Thursday, 31 March 2011
The move away from oil dependency continues with baby steps. The latest is the first of a promised fleet of fuel cell powered London taxis expected to be completed in time for the 2012 Olympiad.
The combination of fuel cell and battery pack give the cab a surprising turn of speed - London's cabbies won't be struggling when it comes to beating the clock.
More importantly this marks the arrival of the UK's first road legal Zero Emission Vehicle.
Apparently Microsoft have been unable to deliver a fully functioning YouTube app to Windows Phone 7 users because Google refuses to allow it access to the necessary APIs to do so.
Google are also accused of restricting Bing's access to YouTube content for the purposes of providing search results, something that necessarily impacts on Bing's ability to compete in the search arena.
Its an interesting complaint and if proved to be true would have to tarnish Google's 'do no evil' reputation.
Google didn't actually respond to the action other than to say that it would explain its actions if called to do so.
BMW and Sixt and that really is powered by Dell Streaks.
The Minis have a Streak integrated into the dashboard to control the
car sharing functions and presumably deliver car and driver to the
next point in the share in one piece.
More details can be found here.
time its Andy Lark of Dell, who apparently thought that the best way
to compete with the Apple iPad 2 was to make some wildly inaccurate
claims about its costs and market penetration into the enterprise.
First off he claimed that an iPad, fully loaded for enterprise use
would run to around $1500, which even if he was taking Australian (and
it was an interview for an Australian magazine) is about 20% more
than the highest number I can get to. Then he claimed that enterprise
wouldn't be interested in the iPad. Seriously, given how many iPads
are bring used in enterprise locations now he's just told us he's
wildly out of touch.
What Andy Lark needs to be talking about is how Dell managed to select
the worst screen ever given to a device for the Streak 7, because he's
going to struggle to build any momentum behind a device getting that
much bad press.
He could probably do with explaining how Dell managed to so bungle the
launch of the Streak in the first place, gaining absolutely no
traction for a technically brilliant device.
What isn't going to protect Dell's enterprise market are lazy, self
indulgent executives taking pot shots at demonstrably successful
products and exposing how far they're divorced from the paying
customer in the street
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
The operators and Microsoft are going to have to get a bit cosier before the next update arrives, because at the moment it looks like there's potentially a two to three month delay between the first users to receive updates and some of the unluckier users of branded phones.
Oh well, they say patience is a virtue...
Fair enough, I think anyone embroiled in the NHS NPfIT would say that was a reasonable assessment of the situation. Of course as it was Watmore who was responsible for overseeing those projects it would also be reasonable to expect him to be a little contrite given the spectacular failures he was singularly responsible for.
His final comments take some believing though, claiming that public bodies need to reduce their reliance on Microsoft products to help reduce costs by following the open source route and then in the next breath suggesting that more Apple products should be used in the same arena! For what purpose exactly? These two completely contradictory statemments clearly demonstrate the qualities of the man who followed the tried and tested route of giving contracts to the mega-players in the IT outsourcing game and then watched them descend into ignominious failure. No surprise that he is a former employee of Accenture, another of the big players in that field.
Seems somewhat disingenious for the man to be heaping critcism on his own past work and expecting to get away without any of the blame...
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
Today Amazon launched its Cloud Drive service to compete with Google and Microsoft, who both offer storage as part of a freemium model. With Amazon you get 5GB free, with another 20GB added when you buy an MP3 album from the Amazon MP3 store.
Your music can be sent to your Cloud Drive and accessed from any device. Nit just music either, any file type can be used on this virtual drive.
Its a good strategy which I suspect will be a precursor to the arrival of an Amazon badged tablet to complement its e-ink range and take the battle to the PC guys. Given the launch of the Amazon appstore it seems likely that any Kindle Tablet would be packing Android.
With Google and Apple on the verge of launching music services of one sort or the other its shaping up go be an interesting bun fight for users hard-earned.
Thursday, 24 March 2011
I kid you not. The US recording industry is seeking damages amounting to $75 trillion - or about the sum total of all the money in circulation in the world today.
In further news the US recording industry has acquired a furry cat, a henchman, some beautiful female accomplices and is currently plotting to place a laser weapon into orbit over the planet to back up their claim...
Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Let me say straight away its not the ideal solution - which would be a scrobble to last.fm at the end of each track. That's probably going to have to wait for this winter's Mango update and true multitasking.
In the meantime its possible to get your tracks scrobbled each time you sync to Zune on the desktop using a tool called Zenses2. Once your phone has synced, close the Zune software and start Zenses2 which will then allow you to scrobble tracks to last.fm.
The reason behind the suit? Apple feels that smartphone users may confuse the two stores.
Which could possibly be valid, except that Android users have no access to the Apple Appstore and Apple users can't get to the Amazon Appstore.
Going to take a mighty impressive fool to land themselves in the wrong one isn't it?
As to the wider question of the validity of the Appstore name, I can see both sides of the argument - its like Clarks being granted a trademark for the words Shoe shop, far too generic and obviously not trademarkable.
On the other hand I'm struggling to think of a time when people referred to a piece of software as an 'app' before Apple launched the iTunes App Store. I suspect much will hang on this fact when it comes to court.
You won't be surprised to find out then, that large screen handsets are selling like there's no tomorrow. In fact in the US smartphones with 4" or bigger screens make up a quarter of all smartphones sold.
No surprise either that those smartphones are almost all Android handsets, something else Steve told us wouldn't sell...
Sunday, 20 March 2011
Being keen to see what my HD7 could achieve without Microsoft's restriction in place I naturally followed the instructions and can confirm not only that they work, but they work well.
Returning to most applications happens without the restart or resume phase, making for a much more fluid device. Other applications appear to continue to run in the background - Internet Explorer carries on loading pages whilst you are elsewhere for example.
There has been no discernible performance hit from making the change - although I have yet to complete a comparitive battery run down, which may show a change.
On the whole though, Microsoft and its partners (as well as some intrepid hackers) have done a very good job of closing the functionality holes which affected WP7 at launch.
The Nodo update due next week should bring further performance enhancements (as well as copy and paste) taking Windows Phone into a position to start competing with iOS and Android.
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Rumours about VW's desire to acquire Alfa Romeo have surfaced again and this time there seems to be a lot more carrot dangling going on. Offers of partnerships with Porsche and solutions to the company's labour relations problems are being whispered about.
Whilst FIAT denies that it is interested in doing a deal I can't help but worry that political needs will bend that resolution.
This is seriously bad news, it was bad enough when FIAT were given the reins but at least that retained the Italian psyche in the company. I fear that Alfa Romeo under German stewardship would be just as neutered as Lamborghini has become...
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
I have given up trying to be a WHSmith customer as I have had easier jobs. But I am very curious to learn why, in the categories option of your ebooks app, if you select a category such as computing there is anything but books on computing!? (Of course i'm referring to one of the rare occasions the app actually opens and just prior to the compulsory crash).
Completely random books nothing to do with computing appear! Such as, "The hidden history of the Kennedy years" which is bizarre and amazing. Not a single computer book in the computer category!
This is just one of the many reasons I've given up on trying to be a customer but I'm very interested in comedy and wonder if you might share with me the strategy and thinking behind such a bizarre, infuriating and hilarious arrangement?
I think its fair to say that when it comes to phone platforms there's plenty of choice in the market. I've pretty much tried them all. Except for RIM's BlackBerry that is.
This week that's been rectified. I've had a Pearl to experiment with. Not the most up to date handset, but certainly one that I've seen lots of people using.
Which begs the question: why?
I can find nothing about the OS that is of any value at all. And the hardware is less than impressive as well.
Sure, Push email works - about as well as it does on every other platform. But everything else is just horrendous. Web browsing, switching between screens, opening apps... All mind numbingly slow. And some parts of the OS appear to open within the web browser too. And I can only assume that the person responsible for designing the UI had some terrible hatred of humankind and intended the look and feel of the BlackBerry to be deliberately offensive to the eye.
Perhaps it is fixed in BlackBerry 6...
And there seems to be little reprieve when you get to the hardware. On the admittedly well used example that I have the keys are very hit and miss, the trackball feels like its picked up a few flat-spots and the finish is rubbing off in places.
I can say with some confidence that I can type faster and more accurately on every single touch screen device than on the Pearl's keyboard. And I can't think of a device whose screen I would less like to look at. Having to do all the navigation through that trackball is deeply unpleasant - even if the thing was working properly I doubt it would be a pleasant experience.
Clearly I either have a duff device, the Pearl is unrepresentative of Blackberry functionality or about 20 million people a year are advertising their mental health problems through their phone purchase.
I think I'll have to snag some time with a Torch and see whether the new OS and touch interface have improved things any...
Sunday, 13 March 2011
Nuclear reactors work by a chain reaction. Neutrons are fired into the fuel - uranium or plutonium - and collide with the atoms in the fuel. These atoms split, releasing energy and neutrons. These neutrons collide with other fuel atoms, releasing more neutrons and the process repeats. Uncontrolled the process will accelerate until the massive release of energy becomes an explosion. This is how a nuclear weapon works.
In a power station control rods of graphite are used to convert some of the neutrons before they impact on a fuel atom. In a Light Water Reactor, water is passed through the reactor core, turning to steam, which drives the turbine to generate electricity. That same water cools the core and helps to control the speed of reaction. These two measures ensure that the chain reaction cannot run out of control and cause an explosion.
At Fukushima the flow of water was interrupted by the failure of electrical power due to the earthquake and the diesel backup power due to the Tsunami. Without that cooling the control rods weren't able to completely control the speed of reaction causing the fuel temperature to rise and eventually melt its way through the stainless steel box designed to prevent radioactive emissions.
So far there have been several attempts to retrieve the situation and get the reactor back under control: releases of gas from within the reactor to lower the pressure and temperature - releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere; pumping boron into the core in the form of boric acid - boron poisons the nuclear reaction by acting on neutrons; and finally pumping seawater straight into the core in an attempt to cool it.
The latter solution has hit a worrying problem, the level of water in the core is not rising as seawater is pumped in, suggesting that it is leaking back out again. Probably in a radioactive state...
Ultimately if the core can't be cooled it will meltdown through its stainless steel container and into a containment area below where it should sit until all the fuel has been consumed and all that remains is the highly radioactive spent fuel. At that point the reactor will probably be buried under several hundred tons of concrete and testing will begin to see what the long-term damage will be to the local area.
Thursday, 10 March 2011
|Zoostorm SL8 running Firefox and Spotify side by side|
I've been using the Zoostorm SL8 for a while now and its been something of an eye-opening experience. Far, far better than I expected it to be and a clear indication that performance of a Windows tablet can be every bit as impressive as dedicated operating systems, such as iOS and Android, whilst offering all the benefits of a true PC.
When I first introduced the SL8 I commented on the size and suggested that it wasn't the sort of device that I would consider because of its restricted portability - something that has been my main complaint about the iPad in the past. Over the course of my time with the unit I've been won over. When I carry my briefcase I'll almost always throw the SL8 in with my filofax and other day to day essentials. I definitely wouldn't consider carrying or using a tablet of this size outside of my working life, in that respect anything bigger than the Galaxy Tab is never going to fit the bill, however if you regularly tote a backpack or other bag the SL8's size shouldn't put you off.
That's a good thing because using the SL8 turns out to be a surprisingly slick and enjoyable experience. Its never going to match the slippy slidey Android or iOS interfaces for impact, but Windows 7 on a capactive screen turns out to be just as usable on a tablet of this size and that was a revelation. I'm not sure how much is down to Microsoft's changes in Windows 7 and how much down to the way that Zoostorm have tweaked the sizes of interface elements but I found that most tasks were as easy to accomplish on the SL8 as a regular netbook.
The only area I found problems was with programs which had deviated from Microsoft's standard interface elements as these weren't resized to be finger friendly and as a result these programs weren't as usable on the SL8 as they could have been.
Battery life was another failing when compared to, for example, the iPad. Four hours of Wifi usage is about average for a similarly powered netbook, but some way off the real world eight hours that iPad users generally report. For the extra functionality that the SL8 offers I'd accept this limitation and work to keep the battery topped off to compensate, however the lack of an car charging accessory mitigates against this and for many road warriors that will be a pain. The power pack is small enough to carry with the device but its not an ideal solution.
Connectivity is excellent when compared to other tablets in the market. Two USB host ports, a mini-HDMI connector, SD and SIM card slots (on the 3G version) should get you by in just about any situation. Wifi and Bluetooth performance were both excellent and despite the Atom processor I found the SL8 was capable of simultaneouslly sending high quality audio to Bluetooth headphones, streaming that music from Spotify and handling web browsing even on the heaviest pages without any hint of a slowdown.
