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Microsoft sets maximum hardware spec for netbook-only Windows 7 SKUs

11 comments Thursday, May 28, 2009

According to tech site TechARP, Microsoft has set the maximum hardware specification that OEMs will be able to pre-install the cheaper netbook-only Windows 7 SKUs onto.

The three SKUs considered here are:

  • Windows 7 Starter
  • Windows 7 Starter for Small Notebook PC
  • Windows 7 Home Basic For Small Notebook PCs (China only)

Microsoft already has a similar limitation in place on OEMs offering XP on low-cost systems, called the Microsoft Windows XP Home Ultra Low Cost PC (ULCPC) program.

Here is the new Windows 7 maximum hardware spec. I’ve added the current spec for comparison.

  • CPU: Single core CPUs no faster than 2GHz and with a TDP no greater than 15W.
    Currently the limitation is only 1GHz, or the following CPUs: Intel Atom N270, N280, 230, Z500, Z510, Z515, Z520, Z530, Z540, Z550, or Intel Celeron 220, or AMD MV-40, 1050P, TF-20, Geode LX, Athlon 2650e, Sempron 210U, or VIA C7-M ULV, Nano U1700, U2250, U2300, U2400 or U2500.
  • Screen size: No larger than 10.2″.
    Currently the limitation is 12.1.
  • RAM: 2GB.
    Currently the limitation is 1GB.
  • Storage: 250GB HDD or 64GB SSD.
    Currently the limitation is 160GB HDD or 32GB SDD.
  • Graphics: No limitation
    Currently the limitation is no greater than DirectX 9.
  • Touch: No limitation.
    Currently the limitation is resistive only

So, basically what’s really changed is that you can have more RAM and storage but the screen size has shrunk by nearly two inches and with a more rigid CPU requirements.

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Rumor: Speedier Next-Gen iPhone Is on Its Way

You’re probably already stuffed with iPhone rumors, but consider this dessert. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber has heard from “informed sources” that the next-generation iPhone will receive a significant processor upgrade, bumping the speed to 600MHz, which should make the new handset 1.5 times as fast as the current 400MHz iPhone CPU. He also claims receiving confirmation of rumors that the next iPhone will feature a magnetometer (digital compass) and a video camera.

One last morsel: MacTalk reports that Vodafone has declared the current 16GB iPhone has been labeled “End of Life,” meaning new iPhones are on their way.

When? Gruber predicts the announcement will be made at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, which kicks off June 8, and the phone will hit stores in July. That’s a reasonable assumption, because Apple announced the current iPhone 3G at 2008’s WWDC. Also, Apple will likely have to hold WWDC sessions devoted to the new iPhone’s API, and the company would of course have to announce the product first.

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Gadgets: fashion for the broken leg set


Cooper Martin Clothing

If you have ever broken a major appendage, you quickly realize that the simple things in life are now, not at all simple. That explains why so many people who, for example, break a leg, resort to wearing sweat pants or shorts; it's not just the easiest but sometimes the only option.

The company Cooper Martin agrees, that's why they came up with their line of clothing for just this occasion. The clothes have strategically placed zippers and Velcro on business casual clothing.

You can see how it works at

Photo Shower Curtain

Some family pictures are priceless and it's not enough for them to have that prized spot on the mantel, so why not immortalize it in a shower curtain; it's cooler than you think.

The makers at take your favorite photo and turn it into a customized curtain; either for a standard bath tub size or stand alone shower.

The makers claim you can launder the curtain and never have to worry about fading or warping.

You can see it for yourself at

Finis Circuit Trainer

The couch potato in all of us can come up with many excuses of why we can't exercise today and fitness companies, like Finis, are getting wise to lazy ways.

The circuit trainer performs the job of a timer, but better. How it works, you set the amount of time you want to workout then set the amount of time you want to rest; the trainer lets you know when each time is up and it's time to get going again.

The Circuit Trainer lets you know when time is up through lights and a buzzer.

