Monday, November 30, 2009

Toyota's giant solar flowers popping up across US to bring good will, free WiFi, and charging stations

Now here's a smart marketing campaign. In an effort to raise awareness / interest in its 2010 Prius, Toyota planted five 18-foot tall "solar flowers" in Boston's Prudential Plaza and provided free Wi-Fi and electricity that was "partially powered" by the solar panels attached to the petals and stem. The so-called "Harmony Between Man, Nature and Machine" just disappeared from Boston but will next germinate in New York, followed by Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. We're not exactly in the market for a car right now, but we promise to think about it while we lovingly enjoy the free laptop charge and internet access.

Friday, November 20, 2009

NSA Helped Microsoft Improve Windows 7 Security

While some of us are likely to associate the National Security Agency with daydreams of espionage, the organization is also highly involved in improving security standards in software. They've even consulted with Microsoft during the development of Windows 7.

According to the NSA's Information Assurance Director, Richard Schaeffer, it's important for the agency to work with Microsoft and other software makers because otherwise the increasing reliance on "private-sector computing products" could put national security at risk. By creating and maintaining high security standards, the agency hopes to reduce the danger of the "rising threat of cyberattacks." Whew. That actually sounds quite reasonable and like a good thing, rather than cause to panic after seeing "NSA" and "Microsoft" in the same sentence.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sleek Vega Tablet with Android 2.0, Touchscreen, and 3G Arrives Next Year

I'm psyched to see Android moving into tablets. Some of the first will be from Innovative Converged Devices (ICD), who say their Tegra-powered 7-, 11-, and 15-inch tablets will arrive through "tier one" carriers in the first half of 2010.

I hadn't heard of ICD before, either: they're actually based in the UK and Seattle. They say the Vega tablets are intended to be low cost, so it looks like some carrier subsidies may be in store, too.

The largest model has a 15.6-inch resistive screen (grr) that supports a resolution of 1366 x 768. It'll have a Tegra processor, 512MB DDR DRAM, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi (no N), and Bluetooth 2.1. The built-in 512MB NAND Flash storage can be expanded via MicroSD cards. It's expected this mode will weigh about 45 ounces and have a battery life of around 4 hours.

The 15-inch Vega also looks pretty similar to the stylish reference Tegra tablet that we spotted Nvidia's chief with earlier in the week. The good news is we'll be able to get a closer look at it come CES time in January. [Innovative Converged Devices]

Send an email to Danny Allen, the original author of this post, at

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LinkedIn and Twitter Partnership: Do's and Don'ts for Users

Here is an interesting article from Ian Paul, PC World

Nov 10, 2009 11:04 pm

LinkedIn and Twitter announced a partnership on Monday allowing you to push your LinkedIn status updates out to your Twitter account or pull your tweets into your professional profile. Twitter co-founder Biz Stone called it "bringing the peanut butter and the chocolate together to make the perfect combination."

Twitter integration with LinkedIn makes sense, but don't forget these two services are very different from each other. Twitter is a very casual and fun network with its short burst messages, while LinkedIn is all about connecting with colleagues, other professionals and furthering your career. If you integrate your Twitter and LinkedIn accounts, be prepared to make smart choices about what you share across these services, because what's perfectly acceptable on one network, may not work on the other.

The Basics

You have three options for integrating LinkedIn with Twitter: you can rebroadcast your LinkedIn status updates to Twitter, turn your tweets into your LinkedIn status or both. To start integrating your tweets, you need to edit your LinkedIn settings by adding Twitter from your profile page or by clicking the Twitter icon next to your status on the homepage. Twitter integration will be rolled out to all LinkedIn users over the next few days, so you may not see the new feature right away.

DO's and Don'ts

DO broadcast your LinkedIn status to Twitter. Chances are your updates on LinkedIn contain things you want to talk about with as many people as possible like what you're working on, what you need help with or just a general question. Broadcasting these updates to your Twitter followers will only add to your knowledge and help get the word out about what you're doing. To push your LinkedIn status out to Twitter, click the check box next to the Twitter icon on your LinkedIn homepage, enter your update and click "Share."

DO link multiple Twitter accounts to your LinkedIn profile. If you have more than one Twitter identity, you probably have one account for personal tweets and others related to your business or job. It's almost impossible to hide your personal Twitter account from the rest of the world, so why not integrate all your Twitter accounts with LinkedIn? Besides, if you send out a lot of work-related or topical items from your personal account, you may want your professional network to see these tweets. LinkedIn did not specify how many Twitter accounts you could add, or what kind of broadcasting controls it offers for integrating multiple accounts.

DON'T send all your tweets to LinkedIn. Twitter's not just a professional broadcast tool it's also a fun way to connect with others. Don't forget that. LinkedIn gives you the option to only send tweets to your profile marked with the '#in' or '#li' hashtags or to send all your tweets to LinkedIn. Make sure you choose the hashtag option so only the tweets you decide to share will get through to your LinkedIn account. Sharing an update about your recent promotion on LinkedIn via Twitter is a great idea, but all those drunken tweets you send out on Saturdays won't look so hot on your professional profile.

DON'T display your Twitter account on LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives you the option of installing a Twitter widget on your LinkedIn profile that will show your most recent tweets. You don't want to do this for the reasons given above, not to mention the fact that you're already sending your tweets to your LinkedIn status. Why the double exposure? There is such a thing as Twitter overkill.

DON'T forget about LinkedIn. Chances are you'll be in front of your Twitter account more often than your LinkedIn page, so remember your colleagues. There are many tweets you'll want to share with them, but if you took my previous advice you'll need to type '#in' or '#li' every time you want to send a tweet to LinkedIn. Don't forget this.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Garmin Nuvi 780 Portable GPS Navigator

The latest and most popular range of navigational instruments is, of course the Nuvi range, of which the Garmin Nuvi 780 GPS Navigator is slowly and steadily making its presence felt as a pathfinder with which to reckon.

Outstanding features

Many people have found that the Garmin Nuvi 780 GPS system is just this little bit pricey, but you have to remember that it is a Garmin product and it is going to give you a bit more than you expected. This is naturally going to include your choice of keyboard, which can either be an ABC one or a Qwerty one. Direct services from MSN are inbuilt into this GPS system, so there is no question of your ever losing your destination, even if you find yourself in a pea souper, flurry or a fog with visibility levels nil. By the way, it works excellently in bright sunlight too! One of the best points which customers found to their liking is that it has a feature -- where am I, which means How Far Am I from the nearest hospital, gas station, police station, intersection or of course your destination.

Re: Car locator

And if you happen to be just like I, finding it rather difficult to remember where you parked your car, it has a very handy feature, which is known as the car locator. The moment you remove it from its mount in the windshield, it is going to note on the exact position and location of the car. And that is that, when you come back after your visit to the dentist, all you have to do is make like Batman and use this feature to reach your car. Of course, Garmin has not gone into making a navigational system which can automatically start up your car and bring it to you, but I would be very surprised if you do not find this technology hitting the market one of these days!

Other amazing features include a Bluetooth, transmitter using FM, as well as entertainment features, which means that you can listen to the music while this system does the navigation for you. All, you have to do is make sure that your destination is loaded up on your Garmin 780 GPS system and there you are! Hurrah, computerized voice directions are definitely a thing we need not see in a science-fiction flick any more, with Microsoft Sam telling us, "you have overshot your destination” in a nasal constipated voice. A Garmin voice activated system is definitely going to lead you on your way in a more sedate and proper manner! And it is also going to tell you that " you are going rather fast, buddy, take your foot off the accelerator" in a polite way.

NASA planning to build an elevator to space

Can scientists make a space elevator?

By Doug Gross, CNN
November 5, 2009 10:29 a.m. EST

"The question Artsutanov asked himself had the childlike brilliance of true genius. A merely clever man could never have thought of it -- or would have dismissed it instantly as absurd. If the laws of celestial mechanics make it possible for an object to stay fixed in the sky, might it not be possible to lower a cable down to the surface, and so to establish an elevator system linking earth to space?" -- Arthur C. Clarke, 1979, "The Fountains of Paradise"

(CNN) -- It sounds like science fiction. And it was.

Now, 30 years after "2001" author Arthur C. Clarke wrote about an elevator that rises into outer space, serious research is happening all over the world in an effort to make the far-fetched-sounding idea a reality.

The benefits of a fully realized elevator would make carrying people and goods into space cheaper, easier and safer than with rocket launches, proponents say, opening up a host of possibilities.

Restaurants and hotels for space tourists. Wind turbines that provide energy by spinning 24 hours a day. A cheaper, easier and more environmentally friendly way to launch rockets.

Scientists envision all of the above -- possibly within our lifetimes.

"Space elevator-related research is valid, but there are hurdles to overcome," said David Smitherman, a space architect at NASA's George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.

This week in the Mojave Desert, three teams of engineers are competing for $2 million offered up by NASA for anyone who can build a prototype of an elevator able to crawl up a kilometer-high tether while hauling a heavy payload.

"We haven't had any winners yet, but we truly do expect to have at least one winner, probably more [this year]," said Ted Semon, spokesman for The Spaceward Foundation, which has run the competition for the past several years.

Most models for an elevator into space involve attaching a cable from a satellite, space station or other counterweight to a base on Earth's surface.

Scientists say inertia would keep the cable tight enough to allow an elevator to climb it.

The inspiration for researchers to pursue a space elevator started, as many scientific advances have, in the fantastical world of science fiction.

In Clarke's 1979 novel "The Fountains of Paradise," he writes about a scientist battling technological, political and ethical difficulties involved in creating a space elevator.

In the years that followed, Clarke, who died last year, remained an outspoken advocate for researching and funding the elevator.

Others are now carrying the torch.

"Space elevator research is important because it is a way to build a bridge to space instead of ferrying everything by rocket," said Smitherman, who has conducted research and published findings on the effort.

"Look at the cost and efficiency of a bridge versus a ferry on Earth and then look at the cost and inefficiency of the rocket ferries we use today and you will see why so many people are looking for a 'bridge' solution like the space elevator."

Microsoft is among the sponsors an annual space elevator conference, and teams in Japan and Russia are among those working to turn the theory into reality -- even if they all admit they have a long way to go.

Even the most avid proponents of the research admit there are big hurdles that need to be overcome.

The first, scientists say, is that there's currently not a viable material strong enough to make the cables that will support heavy loads of passengers or cargo into orbit. According to NASA research, the space elevator cable would need to be about 22,000 miles long. That's how far away a satellite must be to maintain orbit above a fixed spot on the Earth's equator.

"Right now, if you use the strongest material in the world, the weight of the tether would be so much that it would actually snap," said Semon, a retired software engineer. He said the super-light material would probably need to be about 25 times stronger than what's now commercially available.

In a separate competition, his group offers a prize to any team that can build a tether that's at least twice as strong as what's currently on the market.

Another issue, scientists say, is how to keep the cable, or the elevator itself, from getting clobbered by meteorites or space junk floating around in space. Some suggest a massive cleanup of Earth's near orbit would be required.

And then there's the cost. Estimates are as high as $20 billion for a working system that would stretch into orbit.

Many think it would be private enterprise, not a government, that would spring for the earliest versions of the elevator.

Professor Brendan Quine and his team at York University in Toronto, Canada, think they have the answers to at least some of those problems.

They've built a three-story high prototype of an elevator tower that would rise roughly 13 miles (20 kilometers) -- high enough to escape most of the earth's atmosphere.

"At 20 kilometers, you still have gravity; you're not in orbit," Quine said. "But for a tourist, you can see basically the same things an astronaut sees -- the blackness of space, the horizon of the Earth."

In the stratosphere, the tower also could potentially be used to launch rockets, he said. The most expensive and energy-sucking part of any space launch now is blasting from the ground out of the atmosphere.

Constructed from Kevlar, the free-standing structure would use pneumatically inflated sections pressurized with a lightweight gas, such as hydrogen or helium, to actively stabilize itself and allow for flexibility. A series of platforms or pods, supported by the elevator, would be used to launch payloads into Earth's orbit.

Quine acknowledged that the prototype is just a first step toward realizing the elevator and that several more prototypes are needed to fine-tune details.

He estimated that the cost of the basic tower would be about $2 billion -- the equivalent of a massive skyscraper in places like New York -- and that the technology to build it could be ready in less than 10 years.

He said a more advanced -- and expensive -- elevator tower could be built to go higher into the stratosphere.

But for the purposes of actually ferrying everyday people into space, 20 kilometers makes the most sense, Quine said.

"The tower might be economically viable if you're able to transport 1,000 people a day to the to of it for about $1,000 a ticket," he said. "At the top, you'd probably want amenities -- hotels, restaurants. It could be a very pleasant experience, in contrast to zero gravity, which makes many people sick."

For now, advocates of making the elevator a reality say they'll keep at it. They'll continue reminding themselves that they wouldn't be the first to turn what started as an outlandish idea into good science.

"Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction," Clarke once said. "They may be summed up by the phrases: One, it's completely impossible. Two, it's possible, but it's not worth doing. Three, I said it was a good idea all along."

This is going to look like the anime Gundam. They should learn from the creator of Gundam 00. Watching season 2 now...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gadget Buyer Decision Flow Chart

This is really an interesting flowchart. Consult the flowchart for your next decision to purchase. Haha.