Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nokia slips from 1 to 3 in smartphone sales

Apple and Samsung Electronics ended struggling Nokia's 15-year reign at the top of the smartphone sales rankings in the second quarter, researchers said on Friday.
Nokia has dominated the smartphone market ever since its 1996 launch of the Communicator model, but competition from its two nearest rivals and a slump in its own sales sent it straight from first to third place in the three months to June as growth in the sector starts to slow.
Apple sold a record 20.3 million iPhones in the quarter despite the fact that its iPhone 4 model is now more than a year old. Usually success of smartphone models does not last so long.
Apple unveiled its sales last week, but on Friday analysts also estimated Samsung sold 19 million smartphones in the quarter, well ahead of Nokia's 16.7 million as it was able to benefit from booming demand with smartphones using Google's Android software.
"Samsung's Galaxy portfolio has proven popular, especially the high-tier S2 Android model," said Neil Mawston, analyst at Strategy Analytics."
Strategy Analytics estimated smartphone market volume grew 76 percent from a year ago in the second quarter. ABI Research was somewhat more cautious estimating market grew 62 percent.
Growth on the overall cellphone market slowed too in the April-June period, as sales of basic phone models dropped for the first time in seven quarters due to consumers reining in spending, research firm IDC said on Friday.
IDC said strong smartphone demand boosted the market to still grow 11.3 percent from a year ago to 365.4 million phones, but this was a clear slowdown from the 16.8 percent growth seen in the previous quarter.
Strategy Analytics estimated the total market at 361 million cellphones in the quarter.
In a Reuters poll, 29 analysts' average forecast for the total market stood at 374 million phones.
IDC said sales of simpler so-called feature phones fell 4 percent from a year ago due to conservative spending and continued shift to smartphones, most visible in developed markets, such as the United States, Japan and Western Europe.
The shrinking feature phone market is having the greatest impact on some of the world's largest suppliers of mobile phones," analyst Kevin Restivo said in a statement.
Stalwarts such as Nokia are losing share in the feature phone category to low-cost suppliers such as Micromax, TCL-Alcatel and Huawei."
Struggling Nokia, still the world's largest phone maker by volume, saw its phone sales shrinking 20 percent from a year ago. This helped Samsung to close the gap to the Finnish firm in the overall cellphone market to the lowest level ever.
Some analysts already forecast for Samsung to become the world's largest cellphone vendor next year.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Forget gym, now burn calories by sexercise!

London, July 28 (ANI): Forget running on treadmills or hitting expensive gyms to shed those extra pounds, as now a cheaper way to lose calories has emerged in the form of - sexercise.
A study has revealed that, women are more inclined to have sex after a long day if they think it will help them lose weight.

Research showed that 76 percent of women are more inclined to weave the nocturnal workout into their routines if they think they will burn calories.
And almost two thirds of women who do own gym memberships said they were happier to carry out such activities as having sex and even doing the vacuuming if they thought it would burn as many calories as a traditional workout.
According to Kerry McCloskey's book, 'The Ultimate Sex Diet', a half-hour session of lovemaking will burn about 150 to 250 calories, and even up to 350 calories, depending on just how active you are.
Simply kissing for an hour burns over 200 calories - equivalent to three HobNob biscuits.
"We are burning calories constantly as we go about our day to day business," the Daily Mail quoted Darren Linnell, creator of Aspire drinks who commissioned the survey, as saying.
"It's about being aware of the small things we can do to give us that extra boost," he stated

Friday, July 29, 2011

iPhone 5 'leaked' cases show larger screen, buttonless design

Internet rumour mill is flowing overtime with speculations on what are claimed to be leaked cases of Apple iPhone 5. The source of the alleged case design is a UK-based blog, Mobile Fun, which claims to have got the designs from a Chinese case manufacturer. Some reports point it to Foxconn intelligence.

The case design points to a major redesign of the iPhone with a curved back and a larger screen. Rumours of similar design changes have been doing rounds for past several months. Reports also suggest that home button will go larger amd may support gesture-based controls. Earlier this year, a Chinese publication claimed that iPhone 5 will sport an improved antenna, 4 inch screen and NFC e-wallet.

Another report in AppleInsider says that that Apple intends to release its next-generation iPhone between September 6 to 15 with an initial shipment of 4 million units.

The report quoting Chinese-language China Times also claims that the rumored release of a next-generation iPad (popularly being called iPad 3) later this year is facing delays due to component issues. Several rumors have suggested that Apple may release another iPad later this year.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New Sony Walkman A series leaked

Details of Japanese electronic giant Sony's A and S series Walkman have leaked online. The site has revealed full specs and images of the new device.

Sony NWZ-A860 walkman comes with a 3.4-inch OLED touchscreen, a redesigned set of button controls and a body partially cast in aluminum. Reports suggest that it will also have "wireless music streaming", most likely over Bluetooth or FM and not Wi-Fi.

Reports also suggest that the player may come in four models in the series with each differing from the other in storage capacity. The starting model is said to have a storage capacity of 8GB going up to 64GB. According to, the walkmans will launch on July 31.

HTC Android tablet Puccini

After HTC Flyer, it seems Taiwan-based hardware maker is all set to further expand its tablet line-up to take on Apple's iPad and other Android OS powered tablets.

According to a report in BGR, HTC is readying an Android Honeycomb-based 10-inch tablet codenamed HTC Puccini. The tablet will reportedly feature an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash, stereo speakers and a microphone.

Just like HTC Flyer, Puccini will also support stylus input. Previous reports for the tablet suggested a dual-core processor, and custom tablet version of HTC Sense UI.

Fujitsu Toshiba announce world's first Mango phone

Microsoft Japan and a Toshiba-Fujitsu have reportedly unveiled Microsoft's first Windows Phone Mango handset. One of the first official "Mango" phones IS12T has a a 13.2MP camera with autofocus and 32GB of internal memory.

Toshiba-Fujitsu IS12T is quite thin at 0.42" (10.6mm) and light at just 113gm.

The waterproof smartphone's other specs include Qualcomm MSM8655 processor, and a 3.7" display with 480x800 pixels.

