Mar 1, 2012

In Japan, You Can Order McDonald’s Using Your Car Navigation System

Apparently fast food still isn't fast enough for the residents of Japan. Starting in March, McDonald's will be testing out a new systemallowing drivers to order and pay for a happy meal right from their car's navigation unit.

Using the country's wireless traffic news network known as the ITS, vehicles passing near one of McDonald's' restaurants will automatically be provided with a menu that can be navigated via their GPS device's touch screen. They can order and pay for food—hopefully not requiring them to dig out their credit card number while driving—where they'll then be directed to the nearest location to pick up their meal.

It all sounds rather efficient and a great way to speed up the drive through window, but how is this any easier than just creating a smartphone app with the same functionality? Custom menus could be updated every day, the driver's location could be easily pinpointed, and paying with your phone in Japan is already commonplace.

As it stands, the test involves 26 different companies to make it happen including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Panasonic System Networks, Toyota, Pioneer, and financial institutions. When, really, all that's needed is a solid app developer with some backend upgrades allowing restaurants to take orders remotely.

Feb 29, 2012

How to Get Windows 8 Right Now

The beautiful Windows 8 Consumer Preview is upon is, and although it's not the final version, it's getting close. This isn't just for developers—it's for you. So get downloading and start using Microsoft's amazing new beginning.

Are you already a Windows diehard? Or an Apple user, looking to see how the other half lives? Either way, we've got you covered like a thick flannel blanket. Made out of preview software.

First things first: download Windows 8 from here

Then you need to put that file on something you can install it with. That means either burning the ISO disc image to a DVD or copying it to a USB flash drive. A little annoying, but that comes with the territory when installing a separate operating system.

Whether you're using Windows or OS X, this feature is built right in.

Now let's install that sucker. (If you're prompted for an activation key, use this: DNJXJ-7XBW8-2378T-X22TX-BKG7J)

On a PC

Once you've got the Windows 8 file, you'll want to install it alongside the current version you're using—this will allow you to dip your toes in without committing, but requires some minor hard drive futzing.

If you want to run Windows 8 on its own slice of hard drive real estate, you'll need to create a disk partition—clearing out a blank space on your computer for Windows 8 to settle into. This is easy! Our pals at Lifehacker have a full guide if you need it, but you really only need to follow this:
Open the Start Menu and right click on the "Computer" option. Click "Manage", and in the window that appears, click on "Disk Management" in the left sidebar.
Find your system hard disk in the graphical list that appears in the bottom pane. Right-click on it and then click "Shrink Volume". Shrink it down so you have at least 20GB of space left on the end of the drive, and click OK. Then, click on the "Unallocated" block of that drive that appears and click "New Simple Volume". Click Next on the next few windows until you get to the "Format Partition" window. Here, give it a volume label you'll recognize (like "Windows 8") and click Next. It should format the drive for you. Now you're all set to install Windows 8.
Simple, right?

Your PC will now boot into Windows 8 by default, but if you want your previous version to auto-start, go to "Change Defaults or Choose Other Options" from the Windows 8 boot menu.

You've now got a two-headed computer.

But remember: not only is this a beta product several months away from release, it's also dramatically different from any operating system you've used before. So proceed with the knowledge that you'll volunteering to be Microsoft's guinea pig.

The Pirate Bay Removes All of Its Torrent Links

The Pirate Bay, the largest torrent site on the Internet, is no more. Or well, it's not like it once was. As of this moment, they've taken down all torrent links on the website and will now only use 'magnet links'.

Though it sounds really bad, it's more of an act to "future proof" The Pirate Bay website than anything else. So don't worry! The Pirate Bay will still be able to work. It's not dying, it's just changing. In their words, "just click the red button instead of the green one and all will be fine".

From now on, torrent files being shared by more than 10 people will be replaced with "magnet links". So instead of downloading .torrent files from a central Pirate Bay server like before, .torrent files will have to be downloaded from other BitTorrent users. Basically, very few .torrent files will be hosted by Pirate Bay itself. The magnet links will work for users trying to get .torrent files as long as one person in a swarm has the file. Rely on each other!

The change is supposed to help keep the Pirate Bay up and prevent it from shutting down. We're hoping it works.

Feb 28, 2012

Sniffing Rosemary Makes You Smarter

There are plenty of strange alternative uses for herbs. Rosemary, for instance, is supposed to soothe the skin and cure dandruff—though I can't promise how well it will do either. Science, however, now tells us it definitely can make you smarter.

A team of scientists from the University of Northumbria, UK, has discovered that one of the oils which gives rosemary its pungent scent improves speed and accuracy when performing certain mental tasks. Which means you definitely want to start cooking more herb-crusted lamb right about now.

To work that out, subjects were asked to complete numerical reasoning tests before and after being exposed to the scent of rosemary oil. The researchers then measured the levels of 1, 8-cineole, the main chemical constituent in rosemary's oil, after the experiments and compared it to the test scores. The higher the levels of 1, 8-cineole, the higher the score test. The research is reported in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology.

Sadly, nobody has any idea how it works, which makes it a tortuously frustrating finding. One other big question remains, though: is it possible to overdose on rosemary? "Rosemary has been used as an herb for generations, and there is nothing to say it is potentially harmful, at least in the short term," Dr. Christy C. Tangney told WebMD. Phew. Let's get cooking. More here.

This Is the ‘World’s Smallest PC’, and You Can Buy It Now

A dual-core computer that's the size of a USB stick. Well, production is underway, and you can pre-order one right now.

