ActiveWords is a nifty free program that does seven useful things when you type key words or letter combinations and hit the space bar. In fact, the developers believe program's seven categories make up the 80 percent of computing tasks in the 80/20 paradigm: Substitute Text, Launch a Program, Open a Document, Navigate to an Internet Site, Send E-Mail, Open a Folder, and Scripting. You specify your ActiveWords using quick, easy commands, and then associate the words with one of the seven tasks via simple wizards. It lets you create easy-to-remember shortcuts that do what you need most … Read more
SAN FRANCISCO--Generally, OEM software isn't of particular interest to consumer product reviewers, but I couldn't help but be drawn in by the sweet-looking user interface (UI) development being shown off by SPB Software at the CTIA Fall 2010 show. This multiplatform solution, called Mobile Shell, is currently up to version 5.0, which is compatible with Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian operating systems.
The software is aimed at providing carriers with a way to offer a standardized UI across mobile devices, but the truly compelling part is the front-end user experience, which is pretty fantastic from what I'… Read more
How fast will PCs boot up in the future? I asked industry experts to explain what's involved and what could lead to PCs that boot up in seconds.
One of the key components in getting a PC to start quickly is the BIOS, or basic input/output system. The BIOS, which is present in every Windows PC and Apple computer, is the first piece of code run when the computer starts up, also referred to as firmware. The BIOS serves to initialize and identify system devices such as the hard-disk drive, DVD/CD drive, networking components, USB ports, the video card, keyboard, and mouse.
I chatted with Surendra Arora, vice president of business development at BIOS supplier Phoenix Technologies, and Stephen Jones, the company's chief technical officer, as well as Mark Doran, a senior principal engineer at Intel's Software and Services Group.
And I exchanged e-mail with Fadi Zuhayri, senior manager at the Intel Software & Services Group. Zuhayri said that UEFI, the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, provides the foundation for reaching instant-on one day. But a number of factors, including the operating system, need to come together to achieve fast boot times in under 10 seconds. "So we are getting at near-parity to instant on. The technology foundation is there to make it happen," Zuhayri said. (Note that UEFI is already being used in Windows PCs from a number of PC makers.)
Q: What is UEFI and why is this replacing the traditional BIOS and why is it instrumental in achieving faster boot times? Surendra Arora (Phoenix): The reality is UEFI was started for various reasons. I'm not sure boot speed was one of the reasons that UEFI was started. The real reason was to move away from assembly code. That was what the bring-up process used to be. Hard-coded or machine-level coding. Now C [language] is being used. You can do it at an abstracted layer that's built on APIs [application programming interfaces]. This [UEFI] allows you to standardize things, use multi-threading. We've parallelized initialization so you can boot extremely fast.
Q: So how fast can boot times be now? For example, my Dell Adamo [laptop] that has a solid-state drive can boot to the Windows log-in in roughly 20 seconds. Arora: The OS and the components that you use lead to the complete experience. What we at Phoenix can do is hand off what we do to the OS extremely fast. It used to be 10 to 15 seconds and now… Read more
If you're looking for a quick, cheap, and easy way to dive into recording audio with Pro Tools, Avid has three new entry-level home studio bundles made just for you.
Each product includes a copy of Pro Tools SE software, which boils down the industry-standard recording software to 16 channels of audio, 10 virtual instrument tracks, one video track, and 3GB of royalty free audio samples and loops.
Depending on your particular recording interest (or budget), you can pick from three hardware options, including a Recording Studio USB audio interface for $119, a Vocal Studio with a USB microphone … Read more
Apple's iTunes 10 upgrade brings a number of interesting enhancements to the program, including the "Ping" social-networking option and the new clutter-reducing "hybrid" view for album covers and song listings. Despite these features and other new improvements, when it comes to the user interface there are some outstanding drawbacks in the new version of iTunes.
When you launch the program for the first time, the initial impression is that somehow the window may not be in focus. As an OS X user I am used to window elements being crisp and colorful when a window … Read more
The future in which you can display your laptop's content wirelessly on an HDTV is getting closer.
Amimon, a member of the WHDI consortium that makes Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI) chips for wireless HDTV connectivity solutions, announced Tuesday that it has been picked by Asus to power the upcoming WiCast EW2000 PC to TV connectivity kit. This means Asus' WiCast kit will use Amimon's WHDI technology to enables users to wirelessly connect their computers to their TVs. Asus also announced that it has joined the WHDI consortium.
WHDI is an emerging wireless technology that offers wireless alternatives … Read more
The next version of Ubuntu will get multitouch interface abilities, catching the Linux operating system up to Windows and Mac OS X in at least one domain.
"Every single major PC manufacturer has been asking for a touch story on Linux. This has been one of the major missing points for Linux in the PC ecosystem," said Mark Shuttleworth, founder of the company called Canonical that develops and supports Ubuntu. But multitouch support will arrive in the next version of Ubuntu, 10.10, aka Maverick Meerkat.
Adding multitouch isn't easy, particularly in the open-source world of Linux … Read more
Android app developers looking for user interface inspiration now have something to help get the process going: a cold, sharp piece of laser cut metal that promises to speed up the design mock-up process.
Remember the super thin, laser-cut iPhone user interface design stencil kit from Seattle-based Design Commission? The group has just come out with a follow-up version for Android developers.
The new kit, which retails for $25 (plus $5 shipping), features 150 percent scale cut-outs of standard Google Android OS buttons and iconography, as well as a mechanical pencil and some stickers. Developers can use the stencil to … Read more
Mozilla said it hopes to release its second beta version of Firefox 4 "on or about July 22," bringing Mac users a major new user interface that the first beta enabled by default only on Windows.
That feature, called tabs on top, follows the look of Google Chrome and Opera, in which tabs get top billing over the address bar. It's not revolutionary, but it's hard to change the habits of software used by hundreds of millions of people, so Mozilla has made it easy to switch off and has been taking pains to explain its tab rationale. … Read more
Ever found yourself struggling to stabilize that mobile device for optimum in-flight entertainment? Toronto-based Interaxon says it may have an alternative in the form of thought-controlled in-flight games that let you keep your hands (and gadget stands) tucked away.
Yes, soon enough, you may be playing the likes of Mario Kart on your way from coast to coast--with brain power alone.
Interaxon's system measures brain waves through electroencephalography (EEG) technology, reacting to alpha waves associated with relaxation and beta waves linked to concentration. As users relax or focus their thoughts, the interface translates their brains' electrical activity into a control signal the computer can understand.
Earlier this year, visitors to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver got to test a similar Interaxon system for controlling displays at one of three light shows. At Niagara Falls, for example, they had 15 seconds to harness their brain waves to choose the color for each of seven lights illuminating Horseshoe Falls.
The in-flight system involves a headset, a display attached to the seat in front of the passenger, and games specifically designed for use at 35,000 feet. It was shown off last month at On the Wings of Innovation, a global aerospace symposium organized by the Ontario Aerospace Council and the Ontario government.
At the event, executives from companies like Boeing and Bombardier played with brain wave-controlled software including a meditation title that helps travelers relax and a golf game that helps users improve concentration, focus, and even their golf game. … Read more