Friday, October 29, 2010

Windows Phone 7

TechRadar have produced a detailed review of Microsoft's latest mobile operating system. With the usual caveats (and remember this is the first release of the system), they are impressed.

Their conclusion:

"Get in, get out, get back to your life is Microsoft's mantra here. It's pitching Windows Phone 7 as the phone you'll love – but not so much that you'll be glued to it when you want to be doing other things."

"This works to a certain extent, with tiles that show detailed notifications and with the hubs and the apps that plug into them. Once you're into other apps, or browsing or media or games, you're going to spend as much time absorbed in Windows Phone 7 as any other smartphone."

"Despite the lack of power user features like replaceable storage and true multitasking, the quality of what is included is very good. Microsoft has delivered what it set out to do: a refreshingly different, truly engaging mobile OS. The user interface delights and there are standout innovations such as linking multiple contacts."

"The problem is that there are already other strong smartphone platforms on the market – Windows Phone 7 doesn't beat them hands down but it's a strong challenger that's only going to get better (especially because Microsoft will be sending updates out to all phones regularly, whatever the network or manufacturer) and you'll want to try it out to see if it suits you."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Top 10 Amazon etexts outsell books by 2-1

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

In July Amazon said that digital editions were outselling paper books overall, but now the top 1,000 books are selling more digital editions than hard copies, with the ratio being more than two to one for the top 10 titles.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A History of the World in 100 Objects

Presented by awesomely posh British Museum director Neil MacGregor and a wide range of informed and opinionated guests, each 15-minute show uses an object from the museum to illustrate the progress and 'connectednessness™' of human civilisation from around 2 million BC to the present day.

Click here for more information and links to each episode. You can download all 101 podcasts in one go from the iTunes store.

I'm working my way through the series, and am being entertained, informed and provoked to thinking about the issues raised by each episode.

If you want a hi-res artwork for your podcasts (the BBC-created version is 'orrible), here's one I made up myself.

Thanks to Rory for enthusing about the series.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sony Walkman, R.I.P.

The Register reports: [edited]

Sony is ditching the groundbreaking Walkman cassette player in Japan, 30 years after first launching its assault on the hearing of teens and the patience of the people sat next to them.

"There is still demand in certain regions, including emerging markets, but in Japan there has been a shift to other forms of recording media," a Sony spokesman said.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Somali Pirates

The New York Review of Books has published an excellent and revealing article on Somali's pirates. Some excerpts follow...

"For the past twenty years, since its central government collapsed, Somalia has become one of the prime examples in modern history of a country without a state. Nothing seems to work... the violence keeps mounting, most recently in what is ostensibly a religious war between a moderate Islamist government that gets millions of dollars of Western aid but controls almost no territory and a radical Islamist insurgency egged on by al-Qaeda."

"Deep-seated clan rivalries and war profiteers eagerly feed this bloodshed. Meanwhile the perfect conditions for piracy prevail: anarchy, a cold war legacy that has left Somalia armed to the teeth, and a 1,900-mile coastline abutting the Gulf of Aden, which 20,000 ships traverse each year."

"The pirates of Somalia have an entire country nearly the size of Texas to use as a sanctuary. They hijack ships, sometimes as far out as one thousand miles from shore, and then steer them to well-known pirate dens where they dine on freshly slaughtered goat while conducting ransom negotiations."

"In 2008, when more than a dozen hijacked ships, with more than three hundred hostages, were anchored off the coast of Somalia, Pottengal Mukundan, director of the International Maritime Bureau in London said, “You can see the images of these ships on Google Earth. Nowhere else in the world would this be tolerated.”

"No one knows exactly how much they have netted in the past few years in ransoms but it is safe to assume at least $100 million. Often the booty makes them giddy. After a parachute packed with $3 million drifted down to the deck of the Sirius Star, a Saudi supertanker that a band of young Somali pirates hijacked in late 2008, the pirates divvied up the cash and impetuously sped away in their dinghies, in the middle of a squall. Several capsized and drowned. One dead pirate washed up on the beach with more than $150,000 in his pockets."

"This excess has created a budding pirate culture. Pirate weddings are elaborate two- or three-day affairs, stretching deep into the night, with bands—and brides—flown in from outside Somalia and convoys of expensive 4x4 trucks. The prettiest young women in pirate towns dream of a pirate groom; little boys can hardly wait until they are old enough to sling an AK-47 over their shoulder and head out to sea. In these places, the entire local economy revolves around hijacking ships, with hundreds of men, women, and children employed as guards, scouts, cooks, deckhands, mechanics, skiff-builders, accountants, and tea-makers."

