Showing posts from January, 2008

Data Security Top Of The Agenda

It doesn't take many high profile lapses of security to put privileged information and how its handled into the public eye. The loss of CDs with child benefit data by HMRC last year has prompted the biggest political backside covering exercise in the history of... well history.

Matthew Swindells, DG of Information for the Department of Health has sent a letter to all NHS Trusts containing guidance which if taken literally could cripple the UK's health system, harm patient care and cause more long term damage than any release of person identifiable data ever could.

I'm a strong advocate of securing information, but the expectation that a fairly backward market segment (the NHS in IT terms) could meet this challenge in such a short timescale with such limited resources shows a deep lack of understanding of the problem and the changes required to meet it. Connecting For Health and NPfIT should both now step forward with a tested, audited and standards compliant solution which …

Google Updates Mobile Search

I'm not sure why it took so long, but almost a year after the US mobile Google site was updated UK, French, German and Canadian sites have followed suit.

The update has a slightly refreshed interface and now aggregates mobile and desktop results into one, instead of the old system of selecting where you wanted to search.

The other update retains location data for local search results. But then surely Google Maps is a better product to be starting locality searches from isn't it?

What hasn't been addressed is the inability to dump the mobile browser and revert back to the standard Google page if your mobile device has the screen to support it. Please take a look at this Google.

Eee Not Getting A Touchscreen

Asus have been quietly but effectively killing rumours about a touchscreen Eee, suggesting that their market research indicates no real demand for such a beast.

Not surprising really, few people really want the ability to write on their screens - you only have to look at the comparitve sales of laptops and tablets to see that. Plus of course there's the cost of re-engineering the Eee to support a convertible 'flip and rotate' screen. Something that is really necessary to use a touchscreen.

An outbreak of common sense then, the same of which can't be said for the decision to launch Eee branded desktop PCs, flat screen TVs and integrated PCs with tuners...

Why You Don't Want To Be Locked In

I think anyone reading this blog has a pretty good idea of how I feel about DRM and media lockdown. They inconvenience those who legitimately purchase content whilst failing to deter those who make free with others intellectual property.

A good reason why you don't want to be locking yourself down when buying hardware is demonstrated by something announced by Steve Jobs at MacWord: Movie Rentals via iTunes.

It seems like a potential winner. Rent the movie you want for 24 hours, no need to go to the shop or wait for it to pop through your letterbox. iPod users are ecstatic, an ideal way to legitimately get new movie releases without much effort and, additionally, a great way to show off your iPod's hardware capabilities.

Only its not if you've got a 5G iPod Video or earlier. Rented video won't play on these machines, despite some being less than 6 months old. There hare been a number of theories put forward for this - one is the presence of an analog video out, although…

O2 Fishing For Better iPhone Sales

Lending weight to the stories that O2's iPhone sales have been disappointing, the company has 're-aligned' its iPhone contract deals to provide more texts and minutes for iPhone buyers. This smacks of desperation for 02, who have gambled heavily on being able to convert a large number of subscribers from Other companies on the back of the exclusive iPhone contract.

Its unlikely that O2 will see any big sales increases following these changes, as the full term price of the iPhone on even the cheapest contract runs too £900+ - which remains a step too far for a 2.5G phone with questionable abilities and longevity. And with the Whole world expecting iPhone 3G any day now, its unlikely to be open season for O2 and Carphone Warehouse salesmen looking to make a post-Christmas killing.

Music Industry Still Doesn't Get It

There is an old adage that says it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought an idiot than to open it and remove all doubt. U2's manager Paul McGuinness would perhaps have done well rather than to engage in the outpouring of verbal diarrhoea at the Midem music festival in Cannes.

Amongst other things McGuinness slated Radiohead for their 'In Rainbows' project, accused Apple, Google, et al of building multi-million dollar businesses on the back of the music industry's content and of building burglary kits. Presumably the whole Apple-U2 tie up just passed him by these last few years. Presumably the band's involvement in U2 iPod ads wasn't sanctioned either... I think we can safely say that we've seen the last of the iPod U2.

