Episode 214

posted in: Show Notes

GLENN’S SHOWNOTES

Weird Geek Xmas presents: cheap Android tablets
Weird Geek Xmas presents: cheap Android tablets
 
 
 
Enlarge Image
 
Pioneer Dreambook Mobile Internet Device
$188.00
Starts 11 November – Ends Tomorrow
Hot buy. 7″. Specifications in depth: Operating system: Android Platform. SSD ROM: 2GB up to 32GB. RAM: 356MB DDR2. Memory slot: Micro SD (T-flash). 1.3 megapixel camera. 7″ touch screen, 800 x 480 pixels. Battery capacity: Up to 4 hours video, up to 15 days standby. USB 2.0 and speaker. Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n. WiFi – Home surfing. Video & photo. Email. Internet surfing. Music. eBook. Android applications. Google Android OS. Gaming. Web camera. Colour touch screen. Wirelessly access the internet on this fantastic Pioneer device. With all your favourite apps, email, mapping, video and much more. YouTube. Facebook.
 
 
 
Top 10 reasons the Android 2.2 upgrade is amazing
Top 10 reasons the Android 2.2 upgrade is amazing
 Some Android phone vendors and telcos are expected to start rolling out the Android 2.2 upgrade this month. We use an Acer Liquid E as our test Android phone so we upgraded it from 2.1 to 2.2 this week (the official Acer upgrade will be available to users late November).
 

1. TETHERING (WI-FI OR USB)

 

2. BUSINESS-GRADE EXCHANGE SUPPORT

 

3. FLASH SUPPORT

4. STORE APPS ON SD CARD

5. DATA BACKUP & RESTORE




ISP mandatory filter plan could start in 2013 | The Australian
ISP mandatory filter plan could start in 2013
 mandatory internet filter scheme could be delayed until 2013

the government will give ISPs $8 million in incentives to encourage customers to voluntarily block adult material such as general pornography and gambling sites at home.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority ACMA will receive $400,000 per annum for oversight and review of the RC content list — the secret blacklist ISPs will use as part of the mandatory filtering program.

According to the heavily redacted documents, the Attorney-General’s Department will receive around $5m to review ACMA’s decisions in finding a URL to be RC.
The broadband department will receive $840,000 over three years for development of a software tool to assist small and medium ISPs to meet their mandatory filtering obligations.
The country’s two largest ISPs will voluntarily block child pornography web pages from mid-2011.
Around 5 million internet users will start receiving a “clean feed” from Telstra and Optus that will automatically block child pornography URLs.


Smartphones lead the way as mobile bank apps boom | The Australian
Smartphones lead the way as mobile bank apps boom
 
National Australia Bank says it has experienced a 200 per cent growth in mobile banking usage since May.
Commonwealth Bank’s mobile banking transactions represent 9 per cent, or about 1.5 million, of all monthly online transactions.
ANZ Bank has about 10 per cent, or 195,000 customers, who do their banking on smartphones compared with its 1.95 million active online net banking users.
And Westpac expects the number of its unique customers using mobile banking — now 153,000 — to continue to increase rapidly.




Bandwidth threat puts online pay-TV providers on war footing | The Australian
Bandwidth threat puts online pay-TV providers on war footing
 Perth-based iiNet, the largest of three ISPs and offering the FetchTV service, has revealed that it would give priority to its voice and pay-TV traffic in peak periods.

iiNet had contractual obligations to preserve the quality of its voice services and content provided by its pay-TV partner FetchTV.

The rest of the content, including video from YouTube and Foxtel’s Xbox 360 service, would end up in a “general internet bucket”.

Foxtel product chief Patrick Delaney said ISPs that ranked their own content higher than the Xbox 360 service should make it clear in their terms and conditions.
“If you’re selling FetchTV you wouldn’t want (Foxtel) on your networks — it’s competitive,” Mr Delaney said. “If you signed up to get 200GB (from an ISP) they’d better state clearly they’re going to deprioritise anything but their own products.”
Telstra and Optus said that they did not prioritise internet traffic. However, Australia’s fourth-largest ISP, TPG, said it applied a traffic-ranking system to ensure service quality.




Google nabs Flight Centre | The Australian
Google nabs Flight Centre
 GOOGLE will this week name Flight Centre as its latest enterprise email customer in Australia, a blow to Microsoft.
It is understood that Flight Centre’s 6000-plus employees will transition from Microsoft Outlook over to Google’s web-based Gmail system.
Flight Centre is a heavy Microsoft Office and Exchange corporate user.




News launches four tabloid iPad apps | The Australian
News launches four tabloid iPad apps
 NEWS Limited will launch iPad apps for four of its tabloid mastheads this year, with The Daily Telegraph and The Herald Sun to launch next Friday

The apps, which will cost $7.99 a month through Apple’s iTunes store, will be updated daily and will feature content from each paper’s Sunday stablemate on that day.

key content pillars on the apps will be news, sport, opinion, lifestyle, entertainment (to be branded Confidential) and a visual pillar, containing video and photo galleries, to be called Watch.
Launch advertisers include Harvey Norman, Telstra, National Australia Bank, Suncorp, Bank of Queensland, Melbourne Museum, Clarendon Homes and Village Cinemas Australia.



Free kick for Foxtel’s Xbox 360 service | The Australian
Free kick for Foxtel’s Xbox 360 service
 FOXTEL has created an exclusive sports channel, Fox Sports Play, for its new internet-delivered pay-TV service Foxtel on Xbox 360.
The service, which was developed with Microsoft and is exclusive to Xbox customers who have a subscription to the gaming console’s Live online entertainment network, goes live in all Foxtel coverage areas tonight.
The starter pack of 11 channels costs $19.50 a month, on top of the monthly Live Gold subscription fee and the cost of a broadband subscription. Additional packages will offer entertainment, sports and two tiers of movie content at a cost of an extra $10 a month per package.
Foxtel product chief Patrick Delaney said the service would not be available to customers in regional areas as Foxtel’s program rights did not allow it.



Google provides ‘Instant Previews’ search results | The Australian
Google provides ‘Instant Previews’ search results
 The “Instant Previews” feature is meant to help people bypass websites that are either irrelevant or simply too visually cluttered for their tastes. It works for Google web searches, as well as searches for news, video and local businesses.


BBC News – Kinect hacked days after release
Kinect hacked days after release
 
Code to control the motion-capture device has been produced that allows it to be used with a PC rather than the Xbox game console.
Those behind the hack are keen to use the device in schools, art projects and to aid human-robot interaction.
Microsoft has said it was not happy with the unofficial modifications made to the gadget’s control system.
electronics kit maker Adafruit. On 4 November it announced it would pay $1,000 (£624) to the first person to produce control software, known as drivers, for the Kinect.
It upped the bounty to $3,000 (£1,871) following comment from Microsoft saying it did not condone the reverse-engineering of its motion controller.
In a statement to the BBC, Microsoft was keen to point out that the Xbox 360 control system for the Kinect had not been hacked.
“What has happened is someone has created drivers that allow other devices to interface with the Kinect for Xbox 360,” it said. “The creation of these drivers, and the use of Kinect for Xbox 360 with other devices, is unsupported.
The Kinect is attractive to amateur roboticists because its retail price of about £129 is much lower than the cost of movement sensors of similar sophistication.
A second open source Kinect contest has now also started, sponsored by Google engineer Matt Cutts. He will give $1,000 to whoever produces what he considers the coolest open source Kinect project. A separate $1,000 prize will be given to the team creating tools that make it easy to use Kinect on Linux.



BBC News – Google scotches Australian ‘Groggle’ search
Google scotches Australian ‘Groggle’ search
 
Cameron Collie set up Groggle to allow users to find the best-priced “grog” in nearby stores.
Search giant Google complained at his effort to trademark the name, prompting a six-month legal wrangle.
Now the name Groggle has been changed to a more conventional title, Drinkle, ahead of its launch in 2011.
Announcing the settlement, Mr Collie, 37, said he could not disclose terms of the deal but confirmed that the name change was part of the agreement.



Free WiFi at Brisbane Botanic Gardens and New Farm Park
Free WiFi in Brisbane city parks
 
Brisbane City Council will introduce WiFi hotspots at both New Farm Park and the City Botanic Gardens next Wednesday.
Transmitters will be located near the New Farm Park rotunda and at the Queensland University of Technology end of the gardens.

