Archive for June 2, 2009

Watch those cannonballs: Keep your camera dry

On Sunday, June 21, most folks will be celebrating for two reasons: It’s both Father’s Day and the first day of summer. And, if you’re at a pool or beach, it’s also a prime opportunity to soak and ruin your camera. (I know that my best jumps soak the entire perimeter of almost any pool area.)

There’s good reason to avoid soaking a digital camera: According to online subscribers we recently surveyed, 71 percent of point-and-shoots that became waterlogged stopped working; 36 percent quit after mere spills. Here’s how to help your point-and-shoot avoid a similar fate:

Bag it. When the forecast is rain, take along a plastic bag. If it rains, wrap most of your camera in the bag, cutting a small hole for the lens if you need to shoot.

Accessorize. If you often shoot in damp conditions, check online or in your local camera store for accessories specifically designed for shooting in wet weather.

Go waterproof. For the most protection, use a water-resistant or waterproof camera. Several manufacturers make them, and four such models are included in our digital camera Ratings (available to subscribers): the Olympus Stylus Tough-8000, $400, and Stylus Tough-6000, $300; Pentax Optio W60, $250; and Olympus Stylus 1050SW, $280. Before shooting underwater, check the camera’s specs to see how deep it can go. Limits can range from several feet to 30 or more.

Also, before jumping into water with even a waterproof camera, check the instructions. Some models might malfunction under the force generated by a plunge. —Terry Sullivan

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Panasonic to offer first standalone portable Blu-ray player

Panasonic's DMP-B15 Blu-ray player

Although notebook computers with Blu-ray drives have been around for a while, later this month Panasonic will offer the first portable standalone Blu-ray player, the DMP-B15.

The player—which was first seen at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January—is a BD Live model with a 8.9-inch WSVGA LCD screen and an SD memory-card slot for viewing digital photos and video. It also includes Panasonic’s Viera Cast Internet service, which provides access to online content including Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube, the Picasa photo service, and Bloomberg news, among others.

The list price of the DMP-B15 is $800, but we’ve already seen some retailers offering it on a pre-order basis for $750.

Panasonic will offer an optional headrest mounting bracket for in-car use.--James K. Willcox

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Panasonic to offer first standalone portable Bu-ray player

Panasonic's DMP-B15 Blu-ray player

Although notebook computers with Blu-ray drives have been around for a while, later this month Panasonic will offer the first portable standalone Blu-ray player, the DMP-B15.

The player—which was first seen at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January—is a BD Live model with a 8.9-inch WSVGA LCD screen and an SD memory-card slot for viewing digital photos and video. It also includes Panasonic’s Viera Cast Internet service, which provides access to online content including Amazon Video on Demand, YouTube, the Picasa photo service, and Bloomberg news, among others.

The list price of the DMP-B15 is $800, but we’ve already seen some retailers offering it on a pre-order basis for $750.

Panasonic will offer an optional headrest mounting bracket for in-car use.--James K. Willcox

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Obama’s cybersecurity report: Security experts weigh in

Yesterday, I attended the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee’s panel discussion of President Obama’s cybersecurity report featuring top cyber security and intelligence experts. The panel of experts debated aspects related to civil liberties, critical infrastructure, private sector regulation, and security of government data and systems.

Here is some of what the group said about the report’s impact on consumers:

It’s too soon to tell exactly what will change for consumers in the aftermath of the report’s release, the group agreed. “Consumers are going to have to wait,” said Gregory Nojeim, Senior Counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “The report is so high level, it’s going to depend on how it’s implemented.”

One piece of good news for consumers, according to Marcus Sachs, Executive Director of Government Affairs for National Security Policy at Verizon, is that President Obama places himself in a consumer role. “He sees himself as a user—and a hackee,” since his campaign Web site was itself compromised during the election in 2008.

The many references to privacy in the report are also a good sign for consumers, the panelists agreed. “Privacy and civil liberties are mentioned at least a dozen times,” said Nojeim. It looks like privacy measures will be built directly into any protective measures that will be taken, he added.

The panelists were generally satisfied with the report. The president’s launch of the report on Friday was “a great speech,” said James Lewis, Director and Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, who headed up the committee that wrote last year’s report to the 44th president on the state of cybersecurity. “It’s a good report, a strong comprehensive overview, but it’s to be determined what they do about it.”

The bottom line: The ball is in everyone’s court, not just the government’s, to make the Web a safer place. “Cyberspace is personal,” said Sachs. “You are the Internet. If you’re not involved in making it secure, you are failing. This is the future of our country.”

You can download an audio podcast of the panel discussion at http://www.netcaucus.org/events/2009/cybersecurity/

Today and tomorrow I’ll be blogging and Twittering from the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference in DC.

Check back here and also follow me live on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DonnaTapellini —Donna Tapellini

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New Kindle hits June 10, and other e-book reader news

Amazon announced that its new Kindle DX, introduced May 6, 2009, will begin shipping on June 10. [Photo: Amazon]

Amazon has firmed up the vague "summer" timeframe for the launch of the Kindle DX, the new and bigger addition to its family of wireless e-book readers. The $489 device will begin shipping on June 10.

I wrote some first impressions of the Kindle DX after using it at the press conference on the big-screen reader. We plan to bring you more in-depth coverage on June 11 or 12, after we receive the device, which we pre-ordered the day it was announced.

In other news on the e-book reader front:

  • Kindle gets a new Web connection. The ability to highlight passages or make notes on what you're reading is among the Kindle's distinctions. Now you can read those notes online as well as on the Kindle itself, by signing in to your to Amazon account from your computer. The features doesn't allow you full flexibility—you can't e-mail the notes on to others, for example—but it's a welcome step, especially for those (like the author I met last summer) who use these Kindle features when writing on a computer.
  • A new, would-be Kindle killer is unveiled. We learned more last week about the Plastic Logic reader, a pilot of which is promised for later in 2009; no price has been announced. Its Kindle DX-sized (about the size of 8.5 by 11 paper, the company says) and, like the Sony PRS-700, offers a touchscreen interface.
  • A smartphone/e-book reader is coming to Japan. The Toshiba Biblio resembles many other smartphones that have sliding QWERTY keyboards, and it boasts a 3.5-inch LCD screen and a 5-megapixel camera. But, interestingly, the device is being marketed—so far, only in Japan, where it launched June 24—as an e-book reader. Like the Kindles, it allows wireless downloading of e-books, and can store up to 5,000 titles.

—Paul Reynolds.

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