Friday, December 14, 2007

Vista named #1 biggest tech disappointment of 2007 -- by PC World

First PC World gets all up on the soapbox that (until a certain date) the MacBook Pro is the fastest PC the mag had tested, but consider the next step taken: PC World has boldly declared Vista #1 with a bullet in in their Biggest Tech Disappointments of 2007. Ok, sure, we get that it's "disappointments" and not "crappy products" -- the two imply very different things, and it's hard not to be somewhat disappointed by any product that took the better part of a decade to come out -- but if PC World harshing on Vista this bad doesn't smack at all of linkbait, well, we don't know what does. Oh, and here's that link.

P.S. -Seriously though, can Vista get a break here? We mean, honestly, it ain't all THAT bad.

Are your devices really "Off"

Check out this link to see how much power your devices that are supposedly "Off" are sucking down.

Tesla to deliver Roadsters with "temporary" transmissions?

The Tesla Roadster was supposed to be out before the end of the year, but it looks like the wicked-fast electric car won't make that target -- apparently the company is having problems finding a transmission strong enough to handle gear shifts while the car remains at full torque. The problem is somewhat unique to electric cars, and Tesla's got two different suppliers scrambling to find a solution -- but in the meantime, the company is considering providing vehicles outfitted with "temporary" transmissions that are basically guaranteed to fail after a few thousand miles. The first of these has already been built for company chairman Elon Musk, and Tesla is deciding whether to start shipping cars with the temporary units to other customers and then replacing them when a final transmission becomes available. That's the price of progress, we suppose, but something tells us quite a few people would rather just wait for the final product.

Cause of Aurora Borealis Confirmed

Posted by Zonk on Thursday December 13, @10:35PM
from the it's-not-eskimo-ghosts-more's-the-pity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "There are reports that satellites have aided scientists in confirming why the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) exists. 'New data from NASA's Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth's upper atmosphere to the sun. The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights.'"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

US Government Caught Manipulating Wikipedia

Posted by CmdrTaco on Wednesday December 12, @11:37AM
from the your-tax-dollars-at-work dept.
surfi writes "As The Inquirer points out, someone with a House of Representatives IP address has been feeding propaganda into the 'invasion of Iraq' article on Wikipedia." Well at least they are in good company with trustworthy institutions like the CIA and the Vatican.

Can Time Slow Down?

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday December 12, @01:04PM
from the there-is-no-spoon dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Does time slow down when you are in a traffic accident or other life threatening crisis like Neo dodging bullets in slow-motion in The Matrix? To find out, researchers developed a perceptual chronometer where numbers flickered on the screen of a watch-like unit. The scientists adjusted the speed at which the numbers flickered until it was too fast for the subjects to see. Then subjects were put in a Suspended Catch Air Device, a controlled free-fall system in which 'divers' are dropped backwards off a platform 150 feet up and land safely in a net. Subjects were asked to read the numbers on the perceptual chronometer as they fell [video]. The bottom line: While subjects could read numbers presented at normal speeds during the free-fall, they could not read them at faster-than-normal speeds. 'We discovered that people are not like Neo in The Matrix,' Eagleman said. 'The answer to the paradox is that time estimation and memory are intertwined: the volunteers merely thought the fall took a longer time in retrospect'."

Largest Ever Digital Survey of the Milky Way Released

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday December 12, @04:36PM
from the playing-nice-gets-you-places dept.
Several readers have written to tell us that an international team of over fifty astronomers from around the globe have created the largest ever digital survey of the Milky Way. IPHAS (INT/WFC Photometric H-alpha Survey of the Northern Galactic Plane) is an image survey designed to show large-scale structure within our galaxy. IPHAS data is being released by utilizing technology from the UK government funded open source project Astrogrid. Some of the images are quite spectacular.

Boeing 12,000lb Chemical Laser Set to Fry Targets

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday December 13, @03:00AM
from the houseful-of-popcorn dept.
coondoggie writes "Boeing this week completed work on and installed a 12,000-pound chemical laser in a C-130H aircraft. Boeing's Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) which is being developed for the Department of Defense, will destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage, supporting missions on the battlefield and in urban operations."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

USB missile launcher goes wireless

Never content with leaving their gimmicky products as is, the perfectionists over at Brando are prepping yet a third iteration of the wildly-popular USB missile launcher, with the new model featuring an upgrade to wireless control. Cubicle commandos now have over a 15-foot range from their workstations to wage this geekiest form of warfare, thanks to a two-part system that connects transmitter and launcher with a proprietary RF signal. If you happen to work in the type of environment that condones this sort of silly behavior, or just want to go out with a bang, the set can be yours for $45 starting on the 20th.

