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October 2008 Archives

By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net SONY Ericsson definitely made some improvements in the design of its latest Wal kman phone but what caught me outright was its sort of rugged styling. Or maybe because the review unit they gave us was army green in color, which deviates a bit from the candy-color of previous Walkman phones. The quad-band W902 is a bit bigger than previous Walkman phones (the W880, for example). It has a slightly bigger 2.2-inch screen but is definitely thicker. A t around 100 grams, it weighs good enough for a steadier grip than the W880. Music and camera controls are conveniently located in the right side of the pho ne, and since the W902 is thicker, it feels more stable to fiddle around the bu ttons with your thumb. It also makes taking pictures (or recording video) a bit more stable when you t ilt the phone to its side. Those with less nimble fingers, however, may still f ind it cumbersome and like what I experienced with the W880, itâs more convenie nt to just press the center button when takings pictures. Also, unlike the other side which has a smoother finish, notice the criss-cross pattern on this side. Iâm not sure whether this is on purpose, whether itâs me ant to make oneâs grip more stable when using the camera. As mentioned, the other side has a smoother finish, but nothing smooth about So ny Ericsson insisting on its proprietary earphone jack, unlike most smart phone s that have standard 3.5mm slots. The W902, though, comes bundled with an adapter cable in which you can either c onnect the supplied earphones or any other standard earphones. In short, this phone isnât too earphone-friendly. If you must insist on using y our favorite earphones (like the one you probably use on your iPod), you have t o live with another dangling cable. Not pretty. The sound quality, though, is excellent like previous Walkman phones. Whatâs not too hate, though, is the pixel boost: the W902 comes with a 5-megapi xel camera (with autofocus) that takes better pictures than previous Walkman ph ones. It also has an LED light. Overall, not bad for a non-Cybershot model. The top button can be easily confused for an on/off button. Itâs actually a sho rtcut when you want to play music. Speaking of, the W902âs speaker (the sound comes from that small circle near th e base) plays decently without the earphones. The buttons in the keypad are spaced just enough to type SMS comfortably. The c all/clear/erase buttons are conveniently located in those three circles in the middle. Overall, save for the 5-megapixel camera, there is not much innovation in terms of function. Avid Walkman phone users, however, may welcome the W902âs design. Suggested retail price is P25,000 and this comes bundled with an 8GB memory st ick with USB adapter. Purchase of any Sony Ericsson Walkman model from now until Dec 15 entitles the buyer to a free Eraserheads: The Reunion concert CD. The CD will be initi ally available only through this Sony Ericsson-Sony BMG partnership. Other fans will have to wait awhile for the albu m's commercial release.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine National Police Makati Unit has launched the mechanical anti-terrorist concept (MAC) robot that looks like a magnified v ersion of a robotic toy weighing about 80 kilos. It is a good sign the government defense unit is looking at technology to bette r their operations. However, a look at the robot also signals how the technolog y is really in its infancy -- well, itâs a prototype. A good point about the MAC is that it uses locally sourced parts but it also po sed problems for developers. According to Engineer John Judillo of the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT), they had difficulty in making the parts fit the configuration of the other thus it took them about nine months to come up with MAC -- seven months for concept ualization and two months for development. Structure: The MAC uses simple electronic motors for actuation sourc ed locally which can allow immediate repair of the machine. It takes a while fo r the person behind the control console to command MAC to pick up and drop the explosive to a bomb basket, as Iâve seen in the demo. As I remember, since the student developers in the team will compete in the Fir st World Cup on Computer Implemented Inventions, possibly the key focus for dev eloping MAC is the programming behind it, specifically using C++ language. Suggested modification: It is possible to use advanced parts for the design wit hout importing them. How? By partnering with local electronics and if possible, semiconductor companies in the country for the chip parts. In my understanding, robotics as a discipline combines electronics, mechanics a nd software. The developers can focus on these three to develop a better MAC. A t present, TI and NXP, two of the big names in the chip manufacturing space, ha ve offices in the Philippines. It is possible to tap them as partners for the e ndeavor and donât forget homegrown electronics firms, which abound in Manila an d nearby provinces. Built: The first-generation MAC has a fiber glass casing painted black and uses four tires to move around. It is a remotely operated vehicle tied to the contr ol console via an umbilical cord. The cord can be extended to 30 meters, said t he developer team. Suggested modification: If the casing is fiber glass, the MAC could be destroye d in scenarios it cannot wheel away immediately from an exploding bomb. Time is critical to controlling bomb explosions and at P300,000 cost, losing three of these MACs in a month sums up to lost of public money. According to the developer, the MAC uses wires to enable reliable control. Goin g wireless is not an option but a must for solutions like this. One can never a ssume the explosive will always be located less than or equal to 30 meters away from the bomb team. What if itâs on top of the 50th floor? This question brings to another possible modification. Can the next-generation MAC climb stairs in case explosives are located there and not on the ground flo or? Current solutions from other countries use eight wheels to enable the robot to climb stairs. This could be an interesting area to look at. The MAC has four cameras that can be viewed by the person behind the control co nsole. Despite the four cameras, it takes a while to let the robot move around as well as for the person behind the console to command it without receiving ad ditional input from other bomb disposal members about MACâs grip on the bomb or how it needs to adjust a little on the left to fit the way. Suggested modification: In addition to the four cameras, the next-generation MA C can add a camera that will form 3D visualization to allow spatial perspective of the MACâs location with respect to the bomb based on the images from the fo ur cameras. This will allow the person behind the control console to âseeâ the environment the MAC is in as well as estimate its distance to the explosive. What other modifications will you suggest to be included in the next-generation MAC?
GLOBE and Smart are set to (finally) launch the Blackberry Bold this week. And while it really is a tad too late (the Bold was first announced in May), it should bear repeating , or ruminating, whether the Bold can really compete directly against THAT Appl e device. Here's a quick video showing the added features of the Blackberry Bold:
Of course, the iPhone carries better brand recall. I don't expect to hear the w ords "Blackberry Bold" in any conversation among already iPod-toting college st udents. And based from personal experience, I've already seen a few iPhone-toti ng college students. So where does that leave the Bold? I asked Vikki Mapua, analyst from XMG to give me her take on it. Acc ording to her, not much difference in terms of features between the two only th e Bold still carries far superior email capabilities. (For me, though, it's jus t the QWERTY keyboardâ¦sorry, me long-time Blackberry user.) Rightfully so, because the Blackberry targets mainly corporate users, although it's quite common to see pictures of Hollywood celebrities Lindsay Lohan or Par is Hilton) holding on to their Blackberrys like a can't-live-without accessory. According to Mapua, the launch of the Bold carries quite significance in the fa ct that both Smart and Globe are carrying it, whereas the iPhone is exclusive t o Globe. Which leads to the inevitable question: if you're looking to become part or the smartphone-toting set by December, will you a) buy an iPhone b) buy a Blackber ry Bold or c) wait a little longer for the touch-screen Blackberry Storm?

Photojournalism that moves

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By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net IF a picture paints a thousand words, how about a series of still images combin ed with sound? During a forum with a group of Filipino photographers, international photojourn alist DJ Clark says today âs photojournalists deliver stories using not one but a series of still photos combined with short video clips and sound to form a seamless narrative â almost like a movie. This method, dubbed âstreaming media,â changes how photographers tell stories. By creating a series of still images and blending them with other content, such as audio and interviews, telling stories have become more interesting, he adds . âTraditionally, photographers have been viewed as predators to peopl eâs despair,â says DJ Clark in an interview with INQUIRER.net. âThrough streaming media, this traditional view has fundamentally changed. For example, in video interviews, the people in the story can voice their opinion a bout whatâs happening in the picture,â he says. Will this require photographers to become videographers? Yes and no. Says Clark, the photographerâs unique talent to capture highlights of events is the key talent involved in streaming media. Aside from capturing stills, they get to capture videos to accompany the stills and help them tell a better story. On top of that, photographers explore other content, such as audio to accompany the series of images. However, this does not mean that photographers do what v ideographers for television do. âIt is about producing a quality narrative material that people can view on a p latform like the Internet,â the British photojournalist says. He says that over time, people will chose to watch quality content on the Inter net over nonsensical videos currently topping the charts of video sites, such a s Youtube.com. At present, the concern is how to let purist photographers embrace the change i n approach to photography. People can view image over and over and examine it carefully, while video has a timeline. He says photographers should do bothâhave a series of still images that can sta nd on its own and can be part of the seamless streaming narratives. âThis will be the future of newspapers,â says Clark. Links
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net YOU may be too trusting as you go and click on the link that you see on your fr iendâs site only to find out that the link was a malware. During the Cybersecurity: Protecting the Business forum, Vu Huy Nguyen, field r esearch consultant of McAfee Avert Labs said that social networking sites are n ow becoming more vulnerable to attacks since the users within the networks are trusted. âBe suspicious. Be wary. Itâs more of protecting yourself. Users should be awar e and beware. When they let the guard down, thatâs when attack happens,â Nguyen said. According to Nguyen, Asia faces these unique threats because users are often na ïve. He also said that the high growth in Internet users in Asia resulted in higher rate of cybercrimes. âEighty percent of the malware attacks are money-motivated,â explained Nguyen. Nguyen attributed the high rate of cyber crime to the lack of government regula tion and laws for some Asian countries. Also, he related that governments react to cybercrimes depending on its severit y. In the United States, the National White Collar Crime Center, The National Publ ic Survey on White Collar Crime in August 2005 stated that regulatory agencies attended to only one out of seven incidents of Internet fraud. In the 2007 Internet Crime Report, the National White Collar Crime Center, Bure au of Justice Assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded 206,88 4 cybercrime cases, with Internet auction fraud as the most reported offense, f ollowed by non-delivered merchandise. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the anti-cyber crime bill also known as "Cybercrime Prevention Act o f 2008" is yet to be passed into a law.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.NET ACCORDING to John Loiacono, senior vice president of Creative Solutions at Adob e, the core focus of Adobe Creative Suite 4 is to allow creative professionals embrace the potential of interactive design and deliver consistent work across media platforms. This is âensuring it is the idea, not the medium, that is the message,â he said. To enable this, Adobe said the release of CS4 Design Premium allows quick trans fer of projects from Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign to Flash, DreamWeaver, Fireworks or Adobe Acrobat 9. To be specific, designers can create dynamic documents by exporting an InDesign layout as XFL file, opening it in Flash, editing text and graphics and adding interactive elements. Web designers can build prototypes for a website or web a pplications in Fireworks with Photoshop or Illustrator layered artwork. For Photoshop CS4, designers can do 3D painting, scale images with mouse draggi ng, as well as generate composites based on extended depth of field and 360 deg ree panoramas with seamless tones and colors. Object-based animation in Flash Professional software allows designers to conve rt 2D images to common 3D shapes and use 3D transformation tools like 3D rotate and Bones tool, which offers inverse kinematics to create chain-like animation .

Acer Aspire One redux

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By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.net A couple months ago, INQUIRER.net r eviewed three of the first Intel Atom-based ultra-portable notebooks in the Phi lippines, the Asus Eee PC 1000H, MSI Wind, and the Acer Aspire One A110L. The A spire One was the lowest model among the three, having nearly the same features as the original Asus Eee PC, including an 8-Gigabyte solid-state drive, a 512- megabyte memory and running a Linux operating system. Nevertheless, it matched quite well with the Asus and MSI Atom models due to its low power consumption a nd basic operating system. This time, Acer Philippines lent us a higher model of the Acer Aspire One with all the bells and whistles. What Acer hopes to do with the Aspire One A150X is to find a suitable market for higher level ultra-mobile personal computer (UMPC ) users. These are people who want to still do some basic desktop editing done on a Microsoft Windows platform while retaining a handy device. Essentially, th e user must already have a notebook or a desktop computer, with the UMPC used o nly as a secondary device. Dimensions and weight The Aspire One A150X basically uses the same frame as the Aspire One A110L. It is still currently the smallest of the Atom-based UMPCs at 170 millimeter (width) by 249 mm (depth) by 29 mm (heig ht). Without its battery, this model weighs only 0.7 kilograms. It becomes heav ier when its main 6-cell 52000 mAh (milliampere/hour) lithium ion battery is pl ugged in. The battery is actually the single heaviest object in the laptop, abo ut half a kilogram, and it juts out of the back of the unit. Despite the aesthe tically unappealing look, the batteries extend the operating period of the Aspi re One. Configuration The Aspire One A150X has a lot of new features underneath its hood. Instead of an 8 Gb solid state drive, this one uses a 160 Gb hard disk. Its memory is also upgraded to 1 Gb to manage most of the Windows XP desktop applications, audio and video editing software. Many games will not play in this model and this is because of the limitations of the Atom processor. The integrated webcam is also upgraded to 1.3 megapixels compared to just the 0 .3 megapixel camera used in the first generation Aspire One. The higher webcam model is a nice throw-in but is not fully utilized unless the screen is substan tially bigger. Nevertheless, the Aspire one A150X is a few steps to becoming a full-scale note book. Screen, keyboard and touchpad There are no changes with the screen and keyboard size of the Aspire One A150X and the early model Aspire One A110L. It still uses an 8.9-inch LCD screen capa ble of rendering 1024x600 megapixels. But surprisingly, the screen looks crampe d when using Windows XP. This is an inherent problem with all small LCD screens as these cannot render Windows XP below 800x600, the lowest that Windows XP ca n go. Nevertheless, it's a relatively small problem to experience. The 95 percent-size keyboard is also the same as with the A110L, which is feels very tactile. UMPCs using smaller keyboards are obviously targeted at users wi th smaller hands (Asians in particular) so those with big hands would have diff iculty typing into the keyboard. The notoriously difficult to use Acer touchpad is back. The inch-wide touchpad is still present and the left and right click buttons are still placed on eithe r side of the touchpad. Even with the sensitivity set to low, mouse movement is still somewhat slow. A portable USB mouse may perhaps solve this. Graphics, sound and external peripherals The Aspire One A150X still uses the same Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 a nd for a small device, this particular graphics engine is just enough. Notewort hy is how it is able to execute videos both online and on the hard disk. With a dditional video or audio applications and codecs the A150X can play just about every available format. But there is a noticeable lag when playing high-quality videos, such as .VOB and .AVI files. This may be a problem of the Atom process or itself, which has limited capabilities to run high quality videos and audio. The sound quality is nothing spectacular even with the inclusion of a Dolby Dig ital logo. Don't rely on the integrated speakers and it's better to use headset s instead. The Aspire One A150X has three USB ports, ample enough to accommodate a USB mou se, an external drive, and maybe a 3G antenna when necessary. It also has an in tegrated SD card reader. Connectivity The unit also comes with an integra ted 802.11 b/g Wifi antenna allowing for easy access to the Internet when there is n available Wifi hotspot. Too bad the Aspire One A150X still doesn't have B luetooth. But one surprising addition to the A150X is the inclusion of a subscriber ident ification module (SIM) slot, the same slot design used in mobile phones. At fir st, I inserted a SIM card to the unit only to find out that the slot is a manuf acturing design â there are no integrated connectivity options. A quick visit t o the Acer Aspire One website would reveal that the present SIM slot in the Aspire One does not work. It is not stated if the next iteration of the Aspire One will have that k ind of feature. Hopefully, it does as it would expand the device's connectivity options. Battery Battery life is perhaps the single most important consideration in a notebook. No one would want to work while bei ng conscious whether the battery would die out after a couple of hours. Most of the Atom-based notebooks reviewed before have ho-hum performance, operating fo r just about two hours before dying out. The 6-cell battery allowed the Aspire One A150X to run for a phenomenal 3 hours at full charge with the Wifi connecti ons running and a video playing on a loop. This maybe one of the more positive aspects of this model, giving ample time for a user to do quick editing on the fly without having to worry about their UMPCs dying out. Even with a slightly b ulkier unit due to battery size, it is outweighed by the benefit it gives to th e user. Verdict If Acer came out with this model along with the first generation Aspire One, it would have outsold many of its competitors, most especially the powerhouse Asu s Eee PC. However, by waiting a bit longer, the company is showing that it is j ust weighing its options and in the process, whetting the appetites of people w ho want to have a small and handy device that has about the most basic capabili ties of a full-size notebook. It's an effective marketing ploy but Acer has to sustain it, especially with several other competing brands entering the UMPC bu siness. If ever, the Aspire One A150X will be a strong product in the cutthroat UMPC bu siness. It will even be a bigger brand if it's able to finally make the SIM slo t work. Eventually users will start demanding for devices with SIM options and the Aspire One can lead the pack.
By Lawrence Casiraya INQUIRER.net TWENTY-three year old Andrei Navarro has done what probably every software deve loper his age yearns for -- a chance to visit Silicon Valley. Navarro who hails from Baguio City and a graduate of Ateneo de Manila flew to S unnyvale, California a few weeks ago courtesy of Yahoo! He was sent along with two others from Malaysia and India to represent the region in Yahoo!âs Open Hac k Day. Yahoo used its annual developer conference to show its latest application progr amming interfaces or APIs -- that's geek-speak for tools developers can use to allow their own software to run on top of Yahoo!'s products, say email and its popular Yahoo! Messenger. Andrei's programming skills was put to good use designing an application overni ght using these APIs. That meant a lot of pizza, a bit of booze and in his case, at least three Red B ulls. And as a reward, he got to party afterwards with developers from all over the world Silicon Valley-style. But more importantly, the trip made him realize a thing or two about what devel opers like him really need. He tells more in this interview.
By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.net MANDALUYONG City, Philippines â Anticipating a return of healthy buying power o f Filipinos in 2009, Japanese electronics firm Sharp is setting out to strength en their appliance sales in the country. Sharp Philippines President and General Manager Kenjo Okunaka said in a press c onference that they will be more aggressive in the coming months to offset much of the decline in consumer electronics purchases in the Philippines. Okunaka will expand their sales and marketing to all economic segments though i t aims to retain a strong market in the âAâ to âupper-Câ levels. "We will be introducing different products to satisfy every type of household. We are expecting to remain strong in the coming year as Filipinos regain purcha sing power," Okunaka said. So far, the company is already enjoying strong sales this year, with expected domestic sales of 1.68 billion pesos, over double of what they earned in 2007. Okunaka also claimed Sharp is still among the top ranking brands the appliance business. He added that they are expecting to earn P4 billion by 2012. Nearly all of the company's product lines showed triple digit growth since 2007 , owing to relatively better buying power among Filipinos, as well as availabil ity of better appliances at nearly the same cost. Among its most popular appliances are standard TV sets, which generates one-thi rd of its revenues at P588 million. It is followed by washing machines with P40 4 million, then refrigerators and freezers with P308 million. However, the company's fastest growing product line are its LCD TVs, which cont ributed P246 million in sales revenues so far and has the fastest growth rate a t 446 percent. In an interview, Okunaka said the company is betting on its Aquos LCD TV busine ss as it is the hottest product line in the Philippines so far. But he forecast that it will take another five to seven years before LCD TVs will totally repl ace cathode ray tube (CRT) or standard TVs, primarily because these cost lower to own. Okunaka noted that just for the first half of year, worldwide demand for LCD TV s has grown to 100 million units, taking 45 percent of the demand for TVs, whic h is 220 million units. Okunaka also stressed on the lower cost of manufacturing of LCD TVs, as well as their lower power consumption, which he hopes would be appealing to homeowners . "If we replace even half of all CRTs with LCDs worldwide, we will save 100 bill ion kilowatt hours of electricity per year," Okunaka said.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines -- In todayâs age of knowledge-based economy, human resourc es are key to business success. At the forefront of the dawn of the human resources era, business process outso urcing giant Accenture announced plans to deploy its human resources (HR) Acade my program for the companyâs analyst and specialist-level HR professionals in t he Philippines. Next to India, the Philippines is the second country where this program is bein g deployed among all of Accentureâs offices. "The HR Academy is a critical enabler for the human resources industry," said R ahul Varma, senior director of Accentureâs Human Resource Strategy unit. "We be lieve that HR talent is the number one key differentiator organizations must ha ve to become future industry leaders." Varma said in an interview with INQUIRER.net that for organizations to be successful, "HR leaders should sit at the table, strategizing together wi th other business leaders on how to solve key talent challenges and turn them t o opportunities." To achieve this, a new paradigm in terms of human resource capability is needed . This is where Accentureâs HR Academy comes in. The Accenture Philippines HR Academy is a structured learning program that supp orts the development of the HR talent potential. The program is a collaboration between Accenture and two of the Philippinesâ learning institutions -- the Ate neo Center for Organization Research and Development (Ateneo CORD) and the Peop le Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP). Ateneo CORD executive director Ma. Regina Hechanova said it took a year for the m to develop a curriculum suited to the needs and the industry served by Accent ure. "First, we identified how Accenture does human resource management and loo ked at the types of skills that their employees really need. From there, we cus tomized the outputs and exercises to be included in the curriculum so it is ver y relevant to Accentureâs context." The HR Academy program is open to all Accenture employees with at least one yea r of tenure in the company. The curriculum requires enrolled employees to spend one day to participate in the academic curriculum. Said Varma: "For two years, employees engaged in the HR Academy are learning fr om their courses and at the same time, apply what they are learning during thei r daily work" -- a unique venue to learn simultaneously from work and academic environments. What separates the new program from traditional HR training? Varma said the new program offers a synergistic, very holistic, up-to-date curr iculum. Aside from a unique work-academic learning environment, the labor laws included in the curriculum are those that will be applicable in the next 50 yea rs. "Performance management is a critical factor in todayâs knowledge-based eco nomy." HR Academy graduates are trained to perform in a multinational environme nt and deliver services in all business perspectives. For the Philippines, the program will ensure Accentureâs local operations "will have the right talent to support the organizationâs needs for today and in the future in terms of growth and expansion plans," said Ramona Velasco, country h uman resources lead, Accenture Delivery Centers in the Philippines.



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