The real benefit of the SL8 is, of course, that it is a full PC and can run any programs that your standard netbook would run. Office 2010 runs fine and I was even able to do image manipulation. Spotify worked well, excluding the slightly more difficult interactions caused by the non-standard interface used by the software. Being a Windows 7 Professional machine the SL8 packs Windows Media Centre, which is a nice looking interface to your media. All Microsoft's Live applications work fine, as do Google's web apps.
One area of real concern was the way that the SL8 picked up fingerprints and smears on the screen - I've been using touchscreen devices for longer than most people and I've never come across a screen that attracts smudges so quickly. Its not the only problem with the screen either. Viewing angles are rubbish, as you move away from the perfect vertical orientation in landscape mode the screen contrast disappears quickly. Side to side viewing angles were much better and this is a far more important consideration when showing your screen to other people. To be honest in day to day use this wasn't a problem at all as you'll generally use a tablet at the optimal viewing angle anyway. As a compensation the resolution of the 11.6" panel is 1366x768 meaning that its feasible to run applications side by side in landscape mode, something other tablets won't be able to do.
Another problem is the lack of accessories. Whilst the iPad is lined up with millions of the things, the SL8 doesn't even have the luuxury of a slip case, screen protector or mobile charging solution.
I'd also like to have seen some kind of stand built-in to the SL8, because it was so good that there were times when I wanted to ignore my desktop PC and plug a keyboard and mouse into it and use it as a full PC.
All in all though I think I can say that the SL8 succeed on all levels. As proof that Windows works on tablets, as a competitor to the iPad and as a pro-sumer device.
Will the average consumer on the street go for it? Probably not, or at least not unless there's a large and sustained campaign to make people aware of its existence. Some of the responsibility for doing this has to fall at Microsoft's feet. After all what we have here is absolute proof that Windows can compete in the tablet market space. Unfortunately after the failuure of UMPCs, that's going to be a tough sell to the market.
However there's just so much more that you can do with a tablet built around Windows that letting customers know its there seems like a no-brainer.
HOT: Its a real PC! Windows has an awful lot more software available than iOS and Android combined. Its expansion options. Did I mention its a real PC?
NOT: Lack of accessories. No real on the go charging options. Battery life isn't terrible, but doesn't excel either. Size will be an issue for many.
Costs: around £500, depending on version and retailer.
Would I buy one with my own money? Surprisingly, yes.
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
But what a hot hatch it is. Sub 5 second 0-60, 300bhp and a limited 155mph top speed. This is the Audi RS3.
If 300hp sounds a lot for what is, after all, a Golf underneath, have no fear. The presence of Audi's Quattro four wheel drive should help keep things in check, along with an impressive array of electronics to protect the clumsy driver from himself.
Perhaps the only problem with the RS3 is likely to be its rather aggressive looks, something that don't work as well as they do on the RS4 and RS6. Perhaps lacking some of its bigger sisters' subtlety of aesthetic, whilst still not really distinguishing itself as the really hot A3.
I'd like to see just how fast this thing could go without the nanny-state speed limiter though...
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
team riding on something of a high, having qualified for the Champions
League and reached the final of the Coppa Italia under previous coach
Gigi Del Nieri.
So elimination from Europe (twice!), the Coppa Italia and a slump into
a relegation dogfight probably wasn't in the plan for the season.
Predictably Di Carlo was sacked yesterday morning.
Unfortunately the man doing the sacking, club president Riccardo
Garrone, was the root cause of the problem, failing to invest in new
blood over the summer, falling out with the club's best player,
suspending him and then offloading him; finally ending the January
transfer window by offloading the club's second best player, thus
dismantling the most feared strike force in Serie A.
Di Carlo never had a chance.
As a relegation battle looms its hard to see where the spirit is in
the side to reverse the decline. The parallels with the side that
suffered relegation 10 years ago are worrying.
Saturday, 5 March 2011
The T-Mobile Pulse Mini is now available for less than £40 (plus compulsory £10 top up) which gets you the phone, 6 months of unlimited internet and 100 minutes of calls.
