AT&T quietly releases Android-powered Sharp FX Plus

It's without much fanfare that we learned about AT&T's Sharp FX Plus, a rather entry-level Android 2.2 Froyo smartphone that has been available since July 30. Like the Sharp FX before it, the FX Plus is positioned as a messaging phone targeting the younger set. However, it does get an upgrade with Android, and a much rounder body that smooths over some of its predecessor's rough edges.

In addition to a virtual keyboard equipped with Swype, the Sharp FX Plus has a slide-out QWERTY for composing longer texts and messages. The handset supports AT&… Read more

Freaky fake-outs

Whether you're dressing up for Halloween, putting on a play, or doing something else that involves creepy appearances, there are plenty of ways to achieve gruesome effects with common household items. Makeup FX is an e-book that details some techniques for simulating injuries and all kinds of other yucky stuff. It's definitely not a comprehensive guide, but it's not bad if you need some basic tips.

Makeup FX is really just a set of HTML files that can be viewed with any browser; it's like a Web site that's hosted on your own computer instead … Read more

Halo effect for iOS coders moving to Mac OS?

First came the halo effect of computer purchases: iPod or iPhone buyers deciding they'd like a Mac. Now I'm wondering whether there will be a similar trend among programmers.

I started pondering the idea after hearing from MacPhun, the developers of FX Photo Studio, a $1 iOS app that just made the jump to a Mac OS X app that costs $20 for the regular version and $40 for the pro version. If MacPhun is willing to take the leap, perhaps others are?

I see the move as an interesting possibility because of a few factors:

• The Mac … Read more

Infiniti announces 3-row JX crossover

The 2011 New York International Auto Show starts tomorrow, but Infiniti is already looking forward to the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, where it will be unveiling the 2013 Infiniti JX, a larger sibling to its EX and FX crossovers.

Until the concept is unveiled, all we have is the sketch above and a few tidbits teased by the automaker. The large crossover slots in just below the full-size Infiniti QX and will have three rows of seats with room for seven passengers. Externally, the design language that featured prominently on the Infiniti Essence concept car should be stretched … Read more

iSkin unveils new iPhone 4 and iPod Touch cases

Believe it or not, a couple months after its launch, companies are only now just starting to roll out cases for the iPod Touch 4G. iSkin is showing off a couple of nice ones, the Touch Duo and the Pebble for iPod Touch 4G, while announcing two new cases for the iPhone 4G, the Solo FX and the Solo Vu. All of them retail for $35 to $40 and come in a variety of colors.

You can see all the new iSkin iPod Touch cases here and the new iPhone cases here. What do you think--hot or not?

Two Samsung monitors walk into a bar...

OK, the headline can be construed as misleading, and if you're now reading this article expecting a cool, dirty joke about monitors to tell at parties, well, I think you need to ask yourself one question: what kind of parties are you attending where dirty monitor humor is accepted? You may want to reevaluate your social circles.

Anyway, today we have two Samsung monitors that both double as HDTVs. Now you may be asking, "Well, why should I care? I don't need two monitors, and at what point in this article do these monitors get to the … Read more

Will this 10-watt amplifier rock your world?

Tube amplifiers sound different, and in many ways better than solid-state amps. Describing what better sound sounds like is a highly subjective call. But you can't argue the fact that tubes are still being manufactured, legions of guitarists use tube amplifiers, and a fair number of audiophiles crave tube sound. The catch? Tube designs are more expensive to build and sell than solid-state components.

The Jolida FX10 tube amp ($450) breaks that rule and sells for less than your average mid-price receiver. Jolida was founded in 1995, and has been a budget audiophile favorite right from the beginning. One of my closest audiophile pals bought an early Jolida amp, and he still uses it on a daily basis. So in terms of value, the FX10 will likely be a better long-term investment than most receivers (I get e-mails every week from people asking about dumping their five- or six -year-old receivers).

The FX10 is prettier than Jolida's old designs. Blue LEDs light up the Russian-made EL-84 power tubes and 12AX7 small signal tubes in the glass case, so the FX10 looks especially cool at night. The brushed aluminum chassis and safety glass tube cover are a big step up from what you find on similarly priced receivers. My sample was finished in sky blue, but the FX10 is also available in silver or black. Build quality feels substantial, and the solid-metal, gold-plated speaker wire connectors are a good indication of that. There are two RCA inputs on the rear panel and a 3.5mm input upfront.

The amp comes with a remote control and an iPod hookup cable. The 12-pound unit measures a trim 8x7x7 inches; so it's small enough to fit on a desktop.

The FX10 is a 10-watt-per-channel stereo amp, but don't worry, it can play pretty loud. Bass-heavy reggae music from Ras Mek Peace played nice and loud over my Zu Essence speakers. The little amp wasn't lacking in power or oomph, so yes, 10 watts can drive the right speaker to a remarkably loud volume. Soundstage depth was really good, so each instrument and vocals sounded fully present. This is an extremely well-recorded CD, without dynamic range compression, and the FX10 handled that sort of demanding music without raising a sweat. … Read more

Windows 7 SP1 Release Candidate launches

Microsoft this week unveiled the Release Candidates for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1.

The new releases are the last public test versions before the RTM (release-to-manufacturing) editions for both products hit the market early next year, according to a Microsoft blog. The Release Candidate for Windows 7 SP1 holds no new features since the product's initial beta came out in July. Microsoft has previously said that Windows 7 SP1 would offer nothing new but would simply be a collection of minor updates and fixes already released.

Still the launch of a … Read more

Icons on the go

Need to make icons on the go? Look no further than IcoFX Portable. This lightweight program packs a well-designed interface and plenty of features into a package that will fit on your USB drive. This program would be pretty great even if it weren't small enough to carry around with us, but its portability makes it a real stand-out.

IcoFX Portable has an attractive, intuitive appearance that will be easy to navigate for anyone who's used a graphics program of any sort, even Microsoft Paint. When users create a new icon, the program has them set the dimensions … Read more