News on Techonolgy, Networking, Software, Hardware, Social Media and more

Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Google Gears Comes to an End

It is rare but a Google-based technology that has become obsolete, as Google has decided to halt any further development on it. The technology in question is Google Gears.

Gears was positioned by Google as the integral cog of most Google applications throughout its lifetime. Gears enabled users to continue using Google apps even if they lost connection or chose to go offline. With Google Gears, one could synchronize with the online version as soon as a connection was re-established again. In addition to this, it offered an enhanced browsing experience to the user as well.

Gears came under the spotlight recently when the delay in producing a Mac version of the Chrome browser became unbearably long. It became evident that Gears, an integral part of Chrome, was not functioning properly on Apple’s new Snow Leopard OS. Whether this technical incompatibility was one that could not be solved genuinely or an excuse (as conspiracy theorists like to believe) is not something that is clear even at this time. Thus, Google made an announcement, that Gears would no longer be developed further and that it would be dropped due to the advancements made in HTML5.

The announcement made sense as HTML5 incorporates much of the functionality of Gears as well as other features. The fact that this would be a universally accepted standard also went against Gears in a sense. Google will continue supporting all implementation of Gears that are in existence, so all is not lost.

Safari Ahead of Chrome

Apple’s Safari browser won by a nose ahead of Chrome in recent benchmark tests. Although in all fairness, it was only a beta version of Chrome that went up against Safari and that too in Safari’s own native environment of Mac OS. The Mac version of Chrome is 12 % slower than Safari but that is the only place it really fails; against Opera 10.1 for the Mac, it is ten times faster and is twice as fast as Firefox 3.6 beta 4.

However, as it is evident from above, all these tests were for Mac versions of these browsers. On the PC, Chrome reigns supreme in speed tests. Even Safari cannot come close to Google’s ultra fast browser. However, even the narrow loss cannot seem to dampen spirits at Google, as they seem to be very happy with the results. The speed they have achieved with the beta seems to be within expectations as they proudly proclaim that the icon on the dock (on Mac OS) barely has time to bounce before the browser launches.
The dominance of Safari and Chrome at the top has even prompted Microsoft to respond by enhancing the upcoming version of Internet Explorer. Redmond expects IE9 to get close to the two rivals while claiming that it has almost achieved that target. IE has the biggest share of the browser market with 64 % versus the 4 % that Chrome currently holds. This is ironic as IE8 can only manage a score of 24 on the Acid3 benchmark test (meaning very slow) compared to Chrome’s 100 (the maximum score).

How Do Touch Screens Work?

Touch screens are becoming more and more prevalent today, especially with the advent of Apple’s iPod touch. What the iPod touch and the iPhone have done is to bring the touch screen technology to the masses and make them comfortable using it. Not all touch screens on the market offer the multi touch functionality that Apple features in its devices. The majority of them function in same manner that they would if they were being used with a mouse. This is an explanation of a basic touch screen system.
To function accurately a touch screen needs three components:

1. A touch sensor – this is placed over the viewable that the user operates. Although many technologies are used in the sensor mechanism, they all are variations of one method. The sensor is has a minute electrical current running through it which is disrupted when a finger is placed on it. This difference in the voltage is then processed to locate the point of contact on the screen.

2. The controller – This hardware converts signals from the touch sensor into data. With touch screen built-in monitors, the controller would be an internal device. However, if you purchase a touch screen kit, the controller would be located externally as a small device. All controllers connect to the PC via COM or USB ports.

3. The software driver – This software sits on the OS and takes in signals from the controller. It then emulates a mouse and sends the data to the OS, which proceeds to act as if a mouse is being used.

Plasma TVs – Pros and Cons

Are the Plasma and LCD TV the same? Actually they are not, and very different in many ways. Pricing is a key factor but there are other things as well. We will mainly focus on the features of the Plasma TV, which will also help us understand LCD televisions.

The good thing about Plasma TVs is that they have a better contrast ratio resulting in better representation of color. They are also better at rendering the color deep black, resulting in better picture that is aided by better color depth. The increased response time and superior motion tracking results in very little lag in fast moving images. Plasmas also come in bigger sizes than LCDs and cost less as well. With all these good points, the Plasma TV seems to be the obvious choice for consumers. Well, not quite.

