Friday, 29 January 2010

Video: Hands on view of the Apple iPad

Thinkpad Edge Product tour


- Dual-core processors
- Windows® 7 operating system
- Gigabit Ethernet, WWAN with GPS, 802.11bgn WiFi, Bluetooth and WiMAX connectivity options
- Thin and light with a 13.3″ widescreen
- Spill-resistant keyboard
- Up to 7.8 hours of battery life
- Enhanced multimedia and HD audio
- Low-light-sensitive Web camera
- Three USB ports (1 powered), 5-in-1 media card reader and HDMI

Lenovo's Thinkpad X100e

It wieghs the same as some netbooks and looks just like one,with its small footprint and 11.6" screen, but under the hood, this is no ordinary netbook, in fact it isnt one. Not with device specifications like a 1366 x 768 display, an AMD Athlon Neo processor, support for up to 4GB of RAM, up to a 320GB hard drive, optional 3G and GPS. check out the product tour below.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Is the iPad a tablet pc? or an ebook reader?

The iPad is being debated everywhere at the moment, the whole world now knows or will get to know about this product soon enough. But, lets look at it a bit closer, exactly who is this product for. It has been likened to a giant iPhone, it does run on the iPhone OS and is designed to look just like one. So there's the question, is it a PC? Can it match most basic and inexpensive netbooks? Well, here's a list of some problems you'll face when this is compared to an average netbook.

• No integrated USB ports
• No card reader
• Non-removable battery
• Non-expandable memory
• No integrated camera
• Displayport
• No Ethernet Port
• No mains power cable included

Ok, so there is are adapters for both a card reader and USB port, however they do not come out of the box and are an additional cost. Other available peripherals are

• iPad Keyboard Dock
• iPad Dock
• iPad Case
• iPad Camera Connection Kit
• iPad USB power adaptor

You will certainly need a couple of these addons, especially as there is no usb port and typing on the glass could prove difficult.
I also find it a bit weird that it needs to be plugged to your laptop or desktop to be charged. Also since it doesn't come with a usb port out of the box, you'll have to sync your files to it, using itunes, making it feel even more like just a PMP than a PC.

So, if its not a tablet PC, what is it? An ebook reader perhaps?

Well its certainly being touted as one and that does seem like the target niche. Its got a beautiful, large, colorful screen, but actually its backlit, shiny glass surface would make elongated reading periods difficult. E-ink displays have now become the preferred interface for ebook readers. At the $500 entry price, which is without the 3g connectivity, which comes at an additional $130, the iPad is actually more expensive than say the kindle or the nook. Although this is the category most online sites are ready to place the iPad, is it worth it, at that price when compared to other ebook readers?

The answer, well its not exactly a PC and its not exactly an ebook reader. Its just another another device for media interaction, you can browse the internet, watch videos, listen to music, read your ebooks, use the various apps and play games as well.

Yes, you can do these things, but remember the iPad can not multitask, so you can only use it for one application at a time. Again another sign that this isnt meant to be a PC.

So, to conclude, its a nice tablet thingamajig, many people would go for it because its an apple product, but personally, i still dont get it.

-Chiedu Ifeozo

The Apple iPad

After years of speculation and independent designers renderings on the internet. The iPad has finally landed. Introduced as apples latest creation by Steve Jobs, many have waited anxiously to see what apple would come up with.

In 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions, the iPad comes with a 9.7" screen and weighs about 0.68Kg, It runs on a 1.0Ghz processor specially designed by apple and uses the iPhone OS. Battery life is rated at 10hrs and about a month of standby, other specifications are wifi connectivity, Bluetooth, microphone, speaker and an accelerometer. 3G connectivity is an optional upgrade that'll cost an addition $130. other options are a keyboard dock, which connects to the iPad in potrait orientation, as seen above, 1024x768 VGA out and 480p support through dock adapter cables, and a camera attachment kit for importing photos from a camera by usb or through an SD card reader.

Managed by iTunes, and running iPhone apps, the iPad is similar to the iPhone. Although the every iPad comes unlocked, enabling it to be used across the globe, it uses the not yet so popular micro GSM sim card, and there aren't any international deals with telecom operators yet, more announcements are expected about that.

