Friday, March 19, 2010

Dial Zero Connects to Customer Service Humans [Downloads]


Dial Zero Connects to Customer Service HumansiPhone/Android/BlackBerry: When you're driving or traveling, that's when you don't want to wait on hold or talk to an automated phone system. The Dial Zero mobile app has a database of buttons and phrases that will cut to the chase.

There are online databases, like GetHuman, and even apps like previously mentioned Fonolo that promise to patch you right into where you want to be in a customer service tree. Dial Zero is a less complicated mobile app that has a database of more than 600 companies and the buttons to hit, or phrases to say, that gets you to a real customer service representative right from the get go. Explore around, and you'll be amazed at the vast variety of schemes and phrases in place: hit 0, hit 7, say "Speak to someone," or try to say "I need help," without sounding too desperate.

Dial Zero is a free download for iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry phones.

Dial Zero [NextMobileWeb via Daring Fireball]


Cablevision bumps Comcast to the back, 3D sports at home starts next week


Just as Comcast leapfrogged DirecTV's 3D plans, its claim to the first live HD 3D event has been stolen away by Cablevision, which will broadcast a Rangers/Islanders NHL matchup Wednesday, shown both in a special viewing party in the Theater at Madison Square Garden and on iO TV channel 1300 (if you already have a 3DTV but not Cablevision then keep an eye on your channel guide as, like the Masters broadcast, it may be shared with other networks.) While this is probably just the beginning of another FCC battle over who it will have to share the broadcasts with, MSG is just focusing on keeping a trend going since it was one of the first to jump on HDTV production of NBA and NHL games way back in 1998 and plans to keep 3D broadcasts coming over the next year with more games and concerts. Production is being handled by 3ality Digital, previously responsible for the BCS game that turned some of our preconceived notions about 3D with its BCS National Championship broadcast a little over a year ago, which plans to use 5 cameras from a lower angle than usual to resemble the perspective of the actual players -- minus concussion-inducing blindside hits to the head. Anyone willing to host a viewing party? We're totally down to bring snacks... if you'll cover our 3D glasses.

[Thanks, William & Vinny]

Cablevision bumps Comcast to the back, 3D sports at home starts next week originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 19 Mar 2010 10:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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HP Slate Priced At $540 With June Launch Date According To Leaks [Hp Slate]


HP Slate Priced At 0 With June Launch Date According To LeaksWell, they've succeeded in coming in at under $630, but even so the €400 ($542) price rumored for the Slate is still too much when it's coming up against the $499 iPad.

The price comes via the Spanish Clipset site, so isn't confirmed or anything—though they are saying it'll support Flash, run on an Atom chip and will have a USB port, memory card reader and webcam (albeit on the back.)

Launch details seem to suggest June, or "before September" for Europe. [Clipset via Engadget Spanish via Engadget]


Millward Brown found that less than 15% of ads 'went viral' - depends on how you define "viral" whether it's 15% or 0%


Video: Fastest Book Scanner Ever Captures Flipping Pages with High-Speed Camera


The technology blows away the competition by scanning 200 pages a minute

A new super-fast book-scanning technology could make publishers cringe even more than when they heard about Google Book Search. A University of Tokyo researcher has developed a "book flipping scanning" method that does exactly what it sounds like, digitizing 200 pages per minute, according to IEEE Spectrum. The Japanese researchers hope to enable a digital library for Japanese manga comics.

The scanner's camera runs at 500 frames per second, and captures rapidly flipping book pages in two modes. First, a regular line shines on the page to capture text and images. The second mode then manages neat the trick of reconstructing the curved, distorted pages in their original form. A laser device projects lines onto each page that the system can use to recreate the 3-D page model and correct the deformed lines.

Google's own proprietary book-scanning technology seems to use some sort of infrared camera to capture the 3-D shape of book pages, but the book lies flat and the page-turning mechanism is unclear. Other book scanners boast of capturing about 50 pages per minute, which is four times slower than the new method.

Masatoshi Ishikawa -- the University of Tokyo researcher behind the book-scanning marvel -- previously developed the fastest robot hands in the East, so he's probably not too worried about tiring out human hands by flipping book pages.

Miniaturized versions of this technology could eventually find their way into our smartphones for completely legal digitizing delights. Or it might combine with the robot hands to bring Short Circuit's Johnny 5 to life.

[via IEEE Spectrum]


All URL Shorteners Are Not Equal; Pick a Speedy and Reliable One [URL Hacking]


All URL Shorteners Are Not Equal; Pick a Speedy and Reliable OneURL shorteners are great for minimizing URLs in a Twitter message or keeping links clean in an email, but as convenient as they are they do introduce an extra point of failure. WatchMouse, a monitoring organization, highlights the best.

A Dutch web-monitoring company, WatchMouse, monitored popular URL shortening services for a period of one month and then analyzed the results. They found a significant amount of variance in the quality of services with 100% uptime and low latency on one end and shaky uptime and long latency on the other.

Shortening service Snurl, for example, had the lowest uptime of any of the services. Only and had 100% uptime. Latency was an issue for many of the shorteners but none quite as bad as Facebook's shortener—nearly ten times as slow as the fastest shortener,

At the moment Google's URL shortener is clearly dominating the market with perfect up time and extreme responsiveness—learn how you can use without a Google account or Google Toolbar here—but since it may not always be so WatchMouse set up a publicly accessible monitoring page to track URL shortening services. You can read the article at the link below or jump to the current monitoring stats here.


All Giz Wants: A Google Set Top Box That Doesn't Suck [Google]


All Giz Wants: A Google Set Top Box That Doesn't SuckGoogle's upcoming set top box has great pedigree: It's Android-based OS, Sony and Intel are building the guts and design and Logitech doing what Logitech does best (input devices). So please, please, please don't screw this up.

Right now we know very little. We know it's Android-based and will have the Chrome web browser. We don't whether it's going to be the full Chrome browser, the Webkit-based mobile browser on Android or some hybrid of the two. Roku's CEO understandably tried to pump up the potential price of a Google TV, saying that it would cost $200+ if it were entirely browser-based, like ChromeOS, compared to the $80 of his own machine. But hey, couldn't this thing cost less with Intel and Sony's scale of manufacture, and ads subsiding the entire thing?

So we're left filling in the holes ourselves. Here's what we want.

The Googly features

For it to be a Google set top box as people imagine it, it really needs to have access to Google's resources. That's the reason why a heavy gmail and gcal users would get an Android phone versus any other phone.

• Really good YouTube support: Many devices support YouTube, like TiVo or Boxee or the PS3 (via the browser), but none are really as good as watching something on your computer, believe it or not. It's mostly down to the input device. If Logitech can make a remote/keyboard that has all the correct buttons and shortcuts for YouTube, this'll be a winner. And of course, you'd be able to buy/rent Youtube hosted hollywood movies through the device.
• Gmail, Gchat (including voice and video, so this requires USB webcam support), Gmaps, Gdocs, Picasa, GReader and all the other supported apps on Android. This theoretically shouldn't be a problem, since there will be some sort of Chrome browser on board. It's just a matter of making a comfortable 10 foot interface (and keyboard, if you're going to be typing) so it's not just WebTV 2010. This is a worrying point, since Google's always done data driven design analysis, which has turned out useful, but not very slick, interfaces.

• Android apps: Google has limited access to their Android Marketplace for devices that run Android (tablets, the Nook) but aren't actually Android phones. Lessen the restriction so we can get some of the 30,000 Android apps onto the platform and this'll be THE set top box.

General media set top box features

Having YouTube and a browser on your set top box is fine, but set top boxes are for TVs, aren't they? And what you really want to do on your TV is watch video, which is why Google needs to step beyond just hooking up their own products to the box and expand into other video delivery.

• Hulu, plus support for various segmented online streaming video, like, and Daily Show/Colbert Report websites. This shouldn't be a problem provided Google also has Flash support on their set top box Chrome browser, but you never know these days
• Netflix Watch Now!
• Local streaming: Google may want everything streamed from the web cloud, but not everyone has the pipes to support full quality video. So local network streaming, yes please
• Good codec support: A corollary of local streaming, but in order to watch all the proper codecs, containers and so forth (DivX, XviD, h.264, MKV, etc) you'll have to support them. This isn't a problem anymore, since just about all the network streamers are hopping on board with the latest file types
• Media Center Extender: Being able to act as an extender to Microsoft's Windows Media Center—which lets you have access to cable TV, but without having have a fat box next to the TV with CableCARD support—would bridge internet video well with traditional broadcast video. It also means paying Microsoft money to license the tech, if Microsoft will even allow Google the privilege. But having all those features PLUS what amounts to a TiVo experience in one box would make this a must buy, assuming the price was low enough.

