SciTechBlog
April 14, 2010

Apple delays iPad's international release

Posted: 11:01 AM ET

Apple fans in Japan, the United Kingdom and seven other countries will have to wait longer to get their hands on iPads.

Apple is postponing the international release of its new iPad because of stronger-than-expected demand for the device in the United States, the company said Wednesday.

A statement posted on Apple’s Web site said Apple has delivered more than 500,000 iPads since they went on sale in the United States on April 3 and the company expects demand to stay high.

“Faced with this surprisingly strong U.S. demand, we have made the difficult decision to postpone the international launch of iPad by one month, until the end of May,” the post said.

The slate computer was originally scheduled to go on sale April 24 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Apple now will begin taking international pre-orders on May 10.

“We know that many international customers waiting to buy an iPad will be disappointed by this news, but we hope they will be pleased to learn the reason - the iPad is a runaway success in the U.S. thus far,” Apple's post read.

The iPad is a touch-screen, wireless computer that occupies the digital turf somewhere between a laptop and a smartphone. The model available now in the U.S. connects to the Internet over a Wi-Fi connection. Later this month Apple will start selling an iPad version that connects to the Web via 3G wireless service from AT&T.

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Filed under: consumer tech • iPad


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March 18, 2010

Google entering the 'smart TV' market, reports say

Posted: 03:09 PM ET

Google and its partners are looking to become the latest players to beam Web content onto your television, according to media reports.

The Web search giant, along with Intel and Sony, would integrate applications like Twitter and the Picasa photo site onto TV screens, according to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Both reports attributed news of the project, said to be in its early stages, to unnamed sources. Google did not return a message from CNN seeking comment.

Google would open its Android smartphone operating system to developers to use for the television project, according to the reports.

Projects based on the software could begin popping up as early as this summer, the Times reported.

The move would follow several established companies and some startups working to more fluidly combine Web content and television viewing.

Earlier this month, TiVo announced that subscribers will be able to pull Internet content, music and movies onto their televisions more easily with a new Premiere service.

The "Boxee Box," which won the title of "Last Gadget Standing" at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, lets users search and store Web content and either play it on television or share it on social-networking sites.

California-based company Roku has also rolled out a digital video player that integrates television, Web content and a video library.

What do you think? Would you welcome Google's entry into the TV business?

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Filed under: consumer tech • Google • television


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February 16, 2010

Hotmail back up after Tuesday outage

Posted: 06:03 PM ET

Access to Hotmail and several other Microsoft services was restored Tuesday afternoon after a server outage made it impossible for many users to sign in and access their e-mail.

The Windows Live ID service, which includes the free Hotmail service, instant messaging and new Xbox Live accounts, went down at about 12:30 p.m. ET, according to a Microsoft statement.

The problem was fixed in about an hour, Microsoft said, although customers were locked out for a while afterward.

Arthur De Haan, a Windows Live spokesman, said a server failed, increasing the load on other servers. A new server was brought into rotation, but it took a while to resolve the logjam of attempted sign-ins and to redistribute that load among the working servers, he said.

“As with all incidents like this, we will fully investigate the cause and will take steps to prevent this from happening again,” De Haan wrote on the official Inside Windows Live blog. “We’re very sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused you, our customers and partners.”

Hotmail is one of the two most popular e-mail services in the world, along with Yahoo! Google’s Gmail is third.

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Filed under: computers • consumer tech • e-mail • Microsoft Corp. • technology


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December 10, 2009

AT&T rethinks unlimited iPhone data plans

Posted: 02:37 PM ET

Unlimited iPhone data plans and popular high-bandwidth video offerings are causing headaches for AT&T. In some saturated markets, such as New York City and San Francisco, the company's wireless network is unable to keep up with demand and transfers slow to a crawl.

AT&T President and CEO of Mobility and Consumer Markets Ralph de la Vega

AT&T President and CEO of Mobility and Consumer Markets Ralph de la Vega

According to the Wall Street Journal, AT&T's head of consumer services Ralph de la Vega blames high-bandwidth users for these network shortages, and, in a recent meeting with investors, hinted at the end of unlimited data packages.

“This is going to get fixed,” Mr. de la Vega said. “In both of those markets, I am very confident that you’re going to see significant progress.”

With about 3 percent of smartphone customers driving 40 percent of data traffic, AT&T is considering incentives to keep those subscribers from hampering the experience for everyone else, he said.

De la Vega did not elaborate on what "incentives" AT&T plans to enact, but you can bet the agenda will have more in common with data caps and speed limits than free toasters.

