With a more wide-open app Market and some seriously dedicated hackers, there’s all kinds of mischief you can get up to with an Android phone. Here’s some of our favorite apps for skirting fees, defeating corporate branding, and other kinda-sorta “Evil” maneuvers.
Why does an app made by Google, and supported by most major carriers, merit any kind of mention during Evil Week? Think about the big picture. Sure, getting your friends to call a brand new number is a hassle, and the app isn’t as reliable as, say, the bedrock dialer app on your phone. But once you’re in, and once your callers are trained, you’re doing a lot of things no business interest wants you doing. You’re screening calls the smart way, keeping your voicemails off your carrier’s servers (and avoiding their minute-draining “Press 5 to leave a numerical page” ploy), and sending text messages at no additional cost through your data plan. You’re making your phone number truly independent and portable—no need to cross your fingers at contract termination time. Most of all, with the introduction of free calling through Gmail (and unofficial ways of VoIP calling through your Android), you’re cutting minutes and inching closer to needing only a single service from the big guys—a service that you’ve proven yourself very aggressive in demanding with quality coverage. To someone sitting in the accounting department at one of the big four, Google Voice looks like a creeping evil, indeed. [Homepage] [AppBrain]
How does this app continue to fly under the radar? We have no idea, but we hope it continues (even though, yes, we’re writing about it publicly). With all the carriers offering cellphone-to-computer data tethering at an additional cost per month, PDAnet offers a one-time $25 charge for an Android app that connects your phone’s data connection to your laptop. The software requires just a touch of configuration on the Windows or Mac computer you’re tethering on, but after that, you’re good to go with the touch of one button on either end. This editor just used it to tie an Android phone to a MacBook on a 6-hour train ride, and it certainly felt a little evil watching other passengers type on tiny screens. [Homepage] [AppBrain]
ADW.Launcher & LauncherPro
HTC, Motorola, Samsung, and other Android phone manufacturers put a lot of effort into making their phones look distinct—from Google’s basic Android, from the iPhone, from each other. In a few areas, they made improvements. In most cases, they made things slower, more awkward, or just plain confusing (what, exactly, is intuitive about an app named “People”?). Take back your phone and wipe away corporate branding with ADW.Lancher and LauncherPro, two apps that replace your phone’s home screen and app launching tray with versions that look a lot like what Google originally built, along with adding in some great widgets, shortcuts, and other features. It’s a minor rebellion, but very worthwhile move. [ADWLauncher: Homepage, AppBrain] [LauncherPro: Homepage, AppBrain]
SuperOneClick, Universal Androot, and Their Friends
Using apps like SuperOneClick or Universal Androot to “root” your phone, or gain ultimate access to every layer of it, is certainly a tad selfish—but in a pretty good way. You open up your phone to apps that you couldn’t otherwise run. That includes custom firmwares with lots of improvements, like CyanogenMOD, sure, but also utilities you can’t believe aren’t already on Android by default, like screenshot utilities. You also gain the ability to move apps to your SD card and run them from there, allowing a near limitless number of apps onto your phone. Rooting loosens the laws inside your own little digital kingdom, and if that’s evil, so be it. [SuperOneClick: Homepage (Windows app)] [Universal Androot: Homepage]
iTunes was built to sell iPods, and it has offered very few other music devices an olive branch. Crash the gates with your Android and iSyncr, and app that’s remarkably good at syncing playlists between an Android phone and a stocked iTunes library. It’s easy to set up, and can work over Wi-Fi, which makes it better, to some minds, than the USB-required iPhone or iPad system. There’s a man who dresses in black turtlenecks, and makes use of “magic” imagery, who would rather you play by the rules. This app does a great job at ignoring him. [Homepage] [AppBrain]
I recently had to buy a digital voice recorder for an upcoming assignment. Not having time to wait for online purchase shipping, I walked into Best Buy, walked the racks, and found a recorder that had what I wanted—$64.99. Calmly retrieving my phone, I fired up Shopper, pulled the barcode of my would-be recorder up close, and discovered that Wal-Mart had the same model—for $56.99, and it was right across the street. Suffice to say, I chose to take the walk and use the savings to buy lunch at Chipotle. It almost feels evil to have that much power over pricing, but evil sure is tasty with salsa verde and fresh guacamole. [Homepage] [AppBrain]
Dial Zero and Slydial
Some messages are too complex for text, but not worth actually getting into a conversation with somebody. Then again, when something’s wrong with a product or sevice, you want to skip through all that carefully crafted customer service automation and get right to an actual human you can lay into. Slydial gets you into someone’s voicemail without their having a chance to actually pick up (most of the time), while Dial Zero is a great database of the tricks needed to find an actual human inside a corporate labyrinth. Both have their good and bad uses, so use wisely—or, at least, take a few deep breaths before enjoying them. [Dial Zero: Homepage, AppBrain] [Slydial: Homepage, AppBrain]
Based on an Apple patent application, it seems that the company is contemplating ways to make gadgets more scratch-resistant and durable with cheap nitride coatings on top of stainless steel exteriors.
