Buffalo selling UpgradEees for subnotebook SSD

Asus' Eee PC line has met with a lot of interest, sold strongly, and has launched an entire industry sector of competing subnotebooks, but a persistent prjoblem has been the device's comparatively anemic storage portfolio. A new product by Buffalo may solve this problem by offering large amounts of upgradable SSD storage to Eee users. HangZhou Night Net

The base Eee offers only 2GB of flash storage, and even the 9" Eee 900-series parcels out additional NAND in miserly blocks of 4GB at heavy cost. To address this, Buffalo has developed and is selling a NAND Flash SSD compatible with the Eee 900-series. The new devices allow 32GB and 64GB of storage added to the Eee for $150 or $300. Price is not quite competitive with the OCZ Core line.

The specific device is a bit pricey for the Eee. The 64GB model costs as much as the bottom-of-the-line Eee 700 2G, which will probably make Eee users reluctant to shell out so much money, especially since doing so would allow them to step up to the HP Mini-Note or another competing product. On the other hand, Eees equipped with a hefty storage capacity, with their same small size and other appealing features, could compete directly with these other devices. Also, consumers who want more space can replace the unit's SSD when they need it.

The strategy involved is interesting. The new devices do not connect via a hard disk bus like SATA, but instead connect directly to PCIe, as the Eee's stock SSD does. This approach eliminates performance bottlenecks to do with the SATA bus, although it's very unlikely that the Buffalo drives would hit those limits. The new device is Eee-specific, since the direct-from-PCIe and the plug used appear to be incompatible with other PCs, for now.

On the other hand, this may spark a renaissance in disk interchangability on subnotebooks. Before now, subnotebooks seeking more storage or higher performance have had to use tiny hard disks like in the Everex Cloudbook, or settle for a size, weight, and power consumption sacrifice by going all the way to 2.5" hard disks. If the third-party Eee SSD catches on, other subnotebook vendors may start building their subnotebooks to accept the new devices, creating a de=facto standard for subnotebook SSD intercompatibility. This is a very exciting development.

Rumor: Nokia working on integrating Zune Marketplace

A new rumor has appeared on the Zune block, and this one has nothing to do with a possible Zune Phone. In fact, the source of this rumor again denied knowing anything about a possible Zune Phone and instead insisted that the Zune team was hard at work collaborating with Nokia. This rumor, however, says nothing of a new hardware device, and instead talks about the Zune Marketplace moving beyond the Zune, which has been speculated before, but only for Windows Mobile devices: HangZhou Night Net

Nokia is currently working with the Zune team on integration of Zune Marketplace content according to a well-placed source within Microsoft. The joint development is directed at content delivery rather than a hardware device according to the source.

Now, obviously Nokia does not support Windows Mobile, but Microsoft's move still makes sense: Nokia dominates the worldwide handset market. It is the only one of the five largest mobile phone manufacturers that does not have a Windows Mobile device, but that does not mean the two companies don't have a long history: Microsoft still offers various of its software and services on Nokia phones. The source also noted that the Nokia deal will not be exclusive, meaning that other mobile manufacturers could also be planning to do the same, at the very least on their Windows Mobile offerings.

The only thing that doesn't add up is that the mobile company has its "Nokia Music Store," and it's not clear what would happen to it if Nokia started to support the Zune Marketplace. Nokia last year also partnered with Universal to offer "Comes With Music," a service that rolls the $5 per month fee into the cost of a device or any accompanying service charges, making it look like a free one-year music subscription. It doesn't make sense for Nokia to offer all of this as well as integration with Zune Marketplace.

Pushing out the Zune Marketplace to Nokia phones would be a direct attack on Apple and iTunes, which can be accessed via both the iPod Touch and the iPhone. Depending on how many Nokia phones end up getting access to the Zune Marketplace and how well the connection is implemented, Apple could have a serious competitor on its hands. In regards to development and production timelines for Nokia-Zune Marketplace integration the source claimed "it's too soon to say." In other words, Apple has little to worry about for now, since it has the advantage of already offering a "music for your mobile" option.

Further readingZune Scene: Nokia Zune Deal in Works

9500GT, 9800GT, 9800GTX+ cards hit the streets

NVIDIA's just-launched GeForce 9500GT, 9800GT, and 9800GTX+ GPUs are already seeing commercial implementations on consumer graphics cards from a number of vendors, Digitimes reports. The new GPUs are positioned in between existing products, and the 9500GT is already destined for a 55nm migration. HangZhou Night Net

The 9500GT has half the stream processors (32) of the popular 9600GT, runs at slightly lower clock speeds, and is populated by 256MB or 512MB of DDR3 or DDR2, depending on the manufacturer. It features a standard pair of DVI ports and an HDTV out. The DVI ports allow audio-carrying HDMI with an included adapter, a feature which, prior to the 9600GT, was only supported on ATI cards. It's less than seven inches long and entirely bus-powered, adding to ease of installation and support for small cases. With fairly robust media features, HDMI, and support for hardware acceleration of high-definition video playback, the 9500GT is a fairly compelling HTPC card, although only moderately competent at games. It will retail for about $70.

As part of its 55nm migration plans, NVIDIA will move the 9500GT to 55nm fabrication within the year. This will reduce costs significantly, and allow lower-power and higher-clocked solutions, and possibly easier passive cooling.

The 9800GT and 9800GTX+ are gaming cards. The 9800GT is essentially a 9800GTX with one block of stream processors disabled, for 112 processor cores instead of 128, and downclocked from 675Mhz to 600Mhz. It should be quite competent as a gaming card; it's essentially an 8800 GT. This extra muscle comes at a price, though: the card is longer, needs external power, and consumes more electrical power. It retails at about $170. The 9800GTX+ is exactly what its name suggests: a 9800GTX die-shrunk to 55nm and clocked higher, accordingly. It retails at about $200.

MSI, Asus, Gigabyte, Foxconn, Biostar, and Leadtek are all shipping cards on these GPUs, as are several other manufacturers. Most implementations closely follow the reference design, although some are mildly overclocked. Biostar even has a passively-cooled 9500GT. The new cards are already appealing, and the promise of a lower-power 9500GT makes the future promise of this particular GPU even more alluring.

Microsoft: 120 million Office 2007 licenses now sold

HangZhou Night Net

Last week, at Microsoft's annual Financial Analysts Meeting, Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft's Business division, revealed a sales figure that wasn't meant to fight bad press around Vista. Elop was talking about Microsoft Office 2007, and he threw out a statistic that might be a bit surprising at first:

We made some very bold moves to improve the user experience with Office 2007. And as you can see in this graph, we're getting some really good pickup on that. There have been 120 million Office licenses sold since the launch of Office 2007, which is just a great result.

When compared with the 180 million Vista licenses sold, it appears at first glance that Vista is doing much better than Office 2007, considering their launch was simultaneous. Piracy rates cannot be measured, so it isn't really clear which software is being adopted faster. It is important to remember, however, that an operating system is more of a nuisance to pirate than an office suite, and that Vista is more expensive than Office 2007.

Also, Vista comes preinstalled on millions of OEM computers, and although Office 2007 trials sometimes come preinstalled as well, consumers usually have to make a conscious choice to purchase the latest version of Microsoft's office suite. Furthermore, while Vista may require a new computer, Office 2007 can be installed on Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SP1, or a later operating system. It's hard to say which is doing better, but I would guess that businesses are moving to Office 2007 faster than they are to Vista, and that this trend is the exact opposite for individual consumers.

Further reading:Microsoft: Press Release

UK group calls on YouTube to screen all uploaded videos

Social media sites, and those that host user-generated content, need to do more to screen the content on their sites and protect users—particularly children—from videos that could be considered harmful, according to a UK government agency. The House of Commons' Culture Media and Sport Committee released its tenth report today, titled "Harmful content on the Internet and in video games," which examines "the Internet’s dark side" and what should be done to keep users safe. The Committee feels that social media sites need to implement stricter policies, implement more content filtering, and make it easier to report abuse. HangZhou Night Net

The Committee starts off by describing the Internet as a place "where hardcore pornography and videos of fights, bullying or alleged rape can be found, as can websites promoting extreme diets, self-harm, and even suicide." Because of this, websites like MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube need to take a more active stance against offensive or illegal content than they do currently. The Committee expressed distress that there appeared to be an industry standard of 24 hours to remove content that contains child abuse, for example, and strongly recommended making such important issues higher-priority.

Another area of concern was over the apparent realization that videos uploaded to YouTube go through no filtering (human or computer) before being posted to the site. Google argued that the task of doing so would be nearly impossible, as some 10 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute of the day, but the Committee was having none of it. "To plead that the volume of traffic prevents screening of content is clearly not correct: indeed, major providers such as MySpace have not been deterred from reviewing material posted on their sites," reads the report. It urges YouTube and user-generated content sites in general to implement technology that can screen file titles for questionable material (since we all know that people uploading illegal content always make sure that the filename is specific and accurate).

Other recommendations included making terms of service more prominent and easier for users to find, implementing all possible privacy controls by default, requiring users to deliberately and manually make them make their profiles more public, and implementing controls that make it easy for users to report instances of child porn directly to law enforcement. The agency encouraged the industry as a whole to come up with standards, and that a minister be appointed to oversee these developments.

Of course, the nature of the Internet means that those who are interested in spreading illegal content—whether it's copyrighted material or child porn—will always try to remain a step ahead of filters and law enforcement, and their sheer numbers make success likely. The Committee seems to realize this to some degree, but argues that perfection should not be the enemy of the good. Child safety should be of utmost priority, says the agency, and any costs or technical limitations should be considered second to protecting children when it comes to the Internet.

Further reading:Harmful content on the Internet and in video games (PDF)Harmful content on the Internet and in video games, oral and written evidence (PDF)