Less than a year ago I reviewed several great USB Flash drives, all nice and fast and around 4 gigabytes in capacity. One I liked a lot was the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX, but at the time the $131 list price put it at $60 bucks more than the average. Even the 8GB version at the time was $266.

This week Kingston announced the DataTraveler 150 series, and they're massive. Not in size (it is a thumb drive) but capacity: 32GB and 64GB. Better yet are the prices: $108 and $177 direct, respectively. Amazon is selling the drives for even less, at $63.36 and $118.99, respectively.

How does Kingston make the drives so capacious and so cheap? EverythingUSB believes Kingston is using MLC (multi-level cell) Flash memory, which is less expensive than SLC (single-level cell). It's also slower.

The DataTraveler 150 is apparently running around 28 to 30 megabytes per second (MBps) read speeds and 8-MBps writes. That first number is pretty good, but the second number is about half of what I got when testing the HyperX a few months ago. In fact, it's so slow that the 150s do not support Windows ReadyBoost when used with Vista. (Full story Link)

Vista is famous for asking unqualified users to make far too many judgment calls about security. Can Windows 7 teach the hated User Account Control to make its own decisions?
by Neil J. Rubenking.

Some people just love Vista; others hate it with a passion. Most of the haters fall into two main groups. The first group upgraded to Vista from XP, possibly without running the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to make sure their hardware and software would be compatible. They spent hours trying to get printers to print, accounts receivable programs to account, fax modems to fax, and so on, and they heartily blame Vista for their woes. Many of those in the second group think Vista is the cat's pajamas...except for those blasted User Account Control pop-ups.

The Problem

Vista was designed to be significantly more secure than XP, and UAC is a cornerstone of its security scheme. The point of UAC is to make sure no system-level changes occur without your knowledge and without an Administrator's permission. Even if you're an Administrator user, all of your day-to-day activity happens at the low-privilege Standard level. Before a nasty virus (or a useful application) can do something scary, like write to the Windows folder, it has to get permission.
UAC popups in Vista can be especially shocking because of what's called "secure desktop mode." The screen blanks out briefly, then everything except the UAC pop-up goes dim. Vista's UAC holds all your other interactions hostage until you respond to the pop-up. The purpose of this measure is to prevent sneaky programs from spoofing or manipulating the UAC prompt, but it's jarring and unpleasant.
Less frightening but equally annoying is the "I just TOLD you!" scenario. You launch a program and UAC immediately asks if you want to run this program. D'oh! Of course you do! Users can really get steamed about this, even Administrator users who merely have to click Yes. Imagine the frustration of a Standard user who must type an Administrator password or (more likely) go track down a supervisor who's available to enter the password. One time in a thousand this precaution might prevent a malicious program from launching, assuming (and it's a big assumption) that the user was alert enough to say No. The other 999 times it's just a pain. (full story Link)

FuelCellSticker is a product currently in development by myFC AB and is envisioned as a flexible, ultra-thin power source for mobile devices such as cell phones, digital cameras, smartphones and even laptops. The device is a planar type, Polymer Electrolyte Membrane Fuel Cell (PEMFC) that uses hydrogen as fuel and oxygen as the oxidant. The technology works by sandwiching a proton-conducting polymer membrane between an anode and a cathode.
FuelCellSticker acts as some sort of a power patch for a device, what with its 0.11-inch thickness and 0.2 ounce weight. Each flexible fuel cell has an output of 0.9 Watts at 0.5 volts and if, for example, you need power for a laptop, you can use as many of the FuelCellSticker as you need. The fuel cell technology isn't ready for mass production yet, although some fuel cell packs based on it are reportedly to be released soon. (story Link)

Security in Windows 7: Setup  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , ,

PC Labs Security Analyst Neil J. Rubenking takes a look at the early beta of Windows 7 in the first of a four-part series about the state of security in Microsoft's next OS.
by Neil J. Rubenking.

Microsoft tells us that "Windows 7 improves security, reliability, and performance while helping to optimize PC management." That sounds good! Of course, the early press about Vista included a lot of security hype, too, and much of that went by the wayside as actual code started to appear. Still, the goals for Windows 7 sound a little less pie-in-the-sky than the Three Magical Pillars of Trusted Computing, or whatever it was supposed to be with Vista. To see if Windows 7 looks likelier to live up to its own PR, I loaded up a pre-beta of the OS to take a look at its security features. Note: Before doing so, I carefully made an image backup of the existing Vista installation so that I could escape from Windows 7 when finished—just in case.

Windows 7 is an important step forward (hopefully) for Microsoft, and security is a big part of that, so I'm going to take my time with this survey. It'll be broken into four parts. Today I'm looking at installation. In part two, I'll consider the supposed improvements to the UAC. For part three, I'll give the Windows 7 firewall a hard look, and, in part four, I'll consider the OS various security odds and ends and wrap up my overview.

Setup
My initial experience was encouraging. Installation was a breeze—it was barely different from the process in Vista. To my surprise, the installer gave me a Vista-style choice on enabling Automatic Updates. Hey, Microsoft! You work hard to publish important security patches every month. Windows 7 has already had one of its own (see Microsoft Knowledge Base article KB958644). But you still allow any superstitious lout to disable automatic installation of these patches based on fear and rumors. Why not just turn it on and leave it to the user to figure out how to turn it off? People already think Microsoft is autocratic; this little change wouldn't cause much of a ripple. Switching this update model from opt-in to opt-out would, in one simple step, rid the world of the literally millions of unpatched machines that succumb to every Web-based exploit and drive-by download. Well, once they had been upgraded to Windows 7, anyhow.

Solution Center
My newly installed Windows 7 quickly started grumbling about security. Specifically, it red-flagged the absence of an antivirus program. I guess the improved security in Windows 7 doesn't extend so far as to build in antivirus protection. On the other hand, given the pallid performance of the built-in Windows Defender antispyware against non-virus malware, maybe that's not such a bad thing.I clicked the antivirus warning, thinking to open the Security Center—but wait! Security Center is no more. It's now Solution Center. The old Security Center just monitored firewall and antivirus protection plus automatic updates. The new Solution Center does all that but also reports problems with spyware protection, Internet security, User Account Control, system maintenance, and more. (full Story)

The BlackBerry Storm: Your Top 20 Questions, Answered  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in

On Monday, I asked Gearlog readers to ask me everything they wanted to know about the new BlackBerry Storm 9530 for Verizon Wireless. Now I have the answers. Here's the original thread on Gearlog.com.

I re-ordered the questions by theme, and eliminated a few duplicates and a few that I still can't answer. (Battery life tests can take days.) Hopefully, this will answer some of your questions, too.

PRICING

1.) How much does it cost to use this phone?

The phone itself costs $249.99 with a new, two-year contract. You'll receive a voucher for a $50 mail-in rebate with that, making the effective price $199.99. Verizon also sells all of their phones with one year contracts ($349.99) and month-to-month ($399.99).

You must buy this phone with an applicable data plan. The minimum plan for this phone is $49.99 for data only, no voice. For both voice and data, you'll pay at least $69.99 total; $29.99 for the personal data plan and $39.99 for a 450-minute voice plan. That includes e-mail and Web browsing, but it doesn't include SMS text messaging. SMS messaging packages range from $5 to $20/month depending on how many messages they include.

If you use the BlackBerry with a corporate server, add another $15. If you want to use it as a modem for your PC, add another $15. If you want to use it in foreign countries, add $10 or $20 depending on your existing plan.

2.) Is there anyway to get Wi-Fi and not have to pay for a data plan?

No.

PHONE FUNCTIONS

3.) I'd like to know the quality of the actual phone: listening quality, talking quality, messaging, etc.

Pretty decent. See my review.

4.) How is the RF reception? I've seen better, I've seen worse. It won't make or break your buying choice here.

5.) I'm confused about the pre-installed sim card... Does that mean it's not removable? If it is not removable, and I go overseas, am I restricted to using Verizon? If so, how much will that cost me? (I will be traveling to London and Mauritius.)

The SIM is removable. Once you have had the Storm for 60 days, Verizon will unlock the SIM card slot to let you use any SIM you want. Remember, to get BlackBerry features, you'll need BlackBerry service on your GSM account; otherwise you're stuck with voice and text.

6.) Some time back I thought I read that you could sign up for a month-to-month contract with Verizon in order to buy the Storm, then have Verizon unlock the device to make it usable on the TMobile network. Is this true?

In theory that could happen; Verizon will unlock the phone after 60 days and you can force it onto GSM.

PHYSICAL ASPECTS

7.) Internal storage capacity: does it have a card slot? Is there an easy way to back up and restore the contents of the phone (the phone book, contacts, etc.) if it breaks and I have to replace it?

Yes. It comes with an 8 –Gbyte card and supports 16-GB cards. (full story)

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