Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fully flexible screens with no distortion will be on the market within two years thanks to Samsung

Samsung has just unveiled a 7-inch ultra-flexible display that runs at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. This makes it suitable for most portable gaming needs, and is exactly the right crispness for digital tv.

What makes this piece of technology remarkable, though, is the fact that the plastic substrate Samsung has developed for this screen can bend without changing thickness. Up till now, flexible screens have suffered from distortion wherever the screen bends.

The breakthrough process comes from using low-heat in the manufacture of the panels. Two panels are bound together to ensure that the thickness doesn't change.

The obvious uses for such screens are in the consumer electronics fields. Expect portable DVD players, cellphones, gaming devices and laptops. More esoteric applications would include car windscreens, digital clothing, and interactive tablecloths.

Telkom's ADSL best Broadband Service in SA.

Telkom's ADSL service has reaffirmed its status as the best broadband service in South Africa. In recent tests on South African broadband services conducted by MyADSL and the Department of BIT, University of Johannesburg, Telkom's four ADSL offerings proved superior to the other services.

This is the second set of results produced by the newly formed broadband laboratory run by the Department of Business Information Technology at the University of Johannesburg.

The study involved in-depth testing of Telkom's ADSL, Sentech's MyWireless, Vodacom's 3G, WBS's iBurst and MTN's 3G packages.

This study relied on data gathered from both the broadband laboratory and over 150 volunteer broadband testers to ensure accurate results. Over 50 000 diagnostic tests were performed gathering data about 60 different aspects of each service, including cost, reliability, speed and general service levels.

Telkom's DSL 384 performed consistently in all departments and emerged as the best service with a score of 76%. Telkom's other DSL offerings were not far behind.

DSL 192 was second at 75% while DSL 512 and DSL 1024 were tied in third position at 74% each. DSL 1024 produced the best performance in most departments (including speed, VOIP, latency and P2P), but its higher cost dragged it down in the rankings.

Sentech's MyWireless was again the cream of the crop when it came to the wireless broadband services with a percentage of 64%. While it was far superior to the other wireless offerings it was unable to compete favourably with Telkom's fixed line ADSL service.

WBS's iBurst finished sixth with 48%, Vodacom's 3G seventh with 31% and MTN's 3G last with 30%.

Rudolph Muller, from MyADSL and researcher at the broadband laboratory, said "This report is the most comprehensive evaluation ever of the broadband offerings in South Africa and will provide consumers and companies with accurate information about the broadband services available in the marketplace. Consumers can now make an informed decision when it comes to broadband offerings while the operators know which aspects of their service need attention".

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Disc Steno CD311

For users who need to store data on the move, digital lifestyle specialist, Pinnacle Micro, has announced the local availability of the Disc Steno CD311 from Apacer.

According to Rudi Thietz, brand manager at Pinnacle Micro, the Share Steno CD311 is especially designed to copy image files from a digital camera without connecting to a PC. "At just 220g, the Share Steno CD311 is extremely lightweight even when connected to a hard disk and extremely easy to carry, even outdoors," he says.

The Share Steno series is specially designed for travellers and professional photographers as it allows users to access every precious moment captured by a digital camera anywhere, anytime. The CD311 is the ideal solution for any digital storage requirement for outdoor recreation and aims to let everyone easily enjoy the modern digital life.

Without connecting to a PC, the USB 2.0 OTG interface allows the CD311 to directly copy image files from a digital camera. "Furthermore, users can also copy or delete selected files, create new folders and perform other file management tasks, thanks to the golden-backlit LCD panel that allows users to monitor the number and size of files," says Thietz.

The Share Steno CD311 is equipped with password and hidden-file protection to ensure absolute data safety. Users can set a password to control data access authority and thus prevent disclosure of important personal data. The easy-to-operate file attribute set-up allows users to set personal files to "hidden" to protect personal data when sharing images.

"The Share Steno CD311 requires no external power supply, making it ideal for outdoor recreations," Thietz says. "The supplied Li-ion battery gives at least one hour of continuous use after it is fully charged."

As a genuine 'photo mate' for digital cameras, the CD311 uses a standard 2.5" hard drive and the 40GB unit allows users to store more than 40 000 photos each at a resolution of three mega pixels.

Hybrid Toyota Prius

I know that this is supposed to be a gadget website, but I just can't help writing about the Toyota Prius.

A huge marketing campaign has been launched by the Japanese manufacturer, aimed at a young market. Stars and celebs are advertised as choosing the Prius over other cars due to it's low immisions to save the planet. All well and good, I think it's becuase thay can afford it.

