Google brings gadgets to Docs’ spreadsheet

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Google plans to roll out enhancements to its online spreadsheet program, including the ability to display data in new ways using lightweight “gadgets” and to notify users via e-mail when data is changed.

The enhancements, expected to go live either late Tuesday or early Wednesday, will be extended later to the other Google Docs components — the word processor and presentation applications.

New features coming for Blu-ray DVD format

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The high-definition-video war may be over now that Toshiba has conceded defeat for its ailing HD DVD format, but those interested in buying a high-def Blu-ray player still might want to wait for new features coming in the fall.

Sure, existing Blu-ray machines can play the nearly 500 Blu-ray discs available. They can deliver gorgeous, top-of-the-line 1080p resolution on compatible high-def televisions. But the next crop of Blu-ray players will be compliant with the upcoming Profile 2.0 standard, which adds Internet connectivity to the machines via a feature called BD-Live.

“Imagine being able to download high-definition trailers to current theatrical releases right to your TV, or selecting additional language tracks or other online bonus materials,” says Josh Martin, a senior analyst at consulting firm Yankee Group.

Depending on the disc, BD-Live will also let people chat in real time during films, type in their mobile phone numbers for free movie-related ring tones, play online multiplayer games or upload custom-made audio commentary.

Sony (SNE) has announced two upcoming Blu-ray machines with Profile 2.0 support: the BDP-S350, available this summer for $399, which can be updated to the latest profile over the Internet when it’s available; and the BDP-S550 ($499), which will ship with Profile 2.0 in the fall.

WinDVD 9 adds support for Blu-ray, AVCHD and HD DVD

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

The HD format war may be over, but don’t tell Corel. The company’s WinDVD 9 software plays both Blu-ray and the now-defunct HD DVD format–perfect for those few Windows PCs with HD combo drives, such as the HP Pavilion Slimline S3330f. The software supports the full range of features for both formats, including their next-gen audio soundtracks (Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD), Blu-ray Profile 1.1 (picture-in-picture commentaries), and–while it lasts–Web-enabled “In Movie Experience” features on HD DVDs.

WinDVD 9 is available Tuesday in three versions. The entry-level version ($50) handles standard DVD movies, along with QuickTime and DivX files. WinDVD 9 Plus ($80) adds better surround audio support and Corel’s “All2HD” upscaling, which aims to sharpen detail on low-resolution video. It also includes the ability to play back AVCHD files–ideal for anybody with an HD camcorder. The $100 version of the software is the one you want for playing Blu-ray or HD DVD movies. Owners of WinDVD 6, 7, or 8 can upgrade to that flagship version of the software for just $60.

Malicious subtitle file could trip up VLC media player

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

A flaw in the widely used open source VLC media player could allow an attacker to execute harmful code on a PC.

The problem stems from a buffer overflow that can occur when the player processes subtitle files used for movies, according to a security advisory.

The vulnerability existed before VLC was upgraded to version 0.8.6e in late February, but the bug appears to have escaped the last round of patches, wrote Luigi Auriemma in a note.

Vista SP1 Available for Download

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday posted a major package of updates and security fixes for Windows Vista.

The world’s largest software maker said “Service Pack 1″ will improve Vista’s reliability, security and performance, though many components already have been released during monthly updates since the operating system went on sale just over a year ago.

Industry analysts offered mixed reports on whether the updates make their Vista experience better.

Michael Cherry, of the research group Directions on Microsoft, said the time it took to copy files over a network “returned to normal” with SP1 - meaning the operation felt as speedy as it did using Windows XP, Vista’s predecessor.

But he said one thing SP1 didn’t fix was his ability to wake his PC from sleep mode, which he described as “a hit or miss affair.”

Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, said it took an hour or so to install the service pack on each of two of his computers, but once the machines were upgraded they both seemed “snappier” and less prone to crashing.

Is Vista “as fast as XP or not - now it’s close enough where you can have the argument, where before, (Vista) was clearly slower,” Enderle said.

Facebook adds privacy features

Filed under: — Aviran Mordo

Facebook Inc. is tweaking the privacy settings on its popular online hangout to let users exert greater control over which of their friends are allowed to see personal details they post.

The Palo Alto-based company said it would add features Tuesday night that will give its 67 million active users the option of selecting individual users who can or can’t access certain parts of their pages.

For example, someone who uploads a racy batch of photos or lists his cell phone number or personal e-mail address on his Facebook page can now bar some people on list of friends from seeing any of that information.

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