Friday, February 29, 2008

Minox's Digi Cam: for 'Spies Like Us'

Minox Iconic Spy CamNot to make it a theme here, but the spying business is a great gadget producer. One from the days before cyber-espionage, is the Minox TLX Subminiature Spy Cam. The iconic size and sliding action of the completely mechanical camera is well recognized. You’ve undoubtedly seen them used in movies where the spy photographs the target’s documents with one.

MINOX DC 7411If you like your gadgets to invoke that spy slickness, but hardly need to be inconspicuous; the Minox DC 7411 digital gives you the tools to capturing life's highlights, easily and 'with the slickness'. Sporting a slimmer casing, 3-inch LCD, face detection, smart styling, and a 7.2 MP sensor, this capable flick maker will have you wishing your work assignments self destructed in...30secs.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cell Phone Spy Data Extractor

Credit: Brickhouse SecurityIf you think the cell phone’s delete button is an indiscretions eraser, think again, those bits of incriminating data are there and readable, if you have the right equipment.

New York’s own Brickhouse Security is hoping to profit off your love one’s paranoia. They are now offering a USB SIM card reader to help concerned parties gain access to suspected evidence of infidelity, drug transactions, and any other dirt that can be wrestled off the tiny wafer.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Compact Megapixel King: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300Sony gets what we want the ‘mega’ in megapixels to mean. With the Cyber-shot DSC-W300, Sony redefines this prefix to mean not a million but mammoth, incredible, abundant, *almost* an overkill. 13.6 million pixels is a densely packed sensor yet a large pixel count alone doth not a great camera make.

A digital camera sensor is nothing without superior optics to focus the light shining on the sensor, correctly and with no distortion. Carl Zeiss lenses have been making crisp images with a rich tonal range for well over a century, this is why all Cyber-shots are outfitted with Zeiss lenses to give us the best possible image. This is an especially important component to not skimp on.

Another component often overlooked is the case which all those electronics reside in. Cameras fall, some don’t survive; this one's chance of coming out unscathed is greatly increased due to its added titanium coating. The coating also helps keep that new camera shine longer by adding “highly-resistance” scratch and fingerprint protection.

Indoor lighting in past models could be a hairy proposition, but with the DSC-W300’s “extra high sensitivity” (ISO 6400) even dimly lit rooms can remain naturally lit and can be shot successfully without a flash. Grain and noise in the dark areas usually manifest themselves in lower light photos, Sony’s addition of a noise reduction filter helps minimize this and eliminates the need for post processing by performing in-camera filtering, a great time saver.

Try not to mistake this camera for the Terminator, because it does indeed use artificial intelligence technology. Only here, instead of murderous protection, it provides some sensational photographic skills. The technology prioritizes faces and triggers the shutter the moment the camera sees a smile. And, if switching between scene modes is too much of a hassle the powerful picky picture maker does this for you as well, with scene recognition technology. Freaky right?

Sometime we might wait months before downloading a batch of pics to our computer. Sony realizes this and offers new ways to organize and view snaps right on the 2.7 inch LCD. Image management is enhanced with the addition of an in-camera search by face, date, or calendar view and of course they’ve added HDTV output and, nicely enough, a longer music file capacity for sideshow playback. These enhancements allow for quick and intuitive preparation of elegant slideshow presentations.

The opportunity to actually lay hands on this Cyber-shot is still a few months away; feel its power vicariously for now, and preorder this hot shot for delivery around the beginning of May.

UPDATE: Video after the jump. Click for More Information
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Monday, February 25, 2008

JVC RX-D702B Audio/Video Control Receiver

JVC RX-D702B Audio/Video Control Receiver (Black)Receivers are rarely sleek and slim; they usually take up a bit of real estate and weigh around forty pounds. As an alternative to these whaling behemoths, JVC has a line of sleek, powerful, smaller form digital amplifiers. They weigh in at a mere seventeen pounds. Good news is, JVC's most powerful and versatile ‘slimline’ digi amp has been out for about three years, enough time to have its price drop to near half of its original retail. Despite the stigmata, that consumerism thrives on, of not being up-to-date; this JVC has some impressive specs.

Audio Features

JVC RX-D702B Audio/Video Control Receiver (Black) rear

One of the JVC RX-D702B’s most impressive features is its ability to wirelessly connect to your computer. This seems appropriate considering many computers act as music servers nowadays. Don’t worry if you don’t have a wireless network; JVC’s makes it simple. A USB dongle plugs into your computer, installs as a generic USB speaker, and wirelessly links your PC or Mac. Any audio from the computer is now sent to the receiver. This is nice because there are no issues with DRM (copy protected) content or having to use a specific media player program.

Adequate amplification doesn’t seem to be an issue for this JVC. It provides most channels with 150 watts, whether in surround sound or stereo modes. The speaker terminals accommodate up to 7.1 surround sound or 1 center (150W), 2 front(150W each), 2 surround(110W each), 2 rear(150W each), and a subwoofer (pre-out, not powered). On-board decoders for various Dolby Digital and DTS formats give this JVC the ability to decode most digital audio formats.

No matter what set of speakers is paired with this JVC; a formidable wall of sound comes out of this amp. Choose speakers whose power handling matches the amplifying abilities of the receiver, then pair that with a high-powered sub, you’ll have a system that will shake any room. The audio stylings of this JVC digi amp won’t leave you wishing for more.

Video Processing

Breathe new life into older components, the JVC up-converts analog video to 480p. You won't have to buy all your movie titles in High Def. It outputs upscaled video via HDMI
from any input terminals: Component, S-video, or Composite.

Also, the upscaling is great for playing those embarrassing home videos from the nineties in high def glory, “and here I am at band camp”…always a sure fire way to impress a date.

Buying technology that’s been around a while is a good way to save. You also have access to a greater diversity of user reviews from products that have been put through the paces. Do your own research; I think you’ll find my recommendation a sound one.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Denon AH-C751 In-Ear Headphones

Denon AH-C751 In-Ear Headphones
Denon’s new ‘bullet’ earbuds promise to make a dynamic listening experience a sureshot. The chamber created by the bullet shaped metal case of the bud acts as a bass reflex chamber and sound pressure equalizer, or if you prefer, their marketing term is the ‘acoustic optimizer’.

A gold plated mini jack and shielded cabling give the listener that extra assurance that nothing is getting lost to sub-par components, and equal lengths of cable are use to ensure both left and right channels a produce a balanced sound.

Denon has come correct with these ‘buddies’. The nice sized magnets push 2.5 watts straight into your head. To top it off, the wide frequency response definitely provides bass heads the low-end boost they crave; while other listeners can appreciate the subtle acoustic characteristics revealed by Denon’s unique ‘bullet’ construction.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

HD-DVD Production Halted?

HD DVD has been on death row since Warner announced, early in January, the movie studio’s exclusive support of Blu-ray format. HD DVD evangelist Toshiba is reeling after Friday’s announcement that Wal-Mart, whose large market share and ‘gangsta’ business tactics has forced manufacturing plants overseas in droves, decided to restrict consumer choice to only Blu-ray high definition video discs and players.

Wal-Mart will be added to the short list of retailers choosing sides, BestBuy and Netflix have also allied with Blu-ray, but Wal-Mart's decision weights a bit more heavily on the format's future. Something tells me Sony and Panasonic, Blu-rays main backers, already fluent in Wal-Mart’s ‘language’ of cut throat dealings, took a trip to Bentonville, and hammered out a deal involving mass sums of
money to flip the switch to ‘off’ for the HD DVD format, at least in Wal-Marts. This is all conjecture, and breaks anti-trust laws, but this *is* Wal-Mart we're talking about, they’re not exactly stewards of fair trade.

This announcement has had a ripple effect all the way to the HD DVD manufactures, underscoring the supercenter’s massive market influence. Reports out of Japan have stated that Toshiba will discontinue any further production of HD DVD players or discs. Wal-Mart was a huge proponent of HD DVD back when they where selling players at $100 each; now we know why they were so cheap. Were they knowingly promoting a dying format in order to clear stock, then turned around and discontinued it? Sounds like business as usual; consumers getting handed the short end of the stick…from the company who touts “Save Money, Live Better”.

Wal-Mart bashing aside, I’m glad to see Sony win one. Sony’s BetaMax was better than VHS, not sure about Blu-ray, but the extra manufacturing cost that drives up Blu-ray movie title prices is annoying. Another blow to cash strapped hi-def lovers is Blu-ray player pricing. They‘re twice the price of HD DVD players, although, what’s the use of owning a player at half the price if it can’t play anything.

Some analysts see Video on Demand (VoD) as the future of movie distribution. Increased data transfer speeds makes online transactions of VoD content much more viable than even 10 years ago, but these purchases still represent a tiny fraction of the overall market.

VoD is an attractive prospect to brick and mortar retailers too: little cost, no shipping, no returns, no defects, no theft, no unsold product, and instant inventory. The idea is that an in store kiosk would burn movies to the buyer’s media of choice (Blu-ray, DVD, even flash drive). The kiosk could even print the cover art and provide a case. This would satisfy the materialistic desire for a physical product, give the kiosk operator’s huge profits, all while maintaining the viewer’s choice of media. This is what’s on the horizon for movie distribution; invest in building and marketing these kiosks, and you could secure your early retirement. Just be ready to ship production overseas if you plan to sell to Wal-Mart.

Buy a nice upconverting unit and save yourself some hassle.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Kodak Rethinks Digital

Up until now the convenience of camera phones seems to have outweighed their inability to produce sharp high quality digital photographs. Aggravating and disappointing users even further, these ‘cameras’ perform especially poorly in low-light situations, and often come with paltry LED 'flashes' if any supplemental light is offered at all. They even have garnished their own "Krappy Kamera" category in art competitions.

Kodak, quite unexpectedly, has made huge advancements in changing this dirty little fact of life for camera phone users. Not to say Kodak doesn't have a history of innovation. Come on, their new roll film was all the rage in the 1930’s and the Brownie, fergetaboutit.

Now, the engineers at Kodak were directed to rethink the CMOS image sensor (the small image sensor used in camera phones), and instead of producing weak efforts, they ‘flipped the script’ completely by reversing the way the image sensor reacts to light.