Bandwidth-hungry iPhones may be the cause of AT&T's network problems, but they are hardly to blame. iPhone users are forced into unlimited data packages costing at least $30 a month. I don't think AT&T has any right to complain when a few of those users fully utilize their purchase.

Who do you feel is responsible for the struggling wireless networks? AT&T, high-bandwidth users, or both?

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Filed under: Apple • cell phones • consumer tech • iPhone • Uncategorized


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December 9, 2009

Military purchases 2,200 PS3s

Posted: 11:14 AM ET

It seems generous grandmothers aren't the only ones purchasing PlayStation 3 (PS3) consoles this holiday season. The U.S. Dept. of Defense has announced plans to buy an additional 2,200 PS3s to complement a military supercomputer cluster running on 336 PS3 systems.

The military purchase was likely encouraged by Sony's recent PS3 price cut, which brought the price of a single console down to $299.

A military justification of review document explains the decision:

Though a single 3.2 GHz cell processor can deliver over 200 GFLOPS, whereas the Sony PS3 configuration delivers approximately 150 GFLOPS, the approximately tenfold cost difference per GFLOP makes the Sony PS3 the only viable technology for HPC applications.

According to Ars Technica, Sony sells the PS3 at a loss and hopes to make back the difference by selling games and accessories.

The reason that the PS3 is a more cost-effective way to buy Cell-powered GFLOPS than, say, the Cell blades that IBM actually makes specifically for supercomputing applications, is that the consoles come with a big, fat subsidy from Sony.

However, the military isn't likely to purchase any games for these PlayStations. The justification review states the systems will run a proprietary Linux-based operating system, which probably won't be able to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

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Filed under: consumer tech • Games • Gaming


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November 11, 2009

Wi-Fi scale tweets your weight loss (or gain)

Posted: 12:29 PM ET

A new WiFi-enabled scale from Withings encourages users to lose weight by sharing their body weight, lean & fat mass, and calculated body mass index (BMI) on Twitter.

WiFi scale shares results with Twitter.

WiFi scale shares results with Twitter.

Personal metrics have been shown to help people reach their fitness goals. And Wired.com recognizes new devices like the Nike+ can get people moving.

Noone is now running four times a week and just did her first 10-mile race ... And she attributes much of her newfound fitness to the power of data. "I can log in to Nike+ and see what I've done over the past year," she says. "That's really powerful for me."

But will sharing embarrassing weight-fluctuation info help dieters in the same way fitness data has encouraged runners?

A press release from Withings confirms that the scale will not share your information without your consent. "By default, the Twitter feature will not be activated when you purchase your scale ... Only the users that enable this feature will benefit from the online peer motivation."

Engadget is not impressed with the scale's social abilities:

Not only does this bad boy register your weight, body fat, and BMI, but you can now configure it to send your stats to "the Twitter" either daily, weekly, monthly, or each and every time you weigh - and your followers will start dropping faster than even you could imagine.

What do you think? Would you be willing to share your weight-loss struggle with the Twitterverse if it could inspire you to become the next Biggest Loser? Or is this one Fail Whale you would prefer to keep private?

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Filed under: consumer tech • Internet • iPhone • social-networking sites • Twitter


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November 4, 2009

Cloud computing's CO2 lining

Posted: 10:04 AM ET

On my scavenger hunt into cloud computing, I learned there are few if any ways to compare one cloud computing company to another. Say, for instance, you wanted to upload the contents of your laptop to "the cloud" of the Internet. It would be hard if not impossible to get a comparison about how well companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon and IBM provide this service, which is sometimes called "cloud storage."

One emerging and important way to make these comparisons, though, is energy efficiency.

The computer farms that make up the cloud are energy-sucking machines. It costs more to cool the computers than to run them. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says 1.5 percent of all electricity consumption in the country in 2007 came from the data centers that house these cloud computers. And that electricity use is expected to double every five years as we store and process more info in the cloud. (View the EPA's full report to Congress on the subject).

But not all clouds are equal. And the EPA and an industry group called The Green Grid have made it part of their missions to give consumers ways to compare the emerging cloud power-houses.

In April, the EPA will unveil an “Energy Star” ratings program for data centers, according to Michael Zatz, manager of the EPA’s Energy Star program for commercial buildings. The program is voluntary, so not everyone will report their efficiencies, but a number of companies, including Microsoft, are already on board.

Here's an site with more information on this emerging program for green data centers. Scroll down half-way to find a list of some companies involved. Also check out Green Grid for a list of computing companies that are working with that group towards a more energy-efficient future for computing.