One important factor for a lot of people will be the price for the iPad, and how it compares to what we already have available. The iPad starts at $499 ( N75,000) for the base unit with 16GB, $600 (N90,000) for the 32GB and $699 (N105,000) for the 64GB model. When the 3G connectivity is taken into account that makes the most expensive package, $829 (N124,350) which is the 64GB and 3G combination.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Microsoft introduces a special edition Microsoft office 2007 software package for Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria

A welcomed development has seen microsoft introduce a special edition of its popular software package for the Ghanaian, Nigerian and Kenyan public.

At the press briefing in Lagos recently to introduce the software into the Nigerian market, Mr. Adefolu Majekodunmi, Business & Marketing Organization Lead for Microsoft Nigeria said, "Microsoft understands the underlying issues of affordability and availability of software in Africa and continues to support programmes that increase access for the underserved. Microsoft Office Home & Student 2007 for Africa is just one of the ways in which Microsoft responds to the needs of our environment. The fact that the package is fully installable on up to three computers ensures that everyone who needs the essential software applications for work, study and play has access." Majekodunmi said that "the intention of the software company is to drive genuine usage of technology across the country and other African countries."

Also Microsoft and its distributors confirmed that the Office Home & Student for Africa is already available for sale in Nigeria and that its versions in local dialects such as in Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo is expected to be in the market starting from next year.

At N6,500 or $43, microsoft is hoping that it'll be able to persuade more users to stick to genuine software packages. i cant speak for the other countires but piracy has become a really big issue in the Nigerian market. We'll have to wait and see what happens now, but the introduction of this package certainly shows microsofts intent and it is an indication that they are trying to do something about it. The question is whether the public would buy the idea.

- Chiedu Ifeozo

Additional source - The Gaurdian

Friday, 15 January 2010

The Asus NX90 designed by Bang and olufsen

The Asus NX90 is a serious contender for the most luxurious multimedia laptop, well thats if you still consider this beast of a device as still just a laptop. Designed by the award winning Bang and Olufsen chief designer David Lewis, this laptop with its sharp edges and sleek curves is full of style in the true B&O tradition. the NX90 scores a first, its got an external speaker that surrounds its glorious 18.4" screen, this elegant aluminium monster has a large keyboard with two touch pads place on both sides of the keyboard. The 18.4-inch widescreen is fully sheltered in glass with full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolutions. Specs wise, the new ASUS NX90 Bang & Olufsen bundles an Intel Core i7-820QM Quad core processor, an Nvidia GeForce GT 335M graphics card, 12 GB of DDR3 RAM, E-SATA, and HDMI-out to connect it to your HDTV, USB 3.0 support, Nvidia GeForce GT 335M graphics card, dual hard drives, and a slot-load Blu-ray drive. The NX90 isnt currently available but it should start shipping sometime in march for around $2,500 or N390,000.

-Chiedu Ifeozo

Lenovo's Lephone to be released in China

Lenovo recently announced a new smartphone called LePhone specifically for the Chinese WCDMA market. It has got a 3.7-inch 480x800-pixel resolution display and a completely touch-based interface for navigation, no physical buttons have been added to the design. im not entirely sure thats a good idea, but it does have an interesting proprietary 9-pin dock connector that lets you latch on an optional external keyboard.It also boasts a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, a 3.5mm headset jack, 3G data, Wi-Fi, A-GPS, plus a 3.0-megapixel camera and camcorder. The LePhone runs a specially customized version of Google's Android operating system, which Lenovo is apparently calling the OPhone. It has integrated Twitter and Facebook applications. A representative from Lenovo has said that it has no plans to release it in the U.S. market or any other countries but China.

- Chiedu Ifeozo

what do $1,350 headphones look like?