If you accidentally leave your screen paused for a long time an effect known as burn-in can occur. The image that was paused leaves an impression on the screen. In addition to this, Plasmas consume more power and produce more heat making them less environmentally friendly. They also suffer from screen glare so the room cannot be well lit if you are to enjoy the image. Finally, mounting a Plasma TV on your wall can be quite an effort as it is very heavy, requiring a lot of support to be installed so that the wall can take the weight.

However, both types of TV’s are good buys as they offer long life (almost 18 years) and a better viewing experience than your normal television. Whichever one you decide on, look for more information on the individual brand and model before you buy it, as you need to know about specific issues that are unique to that product.

Use of Environmental Technology

Technology has gone through several phases of usefulness. Initially, technology was used to fulfill needs, in order to ease the load and now, it is used to provide luxury. This refers to technology in any area where humans and equipment interact. Over the years, the use of technology has meant the destruction of the environment, either by plundering natural resources or by pollution caused by the byproducts of manufacturing and the disposal of garbage.

This has led to a move towards greener technologies. Mostly spearheaded by recycling efforts and reclaimable energy, the movement is gathering pace. Many companies that produce electrical goods like mobile phones and computers are resorting to reusing or recycling material in their manufacturing process. This has benefits on many levels such as being cost effective, using less natural resources and producing less pollution. Reclaimable energy is becoming more of a necessity as many businesses are fighting to keep operating costs down. The use of solar energy and natural heating and cooling methods as well as natural lighting methods are helping both businesses and the environment.

However, none of these methods is 100 percent effective, as technology to support this does not exist. Recycled products still have to use a fair amount of natural resources and reclaimable energy has to be propped up with more traditional methods as sometimes they just do not have enough juice. Still, the signs are encouraging. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and the green movement will not change things overnight. As long as things progress in this manner, the future of the environment looks positive.

The Benefits and Disadvantages of ITIL

The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is a set of concepts developed by the UK government’s Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) to standardize IT management practices. Initially published in 1989, it has gone through a few iterations, namely ITIL v1, ITIL v2 and ITIL v3, its most recent version released in 2007. The current version is comprised of five volumes that focus on Service Management.

As with any type of guidelines, there are proponents and opponents who constantly argue about ITIL. The proponents argue that ITIL offers many cost saving measures, which in the current context of the recession makes enormous economic sense. It also helps to organize and manage IT departments. The biggest factor in its favor is that ITIL has been implemented in various parts of the world and has been proved to work.

However, there are many disadvantages to these guidelines as well. One problem is the perception that it is the “be-all and end-all” of IT solutions. This is worrying as ITIL is not yet fully comprehensive. It is also stuck to rigidly by IT managers where it has been implemented. This has caused dissention among lower ranked IT employees who are of the view that certain rules should be bent and that other techniques should be given a chance to have an optimum management system in place. The fact that the ITIL’s lack of in-depth coverage in all areas related to IT is also a cause for complaints.

Nevertheless, even with all these disadvantages, ITIL remains an excellent management tool. The regular updates, worldwide acceptance and the sheer longevity of the concept are enough to outweigh all its disadvantages.

The Difference Between Hackers and Crackers

When the issue of IT security is raised, two words come to mind – Hackers and Viruses. This article concerns the former.

The term “hacker” has become the widely used term for anyone who breaks into a system. However, the term should be used appropriately as it describes a person with “honorable” intentions as opposed to a “cracker” who is up to no good. True hackers are basically puzzle solvers.
They see security systems as challenges to be overcome and set about getting through its defenses. They are technically well-versed and enjoy breaking into and infiltrating systems just because they want to and not for malicious reasons. In essence, they embody the quote attributed to the famous English mountaineer George Mallory, who in reply to the question “Why did you climb Mt. Everest?” replied, “Because it’s there”. Hackers break into systems to expose their vulnerabilities and thereafter document the process so that others can learn from them. This actually benefits the IT community as security holes that are undiscovered can be blocked due to these findings. Hackers engage in their activities mainly for the challenge and also for the credibility gained from their peers for beating the system.

