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DeskLapz 1.5 ($5) enables users to select updated images of the beach, mountains, cities, and satellite images with real-time Web cam feeds as the desktop picture in Mac OS X. Users can save photos into iPhoto or email them to companions. DeskLapz requires Mac OS X 10.4 or later, and runs natively on Intel-based Macs as a Universal Binary.
EarthDesk 3.5.5 ($20) replaces the Mac desktop picture with a dynamic image of planet Earth continuously updating in the background. The software features real-time clouds, as well as accurate sun, moon, and city lighting. Version 3.5.5 updates the city database to conform to recent changes in the start and end dates for Daylight Savings Time in the U.S. [Download - 5.2MB]
EagleFiler 1.1 ($40) enables users to archive as well as search mail, Web pages, PDF files, word processing documents, and images. The update supports importing any kind of document, and handles drops onto folders or tags in the source list or into the records list. Additional changes include recognition for more kinds of text files/clippings, and the ability to import individual messages from Entourage via drag-and-drop. [Download - 6MB]
A Better Finder Rename 7.5.5 ($20) enhances the file renaming solution for Mac OS X, substantially improving the instant preview window by supporting docking to the top, bottom, or right hand side of the main window. The latest release also uses smart resizing and dragging for the preview window, and adds new time/date options. [Download - 1.8MB]
Debt Quencher 1.1 ($15) adds user-requested features to offer users more methods to reduce credit card debt. The accounts list in the revised edition sorts automatically based on the selected payment method, and the return key toggles the edit mode while keeping users on the same value to ease the process of playing 'what if' scenarios. [Download - 1.3MB]
RAW Developer 1.6.1 ($100) is a RAW image conversion application designed and optimized specifically for Mac OS X. The update adds support for Nikon D40, Pentax K10D, and Samsung GX-10 cameras. Version 1.6.1 also improves the default camera tone curve and ICC camera profile for the Canon 1DS, and fixes numerous bugs. [Download - 5.4MB]
UMPC w/WiFi, touchscreen
Codenamed the Nurian Z1, Hannuri Biz's forthcoming UMPC is principally an electronic dictionary, but boasts a superior set of features. AVING reports that the PC has a WiFi receiver capable of streaming audio and video in real-time; the unit furthermore has desktop-like web browsing, thanks to Windows CE 5.0 Professional. The clamshell design of the Z1 highlights a five-inch color touchscreen, and typing is made simpler through a fully-equipped QWERTY keyboard -- something even the M*free will lack. The size of the PC is still small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It should ship to South Korea next February at an unknown price.
NEC P-ISM concept pens
With the wealthy carrying around an increasing number of portable electronics, a new NEC concept offers hope of a less cluttered future. The P-ISM is a series of five pens which network with each other, providing complimentary functions. At the heart of the system is the cellphone pen, which can be substituted with another device such as a PDA, but also doubles as a handwriting input. Another pen is a camera scanner, while the remaining ones include a small projector, a laser keyboard, and a personal ID key with cashless pass abilities. P-ISM gadgets can connect to the Internet through a cellphone connection. Unfortunately, the system is merely a concept at this stage.
La Feel Media Mouse
Japanese firm E-Blue has just unveiled its La Feel mouse, hoping to replace the media buttons found on many newer keyboards with controls that are closer at hand. In addition to handling common navigation tasks like skipping forward or backward through websites, the top-mounted buttons on the La Feel can quickly pause or play media files, adjust volume, or skip through songs. Additional control is given through the four-way scroll wheel and the high-precision 800 DPI optical sensor undearneath, the company says. Versions can be found with blue or red shells and are available now for a currently unlisted price.
Three new iPods in 2007?
