Cable Cutters: Can 4G Hotspots Replace Cable Broadband?

I spent a couple of weeks connecting my home network with various 3G and 4G hotspots to find out whether they're up to the task.

I used to pay $60 per month for a bundle of TV service and broadband service from Comcast. I decided I didn’t want the TV part anymore, so I canceled it, leaving just the broadband. My new monthly bill: $60 per month.

Ever since then, I've yearned to cut that broadband cable, severing my association with Comcast altogether. I’ll admit that my cable broadband is fast and reliable, but it’s not a moveable feast--I get to enjoy those virtues only at home. Meanwhile I’m under contract with Sprint for another data plan, for service that I can take with me when I leave the house.

I’d love to ditch the home broadband and move to a mobile hotspot (preferably the one inside my phone) that connects all my devices no matter where I am. And I thought that maybe, just maybe, with the advent of 4G it might finally be time to cut the cable.

How I Tested

To see whether I could live without cable broadband, I spent the last two weeks using only a mobile hotspot to connect my home computer and other devices to the Internet. I used two 4G hotspots--Sprint’s Overdrive and the hotspot in my Sprint EVO 4G phone--and one 3G hotspot, the popular Novatel MiFi from Verizon.

I worked under the assumption that for a broadband device or service to truly replace the cable, it would have to connect multiple devices in the home. Mobile hotspots receive a cellular signal, and then create a Wi-Fi network to connect the devices nearby.

I ran a series of applications ranging from bandwidth-light to bandwidth-heavy to compare the performance of the cable service with that of the mobile-hotspot challengers. I read and sent e-mail messages, loaded graphics-heavy Web pages, downloaded MP3 files, watched high-definition video, video-chatted, and played online games.

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Microsoft to wind down Windows 7 Family Pack sales by year's end

Computerworld - Sales of Microsoft's three-license Windows 7 Family Pack will end next week, according to online retailer Amazon.

The Family Pack gives consumers three upgrade licenses from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7 Home Premium. When it started selling the $150 package in early October, Microsoft said it would offer the deal for a limited time, but did not set an end date.

On Friday, Amazon's page for the Family Pack told customers that the product would be "available to purchase until December 31, or while supplies last."

Amazon priced the Family Pack at $125.

If Amazon's stop date is accurate, Microsoft will have kept the Family Pack on the market for almost 13 weeks, more than twice as long as in 2009, when the company terminated sales after about six weeks.

Last year, customers got angry when Microsoft and retailers pulled the Family Pack from shelves without warning. Many were frustrated that they'd missed the offer, and some bloggers called the sudden disappearance a "dumb move" or pegged Microsoft as a Scrooge for dropping the deal before the holidays.

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Microsoft set to unveil Windows version for tablets, reports say

It's not clear from the reports if the new ARM-based version of Windows would be based on Windows Embedded Compact

IDG News Service - Microsoft is set to announce a tablet version of Windows at the Consumer Electronics Show next month, according to reports by Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

The reconfigured OS will run on processors from chipmaker ARM, according to the reports.

Microsoft already has one OS written for ARM chips, Windows CE, which is designed for use in embedded systems. The company in June said it has plans to release the next version of this OS, called Windows Embedded Compact 7, in early 2011.

This version of the OS will be targeted for devices such as set-top boxes and slates, company officials said..

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Microsoft kills Office anti-piracy program

Computerworld - Microsoft last week killed an anti-piracy service that checked whether customers were running legal copies of Office, saying that the program had "served its purpose."

ZDNet blogger Ed Bott first reported on Microsoft's move after a tipster pointed him toward a support document on the company's site.

That Dec. 17 document simply noted that Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) "has been retired," but offered no explanation.

In an e-mail reply to questions today, a Microsoft spokeswoman added, "The program has served its purpose and thus we have decided to retire the program."

OGA, which debuted alongside Office XP in 2007, was Microsoft's way to separate counterfeit from legitimate copies of its popular suite. In 2006, Microsoft restricted Office template downloads to users running a legal edition of the application bundle, then upped the ante early in 2007 by requiring all users to validate their copy of Office with OGA to use the now-defunct Office Update site and service.

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Say Goodbye to VGA in 5 Years

Intel and AMD announce that VGA will be phased out by 2015.

The VGA port, or Video Graphics Array, has been connecting monitors to computers since almost the birth ofZoom the computer. In recent years, displays and computers have begun to adapt the newer DisplayPort and HDMI technologies which allow for less space and power consumption and higher resolutions.

Intel and AMD have announced that they will stop support for VGA beginning in 2013 and expect the technology to die out by 2015, being replaced by DisplayPort and HDMI ports. We have already seen plenty of video cards stop supporting VGA and it is no surprise that the two giants of the computer world are beginning to do it as well. Getting rid of VGA means slimmer laptops that allow for a much more vibrant and clear high resolution display than the more than 20-year-old VGA.

Nick Knuppfer, Intel's spokesperson, told TechNewsWorld, "HDMI and DisplayPort are modern digital interfaces that support higher resolutions and screen sizes."

This move will result in a much quicker integration of DisplayPort and HDMI technologies which will lead to higher resolutions and modern interfaces on the displays of the future. Samsung, LG and Dell have already begun to integrate DisplayPort technology on their devices and are on-board with Intel and AMD's plans for the death of the VGA port.

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New Hitachi HDD Could Lead to 4TB and 5TB

Hitachi's new 2.5-inch HDD crams 500 GB onto one platter.

ZoomThursday Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi GST) announced its new 2.5-inch, 5,400 RPM Travelstar Z-series family of hard drives. According to the company, the 500 GB version offers the industry's highest capacity for a single-platter, 7-mm thick hard drive. This is accomplished by using the sixth-generation perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) platters which feature a higher areal density (636Gb/inch2) than current hard drives.

With that said, Hitachi's new drive could pave the way to 3.5-inch HDD capacities higher than the current 3 TB limit. This would require using 3.5-inch platters with 636Gb/inch2 areal density, providing around 1 TB each. It's quite possible that within the next twelve months, we could see a 4-platter HDD offering a massive 4 TB capacity whereas a 5-platter HDD could offer 5 TB. For 2.5-inch form factor drives, consumers could see future models with 1 TB or 1.5 TB capacities using two and three platters.

As for Hitachi's new line of Travelstar Z5K500 drives, the series offers 500 GB, 320 GB and 250 GB models. Other feature include the previously reported 5,400 RPM spindle speed, a Serial ATA-300 interface and an 8 MB cache buffer. The drives also feature 1.8 watts read/write power, 0.55 watts low power idle, 5.5-ms average latency and 13-ms average read seek time.

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Facebook's Zuckerberg vows to donate his wealth

Computerworld - Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire behind Facebook, has pledged to part with a sizable chunk of his fortune for good causes.

Zuckerberg and 15 other billionaires signed on to the Giving Pledge, agreeing to donate the majority of their fortunes to charity. With the new names added to the list of charitable donors today, there now are 50 signatures, including AOL co-founder Steve Case, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle.

Zuckerberg isn't the only one at Facebook to make the pledge. Dustin Moskovitz, who co-founded Facebook along with Zuckerberg, also took the pledge.

"People wait until late in their career to give back," Zuckerberg said in a statement. "But why wait when there is so much to be done? With a generation of younger folks who have thrived on the success of their companies, there is a big opportunity for many of us to give back earlier in our lifetime and see the impact of our philanthropic efforts."

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Rumor: New Windows 8 64-bit UI Called ''Wind''

Windows 8 will supposedly have separate 32-bit and 64-bit interfaces, the latter dubbed as "Wind."

ZoomItalian-based website window8italia reports that Windows 8 will arrive with two separate interfaces, one for 32-bit and one for 64-bit. The latter version will be fully 3D and codenamed "Wind," requiring around 170 MB of dedicated video memory. Although "Wind" will reportedly exist in all copies of Windows 8, it will not be activated within the 32-bit version.

The news follows a recent discovery in Nvidia's Quadro 265 driver which specifically references a new kernel with the number 6.2-- Windows 7 is 6.1. The driver actually points to the 64-bit version of Windows 8 specifically as listed in the following:

; Nvidia Windows Vista / 7 / 8 (64 bit) Display INF file DiskID1 = "Nvidia Windows Vista / 7 / 8 (64 bit) Driver Library Installation Disk 1" Nvidia_Win8 = "Nvidia"

In addition to the 3D aspect, the 64-bit interface will reportedly be "fully dynamic" in that it will adapt to the user's habits. This includes the ability to speed up daily tasks by adapting shortcuts and icons to fit within different usage scenarios. 

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