Thursday, May 31, 2012

VIA Announces a New Fanless ARTiGO

We received this information from VIA Technologies this week.

VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator of power efficient computing platforms, today announced the VIA ARTiGO A1200 slim PC kit, featuring a VIA Eden™ X2 dual core processor. The fanless, ultra-compact VIA ARTiGO A1200 is suitable for a myriad of applications in the home or office, including home server, home automation, hotel management, media streaming, digital signage and surveillance applications.

The latest in the VIA ARTiGO series, the VIA ARTiGO A1200 delivers an ultra-low profile design a mere 3cm high, and utilizes the innovative industrial buckled-blade thermal fin design to dispatch system heat and provide reliable, stable performance in temperatures ranging from 0ºC~45ºC. The VIA ARTiGO A1200 can fit easily into any environment, whether it is behind a monitor or on the wall with a 10 x 10 cm VESA mount or placed alongside other home media devices.

The ultra thin 24.3cm x 12.4cm x 3.0cm VIA ARTiGO A1200 is powered by a 1.0GHz VIA Eden X2 dual core processor for a fanless power efficient system with support for up to 4GB of DDR3 RAM. Combined with the highly integrated all-in-one VIA VX900 media system processor (MSP), the VIA ARTiGO A1200 provides playback of the most demanding HD video formats, including MPEG-2, DivX, WMV9, VC1 and H.264 for a breathtaking viewing experience at screen resolutions up to 1080p.

The unique dual-sided I/O coastline interface includes one HDMI and one VGA display port, two high-speed GigaLAN Ethernet ports, four USB 2.0 ports, one CFast socket, two audio jacks (Mic-in and Line-out), 12V DC-in power and an optional USB 3.0 host port.

For more information about the VIA ARTiGO A1200 please visit:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bye-Bye Blackberry

Research In Motion (RIM), the makers of all things Blackberry, temporarily suspended the trading of their stock on the NASDAQ exchange when they announced they were operating at a loss. Everyone knows that RIM is in BIG trouble. Their once powerful empire has collapsed and they have done little, if anything, to correct the situation.

There was a time when business people everywhere lived with their Crackberries keeping them in constant contact. Today they have been replaced with iFruit phones and Androids. RIM got people hooked on being connected 24/7 but couldn't maintain their once unbeatable lead. They were out-innovated and have lost the race.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Was Pentax Smart?

Before I go any further I need to make something VERY clear: I love Pentax dSLRs and their superb lenses. They are my first choice every time as fine photographic equipment. With that said, I need to explain why I question some of their decisions.

Prior to the Pentax acquisition by Ricoh from Howa they made some significant choices that really seem odd to me. In the past year Pentax has introduced two mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILCs) the Pentax Q and the Pentax K-01. Again, don’t get me wrong, I love the MILC concept, it’s very 21st Century.

Here are the problems I see with the two Pentax MILCs. The Pentax Q is by far and away the smallest camera we’ve used in the class and that’s because of the tiny sensor. It takes surprisingly nice pictures but a bigger sensor would have allowed for even better pictures. Because it’s so new, there are very few interchangeable lenses available and no lenses from the independent lens makers (yet).

As for the K-01, it has a much larger sensor and the standard Pentax K lens mount. These are big pluses and really make the camera useful. However, choosing to have a big time designer create the new “simplified” design must have cost them a bundle. Their add campaign has been stressing the design more than the great improvements in sensor and hardware the K-01 has.

It may be that I’m short sighted and don’t have the big picture here so I’ll wait and see what happens. Pentax may be brilliant and I just don’t see it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day in the United States. It is a day when we remember all of the fallen heroes who have given their all so we can be free. We pray that they are resting in peace.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Uber-Compact Computer

We received this information from PC World and found it very interesting.