WILL’S S SHOWNOTES

AMD’s Bobcat APU benchmarked: the age of the Atom is at an end — Engadget
http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/16/amds-bobcat-apu-benchmarked-the-age-of-the-atom-is-at-an-end/

AMD’s Bobcat APU benchmarked: the age of the Atom is at an end

By Vlad Savov posted Nov 16th 2010 3:34AM


So small, and yet potentially so disruptive. AMD’s 1.6GHz Zacate chip, bearing a pair of Bobcat modules, has been taken off the leash today, resulting in a torrent of benchmarks pouring down onto the internet. While perusing the sources below, you might think to yourself that it’s not exactly a world beater, sitting somewhere in the middle of the pack on most tests, but compare it to Intel’s dual-core Atom D510 — its most immediate competition in the target sub-$500 laptop price range — and you’ll find a thoroughgoing whooping in progress. The highlight of these new Fusion APUs is that they integrate graphics processing within the CPU chip, and Zacate didn’t disappoint on that front either, with marked improvements over anything else available in its class. The resulting chips might still not have quite enough grunt to earn a place in your daily workhorse mobile computer, but their power efficiency and netbook-level pricing goals sure do look delightful. Or dangerous, if you’re Intel.

CSIRO introduces Wi-Fi to your TV antenna – Hardware – News
http://www.zdnet.com.au/csiro-introduces-wi-fi-to-your-tv-antenna-339307025.htm?feed=rss

CSIRO introduces Wi-Fi to your TV antenna

By Josh Taylor, ZDNet.com.au on November 3rd, 2010

Topics

broadband, wifi, csiro

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The CSIRO will tomorrow unveil a breakthrough in wireless technology that will allow multiple users to upload content at the same time while maintaining a data transfer rate of 12 megabits per second (Mbps), all over their old analog TV aerial.

Ngara Wi-Fi technology

(Credit: Geoff Ambler/CSIRO)

The technology, named Ngara, allows up to six users to occupy the equivalent spectrum space of one television channel (7 megahertz) and has a spectral efficiency of 20 bits per second per hertz. Ngara can handle up to three times that of similar technology and maintains a data rate more than 10 times the industry minimum standard, CSIRO ICT centre director Dr Ian Opperman revealed.

“Someone who doesn’t live near the fibre network could get to it using our new wireless system,” Oppermann said in a statement. “They’d be able to upload a clip to YouTube in real time and their data rate wouldn’t change even if five of their neighbours also started uploading videos.”

The Federal Government’s National Broadband Network project will deliver fibre services to 93 per cent of the population, while another 4 per cent are expected to be covered by wireless broadband services. NBN Co recently released a consultation paper calling for industry views on proposed wireless services.

Ngara Wi-Fi technology

(Credit: Geoff Ambler/CSIRO)

The Federal Government is currently switching off analog TV signals across the country, with the deadline for the switch-off to be completed by 2013. The spectrum currently used for analog TV is expected to be auctioned off by the Australian Communications and Media Authority shortly after that. Optus and Telstra have been calling for a quick release of the spectrum so that they can use it for their planned Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile networks.

The Ngara technology could also utilise this spectrum, according to Gartner wireless research director Robin Simpson.

“This means any rural property or business that can currently receive TV signals could in future connect to high-speed internet just by using a new set-top box,” he said.

Simpson told ZDNet Australia that the technology was specifically designed for rural areas but could also potentially compete with LTE in metropolitan areas.

“What I’m most interested in about it is that it is an ideal technology for remote and rural areas provided they already have TV, which a lot of them do. Wherever there’s a broadcast tower, they can pop antennas for this new technology on that tower and reach the homestead through the existing tower,” he said.

“What appeals to me about it is that it re-uses existing infrastructure, all of the competing wireless technologies tend to use high frequencies and therefore require new base stations, new spectrum and new receiving antenna infrastructure as well,” he added. “The fact that they’re re-using the analog TV stuff gives them a much easier market entry strategy.”

The CSIRO was the first to develop Wi-Fi technology that is widely used across the world today and currently holds the patent for the technology. It has instigated a number of legal cases in recent years to protect this patent and retrieve royalties owed to the organisation.

