Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Google Latitude: Friend Finding Maps on Smartphones and PCs

Google's released Latitude, a Maps tool that allows for automatic tracking of friends in real time, using a laptop, Symbian 60, Blackberry, WinMo and soon, iPhone or Android.

Laptops and cellphones (when not using GPS) can locate to a fair level of accuracy using geotagged Wi-Fi and cellular tower points in a database that Google's collected on its own, perhaps while doing Streetview photography. Or you can set your location manually. Google told me that there's no set standard for how often the map updates your location. Rather, they have an algorithm that depends on how often the device has moved, historically, and how much battery your device has left. You can also sign out of the service entirely, and set per user preferences on whether or not certain friends can see your location at all, or if only on city-levels of accuracy.

Google says its been useful for family members to find out if they're stuck in traffic, or on their way home. I tested the service with some people I know, but its been hard to say if its useful for a guy who has loved ones in generally predictable places. I generally know where my friends are, more or less, or can find out by texting them. I'd probably use this service more often while skiing or picking up friends at the airport, but not day to day. I mean, sure, I can turn off my privacy, but wouldn't people used to seeing your location at all times be suspicious if you suddenly turned off permissions when you want privacy?

Then again, maybe it would be nice to know when my father is playing golf in HK (all the time) or when Lisa is eating at her favorite place in Tokyo for Ramen, or where my brother is on tour with his band. That would be interesting, I suppose. But most of the time, most of us are in front of our computers. Until we're not. And that's where the phone clients come in.

Most phones will be able to keep the map location updated in the background. Except the iPhone. What the iPhone users can do, as a work around, is to lock the phone with the Google app running. That'll keep the phone updating until batteries die.

The Blackberry, WinMo and Symbian phones and laptops/Desktops can use Latitude now by downloading the most recent version of Google Maps or hitting Http:// The iPhone gets it with an updated version of the increasingly powerful Google app, soon, as does the Android powered G1.

by: Brian Lam
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Gigabyte EX58-UD5 review

The cheapest i7 board we've seen so far – but can it perform?

Gigabyte has shaved £100 off the price, and ditched a few high-end features. But can the EX58-UD5's (rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?) performance match its more fully-featured brethren? All first impressions are good. Forgoing the Fisher Price-esque bright colours in favour of a pastel colour scheme makes it look a tad more subtle. The sheer number of SATA and USB ports here is also impressive – ten of the former neatly lined up at the front of the motherboard. There are no external SATA ports, but with many cases offering options on the front panel, motherboard-based ones are an unnecessary luxury.

Quality components

Despite the cheaper price, Gigabyte has not stinted on the components. It's doubled the copper on the printed circuit board, which apparently ensures better conductivity and lower temperatures throughout the board. It also features Japanese manufactured solid capacitors, said to be able to function for 50,000 continuous hours – unfortunately we didn't have three years to test this statistic so we'll have to take Gigabyte on its word. Unlike the Asus and MSI Core i7 boards we've looked at previously, Gigabyte's doesn't feature a daughter board for high quality audio, instead relying on an onboard solution. But audio quality doesn't suffer, with Dolby Home Theater certification and Blu-Ray lossless codecs ensuring clean and sparky sounds. Overclockers are in luck too. Gigabyte have smartly included a pair of BIOS chips, so if you destabilise your system you've always got a backup ready and waiting, without the frightening fumble of BIOS flashing. Gigabyte's smart six-gear power phase switching economically adjusts the power when needed, and a dynamic LED shows how much stress the system is under. It also includes the now de-facto handy numeric readout for diagnostics.

Performance crown

But the proof of the pudding is in the performance, and in spite of being relatively free of extras, Gigabyte's option outperformed both the Asus and MSI boards. Only by tiny amounts, but that's still enough to put its competitors in the shade. It's worth pointing out that we're dealing with the upper echelons of motherboards here, and the Core i7 is such a recent release that we still can't expect a huge amount of difference between the various boards. In cutting back on the optional extras, Gigabyte has produced a winning motherboard. If you want to build a Core i7 system with cash left over for a case and some decent RAM, the Gigabyte is the best option we've seen by a long way.

by Henry Winchester - pc format 224
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