First we saw the Raspberry Pi and the Cotton Candy devices emerge; then, almost exactly a month ago I wrote about the Mele A1000, a small ARM device that sells with Android but can be configured to run Ubuntu Linux as well.
The latest to appear? None other than the MK802 micro-PC, a USB-sized device priced at $74 that runs Android 4.0 and Linux.
This is turning into a veritable smorgasbord of choices, and I believe it's just the beginning of a real revolution in computing.
1080p HDMI Video Output
Featuring a single-core 1.5GHz AllWinner A10 Cortex A8 ARM processor, Android 4.0, 512MB of DDR3 high-capacity memory, and WiFi connectivity, the MK802 is now available on Aliexpress for $74 including free shipping to the United States via China Post.
With a MALI400 graphics processing unit, the device from Chinese brand rikomagic features 4GB Flash storage, a microSD slot, and two USB ports: one full-sized and one micro, according to CNXSoft. Video output is via 1080p HDMI--an HDMI cable needs to be added separately--and users can tap either an Android virtual keyboard or add a wireless mouse and keyboard.                      
Perhaps best of all is that users can run Ubuntu, Debian, or another Linux distribution of their choice via microSD card.
A New Category of PCs
It's true that this device is more expensive than the $35 Raspberry Pi, but it's also cheaper than the $199 Cotton Candy. It's very comparable to the $70 Mele 1000.
The bottom line, though, is that this is yet another choice for those seeking a low-cost computing option, and once again it's powered by ARM and Linux--both the Android variety and more traditional forms, if so desired.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mobile Phone Sales

The sales numbers are in for phone sales in Q1 of 2012. Not surprisingly Android and the iFruit company were one and two in sales. What is a bit surprising is how quickly they are running away from the rest of the players. Between them they have over 80% of the market, 59% for Android and 23% for iFruit.  Last year they only had 54% of the market so you can see how fast they’ve grown.

The also rans are Symbian (6.8 percent), RIM Blackberry (6.4 percent), Linux (2.3 percent) and MSFT Windows 7/Mobile (2.2 percent) coming in dead last. As you can see, none of them has a significant share of the market.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Facebook IPO

I hope everyone who read my blog piece concerning the Facebook IPO heeded my advice. If you recall, I was VERY skeptical about the IPO and warned readers to avoid it completely. It looks like what I predicted was spot on, the stock is now down to $32 a share from the IPO price of $38 and all of the people who invested their hard earned money have lost a bundle.

Where will it go from here? I'm not sure but I doubt if it will be the next Google or iFruit company. Facebook just doesn't have a business model that inspires investors to jump on.

Frankly, and I'm far from a stock market expert, I think Facebook should have offered half the number of shares they did and priced it in the low $20's creating a high demand that would have driven the price higher. Of course, all of the Facebook insiders wouldn't have reaped the rewards they raked in in those first few minutes making them all very rich. Greed wins out over good business sense once again.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Netbooks Are Still Alive!!

I read this brief piece on Digitimes and thought it was worth passing on:

Acer and Asustek Computer, seeing as most other vendors have quit the netbook market and netbook shipments are becoming more stable, plans to launch new netbook models with Intel's upgraded Atom processors, which are set to appear at the end of the third quarter, according to sources from notebook players.

Intel plans to release upgraded version of Atom N2600 and N2800 at the end of the third quarter and will add new function design to improve performance and in addition to Windows 8-based model, the two vendors also plan to launch Tizen-based netbooks around the same time.

Although the netbook segment is losing demand in mainstream markets, but demand still remains strong in emerging markets and the sources believe that netbook will still be able to maintain a stable shipment proportion in the notebook market.

Currently, Acer and Asustek are able to ship more than 3.5 million netbooks each year.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New VIA APC Android PC

VIA Technologies announced a new Android PC system. Here’s the announcement:

VIA Technologies, Inc, a leading innovator of power efficient computing platforms, today unveiled the $49 APC Android PC system.

Powered by a WonderMedia ARM processor, APC integrates memory, storage, and a full set of consumer I/O features in a small footprint Neo-ITX motherboard that can be connected to a TV or monitor. The system also features a custom build of Android that has been optimized for keyboard and mouse input, and comes with a browser and a selection of preinstalled apps.

"APC brings the familiarity and convenience of Android to the PC at a US$49 price point that will open up exciting new markets and applications," said Richard Brown, VP of Marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. "Like a bicycle for your mind, APC will enable more people than ever before to explore the vast online universe."

APC is based on the new Neo-ITX form factor measuring just 17cm x 8.5cm and can be housed in any standard Mini-ITX or microATX chassis, providing enthusiasts with unrivaled flexibility to create new mods and DIY projects as well as ensuring rapid time to market for system integrators and OEMs utilizing the platform.

APC consumes only 4 watts when operating at idle power and 13.5 watts at maximum load. This is ten times less than a standard PC system and ensures significant power savings in large scale deployments.

APC Features
APC combines an optimized version of Android with a rich hardware package to deliver the best of the internet to users. With the inclusion of hardware acceleration for the most demanding video formats, the APC delivers stunning HD quality multimedia, either streamed from sites such as YouTube or stored locally and delivers a great gaming experience on a large screen monitor or TV.