Packed inside its tiny little frame is a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor built by Samsung, along with an ARM Mali-400 GPU. It also packs HDMI-out, WiFi and a Micro USB port— and comes with Android or Ubuntu pre-loaded as the OS. It also handles MPEG-4 and H.264 video formats, so you could plug it into a TV and use it as a rudimentary media PC.

It's soon set to be rivalled by the Raspberyy Pi; a British effort to produce a similar product for around $35. To use the Pi, however, you'll need to be at home with a command line.

If that's not for you, the FXI Cotton Candy is available for pre-order at $199, and should arrive sometime in March. More here.

The Future of Farming Is Brain-Dead Chickens?

The poultry industry routinely takes heat for the densely-crowded conditions birds are subjected to. But what if the animals didn't feel pain or suffer stress? One student thinks he has the solution—raise chickens like vegetables by lobotomizing the lot of them.

Architecture student André Ford has presented a very radical solution increase the efficiency and humaneness in raising poultry. Under his plan, birds would have their frontal cortexes surgically severed, rendering the animals permanently unconscious with no zero sensory input while maintaining their lower brain functions—breathing and such—so that they continue to grow.

The form and function of a chicken plant would change drastically as well. The birds would be suspended and immobilized from hanging racks. Their feet would be removed (not going to be doing much walking in their state) and the animals would receive nutrients through an esophageal tube. A second tube would remove waste—Matrix-style. The birds could literally be stacked—quadrupling the density from one chicken every 10 square feet to four—quietly growing until they're large enough to be harvested.

"Harvested" is an oddly applicable phrase for what this method would entail. The birds are effectively reduced to being fleshy vegetables that just sit there until picked. But that can't be any worse than their current living conditions, right?

So far, this is still simply an art project dubbed The Headless Chicken Solution at the Royal Collage of Art. But it could well be a glimpse into the future of industrial-scale farming. More here.

Feb 27, 2012

There Are Nearly a Half-Million Android Apps Now

Android is poised to take over the world—at least according to new numbers from Google. The number of Android apps has exploded to 450,000 up from 150,000 just a year ago. And that's just the beginning.

The Android numbers posted today by Google are seriously impressive: There are 800,000 Android device activations a day, and 300 million (!) Android devices worldwide. If this inspires you to go get an Android phone, start doing your research because more than 800 different Android devices have launched to date.

Feb 26, 2012

Duracell Powermat WiCC Could Bring Wireless Charging to any Smartphone

Powermat may have a bright future, but the company's products to date have been expensive, slightly clunky and a generally imperfect solution for bringing wireless power to mobile devices. That could all change with WiCC. The Wireless Charging Card (WiCC) is an IEEE Power Matters Alliance (PMA) standard, with the potential to integrate Duracell Powermat technology within every mobile gadget. The incredibly thin device resembles those wafer-like SmartMedia cards once used in early digital cameras, with a similar form factor, but significantly more practicality. Each WiCC includes all the PowerMat circuitry found in the company's charging cases, while also doubling as an NFC antenna. The card's success is of course contingent on cooperation from device manufacturers, who will need to add a slim connector above the battery leads, including two for power, two for NFC and two for data -- an app will monitor charging. Powermat reps say that such a connector would cost pennies to implement, however, making it a potentially easy sell.

Swappable Soles Let These Boots Adapt To Any Condition

No one wants to spend their money on a uni-tasker. They want as much bang for their buck as they can get, so Korkers has expanded their line of convertible fly fishing boots for use in snow and ice as well.

Using the company's OmniTrax 3.0 Interchangeable Sole system, the new SnowJack, IceJack and StormJack boots can be customized for different conditions requiring different types of traction. Each pair of boots includes a rubber sole for treading through snow, and an alternate sole augmented with 16 carbide spikes providing extra grip on ice.

Thanks to a snap-on system the soles can be easily swapped even while the boot is being worn, and they lock into place with reassuring clicks once you take your first steps. The new boots range in price from $140 to $200—depending on the level of waterproofing and insulation you need—while additional soles for particularly extreme conditions can also be purchased. More here.

Feb 25, 2012

Nokia is The Largest Windows Phone Maker in The World, After one Quarter

Boston, MA - February 24, 2012 – According to the latest research from Strategy Analytics, global Microsoft smartphone shipments grew 36 percent sequentially to reach 2.7 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011. Nokia captured top position as the world’s number one Microsoft smartphone vendor for the first time ever.

Alex Spektor, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global smartphone shipments using the Microsoft operating system grew 36 percent sequentially to reach 2.7 million units in Q4 2011. Microsoft smartphone shipments remain tiny, but they are showing tentative signs of growth. Nokia overtook HTC and others to become the world’s largest Microsoft smartphone vendor with 33 percent market share. Nokia’s global Microsoft smartphone shipments hit 0.9 million units, as distribution of its Lumia family expanded across numerous countries and operators.”

iPhone-Branded gas Stoves Seized by Chinese Authorities

Ordinarily, if you use your iPhone to fry eggs, it's time to check when your warranty expires. Not so for these KIRF iPhones, which can't make calls or download apps (let alone use Siri) but can fry your bacon rather well. 681 of these bafflingly branded gas stoves were seized by police in Wuhan, each bearing the legend "Apple China Limited." 

Apparently the units did not come with flame-out protection and only ran iOS 4.1, leading to the swoop. We should probably take that as solid confirmation that the iPhone 6's killer feature is going to involve making brunch on the go.

