Archive | June, 2011

HP admits webOS licensing talks

HP CEO Leo Apotheker has admitted that the company is in talks with external manufacturers who may license the webOS mobile operating system.

The admission comes after Apotheker hinted that the company would be open to sharing the Palm-made OS with other companies earlier this month.

“We are talking to a number of companies,” Apotheker told Bloomberg. “I can share with you that a number of companies have expressed interest. We are continuing our conversations.”

Chit chat

Which companies these may be remains a mystery, although some loose-lipped sources have tipped Samsung as one of them.

We wouldn’t hold our breath for a Samsung (or HTC or Nokia or LG) webOS phone though, with Apotheker leisurely adding, “There is no time pressure to do this.”

There’s no denying that webOS has some hardcore fans out there, but can porting it to alternative hardware really make HP back the $1.2 billion it spent on Palm?



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Samsung moves to block iPad, iPhone imports

Samsung has filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission in an attempt to halt the import of iPhone and iPad devices in to the US.

It’s a major move in the ongoing Apple/Samsung legal spat, which sees each accuse the other of infringing patents relating to their products.

Samsung has been ordered to pony up some of its unreleased handsets for Apple’s examination, while its reciprocal request to see the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 early was turned down by Judge Lucy Koh.

My dad’s bigger than your dad

Since then, Apple has filed another complaint in Samsung’s native South Korea and has also reportedly begun looking to alternative components suppliers, particularly for its mobile device processors.

But our American friends should not start panic buying Apple goods just yet; although the ITC is likely to investigate the complaint, we probably won’t see a final decision made for 16 to 18 months, according to legal experts FOSS Patents.

In the meantime, we’ll be watching the lawsuit develop with interest, and the vague hope that it will descend into a juvenile name-calling mess.



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Hands on: Sony VAIO Y Series review

Decked out here in a rather lurid pink, here’s our hands on: Sony VAIO Y Series review.

The new model replaces last year’s Y Series with a major change, moving on from the low voltage Intel Pentium processor and replacing it with one of AMD’s newish E-Series Fusion chips.

That brings both graphics and processing on the same chip – something AMD calls an APU. It also means HD video playback won’t be a problem through the HDMI port.

Sony vaio y series

The model we looked at here packed the E-350 clocked at 2.6GHz, alongside a decent 4GB blob of memory. That should mean that the performance and graphics concerns of the last generation are eradicated.

AMD’s confused branding is out in force on the Y Series – Fusion is still being marketed under the AMD Vision brand, but because decent graphics are on board yet another sticker is required.

Sony vaio y series

The AMD platform is designed to be low cost and Sony told TechRadar it would be pitching this model at those who want both portability and reasonable power but who don’t want to pay for a high-end power portable.

This type of machine is going to be increasingly where previous netbook purchasers are going to be looking. As Ruth Storey, the category marketing manager for Vaio in the UK said in the presenation of the new models, “the netbook market is declining at an alarming rate”.

Sony vaio y series

Quite how much the Y Series will cost remains to be seen though we’d expect it to slot in where the old model left off at around £600.

Portability is the Y Series’ middle name and it clocks in at just 1.5Kg – a fine achievement for something that seems so capable.

As you’d expect from Sony, build quality is excellent, while the keyboard and trackpad are also to be praised – indeed, we preferred it to the keyboard on the VAIO Z Series we looked at yesterday.

Sony vaio y series

Sony also cites a six-hour battery life for the Y Series, broadly in line with other estimates for the AMD E-Series platform.

Sony vaio y series

The Sony VAIO Y Series UK release date is July 2011 and it’ll be available from Sony direct as well as Currys and PC World.



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Samsung moves to block iPad, iPhone imports

Samsung has filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission in an attempt to halt the import of iPhone and iPad devices in to the US.

It’s a major move in the ongoing Apple/Samsung legal spat, which sees each accuse the other of infringing patents relating to their products.

Samsung has been ordered to pony up some of its unreleased handsets for Apple’s examination, while its reciprocal request to see the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 early was turned down by Judge Lucy Koh.

