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Communications

2012 Car Tech Awards: And the winner is...

CNET Tech Car of the Year for 2012

2012 Tesla Model S Our choice for CNET Tech Car of the Year goes to the 2012 Tesla Model S, a car that shows superb technology throughout while also challenging our conceptions of how a car should work. Most people know the Model S for its electric drivetrain, which not only gives it tremendous acceleration, but also the best range among current production electric cars. Compared with an internal combustion engine, the Tesla's electric motor delivers magnitudes of better energy efficiency. The EPA estimates the cost of electricity for a year of driving at $700, about 25 percent of the cost for gasoline in an equivalent luxury sedan.

Beyond its efficiency, the Model S modernizes the whole idea of a car's cabin. Tesla streamlined the entire process of getting into the car and setting off, taking out steps that have become anachronistic. A big touch screen handles all in-cabin functions, eliminating the need for an array of buttons across the dashboard. A 3G data connection feeds the infotainment functions, providing maps, destination search, and music, similar to what we have become used to with our personal electronics.

The Model S went up against the Audi S5, BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Ford Focus Electric, and Toyota Prius C, a formidable field nominated for technical excellence in drivetrain and cabin. The BMW proved popular with our jury, and we liked how the Focus Electric drove, but the Model S trumped the others with its innovative approach and capabilities.

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How to delete your Skype message history

Skype lets you pick between text, voice or even video to communicate. When using the text option, your message history is saved to the client forever, by default. This means that every single message you've sent to someone is being stored on your computer -- until you take action to delete it.

If your computer is only accessed by you, then the message history may not be an issue. However, if you are sharing a computer, or you're just worried that private data could fall into the wrong hands, then check out these quick steps to delete all … Read more

Parker smartphone app enables realtime parking search

Have you ever wanted to be able to just look at your phone and know where all of the open parking spaces are in your area? That, in a nutshell, is smart parking and it's coming to the San Francisco Bay Area thanks to a partnership between Streetline and Cisco. Interestingly, San Francisco itself isn't the first city in the San Francisco Bay Area to get these smart parking spaces. That honor belongs to Sausalito, which will be joined today by San Mateo and San Carlos.

Take a walk around downtown San Mateo or San Carlos today and … Read more

MirrorLink turns cars into dumb terminals

LOS ANGELES -- Modern cars play digital music, guide us to destinations, and respond to voice commands. But so do our smartphones. Through a technology called MirrorLink, the Connected Car Consortium (CCC) hopes to rid us of this duplication, using the car's LCD and interface to show navigation and play music from a smartphone.

The MirrorLink initiative turns the car into a dumb terminal, lacking much in the way of its own computing power and relying on the phone as its processor. One advantage of this system for the user is that the same data stored on the phone … Read more

Sprint brings the connected car to Chrysler

LOS ANGELES -- The connected car is fast becoming a reality, and Chrysler leveraged Sprint's expertise to bring two of its vehicles at the 2012 Los Angeles Auto Show online. Chrysler fitted the Ram 1500 pickup and SRT Viper supercar with its new UConnect Access system, an evolution of the UConnect infotainment suite.

UConnect combined navigation, hands-free phone, and digital audio into an integrated system, and uses a single touch-screen interface. UConnect Access adds a number of connected features to the system, such as online points-of-interest search through Bing.

The new system also brings in a full telematics service, … Read more

Siri to make automobile debut on Chevy Spark, Sonic

Siri's full functionality is coming to two Chevrolet cars next year, General Motors announced today at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.

Siri will be available to customers who buy the Chevrolet Spark and Sonic. The virtual personal assistant connects wirelessly with the Chevy MyLink infotainment system and allows people with the iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 with iOS 6 to perform a host of Siri-related tasks.

According to Chevrolet, Siri will be available in Eyes Free mode, letting users make voice-activated calls, access their calendars, and listen to and compose text messages. However, Eyes Free mode won't … Read more

5 ways to avoid pulling a Petraeus

The extramarital affair scandal engulfing former CIA director David Petraeus has brought massive public attention to the convoluted U.S. laws governing e-mail privacy. We've got some quick tips for keeping your electronic communiques private.

Before getting into the more technical side of things, there are some simple behavioral changes you can make.

Always log out of your e-mail when you're done using it. This goes for any online service, including social networking sites. Logging out prevents a cached password from keeping you signed in even after the browser has been restarted.

Never use your preferred personal e-mail … Read more

Crave giveaway: Cowon Auto Capsule AC1 dashboard camera

Congrats to Jean F. of Gainesville, Fla., for scoring a Crux360 iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard in last week's giveaway.

Do a lot of driving? You and your car (and your insurance company) will love this week's freebie, a Cowon Auto Capsule AC1 dashboard camera.

The 2-megapixel cam with a 16:9 wide screen records and stores high-resolution 1,280x720-pixel high-definition footage in real time at 30 frames per second. When the device's internal accelerometer detects a shock, it automatically captures a video clip ("see, a Tasmanian devil really did dash in front of me!"). … Read more

iPhone 5, new iPod, may leave some cars in the dust

During today's event announcing the new iPhone and iPod, Apple V.P. Phil Schiller spent a little time talking about the Lightning connector, the port replacing the old 30-pin port on iOS devices. Although Schiller pointed out how Apple's adapter for the port would ensure backward compatibility, some car models are not likely to work with Lightning or the new adapter.

Schiller specifically mentioned how the adapter would work with existing iPod integration in cars, showing an image of an iPhone cabled to a car. The car shown in the photo was an Audi, identifiable by the distinctive … Read more

Ford Sync advises what to do on a date

Seeking new apps to integrate with its cars through Sync AppLink, Ford hosted its annual Developer Challenge at TechCrunch Disrupt. This year's winner is startup Dates.fm, a Web site and app designed to give couples suggestions about what to do on date nights.

Dates.fm and its sister site, BeCouply, are currently in beta. A counter on the BeCouply site says it will launch in 3 days and 21 hours. The founders of Dates.fm, Becky Cruze and Pius Uzamere, attended the TechCrunch Disrupt event and entered the Dates.fm app in the Ford Challenge, using the Sync … Read more