This week, Google unveiled a public beta of its Picasa 3.0 photo-sharing software. Picasa 3.0 offers a huge number of new and improved features that will appeal to both point and shoot and DSLR users. I was particularly impressed by the following:
A new photo viewer that integrates with Windows Explorer and supports PNG, TGA and RAW formats as well as JPEG, TIFF, BMP, and GIF. The preview window displays thumbnails of other photos in the folder for faster navigation and offers one-click editing in Picasa, one-click uploading, or a one-click slideshow. Even on my less than swift single-core laptop, it displays Canon CR2 RAW files much faster than Windows Live Photo Gallery does. Google tested Picasa 3.0 on systems with up to 1 million photos, and it shows.
The ability to display image metadata for RAW files from within Picasa.
The enhanced photo collage creator with six preset designs along with easy drag and drop repositioning and image rotation. It's so good that I wonder if Microsoft Research's new AutoCollage 2008 (which costs $19.95) can compete.
Improved photo editing tools such as the retouching tool (good for removing scratches and dust) and the tuning tool, which features highlight, shadow, fill light, color picker, and color temperature controls. If you don't want to learn (or pay for) Adobe Photoshop Elements, you can do quite well in fixing less-than-perfect photos.
To see the photo viewer in action, and to find out where to learn more (or just get your hands on Picasa 3.0), join us after the jump.
I'd like to think that I'm a fairly well-adjusted person. I'm generally jovial, well-versed in a range of topics, and only fly into embittered, cursing rages when people really deserve it, or when they speak to me between the hours of 9 AM and 3 PM without having submitted the proper paperwork. Overall, though, I'm a circular peg in the round hole that is our society.
But it wasn't always this way.
As a wee lad, I was quite the little nerdling. I wiled away my time basking in the glow of a computer monitor, sending tiny green orcs to be trampled into tiny green puddles against insurmountably immense forces.
But that wasn't enough for me.
When I wasn't playing, I was drawing. Covered in construction paper scraps and the glue I didn't ingest, I'd emerge from my lair looking like a Swamp Thing pinata. There was a purpose to my demented sciences, however. In essence, I created the ultimate fan art. Towering paper monuments to my favorite videogame characters, they were. Four feet in height, and crafted with the utmost care. They were at once my greatest friends, yet also my only friends. (Note that I was, like, eight. It was perfectly normal, right?)
So, has gaming ever busted down the doorway into your day-to-day life? Any stories you'd like to share? Art projects? Fan fiction? Halloween costumes?
Regardless, today's Roundup is right up your alley. Boiling in the belly of this monstrous site are stories about a console developer decrying consoles, a PC developer spitting in the face of piracy, and Peter Moore dropping a big, bad F-bomb right on top of Sonic The Hedgehog's creator.
After a few eyebrows were raised over Chrome’s highly libertarian end-user license agreement (EULA) – almost a proclamation of a man’s fundamental right to piracy, an amendment or an explanation was inevitable. Chrome’s EULA stated that users were at liberty to use anything posted online through the browser. But Google has amended the EULA. The web juggernaut also downplayed the entire episode as a mistake. Setting the EULA aside, a few chinks in Chrome’s armor have already been sighted. Avi Raff, a researcher, has discovered that Chrome is vulnerable to carpet-bombing a la Safari.
Seagate hasn’t had to hard-sell its products directly to consumers hitherto, as manufacturers and disk drive resellers account for most of its sales. But all that will change in December with the airing of Seagate’s maiden commercial aimed at generic consumers.
Brian Dexheimer, the company’s president for consumer solutions, views the upcoming ad campaign as both an experiment and opportunity. The ad campaign will proclaim the indispensability of Seagate drives and show no gender bias – its Seagate not Gillette; there will be a separate set of ads for both men and women. Seagate’s ad budget has seen a substantial increase of 40% this year.
Most times when you read about a notebook recall the problem typically stems from a defective battery. But that's not the case with Sony's voluntary recall of 440,000 Vaio TZ notebooks. Sony says "irregularly placed wires near the hinge, or a dislodged screw inside the hinge, may create a short circuit, causing localized overheating." Affected models include:
The issue potentially affects all modes sold between July 2007 and August 2008. If you own one of the above models, Sony advises visiting http://esupport.sony.com/fixmypc where you'll be prompted to input your product code and serial number to see if your unit is affected. Alternately, you can call 1-888-526-6219, and if your model qualifies, Sony will provide a free inspection and on-site repair.
It appears AMD will tag upcoming Phenom processors with the FX nomenclature the company has used in the past. You might recall AMD's Athlon FX line sported both higher clockspeeds and an unlocked multiplier while carrying a premium price tag.
Not much is known about the upcoming Phenom FX line, but it's believed the new processors will be basaed on the Deneb FX core with four processing engines, shared L3 cache, and built on a 45nm process. TomsHardware reports the Phenom FX line will make a debut in mid-2009 on AMD's new AM3 socket platform. Whether or not AM2 platform owners will be left out in the cold remains to be seen, but AMD has previously stated that AM3 processors will work in AM2 sockets.
Pricing has yet to be revealed, and traditionally AMD's FX CPUs have held the upper end of the pricing spectrum. But at the same time, even AMD's current 'Black Edition' processors, which also boast an unlocked multiplier, don't break the bank. The company's flagship Phenom 9950 Black Edition commands less than $200 on Newegg.
Solid state drives (SSDs) are best known for the potential performance gains, but the numbers currently being touted could be just the tip of the iceberg. Engineers and researchers at the IBM Hursley development lab in England and Almaden Research Center in California have taken SSD technology to new heights by demonstrating performance results that surpass the world's fastest disk storage solution by 250 percent.
Using a combination of flash solid-state technology and IBM's storage virtualization technology, the company managed to transfer data at a sustained rate of over one million Input/Output (I/O) per second boasting a response time of under one millisecond. When pitted against the fastest industry benchmarked disk system, the company claims not only was performance improved by 250 percent, but it did so at less than 1/20th the response time and by taking up 1/5th the floor space, all the while requiring only 55 percent of the power and cooling.
Earlier reports that Microsoft's new ad campaign would kick off with Jerry Seinfeld as its OS pitchman turned out to be true, and so has the pre-release skepticism. It's hard to imagine being any more annoyed than when watching Justin Long portray the prototypical hipster for the umpteenth time, but like Vista when it first came out, general consensus is that Microsoft has dropped the ball and left eager PC fans more than a little underwhelmed.
How bad was it? Enough so that you won't find any pretense of unbiased reporting in this blog. Not only did the first commercial in Microsoft's $300 million advertising campaign appear to make little sense, but if it was aiming to be funny (and it was), it missed the mark.
"Today, we are kicking off a highly visible advertising campaign," wrote Microsoft's senior VP Bill Veghte in an email to employees. "The first phase of this campaign is designed to engage consumers and spark a new conversation about Windows – a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity."
Veghte goes on to explain that the first set of ads should be taken as an icebreaker, but if Microsoft was looking to make a good first impression with Seinfeld's debut, well, let's just say it didn't. See for yourself.
If Microsoft and Mozilla were content to shrug off Google's Chrome browser as just another also-ran, they might want to reconsider their position. Chrome still has a ways to go before it poses a legitimate threat to either of the market leaders, but its off to a damn good start, surpassing Opera in market share right off the bat. Net Applications' Market Share statistics site shows Chrome peaking at 1.48 percent the day after release, and as high as 1.73 percent yesterday. By comparison, Opera sits at .71 percent for the month of August, the highest it's been all year.
So what's the big deal? That remains to be seen, but Google's muscle in the online community should be obvious. For all of Chrome's potential, it's a beta release that so far doesn't support extensions and isn't yet as polished as other established browers, at least not yet. And while Opera isn't nearly the opponent that either Firefox or Internet Explorer is, many would consider it a niche favorite.
Is Chrome's initial success a sign of more to come, or will the initial buzz wear off?
As the system [running Windows Vista SP1] arrived to us, the off-the-shelf configuration had a ~45 second boot time. Performing a clean install of Vista SP1 on the same system produced a consistent ~23 second boot time. Of course, being a clean install, there were many fewer processes, services and a slightly different set of drivers (mostly the versions were different). However, we were able to take the off-the-shelf configuration and optimize it to produce a consistent boot time of ~21 seconds, ~2 seconds faster than the clean install because some driver/BIOS changes could be made in the optimized configuration.
Fortin identifies a number of design goals for Windows 7 to help it achieve a high percentage of "very good" boot times (under 15 seconds), including:
Reducing the number of system services
Reducing the demand that system services make on CPU, disk, and memory resources
Device and driver optimization
Improving parallelism of driver initialization (enabling multiple drivers to be installed at the same time)
Faster prefeching optimized for both traditional and SSD hard disks
Fortin's comments suggest that Microsoft is working very closely with system vendors to help assure that Windows 7 works well in typical preconfigured systems. Hopefully, Microsoft has learned a lot from the vast difference in performance between clean installs of Windows Vista and systems cluttered with OEM products not optimized for Vista.
Don't want to wait for Windows 7 to get faster boot times? Fortin also discusses analyzing systems with the Windows Performance Toolkit for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, available here.
How do you define fast boot time? When is a system "ready to go?" Give us your thoughts after the jump.