The Prius is a hybrid. When I first got into it, I had no idea what to expect. I was thinking, electirc car, but it isn't. In fact, when you start it up for the 1st time, with the start button as the car has no key, the engine is quite noisy. An efficient engine works at a set temperature and the engine needs to get to that point before it works as well as it can. Also, a low revving engine isn't as efficient as a low revving one. To save time, goto How Stuff Works, to find out more about Hybrids.

When you start driving, then the magic starts. The engine is used when it is needed, which is more than I thought it would. The battery is always being charged when the engine is on and if you drive slowly enough, the engine switches off to save fuel. The one thing that Toyota like to punt is "Just Drive It." and that is all you need to do. There is no need to worry about if the battery is being charged, no need to think what your fuel economy is, just drive.

As for saving fuel, this car is OK. Not brilliant, just OK. 5.x litres / 100km. My 1.6l Peugeot get around 8.xl/100km.

When on the highway, there isn't much of a difference in fuel economy, but city driving is when it comes into its own. The engine has a habit of saving itself, but I think that the contstant switching on and off will lead to shorter service intervals.

Should you buy this car? If you have the cash, and you really really really want to save the planet, go for it. It's not sexy, it's not flash and it's not fast, but it is clean.

Parents get Control Back

This was found from CBC in Canada.....

The new generation of video game consoles, to be released this year and in 2006, will all have parental control mechanisms.

Parental controls allow parents to restrict access to games they consider too violent or inappropriate for their children.

Sony Corp. has become the latest of the video game console makers to announce parental control on its Playstation 3, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Playstation 3 will be released in 2006.

Microsoft Corp. had already placed parental controls in its new Xbox 360, which debuted last week.

Parents can restrict access to video games and DVDs that carry certain ratings, such as "T" for "teen" or "M" for "mature." Parents can also control access to live online gaming, limiting who their children can interact with.

Earlier this month, Nintendo Inc. announced similar plans for its next-generation machine, Revolution, due out in 2006.

The ESA pointed out that there are already controls on some software or games.

The industry has been under scrutiny because of graphic violence and sexual content in some games. It is hoping to head off legislation that would limit how video games could be sold.

"With the average age of game players now 30, our industry naturally creates content appropriate for a wide range of audiences, just as there are TV shows, films, music and books for people of all tastes, interests and values," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association.

"In a culture where raising kids is a challenge, video game parental control technology gives power to the parents."

Scooby Doo

My 4 year old loves Scooby-Doo. I don't get it but who am I to question a 4 year old? One of his favourite things to do is to watch those old 70's cartoons of Shaggy, Wilma and Scooby being chased around by a ghoul or ghost or werewolf, only to find that it wasn't real but some guy or girl dressed up in drag.

Things have moved on since those cartoons with a Scooby baby coming in, having younger children instead of the original teenagers and then there were those bad, live-action movies.

"Unmasked" is a wrap of all of these previous editions of Scooby. Gameplay is really 2 dimensional but there are times when the dog has to look around, but not all that much. Control is simple with two action commands and lots of jumping around. The route, when it is required, is set out by dog biscuits, so it's easy to know where you are going.

Scooby hardly ever really dies, so restarting is great for little 4 year olds. Levels can be saved often which is also good, but if your child is anything like mine, then that doesn't really matter as mine likes to start the game from the beginning every time.

Graphics are great. Not realistic but great is a cartoon way. Scooby's voice is not brilliant but Shaggy sounds good, as do the other characters. The environments are fun and every level adds a new challenge in the gameplay that keeps it interesting.

As I was helping my kid through the game, I got quite involved in the gameplay, not really the story, as that is the same as those old 70's cartoons, but the play is fun and interesting.

This is not a teenager's game, if someone in your household enjoys Scooby, get it, otherwise, spend your hard-earned money on something else.

Monday, November 28, 2005

To PVR or not to PVR?

A PVR (Personal Video Recorder) sounds like a really important name, doesn't it? All it really means is that you no longer need tapes or DVD's to record your favourite TV prgrammes. The 1st PVR's that I knew of were the old TV cards that went into your PC. Much plugging in, setting up software and fighting with video cards, finaly got you a TV picture on your PC screen. If you were lucky enough to get a really advanced one, then you could actually record a programme or two to watch on your PC screen. But, let's face it, who wants to watch TV on your PC?

Then came TIVO and thouasands of South Africans dreamed of the day that they would be able to fast forward past the Hyperama's Heyday Sale adverts.

At last, DSTV have released their PVR. It has been 9 months in the making and it works!!! The powers that be say that they were waiting for the public to be ready for thier device, but I think that there has been a major education of advertisers to make them realise that a whole new way of thinking is needed.