Apple is planning to introduce three new iPod models during the 2007 calendar year, according to one report. The Cupertino-based company will unveil a video-oriented model to supplement or replace the existing fifth-generation iPod, according to AppleInsider, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs is as yet unwilling to commit to the marketing and other resources required to bring the device to market. The executive is waiting until he can more effectively gauge consumers' reaction to full length movies available via the iTunes Music Store, as well as the company's iTV media device due to launch in early 2007. Details on the other two iPod models are currently unclear, according to the report.
Password Manager token
Mandylion's Password Manager was originally designed for the United States military, but is now available for general sale. The device creates and stores up to 50 different logins, codes and other safeguards, with passwords in particular being definable by rules such as length (up to 14 characters) and the mix of letters and numbers. Reminders can be set to change information after a given period, such as 90 days, a year, or so on. Though the Manager is controlled with only five buttons, it has a number of protective features, including an LCD with a limited viewing angle and a self-destruct option should you be in danger. The product is sold in numerous different quantities, from $250 for five tokens (a limited-time offer) to an unspecified price for 25.
WildCharge Energy Plate
Startup company WildCharge today revealed that it will use the CES expo in January to introduce what it hopes will be a revolutionary new method of recharging most personal electronics. In place of individual and often proprietary plugs, the currently unnamed technology uses a thin plate that transmits the electricity through the devices themselves, reaching the power input through absorption. Such a technique eliminates the necessity for wires and even works across different power requirements, the company claims; multiple devices can be revitalized on the same conductive surface regardless of their exact needs. The only special requirement is a base plate underneath each item. No price has been given, but WildCharge fully anticipates shipping the power source in early 2007.
Brunton SolarPort 4.4
Providing an alternative power source for devices during camping trips and other outdoors activities, Brunton today launched its SolarPort 4.4 charger. The sun-driven power source unfolds to reveal panels that will recharge any USB device that draws 4.4 watts or less of energy, such as a digital camera or GPS unit. A general power connector is built-in for devices without proprietary connectors, and a bundled cradle will also power most rechargeable AA batteries.
The SolarPort is flexible, according to the company: a voltage switch can toggle the output between 6V and 12V for more sensitive electronics. Owners can further link as many as three SolarPorts together without cabling to increase the total charging power. Brunton officially sells its charger for $120.
Five new Apple patents
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office today published five new Apple patents relating to various inventions ranging from presentations of clip content to the Mighty Mouse. The first two patents, titled 'Presenting clips of content' and 'Webview applications' both pertain to Apple's Dashboard and application widgets. Another application titled 'Clipview applications' focuses on spreadsheets, and could indirectly be linked to Apple's 'Numbers' trademark which was granted 'registered status' in Europe on July 4th, 2006. The remainder of the Clipview applications patent focuses on the company's Dashboard and widget applications. A fourth patent published today titled 'Performing variable and/or Bitwise Shift Operation for a Shift Instruction that does not provide a Variable or Bitwise Shift option' relates to enhancing instruction sets for microprocessors while referring to a double quadword target operation in the Intel SSE2 instruction set. Yet another patent application titled 'Mouse with improved input mechanisms' incorporates eight patents that date back to 2002/2003 within the current Mighty Mouse application.
Inland Notebook Cooler
Inland said today that it has begun selling its Serina cooler for high-demand notebooks. The aluminum pad is powered by a wall outlet and uses silent fans to actively cool the system above, venting heat from the back even when the notebook obscures the top exhausts. Inland also positions its cooler as a port extender for the host computer's features. When connected to a Mac or Windows portable, the Serina acts as a three-port USB hub and includes a multi-format card reader that accepts CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, and multiple additional flash standards. Inland's pad is available immediately from TigerDirect for $80.