The ultimate ears pro 18 headphones are certainly for enthusiastic audiophiles with a pile of cash burning a whole in their pocket. This beauty features six drivers in each earbud. two each for bass, mids, and treble, along with a four-way crossover and a three-channel design that keeps the low, mid, and high frequencies isolated and delivered with a rich tone in your ears. there certainly is a lot you can get for its price tag at N209,000 or $1,350, imagine losing one of these on the bus or taxi, but i would love to get a chance to use these headphones some day, just for a few minutes of audio bliss :-)

Starcomms unveils voice chat service

Starcomms Nigeria, recently unveiled a social networking voice chat service for its subscribers. The service, called Afritalk, will enable customers to relate by voice with other people who are not on their phone list, the idea is that this would help their subscribers extend their span of influence and make connections with people who share similar interests as they do. With afritalk, startcomms subscribers can call their afritalk friends through a unique ID, without revealing their true identity.

- Chiedu Ifeozo

Nokia's sugar powered concept phone

Nokia has teamed up with designer Daizi Zheng to come up with this weird and wonderful, sugar fuel cell powered phone, in a cylinderical form factor. just pour in some coca cola, fanta or lemonade into it, and its good to go. they also claim that a single can of the fizzy stuff can last longer than the everyday lithium ion batteries. i think its an interesting concept but soft drinks should still be for drinking in my opinion, lol.

- Chiedu Ifeozo

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Lenovo IdeaPad U1 Hybrid

At the CES event this year, Lenovo certainly didnt hold back at all, they introduced many new devices and one of the more intresting devices is the Lenovo ideapad U1 hybrid. Its an 11.6" laptop with a retractable multitouch screen and it certainly earns its tag as a hybrid, with 2 operating systems and 2 processors for 2 situations. When the screen is locked into its upright position in the laptop's chassis, it's powered by a CULV Intel Core 2 Duo processor and runs Windows 7 Home Premium. But when the screen is pulled from its shell it morphs into a Qualcomm Snapdragon powered-multitouch slate with a 16GB SSD that boots Lenovo's customized Skylight Linux interface. its been pegged for a june 2010 release and is suspected to cost around $1,000 or N150,000.

- Chiedu Ifeozo

Glo broad access brings high speed ADSL broadband to Lagos

Globacom, the second national carrier for Nigeria, recently introduced its Glo broad access service, a high speed ADSL broadband internet connection based on its fiber optic transmission cable that it has been working on for a while now. with this service they are also expanding their telephony line to included fixed land lines and an always on internet package.

The honourable Minister of State for Information and Communications, Alhaji Aliyu Bilbis last week, in Lagos said Globacom , Nigeria 's national telecoms operator has proven that it is a reliable partner in the achievement of the cardinal objective of President Umar Musa Yar'Adua administration's 7-point agenda through the launch of Glo Broad Access, According to the minister, the launch of Glo Broad Access shows Globacom's commitment to Yar'Adua's 7-point agenda to comprehensively establish and revitalize infrastructure in prime sectors of the economy.

Bilbis further observed that Globacom has now changed the face of fixed line telephony in a way that will accelerate rapid economic growth in the country with the launch of its Broad Access service.

The minister said that he was moved by the innovation and urged other networks to emulate it by launching their own fixed line services.

"Glo is known for its commitment to innovation. The benefit of a fast internet platform and fixed line which Glo has now brought to Nigeria cannot be overemphasized because it will make enormous contributions to the rapid growth of the nation's economy.

"While the GSM sub-sector has grown rapidly over the last eight years, fixed line telephony has remained largely undeveloped. We have no doubt that Glo is now positioned to lift the fixed line sub-sector", he said.

Globacom's Group Chief Operating Officer, Mohamed Jameel said that Glo Broad Access is revolutionary because it offers Nigerians the benefits of truly fast broadband internet, stable and distortion-free voice connections, video conferencing and even cable television through Glo wired lines installed in their homes and offices at a very low cost.

- Chiedu Ifeozo

additional sources :

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Zuckerberg: 'I am a prophet'

Facebook genius foresaw today's no privacy 'norm'

Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that he is a prophet, declaring that he had foreseen that people will soon have no qualms about displaying every minute detail of their private lives on the internet.

Zuckerberg revealed his gift during a staged interview with Michael Arrington at the TechCrunch awards this weekend.

Critics have slated the social networking site for burying privacy controls, highjacking its users' data and allowing advertisers to farm Facebookers to help them flog tat. Oh, and eroding an generations' respect for their own and other people's privacy.

However, this has obscured the true genius of Zuckerberg and his crew. In fact, rather than facilitating the erosion of privacy in the name of commerce, Mark simply looked into the future, and built a company that could take advantage.

