Sony finally discontinues floppy discs

By Mike on 1:10 pm

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Were they still making these?

Sony has finally discontinued the manufacture of floppy discs in Japan. Most kids in highschool today probably have never seen one of these. Makes me feel old. I can remember when PC games used to be stored on them. More complicated classic games like X-Wing and TIE Fighter required six or more of these 1.44 megabyte discs to install. I can even remember using the big 5 1/4'' discs to load programs on the Apple IIGS computers we had in elementary school.

The death of the floppy came in 1998 when Apple shipped the original iMac without the iconic drive. Steve Jobs said that network storage and recordable CDs would replace them. I got my first CD-RW drive in 2001 and never looked back. Since then, they've been regulated to niche markets in computer repair and developing countries. With flash drive prices down to a few tenths of a cent per megabyte, they make little sense these days.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. We fondly remember the floppy and all the work he did storing all that early low res porn and school book reports. May he enjoy the afterlife for all eternity.

PS3 gets cooler, cheaper RSX

By Mike on 12:54 pm

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Sony has redesigned the PS3... again.

This time they've redesigned the RSX graphics processor on the console. The new chip has been shrunk down from a 65nm process to 40nm. For your typical gamer, this means a cooler running chip and less energy consumption. Playstation University found that power savings total about 9 watts on average over the previous Slim model. Power consumption in total has been cut by more than half over the original models.

For Sony, it means a cheaper PS3. The new RSX doesn't require as many associated chips to run, thus cutting the number of parts needed to build the system. This means that Sony could start making money. On average, Sony was loosing between $241 and $307 on each unit sold for the original PS3. Cost cutting measures have allowed them to drop price and break even. Even though Sony may start making a profit on the PS3, don't expect a price cut anytime soon.
Image courtesy of Pocketgadget via Engadget.

US piracy numbers over estimated

By Mike on 6:19 pm

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US piracy and counterfeiting estimates have been greatly over estimated.

That's what the Government Accountability Office is saying. The RIAA, MPAA, and the FBI frequently cite the figure of $250 billion and 750,000 jobs lost per year due to copyright theft. The damning report concluded that it was impossible to place a dollar or job figure on looses due to piracy. The GAO concluded that it could not figure out where the FBI had gotten the $250 billion figure.

Pro-IP groups assume that one incident of piracy equals one lost sale. Ars Technia reports that substitution rates, "how much of the infringing activity should be counted as a lost sale", are only based on "assumptions" at best.

The US administration under Bush and Obama has been actively defending the Pro-IP side of the debate. The RIAA and MPAA recently began calling for the government to mandate spyware on computers to automatically detect and delete infringing material. They also want border agents to search travellers' electronic devices and confiscate them if pirated material is found. It's another stepup in their war against piracy that has many online civil rights groups worried.

iPad too hot to handle for some

By Mike on 3:06 pm

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The iPod is a hot commodity, literally. Some users are reporting that their iPads are overheating. PC Magazine editor Zach Honig claimed that his iPad gave a warning message when left in spring sunlight. He says he had to put it in a fridge to cool it back down and get it working again. The unit's compressed case can't dissipate heat effectively enough in certain conditions.

Other users are reporting that the iPad's wifi is also buggy. People are complaining that the iPad won't connect to wifi networks, or won't reconnect to known networks. Apple claims the problem is with certain third-party routers and not the device itself. If you get a weak signal, Apple suggests moving closer to your router. How silly.

Settlers 7's DRM still locking out players

By Mike on 2:48 pm

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Ubisoft's new ultra-draconian DRM system is not working vary well. Two weeks after launch, gamers who bought Settlers 7 are still finding themselves locked out of the game.

People are reporting that they are unable to log in and play. They are receiving the message the "server [is] not available". Ubisoft told Eurogamer that "our technical teams have made progress but we are not yet able to say that the issue is completely resolved." A 50 page forum thread lists countless complaints so it appears the problems are far from being fixed.

Ubisoft came under heat last month when they released a new DRM system that required gamers to maintain a solid internet connection to play single player titles. Server problems have plagued the French publisher, part of which the company blames on denial of service attacks from hackers. Despite the PR flack, Ubisoft has shown no plans to back down the scheme's internet requirement.

Bring back PS3's "Other OS" support with a hacked firmware

By Mike on 2:15 pm

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A lot of PS3 owners were upset when Sony removed Linux support from the console in firmware 3.21. To be fair, not a lot of people actually used it. But it was the principle of removing a feature that got people angry.