Engadget's Holiday Gift Guide: for dad

If your dad's anything like ours, he probably doesn't need as much help with his gadgets as you think. But he still needs someone to buy him the damn things, and that's where you and your strapping young wallet come into play. Maybe you've got some ideas in mind already for the latest additions to his power tool collection, but we've got a few selections to help you help him get his geek on, Engadget style.

$0 - $100

Oregon Scientific's Crystal Weather Station - Got a dad that's perpetually wondering if the weather's right for a round of 18? What about one's that obsessed with the slickness of his clocks and paperweights? If you answered yes to either of the above, this one's a no-brainer. Oh, and even if he hates it (not that he will) you can always plant it on your desk, instead. Then again, we say that about every gadget we recommend.
$99.99 - Shop for Crystal Weather Station
SATA HDD Stage Rack - Picking up an external HDD for pops is so played out. This year, show him you really do care with the SATA HDD Stage Rack. What multitasking hard drive-swapping father wouldn't appreciate the enormous amount of utility and convenience stuffed into this thing?
$46.79 - Buy from GeekStuff4U

Eye-Fi Wireless 2GB SD card - Granted, we didn't find the Eye-Fi to be perfect, but that's not to say your padre won't be thoroughly pleased to find one addressed to him. And hey, we totally understand if you're downright tired of getting a phone call each time he tries to upload a new batch, but handing him this sure beats fessing up to the truth.
$99.99 - Shop for Eye-Fi

Noteworthy Mention:
JVC's HA-NC80 noise-canceling headphones

$101 - $250

SanDisk Sansa TakeTV 8GB - Your dad's down with downloadable video? Really? Well then, make sure he gets a high five and a hug when you hand 'em that swiftly wrapped box with a TakeTV inside, a digital media adapter that's actually easy enough for the 'rents. Of course, whether or not his other housemates will appreciate your encouragement of his TV domination is another matter entirely, but we're pretty sure that's the least of his worries.
$143.99 - Shop for TakeTV 8GB

Hawking HomeRemote system - Your papa just may not be able to shake that controlling demeanor, but thankfully you can channel that habit into something a bit more productive with Hawking's HomeRemote system. And before he asks, yes, you can indeed login and play dictator from any web browser on the planet.
Around $180 - Shop for HomeRemote

JVC HA-NC250 noise-canceling headphones - Ever wonder how he puts up with taking flack from everyone in earshot? If not, it's about time you started sympathizing. Show a little compassion by bestowing these noise-canceling cans upon him. Just make sure you pick up a AAA cell to bundle in -- no one likes battery shopping on holidays.
$199.99 - Shop for HA-NC250

Nikon Coolpix S51c - This sexy shooter just slipped down into your price range, and we've got a sneaking suspicion your old man would be delighted if you took advantage and picked one up for him. The 8.1-megapixel sensor and integrated WiFi are surefire winners, and the expansive 3-inch LCD monitor should be plenty large even for his aging eyes. We just wouldn't recommend you phrase it that way when presenting the thing to him.
$239.95 - Shop for Nikon S51c

$251 - $500

Amazon Kindle - Bestsellers? Check. Free EV-DO wireless connectivity? Check. Glorious-70s-white aesthetic that'll make give him a wishy washy way back when smile? Maybe. If you're feeling that pop's gonna need some paperless reading distraction over the holidays then Amazon's Kindle may be just the ticket. Featuring a store packed with some 88,000 books, access to news, blogs ("What the hell's a blog?"), newspaper subscriptions, and even magazines, we have a feeling this thing already sold itself.
$399 - Buy from Amazon

1TB hard drive - Nothing says I love you like a cool 1,099,511,627,776 bytes of storage for whatever digital media makes his blessed old heart sing. Seagate, Hitachi, and Western Digital all have you covered for internal drives and external options can be found from the likes of Iomega, LaCie, etc.. Of course, if you ask yourself if he needs storage for 350,000 MP3s the answer may be no, but, if you ask him, we're pretty sure you're gonna get the big thumbs-up.
$350+ - Shop for 1TB drives

