After a few months of testing, the feature that allows Chrome OS users to stream videos from Google Drive storage -- like the free 1TB allotted to new owners -- to a Chromecast is now available to (almost) everyone. An update on the stable channel this week pushed it to most people, with the exception of a few devices: the Dell Chromebook 11, HP Chromebook 14, Acer C720 and the Toshiba Chromebook. One thing everyone with the Chromecast dongle can appreciate are additional backgrounds, this time provided by NASA. To access them, pop open the Chromecast app on your mobile device, select "Backdrop", go to settings and choose NASA.
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Even with the amount of electric vehicles we've seen lately, it's likely going to be a long time until they completely replace traditional combustion engines on the road. So how are we going to get away from pricey fossil fuels until then? Well, water could be a possibility. German company Sunfire GmbH thinks it has the solution for turning H20 and carbon dioxide into liquid hyrdrocarbons like synthetic diesel, kerosene and petrol, according to CNET. It does this in part by using a combination of the Fischer-Tropsch process (a chemical reaction that performs the aforementioned transformation) and solid electrolyzer cells (fuel cells that produce gas forms of hydrogen and oxygen).Sunfire says current systems run nearly 50 percent efficient, but there's potential to increase that to around 70 percent in the future. For comparison's sake, that current value is akin to a modern diesel engine, while gasoline motors only hit a paltry 14-to-30 percent efficiency rating. What's holding it back? The usual bureaucratic red tape. Sunfire says it needs regulatory factors to fall in a way which will give investors a "sufficient level of planning reliability" before it can move forward. So maybe don't get your hopes up too high just yet.
Source: Sunfire GmbH (PDF)
Posted by Augustine at 8:55 AM
Friday, November 21, 2014
Looking for a new computer monitor? If you're rocking an AMD-sourced graphics card, you may want to wait a few months. Samsung just announced the UD590 and UE850, the first two monitors with support for FreeSync -- AMD's open-source answer to NVIDIA G-Sync. Both technologies sync GPU output to the monitor's refresh rate, a trick that eliminates visual stutters and tearing. So, what's the difference? As an open standard, AMD's kit is free to implement, meaning Samsung can integrate it into its new monitors without paying out licensing fees. Samsung hasn't announced pricing yet, but says the monitors will be available in 23.6, 27 and 31.5-inch variants.
Posted by Augustine at 6:46 AM
Thursday, November 20, 2014
In March, Facebook freaked everybody out by buying Oculus, the makers of the Rift VR device, for $2 billion.
As we've reported before, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said they bought the company because it was a "a new communication platform."
At the Paley International Council Summit on Thursday, we learned a little bit more about those plans.
It came up during a conversation between Dan Rose, Facebook's VP of content and media partnerships, and Jason Rubin, Oculus' head of worldwide studios.
Rose gave this reason for Oculus being the future of both computing and entertainment:
If you think about the trends in computing technology over the last 50 years, we went from mainframe computers, which were very impersonal and distant, to desktop computers that became directly interactive — you can touch and feel and interact with and interface yourself and set on your desk — to laptops, which you can now suddenly take with you, [to] now today, everybody has a computer in their pocket.
The natural progression of that suggests that the next computing platform will move closer to our bodies. And our belief is that means that it will be something that sits directly on our face that we interact with through our eyes.
"There are a lot of different approaches to how this might take place," Rose said. "Our bet is that virtual reality will be the on-ramp to optical computing."
To translate: Facebook thinks that virtual reality is going to be the gateway to working with a computer that you control with your eyes, which takes the promise of something like Google Glass and pushes it even further.
In a recent interview with Business Insider, Oculus CEO Br! endan Ir ibe said that virtual reality headsets will eventually shrink to the size of a pair of glasses. And if you could control those with your eyes, you're looking at a computer interface unlike anything we've ever experienced.
And Oculus, by Facebook's estimate, is way ahead of everybody else in making that happen.
Thus the acquisition.
Posted by Augustine at 2:59 PM
You've heard it happen one time or another: a senior who's not very tech-savvy clicked a dubious link online and paid a shady internet company a hefty sum to remove a virus that was never there. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book, and apparently, still one of the most effective: the Federal Trade Commission has just shut down two massive Florida-based telemarketing operations that reportedly scammed victims (mostly seniors) out of $120 million in total, duping them into buying fake anti-virus software and fake tech support. Both have been active since at least 2012, so they might sound familiar. The first one sold software called PC Cleaner, while the other did business under several names, including Boost Software Inc., OMG Tech Help and, hilariously enough, OMG Total Protection.
According to the FTC, their modus operandi starts when a hapless user downloads a free trial of the fake sofware, possibly through an ad on the internet. That fake program will of course diagnose the computer with dozens of equally fake malware and viruses, forcing the victims to buy the full version for $29 to $49. They will then be instructed to call a toll-free number to "activate" the software, giving the companies' telemarketers a way to scam them out of even bigger money. What these telemarketers do is ask users for remote access to their computers, where they launch programs most people don't use, like Windows Event Viewer. They tell the victims that these programs' presence means their computers have been deeply infiltrated, and the only way to save their machines is to purchase more software and lifetime tech support for as much as $500.
Feds got enough evidence to bring them down after undercover operatives asked the companies to look at perfectly clean computers, and the "tech reps" declared them infected, the Palm Beach Post reports. The enemy of all things scammy and scummy then raided the Delray Beach, Florida offices of OMG Tech Help and Vast Tech Support late last week, froze all the suspects' assets and filed cases against them. So, if you know anyone prone to clicking those shady "how to make your PC faster" links on the internet, send them over to FTC's report so they can read about this in detail
[Image credit: Alamy]
Filed under: Misc
Via: The Washington Post
Posted by Augustine at 2:19 PM
Remember that Wall Art service Flickr launched in October that gave you a way to buy big prints of your own snapshots (or, you know, selfies)? Well, now you can also buy wall-size versions of other people's photographs, though, that doesn't mean you can choose random images posted on the website. The only photos you can purchase from the expanded Wall Art service are those that come from Flickr's licensed artists (who also sell their work through the Marketplace) or from the company's hand-selected list of Creative Commons images.
You can have any of those photos printed as a modest 8 x 10-inch portrait or as a much larger 20 x 30-inch wall art. And, like we've mentioned before, you can opt for a wrap-around canvas print if you think frames would ruin the beauty of exceptional works, such as one of NASA Goddard's images of the sky and celestial bodies. Of course, having Flickr blow up a picture that means something to you personally will always be the best choice. But if you find yourself lacking in artistic talent or decent camera equipment, this beats buying mass-produced prints from the mall.
Filed under: Misc
Source: Flickr Wall Art
Posted by Augustine at 2:19 PM
drag2share: Forget Thermostats âÂ IoT Adoption Will Be Driven By Companies Upgrading Factory Floors And Warehouses
We may think of Internet of Things (IoT) devices as futuristic looking objects in the home that can lower energy costs and open garage door for you.
But the IoT is actually much more important to the enterprise sector.
IoT devices and software can offer businesses huge benefits, including better security, more effective monitoring of machinery and equipment, efficiency, energy management, and more.
In a new IoT report from BI Intelligence, we size the enterprise IoT market, noting the breakdown between hardware versus software spending, and determine which industries will upgrade to the IoT first. We examine how businesses are already using IoT systems and what barriers might still stand in the way of IoT enterprise upgrades.
Posted by Augustine at 2:02 PM
Google just added a new Suggested Stories feature to its news search results, so you can let the search engine pull up a customized selection of stories to read about based on whatever terrifyingly dense accumulation of personal data Google has on you by now.
Posted by Augustine at 1:18 PM
In June, the developers of a Russian chatbot posing as a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine claimed it had passed the Turing test. While a lot of people doubt the result's validity because the testers used a sketchy methodology and the event was organized by a man fond of making wild claims, it's clear we need a better way to determine if an AI possesses human levels of intelligence. Enter Lovelace 2.0, a test proposed by Georgia Tech associate professor Mark Riedl.
Here's how Lovelace 2.0 works:
For the test, the artificial agent passes if it develops a creative artifact from a subset of artistic genres deemed to require human-level intelligence and the artifact meets certain creative constraints given by a human evaluator. Further, the human evaluator must determine that the object is a valid representative of the creative subset and that it meets the criteria. The created artifact needs only meet these criteria but does not need to have any aesthetic value. Finally, a human referee must determine that the combination of the subset and criteria is not an impossible standard.
Okay, so that official description is pretty hard to parse. Thankfully, Riedl's recently published paper about the subject gives us an easy sample test. One could, for instance, ask a computer/software to "create a story in which a boy falls in love with a girl, aliens abduct the boy and the girl saves the world with the help of a talking cat." The story doesn't have to read like an instant classic, but it has to be able to fulfill those conditions and convince a human judge that its tale of alien abduction and female-feline heroism was written by a person in order to pass. That's just one possibility, though -- testers could also ask the computer to create other types of artwork (painting, sculpture, etc.) while fulfilling a set of conditions. These conditions need to be outrageous or unique enough to prevent the computer from finding possible results to copy through Google. In comparison, a machine merely has to convince someone that the person is talking to another human in order to pass the Turing test.
Riedl's idea stemmed from the original Lovelace exam created in 2001, which requires computers to conjure up a novel, painting or any original work of art. For a computer to pass, its creators must not be able to explain how the machine came up with its creation. History buffs might have already guessed that both were named after Ada Lovelace (above), the world's first computer programmer, who once said that "computers originate nothing; they merely do that which we order them, via programs, to do."
The associate professor decided to design the second Lovelace exam, as he believes the original one makes it hard to judge if a machine has truly passed, since it doesn't have measurable parameters. In the sample test for Lovelace 2.0, for instance, those parameters are the elements of the story the machine needs to use. Riedl will talk about Lovelace 2.0 at the Beyond the Turing Test workshop in Texas in January 2015, but you can already read his paper online if you want to know more.
Posted by Augustine at 1:15 PM
Most camera manufacturers will milk a popular model dry, but not Sony! Just a year after releasing the first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R, Sony has revealed their successor: the Alpha 7 II. Launched in Japan only, for now, the new model is Sony's first with 5-axis in-body stabilization for still photos and video, which helps reduce camera shake regardless of the lens used. Even with lenses that have no stabilization at all, the sensor itself is shifted in the pitch, roll, yaw, X and Y axis to counteract camera movement.
If E-mount lenses are used, however, the body will correct in just three directions and let the lens do the rest. The type of stabilization used is shown in the display, and you can even manually input the focal length for a better result. All of that will help reduce blur in low-light situations, even with a vintage lens.
Sony has significantly improved its hybrid autofocus system, which uses 117 phase and 25 contrast points, making it about 30 percent faster. Subject motion detection is also 50 percent quicker, helping ensure that fast-moving subjects remain sharp. The full-frame sensor itself appears unchanged at 24.3-megapixels, and there's no word yet on a possible "R" version of the updated model with more resolution. Last year, both the Alpha 7 and 36-megapixel 7R were announced at the same time.
The body is largely similar, with a slightly better grip. Other specs are also unchanged: it still uses the same BIONZ X image processor with 14-bit RAW support, has a max 1/8000 shutter speed, a 2.4 million dot finder and a 3-inch 1.2 million dot display. If you were hoping for some of the Alpha 7S's 4K video or 409,000 ISO light sensitivity mojo to trickle down to the base model, it's not to be: max ISO remains at (a still respectable) 25,600, and video capture is 1080P/60fps using XAVC-S or AVCHD.
The price for Japan will be ¥190,000 ($1,600), but the Alpha 7 II has not been announced for North America yet. If you just purchased the original Alpha 7, there's no reason to feel bad -- the new model brings some nice features, but isn't a huge leap over the last one. Still, by releasing a new version of a lauded camera after just a year, Sony is sending a strong signal to its more lackadaisical competitors.
Posted by Augustine at 6:22 AM
Qualcomm is sitting pretty right now. Its Snapdragon processors and cellular chips are present in most of the big-name mobile devices you can use today, whether it's the Nexus 6 or the iPhone. However, the company isn't content to stop there -- it just confirmed plans to launch its own line of server processors. CEO Steve Mollenkopf isn't offering many details just yet, but it won't surprise you to hear that these heavy duty CPUs would be ARM-based like their mobile counterparts. There's no timing yet, either, although the exec adds that his firm is already "engaged with customers."As with existing server chips from AMD and HP, Qualcomm is trying to attack Intel where it's weakest: power consumption. While Xeon chips are typically very fast, their sheer thirst for energy limits how many you can use and thus how flexible you can be. ARM isn't as quick, but it's much more efficient. You can stuff hundreds of CPUs into a small space instead of just a few, giving you much more freedom to juggle multiple tasks at once. Mollenkopf sees his company's future parts being handy for internet giants like Facebook, which could tweak their data centers to handle very specific tasks. There's no telling whether or not Qualcomm will dominate the server world like it did your pocket, but it's definitely going to make Intel nervous.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Posted by Augustine at 6:21 AM
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
It's not an easy time to be shopping for a new TV. Do you want that crisp 4K resolution
Posted by Augustine at 9:49 PM
Email can be overwhelming, especially at work; it can take a while to get back to an important conversation or project. IBM clearly knows how bad that deluge can be, though, since its new Verse email client is built to eliminate as much clutter as possible. The app learns your habits and puts the highest-priority people and tasks at the top level. You'll know if a key team member emailed you during lunch, or that you have a meeting in 10 minutes. Verse also puts a much heavier emphasis on collaboration and search. It's easier to find a particular file, message or topic, and there will even be a future option to get answers from a Watson thinking supercomputer -- you may get insights without having to speak to a colleague across the hall.
It's quite clever at first glance, although you may have to wait a while to give it a spin; a Verse beta on the desktop will be available this month, but only to a handful of IBM's customers and partners. You'll have to wait until the first quarter of 2015 to get a version built for individual use. It'll be "freemium" (free with paid add-ons) when it does reach the public, however, and there are promises of apps for Android and iOS to make sure you're productive while on the road.
Posted by Augustine at 7:57 AM
A team of MIT researchers have developed nanoparticle sensors that could eventually be used to monitor tumors or other diseases, as well as act as a tool to diagnose illnesses. These nanoparticles are made of polymer chains that can bind to the sensors a doctor needs. For instance, in the scientists' tests, they used an MRI contrast agent called nitroxide along with Cy5.5, which glows when it encounters vitamin C, as sensors. These individual strands then merge to form the structure you see above, which the researchers call "branched bottlebrush polymer." As you can guess, the bottlebrush polymer the team developed for the study can perform MRI and detect vitamin C, as detailed in their paper recently published in Nature. Since nitroxide grabs electrons from the vitamin and remains inactive in its presence, the scientists don't get confused by the two different signals.
At the moment, the researchers are still working to refine the nanotechnology, developing another version that can carry three different drugs along with the vitamin C detector. As they can mix and match the sensors, though, they believe that in the future, the polymers could be used to evaluate oxygen radicals in a tumor to determine how aggressive it is. Also, the microscopic bottlebrushes could be used to collect real-time biochemical info on affected and healthy tissues, serving as a quick and accurate diagnostic tool.
Filed under: Science
Posted by Augustine at 7:55 AM
If your smartphone dips into the red while you're out of the house, why scrabble for a portable battery when you can recharge with hydrogen? That's the sales pitch being made for the Upp, anyway. Intelligent Energy's first fuel cell charger is now available in Apple Stores across the UK, as well as on the Upp website. It gives power-hungry gadget fans a cleaner way to keep their devices topped up, but inevitably, there are some caveats. For one, the Upp charger will set you back a whopping £149, an amount that far exceeds the asking price for a handful of portable batteries. For another, the device is a little large and cumbersome; this isn't something you can just slide into a handbag or jacket pocket.
So what's the advantage? Well, unlike regular portable batteries, you don't need to remember to recharge the Upp. Instead, the fuel cell relies on swappable cartridges that can be picked up for £5.95 a pop from one of Apple's stores. The hope is that, should the idea take off, you'll be able to duck into any supermarket or convenience store and pick one up at a moment's notice. The charger supports most USB-enabled devices and individual cartridges will, the company claims, keep a smartphone juiced for a week. There's even an app for checking usage, optimizing cartridges and finding stores that sell refills. Right now though, the Upp feels like a niche product with low availability and a high price of admission. Only the most avid hydrogen fans and charging connoisseurs need apply.
Posted by Augustine at 7:55 AM
Monday, November 17, 2014
The dark web owes the FBI a thank-you. It turns out that during its recent mass seizure operation
Posted by Augustine at 11:52 PM
You might not have to be a professional magician to come up with clever tricks in the near future. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have developed artificial intelligence that can create magic tricks (specifically, those based on math) all on its own. Once their program learns the basics of creating magic jigsaws and "mind reading" stunts, it can generate many variants of these tricks by itself. This could be particularly handy if you like to impress your friends on a regular basis -- you could show them a new card trick every time without having to do much work.
The best part? You can try some of these computer-generated tricks yourself. The 12 Magicians of Osiris magic jigsaw is available as a web pack, and you can download the Android component for one card trick, Phoney, from Google Play. Neither will give you as much satisfaction as developing tricks from scratch, but they're proof that computers can do more with math than solve equations.
Filed under: Science
Posted by Augustine at 11:48 PM
Intel Has A New Wearable Gadget Women Will Actually Want On Their Wrists, And It's Coming Next Month
Intel and Opening Ceremony have just announced their new luxury smart bracelet will be launching in early December for $495.
The MICA bracelet is designed to look like a fashion accessory more than a gadget, as the companies emphasized when the device was initially unveiled in September.
It'll be sold through Barney's and Opening Ceremony, both online and in-store.
The MICA, which stands for "My Intelligent Communication Accessory," comes with a screen on the inside of your wrist rather than the outside to keep your messages private.
The companies have also announced that MICA will be compatible with Facebook and Google, which means you'll be able to see notifications from Facebook, Gmail, and Google Calendar, right on your wrist. It'll also be able to show text messages and Yelp notifications.
Many smartwatches offer this same functionality at a much cheaper price point, but there are two key differentiators that make the MICA more expensive than it's competitors.
First, it's capable of connecting to the internet on its own without having to work through your smartphone. That $495 price tag includes two years of wireless data service from AT&T. So, your MICA bracelet will have its own phone number that you can give out to only those you'd want to message you on the device.
It's meant to sort of provide a quick, convenient way to talk to people you contact most frequently rather than replacing your phone.
Second, the MICA is being marketed as a luxury accessory, which means it's made of high-end materials such as watersnake skin leather, pearls from China, tiger's eye stones from Africa, and other gems.
The MICA is expected to last two days on a single charge, but that will vary with usage.
This is what the white version of the MICA looks like, as shown on personal trainer Nicole Winhoffer's w! rist.
The screen is curved so that it fits in naturally with the bracelet.
Here's a look at what notifications will look like on the MICA. Here you can see upcoming events from Facebook.
And here's what a text message would look like.
This is the standard home screen you would see when looking at the 1.6-inch curved screen.
The MICA is one of the few tech devices that is targeted towards women. Most smartwatches are big and bulky, which don't make them ideal for smaller wrist sizes. Apple seems to be trying to address this problem with its upcoming watch, which will be available in two sizes when it launches next year.
Posted by Augustine at 3:35 PM
Posted by Augustine at 12:08 PM
New Yorkers passing through Times Square will see (whether they want to or not) the biggest, most expensive digital billboard (at least in the US) when it turns on this Tuesday night. The screen is big enough to run a whole block, from 45th to 46th Street along Broadway, and is made up of 24 million pixels. (To contrast, 4K TVs weigh in with around 8 million pixel, although the scale here is massively different.) Oh yeah, it's also eight stories high. According to the New York Times, the cost of this prime advertising real estate comes in at over $2.5 million for four weeks. Google, a company that has the means, will take over the big screen as the debut advertiser until 2015. But we can go bigger: LG's already using the world's biggest billboard in Saudi Arabia, which is 820 feet long.
[Image credit: Richard Perry/The New York Times]
Filed under: Displays
Posted by Augustine at 8:21 AM