Monday, January 21, 2008

Reviews of Nikon D300

Nikon D300 imageWe've already seen a rather thorough preview of a pre-production model, and gone hands-on with it ourselves, but those still undecided about Nikon's semi-pro D300 DSLR now have yet another bit of info to inform their potential purchase, this one coming in the form of a full review from the folks at Photography Blog.

As with others that have gotten their hands on the camera, they found plenty to like about it, with them even going so far as to say that, unless you're a really demanding pro user, "the Nikon D300 could well be all the DSLR you'll ever need." Helping it earn that lofty praise is the camera's solid image quality (including minimal noise all the way up to up to ISO 1600) and high-end feature set, not to mention its "bargain" $1,800 price tag (at least compared to some of its competition). The only drawbacks they found was some ever so slightly sluggish performance, and the lack of a tilt and swivel LCD, among some other minor quibbles. That said, at least at this price point, it sure looks like this one's tough to beat.


iPhone v1.1.3 Hacked Already!

iPhone picsThe latest craze with iPhone lovers is the v1.1.3 update that's making techies' brain cells pop with the kind of features it's brought to the device. Of course, hackers would no doubt make it their life's ambition to crack this version too... and what do you know, they have!

Hackers such as Jonathan Zdziarski (who brought the NES emulator to the iPhone) managed to jailbreak the iPhone without having to mess around with the hardware. Before Zdziarski came along, there was a hack that unfortunately required hardware manipulation.

If you're an iPhone noob, 'Jailbreaking' involves cracking the iPhone so that it will allows users to install third party applications that are not official. It allows full read/write access to the file system of the iPhone, which opens it up to manipulation for various purposes (and not just running third party apps).

You can take a look at the hacking via the YouTube video these guys have so graciously put up. Most of the other iPhone sites seem to have lost the video altogether.


World's Smallest Penny-Sized Bluetooth Adapter

Penny sized Bluetooth adoptor imageBrando's tiny USB Bluetooth V2.0 + EDR adapter "allows for a working range of more than 10 meters, with a 723 Kbps data rate transmission." Available now, priced at $24. Product page.

This USB Bluetooth Adapter is an ideal solution for home and mobile networking needs. It is easy to install and use for the connectivity to such as cellular phones, PDAs, printers, computers, etc.


LinkedIn founder has golden touch

Few Internet entrepreneurs practice what they preach as devoutly as LinkedIn Corp. co-founder Reid Hoffman, whose business revolves around his belief that good fortune flows from good relationships.

Hoffman, 40, has put that principle to work by mining his own vast network of Silicon Valley connections to rake in one Internet jackpot after another.

A college friendship led Hoffman to PayPal and his first windfall when eBay Inc. bought the online payment service for $1.5 billion in 2002. Since then, he has become even wealthier by investing in other Internet startups he discovered through friends and former colleagues.

Along the way, Hoffman also used some of his PayPal proceeds to help start LinkedIn, an online business-networking service that helps professionals like him realize the value of their contacts from the past and present.

With more than 1 million people joining each month and projected 2008 revenue of $75 million to $100 million, LinkedIn Corp. seems likely to deliver another big payoff for Hoffman.

"LinkedIn is a great expression of who Reid is," said John Lilly, chief executive of the Firefox Web browser maker, Mozilla Corp., where Hoffman sits on the board of directors. "It's really his brain on the Web."

LinkedIn tries to help people who know each other elsewhere more easily meet others who might help their careers. For example, if Mary and Bob are both part of Fred's online network, Mary could ask Fred for a referral to Bob, who could then decide whether he wanted to embrace a new relationship with Mary.

LinkedIn's focus on professional networking distinguishes it from social playgrounds like Facebook and News Corp.'s MySpace, where users are encouraged to share their personal lives by posting party photos and adding favorite bands.

Although it may not sound as much fun, LinkedIn appears to be thriving. About 18 million people now have profiles on the site, roughly twice as many as a year ago.

Hoffman, who remains LinkedIn's chairman and largest shareholder five years after starting the company, said the Mountain View-based company will probably file for an initial public offering of stock before 2010 if he isn't first tempted to sell to one of the suitors that have inquired about buying LinkedIn. Hoffman wouldn't identify the suitors.

"I know we are going to be much more valuable in a year or two," Hoffman said. "We have had (buyout) conversations with all the usual suspects, but I think an IPO is by far and away the most likely outcome."

Nonetheless, LinkedIn has its share of detractors, who see it as little more than a tool for job hunters and employment recruiters, a slightly different twist on online help-wanted services like or Yahoo Inc.'s HotJobs. Besides selling ads, the site lets employment recruiters and others pay for expanded access to LinkedIn members.

Although former LinkedIn executive Keith Rabois isn't as harsh, he believes Hoffman needs to pursue an IPO as soon as possible to create a bigger buzz about the service.

"Right now, LinkedIn just doesn't seem to be at the center of the Internet universe and an IPO would be an amazing marketing opportunity," said Rabois, who left LinkedIn last year to join another rapidly growing startup, Slide Inc.

LinkedIn so far hasn't generated the same kind buzz as Facebook Inc., which has been attracting many of the same users as LinkedIn. With 60 million users, privately held Facebook already boasts a $15 billion market value and has indicated it will pursue its own IPO in 2009 or 2010.

Hoffman happens to have a stake in Facebook, underscoring his knack for identifying promising Internet opportunities in their early stages.

"It's like he is able to look at the Internet and figure out where all the pieces fit together," said Mark Kvamme, a partner at Sequoia Capital and a member of LinkedIn's board of directors.

While Facebook could produce Hoffman's biggest investment return, it threatens to become a thorn in his side if it diminishes the amount of time people spend at LinkedIn.

As a countermeasure, LinkedIn in recent months has been adopting more Facebook-like features. The changes have allowed LinkedIn users to display pictures next to their personal profiles and opened up the site for outsiders to post mini-applications, known as widgets, designed to help people with common connections to share information.

Despite those copycat moves, Hoffman insists he isn't worried about Facebook, which he views as being far too casual and goofy for the ambitious professionals drawn to LinkedIn.

Hoffman credits his own connections for his successful investment streak.

"Any time there were some really good people involved with a potentially good product, I thought I should probably throw in at least a little bit of money if I had the option," he said.

That doesn't mean he invests in every venture started by people he knows, sometimes to his regret.

For instance, Hoffman hadn't felt compelled to invest in YouTube when he had the chance, depriving him of a huge payday when Google Inc. bought the popular video-sharing site for $1.76 billion in 2006. Instead, LinkedIn provided some initial office space to YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, who worked with Hoffman at PayPal.

Hoffman hasn't been wrong too often.

Three of his startup investments have been sold since 2005 for more than $1.1 billion combined, although Hoffman got only a sliver of that. They are the photo-sharing site Flickr, bought by Yahoo Inc.; music network, bought by CBS Corp.; and computer security specialist IronPort Systems Inc., bought by Cisco Systems Inc.

Besides Facebook, the list of other promising prospects in Hoffman's portfolio include blogging software maker Six Apart Ltd., blogging search engine Technorati Inc., online content-ranking site Digg Inc. and another online social networking service, Ning Inc. He also holds stakes in a variety of lesser-known startups, too.

Hoffman's connections and investments frequently have ties to PayPal, where he accumulated stock as a director and then as a top executive. He first met PayPal's co-founder and chief executive, Peter Thiel, while both were attending Stanford University in the 1980s.

Thiel, an early LinkedIn investor who is now a venture capitalist and Facebook director, is one of the more than 1,500 connections that Hoffman lists on LinkedIn's Web site.

"I pay a lot of attention to building relationships," he said. "Part of how to create a lot of value and goodwill in the system is by doing something that is a little bit of work for me and massively valuable for you."


Samsung Silencio vacuum looks like that Master Chief guy

Samsung silencio vacuumIt takes a lot to differentiate a given vacuum cleaner in today's high-tech world of Dysons and Roombas, so kudos to Samsung for attempting to appeal to the gaming crowd by designing a model shaped like a popular Xbox character.

The Silencio SC9540 packs in all the high-end features you'd expect from a TV manufacturer making vacuums -- cyclonic suction, HEPA filter, super-special silver nanoparticle coating -- yet really stands out due to its rather striking resemblance to that dude from the Halo games. Samsung's Master Chief vacuum cleaner: Kills dirt.


Pizza Hut serves up SMS ordering

Pizza Hut has joined rivals Domino's and Papa John's in implementing a nationwide order-by-text service, giving customers even easier access to its tasty-but-greasy fare. To take advantage of the "Total Mobile Access" feature, you have to visit the Pizza Hut website for a one-time registration of your mobile number, along with setting up your so-called "pizza playlist" to enable easier ordering.

You can also satisfy your pizza jones by hitting up the same site on a mobile browser, which provides an optimized version of the desktop ordering system that has been in place for several years.


Problems coming to the PS3?

PS3 crisisIn the world of video games rumors spread like wildfire, especially if they’re about high-profile games and next-gen consoles.

We’ve all heard "Crysis coming to next-gen consoles" tons of times, and Cevat Yerli, co-founder and president of Crytek studios, even said that if the PC version did well they would definitely consider a port.

While I don’t have the sales figures, I’m sure the game did pretty well for itself, judging by all the positive reviews (ours included). So it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the game will eventually make its way to the PS3.

Why the PS3, you ask? Well, it’s nothing personal; it’s just that the Xbox360 would probably choke and die trying to churn out this game at a sturdy 30 FPS, a feat the PS3 is apparently capable of.

So is it true or is it a load of crap? Only time will tell... but till then you could head over to Gamesradar for the lowdown on this rumor, or just head over to our interview with Cevat Yerli.

Come and discuss it.


Plasma Thruster Powered, Cigarette Sized, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to Take to the Skies

Plasma GICigarette-sized unmanned aircraft, utilizing plasma thrusters for power, may sound like something out of the pits of science fiction's B-rate movie bin to us, but we aren't DARPA. That's right the guys at DARPA are actually working with boffins at Oklahoma State University to make the vision a reality.

The technology will rely on a cutting-edge propulsion system, which will be powered by plasma thrusters, eliminating any moving parts. Check out the above diagram for a basic schematic of what elements will be included in the micro-scaled aircraft.

Plasma Schematic GI imageThe energy created will be enough to power micro and nano unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), measuring anywhere between 6-12-inches in length. It is hoped soldiers will be able to carry a pack of six such vehicles, which could then be thrown up in the air to carry out intelligence collection operations. We cannot build a coherent sentence to emphasize how amazingly cool this sounds, but a list of words comes to mind: voyeurism, unbelievable, crazy, lube, exceptional and sexy are words that feature in our immediate, mangled thoughts.


Is Leopard Better Than Vista?

Leopard vista comparison imageApple has just revealed a new "Get a Mac" on the NY Times website that "Flash-based advertisement crosses over two distinct ad components (skyscraper and leaderboard)."


LG- Life's Good OR Litigation's Good

LG- Litigations goodsTrue to its word, the US Supreme Court has started to hear arguments in one of those LG vs Quanta patent suits we've been following, with its eventual decision expected to have major effects on the rights of patent holders. Specifically, LG is arguing that since chipsets sold by Intel to Quanta use licensed manufacturing techniques and employ non-Intel components, Quanta also owes LG compensation as per its original agreement with Intel.

Pretty confusing, we agree, but the Court's final decision -- expected in June -- promises to clear up once and for all what has admittedly become a legal gray area concerning so-called "exhausted" patents.