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Apple Boot Camp

Hell just froze over Redmond. Apple is officially supporting Windows XP on the new Intel based Macs. Boot Camp by Apple lets you install Windows XP on your Mac, without screwing the system. If you were thinking of switching (and had the money and didn’t want to install the unofficial XP “hack”), Apple just made the decision for you. Get the buzz here (Google) and here (Technorati).

The UMPC (aka Microsoft Origami Project)

Last week we saw the light of a whole new PC category accounced by Intel and Microsoft, the Ultra Mobile Personal Computer. It is not a laptop, not a desktop, not a PDA, not a phone - it fits somewhere in there. It is bigger than a Palm, much smaller than a laptop, but it can run Windows XP (and Vista and probably Linux too) and therefore it has much potential.

The features have unlimited possibilities like normal PCs. Since the UMPC is an open architecture we can expect a lot to come in the future. For example, Alienware’s UMPCs would obviously be optimized for gaming and HP’s UMPCs would address the corporate types. The idea is not new, of course, and there were similar devices in the past and almost all of them were flops. The difference now is that Intel and Microsoft have designed a proper platform for everyone to work on, instead of each and every single manufacturer blindly experimenting on its own.

UMPCs’ sweetspot is that these can be easily morphed into appliances with appliance-ish applications. One problem with the desktops and laptops was that no matter what it ran, our minds kept saying that it was a “computer” (as in a PC) and not the projected appliance. For example, a laptop with a built in GPS running a navigation system with Google Maps and all would look very techy on the screen and give much more benifits than a normal GPS. But the user mindset towards the application would be “my LAPTOP with its GPS card trying to pretend to be a GPS and using Google’s stuff and all…” and that mindset actually affects productivity.

A UMPC tailored for specific applications can take up the form of real appliances in our minds, thanks to the aesthetics. It would affect the usability and would let the user focus on the task, completely eliminating the “getting the laptop to first run the application and then making that application do what I want” mindset. Actually it is Microsoft’s fault. Crashes, errors, loosing work, virus problems, people taking over your computer and all sorts of silly problems have become synonymous with personal computers. But luckily people do not think that way towards household appliances, phones and mp3 players. For now, serious possibilities for the UMPC include military, scientific, medical and educational applications.

Finally, the most important thing, which could be the last thing one could think of, is how much this would help expand the reach of personal computing. After about a year or so manufacturers are expected to ship low cost versions with lots of battery life and lots of computing power (with dual core processors) and the UMPC becomes the ideal solution for many of the computing needs in developing countries (schools, hospitals, research workers). It is not everyday you see something that really addresses the digital divide.

Vinyl vs Digital DJing

Vinlys were invented in 1880 as an audio solution for the masses. It became the replacement for the phonograh cylinders because the disc type vinyls were much cheaper to produce, maintain and store. In addition, stereo recording was introduced about 80 years later, bringing yet another new experience to listening to music. As time went on vinyls was taken over by audio cassettes, introduced in 1963, and the cassettes were then taken over by CDs in the early 90’s. Ten years later, we are seeing digital recording formats such as MP3, OGG Vorbis, iTunes and Windows Media challenging the CD format. With these rapid developments in audio recording and distribution, there still is a niche that prefers to stay with vinyls, they are the DJs. Cassettes and CDs did not have the same flexibilities as vinyls when it came to DJing, and the vinyls had to stay. After many years, we are seeing digital formats at their best challenging vinyls, trying to change what DJing used to be. We’ve had MP3s for a long time, but only now shall we see good applications and futuristic equipment coming into play.

MP3 vs Vinyl Records

Let’s compare vinyls and MP3s. MP3s do not have a physical form factor. The audio quality is better. MP3 releases are cheaper and they do not carry the overheads like shipping charges and storage. MP3s do not loose quality over time, they do not get damaged or scratched and they do not break. A lot of MP3s can be stored on a single hard drive that takes less space than a small CD player. As for vinyls. The sound quality is low, hisses, pops and crackles are common. They are big and are not relatively very portable. They get damaged, lost, broken, unusable and care should be taken in handling them. They are more expensive to produce, transport and store. Needless to say, MP3s are simply better.

Native InstrumentsTraktor 3

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WiMAX vs CDMA/OFDM Roundup

Recently I read a very interesting article about Qualcomm’s attempt to gun out WiMAX. It is a surprise that a company would attempt to single handedly take on what the rest of the planet is promising to be the future of wireless communications. We’ve been hearing about this WiMAX for months and months now and none of it has seen the light of day yet. That is except for the Unwired’s testbeds in Australia. WiMAX is supposed to be the answer to all our wireless problems. It is hyped to give consumers high speed mobile access to the internet, or just any other IP network. It is said to be the big brother of Wifi - that is current WiFi’s performance and coverage multiplied by a 2 digit figure. The standard is developed and looked after by non other than Intel, having brought about almost all major chip manufacturers and telecos to the table, Intel is promising WiMAX to be as common place as the PC itself. Impressive specs, and nice idea everyone says. But it ain’t here yet.

WiMAX is developed as two standards. 802.16d is the fixed wireless standard, which has been established and finalized, and manufacturers such as Motorola and Navini have already demonstrated base stations and customer premise equipments. 802.16e is supposed to become the mobile WiMAX (imagine high speed WiFi, with coverage like your average GSM provider) but it is not yet a standard, and there ain’t any demonstrations, and critics like Qualcomm would rather not put their money on it. Their argument is very logical. They say that what 802.16e attempts to do is possible even today. Not just possible, it has already been done so.