The handset comes in yellow, pink and black colours. Connectivity options include Bluetooth (2.1 + EDR) and WiFi (802.11b/g/n).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Behold Muammar Gaddafi’s ‘Libyan Rocket’

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has always been internationally recognised for his vibrant fashion sense, sleeping in Bedouin tents wherever he goes, wearing huge provocative buttons, being guarded by heavily armed women, just to name a few. An epitome of Gaddafi's eccentricity is the car he designed for himself, which Libya claims is the safest vehicle on earth. However, don't go into any details to back up the claim.
The Saroukh el-Jamahiriya, which means Libyan rocket, is a five-seater saloon with the nose and tail of a rocket and powered by a 230bhp V6. Launched at a conference called the Organization of African Unity and organized by Colonel Gaddafi in 2009, the Libyan Rocket comes with airbags, an electronic defense system and collapsible bumpers that supposedly help out in a crash.. Wonder what is an "electronic defense system"? Apparently, no one knows what it is or how it works.
Dukhali Al-Meghareff, chairman of the Libyan Arab Domestic Investment company which produced the prototype, touted it as revolutionary in automotive history. "The leader spent so many hours of his valuable time thinking of an effective solution. It is the safest car produced anywhere," said Mr Meghareff.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Samsung readying 3D Galaxy phone

After TVs, 3D technology seems all set to swamp the smartphone market. The latest company to jump on the 3D technology bandwagon in smartphones is Samsung. Internet is abuzz with the reports that the Korean giant Samsung is readying a 3D-capable smartphone called Galaxy 3D.

According to a report on Korean website ETNews, the smartphone will be based on Google Android OS (version 2.3 or Gingerbread). Samsung Galaxy 3D will reportedly sport a 4.3-inch glasses-free 3D display, dual 8 megapixel cameras and run on Samsung's own 1.2GHz dual-core Exynos processor.

The smartphone is also expected to have an HDTV output to playback 3D content. Reports suggest that Samsung plans to release the smartphone in the fourth quarter of the year.

Taiwan-based HTC already boasts of Evo 3D, while LG has Optimus 3D in its smartphone portfolio.

Sex racket busted in Delhi, six Uzbeks arrested

New Delhi: Six Uzbek women who visited India on tourist visas but became call girls were held in the city late on Sunday night.

This is the second time in just a week that foreigners have been arrested for prostitution. The arrests were made on Sunday night from Great Kailash II in south Delhi, a police officer said. They were in the age group of 23 to 28 years.

On July 18, six women, from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Nepal, and an Indian male pimp, were arrested from South Extension area of south Delhi.

Five calls girls were arrested each July 12 and 20, from Rohini in north Delhi and Chhatarpur Enclave in south Delhi.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dravid and Laxman keep England at bay

London, (AFP): Rahul Dravid and Venkatsai Laxman held firm as India eyed a record-breaking chase in the first Test after Matt Prior's unbeaten century had swung the match back England's way at Lord's on Sunday.
India, at the close of the fourth day, were 80 for one in their second innings. They needed a further 378 runs in a minimum of 98 overs on Monday's final day to reach their victory target of 458 - a run-rate of 3.85 an over.
This is the 2,000th Test of all-time and no side has ever scored more in the fourth innings to win such a match than the West Indies' 418 for seven against Australia in Antigua in 2002/03.
Dravid, who made an unbeaten century in India's first innings, was 34 not out, having opened in place of Gautam Gambhir who was njured fielding at short leg earlier in the day, and Laxman 32 not out at stumps. The two experienced batsmen's stand was so far worth 61.
It didn't look as if India would have to make fourth innings history when Prior came in with England having collapsed to 62 for five. But the wicketkeeper stuck with his natural game and made 103 not out off 120 balls, including a six and five fours.
It was Prior's sixth century in 44 Tests and second in as many at Lord's following his 126 against Sri Lanka last month. Stuart Broad, who'd led England's attack with four for 37 in India's first innings, gave Prior excellent support in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 162 at nearly a run-a-ball as India's depleted attack toiled on a sunny day.
Broad, who bats left-handed but bowls right, demonstrated his all-round ability with a fluent 74 not out off 90 balls including nine fours. Prior pulled Suresh Raina for six to go into the 90s before a cover-driven four off the part-time spinner took him to his third Test century at Lord's - he also made 126 not out at the ground on debut against the West Indies in 2007.
As soon as Prior got to his century, England captain Andrew Strauss declared on 269 for six and with 30 overs left in the day's play. Broad's joy continued when he struck third ball to bowl Abhinav Mukund for 12, the left-hander playing on to him for the second time in the match.
India were again down to just three frontline bowlers as left-arm quick Zaheer Khan remained sidelined with a hamstring strain. Fellow seamer Ishant Sharma still rocked England with three wickets for one run in 16 balls before lunch on his way to four for 59 in 22 overs.
Kevin Pietersen had made a superb 202 not out in England's first innings 474 for eight declared. But on Sunday he was out for one when he feathered a steepling Sharma delivery to India captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Five balls later Ian Bell fell in similar fashion for nought.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

G'Five launches sub Rs 3K phones, tablet coming in Sept

Mobile handset maker G'Five said it plans to introduce a tablet computer in India in the next two months to capture a share in the burgeoning market in the country.

It also launched four new mobile handsets, priced between Rs 2,500-3,000 in the multimedia and gaming category.

Tablet computer, though similar in size, works like a normal computer. The company had earlier announced that it would introduce its Android and Windows software based tablet computers, priced below Rs 10,000, by the end of June.

"Technology is changing so fast that we wanted to make sure we bring out the right product for the market. We are now looking at bringing in two tablet devices in the next two months, within Rs 10,000," Kingtech Electronics India Managing Director Arshit Pathak told reporters here.

Kingtech Electronics is fully owned Indian subsidiary of G'Five International.

The company is looking at introducing products with Android platform in the 10.1-inch HD display category. Its competitors in India would include the likes of Samsung's Galaxy Tab, Blackberry Playbook, Apple iPad, Motorola's Xoom and HTC 'Flyer'.

While the bigger brands are selling their tablets at prices starting above Rs 25,000, the Indian brands are looking at introducing their devices at much lower price points.

"Since we are targetting the mass market, pricing becomes a very important factor," Pathak said.

Since the launch of Apple iPad, the tablet market is witnessing huge competition, with new contenders launching their devices.

According to analysts, sales in the tablet PC segment in India are expected to touch one million units over the next 12 months.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

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Customers angry, staff defiant at China's fake Apple Store

Customers at an Apple Store in the Chinese city of Kunming berated staff and demanded refunds after the shop was revealed to be an elaborate fake, sparking a media and Internet frenzy.

Long a target of counterfeiters and unauthorised resellers, Apple Inc was alerted to the near flawless fake shop by an American blogger living in the southwestern city, more than 1,000 miles (1,600 km) from the nearest genuine Apple stores in Beijing and Shanghai.