Crackers on the other hand do not have any honorable intentions at all. Looked down upon by the hacking community, they engage in activities like stealing credit card details, destroying data and dismantling protection systems on software so that they can be pirated. Basically they engage in outright criminal activity.

Hacking is a grey area and is difficult to condemn as it brings about progress through some anarchy. But Cracking is a “profession” to be looked down upon and eradicated if possible.

Cloud Computing – 10 Benefits For Your Business

Cloud computing has transcended the trend phase and is now fast becoming a necessity for most businesses. The scalability and virtual resources available in cloud computing are not only bringing down costs but also providing various other benefits.

1. Enabling focus – By providing many automation and management features, cloud computing reduces the amount of time spent by management focusing on micromanaging the business. This in turn allows them to turn their focus more on core business activities.

2. Reducing cost – By paying only for what a business uses, the cost spent on infrastructure, energy consumption and other costs reduce drastically or disappear altogether.

3. Increasing mobility – Employees get the ability to access their data, files and even applications from whatever location they are at, provided they have an internet connection. This means that employees no longer need to be shackled to their desks to get their work done.

4. Speeding up implementation – Freeing yourself from the need to buy hardware, licenses and related services allows you to be up and running in next to no time. For example, migrating to Gmail based email services versus implementing a Microsoft Exchange Server.

5. Secure sharing – Sharing of data is more secure irrelevant of the physical locations of the parties involved. The internal data is not visible to any other parties in the cloud who do not have the necessary security clearance.

6. Scalability – Increasing storage space is possible within a matter of minutes, as it involves only the purchase of the service in comparison to installing new file servers and their related costs.

7. Flexibility – Distribution of computing resources becomes an automated service which requires very little planning.

8. Environment friendly – The reduction in hardware used, energy consumed and minimized carbon footprint are obvious reasons.

9. Customizability – Customized applications can be built with ease, allowing you to evolve quickly and stay ahead of the competition.

10. Increased collaboration – Having access to files from virtually any location allows employees to collaborate and exchange ideas easily and efficiently.

Picasa Photo App Gets Better at Recognizing Faces, Locations

Google released Picasa 3.5 recently a new version of the free photo sharing and editing software. The new version gives users the ability to group photos by faces, a feature already available in Picasa web albums.

The new faces feature works almost like the similar feature available in iPhoto, scanning through your photos and grouping them by the people it finds in them. Once that is completed you will find a new album called unnamed people, where you can add name tags to the different groups. As it is with everything Google, if you are signed in, the application will auto complete the names from your Google address book. Along with the face recognition feature, the tool also provides better support for recognizing locations and geotagging your photos and placing them on a map. Picasa 3.5 also includes a revamped import tool that allows you to simultaneously import and upload photos from your camera to your Picasa Web Albums. Picasa 3.5 is a great tool to organize and share your photos. With the new features it and Google’s new Wave platform, things can only go up.

Google Invites Everyone to Catch Its Real-Time Wave

Google announced that it is opening up its web based real time communications service, Google Wave for the first time at the beginning of October. Over 100,000 invitations are being sent out to users who previously requested access to use Google Wave, on a first come, first serve basis.

Google Wave is the latest in their range of applications designed to assist people with their communications needs. The new software brings together different forms of communication including chat, email and collaboration tools like wikis in to a uniform browser window. The beauty of it is that everything happens in real-time. You can even see a comment or a chat message being typed in real time, letter by letter. Wave also attempts to solve current users a unique problem current web users have; dealing with the different web based collaboration tools and real time communication tools. These services include cloud based document sharing and collaboration tools such as wikis and real-time tools like chat, Twitter, Facebook and FriendFeed along with others like photo sharing applications.

However according to Google, some features are limited by browser features. The other issue that they are currently experiencing is that the application slows down after a few hours of use, mainly due to memory leaks. That being said the engineers at Google are working hard to have it fixed before the official launch and bring a whole new web experience to users out there.

© 2008 –