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18 12 2009

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Tiger Woods takes indefinite break from tour

12 12 2009

By STUART CONDIE, AP Sports Writer

Tiger Woods Walks AwayLONDON (AP)—Tiger Woods’ decision to take “an indefinite break” to repair his marriage was greeted with surprise, bemusement and even relief Saturday as golfers, fans and commentators contemplated the immediate future of a sport without its biggest draw. John Daly sympathized as the worldwide media continued to pile up accusations of infidelity, Annika Sorenstam lamented a family tragedy and Colin Montgomerie noted dryly that golf’s big prizes just became a little more accessible. These are tumultuous times for golf after Friday’s announcement by its No. 1 player that he is taking time out following two weeks of allegations of extramarital affairs. Woods and his wife, Elin, have been married five years and have a 2-year-old daughter and a 10-month-old son.

“There was an aura, and that wall, if you like, has been split slightly,” said Montgomerie, Europe’s 2010 Ryder Cup captain. “There are cracks, and I feel that it gives us more opportunity of winning these big events now.”

Next year could have been one of the biggest in Woods’ career, with three of the four majors played at courses on which he has triumphed by large margins.

Instead, golf is preparing for another spell without its biggest superstar. Woods’ absence from the PGA Tour for much of last season because of reconstructive knee surgery led to a drop in television ratings of 50 percent.

“Indefinite is a scary word,” former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said. “That’s not good for us. But I’m sure he’ll get it worked out.”

Woods so far seems intent on doing so without help from his fellow professionals.

“He just didn’t want to talk to anybody,” Daly said at the Australian PGA on Saturday. “I’m in shock over it all, a lot of our players are in shock. I’m not happy with the way some of our players have responded—that’s their way of getting back because they know they can’t beat him at golf.

“They always say there is no one bigger in golf than the game itself. But Tiger is.”

Craig Parry was finishing his third round at the Australian PGA when he heard about Woods’ decision to step aside.

A friend of Woods who lives nearby in Windermere, Fla., Parry played alongside him for the first two rounds of last month’s Australian Masters in Melbourne—Woods’ final tournament before his car crash and subsequent accusations of infidelity.

“What he did was totally wrong,” Parry said. “And he’s got no one to blame except himself. You can look at other people, but he’s the one who’s got to look in the mirror.”

And in the newspapers, Saturday brought a fresh round of headlines all over the world.

Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport featured a cartoon showing a golf bag containing six bare female legs in high heels and two clubs.

German tabloid Bild continued to print salacious details of the scandal, but added on its Web site that it hoped “Tiger is as successful as on the golf course” as he tries to repair his marriage.

“For years to come he will be a figure of fun to comedians great and small,” said Peter Allis, the BBC’s chief golf commentator for more than 30 years. “We were told for years that his father stood by the side of the green throwing pebbles in buckets of water, shouting and blowing whistles to make him oblivious to all these noises.

“Now we have to see how strong his mind is.”

Although Michelle Wie refused to comment at the Dubai Ladies Masters on what she said was a private matter for Woods, former top-ranked LPGA star Sorenstam told Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet she was saddened by the news.

“I think this whole thing is tragic,” she said. “We used to train together, but both myself and Tiger have been very busy lately and therefore haven’t seen, or heard from each other as frequently.”

Daly, who has been married four times, cautioned Woods and his wife, Elin, to remain together for the right reason. He said Woods should consider a television interview to limit damage to his image.

“If I was him, I’d go to Oprah, I would get on her show, tell the truth and it doesn’t matter what the media say any more, because it’s all out in the open,” Daly said.

Veteran British publicist Max Clifford agreed.

“Hopefully he can go on something like Oprah, maybe even with his wife, to show that they’re making a real go of it,” Clifford said. “The clever move would be for him to say, ‘I’m coming back when Elin tells me the time is right.”’

For now, Woods is communicating publicly only through carefully worded statements on his Web site.

Earlier this year, he became the first athlete to surpass $1 billion in career earnings, according to Forbes magazine. His sponsors include Nike, Gillette, AT&T, Gatorade and Tag Heuer.

Nike, which signed a multiyear contract with Woods in 2006, is standing by the player.

“He is the best golfer in the world and one of the greatest athletes of his era,” Nike spokeswoman Beth Gast said in a statement. “We look forward to his return to golf. He and his family have Nike’s full support.”

And it isn’t just golfers who are thinking about Woods.

“One thing people don’t understand is that we’re human,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said in Miami. “You’re not born with a menu on how not to do things wrong. You’re going to make mistakes like every human being. It’s just unfortunate that you’re in the public eye so much and a lot of people get hurt by it.”

Bobcats forward Stephen Jackson wished Woods the best.

“Sometimes you just got to take time out to reflect on what’s more important, and that’s family,” he said after Charlotte’s 104-85 loss in San Antonio.

AP Sports Writer Dennis Passa in Coolum, Australia, AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome, AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami and Associated Press Writer Paul J. Weber in San Antonio contributed to this report.

Tiger scores 4.5 of 5





Google Phone Review

12 12 2009

Google Phone First Glimpse

T.S.A. Google Phone Last night, we started seeing some Tweets from Google employees and others about a new Android-powered Google phone that was apparently handed out at an “all hands” meeting. Now Google is now confirming that this indeed “dogfood” testing a new Android device with employees around the world.

But this isn’t just another Android phone. Very trustworthy sources who have seen the phone say that it is the Google Phone we first wrote about last month (despite the uniformed saying we were dreaming). It will be branded Google and sold by Google as an unlocked phone, which could change everything. As we wrote in our original post:

Google is building their own branded phone that they’ll sell directly and through retailers. They were long planning to have the phone be available by the holidays, but it has now slipped to early 2010. The phone will be produced by a major phone manufacturer but will only have Google branding (Microsoft did the same thing with their first Zunes, which were built by Toshiba).

There won’t be any negotiation or compromise over the phone’s design of features – Google is dictating every last piece of it. No splintering of the Android OS that makes some applications unusable. Like the iPhone for Apple, this phone will be Google’s pure vision of what a phone should be.

The phone itself is being built by HTC, with a lot of input from Google. It seems to be a tailored version of the HTC Passion or the related HD2.

Here are the details we know so far about the phone: It will be called the Google Phone and will launch in early January, 2010. It won’t be sold by any one carrier, but instead will be an unlocked GSM phone. In the U.S., that means T-Mobile and possibly AT&T, whose exclusivity deal with the iPhone is about to run out. It will be running Android 2.1

The phone is “really, really fast,” says someone who has seen one in action. It runs on a Snapdragon chip, has a super high-resolution OLED touchscreen, is thinner than the iPhone, has no keyboard, and two mics. The mic on the back of the phone helps eliminate background noise, and it also has a “weirdly” large camera for a phone. And if you don’t like the touchscreen keyboard, a voice-to-text feature is supposed to let you dictate emails and notes by speaking directly into the phone.

T.S.A. Apple Scale





Motorola Droid Review

11 12 2009

 Droid Under the Microscope 

Droid P45The first time you pick up the Motorola Droid ($200 with a two-year contract from Verizon; price as of 10/28/09), you’ll notice its solid feel and heft–there’s a lot going on behind the crisp, 3.7-inch touchscreen. Making good use of Android 2.0’s new features, the Droid is a powerful Web surfing and communications tool that has a chance of living up to its hype. The Droid’s biggest flaw, however, is in its hardware design: The keyboard is shallow and flat, which can make typing uncomfortable.

At 0.54 inch thick, the Droid is slightly beefier than the 0.48-inch-thick iPhone 3GS, but it still has room for a 40-key, slide-out QWERTY keypad. At just under 6 ounces, it’s about an ounce heftier than the iPhone 3GS. When closed, the 4.56-by-2.36-inch Droid is almost the same size as the 4.5-by-2.4-inch iPhone 3GS.

Motorola is quick to point out that the Droid‘s 480-by-854-pixel display offers 409,920 pixels, more than double the 153,600 pixels that the 480-by-320-pixel, 3.5-inch screen on the iPhone 3GS offers. The Droid’s resolution also compares well against that of Android 1.6-based phones such as T-Mobile’s myTouch 3G, which has a 3.2-inch, 480-by-320-pixel display.

The Droid’s keyboard doesn’t occupy the full length of the phone; a four-way directional pad with a select button sits on the right side. The keys are backlit, but since they’re mostly flat, you’ll need to keep an eye on what you’re typing until you get a feel for the phone. A small lower lip protrudes from the bottom when the phone is closed, revealing only the Verizon logo and the microphone. Like other Android phones, the Droid has an accelerometer and reorients quickly when you hold the display sideways.

Unfortunately, the handset has a few hardware-design quirks. The keyboard is so shallow–and the keys themselves are so flat–that our testers (with various hand sizes) had trouble using it. In addition, the top keys are very close to the ledge of the display, so your fingers are constantly knocking against it. The Droid is also missing physical Talk and End keys, which are pretty much standard on every other cell phone ever made. You must access these controls from the call application.

The Droid, which supports the 1900MHz and 800MHz CDMA EvDO bands on the Verizon Wireless network, comes with a 1,400-mAh battery rated at 270 hours of standby time and 385 minutes of talk time. It also has a preinstalled 16GB memory card and offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 support, which includes the use of stereo headsets and a Wi-Fi adapter.

The phone provided excellent call quality, even in a New York hotel lobby full of noisy Phillies fans headed to Yankee Stadium for the World Series. Parties on the other end of my calls reported no problems.

Especially snappy is the Droid’s Web browser, which loads images quickly thanks to the powerful 550MHz processor and speedy hardware-accelerated graphics. Though you are at the mercy of your 3G high-speed data network coverage, once you’re in it, Web surfing is breezy and smooth. Video from sites such as YouTube looks equally impressive; the playback of a high-definition YouTube cartoon (“Sita Sings the Blues”) was excellent, with no stalling or audio dropouts. Audio also sounded great piped through a pair of high-quality headphones. The straightforward music player supports playlist building, album art, and shuffle and loop playback modes. You can purchase DRM-free music at the Amazon MP3 store via the preloaded app on the device.

Preinstalled on one of the three home screens are icons labeled Messaging, Phone, Contacts, Browser, Maps, and Market. Notably absent on the Droid are Verizon’s V Cast services, which include live streaming videos and other entertainment offerings. A new Power Control widget allows one-touch control over power-hungry features such as the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi adapters, the GPS receiver, and the backlight. You can turn off data synchronization to save additional power, too.

As in Android 1.6, in 2.0 a universal search from the phone’s home page delves into the contact list, browser history, and other content in the phone, as well as on the Internet. And as with all Android devices, you’ll need a free Google account to take advantage of the phone’s key features, including the contact list and the calendar, which are synchronized with your Web-based account.

You’ll also find the familiar notification bar at the top; you can expand it by touching it and dragging it downward. At the bottom (or the side, in landscape mode) is a slide-open launch window with icons for all of the installed applications and links to the settings menu and other phone features.

Android 2.0 builds on the Google Maps features introduced in Android 1.6 by adding a Layers option that lets you place extra location-enabled features on top of the map you’re viewing. A Wikipedia layer, for example, generates icons for locations on your map that have Wikipedia entries.

Since Google Maps navigation is voice-enabled, you can say the name of your destination to get turn-by-turn directions. One nice aspect of the new navigation features is the nifty use of Google’s Street View: As you approach your destination, an interactive photo of the actual location pops up with an arrow to point you in the right direction. Instead of having to look for a building number, for example, the Street View provides visual confirmation that you’re in the correct place–or at least mighty close to it.

The dedicated camera button provides quick access to snapshot and video taking. The Droid’s 5-megapixel camera includes a dual-LED flash and supports DVD-quality video recording and playback at 720 by 480 pixels. As in Android 1.6, in 2.0 you handle the camera and video capabilities in a single window. The camera has a respectable amount of advanced features, such as scene modes, color effects, and white balance controls. Snapshots that I took outdoors looked great, especially on the Droid’s stunning display. Indoor shots, however, suffered from a significant amount of graininess. The dual-LED flash tended to blow out colors and details for indoor shots, as well.

Another nice touch is how the Droid interacts with its accessories. When you place it in its car-window mount (sold separately; price not yet announced), the Droid automatically enters “Car Home” mode, in which it looks more like a stand-alone GPS device. Large icons labeled View Map, Navigation, Voice Search, Contacts, Search, and Home fill the screen, and the display rotates as needed.

When you insert the Droid into an optional tabletop dock (sold separately; price not yet announced), it sits at a good angle for watching videos or just poking through e-mail. It immediately switches to a sort of alarm-clock mode and displays the time in large figures while providing other information, such as the temperature, in smaller type below.

The challenge for Android app developers is to take advantage of 2.0’s new features, including its ability to link apps more closely to the contact list. As you view a contact, you will see a floating set of icons for the services the person is connected to, such as Facebook. Note that while most existing apps should run fine on Android 2.0, some that were optimized for Android 1.5 and 1.6 may have to be tweaked for the new version.

The Motorola Droid certainly stands out among the growing Android army due to its superior hardware and enhanced 2.0 software. But will the Android Marketplace catch up to the iPhone’s App Store? Therein lies the key to success for the Droid. The Droid certainly lives up to its promises and does a lot of things the iPhone doesn’t. The iPhone will probably keep its smartphone throne for now, but it will have to deal with a powerful new competitor.

T.S.A. Ratings