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Apple finds labor abuses
Apple on Thursday said it has found evidence that one of its iPod suppliers has violated its own Supplier Code of Conduct. Earlier this summer, the company began an investigation following reports of labor abuse by its iPod manufacturing partner Foxconn. Recent reports also indicated that Apple look to Foxconn for additional laptop production. Apple said its audit team--comprised of members from is human resources, legal, and operations groups--found that Foxconn was in compliance in the majority of the areas audited, but found violations to the company's Supplier Code of Conduct, including overcrowding in some housing provided to workers, a complex and overly incentivized pay structure, an outdated payroll system, over-worked employees, and some instances of harsh treatment. In addition, Apple found other areas for improvement, which it said it as working to address. While Apple said it has been encourage by steps already taken by Foxconn, it will continue to monitor the conditions as well as conduct an audit of all its iPod and Mac manufacturing partners by the end of the year.
Sente 4.0 released
Third Street Software has released Sente 4.0, an upgrade to its academic literature research and bibliography software. Sente 4.0 enables users to locate full text versions of academic journal articles by selecting works of interest, easing the process of requesting providers for the full text. Sente automatically downloads PDF files when the full text is located, and allows users to search through large PDF collections using Spotlight technology. Sente 4.0 also improves Amazon Books integration, adds new scripting commands, enhances APA as well as MLA styling, and features EndNote 9 XML export. Sente 4.0 requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later, and is free for all existing users. New licenses are priced at $130. [Download - 17.5MB]
Sirius New Radio Systems
Sirius launched another strategic assault against its nemesis XM today by announcing five new satellite tuners, which includes four new radios that fill out the existing lineup as well as a new unit that taps into existing home stereos. All of the new radios are slimmer or less expensive than the existing models they replace. First to arrive will be the Sportster3 shipping in September, a $120 counterpart to the imminent $150 Sportster4 (pictured). Following closely in October will be the more compact Starmate3 and Starmate4 radios for $100 and $120 respectively; the Stratus shipping at the same time will be the new low-cost champion at $60. Lastly, Sirius will finish its year in November by shipping the Conductor, a wireless controller that streams satellite radio to most home audio systems through a receiver.
Apple updates MacBook
Apple has issued updates for its MacBook line of notebook computers, Xsan, and Logic pro audio software. The MacBook SMC Firmware Update adjusts fan behavior in the new Intel-based MacBook. The company's Logic Pro 7.2.2 and Logic Express 7.2.2 updates improve compatibility with the Mac Pro, offering increased performance through full use of the Mac Pro Quad-core architecture and delivering optimized support for the built-in audio ports of that system. The Xsan Filesystem 1.4 for Mac OS X 10.4 improves reliability with fixes for using file system access control lists; labeling as well as initializing LUNs greater than 2TB in size; AFP and NFS performance when re-sharing Xsan volumes; handling file system quotas as well as notifications; and compatibility with Apple as well as third party applications.
RoverTV Portable DVR
Archos' new line of media players may have an accessory to turn them into video recorders, but this second step could prove to be a hassle for users who record live media on a regular basis. Bypassing the need for outside hardware is Doghouse Electronics' new RoverTV. It can not only record and play live video but do so on a schedule courtesy of a timer, much like a set-top DVR box. The RoverTV can similarly capture live FM radio and plays back a multitude of media formats, including digital audio and photos. Content is stored on SD cards such as the 2GB card included in the package. There are two distinct models depending on the aspect ratio you want to use: a $299 model has a 3.5-inch standard ratio screen for regular footage, while a $349 model expands to a 4-inch widescreen for users recording from those sources. Both versions work with Macs or Windows PCs and should be available now.
Thompson Wal-Mart victory
Lawyer Jack Thompson claims a direct link between his lawsuit and Wal-Mart's decision to stop pre-orders of Rockstar's Bully, says The Register. In actuality, though Wal-Mart has stopped accepting orders, the company has yet to acknowledge whether the two events are connected. Thompson has also been warning Amazon, GameStop and Toys 'R Us against pre-orders, arguing that since Bully has yet to earn an ESRB rating, potential pre-sale of the "Columbine simulator" (Thompson's words) to children is irresponsible. The latter three companies have yet to back away from the game.