McGuinness' solution? Get ISPs to disconnect customers Who download music, an idea based around the current French model. The same French model which has seen music sales fall 20% and CD single sales down nearly 60% - working w…

MacBook Air: Am I A Geek?

Around the blogosphere there has been some fairly robust criticism of the new MacBook Air (MBA for brevity's sake), some warranted, some unwarranted and some faintly ridiculous. And the backlash has started, with MBA defenders springing from the woodwork in all kinds of unexpected places.

The general tone of the defence is that we, the MBA naysayers, don't really understand the MBA because we are geeks and don't understand life in the real world. Which seems a little unfair, as I've seen some very good points made against the MBA. What seems to be clear is that people aren't very good at understanding a niche market and, in the MBA, a niche of a niche.

The MBA is a very slim, lightweight computer. However it also has a relatively large footprint. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it affects the way the MBA is carried and secondly, where you can use it. And if you think about it carefully you can see exactly where the MBA's market is meant to be.

The MBA …

UMPC: Far From Pointless

Harry McCracken at US computer mag PC World (no relation to our 'beloved' DSG retailer) slates the idea of ultra mobile PCs in the article UMPC: Still Evolving! Still Pointless! Its a clear a case of 'not getting it' as you're likely to see and I'd almost accuse him of deliberate mis-interpretation.

The thrust of the article is that UMPCs are ungainly, overly complex and should all be junked in favour of something more iPhone-like.

Sorry but that's not even close.

His arguments rate as follows: information is too small to read on the UMPC screen. Well I've been enjoying time with three different UMPCs with screens varying in size between 5" and 7" and legibility has never been a problem. Furthermore the iPhone, which Harry lauds, has a 3.5" screen which requires much zooming and panning to find the information on a web page. I'd say a document too, but you can't actually open most documents on the iPhone.

Next complaint is with input.…

Nokia Buys Trolltech

Nokia have signed a letter of intent to purchase Trolltech, the Norwegian software developer famous for, amongst other things, producing the Qt software and Qtopia GUI which runs (ran?) Sharp's Zaurus line of Linux handhelds and the underlying software behind Skype.

Nokia are shelling out around £75million to acquire portable application know-how that should allow it to deploy programs across multiple platforms (of which Nokia have at least three: S40, S60 and Maemo).

How this affects Nokia's current plans to expand from solely product driven business to content driven business remains to be seen. I don't imagine that Qtopia will find its way onto either of the Symbian platforms, however the Internet Tablet OS (Maemo) could definitely do with a lift, not to mention the more powerful PIM suite that Qtopia could potentially bring.

Dell Heading For Tesco

Dell was built on the premise that a mail-order only company could deliver savings and efficiency above and beyond the potential for sales that bricks and mortar stores and resellers could generate.

Which has essentially held true for nearly two decades, but things are about to change. Having recently setup deals with US retailers to shift Dell badged machines, its now looking like the company is going for big retail returns in the UK too.

PC World is (unsurprisingly) confirmed as the first retailer of Dell kit, but it appears that demon box shifter and profit maker Tesco is in on the Dell retail act too. Which suggests plenty of free bundle deals. And of course the likelihood of discounts or clubcard promotions should bring enterprise level computing performance and reliability to the home user.

All Not So Rosy In iPhone-land

Some discrepencies in what Apple and AT&T are claiming for shipping numbers, plus a general disappointment in what arrived at MacWorld has led to some share speculators taking a bath this week.

Apple announced 4 million iPhones had shipped whilst AT&T claimed that Q million had been registered. Which makes a big difference to the Apple bottom line and its share price because of the so-called Apple tax. This is the percentage of monthly plan fees paid from the operator to Apple. There's no figure put on Apple's cut, but accepted estimates are arounda tenner a month - probably £100 per annum, give or take. Multiply that by 2 million and you can see why the stock markets are selling.