The Chair That’s Always the Right Height

The SCRW's striking design is brilliant. No matter how tall you are or what table you're sitting at the chair adjusts with just a turn to exactly the right height.

Designed by Manuel Welsky, the chair's seat is a big piece of cork with threads that screw into an aluminum frame. When your tall friend comes over for dinner, just turn the seat till it's at the right height. Those of you who play drums—or are familiar with drums, anyway—might recognize similarities to the screw-seat design of a drum throne.

At $660, the SCRW is pricey, but that's OK because it really shouldn't be the only piece of beautiful adjustable furniture out there. Someday, hopefully, all chairs will be this brilliant. More here.

Feb 24, 2012

Use a 50 Caliber Bullet to Open Your Silver Bullet

Like Beer?! Like Guns?! Let this bottle opener made from a real 50 caliber bullet casing serve as a token of your love for 'Merica. Don't just tap the Rockies; rip through it with the biggest bullet $20 can buy. More here.

Feb 23, 2012

Samsung Rugby Smart Officially Coming to AT&T March 4 for $100

After having seen the Samsung Rugby Smart poke its head out from time to time, Samsung's new rugged smartphone is officially hitting AT&T stores on March 4th. Much like the Pantech Element, the Rugby Smart will be "waterproof," meaning it can be submerged for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water.

The phone itself is built to mil-spec 810F standards, so it's going to handle most extreme conditions pretty well. So let's list off the specs we've heard so far: it will launch with Android 2.3 -- shocker, we know -- as well as a 3.7-inch WVGA Super AMOLED panel, 4GB of internal storage, 1,650mAh battery and a 1.3MP front-facing shooter for video chat along with a 5MP rear facing autofocus camera with LED flash and 720p video capture. 

Feb 22, 2012

How Much Does It Cost to Climb Mount Everest? More Than a Porsche

Alan Arnette has an excellent post on Outside detailing the costs of reaching Earth's highest summit, Mount Everest. I've never thought about it before but it totally makes sense that there are a lot of thingsthat go on to make that climb, right? And all those things cost a lot of money! Like $83,000 a lot of money.

Arnette details the three ways you can climb Mount Everest: putting together your own expedition, joining a logistics only expedition or joining a fully guided expedition. Fully loaded fully guided expeditions sound fancy — sushi, five star chefs, open bar, espresso machines — but of course, all that pizazz comes with a price, as those climbs can reach more than $100,000 plus tip and bonuses. Logistics only expeditions are considerably cheaper and less fancy but come with very little included. You want oxygen? Pay more. You want to know what the weather will be? Pay more. You get the idea.

The most clear breakdown Arnette gives is in planning your own personal expedition:
Travel expenses: $2,375 - $6,225
Getting to Everest Base Camp: $2,150
Climbing fees and deposits: $19,700 - $37,700
EBC equipment and cooks: $9,300
Oxygen and climbing Sherpas: $8,525
Gear: $7,000
Misc (medical kits, communications, evacuation): $8,250-$12,000
On the high end, that all totals up to $82,900. Is it worth that much money to see our world from its highest point? Maybe! But probably not for regular humans. I mean, as a reference, you can get a Porsche 911 Carrera for $82,100. Mount Everest or a Porsche?

Sorry, I'm getting the Porsche and climbing Mount Everest from my couch. More here.

Insanely Strong Molecular Glue, Inspired by Flesh-Eating Bacteria

If you've ever stuck your fingers together with super glue, you know pain. But imagine sticking them together with glue that bonds materials at the molecular level: that's realpain. It's also what scientists are doing, with the help of flesh-eating bacteria.

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford has created a molecular glue inspired by Streptococcus pyogenes, which can cause flesh-eating diseases, reports PhysOrg. In fact, the team was interested in a single protein: one which the bacterium uses to bind and invade human cells. "The protein is special because it naturally reacts with itself and forms a lock," explains Dr Mark Howarth, one of the researchers.

Taking that single protein as a design cue, they've developed a molecular glue which uses the same concepts. Their new protein forms covenant bonds when it comes into contact with a partner protein. The bonds it forms are so strong that, when they tested a sample, the equipment used to measure the strength broke before the glue.

As well as being incredibly strong, the technology can be used to make highly selective adhesives: the binding proteins adhere to themselves, but not to other entities. All that remains is to develop ways of incorporating the proteins into other molecular structures in order to create insanely strong, selective glues. More here.

New Snapdragon Chip With Integrated LTE Will Save Your Battery

Qualcomm's next-generation system-on-a-chip is set to turn up inside consumer devices at the Mobile World Congress—and judging by its rumored speed and integrated LTE technology, it could cause quite a stir.

Qualcomm has announced that the new chip—MSM8960, or Snapdragon S4 to its friends—will debut in several handsets next week in Barcelona. Whilst only dual-core, the exciting news is that Qualcomm has been able to roll LTE connectivity into the chip.

Currently, phones have a separate LTE processor that both adds bulk and kills battery performance. An integrated system should help alleviate those issues by sharing resources.

AnandTech has also had an opportunity to benchmark the new processor, and the results look promising, with the chip trumping the highest results from any currently shipping devices by a factor of two. In real-world tests, they found that compared to a Galaxy Nexus, the Snapdragon S4 helped reduce web page loading times by 0.3 seconds with the cache disabled or 1.4 seconds with it turned on. That is massive.

Qualcomm is planning to launch a quad-core version of the processor too, which should be interesting.

