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Posts from September, 2008

Apple iPhone 3G vs. Samsung Instinct

Sep 05

Apple’s latest iPhone is a winner, adding faster data-network access and GPS-assisted searching and mapping to the slick, innovative platform of its predecessor. Competing phone makers have taken their shots at iPhone’s touch-screen design, but haven’t made a dent.

That is, until recently.

Samsung’s Instinct touch-screen phone, available exclusively from Sprint Nextel, has been flying off store shelves. In fact, Sprint stores have had a hard time keeping up with demand for this cool new phone, which has the unique ability to act on voice commands.

Does the Instinct have the chops to dethrone the iPhone? Watch our video to see how the Instinct and iPhone stack up against each other. (You can also view the video by clicking on the player at right if you have Flash software installed on your computer.)

To see how the iPhone 3G compares with other cell phones, check our Ratings of smart phones (available to subscribers).

—Paul Eng

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2008 Summer Olympics: Other ways to catch the Games?

Sep 05

Television_remote
With its exclusive U.S. broadcasting rights, NBC will televise a whopping 1,400 hours of the 2008 Summer Olympics Games from Beijing to American homes. HDTV owners will see some stunning moments—from tonight’s opening ceremonies to the closing ceremonies 17 days later—in crystal clarity on their TVs. (To ensure that you enjoy world class viewing, see our recent post, "HDTV: Adjust the picture for best quality.")

But there are only so many hours in the day, so who can watch it all? And even NBC’s thousands of hours of broadcasts won’t capture every minute of the 28 Olympic events spread over 31 separate venues in China.

My recourse? Turn to technology. Specifically:

The Net. NBC’s Olympic Web site (http://www.nbcolympics.com/video/index.html) already has a lot of streaming video—Olympic event trials, interviews with U.S. athletes, and so on. But NBC promises the site will also stream 2,200 hours of live video of the Olympic events, such as Taekwondo, which hasn’t yet appeared on broadcast TV schedules. The Web site even has its own electronic program guide, listing when events will be shown, and will send you reminders via e-mail.

Since my home computer has a high-speed broadband Net hook-up and is connected to my LCD TV (via its built-in VGA connection), this essentially puts an "Olympics on-demand" channel on my HDTV.

Over-the-air DTV. I recently hooked up my TV set to a rooftop antenna to get free digital TV. Over the past week, I’ve discovered that one of the sub-channels of my local NBC station (WNBC) will be carrying Olympic programming. ("Sub-channels," by the way, are one of the benefits of digital TV broadcasts, which are available right now. See "How to survive the digital TV transition" and our "Guide to DTV transition," for more information.)

Digital recording. Some of that Olympic coverage occurs during the day, when I’m at work, and at other times when I’m not sitting in front of my set. By connecting my DTV converter box (a DTVPal unit) to my analog DVD recorder, which also has a built-in 80-gigabyte hard drive, I can digitally record up to 80 hours of Olympics coverage from this alternate digital TV channel—for free.

If I run out of room on my DVR’s hard drive, I can always attach my DTVPal to my PC which has a video capture card—and terabytes of external hard drive space for thousands of hours of digital video. I can then zip through the recorded video and watch only the portions that I want. What’s more, I never have to worry that I’ll miss an event because there wasn’t enough room on a blank six-hour videotape or 11-hour DVD.

Granted none of these solutions will have the sharp, eye-catching details of live high-def broadcasts, and it certainly doesn’t solve the problem of limited coverage of events. But it will help me enjoy more of the Olympics than I otherwise would have.

What do you think? Do you have a "strategy" for watching the Games of the XXIX Olympiad? Where will you turn for events not covered by NBC? Share your tips here.

—Paul Eng

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GPS Ratings: New models, new tests

Sep 05

Franktestinggpsdevices
Our colleagues in the Consumer Reports Cars department have just finished reviewing the latest GPS navigation systems. Among the 55 models in our latest Ratings of GPS systems (available to subscribers) are units with interesting features, including the voice-activated Garmin Nuvi 880.

We’ve updated the way we score and display the models in our GPS Ratings, based on feedback from ConsumerReports.org readers and results from a survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. Among the changes:

  • Models are now divided into three types: basic navigators, navigators with traffic optional, and traffic-ready navigators. We’ve learned from reader feedback and survey data that real-time traffic is an important, distinguishing feature on GPS models—though we don’t prioritize it in the ratings. Greater emphasis is placed on core navigation abilities, ease of use, and information for the driver.
  • We now score for some convenience features, particularly those that have safety and value benefits, like Bluetooth connectivity, trip computer, and whether an A/C power cable and USB cable are included.

