Review: First 8-inch Windows tablet is a device that shouldn’t exist

My dissatisfaction with PC OEMs is something I have documented in the past. They offer a confusing array of products and tend to cut corners in the worst ways imaginable. The OEM response to Windows 8 has been to produce a wide range of machines sporting novel form factors to fit all sorts of niches, both real and imagined.

One niche that the OEMs haven’t tried to fill, however, has been sub-10-inch tablets. That’s not altogether surprising. Microsoft designed Windows 8 for screens of 10 inches or more, and initially the operating system’s hardware requirements had a similar constraint.

That decision looked a little short-sighted after the success of tablets such as the Google Nexus 7 and the iPad mini. Accordingly, Microsoft changed the rules in March, opening the door to a range of smaller Windows tablets.

The Acer Iconia W3 is the first—and currently the only—8-inch Windows tablet. That attribute alone makes it in some sense noteworthy. Sadly, it’s about the only thing that does.

Spec-wise, this is another Intel Clover Trail tablet, and its internals are basically the same as the devices that launched last year (such as its bigger brother, the Acer Iconia W510). This means 1.8 GHz, dual core, four thread Intel Atom Z2760 CPU, 2 GB RAM, 64 GB flash storage (which with Acer’s default partitioning leaves a little over 29 GB usable), front and rear cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, and 802.11b/g/n (no 5 GHz support). There’s a micro-HDMI and micro-USB port for external connectivity (a separate cable converts the micro USB port into a full-size one), along with an SD card slot. The tablet has a speaker adequate for notification sounds but little more.

As a result, performance and battery life are similar to what we’ve seen before. The Iconia W3 comes equipped with full-blown Windows 8, unlike ARM tablets, so it can run any 32-bit Windows application—should you really want to. Clover Trail’s GPU performance is such that games and other graphics-intensive programs won’t run well, however.

Eight inches of horror

The new bits on this tablet are really the screen and the size.

Screens are important. We spend essentially all our time interacting with devices looking at screens. Cost-cutting on screens is unforgivable, as a bad screen will damage every single interaction you have with the device. This goes doubly so for tablets, where the screen works not only as an output device but also as the primary input device.

The Acer Iconia W3’s screen is a standout—because it is worst-in-class. I hated every moment I used the Iconia W3, and I hated it because I hated the screen. Its color accuracy and viewing angles are both miserable (whites aren’t white—they’re weirdly colorful and speckled). The screen has a peculiar grainy appearance that makes it look permanently greasy. You can polish as much as you like; it will never go away. The whole effect is reminiscent in some ways of old resistive screens.

It’s hard to overstate just how poor this screen is. At any reasonable tablet viewing distance, the color of the screen is uneven. The viewing angle is so narrow that at typical hand-held distances, the colors change across the width of the screen. At full arm’s length the screen does finally look even, but the device is obviously unusable that way.

Acer has clearly skimped on the screen. I’m sure the panel in the W3 was quite cheap, and that may be somewhat reflected in the unit’s retail price ($379 for a 32GB unit, $429 for this 64GB one—putting it at the same price as the 32GB iPad mini, which has a comparable amount of available disk space), but who cares? It doesn’t matter how cheap something is if you don’t want to use it at all.

This poor screen quality isn’t a question of resolution, either. 1280×800 is not a tremendously high resolution, but text looks crisp enough. At 186 pixels per inch, 1280×800 feels more or less OK for this size of device.

The low resolution does, however, have one significant drawback: it disables Windows 8’s side-by-side Metro multitasking, which requires a resolution of at least 1366×768. The W3’s screen is 86 pixels too narrow, so the Metro environment is strictly one application at a time.

This is an unfortunate decision. The side-by-side multitasking is one of the Metro environment’s most compelling features. Keeping Twitter or Messenger snapped to the side makes a lot of sense and works well. I’ve never used Windows 8 on a device that didn’t support side-by-side Metro multitasking before, and I don’t ever want to again.

Size-wise, the W3 may be small for a Windows tablet, but it’s not exactly small. It’s fat. The W3 is 11.4 mm thick. The iPad mini, in comparison, is 7.2 mm thick. The Iconia W3 is also heavy at 500 g; the iPad mini, in comparison, is 308 g. That makes the W3 more than 50 percent thicker and more than 50 percent heavier.

The thickness makes the lack of a full-sized USB port on the device more than a little confusing. There’s certainly room for a full USB port, and a full port would be more convenient than the dongle. But for whatever reason, Acer didn’t give us one.

The device itself feels solid enough, albeit plasticky. It doesn’t exude quality, but it’s a step or two up from the bargain basement.

Keyboard non-dock

The W3 also has a keyboard accessory. As is common for this kind of thing, the keyboard has no electrical connection to the tablet. It’s a Bluetooth keyboard powered by a pair of AAA batteries. It has a groove along the top that can hold the tablet in both landscape and portrait orientations and a clip on the back that lets you use the keyboard as a kind of screen protector.

The keyboard has to be manually paired to the tablet. It’s more or less full-size, with a reasonable key layout. It’s a typical mediocre keyboard. The feel is a little on the squishy side, lacking the crispness of, for example Microsoft’s Type Cover for its Surface tablets. It’s better than any on-screen keyboard, and to that extent it does its job. But it’s a long way from being an actually good keyboard.

The groove does hold the tablet up, and on a level surface the unit doesn’t topple over, but it’s not as satisfactory as some of the hinged keyboard/docks we’ve seen on other devices. Tilt the base while carrying it or using it on your lap and the tablet is liable to fall out.

Google releases Chrome 28 with Blink browser engine

Google on Tuesday released Chrome 28, the first polished version of the browser to use the company’s home-grown “Blink” rendering engine. On Windows, the upgrade also sported Google’s new notification service that lets developers of Chrome apps and add-ons display messages and alerts outside the browser window.

The upgrade was the first since May 21, when Google shipped Chrome 27 and touted some minor performance improvements.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Bug bounty programs provide strong value for Google, Mozilla. | Get your websites up to speed with HTML5 today using the techniques in InfoWorld’s HTML5 Deep DivePDF how-to report. | Learn how to secure your Web browsers in InfoWorld’s “Web Browser Security Deep Dive” PDF guide. ]

Google announced in April that it was dropping the open-source WebKit browser engine — at the time also used only by Apple’s Safari — and was instead launching Blink, a WebKit variant, to power Chrome. Since then, Opera Software’s Opera has also adopted WebKit as an interim step before it eventually moves to Blink.

Google cited difficulties in adapting WebKit to Chrome, and in the first weeks after the announcement, stripped copious amounts of unnecessary-for-Chrome code from the fork that became Blink. Previously, only the rougher “Dev” and “Beta” builds of Chrome relied on the Blink engine. Users can verify that Blink is present by typing chrome://version/ in the Chrome address-search bar, dubbed the “Omnibox.”

Also included in Chrome 28 is new support for more sophisticated notifications that appear outside the browser pane and display even when the browser’s not running. “Packaged apps” — ber-Web apps that look and behave like “native” code written specifically for the underlying OS — and add-ons can push brief messages and alerts to Chrome users after their developers have enabled the feature.

Only the Windows version of Chrome 28 currently supports these next-generation notifications, but Google promised that the feature would soon make its way to OS X and Linux. On a Mac, Chrome notifications are not integrated with OS X Mountain Lion’s Notification Center.

Along with the debut of Blink and notifications, Chrome 28 contained patches for 15 security vulnerabilities, one of them rated “critical,” Google’s most serious threat ranking. According to Google’s terse security advisory, that flaw was a memory management bug — dubbed a “use-after-free” vulnerability — in the browser’s network sockets code.

But while Colin Payne, who reported the bug, received an impressive reward of $6,267.40, another researcher was handed triple that. Andrey Labunets was paid a record $21,500 for filing several vulnerability reports, including two in the Google synchronization service and an unknown number of others that Google said were “…since-fixed server-side bugs.”

That last phrase and the amount paid were clues that Labunets discovered one or more flaws in a core Google service. In April, Google boosted bounties for vulnerability reports in its core websites, services and online apps, resetting the top reward to $20,000 for remote code executable bugs, those that attackers could use to slip malicious code onto a server or into an app or site.

Labunets is no stranger to large bug bounties. Earlier this year, after reporting a string of weaknesses in Facebook’s authentication protocol, Labunets was awarded $9,500 by the social networking giant.

Altogether, Google this week paid bounties totaling $34,901 to six researchers, including Payne and Labunets, for reporting eight different bugs. Through Tuesday, the Mountain View, Calif., company has awarded nearly $250,000 thus far this year in bounties or hacking contest prizes.

Users can download Chrome 28 from Google’s website. Active users can simply let the automatic updater retrieve the new version.

Google Selects HE-AAC Multichannel From Fraunhofer IIS For Google Play Movies in Surround Sound

Google and Fraunhofer IIS deliver the first movies with a true 5.1 channel surround sound experience from Google Play. The immersive sound quality consumers have come to expect from TV, Blu-ray disc or DVD is now available with movies streamed or downloaded from Google Play directly to their Android devices running 4.1 or later. Google chose HE-AAC Multichannel as Android’s only surround sound codec due to its open-standard nature and excellent bit-rate efficiency.

When connected to a surround sound system and TV with an HDMI cable, Android users will be able to play high quality audio and video from their smartphones and tablets in surround. On the go, Android devices will play movies in great stereo quality and selected Nexus products will also include the Fraunhofer Cingo virtual surround rendering technology, which will play movies in realistic surround sound on earphones or tablet stereo speakers.

Android’s HE-AAC Multichannel implementation includes full support for loudness and downmix metadata commonly known from the broadcast TV world, as well as other features that allow the sound to be tailored for an optimum user experience in any listening mode and environment.

“Google Play movies in 5.1 HE-AAC Multichannel sound are the first realization of our vision of bringing true theatrical surround sound to mobile devices,” said Robert Bleidt, Division General Manager at Fraunhofer USA Digital Media Technologies. “The Google and Fraunhofer partnership creates a tremendous value for consumers by offering one format that delivers a high quality experience both in-home and while mobile. Consumers may experience surround sound over headphones while on their way home from work, and finish the movie in true, exciting surround in their living room,” he added.

HE-AAC Multichannel is part of the Fraunhofer FDK AAC codec library for Android since version 4.1 and a required feature of all Android-compatible devices. This software makes open-source Fraunhofer implementations of the MPEG audio codecs AAC, HE-AAC, HE-AACv2, and AAC-ELD available to the Android community.

HE-AAC is today’s most efficient high-quality surround and stereo audio codec deployed in over 5 billion devices and used in TV, radio, and streaming services worldwide. The codec is natively integrated into most operating systems, streaming platforms and consumer electronics devices. In addition to its unique coding efficiency, HE-AAC has the dynamic ability to change audio bit-rates seamlessly in order to adapt to changing network conditions as consumers stream content to a variety of devices. It can be used with any adaptive streaming technology including MPEG-DASH, Apple HLS, Adobe HDS and Microsoft Smooth Streaming.

Stopping Google Latitude Service on August 9th

The world’s largest search engine company, Google will soon be officially shut down one of his services. The services that will be closed is Google Latitude which is a location sharing application.

Closure is made after a company based in Mountain View did a massive change on Google Maps. In addition, this application also has a very low popularity. Google Latitude consumption levels far below other applications such as Foursquare or Facebook. Not only that, Latitude also less popular than the location-sharing service owned by Google.

Google Latitude itself is a location sharing application that is integrated with Google Maps. This feature allows for automatic location tracking, check in at a place it can also be set automatically or manually.

In the latest update Google Maps on Android, this feature is not found anymore. Selian it, Google also removed the existence of Google Latitude app available on iOS and has officially retire the Latitude API. So third-party applications that use these APIs will not work, unless using a sharing site owned by Google.

Google Maps Back Wins Feature Offline Cache

As we know, Google Maps has been updated a few days ago. Unfortunately the update is gained criticism because of ‘loss’ offline cache feature maps that lead the user must constantly connected to Google to use the service.
The criticism has received a response from Google. Not long ago, Google said it would issue a new update featuring the option to store the offline cache on the Maps application has been rolled out for Android. This option will be installed at the bottom of the search box located on the map and can be switched easily. In addition, Google also decided to add the “Where’s Latitude?” that will take users to information about the future of the location sharing service.
This update began rolling on this day and can be checked via the Play Store.

Mozilla ponders blinkers for your browser

Mozilla Labs has outlined an experiment it’s conducting in improving the personalisation web publishers can offer readers who browse their sites using Firefox.

The outfit says it’s been working on the idea since last year, when it “conducted a series of experiments in which a user’s browsing history could be matched with interests in categories like technology, sports and cooking.”

In return for opting in to the trial, lab rats were offered “insight into how they spend time online.”

Mozilla Labs is now wondering “what if these interests were also available for the user to share with the websites they visit to get a better, more personalized browsing experience” so that “content creators and consumers could benefit from Web-based interests”?

Here’s one scenario the outfit has imagined as resulting from this line of thinking:

“For example, let’s say Firefox recognizes within the browser client, without any browsing history leaving my computer, that I’m interested in gadgets, comedy films, hockey and cooking. As I browse around the Web, I could choose when to share those interests with specific websites for a personalized experience. Those websites could then prioritize articles on the latest gadgets and make hockey scores more visible.”

Some publishers have already pressed the API for this kind of thing into service, according to the Mozilla Blog, but the code is not in the wild and is being tested – technically and conceptually – as Mozilla figures out how people will react to websites that dynamically change content based on readers’ past behaviours.

One example of successful personalisation mentioned in the posts announcing the initiative is The Guardian’s offer to ensure its readers see no news about the birth of George Alexander Louis Windsor. That’s a service many will doubtless enjoy. Whether such personalisation can result in readers choosing only to encounter lines of inquiry and opinions they already agree with, and therefore deciding to consume media that re-enforces their feelings rather than offering broader perspectives, is a wider debate for another day. Or the comments.

Facebook’s Balancing Act: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The good news: Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) turned fabulously profitable in the just-reported second quarter thanks to a redesigned ad flow on mobile Facebook apps. Revenues jumped 23% from the first quarter to the second. Last year, the same comparison yielded just an 11% seasonal gain. The year-ago quarter’s net loss turned into a tidy profit.

In response, share prices jumped more than 30% overnight and sit very close to all-time highs that were set during the stock’s IPO.

The bad news: The ad assault is interfering with the user experience. A fresh survey (free registration required) from the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows Facebook dead last among online media sites in terms of user satisfaction. “Facebook users find the numerous changes to the site’s interface taxing,” says the ACSI. Twenty-seven percent of users surveyed complained that ads are ruining their Facebook experience these days.

The ugly news: The good news may not last very long. Facebook had better dial back the ad blitz if it wants those disgruntled users to stick around.

It’s a high-wire balancing act between monetization and user satisfaction. Lean too far in one direction, and you won’t make any money from those billions of page views. Err too far in the other direction, and those profitable page views will melt away as unhappy users find greener pastures.

Don’t think it couldn’t happen. Facebook is not too big to fail. Unless the company strikes that crucial balance before it’s too late, we could very well see another mass exodus from one leading social network to another.

Facebook itself killed MySpace by launching a better service in the same genre. Before that, MySpace trampled all over social pioneer Friendster in much the same way.

And there are Facebook alternatives waiting to crush the current king at the first opportunity, believe it or not.

Chief among these is Google (NASDAQ: GOOG  ) and its Google+ service, which benefits from tight integration with the world’s most popular search engine as well as with leading video site YouTube.

Twitter sings a somewhat different tune but can fill many of the functions of a Facebook account. LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD  ) is basically Facebook for corporate users and could very well expand into the consumer side of things if it wanted to.

All of these alternatives offer fewer ads and a cleaner experience than Facebook. LinkedIn ties with Facebook at the least satisfied end of the ACSI survey; everyone else runs miles ahead. Yes, even the much-maligned Google+ “ghost town.” And even LinkedIn reports fewer ad-taint complaints than Facebook.

That’s why I’d take this week’s Facebook share-price pop as a temporary boost, and not as a sustainable clean bill of health. The service currently leans far too heavy on the monetization side of the fence and runs a very real risk of finding out that the next era of social networking doesn’t include much Facebooking.

So my bearish CAPScall on Facebook stays in place until Mark Zuckerberg and company adjust their strategy again. If you can’t keep your users happy, the money will very quickly cease to matter.

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Share Location, Google Maps Help Increase Accuracy

JAKARTA – Google recognizes that besutannya rudimentary mapping applications. Therefore, the company continues to update and even in this case involve the user. This was stated by Google Indonesia Country Head, Rudy Ramawy.

“That’s when you make the trip? Maybe it’s been accurate. That’s why we have never held a ‘grand launch’ of our products, because the company is aware of updates and updates to keep going” Rudy said while responding to thoughts about the accuracy of the crew Techno Okezone Google Maps in Jakarta , overnight.

“We are aware that our service is not completely perfect, but we continue to make updates. Indonesia with a wide geographical conditions is a challenge to deliver the best service,” he said.

Furthermore, Rudy said that if the Android-based smartphone users to enable or diligently perform ‘share location’, it was very helpful software giant to improve the accuracy of its services. “Of course in this case we appreciate aspects of secrecy,” said Rudy.

“If the big cities such as Jakarta, the accuracy of Google Maps can be relied upon. But if remote areas, we continue to provide the best possible experience. Many ways we are doing, Google Drive one of them,” said Rudy.

Meanwhile, following the Google Maps that can be accessed offline in a number of countries, Indonesia Google promised that the service would go in Indonesia, but companies are reluctant to disclose when exactly the service that can be enjoyed.

“A number of countries able to access Google Maps offline, and Indonesia are also included in the list will receive the service. Certainty but we do not know yet,” alluded Country Marketing Manager for Google Indonesia Krishna Zulkarnain.

Safari and Chrome Still Leads Mobile Web Browser

Jakarta – Around 80 percent of the world population has a mobile phone. The number of mobile phones around the world estimated to be about 5 billion units, with 1.08 billion units of which include smart phones. Thus, it’s no wonder when browsing on the Internet today is mostly done through mobile phones.

Most of the smart phone owners, as quoted from the go-globe.com, prefer to use a standard mobile web browser, aka the phones default browser. They reason, the default web browser is definitely the best for their phones.

There is also the thought that they do not need to change the web browser because it did not want to be bothered by trivial matters, such as the need to download first and then run the application.

Another reason put forward is that they feel no need to update the web browse, as is done on a notebook or desktop computer. Therefore, updating the application is much more important than replacing the web browser on the mobile device.

For desktop and notebook computers, the web browser is the most widely used Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari. Competition to be the most popular frequently occur between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Google Chrome.

In mobile devices, such as smart mobile phones and tablet computers, maps of different strength. Which became the market share leader for the mobile web browser is Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome browser fib.

However, in recent months, Safari increasingly dominant. According to the output data from Net Applications, Safari controlled 61.79 percent market share for web traffic in March. In fact, months before Apple’s browser only won 55.41 percent market share.

In general, mobile web browsers can be distinguished from ability, such as opening a different site, doing page zoom, and make a keyboard shortcut. However, there is also an optimal mobile web browsers on mobile devices use only.

In addition, there are several mobile devices also can not offer a lot of choice what mobile web browsers can be used. One of the devices is a flexible mobile devices with Windows Mobile operating system.

In Indonesia, people always want a high-speed mobile web browser.

“We provide the connectivity features with high compression, especially on a busy network. Compression is also advantageous because the users were able to save the battery, “said Communications Manager Opera Indonesia, Agnes Agastia, two weeks ago.

No less aggressive in offering the experience of using a mobile web browser is Google. According to Google’s Head of Communications Indonesia Vishnu K. Mahmud, Google will continue to focus on developing a modern browser Chrome that will provide the best experience for its users.

Mobile web browser is best for your device, of course depending on the need and type of device used. Therefore, not all mobile devices compatible with the existing web browser.

Launch of Remodeled Website by limoserviceoakland.net

Limoserviceoakland.net, a premier ground transportation provider, has recently launched their remodeled website. Their remodeled website aims to improve the user experience and offer better insight of their business model. Their remodeled website has tons of new features and user-friendly navigation structure to benefit the customers.

“Any business has to keep up with the improving technology in order to stay in the business. The basic idea behind remodeling the website was to make our services and fleet information available to the customers with utmost ease. The customers will find complete specifications and technical details with the images of the fleet in the new website for determining the profitability of the vehicle. Additionally, we have included many features that can help the customers in comparing the vehicles and choosing the best one for the tours. Of course, the best search engine optimization was also the main aspect behind the remodeling of the website.” – said Ruben, a manager of limoserviceoakland.net

They have used dynamic approach to remodel the website to make it visually appealing and informative for the customers. The remodeled website offers the benefit of accessing the required information with only a few clicks. Their remodeled website includes complete information about the services like wine tour, casino trips, airport transfers, concerts, sports events, night on the town and corporate events. Their website has dedicated pages focusing on the luxury transportation options for the occasions like wedding, birthday parties, proms, bachelor parties and bachelorette parties. Their new website has state-wise recommendation about the most popular destinations, hotels and restaurants for the benefits of the customers.

They have showcased their wide ranges of limo collection that includes Escalade Limo, Lincoln Stretch Limo, Rolls Limo, Hummer Limo, Range Rover Limo and Chrysler 300 Stretch Limo in their fleet. Some other fleet information like features available in 20 passenger party bus, 28 passenger party bus and 45 passenger party bus are also listed on their website with the high-definition images. The information about their wide range of exotic cars such as Bentley Flying Spur, Mercedes-Benz S500, Ranger Rover SUV, Rolls Royce Phantom, Ferrari and Lamborghini Gallardo are now available on their new website.

They have also included the complete information about the different tour packages and their features in the website for better understanding. The customers can now subscribe to their newsletter to know about the release of new packages, deals, services and fleet. They have also included the online vehicle reservation facility on the new website to offer the convenience of booking the most appropriate vehicle with utmost ease. The customers can visit http://www.limoserviceoakland.net to check out the new features of the remodeled website or book a limousine for tours and travels.