Thursday, September 25, 2008

PROOF: VW's Newer, Cheaper Diesel Beats Prius MPGs

It's this year's ultimate MPG comparison test: the just-released 2009 Volskwagen Jetta TDi diesel against the uber-popular 2008 Toyota Prius hybrid. And has it first, with nearly 500 miles of city and highway driving—and some very surprising results.

The Bottom Line
"It appears clear, no matter what the driving conditions, that the Toyota Prius will return around 44 mpg—if driven with a sane right foot. That's impressive, and that means the Prius remains the most fuel-efficient car on the market. The Jetta falls short in pure city driving, but it does meet (and barely beats) the Prius when it comes to highway fuel economy in our testing.

The price of fuel, of course, remains a big factor. On our test days, regular unleaded was $3.79 a gallon and diesel was $4.09. So on the city drive, which approximated a week's worth of stop-and-go commuting, the Jetta required about $10 more fuel to do the same job. Over a year, that would equate to about $500 if fuel prices stabilize. Granted, that's a big "if," and 500 bucks ain't nothing with an economy like ours. But the Jetta is eligible for a $1300 "Advanced Lean Burn Technology Motor Vehicle federal income tax credit," and $1300 buys a lot of diesel. Looked at another way, $1300 reduces the Jetta TDi's $22,640 base price to $21,340 if you include the destination charge. The base price of the 2008 Toyota Prius, by comparison, is $22,660. So on those terms, the Prius becomes $1320 more expensive than the new Jetta. Surprisingly enough, the Prius is not eligible for this tax credit, although Toyota may be gearing up for that fight.

But tax credits aside, when it comes down to which of these two popular efficient cars is more fun and more comfortable to drive everyday, it's an easy pick: We like the Jetta TDi, and the fuel-economy numbers in the real world for VW's new player make it—gasp!—a legit Prius fighter. "

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Will the Chevy Volt save the world?

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Given the prolonged drum roll of publicity that accompanied the unveiling of the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle last week, it isn't surprising that any number of onlookers got caught up in the enthusiasm. 

When people begin referring to it as a "game changer" and a "paradigm shift," it's time to inject a bracing dose of reality.To put the Volt in perspective, it is an expensive, low-volume automobile that will have no visible impact on GM's market share, CAFÉ average or profitability. One cynic calls it "a Viper for tree huggers."

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Apple recalls millions of iPhone 3G power adapters

If you have an iPhone 3G power adapter that looks like the photos at right, stop using it immediately.That’s the word from Apple Inc. (AAPL), which is warning users that in certain conditions those little metal prongs can break off, get stuck in the power outlet and give you a very bad shock.Along with its tersely worded safety warning, Apple on Friday announced the details of a power adaptor exchange program.

UPDATE: So That's Why Apple Recalled the iPhone 3G's USB Power Adapter

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iPhone owners plagued by broken email fetch

"Dozens of users in Apple's support forums note that Mail in version 2.1 appears to drop frequent mail checks regardless of whether the device is set to fetch messages on a schedule or to push mail in real time. As a result, these users often don't receive e-mail until they check manually. They discovered that the issue seems directly tied to the power state of iPhones. As long as the handset is active or plugged into a power source, it continues to receive mail at whatever rate its email settings would dictate. In a user's pocket, however, the phone appears to stop checking altogether until it's woken for use."

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Apple prepping a 32GB iPhone update, bringing back at-home activation?

We're not particularly inclined to believe them, but the whispers that Apple is about to bump the top-end iPhone capacity to 32GB are getting harder to ignore -- especially since 8GB inventory is drying up, leading to speculation that's it's going to be dropped as soon as next week. We think the timing's a little odd on the heels of the Let's Rock!

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The Evolution of Fairy Tales into Sanitized Disney Stories

"Probably because she'd expressed a firm interest in fairy wings and dresses made of tulle, my 3-year-old daughter got a plastic Rapunzel playset last year as a gift. It was a collection of bedroom furniture and three small dolls: a girl with a retractable braid, a smiling prince, and another girl, apparently a playmate. And it came with a small companion book, "Rapunzel's Tower Room," which began, "At the edge of a forest village, there was a tower owned by a kind witch."

The book went on to spin the tale of a charmed girl named Rapunzel, who spent her days in the tower sewing dresses with a friend. She loved when the witch came to visit and teach songs, including one that made Rapunzel's hair grow longer. But tension arrived: One day, Rapunzel looked out the window and saw a fair in the village nearby. She wanted to go, but the witch was off tending to her garden and couldn't let her out. Fortunately, a prince riding by in his carriage called up to her, "Rapunzel! Why aren't you at the fair?"

This was not the fairy tale I vaguely recalled from my childhood - the one with the mother who gives up her child, the vindictive witch, the powerless girl trapped high above the ground. This new version was sanitary and safe in a way that modern parents will easily recognize. In an age when some families ban the word "killed" or come up with creative euphemisms to mask the death of goldfish, it's not hard to see why a toy company would reduce Rapunzel's story to its prettiest parts. Real life, presumably, packs enough trauma for children to think about later.

Something important is lost when a child's introduction to fairy tales comes in such whitewashed form. It's not just Rapunzel: In toys, movies, and books, the old fairy tales are being systematically stripped of their darker complexities. "Fairy tale" may be our shorthand for castles and happy endings, but these classic stories have villains, too.",

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Apple releases Mac OS X 10.5.5 Combo Update

Apple has released Mac OS X 10.5.5, a recommended update for all users of Mac OS X 10.5.x. A deatailed list of the update can be found here. IMHO, you should update via download the combo standalone updater rather then software update.

• Includes recent Apple security updates. Mac OS X client is now doing the required DNS  address port randomization.
• Addresses stability issues with video playback, processor core idling, and remote disc sharing  for MacBook Air.
• Addresses an issue in which some Macs could unexpectedly power on at the same time each day.
• Resolves a stability issue in TextEdit that could be found when accessing the color palette.
• Improves Spotlight indexing performance.
• Fixes an issue in which contacts might not sync properly with PalmOS-based devices.
• Improves iPhone sync reliability with iCal and Address Book.
• Includes improvements to Active Directory (see this article for more information).
• Improves Speech Dictionary.
• Fixes Kerberos authentication issues for Mac OS X 10.5 clients that connect to certain Samba  servers, such as Mac OS X Server version 10.4.
• Includes extensive graphics enhancements.

Address Book
• Addresses stability issues that may occur when creating a Smart Group.
• Resolves a printing issue with address cards containing information that spans more than one page.

Disk Utility and Directory Utility
• Improves reliability when rebuilding a software mirror RAID volume in Disk Utility.
• Improves reliability of server status displayed in Directory Utility.

• Updates iCal to more accurately handle repeating events.
• Improves performance when choosing meeting attendees.
• Resolves an issue in which the "Refresh All" option may be dimmed ("grayed out") in the  contextual menu for certain calendars.
• Fixes issues with read-only calendars.
• Addresses an issue that prevents an invitee from moving an event to a different calendar.
• Resolves an issue with syncing published calendars.

• Addresses performance issues related to displaying IMAP messages.
• Resolves an issue with SMTP settings for AIM, Compuserve, Hanmail, Yahoo!, and Time    Warner Road Runner email accounts.
• Addresses stability issues that may occur when dragging a file to the Mail icon in the Dock.
• Addresses an issue with the "Organized by Thread" view in which the date does not appear        when the thread is collapsed.
• Resolves an issue in which RSS feeds could temporarily disappear from the sidebar.
• Improves Mail robustness when sending messages.
• Improves reliability when saving drafts that have attachments.

• Improves overall sync reliability.
• Improves Back to My Mac reliability.

Time Machine
• Improves Time Machine reliability with Time Capsule.
• Addresses performance issues that may affect initial and in-progress backups.
• Fixes an issue in which an incorrect alert message could appear stating that a backup volume     does not have enough free space.
•Time Machine can now back up iPhone backups that are on your Mac, as well as other items in (~/Library/Application Support).

Tea 'Healthier' Drink Than Water

The work in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition dispels the common belief that tea dehydrates.Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers, UK nutritionists found.Experts believe flavonoids are the key ingredient in tea that promote health. They found clear evidence that drinking three to four cups of tea a day can cut the chances of having a heart attack, protected against cancer, protection against tooth plaque and potentially tooth decay, plus bone strengthening.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Microsoft Admits What Went Wrong with Vista!

"Way back in January 2007, after years of hype and anticipation, Microsoft unveiled Windows Vista to a decidedly lukewarm reception by the PC community, IT pros, and tech journalists alike. Instead of a revolutionary next-generation OS that was chock-full of new features, the Windows community got an underwhelming rehash with very little going for it. Oh, and Vista was plagued with performance and incompatibility problems to boot.

Since then, the PC community has taken the idea that Vista is underwhelming and turned it into a mantra. We’ve all heard about Vista’s poor network transfer speeds, low frame rates in games, and driver issues—shoot, we’ve experienced the problems ourselves. But over the last 18 months, Vista has undergone myriad changes, including the release of Service Pack 1, making the OS worth a second look. It’s time we determine once and for all whether we should stick with XP for the next 18 months while we wait for Windows 7. But before we answer that question, let’s review exactly what’s wrong with Windows Vista."

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Apple rocks out, announces new iPods, iTunes 8

At the highly-anticipated "Let's Rock" event today in San Francisco, Apple updated the venerable iPod.

HD TV shows

"Shows will cost $2.99 apiece (instead of the typical $1.99 for SD episodes), but unlike the handful of HD movies the store already has, HD TV show episodes can be watched on a computer, not just on an Apple TV."

iTunes 8
"Jobs announced a new Pandora-like "Genius" feature that can generate playlists of songs "that go great together." A new Genius Sidebar can also anonymously (and voluntarily) send your library info up to the iTunes Store cloud to make smarter recommendations of new music a customer may like. A new button in the iTunes 8 interface offers easy access to these new Genius features."