These changes reflect the evolving nature of the GPS market, the growing number of options available to GPS shoppers, and your feedback on what you’d like to see in our Ratings. Read "New GPS navigation devices, ratings and methodology" on our Cars Blog for more details about the new test and evaluations we perform on GPS units. If you’re shopping for a new navigation unit, check out our free buying advice for GPS systems.

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The Electronic Bastille

Sep 05

smooth wombat writes “Imagine a database whose aim is to centralize and analyze data on people aged 13 or above who are active in politics or labor unions, who play a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role, or who are ‘likely to breach public order.’ At first glance one might think the country in question is Russia or Zimbabwe but the truth is, it’s a democratic nation which is implementing this database. Specifically, France. Now, with the summer break over and as the people of France return to work, there is a small but growing movement to storm this electronic Bastille. Michel Pezet, a lawyer and former member of a body charged with protecting French citizens from electronic prying, had this to say about this new data-gathering law: ‘The Edvige database has no place in a democracy. There is nothing in the decree that sets limits or a framework. Whether the database is used with or without moderation depends only on orders from up high. The electronic Bastille is upon us.'”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Brain Cells Observed Summoning a Memory

Sep 05

Anti-Globalism writes “Scientists have for the first time recorded individual brain cells in the act of summoning a spontaneous memory, revealing not only where a remembered experience is registered but also, in part, how the brain is able to recreate it.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Redesigned, Bulkier Honda Insight to Challenge Prius

Sep 05

In what probably amounts to good news for consumers eyeing a hybrid for their next vehicle purchase, Honda is resurrecting the “Insight” name, this time in the form of a five-seat, Prius-like hatchback. The automaker’s announcement included the tantalizing statement that the cost would be “significantly below [that of] hybrids available today,” but provided no further details on pricing. Although Honda may have some trouble unseating Toyota’s dominance of this particular hybrid market, hopefully the Insight’s reintroduction will help to make hybrid cars even more affordable to consumers. This is also welcome news to folks like myself who, after the initial flurry of excitement when the now-retired original Insight was introduced in ’99, were left scratching their heads at Honda’s hybrid strategy as Toyota picked up their dropped ball and ran with it.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Google Updates Chrome’s Terms of Service

Sep 05

centuren writes “In response to the reaction to Chrome’s terms of service, Google has truncated the offending Section 11, apologizing for the oversight. The new Section 11 contains only the first sentence included in their Universal Terms of Service, now stating: ‘You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.'”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Sub-$100 Laptops Have Finally Arrived

Sep 05

Roman Phalanx writes “OLPC had promised that it would be possible to mass produce a sub-$100 laptop. The folks at OLPC tried to realize that dream by re-imagining what a laptop looks like. How large of screen and keyboard it has. What OS runs on the laptop. Now that OLPC has decided to super size their systems to run Windows XP, the $100 price point has slipped beyond their reach. A Chinese firm has realized that dream. Taking the best from both the OLPC and EeePC. They ditched x86 compatibility and switched to a MIPS architecture to further reduce production costs. HiVision has managed to create a UMPC that sells right now for $120.00. They say they have refined the manufacturing process and have learned from building this laptop how to mass produce a laptop that will sell for $98.00.” (More below, including a link to a video of the device.)

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Comcast Appeals FCC’s Net Neutrality Ruling

Sep 05

Ian Lamont writes “Comcast has filed a court appeal of an FCC ruling that says the company can’t delay peer-to-peer traffic on its network because it violates FCC net neutrality principles. A Comcast VP said the FCC ruling is ‘legally inappropriate,’ but said it will abide by the order during the appeal while moving forward with its plan to cap data transfers at 250 GB per month.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Best Way To Distribute Video Online?

Sep 05

CHAMELEON_D_H writes “For some time, now I’ve been working on a short, geek/nerd oriented, animation. It’s nearing completion, and I’m starting to look for a method to share it with the anyone willing to spare a minute. There are dozens of video sharing and streaming sites out there, making my choice very difficult to make. Looking for the best possible video and audio quality, while still having vast OS and browser compatibility leaves me dumbfounded. Having a download link would be a great bonus. Youtube is the default and most common choice, but has mediocre video quality and resolution. DivX Web Player has astounding quality, but requires users to download DivX’s plugin and forces me to find hosting or purchase more bandwidth, as they no longer serve videos via stage6. Do Slashdotters have any experience with sharing or uploading videos? Problems you’ve encountered? What do your eyes say about different streaming video sites?”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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