You gotta give some credit to the Zune, who despite weaker-than-expected sales and the inevitable release of new, updated players from Apple’s popular iPod lineup (as well as an iTunes upgrade), attempts its hand at persuadable marketing with new emphasis on the media player’s wireless capabilities.
According to Microsoft, the Zune promises to take music discovery “to the next level” by offering users the ability to wirelessly download and stream millions of song from wireless hot spots around the country. Zune’s software and firmware updates will allow users to purchase music directly from the built-in FM radio as well as wirelessly access the Zune store on the go. And if wireless isn’t available, the media player will queue the download until the user is back in a connected area.
Microsoft is attempting to take advantage of the fact that its player has wireless capabilities and the user can purchase the song as soon as he or she discovers it from the radio, in a store, from a commercial, etc. Zune customers will also have the option to pay for music per song or by purchasing a Zune Pass.
For those who either (A) believe Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 represents the pinnacle of browser design, heralded as being not only the greatest browser of its time, but of all time, leading to a general malaise towards Firefox 3 and 3.1 Alpha, IE7 and IE8 Beta, and Chrome Beta, or (B) are forced to stick with IE6 because of compatiblity issues, work policy, or any other of a handful of reasons preventing you from upgrading, then Google has good news for you.
Recognizing there are still users who surf like it's 1999 (yes, IE6 was released in 2001 but that wouldn't have set up a song reference, now would it?), the gargantuan search company has been hard at work rewriting Gmail's code base to make it more friendly for IE6 users. This means that if you have the latest IE6 updates from Microsoft installed, you should now be able to enjoy previously unavailable features like colored labels, group chat and rich emoticons, invisible mode, AIM integration, Gmail Labs, an updated contact manager, and remote sign out.
Now if only Crytek would upgrade Crysis' code base so the game would run smoothly on our GeForce 3 TI500 videocard, we'd all be happy campers.
I Started Something's Long Zheng has figured out one of the best ways to find out what Redmond has up its sleeve: read the want ads! Right now, he notes, Microsoft is looking to improve Windows Home Server's UI in version 2 by adding Windows Media Center UI integration, Live Mesh UI Integration, and making the complete backup and restore feature in WHS more Time Machine-like (proving once again that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery). The next version of Windows Home Server is currently code-named "Vail," by the way.
So, what are you hoping for when Windows Home Server gets its v2 makeover? See us after the jump for your chance to chime in.
That’s the first thing we thought when we saw the new Arc Mouse, which Microsoft claims with “raise the style stakes” in peripheral design. We have to admit, it certainly looks different from any mouse we’ve handled before. The foldable design makes it extremely compact when snapped shut for travel purposes. Yet when expanded, the arch is spacious enough to fill out our manly palms. The Arc felt very comfortable in our hands as we moved it around a table, but was noticably lighter and not as solid as the gaming mice we're accustomed to. A micro transceiver snaps into the bottom of the mouse using a magnet, and only sticks out a single centimeter when plugged into a USB port (it uses the same 2.4GHz wireless tech as Microsoft’s other mice).
And if you’re worried about sturdiness, the Arc’s hinge has been tested to withstand 25lb’s of downward force, though we didn’t exert that much force in our test (we didn’t want to break it!). Surprisingly, it doesn’t use Microsoft’s new BlueTrack sensor, instead opting for a traditional laser tracker (no word on DPI). Look for the Arc to go on sale later this month (launching with black or red options) for $59.95.
Down but not out, AMD may be gearing up to turn its fortunes around in early 2009. The optimism comes courtesy of Chinese-language website HKEPC, which claims to have the skinny on 10 new AMD processors expected to be released during the next three quarters. And where is HKEPC getting their information? Un-named motherboard makers, of course.
According to the report, AMD will begin production of two versions of what it has code named Deneb later this year. One version of Deneb boasting clockspeeds between 2.6GHz to 3.0GHz will have a thermal envelop of 125W, while another version, clocked between 2.4GHz and 2.8GHz, will come rated at 95W. The latter is expected in Q1 2009.
AMD's Propus processors will have smaller amounts of cache than their Deneb brethren, and those carrying the EE designation will consume just 45W. HKEPC says to AMD will start producing Propus parts in the Q1 and Q2 of 2009.
Let's start with the good news. Intel's new SSDs aren't just fast, they appear to be stupid-fast. The chip maker claims read speeds up to 250MB per second and write speeds up to 70MB per second, along with an 85ms read latency. And while Maximum PC has yet to put these numbers to the test, initial reports (BAM, POW) at least look promising.
