Flashy Notebook Drives
The Buzz: More details are emerging about the power-saving, performance-boosting hybrid hard drives from Samsung and Seagate. These intriguing disks include a built-in cache of ultrafast flash memory to help PCs run Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system more efficiently. The first models will be notebook hard drives with either 128MB or 256MB of buffer. Vista can use this nonvolatile memory to accelerate performance and boot times (by caching frequently used data), to prioritize data transfers (making your machine more responsive), to spin down the disk (boosting battery life), and to let PC vendors "pin" important applications in the cache permanently (thereby achieving faster program load times).
Bottom Line: These hybrid disks are fast becoming my favorite reason to upgrade to Vista. Sorry, notebook vendors: They are also my current favorite reason to hold off on buying that new laptop.
Swapping Site Surge
The Buzz: Sites such as Switchdisc and Peerflix have been allowing you to trade old CDs, DVDs, and other media for a while, but suddenly there's lots of excitement around a couple of new stuff-swapping players. My favorite, Lala.com, enables you to list your CD collection using a sweet autocompleting search box or an iTunes plug-in. Then you ship CDs from your collection to other Lala users, and in return you receive CDs off your want list for $1.49 per disc. Another service, called Swaptree, facilitates more-direct trades of CDs, games, DVDs, and books. Both sites show promise, but they'll have to attract lots of interest to keep busy users coming back for more.
Bottom Line: I enjoyed Lala's music-centric approach. More than likely, however, most of these sites will "swap" several million in VC funding for a few months of a service using questionable business model.
The Buzz: Nintendo is planning a big splash with the controller for its upcoming Wii console. Employing its full motion sensitivity, gamers will be able to wave the two-piece unit around to mimic actions like brandishing a sword or swinging a golf club. Not to be outdone, Sony has added motion sensitivity to its PS3 controller, and other companies--among them, Xavix--are working on their own physical game controllers.
Bottom Line: This is a very welcome development. Aside from games like Guitar Hero, most innovation in controllers has been in creating less ergonomic shapes.
AMD Plugs Coprocessors
If AMD gets its way, future computers might have a media or physics coprocessor sharing the same bus as the CPU. By opening up the speedy HyperTransport protocol that it uses to connect the CPU, memory, and chip set in its systems, AMD hopes to give vendors ways to configure superfast, customized PCs. AMD calls the technology Torrenza, and it's likely to show up first in servers to accelerate things like Java code and high-end physics simulations. But computer vendors are already planning PCs with multiple sockets for gamers, so don't rule out desktop applications' making use of this promising new technology in the next few years.
- AuctionShark: Site compares auction prices with prices for new products at several online stores.
- Farecast: Beta site tracks airline fares to tell when prices will go up or down.
- Motorola Q: Razr-thin PDA/phone has finally arrived, and at $199 it's pretty affordable.
- Google Bard: Custom Google books landing page for Shakespeare's complete works.
- Riya: Shutterbugs will appreciate this evolving site that helps you sort your photos.