"The hard-line Islamist insurgents who control much of Somalia have flirted with dismantling the piracy business, but the money is too good. One group, Hizbul Islam, recently moved into Xarardheere and now gets $40,000 from each ransom. The more powerful insurgent group al-Shabab made a deal with the pirates in which they will not interfere with the pirates’ business in exchange for 5 percent of the ransoms."

Friday, October 22, 2010

Terrafugia Transition reports: [edited]

The Transition combines the unique convenience of being able to fold its wings with the ability to drive on any surface road in a modern personal airplane platform. Stowing the wings for road use and deploying them for flight at the airport is activated from inside the cockpit.

Become a Sport Pilot in as little as 20 hours of flight time in a Transition-specific course.

Price: £150,000

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Apple Stuff

Mr Jobs announced a slew of new products yesterday including:

- 11" & 13" MacBook Airs: lighter, faster, sexier and more bettererer
- iLife 11: (see above)
- Mac OS X Lion: (see above)
- FaceTime for Mac: *meh, whatever...*

The MacBook Airs and iLife 11 are available now. Lion is promised for Summer 2011. Facetime is available as a beta download, if anyone is bothered.

To find out more click here.

Apple obsessives can watch the entire keynote address, but if you've only got time to watch one of the videos, take a look at the iMovie demo. I don't 'do' video, but this made me want to.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

80-port USB charger

AudioCubes reports: [edited]

You might not have 80 USB devices to charge at once, but it would be nice to have some free spaces for your friends to charge their USB devices. With 80 USB ports, you will be able to charge all your USB devices all at once without taking over all your computer's USB ports.

Price: $249.99

via Boing Boing

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Big Picture reports: [edited]

'Creating a miniature star on Earth' is the goal of the National Ignition Facility (NIF), home to the world's largest and highest-energy laser in Livermore, California.

On September 29th, 2010, the NIF completed its first integrated ignition experiment, where it focused its 192 lasers on a small cylinder housing a tiny frozen capsule containing hydrogen fuel, briefly bombarding it with 1 megajoule of laser energy.

The experiment was the latest in a series of tests leading to a hoped-for 'ignition', where the nuclei of the atoms of the fuel inside the target capsule are made to fuse together releasing tremendous energy - potentially more energy than was put in to start the initial reaction, becoming a valuable power source.

The NIF has cost over $3.5 billion since 1997 and is a part of the federally funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Scientists at NIF say they hope to achieve fusion by 2012.

Monday, October 18, 2010

World's most expensive iPhone

Engadget reports: [edited]

We've already established that if you're filthy rich, you don't want the same cell phone as common folk. No, if you're looking for something higher end, you'll probably end up talking to Stuart Hughes, who customizes electronics by plating them in gold and diamonds.

We've already seen his work on a $20,000 iPhone 4, but his latest achievement is downright ridiculous.

Hughes made two identical models for an Australian client. Each handset includes over 500 diamonds and totals over 100 karats, and comes in its own special granite box. Its total cost is £5 million. Just don't bother crying when you leave it on the seat of a cab.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Colour Basics

Apartment Therapy reports: [edited]

You may know your colour wheel — you may even know your 'Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain' — but when it comes time to talk about colour, do you know your hue from your value? Your shade from your tone? Whether you are in the middle of a colour crisis or paint chip madness we are here to help.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooking Myth Busters

Serious Eats has investigated and disproved six commonly held cookery beliefs:

1. Moist cooking methods give you moister results than dry cooking methods.

2. Frying at a higher temperature prevents food from absorbing oil.

3. When grilling, it’s best to flip just once.

4. Searing locks in juices.

5. Pasta must be cooked in massive amounts of boiling water.

6. Salting beans during cooking will make them tough.

For more information, click here.

via kottke

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Google Test 'Self-Drive' Cars

BBC reports: [edited]

Engineers at Google have tested a self-driving car on the streets of California, the company has announced. The cars use video cameras mounted on the roof, radar sensors and a laser range finder to "see" other traffic, software engineer Sebastian Thrun said.

They remain manned at all times by a trained driver ready to take control as well as by a software expert. Google hopes the cars can eventually help reduce road traffic and cut the number of accidents. In a posting on the company's official blog, Mr Thrun said the self-driven cars had so far covered 140,000 miles on the road.

They have crossed San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate bridge, negotiated the city's famous sloping streets, driven between Google offices, and made it around Lake Tahoe in one piece.

