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Showing posts from February 22, 2015

F1: Mercedes Increases Gap To Field, 2015 To Be As Dull As 2014?

In terms of competitiveness 2014 was the worst season in F1 since 2004. Mercedes dominated and won every race where they didn't have mechanical or other issues. The competition between the teams drivers was similarly lopsided - only poor mechanical reliability on Lewis Hamilton's part allowed Nico Rosberg to take the championship battle down to the wire, and even then no-one really believed he could win it.

This season promises more of the same. In spades.

Nico Rosberg's headline time at Barcelona's most recent test suggests that the car will be carrying an even bigger advantage than in 2014. And despite Rosberg's protestations that he will come back stronger this year, I see no chance of him taking the fight to Lewis Hamilton.

Last year Daniel Ricciardo's Red Bull picked up the pieces to the tune of three wins when Mercedes had problems. This year Mercedes advantage will be such that they need to use all of their capability to beat the field, which should imp…

Vesper Kicks Back Against App Store Race To The Bottom

The iOS App Store changed the way that we bought apps forever. The pricing strata defined by Apple - as well as the number of free apps - has inevitably led to a frenzied race to the bottom, where apps are either price so low as to make themselves unsustainable or are free and supported by annoying in-app purchases or intrusive advertising.

Even these low prices haven't insulated developers from scathing reviews of products which deliver exceptional value for less than the price of a Mars bar.

The developers of Vesper, Q Branch, have decided that they can't ride this wave any more and alongside the launch of a new version of the app with enhanced iPad support, they have raised the price to $9.99.

I've never used Vesper, but it seems a pretty run of the mill journaling/note taking/scrap booking application, it looks good, but then so do many other similar apps in the store..

I guess the question here is does Vesper offer a potential purchaser enough to make the purchase wo…

Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge Fully Exposed - But Why?

Samsung has done a pretty poor job of keeping the lid on its Galaxy S6 line. We've seen leak after leak and this one, from XDA-Developers  member Graaler, appears to show both phones in final configurations.

The standard S6 deviates little from the S5, save perhaps for the metal edge. Think Note 3 to Note 4 for an idea of the transition.

The S6 Edge however looks to have curved screens on both sides of the device. However, unlike the Note 4 Edge, they just appear to be part of the main screen and don't contain sidebars.

This may be because the devices are hardware engineering pieces and don't contain the final build of the firmware, but the Edge is less pronounced on the S6 than the Note 4, which suggests that it may be a different Edge solution than its big brother.

Not long to wait to find out for sure though.

Leonard Nimoy At His Most Awesome

Spock? That was just acting... this was Nimoy at full-on legendary. The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.


F1: Against All Odds Manor Will Be On The Grid In Australia

Manor Motorsport, the team that raced as Marussia last season, is looking like it may have pulled off the turnaround of the century and will be getting to the grid for Australia, despite going bankrupt in October.

The team announced that it had signed Will Stevens to one of seats for the season. This is presumably all about budget, as Stevens previous performances in lower formulae don't suggest there's a rare talent hiding within. Stevens made his F1 debut in the season ending Adu Dhabi Grand Prix driving for Caterham, once again funds were the key reason for that drive.

Manor have an extremely tight deadline to meet, with its 2014 car requiring extensive modification to meet 2015 regulations. Reducing the front bulkhead the required 5cm to comply with new safety regulations seems like the biggest challenge.

Time is tight - the team needs to be ready to ship out by March 6th, giving it a week to complete the changes to the cars, get them built and ready to fly.

Given that th…

HTC Comms Manager Hints At New Strategy

Following the leaks that raised the curtain on the new HTC One yesterday you'd think that the company's MWC Event might have fallen a little flat. Not so, according to Global Comms manager Jeff Gordon, who tweeted that the exciting stuff was still unknown.

If this is true (and not just bluster to try and save the keynote) then it suggests that HTC will indeed be moving into new areas as it seeks to reduce its dependence on smartphones and diversifies its business to become an accessory manufacturer.