The fact is, Zuckerberg said, that people want to share everything, and they want to share it on the internet. That is the "new norm", and he saw it coming.

"People have really gotten comfortable sharing more information and more openly and with more people."

"That social norm is something that something that evolved over time and we followed."

Older companies had been hamstrung by "conventions" and their legacy systems, Zuckerberg said. On other hand, he had magically peered into future, from his "dorm room at Harvard", and constructed a company that would be ready to facilitate this brave new open future when it arrived.

"We thought this would be the social norm and we went for that," he declared.

Which presumably means all those run-ins with privacy campaigners, regulators etc., were just bumps on the road, as Mark worked to realise his vision of a world where everyone shares everything. With his clients.

Still, it makes you wonder. If Zuckerberg really has this gift of second sight, wouldn't it have just been easier to place some kind of accumulator bet on the world series? Least that way no-one would have had to see pictures of him lounging around the pool.

The Registry

Monday, 11 January 2010

Behind the Magic of Avatar

Weta Digital used more than 2,000 HP BladeServers to render the special effects in the blockbuster hit

By all accounts, the motion picture Avatar is a huge success.

People everywhere have been captivated by the film’s dazzling special effects. Critics have raved that there has never been another movie like it. Ticket sales worldwide have already surpassed US$1 billion.

And HP technology played a key role in the film’s production.

Weta Digital, a special effects studio in Miramar, New Zealand, was responsible for bringing to life the beautiful and mesmerizing virtual world of the planet Pandora. And Weta’s computing core ran on 2,176 HP ProLiant BL2×220c Blade Servers.

A recent article published by Information Management noted that this added up to more than 40,000 processor cores and 104 terabytes of RAM.

World’s largest rendering facility

Prior to 2008, Weta had been an IBM site, and our local HP New Zealand team worked closely with our Houston-based BladeSystem team to promote the ProLiant BL2x220 as an innovative platform for the studio.

Following the implementation of HP equipment, the Weta site has grown to become the largest rendering facility in the world. It now has a backlog of studio work and will be delivering leading-edge movies for years to come.

Powerful performance

The HP ProLiant BL2×220c BladeServers used to render Avatar provide industry-leading power efficiency and performance at an affordable cost.

Customers have praised the product for creating a “stable and scalable environment,” and noted that it “makes virtualization work fantastic.” In addition, customers have said it enables them to reduce their energy usage and associated carbon footprint while not compromising performance.

The HP team worked extensively with Weta Digital to run the system at optimum power efficiency, resulting in dramatic power and cooling savings.

Through water-cooled radiators, closed rack space, and passive rooftop heat exchangers, the data center stayed cool while running full time and often at full capacity, with no air conditioning. The cooling cost was equivalent to that of turning on a few electric water pumps.

Raves for Avatar

To date, in addition to breaking records at the box office, Avatar has been nominated for nine Critics Choice Movie Awards and four Golden Globe awards, including Best Picture. Critics have also given the film high marks and praise:

“For years to come, it will define what movies can achieve.”
Time Magazine

“An ambitious, fully immersive cinematic experience.”
Washington Post

“Avatar's shock and awe demand to be seen. You've never experienced anything like it, and neither has anyone else.”
Los Angeles Times

“What spectacle! Avatar is dizzying, enveloping, vertiginous ... I ran out of adjectives an hour into its 161 minutes.”
New York Magazine

“Combining beyond-state-of-the-art moviemaking with a tried-and-true storyline— and a gamer-geek sensibility... the movie quite simply rocks.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

What did you think about the movie??

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Google to mobile industry: ‘F*ck you very much!’

"It’s Google’s autistic approach to relationships," one senior phone exec told me this week. "They don’t know what hurt they’re doing, and they don’t care."

It’s nothing personal, guys. Today, some of the biggest tech companies in the world, who thought they were Google’s closest partners, will begin to understand how, say, copyright holders have felt for some time now. For the first time, I suspect, they’ll be enjoying that recurring tingle of amazement and disbelief that (as Chris Castle explained here), Google would even try and pull off such a stunt. It took EMI Publishing six months to realise that Google had claimed digital rights to its songs, for example. But even if the decision to shaft its closest Android partners and biggest customers is an aberration, a one-off, a fling that Google will later regret - then the size of the parties involved means it’s going to have lasting repercussions.