Google staff get 10% pay rise, cash bonus – Business – News
http://www.zdnet.com.au/google-staff-get-10-pay-rise-cash-bonus-339307156.htm?feed=rss

Google staff get 10% pay rise, cash bonus

By Stephen Musil, CNET News.com on November 11th, 2010 (5 days ago)

 

In an apparent move to stave off defections to competitors, Google announced it is giving all its employees a $1000 cash bonus and a raise of 10 per cent, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The raises, which take affect 1 January 2011, apply to all 25,000 employees at the internet giant, according to an email to employees penned by Google CEO Eric Schmidt and first revealed by Business Insider. “We want to make sure that you feel rewarded for your hard work,” Schmidt wrote. “We want to continue to attract the best people to Google.”

In addition to the raise and bonus, Google will move a portion of employees’ bonuses into their base salaries, ensuring that they received the entire amount, Schmidt said in his email:

CONFIDENTIAL: INTERNAL ONLY

GOOGLERS ONLY (FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME EMPLOYEES)

I’m pleased to share some very, very good news with Googlers worldwide. But first let me say, on behalf of everyone on the management team, that we believe we have the best employees in the world. Period. The brightest, most capable group of this size ever assembled. It’s why I’m excited to come to work every day — and I’m sure you feel the same way. We want to make sure that you feel rewarded for your hard work, and we want to continue to attract the best people to Google.

So that is why we’ve decided … to give all of you a 10 per cent raise, effective 1 January. This salary increase is global and across the board — everyone gets a raise, no matter their level, to recognise the contribution that each and every one of you makes to Google.

There’s more. We’ve heard from your feedback on Googlegeist and other surveys that salary is more important to you than any other component of pay (ie, bonus and equity). To address that, we’re moving a portion of your bonus into your base salary, so now it’s income you can count on, every time you get your pay cheque. That’s also effective 1 January. You’ll be receiving an email shortly with further details about these changes to your compensation. And one last thing … today we’re announcing that everyone will get a holiday cash bonus, too.

Googlers, you are what makes this company great, and our goal here is to recognise you for your contribution, in a way that’s meaningful to you. Thank you for all that you do, and for making Google a place where magic happens.

Eric

When queried on the mail, Google said that retaining employees was key to the company but did not elaborate. “While we don’t typically comment on internal matters, we do believe that competitive compensation plans are important to the future of the company,” it said in a statement.

Google Australia would not say whether the $1000 would be in Australian or US dollars.

The move comes as Google grapples with a wave of high-profile defections to Facebook. Last month, Lars Rasmussen, one of the lead engineers behind Google Maps and Google Wave, announced he had left the internet search giant for Facebook. Rasmussen told the Sydney Morning Herald that Facebook’s offer was “much more compelling both financially and in terms of the work there”.

At his new employer, Rasmussen joins former Googlers’ Bret Taylor, Facebook’s chief technology officer, who was part of the Google Maps team, and Carl Sjogreen, now a product manager at Facebook, who was also involved with Google Maps.

Body scanners have ‘mutagenic effects’ – Security – News
http://www.zdnet.com.au/body-scanners-have-mutagenic-effects-339307191.htm?feed=rss

Body scanners have ‘mutagenic effects’

By Declan McCullagh, CNET.com on November 12th, 2010 (4 days ago)

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A Californian university professor of biochemistry said the Obama administration’s claim that full-body scanners pose no health risks to air travellers is in “error”.

Scanner

This image of an adult man was taken using a Rapiscan Secure 1000 backscatter x-ray scanner. (Credit: John Wild)

The administration’s defence of the controversial machines, which use x-rays to perform what critics have dubbed naked strip searches, has “many misconceptions, and we will write a careful answer pointing out their errors”, said John Sedat, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of biochemistry and biophysics and member of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Because four people are working on this, it will not be done in one day,” Sedat said.

The scanners are being mulled by Australian officials and safety assessments will be conducted by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency.

Earlier this week, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy posted a statement saying the x-ray scans are safe because “the issue had been studied extensively for many years” by federal agencies.

That post was a response to a letter (PDF) that Sedat and three other faculty UCSF members sent to White House science advisor John Holdren in April.

Their letter to Holdren said “it appears that real independent safety data do not exist”. In addition, the authors say: “There has not been sufficient review of the intermediate and long-term effects of radiation exposure associated with airport scanners. There is good reason to believe that these scanners will increase the risk of cancer to children and other vulnerable populations.”