PS3 Plays US and Japan
As reported by Gamer Scan, Sony has announced that the Blu-Ray player in the PlayStation 3 will put North America and Japan into the same region code for movies, effectively giving viewers from one region the ability to watch movies from the other without requiring special hardware. It's still uncertain as to whether or not the loosened restrictions on movies will equate to a similar change for games, though Nintendo has set a precedent by eliminating regional codes altogether on DS titles. HD DVD players are also rumored to see restrictions lifted in the near future.
GameStop console stock
The pre-order madness continues with news that GameStop will not be taking pre-orders for the Wii or the PS3 until it can be sure of how many units it will have ready. At the moment the company predicts 750,000 Wiis and 1,000,000 PS3's, which is substantially less than it was hoping for. The company is anxious to avoid the mess it got into with the Xbox 360. "We don't want to do what we did last year," GameStop's Dan DeMatteo says, "which was to take way too many [pre-orders] on the 360, and then under-deliver. We want to get closer to keeping a promise to the consumer." The company expects to hear from Nintendo later this month, but has no idea when Sony will have hard numbers.
Eye-Film SD WiFi Card
Engineers have successfuly put WiFi into SD memory cards before, but in the past this has resulted in either a bulge at one end (limiting the number of devices that can accept the card) or else the elimination of most, if not all, of the storage inside. Eye-Fi's new Eye-Film SD card will likely be the first SD card to include both storage and WiFi without compromising significantly in either direction. Beyond the 1GB of storage per card, the Eye-Film has an 802.11g wireless chipset that lets digital cameras transfer photos wirelessly without requiring explicit support from the camera firmware. While the new card is intended only for photography at the present, the company is investigating the possibility of using the card for PDAs and smartphones. Eye-Film cards will undergo testing within the next few weeks, and should be ready soon afterwards for an undetermined price.
Zune FM Radio But No Wheel
Yet more information has come to light today regarding the Zune and its abilities. As was anticipated by some, Microsoft intends to compete on features and is including an FM radio (complete with RDS track data from supporting radio stations) in addition to an FM transmitter that will broadcast audio to a nearby stereo. This supplements the somehwat limited WiFi already set to be included in the player. Surprisingly, the apparent scroll wheel at the heart of the controls is in fact a four-way directional pad whose scroll rate changes depending on the time spent holding a button. Other notable details include the presence of Windows Media Player-style visualization as a playback option and an interface that borrows some (but not all) elements from Windows Media Center.
Boeing Shuts Service
Hopes for widespread Internet access on passenger flights were dashed today when Boeing announced that it would shut down Connexion, which provides Internet access for laptop users onboard long-haul trips arriving in or departing from major US airports. The service simply hadn't been progressing at the expected rate, the company said. Multiple foreign airlines are affected, including Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, and Korean Air. Before the cancellation, flyers could pay $10 per hour of access or $27 for an entire flight. There is no word on whether the company is investigating alternatives or if there is a definite timeframe for the end of the service.
UK PS3 debut not finalized
Sony UK is at least a month away from finalizing the region's deployment of the PS3, GamesIndustry reports. CentreSoft, the official UK distributor, is still formulating rollout schemes due to two potential problems. The first is a concern that Sony may go ahead with its 150-pound minimum pre-order cost; the second is ensuring that retailers can fill as many orders as possible on November 17th, rather than over the course of a few days. Sony itself says that "there are many unknowns we need to resolve before we complete our plans. One of these unknowns is production and production quantities." In other words, stores may be unable to meet demand because of low quantities of the PS3.
