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Big Brother: How ACTA Brings SOPA’s Threat to a Global Scale

January 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

Most people have never heard of ACTA, but it could soon change the Internet – forever.

Big Brother: How ACTA Brings SOPA’s Threat to a Global Scale

“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed–would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper–the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
- George Orwell, 1984, Book One, Chapter One
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On 20 January 2012 in the United States Congress’s lower chamber, Rep. Lamar Smith, sponsor of the ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (SOPA) said he would postpone consideration of the legislation and delay the Senate vote on its counterpart, the ‘Protect IP Act’  (PIPA). The decision was heralded as a victory for free speech and net neutrality, helped by a high profile blackout of websites from the likes of Google, Wikipedia, Mozilla and WordPress. It was a battle, it was not the war.
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94 000021e38 a05d 539w Big Brother: How ACTA Brings SOPAs Threat to a Global Scale
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SOPA has a big brother, it is called ACTA (the ‘Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement’) and 24 hours after SOPA was derailed in Congress ACTA was signed off by the European Union and 22 member states, including the UK. A signing ceremony on 1 October 2011 had already garnered the signatures of Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and yes, the United States. ACTA would make SOPA irrelevant by establishing an international legal framework and global governing body for the enforcement of intellectual property. It would be able to work outside international institutions such the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the United Nations.
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Excluding its accountability, the theory behind ACTA is sound: commonly agreed laws, crack down procedures on counterfeit goods (including generic imitations) and approved legal recourse could well simplify the chaotic and occasionally brutal actions currently taken. Unfortunately there is a problem: ACTA appears to be rotten to the core. We say ‘appears’ for the simple reason that since ACTA was first announced (way back in October 2007) very little of its content has been made public since it was created by unelected industry negotiators and lobbied directly to politicians. What has been revealed makes for disturbing reading…
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Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Libratone Live AirPlay Speaker

January 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

Beautifully designed, individual, intuitive and excellent sound quality, so why does this AirPlay speaker fractionally miss the mark?

Libratone Live AirPlay Speaker review

Price as reviewed: £599.99

Overall score - 8/10

Key Features

  • AirPlay enabled
  • 150W total output
  • Chrome, wood & (optional) cashmere wool finish
  • No dock/device charging

Chances are your current phone looks like your last phone and in turn it will look like your next phone. With the introduction of Ultrabooks the same could be said for laptops in a few years, while TVs continue their evolution into a single, wafer-thin piece of glass. We’re not saying these transformations aren’t desirable, or at least understandable, but it is getting a bit dull. One sector where there is still room for design creativity is audio with unusual speakers and docks appearing on a regular basis and Libratone exemplifies this more daring dynamic to the full …

Following on from its impressive if expensive Lounge, it has launched the Libratone Live – a smaller, relatively more affordable, equally stylish speaker for your iPhone or iPod. In tech spec terms this means dimensions of 47 x 19.5 x 15cm and 6.5Kg verses 100 x 22 x 12cm and 12Kg, £599 verses £1,099 and the same premium build materials with a casing primarily made of wood and covered in wool. Most intriguing, however, is that despite the size and cost differences the Live matches the 150W output of the Lounge and that makes it a very interesting product indeed.

94 000021dad d694 1 Libratone Live AirPlay Speaker

Before we get to audio though, let’s get back to style. Coming from the same family the Live may look like the Lounge, but otherwise it looks like no other speaker on the market. Taking it out the box you are initially struck by the weight (it is 300g heavier than a Zeppelin Air), but this quickly gives way to curiosity when you realise what appears to be a wool cover is in fact the finish of the speaker itself. This doesn’t immediately make a strong first impression – our unit was covered with pieces of foam from its packaging which had to be meticulously picked out – but you quickly warm to this softer, tactile surface which gives it warmth and even friendliness that is lacking from the myriad of cold, piano black devices that flood the market. It is as if a Toblerone packet and a teddy bear had offspring.

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As mentioned, this finish is common to the Lounge, but where it differs for its big brother is its portrait orientation (which despite its overall size gives it a footprint smaller than many speakers) and a Chrome handle on the rear which provides an element of portability. Minimalism is again central to the Live with a 3.5mm jack the only input and no dock or device charging available. Instead how the Live connects is with AirPlay. Apple’s lossless, wireless streaming protocol is a wonderfully elegant and dongle-free technology, but can be frustratingly complex to setup. Thankfully, given the Live’s lack of other connectivity, it has produced the most intuitive process to date (see video above), so you’ll be up and running within minutes. Continue reading

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

2012: The Crunch Year For RIM

January 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

Weekly takeover rumours, plummeting results and the exit of both co-CEOs suggest RIM needs a rethink.

