Category: Products

Philips shows off 3D printed luminaries

lightsonDutch firm Royal Philips has shown off what it says are the world’s first 3D printed “smart” luminaries.

The luminaries are part of its “Hue” range, and Philips said that a finger swipe on smartphone or tablet allows you to create any number of personal light effects from a palette of 16 million hues, shades of white and programmable scenes.

Philips lets you create table and pendant luminaries to order at www.meethue.com while you can also order them from London store Selfridges.

Philips also showed off a bright white LED bulb which you can control from your tablet or smartphone. The Hue “lux” retrofits into existing A19 luminaries.

ConvoLightBecause your gizmo controls them you can turn your lights on and off from anywhere in the world you can get connected.  Applications include linking the app to alert you to stormy weather, link to stock tickers, link to sportsfeed, or to your Facebook page.

Philips also showed off Convo Lights, which can notify deaf people when there are other audible signals they might miss.

Google to gobble up smartphone market

smartphones-genericWant an Android smartphone for around 100 bucks?  Go to India, because that’s where the action is.

Market analysts at IDC said Google has introduced what it describes as the “first wave” of Android One devices in India in collaboration with local gizmo makers Spice, Karbonn and Micromax.

Google – now it’s a hardware company – has produced a reference design that makes it nice and easy to create devices using Mediatek MT6582 system on a chip (SoC) devices.

And Google isn’t letting it end there because it’s already teamed up major mobile firms Airtel and Reliance and pulled in Amazon too to give added value to the reference designs.

According to IDC, it won’t end there, because after capturing the Indian smartphone market it will also launch similar products in Indonesia and then Brazil.

IDC thinks Google is set to sell heaps of phones and “redefine”  cheap smartphones with “good enough” specs.

OK – Samsung and Apple can battle it out at the high end and while there are plenty of Indian folk who can afford to lash out on these, there are an awful lot more folks who, quite simply, can’t.

Google hasn’t got a presence in the Chinese market, said IDC, but can make gazillions out of other major markets.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 comes to pass

microsoft-in-chinaSoftware supremo Microsoft said it has made available a product which it claims will help small to medium sized businesses (SMBs)  grow their revenues.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV is business management software and is now optimised for mobile and for cloud, the company claimed.

Features include tablet and touch features that let SMBs access data from any place or  on devices that include apps from Apple, Google and Microsoft app stores.

There’s a simplified way of designing invoices that syncs with Microsoft Word. Microsoft says that allows people to create their own customised invoice templates.

It also has new capabilities for electronic payments and account reconciliation.

Kaveri makes this Acer Aspire E5 sing

Acer E5-551_1AMD has been making a big noise about its Kaveri chip range of Mobile APUs and we got a look at what it could do to Acer E5-551 15.6 laptop.

AMD A-Series APU family, codenamed Kaveri, is starting to pop up in systems from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba. According to AMD, the new mobile APUs mark the debut of Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) features and Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture for mobile. Acer’s Aspire E5 is first to arrive in the UK and will be sold through Debenhams so this makes it interesting from a user or a channel perspective.

The AMD A8 Kaveri chip is now powering the new Acer E5-551 laptop is designed for multi-tasking from gaming and light photo-editing to running multiples instances of software and streaming music. The E5-551 features a DVD reader and writer for long plane flights where you need a better movie. It is also well placed for the school market as it can practically anything a school kid could throw at it.

The machine is priced for about £409 which makes it a good budget model for smaller companies who are providing portables for those who have to do work, rather than just look at tablets. Normally there is not much between computers in this range. Most have WXGA screens based on TN technology and conventional hard drives and plastic bodies.

 Acer E5-551_9The Spec

Processor: AMD Quad-Core A8-7100

Mainboard: AMD A76M

Memory: 8192 MB, DDR3L, 1600 MHz, dual-channel, 2 memory banks, both filled

Graphics adapter :AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri), Core: 533 MHz, DDR3L, shared memory, bus: 64 Bit

Display: 15.6 inch 16:9, 1366×768 pixel, AU Optronics AUO47EC, TN LED

Connections2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 1 combo audio in/out, 3.5 mm jack, Card Reader: SD/SDHC/SDXC,

Networking: Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros Communications AR9565 Wireless Network Adapter (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth

Optical drive: Matshita DVD-RAM UJ8E2Q

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 64 Bit

Weight: 2.5 kg

Battery: 56 Wh Lithium-Ion

 Acer E5-551_10Design

The Aspire A5 design is, bluntly, a bit of a snooze and not its strongest feature. Certainly, it is thinner than many laptops in this range but it is not that thin. It is lighter and easy to carry than others we have had. Certainly in comparison to the bricks that are available in this price range it is certainly not bad. Besides, for £409 design is something that happens to other people’s computer.

