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The Magic Trackpad from Apple: Notebook Tech for Desktops

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This week Apple released another cool gadget to make Mac fans salivate: the Magic Trackpad.

Essentially, it's a trackpad for desktop computers, bringing the functionality of the company's famous multi-touch trackpad technology used on the MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air to the desktop. Naturally, it's also the "largest multitouch trackpad ever", according to the company's product page.

Now, the big question here is: why on Earth would someone need a trackpad for a desktop computer?

But we must remember that this is Apple we're dealing with here: they can sell you a cardboard box and make it sound as if it's so revolutionary you just have to have it.

The Magic Trackpad retails for $69 – about R503,43 when it comes to South Africa.

This gadget allows you to use this new peripheral to interface between yourself and your computer, using your fingers instead of holding a mouse. Think of it as a larger version of the Magic Mouse – just that you can't move it around.

What use could this be to us consumers, I hear you ask? At the present, graphic artists can perhaps use it to draw directly to the screen – if the application they're using can support this. Really, in my opinion, this gadget it merely eye-candy to show-off to your friends. If you really desire multi-touch for your desktop computer, then I guess this could fit the bill as well. By the way, this sleek gadget is for Mac computers only. Sorry, Windows folks... (although I don't think you'll be missing out much though).

What's your opinion of this new Apple product? How would you see yourself using it? Is it even worth buying? As always, share your opinions in the comments section below.

What MXit Needs to Do

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Mobile instant-messaging giant MXit has become a common buzz word in South African households, and has catapulted South Africa's tech industry well into the age of social 2.0. But looking ahead into the near future, the company needs to shake-up a few things to make sure it can remain the leader in cost-effective communication for South Africans wanting to talk to the rest of the world.

 When MXit started out, the landscape was pretty desolate: they were a lone sole preaching their glorious technology to a country that hadn't yet experienced a feature-rich interactive communication tool. Coupled with mobile operators battling it out in a new, democratic South African economy – often to the detriment of the consumer – this new piece of software was like a godsend to South Africans; we were able to talk for less than a cent a message to friends and family across the country.

However, fast-forward a few years, and the social networking boom hit the world, most notably with Facebook "stealing" the limelight from MXit (both in users and controversy). Many people who I spoke to about this sudden shift in the communications landscape said relatively the same thing: MXit is boring; Facebook is far more fun.

And, for me, this still reigns true. Now, instead of logging on to MXit on a regular basis, clocking a fair amount of hours chatting to friends, I find myself increasingly visiting Facebook (either via my mobile or through the desktop site) to see what friends are up to, get the latest social buzz and occasionally chat to friends.

MXit's options are fairly limited, and what makes it worse, the software has been stuck on the version 5 moniker since late-2006, only offering updates in point-increments.

But let's not get too carried away with MXit's transition into the Web 2.0–era; the company is doing incredibly well at the moment, with major deals being inked with a myriad number of brands.

However, in order to capitalize on a whole new era, the company needs to adopt technology that can offer the features that users want: an integrated social experience. They currently do offer something akin to this, in the form of Twitter updates direct from the MXit client, but how about a more updated interface, with a desktop interface similar to a social networking website? Now that'd be a great way to drag users over from Facebook, and continue to propel the South African tech industry.

What are your thoughts on MXit? Do you use it as often as before? Share them in the comments below!

BlackBerry Weekly: Interlecta, a Translation App [Limited Time Offer: FREE!]

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Translation apps are few and far between on any mobile platform, and although there's always the mobile version of Google's Translate product, the interface isn't that great on many phones.

BlackBerry users are blessed with a great app called Interlecta that can translate text in a myriad number of languages – their more powerful (and expensive) apps can even translate SMS texts and emails.

Byte Lounge regular, Imtyaz Rahim, pointed out to us that for a limited time only this great app is available directly from the BlackBerry App World for free. (If you're interested to know, the app usually sells for $4.95... so this is a great deal!)

It's dead-easy to set-up and use, and for languages such as Afrikaans, can even, to a certain extent, conjugate sentences correctly in the word-order of the specific language – although, use of the app in this way isn't recommended for full essays, as, being a computer application it can be prone to errors in itself.
For those who travel regularly, or are learning multiple languages (or are interested in spicing up Facebook and Twitter status updates and impressing friends!), Interlecta is a great app for your BlackBerry.

To get Interlecta, go to the BlackBerry App World (located under Downloads on most BlackBerry smartphones), select "BlackBerry App World", and search for Interlecta.

Nokia Needs to Shake-up Its Act to Survive

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As the release of the new flagship Nokia mobile approaches, the big question at the moment is whether the Finnish mobile giant can salvage its brand in the face of young competition in the form of Apple and Research in Motion (makers of the BlackBerry smartphone).

You see, Nokia still operates in the "old school" mindset that hardware is king and software plays second-fiddle in the broader scope of things.

Well, unfortunately for them, this concept hasn't worked out too well. Their investment in the Symbian OS to power leading product lines -- the N-and-Eseries -- has left them with products that boast superb hardware specs when compared to competitors, but lack the most fundamental aspect the discerning mobile user looks for in their next phone choice: the user experience.

Let's face it: the S60 operating system in today's Nokias is appalling. From jittery animations to terribly designed graphics (okay, the new Ovi look is cool, but the standard S60 icons from 3rd edition aren't that great), and an underlying system that gets bloated easily and suffers constant freezing and random reboots, the brains behind current Nokia products let down otherwise powerful devices.

The Ovi services have great potential -- but haven't been exploited to that extent yet. One need only look at the Ovi Store, and experience its poor selection of apps to realize that developers don't have time for a company that doesn't look after its software too well.

The success of a mobile phone company today relies on the menu of apps it offers its users. And quite frankly, Nokia has almost 0% offerings -- no native Twitter, Facebook or RSS apps for its overall selection of phones (only S60 5th Edition users benefit from a native Facebook app -- albeit one that is totally sub-par).

Thus the company is pinning its hopes on the face of the Symbian 3 operating system, an apparent complete redesign of the software. We can only hope that this redesign will bring the Finnish giant up-to-speed with current trend-setters like the iPhone and BlackBerry.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood Trailer

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Gaming website IGN posted this video trailer of the upcoming Assassin's Creed game -- the third one in the popular installment -- called Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. 

It will release primarily on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC on November 16, 2010. Will you be playing it?




New BlackBerry Series

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Byte Lounge will be starting a series on news, tutorials and related media for new BlackBerry users, and current and future BlackBerry fans.

Research in Motion's BlackBerry range of smartphones have taken the South African public by storm, especially with national carriers Vodacom and MTN offering the BIS service, in effect creating a free mobile Internet browsing experience that's long been sought after by discerning South African tech fans.

We'll be publishing informative how-to's, the latest news and rumours, upcoming products, opinion pieces and App World app reviews and recommendations.

The BlackBerry series will be a regular Byte Lounge feature. If you'd like something to appear on the feature, or have any tips for us about BlackBerry, please don't hesitate to drop us a line. Leave a message in the comments box or contact us via Facebook and we'll be in contact with you as soon as we can.

Enjoy the new BlackBerry feature exclusive to Byte Lounge – coming soon!

iPhone 4 On Its Way to South Africa "In the Coming Months"

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The iPhone 4, the latest version of the revolutionary mobile phone from Apple has been released across the United States, and will be making its international appearances soon in a host of international launch countries.

However, not surprising, despite the huge coverage South Africa has been experiencing during the 19th FIFA World Cup finals being held here, we were not on that launch list.

But fear not, iPhone admirers: Vodacom, the largest network operator in the country, has announced on their website that the iPhone 4 will indeed be coming to our shores in the "coming months". Here's the full text on their iPhone 4 page:

Vodacom is proud to announce we will launch the iPhone 4, the thinnest smartphone in the world with the highest resolution display ever built into a phone, in the coming months.
 "Coming months" can mean anything from next month to the end of the year. However, looking at the history of iPhone releases in South Africa, we can make an educated guess at saying that the iPhone 4 will be available by around September. Remember, though, that Apple has been experiencing manufacturing shortages of the units, and so there may even be a delay in shipping the device to South Africa.

In the expected frenzy that this device is to cause at launch, Vodacom is now allowing you to "register your interest" to get the latest news and info on the release of the device. You can do so here.

Convert to Any Video Format with Adapter

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Byte Lounge reader Giulio Buscaglione sent us a tip in response to a recent article on the site about ripping songs from an iPod to your Mac or PC.

It's called "Adapter", and it's made by the same guys who brought us "Pod to Mac/PC". This piece of software allows you to convert virtually any video file format to another video file format. This could come in really handy when wanting to, for example, put videos on your iPod or iPhone, mobile phone, or to play on a specific media player software or hardware (i.e. Apple TV). What's more: Adapter is, as Macroplant (the developers) put, "100% freeware".

Adapter is still in beta, and so bugs are expected at this stage. However, as stated in the opening dialog that greets first-time users of the software, the developers are open to feature requests during this test phase.

However, there weren't many requests that came to my mind when I tried the software, as it's really intuitive and well-designed. Apart from allowing you to convert video to a myriad number of formats, Adapter also allows you to download video from websites, making it a great tool to use for grabbing clips from sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Once downloaded, you can convert the file to a format of your choice, and even send it directly to iTunes for transfer to an iPod, iPhone or iPad.

You can download Adapter from Macroplant here, for free.

Xbox 360 Slim 250GB Review

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Even though it is technically labelled "Xbox 360 S", you will never hear it being called the 360 Slim, and with good reason. The new 360 weighs in 18% lighter than its predecessor, but only a quarter inch slimmer at the waist, with almost the same width measured at the widest point. As said on Endgadget, "Microsoft's taken its rectangular console and moulded it into a square"

There are a few welcome additions to the new 360, namely a dedicated optical audio jack (embedded A/V cable works fine as well), capacitive touch buttons (which seem a bit out of place after Sony removed them from the PS3 Slim) and a brand new hard drive port. Since the firmware update in April which allowed for use of USB mass storage, one could foreshadow the end of life for Microsoft's Memory Unit (MU), and lo and behold, the new 360 does away with the MU sockets in favour of 2 more USB ports. These are located on the rear of the console, next to the Kinect port.

On the bottom is a removable panel under which you will find the console's 2.5-inch SATA hard drive. The drive is cushioned in a fully padded cage that offers both protection and silencing, but is not user-replaceable. As mentioned earlier, capacitive touch buttons are used. While these may not be to everyone's taste, the uncertainty that is often present with capacitive touch is removed by immediate response from the buttons. Both the power and eject buttons chime when activated, and the disc tray slides out much quicker than Sony's slot-loader. A caveat however, the new drive does not offer scratch protection when the console is flipped.

While the outside has changed somewhat, the new 360 still uses the same silicon as the previous one. The 250GB hard drive performs on par with the 120GB from the 360 Elite, with installation times running neck and neck. There is no ethernet port, but the 802.11n WiFi provides favourable results, with only minor lag (everything except fighters can be played with no problem). An improvement comes with the disc drive: DVDs and levels are consistently loaded two seconds faster when compared with the 360 Elite, but it would be wrong to consider this conclusive, as Microsoft has a history of shipping different drives.

The new 360 is quite power-friendy, perhaps the most energy efficient unit from Microsoft. While it draws ever so slightly more power than the PS3 Slim, gaming and DVD viewing requires less power than the Elite. The system should stay quiet as long as you install games onto the hard drive instead of playing directly throught the DVD. The only drawback is the temperature signature, and even though the console uses less energy, leaving it in a cabinet or stacked with other AV components is definitely not recommended.

Words like smooth, sharp, stylish and more come to mind when you see the new 360 Slim, from the black console to the cords themselves. However, it does not offer enough to make it a conceivable upgrade. If your current system is too noisy, or you are looking for a more eco-aware system, then by all means go ahead, but if you have already invested in the various addons, then the $300 pricetag does not justify the upgrade - unless you have the Red Ring of Death (RRoD). For those who have yet to buy into the Xbox brand, this is definitely worth looking at, especially if you don't mind paying a little extra for an HDMI cable.

[Read the detailed and more comprehensive review on Endgadget]

Facebook: The Movie

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I've always wondered when the day would come when we'd see a movie adaptation of how the world's greatest and most controversial communication device came to be.

Columbia Pictures is at the helm of this picture, and the way I see it, "The Social Network" (a.k.a. "The Facebook Movie") can go one of two ways: either it adds fuel to the already fuming fire that the site is a bane to the existence of civilization, or it can illuminate the true story and add an emotional "face" to the world's most famous social network.

Here's an official teaser trailer of The Social Network. It's also been confirmed (as reported by Mashable) that Justin Timerlake has been cast in the film. It's expected to release later this year.





Sony to recall half a million of its "hottest" VAIO laptops

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[image source] Endgadget


Now, this is a real cause for concern. Sony has issued a warning that about half a million of its laptops are at serious risk of overheating, and even causing burns. The cause for this is said to be the heat-monitoring chips in the VAIO F and VAIO C series (both launched in January), and the defect causes overheating and physical warping. Sony says that there have been about 40 complaints received, and that customers affected will be able to download a patch that will fix the issue, or contact the company to have the laptop picked up for repair. This is not good for Sony, one of the previous F series (Core 2 Duo, Geforce 8 GPU) had many complaints with overheating. Hopefully the electronics giant will sort out the problem as soon as possible, for both the benefit of the customers, and Sony's (already fragile) reputation.

[source] Wall Street Journal

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