2012: The Crunch Year For RIM

In April last year we posed the question: Is RIM the Next Nokia? Nine months on the continued decline of the Canadian smartphone giant makes that seem like wishful thinking.

“We haven’t considered acquiring the firm and are not interested in it”. This was Samsung’s brutal and dismissive response to news last week that Research in Motion was trying to sell itself to the South Korean giant. Unsurprisingly, given the nature of the put down, RIM also denied the reports – as it has denied sales to Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon. The picture is getting tired. Much like a teenager looking for a date it allows rumours of interest to escalate then becomes angry and curt when each potential partner shoots them down. The “well-I-didn’t-care-about-them-anyway” approach.
94%7C000021d0c%7C0c02 1 2012: The Crunch Year For RIM

Regardless of whether any of these stories are true, however, being shot down so comprehensively by its peers can’t be doing RIM’s confidence any good. And sure enough, over the weekend both co-CEOs, Mike Lazaridis and James Balsillie [above] stepped down from their roles to be replaced by previously little-known executive Thorsten Heins [below], who for the time being will continue with the company’s existing plans.

94%7C000021d24%7Cd3ef Thorsten Heins 300x300 2012: The Crunch Year For RIM

“The last few quarters have been some of the most trying in the recent history of this company,” admitted Balsillie after the company’s latest round of financial results in December. “We recognize that our shareholders may feel we have fallen short, in terms of product execution, market share, and financial performance… We are leaving no stone unturned, and are evaluating a number of areas including product management and the number of SKUs offered, supply chain and bill of material cost efficiency, marketing and advertising, partnership and licensing opportunities, organizational and management structure, [and] opportunities to leverage the BlackBerry infrastructure.”

In short: RIM will try anything.  Continue reading

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Teac NS-X1 AirPlay Speaker Dock

January 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

Slim, affordable, stylish and AirPlay equipped so why does it all go so horribly wrong?

Teac NS-X1 AirPlay Speaker Dock

Price as reviewed: £199.00

Overall score - 5/10

Key Features

  • AirPlay
  • Internet Radio
  • WiFi (802.11b/g)
  • 2x 10W speakers with Bass reflex
  • Ethernet Port

Teac deserves a lot of credit. The Japanese company may not set pulses racing, but it has exceptional distribution channels making it one of the most visible tech brands on the UK high street. Its products aren’t without merit either, particularly in the dog-eat-dog sector of iPod docks where the Aurb and Mini Aurb have been notable highlights in recent years. Unfortunately 2012 isn’t off to such a good start…

The NS-X1 looks great on paper. Teac markets it as “the coolest, slimmest AirPlay System” and from a superficial perspective it has a point. Measuring just 55mm deep at its thickest point (9.5mm at its thinnest), the NS-X1 is certainly the most svelte AirPlay equipped dock we’ve seen to date and weighs only 2.1Kg. It also has a clean, almost retro, design aesthetic. For those living under a rock, AirPlay is Apple’s proprietary wireless streaming technology that allows Macs, iPads, iPods and iPhones to stream lossless quality audio to any AirPlay equipped speaker without the need for dongles or additional peripherals.
6002 Teac NS X1 AirPlay Speaker Dock

The trouble is high costs have limited adoption of AirPlay and products which do feature it often have high asking prices. Again the NS-X1 scores well here, coming in at under £200. Teac further raises the value of the NS-X1 with built in Internet Radio and PC streaming while the design is fully wall mountable. The NS-X1 stereo speakers aren’t earth shattering at just 2x 10W with Bass reflex, though an FM tuner, auxiliary and Ethernet inputs, DLNAcompatibility and a bright OLED display suggest value for money.

Sadly, much as you should never judge a book by its cover, you should never judge a product by its spec sheet. While the NS-X1 looks the part, a closer look reveals the dock to be poorly constructed. This is a device built from top to bottom with low grade plastics: display, speaker grill, buttons, everything. The NS-X1 doesn’t feel as if it will fall apart in your hands, but hold it near its ports and the rear section creaks and clacks – the latter a sound that also describes the noise of using the control buttons along the top. The whole experience feels like an exercise in cost cutting.