Worse still, in the run-up to Macworld the accepted wisdom was that Apple were due to launch a 3G iphone and a new tablet style Mac Book. This had speculators buying the shares up as quick as they could get their hands on them, driving the share price up close to the $200 mark. The arrival of…

Palm On The Edge of The Abyss

Now things haven't been looking very rosy at Palm for a good while, but this latest piece of news, added to news of layoffs which broke recently, suggest the company is now in a precarious position. What news? Well we're hearing rumours that Palm are going to close its retail stores in the States, only airport locations surviving the call.

Having dropped the ball big style with the Foleo, failed to release a viable successor to Palm OS 5 and bungled the whole Palm Source thing its looking like Palm will be shrinking operations down in size to survive.

I'm struggling to see how the new version of Palm Os can save the company, or even remain a viable competitor in this crowded marketplace. Symbian Windows Mobile and the iphone have proved to have too much for Palm to compete with, to which they now have to consider the effects of Google's Android platform.

Its looking like Palm has two options if it wants to survive: one, commit to a Windows Mobile future or two, commit to…

Will Tablet Users Be Inkseine In February

The Microsoft research team are in the final stages of putting together a new pen driven information collecting application. Looks a bit like a cross between Onenote and the clippings feature of NewtonOS with some web functionality thrown into the mix. Its only currently available to Microsoft employees, but they're aiming to have a free public release for Feb 15. More details can be found here.

Mobility Deathmatch: OQO vs HTC Advantage

HTC's Advantage is the biggest Windows Mobile device yet, packed with features and an extra-large 5" VGA screen. OQO's model 01+ is the smallest PC you can buy, stripped down certainly, but running Windows XP quite happily. How do they compare?

Both of these machines are built around a 5" screen so you would expect them to have a similar surface area. In fact the Advantage is wider and taller than the OQO and with the keyboard attached, just as deep.

The OQO weighs 408g whilst the Advantage tips the scales at 359g. Add the keyboard and the gap is even closer. Neither of these machines are really designed to fit in a trouser pocket but both can be in a pinch.

Warm startup time:
The Advantage starts from standby in about one second from keypress, whilst the OQO takes around three. It doesn't sound a lot, but when you're in a hurry it could be very frustrating.

Time to standby:
Both machines standby in around two seconds, although the Advantage is really …

Flipstart = Falsestart?

Paul Allen should know plenty about the PC business, after all he is the lesser known Microsoft co-founder and billionaire on the back of it several times over. His hobby company Vulcan, manufacturer of the FlipStart laptop-styled UMPC, has been struggling to shift its poorly recieved machines and has now had to lower its sights in terms of retail value, such that you can now get one for the princely sum of $699, or about £350 in real money.

Lacking a touchscreen and not being pocketable, the Flipstart suffers all the problems of the OQO and Sony Vaio UX range, plus the issues of the standard UMPC without getting any of the benefits. No wonder they haven't been selling...

Phone Manufacturers Skip CES

There was a lot of action going down at CES last week, but very little of the Smartphone variety. Maybe they were all worried about Apple potentially lifting the veil on a 3G iPhone...?

Why Thin Isn't In

Apple's just launched Mac Book Air is thin light and very, very stylish. Problem is, I don't think its much of an improvement over the standard Mac Book Pro form factor and, in many ways, can be less portable.

The thin vs chunky argument has been had before, when Sony's Vaio and Toshiba's Libretto went head to head in the mid-to late nineties. Now Apple are pitching the Ultra thin Mac Book against a host of pocket sized PCs (including one from Sony who appear to have changed sides in the argument) and I can't see them getting an upper hand.

Where the Mac Book Air will steal sales is from the more established Mac Book line, but I think people who purchase the Air will actually be doing themselves a disservice. The Pro manages a bigger battery, optical drive and larger disks without taking up much more weight or being significantly larger. In fact on specs alone the Air competes more accurately with the much cheaper Mac Book and still gives up a chunk of functio…

Macworld Keynote Disappoints

It was probably a lot to ask of Apple to produce the same impact this year as last year's iPhone announcement, however I still get the feeling that perhaps Apple had something else on the cards for Macworld. The MacBook Air is nice, but its just another thin laptop, nothing groundbreaking or breath-taking. The updated iPod Touch software is what should have been on there from day one and, frankly, its a bit of a cheek for Apple to charge existing owners for the privilige of updating to it.

