didn't encounter any problems.

Evolution Mail, on the other hand worked flawlessly. I started it up and I was greeted by a setup wizard through which I configured everything, quickly. My e-mail setup requires SSL, and it was right there, along with all the other relevant options. Upon finishing the wizard, my e-mails loaded up and, surprisingly, even my folders and starred items were correctly set up. However, there was no way I could convince Evolution to import my feed list, or to act as a feed reader. Thunderbird is quite a good aggregator, but Ubuntu's default e-mail client is simply not capable of doing that (there is a plugin, but it's not installed by default).

After noticing Empathy's behavior when closing the Contact List, you would think that Evolution works in the same way. In fact it doesn't; once you close the window it's gone for good, and there appears to be no way you can configure it to remain active in the background. If your e-mail client stays opened all the time, like mine, you're stuck with a big window and with an entry in your taskbar all the time.

Productivity applications

With all communication problems sorted, let's figure out how Ubuntu can help us get some work done. In the Office menu you will find a dictionary application, Evolution and the well-known software suite.

We knew for quite some time that Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) would incorporate 3.1.1. This office suite will take care of word documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, and after you get used to it you will see that it's as good as any other alternative office suite and in some cases better. Proprietary formats are well supported, and the faster startup times will cut down on the waiting period between clicking a document and actually starting to work on it.

I'm not a big fan of Evolution GroupWare, but it seems that it is preferred in corporate environments to the detriment of other similar solutions or software suites. While it lacks some features that would come in handy, it balances them out with the easy setup, no-surprises interface, great stability and low resource usage. It incorporates a calendar, a task organizer and a memo manager, and users can import vCards, .csv, vCalendar files directly. Evolution works with all versions of Microsoft Exchange Server, with the exception of Exchange 2007. It can be synchronized with Palm Pilot devices with gnome-pilot, and OpenSync enables it to be synchronized with mobile phones and other PDAs.

For graphics work we have an old-time classic that has been included in Ubuntu since the get-go. I was hoping that GIMP 2.8 would be ready in time for inclusion into Ubuntu 9.10, but that didn't happen, so instead we have the latest stable version, GIMP 2.6.7, which is about two months old. While it still doesn't feature layer grouping, it is the best free software alternative for graphics and image editing.

Of course, since we are talking about productivity apps, including a good Solitaire card game application is a must. If you're a purist and you want to port your Windows habits to Ubuntu, you will find AisleRiot Solitare to be much more advanced than its proprietary counterpart. It features more than 20 different card games that you can play by yourself, including FreeCell, and if you get bored with it you can choose something else from the collection of logic, puzzle and action games that Ubuntu ships with.

Multimedia support and connectivity

After all this setting up it was time to relax a bit, maybe even watch a video or two on YouTube. So I started up Firefox and I didn't get anywhere fast, because there was no Abobe Flash support. Ubuntu worked on integrating a Firefox plugin that searches and installs the Adobe Flash Player with the package manager, but it appears that YouTube's custom scripts override that function, and instead it will point you to the official Adobe Flash download page. That complicates things a bit, because it misleads a new user into manually installing packages. If the user happens to stumble onto another page that doesn't have any custom scripts, Firefox's Adobe Flash plug-in finder will work correctly and you will be able to choose which Flash support package you want (Adobe's, of course) to install, enter your password and that's it.

The speculation that Banshee will replace Rhythmbox circulated intensely during the initial development of Karmic Koala, but Rhythmbox remains the default music player and media management application in Ubuntu, for now. It is a fairly capable program that can accommodate both novice and more demanding users, and it features play queue and playlist management, multiple playback modes, Audio CD creation and import, podcast support, scrobbling and, last but not least, device sync and management. Since some audio formats are restricted, if you load up an MP3 file you will be prompted to start a search for suitable codecs, then you can install them. However, Rhythmbox refused to play the file even after taking those steps, and it was necessary to quit and then run Rhythmbox again for it to work.

Personal Media Players that use the MTP protocol for connecting to the computer have been a constant source of problems, but getting them to work is quite easy if you know where to look. If you plug one of these players into one of your computer's USB ports, you will see that Ubuntu itself recognizes the device and offers a variety of actions for it, but Rhythmbox doesn't appear to detect it. To get it to work you need to enable "Portable Players - MTP" in Rhythmbox's "Configure Plugins" Window, then your will be able to copy music to your player. MSC devices, those that can be manipulated like a regular USB drive, work without a hitch.

One particular problem with Ubuntu's setup is that MP3 files, and possibly others, are set up to open with Totem, the video playback application, instead of Rhythmbox. I think the system is configured this way so that you can preview or listen single files quickly, and if you think they should be part of your collection you will copy them to your music folder. This mode of operation isn't fully configured either, because you will need to configure a music folder in Rhythmbox and eventually enable the new file detection in it. However, you can choose to open a file with another application by tweaking its properties.

Although Totem has a simple interface, it is a powerful multimedia player. When the codecs required to play a file are missing, you will be prompted to install them in the same way that Rhythmbox does. Although I tend to think of media applications as video and audio players, Totem can do a bit of both. It's not a media management utility, but it supports playlists, subtitles, and when you're listening to music it can even display visualizations. A variety of formats are supported, even High-Defintion videos, such as H.264 encoded ones or the popular MKV container.

If you plug in a digital camera, Ubuntu will detect its presence and a helper will be displayed, offering to open a Nautilus window to browse the photos on the camera, or to start up a very functional piece of software called F-Spot. This digital photography management application includes a set of very useful features that allow you to organize, tag, correct, export and, of course, view your photos. Although its interface can get quite busy, with the toolbar, sidebar and filmstrip all occupying a section of the screen, the number of functions packed in F-Spot is well worth it. The timeline slider and the extensions that can upload your photos to various online services definitely deserve being mentioned, and if you need extra functionality, the included extension finder may be able to help.

Large file downloads, like ISO images, are being increasingly delivered through peer to peer networks like BitTorrent. Ubuntu bundles the Transmission application for torrent downloads. While it is a neat and simple to use application, Transmission could be enhanced by adding a first run wizard that will help new users set their download and upload limits so that the torrent traffic doesn't interfere with VoIP or web browsing.

Once you downloaded one of those large ISO images, you will probably want to write it to a DVD or some other optical media. Simple disk creation and duplication tasks like image burning or data backup can be handled by Nautilus, which features a context menu entry for ISOs and a "Send To" item that enables you to add files to a data disk. More complicated tasks, like Audio CD or Video DVD mastering, can be done with the Brasero Disk Burner. It has a very intuitive interface and a lot of useful usage indications, but you won't find any multimedia editing features like DVD menu creation. Also, the annoying "Image Checksum" plugin is still enabled by default, initiating an integrity check of the written data immediately after finishing the burn process. Since most of today's computers and optical drives/disks are reliable enough, I think that the checksum plugin could be disabled by default, or even made to display a prompt asking if you want to check the written data.

Ubuntu on notebooks

Most of the notebooks on which we tested the new Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) had Intel chipsets, but even so, the level of out-of-the-box functionality is impressive. On both the HP ProBook 4510s and the Fujitsu-Siemens AMILO M1475G all the components were correctly recognized, the hotkeys worked, power management was a breeze, and not even using the hardware wireless switches was a problem. The volume wheel and the remote control on AMILO required no additional setup, and I was happy to see that the Bluetooth module on the HP ProBook was already set up and ready to be used.

A very useful feature for notebook users is the home folder encryption option that is available when installing the system, since the data stored on laptops is more valuable than the device itself in most cases. Encrypted Private Directories was introduced in Ubuntu 8.10, but it wasn't enabled by default and, to actually secure data, the files had to reside in a special folder if they were to be encrypted. However, this approach relied on the user to store sensitive data in the private folder, and configuration files like Pidgin's logs or account settings were still vulnerable. Ubuntu 9.04 extended the encryption to cover the whole /home folder, but it still had to be set up manually. In Ubuntu 9.10, this feature is available at install time, and I must agree that it's a very efficient way of protecting your data. Instead of wasting precious resources by encrypting or decrypting common system files that are of no particular interest, it only secures the place in which the user stores its files, the /home folder.

You need to take some precautions when you use the Encrypted Home Folder feature, to ensure that your data won't be rendered useless. By enabling it, the password that you set during setup is used to initially decrypt a much stronger passphrase, which in turn is used to decrypt the data. This generated passphrase is presented to you upon first boot, and it's recommended that you write it down or otherwise store it in a secure place, because it is vital to the recovery of the data, should something go wrong. If you forget your password and lose this passphrase, your files will be locked, and the chances of recovering them with a brute force attack are slim.

Application management

Since there is no feed aggregator preinstalled and Evolution can't do us the favor of fetching the news, the only choice left is to install one. If you have been paying attention to the images on Ubuntu's installer, then you know about Ubuntu Software Center. Add that to the fact that this program is accessible directly from the Applications Menu, and it's not that hard to guess where a new user will go when looking for software to install. So, let's see if Ubuntu Software Center can help us get a feed aggregator. Do a search for "feed," pick one of the listed applications, and in the information page there is an "Install" button that needs to be clicked. After you enter your password the application is installed – it couldn't get much simpler than that.

When the idea of replacing "Add/Remove Applications" first appeared, some voices argued that Ubuntu already had too many different ways to access the repositories and that they should be consolidated. That didn't happen at this time (maybe in later versions), but "Add/Remove Applications" was definitely replaced with a worthy successor. Ubuntu Software Center is a friendly application that has well-defined software categories, built-in search and detailed package information. The Synaptic Package Manager is still included, but its interface and features are aimed at the advanced crowd, so the Ubuntu Software Center is a great resource for new users.


I must say that I consider Empahty to be a serious "bug." Although its inclusion into this release is probably similar to the way PulseAudio was adopted, Empathy is seriously lacking in some respects. The audio/video chat function is often unstable or unusable, the configuration options are spartan at best and the account manager and creation tool is complicated and often unintuitive. The latest Pidgin developments have initial multimedia chat support, and the available plugins make it an extremely versatile tool that shouldn't have been replaced so easily.


If you read this review from top to bottom, you will see that many of the software installation/customization tasks were related to the lack of support for some technologies, like Adobe Flash or the MP3 audio format. Support for them, along with many other useful things like fonts, a Java virtual machine and DVD playback can be added to the system by simply installing the Ubuntu Restricted Extras package, with the Ubuntu Software Center app. All those separate knick-knacks could be done away with a single move if the Ubuntu developers created an after-installation prompt that would clearly lay out the associated licensing problems and through which the Ubuntu restricted extras package could be installed at the press of a button.

Aside from that, Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) is a great operating system. The hardware support is excellent, and the resource requirements are lower than in many commercial operating systems. The bundled software package is quite useful and it perfectly fits the needs of a novice or business-oriented user. If you're familiar with the previous incarnations of this operating system, Ubuntu 9.10 will appear to you as a mere visual overhaul over its predecessors, but there are many more subtle changes under the hood.

Taking a look at the bigger picture, the Ubuntu family of operating systems is expanding. You can now base your distributed server infrastructure on the Ubuntu Enterprise Cloud, and if you own a Dell netbook you can even try out the Ubuntu Moblin Remix. Last but not least, I personally hoped that Lubuntu, the lightweight XFCE-based community-developed distribution, would be accepted among the officially supported editions, but it looks like we will have to wait until Ubuntu 10.04 for that.
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October 27, 2009

Nokia Siemens Networks Completes First LTE Handover Test

Nokia Siemens Networks, the worldwide leading infrastructure provider, announced on Monday the completion of the first LTE (Long Time Evolution) handover test in the world, which has been made on a commercially available base station and on software fully compliant with standards. According to the company, the new test is aimed at showing whether the LTE handover procedure is being made correctly by both the LTE test terminal and the Nokia Siemens Networks Flexi Multiradio base station.

