Debate gives no guidance on tech policies
By Ian GRAYSON
The worm didn't get a chance to react to the technology policies of Australia's two aspiring PMs last night. They were too busy talking about boats.
In fact, you had to wait until the 56th minute of the hour-long debate before there was any mention of technology at all. Just before the final gong, Julia Gillard confirmed her intention to continue with the massive NBN project. Two brief mentions, and that was it.
Now, while it would be naive to expect exhaustive discussion about the various technology related issues facing the country in a national televised debate, surely just a little wouldn't hurt?
Couldn't they have found some time, in between "moving forward" and "stopping the boats" to touch on some of the factors that will affect virtually everyone in the country?
The issues they didn't discuss included:
* The NBN: This vast network will touch every home and business in the country. Yet no one knows whether its construction will even continue should Tony Abbott win the contest.
* Immigration: There's been much talk about sustainable population growth, but nobody is clear about what imact migration cuts will have on skilled technology specialists. Will Aussie companies have access to the pool of international skills they need to grow?
* R&D: Other countries do much in the way of stimulating technology development through schemes that support R&D through grants and tax breaks. What do our leaders think of this and what are their plans? Who knows.
* The internet filter: This issue has been delayed, but it's still bubbling away in the background. How about a bit of discussion?
Even just a few minutes on these issues would help to clear up where the major parties stand. The worm would have provided instant feedback and we could have used the details to guide our decisions come polling day.
Let's hope that, if further live debates are scheduled, technology issues at least get more than a mention.
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Games will rescue 3DTV
By Adam TURNER
Forget movies and sport, it's gaming that will drive 3DTV sales.
Right now I've got Panasonic's flagship 3DTV in my lounge room - the 50-inch Viera TH-P50VT20A. This plasma giant is hooked up to a Panasonic Blu-ray player, TiVo and PlayStation 3. A few days of testing have confirmed my initial impressions of 3D - it's only worth donning those sexy glasses in order to play games.
When it comes to the World Cup in 3D on the TiVo, or watching 3D movies on the Blu-ray player, the 3D effects are at best a novelty and at worst a distraction. The hassle of wearing the glasses only adds to the feeling that 3D is more trouble than it's worth. It's not until you fire up a few 3D games on the PlayStation 3 that you start to see the real value of 3D.
My theory is that you need something engaging and interactive to distract you from the glasses. Turn on Spain vs Netherlands and the 3D effects only seem to get in the way and distract you from the action. They don't actually add anything to the experience. The same goes for most movies I've seen in 3D, perhaps with the exception of Avatar. Now switch from the football over to WipEout HD or MotorStorm: Pacific Rift on the PS3 and the 3D effects actually enhance the gaming experience. Soon you forget about the uncomfortable glasses, while any imperfections in the 3D effects don't bother you because the game is a virtual environment anyway - it's not supposed to look "real".
When it comes to movies and sport, I still think 3D is an expensive novelty. If I owned this television, the only time I'd bother breaking out the glasses is to play 3D games.
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Record Mac sales despite strong debut for iPad
By Stephen WITHERS
Apple's latest quarterly results included record revenue of $US15.7 billion, and profit of $US3.25 billion (up from $US1.83 billion for the year-ago quarter).
Behind these numbers were record Mac sales - 3.47 million units - which is possibly one of the reasons why chief operating officer Tim Cook said it was too early to tell whether customers are substituting the iPad for other products in Apple's range.
Some analysts are suggesting a halo effect from the iPad is helping to drive Mac sales, but I'm sceptical. Continuing concerns about the economy in various parts of the world makes it harder to imagine people buying iPads and then rushing out a few weeks later to buy a Mac. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, just not often enough to drive record Mac sales.
According to chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer, Mac sales to education customers were at record levels, and I just can't see room for a halo effect there.
And Mac sales grew particularly strongly in Asia Pacific - most notably in China, Korea and Hong Kong - but Australia was the only country in the region where the iPad was launched during the quarter (and it was only on sale here for about a month).
I'm going along with Cook in saying it's too early to tell whether cannibalisation will occur, but I am sceptical.
The iPad is designed to be an adjunct to a computer, not a completely standalone device. So I'd suggest that there is certainly room for a halo effect (it's not hard to imagine a proportion of those record Mac sales going to people whose first Apple product was an iPod or iPhone, and the same could happen with iPad buyers), but if cannibalisation does occur, it will be to the extent that buying an iPad delays buying a new computer for budgetary reasons rather than killing off the need to buy a first or replacement computer altogether.
In fact, I'd argue that if an iPad completely meets your computing needs, you probably wouldn't have purchased a conventional computer at all.
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What's next? A high tech pocket protector?
By Alex KIDMAN
I attended the launch this week for Livescribe's Echo Pen, and as I write this, I'm waiting for a courier to deliver a review sample, so any actual review will naturally have to wait.
At the launch, company CEO Jim Marggraff demonstrated a number of both simple and complex things that can be done with the pen-based system. The Echo (and its predecessor, the Pulse) are what could be dubbed very smart pens with inbuilt microphones and some potentially complex PC based interactions. Do the right (or is it write?) things on specially printed paper (which you can print yourself, although you'll need a colour laser to do so, and Marggraff was rather evasive when I asked him how much feedback you'd get from improperly printed paper) and you can set up animated PDFs, automated audio playback from a table of contents and, for some reason, draw a working piano keyboard.
Maybe it's just my non-musical talent speaking, but I've never felt the particular desire to draw a piano keyboard and have it come to life. Perhaps later, though, when they perfect the technology, and it can draw a working automatic teller machine. Then I'd be very interested.
Marggraff was very keen to describe the very portable Echo pen as a "pocket computer", and I do somewhat get where he's coming from with that comparison, although it's worth bearing in mind that the Livescribe system is still fundamentally PC/Mac based, and without an actual computer at the moment, there's only a limited function set of the pens open to you. Beyond writing things down, of course, but I can use a 20c Biro for that any time I want to. If I'm spending $200 plus on a pen, I'd want it to do a little bit more.
There's an obvious portability case down the road a bit if battery life could be improved and live streaming was possible directly from the pen itself to a cloud based server. It'd require a data connection as well, which presumably means a micro SIM slot within the pen. The translucent pen that Marggraff showed off was certainly pretty packed with electronics, but if Livescribe can overcome that kind of technical challenge, then I'd say it's definitely a pocket computer. At the moment, I'd strongly argue the case that it's a pocket computer accessory.
I've not played with the Pulse pen that the Echo replaces before, although oddly digging through Marggraff's PR-provided biography, I realised I have tested some of his previous products, back when he ran Leapfrog, an educational technology provider. I didn't think much of the Leapfrog Tag back when I reviewed it, however. Hopefully the Echo will resound (pun not intended) a little better with me.
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Not Stephen Spielberg
By David HAGUE
I had a major lesson re-learned this week. A timely reminder if you will that tends to trap many.
I have just moved house to a place I call "The Shed in the Field", mainly because that is where it is, literally. There is no ADSL, no landline, digital TV is limited to ABC and SBS, water comes from a tank when it rains, there is no rubbish removal service - you get the idea. The reasons why I have made this move are not important.
I have decided to document the move and how with minimal access to technology, I can still live fairly well; decent FM radio, movies and TV shows being accessed that I cannot get free to air and so on. This has taken the form of the "Shed in the Field" project over at Auscam Online. And of course includes video. It is not intended to be perfectly shot and lit video, complete with scripts, but fly-on-the-wall stuff as I feel fit.
I intended to use my Canon XHA1 to at least get decent HD footage, and on the first morning, as the day dawned very cold and foggy, the view straight down the valley was breathtaking! I shot around 10 minutes of the scenery,and The Shed, but when I went to capture it, the computer and the camera (via Firewire) simply would not talk. It appears the Firewire port in the Canon has burned out.
For a good ten minutes I was down in the dumps; I like my 'big' camera and know it backwards. Anything but would never be as good. The nearest Canon service centre is 3 1/2 hours away, and this could take weeks!
Eventually, sanity prevailed and I picked up my backup camera, an old Sony and a loaner I had for review which is a Panasonic SDR-S50. The Panny is tiny, shoots to SD card and MPEG2. I have been using it for the last few days now, and am suitably impressed with it and especially low light abilities.
Now this is a basic, basic camcorder that sells for $299, and as such, forces you to think about the shots and not rely on automatic gizmos to get it all right. I accept that the stuff I have done is no Spielberg masterpiece, and wouldn't even rate as a Spielberg mega-disaster, but it has done the job I am asking it to.
So here is the lesson - again - a top shelf piece of equipment does not make you a top shelf videographer.
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