Friday, November 27, 2009

Ways to boost your wireless network (continued)

6. Change your wireless channel

Wireless routers can broadcast on several different channels, similar to the way radio stations use different channels. In the United States and Canada, these channels are 1, 6 and 11. Just as you'll sometimes hear interference on one radio station while another is perfectly clear, sometimes one wireless channel is clearer than others. Try changing your wireless router's channel through your router's configuration page to see if your signal strength improves. You don't need to change your computer's configuration, because it'll automatically detect the new channel.

7. Reduce wireless interference

If you have cordless phones or other wireless electronics in your home, your computer might not be able to "hear" your router over the noise from them. To quiet the noise, avoid wireless electronics that use the 2.4GHz frequency. Instead, look for cordless phones that use the 5.8GHz or 900MHz frequencies.

8. Update your firmware or your network adapter driver

Router manufacturers regularly make free improvements to their routers. Sometimes, these improvements increase performance. To get the latest firmware updates for your router, visit your router manufacturer's Web site.

Similarly, network adapter vendors occasionally update the software that Windows uses to communicate with your network adapter, known as the driver. These updates typically improve performance and reliability.

9. Pick equipment from a single vendor

While a Linksys router will work with a D-Link network adapter, you often get better performance if you pick a router and network adapter from the same vendor. Some vendors offer a boost of up to twice the performance when you choose their hardware: Linksys has the SpeedBooster technology, and D-Link has the 108G enhancement.

10. Upgrade 802.11b devices to 802.11g

802.11b is the most common type of wireless network, but 802.11g is about five times faster. 802.11g is backward-compatible with 802.11b, so you can still use any 802.11b equipment that you have. If you're using 802.11b and you're unhappy with the performance, consider replacing your router and network adapters with 802.11g-compatible equipment. If you're buying new equipment, definitely choose 802.11g.

Wireless networks never reach the theoretical bandwidth limits. 802.11b networks typically get 2-5Mbps. 802.11g is usually in the 13-23Mbps range. Belkin's Pre-N equipment has been measured at 37-42Mbps.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How to boost your wireless network

If Windows ever notifies you about a weak signal, it probably means your connection isn't as fast or as reliable as it could be. Worse, you might lose your connection entirely in some parts of your home. If you're looking to improve the signal for your wireless network, try some of these tips for extending your wireless range and improving your wireless network performance.

1. Position your wireless router (or wireless access point) in a central location

When possible, place your wireless router in a central location in your home. If your router is against an outside wall of your home, the signal will be weak on the other side of your home. Don't worry if you can't move your router, because there are many other ways to improve your connection.

2. Move the router off the floor and away from walls and metal objects (such as file cabinets)

Metal, walls and floors will interfere with your router's wireless signals. The closer your router is to these obstructions, the more severe the interference, and the weaker your connection will be.

3. Replace your router's antenna

The antennas supplied with your router are designed to be omnidirectional, meaning they broadcast in all directions around the router. If your router is near an outside wall, half of the wireless signals will be sent outside your home, and much of your router's power will be wasted. Most routers don't allow you to increase the power output, but you can make better use of the power. Upgrade to a high-gain antenna that focuses the wireless signals in one direction. You can aim the signal in the direction you need it most.

4. Replace your computer's wireless network adapter

Wireless network signals must be sent both to and from your computer. Sometimes, your router can broadcast strongly enough to reach your computer, but your computer can't send signals back to your router. To improve this, replace your laptop's PC card-based wireless network adapter with a USB network adapter that uses an external antenna. In particular, consider the Hawking Hi-Gain Wireless USB network adapter, which adds an external, high-gain antenna to your computer and can significantly improve your range.

Laptops with built-in wireless typically have excellent antennas and don't need to have their network adapters upgraded.

5. Add a wireless repeater

Wireless repeaters extend your wireless network range without requiring you to add any wiring. Just place the wireless repeater halfway between your wireless access point and your computer, and you'll get an instant boost to your wireless signal strength. Check out the wireless repeaters from ViewSonic, D-Link, Linksys and Buffalo Technology.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Flashing your firmware

How easy it is to flash the firmware depends on the type of device and the kindness of the manufacturer. A few scenarios are illustrated here, but the specific technique you'll use depends on what your device’s creator provides to you.
The easiest way to update your motherboard's firmware is to use the manufacturer’s Windows-based software-flashing application, which handles the process for you. If your manufacturer offers such a program (and that's a big if), just follow its instructions.

If the device maker doesn't offer such a program, instead it might provide a bootable CD in the form of a downloadable .iso file (a CD or DVD image). There's a good chance that double-clicking that file will launch your disc-authoring software and prompt you to insert a CD. On the other hand, if Windows doesn't know what to do with the .iso file, download and install the freeware application ImgBurn and then double-click the file. Reboot your computer with the newly burned CD in the optical drive; the firmware-flashing process should start immediately.

Unfortunately, not all manufacturers give you something that easy to use. Some offer only a DOS-based flashing utility that you're supposed to run from a bootable floppy disk. Once you prepare the floppy, you reboot your PC with the disk in your floppy drive, run the flash utility and then remove the floppy and reboot again. If your computer is less than a few years old, you're probably asking, "What floppy drive?" If spending money on an external floppy drive for a single firmware update isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll have to get creative if you want that update to work.

In place of a floppy drive, you'll have to create a bootable flash drive. To do so, grab a utility called USB Disk Storage Format. You'll also need the archive. You might be able to find it at 4shared; if you can't, track it down by typing the file name in a search engine.

Unzip and run the USB Disk Storage Format utility (if Windows refuses to run this program because it requires administrator rights -- even though you're logged on as the administrator -- right-click the file and select Run as administrator). Select your flash drive as the device and pick the option to format it as a FAT32 file system. Click the check box that says Create a DOS Bootable Disk and select the folder containing the unzipped files of the archive. Once the utility is done, drag and drop whatever files the manufacturer of your device wants you to put on the "floppy.”

The flash drive is ready to boot, but is your PC ready to boot it? To find out, leave the flash drive plugged in while you reboot your PC. If Windows comes up normally, you'll have to tell your PC to boot from the flash drive. To do so, restart your PC and watch for an on-screen message (it will be one of the first things to appear) telling you which key to press for your computer’s boot menu, or which key to press for setup. Press that key immediately. (If you see both, immediately press the boot-menu key.) If you get a boot menu, set it to boot from your PC's USB ports. If you press the key that calls up the setup screen, hunt in the resulting menu for a section called Boot Options or Boot Order; there, you want to make sure that USB devices are listed before your hard drive in the boot order. Save the settings and reboot your PC.

When you boot from the flash drive, watch the screen -- you might have to press a button on your keyboard to activate the boot from your USB device.

Fortunately, NAS boxes, routers and mobile devices are much easier to update than motherboards. On most network devices, for example, you’ll just have to access your device’s configuration screen by typing its IP address into your Web browser. Once there, you should be able to locate the screen's built-in firmware-updating option; it’ll probably be accompanied by a large browse button. Click that, select the firmware file you downloaded and click to update. It couldn’t be simpler.

We could fill an entire PC World print issue with instructions were we to try listing the exact means for flashing half the devices open to firmware updates. Though they all follow the same general principles, each manufacturer can support different methods. What’s more important is the safety of your devices. Remember to save your settings and, whenever possible, follow your manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, using the correct firmware for your device. Take these steps to prevent anything unfortunate from occurring and you’ll quickly find that updating firmware can be one of the easiest -- and best -- upgrades you could possibly make.

From - PC world

Friday, July 24, 2009

The benefits of new firmware

What can you update with new firmware? It varies. Few devices receive zero firmware updates over the course of their lifetime -- CPUs benefit from motherboard firmware updates, but are not upgradable themselves. Components such as hard drives and optical drives are open to firmware updates, but the device manufacturers tend not to release fixes unless they correct a specific, disastrous problem. At least, that’s what happened with Seagate’s launch of its Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB hard drives: Users reported freezing and intermittent hangs when accessing the drive, and Seagate released a firmware update to correct the issue.

You’ll find the real meat of firmware upgrading in three areas: your motherboard, your networking devices and your portable media devices. But what will you get for your meddling? In all three cases, firmware upgrades can provide access to additional features and stability that don’t exist out of the box. You could potentially increase ability (and stability) for overclocking your motherboard, integrate advanced utilities such as BitTorrent downloading into your network-attached storage or, in the case of a device like Apple’s iPhone, improve the response times and signal strength of your mobile gear. Firmware updates might not revolutionize your digital experience, but they will improve it, and they're often necessary for new driver updates or additional device compatibility.

Before you hit your search engine of choice and start downloading every firmware update you can find, it’s important to consider a few points. For starters, although firmware upgrading isn’t very difficult to do, it has the potential to cause catastrophic damage if you fail to follow the instructions that the manufacturer provides. A firmware update isn’t like a device driver -- you can't just uninstall it and reinstall it at a whim. Compared with driver installation, rolling back your firmware if your initial installation gets botched is much more difficult.

Check, double-check and triple-check that you’re grabbing the correct firmware for your device. Some companies make that easy -- plug your iPhone into your computer, for instance and Apple will automate the entire process for you.

Other companies, namely motherboard manufacturers, might force you to wade through drop-down menus of their entire product line to find your product’s unique ID. Most devices won’t let you install a different product’s firmware, but in the off chance that yours does, the last thing you want to do is flash your product -- the technical term for upgrading firmware -- with the wrong file.

Finally, firmware upgrades can act as a reset switch for your devices. While some flash utilities give you the option to save and restore your settings before and after the update, a typical firmware update will cause your device to revert back to its factory-default settings. That might not be the biggest concern for the average user, but if you’ve spent a lot of time setting up custom networking configurations on your router, you’ll want to save those settings prior to a firmware update.