New Panasonic camcorders
Panasonic has announced a new pair of 3CCD camcorders that use the AVCHD format, according to Electronista. The HDC-SD1 is purportedly the smallest and lightest 3CCD HD camera in the world, using SDHC cards for storage as opposed to discs or a hard drive. The included 4GB card stores an hour of 1080p video, while the HDC-DX1 foregoes this convenience in favor of dual-layer DVDs, permitting users to record a maximum of 40 minutes of HD to a mini-DVD. Both cameras can record in 5.1 surround sound, since each is equipped with five separate microphones. Recording angles are adjusted automatically as users change focus and subject. Lenses on the cameras are 13-element Leicas, with image stabilizers built-in to reduce blur. The DX1 is priced at $1,400, while the SD1 will ship for $1,500. Both models are due to launch in March.
Ancient Empires Lux
Sillysoft has released Ancient Empires Lux, a game designed to take players through the greatest civilizations of early history. Ancient Empires Lux includes Sumeria, Egypt, India, China, Greece, and Rome with a total of 58 starting positions. Players can track progress on the 'Stats' screen to view how many civilizations they have conquered, as well as various other game facts. Each empire includes background information and links to full Wikipedia histories, and the game provides various levels of difficulty to provide a challenge for newcomers as well as experienced players. The game is available for $20, and requires Mac OS X (specific system requirements were unavailable).
Oppo 1080p DVD Player
Oppo on Thursday upgraded its DVD players with the DV-981HD. The 981 serves as a major revision of the company's earlier 971 and now supports upscaling DVDs to a full 1080p HD resolution, up from the 720p/1080i limits of the earlier model. The company says it has also adapted its output to reflect modern HDTVs: the component video of the 971 has been swapped with an HDMI port that can fully drive the 1080p signal as well as its accompanying surround sound. Oppo says the player retains a strong emphasis on audio with co-axial, optical, and RCA surround jacks as standard.
Multi-format playback support is broad and includes higher-end music discs such as DVD-Audio and SACD as well as DivX- and XviD-encoded video files; this extends even to subtitles and other computer-centric features of these files, Oppo states. The DV-981HD has just begun shipping for $230.
More iTMS Gift Cards
Apple has unveiled an expanded collection of iTunes gift cards with silhouette designs, holiday motifs, 'Gestures,' and new music as well as TV show themes. Customers can purchase the new gift cards for $10 or more, which are delivered for free via mail to the recipient. iTunes users can choose from a wider selection of cards at Apple retail stores alongside TV show and movie gift cards. "The gift cards feature artists (e.g., 'Beyoncé'), bands ('Jet'), TV shows ('Lost'), and movies ('Toy Story'), which you can use for any content available on iTunes," says Apple. The company is also offering its $100 iTunes Premium card, which comes in gift packaging.
iClear, Disko for 2G Nano
Griffin Technology today announced that its iClear and Disko carrying cases are available for Apple's second-generation iPod nano. The iClear features a hard, clear, and lightweight polycarbonate enclosure to protect the portable player from scratches and dings while offering complete access to the clickwheel and ports. Disko senses movement, responding with colored lights that blink and flash in moving patterns around the clickwheel. The lights are powered by batteries (included) so as not to interfere with iPod playback time. Griffin's iClear is priced at $20, while the Disko is available for $30.
BlackBerry 8703e at Alltel
Alltel this afternoon has revealed an additional phone in its range. The BlackBerry 8703e brings one of Research In Motion's more popular smartphones to the provider with the addition of mapping functions. Similar to the Samsung U520 announced earlier today, the 8703e gains access to Alltel's Axcess Mobile Guide for live GPS positioning and directions. Adopters of the Alltel version will also find preloaded software such as Handango's direct-download software store and Handmark's Pocket Express live news and search tool.
The hardware is comparable to previous editions of the 8700 series, with Bluetooth and EVDO support standard. This edition can also fall back to more modest 1XRTT speeds in areas where EVDO is unavailable, the company says. Alltel is shipping its latest BlackBerry immediately for $520 at full price and $250 with a two-year agreement.