Instead of reacting solely to the light that hits the sensor, Kodak’s new 5-megapixal sensor reacts to the absence of light, a first of its kind. This reversal creates much less noise in the darker areas of photos, while increasing the overall image quality to something closer to a standalone digital camera with a larger CCD sensor.

Before this announcement they were tinkering with the CMOS sensor’s sensitivity or low light capabilities. Kodak has increased this to about 3200 ISO, or faster than the fastest film, unheard of in a camera phone.

This is achieved by adding a panchromatic/clear pixel, in other words, these new pixels register all colors of light in addition to the traditional red, green, and blue (RGB) pixels that are present on every digital camera image sensor. This addition is what allows the sensor to gather more information from lower light scenes.

This all bodes well for camera phone users. These image making phones are usually whipped out in less than optimal lighting conditions; like at bars, cafes, clubs; you know indoors. Now that they are no longer a "Krappy Kamera" who knows, maybe the next Sport Illustrated swimsuit edition with be shot on a camera phone, by me.
<..Via Press Release..>

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

HD Radio to Text: an Initiative for Persons with Hearing Impairments

Photo Credit: Wilson Rothman/GizmodoClosed captioning offers those with hearing impairments an easier way to enjoy broadcast media. Its downfall is accuracy; someone, namely the stenocaptioner, has to type all that is being said as well as provide descriptions of ambient sound.

If you're a person without a hearing impairment that has read the live CC from a newscast, or similar broadcast, and compared it to what is being said you know some things definitely get lost in translation. Text-to-speech software will change this, and possibly put some folks out of work, but we’re not quite there yet. So, for now, their jobs are safe.

HD Radio™ enables CC textual radio broadcasting using the same metadata technology that sends the artist and album info to your HD radio receiver. With stenocaptioners hard at work, talk radio can now be enjoyed by a much wider audience.

The deployment of this accessible radio initiative is led by a Harris Corp. and spearheaded by Mike Starling (vice president and chief technology officer of NPR). It was demonstrated, live at a press conference held at CES this year, by a multicast of NPR’s “Morning Edition”. The textual broadcast was shown on an HD Radio™ car receivers’ video display (pictured above).

HD receiver manufacturers are also working on improvements for visual impaired audiences, such as larger text, or announcements of stations and functions activated.

Hopefully, this seamless adaptive technology integration will set the stage for similar product rollouts, and one day electronics users, with disabilities, won’t have to specially address the adaptability of will just be there.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Nüvifone Set to Topple Apple's iPhone

Garmin NuvifoneGarmin’s latest announcement introduces us to the nüvifone, the company’s ambitious first foray into the mobile phone market. Obviously, any phone carrying the Garmin brand will be heavily skewed towards navigation and geo-tagging functions, and the nüvifone delivers, in theory. Success in this realm, for Garmin, will depend on how well they pull off the integration of the GPS enabled functions with the rest of the phone’s capabilities. On paper, the nüvifone meshes internet browsing, navigating, photographing, messaging and actually carrying on a conversation with style and functionality.

Garmin NuvifoneThe phone is reportedly 3.5G capable, this basically means with the right network support the nüvifone would have the fastest download speeds ever experienced on a phone. At first glance the 3.5” touch screen and similar overall size makes the nüvifone look like a bootleg iPhone. Looks can be deceiving and in this instance they are. As fundamental to the phone’s operation as music playback on the iPhone, the nüvifone takes navigation seriously, while still remembering it’s mostly a toy at heart.

Some geo-tagging options are all fun and games like the automatic picture position tagging. A photo taken with the built-in camera will be appropriately geo-tagged; you could then send the photo to a friend just to let them know where you’re at. If they happen to have a nüvifone as well, they could then navigate directly to the photo’s position. Presumably you’d stay there to meet up with them. This isn't any better than just telling your mates were you’re at, but loads more fun.

Another, more plausible, example of the seamless navigation integration would be going from walking and talking; to driving, navigating, and conversing hands-free. As soon as the phone snaps into the car mount cradle the audio transfers to the speaker phone and the navigation function automatically activates.

Nüvifone also tags your position as soon as you take the phone off the car mount. This promises to make locating that out of the way parking place much easier. Plus, it took you an hour to find an open spot, you don’t want it take that long or longer to find your way back to it.

Garmin has built a huge database of points of interest, but they also realize that many folks use and trust Google to search points of interest. Using Google, the Garmin accesses all the resources of the web, including user generated ratings, to sort points of interest search results. They’ve also geo-positioned landmarks within the POIs database and linked them with sightseeing photographs from Google’s Panoramio, thereby enhancing those travels to unfamiliar destinations.

Added as more of a side note, the phone also plays movies and music, but I wouldn't throw out your iPod just yet.

If Garmin successfully completes this ambitious undertaking, the big question then becomes which carrier would offer this phone? AT&T would do well to keep their bid in front of the Garmin decision makers; having the two most feature-rich phone offerings would certainly boast profits, and maybe bring plan costs down. Well, one can dream, can't one?

<..via press release..

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