Thursday, April 29, 2010

Motorola Swings To Profit; Struggling With Comeback

The Wall Street Journal

Motorola Inc. (MOT) swung to a first-quarter profit as a stronger economy lifted its non-handset divisions, but its marquee handset unit continued to struggle with its turnaround amid the competitive smartphone market.

Motorola, which previously warned of weaker phone shipments in the first quarter, said total phone shipments fell 43% despite an increase in sales of smartphones.

The results highlight the difficulty of competing against a flood of alternative smartphone makers in the market even as one of its devices, the Droid, gets serious backing from the nation's largest wireless provider in Verizon Wireless. While the company has rolled out several other devices, none have received the same kind of buzz or marketing support as the Droid.

The Schaumburg, Ill., telecommunications equipment maker posted a profit of $69 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $231 million, or 10 cents a share.

Revenue fell slightly to $5.04 billion.

Analysts, on average, had a first-quarter estimate of $5.1 billion in sales and a loss of 1 cent per share.

"The non-handset businesses really came through with higher profitability," said William Choi, an analyst at Jefferies & Co.

Co-Chief Executive Sanjay Jha won't have that benefit when Motorola completes its split, expected to occur in the first quarter of next year. In addition to the hanset division, which posted a 9% decline in revenue and an operating loss of $192 million, he will get the profitable home division, which makes television set-top boxes. Despite an 18% decline in sales, the unit posted a profit of $20 million.

Things will only get tougher for Jha from here. HTC Corp.'s (HTCXF, 2498.TW) Droid Incredible is poised to take over Droid's spot as the flagship product at Verizon Wireless. Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM) just unveiled two Blackberrys, and Apple Inc. (AAPL) is expected to launch the next version of its iPhone in the summer.

"Where does Verizon Wireless highlight their promotions this quarter?" Choi asked.

The competition has already overtaken one rival. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) said it had agreed to buy embattled smartphone pioneer Palm Inc. (PALM) for roughly $1 billion in cash.

Motorola drew strength from its enterprise mobility and networks units, run by fellow co-CEO Greg Brown. Both units doubled their earnings, as the enterprise mobility unit reported a 6% increase in revenue.

Motorola projected its second-quarter earnings excluding items at 7 cents to 9 cents a share.

Analysts have an average second-quarter earnings estimate of 3 cents a share.

The strong forecast suggests that the stronger mix of smartphones is leading to higher margins in the handset division. Jha has said he expects the unit to post a profit by the fourth quarter.

Motorola shares rose 4.8% to $7.25 in premarket trading.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

HP Will Acquire Palm for $1.2 Billion

Business Week

 
Hewlett-Packard Co., the world’s biggest personal-computer maker, agreed to acquire Palm Inc. in a deal that values the company at about $1.2 billion, stepping up efforts to compete in the smartphone market.

The price of $5.70 a share represents a 23 percent premium over Palm’s closing price today. The transaction should be completed by the end of July, Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard said in a statement.

The Palm deal vaults Hewlett-Packard back into contention with the world’s biggest smartphone makers, including Apple Inc. and Research In Motion Ltd. Sales of Hewlett-Packard’s current smartphone, called iPaq, haven’t kept up with competitors. The company also gets a Palm patent lineup that spans mobile hardware, software and power-saving technologies.

“This solidifies the portfolio of products they can offer an enterprise,” said Bill Kreher, an analyst at Edward Jones & Co. in St. Louis. He recommends buying Hewlett-Packard’s shares, which he doesn’t own. “You are combining the exciting technology from Palm and the scale and distribution capabilities of H-P.”

While Palm has a bigger presence in the phone market than Hewlett-Packard, it too has struggled to match the appeal of Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry and phones using Google Inc.’s Android software. The company’s Pre and Pixi phones, released last year in a comeback bid, didn’t sell as well as expected. The company has reported 11 straight quarterly losses.

Pre’s Debut


After Palm introduced the Pre at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2009, the stock jumped 80 percent in two days to $5.96 and climbed as high as $17.46 in September. The stock then dropped 74 percent, as Palm’s sales growth was outpaced by marketing costs and it lost market share to Apple and Google.

By March, when Palm said its current-quarter sales would be less than half of Wall Street estimates, some analysts began questioning the company’s viability.

Palm was founded in 1992 by Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky and was part of 3Com Corp. until a in 2000. Its current operating system, called WebOS, was built by Palm Chief Executive Officer Jon Rubinstein, who previously led development of Apple’s best-selling iPod media player. Rubinstein was recruited to Palm by Fred Anderson, Apple’s former finance chief and a co-founder of lead Palm investor Elevation Partners.

The company started selling its first WebOS phone, the Pre, in June 2009 and followed with the smaller, cheaper Pixi in November. The phones let users send e-mail, surf the Web, stream video and run multiple applications at the same time. Both devices were sold in the U.S. exclusively by Sprint Nextel Corp., the country’s No. 3 carrier, until Verizon Wireless began offering enhanced versions in January.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Police Seize Gear from Gizmodo iPhone Blogger



SEATTLE (AP) - Authorities seized computers, digital cameras, a cell phone and other items from a technology blog editor who posted pictures and details of a lost iPhone prototype.

A computer-crime task force made up of multiple law enforcement agencies searched Gizmodo editor and blogger Jason Chen's house and car in Fremont, Calif., on Friday, according to a statement and search warrant documents provided by Gizmodo.

The warrant, issued by a Superior Court judge in San Mateo County, said the computers and other devices may have been used to commit a felony. Steve Wagstaffe, spokesman for the San Mateo County District Attorney's office, confirmed the warrant's authenticity.

Members of the Rapid Enforcement Allied Computer Team took several computers, hard drives, digital cameras, cell phones and other gadgets, plus Chen's American Express bill and copies of his checks.

Last week Gizmodo had one of the Web's hottest scoops when it posted photos of an Apple device that appeared to be a next-generation iPhone. It had been found in a bar in Redwood City, which is in San Mateo County, and sold for $5,000 by an unknown person to Gizmodo, a gadget blog owned by Gawker Media Inc.

After Chen, 29, posted photos and details about the phone, Apple acknowledged the device belonged to the company, and Gizmodo returned it.

Gawker Media said California law, which protects journalists from having to turn over anonymous sources or unpublished material to law enforcement during a search, should apply to Chen's property.

"Are bloggers journalists? I guess we'll find out," Nick Denton, who runs Gawker Media, wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Wagstaffe said the district attorney's office is examining that issue.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling declined to comment.

Kindle Lover Oprah Fawns Over the iPad

The Wall Street Journal


Is Oprah Winfrey shifting gadget loyalties?

The question comes to mind following some comments by Winfrey–a prominent past booster of Amazon’s Kindle–during a short segment of her influential TV show last week that featured tech analyst Omar Wasow and the Apple iPad.

Winfrey gushed about the “amazing” new device, which she said she got the day of its launch. One reason is that “books move,” she said, as she demoed how the iBooks app (featuring the Oprah Book Club) keeps e-books on a virtual shelf and how some books can feature interactive elements. “It’s going to change the way kids learn,” she said.

She also said that she loved the iPad because it is back-lit, which makes the screen good for sharing digital photos and playing games like Scrabble. “Gosh, those Apple folks,” she said.

Winfrey never said explicitly whether she was now doing all her reading on the iPad. And, in one positive note for Amazon, she noted that viewers could use an iPad to read Kindle e-books. On the other hand, she also used the past tense in the context of her ownership of a Kindle.

As she put it, “there’s a Kindle app so that those of you have Kindles–obviously I had a Kindle–you can take all the books from your Kindle and put them on your iPad.”

A spokesman for the Oprah show says Winfrey uses both devices.

Winfrey’s iPad enthusiasm matters because she is a tastemaker among legions of book buyers. After she endorsed the Kindle in the fall of 2008, Amazon was flooded with so many orders, it had difficulty keeping up with demand for the device over the holidays.

Amazon has made it clear that its sees the proliferation of Internet-connected gadgets–even ones that compete with its own Kindle device–as an opportunity. In an earnings call last week, Amazon’s CFO Tom Szkutak said that Amazon benefits from any device that could give people access to its giant online store.

“What we are excited about is that world may shift to a place where everybody has a 3G connected device for browsing the Web,” he said.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Silicon Valley Cops Investigate Lost 4G iPhone

PC World

Charges may be pending in the case of the iPhone that was lost in a bar and then found on a blog.

