Do you prefer your coffee on the Dark Side or with cream?
I've been a sucker for "Star Wars" merchandise ever since I had to get a second C-3PO action figure as a kid because I wore all the gold color off of my first one. My first kiss was with a friend named Arnie, who made my nerdy young heart beat with a sweet collection that included an X-Wing Fighter. My brother and I had matching stuffed Ewoks.
I still get a kick out of "Star Wars" swag today because of the creativity that goes into it. Fans almost always get it right when they do things like build a carpet-covered AT-AT cat condo or custom-painted Stormtrooper My Little Poniescomplete with helmets and belts. These things have heart.
But this brings me to the limited-edition $120 Nestle "Star Wars" coffee makers that will be available only in Japan. You can choose between a Dark Side coffee maker with Darth Vader on it or a Rebel Alliance coffee maker with C-3PO on it. Pretty much all Nestle did was slap on some graphics and change up the colors on its regular Barista coffee machine.
Come on, Nestle, put some soul into it. You could have made a Princess Leia version with buns that doubled as working dials. You could have made one in the shape of R2-D2, complete with sound effects. Instead, you plastered a startled-looking C-3PO on the side and called it a "Star Wars" coffee maker. This is exactly how not to do "Star Wars" merchandise.
Companies aren't making "Star Wars" merch out of the goodness of their hearts. They're out to make money, but the fandom is better off when they turn out products you and me can't replicate with a Darth Vader sticker and a Mr. Coffee.
As I wrote last week, I preordered my Apple iPhone 5 for $820 (full price to keep my Verizon unlimited LTE data) and after spending all day with it I have to say that it was completely worth it. Like all of you, I have seen photos of the iPhone 5, but you really have to hold it in your hand to appreciate the fantastic design. When I hold it next to my Galaxy S III or Nokia Lumia 900 it appears to be more of an iPhone nano rather than the latest generation of iPhone and makes these devices look HUGE. The Apple iPhone 5 truly is a product of beauty and a great improvement over the iPhone 4 and 4S.
Hardware and design
I owned an iPhone 4S for several months, but wasn't personally thrilled with the glass front and back and the design. I was very pleased to see Apple move to using a mostly metal back with just two small glass areas. I also am pleased with the thinner form factor and find it amazing how much technology Apple was able to squeeze into such a small form factor. The metal sides and beveled edges, along with the cool new color schemes add to the element of high quality design.
The display is longer and does add to the usefulness of the browser and some apps. I am able to reach the entire display with the thumb on one hand and am already finding it convenient to use the iPhone 5 with one hand. It is something I did not think too much about before using the iPhone 5, but now I really notice that two hands are required to use my other smartphones.
I know there has been lots of controversy of the new iPhone connector, but I have to chime in and say I am already a big fan of it. I don't have lots of money tied into iPhone docks or anything so the impact of changing connectors does not affect me from a monetary standpoint. With so many smartphones implementing microUSB ports, I regularly try to connect charging cables upside down and am flipping them to fit. The convenience of being able to put the new connector into the iPhone 5 in either orientation is fantastic.
I took several photos and a couple videos and the camera did very well. My daughters use the front facing camera quite a bit for buddy photos and as you can see in my image gallery the photos from this 1.2 megapixel camera look good. Panorama seemed to work well too, but I did find it odd that you hold the phone in portrait orientation to pan it around and capture the image. It works much like other camera phones with arrows and directions on the display helping you capture a continuous image.
I haven't yet had the chance to extensively test out the new iOS 6 Maps that tech enthusiasts and the media seem to be slamming quite a bit. My sister-in-law updated her iPhone 4S and texted me that she loves the new Maps feature, especially the integrated voice navigation. It looks good and is quite fast, but I need to put it through much more testing.
I found Siri quite useful for creating reminders, but am already finding it much more useful for sports scores, launching apps, and checking out movie times. I haven't yet gotten Passbook to work at all and at this time it looks to be going the way of Newstand where it could get moved to the last page of my iPhone home screens.
Performance and experiences
I made a few phone calls and they sounded great, even at the Puyallup Fair. I also sent and received text messages and iMessages, along with sending and receiving several email messages. Communications is a strong element of iOS and the experience is excellent. Other phones have had the ability to quickly send a text when a call comes in so it was nice to see this function added to iOS 6.