Pricing and Availability
Priced at just US$49, APC will be ship in July 2012. For more details, please visit

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

New Pentax dSLR!!

We received this announcement and it’s HOT!!                            
Introducing the fully weather sealed PENTAX K-30.
Thanks to the K-30, for the first time in a long time location doesn't matter. Whether it's a sandy day at the beach or a trek into the wet rainforests of Belize, the K-30 is the ideal DSLR camera to capture your memories regardless of your location or the elements you face. Its 16 megapixel sensor and full 1080P HD video capabilities coupled with a fully weather sealed, dustproof and coldproof, ergonomic body, give you the flexibility and comfortability to shoot what you want, when you want and where you want.                        
  • 16 MP CMOS sensor
  • 1080p HD video
  • Advanced auto focus and image stabilization
  • 100% FOV viewfinder

Monday, May 21, 2012

Digital Camera Flash Problems

One of the perpetual problems we’ve run into when we review cameras is the anemic flash units built into them. The reason for the weak flash units is obvious: they are designed to fit into the camera and aren’t meant to provide studio quality lighting. They are just meant to give you additional light for snapshots and nothing more.

We’ll be doing a LOT of traveling over the next few months. As a matter of fact, we’ll be on the road more than we’ll be in the office until late July. While we’re away we still need to work and we have several digital camera products to test on the road. While putting together a travel kit we noticed how bad the flash units are on all of the cameras we want to take with us.

We tested the few external flash units we have acquired over the years and none of them seem to be a solution to our potential problems. The main problem we’re worried about is a side trip to attend my niece’s wedding. How can I take good enough picture of the beautiful bride and her lucky husband?

We’ll work on the problem and let everyone know what we decide to do.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Snapshot Cameras

Over the weekend I attended a dance recital for very young dancers. There were two things that I saw that really stood out for me. First was the young ladies dancing to Mickey Mouse’s Birthday Party, the same exact song my daughter danced to 28 years ago when she danced in her recital!

The second thing that caught my attention was the number of people taking snapshots and videos with large Tablet computers! I expected lots of Smartphones being used as snapshot cameras (that’s what I was using) but it really surprised me to see people holding up 8” and 10” Tablets to take videos.

To me it’s a sign of just how much Tablets have become an integral part of our everyday lives in a very short time. Phablets have replaced more than just Netbook computers, they’re also replacing desktop and laptop computers and both still and video cameras. And just think, MSFT missed this one by a mile. Just like they missed the internet explosion 15 years ago.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


By George Harding

How would like to have earbuds that don’t slip out of your ears when you get sweaty or when you’re jogging?

yurbuds solve these problems and beside, they’re very comfortable, even after several hours of wear, are water-resistant and provide ambient noise protection.

Why is that, you ask? That’s because they are designed to fit your ear, so they are comfortable for a long period of wear. They fit better than other ear buds because they twist into place and stay there no matter what you do.

yurbuds were designed by athletes for athletes and so solve the problems most vexing to them. Today many athletes listen to music with yurbuds while they train. Once you try them you won’t want to use anything else.

The original designer was an ironman triathlete (luck our Editor) and a 24-time marathoner. The Ironman version has the same top qualities as the other versions, but has a volume control/forward-back-pause control as well. This control keeps you from having to fool with the device you are listening to while you jog.

And, of course, the sound quality is superb. What else would you expect from your earbuds?

There are three models plus an armband version. The Inspire Pro, Endure Pro and the Blaze. The first two of these have a control that allows you to control navigation of music and phone calls even during activity.

Price $30 and up

Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook IPO

Today is the BIG day for Facebook, they’re going public. How many of our readers are going to take the plunge and buy shares in Facebook at $38+ a share? I know I’m not!

I’m reminded of a couple of IPOs in the past, AOL and Palm in particular. Back in the early ‘90s, before the bubble burst, there were lots of companies with dubious business models that made millionaires out of hundreds of people overnight. As time went on their stock prices eventually came crashing down and investors were left holding the bag.

Of course, the people who had sold their shares early on at huge markups where sitting pretty with all of their cash. Somehow I see deja vu all over again.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A World-wide Economy

At one time there were literally hundreds of companies involved in the hard drive industry, today there are just three manufacturers left. Recently the acquisition by Western Digital of Hitachi GST, Seagate of Samsung's hard drive division and Toshiba of Fujitsu’s has created three mega manufacturers.

As a result of this consolidation, two weather events halfway around the world, the Tsunami in Japan and the flooding in Thailand, caused the manufacture of hard drive to be severely curtailed. Prices of hard drives had been on a steady downward slope for many years but this year prices are going up. When will prices start to come back down? I don’t know for sure but my guess is after things get back to whatever the new “normal” is.

Of course, capacity and speed continue to improve dramatically. Moore’s Law gets totally blown away by what the hard drive industry has done. Let’s hope that the three remaining players keep this rapid innovation on track.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

UT Wire D-Wings

Every once in a while we receive a product to review that is so simple that it really catches our attention. The UT WIre D-Wings are that kind of product! They are so simple and effective I’m amazed that they haven’t been thought of before.

The D-Wings are plastic cord holders that have double sided tape on the flat bottom.that allow users to keep power cords neatly together and out of the way. We’ll be doing a review in our next ePub so stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No More Free Game Booster

We received this press release and though we should pass it on.

IObit, well-known for its free system utility software, today announces that its flagship product Game Booster, the world's leading gaming optimizer, will no longer be available as freeware after June 30, 2012. Users have until now and June 30th to download the current freeware version before it is replaced with a paid version.

Game Booster helps users experience the best quality gaming via a one-click resource optimization button, which enables users to play games smoothly - even on old computers. Since its original release as freeware, Game Booster has become a "must-have" application for many gamers. Over 2 million users have downloaded the application, according to CNET.
"We intend to keep pace with what gamers care about, and improve Game Booster with practical functions to satisfy gamers' demands," says Kevin Zhou, marketing director for IObit, "Gamers ask for high speed and system stability when gaming. They want easy-to-use software rather than complicated programs that could potentially drag a CPU down."

Beginning in July, Game Booster will only be available as a paid application. Users who download Game Booster before July will still have full application functionality after the change. Zhou also hints that more announcements concerning the future of Game Booster will be released as July approaches. It remains to be seen how this will affect downloads and popularity, but users still have the opportunity to download Game Booster at no cost for the next two months.

Game Booster is Windows 7, Vista, XP and 2000 compatible. For more information and to download Game Booster, visit

Monday, May 14, 2012

Free Software Reminder

We want to remind everyone about tomorrow's free software offer from LapLink. You can get all of the details from our post from May 7th.

LapLink has always made very useful software and we recommend everyone try their products.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

International Travel

I have been very lucky over the years to have traveled to many countries across the world. This fall I will be traveling on one of those once-in-a-lifetime cruises and I need to plan my camera equipment.

My first thoughts are to go with really compact cameras and lenses, Olympus PENs, but I’m thinking about changing my mind. If this is a really important tip, then bring the best you have, full size dSLRs and lenses.

Should I go micro4/3 or APSC? Thoughts, please.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Win7 Accessibility

By Bayle Emlein

You’ve paid for them. You might as well take advantage of the accessibility features built into Windows 7. Many of these tools, such as the screen reader and magnification, can be helpful in everyday operation, especially if you’re using a small screen, such as a netbook.

It all starts at Control Panel. Then look for the Ease of Access Center to turn on and manage the individual feature.

The accessibility features can be divided into categories:
  • Visual supports make things easier to see.
  • Magnifier enlarges the display in the focus area. It might take a bit of practice to learn to locate your target as you scroll around the big screen, but text in child windows is not clipped the way it is when you change the screen font size.
  • OnScreen Keyboard places an operational keyboard on the desktop. When might you want that?  When using an itty bitty netbook.
  • Aural supports use your listening and hearing.
  • Narrator reads text on the screen. (ZoomText is a commercial product that offers more features. For less money, and fewer features, NaturalReader and ReadPlease offer a free version of their text readers as well paid versions with added features.)
The Windows 7 built-in speech recognition application works quite well. It is usually necessary to boost the microphone for any speech recognition application. Go to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Sound > Manage Audio Device > Recording tab and increase the microphone volume. As with the commercial speech to text products, it’s worth your time to go through the training process that is offered. The tutorial is also worth a look/listen: Go to Control Panel > Ease of Access > Speech Recognition > Speech Tutorial.  (The commercial program Dragon Naturally Speaking [Dragon Dictate on the Mac platform] has more features.) Both have options for controlling the computer as well as for text input.  

The Win7 Accessibility can reduce a few of the hassles in your computing life. features and are just fun to play with. It’s not hard to set them up. Just watch out for Narrator. It’s like a five-year-old that just will not stop reading to you. However, the reading letter-by-letter feature can be helpful for someone learning to type, as it echoes each key as it is pressed. In theory, this reduces the need to watch fingers.

Friday, May 11, 2012

New LensPen Product

Since its introduction last year, SideKick by LensPen has become a necessity for completely removing fingerprints from iPad screens – everything needed to remove fingerprints from the first generation of iPads.

Now that iPads include a camera, how do you keep the lens clean? LensPen has an answer: MicroPro micro lens cleaner.

MicroPro includes the same features that have made the Original LensPen a camera necessity for 20 years – a soft, natural brush to remove dust, and a soft cleaning tip specially sized to clean the lenses on iPads and iPhones. Like the SideKick cleaning pad, the MicroPro cleaning tip is impregnated with a unique carbon compound.

Carbon’s grease-cutting properties remove fingerprints from optics and screens safely and effectively. The carbon compound found in LensPen products is similar to the one used in printer’s ink; the reason why newspapers have long been an effective way to clean windows and mirrors. High tech meets old tech.

LensPen products are available on Amazon, Best Buy and other fine retailers. For more information on LensPen products, go to

Thursday, May 10, 2012

New HP Notebooks

We saw a press release this week announcing new HP notebook computers. Here’s an excerpt:

HP today expanded its award-winning notebook portfolio with thin and light Ultrabook™ systems and Sleekbooks packed with the latest technologies for both consumer and business demands.

New additions to the HP collection include:

  • The HP ENVY SpectreXT is an ultramobile premium Ultrabook that delivers an overall premium experience with extraordinary design and performance.
  • Offering both style and substance, HP ENVY Sleekbooks and HP ENVY Ultrabook systems provide the ultimate entertainment experience in 14-inch and 15.6-inch diagonal display options.
  • The enterprise-ready HP EliteBook Folio 9470m was built from the ground up to be everything a business Ultrabook should be, with the security, manageability and reliability features IT demands.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Freeware Music Software

We haven’t tried this product as yet but the price sure is right.

Free Music Tools to Help Users Convert Audio, Rip Music CD, Edit MP3 Tags, Cut and Merge Audio Files today introduced MP3 Toolkit, a powerful suite of free music editing tools, allowing users to convert between audio formats, rip CD disks, edit tags, cut and merge MP3 files and record MP3 from the mike. The application is distributed as freeware from

The free MP3 Toolkit applications include:

- MP3 Converter lets the user convert one or more audio files to a format of choice which can be MP3, WMA, OGG, WAV, FLAC, AC3, AAC or AMR. In addition to the audio format, one can customize other settings such as bitrate, rate, audio channel and destination folder. Offering an intuitive interface and simple controls, MP3 Converter makes it remarkably easy to convert between audio formats.

- CD to MP3 Ripper is designed for anyone who wants to make backup copies of tracks from an audio disk. For this the application offers four audio formats and different options to customize the output. For example, if MP3 is selected as output, the user can choose bitrate, maximal VBR bitrate, encoding quality and destination folder. CD ripping is accurate and produces music files in brilliant quality.

- MP3 Tag Editor provides a handy interface to edit tags of an MP3 file. One can add or edit a song title, artist, album, year, comment and track number. Also it's possible to define a file name format ([Artist] - [Title], [Title] - [Artist] and more), directory format ([Current Folder]\[Artist]\[Album]\) and enable additional file rename options (Append Bitrate to Filename, Append Mode to Filename).

- MP3 Merger is a simple tool for merging two audio files into one. All the user needs to do is select files in MP3, WAVE, FLAC or OGG, specify the output settings such as bitrate, rate, audio channel and output folder and start the process by clicking the Merge MP3 File Now button. For the convenience of the user, MP3 Merger offers a batch mode that enables merging multiple files in the fully unattended manner.

- MP3 Cutter lets the user cut an audio file to remove unnecessary parts. One may want to do this in many situations, for example, in order to make a custom ringtone for the smart phone. For this, it's necessary to open a file in the application, select the start and end position during playback, and then click Save. The application allows customizing the output settings such as bitrate, rate and channels.

- MP3 Recorder is designed to help users to record any sound from the microphone to standard MP3 format without any limitation on length. Also it's possible to record streaming audio provided that the sound card supports sound mixing. Again the user can select sample rate, bitrate and channels. To record an audio file, one needs to click the Start Recording button, and then click it again to stop recording.

MP3 Toolkit runs under Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, 2003, VISTA and 7. The suite of applications is available as a free download from the product website: