Come November 19th, Microsoft will kick off its new 'Xbox Experience,' and with it some tantalizing changes to your console's dashboard. One of the more anticipated features includes the ability for Netflix subscribers to stream the online rental service's downloadable catalog straight to the Xbox 360 console for easy viewing on that living room television set. Customized avatars and a party chat feature are just some of the other enhancements that will flesh out the revamped dashboard.
That's great for 360 owners who have the requisite storage space (128MB minimum) to accommodate the update, but Microsoft has unveiled a new memory upgrade program that will keep Core and Arcade owners from being left out in the cold. Impressively, Microsoft is handing out free 512MB memory units to Core owners with the option of picking up a refurbished 20GB hard drive for $20. For $10 more, Arcade owners get the same 20GB hard drive plus a three-month membership to Xbox Live. Not a bad deal for either party.
To check if you're eligible, you'll need your console's 12-digit serial number and 12-digit ID handy, both of which can be found in the Dashboard's System Information area.
Perhaps consumers remain skittish at the presence of malware that cropped up on frames sold from popular retailers like Sam's Club, Target, and Costco. Or maybe everyone's saving up for Kodak's 7.6" OLED display. Whatever the reason, so far it's turned out to be a disappointing year for digital photo frame suppliers, who watched as demand failed to keep up with expectations.
Despite sagging sales, suppliers are hoping for a strong finish in the fourth quarter and continue to launch new products in anticipation of the holiday shopping season when demand tends to peak. But don't be surprised to find bigger frames this year. Price competition for the 7-inch frame market is cutthroat with the Free On Board (FOB) price hovering at just $30, causing some manufacturers to not even take orders for the smaller frames. Instead, look for a sales push in the 10.4-inch and 12-inch segments, which in addition to costing more also typically come with some multimedia functionality.
Have a digital picture frame recommendation? Hit the jump and let us know!
Think Spore is too short? Think Spore is too long? Think Spore is just right? Well it doesn't matter what you think; EA is putting Spore on a McDonald's diet, and the game won't stop expanding until it is the Space phase. Today's highly expected declaration -- which slaps release dates on a "Cute and Creepy" parts pack and an add-on for the aforementioned Space phase -- is only the beginning.
The Cute and Creepy set, not mincing any words, will include roughly 100 parts of both kitten-copyingly adorable and kitten-crunchingly horrifying varieties. For a mere $19.95, you can help break the record for world's fastest expansion pack when Cute and Creepy launches on November 18. It also works with Spore Creature Creator, making it the first expansion to cost more than the title it's expanding.
On the other hand, the Space pack sounds more akin to a real expansion pack. Slated for release during spring of 2009, it will see "players' space faring creatures... beam down from their spaceships to explore new planets and earn rewards for completing challenging missions" as well as "a new Adventure Creator will allow players to build and share online their own custom missions."
We were hoping EA might expand some of Spore's less-awesome stages, but hey, at least EA's heralds aren't shouting the joys of Spore: H&M. Yet.
SSDs are the hottest trend in storage, but how long will an SSD last? Right now,there's no industry standard for longevity or reliability. However, Cnet reports that Seagate and JEDEC are working together to establish a standards-based method for determining those factors.
Seagate isn't alone in working with JEDEC, the standards body responsible for standards in the solid-state industry. Earlier this year, X-bit Labs reported that JEDEC's JC-64.8 committee, which is responsible for developing SSD standards for embedded and removable storage, is being co-chaired by Micron Technologies and Seagate.
Micron brings its experience in memory technologies, while Seagate brings its experience in drive reliability to the endeavor. As Cnet reports:
Seagate says it can tap into the decades of expertise it has in error correction. "Some of the skills we've picked up along the way, to deal with imperfect media, has applicability to dealing with imperfect media on NAND."
Seagate's own SSDs won't hit the market until 2009, but hopefully its work with JEDEC to set standards for reliability will help make all SSDs more reliable.
So, what do you think? Will Seagate's presence on the JEDEC committee responsible for SSD standards make this latecomer to SSDs the one to trust when product finally hits the street? Or, are you ready to use SSDs right now? Join us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
No one can deny that StarCraft II's recently announced reverse-Voltron has officially renewed Blizzard's license to print money, but they can deny Blizzard's good intentions. Vehemently. Don't worry, though; the StarCraft crafters went out of their way to provide a few argument-dominating quotes on the off-chance you're still feeling a tad miffed about their decision.
"One of the things that [StarCraft II lead producer] Chris Sigaty was saying in interviews this weekend is that we had always planned to do two expansion packs for StarCraft II. This structure just reshuffles how we were going to do things," StarCraft rep Bob Colayco told Edge in response to the titular moo-juice allusion.
"Just to give you some context, typically with Blizzard RTSes, we release a single-player campaign that gives players just a taste of each race. The original StarCraft had 10 missions each or so for Terrans and Protoss. When we released the Brood Wars expansion pack, there was another eight or so missions for each of the missions."
Each race-focused StarCraft II release, then, includes the same number of missions -- and therefore, roughly the same amount of content -- as their unified predecessor. However, instead of a pithy 10 missions per race, the Terrans stand front and center for 30 missions, as do the Zerg and Protoss.
"Well, if you want to say 'one game' is 90 missions long, then yeah, I guess you’re only getting a third of a game each time," Colayco added. "Show me a game where there are 90 missions. We’re giving players a full-fledged single-player campaign experience included in each of the games."
See? That's no cash-grabbing scheme. That's Blizzard's sacrifice. We'd type more, but we're too busy saluting and choking back a single, glistening tear.
When it comes to Moore’s law these days, it seems like everyone’s a cynic. However, now there’s one more reason to be optimistic about the future of miniaturization, as researchers have published a paper describing a lithography technique which may provide a new means of producing chip features smaller than 32nm.
The technique involves the use of quasiparticles called plasmons to focus light at an incredibly high resolution. Chris Lee at Ars Technica describes the technology: “A lens, based on plasmons, can be created by a set of concentric metal rings. The fields from the plasmons in each ring act in such a way as to create a tightly focused spot of light. In principle, these lenses could focus light tightly enough to create features about five to ten nanometers in size.”
The problem with plasmon lenses is that they must be positioned at just 20 nm away from the wafer. The scientists claim to have overcome this hurdle with their new technique, which uses air pressure to control the lens’s distance from the wafer.
Significantly, the new technique eliminates the need to create a new photomask for each revision to the chip, potentially lowering costs and speeding up development.
Long the king of entertainment for the attention-deficit, YouTube is finally hosting full-length episodes of TV shows. Taking a cue from Hulu, Google will be offering the videos with the new theater view mode, “dimming the lights” on the rest of the page and adding a superfluous red curtain on either side of the video playback.
Also like Hulu, the full-length episodes will include ads before, after, and during the episodes. On their blog, YouTube explains: “As we test this new format, we also want to ensure that our partners have more options when it comes to advertising on their full-length TV shows. You may see in-stream video ads (including pre-, mid- and post-rolls) embedded in some of these episodes; this advertising format will only appear on premium content where you are most comfortable seeing such ads.”
So far, the site is offering a handful of episodes of Star Trek, MacGyver, Beverly Hills 90210 and The Young and the Restless, with the promise of more to come.
What do you think? Is YouTube going to be successful in the video on-demand market? Is it going to take more than low-res MacGyver to get you to tune in? Let us know after the break.
In what's becoming a trend, Washington D.C. joins the ranks of more than 500,000 businesses and organizations with its head in the clouds. District CTO Vivik Kundra inked an agreement with Google that will port the organization's 38,000 employees over to Google Apps.
According to Bloomberg, the agreement, which was signed back in June, is worth almost $500,000 a year and will include applications like Gmail, Google Docs, Google Video for business, and Google Sites to District employees. The latest win comes as another notch in Google's belt, as its Google Apps has been well received since launching a little over two years ago as Gmail for your domain.
But Google isn't the only one challenging Microsoft in the productivity world. Zoho also offers a collection of online apps and managed to snag GE as one of its customers. Meanwhile, Microsoft has largely been content to ride the success of its offline Office suite, but things could get interesting if cloud computing continues to pick up steam.
Noticeably late to the solid state storage (SSD) party is Seagate, who earlier said it would offer its first SSDs sometime in 2008. As the year is quickly coming to an end, the company has now pushed its entry into 2009.
"Our history is based on rotating magnetic media," Seagate's senior manager of market development Rich Vignes told Cnet. "But as solid-state comes online, we're embracing this new media type."
Not everyone would agree that Seagate is "embracing" the increasingly popular storage medium. While several companies have made a push to get SSDs into the mainstream market, Seagate's late entry will focus solely on the enterprise market with consumer drivers to be sold "later." So far the company has not yet announced announced plans to manufacturer NAND flash memory by itself like many of it competitors are doing. Instead, Seagate has kept the focus of its flash business to hybrid (flash/HDD) hard drives.
When you find a groovy tune, it's a tough task to turn the dial down below ear shattering levels, and if that statement needed any quantifiable proof, it now has it. According to a study for the European Union, personal music players are threatening permanent hearing loss for as many as 10 million Europeans.
A team of nine experts on the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks conducted the study and warned that most young people aren't aware of the damage until years after it's already done.
"Regularly listening to personal music players at high-volume settings when young often has no immediate effect on hearing but is likely to result in hearing loss later in life," the report said.
Listening to music for just five hours a week at high-volume settings can expose your ears to more noise than permitted in the loudest factory or workplace, and if you have a particularly good set of headphones, cranking up the volume to its highest setting can punish your hears as much as the sound of an airplane taking off.
The new study is one of just several to warn of long-term hearing loss among today's youth, but the older generation might be just as susceptible. Some estimates put the total number of EU residents listening to portable music players at anywhere from 50 million to 100 million out of a total population of 500 million.
If you can't avoid the temptation to avoid cranking up the volume, you might consider investing in crappier music.