Sunday, August 19, 2012

Can Samsung's Big Note Bring the Stylus Back in Style?

Samsung on Monday announced that its Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, which primarily uses a stylus for input, will hit the market this month.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 has a 10.1-inch screen, a 1.4 GHz quad-core processor, and a multiscreen feature that lets users run two applications simultaneously.

"I think it's an interesting differentiator for Samsung against the iPad and has worked for them so far with the [smaller Note smartphone]," Danielle Levitas, a group vice president at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

Samsung "is clearly looking to establish its own identity in the tablet space, and while Apple has talked about things such as style and image, the one area that Samsung's looking to corner with its Galaxy Note products is versatility of user input," Jeff Orr, a senior practice director at ABI Research, suggested.

Notes on the Galaxy Note 10.1

The Galaxy Note 10.1 runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). It has a 5 MP rear autofocus camera with LED flash and a 1.9 MP front facing camera. It runs on HSPA+.

The tablet comes preloaded with various Google applications. For the enterprise, it offers Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, on-device encryption, and virtual private network capabilities from Cisco and Juniper Networks.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with an accelerometer, a digital compass, a light and a gyroscope. The tablet weighs about 21 ounces.

Features include the Smart Stay eye-tracking feature; Pop Up Play, which lets users watch videos onscreen while running other tasks; and AllShare Play, which lets users share content in real time when the tablet is connected to Samsung HD TVs, or other consumer electronic devices on the same network.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 will be available in a WiFi-only and a WiFi with 3G HSPA+ versions at launch. A WiFi and LTE version will be available later in the year.

Pricing and the exact launch date have not yet been disclosed.
More on the Stylus

The Galaxy Note 10.1 uses Samsung's S Pen stylus. This launches various applications, including S Note, S Planner, Crayon physics, Adobe Photoshop Touch and Polaris Office, automatically when taken up for use. Alternatively, users can set their preferred apps for automatic launch.

S Note lets users combine notes and sketches with other digital content in preset templates. It's also integrated with knowledge search engines so users can search for, and drag and drop, information into S Notes.

Friday, August 17, 2012

'Hack' Attack on Journo Was Just a Simple Engineering Feat

In the movies, hackers often type away at a keyboard and somehow -- movie magic, perhaps -- manage to crack a network's security and access encrypted files and protected data. In real life, bypassing security measures can be as simple as sweet-talking tech support.

That is how tech journalist Mat Honan, a former Gizmodo writer, came under attack. Someone called Apple's support staff and gained control of Honan's iCloud storage account, which compromised his associated Apple devices, and even his Gmail and Twitter accounts.

Honan could only watch as his iPhone went dead, and his iPad and MacBook contents were erased. The hacker brazenly sent racist tweets not only from Honan's personal Twitter account but also from a Gizmodo account he used when he worked there.

If all this could happen to a tech-savvy writer, how safe can the average user be?

"The most important thing to understand is that this is not a hacking attack," said Alan Webber, principal analyst for the Altimeter Group. "It is totally a social engineering problem -- 100 percent."

Mat Honan and Apple did not respond to our request for further details.
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Social Networking Opens Social Engineering Window

Just as users need to be cautious about the phishing techniques used to steal personal information, they need to be aware that social networks such as Twitter and Facebook -- which allow users to share personal information about themselves -- have opened holes that hackers use to exploit their systems.

This isn't new however.

"Actually social engineering -- phishing or pretexting -- preceded technology and remains the easiest way to get through most security systems, physical or electronic," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst for the Enderle Group. "It is well past time we should have fixed this."

While it is easy to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, who suggested that "he who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither," we actually shouldn't confuse freedom with convenience in the digital space.

"There absolutely needs to be a balance between security and convenience," Webber told TechNewsWorld. "But convenience is overrated when it comes to backing up to protect against this type of attack."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

AirPlay Mirroring Looks Great if Your Network Is Pretty Enough

OS X Mountain Lion is crawling with tweaks, new functions and improvements, but for the most part, they're minor adjustments that smooth out the general user experience.

One new feature that does stand out, though, is AirPlay mirroring. It can be used to wirelessly connect your Mac with a television. Set it up correctly, and that TV is showing whatever is on your Mac's screen. It's like a wire-free version of an HDMI adapter, and its range is limited only by your wireless network.

The process takes plenty of gear, though. You'll need a decent WiFi router as well as an Apple TV. And the actual TV, of course. Also, your Mac has to be a 2011 model or newer due to requirements placed on the device's graphics chipset.

If you happen to have all of that, you're ready to go. What to use it for? Presentations, entertainment, possibly gaming, or any instance in which having a bunch of people crowd around the Mac's screen would be uncomfortable.
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That's Entertainment

Mirroring adds a new degree of versatility to an Apple TV. By itself, Apple TV is not a universal media monster. It does iTunes, of course, along with Netflix, if you're a subscriber. It just snapped up Hulu. It might even buddy up with Amazon Prime, considering that service just hit iPad. There's YouTube, there are some sports-related channels, etc.

It doesn't do everything, though. For example, HBOGo is a brilliant service, but you can't get it directly through Apple TV. Also, Hulu Plus users sometimes get hit with a most unwelcome message when they bring up a show they want to watch -- something like "Sorry, you can't do that on television. You're going to have to watch this on your computer instead." Normally my reaction to that is to schlep the laptop into the living room, hook it up to the TV with an HDMI adaptor, play the show, and send a photo of myself doing it to Jason Kilar while making my best I-am-utterly-ashamed-of-what-I'm-doing face.

But that schlepping, it's so ... untidy. And my MacBook's battery won't last forever. Soon enough I'll have to dig the power cord out from under the desk and fight through that rat nest that's somehow developed behind the TV to find an outlet.

This is one shortcoming that Airplay mirroring will theoretically eliminate. If you can get content on your Mac, you can see it on your TV, and almost all online video is available via a browser or a player on a personal computer. Set-top boxes, tablets and smart TVs have restrictions here and there, but a basic computer is the common denominator with which just about all online video will play nicely. Make that computer's screen project to your TV, and your online viewing options are free from cumbersome this-screen-not-that-screen complications.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Who Loves Hadoop?

Mention big data and the first thing that might come to mind is Hadoop. The open source software framework has recently enjoyed a great deal of popularity among vendors and enterprise users.

However, if it is to really be useful to the enterprise, Hadoop may need to be taken out of open source, argues Brian Christian, chief technology officer of Zettaset.

"The community serves its needs, not the needs of the enterprise," Christian told LinuxInsider. "Meanwhile, the enterprise has the dollars to drive innovation on its need. In between this chasm are companies like Zettaset that follow and contribute to the community, yet sell features and functionality in our software packages that the community is not focused on."
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The Lowdown on Hadoop

The Apache Hadoop framework enables distributed processing of large datasets across clusters of computers. It's designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines.

Each computer in a Hadoop cluster offers its own local computation and storage. Hadoop is designed to detect and handle failures at the application layer so it will continue to be highly available even if some of the computers in the hardware clusters fail.

Hadoop changes the economics and dynamics of large-scale computing because it's scalable, cost Simple Strategies for Enhancing eCommerce Profitability. Click to download white paper. effective, flexible and fault tolerant, IBM says. New nodes can be added as and when required without the need to change data formats; commodity servers can be used to conduct massively parallel computing. Hadoop has no schema, so it can absorb any type of data from any number of sources. When a node goes down, the system redirects work to another instance where the data is stored.
Hadoop's Many Lovers

Yahoo and Facebook are among the largest users of Hadoop; others include Amazon, eBay, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, HP, IBM and Apple.

"Speaking only for Cloudera, four of the top five commercial banks, four of the top five general retailers, four of the top five entertainment companies and all three of the tier-one telecom carriers run Cloudera," Charles Zedlewski, vice president of product at Cloudera, a company that provides Hadoop-based software and services, told LinuxInsider. "A number of" large government agencies and small data-driven startups also run Cloudera.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Curiosity Begins Capturing Martian Kodak Moments

A Fantastic Achievement'

"The successful landing of the Mars rover Curiosity represents a fantastic achievement," Mario Livio, senior astrophysicist with the Space Telescope Science Institute, told TechNewsWorld.

"The landing followed an unprecedented set of complex maneuvers, and it demonstrated once more how human ingenuity and hard work can overcome incredible difficulties and lead to fabulous results," Livio pointed out.

In fact, "it is not an accident that the rover was named 'Curiosity,'" he added. "It may give us an answer to a question that we have been curious about for ages: Did Mars ever host life?

"I sat up all night to follow the approach and landing, and to tweet about it," Livio said. "It was worth every minute."

'Where Does This Gravel Come From?'

Just minutes after its landing, Curiosity returned its first view of Mars: a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover.

About two hours later, a higher-resolution image arrived.

Curiosity rover Mars photo
This is one of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars on the morning of Aug. 6, 2012. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

"Curiosity's landing site is beginning to come into focus," said John Grotzinger, project manager of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

"In the image, we are looking to the northwest. What you see on the horizon is the rim of Gale Crater. In the foreground, you can see a gravel field. The question is, where does this gravel come from?" Grotzinger asked. "It is the first of what will be many scientific questions to come from our new home on Mars."