HTC Vox in Development
Smartphone developer HTC is nearing completion of the first device in the company's next wave of devices, according to leaked product and roadmap information. Named only the Vox, the phone is likely to signal HTC's first use of the Vista-influenced Windows Mobile 6, also known as Crossbow. The Vox is expected to go without a touchscreen in favor of a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, but will have an unusually large 96MB of RAM and should be accompanied by a 2-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and WiFi.
HTC currently plans to release the Vox in spring 2007, according to the roadmap. Its intended markets remain unclear, but the company's specifications note that the phone is a quad-band GSM device with EDGE support; as such, it should become available in the US through Cingular or T-Mobile. Read through for a complete image.
Apple prepped for holidays
Apple has eliminated its product lead times as it heads into the final stretch of the holiday shopping season, which places the company in a far better position than it experienced the same time during the last two years. The company has little-to-no pre-holiday supply constraints, according to Piper Jaffray senior analyst Gene Munster, and average lead-times at the Apple online store are currently 24 hours, down from 1-2 days one year ago and six days 2 years ago. "Our analysis of product lead-times in early December over the last three years shows that Apple has more favorable supply levels this year than in the prior two years," Munster wrote in a research note obtained by MacNN. "In early December 2006, lead-times averaged 24 hours across all iPod and Mac products. This figure is down from a 1-2 days delay average lead-time for iPods and Macs in 2005, and an average six day delay in 2004 (five days for iPods, seven days for Macs).
Palm buys back OS code
Palm has agreed to pay $44 million for a permanent licence to the source code for Palm OS Garnet, which is currently owned by the Japanese firm Access. Palm lost the rights to its cellphone OS when it created a separate software outfit called PalmSource, which decided to remake the OS with a Linux core. This attracted Access, who bought PalmSource in September of 2005. Under the new deal Palm can modify Garnet in whichever way it likes, but for the moment, both companies have agreed to retain code compatibility. The latest phone to use a variant of the Palm OS is the Treo 680.
MIU "hybrid" portable PC
Displaying at the Seoul International Invention Fair, Korean manufacturer MIU has revealed the M*free, which the company describes as a "hybrid dual portable computer" (HDPC). AVING observes that aside from working as a UMPC running Windows, it's also a DMB phone, and a plug-in module adds functions such as a digital camera, MP3 playback, and USB file transfer. The screen can stand upright, lay flat, or close in either facing over the QWERTY keyboard for applications that don't require typing. The M*free should ship to South Korea in the first half of 2007 and cost somewhere between 700,000 and 800,000 won ($764 and $873). Click through for more photos.
Panasonic AVCHD Camera Duo
Panasonic this morning revealed a pair of new 3CCD camcorders using the enhanced compression of AVCHD to improve their picture quality and recording time. At the forefront is the HDC-SD1 (pictured): the camera is the world's smallest and lightest 3CCD HD-capable camera, Panasonic says. This is accomplished by the use of SDHC memory cards for storage. Although no moving parts are needed to record information, the extra capacity of the new SD format allows for 4GB or more of video. The included 4GB card can hold an hour of 1920x1080 HD, according to the company. The more conventional HDC-DX1 exchanges this flash memory for dual-layer recordable DVDs and can write as much as 40 minutes of HD directly to a mini DVD disc.
More details and photography after the jump.
Labels test MP3 waters
Record labels are toying with the idea of distributing their musical catalogs without Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions, which would allow them to circumvent Apple's iTunes Music Store while still enabling users to play their tracks on the Cupertino-based company's massively popular iPod. Labels such as EMI have traditionally stuck with protected formats that restrict songs to supported playback devices, causing some backlash from consumers who believe they should be able to play music they purchase on any device they own. Now major music labels are starting to make songs available as MP3s as part of an experiment to gauge demand for music that is playable on any portable playback device, according to the Associated Press. EMI is offering Norah Jones and rock band Relient K via Yahoo's online music service as MP3s, presumably to test the waters of unrestricted music.
A terabyte on a DVD?
Working at the University of Central Florida, members of the Belfield Research Group have developed a storage system which can hold up to 1TB of information. Dubbed Two-Photon 3D Optical Data Storage, the system uses two different wavelengths of light to write smaller, "sharper" bits to a photochromic surface. While this concept isn't new, the Belfield discovery was how to then read the data without overwriting -- a solution that involves using a different set of wavelengths that won't trigger a reaction. By layering several photochromic surfaces together, it's now possible to store as much as 1TB in a disc only slightly thicker than a standard DVD. Commercial application of the technology is a few years away, however, since Belfield is working on reducing the required laser power.
Ecamm ships Huckleberry
Ecamm has begun shipping the Huckleberry, a mirror that reverses the direction of the built-in iSight camera on Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks. The accessory consists of an acrylic mirror and two plastic mounting brackets, and is placed above the screen to reflect the iSight's field of view. Users can film home movies or create stop-motion video while sitting in front of the notebook viewing the results and facing the action. The Huckleberry measures 32 x 67 x 51mm, includes a carrying case as well as an iGlasses serial number, and is priced at $20.
USB audio converter ships
Trends Audio has launched its UD-10 USB Audio Converter, a device that provides four concurrent digital outputs for connecting to external Digital to Analog Converters (DACs). Digital outputs include one optical port, two coaxial connections, one AES/EBU plug, and a high-quality decoded headphone port. A bundled adapter plugs in via RCA to the Trends TA-10 Class-T Stereo Audio Amplifier for audio playback, and the converter includes a ±10ppm crystal clock alongside proprietary dual power regulation circuits to ensure regulated power regardless of the source (USB or external socket). The company says the device is constructed from audiophile-grade materials and electronic components, including high-quality SMD resistors and capacitors. Each UD-10 USB Audio Converter features an iron-grey whole aluminum case, and ships for $90.
Elecom Ambidextrous Mouse
Japanese accessory maker Elecom today shipped its simple M-EKUR mouse. The USB controller is built expressly for households where both left- and right-handed people regularly share control of a single computer, including a switch on the back of the mouse to instantly reverse the button layout so that mousing is practical from either side of the desk. Its shape is also symmetric for equal comfort and is small enough to be used by children, Elecom says. An 800 DPI optical sensor provides a higher level of accuracy as well. The M-EKUR will be available in the next few days in neon green and orange colors for $22 each.
Web browser 'smackdown'
Computerworld is hosting its own Web browser 'smackdown' via a public poll, asking users which Web browser currently holds the top spot. Four experts have provided opinionated essays as to why their favorite browser -- one for each of Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Opera, and Apple's Safari -- reign as the best Web browser on the market. Taking charge to portray Safari as the best browser is Ken Mingis, the Computerworld editor responsible for the website's Macintosh Knowledge Center. Mingis says he has been a Mac user since 1995, working his way from up from his first Performa desktop machine through a variety of Power Macs, PowerBooks, and iMacs. The editor touts such features as 'private browsing,' tabbed browser instances, 128-bit encryption for surfing secure sites, pop-up ad blocking, and the built-in RSS reader as Safari's strong points.
Samsung U520 at Alltel
Alltel on Thursday began offering the Samsung U520, a flip-phone that marks the debut of two features new to the company's lineup. The U520 is the first to support the company's Axcess Mobile Guide, a GPS-based direction service: owners can find and plan routes to destinations, including receiving voice directions during the trip. Equally new is support for the A2DP Bluetooth audio profile. While already gaining popularity with other carriers, the profile lets Alltel subscribers pair the Samsung phone with Bluetooth stereo devices such as wireless headphones or speakers.
Other components of the U520 reflect the phone's mid-range audience, according to Alltel. A 1.3-megapixel camera records photos and videos; music playback is supported for MP3 files, and EVDO broadband is optional. The carrier starts pricing at $270 for the phone by itself but discounts the phone at $100 when bought with a two-year contract and rebate. The Axcess Mobile Guide is available for $10 per month or $3 for a one-day pass.
Audio feedback patent
The US Patent & Trademark Office today published Apple's patent application titled 'Techniques for presenting sound effects on a portable media player.' The new technology, which relates to sound effects on a portable media device, is intended to provide audio feedback during portable media player usage to enhance the user experience. "The lack of auditory feedback degrades the user experience and renders the media player less user friendly," wrote Apple. "Thus, there is a need for improved techniques to facilitate auditory feedback on portable media players." One particularly interesting line in the patent description reads "the advantage of having more than one mixer channel is that multiple sound effects can be output concurrently, thereby providing a polyphony audio effect." Polyphony effects generally relate to ringtones, which could suggest audio feedback for the company's forthcoming iPhone. Apple also filed a continuation patent for 'evaluating and correcting rhythm in audio data' in August. [updated]
Samsung i718 Smartphone
Samsung used its presence at the ITU Telecom expo to reveal the i718, one of the company's few Windows Mobile smartphones as well as one of the few phones launched first for the Chinese market. A more advanced parallel to the E890, the i718 shares a common reliance on a touchscreen for input -- an essential feature for the handwriting recognition needed in China -- but enhances virtually every feature. While Windows Mobile provides easier access to office documents, the display has been enlarged to 2.8 inches, and the camera in turn has been upgraded to a 2-megapixel sensor. Samsung has also added explicit playback support for videos, including MPEG-4 and WMV.
Notably, the phone is a quad-band GSM phone, allowing its use in North America as well as in China and most other cellphone-aware companies. Samsung has not detailed plans for the handset outside of China but has recently obtained FCC approval for the device, paving the way for a later release in the US. A profile photo follows after the jump.
NI ships GUITAR RIG 2
Native Instruments is now shipping GUITAR RIG 2 Software Edition, a software-only version of the company's award-winning digital guitar studio. Geared toward producers looking for a professional yet affordable guitar and bass recording solution, the Software Edition provides amp emulations and effect modules, which the company says has won GUITAR RIG more than 20 international press awards. GUITAR RIG 2 Software Edition offers the full functionality of the software without any limitations, with only the Rig Kontrol pedal remaining exclusive to the standard GUITAR RIG 2 package. GUITAR RIG 2 Software Edition is based on the recently released 2.2 version of the GUITAR RIG software, which offers three additional effect modules and also includes support for Intel-based Macintosh computers. GUITAR RIG 2 Software Edition is available for $340/€300.
BTC ZEUS 5000 LCD Combo
Display manufacturer BTC today demonstrated its ZEUS 5000 hybrid LCD. Intended primarily as a 22-inch computer display with a 1680x1050 resolution and input through DVI or VGA, the new ZEUS model also ships with an integrated analog TV tuner. Co-axial, RCA, and S-video inputs are also built in to accommodate these sources. BTC claims an effective 1,000:1 contrast ratio and a 5ms response time quick enough for movies and TV shows. The display is described as Vista-ready and includes HDCP support for encrypted videos in the new version of Windows. Pricing is unavailable, though the ZEUS 5000 is shipping today.
Avernum 4 v1.1 released
Spiderweb Software this week released an Universal update to its fantasy role playing game, Avernum 4. Version 1.1 is now Universal and runs natively on Intel-based Macs and also improves screen resolution switching. "Avernum 4 is an enormous fantasy role-playing adventure. Wander a gigantic world, full of multitudes of characters, hundreds of side quests, and traps, tricks, and treasure in every corner. Experience the life of an adventurer: the fame, the wealth, the hapless townsfolk begging you for help at every turn! This epic tale is guaranteed to give you weeks of entertainment, with an impossibly huge world that dares you to uncover all of its secrets." Prior experience with the Avernum series is unnecessary, according to the developer. Avernum 4 is $25, or $32 with a hint book. It requires Mac OS X 10.1 or later.
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