Feb 21, 2012

Nintendo 3DS hits 5 Million Units Faster Than DS

While it had a rocky moment in the middle, some heavy price-cutting and top-drawer games helped the system sell five million within a year in its native homeland. According to Nintendo, these are legitimate sell-through figures and as predicted, make the 3D-capable console Nintendo's fastest selling console to date.

Eating Dessert for Breakfast Can Make You Skinny

Your mother, doctors and life lied to you. According to scientists (science, people!), combining a low-calorie diet that includes dessert for breakfast will help you lose weight. Sweets, cookies, creme brulee, cake. ALL OF IT will help you lose weight if you start your day off like that. I love breakfast now.

According to the study, scientists put 144 obese people on a low carb, low calorie diet (1,400 calories for women, 1,600 calories for men) that were exactly identical except that one of the diets included "a high-carbohydrate, protein-enriched breakfast with a choice of cookies, chocolate, cake or ice cream for dessert."

What's interesting is that during the first 16-week period, the average weight loss was the same—both groups lost 32 pounds on average. Where it got suuuper interesting was the 16 week followup, people with the dessert for breakfast diet lost 13 more pounds while the other group gained back all but 3.5 pounds of the weight they lost. WHAT. IS. THIS. MADNESS. (It's supposedly something that deals with satisfying your cravings or something after a diet)

The full study is in the March 10 issue of the journal Steroids. I don't care, all I know is, get to eating dessert before 10 in the mornin' kids. It's good for you. More here.

Feb 20, 2012

Intel Launching New Atom-Based Processors With Digital Wi-Fi

If you thought Intel's Atom processor line was dead, think again: the company is launching a new version of the silicon, code named Rosepoint. Don't be too quick to dismiss it, either, because it sounds like the new mobile processor could mean business.

Wired reports that the new line of chips should bring significant reductions in power, cost, and size to Intel-powered smartphones, tablets, and laptops. Perhaps most interestingly, the chip has Wi-Fi built in as part of the digital chip. Current Wi-Fi chips tend to be analog, and a digital version should in theory be easier—and cheaper—to scale down. Indeed, Intel Chief Technical Officer Justin Rattner told Wired that the digital Wi-Fi chip should scale with Moore's law and has "state of the art power efficiency."

Even though Intel is officially announcing the chip in San Francisco this week, it won't be commercially available for at least two years. Given that it currently supports just 2.4GHz and Wi-Fi, that seems a little odd—though apparently versions with cellular data and built-in radio antennas are in development. More here.

New 8GB Nook Tablet Launching February 22nd?

According to leaked documents seen by The Verge, Barnes & Noble is launching an 8GB version of its Nook Tablet this week. That drop in capacity means one thing: it's planning to match, or undercut, the Kindle Fire.

The news comes from a leaked Walmart document. From The Verge:
"All we know for sure is that Walmart plans to launch this new device at 12:01AM on Wednesday, February the 22nd, and deliveries of the 8GB Tablet should be arriving in stores already."
Currently the 16GB Nook Tablet retails at $249, which is $50 more than the Kindle Fire. If a drop in capacity means that Barnes & Noble can match—or,even better, undercut—the Fire on price, it can expect to sell a whole heap more.

Feb 19, 2012

Microsoft reveals Windows 8's new logo: 'It's a window not a flag'

Microsoft is making plenty of big changes with its Windows 8 operating system, and that has now also extended to a new logo. As explained by Microsoft's Sam Moreau in a post on the official Windows blog, the logo was created with the help of the design agency Pentagram, which posed a simple question when it began on the project: "your name is Windows. Why are you a flag?"

That discussion eventually led to the four-paned window you see above, which not only looks more like a window than the previous logos, but clearly echoes the company's new Metro design language. Microsoft also notes that the logo is "authentically digital," and says it will welcome you with a slight tilt and change color based on your desktop. More here.

Feb 18, 2012

Goats Have Accents!

Not only do pygmy goats have accents, but they tend to pick up the characteristic "BAAAAAAAAAAA" of the locals bleating around them.

Scientists already knew that bats, whales and, of course, humans tend to pick up the vocal mannerisms they're surrounded by. Now, researchers at Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the University of London have added goats to the list. They published their work in journal Animal Behavior.

They tested the goats when they were five weeks old, because that's when they become social. They found goats that hung out together started to sound the same, and they became more alike as they grew older. The scientists think the evolutionary benefit might be that different accents help the animals identify strangers. More here.

They also say the findings could lead to better understand of how humans became verbal beings. And maybe it explains how Philadelphia and Pittsburgh accents can be so different and entertaining.

iOS 2011 sales smoke 28 years of Mac

Love it or hate it, Apple had a pretty stellar 2011. According to crunched numbers from Asymco, between its iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, the Cupertino outfit sold some 156 million iOS devices in 2011, marking a grand total of 316 million in the mobile OS' short history. 

What's most interesting here, however, is the fact that last year's digits alone have completely blown past the 122 million units daddy Mac has managed in its 28 years of existence. It's no wonder the company borrowed a few tricks from iOS for its latest desktop operating system.

Feb 17, 2012

OS X Never Coming on a USB Drive Ever Again

We hope you aren't too averse to the Mac App Store, because it's going to be the only way to upgrade your computer from now on. That's right—no more USB option, Pocket-Lint reports. Forever.

After a bit of hand-wringing and whining last time around, Apple reluctantly offered a disgustingly-overpriced thumb drive copy of Lion for those unprepared for the download-only route. Tough shit, Mountain Lions! Says Apple:

"It was an interesting test, but it turns out the App Store was just fine for getting the new OS."