The iPhone 5 is FAST! It is also a gorgeous work of art and if you have an iPhone 4 or earlier model with eligibility to upgrade then it really is a no brainer to upgrade to the iPhone 5. It's a bit tougher decision if you have to pay full price and my main focus over the next week will be to see if I can live with a much smaller display than what I have been using on the Samsung Galaxy S III. iOS apps are the best of all platforms and I understand there are a lot of developers working to enhance apps to support the longer display with many apps already submitted and waiting in the approval queue.
Summary: Nokia and RIM are in similar boats. Both have suffered extensive market cap losses and share drops, and both are struggling in market share statistics. Which company will fall first?
It’s clear that BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is in trouble. A lack of direction and innovation is coupled with a pinned-all hope that the company can turn its falling share price around with the upcoming BlackBerry 10 operating system.
But the limelight has been firmly on RIM and not on Nokia, the once cellphone market supergiant. Instead, the talk of the town has focused on Nokia’s Lumia handset amid the company’s falling U.S. smartphone market share instead of Nokia’s crumbling company.
If we compare the two, Nokia has fared worse over the past half-decade than RIM has.
The value of RIM’s shares has dropped by more than 70 percent in the past 12 months, with its market cap has tumbled from $78 billion to $6.3 billion in three years.
Nokia, on the other hand, has seen its shares drop by 90 percent in five years, and its market cap has dropped from $151 billion to $11.8 billion in four years.
In comparison, Microsoft has remained mostly steady despite an expected hiccup during the 2008–2010 global financial crisis, while Apple was unfazed by the economic blip in which the company saw its worth rise by over five times.
While RIM’s downfall has been quicker than Nokia’s, the Finnish phone giant has lost more market cap and share value. Arguably, the slightly slower decline than RIM ’s shows Nokia’s reluctance in clawing its way back to the top.
Microsoft and Nokia’s existing partnership on the smartphone front may force the Redmond-based technology company to come to its friend’s rescue.
Last year, the two companies forged a partnership where Nokia smartphones would sell with the Windows Phone operating system, giving Nokia a boost in smartphone sales and Microsoft increased operating system market share options.
Reports suggest Nokia’s chief executive Stephen Elop could reach out to his former employer Microsoft for financial help, reports Reuters, after two of the three major ratings agencies rated Nokia’s debt to junk status.
One analyst believes a helping hand “to the tune of a couple of billion dollars” could be on the cards, but thinks a Microsoft buy-out remains unlikely. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley does not think Microsoft would buy either RIM or Nokia, but it certainly doesn’t rule out a strings-attached deal to keep Nokia in the black.
With Microsoft shelling out $1 billion each year to Nokia to use its Windows Phone, Microsoft has made clear its commitment to the smartphone market. It has vested interests and cannot see its mobile platform suffer at the hands of its Apple and Google rivals.
In the meantime, in spite of Apple’s efforts to push to the top of the smartphone market, Samsung remains the leader in sales worldwide, though figures vary between analytical firms.
J.K. Shin, Samsung’s mobile business president, said it had no plans to acquire the BlackBerry maker, according to the Wall Street Journal, despite reports in January suggesting Samsung could bailout the company. The rumour was quickly nipped in the bud by the Seoul-based smartphone giant within hours of the market rumblings.
The BlackBerry maker may be on its last legs but it has an exit strategy. If it can’t recoup its losses with BlackBerry 10, it could put itself into the sale arena. The Canadian government said it would not block the sale if a foreign firm wanted to buy the company. RIM still has vast infrastructure operations, making the company a prospective candidate for Apple, which continues to push its iMessage platform.
Summary: Facebook has partnered with five companies (Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Symantec) to provide improved security for its users. That includes free antivirus solutions for six months.
Facebook today announced the Antivirus Marketplace, or just The AV Marketplace for short. The news is two-fold: the social network giant has partnered with Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Symantec to provide its users with access to full version antivirus software free for six months, and the five companies will also augment Facebook’s URL blacklist system with their own URL blacklist databases.
First let’s talk about the free software, since everyone likes free stuff. The AV Marketplace is aimed at the hundreds of millions of Facebook users who don’t currently have security protection on their computer. Facebook lets you download licenses to full versions of antivirus software: Microsoft Security Essentials, McAfee Internet Security 2012, Norton AntiVirus, Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition, and Trend Micro internet security for PCs and Macs. After six months, for the ones that aren’t free forever, you’ll have to pay up.
Out of the five options, I prefer Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free forever, not just six months. I’ve recommended MSE since day one, and I will continue to do so until something better comes along.
