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By 2050 we may not all be flying into space, but we could be taking off like rockets

According to Airbus, taking off at sharper angles could save a significant amount of fuel, and, as it turns out, the European airplane maker says it could build just such a plane by mid-century. The design would involve a series of wheels fitted to the bottom of the plane that give it more up an upward propulsion and detach just before taking flight. I imagine runways littered with bunches of wheel “carcasses” as if a bunch of  cicadas had just shed their shells. Taking off this way, theoretically, gets planes up to their cruising speed much quicker, which helps them to economize fuel.

Taking off isn’t the only innovation Airbus sees in its jet-fueled future.

A new way of landing could be part of the game too, as the BBC writes:

[Airbus] suggested planes could glide towards airports using a steeper approach than is common at present as an alternative to the use of engine thrust and air brakes.
It said this could slow aircraft at an earlier stage, making shorter landing distances possible.
"As space becomes a premium and mega-cities become a reality, this approach could... minimise land use, as shorter runways could be utilised," it added.

Wait, gliding to a landing “using a steeper approach?” That sounds like stalling out in mid-air. And cities are going to get bigger and more congested, so airports are going to have to take up less of a footprint. I hope these planes come with gigantic parachutes too.


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Sep 6, 2012

Robot style mind-leg harmony

For now, Oscar Pistorious has to compete in the Olympics with running blades, but in a couple generations, runners could be sprinting atop mind-controlled robot legs. Step aside Steve Austin, and take Jammie Sommers with you. Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and the Long Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center have successfully tested a pair of such legs. Just think of it. No really, just think of it, because that’s all you need to do to get the legs to respond. And now that the team has figured out how to translate EEG readouts (brainwaves) to bot gams, there’s a whole new realm of possibilities in the field of prosthetics.
Keep in mind, these are still in the early stages of development.

From the Verge:

While future improvements could allow the user to change speed and direction and perform actions such as sitting down and standing up, the current implementation of the system is only capable of alternating between binary "idling" and "walking" states. Another issue is so-called "false alarms," which, as the researchers note, "carry the risk of bodily harm in future BCI-prostheses for overground walking" — four of these occurred during testing, with the device's pre-programmed startup sequence causing them to last at least five seconds each.


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Sep 6, 2012

While the rest of us get to add “wide web,” one in three people live only in the world

OK, let me explain. Tim Berners-Lee, the guy that invented the World Wide Web, has just published a web index that shows, of all the people in the world, only one in three connect to the web. That number grows to one in six, when looking specifically at Africa. The BBC breaks the index down:

It highlighted censorship and high broadband prices as barriers to a "web for all".
Using data from the past five years, it scored nations in seven different categories.
These were: communications infrastructure - the state and availability of web-enabling infrastructure; institutional infrastructure - education, laws, regulation and censorship; web content - what relevant and useful content is available; web use - the extent to which the web is used in a country; political impact; economic impact and social impact.


Overall, the U.S. ranked No. 2 on the index, behind Sweden and in front of the U.K. We’re number two! We’re number two! Iceland, it turns out, is the most connected with 95 percent of its population logging on, while Yemen scraped the bottom “in three categories, including social and economic impact of the web.” Again from the BBC:

According to the index, 30% of countries face moderate to severe government restrictions on access to websites, while about half of them show increasing threats to press freedom. "The web is a global conversation. Growing suppression of free speech, both online and offline, is possibly the single biggest challenge to the future of the web," warned Sir Tim


61 countries were surveyed for the index, and besides location, one of the main barriers to going online is still price. According to Berners-Lee, “broadband connections still cost almost half of monthly income per capita.”


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Sep 5, 2012

Nuh-uh, AntiSec didn’t steal all those IDs from us, says FBI

I tell you, this whole thing would make for a pretty good spy movie if it weren’t for the fact that it would just be a bunch of people sitting around computers. Maybe add a plane fight or something. The FBI now says it was not the source of all those stolen Apple device IDs that the hacker collective known as AntiSec seems to have purloined. The Feds say the IDs (which are identifiers on the devices, not user account names or passwords) could not have been taken from them because they never received nor asked for such information from Apple in the first place.
From Bloomberg:

Besides the identification numbers, the information posted by AntiSec has the name that a person chooses to name their device and a description of whether the device is an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.
If linked with other information such as a name or address, the numbers could be used as a way to get at other more sensitive data. But knowing the number doesn't enable the FBI to track or eavesdrop on people.


There seems to be consensus that the IDs are legit. The question now is who had them in the first place? AntiSec says it was the FBI, FBI says not us. Someone is lying or deeply confused. I nominate Nicolas Cage to play the AntiSec hacker and John Turturro to play the FBI agent who may be hiding a SECRET or possibly NOT AT ALL.


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Sep 5, 2012

Yes, the new iPhone is coming next week

This is a little write-up I’m doing about a phone that hasn’t been announced and won’t be until next week. I really didn’t want to write about it today because there’s very little to write about and I’d rather not hype the already hyped if I can avoid it. But I can’t avoid it because the fact is that even the anticipation of a new iPhone is itself a story. Such is our world, such is Apple’s imprisonment of the zeitgeist.
Apple sent out invitations yesterday of the September 12th event, and on the invite the shadows of the number 12 form a 5. So much for the device just being called ‘the new iPhone”.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says the phone could sell 10 million units in the first week if it goes on sale in late September. Says Munster: “While our model, along with most of the Street, assumes an October launch, we believe that a September launch could result in the final 10 days of the month generating 6-10 million iPhone 5 unit sales, which would likely shift out of December. We believe if iPhone 5 launches in September, Apple could sell 26-28 million units in the quarter (this takes into account iPhone sales slowing dramatically from September 12-20, which is announcement to availability).”