Time Capsule is nice, but again there are plenty of network connected hard drives which effectively provide the same capability. Sure Apple have integrated a wireless router, but then anyone using wireless will doubtless already have one of those so its somewhat wasted.

So where exactly is the Mac Tablet? Its time has come - Microsoft and its partners have started to make some serious progress with its UltraPC/UMPC/Tablet/Slate model and Apple has shown that this is about the time in any new techn…

2.8" Isn't Large

Okay, without wishing to be accused of descending into profanity... who told these people 2.8" was large???

I am of course talking about screen size and new Smartphones. I've even seen some companies boasting of a large 2.4" screen. Its not good enough. Lets have some honesty here please. 2.4" screens running at QVGA resolution aren't large, in fact they are very small indeed when you're talking about interacting with what is supposed to be a smart device. 2.8" is a bare acceptable minimum, not large or expansive, just acceptable. The 3.5" screens that were common on PDAs and older smartphones can be considered large in today's smartphone market and anything more than 4" is near palatial.

Small screens are a compromise to reduce device size, but if the end result is something with significantly reduced functionality, its not a compromise that is worth making.

Beating The Drum

If you were to do a random search on the words OQO and Model 01 you'd probably get an awful lot of negative posts and reviews come back. You'd be forgiven for thinking that the machine is a slow, noisy and unbearably hot running slug of lead which is almost impossible to fit into a normal sized pocket and which would be unreadable should you take it out of your pocket due to the dim screen.

Well you'd be wrong. Pretty much, anyway. Taking criticisms in the order I have most frequently seen them. Firstly noisy... yes, were you to be sat in a near silent room then you will definitely hear the fans spinning. In pretty much any other environment this isn't true. I have been working in a normal office environment for the last week and honestly couldn't begin to tell you if the fans have been on or off. Secondly heat... yes its fair to say that the Model 01 can get warm to the touch. But does it ever get uncomfortable to hold? Not in my experience.

The third received wis…

WiMAX or 3.5G

CES hinted at a number of forthcoming devices with WiMAX capability on board, the likely future deployment of WiMAX by US network Sprint no doubt proving a driver for future product launches.

WiMAX offers speeds of up to 70Mbs - at very short range between static nodes, professionally installed with line of sight. For mobile devices its more likely to be around 10Mbps at 2km from the base station. Which doesn't seem a significant step up from 3.5G, which is currently topping out at 7.2Mbps and is improving in performance almost monthly.

WiMAX is going to have to work on their transmission rates and range if the standard is to avoid falling between the stools of Wifi and 3.5G.

What's Coming At Macworld?

Steve Jobs keynote at Macworld should prove to be an interesting mix of product launches - if the various Apple rumour sites are to be believed. So far, if it all pans out, we should be seeing a new Mac OS X Tablet, a new laptop (possibly an ultraslim), the new 3G iPhone, Slingbox clients for iPhone and iPod Touch and something that fits the Macworld 08 tagline: there's something in the air.

Now I can't see Apple bringing many of these to the show, although the Slingbox looks likely, but the decision to bring the new quad-core PowerMac to market last week suggests there's some bigger fish to fry when his Steve-ness takes to the stage on Tuesday.

Kick The Tyres, Light The Fires

My OQO experience is proving more and more positive as I continue to delve deeper into this truly remarkable handhelds capabilities. Its fair to say that it really is possible to carry a computer with you all of the time: the first truly personal computer. Of course the number of people who actually need to carry a PC with them all the time is small, which makes this niche in the portable market quite small. I wonder if there are enough buyers out there to justify the explosion in the number of UMPCs we saw at CES this week.

In the past we've often asked of PDAs 'can it replace a laptop'. For the OQO we don't even have to pose that question: it is your laptop, shrunk in the wash.