As I've said before, HTC has failed not because it makes poor phones, rather that it is a David fighting a whole legion of Goliaths.

If Gordon's tweets are to be believed then the future of HTC is going to be rather different to its past.

Ad For Apple Car Leaked Online

Well, not exactly. But here's one interpretation of how Apple might use its legendary reality distortion field to promote the Apple Car.

Too many great lines in here to pick a favourite, but watch out for a guest appearance by Bono!

Sony Premium Audio Card, A Product By The Desperate For The Gullible

Sony's future business will centre around three core divisions: PlayStation, Movies and Components. So the announcement of a microSD card for audiophiles needs to be taken seriously, after all it signposts the future direction of the business.

Its a shame then that Sony admits it doesn't know who will buy it or how big the market is.

What's so special about Sony's new microSD card? Well it has been engineered to minimise electric noise in operation. In itself a questionable achievement, given that noise from the microSD card has never been a complaint of any audio device I've ever seen reviewed. Surely though this product would only make sense if there existed a music player which had received the same attention to detail.

There isn't one. Not even Sony's $1,200 Walkman makes this claim.

The words 'Premium Sound' picked out in gold lettering on the card are the most important part of this product. It is Sony's play to try and build a differenti…

Gary Hartstein Questions Alonso Crash Information

Former F1 medical officer Gary Hartstein is rapidly becoming a major thorn in the sports side, with his plain speaking, huge medical knowledge and insider understanding of the machinations of the sport.

Following Fernando Alonso's accident in testing at Barcelona there have been several questions asked of the cause of the incident, the apparent discrepency between the damage to the car and the claimed severity of the impact.

Gary Hartstein has now added his own commentary, with a selection of tweets that suggest a lack of credibility in the information being passed from McLaren about the incident.

And with the news that Alonso is unlikely to drive in the second Barcelona test - and even some reports that he is a doubt for the season-opener in Australia in a fortnight there is no doubt that the speculation about the exact circumstances of the incident will continue.

What is without question is that a driver initially assessed as uninjured and then having been sedated for concussio…

One Billion Android Phones In 2014

One billion Android phones reached customers in 2014, taking 82% of the global market over the year. That's a mind numbing figure from IDC, which bears incredible comparison with Apple's announcement that it shipped its one billionth iOS device at the end of last year. Seven years on from launch and including tablets and media players.

Despite the incredible fourth quarter numbers that Apple posted, Android's year on year growth was far in excess of the iPhone's, with growth of 32% against 26% for Apple. To put those numbers into perspective, Android's year on year growth of 257m phones alone was bigger than the total market for non-Android phones.

Windows Phone ended the year in a comfortable third place, although its sales growth failed to match that of the overall market. It ended the year with just 2.7% of the market.

That was nothing compared to the wreck that was Blackberry's year. Sales down 70% and market share at 0.4% it surely can't be long befor…

Apple Dinged For Half Billion Dollar Patent Infringement

Apple has a history of litigating patent infringements, but is rarely litigated against. However a Texas jury has just found against them in a case relating to the way digital media is purchased and distributed by the iTunes stores, awarding the patent holder Smartflash just over half a billion dollars for infringement.

The award is around two thirds of the $852m that Smartflash originally asked for, but rather more than the $4.5m that Apple had offered. The jury found that Apple's infringement had been wilful and this probably impacted the size of the award.

Without a hint of irony Apple said it will appeal and asked for reform of the patent system - specifically to protect it from companies that don't make products themselves.

There's no word on whether there will be an ongoing license component to the award, or whether Apple will update its systems to work around the patent. At the time the lawsuit was originally filed Apple was using the disputed technology in both th…

Oops... Sony Outs Z4 Tablet Early

Xperia Blog is reporting that Sony has accidentally revealed its Z4 Tablet via the Xperia Lounge app, a week too early.

The details aren't all there, but it appears that we have a replacement for the Z2 Tablet, i.e. a 10" rather than 8" machine, with a 2K display and a look inspired by the current Z3 smartphone, with rounded sides rather than the square edges of the Z2 design.

