Monday, August 1, 2011

PlayStation Vita out in October, says Blockbuster UK flyer

Blockbuster may have had its share of trouble here in the States, but that doesn't mean its British brother isn't doing well enough to have (and leak) a big-shot release date or two. According to a flyer brandishing the Blockbuster logo and that good 'ol extension, the PlayStation Vita will land in the United Kingdom on October 28th. That's ominously close to Halloween -- not that we're suggesting anybody is having pre-holiday PSV boot-shakes, or anything -- and the flyer's fall release prediction squares up nicely with Sony's "end of 2011" launch window. As always, we suggest taking rumors and leaks such as this with a grain of salt -- but considering Sony's sinkable record regarding loose lips, we'd understand a low sodium approach. Hit the break to get a peek at the Blockbuster UK flyer -- ready and waiting for your judgement.

Congressional leaders reach agreement to raise the debt ceiling

Republican and Democratic leaders have agreed on a plan to raise the debt ceiling, President Obama announced Sunday night.

The announcement arrives after months of intense closed-door negotiations, and just two days before the deadline set by the Treasury Department.

According to the details available, the agreement would slow the growth of government spending over the next decade by $2-$3 trillion and allow enough borrowing to put off another vote to raise the ceiling to 2013. About $1 trillion will be cut immediately, and the details of the remaining spending reductions will be handled by a bipartisan committee of 12 lawmakers from both chambers, who will recommend cuts for Congress to vote on. To appease the GOP's conservative wing, the deal would also require a vote in both chambers on an amendment to the Constitution requiring the federal government to balance its budget each year.

"I want to announce that the leaders of both parties, in both chambers, have reached an agreement that will reduce the deficit and avoid default--a default that would have had a devastating effect on our economy," Obama said. "Now, is this the deal I would have preferred? No. . . . But this compromise does make a serious down payment on the deficit reduction we need, and gives each party a strong incentive to get a balanced plan done before the end of the year."

House Speaker John Boehner held a conference call Sunday evening with House Republicans in which he urged them to support the package, declaring that the deal in place "meets our principles of smaller government."

"There is a framework in place that would cut spending by a larger amount than we raise the debt limit, and cap future spending to limit the growth of government," he said, according to a transcript provided by Boehner's office. "Now listen, this isn't the greatest deal in the world. But it shows how much we've changed the terms of the debate in this town."

With the approval of leaders of the House and Senate, and Tuesday's deadline looming, Congress must act quickly to convince enough members to seal the deal with a vote on Monday. The deal will require bipartisan support due to the opposition within factions of both parties.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid will both present the deal to their caucus Monday at 11 a.m. with a vote expected afterward.

HTC: Apple lawsuit not cause for concern

HTC has attempted to calm worries that it will be destabilised by the ongoing Apple lawsuits, stating the company can weather the impending storm.

Apple is seeking to stop sales of HTC phones and tablets it feels infringe on its patents, and is likely seeking royalties on each relevant device sold in the future.

However, despite stating it is willing to meet with Apple to thrash out the problems within the suit, HTC CEO Peter Chou still maintains the Taiwanese firm is merely a victim of its own success.

We're just too good

"Many lawsuits nowadays are results of being successful; it's part of the business," said Chou in a telephone conference according to Reuters. "We will not bring the company to a dangerous position."

HTC's share value dropped in the wake of the announcement of a lawsuit from Apple and have yet to fully recover. The firm is already paying a license fee to Microsoft to use elements of Android, and further royalty payments to another company would have another impact on its bottom line.

Let's just hope all these patent issues get solved in the next year or two and we can get back to publishing blurry pictures of possible phones that may be the next iPhone/Galaxy/Desire killer.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

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Microsoft strikes back ... softly

Microsoft Corp is ramping up its antipiracy campaign but this time it is taking a slightly different approach — it wants to be gentle.

The software giant calls its new non-intrusive approach Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) and claims that it’s mainly intended to protect users from becoming victims of pirated software.

“We want to help users who have inadvertently installed an illegitimate copy of Microsoft Office,” said Annabelle Co, Microsoft Malaysia senior product marketing manager.

Microsoft expects to go live with OGA on Jan 27 in 27 countries including Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Spain.

Its previous Windows Genuine Advantage antipiracy initiative caused users’ desktop to turn black if they were using pirated copies of Windows XP.

The OGA notification, on the other hand, will display a dialogue box prompting the user to buy a genuine copy of Office.

Microsoft said users have unknowingly purchased pirated copies of Microsoft Office because they have been fooled by the packaging and price which is similar to the original.

OGA will be rolled out through Window’s automatic update service and users will be given the option to not install it. It will verify the authenticity of Office 2003, 2007 and XP.

However, OGA will not stop the user from continuing to use Office.

“The dialogue box will pop up twice a day for a period of 30 days if the user chooses to ignore it,” Co said.

After the 30-day period is up, there will be a permanent star icon on the toolbar to remind the user that it is an illegitimate copy of Microsoft Office.

