Tips for Buying Inexpensive Notebooks

June 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

The revolutionary notebook market is showing an upsurge in its demand over traditional counterparts viz. desktop computers. The leading players within computer market are generally coming up with innovative functions, features and rewarding offers on low cost notebooks. Visit virtually any popular IT link in your city and you will uncover computer dealers focusing more on notebooks as compared to desktops. With the expanding enthusiasm for laptops, it often becomes difficult to choose low priced as well as cheap notebook to match your budget as well as crucial computing needs. in the present article, we have offered few tips on acquiring cheap laptops .

Collect Enough InformationRegardless if you are looking for expensive or even cheapest notebook, this isessential to gather enough information before buying anything to act prudently. It is essential to have knowledge of at least few essential common techno features essential for the needs you have. take a guidance from your friends and acquaintances. if you still do not get the guidance, where is to research more than internet. get info of at least basic capabilities and than advance features as per your preferences. Many a times, little information prove to be dangerous for first time buyers.

Make a ListTheir email list of features you could add to your notebook is endless. It is important to understand as well as jot down all your specifications on paper. You should compose a list of all the things you need in your notebook to make a much better selection of an inexpensive or cheap laptop computer. Keeping following points in mind, may help you:a new) ProcessorsDifferent laptops use different types of cpus. Many computer manufacturers put a much sluggish processor in notebook to fetch more money while delivering significantly less worth to it. With regards to processors, you should opt for the fastest processor, if you’re able to afford it. Apple company is one of the most popular cpus for notebooks as well as desktops.b) Ram memoryIt is important to have sufficient Random access memory for graphics operate, image editing, and also video editing, Animations gaming etc. Specifically, notebooks those don’t possess graphic memory as well as no memory of their, need enough RAM pertaining to discrete graphic greeting card and to play the majority of the games. for standard requirements, you can decide upon at least 256 MB Ram memory for your computer. better option is to buy laptop notebook with dedicated 512 MB graphic minute card reader.

c) Hard drive Generally, all new laptops are available with 60GB hard-disk devices. however, for typical routine work, you’ll be able to opt for anything in between 200 GB in order to 500 GB.

n) Screen size and weightIf you are looking for bigger and sharper pictures, you can buy notebook having an aspect ratio regarding 16:9. Basic screen size, you can available multiple documents and web pages together. nevertheless, if you are in an excessive amount of traveling, you should stay away from buying too large screened-in notebooks. Similarly, select laptop in terms of weight and size dimensions as per your needs and convenience.

For more information about notebooks visit our website.

Thunderbirds manual is go! HAYNES technical experts delve into the engines of Tracy Island spacecraft

June 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

by Ray Massey

PUBLISHED: 02:12 EST, 2 June 2012 | UPDATED: 02:04 EST, 3 June 2012

If building a papier mache Tracy Island using tips from Blue Peter seems a little too simplistic for scientifically-minded Thunderbirds fans, the answer may finally be here.

Car maintenance experts Haynes have published an off-beat manual that opens up the secret world of the cult 1960s TV series.

created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the astronaut puppets remain as popular today as when the futuristic show was first screened nearly half a century ago.

Iconic: The manual will be the perfect resource for fans of the show who want more than a papier mache imitation of the famous Tracy Island

The fascinating Thunderbirds Agents’ Technical manual delves into the inner workings of the high-tech spacecraft launched from the remote Pacific island.

It explores the reality behind Thunderbirds 1 to 5, their base at Tracy Island and famous images including the Mole, and London agent Lady Penelope’s iconic pink Rolls-Royce FAB 1. There are also profiles of the space-age show’s key characters and a rundown of every episode.

Researched and written byThunderbirds authority Sam Denham, it features stunning cutaway illustrations by artist Graham Bleathman and includes contributionsfrom the programmes original production artist Mike Trim, who designed many of the famous ‘pod’ vehicles.

Author Sam Denham said: ’When Thunderbirds was first screened in 1965, none of the programme’s productteam could have Imagined that the series they had created would still be held in great affection by viewers around the world almost half a century later, or that  the futuristic world they had brought to the screen might be the subject of a manual such as this.’

‘but thanks to the care and attentionwith which they visualised the 21st Century adventures of the Tracy family and their Thunderbird machines, the series has enjoyed continued popularity following re-screenings and video and DVD releases.’