The marketplace is accessible from the Facebook Security Facebook Page, or via this direct link:on.fb.me/FBAVMarketplace. Facebook wouldn’t say, but I’m assuming it will eventually expand its list of antivirus partners to offer further free alternatives for its users. The social networking giant says arming its users with antivirus software will “empower them to stay safe no matter where they are on the web.”
At the same time, Facebook’s over 901 million active users will now be protected by the combined intelligence blacklists of the security industry. Facebook’s URL blacklist system, which already scans trillions of clicks per day, will now incorporate the malicious URL databases from these security companies.
This means that whenever you click a link on Facebook, it not only be checked against Facebook’s blacklist, but also the blacklists provided by Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Symantec. For more information on how Facebook’s URL blacklist system works, check out How Facebook protects users from malicious URLs.
Last but not least, Facebook also said these companies will be writing posts on Facebook Security to provide important security material to help Facebook users keep themselves, and their data, safe. To get these updates in your News Feed and Ticker, you’ll need to Like the Facebook Page.
“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the people who use Facebook, and the security of their data,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “The Facebook Security Team has pioneered many innovative defense systems against viruses, spam and phishing attacks, as well as extensive automated enforcement mechanisms that quickly shut down malicious pages, accounts and apps. Truly effective security requires cooperation and we are excited about this partnership with many of the leaders in the security community to better help us defend against existing threats, anticipate new ones and arm people with the tools they need to protect themselves.”
Summary: Photoshop is a big, heavy application that, when pushed hard, can bring even a high-end system to its knees. For hardcore graphics designers, a dedicated piece of kit is essential.
Without a doubt, the single most-requested feature here on Hardware 2.0 in the ‘Build-Your-Own PC’ category is for an “Ultimate” Photoshop system. Now that Adobe has officially launched Photoshop CS6, it’s time to take a look at this new release and prepare a hardware package that does it justice.
It seems that the reason why people are interested in the hardware specifics for a PC with Photoshop is because it’s a big, heavy application that, when pushed even modestly, can bring even a high-end system to its knees. Even small bottlenecks in performance can mean a lot of time spent twiddling your thumbs while the program chunters through a task. There’s no doubt that the better your hardware, the better your Photoshop experience will be.
Well, here it is, a guide to building your “Ultimate” Photoshop CS6 system.
Personally, I’m not much of a Photoshop user, and most of my “art” ends up looking like the 4chan Rage Guy, so please don’t ask me any Photoshop-related questions!
While I’m specifically looking at a system suited to Photoshop CS6, this build will work equally well for any of the big Adobe products, such as Premiere Pro CS6 or even the ‘full’ Master Collection CS6 package.
To build the “Ultimate” Photoshop system you will need to choose four components carefully. These are:
A fast, quad-core processor
Lots of RAM
Lots of big, fast hard drives
A graphics card that supports GPU-acceleration found in Photoshop CS6
Let’s take a look at these four components in more detail.
When it comes to Photoshop, there are three CPU-related facts that you have to accept. Intel CPUs trump AMD silicon, speed of the CPU matters, and pushing the cores beyond four doesn’t have a huge impact on performance. Here’s a benchmark to support all the above statements, and based on my testing these conclusions are just as applicable to Photoshop CS6 as they were to CS5 or 5.5. AMD makes some good CPUs, but for Photoshop you should be looking at Intel processors.
So, we’re going to start building this Photoshop system by putting an Intel Core i7 at its heart. I recommend the excellent 3.6GHz Core i7-3820 CPU (which turbo-boosts up to 3.8GHz), a part that will set you back about $310.
You need RAM, and lots of it. Consider 8GB an absolute minimum, and take that to 12GB or 16GB if your motherboard allows. There’s not need to get fancy or fast RAM aimed at gaming systems for this build. In fact, you’re better off sticking to the quality desktop RAM from reputable vendors.
Stick with RAM from Crucial or Kingston and you won’t go wrong. Not only will you get a quality, stable product, but these companies offer excellent warranties if you do end up with a bad stick of RAM. This RAM also works out a lot cheaper than the stuff aimed at gamers.
A Photoshop system needs masses of storage. This is not just because the application itself is huge, or because the output can be massive. It’s because in order to get the best from Photoshop you need multiple drives, with each one dedicated to handling a specific task.