As for how to use your PVR? THe installer does all the hard work, like pluggin in the right wires. There is no S-Video, which is bad, but there is an optical audio out for your home cinema, which is great. Picture quality is excellent, in fact, better than expected, with 80 hours of recording time available on the hard drive. DSTV say it might be a little less as certain programmes tend to use more space due to the compression protocol.

There are a couple of drawbacks. If a programme starts slightly before another ends, there is no way to set the recorder to record it. You can't say, "Well, ok, I am willing to miss the beginning 2 minutes." No, it will only record one or the other.

Pausing live TV is great. DSTV made a point of advertising the fact that you won't be able to fast forward past adverts, but you can. Hit pause when watching Las Vegas for 15 minutes, come back and watch the programme from the start. You will catch up with live TV as you go forward over the adverts and finish the same time as the TV programme really does.

A feature I love is that you can record a movie, watch a sitcom, then go back to the beginning of the movie and watch it fro the start as the PVR records to the end of it. Saves me time and I can watch what I want when I want, with NO ADVERTS!!!!

The PVR is also a dual view decoder, so you can watch 2 channels and record a 3rd. Much channel hopping happening in my house at the moment.

If you have the cash, buy one, unless you have too much money and time, then you can try and make your own.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Spam Killer

Have you ever gone to a website that asks for your email address? (haven't we all). You know that the moment you type it in, it is streaming across the net on its way to every spam database in the world. You simply can't be that careless with your personal email address.

What if there was a website that any and every email address you can think of already exists. And you use any one you like, anytime you like - just by thinking one up.

Welcome to Mailinator™. It's like super-instant, always-ready, any-email-you-want email. Right now. It's your personal disposable email account. Here is how it works: You are on the web, at a party, or talking to your favorite insurance salesman. Wherever you are, someone (or some webpage) asks for your email. You know if you give it, you're gambling with your privacy. On the other hand, you do want at least one message from that person. The answer is to give them a mailinator address. You don't need to sign-up. You just make it up on the spot. Pick or — pick anything you want.

Later, come to this site and check that account. Its that easy. Mailinator accounts are created when mail arrives for them. No signup, no personal information, and when you're done — you can walk away — an instant solution to one way spammers get your address. It's an anti-spam solution for everyone. Your temporary email account will be automatically deleted for you after a few hours.

Let'em spam.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

News as you have never seen it.

" Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe. Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. It's objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news, on the contrary it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it."

World Championship Rally Evolved

The box says, "Heart racing, adrenalin pumping, action packed and better than ever, WRC: Rally Evolution delivers a thrilling rally experience at every corner with new multi-car racing, stunning new deformable environments, improved co-driver directions and more cars to drive from rallying past, present and future."

Quite a promise?

The 1st rally game I played was one of the latest Colin Macray rallies. I then made a point of getting hold of WRC4. Colin Macray was fun but WRC4 was nearly impossible. Don't get me wrong, I love a challenge, but there wasn't much chance of me EVER winning a stage, let alone a whole rally.

It was fun as I said. The graphics were excellent with a variety of stages, tracks and situations to keep me intrigued.

The new Rally Evolved doesn't add much more to the game. If you bought WRC4, don't bother to buy this new one. In fact, short of completely writing off the game, I don't see a difference except that now you can win a stage but now winning is too easy. There are 3 ways to make driving easier and as you improve, you can slowly take away the help.

Sound in the new game is poor. The cars sort of drone instead of roar. (When will a game in true surround come out?) Graphics are slightly improved but still nothing like GT4.

Short answer, save your cash and buy F1 2005.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Exactmobile signs Just Jinger in exclusive content deal

Exactmobile has signed a year long exclusive mobile content deal with South African rock band, Just Jinger in a ground breaking deal.

David Oosthuizen, Exactmobile’s Director of Operations, says the agreement is unique not only because it’s the band’s first mobile content deal, but because it is the first time a single is being released as a mobile download before it is made available elsewhere.

“The band is currently in the recording studio recording their 1st International album and has chosen to release “Steady” as an exclusive Exactmobile true tone download,” Oosthuizen says.

Karl Hegelmann, Just Jinger tour manager, says the true tone version of “Steady” was taken from a live recording performed at the Viper Room in Hollywood. The venue has hosted past performances from the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, Bruce Springsteen, Oasis, Counting Crows and Lenny Kravitz, which gives an indication of the exposure Just Jinger have had in Los Angeles flying the flag high for South African music.

