Merry xmas … and see you soon.

I do hope you don’t mind, but we’re taking off for xmas and a bit more.

It’s been a hell of a year, and we need a pause. I suspect that you know that, news can be tiring. It’s incessant.

While we’re away, we pray to the mighty Google that our page rank doesn’t drop below our much-prized 7 (amen) and that the Google News bot doesn’t drop the frequency of its visits to our site.

I wanted to put out a special thank you to the fellow writers on Digital-Lifestyles, with the big-up to Mike, he’s got a great style – and never lacks a comment on his much loved Treo.

Many thanks also to the other contributers, and the same with gold knobs on to Tim Bourne, Mark Harris, Steve Kennedy and Scott Russell – your respective expertise’s are appreciated. Finally a big recent welcome to our current youngest writer, Huw Leslie.

Last and first (but no means least, surely?), thanks to Sal for her committed support.

If we feel inspired, there _may_ be the odd piece popping up every now and again over the time, so if you haven’t already, try subscribing to our RSS feed. You’ll see them when they pop up.

Please join us on 3.Jan.07 when normal service will resume, and, after the novelty of 07 starting dies down a little, await the changes.

I hope you’re own break is everything you plan it to be.

Now … time for sleep ….

SCH-V960: Samsung ‘Optical Joystick’ Phone Launched

Samsung 'Optical Joystick' SCH-V960 Phone LaunchedSamsung has launched what it claims is the first mobile phone in the known universe to come with an optical joystick.

You may be wondering why you’d want one of those in the first place, but Samsung clearly thinks it’s on to a winner with its new SCH-V960 ‘Optical Joystick’ Phone.

As ever, Samsung have thoughtfully included a photo of some hotty demonstrating the joys of the optical interface, showing her little digit poised over the handset’s control.

Moving your digit over this control moves a cursor around the screen, just like a mouse about on a grown up PC.

The boffins at Samsung reckon that this will give users nippier access to frequently used menus and make it easy to skip through music track listings.

Weighing a pocket-pleasing 102g, the V960 is a fully fledged phone too, coming with a 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, GPS, microSD memory slot and a sizeable 2.12-inch 240×320 262K colour TFT screen.

Samsung 'Optical Joystick' SCH-V960 Phone LaunchedThe slide-open phone also comes with an illumination sensor which automatically controls the brightness of the LCD screen and keypad, so you won’t be dazzled if the phone goes off in the middle of the night.

Kitae Lee, President of Samsung’s Telecommunication and Network Business was well chuffed with the new interface, “As the importance of user-friendly interface increases, Samsung is researching and developing methods that enhances intuitive use of mobile phones. Samsung will continue to combine innovative ideas and the latest technology that will benefit our end users.”

Coming in black and white versions, the V960 will be launched in the Korean market at the end of this year but – as ever- there’s ne’er a hint from Messrs and Missuses Samsung as to whether us Limeys will be getting a slice of the optical action.

Samsung SCH V960 Optical Joystick phone. How does it work? [unwired]

Who Will Win The Camcorder Format War?

Who Will Win The Camcorder Format War?More than four in every five camcorders sold in Europe in 2005 recorded footage to digital tape. However, according to a new industry report from Understanding & Solutions (U&S), digital tape will only account for 14% of the European camcorder market by 2010.

“Over the course of 2006 we’ve seen a format war develop between Digital Tape, DVD and Hard Disc Drive (HDD) camcorders,” says Simon Bryant, Business Director of Consumer Electronics at U&S. “Right now, digital tape still accounts for nearly 70% of the European camcorder market, but DVD is gaining ground, and as early as Christmas 2008 shipments will outstrip those of digital tape.”

With most of the leading brands producing DVD camcorders in 2006, the format has proved itself popular across the globe. Prices are now beginning to fall and by 2008 the price will be close to that of digital tape.

Who Will Win The Camcorder Format War?“By 2010, DVD will have clearly established itself as the format of choice for mass market consumers, and will account for nearly half of all camcorders shipped,” says Bryant. “This format’s appeal is its ease of use. You can record direct to a DVD and then drop the disc straight into your home player: it makes for a hassle-free workflow system. Couple this with the wide availability of low cost DVD players and you can see its appeal.”

The third competing format – the HDD camcorder – is still a niche product, but has outperformed the expectations of many, performing particularly well in the Japanese market. Though it has a more complex workflow and archiving process when compared with DVD, consumers are becoming familiar with the variety of HDD-based devices within their homes. As the migration of HDD from PCs to MP3 players, set top boxes and games consoles continues, its many benefits will become more widely recognised, making it an attractive alternative to DVD. By 2009, U&S predicts HDD will have overtaken digital tape to become the second most popular choice amongst camcorder purchasers, accounting for 31% of all camcorder shipments in Europe.

In addition, the rise of High Definition Television, with more than 115 million ‘HD-Ready’ homes in Western Europe by 2010, will create further opportunities for the camcorder market. Fuelled by consumer demand for flat panel LCD and plasma TVs, most of which now come HD-Ready, the hunger for HD content won’t be far behind. High Definition DVD players are already available, in either HD-DVD or Blu-ray format, and the next 12 months will see a proliferation of High Definition consumer electronics products. As a result, the camcorder market is forecast to experience a similar revolution, with High Definition devices becoming ever more prevalent. However, initial demand will be low and will ramp up slowly, due to the large price premiums. Longer term, HDD camcorders, with far greater storage capacity than DVD camcorders, will be the preferred choice for memory-hungry High Definition image capture.

Who Will Win The Camcorder Format War?In addition to traditional motivations for video capture, there is an upsurge of consumers who capture video to inform, meet and entertain, primarily via the Internet. The growing global interest in social networking sites such as YouTube and MySpace will squeeze the camcorder market, applying pressure through hybrid ‘still-cams’, digital cameras and mobile phones. In particular, the ever-increasing capacity of flash memory will make these devices a serious future competitor to the camcorder.

Due to issues surrounding quality, features and functionality, the short-term impact of convergence on the camcorder market will be minimal; however, moving forward, high-end digital cameras, hybrid ‘still-cams’ and mobile phones will increasingly steal share of the video capture market.

Festive Scams To Look Out For: Amazon

Festive Scams To Look Out For: AmazonChristmas is certainly the time to be purloining down Lagos way, with the Digital Lifestyle office receiving an upsurge in deceased relative scams, phishing emails and the usual “YOU HAVE WON 2,575 TRILLION DOLLARS” nonsense.

Naturally, we dump these mails straight in the bin, although we were impressed with yesterday’s scam which purported to have come from Amazon.

We were selling a Sony camera on Amazon, and received an enquiry about the camera’s condition through the site.

The email came from a European sounding source, so we replied and about an hour later had a confirmation email from Amazon saying the camera had been sold.

Pretty nippy work we thought, but a closer examination of the mail instantly raised suspicions.

Festive Scams To Look Out For: AmazonFirst off, a rummage through the headers revealed that the email was a better-than-average forgery, with the obfuscated email originating not from the company themselves, but from an address.

Although we could see how people may be fooled by this mail, the address should raise eyebrows amongst even the most trusting of souls: “Unity rd pipe line bus stop, Lagos, Nigeria” (we’re not saying all web financial transactions from Nigeria are dodgy, but let’s just say there’s more than a bit of history here).

A bit of rummaging around the web revealed that thie address has been regularly used by scammers and features on the outrageously funny 419 Eater website, which has a rather unique way of dealing with Nigerian scammers.

Festive Scams To Look Out For: AmazonNaturally, we reported our experience to Amazon, but were unable to resist replying to his email thus:

“Great news! It turns out that my work colleagues are flying over to Lagos in three days so they’ll be able to bring over the camera for you!

They’re coming with the Metropolitan Police Force rugby team, who are doing a Christmas tour of Nigeria, so will you be able to meet them at the airport?

I’ll naturally refund you any postage charges as a result.”

We’ll keep you posted if we get a reply.

Identifying Phishing or Spoofed E-mails (Amazon)
Recognize phishing scams and fraudulent e-mails
Anti-Phishing Working Group

Sidekick 3: UK T-Mobile Launch

T-Mobile U.K. Launch T-Mobile Sidekick 3T-Mobile UK has announced the launch of the T-Mobile Sidekick 3, the number one accessory for users who can’t get enough of email and instant messaging on the move.

Already a huge hit in the States, the pocket-filling 131mm x 59mm x 23mm (5.2″ x 2.3″ x .9″) Sidekick comes with a flip out display which displays a full QWERTY keyboard and a large 65k colour, transflective TFT display supporting a 240×160 pixel resolution.

Sporting a trackball that lights up like a Christmas tree, the phone also packs a 1.3 Megapixel digital camera with LED flash and a media player for MP3 playback, supported by a mini-SD card slot for storing up to 2GB of music and party photo files.

T-Mobile U.K. Launch T-Mobile Sidekick 3Jet-setting socialites will appreciate its tri-band support (850/900/1800MHz), enabling them to keep up their vital text messaging on both sides of the pond, with EDGE offering extra nippy Web surfing.

The phone offers MSN Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger connectivity, with support for up to 10 simultaneous active IM conversations. Perfect for teenagers!

T-Mobile U.K. Launch T-Mobile Sidekick 3The GSM Sidekick also comes with Bluetooth connectivity 1.2 for wireless headsets and vCard transfer and 64MB of SDRAM/64MB Flash memory.

The Sidekick is being offered with T-Mobile’s excellent web’n’walk unlimited data tariff for £7.50 per month in addition to a voice plan.

Sidekick 3 (hugely over the top Flash promo site)

dSLR Buyer Guide For Christmas

Christmas dSLR Round-UpRock Bottom: Nikon D40 £400 (with lens)
Buy it at Amazon UK, or US

Nikon’s new D40 offers astonishingly good value for money, with UK stores selling the camera – complete with a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED zoom lens – for a measly £400. For a dSLR!

Designed for ease of use, the petite 6.1 megapixel snapper offers three-area autofocus, a bright 2.5″ LCD screen, and comes with eight Digital Vari-Programs (including Auto Flash Off, Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up and Night Portrait ) as well as a fully Auto setting for clueless point’n’shooters.

Despite it being at the bargain basement end of Nikon’s range, the D40’s a respectable performer, mustering a near-instant 0.18s start-up time and a nippy 2.5fps continuous shooting.

The Nikon also sports a wide 200-1600 ISO sensitivity range, and comes with in-camera editing tools for retouching and enhancing images.

Of course, at this ridiculously low price something had to give, and in this case there’s no mechanical focus drive pin, meaning that it can only autofocus with AF-S and AF-I lenses (which have built-in focus motors).

Many will view that a small compromise for the superior handling, versatility and speed that a dSLR gives over similarly-priced digital ‘bridge’ cameras, making this a hell of a lot of camera for the price.

Full review: DPreview
Buy it at Amazon UK, or US

Other options: Nikon D50 £325 (body only)
Buy it at Amazon UK, or US

Christmas dSLR Round-UpBudget: Canon EOS E400D (£500 body-only)
Buy it at Amazon UK

Competition is fierce around the half-grand mark, but Canon’s new E400D has just enough features to make it our choice at this price.

Boasting an lightning fast auto-focus system and nippy evaluative metering, the E400D is capable of great results, with the Integrated Cleaning System (featuring anti-static coatings, anti-dust materials and ultra-sonic vibration) keeping the gunge out of your shots.

The ISO range runs a useful distance from 100-1600, with a 30secs – 1/4000 shutter speed range.

It’s pretty small too, making it a great compact, go-anywhere camera and a fine introduction to the Canon range.

Full review: DPreview
Buy it at Amazon UK

Other options: Sony Alpha 100 £550 (body only)
Buy it at Amazon UK, or US

Pentax K100D £500 (body only)
Buy it at Amazon UK, or US

Christmas dSLR Round-UpEnthusiast: Nikon D80 (£600 body only)
DL Review
Buy it at Amazon UK, or US

Offering many of the attributes of the pricier D200, the D80 comes with a 10.2 megapixel sensor, a shutter range from 30secs to 1/4000 and a 100-1600 ISO range (up to ISO 3200 with boost).

A sophisticated 3D color matrix metering system backed by 11-area AF system churns out pin-sharp, perfectly exposed shots, with the solidly-built camera adding to the impression that this is a ‘can-do’ camera.

Add to that a vastly improved user interface, instant power-on, customised settings and a big, bright viewfinder and you’ve got the perfect choice for enthusiasts or budget-minded pros.

We liked it so much, we went out and bought it!

DL Review
Buy it at Amazon UK, or US

Other options: Olympus E-400 (£700 with Zuiko 14-42mm zoom lens)

Brando Sony Ericsson/Nokia Phone Telescope

Brando Sony Ericsson/Nokia Phone TelescopeWe can always rely on our gadget-fruitcake chums at Brando to dream up a thoroughly daft gizmo or two, so we were delighted to find that they’ve just released a ‘Mobile Phone Telescope’ for Sony Ericsson phones.

Available for Sony Ericsson K750i, W800i, W810i and W5500i/W600i phones and a host of Nokia phones (see below), the Mobile Phone Telescope costs just $19 and offers, “higher visual acuteness, good for color reduction,” whatever that means.

Brando Sony Ericsson/Nokia Phone TelescopeAccording to Brando’s site, users first have to manually focus with the unattached 6x lens, and then clip the lens onto a Sony Ericsson handset using the included lens mount (unless the image is clear enough on the camera’s screen to focus accurately).

The lens comes with a black barrel and a choice of silver or black bands as well as a carrying strap, although anyone hoping to take discrete long distant shots will have to think again, as the lens is quite a hefty affair that is likely to attract the attention of passers by.

We suspect that Patrick Moore fans looking to spot the distant arc of Europa gliding gracefully around Jupiter may be disappointed with its zoom range, but it looks like a great bit of fun for the asking price.

The telescope is also available for the Nokia N70, N72, 6230, 6230i, 6680, 6600, 6630, 7610 and 6681 phones.

Brando Shop

The Venice Project: Overview

The Venice Project: OverviewThe rumours of Niklas Zennstrom of Sweden and Janus Friis of Denmark next project have been whirling around for about six months since sold Skype to eBay for $2.6Bn, the two are focusing their talents on TV with The Venice Project.

To date, the pair and their team have had a lot of success in disrupting industries. They’ve had a pop at the music business with Kazaa, the telephone business via Skype and now the television business. Time for the TV world to take note.

This weekend, the Financial Times has picked up on the story, re-igniting the media interest.

The Venice Project (TVP) employed their first programmer on 1 January 2006, so have had nearly a year to get the software to the point where it’s ready to be noticed. The beta release came out on 12 December and since then they have a reported 6,000 on the beta program.

The Venice Project: Overview

We suspect the FT piece was part of a carefully-managed media campaign, as TVP will need to start attracting the advertisers that will support the content being show for free to the users of TVP.

What does TVP do?
On their blog, the TVP team outline their desires/drivers for the project. The founding idea – TV isn’t good, so it needs fixing.

It’s not Skype TV as some publications have reported.

TVP is headquartered in Leiden in The Netherlands it also has other offices in Toulouse, France; London and New York. Its CEO is Fredrik de Wahl, and it looks like they’ve built up quite a few employees.

The Venice Project: Overview

The FT are reporting it will carry “near high-definition” programmes, while TVP speak about TV-quality.

We’ve seen some screenshots of the service and, even despite its early beta-stage, it looks pretty slick. The video runs in full screen, with a high quality image being shown. Additional content and EPG features are laid on top, with the video still viewable underneath.

Content for the beta-trial is coming from some pretty big names in the media business including Warner Brothers.

The adverts that are shown on the service, allow it be free. We understand from one of the beta testers that the adverts are not too intrusive and pretty short.

The Venice Project: Overview

It’s not just the P2P
On a simple level, TVP is software that enables the delivery of video content to individuals using P2P to ease the distribution, while radically reducing the price of getting it out there. Indeed most of the mainstream media are focusing their attention on TVP using P2P.

We think this misses the biggest change the TVP could bring about. Recommendation and tagging of content will make the content findable – one of the biggest headaches when the worlds content is available to a viewer.

Once programmes have been selected to watch, we understand that there will be tools to let people discuss the shows as they are going on – thus bringing a community around the TV shows. There are add on services that offer this, but its inclusion as an integral part of the system will make it second nature to contribute to.

It appears that TVP will avoid the need to apply DRM to the content as “the bits and bytes being collected on your computer are fragments of a stream,” as Fredrik de Wahl, the project’s chief executive told the FT. We can see that there is logic behind this, but doesn’t address the fact that, for the programme to be shown, they need to reside on the machine while they are being shown. In truth, all that needs to be achieved with the technology is to pursue the content owner to put their content on it.

The Venice Project: Overview

The Venice Project is definitely one to watch. We hope to get on the beta program soon, to give you a more in-depth view and understanding of its impact.

The Venice Project TVP

Images courtesy of Choose Chris

Google Zeitgeist 2006 – Social Software Rules

Google have just released their top searches in 2006 for their normal search and news service.

Social software rules the roost in their standard search with BeBo beating MySpace and video sharing sites also doing very well.

We find it amazing that people use search engines to search for a site, when all they needed to do was to type .com after it to gain direct access to the site, but ho, hum. The only comfort that we can draw from this is that at least people aren’t entering in the whole domain for the search, as many used to.

What are we to think of the top search in the news – Paris Hilton? Who knows, and we guess we can’t ask her as she doesn’t call any more, after that Oscars party at Soho House in LA.

Here’s the full list … – Top Searches in 2006
1. bebo
2. myspace
3. world cup
4. metacafe
5. radioblog
6. wikipedia
7. video
8. rebelde
9. mininova
10. wiki

Google News – Top Searches in 2006
1. paris hilton
2. orlando bloom
3. cancer
4. podcasting
5. hurricane katrina
6. bankruptcy
7. martina hingis
8. autism
9. 2006 nfl draft
10. celebrity big brother 2006

Google Zeitgeist

MySpace Mobile Announced For Cingular

MySpace Mobile Announced For CingularMySpace and Cingular Wireless have pressed the flesh and announced an exclusive partnership to offer enhanced MySpace functionality to all Cingular mobile users.

The deal, MySpace’s biggest-ever mobile partnership, gives users on Cingular’s network the ability to post photos and blogs, access and edit MySpace profiles, view and add friends and send and receive MySpace messages.

The functionality is provided through a downloadable MySpace Mobile application for Cingular handsets, which lets users select photos taken or stored on their mobile devices and then upload them to their MySpace profile.

Fearful of yet more law suits from The Man, MySpace has already pointed out that the same terms of service apply to the mobile service, with inappropriate content and copyrighted material strictly verboten.

Cingular users will be able to read and reply to their MySpace messages as well as view and manage friend requests (let’s hope the interface is an improvement on the hideous full web version).

MySpace Mobile Announced For CingularMySpace Mobile also lets users post to their MySpace blogs when they’re on the move, as well as add friends to a contact list for quick bookmarking.

All this fun won’t come for free though, with the service charging a $2.99 per month premium (plus standard data usage charges, which could turn out to be considerable if the user isn’t on an unlimited data deal).

Back in March, Cingular and MySpace first teamed up to create the MySpace Mobile Alerts service, which sends out text alerts to mobiles when the user receives a MySpace message or update.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the service has already notched up 75 million alerts which suggests the new service should be a veritable cash-spinner.