Police in Silicon Valley have launched an investigation into the lost iPhone prototype that made its way in to the hands of Gizmodo, CNET reported late Friday. Law enforcement officials told the site that criminal laws may have been broken as a result of the transaction, but did not provide much more in the way of detail.

CNET's source claimed that Apple had been contacted, and it was thought that a computer crime task force from Santa Clara County (where Apple is headquartered) was heading up the investigation. Everything is preliminary, and the investigation will only see whether enough evidence exists to press charges.

It is not known if the investigation directly targets Gizmodo, the person who found the device, or both. Some legal analysts have said in the least that Apple may have a case against the prototype's finder, and possibly Gizmodo as well depending on the facts.

Pressing charges against the site may not be as straightforward as some think: as I wrote earlier, Apple does share some culpability in the matter, and due to First Amendment issues and past Supreme Court decisions, it's much harder to criminally prosecute the press for leaks.

However, those cases did not deal with confidential information obtained in the manner that Gizmodo did, so it's unclear how much those decisions would apply here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hynix Turns 1st Quarter Profit as DRAM Prices Rise

 
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Hynix Semiconductor reported its third consecutive quarter of profit as sales more than doubled to a record high and prices for its mainstay computer memory chips increased.

Hynix, the world's second-largest manufacturer of computer memory chips, earned 822 billion won ($742 million) in the first quarter ended March 31, the company said Thursday in a release. It reported a net loss of 1.18 trillion won a year earlier.

The net profit was the highest ever for a first quarter, said company spokeswoman Park Seong-ae.

Sales more than doubled to a quarterly record of 2.82 trillion won from 1.31 trillion won the year before, Hynix said.

It was the company's third straight quarter in the black. Hynix recorded its first net profit in two years for the third quarter of last year as prices for memory chips rose amid a rapid recovery in the market.

Hynix Semiconductor Inc. manufactures DRAM chips, used mostly in personal computers. It also ranks No. 3 in the world in NAND flash memory chips, used in products such as digital cameras, music players and smartphones.

Hynix supplies NAND chips to Apple Inc. for its iPod and iPhone products and mobile DRAM chips for the iPad, according to Hynix.

The Icheon, South Korea-based company competes with world memory chip leader and South Korean rival Samsung Electronics Co. as well as Japan's Toshiba Corp.

Hynix said that average selling prices for its DRAM chips rose 3 percent in the first quarter from the fourth amid tight supply and strong demand, while shipments increased 6 percent. NAND flash memory prices, however, fell 8 percent and shipments were flat.

"Overall demand for DRAM was healthier compared with typical seasonality, mainly led by strong PC demand from consumers and Chinese New Year holiday," Kim Min-chul, Hynix's chief financial officer, told analysts on a conference call.

He said DRAM prices did much better than expected due to strong demand amid tight supply.

Kim added that as the global economy continues to recover, demand from developed markets and corporations is expected to fuel purchases of personal computers. He said Hynix projects annual personal computer shipments will grow by more than 15 percent.

Hynix has been making a comeback after recording seven straight losses through the second quarter of last year. The company cut costs, slashed executive pay and positions and encouraged early retirements. It also received 800 billion won in fresh capital via bank loans and a share offering.

Shares in Hynix, which released earnings results before the stock market opened, rose 0.5 percent to close at 28,700 won. Hynix shares more than tripled in 2009.

McAfee Antivirus Goes Berserk, Freezes PCs

NEW YORK (AP) - Computers in companies, hospitals and schools around the world got stuck repeatedly rebooting themselves Wednesday after an antivirus program identified a normal Windows file as a virus.

McAfee Inc. confirmed that a software update it posted at 9 a.m. Eastern time caused its antivirus program for corporate customers to misidentify a harmless file. It has posted a replacement update for download.

McAfee could not say how many computers were affected, but judging by online postings, the number was at least in the thousands and possibly in the hundreds of thousands.

McAfee said it did not appear that consumer versions of its software caused similar problems. It is investigating how the error happened "and will take measures" to prevent it from recurring, the company said in a statement.

The computer problem forced about a third of the hospitals in Rhode Island to postpone elective surgeries and stop treating patients without traumas in emergency rooms, said Nancy Jean, a spokeswoman for the Lifespan system of hospitals. The system includes Rhode Island Hospital, the state's largest, and Newport Hospital. Jean said patients who required treatment for gunshot wounds, car accidents, blunt trauma and other potentially fatal injuries were still being admitted to the emergency rooms.

In Kentucky, state police were told to shut down the computers in their patrol cars as technicians tried to fix the problem. The National Science Foundation headquarters in Arlington, Va., also lost computer access.

Intel Corp. appeared to be among the victims, according to employee posts on Twitter. Intel did not immediately return calls for comment.

Peter Juvinall, systems administrator at Illinois State University in Normal, said that when the first computer started rebooting it quickly became evident that it was a major problem, affecting dozens of computers at the College of Business alone.

"I originally thought it was a virus," he said. When the tech support people concluded McAfee's update was to blame, they stopped further downloads of the faulty software update and started shuttling from computer to computer to get the machines working again.

In many offices, personal attention to each PC from a technician appeared to be the only way to fix the problem because the computers weren't receptive to remote software updates when stuck in the reboot cycle. That slowed the recovery.

It's not uncommon for antivirus programs to misidentify legitimate files as viruses. Last month, antivirus software from Bitdefender locked up PCs running several different versions of Windows.

However, the scale of this outage was unusual, said Mike Rothman, president of computer security firm Securosis.

"It looks to be a train wreck," Rothman said.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Apple Upgrades MacBook Pro with Newer Chips

San Francisco Chronicle

The MacBook Pro line got a much-needed upgrade Tuesday, with the 15- and 17-inch models getting the latest Intel Core processors.

The starting prices remain largely the same for the various models, ($1,199 for the 13-inch, $1,799 for the 15-inch, and $2,299 for the 17-inch) but you get more computing power, storage, memory, battery life and graphics muscle. This is Apple's standard practice, but the company has recently hinted at trying to narrow the price gap between it and other brands.

The 15- and 17-inch models now come with the Intel Core i5 processor, which is up to 50 percent faster than previous models.

The entry level 13-inch MacBook Pro has a new 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor (upgradeable to 2.66 GHz) and an Nvidia GeForce 320M integrated graphics chip. The 13-inch offers 10 hours of battery life on a single charge, Apple says.

All the new MacBook Pros come with 4 GB of memory and 250 GB of storage, which can be upgraded at an additional cost. Customers can also upgrade their MacBook Pros with 128-GB, 256-GB and 512-GB solid state drives.

Intel Reports Blockbuster Earnings

The Street

Intel has reported blockbuster first quarter earnings and has provided second-quarter guidance that exceeds analysts expectations...and is crowing about it, to boot. "This will set the bar high for many tech companies," RealMoney contributor Timothy Collins said in his  Outside the Box  blog.

"The investments we're making in leading edge technology are delivering the most compelling product line-up in our history," Intel's CEO Paul Otellini said Tuesday. "These leadership products combined with growing worldwide demand and continued outstanding execution resulted in Intel's best first quarter ever. Looking forward, we're optimistic about our business as Intel products are designed into a variety of new and exciting segments."

Intel expects revenue of $10.2 billion, plus or minus $400 million, for the second quarter, above the Wall Street consensus estimate of $9.69 billion. The company plans to spend about $6.4 billion in research and development for the current fiscal year.

Also, for the full-year, Intel provides gross margin percentage guidance, a key financial metric, of 64%, plus or minus a couple of percentage points, compared with the company's prior expectation of 61%, plus or minus 3 percentage points.

For the quarter, Intel reported net income of $2.4 billion, up 288% from the previous year, or earnings of 43 cents a share, up 32 cents. The company reported revenue of $10.3 billion, up 44%. Wall Street analysts had expected earnings of 38 cents a share on revenue of $9.83 billion.

Intel said that during the quarter its PC client group revenue was flat, with record mobile microprocessor revenue; its data center group revenue was down 8%; its other Intel architecture group revenue was down 9%; and the company's average selling price (ASP) for microprocessors was slightly up.

Intel stock ended Tuesday's trading session up 1% at $22.80, and has gained more than 3.8% in after-market trading. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

'Green' Battery Solutions Vary

The Seattle Times

 
In today's world where so many things are recyclable, or "green," household batteries have an identity crisis.

