Everest summit now wired with 3G

Everest summit.

The summit of Mount Everest now sports a 3G signal, enabling climbers to access the internet and make video calls from the top.

From the AFP:

Ncell, a subsidiary of Swedish phone giant TeliaSonera, says it has set up a high-speed third-generation (3G) phone base station at an altitude of 5,200 metres (17,000 feet) near Gorakshep village in the Everest region.

“Today we made the (world’s) highest video call from Mount Everest base camp successfully,” Ncell Nepal chief Pasi Koistinen told reporters in Kathmandu on Thursday.

“The coverage of the network will reach up to the peak of the Everest,” he added.
Climbers who reached Everest’s 8,848-metre peak previously depended on expensive and erratic satellite phone coverage and a voice-only network set up by China Mobile in 2007 on the Chinese side of the mountain.

The installation will also help tens of thousands of tourists and trekkers who visit the Everest region every year.

“This is a great milestone for mobile communications as the 3G high speed internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication services from the world?s tallest mountain,” said Lars Nyberg, chief executive of TeliaSonera, which owns 80 percent of Ncell.
The 3G services will be fast enough to make video calls and use the Internet, said the company, which also claims the world’s lowest 3G base at 1,400 metres (4,595 feet) below sea level in a mine in Europe.

Digg laid off almost 40% of staff

Digg logo.You don’t have to be a genius to see that Digg is struggling. It’s struggling to survive competition in the form of Twitter and Facebook, but it’s also struggling against itself and the community backlash after recent changes.

Here’s the blog post from the new CEO, Matt Williams:

When I joined Digg six weeks ago, we set an immediate focus on improving the web site. We listened carefully to user feedback and started making changes to generate momentum in our business.

As I mentioned in one of our first all-hands meetings, another top priority was to take a hard look at the entire business, across product, sales, and operations. Through the time I have spent with each of you, I’ve been impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm you’ve shown. I’ve also learned a great deal about what is working well at Digg, and what is broken.

Many things are working well. The team is listening and acting quickly on the feedback from our passionate community. We’ve been able to deliver nimbly on the new platform, with over 100 bug and feature releases to the web site in the past two months. Our Diggable ads product has seen a notable increase in use by advertisers and clicks by users.

Unfortunately, to reach our goals, we have to take some difficult steps. The fact is our business has a burn rate that is too high. We must significantly cut our expenses to achieve profitability in 2011. We’ve considered all of the possible options for reduction, from salaries to fixed costs. The result is that, in addition to lowering many of our operational costs, I’ve made the decision to downsize our staff from 67 to 42 people.

It’s been an incredibly tough decision. I wish it weren’t necessary. However, I know it’s the right choice for Digg’s future success as a business. I’m personally committed to help find new opportunities for everyone affected by the transition. Digg’s Board members have also offered to help find placements within their portfolio companies.

Let’s please use today to show our sincere appreciation for our friends and colleagues who will be moving on. Tomorrow, we’ll go forward with a new strategy for Digg.

White iPhone gets an official delay

White iPhone 4.

This week Apple finally made an official statement regarding the delay of the white iPhone 4 model. It looks like the alternate model won’t be available until spring of next year.

From Reuters:

Apple has never said exactly why the white iPhone has been so troublesome to produce. The company has only said the white model was “more challenging to manufacture than we originally expected.”

Rumors about the white iPhone have been on Apple-focused blogs for months, with explanations ranging from color-matching problems to an issue with the device’s backlight.

Apple didn’t have much to say about the delay, other than, “We’re sorry to disappoint customers waiting for the white iPhone again.” Thanks.

VLC Player now available for the iPhone

If you’ve been looking for a way to play more file formats on your iPhone, you finally can. The VLC player app is now available on the iPhone for free.

From: 9to5 Mac

The Playstation Phone is real

Playstation Phone.

Several blogs have reported that this is indeed a picture of the real and long-rumored Playstation Phone. It’s an Android model, not entirely unlike the new G2, though you can bet it will have some custom skin work to support Playstation branding.

Here’s what Engadget had to say about the phone:

The device snapped up top (and in our gallery below) is sporting a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 (a chip similar to the one found in the G2, but 200MHz faster), 512MB of RAM, 1GB of ROM, and the screen is in the range of 3.7 to 4.1 inches. Looking almost identical to the mockup we hit you with this summer, the handset does indeed have a long touchpad in the center which is apparently multitouch, and you can see in the photos that it’s still bearing those familiar PlayStation shoulder buttons. For Sony buffs, you’ll be interested to know that there’s no Memory Stick slot here, but there is support for microSD cards.

The particular model in these shots is still in prototyping mode. As such, the unit doesn’t have a custom skin (not even SE’s Timescape design seen on the Xperia devices), and is said to be rather buggy. We’re digging into more facts as we speak, but it’s likely that much of what we reported earlier is still accurate, and though the device could still be headed for a 2010 release, 2011 is looking much more realistic.

There are just a couple things worth thinking about for that kind of launch. First, the Verizon iPhone is supposed to land in early 2011, and Windows Phone just launched. While the second might be reason to get a competitor into the market, does Sony really think it won’t be completely eclipsed by a Verizon iPhone release?

Walt Mossberg writes a damning review of Windows Phone 7

A customer views a mobile phone with the new Windows 7 operating system after its arrival in British shops, in central London October 21, 2010. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS SCI TECH)

Let me start by saying this: I don’t think Walt Mossberg’s review of Windows Phone 7 will make or break the platform. The platform will break the platform, especially if, as Mossberg suggests, Windows Phone 7 fails to compete with Android and the iPhone.