AT&T Tilt - The AT&T Tilt (aka HTC TyTN II) features what a dad needs: HSDPA and WiFi connectivity, quad-band GSM for international roaming, Bluetooth, GPS, and the screen frickin' tilts. If your Dad's a cellphone geek -- or just aspires to be one, like his kid (read: you) -- there is just no better place to get started then at the very top of the Windows Mobile world. Just think, he'll never have to stop to ask directions again. Speaking of which...
$299 (on contract) -- Buy from AT&T

$501 - $1000

TomTom GO 920 T - Look, we're not saying dads constantly get lost. But, like, all of ours do. Which is why you want to hook him up with a little something featuring, say, a 4.3-inch screen, "Enhanced Positioning Technology" -- an accelerometer that helps out when your connection drops -- 4GB of internal memory, and even a Bluetooth remote. Like the GO 920 T, for example. Now, thanks to you, your father will never again get lost on the way to a family gathering -- be that for good or bad.
$595 - Shop for TomTom GO 920 T

The ultimate flight sim kit - If your dad's a jet pilot (or still has aspirations), he'll know that to get the job done in the flight sim world -- both bombing and landing -- you need quality gear. None of that kid's stuff. We've decided that by pairing CH Fighterstick Pro, Pro Throttle, Pro Pedals, Saitek Independent Flight Sim LCDs, and other like products, his buddies will be calling him Maverick faster than his wingman can pull a failed ejection.
Starting at $100 per - Shop for CH products

Teac GF-650 Vinyl-to-CD kit - If your dad's Dylan and Zep vinyl is simply gathering dust and taking up space, here's a chance to bring him into the new millennium with ease. The Teac GF-650 not only packs a retro turntable look, AM / FM Radio, and wireless remote, it'll also transfer his old tunes to CD with nary a hassle. Plus, by rounding out the bundle with a few hundred printable CDs, he'll be down in the basement converting his collection well into the new year -- and maybe even next.
$400 + shipping - Shop for Teac GF-650
$30 per hundred CDs - Shop for printable media


Dell Latitude XT - Sturdy enough to take a beating, tablet-y enough to impress his pals, and expensive enough to show the full extent of your gratitude, the capacitive touchscreen on this bad boy will make a convert out of him yet. C'mon, do it for the old bastard -- he bailed you out of juvie for underage drinking and didn't even tell mom, remember?
Starts at $2500 - Buy from Dell in the very near future (ships before Christmas)

Optimus Maximus Keyboard -- Impressing Zeus can be complicated (just ask Hercules), but we're sure the god of keyboards is a winner. 113 fully customizable keys with their own 32 x 32 OLED can make the perfect keyboard as complex or simple as your patriarch would prefer. He won't question whether it was irresponsible to spend this much on an input device, but will instead applaud you for your forward thinking by ordering in advance. You did pre-order, right?
$1,536 - Pre-order from Art Lebedev

Steelcase Walkstation - Dad hasn't taken a break in years, and the Steelcase Walkstation can help keep the streak going. The man just needs to figure out that last step -- keeping in shape while he gets his work done -- and everyone's happy. Except us, after he creates a blogging empire and we are crushed under his incredibly-efficient and well-trained thumb.
$6,500 - Call Steelcase (800-333-9939)

Flying Humans

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday December 11, @09:54PM
from the that-trick-never-works dept.
mlimber sends us to the NYTimes for a story about flying people who jump from planes or other high locations wearing a wing suit akin to a flying squirrel's. Their efforts have potential military and Xtreme sports applications. The story profiles, with video, one guy who wants to be the first to jump from a plane and land without a parachute (and live). Here's a YouTube video of another of these fliers skimming six feet above skiers in the Swiss Alps. Quoting: "Modern suit design features tightly woven nylon sewn between the legs and between the arms and torso, creating wings that fill with air and create lift, allowing for forward motion and aerial maneuvers while slowing descent. As the suits, which cost about $1,000, have become more sophisticated, so have the pilots. The best fliers, and there are not many, can trace the horizontal contours of cliffs, ridges and mountainsides."

Computer Model Points To the Missing Matter

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday December 11, @02:41PM
from the on-a-whim dept.
eldavojohn writes "There exists a little-known problem of missing regular matter that has perhaps been overshadowed by the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. Computer models show that there should be about 40% more regular matter than we see... so where is it? From the article: 'The study indicated a significant portion of the gas is in the filaments — which connect galaxy clusters — hidden from direct observation in enormous gas clouds in intergalactic space known as the Warm-Hot Intergalactic Medium, or WHIM, said CU-Boulder Professor Jack Burns... The team performed one of the largest cosmological supercomputer simulations ever, cramming 2.5 percent of the visible universe inside a computer to model a region more than 1.5 billion light-years across.' This hypothesis will be investigated and hopefully proved/disproved when telescopes are completed in Chile and the Antarctic. The paper will be up for review in this week's edition of the the Astrophysical Journal."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mars Rover Investigates Possibility of Ancient Microbial Life

Posted by Zonk on Tuesday December 11, @09:24AM
from the people-of-earth-greet-you dept.
Riding with Robots writes "The robotic geologist Spirit, now scurrying to reach a safe haven before the harsh Martian winter sets in, has found signs that explorers say point to hot springs or fumaroles in the Red Planet's distant past. That possibility is not only interesting geologically, but potentially biologically, since those kinds of environments on Earth teem with microbial life. Meanwhile, on the other side of the planet, Opportunity continues its descent into a deep crater, where it has found other clues about the ancient waters of Mars."

Forget pesticides, here comes the insect birth control pill

Is the insect kingdom about to have its own sexual revolution? Reuters reports that bug-studying scientists in Austria have discovered a molecular receptor, or switch, which controls certain post-mating behaviors, including egg-laying. If a chemical means to block it could be found, it would essentially serve as a "birth control pill", because female insects would continue to engage in sex but wouldn't lay eggs or produce offspring. Such a method of reducing the insect population and hence insect-borne disease would be more effective and less harmful to the environment than the use of poisonous pesticides. It's also expected to be a far more practical solution than trying to encourage mosquito abstinence through education, as is currently the practice in some US states.

Related Link

Top Ten Scientific Discoveries of 2007

Posted by Zonk on Tuesday December 11, @01:20PM
from the flux-capacitor-is-what-makes-time-travel-possible dept.
Josh Fink writes "Time Magazine has a piece about the top 10 scientific discoveries of 2007. '#1. Stem Cell Breakthroughs - In November, Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University and molecular biologist James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin reported that they had reprogrammed regular skin cells to behave just like embryonic stem cells. The breakthrough may someday allow scientists to create stem cells without destroying embryos -- sidestepping the sticky ethical issues and opposition from the U.S. government that surround embryonic stem-cell research -- but that day is still a ways off. ' Also included in the top 10 editorial are pieces on the top 10 medical breakthroughs, the top 10 man made disasters and the top 10 green 'ideas'."

Cologne firemen make haste in rescuing crash test dummies

Here's an interesting one. Apparently, a team of engineers failed to shut off the automated emergency calling system on a vehicle being used in a crash test facility in Germany, and as you may expect, it wasn't long after the dummies slammed into a wall that medical personnel were arriving on scene. It was reported that this incident was the first of its kind, as members of the Cologne fire brigade rushed out to what they believed was some sort of "massive" automobile accident. The firemen were able to locate the vehicle due to its integrated GPS unit, and while we're sure they were at least slightly confused upon arrival, at least they got to take the fire engine out for a leisurely spin.

[Thanks, Martin T., image courtesy of Edmunds]

Kidney Cells Make Implantable Power Source

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Monday December 10, @01:06PM
from the black-market-batteries dept.
Galactic_grub writes "New Scientist has an interesting round-up of patents related to green power technology. The ideas mentioned include an implantable power source made from stacks of kidney cells that could drive implanted devices like pacemakers, a chemical way to purifying hydrogen, a buckyball-based filter for methane fuel cells and an organism that turns grass cuttings (and other bio-waste) into ethanol."

Driveways become grassways

Are concrete's days of parking lot domination over? In the search to minimize urban runoff, erosion, and pollution to lakes and streams, many are looking to a new player in the wide world of pavement: Grasscrete. Consisting of 47% concrete and 53% holes -- where grass will supposedly grow -- the idea is to allow for normal absorption of rainwater back into the water table, and not down through storm drain.

