Buffalo Launches Thunderbolt Portable SSD

Buffalo LogoFollowing on from GNC’s review of the MiniStation Air earlier this month, Buffalo have a launched the MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD. As you might guess from the name, it’s a portable SSD with a Thunderbolt connection so it’s ideal for connecting up with Apple Macs.

Combining the SSD with Thunderbolt, the MiniStation has a read performance of more than 370 MB/s and a write performance that exceeds 250 MB/s, which is pretty nippy in anyone’s book. And I think those are Bytes and not bits. PC users aren’t left out with a USB 3.0 connection too, though it’s not as fast as the Thunderbolt connections.

MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD

Paul Hudson, Sales Director for Northern Europe at Buffalo, said: “The MiniStation Thunderbolt SSD combines a highly robust and aesthetically pleasing design with exceptionally fast data transfer speed. We have seen how Thunderbolt hard drives have transformed the available speed for read and write to storage devices, but with the additional of SSD in the Buffalo range, the speed stakes are raised again providing astounding performance.

The drive is bus-powered and will be available in two storage sizes, at a recommended price of £229.99 for the 128 GB product and £349.99 for the 256 GB version. There’s a .pdf spec sheet here.

Hopefully GNC will be bringing you a review of the MiniStation Thunderbold SSD in the not-too-distant future.

Elite: Dangerous

There’s a pretty good chance that if you are a 40+ British geek, the mere mention of “Elite” will roll back the years to hours of gameplay in front of a BBC Model B, flying a wireframe starship around an almost limitless universe. Trading, fighting, arms-dealing, slavery, whatever it took to get respect and the coveted Elite status. Even now, I still feel a small hint of pride in my own Elite achievement, over 20 years later.

Created by David Braben and Ian Bell, Elite was the first 3D game and eeked every last ounce of performance from 8 bit processors and 32 KB of RAM, even less once the OS had taken its share. There were tricks such as making all the objects in the universe concave, which significantly reduced several calculations in techniques such as hidden line removal and despite being largely only in monochrome, it was totally amazing for its day.

The successor to Elite, “Frontier”, never gained the same traction as the original Elite. In some ways it was too big and just wasn’t as immediate as the original Elite.

Returning to the original ethos of Elite, David Braben has launched a Kickstarter campaign for “Elite: Dangerous” to raise £1.25 million ($2 million) for the development of a new game in the canon, aiming for delivery in March 2014. Elite: Dangerous will be a multi-player game in a massive universe and initially the game will be for the PC, but other platforms will be looked at.

As usual, there are various funding levels, but £20 gets you a copy of the game plus the opportunity to reserve your commander’s name. But if you were looking to get lunch with David Braben at £5000, I’m afraid that all five slots have already been taken.

There’s additional reporting at the BBC.

 

Fluff, The Silent Killer

Processor and HeatsinkFluff can be a PC killer as I recently discovered, but the solution to the problem is straightforward.

As a true geek, I built my own PC, but it’s no speed demon with a mid-range quad-core processor. However, I’d been suffering from intermittent PC shutdowns that would always happen when I was at the PC and never when the PCs was on but not in use. It was very irritating because you’d be right in the middle of something and then you’d be dumped out. I put it down to buggy software.

Last week I started to rip a few DVDs for tablet viewing and every time the PC would shutdown within about 30 seconds of starting the file conversion. At this point I began to think that the processor might be overheating, forcing a shutdown before it was damaged. Upon opening the case, nothing looked particularly out of the ordinary; there was a bit of fluff but nothing you’d think of as being a problem. It was only when I looked more closely at the heat sink on the CPU that I saw many of the spaces between the thermal vanes were clogged with fluff.

Out with the vacuum cleaner and a good hoovering later, I powered the PC on and started a fresh rip. This time the PC didn’t shutdown and I was able to rip solidly for at least an hour without any shutdowns. Problem solved!

Tip of the Day – if you are experiencing intermittent crashes or shutdowns, open your PC and give your CPU’s heatsink and fan a clean with the vacuum cleaner.

And if any Americans out there are wondering what “fluff” is, I believe that you know it as “lint”.

Heatsink and fan picture courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com.

iTwin Creates a Personal Cloud

iTwin Infinite Capacity Thumb DriveiTwin is billed as an “infinite capacity thumb drive” but this sells the device short – it’s much more than this. Andy finds out what its capable of from Akash at CES Showstoppers.

The basic premise of iTwin is a pair of USB devices, one of which goes in your work desktop, the other in your home (or laptop) computer. Files can then be copied securely to and from the work computer across the internet to the laptop.

The devices are cryptographically paired together to ensure the security of the connection and the creators seem to have solutions for most of the issues that might arise, such as dynamic IPs or theft.

The brilliance of iTwin is that it offers a personal cloud solution where the data is completely under your control but not actually in your possession. No risk of theft, loss or nosey border guards rifling through your files.

Works with both Windows PCs and Mac – available now for $99.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Nyxio VioSphere Splits your TV and PC

Nyxio is a new company that is looking to integrate your computer and your TV.  They have a product, the VioSphere, which literally splits your monitor screen into half PC and half television.  The VioSphere is a touch-screen monitor that has a built-in web-cam and microphone to allow you to video-conference while you are watching that big game on the other half of your screen.  It’s like the old picture-in-picture TV features, which allows you to watch both or go full-screen with one or the other.

It functions like an all-in-one PC with a DVD burner also built-in. While it runs on the Windows platform they also are partnered with Bluestacks to include Android apps as well.  It also comes with a wireless keyboard and built-in WiFi.  As for the TV end of things, it just takes a normal coax input.  The VioSphere comes in a wide range of sizes spanning 21″ (although their website states the low end at 32″) all the way up to 65″.  A price point isn’t given in the video, but you can learn a lot more info on the product.  You can also visit Nyxio online for additional information.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Leonar3Do Virtual Reality Kit

Leonar3Do 3D Controller

This looks more like an instrument of torture than any kind of bird I’ve seen but fortunately it’s not and it’s actually the virtual reality controller from Leonar3Do‘s desktop VR kit. Andy and Courtney breathe a sigh of relief and chat to Stewart Oldroyd from Leonar3Do.

Hungarian start-up have created “the world’s first desktop VR kit”, consisting of the scary controller above, 3D glasses and three line sensors that affix to the computer monitor to track the position of the controller and the glasses. There’s a video on the company’s website that shows the system in action and it looks amazing.

The innovative part is that it’s an out-of-the-box environment which costs around $1500 rather the $10,000+ usually associated with VR systems. Currently only available for enterprise and education markets, the consumer version will arrive in late spring.

Interview by Andy McCaskey and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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AikenLabs Immersive Motion Accessory System

AikenLabs Immersive Motion Desktop Starter KitAikenLabs Immersive Motion Accessory System is a body-worn motion controller that takes real world actions and puts them into video games. Andy checks out some moves with Ethan from AikenLabs.

The Immersive Motion Accessory System comprises small black boxes worn on bands that connect wirelessly to a master controller which in turn, is connected to PC or game console via USB. Each box has an accelerometer, a magnometer and  gyroscope to accurately track motion. No optical sensor or camera is needed.

Once the boxes are in place on the player’s head, arms, legs or plastic sword, actions such as hitting, pushing or kicking in the real-world get translated into similar actions in the game. Cleverly, the system converts the gestures into standard game controllers actions such as button presses or joystick moves. Consequently the system can be used with nearly any game console straightaway; there’s no need to wait for developer support.

Interview by Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Sony Connects Up At CES

Sony LogoSony‘s CES focus this year is on electronics, content and network services combining to deliver high quality entertainment anytime and anywhere. Supported by a slew of product announcements, new connected devices range from TVs, Blu-ray players and A/V receivers through to tablets, smartphones and PCs and on to camcorders and mobile music players. Sony is combining these with online services for music, video and game delivery, creating a great user experience (as they say). TVs, PCs, smartphones and tablets are key to this experience as the four main devices used for entertainment.

Sony is committed to designing technologies for every aspect of consumer entertainment – in or out of the home, on the go, in the air, at work, at play, or wherever life takes you,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation. “When these products are combined with Sony Entertainment Network (SEN), which offers innovative services like Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited, as well as PlayStation Network, the user experience is truly unmatched and only made possible by a company like Sony.”

The Bravia TV line has been expanded in all three areas; entry level BX, step-up EX and flagship HX. Brightness and contrast levels have been increased and picture quality improved with Sony’s X-Reality and Motionflow video technologies. In particular the latter helps to reduce blur caused by rapid camera movements which is often a problem with LCD screens. Sony is sticking with the Google TV platform with a new network player and Blu-ray player featuring Google TV. Certain Bravia models will link seamlessly to these devices to provide Google TV features directly on the TV.

Sony Xperia ion smartphoneSony’s Vaio range of computers will continue to be updated with more entertainment feature and new designs that fit with consumers’ needs and increasing mobility. At CES, Sony will be demonstrating new technologies and prototypes for a range of technologies including glasses-free 3D.

In the smartphone space, the Xperia brand has done reasonably well, but increasing the smartphone share in North America is now one of Sony’s highest priorities. Sony Ericsson will be subsumed into Sony Mobile Communications and all new phones will carry Sony branding. The latest addition to the Xperia line-up is the Xperia ion, Sony’s first LTE smartphone coming with an HD 720p display and aluminium body. Also new is the Xperia S which comes with 3D image capture.

Sony Bloggie LiveOn the imaging front, no less than 13 new Handycam camcorders are being unveiled. A new image stabilisation system called Balanced Optical Steady Shot has been developed that controls the complete optical path from lens to sensor as a single floating unit. This reduces handshake blur by up to 13 times compared to the previous models. There’s a new camcorder model with a built-in video projector that has improved brightness and enhanced audio. The trusty Bloggie range now has a “Live” model which will live stream HD video over a Wi-Fi connection and there’s an unboxing over at sister channel TPN.tv. Of course, Sony has a bunch of new Cybershot digital still cameras.

Z Series Audio MP3 PlayerFinally, it wouldn’t be CES if Sony didn’t announce a Walkman or two. The new Z series of MP3 players comes with an application interface and connectivity to both Sony’s Music Unlimited and the Android Market. Content can be played from Z series devices either wirelessly using DLNA or via HDMI to Bravia TVs. To further improve the audio experience, no less than eleven new Balanced Armature earbud-style headphones are now available as well.

That’s it – a quick overview of the products on show at CES by Sony and they all look like fun.

Vizio Introduces a Line of PCs

Vizio Computer One of the reasons I am a fan of Apple products is because of their ability to design products that are both beautiful and functional. I will never deny that a Microsoft Windows base computer can do everything an Apple computer can do and in some areas maybe more. However there are very few Window’s based computers I have seen where I went wow that is beautiful, until now. Not surprising, the computer that made me go wow, was not designed by a computer company but by a TV manufacture Vizio.

Vizio is based in Irvine, California and is a leading manufacture of flat panel HDTVs. It became the #1 selling brand in 2007 and has remained near the top since then. They also have a whole ecosystem of apps that can be found on TVs, Blu-ray Players, tablets and more. With these two fields as a background they realized that more and more consumers were using their computers not only to do work but also as a part of their day-to-day entertainment ecosystems. They also realized that there was also something missing, a Window based PC that are not only functional but looked beautiful. Computers that would look good not only in the boardroom but also in the living room or bedrooms. The new Vizio PC that is being introduced in 2012 is an attempt to fill this void. It has a thin base which holds the Windows 7 based PC . Coming out of that base is a single anodized aluminium hinge that is secured to the monitor. There are no visible wires to interrupt the flow. The monitor is full HD based on what Vizio has learned over the years building quality HDtvs. It has 2.1 audio quality. This is a computer that is designed with not only productivity in mind but also aesthetics.

Along with the all in one PC, Vizio is also introducing two thin and light notebooks and one reqular notebook. I have to admit it has been a long time since a PC has turned my head like this one has. At this time I am unable to find a listed price for the Vizio Computers. However I can’t wait till they come on to the market in spring 2012, so I can get a hold of one and see if it works as good as it looks.  The new Vizio computers will be on display at CES 2012.

Price of Chromebook Drops. Will You Buy it Now?

Chromebook Display at Google Places Event

Chromebook Display at Google Places Event

Google announced they are dropping the price of the Chromebook by 30%. Some Chromebooks will be as low as $299. But questions still arise if a Chromebook is in your holiday wish list, when you can get a Kindle Fire, nook Color for less. Even the iPad could be in more stockings than the ultra-portable laptop.

Chromebook came out back in June as Google’s answer to a PC that didn’t have a complicated OS to it. You would load the Chromebook up to a Chrome browser; inside, all your applications would be in the cloud and the data you create would also mostly reside in a cloud drive. However, if you were in a 3G deadspot or didn’t have Wifi, then your work would be rather limited.

Competing with a Tablet

Chromebook’s price drop is pretty much an attempt to counter the prices of the Kindle Fire and nook color tablets, which debuted to the general public last week at $199 and $249 respectively. The tablet – which you could connect a bluetooth keyboard and mouse – could technically become a more functional notebook than a Chromebook itself. And with prices at $100 lower than the device,  will a Samsung or Acer Chromebook even be in your holiday purchase radar?

What is Chromebook’s Market?

Google Chair at SF Airport

Google Chair at SF Airport

Chromebook has to figure out where their niche is going to be. Maybe as a laptop for the kids, or a machine you can keep in the kitchen to call up recipes or as a kiosk in a public place? Back in September, I saw the Chromebook lounge in the San Francisco Airport. Those kiosks would be great for people that have hours to wait but don’t have a computer to check their Facebook profiles or email on.

Remember when the Netbook was a popular item two years ago? What happened to that? The answer is the netbook disappeared fast. You can still get a netbook, but just like the Chromebook, why should you spend $300 or more for a device that is the same speed and power as a Kindle Fire or nook Color?

So now we can start to see the impact of these two new tablets are bringing to the holiday shopping season. Chromebook has to compete with something more compact and useable. Google has not released any data regarding Chromebooks sold, but a DigiTimes report (premium content site) says it all:

“In June 2011, Acer and Samsung launched their Chromebooks ahead of other PC brand vendors, but by the end of July, Acer had reportedly only sold 5,000 units and Samsung was said to have had even lower sales than Acer, according to sources from the PC industry.”

What does that mean to Chromebook? Simply: It’s time to drop prices and hope the Chromebook will sell well in Q4.