On the plus side, manufacturers have developed less-toxic, longer-lasting batteries. But battery recycling is still rife with confusion, and safety concerns persist for certain batteries.

Q: So do green batteries exist?

A: The greenest batteries are rechargeables, but for standard battery sizes such as AAA, C and D, they have never achieved mainstream acceptance. Although we routinely plug in our cellphones and music players to juice up the rechargeable batteries inside them, apparently most people would rather use disposable batteries if they have to occasionally remove the batteries from a device themselves.

Q: Couldn't I save money with rechargeables?

A: Absolutely, especially in a device that consumes lots of batteries such as a digital camera, since one rechargeable battery replaces more than 500 disposables. The latest nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries, sometimes called hybrid rechargeables, are your best bet.

Q: When a rechargeable battery finally dies, where can I recycle it?


A: The rechargeable battery industry stepped up years ago and set up the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corp., which also takes old cellphones. Enter your ZIP code at www.call2recycle.org to find a location among the hundreds of listed retailers in Western Washington accepting rechargeable batteries.

Q: That's great, but what about all the other batteries?

A: This is where it gets confusing. Most common disposable batteries, including AA, AAA, C, D and 9-volt, are considered a low environmental risk, so they are currently allowed in household trash.

Ideally, disposable batteries would get recycled to recapture their steel and zinc, but recycling opportunities are rare. A few area cities accept them at no charge at recycling events, and a handful of local businesses take them for a fee of $1 a pound or more.

Battery recycling got thrown for a loop last year when the U.S. Department of Transportation tightened regulations because of concerns about batteries catching fire during shipping. For batteries other than alkalines, including rechargeables, you should now either separately bag each battery or tape the terminals before recycling. Some businesses that previously accepted all batteries at no charge, such as Ikea in Renton, have discontinued that service because of the new rules.

Q: What do I do with those little button batteries?


A: Button batteries used in hearing aids, watches and various other devices may contain toxic substances and should not go in the garbage. King County and Seattle household hazardous-waste facilities, including the Wastemobile, accept button batteries as well as lithium batteries and all rechargeables. Some hearing-aid retailers also take old button batteries.

Q: Are button batteries dangerous?


A: They should be safe when properly used, but concerns have increased recently about risks from swallowing button batteries. More than 3,500 people, mostly children, swallow button batteries every year, according to the National Capital Poison Center in Washington, D.C.

Swallowed, a button cell battery can get stuck in the esophagus and cause a severe burn.

Infants sometimes swallow the shiny button batteries they find in household devices such as remote controls and bathroom scales. Make sure battery compartments are tightly sealed on electronic devices.

If you think your child has swallowed a button battery, call the center's 24-hour National Battery Ingestion Hotline at 202-625-3333 or visit www.poison.org/battery.

Q: Shouldn't there be some cool, 21st-century innovations that would make all batteries safe and green?


A: The electronics industry is working on it. Advances have already been made, especially in alternative energy, with dozens of systems available that power a device or a charger with solar energy or a hand crank.

These reduce the need for batteries and save money, and who doesn't get a charge out of that?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Autodesk Expands Power of AutoCAD 2011

Al Bawaba

Autodesk, Inc. announced the availability of the 2011 AutoCAD software products, including AutoCAD 2011 software, a leading 2D and 3D design and documentation platform, and AutoCAD LT 2011 software for professional 2D drafting and detailing. The latest releases of AutoCAD deliver powerful new features — such as new tools for surface modeling and transparency for objects and layers — that can help designers explore their ideas and maximize productivity.  The 2011 AutoCAD products are Microsoft Windows 7 certified and are compatible with and supported on Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate as well as Windows Vista and Windows XP operating systems.

“In the 2011 releases we have continued to invest in increasing drafting productivity and have added a strong set of new 3D modeling features for conceptual design that will help millions of AutoCAD users worldwide take their designs further,” said Guri Stark, vice president, AutoCAD and Platform Products. “We have also implemented many of the top features requested by Autodesk User Group International (AUGI) members and focused on providing new tools that are quick to learn but can have a big impact in everyday work.”
AutoCAD 2011 gives designers more advanced conceptual design tools as well as increased flexibility and control when designing in 3D:

• New surface modeling tools enable users to easily create smooth surfaces and surface transitions, while associativity maintains relationships between all of the objects.
• Point cloud support for up to two billion points enables users to quickly visualize scanned objects directly within the modeling workspace.
• Inferred constraints enable designers to define constraints as they draw.
• Hatch command enhancements bring improved drafting efficiency, while new gradient hatch patterns enable users to add more colors and shading to drawings
• TimeSaver tools, previously available only to customers on Autodesk Subscription, are now available to all AutoCAD users.

AutoCAD LT 2011 builds on its reputation for productivity with new commands that make everyday tasks more efficient.  In addition to the hatch command enhancements and TimeSaver Tools found in AutoCAD 2011, AutoCAD LT 2011 adds new tools that give users additional options for controlling the appearance of drawings:

• Transparency for objects and layers provides new options for managing the appearance of drawings and communicating AutoCAD general design intent.
• New multifunctional polyline grips make editing polylines significantly faster and easier.
• The ability to create or select similar objects based on the properties of existing objects helps users save time when drawing and editing geometry.

Another Reason HP's "Slate" Tablet will Bomb: Battery Life

Business Insider

DigiTimes Research analyst Mingchi Kuo makes a smart observation about the forthcoming would-be iPad-killer from HP: The battery life will likely blow.

One of the most miraculous things about the iPad is the 10-hour battery life, which is especially mind-boggling to those who have ever used a MacBook or iPhone.

Why is the iPad's battery life so amazing?

Because the iPad is built around Apple's proprietary chip, the A4.  The HP Slate, meanwhile, is built around a plain old Intel chip.

If HP's forthcoming tablet costs more than the iPad AND has a standard crappy laptop battery life, it will be laughed out of town.

Reviews Praise Apple iPad Battery Life, Ease of Use

TMC News
Apple Inc s iPad scored well on battery life and ease of use in its first reviews, but it will not obliterate the laptop computer market yet, according to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Reviewers at both papers said the tablet computer, which goes on sale Saturday, works nicely for Web surfing or using media such as video and books, but it may appeal less to people who need cheap laptops for more heavy-duty chores.

The iPad won largely upbeat reviews from other blogs, newspapers and magazines, including USA Today, the Houston Chronicle, PC Magazine and Newsweek, while so-called tear-down firms are preparing to take apart the gadget on Saturday for an even more detailed look inside.

Apple shares, which have been on a run ahead of the iPad launch in hopes it will be a hit, closed up 97 cents at $235.97 on Nasdaq Thursday afternoon.

Even if the device launch goes well on Saturday, there is a good chance its shares will trade down the week after because they had gained ground ahead of the launch, analysts said.

"These stocks like Apple tend to trade up into events and trade down after," said Hudson Square Research analyst Daniel Ernst.

This would likely be temporary as the shares have more room to rise because Apple s valuation does not reflect that its earnings growth is about 10 times economic growth, he added.

The Journal s Walt Mossberg -- one of the most closely followed tech columnists -- said he prefers the iPad as an e-reader to the popular Kindle e-reader from Amazon.com Inc. Amazon shares closed down $3.96, or almost 3 percent, at $131.81 on the Nasdaq on Thursday.

David Pogue from The New York Times said the device's 1.5 pound weight is too heavy for reading compared with Kindle s 10 ounces. "You can t read well in direct sunlight" and "you can t read books from the Apple bookstore on any other machine, not even a Mac or iPhone," he wrote.

Both reviewers were impressed with the laptop battery life because it lasted longer than Apple's claim of 10 hours.

Pogue said he was able to use the device for 12 hours before it needed a charge, while Mossberg said iPad withstood 11 hours and 28 minutes of continuous use.

The device could only replace discount laptops for a certain kind of computer buyer, the reviewers said.

"If you re mainly a Web surfer, note-taker, social-networker and emailer, and a consumer of photos, videos, books, periodicals and music... this could be for you," Mossberg said.

"If you need to create or edit giant spreadsheets or long documents, or you have elaborate systems for organizing email, or need to perform video chats, the iPad isn t going to cut it as your go-to device," he wrote.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Battery Breakthrough Promises Less Weight, More Power

WIRED

 
 
Better battery life is on the top of most people’s gadget wish lists. Now, a technology breakthrough from MIT offers hope for the mobile masses — but it will have to contend with other experimental approaches in a race to the market that could take years, experts say.

