Otterbox readies iPad 2 Defender case

The Otterbox iPad 2 Defender Case ships soon and costs $89.99. It includes a clip-on screen cover with a built-in stand.


If you’re looking for serious protection for your
iPad 2, you’ll probably want to check out Otterbox’s Defender Series Case, which the company says is “shipping soon.”

As Apple has reduced the size and weight of the iPad 2, Otterbox has also slimmed down its case: It says the iPad 2 version of the Defender is 20 percent lighter than its predecessor for the original iPad. It’s still going to be one of the bulkier cases out there, offering multiple layers of protection and a clip-on screen cover that turns into a stand with two adjustable heights, one for typing and one for watching.

All this protection comes at a price, of course. The Otterbox iPad 2 Defender is $89.99. Otterbox isn’t doing preorders, though you can sign-up to get an e-mail alert when it becomes available.

In the meantime, check out the video below. As you can see, it’s a bit of an operation to get your iPad 2 into the case and cover, but both iPad and case look like they’d take a licking.

iPad 2 case roundup (photos)

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Volkswagen to produce a range of plug-ins in 2013

The 260 mpg Volkswagen XL1 concept car.

The 260 mpg Volkswagen XL1 concept car.


Volkswagen jumped on the plug-in bandwagon and will produce a range of plug-in hybrid vehicles starting in 2013. Volkswagen CEO Martin Winterkorn made the announcement at the Vienna Motor Symposium this week, but he didn’t specify which vehicles will get the plug-in power-train.

“The plug-in hybrid offers precisely what many customers expect: unlimited internal combustion engine performance combined with attractive electric mobility ranges in everyday driving,” Winterkorn said. The company acknowledges that electric vehicles will play a large role in the automotive future, but finds plug-ins to be a happy medium until infrastructure, technology, and consumers make pure EVs a viable option.

Earlier this year, the German auto manufacturer debuted the XL1 concept plug-in
car at an auto show in Qatar. Based on the L1 concept, the gullwinged tandem two-seater has a carbon fiber chassis and is powered by a 48-horsepower two-cylinder TDI engine and an electric motor that produces 27 hp. The lightweight aerodynamic vehicle reportedly achieves up to 260 mpg.

VW will begin limited series production of 100 XL1s in 2013, said Winterkorn in an interview with Automotive New Europe. Germany will be the first country to receive the XL1, followed by the U.S. and China at a later date.

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PlayBook lessons for BlackBerry

When RIM introduced the BlackBerry PlayBook, it not only offered a 7-inch alternative to the
iPad and
Android tablets, it also offered a sneak peek into the future of RIM. Even though we think handsets like the Bold and the Torch are sleek and handsome, they’re just not innovative enough. They appear to cater to loyalists rather than attempt to woo new customers. Even the latest BlackBerry Bolds from BlackBerry World seem more evolutionary than revolutionary.

The PlayBook, however, with its innovative OS and features, may be RIM’s first shot at what a next-generation BlackBerry phone will look like. Sure, a tablet and a phone are two different things, but we couldn’t help but wish we could shrink down the PlayBook into a more smartphone-like size. That’s why we’re happy RIM has said it’s bringing the PlayBook’s QNX platform to its phones. The PlayBook may have received less than stellar reviews in the press, but we think there are still plenty of lessons RIM could learn from its flagship tablet and perhaps apply them to its future phones.

Imagine a smaller version of the BlackBerry PlayBook

Imagine a smaller version of the BlackBerry PlayBook

Josh P. Miller/CNET)

QNX mobile
The PlayBook itself may have garnered mixed reviews, but the QNX OS is nevertheless impressive. The interface is stunning, with buttery smooth transitions and amazing multitasking. In fact, many industry pundits call this “true multitasking,” which is not the case with iOS and Android. With the latter systems, you’re just hiding or minimizing one task while running another. With QNX, you really are running several different apps at full throttle simultaneously, just like you would on a desktop PC.

We think QNX will look fine on a smaller 4-inch display. You won’t get quite as much real estate, but the overall experience is actually pretty similar to Palm’s WebOS deck-of-cards interface. The biggest hurdle, as we see it, is the PlayBook’s reliance on the outer bezel to access menus and jump between open apps. This means that if RIM were to port the OS over to a smaller handset, that device will have to have a rather large border around the display — at least, a larger border than we’re accustomed. Perhaps RIM could tweak the OS so that a thick bezel isn’t necessary.

The browser
The web browser on BlackBerry OS 6 is far better than any of its predecessors, but it still doesn’t offer that full Web experience that many people want. The browser on the PlayBook, on the other hand, is practically indistinguishable from the one on your PC. It ships fully baked with Adobe Flash 10.2 support in the browser, so you can see all the Web’s video, games, animations, and ads exactly as you would on a computer. There’s also a privacy mode and the ability to selectively disable cookies.

Our tablet editor, Donald Bell, did warn that the PlayBook’s 7-inch size detracts a little from the browser experience, so a smaller 3 to 4-inch size display might be even worse. The touch accuracy is also not quite there when selecting links. But we have to imagine that RIM will adjust this for the mobile version, or at least we hope so. Seeing as most websites have mobile versions these days, we think the browser will do just fine on a smaller scale. The real question is whether the phone’s hardware will be able to handle such a full-fledged browser.

Not just more apps, but the right apps
When it comes to consumer smartphones, it’s often the apps that sell the hardware. It is in this arena that the PlayBook is sorely lacking, and we hope that RIM will find a way to get more native apps (and maybe some Android ones) on to its App World marketplace. We don’t agree that the app store with thousands of apps is necessarily better than the one with just hundreds, but consumers still at least want the more popular ones, like Netflix or Angry Birds. We also think not having native email and calendar support on the PlayBook on launch date was a misstep. We know that’s likely not to be a problem with the BlackBerry phones, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

If RIM is able to nail down the fit and finish of the OS and browser with its phones, we think they’re halfway there. After that, they just need to focus on making great hardware and getting better apps in App World. How about you, readers? Do you think the QNX platform will be great as a mobile OS? Or is it too late for BlackBerry?

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Friday Poll: Hackers’ response to Sony breach fair?



When I first signed up for a
PlayStation Network account years ago, never did it occur to me that my personal information would end up in the wrong hands. A wide-scale breach of a major game network of that size had never really happened before. Gamers safely played under a digital umbrella–now an illusion–of a secure network, thinking Sony was large, powerful, and had the resources to thwart any attack.

Then down came the rain–hard–and washed the illusion away.

The next blow, should it happen, could prove to be one of the worst public relations disasters to ever strike a consumer electronics company. Hackers say they have access to some of Sony’s servers and plan to publicize all or some of the information they can copy from those servers. This may include consumers’ credit card details. (A source tells CNET that this group of hackers claims to have access to Sony’s servers, which are different from the servers already hacked to expose more than 77 million user accounts.)

Such private information would undoubtedly travel quickly around the world through torrents and download sites. Sadly, the vessel for this material would most likely be a simple text file, perhaps only 10MB-20MB in size. That may not sound like a large file, but in terms of pure text, its a bible’s worth of names and numbers. Countless credit/debit cards would have to be replaced, and identities would have to be protected (for free, courtesy of Sony). Trust would be lost, perhaps never to be gained again.

It’s come to light that Sony didn’t adequately update the software that cataloged important consumer information. So, our question: Are hackers’ plans to punish Sony for its security breaches a fair response? Vote in our poll, and be sure to elaborate in the comments.

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Mercedes teases SLS AMG Roadster

The upcoming Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster undergoing track testing in Stuttgart, Germany.

The upcoming Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster undergoing track testing in Stuttgart, Germany.


Mercedes-Benz released photos of its upcoming convertible SLS AMG Roadster undergoing testing in Stuttgart. Barely disguised with black adhesive foil at the front, rear and along the sides, the Roadster appears to have the same body proportions as its coupe sibling, which debuted at the 2009 Frankfurt International Automobile Show, but sans gullwings and a fixed roof.

Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster (photos)

The Roadster will be equipped with a 6.3-liter V-8 engine that produces 563 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. Chopping the top off the SLS required a few structural changes. To create driving dynamics that are identical to the coupe model, Mercedes designed more robust side skirts, added supporting struts at the windshield frame and center tunnel, and stiffened the rear axle using a structure between the soft top and the tank.

These changes should help dampen vibrations without adding a lot of weight. Even with electrohydraulic equipment that lets the driver close the soft top in 11 seconds while driving up to 31 mph, the Roadster’s 536-pound body shell is only 5 pounds heavier than the coupe.

The SLS AMG Roadster is expected to have its world premiere at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show in September. Before then, it will undergo extensive testing before it goes to market. For one of its practical trials, the Roadster will travel to Laredo, Texas to see how well the convertible’s seals keep out the area’s notoriously fine dust that permeates practically all barriers.

Probably the most crucial of the standard tests will be the “Sindelfingen rain test,” which is actually a series of 16 tests that will validate the SLS AMG Roadster’s watertightness. Among other trials, the SLS AMG Roadster will have its flap seals sprayed with a water hose, experience continuous overnight rain, withstand swirl and high-pressure tests, and for the final stage of the gantlet, run through an automatic
car wash.

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Bevy of noteworthy upgrades in new iMac

The iconic iMac aluminum enclosure houses a bevy of noteworthy upgrades, including Intel’s and Advanced Micro Devices’ latest silicon and the latest Intel-Apple interface, as iFixit’s teardown of the 21.5-inch iMac ably reveals.

Let’s look at a below-the-radar item first since there’s already been plenty of ink devoted to the marquee features.

There is a Starship Enterprise-esque look to the main logic board, as iFixit points out. And the gleaming copper heat pipes add an interesting aesthetic to a purely functional layout.

There is a Starship Enterprise-esque look to the main logic board, as iFixit points out. And the gleaming copper heat pipes add an interesting aesthetic to a purely functional layout.


Intel Z68 chipset: This is Intel’s freshly minted chipset. New enough that you won’t find it–at least not prominently–on Intel’s Website because it hasn’t been officially released. The Z68 supports SSD caching: that is, using a relatively small-capacity, solid-state drive as a “cache” for a larger magnetic hard disk drive (see photo below). Interestingly, this SSD-HDD configuration is widely used in transaction-heavy businesses such as banks, where the top of the storage pyramid is composed of SSDs that act as a cache for the larger-capacity, and slower, magnetic drives.

Intel, in fact, is expected to bring out SSDs targeted specially at this kind of application.

The area--which is under the Sony Optiarc optical drive--shaded in red is presumably where the optional SSD is housed, according to iFixit.

The area–which is under the Sony Optiarc optical drive–shaded in red is ‘presumably’ where the optional SSD is housed, according to iFixit.


Intel desktop-class Sandy Bridge processors: In the model torn down by iFixit, the processor is a 2.5GHz quad-core Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5-2400S. This is a pure 32-nanometer processor (previous-generation Intel silicon with graphics integrated into the same chip package was a 50-50 split, the processor was 32nm but the graphics was 45nm).

Other i5-2400s goodies include a decent clock speed of 2.7GHz, which overclocks (what Intel calls Turbo Boost) to 3.7GHz, a 6MB cache, and 65-watt thermal envelope, which is respectably low for a high-performance quad-core desktop-class chip with built-in graphics.

Though not a critical issue for desktop jockeys because of the use of discrete AMD HD 6000 series graphics, it is nevertheless interesting to note that Intel’s desktop Sandy Bridge silicon has lower-performance HD 2000 integrated graphics compared with its HD 3000 mobile counterpart.

But don’t take my word for it, here’s what Intel says: “The primary difference between Intel HD Graphics 2000 and Intel HD Graphics 3000 is the number of execution units contained in the processor. Intel HD Graphics 2000 contains six execution units, and Intel HD Graphics 3000 contains 12 execution units. This means that Intel HD Graphics 3000 is better suited for more graphics intensive applications such as those that use 3D.”

AMD graphics processor: Which leads to AMD’s Radeon HD 6750M GPU. This is paired with four Hynix 1Gb GDDR5 SDRAM chips (totaling 512 MB), according to iFixit. A lot has been written about this graphics processing unit, so suffice to say that it integrates 480 Stream Processing Units and 24 Texture Units, according to AMD’s spec page. Also of note is an engine clock speed of 500MHz-725MHz, and processing power (single precision) of 480-696 GigaFLOPS.

And note that higher-performance Radeon HD 6770M or Radeon 6970M graphics cards are offered on higher-end iMacs.

AMDs Radeon HD 6750M GPU with four Hynix memory chips.

AMD’s Radeon HD 6750M GPU with four Hynix memory chips.


Other components worth mentioning include a Broadcom BCM57765B0KMLG Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and Memory Card Reader Controller, a Cirrus 4206BCNZ audio controller, and Intel L102IA84 EFL Thunderbolt port chip.

Thunderbolt: The merits of Thunderbolt have been written about ad nauseam. In brief, the new connection technology combines high-speed data transfer and high-definition video on a single cable. Running at 10Gbps, Thunderbolt can, theoretically, transfer a full-length HD movie in less than 30 seconds. The new iMac has two of these ports. Because Thunderbolt can act as a video port, it will allow you to connect two additional monitors to the iMac, according to Rich Brown, who wrote CNET Review’s take on the new iMac.

Serial ATA: Finally, there’s an interesting tidbit at MacFixIt, which cites a blog posting by Other World Computing. “The company mentions that the latest firmware update for the new 2011 iMacs has unlocked SATA III capabilities in the systems, allowing for up to 6Gb/sec data throughput on the internal hard drive bays. The past iMac and MacBook Pro models have shipped with SATA II drive controllers that handle up to 3Gb/sec throughput, but the new systems apparently use updated controllers,” according to MacFixIt’s Topher Kessler.

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