The nitride coatings would not only be low-cost, but they would also leave your gadgets looking great:
In addition to providing a durable, hard surface that is both scratch and impact resistant, the nitride layer allows for the natural surface color and texture of the underlying stainless steel to remain visible to the user. It is this natural surface color and texture of the stainless steel that adds to the aesthetically pleasing appearance of the consumer electronic product, thereby enhancing the user’s overall experience.
Seymour Hersh’s recent peek inside “cyber warfare” possible affirms two things we kinda already knew: people are easily spooked, and there’s plenty of money to be made by spooking them. The story, oddly, starts with some hot coffee.
Hersh begins by recounting an old, widely known story. In 2001, an American EP-3E Aries II spy plane was flying over the South China Sea, doing what spy planes near China do best—spying on China. Things were going swimmingly, until the EP-3E quite literally collided with a Chinese interceptor jet—the counterintelligence equivalent of bumping into your girlfriend while she’s on a date with another guy. Diplomatically awkward to say the least, but also deadly—the Chinese pilot was killed, and the American plane was able to just barely crash land at—and this was less than ideal—a Chinese air base.
There were 24 intelligence officers onboard the plane, but their existence was secondary compared to the hardware and software used to control the plane’s sensitive recon equipment—tech worth hundreds of millions of dollars. You would think there might be a sophisticated method of preventing this stuff from falling into foreign hands, but, it turns out, Pentagon protocol instructed the crew to react as you and your girlfriend might after the above infidelity hypothetical—wildly swinging around a fire axe and throwing scalding coffee everywhere. Actually. The hope was to damage the onboard equipment beyond use—and backwards engineering—by the Chinese. But after 11 days, the crew was sent back to the US, and the plane stayed behind, where it eventually became clear that the crew had not sufficiently trashed the thing.
How did we know? The Chinese made it clear, Hersh explains, using the same communications channels we were using to snoop to broadcast their knowledge of our covert activities:
The Chinese were apparently showing the U.S. their hand. (“The N.S.A. would ask, ‘Can the Chinese be that good?’ ” the former official told me. “My response was that they only invented gunpowder in the tenth century and built the bomb in 1965. I’d say, ‘Can you read Chinese?’ We don’t even know the Chinese pictograph for ‘Happy hour.’ “)
Events like this aren’t new. What is new is the proliferation of a new fear, and a new front: the “cyber” front. It employees tens of thousands of Americans, eats up of millions of tax dollars, and generally leaves everyone confused. And it’s based upon a myth that, at any point, a Chinese Cyber Soldier could press a button and knock down the Chrysler Building, or cause rolling blackouts across the US. If you’d like a vividly idiotic illustration of what cyber warfare cheerleaders want you to think is possible, just read Hersh’s excerpt from “Cyber War,” a sensationalist, OH DEAR GOD NO account of what China could do to us with cyber bazookas:
Within a quarter of an hour, 157 major metropolitan areas have been thrown into knots by a nationwide power blackout hitting during rush hour. Poison gas clouds are wafting toward Wilmington and Houston. Refineries are burning up oil supplies in several cities. Subways have crashed in New York, Oakland, Washington, and Los Angeles. . . . Aircraft are literally falling out of the sky as a result of midair collisions across the country. . . . Several thousand Americans have already died.
If the book’s author, former White House national-security aide Richard Clarke, can team up with Michael Bay, he might have Summer 2012′s big dumb hit on his hands. But for now, this ridiculous scene of crashed trains and plummeting planes should guide our national security interests about as much as “The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist,” notes Hersh:
Clarke’s book, with its alarming vignettes, was praised by many reviewers. But it received much harsher treatment from writers in the technical press, who pointed out factual errors and faulty assumptions. For example, Clarke attributed a severe power outage in Brazil to a hacker; the evidence pointed to sooty insulators.
