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Sony, MSI challenge iMac
Computer manufacturers are taking aim at Apple's newest line of iMac desktops with a series of similar looking desktops--some call knockoffs--offering more advanced options such as Blu-Ray support or more features. Today at CEATEC, Sony Japan introduced an iMac-styled updated VAIO L series of desktops that challenges Apple's newest Core 2 Duo iMac models, according to Electronista: The new L is the first all-in-one PC to receive an optional Blu-Ray drive, giving it the ability to author and play next-generation movies as an alternative to watching TV using the included built-in tuner. Sony also upped the ante by offering build-to-order options--right now available in Japan only--for a 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo mobile processor and either GeForce Go 7400 or 7600 GPU, costing nearly $3060 (fully-equipped).
QuickCRC, QuickUML, more
Excel Software has updated its QuickCRC, QuickUML and QuickHelp tools for Windows and Mac OS X software developers. The updates enhance the user interface and productivity plus add free trial editions. QuickCRC for Mac OSX 1.0.1 is used for agile modeling of object-oriented software using CRC cards: it automates responsibility driven design with CRC cards and design scenarios QuickUML 2.0.1 for Mac OS X implements UML models with code generation: the UML design tool that supports a highly integrated, core set of UML models that can be applied to almost any object-oriented project. QuickHelp 2.0.5 provides help authoring and deployment of application help on Windows 95 to XP, Mac OS 9, Mac OS X and Linux: help information resides in a single XML file with royalty-free QuickHelp Viewers available for Windows, Macintosh and Linux. A single license of QuickCRC is $300, QuickUML is $300, and QuickHelp is $200. A free download is available to customers with the latest major release.
Refurbished Mac minis
Apple has updated its refurbished listing with numerous Mac mini systems, and revealed additional refurbished iMac computers at discounted rates. Apple's refurbished Mac minis include the 1.42GHz PowerPC G4 model with an 80GB hard drive, 512MB of memory, and a Combo drive DVD/CD-RW for $519; 1.42GHz PowerPC G4 model with an 80GB hard drive, 512MB of memory, and a SuperDrive DVD±RW/CD-RW for $599; 1.5GHz Intel Core Solo system with a 60GB hard drive, 512MB of memory, and a Combo drive for $479; 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo system with an 80GB hard drive, 512MB of memory, and a double-layer SuperDrive for $649; and the 1.66GHz Intel Core Duo system with a 100GB hard drive, 1GB of memory, and a double-layer SuperDrive for $779. Refurbished iMacs include the 17-inch 1.83GHz Intel Core Duo with 512MB of memory and a 160GB hard drive for $949; the 20-inch 2.1GHz G5 with 512MB of memory and a 250GB hard drive for $1,299; and the 20-inch 2GHz Intel Core Duo with 512MB of memory and a 250GB hard drive for $1,199.
Apple sees teen interest
Apple is still gaining ground in the MP3 player market and the online music business, according to a new study conducted by analyst firm Piper Jaffray. The firm asked nearly 1,000 high school students about interest and buying patterns for MP3 players and online music. Teen responses revealed that iPod market share grew to 79 percent in the spring of 2006 from 77 percent from fall of 2006, and that interest in purchasing an MP3 player in the next 12 months increased to 45 percent from 41 percent over the same time period. Of those students who legally purchase music online, 91 percent said they use Apple's iTunes Music Store, up from 71 percent. Additionally, interest in all brands of music-enabled cell phones increased to 74 percent from 70 percent. "Apple continues to dominate the MP3 player and online music markets, despite new competitors constantly entering the market," said senior analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray.
Pioneer In-Car Mega Deck
Pioneer is considered a champion of advanced car audio and video, but its newest equipment, announced today at Japan's CEATEC, could rightly be considered its crowning achievement. The new AVIC line of in-car media systems support almost every feature sought after by drivers and passengers alike. The 7-inch touchscreen is host to DVD and DivX video playback, GPS mapping, and terrestrial broadcast TV; it's also used to control the extensive amount of music playback options. Besides playing standard audio CDs and radio, Pioneer's new head-end unit can play AAC, MP3, or WMA CDs and can transfer songs from those discs to a built-in 30GB hard drive. It can even record CDs in ATRAC3 format and will soon have an iPod adapter for owners not tied to discs. Understandably, Pioneer is including a remote with this flagship deck and will give it a premium price of $3649 US when it ships to Japan later in October. No details of a US version were announced.
