Entries in Computers (11)


Your TV Set-Top Box Never Sleeps, and It Costs You

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Not many of us watch television 24 hours a day — but we might as well.

Even when people’s TVs are turned off, the set-top boxes from our cable company, telephone company or satellite provider keep on running, gobbling energy and jacking up our electric bills. The worst offenders are digital video recorders (DVRs), which are essentially always on.

On Thursday the industry announced a voluntary program to try to rein in those power-hungry devices.

“It’s really an unprecedented agreement,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of Technology for the Consumer Electronics Association. “We estimate that consumers are going to save once this agreement is fully implemented over the next five years $1.5 billion dollars annually, so it’s a significant agreement in terms of its energy savings.”

The move comes as federal regulators debate whether to impose national energy standards on the box-top sets.

Also, last year, the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, released a report citing the boxes for energy waste, estimating they consume $2 billion dollars a year in electricity when they are not in use.

NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz Thursday told ABC News, “The industry is taking some initial, modest first steps which we support, but they are not going far enough.” He said most consumers have no idea that “new DVRs typically consume as much or more energy than the 42-inch TVs that they might have connected it to.”

The industry insists that Thursday’s announcement is a “significant” move. Big cable providers, including Comcast and Time Warner, will take the first steps. They’ll send software changes to the 10 million cable boxes already in homes, to put them in a “light sleep” mode when they’re not in use. That could cut power use by 20 to 30 percent.

Under the agreement, cable companies will also develop and test “deep sleep” devices to see if they are feasible. The industry also promised that starting next year, at least 90 percent of the new boxes it buys and gives to consumers will meet tougher EPA energy savings standards.

Fifteen companies that have signed onto the agreement: Comcast, DirecTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and Century Link; and the manufacturers Cisco, Motorola, EchoStar Technologies and Arris.

According to the CEA, the consumer electronics in your home today account for about 13 percent of your energy bill. The top three offenders: the TV, computer, and those set-top boxes.

The NRDC’s Horowitz said pay-TV providers need to take a page from today’s smartphones, “which sip rather than gulp power when not in use.” He said he sees today’s move as an industry attempt to head off government regulation. He said mandatory energy standards would be “the best way to ensure that these new boxes will be more efficient.”

The CEA’s Johnson disagreed, arguing that “the voluntary agreement really represents the best way to meet the government’s goal of saving energy” by protecting “innovation, competition and consumer choice.”

The industry promises to release regular reports detailing the future energy savings generated by the new agreement, something the NRDC will be keeping a close watch on.

For consumers, there’s little they can do to stop the energy drain on their own. The only way to “reduce the stand-by powers in the middle of the night is to unplug (the boxes),” said Horowitz, “and that’s not an attractive option for most consumers.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Microsoft Launches Surface Tablet for $499 with Ad Blitz

Microsoft's own Surface tablet and its magnetic Touch Cover. (Microsoft)(REDMOND, Wash.) -- While companies from HP to Acer to Lenovo have announced information about their forthcoming Windows 8 tablets and computers, Microsoft itself has stayed relatively quiet about its own hardware -- its Surface tablet. That is, until Tuesday.

Tuesday morning the company revealed that its first tablet computer will be available for pre-order starting at 9 a.m. Pacific Time Monday from It will start shipping and be on sale at Microsoft stores on Oct. 26, the same date that Windows 8 is officially available.

The Surface, which has a 10.6-inch screen and a pop-out kickstand, will start at $499 for the 32GB version. The base model doesn't include the company's new and innovative Touch Cover, which clips to the bottom of the tablet and doubles as a keyboard and a protective cover.

The 32GB tablet with the Touch Cover will cost $599. A 64GB version with the Touch Cover will start at $699. The Touch Cover separately will cost $119.99 and comes in a rainbow of colors, including red, blue, magenta, and white.

The price is competitive with Apple's iPad, which starts at $499 with 16GB of storage space. But the Surface is more expensive than many had predicted.

"We wanted a base package that would let people enter the tablet market. It's highly competitive," Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live division, said when speaking to a group of journalists on Microsoft's campus Monday. "We know the prices of our competitor and we know this is a better deal, plus it is a bigger screen and holds more stuff."

While a number of Android tablets have fallen below the $300 price level and a few below $200, all of the Windows 8 tablets and computers introduced so far are priced at $499 or more.

And that's intentional. Microsoft is marketing the Surface and other still-to-come Windows 8 devices as more than just tablets -- they are computers. They are the Windows experience completely "reimagined."

