Saturday, October 31, 2009

Asus Continues USB 3.0 Onslaught With a Cheap PCI-E Card [USB]


Man, Asus is really going nuts with USB 3.0 gear this week. First a 3.0 compatible motherboard, now this SuperSpeed ready PCI-E card that won't even break the bank at $30.

Unfortunately, the guys at Maximum PC didn't have any USB 3.0 devices to run the card through it's paces. All we know is that Windows 7 boots fine while once it's installed, and it gets similar USB 2.0 transfer rates to other controllers out there.

That said, we all know that USB 3.0 is going to be blazing. As long as the card performs anywhere near as fast as we expect from USB 3.0, the fact that it'll be out "soon" and won't cost much is good enough for me. [Maximum PC via CrunchGear]


USB 3.0 and SATA 6G put to good use: benchmarks


The fine folks at both HotHardware and PC Perspective have run the new ASUS P7P55D-E Premium motherboard through its paces, which has the particular distinction of handling both USB 3.0 and the up-and-coming SATA 6G through controllers by NEC and Marvell, respectively. Lucky for us, both sites' tests came to similar conclusions. The Seagate Barracuda XT SATA 6G drive has almost zero improvement over SATA 3G, other than in some burst speeds due to the fancy cache on the 6G -- the bottleneck here is the drive, not the controller. Meanwhile, USB 3.0 has speeds that are roughly 5 to 6 times faster than USB 2.0 with the same drive, a huge win for fans of external storage the world over. Perhaps even better news is that an ASUS US36 controller card with USB 3.0 and SATA 6G support is a mere $30, so this stuff is already basically within reach to the average desktop user.

Read - HotHardware
Read - PC Perspective

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USB 3.0 and SATA 6G put to good use: benchmarks originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 31 Oct 2009 01:26:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Ideum's 100-inch MT-50 multitouch table supports 50 simultaneous touch points (video)


Surface? What Surface? Ideum, which popped out a rather gigantic MT2 multitouch table earlier this year, is now introducing another model that makes that fellow look like child's play. The 100-inch MT-50 is an outright beast, boasting 86 viewable inches, a 16 x 5 aspect ratio and a stunning 2,304 x 800 resolution. It was engineered for the Space Chase Gallery at the Adventure Science Center, which is one of several high-tech exhibits the company has deployed at the Nashville, TN-based science center. The table itself can support over 50 simultaneous touch points, and while the Flash-based software is obviously tailored for learning applications, there's nothing stopping this thing from becoming the world's next great arcade fixture. Hop on past the break for a drool-worthy vid.

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Ideum's 100-inch MT-50 multitouch table supports 50 simultaneous touch points (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 31 Oct 2009 08:50:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

CHOW Launches Foodie-Powered Restaurant Guide [Restaurants]


Yelp is fine and good when you want passionate/brutal rants (and, occasionally, raves) about any and every store. For a more focused, and likely refined, local search, try long-standing foodie site CHOW's new restaurant guide.

CHOW, the site hosting the forums better known as Chowhound, pulls reviews and comments from its deep forum archives and articles to provide lists of the best-reviewed grub around, as well as fairly sophisticated category filtering. Tastes are personal, of course, but where CHOW might really come in handy is finding a certain cuisine in a particular city. "Where can I find good X food in Y?" is a fairly common query on the Chowhound forums, and getting those questions and answers sorted in a search is a helpful thing indeed.

Best of all, CHOW's launched their list with a fairly big list of cities, rather than the New York/San Francisco start-ups we're so used to seeing. Give it a go in your own neck of the woods, and tell us all how it fared in the comments.


ColorJive Helps Visualize Room Colors Before Painting [Home Improvement]


You want to re-paint a room, but you're not sure if the color will look right—holding up a little color swatch only goes so far. ColorJive helps you paint the entire room in virtual space.

Upload a picture of your room—an evenly lit photo works best—and begin applying colors from the available palette. You can use the enormous palette from COLOURLovers to access a nearly infinite color palette, though you may have a little trouble replicating it at your local home improvement store. If that's the case, you can select from the official palettes of Benjamin Moore and Sherman Williams.