The plastic case also seems to pick up every type of grease that a hand can generate and make the machine slimy.

 The chip

The important part of this computer is an AMD Quad-Core A8-7100 which is a quad core with eight GPU cores to carry out the AMD Radeon R7 series graphics. The idea of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) is that it allows the CPU and GPU to work together by quickly dividing and directing the right tasks toward the appropriate cores to improve performance and efficiency. The chip managed to make running software a breeze and it even passed our Firefox running trillions of opens tabs trick without any problems.

 The Graphics

The graphics on the Kaveri platform is far better than Intel’s equivalent HD graphics cores integrated into the Haswell chips. This makes Kaveri armed laptop owners able to play reasonably demanding games and videos. Playing Civ 5 was not only possible it was a quality game on Acer E5-551, something that I have only seen on our other home laptop, which has a dedicated card, when there was nothing else running. HD films came out very well, limited only by the screen which for a budget machine was still not too bad.

Connectivity

The machine has an HDMI socket, Ethernet connection, two USB 2.0 sockets, a USB 3.0 connection and a VGA out.  Not bad not great.

Communication

The Atheros AR9565 Wi-Fi module supports the IEEE 901.11 b, g and n standards,  Bluetooth, version 4.0. The signal connections were fairly standard and nothing to right home about

Battery

The 56 Wh Lithium-Ion managed 4.5 half hours before needing a recharge, which was not too bad given the thrashing we were giving it.  Again, this is due to the lower power draw of the AMD A8 chip.

Noise and heat

There was no noise coming from the machine at all. This was unheard of in any laptop in this price range, particularly one with an ordinary hard drive. One could almost believe it is fanless. The heat levels were also not to bad.  The laptop did get warm, but not hot and was comfortable to put on your lap.

Keyboard

The flat, roughened keys were not bad and were capable of fast touch typing.

Touchpad

The ClickPad which is a large, single-surface which you press when you want to ‘click’ was reasonable in comparison to the alternatives we have used.  Generally, if you are not going to have a touch screen on a laptop you are always going to be better with a mouse. When such use was impossible though once you got used to it was fine. Most of the touchpad surface can be pressed, which is interpreted as a left click except for in the lower right of the Clickpad.

 Hard-drive

The hard drive is 1TB which is more than enough for any portable music or movie collection.  It is not an SSD but we never heard it in operation.

Summery

The Acer E5-551 would be a normal budget laptop where it not for the Kaveri chip making it into something special. It enabled speed, enhanced graphics, extended battery life, and quiet operation something which we have not seen from Intel equivalents in the market.  It is still a budget machine, limited by the lack of a quality screen, but for that price it it is jolly useful.

The Eyes have it

four-stars

 

 

 

Good value for money.

 

Personal storage devices rose in Europe

seagate-hddMarket analysis firm IDC said that 6.3 million personal and entry level storage devices shipped in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) during the second quarter of this year.

The market includes storage hardware products made for end users, small offices and small businesses.

Companies selling these products include Toshiba, Western Digital, Seagate, Buffalo, D-Link, Netgear and Lenovo/EMC.

The market for sales in western Europe grew 3.5 percent in the quarter compared to the same quarter last year.  Western Europe also represented the largest market for units shipped, amounting to 4.7 million units.  Those revenues largely came for personal level storage.

The central eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa (CEMA) showed a drop of 13 percent year on year.  The drop was because of sanctions against Russia and the Ukrainian crisis, as well as less bandwidth capabilities and the fact not many people work remotely in the region.

The Middle East and Africa showed a drop of 17 percent year on year, caused by political turmoil and civil unrest.

HP says “Don’t cross the Streams”

gb_pee-764695The maker of expensive printer ink, HP, seems jolly keen on putting Google’s Chromebook out of business.  This week it announced several new stream notebooks.  For those who came in late the Stream series is HP’s version of the low cost Windows laptop, meant to compete head to head with Chromebooks on price.

The difference between the two is that the Streams still offer a fully fleshed out operating system. The Stream 14 is available to purchase now for only $299, and comes with an AMD A4 APU, 2 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of eMMC storage.

Now HP has fleshed out its range and announced two additional laptops, and two tablets.

The laptops come in two screen sizes with the smallest being 11.6” and the mid-size being 13.3” and these are to compliment the already released 14” model.

HP is not saying what the exact specifications have not been disclosed yet, but both units will be powered by an Intel dual-core Bay Trail Celeron processor. This means that it is a fanless device, and both come with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of eMMC storage. The 13.3” device has an optional touchscreen to go with the 1366×768 resolution that both laptops share. The 13.3” model also is available with optional 4G connectivity. HP is including 200 MB of free data every month for the life of the device. As another value add, HP is offering one year of Office 365 personal, which includes 1 TB of online storage and 60 Skype minutes per month.