You hear that? It's just fine. And if you don't live in an area with suitable internet access, you'll just have to go to your local public library like some sort of street urchin and beg for the Wi-Fi password. Then again, if you're out in the boonies without decent internet access, what do you need a top of the line laptop for anyway? Good riddance, disks and drives and things.

Adding Mini Paper Plates To Pizza Boxes Is Unadulterated Genius

Winner of a much-deserved Red Dot Design Award, the Paper Dish replaces the greaseproof sheet found between a pizza and a cardboard box with an improved design that easily tears apart creating a miniature paper plate for each slice.

Mind = blown.

Created by Yu Kyung Ha, Won Min Jung, and Kwon Young Hee, the clever design helps keep your fingers clean, while also eliminating the stack of napkins usually required to share a pizza. Now if they find a way to incorporate red Solo plastic cups for soda as well, their design could very well revolutionize the fast food industry. More here.

Feb 16, 2012

Scientists Find the Bare Minimum Exercise You Need to Get Fit

We all know we need to exercise to stay fit and healthy, but sometimes it's difficult to find the time. Don't worry: scientists have worked out the minimum amount of exercise you can get away with in order to get fit.

The New York Times reports that a group of researchers are turning health and fitness studies on its head, by investigating just how little exercise we really need. Turns out, as long as you're willing to work hard during your exercise, you probably don't need as much as you think.

Most world-class athletes do intervals: short, sharp bursts of strenuous activity, interspersed with rest. Inspired by that, researchers at McMaster University developed a version of high-intensity interval training that involves one minute of strenuous effort, at about 90 percent of a person's maximum heart rate, followed by one minute of easy recovery. Their version sees that process repeated ten times, meaning a total exercise times of 20 minutes, and is supposed to be carried out just twice a week.

But can two interval sessions a week really get you fit? Well, despite the infrequent nature of the exercise, the researchers have shown that, after several weeks of practicing it, both unfit volunteers and cardiac patients taking part in the study showed significant improvements in their health and fitness. In the words of the researchers:
"A growing body of evidence demonstrates that high-intensity interval training can serve as an effective alternate to traditional endurance-based training, inducing similar or even superior physiological adaptations in healthy individuals and diseased populations, at least when compared on a matched-work basis."
So, if anybody says that when it comes to exercise you need to do a little and often, tell them where to shove it. A better maxim might be hard and fast.

Feb 15, 2012

Why Horses Make Good Glue

If you ever drive through Northern France, you'll see a lot of butchers that sell horse meat. You'll also see a lot of glue factories. The two are very definitely linked — but why is it that horses make good glue?

One word: collagen. Over at Slate, there's a great explanation about the long, and oddly fascinating, history of glue-making. But what it all boils down to is that one protein, collagen. You find it in cartilage and tendons, and lurking inside bones. If you boil enough of those body parts down with some water, you get a gelatin.

Yep: that's the stuff that makes Jell-O set and Gummy bears chewy. And it makes damn good glue, too. But it's not that horse glue is actually better than any other animal glue; it's just that historically horses were plentiful, so it made sense to use them. More here.

Sleeping Better Now Helps Prevent Memory Loss When You’re Old

If you're one of those people who battles through all-nighters, parties hard only to rise early, or has plain old insomnia, I have some bad news for you. Scientists have shown that sleep deprivation in early adult life is linked to memory problems when you're old.

According to a report by Science Daily, the amount and quality of sleep you get at night may have a profound effect on your memory in later life. The research, carried out by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans in April.

The team of researchers has shown that disrupted sleep appears to be associated with the build-up of amyloid plaques—a hallmark indicator of Alzheimer's disease. Their study showed that people who spend less than 85 percent of their time in bed actually sleeping, or those who wake up more than five times per hour, were significantly more likely to have the markers of early stage Alzheimer's disease. So, if you're not sleeping well at the moment, it might be a good idea to change it. More here.

Feb 14, 2012

Firefox on Windows 8: Metro Build is in The Works

We all know that Windows 8 will have a split personality, with a Windows 7 style "Classic" desktop environment working hand-in-hand with a finger-friendly Metro UI. Given that Firefox has a significant market share in the PC web browsing market, it's only natural for Mozilla to accommodate both parts of Microsoft's new OS. 

According to its 2012 Strategy & Roadmap, the company has plans for a proof-of-concept Win8 Firefox release in Q2 of this year. In that document, Mozilla reveals that a "simple evolution" of its existing browser will work with the "Classic" environment, but brand new new front-end and integration code is needed for Firefox to play nice with Metro.

The plan is to build a Gecko-basedbrowser that brings full Firefox capabilities and can handle Windows 8's unique requirements like being suspended by the OS when it's not being viewed and supporting multiple "snap" states to ensure a good browsing experience when multiple apps are open. Looks like Mozilla's crew of coders has their work cut out for them, and you can peep for more here.

Raw Beef Bouquet: How to Land a Meat-Lover Lover

A box of chocolates? Yeah, that might be fine for omnivores, but what about that special carnivorous someone? How's about a dozen beef sirloin roses from this British butcher? Nothing says "Let's get carnal!" like a bouquet of carnage. More here.

Feb 13, 2012

Your Heartbeat Could Be Your Password

A technology in the works might soon allow you to unlock your hard drive by simply touching your keyboard. Your unique heartbeat, emitted through your fingertip, would be your password.

Chun-Liang Lin and his team at the National Chung Hsing University in Taichung, Taiwan translated a human heartbeat into an encryption key using an electrocardiograph reading from an individual's palm. Their unique series of thump-thumpa generated a secret key.

The part that blows my mind is that your heartbeat is so unique that that pattern never actually repeats. You will never get the same exact timing of beats twice. So the encryption scheme is based on the math behind chaos theory, which dictates that outcomes are highly sensitive to initial conditions, leading to widely divergent outcomes (it's sometimes referred to as the butterfly effect). The research will appear in an upcoming issue of Information Sciences. If they're going to create a product, they better hurry up if they want to beat Apple, where engineers seem to have been working on something similar since at least 2010. More here.

I had no idea heartbeats could be so unique! Somehow the whole idea has awoken the romantic in me. Happy Valentines Day everybody!

A Ghastly Cloud Tsunami Creeps Up on the Beach

Earlier this week, Panama City Beach, Florida was overwhelmed with a sweeping wave of fog that was not unlike a cloud tsunami. It creeped onto the beach and rolled right over buildings, giving off an almost supernatural aura.

Meteorologist Dan Satterfield explains how the cloud tsunami phenomenon works:
Cool air offshore was very nearly at the saturation point, with a temperature near 20ºC and a dew point of about 19.5ºC. The air at this temperature can only hold a certain amount of water vapor, and how much it can hold depends heavily on the temperature. If you add more water into the air, a cloud will form, but you can also get a cloud to form by cooling the air. Drop the temperature, and it can no long hold as much water vapor, so some of it will condense out and a cloud will form.
The pictures were taken by Helicopter pilot Mike Schaeffer and JR Hott of Panhandle Helicopter. It seriously looks like ghosts sweeping over Florida. Or dementors looking for Harry Potter. Or a gigantic spiderweb covering the beach. Either way, it's so spectacular it gives me the heebie jeebies. More here.

Lot of People Thought Oprah Was Whitney Houston on Facebook

Whitney Houston, the diva of divas, passed away yesterday at the too young age of 48. It's a depressing end to her story of galaxy bending talent, sun magnifying limelight and cursed frailty. Anyone who has ever heard Whitney in her prime will always remember the singular power of her voice. I mean, we all have our own 'oh damn' Whitney-moment we hold dear, right?

Feb 11, 2012

The 19th Century Version of Facebook

Looks like Mr. Zuckerberg has some explaining to do—he clearly stole the entire idea for Facebook from this 19th century girl's "friend urn"—or, if you will, Vasebook.

The eBay seller says the vase is likely "a graduation present for the young lady in the center." Yeah, you see her? That's her profile picture, with a non-traditional circular Facebook wall surrounding her. Circles were in mode back then, before being briefly banned during WWI for rationing purposes. But there's something very sweet and sad about this! She carried this vase around, labeled "My Friends," as reminder of 50 people who presumably meant the most to her at that point in her life. It was indelible—sealed in ceramic. And now that she's been dead for a very long time, this is all that there is to prove she ever had any friends at all. Will you be able to say the same about your Timeline, Dr. 21st century fancy pants?

Why Updates for Your Android Phone Take So Long

Many of us point to custom UI skins as one of the main reasons Android updates take so long to reach certain phones. But according a Motorola exec, that's not really the case. It's the hardware itself.

PC Mag's Sascha Segan spoke with Moto Senior Vice President Christy Wyatt, who launched a full scale explanation.
"When Google does a release of the software ... they do a version of the software for whatever phone they just shipped," she said. "The rest of the ecosystem doesn't see it until you see it. Hardware is by far the long pole in the tent, with multiple chipsets and multiple radio bands for multiple countries. It's a big machine to churn."
Motorola understands that consumers want their Android upgrades sooner, but the process is complicated, she said. First there's hardware support, then the layering in of custom software from manufacturers like Motorola, and finally, phones must be re-certified by carriers, taking more time.
Long story short, handset manufacturers struggle have to code the drivers for all the different components themselves, and because there are very few hardware limitations on Android once it's gone public, there is a ridiculous amount of variation in devices, even if made by the same company.

Another interesting little aside from the piece is that from the sounds of it, it's possible that Motorola's future webtops (the ones which use phones like the Atrix to power them), will run straight-up Android instead of some other version of Linux. That could be interesting.

DIY Furniture Made Extra Easy With Foam Building Blocks

Since most of us are far handier with a pile of Legos than tools, lumber, and raw upholstery, Japanese design studio Torafu Architects has created these large scale foam building blocks that making assembling furniture easier than an Ikea bookshelf.

The Soft Blocks are designed to look like concrete cinderblocks, but they're actually made from a felt material packed with dense foam so they're comfortable to sit on while still being sturdy enough to support someone's weight.

Sadly, the Soft Blocks are unfortunately still just a design concept, but imagine how easy moving would be if all of your furniture was assembled from these blocks? Filling the U-Haul would be like playing a game of Tetris. More here.

Feb 10, 2012

Heat-Based Recording Could Boost Magnetic Drive Speed

Magnetic fields are pretty nifty for levitating stuff, carving sponge-like thingamajigs and, of course, data storage. But an international team led by the University of York in the UK has figured out a way to replace magnetic fields for the latter by using ultra-short heat pulses instead. Conventional thinking typically dictates that an external magnetic field is required to store data on a magnetic medium. By using heat, however, researchers were able to record terabytes of information per second in a way that is also more energy-efficient compared to current hard drive technology. As for the time it'll take for the tech to make it to market, well, we have a feeling it won't be as fast. More here.

Google’s Very First Employee Is Leaving

It's the end of an era: Google's very first hired employee is leaving the search giant. Craig Silverstein — the first Google employee, Page and Sergey Brin aside — is heading off to the new online learning concept, the Khan Academy. Before you ask: no, it's not acrimonious. " I am as passionate about Google's mission now as I've ever been," says Silverstein. More here.

Feb 9, 2012

Download the Entire Pirate Bay in Just 90 Megabytes

Users of Swedish piracy utopia The Pirate Bay have reason to be nervous, post-Megaupload. It's survived everything companies and cops have thrown its way, but you never know—so download thisarchive of every single torrent from The Bay.

Pirate Bay user "allisfine" ripped the text contents from the site, TorrentFreak reports, and luckily, that's all you really need to keep it alive forever. TPB doesn't actually host anything, and since torrent downloads are decentralized to begin with, a list of links that point you to other users is sufficient. That's what TPB offers now, in nicer packaging—and with the option to add more, of course.

But with one 90 MB .zip file, you'll have access to every single one of the 1,643,194 torrents that's ever graced The Pirate Bay. Keep it safe, for posterity. Maybe print it out and bury it in your back yard. We might need it someday. More here and here.

Feb 8, 2012

Microsoft Celebrating Leap Year Right by Launching Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Perhaps celebrating a push toward the mobile space with its traditionally desktop-bound OS -- or maybe just doing its best to further confuse the similar naming conventions with its forthcoming smartphone operating system -- Microsoft today sent out invites for a February 29th Mobile World Congress event that will see the launch of its Windows 8 Consumer Preview. More here.

Logitech Touch Mouse M600 Mouse Lets you Swipe and Scroll Sans Buttons for $69

Is your current wireless mouse not up to snuff? If that's the case, you may want to take a gander at the Logitech Touch Mouse M600 that lets you do your navigating via a touch surface instead of those ol' clicky buttons. The peripheral is outfitted with the company's Flow Scroll software that touts a similar feel to scrolling on your touchscreen smartphone of choice. From wherever your fingers contact the top of the mouse, you can scroll and swipe in order to keep powering through those Photoshop files. The M600 works just as well for lefties once click areas are reconfigured with Logitech's SetPoint software. If you're thinking about taking the leap, get ready to shell out $69.99 later this month.

Feb 7, 2012

Playing In the Sand Could Make You Pay On the Toilet

Some people go to the beach but eschew going into the water because it's "gross". If that's you, then you are a sucker. According to a new EPA study, playing in the sand more than doubles your chances of getting sick.

The study, which was a collaboration between the EPA, UNC Chapel Hill, and Johns Hopkins, found a relationship between sand exposure and gastrointestinal illnesses due to fecal microbial pollution in beach sand. Yeah, sandpoop. It was even worse than exposure to the ocean water. The researchers tested 144 wet-sand samples from beaches within two miles of a waste treatment-works outfall (testing for Enterococcus, Bacteroidales, fecal Bacteroides, and Clostridium, and others) and conducted nearly 5,000 interviews at the beaches with followup interviews two weeks later.
They found that, compared with beachgoers who did not dig in the sand, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) of illness among those who dug in the sand with the highest Enterococcus levels was 2.0 for GI illnesses and 2.4 for diarrhea (considered as a separate outcome).
In other words, they were between two and two and-a-half times as likely to get sick. And it was even worse for people who were buried in the sand. The EPA doesn't advocate avoiding the beach all together, but says people "should consider washing their hands or using a hand sanitizer after playing in the sand or water." Yeah, or maybe a Silkwood shower would do the trick.

Obviously, examining beaches that are near waste-treatment plants are liable to be nastier, but the EPA thinks wider conclusions can be drawn. Beaches with less nasty water are likely to have less nasty sand, but the sand is still likely to be nastier than the water. Way too much nastiness for my liking.

I'd never really considered this, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Sand is often used for filtration systems (y'know, they're called "sand filters"), because it's good at pulling contaminants out of water. Those contaminants don't just disappear. So basically, the beach is one big filter for the nastiness in the ocean. Which is, y'know, gross, but if you think that's going to keep me off the beach you've got another thing coming. If you need me, I'll be surfing in an biohazard suit. More here.

Feb 6, 2012

How Much Abuse Can a Blackberry Take?

RIM just put out a series of videos showcasing the durability tests a Blackberry has to withstand prior to its release. Pretty cool!

The featured victim is a Blackberry Curve, which is dunked in water, bent to excess, and dropped.

Feb 5, 2012

Hankie Notepads Keep Reporters Looking Dapper

That Field Notes notebook you'll find in many a reporter's back pocket ensures they never miss a scoop, but it doesn't do a lot for their image. At least not as much as this clever faux-hankie notebook that complements a blazer.

Available in a polka-dotted red, black, or white pattern, the top of the notebook is trimmed to a point so it looks like a folded hankie when carried in a breast pocket. And with 60 pages of acid-free paper, you have enough space for every scandalous quote. Available here for $10 each—pencil, blazer, and whimsical sense of style not included. Get it here.

Feb 4, 2012

Nokia, Samsung, Apple are the New top 3 Handset Makers

The latest figures are in from IDC: the top three global smartphone makers are Nokia, Samsung andApple, in that order. Drilling down into the figures finds some surprises: Cupertino's third-place with only 8.7 percent of the market, while the giants of Korea and Finland are duking it out with 22.8 percent and 26.6 respectively. LG and ZTE are tied for fourth, but that's hardly good news for Goldstar, given that it's lost a staggering 42.2 percent of its market share in the last twelve months (Nokia was the other loser, eating 8.2 percent).

ADzero Bamboo Cellphone's Aiming for the Giant Panda Market

This is the ADzero, a smartphone with a four-year old, organically grown bamboo unibody shell. It was designed by British student Kieron-Scott Woodhouse, a final-year product design student at Middlesex University. After his concept designs were spotted online, the 23 year old was approached to help design a real device. 

The Android-powered phone is built with an eye on sustainability, but isn't scrimping on the technical: its packing a camera with a reportedly unique ring-flash that encircles the lens. It'll be released in China and the UK shortly, with a focus on getting it into the hands of design-focused consumers. 

Feb 3, 2012

Facebook Valued at Just Under $100 Billion

In a private market auction yesterday, Facebook was valued at $94 billion, which is squarely in the ballpark of the $100 billion valuation that financial pundits have been tossing around. Don't read much more into it than that; there's plenty of time for the valuation to change slightly before the actual IPO (sometime in May), and either way, it's not going to affect you in the slightest.

SharesPost Inc. completed an auction of 100,000 shares of Facebook’s Class B common stock, according to an e-mail obtained by Bloomberg News. The shares were sold for a clearing price of $40 each, valuing the company at $94 billion based on a fully diluted share count of about 2.35 billion, according to SharesPost.

Facebook filed this week to raise at least $5 billion in the largest Internet IPO on record. The Menlo Park, California- based company, with 845 million users worldwide, is considering a valuation of $75 billion to $100 billion, people with knowledge of the matter said last week. At the top of the range, Facebook would be the ninth-biggest U.S. technology company by market value.

A $100 billion market capitalization would value Facebook at 26.9 times trailing 12-month sales, more than double Google Inc.’s valuation when the search-engine operator went public in 2004. Revenue at Facebook jumped 88 percent last year to $3.71 billion, while net income climbed by almost two-thirds to $1 billion.

The valuation based on a per-share price of $40 may change depending on the actual share count after the IPO. As of Dec. 31, Facebook had 117.1 million Class A shares and 1.76 billion Class B shares outstanding. Additionally, there are about 380 million restricted stock units that vest at a later date, as well as other shares tied to options and compensation.

Skype Rolls out Update for Windows with full HD Video Calling, Group Screen Sharing

Skype rolled out its version 5.8 software update for Windows users today, and it brings with it a couple of fairly notable features. That includes full HD video calling (provided you have a suitable webcam and internet connection, of course), video calling to Facebook users (regardless of whether they have Skype installed or not), and group screen sharing, which will let folks share either their entire desktop or a single application with other participants on a conference call. 

That last feature is only available with Skype Premium, though. Other new features include a "push to talk" option that will let you set up a hotkey to trigger your microphone (for multiplayer gaming, for instance), the ability to hide offline Facebook contacts, and one possible fruit of the Microsoft acquisition: Bing toolbar integration. Get it here.

Feb 2, 2012

The Tablet That Every Linux Lover Has Been Waiting For

While most people just want their devices towork so that they can do stuff, some people love tinkering with operating systems. Until now, the tablet sector's been ripe for hacking, but there hasn't been anything that's truly open-source and easy to fiddle with from the get-go. This Spark tablet puts that straight.

It runs Plasma Active UX, an open-source OS based on the Linux kernel. It's not, I think it's fair to say, designed to be a Kindle Fire or iPad competitor. Indeed, it's aimed at "those who love writing great software... using the typical Linux tools". That kind of rules me out, but it will get plenty of people excited, I'm sure.

In terms of specs, it fairs modestly: a 1GHz AMLogic ARM processor, 512 MB RAM, 4GB internal storage plus SD card slot, a 7" capacitive multi-touch screen and wifi connectivity. It's slated to cost around $260 when it ships, though at the moment it's not clear when that will be. More here. 

Feb 1, 2012

New, Targeted Mouthwash Could Eliminate Tooth Decay "Within Our Lifetimes"

A single species of bacteria is responsible for tooth decay. But until now, mouthwash has worked by sterilizing your maw wholesale. But why go Death Star v. Alderaan on it when you could just kill off that one bad species? This is exactly what Colgate has done and the result could mean an end to cavities—forever.

The bacterial species Streptococcus mutans constitutes just 0.1-percent of the biomass currently residing in your mouth (fun fact: 100 trillion bacteria live there) but is the primary cause of decay. The rest of the 99.9-percent are harmless and some even beneficial. To spare these innocuous bacteria death by rinsing, a research team at the Colgate Technology Center in conjunction with the UCLA School of Dentistry have developed a mouthwash that kills only S. mutans and does so with extreme prejudice.

The study, published in the November issue of the Carries Research journal, involved 12 volunteers who rinsed with a solution containing a "specifically targeted anti-microbial peptide". After just a single rinse, the S. mutans was completely wiped out and the patients remained S. mutans-free for the duration of the four-day study. the rest of the bacteria were left unscathed.

Obviously, more than a 12-person test is going to be needed to obtain FDA approval. Which is why follow up studies ar already scheduled for as early as March. If it does win FDA approval, this mouthwash could be bigger than flouride—you'd never have to brush.

"With this new antimicrobial technology, we have the prospect of actually wiping out tooth decay in our lifetime," Dr. Wenyuan Shi, chair of UCLA's oral biology section, said in a written statement. More here.