So perhaps I should be asking 'can this replace my PDA?' Probably not, however what it does allow you to do is get away with the smallest, lightest PDA available and not worry about shedding features. The PDA becomes much less a do it all workhorse and much more a tool for push email, sm…

Mobile Working, Homeless Business

We've been hearing about the viability of home working for some time now - real estate is expensive and having employees work away from a central office is a quick way of reducing costs. Its a tried and tested method which has improved work-life balance as well as improving efficiency and the bottom line for businesses.

But are we reaching a stage now where businesses could begin to exist without premises at all?

Its a pretty big conceptual leap, but worth considering. How much of any particular business is tied up with paying the overhead on building insurance, rates, heating and lighting. A subtle change of attitude could conceivably save service industry companies untold amounts of money every year.

Install servers into a datacentre, switch to VOIP and use a mail forwarding service. Arm employees with laptops and broadband at home and only things like meeting rooms remain. Add 3G to Wifi bridging routers for key employees and almost anywhere in the world can be a network connected…

Keep Taking The Tablets

After spending some quality time with the excellent Motion C5 Tablet for Health and having to revise my opinion on their suitability in the workplace, I'm having to realign my thinking about Tablets as a viable solution for mobile computing as well. The device that caused this change? The OQO, a Tablet PC not much bigger than a PDA but without any of the compromises. Of course being this small does introduce some different compromises, but as I'll explain many of these are down to the leading edge nature of the device and will improve as the ultra-tablet market matures.

Areas where I thought I'd have problems and haven't include the screen (resolution is high enough, backlight is strong enough and touchscreen is accurate enough); the Wifi (range is at least as good as most PDAs, if not some laptops) noise and heat (easily managed with the OQO manager). Areas that I'm still getting used to are the keyboard and mouse - both of which work well, although my fingers have…

Tools For The Traveller

Its CES time again, which means we've seen bloggers packing up and heading for Las Vegas, in some cases carrying some quite absurd amounts of kit. I've discussed the ideal travel pack before, but now I'm going to edge that down even further and make some suggstions for the best kit that you can pack on your person and still get things done. And in writing this I'm assuming a standard of dress which would be acceptable in your average cafĂ©, rather than a geek-only expo, where Scott's ever so handy eVests clothe 60% of the room.So the core of the system would have to be the HTC Universal, naked without case. With the screen folded away this is robust enough to live ina jacket or trouser pocket without problems. This covers the core of your computing experience, email and web browsing through 3G and Pocket Office for Word and Excel. The built-in keyboard is more than good enough to cover a weekend's worth of on the fly posting and the 3.5" screen is actually …

What Were They Thinking?

Toshiba used to be one of the best-respected manufacturers of mobile computers, you could almost guarantee that if you walked into any blue-chip enviroment you'd find all the mobile professionals banging away on Toshiba laptops. The company used to be able to charge a premium based on the quality of the product. That is no longer the case, as Toshiba farmed out production and design to OEMs quality fell off and now Toshiba laptops are a rare sight in a corporate environment.When Toshiba entered the Pocket PC market a few years ago many thought it was the end for traditional Pocket PC manufacturers like HP. After a promising start, which included the first VGA screened Pocket PC, Toshiba canned the whole line and withdrew from the market.In 2007 they decided to return launching the G900 Windows Mobile 6 Professional phone, which has the distinction of being the first Windows Mobile device to top that resolution, having a WVGA 800x480 screen.Which would be great. Except Toshiba laun…

New Devices For The New Year

Having moaned at the lack of tempting toys currently on the market, lets have a think about what might be coming down the line over the next twelve months which may cause credit cards to leap spontaneously from wallets in a buying frenzy.First off I'm expecting Apple to launch a 3G iPhone. Sales in Europe have been slower than Apple probably hoped and its interesting to see O2 and Carphone Warehouse stores stacked to the rafters with unsold product. This has to be down to the lack of 3G and the locked down nature of the software. We're a lot less taken with hype than on the other side of the pond and the iPhone needs to start filling in the blanks for the European market. There'll almost certainly be a storage bump for the iPhone and iPod Touch and the latter is probably due to receive the email client its so badly missing.There are rumours of a Mac OS X tablet/UMPC style device. Which doesn't require a great leap of imagination as OS X already packs handwriting recog…