Here’s the real hammer blow:

But I couldn’t find a killer innovation that would be likely to make iPhone or Android users envious, except possibly for dedicated Xbox users. Even the built-in Office can be replicated with third-party Office-compatible apps on competing platforms; and the iPhone and Android phones also can interoperate with Microsoft’s corporate Exchange email, calendar and contact system.

So for now, I see Windows Phone 7 as mostly getting Microsoft into the game, and replacing the stale, complicated Windows Mobile system that preceded it. It will get better. The company is already working on a copy and paste system, and said it is coming early next year. But, today, I see Windows Phone 7 as inferior to iPhone and Android for most average users. It’s simply not fully baked yet.

That was Microsoft’s whole schtick – that Windows Phone is different from old Windows Mobile, different from the iPhone, different from Android. The only difference, though, is that it’s months, even years behind its competitors in terms of tech. Without improving the tech behind the phone, how can Microsoft hope to compete?

The bottom line – they can’t. If anything, Microsoft should have looked into producing a killer set of apps for the current mobile marketplace. If Windows Phone 7 bombs, which seems very likely at this point, there goes millions upon millions of dollars in development and advertising. In a couple years, maybe even just one, Windows Phone could have a competitive offering, but my guess is that by then it will be way too late.

The case for a January Verizon iPhone

Verizon iPhone.There have now been countless news stories regarding the January release of a Verizon iPhone. Everyone’s been waiting for it, but does January really make sense? Not to me. Not to a lot of people. John Gruber over at Daring Fireball thinks differently, though. He’s got all kinds of reasons that a January Verizon iPhone release makes sense.

My biggest issue is timing. Verizon’s going to miss the holiday season, which is a big miss. There’s also the fact that Apple has announced a new iPhone during each of the past couple summers. So consumers will have six months with their new toy before a new one comes out?

Gruber addresses my concerns, and plenty of others, in a post that actually has me believing it will happen. Here’s the part that makes the most sense:

Bottom line: If Apple’s goal is to accelerate iPhone market share, particularly in competition with Android, then they should finalize a deal with Verizon soon. And if they’re going to do it soon, that means CDMA, not LTE.

A lot of people, myself included, haven’t considered that LTE isn’t going to be nationwide. It will be out in some cities, tested in some cities, and completely overloaded in some citites. In short, most of America isn’t going to see LTE for a while, and Apple can’t wait that long to try to get Verizon customers off Android. I know I’ve thought a time or two about jumping the AT&T ship and just getting on to Android. The App Store kept me around, but it’s only so long before Android has everything I want (they just got Angry Birds!).

New Macbook Air heralds the death of the disc

Apple recovery drive.

Well, it looks like MG Siegler over at TechCrunch called it. Yesterday, Apple announced the new line of Macbook Air laptops and they’ll ship with the little number you see in the picture. That’s right, that’s your recovery drive.

It’s a miniature USB stick, packed with the data that would normally come on an Apple recovery disc. This isn’t a huge surprise – more like the natural evolution of data storage. DVDs replaced CDs a while back for their superior storage. Flash drives have long since surpassed DVD storage, but they’re still more expensive to make. By stripping away a lot of the plastic and limiting storage, I’d imagine the cost will come down enough that we’ll see this option more and more often.

Aside from the new recovery method, the new Air line is looking pretty good. It comes in 11-inch and 13-inch models and is ridiculously thin. Both models have the unibody design and now sport the multi-touch trackpad present on the Macbook line. For me, 11-inches is way too small, especially if it’s widescreen. My current 13-inch MB Pro often feels too small, if only because of resolution.

App Review: Growlator

growlator-iPhoneIf you’ve ever taken a stroll down the frozen foods aisle, you know the name Hungry-Man. Most often associated with college students and the working man on the go, Hungry-Man is all about delivering big meals with enough flavor to keep you going. Personally, I like to cook, so I tend to stay away from frozen dinners, but I was definitely intrigued when asked if I would review Growlator, the Hungry-Man app designed to listen for your stomach, diagnose your specific growl, and offer a Hungry-Man solution to your problem.

There’s just one problem with the app – it doesn’t actually listen for anything. Granted, that’s not a surprise. It would be hard enough to hear a stomach growl, let alone differentiate among them. The descriptions the app has for different kinds of hunger are pretty funny, though, and here’s the kicker: every description offers a dollar off whatever Hungry-Man product is recommended for your growl. That’s really a pretty nice deal for a free application.

You can get the Growlator app for free from the iTunes App Store.

Will optical drives soon die?

Optical drive.I read this article over at TechCrunch the other day about the eventual demise of the optical drive. It rung home, not because I haven’t used my optical drive, but because I just used it this past weekend.

I had traveled back to Ohio for a friend’s wedding reception but ended up staying for more than two weeks as my girlfriend lost her grandmother. In the part of Ohio that she’s from there isn’t much to be had in the way of reliable internet. That meant no Netflix and no access to video I have stored on my network drive. I had to…watch DvDs. It was awful.

Seriously, though, using an optical drive can be kinda brutal. It’s hot, loud, and drains your battery much faster than spinning a hard drive does. It can’t be too long before we’ll see widespread adoption of driveless laptops like the Macbook Air. There is still something about that specific machine that makes me a little nervous, but I treat my current laptop with such care I don’t think a change would be too scary.