MIT researchers say they have found a way to create batteries that can offer up to three times the energy density of current batteries, while being much lighter. That paves the way for portable devices that could both be lighter and have a much longer battery life than current gadgets.

“You can get life in a laptop computer battery similar that’s three times more than what you have now, even as the battery gets three times lighter, ” Yang Shao-Horn, associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at MIT, told Wired.com.

While advances in material sciences and chip design have led to more powerful computers with better displays, battery life has remained a big roadblock. That’s why new battery technologies have become a major area of research. Companies such as GE and IBM are exploring the promise of a new kind of battery called lithium-air. These batteries could replace existing lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-air batteries have a lithium anode that is electrochemically coupled to atmospheric oxygen through an air cathode. By contrast, current lithium-ion batteries have a carbon anode and a metal oxide-based cathode.

“There’s huge potential for lithium-air batteries,” says Vishal Sapru, industry manager for power and energy system at research firm Frost & Sullivan. “The combination of lithium anode and air cathode not only makes them lighter than lithium-ion but also offers higher energy density.”

Sapru estimates that a typical lithium-air battery can offer an output of 1800 watts per kilogram compared to about 120 to 350 watts per kilogram seen in lithium-ion batteries.

But so far, there has been a lack of understanding about the kinds of electrode materials that could promote the electrochemical reactions that take place in lithium-air batteries, which has held back their development, says MIT’s Shao-Horn.

The answer, she says, according to her team, lies in using gold or platinum as a catalyst.

And despite the bling factor, batteries using these precious metals could still be cost competitive, says Shao-Horn. “We need to have only the surfaces covered by these elements,” she says. “We are not using platinum and gold in the bulk of the battery.”

It’s an interesting breakthrough, agrees Sapru, but one that’s by no means guaranteed a commercial future. Other battery researchers are working on other materials, such as aluminum-polymer laminates, for instance. What will eventually reach the hands of consumers remains to be seen, he says.

“Till these technologies reach commercial manufacturing stage we can’t reliably tell how they will do in terms of costs and accessibility,” says Sapru. “While gold and platinum offer some advantages, aluminum-polymer laminates can be more flexible, so we will have to wait and see.”

Shao-Horn says her team’s ideas are still a long way from commercialization. The group is yet to perfect the chemistry of the charging and discharging processes and increase efficiency of the system, she says.

“Ultimately, just like we have different types of lithium-ion batteries today,” says Sapru, “we will have different lithium-air batteries. But all of this is a couple of years away from reaching consumers.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lenovo ThinkPad X100e: Powerful, High-Resolution Netbook with Anemic Battery Life

The Washington Post

 
Is the Lenovo ThinkPad X100e a netbook or an ultraportable? The answer seems to be: a little of both. It's faster than most netbooks, with a larger, higher-resolution screen; a spacious keyboard; and a bigger hard drive than you'll usually find in lilliputian laptops. You pay for those extras, though. It's a little heavier than run-of-the-mill netbooks and has limited battery life. The price is nearly in ultraportable territory, too: The machines start at $499, and the configuration we reviewed costs $599. That's a lot for a netbook.

Here's the first thing that'll strike you about this ThinkPad, though--it's red! (If you find that color shocking, you can also order the standard ThinkPad black.) If you associate red with speedy sports cars, the X100e won't disappoint. With its Athlon Neo MV-40 processor and 2GB of RAM, this ThinkPad scored a 52 on WorldBench 6, a screaming speed for netbooks. I didn't notice any drag in opening and switching between applications, fiddling with Windows controls, or browsing the Web.

Don't expect powerful video performance, though. The X100e turned high-def, full-screen video into something more like a slideshow. And even at 480p, video stuttered and jerked. Lenovo is mostly marketing the X100e to corporate types and must think that they should be working instead of watching YouTube.

And this laptop is indeed useful for getting work done. The 11.6-inch display has a native resolution of 1366 by 768, significantly more than the typical 10.1-inch, 1024-by-600-resolution netbook screen. And the display is relatively easy to read even from an angle. But I found the on-screen colors a little washed out.

The keyboard is full-size, with large Shift and Tab keys. The keys give the kind of solid feedback touch typists need. Lenovo gives you two options for pointing devices--and that's probably one too many. ThinkPad traditionalists can use the company's signature eraserhead pointing stick, which has its own mouse and scroll buttons. That system works well for those who are comfortable with it. But Lenovo also jammed in a touchpad for all the people who aren't accustomed to the eraserhead. And there just isn't enough room for the touchpad--the surface is small, and the buttons are tiny. They're about a quarter-inch deep and right at the edge of the laptop. If you miss the buttons (not hard to do), your thumb slips off the laptop entirely. The trackpad does feature multitouch, but the response is inconsistent--sometimes a two-fingered scroll works just fine, sometimes the trackpad doesn't notice it at all.

The X100e comes nicely equipped, and you can add more features. Our test model had a 320GB hard drive (you can also save some money with a 250GB disk). The laptop comes standard with gigabit ethernet and 802.11n wireless networking. A built-in 3G wireless broadband card is available at an extra cost. Beyond that, the features are pretty standard--two USB ports on the left, one on the right, plus a multicard reader on the right and a VGA port in the back.

For a small machine, the X100e's sound is impressive. Lenovo has nestled the speakers on the underside of the wrist rest, which slopes up off the surface of the table the laptop's resting on. That design seems to let more of the sound escape, giving the laptop decent volume. And for small speakers, the sound was relatively clean and precise, though understandably light on bass.

At 3.3 pounds (3.9 pounds with the power brick), the X100e is a little heavier than other netbooks, but I hardly noticed the extra weight. With the standard batteries the X100e lasted for only 5 hours and 28 minutes. That's anemic for netbooks, but not unexpected given the X100e's more powerful processor.

Our test unit came with Windows 7 Professional, a nice upgrade from the Windows 7 Starter Edition on many netbooks. Don't look for much else in the Programs folder, though. Adobe Reader is the only piece of third-party software. Lenovo has also loaded its proprietary utilities, including a password manager and power management app. I find Lenovo's utilities more useful than the bloatware that comes on many machines, but that doesn't make them exciting.

At 600 bucks, the X100e we tested isn't the kind of disposable computer that many netbooks amount to. For the price, you'll get sprightly performance, a larger display, and a comfortable keyboard. But if you're looking for great video performance or all-day laptop battery life, look elsewhere.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Adobe to Launch new Version of Creative Suite

 
NEW YORK (AP) - Pent-up demand is expected to boost sales of the newest installment of Adobe Systems Inc.'s Creative Suite, the software package for professional designers and Web developers that brings in most of Adobe's revenue. The product launches Monday.

Bad timing hurt sales of the previous version, Creative Suite 4, which went on sale in the fall of 2008 just as the financial crisis hit. As a result, many customers - which range from small design shops and Web developers to large ad agencies - held back on buying upgrades.

In a challenge for Adobe, the launch of Creative Suite 5 comes just a few days after Apple Inc. updated the contract it has software developers sign and effectively prevented them from importing Flash applications to the iPhone and other devices.

Adobe's Flash, the format many Web videos, games and interactive graphics are created in, does not work on the iPhone or the iPad. Adobe has tried to work around this by giving developers a tool to translate Flash applications for the iPhone. Now, Apple says in its updated contract that developers must use Apple's own tools if they want to create apps for its gadgets.

In a statement Friday, Adobe said it was "looking into" Apple's new language and that it will continue to develop its app-generating technology and include it in Creative Suite 5.

Overall, the latest update of Creative Suite aims to make it easier for its users to include interactive elements in their designs. A new tool called Flash Catalyst, for example, lets traditional designers create interactive Web content without knowing how to code software. It uses drop-down menus that can turn boxes on a screen into buttons, for instance.

"It can take traditional print designers and help them get into interactivity," said Chris Kitchener, a senior product manager at Adobe.

This is also the first time Creative Suite includes services from Omniture, a company Adobe bought last fall for $1.8 billion. Omniture's technology helps companies measure the ways people interact with Web sites, ads and online applications.

Creative Suite 5 includes an upgrade of the Photoshop software that makes it easier to detect the borders of images within a photograph, among other new features. This could come in handy when trying to delete or move an image of a person from a photograph. Typically, detecting just where a person's hair strands end and the background begins is a painstaking process.

CS5 will cost between $1,299 and $2,599. It will ship in the next 30 days and will be available in "major languages," which in the past meant English, French, German and Japanese, by June 4, the end of Adobe's fiscal second quarter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

IPad May Be `Black Ship' That Shakes Up Japan's Book Industry

Bloomberg


Apple Inc.’s iPad may force Japan’s $21 billion book market to reshape pricing in the industry by historic proportions, publishing officials and analysts said.

Communications minister Kazuhiro Haraguchi and the Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan this week compared Apple’s device to the “Black Ships” that led the country to open trade with the U.S. 157 years ago. Unlike most Western markets, Japanese publishers set retail prices and prevent discounting, allowing more than 450 companies to coexist.

The maker of the iPhone may challenge Japan’s publishing establishment in a market where e-book sales -- estimated by Nomura Holdings Inc. to be four times those of the U.S. -- come mostly from comics on mobile phones. Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp., Japan’s two biggest consumer electronics makers, have scrapped their e-reader business in the country and Amazon.com Inc. has yet to offer its Kindle in Japanese.

“There’s a strong chance that a device like the iPad will allow authors to cut out the publishers as middlemen,” said Jun Hasebe, a Tokyo-based analyst at Daiwa Securities Group Inc. “Japanese printing, publishing and distribution industries are strongly interconnected and all three face that threat.”

Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble Inc., maker of the Nook reader, are giving publishers control over pricing to stave off competition from Apple, three publishing officials said this month. More than 7 million iPads may be sold globally in the first year, according to researcher iSuppli Corp.

Nervous About IPad

In Japan, some publishers are nervous about how the iPad may affect pricing negotiations with authors and distributors, said Mitsuyoshi Hosojima, a director at the Tokyo-based e-book association, a group formed last month by 31 members including publishers such as Kadokawa Group Holdings Inc. and Shueisha Inc.

“The iPad is coming from the U.S. and brings a new set of rules with it,” said Toshihiro Takagi, a researcher at Impress R&D in Tokyo.

Jill Tan, a Hong Kong-based spokeswoman at Apple, referred queries to U.S.-based spokeswoman Natalie Harrison, who didn’t immediately respond to e-mails. Misao Konishi, a Tokyo-based spokeswoman at Amazon, declined to comment on the company’s Kindle plans in Japan and Apple’s entry.

Unlike the U.S., Japanese bookstores don’t have the incentive to compete on price because they can return unsold books to publishers, said Takayoshi Koike, a Tokyo-based analyst at Deutsche Bank AG. The system hinders the ability to offer electronic titles cheaper than paper books, Nomura said in a Nov. 17 report.

Unique Market

“The Japanese book market is unique in that retailers must absolutely follow prices set by publishers,” Koike said. “Stores are shielded from book returns, which is why such a great number of small outlets can exist.”

For example, a book sold for 1,000 yen ($10.70) in Tokyo would typically result in the publisher receiving 630 yen, the author getting 70 yen, the distributor pocketing 80 yen and the bookstore being left with the remaining 220 yen, according to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

“A lot of things are said about the iPad and Kindle which are what you would call ‘Black Ships,’” Minister Haraguchi said at an April 6 briefing in Tokyo.

Commodore Matthew Perry is credited by historians with helping usher in Japan’s modern era in 1853, when he opened Japan’s ports to trade by taking four black U.S. Navy steam ships to negotiate a treaty. The Japanese, shocked by the number and size of the guns aboard the ships, capitulated after seeing the “giant dragons puffing smoke,” according to the Naval History & Heritage Command’s Web site.

Giving Up

Japan has yet to open to e-readers. Buyers of Amazon’s Kindle reader are redirected to the company’s U.S. site since no Japanese-language titles are available. Tokyo-based Sony stopped selling e-readers in its home market in 2007 and Osaka-based Panasonic gave up in 2008.

Japanese consumers, accustomed to using mobile phones to surf the web, were reluctant to buy devices that can only read books, according to Sony spokeswoman Yuki Kobayashi and Akira Kadota at Panasonic.

“We’d be interested in joining the iPad platform but not at the expense of ruining pricing of our products,” said Fumiyuki Kakizawa, a Tokyo-based spokesman at Kadokawa, Japan’s biggest listed publisher. He declined to comment on the iPad’s impact on the publishing industry.

Still, the iPad offers publishers a chance to offset slumping revenue with content that combines text, video and audio, said Daiwa’s Hasebe, who covers Internet companies.

Sales of paper books and magazines in Japan fell 4.1 percent to a 21-year low in 2009, shrinking 27 percent since its 1996 peak, according to the Research Institute for Publications.

Advertising spending in Japan slumped 26 percent for magazines and 19 percent for newspapers in 2009, according to Dentsu Inc., the country’s largest advertising company.

“What sets iPad apart from a dedicated e-book reader such as Kindle is that many people will buy it for other features and end up reading books as an afterthought,” said Hasebe.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adobe Reacts to New iPhone App Policy

Wired

 
The introduction of multitasking in iPhone OS 4 was great news for app developers and consumers, but Apple left unmentioned one policy tweak that could significantly change the App Store game.

As Wired.com reported Thursday, Apple previewed its next-generation iPhone operating system and released a beta to developers, which included a new developer’s agreement stipulating that iPhone apps must be originally programmed using Apple-approved languages (such as Objective-C).

The official iPhone OS 4 won’t be available until summer, so the exact implications of the policy change have yet to be seen. However, the consensus among several developers and tech observers is that the biggest and most obvious loser is Adobe, who has been touting a new tool called Packager for iPhone, which would enable Flash developers to easily port their apps into iPhone-native. This solution, which is set for an April 12 release as part of Adobe CS5, would partly address the lack of native Flash support for the iPhone and the iPad.

Adobe’s reaction to the news on Thursday wasn’t substantive (”We are aware of the new SDK language and are looking into it”), but Lee Brimelow, Adobe’s Flash evangelist, had some more colorful words today.

“Adobe and Apple has had a long relationship and each has helped the other get where they are today,” Brimelow wrote in his blog. “The fact that Apple would make such a hostile and despicable move like this clearly shows the difference between our two companies. All we want is to provide creative professionals an avenue to deploy their work to as many devices as possible. We are not looking to kill anything or anyone.”

Brimelow ended his post with, “Go screw yourself Apple.”

Meanwhile, Adobe has issued a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission stating that “our business could be harmed” as “new releases of operating systems or other third-party products, platforms or devices, such as the Apple iPhone or iPad, make it more difficult for our products to perform, and our customers are persuaded to use alternative technologies,” as Bloomberg first reported.

The clause from the iPhone developer’s agreement in question is 3.3.1, which reads:

    3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

Apple did not return a phone call requesting comment on the new developer agreement.

Update: Kevin Lynch, Adobe’s chief technology officer, has posted his level-headed response to the revised iPhone developer agreement:

“It is up to Apple whether they choose to allow or disallow applications as their rules shift over time,” Lynch wrote. “Secondly, multiscreen is growing beyond Apple’s devices. This year we will see a wide range of excellent smartphones, tablets, smartbooks, televisions and more coming to market and we are continuing to work with partners across this whole range to enable your content and applications to be viewed, interacted with and purchased.”

Hitachi Extends the Life of Li-Ion Batteries

The Inquirer

JAPANESE ELECTRONICS MAKER Hitachi claims to have developed technology that will extend the life of lithium ion batteries.

At the moment the maximum life you will get out of a Li-Ion battery is about five years. However Hitachi claims it can make Li-Ion batteries that will last a decade if they have the wind behind them and a running start.

The batteries will even be cheaper as the design involves reducing the amount of cobalt in them. Cobalt is rare and expensive and blue.

The added longevity makes the technology more viable for a battery where removing it would be a pain. This would include storing energy from wind or solar power or powering construction gear.

Hitachi has not said when it will have products hitting the shops using this technology.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Recycling Electronics as Easy as Taking out the Trash

Computer World Canada
Ontarians have no excuse for tossing old iPods in the trash as a province-wide recycling program doubles its list of devices and drop-off locations. Torontonians get special curbside treatment and free e-waste bags for tired gadgets.

Recycling gadgets like iPods, cell phones and digital cameras just became easier for Ontario residents as a province-wide electronic recycling program led by the Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) moves into Phase 2 of its plan.

Forty-four electronic devices now qualify for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) program, an industry-developed plan approved by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and funded by electronics manufacturers and importers.

Phase 1, which launched in April 2009, allowed eco-friendly Ontarians to drop-off devices like computers, monitors, printers, disk drives, keyboards, mice, fax machines and TVs for recycling free of charge at 167 locations across the province.