Ideally, you need four drives. One for the OS, one for the application, one for your output files, and one to act as a “scratch disk.” A “scratch disk” is what Adobe calls using a portion of a hard drive as virtual memory. You can get away with fewer disks, for example two disks — one for Windows and the applications, the other to ask as storage and a “scratch disk” — but it’s far ideal. Trying to run everything on a single disk is best avoided as it’s going to create a significant performance bottlenecks.
Since this is an “Ultimate” system, I’m going to recommend that you use four disks. You’ll need two large hard disk drives (HDD), and two fast solid state drives (SSD). You’ll install Windows onto one of the hard disk drives, and Photoshop onto the other hard drive. Then you’ll use the one of the solid state drives for your output files, and the other as a “scratch disk.” This setup gives you the best possible storage performance, eliminating a number of potential bottlenecks.
It’s worth noting that you don’t need big solid state drives for this build because they’re only used for short-term storage. Once you’re done with a project, it’s a good idea to move the files to a hard disk drive where the cost-per-gigabyte is much lower.
Photoshop CS6 features a new Mercury Graphics Engine, and this comes equipped with a number of GPU-accelerated tools, including blur effects, liquify effects, and adaptive wide-angle effects. To make use of these GPU-accelerated tools you will need a system kitted out with a graphics card from the NVIDIA Quadro lineup, something you won’t find in a standard system.
At the high-end these Quadro graphics cards become super expensive, with a Quadro 6000 setting you back $4,000. Thankfully, you don’t need a high-end card to power the new features found in Photoshop CS6 and we can make do with something more modest, such as the Quadro 2000.
Putting it all together
OK, let’s put this all together into a complete system. Here’s a complete list of components (including case and operating system):
Optical drive: LG WH12LS39 12X Blu-ray Burner - $80
Power supply unit: CORSAIR Enthusiast Series TX750 V2 750W power supply unit - $105
Case: Thermaltake V4 Black Edition chassis - $50
Operating system: Microsoft Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit - $130
Total price: $2,100
Once you’ve built this system I recommend giving it a thorough stress-test to shakeout any problems before you start working on it. Adobe CS6 applications are incredibly demanding and will uncover even the smallest flaw in your system. Better to find any problems before putting the system into a production environment.
Summary: But there are potential obstacles to constructing a notebook chassis from Liquidmetal, the primary being how the material handles heat.
The blogosphere just won’t let go of the idea that Apple is on the verge of using Liquidmetal technology in one of its products. Last week it was the iPhone 5 that was going to get the Liquidmetal treatment, and now it’s rumored to be a feature of the MacBook Pro 2012 refresh.
SlashGear reports that Apple could cast the chassis of the next MacBook Pro from Liquidmetal. But, just as with the iPhone 5 rumor, that this raises all sorts of issues related to whether this metal is transparent enough to radio frequency to allow Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to work properly.
A possible solution to this problem is offered up in the design of the Wi-Fi + 3G/4G iPad. The chassis of this product is machined out of aluminum, but in order to give the cellular antennas a window out to the world, there’s a black plastic panel at the top of the tablet. It’s not a particularly elegant solution, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about it.
But there’s another possible obstacle to constructing a notebook chassis from Liquidmetal, and this one relates to how the material handles heat. The datasheet lists the thermal conductivity of the Liquidmetal as 6 Wm-1K-1, which makes it a far poorer conductor of heat than aluminum, which has a thermal conductivity of around 35 Wm-1K-1.
What this means is that Apple would need to redesign the cooling system of the MacBook Pro to take into account the fact that a Liquidmetal shell would be far poorer at dissipating the heat generated by the system than the current aluminum shell. However, buried on Liquidmetal Technologies website, a reference signals a way to tailor the material for specific thermal and electrical conductivity, so there may be possible to re-engineer the material to overcome this problem.
I like the idea of a Liquidmetal MacBook Pro — or for that matter any portable — more than I do the idea of making the back of an iPhone out of the material. The first reason is production. Casting is normally a much quicker process machining parts, and this gives the Liquidmetal chassis an advantage over how Apple currently manufactures parts for portable systems.
Another reason for switching from aluminum to Liquidmetal is that portables have to deal with countless bumps, scratches and abrasion on a daily basis. Liquidmetal would certainly offer a system far greater protection than aluminum does, and keep the hardware looking better for a lot longer.
Summary: The wife of an active-duty soldier learned of his death, not through the military’s very carefully thought-out death-notification procedure, but over Facebook.
A few days ago, we became aware of a very sad story. The wife of an active-duty soldier learned of his death, not through the military’s very carefully thought-out death-notification procedure, but over Facebook.