Basically, it works like this: developers pour concrete over 2'X4' blocks called 'formers,' which leave open spaces in the concrete as they biodegrade. Formers are made of recycled paper of course, similar to materials used in potting materials at plant nurseries. While permeable concrete seems to be an idea whose time has come, there are a few hurdles for Grasscete to clear before it saves the planet.

Grasscrete is 30% more expensive than traditional concrete, although some would claim that it saves money on excavation and drainage system costs. My biggest question, is whether grass will actually grow in the concrete -- and what if it doesn't? Either way, as we've seen cities have to deal with extensive flooding recently, this stuff could be very valuable if it's used extensively.
Related Link

Pentagon lays global climate change scnerio

I read most of this a while ago and have been forgetting to blog about it. It lays out an worst case scenario for the globe. Of course the whole idea that we can predict global changes better than be can predict tomorrow weather seems strange to me, I think this only makes it a scarier monster because it could be much better or worse, depending on factors that we only partially understand. Take a read at what our military sees at one possibility if things don't change (if we have not already crossed the tipping point).

UK Wants Huge Expansion In Offshore Wind Power

Posted by kdawson on Tuesday December 11, @12:45AM
from the think-of-the-birds dept.
OriginalArlen writes "The UK government has announced an ambitious plan to expand the existing offshore wind turbine farms, which are already extensive, to an estimated 7,000 units — two per mile of coastline — enough to generate 20% of the UK's power needs by 2020. The newly green-friendly Conservative opposition party is also backing the scheme. Wonder what they'll make of it in Oregon..."

Honda's ASIMO getting more intelligent?

We're not getting too hopeful about all of this just yet, but reportedly, Honda has worked a new series of "cutting-edge intelligence technologies" into ASIMO. Apparently aimed to keep the poor humanoid from tumbling down stairs, the improvements will supposedly enable it to "operate autonomously with people and other ASIMOs," essentially making it more suitable for real world use. More specifically, the new technologies include a "new system that enables multiple ASIMO humanoid robots to share tasks and work together to provide uninterrupted service to people," an automatic charging function, intelligence to avoid obstacles by stepping back or yielding to oncoming objects and the ability to "perform tasks such as carrying a tray and pushing a trolley." That sound you hear? Yeah, that's the collective grumbling of butlers / maids the world over.

Weird Science Offered As University Class

Posted by kdawson on Monday December 10, @07:45PM
from the matter-of-degree dept.
ludwigvan968 writes "The ACTLab at the University of Texas at Austin is making waves with its Weird Science class. The link is to the TA's blog with documentation of some of the projects: a laser harp, a 3D environment constructed with fog and an LCD projector, and a 'water bridge' using a 50,000-volt transformer. Next semester, they're introducing a new class called 'Disruptive Technologies.'"
[+] education, hardhack, science, oingoboingo, slashdotted (tagging beta)

This is from Joey's blog

Alright, so my posts are falling behind. But the good news is it is because I have been so busy helping people “make stuff”, as well as “make stuff” myself. So lets get started!

First off, Weird Science Fall 2007:

This has to be one of the best ACTLab class presentations I have seen in a long time. Pretty much every project hit hard. And there were many that hit well above the mark. So lets take a look at those:

Laser Harp! Yeah that is right, Derek, a student of mine, along with Drake as his programmer and Sandy as a consultant created a laser harp. While he ran into many issues, he did have a proof of concept to show off. Check it out:

Next up is Johnny’s Smoke Gun. This student had been working all semester to figure out our course, he thought he was going to be writing papers all semester, so when we told him to “make stuff”, he freaked out, but he totally came through and put all his heart into our class. Check it out:

This next one was done by Tyler. Now Tyler had been blowing us away all semester with his special effects abilities in after effects, however this time he decided to take his project to the next level and after consulting with myself (who had orginally got the idea from the Asian Cowboy), he decided to use a smoke machine and LCD projector to create a 3D experience. Not only did it work, but it put you in another world, further experimentation is a must!

We also had ward show off his “water bridge” project where he sent roughly 50,000 volts through two glasses of water and made them create a bridge between each other. The videographer was a little timid about being around that much voltage so he stayed back, I got some close photos with my camera:

We also had some great installations and video presentations, here are some recap pics: