Thursday, January 31, 2008

Getting the exclusive lowdown on The Lowdown

The Lowdown is a youth-targeted website aimed at helping young New Zealanders getting through depression and other mental illnesses, and to curb New Zealand's high suicide rates. Wikinews' Gabriel Pollard spoke to Candace Bagnall who is managing the Ministry of Health's National Depression Initiative which runs The Lowdown.

Getting the exclusive lowdown on The Lowdown
The Lowdown is one of many attempts to improve access to services to young people in need.
Getting the exclusive lowdown on The Lowdown

—Candace Bagnall

The Lowdown is a way for young people to talk about how they're feeling while facilitating the new ways of communication easily adopted by those aged 13-24-years, the demographic of The Lowdown. Young people can talk with the team via email and mobile phone texting, and they also have the opportunity to talk with other similar like-minded people through the on site Internet forum. Ms Bagnall said that research undertaken proved that text and email were the most "effective" ways of communicating with youth. "We also consulted and pre-tested with young people."

Texting has been the preferred choice of method of getting in contact.

Ms Bagnall said they were unsure how much the service - which started December 6, 2007 - would cost annually, but expected it to be in near the half-million dollar mark due to the recent nature of the site and on going development.

They do not receive any free services from Internet providers and mobile phone companies. However this isn't a worry for them because, as Ms Bagnall says, it is a "public service, not a commercial one so it is not trying to run at a profit."

The Lowdown is always able to be reached. A trained health professional is available to talk with between midday and midnight each day, including Christmas Day. Ms Bagnall said, "They work shifts and have their holidays at other times."

There are six people on the team at The Lowdown. However, Ms Bagnall says, "The Ministry is aware of gaps [...] in the number of health professionals available to young people. The Lowdown is one of many attempts to improve access to services to young people in need."

Not only do they have health professionals composing The Lowdown team, but they also have support from celebrities. They have local New Zealand celebrities accompanying the exploration of the site giving helpful advice; sharing their own personal experiences and stories on depression; and home grown music provided free of charge to listen to. "The musicians were extremely generous with their time and music. They were very supportive of the purpose of the website and didn't get paid for their contributions, but their music is being promoted through the site."

An average of 320 visitors per day have visited the the depression-focused help site between January 1 and January 23, 2008. Ms Bagnall said that most of those getting contact are in the targeted market. "The service has been running for only a few weeks so we don't have accurate figures yet and we don't know the ages of site visitors unless they access the help services."

New Zealand has high suicide statistics, for both youth and older people. Each year there are 500 suicides, of which young people account for 100 of those. Compared to other OECD countries, males aged between 15 and 24-years-old inclusive have the second highest suicide rate behind Finland. New Zealand is placed third behind Finland and Japan for females of the same age group. Age-standardised rates for males are fourth highest in the OECD, the fifth highest for females.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

i think this is really cool picture what do u think?

daho Ski Resort Seeks $42.5M State Loan

BOISE, Idaho -

Tamarack Resort, a ski resort and real-estate development near McCall, is trying to persuade the state to guarantee a $42.5 million low-interest loan to a local sewer district for a major expansion of sewer and drinking water systems that serve the ski and golf community and others in the area.

As security, the resort has pledged property it says is worth $728 million, according to documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press at a meeting of the Idaho Municipal Bond Bank, the 7-year-old state organization that lends money to local governments at favorable interest rates.

The bond bank generally lends on the condition that Idaho can intercept state sales tax revenue destined for the local government, in the rare instance that government no longer can make its payments.

In this case, the loan applicant, the North Lake Recreational Sewer and Water District, doesn't get state tax money. So the resort has offered the property as security instead.

The five-member bond bank authority, made up of state officials and lawmakers, has delayed approving the proposal so it can first gauge support among legislative leaders and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter.

"Legislative leadership is critical in this, simply from the question, 'Is this the direction you want the bond bank to go?'" said state Treasurer Ron Crane, the authority's chairman. "The same with the governor's office: 'Is this what you envisioned the bond bank doing, or are we getting a little too far out of line?' "

The bond bank came about in 2000 after voters that year approved a constitutional amendment. It offers small local governments the chance to minimize bond costs and interest rates by bundling several bond issues together and then taking advantage of the state's guarantee of repayment.

For instance, the bank on Tuesday approved selling about $15 million in bonds to cover loans to the cities of Heyburn, Jerome and Eagle for utility improvements.

But the Tamarack plan, which would clear the way for the resort to complete development of more than 1,000 lots, would be the largest single project the bank has undertaken, doubling existing loans to some $80 million, Crane said.

According to the proposal, the North Lake Recreational Sewer and Water District would use the money to expand sewage collection and treatment systems, build lift stations, upgrade Tamarack's drinking water system and help pay off $11 million in existing loans the district has gotten from the state Department of Environmental Quality and State Water Resources Board.

Bill Eddy, the sewer district manager, said the resort isn't the only one who would benefit.

The expansion would allow about 2,000 other lots on the northwest shore of Lake Cascade (nyse: CAE - news - people ) to hook into the system, as well as give existing cabin owners who now have septic tanks a chance to voluntarily join the district.

"The environmental impact on the lake has to be taken into account," Eddy said, noting septic systems can hurt water quality.

In addition to offering land as security, Tamarack has pledged to pay any cost overruns in the water system expansion, as well as provide financial guarantees to complete roads, communications infrastructure and power lines, before any bond-bank money is spent on the sewer system expansion.

"Even if we had a catastrophic reduction in the value of the real estate market, that property that is there does secure the amount of the issuance and can be the ultimate recourse for the district," said Steve Millemann, the resort's attorney.

Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls and another bond bank authority member, said he doesn't doubt the merits of the project - or that Tamarack could provide adequate security to reduce financial risks of such a bond issuance.

Still, policy makers first need to consider that thousands of other sewer and water districts in Idaho could request similar assistance if this proposal goes ahead. That could sap bonding capacity from other worthy causes, he said.

"I continue to worry about how broad and popular the bond bank is becoming," Davis said, adding that if every sewer or local improvement district were to request a loan, "it makes this application seem pretty small."

MacBook Air

Product:MacBook Air
ProsWeighs three pounds; bright LED-backlit 13.3-inch screen; full-size keyboard.
ConsSlow processor; slow and small hard drive; limited configuration options; unswappable battery.
Price as rated$1,799
Best current price$1,650.65

Laptop design has always been about compromise. Though they’ve come a long way in the past few years, laptops have never been able to offer the features available in desktop computers, and certainly not at comparable prices. In order to squeeze an entire computer into a portable shell (and have it be power-efficient enough to run on a battery for hours at a time), computer-makers have to throw features overboard. And the smaller and lighter the laptop, the more compromise there needs to be.

The MacBook Air, Apple’s latest Intel-based laptop, is the lightest, thinnest laptop Apple has ever constructed, and according to Apple, it’s the thinnest laptop ever made. And in many ways, the story of this laptop is the story of a series of compromises, all made in order to fit an entire Mac in a three-pound package that’s three-quarters of an inch thick at its thickest point.

A silver MacBook

The look of the MacBook Air is an interesting hybrid of Apple’s other two laptops. It’s got the shiny aluminum shell of the MacBook Pro (), along with a backlit keyboard the likes of which has never been seen before in a small Apple laptop. (However, the MacBook Air is far more attractive than the MacBook Pro, thanks to the curved edges that make it look like the offspring of a MacBook Pro and an iPod nano.)

In all other ways, though, the Air is closest to the MacBook: in two of its three dimensions, it’s almost identical to the MacBook, differing only in thickness. (And it’s a big difference—the MacBook is 1.08 inches thick, while the Air is .76 inches thick at its hinge, tapering to .16 inches at its front edge.)

The MacBook Air’s keyboard, backlighting excepted, is the same square-keycapped design featured on the MacBook. And its 13.3-inch, 1,280-by-800 pixel display is identical in size to the one found on the MacBook. However, the Air’s screen is notably different because of what’s lighting it from behind: a light-emitting diode (LED). The LED backlighting is extremely bright, but what’s more impressive is that it immediately snaps on to its full brightness. The MacBook, in contrast, starts out somewhat dim and gradually increases in brightness.

Like the MacBook Pro, the MacBook Air takes advantage of a tiny light sensor, located behind a set of microperforations just to the left of its iSight camera, to automatically adjust the brightness of the display and to control the keyboard’s backlighting. (If you turn off the lights, the screen dims rapidly and the keyboard lights up. Those who prefer to manually control their screen’s brightness can turn off this feature in the Displays preference pane.)

Despite its diminutive size, the MacBook Air doesn’t feel fragile. I wouldn’t recommend trying to break it over your knee; the keyboard feels solid, as does the Air’s entire bottom half. I noticed a bit of flexion on the top of the laptop—the portion behind its screen—but even there the MacBook Air felt sturdy. There’s no way to tell how this laptop will fare in high-stress situations, but it certainly feels durable.

Thin and light

It’s clear that Apple’s engineers followed a specific set of design constraints for the MacBook Air. By retaining the dimensions of the regular MacBook, the MacBook Air can offer a full-size keyboard as well as a generous widescreen display. (As a former user of the 12-inch PowerBook G4, I can attest to the fact that Apple’s recent user-interface design decisions—lots of big, wide windows with toolbars, palettes, and slide-out drawers—can make using Mac OS X on a small display a painful experience.)

With the keyboard and display set, then, there are only two other ways for the MacBook Air to distinguish itself from its cousins: thickness and weight.

Let’s start with weight, as this is one measurement where the MacBook Air truly excels. Prior to the Air’s release, Apple’s lightest laptop was the MacBook, which weighs five pounds—a full two pounds heavier than the three-pound Air. In fact, Apple has never released a laptop lighter than four pounds: the PowerBook 2400, PowerBook Duo series, and even that 12-inch PowerBook G4 all weighed somewhere between four and five pounds.

If your laptop lives most of its life on a desk, weight isn’t an issue. If you carry it with you at all times, weight can be its most important characteristic. Most people’s laptop use falls in between, and depending on the vagaries of your commute, the number of miles in your frequent-flyer account, and the strength and health of your arm and back, weight may or may not matter to you.

Me, I’m a relatively healthy male in my mid-to-late 30s, but my laptop is my primary Mac at home and at work, and I carry it on my back for at least 20 minutes every single weekday, to and from work. The lighter my backpack, the better. Shedding two pounds out of my backpack is something that noticeably lightens my load. (If you own a 15-inch MacBook Pro and have never really considered its weight an issue, consider this a serious hint that the MacBook Air might not be your cup of tea.)

One reason I loved the 12-inch PowerBook G4 was that it crossed some hard-to-define weight barrier, one I hadn’t even been aware of until I started using a laptop that crossed it. The 12-inch PowerBook was so small and light that carrying my laptop around with me became an afterthought. Instead of lugging a 15-inch PowerBook from place to place, I could idly hold the 12-inch model in one hand.

The MacBook Air takes that easy feeling to an extreme. Though it’s not quite as solid in my hand as the 12-inch PowerBook (owing to the latter’s additional width), it feels as thin and light as a manila folder or a couple of magazines.

That brings us to the MacBook Air’s thinness. This product was undoubtedly designed specifically to be as thin as possible, with an eye toward making the marketing claim that the MacBook is “the world’s thinnest notebook.” And there’s no disputing this. Even my six-year-old daughter—not exactly the world’s foremost expert on laptops—couldn’t resist telling me how “really flat” she thought it was.

There is no denying that the MacBook Air’s thinness makes it visually striking. But I’m not convinced of the utility of that thinness. Other than allowing Apple to declare the Air the current winner of the race to design the thinnest laptop, it seems that the Air has slimmed down in the least important dimension.

Yes, I’ll grant you, I can almost slide the MacBook Air under my office door. But I don’t believe the extra thinness is going to gain me much working room when I’m wedged in a coach airline seat behind someone whose seat is fully reclined. Or on my daily bus commute, which makes coach airline seats look like business class. In these situations, reduced depth would be more likely to improve the angle of my screen and keep the front of my laptop from pressing against my chest. But in that dimension, the MacBook Air is no different from the MacBook.

Making do with less

In order to make the MacBook Air small and light, Apple has had to remove features once considered standard on all Apple laptop models. This model is the first in recent memory to have no built-in CD/DVD drive and no FireWire ports. Its internal storage is limited, and its connection to peripherals has been reduced, too. In order to take advantage of the Air’s light weight and small size, users must be willing to sacrifice some of the features that they previously took for granted.

Let’s start with the optical drive. Yes, you can buy an 8x SuperDrive for $99 as an add-on. (It will add seven-tenths of a pound to your bag and doesn’t exactly look elegant when it’s hanging off the side of your tiny MacBook Air.) As someone who uses the optical drive in his laptop so rarely that I sometimes forget whether its slot is on the front or the side, I don’t really consider the lack of an optical drive a major omission. If you’re someone who lives or dies by the ability to burn or play back CDs or DVDs, however, you’ll find this to be a major drawback.

Apple has, to its credit, exerted quite a bit of muscle in an attempt to make the Air’s lack of an optical drive a non-issue. In addition to selling the external SuperDrive, the company has added a feature called Remote Disc that allows the Air to take over the optical drive of another computer (Mac or PC) on your local network. Just install the Remote Disc software (included on the Air’s install disc) and the MacBook Air can use Bonjour to browse your network and read what’s on any data disc. This feature worked well in my testing. The MacBook boot software has even been updated for the Air, so that it can boot via Remote Disc in the event you need to reinstall Mac OS X.

Although Remote Disc is a nice addition, it has limitations. It’s meant for installing programs and copying files, and doesn’t work as a remote DVD player or CD ripper. Apple helpfully suggests that the iTunes Store stands to assist you in all your music, movie, and TV show needs, but of course many users may prefer to consume content that originally began its life on optical discs. Using a tool such as HandBrake () is certainly an option in order to make DVDs watchable on your Mac as well as your iPod or iPhone, but converting a movie can be a time-consuming experience.

For all my nonchalance about optical drives, I know that the last time I was really sick in bed at home, I whiled away the hours watching DVDs on my MacBook. With the MacBook Air, that sort of behavior won’t really be an option, short of having an external SuperDrive hanging around at the ready.

One door, three ports

To see more of the MacBook Air’s feature compromises, look no further than the cute flip-down door on the laptop’s right side. Upon lowering the door, you can see the MacBook Air offers only three ports: a headphone jack, a USB port, and a micro-DVI port. (And yes, this means that all of those IT professionals who have to carry a sack of Mac display adapters will need to add two new ones to their stock. However, Apple has graciously included two adapters—micro-DVI-to-VGA and micro-DVI-to-DVI—in the box with the MacBook Air.)

However, Apple hasn’t compromised when it comes to the MacBook Air’s video-out capabilities. They match the MacBook’s, including the ability to drive an external monitor as large as Apple’s 23-inch Cinema Display (1,920-by-1,200 pixels). It also shares the MacBook’s Intel GMA X3100 graphics processor circuitry, which means neither laptop will ever be a gaming powerhouse.

More of a compromise is the pathway by which users can attach peripherals to the MacBook Air: a single USB 2.0 port. First let’s address that port on its own merits: if you want to attach more than a single USB device to the MacBook Air, you’ll need to invest in a USB 2.0 hub. In a desk-bound configuration, this can actually work quite well. I tested the MacBook Air attached to the USB port of the aforementioned 23-inch Apple Cinema Display, and then on to a Belkin powered four-port USB 2.0 hub. I managed to attach an external hard drive, an iPod, an iPhone, an Apple keyboard, a Kensington trackball, and the MacBook Air’s own USB Ethernet adapter, all at once, without any trouble.

However, using USB devices on the road could be more problematic. If you usually count on having two open USB ports on your Mac, you’ll need to carefully consider if your working style will still function with only a single port available, or if you’ll need to invest in (and carry around) a portable hub. Keep in mind, too, that the MacBook Air’s USB port is also the place where you must connect its SuperDrive (if you need to read or write from optical discs). And If you don't have a USB hub, you'll also need this port for connecting any other peripheral including the Ethernet USB adapter. In other words, that one USB port is going to be awfully popular.

Beyond its sheer… singularity, the MacBook Air’s USB port has other ramifications. It’s also a sign that the MacBook Air is the first Mac in years to eschew FireWire, the once-ubiquitous Apple-created connection technology that now seems to be slowly fading into irrelevance. The disappearance of FireWire brings up several other issues. If you’ve invested in a digital camcorder that connects to your Mac via FireWire, and count on being able to pull video off of that camcorder while traveling with a laptop, you’ll be out of luck with the MacBook Air. (I wouldn’t be surprised if some clever soul is even now inventing a USB-to-FireWire video bridge, but that will be an extra piece of hardware you’d need to buy and carry, even if it does someday appear.)

What’s more, without FireWire there’s no “target mode,” a feature that lets you mount a laptop’s drive on another Mac as if it were an external hard drive. It’s a feature that’s been around for a long time (dating back to a SCSI version on old PowerBooks), and it’s a convenient way to migrate files on and off of laptops, but the MacBook Air just won’t do it. (And no, sadly, there’s no USB equivalent.)

Here, too, Apple has built new software to mitigate the loss of functionality. A new edition of the Migration Assistant utility, which used to focus on FireWire as a transport mechanism, now lets you transfer files across an Ethernet or Wi-Fi network directly from within the program. Using a network isn’t quite as fast as FireWire, but it does work.

The third port on the MacBook Air’s door, the headphone jack, is the simplest of the three to comprehend: attach it to a pair of headphones or an external speaker and you’ll get sound. That’s a key feature, since the MacBook Air’s single internal speaker is small, tinny, and unfortunately located in the general vicinity of the arrow keys, in the bottom-right corner of the keyboard. If your hand happens to be over that area—and mine was more often than not, since that’s a natural place for my right hand to be—you’ll find that your hand is muffling most of the sounds out of the MacBook Air’s speaker. Even if your hands are off, the asymmetrical placement of the speaker simply doesn’t feel right, since it places all the aural action happening on your Mac to the far right.

As you might expect with a laptop as small as the MacBook Air, it’s a tight fit back there at the port door. And that tight fit leads to some interesting compatibility issues, too. Many devices with integrated USB plugs, such as broadband cards and TV-tuner cards, may not be able to fit in without a short USB extension cable. (My external EVDO modem, from Franklin Wireless, came with such a cable, but it turns out I don’t need it—it fits snugly and works like a charm.)

Likewise, many large headphone plugs—the same ones that wouldn’t fit in the iPhone’s recessed headphone jack—will not fit completely in the MacBook Air’s headphone jack. The situation isn’t as dire as the iPhone, however—the bulky plug of my Ultimate Ears headphones would plug in far enough for me to hear my iTunes music playing clearly and in stereo. However, the plug didn’t seem to be quite well seated enough to fend off numerous high-pitched buzzes and clicks, which were particularly noticeable between tracks. Using an iPhone-style headphone adapter with a small plug seemed to solve those issues.

Limited options

During the MacBook Air’s introduction at Macworld Expo, Steve Jobs showed a photograph of the MacBook Air’s interior and compared the length of its motherboard to the length of a pencil. All that miniaturization comes at a price, however—in terms of a lack of options and a limited set of features for many of the MacBook Air’s basic technologies.

Take the hard drive. Its storage capacity is 80GB, the same size as the entry-level MacBook. But the MacBook and MacBook Pro can be optionally configured with drives as large as 250GB. Those models use standard laptop drives; the MacBook Air uses a smaller 1.8-inch drive more like those found in iPods. And space is at such a premium in the MacBook Air that even the 120GB drive once used by the iPod is too thick to fit. As a result, 80GB is currently the only size of hard drive available for the Air. And the Air’s drive is slow as well as small, spinning at 4,200-rpm (compared to the 5,400-rpm and 7,200-rpm drives available in Apple’s other laptops) and connected via parallel ATA (rather than the newer serial ATA method used in the other MacBooks).

There is another storage option for the Air. For $999, you can have Apple swap in a 64GB SSD (solid-state drive). Though you’ll be paying nearly a thousand bucks for 16GB less storage, the SSD option should use less power and be faster than the hard drive option. (We weren’t able to acquire an SSD-bearing MacBook Air; we’ll share the results of our tests of that model as soon as we can.) Perhaps more importantly, the SSD—which uses flash memory like that found on digital camera cards, the iPhone, and the iPod nano and touch—has no moving parts, meaning it should be far more resistant to shocks and far more reliable than a traditional hard drive.

In any event, if you’re someone who needs more than 80GB of onboard storage, you’ll need to slim down your data before switching to an Air. I managed to switch from my nearly-full 160GB MacBook drive through a judicious program of throwing out ancient applications and preferences, moving my media to other devices, and copying old files to an external hard drive and a networked file server. If your MacBook Air isn’t your primary system, but more of a sidekick to your desktop system, the drive size should be less of an issue.

There are a similar lack of options when it comes to the MacBook Air’s RAM. The MacBook Air comes with a stock 2GB of RAM, an excellent allotment—but Apple has a very practical reason to be so generous with the stock RAM. That’s because the MacBook Air’s RAM is built in to the computer itself, inaccessible and non-upgradeable. Fortunately, 2GB is a good amount. Any less, and Apple would have risked crippling the MacBook Air into irrelevance.

In terms of the onboard Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Apple gives MacBook Air buyers two speed options: the standard 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz, a $300 option. Both speeds fall short of what’s available on the MacBook (2.0GHz, 2.2GHz) and MacBook Pro (2.2GHz, 2.4GHz, 2.6Ghz) lines.

What it all boils down to is that one of the less obvious compromises built into the MacBook Air, at least for now, is a lack of customizability and serviceability.

Speed facts

The Macworld Lab tested the MacBook Air’s $1,799 base configuration—a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo processor with an 80GB hard drive.

As you might expect from the slow clock speeds of its processor and the slow speed of its hard drive, the MacBook Air is quite a bit slower than the other MacBooks. The MacBook Air was also outpaced in our tests by one of its closest desktop cousins, the ultra-compact Mac mini 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo. Its Speedmark score of 124 is the lowest score we’ve recorded for any Intel-based Mac laptop, but it does handily beat our PowerPC laptop reference system, the 1.67Ghz PowerBook G4. The MacBook Air is also clearly the slowest currently shipping Mac model.

Preliminary MacBook Air Tests

Speedmark 5 Adobe Photoshop CS3 Cinema 4D XL 10.5 Compr. 3 iMovie HD iTunes 7.5 Unreal Tourn. 2004 Finder H'brake

MacBook Air/1.6GHz Core 2 Duo 124 1:43 1:36 3:25 1:21 1:52 19.3 7:49 5:00
MacBook/2GHz Core 2 Duo 170 1:30 1:06 2:25 0:58 1:16 22.2 5:16 3:10
MacBook Pro/2.2GHz Core 2 Duo 185 1:24 1:00 2:16 0:54 1:09 76.8 5:37 3:14
Mac mini/1.83GHz Core 2 Duo 161 1:25 1:13 2:37 1:05 1:23 21.7 6:01 3:34
PowerBook/1.67GHz G4 92 2:59 3:52 7:43 1:58 2:26 22.2 7:13 16:55
>Better >Better

Best results in red. Reference systems in italics.

Speedmark 5 scores are relative to those of a 1.5GHz Core Solo Mac mini, which is assigned a score of 100. Adobe Photoshop, Cinema 4D XL, iMovie, iTunes, and Finder scores are in minutes:seconds. All systems were running Mac OS X 10.5.1 with 2GB of RAM. The Photoshop Suite test is a set of 14 scripted tasks using a 50MB file. Photosho's memory was set to 70 percent and History was set to Minimum. We recorded how long it took to render a scene in Cinema 4D XL. We used Compressor to encode a 6minute:26second DV file using the DVD: Fastest Encode 120 minutes - 4:3 setting. In iMovie, we applied the Aged Film effect from the Video FX. menu to a one-minute movie. We converted 45 minutes of AAC audio files to MP3 using iTunes' High Quality setting. We used Unreal Tournament 2004's Antalus Botmatch average-frames-per-second score; we tested at a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels at the Maximum setting with both audio and graphics enabled. We created a Zip archive in the Finder from a 2GB folder. To see other Speedmark 5 scores for other systems, click here.—MACWORLD LAB TESTING BY JAMES GALBRAITH, JERRY JUNG, AND BRIAN CHEN

My time with the MacBook Air came on the heels of using a 2.16GHz MacBook, and I found its speeds in day-to-day use to be perfectly sufficient. Using writing tools, checking e-mail, and surfing the Web, I generally found the difference in speed between the two systems to be minor. Using Photoshop CS3 to do some minor image tweaking seemed perfectly fine.

However, users who must rely on their portable systems to do processor-intensive tasks as fast as possible should be warned: the MacBook Air is not remotely as fast as the MacBook, let alone the MacBook Pro. But for general uses, I rarely noticed that the system was slower than my MacBook.

Though Apple’s laptops have long been criticized for running hot, sometimes intensely so, I’ve never been someone who’s been bothered by it, for whatever reason. In using the MacBook Air for extended periods of time, I found it never got particularly hot. It certainly never felt warmer than my MacBook. The heat, when it is apparent, is concentrated in the back left corner. But at no time did I judge the temperature back there as being uncomfortable or potentially injurious.

Battery included

One of the more controversial features of the MacBook Air is its battery. Not its rated battery life—although at five hours, even Apple’s estimate of the MacBook Air’s battery capacity is less than the six hours the company estimates for the MacBook and the 15-inch Mac Book Pro.

No, the most controversial issue is that the MacBook Air’s battery is not replaceable. There’s no battery door, no way to swap a dead battery out and replace it with a fresh one—like all other Apple laptops. Like an iPod or iPhone, the MacBook Air has a battery embedded inside and there’s no official way to get it out other than giving your laptop back to Apple and asking the company to replace it for a fee. (Online reports suggest that the battery is relatively easy to replace—so long as you’ve got a screwdriver and some patience. In other words, replacing the battery is something to do when the original wears out, not something to do while on a long flight. And something to do if you’re not concerned about voiding your warranty.)

For some users, swapping batteries is a necessity. If you take long plane flights or otherwise travel for long periods of time without access to a power outlet, bringing along a second battery has been a time-tested tradition. With the MacBook Air, that safety net is gone.

Apple’s decision to eliminate the battery swap might not be quite as radical as you might first think, however. Many airlines already offer power outlets for laptops (though some plugs require Apple’s $49 MagSafe Airline Adapter), and in a few years they may very well be common, especially on long-haul flights. But that’s little solace if you fly from Boston to L.A. every week in the back row of a United flight where power plugs are just a rumor.

In my 12-inch PowerBook G4 days, I used to keep a second battery around, specifically for airplane flights. But honestly, since I upgraded to the MacBook I’ve never even removed my battery, except to install RAM or swap out the hard drive. One reason for that is a change in my in-flight habits: I use my laptop for work when I’m on the flight, but when I take breaks to entertain myself, I switch to an iPhone or iPod. By spreading the load out over multiple devices, each with their own batteries, I can get through the entire flight.

In the end, the lack of a replacement battery may be a deal-breaker for people who truly need more working time than the MacBook Air’s locked-in battery gives them. In my days using the MacBook Air—Web browsing, writing, and using e-mail, all with Wi-Fi turned on—I found that it held a charge for roughly three hours total. It was an acceptable, if not inspiring, amount of time.

More troubling, however, was the time it took to recharge the battery. It took me nearly five hours to recharge the battery with the MacBook Air’s wimpy 45-watt power adapter. (In contrast, the MacBook’s adapter is 60 watts and the MacBook Pro’s is 85 watts.)

Unfortunately, the three adapters are not interchangeable—the MacBook Air’s slim design forced Apple to place its power connector on a curved edge on its left side, and the MacBook and MacBook pro adapters—though they’ll fit the connector itself—stick out straight, causing them to pop right off if you lay the MacBook Air flat on a desk or table. The MacBook Air’s connector, in contrast, turns at a right angle and nestles snug in the case’s curve.

Users of laptop stands may feel encouraged that they probably don’t have to invest in extra power adapters for the MacBook Air: my simple Road Tools Podium CoolPad raised the Air high enough up off my desk so that my existing 85-watt MagSafe adapter connected to the MacBook Air with room to spare.

Gesture of support

As is often the case when Apple introduces new MacBook models, the MacBook Air’s trackpad offers some functionality that we haven’t seen before on a MacBook.

As displayed in a redesigned Keyboard & Mouse preference pane via a series of informative animations, the MacBook Air supports new gestures that go way beyond the two-finger scroll and secondary click. In a move that will be familiar to iPhone users, the MacBook Air’s trackpad understands the same pinch-and-spread finger movement that you use to zoom images and Web pages on the iPhone.

On the MacBook Air, what that gesture does depends on what program you’re currently using. It’ll zoom in or out on an image in Preview or iPhoto, but when your cursor is over an Finder window set to Icon view, it has the odd effect of changing the size of all of the icons.

A similar two-finger gesture, taking two fingers and circling them around one another, cues iPhoto and Preview to rotate the selected image. (Other programs should be able to take advantage of these gestures as well, and presumably other future MacBook models will include this capability.)

A three-finger swipe across the trackpad kicks off another action that will be familiar to iPhone users: it advances (or backs up) within a list of items. In iPhoto, swiping to the right will advance to the next image; in Safari, swiping to the left is akin to clicking the Back button.

But the iPhone’s swipe gesture takes a single finger, while for obvious reasons the MacBook Air’s trackpad reserves single-finger movement for the act of moving your cursor around the screen. I found swiping with the required three fingers to be ungainly at best. While I can see myself adopting these new two-finger gestures just as I have the two-finger scroll and the two-finger right-click, I have my doubts about the three-finger swipe.

Sidekick or mainstay?

With its reduced hard-drive size and lack of speed, the MacBook Air may be looked upon by users with high standards as a product that’s not worthy of being any user’s primary Mac. And I’ve received numerous e-mails on that point, from Mac users who assume that Apple has intended the MacBook Air to be a sidekick to another, more powerful Mac at the true center of one’s life.

But in making the MacBook Air a full-fledged MacBook and marketing it as such, Apple has given no hint that it views this system as anything more than a tiny version of the other MacBooks in its product line. Beyond the necessary release of Remote Disc, there’s a disappointing lack of innovation from Apple in the area of easily syncing any MacBook back to a desktop Mac.

Yes, there are plenty of clever strategies you can use to make this process better, including .Mac synchronization or sync utilities such as Econ Technologies’ Chronosync. But Apple could have chosen to create software that made the MacBook Air as much of an easy-to-use companion piece to a desktop system as an iPod or an iPhone. Instead, MacBook Air users will face the same synchronization issues as every other person who uses a MacBook as a secondary system.

Then there will be those who, small drive and slow processor be damned, will adopt the MacBook Air as their primary Mac—simply because they’re laptop-only users who want that laptop to be as small as possible.

For those users, the biggest issue with the MacBook Air will be the size of its hard drive. Data pack rats will need to change their file-archiving strategy, migrating certain documents to an external hard drive. Media fans might consider packing an iPod rather than storing a copy of their music and video library on the MacBook Air’s drive.

