Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD1

With the Xacti VPC-HD1, Sanyo joins Sony in the high-definition camcorder market. The device, which shoots 720p HD video, is very portable, measuring 3.1 by 4.7 by 1.4 inches and weighing only 7.4 ounces. (without battery). In fact, it reminds me of the diminutive Samsung SC-X105L MPEG-4 Sports Camcorder. Based on the performance we saw in Sony's recent HD camcorder, the HDR-HC3 HDV 1080i Handycam, we were prepared to be blown away. Unfortunately, my lab and real-world tests revealed that this camcorder's video quality is mediocre at best. And with a street price of $800, it costs too much for such lackluster results.


DVD home theater systems in Middle East

Panasonic has announced the launch of its new range of DVD home theatre systems in the Middle East that promise a whole new viewing experience, thanks to a host of innovative features including VIERA Link, HDMI Easy Connection and 360 degree sound.

Panasonic’s new range of home theatres includes SC-HT995, SC-HT895, SC-HT340 and SC-HT540. The SC-HT995 and SC-HT895 come with 360 degree sound and surround enhancer that projects virtual speakers at the sides and rear of the central listening position to complete the circle of sound and enhance the wraparound effect. The dramatically improved audio characteristics in the subwoofer result in ultra-robust bass sounds that add to the dynamism and atmosphere of movie and music reproduction.

“Panasonic’s unmatched focus on offering products that perfectly meet customer expectations is fully evident in these new DVD home theatre systems that we have launched. In home theatre systems it is the quality of sound that makes all the difference to the overall viewing experience and this is precisely what we have focused on through our pioneering technology innovations,” said Koji Naka, Product Manager (AV), Panasonic.

The SC-HT995 and SC-HT895 also feature the revolutionary HDAVI Control or VIERA Link technology, which means that just pressing a single button on a remote control switches on the Home Theater and TV, makes the appropriate selector settings, and starts playback automatically.

With the HDMI Easy Connection feature of the SC-HT995 and SC-HT895 digital video and audio signals can be transmitted at high speeds without being compressed, by just connecting a single cable. These home theatre systems also come with a music port that allows users to enjoy high-quality sound from a portable audio player through the home theatre system. The SC-HT995 has an output of 7500W (PMPO) and 1000W (RMS), while the SC-HT895 has an output of 6800W (PMPO) and 850W (RMS). Both the models come with a quartz-synthesized digital tuning system, sound field control, built-in dolby digital & DTS decoder and karaoke functions.

Panasonic’s SC-HT540 and SC-HT340 also offer most of the features of the SC-HT995 and SC-HT895 except 360 degree sound, HDMI and VIERA Link technology. The SC-HT540 boasts of a powerful 6800W (PMPO) and 850W (RMS) output, whereas SC-HT340 has an output of 3500W (PMPO) and 330W (RMS). The stand-out feature of the SC-HT340 is its space saving slimmer size.

“The Middle East markets have always shown a great demand for high quality home entertainment products, as watching movies with the family ranks very high as a form of entertainment and recreation for people in the region. The superior quality and technological excellence of Panasonic’s home theatre systems give us an added advantage to effectively cater to the demands of the Middle East markets,” concluded Naka.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Digital tools help the Web evolve

We're at one of those stages in computer evolution where ideas are popping like they did in the "tech bubble" days of the late 1990s.

Social networking sites -- using input from readers in building and rating content -- are merging with multimedia to produce a flock of new companies. History says few will last, but sorting out those that will is a fascinating exercise. So is figuring out just where small, powerful digital tools are taking us.

Evoca, for example, is a Savannah-based company with a jazzy idea that's gaining traction.

The company specializes in online audio, offering user-friendly ways to post sound clips on Web sites and set up podcasts, those downloadable audio programs that let you take your content with you on a portable music player. The concept is that until a new trend becomes easy to use, it will remain in select hands. Simplify it, and a mass audience might just appear.

I'm seeing more and more Web logs that use podcasts, a nice way to manage content for those who are on the go but want to keep up with their favorite sites. But posting audio snippets doesn't have to be a function of Web log publishers alone. Evoca (www.evoca.com) lets you cut and paste HTML code to embed audio into any kind of Web page. You might want to describe a product you're selling on eBay via a sound file, or use the medium to play snippets of music you've created.

To take the headaches out of posting sound files, Evoca is telephone-friendly. You can record your thoughts by telephone call, after which they will make their appearance in a holding area at the site. Your words go public when and if you choose to enable them. Telephone options like these (Evoca lets you record Skype calls with a $5 a month premium account) free you from microphones and let you post audio observations from anywhere you have a cell phone signal.

Podcasts can be enabled with RSS feeds so users are alerted when new content appears, making Evoca a useful audio blogging tool. The community aspect is reinforced by tagging, in which users add key words to make their recordings easier to find. Searching gets more interesting when you use Evoca's speech-recognition tools, which provide full search capabilities for sound files, a technology that will grow in importance as online audio takes off.

But what online audio services lack are the editing capabilities that would allow users to apply tweaks and finishing touches to their podcasts. There are good PC-based applications for doing such things (I prefer an open-source program called Audacity), but where they would really come in handy online is in travel situations, when updating content on the road would require only a Web connection.

Evoca still has a lot of rough edges: Even its Web site could use some work. In addition, the amount of content posted by users at the site is minimal, in contrast to rival Odeo's claim of one million audio files (www.odeo.com). But watch how this sector develops, and if you get interested, take a look at what ZapZap is doing with multimedia content management.

The site (www.zapzap.com) is designed to be an aggregator of video and audio feeds. But treating it as a simple directory of multimedia would be a mistake, because ZapZap provides playlist capabilities that can add the podcasts, and videos users download most into a playlist. That results in a community-defined popularity ranking, letting you see or hear which content is getting the most play, and feeding it into your audio player. Its automated features make ZapZap an interesting contribution to online multimedia.

Years ago, I had a friend who, while traveling in the Sudan, worked as a stringer for Time magazine, the idea being that if something happened in that country, he would report in to allow the editors to decide how to cover it.

Today, we're creating stringers out of anyone with a video or audio recorder who wants to contribute. Think of the video footage coming out of Lebanon on YouTube.

Sure, this technology is in its infancy, and much of today's content is sophomoric, but the longer-term picture is fascinating. As tools improve and people record what they see and hear, a multimedia-enabled public journalism emerges on the Internet. This is surely a plus for the process of news gathering, because it helps to provide the raw content upon which ideas are based and decisions made.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Blu-ray v HD-DVD

The next-generation disc formats have arrived Stateside – and so are hints of where the format war is going. Here's our report from the other side of the pond.

This article appears in the September 06 issue of PC Advisor, which is available now in all good newsagents.

A funny thing happens in a format war. At some point, the theoretical spec one-upmanship gives way to tangible reality. What the rival products are delivering.

After looking at the initial wave of products to arrive in the US from both fronts, we have a few thoughts about where the format war is heading. The first products deliver on their promises of outstanding high-definition video (Toshiba's HD-A1 and HD-XA1 HD-DVD players and its Qosmio G35-AV650 laptop, plus more than 25 HD-DVD movies from Warner Brothers and Universal) and high-capacity, rewritable disc storage (Pioneer's BDR-101A, Sony's AR Premium VGN-AR19G notebook equipped with a Blu-ray player/burner).

We're less intrigued by the actual products than we are by what they say beneath the surface about the two warring formats.

High-def video: a capacity question?

After debuting in fits and starts – and after both formats' encountering delays due to issues surrounding the AACS (advanced access content system) copy controls – HD-DVD is enjoying a slight lead to market. HD-DVD hit the US in late April and, even though player supplies continue to be tight, new titles are steadily streaming out every week.

Meanwhile, Blu-ray has faced a few additional post-AACS setbacks, although not quite as many as we've seen inaccurately reported on the web. Sony Pictures pushed its content launch to 20 June after Samsung announced a change in release date for its player to late June.

Jim Sanduski, Samsung's senior vice president of marketing, said: “We'll be in more than 2,000 storefronts at launch and will have multiple units available at each location. Will we sell out? I hope so. We are launching with more storefronts and more quantity than Toshiba.”

Meanwhile, Pioneer shifted its planned Blu-ray player from an early summer US launch to September. When the product does launch, though, it will be at $1,500 (about £820), $300 (£165) less than the price announced in January at CES. And Sony Electronics has adjusted the expected July release of its BD-SP1 player by a few weeks. According to a company spokesperson, the move is a strategic one, to coincide with the company's August launch of 1080p televisions and its push to educate consumers about Blu-ray Disc at retail outlets nationwide.

We don't expect we'll see dramatic differences in image quality between HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc movie content. We expect it to be tough to isolate which one is superior for delivering video, given the number of variables that come into play, such as choices in the video codec, bit rate, encoder used, even whether you'll view the output over analogue or HDMI, on a display capable of 1080i or 1080p.

We'll probably see subtle differences, however. Sony is planning to encode its first-generation of discs in Mpeg2, while Warner and Universal's HD-DVDs are using the VC-1 or Mpeg4 AVC codec. RCA's and Toshiba's HD-DVD players output at 1080i – even though the movie discs are 1080p – while the first Blu-ray Disc players from Pioneer, Samsung and Sony are all set to output at 1080p.

