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I did not know much about the Acer TravelMate 8204 before writing this article but I am now very interested in it and will be looking for one when they ship. When the next gen iBooks come out, we will have a look at how they compare to entry level Windows notebooks, but the same conclusion will probably follow. You get what you pay for with Apple. If you don’t need everything that Apple includes in its products there are lots of stripped-down systems out there vying for your attention. Apple is not participating in the race to zero and I applaud them for that. In addition to the substantive updates the Cupertino-based technology company added to the all-in-one iMac lineup, Apple didn’t forget their big, hulking Mac Pro workstations.

The new updates include pushing the Mac Pros up to 12 processing cores, 32GB of RAM and 2TB of speedy solid state drives. Surprisingly – or not – the new Mac Pros don’t seem to include an update to the iconic silvery towers. Apple has been working with this design for the better part of a decade, and they seem to have taken a “don’t fix what ain’t broke” approach to the look and feel. Starting at $2,499, the new Mac Pros aren’t exactly cheap, but customers do pay for style, support and some of the most innovative engineering found in any desktop at the market today. The Mac Pro workstations offer uniquely easy upgrade options, such as pulling out a drawer in order to change the RAM.

Apple also offers a package upgrade for $800, and even though the prices aren’t yet released, there’s no doubt that the custom CTO builds won’t be for the faint of heart. That configuration carries a $2,499 price tag, as stated earlier. The $800 upgrade package pushes things up a notch, adding a second physical processor (two Intel quad-core Xeon E5620s @ 2.4 GHz, 12MB L3 cache each) for a total of eight processing cores (16 logical cores). There’s also twice the RAM, at 6GB of DDR3 ECC SDRAM running at 1066 MHz (max of 32GB). Apple offers a number of upgrades which get pretty crazy, at least in terms of processing power; the graphics options are still surprisingly anemic. Additionally, there are still no Blu-ray drives as even an option, which can no doubt be a pain for high-end video enthusiasts. Apple has made a big deal about how fast their computers boot lately.

Granted, much of the speed has been related to the superfast (comparably, to HDDs) solid state drives found in their newer MacBook Airs – but the OS itself has seen a number of revisions steered to optimizing and streamlining the boot process. And now, Apple’s earned a lawsuit for it. Florida’s “Operating Systems Solutions, LLC.” (OSS) is claiming that the Cupertino juggernaut is infringing on one of its patents – RE40,092, “Method for quickly booting a computer system” that was filed on August 12th, 2004, and awarded on February 19, 2008. The larger role OSS plays in the development and ownership of this patent is unclear at this point, but it does seem like the company may be acting as one of the Internet’s popularly termed “patent trolls”. Patent trolls are companies that make a substantial revenue solely through the licensing and litigation of their patents.

The court claim describes the offending technology as follows: “A method for fast booting a computer system, comprising the steps of: A. performing a power on self test (POST) of basic input output system (BIOS) when the system is powered on or reset is requested; B. checking whether a boot configuration information including a system booting state which was created while executing a previous normal booting process exists or not; C. storing the boot configuration information from execution of the POST operation before loading a graphic interface (GUI) program, based on the checking result; and D. loading the graphic user interface (GUI) program.” It all sounds pretty generic, because it is. That causes headaches for patent officials and attorneys, and even for the companies who file them. The mess of software patents is clogging up some aspects of the court system; lawsuits are flying so fast that companies seek out friendly jurisdictions in places such as rural Texas.

Apple especially is familiar with being on both the sending and the receiving end of these patent disputes;the company is currently involved in ongoing disputes with some of the other powerhouses of the mobile world, Samsung and HTC. Bringing multitouch capabilities to their desktop line, Apple has introduced a new multitouch-capable mouse. Called the ‘Magic Mouse’, the new peripheral replaces the Mighty Mouse, easily one of Apple’s more controversial products. The new mouse features only one button, and no scroll wheel. A capacitive multitouch surface covers the entire top of the mouse, meaning that it doesn’t matter precisely where you rest your hand and fingers – the whole mouse is the input device. Apple Magic Mouse The new Magic Mouse allows for scrolling vertically, horizontally and even diagonally.

Among the supported gestures are scrolling, both in webpages and general OS applications such as iPhoto. Apple Magic Mouse You can use two finger ‘swipes’ to move pages in Safari or switch photos in OS X’s iPhoto app. Unfortunately, there’s no pinch and zoom (at this time), which is probably the most famous and one of the most desired multitouch gestures out there. Unsurprisingly, the Magic Mouse uses laser (as opposed to regular optical) tracking technology, and gets its wireless connectivity via Bluetooth – no transceiver dongles necessary. This does mean that it can only be used on Macs that already have Bluetooth capabilities.

Furthermore, it currently doesn’t work on Windows – while there’s no doubt you can probably pair it up over Bluetooth as a generic wireless mouse, getting the multitouch gestures to work makes it an iffy preposition at best. Apple Magic Mouse Apple Magic Mouse Apple Magic Mouse Apple Magic Mouse Apple Magic Mouse The mouse’s internal electronics analyzes touch and hand movement on the capacitive surface to differentiate between desired touch actions and the simple act of resting your hand on the mouse.

While it doesn’t look like it’s all that ergonomic, one cool aspect about having such a versatile design is that you can easily make the mouse left- or right-handed just in software. Apple’s Magic Mouse goes on sale today for $69 separately, or as part of the standard package shipped with all of the new iMac all-in-one desktops. HP is spreading some holiday cheer to iPhone and iPod touch users. They’ve introduced a free application that will allow you to print photos from your device to a wireless HP printer. The application is called HP iPrint Photo, and is available for download at the Apple app store. Provided that you have a Wi-Fi enabled HP printer, now nothing stands between your photos and the rest of the world.

You’ll need to download the application to either your iPhone, iPod Touch or computer, sync everything up, and you’ll be ready to start printing 4 x 6” photos. HP will be showcasing this technology at both 2009 MacWorld and CES. Korean technology companies are going to take over the world. I have felt this way since the 2002 Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas, where Samsung and LG showed up with some of the nicest products I have ever seen. Both companies went from being bargain brands to be best in class in about a decade – amazing. Samsung and LG seem to have an uncanny ability to get new products right without having to spend lots of time learning the nuances of consumer electronics or computer segments. And now it appears that they both have their targets set on the notebook market. We recently got to spend some time with LG’s flagship product the LM70 Express. LG is aiming for the premium thin and light notebook segment with the LM70. This is the first notebook that I have tested that really takes Intel’s updated Centrino platform and runs with it. There are few compromises here. The LM70 is easily the most powerful unit that I have reviewed.

The LM70 has nice, tight hinges that do not creak or flex. The LCD is firmly mounted in a reassuringly flex free frame. The palm-rests are silent and flex-free and the underside has panel covers that match the solid construction of the chassis. If I was a Product Manager at any PC manufacturer with a line of premium notebooks, I would be buying an LM70 to study how it is made. It is that good. In terms of design, the LM70 is understated. Perhaps too much so – it risks being boring. The controls and indicator lights are well laid out, and tastefully subdued. The LG logo on the lid is quite large and chromed/polished. I think it would look better backlit like Apple does with their notebooks (LG has a nice distinctive logo). I think it could use a dose of personality. LG’s marketing materials refer to the sleek European design of the LM70.

I can’t say for sure whether this was designed in Europe, but it has a minimalist look. The LM70 is finished in a nice silver which would be quite boring if not for some nice piano black accents on the lid. There should be more of this piano black finish in my opinion – that would really make it a looker. One of the prettiest laptops ever made was the IBM ThinkPad S30 (Japan only), and its distinguishing feature was a gorgeous mirror-like piano black lid. I think that LG may want to spend a few dollars on a Jonathan Ivy-like talent to design a distinctive look for them. IBM, Apple and Toshiba portables are all quite easy to spot, but the LM70 would be hard to spot in a sea of clones. If LG is serious about being a competitor in the global PC market than its products deserve their own look. LG has packed an incredible amount of high performance hardware into what is undoubtedly a thin and light package. The LM70 is highly portable, despite its ample 15″ high resolution screen. At 2.3 kg it is easy on the shoulders – and its 90 watt power brick is also small and light. In terms of size, it is approximately the same thickness as my Titanium PoweBook, and it only exceeds the overall dimensions of my Apple because of the LM70’s large 15″ screen. Processing is handled by Intel’s top Pentium M the 770. There is not much to say about this processor other than it is blazingly fast. It really impresses.

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