Before going further, it’s worth reflecting on the words we’re using here: cyber. Cyber. Cyber warfare. Cyberspace. It’s a term as antiquated and nebulous as the alleged “war” being fought upon it. It connotes cluelessness. These are terms that I imagine might resonate with my mother, who refers to her home router as “the Comcast” and calls me every time Word won’t quit. But there is no “cyber space”—and it’s an ambiguity exploited, it might seem, to benefit both private and government interests.
Scaring the American public into thinking it’s engaged in a new war is profitable. It keeps myriad consulting firms flush—like Booze Allen Hamilton, which landed a $34 million Pentagon contract after its executive vice president testified before congress. “Hello, Congress. You have X. I have X pills. They will cost you $34 million. Thanks!” It also keeps government entities awash in cash, like the Pentagon’s Cyber Command, or the NSA, which employes a bunker full of its own hackers in a secret compound outside Baltimore. (This is the same NSA, it should be mentioned, that Hersh says instructed foreign agents to seal their USB ports with liquid cement to prevent attack by malicious flash drive).
A US Navy admiral confessed the following to Hersh, almost depressing as it is true:
The U.S. Navy, worried about budget cuts, “needs an enemy, and it’s settled on China,” and that “using what your enemy is building to justify your budget is not a new game.”
This cash doesn’t make anyone safer, however, because there isn’t much of a threat to begin with. At least not the one being sold in consulting white papers and on the floors of Congress. No matter how much the doomsday novelists and budget-hungry officers might want you to think of your dog, fire hydrant, and Lower Manhattan as ready to explode with the tap of a Chinese spacebar, China wouldn’t even if it could: “Current Chinese officials have told me that we’re not going to attack Wall Street, because we basically own it,” says one of Hersh’s sources. Now that’s a reality more frightening than any Tron-esque vision of cyber warriors throwing cyber-javelins at each other.
That isn’t to say that internet-based hostilities between nations don’t exist. They do, and they’re worth taking seriously. Many signs support speculation that the recent Stuxnet worm was a deliberate attempt by Israel (and perhaps other parties) to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. If true, an act of overt aggression, to be sure. And, had such a worm succeeded in permanently impairing or disabling entirely the nuclear-energy plant of another country, by most definitions this would be fightin’ words, not mere hacking—an act of war. But taking such risks seriously does not a war make. And, as Hersh points out, if what actually went down is cyber “warfare,” then war ain’t what it used to be:
If Stuxnet was aimed specifically at Bushehr, it exhibited one of the weaknesses of cyber attacks: they are difficult to target and also to contain. India and China were both hit harder than Iran, and the virus could easily have spread in a different direction, and hit Israel itself. Again, the very openness of the Internet serves as a deterrent against the use of cyber weapons.
The “cyber” nature of “cyber” warfare might, in the end, be self-nullifying. So if there’s not open fighting in any traditional sense of the word, what is there? Hersh explains that for the most part, a lot of old fashioned annoying asshole hacking and pre-internet corporate espionage have been folded under this corny, misleading mantle of cyber-whatever. Says another source, a think tank fellow and former staffer at the Departments of State and Commerce during the Clinton Administration:
“Some of it is economic espionage that we know and understand. Some of it is like the Wild West. Everybody is pirating from everybody else. The U.S.’s problem is what to do about it. I believe we have to begin by thinking about it”-the Chinese cyber threat-”as a trade issue that we have not dealt with.”
They do it. We do it. We’ve both been doing it. At best, maybe this is just wasteful—though it does keep a lot of Beltway types in fresh Dockers. But at worst, this obfuscating Maypole dance of bureaucracy and private consulting keeps our heads in the (CYBER!) clouds, and not pointed at anything that will keep the world safer. It’ll be of the utmost importance to keep from mistaking trade tensions and dirty economic rivalries with outright warfare—a word not to be dropped or appropriated lightly. Hersh concludes with perhaps the article’s most head-shaking bit, an explanation of why that American recon plane crashed in the first place: the military was so worried about losing its jobs on the eve of the 2000 election that nobody was paying attention to our spy missions.