We hope to at least see the same films released on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray, at different bit rates and using different codecs. Only then will it be clear, visually, whether Blu-ray's greater maximum capacity of 50GB for dual-layer discs provides a tangible advantage.

HD-DVD currently tops out at 30GB for a dual-layer disc. Toshiba raised the possibility of a 45GB triple-layer disc last summer but, according to the DVD Forum it has not been discussed, let alone added to the HD-DVD spec.

The rival media's physical storage constraints have the potential to be a greater issue in this ongoing struggle than many observers have considered up until now. Before HD-DVD's launch, we had privately heard rumblings of studio concerns about HD-DVD's lower capacity.

Packing 'em in

Now that we've taken a closer look at the first eight HD-DVD movies we received from Warner Brothers and Universal, we can understand why. None of the eight titles could fit on a 15GB single-layer HD-DVD – and half came within 5GB of maxing out a 30GB dual-layer disc. This was despite them all relying on the latest, more efficient video codecs – VC-1 and Mpeg4 AVC. The movies we saw were 'The Last Samurai' (which topped out at 27.3GB), Mel Brooks' 'Blazing Saddles' (25.4GB), 'The Phantom of the Opera' (24.8GB), 'Jarhead' (24.7GB), 'The Bourne Identity' (22.7GB), 'Serenity' (19.6GB), 'The Fugitive' (18.2GB) and 'Doom' (16.5GB).

Granted this is a small, random sampling. But the results nonetheless surprised us, considering that we had for so long heard HD-DVD supporters say that even 15GB would be roomy for high-definition content. Instead, it seems that HD-DVD content is, in many cases, barely squeezing on to 30GB discs today. The tight space leaves little breathing room for the interactive-video future that Hollywood's creative minds will dream up down the road.

All of the titles we saw are first-generation. Not surprisingly, their menus and level of interactivity are basic and do not reflect the complexity we expect to see from both formats. The extras don't take full advantage of the formats, nor were they created natively in high-definition, with high-def, widescreen presentation in mind. And the soundtracks are more limited: typically only today's 5.1-channel sound, with just one audio commentary instead of multiple commentaries and elaborate features.

Imagine what an innovative director such as Peter Jackson might have done with the on-set documentaries and featurettes for 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy, had everything been filmed with HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc in mind. Something tells us a 30GB disc wouldn't come close to enough – and that a 45GB disc might get a bit snug.

How much space Blu-ray content will consume remains to be seen. The first titles from Sony are beginning to ship and, although none will be on 50GB dual-layer discs, other titles will ship on 50GB discs later this summer.

We can't help thinking this format's greater capacity will serve it well over time. But we're not convinced the PlayStation 3 will be Blu-ray's trump card.

Recording artists

The advantage in recording is with Blu-ray. Vendors in this camp were the first to market with disc burners for PCs, as well as the first to release mobile burners for laptops – and the format has the higher maximum capacity.

PC Blu-ray burners are shipping from Pioneer and I-O Data, with others soon to come. Sony will ship its AR Premium Blu-ray laptop and Vaio RC series of burner-equipped desktops in June, starting at just $2,150 (£1,170) inc VAT.

Officially, the HD-DVD camp is keeping quiet about the status of PC burners. Because media was recently introduced at Computex in Taiwan – and since RiData announced that its HD-DVD-R media will ship in July – one might think a burner isn't far behind. From the start, the HD-DVD camp's stated focus has been on the home-theatre playback experience, with PC movie playback coming in second and recording not even on the road map. The lack of recording capabilities restricts HD-DVD to prepackaged Hollywood content. No aspiring Spielbergs can edit their own high-definition films and burn them to disc. This of course limits HD-DVD's viability as a data-storage medium.

Money does the talking

There's no question: HD-DVD has the edge in price. Toshiba's players start at a highly accessible $499 (£270) – if you can find them. The cheapest standalone Blu-ray Disc player will be Samsung's $1,000 (£540) BD-P1000. Sony's BDP-S1 will be $1,000 when it ships in August, Pioneer's BDP-HD1 will be $1,500 (£810), debuting in September.

Sony's PlayStation 3, due in November, will be the least expensive player of them all, but it has no HDMI (high-definition media interface), so you won't be able to display all-digital 1080p content. Let's hope Blu-ray player manufacturers can adequately convey that their devices deliver enough value to justify being at least twice as expensive as their HD-DVD equivalents.

The AACS wild card

Forget that Blu-ray has PlayStation 3 on its side and that Intel and Microsoft have thrown their collective weight behind HD-DVD. Forget that high-definition televisions are still gaining traction among consumers. Forget that HD-DVD and Blu-ray are formats in their infancy, trying to claw their way to dominance to succeed DVD.

For now, both are hampered by the fact that AACS has yet to finalise its managed copy component, the most critical aspect of the spec that remains unfinished.Without a final AACS specification, living-room high-definition recorders can't proceed to market, neither can devices that are designed to take advantage of legally copying and moving content from one disc to another. Original estimates were for AACS's final spec to be available in May, but there are still no updates.

Until the hardware can be manufactured to take advantage of everything from media servers to copying content, the first high-definition video players from either camp should have limited appeal. We have no doubt that these players, be they Blu-ray or HD-DVD, will deliver enticing high-def images. If all they do is play back content, however, they're missing a core part of the innovation that Blu-ray and HD-DVD have the potential to deliver.


Sony launches HDR-UX1 and HDR-SR1 Handycam camcorders

Japanese maker of consumer electronics Sony has launched two new high-definition camcorders for the consumer market.

These new products are HDR-UX1 and HDR-SR1 Handycam camcorders. Both of these are capable of recording in 1080i and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

And the content recorded using these camcorders would be compatible with Sony’s BDP-S1 Blu-ray player and the upcoming PlayStation 3 console.

The major difference between these two newly launched models is the medium used for recording. While the HDR-UX1 is able to record to 3″ DVD discs, the HDR-SR1 records to a built-in 30GB hard drive.

Both of these camcorders come with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens and a 3.5″ swiveling LCD touch screens. Surely, some exciting products to acquire this coming holiday season.


Philips 42PF9631D, Elegant HDTV offers above-average image quality and design.

With its wide black bezel, silvery speakers, and semitransparent stand, the Philips 42PF9631D 42-inch plasma HDTV is a graceful and imposing presence. If you walk around the unit, you'll find more to admire: well-chosen, easy-to-reach inputs and outputs; a lighted remote; and the unusual Ambilight backlighting panels. The most important part of any television, though, is the picture it presents on its screen, and the 42PF9631D more than holds its own on that score. And despite its good image quality and luxurious trimmings, the 42PF9631D sells for a list price of $2399--not cheap, but not the steepest we've seen in this size, either (and street prices are often lower than list prices).

Our test jurors found the 42PF9631D's performance pleasing on DVD and standard-definition content, but we particularly liked its high-definition TV performance for its nice balance. This Philips model also stood out in our bright lights test, in which it led the pack for retaining its color and contrast well under bright lights. We did not test this model with its Ambilight feature enabled.

Once we finished our official tests, however, I tried out Ambilight in my hands-on evaluation. Ambilight mimics an ambient-backlighting feature usually seen only on high-end custom installations of televisions. Lighting panels on the back of the right and left sides change color and intensity along with the action on the screen, projecting the colored light onto the wall behind the TV. Ambilight has five settings for various moods, such as Action (for action-packed movies or games) and Relaxed (pleasant for nature shows and so forth). I'll admit that the idea sounded a bit silly to me at first, but when I watched our usual test scenes ofThe Lord of the Rings: The Return of the Kingwith Ambilight on, I found the experience absorbing enough to justify watching a few more scenes just for fun. Philips touts research results that suggest Ambilight prevents eyestrain in darkened rooms, too. That said, Ambilight may not be everyone's cup of tea--or at least, not everyone will want that tea with every meal. If you don't feel the need to see backlighting respond to, say, the evening news, you can simply turn Ambilight off.

The 42PF9631D's array of inputs is one of the better ones I've seen on a 42-inch plasma lately. All inputs are well identified and easily reached. The left side offers inputs for USB, headphone jack, composite, and S-Video, and audio inputs useful for connecting a camcorder or digital camera. (I'd have liked to see a CableCard slot as well, since a TV this attractive shouldn't have to compete with a less-than-lovely tuner box.) On the back you'll find the expected assortment of inputs, plus digital audio in and out--a boon for anyone who prefers their own audio setup to the TV's speakers. Though the 42PF9631D includes several sound settings and virtual Dolby digital sound, I found the sound from the attached speakers merely adequate.

I liked the long remote, which fit well in my hand. The lighted buttons made it easy to control this HDTV even in a darkened room. It was also a pleasure to see that the remote matches the aesthetic of the TV, instead of looking like a generic remote with the company's name slapped on.