Death is a fact of life in the military, as it is in other very dangerous jobs, like police work or fire fighting. All of these organizations have developed a notification procedure that needs to accomplish a number of goals.
First, it needs to communicate the news in a respectful manner, in keeping with the magnitude of the notification. Next, it provides people on-hand for those crucial first minutes when a family learns of a loved one’s loss, in order to both keep the situation under control and safeguard other family members. Third, it’s designed to create a memory, so when family members think back over the years, their impression is one that, while deeply sad, is also one of dignity.
When this soldier’s wife learned about her husband’s death over Facebook, she had to experience it in a completely uncontrolled environment. A fellow soldier, also serving in Afghanistan, informed the wife directly, via a Facebook instant message and then a voice conversation. About two hours later, the military notification team arrived at the family’s home.
ZDNet’s Friending Facebook columnist Emil Protalinski and I debated whether we should even cover this story, because it was yet another sensationalistic Facebook story.
We eventually decided we’d each cover it according to our “beat” — he’d cover it as a Facebook story and I’d cover it as a government story. Here’s Emil’s piece, which provides details on the actual situation, which I won’t be discussing.
On one hand, it’s another sensationalistic story. On the other hand, it’s part of the changing world that’s Facebook, social media, and the military.
I originally chose not to write this on Gov because I know families are thrilled to have access to their loved-one soldiers via social media. I started off by thinking I’d have to say that this is another reason to block social media from the warfront — and I just didn’t want to say that in this context.
Facebook is changing everything, including death notifications.
The military has a very solemn, dignified way of notifying next-to-kin, but they need the time to make that happen — even if only the travel time to the spouse or loved one for the notification team. But Facebook is instant, so there’s no way for DoD to have responded faster. It’s the curse of openness vs. propriety.
There was a time, of course, when soldiers could only talk to home via snail mail letters (censored, of course) and the rare phone call. While this was hard on families and those serving, it did manage to help preserve operational security.
But as the global Internet has proliferated, even into war zones, families are able to stay more connected to their loved ones over IM, Skype, email, and the various social networks. OpSec was still observed in the most mission-critical cases, but otherwise, Internet family communications made for happier soldiers and happier families, especially in recent times, as tours of duty have been extended and extended again.
American soldiers are among the most disciplined and well-trained professionals in the world. Most of them, when instructed on a policy or procedure, can be counted on following that policy or procedure. After all, we trust them with billions of dollars of gear and really dangerous weapons, so we certainly should be able to trust them to follow orders.
Those orders extend to family communications.
Soldiers know what they can and can’t tell their families. Many soldiers talk to their families regularly, but sometimes the folks back home don’t know where in the world their loved one is deployed. That’s because our troops know what they can say, and when to keep quiet — even when it comes to family.
In this recent Fort Carson case, something went wrong. At this point, it’s not clear if the soldier who told the wife about her husband’s death had been properly instructed in how to handle that situation. If the woman in the husband’s platoon violated standing orders about death notification and decided to notify the wife herself, then she’ll be subject to possible court martial procedures.
So this brings us back to the original question: should we allow social network and Internet access for actively serving military personnel? A corollary to that is whether an incident like this is justification to cut off social network and Internet access for our serving troops?
My answer, carefully thought out, is “yes” and “no”. Yes, we should allow social network and Internet access for our troops, and no, this incident does not justify cutting our troops off from their families.
The reason is simple: trust. Fundamentally, the entire military structure of the United States of America runs on one thing: trust. We train and we trust. If we can’t trust our troops to know right and wrong when it comes to what to say when talking to home, then we can’t trust our troops to know right and wrong in far more dire situations.
And we must trust, for to have a military without trust is to merely have armed chaos. Sure, from time-to-time things go wrong. Some soldiers misinterpret training messages, friendly fire kills in the fog of war, some troops suffer under psychological trauma that results in trouble of varying degrees.
Even so, we must trust our troops. Our military has long turned mistakes into opportunities for additional training, and this Facebook incident is one of those areas where additional training may be needed.
The fact is, while our soldiers are the best in the world, they’ve also been fighting this war for a long time, stop-lossed over and over. Every opportunity we can give them to keep in touch with their families will help them during their long terms of duty.
Our condolences go out to the family of Staff Sgt. Christopher Brown. He had served twice in Iraq and was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. This time, he had been in-country for only a week before he was killed. He was the recipient of a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and an Army Commendation Medal.