Because it doesn’t interfere with the functions of Office, some users will continue to ignore it, Co said.

“Some may even think it’s cool to have a star on their toolbar but I believe they would be embarrassed if they were to do a presentation and the audience spotted it,” Co said.

Microsoft even claims that if a customer had paid a large sum of money for a pirated copy of Office, it will replace it with a complimentary copy of Office Professional regardless of the edition of the illegitimate copy.

Users will have to fill up a form online, which they have to print and mail with the fake CD and receipt to Microsoft’s headquarters in the United States.

Also, the CD must bear the Microsoft hologram. “If you send a CD-R with the words Microsoft Office on it, you won’t qualify for the complimentary copy,” she quipped.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Nokia N79 Not just a pretty phone

Modernity is the theme of this flashy N-series addition, the Nokia N79. Does this modernity translate to value for money?

Despite Nokia’s recent “dual-slide” design trend, it has still been ­dedicated to producing quality ­candybar phones.

This particular model surprised me in ways no candybar had for a long time. It is different in ways both large and subtle.

Bright white

The first thing you will notice about the N79 is the white frontal outline. I found this to be a very aesthetically pleasing feature as it reflects light more gently than silver or black outlines.

BRILLIANT: The dual-LED flash is magnificently bright and the picture and video quality is excellent.

The keypad comprises of all-flat depressed buttons save for four rice-like keys and the N-series trademark silver media button.

The navigation wheel is more squarish but performs both the wheel and cursor functions very effectively depending on the context of usage.

In the middle of the navgiation wheel there is a sufficiently large “execute” button which seems to massage the tips of your fingers.

The rice-like keys take some getting used to though, especially if you have nails that are anything but short.

From time to time, I did slide off the limited surface area to accidentally push a flat key next to it, which was a little annoying at first.

My favourite part of the design is the sliding lock/unlock button at the top of the phone.

It makes locking and unlocking so more quicker and easier with just one swift move required. You do not see this feature often outside of slider phones.

Cover story

When you first open the box, you will see two extra covers of different colours next to the phone which will certainly come in handy.

There is a nice surprise waiting for you when you decide to change your cover.

What I mean by this is that all the covers provided have a built-in chip that, when clasped on, will change the wallpaper colour of the home screen to match the colour of the cover. I personally thought this was quite cool.

Also, the camera has a sliding cover which protects the camera while closed and turns on the camera when slid open.

This is quite a practical feature but I do feel that the cover is too easy to slide open.

I have accidentally activated the camera on many occasions when pulling the phone out of my pocket.

Down to business

Having used a few N-series models in the past, I was quite impressed with this ­particular model’s fast response time.

Also, it did not hang on me at all which was a nice change.

With updates to its firmware, Nokia has improved the user-friendliness of its GPS application significantly.

It is quick, easy to use and the maps are very accurate. It is good if you are looking for landmarks and other major places.

Where it is lacking is the specific searches especially when it comes to the lesser-known places of interest.

In that situation, it will probably never replace a standalone GPS system.

To be fair, according to Nokia, it is in the early stages of a new map system and will have more detailed map updates and features in the future.

In any case it is hard to use while driving, at least, hard to use safely and without arousing the suspicion of the authorities.

Web browsing is also really fun on this model, mainly because of the well designed navigation wheel.

Also, this model has a tilt sensor which changes the screen view to landscape mode when tilted to its side.

It is great for Internet surfing but an ­inconvenience otherwise (sometimes it tilts while placed flat on the table).

Media matters

The camera on the N79 is really good. The focus time is about one second and the dual-LED flash is magnificently bright.

The picture and video quality is excellent with very few pictures coming out blurry or dark.

Nokia provides a USB cable so you can upload your media to your PC. Four gigabyte of memory is not considered massive these days but it is more than enough if you are consistent in uploading your content.

For music lovers such as myself, 4GB is not a world of space.

The speakers on this model are decent. It is much more enjoyable, however, to listen to music using the earphones/handsfree set provided.

I had a little trouble with transferring the music. The manual says to use Windows Media Player 11 but that does not really work so well since some of my synchronised files went missing in the phone.

What the booklet does not tell you is that you can actually use Nokia Music to sync the files. Even with Nokia Music, it took a few tries before all my music was where it should be.

N-gage me

I must say, getting a free activation code for LucasArt’s mobile version of Star Wars: Force Unleashed was really great.

I think it is the first mobile game I got really engrossed in and was impressed with the detail of the graphics and the complexity of the gameplay.

I am generally not much of a mobile gamer but I found this particular game to be ­challenging and very entertaining.


I have to admit this phone really impressed me. It is elegantly designed and its features are mostly top of the line.

Its price tag is significantly lower than many of its N-series counterparts and it has almost all the same features, albeit reduced in some areas.

Pros: Stylish design; good response time; excellent camera features; cool covers; fun games.

Cons: Rice-like keys are difficult to use; loose camera cover; limited memory; file ­synchronisation is troublesome.