My dad’s bigger than your dad

Since then, Apple has filed another complaint in Samsung’s native South Korea and has also reportedly begun looking to alternative components suppliers, particularly for its mobile device processors.

But our American friends should not start panic buying Apple goods just yet; although the ITC is likely to investigate the complaint, we probably won’t see a final decision made for 16 to 18 months, according to legal experts FOSS Patents.

In the meantime, we’ll be watching the lawsuit develop with interest, and the vague hope that it will descend into a juvenile name-calling mess.



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Buying Guide: Best iPad stylus: 5 reviewed and rated

As children, all of us shared great delight in covering our tiny paws with various coloured pigments to create fridgebound masterpieces. As you grow and develop into an artist, you’re taught to pick up a brush, pencil or charcoal stick, and a whole world of mark-making opens up.

Today, creating works of art is a single tap away with some mind-blowing iPad and iPhone art apps such as Brushes, ArtRage, SketchBook Pro and Penultimate, but for many artists, reverting to using a finger to paint is a huge step backwards.

We figured that it was time to make our apologies to Mr Jobs and recognise that for some iPad owners, a stylus is a vital part of their iOS experience.

Great product design is about creating something instinctive and intuitive to use, so that it quickly becomes a natural extension of a person. In the case of a stylus, the basic requirements are a pen-like handle and tip, but take a look at the Nomad Brush and the AluPen and you see that both have aimed to tap into the artist’s experience, evoking the familiar by emulating their real-world art tools.

Art apps make the perfect testing ground for putting these iPad styluses through their paces. You’re more likely to spend prolonged periods of time holding a stylus when taking your iPad to a life-drawing session or for some plein-air painting.

If you’re looking for an iPad stylus to perform basic navigation, you might not agree with our final result, but then your fingers really are up that task! Creative types should read on…

How we selected our iPad styluses

Because we are focussing on styluses for creative tasks here, we’ve thrown our net a little wider than straight utilitarian styluses such as the Pogo – though, as the most venerable stylus, we’ve included that as well. That means chunky crayons, brushes and little nubs that slot in the dock!

Just Mobile AluPen – £14

AluPen

Nomad Brush – $24

Nomad brush

Ozaki iStroke S – £9

iStroke

PenGo TouchPen – $15

PenGo

Ten One Design Pogo Stylus – £11

Pogo

Test one: Ergonomics

From our selection, the Nomad Brush makes for the tool that’s most comparable to traditional art equipment – nothing feels more like a brush than, well, a brush. The 190mm wood handle makes this the longest stylus of the bunch, which is a plus for the simple reason that the further away your hand is from the screen, the more of your image is visible. At a weight of 5.6g, the Nomad also won’t become a chore to use during a life-drawing session.

The Just Mobile AluPen is clearly styled on a pencil, with its hexagonal body, but its super-size makes it feel closer to a graphite stick. The weight is pretty close and even the matt metal finish feels the same – the only things missing are the smudges on your fingers.

Both of these styluses are so good at evoking traditional art tools that you can’t help using them in a certain way. The AluPen, for example, isn’t for detailing: it’s about bolder, blocking marks. This makes it the perfect tool for oil work in an app such as ArtRage.

Once we started using the Nomad Brush, we instinctively varied the pressure in our strokes, even though we knew it made no difference to the opacity of the brush mark.

The two more conventional styluses in the pack couldn’t be more different. The Ten One Design Pogo Stylus is far too light – and when you consider that the tip foam is prone to misfiring, a little more downforce could certainly help matters. Add to this its short, thin shaft and the Pogo definitely feels like a data input device and not something you’d want to draw with. This gives it quite a disposable feel – which is appropriate, really, because that’s how we’d be tempted to treat it.

We wouldn’t, however, throw away the PenGo TouchPen. This is another stylus that’s clearly been designed by someone who draws. It’s long enough to rest comfortably between your thumb and index finger, and the pronounced tip makes for a clearer line of sight, so your marks appear where you expect them to. Like the AluPen, the metal body has a matt finish, which is great for grip. Its size and weighting make it comparable to a fine-liner pen, so if you like drawing comics or are already using a digital art tablet, taking up the TouchPen will feel like a natural progression.

It would be harsh to criticise the iStroke S for being small, because form is taking a backseat to function. Making a stylus that fits into the dock connector is a nice touch, – since it means that you never need to go rummaging around for it when inspiration strikes – but its size does bring about a problem unique to drawing on the iPad. Your hand is closer to the surface, and once a stray finger becomes another contact point, you’ve stopped drawing and now you’re moving the canvas. It’s so darn cute, though, that we couldn’t stay mad at it.

Results

test 1

Test two: The tip

With three out of five on test sharing the rubber tip common to most brands, you’d think we’d be hard pushed to find differences, but we were surprised how much the nuances matter.

The TouchPen should, by design, perform the best. With its narrow, more prominent tip, we expected greater accuracy, but the smaller the surface area, the more prone you are to losing surface connection – only problematic when holding it at an acute angle.

The AluPen’s tip is helped by being wider, but is also aided by the stylus’s weight – even when you drag it lightly across the iPad, the weight helps to keep the tip in contact with the surface.

The biggest surprise was the Nomad Brush: with its fine, sable-like bristles, the deftest of strokes still created a constant line.

Results

test 2

Test three: Build quality

Four out of five of these styluses have very few issues in terms of their build quality – and then there’s the Pogo Stylus. As the foam tip eventually works itself away from its anaemic metal captor to freedom, you can look forward to scratching the end of the shaft along your favourite device’s lovely display.

The iStroke S is without question the ugly duckling of the bunch, although being small in this instance equates to a robust build.

For a quality finish, though, we have to give back the Nomad Brush the same amount of love that went into making it. The walnut and carbon handle is finished with a soft grip, and the attention to detail is exemplified by the embossed logo. It’s just a shame that wood is weak – a good argument for a strong case.

Results

test 3

And the best iPad stylus is… Just Mobile AluPen £14

Choosing between three very strong contenders was like asking us to pick our favourite film, ice-cream or child. The Pogo was one of the first styluses available for iPhone users, and it’s never claimed to be anything other than a means to navigate your iPhone or iPad, so judging it as an artists’ tool could be seen as unfair.

That said, what really disappoints us about it is the poor build quality; we just couldn’t feel inspired about drawing with it.

The Ozaki iStroke S, on the other hand, is manufactured well, but it’s just too small. Drawing with it will make you nostalgic for your days as an art student, when you’d use every last pencil down to a nub. Housing it in the iPad dock connector is a great idea, but with your fingers millimetres away from the screen, the experience is too close to using Apple’s preferred stylus, your fingers – and it’s kind of difficult to misplace them. Ozaki does, however, make a few other models; investigate.

The Nomad Brush sits firmly in the middle of our selection. What first appears to be a simple novelty quickly turns into a painting pleasure. The bristles are very responsive, but more than that they remove the synthetic feel of rubber across glass, which is a welcome and refreshing change. The design is also spot-on – the Nomad looks lovingly crafted, justifying its $24 price tag. The only problem we have with it is that you don’t always want that brush experience – for instance, it feels odd when line drawing. We want a Nomad Pencil, and we want it now!

We had to give the TouchPen the silver award. PenGo understands what artists are looking for, and has tailored its stylus to meet a broad audience. It clearly has digital artists and designers in mind; all the dimensions make for a comfortable fit, and the smaller, pronounced tip is a design detail that comes about from wishing to improve the iPad painting experience.

What the chunky, crayonlike AluPen does is take what we liked about the TouchPen and the Nomad Brush and combine them in a stylus that performs well but also feels familiar. The 30g weight isn’t an issue, but an advantage: it ensures good tip connection, so you can apply the same light hold you’d use when sketching with a pencil or painting with a brush. Add to this the perfectly reasonable price tag and it becomes our winner.

But we can’t leave it there. Go and open your art bin, and what do you see? Various tools to create various marks. What we suggest is that if you’re serious about using your iPad as a digital sketchbook to produce a wide range of work, using a wide range of art apps, then maybe you need more than one iPad stylus to hand. An art kit for the iPad – now there’s a thing.



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