Phase 2, scheduled to launch exactly one year later, extends the list of recyclable electronics to include devices like MP3 players, digital cameras, cell phones, VCRs, DVD players and radios. The number of drop-off sites has more than doubled, to more than 500 locations.

Ontarians who wish to prevent their old electronic equipment from leaking toxic residues and hazardous waste into the environment are encouraged to visit the new dowhatyoucan.ca site to find their closest OES-approved collection location.

Torontonians are the exception to the rule. Instead of visiting a drop-off site, all residents need to do is take out the trash – and make sure their electronics are placed neatly beside it.

The City of Toronto’s electronics diversion program, which has provided curbside electronics and battery recycling since September 2009, accepts all OES Phase 1 and Phase 2 products. Toronto is the first and only city in Canada to provide curbside electronics recycling to its residents.

Residents can place large electronics items on the ground (smaller items should be placed in a cardboard box) next to their garbage bins on garbage collection days. This spring, the city will provide bags specifically designated for electronics waste free of charge. Specially designated electronic waste collection containers for apartment dwellers are also in the works.

OES announced the details of Phase 2 with City of Toronto Mayor David Miller and Ontario Minister of the Environment John Gerretsen at a launch event on Tuesday at the City of Toronto Reuse Centre, one of the OES-approved locations.

Roughly one-third of all electronic waste (commercial and residential) is currently recycled in Ontario, said Gerretsen. “We want to see that grow over the next five years to at least two-thirds,” he said.

For Long, Healthy Prius Life, DIY and Skip Toyota Service

Boston Globe

 
One of the big questions when the Prius came to the North American market in 2000 was, “What’s going to happen when the batteries wear out?”

Well, today we give you Bill Passman, an electrical engineer from Lexington who bought a first-generation Prius in September of 2000 and now has driven it 170,000 miles.

“My experience has been that the car has held up very well,” he says. “Toyota designed it well, and it was warrantied for 10 years or 100,000 miles. I hit the 100,000 miles first, but up until then Toyota took care of everything.”

Everything wasn’t a lot. Oil changes are less frequent than with gas-only cars. “That’s because the electric motor takes care of the initial acceleration, which is toughest on an engine,” says Passman, who changed his “about every 10,000 miles.”

He had the same experience with brakes. “The regeneration system, which uses the car’s momentum to turn the generator that both slows the Prius and recharges the battery pack, means that light braking causes virtually no wear on the normal brake parts,” he explains. He’s done one brake job so far. Instead of a $600 job at the dealership, he had it done at an independent shop, using Toyota parts and just replacing what was worn. Cost: $150.

We like Passman because he’s like many of us, trying to figure out what’s happening with his vehicle before taking it in for service. We also like his license plate, Revolt, one the registry originally refused to issue. When he did get it, he found both front and rear plates mangled after the 9/11 attacks. “Someone didn’t get the pun and recognize a hybrid,” he says.

When his Prius’s small on-board battery failed, he investigated. “It was like a motorcycle battery that ran a lot of the car’s 12-volt accessories,” he says. “The original battery was discontinued, and Toyota wanted $600 to install the replacement and a $150 adaptor cable.”

Instead, Passman tapped into the extensive online Prius community.

“There are groups specializing in each of the four Prius generations,” he says. “For mine, I found folks who had redesigned the armrests, built backup cameras that worked with rearview mirrors, trailer hitches, and warning-light systems to help one drive more economically.”

Passman took a pass on those but jumped in when he found a fellow who’d adapted a Mazda Miata battery and marketed it with a kit containing cables and adaptor block to correct his problem. “I think it cost me $110, including shipping,” he says.

He also invested in an OBD (on board diagnostics) reader. “I got mine at an auto parts store but recently saw one at Costco for about $50,” he explains. “That gave me the error codes. I then checked them online to make sure it wasn’t something serious that required attention at the dealership.”

Recently, Passman’s engine light came on again. The error code pointed to the accelerator, something alarming given the recent Toyota recalls. However, his vehicle wasn’t included in the recall. “Toyota offered to pay 25 percent of the cost, but I could see a $2,000 repair bill for replacing the entire accelerator pedal assembly,” he says. Instead, he checked the code online and got the advice to clean the assembly. “It cost me $5 for a can of throttle-body cleaner, and that fixed my problem.’’

That fixed one problem, but another engine code was left, this one more ominous. It indicated his main battery pack was failing.

“What happens with my generation Prius is that the gasoline engine runs for three to five minutes on startup,” he says. “After that, when the computer said to switch to electric car battery, there would be a surge and then the gas engine would rev up but shift to neutral.”

Passman found that Toyota wanted $3,000 to replace the battery pack. He also could get genuine Toyota parts online (a Generation I battery pack) for about $1,900. The third option was a company called Re-Involt Technologies in North Carolina, which would replace his battery pack with Gen. II batteries for $1,475, plus shipping and an exchange.

He took this option, with the actual replacement being done by an independent shop in Seekonk. Total cost $2,015. “The new batteries are stronger than the original equipment. I averaged 54 miles [per gallon] on the way home,” he says.

What’s next? “I’m looking forward to another 10 years. The car’s still in great shape.”

Tuning Your Fuel Injectors - and Your Fuel Performance

ATV Trail Rider

 
Most ATV manufacturers are increasingly using electronic fuel injection systems. Among the many advantages are better performance, decreased fuel consumption and elimination of the need to modify carburetor injectors according to season or altitude. For those quad riders who want more from their rides and already have dealt with the usual mods (exhaust, air box...), better performance can also be achieved with certain other changes. The subject covered here will concern fuel injection controllers.

There are many products on the market, but specifications and applications can vary greatly. Product choice and price will be affected by your needs and the type of ATV. Certain products are geared for high performance and will necessitate excellent knowledge of fuel injection operation. You will need a computer to reach optimal settings or your local dealer should be equipped to do so. Even with more simple systems, where no computer is necessary, I still recommend installing an Air / Fuel ratio sensor to adjust the controller, in order to avoid damage to your ATV.

In my opinion, a very important factor is the Air / Fuel ratio, since a bad mix can cause considerable motor damage, with overheating, backfiring, difficulties in starting... In other words, whenever considering the purchase of an injection controller, one should plan the acquisition of a wideband Air / Fuel sensor. The Air / Fuel ratio is a measure that analyses the mix of air and fuel, the perfect ratio being 14.7 :1, meaning 14.7 units of air are mixed to one unit of fuel. This balance is not easy to acquire, the important point being to come as close as possible. According to your driving style and your type of vehicle, you can proceed to different adjustments. Certain racers adjust the ratio by either decreasing or increasing the quantity of fuel according to their type of racing. When decreasing the quantity of fuel compared to air, the motor will seem more nervous, more powerful, but will more easily overheat. For those riders into racing or those who like to ride at full throttle for long stretches, the tendency will be to choose a higher amount of fuel compared to air, in order to avoid engine overheating.

Injection systems installed by ATV manufacturers do not allow modifications of fuel demand when you have added performance parts to your vehicle. These aftermarket parts might necessitate a larger demand in fuel.

In other words, an injection controller will allow you to reach a good Air / Fuel ratio and thus obtain higher performance from your ATV after modification. Certain controllers will permit electronic decrease or increase in fuel demand without having to remove any parts on your ATV. It’s like changing the injectors on the carburetor without getting your hands dirty!

All controllers are programmed for a certain type of vehicle, data bases being different. Make sure to purchase the controller that suits your ATV.

How to choose your controller?


For the purists who own ATVs equipped with more aftermarket parts than stock parts and, of course, with a computer, here is a new product offered by Yoshimura, whose reputation for performance is already known. (Photo 1)

The PIM-2 and the Data Box are now available and your injection controller and Air / Fuel ratio sensor can be bought from the same manufacturer. The PIM-2 comes with 400 adjustment points, two basic settings: the first for those equipped with a Yoshimura muffler and the second for those equipped with a complete exhaust system. Different injection curves can be found on the Yoshimura Website, according to the modified parts added to your ATV. The Data Box allows you to set your own Air / Fuel ratio, it will calculate the necessary fuel adjustments for all engine speeds and all positions of the throttle, allowing the desired Air / Fuel ratio. There is no limit to progress! (Photo 2) (Photo 3)

The Dynojet Power Commander V is also a controller designed for those hard-core ATVers bent on modification. This company offers a wide range of products and also proposes an Air / Fuel ratio sensor with a new system called Autotune, which affects adjustments on the controller while you drive. Several curves are available on their internet site according to your type of ATV and your modified parts. In this company’s case, a solid reputation for quality is also well established.(Photo 4)

These two products are designed for those with considerable experience in the preparation of competition engines. The process can be very complicated for the beginner and the projected goal of such an intervention can be difficult to attain.