Air travellers over 65 years old are especially susceptible to the “mutagenic effects of the x-rays”, they say, as are HIV and cancer patients, children and adolescents, pregnant women, and men (because the x-rays can penetrate skin and put the testicles “at risk for sperm mutagenesis”). Eyes could also be at risk because x-rays can penetrate the cornea.

For its part, the administration rejects any health concerns. A letter last month from the FDA and the Transportation Security Administration responding to the UCSF researchers’ concerns says “the potential health risks from a full-body screening with a general-use x-ray security system are minuscule.”

The x-ray scanners have been used for years, but were turned on this week and are being used as the primary screening technique.

Anyone hoping to opt-out in favour of a manual pat-down may not like what happens. The TSA quietly changed its procedures a few weeks ago to what it delicately calls “enhanced pat-downs”, which involve screeners using their fingers — instead of the backs of their hands — to feel the outlines of male or female genitalia.

Install NBN and smart grid as one: NBN Co – Communications – News
http://www.zdnet.com.au/install-nbn-and-smart-grid-as-one-nbn-co-339307288.htm?feed=rss

Install NBN and smart grid as one: NBN Co

By Josh Taylor, ZDNet.com.au on November 16th, 2010 (5 hours ago)

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Smart grid technology and the National Broadband Network (NBN) could potentially be rolled out at the same time, according to NBN Co’s general manager of design and planning Peter Ferris.

Peter Ferris

Peter Ferris (Credit: Josh Taylor/ZDNet Australia)

Speaking to energy and technology executives at the IQPC second national Smart Grids Forum in Sydney this morning, Ferris said that a single roll-out for both the NBN and a smart grid network would offer many advantages.

“There seems to me to be a large amount of synergy between these two projects and if we didn’t make use of it, and we didn’t optimise and maximise the returns from various planning decisions along the path then we would be somewhat negligent in giving the taxpayers and customers the best return on what they would have on the money that is being spent on this project,” he said.

Right from the outset, a sharing of work resources wouldn’t be too difficult for NBN Co and energy companies, he said.

“If you’re going out there to install a device on a premise that is actually an electronic meter, then the activity to install a optical network terminating unit is a relatively similar sort of activity,” he said. “There’s lots of people that have started out as a cabler, as an engineer worker, as a telecommunications worker that have got their electricians licence as well to do power work. There’s lots of power workers who now do structured cabling and data cabling.”

Ferris said a joint project would also offer benefits for both companies down the line, with NBN Co technology able to utilise smart grid technology and vice versa.

“From our particular perspective it would be really good to have network terminal units that are grid-side powered that the home-owner or the people living in the premise have no control over so they don’t turn the damn things off,” he said.

NBN Co is meeting with electricity providers on a monthly basis, Ferris said, but he encouraged further participation from the energy industry in the consultation process.

“To be blunt, we don’t get a lot of feedback from the power companies. So it’s very good if you all speak up,” he said.

However, timing is a critical factor, Ferris said, because NBN Co has to ensure a certain amount of the network is rolled out before the next federal election. There were also issues of cost to be addressed.

“We still have to provide a cost-effective build. So again, there’s various issues of how we do that,” he said. “How we ensure that the costs that we incur to put out the network terminal units are not blown out by having to provide a smart grid installation at the same time.”

Ferris said the company would also have to determine what would happen if a home wanted smart grid technology but didn’t want to take up a service from NBN Co.

Talkback

Hear, hear. There has been a well understood synergy between NBN Co and the Utility/Power companies since long before even the DBCDE “Realising our Broadband Future” conference brought the opportunity to the fore.

I’m not sure though that the only approach for cooperation is to bring the “mountain to Mohammed” and maybe NBN Co should make some effort to also meet the industry. Starting with smartgridaustralia.com.au for instance, who laid out a plan for cooperation in January this year.

Maybe a little Government help/assistance/prodding is required. Especially considering that Government funds are being used for both initiatives in Victoria and thus there exists an opportunity for some cost saving of taxpayer dollars. Maybe?

Apple MacBook Air 11 (late 2010) – Laptops – Hardware – Reviews
http://www.zdnet.com.au/apple-macbook-air-11-late-2010-339306770.htm?feed=rss&omnRef=NULL

Apple MacBook Air 11 (late 2010)

By Dan Ackerman, CNET.com.au on November 16th, 2010 (2 hours ago)

 

Overview

Apple makes the MacBook Air both smaller and less expensive, creating an excellent ultraportable laptop, but leaving out a few features along the way.