Macworld’s buying advice

If the story of the MacBook Air is a story about compromise, the decision about whether the MacBook Air is a product worth having can be answered by one question: How much are you willing to compromise?

The MacBook Air is the slowest Mac in Apple’s current product line, though its Intel Core 2 Duo processor is fast enough for general use. Its hard drive capacity is limited to 80GB, and on a slow drive at that. It’s got no internal optical drive. It’s got no FireWire port and only a single USB port, limiting its external connectivity. It’s more expensive than the MacBook, which bests it on almost every tech-spec measurement.

That’s one side of the equation. On the other side are two features that many computer users would never think of as reasonable ways to judge a computer, features measured in pounds and inches instead of gigahertz and gigabytes: The MacBook Air weighs three pounds and is three-quarters of an inch thick at its thickest point.

Judged merely on the cold technological specifications, the MacBook Air can’t measure up to Apple’s other laptops. For those to whom the tech specs matter above all else, the MacBook Air can’t be seen as much more than an overpriced, underpowered toy.

But for those who factor size, weight, and—yes, I’ll admit it—style into the equation, the MacBook Air begins to make more sense. Up until now, Mac users who craved the smallest Mac laptop possible have made their own compromise, using the lower-powered MacBook (or clinging desperately to the even lower-powered 12-inch PowerBook G4).

Is losing several hundred megahertz, dozens of gigabytes of hard-drive space, an internal optical drive, and FireWire connectivity worth losing two pounds? (Those are the differences between the MacBook Air and the MacBook—if you’re considering a switch from the MacBook Pro, the differences are even starker in both directions.) Each laptop user will have to answer that question for themselves.

As a longtime fan of small laptops, I embraced the MacBook Air with some trepidation. But once I slipped that three-pound laptop into my backpack and threw the bag over my shoulders, I realized that sacrificing some storage space and some processor power was ultimately worth it for me.

Another Hussey dons the Australian cap

Melbourne, Jan 30 (IANS) David Hussey, younger brother of Australian batsman Michael Hussey is all set to make his debut against India in a Twenty20 match at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) here Friday, the media reported here Wednesday.

Known to be a devastating hitter, an effective off-spin bowler and a brilliant slip catch and infielder, David had an outstanding season in the Pura Cup, Ford Ranger Cup and Twenty20 competition. He joins fellow Victorian top-order batsman Brad Hodge in the line-up for Friday. David, 30, will start his career at the same age when his brother Michael was given his first Australian cap.

"It was great. We were out celebrating that and it ended up being a double celebration," David said of the call he received from acting chief executive Michael Brown.

"I'm nervous about it but excited as well. To be honest, I wasn't actually expecting it. When everybody keeps asking 'when are you going to play, when are you going to get picked', it gets on your mind and you start believing it a bit. I'm kind of happy it is all over," The Age quoted David.

David said Michael had phoned to congratulate him from the Adelaide Oval dressing rooms but in the Test side's post-series celebrations his brother was a little hard to understand.

"He said, 'I'm rapt for you, buddy, hope you do well'. Half an hour later he tried to ring me again but he wasn't making much sense by that stage so I had to turn the phone off after that," he added.

David, who many thought as a junior in Perth was the more talented of the brothers and the one more likely to have the talent to take him to international success first, said his selection was the highlight of his career

"This is by a mile the highlight, this and winning the Pura Cup. I can't wait, though," he said.

Victorian chairman of selectors John MacWhirter said David was worthy of the Australian cap.

"He certainly has deserved his spot in the Australian Twenty20 side and has played well enough in all forms of the game to really push his claims across the board," MacWhirter said.

"I think it is pretty obvious to all people that David over the past three years has really matured tremendously, both personally and in terms of his batting and his approach to batting.

"And although he is still a tremendously exciting player, he certainly constructs his innings extremely well," he added.


Yousuf ton consigns Zimbabwe to another defeat

An unbeaten century from Mohammad Yousuf and captain Shoaib Malik's superb allround show has led Pakistan to a seven-wicket win over Zimbabwe in the fourth one-day cricket international at Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad.

Yousuf scored 108 not out and Malik 88 as they put on 141 for the third wicket to power Pakistan to 245 for three in 47 overs in reply to Zimbabwe's 244 all out.

It was Pakistan's fourth successive win in the five-match series.

Yousuf's fluent 111-ball innings contained 10 fours and a six. He reached his 14th one-day hundred in the 44th over, driving pace bowler Gary Brent through extra cover.

Malik, who also took three wickets, stroked 10 fours in his 95-ball innings before he was run out when he played the ball to mid wicket and set off for a single only to get no response from Yousuf.

Zimbabwe had made a strong start when Nasir Jamshed flicked Elton Chigumbura straight to Brent at short fine leg for 11.

Debutant opener Khalid Latif made 19 before he holed out to Sean Williams who took a fine low catch at deep mid wicket off Christopher Mpofu.

Yousuf and Malik joined forces with the score at 66 for two.

Zimbabwe, who won the toss, were unable to put the Pakistani bowlers under any real pressure despite an enterprising third-wicket stand of 85 between Williams, who made 48, and Tatenda Taibu, who scored 51.

Malik took three for 55 but his figures were dented when left-hander Keith Dabengwa hit him for two sixes to score 19 in the final over before being run out for 45.

Dabengwa's blitz allowed Zimbabwe to finish with a fighting total on another good batting pitch.

New Linux phone stack ships

Start-up Azingo, formerly Celunite, will officially launch its Linux-based mobile phone software stack next month. Set to debut at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the "Azingo Mobile" stack is positioned as a comprehensive software/services offering for mid-tier feature-phones compliant with LiMo (Linux Mobile Foundation) requirements.

Then known as Celunite, the venture-funded startup unveiled itself just over a year ago, at the "Open Source in Mobile" show in Amsterdam. Based in Silicon Valley, with development offices throughout India, Azingo employs about 250 engineers, with plans to "grow substantially" over the next three years, said director of marketing, Michael McLaughlin. "We'll be a 1,000-person company, with 600 working on services and 400 working on platforms. We'll offer services related to customization of our platform, operator-specific service packs, and porting customers' DRM or JVM to our platform. We'll also offer services related to developing open source software."

Earlier this month, Celunite changed its name to Azingo and announced that it would supply some tools to LiMO's CIE (common integration environment), a win that could open the door at least to business relationships with LiMo's membership of powerful phone vendors and operators. LiMo is an industry group collaboratively developing middleware for application management, security, rights management, and so on. Azingo also recently hired a Motorola executive to lead its engineering team.

Azingo Mobile mockups
(Click to enlarge)

Azingo Mobile

The Azingo Mobile stack is positioned as the first "complete" Linux phone stack -- from kernel to application layer -- that also complies with LiMo specifications. McLaughlin said, "We're quite active in LiMo, which we see as one of centers of the Linux mobile universe. But you need more than what's in the first release of LiMo. [Azingo Mobile] conforms to and uses technology from Limo, but it's a superset, offering more of the middleware suites, and it has an app suite and kernel pre-integrated."

Azingo Mobile diagram
(Click to enlarge)

The Azingo Mobile stack currently supports "13 hardware platforms from seven of the industry's leading silicon providers," said CEO Mahesh Veerina in a statement. McLaughlin said that for most platforms, a 2.6.19 kernel is available. Alternatively, Azingo can work with a customer's own kernel, or with a kernel supplied by a provider such as MontaVista or Wind River. "Partners will have a kernel version that was ported with patches to specific hardware. We have commercial relationships with customers who would rather use their own kernel," McLaughlin said.

Keeping with the device world's trend toward using desktop graphics rather than lightweight embedded graphics stacks, the Azingo Mobile stack is based on GTK. It supports the Dalvik Java Virtual Machine maintained by the Google-sponsored Open Handset Alliance (OHA), and used in Google's Android project. There's also rich multimedia capabilities, Azingo says. It comprises a "complete" stack, but can also be integrated with custom components under the terms of a service contract.

Perhaps most interestingly, despite its mid-market feature-phone focus, the Azingo Mobile stack integrates the open source Webkit rendering engine used in Nokia's S60 smartphone environment, and in Apple's iPhone. The integration provides a world-class mobile browser, of course, but even more importantly lets operators and phone vendors customize the UI using HTML, CSS, AJAX, and other web standards. The advantages of this approach include wider availability of developer talent, easier over-the-air interface updates, and an ability to promote revenue-generating web content throughout the interface. McLaughlin noted, "Suddenly you have the ability to get all these new services through the web, via non-browser app integration, and 'quick tasks' that tie into Web services -- checking the weather, traffic, photo streams, and so on."

Azingo competitor Trolltech was at work integrating Webkit in a similar fashion into its Qt and Qtopia products, prior to being acquired by Nokia on Monday.

McLaughlin said Azingo is not ready to announce any customers yet for its Mobile stack. However, he promised "a number of announcements between now and the end of March." Also promised are further announcements in conjunction with LiMo.

Guido Arnone, director of terminals technology at Vodafone said: "Azingo Mobile's ability to provide lower-cost, Internet-enabled mobile phones helps support LiMo's goal to create a true mass-market platform and surrounding ecosystem."


The Azingo Mobile stack is available now for immediate licensing, Azingo says. It will demonstrate the stack at teh Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Feb. 11-14.

MacBook Air floats down to earth

“And then the skies parted, the angels sang, the birds twittered and down from Apple Heaven floated the MacBook Air.”

Yes…if you hadn’t guessed it…Apple just announced the MacBook Air is now shipping. It also put out word that the expected Apple TV update to let you rent HD movies is “not quite finished.” It should be available in another week or so.

“And all were happy in the Apple World.”

Jailbreak iPhone/iPod Touch Automatically, No Computer Required

Click to View
You no longer need a host computer to turn a jailbroken iPhone/iPod touch with firmware 1.1.2 into a jailbroken iPhone/iPod touch with Apple's latest firmware, 1.1.3, installed. Jailbreaking allows users of these Apple devices to run third-party applications directly on their iPhond/iPod touch, instead of just through the Safari web browser from a remote location.

Introduced by the iPhone dev team, the new jailbreak - called Official 1.1.3 Upgrader - works by cracking Apple's application-signing method, which (unfortunately) may have negative consequences when it comes time to install official, Apple approved software. Rather than a PC or Mac, all that's required to set this jailbreak upgrade in motion is Wi-Fi connection and an outlet, the latter to make sure your iPhone/iPod touch’s power source doesn't poop out in the middle of installation.

For directions how to install this jailbreak, see here. Remember, the new computer-less 1.1.3 jailbreak method is only for those who've already jailbroken their 1.1.2 iPhone/iPod touch. If you haven't jailbroken 1.1.3 yet - or if simply require more detailed directions - head over here. We recommend you check out the info at the previous link first, however.

As we've mentioned before, performing any type of unofficial software upgrade, especially a jailbreak, isn't for the faint of heart. Jailbreaks, in particular, have been known to cause trouble for some iPhon/iPod touch users. They do open up a whole new world of applications to the user, though. So the risk, for many, is worth the potential benefit.

Apple TV 2.0 delayed a week or two

Apple TV 2.0 needs a little more time in the oven.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveils Apple TV 2.0 at Macworld earlier this month.

(Credit: Corinne Schulze/CNET Networks)

Apple put out a press release Wednesday noting that the MacBook Air is now shipping. Check out my colleague Dan Ackerman's review of the extremely slim laptop if you're thinking about making a purchase. But the company also tucked in a sentence about Apple TV in that release, saying "Apple also announced that the new Apple TV software update, which allows users to rent high-definition movies directly from their widescreen TVs, is not quite finished."

Current owners of Apple TV will be able to download the software update in a week or two, Apple said. It was supposed to be released within two weeks of its announcement at Macworld, or that was the plan unveiled during CEO Steve Jobs' keynote speech. New Apple TVs with the updated software ship within 24 hours from Apple's online store.

The new software brings a whole new look-and-feel to Apple TV, Apple's bid to connect big-screen televisions to the Internet and computers. It will also allow Apple TV owners to rent movies through the new iTunes Rental Service.

This isn't the end of the world--after all, current Apple TV owners are getting all this for free--but it's not the best news, either. Apple has delayed a few software projects in the past 12 months, most notably the four-month slip in Leopard's ship time precipitated by the push to get the iPhone out on time.

At last year's shareholders meeting, a shareholder asked Jobs why Apple hasn't hired more engineers to keep up with the demand for its products. Jobs said the company considers software engineering a quality issue, not a quantity issue where problems can be solved by throwing bodies at a project. Still, you have to wonder if he'll get that question again this year, with so much now on Apple's plate between the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and now Apple TV businesses.

Gateway's New Desktop PCs with AMD Phenom Processors

Gateway GT5662 Desktop PC


The PC manufacturer introduces two new GM and GT series mainstream desktop PCs with AMD Phenom processors on board.

Today Gateway introduced two new GM and GT series mainstream desktop PCs. The first is the GM5664, a video-oriented PC with a "Hybrid-SuperMulti" optical drive that can read both HD-DVD and Blu-ray movie discs as well as read and burn CDs and standard-def DVDs. The GM5664 comes with a NTSC/ATSC (HDTV) tuner, a quad-core AMD Phenom 9600 processor running at 2.3GHz, and 3GB of DDR2 memory. These performance parts and the system's 1TB drive firmly plant the system in the "multimedia enthusiast" camp. The GM5664 sells for $1,149.99 at major retailers such as Best Buy, Circuit City, J&R, and

The Gateway GT5662 is the slightly cheaper little brother to the GM5664. It's priced at $749.99 and comes with a lower power (but still quad-core) AMD Phenom 9500 proccessor (2.2GHz), a 500GB drive, DVD burner, and eschews the TV tuner. Think of the GT5662 as a beginner multimedia system for the person who needs more power than the standard $400-500 dual core basic PC.

Both systems come with an ATI Radeon HD 2400XT 3D graphics card with HDMI support and Windows Vista Home Premium.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Labels see new online music options

When you're not inclined to give your product away for free, make your customers believe they're getting something for nothing.

That's the thinking behind some of the offerings music fans may see this year as the recording industry scrambles to offset losses from plunging CD sales and find new sources of revenue when many consumers simply download music for free.

Among the business models music fans are likely to see more of: music subscriptions bundled with the price of Internet access, and services like Nokia Corp.'s upcoming Comes With Music, which would give users of select mobile phones a year's worth of unlimited access to music, for no extra charge.

Music companies also are expected to license songs for more ad-supported Web sites like imeem, which lets visitors watch videos or listen to full-length tracks posted by other music fans for free.

Major recording labels, long-criticized for being too slow in adapting to changes brought by the Internet over the last decade, are under pressure to explore new ways to get music fans to pay for music, leading to more choices for consumers.

In 2007, the recording industry arguably took the boldest steps yet.

After years championing the necessity of copy-protection safeguards on digital music, three of the world's biggest recording companies agreed to license their music for sale online as unprotected MP3 files. Many analysts expect the last holdout, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, to follow this year.

That's an important step for music lovers hesitant about buying digital music because songs are generally tied to specific devices -- for example, Apple Inc.'s iPod players can't play copy-protected music not bought at Apple's iTunes store.

"It seems clear there's an accelerated pace of change that comes hand in glove with accelerated decline in traditional business," said Eric Garland, chief executive at BigChampagne Online Media Measurement, which tracks online entertainment.

Recording company executives who once saw new technology as the enemy seem to now see it as a lifeline.

The major labels -- Sony BMG, Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group Corp. and Britain's EMI Group PLC -- declined to comment.

In a recent memo to employees, Warner Music Chairman and CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr. touched on the importance of developing new areas of digital music. The company's stock price has plunged more than 75 percent over the past year.

"There's no denying that WMG and the industry as a whole have been struggling for almost a decade now with the challenges and opportunities that the digital space presents," Bronfman wrote. "The recent trend of dramatic changes in the recorded music market will continue. ... And, though it's a cliche, it's a cliche because it's true: technology will also provide us with new opportunities."

Bronfman alluded that the industry this year would pursue a way to "monetize the unauthorized flow of our artists' audio content on the Internet."

That could involve striking deals with Internet service providers to help compensate labels for the millions of songs swapped online.

Another approach involves Internet service providers offering a pricing tier that comes with unlimited music downloads or faster download speeds that might be attractive to computer users who download a lot of music files.

Last year, Universal Music began testing an unlimited music download service in France offered through broadband provider Neuf Cegetel.

Then there's Universal Music's Total Music, which is expected to extend what Universal is doing with Nokia's Comes With Music to everything from personal computers to digital music players, with the cost of the music built into the price.

Internet users collectively download about 1.1 billion songs from file-sharing networks every month, according to BigChampagne. So the music industry's success could be tempered if those people see little value in digital music without copy-protection strings or services offering feels-like-free music.

Sales of digital tracks at iTunes and elsewhere surged 45 percent last year compared with 2006, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But digital music still accounts for a small portion of overall music sales, and U.S. album sales in CDs and other physical formats dropped 15 percent during the same period.

Combined, the number of albums sold declined 9.5 percent.

"The industry for the last several years had hoped that eventually the pain would subside and they expected that eventually the market slowdown would level off," said James McQuivey, media and technology analyst at Forrester Research.

Instead, he said, the recording industry saw CD sales falling even faster.

In a research note issued in November, Pali Capital analyst Richard Greenfield suggested retail floor space for CDs would probably shrink this year by as much as 30 percent.

Like many other music retailers, Related Cos.' Virgin Megastores North America has diversified its product offerings in recent years, adding clothing, novelties, electronics and other items to help offset CD sales declines.

After two years of moderate declines, Virgin's same-store music sales rose 5 percent last year compared with 2006, while overall sales jumped 15 percent. CDs now represent only 40 percent of overall sales, said Kevin Milligan, Virgin's vice president of product and merchandising.

Despite mixed results trying to breathe life into the CD by adding video and other multimedia extras, the recording industry will roll out a host of new variants to stores this year.

One, dubbed the CD-View Plus, lets customers access a trove of additional content when they go online. Another is digital gift cards, which enable users to download specific albums, something Starbucks already sells.

"There's a lot of experimentation going on," said Jim Donio, president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, a trade group that represents hundreds of retailers, record labels and other music-related firms.

Music fans are also likely to see more albums released in multiple versions, such as pricier deluxe or limited-editions, and more albums pre-loaded onto small, portable storage devices such as thumb drives attached to rubber bracelets.

Consumers may also see a bigger push this year for CD singles, dubbed "ringles," that include mobile phone ringtones and other digital content, Milligan said. Universal Music and Sony BMG, which is a joint venture of Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG, are among the labels that have plans to release ringles, he said.

"Everyone is looking for a formula that will provide healthy growth for the industry, which I believe will come," Donio said. "The other side of this will be loaded with new kinds of opportunities, for arguably a marketplace that probably doesn't look anything like it looks now."