It's worth reiterating that this price of $2399 is list; the 42PF9631D wasn't available for sale on our pricing date of 6/6/06. Street prices are often lower--sometimes substantially lower--than list prices. If you're interested in the 42PF9631 but are working within a budget, check the current price before writing this one off.


Listen to us, The Repository

Have you heard about The Repository? Better yet, have you heard The Repository?

Well, listen to us, beginning today. Your newspaper — approaching the end of its second century of bringing Stark County the news — is doing something new.

Starting today, you can download The Repository to your iPod or other MP3 player, computer or just about any other device that produces digital sound.

That’s right. Sound. You can download the paper and listen to it while you exercise, brush your teeth, eat breakfast or drive to work.


“A local company is developing breakthrough technology and is offering us the chance to help them develop it,” said Repository Editor David Kaminski. “It’s a great opportunity for us.”

That company is Presteligence, a Lake Township company that has been developing technology for newspapers since 1990. It was a division of Graphic Enterprises, but the companies separated two years ago.

Presteligence President Bob Behringer said the technology is unique, and the company has filed for a patent.

Nobody else is doing it, Behringer said. “Not the way we’re doing it. We’re creating an audio version of a newspaper.” Other newspapers do podcasting, in which small segments of recorded audio are available, or have people read portions of the paper.

“We are taking the (entire) content of the newspaper that is in print and we’re converting it to audio,” Behringer said.

“It’s being read by what we call virtual newscasters.” That’s a made-up term for the computer-generated voices that result from the software process that converts printed words to audio.

“It sounds like someone’s reading you the story, but it’s the computer that’s reading you the story.”

But don’t prepare for something that sounds like “Danger Will Robinson!” because the computer voices sound more human than machine.


The pronunciations still are being tweaked. Kaminski listens for things that can be improved, but “they’ve come a long way in the quality of the synthesized voice since I first heard it in January,” he said.

“We’ll try to make the pronunciation as good as it can be,” Kaminski said. He said things such as proper names and local terms need to be pronounced better.

Presteligence’ s software does the audio conversion process and the company’s Web servers deliver it to subscribers.

“The tricky part is making the delivery simple,” Behringer said. That took six months, “but we leveraged technology that we’ve developed over the last 16 years.”

A tutorial on The Repository’s Web site at http://www.cantonrep.com/index.php?external=static/audio/audio.php will take you through the registration process, and you can choose content such as sports, local news, financial news. There’s also a help button to e-mail Presteligence’s help desk.

Once your choices are downloaded to Apple computers with iTunes and to PCs with Windows Media Player, they can be downloaded to all models of iPods and MP3 players. Or you can burn to a CD and listen to it on the way to work.

“Anything they can listen to as an audio file, our software will work with,” Behringer said.

“We want to offer it to readers who think it will be fun; to readers who might use it when they can’t take the time to read; and to people with impaired eyesight who still want to enjoy the newspaper,” Kaminski said.

Registration gives you a free trial for 90 days. Kaminski said no decision has been made on the business part of the audio newspaper. In the future, it could be supported by advertising or by subscription, he said.

“We want to see how many people are interested in it,” Kaminski said. “We’ll figure out how it’s a part of our business sometime during the experiment.”


Philips launches new sound system

Royal Philips Electronics has announced the introduction of its new Micro Hi-Fi System, MCM275.

The new MCM 275 with dynamic sound performance is packed in a sleek design with MP3/WMA-CD and USB direct playback that can also be wall-mounted.

The digital sound control allows one to select pre-set modes that control the frequency bands of sound to optimise certain musical styles and different sound settings: Optimal, Jazz, Rock, Techno, Pop or Classic.

The MCM 275 is also equipped with Dynamic Bass Boost with emphasis on the bass content of the music throughout the range of volume settings-from low to high.

Bottom-end bass frequencies usually get lost when the volume is set at a low level. To counteract this, Dynamic Bass Boost can be switched on to boost bass levels to enjoy consistent sound even when you turn down the volume.

'Philips MCM275 offers a greatly enriched sound experience', commented Khalid Tuer, general manager for Philips Consumer Electronics, Middle East and Africa.

'With its super sleek and flexible design that can be wall-mounted, you can enjoy your favourite music with family and friends simply by plugging in your device to the USB port on your Philips Hi-Fi system. Your digital music will be played directly from the device,' he added.-

source:TradeArabia News Service

Fujifilm FinePix F30 review at Steves Digicams

Fujifilm F30 camera - Optical zoom
According to Steve Digicams: "At its 36mm wide angle extreme, it provides a field of view sufficient enough for most interior and landscape shots, while it's 108mm maximum telephoto focal length is effective both for portraits and to bring your distant subjects a bit closer. Overall it helps the F30 produce nice sharp images, with small traces of chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) around highlights as well as moderate barrel distortion at wide angle, but virtually no pincushioning at the telephoto end."

Fujifilm FinePix F30 review conclusion - Steves Digicams
Steve continues: "While the F10 had a maximum ISO setting of 1600, the Fujifilm F30 raises the bar with a sensitivity of 3200; something only more advanced dSLRs use to offer. The "Picture stabilization" mode, which uses this ability to offer faster shutter speeds in lower lighting conditions, reducing camera shake and motion blur. I was very surprised at how low noise levels were, even at ISO 800. Both ISO 1600 and 3200 are also quite low for a camera in this class, due to the in-camera noise reduction processing." You want to learn more about the Fujifilm FinePix digital camera? Continue to read the Fujifilm FinePix F30 review at Steve's Digicams!

About Steve's Digicams Online
Steve's Digicams was founded in the year 1997, by, indeed, Steve. Steve Sanders is well experienced in photography, 30 years, and wants to share this experience with everyone on the Internet. Steve's motto is: simplicity. The way the website is build makes it also possible for those who haven't got a fast connection to download the website very quickly. In the same way the reviews are being written. According to Steve, it should not be necessary to follow a course in photography to be able to understand a review. For this approach Steve is well known world wide and he is welcome to it by his many readers. Beside test reports Steve's site has various other items, like a forum, camera specifications, daily "breaking" news.


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

HD-DVD, Blu-Ray, and Why to Boycott 'Em Both

I have a love/hate relationship with HDV. I love it when I play it on my PC or pipe it to my HDTV from the camcorder, where it looks sharp and clear. I hate it when I have to scale it down to standard definition (SD) for burning to DVDs to send to friends and family. But by introducing two competing standards—Blu-ray and HD-DVD—the industry is guaranteeing that this bipolar relationship will continue, and that neither 2006 or 2007 will be the year of high-res home video.

On one level, letting competing technologies duel it out in the marketplace is the American way. On another, I think, "Guys—this just delays acceptance of either." And this is much worse than the DVD-R/+R comedy: Both of those formats worked fine on $50 consumer players. Not so with Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs, which require players that still run many hundreds of dollars.

To show friends the video in all its glory, I've got no better option than to hook the camera up to a TV—a clunky way to use cutting-edge technology! So whenever I shoot in HDV format, I get this "all dressed up and no place to go" feeling—I've got gorgeous video but no good way to share it.

Still, I don't recommend holding off on buying an HDV camcorder, especially considering that prices will probably fall below $1,000 by early 2007. You're capturing memories in hi-def even if you can't quite produce the DVDs yet. Besides, if you buy that HDV camcorder (or another DV camcorder), you can shoot events with two camcorders and dramatically improve the perceived quality of your video. The setup is simple: Put old faithful, set to max wide angle, on a tripod in the corner to capture the entire scene. Use your new toy for the medium and close-up shots.

Merging the footage is also fairly simple, although a bit tedious unless your editor has a multiple-camera feature. But nearly all prosumer editors, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, and Avid Liquid Edition, already have this capability, and it will trickle down to consumer programs by mid-2007. In the meantime, for tips on shooting and editing with multiple cameras, check out Double-Barreled Video online at go.pcmag.com/doublebarreled.

Keep producing DVDs on your current recorder and join me in voting against Blu-Ray and HD-DVD with your wallet. Frankly, leaders in both camps should be embarrassed at presenting such a fractured nonsolution—forcing buyers to assume the risk of either technology falling by the wayside. As much as it hurts, I'm going to stay away from both technologies until the smoke clears and the DVD industry settles on a single standard.


Sony rolls camcorder based on AVCHD format

Sony Corp. unveiled its first high-definition video camcorders based on the AVCHD format.

The cameras use a proprietary MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 codec chip and image processor. The DVD model and hard-disk drive model will hit the Japanese market in August and shortly thereafter elsewhere.

AVCHD was originally proposed by Matsushita and Sony in May as a video camcorder format to record high-definition footage on a 8-cm DVD disk using H.264 video compression technology.

H.264 codec chips that handle low-resolution images have been available for some time. But the availability of a codec chip that can handle HD images using battery power has been considered a key hurdle for AVCHD camcorders development.

Sony has developed a one-chip solution that compresses original images and sound into a 1,080i HD signal with Dolby Digital 5.1 channel audio. Power consumption is 500 mW. The chip it thought to be less than 20 mm2 in a plastic package, but Sony declined to release details.

Sony has been developing the chip for more than a year in parallel with AVCHD format development. "The H.264 chip is one of key devices for differentiation. We have no intention to sell it to third parties," said Yutaka Nakagawa, Sony's executive vice president.