"When I heard the news I rushed here immediately to get the receipt, I am so upset," a customer surnamed Wang told Reuters, near tears. "With a store this big, it looks so believable who would have thought it was fake?"

Wang, a petite, 23-year-old office worker who would not give her first name, spent 14,000 yuan ($2,170) last month buying a Macbook Pro 13-inch and a 3G iPhone from the Kunming store. She wasn't issued a receipt at the time, with staff telling her to come back later.

"Where's my receipt, you promised me my receipt last month!" Wang shouted at employees, before being whisked away to an upstairs room.

Staff were also angry at the unwanted attention after more than 1,000 media outlets picked up the story and pictures of the store from the BirdAbroad blog.


"The media is painting us to be a fake store but we don't sell fakes, all our products are real, you can check it yourself," said one employee, who didn't want to give his name.

"There is no Chinese law that says I can't decorate my shop the way I want to decorate it."

Unwanted attention
While upset at the coverage and unwilling to be fully identified, staff were cooperative when Reuters visited the store, answering questions and allowing the shop to be filmed.

Another employee, surnamed Yang, said business had been affected, with customers demanding they prove the authenticity of their products.

Apple has declined to comment on the fake store or others like it dotted around China. The Cupertino, California-based firm has just four genuine Apple Stores in Beijing and Shanghai and none in Kunming.

With about 3.2 million inhabitants, Kunming, the capital of the mountainous southwestern province of Yunnan, is small by Chinese standards and not well known in the West.

Located not far the borders of Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar, the city's fast-growing industrial and manufacturing base is emblematic of China's ascent on the world stage.

The fake Apple Store is situated along a crowded pedestrian-only shopping street, its black Apple logo gleaming. Inside, with its Apple posters on the walls and iPads and Macbook computers displayed on wooden tables, the store looks every bit like Apple Stores found all over the world but for some slightly shoddy workmanship and one or two errant details.

Not all customers were bothered by the revelations that the store was not the genuine article.

"As long as their products are real it's okay -- after all, you enter a store not to look at anything except their products," said Hu Junkai, 18. "If the products you buy are real why do you care whether the store is a copy?"

Wang was not convinced. "The biggest thing I'm upset about is that I spent so much money at this store and I don't even know whether it is real or not," she said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lenovo unveils three tablets, two running Android

Chinese hardware maker Lenovo has expanded its tablet portfolio with the addition of three new tablets: IdeaPad K1, ThinkPad Tablet and IdeaPad Tablet P1.

While IdeaPad K1 and ThinkPad run on Google Android OS, IdeaPad Tablet P1 is a Windows-based tablet. Windows-based tablet runs on Windows 7, the other two tablets use Honeycomb version of Android.

IdeaPad K1 has a 10.1-inch, 1,280x800-pixel resolution touch screen, Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and 1GB of system RAM, with front and rear cameras of 2 megapixels and 5 megapixels respectively.

With same size screen, ThinkPad Tablet offers a battery life of 8.7 hours, along with USB ports, an SD card slot and Mini-HDMI. The processor is same as IdeaPad, Nvidia Tegra 2.

Windows-based P1 will run on Intel 1.5GHz chip and has the same screen size as the other two. P1 reportedly has the shortest battery life, with up to six hours.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dhoni Determined to Keep Top Spot!

Apart from motorcycles, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's attraction is accoutrements and the India captain would be thoroughly justified in assertive he has abundant armament to antithesis any bid to topple his aggregation from the top of the Test rankings.

Minutes afterwards sealing India's 50-over World Cup achievement with a six in Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, a drained Dhoni was already discussing how to sustain the ascendancy of the aggregation who accept been the cardinal one Test ancillary aback December 2009.

The better hurdle aback that crazy, boiling April night anticipate them in England in the anatomy of a four-Test alternation starting at Lord's on Thursday, to be followed by bristles one-day internationals with a Twenty20 bout befuddled in.

Dhoni would like to accept that he has ticked best of the boxes.

Sachin Tendulkar is not aloof aback in the band but he fabricated it a point to ability England aboriginal to get acclimatized to the conditions, bottomward in briefly at Wimbledon to watch Roger Federer.

Such accurate alertness for addition who has spent 22 years in all-embracing candid does not abruptness above India captain Sunil Gavaskar.

"I'm not afraid he's out there aggravating to acclimatise and get some practice...also accepting had a chat with Roger Federer, be able for the cull attempt accomplished mid-on," Gavaskar said.

Tendulkar's ambitious admirers will be assured added than few nice shots.

At the age of 38, Tendulkar is absurd to acknowledgment to England and he has yet to account a aeon at Lord's, area of the firset Test starting on Thursday. If he does ability his aeon he will the aboriginal being to account 100 all-embracing centuries.

Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid (38) and VVS Laxman (36) allotment 99 centuries and 35,000 runs in Tests and Gavaskar said they would do annihilation to accomplish their final England bout memorable.

Moser Baer refreshes USB drive line-up

Optical storage device maker Moser Baer has refreshed its USB drive line-up with the launch of three new models: Ace, Nimble and Crescent. With a data transfer speed of up to 15 mbps, the lightweight USB drives come in various colours and form factors.

Commenting on the launch, Deepak Shetty, Sr Vice-President, Domestic Sales & Marketing said, "The bulky USBs have given way to a more trendy, sleek, colourful and technologically superior products.

It is for the first time that an Indian player is offering so many variants of the Chip on Board designed USB drives." He also added, "With this, we will be able to garner further 3% to 5% of the USB storage market in India in the launch month itself."

Sporting a cap less sleek design, the USB drives are compact and lightweight. Apart from the slim form factor, the drives will come with LED indicator and are compatible with Windows7, Macintosh and Linux.

As for the pricing, the 4GB model is available for Rs 345. The company also plans to launch higher capacity memory sticks soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

BMW 330i - Temptation on Wheels

Anamit Sen spent a whole day evaluating a BMW 330i in and around Delhi and the NCR. I'm starting this review with a bit of news. Auto Bild magazine in Germany has just reported that the 2012 version of BMW's 3 Series, which will be the 6th generation of the 3 Series, is ready to be showcased at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this year. The reports say that this new BMW, classified internally as the F30 and going up against the Mercedes C Class, Audi's A4 and Volvo's S60, has borrowed quite a bit in terms of design from the 5 Series. It will break new ground in terms of safety and will have new four-cylinder turbocharged engines. The reports also says that though BMW may not be vorsprung durch technik (borrowing from Audi) or advanced/ahead through technology any more because competitors also have the equivalent of the advantages of Efficient Dynamics, the boffins DO have access to the parts and accessory shelf of the 5 Series. Which means it is quite possible that the F30 may offer features like night vision assistance, heads up display or HUD, lane changing assistance as well as automatic parking.
So how is that bit of news relevant to this driving impression? Well, if you have not noticed yet the car featured here is the BMW 330i Edition Sport, internally classified as the E90. OK, let me explain the internal classification over the years, which starts way back in 1966 when the 1600-2002 series came in as a family saloon. It was sporty too with an 80bhp engine that could reach 96kph in 13 seconds. The 2002 Turbo was part of the 02 Series, with a 170bhp engine and BMW churned these out till 1976. The internal E classification kicked off with the E21 ,the first generation of 3 Series cars, production of which ran from 1976 to 1982. These cars still used small engines, with capacities of 1.6 and 1.8 litres. BMW introduced their first six-cylinder engine in the 3 Series at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1977, the 323i which had 143bhp on tap.
The E30 that followed in 1983 was the second-generation 3 Series. These cars were bigger than the previous generation cars, had more power, but were lighter, the perfect recipe for performance. The 325i topped the range and had a straight-six engine developing 170bhp out of 2.5litres, good for 135mph or 216kph which would be adequate even today. The E30 was especially notable because it was the base for the first M car, known simply as the BMW M3 E30, launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1985. This particular car was VERY successful in race trim, winning several touring car championships. The M badge had arrived.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan share a hug

Here's a new chapter in the Salman and Katrina story. So what if they've decided not to kiss on screen? There's more action happening off-screen, even it's only some PDA.

Hear this one. Salman and Katrina visited Farah on the sets of her reality show, and the events that followed left everyone pleasantly surprised. Close sources revealed that when Sallu and Kat came face-to-face, they hugged each other for a good two minutes. And all this publicly, in front of the media! There was an awkward silence in the audience, but the two seemed comfy together. Of course, the shutterbugs couldn't wait to capture this picture-perfect moment. But then, Farah Khan stepped in, and agitatedly warned the media that if even a single picture leaked out, she would walk out of the show. Well, everyone quickly backed off, but was stunned to see the otherwise media-shy Kat, slip into this embrace. Well, iss jaadu ki jhappi ka kya hoga...that's something we'll know soon.

For more Bollywood news & gossip, watch Planet Bollywood every night at 7, only on zoOm — India's No. 1 Bollywood channel!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Man kills daughter for hanging out with boyfriends

A man bludgeoned his 18-year-old daughter to death in northwest Delhi during an argument over her hanging out with boys and spending time in malls.

Police said the murder took place "in the heat of the moment" after the girl had returned home from a park at 10.30pm. The accused, Vishnu Bahadur Thapa, 53, a Nepali national who came to the capital four years ago, told the cops that he was fed up with his daughter's ways and the two would often get into fights.

Thapa, a mason, had recently changed his residence, moving to Begumpur in Rohini, in the hope that his daughter Shanti would stop meeting neighbourhood boys. But when she again returned late on the night of July 5, he started admonishing her.

"Shanti became furious and picked a piece of brick to hit him. In the fit of anger, Thapa hit her on the nose which left the girl bleeding. As she bent over, he hit her on the head with a stone and beat her with a stick," B S Jaiswal, deputy commissioner of police (outer) said.

The girl collapsed and died on the spot. After some time, he wrapped her body in a bedsheet spread on the floor by her daughter for sleeping, lifted the body on his shoulders and threw it on the pavement near a vacant house, police said.

The police arrested Thapa after the girl's body was found at a DDA plot on July 8. "After identifying the girl, the family was asked to join investigations. During sustained interrogation, Thapa confessed that his daughter Shanti had at many instances turned violent when he tried to stop her from talking to the boys of colony," said Karunakaran, additional DCP (Outer). Thapa had brought his family to Delhi from Palpa in Nepal three years ago.

"Thapa told us that a number of locals had told him about his daughter's activities and advised him to keep her 'under control'. He was very tense over this," Jaiswal said.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

90,000 email IDs of US military contractor hacked

Hackers claim to have stolen over 90,000 email addresses and passwords in a cyber attack on a major US military contractor, a media report said.

An arm of the online collective Anonymous has said that it broke into the computer systems of Booz Allen Hamilton and then posted the details on Internet, 'The Daily Telegraph' online reported.

They apparently were able to get encrypted versions of the email passwords only, 53,000 of which carried the military ".mil" domains, the report said.

The hackers also wiped out 4GB of Booz Allen source code in an attack they called "Military Meltdown Monday". The group said, "We infiltrated a server on their network that basically had no security measures in place."

Booz Allen provides technological services including cyber-security consulting to the American military and other US government agencies. Its staff includes Michael McConnell, former director of the National Security Agency.

A US Defence Department spokesman said, "We are aware of the incident and coordinating with our federal partners."

A spokesman for Booz Allen said its security policy meant "we generally do not comment on specific threats or actions taken against our systems".

The hacking group responded with the comment, "You have a security policy? We never noticed."

Anonymous became well-known last year for attacking companies including Amazon , Bank of America, Mastercard and Visa, that had cut off services to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How digital content revolution has created demand for pros

A career in digital content could be exciting as it allows professionals to combine knowledge with pedagogy and technology. It also gives ample scope to multimedia experts to unleash their creativity by creating engaging visuals to bring abstract concepts to life.

The digital content revolution has accelerated the demand for academicians, editors, instructional designers, graphic animators, illustrators and technology experts. Some of the industries where these skills are used include education, television and film industry, advertising and media, publishing, web and IT industry.

Industry status
The last few years have seen digital content bringing about phenomenal changes in the field of education and entertainment. There is a huge transformation in the way educators today are using digital content in the classroom.

Today, digital content on mobile phones and other multimedia content can be linked with social networks . Besides, satellite-based education is revolutionising classrooms worldwide by facilitating live delivery of lectures.

Further, digital content is being beamed through DTH services; this is providing learners access to quality entertainment right in their homes.

In terms of media, the trend has shifted from 2D to 3D, whether it is in the real-life video or in the animation industry. Recently, stereoscopic 3D has made an entry into movies and in education and is likely to feature in televisions and mobiles too.

