Sky Anytime on TV Preview: Sky VOD

When is a 300Gb hard disc not a 300Gb hard disc? When it’s in a Sky box. The fruit of Sky’s much discussed drive partitioning was revealed today, with the announcement of a March launch for Sky Anytime on TV.

Sky Anytime on TV is a push video service that will populate users’ Sky HD (and some Sky+) PVRs with shows from the Sky network, plus Artsworld, National Geographic, Disney and the Biography and History channels. In a one-to-one briefing today, we got to sample the Anytime on TV service, not to be confused with Sky Anytime on PC or the yet to surface Sky Anytime on Mobile. For brevity, we’re going to call Sky Anytime on TV, SAoTV.

SAoTV consists of around 20 to 25 programmes, ranging from half-hour comedies to full length movies, chosen to represent the best of the weeks programming. In the wee hours of every night, a number of assets (between 1 to 6 hours of TV) will be pushed to the Sky box. At launch, every subscriber will receive identical content, although personalisation of SAoTV is ‘on the road map’, according to a spokesman.

Where it’s available, HD subscribers will receive their SAoTV content in High Definition and (in the first phase at least) all content is free from adverts, with the exception of an intro promo hat can be fast-forwarded through, like any Sky recording.

The SAoTV service enjoys its own instant access button – the red key – whose previous occupant (HD Channels) now receives its own menu entry. It’s presented in a similar way to the Planner screen, with the addition of a live video preview window showing a trailer of the highlighted show and some promotional text.

As new shows arrive nightly, older programmes are bumped down the SAoTV listings. Each programme has a clear expiration date, doing a Cinderella-style pumpkin vanishing act at midnight, seven days after its first appearance. If you want to keep a show permanently, you simply hit the Record button any time during that week to add it to your Planner.

The SAoTV service will initially be free and contain only programmes that have been previously broadcast, although Sky hasn’t ruled out charging for content or including exclusive previews in the future.

Sky Anytime on TV will be available to all HD subscribers, as well as owners of the most recent Sky+ boxes (those with partitioned hard drives): currently around 1 million households. Anyone who bought a Sky+ box within the last year should be able to use the service, although Sky will be writing to each subscriber to alert them.

Sky is also rolling out the Anytime brand to cover its Sky by broadband and Sky by mobile services.

Our take? The Sky Anytime on TV services is largely a win-win situation. Sky gets to promote high profile, expensive acquisitions like Lost, 24 and blockbuster movies – and we get to watch them free from adverts and without having to remember to set the timer (or rely on the occasionally erratic Series Link). Of course, it would be nice to see a wider range of channels on board (negotiations are on-going, but don’t expect to see the terrestrial broadcasters any time soon).

However, there will always be the argument that grown-up TV viewers should be free to populate their own hard drive as they see fit – which makes the timing of Sky Anytime on TV all the smarter. HD and Sky+ subscribers have had nearly a year to get to accustomed to their truncated storage space, making the Anytime service seem like less of an intrusion and more of a bonus.

High-k Metal Gates To Give Major Chip Advance

High-k Metal Gates To Give Major Chip AdvanceBoth IBM and Intel have announced what they are calling major jumps forward in the design of microchips.

They both centre on building transistors using so-called high-k metal gates, which after almost seven years of industry research in the area, it’s claimed will lead to increases in the speed and power of chips for another decade.

The high-k metal gates reduce current leakage and will be used to replace the polysilicon gate electrode currently in use. It does this because the new material holds its charge longer.

It is understood that Intel is further ahead in the process, with the release of computers based on the next chip types by the end of the year. A most fortunate dovetail with Vista being released, which requires a lot of horsepower to run at usable speeds.

Intel said its new family of chips, code-named Penryn, will have 410 million transistors, using the new materials combined with the 45-nanometer technology manufacturing process. This compares with about 280 million in current chips. Intel also said electrical leakage will be reduced by about 30 percent.

Batting off the Intel claims of it being in products this year, Bernie Meyerson, chief technologist for IBM Systems and Technology Group retorted, “It’s almost meaningless to say I’m going to ship a chip first. Yes, you can do that. It doesn’t mean that you are actually going to put it into a server; there is a ton of work to get to that.”