"We think of PCs as a generic device that can work across a number of different scenarios and form factors. They have peripherals and ecosystems and we wanted to bring all of that goodness to a kind of device that you carry along with you all the time, that has all-day battery life with its roots in the ecosystem and in the notion of productivity," Sinofsky said. "That's where we start with Surface. That's the perspective we bring to market."

The Surface is, however, just as much about hardware as it is about software for Microsoft. After years of letting other companies make hardware, the company decided to create the best hardware, it says, to set the best stage for Windows 8.

The tablet is crafted from a new "VaporMg" metal Microsoft says it developed to make the Surface extra-durable, able to withstand drops and bruises. The kickstand mechanism has been specially developed, even down to the very sound it makes when you snap it back. The Touch Cover keyboard doesn't have physical keys, but touch sensors built into the cover. And the 10.6-inch, ClearType HD screen was also specially made so it could accommodate a wider keyboard.

"We had to use every ounce of space smartly," said Panos Panay, the general manager of the Microsoft Surface project. Panos and his team went through over 250 mock-ups of the design for the tablet.

The tablet has a lower-powered Nvidia ARM processor, which unlike Intel processors is built on totally different underlying architecture. The new architecture doesn't let you run older apps on the tablet (you can still run those older apps on Windows Pro tablets or computers), but it does come with Microsoft Office 2013.

Microsoft's investment in the production of the Surface was clearly no small undertaking, and neither are its marketing efforts. Over the next couple of weeks Microsoft's advertising will be hard to avoid. It has begun running Windows 8 countdown ads on TV and just released a brand new ad for the Surface itself, heavy on dancing and choreography.

Additionally, Microsoft will open more of its own stores. Over the holiday season, it will put up an additional 34 holiday shops, making for 65 stores nationwide for the heavy buying season. On Oct. 26 it will launch a pop-up store in New York's Times Square, which will feature Surface front and center.

"I have used a lot of tablets and this is not a tablet, but this is the best tablet I have ever used. I've used a lot of laptops and this is not a laptop, but it is also the very best laptop I have ever used," Sinofsky said. "It's a new kind of device."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lenovo to Start Making Computers and Tablets in the US

Lenovo(MORRISVILLE, N.C.) -- While many PC companies have their headquarters in the U.S. -- HP, Apple and Dell, for example -- they build the computers overseas, primarily in China. Lenovo is going the other way, creating a PC production line in the U.S.

After two decides of making computers and other gadgets overseas, Lenovo will start making hardware in early 2013 in Whitsett, N.C., near the company's U.S. headquarters.

"I am very excited about this for two reasons," David Schmoock, president of Lenovo North America, told ABC News. "The first is that this is the right time to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. The second is that we will be able to provide something different than what our competitors do."

Lenovo will make some of its newest products at the new assembly line, including the ThinkCentre M92p desktop and the ThinkPad Tablet 2 with Windows 8. While many of the core components -- RAM, hard drives, displays, etc. -- in the laptop will be made overseas, Schmoock said the company is hoping to source more components locally over time.

"We believe local manufacturing is a strategic advantage and we want to do as much local sourcing as we can too," he said in an interview.

The manufacturing line is in the process of being built and is scheduled to open its doors in January 2013. The company will begin hiring for the 115 manufacturing jobs later this year, but Schmoock says that is just the start for the jobs this could create.

"I am bullish on this and I expect that it will grow over time. This is just the first phase."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Many Play Russian Roulette with Critical Files

John Howard/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you’re like most people, you’ve got critical files on your PC at work and home or on your smartphone.

And while most people back up their files, many don’t, according to a survey conducted by hard drive manufacturer Seagate and Harris Interactive.

When 2,205 people were asked whether their digital content was valuable, 90 percent of respondents agreed. However, 19 percent of men acknowledged that they never back up their files at all and 30 percent of women admitted the same.

As for how often people back up their files, just 10 percent claimed to do it every day and only eight percent utilize cloud backup services such as DropBox and Carbonite. Mostly, people will use external hard drives and USB flash drives to store their stuff for safekeeping.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Windows 8 Tablets and Computers Coming in Late October

Microsoft(TORONTO) -- Windows 8 devices will hit store shelves “in late October,” Microsoft’s CFO of Windows and Windows Live, Tami Reller, said at the company’s Worldwide Partner Conference today. Windows 8 software will be released to manufacturers the first week in August, Reller said, and software and devices will be in stores in late October.

Reller didn’t specify when Microsoft’s own Surface tablet would hit the market. The late October timing would put Windows 8 devices on shelves by the holiday season.

