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Oct 28, 2009

7 Negatives for Windows 7

Microsoft's latest operating system Windows 7 opened to rave reviews last week. After the dismal performance of its earlier operating system Vista, Microsoft seems to be heaving a sigh of relief at the grand reception that its new OS has received.

PC makers are scrambling to offer Windows 7-based systems, including Netbooks, as they hope the operating system to spur PC sales. After skidding for six months, computer shipments have shown some improvements recently. Seems Microsoft is all set to further strengthen its grasp over computer desktops.

Not really! As many skeptics beg to differ. According to them, Vista too got high marks before its release as well, with writers praising the new visual design and glossing over quirks that later became common gripes.

Here's looking into what may dampen Microsoft's Windows 7 party.
Shifting from XP

One of the biggest complain that most analysts have is the lack of direct upgrade from XP, the operating system which still continues to run on almost 80% of the world's computers. Windows 7 fails to offer a smooth transition from XP as there is no upgrade option. Users will have to go for a fresh install.

Writes Tony Bradley of PC World, "After the issues with Windows Vista, and knowing that the vast majority of users-both consumer and enterprise-are still relying on Windows XP, it seems like a direct upgrade path is a necessity. Many users may be frustrated by the lack of upgrade path and having to do a fresh install, reinstall all of the other software and migrate user settings. Microsoft has provided tools to ease the pain, but this is still the biggest opportunity for negative PR or backlash related to Windows 7."

According to Microsoft, the upgrade option is not available in Windows 7 Setup when installing Windows 7 on a computer running Windows XP. However, users can use Windows Easy Transfer to migrate files and settings from Windows XP to Windows 7 on the same computer.

Hardware upgrade

The basic requirements of a PC to run on Windows 7 are 1 GHz processor, minimum 1GB of RAM and 16GB hard drive space. This in simple words means any hardware that worked with Vista will work for Windows 7 too.

However, one of the most crucial reasons for Vista not succeeding was that the operating system almost forced a hardware upgrade on users. Hope the almost similar requirement does not hamper the prospects of Windows 7. It's is also to be noted here that that the basic PC configuration has seen a jump since Vista days.

Hardware and Drivers support

According to Bradley, Windows Vista stumbled due to the lack of hardware and device driver support. He writes, "The vendors just weren't ready when Vista was launched and Vista never really recovered from the damaged reputation even after most of those issues were resolved."

It is not a great experience for users working on a new operating system to find out that their existing printer, wireless router, webcam, and other peripheral hardware devices don't work with the new OS. This means either they stop working on that hardware or look for new hardware that is compatible.

UAC is still there!

The most controversial and much maligned feature of Vista, UAC or User Account Control is a part of Windows 7 too. The UAC was designed to prevent unauthorised execution of code by displaying a pop-up warning every time a change is being made to the system, whether by the operating system or a third-party application.

Many Vista users complained of being bombarded with the warnings. It proved a huge annoyance for users installing new applications frequently. Windows 7 now allows you to set the level of information that a user desires.

However, writes Bradley, "... still after much debate with the security community during the Beta testing, the default setting is still set to what users experienced with Windows Vista. Frankly, UAC serves a purpose and it is better to leave it alone. But, those who dislike UAC are going to have to go into the control panel and modify the configuration to their liking or be faced with the same pop-ups that annoyed the world with Vista."

Vista's ghost

The failure of Vista continues to cast a deep shadow on the Microsoft's fresh launch, especially among the business users. Most enterprise customers skipped Windows Vista reportedly due to the numerous technical glitches that the OS had. According to reviewers, the operating system suffered from frequent hangs and crashes, and incompatibility with certain software and hardware.

A section of analysts believes that `Vista's reputation' may hamper Microsoft's efforts to convince enterprises about the Windows 7 improved features.

Ahead of the launch, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said that the company's reputation never recovered from the poor performance of Vista. Ballmer said Microsoft's reputation took a beating after the release of Vista in 2007, an operating system which caused computers to hang indefinitely, among many other technical glitches.

High pricing

Price is seen as one of biggest issue that may dampen the Windows 7 release. Microsoft is charging $199.99 for the Home Premium version of Windows 7, or $119.99 for users seeking to upgrade from older versions of the operating system. However, India pricing seems to be comparatively low.

In India, the Home Basic package will cost about Rs 5,899, while the Windows 7 Ultimate (high-end version) will be available for Rs 11,799. In the US, the high-end version costs $320 (Rs 15,000).