Battery life is eight hours and 15 minutes for the 11.6” model, and seven hours 45 minutes for the 13.3” model.

The HP Stream laptops are available in several colours, and will be priced at $199.99 for the 11.6” model and $229.99 as the starting price for the 13.3” model.

HP also announced the HP Stream 7 Tablet, which is a 7” Windows 8.1 that comes in at only $99.99. There is also the HP Stream 8 which has a starting price of $149.99. Both tablets are powered by Intel Atom quad-core processors, and 1366×768 screens. Like the larger of the two laptops, the 8” tablet, if equipped with the optional 4G, comes with 200 MB of data per month for the life of the device, and both also come with Office 365 personal for one year.

China clamps down on iPhone smugglers

gala_appleApple is not set to launch its iPhone 6 family in mainland China for a while, but that’s just created a smuggling racket as crooks try to cash in on demand for the devices.

According to the Taipei Times, crooks are selling imported iPhone 6s for as much as $3,000 – but authorities have made several seizures of the machines in the last week.

Some have tried to import the iPhones by using speedboats into mangrove swamps while others have taken the more direct route of stuffing their suitcases with contraband Apple phones.

The same report said that “hundreds” of devices had been taken from passengers who sought to import a phone without declaring them.

Greed for Apple iPhones is apparently so high that authorities are suggesting that people despise rather than envy those who have one of the overpriced devices.  The Taipei Times report is here.

Windows 9 out next year

Microsoft campusYou may not have upgraded from Windows XP to Windows 7, never mind Windows 8 – but pretty soon you’ll have Windows 9 to think about.

Microsoft will release something it calls  a technical preview of Windows 9 at the end of this month.

The word on the street is that Windows 9 will include the start menu – and it might not be called Windows 9.  The beta is due to be supplied with a single beta.

According to PC Advisor, the preview version will come between the second quarter and the third quarter next year. There will be versions available for smartphones, for PCs and for tablets.

Web site Winbeta said that Microsoft is going to dump the so-called “charms bar”, an annoying menu that comes in from the right hand side of the screeen with buttons to search, share and the like.

The word on the street appears to be that Windows 9, or whatever it’s called, will use 64 bit processors only, although that could present a  problem for heaps of people.

Blackberry goes square with Passport design

blackberry-juicerMobile phone company Blackberry officially released its Passport device, which has a square touch screen and a touch enabled QWERTY keyboard.

It said the unit follows the design of real passports.

The device uses Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for the display and stainless steel to make it that bit more rugged.

The screen is 4.5-inches square using a 1:1 aspect ratio and a 1440 x 1440 pixel HD display. It has 32GB of storage and a 13 megapixel camera.

The keyboard lets you perform touch functions on the keyboard, scroll web pages, and leaving the full screen space for viewing.

It comes with Blackberry 10.3 operating system along with Amazon Appstore and Blackberry Blend.blackpass

It claims that it has long battery use – and for a very active user provides up to 30 hours of life.

The unit comes with speakers and a quad microphone system/  It’s available now, worldwide.

Apple claims sales record for iPhone 6

Apple's Tim CookGizmo firm Apple claimed it sold over 10 million iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones in the three days after it was launched by CEO Tim Cook. (pictured)

The phones are available in the UK, Singapore, Puerto Rico, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Canada, Australia and the USA – and will be sold in 20 more countries on September 26th.

Cook said that while there are supply constraints on the iPhone 6, the launch is Apple’s best ever.

The phones uses Apple’s A8 chip which is a 64 bit microprocessor, touch app Apple Pay and 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch retina HD displays.

The phones also come with an upgrade to the operating system, iOS 8, which offers new features including predictive typing and a Health app.

Apple is using its familiar trick of charging quite a bit extra depending on the memory. In the US, for example the magic figure is a $100 hike between the 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models.

Desktop 3D printer upgraded

Tiertime 3D printerTiertime said it has launched a new desktop 3D printer, called UP BOX.

It costs $1,900 and is aimed at both professional and educational market.

The machine will churn out larger units with a max size of 10x8x8 inches, while the print resolution is now 0.1mm and printing speed 30 percent faster than its predecessor.

Other features include automatic calibration, an air filtration system that cuts down noise and making sure no noxious fumes escape. Perhaps most important to some is  LED based “mood lighting” that tells you where you are on the printing front.

The unit comes with software, a build platform for warp free ABS printing and a one year limited guarantee and service.

The unit will be available in November, through Amazon and other shops, worldwide.