Being Sony its a good bet that it will be waterproof and have excellent battery life - the leak suggests industry leading performance in this respect.

We'll see what next week brings when the full launch happens, however despite producing class-leading hardware in the past, Xperia Tablets just haven't sold. Which is a shame as it is part of the reason why Sony's mobile division performs so badly.

There's not really a true competitor to the Xperia in the Premium Android sector, which suggest that either the market is really very small or very saturated.

And of course most people buy…

F1: RIP Gerard Ducarouge, Legendary Designer And Engineer

Frenchman Gerard Ducarouge has died today at the age of 73, he masterminded championship and race winning cars in the seventies and eighties.

Ducarouge began is career in racing at Matra in the early sixties, working his way up through the ranks, eventually designing the Matra that Ken Tyrrell's team used to win the 1969 World Championship with Jackie Stewart at the wheel.

Whilst at Matra he also masterminded the French teams hat-trick of Le Mans 24 Hours victories, before leaving for the new Ligier team when Matra pulled out of racing. He engineered the JS7, which won the 1977 Swedish Grand Prix in the hands of Jacques Laffite. The car was powered by a Matra engine which made this a perfectly French triumph of car, engine and driver. His later designs for the team produced another five victories before a disagreement with the mercurial Guy Ligier resulted in his leaving the team in 1981.

Joining Alfa Romeo he engineered the team's most promising F1 cars since the fifties, an…

HTC One M9 Fully Leaked In Promotional Video

Turns out all those rumors about what HTC's new flagship would be were pretty much spot on. This promotional video for the phone has leaked with everything you need to know about the phone.

That includes the Ultrapixel camera on the front, 20mp camera at the back, upgraded Boom Sound speakers, new Blinkfeed and Sense capability and a new picture editor.

Update 25/02/15: HTC pulled the video, but there are only a few more days to wait before it goes official.

Pebble Pitches Time As The Anti-Apple Of Smartwatches

This is the Pebble Time, a new version of the world's most popular smartwatch which its manufacturer hopes will keep it relevant in the face of the Apple Watch.

Pebble was an early mover in the smartwatch market and has had no problem in seeing off competition from bigger names, with their mix of own brand and Android Wear watches. The Pebble won plaudits for its targeted capability, great battery life and simple operation.

However, with the Apple Watch set to change things forever when it launches in a few weeks time, Pebble needed to up its game to ensure that it wasn't washed away in the flood.

To do that Pebble has updated its smartwatch, which gets a colour e-ink screen, a microphone for dictation and a new slimmer profile. Battery life remains the same and ease of use is retained.

Google Gets Into Bed With US Carriers To Promote Wallet

Just a few days after Samsung announced its acquisition of LoopPay puttitng itself into direct competition with Apple and Google, a deal has been done to deliver the US carrier owned SoftCard service through Google Wallet. Google specifically says that it has acquired technology and IP relating to the service.

US users buying an Android phone through T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon will find that Google Wallet is pre-installed on their phone.

That's going to make things interesting for carrier provided Samsung devices, which are likely to have LoopPay bundled as well.

Samsung Highlights Four Features Of The Galaxy S6

Samsung has been going into overdrive with its teasers ahead of Sunday's 2015 Unpacked event where the Galaxy S6 will get its big reveal.

The first two are the camera and the screen, highlighted in the first teaser video which contained the tag lines 'Great vision, a unique view'. Samsung clearly thinks it has made a step forward with its camera, which suggests that not only will it receive a megapixel bump but that OIS will also be included. The screen is likely to jump to QuadHD resolution, and on at least one version sport a curved display like the Note Edge.

The next is the battery life or possibly recharging. The tagline 'Stop less. Discover more' points to an improvement on the S5's already excellent battery life. There has been talk of wireless charging, but given how thin the device is reported to be I can't see how that can be squeezed in, unless its a version specific option.