When the AVCHD format was announced in May, it lacked compatibility with other players.

Sony said its Blu-ray Disc products would be compatible with AVCHD. Its first BD player to be released this fall and its Playstation 3 will support AVCHD. Those BD products will be able to read AVCHD DVD disks.

Matsushita and Sony have expanded the AVCHD format to cover wider recording media beyond 8-cm DVD disks, including hard-disk drives and both SD card and Memory Stick flash cards.

Ten companies, including Canon, Pioneer, Samsung and Sharp, have have so far announced support for the format. Matsushita and Sony began licensing the format last week


Research dishes out flexible computer chips

New thin-film semiconductor techniques invented by University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers promise to add sensing, computing and imaging capability to an amazing array of materials.

Historically, the semiconductor industry has relied on flat, two-dimensional chips upon which to grow and etch the thin films of material that become electronic circuits for computers and other electronic devices. But as thin as those chips might seem, they are quite beefy in comparison to the result of a new UW-Madison semiconductor fabrication process detailed in the current issue of the Journal of Applied Physics.

A team led by electrical and computer engineer Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma and materials scientist Max Lagally have developed a process to remove a single-crystal film of semiconductor from the substrate on which it is built. This thin layer (only a couple of hundred nanometers thick) can be transferred to glass, plastic or other flexible materials, opening a wide range of possibilities for flexible electronics. In addition, the semiconductor film can be flipped as it is transferred to its new substrate, making its other side available for more components. This doubles the possible number of devices that can be placed on the film.

By repeating the process, layers of double-sided, thin-film semiconductors can be stacked together, creating powerful, low-power, three-dimensional electronic devices.

"It's important to note that these are single-crystal films of strained silicon or silicon germanium," says Ma. "Strain is introduced in the way we form the membrane. Introducing strain changes the arrangement of atoms in the crystal such that we can achieve much faster device speed while consuming less power."

For non-computer applications, flexible electronics are beginning to have significant impact. Solar cells, smart cards, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, medical applications, and active-matrix flat panel displays could all benefit from the development. The techniques could allow flexible semiconductors to be embedded in fabric to create wearable electronics or computer monitors that roll up like a window shade.

"This is potentially a paradigm shift," says Lagally. "The ability to create fast, low-power, multilayer electronics has many exciting applications. Silicon germanium membranes are particularly interesting. Germanium has a much higher adsorption for light than silicon. By including the germanium without destroying the quality of the material, we can achieve devices with two to three orders of magnitude more sensitivity."

That increased sensitivity could be applied to create superior low-light cameras, or smaller cameras with greater resolution.

Ma, Lagally, Materials Science and Engineering Assistant Professor Paul Evans, Physics Associate Professor Mark Eriksson, and graduate students Hao-Chih Yuan and Guogong Wang are patenting the new techniques through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The team's work was supported in part by grants from the National Science Foundation Materials Research Science and Engineering Center, the Department of Energy and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nokia N71

Nokia is not known for its clamshell handsets, but the company does occasionally make a foray into that world, and has done so with the N71.

In fact, despite Nokia’s reluctance to flip, there is already a clamshell handset in the N range – the N91. Where that is a very chunky beast, with a camera in its own clamshell independent swivelling section, the N71 has a rather more traditional clamshell design, being made in just two pieces, and hinged at its top edge.

The front screen offers just 96 x 68 pixels of viewing area and, a relatively limited range of features. It will show the handset status and the current time, and when you are playing music a button underneath the screen will pause and resume. But you can’t switch between tracks or fiddle with volume without opening the flip.

Design wise Nokia doesn’t seem to have really taken the full potential of what the clamshell format offers on board. Let’s start with the overall size, shape and weight. The N71 is thicker than the popular candybar N70 - the other Nokia handset I happen to have handy as I write. With the clam closed it is almost as tall, and it is heavier. Compare for yourself: N70 53 x 109 x 22mm, 126g; N71 51 x 98 x 26mm with the flip closed, rising from 98 to a shade over 180mm tall with the flip open and 139g.

When you open the flip there is room for a decent sized screen and for large, well spaced keys. What does Nokia provide? A screen which is nicely specified in terms of pixels – 240 x 320 of them – but a mere 2.4in diagonal in size. I’d have liked to see it larger.

The keypad is the bigger disappointment, though. The number pad and control keys are separated by a design feature – a slightly curved indent in the casing which to my mind just consumes potentially useful space.

There are several things I just don’t like about the keypad design design. The softkeys are a long way from the softmenus they map onto, and while you will get used to this it is a little disconcerting at first.

The navigation key sits in the centre of a familiar group – Call, End, and those softmenu keys. It could easily be a third larger, and its raised select button feels only OK under the fingers. The whole thing needs an element of digit-precision to use effectively.


Philips Lights Up World Cup 2006

If you watched any of the World Cup games over the past few weeks, you would have been hard pushed not to have noticed that Philips was a major sponsor. Besides the billboards all around the pitch, it was hard to avoid the Philips logo beneath the scoreboard that would appear at random points throughout the game.

But Philips’ biggest contribution to the tournament was the “Fan Fests” that were located in all the host cities around Germany. You know what I mean, those massive gatherings of fans who couldn’t get tickets to the games, watching huge screens – of course we only saw these locations whenever Gary Lineker wanted to highlight the “reaction of the fans” in the post match analysis.

Not only did Philips supply the massive screens for these outdoor gatherings, but the company integrated its much praised Ambilight system into them. So, at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Philips installed a screen measuring 77m2, complete with full surround Ambilight!

Despite actually watching a couple of the matches live, I can’t help but wonder what the images looked like on a screen that big. Could Ronaldo’s constant diving have looked more ridiculous? Could Sven have looked more clueless? Could Crouch have even fitted on the screen without the top of his head being cut off? And most important of all, could an Italian lip reader have spotted what Materazzi really said to Zidane?

But the question I really want answered is, where is that screen now? If it’s looking for a home now that the tournament is over I’d be happy to oblige. I could probably mount it at the end of my garden and watch the footie out of my bedroom window. Couple that with wireless networking and Internet shopping, and I’d never have to get out of bed again!


Samsung X60 Centrino Duo Notebook

This particular X60 is pretty much fully loaded. Samsung has squeezed in an Intel Core Duo T2500 CPU running at 2GHz, and this is backed up by a generous 2GB of RAM. There’s a capacious 100GB hard disk, which should keep even the most space hungry user happy. But if you do want to free up some space on the hard drive, you can make use of the integrated dual layer DVD writer.

The X60 is finished in Samsung’s regular matt silver with black detailing – it looks good, but not what I’d describe as drop dead gorgeous. Lifting the lid reveals a 15.4in widescreen display with a high contrast glossy coating. As always I’ll mention that opinions tend to be split on these coatings, but I quite like them and find the more vivid colours and brighter image a bonus. This particular screen is a fine example and doesn’t suffer from excessive reflections in environments with multiple ambient light sources. Samsung has also done the smart thing and used a screen with a 1,680 x 1,050 resolution, making sure that you’ve got loads of desktop real estate – I’ve seen many 15.4in notebooks that have a 1,280 x 768 resolution, which represents a poor use of physical size.

The screen is driven by an ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics chipset with 256MB of dedicated memory. This means that the X60 should be able to turn its hand to the odd bit of gaming, although as our 3D gaming tests show, you may have to drop down from the native resolution if you want decent frame rates.

The keyboard is a decent full size affair that’s slightly recessed into the chassis. There’s a good amount of travel in the keys and a solid break ensuring a fast and comfortable typing rate. The Shift, Caps Lock, Tab, Return and Backspace keys are all large, as they should be. Unfortunately the Fn key is located in the bottom left corner where the Ctrl key should be, but to be fair to Samsung a great many notebook manufacturers do the same thing.

Below the keyboard is a touchpad with a widescreen aspect ratio to match the display. The right side of the touchpad can be used for scrolling vertically through web pages or documents and Samsung has labeled this accordingly. There are two brushed silver buttons below the touchpad that respond with a solid click when pressed. There's no fingerprint scanner between the buttons as seen on the X50 though.

Either side of the touchpad are microphones. Samsung’s decision to use two microphones in an array is a good one, and means that the quality should be greatly improved when using VoIP services without a headset. Samsung used a similar setup with its Q1 UMPC to good effect.

To the right of the keyboard are controls for Samsung’s AVS media playback environment. From here you can listen to music, view photos or watch video. AVS has been around on Samsung notebooks for some time now and it works reasonably well, although its video codec support is somewhat lacking. A nice touch is the inclusion of an infrared remote control for AVS that sits snugly in the PC Card slot for ease of transport.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sony Vaio VGN-FE11S laptop

  • List price:£1299 inc VAT
  • Buying advice: This is a solid, well-built and stylish laptop. However, it lacks that extra something a product needs to be truly outstanding – perhaps if it was slightly faster or had a longer battery life it could be up there with the best.