The folks at Geohot have announced that they are working on returning the penguin to the spider. The hacked custom firmware puts "other OS" support back. So fat PS3 owners will be able to use Linux to their heart's content. Geohot has claimed that it may be possible to add Linux support to the Slim as well with this hacked firmware. However, they haven't tested it.

A video showing the functioning hack has been released on Youtube. No word on when they'll release it to the public.

Four iPad Alternatives

By Mike on 9:32 pm

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Like it or not, the iPad is the next big thing. Steve Jobs is calling it a revolutionary device. Portable computing is certainly changing. The netbook trend is giving way to sleek, all-in-one tablets. So if you're thinking of small system, you should definitely consider one. But what if you don't like the iPad? Here's four alternatives worth taking a look at.


Designed by Fusion Garage, the Joo Joo is billed as "the ultimate internet experience". It's a tablet specifically designed for web surfing. It allows users to browse the web and use a variety of web based apps. It can also play back full HD video and has a 720p screen resolution on a 12.1'' display. Perhaps the biggest one up on the iPad is support for Adobe's popular Flash media, which sites like YouTube use for video playback.

Unfortunately, the Joo Joo has a long list of problems, even before it launched. It was faced with numerous delays, and fewer than 80 pre-orders. That's compared to the 300,000 sales the iPad made on its first day. The device is also extremely limited in functionality. All it can do is surf the web. It has a 5 hour battery life to boot, which is half the iPad's. That's pathetic for what it does. The final nail is the price. At $499, it's the same price as the iPad with only a fraction of the functionality.

Engadget says the device was released with "terrible timing", saying it's unintuitive and delivers half baked software. This is one tablet you should probably skip.

HP Slate

It's not even out yet but this device is already causing quite a stir. HP has taken the netbook and compressed it down into a thin tablet roughly the same size as Apple's. Under the hood, it packs an Intel Atom processor, 1gb of RAM, 32gb of storage, a memory card slot, webcam, and a fully functional version of Windows 7 with HP's own touch support. A special graphics chip has also been added to enable full 1080p video through it's built in HDMI port.

This is probably one of the more powerful and flexible tablets out there. It can run any program that a typical netbook can run. This includes Adobe Flash. The downside is lack of platform specific apps that the iPad is known for. This includes games. On the plus side, it should be able to run many indie and older PC games. So it's not as if there's a shortage of software. The Slate will have a 5 hour battery life, which isn't great but isn't bad all things considered.

The Slate will retail for $549 for the 32gb model and $599 for the 64gb model. A 3G model is also planned. There's no word on a release date. Sometime in 2010 is all we've been told. This is definitely something to keep your eyes on.

Microsoft Courier
It may not even exist but it's still generating a lot of buzz. Microsoft calls the Courier a "digital journal." Mockups have shown a tablet with two screens that looks like a big Nintendo DS. Concept videos show it being used to take notes, plan schedules, edit photos, and create presentations.

The Courier could be the creative professional's dream. A practical device for content creation; instead of just watching what other people have done. Not much is known about the device at this time. It will input with a touch screen and stylus pen. It also runs a version of Windows Phone 7 on an nVidia Tegra 2 CPU. The same combo that run the Zune HD.

Some say the Courier will arrive in mid-2010. No word on price.

Archos 9

Archos jumped on the netbook bandwagon fairly quickly. The high end MP3 player manufacturer now makes a wide variety of portable computers. The Archos 9 is one of them. It's similar to the Slate, except it's bulkier and has a slower processor. It has a 1.1ghz Atom processor and runs Windows 7 Starter Edition. The Register ran several benchmarks on the Archos 9 and found it to be less than half the speed of comparable 1.6ghz Atom systems. A slow enough processor as is. Multi-tasking is almost impossible on a system this slow.

On the plus side, the Archos 9 is a fully functional Windows tablet, like the Slate. It also features a beefy 60gb hard drive and a HD webcam. It also has a user replaceable battery, extending the 5 hour run time. User input is by a touch screen. The 9 also comes with a stylus.

As it's name implies, it has a 9'' 1024x600 screen. While it can handle 1080p video, it doesn't have any video outputs. Archos requires you to buy a $75 "port replicator", which only gives you VGA connectivity. Sorry, no digital video.

The Archos 9 retails for the same price as the Slate; $549. Between this and the Slate, my money is on the Slate.