Later in the week, color images are expected when the rover's mast -- equipped with high-resolution cameras -- is deployed.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Court Docs Reveal Details of Kim Dotcom's Rough-and-Tumble Arrest

Court testimony from the case of Kim Dotcom, the founder of file-sharing site Megaupload, has been released.

Bloomberg was among those to report on the testimony, noting that a New Zealand police officer said the use of helicopters when arresting Dotcom was "over the top."

Another article about the Dotcom case, from the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia, said that Dotcom claims to have been punched and kicked by police during the raid on his US$25 million mansion.

Reuters also had an article about Dotcom's abuse allegations.

Dotcom was arrested in January on charges of orchestrating the biggest copyright infringement conspiracy in U.S. history. He is believed to have generated more than $175 million from Megaupload, which was a platform for sharing all variety of copyrighted material, including movies, TV shows, books and software.

Born in Germany, Dotcom moved to New Zealand, where he face extradition to the U.S.

Food on the Go

If you shudder at the thought of returning from vacation to a fridge full of spoiled food, you may be in luck.

Tesco, a UK-based multinational grocery store, is launching a trial of Britain's first "interactive grocery store," according to the BBC.

The store features four screens at the departure lounge at London's Gatwick Airport. Customers will use the screens to slide "shelves" and view various products, and will then use a smartphone to scan a barcode. The products will then be delivered to you house the day you return.

The BBC quotes a Tesco marketing manager who says that the company doesn't view this as a gimmick, but as a legitimate venue for shopping.
Chinese Banks Don't Support Firefox, Chrome

The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, or ICBC, announced that its Internet banking system is not fully equipped to handle Web browsers besides Internet Explorer, according to

If that weren't antiquated enough, ICBC's e-banking system also encourages users to use IE6, IE 7 or IE8 as opposed to the newer IE9 or IE10.

The lack of browser options is not confined to ICBC, according to Tech In Asia, which cities a Chinese-language article from Someone using Chrome or Firefox might never see the online banking login box appear, which pretty well makes online banking impossible. Same story if someone wants to use Safari, the default browser for Macs.

ICBC does, to its credit, support Firefox -- but only up to Firefox 10.0.x. This is problematic because Firefox has released Version 14.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ARM Reaches Out With Muscular 2nd-Gen GPUs

Mobile processor manufacturer ARM on Monday announced the second generation of its Mali T-600 family of graphics processor units (GPUs), based on ARM's Midgard architecture.

The new chips represent the second generation of Mali-T600 processors; the first was announced in November.

"The graphics demands in smartphones, tablets and DTVs continue to accelerate," Steve Steele, senior product manager at ARM, told TechNewsWorld.

"GPU technology typically moves faster than CPU technology," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

About the Sons of Mali

The ARM Mali-T600 series consists of three GPUs for smartphones, tablets and smart TVs: the T624, T628 and T678. The first two are for smartphones and smart TVs; the T678 has been optimized for tablets.

The Mali-T624 offers up to four cores, and the other two up to eight cores. The second generation Mali-T600 family offers 50 percent better performance than its predecessor, ARM said. This was achieved by optimizing the register transfer level and implementing microarchitectural improvements for more efficient graphics execution.

GPU computing capabilities allow computational methods of enhancing or extending digital photography, such as enabling multiple perspectives on a subject and real-time photo editing on mobile devices. They also allow photo editing and video stabilization to be offered for a wider variety of consumer products.

ARM expects products with first-generation Mali-T600 cores in the market before the end of this year, the company's Steele said. Products with the second-generation GPUs will be available in Q3 of 2013.
Working With the CPUs

The new Mali-T600 family is the first series of GPUs to include ARM's Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ASTC).

ASTC gives content developers better control over the tradeoff between space and quality inherent in lossy compression schemes. Designers can pick among a wide choice of input formats without having to support multiple different compression schemes. It optimizes GPU performance and increases battery life in devices, enabling an always-on, always-connected experience, ARM said.

"Given the heavy focus on ever higher graphics generally, the GPU is now as power-hungry as the CPU or more power-hungry, and it controls the screen, which is the most power-hungry part of the device," Enderle said.

The Mali-T600 CPUs support the major compute application programming interfaces to perform GPU computing for more efficient execution of parallel-intensive tasks.

"This is really about the GPU and CPU working together to more efficiently handle the compute workload," Craig Stice, a senior principal analyst at IHS iSuppli, told TechNewsWorld. "They balance tasks, allowing performance of the right task by the most efficient architecture."

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