You can learn all about it at

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More thoughts on Oracle and hardware

2 comments Saturday, April 25, 2009
There are two explanations making the rounds for Oracle’s unexpected entry into the hardware business. Neither on its own is wholly convincing, but each hints at what is probably really going on here.

The first is the explanation that Oracle was putting about on Monday. This holds that vertical integration of all aspects of hardware and software is the next step being demanded by the customers of enterprise technology companies, who want one throat to choke when something goes wrong.

But it hardly feels as though customer expectations have changed enough to force Oracle to buy a deeply troubled server company to take on entrenched rivals like IBM, HP and now Cisco. Not does this explanation take account of the fundamental nature of the enterprise technology industry, which relies on deep technology and business partnerships.

The other explanation is that Oracle had to move quickly to outmaneuver the slow-footed IBM, so it was willing to take on the unappealing hardware business just to get its hands on Sun’s software assets. It then follows, according to this view, that Oracle will now turn around and unload the hardware side as soon as it can, perhaps in pieces.

To judge from the people we’ve spoken to, neither of these explanations quite gets to the bottom of what is going on.

One good pragmatic reason for assuming Sun’s struggling hardware business is that, for the arch cost-cutters at Oracle, this is where many of the biggest opportunities for expense savings lie. Oracle has promised $1.5bn in operating profits from the Sun deal in the first year. Slashing hardware costs is likely to be a quick way to get there - and if the economy turns, Sun’s highly cyclical hardware arm could even provide a pleasant surprise.

One person familiar with Oracle’s thinking suggests that the company will act quickly to narrow the focus of Sun’s hardware on a smaller number of high-end system designs. And a person close to the Sun camp admits that Sun itself simply failed to act aggressively enough to cut costs - though this person adds that a big acquirer like a Oracle also has many more opportunities to save money than Sun could have done on its own, for instance by combining salesforces.

Another pragmatic reason to take on the hardware business is that it offers Oracle a strategic hedge. In a world dominated by a handful of giant systems companies, life as a pure software company could become uncomfortable: what if big partner/rivals like IBM and HP become less enthusiastic about selling and supporting Oracle’s software?

Being able to offer its own hardware gives Oracle a fall-back, according to one person close to the transaction. The very existence of an Oracle hardware division changes the equation and removes a potential weapon in the hands of its enemies.

Of course, none of this changes Oracle’s main motivation for the Sun acquisition: getting its hands on Java, Solaris and MySQL. But it does help to explain why a software company with operating profit margins of 35 per cent is willing to take on a business that recently has had trouble making any money at all.

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Gadget Leak: Toshiba 2009-2010 Handset Roadmap

2 comments Saturday, April 18, 2009
Spring has sprung and with it leaked images and info about Toshiba’s upcoming handsets. The 5 new handsets are purportedly all based on the 1 GHz Snapdragon processor running Windows Mobile 6.5.

First up is the TG02 and TG03, which build upon the already announced TG01 that includes a 4.1-inch touchscreen, HSDPA, microSD card slot, accelerometer and 9.9mm thick form factor. The difference between the two yet to be officially announced handsets are an IPX4 water resistant rating with a 3.2MP camera for the TG02, and a 5MP camera with 5.1 Dolby Digital output for the TG03, but sans IPX4 rating.

The MIDs, the K01 and K02 feature a 4.1-inch and 3.5-inch touchscreen respectively, while both include a slide out QWERTY keyboard and a 3.2MP camera.

Last of the leaked handsets is the L01, which boasts the largest of the screens at 7-inches and some funky stand alone keyboard that is very reminiscent of the Touch Book.

You can expect most of these handsets to launch between Q4 2009 and Q1 2010.

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Nikon D5000 DSLR

The Nikon D5000 has been announced. The D5000 is an upper-entry-level DSLR camera that sits in between the D60 and D90. It has a 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, live view and can record HD movies at a 720p resolution. The screen on the back can also swivel 180 degrees and tilt.

The camera has a sensitivity of ISO 200 to 3200 which can be extended from ISO 100 to ISO 6400 equivalent. With the 2.7 inch LCD being capable of rotating around and with it having Live View, it makes taking pictures that little bit easier in some situations. The D5000 has a HDMI output compatible with HD TV’s allowing you to playback direct from the camera on to your TV when needed. Other capture features are also included which are wide area, normal area, face detection and new subject tracking. The subject tracking feature is capable of locking on to an individual and if they move out of the cameras view and then back in they will still be kept in focus on the camera. 19 scene modes are included to help you capture the right type of photos for the type of scene you are shooting in.

Available from Amazon.

The Nikon D5000 costs $849 with a 18-55 VR kit lens.

Nikon D5000 Features

• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS sensor
• 12.9 million total pixels
• 12.3 million effective pixels
• Supports high ISO sensitivities
• Nikon DX-format sized CMOS sensor
• Airflow control system
• Image Sensor Cleaning
• Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
Image processor Nikon EXPEED
A/D conversion 12 bit
• 4,288 x 2,848 (L)
• 3,216 x 2,136 (M)
• 2,144 x 1,424 (S)
• NEF (compressed RAW)
• JPEG: Fine (approx. 1:4), normal (approx. 1:8), or basic (approx. 1:16) compression
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG (any size)
• AVI Motion-JPEG
• File format AVI (Motion-JPEG)
• Image size (pixels) 1280 x 720; 24fps, 640 x 424; 24 fps, 320 x 216; 24 fps
• Audio: Monaural on/off selection
• Exposure: Determined with matrix metering utilizing output from the image sensor
• Exposure lock available
• Exposure compensation available in P, S, A, M modes
• Maximum single clip length: 1280×720/ 5 minutes, others 20 minutes
• Nikon F mount with AF contacts
• Approx. 1.5x lens focal length (Nikon DX format)
• AF-S, AF-I
• Other Type G or D AF Nikkor
• Other AF Nikkor/AI-P Nikkor
• Type D PC Nikkor
• Non-CPU
• IX Nikkor/AF Nikkor for F3AF
- All functions supported
- All functions supported except autofocus
- All functions supported except autofocus and 3D Color Matrix Metering II
- All functions supported except some shooting modes
- Can be used in mode M, but exposure meter does not function; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster
- Cannot be used
• 11 focus points (1 cross-type sensors)
• Multi-CAM 1000
• AF working range: -1 to +19 EV (ISO 100, normal temperature)
• Contrast Detect in Live View mode
Lens Servo • Single Servo (AF-S)
• Continuous Servo (AF-C)
• Automated selection of AF-S or AF-C, (AF-A)
• Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject’s status in (AF-A)
• Manual focus [M], Electronic range finding supported
• Single point from 11 focus points
• Center point narrow or wide zone
• Liveview (Tripod mode): Contrast AF on a desired point anywhere within frame
• Single point AF
• Dynamic Area AF
• Automatic-area AF
• 3D Tracking AF (11 points)

Via: DPReview

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Microsoft owns up to "E74" 360 errors, expands warranty

A popular gaming blog tracked a new kind of Xbox 360 error, the E74, and Microsoft has finally owned up and added the issue to the three-year "Red Ring of Death" warranty. This is a win for consumers, but it's yet another black eye for Microsoft's hardware.
By Ben Kuchera

While Xbox 360 systems may be known more for the dreaded "red ring of death" than any other hardware failure, one gaming blog has been tracking the rise of the "E74" error, an issue that causes the console to crash and show a multi-language kill screen. You'll also get a single red section on your system's power button. Microsoft is aware of the problem, and has since amended it's three-year warranty to cover the error.

The story began when Joystiq started to receive complaints concerning the error. The site decided to gather some data, and found that complaints of the error increased after the release of the New Xbox Experience, or NXE. "One oddity is that there is no correlation between the dates on which the systems in question were purchased and when they went belly up," Joystiq writer Justin McElroy reported. "The error usually occurred after anywhere from 12 to 36 months of use, with many of you claiming that trouble arose on consoles that have already been repaired for Red Ring of Death. Whatever modifications Microsoft has made to the console to improve its reliability in the past years seems to have no bearing on the likelihood of E74."

The problem was that this issue wasn't covered by Microsoft's warranty; the company simply called it a "general hardware failure" and that was that. More sites jumped onto the issue, however, and found the same data: the E74 error was a widespread issue, and seemed connected to the NXE, although that might not be the direct cause of the issue. "The time frame for the rise in issues makes NXE and its November debut a suspect," Engadget wrote. "But it's worth noting that the uptick started just before that launch, so perhaps it has more to do with hiccups caused by spurred interest in turning on the console after a long period of dormancy."

Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it would do the right thing and extend the red-ring warranty to include the E74 errors, detailing the inclusion on its Xbox support site. "After investigating the issue, we have determined that the E74 error message can indicate the general hardware failure that is associated with three flashing red lights error on the console. As a result, we have decided to cover repairs related to the E74 error message under our three-year warranty program for certain general hardware failures that was announced in July 2007." Microsoft also claims it has made the necessary changes to decrease the likelihood of the error, and will refund the cost of E74 repairs to customers who may have already paid to have their console fixed or replaced.

It's gratifying to see Microsoft do the right thing, but yet another known hardware issue with the 360 won't do much to help the system's battered reputation; the red ring fiasco ended up costing the company $1 billion plus to make right. The "E74" problem won't likely cost anything near that amount, but the damage to the 360's shoddy hardware reputation won't be easy to quantify.

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Tips for getting catastrophe insurance

(This Old House) -- The 10 most expensive natural disasters in U.S. history all have occurred in the last decade. These catastrophes have resulted in insurance companies having to cover losses averaging $10 billion each year since 1989, compared with just $2 billion yearly from 1980 to 1988.

With the potential catastrophe payouts insurers face far exceeding their reserves, it's no surprise that major companies, including Allstate and State Farm, are raising catastrophe-policy premiums and deductibles.

"The insurance industry is saying to the homeowner, If you choose to live here, that's great, but you have to take on more of the risk," says Jayna Neagle, of the Washington, D.C.-based Insurance Information Institute. "It's all about sharing the risk."

If you live where tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes are a regular occurrence, catastrophe insurance is an important consideration. Ask these questions to avoid paying too much or choosing a company that a disaster could drive out of business:

Do you have proper coverage?

Amazingly, most people don't. For instance, only 20 percent of homeowners in floodplain areas carry flood insurance, even though their flood risk is 26 times their fire risk.

Similar figures hold in many earthquake- and storm-prone areas. Find out if you need catastrophe coverage by calling your agent or state insurance board.

Obtain information on flood, storm or quake risks in your region and compare it to risks posed by the "normal" hazards your homeowner's policy covers; if catastrophe risk exceeds normal risk, buy expanded coverage. This Old House: Beef up your insurance

Is the insurer financially stable?

Don't Miss

A huge catastrophe can shake the stability of weaker insurance companies, putting them at risk of a default that could leave policyholders uncovered. A.M. Best and Standard & Poor's now rate insurance companies to reflect their ability to withstand such catastrophes.

Check an insurer's rating with A.M. Best, S&P, or Consumer Reports magazine. Look for an A rating or better (such as AAA or A++). Avoid lower-rated companies (those with a B or lower rating).

Are the premiums and deductibles reasonable?

Double-digit increases in catastrophe premiums are common in high-risk storm and earthquake areas. These increases vary widely by company and region, so if your premium jumps up, shop around for an insurer that's not as exposed to catastrophe-related payouts. This Old House: Insure yourself against storms

Also be aware of the change to "percentage deductibles" that require homeowners to cover a percentage of the damages rather than a set figure. For example, if the deductible is 5 percent and losses are $100,000, the policyholder covers the first $5,000.

According to J. Robert Hunter, insurance director for the Consumer Foundation of America, homeowners are not always clearly notified of the change. "A lot of people have been misled," Hunter says. "The disclosure is really vague, buried in a lot of fine print." This Old House: Do you have enough insurance?

When you're ready to buy, try these shopping tips:

1. Purchase all your insurance (homeowner's, auto, life) from an insurer that offers a multiple-policy discount. Also check if your insurer gives a "loyalty" discount for staying with them for three to five or more years.

2. Go with a high deductible; this can save up to 20 percent in premiums if you have savings to do it.

3. Install smoke detectors, a burglar alarm, storm shutters, dead bolts, and a fire-sprinkler system to reduce the premium on your homeowner's policy. The same goes for using storm- or earthquake-resistant construction methods or materials.

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Piracy Insurance Is Still Available, At A Higher Price


CHICAGO -(Dow Jones)- Despite a surge in piracy off the coast of Somalia in recent years, capped by the dramatic rescue of a U.S. cargo ship captain there Sunday, insurers are still willing to offer piracy insurance, although at dramatically higher prices.

"In general, the price is up five- to 10-fold from 18 months ago," when the surge in piracy off Somalia began to take off, said Peter Townsend, executive director for the marine practice group at insurance broker Aon Corp. (AOC). "The demand is there."

Piracy insurance generally covers physical loss or damage to the ship or its cargo, along with kidnap and ransom coverage for the crew. Townsend said he helped develop coverage that also includes the daily loss that comes from having a detained ship sit unused while the owners negotiate ransom with pirates.

Piracy-insurance prices are usually set per shipment no more than a week before a planned passage through the area plied by Somalian pirates, which includes the Gulf of Aden and parts of the Indian Ocean. Though prices vary widely, it might cost a shipper $30,000 to $50,000 for $3 million to $5 million of coverage for a single voyage through the area, Townsend said.

Townsend said prices tend to dip immediately after a spate of hijackings. " Underwriters feel that, if several vessels are being held, the likelihood is decreased" that there will be another pirate attack in the following days.

He said Sunday's rescue of the captain of the American-flagged cargo ship Maersk Alabama by U.S. Navy Seal sharpshooters probably won't decrease piracy, despite the death of three of the pirates during the rescue.

"The rewards [of piracy] outweigh the risks, in their view," Townsend said. " The loss of three pirates will harden their resolve. It is a risky business."

Townsend said he couldn't say if the Maersk Alabama was insured, but he said many shippers play the "percentages" and hope their ship will be one of the many that make it through unattacked. However, the surge in piracy in the past two years is increasing interest. Most piracy insurance is underwritten through the Lloyd's of London insurance market, where groups of insurers take on risks.

One insurer that offers the coverage, Chubb Corp. (CB), said last month that prices generally were up around 20%. A Chubb spokesman said the company didn't break out its total premiums of profitability on the coverage, but that it wasn't a major part of its business.

Townsend said pirates off the Somali coast detained 111 vessels and 800 seafarers in 2008, which was about a 200% increase from the year before. So far in 2009, 40 vessels have been detained.

In 2008, Townsend estimated, around 30,000 vessels traveled through the area, which he called a "major artery" for shipping.

-By Lavonne Kuykendall, Dow Jones Newswires; 312-750-4141; lavonne.kuykendall@

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Gogic Robot walks funny

2 comments Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Japanese Gogic robot is cute little robot with a very funny walking style. See the video of Gogic below.
The Gogic player DIY robot kit sells for $499.99 on Gizmine.

Elekit's Gogic player DIY robot kit features five servo-motor controls that allow it to walk, and sit.
The assembly time is three hours and the robot is powered by standard batteries 9V x 1, AA x 4. More details on Gizmine.

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