Quantcast Tech Addicts: December 2008 Archives

December 2008 Archives

SOLAR technology in clothes, "talking" to the Internet and personal "digital sh opping assistants:" these innovations will take place in five years or less, IB M said. Now on its third year, IBM's annual Next Five in Five lis ts down innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years. IBM says its list is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM's Labs around the world th at can make these innovations possible. "These technologies are in different stages of development right now, and the w ork done in IBM labs all over the world contributes to making these trends into reality," said Lope Doromal, chief technologist for IBM Philippines. Here are IBM's top five innovations forecasted to shape the world -- and human life-- within the next five years: Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, p aint and windows. In the next five years, solar energy will be an affo rdable option for you and your neighbors. Until now, the materials and the proc ess of producing solar cells to convert into solar energy have been too costly for widespread adoption. But now this is changing with the creation of "thin-fi lm" solar cells, a new type of cost-efficient solar cell that can be 100 times thinner than silicon-wafer cells and produced at a lower cost. These new thin-f ilm solar cells can be "printed" and arranged on a flexible backing, suitable f or not only the tops, but also the sides of buildings, tinted windows, cell pho nes, notebook computers, cars and even clothing. You will have a crystal ball for your health. In the next five years, your doctor will be able to provide you with a genetic map that tells y ou what health risks you are likely to face in your lifetime and the specific t hings you can do to prevent them, based on your specific DNA -- all for less th an $200. Ever since scientists discovered how to map the entire human genome, it has ope ned new doors in helping to unlock the secrets our genes hold to predicting hea lth traits and conditions we may be predisposed to. Doctors can use this inform ation to recommend lifestyle changes and treatments. Pharmaceutical companies w ill also be able to engineer new, more effective medications that are targeted for each of us as individual patients. Genetic mapping will radically transform healthcare over the next five years and allow you to take better care of yours elf. You will talk to the Web. . .and the Web will talk back. In th e future, you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voic e -- therefore eliminating the need for visuals or keypads. New technology will change how people create, build and interact with information and e-commerce w ebsites -- using speech instead of text. In places like India, where the spoken word is more prominent than the written word in education, government and culture, "talking" to the Web is leapfrogging all other interfaces, and the mobile phone is outpacing the PC. In the future, through the use of "voice sites," people without access to a personal computer and Internet, or who are unable to read or write, will be able to take advanta ge of all the benefits and conveniences the Web has to offer. You will have your own digital shopping assistants. A combinat ion of new technology and the next wave of mobile devices will give the in-stor e shopping experience a significant boost. Fitting rooms soon will be outfitted with digital shopping assistants -- touch screen and voice activated kiosks th at will allow you to choose clothing items and accessories to complement, or re place, what you already selected. Once you make your selections, a sales associ ate is notified and will gather the items and bring them directly to you. You'll also be able to snap photos of yourself in different combinations and em ail or SMS them to your friends and family for the thumbs upâ¦or the thumbs dow n. Shoppers can access product ratings and reviews from fellow consumers and wi ll even be able to download money-saving coupons and instantly apply them to th eir purchases. Forgetting will become a distant memory. In the next five year s, it will become much easier to remember what to buy at the grocery store, whi ch errands need to be run, who you spoke with at a conference, where and when y ou agreed to meet a friend, or what product you saw advertised at the airport. That's because such details of everyday life will be recorded, stored, analyzed , and provided at the appropriate time and place by both portable and stationar y smart appliances. To help make this possible, microphones and video cameras w ill record conversations and activities. The information collected will be auto matically stored and analyzed on a personal computer. People can then be prompt ed to "remember" what discussions they had, for example, with their daughter or doctor by telephone. Based on such conversations, smart phones equipped with global-positioning tech nology might also remind them to pick up groceries or prescriptions if they pas s a particular store at a particular time. It's not hard to imagine that TVs, r emote controls, or even coffee table tops, can one day be the familiar mediums through which we tap into our digitally stored information.

DTI website defaced

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The D epartment of Trade and Industry (DTI)âs website has been defaced, INQUIRER.net has learned Saturday. Based on this screenshot of the agencyâs website, the website has been vandaliz ed by supposed foreign hackers. The website currently contains cryptic messages from a hacker called âx55x.â The hacker has also placed âGeneral Palestineâ in the defaced website and a fla g of Palestine plus a message at the end of the page that says, âDonât forget P alestine.â Officials of the agency are currently unavailable for comment at this writing. Government offices are closed after December 25th (Friday) was declared a holid ay to give way to people celebrating the Christmas festivities.
By Glenn Chapman Agence France-Presse SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft on Wednesday released an emergency patch to fix a pe rilous software flaw allowing hackers to hijack Internet Explorer browsers and take over computers. The US software giant said security update MS08-078 addresses a vulnerability c yber-criminals can exploit to their advantage. "Microsoft encourages all IE customers to test and deploy this update as soon a s possible," said Microsoft security response communications head Christopher B udd. The threat led Microsoft to mobilize security engineering teams worldwide to de liver a software cure "in the unprecedented time of eight days." According to researchers at software security firm Trend Micro, atta cks based on the vulnerability in the world's most popular Web browser were spr eading "like wildfire" with millions of computers already compromised. Microsoft typically releases patches for its software on the second Tuesday of each month and rushing this fix to computer users out-of-cycle is testimony to the severe danger of the threat, according to Trend Micro. "People should run, not walk, to get it installed," said Trend Micro advanced t hreat researcher Paul Ferguson. "This vulnerability is being actively exploited by cyber-criminals and getting worse every day." The IE software patch will be automatically applied to hundreds of millions of personal computers due to standard update settings in the machines, according t o Microsoft Security Response Alliance director Mike Reavey. Wednesday morning, business networks using IE began getting the critical fix th rough routine patching processes. Reavey said Microsoft went into "emergency response" mode on December 9 after i t first learned of the attacks on IE browsers. A day later, Microsoft published a security advisory that "listed workarounds t hat blocked all known attacks." "Over the course of the next eight days, this advisory was updated five times, adding newer workarounds and mitigations," Reavey said. "We also continually mo nitored the threat environment, noting when the attacks began to change in natu re and scope." Trend Micro has identified about 10,000 websites that have been infected with m alicious software that can be surreptitiously slipped into visitors' unprotecte d IE browsers to take advantage of the flaw. A major Internet portal in Taiwan is among the legitimate websites unknowingly tainted with malicious software aimed at IE's weak spot, according to Ferguson. Hackers can take control of infected computers, steal data, redirect browsers t o dubious websites, and use machines for devious activities such as attacks on other networks, according to security specialists. "What makes this so insidious is it takes advantage of a big gaping hole of IE, which has the largest install base of any browser on the market," Ferguson sai d. IE is used on nearly three-quarters of the world's computers, according to indu stry statistics from November. Reavey said the patch consists of more than 300 distinct updates for more than half-a-dozen versions of IE in scores of languages. Analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group in Silicon Valley said it was "amazing" th at Microsoft was able to turn out a complex critical fix in a week when such jo bs typically can take a month or longer of intense work. "Even with that, the release Emergency Response process isn't over," Reavey sai d. "There is additional support to customers and additional refinement of our p roduct development efforts." Trend Micro urges IE users to heed precautionary advice from Microsoft, or avoi d using the browsers, until the patches are applied. The "exploit" is similar to one used recently to steal user names, passwords an d other information from people playing online games in China, according to Tre nd Micro.
HEREâs somet hing for the fashion-addict but budget-conscious users. Motorola has a range of phone models that cater to a broad market spectrum but it is primarily known for its ROKR and RAZR models nowadays because of their fa shion-minded designs and solid construction. Motorola can also be credited for making the first "flip phone" the StarTAC way back in the mid-90s. From then on, Motorola has been leveraging on fashionable design but sometimes sacrificing functionality. While it has been chased after by Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson in many of t he segments that it once dominated over, Motorola is still holding on its own i n the entry-level phone space by extensively introducing a host of models that are just about dirt cheap as any other brand. Some of these phones can be bough t for no less than P4,000. Though it is being closely followed by other brands, such as Sony Ericsson, Motorola still dominates the "super entry-level" phone category. Among the cheapest of the cheap are Motorola's ZN200 and the W388, which cost b etween P3,500 and P7,000. The W388 in particular is one of Motorola's cheapest while the mid-level ZN200 is a several steps behind the MOTOSLVR series. W388 for the classy masses The W388 is simply a consumer entry-level ph one. While some of the other mobile brands still hark about making phones that are cheap with good design, the W388 is already successful in that department. The phone is particularly small, at just about 109 millimeters in length and 14 millimeters in thickness. It also weighs barely 100 grams. Motorola's music-orientation is also evident on the W388 as there are readily a vailable music buttons. The upper left button has a musical note icon that when pressed, leads the user to the music segment of the phone. The four-way keypad also controls the music segment of the phone as it has the forward, back, volu me, play/pause buttons that are used when playing music. The use of the four-wa y button as a music controller is nothing new but the W388 executes it pretty w ell. Music and other files can also be stored in its shared 7.5 megabyte internal me mory but it can be expanded with a microSD card up to 2 gigabytes, thereby expa nding content-saving capabilities. However, this device can only play music fil es. No video can run on it. Because it is targeted at basic users, the W 388's graphical user interface has only but the barest of bare essentials. It h as the standard calculator, alarm clock, stopwatch and SMS messaging. Internet access is also available on the W388, by way of an integrated Internet browser and a Google client but because of the limited screen size, low resolu tion (128 kb by 160 kb), and the lack of a 3G platform (it only uses GSM and al though it claims to be HTML-ready its EDGE capabilities are very limited) makes it less of a useful Internet-ready phone. Still, the W388 boasts of Motorola's CrystalTalk sound feature, which allows fo r clearer sounds when making calls or listening to music. This device also has a 2-megapixel camera. The camera control interface does no t do much with photos. But having a camera seems a nifty add-on to an otherwise very basic mobile phone. ZN200: For the budget conscious but a bit fancier If not the W388, a user may try something a bit better looking with slightly better graphics and applications. The ZN200 is one such device. One of the few Motorola slider models, the ZN200 is still considered an entry-level phone due to some downgraded features, notably its In ternet capabilities. For one, the ZN200 is almost the same size as the W388 but is noticeably heavie r at 115 grams. Of course, it becomes longer when the keypad is fully exposed f rom underneath the device. The button and alphanumeric keypad layout is very mi nimalist; the keypad is actually integrated into one plastic part but it is not difficult to access the numbers. Even the call/power and left/right menu butto ns are integrated into a similar manner. Unlike the W388 which relies on the filename of the MP3 music file to help iden tify it, the ZN200 uses the file's ID3 tag, which separates the song's title, t he musician, the album and the genre. This is helpful when navigating through t housands of music files. The ZN200 also has an integrated 2-megapi xel camera, which can be used for video recording. The ZN200 can zoom eight tim es than the W388's 4 times zoom but the quality is quite degraded and since the ZN200 doesn't have an image stabilizer, photo taking or video recording at the maximum zoom can be wobbly if not downright difficult. Nevertheless, the 220x176 pixel resolution LCD screen is better, allowing for s harper photo and video viewing. Because the phone has EDGE connectivity, the ZN 200 can view HTML and WAP sites better but still with limited features. Surprisingly, the ZN200 can only accommodate microSD cards of up to 2 Gb. This is despite some older generation of entry-level multimedia phones that are able to accommodate at least 4 Gb. Fewer new phones that accommodate microSD cards are using less than 4 Gb of capacity. On the other hand, it has a 30 megabyte i nternal memory which stores quite a number of short videos and medium-quality p hotos. One nifty feature of the ZN200 is an incoming message indicator on top of the s creen. When a message (either SMS or if email is set up on the phone) is receiv ed, an image of an envelope lights up. This is useful for users who put their p hones in their chest pocket and when phones are on silent mode and without the vibrating feature. On the other hand, the ZN200 has some speed issues. Trying to access files on t he microSD card is slow. A fraction of a second from the time a button is press ed to the time the screen refreshes is already noticeable. Even when typing a m essage, the screen would put in the letter pressed after a small fraction of a second. While it is not exactly a major concern, this slow reaction time could be a bit annoying for users. Battery life As mentioned earlier, the Motorola ZN200 and W388 are entry-le vel phones with limited functionalities. Because these models do not have large LCD screens and have basic applications installed, battery life for both phone s is better than other models in the same class. Both phones use 810 milliamper e-hour (mAh) batteries. On standby mode, both phones can last from three to fou r days. Even when used for calls, both phones can last for at least 48 hours on one full charge. Charging also takes less than one hour. This is appealing for users who are always on the go and do not have time for charging an electronic device. Verdict Motorola has successfully introduced entry-level phones that cater to fashion a ddicts with a very limited budget. There are kinks on both phones, notably on t heir graphical user interface, small expandable memory capacity, and slow react ion time, but at least they still look good. For now, Motorola is finding its w ay into the hands of the many Filipinos who like to look good without spending so much.

INQUIRER.NET goes mobile TV

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IN another first, INQUIRER.net (subsidiary of the Philippine Daily Inquirer) st arted broadcasting news to mobile television last December 8. "The Scoop" is a five-minute daily newscast of the day's top stories and is air ed on the GO Channel of Smart Communication's myTV service. It is also the first time that a local media company has offered broadcast on m obile TV, which runs on the widely used DVB-H (digital video broadcasting-handh eld) standard. Smart's myTV has been in operation for about a year and is gradually increasing its content offerings. Inquirer.net Executive Editor Leonardo Magno, Jr. said mobile TV is already bei ng used in other countries, such as Singapore and Australia, many users have mo bile phones with DVB-H features. "I was intrigued by its potential. Since then, INQUIRER.net has kept its eye on the technology and now we are pioneering it i n the country." Magno stressed that the traditional method of "online" media has to be expanded to include not just the Internet but also other platforms. He said that expansion does not mean having to port existing content to other p latforms but rather build new material from the ground up. "This is not merely âshovelwareâ of news programs which you already see on the boob tube and merely ported to the mobile TV. We are now in the process of crea ting more original programs and you will see them more not just on mobile TV bu t on other platforms as well," Magno said. In a separate interview, SmallBytes Corporation (operator of the GO Channel) Pr esident Arnedo Lucas said the mobile TV platform is very new and is still limit ed to a smaller group of mobile phone users. He added that the challenge for creating content on mobile TV is that tradition al methods of information delivery are changed. The content developer has to be aware who is on the other side of the screen and not just throw any content. "You assess who you're talking to and adjust accordingly," Lucas said. However, Lucas said it holds many opportunities for the user, the content devel oper and even advertisers. "Mobile TV is currently targeted at the 'alpha people' and decision makers. The se are people who want to get information relevant to them whenever and whereve r they are," he said. Lucas said that GO Channel is currently in its test broadcast but will have its commercial launch on January 18, 2009. He said they would be adding more origi nal content. "Mobile TV is very new but we're optimistic that more users will be able to acc ess it as phone manufacturers continue to make new phones that have mobile TV c omponents," Lucas said.
AFTERÂ keeping it under wraps for months, the group of young Filipino engineer s and designers have unveiled a prototype of what it claims to be the next-gene ration interactive device. It is called the "Ilumina" interactive television and it already has one patent pending for its curved design. Inovent r ecently showed an "ultra-alpha prototype" of the Ilumina with the goal of highl ighting the concept of research, development and design (RDD) in the Philippine s. Inovent is composed of no more than eight people, some graduates from the Unive rsity of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila and De La Salle University. The Ilumina is a television panel integrated with computer component s installed in a handmade fiberglass bezel. It is the bezel's inward curved des ign that Inovent has patented with the Intellectual Property Office Philippines . The Ilumina's basic component is its 32-inch LCD TV panel. Inside it are comput er parts that run a scaled-down version of Ubuntu Linux operating system. With a flick of a button, the TV interface changes to the Iluma's user interfac e that provides access to features, such as video and music playback and Intern et. While the TV source still requires a physical cable, the Internet connectivity only requires a wireless fidelity (Wifi) access point, as the Ilumina has a bui lt-in Wifi receiver. It also has a web camera that will allow users to do video chat while accessing the web or watching TV. Apart from the regular TV remote, the Ilumina also uses wireless keyboards and mouse for computer applications. It also has a USB (universal serial bus) port for connection to other external peripherals. The Ilumina concept has not been used in other commercial products. Inovent Chi ef "Inoventor" Brian Quebengco said the idea is not new. Some of the parts used in the Ilumina are off-the-shelf electronic components that were pieced togeth er to fit in a slim casing. "You will be surprise at how our developers made these components fit together. The parts had to be modified to make them work well," Quebengco said. Quebengco said the main highlight of the Ilumina is its design, which the local company has filed for patents early this year, as well as its software. The bezel design, which is curved inwards, allows the unit to stand on its own, removing the need for a removable stand normally used in many LCD TVs. While still in its "ultra-alpha" prototype stage, the developers will be adding new features in the Ilumina, which Quebengco declined to describe. "It's not something new as well but when you see it in a well--packaged product , it becomes an innovation. There's still a lot we're working on but this is to just highlight what we can achieve," he added. Quebengco said they are looking at a six- to eight-month period for the launch of a commercially ready Ilumina model. He is hoping that the price of the devic e will not go above five digits. "What's to be proud here is that we have people who are innovating and designin g things for a global market. We also hope to encourage and inspire others to d o the same," Quebengco said.
SONY Ericsson's P series was among the most successful smart phone iterations. For years, the P series enjoyed an accolade from fans that saw it as a business phone with the functionality of a multimedia device. But Sony Ericsson is also in the midst of an ever burgeoning competition from o ther players, namely Nokia and Samsung -- both of which also have their own mod els with QWERTY keyboards. Computer giant HP -- once a non-entity in the mobile phone space -- has recentl y developed its own smart phones that come with all the bells and whistles. Sony Ericsson introduced the Xperia during the Mobile World Congress early this year. The Xperia X1 wasn't a b ig surprise among Sony Ericsson users because for years, the company had been s tanding off from using Microsoft's Windows Mobile operating system. Sony Ericss on was, like many of the other phone manufacturers, ready to use the platform o ther than its own proprietary operating system. While SE was successful in making that pronouncement, it was still a late move because since the announcement in February, some of its competitors have gone a head and started selling their own Windows Mobile-ready smart phones. Samsung a nd HTC were already dabbling on Windows Mobile 6.1, the latest version of the m obile OS. Sony Ericsson had to wait until November 28 to officially launch the Xperia in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the Xperia is still a phone that can't be knocked out of the cont est. In fact, it is among the more feature-rich smart phones around. Because it 's running on Windows Mobile 6.1 and is also open to many commercial and third- party applications. Sony Ericsson Philippines provided a prototype model of the Xperia to INQUIRER. NET for testing. Some of the features in the commercial Xperia might not be in the prototype model but the prototype is already close to the commercial unit. Size and design Sony Ericsson is known for its s quare and tactile designs. Even its fancier models, the F and Z series have the brandâs signature square design. The Xperia upholds that design feature, which is rectangular with a completely flat surface. The QWERTY keyboard is hidden u nderneath but slides out sideways. The sliding feature is curved inwards so the upper part of the X1 goes into a slight angle upwards. Nearly the entire phone is made with hard aluminum with only the buttons using plastic. The buttons on the upper side of the phone will give you access to the call features, the left and right menus, and the Panels button (we'll get to t hat later). The QWERTY keyboard is also made of hard aluminum and is lit blue when activate d. One concern about the keyboard is that the keys are particularly small, whic h requires some practice to navigate. People with small fingers will have diffi culty pressing the next button. Nevertheless, the tactile sensitivity of the ke ys make it rather pleasing than an ordinary rubberized QWERTY keyboard. The Xperia X1 is just about 17 millimeters, thinner than any of the P series ph one and other brands. The unit itself is quite solid and heavy partly because o f the aluminum hard case as well as the large battery. Screen and video The screen is the largest among all of Sony Ericssonâs product lines at about 3 .5 inches by 1.8 inches. The good thing is that when the phone is in "tucked mo de," the screen goes on portrait mode and then becomes landscape when the QWERT Y keyboard is pulled out. A nicely tucked stylus can be pulled out from underne ath the unit to access the Windows Mobile menus, just like in any PDA. A combin ed QWERTY keyboard and eight-way touch-sensitive directional button can also be used instead of the PDA. The Xperia boasts of an 800 pixel by 480 pixel resolution screen, which can hig hlight high resolution photos and play videos in widescreen format. The high re solution of the screen meant it can play videos in .MOV and .AVI, as well as ot her video formats, including .WMV, .MP4, and even Flash video files. However, s ome of these require codec software to play. These software can be downloaded f rom the Internet. Because the screen is 16:9 aspect ratio, some videos using th is format can be played on the Xperia without quality loss, while the video ref resh rate is just about right on this device. Camera and sound A 3.2-megapixel camera is integrated into the Xperia -- although this is common ly used in smart phones -- a 5-megapixel camera would have been better. But the Xperia delivers better resolution for taking photos and videos than most phone s in this category. It has a face recognition feature that focuses on a spot wh en taking photos. This helps a lot because the Xperia's camera has a slow refre sh rate. The sound is something to be desired. Sony Ericsson is known for its good-sound ing phones. Even the P series sounded good during its time. But the Xperia suff ers from a tin can speaker, which is no more than a slit on one side of the uni t. The sound worsens as the volume is increased. A multimedia smart phone like this should deserve a better speaker. Connectivity and battery As a smart phone, it is but obvious that the Xperia should be Internet-ready. I t is the first business phone for Sony Ericsson to have HSDPA and HSUPA, both 3 .5G (wireless broadband) connections that allow for fast Internet access. Both the standard Mobile Internet Explorer and the pre-installed Opera Mobile web br owsers can be used to access the Internet. You can use it to view most websites and even those that are in Flash. The Xperia can play Flash videos from Youtub e or other sites that use it by opening a different video application. This is more of a feature of Windows Mobile 6.1 though. If the 3G wireless network is not available, the Xperia can use Wifi (wireless fidelity) that can be toggled on and off via the Comm Manager of Windows Mobile . The Xperia would search for available Wifi connections and the user only need s to choose. Those that require security codes need only to input the right cod es on the Xperia. As long as the wireless connection is stable, the connection is fast. It does, however, get too technical when you try to connect the Xperia to a secure office local area network. This part, however, is only a limitatio n of the operating system. Bluetooth is also integrated in the Xperia, which is useful when synchronizing it with a PC. It is best used with Windows Vista. Battery power is almost always the major drawback for all smart phones, especia lly the ones using Windows Mobile. Some phones only last for 24 hours before ru nning out of battery while others only last for just about 18 especially when m aking phone calls. The Xperia has a more effective 1500 mAh battery, which allo wed it to be used in excess of 30 hours, or just enough to charge it via USB in a PC or wall socket. It lasted longer than the Nokia N96 battery which is only 950 mAh. The device lasted for at least 35 hours before running out of battery life. Software and Panels There are tons of applications readily available for the Xperia largely because of the operating system. One of the more useful features is the Remote Desktop for Mobiles, which lets you control a Windows XP or Windows Vista computer and access most of its applications. The Xperia can indeed be an extension of the desktop. Panels is an interface option for the Xperia. Integrated in the prototype model of the Xperia were 6 panels, but the commercial model has nine. The Panels ser ve as easy access interfaces for specific users. For example, one Panel feature s the Google interface, so users can immediately access Google from the start. Another Panel is for the phone's integrated radio feature. Another is a watch w ith some fish that follows the person's stylus movements. Verdict First, the Xperia is late and that is the biggest drawback. If it were launched much earlier, it would have been a must-have among Windows Mobile users. HTC h as models that are similar to Xperia. Nokia's N96 is also fast catching up and Apple, which had a big launch in the Philippines, already has the iPhone 3G. Still, the Xperia X1 will have fans of its own especially with the long battery life and the Internet connectivity options. Sony Ericsson's attempt to break t he mold of the P series is already evident in the Xperia and it is just a taste of things to come.

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