Sprint KRZR Phone
Sprint has sometimes been criticized been aggressively promoting its mobile broadband speeds while neglecting its choice of phones. Today, the carrier addressed this in force by announcing that it would offer three of Motorola's most popular designer phones to subscribers. The earlier RAZR and SLVR models will be joined by the newer KRZR K1m music phone -- already available through Alltel and Verizon -- and will support Sprint's options for movie rentals and live TV as well as its EVDO broadband network. The company is already accepting pre-orders for the phones and will have them ready for early November.
Wolverine ESP vs. iPod
Wolverine Data today introduced the Wolverine ESP portable media player featuring a 3.6-inch LCD display with storage capacities of 80GB and 120GB, which will compete with Apple's iPod in the "Prosumer" market. The new player can record TV shows as well as FM radio, and features a built-in 7-in-1 card reader that accepts most memory cards types. The device measures 5.3 x 2.8 x 0.9-inches, and weighs 10.2 ounces. Users can view, zoom, and rotate JPEG, bitmap, TIFF, text, or RAW images on-the-go, and can connect directly to PictBridge-capable printers. An optional ESP Cradle System allows acts as a digital video recorder (DVR), enabling users to record directly from TV, DVD players, and VCRs. The Wolverine ESP is available starting from $400 for the 80GB model and $500 for the 120GB version. The optional ESP Cradle System is priced at $80.
PS3 game prices from Japan
Contradicting an account from Impress Watch, Famitsu says that some PS3 games might be quite cheap, relatively speaking. Resistance: Fall of Man and Genji: Days of the Blade will sell for about 5,980 yen, or $50 US. The best deals will go to mahjongg fans - Mahjongg Taikai 4 is supposed to sell for 5,040 yen ($42), and Mahjongg Fight Club should go for 5,229 yen ($44). Things will only hit or exceed American prices for Japan's most wanted. Ridge Racer 7 and Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire are set for 7,329 yen ($62), while Armored Core 4 is pegged at a substantial 8,190 yen ($69). Regardless, that's far cheaper than the 8,800-9,800 yen range predicted by Impress.
Sony VAIO L Gets Blu-Ray
Sony's VAIO LS1 has been characterized as a distinctive counterpart to the iMac that trades some performance for its media center role. Today at CEATEC, Sony Japan introduced an updated L series that in some ways matches or exceeds Apple's newer models. The new L is the first all-in-one PC to receive an optional Blu-Ray drive, giving it the ability to author and play next-generation movies as an alternative to watching TV using the built-in tuner. In contrast, Apple's current iMacs are limited to DVDs and videos purchased from the iTunes Store.
Sony has also addressed complaints regarding performance by increasing the choice of graphics and processors. Unlike the fixed specifications of the LS1 currently available in the US, the new L series can be upgraded to use a 2.16GHz Core 2 Duo mobile processor and either GeForce Go 7400 or 7600 video. A fully-equipped L will cost the equivalent of $3058 US when it ships to Japan on November 6th. A North American launch will likely follow.
Turtle Beach EarForce X1
Balancing game sound effects and player-to-player voice chat is not easily accomplished; even dedicated gaming headsets frequently prioritize one over the other. Just announced by Turtle Beach, the EarForce X1 headset overcomes those limitations, according to the company. Its advantage is an external amplifier that plugs into the USB port of an Xbox 360 or computer. The small adapter improves the overall volume for both games as well as voice and can adjust either volume level independently. Computer users have the additional option of plugging the headset directly into their system's audio and microphone jacks. For the shipping price of $60, the new Turtle Beach headset is a definite improvement over the stock Xbox Live Communicator.
BF2142 demo tomorrow
The demo for the PC's Battlefield 2 sequel will be available tomorrow, say GameSpot and Gamer's Hell. Customers who've pre-ordered the full game can grab the demo early through EA Downloader. The featured map will be the Sidi Power Plant, and both Titan and Conquest game modes will be playable. The Titan mode in particular is being pushed as a big selling point. Titans are gargantuan hovering troop carriers, and taking one out requires a coordinated assault on the power core, followed by a mad rush for the exits as the core goes critical.