IBM said they will be putting it “out the door in a product in roughly in the 2008 time frame.”

Intel are trotting out Moore’s law again (the number of transistors on an IC doubles every two years), claiming that these advantages will enable it to be maintained. Many people view this as somewhat of a marketing message by Intel, rather than a law.

High-k Metal Gates To Give Major Chip Advance

It’s understood that the approach of IBM and Intel differ. Intel are mounting the components on top of the silicon, where IBM are mounting theirs inside the silicon. IBM’s approach potentially gives them the advantage of being able to build many levels on top of each other.

What the heck is a High-K material?
Intel’s view of it is that “High-k” stands for high dielectric constant, a measure of how much charge a material can hold. Example of High-k materials are hafnium dioxide (HfO2), zirconium dioxide (ZrO2) and titanium dioxide (TiO2).

PC World Says Farewell To Floppy Disks

PC World Says Farewell To Floppy DisksElectronics giant PC World has announced that it is to stop selling floppy disks once the current stocks run out.

First introduced by IBM way back in 1969 as a big flapping thing, the floppy disk hit mainstream consumers after Sony released the familiar 3.5 inch format in 1981.

From then on, floppy disk became the de facto storage standard right up to the late 90s as its feeble storage capacity (1.44MB) failed to compete with an onslaught of cheap memory storage formats including memory cards, USB keys, rewritable CDs and removable hard drives all capable of holding gigabytes of data.

PC World also commented that the increased availability of broadband and wireless internet connections has more or less consigned small-scale removable storage devices into the technology dustbin.

PC World Says Farewell To Floppy DisksIn decline since the late 1990s, the floppy once ruled supreme, shifting more than two billion units in 1998 – a figure now down to a measly 700 million last year.

Of course, you’ll still be able to pick up floppy disks elsewhere for now, but the end is surely nigh for this long serving piece of technology.

Although we’re tempted to get a bit misty eyed at the fall of the trusty floppy, we still can’t quite forget the long nights spent feeding our Amiga 1200 (and later our PC) masses of floppies containing programs spanned over several disks only to hear the grinding sound of doom right at the end.

Although we certainly got familiar with the “Non-system disk or disk error – Replace and press any key” error message over the years too, we’ll still miss the things – and they were always a satisfying shape to throw around the office when the network went down too.

So farewell, dear floppy. You served us well.

Floppy Disk


Casio Announces EXILIM Zoom EX-Z1050 and EX-Z75

Casio Announces EXILIM Zoom EX-Z1050 and EX-Z75Casio has knocked out two additions to its pocket pleasing, ultra-slim Exilim Zoom range in the shape of the 10.1-megapixel EX-Z1050 and the 7.2 million pixel Exilim Zoom EX-Z75 cameras.

EXILIM Zoom EX-Z1050
The EX-Z1050 follows on from the EX-Z1000 and nudges in at a tad lighter and smaller, measuring up at 91.1 x 57.2 x 24.2 mm and weighing 125g.

Bolted on to the lightweight aluminum clad camera is a wide aspect (14:9) 2.6-inch LCD screen and a 38-114mm (35mm equiv) 3x optical zoom, backed by a sensitivity boost up to ISO 800.

Casio Announces EXILIM Zoom EX-Z1050 and EX-Z75Onboard there’s Casio’s EXILIM Engine 2.0 offering new motion analysis technology, with the camera able to rattle off a claimed 7 shots per second until the memory tank hits full.

There’s no proper optical stabilization, but the camera comes with built in “Blur-reduction technologies.” In other words, the camera hikes up the ISO whenever it detects a moving object or low light.

There’s also an Auto Tracking AF function for following moving subjects, and a Super Life Battery allowing up to 370 shots per charge.

The Casio EXILIM Zoom EX-Z1050 will be available in silver, black and gold in the UK (with prettier colours available elsewhere, by the look of things) and comes with a suggested retail price of £229.99.