The other, weirder, component to this rumor is that Sony wants to embed this Android set top box tech in its TVs and "appliances", which is vague and broad. TVs are obvious, since the easy way of making your TV brand more worthwhile is shoving software components that let it do much more than just be a TV. The appliances bit might be something as simple as a small LCD-based kitchen computer, or a set top box of their own, or even putting this inside their PS3. All our wishlist items stand for Sony's version too, except it also comes with an item about Sony not proprietarying it to death.


Making Water Run Uphill, With Lasers [Water]


Making Water Run Uphill, With LasersResearchers at the University of Rochester have discovered how to make liquid overcome gravity and flow upward along a silicon surface. The essential ingredient, as always: lasers.

The scientists achieved the curious movement by using short laser blasts to carve imperceptible patterns into the silicon sheet. That alone prompts the water molecules to climb upward, without any additional aid:

Unlike a straw, though, there is no outside pressure pushing the liquid up; it rises on its own accord. By creating nanometer-scale structures in silicon, Guo greatly increases the attraction that water molecules feel toward it. The attraction, or hydrophile, of the silicon becomes so great, in fact, that it overcomes the strong bond that water molecules feel for other water molecules.

Thus, instead of sticking to each other, the water molecules climb over one another for a chance to be next to the silicon. (This might seem like getting energy for free, but even though the water rises, thus gaining potential energy, the chemical bonds holding the water to the silicon require a lower energy than the ones holding the water molecules to other water molecules.) The water rushes up the surface at speeds of 3.5 cm per second.

A fun party trick, but are there practical applications? Actually, yes! This could be the first step towards new heat regulation strategies for computers. Instead of fans, we may see liquid cooling systems thanks to silicon that can pump its own coolant. That method would be more energy efficient, cost effective, and most importantly a heckuva lot more lasery.

As has been pointed out in the comments, the image above is an optical illusion and here for illustrative purposes only. [University of Rochester via CrunchGear]


Invisibility Cloak Project Becomes More Realistic [Science]


Invisibility Cloak Project Becomes More RealisticInvisibility cloak project is back on! It's from a different team of scientists that were using silver-plated nanoparticles in water though, with these latest Harry Potter enthusiasts using photonic metamaterials to change light rays.

The idea is to cloak an object and disguise it with the use of light rays, like a "carpet mirror", as described in the Science publication by Tolga Ergin, a scientist from the German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology working on the project.

Using polymer crystals with minuscule rods, Ergin found success with his "invisible cloak," making it invisible to light wavelengths:

"By changing the thickness of the rods, you can change the ratio of air to polymer.

Since the refractive index of air is about one and the refractive index of the polymer is about 1.52, in principle, we can get any refractive index between those two numbers"

Anyone looking at the object assumes the area is flat, and that there's nothing hidden there—and it could theoretically hide any object, even a house. There are obviously limitations involved with the science, not least the length of time it takes to create the 3D cloaking structure. [BBC]


Dell rolls out Vostro 230 Slim Tower, Mini Tower desktops


They may not be quite as sleek as their latest laptop counterpart, but Dell's two new Vostro 230 desktops are both at least fairly compact and, most importantly, cheap. Available in both Slim Tower or Mini Tower form factors, the desktops start at just $389 or $299, respectively, but can of course be upgraded significantly from there, including processors up to a 3.0GHz Core 2 Quad Q9650, a maximum 4GB of RAM, up to 2TB of storage (from two 1TB drives), and your choice of NVIDIA GeForce G310 or GeForce GT220 graphics (in addition to the standard integrated option). Hit up the link below to configure one for yourself.

Dell rolls out Vostro 230 Slim Tower, Mini Tower desktops originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Mar 2010 18:21:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Nokia's Design by Community makes smartphone concepting a multiplayer game, with limits


Nokia's community blog has opened up the crowdsourcing floodgates, at least in theory. For "Design by Community," users will be able to vote on smartphone features via a series of sliders, although within an arbitrary point allotment system. A new poll opens next week for size and shape, followed by materials, operating system (Symbian or MeeGo being the only choices, unsurprisingly), and so on in the weeks that follow, with the last poll starting April 26th. After that, a concept sketch will be voted on and later rendered -- but no plans to ever have it made into an actual retail product (boo). We can't exactly say we understand all the selections here: why is a touchscreen keyboard less ambitious than T9 text entry? Does saying capacitive is more ambitious than resistive serve as a subtle hint of trends to come? What in the world is the difference between hot key and one touch? It's interesting to see how X6, N900, N97 all come out as a Perfect Mixes, while last year's E75 and the more recent C5 all straddle the "less than ambitious" line. Oh, and just so we're clear... a 5-inch, 21:9 ratio display without touchscreen but with a touchscreen keyboard is a perfect mix. Go figure.