The free account limits you to three colors per picture, and you're limited to saving one picture, although you can have three versions of it. The premium account is $15 per year and you can save up to 10 photos, 7 different versions of each, and use up to 5 colors per image—for those of you wanting to turn your room into a modernist painting.

Have your own favorite tool for checking colors or planning new home projects? Let's hear about it in the comments.


Boxee Gets Loads of Anime with Crunchyroll [Streaming Video]


Anime and Asian TV drama fans can spend a little more time on their couch starting today, as (legal) anime supercenter Crunchyroll has released a video app for TV-sized media center Boxee. Full search and filtering, 480p and 720p HD as-it-airs streams for Crunchyroll members, and access to shows like Fist of the Northstar, MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM 00, and lots of other content that's earned Crunchyroll 5 million members is available by heading to the App Box and adding it to your Video section. [Boxee Blog]


Turbo Charge Your New XBMC Installation [Winter Upgrades]


We give a lot of attention to XBMC here, and with just cause. It's an open-source, cross-platform, highly-customizable media center solution that outperforms just about every commercial option out there. Here's how you can make it even better.

If you've played around with any commercial media centers or extenders, you've probably quickly realized how clunky and inelegant the user interface and experience is. Sure once the movie is playing and you're no longer staring down the interface all is well, but prior to getting to the actual showtime the menus are ugly and the navigation is kludgy.

Yesterday Adam detailed how to set up a silent, standalone XBMC media center on the cheap—and that's a good starting point. The "out of box" experience with XBMC is fantastic, but even better than that, it's extremely customizable. You can alter menus, vary the display method, and completely swap out the skin for a fresh new look. We've reviewed some great XBMC skins and shown you how to install them. For this article we've selected the excellent AEON skin to showcase some of the advanced features of XBMC.

Getting Started

Before we delve too far into tweaking and customization, you'll need a media center running XBMC. It all began with XBMC running on the original Xbox, and you can still turn an old Xbox into an XBMC platform. Check out our original guide to installing XBMC on your Xbox and XBMC Installer Deluxe. One thing to keep in mind regarding using the classic Xbox for XBMC: it's just a Pentium III in there with 64MB of RAM. You can, under exceptional circumstances and with a hard to find Microsoft AV pack, squeeze out some better than standard-def images, but it's pushing it; if you want HD playback you simply won't be happy with the classic Xbox.

Thankfully XBMC has been ported from the classic Xbox and can run on Windows, Mac, and Linux-based machines as well as off a USB drive. Our most recent guide to building an XBMC is a fantastic one: For around $200, you'll have a silent and HD-capable media center. If you'd like to use existing hardware, you can always run XBMC off a USB drive or visit the XBMC wiki to read up on other installation techniques.

If all you do is install the stock version and add your media shares, you'll be a happy camper and you'll get frequent compliments on your rocking media center. If you want to get frequent compliments and have people express complete disbelief that you got such awesome media center software for the outrageous price of free, then keep reading.

Taking XBMC Beyond the Basics

Installing XBMC is easy, and so is performing the basic setup, but because XBMC is a work in progress and new innovations and features are constantly being added, custo! mization can get a bit confusing. Take it from a guy who has loved XBMC for years and runs it on the classic Xbox and on a custom-built HTPC—I frequently find myself reading over the user forums and saying "What? It can do that? Oh man!" If you've looked at screenshots of XBMC and wondered how they made it look so cool or got such and such custom icon to appear, this is where you'll want to pay close attention.

XBMC is equipped with a variety of "scrapers"—scripts that scan your media and pull information from the folder structure and file names—to help you get things like thumbnails, fan art, and movie and show information. These scrapers can access a variety of databases like for television show art and information and IMDB for movie posters and info. This entire process, once you tell XBMC what kind of content a folder contains, is totally automated. For most entries you can select from multiple movie posters, thumbnails, and so on—check out this entry in TheTVDB for the show Heroes to get a feel for it.

The automated process is awesome and for the most part hassle free. You can increase the effectiveness of the scrapers by properly formatting your directories and file names. One thing that merits particular emphasis: You must keep your movies and TV shows separate. XBMC can't scrape a folder for both television and film and if you attempt to scrape it twice all sorts of weird things can happen. Store your movies completely separate from your television shows and you'll save yourself quite a bit of frustration.

When you set the content type for the folder you can specify "Use Folder Names for Lookups" and it goes a long way towards accurate file identification. It also saves you from having to cleanup files names and if you're using direct DVD-rips you must use folder name lookup or the scrapers won't function. Here's an example folder structure:

\Movies\ &mdash ;-\Army of Darkness\
—— AofD.DTS.x264.mkv
—- \Blades of Glory\
—— Blades.CON.x264.mkv

When XBMC scrapes the folder names it will easily find a match. In the rare cases where a movie has a title that has been used before or is a remake of a prior movie you can include the year in the folder name, such as Halloween (2007) and Halloween (1978).

As awesome as scraping is for saving you tons of time, it does have a few down sides. It takes a long, long, time on a moderate to large size library. Have a thousand movies and dozens of TV shows saved? You'll be leaving it to run for hours. Any time you make changes, move things, reinstall XBMC, etc., you'll end up scraping all over again which can get a bit tedious. The other down side is the limitations of scrapers. For most genres they are fine, but sometimes you'll find that they don't have the artwork you want or even any info at all about your media. When this happens it's up to you to fill in the blanks.

Fortunately XBMC follows a specific structure for checking information. It checks the local directory first, then the XBMC library, and then if necessary it will scrape for the data. The following directory structure will show you where support files go

—— MovieTitle.mkv
—— folder.jpg
—— fanart.jpg
—— movie-trailer.flv
—— title.nfo

\TV Shows\
—- \Show\
—— folder.jpg
—— fanart.jpg
——- \Season\
——— folder.jpg

In the above format the folder.jpg is the source for the small thumbnail assigned to the folder and fanart.jpg is the large image placed in the background during showcase mode. See the image below to see what showcase mode looks like. For more examples of folder structure with some excellent and informative info-grap! hics, ch eck out this post on the XBMC forums.

NFO files provide additional information about media. If you don't want to mess around with NFO files, having the thumbnails and fan art saved to disk will speed up the scraping process enormously. You can read about NFO files and how XBMC center uses them here. You can also greatly automate the process of manually inserting fanart, thumbnails, and managing NFO files by using helper applications like Ember Media Manager.

The area at the bottom of the screenshot above, highlighted with the red box, is where your media flags will show up. The media flags are a really nice touch and indicate things like the studio that produced the film, what quality the video is in, and other media information like what kind of audio it has. All media flag information is pulled, oddly enough, from the file name. If you want the Blu-ray or HD-DVD icon to appear you need to add that information to the file name within the /Movie/Title/ folder. The following file name for example would enable the Blu-ray, 1080, and 264 encoding flags in skins, like Aeon, that support it.


It should be noted that while the general release of XBMC doesn't presently support pulling media information directly from the files that the functionality is available in the beta builds for power users—and it looks stunning! You can read more about that here. If you'd prefer to use the current stable releas! e, then grab the AEON skin and read the readme.txt for additional information about enabling media flags. You can greatly speed up the flagging process by using a helper application like Media Renamer.

At this point in the tutorial, if you've formatted your folders properly, let the scrapers do their thing, and filled with your own pictures and fan art where you wanted to improve on the scraper or fill in some missing information, you've got a library whipped into shape and ready to show off.

Two resources you'll definitely want to check out—because we simply can't cover all the awesomeness that is XBMC in a single article—are the XBMC official wiki and the XBMC forums. You'll especially want to check out any sub-forums for the skin you decide to use, the discussions and resources you'll find in them are invaluable.

Have a favorite helper app for XBMC? A skin you can't rave enough about? A trick that took you a week of digging in the XBMC forums to find out about? Let's hear about it in the comments.


From the Tips Box: Google Calendar Backup, Safely Removing Media, and Radiators [From The Tips Box]


Readers offer their best tips for backing up Google Calendar in two clicks, easily ejecting removable media in Windows 7, and staying warm without overpaying for heating.

Don't like the gallery layout? Click here to view everything on one page.

About the Tips Box: Every day we receive boatloads of great reader tips in our inbox, but for various reasons—maybe they're a bit too niche, maybe we couldn't find a good way to present it, or maybe we just couldn't fit it in—the tip didn't make the front page. From the Tips Box is where we round up some of our favorites for your buffet-style consumption. Got a tip of your own to share? Add it in the comments or email it to tips at

Easily and Safely Eject Removable Media in Windows 7

Ranganathan shares a discovery he made in the new version of Windows:

I observed this today: Windows 7 has a single "Eject" option (in the Explorer context menu) that works as 'safely remove' for media like USB drives, SD cards, etc. Vista had two separate options, and XP didn't have any context menu option to 'safely remove' media!

Creating a Shortcut to Sync Google Calendars

Garrett shows us how to sync Google Calendars with just a double click:

I manage several different work schedules on Google Calendars. To protect my meticulous editing from the few non tech savvy users with admin privileges, frequent backups are a must. To get all of your calendars as .ics files stuffed into a .zip file, simply create a desktop shortcut with the f! ollowing link:

As long as you're logged into Google in your default browser, backups are just a double click away!

Make Your Radiator More Efficient

Photo by Todd Baker.

Thomas shares a tip to keep the heat in:

If you have radiator heat, wrap a large piece of cardboard or plywood with aluminum foil, and place it between the radiator and the wall.

It will help to reflect the heat back into the room instead of being absorbed by the wall. Helped out on the long winters in Pittsburgh.

A quick Google search shows some more anecdotal support for this tip, but specifies that the aluminum should be shiny side out.

Warm Cold Hands with Candles

Photo by Jo Guldi.

Casey lets us know how he keeps his hands warm in a cold office:

I suffer from frost damage which leads to my hands becoming uncomfortably cold while reading/typing in the office as the weather turns. For a long time I kept a large cup of tea that I could grasp to warm my hands, but that lead to cold tea. Recently I've started keeping a votive candle lit at my desk (any candle that is completely contained by a glass cylinder would work.) Now, whenever my hands get chilly, I can grasp the candle. The closer to the top the hotter the glass gets. No more co! ld hands , or cold tea. Plus the candle adds to the atmosphere of my office.


The RED Digital Film Cameras' Spec Lists Are As Big As Their Prices [Digital Film]


We've drooled over accessories for RED's line of digital still and motion cameras, but now we've got some specs for the actual DSMCs. No release dates yet, but looks like the EPIC-X with it's $28,000 price will come first.

The first of the two models we're being teased with is the incredibly high-end EPIC-X which will be released in four stages, beginning with a pre-production model dubbed TATTOO and ending with the wide-spread final release model. The details explain the $28,000 price tag:

* New MYSTERIUM-X 5K sensor
* 5K (2:1) at 1-100fps
* 4K (2:1) at 1-125fps
* Quad HD at 1-120fps
* 3K (2:1) at 1-160fps
* 2K (2:1) at 1-250fps
* 1080P (scaled from full frame) at 1-60fps
* Increased Dynamic Range, reduced noise
* Time Lapse, Frame Ramping
* ISO 200-8000
* New FLUT Color Science
* Completely Modular System, each Module individually upgradeable
* Independent Stills and Motion Modes (both record full resolution REDCODE RAW)
* 5 Axis Adjustable Sensor Plate
* Multiple Recording Media Options (Compact Flash, 1.8" SSD, RED Drives, RED RAM)
* Wireless REDMOTE control
* Touchscreen LCD control option
* Bomb-EVF, RED-EVF and RED-LCD compatible
* Multiple User Control Buttons
* Interchangeable Lens mounts including focus and iris control of electronic RED, Canon and Nikon lenses (along with Zoom data)
* "Touch Focus Tracking" with electronic lens mounts and RED Touchscreen LCDs
* LDS and /i Data enabled PL Mount
* Rollover Battery Power
* Independent LUTs on Monitor Outputs
* Independent Frame Guides and Menu overlays on Monitor Outputs
* Monitor Ports sup! port bot h LCD and EVF
* True Shutter Sync In/Out and Strobe Sync Out
* 720P, 1080P and 2K monitoring support
* Gigagbit Network interface and 802.11 Wireless interface
* 3 Axis internal motion sensor, built in GPS receiver
* Enhanced Metadata
* Full size connectors on Pro I/O Module. AES Digital Audio input, single and dual link HD-SDI
* Support for RED, most Arri 19mm, Studio 15mm, 15mm Lite, Panavision and NATO accessories
* Dimensions- Approx. 4"x4"x5.5"
* Weight (Brain only)- Approx. 6 lbs (2.72kg)

The other temptress is the Scarlet 2/3-inch, which is "more akin to current video-shooting DSLRs, though it doesn't have a full frame sensor." As with the EPIC-X, there's no release date given. There are some great specs though:

* Increased REDCODE data rates
* New FLUT Color, Gamma and Sensitivity Science. Now same as EPIC.
* More extensive modular system integration.
* Interchangeable Lens mounts including focus and iris control of electronic RED, Canon and Nikon lenses, along with Zoom data (Scarlet 2/3" Interchangeable)
* "Touch Focus Tracking" with electronic lens mounts and RED touchscreen LCD's (Scarlet 2/3" Interchangeable and 8x Fixed)
* Two independent microphone level channels, balanced input circuits, 48V Phantom Power, digitized at 24-bit 48KHz.
* GigaBit Ethernet port
* Scaled 1080P at 60fps

Word is that there'll be more information at the end of the month, but that won't stop us from already fantasizing about what to do with the cameras. [Red User via Engadget]


xpPhone teased with specs and pictures, makes Windows XP young again


Don't panic, we haven't gone back in time. What we're looking at here is the world's first but still-yet-to-be-released phone that runs on Windows XP, and its Chinese maker has just released some juicy specs and interface images to tease us all. The ITG xpPhone will be blessed with the chutzpah-filled AMD "Super Mobile" CPU, coupled with either 512MB or 1GB RAM. Storage options range from 8GB SSD to 120GB HDD (probably 1.8-inch) and everything in between. While the sheet confirms both GSM and CDMA support, ITG's pre-order page -- which looks more like a newsletter sign-up page at the moment -- is still vague on the phone's availability and price. For now we'll just continue to gaze at the interface pictures until something happens.

[Via Gizmodo]

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xpPhone teased with specs and pictures, makes Windows XP young again originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 30 Oct 2009 21:33:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Aptera 2e three-wheeler deemed a car by the DoE, eligible for funding


For a time, it looked Aptera might be missing out on the US Department of Energy's funding bonanza for energy-efficient vehicles due to its car's three-wheeled nature, but it looks like President Obama has now had the final say on the matter, and signed legislation that makes both two-wheeled and three-wheeled vehicles eligible for the same funding as their four-wheeled counterparts. Of course, that doesn't yet mean that Aptera will actually receive any funding, and the legislation doesn't have anything to do with safety regulations, where the 2e is still classified as a motorcycle by the Department of Transportation. For its part, however, Aptera says that it'll be filing another application to meet the updated requirements, and it still insists that it'll hit "volume production" of the car sometime in 2010, and get it on the road for between $25,000 and $40,000.

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Aptera 2e three-wheeler deemed a car by the DoE, eligible for funding originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 30 Oct 2009 22:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Canon S90 Review: It'll Never Leave My Pocket (Except When I'm Taking Pictures) [Review]


My first real camera was a Canon S50. I loved it. Canon let the pro compact S line die a few years later. It's back with the S90, though the only thing that's the same is that it's still awesome.