Casio Announces EXILIM Zoom EX-Z1050 and EX-Z75EXILIM Zoom EX-Z75
The cheaper 7.2 million pixel Exilim Zoom EX-Z75 looks to be a minor upgrade to last year’s EX-Z70 and adds the same wide aspect (14:9) 2.6-inch screen and more user friendly features.

The attractive point’n’shooter comes with a 3x optical zoom, an ‘Easy Mode’ for dorks baffled by buttons and digital Anti Shake DSP to keep things steady.

The EXILIM Zoom EX-Z75 can expect to have a £179.99 price label stuck on it when it hits the UK in February 2007, and will be available in silver, blue and girly pink.

Microsoft Vista – Made by Web 2.0?

Vista - Made by Web 2.0?Bill Gates launched Vista this morning by emphasizing the role of the general public in its conception. “We’ve got over 5 million beta testers to thank,” he told a packed audience at the British Library in London. “They’ve helped to make sure that Vista is the highest quality product we’ve ever released. And then we picked 50 families and talked to them about how they used computing in their daily lives, generating over 800 changes in the final version.”

This isn’t the monolithic Microsoft of old, laying down the law and strong-arming others to follow its digital lead. Instead, Gates pointed out that Office 2007 (also launched today) “redefines collaboration in the workplace. It embraces the XML standard and that’s a big deal.” He went on to say that “the strength of Windows has always been the ecosystem around it, consisting of hardware, solutions and software partners. We’ve always had ten times as many applications for Windows as for other operating systems, and that’s allowed us to see software at low prices.”

Vista - Made by Web 2.0?

It’s perhaps no coincidence that the Vista ecosystem opens up a whole new environmental niche, in the form of miniature applications called Gadgets, a selection of which were unveiled (at great length) by Windows marketeers. Although superficially very similar to Apple’s desktop Widgets, the Gadgets on show were heavily branded by partners ranging from BetFair to Universal Music, and seemed to integrate worryingly easily with Microsoft’s software. If you block out a meeting in Milan, for instance, the EasyJet Gadget could pop up to suggest suitable flights.

It remains to be seen whether Gadget developers have consumer – rather than corporate – interests uppermost in their minds. Bill gushed: “I’m excited to see what people are going to do with Vista”. Any bets that malware Gadgets are just around the corner?

Whoops! PC Users Can’t View UK GetAMac Videos

Whoops! PC Users Can't View UK GetAMac VideosSo I’m being bombarded by Apple’s super-expensive advert campaign telling me how great Macs are and how only dull business nerds bother with PCs.

The adverts feature the smug comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb. And they’re on the tele. They’re on billboards. They’re everywhere.

And when I pop over to my MySpace homepage, what’s that blaring out (with the audio set to ‘on’ by default?).

Yep, it’s another chuffing advert featuring the same two comedians, happily selling their arses for a slice of Apple’s fat budget while insisting that I’m deeply mistaken in my choice of computer.

The two comics – who are quickly transforming from entertaining to kill-them-in-the-face irritating in my book – pair up for a Mr Mac and Mr PC routine, designed to make users want to rush out and put money in Jobs’s already expansive coffers.

The set of six adverts insist that PCs users are doomed to suffer an onslaught of unstoppable viruses, security leaks and endless crashes.

Whoops! PC Users Can't View UK GetAMac VideosPC users are represented as dull business bores who wouldn’t know what fun is if it French-kissed them in the buttocks, while Mac users are seen to be spontaneous, fun-loving bon viveurs, hurtling along the highway of creativity at reckless speeds.

So I give in. I decide to take a look at the videos on Apple’s site, and click on the link using my virus-free, non-crashing, safe and relatively fun PC and get ready to learn, “Why I’ll love a Mac.”

And then, oh dear. Firefox brings up an error message. From the one, solitary piece of Apple software on my machine; Quick Time.

Still, no problem. After all, I’m trying to look at an Apple site with Apple software and their site proudly boasts that their products “just work,” so I’m sure we’ll be over this little glitch in moments.

“Quick Time is missing software to perform this operation…” says the pop up window as only the audio plays in the background.

Whoops! PC Users Can't View UK GetAMac Videos“Fair enough,” I think to myself, confident of a slick, smooth, user-friendly solution coming along.

And then comes the killer blow with the final line of the error message: “Unfortunately, it is not available on the QuickTime server.”

And that’s it. No help offered, no options, just a simple, ‘It doesn’t work, it won’t work and we’re not going to tell you how to make it work. So bugger off’

Thanks Apple.

But I’m a determined soul, so I decide to fire up Internet Explorer 7 instead.

As soon as I arrive at Apple’s page it wants to run an Active X control and for me to download QuickTime.

Hmmm. Not very user friendly. Why should I have to go through all the palaver of downloading software just to view an advert I can view just fine on other sites?

But – hey! – I want to be the cool guy instead of the nerdy PC user, so I download the software and get ready to be entertained and persuaded.

Except I’m left with the same blank, audio-only video which ends with a message from Apple asking me, “how much time have I spent troubleshooting your PC?”

I don’t think my answer to that is printable.

Mac Ads

*Postscript: we asked several PC-owning friends to look at the Apple page and they had mixed fortunes. Some had no problems viewing the videos, while others suffered the same blank screen/error message combo as me.

Of course, Mac-huggers could argue that this proves how useless PCs are, but the fact that the videos played back perfectly before QuickTime shoved in its oar sure doesn’t speak a persuasive word to my ears.

Leonardo da Vinci Notebooks Reunited With Windows Vista

Leonardo da Vinci Notebooks Reunited With Windows VistaTwo notebooks containing work by Leonardo da Vinci, know as the Codices, have been digitally reunited today at the launch of Windows Vista.

The books, compiled from work by da Vinci in the early 1500s, have been seperated for many years. Well, a rather long time actually – since 1519.

The British Library holds one – the Codex Arundel – and the other is privately owned by Bill Gates – the Codex Leicester.

Gates bought his 72-page manuscript back in 1994, when he paid $30,802,500 for it – plus tax. Much to his expected disappointment he didn’t get tax relief on his little purchase, despite letting the Seattle Art Museum display it to the public.

Leonardo da Vinci Notebooks Reunited With Windows Vista

Previous owner of the The Codex Leicester was Armand Hammer, the owner of Occidental Petroleum, who bought it in 1980 and in an incredible act of arrogance renamed it Codex Hammer. Gates returned it to its original name after he coughed up the cash for it.

How does it all works?
The British Library’s Codex has been available electronically for some time using a service that they call Turning The Pages.

It’s been available through a browser as it uses Adobe Shockwave and runs on all platforms.

It’s quite fun to flick through the rather old, and frankly scrappy book seeing Leonardo’s mirror writing and drawings.

There will be very few of you surprised to hear that the newly combined version – Turning The Pages 2 – will only work on computers that are “Microsoft’s ‘Vista Premium Ready'”, that are running Vista or Windows XP Service Pack 2. Anything other than that, needs to refer to the message at the bottom of the page, “Turning the Pages 2.0 will not run on Windows 2000, XP Service Pack 1 or Macintosh at this time.”

Leonardo da Vinci Notebooks Reunited With Windows Vista

The new version does look lush, but I suspect that the team at Microsoft who worked on this project felt that they were walking a knife edge – getting it wrong and not showing off the bosses $30m book would not be a good prospect for promotion.

Why was Bill in London?
Before the event, there’s been much confusion in journalistic circles as to why the Windows Vista launch was going to be held at the British Library. Microsoft could pick any location in the UK Capital to hold their launch.

Now we know.

Turning The Pages 2
The original Turning The Pages

Samsung Secrete A Slew Of Stylish Snappers

Although we’re yet to be really knocked out by the image quality, we’ve been impressed by Samsung’s enthusiasm to break the mould with innovative digicam designs.

Samsung Secrete A Slew Of Stylish SnappersHot off the factory presses are three new all-black models, all with distinctive and stylish looks.

Samsung L74 Wide

The L74 Wide comes with a handy 28mm wideangle 3.6x optical zoom, seven megapixel CCD, and 3.0″ Touch Screen LCD, backed by 450 MB of internal memory and MPEG-4 SVGA video recording.

Samsung’s Face Recognition AF & AE is included, with the touch screen LCD offering Samsung’s original Flash GUI (Graphic User Interface) and proprietary ASR image stabilisation system helping keep things sharp in low light.

Aimed at travellers, the L74 Wide has a trick up its sleeve with the inclusion of an onboard Tour Guide providing travel information covering 4,500 regions in 30 countries.

The $350 L74 Wide should be available in North America in Spring 2007.

Samsung Secrete A Slew Of Stylish Snappers

Samsung NV11

Knocking out for fifty bucks more, the NV11 comes with a ten megapixel sensor, 5x Schneider optical zoom and a 2.7″ LCD monitor.

Like its younger bro’, the point & shooter comes with Samsung’s Face Recognition technology, ASR image stabilisation , MPEG-4 video (VGA) with ISO sensitivity zipping up to the giddy heights of 1600.

The NV11 comes with Samsung’s unique Smart Touch user interface, which lets you navigate through menus by sliding your pinkie across horizontal and vertical rows of control buttons

The NV11 should be nuzzling up on shop shelves in America in Spring 2007.

Samsung i7

Also announced was the rather curious Samsung i7 which sports a rotating 3.0-inch LCD display, which can be spun through 180 degrees.

Samsung Secrete A Slew Of Stylish SnappersThe i7 packs a 7.2 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom, Advanced Shake Reduction (ASR) technology, SVGA video, face recognition ISO 1600 and even an integrated MP3 player with simulated SRS 3D sound.

The camera also comes with the Tour Guide stuff, with the ability to download further information directly from the internet, plus 512 MB of internal memory provided.

The multimedia-tastic Samsung i7 is set to retail for £249.99 and should be available in the UK from mid-March 2007.


Mobile Internet Use Grows

Mobile Internet Use GrowsMobile phone users are increasingly getting jiggy with the wee buttons on their handset as new figures show mobile Internet access soaring.

According to the Mobile Data Association, UK mobile owners accessed the Internet nearly 16 million times throughout December 2006, adding up to a thumping rise of one million unique sessions over the previous month.

These latest figures mean that mobile users have accessed the web 45.6 million times in the past three months.

Mobile Internet Use GrowsAlthough the figures suggest we’re rapidly turning into perma-connected, perambulating Internet fiends, Thomas Husson, a mobile analyst at Jupiter Research was quick to suggest that much of the recent increase could be down to Christmas gift-giving.

Ol’ Tommy also reckoned that mobile data was “far from being mainstream,” although he expected an increase in data use as more people got their grubby mitts on internet-capable mobile phones, backed by better user experiences, user education, and cheaper prices.

Ready to rustle up a risotto of facts was Nick Lane, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms and Media, who calculated that there’ll be 797.6 million mobile phone subscriptions worldwide capable of web browsing by the end of 2007 (that adds up to 25% of all mobile phones, fact fans).

Mobile Internet Use Grows“The continued advancement of handsets means people are beginning to spend more time familiarising themselves with new services,” Lane added.

News, sport and weather updates are currently the big hitters for mobile users, although recent surveys have shown an increasing demand for location-aware services like maps and local services.


Giant Graphic For Australian Google Maps

A few bods in Australia got together after hearing that the Google Maps satellite which it takes images from was going to be passing over Sydney.

Their mission? To create a giant graphic, so it would be picked up and be viewable on Google Maps.

It’s not the first time anyone has thought of the idea of course (we’ve all done this at Digital-Lifestyles towers), but these characters actually got off their behinds and did it.

Giant Graphic For Australian Google MapsThey started at 4am, pegging 2,500 sheets of paper in the grass of a park to form a giant eye – the pun being that Australia was also watching the world.

It appeared on the tech discussion board Slashdot, and subsequently was hit with a ton of comments accusing them of “spamming Google Maps.” You’ll know that we hate spam (natch), but we fail to see why some of the commenters are getting so irate.

As one of the comments pointed out, they don’t really have to wait for the map to appear on Google Maps – they’ve gained loads of it from the stunt alone.

Read more on their posting about it.