Sony's FE11S, should you choose to buy one, will win you many admiring glances. It's light, but the 15.4in display makes it a genuine desktop-replacement PC. The screen is very impressive, giving deep, true colours without too much reflection, although we'd like to have seen it stretch to a higher resolution than 1,280 x 800.

The Intel Core Duo T2400 processor has two cores running at 1.83GHz and there's 1 Gbyte of DDR RAM to back this up. Given that this is the case, we'd have liked to have seen a higher score than 87 in our WorldBench 5 processing-speed test suite.

However, the storage and backup options are as good as anything you'll find in a laptop system right now. You can't argue with 160 Gbyte of space on the hard drive and a multiformat DVD burner that can write to DVD+R DL (double-layer) and DVD-RAM, as well as the more common formats.

Although the GeForce Go 7400 is one of the latest mobile graphics cards that nVidia has to offer, it's a long way from being among the best. The 256 Mbyte of memory is shared with the main system and the frame rates achieved in our Doom3 and Halo tests, suggest the Vaio would struggle with some of the latest games.

Connectivity options are good, with built-in 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi facilities and Bluetooth. Sony claims the battery should last for three-and-a-half hours, although we managed to get only 180 minutes out of it. This isn't that bad, but if you're someone who likes to work a lot while travelling, there are definitely better options available.


  • 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo T2400 processor;
  • Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005;
  • 1GB DDR RAM;
  • 160GB hard drive;
  • 15.4in 1,280x800 TFT display;
  • 256MB GeForce Go 7400 graphics card;
  • 802.11a/b/g;
  • Bluetooth;
  • 1-year warranty;
  • 366x275x35mm;
  • 2.8kg


Vaio VGN-FE11S

source:www.techworld.com - Ben Camm-Jones

$100 laptop: 'Fundamentally flawed'

The One Laptop per Child (OLPC) scheme is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the history of the IT industry, according to Tony Roberts, chief executive and founder of UK charity Computer Aid International.

Speaking to silicon.com site ZDNet UK last week, Roberts claimed that although he would be delighted if the OLPC scheme proved a success, he had severe reservations about the strategy underpinning the project.

He said: "The real reason that this won't be successful is a misunderstanding of the history of technology. They are looking to introduce a non-standard, untested platform... which they will only sell to governments. The decision to buy will be made by politicians who are elected every five years, and politicians generally don't take the decision to risk their political future on non-standard technology."

The project aims to develop a portable PC for use by children in the developing world for around $100. The price has risen since the scheme was first announced to around $135 to $140.

Speaking at the Red Hat Summit earlier this month, the head of the OLPC project, Nicholas Negroponte, said past attempts to give children in developing countries access to PCs have failed because the children did not see the computers as their own, and as a result did not engage with them as expected.

Negroponte said: "People say, 'we just gave a hundred thousand PCs to schools, and they are still sitting in their boxes'. The problem is that you gave them to the wrong people - the kids don't think they are theirs, and see them as government property, or they are locked up after school."

But Roberts, who as well as heading up Computer Aid spent time as an academic lecturing on the historical introduction of new technologies into societies, said that the OLPC project was also distracting attention from other worthwhile technology projects in the developing world. Roberts said: "At the UN World Summit [where the OLPC prototype was first displayed last year] there were so many exciting projects that didn't get any attention because all eyes were on the OLPC."

Computer Aid has just celebrated shipping its 70,000 PC to the developing world. The organisation, founded in 1998, refurbishes used PCs, routers, printers and other technology. It then ships them to a network of organisations in the developing world where they are distributed to schools, universities and community groups.

The organisation is looking to expand its remit to include working with local health clinics to provide e-learning systems for nurses, and tele-medicine capabilities. Medical specialists in the developing world are often limited to the capital city, so by providing more detailed patient information, medical staff can reduce the need to move critical patients.

Computer Aid is also involved in a joint project with the UK Met Office to create the infrastructure to allow weather information to be collected and analysed locally in the developing world. At the moment, information collected from local weather stations is sent to a central office to be analysed and the information is then fed back.

But, according to Roberts, the centralised system takes too long, so Computer Aid is helping to equip the local stations with the means to interpret the information and relay it to the community more rapidly. "This information is critical, it can be the difference between life or death or someone's livelihood but, at the moment, the systems just don't work," he said.

If you would like to donate your businesses PCs you can find more information through the Bridge the Digital Divide project being run by Computer Aid and silicon.com's parent company, CNET Networks.

source:hardware.silicon.com - Andrew Donoghue


The Sony VAIO VGC-RC310G ($2,249 direct, without monitor) is the latest version of the company's well-received RC series of Media Center desktops. Following on the heels of the RC110G and the RC210G, the new RC310G notably features the first Blu-ray optical drive I've seen on a PC. Blu-ray drives, in addition to DVD and CVD recording, are capable of burning data-rich optical discs in capacities of 25GB (single-layer) and 50GB (dual-layer). This is a potential boon to film students and other home-video enthusiasts, since it means that you can now download your HD content from a camcorder and then burn it to BD (Blu-ray discs). Unfortunately, like all emerging technologies, the Blu-ray drive and associated software in this machine are very "version 1.0."

The RC310G sits in a case similar to those of the RC series systems before it: a dark tower with slick chrome accents. I particularly like how the backlit "VAIO" logo shines through the case while the system is powered up and virtually disappears when it is off. The only outward indication that this is a Blu-ray PC is a subtle logo sticker on the drive door.

Like its forebears, the RC310G has a separate prewired compartment for SATA hard drives. Though my test system came with only one 300GB drive, the VAIO's hard drive area is easy to access and can hold up to three more drives. You can use the included Intel Storage Matrix software to link these drives together in a RAID 1 array for data integrity or in a RAID 0 configuration to glean more drive speed. Since the RC310G uses a tower-style case, it has the expansion room that a digital-living system like its sibling, the Sony VAIO XL2, lacks. It is, however, still a tower, so shoehorning the system into your A/V rack will be difficult.

The RC310G is powered by a dual-core Pentium D 940 processor running at 3.2 GHz and a 256MB nVidia GeForce 7600GT graphics card. Both are improvements over the last-generation RC210G model (a 3.0-GHz Pentium D 930 and 128MB ATI Radeon x300), though the faster graphics card is the system's biggest boost. The combination gives you the power to encode your own video from various sources, including the latest-generation 1080p HD camcorders and plain old standard-def TV content from the Media Center Edition DVR. Thanks to the graphics card, the RC310G is able to run games without stuttering. In testing, I got a smooth 108 frames per second on the Doom 3 test at 1,024-by-768, so you can certainly play 3D games at modest resolutions. Results on other tests, such as on Adobe Photoshop CS2, were above average, and the RC310G's Windows Media Encoder score of 8:35 is very good for a media-oriented dual-core system. Overall, the system is a content-creation workhorse.

Burning Blu-ray discs (BDs), though, was trickier than I expected. One of my first attempts at minting one proved unsuccessful. The included Roxio DigitalMedia SE program works in the typical fashion: You choose which files to burn, click Record, insert a disc, and then wait around for a while. I chose a mix of files (22GB in all) to burn on the single-layer BD and started the burning process. (The drive in the RC310G is dual-layer, but so far, we've received only single-layer media from the vendors.) DigitalMedia SE reported accurately that a 2X BD burn takes approximately 44 minutes, so I walked away for a bit. About 20 minutes later I came back to check the system, moved the mouse, and closed a few background windows I had inadvertently left open. After this, DigitalMedia SE stopped burning and gave me an ominous message that the burn had been interrupted by a background process, and that all applications should be closed during operation. I was shocked, because this isn't an issue with DVD or CD burns—at least not since the early days of DVD and CD-RW drives.

To my dismay, I had my first BD coaster! This regrettable event may have been caused by quirks within the DigitalMedia SE software, or, since the Blu-ray drive is a first-run piece of hardware, it may have unresolved or undiscovered problems. Still, a system shouldn't spit coasters fresh out of the box. Anyway, a subsequent burn to a Blu-ray rewritable disc worked just fine, as did other BD-R archive attempts; I'm assuming this is because I left the system alone and had no extraneous software running. My initial mistake was a painful one, with 25GB and 50GB BD discs costing $20 and $60 a pop. And the post-burn data-verification process was just as tedious as the burn (it took about 44 minutes).

Sony included Ulead's BD Disc Recorder for converting HD video from a camcorder to HD-quality Blu-ray video discs. (Sadly, at the time of testing I couldn't get my hands on an HD camcorder, so we couldn't try out the HD video aspect of the RC310G, but stay tuned.)

If you accept that BD is a great backup medium, then the RC310G is a fine MCE PC for media hounds who want to live on the bleeding edge. It is also notable that the BD-drive equipped RC310G is ahead of HD DVD−equipped PCs such as the Toshiba Qosmio G35-AV650, since for now HD DVD is read-only. So far, however, commercial BD video titles are few and far between, and since home players are scarce, it may be a while before you can burn an HD title onto BD for your family and friends. Once media prices go down and more living rooms have BD players, the RC310G and its successors should become more attractive.

See how the Sony VAIO VGC-RC310G measures up to similar systems in our desktop comparison chart.

