Best of Technology Week #1

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It’s time for our best technology news of this week. Whether it is digital cameras and DSLRs, computers, laptops, computer hardware, robots or just plain sci-fi movies, you name it, we’ve probably got somebody keeping a close eye on it. So take a look at the info we’ve selected for your inspiration and to keep you updated about what’s going on out there in the world of technology!

Google+ gets a fresh new look

Google+ has received a revamp that completely changes the way it looks. Assuming you have received the design update, the first thing you’ll notice on the left is a new ribbon that houses all the key features of Google+. You can hover over them to access additional functions, move them around or put them into ‘More’ if you don’t use them very often.

Next you will notice that your conversation stream has changed a bit. The photos and videos appear a lot bigger than before and there is also a new album viewer. On the right side is a trending list, à la Twitter, to keep a tab of the topics being discussed on Google+. There is a separate Explore section on the side for you to check out all the popular and trending posts on Google+.

The Hangout option has also been refreshed. In case you are not aware of it or simply forgotten about it since the last time you used it (in which case I don’t blame you), it is a video calling feature that lets you talk with multiple people simultaneously. In the redesign, it gets its own dedicated section where you see your friends who have invited you to a hangout along with other hangouts from people you may not necessarily have added to your circles. Google believes this will help you make new friends. Google will present you with a bunch of hangouts that you can join as long as they are public. This feature can also be used for broadcasting an event to multiple people.

The chat list has been moved to the right side of the screen. Lastly, your profile page has been updated and now you can have Facebook Timeline style large cover photo.

Unlike the previous design, which was aligned in the center of the browser window, the new one tends to prefer the left side. The content in the middle, however, does not occupy the width of the monitor, which leaves a lot of empty space between your timeline and the chat list if you have a widescreen monitor. Hopefully Google address this issue soon.

Google is rolling out this update to everyone and it should take some time to arrive if it hasn’t already.

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India gets its first 4G LTE network, courtesy of Bharti Airtel

India is about to join the list of countries with fully operational 4G LTE networks. And the company responsible for this is Bharti Airtel, which also happens to be the fifth largest carrier in the world by number of subscribers.

Kolkata, a large metropolitan area in Eastern India, is the first area to be blessed with 4G LTE service. It will be followed by Karnataka, Punjab and other parts of India in Q3 of this year.

Since 4G-enabled smartphones aren’t yet available in India, the Bharti Airtel LTE network will be initially only be used with 4G USB dongles, which will enable connecting your laptop or tablet to the fast network. Manufactured by ZTE, the 4G dongle will be priced at 7,999INR ($155), which seems rather steep, though.

If, however, you still want to use 4G on your smartphone, you’ll have to wait until the end of 2012 when some LTE-enabled devices like HTC Evo 4G, Motorola Droid Razr Maxx, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket and HTC Sensation 4G will be hitting the Indian market.

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Instagram for Android passes 5 million downloads in just 6 days

There must be a wild party going on at the Instagram office – not only did Facebook buy them for a whopping $1 billion, but also their brand new Android app has already shot past the 5 million downloads mark.

Instagram for Android hit the 1 million milestone on the first day of its existence. Now it’s just over 6 days old and over 4 million new users joined in on the sepia photo sharing fun.

Considering that Instagram used to be available only on iOS so far (that version of the app had 27 million users in mid-March), those Android users should all be newcomers to the Instagram flock.

This seems to be one of the great success stories of the tech world – Instagram was founded just 2 years ago and first hit the App Store in October 2010. An year and a half later it has well over 30 million users and is worth $1 billion – not bad, not bad at all.

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Presenting the Choc Creator 3D, a machine that prints Chocolates

You may have seen 3D printers before, machines that can create complex 3D objects by melting plastic. What we have today is no different than that, except instead of plastic objects this machine prints out chocolates.

Yes, you read that right. This machine uses molten chocolate which it slowly places into layers into any 3D shape you want. You can see it in action in the video below.

Choc Edge, the creators of this machine, intended for it to launch in time for Easter but they couldn’t quite manage that. I think that if they wanted people to use it for Easter, they should have launched it some time last year because at the speed that this machine works, if you start at Easter you will have your chocolates ready by Christmas.

And that’s not even the worse part. The machine costs a whopping £2,888 ($4,584), although it is currently being offered at a discounted price of £2,488 ($3,949) if you pre-order it.

So although it is extremely cool, I’d rather go out and buy my chocolates instead of feeling myself grow older (and poorer) watching this machine print out chocolates.

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Lenovo unveils 9.7″ IdeaTab S2109 with Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Lenovo just introduced the latest addition to its lineup of Android-powered tablets. The Lenovo IdeaTab S2109 runs on Ice Cream Sandwich and packs a 9.7″ 4:3 IPS LCD with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels (sound familiar?).

The IdeaTab packs a standard microUSB jack for charging and data transfers, while a microHDMI enables high-res TV-output. The on-board microSD card slot makes storage upgrades a breeze, while the four speakers at the back aim to deliver the best audio in the tablet world.

The 8.9mm slim gunmetal unibody of the Lenovo IdeaTab S2109 should give it a pretty sophisticated look, while the battery the Chinese managed to squeeze inside should enable a run time of 10 hours on a single charge. Strangely enough, Lenovo didn’t disclose the chipset powering the S2109, but Tegra 3 is tipped as the most likely option.

Pricing and availability info is yet to be announced, too.

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March brings 27% growth for Google+ with 61 Million Visits

It isn’t secret to anyone that Facebook, with its more than 500 million active users is the undisputed social network champion, but this doesn’t stop Google from trying to keep up. The search engine giant reports a steady growth, reaching 61 million visits for March.

That’s an impressive 27% more than previous months and with Larry Page claiming 100 million active users, Google+ has grown a great deal since its launch in June last year.

However, it’s unknown exactly how Page defines a user as “active”, since comScore put his words under scrutiny by releasing data, which shows that Google+ users spent just 3.3 minutes on the social network for January. If you think it’s not that bad, the average time users spend on Facebook is 7.5 hours for the same time. Yikes!

Regardless, Google+ is growing at a steady pace, according to the graphic above stating information from Experian Hitwise. Do you think Google+ has what it takes to eventually become as popular as Facebook or do you believe nothing can beat Zuckerberg’s creation?

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Facebook will acquire Instagram for $1 Billion

Instagram just received the biggest “like” in its two-year history, people. Facebook announced an agreement to acquire the wildly popular mobile photo sharing service today. The price which the social networking giant has agreed to pay for it is a cool $1 billion, which makes it the biggest Facebook acquisition to date.

The payment will be made in cash and shares. The Instagram crew, which consists of six people will join the social network’s workforce.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg pointed out in a post on his own wall that the new acquisition will be run independently, so sharing photos with other social networks will be permitted. He also stated that Facebook does not plan to make “many more” acquisitions of such magnitude. Instagram’s CEO Kevin Systrom has also confirmed the above statement along with the upcoming acquisition on the company’s blog.

Hit the source link below for the full press. Also, feel free to share your thoughts on this massive deal in the comments section below.

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Sony forecasts mind-boggling $6.4 billion loss for 2011, says better times will come

Yesterday we told you about Sony’s plans on lay off about 10,000 workers due to the expected $3.2 billion loss for the 2011 fiscal year. Unfortunately for Sony, however, now that we are coming closer to the final results being published, the expected loss has doubled to $6.4 billion.

The reason for this dark forecast turns out to be an unfortunate combination of not being able to defer taxes any longer and paying extra taxes because of shifting profits between subsidiaries. But Sony keeps its chin up.

Despite the huge $6.4 billion loss for 2011, Sony believes this fiscal year, which for it began on April 1, will stop the four-year-long trip down massive loss boulevard. It even reckons it’ll make a profit of about $2.2 billion by the end of the current fiscal year, ending on March 31, 2013.

One of the way Sony is going to achieve that is by business reorganizations and job cuts, mentioned before. In any case, the burden Sony’s CEO Kaz Hirai is carrying right now is extra heavy and he’s going to need a lot of willpower to succeed in his quest of turning Sony 180 degrees.

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Panasonic announces LUMIX GF5 Micro Four Thirds camera

Panasonic has officially announced the LUMIX GF5 camera, which just like the other GF-series cameras that came before it, belongs to the Micro Four Thirds category. This compact, mirror-less camera comes with a new 12.1 megapixel Live MOS sensor and a redesigned Venus Engine processor. The GF5 is capable of shooting in sensitivities as high as ISO 12,800.

The LUMIX GF5 uses a sensor-based Contrast AF, which is said to be more accurate than Phase difference AF systems. It also offers full-area focusing, so you can set the auto focus at any point in the field of view instead of relying on pre-set points as seen on DSLRs.

The LUMIX GF5 is said to focus in 0.091 seconds and you can even use touch to focus on its 3.0-inch, 920k dot touchscreen display. Auto focus tracking ensures once you lock focus on an object by touching the display, the camera automatically tracks the object even if it moves.

The LUMIX GF5 also comes with Instagram-like image filters, fourteen of them, in fact. There is also a Scene Guide for newbie photographers that offers 23 sample images shot in various situations and lets you choose the one closest to your situation and then the camera adjusts all the parameters accordingly. As for video recording, the LUMIX GF5 can shoot up to 1080i videos in 60 fps in AVCHD.

The Panasonic LUMIX GF5 will go on sale later this year in black, white and red and will come with an option of either a 14-42mm standard zoom lens for $599 or a 14-42mm power zoom lens for $749.

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Canon announces EOS 60Da DSLR for astronomy enthusiasts

After seven years since the EOS 20Da came out, Canon has released a successor to its special class of DSLR cameras geared towards capturing the wonders of the night sky in the form of the EOS 60Da.
Best of Technology Week #1

The new EOS 60Da packs a 18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, which is greatly improved over the 8.2 megapixel sensor on the 20Da. It features in improved infrared-blocking filter for better hydrogen-alpha light sensitivity, which is three times greater than its predecessor. The EOS 60Da can capture images in sensitivities as high as ISO 12,800 and has a nine-point auto-focus system.

The EOS 60Da features an improved 1,040k dot, 3.0-inch fully articulated Clear View LCD, a TV out mode that you can use with the provided AVC-DC400ST stereo AV cable for connecting the camera to a TV screen and display the camera output using the Live View mode. There is also a Silent Shooting mode, much like the Mark III, but this one is geared more towards low vibration from the shutter in order to not disturb the camera while capturing images. Considering how small stars can be and that the images will be taken in low light, even a tiny bit of shake, especially with a telescopic lens, can cause a massive blur in the final image. Canon also provides a remote controller adapter and an AC adapter kit with the camera.

In case you are wondering how this camera differs from a regular Canon DSLR camera, the answer lies in the infrared-filter being used. In conventional camera, the IR filter is designed in a way to attenuate certain wavelengths of light so that the final result resembles the way it looks to the human eye. In specialized cameras such as the EOS 60Da and the former 20Da, the IR filter is designed in a way to allow more hydrogen-alpha light to pass through.

This is necessary because many objects in the space, such as the nebulae, emit light in this spectrum, and are hence invisible to human eye or a traditional camera. With this specialized IR filter, these cameras are able to capture these objects in their true form and then turn it into images, such as the one above of the Orion Nebulae, which can be observed by astronomy enthusiasts. But as traditional cameras are not suitable for shooting objects in space, cameras like EOS 60Da cannot be used for regular photography due to the unnatural color tone they give to the final image.

Because the Canon EOS 60Da is a specialized camera, it will only be sold through select authorized dealers for $1,499 from this month.

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