According to the infrastructure vendor, handover is one of the key features of the mobile radio technology. The newly completed LTE handover test is the first one fully compliant with 3GPP’s March 2009 baseline LTE standard (3GPP is said to be the relevant LTE standards body). The handover in this test has been made between LTE cells of Nokia Siemens Networks’ Flexi Multiradio base station, the company also added.

“Our focus at Nokia Siemens Networks is on commercial hardware and software, not pre-commercial intermediate solutions,” said Marc Rouanne, head of Nokia Siemens Networks’ Radio Access business unit. “We’ve already shipped LTE-capable Flexi Base Station hardware to over 100 customers and this LTE handover on our standards compliant software is another step on the road to the commercial deployment of LTE.“

Nokia Siemens Networks also stated that the handover support was required so as to enable seamless connectivity when the mobile call handling is switched from one mobile cell to another, something that usually occurs when the user is moving. The company also verified handover support on its Evolved Packet Core solution for LTE core networks, such as the Flexi NG and Flexi NS products.

According to the company, the standard compliant LTE network products and terminals are a necessity for the LTE deployments and should offer users the possibility to choose from various products delivered by different vendors. The infrastructure vendor also added that it would sustain the commercial uptake of LTE, offering end-to-end solutions that deliver an easy and cost efficient option to upgrade to LTE.
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Windows 7 Logo Built with 7,000 Domino Pieces

For those who have watched closely the launches of Windows Vista and Windows 7, one thing must be perfectly clear. There is less hoopla when it comes down to the latest iteration of the Windows client compared to its precursor, a smaller footprint Wow as far as marketing efforts are concerned. Nowhere is this more true than in India. While Windows Vista took center-stage at the Taj Mahal, Windows 7 got just a logo built out of 7,000 domino pieces, of course designed to incorporate the number 7 into the launch.

At the bottom of this article you will be able to see the domino extravaganza that went into the launch of Windows 7 from Microsoft India (Being Manan via The Windows Club). Sure enough, the extravaganza was tuned down compared to Windows Vista’s launch. For the official Windows 7 release, Microsoft no longer hijacked the Taj Mahal. Instead 22 company employees at Microsoft’s Hyderabad center built a Windows 7 logo out of 7,000 domino pieces.

In fact, Windows 7’s worldwide launch didn’t even come close to Vista’s, as the Indian release is no exception, but the actual rule. And as ridiculous as the Windows 7 Whopper might have been, as far as meat monstrosities go, it doesn’t even come close to the marketing and publicity stunts Microsoft pulled for Windows Vista.

"Proactive engagement and feedback thereof with partners and consumers was fundamental to the development of Windows 7. It has helped deliver what is the highest quality OS in the history of Windows. It enhances the user experience by its sheer simplicity and caters to their connected lives across work and play. We are delighted by the initial reviews from partners and the technology community. Over 90% of testers from around the world have rated it as "good" or "extremely good" and consider Windows 7 to be responsive, simple to use and stable," noted Ravi Venkatesan, chairman, Microsoft India, on October 22nd.
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October 21, 2009

Google to Launch Self-Branded Android Phone

In order to spur further growth in the mobile market Google has dedicated a lot of resources to Android, the open-source Linux-based operating system for mobile phones, and the results are starting to be felt with a flurry of new Android-based smartphones hitting the market recently or in the short term future. But it now looks like the company isn't content with letting others build Android phones, as it is apparently close to launching its own device, which should be available at retailers as early as this year.

Google is working with an unnamed smartphone manufacturer and from the details so far it looks like the phone will be one of the most competitive on the market and similar to the highly anticipated Motorola Droid. It may in fact be more powerful than Droid, which is already the fastest Android-powered device to hit the market. The Google phone will sport a Qualcomm processor though it isn't clear if it's going to be one from the Snapdragon family. It will also run the latest version of the Android OS, 2.0, which has so far only made its way into Motorola Droid.

The new phone was revealed by Northeast Securities analyst Ashok Kumar who claims that Google will launch the self-branded phone this year but, in an unexpected though not completely surprising move, the phone will be available unlocked through the retail channel. This comes in stark contrast with the usual way of doing things in the industry as phone makers usually rely on deals with the network operators to sell their phones bundled with a mobile plan.

Not even Apple has been able to move away from this type of deals and it has an infamous exclusive arrangement with AT&T. Google though would prefer to sell the phone without any restrictions to the features and capabilities and is probably one of the few companies that can afford to do so, though the phone's success is far from guaranteed.

What's more, the new Google phone will most likely be available from the mobile carriers too as the search giant has to be careful not to alienate them too much. Google is also in a tricky position with the rest of the phone manufacturers that are using Android, as this puts the company in direct competition with them and there may be worries that it will use its privileged position to favor its own device over the ones from third parties.

Google has been pushing hard into the mobile market recently. As mobile Internet use continues to grow at an accelerated pace, the search giant has its eyes set on the potentially very lucrative market, one that would be a perfect fit for its cloud offerings. The company isn't interested in the devices themselves, which is why it chose to offer Android for free hoping it will spur growth in the mobile space but now it looks like it's taking matters into its own hands to offer an uncompromisable experience, but one that will likely be closely tied to its cloud services and products.
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September 29, 2009

Hands on with Sprint's Hero and Instinct HD

What a difference a year makes Last September the first Diamonds were trickling into the market while some were holding out for their beloved QWERTY keyboard, but the Instinct still reigned supreme at Sprint. All were fine devices, to be sure, but the landscape has changed drastically since. In June Sprint released the most anticipated device of the year (Pre,) then followed it up with the best BlackBerry ever (Tour,) and maybe the best Windows device ever (Touch Pro2.) Not content to rest on their laurels, the fast-moving company is looking to kick the competition when it's down: enter the HTC Hero and Samsung Instinct HD.