Finally the third teaser video features metal and glass heavily, whilst…

F1: Alonso Accident Down To Wind

McLaren have reported that yesterday's accident which sent Fernando Alonso to hospital in an air ambulance was casued by wind. Presumably they aren't referring to the Spaniard's diet here, but rather the gusts that affect the Barceona circuit at this time of year.

McLaren say that their data shows that Alonso was blown wide onto the astroturf on the outside of the corner before losing traction and spearing in to sideswipe the inside retaining wall.

The feeling that this isn't the whole story persists though. The impact was minor enough to barely damage the suspension and nose cone of the MP4-30. So how was a 30G impact recorded with so little damage? It just isn't possible, therefore one has to assume that the sensors in the car weren't working properly, and if they weren't working properly what else wasn't working properly?

With the car so lightly damaged and the driver okay, why did McLaren abandon its testing for the day. Jensen Button was ready to …

HTC Repositioning Away From Smartphones

HTC will launch its new flagship device next week but that's unlikely to be the most important product the company reveals there.

An interview with HTC Creative Labs Drew Bamford published on C|Net points to a future where the company has limited dependence on, or presence in, the smartphone market.

Bamford discusses products like the RE camera and forthcoming fitness tracker. There are also hints of the new strategy from the release of the HTC Zoe smart camera album software to all Android users last year, and its move into the Apple App Store this year.

HTC has realised that it isn't able to compete against much larger companies that have research and marketing budgets that dwarf their own. It can't compete with OEMs in mainland China that work on razor thin margins and it can't survive on the limited number of real world users who'll pay a premium price for an Android smartphone.

Instead it is likely to pursue a path of selling devices that work with your smart…

iPad Oscars Advert Is Just Wrong

Apple released this advert for the Oscars and I'm struggling to see why. The iPad is Apple's problem child right now. yes it sells well, but it isn't showing growth in sales or market share. Apple have spent more on advertising it than any other product it makes.

If you watch the advert you'll see a group of students using an iPad to create an advert. All of the important stuff (the panning shots for example) relied on tried and tested film making technology that could have been applied to any tablet. The voice over by Martin Scorsese and the creativity of the students define the advert. But its for entirely the wrong product.

The iPad isn't the right size or shape for camerawork. It lacks the image stabilisation which iPhone 6 Plus boasts and it couldn't have delivered this vision without the moviemaking aids.

And the truth is that people taking photos and videos on their tablets are idiots. The beauty of a smartphone camera is that it is small, inconspicuous…

F1: Alonso's Accident Raises Questions Of McLaren-Honda

Fernando Alonso was airlifted to hospital after a testing crash at the Barcelona circuit, in a curious accident which has started to raise speculation as to the cause.

The accident happened at Barcelona's turn three, at not particularly tricky right hander requiring some feathering of the throttle depending on set-up, fuel load and tyre condition. The normal error made here is to carry too much speed into the corner and run wide or to come back onto full power too early and spin. Alonso's accident was neither.

The McLaren-Honda was being followed by Sebastian Vettel who reported the accident as being very 'strange'. The German said it did not look like a accident as the car was travelling at below normal speed and weaved left then turned right into the inside of the corner before bumping along the retaining wall.

Alonso was certainly afforded a high level of care by the trackside medical teams and circuit medical centre before being taken off in a helicopter to hospit…

Galaxy S6 Sports A Curved Screen, But Is It Still A Galaxy S?

T-Mobile's sign-up page for the Samsung Galaxy S6 appears to have let the cat out of the bag for the Next Big Thing.

This image appear right across the top of the page and clearly shows a phone with a curved edge to its screen - two or even three if some sites are to be believed.

The image also subtly hints at a new, metal exterior and a non-removable back plate.

That strikes me as moving away from one of the core benefits of the Galaxy S5. Whatever other flagship makers do or say, the ability to swap out a dead battery for a fully charged one is incredibly liberating.

My GS5 has just about never been plugged in since I first bought it. Even better, I can go from zero to full charge in about forty-five seconds, the time it takes me to pull the cover, swap the battery, replace the battery and power on. Doesn't matter how fast your fast charger is, you aren't going to beat that. Wall hugging? That just isn't me.