New iPod nano
"The new iPod nano can create Genius playlists on the go, without having to connect to iTunes, and it also gained the accelerometer from the iPhone and iPod touch for viewing Cover Flow album art, photos, and video when turned sideways. The iPod nano is also gaining a number of new hardware and software features that typically could only be had through third-party accessories (if at all), such as a built-in voice recorder and the ability to shake it to shuffle. Other new iPod nano features include an iPhone-like headphone set with a new clicker, volume control, and microphone."

New iPod touches
"The new iPod touch has the same 3.5" display but gets thinner with a tapered, stainless steel back (probably to differentiate it from the iPhone). The iPod touch will gain the iPhone's integrated volume controls on its side, and gains a built-in speaker like the iPhone which Jobs claimed was "really hard for something this thin, for casual listening." Genius playlist creation will also be built into the iPod touch. nother unique feature of the new iPod touch is the integration of the Nike+iPod system for tracking running statistics. Unlike the iPod nano, the hardware receiver has been built into the iPod touch."

New iPhone OS 2.1
"The major update should "significantly" improve battery life, problems with droppped calls, fix a lot of bugs, and backing up to iTunes should be "dramatically" faster. New iPod touches ship with the 2.1 OS update, and it should be available to download for free for all other iPhone and iPod touch owners running iPhone OS 2.0 this Friday."

Your Wife May Be Cheating On You Right Now

And "it's happening where you least expect it." 'Let’s get something straight: You are not some fedora-tipping Man of the House who comes home from the office expecting the rump roast to be on the table. Nor are you an aging frat boy who sits in front of the flat-screen with an Icehouse while wifey irons your Red Wings jersey. You are sensitive. You were raised by a working woman. You wipe down the counters after you make the kids’ lunches. No decent woman would cheat on a man like that, right? That’s what Rob (not his real name) thought, anyway. The 41-year-old financial analyst had a house in the D.C. suburbs, two kids, and in his own words, a “goody-two-shoes” wife from a nice Catholic family. Last fall, Rob’s wife began to seem depressed, “like something was bothering her and she wouldn’t tell me what it was,” he says. In December, after stumbling across some e-mails, Rob found out exactly what was bothering his wife: She had reconnected with an old flame. She’d been reconnecting with him for five months. “It’s far worse than you can possibly imagine,” he says.""Today's wife knows nothing of the isolation of her mid-century counterpart. She has Internet chat rooms and cell phones. She has personal trainers, yoga instructors, and mommy groups. Mommy groups? Why would any man think he had reason to get twitchy about his wife's going to a mommy group?"

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Groundbreaking Energy Ball Wind Turbine for Home

The Swedish company Home Energy recently revealed an innovative wind turbine that spins in a spherical formation. Eschewing traditional rotors for a sleek orb structure, this beautiful rethinking of conventional wind turbine design utilizes the Venturi principle, which funnels wind within the turbine’s blades. The resulting spherical wind turbine features increased efficiency and lower noise levels - making it ideal for small scale energy needs such as personal home use. Best of all it’s called the Energy Ball: the fun name is an added bonus.

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Hands-On With StarCraft 2: New Technology, Classic Play

While there were plenty of big-name games at the 2008 Penny Arcade Expo, few titles had people willing to wait in line for hours upon hours to play. One of those games was Fallout 3, a title we played extensively at E3. The other was StarCraft 2, Blizzard's sequel to the unimaginably popular 1998 original. The show floor opened a few hours early for press on Friday afternoon, and there was only one destination in our minds. Playing StarCraft 2 feels like coming home to find the room you grew up in filled with updated toys.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Road to Mac OS X Snow Leopard 64-Bit: Santa Rosa PC Swindle

Snow Leopard's across-the-board leap to 64-bits, from the kernel to all of its bundled apps, will do more than just make more memory available. It also exposes a great PC swindle and highlights Apple's lead in 64-bit computing. Here's why. "Microsoft even changed the way the OS reports the amount of RAM available; rumor is, due to pressure from OEMs," the developer told us. "In Vista and prior, it reported usable RAM, while in SP1 they changed it to report installed RAM ignoring the fact that much of the RAM was unusable due to overlap with video memory." And so many PC users are installing 4GB of RAM in their PCs and thinking that it is being used by the system, when in fact it is no more beneficial than if the RAM were simply poked halfway into the CD slot.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Color Russian Photos Taken 100 Years Ago!

Color film was non-existent in 1909 Russia, yet in that year a photographer named Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii captured hundreds of photos in full, vivid color. His photographic plates were black and white, but he had developed an ingenious photographic technique which allowed him to use them to produce accurate color images. Tsar Nicholas II fully supported Sergei's ambitious plan to document the Russian Empire, and provided a specially equipped railroad car which enclosed a darkroom for Sergei to develop his glass plates. He took hundreds of these color photos all over Russia from 1909 through 1915. Amazingly, this is the same technique used today on the most recent Mars lander, Phoenix. It has a black and white camera what uses several filters to approximate a color image.

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