There was no leadership in the Defense Department, as both Democrats and Republicans waited for the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the Presidency. The predictable result was an increase in provocative behavior by Chinese fighter pilots who were assigned to monitor and shadow the reconnaissance flights. This evolved into a pattern of harassment in which a Chinese jet would maneuver a few dozen yards in front of the slow, plodding EP-3E, and suddenly blast on its afterburners, soaring away and leaving behind a shock wave that severely rocked the American aircraft. On April 1, 2001, the Chinese pilot miscalculated the distance between his plane and the American aircraft.
“When I first saw it from 10 feet away, I thought it was the Galaxy S,” says our source, who got to handle one. “I was a little surprised it was the Nexus Two,” because it’s so different from the Nexus One.
It’s black and shiny, built with glossy plastic. Up close, though, it’s “got this curve to it.” While the screen, which our source thinks is the same 4-inch AMOLED affair from the Galaxy series, is flat, the front is “sort of concave” with hard edges. And the back is curved. The tapering makes it feel thinner than Galaxy S, though it might be about the same thickness. “It feels really similar to the Galaxy S in a lot ways.” (Note: Our mockup is very approximate.)
Externally, the main difference from all of the current Galaxy S variants in the US is that it’s got a front-facing camera, and it’s running a stock build of Android that was still “really buggy.” (Update: Forgot about the Epic 4G, which has a front camera.) Our source wasn’t sure if the internals were any different. Google’s supposedly trying to building video chat into Gingerbread, using the same protocol as Google Talk. So it makes sense that the flagship phone for the next year—the one that most Googlers will probably be developing on—comes with a front-facing camera, even if video chat doesn’t quite make it into Gingerbread.
At first blush, it’s a little disappointing that Google possibly isn’t pushing things forward in the same way they did with the Nexus One, since it seems like the Nexus Two is a refreshed Galaxy phone. On the other hand, it says a lot that the Android ecosystem is so stocked with high-powered phones, from the Evo to the Droid X, that even Google won’t radically jump ahead of its partners with a new flagship. Hopefully their plan for selling it is a little better.
Locked down for your “safety,” your iPhone is designed to operate the way Apple intended. With recently relaxed app store policies and great strides within the jailbreaking community, however, you can add great functionality that Apple never wanted you to have.
Note: For a look at the flip side of the mobile OS coin, check out the best “Evil” apps for Android.
Although there have long been VOIP options like Skype and Fring, Line2 offers up a full phone service and text messaging replacement for a small monthly fee ($10/month for unlimited everything). As we discovered when we turned our iPod touch into an iPhone, Line2 is a highly functional alternative and can save you a lot of money on your monthly bill just through text messages alone. Call quality is pretty much on par with AT&T, and the text messaging portion of the Line2 app is just a little bit nicer than Apple’s included app. With Apple’s many App Store refusals due to “duplicated functionality” it’s a wonder that Line2 actually made the cut. Fortunately it did, because it’s often a better way of using your iPhone as an actual phone.
Line2 | iTunes App Store
VLC Media Player
It’s still hard to believe the day came where VLC was approved in the app store. Originally just for the iPad, VLC was released as a universal iOS app just a few days ago. While using it with high definition MKVs gives you a clear indication of why Apple doesn’t bother supporting other formats, VLC’s performance with standard definition files—particularly DiVX AVIs—was basically flawless. (More performance notes here.) Regardless of performance, however, VLC opens up your iPhone to nearly any video format you’d want and that’s enough to praise all by itself. Plus, it’s free.
VLC Media Player | iTunes App Store
Where VLC Media Player fails, AirVideo and StreamToMe pick up the slack. Although VLC adds support for many new video formats, your iPhone can’t necessarily play them (or at least play them well) plus video takes up a ton of disk space. Air Video and StreamToMe are both great solutions that allowing you to stream content from your computer’s hard drive to your phone over Wi-Fi or 3G. They convert content on the fly so it’ll play nicely with your iPhone, allow you to essentially watch whatever you want regardless of the format. Each app has a few features the other doesn’t, so they’re not identical, but overall they’re both very capable of handling your streaming video needs. If you want to make sure you’re fully covered to watch anything, regardless of Apple’s support for the format, either app (both $3) will serve you well.
MyWi and My3G
Although Apple’s opened the gate a bit wider to let some surprising apps into the app store, there are still a number of things you can’t do without jailbreaking (or paying hefty monthly fees). One of the most useful of those things: turning your iPhone into a Wi-Fi hotspot. MyWi is designed to let you do just that, and helps with USB tethering as well. Although it comes at a steep price of $20, that’s what you’d end up paying for a month of tethering by going through the proper channels (AT&T). In that light, the price isn’t really all that bad. So long as you’re already paying AT&T for the data bandwidth, we think you should be able to use it however you want. MyWi gives you that freedom when Apple and AT&T won’t.