There is CDMA2000 or 1x EV-DO, people are already getting 2Mbps internet connections on their phones and watching streaming video on them. More to that, 802.16e is to be bound to the 3.5Ghz spectrum. When it comes to urban landscapes, such bands perform at a mark lower than what we call “worse”. The signal can’t even pass through 3 walls. With such arguments, and the rapid progress of other standards such as 1x EV-DO, critics say that 802.16e might die in the womb. As for 802.16d, what it can do was possible years ago, and was done so as well. Fixed wireless services are found everywhere on the planet including here in our town, and they run very well on the 2.4Ghz spectrum and the 5Ghz spectrum, the latter supporting upto 10Mbps. So what is up with WiMAX? Thats all for now, it might be dead meat in the making, or Intel’s edge with the PC’s might just make it yet another cannibal.

Essential Product : Tapewire

The most annoying thing about home speaker systems are the cables. You place two speakers at the back, two infront, the woofer somewhere far and so on; only to find that you also need to deal with messy cables now running all over the place. Wireless speakers don’t have that much power, and battery issues are a headache in a class of its own. Hey, I thought of this thing years ago! Somebody has finally made it.

Tapewire, near invisible cables you can just tape on the walls, paint on it, put under the carpet, blah. Nice.

PocketMod, Your Disposable PDA

Okay, it is a PDA without the ‘D’ because it is made of paper. More like your regular organizer. But this PocketMod can become really handy, it is free and the idea is cool.

  1. Select a mod, say a calendar sheet, contact, to-do list. Your PocketMod can have upto 6 mods.
  2. Preview your mod and drag it into a page slot.
  3. Send it to print.
  4. Fold as instructed.
  5. ??
  6. Throw it away (or recycle if you will).

Get a PocketMod today!

WEP Cracking, the FBI Way

WEP cracking usually takes hours. Lots of hours, depending on the amount of traffic on the access point. A few months ago, two FBI agents demonstrated how they were able to crack a WEP enabled access point within a couple of minutes. 3 minutes to be exact. This is unbelievable when compared to, say 3 days of work. Here is how they did it, and how you can do it. You may need to know your way with each and every of these tools to get this done. You can ask Google for that. Anyway, if you are familiar with them, just do as follows :

  1. Run Kismet to find your target network. Get the SSID and the channel.
  2. Run Airodump and start capturing data.
  3. With Aireplay, start replaying a packet on the target network. (You can find a ‘good packet’ by looking at the BSSID MAC on Kismet and comparing it to the captured packet’s BSSID MAC).
  4. Watch as Airodump goes crazy with new IVs. Thanks to Aireplay.
  5. Stop Airodump when you have about 1,000 IVs.
  6. Run Aircrack on the captured file.
  7. You should see the WEP key infront of you now.

The software runs on Linux, they are all available on the Knoppix Linux Live CD. And finally, I think you should always use a combination of 2 or more security features. As for what you need, get Aircrack (Includes Airodump, Aireplay, Aircrack and optional Airdecap for decrypting WEP/WPA capture files) and get Kismet.

Update: Kismet for Windows (Kiswin32) is available now.

End of Moore’s Law

Well, it is not really a law, but some sort of a hypothesis? After 40 years, Gordon Moore says that Moore’s Law is dead.

Intel Aside, Cell Inside

IBM, Toshiba and Sony are saying that they have developed the Intel killer. Their development, the Cell microprocessor, is claimed to achieve supercomputer performance at clock speeds above 4GHz. They say that the processor can perform 10 times faster than the average Pentium 4 PC.Sony plans to use the chip on its new Playstation 3 gaming console. Toshiba plans to incorporate the chip on digital media centers and IBM plans to release a desktop workstation incorporating the new chip - they have already tested the architecture on Linux and the hardliner is IBM’s claim that the chip can run multiple operating systems concurrently. So how fast is this thing really? The current figures are all hypothetical assumptions based on theory. The performance comes from it’s highly specialized and minnimal instructions set and careful chip designing.With the development of Cell, Moore’s Law itself has been defied for the first time. Moore’s Law says that processor power will double every 18 months.

The Holy Grail of Electronic Music

Developed by MIT students Ben Recht and James Patten, the Audiopad is a radical approach to creating and manipulating music. The user interaction is similar to what we saw in Minority Report. The musical components, samples and synthesizer inputs are represented by objects on the pad; and the acoustic characteristics such as waveforms, filters, compression and special effects are all controlled by moving the objects on the pad. People familiar with devices like the KAOSSPAD or LEMUR will immediately grab the idea. The video will give you a better idea on how the user interacts with the device; and to top that, the interface design and the fancy animations are notoriously clever.The pad itself is a matrix of radio devices associated to the controller objects on the surface. The pad applies tabletop motion detection, and the input values are assigned to the acoustic parameters of the particular object. The Audiopad’s design greatly reduces production time and gives previously unimagined control over sound.The Audiopad software is based on linux. Debian, to be specific. Lower level programs for tasks such as device tracking and the MIDI controller functions were written using C and C++; and the rest of it, including the OpenGL GUI, is written in Python. The display itself, is a custom overhead projection.

The Audiopad tabletop is based on a project called The Sensetable. Since the tabletop concept is a relatively simple idea which can be used in many applications, it has been approached by several electronics manufacturers. The creators themselves, being music enthusiasts, are more interested in keeping the Audiopad just as the Audiopad, and they have said a word or two about their interest in developing a commercial product.

Lastly, the Audiopad is not a very recent project. It has been around since mid 2003. There were several installations and demo sessions. But since then, there has not been any publications by the team; and they also assure that the project is still going on.