Continue reading

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Why Microsoft Is Turning Into Apple

January 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

A raft of company decisions show its focus is changing dramatically, but why and is it a good thing?

Why Microsoft Is Turning Into Apple

CES 2012 is at an end, and with it, so is the event’s final Microsoft keynote. CES 2013 will be a very different show without the presence of the Remond-based company, but those changes could be minimal compared to how Microsoft hopes to change over the same timeframe. Whisper it: Microsoft is turning into Apple.

94 000021b84 0291 ces Why Microsoft Is Turning Into Apple

“We won’t have a keynote or booth [at CES] after this year because our product news milestones generally don’t align with the show’s January timing,” forewarned Microsoft corporate communications VP Frank X. Shaw in December. “As we look at all of the new ways we tell our consumer stories – from product momentum disclosures, to exciting events like our Big Windows Phone, to a range of consumer connection points like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft.com and our retail stores – it feels like the right time to make this transition.”

Shaw could well be right about CES’s timing. This year the show was moved back a week to make it easier for companies returning from the Christmas and New Year break, but its placement hasn’t hindered Microsoft much in the past. Over the years CES has been the stage Microsoft has delivered a raft of important firsts including the first public demo of the Xbox, Windows Media Center (at the time called ‘Freestyle’), the first beta of Windows 7 and the news of ARM support in Windows 8. Microsoft has also been the key CES partner, with Gates and Ballmer in turns hosting the pre-show keynote address.
300 Why Microsoft Is Turning Into Apple
Numerous reasons have been levelled for the split, from stand rates to contract lengths, but the truth is Microsoft these days seeks something CES cannot deliver: control. While the company talks up search, the Cloud and its Metro UI, the real focus for the years ahead is to take back control of its image and to lock down the performance of its PC and mobile platforms which have been damaged so badly by lackadaisical third parties.

Continue reading

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

 

Why Ultrabooks Are Enforced Common Sense

January 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

The Ultrabook is an Intel intervention for the wayward PC industry… and crucially, it might just work.

 

Why Ultrabooks Are Enforced Common Sense

2012 is predicted to be the year of the tablet, but if aliens had landed at CES this week they would have their attentions drawn by another product entirely: the Ultrabook. In the show’s first 24 hours Acer launched the Aspire S5, HP the Envy Spectre, Lenovo the T430u, LG the Z330 and Z430, Samsung the Series 5 and Dell the XPS 13.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Intel PC client chief Mooly Eden used the company’s press conference to proclaim “75-plus” Ultrabooks will be released in 2012, 50 per cent of which will have 14- and 15in displays. Have Ultrabooks taken over the PC industry? No, enforced common sense has.

94%7C0000219fa%7C9b92 orh616w616 94 0000219c2 ea74 VizioPCs3 gallery post Why Ultrabooks Are Enforced Common Sense

If the last few years have proved anything, it is that the majority of PC makers had no idea what they were doing. Like kamikaze pilots they have savaged their own business models: eroding profit margins, cutting corners and casting aside creativity to produce generic machines only differentiated by their company logo. This trend reached its nadir with netbooks. These once lean, flash memory-based devices with Linux operating systems were ruined in a spiral of self destructive greed.

In the very definition of quantity over quality, PC makers swamped netbooks with Windows, plugged in cheap hard drives and stuck rigidly to underpowered specifications dictated to them by Microsoft. Why? In exchange for a few dollars off a licence fee for the aged XP operating system in the hope bargain-basement pricing would ensnare the mass market. It did, but so poor was the experience, so mis-sold was it in a desperate attempt to shift units, that PC makers all but killed any chance of repeat business – and in doing so laid the foundations for disgruntled punters to jump ship to the iPad.

Continue reading

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

The Biggest Winners & Losers In 2012

January 9, 2012 by  
Filed under Features & Editorials

 

I take a look ahead at who will rise and who will fall over the next 12 months.

 

The Biggest Winners & Losers In 2012

With CES nearly upon on (the intrepid TrustedReview team flies out today) andMobile World Congress next month the technology landscape hits the ground running every year. So who is likely to make the winners circles in 2012 and who will wish theMayan prediction was actually true? Let’s break down our four major categories:

94%7C000021970%7C67ff Apple tv The Biggest Winners & Losers In 2012
TVs & Entertainment
2012 looks set to be the year television gets a much needed shake-up. We railed against the Idiocy of Smart TVs in January last year and in 2012 these fragmented, unintuitive devices look set to make way to the same mobile platforms which have dominated smartphones. The big news is the rumoured Apple television, but this has a Q4 timeframe and remains vapourware until we hear more. Until then expansion of the Apple TV media player will be crucial. Much like iPods are gateways to iPhones, the Apple TV is a cheap access point to iOS and potentially an Apple television and App Store access is surely inevitable. Siri voice control and using iOS devices as touchscreen remotes seem obvious future attributes as well.