For those who really want to improve their ATV’s performance, but are less injection system savvy, Dynatek now offers an alternative, which does not necessitate the use of a computer for adjustments. Their injection controller uses three curves of settings based on the level of modifications done to your vehicle. Following installation, all you have to do is adjust the quantity of fuel with a potentiometer for low, medium and high engine speeds. The Dynatek controller allows you to decrease or increase the quantity of fuel to the engine on these three levels independently. (Photo 5)

For some of our readers, modifying their ATV should not be a puzzle and should not entail exorbitant expenses. The Dobeck TFI should suit their needs, being one of the most simple injection controllers. Dobeck proposes a system that allows only the increase in fuel. In my opinion, this type of product is destined to customers with less experience in engine and injection system modification who, nonetheless, wish to improve their rides. Setting suggestions are included with installation instructions. (Photo 6)

We could continue reviewing more controllers as there are many makes and models on the market, but our main objective is to help you in your choice, according to your capacities. So we have decided to play the game and have chosen to go through some testing for your benefit.

In order to do so, we equipped a Suzuki 700 KingQuad with an injection controller and an Air / Fuel ratio sensor. Our test machine has already undergone certain modifications: the exhaust and the air filter are not stuck, the air box has been modified and the clutch system has been redone by our mechanic. Starting with the Air / Fuel sensor, we choose the AFX model from NGK, reputed for the quality of its sparkplugs. The AFX is capable of reading Air / fuel ratios from 9.00 to 16.00 AFR (Air / Fuel Ratio), with a precision degree of 0.1 AFR. Installation requires drilling a hole through the exhaust and welding on the sensor support. This modification must be done by an expert welder, forget the handyman’s torch; this here is more serious business!

Figure a clearance of 4 to 5 inches for the good sized sensor. Once installed, wiring must be run from the sensor reading to the display. Also figure some space for the display wiring, which is quite long since this model is used for racing and for automobile customization. (Photo 7)

NGK provides a threaded nut that will allow you to fill the hole left when the sensor is not in use, as it is recommended not to leave the sensor in place permanently, in order to avoid premature wear. Connection of the display dial goes to the ATV battery and an added switch is necessary (not included). It is not recommended to turn on the sensor without the motor running. We follow all these installation instructions very closely and now we have to find a place to locate the display dial. The support proposed by NGK comes down to a small piece of Velcro of about 2 inches included inside the box. Bear in mind that your dial will come loose on the first bump you hit if you use the model proposed. We choose the Velcro system anyway for simplicity’s sake, but we use a more resistant commercial version. (Photo 8)

Now that our sensor, our dial, and our switch are installed, we are onto the controller. For our test, we chose the Dynatek model, simply because I consider it as a mid- range product, not necessarily lacking in quality, but because  it’s not the most simple, nor the most complicated, just in the middle of both extremes. It will allow us to increase or decrease fuel injection with its three different injection curves, without the need for a computer. Installation of this small housing is done through a few connections, without welding or important disassembly, but of course, it will necessitate certain knowledge of the electrical components of quads. As for all modifications, we recommend dealing with professionals. The controller should be installed within easy reach, which will allow for easy settings without constraints. (Photo 9 and 10)

Ready for a few tests, we first try to set the controller without using the Air / Fuel sensor to verify if its purchase is justifiable. I can confirm to you imm├ędiate, that trying to set the adjustment of the Air / Fuel ratio by trial and error is almost impossible; how do you know if your settings are exact? Furthermore, you are risking damage to your ATV engine. In order to insure that no damage is done to our KingQuad’s motor because of overheating, we added a heat sensor with a dial placed just below the 12 Volt outlet on the front right fender, a small low cost addition (approximately $60) to verify that the KingQuad’s engine remains at the right temperature. (Photo 11 et 12)

After hours devoted to testing dozens of settings, we come to the conclusion that the Air / Fuel sensor is indispensable, if your controller is to be adjusted for good performance. I now understand why Yoshirama or Dynojet include this indispensable part in their catalogue. The sensor dial allows us to visualize whether the ratio is right. The ideal setting is between 12.5 and 13 AFR and even with this tool, the manipulation of the controller potentiometers was very touchy, since only a slight change in the position of any potentiometer will affect the ratio of the motor speed it controls.

Now here comes my favorite part of ATV modifications, on track testing! I met with Alain, our editor-in-chief on a Sunday morning for a good coffee and a fine joyride. This long awaited day is not the best weather wise, it’s raining, it’s dark out and it’s cold! But the whims of Mother Nature will not stop 2 thrill seekers such as we are. The 12 kilometer circuit where our testing occurs is beckoning us. After warming our engines, we decide to push the King a little harder. Honestly, the difference felt from the controller appears more evident at low and medium engine speeds, the engine pickups on the KingQuad are superior and we experienced no difficulty in sliding the rear just by pushing the throttle in turns. A small thrust on the throttle just before a bump will send you flying over on the back wheels without difficulty. There is so much water that we have trouble keeping our protection goggles on, water is even seeping all the way to my ears despite my helmet, but we keep on going relentlessly. I keep on checking my Air / Fuel ratio as often as possible and, to my great surprise, in spite of all this water, it still keeps on functioning properly. NGK claims the instrument resists splashing, but is not waterproof.

In short, an injection controller and an Air/ Fuel sensor are 2 necessary parts for modifying an electronic fuel injected ATV, but bear in mind that the cost of the set will be quite high, say anywhere between $500 and $800, something to consider!

Siemens Confessing to Bribes Proves Blessing to Shareholders in CFO's View

Bloomberg 

 
Joe Kaeser was six months into his new job as chief financial officer of Siemens AG in November 2006, and already, he had a list of accomplishments to show for it.

The executive had helped to arrange a joint venture between Siemens and Nokia Oyj that combined their telecommunications- network units, guided Siemens in completing its largest U.S. bond offering and converted the company’s financial statements to international standards.

What Kaeser, 52, a Siemens employee for his whole working life, didn’t know was that he was about to face his toughest challenge yet, Bloomberg Markets reports in its May 2010 issue. On Nov. 15, 2006, police raided Munich-based Siemens’s corporate offices as part of a probe into alleged bribery and kickbacks that would eventually spread to 12 countries. Chief Executive Officer Klaus Kleinfeld stepped down in 2007 after the company’s board indicated it wouldn’t renew his contract. He wasn’t charged with wrongdoing.

Siemens, a manufacturing bellwether whose products range from power turbines to medical scanners and whose operations span the globe, ended up pleading guilty to violating provisions of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and paying $1.6 billion in fines to U.S. and German regulators.

‘Dark Chapter’


Kaeser was never charged with wrongdoing. As a member of Siemens’s management, he was initially under suspicion, he says. After an independent investigation conducted on behalf of the Siemens audit committee found he had no involvement in the scheme, he was able to help review and fix the company’s books going back to 1999.

“That was quite a rough time,” Kaeser said in a Feb. 9 interview at the company’s New York office.

“It was a very dark chapter of Siemens history,” he says. “Looking back now, I probably would feel compelled to say it was a blessing for Siemens that it got caught then and that this company had the opportunity and the chance to turn everything around and close that one for good.”

Shareholders approved a settlement between the company and nine former executives in connection with the probe in January. Under the deal, the executives, including former CEO Kleinfeld, would pay the company damages for failing to halt a culture of using bribes in order to win contracts, largely ending the ordeal for Siemens. Two former managers are scheduled to stand trial in a Munich court next week over allegations of breach of trust and aiding bribery.

Kaeser’s challenge now is to bolster profits at the company as the global economy recovers from the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Revamp Under Loescher


Bavarian-born Kaeser, who joined Siemens in 1980 in the company’s components group, works closely with CEO Peter Loescher, a former Merck & Co. manager who became the first outsider to head Siemens when he was hired in 2007 following Kleinfeld’s departure. Loescher, 52, changed Siemens’s structure to focus on three main divisions -- industrial, health care and energy -- and replaced half of the company’s top 100 executives.

