We're down to the last month of summertime and retail stores have already dug out their back-to-school displays. If you've been putting off that dream vacation you had planned for 2008, you better get moving. Don't know where to go? Consider one of the top vacation spots for geeks as assembled by InformationWeek.
The news outlet has compiled an interesting list of unique getaway destinations suitable for the prototypical modern day tech and sci-fi enthusiast. Are you a Lord of the Rings fan? If so, book a flight for New Zealand and schedule a Lord of the Rings Tour. The brochure promises "breathtaking scenery captured on film by Peter Jackson in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Explore Middle Earth and other famous LOTR film locations".
If you're more of a Star Trek fan, stay stateside and get your geek on in a 50,000 square foot interactive tribute to the series that has spanned over 40 years. Destinations are yet to be announced, but the tour will travel to 40 cities in the next 5 years, with a list of 2008 locales coming soon.
Other recommended spots include the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a three- or six-day Space Academy program, a jaunt to Puerto Rico to view the 20-acre reflector on the radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory, and more.
Know of a geeky destination not listed? Let us know about it!
Having squashed a last-minute bug found in the Mac OS X version, Mozilla has released the first preview of Firefox 3.1. Code namd "Shiretoko" after a national park on Japan's northern-most island of Hokkaido, the Alpha 1 build includes many of the features Mozilla hopes to add to the update before its final release ships in late 2008 or early 2009. These include improvements to the Smart Location Bar and better tab switching.
Pressing ctrl-tab in the Alpha 1 build switches users between current and last-viewed tabs instead of navigating through each one sequentially, similar to the alt-tab application switching in Windows (or command-tab for those of you grooving on a Mac). Users will also be able to see thumbnail previews of the pages in each tab. Surfers not wanting to get their hands dirty with an Alpha build can get this functionality now with the Ctrl-Tab extension.
Mozilla is also developing the Gecko 1.9.1 layout engine, which makes its debut in Firefox 3.1 Alpha 1. For this reason, expect sketchy compatibility when attempting to render some web pages.
If you choose to give the new build a whirl, be sure and let us know what you think below!
Laptops built around Intel's Centrino 2 platform are on the verge of marching into the market place en masse, and MSI appears ready to go with a pair of new gaming notebooks. The top-tier motherboard maker has launched the GX620 (15.4" WSXGA+) and GX720 (17" WSXGA+) Centrino 2 notebooks with each one sporting Nvidia's GeForce 9600M GT graphics with 512MB GDDR3. Other features include:
Intel PM45 Chipset
Up to 4GB DDR2
320GB SATA Hard Drive
Blu-ray DVD Player
Windows Vista Home Premium
Quick launch sensors above the keyboard will give gamers the ability to activate MSI's Turbo Drive Engine Technology, which "overclock the GX620/GX720, increasing the speed of the Intel Core 2 Duo processor by as much as 15 percent." Users can also utilize MSI's ECO Engine and alternate between 5 different operating modes -- Gaming, Movie, Presentation, Office, or Turbo Battery -- to optimize battery life.
No word yet on pricing or availability, but don't be surprised to see more paper Centrino 2 notebook launches in the coming days/weeks.
Private spaceflight firm SpaceX received another setback as its Falcon 1 rocket failed to make orbit over the weekend, marking the third time the firm has been unable to reach outer space. The first time came back in March 2006 when a fuel line leak and subsequent fire due to a corroded nut ended the operation. Then again in March 2007, the Falcon 1's second stage engine shut down because of a fuel slosh and roll control issues just before reaching orbit.
This time it was the failure of two rocket stages to separate that ended the mission about two minutes and 20 seconds into launch. The Falcon 1 was attempting to carry a small satellite called Trailblazer for the Pentagon's Operationally Responsive Space Office, as well as two small NASA satellites.
"It was obviously a big disappointment not to reach orbit on this Flight 3 of the Falcon 1," said Elon Music, SpaceX chairman and CEO. "On the plus side, the flight of our first stage, with the new Merlin 1C engine that will be used in Falcon 9, was picture perfect. Unfortunately, a problem occurred with stage separation, causing the stages to be held together."
Undeterred by the third failed attempt, Musk promised to move forward with plans for a fourth flight, while also continuing to develop Falcon 9 and Dragon thanks to a recent "major investment."
Homeland Security is once again drawing criticism, this time over a newly disclosed policy that has apparently existed for some time. According to the Washington Post, U.S. agents have (and have had) the authority to seize and retain laptops indefinitely, which as resulted in some travelers reporting not getting them back. And not just laptops, but all kinds of electronic devices, like cell phones, music players, portable hard drives, and more.
While the policy isn't new, it's only now being stated publicly and the contents of the DHS document has civil rights activists and lawmakers up in arms. Not only does it appear that government officials have the power to seize electronic devices, but according to U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, customs agents are allowed to analyze the contents of laptops without any suspicion of wrongdoing.
"The policies that have been disclosed are truly alarming," Feingold wrote in a statement.
Are you one of the forlorn Internet Explorer 7 users swept up in the wave of FireFox 3 mania? Do you long to make it cool to use Internet Exploder, umm make that Explorer, again? Do you want to help Microsoft do better with IE8?
Well, rise up and heed the call; Uncle Bill wants you! You can send an email over to IESO@microsoft.com and tell them about yourself and why you’d be a great beta tester. Maybe you’ll make it in and be part of the IE8 Technical Beta program for the second part of beta on Microsoft Connect.
Okay, so maybe AMD/ATI has earned some crowing rights with it’s 4870 Radeon videocard. It’s not on top in terms of pure performance, but its price point is closer to the sweet spot than Nvidia’s top card and the upcoming 4870 X2 will beat out the single GPU GTX 280 for about the same money. AMD however, is choosing to crow about the reliability of its ATI Mobility Radeon saying that it won’t suffer from faulty packaging like the problems Nvidia mobile GPUs suffered from recently.
Xbitlabs quotes a statement they saw from AMD, “In the past couple of weeks there has been considerable media attention regarding product reliability of certain notebook GPU die/packaging material failures. AMD is pleased to reassure our customers that our ATI Mobility Radeon GPUs are not experiencing any such abnormal field failures”
ATI chose eutectic in its ASIC packaging process, because the alternative high-lead bumps were known to be more fragile and subject to field failure issues if not implemented correctly.
“Package reliability is a matter of overall design and implementation. Factors such as the power distribution in the design of the ASIC, bumping process, bumping material and the techniques used to adhere bumps to the wafer all play an important role in the reliability of the packaged part.” AMD’s statement goes on to say.
Nvidia has remained mum on AMD’s statement. Xbitlabs says Nvidia didn’t choose to comment on the story either.
ATI's statement is pretty concerning overall. Is Nvidia still using high-lead bumps and if so, what steps have they taken to ensure that we won't see a repeat of the issue? I hope they will choose to respond to ATI's statements and either own up to the problem and tell us they fixed it, or tell us what is really going on. The ostrich approach of burying their head in the sand and hoping it all goes away is only going to hurt them in the long run.
It’s beginning to sound like Nvidia has a bigger problem on their hands than was first supposed. Can we expect them to make this right for those users with the screwed up GPUs in their laptops or will they put the screws to them and let the users take the hit? Sound off below!
DISH network became the first satellite provider to offer video in a full 1080p or 1920x 1080 progressive resolution on August 1st. The first movie they are offering in 1080p is I Am Legend on their Video On Demand service. DISH will use 1080p in place of 1080i or 720p whenever the content is available. The upgrade in resolution won’t be available for everyone. It will however, be available at no additional cost for any subscriber who has an HD DVR.
DISH will also greatly expand the number of HD channels that it can carry to 150 by this fall.
With cable and satellite companies to begin offering content in the higher resolution 1080p format closes the distance between TV and physical media such as Blu-ray and leaves the competition from download services like Apple TV and Xbox 360 movie rentals out in the cold.
It remains to be seen just how high a resolution do we need to be able to enjoy our movies or TV in. Is 720p really so bad? Many people just cannot see any reason to throw out their old DVD player and movie collection in favor of the slightly sharper picture available on Blu-Ray. The slow adoption of Blu-ray reflects this trend. For truly wide spread adoption to take place rapidly, we will need to see Blu-ray undercut DVD prices across the board. VOD and download services moving to 1080p may only hinder Blu-ray’s already sluggish adoption rate.
Have you already jumped over to 1080p or plan to soon? Sound off and tell us what convinced you to make the switch.
The new technology can replace facial features of a person featured in any image with that of someone else. The software is quite smart and picks features from thousands of images available on sites like Flickr. The USP of this software happens to be its ability to function flawlessly without any human intervention or support. Google can certainly give the face swapping software a thought, as it will not only be a more presentable alternative to obscuring but also bring a bit of comic relief.
When Vista launched over a year ago we had many compelling reasons not to upgrade. But as time progressed and Microsoft silently addressed our woes, it seems clear; the Vista of today could be somewhat misjudged. That doesn’t make it perfect however, and Microsoft has owned up to this by releasing a 14 page guide with tried and tested tweaks that improve overall performance and boost notebook battery life. This free and easy to follow PDF guide walks you through native tools built into the OS which allow you to optimize Vista’s performance.The contents are especially helpful if you are new to Vista, having just come from XP, but even Vista veterans are bound to find a few things of note. If you manage to make your way through the Microsoft guide and are still looking for more, a host of other tweaks and tips can be found in both our online archives and Maximum PCs March 2008 print issue.