Dell rules the PC monitor roost

Dell logoPC monitor unit shipments amounted to 32.5 million units in the second quarter of this year – and that’s a fall of 2.9 percent compared to the year before.

IDC released findings on the quarter, said that tendency will continue over the next three years.

But LCD technology had a 93 percent market share in the second quarter, an increase of 10.5 percent compared to the same quarter a year before.

The favoured screen size is 21.x-inches, and had a market share of 22.5 percent in the quarter.

While touch screen monitors continue to hold only a tiny part of the total PC monitor share of 0.4 percent, there was stronger growth in the USA than in other markets.

Dell managed to stay number one in the quarter, with market share of 15.4 percent, representing five million units.

Samsung, at number two, had a 17.9 percent share in market value. In revenue terms, it was number one, shipping $1.04 billion wrth of units in the quarter.

HP is the number three worldwide, but held the number one position in Western Europe, and the number two position in the US.

Notebook sales slow in the third quarter

notebooksWhile the computer industry saw comparatively small growth for notebooks in the second quarter, it looks like the third quarter will be much slower.

The third quarter always used to be buoyant for PC sales until sales started to slow a few years ago as smartphones and tablets came into their ascendancy.

Taiwanese wire Digitimes reports that ODMs (original design manufacturers) largely based on the island has fallen quite short of expectations.

It attributes the growth in the second quarter not to a rise in interest in the platforms any more, but because Windows XP was phased out in the spring.

People realised that if they were going to buy a notebook, it would be as well to do it then and move to a new Windows operating system.

Reports earlier this week suggested that sales of tablets in North American and western European markets had reached a degree of stasis too.  Most people who wanted a tablet have got one.

Western Digital fills drives with helium

helium-ballong-flygWestern Digital’s HGST subsidiary has added 8TB and 10TB hard drives to its HelioSeal product line.

These drives are hermetically seals in helium in order to reduce internal drive friction and power use and make your drives sound like Mickey Mouse.

HGST announced its first helium-filled hard drive, the 6TB He6 model in December.  It did rather well and broke all previous records for hard drive areal density.

HGST said that by 2017, it plans to end production of air-filled hard drives for use in corporate data centres and just use helium-filled products.

Along with the thinner gas’s ability to reduce power use, the helium-drives run at four to five degrees cooler than today’s 7200rpm drives, HGST stated.  Sealing air out of the drive also keeps humidity and other contaminates from getting in.

The announcement follows Seagate’s two weeks ago which announced its highest capacity enterprise hard drive would be an 8TB model that bypassed helium for air.

Seagate uses a technology called shingled magnetic recording (SMR) to increase the capacity of its drives beyond 4TB. Seagate has said SMR holds the promise of creating 20TB drives by 2020.

HGST’s new 3.5-in 8TB drive uses PMR technology. Both drives use a 12Gbps SAS interface, but by using helium instead of air, HGST said it was able to stack seven platters and reduce power usage at idle by 23 per cent and watts per terabyte of capacity by 44 per cent over its 6TB drive.

Balabit box offers security superguard

praetorianHungarian security company Balabit showed off its Shell Control Box (SCB) at a press gig this  week.

This is a clever gizmo which sits between a data centre and people accessing the data which has an active alert function and which can reconstruct changes people have made to systems as well as preclude certain users from doing different things.

Gabor Marosvari, product marketing manager at Balabit, showed data that demonstrated that 88 percent of internal problems and caused by abuse of privileges,  and 71 percent of all misuses are made using LANs, with 21 percent of those using remote access.

Firewalls, security information and event management (SIEMs) and password managers aren’t enough to protect systems, Balabit claims.  Balabit’s SCB, however, controls privileged user access to remote servers, heads off malicious actions at the gorge, records activities and reports actions for compliance and decision support, it claims. If an intrusion happens, the system can be set up to email the god or goddess that runs the SCB system, and to text them too, if required. It supports the following protocols.

scb

Balabit also claims that it has little competition in the sector. Wallix, CyberARK, Xceedium and Dell Quest use jump hosts; Observe-IT, Centrify and TSFactory are agent based, while Intellinx is a network sniffer.

Balabit, which received an £8 million series A funding from C5 last week, targets banks, central government, telcos, cloud and MSPs, big manufacturers, large enterprises and enterprises using outsourcing.  It doesn’t have any offerings for SMBs, and the cheapest implementation is likely to cost in excess of $10,000. Customers include Raiffeisen, Orange, Telenor, Handelsbanken and Ankara University.

Of course, the big question is that it will be one or two superusers, such as auditors, that has access to the device that monitors an entire enterprise.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – who will guard the guards themselves? Because she, he, or they are humans too, subject to the emotions, passions, greed and chicanery that affects all of our species.