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Samsung Galaxy Note 3: A Noteworthy Mammoth of a Phone

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is a phone that has a screen even larger than that of the Note 2; it is, however, smaller than the Galaxy S4 Mega. The Note 3 has a 5.7″ screen; the Note 2 had a 5.5″ screen with the same bezel size. The S4 Mega (aptly called ‘Mega’) has a 6.3″ screen, by comparison. Unlike the previous Notes, the Note 3 features a 1920×1080 screen; this resolution is typically found on 14″ screens and up! Indeed, with the high resolution and large screen this fits under the category of a ‘phablet:’ large phones that are too small to be fully tablets.

Like its predecessor, the Note 3 comes with a stylus, the S Pen. Luckily for those who are familiar with other types of touchscreen pens, this pen has a fine point. This means that the phone can fit more; the buttons don’t have to be as big.

According to Samsung’s website, the phone will come with 2.5G, which is slightly newer than 2G; 3G, which is usually used for voice calls; and 4G, which is the newer, faster cellular network for internet usage.

As for local connectivity, the Note 3 comes with Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (it features ac!), a GPS (GLONASS), and an infrared LED, which can be used to communicate with devices like TVs.

The back camera has a sizable 13 MP; the back has 2MP. For video recording, the Note 3 supports 30fps, 60fps, and 120fps. Samsung also packs many shooting modes for regular pictures.

As for the processor, the Galaxy Note 3 features either a Snapdragon 800 (2.3GHz, quad-core) or an Exynos octacore.

Samsung has packed a plethora of bells and whistles, including the S Pen’s Air command, Multi Window (run several windows side-by-side), Air Gesture. A more complete list can be found at http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxynote3+gear/index.html.

The battery is 3200 mAH, but that does not necessarily determine the battery life, as there is also the power consumption that must be taken into account.

Overall, this seems to be a phone with solid specs and a gigantic screen. While this is probably an overkill for the average user, it may be interesting if you enjoy having so many features and good performance.

System76 Galago UltraPro sees the Intel Iris Pro

The newest laptop from System76, which will be available in July, is quite impressive. As is the custom for System76, there is an Intel processor and Ubuntu that comes with it.

This remarkable laptop combines the cool Linux distribution with a slim form factor that rivals those of many ultrabooks. It features the newest generation, Haswell. Specifically, it has the Core i7-4750HQ (TM). At 2.0 GHz and 4 hyperthreaded cores, this is a rather impressive CPU to behold.

Galapago is the first laptop thinner than one inch to be able to boast Intel’s Iris Pro, a new iGP. Intel touts that the Iris Pro can support 4K by 2K pixels and (separately) up  to 3 screens (though, from the way their graphics were set up, it might by 3 additional screens to a laptop). Moreover, it packs twice the graphics performance as the previous generation. The Iris Pro features 128 MB built in.

Of course, a good iGP is no good without a screen; the Galapago UltraPro comes with a 14.1″ matte IPS screen with 1920 x 1080. Matte screens, in case you are not quite aware, have little to no reflections, but are considered to allow less color.

The RAM is available in sizes up to 16 GB @ 1600 MHz. The laptop fits one mSata drive (for SSDs, especially) and one SATA II/III port that is 9 mm thick, so most laptop drives will fit, not just the thinner variety. It seems that they are shipping a 500GB HDD by default. System76 seems to have opted out of an optical bay, but having one is not very useful anymore. The touchpad supports multitouch and does not have dedicated clicking keys. As for ports, where many small laptops prove their uselessness, System76 did a pretty good job. It has HDMI, display port, Ethernet, 3 USB 3.0 ports (pretty crazy!), a headphone, a mic jack (separate jacks), and an SD reader. Overall, the rest of the specifications are pretty good  and not too notable (You can check out more specs here: https://www.system76.com/laptops/model/galu1).

The chassis of the laptop is quite nice; it is .75″ thick, or about 19 mm thick. There are fans on either side to keep it cool. It features a 53 Watt hour battery and a 90 Watt charger. So despite the form factor, this is still a powerful laptop. However, at 1.72 kg (3.8 lbs), this is still a pretty light laptop.

As for Ubuntu (13.04), Ubuntu is the most popular Linux distribution and has a beautiful interface. One can achieve most of the things for Windows through Linux. WINE, WINE is not an emulator, for example, emulates the Windows API and can run a fair deal of programs – in addition to the other software. Also, despite Windows mainly being the gaming platform for PC, Valve is porting quite a few games to Linux. If someone really needs Windows, it is most likely possible to install it in addition.

The Galapago UltraPro is available for pre-order until next month, when it is being shipped (995 USD).

A Renewed Version of Google Maps

Google has announced their new version of Google Maps at the Google I/O developer conference. This new version has a radically different UI from the current maps version.
The new Google Maps’ different approach is to have the map fullscreen with settings inside, rather than having settings and the search bar on an outside banner, which is less space-efficient. The way that the whole window is surrounded by the map (based on screenshots) makes for a more immersive experience and a little more viewing space.
Though the UI is quite effective, there are other interesting changes that have been made. There is a mode where you can view in 3D some buildings’ interiors. As in Google Earth now, you can view 3D buildings, but with no additional plugins.
It also tells you about the navigation and travel times if you are getting directions.
It is said that an airplane mode will also be included, which would make it effectively a browser-based Google Earth with a shiny new UI.
Altogether, the new Google Maps looks pretty slick and bursting with fun features.

If you want to sign up for an invite, you can follow this link:
http://maps.google.com/help/maps/helloworld/desktop/preview/

Toshiba KiraBook: Monitor this Ultrabook

Toshiba just announced a new Ultrabook: The Kirabook. And along with it, have brought ultra-high resolution screens to the Windows Ultrabook market.

With a huge resolution of 2560 x 1440, the Kirabook has the most pixels for a Windows laptop on the market now. To put the resolution in perspective, you could fit four (720p) HD videos in it without scaling down the pixels (though they would clearly be smaller than on most screens). The only other (relatively) common laptops that you’ll see with such a high resolution are the Google Pixel and the MacBook Pro Retina (13″ and 15″). And it has a much higher resolution than that of the MacBook Air.

The KiraBook comes in three varieties, starting at $1599 (USD). It’s a sizeable price and includes the ULV i5 (Ivy Bridge). Another, $1799, features a touchscreen version, and a third version, $1999 features an i7 (3537U) in addition to the touchscreen. Clearly, this is not a cheap ultrabook with such a high entry price. All feature the new Windows 8, a 256 GB of SSD storage, and 8 GB of RAM.  With all three USB ports at USB 3.0, this does seem to be quite the laptop. It also features an HDMI cable and an SD card reader, along with a headset jack.

The KiraBook will be available for preorder through Toshiba’s website by May 3 and normal order by May 12. Although, I wonder if there will be a GPU to power so many pixels in such a small device…

Steam for Linux!

For a while now, Valve has been developing a client on Linux and porting games to it. They had run a beta program, where a few people got to test it out. But now, it is open to all, with more games than ever!

Valve truly wants to celebrate this accomplishment – no mean feat – by putting Linux game titles on huge sales (50%-75%). Valve also can  gain Linux users. It really is a great move, since now they will not lose customers who move over to Linux. It is also good for the Linux community, since some people hold back from Linux because it has inferior support for games.

True, not all games on Steam are also for Linux, but it is definitely a large step from needing to emulate windows through Linux or sticking to the smaller library of games available for Linux (mostly open source with inferior graphics). Also, the Steam platform will probably come to just the most popular distributions of Linux, since there are so many different versions.

This makes several programs for Linux to run Windows games a little less useful, though there are still some popular titles not owned by Valve (so those programs will still be there).

I think that Valve ‘s grand opening for Linux may change how the general public views Linux (very possibly not, though – but the Steam community is probably larger than the Linux community). It definitely puts more pressure on Windows (and to a certain extent, Mac) to perform well and not price gouge (mostly Windows, which has raised in price drastically). And Happy Valentine’s Day (even though it may not be today(when you’re reading it))!

Microsoft Blames OEMs for Sluggish Windows 8 sales

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Microsoft’s Windows 8 has had 60 million licenses sold since October 26, 2012, which was 3 months ago now. This brought in nearly 6 billion USD, however, Microsoft is not satisfied. Granted, it is less popular than Windows 7 was 3 months after its own release, but Windows 8 is doing pretty well despite many initial doubts.

Windows 8 is radically different from nearly any popular OS so far (and different from all that I can think of) – and removes perhaps Vista’s only upside: transparent taskbars in Aero. Not only has Microsoft thrown transparent taskbars out the window (no pun intended) with no option to put it back, but they have replaced the familiar windows start bar with their now-signature home screen. Generally, Windows 7 is accepted to be a great OS, and there is no apparent reason to ‘upgrade’ to another OS which removes familiar features – a loss of time, unless you’re looking for something new. Windows 7 also came after the infamously sluggish Vista, so Windows 8 has none of that upside of timing bringing as many customers.

Given all that, Microsoft really shouldn’t be surprised that their sales are not what they expected, but say that OEMs did not adhere to recommended hardware, such as including a touchscreen (fingerprint storage devices).
Windows 8 does have some merits that I’m sure helped its sales (which were decent). Microsoft was really pushing for a unified experience across devices, which is so much more convenient for a user who uses multiple systems. Also, Windows 8 reportedly brings performance boosts and shorter boot times – the bane of many current computers.
Windows 8 sales will probably pick up when more people start to need devices or get more familiar with Windows 8.