MS Announces Volume Discounts for Win 7  

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Microsoft announced volume discounts on Windows 7 for its business customers at its Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans on Monday.
As of Sept. 1, business customers will be able to order Windows 7 through Microsoft's software licensing partners.  Microsoft will also offer customers up to a 15 percent discount to upgrade to Windows 7 Professional.

Microsoft Windows Partner Conference logo.JPGSpecifically, Microsoft will give a 15 percent discount on the Windows Vista-to-Windows 7 Professional upgrade to its Volume Licensing partners, who will have the choice to pass along the discount to corporate customers. The discount, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman, refers to the Volume Licensing price Microsoft previously charged to upgrade from either Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Business to Windows 7 Professional -- a price Microsoft hasn't previously disclosed. The additional discount will represent 15 percent off of that price, she said. (Upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 Professional costs $199.99 via retail.)
Specifically, Microsoft will offer discounts of between 15 and 35 percent, based on the volume and geographic region, Bill Veghte, senior vice president of Windows Business, told attendees at the Partner Conference, in a keynote address that Microsoft posted to the Web.

To determine whether customers are ready to deploy Windows 7, Microsoft is providing Solution Accelerators, automated tools to scan and remotely upgrade a network to Windows 7. A related tool, Microsoft Assessment and Planning Toolkit 4.0, will help consumers scan the network and determine if the hardware is compatible with both Windows 7 and Windows Server, or if an upgrade is required. (story Link)

Sony E-Series Video Walkman  

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Sony announces that a new line of Walkman music players will be available in Europe.  If you love to have your very own OLED Walkman but you do not have the money to buy one, these entry-level video MP3 players might do the trick.

Sony Walkman E-series Video MP3 Player

The Sony Walkman E-Series Video MP3 Players feature great looks and easy listening features that are packed with innovation that only Sony can provide.  The E-Series appear in slim and light body (measuring just 9.3 mm thin) in choice of black or red, with high-resolution QVGA 2-inch color LCD screen, and clear stereo and bass technologies that assures you with superb sound quality.

These MP3 players also support video file format conversion, allowing you to convert other video formats if you have a decoder software.  Its long battery life provides you with non-stop listening pleasure for up to 30 hours and up to 6 hours of video-viewing pleasure.

The Walkman E-series features the Clear Audio technology by Sony for high-quality and detailed sound.  It reduces leakage between left and right channels while delivering powerful, controlled bass without distortion.  This video MP3 player also has a 5-band equalizer that fine tunes your listening enjoyment, as well as a Dynamic Normalizer that balances volume levels between songs for that comfortable listening experience.  Sony also throws in a high-quality FM audio tuner that can be recorded at a touch of a button and enjoy your favorite songs wherever and whenever. (story Link with Thanks)

Microsoft today released a "technical preview" release of Microsoft Office 2010, the next version of the world's most widely used application suite. The beta is available to anyone who preregistered with Microsoft for a chance to download and test it. After running it for a few days of intense testing, I'm impatient for the final release.

Hands On: Office 2010 Technical PreviewAs far as I can tell, this should be the smoothest upgrade for Office in many years. If you're used to Office 2007, you'll need no help using Office 2010. Old features remain where they were, although some are now displayed on spacious menus with lots of explanatory text instead of the cramped menus of 2007. In fact, the new features are slotted in so smoothly that it may take you a few moments to realize that they're new.

You'll see major changes in the new version if your company also updates to SharePoint Server 2010. Office 2010 is packed with features that let SharePoint users edit and manage each other's files either through an internal connection to a SharePoint server or remotely through a Web browser or smartphone. Microsoft's obvious goal is to persuade corporations to pay for Microsoft's collaboration tools instead of using those from Google or any other cloud-based service. Microsoft's look technically dazzling, but it's an open question whether Microsoft can convince companies to lock themselves into a high-priced proprietary offering in a time of economic uncertainty.

One other innovation is that Office 2010 will be the first version of the suite available in both 32- and 64-bit versions. We haven't received the 64-bit version yet, but we'll report on its performance on a 64-bit version of Windows as soon as we can.

Digging into Office 2010

If you haven't registered for the preview, the suite can be found on software-piracy sites—but Microsoft warns that many of these bootleg copies are infected with malware. If you're curious about the new version, don't risk compromising your Windows system. Just wait for the public beta that's slated for later this year. Otherwise, you can wait until the final code is released. Office 2010 won't ship in final form until sometime in 2010—Microsoft is tight-lipped about the exact date. Meanwhile, here's my initial take on what you can expect.

System requirements for Office 2010 are essentially the same as for Office 2007: Windows XP SP3 (the older SP2 won't cut it), Vista, or Windows 7. Any hardware that can run Office 2007 can also run Office 2010.

The first thing you'll notice is a lack of big, obvious changes to notice. Office 2007 introduced the ribbon interface for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook's message editor. Office 2010 extends the ribbon throughout the suite, adding it to Publisher, OneNote, and Outlook's main menu—and introduces a customization feature that lets you add your own tab and remove some (but not all) items on the default ribbon.

Office 2007 introduced the pearl-like Office Button menu that worked like an enhanced version of the traditional File menu. Office 2010 replaces that button with a small, rectangular icon that opens a spacious "Backstage" page of fully explained options for saving, printing, and managing files, making it easier to plumb the depths of Office's enormous feature set. The Backstage view is essentially a single menu for accessing features that apply to the whole of a document, such as printing, saving, and sharing; the main editing screen is used for accessing all the actual data that's visible in the document. On the ribbon, a tiny up-arrow icon reminds you that you can temporarily turn off the ribbon by clicking that button—and you can, of course, still toggle the ribbon on and off with the little-known Ctrl-F1 keystroke introduced in Office 2007.

A new Print menu is especially impressive, with options like page orientation (portrait or landscape) and one- or two-sided printing instantly accessible instead of buried deep in the Windows Print dialog. PDF output is finally built in from the start, and doesn't require a special download as it does in Office 2007. The suite also includes the open-source Open Document Format as one of its default formats. (story Link)

Acer Aspire One D150 Netbook  

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Netbooks are becoming quite popular among those who go online most of the time. Netbooks provide the means for some people who use such gadgets to browse the Web without having to shell out a lot of cash. Netbooks such as the Acer Aspire One D150 surely makes the point clearly.

Acer Aspire One D150The Acer Aspire One D150 netbook is designed with a frequent Web user in mind, especially the one that's always mobile. It is provided with features mostly required to make the online experience more convenient and portable. It is equipped with a 10.1" display which allows more than a convenient browsing experience for such a portable device.

Its Intel Atom N270 1.60 GHz processor provides enough computing power for browsing the Web. Add in a 1GB DDR2 533 SDRAM memory, integrated digital microphone, stereo speakers, a 160 GB hard drive, WLAN capabilities,  multi-card reader and webcam, you then have for yourself an all-in-one Netbook that provides all the Web browsing capabilities that you need. And just weighing under three pounds and costing just around US$330, it certainly is quite a handy and affordable device to bring along. (story Link)

One year from today Microsoft will retire support for Windows XP Service Pack 2. Windows XP is not being retired, but support for Service Pack 2 is. It may be the case, and in fact I would guess it would be the case, that from them on you will have to have Service Pack 3 in order get support, including patches to subsequently disclosed vulnerabilities.

xpsp3.jpgIt has been policy in the past for Microsoft to retire support for service packs. You can no longer get updates for XP with no service packs (what they call SP0) or with SP1. You must have SP2 in order to get updates. After Patch Tuesday, July 13, 2010 you will have to have SP3 installed in order to get updates for Windows XP. And in fact, if a vulnerability is found in SP2 that is not in SP3, it will not be patched.

And we have reached the end of the line for Windows XP service packs: After SP3 no new service packs are planned. Microsoft will not end support for Windows XP itself for almost 4 years more. That is scheduled for Patch Tuesday, April 8, 2014.

Given that SP3 was released in May 2008, this would mean 6 years of updates since the last service pack, which adds up to quite a mess. Deploying a new system under such circumstances requires a large update process. By then we should be on to Windows 8 or 9, but the determination among many of you to keep your XP systems forever seems strong. (story Link)

ASUS HD TV Monitor T1  

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ASUS TV Monitor T1 HDTVASUS attempts to grab a slice of the HDTV market pie with the unveiling of its TV Monitor T1 series in Europe, which combines a desktop monitor and LCD TV technology, giving you high-quality HDTV broadcast as well as Full HD Blu-ray Disc playback.

The ASUS TV Monitor T1 has built-in TV tuners, allowing you to watch both digital and PAL/ SECAM channels, maximizing your European viewing pleasure.  Apart from Full HD capabilities, which let you watch high-quality videos in 1920 x 1080 pixels, the ASUS TV Monitor T1 also features surround sound through its 7-Watt speakers, together with a rich complement of I/O ports and ASUS' Splendid Video Intelligence Technology that enhances color reproduction.

