- Lego viewfinder created for Sony NEX-5, lincoln log enthusiasts feel left out
- Google said to be hiring 'dozens' to boost Android app development
- Native Instruments Maschine review and 1.6 beta first look
- Google Latitude joins check-in game with Maps 5.1 for Android
- Motorola's Blur-flavored Gingerbread update for Droid X in the wild?
- Apple rejects Sony Reader app, really doesn't want you buying content from others (update: Apple says it needs official in-app purchases)
- Google accuses Bing of 'cheating,' piggybacking off its search results (updated)
- Exclusive: A day trip to Meizu's factory (video)
- Samsung's Lee Young-hee was misunderstood, Galaxy Tab sales are 'smooth' not 'small'
- Audi CEO Ruper Stadler taking time with EVs, refuses to feel "euphoria for electric vehicles"
- Panasonic prices its 2011 HD and 3D camcorders, options for budgets great and small
- Self-balancing Anybots QB now shipping, the future of telepresence is now (video)
- HTC Inspire 4G hits AT&T on February 13th, does HSPA+ for $99.99
- Samsung experiencing a 16 percent return rate on the Galaxy Tab?
- Samsung offering refunds for PCs affected by Sandy Bridge glitch, NEC looking at delays
- Panasonic announces Lumix GF2 pricing and availability, plenty of other models too
- Ericsson does HSPA+ plus some, achieves 168Mbps downloads
- Visa brings contactless payments to Euro iPhones, dongle required for now
- Modder adds FPS-style ammo counter to automatic weapon
- Motorola's Atrix 4G HD Multimedia Dock spotted online next to a $60 price tag
- Another firmware update grants Roku owners USB channel, MKV containers come along
- British airports now beaming holographic security agents (video)
- Google Art Project offers gigapixel images of art classics, 'indoor' Street View of museums
- Intel and Capgemini to develop tablet for home energy management
- Google, SayNow, and Twitter team up to make Tweeting from Egypt possible via voicemail
- Honeycomb for Nook Color released for download (update: video)
- Cowon D3 Plenue priced at $370, or $100 per inch of AMOLED
- Intel Sandy Bridge chipset flaw identified as a rogue transistor affecting SATA ports
- PlayStation Move headed to PCs under official 'Move Server' project
- Motorola Xoom lands in Chad Ochocinco's safe hands, is 'pretty awesome'
- Satin Silver PS3 Rolls into Japan on March 10th
- Samsung sucks at Photoshop: The next Galaxy S (video)
- Sony's DSC-HX100V and HX9V superzooms get official, headed to shelves this April
- Boxee delays Netflix integration again, cites security requirements as the culprit
- Windows Phone 7 'phantom data' leaker unmasked as Yahoo Mail, fix due in 'coming weeks'
- APX Alarm becomes Vivint as it expands into Z-Wave home automation
- Clover SunBook offers 'first sunlight ready netbook,' questionable graphic design
- Apple job posting calls for another LTE expert
- NAVY SEALs getting fancy LCD sunglasses, will surely show up as DLC in next SOCOM game
- LG confirms Optimus 3D for MWC 2011: glasses-free screen and 3D camera
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 10:28 AM PST
Do you spend your days pining for a viewfinder with some Danish building-block flair for your shiny new Sony NEX-5? Well, your camera woes have been solved -- while appealing to your childlike aesthetic sensibilities -- by a DIYer who fashioned just such a viewfinder out of some Lego blocks and parts from an old CD-ROM drive. Its complexity doesn't quite match that of an all-Lego camera, but it's a slick little solution for those who want to add some pizazz -- and functionality -- to Sony's favorite not-quite-Micro Four-Thirds shooter. Hit up the source link to see how to build one for yourself.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 09:54 AM PST
boost app purchases in the Android Market, and it looks like it's now also undertaking a considerable in-house effort to increase the number of quality apps that are available. According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is planning to hire "dozens" of software engineers, product managers, user-interface experts and "others who have ideas for mobile apps," and it's apparently already shifted some of its current employees to work in this new "apps lab." As you might expect, that's being done at least in part to close the so-called "app gap" with Apple, and it looks like the new apps will reach far beyond Google's usual properties -- the WSJ even specifically mentions games as one area they'll focus on. The apps would also apparently all be free (but possibly ad-supported), and Google is said to be trying to woo developers with its distribution power, noting that it will be able to promote the apps in the Android Market and even have them pre-installed on many phones.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 09:30 AM PST
NAMM '09, Native Instruments' Maschine has made quite a stir in the world of electronic music production and performance. A modern re-imagining of Akai's legendary sampling sequencers, it takes the MPC's raison d'être -- recording and editing samples, sequencing samples to create tracks -- and uses it as the basis of a MIDI interface / software package that is both very familiar and quite unique. Maschine can run as a stand-alone application or integrate with your DAW (digital audio workstation) as a plug-in, and the company promises quite a bit as far as sound quality and improved workflow over the Akai's legendary instruments. But does it stack up? We've recently taken a good, hard look at the latest version of the software, 1.6 beta -- and we can't wait to share our thoughts with you. Check it out after the break.
If you've ever been in a studio where hip-hop was being made, or taken in a live performance, you've probably seen an MPC. Originally designed by Roger Linn, the MPC60 (1988) combined a 16 voice sampler (12-bit / 40 KHz) with a ninety-nine track MIDI sequencer that could control up to sixty-four devices. Not only could one use this as the heart of their studio, but the thing could be used to construct the main share of an entire track, if not the entire track itself. Still very much in use today, the MPC is near and dear to the hearts of an entire generation of producers.
Maschine, however, takes this concept and throws a computer into the mix. More than just a groove box, this is essentially the MPC re-imagined to integrate seemlessly into your production workflow. It includes a stand-alone software-based sample sequencer, and through it one can program patterns, sequence patterns into songs, record and edit samples, and control your effects and audio routing. What makes Maschine special, however, is its hardware controller that features sixteen velocity-sensitive pads, two displays, transport controls, and enough knobs and buttons to give you control over any of the functions available on the software side. And the hardware serves two extremely useful purposes: as a live performance tool and as a way to combine the rough'n'ready tactile nature of a groove box with the power of modern digital audio workstations. And not only can it run as a stand-alone app, it can also be used as a plug-in (VST, AU, or RTAS) with your workstation. There is a lot this guy can do!