Samsung Instinct HD
The latter is the proper refresh to the original Instinct, bumping the spec sheet in nearly every way. It is the first phone in the US to offer HD video recording, and with an optional HDMI cable content can be displayed on an HDTV. The 5 megapixel camera with flash is a hefty jump up from the original 2MP shooter without. There are proper apps this time around, including the ever-popular Facebook, Twitter, and Google Maps. The interface has been slightly reworked for the better, allowing outlets like and CNN to deliver content straight to the homescreen. The screen has been upgraded to 3.2" at 320x480 and is much crisper, and an accelerometer lets the user switch to landscape easily. WiFi has been added for those of you who don't live in 3G areas, and the HD marks the first time we've seen the Opera Mobile browser outside of Windows Mobile. All in all, we're really impressed with the upgrades...just not enough to justify the $250 pricetag.

HTC Hero
For a full $70 less you will be able to score yourself an HTC Hero on October 11. Sprint has been on-board with the Open Handset Alliance since launch, but this marks the first Android phone for the carrier. On paper the device is simply the CDMA variant of the European GSM unit, but it has undergone a complete visual makeover. Gone is the distinctive chin, a huge plus in our book, and the the hard lines have been replaced for hand-caressing curves. The buttons have also been mercifully rearranged to be more symmetrical. We wouldn't have minded seeing a dash of color, but the silver-on-gray looks better than it sounds, and the phone feels wonderful in your hands. As for features, Sprint has left the device pretty much alone. Their TV, NFL, NASCAR and navigation apps come preloaded, and visual voicemail has been thankfully included. Beyond that it is the same Sense UI-running Android beast that it was when we first took a look at it. Everything we loved is still there, and the major lag issue seems to be fixed, though some minor lag is still present at times.

So let's review Sprint's lineup again. Best (only) webOS device, check. Best BlackBerry, check. Best Windows Mobile device, check. Best Android device, check. Best (overpriced) dumbphone, check. Best plans, check. Can you hear them now? Check back for a full review of both units soon!
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September 15, 2009

Double-Nucleus Galaxies More Common than Thought

A Cauldron of Stars at the Galaxy's Center: the central white patch in the image is the dense star cluster at the center of our galaxy
Enlarge picture
Established astronomical knowledge had it that galaxies with two nuclei were very rare. Experts believed that small galaxies had one made up of a star cluster, whereas the more massive ones had a black hole at their cores. But a new study comes to prove that the double-nucleus galaxy is, in fact, not that rare of an occurrence. In the research, which analyzed 50 regular galaxies, 12 were found to have both a black hole and a star cluster at their cores. A paper detailing the finds appears in the latest issue of the scientific journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, ScienceDaily reports.

In charge of the new investigation were Swinburne University of Technology (SUT) Associate Professor Alister Graham and Dr. Lee Spitler. Much to their amazement, they discovered that it was not at all uncommon for regular galaxies to have a black hole at their cores, as well as a cluster containing up to ten million stars around them. The presence of such a significant number of double-nucleus galaxies increases the chance of some peculiar astronomical phenomena occurring, Graham reveals. One example consists of black holes beginning to consume nearby stars.

“When stars get too close to massive black holes, the gravitational attraction is such that they can be devoured. When you’ve got up to a million stars within the immediate vicinity of a black hole, the chance of this occurring increases significantly,” the expert says. He adds that such proximity could mean that there are also more hyper-velocity stars in existence than first estimated. “This is when a star approaches a massive black hole and gets caught in a gravitational slingshot. When this happens stars can be ejected from galaxies at speeds in excess of 500 kilometers per second,” Graham explains.

The team also says that double-nucleus galaxies increase chances that the phenomenon known as gravitational radiation actually exists. “Such emission has been predicted by Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, but has never been observed. It is theorized that when stars spiral quickly around a black hole the motion will create gravitational waves – causing ripples in the space-time continuum,” Spitler shares.

“As part of our study we were able to look at star clusters and black holes and determine their mass in proportion to each other and their host galaxies. This knowledge is going to affect the way astronomers develop models for galaxy formation and evolution. Previously evolution models only dealt with one type of nucleus per galaxy. We now have the rationale and data to develop hybrid models that can account for co-existing nuclei and hopefully explore their dynamic joint evolution,” Graham concludes.
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Nintendo Wii Price Cut Imminent

Sony released a new version of the PlayStation 3, styled Slim, but also cut the price of its gaming console significantly. Microsoft responded the same way, slashing the price of the Xbox 360 Elite version. Nintendo did nothing. Of course, the executives at the company talked about how their device was already well positioned to appeal to a wide array of customers and that it was selling extremely well at the current price point. But it seems that the company is already talking to big retailers about a coming price drop.

Videogame consumer site Kotaku is reporting having access to an advanced copy of an add set to appear in Wal Mart stores in October, talking about a “rollback” for the Nintendo Wii.

Nintendo of America issued its standard response to such rumors, saying that it does not comment on speculation and Wal Mart did not comment on the issue either but it makes sense for the Japanese console manufacturer to first introduce a price cut at big retailers, those that tend to move the biggest amount of devices.

The speculation is that Nintendo is worried about the latest NPD Group numbers, which show a decline for the Wii year over year, while the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 are set to gain traction due to the reduced price. The Wii is still selling for the 250 dollars it has cost since its launch and shaving 50 off that would surely mean that it will become more attractive during the all-important Christmas shopping season.