The T1 Series also features ASUS Smart Contrast Ratio technology that brings the display's contrast ratio up to 20000:1.  The ASUS TV Monitor T1 comes with a remote control, customizable sound presets, a Splendid Video Intelligence Technology that lets you adjust the display's parameters to ensure optimized colors, and a Splendid Game Mode that boosts those dim and hard-to-see areas in video games all while keeping well-lit area untouched.

Let's hope that a NTSC capable version will come out soon for the North American market. (Link)

How to Choose the Best Web Browser  

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Today's Web browsers are faster and more feature-rich than ever before. If you're not sure which one you should use, our look at the most popular options will help prep you for prime surfing.

The recent launch of Firefox 3.5 was just the latest in a crescendo of activity on the browser front over the past few months. We've seen Google tout speed with its bare-bones Chrome 2. We've seen Apple's Safari 4 bring on both the speed and all the interface eye candy we've come to expect. Opera has come in with not only a beta of its feature-packed version 10, but also an alpha of an app called Opera Unite that makes the browser a server as well as a consumer. Starting it all was that juggernaut Microsoft, coming out with Internet Explorer 8, which the company claimed was more compliant with open Web standards.

But it turns out that standards are a far murkier issue than they may first seem. Firefox's promoters will brand IE as a completely behind-the-times, non-standards-supporting browser, but the standards Firefox supports haven't yet been ratified by the organization that's been the official keeper of the standards, the W3C. Firefox's support for the <video> tag is a good example: Though the tag itself is adopted by the W3C, the Ogg Theora video codec Firefox supports with the tag is anything but.

Rendering speed is another issue to consider when choosing a browser. Though all browsers today are much faster than they were a few years ago, the clear winner—at least as far as JavaScript rendering—is Chrome. JavaScript rendering is important for modern sites, which are behaving increasingly like applications rather than static pages. Chrome performed best in my tests using the SunSpider JavaScript Benchmark, finishing in just 1,503 ms. But Safari isn't far behind, at 1,707 ms, and Firefox is right in the mix, at 2,413 ms. The once-snappiest Opera trails at 7,974 ms, and IE8 is left in the dust with a 10,281-ms time.

In terms of features and customizability, Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari all outshine the stripped-down Chrome. But no browser can come close to Firefox in both its extensions and theming capabilities. Mozilla's "Fashion My Firefox" and "Personas" tools make it simple for novice users to customize the browser to their hearts' content. IE also has an add-on capability, but there's nowhere near the ecosystem for it as there is for Firefox. True, only IE offers WebSlices and Accelerators, which deliver up-to-date data to you with little fuss, right inside the browser, but few sites currently support WebSlices. (full Story)

Samsung SMX-K40: Near HDTV Quality  

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Samsung has recently released a new line of interesting HD camcorders, but for those who want to have high definition videos without suffering your savings, the company has just the right camcorder for you.

Samsung SMX-K40 digital camcorder with HD upscaleThe Samsung SMX-K40 lets you record videos in standard definition-which is 720 x 480 pixels-but these clips can get a "HD upscale" when viewing through a high-definition monitor using a HDMI output (cable sold separately).  Now you can enjoy videos that are almost at full-HD quality for the price of a standard camcorder.

Another highlight that would make us love the Samsung SMX-K40 is its 65x Intelli-Zoom lens, one of the most powerful zoom lenses that Samsung can offer.  This lets you capture any moment no matter how far away they may be.  And unlike ordinary digital zoom lenses that negatively affect the quality of the image, the Intelli-Zoom lens allows you to go beyond the standard 52x optical zoom.  You can also be assured that your videos are recorded with high quality with Samsung's advanced Optical Image Stabilizer, making your videos shake-free at any zoom distance.

Other great features of this amazingly affordable camcorder includes a 2.7-inch LCD monitor, a built-in intelli-studio program that lets you upload videos on You. (full Story)

Lenovo ThinkPad T400s  

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The wheels were set in motion for the advent of the ThinkPad T400s ($1,995 direct) the minute Lenovo launched the ThinkPad X300 (and subsequently, the X301). A larger version of that highly sought-after 13-inch business ultraportable was the next logical step. At the same time, though, the flagship ThinkPad T400 desperately needed an update, so it's fitting their paths would intersect. Lenovo just added an "s" to the model name, but the system changes are dramatic. The ThinkPad T400s takes the X300's exquisitely thin dimensions and widens them with a 14-inch LED widescreen. Certain features such as a FireWire port, an extra card slot, and options for discrete graphics aren't available on the T400s. Luckily for those who can't do without these things, the old T400 models will still be around.

Lenovo ThinkPad T400S : AngleDesign
Above everything else, the T400s is an aesthetic overhaul. Taking the brilliant engineering that went into the X300 and applying it to a 14-inch model was something Lenovo aficionados were waiting for. It measures exactly one inch thick (13.3 by 9.4 by 1 inches, HWD) and that includes optical drive. It and the Apple MacBook Pros are the only laptops that can pull-off these compact measurements without sacrificing the optical drive (a dual-layer DVD burner in our test unit; a Blu-ray reader is also available).

At 3.9 pounds, the T400s is officially the lightest laptop with a 14-inch screen, a title that was previously shared by the Toshiba Tecra R10-S4401 (4.2 lbs) and the Samsung X460-44P (4.2 lbs). More compelling is that the T400s is over a pound lighter than the original T400 (5.2 lbs), with the Dell Latitude E6400 (5.6 lbs) and the HP EliteBook 6930p (5.3 lbs) heavier still.

You may wonder how the T400s's bland-looking exterior can possibly be considered an aesthetic makeover. Well, you have to look beyond its all-black frame. Stripping the black from a ThinkPad would have been like stripping its brand identity, as Lenovo found out when it tried out a platinum version of its now-defunct ThinkPad Z61m. Likewise, Apple abandoned its black MacBook—certain colors will forever be paired with a particular brand. The T400's chassis is fortified with carbon and glass-fiber, making it both accident-proof and long-lasting. Within the rigid frame is an inner metallic skeleton called the Roll Cage, a concept similar to that used in cars to keep the occupants (in this case, the processing components) from harm. These engineering feats, perfected in X300, have been carried over to the T400s.

The 14-inch LED widescreen is energy efficient and thinner than that of the T400, yet it's not susceptible to bending. The panel is bright and its colors are sharp, and much of the credit belongs to the 1,440-by-900 resolution (the same as the T400). The 1,280-by-800 (or WXGA) resolutions found in the Tecra R10-S4401 and the X460-44P aren't as sharp. Meanwhile, you can find similar resolutions in the Dell E6400 and the HP 6930p. Just as black is synonymous with ThinkPads, so is the magnificently built keyboard, Lenovo's signature TrackPoint pointing stick, and the soft mouse buttons. Lenovo has added texture to the touchpad, which makes it more enjoyable to use than the standard one found in the T400. A ThinkPad's typing experience simply has no equal. (Next: Features and Performance)

Miyoshi Wireless Keyboard with Touchpad  

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The realm of wireless keyboards is still on the launch pad stage.  Although many consumers have not really taken interest with them, these keyboards are interesting enough to catch their curiosity and pay attention.

Miyoshi wireless keyboard with touchpadThe latest wireless keyboard unveiled to the market is the TP-24G01 by Miyoshi.  It has all the basic stuff you can find in a conventional keyboard, but an added touchpad integrated into it, much like what you see on laptops.  It connects to your PC through an USB receiver and a full 2.4 GHz wireless capability.  With the integrated touchpad, this keyboard eliminates the need of having a mouse with you, giving your computer more free ports for your other nifty hardware.

The Miyoshi TP-24G01 wireless keyboard also includes media-specific keys and a larger ENTER key (making it more convenient to type in Japanese).  The manufacturer boasts that each of its keys can withstand up to 10 million keystrokes.

The Miyoshi wireless keyboard is now available in Japan for about $100. (story Link)

HT-AS720ST Home Theater System from Samsung  

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Having a good home theater system at home can really enhance the movie watching experience by providing a theater-like sound quality into a home TV set up. It would be like going into an actual theater, only more comfortable since you are at home. And coupled with a good HDTV, nothing would ever come close to having the best home viewing experience around in terms of audio quality. Samsung Home Theater System

A home theater system such as the Samsung HT-AS720ST aims to provide such an experience for people looking for a more than just an ordinary home movie experience. The Samsung HT-AS720ST offers pass-through support for full HD 1080p TV and Blu Ray Disc players. This will ensure that audio quality from your HDTV devices won't suffer in sound quality when using this home theater system. Although considered as an entry level set-up, the Samsung HT-AS720ST really provides quality sound performance by offering deep bass and treble sound quality from its subwoofer and speaker set.

Dell Offers New FastTrack Option for SMBs  

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Dell-logo.jpgDell is terrific at letting you configure your own PCs. But that takes time. Sometimes you need a laptop, like, the day after tomorrow, for a new hire, a new job, or a business trip.
Dell today introduced the FastTrack for Business option, which offers shipment in about two

days on select, pre-configured business-class Dell Latitude laptops.
The Latitude family includes laptops that are built for organizations with growing or established networks. Models are available with backlit keyboards and docking capabilities, and come in select colors. FastTrack configurations feature 13-inch, 14-inch, and 15-inch models.

NVE-M300 GPS Navigation Drive from Alpine  

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Alpine introduces the new NVE-M300 GPS Navigation Drive, a high-performance black box navigation module that enhances the functionality of Alpine's in-dash AV head units:  The Alpine iXA-W404 and IVA-W505.  Putting the navigation drive makes your regular Alpine car stereo into an extraordinary audio-video-and-navigation solution.

The NVE-M300 measures only 4 3/8 Alpine NVE-M300 GPS Navigation Drivein. by 4 1/8 in. by 1 in. and is designed to be mounted in an inconspicuous location, like behind the dashboard.  Connect it to your Alpine AV head unit and the GPS Navigation Drive adds a fully-integrated routing experience.

The little black box features an innovative OnPoint Advanced GPS Positioning, which ensures that the vehicle's icon stays accurately positioned on the map, even where it is difficult to receive GPS reception like tunnels, around tall buildings, or under forested areas.  This is achieved by satellite-linked GPS data, solid-state gyro sensor, and accelerometer technologies to deliver improved performance.

The Alpine NVE-M300 is also easy-to-use with its graphical user interface combined with voice-guided driving directions.  Drivers can easily identify landmarks such as one-way streets, junctions, buildings, and other landmarks with big and bright icons, while large buttons provide easy identification of commands or maneuvers.  The text-to-speech technology gives drivers turn-by-turn driving instructions, including street names, freeway numbers, and even exit names. (full Story)

LG Launches New Sprint Phone  

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LG_LX290.jpgLG has unveiled the LX290, a low-end slider with a 1.3-megapixel camera, a GPS radio with optional voice-enabled turn-by-turn directional capability, and Sprint Mobile E-mail for Web and work e-mail access.
It also includes a music player and a (sadly, non-standard) 2.5mm headphone jack. It supports Sprint's NFL Mobile Live audio and video broadcasts, and lets you send a voice message to up to 25 friends at once without making a call.
The LX290 measures 4.1 by1.9 by 0.6 inches and weighs 3.6 ounces. It features a 2.2-inch QVGA LCD with 240-by-320-pixel resolution. LG claims the handset offers up to 6 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. The LX290 is now available from Sprint as of July 12th (Sunday) for $29.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in. (story Link)

Blue Badge tool unlocks all known protected features in Windows 7

Last week, Rafael revealed a weird protection scheme around some unfinished features in Windows 7 (build 6801). Well now, he’s finally created a stable all-in-one tool that will unlock all the mentioned features: the new taskbar (superbar), gestures, panning, and Desktop Slideshows.

Before you go to install the patch, the patched files are not backed up. However, I have created a .bat file, which will automatically backup all the required files as long as you have installed Windows 7 on your C Drive, and your system 32 directory is located at C:WindowsSystem32
There is some risk involved so it’s very important that you backup these files.

You can download the .bat file for backup here

Just choose the save option, and double-click it. The .bat file will create a new directory – C:patched_files_backup and copy the following files into that folder:

  • WindowsSystem32wisptis.exe
  • WindowsSystem32ieframe.dll
  • WindowsSystem32shell32.dll
  • WindowsSystem32stobject.dll
  • WindowsSystem32TabletPC.cpl
  • WindowsSystem32themecpl.dll
  • WindowsSystem32themeui.dll
  • WindowsSystem32powercfg.cpl

Please open up C:patched_files_backup afterwards to make sure all files were properly copied. Once you have backed up the files, you can download the tool here.

Only the 32-bit version (x86) is up for now. I’ll update this post once he gets the 64-bit version of the tool ready.

Here is a look at the protected features the tool can unlock:

  • The new taskbar (Superbar):
    Blue Badge tool unlocks all known protected features in Windows 7

The unlocked taskbar (superbar) is much like the one demonstrated at PDC on build 6933. Large icons are used, window previews can be shown by hovering over them, applications can be moved around in the taskbar, you can close windows as shown, and the new graphics engine displays a bright hue that follows your cursor as you move your cursor around the taskbar (kind of difficult to describe but you’ll know what I mean when you see it.) You can check out the review on the features here.

  • Gestures and Panning:
    Blue Badge tool unlocks all known protected features in Windows 7

Unlocks the panning tab under Pen and Touch and unlocks new settings shown above. The options seem to be greyed out.

  • Desktop Slideshows:
    Blue Badge tool unlocks all known protected features in Windows 7

Desktop slideshows was talked about previously in this post. You can have your desktop wallpaper change at certain time intervals specified by you. Although you can’t seem to draw images from feeds or add your own feeds just yet. (story Link) - Blog Search