Archive for June, 2011

Multi-touch wall’s powered by embedded Windows

NEC has demonstrated one of the world’s largest multi-touch computers, powered by Windows Embedded Standard 7. The “Multi-Touch Wall” measures about 15 feet diagonally, offers resolution of 5,464 x 1,536 pixels, and employs infrared sensing, according to a DigInfo.tv report.

 

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NEC’s giant Multi-Touch Wall was shown off at last week’s Digital Signage Japan 2011, according to a June 16 DigInfo.tv report (embedded at the end of this story). Company spokesperson Takeshi Wada is quoted as saying the device incorporates eight thin-bezel displays controlled by a single Windows Embedded Standard 7 computer.

NEC’s Multi-Touch Wall
According to Wada, each single display measures 46 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels. Thus, the eight screens collectively offer one of the world’s-biggest Windows desktops, with 5,464 by 1,536 pixels.

NEC said the Multi-Touch Wall is 4.1 meters (about 14.45 feet) wide and 1.15 meters (about 3.77 feet) high. Therefore, it measures almost 15 feet diagonally.

In the video, Wada says the displays have an ordinary glass surface, but infrared sensing was added to the array to provide two-point multitouch. Potential uses are said to be corporate showrooms, education, and product promotion.

Wada adds, “Actually this product is being installed in Microsofts new showroom. Right now, it is in exhibit form for display, but we are already finishing custom products. We will offer it to particular customers as a solution to match their needs in the future.”

No details were provided about what processor the underlying computer employs, or how many graphics cards it had to be equipped with. As we reported June 15, NEC also used the Digital Signage Japan 2011 event to unveil two Windows-powered signage modules that comply with Intel’s Open Pluggable Specification.

Microsoft launches Office 365, glosses over cloud limitations

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer pitched his answer to Google Apps Tuesday as Microsoft announced worldwide availability of Office 365, but made no mention of the company’s biggest cloud rival or any of the limitations in cloud computing generally or Microsoft products specifically.

 

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Office 365 will likely attract a big audience, since a huge number of businesses use Microsoft products already. But the Office 365 beta, which is now over, engendered some customer complaints, and Microsoft has deliberately held some functionality back from its cloud service to avoid cannibalizing software license sales.

FIERCE RIVALS: The 10 bloodiest battles Microsoft and Google fought in 2010

Some beta testers complained about limitations in importing contacts for shared global address lists, and the requirement to use the complicated PowerShell to perform tasks they felt should be simple.

At a fancy event in New York City, Ballmer spoke to media, analysts and customers, revealing little that wasn’t known already but providing a look at potential use cases for Office 365. The cloud service wraps together many pieces of software: Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and of course, Office, in both on-premises and Web-based versions.

While few would argue that the rival Google Apps offers more functionality than on-premises Microsoft Office software, Microsoft’s online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote are limited compared to Microsoft’s packaged tools and perhaps even compared to Google’s cloud offering.

Office Web Apps does a better job importing Microsoft Office documents than Google Docs does, but it lacks the auto-save functionality of Google Docs. Additionally, the ability to let multiple users edit documents simultaneously, provided in the browser by Google, is not offered with Microsoft’s Web-based versions of Word and PowerPoint. The rich clients of Word and PowerPoint are required for co-editing, even though Microsoft does provide browser-based co-editing in Excel and OneNote.

“Office Web Apps is purposely lightweight and is designed so that it will not cannibalize Office Pro revenue,” Gartner analyst Matt Cain says in an email interview. “If Google makes further inroads, Microsoft will clearly beef up Office Web Apps to be more competitive with [Google] Apps. The last thing that Microsoft wants to see is a diminishment in the Office franchise, and Office Web Apps is the instrument Microsoft can tune to combat Google Apps.”

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Google +1 Goes Global

Google’s +1 button, the search giant’s challenger to the Facebook Like button, is making its worldwide debut.

 

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“Today, +1’s will start appearing on Google search pages globally,” Google Product Manager Nick Radicevic announced on Google’s AdSense blog.

“We’ll be starting off with sites like google.co.uk, google.de, google.jp and google.fr, then expanding quickly to most other Google search sites soon after.”