Now the bad news. While Intel might be helping SSD technology regain its reputation for speed, the company's also pushing SSDs right back into stratosphere pricing tiers at a time when vendors are making a push for higher price/GB ratios. Intel announced its 80GB version will cost $595 (available now), and that's in 1,000 quantities - yikes! The 160GB model will debut later this year for an unspecified amount, but it's probably safe to assume it will command over $1,000.
Anyone think the additional speed is worth the pricing premium?
Business executives will soon be able to view porn without fear of mucking up their system with malware, and they'll have HP, Mozilla, and Symantec to thank for it. The three-pronged team has set out to create what HP calls the Firefox Virtual Browser, which will appear on the upcoming HP Compaq dc7900 business desktop.
If the concept of a virtual browser sounds familiar, it's because these solutions already exist outside of the OEM realm, some of which have been covered in your favorite computer magazine (assuming Maximum PC is your favorite rag). Like Trustware's BufferZone, the Firefox Virtual Browser consists of a virtual layer independent from the operating system. This sandbox approach means that any downloaded cruft that manages to spread its contaminates stays contained and can easily be undone by simply emptying the virtual environment..
"What we have created is a virtual layer where your browser runs and all the downloads, all the clicks, all the cookies and everything is placed within...a virtualized run-time environment," explains Kirk Godkin, HP senior product manager for business PCs. "With the browser, the user only has to click the mouse and it will reset the browser to its original state and all their favorites will remain the same."
Godkin went on to say that the virtual browser will eventually spread to all of HP's corporate desktops by the end of November, but didn't say whether not HP is also working with Microsoft on a similar option for Internet Explorer.
Holy moly, talk about being charged up! HP claims its new EliteBook 6930p can deliver up to 24 hours of battery runtime, or 5 hours longer than Dell's Latitude E6400, provided it comes equipped with an optional ultra-capacity battery.
“All-day computing has been the holy grail of notebook computing,” said Ted Clark, senior vice president and general manager, Notebook Global Business Unit, HP. “With the HP EliteBook 6930p, customers no longer have to worry about their notebook battery running out before their work day is over.”
While we can't rule out a dose of voodoo magic as a contributing factor, much of the credit goes to the Intel 80GB SSD drive and 14.1-inch mercury-free Illumi-Lite LED display, both of which HP says are required add-ons to make the feat possible. And that's not with a wimpy processor either - the least powerful CPU in the 6930p's lineup is an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400. Toss a spill resistant keyboard and an inner magnesium shell into the mix and HP has one tough mother on its hands.
SSDs with a 64GB storage capacity fetched close to a grand last year. But their outrageous prices have become subdued with the passage of time. Now, if you act quickly, OCZ’s brand new Core V2 OCZSSD2-2C60G 2.5” 60GB SSD could be yours for $240 – approximately $4/GB. The SSD boasts read speeds of 170MB/sec and write speeds of 98MB/sec. It also features a built-in USB 2.0 port for firmware updates, and can serve as a replacement for your notebook’s HDD.
"With great power, there must also come great responsibility" -- Uncle Ben, Spider-Man
"With great power and great responsibility, there must also come walls of text." -- Far too many videogames
It's atrocious, too. Last night, I was forced to read my way through the opening of a game released only a week ago. The game's gloriously rendered prison cell bars would likely have even the rottenest of holding cells in jealous fits, yet mere moments after I moved beyond those gnarled steel beams, I was assailed by a text tutorial of such ridiculous length that it would've benefitted from a rabbit-ear feature.
"This is next-gen?" I wondered aloud.
We can polish graphics to such a sheen that even the most mundane objects wrap their tendrils securely around our eyes and never let go, yet integrating a tutorial with actual gameplay is an insurmountable task? The very thought is absurd, and doesn't exactly get me pumped to play the rest of the game. After all, if gameplay matters so little that the designers couldn't even be bothered to, you know, teach me through interactivity -- a little quirk that I hear makes games sorta cool -- then why should I expect anything better from the rest of their game? It's like popping a Porsche chassis over a Flintstones car; take the thing for a spin and your next stop will be the used-car dealership.
So, which ripe-smelling, antiquated videogame "features" do you think should be given the boot? Are there any that you'd actually like to see stick around?
Today's Roundup is all about the future -- no artifacts from 1993 here. Inside, you'll find only the latest news concerning Deus Ex 3, F.E.A.R. 2 (Yep, that's the name, now), and two separate plans to "save" PC gaming.