Microsoft Vista Home basic costs around Rs 3,500, Home Premium version is priced at Rs 4,800. Microsoft Vista Business costs around Rs 6,400 while Microsoft Vista Ultimate is priced at Rs 9,500.

PC makers HCL Infosystems, Acer and Hewlett Packard have already started shipping Windows pre-loaded PCs and notebook computers. HP India will retail Windows 7-preloaded PCs between Rs 27,990 and Rs 90,000. HP's preloaded Windows 7 notebooks will be priced at Rs 39,990 onwards.

Acer PCs with Windows 7 OS will be priced between Rs 15,000 and Rs 35,000, while the notebooks will be priced at Rs 21,000-Rs 70,000. HCL Infosystems' Executive Vice President George Paul informed that HCL will price it between Rs 16,000 and Rs 55,000, whereas the notebooks would cost Rs 22,000-Rs 80,000.

Launch timing

Microsoft’s big release coincides with one of the worst phases in the global economy. The past few months have witnessed a downfall in the spending as cost-cutting became the mantra for businesses around the world.

Though most companies see a recovery on the horizon, they still see no big jump in corporate budgets. The companies globally continue to remain cautious and are tightly guarding their purses.

Certain analysts believe that the tough economic climate may impact the sales of Windows 7. At the same time, PC makers like Lenovo are betting on the new operating system to revive the falling computer sales.


Another big challenge for Microsoft is to deal with piracy. Even before the official release of Windows 7, authentic looking pirate copies of the OS were available in China for a mere $3.

According to Reuters, Windows 7 has been openly available in China's grey market for over a month now. Shopkeepers in Shanghai’s Xinyang market are said to be offering all versions of Windows 7, in both Chinese and English for just 20 yuan ($2.93). This compares with the list price of up to $320.

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Sep 21, 2009

IT 2008-09: Salary hikes & attrition

The average IT sector attrition rate, which was 18 per cent last year has dropped to 15 per cent, according to a survey by IDC, a premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and Dataquest.

Despite the marginal increase in salaries, a freeze on fresh induction, layoffs, cutting down on talent and keeping offer letters on hold, the industry saw a dip in attrition rate to 15 per cent.

The average retention rate, defined as percentage of employees retained out of the total employees as on March 31, 2008, improved to 85 per cent, from 79 per cent in 2008, the survey stated.

The survey results indicate a visible improvement in work environment even though the average salary increases during the year were pared to 1.4 per cent.

The salary increases for employees with less than two years of experience earned 2 per cent increase. Those between 5.1 and 10 years received an average salary hike of 5 per cent and those with over 10 year experience earned four per cent salary increase.

In addition to work-life balance, job security came out as a crucial factor in the survey. The study reveals that there is a drastic fall in the number of people who feel that their job is secure within their company.

The reducing bench and mass layoffs by the larger players seems to have left an impact on the minds of people.

A majority of IT employees said they changed jobs for better salaries and compensation (53 per cent), overseas postings (38 per cent), better job security (18 per cent), flexible working hours (18 per cent) and training and development (9 per cent).

The survey also reveals that companies have become more transparent in their communication with employees giving them a sense of belonging. They have also gone ahead and adopted a higher degree of professionalism in their dealings with employees as well as customers or suppliers.

Another key finding is that more employees are satisfied with the interest shown by their companies as well as their immediate seniors in helping them strike a work-life balance compared to last year.

More employees believe that training has helped them in their all round growth. On the salary and compensation front, a surprisingly high number of employees feel that they are being paid at par with industry standards compared to last year.

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First Cut: Google Chrome 3.0

Google Inc has rolled out a new version of its Chrome Web browser as the company aims to double its browser marketshare. The Internet search company is readying a battery of updates, along with efforts to forge new distribution partnerships it hopes will soon make Chrome a much more significant player.

Almost exactly one year into Google's high-profile entry into the browser market dominated by Microsoft Corp, the Internet search giant is a distant No. 4, with a marketshare of roughly 2.8 per cent.

Version 3.0 of Chrome for PCs brings improvements to the browser's interface, including faster performance and "themes" that allow users to customise how the browser looks.

Here's looking inside Google Chrome 3.0.

Goes blazing fast

Google Chrome 3.0 is significantly faster than its predecessor, claims the company. The updated Chrome boasts over 150% jump in Javascript performance since its very first beta, and a 25% jump from the most recent version.

The browser starts up quickly from users' desktop, and is fast to load web pages and web applications, says the company.

New Tabs

Chrome 3.0's new features include more customisable tab pages. The tab page, which opens by default when a user starts the browser, is redesigned and allows greater customisation.

Users can now rearrange thumbnails of their most-visited websites by simply clicking and dragging mouse. Additionally, they can "pin down" icons to keep them permanently in-place (otherwise, they continuously rearrange to show user's most recently visited sites).

Chrome 3.0 also allows users to view the tab page icons in a list format, if they prefer, or to hide them from the page altogether. For example, users can hide parts of the page they don't want to see, or even opt for a simple list view of their most visited websites.

Omnibox goes new

Chrome 3.0 upgrades Omnibox, the address bar at the top of the screen where a user type URLs or search terms. So far, the Omnibox offered users suggestions as they type in terms. In the new Chrome release, the suggestions are better organised with an optimised dropdown menu. The 3.0 Omnibox uses added icons bookmarks, history, common searches, or Google recommendations.

Chrome 3.0 Omnibox has added little icons to show users whether the items come from searches, bookmarks, or sites from their browsing history.

HTML 5 capabilities

Google Chrome 3.0 adds support for HTML5 capabilities, including the 'video' and `audio' tags for integrated embedding of multimedia elements.

The ‘video’ tag in HTML5 makes embedding videos in a page as simple as embedding regular images. The video tag also allows video playback without plug-ins or external utilities.

Users can give the ‘video’ tag a whirl in Google Chrome and also check out 50th Chrome Experiment, which uses HTML5 ‘audio’ and ‘canvas’ tags.


Chrome 3.0 offers users customisable themes. Just a couple of clicks, and users can get a new look for their browser and apply it immediately. Themes allow users to deck up their browser with colours, patterns and images.

Nearly 30 options are reportedly available in Chrome's Themes Gallery, and many more are likely to be added soon.
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5 Healthy and Unhealthy phones

Researchers have been divided over the effects of cellphone radiation on human beings. While some studies suggest a link between long-term (10 years or more) cellphone use and cancer, many maintain that there is not conclusive or demonstrated evidence that cell phones cause adverse health effects in humans.

US-based Environmental Working Group (EWG) is among the organisations who believe that there is compelling evidence to prove the link between cancer and cellphone radiation. The group recently came out with five safest and five worst mobile phones in terms of cellphone radiation. The study is based on SAR or Specific Absorption Rate. SAR according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association is “a way of measuring the quantity of radio frequency (RF) energy that is absorbed by the body.” For a mobile phone to get FCC certification in the United States, the maximum SAR level must be less than 1.6 watts per kilogram. In Europe, the level is capped at 2 watts per kilogram while Canada allows a maximum of 1.6 watts per kilogram.

Here’s looking into the EWG’s 5 Best and Worst mobile devices for radiation.

Best: Samsung Impression

Maximum radiation: 0.35 Watts per kilogram (W/kg) (based on reported radiation level when held up to your ear)

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 0.35 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 0.83 W/kg

Best: Motorola RAZR V8

Maximum radiation: 0.36 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 0.36 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 0.86 W/kg

Best: Samsung SGH-T229

Maximum radiation: 0.38 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 0.38 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 0.69 W/kg

Best: Samsung Rugby (SGH-A837)

Maximum radiation: 0.46 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 0.46 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 0.57 W/kg

Best: Samsung Propel Pro (SGH-I627)

Maximum radiation: 0.47 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 0.47 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 0.68 W/kg

Worst: Motorola MOTO VU204

Maximum radiation: 1.55 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 1.55 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 0.58 W/kg

Worst: Blackberry Curve 8330

Maximum radiation: 1.54 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear 1.54 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body 0.99 W/kg

Worst: Motorola W385

Maximum radiation: 1.54 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 1.54 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 1.13 W/kg

Worst: Kyocera Jax S1300

Maximum radiation: 1.55 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 1.55 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 1.18 W/kg

Worst: TMobile myTouch 3G

Maximum radiation: 1.55 W/kg

Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

SAR when held at the ear: 1.55 W/kg

SAR when worn on the body: 1.43 W/kg

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Aug 13, 2009

Review: BlackBerry Tour 9630 (Sprint)

Very Good

Sprint now has two top-notch smartphones. The Palm Pre is the energetic, if still somewhat unformed adolescent. The BlackBerry Tour 9630 is the mature adult. Both have things to learn from each other. The Pre could learn a lot from the Tour's great power management, world-phone capability, and rich third-party app catalog. The Tour, on the other hand, could learn a lot from the Pre about fun and about browsing the Web.

That's not saying the BlackBerry Tour isn't fun. It's as much fun as a BlackBerry gets, with excellent music and video players; it just never really lets its hair down in the interface department. That will actually come as a relief to BlackBerry loyalists, who have been clicking on similar icons for almost a decade.

Software Bundle

The Sprint Tour looks exactly like Verizon Wireless's Tour and shares most of the same features, so read that review for more details. It's a great world-roaming voice phone, a good camera phone, and a satisfying media player. It syncs music with iTunes without annoying Apple. The built-in Web browser is abysmal, but excellent alternatives are available such as Bolt and Opera Mini. The Sprint version, I'm thrilled to say, didn't show any of the bugs that bedeviled my Verizon Tour experience. It didn't crash while I was testing it and handled my 16GB SanDisk and Kingston memory cards just fine.

The Sprint model comes with a slew of exclusive Sprint apps, though. Between actual apps on the phone and stubs that lead to downloads, there's Handmark Pocket Express, a NASCAR app, NFL Mobile Live, MLB.com, Sprint TV, the Sprint Music Store, Pandora, Sprint's own software store (powered by Handmark), Sprint Navigation, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and five IM apps covering every popular protocol. Whew!

App Testing and Multimedia

Some of these apps are great. Some are no fun at all. The Sprint music store/player, for instance, had trouble displaying some of the titles for AAC-format songs on my memory card, ran sluggishly, and generally felt superfluous. The BlackBerry has a perfectly good music player, and you can buy songs for less money from several major stores including Amazon.com. The Sprint software store was just a Web link, nowhere near as usable as RIM's own BlackBerry App World.

Sprint TV, on the other hand, delivered at least a dozen channels of streaming video content without a problem. Pocket Express is a quick and easy way to get news and other information, and Pandora played several stations smoothly (though not over a Bluetooth headset.) NFL Mobile Live delivered jerky video in a tiny window, but it's also chock-full of stats and news that appeared to be useful, but made no sense to me as a non-football fan.

With all of those apps loaded, the Tour had about 99MB free for more applications and data. That seems like a decent amount, but remember, you can't store your apps on a memory card.

World Phone and Conclusions

One other advance Sprint has made is their no-nonsense SIM unlocking policy. Unlike Verizon, which makes you jump through a few hoops, the Sprint Tour can be used with foreign SIM cards for lower international rates with no fuss, although you'll probably lose your BlackBerry data service if you try that tack.

The BlackBerry Tour isn't a flashy new touch-screen phone. It's a reliable performer on a proven platform. On many measures, it's neck and neck with the Palm Pre. The Tour has removable memory, video recording, world-phone calling, strong battery life, and a much better keyboard. The Pre has a far better Web browser, better Microsoft Exchange connectivity, and a more sexy style. Much of the Pre's goodness also comes from its touch screen, multi-touch support, and accelerometer, though the Tour doesn't have those by design.

Ultimately, though, it's the BlackBerry's thousands of third-party applications that win the day. At the moment, there are BlackBerry apps to do hundreds of things the Pre can only dream of—manage your travel, sling your video, play lots of games, even connect to Google Voice.

Palm assured me that the Pre's third-party app catalog will ramp up, but it sounds like that process may take months. Until we see the next WebOS phone, then, I'm crowning the BlackBerry Tour 9630 as the Editor's Choice smartphone on Sprint.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS: Continuous Talk Time: 5 hours 11 minutes

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Review: Sony VAIO VPC-W11XX

Despite all the tell-tale signs that point to one—an Atom processor, small screen, and an undersized keyboard—Sony refused to call the LifeStyle PC a netbook. So officially, the company never launched one. But after watching this diminutive category seduce one laptop manufacturer after another, Sony couldn't help but fall weak at the knees, too. This time, it admits that the VAIO VPC-W11XX ($500 direct) is a netbook, and although the beautifully done design and a 1,366-by-768 resolution are admirable netbook qualities, it fails to address all the other things that have made netbooks like the Toshiba mini NB205 and Asus EeePC 1000HE (both Editors' Choices) so successful. A severely undersized keyboard and a bloated price—that merely nets you a 3-cell battery—make this netbook hard to recommend.


Though made out of plastic, a white hue and a matted finish provide the perfect concoction for warding off finger prints and smudges. Netbooks with shiny finishes tend to get dirty very quickly, as evidenced by those of the Asus 1000HE and Acer Aspire One (D250-1165). The mini NB205 has a similar finish but adds texture, while the HP Mini 5101's aluminum top is both durable and scratch resistant. With additional color options for pink and brown, the W11XX is a good looking product that will appeal to a wide group of people. At 2.6 pounds, it may not seem as heavy as the 1000HE (3.2 lbs), NB205 (2.9 lbs), and Samsung N120 (12GBK) (2.9 lbs), but all of these systems come with standard 6-cell batteries; The Sony W11XX starts with a 3-cell battery, and a 6-cell option, unfortunately, is not available yet.


The W11XX's only exceptional feature is its 1,366-by-768 resolution, as it is something rarely found on a 10-inch widescreen. Every other netbook standardizes on a 10-inch widescreen and a 1,024-by-600 resolution. Some, like the HP 5101 and the Dell Inspiron Mini 10v (stay tuned for my review), have them as options, in which you pay an additional premium; the W11XX charges you a big premium off the bat. The 89% keyboard is a disappointment, since it was Sony that started the whole tiled keyboard phenomenon with the Sony VAIO VGN-X505ZP. It looks similar to the ones found in the 1000HE and the NB205, only it's a lot smaller and a lot harder to type on, especially if you have normal sized hands. The Samsung N120 (12GBK), NB205, and Lenovo IdeaPad S12, on the other hand, have full size keyboards, so you get a better typing experience. The mouse buttons and touchpad, however, are above average but still smaller than those ones found on the 1000HE and the NB205.

While two USB ports are sufficient for an average user, most netbooks default to three. The W11XX doesn't add a specialty feature like the HP Pavilion dv2-1030US did with HDMI or the Lenovo S12 did with an Express Card slot, so leaving out the third USB port was somewhat of a conundrum. It comes with VGA, an Ethernet port, and a Webcam, as well as Bluetooth and 802.11G Wi-Fi. Hard drive capacity doesn't stray far from the herd either, as the 160GB spinning drive matches the ones found in the 1000HE and the NB205.


Sony VAIO VPC-W11XX The W11XX uses all the latest parts—at least, the latest for a netbook. The 1.67GHz Intel Atom N280 is the same ones found in the 1000HE and the NB205, though it doesn't gain you much of a performance advantage over other netbooks. The 1GB of memory and Intel integrated graphics is par for the course with every other netbook. And if the parts weren't indication enough, our video encoding results were consistent with those of the 1000HE and the NB205, scoring 4 minutes 28 seconds. The smaller battery places the W11XX at a disadvantage, though, as the 24Wh battery managed only 2 hours 24 minutes. Meanwhile, the 6-cell batteries found in the 1000HE and the NB205 netted between 6 to 8 hours of battery life.

A great looking design and a sweet resolution are the biggest wins for the Sony VAIO VPC-W11XX. Unfortunately, they are eclipsed by a below average keyboard, and a weak feature set. Worst of all, it's at least $100 more expensive than top-caliber netbooks like the Asus EeePC 1000HE and the Toshiba mini NB250, and that's tough to swallow.

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Review: HTC Touch Pro2 (T-Mobile)

Very Good

The HTC Touch Pro2 for T-Mobile is the best Windows Mobile 6.1 phone on the market. It could even be the best possible Windows Mobile 6.1 phone. But while its address book is a work of art and it would make a great addition to any Microsoft Exchange-based business, its cobbled-together interface and media playback problems hold us back from giving it an Editors' Choice.
Buzz up!on Yahoo!

Design and Calling Features

The Touch Pro2 is a boat. At 4.6 by 2.3 by 0.7 (HWD) inches and 6.3 ounces, it's a big phone. But it's very solidly built and handsome, and you get a lot for the size. The phone's main screen is a vast 3.6-inch, 800-by-480-pixel resistive touch panel, and it slides to the side and tilts up so the Touch Pro2 can sit on your desk like a little laptop. With the screen opened, you can type on a huge five-row QWERTY keyboard, one of the best I've ever used on a handheld—it's roomy, spacious, and clicky.

The Touch Pro2 is a very good voice phone. It makes calls on T-Mobile's and foreign 3G or EDGE networks, and calls sound loud and sharp through the earpiece. RF reception isn't fabulous, but it's good enough. Very intense noise cancellation can make transmissions sound computery on the other side of a call, but it does a good job at blocking background noise. The speakerphone is loud enough, and there's a well-placed mute button on the top of the phone, because you're supposed to put the Touch Pro2 face down on a table when you're using the speakerphone.

Ringtones are moderately loud, and the vibrating alert is also surprisingly robust. The phone worked fine with a Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset. You can trigger the built-in voice dialing using the Bluetooth headset, but I found the voice dialing to be frustratingly inaccurate.

Unfortunately, we couldn't complete our battery tests because our battery-testing computers crashed several times—no fault of the Touch Pro2's. HTC advertises six and a half hours of 3G talk time, which seems in line with the partial results we got.

HTC's TouchFLO 3D

Windows Mobile 6.1 is old and creaky, so HTC has rewritten as much of the user interface as they could. The Touch Pro2 doesn't just have a cool set of animated home screens that you swipe across to quickly access your contact book, e-mail, music and YouTube. The program menu, address book, camera app, calendar, e-mail setup, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi setup all look nicer and work much more easily than their standard Windows Mobile brethren. If you stick to HTC's home-screen apps—SMS, e-mail, calendar, Web browser, stocks, camera, music, and weather—you'll never have to pull out the little stylus tucked into the corner of the device.

It's amazing what HTC has done to dress up every aspect of Windows Mobile, but the Touch Pro2 works best as a business communicator. It's full of useful little advances. When you receive an email, you can tap a button to quickly call the person who sent it. You can create conference calls on the fly, straight from the address book. From contact cards, you can quickly flip to see all the phone calls or messages you sent to a particular person. The Touch Pro2 also integrates Facebook details right into your address book.

To enter data on the Touch Pro2, you can use a nice-looking portrait-style on-screen QWERTY keyboard or the roomy physical keyboard; the screen doesn't rotate automatically when you turn the phone, but it rotates when you pop the keyboard out.

Web browsing and GPS on the Touch Pro2 aren't bad. The phone comes with the Opera Mobile 9.7 Web browser, which delivers desktop-formatted pages (albeit without Flash). I found T-Mobile 3G speeds to be good, with Web pages coming down at about 750 kbps. The phone comes with TeleNav's GPS program, which locked into my location quickly and offered spoken driving directions, even in midtown Manhattan.

The Touch Pro2 also comes with the usual Office Mobile apps (Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Word), a PDF reader, Google Maps, and IM clients for AIM, Google Talk, Microsoft Messenger, MySpace IM, and Yahoo. It's fully set up to handle HTML e-mail with attachments, and any other kind of messaging you want to throw at it. The device has a 528 MHz processor, 225 MB of available memory, and a microSD card slot that takes 16GB cards, so there's plenty of room to add software.

Touch Pro2 Troubles

On the other hand, the Touch Pro2 is an embarrassing disaster as a media player. To plug in standard headphones, you must attach a stiff, four-inch long dongle that for some reason has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, a non-standard 2.5mm jack, and two USB ports on it. I took one look at that thing, gave up, and hooked up my Altec Lansing BackBeat 903/906 Bluetooth stereo headphones instead—I suggest you do the same.

The TP2 has two built-in media players: a music player you can trigger directly from the TouchFLO 3D home screen, and the standard, confusing Windows Media Player, which you need to use to play videos. The phone played MP3, AAC, and WMA music files fine, but 640-by-480 videos played jerkily. Smaller-format, 480-by-320 videos played fine in full screen mode. I got hideously low frame rates with SlingPlayer Mobile over Wi-Fi, often down to the single digits. HTC's custom-built YouTube application is gorgeous and easy to use, but a three-minute music video had to buffer twice during playback over Wi-Fi. That's not a smooth experience.

The Touch Pro2's 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera took surprisingly pixelated photos with way too many JPEG artifacts, especially in low light. The video mode recorded compressed-looking, washed-out 640-by-480 videos at 20 frames per second. That's a terrific resolution for video recording, but the videos weren't very high quality.

Underlying Windows Mobile issues can make using the Touch Pro2 a hassle at times. The touch screen sometimes didn't register my presses or swipes. If you leave the cozy confines of HTC's apps, you're presented with the tiny little stylus-centric interface elements that have given Windows Mobile a bad name. If you open too many apps, you'll run out of memory just as you can on all Windows Mobile phones, though HTC puts a task manager right up on the home screen to let you easily quit apps.

And the whole thing feels a bit cobbled together; there are two media players on board, two Web browsers, two calendar apps, and two sets of settings screens. In an era where clear, unified interfaces rule, it's difficult to cheer for a split personality.


The Touch Pro2 is the pinnacle of Windows Mobile phones, and it makes a marvelous business communicator. But we still recommend the BlackBerry 8900 as our Editors' Choice on T-Mobile, even though it has a lower-resolution screen and no 3G. Why? Consistency is one big reason: although HTC has done great work dressing up Windows Mobile, you still end up looking at an old, stylus-centric interface if you dig too deeply. The Touch Pro2's media troubles didn't help, either. The Touch Pro2 is an excellent way to stay in touch with people, but it's a new OS away from being a world-beating smart phone.

The Touch Pro2 will be available on August 12th at T-Mobile, and I expect to see other versions of the phone appear on other major carriers throughout the summer. T-Mobile has not announced a price yet.
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Shake to Charge Mint Battery

The Mint Battery is a concept gadget that explores the use of kinetic energy to keep an AA battery charged. Rather than using energy from a wall socket or solar panel the Mint Battery looks in to the idea of being able to shake the battery to create charge.

To fit everything needed to make it work the Shakenergy Mint Battery is about half the capacity of a regular rechargeable battery (maybe 750mAh – 1000mAh). What the concept shows is the charging unit being placed at the bottom of the cylinder and the half sized battery sitting just above that.

As it’s only a concept it is unknown if the Shakenergy will ever be made. Various factors such as charge time also need to be taken in to consideration. Still, a quite cool idea though regardless of it being practical or not.

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Musical Kettle

The Musical Kettle now ranks as one of the most bizzare kitchen gadgets you will find. It works just like a normal kettle whistle in that the air pushed through it causes it to make a noise… but in this case the noise can be varied.

The creator says…

I wanted to contribute to the design of daily domestic noises. alarms, mobile phones, a doorbell; he is of the opinion that not enough thought has been given to the noises they produce. The musical kettle is a part of series ‘re-design soundscape’. As the kettle boils it whistles your favorite tune.

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HTC Touch Diamond 2, HTC Mega and HTC Tachi

If you are a Windows Mobile (Windows Phone I should say) fan, then you’re in for some good news. HTC are bringing two new HTC phones to Verizon. A third handset also gets an updated render of what it could look like.

First off is the HTC Touch Diamond 2 that is codenamed Whitestone. This is the phone pictured on the left and has the following features…
HTC Touch Diamond2 Features

* Windows Mobile 6.1
* Qualcomm 7600 processor @ 528MHz
* 512MB ROM/256MB RAM
* 3.6-inch WVGA touchscreen
* 5 megapixel autofocus camera/Anti-handshaking
* gpsOne (aGPS and full GPS)
* GSM/CDMA World phone

The Diamond 2 will be making it’s way to Big Red next month.

Next on the list is the HTC Mega (middle phone) which will be running Windows Phone (WinMo 6.5). Specs are as follows…
* Windows Mobile 6.5
* Qualcomm 7225 processor @ 528 MHz
* 256MB ROM/256MB RAM
* 2.8-inch QVGA (240×320)
* 3 megapixel fixed-focus camera
* gpsOne

Although it will run WinMo 6.5 it still lacks a little on the camera side in that it’s just a 3 megapixel camera.

Finally on the right is a new rendering of the HTC Tachi which is heading over to China.
HTC Tachi Specs

* Windows Mobile 6.1
* Dual CDMA/GSM radio
* 2.8-inch 480×640 pixel display
* WiFi
* Bluetooth 2.0
* 3.1 megapixel camera with auto-focus
* Front facing camera
* MicroSD slot
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Haptic Reader Converts Text to Braille

The Haptic Reader concept is an overlay designed to help blind people read non Braille books. The device has a glass surface that is designed to rest on the pages of a regular book. Text from the page is then scanned in to the Haptic Reader and the surface has dots that protrude to make up the Braille characters.

If the user of the device doesn’t yet understand Braille then the reader makes use of a loud speaker to read out the contents of the book.

Another feature of the concept Haptic Reader is the edging also has Braille dots allowing the reader to be used as a bookmark and provide details of which book it is sat in on the bookshelf.

It’s a great idea although due to the scanning required, I don’t think it will be ready for another few years.

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