Microsoft announced the Surface tablets in June; the tablets will run Windows 8 and will be available with unique keyboard docks. Microsoft’s partners, including Lenovo, Asus, and Acer, are expected to release a number of Windows 8 computers this year with interesting form factors.

Amazon is expected to release a new Kindle Fire tablet in the next couple of months and Apple has been rumored to be planning to release a 7-inch iPad in September.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Vizio Aims to Stand Out in Laptop Market with Clean Software and Design

Vizio(NEW YORK) -- When you hear "Vizio," you likely think about the affordable HDTVs lining the aisles at Costco, Sam's Club and other retailers. But very soon you might start associating the company with computers.

On Thursday Vizio launched a new line of Windows 7 computers, including two thin and light laptops, one standard laptop and two all-in-one desktop computers. All of the machines start at just $898.

"Vizio is launching a PC product line with premium design, ultra-thin form factors, and best in class performance," Vizio CTO Matt McRae told ABC News.

But McRae is determined to set Vizio apart from the other companies, like Dell and HP, which are all vying for a piece of the Windows computer market. And one of the ways it plans to do that is through clean installs of Windows. All of the new Vizio PCs will have Microsoft's Signature edition of Windows 7, which means it won't be preloaded with any ads or third-party software when you get it out of the box.

"The software image is fully optimized and contains no bloatware that can ruin the customer experience and reduces overall system performance," McRae stressed.

Other PC makers offer the Signature experience, but they only offer them on limited models and at limited locations. Vizio's new computers will be available at Walmart, Sam's Club, Costco, Target, and Microsoft's own store.

But Vizio has also differentiated itself in another way, and that's with the cost, performance and design balance. The Vizio Thin+Light laptops come in two varieties -- one with a 14-inch screen and another with a 15.6-inch screen -- and start at just $898.

Considered to be ultrabooks (Intel's designated term for a new category of thin laptops), the machines are made of aluminum and the bottom case is coated in a soft-touch rubber material. The laptops are powered by the latest Intel processors and have fast solid-state drives.

ABC News got a look at the 15.6-inch model earlier Thursday and the system boots up in less than 30 seconds. It also had a nice matte (or non-glossy) screen and a comfortable keyboard. The laptop felt quite sturdy, especially for its price.

Vizio will offer another laptop, called the Vizio Notebook, which is thicker than the Thin+Light models, but has faster Nvidia graphics. Select models will also have full 1080p HD screens.

Rounding out the new line of computers are two all-in-one desktops. There are 24- and 27-inch models, both of which have 1080p HD displays, HDMI inputs for connecting cable boxes and game consoles, and SRS sound.

And that's the last place Vizio is hoping to stand out. "And as consumers increasingly use their computers for entertainment and internet streaming, the Vizio PCs will provide an unmatched video and audio experience," McRae added.

Vizio launched its own $299 Android tablet last year. The product was hampered by a number of issues, including outdated software and slow performance. However, this time Vizio doesn't want to just be another one in the crop, even if it is new to the block.

"If you rewind eight to ten years ago, the TV market looked similar to the PC space today," McRae said. "It was a mature market with lots of companies. We did pretty well. We are now the number one TV company in the United States. We've done this before. "

The whole line of Vizio PCs will be available in the coming weeks.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


TVs and Cameras' Life Spans Greater Than Other Electronic Gadgets

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- How long will your favorite electronic gadget continue to function before the digital reaper calls it to the junk heap?

According to a recent survey by Consumer Reports, the answer differs widely, depending on what kind of gizmo you have.  The repair rate -- meaning failure rate -- for laptop computers three to four years old, for example, is 36 percent.  That’s higher than the rate for desktops (32 percent), LCD televisions (15 percent) or plasma TVs (10 percent) of comparable age.

Laptops, says the magazine, are “among the most repair-prone products you can buy” -- on par with the most troublesome appliances, including riding lawn mowers and side-by-side refrigerators (The survey looked at other kinds of goods besides consumer electronics).

“TVs and cameras are pretty reliable,” says Mark Kotkin, Consumer Reports’ director of survey research.  “Computers less so.”

Digital cameras, he says, typically live eight years before they break, making them among the longest-lived of any gadgets surveyed.

Respondents labeled Gateway’s desktops repair-prone, but Apple’s as reliable.  Reliable, too, were Toshiba and Acer laptops.  LCD TVs made by Panasonic, Sanyo and Sylvania were less likely to die than those made by Westinghouse, Polaroid and Mitsubishi.

Anthony Scarsella, chief gadget officer of, a website where consumers can resell their broken, outmoded or otherwise cast-off electonics, says Apple’s products are among the best made and least likely to break.  The reason people sell old iPhones through Gazelle isn’t so much because the phones break as because owners want to upgrade to a newer model, Scarsella says.