In addition to an international rollout on search result pages, Google is expanding its rollout of the +1 button on websites across the world. The company announced partnerships with several publications, including The Telegraph, The Independent, Last.fm, SnapDeal, and El Pais.

Google launched the +1 button last month as an attempt to increase its presence on the web. The button acts much like the Facebook Like or Twitter Tweet button. The company says it may use +1 data as a signal for improving search results in the future.

10 Hidden Features in Facebook

Sure, you go there every day to see what your friends and family are up to , but do you really know how to use the most widely used site on earth?

 

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Facebook is the category-killing social network, makes up a quarter of the earth’s Web traffic, and can claim nearly three-quarters of a billion users. But many of them don’t dig beneath the skin of what the social network can do. There’s a ton of hidden Facebook functionality, most of which the average user will never find. PCMag readers, however, want to go deeper.

Facebook has come a long way since its dorm-room beginnings as portrayed in the fictional hit movie, The Social Network. Along the way, the site has beefed up its messaging, added more photo and video capability, and changed the way groups work. They’ve also taken some hits along the way, most often for privacy concerns. The latest of these is the sites new use of face-detection to identify people in photos for tagging. We’ve offered tips in the past for how to protect yourself while using the social network. And we’ve offered tips on safe social networking in general (in the wake of a local congressman’s indiscretions). We’ve shown you how to use Facebook Places, we’ve even shown you how you can get the best local deals on mobile Facebook.

This time, we wanted to simply uncover some of the lesser-known fun stuff on Facebook to enhance your interactions. We cover everything from messaging to movies, with some other nifty interface and community features along the way. Read our slideshow to find out Ten cool things you might not know how to do in Facebook. None of them are earth-shattering, but if you spend as much time on Facebook as the average person does, even a little extra knowledge can go a long way.

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First look at Windows Azure

Microsoft’s vision of a Windows-only cloud is ambitious, but too many features are currently still in beta

There’s “the cloud” and then there’s Windows Azure.

We tested the available production-level features in Microsoft’s platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering, and found that Azure is similar in many ways to what already exists in the cloud sky.

 

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But there are some key differences. Azure is homogeneously Windows-based. And big chunks of Azure are still in beta or “customer technology preview.”

Microsoft turns Windows Azure into cloud-based supercomputer
Three main components of Azure are currently available: Windows Azure 2008/ 2008 R2 Server Edition Compute Services, Windows SQL Azure instances, and storage facilities. These components are sewn together by Microsoft’s AppFabric, an orchestration system for messaging, access control and management portal.

However, none of the Windows Azure instances are currently capable of being controlled by Microsoft’s System Center management system. They can’t be touched by an organization’s Active Directory infrastructure today — only by beta, pre-release features. Instance availability through mirroring or clustering is currently unavailable, too.

Overall, it’s far too early to recommend Windows Azure. The architectural diagram looks very interesting, and while some pieces appeared ready in testing, big chunks of the Azure offerings aren’t ready for enterprise use. (See how we tested the product.)
What You Get — Today

Windows Azure provides production application support through Windows Azure 2008/2008 R2 Server Edition Compute services, Windows SQL Azure, and several forms of data storage. Customers can buy these services in graduated instance sizes, and deploy them into various geographies, and different Microsoft data centers within some of the geographies.

What’s available today is a subset of the grander Windows Azure future architectural road map. Buying into the Azure vision may turn out to have great value in the future, and the pieces that are running today worked well, but they don’t satisfy the wide number of use cases associated with IaaS or PaaS.

Another component of Microsoft’s PaaS push is Azure Marketplace, where developers can buy, sell and share building blocks, templates and data sets, plus finished services and apps needed to build Azure platform apps. The DataMarket section’s offerings are limited, while the apps section isn’t commercially available yet.

Microsoft intends to expand the limited Azure Marketplace offerings with both community and also marketed development tools, Azure-based SaaS third party applications, and other business offerings. Ostensibly third-parties will replicate and offer the Azure model to clientele from these and other sources.
Virtual machine roles

Windows Azure components are defined by roles, currently Web Roles and worker roles (based on IIS and .Net functionality), which can run against SQL Azure database instances. The deployed processes are managed through AppFabric, whose functionality exists inside the Azure resource pools as a management layer and messaging infrastructure.

