Thursday, September 09, 2010

Apple iPod touch (2010)

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Now that the iPod touch is in its fourth generation, Apple finds itself at interesting crossroads. The company simply doesn't have any competition right now in the high-end portable media player market. iTunes remains as popular as ever, and there is still no slicker device for surfing the web and downloading hundreds of thousands of apps. So at least for the moment, the iPod touch's biggest foes are its predecessor (for would-be upgraders) and maybe the iPhone 4 (for those who would rather not pay a monthly fee for AT&T's spotty service). The good news is that Apple has graced every model in its flagship PMP line with a sharper Retina Display, snappy A4 processor, and fun FaceTime feature for making video calls. Last time around the 8GB model had a slower CPU and couldn't play the latest games as smoothly as the higher-capacity versions, but now the 8 GB ($229), 16 GB ($299), and 32 GB ($399) touch all have the same guts. Despite a few weaknesses, the new iPod touch creates even more distance between Apple and the rest of the field.

Design

Just when you thought the iPod touch couldn't get any more portable, Apple managed to slim it down further. At 3.6 ounces and 0.28 inches thick, the latest version is 15 percent thinner and 12 percent lighter than the third-gen touch. The gorgeous 3.5-inch display (all 960 x 640 pixels of it) dominates the front, and underneath that you'll find the trademark home button, which is easy to press. Above the screen is the VGA camera, and the bottom of the touch houses the dock connector, 3.5mm headphone jack, and speaker.

Samsung Fascinate (Verizon Wireless)

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Now that Samsung's Galaxy S phones have landed at AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, Verizon Wireless is last in line--which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering Verizon customers have plenty of strong Android phones from which to choose, including the Droid X, Droid 2, and Droid Incredible. So what does the Fascinate bring to the party on Big Red? This handset has the same vibrant AMOLED screen we loved on the earlier models, and unlike AT&T's Captivate and T-Mobile's Vibrant, this model includes an LED flash and mobile hotspot feature. Yes, Sprint's Epic 4G  has these features, too, but its slide-out QWERTY keyboard adds bulk. Still, this $199 smart phone has a number of flaws, mainly attributable to Verizon's content deals with other companies. So how does the Fascinate stack up to the Droids?

Design

The Fascinate has a nearly identical design to the Vibrant; it measures 4.8 x 2.5 x 0.4 inches and, like the Vibrant, has rounded corners, unlike the Captivate's more square design. The device is all black, save for a thin strip of chromed plastic around the edge. Below the keyboard are four touch buttons (Settings, Home, Back, and Search) that are backlit in white, but after a few seconds, the lights turn off, making it difficult to figure out their placement in the dark.

The back of the Fascinate has a subtle square pattern, broken up only by the 5-megapixel camera and LED flash.

Weighing 4.2 ounces, the Fascinate is considerably slimmer and lighter than the Droid X (5 x 2.6 x 0.4 inches; 5.5 ounces) and Droid 2 (4.6 x 2.4 x 0.5 inches; 5 ounces). As such, it's less noticeable when slipped into a pocket.

Ports include a 3.5mm headphone jack and a microUSB port (covered by a sliding hatch) on its top. The left side has volume control buttons, and the right has a power switch. Call us old-fashioned, but we always like a camera button, too. Given its ability to record 720p video, an HDMI port wouldn't have hurt, either. Instead, you're supposed to use AllShare, which streams content over Wi-Fi to DLNA-compatible TVs and other electronics.

Google Instant blacklists the Slutskys

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Google's "Instant" search engine includes a blacklist for words and phrases involving what the company considers "violence, hate, or pornography."

Unveiled on Wednesday in the US, Google Instant serves up search results in "real-time" as you type. If you type "w," for instance, it gives you results for "weather." If you type "new" and then a space, it gives you results for "New York Times."

However, if you type "fuck" and – in old school fashion – press the search button or hit enter, results arrive as usual.

Google revealed the blacklist on Wednesday morning at the press event introducing Google Instant, after a reporter named "Slutsky" pointed out that her name did not generate real-time results. "We care a lot about child safety and these kinds of issues, so we had to think a lot about auto-complete and how that works as you're getting the results," said Google product manager Johanna Wright.

Fla. pastor set on holding Sept. 11 Koran burn

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The leader of a Florida church that espouses anti-Islam philosophy said yesterday that he was determined to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday despite pressure from the White House, religious leaders, and others to call it off.

Pastor Terry Jones said at a news conference that he has received a lot of encouragement, with supporters mailing copies of the Islamic holy text to his Gainesville church of about 50 followers. He proclaimed in July that he would stage “International Burn a Koran Day’’ to mark the ninth anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“As of right now, we are not convinced that backing down is the right thing,’’ Jones said.

Jones said he has received more than 100 death threats and has started carrying a .40-caliber pistol since announcing his plan to burn the book Muslims consider the word of God. Jones, 58, was flanked by an armed escort yesterday.

General David Petraeus, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, took the rare step of a military leader taking a position on a domestic matter when he warned in an e-mail to the Associated Press that “images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.’’

Federer Keeps Alive His Half of Dream Final

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Federer Keeps Alive His Half of Dream Final: With each vanquished opponent and each defiant shot into the swirling winds of Arthur Ashe Stadium, the matchup long coveted by tennis fans everywhere is steadily taking shape.

So far, not even the blustery conditions at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center have blown away the possibility of No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 2 Roger Federer meeting for the first time at the United States Open.

Both players look sharp, fluid and confident as they steamroll through the draw. Now only four players potentially stand between them and just one of them, Novak Djokovic, has won a Grand Slam event.

For the third consecutive year and the fourth over all, Djokovic’s opponent in the semifinals will be Federer, who on Wednesday night overcame the relentless wind that has played havoc with tennis balls throughout the tournament. Federer beat Robin Soderling, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5, in their quarterfinal match. It was the 13th time in 14 career meetings that Federer has defeated Soderling.

BP Says Transocean, Halliburton Have to Share Blame for Gulf Rig Explosion

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BP Plc, facing billions of dollars in damages and penalties for causing the largest U.S. oil spill, says its investigation shows other companies made mistakes that led to the Gulf of Mexico oil rig explosion.

BP managers had direct involvement in just one of the eight judgment errors and equipment failures that led to the April 20 explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, according to the company’s internal investigation. The explosion killed 11 workers and spewed crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico for almost three months.

The London-based company also plans to submit the report to a joint U.S. Coast Guard-Interior Department investigative panel that is scheduled to hold public hearings on the catastrophe Oct. 4 to 8 in Louisiana.

‘Fatally Flawed’ Well

“BP is happy to slice up blame, as long as they get the smallest piece,” U.S. Representative Edward Markey, head of the U.S. House Energy and Environment Subcommittee, said in an e-mailed statement.

Transocean said BP’s report concealed Macondo’s “fatally flawed” design, which “set the stage” for the explosion. The Switzerland-based driller cited a series of cost-savings decisions by BP that added risk, including a design that cut the number of barriers to gas flow.