Editors’ rating:

8.2/10

RRP:

AU$1,199.00

The good

  • Amazingly slim design
    Great keyboard/trackpad combo
    New iLife ’11 software included
    Decent graphics performance
    16:9 display

The bad

  • Pricey for an 11-inch laptop with an older processor
    Lacks backlit keyboard and SD card slot

Two of the most common wish-list items from prospective Apple customers have been a smaller, sub-13-inch MacBook, and a less-expensive version of the ultrathin MacBook Air. The new 11.6-inch version of the MacBook Air kills both birds with one stone, as the smallest current Apple laptop (there were 12-inch PowerBook models as recently as five years ago), and also lowering the entry price to AU$1199, coincidentally, the same as the white basic 13-inch MacBook.

The end result is a laptop that feels like a cross between a traditional aluminium MacBook and the wave of upscale 11.6-inch premium netbooks that have caught our attention this year.

The MacBook Air is a product line that — in its previous life — had a dedicated cult following but never found a real mainstream audience because of its high price and because it didn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the rest of Apple’s 13-inch laptop line-up. It was thinner and lighter, but still not quite different enough to justify the hefty investment. By doing more to differentiate the product, and dropping the entry price, the new MacBook Air succeeds in carving out more than an enthusiast niche for itself.

The quick boot times, long battery life (with extra long standby time) and excellent keyboard/trackpad combo make this our new go-to ultraportable (if price is not an issue), with our enthusiasm muted only by a missing SD card slot and older low-voltage CPU.

If anything, the addition of an 11-inch size is a nod to the past several years of laptop development, where small, inexpensive netbooks started as a niche market, with 7- and then 9-inch screens, then moved into the mainstream with 10- and 11-inch versions. Since the start of the MacBook era, Apple had largely ignored the shift in laptop prices and sizes, opting instead to stick to the higher end of the market, and not going below 13 inches.

The new Airs, in both the 13-inch and 11-inch formats, are incredibly thin and light, even to someone used to working with very small laptops (such as Sony’s SSD Vaio Z models). The all-metal construction keeps it from feeling too fragile, often an issue for ultrathin systems. The shape is closer to the previous Air than we would have expected, given the radical redesign the iPhone 4 got over its predecessors. The body is tapered toward the front, creating an optical illusion of even more thinness (although it’s still only 17mm thick at the rear). Interestingly, the 11- and 13-inch both narrow down to the same 30mm.

The large keyboard and trackpad (which is the same glass version found on other MacBooks) both work well, although the function keys at the very top are very small. The F5 key is the only one missing an alternate function; on other MacBooks, it’s for the keyboard backlight. Typing was typically excellent, but we’re so used to the backlit keys on other MacBooks, we missed it instantly.

Apple’s large multi-touch trackpad remains the best available, largely thanks to the software that enables gestures control. The pad is hinged at the top, allowing the entire pad to click down, but we prefer traditional tapping (which is off by default and must be activated in the Preferences menu). Other laptop makers have subsequently added similar click pads, and we hear the next generation of click pads will fully depress, instead of working off a top hinge, which should make for an even better experience.

Notable is the inclusion of the latest version of Apple’s iLife suite of software. The iPhoto, iMovie and GarageBand apps include tons of useful and fun features, and are ideal for casual consumers (although pros will likely stick with Photoshop, Final Cut and Logic or Pro Tools). The most notable new additions are iPhoto slideshows that place pictures on an interactive map with GPS data, and a series of amusing movie trailer templates in iMovie, complete with canned Hollywood-style scores.

It’s not necessarily a software feature, but the system boots extremely quickly. Apple calls it Instant On, and though it’s not exactly instant, it boots up very, very fast — faster even than an iPad.

This is the first MacBook with a 16:9 display (the 13-inch is still 16:10), and uses the same 1366×768-pixel native resolution as most laptops from 11 to 15 inches. The screen area lacks the edge-to-edge glass over a black bezel found in other MacBooks; instead the screen is surrounded by a thick silver bezel. Perhaps it’s to save on weight, but it’s really the only aesthetic bum note about the system. There seems to be a lot of extra real estate around the actual screen, and one can assume the extra room was required to keep the keyboard from feeling cramped.