Also from the Intelliborn folks is My3G, which lets you decide which apps can and can’t use your 3G connection. The iPhone generally prohibits you from using a lot of things over 3G—like Facetime, downloading anything over 20MB, etc.—so this $4 jailbreak app can give you that control.
Wi-Fi Sync is my favorite jailbreak application and entirely worth the $10 it’ll cost you. I don’t really care for iTunes in general, but when syncing is necessary it just seems so archaic to sync a Wi-Fi enabled devices with a cable. Wi-Fi sync cuts the cord and lets you sync your iPhone over your local Wi-Fi network. It’s surprisingly quick when compared to cable syncing and setup is very easy. You just install the Wi-Fi Sync application on your iPhone and your Mac or Windows PC, pair your iPhone with your computer, and start syncing. You’re not limited to a single device, either, so if you happen to have an iPad, for example, you can use Wi-Fi sync to sync that too.
You’ve been getting by with the cheapie router you bought two years ago, so why should you upgrade now? Performance. And features. We asked seven manufacturers to send us the best consumer routers in their stables regardless of price tags.
In most cases, that meant a simultaneous dual-band router capable of running 802.11n wireless networks using the typical 2.4GHz frequency band and the less-crowded 5GHz band, plus a guest network that isolates its clients from your primary LAN. In all cases, it meant a router with an integrated four-port gigabit switch and at least one USB port for sharing a printer or a storage device over the network (some have two USB ports to support both functions). In an interesting twist, however, no one submitted a product using a three-stream wireless chipset promising raw throughput of 450Mb/s.
We’re absolutely fine with that, because our first experience with this bleeding-edge standard, courtesy of Trendnet’s single-band TEW-691GR, left a bitter taste on our tongues. The TEW-691GR was very fast, but only at very close range. As we observed in our review, you can’t buy a USB Wi-Fi adapter with three antennas today, so much of that extra bandwidth is effectively wasted.
So who’s got the best offering, an established name or a scrappy challenger?
A solid, if unexciting, bargain.
The Asus RT-N16 is a single-band router with three removable (and therefore upgradeable) antennas, but the third antenna didn’t help the router rise above third place overall in terms of TCP throughput. It did, however, do a solid job of penetrating our media room.
The RT-N16 is equipped with two USB ports, so it can support both a portable USB hard drive and a printer. USB storage devices are shared using SMB/CIFS, so the shares appear when you use Windows to browse your network. This is a far superior alternative to forcing you to install a client to access the shares, as some of the other routers do.
Asus has developed a very user-friendly GUI for the RT-N16′s firmware, and the EZQoS utility makes it easy to assign bandwidth priority to various applications (with settings for VoIP, games, video streaming, and the built-in FTP server). There’s an integrated BitTorrent client, too. If the stock firmware doesn’t float your boat, you can replace it with a version of the popular open-source alternative DD-WRT.
The RT-N16′s stock firmware includes a UPnP media server, but it’s not DLNA-compliant. This means the router is not a great choice if you’re looking to stream media from an attached drive to an Xbox 360 or a PS3 gaming console.
You’ll find our complete Asus RT-N16 network and NAS benchmark results here
Belkin Play N600 HD
Homey don’t play dat
The Belkin Play Max‘s claim to fame was a fat set of hardware features and a generous collection of apps that ran not on the router but on client PCs connected to the router. In relaunching the Play Max as the Play N600 HD, Belkin has kept all the hardware features but axed three of the apps (the music library tool Daily DJ, the backup utility Memory Safe, and the MP3 tagger Music Labeler).
No big loss, as far as we’re concerned; we’re far more interested in the hardware. Like its predecessor, the Play N600 HD features two wireless radios, so you can operate distinct networks on the 2.4- and 5GHz bands, plus a second guest network (on the 2.4GHz band only) that provides Internet access while isolating visitors from your LAN. You’ll also find two USB ports, so you can share both a mass storage device and a printer across your network (but not with clients on the guest network).
The Play N600 HD’s wireless routing performance using the 2.4GHz band was distinctly middle of the road, placing third in two of our test locations and tying for third in another. On the other hand, it managed a relatively strong second-place performance in our challenging media-room test. Performance on the 5GHz band was roughly the same, except that it couldn’t penetrate our double-walled media room at all.