There are speculations that an announcement would come at the Kyoto Cross Media Experience 2009, an event set to begin on September 26. On its home territory, Nintendo might choose to make a grand announcement and maybe even talk about updating its console through an HD version that should come in the future, countering the attraction that Microsoft and Sony might generate with Project Natal and the motion tracking wand.
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September 1, 2009

Samsung Announces App Store Launch for September 14

South Korean mobile phone maker Samsung has announced today that it plans on opening its on-device application store for all Samsung smartphones on September 14. Already expected to kick off this year, the Application Store is set to be launched in the UK, France and Italy, the company states, mentioning that it will also come to over 30 countries in the near future, including Germany and Spain. At the same time, it should be noted that the app portal will only be available on Omnia and I8910 HD handsets, with Omnia II (I8000) and OmniaLITE (B7300) to see support shortly after the launch.

The new Samsung Application Store comes to the market in line with other application portals launched by leading mobile phone makers and wireless carriers, in a trend that was initiated by Apple's App Store. According to Samsung, mobile phone users will find a wide range of applications available at its app portal, including games, references, social networking, e-books and other solutions. In order to access the store, Omnia users will have to install a mobile client available for download at, while I8910 HD ones only need to update their software.

The client comes with support for English, French and Italian, and for credit card and phone billing. In addition, the company also says that those who haven't yet signed up as members of the Application Store will still be able to download and purchase apps, only that they will use the phone billing payment option. There will be more than 300 software solutions available at launch, and their number should rise to over 2,000 before the end of the year, the company says.

“Samsung is a proven leader in delivering a fantastic end-to-end mobile experience and continues to demonstrate its dedication to its customers with the new Samsung Application Store,” said Paul Reddick, CEO of Handmark. “As the exclusive content aggregator for the store, we are excited to bring the largest catalogue of both Handmark content as well as popular titles from our extensive network of partners to Samsung customers on day one.” Hosoo Lee, executive vice president of Samsung’s Media Solution Center, added,“The Application Store will expand the service channel, not only on handheld devices but also on PCs through the launch of new PC software. The software will allow customers to download applications and manage them on a PC to maximize service usability
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August 22, 2009

Windows 7 vs Vista VGA game performance

Windows 7 (Final) vs Windows Vista VGA game performance analysis
ATI and NVIDIA -- Single versus Multi-GPU.

Last week Microsoft released the final build (RTM) version of Windows 7 to MSDN members, yes Windows 7 has gone gold, though you as a consumer might have to wait a while longer (October) for you to be able to upgrade to Windows 7. MSDN members already have access to the final build and as such can prepare and migrate to the new Operating system.

Guru3D received a couple of licenses and as such we started to install our test systems with Windows 7 Professional edition, and we were curious. See, when Windows Vista was released we consumers ran into a stack load of driver issues. I remember Catalysts received WHQL status, yet the drivers secretly missed out on half of their functionality.

But it wasn't as bad as NVIDIA, no Sir. NVIDIA arrived on the scene with their Windows Vista driver massively late and under-developed. In fact "VISTA GEFORCE CRASH" was one of the most popular Google search combos at that time.

Credit where credit is due, once the press started to really tackle the issues NVIDIA and ATI were both nearly ready with some proper drivers. Initially though, overall game performance was still lacking opposed to Windows XP with a 10~15% performance differential. The bugs and negative performance impact was one of the many things that made Windows Vista spin into a negative spiral, from which for the bigger part, Microsoft never recovered. It's a branding stigma similar to say the TLB bug that haunted AMD with the first Phenom release.

Fact remains that over time all these issues ironed themselves out, and to date I consider Windows Vista to be a lovely platform to work and game with. But now there is the pending release of Windows 7; roughly two months ago I had already been contacted by parties like NVIDIA and AMD asking if we wanted to test their drivers with the Windows 7 Beta. I refrained form that offer as I strongly felt it makes no sense whatsoever to publish results based on a beta driver with a beta operating system. Last week Microsoft released the RTM build of Windows 7, this is the final build that is going gold. With ATI and NVIDIA releasing Windows 7 compatible drivers for a while now, we figured now's a good time to see how well game graphics performance is on Windows 7 and how stable the platform actually is.

The good news is that both ATI and NVIDIA for the Windows 7 release did their homework this time around. As such in this article we will check out the current Windows 7 drivers, look at performance in-between Windows Vista and Windows 7 and look at stability.

We can already say that not only do we like Windows 7 very much, but also the VGA drivers are extremely mature and performance is actually right on par with the latest Vista drivers.

Let's start off this article, with a VGA performance overview in-between Windows Vista 64-bit and Windows 7 64-Bit.
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August 19, 2009

PlayStation 3 Gets 3.00 Firmware on September 1

The new firmware will be launched with the PS3 Slim

The PlayStation 3 is one of the most important consoles on the market being the most powerful one in terms of hardware. As you all know by now, Sony officially confirmed that a new version of the platform, the PlayStation 3 Slim, would be released on September 1.

Also at that time, a new version of the PS3 firmware, the 3.00, will be released for all of the devices out there. It will incorporate some pretty big changes and will bring new features. First of all, the navigation on the platform will be improved thanks to some design changes to the XMB (Xross Media Bar). The system is now even easier and more intuitive to use, according to Sony.

You will now have a new “What's New” option when you will start the PS3 system, which will keep you up to date with everything regarding the console and the PlayStation Network. The section will display the latest and greatest games, videos or other news, as well as recently played titles in an animated format.

A new status indicator will be displayed in the top right corner alongside your user icon, friend icon, number of friends you have online and any other small icons that will let you know if you have any new messages. A scrolling ticker will also be displayed, containing the latest news from the PSN.

The Friends List feature will also receive an upgrade with the 3.00 firmware, as a redesign was implemented. The messages received from your friends will be viewable under each of their profiles, making it much easier to interact with them. Custom themes and avatars will also be supported, which will be free or premium, all available through the PlayStation Store.

Upcoming games will also support a new feature for the Trophy system, which will reveal just how much of a game you went through and what other trophies you unlocked in any additional content for that game.
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AdSense to Deploy Improved Contextual Targeted Ads

The enhancements will be rolled out this week

Google may be a sprawling giant with interests in many different areas but it still makes the overwhelming majority of its revenue from advertising. So, while it may not get much of the spotlight, it takes its advertising products very seriously. The company is now announcing that its affiliate advertising program AdSense is getting some important improvements to be rolled out this week.

“I'm excited to let you know that this week, we'll be rolling out a series of enhancements to AdSense's contextual targeting capabilities, which will more accurately match relevant ads to webpages. You won't need to update your AdSense account or ad code, as these changes will be applied automatically. In many ways these types of improvements are par for the course at Google - but I wanted to let you know about the kinds of improvements we've been focusing on,” Woojin Kim, AdSense product manager, wrote on the AdSense blog.

The contextual targeting technology powering AdSense ads is one of the most important components of the product. It scans and analyzes the pages where the ads are deployed to find which of these are more suitable for the content and thus more likely to be interesting to the users. Interested users means more clicks on the ads, which in turn means happier advertisers and wealthier web site owners. After AdSense determines the type of content on the site it does an automated auction to decide which of the ads that match it to display.

The system, though, isn't perfect, as with all machines trying to understand human behavior, so it may end up serving a less relevant ad, thus not helping anyone involved in the process. The improvements Google will be unveiling this week should help with the relevancy of the ads and the changes should be, more or less, visible as soon as they are implemented. Google also assures its users that the changes are strictly specific to the contextual targeted ads and won't affect other ad types.
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August 16, 2009

New Stem Cell Gene Splicing Method Created

The field of stem cell gene splicing is now about to really take off, experts at the Whitehead Insitute say

Experts from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research have recently managed to overcome a major obstacle in human embryonic stem cell (ESC) and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell research, when they devised a new method of introducing or modifying genes inside them. While this has been relatively easy to do in mice, altering the human genome proved to be infinitely more complicated, and no technique available until now had such a high success rate as the new one. The experts also authored a new paper detailing the find, published in the August 13th issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

“It's not clear where this hurdle of genetic manipulation lies; it could be purely technical, but it could also be an inherent difference between human and mouse cells. Other people have genetically manipulated these human cells, but the process has been extremely laborious and extremely time consuming. Using the zinc finger nucleases makes the process very easy,” explains Whitehead postdoctoral researcher Dirk Hockemeyer, who is also a first author of the Nature paper.

Zinc finger nucleases, the authors say, are a relatively unknown class of proteins, which have the ability to facilitate tempering with, or replacement, of existing genes in the human genome. The new study “is a proof of principle that zinc finger nucleases can be used to swap out many, many additional genes in human ESCs and iPS cells. Now human ESC and iPS cell genetics can catch up to mouse genetics, which has had a 20-year headstart,” adds Rudolf Jaensich, a Whitehead member, and a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

According to Whitehead postdoctoral researcher Frank Soldner, also a first author of the new paper, the proteins can be used to alter just about any gene researchers want. “We can produce zinc finger nucleases that out of about three billion DNA base pairs can identify one specific site. We also spent quite a bit of energy to see if the zinc finger nucleases cut somewhere other than the intended target site, and it was very unlikely,” he says.

The new study, entitled “Efficient targeting of expressed and silent genes in human ESCs and iPSCs using zinc-finger nucleases”, was funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Life Sciences Research Foundation, ScienceDaily reports.
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China Unicom says it hasn't bought 5 million iPhones from Apple

Cupertino-based Apple and Chinese mobile phone carrier China Unicom have been recently rumored to plan on launching Apple's iPhone on the Chinese market as soon as September, yet it seems that the rumors are now proved false. While previous reports pointed towards the fact that a deal between the two had already been inked, the carrier denied them, though confirming that it was in talks with Apple.

State-owned China Unicom also denied reports pointing towards the fact that it already bought 5 million iPhones from Apple. “Talks between us and Apple have been going on for some time, but no agreement has been reached yet,” said Unicom spokesman Yi Difei, cellular-news reports. “There are all kinds of possibilities. There is no particular timetable for the talks.”

The rumor about the closed deal between the two came from the newspaper China Business News, which stated recently that a three-year exclusive iPhone deal between Apple and China Unicom had already been signed, and that the carrier had agreed to pay 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion) for a number of 5 million iPhones. “The report is not true,” Yi said, yet declined to provide further details on the talks between the two parties.

Apple seems to have denied the rumors as well, through Tiffany Yang, a Beijing spokeswoman with the company. Even so, the newspaper claims that the information came from a sales manager for Unicom's subsidiary in the southern province of Guangdong, Yu Zhaonan, while also stating that the iPhone is set to become available in the country in September.

For what it's worth, the deal between the two companies will be a win-win, as both of them are trying to rise their profits, and a partnership for the introduction of one of the most popular devices on the market in a country with the largest number of mobile phone users might be just the thing. China Unicom, the second largest carrier in the country, has accounted for a number of 133 million users as of December 31, 2008.
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July 25, 2009

Bing Users Are 55 Percent More Likely to Click on Ads

Microsoft's new search engine Bing has been a relative success for the company, if not in user numbers, which may have risen slightly in the past month, though sources are often contradictory, then by the large amount of mostly positive press it has been getting almost two months since it was launched. And now there seems to be another reason why Microsoft execs should be patting themselves on the back as data from search-advertising network Chitika shows that Bing users are 55 percent more likely to
click on an ad in a site they are visiting, compared to Google users.

“We at Chitika are quite fond of search engines: since all of our ads serve only to search traffic, they’re our bread and butter in the online world. So with Microsoft’s new Bing decision engine making so much noise, we thought we’d take a closer look at the clickthrough rates of visitors from the three major search players: Yahoo!, Google, and Bing,” Dan Ruby, director of marketing at Chitika, said about the reasoning behind the study.

The study looked at ads on 50,000 sites in Chitika's network, which generated 32 million impressions in a week this month. The findings show that users who landed on the sites coming from a Bing search were more likely to click on an ad, with clickthrough rates of 1.5 percent. Meanwhile, only 1.24 percent of those coming from Yahoo's search engine clicked on ads on the sites, with Google users coming dead last following on ads only in 0.97 percent of the cases.

While the data is interesting in itself, does it really say anything about the ad market or Bing for that matter? One could assume that the fact that Bing users are more likely to click on ads is a characteristic of the whole group and not just an unrelated coincidence. One could even speculate, like TechCrunch does, that they are using Bing in the first place because they are more susceptible to ads, as Microsoft has been pouring tens of millions in an ad campaign for the search engine. Still it may not have anything to do with the product itself but rather with the fact that it has such a small audience.
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Samsung to Launch Tegra-Based Smartphone

South Korean mobile phone maker Samsung will come to the market with a smartphone that packs an Nvidia Tegra chip, a company representative has confirmed recently, as reported by laptopmag. While the Tegra computer-on-a-chip has already been known to come in a series of smartphones in the near future, this time it seems that things are moving closer to becoming reality.

The platform should offer a lot of performance in terms of graphics on a mobile phone, yet other capabilities are also enhanced with the use of the chip, it seems. While one of the first devices to come to the market with Tegra inside will be Microsoft’s Zune HD, it seems that a handset to include it won't make us wait too long either.

As many of you might already know, the first Tegra-based mobile phone has already been reported to be on its way to the market in the fourth quarter of the ongoing year, while the possible carrier to have it is either AT&T or T-Mobile. Until now, there were no exact details on which maker would step up first with such a device, yet it seems that Samsung might be the winner.

Some of the details that are available concerning a Tegra-based device, regardless of the maker, include a possible $199 price point, as well as the great support the platform can offer to Windows CE and Android. In case these prove true, we should have on the market a Samsung handset based on Nvidia's Tegra chip that will run either under Microsoft or Google's operating system, while being priced the same as Apple's iPhone.

In case Samsung unveils such a device, users might very well receive an AMOLED touchscreen and a wide range of TouchWiz widgets along with it, which should enhance the user experience quite a lot. The chip can deliver a lot of performance, so everything is for the best, it seems. Hopefully, the phone will arrive this year, so stay tuned to learn more
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July 19, 2009

177 Million Windows 7 Copies to Be Shipped by the End of 2010

Microsoft will sell approximately 180 million copies of Windows 7 by the end of 2010 is the forecast IDC offered in a study assessing the market impact of the next iteration of the Windows client that was sponsored by Microsoft. The market analysis company indicated that Windows 7 would catalyze a brisk uptake, and that 177 million units would be shipped in the first 14 months on the market. Windows 7 is currently planned for RTM by the end of this month, and for general availability on October 22, 2009.

The numbers offered by IDC indicate that Windows 7 will perform better on the market compared to its precursor, but not by much. According to statistics from Microsoft, over 180 million Windows Vista licenses had been shipped by mid-2008, at approximately a year and a half since the operating system was introduced.

Personally I think that IDC's numbers are a tad conservative, and that Microsoft will ship more than 177 million Windows 7 licenses by the end of 2010. Still, the global economic downturn is indeed a factor that can deliver a heavy impact on Windows 7 shipments.

“Windows 7 will be shipping into a relatively harsh environment. But the launch of a new and better operating system will necessitate new applications, new hardware, new planning, deployment and training, and new services. These will drive much-needed investment that will, in turn, fuel stronger growth in subsequent years,” IDC noted.

Windows 7 Shipments
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The success of Windows 7 in comparison to its predecessor is intimately connected with that of new OEM computer sales. For the time being the market is not doing all that well. IDC revealed that worldwide PC shipments dropped by 3% in the second quarter of 2009. Over 80% of the revenue of the Windows client division comes from Windows copies pre-installed on new computers from original equipment manufacturers.

“For Microsoft, the launch of Window 7 suggests strong growth in client operating systems again. But the impact of Windows 7 will reach far beyond Microsoft, driving revenues and growth for many of the IT companies worldwide that sell hardware, write software, provide IT services, or serve as IT distribution channels. This growth will do its bit to help economies around the world climb out of the current economic crisis,” IDC added.

IDC expects Microsoft to ship 40 million Windows 7 units in 2009, namely in October (starting with Thursday 22), November and December. This number is forecasted to grow to over 272 million in 2013. Of course, it is important to note that the term “ship” is used, and not “sold,” an indication of the fact that all the Windows 7 copies available into the channel are taken into consideration and not specifically those acquired by consumers.
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Better Virus Filtration in the Future, Symbian Foundation Says

The Symbian Foundation admitted recently that it needed to improve the process of testing the applications digitally signed for the Symbian-based mobile phones due to the fact that it had allowed a botnet-building Trojan to slip through the filtering process. The Trojan horse program that managed to pass the security test is called “Sexy Space,” and has been available for download up until this week.

Symbian's Chief Security Technologist, Craig Heath, stated on Thursday that the Foundation's process that kept malicious applications off Symbian OS-based phones should be improved, so that situations like this would not occur again. “When software is submitted, we do try to filter out the bad eggs. When apps are submitted, they are scanned. We are looking at how they could be scanned better,” Heath said, cited by ZDNet UK.

In order for an application to be accepted by Symbian devices, the developers need to submit it to the Foundation, where it goes through a checking process. Each software solution that passes the security tests is then digitally signed, so that users are assured that the application they are downloading is a rather safe one.