Poker Superstars II ships
Funkitron has released Poker Superstars II for Mac, its poker game that earned the best selling downloadable poker game title on the PC platform. Poker Superstars II for Mac challenges players with its unique poker artificial intelligence that learned how to play the game by playing millions of simulated tournaments. The game features music and graphics from the TV show with 15 poker masters including Johnny Chan, Barry Greenstein, Carlos Mortensen, and Cyndy Violette, among others. Poker Superstars II for Mac features game tips, poke AI opponents, game speed-up options for quick play, three game modes, and a unique player card system that tracks a player's best winnings, winning hands, flops see, and pots won. Poker Superstars II for Mac is available for $20 via Macgamestore.com, and requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later.
PS3 causes Sony share drop
In reaction to an analysis by investment firm Goldman Sachs, Sony stocks have fallen 2.75 percent, MCV reports. Sachs shifted its rating of Sony from "buy" to "neutral," expressing confusion about PS3 launch plans and disappointment in sales of the PSP. The PS3 is further described as "unreliable." A Macquarie Equities analyst foreshadowed these thoughts last week, noting the frequent overheating of PS3s at the Tokyo Game Show. Sony should be thankful however, as the analyst agreed this was probably due to high temperatures in the TGS venue.
MSI PC Emulates iMac
Computer manufacturers have at different times been accused of drawing from Apple's design elements once they prove popular. While the Sony VAIO LS1 has been likened to newer iMacs in its design philosophy, the newly-unveiled Crystal 945 by MSI is the first all-in-one computer beyond Apple to directly implement the iMac's balancing computer design. As with the Apple model, the MSI system's 17-inch screen and internal components pivot on the tip of an angled metal stand which includes a slot for cable management in the back. The design also shares the iMac's use of a minimalist silver and white enclosure.
Notably, MSI has had to make multiple sacrifices to achieve a similar style. As the Crystal 945 uses Intel's dual-core Pentium 4 rather than the more efficient Core architecture, the casing is considerably thicker and requires extensive vent grilles on the back to accommodate system heat. However, the MSI unit also features more expansion options, including a PC Card slot, 7-in-1 card reader, and a removable 2.5-inch hard drive. MSI does not list pricing, though its modest specifications suggest a lower price than Apple's $999 iMac. The Taiwan firm says it is already shipping the Crystal to North America.
OnAirRecorder 1.1 ($15) is a visual digital timer and audio/video recording controller for Mac OS X. OnAirRecorder 1.2 runs natively on PowerPC and Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary, playing more than 50 audio and video formats. The software can extract individual video/audio tracks into a few files, and offers a scene selection drawer for all video types.
[Download - 3MB]
Groupcal 3.62 ($60) updates the application allowing users to access and manage Microsoft Exchange calendars from Apple's iCal software. Version 3.62 adds a most-recent sync-status icon for each calendar, as well as the date and time of the most recent successful sync to the sync menus. The update also shows networking errors only via the Groupcal program. [Download - 3.7MB, form]
DeskTunes (free, site not updated) displays what is happening in iTunes while staying stuck to the bottom left corner of the desktop. The utility -- which is designed as a simple, elegant tool for anyone who listens to music on a Mac -- stays in the lower left corner even when users attempt to hide all windows with Exposé. [Download - 49.4KB]
GraphicConverter 5.9.2 ($30) introduces import capability for mos, lcd5, and pix file formats to the graphic conversion utility. The update adds an edge/frame effect, an option to add colored arrows for navigation inside HTML catalogs, and the ability to run via command-line for batch conversion. Version 5.9.2 also includes an option to add an exif preview instead of a resource preview, and adds a contextual menu item to count pixels of the current selection. [Download - 20MB]
Tri-CATALOG 6.0.1 ($100) analyzes and catalogs any number of volumes -- external as well as internal hard drives, remote drives, CDs, DVDs, and cartridges -- and folders, saving the collected information via an internal database. Version 6.0.1 adds a timeout option for picture analysis, as well as the ability to display all pictures contained in a group of volumes. [Download - 1.8MB]
Lik-Sang's PS3 pre-orders
Hong Kong exporters Lik-Sang are now accepting PS3 pre-orders. You can choose whatever games you like, and there'll be no money down until the company secures the "best possible purchase prices, as many units as possible, and until further details emerge from our suppliers all around the world." But wait - how can Lik-Sang guarantee exports when there'll be just 500,000 PS3s at launch worldwide? By inflating prices, that's how. Have a gander at this "extra note:"
Be prepared that the day-1 prices will be much higher than the manufacturers suggested retail price. Experienced and veteran hardcore gamers, who are not importing a system for the first time, know that buying a PS3 at launch or a PSP at launch is not the same thing as simply buying a mere PlayStation 3 or a random PSP off some supermarket shelf. You're paying for the privilege of getting it two months before the massive overflow. Especially with the long forecasted shortages (only 100.000 units for Japan at release date), MasterCard would call that 'priceless'. There is never enough of the good stuff on a launch day, and Lik Sang is required to pay premium pricing to get earlybird stock in sufficient levels for everybody. We can only extend these offers to you during the first couple of months, while waiting for the market to stabilize. But that's the beauty of the No Money Down Special Pre-Order system, you can always ignore day-1 prices and wait for a few more days, a few more weeks, or even several months, until the price goes down to an acceptable level. Without ever losing your pre-order position!Though not illegal in most circumstances, the company is essentially engaging in price gouging, even if you can wait for prices to settle. Ask yourself how badly you want a PS3 before asking Hong Kong for one.
Jobs to keynote MWSF 2007
IDG World Expo today announced that Apple CEO Steve Jobs will deliver the opening keynote address for Macworld Conference & Expo on Tuesday, January 9th at 9:00 a.m. at Moscone West. The event will take place at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center January 8-12th, 2007, and will host creative professionals from a cross-section of industries including design, print, online, photography, broadcast, videography, and music. "Steve's keynote is always a great way to kick off the biggest Mac event of the year," said David Korse, CEO of IDG World Expo. "We've added several new features to this year's event, and we're working hard to make this the most entertaining and informative Macworld ever." In addition to an exhibit floor featuring more than 350 companies, the event will offer a conference with over 120 educational sessions, and an innovative set of exhibit floor attractions including a free training series, an interactive Digital Photography area, and live Music as well as Sound product demonstrations.
Griffin ships two 5G cases
Griffin Technology today began shipping its Centerstage and Disko (pictured at right) iPod cases, offering iPod owners two new ways to protect and use their portable players. Centerstage shows off the iPod in a clear hard shell case, offering protection with a colorful anodized aluminum cover -- available in silver, blue, black, or hot pink -- that flips open and under to create a sturdy easel stand for hands-free viewing. Disko is designed as a functional iPod case that senses movements and responds with moving colored lights that outline the iPod's clickwheel. Disko's colored LEDs are powered by two tiny wafer batteries (included), negating the need to draw from the iPod's own battery charge. Both Centerstage ($25) and Disko ($30) work with 30GB, 60GB, and 80GB video iPods.
IDF Special Report 2 WiMAX
In this special report I'll review most of the key slides and points that were presented in a keynote by David Perlmutter, Senior Vice President - General Manager, Mobility Group last week. The focus of Perlmutter's keynote was on Intel's new mobile Santa Rosa platform which will include new technologies such as a new chip set, graphics, wireless communications and NAND Flash disk caching technology. Yet at the end of the day, it's Intel's roadmap for mobile WiMAX that most want to read about and Intel's Perlmutter provided us with a glimpse at Intel's roadmap ahead.
Creative unveils Xmod
Creative has unveiled its new Xmod adapter, a device offering USB connectivity that converts audio up to a 24-bit signal before it reaches speakers. The adapter uses a proprietary crystalizer to analyze compression artifacts and repair lost audio quality, according to Creative. The Xmod is also capable of applying virtual surround sound to stereo sources, according to Electronista. The adapter requires no driver software installation, enabling users of Mac OS X Panther systems or later to simply plug the device into their computers and speakers. The Xmod plugs into portable media players such as Apple's iPod or Microsoft's Zune via a special AC adapter, and is slated for shipment late this month for $80.