First of all, the Maschine hardware itself is a MIDI controller -- and that's it. (OK, it isn't just a MIDI controller, it's a hardware controller that uses a "high resolution protocol allowing for advanced control possibilities and full visual feedback," according to Native Instruments; but you get the idea.) Unlike the hardware it was meant to replace, this merely acts as controls for the Maschine software residing on your computer. That said, the thing is surprisingly sturdy. The housing of the unit is plastic, with a metal faceplate up top. But in no way is this thing "plastic-y." The buttons and pads are solid as well, and don't have a ton of "give," which makes for a better experience when triggering samples than the chunkier, looser feeling pads we've seen on some samplers. Besides the USB port 'round back, this thing also sports standard MIDI input and output ports.
The best way to get comfortable with Maschine is to jump right in, in stand-alone mode. The sequencer in the application itself will probably be more than enough for a lot of you: within a few minutes, you'll be hammering out loops and arranging them into larger patterns. With eight available groups, each of with can hold up to sixteen samples, you should have enough sounds to get your ideas across.
Each sample in a group corresponds to a numbered pad on the controller's grid, for assembling drum kits (or any other sort of sample set) that can be played by hand. Once you assemble the group, there is a few things you can do: in the default mode, each pad triggers each individual sample (one for the kick drum, two for the snare, and so on). In piano roll mode, when a single sample is selected the pitch changes according to which pad you pressed (so you can hammer out simple melodies with one sample). Or you can plug in a keyboard and play an individual sample in the more traditional way. Anything that you play can be accessed through the software and fudged with their, so if you're like us and the music in your head often outpaces your performance abilities, your patterns can be quickly and easily edited and sequenced with just a few mouse clicks.
Once you get used to Maschine's way of doing things, the next step is to explore its integration with your DAW. When assembling our track, the first thing we did was come up with a few patterns in Maschine's stand-alone mode. Once we had something we liked, we created a session in Ableton Live, opened the track we created in Maschine, dragged the audio from Maschine into Live, and sequenced our track in Live. Yes, you can drag and drop both audio and MIDI from the plug-in into your DAW of choice (this feature has been available since version 1.5).
If you're going to start with the software in plug-in mode, however, you have a few more options: samples can be routed to separate channels in your DAW (to be mixed or effected from within Logic, for instance) and MIDI recorded to channels in your DAW can be used to play Maschine sounds. If you're already accustomed to making music on a computer, bringing Maschine into the mix couldn't be any more painless. And once you get used to the basics, there are plenty of options to explore.
One complaint we did have, however, was that the Maschine app was pretty crowded and hard to navigate when compared to traditional DAWs. We found ourselves moving audio and MIDI patterns into Live just so we didn't have to look at the at times cumbersome Maschine interface!
The only other major disappointment we had when playing with Maschine was that, as a stand-alone hardware controller for Ableton Live (that is, when we tried to use it as a controller for the Live software itself, without the Maschine software running) it came up a bit lacking. The idea is that, when in Ableton Live clip view, each of the sixteen squares in the controller grid corresponds to sixteen clips in Ableton. That way, instead of fumbling with a mouse you can trigger samples with the grid. If you have more than four clips across or down, you can move the whole sixteen block selection by navigating with the B, E, F, or G keys. Unfortunately, there is no way to force the clip view in the Ableton software to reflect the changes you're making on the controller, making this a non-starter for anyone who's serious about using the hardware as an interface for Live. Of course, this isn't exactly being billed by Native Instruments as such, but judging by the comments we're seeing by Maschine customers and would be customers all over the Internet, this is actually a much coveted functionality -- and one that would take the sting out of a $600 purchase for many users. We have had much better luck with Propellerhead's Reason, however. We made a pretty straightforward MIDI map for the Reason 5 Kong controller, and the two played quite nicely together. In fact, having the ability to power up our default Reason template and bang out a quick idea when we're even too lazy to bring up the Maschine stand-alone app almost took the sting out of the shortcomings of its Ableton integration.
That said, the hardware is solid and the software will likely integrate nicely into your existing DAW setup, whichever package you might use. But how does the thing sound? Well, in many cases a sampler is only as good as the sounds you use, and the six gigs of loops, patches and drum hits are all really rather impressive. The library is immense, and as you would expect from NI the selection is top-notch. Seemingly every current genre of electronic music is represented to some degree, and if there is something that you're looking for that you can't find here you can always find it elsewhere and sample it.
Maschine version 1.6 upgrade
One of the most heartening things about this device is the dedication that Native Instruments has put into upgrading the software. Of course, one of the primary advantages of using a MIDI controller / software-based setup is that, unlike stand alone hardware, the company can upgrade the product as often as it wants. And already, we've seen one major upgrade: Version 1.5 added, among other things, vintage sampling modes that emulate sound of either the MPC60 or the E-mu SP-1200; the ability to import data from various older Akai MPCs; REX 2 support; the aforementioned ability to drag and drop audio and MIDI from the app into your DAW, and more.
As for Version 1.6, the big change here is the ability to use outside VST and Audio Units plug-ins. Both effects and instruments plug-ins can be used, greatly expanding the sounds available to what is already a generous offering here. Another feature that might seem small but which was actually incredibly useful for us was the ability to drop audio files right from the OS into Maschine: rather that browsing through your directory structure in-app, you can grab that loop off your desktop and drop it into your project, the way nature intended. Trust us, it's a lot more fun than it sounds!
When Maschine was first introduced, people wondered what Native Instruments was thinking: Akai's MPC line was not only revolutionary when it first appeared way back in 1991, but it has continued to be immensely popular, both in actual hardware sales and in mindshare. Perhaps NI took a bit of a gamble, but they were right to do so: there is more than enough room in the market for a device that admirably fills the role of an MPC, yet has the functionality and workflow of the latest DAWs in mind. And if that weren't enough, the thing is quite a bargain: the $600 you'd spend on Maschine would only get you the most entry-level hardware in the MPC line, while something like the MPC5000 costs around $3,500 new. Right now, the biggest complaint we have with the device is that the software layout is a little cramped and can be frustrating: in this instance, it doesn't seem that the company has found the balance between a large feature set and the "everything in one screen" design that Ableton and Propellerhead have proven adept at. That said, the minor design awkwardness here is nothing compared to that of the old hardware-based sequencers that this hopes to replace. Additionally, the way that the updates have been flying fast and furiously gives us hope that Native Instruments is committed to supporting the device for some time to come.
For all of Machine's virtues, it probably isn't for everybody: its strengths lay not only in its quality (both in hardware and software) but in its ability to integrate with your existing audio workstation. If you're already an Akai sampler aficionado looking for more of the same, but better, Maschine is definitely they way to go. And if you're looking for a product that is as useful in the studio as it is for live performance (and you don't mind bringing a laptop into the club), the build quality, quality of its sample library, and its price definitely warrant that you take a second look. There are software packages (Propellerhead's Reason comes to mind) that deliver a more complete, in-the-box music production setup, but sometimes software isn't enough. And that's where Maschine takes center stage.
If you are already a Maschine user and want to sign up for the 1.6 Beta version of the software, hit the Coverage link to get started.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 09:11 AM PST
Foursquare, Facebook, Yelp, and so on) have long embraced: the location-based check-in. Coming to Google Latitude with today's Maps 5.1 for Android, the company hopes to set itself apart from the competition with features like check-in notifications (disabled by default), automatic check-ins for your most frequent establishments (case-by-case activation), and "check out" that detects when you leave a location.
So what's the incentive to use the service? Not much at this point -- no badges, no sharing through third-party services like Twitter (Latitude-only at the moment), no support for simultaneous check-in with other services, no special vendor discounts (Google told us there's nothing to announce yet), and no ability to create a venue like your apartment (Places only). What it does right is a tiered system of special statuses based on check-in frequency -- you can become a regular, VIP, or Guru (Google says it's not definite yet on how many check-ins each status bump will require). iOS Latitude users will be able to see where their Android friends check in, but at this point the option to pimp your specific location is for Google's platform only. If you're a fan of Latitude already, this is probably a no-brainer, but for everyone else, don't expect mayoral coffee discounts just yet.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 08:44 AM PST
time and time again, but it's definitely improving -- and it looks like a Blur-ified build of Gingerbread for the Droid X is already starting to leak. As you might recall, Moto's 4.3-inch beast launched on Eclair before getting Froyo a few months later, so the fact that the company is seemingly preparing its second big update already is notable to say the least; it looks to be basically the same thing they've already shown on the Atrix, which is definitely a marked improvement from the Blur of old. No word on how the source got these shots, but we can only hope it means the over-the-air update isn't too far off.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 08:39 AM PST
App Store were a subject worth discussing, but they're back in the spotlight now following the company's rejection of Sony's Reader app for iOS. The reasons given to Sony were that Apple will not
Update: As noted by Harry McCracken over at Technologizer, it has actually been Apple's longstanding policy to forbid in-app purchases -- the Kindle and Nook apps send you to a browser -- so Sony's desire to do so will have been the major cause for the Reader application's rejection. That doesn't invalidate the second concern expressed in the New York Times article, that Apple will no longer tolerate content brought in from external stores, which is a displeasing development, if true.
Update 2: Looks like McCracken nailed it -- Apple's come out with a statement pointing out that the App Store guidelines require that apps that allow content purchases must also allow them in-app through Apple's official iTunes-backed system. We can't imagine that Sony is thrilled with the idea of cutting Apple in on Reader content, but if they want to play ball, they should be able to score an approval. Notably, Apple says that they are "now requiring" this even though the guidelines haven't changed, suggesting they're just now getting around to enforcing it; the effect on iOS' Kindle and Nook apps isn't yet known, but we wouldn't be surprised if Apple started nudging them in the direction of pushing updates. More on this situation as we have it.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 08:21 AM PST
Bing is taking a cue from its competition, but it seems to be more literally taking search results as well. Google Fellow Amit Singhal is claiming so much and has provided some amusing (if not totally clever) results from its "Bing Sting." Here's how it works: find a search term that returns no matches for either site, make a "honeypot" page manually appear for the term, then have about 20 Google employees make the search (and click the top link) using Internet Explorer with both Suggested Sites and the Bing Toolbar on. Within two weeks, Singhal claims, a handful (about 7 to 9) of the 100 or so "honeypot" results were popping up in Bing. Bizarre choices, too, like mbrzxpgjys, hiybbprqag, and indoswiftjobinproduction.
So, is this "cheating," as Singhal specifically alleges? The experiment had to be run with Bing's toolbar and / or Suggested Search feature activated, which it explicitly says are used to collect data and improve services. And more popular search terms do return different results, It's not as if Microsoft is using non-public information, but is this an example of taking an unfair shortcut? That's a debate we imagine with rage for quite some time.
Update: Microsoft's been sending out the following statement from Stefan Weitz, director of Bing:
That's pretty ambiguous, so ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley pressed for a followup and was flatly told "We do not copy Google's results." We're sure there's going to be a lot more analysis and discussion to come -- this ought to be fun.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:58 AM PST
unwanted attention from Apple, and even the recent M9 launch saw accusations of Meizu hiring people to stand in line. But the latter points are irrelevant for now -- what we're really interested in is how a teensy MP3 player factory managed to outpace its numerous competitors to become a reputable smartphone maker with a huge fan base. To help us understand what drives the company, we decided to pay Meizu a visit. Go on, you know where to click.
A humble beginning
Before we delve into the inner workings of Meizu, we should talk a little bit about how it all began, starting with the enigmatic CEO himself. Rumored to be raised in a farm village, the now 36-year-old Jack Wong never graduated from high school, but he did start his career as a factory worker and possibly as a chef as well. Fast forward to 2002, Wong somehow became the general manager of a Singaporean electronics company called Soken, where he successfully introduced a range of personal audio products. Alas, Wong fell out with his shareholders over how their products should be promoted -- Wong believed in reaching out to customers via the company's forum, whereas the others simply wanted to blast out commercials. Being branded a mad man, Wong sold his shares and went off to set up Meizu in 2003.
What followed then were various MP3 players that didn't aesthetically stand out from the crowd, yet Wong stayed faithful to his belief and put minimum effort on commercials for his new company. Even though Meizu only produced one or two devices a year (discounting its OEM clients in the early years), it continued to thrive by engaging with its customers on its forum, as well as keeping them in the loop of product development and frequent firmware updates. Hell, we've even seen Wong teasing us with the M9II before the M9 was even released, and at one point he also simultaneously dished out multiple M9 firmware releases for his geekier fans.
Promotion Manager He Wen, Marketing Manager Wan Zhiqiang, and Marketing Director Hua Hailiang.
Word of mouth
Like his boss, Marketing Director Hua Hailiang believes that word of mouth comes before marketing. "We used to have TV commercials, but hardly any," said a proud but casually dressed Hua, in sandals. "The sum of all the money we've spent on ads so far is nowhere near any company's annual budget for that. We had two in 2005 or 2006, which is significantly fewer than other MP3 or mobile phone companies. We haven't had any ads over the last two years, not even a penny spent there. Maybe some sponsorship for the odd media events, but that's it."
But that's only one side of the story; Hua frankly admitted that Meizu also doesn't have the cash to spare on ads. We don't doubt this, considering Meizu has offered some attractive trade-in discounts in the past, and it's also known to be pretty liberal when it comes to replacing faulty units, regardless of their warranty status. Still, Meizu occasionally supports regional gatherings organized by its fans aka Meiyou, who'd use these opportunities to show off their various artistic skills, namely martial arts, dancing, singing, etc. From what we've seen, it looks like these events had high turn-out rates, too.
Another area where Meizu does spend money on is the welfare of its employees, and this leads us to the factory.
Meizu's located in Zhuhai, a small city that's just a 70-minute ferry journey west of Hong Kong. It's actually not that hard to make your way from the ferry terminal to the factory -- just go north along the city's beautiful coastal highway (which is appropriately named "Lovers' Road"), then make the first left turn after Sun Yat-sen University and you'll eventually see Meizu on your left. All that was just a 20 minute journey for us. Even though Meizu only houses about 900 employees -- about 100 designers, 600 workers, and 200 staff in the executive office -- the three-and-a-half-year-old building was much bigger than we expected, and it sure looked trendier than most of the factories we've seen in Shenzhen.
Coincidentally, our visit was actually only five days before the M9 launch (we weren't told this prior to our arrival), so it was a good chance to see Meizu running in full capacity. But before we got to the assembly lines, we were first shown around the executive office on the fifth floor. We were asked not to use our cameras there, but there wasn't much to see anyway. Like any standard corporate office, you could see all the cubicles across the room, and the only section that was isolated behind glass was the design room, which was understandably out of bounds for us. Interestingly, Jack Wong doesn't have his own desk, let alone a room. "He doesn't come in much these days," said Marketing Manager Wan Zhiqiang. "He only comes in for meetings to plan new products. He works from home most of the time."
There wasn't much else on the executive floor. The only other rooms we saw were a meeting room (where we interviewed our hosts) and a large lecture room for training. Our top-floor tour was cut short thanks to a meeting in the remaining room, so we headed down to the ground floor. First stop: an "experience center" that, frankly, reminds us of an Apple store -- large maple wood tables and white surrounding were all it took. The only notable difference was the stash of trophies that Meizu put next to the window, but really, they don't mean much to Jack Wong and co. "We just want to make good products that we like," said Wan.
It should be noted that the actual Meizu stores -- as shown in our Shenzhen feature and the video above -- look nothing like Apple's, and likewise with the rest of the factory. Even though the small customer service center (yes, there's such a thing at Meizu HQ) next to the experience center was still in operation that day, the latter and the lights in the corridor were all switched off until we entered. The folks told us this was to reduce the chances of a power failure while electricity is in high demand at the assembly lines. We know from first hand that this power-saving tactic is in fact very common amongst Shenzhen factories, especially during the summer when the offices are using air-conditioning. We guess the solar-powered water heaters are also for the same purpose, if not to reduce the electricity bill.
Our next stop was the SMT (surface mount technology) workshop right next to the experience center. As the name says for itself, this room was dedicated to aseembling logic boards. Sadly, no photography was allowed inside, so we'll do our best to be as descriptive in words. In fact, you can have a look at our More Coverage link for a glimpse of Meizu's assembly line in its old factory.
We dropped off our gear at a security checkpoint where we were given a lab coat, a hat, and some funky blue bags that a machine wrapped around our shoes for hygienic reasons (yes, we totally filmed this device in action). After stepping through a metal detector, we found ourselves stood in a sterile-looking room no larger than a basketball court. In front of us were two long SMT machines that were taking in blank printed circuit boards, placing solder onto the appropriate points, then carefully placing tiny components onto the boards, and finally lock them in place by running the boards through an oven. Of course, there were workers present to ensure the machines were running fine, as well as checking the soldering points under magnifying glasses.
Next we went upstairs to a much bigger workshop where two long lines of workers were assembling the M9s at their workstations. Despite the rush for the launch, they seemed relaxed and were chatting to one another. On the other side of the room we saw workers with their heads down for a quick 15-minute break, but otherwise they would've been testing the software and cameras on the freshly made M9s -- we spotted their color calibration checkboards stuck onto their workstations. Meanwhile, we got up close to a rack full of M9s that were undergoing hours of testing -- most were playing movies -- before they got boxed up for the shops. At the other end of the workshop was a dust-free room that we could only observe behind two layers of glass -- the room changes air about every hour or so, which is necessary to create a fairly sterile environment for working with LCDs and other sensitive components.
The only floors that we missed were the storage facility and another workshop that was developing Meizu's next generation device. Sorry, no scoops here, but it's probably just the M9II for the time being. What we do know, though, is that Meizu currently has no interest in expanding to the overseas market, which would explain its absence in CeBIT and CES in recent years. "Right now we just want to do well in the Chinese market," said Hua. "We never wanted to compete with the other big players -- there's no way for us to do that, so we'll just focus on our products and after-sales service. We are definitely more diligent when it comes to customer service, compared to most other Chinese manufacturers."
We then touched upon the sensitive topic of lookalikes, and this got Hua fired up. "We're already doing our best to set our own style on our products. Of course, we don't want to clash with anyone, and as a small player, we don't want the trouble. We really don't. If anyone insists ours is like Apple's, I'd agree that they both have big screens, but wouldn't the same apply to Motorola? And Sony Ericsson? And Samsung? There are bound to be similarities between cellphones." We could tell the recent M8 lawsuit's been very troubling for these guys; but in our opinion, the M9 is well away from this danger zone.
A more interesting aspect of Meizu is the welfare of its employees. Hua said since Jack started off as a factory worker himself, he cares a lot about taking care of his own team. For starters, each worker gets between ¥2,200 ($334) to ¥2,700 ($409) as their base salary, which is significantly more than Foxconn's ¥2,000 ($303) that only a select few qualify for. On top of that, everyone in Meizu -- including the cleaners and security guards -- also get a monthly ¥800 ($121) food allowance: ¥300 ($45) credited to their NFC cards for use at the canteens, and the remaining ¥500 ($76) directly added to their salaries so that they can spend it on home cooking or in restaurants. When we shared this info with our other Chinese manufacturing contacts, they were also surprised by how generous Meizu is. "Not all Chinese companies run like Foxconn," Hua stressed. "Foxconn is just an extreme example. There are many good companies out there."
Just to give you a rough idea on how long ¥300 can last you in Meizu, here are the charges at its canteens: the main one (pictured above) charges between ¥3 ($0.46) to ¥5 ($0.76) per dish, and you can help yourself to as much rice and soup as you want; whereas the quieter buffet canteen -- serving similar dishes from the same kitchen -- charges ¥20 ($3.03) for lunch and ¥15 ($2.28) for dinner. So assuming you spend about ¥6 for two dishes per meal at the main canteen, you can easily get up to 50 meals there, with ¥500 of cash left to spend on evening entertainment, like karaoke perhaps.
We recall Jack Wong once boasting about the food quality in his factory, so we stayed on to get a taste of some fine Meizu cuisine. Our hosts were intrigued by our motives, but they happily obliged and sat down with us at the buffet canteen. While we have little experience in factory dining, what we had was pretty good and the range was just as impressive: roast duck, steamed egg, stir fried pork, stir fried beef, two soups, etc. "I usually go to the main canteen, though," Hua told us. "The dishes there usually suit my taste better." Too bad there was a long line and we had a ferry to catch.
Like most factories in China, Meizu also has optional in-house accommodation for the workers. We didn't get to see the inside of the rooms as the workers weren't around at the time, but according to Hua, each are about 270 square feet large, comes with a balcony and an en-suite bathroom, and is shared by four to six workers. Doesn't sound too bad at all, plus the outdoor badminton court, table tennis room, and computer room are nearby. As for those who live outside or for those who want to head out, Meizu provides a free shuttle bus service that go into downtown.
With these many benefits, we can imagine joining the Meizu's family is no easy task, and to make matters worse, the company favors Meiyou before everyone else -- we're guessing the HR department checks the applicants' activity on the Meizu forum to begin with. To our surprise, Wan is one such example: he was just Meizu's forum moderator before he took up his current position. "We want to hire people who truly understand our company," Wan said, while taking us back to the ferry terminal. After a friendly farewell, he returned to the factory to join Hua for the late shift.
Our Hong Kong editor Stone Ip contributed to this report.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:54 AM PST
quite small." Turns out that wasn't exactly the right adjective. As you can hear in the audio clip below, she actually said sales of the thing are "quite smooth," just like the chins on most of our interns. This mix-up is being blamed on a transcript provided by Samsung, but rather than point fingers we'll just smile ruefully, shake our heads, and go back to writing posts about robots and things. And the Galaxy Tab? Well, sales may be moving right along, but it looks like returns are progressing quite smoothly as well.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:43 AM PST
electric cars make you feel? We won't give you explicit details of just what sort of sensations standing next to the Audi e-tron Spyder at CES inspired in us, but let's just say they were very good ones. However, the CEO who stepped out of that very car, Rupert Stadler, is refusing to be swept in by all the EV excitement. The company is working on a battery-powered R8 supercar that will come toward the end of next year and plenty of other electric and hybrid models are in development, but Stadler is taking the slow road to adoption, saying:
Overplaying euphoria is something that consumer electronics companies have evolved to an art form, whipping up a frenzy among fans, inspiring pre-release camp-outs on a regular basis. We haven't seen anyone camping at a car dealership since... ever. Maybe there's a lesson to be learned there.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:21 AM PST
dumped a truckload of camcorders on us at CES this year, and now that we've finally dug ourselves out the company just piled on the MSRP and release information for the lot. It's okay, we can deal, and here are the highlights:
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 07:00 AM PST
Anybots are coming, the self-balancing QB robot available for purchase and shipping now, but at $15,000 we're thinking not too many of you will be jumping on this bandwagon to start. As we saw in our hands-on in December the self-balancing bots enable you to be somewhere that you aren't, controlled through a simple web interface and enabling executives to remotely monitor and run over the toes of their peons toiling in the office while said execs sit comfortably at home. There's some footage of one of the bots in action below, which you'd better watch before one of them captures footage of you maintaining a state of inaction.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:54 AM PST
AT&T subscribers, it's time to finally get a taste of Android on HSPA+. Well, almost. On February 13th the HTC Inspire 4G will release, bringing not-quite-4G speeds and Android 2.2 for a quite affordable $99.99. It'll feature AT&T's Mobile Hotspot service, so you can share that bandwidth, while offering a generous 4.3-inch WVGA display up front and an eight megapixel camera on the back, all packaged in a "premium" unibody aluminum design. We know, it's all very exciting, but don't get so enamored that you forget to make reservations for you and your special someone on the following day.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:48 AM PST
Just a few days back, Samsung announced it had moved around 2 million Galaxy Tabs in the latter part of 2010. According to new data released by ITG Investment Research using tracked point-of-sale info, however, the story is a little more complicated. The company tracked about 6,000 retail stores in the United States from the November date of release of the tab through January 15th, and the return rate hovered around 13 percent, rising even further -- to about 16 percent -- with holiday sales returns. Now, rates of return estimates are just that -- estimates -- but 6,000 locations is nothing to shrug off. We'll have to wait and see longer term what this means for the Tab's legacy, but let us know your thoughts in the comments: have you returned a Galaxy Tab, or are you still in love?
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:28 AM PST
full details on the issue affecting Intel's Sandy Bridge chipsets this morning, and now we're hearing of what looks to be the first confirmed recall. Samsung is indicating it will offer refunds for affected computers and, while it isn't saying exactly which models will be affected, it did give a number: six models sold in South Korea and one available in the US will be eligible for return or refund, about 3,000 total machines. NEC, meanwhile, who just went all-in with Lenovo, is indicating that it may push back the release of four separate models. Naturally we'll keep the updates coming as we get more details.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 06:04 AM PST
Lumix GF2 and a suite of other models it's announced in the past months. The Micro Four Thirds interchangeable lens GF2 will ship this month for an MSRP of $499.95, body alone. If you want the new 14 - 42mm GF2K lens you'll be looking at $599.95, the 14mm prime GF2C lens will cost $699.95, while the 12.5mm/F12 Lumix G, which captures pictures in 3D, is a relative bargain at $259.95. Pansonic also unleashed a flurry of MSRPs for other Lumix compact models unveiled at CES, with the FP5 and FP7 costing $200 and $230 respectively, the FH2 and FH5 priced at $140 and $150. More details and numbers in the pair of PR after the break.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 05:41 AM PST
crushed standard HSPA+ speeds with 56Mbps downloads, but even then we wondered if the standard would last much longer. Two years later, HSPA+ is still around and Ericsson is still crushing records -- three records, to be exact. At a recent demonstration in Stockholm, the company showed off multi-carrier HSPA with 168Mbps downlinks and 24Mbps uplinks, dual-carrier HSPA with peak speeds of 84Mbps, and single-carrier HSPA sporting 42Mbps. We'll admit, we're impressed, but considering Korean researchers have hit speeds of 600Mbps on LTE, we're afraid we won't be busting out the Cristal for this one. Ericsson expects to roll out single-carrier HSPA with 42Mbps and dual-carrier HSPA with 84Mbps sometime later this year.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 05:15 AM PST
iPhoners being able to tap cellies onto payment pads and walk off with purchases, though rumors and analysts and job postings all say that won't be for long. The lack of an NFC-equipped iPhone isn't stopping Visa from launching its Visa Mobile application for trials in Europe, which for now requires an external attachment, the (somewhat aged) iCarte accessory from Wireless Dynamics. With the app and the dongle users can start trying out phoney payments at various NFC-enabled terminals in Europe, presumably ahead of the release of a proper NFC-supporting iPhone sometime in the coming months. For now, though, is adding an extra inch to your handset more convenient than fumbling for a credit card? We'll let our European readers make that call.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 04:47 AM PST
It may not be the first time than an actual weapon has been equipped with an FPS-style ammo counter (or Aliens pulse rifle-style, if you prefer), but this add-on device built by the DIY-minded Michael Ciuffo is certainly still plenty impressive enough to garner some attention on its own. It simply uses an accelerometer to detect the recoil from the gun, and it can apparently be adjusted for use on a variety of different weapons. What's more, Michael says that he's already gotten so many requests for one that he's planning on putting it into production. Head on past the break to check it out in action.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 04:19 AM PST
HD Multimedia Dock. Fommy lists it as a straight up $59.95 charge, whereas its direct competitor is already discounting the cradle down to $49.99. Both are offering pre-orders only at this point, with no known dates of arrival, but at least we've got a ballpark figure to play with.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 03:55 AM PST
Roku player with a USB port, like the XDS above, you've been able to play media directly from USB storage for some time now using third-party channels. For whatever reason it's taken Roku this long to get an official USB playback channel on there, allowed in the latest firmware (2.9 build 1529) and finally available for download in the Channel Store. We're told that MKV playback has also been added, which might make watching those downloaded Top Gear episodes a little easier.
[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 03:22 AM PST
They've brought you presidential election coverage and promoted worldwide access to PCs, and now they're telling you to take off your belt and throw out your hairspray. Starting today, London Luton and Manchester airports will beam in images of holographic agents to prep passengers for the security line. Holly and Graham -- you heard right -- and Manchester's Julie and John are meant to cut queues, as well as human inconsistency. According to Luton's Glyn Jones, "Holly and Graham are not going to have a hangover; they're not going to have a row with their partner the night before." Just what we need: an army of holographic squares taking our jobs and making us all look a drunken mess in comparison. Thanks, technology.
Update: So it appears these aren't traditional holograms -- they're actually huge sheets of glass that are cut out in the shape of people, with the projection beamed on them. It's the same tech that Gorillaz use on stage, made by a company called Musion. Check out another video where the camera moves around the side.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 02:40 AM PST
art. Specifically, the search giant has hooked up with 17 art museums around the world to offer tours of their internal galleries, using its familiar Street View tricycles, while also doing high-res images of 1,061 artworks that may be viewed on the newly launched Art Project web portal. Also there, you will find 17 special gigapixel images -- 7,000-megapixel versions of each participating venue's proudest possession. The resulting level of detail is nothing short of astounding and we've got videos of how it's all done after the break.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 02:35 AM PST
Google and Microsoft can get in on the home energy management wave then hey, why not Intel? Chipzilla is teaming up with Capgemini SA to create a "tablet-style computer" that lets humans control the power consumed by their appliances. Later, presumably when there are enough of these smart devices on the grid, it could allow utilities to more intelligently manage its electricity allocation. According to Intel's Joe Jensen, general manager for low-power embedded processors, "energy is a big part of our project to extend the fringe of computing out to the next thing." Indeed, under Paul Otellini's lead, Intel is targeting fuel pumps at the corner gas station, advertising signs, and even exercise equipment as it seeks opportunities beyond traditional computing devices -- a market Intel believes to be worth about $10 billion. The goal of the Intel / Capgemini initiative is to offer a full-service smart-grid solution, according to Steven Harris, head of smart home services at Capgemini. Mind you, Intel's involvement shouldn't come as a total surprise here, seeing as how it was showing off wall panels for real-time utility management in the -- groan -- "digital crib" way back at CES in 2010. That's one such device, pictured above.
Update: Corrected spelling from "Cap Gemini" (as Businessweek presented it) to "Capgemini" -- this isn't 2004 anymore. We also managed to unearth the official press release announcing Intel's Home Energy Dashboard reference design built around the Atom processor. You'll find that after the break.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 02:19 AM PST
Twitter. With almost no connection to the internet through normal channels, Google has made it possible for anyone to send a Tweet simply by dialing one of several international phone numbers (+16504194196, +390662207294 or +97316199855) and leaving a voicemail. What happens next? The service Tweets the message using the hashtag #egypt via the Speak to Tweet account.
[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 01:47 AM PST
porting the Honeycomb SDK over to the Nook Color, has today decided to release his latest work out to eager users and fellow coders. He's enabled the accelerometer, touchscreen, buttons, graphics acceleration, and wireless connectivity, but other things like sound remain on the to-do list. Hit the source link for all the code and info you require to be among the first to run Android 3.0 on their tablet.
Update: Video walkthrough after the break!
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 01:28 AM PST
D3 Plenue from Cowon might just be for you, what with its 1080p video playback, 32GB of storage, Android 2.1 OS, and 3.7-inch, 800 x 480 AMOLED display. It's just that today we're finding the Prestige label also extends to its price, which Amazon has set at a mighty $370. That's not terrible when contrasted against unsubsidized pricing for comparable smartphones, but then this isn't a smartphone. Availability of the D3 Plenue is limited to an undated pre-order for the moment, giving you at least a little more time to deliberate on the value this souped-up PMP represents.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 12:56 AM PST
incurable design issue that would potentially degrade Serial ATA transfers over time. AnandTech has gone to the trouble of getting in touch with Intel to seek more information and the problem, as it turns out, is a single transistor that's prone to a higher current leakage than tolerable. This can not only diminish performance over the 3Gbps SATA ports, it can actually make them fail altogether. There is more comforting news, however, in that the pair of 6Gbps SATA ports on the chipset are untroubled by this ailment, so devices and users that never plug into the 3Gbps connections can just carry on as if nothing's ever happened. For everyone else, a repair and replacement service is taking place now, with Intel's budget for dealing with this problem said to be a generous $700 million.
Posted: 01 Feb 2011 12:23 AM PST
PlayStation Move controller an official PC accessory have been unceremoniously revealed in a description of a Sony Computer Entertainment America talk scheduled for Game Developers Conference 2011. According to the synopsis, John McCutchan, SCEA's lead for Game Systems and Developer Support, will be on hand to discuss the "Move Server project that will make it possible for academics and hobbyists to develop software using the PlayStation Move controller on their own PCs." Hmm, sounds like somebody feels left out by all of the unofficial Kinect hackery which could be treated to official Microsoft support sometime this summer. Now go hit up the source link below to read the description for yourselves.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 11:51 PM PST
close, very close. How do we know that? Well, Moto has just handed one to Chad Ochocinco -- one of the NFL's most recklessly loquacious players -- and you don't do that with an unfinished product. For his part, Chad's finding the Honeycomb tablet to be "pretty awesome" and regretfully informs Motorola that it "won't be getting this back." Tracking Chad's tweets reveals that he's just landed in Dallas, site of this year's Super Bowl, where he's received the Android-driven hardware. Something tells us neither he nor Motorola's tablet will spend the next week hiding in the shadows -- look for a lot more screen time for both in the buildup to the big game (and Moto's big halftime ad). One last note? Chad's image above was taken using an iPhone 4. Guess he's holding out for the Atrix 4G.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 11:22 PM PST
white, titanium blue, or even the traditional black -- this PS3 is Satin Silver (or is it Silver Satin?) and headed to Japan on March 10th. No specs have changed as far as we can tell with the 160GB model CECH-2500A SS selling for ¥29,980 (about $366) while the 320GB CECH-2500B SS weighs in at ¥34,980 (about $427). There's even a matching vertical stand for ¥2,000 (about $24) because Sony knows how important it is to coordinate your game center with the finish on your Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 10:18 PM PST
Photoshop is hard. Hell, we're just hacks ourselves, using the tool as a means to help convey a story. But we don't have BAs in graphic design and we're definitely not operating within Samsung's multi-million-dollar advertising budget. So pardon us while we tease Sammy for failing to add a starburst to cover the reflection of its super-secret next-generation followup to its Galaxy S handset. The grab above comes at the 13 second mark of the official "next Galaxy S" teaser video (posted after the break) released in the runup to the big Mobile World Congress event. We guess some secrets really are meant to be shared.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 09:44 PM PST
leaked just a few days ago, Sony's high-end 16.2-megapixel HX100V and HX9V cameras are now official. According to the press release, the DSC-HX100V is the first of the Cyber-shot line to include a 27mm Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonar T lens with 30x optical zoom, while its smaller compact brother, the DSC-HX9V, is also the first to sport a 24mm Sony G lens with a 16x optical zoom. That's certainly great news for lurkers or folks who like shooting from a far, especially when considering both cameras are capable of recording 1920 x 1080 60p HD video. Their new "Exmor R" back-illuminated CMOS sensor also is the first to support a so-called Intelligent Sweep Panorama HR mode, which lets users capture up to 42.9 megapixel scenes with a whopping 10480 x 4096 resolution. Speaking of panoramas, the new camera's have also picked up the same 3D Sweep Panorama Mode, GPS, and Dual Recording functions found on other cyber shots announced back at CES. If you're dying to get your hands on that crazy zoom action, their official release is set for April with pre-sales starting in February. Price wise, the DSC-HX100V and DSC-HX9V cameras will cost about $450 and $350, respectively. For more details hit up the PR after the break or browse through the gallery below.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 09:07 PM PST
end of January deadline. Instead, the company's blog is now reporting that the service is "anticipated soon." Apparently, the service is running fine on the device in the company's offices -- which, mind you they said back in December too, -- but it still failed to satisfy Netflix's security requirements. While that sounds like a big thing to miss in our books, a comment by Boxee's VP of Marketing, Andrew Kippen, suggests the company just discovered the issue only an hour before midnight. This marks the second time users have been asked to re-adjust their expectations for when the big red box might pop up on their favorite media manager, but to Boxee's credit, we were glad to see the company come right out with the situation instead of leaving us all on pins and needles. Now, let's just hope this whole incident gets sorted out pronto, so we don't have to break bad news to our Watch Instantly lovin' hearts ever again.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 08:25 PM PST
unnamed third party that Microsoft had found to be abusing 3G data on Windows Phone 7? Secret's out, and the culprit is none other than Yahoo Mail. According to a statement obtained by Microsoft guru Paul Thurrott, a fix is expected in the "coming weeks," but in the interim, you can mitigate the pain by going into settings and choosing less taxing options for "Download new content" and "Download email from" -- say, for example, "manually" and "the last 7 days," respectively. At least now you know exactly at whom you should wag your finger.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 08:01 PM PST
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 07:11 PM PST
Clover System's SunBook, it was but a glimmer in Pixel Qi's transflective eye, but today, the little guy is ready to step out on its own. Like Notion Ink's Adam, "the first sunlight-ready netbook" packs dual lighting displays, allowing you to shut off LCD backlights while under direct sunlight and cut your power consumption in half. You can also leave both functions on for easy indoor-outdoor transitions. It's sporting a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, a 10.1-inch display, 1024 x 600 screen resolution, USB 3.0 as well as WiFi and Ethernet capabilities. So basically, it's a perfectly acceptable netbook (on paper, at least) and it's packing a promising display, but we have to admit Clover's marketing for SunBook leaves something to be desired. In fact, if we hadn't seen this thing at CES we'd advise you to proceed with caution. Being that it's got the Pixel Qi seal of approval, however, we'll leave the decision up to you. You can purchase the sunlight-ready netbook for $795 via Clover's website, handily linked below in the source.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 06:44 PM PST
Apple. And what does the job entail? Among other duties, "Implementation, Integration, customization, enhancement and maintenance of L1-3 Protocols for one or more of the following air interface: GSM/UMTS, CDMA (1x/EVDO), LTE etc." You read that right, LTE. It's not the first time we've seen such the technology listed (hello there, since-removed "Cellular Technology Software Manager" job posting), but at the same time, it's not surprising that Apple's looking to the future. Just don't get your hopes up for an LTE iPhone or iPad in the near future.
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 06:11 PM PST
few years away from getting some consumer-friendly LCD sunglasses, but wouldn't you know it the military's already rocking a pair. The Office of Naval Research TechSolutions department has delivered the first 30 sets of what it calls Fast-Tint Protective Eyewear (FTPE). They can change tint automatically based on exterior light, much like currently available prescription glasses, but thanks to their LCD construction can go from dark to clear in just a half-second. This means a SEAL squad could blow a door and infiltrate a room without having to ask the terrorists to hold their fire while everyone takes off their shades. Initial reports are good and SOCOM is planning on buying another 100 sets.
Update: Travis wrote in with a link to James Vaughan Photography, which has a few photos of prototype versions of these glasses. We've grabbed one.
[Image Credit: James Vaughan Photography]
Posted: 31 Jan 2011 05:37 PM PST
sometime in February, and after a spat of rumors today purported to be showing off the Optimus 3D (pictured above, via Phandroid), the company's flat-out confirmed its Mobile World Congress debut. The Optimus 3D sports a dual-lens 3D camera, a glasses-free LCD display, and HDMI / DLNA for sharing on whatever 3D sets you have. A live demo will be at Barcelona, but whether that means we'll get to hold it in our own hands. Other specs? We'll have to wait and find out. Press release after the break.
LG TO UNVEIL WORLD'S FIRST FULL 3D SMARTPHONE AT MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LG TO UNVEIL WORLD'S FIRST FULL 3D SMARTPHONE AT MOBILE WORLD CONGRESS 2011
3D Recording-Viewing-Sharing of Life's Precious Moments Anytime, Anywhere
SEOUL, Feb. 1, 2011 – At this year's Mobile World Congress, LG will unveil the LG Optimus 3D, the world's first 3D smartphone offering consumers a full 3D experience right in the palm of their hands.
The LG Optimus 3D addresses the lack of 3D content issue -- one of the biggest problems facing the 3D market -- with a complete platform for a one-of-a-kind experience on a mobile device. LG's most advanced smartphone to date will feature a dual-lens camera for 3D recording, a glasses-free LCD panel for 3D viewing and diverse connectivity options such as HDMI and DLNA for 3D content sharing anytime, anywhere.
Further details and a live demo of the LG Optimus 3D will be offered at Booth #8B178 at MWC in Barcelona from February 14 to 17.
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