That minor concern aside the GS6 is just over a week away …

Do By IFTTT Offers New Automation Options

IFTTT (IF This Then That) is automation at its best. Simple to understand and platform independent it allows one action (whether that be an email, the sun going down, or motion on a smart cam) to trigger another (a canned response, turning on your light, alerting you with a notification).

Now the company has launched Do, a direct action interface for IFTTT's partnerships with software, hardware and services vendors. With Do your trigger action is a press of an on-screen button.

Its a beautifully simple idea and has huge amounts of potential. If you're in business today and your app, service or hardware doesn't support IFTTT then you need to start baking it in, because this is going to be huge.

Why? Because smartwatch.

Jony Ive Wasn't Always So Choice Averse

Jony Ive's New Yorker interview included some smack talking about Motorola's X customisation initiative. It wasn't discussed as that product, but the context of the discussion within the article makes it clear that this was the product which he felt 'abdicated design choices' to the customer.

Of course it isn't so long ago that Apple and designer Jony Ive were happy to abdicate the colour design choice to its users, this is the iMac G3 range, which ended up encompassing thirteen different colours.

Despite what Apple would often have you believe, choice is a good thing. Unless you believe that we are all bereft of individuality and would all prefer to live as a component in a human (lack of) identity machine.

HTC's One M9 Leaks, Finally Promises A Competitive Camera

HTC's original One (the M7) was a beautiful phone which was a clear winner in the build quality stakes. It had  three problems though. No replaceable battery, no external memory card slot and an Ultrapixel camera that was great within very narrow limits of use.

The replacement One M8 brough a memory card slot to the party when it launched last year and, as if to prove that the company was going in the right direction, it helped HTC to a small profit last year.

Now we ave seen the first leaks of the HTC One M9 and it looks like the camera problem has been resolved too. There's a new, larger camera module clearly visible in these pictures. Strong rumours that this will be a new 20mp sensor (to match that of the soon to be announced Galaxy S6 and existing Xperia Z3). This new rear-facing camera should prove to be a big step forward. The last pre-Ultrapixel HTC flagship, the One X, had an 8mp camera which still ranks with the best smartphone shooters.

Bringing HTC's camera ex…

Running Ubuntu On The Sony Vaio Tap 20

You might remember the Sony Vaio Tap 20 from the Windows 8 launch commercial reel, where it featured prominently. This was an all-in-one desktop just built to showcase Windows 8's newest features. A 20" touchscreen all-in-one desktop, it was fairly unique in packing a battery which could give you a healthy two to three hours independence of the mains. You could use it on your legs as a super-sized tablet PC, flat on a desktop as a multiplayer games table or multiuser photo viewer; or as a full desktop PC with the supplied wireless keyboard and mouse.

Despite the potential of such a device, Sony made a complete hash of delivering and many customers have had a lengthy list of problems with the Tap 20, including Wifi problems, system crashes, driver issues, etc., etc.

My own was bought as a family workhorse. For the kids, doing their homework and school mandated electronic learning. For my wife a PC for media consumption and social networking; and for my business usage.


Xperia Z3 Compact Review

As you probably already know I'm a big fan of Sony's current direction with smartphones. The Xperia Z1 that was my daily driver for most of last year combined style, functionality and great battery life in perfect balance. The only real complaint was the poor colour saturation of the screen. That was fixed when Sony launched the Xperia Z2, sticking to its six monthly refresh cycle.

So it is, one year on, that the Xperia Z3 arrived. And alongside it a refresh of the Z1 Compact. Sony has managed to achieve something unique with its compact devices. Unlike other Android OEMs they deliver the full premium experience with a smaller screen and more pocketable chassis.

In fact the Xperia Z3 has no real rivals in the Android world, if you're looking for something comparable you'd have to seek out the nearly two year old HTC One M7, which is no comparison at all.

The Z3 Compact has a 4.6" 720p screen, which gives a pixel density of 319ppi, keeping things sharp. The IPS te…