Benchmark Test Results
Check out the Sony VAIO VGC-RC310G's test results.

source:abcnews.go.com - Joel Santo Domingo

Sony HDR-HC3E - HD Camcorder

Sony seems intent on dominating the High Definition camcorder market before any other company has even joined in. Although Canon has released a competitor to Sony’s top-of-the-range professional HVR-Z1 (the Canon XL-H1), there’s nothing at all to compete with Sony’s offerings below that in the UK. We thought Sony’s first attempt at consumer HD was pretty stunning (see HDR-HC1E review http://www.trustedreviews.com/article.aspx?art=1973). But scarcely six months later, Sony is upping the ante once again, this time breaking below the magical £1,000 barrier – well below. So what has been removed to get the new HDR-HC3E’s price nearly £300 lower than its predecessor?

The HDR-HC3E is considerably different in appearance to the HC1E. It’s a lot more compact, and weighs 600g, which is 180g less. The image sensor at its core is different too. Although it’s still a 1/3in CMOS rather than the more usual CCD found in camcorders, the gross pixel count has dropped from the 2.97Mpixels in the HC1E to 2.1Mpixels. That’s still more than enough for full-resolution HDV, which has a resolution of 1,440 x 1,080 so only requires about 1.56Mpixels. Despite the lower-resolution CMOS, Sony is actually claiming 4Mpixel stills quality, which clearly uses a hefty amount of interpolation. These stills are captured to MemoryStick Duo, although none is supplied in the box. But more on that later.

The HC3E has lost most of the HC1E’s prosumer-oriented features as well. Where the latter offered microphone and headphone minijacks, for external audio sources and sound quality monitoring, the HC3E has neither. It does still have an accessory shoe, but like the HC1E this is of the Sony proprietary ‘Active Interface’ variety. So only Sony-branded video lights and microphones can be attached. All of its AV connections bar FireWire are output only, but you do get quite a selection. Proprietary connections provide composite, S-video and audio AV in one, plus a second socket for analog component. A USB plug can be found under the LCD for downloading still images or using the HC3E as a tremendously expensive webcam.

But the HC3E has one entirely new connectivity trick up its sleeve, or rather under a plastic flap. This is the first HDV camcorder ever to incorporate the consumer digital AV connection, HDMI. This will allow you to connect the HC3E to your HD Ready TV or projector using a digital link, and is also backwards compatible with DVI using the appropriate adapter. We hooked the HC3E to a DiBoss 40in HDTV and an Optoma HD72i projector, with stunning results in both cases.


Leading Digital Home Entertainment and Network Solution Announces New Models and Features New 300 GB DigitaLife™ System Models and IP/network Camera S

Dedicated Devices, Inc. today announced that new DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300 products are now available for its award-winning DigitaLife System, the first digital home entertainment and network solution that is designed specifically to be built into new homes In addition, the DigitaLife System now includes support for network cameras. The new products and the network camera feature are being showcased at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, June 21-23.

Boise, ID and San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) June 21, 2006 -- Dedicated Devices, Inc. today announced that new DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300 products are now available for its award-winning DigitaLife System, the first digital home entertainment and network solution that is designed specifically to be built into new homes In addition, the DigitaLife System now includes support for network cameras. The new products and the network camera feature (www.DigitaLifeSystem.com) are being showcased at the Pacific Coast Builders Conference at the Leviton Manufacturing exhibit, booth 7710, in the North Hall of Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco.

New DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300
The DigitaLife Server 300, which sits at the center of the DigitaLife System, provides expanded capacity to securely store digital media files. The DigitaLife Storage 300 module easily adds storage capacity to the DigitaLife System. Available in 120GB and 300GB models, the DigitaLife Storage modules can easily be setup as a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID). The RAID can be setup to provide mirrored redundancy or can be configured for more than a terabyte of storage. With the expanded storage, the DigitaLife System can store over 1 million photos, 1,000 movies, or 200,000 songs.

New Support for IP/network cameras
Support for networked cameras, which allows users to view and control the cameras from any TV, web browser or Internet connection, is now part of the DigitaLife System. The system records in a 24-hour rolling loop for each configured camera. Initial camera models supported include the Panasonic BB-HCM311A wired network camera and the Panasonic BL-C10A wired network camera. Support for additional models will continue to be added.

Matching a Family’s Changing Digital Lifestyle
The DigitaLife System is a complete, integrated system for home entertainment, networking, remote access and Internet access. With the DigitaLife System, families can securely and conveniently store their digital media files in one central location and connect their PCs, stereos, televisions and other audio/video equipment.

Key system features include:
• Centralized management, distribution and control of digital content, in all of the most popular formats, to anywhere in the house.
• Convenient private home network for sharing internet access, files, printers and other equipment throughout the home.
• Built-in residential gateway to the internet.
• Handles up to 8 streams of audio and photos, or 4 streams of video, independently and simultaneously.
• ActivLink software that automates the copying of digital media files to the DigitaLife Server.
• Gracenote Media Management software, which automatically names and categorizes a music collection by artist, album and genre.
• Network Manager, a browser-based control console for managing network and media settings.

Current owners of the DigitaLife System can obtain the latest updates to the system by using the automatic firmware update feature in the Network Manager. For questions about the update process, contact DigitaLife Technical Support at e-mail protected from spam bots.

The DigitaLife Server 300 and DigitaLife Storage 300 (www.DigitaLifeSystem.com) are available from Authorized DigitaLife Dealers and DigitaLife Builder Partners.

About Dedicated Devices, Inc.
Founded in 2003, Dedicated Devices, Inc. delivers innovative and easy-to-use digital home entertainment network solutions for the residential home market. The company's DigitaLife System is marketed primarily by home builders as a built-in feature in new homes and installed by professional installer/integrator partners.

Dedicated Devices, DigitaLife System and ActivLink are trademarks of Dedicated Devices, Inc. All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.


Three free programs for home video editing

Today's video editing software makes it relatively easy to remove bad scenes and create one great production. You can add music, narrations, and Hollywood style transitions. Better yet, there are free programs made for the job.

You don't even have to have a video camera. You probably have video capabilities on your digital camera or even your cell phone. These programs can link together short video clips.

One caveat: Video editing demands a lot of computer resources. Each hour of video requires 13 gigabytes of hard drive space. And you'll want at least 512 megabytes of RAM. Anything less will slow down your computer considerably and frustrate you to no end.

Free editing programs don't have all of the bells and whistles of pay programs. But they have enough to do the basics and are easy enough for beginners. Here are three free programs to get you started:

1. Windows Movie Maker. If you have Windows XP, you should have Windows Movie Maker 2. Just click Start>>All Programs>>Accessories>>Entertainment>>Windows Movie Maker. If you don't find it, you can download it from Microsoft's Web site ( www.microsoft.com).

Windows Movie Maker 2 (Windows XP only) lets you trim the fat and keep the good stuff. Beginners can assemble clips using the storyboard view. This allows you to drag and drop clips into little boxes at the bottom of your screen. Don't like the order? Drag the boxes around.

When you find the order you like, you can add over 50 transitions (fades, dissolves, wipes, etc.) that will seamlessly link your clips together. More than two dozen video effects will slow down, speed up or blur your video. There's even an effect that can turn portions of your video into a watercolor painting.

The timeline view allows you to add music, titles or narration. And Microsoft's Web site offers a number of tutorials.

2. Avid Free DV. Avid's free version ( www.avid.com/freedv, Windows XP; Mac OS X 10.4.2 or later) can't hold a candle to Avid's other (and costly) video-editing programs. However, it does have some nice features and the feel of a more powerful program.

You may find Avid Free DV's interface intimidating at first. However, there are over a dozen free video tutorials on Avid's Web site. They'll help you get the most out of the program.

Avid Free DV allows you to trim video, edit audio and create titles. Its timeline utilizes two video and two audio tracks and 16 video effects.

3. VirtualDub. Don't be fooled by VirtualDub's ( www.virtualdub.org; Windows 95 and later) basic interface. It's a full-featured program that is very capable. It is also very fast.

Its video-editing capabilities are limited, but it allows you to trim video and adjust audio. However, VirtualDub's filters really shine. You can fix bad video by adjusting the brightness or sharpening the picture. Other filters allow you to blur clips together, rotate pictures and more. Two windows show the before and after effects. If you don't like what you see, simply cancel the filter.

After you've mastered the basics of video editing, you can always graduate to a program with more features. Video-editing software from Adobe (www.adobe.com), Pinnacle ( www.pinnaclesys.com) and Ulead (www.ulead.com) are geared toward consumers and cost less than $100.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Anthem Intros AVM 50 A/V Processor

Anthem has introduced its AVM 50 audio/video processor, boasting all of the features found in its predecessor, the AVM 30, but adding “broadcast-quality” digital video processing, the same processing incorporates in the Statement D2.

Designed and manufactured in North America, the AVM 50 uses the Gennum VXP Digital Image Processor, which uses broadcast-quality image processing algorithms to convert any SD or HD video to other video standards, up to a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080p. The unit is equipped with four HDMI inputs for digital video, digital audio, and multi-channel high-resolution audio. S-video and component video inputs can be digitally processed and enhanced, then routed through the component video and HDMI outputs.

Set-up, status update, and video processing menus are displayed on the component video and HDMI outputs at any resolution up to 1,080p, the latter two of which are superimposed onto the picture so that adjustments can be seen as they are made. With the AVM 50, VHS tapes can be processed and output through HDMI; and letterbox and pillarbox effects can be removed. The second set of component video outputs can be used for HD video switching of sources for the second zone video.

12-Volt trigger options allow homeowners to automate as much of the system as desired: a system can operate in four separate areas of a home simultaneously. Any source can play in any of the four paths, and users can watch one source, while listening to another.

The AVM 50 is compatible with future Blu-ray and HD-DVD players.

Anthem will make software/hardware updates available as new features are introduced; and plans are underway for all AVM 50 features to be made available as a factory upgrade (cost TBD) for existing Anthem AVM 20 and AVM 30s.


Onkyo Delivers World's First THX Certified Integrated Home Theater System

Onkyo has introduced the HT-S990THX, the world's first home theater package system to carry THX certification. Consisting of an XM-Ready 7.1-channel A/V receiver and complete 7.1-channel speaker package, the HT-S990THX combines the performance of much higher priced separate components with the convenience and affordability of an all-in-one system.

The HT-S990THX A/V receiver features a precise 32-bit DSP and is capable of decoding Dolby Digital EX, DTS-ES, and DTS 96/24. Additionally, it includes processing for Dolby Digital ProLogic IIx, DTS Neo:6, THX Cinema2, THX Music, and THX Games which enable it to derive convincing surround sound from any two- or five-channel audio source. All audio channels feature 192kHz/24-bit digital to analog converters for clear, detailed reproduction, and the receiver's amplifier modules feature Onkyo’s exclusive WRAT (Wide Range Amplifier Technology) for outstanding reproduction of even the most demanding audio sources.

For ease of integration, the receiver has a wide range of connectivity options, including HD-capable component video switching for up to three high definition A/V source components such as HDTV tuner, DVD player, and gaming console. There are also three composite/S-Video inputs and two outputs, as well as four assignable digital audio inputs. Additionally, the HT-S990THX boasts Onkyo’s exclusive RI control system, enabling command of numerous components through a single remote and allowing for use with the company’s DS-A1 iPod dock.

In addition to a built-in AM/FM tuner, the receiver also features a rear panel XM Connect and Play port, allowing users to connect a portable XM Passport portable antenna and receive their XM Satellite Radio subscription directly through the home theater. The HT-S990THX even includes integrated Neural Surround processing, making it compatible with the service's XM HD Surround programming for 5.1-channel surround sound radio broadcasts.

The HT-S990THX’s powerful receiver is accompanied by an impressive speaker package that has been designed with ease of installation in mind. It features a set of seven two-way speakers that are perfectly tonally matched to each other. The front and center channel speakers each include a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter and dual 5-inch woofers constructed from Onkyo's acclaimed A-OMF (Onkyo Micro Fiber) cones. The front and center channels are also magnetically shielded to prevent interference with video reproduction when placed near a TV. Side and rear surround speakers all feature 5-1/8 inch a-OMF woofers and the same tweeter found in the front channels to deliver a seamless 360-degree soundstage. Deep bass reproduction is handled by a powerful 12-inch subwoofer with integrated 230-Watt power amplification module. The Onkyo HT-S990THX home theater system is currently available with a suggested retail price of $1099.

Onkyo, which takes its name from the Japanese "On" meaning 'sound' and "Kyo" meaning 'harmony,' has been producing precision audio components for over a half-century. The company's philosophy is to deliver products that are superbly designed and built to a consistently outstanding standard of excellence. Today, Onkyo is at the forefront of the home theater and digital revolutions. For more information about this and other fine Onkyo products, visit www.onkyousa.com or call 800-229-1687.


Cerwin-Vega Unveils VE Series Speakers

Cerwin-Vega has unveiled its VE Series speakers, comprised of six models, including a bookshelf, three tower speakers, a centre channel, and subwoofer.

"The VE Series fills a void left by the previous V and E Series of products that needed to be addressed,” commented Steven Freytag, Market Manager for the Consumer Division at SF Marketing, Cerwin-Vega’s exclusive Canadian distributor. “In fine Cerwin-Vega fashion, they have delivered a product whose performance far exceeds its price point, all with the exceptional bass that Cerwin-Vega is certainly known for."

The VE Series consists of : the VE-5M bookshelf speaker (MSRP $199/pr.); VE-8, VE-12, and VE-15 tower speakers ($499/pr., $699/pr., and $999/pr., respectively); VE-5C centre channel ($149/ea.); and the VE-28S dual 8” 125W powered subwoofer ($499/ea.)

Circuit City Swings To Profit In Q1; Backs FY07 Outlook - Update

Virginia-based retailer of consumer electronics Circuit City Stores Inc. (CC | charts | news | PowerRating) announced profit for the first quarter of fiscal 2007, compared to a loss reported in the year-ago quarter. The company's earnings performance in the recent quarter was favored by higher sales, on account of comparable store sales and strong domestic segment results. The company also reaffirmed its fiscal 2007 consolidated net sales growth target range of 7-11%.

The company reported first quarter earnings from continuing operations before income taxes of $7.8 million, compared to a loss from continuing operations before income taxes of $19.2 million in the year-ago quarter. The company's net earnings from continuing operations were $5 million or $0.03 per share, up from a loss from continuing operations of $11.9 million or $0.06 per share in the prior-year period.

For the first quarter, the company's net earnings reached $6.4 million or $0.04 per share, turning around from a net loss of $13.1 million or $0.07 per share reported in the prior-year quarter. For the fourth quarter, the company posted net income of $141.1 million, or $0.80 per share.

On average, 27 analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial expected the company to report earnings of $0.01 per share for the first quarter. Quarterly sales increased 17.5% to $2.62 billion from $2.23 billion in the same period last year, with consolidated comparable store sales rising 14.6% from the prior year period. The company's fourth quarter sales were $3.91 billion, driven by a comparable store sales gain of 11.6%. Analysts expected first quarter sales of $2.47 billion.

Domestic Segment Sales

For the first quarter, the company's domestic segment generated sales of $2.49 billion, a 17.5% increase from $2.11 billion in the prior-year period, with a 15.3% year-over-year growth in comparable store sales. The segment's Web-originated sales grew 85%, while revenues from domestic segment services surged 175% for the quarter.

The video category supplied 44% of the segment's total revenue, with a double-digit comparable store sales increase for the quarter. Total television comparable store sales and digital imaging products and accessories comparable store sales increased by double digits.

The information technology category contributed 29% of the segment revenue, with a low double-digit comparable store sales growth for the quarter. PC hardware and notebook computers and printers reported double-digit comparable store sales growth, while comparable store sales of monitors increased by single digits. However, growth in the category was partially offset by a low single-digit decrease in comparable store sales of desktop computers.

In the Domestic Segment, the audio category represented 16% of revenues, with a double-digit comparable store sales increase. Portable digital audio products reflected double-digit growth in same-store sales and portable digital audio accessories posted a triple-digit increase. However, a mid-single-digit decline in the comparable store sales of home audio products partially offset the sales growth achieved by portable and mobile audio products.

The company's entertainment category achieved 11% of the total segment revenue, with a single-digit comparable store sales increase in the first quarter. It included a double-digit comparable store sales increase in gaming products and PC software and a low single-digit increase in video software. The entertainment category's sales growth was partially offset by a double-digit comparable store sales decrease in music software.

International Segment Sales

Circuit City's international segment sales were $131.5 million, a 16.1% increase from $113.2 million in the same period last year. Comparable store sales grew 2.4% for the quarter in local currency. The fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates accounted for approximately 9 percentage points of the international segment's first quarter net sales growth.

Other Metrics

Circuit City's consolidated gross profit margin was 24.5% for the quarter, compared to 25.0% in the prior-year period. While the domestic segment's gross profit margin decreased 32 basis points, driven primarily by increased promotional financing costs, the international segment contributed 25 basis points of the decline.

Selling, general and administrative expenses were $639.37 million, up from $583.01 million in the year-ago quarter. As a percentage of sales, the S,G&A expense were 24.4%, compared to 26.2 % in the same period last year, driven mainly by leverage of payroll as well as rent and occupancy expenses in the domestic segment.

Analysts' Comments

Brokerage Credit Suisse said on June 16th that Circuit City would have a strong first quarter, defined by strong comparable store sales. The brokerage expected the company to report a 13% increase in sales, fuelled by 10% comparable store sales and strong demand in key product categories. Credit Suisse also noted that the company's expenses de-levered 184 basis points in the first quarter, mostly due to international resets, weak comps and consulting services.

FY07 Outlook

Looking ahead, Circuit City continues to expect full-year earnings from continuing operations before income taxes, as a percentage of sales, of 2.0 to 2.4. The comapny also sees consolidated net sales growth in the range of 7-11%, with domestic segment comparable store sales growth of 5% to 7%.