Belkin includes a BitTorrent client that’s useful for finishing Torrent downloads without tying up a host PC; but as you can see from our benchmark charts, the router’s NAS performance is abysmal.
You’ll find our complete Belkin Play N600 HD network and NAS benchmark results here.
Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti
This bison no longer roams
Of the three routers we’re taking second looks at, none has changed more than Buffalo’s WZR-HP-G300NH. That’s because Buffalo has thrown the firmware we tested earlier out the window and adopted the open-source DD-WRT.
Comparing our earlier benchmark numbers to the performance we recorded this time out, however, we much prefer the Kick Ass award–earning router we tested in January to the one in front of us now. That router turned in the best throughput we’ve ever seen with our client in our well-insulated media room and in our furthest outdoor location; this one took fifth-place finishes in both tests (in a field of seven). We have little doubt the reason for this performance discrepancy is due to the fact that no matter how we configured the router, we couldn’t coax Buffalo’s WLI-UC-G300HP01B USB client adapter to connect to it at a stated data rate faster than 130Mb/s.
This is a single-band router that enables you to run virtual wireless networks with distinct SSIDs, but these aren’t true guest networks that provide Internet access while isolating guest clients from your primary LAN. The router is equipped with a single USB port that’s limited to NAS functions-you can’t use it to share a printer attached to your network. It does, however, feature a DLNA-compliant media server, and it can be converted to a wireless bridge/repeater when you upgrade to a newer router down the road.
You’ll find our complete Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti WZR-HP-G300NH network results here. We didn’t test NAS performance because this router doesn’t support NTFS-formatted drives.
D-Link DIR-855 Xtreme N
Does ‘Xtreme’ refer to the price tag?
In terms of features, D-Link’s DIR-855 came the closest to matching Netgear’s routerlicious WNDR3700. It’s a simultaneous dual-band model that allows you to run guest networks on either the 2.4- or 5GHz frequencies, it provides a USB port for sharing either a printer or a storage device, it’s equipped with three removable/upgradeable antennas, it sports an OLED display, and its firmware is a tweaker’s paradise.
But the benchmark performance we experienced with the DIR-855′s 2.4GHz radio in no way justifies its astronomically high street price of $240. Netgear’s WNDR3700 V1 spanked the DIR-855 on both frequency bands, has almost as many features, and costs $90 less than D-Link’s router.
The DIR-855′s 2.4GHz radio scored fourth or fifth everywhere except at our outdoor location, where it placed first. Its 5GHz radio performed better, coming in second (behind the WNDR3700) in our two close-range tests, and third and fourth in two other tests.
On the bright side, D-Link’s firmware boasts more customizable settings than any other router in this field. You can configure both radios to operate on a schedule, so you can shut off your entire wireless network when you’re away from home (with independent schedules for your guest networks), you can grant or deny guests access to your LAN, and more. But in the final analysis, we’d be a lot more impressed if the DIR-855 was a whole lot faster and much cheaper.
You’ll find our complete D-Link DIR-855 Xtreme N Duo Media Router network and NAS benchmarks here.
Same as it ever was?
The Linksys E3000 is actually a rebadged WRT610N. We’re taking a second look at it now because it remains Cisco’s best consumer router; as such, we owe it to our readers to compare it to the best of what the rest of the industry has to offer.
We updated the router with the latest firmware for this review and downloaded fresh drivers for the Linksys AE1000 dual-band USB client adapter, so we were quite surprised to see the router perform more poorly than it did when we tested it several months ago. Cisco Connect remains the easiest tool we’ve ever used to establish a connection to a router, but Cisco’s “fix” for a problem we described in our initial review has rendered the router a whole lot less appealing.
In that earlier review, we discovered that using the router’s web interface to change the router’s SSID broke Cisco Connect. The new firmware not only forces you to use Cisco Connect to change the SSID, it uses the very same SSID for both the 2.4- and 5GHz networks. So when your client Wi-Fi adapter surveys the airspace, it sees only one network plus the guest network. That’s just dumb.
You’ll find our complete Linksys E3000 network benchmark results here. We didn’t test NAS performance because this router doesn’t support NTFS-formatted drives.
My eyes! The goggles do nothing!
We thought the 1.5×1.25-inch LCD on Trendnet’s TEW-673GRU was pretty cool at first. It informs you of the router’s status, provides real-time performance numbers, displays the time and date, and more. But our enthusiasm wilted when the display became corrupted to the point of being illegible. That’s unfortunate, because there’s a lot else to like about this router.
The TEW-673GRU is a dual-band model with two USB ports to support both a printer and a portable hard drive. It finished second in terms of TCP throughput on the 2.4GHz band (taking third place on the 5GHz band), and it turned in the fastest transfer speeds as a NAS device.
But it’s not all hot fudge and cherries with this sundae. You need to install a utility on each client PC in order to grant access to the attached storage device, for instance, and only one client can utilize those ports at a time. And while the TEW-673GR delivered high throughput to our outdoor patio using both radios, neither was able to penetrate our media room or reach our second outdoor location. The router isn’t capable of operating a guest network, either, and its integrated media server is not DLNA-compliant.
You’ll find our complete Trendnet TEW-673GRU network and NAS benchmark results here.
Netgear RangeMax V1
The winner, and still champeen!
It wasn’t much of a contest: Netgear’s WNDR3700 V1 retained its crown as our Best of the Best router with spectacular TCP through-put, a strong feature set, and an even stronger price/performance ratio. It’s the second-most expensive router we tested, but it’s worth every penny.
The WNDR3700′s 2.4GHz radio delivered the best performance at every client location except one (where it placed second), and its 5GHz radio finished first in six of our seven locations. D-Link’s DIR-855 firmware is more customizable, but Netgear’s router offers several important features D-Link can’t match, including a DLNA-compliant media server, the ability to configure either radio as a wireless bridge/repeater, and NAS functionality that doesn’t require a client-side utility.
If your ISP subjects you to download limits and penalizes you for overages, you’ll appreciate the WNDR3700′s traffic meter. This tool measures both online time and download volume and can be configured to prevent you from exceeding either quota. Unfortunately, the meter measures in aggregate, so you can’t establish limits on a per-client basis. We also find it odd that Netgear doesn’t support printer sharing on the WNDR3700′s single USB port.
We suspect the primary reason the WNDR3700′s press-time street price was so low is because Netgear was clearing inventory to make way for the WNDR3700 V2. Netgear is promising to double the router’s memory, deliver a 50 percent performance boost on the 5GHz band, and provide full support for IPv6. We can’t wait.
You’ll find our complete Netgear WNDR3700 V1 network and NAS benchmarks here.
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Google has just released a series of updates for their Google Maps Android application. Two of these updates are useful: Place page reviews and the ability to filter search results. But one of them is really interesting: real-time location updating in Google Latitude.
To be clear, this feature is an experimental one that Google is trying out. But if you enable it, your friends on the service will be able to see where you are in real-time (and vice versa, if they enable it too). Previously, location updates through Latitude would occur regularly, but not in real-time. The reason is that this constant sending of location data can wear down mobile phone batteries much quicker. Many service that update location in the background instead tend to ping towers to see if you’ve moved periodically.
But this new real-time feature is meant for short-term usage if you’re going to meet up with a friend, for example. It make sense to make this a more temporary option for both battery life, and because of the creepy factor. Even if people opt-in to using Latitude, if you know you’re being tracked in real-time, that’s fairly creepy.
Sounds awesome. Can’t wait to try it out.
This is all a part of Google Maps 4.6 for Android (1.6 and later). It’s available now in the Market or if you click here from your device.
Microsoft just released better than expected Q1 earnings, posting first-quarter revenue of $16.2 billion, an 25% increase from the same period of the prior year. Analysts expected revenue to come in at $15.8 billion. Operating income, net income and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $7.12 billion, $5.41 billion and $0.62 per share, which represented increases of 59%, 51% and 55%, respectively, when compared with the prior year period. Analysts were expecting diluted earnings per share of $0.55.
Microsoft said that the company saw year-over-year growth across all business segments. Revenue from Office 2010 grew over 15% in its first full quarter in market. The entertainment division saw strong growth as Xbox 360 console sales increased by 38%. The biggest growth came from Windows, with revenue up 66% to $4.8 billion. Windows operating profits up 124% to $3.2 billion (from $1.5 billion last year) and Windows Azure subscriptions grew by 40%.
Revenue from online business, which includes Bing, didn’t see quite as big of an uptick. Sales were up 8%, with online advertising up 13% for the quarter. Unfortunately, Microsoft reported that online business still lost $560 million in operating income.
Peter Klein, chief financial officer at Microsoft said in a statement: “This was an exceptional quarter, combining solid enterprise growth and continued strong consumer demand for Office 2010, Windows 7, and Xbox 360 consoles and games…Our ability to grow revenue while continuing to control costs allowed us to deliver another quarter of year-over-year margin expansion.”
We’ve embedded the slides and a table with segment revenues and operating profits below.
|Segment Revenue and Operating Income (Loss)|
|Three Months Ended
|Windows & Windows Live Division||$4,785||$2,880|
|Server and Tools||3,959||3,550|
|Online Services Division||527||487|
|Microsoft Business Division||5,126||4,514|
|Entertainment and Devices Division||1,795||1,412|
|Unallocated and other||3||77|
|Operating income (loss)|
|Windows & Windows Live Division||$3,323||$1,483|
|Server and Tools||1,630||1,237|
|Online Services Division||(560)||(477)|
|Microsoft Business Division||3,388||2,827|
|Entertainment and Devices Division||382||260|
Setelah mengalami stagnasi selama beberapa waktu, Yahoo akhirnya merombak layanan email miliknya. Perubahan ini merupakan perubahan paling signifikan dalam lima tahun terakhir yang menjanjikan pengalaman email yang lebih cepat, aman, dan lebih sosial.
Perubahan terbesar pada Yahoo Mail saat ini adalah adanya integrasi Facebook dan Twitter dalam sebuah halaman tabulasi baru. Pengguna akan bisa mengikuti apa yang dilakukan seorang kontak di Facebook dan Twitter termasuk melakukan update status maupun melakukan tweet. Selain itu, Yahoo juga mengintegrasikan YouTube, Flickr, dan Picasa sehingga Yahoo Mail bisa melayani segala keinginan pengguna dari satu halaman.
Antarmuka yang ditampilkan tidak terlalu berubah dari versi sebelumnya. Dengan demikian pengguna Yahoo tidak akan merasa asing. Yahoo juga menjanjikan antamuka dan pengalaman yang mirip ketika pengguna mengakses Yahoo Mail lewat iPhone, iPad ataupun dari perangkat Android.
Nvidia chips are powering a supercomputer that the graphics chip supplier claims has achieved the fastest speeds to date. The China-based “Tianhe-1A” has hit 2.507 petaflops, beating a system at Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratories.
The new system would top another Chinese supercomputer also using Nvidia chips called Nebulae, rated at 1.271 petaflops (one petaflop is one thousand trillion operations per second). Both the Nebulae and Tianhe-1A performance ratings are based on the Linpack benchmark, the most widely used performance yardstick for supercomputers. Nebulae is currently rated No. 2 in the world based on the Top500 June list. The Oak Ridge system is rated the fastest at 1.75 petaflops, according to the Top500 June list. Tianhe-1A will top the supercomputer list at a Chinese conference that starts tomorrow.
Tianhe-1A combines 7168 Nvidia Tesla M2050 graphics processing units (GPUs) with 14,336 Intel Xeon central processing units (CPUs). Nvidia is not only claiming the performance crown but a greener supercomputer, as well. The machine consumes only 4.04 megawatts, making it three times more power efficient than a CPU-only system, Nvidia said in a statement.
High-end GPUs typically contain hundreds of processing cores, allowing them to accelerate certain types of computational tasks more efficiently and thereby much faster than CPUs.
The machine, which is already fully operational, was designed by the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) and is housed at the National Supercomputing Center in Tianjin, Nvidia said. In a teleconference yesterday, Tesla chip marketing manager Sumit Gupta said applications of the “open science project” will include astrophysics, material science, and bio-chemistry. Nvidia is also working with laboratories and universities in the U.S.
China continues to increase the number of supercomputer systems on the Top500 list and is now tied with Germany at 24 for the No. 4 spot, after the U.S., U.K., and France, according to the Top500 Web site. “China also climbed with respect to overall installed performance and is now holding for the first time the No. 2 spot behind the USA and ahead of Germany,” the site said.
“China has recognized that they need to invest in high-performance computing to continue to advance their technology, to advance their research and science. They have an economy moving beyond just manufacturing,” Nvidia’s Gupta said. Because China is relatively new at building supercomputers, the use of GPUs has enabled it to “leapfrog the performance curve,” he added.
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