Six Amazing Phone Technologies We Want in iPhone 5

Smartphones have evolved and the iPhone isn’t as novel as it used to be. If Apple wants to change the game again, here are six techs it should be looking at.

What will Apple’s next iPhone be like? If rumors are to believed, it’s going to be a radical redesign from previous models, mining some of the best features from the current crop of mobile-phone technology. (For a rundown of the most prevalent—and wildest—rumors, check out our roundup here.)

 

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But that’s almost a given. With competitors offering things like OLED screens, NFC communication for mobile payments, and 4G connectivity, Apple has to be at least considering including those things for iPhone 5 (or the iPhone 4S, or whatever it’s going to be called). But what about those wild cards, the things on the outskirts of current mobile tech, which could give the next iPhone an edge over all comers?

Apple’s pulled high-tech rabbits out of its hat before. With the iPhone 4, it introduced two unexpectedly novel features: the so-called retina display and the external antenna. While the iPhone 4′s retina screen still reigns as phone display on the market with the highest pixel density, the external antenna made headlines for all the wrong reasons, leading to “antennagate” after several users posted evidence of the phone’s “death grip.”

Questionable antenna designs aside, there’s no shortage of bleeding-edge phone technologies that could be game-changers. Some have already begun to appear in phones, while others have only been seen in prototypes or laboratories thus far. In either case, their benefits and abilities would give any phone that integrates them an boost in the rapidly evolving world of mobile.

There isn’t a phone manufacturer on the planet right now that’s making plans around NFC and 4G. But how many would introduce radically different screen or camera technologies, a new type of connector, or solar charging? We know almost certainly these features won’t be in iPhone 5, but we can still dream… of iPhone 6.

Google fails to placate Calendar users over lingering flaw

Months after problem is identified, Google promises fix this week to Google Calendar

Google has failed to resolve a long-running problem that is preventing numerous Google Calendar users from receiving email and text message notifications before events.

 

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A Google help forum thread begun last September, titled “Google Calendar Email Notification not working,” is running strong nine months later with users complaining about missed reminders up to this very day.

FRUSTRATION: Missed email reminders have plagued Google Calendar for years

Users have vented about Google’s sporadic responses to their complaints. One claimed Google’s failure to fix the problem violates the company’s own Code of Conduct, which promises responsiveness to user feedback.

Another tried to rally users to be persistent, writing, “If enough people continue to contact [Google] in multiple ways to let them know this problem continues to exist, someone will begin to pay attention.”

There have been multiple help forum threads on the problem, with Google employees occasionally telling users that a fix is coming soon, and offering workarounds that have worked for some but not all.

Google promised a fix is coming soon in a statement sent to Network World today.

“We’re fixing the issue with email and SMS reminders and daily agendas not being received,” a Google spokesman wrote in an email. “It’s affecting less than 2% of calendars, and we expect it to be resolved within the next couple days. In the meantime, those affected may still experience some inconsistent reminders, and we’re doing our best to shorten that timeframe. As part of the fix we’ve also implemented new monitoring that will allow us to better detect if reminders are not being delivered correctly. Solving this issue has taken longer than expected due to some infrastructure changes, and we’re sorry for the inconvenience it has caused.”

Google Calendar has tens of millions of active users, the spokesman said.

We passed Google’s statement along to David Martin, one of the longtime Calendar users who has been frustrated by the ongoing notification problem, to get his thoughts.

“My first reaction is why didn’t they post this communication on the support forum, where their lack of communication has damaged the Google brand and business,” Martin, an adviser to software startups and nonprofits in San Francisco, wrote in an email. “My second reaction is I’ll believe it when it’s fixed … and working reliably for a long period of time.”

Similar problems have plagued Google Calendar for years, with support forum threads going back to 2008.

On May 16 of this year, a Google employee posting in a support forum said “we’re rolling out a new fix” and that “the cleanup will take up to a week to complete for all users.”

Martin, whose experiences were detailed in a Network World article last month, said the situation has improved over the past four weeks but hasn’t been fully resolved.

“I’m getting about 90% of my daily agenda emails first thing in the morning, and about 75% of my email and SMS reminders, across the two free Google Apps accounts that I use daily,” Martin wrote.

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