Quantcast Tech Addicts: February 2009 Archives

February 2009 Archives

(UPDATE) Gmail goes down

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UPDATE: Google apologizes for the outage that hit users worldw ide. But it didn't say what caused it, a recent entry on its official blog said. Excerpt:
If youâve tried to access your Gmail account today, you are probabl y aware by now that weâre having some problems. Shortly after 10 9:30am GMT our monitoring systems alerted us that Gmail consumer and businesses accounts worl dwide could not get access to their email. Weâre working very hard to solve the problem and weâre really sorry for the inc onvenience. Those users in the US and UK who have enabled Gmail offline through Gmail Labs should be able to access their inbox, although they wonât be able t o send or receive emails.
GMAIL users saw their accounts inaccessible late Tuesday (Manila time). The Gmail service says it is experiencing a "502 server error," which means tha t the server is experiencing congestion or has "too many connections, high traf fic." Helloluis observes o n Twitter: "Watching the #gmail complaints stream thru http://tinyurl.com/dbvtv 9 A bit like watching a crowd around a car accident." A few minutes after Helloluis tweets: " I don't think I'll ever get tired to se eing thousands of tweets on the same subject pouring in over the span of a few minutes. #gmail #fail." There is still no explanation on the Gmail blog as of this writing.
COMPUTER geeks know what the proverbial "Win telâ portmanteau really means. It's borne from the idea that software company M icrosoft and computer chip giant Intel are in harmony when developing their nex t generation products. For years, these two have been working closely together to develop applications that complement each other. That is, until Microsoft's highly-criticized Windows Vista came out. Not even the much-vaunted Intel Core i7 could save the buggy operating system. At one point, a laptop manufacturer had the idea of running Windows Vista on a mini-notebook, which of course, didn't sit well with techie guys who are famili ar with the OS' problems and the notebook computer's underpowered processor. But that was before Microsoft launched a beta version of their next generation OS Windows 7. The software firm claims that Windows 7 is capable of running on netbooks, particularly those that have Intel's Atom processor for ultra-portabl e computers Since Microsoft activated a download site for Windows 7, many have tested it on various PCs, mostly on Intel processors and some on AMDs. There are a couple o f tests published online on how Windows 7 beta ran on legacy Pentium 4 processo rs and so far they have worked but only with a few glitches. Test unit After hours of waiting to downlo ad Windows 7 beta from the Microsoft website it was time to try it on an Atom-b ased processor to see if it could deliver on was it promised. The test unit is an MSI Wind Nettop 110, powered by an Intel Atom N230. The Wind Nettop has a 1 Gigabyte memory and a total of 80 Gigabytes of hard disk space. It also has a d edicated 64 megabyte Intel graphics card but can be managed to share extra 64 M b from the memory. This particular model is supposed to be running Linux but it has an installed M icrosoft Windows XP (obviously, not the original). The XP runs pretty much aver age on the Wind Nettop 110 and can play most videos but with some lag when the videos are encoded in high-quality AVI or MPEG and are played in full screen. I t can also do a bit of video editing with Windows Movie Maker but the system ca n't seem to handle the extra video editing load if there is a web browser runni ng. Still, it is still fully functional if some work is done separately and not simultaneously with another. Installation Installation is straightforward. Wi ndows 7 (Ultimate Edition) can be installed from a copied bootable DVD but it c an also be done via a large capacity USB drive. The target hard disk has to be formatted first before installation. The BIOS has to be set to a primary boot a nd it can either be the USB drive or the optical drive. From there, the Windows 7 disk or thumbdrive will automatically install the operating system. Surprisingly, installation was very quick and the Nettop 110 was up and running within 15 minutes. With a few tweaks on the network settings, the unit connect ed to our corporate network as well as to the Internet. Look and feel Upon startup the user will be treated to a new and flashy Microsoft lo go. Loading time is just about the same as Windows XP, which is approximately o ne minute. The initial startup was quick because many applications once present in XP and Vista were now removed from Windows 7. In fact, Windows 7 seems to r un somewhat faster on the Atom than a Celeron-powered Windows XP or even Window s Vista on a dual core computer. Windows 7 looks like a mix between a functional XP and a flashy Vista. The Task bar has the most changes visually. It has a Pin option wherein logos of commonl y used applications can be clicked without having to open these from the deskto p. It also allows users to reorganize the taskbar buttons to make it easier to access other applications. Windows 7 also retains two functions of Vista: the first is the Aero and the ot her is a quick view panel for all active but minimized applications. Aero in pa rticular runs smoothly when the graphics card is set to use 128 Mb. However, th ere is some lag when using graphics-heavy applications, such as Windows Movie M aker (which has to be downloaded), Quicktime and other video-viewing applicatio ns. Compatible software I was half expecting the OS to bog down at the start or if not a few h ours later given that I was installing a variety of applications and drivers to make it run like it was my personal unit. Thankfully, nearly all of the applic ations that I installed were able to identify Windows 7 as Windows Vista, large ly due to both OS' compatibility. Some of the applications installed were Mozil la Firefox, Google Chrome, Java, Adobe Reader and Quicktime. Kaspersky was also installed for security purposes since Microsoft has removed some security opti ons previously present in Vista and XP. Google Earth was a sweet surprise. Rendering of satellite images, photos and vi deos were still fast even on the Atom and Windows 7. Again, there is some lag b ut one can get past this if only for the compatibility of the beta-tested OS wi th Google Earth. Long-term use Both the Windows 7 and Intel Atom performed well even when they were r unning for nearly two days. Lag happens when the unit is "awakened" from hibern ation but this is understandable given the limitations of the processor. The test unit does produce noticeable heat after prolonged use but it had never once crashed, owing it to the Atom's ability to manage heat dissipation, as we ll as the OS' minimal presence of active but unused applications. Overall, Windows 7 beta has so far delivered what it promised. With official la unch in 2010, Microsoft is at least making good on its promise to ensure that t he next Windows iteration is trouble-free. The beta version is still far from t he finished product. Hopefully, Microsoft stays on track. By then, Intel would have improved on the Atom processor, which is already becoming popular among bu dget-conscious users.
Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON--Better think twice before choosing a password for emails, online ba nk accounts and airline tickets. Passwords that show no imagination or distinctiveness are easy prey for informa tion pirates, a new US study says. A statistical analysis of 28,000 passwords recently stolen from a popular US we bsite and posted on the Internet reveals that people often do the easy thing. It found that 16 percent took a first name as a password, often their own or on e of their children, according to the study published by Information Week. Another 14 percent relied on the easiest keyboard combinations to re member such as "1234" or "12345678." For those using English keyboards, "QWERTY ", was popular. Likewise, "AZERTY" scored with people with European keyboards. Five percent of the stolen passwords were names of television shows or stars po pular with young people like "hannah," inspired by singer Hannah Montana. "Poke mon," "Matrix," and "Ironman" were others. The word "password" or easy to guess variations like "password1" accounted for four percent. Three percent of the passwords expressed attitudes like "I don't care," "Whatev er," "Yes" or "No." There were sentimental choices -- "Iloveyou" -- and their opposite -- "Ihateyou ." Robert Graham, of the company Errata Security, which did the analysis and publi shed the conclusions, advises that to better protect against cyber intrusions: "choose a password that is longer than eight characters with one capital letter and one symbol."
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net Search engine giant Google has rolled another experiment through its web-based email service Gmail. It's called "Gmail offline." While the announcement comes after Zimbra's own offline email offering, Gmail u sers were excited (myself included) with the launch of this offline feature. It means I could read my messages even if I don't have an Internet connection. To set up Gmail offline on your PC, follow these steps: 1. Open Gmail account online. Set Language to English. 2. On the upper right hand corner of the account page, click Settings, then cli ck Labs Tab. 3. Tick Enable next to Offline Gmail. 4. Click Save Changes. 5. After reloading the browser, "Offline0.1" link appears next to the user name (username@gmail.com). Click the new link to start the setup of Gmail offline. (Setup time depends on the number and size of your emails.) (Reminder: Before starting the setup, make sure to use a browser supported by G mail Labs and Gears--IE 7, Firefox 2.0 up, Safari 3.0 up or Google Chrome--and have Google Gears, free software, installed in your PC). As the name suggests, Gmail offline allows users to access messages on Gmail even without connecting to the Internet. The feature was tested for over a year at Google Labs division before it was la unched and is still in the experimental stage, according to Gmail engineer Andy Palay at the Google blog site. So how does it work? When online, Gmail uses Google Gears technology to download a local cache of yo ur mail. An algorithm determines the "latest and most important" messages for d ownload and syncs a maximum of 10,000 messages in your local disk. The time needed for synchronizing messages depends on the number and size of th e attachments to be downloaded. Using wireless connection, it took me two hours to sync while I was continuousl y reading and replying to messages. A friendly note: Do not to enable this feature when using public computers to p rotect your account. Gmail offline only requires you to enter your log in name. So after almost a week of trial, here's my verdict: The downside: Adding attachments in reply messages while in Offline or Flaky mo de is currently not supported. But Google Labs is now working on it (according to the message prompt that appe ars when you click "Attach File"). The Calendar and Contacts manager features are also inaccessible. And since not all messages will be synced to your hard disk, email search results are limite d to those that are downloaded in your local cache. The feature is only availab le in English as of this writing. The upside: Since the messages are stored in your hard disk, it is faster to se arch, read and label messages. You can reply to messages, which are then stored in the Outbox folder. Reply messages will be sent once you connect to Gmail. A ttachments such as images, PDF files and text documents can be viewed and downl oaded or saved to your PC. Setting up Gmail offline for multiple computers is also possible. So you can ha ve this on both your home or mobile PC (separate syncing is required). Users ca n opt to use the âFlaky connection modeâ if you have a really poor Internet con nection. So have you tried Gmail offline? What's your take?
HTC is becoming quite a must-have b rand among those who can afford. Most of the manufacturer's smartphones are pri cey (between PhP25,000 to PhP50,000) and are least seen in most stores, since t heir units don't have that mass market appeal unlike other brands. The price ta g must be justified simply because their devices have been tweaked with a varie ty of components that are normally not found in other mobile phones in the same category. Likewise, they're heavily built with hard metal or plastic parts, wh ich add to their appeal as high-end models. HTC's current flagship lineup are the Touch series, which is becoming popular a mong consumers who have extra income to burn. Incidentally, the Taiwanese compa ny has also a rare model that seems awkward for its type. The HTC S740 is the l atest model in the company's S series phones. As with all models in this series , the S740 has both an alphanumeric and a QWERTY keypad that slides out from un derneath the unit. Incidentally, this design has been used by the Nokia Communi cator series for years. Tech specs The HTC S740 does not function any different from other smartphones in the same category. It uses the latest Windo ws Mobile 6.0 operating system running on a Qualcomm MSM7225 528 megahertz proc essor, which are already available in some phones. However, the S740 can boast of higher memory at 256 megabytes, quad-band cellular connectivity including HS DPA 3G, Wifi connectivity, and Bluetooth with wireless stereo headset capabilit ies. It is also GPS and A-GPS ready so international users can be assured of finding the right direction -- assuming the area where they are has an updated map. It 's also still dependent on the cellular network. The HTC S740 uses a 1000 mAh high-capacity battery pack, which gives it an oper ating period of at least 35 hours on regular use. Of course, battery life decre ases if used heavily. Because it uses Windows Mobile 6.0, the S740 also includes an Office Mobile app lications like mobile Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Form and function The S740's dual keypad design seems to be somewhat less functional for most people. For one, why would anyone make a selection on how to input text or numbers on the phone? The simple answer is that only basic phone functions become available when using the alphanumeric k eypad, such as SMS or calling. Meanwhile, users who need to write longer entries and messages can slide out th e QWERTY keyboard. All functions of the phone can be accessed either through QW ERTY or alphanumeric. The four-way navigation button in the middle of the unit works just like any di rection button in most smartphones. What makes it different is the halo-like LE D that lights up when the phone receives messages or when the alarm function is active. One thing that makes the S740 stand out is its look especially when the QWERTY keyboard is hidden. The phone's face is encased in hard clear glass while the b uttons of the alphanumeric pad and four-way navigation button are encased in cl ear plastic. Despite the difference, the face looks sleek and shiny. The functi on buttons are also well placed. The QWERTY keyboard's design is modest but nevertheless functional. The keys ar e made of plastic molds, with LEDs underneath that light up when the buttons ar e pressed. The only drawback is the size of the "space" button, which is the si ze of two letter buttons put side-by-side. Camera and multimedia The phone's multimedia fun ctions are just right. It can play multimedia files such as .WMV and .MP4 for v ideo. For audio, it can play a variety of formats, namely .MP3, WAV, .WMA, AAC, .AMR, and .WAV. The screen is also large enough to view photos and video clips saved on the phone's memory (the microSD card slot can accommodate up to 4 gig abytes of memory while the unit itself has an internal memory of 256 Mb). However, there are some issues with the S740, particularly its built-in camera. While it can shoot up to 3.2 megapixels, it has a refresh problem. This means that it is hard to take photos of moving subjects. This same refresh problem is also evident when taking videos. As a result, videos look like they were shot in 15 frames per second speed. Good thing that the smartphone's LCD screen can view high-resolution photos, si nce the colors are sharper and brighter than most units in the same class. Conclusion The HTC S740 has all of the essential functions of a smartphone. The u nit's well-built body and bold looking design is a good fit for classy users wh o want a rugged smartphone. Despite issues with the built-in camera, this model 's appeal is perhaps the wireless connectivity it offers for travelers.
Agence France-Presse WASHINGTON--Microsoft plunged into the crowded field of online entertainment and celebrity news on Thursday, taking the wraps off a new website known as Wonderwall. Wonderwall.com is a joint venture between MSN, the Internet arm of the US softw are giant, and BermanBraun Interactive, a media company based in Santa Monica, California. "Wonderwall offers people an engaging and visually dynamic perspective on the d ay's hottest pop culture stories, personalities and trends," MSN and BermanBrau n said in a statement. The main feature of Wonderwall.com is a nearly full-screen wall of p ictures with links to stories, photo galleries and video. The wall can be scrolled horizontally, an experience MSN and BermanBraun likene d to "flipping through a favorite magazine." The site features a feed of the latest celebrity news and categories such as "T op Celebs" and "LOL Pics," the "funniest photos of celebs from around the Web." "Wonderwall offers a clever, thought-provoking and amusing voice to fans of cel ebrity and is a great addition to MSN's portfolio of entertainment content," sa id Rob Bennett, general manager of network programming for MSN. Entertainment and celebrity news are among the most popular subjects for Web su rfers and Wonderwall will be competing for audience with sites such as TMZ.com, people.com and perezhilton.com, to name just a few.
INTER NET services giant Google Inc. has launched the Google Earth 5.0 with an update called Ocean. The new feature allows users to look at 3D images of the underwa ter terrain and view the world's large bodies of water. Two additional features were also added to Google Earth 5.0. They include the H istorical Imagery and Touring. The former is a virtual time travel to areas usi ng archived satellite imagery. The latter is a feature that allows users to exp erience a voice-over tour of Google Earth. Users can view photos and videos embedded n Google Earth 5.0. There are also ad ditional materials from about 80 oceanographic organizations and a National Geo graphic Magazine quiz feature. There are also archival videos from the famous o ceanographer Jacques Cousteau. There is also a new Google Earth "GSP tracking" feature, which was initially av ailable on the paid versions of Google Earth. Incidentally, Google added these features to highlight environmental issues. Go ogle has already invited to the launch of Google Earth 5.0 former vice presiden t and environment advocate Al Gore who spoke of the new Historical Imagery feat ure, which also shows the drastic environmental changes happening to the planet . In light of these new Google Earth features, Google CEO Eric Schmidt talked abo ut the biodiversity loss in the world's oceans and said that the Internet compa ny can help change people's perception of the environment. Some Philippine oceanographic landmarks are also highlighted in Google Earth 5. 0. Among these are Apo Coral Reef and dive spots in the island resort of Boraca y and Siargao. The Google Earth 5.0 software can be downloaded for free. Watch this video:
YOU'RE lucky (or still sleeping) if you didn't see that phrase popped out of yo ur computer screen when you were doing a Google search. Apparently, sometime between " 6:30 a.m. PST and 7:25 a.m. PST this morning" a bug in the Google search rendered all websites harmf ul, heh. But Google immediately sprang into action and fixed this problem caused by a "h uman error."
What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search result s with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to i nstall malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their compute rs. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to get our list of URLs. S topBadware carefully researches each consumer complaint to decide fairly whethe r that URL belongs on the list. Since each case needs to be individually resear ched, this list is maintained by humans, not algorithms. We periodically receive updates to that list and received one such update to re lease on the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs. Fortunately, our on-call site reliability team found the problem qui ckly and reverted the file. Since we push these updates in a staggered and roll ing fashion, the errors began appearing between 6:27 a.m. and 6:40 a.m. and beg an disappearing between 7:10 and 7:25 a.m., so the duration of the problem for any particular user was approximately 40 minutes.
Phew...

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