A major theme of this year’s TechFest—the conference for Microsoft’s researchers to show off all their coolest projects—has been human-computer communication. Of all the demos we’ve seen so far, we think the Commute UX in-car dialog system, seen in this video, is the most likely to actually impact our lives within the next, say, five years.
Commute UX is an advanced speech recognition system designed for use in cars. In the video, Principal Architect Ivan Tashev shows off how it can be used to quickly and smartly (based on incomplete information) select a song to play from an onboard MP3 player. It can also manage your cell phone, allowing you to dial a contact by voice (yawn), or even to dictate a reply to a text message (!). Finally, Tashev demonstrates how the car’s user manual can be integrated into the system, allowing you to ask questions about the operation of your vehicle, a feature that will be especially useful in rental cars.
We may have exaggerated a little in the title; Commute UX isn’t going to help you fight crime, or even keep you company on the long, lonely road. Still, it does look like it could be an incredibly practical technology for controlling the peripheral elements of your automobile. Stay tuned for coverage of other new technologies shown at TechFest!
This past Friday Lian Li announced their PC-V351 Desktop HTPC case, a pure aluminum chassis that’s meant for the HTPC minded builder out there.
The PC-V351 features dual, front mounted 120mm fans that spin at 1000RPM, as well as a single, rear mounted 80mm exhaust fan that moves air at 1200RPM. This boxy beast measures in at 262mm tall, 279mm wide, and 373mm deep. Plus, you’ll have plenty of room for whatever components you decide to put in. There’s room for two 5.25-inch optical drives, plenty of hard drives, and a micro-ATX motherboard.
Plus, if you’re looking to build a media machine that’ll sit in a room where it has to look pretty, you can get this in black, silver or red.
Just recently, MSI debuted their X-Slim netbook line over in China, and it’s because of that, we don’t know a whole heck of a lot about these puppies. But, what we do know is that they feature extremely thin form factors, don’t weigh much, come with 13.4 and 15.6 inch screens, and best of all, are low cost.
We’ve also recently found out that these will be packing some horsepower, putting a ULV Penryn chip under the hood, with GMA4500 graphics to boot. Pricing for the 13-inch version looks like it’ll be anywhere from $700 to $1000, but still no word on how much the 15-inch version will cost.
MSI plans to give HP a run in the touchscreen desktop market, as evidenced by a trio of Wind Top all-in-one PCs the company had on display during CeBIT. The models included the 19-inch AE1900, 20-inch AE2010, and 22-inch AE2200.
Specs remain pretty sparse, but it looks as though the AE2010 will come with an AMD 1.5GHz processor nestled into an AMD 780G chipset, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a DVD burner, and a 1600 x 900 touchscreen display. Engadget said it also spied an Intel logo on the AE1900 with Windows XP on its screen, which suggests at least one of the nettops will be powered by Intel's Atom processor.
No other details, including price points or projected release date, are yet known, but you can bet we'll let you know as soon as we find out more.
Tuning and tweaking cars and PCs are two hobbies that are often likened to each other because of the many parallels, and thanks to JC Hyun Systems, the two even share some of the same DNA. That's because the South Korean car audio supplier has just developed the first automobile infotaiment system using Creative's X-Fi technology.
"I believe all motorists seek to enjoy music and videos of the highest quality when traveling in their cars," JC Hyun Systems said. "They expect the same high standards of entertainment experience they enjoy at home, something which most car audio or car infotainment systems in the market have been unable to match so far. By integrating the state-of-the-art Creative X-Fi audio technology to the RUNZ CI-7100, I am confident that we can propel car infotainment enjoyment to the next level and set the standard for next generation systems to come in the near future."
The svelte looking RUNZ CI-7100 Dash-Car Navigation Device comes with a 7-inch display with an 800 x 480 resolution, an Intel dual-core 360/300MHz processor, MMSP2 MPEG video hardware engine, SiRF III GPS chipset, and Creative's X-Fi audio processor with support for CMSS-3D and 24-bit Crystalizer. Other features include an SDHC card slot, Bluetooth, iPod 30-pin socket, USB host, and support for a variety of media formats, including MP3, WMA, OGG, WMV, MPEG4, DIVX, and XVID.
The RIAA was pretty upset to learn that the unreleased U2 album "No Line on the Horizon" had been leaked onto Bit Torrent last week, so much so that rumors surfaced saying the RIAA was on the hunt for for anyone who may have downloaded the album via Last.fm's Scrobbler service, according to news site TechCrunch. Worse yet, the weblog said a tipster informed them that "Last.fm recently provided the RIAA with a giant dump of user data to track down people are scrobbling unreleased tracks." And what did Last.fm have to say on the matter?
"On Friday night a technology blog called TechCrunch posted a vicious and completely false rumor about us: that Last.fm handed data to the RIAA so they could track who’s been listening to the “leaked” U2 album," Last.fm wrote in a blog. "I denied it vehemently on the Techcrunch article, as did several other Last.fm staffers. We denied it in the Last.fm forums, on twitter, via email – basically we denied it to anyone that would listen, and now we’re denying it on our blog."
The blog entry, which is titled "Techcrunch are full of s**t," goes on to say Last.fm takes "very seriously" being entrusted to users' listening data and that it will "never share personally identifiable data such as email and IP addresses." The blog also pointed out that all the press coverage has caused a spike in the number of people listening to U2 recently, so its record label should actually be patting itself on the back for a successful launch.
In any event, Last.fm users can officially exhale, your private data remains safely tucked away on a server in London.
AMD Socket F (1207) Opteron owners have reason to rejoice, as it looks like the chip maker's upcoming Istanbul chip is on target for a 2H 2009 release and won't require any new hardware. A 6-core chip built on a 45nm manufacturing process with 6MB of L3 cache, Istanbul will go head-to-head with Intel's 6-core Dunnington-based Xeon released in September 2008. AMD had some heavy criticism for Dunnington following its release, saying it's just a glued together triple-dual core processor with 50 percent more cores than the quad-core and costing 50 percent more, among other complaints.
We'll have to wait for Istanbul's release to see how it stacks up against Intel's 6-core solution, but in the meantime, AMD did demonstrate a 24-core Istanbul configuration pitted against a 16-core Shanghai rig using the same parts, both with HyperTransport 3 enabled. With 50 percent more cores, the Istanbul machine produced almost double the bandwidth at 42,000 MB/s versus 25,000 MB/s for the Shanghai setup.
No pricing information or release date has yet been given, although AMD is planning on offering both lower-power HE and high performance SE models.
Microsoft made headlines yesterday when it was discovered the company had been asking some of the 1,400 employees it laid off last month to pay back money it had overpaid as part of their severance. The letter blamed the mistake on an "inadvertent administrative error," which had our readers divided on whether or not Microsoft was justified in asking for the money back. Reader 'Phated1' pointed out how even a small overpayment could add up if multiplied by a large number of employees, but the best reader comment came from 'punditguy':
"Now I'll have to redo my Silicon Valley edition of Monopoly: 'Microsoft Error in Your Favor. Pay $200.'"
While a Microsoft spokesperson at first refused to offer any details saying it was a "private matter between the company and the affected people," the software maker is now saying it will not pursue trying to get its money back, perhaps figuring out the alternative is not worth the bad publicity.
"Last week, 25 former Microsoft employees were informed that they were overpaid as a part of their severance payments from the company," Microsoft wrote in a statement. "This was a mistake on our part. We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner. We are reaching out to those impacted to relay that we will not seek any payment from those individuals."
According to Microsoft human resources chief Lisa Brummel, the 25 former Microsoft employees received, on average, about $4,000 or $5,000 in extra pay. An additional 20 former employees were underpaid, and Microsoft said it will immediately reimburse them.
If Marvell has its way, plug computers will soon become commonplace. The company today announced its Plug Computing initiative, which seeks to make always-on computing not only more flexible and easy-to-use than it is today, but also more environmentally friendly compared to a typical desktop or laptop PC.
A plug computer is essentially a small embedded computer that plugs into a wall socket and hooks into your home network via an Ethernet cable. It can then run network-based services that would typically be handled by a desktop or laptop. Marvell's SheevaPlug platform, for example, comes equipped with a Kirkwood embedded processor based on an embedded 1.2GHz Sheeva CPU, 512MB of flash memory, and 512MB of DDR2 memory.
Comparing Age of Conan’s dark, blood-splattered fantasy world to those of its competitors is like comparing night to day, so we suppose it’s only fitting that we can’t really see a light at the end of this tunnel.
Age of Conan developer Funcom recently announced its relocation to the pointy edge of a quickly crumbling cliff (artist’s depiction here) – reporting that it lost $23.3 million during its fourth quarter of 2008. The culprit: Age of Conan’s free-falling subscription numbers, which now sit at a mere 100,000 after reaching an all-time high of 700,000.
On top of that, Funcom CFO Olav Sandnes decided to risk a dip in the economy’s increasingly choppy waters rather than continue with Funcom, announcing his resignation with all the optimism he could muster.
"Funcom is a company with a substantial potential based on a unique combination of skill sets in a fast growing global market. I wish Trond Aas and the rest of the organization all the best in realizing the full potential of the company," he said.