October 24, 2007

Keeping up-to-date with the election

Keeping up-to-date with the upcoming Australian election should be easier than ever with the latest tools provided by Google. Google Australia's Federal election site (www.google.com.au/election2007) is a world-first for Google and was developed here in Australia.

The site is aimed at voters who want to learn more about the policies of government and contains a number of innovative online tools that can help you keep track of election issues. It's also a great platform to view current information and one that should encourage political debate.

Google's site features special Federal Election information viewable in Google Maps that can give you information about electorate boundaries, sitting members, candidates and margins. This information can also be added as an additional layer in Google Earth, Google's virtual atlas application that is a must-have for all computer users.

All six political parties that are represented in Federal Parliament (Australian Democrats, Family First, Greens, Labor, Liberal and Nationals) have also established their own dedicated YouTube channels accessable via the special election site. The YouTube channels contain lots of great information, including messages of support for the new site from the Prime Minister and Leader of the Federal Opposition, Kevin Rudd.

Google have also created a number of election gadgets that users can install on their own iGoogle page. These include an 'On the Record' gadget that allows users to research all 226 Federal MPs’ past statements on any given political issue, by searching Hansard and their personal web pages and a Google News gadget that allows users to search Google for relevant political news by Federal seat.

If you'd like more information about how to use the new Google election site it's probably easiest to watch the Google demo located at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dxilCZWXyd0. If you're new to Google then you can sign up for your own customisable Google homepage at www.google.com/ig which will let you install gadgets, and is a great start page for all your surfing activities.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going by Danny Gorog

If you've ever let your young child play around with your laptop you'll know how fragile they are. I've seen kids flick keys off keyboards, snap screens off their hinges and try to insert more than a CD into a slot loading drive. And so it was with great excitement that I received Panasonics latest Toughbook, the CF-19 to test.

If you haven't heard of the Panasonic Toughbook range of laptops that's probably because you don't work for the military. You see, the Toughbook line is designed to be rugged and durable, and means you can take your laptop pretty much anywhere and expect it to work. The trend towards rugged laptops is now filtering down to large corporations who are realising the rigours of moving around consumer grade laptops eventually costs them more than they expect. IDC proved this in a recent study that found the failure rate of non-ruggedised laptops was twenty five percent per annum over a four-year period compared with a failure rate of just one and a half perfect for ruggedised devices. With those kinds of numbers, businesses are now sitting up and taking notice of the Touchbook product line.

So what makes a laptop rugged? For one, all Toughbooks come with a Magnesium alloy case that is twenty times stronger than ABS plastic. Add to that water-protection for fifteen minutes (military certified no less) and dust protection. If that's not enough Toughbook's are also certified for operation in extreme temperatures, and are tested to operate from -51° to 60°C. They also come with shock mounted hard drives and LCD screens, which means that when the unit is dropped the shock absorbing dampeners absorb up to seventy percent of vibration. So, there's a good chance that even your child couldn't damage one of these.

Normally in a tech review the specs of the unit are presented in the first paragraph. Yet in writing this review I've just realised I'm at paragraph four without a mention of gigahertz or megabytes. And there's good reason why that's happened. In this day of modern, disposable PCs there really isn't too much to get excited about when a new model is released. You know the latest release will come with a faster processor and more memory. But the selling proposition of the Toughbook line isn't that you'll get the biggest and best, but you'll get a laptop easily capable of coping with the stress of a corporate lifestyle. Perhaps that's why some of Australia's leading businesses, like Coca Cola Amatil, Telstra, Mitsubishi Motors Australia and BlueScope Steel are Toughbook customers.

Although the Toughbook is the most rugged laptop on the market it still manages to pack a punch in terms of computing power. The CF-19 comes with a 1 Ghz Core Duo processor, 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. It's also got the standard assortment of networking and connectivity ports as well so it will cooperate nicely with all your peripherals. The CF-19 also incorporate a “wireless-ready” design that allows users to purchase, or upgrade to, embedded access to next-generation 3G data networks.

In my testing the CF-19 performed flawlessly. Everything from its long eight hour battery life to the bright 10.4" TFT Active Matrix Colour worked well. I even gave it to my son to see if he could destroy it (sorry Panasonic!) but alas the CF-19 won every round.

So, what's not to like about the CF-19? The only glaringly obvious problem is the price. At $6249 the CF-19 is one of the most expensive laptops on the market. For that money you could by nearly four 'regular' laptops. But as I stated earlier, the value in the Toughbook is in its longevity and reliability. If those two things are critical to you or your business, then the Toughbook line is worth a closer look.

CF-19 At a Glance.

Manufacturer: Panasonic
Model: CF-19
Price: $6249
Phone/Web: 02 9986 7418 or www.toughbook.com.au

Part of Panasonics Toughbook line of super strength laptops. Clad in Magnesium alloy so you know it will take whatever you can give it, which includes computing underwater or in the Kalahari desert. It's no slough on performance either. With a Core Duo processor, 80GB hard drive and 8 hour battery life this is a computer that keeps on computing. No matter what or where.

October 22, 2007

New iPods by Danny Gorog http://gorogsguide.blogspot.com

If you can't wait until next year to get your hands on an iPhone then Apple's latest iPod called the iPod Touch might be of interest to you. It's one of four new iPods Apple released last month, to much fanfare and hype.

The iPod is already the leading digital music player in the world (and has sold over 100 million units in its short five year lifetime), and in most markets commands more than a seventy percent market-share. Coupled with iTunes Store the iPod is still the best choice for a digital music player hands down. The new iPod lineup has something for everyone - from the budget conscious occasional music listener to the serious roadie who needs to carry around their entire music collection in their pocket.

The Shuffle kicks off the revamped iPod range and keeps its diminutive good looks and price. At $99 and in five different colours the Shuffle is the perfect music player to throw in your bag and use during your commute to work or at gym. It's so small you hardly realise you're wearing it and with 1GB of storage and twelve hours of playback time you can have your favourite 240 songs with you where ever you go.

Next in line is the third generation Nano. Shorter and wider than the previous model the new Nano now does video as well. With a new high resolution 5cm (2 inch) display that is sixty five percent brighter than before the new Nano is perfect for watching video podcasts or other videos you find on the Internet. It's also sports a completely new user interface that now includes Cover Flow, Apples ingenious way of browsing your music with album art.

The new Nano comes in two different sizes (4GB and 8GB), five different colours and starts at just $199. You don't need to worry about battery life either. With twenty fours hours of music playback and five hours of video playback the new Nano will get you from here to just about anywhere else in the world on a single charge. In a first, the new Nano also supports video out, so you can plug it in to your TV and use it to display video and photos on your big screen at home.

The regular iPod which used to be the flagship of the iPod family takes a step back and has been re-badged the iPod Classic. The iPod Classic is the only iPod that still ships with a hard drive, and now comes in 80GB and 160GB varieties. It's been given the same metal casing of the Nano but retains the original form factor and familiar 2.5 inch display (with the same 320 x 240 resolution in the Nano). Like the new Nano, the Classic also receives the new user interface that supports Cover flow and generally enhances the visual experience. The 80GB version ($349) now provides 30 hours of audio and 5 hours of video playback, while the 160GB version ($479) has a whopping 40 hours and 7 hours of video playback.

Last, but certainly not least is the iPod Touch. It's a great compromise iPod for people who want can't wait for the iPhone experience, or who don't want the phone functionality. The iPod Touch comes with the same high resolution 3.5 inch wide screen display as the iPhone and includes WiFi and Mobile Safari and ships in both an 8GB and 16GB variety and starts from $419. It works exactly the same way the iPhone works with a multi-touch UI and finger flicking action. You've got to see it to believe it.

Along with new iPods, Apple also introduced the new iTunes WiFi store for the iPod Touch, which lets you browse and buy any music from iTunes over a WiFi connection. If you purchase music on your iPod Touch it automatically gets synced back to your computer when you connect it.

All of the new iPods except the Shuffle contain the standard 20 pin dock connector which ensures compatibility between third-party accessories and the new iPods. However, if your accessory is designed to provide video-out functionality then chances are it won't work as Apple have changed the way this feature works on the new iPod line. If this is an important feature for you you'll need to buy a $79 dock from Apple. Also, if you've invested in games for the previous generation iPod (with Video) you'll need to repurchase these, at full price as the old ones won't work on your new iPod.

If you've been hesitant about jumping in to the digital music age now is the time. With an iPod that suits any budget you are sure to find something that fits your requirements. If you already have an iPod now might be the time to consider an upgrade. The new iPods have been completely redesigned from the ground up and are gorgeous to look at and even better to use, and put the competition to shame.