As a unified platform Google and Android won’t be far behind with interest in Google TVagain rising. Both Google and Apple are rumoured to be interested in bidding for Premier League TV rights too and their app store video content already provides a mass of on-demand content. As with smartphones it seems their platforms hold the key to television’s evolution with only Microsoft’s united phone, PC and Xbox infrastructure likely to represent a challenge.
94%7C000021976%7Cca7b 94 000021964 377e LG Google TV 01 The Biggest Winners & Losers In 2012
As such the losers could well be everyone else, at least by 2013. Hardware makers like Sony, Samsung and LG – already Android handset partners – are set to adopt a similar manufacturing only role over time (plus the inevitable third party Google TV skins). This isn’t to say these companies lose out financially, but their control over the sector certainly hands over to the platform makers while they squabble over hardware differentiators such as the impending clamour for OLED and glasses-free 3D. Likewise Sky’s vice-like grip on broadcast content seems only to have a shelf life for as long as it takes the UK time to attain ubiquitous high speed Internet connections.

Winners: Apple, Google, maybe Microsoft
Losers: Traditional TV manufacturers as hardware margins squeeze & platforms unify

Continue Reading for Cameras, Laptops & tablets, mobile phones, gaming and social networking.

 

Copyright for all reviews, editorials and features on this site belong to their respective publishers. All samples published on this website are via prior agreement with those publishers and serve to act as a portfolio and centralised location for all my work. Contact me at gordon@gordonkelly.com should you wish to commission me or supply review samples, press releases or arrange meetings. 

Synology DiskStation DS411slim

January 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

 

Critics lambaste the value of NAS with 2.5in drives, but Synology has shown how to make a corker.

Synology DiskStation DS411slim

Price: £229.00

Scores in detail

Design
9/10
Features
9/10
Value
8/10
Overall
9/10

Thin is in. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking laptops, tablets, phones or TVs, these days less is considered more and that even applies to the humble NAS. As such we find ourselves testing the Synology DiskStation DS411slim, an evolution of the excellent (if rather chunky) DS411j.
94%7C00002190b%7Cbc7f synology2 Synology DiskStation DS411slim
While not strictly a successor (the DS411j supports 4x 3.5in HDDs, the slim just 4x 2.5in) the design of the DS411slim shows just how important svelte lines have become to all aspects of technology. Gone are the DS411j’s white and beige colouring to be replaced by a mixture of matt and gloss black and the jutted front of the DS411j is replaced by a more rectangular and minimalist form factor. The slim also lives up to its name: disk free it measures just 120 X 105 X 142 mm and weighs 660g. All in all the slim is about as attractive a NAS as we can remember, build quality is top notch and drives bays slot in without the need for screws. If this is a glimpse of the styling Synology will use across future lines then it bodes very well indeed.

Equally promising is what Synology has done on the inside. Compared to the heftier DS411j, the slim has received a decent processor bump from 1.2GHz to 1.6GHz while memory has been upgraded from 128MB of DDR2 RAM to 256MB of DDR3. Just a single 60 x 60 x 10mm fan sees the slim produce a barely detectable 21.1dB of noise, though this will change depending on the noise of each drive you add.

94%7C0000218d1%7Ca68d orh616w616 DS411slim web back Synology DiskStation DS411slim

Of course here we hit a snag inherent in any 2.5in-only NAS: capacity and cost. For while the DS411Slim is small, light and quiet and can hold four drives, the most capacious 2.5in HDD is just 1TB. This means a maximum internal capacity of 4TB, or 3TB with redundancy. With 4TB 3.5in HDDs now shipping a larger 3.5in compatible NAS with four bays can hit 16TB. 2.5in drives are also far more expensive per gigabyte so you’ll be paying more for less. It is worth noting the slim has two USB 2.0 ports and one eSATA for connecting additional external drives, but such extra bulk would ruin the point of buying a sleek NAS in the first place. The key message is to remember Synology is selling the NAS equivalent of an iPad nano, not a Classic. Continue Reading

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