Every long-distance driver knows those moments when the only priority is to refuel or find parking. Many GPS units help solve this, but few may do it as efficiently as a new model from Navman. The F20, already available in Europe, has just been announced for the US and includes two quick-access buttons for gas and parking. Press either and the F20 automatically reroutes to reach the nearest gas station or public parking lot, reducing the likelihood of the user missing a convenient street while navigating through the point-of-interest menu. Although the unit is otherwise a basic GPS receiver with a 3.5-inch touchscreen and an SD card slot for extra map data, its price is low relative to many others at $380. Navman is shipping the F20 to US stores now.
DigiWorld SF 2006
Digidesign and Apple have announced DigiWorld San Francisco 2006, a free event offering visitors the opportunity to explore and experience Digidesign's products along with the latest offerings from M-Audio, Sibelius, and Apple. DigiWorld attendees will also have the opportunity to learn new techniques from pros, ask questions, and get hands-on experience to see how products perform and sound. Visitors will see Apple's latest Intel-based Macs alongside the company's software and accessories; and explore the Digidesign Development Partner Pavilion with plug-ins from McDSP, Sony Oxford, Native Instruments, SoundToys, TC Electronic, Antares, Eventide, Princeton Digital, Serato, Roger Nichols Digital, and Virtual Katy. The event is free and open to the public, taking place October 6-7th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. PDT.
InterGate Policy Manager
Vicomsoft today released InterGate Policy Manager (PM) v9.2, the first internet Policy Management software to run natively on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. Vicomsoft InterGate v9.2, which offers versatility, security and user access control, is designed for corporate networks of any size and protects systems by providing a set of network security and monitoring tools for a wide array of internet threats. Version 9.2 enables enforced ‘Safe Search’ on all of the main search engines, allowing inappropriate images to be excluded from image search engine results. It also features new time controls to provide the ability to create and apply Policies that manage internet access by time of day and/or day of the week. As with all InterGate Policy Manager filtering, these time-based filters can be applied on a per-user or per-group basis. InterGate Policy Manager starts at $138 for a 5-user license, while a 12-month support contract is $100.
Package Deal Book Design
Macmethod has released the third addition to its Signature Series of Aperture Book Designs, entitled "Package Deal." The software allows photographers to easily drop photos into pre-sized 2x3, 4x6, 5x7, and 8x10-inch photo boxes to print the pages using a standard desktop printer without leaving Apple's Aperture application. The book design features 25 page layouts with a variety of arrangements of each of the photo sizes in both portrait and landscape orientations. The "Package Deal" Aperture Book Design is available for $20, and requires a full license of Aperture. The company is also offering a 3-pack containing all of its Aperture Book Designs for $45.
SED TVs in 2008
While the battle between LCD and plasma TVs is still unresolved, a successor for both is already well into development. Canon and Toshiba together said today that they expect to produce SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display) TVs by early 2008, starting with a 55-inch model capable of 1080p. The delay is in part the result of concerns that falling LCD and plasma price drops would hurt SED's chance for success in the market, as initial costs may price the new format higher than existing designs.
The often-delayed technology combines advantages of both CRT televisions and LCDs. As with the earlier tube technology, SED fires electrons at the screen in rapid succession. Instead of relying on light redirected by a single gun, however, SED uses thousands of miniature emitters that strike the screen directly, resembling the pixel-by-pixel image created by an LCD. The result is a display which is both extremely thin and sharp yet perfectly suited to games and movies: the current prototype is capable of an impressive 50,000:1 contrast ratio and a 1ms response time, far exceeding current flat-panel screens.
V. Console region-locked
Considering Microsoft's segregation of Xbox Live, it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that Nintendo is region-locking the Wii's Virtual Console. Thanks Eurogamer. In other words, gamers on one continent will have to download a different version of a game from those on another. The same region-locking will apply to GameCube titles, only in that case the protection will involve a physical medium. Prior to Nintendo's announcement, it might've been hoped that the Wii would be a chance to play classic games from around the world. It seems likely that licensing issues stopped any such plans.
Napster Japan launches
Napster today announced it has launched in Japan, which will directly compete against Apple's iTunes Music Store and music-enabled cellular phones. Napster Japan, a joint venture between America's Napster and Tower Records Japan, is set to introduce a service that allows members to download any number of songs from its 1.5 million song collection for $16.80/month, according to Reuters. Napster Japan will also allow users to transfer that music onto compatible music players, and allows consumers to purchase songs without a monthly subscription. "It would have been very difficult for us to enter this market without a local partner," said Napster President Brad Duea. "Japan is a very unique market." Napster Japan's music offering currently consists of roughly 90 percent non-Japanese tracks, but the company hopes to expand the number of local songs available. The new service hopes to lure 1 million subscribers over a three year period with 1 million individual downloads per month by March of 2007.
