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Acer Aspire R7 Review: The Star Trek Laptop Needs a Next Generation

Tech

PC makers are striking out with traditional laptops, so Acer decided to try something different with the Aspire R7.

I’ve been calling it “The Star Trek Laptop,” mainly because of its promotional tie-in to Into Darkness, and partly because, when posed just the right way, it looks like the USS Enterprise. (I’m guessing it’s not a coincidence.)

The Acer Aspire R7 is a departure from normal laptop design, with an extended hinge that lets the screen float over the base, and an odd placement of the trackpad behind the keyboard. Acer could be onto something here, but the idea needs refinement.

With its extended hinge, the R7 allows you to pull the screen forward, blocking the trackpad but making the touchscreen easier to reach. It also lets you flip the display over so someone across the table can take a look, or fold it down into a tablet–though the…

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This Is the World’s Quietest Place

Tech

Maybe it’s because we’ve been lamenting the possible loss of the non-self-driving car as a music listening pod, or just because I have spent lots of time outdoors of late — or maybe it’s because we all just have so much information and noise coming at us these days, but whatever the reason, I am entranced by the idea of the “world’s quietest room.”

The room, in Minneapolis, Minnesota’s Orfield Labs, is so quiet that clapping your hands sounds weird, because you hear almost zero reflected sound. All you hear is the sound of two hands clapping, to put a twist on the popular zen koan. It’s “anechoic,” which means it is against producing echoes, which is why Guinness Book of World Records anointed this room the “world’s quietest place.”

Documentary filmmaker Sam Green, pictured above with his microphone in said room, reported on the room at…

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Microsoft Office Included Free on Small Windows Tablets — But It Isn’t Really for Tablets

Tech

If Acer’s $379 Iconia W3 is any indication, small Windows 8 slates will have a tough time competing on price with other cheap tablets. To compensate, Microsoft will include a free copy of Office Home and Student 2013 with “small screen” Windows 8 tablets.

The Acer Iconia W3 is the first tablet to take advantage. Other small slates will likely follow later this year, when Microsoft releases Windows 8.1. Only tablets with screens smaller than 10 inches will qualify for the free version of Office, Engadget notes.

While rumors had once hinted at a version of Office for iOS and Android, Microsoft now seems eager to use its productivity suite as an exclusive hook for Windows 8 and Windows RT. Microsoft’s own comparison of Windows tablets vs. Apple’s iPad touts Office as a key advantage, noting that the “only consumer Office app the iPad can run is OneNote.”

There’s…

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Windows 8 Users: Here’s What’s Coming in the First Big Update

Tech

Do you use Windows 8? You’re about to get an update to Windows 8.1. Microsoft’s Jensen Harris shows off some of the changes in the above 4.5-minute video.

The topics covered are, in order:

  • Lock screen (pulls in your images)
  • Start screen (tile size changes)
  • All Apps screen (sorting options)
  • Personalization options (background colors and wallpaper)
  • New search features (curated results)
  • SkyDrive (cloud-based storage)
  • Multitasking (resizable app windows)

The Windows 8.1 preview will be available June 26 if you’d like to try things out early. Otherwise, the update will roll out later this year.

More Windows 8.1 coverage:

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FreedomPop’s Free Wireless Would Be Cool If It Wasn’t So Shady

Tech

FreedomPop, a company that sells wireless hotspot devices with free mobile data, is planning to offer a full-blown cellular service with free voice calls and text messages this summer.

According to AllThingsD, FreedomPop has been amassing a pile of refurbished phones that once ran on Sprint’s 4G WiMax network, such as the Samsung Galaxy SII and HTC Evo 4G, and plans to sell them for under $200 with no contract. In exchange, FreedomPop subscribers will get 500 MB of data and 200 voice minutes (via VoIP) per month, plus unlimited text messages.

FreedomPop hopes to make money by selling add-on services, such as unlimited calling, additional data and faster connection speeds. As AllThingsD’s Ina Fried points out, it’s a strategy reminiscent of dotcom-era companies like NetZero, which gave away basic dial-up Internet service for free. (Incidentally, NetZero rose from the dead recently with free wireless Internet service, but…

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Google Keyboard App Now Available, No Nexus Required

Tech

Google’s Android software includes one of the best smartphone keyboards around, but you might not know it if you own a phone from Samsung or HTC.

Both companies, at least in their latest Android phones, have replaced the main Google keyboard with their own homemade offerings–and they’re not as good. I’m not crazy about the default keyboard on my HTC One, and Samsung’s been criticized by some reviewers for its own Galaxy S4 keyboard as well.

Fortunately, Google is now offering a way for users running Android 4.0 and higher to install the company’s own software keyboard. Just head to Google Play, install the app, and follow the setup instructions.

I like how simple and solid Google Keyboard is compared to other offerings. Individual keys have just the right amount of dark spacing between them, and just the right amount of vibration feedback when you press each letter. Gesture…

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Coming on Monday: Live Coverage of Apple’s WWDC 2013 Keynote

Tech

Thousands of iOS and OS X developers will be headed to San Francisco’s Moscone Center this week to learn about the future of Apple products, and as usual, the whole thing will kick off on Monday with a keynote presentation. It’s a given that it will feature news about the next generation of Apple software for iPhones, iPads and Macs; some hardware announcements could be in the offing, too. I’ll be reporting on developments as they happen, with help from my colleague Doug Aamoth, starting at 1pm ET/10am PT on Monday, June 10. Coverage will appear right here, so bookmark this page and see you then.

FOLLOW-UP: Apple Unveils New Version of OS X, New Computers, iOS 7 and More

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