PC Today Magazine – June 2009

PC Today has published the June 2009 issue. We used to assign the “camera phone” label to simple mobile phones with built-in digital cameras. Today, however, cameras are commonplace in ordinary mobile phones and smartphones alike. The cameras are getting better, too; some rival or exceed the average dedicated digital camera in picture quality. This month’s featured articles will help you make better use of your phone’s camera and the photos and videos you take with it. They’ll also help you choose the best mobile phone for photography and explain how to create professional videos on the go.

Say “Cheese” To Your Cell
A History Of The Camera Phone
It’s hard these days to buy a cell phone that doesn’t have a built-in camera. Whether you’re getting a cutting-edge smartphone such as the Apple iPhone or the Android-based T-Mobile G1, or a throwaway prepaid phone, putting a camera in there is so prevalent that it’s inspiring everything from locker room laws to an army of citizen documentarians who use them to share a visual record of the news the instant it happens. Where did these devices come from, what’s available on the market today, and where is all of this headed?

The idea of camera phones is as old as cameras and phones, but it wasn’t until 1993, when Daniel A. Henderson put together a couple of prototypes, that the two started to converge in a meaningful way. Dubbed the “Intellect,” Henderson’s design was for a phone that could display pictures received wirelessly instead of taking pictures and sending them wirelessly. On the other side of the equation, in 1994, Olympus released the Deltis VC-1100 digital camera, which couldn’t receive calls but could transmit pictures over the cell phone network.

When it came to realizing the full potential of combining cell phones with digital cameras, necessity, as with most things in the world of electronics, was the mother of invention. Back in 1997, Phillipe Kahn’s wife was due to have a baby, and Kahn, a billionaire who founded Borland and other companies, wanted a way to quickly send live pictures of his newborn daughter to friends and family. He had the know-how and the technical means necessary to tether a digital camera to his cell phone, so he used a cell phone to transmit the snapshots; thus, the camera phone as a tool for instant sharing was born.

Improve Your Cell Phone Photos
Better Pictures From The World’s Most Maligned Cameras
In the consumer electronics world, few gadgets get less respect than the cameras inside cell phones. Granted, cell phone cameras will likely never match the image quality and features of a high-end compact, let alone a digital SLR. That doesn’t mean you have to grudgingly tolerate their photographs as something less than the real thing.

To elevate your cell phone camera game, it just takes some attention to the input and output stages. Here’s how to get more out of your convergent camera.

Better photos begin with better shooting technique. Keep these pointers in mind the next time you aim and click.

  • Understand your camera’s limitations.
  • Then there’s autofocus.
  • Set the camera to its highest resolution.
  • Keep the lens clean.
  • Ignore the digital zoom.
  • Fill the frame.
  • Let there be light.
  • Brace yourself.
  • Set the white balance.
  • Shoot now, tweak later.

Photos Here, There & Everywhere
Store & Share Images On Your Mobile Phone
When a spontaneous photo opportunity arises, we’re more likely to have a mobile phone with an integrated camera handy than a dedicated digital camera. And because we almost always have our phones at the ready, we seem to find more photo ops than ever before. So what’s the best way to handle all of the images that accumulate on our phones? In this article, we’ll explore several ways in which you can store, back up, and share your mobile phone photos. Let’s start with a look at the basics.

After The Snap
After you snap a photo, the phone’s software sends the picture either to internal memory or to a microSD memory card, if you have one in the phone. If you want to store more than a few photos on your phone, a microSD card is helpful, if not a necessity, depending on the amount of storage space that is built into your phone. You can easily purchase cards that store between 1 and 16GB of data; cards with higher capacities are forthcoming, but even a 2GB card allows for plenty of storage space for the average user. Because mobile phone photos aren’t usually more than a few megapixels in size, individual photos won’t take up much space on your card.

Portable Video Production Made Easy
Create Quality Video That Will Impress
You own business suits. You proofread your marketing before making it available to the public. Quality of presentation matters, and quite often it can mean the difference between impressing clients and being dismissed by them. Given that, why do some companies, even multi-billion-dollar enterprises, seem to think it’s OK to post business-related videos that look like they were shot and produced by an 8-year-old?

Business video is increasingly important, but as a relatively new medium, not everyone yet appreciates the importance of treating digital video with the same quality standards we use for traditional media. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to go from posting low-grade video to producing something viewers would find engaging, pay attention to, and hopefully want to share.

The Future Of Mobile Imaging
More Than Bells & Whistles
Mobile tech changes faster than you can cycle through a two-year cell phone contract. By the time your plan suggests it’s time for a new mobile phone, chances are you’ve grown weary of the virtually obsolete device you thought was so impressive and feature-laden just a year or two before.

One of the ways mobile devices change quickly is in the realm of mobile imaging. The industry has moved from simple phones with monochrome screens to powerful devices that can stream video and capture photos and video at high resolutions.

And the latest and greatest innovations in mobile imaging are just around the corner.
We’ve Got Your Numbers
States with significant rural populations lead the way among U.S. households with mobile phones but no landline phone service, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Oklahoma takes the No. 1 spot with 26.2% of households; runners-up include Utah (25.5%), Nebraska (23.2%), Arkansas (22.6%), Iowa (22.2%), and Idaho (22.1%). The data is from 2007, the last full year for which complete information is available.
Life got easier recently for iPhone owners who are also patrons of Choice Hotels, as the hotel chain made a free GPS-supported Choice Hotels Locator app available to book rooms from the device. Choice Hotels, which operates nearly 6,000 properties globally, claims the app is the first from a major hotel company. In-device features include making changes or canceling reservations, viewing street-level and hotel images, and acquiring door-to-door directions.

Tech To Watch
Wireless Open-Access Research Platform
Look up in the sky: It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s . . . streaming music, videos, documents, emails, and phone conversations! The unprecedented data access we enjoy today is largely thanks to a proliferation of wireless technologies, from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to cellular to infrared and more. In fact, many of us would have difficulty imagining life without the omnipresent standards that make our remotes and televisions, smartphones, notebooks, PCs, and gadgets communicate like old friends. But for the most part, the wireless protocols and devices we use today were researched, designed, and created using proprietary test systems that were prohibitively expensive to develop and inherently limited to the tasks that the bankrolling companies and standards organizations set out to tackle. Rice University’s WARP (Wireless Open-Access Research Platform) aims to change that, and in so doing, open wireless networking to more creative problem solvers than ever before.

In 2006, a handful of Rice University researchers, led by Ashutosh Sabharwal, set out to create a wireless research platform that was inexpensive, easy to develop on, and freely open to anyone who wanted to use it. The group, part of Rice University’s CMC (Center for Multimedia Communication), created WARP as a platform consisting of customizable hardware and communications blocks that enable researchers to modify electrical connections to suit any high-performance wireless communication application as needed. CMC designed the FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array)-based circuit boards to accommodate multiple analog and digital wideband radios and specialized processors, several I/O (input/output) interfaces for communications with testing hardware and computers, and also included a set of algorithms adept at handling wireless communications. WARP boards are flexible enough that researchers can test multiple radio transmitters, wireless routers, and network access points by writing simple programs that transform the WARP board into whatever device is needed.

Energy-Conscious Tech
On the front side, Samsung’s Blue Earth looks like any other touchscreen mobile phone, but the entire back is covered with a solar panel, so you can use the sun’s rays to charge it and rely less on power outlets. Additionally, the Blue Earth is constructed using PCM, which is a plastic created mostly from recycled bottles. Samsung indicates that the phone—and its charger—contain no environmentally toxic substances, such as brominated flame retardants or beryllium. To save energy while in use, the Blue Earth offers an Eco mode that sets the screen brightness, backlight duration, and Bluetooth power to more energy-efficient levels. It’ll be available in the UK during the second half of 2009; no release date has been set for the U.S.

The electronic devices that make our lives easier also produce some unwanted side effects on the environment. Fortunately, many consumer electronics manufacturers are now making products that keep us productive and lessen our device’s energy demands. In this article, we’ll cover some of the newest environmentally friendly technology available.
BlackBerry Tips
Secure Your Device
The latest reports tell us that President Barack Obama got to keep his Research In Motion BlackBerry when he took office. We may never fully know the extent to which his BlackBerry was altered to meet security requirements, but according to an ABC News report, RIM worked with government officials in making enhancements to make communications even more secure. Still, if the BlackBerry has what it takes to become the First Smartphone, then you can rest assured it will protect your data like it was wearing black sunglasses and an earpiece.

BlackBerry has received more worldwide security accreditations than any other wireless device. An independent Common Criteria evaluation facility awarded the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and BlackBerry software with Common Criteria EAL 2+ (Evaluation Assurance Level 2 augmented) validations, making BlackBerry the first mobile platform to receive the international standard’s certification. Common Criteria Certification verifies that the BlackBerry platform delivers independently assured security features.
Windows Mobile Tips
Windows Mobile Marketplace & My Phone Deliver More Personalized Phones
The introduction of Windows Mobile 6.5 for Windows phones turned a lot of heads, but two other announcements have had a similar impact. The introduction of Windows Mobile Marketplace and the Windows My Phone at Mobile World Congress in February has caught the attention of Windows Mobile users, as the duo has the potential to boost their productivity levels.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appeared at Mobile World Congress and explained that the mission of this new generation of Windows phones (complete with Windows Mobile 6.5, Windows Mobile Marketplace, and My Phone) is to create a single device that can serve as a business and personal mobile device and let users live a more organized and seamless lifestyle. We take a closer look at how Windows Mobile Marketplace and My Phone can help you enhance your Windows Mobile phone.

Digital Downtime
Notes On The Latest In Digital Music & Video
Music, photos, videos, movies, TV shows, podcasts, FM radio, audio books, calendars, contacts, file browsers, touchscreens, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and on and on. Yeah, today’s portable audio and video players give you pretty much the whole enchilada and a side of nachos to boot. For the latest software, hardware, accessories, services, content, and tips concerning portable audio and video players, belly up and dig in.

Save Energy (& Money)
Through Green Computing
These days, “green” is king. Whether that green is the color of cash or a sign of eco-friendliness, they’re really two sides of the same leaf. Saving energy means saving money. We all want to wean ourselves away from super-sized watt consumption, but relatively few of us have a good idea of where to start. We’ve got some food for thought.

There are good reasons to turn in your desktops for laptops. You can look at things in terms of either total power draw or total efficiency, meaning performance per watt. According to EfficientProducts.org, “the average desktop computer (without its accompanying monitor) now consumes 200 to 400kWh per year of electricity (nearly as much as a highly efficient refrigerator). Laptops consume about 80 to 140kWh per year.”

But although a laptop consumes one-third to one-quarter of the power of a desktop, it definitely offers more than one-third of the performance. CPU and graphics manufacturers have made tremendous strides in bringing their mobile products to parity or near-parity with desktop components. Chip cores are often made using the exact same architectures. Only customizable details, such as frequency, amount of memory, and bus speeds, tend to vary between desktop and mobile processors.

Google Latitude
What It Is & How To Use It
It’s the eternal cry of every spouse, friend, and manager: “Where are you?” Well, if you and yours run Google Maps with the new Latitude feature, you won’t have to ask. You’ll be able to see it on the Web browser of any PC and many smartphones.

Essentially, Latitude is a tracker designed to let you see the geographic location of certain people on a Google map—and likewise for them to see you—provided both parties approve of being visible via a double opt-in. A lot of people get riled up about Latitude as an invasion of privacy, but this seems far-fetched and ill-considered. First, you have to enable the Latitude service manually. Then you invite people whose locations you want to see, and they have to agree to let you see them. It’s a buddy list, and everyone has to agree to be on it. That doesn’t mean that if you invite Bob, Sue, and Jackson into your Latitude circle of friends, they can all see each other. They’re only giving you permission to see them on their own terms. Bob couldn’t see Sue’s location unless they established their own Latitude relationship.


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