Even before Google started competing with it head on this week, the mobile industry was already wary of the Mountain View Chocolate Factory, and its inclination to hoover up every morsel of service revenue. Now complaining about that may be a bit hypocritical, you might think, if you look at how much of a transaction operators such as Docomo have traditionally retained, and how much they want to keep now. But look at the alternative, Google told the networks and device makers. That Mr Jobs doesn’t leave anything on the table. And besides, we Do No Evil.

Wakey wakey, networks

If you’re scratching your head wondering what the big deal is, then I suggest you do a quick news search on the number of stories containing the phrase ‘Google superphone’. Imagine how this looks to a punter. There are over a dozen Google phones. Only one is a real Google phone. Only one is a Google superphone. And you can only get that from Google. Won’t Sony Ericsson, Motorola, Acer and Samsung be feeling pleased today? Sony Ericsson’s X10 has a fairly identical spec (plus Sony branding) or better – but it’s not a ‘superphone’. And not the ‘real thing’.

If you thought there was a level playing field, you’ve been mugged. If you’re looking for a differentiator, similarly, you’ve been mugged.

As we discussed earlier, there may be some semantic wiggle room for Google – but it’s a Bill Clinton defence. Andy Rubin not only questioned the definition of sexual relations but also what ‘make our own hardware’ means (phnarr!). Maybe even what ‘is’ is. So despite nods and winks to the contrary, Google is now selling a Google-branded ‘superphone’, alongside its Google ad programs and Google-created software platform.

This is no surprise.

If networks are surprised that Google can turn around and shaft them – then they can’t have been paying close attention to company strategy in recent times. They certainly weren’t reading El Reg, where we’ve been joining the dots for you for years. The evidence was already abundant that Google envisaged a value chain without operators or ISPs. In Google’s vision of the future, there are no $80bn-a-year turnover giants like Vodafone. Instead, masts are merely a dumb transmission network, most likely operated by a monopoly incumbent (such as Arqiva for UK TV and radio), which must be regulated (out of necessity) by an equally dumb transmission network regulator.

With the value of copyright also reduced to zero, (the other arm of Google’s mighty lobbying effort is to kneecap creators and rightsholders,) then the only internet company that could possibly make money would be Google - since it would be the only internet company.

Good, honest lobbying

Google has lobbied for this for years now; it's also why Google has its own private internet. Googlenet already carries 10 per cent of the net’s traffic internally, and this is a testbed for replacements for the open protocols we use today such as http and dns. And it sure as hell isn’t neutral. Google has no obligation to open this to anybody else. The huge data centres are simply the physical manifestation of the private internet – like the vast ventilation towers at each end of the Holland or Rotherhithe Blackwall Tunnels.

So Google stoked the bogus ‘net neutrality’ scare (directly writing legislation for the European Parliament, in one instance) which handicapped the network operators' ability to monetize their network fairly (by say launching a VoD service) ensuring that Google’s own private network (exempt from neutrality rules) becomes more valuable. Neutrality was the Global Warming scare of network world. ManBearPig may not exist, but it's amazing what you can get legislated if enough people think it does.

Google has ceaselessly lobbied for spectrum reform, too. In both cases it’s used sockpuppet groups such as ‘FreePress’ and PublicKnowledge, and its hand-picked academic network, typically legal departments with large debts to the Chocolate Factory.

When you went into partnership with the Loompas – were you feeling lucky?

Winners and Losers

In terms of who loses and benefits I offer this short list to get you started - you can complete the rest. The first couple are easy to fill in. The first comes from the executive who offered me the autism perspective. He also reminded me that it’s less than two weeks since ‘the sermon’ by Jonathan Rosenberg. Remind me, what’s open about Google now?

Another casualty for the same reasons, is surely the Open Handset Alliance itself. It’s odd to read how:

Each member of the Open Handset Alliance is strongly committed to greater openness in the mobile ecosystem. Increased openness will enable everyone in our industry to innovate more rapidly and respond better to consumers' demands.

