Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day

Today is Labor Day in the States, the unofficial end of summer. We would like to wish all of our regular readers a happy holiday and .we hope you have an enjoyable cookout with family and friends.

See you tomorrow with more of the latest hot news from the tech world. And remember.... no wearing white after Labor Day!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

NAB Conference

By George Harding

I attended the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conference in Las Vegas. It was very interesting and although there was a lot that was over my head, there was a lot that I was able to understand. This conference  is aimed at those companies that provide goods and services to broadcasters of every type: TV, radio, service providers, photographers, video makers, gaming and more. It attracted over 98,000 attendees! Here are some of those whose booths I visited.

Showstoppers provided a number of vendors of various types. One that was unique and was not of the broadcast type was Elio Motors. The product is a 3-wheeled car, 2 wheels in front, one in back. The list price is $6,800, which includes A/C, power windows and locks, Am/Fm radio, seats two and has a 3 year/36,000 warranty. Look at eliomotors.com to see it.

Another interesting product was the DJI Phantom, a drone-type instrument with camera attached. It is controlled by a controller to direct the Phantom’s direction and altitude, as well as the direction and attitude of the camera. The camera has resolution up to 1080p with 30 frames per second and 14 megapixel capability. The controller has an attached screen to keep track of current flight telemetry. The video can be sent directly to your phone by Wi-Fi, with no intermediary unit involved. Price from $479. See dji.com

LaCie introduced three new Thunderbolt storage devices, designed to be used in a RAID array: the 8big, up to 48 TB; the 5big, up to 30 TB; and the 2big, up to 12 TB.

HP introduced two new Dreamcolor monitors, each with extreme resolution. The price is half that of the prior models. Each has 10-bit color, enhanced internally to 14-bit capability. Each can be calibrated directly through the monitor, without additional equipment. Each also supports 4K input. See

I was surprised to see how many ways there are to light a subject, how many ways to capture video and how many ways to display the result. The accompanying photos show some of these.

There was a Russian fighter jet on display at NAB, which had nothing to do with broadcasting, but as a pilot, I was very interested in the airplane. I had an opportunity to get into the cockpit. A fairly steep ladder led from ground to cockpit, then I had to squeeze into the narrow space. The jet was built to accommodate a 5’ 6” pilot. My 6’2” didn’t fit very well. Once in the cockpit, the panel array looked very familiar. The pilots fly to various events and perform. They are all volunteers!

One very interesting panel presentation brought together 5 of the people who worked on the unique details of the movie Gravity. Each brought some special experience to development of this ground-breaking movie.

There were a number of keynotes, some of which talked about TV success stories, others about challenges ahead. One significant challenge is the increased bandwidth that will be required due to video streaming. The dramatic increase in this method of viewing shows and events that would in the past have been presented on television sets has made several changes to be made by broadcasters and other providers.

One solution is to increase the channel capability, which has a significant price attached to it from Internet costs to required improvements in hardware/software . Another solution is to decrease the size of the video being streamed by improved compression algorithms. Compression implies loss of one sort or another, so the challenge is to decrease signal size by compression without increased signal loss.

CES2014 had many products capable of showing 4K video (aka Ultra HD), but at that time there were few sources of 4K content. Today, however, there are many such sources and, as with the change from LPs to CDs, the dramatic improvement in quality warrants the extra expense to display such content. Responding to this need, many vendors at NAB had products capable of creating 4K content, others capable of displaying it. Here’s one vendors solution: Supermicro® Real Time Computing and Visualization Solutions for Broadcast Media and UHD 4K/8K.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

MSFT to Use Opera Browser


Opera Software and Microsoft have struck a deal that will replace Nokia's Xpress browser with Opera Mini on Microsoft's dying line of feature phones.

Also on Thursday, Opera announced its second-quarter earnings, saying that revenue was up 38% year-over-year, to $101 million for the period.

"The agreement with Opera will enable us to provide continuity of service as we transition from Xpress Browser to Opera Mini," Rich Bernardo, who leads the legacy phone business at Microsoft, said in a statement Thursday.

"We have signed a strategic licensing deal with Microsoft. We are basically taking over the browser building department in Nokia," Opera CEO Lars Boilsesen said during a news conference today that focused on the firm's second-quarter earnings. "This means that Opera Mini becomes the default browser for Microsoft's feature phone product lines and the Asha phones product."

The Microsoft-Opera deal covers feature phones based on the Series 30+, Series 40 and Asha platforms.

Current owners of those phones "will be encouraged to upgrade" from Xpress -- Nokia's home-grown browser that uses Mozilla's "Gecko" engine -- to Opera Mini. New phones will come with Opera Mini pre-installed as the default.

That encouragement will start in October, although Opera has not said what will happen if users decline Opera Mini and want to stick with Xpress. Boilsesen said that the encouragement would come "in different ways."

Like Xpress, Opera Mini relies on an infrastructure of back-end servers that aggressively compress the data before it's sent to the browser.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Swing Copters


Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen, who pulled that mobile game from the market because he said its popularity was ruining his life, released a new game on Apple Inc. and Google Inc. (GOOG) online stores called Swing Copters.

In the new app, users tap a smartphone screen to direct a character wearing a propeller headpiece flying vertically and navigating swinging, hammer-like obstacles. The title is similar in design and feel to Flappy Bird, in which users made a bird fly horizontally through gaps in pipes to score points.

Dong Nguyen shot to fame after Flappy Bird jumped to the top of rankings charts and removed that game from stores in February, writing in a Twitter Inc. post that the title “ruins my simple life.” Ouriel Ohayon, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of Appsfire, estimated the title had earned at least $20,000 a day and as much as $50,000.

“The challenge is to come out with an even better product,” Lam Nguyen, Ho Chi Minh City-based country director at International Data Corp., said in a phone interview today. He believes the developer, after some time out of the spotlight, is more prepared now.

Flappy Bird, without any marketing, was a global sensation, becoming the No. 1 free Apple Inc. (AAPL) iOS app download in 137 countries, according to App Annie Ltd., an analytics and marketing service. It was the top free Google Inc. Play download in 33 countries.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Pentax K-S1 dSLR

Pentax has just officially announced the new K-S1 DSLR camera: a compact yet feature-packed 20.2-megapixel body with a unique design and new user interface designed to appeal to users of modern portable electronics.  In terms of specifications, this camera is classified as a mid-range body.  Thus, it falls just below the Pentax K-3 in the current DSLR lineup and incorporates technologies from the flagship as well as the Pentax K-50.

Based on the appearance of the Pentax K-S1 we were expecting to see a basic entry-level camera, but what we have here is a clear, targeted effort to regain customers who might have abandoned their DSLRs in favor of a smartphone or high-end compact.  The K-S1's redesigned user interface abandons some of the traditional controls of a DSLR it favor of what Pentax calls a "flat field UI".  This entails the elimination of the top mode dial and front control wheel in favor of having nearly everything on the back of the camera.  In addition, the K-S1's video mode is now accessed via the power switch on the top of the camera, which promises to provide considerably quicker and easier access to video than other Pentax bodies.  All this is made possible thanks to a new PRIME M II processor.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Hasselblad Camera


With its H5D-50MS Hasselblad  says its “raised the bar yet again” for capturing “super high-quality images.”

It’s not a 200-megapixel sensor in there however: the new camera uses the company’s multi-shot technology to combine 50-megapixel captures to take “still-life studio photography to mind-blowing moirĂ©-free 200-megapixel resolution… to produce a quality that is hard to believe is possible.” (And let no one say Hasselblad can’t hyperbolize.)

Hasselblad adds that its “patented symmetrical multi-shot frame accurately positions the sensor with a sub-micron accuracy using piezo-electrical actuators, and can capture 6 shots with the sensor positioned accurately at a sequence of quadrants of the pixel…”

The medium-format 43.8 × 32.9mm sensor can take 1.5 frames per second, although long exposures can last 12 minutes. The high dynamic range is 14 stops.

Care to take a guess at the price? Nope, try doubling that. That’s closer. The H4D-200MS will cost you $45,000. And if you have a crappy old HD-50MS lying around, you can pay Hasselblad $10,000 to upgrade it for you.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Smartphone Kill Switch


Smartphones sold in California will soon be required to have a kill switch that lets users remotely lock them and wipe them of data in the event they are lost or stolen.

The demand is the result of a new law, signed into effect on Monday, that applies to phones manufactured after July 1, 2015, and sold in the state.

While its legal reach does not extend beyond the state’s borders, the inefficiency of producing phones solely for California means the kill switch is expected to be adopted by phone makers on handsets sold across the U.S. and around the world.

The legislation requires a system that, if triggered by an authorized user, will lock a handset to essentially make it useless. The feature must be installed and activated in new smartphones, but users will be able to deactivate it if they desire, and it must be resistant to attempts to reinstall the operating system.