TomTom ONE debut
TomTom has developed a reputation for simplified GPS; instead of a set of dedicated buttons, its car navigation units rely on a touchscreen interface that eliminates the guesswork. The TomTom ONE, which was announced for the North American market today, should only add to that reputation. Part of the appeal stems from the streamlined setup: TomTom's navigation software and map data is preloaded on an included SD card, so users can simply plug the card into the GPS unit to get started. The device is also much thinner than most navigation units and has a Bluetooth receiver that can use a GPRS data connection to get optional live updates for traffic and weather. Importantly, the ONE is also priced as an entry-level unit: at $500 it sells for considerably less than other TomTom models. An exact release date is pending; official news only describes the new model as "coming soon."
YouTube vs. iTunes
YouTube's planned effort to offer "every" music video for free could dethrone Apple's iTunes as the leader in the digital music/media industry and eliminate the paid-for online content business model. Users watch 100 million clips each day via YouTube, and the video sharing site is in talks with EMI as well as Warner Music to offer music videos for free via download, according to Guardian Unlimited. The move threatens Apple's closed iPod/iTunes ecosystem which uses proprietary technology restricting tracks purchased from iTunes to play only on Apple's iPod and iTunes software. YouTube's popularity could mean free video-based music competition for Apple, and will likely leave iPod users out in the cold due to compatibility issues.
PS3 to have loose regions?
Sony has made the somewhat surprising statement that later this year, in Japan and the United States, Blu-Ray movies and players will end up sharing the same region codes. Most DVD players have very specific coding which prevents a movie (or game) released in one market from working with a player from another market. If today's news will also affect the PS3's Blu-Ray drive, could this mean that native Japanese games will be playable in the US without mods? Depending on a forthcoming decision from the Blu-Ray Disc Association, HD-DVD players may also wind up using similar region codes.
Apple's "display actuator"
A new filing with the US Patent & Trademark Office offers more details on the combination input/output invention first revealed by a filing with the European Patent Office. The company is hoping to improve the user interface on electronic devices to shrink their size and maximize visual real-estate available on the surface using what it calls a "display actuator." The invention straddles two separate patent filings relating to the input generation and output visualization from the same invention. Earlier this week, Apple filed for a trademark on "multi-pass," which it uses to sell bundled media content from the iTunes Music Store at a discount and also received patents for the Mac mini, fluid cooling, and improving image decompression.
Zune real-world photo
A real-world photograph of Microsoft's forthcoming Zune portable media player has surfaced on the internet, revealing that the device has remained largely unchanged from the publicly sanctioned version which debuted earlier this summer. Every image so far of the Zune player has been a formal shot of the prototype; there has been little to suggest that Microsoft would keep the design or showcase the more practical features, according to Electronista. The new photo provides interesting new information about the player and its included earbuds, suggesting that Microsoft is clearly prepared to offer the Zune in colors other than white, as previously confirmed, though the pictured example was given a dark color in an attempt to identify the sources of any leaks. The earbuds are clearly meant to improve on the iPod's design by including magnets that keep the buds together while wrapping the cord.
Replacement iBook battery
NewerTech has introduced a new NuPower replacement battery designed for Apple's 12-inch iBook G3/G4 laptops. The battery boasts 51 percent higher capacity in comparison to the original Apple battery and features a 55.5 watt-hour capacity to deliver up to nine hours of battery life (compared with the 6-hour life offered by Apple's own battery). The NuPower replacement will work with all 12- and 12.1-inch iBook models between the 2001 (Dual USB) model and the most recent 1.33GHz G4-based model. Also available for the 12-inch iBook is a 45.5 watt-hour battery with 31 percent more power. The new 55.5 watt-hour replacement battery costs $130, while the 45.5 watt-hour model is now priced at $100. All batteries sold by NewerTech contain no mercury thus keep them environmentally friendly when disposed of or recycled. [image included]
CNET/ZDNet pull story
Contrary to a report by CNET News.com yesterday, Apple is not planning a distinct Cluster Node version of the Xeon-based Xserve. Both ZDNet and CNET News.com, which ran reports yesterday on the October introduction of Cluster Node version of Apple's Intel-Xserve, have pulled their respective articles without any correction notice or explanation. However, MacNN has learned that Apple has no plans for such a configuration, instead as the base model, full-featured dual-dual core Xserve is almost the same price -- only $200 more -- as the old Cluster Node model. Previously, the price difference between standard and Cluster Node was about $1000. Apple, instead, has opted to let cluster-node customers utilize a bare-bones configuration of a standard Xserve to create a "Cluster Node". According to one source, all Xserves will still have built-in optical drives, the internal equipment for three drive bays (even if only one is used), and integrated video. The publication has posted a few photos of the Xserve. [update: CNET has since provided a correction notice to its website]
FEAR official PS3 launch
Sierra has announced that Day 1 Studios is working on the PS3 port of FEAR, which will ship "during November 2006," effectively making it a launch title. This version of the Monolith FPS game will also include new single- and multiplayer levels. While sales of the original PC game were lower than expected, the game was praised by reviewers, and a 360 port as well as a PC expansion are already known to be in development. The free FEAR Combat was just released online, and FEAR 2 is planned for the long term.
Zune Real-World Photo
Every image so far of the Zune player has been a formal shot of the prototype; there has been little to suggest that Microsoft would keep the design or showcase the more practical features. Today, however, a photo appeared online showing the Zune in real-world circumstances. Though still labeled as a prototype, the Zune in the photo is largely unchanged from the publically sanctioned version seen earlier in the summer. The new photo also provides interesting new information about the player and its included earbuds. Microsoft is clearly prepared to offer the Zune in colors other than white, as previously confirmed, though the pictured example was given a dark color in an attempt to identify the sources of any leaks. The earbuds, in turn, are clearly meant to improve on the iPod's design by including magnets that keep the buds together while wrapping the cord. Click through to see the full photo.
iPod maintains dominance
Apple continues to lead the U.S. digital music player market in the second quarter of 2006 with 75.6 percent share, according to a recent study by the NPD Group. "Apple has done a great job of focusing consumers' attention on digital music in their products through millions of dollars in advertising," said Ross Rubin, an NPD analyst. Mobile phone companies may eat away at Apple's sizable lead, however, as they continue to unveil new phones with built-in music playing capability, according to ITworld.com. SanDisk achieved 9.7 percent market share taking second place below Apple, while Creative holds third place with 4.3 percent of the digital music player market. Samsung obtained 2.5 percent of the market, and Sony managed to take 1.9 percent.
OLPC First Use in Thailand
Wide-scale deployment of the $100 computer isn't set to begin until 2007, but beginning in October five hundred Thai schoolchildren will be the first to use MIT's One Laptop Per Child system as part of final testing. If successful, the laptops would eventually replace individually-assigned paper books altogether in elementary schools, Thai Prime Minister Shinawatra said. The Thai leader cited the availability of books online as the reason. These early tests are particularly important for the OLPC project, as prospective clients - including China, Egypt, and India - will want assurances that students can actually benefit from a shift towards computer-focused learning.
H:L digital distribution
Flagship Studios has partnered with Korean developer HanbitSoft to create Ping0, a system for hosting and distributing games online, including Flagship's Hellgate: London. Getting the action RPG on Ping0 also required an agreement with Namco Bandai, the physical distributor of the game. Hanbit VP Tony Park says that the Ping0 will also be used to support many titles beyond Hellgate, from casual games through to MMO's. Prior to this Hanbit was probably best known as the Korean distributor of Starcraft, a game which remains so insanely popular in South Korea that tournaments are televised nationally, and for which Blizzard will issue patches exclusively because of the Korean market.
LG Chocolate Folder Photos
In addition to improved versions of its Chocolate slider, LG is set to launch a flip phone inspired by the concept in an attempt to expand its newfound success. Photos of the tentatively-named Chocolate Folder surfaced on Thursday and show that the design is not directly modeled after the popular original, but instead takes general styling cues and applies them to what is largely a different design. Not much is known about the hardware aside from the presence of a camera and an unusually large external screen. Given the essentially complete state of the phone and the prominent Verizon logo on the shell, it's reasonable to expect the Chocolate Folder to ship very soon. See a photo of the inside, including the new button design, after the jump.
More Apple patent filings
The US Patent & Trademark Office published information about three new Apple patents, including one for managing internet transactions, another for managing as well as searching metadata, and a third for a display actuator, as described in yesterday's patent filing with the European Patent Office. Apple's internet transaction patent covers an object-oriented approach to develop and manage internet transactions, which appears to be related to Apple's Java-based WebObjects software, as the assignee is Next Software -- the original developer of WebObjects. Next Software was acquired by Apple in the late 90s in a deal that also brought Apple co-founder Steve Jobs (along with his management team) back to Apple. The internet transaction patent filing lists January 6th, 2006 as the original filing date; however, Apple's filing references Next patents dating back to 1995 and 1994. Using traditional internet software development lingo, Apple's patent describes an object-oriented, transactional model that can build dynamic queries for data based on either user input or data store within an external database.
Virtually all of Logitech's current iPod-friendly speakers are meant as portable units for the office or the family vacation. Today, however, Logitech joined rivals such as Apple, Bose, and Klipsch by introducing two new iPod speaker sets designed primarily as home stereos. The $299 AudioStation is relatively unique in its class for truly separated stereo speakers that each have their own tweeters and woofers. The design delivers 80W of sustained power and also features a digital AM/FM clock radio. For $100, the AudioStation Express is meant more for personal listening and removes the clock radio in favor of a smaller, single-piece shape that can run on batteries if necessary. Both AudioStation versions have wireless remotes and input jacks for other audio devices, and will ship in October. See full photos of the AudioStation (pictured) and AudioStation Express after the jump.
George Harrison Wii info
Not the dead Beatle, but rather Nintendo of America's VP of Marketing and Corporate Communications. In a chat moderated by Nintendo, Harrison informed gamers that if they want to use the GameCube's gamepad with Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, they'll have to buy the GameCube version of the game rather than the showcase Wii title. It had previously been declared that at least some Wii games will support the GameCube controller. Moving the chat on to the Virtual Console however, Harrison told the audience that Nintendo will be releasing original, to-be-announced games through the software as well as the formerly promised retro titles.
iTunes Movie Store soon?
Apple has already inked deals with some major studios for offering full-length feature films through iTunes. In recently held Lions Gate quarterly conference call, company executives revealed a digital licensing deal, indicating Apple is prepping the launch of an iTunes movie store. Lions Gate Chief Financial Officer Jon Feltheimer said that the company had digital delivery deals in place with several companies, including Apple: "We also have digital delivery deals in place with Cinema Now, MovieLink, and iTunes, with upcoming announcements with at least two more major industry players."
AUT inks Apple supply deal
Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and the Apple division of Renaissance -- an IT distributor -- have signed a supply agreement to provide students with access to the latest Macs. The new deal also includes other Apple services, such as installation and on-site service with IT support. AUT campuses currently boast a count of more than 500 Apple systems, most of which are used in the schools of Art and Design, Communication Studies, and Faculty of Health and Environmental Sciences. Liz Gosling, AUT's IT services director, said the university is committed to providing students with the latest technologies to best prepare them for their professional lives, according to m-net. "Our partnership with Renaissance provides for the best level of equipment, support and training for our staff and students," Gosling added.
Egokast Belt-Worn Player
Whether or not they were the original reasons for someone to purchase a portable player, fashion and self-esteem are often significant factors. Being seen with the right player can, in some circles, draw approving looks. It might be questionable as to whether the appropriately-titled Egokast will truly improve your social status, but it's undoubtedly one of the few portable media players to make public display the central feature. Sitting in the middle of a stainless steel belt buckle, a removable media player can play audio or video on its 3.5-inch screen during the 4 or more hours of battery life. While its format support runs the typical gamut of multiple MPEG and Windows Media files for audio and video, the designer also includes a DVD of "fragments:" looping animations made expressly to bring attention to your belt. An SD slot with an included 512MB card should be more than enough for the relatively small video clips its target user will likely need. The asking price of $290 will get you the player and all accessories, minus the belt you provide yourself.
Wii out by October 6th?
Ubisoft's UK press site has an odd piece of information in its release schedule. On October 6th, the movie tie-in game Open Season is set to ship for every major platform - including the Nintendo Wii. An Ubisoft spokesperson told HR Gamer that dates are subject to change, but in light of some other recent stories, it seems plausible that we'll have our hands on the Wii in early October. Most notable is an Activision slip-up in July, which pointed to an October release for Tony Hawk Downhill Jam. Sites like ArsTechnica have suggested the specific date of October 2nd. In any case, we'll probably learn the truth next week in Leipzig, where Nintendo will be holding its "Wii Keep Our Promise" event.
PSP Phone Modification
Aftermarket changes to hardware normally fall outside the scope of this site, but those that could have a significant impact on how many people use the device in question are certainly worth investigation. An example is the PSPhone: as the name implies, an enterprising user has discovered a way to integrate cellphone functions with Sony's handheld console on a basic level. Though it can't yet make inbound calls due to the absence of keypad-style controls, the PSPhone modifcation can receive calls through either CDMA or GSM phone networks and route the audio through a microphone-equipped headset. The inventor would like to sell a more refined version of the modification for about $60.
Apple to expand production
Apple is looking for another company to produce its laptops and may turn its to is current iPod manufacturer, despite recent allegations of labor abuse in its "iPod factories." Citing the Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN), Digitimes reports that Apple is looking for a third contract manufacturer in Taiwan for its MacBooks and that Foxconn Electronics, the registered trade name of Hon Hai Precision Industry, has a "good chance of becoming the new partner." The EDN report says that Foxconn is "eyeing orders from Apple for a 15-inch consumer notebook model, although it appears to have confused Apple's consumer and professional notebook sizes: the 13-inch MacBook is designed for consumers, while 15-inch MacBook Pro, which soon may be updated with Intel's new "Merom" Core 2 Duo, is designed for professionals. The report notes that Asustek Computer currently produces Apple's MacBook, while Quanta Computer manufacturers the MacBook Pro. In addition to iPods, Foxconn is a contract manufacturer for Apple's desktops. While Foxconn initially denied the labor abuse claims, it has since reportedly admitted to breaking some Chinese labor laws after Apple announced it began an investigation into the claims.
Logitech has released two new iPod speaker systems featuring an iPod-style design and plug-and-play simplicity. Both new speakers carry the Logitech AudioStation brand name and compatibility with the iPod mini, iPod nano, and all fourth- and fifth-generation iPods, including the iPod color and iPod U2. The AudioStation features a built-in AM/FM tuner, offers the ability to charge the iPod charging powered by AC, includes touch-sensitive controls and an LCD screen for clock and information, and features 3D stereo sound technology, removable speaker grills, an audio 3.5mm input jack, composite and S-Video outputs, and a remote control. The $300 system includes Universal Dock adapters, a protective case, and AM/FM antennas. [images included]
Sega's Leipzig lineup
Sega has come out with a list of games to be shown at the Leipzig Games Convention, running August 24th to the 27th. One of the most notable pieces of information is that the Sonic Wii game at the convention, Sonic Wildfire, is being retitled to the less cool but more descriptive name of Sonic and the Secret Rings. The new Virtua Tennis game (for 360 and PS3) will also be present, as will Creative Assembly's PC strategy game Medieval II: Total War. A complete list of the Sega titles at Leipzig can be found in the full article below.
Deluxe Chocolate Phones
LG's style-oriented Chocolate phone has only been available for under a month, but the company is already set to deliver variants on the design before the end of the year. One of these is a deluxe version which upgrades both the appearance and the hardware itself. A gold or platinum paint scheme (pictured here in a conceptual image) will be accompanied by a 2 megapixel camera (up from 1.3) and 256MB of built-in storage alongside the MicroSD slot. There should also be a 3G version ready to connect to services such as EVDO, though it will grow in size to make this possible.
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