Further, the company anticipates a $50 - $100 million reduction in domestic segment net-owned inventory from February 28, 2006, to February 28, 2007. Circuit City also expects to open 32-36 superstores in the year 2007.

Circuit City said that its fiscal 2007 outlook is based on assumptions of continued sales growth in key product areas including flat panel televisions, notebook computers, digital imaging and portable digital audio players as well as related accessories and services. The company also assumes continued growth in Web-originated sales and store traffic is expected to be relatively unchanged from the prior year. The company expects increased sales from domestic segment new store openings, relocations, store refreshes and category resets.

Peer Best Buy

On June 13th, Richfield, Minnesota-based Best Buy Co. Inc. (BBY | charts | news | PowerRating) said that its first quarter earnings rose 38%, boosted by new store openings, a 14% rise in sales and profit margin expansions. The company reported net earnings of $234 million or $0.47 per share for the quarter, compared to net earnings of $170 million or $0.34 per share for the prior-year quarter. Revenue for the quarter was $7.0 billion, compared to $6.1 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2006.

Best Buy also reiterated its full-year earnings guidance range of $2.65 - $2.80 per share. Analysts expect earnings of $2.72 per share.

Stock Trend

CC is currently trading up $0.20 at $29.68, on a volume of 2.7 million shares.


Micro Moules Standardizes on NX, UGS' Digital Product Development Solution, to Increase Global Collaboration and Reduce Time-to-Market

UGS Corp., a leading global provider
of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services, today
announced that Micro Moules, Inc., a leading Canadian manufacturer of
rubber and plastic moulds, has standardized on NX(TM) software, UGS'
comprehensive digital product development solution. NX will replace
CATIA(R) software, Micro Moules' existing computer-aided design (CAD)
solution, as the standard CAD solution.
UGS made the announcement today in conjunction with its annual industry
analyst conference in New York. (See separate UGS announcements from
The agreement marks an expansion of a relationship between UGS and
Micro Moules that began in 2000 and creates a framework to deploy NX
throughout Micro Moules' global innovation network to enhance collaboration
and reduce delivery times. The decision enables concurrent engineering by
providing a common design platform around the world and supports the
expansion of development teams in low-cost countries.
"Micro Moules decided to standardize on NX because of the complexity of
our mould designs and the capability of NX software to adapt to our design
process," said Jack Karczewski, president, Micro Moules. "UGS is known for
helping its customers transform their process of innovation to enhance
collaboration and efficiency throughout the enterprise. UGS' NX solution
will allow us to expand our development team globally to better serve our
growing customer base."
"UGS is pleased that Micro Moules, a company that shares UGS'
commitment to absolute customer satisfaction, has standardized on NX to
further enhance global collaboration throughout the enterprise," said Phil
Taylor, vice president and general manager, Canada, UGS. "UGS is focused on
providing customers a full service digital product development system based
on an open platform that will enable customers to leverage their global
innovation networks to bring better products to market faster."
Micro Moules, based in Saint Hubert, Quebec, Canada near Montreal,
serves the Canadian, European and American markets. It specializes in the
making of rubber and plastic injection moulds, extrusion blow moulds,
compression moulds and metal alloys (die-casting) moulds. The company's
moulds are used in the production of a variety of commercial and domestic
use products including automotive body sealing systems (weather stripping),
gas tanks, sporting goods, toys, and protective equipment.
NX is a next-generation digital product development system that helps
companies transform the product lifecycle. With the industry's broadest
suite of integrated applications, NX touches the full range of development
processes in product design, manufacturing and simulation. To meet the
increasing demands for global teams to collaborate on projects, NX enables
products to be developed from initial concept layout to manufacturing.
About UGS
UGS is a leading global provider of product lifecycle management (PLM)
software and services with nearly 4 million licensed seats and 46,000
customers worldwide. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, UGS' vision is to
enable a world where organizations and their partners collaborate through
global innovation networks to deliver world-class products and services
while leveraging UGS' open enterprise solutions, fulfilling the mission of
enabling them to transform their process of innovation. For more
information on UGS products and services, visit http://www.ugs.com.
Note: UGS, NX, and Transforming the process of innovation are
trademarks or registered trademarks of UGS Corp. or its subsidiaries in the
United States and in other countries. Catia is a trademark or registered
mark of Dassault Systemes or its subsidiaries in the United States and in
other countries. All other trademarks, registered trademarks or service
marks belong to their respective holders.
The statements in this news release that are not historical statements,
including statements regarding the expected benefits of the customer
relationship, the successfulness of the implementation and other statements
identified by forward looking terms such as "may," "will," "expect,"
"plan," "anticipate" or "project," are forward-looking statements. These
statements are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties which could
cause actual results to differ materially from such statements, including,
among others, risks relating to loss or downsizing of customers,
competition, international operations and exchange rate fluctuations,
changes in pricing models, and intellectual property. UGS has included a
discussion of these and other pertinent risk factors in its annual report
on Form 10-K most recently filed with the SEC. UGS disclaims any intention
or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether
as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


Digital sector comes into sharp focus

VietNamNet - Vietnam will boost its digital content industry through streamlining its legal environment and upgrading its broadband network this year.

A master plan drafted on digital content industry written by the Department of Information Technology Industry under the Ministry of Post and Telematics was released at a seminar in Hanoi last week. The draft is to submitted to the government later this year.

Vietnam hopes the industry will generate $400 million in the revenue by 2010 with an annual growth rate of 50 per cent. The country will give training courses to around 300,000 digital content industry experts.

Digital content industry covers e-learning, games including games for computer, online game, interactive game and game for mobile handset, internet e-content such as online newspaper, websites, searching, library; value-added services for mobile consisting of logo, ring tones and digital movies, television and cartoon.

“Digital content is a digital product in which content part is much bigger than code one,” said Nguyen Trong Duong, an official from the department.

He said the new content products have been present in Vietnam for two years with high growth rate.
They include online games, primary e-learning, value-added services for mobiles, internet protocol television with the total labour force of around 10,000 staff.

According to the ministry, there are 50 enterprises providing online training materials, 20 others value added services for mobiles and 10 online game providers.

Of which, value-added services for mobiles are most bustling with VND1.5 trillion ($94.3m) in revenue last year. Meanwhile, online games are expected to bring a revenue of $10-15m this year.

“There is a need for supporting the industry to further develop in Vietnam,” said Duong.

Department of Information Technology Industry director Nguyen Anh Tuan told Vietnam Investment Review the content industry was predicted to surpass software industry in terms of revenue by then.

The first things needed to support the industry are legal corridors and copyright protection. Of which, the ministry will issue legal documents on state management on launching digital content services and documents on copyright protection.

“Digital content is a convergence of internet, telecom and information technology. However, there is no legal management documents on the industry while internet and telecom have already been supported by legal ones,” said Tuan.

“The third problem is developing broadband infrastructure including fixed lines upgrade and third generation (3G) deployment for mobile service and then the progress of enterprises with support from venture investment funds,” said Tuan.

Duong said the ministry cooperated with a consultant company to give measures and initial online content to be sold next month.

Hoang Le Minh, deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City Post and Telematics Department, said broadband in Vietnam is not developed enough for serving the industry development while network security has been ignored by internet service providers, which will create a low capability network with spam attacks.

He said up to a half of network traffic was occupied by spam and Trojan mails, which need higher-quality security measures.

“We need the government to outline a strategy for broadband development in Vietnam to be determine in content industry development,” Minh said.

The Vietnam information and communication technology (ICT) development strategy to 2010 and forward to 2020 approved by the government last year aims to reach an annual information and communication technology (ICT) revenue of $6-7 billion by 2010 including $3bn in the hardware industry, $2bn in electronics production and $1.2bn in the software industry.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Apple MacBook 2.0GHz

Just when you thought it was safe to buy a new MacBook Pro, Apple unleashes a product that is possibly one of the company's best, fastest and least expensive portable systems ever.

The MacBook replaces a long, proud line of iBook laptops that have traditionally served students and consumer-level Mac users; the iBook being the ideal budget portable that upheld the integrity of Apple's hardware and software architectures. And though it is a direct replacement of the well-loved and iconic iBook and an indirect replacement of the 12" G4 PowerBook, the MacBook effectively defies its own ancestry and surpasses all anticipated performance levels for a sub-14" laptop. It has even outclassed the MacBook Pro on more than one occasion.

Best of all, the MacBook is one of the most affordable high-performance laptops on the market today.


Motorola MS600 Z is the sleek new slider in town

n Korean town that is. The new Motorola MS600 Z looks absolutely gorgeous, and we wonder if it will be the next hottest Moto phone ever since RAZR V3. The features include an ultra-thin 14.8mm sliding form factor, a RAZR-like keypad, a 2.2-inch 240×320 262k color display, MP3 playback, 2 hours talk-time, 160 hours standby, and a 1.3 megapixel camera.

The Motorola MS600 Z will be available through Korea’s SK Telecom at a price between 500,000 and 600,000 won (US$513 to US$616).

We don’t know if the MS600 Z will ever be released in other parts of the world. So meanwhile for the rest of us, let’s just salivate at the wonderful images