By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla From the better-late-than-never files, Microsoft has taken to guarding its own backyard with MS Security Essentials Beta. Antivirus and anti-spyware applications are a part and parcel of the Windows computing experience. Aside from the bloaty Nortons and beefy McAfees of this world, many users have been relying on free applications like Avast! Home Edition, Ad-Aware, and AVGFree to keep their systems secure. Changing the face of freebies somewhat, Microsoft recently launched Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), a free application evolved from its subscription based Windows Live OneCare suite of antivirus, antispyware and firewall programs. MSE is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and the upcoming Windows 7. "This new, no-cost offering will give us the ability to protect an even greater number of consumers, especially in markets where the growth of new PC purchases is outpaced only by the growth of malware," claims Microsoft. Microsoft appears to be taking protection seriously. The company constantly monitors malware as seen on its protection center website (microsoft.com/security/portal). Ease of installation and on-demand update capabilities, plus the fact that it is tightly integrated with the Windows OS, makes Microsoft Security Essentials an attractive option. Currently offered as a beta download, to date there is no indication that MSE will be bundled with retail versions of Windows 7 or continue to be made available as a free optional download. As for upsetting antivirus and anti-malware software makers by offering a free competing product, the likes of Windows Defender and Windows Firewall from Microsoft have been available for free since 2005, so coexistence with commercial antispyware and firewall solutions is expected to continue without much conflict (or cries of MS monopoly).
by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla Netbooks have come into their own as small but exceedingly practical portable computers. Next up, the promise of the all-day netbook. Enter the new Asus Eee PC 1005HA Seashell. Asus has consistently evolved their Eee PC line of netbooks from the toy-like 7 inch models it produced two years ago to larger, more powerful and functional netbooks with 10 inch screens, bringing big time features and all-day battery life along with it. As a variant of the earlier Eee PC 1008HA sealed-battery clamshell, the thinnest netbook in the 10 inch form factor in its day, the new 1005HA is slightly thicker than its predecessor, but it rocks a bigger, removable 6-cell battery that will reportedly power the device for 10.5 hours. Real world usage is a little less than that, but still impressive. The 1005HA can easily squeeze out 6.5-hours out of its battery, thanks mostly to Asus' Super Hybrid Engine power management application. Powered by a 1.66 GHz Intel Atom processor with 1GB of upgradeable RAM, the 1005HA runs Windows XP, and will likely do a good job with Windows 7 should you choose to upgrade the operating system (OS). Asus has also made sure that this netbook is well connected, too, with built in 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth V2.1 - premium features normally found in more expensive laptops. The trackpad on the Eee PC 1005HA sports the Multi-Touch gesture input feature for pinching to resize and whatnot. It's also unusual in that it sits flush with the unit's wrist rest, yet it's intuitive and accurate thanks to a grid of small protruding studs. Also packed within its dimunitive form factor, you get a digital array microphone as well as a built-in 1.3 megapixel webcam, ideal for video-conferencing, Skype and voice chatting, things you might want to do out on the road without the hassles of lugging around a bunch of USB peripherals. Aside from the capacious 160GB hard drive, the Eee PC 1005HA comes with 10GB of online storage is you want it. This is helpful for storing files and back ups in "the cloud," retrievable from anywhere. The most engaging feature of the new, more powerful and more feature-laden 1005HA over the old model is its price; it's cheaper. In the realm of sub-$500 portables, providing you have unpretentious expectations befitting a netbook computer (as opposed to a notebook or desktop PC), you currently can't do much better than the Eee PC Seashell.
By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla Sony recently filled up a downtown Toronto loft space with wall-to-wall screens demoing the latest titles coming to the PlayStation. This annual preview event stokes the fires for the coming holiday season and is replete with new titles, sequels to old favorites and even the return of titles that have long been missing from Sony’s console. Here are the highlights of what we saw. Daft Punk DJ Hero – Activision You’ve got guitar gods galore and a bunch of rock band spin offs so what’s next? How about simulating beat matching, scratches and fades on the wheels of steel? Set to launch on October 23rd, Daft Punk DJ Hero puts users behind the turntable and offers exclusive mixes and cuts from Daft Punk as well as a bevy of popular tunes ranging from Hip-Hop, R&B, soul, disco and rock. Using a turntable controller with three stream buttons, players need to play notes while adding samples to the mix and minding the crossfader button to match onscreen symbols. Clark Gables of the turntables will be well stocked as 100 individual songs and 80 exclusive mixes come with the game. Two players can go on a mixing beatdown and the game also accepts input from Guitar Hero guitars. God of War III – Sony By far the most visually arresting and impressive game that was previewed at the Sony event was their own God of War III. Coming in March 2010, God of War III is a visceral experience not only for players but also for spectators. Running at full 1080p HD resolution, the game’s layers of action, lighting, soundtrack and immersive environments are just phenomenal. The demo showed Kratos tearing through a glorious ancient city leaving behind a trail of bodies and gallons of blood as the war of the Gods and Titans continues. Kratos decimates foes with the Blades of Athena and uses giant lion-shaped gloves to smash through rocks and buildings. He can also tear heads from bodies and impale creatures using their own horns. The speed, range and scale of user control and character movement is equaled only by the game’s brutality and violence. This is definitely the game to watch for in 2010. Tekken 6 – Namco Bandai The much beloved PlayStation fighting title Tekken is back and for the first time totally re-jigged for the PlayStation3. This latest version will be released in October 27 in North America and offers 42 playable characters, most of which will be unlocked as the game progresses. The King of Iron Fist Tournament 6, offers a lot of what Tekken fans are used to, great characters with carried martial arts styles and moves but now with even more customization to costumes and environments as well as a new scenario mode which is a co-op mode for two players and that allows them to make weapons out of objects in their environment. A new Rage system powers up players when vitality is low and now characters bounce when dropped from higher ground, allowing for even more combo-move possibilities. Tekken 6 will also be available for the PlayStation Portable and on the Xbox 360. Alien vs. Predator – Sega Another blast from the past, Aliens vs. Predator comes back after 10 years but now offers a multiplayer option aside from the requisite campaign mode. The demo offered a first-person view of a cloaked Predator moving along in a lush jungle ready to open fire on opposing players. Releasing in February 2010. Aliens vs. Predator takes allows players to play campaigns as Aliens, Predators or a Marines. The first-person shooter, suspense, sci-fi cocktail works well and the environments are gritty and accurately rendered but don’t get too caught up admiring the landscape. AVP is action packed, full of claustrophobic corridors and evil-slimy things that are out to get you in the most vicious ways imaginable. AVP will be available for PS3, PC as well as Xbox 360.
kickBACK S By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla Every once in a while an accessory comes along that makes you think, "well, that makes sense, why didn't they just build that in?" One such accessory is the Scosche kickBACK S HyBrid case for iPhone 3G/3GS. The kickBACK S HyBrid case is a slim line case that acts as armor without adding much bulk to an iPhone 3G or 3GS (same chassis, different guts). Made of plastic and rubber in all the right places, it offers fairly good protection for your expensive and otherwise naked device. The kickBACK S also sports a tripod of non-slip protruding nubs on the back, so your phone doesn't skitter about when you plop it down flat. Front side, the rubber bumper is slightly raised around the periphery so you can also place your iPhone face-down on a flat surface without worry of scratching the screen, which remains unprotected (and touchable). The snug fitting housing has openings for the iPhone's headphone jack and the charge/synch port. Oddly, the kickBACK S intentionally covers the sleep/wake and volume buttons - as protection, according to Scosche, though likely a structural consideration inherent with its design. No matter, you can push through the rubber to activate the covered nibs at any rate. If you have and iPhone dock, note that the added girth of the kickBACK S, though modest, is just enough to make a no go zone out of such cradles. Of course, the kickBACK's real kicker is its kickstand, a hinged plastic support that will prop your iPhone horizontal and slightly angled when needed, snap in flush with the housing when not. Though the iPhone 3G/3GS is a great media player, especially useful for watching videos on long commutes or flights, it's a hassle when you have to hold the thing the whole time. The kickBACK S HyBrid solves this problem, obviously, as a hands-free prop. However, the kickstand does not lock into place when fully extended, so an overzealous tap on "pause" button (or whatever) can topple the whole kit and caboodle. Aside from that little shortcoming, the kickBACK S is well-designed; there's no denying its on-the-go usefulness making for a free standing video player, juke box, or even a bedside alarm clock (with certain apps) that you can actually look at without rummaging around the nightstand to find the thing. As a two-in-one product - i.e. a protective case and iPhone stand - Scosche's kickBACK S is a pretty good deal, priced in and around the going rate for comparable iPhone wraps that sometimes only do half as much. Currently available in the US in four combo flavors, black/black, pink/white, white/grey and clear/black, the kickBACK S is also expected in Canada "soon."