That's a deal, even if the Pulse Mini isn't the latest or greatest smartphone, its certainly worth every penny of that price and more.
Friday, 4 March 2011
Carrying that forward to create the momentum the platform requires will hinge on a couple of planned updates and how successful and timely they are delivered.
The first is the NoDo update - due to begin shipping March 8th. This adds copy and paste as well as some performance enhancements. Given the issues that Microsoft has seen with its first 'test' update on a small proportion of phones I would expect this to be delayed, possibly until the end of the month
The second update, Mango, has been promised to Microsoft's partners in the Autumn, with enough time for them to have devices in store for the Christmas sales rush. Adding additional functionality, not least multi-tasking, means it will be anticipated and any delay frustrating.
If the delivery of these two updates goes well then Microsoft will have established themselves as credible stewards of a mobile platform, as well as bringing WP7 up to a level if competitiveness to trouble the other players in the market. And just in time for Nokia's arrival too.
Delay or failure to deliver could tarnish the platform irrevocably.
There's a whole cottage industry springing up around the concept that certain tablets are too expensive and the competition can't build to the same price as Apple because Apple has sewn up the supply chain.
A recent teardown put the build costs of the Motorola Xoom at around $30 more that of the original iPad. Which considering its much more modern processor, more memory, two cameras and bigger screen doesn't sound like a whole heap of beans.
It will be interesting to see how iPad 2 teardowns look in comparison.
The headline figure of Android's continued domination of sales probably isn't surprising. Nor is the rapid growth of HTC as a supplier. That both are appealing to a younger demographic suggests that Google's platform has a strong long-term future.
What is unexpected and hasn't yet been picked up anywhere as far as I can see, is WP7 capturing 10% of the market in its first quarter. That's way above what I would have predicted and will make good reading in Respond.
Whether this is down to the launch day boost - and heavy marketing campaign that went with it - or an indication that Microsoft are back in the game remains to be seen.
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Of more interest is why Apple have had to take this measure. Apple is the strongest company in the industry at managing inventory and plans its stock in the channel to the day to achieve the best returns. It's hard to believe that Apple's strategy included large numbers of model 1 iPad being on the shelves by the time they made iPad 2 public knowledge yesterday.
This is strongly indicative of sales being weaker than Apple had been planning - the size of the discount being offered suggests the number of old models still stocked is significant.
I'm guessing that sales of Android devices have already started nibbling at Apple's market (market share fell from 90% to 75% in December alone, the month competitive devices started to arrive), the hype around Honeycomb kept people from making a buying decision post-CES and dedicated Apple buyers were aware of the arrival of the next generation model and held off their spend too.
It didn't strike me as a particularly good day for Apple - the iPad 2 was a weak update in real terms and is unlikely to persuade many current owners to upgrade, their presentation spent unhealthy amounts of time disparaging the competition (without any valid criticisms) and the inventory failure now suggests their planning has gone to pot too.
Perhaps dragging Steve Jobs back from sick leave is a good indication of Apple's own concerns for its product launch yesterday...
Wednesday, 2 March 2011
Amazon's store will differ from Google's by vetting applications and being generally more restrictive in the applications it sells. Against which you'll have the advantage of Amazon's proven customer service and electronic fulfillment experience.
I suspect a lot of Amazon customers will prefer the security of a company they have a lengthy relationship with and jump ship from the Android Market - at least as far as their primary point of purchase goes.
Repeating a now well discredited misquote he claimed Samsung Galaxy Tab sales were quite small (as opposed to smooth). That's not only blatant lying, buy I think also a good indication that Apple is running scared over the tablet market.
100+ tablets have been launched this year and whilst none particularly outdoes the iPad (and now iPad 2) in all areas pretty much all of them beat it in one or two key functions, whilst equaling it in others. There is choice in size, price, functionality and capability from the £99 barely usable knockoff through to the feature rich devices from HTC, Toshiba and Blackberry that don't try to compete with Apple on price. Every sale will hurt Apple and whatever Mr Jobs would have you believe, these choices will rack up phenomenal sales between them.
The same angst and putdowns were used by Apple to suggest that Android phones were no competition for the iPhone. Yet figures released today suggest that in the 10/11 financial year more Android phones will sell than all the iPhones shipped by Apple since 2007.