Unless your router offers some kind of settings-backup functionality (check the menus and the manual to find one), you should copy your pertinent settings (such as port forwards, access controls and wireless network configurations) into a text document.

From: PC World

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Should you update your PC's firmware?

Did you know that you can update your hardware without having to buy anything new? An easy-to-perform firmware update can add functionality, stability and features.

Utter the word “firmware” to the average PC user and you'll likely elicit a blank stare in return. But the concept isn't really that hard to understand, and once you have this knowledge, you can quickly improve your PC and any number of other devices, making them faster, more stable and supplemented with features that didn’t come in the box.

Firmware is a set of permanent instructions on a piece of hardware, stored in the device’s read-only memory. It’s analogous to a driver file that’s embedded in the device, providing the hardware identical information each time it powers up. While you can modify the hardware’s interaction with your operating system via software drivers, certain lower-level functions of a device remain constant and unchangeable. That’s firmware.

But even though we call it "unchangeable," it isn't necessarily so. Some firmware, located in the device’s PROM or EPROM (programmable read-only memory or erasable programmable read-only memory), can be altered, or "flashed." You do this by running software applications from the device’s manufacturer; such programs load new firmware onto the device to extend its feature set, life span or performance, as well as to correct significant errors.

Firmware isn't a PC-only concept. You can (and should) update the firmware in external devices such as network-attached and external storage hubs, as well as wireless routers and portable media players. You can even upgrade the firmware on your phone, depending on the model. (That's how people hack the iPhone -- and how Apple tries to outsmart them. Firmware updates from Apple overwrite the customized firmware that some people use to jailbreak and unlock the devices, sending hackers back to the drawing board to search for a new, deployable approach.) Other products in your house -- like Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which gained features such as native 1080p HD support and a new user interface via a single download -- can also benefit from firmware updates.

The frequency of a device’s firmware updates varies by manufacturer and product. Though you shouldn’t expect to find updates on a weekly basis, you should perform a firmware search for all of your PC’s devices at least once per quarter. Manufacturers often stress that you should ignore firmware updates unless you’re having a problem with your hardware; but we recommend that you run your hardware on the most up-to-date firmware you can find, since the increased stability (as well as the potential to gain new features) is worth it.

Unless you're an expert, you probably don't want to use third-party firmware like the iPhone hacks mentioned above. Such offerings are typically more complicated to install -- and more likely to cause problems -- than are normal, manufacturer-supplied firmware updates. They can also void a warranty. Unless you know what you're doing and you don't mind the risks, stick to official firmware.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

All of Windows 7 security software providers

If you're using Windows 7 , I recommend that you install security software to help protect your computer from viruses and other security threats, and that you keep your security software up to date.

The companies listed below provide security software that is compatible with Windows 7. Just click the company name to see the Windows 7 -compatible product they offer.

Important: Before you install antivirus software, check to make sure you don't already have an antivirus product on your computer. If you do, be sure to remove the product you don't want before you install the new one. It can cause problems on your computer to have two different antivirus products installed at the same time.

Microsoft is actively working with these partners and additional security independent software vendors (ISVs) to provide security software solutions tested on the Windows 7 Beta.
  • Panda
  • McAfee
  • AVG
  • Trend Micro
  • Kaspersky
  • F-Secure
  • Symantec [Norton]
  • Webroot
  • Gdata
  • BullGuard

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Windows 7 Pre-Order Offer, Windows 7 upgrade prices announced.

Windows 7 is coming on October 22, 2009.

Here's an easy way to get it fast and save a bunch: Pre-order a Windows 7 Home Premium Upgrade for $49** or a Windows 7 Professional Upgrade for $99.**

That's about half off the estimated retail prices. This offer is available through participating retailers. Pick one below and pre-order today. They'll tell you how to get your copy when Windows 7 is available.

Click on the link below for special offers
Pre-order Windows 7 upgrade from

There is a catch: Upgrades are only available to people who buy a new PC from a participating manufacturer, and it or a retailer could charge a small fee. The upgrade program will run through Jan. 31.

Windows 7 is Microsoft's attempt to mitigate poor response to its previous operating system, Vista, which was released in 2007. Windows 7 is largely based off the Vista engine, but is reported to run more smoothly and clean up a lot of the loose ends users complained about.

"We have literally had millions of customers downloading, using and giving feedback on our beta and (test) product, more than any other version of an operating system that we've done in the history of Microsoft," Brad Brooks, corporate vice president for Windows Consumer Marketing, said in a publicity video.

The Windows 7 pre-order pricing is as follows:

Unit Retail price Pre-order price Cost diff.
Home Premium $119.99 $49.99 -$70
Professional $199.99 $99.99 -$100

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The mobile Internet makes its way into cars

Just as radios evolved from hulking home consoles into expected accessories in virtually all cars, so may Wi-Fi Internet access break free to become a commonplace automotive feature. That’s the hope of Autonet Mobile, a company that supplies in-car Wi-Fi routers that let passengers use laptops and other mobile devices in their vehicles.

By 2016, consumers will consider such Internet connectivity as important as traditional features such as safety and fuel economy, said Thilo Koslowski, vice president of the Automotive Manufacturing Industry Advisory Service at market researcher Gartner, Inc.

Autonet Mobile sells its $499 routers through Chrysler and Cadillac dealers as manufacturer-endorsed, dealer-installed options for those cars, branded as Uconnect Web and Cadillac Wi-Fi, respectively. Its routers can also be added to any car after a vehicle is purchased.
Potential customers were skeptical of Wi-Fi in vehicles, but have recently become more in favor of the idea, according to Autonet Mobile CEO Sterling Pratz. With the stamp of approval from car makers, Autonet Mobile’s sales have grown 50 percent every month since November, he said.

However, even with that kind of growth, Pratz would characterize the company’s customer base as numbering “in the thousands.” He said 90 percent of consumers surveyed in a company poll said they would rather have Internet access in their cars than have DVD video players.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Battle of the Bluetooth headsets

New cell phone headsets promise to reduce background noise and improve clarity -- but not always both.

Forget the smartphone wars. The Bluetooth market is heating up with a showdown between cell phone headsets that reduce background noise and those that pledge to make inbound calls sound clearer than ever.

Aliph, maker of the popular Jawbone, and Plantronics unveiled new high-end headsets in April. Aliph's latest entry, Jawbone Prime, incorporates new sensor technology to filter noise from honking cars, barking dogs and howling winds. Plantronics' new Voyager Pro also packs noise-canceling and wind noise reduction features, but it is particularly focused on improving what the company calls inbound audio, i.e., the person on the other end of the line.

Thanks in part to the increasing ubiquity of cell phones, the Bluetooth accessories market is holding up despite the economic slowdown. ABI Research analyst Jonathan Collins estimates that 1.5 billion Bluetooth radios will ship this year. Most of those units (more than 60 percent) are built into cell phones themselves. Headsets make up the next largest group, at just under 20 percent.

Plantronics says it will draw consumers' attention to the differences between the two headsets in a marketing campaign. It has already recorded audio files that represent conversations made on the Voyager Pro and competing Jawbone products. Aliph, in turn, says the Prime trumped devices from Plantronics, Motorola and BlueAnt in recent tests.

Plantronics is the country's No. 2 wireless cellular headset maker after Motorola, according to the NPD Group, whose data don't include sales from carrier stores. Aliph ranks No. 4, after Jabra.

Better headsets are on the way. A faster type of Bluetooth, commonly referred to as Bluetooth 3.0, is expected to crop up in gadgets by the end of the year or early 2010. Though primarily geared toward data applications, 3.0 should improve headset use by improving power management and reducing dropped connections, says Collins. Like Wi-Fi and mobile broadband, Bluetooth is also making its way into other devices and applications, including notebooks and cars.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blog or website -- what's the difference?

Here’s the skinny on the exploding world of blogs: First, the word ‘blog’ is a confluence of two words – ‘web’ and ‘log,’ as in, a ‘log’ or journal that sits on the web. Think “Captain’s Log, Star Date 50 jillion.”

Here’s the image you should keep in mind: I went to London once when I was a kid, and I was stunned to come upon a bunch of people standing on milk crates, all over a public park, talking loudly. Some of the people shouting their opinions from the top of their crates were surrounded by huge crowds. Others were surrounded by pigeons. The quality of the talk varied widely. Either way, everybody had something to say.

That’s a blog, only, your milk crate is online. It’s a personal space created by someone to voice his or her opinions or update people on his or her goings-on. Like a web site, it can be found by people using a browser, it uses regular URL addresses, and it may have advertising attached to it.

So to answer your question, a blog really is a website, but it’s often updated more often (something the search engines of the world notice, meaning you can get on their radar faster) and is designed to make it easy for people to post their comments, videos, pictures, and so on.

Finally, a blog is better designed than a web site for two-way communication, meaning visitors can easily leave feedback in the form of notes, pictures or video. If you want to set a blog up yourself and talk to the world (or the pigeons) about whatever you want, you can do it in minutes, for free. One easy site is at, but I’d welcome any other suggestions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to get started on Twitter (part2)

How do I start?

It's easy to install on twitter. Visit the web site, and click Start, click Join. Sign up is quick, but two things to consider:

If you have a web-mail, twitter can go and get the names from your contact list so you can see if any of your contacts on twitter. You may be uncomfortable with this, so read the safety message.
You must decide whether you want to be determined by your real name or user name, the latter makes it difficult for friends to find you, but reduces your visibility.
Once your account is created, you can log in and go to "Settings" to customize your profile, add pictures and so on. You'll have your own twitter page where you can send and receive tweets. It will address:

Following and followers

Assuming that you are using twitter to connect with friends and family, you want them to follow you and receive tweets. One way to achieve this is to follow them. You can search by name or e-mail, and add them to the list of people go. Once you have that they will receive email notification that you have for them and, ideally, would choose to follow you. Thus, their tweets may appear on your twitter page and / or phone, and you will appear to them.

You can also follow the famous (and infamous) people - from President Barack Obama with Jimmy Eat World. Just do not expect them to follow you!

Also worth mentioning: You can lock followers - a convenient, given the public nature of twitter.

Posting tweet
Now you have followers, and prepared for shipment the first chirp. You'll see a box that you enter in your email address at the top of the chirp on the question: "What are you doing?" How do you know that some are taking the question literally and chatter about what they actually do, from watching "The Simpsons", to run the marathon. Others use it to broadcast everything that is of their kind.

A few notes about the sending of messages to specific people:

If you put "@" followed by the individual user name at the beginning of the message, it indicates that the tweet is designed for a specific person. But all of your followers can still see it.
To send a personal tweet, put "D", followed by individual user name in front of the message. ( "D" is intended to direct.)

As you explore the chirp on the site do not forget to check:

The state deadline - a snapshot of what the random people around the world doing it. From your twitter page, click on "All" in the sidebar.
Celebrity users - some make it a popularity contest for the most followers. You can join the Fray, clicking on "Find people" and then "the user" tab.
Third-party applications - there is money from the fund, aimed at improving your twitter experience.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How to get started on Twitter (part1)

So the heck it is about Internet route saw that the number of visitors to the site more than doubled, to 9.3 million people in just one month earlier this year?

In response to this, you better see for yourself. On many levels, that escape the social networking phenomenon that has attracted celebrities, politicians, grandparents and their grandkids call explanation. Is it for you? Read this short primer on some indexes, and then try to send a "tweet," or two. There are no costs, not an obligation - and many feel strangely addictive.

So, that is exactly?

Chirp is part of the social networks of micro-blogging and instant messaging of all rolled into one free service. When he started in 2006, was touted as a way to friends to stay connected through short text messages, which you can send and receive at or to your mobile phone. In the messages you send are called tweets.

Why would I use it?

This is a legitimate question, considering all the messages in this most of us already have - from e-mails and instant messages on Facebook, and mobile phones has been said before. But here are a couple things to set chirrup, except:

Tweets are short and sweet. A tweet can not exceed 140 characters. The proposal, which you're reading now exactly 140 characters, so you can see this is not the place for the Pack, many details in the tweet.
What can you giggle greet and meet. Not only you can quickly send a tweet to all your friends - or twitter-speak, "followers" - but you can also put it to the total consumption. For example, if you are tweeting in support of a political issue, you can attract followers who share your feelings.
Here are some examples of how twitter can fit into your daily life:

Your child-Sitter canceled at the last minute, and you suddenly got a pair of concert tickets may not be used. Send a chirp that if any friends want them to (or willing to baby-sitting).
Writing is not your thing, but you want to keep abreast with my friends and family. With twitter, you can not write much in the same tweet - and no one expects eloquence.
You are looking at a strange city and suddenly hungry Indian food. Send a request to chirp recommendations.
Are you a hairdresser, and someone just canceled the appointment later in the day. Send a chirp that if someone of your standing wish.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

'Star Trek' game veers away from movie

LOS ANGELES - The players will not be able to survive JJ Abrams' highly anticipated "Star Trek" reboot on consoles and PCs.

The only video game released in conjunction with the film premiering May 8 - "Star Trek: CORPS" - This is a simple downloadable arcade-style space shooter that allows players to join either the Federation or the Romulan force and take part in the battles of galactic online.

"We made a conscious choice, with a game that we're not going to retell the story of the film," said lead designer Tarek Soliman. "The movie is Awesome. This is a new take on` Trek ". This is fresh. This is exciting, and he appealed to a much wider audience, I think, than any other `Trek 'movie may have in the past. We wanted to capture that sensibility in this game. "

In the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC game does take a few signals from his big screen counterpart. "Star Trek: D.A.C." Features film composer Michael Giacchino initial assessment. Three Federation and Romulan starships, which players can captain in Deathmatch, assault and conquest of scuffles were inspired by the film structures, including businesses.

"There is a great sense of responsibility, especially in the name of the type of` Star Trek ", said Solimon. "You want to stay loyal to the brand. You do not want to go too far there.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Popular game is a huge flop for Nintendo

Is there a market for mature-rated games on the platform of Nintendo? Judging by the sales performance of the latest in a Grand Theft Auto series, perhaps not.

GTA: China Wars, the first Grand Theft Auto game will be released on the DS, sold only 89,000 copies in a few weeks after his release in March. This is part of the projections of industry analysts who had expected to see a total of 200000 to 400000 range.

This is despite the ravings of critics, who have already led to the game in the aggregate review score 94% on - making it the highest rated Nintendo DS games are released.

"We believe that the name of the effectiveness of ... not because of any misexecution Take-two parts," analyst Doug Creutz told Gamasutra. "Either the demography is more complicated than we thought, or the main players did not consider the title as the most important purchase because of the nature of the platform," he said.

GTA: China Wars' disappointing performance reflected Mature-rated Wii release MadWorld, which boasts hard-edged, over-on-top graphical style, and sold a modest 66,000 copies last month. M-rating games are rare on the Nintendo platforms, as compared to the PSP, PS3 and Xbox 360, and the performance of this pair of perfect games is an indicator of the market as a whole, it is not difficult to understand why.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

25 computer products that won't die (17-25)

After Dark
What it was: Berkeley Systems’ screensaver for Macs and PCs, introduced in 1989 and most famous for its iconic flying toasters. Ask anyone to mention a specific screensaver, and the odds are 99.9999 percent that this is the one they’ll mention. It spawned multiple sequels and spinoffs such as neckties and boxer shorts.
What happened: I’m not sure if I know, exactly, but I suspect the inclusion of fancy screensavers in the Mac OS and Windows and the availability of gazillions of free ones didn’t help the market for commercial screensavers. (I still treasure my autographed copy of Berkeley Breathed’s Opus 'n Bill screensaver, though -- it includes a scene in which Bill the Cat shoots down flying toasters, which prompted a lawsuit.) Also, the theory that you needed a screensaver to prevent your monitor from burning in turned out to be hooey. Anyhow, Berkeley Systems’ last After Dark outing was something called After Dark Games, in 1998; it wasn’t even a screensaver.
Current whereabouts: Berkeley Systems is no more, but Infinisys, a Japanese company, sells a modern OS X version of After Dark. But not too modern: It doesn’t work on Intel Macs.
Harvard Graphics
What it was: The first popular presentation-graphics program, released back in 1986 when many of the slides it produced really did end up as slides. For years, it was the flagship product of Software Publishing Corporation, which was forced to run disclaimers explaining that the product had nothing to do with the university of the same name.
What happened: Harvard Graphics was far better than PowerPoint for a long time. Little by little, though, PowerPoint narrowed the gap. In the 1990s, being a only little better than a Microsoft application was a recipe for disaster -- especially if your product was a standalone application that competed against one that was part of Microsoft Office. In 1994, SPC laid off half its staff; in 1996, it merged with Allegro New Media; in 1998, it released Harvard Graphics 98, its last major upgrade.
Current whereabouts: In 2001, British graphics software developer Serif acquired Harvard Graphics -- cheaply, I’ll bet -- and has kept it kept alive. But it’s on life support: Harvard Graphics 98 is still for sale, along with a few other variants. There’s no mention of when any of them last got an upgrade, but the fact that Windows Vista isn’t mentioned in their hardware requirements isn’t a great sign. Nor is the the lack of any reference to the Harvard line in the list of products on Serif’s own site.

What it was: A research project at legendary computer company Digital Equipment Corp. that became the first widely popular Web search engine soon after its launch in December 1995.
What happened: Digital was a strange parent for a search engine, but it did a great job with AltaVista. In 1998, however, it was acquired by Compaq -- also a strange parent for a search engine -- which tried to turn AltaVista from a search specialist into a Yahoo-like portal. In 2000, Compaq sold it to dot-com investment firm CMGI, which later sold it to Overture Services (the former In 2003, Overture itself was acquired by Yahoo. By then, AltaVista had lost most of its personality and its users -- and Google had grown into a behemoth by being really good at the stuff that AltaVista had pioneered before there was a Google.
Current whereabouts: There’s still an, but its traffic is minimal and it seems to be nothing more than a reskinned doppelganger of part of Yahoo (compare this AltaVista query to this Yahoo one). The site that started as a great piece of technology from one of the world’s great technology companies is now just a name. Sniff.
What it was: A grocery-delivery dot-com service that was famous, at first, for the ambition of its plans, the enormous size of their expense, and the impressive résumés of its management team. It was also pretty darn beloved by more than a few folks I know, who loved the quality of its service.
What happened: Spending more than a billion dollars to build cutting-edge warehouses turned out to be an investment that couldn’t possibly pay off quickly enough. After a string of other questionable business decisions (when its CEO was ousted, his golden parachute included a $375,000 payment -- annually, for life), Webvan declared bankruptcy in 2001.
Current whereabouts: I didn’t realize until I began work on this story that still sells groceries -- but only nonperishable ones -- as an outpost of the empire. Strangely, Amazon has another site, Amazon Fresh, which specializes in delivering stuff that is perishable. Meanwhile, most Americans seem content to get their foodstuffs the old fashioned way, by trudging the aisles of a supermarket with a cart.
What it was: The first online service. Starting in 1979, it offered message boards, news and information, e-commerce and other Weblike features -- long before there was a Web, and even before there was an AOL.
What happened: Well, the rise of AOL in the early 1990s left CompuServe as the second-largest online service, which was probably a lot less fun than being the biggest. Shortly thereafter, CompuServe had to deal with the Internet. Like other proprietary services, it became a not-very-satisfying not-quite-an-ISP. And as consumers flooded the Web, CompuServe’s once-bustling message boards started to feel deserted. In 1997, AOL bought CompuServe, and while CompuServe’s robust international network helped bolster AOL’s infrastructure, the CompuServe community dwindled away.
Current whereabouts: Like Netscape, CompuServe became a nameplate that AOL attaches to slightly embarrassing projects. It’s now a bargain-priced ISP and a half-hearted portal site; its boilerplate copy calls CompuServe a “key brand” and touts CompuServe 7.0 as “the newest version” without mentioning that it’s eight years old. (Weirdly, CompuServe’s home page also carries the logo of Wow, a faux-AOL that the company shuttered within months of its 1996 release -- I can’t believe that anyone misses it or is looking for it.) For those of us who were CompuServe users back when its user IDs consisted of lots of digits and a mysterious comma, it’s a depressing fate.
What it was: A joint venture of Sears Roebuck and IBM that launched an extremely consumery online service in 1990 -- a more mainstream alternative to CompuServe before AOL became a phenomenon. Geeks sneered at it (some called it “Stodigy”), but it managed to sign up a sizable number of users in an era when the typical American had never laid eyes on a modem.
What happened: Within a few years of Prodigy’s debut, the Internet made proprietary services like it (and CompuServe, Delphi, Genie, and, eventually, AOL) look like antiques. Prodigy started adding Internet features, and in 1997 it relaunched itself as a full-blown ISP. (It also shut down the original Prodigy service rather than fixing its Y2K bugs.) It did OK as an ISP, at least for awhile -- in 1998, it was the country’s fourth largest. But in 2001, SBC (now AT&T) bought Prodigy and retired the brand name.
Current whereabouts: Down south! In Mexico, Telmex, the dominant telecommunications company, owns the Prodigy name and still uses it. Here it is on a video site, and on a portal that’s co-branded with MSN (!). And don’t hold me to this, but I suspect that there are still some stateside SBC customers who retain e-mail addresses -- just as I maintained a Mindspring one for years after that ISP was acquired by EarthLink.

VCR Plus+
What it was: Remember all those jokes about VCRs that permanently flashed 12:00? Starting in the early 1990s, the redundantly named VCR Plus+ (which was built into VCRs and available as an add-on in the form of a special remote control) simplified programming a video recorder by letting you punch in codes that appeared in TV listings in newspapers and TV Guide. (In fact, VCR Plus+ inventor Gemstar Development bought TV Guide in 1999 for $9.7 billion.)
What happened: VCR Plus+’s fortunes were dependent on the fortunes of the VCR. As the 1990s wore on, consumers spent less time futzing with recording tapes at all, and more time renting and buying tapes -- and, eventually, renting and buying DVDs. By the end of the decade, TiVo and ReplayTV allowed TV fans to record hours of shows without dealing with tapes at all. Meanwhile, Gemstar founder Henry Yuen was fired after an accounting scandal -- and then went missing.
Current whereabouts: VCR Plus+ is now owned by Macrovision, a company more famous for technologies that prevent people from recording entertainment than ones that help them do so. The codes are available on and, and in newspaper TV listings. (Of course, in an era of 500 channels and on-screen guides, newspaper TV listings are even more anachronistic than newspapers in general.) But you know what? I’m not sure whether anyone’s still making VCRs with VCRPlus+.
Circuit City
What it was: A chain of consumer-electronics superstores with roots that went back to 1949. For a time in the 1990s, it was the most high-profile technology merchant in America.

What happened: Two words: “Best” and “Buy.” Plus misguided decisions like laying off experienced salespeople and replacing them with cheaper, clueless newbies. Not to mention the fact that almost every major electronics retailer eventually falls on hard times and liquidates itself -- it seems to go with the territory.

Current whereabouts: Up north! In the U.S., Circuit City is now a nationwide chain of large, empty storefronts, but its Canadian subsidiary, The Source by Circuit City, remains a 750-store powerhouse. (Confusingly -- at least for us Yanks -- the chain is the former RadioShack Canada.) Recently, Bell Canada agreed to buy The Source; it says it’ll keep the name, but I’m guessing it wasn’t referring to the “by Circuit City” part. But even if it deletes it, Circuit City may not be utterly dead: The home page for its currently closed site says it hopes to restore some sort of online presence.
Egghead Software
What it was: A nationwide chain of software stores with an odd name and an even odder mascot (Professor Egghead, an Albert Einstein-lookalike anthropomorphic egg -- or was he a normal human cursed to live his life with an egg for a noggin?).
What happened: Like most tech retailers, Egghead eventually fell on hard times; in 1998, it shuttered its stores and went online only. In 2001 it declared bankruptcy and closed the site, too (bad publicity after hackers broke into its customer database apparently speeded its demise).
Current whereabouts: Even after the business collapsed, the Egghead name was worth something -- $6.1 million, which is what paid for it in 2001. The e-tailing giant continues to sell software at It’s basically the software section of Amazon’s own site, but it does sport an Egghead logo, just in case any loyal customers are out there who aren’t aware that Egghead folded eight years ago. Sadly, the professor is nowhere to be seen.

Monday, April 20, 2009

25 computer products that won't die (9-16)

Floppy disks
What they were: A form of removable storage, in 3.5-, 5.25- and 8-inch variants, that started in the 1970s as a high-end alternative to saving programs on audio cassettes, then segued into serving as a handy complement to hard drives.
What happened: Until the mid-1990s, floppies remained essential. But then the Internet came along and provided folks with file downloads and attachments -- faster ways to accomplish tasks that had long been the floppy disk’s domain, without floppies’ 1.44MB capacity limitation. (Higher-capacity floppies arrived at about the same time, but never caught on.) Much higher-capacity storage media like Zip disks and recordable DVDs nudged floppies further towards irrelevancy. And USB drives -- which provide a gigabyte or more of storage for less than what I paid for one 72KB floppy in the 1970s -- finished the job.
Current whereabouts: Floppy drives are no longer standard equipment, but they certainly haven’t vanished -- in fact, you may have a computer or two around the house that sports one. New 3.5-inch drives and media remain readily available, and you might be able to find 5.25-inch ones if you hunt a bit. (8-inch floppies I can’t help you with.) Which leaves only one question: Under what circumstances would you opt for floppies over something like a $10 (or so) 4GB USB drive that holds 2750 times as much data?
Zip disks
What they were: Iomega’s extremely useful, cleverly marketed high-capacity removable disks -- introduced back in 1994, when 100MB qualified as high capacity. They were never as pervasive as floppies, but they must be the most popular, most loved proprietary disk format of all time.
What happened: The same things that happened to floppy disks, only more slowly -- and complicated by the malfunction ominously known as the click of death. When cheap CD burners made it easy to store 650MB on a low-cost disc that worked in nearly any computer, Zip started to look less capacious and cost-efficient. And then USB drives -- which offered more storage than Zip and required no drive at all -- came out. Along the way, Iomega launched new disk formats such as Jaz, PocketZip and Rev, but they failed to recapture the Zip magic.
Current whereabouts: Iomega seems to be doing fine as a manufacturer of storage products of all sorts. It still sells 250MB and 750MB Zip drives, along with Zip media going all the way back to the original 100MB disks. I confess that I never owned a Zip drive myself -- but I’ll still feel a twinge of sadness when they finally go away.

Z80 microprocessor
What it was: The 8-bit microprocessor, dating to 1976, that powered an array of early personal computers, including the Radio Shack TRS-80, the Osborne 1, the KayPro II, the Sinclair ZX80, the Exidy Sorcerer and many others. It was also inside Pac-Man arcade games and ColecoVision game consoles.
What happened: Progress! Among the notable things about 1981’s original IBM PC was its use of a powerful 16-bit CPU, the 8088. In time, 16-bit processors gave way to 32-bit ones, which have been superseded by 64-bit models like Intel’s Core 2 Duo and AMD’s Phenom.
Current whereabouts: Everywhere -- but invisibly so. It’s been more than a quarter-century since the chip’s time as a personal-computer CPU ended, but it never stopped finding useful life in industrial equipment, office devices, consumer electronics and musical instruments. Zilog, the Z80’s inventor, still makes ‘em. Anyone want to wager on whether the Core 2 Duo will still be around in 2042?
Software survivors
What it was: The dominant PC database software from almost the moment it first appeared in 1980, and one of the best-known pieces of productivity software, period; the flagship product of Ashton-Tate back when that company was arguably a better-known name in software than Microsoft.
What happened: dBASE IV, mostly. That 1988 upgrade was late and buggy, and Ashton-Tate didn’t move fast enough to fix it, ticking off the loyal developers who had made dBASE a standard. The company also spent a lot of time suing competitors, which is never as productive an investment of time and money as improving one’s own products. In 1991, Borland bought Ashton-Tate for $439 million, and acquired dBASE IV’s bad luck along with it -- neither Borland nor dBASE fared well in subsequent years. And in 1992, Microsoft launched Access, a database that might have slaughtered dBASE no matter what. But dBASE was on the mat before Access ever entered the ring.
Current whereabouts: In 1999, dBASE was sold again, and its new owner, DataBased Intelligence, continues to sell it to this day. (It’s now called dBASE Plus, as if dBASE IV had never existed.) The company’s newsgroups are surprisingly active, showing that real people are still using dBASE to do real work. Not bad for a product that most of us wrote off as a goner early in the first Clinton administration.
What it was: The browser (formally known as Netscape Navigator for most of its life) and company that, beginning in 1994, jump-started both the Web and the Internet economy.
What happened: Hoo boy. Microsoft, after not even bundling a browser with Windows 95 at first, decided to crush Netscape -- which it did by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, giving it away for free and, eventually, making it pretty good. (Along the way, a certain governmental agency expressed its displeasure with some of the company’s anti-Netscape tactics.) Netscape, meanwhile, went off on tangents such as developing a communications suite that didn’t amount to much and enterprise software that it eventually sold to Sun. The company sold out to AOL in 1998; AOL had so little interest in the browser it bought that it continued to distribute IE as its primary one. An ever-shrinking user base did continue to get new versions of Netscape, but in December 2007, AOL announced it was pulling the plug.
Current whereabouts: If you’re an optimist, you’ll focus on one wonderful fact: Firefox, which is based on Mozilla code that originated as an open-source version of Netscape, is a huge success. The Netscape name, however, is profoundly shopworn. In recent years, AOL has slapped it on a budget ISP (which still exists but doesn’t seem to be signing up new customers) and an imitation of Digg (now known as Propeller). Today. it’s mostly just a slight variant on the home page with the Netscape logo repeated endlessly in the background. But did I mention that Firefox is doing great?

What it was: The operating system that powered the original 1981 IBM PC. And then a bunch of clones of the original IBM PC. And then the vast majority of the personal computers on the planet.
What happened: The simplistic answer: When Windows 95, the first version of Windows that didn’t require DOS to run, came along, it rendered DOS obsolete. (Eventually -- some people happily ran DOS and DOS applications for several years after Win 95 debuted.) More thoughtful answer: The moment that the Mac brought graphical-user interfaces into the mainstream in 1985, it was the beginning of the end of the drab, relentlessly text-based DOS.
Current whereabouts: DOS refuses to die. It seems to me that I still see it in use at small independent businesses such as antique stores and dry cleaners -- the kind of outfits that don’t bother to change something that still works, even if it’s a decade or two out of fashion. It’s the inspiration for FreeDOS, an open-source project with a thriving community. And Microsoft still offers MS-DOS 6.22 for download to customers who subscribe to various volume-licensing plans. Why would the company bother if there weren’t people who still needed it?
Lotus 1-2-3
What it was: The world’s most popular spreadsheet -- the first killer app for the IBM PC, and the spreadsheet that replaced the original killer app, VisiCalc. It was also the flagship program in Lotus’ SmartSuite, an office bundle that provided Microsoft Office with real competition in the mid-1990s.
What happened: A variant on the fates that befell WordPerfect, Harvard Graphics and other major DOS productivity apps. Lotus thought that IBM’s OS/2 would replace DOS, so it focused its energies on that OS, then had to play catch-up when OS/2 went nowhere and Windows caught on like crazy. Starting in the 1990s, it turned its attention to its Notes collaboration platform, and seemed less and less interested in desktop applications -- especially after IBM bought Lotus in 1995. That gave Microsoft plenty of opportunity to make Excel competitive with 1-2-3 and leverage its place in the Microsoft Office suite. By the late 1990s, 1-2-3 was a has-been; Lotus last upgraded it in 2002.
Current whereabouts: IBM still sells that 2002 version of 1-2-3, which it cheerfully calls “the latest release.” For $313, it throws in the other SmartSuite apps “as a bonus.” But it’s so disinterested in the product that made Lotus a software giant that when it recently introduced a new suite that includes a spreadsheet, it named that suite after a different old Lotus package -- Symphony.
What it was: Aldus’ groundbreaking desktop publishing application, launched in 1985. Along with Apple’s Macintosh and LaserWriter laser printer, it made it possible for mere mortals to create professional-looking documents (as well as eyeball-searing monstrosities) for the first time.
What happened: PageMaker’s decline was slow and multifaceted. As word processors gained respectable graphics capabilities, casual users had less need for PageMaker, and QuarkXPress offered more sophisticated tools for professionals. Adobe, which had acquired Aldus in 1994, lost interest in PageMaker and built its own publishing app, InDesign, from the ground up. In 2004, it announced that it would cease further development of PageMaker.
Current whereabouts: Over at Adobe’s Web site, it’s still selling PageMaker 7.0, which dates to 2002. The price: $499. It touts it as “the ideal page layout program for business, education and small- and home-office professionals who want to create high-quality publications such as brochures and newsletters.” Which is a darned odd claim to make about a program that’s incompatible with all current Macs (it’s an OS 9 application) and Windows Vista. Dig deeper and you’ll find Adobe’s real opinion of PageMaker, which is -- surprise! -- that you should use InDesign instead.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

25 computer products that won't die (1-8)

Dot-matrix printers
What they were: The printer you probably owned if you had a PC in the house any time from the late 1970s until the early to mid-1990s. Models like the Epson FX-80 and the Panasonic KX-P1124 were noisy and slow, and the best output they could muster was the optimistically named “near letter quality.” But they were affordable, versatile and built like tanks.

What happened:
Beginning in the early 1990s, inkjet printers from HP, Epson and Canon started to get pretty good -- their output came far closer to rivaling that of a laser printer than dot-matrix ever could. And then, in the mid-1990s, inkjet makers added something that killed the mass-market dot-matrix printer almost instantly: really good color. (I still remember having my socks knocked off by the original Epson Stylus Color when I saw it at the Consumer Electronics Show in 1994.) There was simply no comparison between even the best dot-matrix printer and a color inkjet.

Current whereabouts:
Nobody ever thinks about dot-matrix printers anymore, but they haven’t gone away -- my local Office Depot still stocks them, in fact. That’s because they have at least two valuable features inkjet and laser models can’t match: Because the dot-matrix printhead hits the paper with a hard whack, they’re perfect for printing multiple-part forms, and their use of tractor-feed mechanisms rather than dinky trays lets them print thousands of pages without a paper refill. Consequently, small businesses everywhere refuse to give them up. It won’t startle me if there are still Epsons productively hammering out invoices and receipts a couple of decades from now, assuming we still use paper at all.

Hayes modems
What they were: Dial-up modems from the company whose founder, Dennis Hayes, essentially invented the PC modem in the 1970s. The commands he devised became such a standard that all dial-up modems use them to this day. Hayes dominated the modem business for years -- it was as synonymous with the product category it pioneered as any tech company before or since.
What happened: Well, dial-up modems don’t matter as much as they once did, in case you hadn’t noticed. But Hayes’ decline and fall dates to well before the death of dial-up: The company stubbornly kept prices high even in the face of much cheaper competition, and thought its future lay in making ISDN modems, a market that never took off. It declared bankruptcy in 1994 and again in 1998, and was liquidated in 1999.
Current whereabouts: In 1999, Zoom Telephonics -- the company whose dirt-cheap modems played a major role in crushing Hayes -- bought the Hayes name. It continues to market a few Hayes-branded modems. But it’s a pretty obscure fate for a once-mighty brand -- I didn’t know it was still extant at all until I checked.
What it was: Sony’s format for pint-sized recordable audio discs, introduced in 1992. The idea was that it combined the best qualities of compact discs and cassette tapes into one high-quality, portable package that could contain up to 80 minutes of music.

What happened: MiniDisc found some fans -- it was popular in Asia and among musicians. But it never gained much support from the music industry, so few prerecorded albums were available. And within a few years of its introduction, it found itself competing with digital downloads. While Sony introduced NetMD, a MiniDisc variant that supported MP3, the company made it remarkably unappealing by adding copy protection to your tracks as you transferred them to disc. Why would you choose NetMD when a multitude of players, such as those from Diamond and Creative, let MP3s be MP3s? Good question!

Current whereabouts: In 2004, Sony upgraded the MiniDisc format with Hi-MD, a higher-capacity, more flexible standard that was backwards-compatible with MiniDiscs. It garnered some admiration among audiophiles for the high quality of its recording capabilities. But as of 2009, only one Hi-MD device remains in Sony’s lineup, the MZ-M200. It’s aimed at musicians and journalists who need to make recordings on the go. The moment it disappears, we can officially declare MiniDisc dead.
Monochrome displays
What they were: The black-and-white CRT that most businesses and many homes used with computers from the 1970s through the late 1980s -- and they worked just fine, since most DOS applications made little use of color, and early Macs didn’t support it at all.
What happened: Graphical user interfaces, multimedia and games made universal use of color inevitable, but it took a long time before it truly conquered computing. Well into the 1990s, lots of folks who wouldn’t dream of using a black-and-white display with a desktop PC still toted monochrome notebooks. But today, even a $200 netbook has a perfectly respectable color display.
Current whereabouts: You don’t want a monochrome display. But if you did, you wouldn’t have trouble finding one -- even Dell still stocks them. They’re still out there in large quantities, being used for electronic cash registers and other unglamorous but important text-based applications. And hey, monochrome is making its own unexpected sort of comeback: My brand-new Kindle 2 e-book reader has an E-Ink screen that does 16 shades of gray, and nothing else.

What it was: An extremely popular line of graphics cards for IBM PCs and compatibles. Hercules first appeared in 1982, the year after the IBM PC was launched, and was known for its high-quality text; it was as synonymous with graphics in the 1980s as Creative’s Sound Blaster was with audio a decade later.
What happened: When fancy color graphics replaced Spartan text displays, Hercules continued to be a prominent brand for years, though it never dominated as it did in the early years. But in 1998, it was bought out by competitor Elsa, which then went bankrupt and sold the Hercules brand to French tech company Guillemot. (In researching this article, I’ve come to the conclusion that one sale or merger is usually bad news for a venerable brand, and a second one is usually near-fatal.) Guillemot continued to make cards under the Hercules name for several years. But industry consolidation in the graphics biz was ongoing and brutal, and in 2004 it ceased production of them.
Current whereabouts: The Hercules name lives on, but in an array of tech gadgets that doesn’t include graphics cards: Guillemot uses it for notebooks, Wi-Fi and powerline networking gear, sound cards, speakers, iPod accessories, laptop bags and more. I wish them luck. But it’s a little as if McDonald's stopped selling burgers to concentrate on tuna salad, Philly cheese steaks, BLTs and Reubens.
Personal digital assistants
What they were: The handy-dandy, pocketable gadgets that started as organizers in the early 1990s and blossomed into full-blown computing devices, from the pioneering Apple Newton and Casio Zoomer to the enduringly popular Palm PalmPilot and Compaq iPaq lines.

What happened: By 2005 or so, stand-alone PDAs were rendered almost entirely superfluous by their close cousins known as smartphones, which started out big and clunky but eventually did everything a PDA did, and a lot more. Despite occasional attempts to reinvent the PDA -- such as Palm’s ill-fated LifeDrive -- almost nobody chose to purchase and carry a phone and a PDA.

Current whereabouts: I’m not sure when any manufacturer last released a new PDA, unless you want to count the iPod Touch as one. (And come to think of it, I can’t think of a strong argument against calling it a PDA.) HP, which acquired the iPaq line when it bought Compaq, still sells four aging PDAs under the name. Palm, meanwhile, maintains an eerie ghost town of a handheld store, which still lists three models but says they’re all sold out. Amazon still has Palm PDAs in stock, though, so they’re not quite dead. Yet.
Packard Bell
What it was: A PC manufacturer (named after a venerable but defunct radio company) that dominated the retail home PC market in the early 1990s.
What happened: Numerous products in this article fell on hard times in part because of crummy business decisions by their owners, but no other one did itself in so quickly and so self-destructively as Packard Bell. Its computers were cheap in part because they were terrible, and backed by subpar customer support. When rivals such as Compaq started selling reasonable computers at reasonable prices through retail stores, Packard Bell started to founder. The decision by NEC to take a controlling interest in Packard Bell in 1995 seemed bizarre even at the time; in 2000, the last Packard Bells disappeared from U.S. store shelves.
Current whereabouts: Lots of places -- just not stateside. The brand name never died in Europe, and after a couple of further changes of ownership, it ended up as an arm of Taiwanese PC giant Acer in 2008. It now makes laptops, desktops, displays, MP3 players and desktops. And if it ever returns to the U.S. market, it’ll be a more impressive comeback than anything Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens has managed.

What it was: A remarkable line of personal computers, introduced by home PC pioneer Commodore in 1985, that delivered powerful multimedia and multitasking years before they became commonplace on PCs and Macs.
What happened: Well, you could fill a book with the details -- and hey, someone did. Commodore had superb technology, but did a terrible job of developing and marketing it. You could argue that Amiga would have petered out no matter who owned it -- even Apple flirted with death as DOS and then Windows overwhelmed other alternatives -- but Commodore’s decision-making sure didn’t help. In 1994, it declared bankruptcy and stopped making computers. The Amiga name went on to change hands at least four times over the next decade, sometimes being used on hardware, sometimes being used on software and sometimes just disappearing.
Current whereabouts: Amiga Inc, the current owner of the Amiga name, uses it on middleware for set-top boxes as well as games and other applications for cell phones (you can buy an Amiga tip calculator). It also says it’s still working on Amiga OS 4.0, a product so long in the making that it, like Harlan Ellison’s science-fiction anthology The Last Dangerous Visions, is best known for how long it’s been promised without ever appearing. As a former Amiga fanatic, I hope it does ship someday -- there’s no way a new Amiga OS wouldn’t be cooler than an Amiga tip calculator.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

How to make cheap calls on your cell phone (4)


Skuku main current product is slightly different from the others I tested for this article. Designed to eliminate the international roaming charges for calls made in the United States from abroad, Skuku requires a PC and Skuku equipment - a USB Stick or a mobile phone, which you insert the SIM from your GSM phone. You Skuku Stick or connect the phone to the PC USB-port, and Skuku PC software routes calls to servers that use your SIM Infopage place a call from almost U.S. carrier.

The downside of this approach is that you are tied to the computer, but Skuku works on Windows Mobile version of its software for mobile phones GSM (the company said that the issue the application for HTC phones this spring). I tested an earlier version in which you want Wi-Fi connection, as well as to find the voice quality of both. Calls sounded very vague, with a static and a noticeable echo, but I could hear my callers, and they could hear.

Skuku mobile app will likely be free, with fees similar to those PC-based applications (approximately $ 2.50 per day or $ 12.50 per month). This is a great deal for travelers who want cheap calls home, but you still have to pay for roaming calls from one foreign country to another.
Despite the fact that the voice quality of the four services I tried not to win any awards, they could save serious money if you make many international calls. Because the software is free, you can try them out himself, that if one of them works for you.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to make cheap calls on your cell phone (3)


EQO is designed to provide a single place from which you can view and connect all of your contacts via voice calls, text messages, SMS, or instant messages. EQO software supports AIM, Google and Yahoo instant messaging, photo sharing (you can insert a picture in EQO messages or links sent via IM or text message), the free exchange of messages with other EQO; the ability to send messages or to EQO and twitter status updates and RSS-feeds.

The service, currently in beta, working on various BlackBerry, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson phones. I tested it on the BlackBerry 8900 Curve. Simply register your mobile number on the EQO site, and a link to a download site, arrived on the phone using text messages. Installation is very simple, and to dial the number, simply enter it in EQO interface; phone then connects you to call a local access number, which EQO is used to route calls over their networks. (All of this takes place against a background of, you may not even notice it.)

EQO is the best voice quality of the four services I tested, but it still was not as good as a regular mobile phone call. Voices were less crisp and sounded a bit hollow, but overall, everything was clear. EQO prices significantly higher than in other services, ranging from 2.3 cents per minute. And even calls between EQO users are not free: They are half the cost of legal service calls.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How to make cheap calls on your cell phone (2)


Truphone, probably the most famous on the mobile VoIP service works on Nokia E-and N-series devices, BlackBerry phones, iPhone, and IPod Touch, and Android based T-Mobile G1. I have tested it on the first generation iPhone, using the phone in a Wi-Fi connection. (You can use the cellular data connection on some phones.)

After downloading a free Truphone with iTunes, I have been running for several minutes. In the iPhone version saves iPhone look - if not for Truphone logo on top, you may not even realize that the iPhone Dialer does not own. Calls to other Truphone users are free, as well as the service allows you to access your account Skype (good for iPhone users waiting for a client Skype), as well as providing access to basic services for instant messaging.

In my test calls, voice quality varied greatly. Some calls sounded hollow, while others were loud and distracting background hiss. But it is very convenient service, and its sound quality was much better than Skype for mobile devices.
Truphone has two pricing options: TruStandard, which has no monthly fees and rates, which start with the 5.1 cents per minute, or TruSaver, which costs $ 4 a month, and rates that start at 2.1 cents per minute.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How to make cheap calls on your cell phone (1)

Mobile voice-over-IP services promise to save money by routing calls over the carrier's data network. As more carriers and phones support high-speed data hookups, such services are growing. We looked at four - EQO, Skuku, Skype for Windows Mobile and Truphone - and found that, although they are much easier to use than those we have tried a few years ago, they are imperfect replacement of conventional voice call service.

It should be emphasized that the quality remains uncertain, at best, and in some cases, it is absolutely abhorrent. In addition, depending on your calling habits, you may not see any savings at all. Most service providers continue to charge a per minute rate, so you'll save on domestic calls, only if you exceed the normal voice plan of distribution (in this case, you may be even better, upgrade your voice plan). However, if you make many international calls, mobile VoIP service can save big money. Of the four services, which we tried, EQO offered the best voice quality, but its rate was significantly higher than in others. Truphone call quality varies, but generally, he proposed an optimal combination of performance and quality at a reasonable price.

Skype for Windows Mobile

This popular VoIP service is available in three versions, mobile: Skype for Windows Mobile, Skype Lite for Java phones and Android edition. (Skype is iPhone application in the work, but at this writing there are no words on when it will be available.)
I tried Skype for Windows Mobile 2.5. The company said millions of people downloaded the software - if it's true, I can only hope they were lucky with him better than I do. After trying in vain (with the help of the company) to get the software and works on HTC Fuze, I easily downloaded and installed it on T-Mobile Shadow.

Like the desktop version, mobile Skype allows free calls to users of colleagues Skype, send instant messages and transfer files. In addition, you can call non-Skype to regular and mobile phones using SkypeOut, a paid service.

Skype says it works best on Wi-Fi connection, but can work on 2G and 3G cellular communications. I have tested it on Wi-Fi, but the voice quality of SkypeOut calls I was miserable, much worse than the calls I made from the desktop Skype. The voting was so divided as to be unintelligible. At the proposal of Skype, I tried using the headset, though the voices were a little louder, as a result, stuttering and breakups are so frequent.

At least, Skype rates are reasonable, ranging from 2.1 cents per minute. It also offers a subscription for only $ 2.95 a month - and for $ 9.95 a month, you can make unlimited calls to regular in 36 countries.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Teen hacker turns cyber-crime fighter

Wellington, New Zealand - New Zealand teenager who helped crack the gang crime in more than 1 million computers worldwide and skimmed millions of dollars from bank accounts of a new job as a consultant on security in the telecommunications company.

Owen Thor Walker has skills that can help senior managers and clients understand the security threats to their computer networks, TelstraClear Press Chris Mirams said the national radio on Wednesday.

Walker pleaded guilty in July last year - when he was 18 years old - on a raft of charges related to his work on the international network, which estimates the FBI infiltrated 1.3 million computers and skimmed a bank account or damage to computer systems, amounting to more than 20 million dollars.

The charges against Walker - who used the network name "AKILL", and wrote the so-called botnet infiltration of programs for crime networks - have been dismissed, and he was released without a criminal record after paying a fine and confiscation of cash from the gang, for his expertise .

Walker has already made a series of seminars for TelstraClear, said a senior security and management personnel in the company, and took part in the campaign, Mirams said.

"It was very easy ... to let them know the type of cyber-threats that they," Mirams said, adding that Walker also discussed how to protect yourself from these threats.

Some hackers to send mass e-mail to target the corporate or government computer systems to overload and crash the system. Others assume control of thousands of computers and build them into clusters known as centralized botnets.

In Hackers can use computers to steal credit card information, manipulate stock trades and crash the computer systems industry.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Microsoft launches Internet Explorer 8 Final Version Today

(Computerworld) - Microsoft Corp. launched the Internet Explorer 8 today, beating its closest competitor, Mozilla Corp., in the race toward final code.

The new browser will be available to coincide with a keynote speech at Mix09, the Microsoft-sponsored conference where IE8 Web Developer will be introduced, said James Pratt, a senior product manager IE development team.

"We will be releasing IE8 [release to manufacturing] in 25 languages for Windows Vista, XP, Server 2003 and Server 2008," said Pratt.

Windows 7 users, most of them running the beta version that premiered Jan. 10, will not see the final version of IE8 Microsoft provides to the public in March next operating system, said Pratt. He refused to promise that the last bit of the browser would make Windows 7 Release Candidate, which Microsoft has strongly hinted will be offered to the general public. "But that would be ideal," he said.

People already use an earlier version of IE8 - Microsoft issued two bands and a release candidate in the last 12 months - will be offered the final code through the Windows Update "over the coming weeks," said Pratt. "We want them to have the most up-to-date version."

In some yet-unspecified later date, Microsoft will "connect" IE8's automatic download and installation through Windows Update for the older people running IE6 or IE7 browsers. In January, the company issued a set of tools that the corporate IT administrators can use IE8 to block the installation when the Microsoft Windows Update pulls the trigger.

Pratt was confident that Microsoft's servers would get up waiting to load when users start hitting your site to IE8 today. In January, Microsoft had to postpone and restart the public beta release of Windows 7 after crushing overwhelmed its servers. "An operating system and browser are different size packages," he noted. "We had a lot of experience releasing browsers, and I am confident that he will be available to all users who want to."

As the company promised last November, Microsoft used what for him was a fast-paced cycle development near the end, sticking to his promise, then the only issue a "Release Candidate" building, which he did in late January 2009, before moving on to the final.

But does not mean that Microsoft has its foot on the gas. "We are very deliberate in how we release a product," Pratt said, when asked if Microsoft would pick up the pace of the game faster cycles of some of its rivals such as Mozilla Corp. and Google Inc. "When we build a browser , we must balance the needs of a number of customers, "he said, including companies that are traditionally reluctant to change the software.

Ironically, Microsoft Mozilla nimble slow beat in the race for the next major update. Had to postpone the Mozilla Firefox 3.5, formerly called 3.1, several times over the past eight months and has yet to issue a release candidate.

Still, Mozilla welcomed the IE8 launch. "We are happy to see that Microsoft is not standing still," said Mike Beltzner, director of Firefox. "But we are not standing still either. Browser makers have to keep it [because] people expect more of the Web today."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Electric car: Been there, done that, doing it again

Electric cars and their charging stations are everywhere in "Watchmen". Dr. Manhattan foreshadows the inevitable future in a flashback to the portion of retirement in 1962 Hollis Mason (aka Nite Owl I) when he says the "new electric car will be even easier" than the gas guzzlers of the time. In the real world, the electric car is making waves with GM in 1997 by the introduction of the EV1. The limited production car was crushed in 2003, as described in the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?" Now , vehicle batteries make a valiant return. The Tesla Roadster is already available, and virtually every other major car manufacturers is in charge of plans for deployment models in the coming years, including the Chevrolet Volt, showed here.

The creepy side of social sites

Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter may seem like the West - anything goes. But even with the access and the vastness of the Web, the rules once you've learned on the playground still apply.

"There was a big cultural change in how we communicate and document our social life in recent years, but we have not been taught or online digital ways," says Jo Bryant, an adviser to the UK based on the label of authority Debrett's, which added a section on social networks of their label "AZ of Modern Manners" in early 2008.

Rule No. 1? Treat others with kindness and respect, Debrett advises. For more complicated situations, here is a guide to be a good citizen and using digital technology wisely:

Rule: Do not talk shit to the public
One of the most important, experts say, there is such a thing as too much information. You have a suspicious mole? Your intestines are on a rampage after burrito? Talk to your doctor or someone with whom you have a relationship where it is acceptable. But you should think twice before putting what your status message or Twittering about it.

"When you put something that your status is like shouting across the room," says columnist Technotica Helen AS Popkin MSNBC. "So, your status is not the right place to write:" I am divorced. "

Adam Jackson, who co-wrote the book "140 characters", a style guide to Twitter, he always cautions people to avoid "tweets bathroom."

"There are things that we feel compelled to say about Twitter as if there are no consequences at all," he said. "But everything is archived."

Article: Learn self-defense
"There is a bit of a risk of losing control of certain personal information," says John Abell, editor of the East Coast of ... One reason is that you often forget how things are widely disseminated. "

Although May you have only to your online friends 112 to see the status message stating that you hate your job, or that picture of you locking lips with a stranger, it can spread like a fire if you do not know not your settings. Make sure you are aware of who can see what is on your profile, especially if you are uncomfortable with the exchange of information with the world.

In addition, Popkin said, it is acceptable to remove any other comments on the pictures of your wall or if they are not appropriate.

"You can send an e-mail to your friends that you will enjoy if they keep their own observations," she says. "We must also remember that someone's mother or boss may be looking for their profile You must be respectful of your comments as well. "

Kirsten Dixson, an expert brand online, with Google you from time to time to ensure that you know that exists. "You want to make very unflattering personal information or, if on the Web, is buried at least three hours a Google search page," she says.

Rule: Smile for the camera
Remember that the holiday party where you had too much eggnog and ended with your shirt on his head? A few months later that the picture you have forgotten ends on the Web. In this situation it is probably in your best interest to UNTAG of the image.

Popkin said really embarrassing for the photos, you can and should request that the picture is taken from the Web. "Your friends can tell you about cloth, but just take it in stride and laugh at yourself," she says. "You can always blame on the hearing frightening stories on the Internet."

To avoid being caught off guard, make sure you adjust your settings so you are notified when a photo of you is marked.

Rule: bite people can be annoying
One of the golden rules Debrett's is "Do not disturb your friends constantly frenetic stung." The problem with the bag, a feature on Facebook, which is a digital version of biting someone with your finger, is that there is no collective understanding of what it means. Some are literally as a sexual initiation, while others say it is just a way of saying "hey." Depending on the nature of your relationship with the "poke" you can determine whether handheld or not - just to keep a minimum.

If you are on the wrong side of an aggressive poker, Popkin suggests ignoring the pocket, but leaving in place - the author sting will be unable to continue to target you.

Rule: Break like a big kid
Break is difficult to do - crying, anger, excuses - so why not avoid guilt by sending a text message or MySpace? Breaking up digital is becoming more common and more acceptable, "says Julie Albright, a sociologist at the University of Southern California who studies the relationships and technology.

"It is not too long on" Sex and the City "when Carrie said:" I dumped with a Post-it notes, "says Albright." Now, "I l ' dumped to a post on Facebook. "

If the relationship is temporary - and both parties understand that occasionally - it may be an option. But if two of you discussed wedding songs and chosen baby names, you have to dump the old: face to face.

Rule: Do not be spooky
Social networking offers unprecedented access to events in people's lives. This can make it easy to stalk your ex. Once upon a time you had your gift to black cap, cut the headlights and try to roll past unnoticed at his house, a preview of his new life without you. Now, with just the click of a mouse, you can see who is flirting with him, what the parties he attended, and obtain an eyeful of the new woman on his arm.

Do not do it for you, advises Albright. Not only are you goosebumps (even if he does not know this), but going much more difficult to obtain during the relationship.

"It's much easier to become obsessed with someone and want to follow developments in them," she says. "It is better in May to block or your ex unfriend so you do not have to face temptation."

It is also acceptable to block or unfriend exes if you do not want to see what's on your page.

Rule: If you do not want to play, that's OK
You have crossed the country out of this girl who tormented you in high school, and now she is trying to your friend. Do not worry, "said Popkin, ignore the request.

"You do not have a friend to people, just like in the real world," she says. "The best thing to do is ignore them, block them and forget."

This may be easier said than done, especially if the application that you are ignorant from a co-worker or boss with whom you interact on a daily basis.

"I have a friend on Facebook from San Francisco who has faced this problem a couple of embarrassing times," said Abell. "She had to tell a co-worker" I do not Facebook friends with people whom I work. "

The easiest way is to tell the unwanted friend politely that you try to keep your small network, or you want to keep family and friends.

"If your boss requires that you always accept a request for friendship, then it is a moron and you should probably look for another job," says Popkin.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Very Surprising memory trick2

You can see that you're not careful when you doodle, but science says otherwise.

Researchers in the United Kingdom found that subjects who doodled while listening to a recorded message 29 percent had a better recall of details of the message that those who did not doodle. The results were published in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

"If someone makes a boring task, like listening to a dull conversation, they begin to dream in May," study researcher Professor Jackie Andrade, the School of Psychology at the University of Plymouth, has stated in a press release issued by the magazine publisher. "Daydreaming distracts them from the task, resulting in poorer performance. A simple task, such as doodling, may be sufficient to stop the dream, without affecting performance on the main task. "

For the experience of two and a half minute list of names of people and places has been played for test subjects, who were charged to write the names of people, told to attend a party. During recording, half the participants were invited to both the shadow formed on a piece of paper without attention to cleanliness. Participants said they were taking part in a memory test.

When recording is completed, all were invited for the eight names of the participants as well as eight names of places mentioned in the audio. Guests to doodle writing, on average, 7.5 and names of places, while those who were not listed only 5.8 doodle.

"In psychology, tests of memory or attention will often use a second task to block selectively a mental," said Andrade. "If this process is important for the primary cognitive task, then performance will be affected. My research shows that the beneficial effects of secondary tasks, such as doodling on the merger in May offset the effects of selective inhibition. "

In everyday life, "said Andrade, doodling" May be something for us because it helps keep us on track with a boring task, rather than being a useless distraction that we should try to resist the action. "

Saturday, March 7, 2009

How to stop Wi-Fi poachers

Dang neighbors! Always getting the milk for free, while you're paying for the cow. Here's how to make your network invisible to the outside world.

Everyone has a different system to keep your home secure networks. And by "secure" I mean "safe from cheapskate neighbors who seek to steal some free Internet."
Some users rely on their router WPA encryption capabilities, while others use the MAC address filtering. Some do both. I'm not wild about either approach, since it involves a lot of hoop-jumping when I have to add new devices to the network.
Instead, I'm a fan of invisibility. I had the simple step of disabling the SSID broadcast on my router, my network that effectively invisible to the neighbors. Hey, can not steal what they do not know is there, right?
If you have ever found a stranger in your own home or, for example, the local coffee shop, you know what I mean. Stray router Wi-Fi signals bounce around the place. However, a PC can be seen only by those networks broadcast SSID. Shutting down, and it is as if the router is not even there.
Of course, it's there for your PC and devices connected to the Internet. So how do you connect to a network invisible? Just enter the network name manually. In Vista, for example, the head of the Center for Network and Sharing, click Set up a connection or network, and then manually choose to connect to a wireless network. Enter your network name (as designated in the router) and you're good to go. You should also check this link to start automatically so you do not have to repeat this process, and to connect even if the network is not broadcasting to overcome natural resistance to Vista network invisible.
If you do not know how to turn off the SSID broadcast of the router, see the manual. In my D-Link router, the setting is actually called Visibilidad state your mileage may vary.
This is not a bulletproof security solution. I am sure that many people call me stupid, reckless and other choice words. But because I have targeted the suburbs security needs, I do not feel the need for encryption, filtering and other tough measures.

Friday, February 27, 2009

LG-GM730 to Debut Windows Mobile 6.5

LG-GM730 is one of the first mobile phones on board with the new version of Windows Mobile (6.5), in which the sport was changed, the contact-friendly interface. But the LG (eg, HTC), is still going to hit on his S-class UI on Microsoft's. GM730 is less than 12mm (under a half inch) thick, and Wil have rounded edges, but otherwise the characteristics have not been released. Telephone is scheduled to appear at midyear.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Natural explanation was found for UFOs

Mysterious UFO observation can go hand in hand with a puzzling natural phenomenon known as sprites - flash high into the atmosphere triggered by storms.

The lights have appeared in most of the above storms throughout history, but researchers did not start studying them until a mistake made a remark on camera in 1989.

"Flash of thunder excites the electric field above, produces a flash of light called a spirit," said Colin, a geophysicist at Tel Aviv University in Israel. "We now understand that only a certain type of flash is the trigger that initiates the sprites up."

Researchers have discovered flashes between 35 and 80 miles (56-129 km) from the ground, much higher than 7 to 10 miles (11.16 km), which usually produces lightning. Sprites can take the form of fast-paced balls of electricity, although previously suggested foot streaks or tendrils.

Case or on the flash remains murky, but suggested that the price might explain some of the UFO reports which have been harvested for years. It could provide a consolation for UFO enthusiasts disappointed human-caused false in the past.

Both jetliner pilots and astronauts have reported the observation of sprites, with a different but equally mysterious phenomenon known as blue jets.

Price and his colleagues have focused on 'winter sprites that appear only in the northern hemisphere winter months. Their remote-controlled roof-mounted cameras can place sprites on producing storms over the Mediterranean Sea.

Triangulation techniques have also allowed researchers to calculate the size of sprites.

"The candles are sprites in up to 15 miles high, the group of 45 candles mile wide - Looks like a great birthday celebration!" Price said.

Sprites can have some effect on Earth's ozone layer, but scientists suspect that the overall impact is small.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Samsung’s Green Blue Earth Phone

Samsung pulled out a really stops this year in terms of innovation, as well as one of the most unusual of phones in its lineup is a blue Earth, in which the company bills as "the first solar-powered full contact tel. This solar panel on the back, and comes with several environmentally conscious applications, including environmental walk calculator, which uses a built-in pedometer to see how many steps you have taken - and then calculates how much CO2 emissions you saved the walk instead of driving.

Even the packaging the phone clean (of paper) and the charger (when there is not enough sun to power the device) estimated 5-star energy efficient and uses less than .03 W standby power.

Blue Earth PCM from recycled plastics, derived from a bottle of water, and, according to Samsung, this is "free from harmful substances such as brominated flame retardants, beryllium, and phthalate." Kind of makes the rest of there phones we use to have this evil-sounding things in them.

By Denny Arar, PC World

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

iPhone arrives in Thailand Now

The long-awaited Apple iPhone has finally arrived Thailand on Friday.

The TrueMove iPhone 3G launch, handled by True Move, was held at the Royal Paragon Hall at Siam Paragon from Friday to Sunday.

There are few devices that have caused such a stir, and the iPhone has shaken up the mobile phone industry with manufacturers trying, one way or another, to duplicate what makes the iPhone what it is. Inevitably they, and those who bought unlocked iPhones, miss the essential ingredient - the integration of hardware, software and services. True does seem to grasp this point.

Supachai Chearavanont, chief executive officer and managing director of True Move, outlined the iPhone's arrival in Thailand. During much of his presentation he pushed the idea of convergence and of the device as part of a "lifestyle". He mentioned the multi-use features that may not be familiar to many users - phone, music player, games, pictures and Internet.

He also mentioned that True has its own apps for the iPhone. There are 12 currently available via the App Store, and while some are specifically for the iPhone, some also work on the Generation 2 iPod touch. This reveals that there has been a considerable amount of work going on behind the scenes.

During his introduction, he took time to thank Apple, which is only fair, but as an indication of the fact that this is True's baby in Thailand, there was no one from Apple at the briefing or the subsequent Q&A session. Apple personnel were there, but as advisers on the installation, and were not openly involved in the project management. Supachai also showed what appeared to be a couple of nicely made advertisements for the iPhone 3G with a Thai voice-over, ending with the Apple logo.

By: GRAHAM K. ROGERS @ Bangkokpost

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Girls really do want games about fashion

Since the launch of its brand Imagine the end of 2007, Ubisoft has confirmed what we already suspected: There is gold in the girl players. The company has put out 15 titles that focus on girls from last year - games such as "Fashion Designer, Film Star," "Master Chef" and "Babyz." It sold 8 million copies worldwide of the games.

However, some experts - and lay people - which refers to gender-specific games can send the wrong message to girls. When the games launch, more than a few bloggers took the company to task for which it seems to trade in tired old stereotypes.

"I wonder what else is doing Ubisoft for girls, except shopping, fashion and pets. Anything?" Alice Taylor wrote in his blog wonders. Even Kotaku definitely a type of game-heavy site, put a snarky post with the title: "Ubisoft puts women in their place."

As a child of age, I admit that my first reaction to the brand Imagine being annoying. (Seriously. "Babyz Party?"), But then he started thinking about my own childhood old. I loved the building of strong and play the ball in the impasse. But I also loved ballet and figure skating. I was crazy about horses. I was the neighborhood babysitter.

Ubisoft did not enter this market cold - raising animals virtual "Petz" games have been super popular with the girls together. And the company made decisions on what we imagine the line, said Senior Vice Ubisoft President Tony Key, based on information obtained from real live girls.

"Almost all of our online games is the result of a classification system that put us in front of girls, (asking)" What's interesting to you? "He says." The list is not just 'the fashion designer "," Babyz "and" Wedding Design "... that is the existence of archeology, which is the existence of attorney, which is a professor there, had the doctor there. "

To be fair, the sparkle Imagine loaded games include titles like "Animal Doctor", "Master" and "Interior Designer" - all the professions that women are not as stereotypical. But the best-selling title for now, in line with Imagine? "Fashion Designer".

Karen Shanor, a neuropsychologist based in Washington DC, said it was limiting - and damaging - to tell the girls that these games are "just for them."

"The girls say they are because they want to love this, because they think they should, and that is what their friends are getting. We gender label things," he says. "I'm a girl, so I must enjoy the shopping and cooking and get a manicure and there is nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong with a guy who has, either."

Key, but said that overall, girls respond differently to different rides for children. To create girls and boys want to destroy.

"These girls love customization, they love the creative part of" Fashion Designer "and the social aspects of showing your friends what you've created. Considering that children are the opposite - they're very interested in action," said Key . "You can not sell the same game for both, as a rule."

Nonsense, said Shanor, also found a toy expert and author. "Children want things to fly because that is what they are is their territory, he said."

Key points to the sales of the games as proof that they are resonating with the girls. "Stereotypes? That is something like a paint brush against a product line that really well and the public has told us (that) they really want," he says. "We are still largely without the girl in space."

That's not entirely true. Disney Interactive (formerly Buena Vista Games) has been making games based on its popular television programs over five years, starting with the vehicle Girly Hilary Duff, "Lizzie Maguire." And Bellevue, Wa. Her Interactive has been doing based PC-based Nancy Drew games for girls in a decade.

Megan Gaiser, CEO of Her Interactive, says that in 1999, sat with publishers like Electronic Arts, Activision and Hasbro and were told that girls are computer phobic and never play video games. Its interactive but found a way to get your first game "Secrets can kill," the market: They became the editors of the Amazon. And sales of the game off.

"The New York Times dubbed us the 'Un-Barbie computer games," laughs Gaiser. "We are really proud of it."

The success of the line of Nancy Drew - 6.6 million copies sold - shows that there is an appetite for intelligent and courageous heroines in games. And I wish there were more of them. I have no problem with the games on the ballet and clothing, but why are not more women adventurers (other than Lara Croft), in video games? Where are the female soldiers? Women athletes? They do not have the good people of EA Sports heard on Title IX?