Sony VAIO R Master
The CEATEC conference in Japan has begun, carrying with it a flurry of new hardware announcements. One of these is Sony's new VAIO R Master, an unusual blend of desktop and tower design in a media center PC. Its segmented design is not just for visual impact, according to the company. The smaller element holds all the removable media slots such as the optical drive, memory card readers, and USB ports; it can sit as far away as six feet from the main system, which stores the processor and other main components. Sony envisions owners hiding the core unit out of view in a home theater or a crowded desk space.
The computer itself is also very capable as both a conventional system and as a media hub. Systems can be configured to use as much as a 2.93 GHz Core 2 Extreme processor, 2TB of hard disk storage, and a 256MB GeForce 7600 GT video card; video enthusiasts have the option of a Blu-Ray drive, analog and digital TV tuners, and input for S-video as well as RCA. Many models come bundled with a 24" widescreen LCD as well. Sony Japan is shipping the system on October 28th at a starting price of $1,632 US; an American release has not been announced but is likely in the near future.
PDFClerk 2.1 released
SintraWorks has released PDFClerk 2.1, an update to the personal assistant for PDF documents. The application can join multiple PDF documents together, rearrange page order, delete individual pages, and impose multiple pages onto a sheet of paper as well as rotate pages on imposed sheets. Users can print manuals, reports, essays, articles, and more in multiple languages -- including Arabic, Chinese, and Hebrew. PDFClerk 2.1 supports printing pages in mirror image form, crop marks, registration marks, and color or grayscale bars. PDFClerk 2.1 runs natively on both PowerPC and Intel-based Macs a Universal Binary, requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later, and is priced at $32. The update is free to registered users.
NJ, iTunes sales tax
New Jersey governor Jon Corzine is pushing for a new law that would tax individual iTunes Music Store purchases to help alleviate the state's $4.5 billion debt. Governor Corzine recently began taxing individual services such as health club memberships and storage facilities to aid in the debt relief effort. Direct music and video download sales have generally remained tax-free since their inception, partially due to laws prohibiting taxes on out-of-state sales; however, the new law would require that each album, song, or video bought by a New Jersey resident be subject to a 7 percent tax. Challenges to the new law have yet to be filed, according to Electronista.
Final Fantasy XII US leak
We tend not to cover file leaks here at Gamer Scan, but it's hard to ignore one when it's as big as this. A number of Digg users claim success with an ISO of Final Fantasy XII, currently making the rounds on BitTorrent sites worldwide. It's described as a complete, English-language version of the game that was somehow stolen from Square-Enix. The genuine US port comes out on October 31st. Sony and Square will no doubt be furious about this leak, since Final Fantasy is one of the most expensive (and lucrative) series on the PS2. The budget for the game is said to have been about four billion yen, or $35 million US.
PayPlay.FM offers MP3s
PayPlay.FM today revealed plans to offer unprotected MP3s of its 600,000 tracks at the cost of $0.88 cents per track, rivaling Apple's iTunes Music Store's price of $0.99 cents per individual track and reducing copy protection to expand user freedom. The company provides digital rights protection of media files for independent artists, and timed its announcement to coincide with "Day Against DRM." PayPlay.FM also announced that it is offering free music downloads for new users who register on October 3rd. "In our opinion, the anti-DRM movement is not about making the music free or eliminating DRM, but about giving customers the freedom of choice," said Elliot Goykhman, CEO of PayPlay. PayPlay's DRM-protected tracks are priced at $0.77 cents each, and are encoded at 192Kbps -- significantly higher quality than Apple's iTunes tracks, which are encoded at 128Kbps. Unprotected tracks ($0.88 cents each) and are supported by any portable media player capable of playing MP3 files.
Creative has long boasted that its X-Fi technology can not only improve the quality of computer sound, but even restore detail to songs that was lost in digital compression. Its primary limitation has been its accessibility: X-Fi has so far been limited to expansion cards for Windows desktops. Creative's newly released Xmod adapter opens most of the audio improvements to Macs as well as almost any laptop. The USB-based adapter works by upconverting audio to a 24-bit signal before it reaches the speakers, says Creative, and uses a proprietary crystalizer to analyze compression artifacts to repair lost audio quality. The Xmod is also capable of applying virtual surround sound to stereo sources.