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Sep 5, 2012

Intel submerges servers in oil to cool them down

Fundamental problem of the internet: the servers it needs to run get really really hot and need to be cooled down almost constantly. That means expending a lot of energy for air conditioning and THAT means coal or, in some cases, solar or wind power. Intel is trying something new: submerging banks of servers in oil to keep them cool.
Gizmodo reports that:

they're using mineral oil, which doesn't conduct electricity. It's a pretty wacky idea, but it seems to be working. After a year of testing with Green Revolution Cooling, Intel has observed some of the best efficiency ratings it's ever seen. Probably most impressive is that immersion in the oil doesn't seem to affect hardware reliability.
All up, it's extremely promising: completely immersing components in liquid means you can pack components in more tightly as the cooling is so much more efficient.


Facebook has already tried locating server farms in the Arctic and just leaving all the windows open. Someone should call Fonzie. I bet he could snap his fingers and say “Cool it!” and the servers totally would. Get Winkler on the phone!


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Sep 5, 2012

The Estonians are coming, all the way from first grade

Kids are going back to school in droves this week. Hair styles, funky jeans, and nerves will make for great embarrassing photos (and stories) in 20 years. In the U S of A our first graders are armed with pencils to learn how to write and draw. That’s cute, when you consider that, first graders going to public schools in Estonia will now be required to start learning to code. The program, dubbed ProgeTiiger, is aimed at getting Estonian youth to be the makers, not just consumers, of technology. Venture Beat writes:

ProgreTiiger education will start with students in the first grade, which starts around the age of 7 or 8 for Estonians. The compsci education will continue through a student’s final years of public school, around age 16. Teachers are being trained on the new skills, and private sector IT companies are also getting involved, which makes sense, given that these entities will likely end up being the long-term beneficiaries of a technologically literate populace.


Hopefully these kids will grow up in the footsteps of @IlvesToomas (aka the president of Estonia), and active tweeter and tech enthusiast, and not follow the path of other, more nefarious, countrymen who were recently made headlines after one of the biggest Internet malware spreading crews was brought down last year


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Sep 5, 2012

A win for Samsung

Well, at least for now. The Samsung Galaxy 3 beat out Apple’s iPhone 4S as the country’s best-selling phone in August. That’s the first time Apple has been beat out of the top spot since the release of the 4S, which came out about a year ago. Now, what could possibly be a contributing factor? How about that Apple is widely expected to announce the next iteration of the iPhone next week? CNET notes:

While the iPhone 4S sales weakened, the Galaxy S3 numbers continue to look strong, further solidifying Samsung's position as the world's largest smartphone vendor and top Android partner.


Have you ever been swimming in the ocean and tried avoid waves crashing on you? The trick to not getting sucked under and tumbled around is to take a deep breath and dive into the base of a wave. Right about now, I’d say we’re standing waist-deep in an ocean of smartphones. And that giant wave on the horizon? That’s the onslaught of phones arriving just in time for the holidays. Now take a deep breath and dive.


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Sep 5, 2012

If you’re using BitTorrent to download movies and music and whatever, don’t befriend Rockwell

Rockwell has enough people watching him and sends his regards. According to a recent study, almost all downloads from BitTorrent sites are being monitored, some within just a few hours of making a connection. A team from Birmingham University in the U.K. ran the numbers. The BBC writes:

The three-year research was carried out by a team of computer scientists who developed software that acted like a BitTorrent file-sharing client and logged all the connections made to it.
BitTorrent is a method of obtaining files by downloading from many users at the same time.
The logs revealed that monitoring did not distinguish between hardcore illegal downloaders and those new to it.


A group of roughly 10 companies kept popping up as monitors, a few of which were affiliated with copyright infringement. So that makes sense, but the others? They were unknown firms - PacMen and Ms. PacMen, if you will - gobbling up the pellets and power pellets of data you scatter when uploading or downloading content via BitTorrent. They’re hoping that someday they can cash in (gobble up a blue ghost) on all the information getting scooped up in their nets. But you’re safe, for now. Lead researcher Dr. Tim Chothia spoke with the BBC:

"All the monitors observed during the study would connect to file-sharers and verify that they were running the BitTorrent software, but they would not actually collect any of the files being shared," he said.
"It is questionable whether the monitors observed would actually have evidence of file-sharing that would stand up in court," he added.


So you probably won’t go to jail for that “free” copy of an iPhone-ripped version of Dark Knight Rises, but really, was being the first to own a shaky, sometimes out of focus version of the latest Batman movie worth giving up your digital bits?


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Sep 5, 2012

Radio Shack, bless their hearts, gets into wireless

I was in rural Wisconsin last week and along the highway, miles from any other buildings, I saw a used car lot. “Does anyone ever go there?” I wondered. “How do they stay in business?” That’s kind of how I feel about perennial mall resident Radio Shack, which must peer down the mall to the Apple store wistfully.
But! The Willy Loman of electronics retailing has another way to get back in the game. Yesterday it announced a new mobile phone service called RadioShack No Contract Wireless that uses Leap Wireless International’s Cricket network. Never heard of Leap? Well, yeah, it’s hoping that it’s deal with Radio Shack solves that. You heard that correctly: Leap is hoping Radio Shack is its big name salvation.
From the Wall Street Journal:

With the latest deal, the San Diego company gains space in RadioShack's more than 4,400 U.S. stores, instantly giving its network a broader retail presence. RadioShack also operates about 1,500 kiosks at Target Corp. stores, in addition to roughly 1,000 outlets run by dealers and other partners.


Two new phones from China’s Huawei Technologies go on sale at Radio Shack today. Still on sale at Radio Shack: weird remote control cars that don’t quite work. 


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Sep 5, 2012

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