Sex and Brains

It's got the same spacious image sensor as the G11—1/1.7" as opposed to 1/2.5" like most point-and-shoots. But instead of being built into a Panzer tank, it's in the body of a hot German model. It's an actual point-and-shoot: It fits in the pocket of your skinny jeans, but delivers, for the most part, the same wow image quality.

I wish it was slightly more square with sharper angles for an even more classic aesthetic, but it's still pretty classy looking. The texture, which makes for half of the appeal, makes it a little slippery. The control ring around the lens is like the perfect scarf that ties it altogether. And despite being a bantam-weight shooter, it feels more solid than most cameras its size.

Lord of the Ring

What makes the camera really work is that control rin! g wrappe d around the lens. By default, when you turn it, it adjusts the main setting for each mode—aperture in aperture priority, shutter speed in shutter priority, you get the idea. Using the ring function button on top of the camera, you can set the ring to adjust almost whatever parameter you want though, like white balance, ISO, exposure, even specific zoom intervals.

Truthfully, using the dial never feels completely seamless, because of way you're forced to hold the camera. As a result of its pint size, there's no completely natural hand or finger posture for spinning the ring. But, the control it manages to put at your fingertips is remarkable: In manual mode, I had aperture mapped to the main ring, exposure set to the control ring on the back (which, like the G11, is a little too small to have a settings dpad stuffed in the center of it) and ISO speed mapped to the shortcut button. The only real issue with that setup is that the ISO setting interface lags behind your input occasionally, so you sometimes overshoot the ISO speed you wanted.

Just a Little More Hardware Talk

There's no viewfinder, so you're stuck using the screen exclusively. The LCD is a little bigger than the G11's, at 3 inches, though it uses the same number of pixels and obviously doesn't swivel out. It too is easily viewable in sunlight, though I found a more of a difference, exposure-wise, between what I thought I shot according to the display and what I later saw on my computer, than I noticed with the G11. Also, there's no flash hot shoe, like you get with the G11.

The battery's small, obviously, so your picture taking is capped at a little over 200 shots, according to Canon. My days of shooting didn't contradict that, for better or for worse—I'd get to half battery after around 100 shots and a couple video clips.

Finally, the Photos (and Video)

Since it's the same 10-megapixel image sensor as the G11, yes, you do get just about the same fantastic image quality, solid low-light performance (noise doesn't start really kicking in til ISO 800, and even that's totally usable for most stuff) and ability to shoot in RAW. The main difference is in the lens. The S90 has a faster lens that'll shoot at F/2 wide open, meaning you rely less on that high ISO—up to 3200—to compensate for the lack of light. The oh-so-small price for this incredibly fast lens is that you lose a bit of zoom, since it goes out to 105mm, vs. the G11's 140mm, but who cares? I can't reiterate how big of a deal a lens like this is on this kind of point-and-shoot. That said, I seemed to get photos that were a touch less sharp than what I got on the G11.

Here's a gallery of some stuff I shot, which you can compare to G11 sample photos and ISO tests (spoiler, they look great):

The video's still 640x480, and still quite good too:

Buy If You Need a Tiny-But-Great Camera

I know, it's $430, way more than most point-! and-shoo ts cost in this day and age. But the amount of picture power this literally slips into your pocket is almost unbelievable: Outstanding low-light performance for a camera this size; a speedy lens; full control rings, plural; and yep, RAW. It's the soul of what makes the $500 behemoth G11 great, packaged in a true point-and-shoot. You lose some power and some pro tools, like the swivel screen, a (shitty) viewfinder, faster burst shooting, hot shoe, some zoom and a custom mode or two, but you're also shedding a ton of bulk, meaning you'll actually take it everywhere. And the best camera's always the one you have with you—for me, that's this camera, which just happens to be an excellent one all by itself.

G11's awesome image sensor plus a fastfastfast lens means awesome photos

Looks like a serious little camera (it is)

Did I mention I love this camera?

Control ring can feel awkward

More battery life and 720p video would be nice