And let me know what you think. Is it a big deal that so little information is available about cloud computing? What would you like to know that's not being shared?

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Filed under: climate change • cloud computing • consumer tech • data centers • Energy


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The fast-growing 'cloud utility'

Posted: 10:02 AM ET

Cloud computing appears to be growing like mad.

Instead of computing on our desktops and laptops, many people are moving the heavy lifting to data centers in secretive locations all of the world.

These centers are owned largely by big companies like Google, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft, which charge monthly fees to clients who want to move their IT "into the cloud."

This transition may seem subtle. But writer Nicholas Carr argues it's on pace with changes in the electricity industry a century ago that gave us the modern power utilities we have today.

I talked recently with Carr about his book, "The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google" for a first-person story I wrote about the cloud.

In the book, Carr writes that people used to build small power-generation stations for individual factories and neighborhood blocks. As electricity became more common, and more important for industry, these small plants consolidated because it was more efficient - and so that power could be delivered to everyone across a large and complicated grid.

This is happening today with information. Businesses used to have computer servers in a closet or some back corner of the office. Many still do. But the new model is the cloud, in which these individual IT departments are outsourced to big companies who say they have several advantages: efficiency at a larger scale, expertise and higher reliability.

The U.S. government is jumping on board with the idea. It recently announced a "government cloud" project with Google.

Carr says we're at the beginning of a major information-delivery revolution.

For now, the cloud is rather scattered. A number of companies participate and some of the clouds are private or semi-private. Going forward, Carr expects the data centers to consolidate, leaving control of the cloud in the hands of a few mega-companies - kind of like electric utilities.

The big difference between power and information? Carr says regulations haven't caught up with the cloud.

As a result, it's unclear who owns some data stored in the cloud, and there are no standard file formats that would allow consumers to transfer their data - their photos, blogs, etc - from one cloud company to another, he said.

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Filed under: cloud computing • consumer tech • data centers


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November 3, 2009

Adobe not happy about iPhone's lack of Flash

Posted: 05:00 PM ET

Adobe is not happy about the iPhone's lack of Flash support and the company is accusing Apple of unfairly restricting the technology.

iPhone users who visit the Flash installation site are greeted with a not-so-subtle message claiming:

Flash Player not available for your device.

Apple restricts use of technologies required by products like Flash Player. Until Apple eliminates these restrictions, Adobe cannot provide Flash Player for the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Adobe Flash is a multimedia platform commonly used to add interactivity to Web sites. While it has been criticized for being resource intensive, Flash is still the most popular approach to to integrate animations and video into Web pages.

Since the iPhone's debut, the device's Safari browser has been unable to play Flash, and users routinely lament the loss of nearly all online video content.

Wired.com writes:

Apple declined to comment, but some iPhone developers speculate Apple opted against a full Flash experience because of technical problems it could raise on the handset, such as battery drainage or sluggish web browsing.

Last summer's release of the speedier iPhone 3GS did not ease Flash restrictions. Apple may have chosen to block Flash not for performance reasons, but because interactive Flash applications and games could compete with the iTunes App store.

Do you agree with Adobe that Apple is unfairly restricting technology by limiting Flash on the iPhone? Or is the message on Adobe's Web site simply propaganda aimed to shift the blame from Flash's performance to Apple's anticompetitive nature?

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Filed under: Apple • cell phones • consumer tech • Gaming • iPhone • iPod • mobile phones


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October 21, 2009

Apple's new multi-touch Magic Mouse

Posted: 11:15 AM ET

Riding the wave of new Apple products announced yesterday is a new gesture-based, multi-touch mouse.

The Magic Mouse continues Apple's war on buttons by removing all those pesky clickers. What's left is an aluminum base topped by a smooth white touch-sensitive polycarbonate panel.

Apple was criticized for the single button hamburger shaped mouse that shipped with the original iMac. Many Mac and PC users favor the greater control that a dual-button mouse with scroll wheel provides. In response, Apple released the Mighty Mouse in 2006 that incorporates four functional buttons and a trackball.

The new button-free Magic Mouse signals a return to minimalism while including all the functionality of multiple buttons. Gizmodo thinks it's a welcome change:

The Magic Mouse is undoubtedly the best mouse Apple's made in years. They've taken their knowledge in trackpad finger gestures and one-piece manufacturing and made this delicate, yet sturdy, bridge-shaped mouse.

The Magic Mouse will be included with new iMacs or can be purchased alone for $69. Currently the Magic Mouse is only compatible with Mac OS X, but broad support, including PCs, is likely to happen soon.

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Filed under: Apple • consumer tech • gadgets • technology


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About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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