[Thanks, Pratik V]

Nokia's Design by Community makes smartphone concepting a multiplayer game, with limits originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:49:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Marvell pitches $99 Moby Tablet as textbook alternative


When chipmaker Marvell told us its technology would power $99 smartphones, we took the company at its word. We weren't expecting a sub-$100, 10-inch tablet PC, however -- and we definitely weren't expecting Marvell itself to build it. Marketed at students looking to lighten their textbook load, the Marvell Moby will be an "always-on, high performance multimedia tablet" capable of full Flash support and 1080p HD playback -- thanks to those nifty Armada 600 series processors -- and supporting WiFi, Bluetooth, FM radio, GPS and both Android and Windows Mobile platforms for maximum flexibility. No release date has yet been announced; like the OLPC, Marvell will introduce the Moby in pilot programs at participating at-risk schools. While it's far too early to say if the Moby will be the universal educational e-reader Marvell hopes (that depends on software), it's certainly an intriguing device for the price, and we'll admit we're a touch jealous of those kids who'll first get to try one.

Marvell pitches $99 Moby Tablet as textbook alternative originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 19 Mar 2010 02:20:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 and 470 specs and pricing emerge


We're only a week away from their grand unveiling, but already we've got word of the specs for NVIDIA's high end GTX 480 and GTX 470 cards. Priced at $499, the 480 will offer 480 shader processors, a 384-bit interface to 1.5GB of onboard GDDR5 RAM, and clock speeds of 700MHz, 1,401MHz, and 1,848MHz for the core, shaders and memory, respectively. The 470 makes do with 446 SPs, slower clocks, and a 320-bit memory interface, but it's also priced at a more sensible $349. The TDPs of these cards are pretty spectacular too, with 225W for the junior model and 295W for the full-fat card. Sourced by VR Zone, these numbers are still unofficial, but they do look to mesh well with what we already know of the hardware, including a purported 5-10 percent benchmarking advantage for the GTX 480 over ATI's HD 5870. Whether the price and power premium is worth it will be up to you and the inevitable slew of reviews to decide.

[Thanks, Sean]

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 480 and 470 specs and pricing emerge originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 19 Mar 2010 04:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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PowerColor jumps on the Eyefinity bandwagon, breaks off a wheel


Sure, the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity 6 Edition is the latest and greatest in desktop multi-monitor solutions, but if you happen to be hexaphobic (or financially challenged, perhaps) you'll need something a wee bit smaller. To that end, PowerColor just introduced the Radeon HD 5770 Eyefinity 5. With a whole one less mini-DisplayPort than its heftier cousin, the Eyefinity 5 has all the mid-range muscle of a regular Radeon 5770 -- down to the megahertz, we checked -- but has five independent display controllers for that wrap-around HD monitor matrix you've always dreamed of. Whether the 5770 can actually run games across five monitors is another question, but we expect that reviews of just that functionality will surface (along with pricing, availability, dongles, and everything else that wasn't in the press release) well before you count to seven.

PowerColor jumps on the Eyefinity bandwagon, breaks off a wheel originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 19 Mar 2010 05:34:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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HP Slate priced at â¬400 for June launch, Atom CPU confirmed?


Reputable Spanish publication Clipset has the first concrete report on pricing and internal specs for HP's Slate. Seemingly obtained from HP itself, the €400 ($546) price tag positions the Slate a notch above netbooks and bodes well for the expectation that it'll undercut the iPad's entry level pricing. Straight currency conversations are inadvisable in such situations, so we'll just have to wait until official stickers for the iPad in Europe are known or HP announces US prices for the Slate. Further info includes an Atom CPU, Flash support, USB connectivity, a memory card reader, and a back-mounted webcam (see it after the break). The launch of this Windows 7 device is slated for June, while retail availability in Europe is said to be expected at some point "before September." It's not clear what all that means for the US, but we doubt HP will be making its home turf wait longer than the rest of the world. Rest assured, we'll be reaching out to HP HQ before they've had their first cup of green tea to find out.

Continue reading HP Slate priced at €400 for June launch, Atom CPU confirmed?

HP Slate priced at €400 for June launch, Atom CPU confirmed? originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 19 Mar 2010 06:27:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dell Adamo XPS alive and kicking, back for order on


Well hello again, Dell Adamo XPS. Though the incredibly thin and uniquely designed laptop disappeared from last week and we received official comment that it was a "limited edition product with a finite number of systems available," the Adamo XPS has reappeared in its $2,000 glory on the company's site. According to Dell's blog, it was merely just a move to restock the inventory and direct customers to retailers that had fresh stock -- well why didn't you just say that Dell! And do not fear about the Adamo brand, Dell reports that all is well as it starts to apply the design to other lines, just as we saw yesterday with the Vostro V13. We're still a bit confused by the reappearance, but it sure is good to see you again, Adamo XPS. We wish you a long successful life with many many price drops.

Dell Adamo XPS alive and kicking, back for order on originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Mar 2010 13:39:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Apple patent application offers more evidence of projector plans


They're easily missed about the mass of Apple patent applications revealed each year, but the company has filed a few regarding projectors (pico projectors, specifically), and the latest one to be published has now offered a few more details on how they might all fit together. That application boasts the rather broad title of "projector system and methods," and basically describes a setup that would let various devices (including a laptop or phone) remotely interact with a projector, which could itself be built into a device like a phone. To do that, each device in question would be equipped with a sensor of some sort that would be able to receive data from the projector, and even allow you to do fairly advanced things like calibrate the projector remotely. The application further goes on to detail how the system could accommodate multiple clients -- letting folks overlay multiple images on a single presentation, for example -- and it would apparently be able to receive and broadcast audio between multiple clients as well. Does this mean you'll soon be able to control your pico projector-equipped iPhone from your sensor-equipped MacBook? Probably not, but it may not be quite as far fetched as some of Apple's other patent applications.

Apple patent application offers more evidence of projector plans originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Mar 2010 14:24:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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NPR and WSJ building 'Flash-free' pages for iPad, Apple quietly delays select iPad accessories


For awhile, we couldn't decide what we were more angry at: the fact that select devices wouldn't support Flash, or that Flash was simply too demanding on select devices. We still can't say with any degree of certainty which side of the fence we're on, but there's no question that Apple's refusal to play nice with Adobe on the iPhone, iPod touch and forthcoming iPad limits the abilities of those devices significantly. Curiously enough, it seems that Apple's importance in the mobile (and media delivery) realm is coercing select portals to develop Flash-free websites for those who drop by on an iDevice. Both the National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal are furiously working on iPad-friendly websites, which will be devoid of Flash for at least the first few pages down. What's interesting is that we get the impression that this will soon become the rule rather than the exception, and it could be exactly what's needed to launch HTML5 into stardom and put these Flash or no Flash debates behind us.

In related news, we're also seeing that a couple of iPad accessories won't actually be ready to ship when the device itself cuts loose on April 3rd. Yesterday, the iPad Keyboard Dock was listed with a "May" ship date, though today it has moved up to a marginally more palatable "Late April." The iPad 10W USB Power Adapter also carries a "May" date, while the iPad Case is slated for "Mid April" and that elusive camera connection kit is still nowhere to be found. But hey, at least you'll get your (overpriced) iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter and iPad dock by the first weekend of next month, right?

NPR and WSJ building 'Flash-free' pages for iPad, Apple quietly delays select iPad accessories originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Mar 2010 14:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Best Buy's 3D bundle pricing isn't as much of a deal as it appears


It's no surprise that Best Buy is encouraging customers to pick up Samsung's 3DTV and Blu-ray player at the same time, but smart buyers should doublecheck to make sure they're actually saving money before they walk out of the store. Next week's advertisement does feature Best Buy's price on the UN55C7000 that's $300 lower than the MSRP, and grabbing the display and player all at once gets a free Starter Pack throw in with two pairs of glasses and the Monsters vs. Aliens flick, but the $3,419 package deal at the lower right and its "$780" savings?. That claimed price throws in a $150 Geek Squad install to set up the TV, connect WiFi and "sync your 3D glasses," while also including the TVs price and $349 estimated Starter Kit value. While there might be some customers who don't know their HDMI from their WEP key who can save that way, we're figuring most Engadget readers can keep a few bucks in their pocket and hook things up themselves, and if you're looking to grab another pair of glasses, it's probably important to save anywhere you can. The real insult here however, can be found to the right, encouraging buyers to pick up The Blind Side right away, instead of waiting to rent from Redbox or Netflix.

Best Buy's 3D bundle pricing isn't as much of a deal as it appears originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Mar 2010 02:13:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Dell debuts wireless, 3D-capable S300w short-throw projector


Sure, we may one day all simply carry pico projector-equipped phones and ditch any other sort of display, but until then, there's still a place for projectors like Dell's new S300w model. Designed mostly with presentations in mind, the projector can produce a 90-inch, 720p image from a distance of three feet (or 60-inches from two feet), and it packs both built-in wireless capabilities and a so-called "Plug-and-Show via USB" feature for some added flexibility. You'll also get Crestron RoomView Express software bundled with the projector for remote operation and monitoring, and some decent enough all around specs, including 2200 ANSI lumens of brightness, a 2,400:1 contrast ratio and, of course, 3D capability (though not out of the box) -- all for $999.

Dell debuts wireless, 3D-capable S300w short-throw projector originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 18 Mar 2010 02:56:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

PayPal 2.0 "Bumps" Money Between iPhones [Downloads]


iPhone/iPod touch: You're settling up a restaurant tab for three. One eater has no cash, the other only twenty-dollar bills, and you're left wondering. If at least two of you have iPhones, PayPal 2.0 lets you "bump" the balance between phones.

Of course, if all of you have PayPal accounts, you don't all need iPhones to "bump" your money—you can still send money the traditional way by loading up the app and entering an email address, or drawing from a recent contact. But with two iPhones running PayPal, it's easier to set a dollar amount, move them into proximity, then confirm that the "bump" means you're transferring that cash to the sucke—er, person who picked up the tab.

Beyond that proximity feature, PayPal 2.0 also adds a means of splitting up a restaurant check or other group purchases and "billing" other PayPal users for the amounts due. Bill reminders, money withdrawals, and other features you'd expect from the online payment system are still in place, too.

PayPal 2.0 is a free download for iPhones and iPod touch models running at least the 3.0 firmware. If you've got a killer use for PayPal on iPhones that we didn't cover, do tell us in the comments.

PayPal for iPhone [iTunes (web preview) via The Download Blog]


This Is What Your Wikipedia Edits Look Like [Memory Forever]


Normally I'd file this image under our "what is this" image cache, but as you've already clocked, it's somehow related to our Memory [Forever] theme. Those pretty colors are a visualization of the thousands of Wikipedia edits made by a bot.

It's not just a one-off visualization for adding to our Tumblrs either. It's the work of Many Eyes, a website set up by a pair of computer scientists at IBM, to catalog visual representations of data. Looking at the site now, two years after Wired brought it to light and interviewed founder Martin Wattenberg, recent artworks tackle the issue of migration in the US, and cremations.

When asked by Wired back then why he's so keen to visualize data, Watterberg responded that:

"Language is one of the best data-compression mechanisms we have. The information contained in literature, or even email, encodes our identity as human beings. The entire literary canon may be smaller than what comes out of particle accelerators or models of the human brain, but the meaning coded into words can't be measured in bytes. It's deeply compressed. Twelve words from Voltaire can hold a lifetime of experience."

Wikipedia data remains a favorite for them though, thanks to the "idea of completeness" Watterberg talks about, that even though all the data on Wikipedia equals a terabyte or so, "it's huge in terms of encompassing human knowledge." [Many Eyes via Wired]

Memory [Forever] is our week-long consideration of what it really means when our memories, encoded in bits, flow in a million directions, and might truly live forever.


AT&T Zero Charger Sucks Absolutely No Vampire Power [Cellphones]


AT&T Zero Charger Sucks Absolutely No Vampire PowerAvailable at AT&T stores starting in May (for an unknown price), the AT&T Zero Charger is the world's first wall-based USB charger that draws absolutely no power when it's not refilling a cellphone. Now follow suit, everyone else. [AT&T]

UPDATE: It looks like another company beat AT&T to it and did things better. From Volt-Star:

It is our understanding that the AT&T device automatically shut down when the device or cell phone is unplugged. The VoltStar Eco Charger goes one step farther and shuts down once the phone is charged.



Big Data, Big Problems: The Trouble With Storage Overload [Memory Forever]


Big Data, Big Problems: The Trouble With Storage OverloadWe collect an astonishing amount of digital information. But as the Economist recently pointed out in a special reports, we've long since surpassed our ability to store and process it all. Big data is here, and it's causing big problems.

Walmart's transaction databases are a whopping 2.5 petrabytes. There are more than 40 billion photos hosted by Facebook alone. When there's this much data floating around, it becomes nearly impossible to sort and analyze. And it's only expanding faster: the amount of digital information increases tenfold every five years.

We've also running out of space. The Economist reports that the amount of information created will more than double the available storage by 2011.
Big Data, Big Problems: The Trouble With Storage Overload

And the data we can store becomes more and more difficult to sort for future generations of researchers and businesses.

This may not seem like such a huge deal, but take a more recent, practical example. To produce the definitive word on the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, court-appointed examiner Anton R. Valukas had to sift through 350 billion pages of electronic documents. That's three quadrillion bites of data. So how'd he look through all that information?

Simple. He didn't. Instead, loose search parameters were used to cut the number of emails and documents roughly in half, then teams of lawyers pared down what was left to a "manageable" 34 million pages. Valukas's final report was an expansive 2,200 pages long, but there's no way he was able to process all of the relevant documents, or that he was able to tell the whole story.

If there's hope to be found, it's in metadata. Much like library cards kept you from having to read every book, Google arranges your search queries and Flickr your photos. Even the tags on Gizmodo make it more manageable to find relevant content. But while metadata gives things searchable labels, the fact that it's often crowd-sourced means that those labels are at best inconsistent and at worst incomprehensible.

We've also made some advances visualizing big data, a relatively new field simply because it's only recently become a necessity. Whether graphing stock market data or turning large chunks of text into word clouds, it's imperative that we find ways to look at data that our brains can process more easily than they can long strings of raw information:

The brain finds it easier to process information if it is presented as an image rather than as words or numbers. The right hemisphere recognises shapes and colours. The left side of the brain processes information in an analytical and sequential way and is more active when people read text or look at a spreadsheet. Looking through a numerical table takes a lot of mental effort, but information presented visually can be grasped in a few seconds. The brain identifies patterns, proportions and relationships to make instant subliminal comparisons.

Processing information through images becomes ever more important if we ever hope to keep up with it.

We have a more thorough record of our lives and the world around us now than we ever have before. We can map the human genome in a week, for goodness sake. All of which is wonderful! We should absolutely be leaving behind as much of a record of our existence as possible. But we should also figure out how to manage it, and present it, before big data balloons totally out of our control. [Economist]


A Google TV Set-Top Box is Coming [Google]


A Google TV Set-Top Box is ComingWe knew vaguely that Google was looking toward the living room, but the NYTimes has the details on Google TV, an ambitious platform to deliver web content to Android-based set-top boxes and TVs through partnerships with Sony, Intel, and Logitech.

Google hopes that the new platform will succeed where dozens of lesser efforts have failed—to truly and seamlessly integrate web content onto TVs, bringing services like Twitter and sites like YouTube, in addition to games, webapps, and, of course, Google's search, to the big screen. The Google TV software reportedly includes a version of Google's Chrome browser for doing some light surfing, as well.

The Times says Google TV will be delivered on set-top boxes that use Intel Atom chips and run an Android-based platform, though the technology will also reportedly be built directly into Blu-ray players and TVs from Sony. Additionally, Google is working with Logitech to built a keyboard-equipped remote control for the platform.

Though spokespeople from the companies wouldn't comment on the project, the Times notes that Intel and Logitech have recently put out job listings for programmers with Android experience.

Television is a relatively unexplored frontier for Google. It's one of the few spaces left in which the company it is yet to extend its services (as well as its advertising.) But Google TV is far from a sure thing. Many companies have struggled to figure out the right user interface to finally make web on TV make sense. Google's interfaces tend toward toward the functional, rather than the beautiful, but on a big screen, the sexiness factor cannot be ignored.

Bringing web content to TVs is a role that's still very much up for grabs. If Google TV, which has reportedly been in works for months, is the right solution for the problem—Gmail was for web mail, Buzz was not for social networking—then it could very well could be the platform that finally brings the power of the internet to the realm of the couch-potato. [NY Times]


This Is the Cloud: Inside Microsoft's Secret Stealth Data Centers [Memory Forever]


This Is the Cloud: Inside Microsoft's Secret Stealth Data Centers"The cloud" isn't some nebulous thing existing just beyond your computer's consciousness. As Microsoft showed us, it's stacks of hard drives packed into shipping containers, parked in secret data centers all around the world. Physically real, but still beautiful.

Microsoft's cloud capability isn't just interesting because Ballmer told us it was. It's the only serious hardware company that also has a serious cloud capability. (Google can't touch Microsoft's hardware, and Apple can't touch either in online services.)

As for these servers, you should get the basic concept: Networked storage with hot-swappable drives. Take that idea, extend it to power and cooling, and multiply it by thousands of drives, and you get what Microsoft is deploying for its cloud services—be it Exchange Server or Bing or Office 2010. It's a shipping container that's a fully self-contained server system. And true to its modular design, it can also be one piece of a larger network of servers, that can be set up anywhere, in a hurry.

The portability isn't the only thing that's relatively new: These systems used to require a fire hose to cool them down, but now they have a garden hose, and the water is only needed when temperature rises above normal operating temperatures.

The data center in Chicago, shown in pictures and video here, went live last summer and when completed will cover 700,000 square feet and demands 30MW of energy; one day demand will reach 60MW. Microsoft is exploring alternatives to power from the grid: A similar data center in Quincy, Washington uses hydro-electric power, 27MW worth. Here's how the Chicago center was "built":

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Microsoft says it's got "more than 10 and less than 100 data centers worldwide." Vague, right? Secrecy is the key to the data game—Google is equally paranoid, maybe more. Microsoft says it's not about competition, just that the data stored on this stuff has to be kept completely confidential. It's stated part of Microsoft's online privacy policy: "We store customer information on computer systems with limited access, which are located in controlled facilities."

Quite a few controlled facilities, even if Microsoft won't say exactly how many. What's sure is that the number is getting bigger. Judging by this viddy, the global deployment process can seem a little like Dr. Evil trying to take over the world, or at least you trying to win a game of Risk.

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[Microsoft's Datacenters Blog]

Memory [Forever] is our week-long consideration of what it really means when our memories, encoded in bits, flow in a million directions, and might truly live forever.


Acer unveils its thin and light Aspire TimelineX 1830T (update: other models too!)


Acer unveils its thin and light Aspire TimelineX 1830T
We've heard plenty of chatter about something thin and sexy being added to Acer's laptop lineup, and finally the company has unveiled the Aspire TimelineX 1830T. It's under an inch thick and weighs 3lbs, with an 11.6-inch screen offering 1366 x 768 pixels and driven by integrated graphics. Acer simply lists an Intel Core 2 Solo processor, but others are reporting that it will feature a Core i5 520UM processor which can range from 1 to 1.8GHz to offer decent performance along with great battery life -- eight hours worth according to Acer, but we'll believe that when we see it. Wireless is over 801.11a/b/g/n WiFi, there's a VGA webcam in the bezel, three USB ports, and even HDMI output, making it a relatively port-heavy ultralight. What Acer is not saying is how much it will cost or when we'll be able to get our meaty paws on the thing, but we hope to learn those details soon.

Update: Acer sneaked in a bunch of other TimelineX models as well: the 13.3-inch 3820T, 14-inch 4820T, and 15.6-inch 5820T, each with your choice of Core i3, i5, or i7 processors, all under an inch thick, and again offering eight hours of battery life for frugal computers. No prices on any of 'em, though!

Acer unveils its thin and light Aspire TimelineX 1830T (update: other models too!) originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 17 Mar 2010 07:34:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Samsung's 3D BD-C6900 Blu-ray player now shipping, for real


Samsung's 3D BD-C6900 Blu-ray player now shipping, for real
The last we heard of Samsung's BD-C6900 Blu-ray player it was up on Amazon for a pre-order -- and then it was mysteriously gone again. We're not sure whether anyone clicked the button quickly enough to get one of those into their shopping cart and onto their credit card statement back then, but even if you missed out then it is actually shipping now. At least, it is according to Amazon, which lists the thing as "In Stock." The price is still $399.99 and for that you get 1GB of integrated memory, "explosive 3D capabilities," DLNA streaming, and of course that lovely skylight to show off the spinning blur of your latest library addition -- or Netflix rental.

Samsung's 3D BD-C6900 Blu-ray player now shipping, for real originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 17 Mar 2010 07:51:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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