The testing process has a few stages that applications must go through. The first one is an antivirus scanning, after which random samples are sent for human examination. According to Heath, the Sexy Space Trojan, which is reportedly a low-risk malware, was disguised as ACSServer.exe, a legitimate application, and hasn't gone through the human inspection phase.

Although the Foundation discovered that the app was a Trojan two weeks ago and revoked the digital signature, it seems that it remained available for download until this week due to an error on the servers. Heath also explained that the automated scanning processes would be enhanced, and that the Foundation also planned to improve the human auditing, though it would not expand it due to leveraged costs and the delays it would add to the digital signing process.
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New Android Update Unleashed, Android Donut might arrive this summer

Android mobile phone users that own a T-Mobile G1 device should already know that a new software update has been released for their mobile phones. The new firmware version is reportedly coming with “permissions fixes and other bug fixes,” which means that there might not be visible things included in the package. Moreover, Android Central states that the fixes are not meant to influence the regular use of the phone, but that they are something that developers will most certainly notice.

This is supposedly one of the already announced updates that Google's Android operating system is expected to receive during the ongoing year. As already reported, the Android developing team plans to come to the market with a series of major updates for the platform during the ongoing year, while also intending to release a minor one in the meantime.

One of the upcoming updates would be Android 2.0, also known as Donut, which is supposedly heading towards users sometime before the end of the summer. As the new minor update is expected to be rolled out until July 20, this might be the software that preps the Android devices for the near deployment of Donut, some voices over the Web have suggested.

Those who will receive the new update should notice that the build number has moved from CRB43 to CRC1. At the same time, we should also note that this is one of the three Android updates that were reported to come during 2009. As soon as Donut becomes available, users should see another minor update heading their way, one that will most probably fix some of the bugs that Android 2.0 will come with.

Assuming that all goes according to plan, Android should get ready before the end of the year to receive the future updates the developing team has in store. Two of the major Android updates that will come are Eclair and Fran, yet they wil
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June 26, 2009

Windows 7 Professional $99.99 and Home Premium $49.99 Discounts Now Live

On the same day that it announced officially the pricing of Windows 7, Microsoft also revealed that customers would have the opportunity to buy the two main editions of the next iteration of Windows at discounted prices. The discounts went live on June 26, 2009, and Windows 7 Professional is available for $99.99, while Windows 7 Home Premium can be bought for just $49.99.

One good place to start is the Microsoft Store. The Redmond-based company not only sells the two Windows SKUs at the discounted prices but also offers a list of its partners that do so across North America and Japan. As a reminder, the special offer is only available in the US, Canada and Japan.

“Promotional pricing is available on Windows 7 Home Premium and Windows 7 Professional upgrade versions only. This promotional pricing is a limited time offer, while supplies last, and is limited to three (3) copies per edition per customer,” Microsoft informs. In the US and Canada, the special prices will last until July 11, or as long supplies are still available. In Japan, Microsoft will discontinue the offer on July 5.

What are customers getting? Well, they're getting the upgrade editions of Windows 7 Professional and Home Premium. I have seen questions related to whether a clean install of Windows 7 was possible using the upgrade media. The answer is apparently yes. But the fact of the matter is that with the upgrade, Windows 7 media consumers also get an upgrade license. Meaning that they might install Windows 7 as they see feet, either upgrade or clean install, but only as long as they already have a genuine, licensed copy of Windows Vista or Windows XP. Otherwise, they would be breaking the EULA, essentially pirating.

“Pre-Orders can be reviewed, updated, or cancelled at any time before pre-order items are released,” Microsoft explained. “Prices for pre-order items are covered by the Pre-order Price Guarantee, which describes what happens if prices change after you purchase a pre-order item. A credit card is required for pre-order, but your card will not be charged until your order is shipped or the product is made available for download. If you wish to return an item that was pre-ordered, the 30-day return period begins: when downloadable products are delivered electronically to your account; when physical products are shipped.”
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June 21, 2009

Google Suggest Feature Removed in China

With all the focus on Iran in recent attempts to block many of the social networks and services and other sites, it is easy to forget that the greatest Dabbles regularly in the control of the Internet and prevent the abuse of web sites, namely, China.

While the recent freeze Twitter, Flickr, and the prohibition of some of the topics on the research on the history of the Tiananmen Square massacre had not received any official comment, at least, Mountain View, California-based company made a statement on the recent request from the Chinese government to transfer some of the functions of the search engine.

China has made several previous requests that the company is on the disabled Google feature at the expense of the proposal as it is linked to abusive or suggest content often, and now it appears that Google has complied. New York Times reported that Google executives and officials met with officials from the Chinese government earlier this week to discuss this request.

It appears that Google has warned in April and June, and threatened to impose sanctions, but this reduction did not give any change. Google suggestion feature is completely disabled on the site.

"We are conducting a comprehensive review of our services, and to take all necessary steps to correct any problems in our results. This has been a significant engineering effort, and we believe we have addressed the vast majority of this problem results," Google in a statement on the request of the Government.

But Google so far to comment on issues on the history of 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre when the inspection of all containing any reference to the arena, even those not related to the incident, such as tourism, information and pictures of the blocked several days. Search giant says it is trying to remain neutral and open, but so far some controversial moves in China, but the company claims that it was necessary to comply with local laws and regulations.
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May 12, 2009

Sony Ericsson’s new Themes Creator Ver v4.00.b19.7

With Sony Ericsson’s new Themes Creator you can personalise your Sony Ericsson mobile phone as easily as you customise your computer desktop.

It’s a brilliant free tool that lets you choose the colour scheme, decide on the graphic style, pick the background images … and so on. So now your phone can reflect your mood or your interests; you can make it more flamboyant or minimal, or angular or friendly … or just cooler.

Themes Creator is really easy to use, with three levels to suit everyone from a novice to a professional designer. Just download it to your desktop and start creating your new theme on your computer.

Download: here
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