Puppet power: The quirky book shows scientifically-minded readers how the impressive spacecraft in the TV show would work

Mr Denham added: ’Although many of the scientific advances anticipated in the series are still technically believable, others have been superseded or proved unworkable.

‘Despite any resulting inconsistencies, the principles behind the programme still hold strong and with the advent of the digital age are perhaps even more relevant ina world increasingly reliant on science and technology.’

The series, first screened at the dawn of the space-age in in 1965 but set in futuristic 2065, centres on the exploits of former astronaut and aeronautics tycoon Jeff Tracy who sets up a secret rescue service called International Rescue following the tragic death of his wife.

He is helped by his five sons: Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon, and John – all named after real-life NASA astronauts.

They are supported by their technical wizard Brains and their household manager Kyrano and his young daughter Tin-Tin. their mortal enemy is Kyrano’s evil brother, known as ‘The Hood’, who seeks to sabotage their rescue efforts.

It spawned a series of schoolyard catchphrases from ‘F.A.B’, to the opening countdown launch sequence of: ‘5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Thunderbirds are go!’

Despite featuring puppets rather than live actors, each episode was filmed in high saturation colour, cementing their impressive longevity.

The cinematic impact, epic music and production values dubbed ‘Supermarionation’ proved an instant hit, and in the age of Concorde, the sci-fi vehicles were futuristic but believable – if mainly running on atomic power.

Haynes says: ‘The confidential Thunderbirds Agents’ Technical Manual details how Jeff Tracy can launch and manage missions from his Pacific island base, the secret hangars and specialised equipment used in missions to date.’

‘it offers unprecedented insight into the workings of the Thunderbirds craft and associated rescue vehicles.’

Managing director of  Haynes Publishing Jeremy Yates-Round said: ’Nearly 50 years after Thunderbirds first hit our screens, fans of all ages still want to know about Tracy Island, the International Rescue team and the fabulous Thunderbird crafts. We are  delighted to have the chance to bring this manual to a new generation of fans, as well as the many who grew up with this wonderful show.’

The Thunderbirds book follows other quirky Haynes technical manuals including Star Trek’s USS Enterprise; the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars; Titanic; Thomas the Tank Engine; Wallace and Gromit’s ‘cracking contraptions’; the Routemaster London Bus; Sherman and Tiger tanks; HMS Victory; and ‘Man – workshop manual: 120,000 BC to Present Day.’

Now every fan can have the chance to build their own spacecraft, ready to descend into the belly of green heavy-lift air transporter Thunderbird 2.

Like a cross between a rocket and a harrier jump-jet, International Rescue’s high-speed reconnaissance craft is designed for maximum supersonic speed (15,000mph) and hover-like flexibility using four engines and four booster rockets powered by an atomic fusion reactor.

Launch: from beneath the Tracys’ swimming pool, which slides back.

Magnificent drawings: The hangar beneath the Tracy family’s swimming pool, from which the TB1 was launched

Flagship of the International Rescue fleet, this versatile jolly green giant is IR’s heavy lift specialist. its unique feature is a series of interchangeable giant ‘pods’ carried at its centre which it can pick up and deposit. Each pod contains a different tailor-made rescue vehicle and back-up kit. these vary for the screw-nosed digger dubbed Mole, to the extinguishing Firefly and Thunderizer, or submersible Thunderbird 4.

Launch: Emerges from beneath Cliff House built into the rock-face of Tracy Island, trundles down a runway bordered by artificial palm trees which tilt back to make room for it. Concrete ram allows T2 to launch with maximum thrust. 

A 300ft tall space rocket used to shuttle the Tracys from Earth to their monitoring space-station, Thunderbird 5 in permanent orbit around the globe. Powered by an ion-drive atomic fusion reactor and chemical rockets.

Launch: through the hole at the centre of the round House building.

Smallest of the five Thunderbird craft, this bright wedge-like mini yellow submarine is transported to oceanic disaster sites in a special pod carried in the belly of Thunderbird 2. Powered by twin atomic fusion reactors and designed to operate in the deepest oceans it is vital for underwater rescues, aided by the bright front floodlights and multi-function tools, including a grab-arm and demolition missiles.

Launch: from a ‘pod’  down a rail into the water.