Even the life cycle of an iPhone, though, is limited: Its built-in battery, according to website eHow, can take only so many rechargings and begins to die after several hundred chargings, or two or three years.  At that point, the owner faces the choice of paying Apple to put in a new battery or buying a new phone.

It’s easier to buy a new model, says Scarcella, and the cost, especially if you resell your dead phone, is not significantly higher.

“The iPhone, the iPad, the MacBook Air, the Macbook Pro -- all hold their value very well,” he says.  “When you sell them, you can get a pretty good return.”

He says he does see dead and broken gadgets, but fewer all the time, since consumers, having wised up to their gadgets’ resale values, are taking better care of them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New iPad Pre-Order Stock Sells Out; Lines Start to Form at Apple Stores

Apple, Inc.(NEW YORK) -- It’s new iPad week -- or at least it will be come Friday when Apple’s newest version of its tablet starts landing in the hands of customers.

The launch stock of the much-anticipated tablet is already depleted. Apple’s online store shows that the new tablet will now ship in two to three weeks. Those who ordered immediately will receive their tablets on Friday, with some people already reporting that boxes have arrived at their local FedEx locations.

Apple isn’t revealing how many it has sold so far — it usually reserves that stat for the Monday after it has started to go on sale — but Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller did tell ABC News that demand has been “off the charts.”

“The quantity available for pre-order has been purchased, customers can continue to order online and receive an estimated delivery date,” said Muller. “Beginning Friday, March 16, the new iPad will be available for purchase at Apple’s retail stores and select Apple authorized resellers on a first come, first-served basis.”

Apple hasn’t announced the exact time the tablets will go on sale at retail stores on Friday, but because the immediate online stock is sold out, lines are expected to be long. And in typical Apple-product-launch fashion, they have already started to form at some stores.

The new iPad starts at $499 and has a higher resolution display, an improved camera, and 4G / LTE capabilities.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Steve Jobs' Biological Dad Regrets Adoption

A 22-year old Steve Jobs poses at the first West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco, California, where the Apple II computer was debuted. Tom Munnecke/Getty Images (CUPERTINO, Calif.) -- In the wake of Steve Jobs' resignation as Apple CEO last week, the billionaire's biological father has told media outlets that he regrets giving up his son for adoption some fifty years ago.

Abdulfattah John Jandali, a Syrian immigrant who now works as a vice-president at a casino in a Reno, Nev., was quoted by the New York Post as saying he didn't know until just a few years ago that the baby he and his ex-wife, Joanne Simpson, gave up grew to be Apple's CEO. Jandali has emailed his son a few times, he said, but did not call Jobs for fear that he would think Jandali was after his fortune.

Jandali told the Post that had it been his choice, he would have kept the baby, but Simpson's father did not approve of her marrying a Syrian, so she moved to San Francisco to have the baby alone and give it up for adoption.

Jandali said he hoped Jobs would call him someday, and would be happy for the two of them to get just a cup of coffee together once before it is too late. Jandali is 80, and Jobs has been in declining health.

Jandali did not immediately return calls for comment from ABC News.

Though he was one of the world's most famous CEOs, Steve Jobs has remained stubbornly private about his personal life, ignoring the media and the public's thirst for knowledge about his inner life ever since he co-founded Apple Computer in 1976.

"He's never been a media person," said industry analyst Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies. "He's granted interviews in the context of product launches, when it benefits Apple, but you never see him talk about himself."

Bajarin said Jobs, 56, keeps a close cadre of friends, including John Lasseter of Pixar and Larry Ellison of Oracle, but beyond that, shares very little of his personal life with anyone.

But that personal life -- given up at birth for adoption, romantic links with movie stars, a child out of wedlock -- is full of intrigue for his fanbase and Apple consumers.

Many fans know that Jobs and his wife, Laurene Powell, have been married for over twenty years; the two were married in a small ceremony in Yosemite National Park in 1991, live in Woodside, Calif., and have three children: Reed Paul, Erin Sienna, and Eve.

Less well-known are the other members of his family. He has a daughter, Lisa Brennan Jobs, born in 1978 with his high school girlfriend, Chris Ann Brennan.

His sister is Mona Simpson, the acclaimed writer of books like Anywhere But Here. Jobs did not meet Simpson until they were adults, when he was seeking information on his birth parents. Simpson later wrote a book based on their relationship. In the book, A Regular Guy, Simpson shed light on Jobs's relationship with Brennan and his daughter, Lisa.

Fortune magazine reported that Jobs denied paternity of Lisa for years, at one point swearing in a court document that he was infertile and could not have children. According to the report, Chris Ann Brennan collected welfare for a time to support the child, until Jobs later acknowledged Lisa as his daughter.

The highlights of Jobs's career trajectory are well-known: a prodigy who dropped out of college and, at 21, started a computer company with his buddy Steve Wozniak in his parents' garage; a multimillionaire by 25; on the cover of Time magazine at 26; and thrown out of the company at age 30, in 1985.

During those years, though, Jobs also lived an exciting personal life. At Reed, Jobs became romantically involved with the singer Joan Baez, according to Elizabeth Holmes, a friend and classmate. In The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, Holmes tells biographer Alan Deutschman that Jobs broke up with his serious girlfriend to "begin an affair with the charismatic singer-activist." Holmes confirmed these details to ABC News.

Deutschman's book also says Jobs went on a blind date with Diane Keaton; went out with Lisa Birnbach, author of The Preppy Handbook; and hand-delivered computers to celebrities he admired. Deutschman did not immediately return calls for comment.

Most recently, as Jobs battled pancreatic cancer, he shied away from disclosing health details to the public or to his employees. Fortune magazine reported that instead of surgery to remove the malignant tumor, Jobs instead treated his tumor with a special diet. The Apple Board of Directors pressured Jobs to get the surgery, and eventually he did.

As Jobs went through professional ups and downs -- leaving Apple, working at NeXT and Pixar, and eventually returning to Apple -- he kept his private life closely guarded. Now, as he steps down as CEO of Apple, the public will be watching this private man to see what comeback might be next.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


How Often Do You Have to Replace Pricey Products?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As consumers well know, products from computers to cars to medications and foods often come with instructions on how long they should be kept before being replaced.

But, more often than not, the people making the replacement recommendations are the same people who profit from the products.  So are these guidelines really true?

ABC's Good Morning America set out to investigate the most common replacement recommendations, from getting the oil changed in your car every 3,000 miles to replacing your running shoes every three months.

With the help of independent experts, here are the top six replacement myths on the market today.

Replacement Myth #1: You Should Purchase New Running Shoes Every Six Months

GMA tested running shoes at a lab and found that after 500 miles one pair had minimal damage and another pair showed no wear at all.  Those results were no surprise to the testing experts at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute in New York City.

"What really matters when you're thinking about your running shoes is how many miles are on them," said Stacy Genovese, director of Consumer Electronics and Engineering at the Institute.  "So if you're an avid runner, running 25 miles a week, you need to replace them more quickly than someone who's just a casual runner who's running five miles a week."

Replacement Myth #2: Expired Foods Will Make You Sick

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says the dates stamped on processed foods packages have to do with quality, not safety.  Other than meat, foods past their expiration date are not dangerous, the FDA says.  They just may not be as nutritious or flavorful.

Replacement Myth #3: You Must Get Your Car's Oil Changed Every 3,000 Miles

GMA called 10 auto-repair shops and asked how often we should change the oil in a 2004 Honda Pilot SUV.

The two Honda dealerships that were contacted, along with one other shop, said the oil should be changed every 4,000 to 5,000 miles.  The remaining seven shops said to change the oil every 3,000 miles.  But they were all wrong.

Honda's own owners' manual for the 2004 Pilot instructs owners to change the oil on the vehicle just every 7,500 miles.

Replacement Myth #4: Expired Drugs Could Endanger Your Health

When it comes to prescription drugs, those written expressly for you by your doctor, the expiration dates should be closely watched, and followed.  The medications you purchase over-the-counter at your local pharmacy, however, are another story.

"If they're pills, things like pain relievers and analgesic medicines, they're going to be good for several years after they expire," ABC's chief medical expert Dr. Richard Besser told GMA.

"One thing to keep your medicines lasting longer is to take them out of the bathroom," said Dr. Besser.  "Hot, steamy air will cause your medicine to break down sooner."

Replacement Myth #5: Your Computer Becomes Obsolete as Soon as You Buy It

GMA quickly learned this myth is a giant whopper.

"As long as the computer's not really running slowly, there's no reason to upgrade," Genovese said.

In fact, as long as your computer has at least one gigabyte of RAM, and if you are just using your PC for things like checking email and shopping online, there is no need to replace it with another.

Replacement Myth #6: You Have to Replace the Ink Cartridge When Your Printer Says So

Not so.  In fact, you can keep printing well past the moment the warning lights on your printer start blinking.

Tests conducted by PC World magazine found that some ink cartridges are, in fact, still 40 percent full when the indicator says they are empty.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio