Friday, October 19, 2007

Flickr Launches New Geotagging and Places Pages

When I heard that Flickr was making announcements this evening, I assumed it was the long awaited integration of video into the service. That isn't happening (it will soon, though), but they are making significant upgrades tonight around geotagging and a new area of the site is launching called "Places Pages."

GeoTagging Updates

Flickr first launched geotagging for photos a year ago - to date 29 million public photos have been geotagged, with 150,000 new ones coming in each day. They aren't making any changes to the way photos are geotagged (using Yahoo maps), but they are updating the results pages for searches.

The existing pages don't show large numbers of geotagged photos effectively; the new pages do a better job by placing actual tags from photos on a world map. Users can quickly find photos based on tags and geotagged information. Enhancements to navigation are also being introduced.

Overall, the enhancements are good, but the real win here comes when devices auto tag photos via GPS devices. Until then, most users can't be bothered with taking the time to add the appropriate meta data.

Places Pages

Now this is more interesting. Flickr is launching "Places Pages," which are dedicated pages that provide users with specific information about places. We've uploaded an overview PDF to Scribd, here.

Pages are built around the Flickr concept of "interestingness," but based on places and tags. So China/bicycle shows popular photos of bicycles taken in China. Paris/architecture is another example. Any of 70,000 places can be viewed, optionally followed by any tag. Flickr is also adding in additional information on the place, such as weather and local time, as well as relevant Flickr groups.

The product will get better over time, too. Eventually users will be able to adjust pages by time or season, so pictures from New York in the Fall can be viewed, for example. Or pictures from a specific event that happened in a city.

Flickr now has over 1 billion photos and 37.7 million unique monthly visitors. 2.5 million news photos are uploaded daily by 15 million registered users. I wonder if founders Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield ever wish they hadn't sold out to Yahoo so quickly, for just a rumored $30 million or so in 2005…


Compulab's EM-X270 brings DIY to smartphones

Compulab may start a trend in the do-it-yourself world with its introduction of a fully functional -- less screen -- handheld computer. Starting at $122 you get the basic module running an Intel Xscale CPU up to 520 MHz with either Linux or Windows CE and for a bit more cake can add cellular radio, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, camera, or VGA touchscreen to your handset. Of course, you'll need to design yourself a nice housing as they don't seem to carry any, but hey, that's half of the DIY fun right there. Good luck with those projects, and if you make something cool send us your pics.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Five iPhone Apps We Can't Wait To Install


Now that Apple is officially opening up the iPhone and iPod Touch to third-party developers, we thought we'd give software companies some projects to work on. Here are five iPhone apps we can't wait to get our hands on.

Adobe Flash: Adobe's ubiquitous plugin is installed on some 99% of PCs, but 0% of iPhones. This would let iPhone users play Flash-based games, navigate Flash-based Web sites, watch Flash-based video, and load Flash-based ads.

RSS Reader: Read the newspaper on the subway with one hand. Web-based RSS reading is possible using the iPhone's Safari Web browser, but it requires an Internet connection to load content. A real RSS reader -- like our favorite Mac-based reader, Vienna -- which stores feed content on the iPhone for offline reading is a no-brainer.

IM/Chat: Adium is hands-down the best instant messaging client for Mac, and would make another great app for the iPhone. Chat on AIM, Google Talk, and a dozen other IM networks with one piece of software. Even better: Skype, iChat, or a similar app that can handle Internet audio and video chats. Apple's wireless partner AT&T would hate this -- who needs cellphone minutes anymore? -- and this would kill the carrier's pokey EDGE data network, but could work great over wi-fi, and eventually, a 3G connection.

Slingbox: So far, the iPhone's video watching is limited to whatever is on YouTube or iTunes. How about streaming live television from your home cable connection?

Remote Desktop: Left an important file at home? Whether a lightweight VNC ("virtual network computing") app or a full-fledged version of Apple Remote Desktop, it would be handy to be able to access your home computer via iPhone. Such apps already exist for Palm Treos and other smartphones, so porting to the iPhone couldn't be too tricky.

Readers: Any other apps for our wishlist?


Social Mapping: Game Not Over Yet

As Google expands their social mapping features, competitors are regrouping and refocusing. Kleiner Perkins backed Platial, headquartered in Portland, is announcing the acquisition of chief competitor Frappr this morning. Frappr co-founder Kun Gao will join Platial as part of the deal.

Platial CEO Di-Ann Eisnor says the combined companies will reach 15 million unique users per month and will store 100 million user-generated location-based points of data, including photos, videos, reviews, stories and people (see examples here and here). 25% of all distributed map widgets on the Internet will be served via the platform.

Frappr never took outside financing. Platial raised two rounds. They took $800,000 in angel funding in October 2005 from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Omidyar Network, Ram Shriram, Georges Harik, Jack Dangermon, and Ron Conway. In February 2007 they raised an additional $2.6 million from Keynote Ventures, with participation from most of the previous investors.


Where did Forrester get its Twitter data?

Peter Kim of Forrester writes on his blog “Our data shows that 6% of US online adults use Twitter regularly.”

I say bulls**t.

There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that many people are using Twitter.

My data shows that the regular users are between 50,000 and 300,000. A high percentage of which are outside the United States. That doesn’t come anywhere close to the numbers required for 6%.

Keep in mind that Hotmail has about 200 million users every month. Yahoo Mail says they have about 250 million worldwide users.

But, I’d love to be proved wrong. Where did this data come from? How was it collected? Does Forrester stand behind it? What’s in the report that Peter linked to (I am not a Forrester client, so don’t have access)? Does it contain other numbers that just don’t jibe with common experience?

UPDATE: Someone just Twittered me this: “Peter Kims’s source on the unique users (he says 447,000 in Aug07) is Nielsen//NetRatings.” I doubt that’s data for “regular” users, or even online adult users in the US. I could see total registered users being that high, but that’d be world-wide. Watch someday and you’ll see that there are lots of users outside America.

UPDATE 2: Peter Kim responded here, and says they didn’t get the data from Nielsen. I still think the survey is very flawed if it’s bringing back such numbers.


Google Phone: Our Google Phone Wishlist

Although rumors of a possible Google Phone have been making the rounds really hard lately, any such phone will have to be amazing to grab enough end-user and media attention. Expectations are high, but since we're dreaming, here's our wishlist:

Tight integration with Google Apps:
• Picasa: A 2MP camera with decent color and low light performance should take a shot, and upload it directly to your Picasa web storage as a mirror. Likewise for YouTube uploads.
• Google Talk: Both IM and VoIP makes this a fancy web communicator. The carriers may not like this, but we've got a feeling Google will sell this sans carrier. Oh, and other IM client support.
• Google Video and YouTube: To at least match the iPhone, they have to have their video sites ready for mobile usage. Uploading
• Google Earth: Google Earth for 3D maps, with GPS and app integration.
Google Docs support with full read like the ones for iPhones, Windows Mobiles and BlackBerries, but real with full editing right on the phone, and support for multiuser editing.
• Google reader for RSS.
• Product Search, including camera phone barcode reading for quick price comparisons.
• Google Transit, Google Ride finder (taxis, limos and shuttles) integrated into maps.
• Third-party Support: Allow an open platform for other people to develop for. Even a company as big as Goog can't do everything by itself, and with niche apps developed by end-users, you can service minor target segments that wouldn't otherwise be cost-effective for you to cover.
• Those apps should be native, or at least widgetized for performance reasons. Native apps just run faster. We don't mean Java apps either, because those are even worse in terms of battery usage.

• This thing is going to be a data transfer hog while it swaps info with all Google's online services. A 3G connection that toggles on for heavy downloads and uploads, but reverts to Wi-Fi or 2G for background email checking, etc. (To save battery.)
• Push GMail and exchange server support.
• A music player that doesn't suck: It's not going to be an iPod, but it's gotta have something in terms of media features that can top Windows Mobile phones. Try Rhapsody support. Stay away from WMPlayer as a load program, please.
• Search from the home screen: Bring Google's search-centric features to your phone, letting you search contacts, the web, your emails, and every other bit of data right from your home screen, much like the Helio Ocean does.
• Hardware Keyboard: The iPhone's virtual keyboard is passable, but we still love the solid feel of a key clicking. Our favorite is HTC's slide-out QWERTY keyboard, which is great because HTC is the rumored contractor for the Google Phone's hardware.
• Touchscreen: Since it's probably going to be an HTC-made phone, a 3-inch touchscreen on par with Windows Mobile phones is the least they can do. While it would be nice to have multi-touch gestures, it's not completely necessary.
• Long Battery life: We don't mind sacrificing some portability for a battery that can last an entire day, even with heavy screen and 3G usage. Nokia's are known for optimizing battery life without sacrificing too many features, but the Google apps may be too processor intensive—especially when combined with 3G.
• Form-factor: We love the slide-out form factor that HTC usually uses, which gives us a spacious keyboard as well as a big screen on top. A Treo-like shape with keys on the front wouldn't be too bad either, but would sacrifice screen space.

Funny thing is, Helio's Ocean and Nokia's N series phones do a lot of this. The UI needs to be slicker than what either of those companies have done so far, though. (Maybe they should hire some ex-Apple software people.) Anyhow, we don't even know if this phone is real, for certain, so I'm not sweating it.


EDGE Tech intros $400 32GB DiskGO USB flash drive

32GB USB drives are certainly not new, but considering the astronomical pricetags they tend to sport, they haven't exactly caught fire with budget-conscious gadget lovers. EDGE Tech is apparently hoping to change that by offering up its capacious 32GB DiskGO for "just" $399.95. Granted, it's not like our bargain alerts are going haywire over that figure, but we suppose it's not too unreasonable considering the alternatives. Ah well, at least you won't have to worry over this thing attracting the ever-wandering eyes of gadget thieves -- you know, considering how the unadorned exterior hides its true value and all.

[Via MobileMag]


Universal, Warner, and EMI to sell music on flash drives

The major record labels' ongoing fixation with physical media continues on, as Universal , EMI, and Warner have each announced plans to sell music preloaded on flash drives. Universal says the move is "aimed at the younger, 12 to 24 year olds, who no longer believe that the CD is as cool as it used to be," but that "people still want to own a physical product." Yeah, too bad that physical product is a DAP. Predictably, the $10 flash drives will cost twice as much as normal CD singles but contain additional content -- just like that ridiculous "ringle" concept we just heard about, only with more plastic and manufacturing involved. There's no word on what format the music will be in or what the DRM will be, but it's not like it really matters, since no one is going to buy these anyway. No word on when we'll see this Stateside, but UK teenagers can expect to be patronized by the record labels sometime in the next few months.

[Via Pocket-lint]


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Apple's waiting on Intel's Penryn for revamped Mac Pros? - 8 cores

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Apple's desktop warrior Mac Pro doesn't get half the play of Apple's laptops and iMac in the rumor mill, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of pent up love for the beastly machine. AppleInsider is reporting that Apple has a revision ready with a significant overhaul of the internals. Apparently what's holding things up is Intel's 45nm Penryn chips, which should be available around the middle of November. Of course, rumors had the Mac Pro in quite similar shape last year, with Apple holding up production for upcoming Clovertown chips. Those arrived right on time, but Apple held up the 8-core Mac for five months in anticipation of Creative Suite 3. The theories this time around are that now that demand is raging for pro machines thanks to Adobe's quite successful product, Apple's going to try to get a new high-end machine -- which could be up to 45 percent faster -- out the door as soon as possible. Rumored specs top out at dual quad-core Xeon "Harpertown" chips running up to 3.2GHz with 1600MHz bus and 12MB of L2 cache, which would be 8 cores of thunder indeed. Who knows if Intel can be shipping enough of those by the end of this year to warrant a Mac Pro release, but it seems like however it goes down, professionals are going to have a new and pricey toy from Apple before too terribly long.




LG.Philips announce 0.78-inch ultra-slim 42-inch LCD -- available March!

LG.Philips just announced an "ultra-slim" 42-inch Full HD 120Hz panel for 2008. Not Q4 2008 either kids, we're talking sometime before March. So what can we expect after Sharp's 1.1-inch thin 52-inch panel and Hitachi's 0.74-inch 32-incher? Something in between right? Nope, 7.8-inches thick. Exactly, 19.8-mm or just 0.78-inches thin. According to LG.Philips, that makes it 40% thinner and 10% lighter than conventional LCD TVs which is pretty hot. It'll be CCFL backlit (not LED) though when it does hit -- that'll keep the cost down but won't do much for the contrast. The panel will be on display at FPD International in Yokohama next week where we hope to bring you a first look.

Update: Oops, major metric conversion snafu -- good thing we're not in charge of the Mars space program. It's fracking thin!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nokia's N810 makes first appearance, drops jaws

We're still waiting for the press release, but that's Nokia N810 Internet Tablet in the fo' realz. Yeah, sexy is an understatement. We peeped this model in a spyshot back in July and appears to be the same lovely recently revealed by the FCC. The obvious improvement to the N800? The full QWERTY.

Gallery: Nokia's N810 makes first appearance, drops jaws (hi-res)

[Via InternetTabletTalk, thanks Noah]




Amazon one-click patent struck down

Glyn sez, "The infamous one-click patent owned by Amazon has finally been proven invalid. The USPTO has rejected many of the broadest claims of the patent following the re-examination request by blogger Peter Calveley. You can track Peter's steps to make this happen on his blog, he sums up his efforts in his last blog post."
In a recent office action, the USPTO has rejected the claims of the one-click patent following the re-examination request that I filed on 16 February 2006.

My review resulted in the broadest claims of the patent being ruled invalid.

In its Office Action released 9 October 2007, the Patent Office found that the prior art I found and submitted completely anticipated the broadest claims of the patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,960,411.

I had only requested the USPTO look at claims 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 21 and 22 but the Office Action rejects claims 11-26 and claims 1-5 as well!

Amazon has the opportunity to respond to the Patent Office's rejection, but third party requests for reexamination, like the one I filed, result in having the subject patent either modified or completely revoked about 2/3 of the time.

Link (Thanks, Glyn!)


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How to: make a carbon-negative fuel

Alex Steffen of Worldchanging says,

My colleague Jer Faludi has written up the best overview I've yet read about how biochar/gasification systems work. Given that there is at least the theoretical potential here to create a carbon-negative energy source (that is, an energy source that over the course of normal operation actually *removes* carbon dioxide from the atmosphere), the char/gas combo has a lot of people, um, fired up.

(Though it's important to remember that when dealing with complex systems like climate, topsoil and farm subsidies, no bullet is as silver as it looks from afar.)


"We've mentioned terra preta before: it's a human-made soil or fertilizer. "Three times richer in nitrogen and phosphorous, and twenty times the carbon of normal soils, terra preta is the legacy of ancient Amazonians who predate Western civilization." Although we don't know how it was made back then, we do know how to make it now: burn biomass (preferably agricultural waste) in a special way that pyrolisizes it, breaking down long hydrocarbon chains like cellulose into shorter, simpler molecules. These simpler molecules are more easily broken down by microbes and plants as food, and bond more easily with key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. This is what makes terra preta such good fertilizer. Because terra preta locks so much carbon in the soil, it's also a form of carbon sequestration that doesn't involve bizarre heroics like pumping CO2 down old mine shafts."



mig33: Google Talk for Its 7 Million Members

In countries where international long-distance rates are high, mobile services like mig33's mobile instant messenger and VoIP calls are starting to gain a sizable user base. The Burlingame, Calif. startup, which was an eTel/GigaOM Launch Pad startup, says it has signed up more than 7 million users to date and has added several new features, including Google Talk (GOOG).

The startup's 7 million members and growing user base actually surprised me a bit — the company said it had 6 million members in July — given that its main approach is to use downloadable mobile software. Mobile clients can often be a barrier to entry when attempting to build a sizable amount of users, particularly for services that are supposed to save users money. For those that don't want to download, the company also recently added a WAP site. Other mobile callback/calling type services that offer lower-cost minutes include Jajah and Cellity.


Triple Screen Notebook: Acme Laptop Does a Three-Way, Unfolds Into Obscenely Wide Triple Screen

front_three-way.jpgThis prototype of an Acme semi-portable notebook with a huge folding three-way display was rolled out in Taipei during Taitronix Autumn 2007 that just wrapped up earlier this week. It starts out as a mild-mannered suitcase, and then unfolds into a monster laptop with a outlandishly wide screen. There is no information on the size of each of the flat panels, but from what we can see they look like they are each at least 20-inch-diagonal displays. No pricing was announced, but it'll be available sometime next year. [AVing]


Napster Dumping Client Download

Word is that Napster is dumping their desktop client and relaunching with a fully web based client as part of an effort to broaden their reach. Customers will be able to listen to their music over the web on any computer after signing in. The new web client will make it possible to join a slew of other online music services in creating embeddable music widgets to push their product and become accessible on web enabled devices.

However, the desktop client is only part of what's holding the company back. Napster is still a subscription-centered service, which keeps them incompatible with the leading digital music player, the iPod (not a good idea, say industry experts). Consequently Napster has lagged behind Apple's end to end iTunes system which reportedly controls 70% of the digital music market.

But the company is holding out for a glimmer of hope. Amazon has already crossed the chasm into open digital downloads. Christopher Allen, chief operating officer at Napster, forecasts that by the end of next year these DRM free MP3s will become standard. So far, only Universal Music Group and EMI Group sell music DRM free. However, with labels loving the iPod but hating the revenue split, other labels are sure to follow.

In other music news, Ars Technica is expecting iTunes to lower the price of DRM-free songs to $0.99. That's still $0.10 more per song than Amazon is charging. Note our recently article on the inevitable march of recorded music towards free.


50x Faster Than BitTorrent: I Want

Popout Thomas Crampton interviews Ogilvy China’s Kaiser Kuo on the current state of web development in China in the video above. It’s interesting in its entirity as they discuss the growing wave of Web 2.0 development in China, but of particular note is Kuo’s description of Chinese P2P file network

Kuo claims that is 50 times faster than BitTorrent and when downloading the show 24 season 6 he was able to start watching it with 2.2% downloaded after only 3 minutes, and all in DVD quality.

It’s interesting to consider the broader ramifications of what Kuo is saying. His general argument is that without the artificial market restrictions imposed on P2P networks in the United States by the RIAA and the MPAA, Chinese companies have been free to innovate and are now producing superior web technology in P2P sharing, and a whole range of related industries. If you think it’s bad that China dominates the market for consumer goods, imagine that today companies in China have already created the next wave of P2P innovation and are thriving, perhaps ironically in a Communist country, with more freedoms than their American counterparts. It’s not unreasonable to consider that next year and into the future that much of what we do online may end up being based on Chinese designed technology and programming, and not good ol’ fashioned American know-how.

(via zeropaid)


Indentured Servitude: AT&T Decides to Play Nice, Lets Customers Change Calling Plans Without Penalty

att_gorilla.jpgAT&T, the 800-pound gorilla of U.S mobile services, decided to pull a Verizon and let its cellphone users off the hook if they decide to change their contracts. The company says now people can get out of their indentured servitude early without having to pay a flat termination fee. Going a little bit easier on the poor souls, the quit-fines will be reduced according to how long a customer has been letting his blood be sucked by AT&T. Even more important to some users, they'll be allowed to change their level of service without extending the contract, or signing up for more abuse from the Ma Bell giant. If you happen to like AT&T and its fine, fine, cellphone service, please excuse our bile-spitting criticism. [Yahoo News]


LG.Philips develops 2.4-inch a-Si LCD with 1mm bezel

LG.Philips is far from being a newcomer to the cellphone display realm, and while it claimed to have cranked out the " world's slimmest" LCD for mobiles around this time last year, it's now boasting about one with an uber-thin bezel. Reportedly, the outfit has conjured up a 2.4-inch a-Si TFT-LCD, which touts a 320 x 240 resolution and possesses borders of just one-millimeter. The display is based on its Narrow Bezel Technology, and it should start mass production of the panels sometime next year. Notably, no price was mentioned, but the firm did state that it planned on applying the same technology to "other models to expand its lineup of slim border products."

[Via AkihabaraNews]


Featured Windows Download: Export Hardware Drivers with DriverMax

Windows only: Want to format your hard drive and reinstall Windows but you're not sure you have all the hardware driver disks to get everything working again? Free utility DriverMax analyzes XP or Vista systems for installed hardware drivers and exports them to a folder or external drive. Install DriverMax on a newly built system and import those drivers to get everything from your video card to TV tuner working again. I didn't have the chance to test DriverMax's import function on a clean system, so do image your hard drive just in case. DriverMax isn't the most modern-looking application and you have to hand over an email address to get a free registration code (Boo!). DriverMax is a free download for Windows XP and Vista.


Cars: Man Drives From NY to LA in 31 hours and 4 minutes (Gadgets Helped)

Popout Alex Roy was just recognized as the record holder for driving from NY to Santa Monica pier in 31 hours and 4 minutes, besting the time set by "David Diem and Doug Turner clocked in a Ferrari 308 during the 1983 US Express run" of 32 hours and seven minutes. That's 89MPH for over 31 hours. What's made me especially proud is that Alex wrote about automotive laser jammers and radio scanners for Gizmodo under a previous regime. The seven time world rally champ avoided cops and found his way with a dash full of gadgets, including multiple scanners, jammers, detectors, and other mods on his BMW M5. Equipment is documented in the video above, but one thing not emphasized is that the guy had a plane spotting police activity en route.

The actual time was verified by gas station timestamps on credit card receipts and by Jalopnik editors who witnessed the start and finishes, but Guinness won't have anything to do with verifying illegal acts. The actual race happened a little over a year ago, but Alex couldn't tell anyone of his exploits until the statute of limitations was up in all states he drove through. Congrats to Alex for his spectacular performance. For all the details, there's more at Jalopnik [Departure, Finish, the Record and Gear]

PS Ray Wert, editor at Jalopnik ends the coverage on a sober note, wondering how many more times this record can be beaten before people start dying.


PMP: Oppo Super Five PMP Can Handle a Ton of Formats

oppo_super_five.jpgIn the case of this Oppo PMP, the moniker "Super" certainly applies. The Super Five can handle just about any format you can throw at it including: RM, RMVB, FLV, DAT, MPG, MPEG, AVI, 3GP in video and OGG, MP3, WMA and WAV and dual-APE, FLAC Lossless audio. Plus, photos in JPEG, BMP, GIF and PNG pose no problem for this little feature packed device. Speaking of small, all of that functionality is crammed into a credit card sized 2GB flash memory player that features a 3-inch color screen with QVGA resolution. Naturally, something this cool isn't going to be found anywhere outside of China, bu if you can make the trip it will only run you $120. Sounds like a steal, but fear not because Oppo has a reputation for delivering quality video at an affordable price. [ Oppo via i4u]


Nokia's S60 Touch Interface demonstrated

Nokia is showing off their new S60 Touch Interface at the Symbian Smartphone Show today. Unlike their last attempt, this effort was demonstrated on a more Nokia-like concept device. The touch-interface supports haptic feedback and accepts both finger and stylus inputs depending upon the display technology used. Feast your eyes on the video after the break until all the details become available.

Continue reading Nokia's S60 Touch Interface demonstrated


Apple lowering DRM-free tracks to $0.99 -- embracing Indies?

The rumors are rampant this morning about an imminent, cross-the-board iTunes Plus (DRM-free) price cut. Previously, all Plus tracks had been listed at $1.29, not the usual $0.99 for DRM "protected" media. That premium delivers 256kbps quality tracks for you to play on any device supporting AAC playback. Of these tracks, nearly all were from EMI or just a handful of Indies. Now, presumably in response to launch of Amazon's MP3 store which prices DRM-free tracks at $0.89 or $0.99, Apple appears ready to cut the price of all Plus tracks to $0.99. As the rumor goes, we should see more Indie's shed their DRM sometime this week, if not today.

[Via MacRumors]


Monday, October 15, 2007

Verizon Wireless: Verizon Shares Your Call Data Unless You Opt-Out

verizonshare.jpgThe folks from Skydeck just received a written notice from Verizon Wireless for an opt-out system for sharing your call records to third-party advertisers. Unless you call them and opt-out, Verizon will sell what numbers you called, how often you called, and your call length with "authorized companies," which includes their "affiliates, agents, and parent companies." Although it doesn't include your own name, number or address, something like this should be opt-in, not opt-out. If you're a Verizon customer, call 1-800-333-9956 and tell them you want to opt-out. Why should you let Verizon get even richer off your data for nothing in return? [Skydeck via Crunchgear]


In the Lab: Cleaner Stoves to Stop a Silent Killer

Here's betting you've never heard of one of the world's top ten killers: indoor air pollution. Every day roughly 3 billion people around the world cook and heat their homes by burning biomass such as wood, crop waste, and dung without proper ventilation, and, according to the World Health Organization, the resulting toxic air accounts for a staggering 1.6 million deaths a year — one death every 20 seconds. Indoor air pollution is five times more lethal than outdoor pollution, and its effects range from pneumonia (especially in children) to lung cancer and tuberculosis.

The solution is clean-burning stoves, and a sustainable business plan to get them where they're needed. Enter the Shell Foundation, an independent UK-based charity established by Shell Group (RDS) in 2000. The foundation is partnering with Envirofit, a four-year-old nonprofit with ties to Colorado State University's Engines and Energy Conversion Laboratory, to develop, market and distribute new clean-burning stove technology.

Envirofit's market plan does not rely on donating or subsidies; rather, it relies on consumer-focused market mechanisms to drive demand. The Shell Foundation, itself business-focused, has committed $25 million over five years to bring 10 million clean-burning stoves to the market, with an initial focus on India.


NEC intros diminutive US110 thin-client PC

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Unfortunately, the wee US110 isn't a full-fledged PC, but it should perform quite nicely as a thin-client machine. Measuring in at just 5.9- x 3.7- x 1.2-inches and weighing 0.77-pounds, this device features a fanless design, 128MB of RAM, 128MB of NAND flash memory, five USB 2.0 ports, a VGA connector, resolution support up to 1,600 x 1,200, gigabit Ethernet, audio in / out and support for RDP5.5 / ICA10.0. Those interested can pick one up at the month's end for around ¥49,000 ($417).

[Via AkihabaraNews]


Hitachi breakthrough: 4TB disks by 2011

When Hitachi -- the first disk manufacturer to go perpendicular and subsequently break the 1TB consumer disk drive barrier -- speaks about advances in hard disk technology, you'd be wise to listen. Today they're touting the world's smallest read-head technology for HDDs. The bold claim? 4TB desktop (3.5-inch) and 1TB laptop (2.5-inch) drives within the next 4 years. The new recording heads are more than 2x smaller than existing gear or about 2,000 times smaller than a human hair. Hmmm, Samsung may have to update their SSD vs. HDD graph after this, eh?




Nokia's N95 8GB released with a Spider-Man 3 surprise

Filed under: , ,

Nokia's N95 8GB super-chunk is out for global(ish) distribution today. N95 fans can now take home the larger storage and slightly bigger 2.8-inch (240 x 320) display in addition to the HSDPA, WiFi, A-GPS, and 5 megapixel camera already found in Nokia's existing flagship "multimedia computer." To celebrate the launch, Nokia is pre-loading Spider-Man 3 for Europe and select Middle Eastern and Africa countries. The tie-in? Wait for it... "The Movie sees Spider-Man's suit turn jet-black and enhance his powers and, in its latest incarnation, the Nokia N95 has undergone a similar transformation to emerge as the Nokia N95 8GB." Riiight. Hitting retail today for €560 (about $794) pre-tax and pre-carrier subsidy.

Read -- N95 8GB says "Ship Me!"
Read -- Spiderman 3 bundle


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Supply Side Economics Fail Music Industry Again


The latest brainwave from the besieged music industry is the proposal to offer free music to end users via the Total Music brand. Spawned by Universal Music, Total Music looks likely to sign the big four record labels and a range of smaller firms as well, with Sony BMG on board and Warner Music looking as it will be as well.

Free is the ultimate selling point in market side economics, because ultimately you can't beat the opportunity cost of zero. But here's the catch: Total Music may market itself as offering free unlimited music, but it's not really free, the cost is just hidden. That cost: $90 per device for access to Total Music, based on $5 per month over 18 months (the figures Universal are using). In our above example Microsoft has decided not to absorb the $90 Total Music charge but has instead added it to the price on the 4gb Zune, taking the total price to $239. Which would you buy?

In the Zune example Microsoft may embrace the Total Music model and subsidize the subscription costs. Say that Microsoft split the difference and the Zune went from $149 to only $194, it's a better figure but it's still $45 more that the iPod. Could Microsoft absorb the whole price? Unlikely; after all why would it willfully hand over $90 of a $149 product, which we presume would certainly destroy Microsoft's product margin on the Zune, and could even make each sale a loss.

I've used Microsoft as an example but it could be any company with a music player that isn't Apple. Universal is looking at targeting anything that plays music, so aside from MP3 players you could be seeing this hidden cost built into mobile phones, media streaming devices and perhaps even computers.

I should note that some people like their music legal and will pay a premium, but given a $90 price difference this is unlikely to be a majority of buyers, particularly when the iPod offers legal options as well, options that are a choice and not an imposed upfront cost to the buyer.

The music industry may talk about free music, but all it is doing with Total Music is shifting the point in which the consumer pays to one that isn't nearly as transparent as iTunes.

More details at CrunchGear.


Email: Verify an Email Address

If, for whatever reason, you need to verify someone's email address, try, a free email address verifier. Just enter in the email addy, click "verify",and go. The format, domain, and user are all checked by actually connecting to the mail server to see if everything is kopasetic. Somewhat disconcerting, but sure to come in handy in some way.


Information: Explore Medical Terms Visually with Curehunter

medical.pngIf you're researching medical terms, you might want to check out Curehunter, a medical dictionary that allows you to search for disease, drug, or therapy information. Type in any term that fits in these parameters, and you'll get in-depth explanations as well as a visual "tree" of related terms. Click on any of these terms to explore relationships; not all of them are necessarily absolutely relevant to your original query, but they do provide good fodder for further research.


Small Lovin: Fit-PC Sips on 5W of Power, Is Super Tiny

iglx-enc-m.jpgFrom CompuLab, the Fit-PC is a tiny, no frills Linux PC that uses a mere 5W of power to operate. That's one-fifth what some computers burn in standby. And the specs may be better than you'd expect. An AMD Geode processor runs at 500 MHz, supported by 256MB DDR memory (non-expandable), 40GB 2.5" hard drive and SXGA graphics controller. And none of that needs fans to cool. The inclusion of 2 USB ports mean that the Fit-PC will actually work with normal peripherals...though we're not certain how much power those ports will supply your devices.

At 5" long and only 1.5" thick, the Fit-PC will fit anywhere. And at $285, we think we're in eco-love. But what did ExtremeTech have to say about the function?

We fired up Firefox and spent some time browsing the web. Some Flash-intensive web sites rendered slowly, but most web browsing seemed no worse than running on an older laptop with integrated graphics. We also loaded up OpenOffice apps to check them out. After we had six windows (and six apps) running, the system definitely became sluggish...

While you can build a PC that's nearly as inexpensive, or buy a used laptop for not much more, the fit-PC's unique form factor gives it an edge in any environment where space is at a premium.

Also, its extremely low power usage means you can keep the system running all the time. In any application that requires always-on usage and a light duty applications mix, the fit-PC may indeed be an ideal fit.

So as expected, the Fit-PC is no powerhouse. But it's a really neat little piece of tech. [extremetech via slashdot]