Stationed far above the Earth in orbit, it constantly monitors global communication with the aid of multi-waveband receivers as the  electronic eyes and ears of International Rescue constantly scanning and filtering to identify potential distress calls.

The six-wheeled  pink Rolls-Royce, which transport’s International Rescue’s sophisticated and aristocratic London agent Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward on her missions.

Powered by a compact gas-turbine jet engine, it  will manage 200mph on land and 50 knots at sea when hydrofoils are selected. Armed to the teeth with  two machine guns which emerge from behind the headlamps  and a central machine cannon which emerged through the grille to fire explosive charges.

Video camera looks through the ‘R-R’ badge. Boot contains twin machine guns, laser cannons and a hydraulic lift. Computer video and TV screen. Dashboard sat-nav. Spirit of Ecstasy doubles as a signal locator.

  • Thunderbirds Agents’ Technical manual is published on June 7, pirced

    Allied Computers offers low-cost laptop at Rs.4,999

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

    Allied Computers International (Asia) Wednesday launched here ACi Icon-1100, a laptop computer costing just Rs.4,999.

    “We are creating history and this is what the whole country has been waiting for, a fully functional, high resolution 10.2 inch screen laptop at a never before attempted price,” said managing director Hirji Patel, a non-resident Indian from Britain.

    The sleek laptop is equipped with a VIA processor, 512MB expandable to 1 GB RAM, storage 4GB expandable to 32GB, webcam, with a high-definition audio and 3 USB ports, powered by a 700 gms battery, Patel told media-persons.

    “We shall continuously develop the model to meet consumers’ needs, especially the middle-class, the poor and student community of today,” said the London-based missile scientist-turned-entrepreneur.

    Patel set up Allied Computers International (Asia) Limited and the ACi brand in may 2002.

    Besides the laptop, ACi also launched its full range of mid-to-high end laptop series having the latest technology.

    “While fulfilling our goal of developing India as a laptop nation with continuous price breaks, we shall offer latest technology in all our models to ensure India is never used as a dumping ground by other MNCs,” he said.

    The commercial launch for Icon-1100 starts next month and by August customers can buy a piece of their choice from the market.

    Q&A: Securely Erasing a Computer

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know


    What’s the most secure way remove all of the data from an old Windows XP PC before donating it?


    Simply reformatting the drive in Windows is not generally considered a secure way to erase information on the computer. To really make sure the hard disk is scrubbed clean, many security experts recommend fully wiping the computer’s drive with utility software. Because Windows cannot thoroughly wipe the same drive it is currently running on, you need to boot the computer from a system recovery disc or drive that can run the operation.

    Many commercial programs like Disk Wipe are out there, as well as free utilities like Darik’s Nuke and Boot. (Before you erase the drive, make sure you have any files you still want to keep backed up elsewhere.)

    Once you have thoroughly wiped the drive, you can either reinstall Windows from your original system discs (which you should donate as well), install a free system like Ubuntu Linux to make the computer functional, or let the company or organization you are donating the computer to decide what operating system it wants to use. the nonprofit Tech Soup site has further tips for donating a computer.

    Cuba Schools aiming for the clouds

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

    Cuba Schools are heading into the clouds—or, more precisely, toward cloud computing. the R-2 Board of Education agreed Monday night on an $80,000 project that will result in software applications being run from a remote server location, freeing up computer resource demands locally and also allowing for a transition toward a full cloud-based data and information system district-wide.

    “This is a step—the first step—toward virtualization,” explained computer systems expert Ryan Keele of Midwest Computech in his presentation to the board. “It is moving you toward a more centralized, managed server system. Ultimately, this cuts down on your need for technical staff working on individual desktops for software or hardware upgrades. You’re eliminating labor time and also opening up new possibilities for the future. In the end, you will save money in equipment costs as you begin to replace your existing desktops with ones that don’t require all the extra hardware.”

    Keele said housing documents and applications on remote cloud servers, rather than physical desktops, allows students and teachers to work on their projects both at school and at home via an internet connection. a simple, one-time software download allows home users to tap into the school’s network through Citrix XenApp software. he said it’s a simple system that is also fully encrypted and secure from hacking.

    “What it does is streamline your applications and the delivery of files and other information to the students and staff members in your district,” said Keele. “Really, the huge benefit to students is it helps those students who do not have the nicest, newest computer technology at home. By reducing their resource requirements, they can have an older computer at home, running an older operating system, but it still works just fine.”

    Keele indicated there would not be file format or operating system conflicts, as the Citrix system will work on all platforms, Windows or Mac. It even works on next-generation platforms, such as iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and other tablets.

    The one-time startup cost through Midwest Computech is $78,911.84. that includes the implementation of new software and five remote servers to handle up to 270 licenses online at any given time. Training and other needs are also part of the Midwest commitment. There is an additional cost of $9,150 for “software assurance,” essentially providing for future software upgrades across the entire system.

    “I think it sounds great,” said school board member Alex Steiger, “and the way that most businesses and other organizations are going to. my only concern would be the return on investment and what our long term savings might be.”

    Keele indicated that it would lessen the district’s future needs for computer tech personnel and that desktop equipment costs would be substantially reduced over the long haul. “Since you’re running everything off the server, the desktop just isn’t as important anymore,” he said. “You may be able to stretch out the usage of your existing computers by another one or two years because they require much less in resource power.”

    The board debated acting immediately to implement the plan or waiting to consider it further, due to costs. Superintendent Johnny Thompson said he included the cost of the project in the 2012-2013 district budget and felt like it makes sense to make the system changes now, while school is out of session. “My feeling is this would help set us in motion for where we want to go in the future (with our technology system),” said Thompson. “I feel we should do it now and have it already in place when students return to campus in August.”

    The board agreed with Thompson’s recommendation and unanimously approved the Midwest Computech bid. the system is expected to be ready for the district’s new school year.

    Why Portable Air Conditioners Help Computer Server Rooms

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

    There are many different design elements that must be implemented in a building in order to support an effective and operational computer server room. Specific electrical requirements, grounded floors and fire safety devices must all be installed to ensure the electronic gear can run for weeks at a time without requiring maintenance. One of the most important considerations is how to keep the room cool enough to prevent the equipment from overheating. There are many reasons why businesses and other institutions choose to maintain portable air conditioning units for computer hardware.

    Moisture in the room can potentially be one of the most damaging elements to a computer server setup. Circuitry, cables and even electrical wiring can all oxidize over time and then fail in humid environments. a portable air conditioner that is designed to cool a large room will not only keep the temperatures within a safe range for the equipment but will also draw moisture out of the air. Equipment that is functioning in a sufficiently dry environment will cool down faster and operate more efficiently. Dry air can also increase the life of the circuitry.

    Flexibility During Construction

    The type of commercial portable air conditioning that is used to keep server rooms cool can allow the location of the equipment to be changed as needed. this can be important during the construction or renovation of a space where consistent electrical or water supplies to an internal cooling system might not be available. Portable systems allow a business or agency to maintain servers and keep core systems operational even if the surrounding physical location is in flux.

    Reduced Risk Of Damage

    The nature of portable air conditioning systems is different from other types of integral cooling systems that are installed in large rooms. Cooling units that use water or units that are installed in unique ways often have some potential for a catastrophic failure that can damage electronic equipment. One example is sudden flooding or humidity caused by leaks or damage to a cold water circulation system. the isolated and self-contained nature of a portable air conditioner helps to reduce the risk of damage to computer hardware due to equipment failure.

    Many institutions and businesses maintain portable air conditioning units for the sole purpose of keeping servers operating during events such as a blackout or natural disaster. Portable systems can be quickly activated and start to work immediately. some businesses even maintain systems in unused rooms in the event that server racks will need to be physically relocated because of structural damage, flooding or a fire.

    What Android’s Jelly Bean Does To Advance Mobile

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

    At the I/O conference today,Google provided an update on its operating system, launched a tablet, illustrated cool glass with a skydiving demo and generally delighted a bunch of developers.  The  company shared the latest stats. over 400 million Android-based devices (phones and tablets) have been sold, compared to 100 million at last year’s conference. over 1 million Android devices (phones and tablets) are activated every day, up from 400,000 a year ago. this translated to roughly 11.5 Android device activiation per second. Compare this to 2010 at CES and in 2011 on Twitter when Nokia said it sells 13 phones per second. Clearly, there has been a rapid ramp in Android which is hurting Nokia and RIM. but unlike Nokia, Android’s volume is spread over a wide range of device manufacturers. The fragmented market will create challenges for many device manufacturers. However, the operating system will improve what a majority of  consumers will be able to do in the future. Some takeaways from the morning keynote:

    The operating system will anticipate your next action to improve your experience. for example, both Google and RIM have demonstrated the ability for the OS to predict what words you will type next and automatically type them for you.  In the newest version of Android, the OS will predict the next place you will touch on the screen to make your touch interface more responsive. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is incremental but necessary. Android 4.1 improves the performance of scrolling and swiping by predicting where the user is most likely to touch. this prediction speeds up the response time. It might sound trivial but response time for touch is a critical part of the mobile experience.

    Search gets a remake. The biggest new feature consists of various improvements to search. In Jelly Bean, Google overhauled search, making the interface more visual with what it called cards. It’s faster with more natural language voice search. Cards have pictures or maps and shortcuts. Web search results are also presented as a  back up set of data sources for the card.

    Voice typing works without a data connection. In a move that makes Siri look outdated, Google showed a demo of  translating voice to  text while in airplane mode. The service will start with English and add other languages.

    Google Now is a set of context services that I’ve been calling Right Time Experiences. for some time I’ve said that applications would become predictive adaptive and semantic. Google announced Google Now, which is supposed to get you the right information at the right time automatically. The Google Now services will learn over time and become most customized to an individual user. Google illustrated several examples of this at I/O including places, traffic, and appointments. What do I mean by this? In the past, an application or a service was a self-contained entity. for example, your calendar only knew about your appointments and a CRM system only had access let a limited source of customer data. Today, data sources such as a weather, traffic feeds etc. have APIs that allows an application to connect to it. Location and social graphs can also be accessed if the user allows it. Applications will tap into available sources such as your calendar, your location, and a traffic feed. with this data a map application such as Google Maps could alert you that there is a road closure and you’ll need to leave earlier to make your appointment. Services will gather data from multiple sources and make recommendations or deliver content based on what you need.

    Every six months mobile operating systems advance toward next-generation operating systems that run across a wide range of connected devices spanning phones to automobiles. In fact, the term mobile operating system will fade away as the OS that runs your smartphone can be the same OS that runs your home automation system and your car. I look forward to seeing what’s next for Apple, RIM and Microsoft.

    Encryption Is Not a Silver Bullet

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

    Secure data being beamed across the Internet it? Encrypt it. Protect data at rest from being accessed? Encrypt it. it seems like encryption is the answer to all of your security concerns. That’s true to an extent, but even encryption has its limitations.

    Encryption is a perfectly viable solution for securing data, but it’s not invulnerable–especially for data at rest, like files stored on backup media. Today’s unbreakable algorithm is tomorrow’s cracked encryption.

    The idea of encryption dates back centuries. At its core, it’s nothing more than replacing information with other data that makes it appear to be gibberish unless you have the key that helps you reverse the process (decrypt) so you can recover the original information.

    One of the most well-known examples of encryption is the Caesar Cipher. Attribute to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar, the code involved simply offsetting the letters of the alphabet by a specified number. For example, an offset of four would make an “A” become a “E”, a “B” become an “F”, and so on. The resulting message would seem like a random jumble of letters unless you knew how it was encrypted, and what the offset number was.

    At the time, the Caesar Cipher represented the pinnacle of cryptographic achievement, but now it’s considered child’s play. The same thing has happened time and time again, though, with every other form of coding and encryption that has come along. The reality is that an encryption algorithm invented today may be virtually uncrackable…today. given enough time, resources, and dedication, though, someone will eventually crack the code.

    What does that mean for you? it means two things. First, You should definitely employ encryption to protect your data whether it’s in transit across the Internet or resting safely on your laptop’s hard drive, but you should be aware that it’s just another element of computer and data security and understand that it’s not impenetrable.

    The second thing is more important. The encryption algorithm you use to protect your data may be very strong today, but if you fast forward a year, or ten years, or fifty years, it may seem like just another Caesar Cipher that any bored teen can crack with a few hours on their hands. Backup data may be forgotten and neglected, and years from now the data that was encrypted when the data was backed up may no longer be adequately protected.

    Fujitsu researchers recently cracked encryption with a 923-bit key in just under 150 days using 21 computers (with a combined total of 252 processor cores). Your average attacker doesn’t have the kind of resources that Fujitsu used, and it’s fair to assume an attacker wouldn’t be dedicated enough to devote half a year to gaining access to your data, but the point is that the “unbreakable” can still be cracked.

    Encryption is a vital tool for privacy, computer security, and data protection. just be aware that it’s not a Holy Grail, and that you occasionally need to update to newer encryption algorithms to stay a step ahead.

    Tech tips – Codecs

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

    Multimedia streams, like those from YouTube usually contain multiple elements (data streams) including audio, video and metadata.

    A codec is a computer program or process capable of encoding or decoding a digital stream of data, and the word codec is a portmanteau of coder-decoder. Unfortunately, the word codec is often confused with coding or compression formats.

    with streaming media, each of the data streams might be handled by different codecs in the computer, but for multimedia data streams to be useful in stored or transmitted form, they need to be encapsulated together in a media container format, a metafile format that specifies how different data elements and metadata coexist in a computer file.

    Roxio Pro 2012 comes bundled with DivX Plus software.

    DivX Plus is a suite of software that contains the DivX codec, a standalone media player, a video converter and media player plug-in for web browsers.

    The DivX codec is one of several commonly associated with format shifting, also known as ripping. This is the process of transferring audio and video multimedia from an optical disk, such as a DVD or Blu-ray, to a hard disk and then transcoding it for use on other devices.

    David Hallett is the chief nerd of Need A Nerd in the Waikato. Need A Nerd can be reached on 0800633326 (NEED A NERD). to ask a question email and be in with a chance to win Norton 360 Version 6 by Symantec ($129 for three PCs).

    – © Fairfax NZ News

    The future is voice control

    June 30, 2012 by  
    Filed under Every thing you Need to Know

    The Irish Times – Thursday, June 28, 2012

    iPhone users are already speaking to their mobiles via ‘Siri’. Voice technology is progressing fast, with car manufacturers taking it on board, writes DAVIN O’DWYER 

    FROM THE malevolent HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey to the helpful Kitt in Knight Rider, the computers and robots of our dreams for the future have one thing in common – they talk to us and, almost more importantly, they listen. that vision of holding conversations with sentient computers might seem like the preserve of science fiction but, amazingly, it’s a future that is already showing signs of having arrived.

    At Nuance, the leaders in voice-recognition technology, they call it the “Siri effect” – people are asking questions of their iPhones in their millions, the first sign that voice-recognition technology is ready to go mainstream.

    The firm has just opened its international headquarters in Dublin, creating more than 40 jobs and, judging from the technologies that Nuance is working on, this is a company poised to transform how we interact with technology – it’s not going to stop at smartphones, not by a long shot.

    One of the most obvious applications for this advanced interaction paradigm is the car. at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference last week, the Cupertino tech giant announced the “Eyes Free” version of its voice-activated personal assistant, which will make it ideal for implementation in vehicles – BMW, General Motors, Mercedes, Land Rover, Jaguar, Audi, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda were said to be preparing to adopt the technology with an activation button on the steering wheel. Eyes stay on the road and hands on the wheel, rather than on the touch-screen device.

    One notable absentee from the list of early partners with Apple’s “Eyes Free” scheme was Ford, which has been pioneering its own similar technology for a few years now. Recently, Ford and Nuance gave a display of some of the technologies they are co-operating on at Ford’s European research centre in Aachen in western Germany.

    The event demonstrated the degree to which the automobile industry is betting on a voice-controlled future – the ability to choose music, get directions and reply to text messages, all things that people are used to doing with frictionless ease these days, becomes considerably safer when conducted via voice control.

    Ford introduced its Ford Sync technology in its US models back in 2007, but will be introducing the integrated communications and entertainment system in European models only later this year. Built by Microsoft and powered by Nuance’s voice-recognition technology, it allows for an impressively futuristic level of engagement with the car. It’s not quite Kitt, obviously, but it illustrates the simple power, and promise, of voice control.

    “Mobility has changed from the Model T to the iPhone,” says Pim van der Jagt, managing director of the Aachen research centre. Solving the problem of how to integrate the mobile communications technology of today and tomorrow with transport technology is a key challenge for the big car makers.

    Ford Sync uses Bluetooth to communicate with iPhones, Blackberries and Android smartphones, allowing for calls to be initiated by spoken command and text messages to be dictated.

    Van der Jagt is frank about Ford’s recent woes, acknowledging that product quality was a key reason for its financial problems. with that in mind, focusing on improving the driving experience through the application of bleeding-edge technology is a cornerstone of its continued recovery, he says.

    Of course, it’s not easy for a car maker to become a tech company, and the latest generation of Ford’s in-car communication and control system, featuring an 8in touchscreen, and dubbed MyFord Touch, has been beset by reliability and usability problems.

    The difficulties with MyFord Touch illustrates the challenge faced by all companies as they face a software-dependent future. still, Ford Sync has so far been deployed on four million vehicles in the US, and the company is aiming for 13 million Sync customers worldwide by 2015, including 3.5 million in Europe.

    Ford is also pitching plenty of ideas about how imminent technology might radically improve the driving experience, only some of which rely on voice recognition.

    According to van der Jagt, Ford and other car manufacturers are co-operating on a secure communication protocol between cars that will allow for real-time traffic and safety information to be transmitted between vehicles, potentially vastly improving road safety. (A vaguely similar technology featured in an aspirational, and overly optimistic, Ford promotional video all the way back in 1966.)

    The realistic timeline for the implementation of those ambitious plans is many years in the future, but voice control is a more immediate addition to our driving environment – the problems posed by parsing human speech patterns, eliminating background noise and understanding various accents are hugely challenging, but the solutions have improved dramatically in recent years.

    “Voice technology has matured beyond simply recognising what has been said, to now include natural language processing that understands what we mean, to access content and achieve specific outcomes,” says Stefan Ortmanns, a senior vice-president of mobile engineering at Nuance.

    Ortmanns suggests that the technological limitations that for so long restricted voice recognition to rudimentary functions such as answer-machine services are being quickly overcome – the Siri effect calls is evidence enough of that.

    Massachusetts-based Nuance has maintained a relatively low profile for a company that will help shape our technological future.

    Born out of numerous mergers and acquisitions – more than 40 at the last count – its patent portfolio makes it the undisputed leader in the voice-control industry.

    It powers the voice-recognition services of a huge range of companies, from healthcare dictation firms through airlines and smartphone manufacturers – and while it refuses to admit it openly, given Apple’s penchant for secrecy, Nuance also powers Siri, the iPhone’s personal assistant software that will soon be the voice of a fleet of vehicles from other companies.

    Its own Dragon Dictate software is the market leader in dictation for good reason – it is uncannily accurate at understanding a range of accents.

    At the event in Aachen, Dragon Dictate didn’t hesitate even when faced with heavily accented English. Its smartphone microphone app even allows Dragon Dictate users to speak into their phone and their words to appear, as if by magic, on their computers.

    But it’s not just stenographers who should be worried about their future – Nuance has also incorporated voice controls into TV sets and coffee makers. While the benefit of asking your snazzy Jura Impressa Z7 One Touch Voice coffee machine to churn out a frothy cappuccino is somewhat compromised by having to position a cup underneath the nozzle and press a button anyway – baristas can breathe a sigh of relief – the potential for voice-controlled television is huge.

    A Nuance representative demonstrated the power already available in its Dragon TV software – sitting on a couch a few feet from his TV set, he asked for CNN. The TV obliged, changing to the news network.

    “Dragon TV, what Harrison Ford films are on tonight?” he asked. no Indiana Jones movies on, unfortunately, but a verbal request to record The Devil’s own to the DVR was quickly confirmed.

    Even from this relatively simple, albeit impressive, display of voice recognition, it’s possible to imagine a future where we instruct our homes to adjust the temperature and dim the lights, ask our computers to find a recipe and read it aloud, handlessly initiate phone calls and dictate messages and, yes, have conversations with our cars.

    Where is all this voice technology leading? “Towards artificial intelligence,” Ortmanns suggests, matter of factly. The challenges to be met before then are huge – it will be many years before our speech is understood perfectly, never mind the development of artificial intelligence. but we are facing the reality that the ability to talk, for so long a distinctly human quality, might not be restricted to our species for much longer. say hello to the future, and the future is likely to answer back.


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