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Latest News

Gears gone in Chrome 12 beta

Only a week after Google upgraded the stable version of Chrome 11, the company bumped its beta users to version 12 beta last night. Google Chrome 12 beta (download for Windows | Mac | Linux) pushed a moderate range of under-the-hood improvements to Chrome beta users, including better hardware acceleration, stronger privacy controls, and slightly safer file downloads. It also killed support for Google Gears, a move the company announced back in March.

The new beta includes two security improvements. Flash-based local shared object which are bits of Web sites stored locally on your computer, can now be deleted from within Chrome's settings. In the past, you would have to use a special online tool from Adobe to remove them.

The second security enhancement that Chrome has expanded is security algorithms that check Web sites for malicious content to downloads. The browser will now natively prevent some malicious downloads from being saved on your computer. Note that this is not a full-powered replacement for your security software.

Improved hardware acceleration in Chrome 12 beta comes in the form of support for 3D CSS, which means that the browser will now leverage the processing power of your computer's graphics card when handling 3D animations written in CSS. This requires your graphics card drivers to be up to date.

Another change is built-in preliminary support for screen readers, which are programs that help the visually impaired by reading aloud what's on the screen when moving the mouse. The support includes readers such as JAWSNVDA, and VoiceOver.

If Chrome 12 development stays on schedule, these improvements are expected to make it to the stable release about one month from now. The full Chrome changelog is available here.


Is your iPhone obsolete? Meet PaperPhone

How many times have you wanted to smash your phone when talking to annoying people? Thanks to research at Queen's University in Canada, you'll soon be able to crush that handset mercilessly. Well, almost.

The e-paper prototype PaperPhone has a 3.75-inch thin-film display and developers call it the world's first flexible smartphone (remember Nokia's patent application for one?). It can do everything a smartphone can, such as make calls, display books, and play music.

"This is the future. Everything is going to look and feel like this within five years," Queen's Human Media Lab Director Roel Vertegaal was quoted as saying in a release.

As seen in the vid below, the prototype is based on e-link technology and is more like a bendable plastic sheet about the thickness of a conference badge. It can be operated by bending the corners to turn a page, squeezing to make a call, and even written on with a pen.

The lab has also been working on video game screens that are bent as a control input.

Larger versions of the displays could eliminate paper and printers from offices, according to Vertegaal. E-ink displays require no power until the screen is refreshed, but for the time being the PaperPhone display is connected to an external power source.

Vertegaal, who collaborated with researchers Byron Lahey and Win Burleson of the Motivational Environments Research Group at Arizona State University, is set to discuss the prototype at the Computer Human Interaction 2011 conference next week in Vancouver.

So how flexible is it, really? Can it be crumpled up?

"We haven't actually tried that--creasing it," Vertegaal told PC Mag. "It's a $7,000 prototype, so we're pretty careful with it. If you were to put a crease in it, you would break it. But there are engineering solutions for that."



Otterbox readies iPad 2 Defender case

The Otterbox iPad 2 Defender Case ships soon and costs $89.99. It includes a clip-on screen cover with a built-in stand.

If you're looking for serious protection for your iPad 2, you'll probably want to check out Otterbox's Defender Series Case, which the company says is "shipping soon."

As Apple has reduced the size and weight of the iPad 2, Otterbox has also slimmed down its case: It says the iPad 2 version of the Defender is 20-percent lighter than its predecessor for the original iPad. It's still going to be one of the bulkier cases out there, offering multiple layers of protection and a clip-on screen cover that turns into a stand with two adjustable heights, one for typing and one for watching.

All this protection comes at a price, of course. The Otterbox iPad 2 Defender is $89.99. Otterbox isn't doing preorders, though you can sign-up to get an e-mail alert when it becomes available.

In the meantime, check out the video below. As you can see, it's a bit of an operation to get your iPad 2 into the case and cover, but both iPad and case look like they could take a licking.


Google testing new search results pages?

When it comes to change, sometimes it's hard to believe in. And sometimes it's just hard to believe your eyes.

Some people have begun to notice that their Google search pages look different from those they had come to know, love, and take for granted.

Suddenly, the pages seem cleaner. Suddenly, there's more white space. And suddenly the colors are greener and the underlinings beneath each search result have disappeared.

Naturally, this has led to troubling words from troubled minds.

Some have called he potential new look "ugly." Yes, ugly.

"What the heck was wrong with the old design?" asked a distraught Twitterer.

When it comes to design, though, sometimes things just get old. Partly because you've looked at them too often and partly because the world has moved and new designs offer new ways of looking at things.

To my own eyes, the intention behind the new design is to make the pages more elegant and perhaps, therefore, to make you feel as if the results are actually more considered and accurate, rather than the morass that seems to rain down currently.

Moreover, perhaps the new design emphasizes white space because Google wants to experiment more with the placement of more challenging types of advertising--you know, the sort you might enjoy rather than merely endure.

There appear to be several versions popping up in different corners of the Web, so perhaps some of you might let me know what you have been seeing and how you have been seeing it.

Taste is always a subjective thing. But wouldn't you like just a little more elegance and breathing room on your Google search pages?


Robot plays Angry Birds, thinks it can beat you

With Angry Bird supposedly coming out on Facebook this month, its popularity shows no signs of slowing down, and it's even gaining fans among robots.

OptoFidelity, a machine-vision company based in Finland like Rovio Mobile, recently designed a robot that can play the avian-flinging game automatically, and quite well. It can get three stars on every level.

The PR video below shows a two-fingered screen-testing robot going up against a human competitor and defeating him. It's unclear how good the robot really is, but there's also a behind-the-scenes account of how they made the video here.

"It wasn't hard to implement an application for this particular need," the company said in a statement. "The most difficult part of the project was to play through all levels of Angry Birds. Thanks to the ready-made components that OptoFidelity already had, the robot controlling part was quite easy."

OptoFidelity later threw down the gauntlet to humankind in an Angry Birds challenge following the crowning of the 19-year-old who won a national tournament in March.

It hinted that its robot could defeat the best of us: "Until today there have been chess championships and quizzes between humans and robots. Since this application by OptoFidelity can be developed further, in future also games which are controlled with motions may be played against robots."

What do you think? Could you beat this machine at Angry Birds?


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