Doubling the USB ports over the original Air from one to two is a welcome gesture, but only the 13-inch has an SD card slot (seriously, Apple: every 10-inch netbook has an SD card slot, it’s not that hard). Even more disappointing, the 13-inch version lacks a backlit keyboards. Likewise missing: dedicated VGA or HDMI outputs are no-shows (you’ll need an aftermarket adapter for the Mini-DisplayPort jack). Don’t look for on-board Ethernet or built-in 3G wireless, either.

There’s a legitimate concern for hard-drive hogs that the 64GB or 128GB of flash hard-drive space may not be enough for high-res photos and video. We’ve rarely filled up too much of a hard drive, but today’s laptop users are indeed more used to 500GB of space on even the most basic systems.

The 11-inch Air feels speedy enough, closer to a full-size laptop than most dual-core 11-inch premium netbooks. That makes sense, as the Core 2 Duo/Nvidia 320M combo is similar to what you’d find in the current AU$1199 white MacBook (although this is a ULV version of the Core 2 Duo in this case). It’s especially interesting to compare this with the 11-inch Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118, which has a low-voltage Intel Core i7 CPU. The Acer was faster in our Photoshop and iTunes tests, but slower than the Air in our multitasking test. Though it’s not as fast as a non-ULV laptop, the MacBook Air is about as good as you’re going to find in this 11-inch arena.

There is some confusion over Apple’s use of Intel’s older Core 2 Duo line in both the MacBook Air and also the 13-inch MacBook and MacBook Pro, but the back-and-forth performance lead compared with the ULV Core i7 Acer Timeline shows that this isn’t a deal killer. The real reason for the Core 2 Duo is so Apple can include the pretty decent Nvidia 320M graphics chip. If the MacBook Air used an Intel Core i-series CPU, it would have to use Intel’s uninspiring integrated graphics or else a fully discrete Nvidia GPU (which is bigger, requires power and is more expensive).

Macs have never been known as gaming machines, but a few new wrinkles may change that perception. The Steam platform for online game delivery now has a Mac client (although the selection is still pretty thin), and recent OpenGL updates lead us to believe Apple is positioning itself a little more seriously in this regard.

In a cross-platform Call of Duty: Modern Warfare test, on medium settings at 1366×768 pixels, the MacBook Air ran at 40.5 frames per second (thanks to the Nvidia 320M), whereas the Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T-68U118, which has only integrated Intel graphics, ran at 15.1 frames per second.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)

  • Apple MacBook Air 13-inch531Apple MacBook Air 11.6-inch719Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T992Alienware M11x (Core i7)1094

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)

  • Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T135Alienware M11x (Core i7)150Apple MacBook Air 13-inch153Apple MacBook Air 11.6-inch199

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)

  • Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T167Apple MacBook Air 13-inch178Alienware M11x (Core i7)189Apple MacBook Air 11.6-inch266

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)

  • Acer Aspire TimelineX 1830T280Apple MacBook Air 11.6-inch263Apple MacBook Air 13-inch259Alienware M11x (Core i7)189

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

MacBooks have always been known for the long battery life, and the Air continues the trend. The large, sealed battery takes up much of the system’s internal space, and it ran for four hours and 23 minutes. That’s very close to Apple’s five-hour estimates, although the lowest-power netbooks and tablets such as the iPad have us more accustomed to all-day computing than ever before.

Via CNET

Specifications

Display
Natural resolution (max) 1366 x 768 pixels
Diagonal screen size 11.6 inch
Drives
Primary hard drive 64 GB
Connectivity
Network interface Bluetooth, 802.11n
USB ports 2
DisplayPort Yes
Memory
Amt of RAM 2GB
RAM type DDR3
Battery
Battery type included Lithium-polymer
Graphics
Amt of video RAM 256 MB
Graphics hardware GeForce 320M
Processor
Processor type Intel Core 2 Duo
Processor speed 1.4 GHz
General
Dimensions (H x W x D) 33-17 x 299 x 192 mm
Weight 1.06 kg
Laptop type Thin and light
Software
Operating system Mac OS X
Other
Integrated webcam Yes
Sound
Embedded stereo speakers Yes
Digital audio output Yes

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