Aug 19, 2012

Fujitsu Making Laptops From Unwanted CDs and DVDs

Back in our day, we used to listen to music on shiny plastic discs with lasers, not any of your new-fangled Zunes and what not. That was back when bands had sensible names. These days, however, CDs and DVDs are remnants of a simpler time. 

Fujitsu will be putting those outdated media formats to work again, with are cycling program that uses the material to build shiny new notebooks, starting with the Lifebook P772/E enterprise laptop, with more models to follow. According to the company, the new program is set to reduce the use of new plastic by 10 tons a year and slice C02 emissions by around 15 percent.

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Aug 18, 2012

Facebook to Backup its Servers With Low-Power Storage Devices at 'Sub-Zero' Data Center

Data backups come in all shapes and sizes. For some, they take the form of external hard drives or a slice of the amorphous cloud. As for Facebook, its upcoming solution is low-power deep-storage hardware contained within a 62,000 square-foot building in Prineville, Oregon near its existing Beaver State data center. Unofficially referred to as "Sub-Zero," the facility will store a copy of the social network's data in case its primary servers need to be restored in an emergency. Rather than continuously power HDDs that are only occasionally used, the new setup can conserve energy by lighting-up drives just when they're needed. 

One of the company's existing server racks eats up around 4.5 kilowatts, while those at Sub-Zero are each expected to consume approximately 1.5 kilowatts once they're up and running. Tom Furlong, Facebook's vice president of site operations, told Wired that there are hopes to create a similar structure alongside the firm's North Carolina data center. Since the Prineville project is still being planned, Zuckerberg & Co. have roughly six to nine months to suss out all the details before your photos are backed up at the new digs. More here.

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Sony Reader Gets a new Design, Evernote Integration and a Free Harry Potter Book for $129

In the market for a new e-reader? One could certainly do worse than Sony's Reader line. The company's been packing features onto its devices, and the already leaked latest entry is no different, with upgrades over its predecessor, packed into a newly redesigned body with bigger, better looking buttons. Sony's promised more intuitive touch with the Reader PRS-T2, smoother zooming and improved page turning, this time out. On the sharing side of things, Evernote functionality joins the fray here, letting users save their favorite passages to the service. 

 Users can also post passages from books, along with corresponding covers and other identifying information to Facebook, if you're the sort who loves to share such literary info. On the store side of things, Sony's offering up browser-based account access now, so when users buy books on their desktop, they'll get pushed to the reader.

The PRS-T2 offers up 2GB of storage, two English and four translation dictionaries (though, contrary to its name, doesn't do so in an Austrian accent), two months of battery life (WiFi off) and the customary six-inch Pearl E-Ink display for $129. Oh, and Sony's also throwing in a free copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, for good measure.  More here.

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Aug 17, 2012

How Tall Can a Skyscraper Really Get?

The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is a whopping 828 meters tall, and in 2018, the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia aims to top it by going to 1,000 meters. Is there a practical limit to this architectural oneupsmanship?

Apart from the wrath of a vengeful god, who will smite the hubristic constructions of man united, there are some factors which limit the size of our towers. Most of them are boringly practical, Atlantic Cities points out. Elevators, for instance, become problematic when your building starts coming up on near a mile in height. Likewise, building ridiculously high towers is expensive, and their bases tend to require tons of real estate.

If you could secure the money and land, however, and find people to stomach the painfully long elevator rides, it wouldn't be out of the question to build skyscrapers miles high. Chairman at the Council on Tall Buildings Tim Johnson told Atlantic Cities he'd worked on designing a building that could have been scaled to roughly two miles (about 3,000 meters) if it had ever been built:
"We proved that it is physically and even programmatically possible to build a building a mile-and-a-half tall. If somebody would have said 'Do it two miles,' we probably could have done that, too."
So long as you make your foundation sufficiently large, there's no reason that man-made buildings should be limited to any height less than that of the tallest natural mountain. It's the logistics of getting such a mammoth, phallic symbol actual built that proves to be the hardest part. More here. Electronics

Here’s Your Next Oversized Galaxy Note 2 Phone for Giants

If you love the big screen of the Galaxy Note, you're going to love the (rumored) larger 5.5-inch screen of the Galaxy Note 2 even more. Here's a leaked photo of it. It's really big. That about does it.

KnowYourMobile says the phone—very close to becoming a small tablet, roughly the size of a young guinea pig—"will feature a quad-core processor, presumably Samsung's Exynos 4 Quad, as well as 2GB of RAM and Samsung's next-generation S-Pen technology." None of that really matters, because people just want a big phone. A phone that's big. Start warming up your fingers before it arrives on and possibly damages store shelves at the end of the year. More here.

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Aug 16, 2012

Instagram 3.0 Adds Photo Maps, Infinite Scrolling and Speed Improvements

Wondering if that Facebook acquisition would slow down the pace of innovation at Instagram? Perhaps v3.0 will answer that. The famed photo sharing network -- now some 80 million users deep -- is detailing its latest user interface overhaul today, and geolocation is at the heart of it. The benefits of geotagging and the usefulness of tagged photos from an archive / diary perspective, the newest edition of the app introduces a Photo Maps view. As the name implies, it overlays photos with a map underneath, giving people a far more visual look at what they were seeing at a given point on Earth (or Mars, assuming Curiosity hasn't reached its data limit this month).

Beyond that, the app includes "multi-line caption editing, more streamlined photo uploading, speed improvements and infinite scroll,". Interestingly, the Twitter "Find Friends" feature has been yanked in the latest build due to Twitter shutting off its API to the company last month. If you're wondering about a master plan for Photo Maps, it's pretty simple; just as you'd tune into #nbcfail on Twitter to read the latest musings about the Summer Olympics, hovering over London in Instagram could give you a highly filtered look at what kind of photos are emerging from an event in real time. And really, who wouldn't want to see 807 sepia-infused 1:1 shots of Usain Bolt? More here.

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Carbonized Li-On Batteries Can Charge 100 Times Quicker

While lithium-ion batteries are the best we have, they often take an awful long time to charge. Now, though, a team of researchers has developed a new battery manufacturing technique which can cut charge time from hours to minutes.

The way current li-on batteries are made, they have conductors feeding the charge-holding particles held within the cell. The problem is that the charge is deposited from the outside in, as the charge-holding section in the middle isn't directly exposed to any current.

The new technique, though, developed by researchers at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, makes batteries that are densely interwoven with conductors, so the entire battery can start charging at the same time.

To do that, the team place the cell material in a solution containing graphite, which causes carbon to permeate the materials. When carbonized, the result is "a dense network of conductors throughout the electrodes of the battery".

In tests, the team has shown that running conductors through the battery in this way produces cells which can can be recharged between 30 and 120 times faster than normal li-on batteries. The results are published in Angewandte Chemie.

Of course, pumping extra content inside the battery either reduces capacity or increases size slightly—but then, that's probably worth it if you can shave hours off your charge time. Now please, someone, hurry up and commercialize it. More here.

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Aug 15, 2012

Curiosity survives brain transplant, prepares for first drive

If you thought your OTA update took too long, how about four days? That's how long the Curiosity "brain transplant" took, and is now finally complete. This now means that the main computers have switched over from landing mode, to surface mode - meaning the rover's good to go. 

That said, it's still a painfully slow process, with Curiosity's wheels likely remaining steadfastly motionless for at least another week -- and even then we're looking at a trip of just a few meters. When it comes to interplanetary travel, though, slow and steady definitely wins the race -- in the meantime, you can soak up the view. More here. - Always FREE Shipping!

Aug 14, 2012

Microsoft Surface for Windows RT Tablet Coming October 26th for $199?

Microsoft's recent TechReady15 conference in which all the launch details were laid out. If things go according to the plan detailed then, the Surface for Windows RT tablet will be launching October 26th --no surprise there -- at a compelling price of $199.

That MRSP, almost certainly lower than Microsoft's own cost, would line it up against the Nexus 7 and even the Kindle Fire. It would put Windows 8 on the map in a big way and give a lot of people a lot of reason to try out an operating system that is going to feel rather different than previous incarnations. The question is: will it drive enough sales of media and apps for Microsoft to recoup its loss? Or, will companies like Acer put up enough of a fight in the months between now and October to keep Microsoft from undercutting its own partners? We'll find out soon, more here.
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Samsung Refreshing Series 7 Gamer With 3D Display,

If Samsung's first dedicated gaming laptop wasn't built to your liking, you're about to get another option -- the Series 7 Gamer is due for a refresh. The company's Samsung Tomorrow blog pegs the new build as the Series 7 Gamer Yellow 3D. Style aside, the new oversized notebook will swap out its current GPU for an AMD Radeon HD 7870M and, as the name implies, a 14.3-inch SuperBright (400 nit) 3D LED display.

The new configuration will also split its twin drive bays between a 1TB HDD and a fast-booting 128GB SSD. More here.

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Aug 13, 2012

iPhone Prices Drop Everywhere Before New iPhone Launch

Just about everyone is slashing prices on the iPhone ahead of next month's expected release of the sixth-gen version.

Sprint is selling the 4S for $50 off the regular price, while at Target, you can get the Verizon and AT&T versions for $20 less, at $179. Best Buy has also marked the 8GB iPhone 4 down by half to $50. Apple is apparently matching these bargain basement prices, too, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As we close in on the rumored launch—September 12 has been the widely circulated date—retailers are clearing out stock of the phone to make way for the shiny new iPhone 5. More here.


Amateur Archaeologist Finds Possible Pyramids using Google Earth

While most Google Earth hobbyists are satisfied with a bit of snapping and geotagging, some have farloftier ambitions. Satellite archaeologist Angela Micol thinks she's discovered the locations of some of Egypt's lost pyramids, buried for centuries under the earth, including a three-in-a-line arrangement similar to those on the Giza Plateau. Egyptologists have already confirmed that the secret locations are undiscovered, so now it's down to scientists in the field to determine if it's worth calling the diggers in. More here.

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Aug 12, 2012

NASA's Curiosity Rover Receives Long-Distance OverTheAir Update, 'brain transplant' on Mars

Think it's nifty when your carrier deigns to provide your smartphone with that long awaited OTAupdate? That's nothing. Over the weekend, NASA's Curiosity rover will be receiving its first long-distance OTA update -- all the way out there on Mars. The goal is to transition both redundant main computers from software suited for landing the vehicle to software optimized for surface exploration -- such as driving, obstacle avoidance and using the robotic arm. NASA calls it a "brain transplant" and points out that the software was actually uploaded during the flight from Earth. Now can someone please enable OTA downloads for the human brain? We'd really like to know kung fu. PR after the break.

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Scientists Release Biggest ever 3D Map of the Universe

The stargazers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics have released a huge three-dimensional map of outer space, a core part of its six-year survey of the skies. Encompassing four billion light-years cubed, the researchers hope to use the map to retrace the movements of the universe through the last six billion years.

Using the latest Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), the center says the data will help improve their estimates for the quantity of dark matter in space and the effect that dark energyhas on the universe's expansion, "two of the greatest mysteries of our time" -- if you're an astrophysicist. Even if you're not, you'll still want to board the animated flight through over 400,000 charted galaxies, more here.
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Aug 11, 2012

Destroy Documents By Hand With This Minimalist Manual Shredder

The Feds are pounding at your door. You have to destroy the evidence now. But they've cut the power! Your sophisticated top-of-the-line paper shredder needs electricity. What now?! The manual shredder has your back.

Admittedly, you can always just rip—or eat—paper if you really need it gone, but the manual shredder by IDEA International offers a somewhat more dignified yet still human-powered solution. Especially considering that typical shredders are loud, hulking beasts, this quiet, simple hand shredder is a tasteful alternative. If this is the kind of cute machine of destruction you can see fitting nicely on your desk, you can pick up your own for $42 at neo-utility. More here. 468x60: Special offer on T series

Prism Glasses Let You Read While Lying Down

The hardest part of reading (besides the big, scary words) is finding a remotely comfortable way to sit, or lie, while doing it. These crazy prism glasses will add "lying on your back" to the list of options, but you'll look stupid.

It's a simple concept. The prism glasses redirect your line of sight nintey degrees downward, parallel to your supine form. That way you can, in theory, prop your book or magazine on your chest or stomach, and still read it without doing crunches to tilt your head. Seems equally useful and disorienting. Probably not the best setup for reading Pynchon or something.

If you want to try this elegant yet weird solution a try, you can pick up a pair of these guys for about $25. More here.

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Aug 10, 2012

Researchers Create Meshworm Robot

 The latest creation from researchers at MIT, Harvard University and Seoul National University. The bot is made from "artificial muscle" composed of a flexible mesh tube segmented by loops of nickel / titanium wire. The wire contracts and squeezes the tube when heated by a flowing current, but cut the power and it returns to its original shape, creating propulsion in a similar way to its living kin.

Taking traditional moving parts out of the equation also makes it pretty hardy, as proven by extensive testing (read: hitting it with a hammer). DARPA is known for getting its fingers in all sorts of strange pies, and it also supported this project. More here.

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The Olympics Uses Special Sand That Doesn’t Stick to Beach Volleyball Players—Could They Ever Use Synthetic Sand?

Any beach goer knows that spending time in the sand means spending infinitely more time trying to scrub sand off your body. Sand just sticks everywhere. But why doesn't it stick to Olympic volleyball players? It's because the Olympics always use special, highly regulated sand.

Yep, according to Reuters, the sand used for Olympic beach volleyball is strictly regulated—"no stones or shells, not too coarse nor too compact, not too fine so it does not stick to players' bodies." If it sounds like the most amazing sand in the world, it probably is.

Sand finding for the Olympics is a science, guys. Back in 2008 for the Beijing Olympics, the sand was imported from China's Hawaii (Hainan, China) and hosed and raked regularly to keep it from getting packed too densely. But what about if they used real science to develop synthetic sand? According to the great internet resource:
The most common constituent of sand in inland continental settings and non-tropical coastal settings is silica, usually in the form of quartz. The second most common form of sand is calcium carbonate, for example aragonite, which has mostly been created, over the past half billion years, by various forms of life like coral and shellfish.

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Aug 9, 2012

Rad Sunglasses Made From Recycled Skateboards

If you've already decorated your iPhone with a recycled skateboard back panel, then there's only one accessory you need to complete your look: a pair of sunglasses made from the same stuff.

These shades are made by fashion label Diamond Supply Co, and are constructed from recycled, multicolored layered wood taken from old skateboard decks. Unlike the iPhone accessory, shaping the frames into the old-school Wayfarer shape is rather more complex—but the hard work seems worth it. They were announced earlier this week and will be available soon, though currently there are no details on price. Given how tricky they are to make though, don't expect them to come cheap. More here. 60% Off Software

Protect Your Last Piece Of Sushi With Nunchaku Chopsticks

Restaurants can be a dangerous place if you're dining with a ravenous group of friends who are ready to steal a piece of food off your plate the second you're distracted. But now you can fight back, with these clever Nunchop Chopsticks which double as a miniature set of Nunchaku.

For just over $9 you get a way to protect your sushi, noodles, or whatever meal you're eating that's best enjoyed with a pair of chopsticks. More here.

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