Importantly, no drivers need to be installed. Macs using OS X Panther or later as well as Windows XP systems can simply plug the device into their computers and speakers to see an immediate benefit. Music players such as the iPod or Zen series can also plug in by using a special AC adapter and will take advantage of most of the benefits. The Xmod will be available by late October for $80.
Zone of the Enders 3?
While many people will remember Zone of the Enders as "that game with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo," it did do enough business to justify a sequel, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Could the series have done well enough for a third game? UK magazine PSM3 says so. They position the game as a 2007 PS3 title, and say the development team is none other than Kojima Productions (Metal Gear Solid 4). This claim is bolstered by the fact that 2nd Runner's director, Shuyo Murata, is also the co-director of MGS4. Whatever the case, PSM3 says we'll hear an announcement next month.
Apple to reveal Q4 results
Apple is set to reveal its fourth quarter financial results on October 18th alongside its performance during the full year of 2006, which will likely reveal another positive year for sales. The Cupertino-based company also published a QuickTime audio webcast of its senior vice president of retail Ron Johnson's speech at ThinkEquity Partners fourth Annual Growth Conference on September 13th, where the executive discussed future plans to refresh Apple's retail stores with more dedicated iPod listening stations. Johnson also revealed further details of the company's high street success, informing analysts that Apple is currently the fastest-growing retail brand in the U.S., according to Macworld UK. Apple also published an audio webcast of company CFO Peter Oppenheimer's speech at Citigroup's 13th Annual Global Technology conference on September 6th. Apple has sold nearly 3.7 million Macs and more than 30.5 million iPods so far this year, moving toward Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer's prediction in July that fourth quarter revenue will amount to approximately $4.5 to $4.6 billion. [updated, corrected]
Virtually every new cellphone released this year features Bluetooth to sync contacts, and many wireless peripherals from keyboards to speakerphones use the technology to avoid wires. Many truly small devices, however, have to go without wireless connections; the size and power draw of Bluetooth are frequently too great for watches and other compact electronics. Nokia used its technology briefing on Tuesday to preview a more efficient format that may allow even the simplest hardware to operate wirelessly. Called Wibree, the standard would transmit only at 1Mbps (versus Bluetooth 2.0's 3Mbps) but would consume ten times less power, suiting it to sensors, toys, and almost any device where the larger batteries and cases required for Bluetooth aren't options.
Equally significant about Wibree are its open nature and relatively quick introduction. Developers from any company can implement the standard without facing licensing costs, and will not have long to wait before production hardware is available: Nokia anticipates shipping devices that use Wibree by the second half of 2007.
Intel praises Apple
While singing the praises of Apple, industry heavyweight Intel finds itself in the delicate position of touting open standards and calling for Japanese consumer-electronics makers to build around Intel's own Viiv platform for PCs running Microsoft's Windows operating system. The Viiv platform offers a set of specs that integrate PCs with digital home devices, such as TVs, music players, and other CE devices. Hoping to further development around the new platform, the company tried to encourage the industry to adopt open standards without threatening the turf of its new partner, Apple. Eric Kim, the senior vice president and general manager of Intel's Digital Home Group, praised Apple and its success in integrating computers and consumer electronics with its iPod/iTunes ecosystem, which use proprietary standards, but called for the industry to adopt open-standards around its own Viiv platform, according to IDG News Service.
PS3 controller unveiled
Sony Computer Entertainment Japan has made public some of the final information on the PS3's controller. Dubbed "SIXAXIS," the gamepad will be bundled with the console or sold separately for 5,000 yen ($43 US) as of November 11th. It will default as wireless, but it can be made wired through a USB connection. A fully-charged wireless pad will supposedly last 30 hours. Kotaku mentions that the USB Memory Card Adapter will also be out on the same day, retailing for 1,500 yen ($13 US). The adapter will be mandatory for transferring info from the PS1 and PS2. A PS3 remote will go on sale December 7th for 3,600 yen ($31 US).
ComChart EMR v9.2i
ComChart Medical Software has release of ComChart EMR v9.2i, an upgrade to its comprehensive electronic medical record program. The new version includes a unique Physician Patient Web-based interface. The new UI now allows both patients and physicians to access various sections of the medical record, in a secure environment, using any browser. It also gives patients the ability to schedule their own appointments, send secure emails, complete an on-line history form and read various patient handouts. Users can take test-drive of the ComChart Physician Patient Web interface online. ComChart EMR v9.2i also includes an interface to MacPractice, a Mac OS X medical billing program.
PhotoComplete 1.2 ships
Funkypixels Software has released PhotoComplete 1.2, an update to the easy-to-use photo editor for Mac OS X that features a single-window interface. The new version includes a new fully multithreaded photo editing engine that improves performance on dual-core and multiprocessor Macs as well as the ability to enable and disable actions to easily visualize effects on a photo. In addition, the update offers improved display quality, and a host of other minor enhancements and bug fixes. PhotoComplete 1.2 also has a new lower price of $30, a $10 reduction from the previous price. Current PhotoComplete owners can upgrade to version 1.2 at no cost. A free, fully-functional 30-day trial version is available for download. It requires Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.
Shiny switches parents
The makers of Earthworm Jim, Sacrifice, and Path of Neo have been bought out from Atari. Shiny's new parent company is "the largest independent game developer in North America," Foundation 9 Entertainment. Foundation 9's portfolio includes studios such as Backbone (Death Jr.) and The Collective (Marc Ecko's Getting Up). Shiny will relocate with The Collective in 2007, surrendering its intellectual properties to Atari but keeping its staff intact. A new project is already confirmed under Foundation 9, though it's still too early to release details.
Logitech diNovo Edge
Logitech's diNovo desktop has largely remained unchanged since its introduction in 2003, but has only lost some of its initial luster as a benchmark of design. The company is set to regain that interest by today's announcement of the diNovo Edge Bluetooth keyboard. The Edge is sharp break from the earlier design and uses an extremely thin, slab-like shape with touch-sensitive controls in place of earlier push buttons. The number pad has been replaced by a volume scroll pad as well as a unique navigation controller named the TouchDisc: while not as full-featured as a mouse, the TouchDisc can be used to steer the mouse cursor onscreen and doubles as a scroll wheel when the user makes circular motions. This makes it an ideal control mechanism for a home theater PC, according to Logitech.
The diNovo Edge also addresses a number of criticisms regarding the earlier model: it can now charge directly from a dock instead of relying on disposable batteries, lasting for up to two months on a single charge. It also adds light-up key labels that indicate the current key mode as well as dedicated Vista Start menu and search buttons. As might be expected, the diNovo Edge is considered Logitech's premium keyboard and will cost $200 when it ships in November. Click through for a complete photo.
New review, patents
In Brief: MacNN has published a review of Photo Retouching with Adobe Photoshop Elements, a training DVD by Software Cinema.... Apple today announced the grand opening of its newest retail store in California: the Apple Store Topanga will open on Friday, October 6, 2006 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.... Apple has been granted two new patents which include ‘Method and apparatus for archiving and unarchiving objects’ and ‘Method and apparatus for determining font attributes.’... Iomega today announced that its new Iomega REV 70GB SATA Backup Drive is available now for stand-alone Windows PCs or as a backup kit for Microsoft Windows servers.... The third annual "Luxtoberfest" celebration features 17 different events including a number of "Tournament of Champions" (one for the "ladies"), team competitions, map nights, and a "Halloween Ball."
1TB FireWire/USB storage
Western Digital today announced its newest 1TB storage solution: the My Book Pro Edition II system can mirror data in real-time (RAID 1) or spread data (RAID 0) across both internal hard drives, offering improved performance. Designed for small-office environments, the new system features advanced backup software, unique My Book features that simplify operation and three interfaces: FireWire 800, FireWire 400 and USB 2.0. Consuming less than 26 square inches of desk space, WD says the drive has a smaller footprint than competitive systems using two internal hard drives for 1 TB of capacity and is comparable to some storage systems using only one internal hard drive with much less capacity. Additionally, the My Book Pro Edition II is user-serviceable, allowing users to open the enclosure to replace one or both of the hard drives by following the detailed instructions, without voiding the system's three-year warranty.
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