Engineers told the New York Times that the forays onto the highways have been largely incident-free, apart from one bump when the car was reportedly hit from behind at a traffic light.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

HItachi previews hi-res 6.6" screen

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

Hitachi's 6.6in tablet-oriented LCD panel incorporates in-plane switching (IPS) technology for a brighter, higher contrast image that can be viewed from a greater range of angles than a conventional LCD panel, and a better-than-full-HD resolution of 1600 x 1200, making for a pixel density of 302ppi.

That's only slightly less than the iPhone 4's 3.5in "retina display", which comes in at 326ppi, and more than double the density of the iPad's 132ppi.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fujitsu Announce Robot Teddy Companions

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

This new high-tech teddy — labeled in Google-translatese as a "badger type Sosharurobotto child" — was designed by Fujitsu to treat geriatric dementia, and was revealed at the digital wonderland that is the CEATEC Japan 2010 show in Tokyo.

The robo-ted is equipped with an arsenal of sensors and motors beneath his/her furry coat, plus a synthesiser with the voice of a five-year-old boy and a nose-mounted camera capable of recognizing a human face.

Teddy's inner electronic soul can respond to a variety of stimuli with up to 300 movement patterns, including "raising arms in delight, looking downwards in sadness, and kicking his/her feet in a fit of temper."

The SRTB can also replicate a wide variety of facial expressions and body-language gestures, all in response to actions performed by or sounds made by the patients interacting with him.

Fujitsu notes that even patients who communicate little with their fellow humans have been observed to be "communicating quite congenially with the robots and even humming tunes with them."

Acccording to Fujitsu, the salubrious effects of the cuddly robo-companions are measurable. Testing has shown that after playing with the cute li'l guys, test subjects showed increased autonomic and lowered sympathetic nerve activity, which improved the subjects' ability to resist stress and to relax.

A Teddy can also be programmed through a PC hook-up to perform a series of predetermined actions — a capability that designers suggest could be used by a bear to lead a patient through an exercise regimen or to play games.

Friday, October 08, 2010

When It Drops

When It Drops:

"helps you keep track of each week's newest releases. Spend 60 seconds on instead of scouring sites that bury information in a maze of clicks."

Thursday, October 07, 2010

KeyCase iPad Folio Deluxe

GearZap reports: [edited]

With an integrated Bluetooth keyboard this innovative folio case is ideal for people who regularly use their iPad for e-mailing, making notes and writing documents. If you don't need the keyboard it folds behind the iPad.

Price: £59.95 inc. VAT

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Passport Photo Creator

123 Passport Photo allows you to create a digital contact sheet of regulation-size passport photos in 4 simple steps.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody On Slide Whistle

If the Clangers had performed Bohemian Rhapsody, it would have sounded a lot like this. What do you mean you have no idea what a Clanger is?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Apple TV

Engadget has published a review of Apple's updated 'set top box'.

Excerpts follow:

"The first thing you'll notice about the Apple TV is just how small it is. The matte black box clocks in at just 3.9 inches square, stands just 0.9 inches off of your table of choice, and weighs a measly 0.6 pounds."

"Wiring options are minimal; around back you've got an Ethernet port, micro USB jack (for "service and support" they say), an HDMI port, an optical audio hook-up, and a spot for the power cable. Apart from the wired internet, the Apple TV also has WiFi."

"You can also set up multiple laptops or home computers on your home sharing network to stream to the TV, allowing for quick access to video, photos, and music you've got stored on your Mac or PC. After you flip on the appropriate settings (home sharing needs to be active on both your Apple TV and computer), grabbing your stuff remotely is clean and simple."

"There are a few other perks, like YouTube, the ability to flip through photos and internet radio."

"When streaming 720p content (particularly new movies) the clarity of video was impressive. There was some very minor compression artifacting, but far far less than you would see on HD video on demand from your cable provider, and considerably less than with Amazon's HD streaming. The video quality doesn't match up to the richness of full 1080p Blu-ray discs, but it looks good."

"Sound quality was also superb - standard stereo was rich and wide, while 5.1 was as crisp and encompassing as you'd expect. For a $99 box, it's more than pulling its weight in the sound category."

"As far as using the function for music, it worked without a hitch on our iPad running the iOS 4.2 beta, though there is that slight delay (say, for switching songs). Unlike video, you can sleep the device and have music continue to play, which makes sense given that iDevices also serve as iPods."

Friday, October 01, 2010

Browser Asteroids

github reports: [edited]

Simply drag a bookmarklet [available on his site, Ed.] to your bookmarks bar and start having some fun!

Tip: It works great to vaporize annoying ads.

Remember: It's cooler if you make your own sound effects.