The restructuring reduced costs, enabling the company to increase so-called sector profit, or pretax operating earnings, at the three units in fiscal 2009, although revenue and orders fell amid the downturn. “That actually would suggest that the moment our business recovers and grows, we will get a lot of incremental margin dropping to the bottom line,” Kaeser says.

Siemens’ shares have benefited as the cost-cutting moves helped to bolster profits. The company’s stock climbed 71 percent in the 12 months ended April 7 to 75.06 euros, outpacing the 44 percent gain in Germany’s DAX index in the same period.

Signs of Recovery


Kaeser says he’s uncertain about when a sustained recovery will take place, particularly in manufacturing. “There are signs of hope, but there is no consistent picture of what the industrial world will do going forward,” he says.

Siemens executives were similarly cautious even after announcing that profits exceeded analysts’ expectations for the first three months of fiscal 2010. The company affirmed its guidance for sector profit from the three main divisions of 6 billion euros ($8.2 billion) to 6.5 billion euros for the full fiscal year, which will end on Sept. 30.

Kaeser said in February that Siemens may revise its profit targets when it releases results for the second quarter, at which time the outlook for the company’s industrial businesses may be clearer. He says Siemens expected to learn more about customer demand at the Hannover Messe, an international trade fair being held in Hanover, Germany, from April 19-23.

“We do expect that we’ll get a lot of insight on what our important customers are going to do, are going to intend in the next 12 to 18 months,” Kaeser says. Siemens will announce its earnings for the March quarter on April 29.

Return to Growth


Even if demand picks up this year, Kaeser says it’s unlikely that revenue will return to pre-recession levels anytime soon. “Our viewpoint of our global business is that it takes years until we are back up at levels of 2008, where we came from -- probably 2011, if not 2012,” he says.

When growth does resume, Kaeser says, the geographical mix will be different, driven by demand from China, India and Brazil rather than Europe and the U.S., as in the past. Siemens is addressing this changing reality by reviewing its operations and workforce.

In January, Siemens announced about 2,000 job cuts in Germany, where it started its business 163 years ago.

“This is in the industrial area, drive technologies as well as industrial solutions, where we know that it ain’t coming back,” Kaeser says. “And if it comes back, it’s going to be in India or China.”

More Cuts


Siemens in March said it would eliminate an additional 4,200 positions at its SIS computer-services division. The reductions come on top of more than 20,000 job cuts last year, which trimmed the company’s global head count to about 402,000. A third of that total is in Germany.

Kaeser says Loescher’s changes in 2007 helped the company weather the downturn but that long-held policies also played a part. These include never using short-term financing to fund long-term assets, a strategy that shielded the company when money markets froze in 2008. Most of its 15.8 billion euros of long-term debt matures in 2014 and beyond, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We’ve always been extremely stable and rigid on that matter, and it paid off massively,” Kaeser says.

Euro Zone

Siemens has no bonds due this year. In 2011, two issues totaling 3.55 billion euros will mature, according to Bloomberg data.

Kaeser also credits European monetary union with helping to keep the region together during the financial crisis.

“I feel very positive about it because if you hadn’t had the euro in the last 18 to 24 months, it would have been a big challenge for European leaders to keep everyone together,” he says.

With credit markets now stable, Kaeser says the company may choose to refinance some debt this year while rates are low rather than risk a rise in borrowing costs in 2011. “I don’t want to be caught flat-footed a year from now with fiscal or monetary actions that negatively affect our company,” he says.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Laptop Battery Power Tips

PC World

In some respects, life as a laptop-carrying frequent flyer has gotten a little easier. Exhibit A: Though far from commonplace, it's not freakishly bizarre anymore to find a power port at your airplane seat--even in coach. Virgin America and American Airlines are among the most generous airlines in terms of supplying power ports to passengers.

But it's still way too easy to run out of juice in flight, or during the course of a long day away from a wall socket. Here are some tips for keeping your laptop running as long as possible when you're on the go.
 
Ditch the Peripherals, Tweak Settings

When you're on the road, you can significantly conserve battery power by dimming your laptop screen's brightness. Make sure there are no CDs or DVDs sitting in your optical drive, and don't connect any USB peripherals--all power hogs. Turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and 3G networking (you have to do that in flight anyhow).

Also, tweak your laptop's power settings to conserve your battery. For example, in Windows Vista, go to Control Panel, Power Options and select the "Power saver" setting You can adjust the "Power saver" settings, if you want, or create your own power plan.
 
Buy a Second Battery

Many laptops today can run off two batteries. When the juice from the primary battery runs dry, the auxiliary kicks in. In most cases, the primary battery comes with the laptop; the second is an optional purchase. For example, HP's EliteBook 6930p promises up to 24 hours of use from one charge--but only if you attach an optional, external 12-cell ultra-capacity battery pack ($189) as a secondary battery to augment the laptop's internal, primary six-cell battery (There are other requirements, too, such as the need to downgrade to Windows XP.) Keep in mind that second battery packs, sometimes also called battery slices often add bulk and weight to your laptop.

Another option: Buy a portable battery pack. I like the Duracell Powersource Mobile 100 (about $110 and up online) because it lets you power a variety of devices, such as laptops, cell phones, portable DVD players, and video cameras, using their own power cords. By comparison, some portable power rechargers require special tips or cables to recharge your gear. The Duracell Powersource can also recharge two USB devices simultaneously with your laptop.
 
Get to Know Battery Specs

When buying a new laptop or a second laptop battery, pay attention to the power specs. Generally speaking, you need to know how many cells the battery has. The more cells, the longer the battery can last on a charge. For example, a 12-cell battery is designed to last much longer than a six-cell battery. Alternatively, the specs might list Watt-Hour rating, or WHr. The higher the number, the longer your battery should last. Some computer makers, such as Apple, describe laptop batteries in terms of WHr, while others use cells.
 
Check for Power Ports Before You Fly

Before I book a flight, I find out the type of aircraft I'll be on. Then I jump over to Seatguru.com, which offers helpful seating configuration maps for most domestic and international airlines. The black dots on seat maps indicate the presence of in-seat power ports. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes (especially in coach) you may have to share one power port with your neighbor.
Play Your Music on a Portable Player

Playing music or videos on your laptop is a great way to pass the time--and drain your laptop comupter batteries. Music and audio files make frequent hits on your hard drive, which consumes battery power. If you need to work during a long flight, and yet you want to silence that crying baby in 12B, listen to music on your portable media player. That way you won't tax your laptop battery. Most airplanes today have an in-flight music system, which you can listen to even during take-off and landings (which you can't do with a portable electronic device).
 
Watch Videos on Your Hard Drive

Playing a video on a laptop's DVD drive eats laptop battery power. Video playback from a hard drive, however, is less taxing. So for your next long flight, consider downloading a few movies or TV shows to your hard drive. Or convert your own DVDs into files you can play off your hard drive. As PCWorld.com blogger Rick Broida points out, you can use the popular open-source program Handbrake to rip DVDs into files for watching on a laptop or iPod/iPhone.
 
Share an Airport Power Plug

Have you ever tried to find an available wall socket at an airport departure gate? Most of the time, other people have already taken the few existing wall sockets. That's why I travel with a multi-plug power adapter. Example: Kensington's Portable Power Outlet ($21 on Amazon.com) lets you simultaneously plug up to three devices into one wall outlet. It also lets you charge up to two USB devices at the same time, and it offers surge protection. Belkin makes a similar product, the Mini Surge Protector With USB Charger (about $14 or more online).

Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips

Netbook/Tablet With Long Battery Life: A company called Always Innovating claims its forthcoming Touch Book netbook transforms into a tablet PC when you pull the screen away from the keyboard. The company also says the netbook's batteries will go for up to 15 hours on one charge. It's expected to be available in May or June for $299 (without a keyboard) and $399.

Sprint Announces Palm Pre Pricing: No word yet on when the Palm Pre smartphone will ship, or what its price tag will be. But details of Sprint's pricing plans for the phone are emerging. Individuals can choose between 450 minutes ($70), 900 minutes ($90) or unlimited plans ($100).

Apple's iPod Shuffle Gets Vocal: The third-generation iPod Shuffle ($80) is tiny. It's so tiny it has no buttons, knobs, or screen (though previous Shuffles lacked screens, too). Instead, the new MP3 player offers VoiceOver, a text-to-voice feature that reads off song titles, artists, playlist names, and so forth. In addition, the earbuds included with the Shuffle feature in-line controls such as volume up/down.