‘Innovating in the open’ now means ‘getting ready to shaft you behind closed doors’.

As for the winners, Apple suddenly doesn’t look so bad. Operators hate being told what kind of subsidy they may offer, and chafe at the control freakery. But at least the iPhone is a surefire hit, it drags in the punters. None of Google’s models – either demiphones or Superphones – have shown they can. And Apple’s terms are much less onerous than a year ago.

Nokia and Symbian should be beneficiaries, but for operators Symbian is too much of Nokia’s pet project. Handset manufacturers have spent a decade getting out of Symbian projects and for many this is the last time they’ll do so. Also thanks to Nokia’s neglect, nothing Symbian now has to offer is competitive with the iPhone. It isn’t up to date.

One of the most puzzling tech business stories of the last ten years is how Nokia surrendered its smartphone lead and reacted like a rabbit in the headlights when the game changed. Nokia talks about ‘democratising’ the smartphone, simply because it’s own models are cheaper and ship in higher volume than the market leaders, who pocket the profits. Well, the Trabant democratised travel in the GDR, providing mobility to non-party members. It’s not a good analogy to make.

I expect to see more interest in the operators’ own hobbyhorse, the Limo Foundation, which is a Linux stack backed by the big networks plus Samsung – although anybody can sign up to make a Limo phone. It was fear of Google that propelled Vodafone to use Limo for the 360 phone so heavily promoted over Xmas. And while Limo does not provide iPhone or Pre-quality slickness, networks may see it as a low risk investment. No danger of Nokia or Google pulling a fast one.

Right now only RIM and Apple are making money from this mobile data caper, and the operators delude themselves if they think they do more than come out evens. They’ll fancy their chances even less now that Nexus has reminded everybody that Google sees Networks and ODMs as a temporary (and disposable) part of the equation.

The Register

Google Nexus One: Web meets Phone

On 5th January, Google announced its mobile offering. But while Google may make a better job of trumpeting its entry into the branded phone market, the Nexus One will never be as successful as the iPhone.

That conclusion was based on the idea that Apple would get two things wrong: It would piss off operators by diverting their revenue streams, and refuse to accept the operator shilling in the form of a handset subsidy. Google will get both of these points right - though even that won't be enough to make the Nexus One an iPhone competitor.

Back in 2006, Apple's lack of experience with operators proved its advantage: Steve Jobs pushed far harder than anyone else would have dared and the operators proved far more flexible than expected. They showed themselves willing to hand over revenue, advertising dollars and (ultimately) customers in exchange for a little Cupertino cool.

Later even Apple had to accept handset subsidies, along with the operator control that came with them - thus we get an MMS client, and careful control of VoIP applications.

Google has experience working with operators - it's been more than a year since T-Mobile launched the G1 - so the search giant has had plenty of time to work out what operators want from a handset, and thus what they'll subsidise.

And Google's business model isn't a threat to the operators, unlike Apple's, so in theory the Nexus One should be sure-fire winner with operators. That explains T-Mobile's rumoured $350 subsidy on the $530 price of the Nexus One, which pushes headline price below the $199 Apple is asking for a (subsidised) iPhone 3GS.

Price is important, but marketing is even more so, and (quite remarkably) Apple managed to get the operators to pay for much of their advertising. The exclusive deals Apple signed with operators committed them to extensive advertising spends, and it's hard to imagine that Google will have struck anything similar. But no-one knows more about advertising than Google, with Google also being ideally placed to ensure that there's no confusion when someone is searching the internet for the latest Android handset.

Google's phone, of course, won't be exclusive. That wouldn't be the Google way, just as applications can be bought through the Android Marketplace but can also be bought elsewhere. That's very nice for geeks who care about such things, but for the majority it makes it more complicated, and today's mobile-phone buyer cares more about simplicity than freedom.

So the Nexus One will be a moderate success, bringing in a little revenue for Google and serving as a reference platform for Android developers who will flock to get one spurred on by effective on-line advertising. But the general public will continue to buy the iPhone until Google comes up with some sort of killer feature to take away Apple's crown.

Bill Ray

Friday, 8 January 2010

10 Things You Must Do With Your New Windows 7 PC

If you got a new Windows 7 laptop for Christmas, you are truly in luck. I believe Microsoft got it right with this one after failing horribly with Vista. But here are 10 things you need to get the most out of it.

1. Take a Spin Around the New Interface: Still glassy, glossy and damn near glittery, the Windows 7 interface is actually a major progression for Microsoft: It's not just easy to use, it's a whole new paradigm with the revamped taskbar and Aero Peek making multitasking with multiple windows more natural than ever.

2. Turn Off Everything You Don't Need: While Windows 7 is missing some odd things, like a mail application, the flip side is that you can turn off pretty much every major feature you don't want. Internet Exploder 8? Gone. Windows Media Player? Poof. And if you're used to tweaking the crap out of Windows, you still can—a lot of the old tricks, like for manipulating context menus, still work.

3. Move All Your Crap from Your Old Machine: Windows 7 actually has pretty decent built-in powers for moving all your crap from your old and busted PC to your new pride and joy, though you need to download Windows Easy Transfer separately onto XP if you're pulling stuff from that.

4. Master All of the New Keyboard Shortcuts: Why deal with flipping around a mouse or scribbling on a trackpad when you do the same thing in a tenth of a second with a keyboard combo? The Start key (oh sorry, Windows key), which I've always neglected as a useless monotasker, is supremely useful in Windows 7, as the underpinning for a metric ton of keyboard shortcuts.

5. Get It to Play Nice With All of Your Gadgets: The good news about Windows 7 is that, unlike Vista, most of your gear that worked with your computer a couple years ago with Windows should still work. And newer gear interacts with Windows in a fancy new way with a big ol' splash graphic and easy access to all the stuff you'd wanna do with it. While even simple things, like adding a second monitor, are more straightforward now, here's a device-by-device breakdown on getting everything to touch Windows 7 appropriately.

6. Share Stuff With Your Other Computers, 'Cause It's Easier Now: The networking UI hasn't just gotten a facelift to make it more accessible, it's actually easier to use with HomeGroups—join a HomeGroup, and all of the stuff you want to share with other computers spreads like herpes to the rest of the HomeGroup, no arduous networking required. Also, network in general—like with Macs—seems to just work better with Windows.

7. Stream Your Music and Videos Everywhere: Connecting your PC to a TV sounds so 1999. Well, you might not know this, but your Windows 7 PC is a badass music and video streamer, DVR, photo viewer, video aggregator and everything else you'd want out of a multimedia box, all thanks to Windows Media Center. The living room PC is legit now. Not to mention Play To, which beams music (and video and photos) to any compatible device on your network, no setup required (really!). All it takes it a right-click, and those Sonos speakers on the other side of your house will magically start yelling the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

8. Upgrade Your Netbook to Windows 7 Home Premium: If you got a Windows 7 netbook, there's a good chance you got stuck with the artificially gimped out Starter edition, which sucks. The cheapest way to fix this is to buy Windows 7 for $30 using a valid .edu email address, then follow our guide to installing Windows 7 on any netbook.

9. Set Up Some Network Storage: A fresh computer is a fresh start—meaning it's a perfect time to start a new life with fully networked storage for backup, especially if you're using your machine as a DVR with Windows Media Center. (But skip on faster drives.) One awesome option? A Windows Home Server machine, which can do backups and stream out media to all of your computers.

10. Remote Control It From Anywhere with VNC: While diving deep into the system and futzing with your network at the same time, you might as well set up a VNC server so you can control your computer from anywhere, whether it's to pull files or schedule downloads.

That's all folks. Share your own tips and tricks in the comments!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

1999-2009: How Broadband Changed Everything

2009 has started to pack up its belongings and get ready for its journey into the history books. As such it’s time to slow down and spend more time with our respective families, and to reflect on things. I, like so many others, have been reflecting not only on the year that’s drawing to a close, but the decade.

From 1999 to 2009, the world changed dramatically. We destroyed an unprecedented amount, and yet thanks to technology, built an unprecedented amount, too. Indeed, like a man obsessed, I cannot help but look at our modern lives through the lens of broadband. Thanks to that technology, the world today is more closely knit than ever. From 9/11 to the Asian tsunami to the election of Barack Obama to the terror attacks in Mumbai to the uprising in Iran, broadband enabled us to experience such global events together.

All of which has made me think about the epilogue of my book, “Broadbandits: Inside the $750 Billion Telecom Heist.” Despite the tale I recounted, I was very optimistic about the technology. After all, it was the players who had let the game down — as they almost always do. I still believed in the promise of seamless connectivity, that broadband would prove to be a platform that would usher in a new era of innovation. As I wrote back then:

Despite the current crisis in the broadband business, I am a lot less despondent today than I was starting work on this project…Like its predecessors, the radio, railroad, airline and automobile bubbles, the broadband bubble will be a distant memory…Sure, the industry will suffer for a couple of more years, but by then entrepreneurs — the very essence of the American capitalist system will figure out a way to use that bandwidth. Steve Jobs of Apple Computer wants us all to exchange digital photos and videos; that will consume some bandwidth. Some say that a new era of grid computing will dawn…It’s a start!

Those were brave and somewhat foolish words, given that at the time the industry was in disarray due to corporate scandal, and there were miles and miles of pipes with no data to fill them. I was writing about a long list of companies in 1999 that don’t exist anymore, among them @Home Networks, the first cable broadband provider; Rhythms NetConnections; Northpoint Communications and the Concentric Network. My own first broadband connection came to me earlier that year via Bell Atlantic, a Baby Bell that would eventually morph into Verizon. I paid $70 for a 384 kbps DSL connection.

The House That Napster Built

It’s easy to forget that it was the magical beauty of Napster, the then-illegal music-sharing service, that spurred many of us to sign up for DSL and cable broadband connections. Napster’s popularity made it clear for the first time that broadband was a platform, no different than, say, Windows or the PlayStation. That’s because it allowed for new applications to be developed and run on top of it, applications that consumed bandwidth — and in turn, driving demand for even more of it.

The demand for broadband, of course, has since soared. In the U.S., for example, we started the decade with a couple million connections but are going to end it with more than 80 million. While the growth of new connections has started to slow, by 2014 the total number of connections will top 96.4 million in the U.S. alone. Globally, according to some estimates, there will be close to 700 million broadband users by 2013.

But since for many people, such numbers are too abstract to be meaningful, let’s just look back at the decade that was in terms of companies and the products and services they brought us that have become fundamental to our everyday lives.

That Thing You Google

We’ll start with Google. Little more than a pesky little upstart in 2000, it has been the single biggest beneficiary of the broadband boom. Not only did it turn the Internet into a strategic advantage, but it managed to bottled that lightening on its first try. Because broadband connections allow us to search for anything, anytime, and actually find what we’re looking for, thanks to Larry and Sergey, we soon started to forget about directory services such as the one offered by Yahoo.

The more broadband spread, the more people used Google and as such, changed their Internet usage behavior from that of hoarding bookmarks or consulting directories to searching, starting with the phrase: I’m Feeling Lucky! Of course, Google is now a $191 billion company, its corporate vow to “Do no evil” now somewhat hollow-sounding.

My Top 10 Broadband-based Apps/Devices

1. Firefox
2. Google
3. Skype
4. Hulu
5. Facebook
7. Twitter.
9. iTunes
10. Google Talk

Bonus Pick: BitTorrent

At the same time, I find it absurd that so many companies blame Google for their woes. It’s not Google that has so little regard for esteemed brands, but the distribution platform — aka the broadband network. This truly democratic quality is why Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis were able to start peer-to-peer Internet telephony service Skype, which has single-handedly destroyed the long-distance voice business.

I Want My NewTeeVee

And let’s not forget YouTube, which turned every minute into prime time and the entire planet into an audience. Or that ultimate lovechild of broadband and television, Hulu. We’ve largely replaced our real-world relationships with Facebook pokes and Twitter updates, and most of us now own either an iPod or an iPhone (or both!). All have made for a broadband-enabled life. In the meantime, a new era of grid computing, known as cloud computing, has begun, courtesy of Jeff Bezos’s amazing house on the hill,

Of course, the very flat and democratic Internet has also destroyed aging business models practiced by those that failed to learn one simple truth: packets eventually end up at their destination.

Om Malik