“We decided to team up with Exactmobile and make exclusive mobile content available for fans to download in order to help promote the band’s December tour and extend the band’s connection to its fans. It’s the first time the band has ever done something like this before and we chose Exactmobile after seeing the success of their catalogue in the market.

“Together with Exactmobile, we’ve come up with some exciting concepts including two competitions and a SMS service to help determine the band’s set list during the December tour,” he says.

Oosthuizen says that by SMSing JJ and the song title to the number to 32545 (R1/SMS), fans can let the band know which songs they want to hear at the concerts over and above the news songs they will be performing. Expected favourites include ‘Shallow Waters’, ‘Father and Father’ and ‘Safer’.

“The first competition will give four people the chance to spend a day on tour with the band and be a VIP at either their Johannesburg or Cape Town concerts. The second competition gives fans the opportunity to win personalized and autographed Just Jinger Merchandise,” he says.

Hegelmann says the day with the band will give the competition winners the chance to meet Art, Brent, Denholm and Simon as the mad, funny, naughty down to earth guys that they are.

“The two lucky winners will be picked up from their homes and spend a day on tour with the band, attend the sound check and see exactly what goes into making a live performance possible and will have exclusive VIP status for the concert,” Hegelmann says.

The other prize will include autographed t-shirts, CDs and framed equipment (including drumsticks, a set list and guitar strings) used by the band on the Dec 2005 tour, he adds.

The tour dates and venues will be finalised in the first week of December and will be posted on the gig guide available on the Just Jinger website.

Hegelmann says the band will play at a host of venues in Johannesburg, including Due East in Boksburg and Firkins in Centurion, as well as a number of coastal venues including the highlight of the tour, Dunes in Houtbay, Cape Town. The band will see the New Year in with a performance in St Francis Bay.

And when the new album comes out due for April 2006, Oosthuizen says all the mobile content will be exclusive to Exactmobile including the other true tones from the new album.

SA takes Mobile Gold

Tammy Brook-Smith, 15, from Paarl in the Western Cape took home gold in the mobile competition at the World Cyber Games (WCG), which finished on Sunday in Singapore.

Brook-Smith won the Chopper rescue competition and took home US$ 2000 (R13 360) beating a representative Paul L Antonio from the Philippines in the Chopper Rescue final.

The South African team consisting of four team members and a manager was sent to the WCG by Exactmobile and First National Bank (FNB). The other three gamers who represented South Africa in the mobile competition were Werner De Lange, 36, from Centurion who almost made it into the Goolie final; Ethen Reuben, 27, from Tzaneen (Mid Town Madness); Christo Janse van Vuuren, 23, from Springs (Bruce Lee).

Davin Mole, Exactmobile CEO, says Exactmobile is overjoyed that Brook-Smith took home first place in one of the finals.

“With this being the first year that the WCG has had a mobile competition, our gamers had nothing to compare themselves to. The simply had to go to Singapore and give it their best shot. Its therefore amazing that Tammy brought home gold – we’re really delighted for her and the team.”

Mole says the tournament and Brook-Smith’s gold should give more profile to mobile gaming in South Africa.

“Mobile gaming is fast becoming one of the most popular forms of gaming in South Africa. With the higher level penetration of mobile phones in the market and the low cost of mobile games, mobile gaming is accessible to millions of South Africans. We’re hoping the WCG and Tammy’s win will help raise the profile of the sport in this country,” he says.

Colin Webster, Mind Sports South Africa president, says considering it was the team’s first challenge against international competition, they did really well.

“Competitive mobile gaming is new in South Africa, whereas it is much bigger in Asia. This makes it even more significant that the team managed to do so well,” he says.

Mind Sports South Africa will be holding its annual general meeting on 11 December 2005 where a new cybergames board will elected, Webster says.

“The new cybergames board is going to focus specifically on growing mobile gaming in 2006. Provincial and national championships will be organised, giving players the opportunity to play competitively.

“There are very few other activities that are as inclusive as mobile gaming and are able to reach every corner of the country. Mobile gaming gives anyone the opportunity to get involved in gaming be rewarded for their efforts in the form of provincial and national colours,” he says.

Exactmobile were the exclusive organisers and host of the local leg of the World Cyber Games Mobile Competition as appointed by Indiagames, the WCG brand license holder. Of the 11 countries entering the mobile competition, Exactmobile is the only organiser which is not a cellular operator. FNB is the principal sponsor.

The World Cyber Games had over 1 million participants in 2004 from over 65 countries. In 2005, 800 gamers from over 70 countries are expected to participate at the WCG Grand Final in Singapore.

Bluetooth coming to SA

Blue Demon Day is coming to Cape Town. This is the chance for South African journalists to get hands on with Bluetooth, the wireless technology that is rapidly making mobile applications a reality. Anders Edlund, Marketing Director of Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) and his team will show us journo type people how you can make Bluetooth part of your everyday life.

Blue Demon Days have been successfully held around Europe for the last 2 years, to demonstrate the wide variety of Bluetooth applications that can be used in the office, at home, in the car, for fun, for health - the list goes on. The team will display navigation systems, stereo headsets, hands-free car kits, computer peripherals and many other useful and surprising applications that will soon start appearing on the markets. If you thought your mobile phone was already indispensable, you ain't seen nothing yet.
This is the promise that I was sent yesterday.

Today I got to speak with Bluetooth-spokesperson Danny Devriendt. He says that one of the problems with people that aren't quite in the know, is that they think Bluetooth is just for phones and headsets. This has moved on to a whole variety of products from cameras and printers to cars and MP3 devices.

When the Blue Table, a group of real die-hard Bluetooth fans, were asked how to spread the message of the more advanced Bluetooth technologies, they told the Bluetooth forum to teach the teachers and Danny says that it is working.

In May this year, over five million Bluetooth devices were shipped per month.

But what about the future of the technology? Should you buy a Bluetooth enabled car or is a Bluetooth hi-fi a good move? Danny Devriendt says you should. (But that is his job.)

According to Danny, all the other wireless protocols are fine and dandy but the average consumer doesn't need that kind of speed. Bluetooth technology is just fine for moving a couple of pictures around or sending audio to your rear speakers of your surround sound. In the near future, WiFi and Ultrawide will include Bluetooth technology in their structure but the core technology will still be intact.

As for you, the non-journo type person, when will you be able to get hands on? Not soon, is the short answer. That job falls on the shoulders of the individual suppliers like Nokia, HP and Sony. They include Bluetooth in their devices and must teach you on their own. All Blue Demon Day is for is to teach me more, so that I can explain how the technology in a device works, without sounding like a moron.


Thursday, November 24, 2005

IBM go Eco Friendly

IBM is well on track to achieving compliance with the environmental RoHs directive by the target deadline of 1 July 2006. Last week, the company stated that all new server and storage products announced from now on would be compliant, and that existing product lines would be re-engineered to achieve compliance.

The Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHs) is a directive issued by the European Union which calls for producers of electrical and electronic equipment to eliminate the use of six environmentally-sensitive substances: lead; mercury; cadmium; hexavalent chromium; and flame retardants.

Werner Lindemann, Executive: Systems & Technology Group, IBM South and Central Africa, says IBM's product development is proceeding according to plan. "We have made considerable headway in transitioning towards RoHs-compliant products and processes. IBM is committed to meeting environmental regulations and therefore requires its suppliers, in turn, to comply with all applicable laws, regulations, orders and policies in providing products to IBM.

"This approach enables us to ensure our products are compliant. Although a similar directive has yet to be issued in South Africa, other countries such as the US, China and Japan have followed the EU's lead and I'm confident the same will happen here in the near future."

As part of its compliance initiative, IBM has adopted a cleaner manufacturing process which results in fewer pollutants. The disposal and recycling of the compliant systems is also simpler, as the equipment contains less hazardous substances.

Although IBM has an excellent track record of leading on environmental issues, plenty of electronic goods manufacturers are still not producing environmentally-friendly products. And, as e-waste (electronic waste) is growing three times faster than any other waste stream on the planet1, the situation is serious.

E-waste contains hundreds of substances, such as those mentioned above, which are harmful to people and the environment. When e-waste is disposed of, the various contaminants it contains can damage the soil, water and air. The dismantling and incinerating processes can cause emissions of toxic dust, fumes and fluid if they are not handled properly. Landfilling releases contaminants over a period of time.

When e-waste is dumped and left to slowly decay, it leaks harmful toxins into the environment, including: toxic sludge, waste water and flying dust. These can cause allergic reactions or asthmatic bronchitis when inhaled, damage lungs and blood and cause injuries if they come into direct contact with skin or eyes.

The biggest culprit is lead, which is found in the solder of devices and appliances, PC motherboards, chips and other specialised components. Recycling e-waste correctly does have financial benefits for companies, however, as large amounts of secondary raw materials such as copper, aluminium and precious metals have considerable market value.


There is a cool feature here on my blog, where I can mail the latest blog to the site. That means that I can do a cool update from wherever I am. This is the 1st one.

Gadgets at the airport

What better way to spend the boring time at the airport than playing on your gadget. I had just been given a Nokia N-Gage and I am playng soccer against the guy on the left. He won.