Growth areas
Growth areas in digital content are branching out in animation and filmmaking . Animations can be 3D or 2D animations. In addition, the area needs subject matter experts, instructional designers (ID), graphic visualisers and software professionals.

Skill-set required
Freshers entering this area must have good writing, editing, and ID skills. They must be creative and have knowledge of 2-D /3-D animation, video editing, sketching, programming and project management.

Freshers are paid anything from 10,000-20 ,000 per-month depending on their qualifications. Growth in this field is similar to the IT industry, with 15-20 % growth in salary. Of course, highly talented individuals command a higher salary as in any other industry, and experienced creative managers and media experts get a six-figure monthly salary.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to protect your child online

When Nikita Shenoy, a 38-year-old finance professional, realized her 14-year-old son is most of the time on the internet, she decided to keep track of him on cyber space.

Aghast by the type of websites he accesses daily, she decided to password protect the desktop at home. However, her worries reached an alarming proportion when the smart young man cracked the password and continued with his digital journey.

What's more, he had already shared his personal info with many faceless friends and had the PC ruined to spam through a link sent by one such friend.

"It was at this point that I came across a software to safeguard children against online fraud. It was a boon for me. I used to spend sleepless nights worrying over my son's online activity," says Nikita.

Nikita is hardly an exception. Today's kids have access to the internet through multiple points -- PCs, laptops, smartphones and even iPads. Apart from homes there are other access points such as cyber cafes, friends' homes and school.

According to a McAfee-Synovate survey, 62 pre cent of children using the internet were asked for personal information online and 53 per cent revealed their home address and contact. This points to an alarming trend in which not only the kids but parents are also at risk of falling prey to online fraud.

Filter sites
"On social networking sites, children share photo, location, family details and even credit card details of their parents. There are predators online always looking for victims. These could be in another country or next door," says Venkat Krishnapur, senior director, McAfee India.

So how can you ensure a safe cyber space for kids at home? When parental techniques like peeping over the child's shoulder or checking the web history on PCs don't help much, taking recourse to technology is the only way out. McAfee Family Protection Software is one such.

"Parents can choose to block categories of sites, filter out only a handful of sites or block nothing at all and simply review online activity reports. Features such as age appropriate settings, online activity reports and blocking YouTube and certain games give parents a tool to ensure their kids stay safe online," says Krishnapur.

The software even filters songs with explicit lyrics from iTunes, access to online gaming sites and viewing of objectionable videos on YouTube. "If your kid shares his/her mobile phone on any website, you will get an alert on your phone, provided you feed in the information in the software," he said.

Experience of being bullied, which was limited to the schoolyard or playground, has now moved online. Cyberbullies send text messages, e-mails, instant messages, social networking messages, post content on blogs, web pages or online game platforms to harass, embarrass, or intimidate others. Parental awareness helps a lot in such situations.

Setting house rules
"When it comes to the internet, children are the 'natives' and parents 'immigrants'," says Gaurav Kanwal, country sales manager, India, for consumer products and solutions in security solutions vendor Symantec.

"We took a different approach with Norton Online Family, realizing that tools to help parents keep their kids safe online is important, but also recognizing that education and communication between parents and kids is a key component to online safety," he said.

"In the software, all activities are reported in chronological order and only show the websites a child intended to visit. When setting up the service, parents and kids are encouraged to sit down and create the 'house rules' for online activity together. Children are always aware that Norton Online Family is active on their computer," says Kanwal.

It can also track, report and prevent personal information children may purposely or accidentally try to send via instant message, social network, or a website.
Children's whitelist
Certain parental control systems manage which websites a child can and cannot visit as well as limit access to specific programs and any confidential data that may be located on your home network.

"It runs in the background and constantly watches over the system and content, logging and blocking activities, unwanted material and messages according to predefined rules set by the user," said Jagannath Patnaik, director, channel sales, Kaspersky Lab, South Asia.

"Kaspersky Pure can be configured to allow children access to 'whitelisted' sites only. Sites can be grouped by theme and added to the lists or deleted from them by two clicks of the mouse. I can also group downloads according to their format which allows an adult to decide what is permitted to be run and what is not. This flexibility helps to prevent executable malware from infecting the system, as well as negating legal problems that may arise concerning pirated software and media copyright issues," he said. Till the kids device methods to outsmart these technologies, parents can have a peaceful sleep!

Rising threats
Cyber bullying: Spreading false rumours, threatening messages, posting embarrassing pictures

Corrupting minds: Downloading malicious code or viewing adult content can have profound emotional impact

Cyber exploitation: Criminals exploit children by offering them illegal products and coerce them into divulging confidential info

Distraction: Kids may be distracted from studies if their access to the digital world is not strictly monitored

8 common data hungry things on phone

If you have a cellphone with a monthly limit on how much data you can use, here are some tips on what types of phone use will gobble up your precious megabytes:

Streaming video and videoconferencing
The biggest offender. One minute of YouTube-quality video eats up 2MB. If you're on a plan that gives you 200MB per month, you can't even watch Lady Gaga's "Telephone" video once per day. If you're on a 2GB plan you can, but don't make your iPhone a replacement for a TV. In either case, it's fine to indulge in YouTube and Netflix if you're on Wi-Fi.

Streaming audio
The second biggest offender, and potentially more serious. While video is something we need to see to enjoy, Internet radio is more of an accompaniment to other activities, such as jogging or doing dishes. That means some people like to keep it on for hours. Audio consumes about a quarter of the data that video does, but 10 minutes a day will break the bank if you're on a 200MB plan. One hour a day of Pandora consumes nearly 1GB, which you can afford if you're on a 2GB plan and don't use other data-hogging apps.

If you're a real shutterbug, photos can consume significant amounts of data. Sending and viewing photos both count toward your monthly limit. Posting 10 photos per day eats up most of a 200MB plan. If you're on a 2GB plan, you probably don't have to worry about photos.

Navigation apps consume lots of data when they retrieve map images, up to a megabyte a minute. You're also likely to use them for long periods of time when you're away from Wi-Fi, such as when you're driving. Watch out for these.

Web surfing
Web pages vary widely in size, so this will depend quite a bit on whether you like to visit graphically rich sites (lots of data) or spare, text-oriented ones (less data). But roughly speaking, ten pages a day will eat up about half of a 200MB plan. Again, those on 2GB plans don't need to worry much about surfing.

Roughly equivalent to Web surfing. Status updates won't take much data, but sending photos and viewing friends' pictures will.

Most emails are tiny, in terms of data. Basically, you can send and receive email all you want, as long as they don't have attachments such as photos.

Like email, these short messages don't use much data, but if you follow a lot of people and click on links, usage adds up.

Weather apps
Small, focused apps that report simple but useful things, such as the weather forecast, save data (and time) compared with looking up the same information on a Web page.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Google+ for businesses coming soon

Google Inc is readying business-focused features for the Google+ social-networking site, potentially opening up new competition with Facebook Inc's company pages and sites such as LinkedIn Corp.

The business tools are expected to be available later this year, said Christian Oestlien, a product manager at Mountain View, California-based Google.

"Right now we're very much focused on optimising for the consumer experience, but we have a great team of engineers building a similarly optimised business experience for Google+," Oestlien said on a YouTube video.

Google+ was unveiled June 28, marking a fresh attempt to compete with Facebook. The service has similar features as Facebook, with streaming updates of photos, messages, comments and other content from selected groups of friends.

Google has set up a test version for businesses, Oestlien said. It will link up with existing Google services, such as its AdWords advertising system for Internet searches.

"It'll include things like rich analytics and the ability to connect that identity to other parts of Google that businesses might use on a daily basis like AdWords," he said.

Google has struggled to handle demand for Google+, which for now is an invitation-only service. Oestlien recommended that businesses not create Google+ accounts with the current consumer version.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Netherlands in May

At first glance, it looks like a giant child armed with a box of crayons has been set loose upon the landscape. Yet far from being a child's sketchbook, this is, in fact, the northern Netherlands in the middle of tulip season. The Dutch landscape in May is a kaleidoscope of color as the tulips burst into life. The bulbs are planted in late October and early November. More than three billion tulips are grown each year and two-thirds of the vibrant blooms are exported, mostly to the U.S. and Germany .

Their dazzling colors are thanks to the years in the 17th century when tulip mania swept the
globe and the most eye-catching specimens changed hands for a small fortune. But like a
Rainbow, this colorful landscape is a short-lived phenomenon. When the flowers are gone,
the land will be cultivated for a rather more mundane crop of vegetables. The Netherlands
produce more than nine million bulbs a year....

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Laptops turn into supercomputers

Ever thought you could wave to your computer and it would flip photos? Or it would sense your gestures and motions like a loyal butler? Ofer Sadka has travelled all the way from Herzeliya, Israel, to Bellevue, Washington, to demonstrate what the near future of computing is going to be like. Fittingly enough, his company is called Extreme Reality. Today's darlings like the iPad and smartphones could be passé sooner than you think. Just like Microsoft's DOS (operating system for computers in the 1980s) was passe yesterday, or PCs and mice are today, and traditional monitors will be tomorrow.

We are at the dawn of computers so intuitive that leave alone "understanding", they will know what you want without you having to explain. In the coming two decades, maybe sooner, we might have some kind of a headset we'll wear or chips embedded in our bodies that will make us the ultimate personal supercomputer ourselves. This means you can finally use that fairytale means of communication called telepathy in reality. When you bump into random people you can't remember meeting, you'll be spared the embarrassment as this ultimate computer will automatically search and enlighten you on the person's details relevant to you, in seconds. Thought control and sense response will finally become real. Smart lenses in your eyes' irises will project details on to intangible individual screens, which will come and go in front of you much like mirages in a desert, with the key difference that you/your PC will be in control. Extreme reality indeed. "The next three years will see major fundamental changes in how we compute," says Steve Kleynhans, VPclient computing at Gartner. Today, we are overwhelmed trying to sync up our exponentially-multiplying computers -- smartphones, tablets, notebooks, iPods, TVs, home electronics , baby monitors, navigation devices, health-tracking devices... "These devices will get incredibly capable. But they will increasingly be reduced just to portals for a common set of services and preferences that are specific to each individual," says Kleynhans. "We will move from having to adapt to the device, learning its peculiarities to having it learn and adapt to us." As we shuttle between our several computers, important baby steps are being taken in the form of cloud computing, adoption of finger-touch technology, iPads and so on. Last week, just minutes away from Microsoft's home in Redmond, Washington, another important step was taken. At its AMD Fusion Developer summit, the chip giant officially announced its new range of microprocessors for laptops. The new chips combine the central processing unit (CPU) and the graphical processing unit (GPU) on to one chip. Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) calls this fusion an accelerated processing unit (APU). Thus, it makes superfast computing possible on consumer devices. What this means is that you can now affordably have supercomputers in your laptops. This, AMD says, could enable advances like all-day battery life, high-definition (HD) video streaming, and 3-D graphics so lifelike that they'd create hypnotically immersive video games.

Supercomputer of the 90s
Moore's law has been driving the history of computing advancement for several decades. This law dictates that semiconductor chips tend to double their capacity, hence increasing their computation power, every two years. Soon enough, engineers realised the power of having multiple cores within their CPUs, and we had another revolution advancing the computing power of consumer devices. In parallel, GPUs were introduced to perform highly graphical parallel computations, which was possibly the third major boost to computing advancement.

With AMD's bold launch of the APU, applications will be able to use immense power of both multi-core CPUs and GPU in the same chip, thereby bypassing costly data transfers. If applications are ready for producing mind-boggling features, the computation power is now available in the consumer's hand. At 400 giga flops (400 billion floating point operations per second), a laptop powered by AMD's APU could easily compare to a supercomputer of the 90s. The one being rolled out now, called Llano, will be superseded next year by Trinity, which will be 50% faster. Buckle up, then. "People want highly-interactive videos and HD graphics, awesome processing power and longer battery life in increasingly tiny devices without compromising on device performance. This gives them that," says Rick Bergman, senior VP and general manager products at AMD. "And soon, your PC will recognise you and adjust itself according to your preferences." Of course, it's not the only one. AMD claims its offering is a superior version to that of its archrival Intel's microprocessors.

Unlimited possibilities
The important thing here for lay consumers, though, is not the chip wars, but their implications. As everything floats up to the cloud, such microprocessors will fill devices with the power to process that data. According to Dan Hutcheson, CEO of semiconductor consultancy VLSI Research: "We already have disruptive technologies. It's a question of executing to an application." Kleynhans agrees. "It's what the devices can do for us that is important, not the devices themselves," he says. That's exactly why that iPad or that Android phone is so attractive. Apps are the heart and soul of handheld devices. But as we enter into the next wave of computing -- and our phones increasingly resemble our PCs, while our PCs look more and more like our phones -- they're going to become ubiquitous even to the traditional computers. So much so that Microsoft's Herb Sutter says: "The device will morph and become the app. The iPhone, for instance, is an app of the iPad." The apps on your own Llano-powered supercomputer-laptop could get pretty amazing. An incredible solar eclipse will occur in August 2017. And through the WorldWide Telescope , you can watch it exactly the way it will appear right here in your office or car or wherever you may be on Earth. The app will virtually relay to you in brilliant HD — and who knows maybe even in 3-D by then — what scientists would see through the omniscient Hubble telescope. Start-ups like Unlimited Realities are making apps that will take finger tapping to the next level, where icons will become jelly in your hands and wiggle around the screen. Making that PowerPoint presentation or writing that tough article on Word — in other words, doing work — will become fun. With numbers and alphabets floating like zerogravity jelly in space, learning will be as much fun for toddlers as for their parents teaching them.

Bring on the apps
The reason smartphones grew so fast is because of open platforms provided by the manufacturers, which means that anybody can build an app. Semiconductors has been a relatively traditional industry, but its behemoths like AMD and ARM are finally warming up to the virtues of open source paradigms like Open CL software. This attitude will lead to open standards and therefore , a wider adoption among application developers. This means that small app makers in far-flung areas like the New Zealand-based Unlimited Realities and any other developer can now bring futuristic dreams to our hands very quickly by building apps like they do for handheld devices . This is important because only the success of applications will decide whether we can fully harness the computing power that is given by hardware manufacturers. "We are now building the future of casual computing right here on what most of us use: Windows," says Unlimited Realities CTO David Brebner . Gesture controls will be available for gaming and other entertainment experiences like flipping channels. You simply wave to your computer, as you would to a genie, and it obeys. Because that's the point. Your computer is already metamorphosing into your personal genie. This supercomputer in a netbook makes things we only dreamed about possible," says Jem Davies, an ARM Fellow and VP-tech at the British chip giant. To create that incredibly intuitive computing experience, user interface (UI) is going to be key. "Eventually , any surface can become the interaction point," says AMD's Bergman . So you can choose to interact with whatever works for you --whether it's the iPad's finger-tapping technique, or Unlimited Realities' jelly-like wiggles, or even the almostancient mouse and sooner, gestures, voice controls, face-recognitions , and if you still remember how to write, handwriting-recognition . Your wish and the way it's granted are your supercomputer's command. Eventually, it could jolly well be telepathy anyway. "The whole 'one size fits all' mentality is already starting to disappear," says ARM's Davies. Another milestone to the future is seamless computing between our multiple computing devices. Apple's recently-launched iCloud, for instance , syncs Mac users' documents, contacts, calendar, music, email and more spread across their various Apple devices. But even small things we now take for granted, like remote bluetooth printing on your home printer from your phone or your tablet, point to the future. "With these new microprocessors , we're able to offer consumers a seamless computing experience across our multiple devices when and where they want," says Hewlett-Packard's (HP) director of business notebooks, Carol Hess-Nickels . HP's AMD A-series laptops — including some existing models like Pavillion, ProBook, G7, etc. — costing approximately $500 will be available by July. At the Llano launch in Science Fiction Museum Seattle, Hollywood filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (of Sin City and Spy Kids series fame), who is now working on a 4-D Spy Kids film, stressed on seamless movie quality experience . "It's gotta look the same in the theatre, on DVD, in digital print on online streaming and so on." Our supercomputers are here, but clearly it's up to app developers to give them superpowers.

Facebook, Skype to launch video chat service

Just as Google's next big thing ' Google Plus' is all set to launch, Facebook and Skype are about to strike a deal that would bring the video chatting service to the social networking site.

With Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg promising an "awesome" new feature on July 6, Skype, which was recently purchased by Microsoft for a whopping $8.5 billion, could become a fixture on the world's largest social network.

The beta version of Google's social network, Google Plus, debuted last week to rave reviews, especially for its +Hangouts feature that allows for multi-user video chat.

At present, Facebook users update message and status through their profile, and share photos but the addition of video chat will bring an interesting change to their account.

Editor of Tech Crunch, Michael Arrington stated in the Next Week that Facebook, in collaboration with Skype, will unveil its video chat option which will be powered by Skype.

This move will strengthen Facebook's position in the social networking market.

Facebook at present is the most influential and one of the biggest social networking sites in the world having over 500 million active users.

This isn't the first time that Skype has been linked to Facebook.

Back in September 2010 the same rumour reared its head and this March it was reported that talks had resumed between the two companies.

Citing an insider source, Techcrunch announced the news, describing the powered-by-Skype Facebook video chat: "The product has been built on Skype and will include a desktop component".

"It's not clear to me whether that means it will just work if a user has Skype already installed on the computer, or if additional software will need to be downloaded even if the user already uses Skype.

"But it's clear that there's very deep integration between the products, and from the user's perspective, the product will be an in browser experience".

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

UK co pulls out work from costly India

A British company is bringing back its outsourced work to the UK after it realised that outsourcing it to India is no longer cheaper than doing the same work here.

Many British companies outsourced work to India where costs were low.

But in recent years, increasing prices in India have made it a less attractive option than retaining the work in the UK, reports say.

New Call Telecom, which competes with BT and Sky to offer home telephone services, broadband and low-cost international calls, is opening a call centre in Lancashire after being attracted by low commercial rents and cheap labour costs, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

New Call's chief executive, Nigel Eastwood, said, "We did a cost and service analysis of returning home and there was an absolute parity between what we are paying for a third-party call centre in India and here in the UK."

He added that using British staff will also cut costs in the average amount of time taken to deal with customer inquiries.

Eastwood said, "The average handling time in the UK is three minutes. But if you go out to India, you need to add another minute unless it's a very efficient operation, so that means we can actually reduce the headcount with the saving."

He added, "In India in the past decade, as call centres have grown, real-estate prices have gone up massively, while salaries have also crept up."

New Call will pay 4 pounds a square foot for space in Burnley, which Eastwood says is similar to that in Mumbai and New Delhi.

Eastwood said, "Salaries in India aren't that cheap any more. Add to that the costs of us flying out there, hotels and software, and the costs are at an absolute parity. In the UK we will pay workers the minimum wage. Given the current economic environment, we will get good "sticky" employees who will also receive bonuses linked to performance."

The use of foreign call centres has proved unpopular with many customers, who say they prefer to deal with British staff, the report said.

Mother Nature is amazing

Trees Cocooned in Spiders Webs –
This is amazing - the first image doesn't even look real! It looks like something out of an illustrated book.......

An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters. Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenomenon before - but they also report that there are now less mosquitos than they would expect, given the amount of stagnant, standing water that is around. It is thought that the mosquitos are getting caught in the spiders web thus reducing the risk of malaria, which would be one blessing for the people of Sindh, facing so many other hardships after the floods. UK aid - in response to the Pakistan floods - is helping millions of survivors return home and rebuild their lives.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Review: HP TouchPad

A year after Hewlett-Packard Co purchased flailing Palm, the technology behemoth is rolling out the first tablet that uses Palm's webOS operating system.

The July 1 release should be a triumph for HP, showcasing its ability to compete in the increasingly crowded tablet market. Yet while the TouchPad's software is beautiful and intuitive, overall the tablet is more of a "meh-sterpiece" than a masterpiece.

The TouchPad looks a lot like its peers: It's black and shiny with just a few buttons dotting its frame. The screen, 9.7 inches (24.64 centimeters) at the diagonal, is the same size and resolution as Apple's iPad.

At $500 for a model with 16 gigabytes of storage or $600 for one with 32 GB, the price is essentially the same, too. The device I tested used Wi-Fi to connect to the Internet; HP says a version will work on AT&T Inc's wireless network later this summer.

At 0.54 inches (1.37 centimeters) thick, the TouchPad is fatter than the iPad. It's heavier, too, at 1.6 pounds (0.73 kilograms). With its rounded edges and smooth plastic, it's also more slippery than other tablets I've tested.

Turn it on, and the TouchPad looks like webOS smartphones. The software makes perfect sense on a tablet. For example: Applications appear onscreen as little ``cards'' that you can scroll through sideways, tap on to enlarge or flick to close. Each window you open within an application _ numerous Web pages or in-progress emails, for example _ shows up as its own card in a small stack for that app, and you can rearrange them as you please.

The TouchPad has the latest version of webOS, which adds features like the ability to pull your photos from Facebook and online photo sites into the device's photo library, and "Touch to Share," which will let you share content with certain webOS smartphones.

Generally, webOS made navigating a breeze. Its layout keeps the TouchPad's home screen uncluttered, with the "Just type..." universal search function taking up a small amount of space in the center of the display and a strip of applications on the bottom of the screen.

I figured that the TouchPad's screen would be great for watching videos. I wasn't disappointed. Whether I was streaming Lady Gaga's latest video oeuvre from YouTube or checking out the old Mike Myers comedy "So I Married an Axe Murderer" on Crackle, colors popped and images were crystal-clear.

The TouchPad was also good for surfing the Web, in part because it supports Flash video content, which the iPad does not. It couldn't do everything. Here and there, a website didn't look quite right, and TV and movie streaming site Hulu would not work on it. Overall, however, websites loaded and functioned as they would on a standard computer.

The device includes a fine on-screen keyboard. I wouldn't have written up this review on it, but it was fine for sending emails and instant messages.

The TouchPad's battery life was decent. After streaming videos, viewing photos and surfing the Web, the tablet lasted six and a half hours with Wi-Fi on. HP said it is rated for up to 8 hours of Internet use over Wi-Fi, or 9 hours of video playback.

One of the TouchPad features HP touts is its ability to connect with a Pre 3 smartphone to share content like webpages and videos and receive texts sent to the phone on the tablet and reply to them from the TouchPad.

Though the Pre 3 is not yet for sale (it's slated for release this summer), HP lent me one to test this feature. The sharing was easy to set up via Bluetooth, and to pull up a website on the Pre all you have to do is touch its back near the bottom of the TouchPad's screen.

Sure, it's a cool idea, but I'm skeptical the feature would really get much use.

Of course, there were plenty of fumbles. Several times, I was in the middle of an IM conversation when the virtual keyboard mysteriously stopped allowing me to send text. I could type, but whenever I pressed "enter," nothing happened. I had to restart the device to fix it.

The TouchPad also seemed to stutter sometimes, like when I flipped through on-screen album covers while running other apps. And when I streamed TV shows from network websites, they would sometimes freeze. Once an incoming message notification somehow turned off the sound and I couldn't turn it back on.

The video chat feature, which I'd hoped would contend with the iPad's FaceTime, was dismal. The TouchPad has a video camera on its front and uses Skype for video calls, so I asked my colleague Peter to help me give it a whirl. But when we tried to connect, he looked pixelated and sounded OK on my end and he said I looked ``like a Monet painting'' and sounded crackly on his.

I tried video chatting with a high school buddy but every time we got the video to work the audio was muted. I also attempted to talk with my little brother, and after four or five misfires we got the video chat working but the picture and sound were awful.

Like any other tablet that wants a chance of survival, the TouchPad includes access to an application store. HP said its App Catalog will have at least 300 TouchPad apps at launch, and 70 per cent of its 6,200 webOS phone apps will work on the device.

Still, this is slim pickings compared to the 90,000 iPad apps in Apple's App Store (there are hundreds of thousands of apps total). And tablets running Google Inc's Android software can run any of the more than 200,000 apps in the Android Market.

Sadly, the TouchPad is more blah than brilliant. The software is great, though, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that HP can come up with a stronger tablet next time around.

Samsung drops patent-infringement suit against Apple in US

Samsung Electronics Co dropped a patent-infringement suit against Apple Inc, filed at a US federal court in April in response to allegations its Galaxy products copied the iPhone and iPad.

Samsung Electronics dropped the suit on June 30 "to streamline the legal proceedings," Nam Ki Yung, a spokesman for the Suwon, South Korea-based company, said today in a telephone interview. Samsung will continue to defend its patent rights through a counter-claim in an earlier suit Apple filed at the same court in San Jose, California, he said.

Litigation between the two companies, which compete in the mobile-device market, is under way in at least five countries including South Korea, Japan, Germany and the UK. Withdrawal of the California suit won't affect other US cases or patent- violation complaints Samsung raised against Apple in other countries, Nam said.

"Samsung will continue to actively defend and protect our intellectual property," he said. Samsung is the world's second-largest maker of mobile phones.

Steve Park, a Seoul-based Apple spokesman, declined to comment when called by Bloomberg News today.

Cupertino, California-based Apple sued Samsung at the San Jose court in April, alleging Galaxy phones and tablet computers "slavishly" copy the iPhone and iPad. Samsung, which supplies memory chips to Apple, responded with counter-suits.

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