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Friday, September 5, 2008

iPhone Might Be Able To Replace All Your Remotes

There are already a few home automation iPhone apps in the store, but here at CEDIA it's clear that all of the home automation heavies have definitely discovered the obvious: the iPhone makes for a great universal touchscreen remote for everything from your AC to your living room blinds to your music collection. And most of them won't make you pay the price of a snazzy dedicated touchscreen controller to get it, either. Most of them.

Of the apps by Crestron, Lifeware, Z-Wave and Control4 we've seen here at CEDIA, Crestron's seems to be farthest along (pictured above). It can control multiple rooms in multiple houses all via Wi-Fi or AT&T data, and is a free download and add-on. Z-Wave, probably the most accessible system that you don't have to have a Cribs-worthy home to run, will sadly charge you $10 a month for the privilege of freaking out your pets while you're on vacation or locking your doors from bed. Lifeware's app is still in its nascent stages, but it will pack more Media Center integrations (in case you're running the baddest Media Center in the world).
Control4's app (above) is the least impressive—the first version will only work in your home on the same Wi-Fi network as your system, which is puzzling. And it'll cost you a "license" that will likely be "over $100 and less than $500," to make up for lost touchscreen remote revenue.

All the apps are currently getting finishing touches, but each will be available before year-end. For now, check out iViewer.

Dutch Dance Club Lets Patrons Produce Energy

disco ball

Last week, I profiled a gym that uses human-powered energy. It’s a brilliant idea, but there’s no reason why it should be limited to the gym. If you think about it, dancing expends just as much energy as working out. Shouldn’t that energy go somewhere too?

Rotterdam’s WATT club, which just opened today, features a dance floor where the disco lights become more dynamic as patrons get their groove on. The floor even has a meter to show people how much energy they’re producing at any given moment.

WATT contains more than just an electricity producing dance floor. Drinks are stored in basement tanks to save energy by using a central cooling system and toilets in the club flush with rainwater. The so-called “pee experience” lets patrons watch rooftop rainwater travel through transparent pipes when they flush.

The club’s owners claim that WATT saves 30 percent on energy and carbon emissions and 50 percent on waste and water compared to most nightclubs. WATT follows in the footsteps of a green dance floor in London, and the club’s parent company has plans to bring the sustainable dance floor concept to the United States. Could this be the next big thing in nightlife?

7 New Rule Changes for the 2008 NFL Season

Associated Press

A number of 2008 playing-rules changes were adopted by NFL owners at the NFL Annual Meeting in late March. Following are the changes, with comments from NFL head coaches and executives:

» Defensive helmet radios: Teams will now be permitted to have one defensive player on the field with a radio in his helmet. This gives the defense the same ability to communicate its signals as the offense.

"I think it's a great thing," says Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. "I've always been in favor of it."

Doug Pensinger / Getty Images
Under new rules, a player must have both feet in bounds while making a reception, even while being forced out by an opposing player.

» A closer look at the new coach-to-defense system

» Incidental facemasks: The foul for incidental grasp and release of the facemask has been eliminated. Twisting, turning or pulling the facemask will remain a 15-yard personal foul.

» Forceout rule: The forceout rule has been eliminated. A player who receives or intercepts a ball must land with both feet inbounds. This affords the receiver and defender equal opportunity to complete the play.

"We feel that with so many levels of judgment that go into the force-out call it creates a more consistent play when either you get your feet down for a complete pass or you do not," says co-chairman of the NFL Competition Committee Rick McKay.

» Reviewable plays: Instant replay will expand to include field-goal and extra-point attempts as well as illegal forward handoffs. This provides a mechanism for correcting an obvious onfield officiating error.

» Second half coin toss: Clubs will now have the option to defer the opportunity to kick or receive the kickoff to the second half.

"It now gives coaches a third option," says Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans head coach and co-chairman of the NFL Competition Committee.

» Muffed snap: It will now be a live ball when a direct snap from center to a player who is in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap goes untouched. It was previously called a false start, but now either team may recover and advance the untouched snap.

» There will be a point of emphasis on a rule this season (although the rule itself has not changed):

Grasping the facemask by all players, including offensive players, will continue to be strictly enforced. Specific attention is to be given to the runner who twists, turns, or pulls the facemask of the defender who is trying to make the tackle.

Runners and tacklers are to be treated identically when this occurs. This action is a personal foul and a 15-yard penalty.

» NFL'S "third-quarterback" rule -- sometimes misunderstood:

Seventeen years ago (1991) the third-quarterback rule was instituted to enable teams to have an emergency quarterback available who was not on the 45-man game-day active roster, since many teams, for strategic purposes, only carried two quarterbacks on their game-day roster.

Everybody thinks they understand the NFL's "third-quarterback" rule. But do they?

The rule states that if a third quarterback is inserted before the fourth quarter, a team's first two quarterbacks cannot be used in the game at any position.

Another aspect of the rule is sometimes misunderstood. It is a coach's decision as to whether a third quarterback will be used.

The active quarterbacks do not have to be injured for a team to use its third quarterback.

Chuck Liddell’s Top 8 Blood Splattering Moments in MMA


Zuffa brings its beloved big top to Atlanta on Saturday night for UFC 88. As good hosts, Dana White and Co. are putting their best foot forward in Georgia with an end-to-end burner of a fight card, suitably topped off with MMA's foremost rockstar, Chuck Liddell.

read more | digg story

Cuba's tobacco region should be OK in spite of Gustav

AP photo by Javier Galeano
Hurricane Gustav tore through Cuba this weekend. While no deaths were reported, it left the town of Los Palacios (pictured) in ruins.

Hurricane Gustav swept across Cuba’s famed Pinar del Río tobacco growing region on August 30—with wind gusts as high as 200 miles per hour—collapsing thousands of tobacco curing barns, according to Cuban News Agency. It was the strongest storm to hit the island in 50 years.

Cuba reported no deaths due to Gustav, which was a category four storm at the time of landfall, with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour, but the storm ripped roofs off homes and was blamed for the collapse of nearly 3,500 tobacco curing barns, or casas de tobaccos, according to the report. Cuban officials evacuated thousands from the coast in western Cuba, which was in the storm’s path. Hundreds of schools were damaged and 86,000 homes were destroyed or partially destroyed.

Sources in Cuba said that the winds were most powerful in the Viñales region of Cuba, and that the best growing areas on the island, San Juan and San Luis, were spared from the worst of the hurricane. None of the damaged barns were in San Juan or San Luis.

Tobacco farmers throughout the Caribbean and Central America typically do not plant during the hurricane season, and it was too early in the year for tobacco plants or even seedlings to be in the ground. Cuban workers were already out working on fixing the barns to prepare for the upcoming harvest.

Gustav weakened considerably as it moved north toward the United States, where it made landfall in southern Louisiana. Damage there was far less than originally feared. This afternoon, it was a tropical depression over Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

The storm has been blamed for more than 100 deaths since it formed on August 25.

Hurricanes have changed the history of the cigar industry. Hurricane Gilbert tore the roof off the Royal Jamaica factory in Jamaica in 1988, which resulted in the brand’s production being moved to the Dominican Republic, and repeated hurricane strikes in the early 1990s devastated the Key West cigar industry

Couple Faces 6 Years in Prison for Sex on the Beach in Dubai

Vince_acors A Muslim emirate is not the best place to mix champagne and beach romance. A British couple is facing up to six years in prison for allegedly having public sex near the surf in Dubai, a split-personality emirate that toys with Western permissiveness but is ruled by Islamic tenets.

The couple -– Vince Acors and Michelle Palmer -– face up to six years in jail for indecency and having unmarried sex. A trial on the charges is expected to begin next week. The British Broadcasting Company quoted Palmer, who was reportedly fired from her job at a publishing house after the incident, as saying:

“We were just kissing and hugging. We didn’t have sex together. I was lying on top of him. I have been to Dubai for 2 1/2 years without committing any kind of offense. I’m sorry.”

Authorities in Dubai -- the flashy, financial hub of the United Arab Emirates -- said the couple met at a champagne brunch, got in a taxi and were arrested on the beach by a policeman who spotted Palmer sitting on Acors with her shirt off.

“The lady is innocent,” Palmer’s lawyer, Hassan Mattar, told the media after the couple appeared in court this week. “The medical reports from the police show she didn’t have sex.”

Foreigners make up about 85% of the UAE's population of 5.6 million, and cultures often collide.

— Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: Vince Acors, accused of having sex on a Dubai beach. Credit: Reuters

How to change channel by simply waving your hand:

The new webcam that could kill off remote controls

By Andrew Levy

It may be called 'gesture interface technology' but it is as simple as waving your hand.

In fact it is waving your hand - and could mean the days of the television remote control (and the days of arguing over who has it) are over.

Scientists at a Toshiba research laboratory in Cambridge have created the technology that allows viewers to operate their TV purely by gestures.

Catherine Breslin, 22 demonstrates the hand signal which allows you to pause TV

Futuristic: Engineer Catherine Breslin's hand signal pauses the new TV

For example, raising a hand in a 'stop' sign will pause the action on TV. Flapping a hand up or down can raise or lower the volume.

And the technology could be customised to suit individuals.

Touching your right ear, for instance, would increase volume, while touching your left ear would lower it. The software could also recognise viewers as they walk into a room and switch automatically to their favourite channel - opening a whole new area for family disputes.

Catherine Breslin, 22 demonstrates the hand signal which allows you to move the on screen mouse

No hassle: Dr Breslin demonstrates how to use the TV 's computer mouse'

Toshiba said its gesture recognition system was already extremely accurate as it responded to the shape, colour and motion of hands.

But, of course, there are always potential hazards, such as the TV misinterpreting a stretch or a sneeze.

But Toshiba is working on it. It said its technology, which can also be used with PCs, is being finetuned to differentiate between someone making a control gesture and an unthinking movement.

Enlarge how it works

how it works

The system went on show in Berlin this week and could be on the market within five years.

It follows similar work at the University of Wollongong, Australia, last year and brings the world of futuristic Hollywood films a step nearer.

For example, Tom Cruise's character in the thriller Minority Report uses hand movements to manipulate images - such as magnifying them - on a computer screen.

Dr Kate Knill, who works at the Toshiba laboratory, said: ' Technology is going to become more and more accessible and much less scary for everyday users.'

Tom Cruise in Minority Report

Inspired: The TV echoes one used by Tom Cruise in futuristic film Minority Report

New Home Door Locks Can Be Controlled Online


Lock Company Adds Internet Remote Control Option for People Who Forget to Bolt Their Doors

By CATHERINE TSAI

The Associated Press


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The wireless feature allows users to control the locks from a mobile phone or computer.
(Getty Images)

DENVER

What if locking the front door of your home while you're away were as easy as hopping on the Internet?

At the CEDIA Expo in Denver this week, Ingersoll-Rand Co.'s Schlage unit is showing off door locks that can be wirelessly set or opened via the Internet, from a mobile phone or a computer.

The battery-operated locks have keypads that are locked and unlocked with 4-digit access codes (or old-fashioned keys, as a backup). Users who forget to lock a door and want to enter their code remotely can hop onto a Web portal or an application added to their mobile phones. These password-protected portals also let people change, activate or disable the codes.

The company says the wireless signals sent to the locks are encrypted.

A Schlage kit that includes the lock and the wireless bridge to communicate with the locks sells for $299, plus there's a $13 monthly fee to use the applications that let the locks be controlled remotely. The system, which Schlage bills as the first of its kind, will be available in late October.

Breast Ironing in Cameroon Africa (Warning: Graphic images)



The UN says that 3.8 million West and Central African girls are at risk of a painful form of body mutilation know as 'breast ironing'.

In Cameroon where the practice is most widespread, 50% of adolescent girls in cities and a quarter of all girls nationwide have their breasts 'ironed,' often by their mothers.

The 'ritual' is performed by massaging the girls' chests with heated objects like stones, in order to reverse their pubescent development. The mums say it's driven by fear of unwanted male attention, rape and pre-marital pregnancies.

According to UNFPA, breast ironing exposes girls to numerous health problems such as abscesses, infections, dissymmetry of the breasts, cysts, and even the complete disappearance of one or both breasts.

Nevertheless breast ironing is widespread and interestingly, the high prevalence in cities attributed to the effects of urbanization.

In Cameroon, the Network of Aunties Association, RENATA, made up of members who have undergone the practice, is trying to stop breast ironing by drawing public attention to its dangers in radio and television spots and by disseminating leaflets. 



Metallica Changes Their Mind: Album Leaks Are Welcome Now

James Hetfield of Metallica
Metallica played the recent Reading and Leeds festivals

The drummer of rock band Metallica has welcomed an internet leak of their new album, ahead of its release next week.

Speaking on San Francisco radio station Live 105, Lars Ulrich said: "If this thing leaks all over the world today or tomorrow, happy days."

"It's 2008 and it's part of how it is these days," the musician added.

Death Magnetic, officially released around the world on 12 September, was posted on the internet after reportedly being sold in a French shop.

Legal action

The band, who were honoured at the Kerrang! awards in London last month, made one of the album's tracks, Cyanide, available for download recently.

They have also announced details of an intimate gig due to take place in London on 14 September.

Ulrich appeared on the US radio station to give a sneak preview of the album.

In 2003, Metallica decided to allow fans to download their music via the internet, three years after taking legal action to prevent digital access to their material.

The band chose to make their entire back catalogue available for download in 2006 - after finally relenting on a refusal to allow their music to be carried by iTunes.

They are due to play London's O2 Arena on 15 September, and will subsequently embark on an extensive North American tour, ending in January. 

7 Potential Logos of the 2016 Summer Olympics

Here’s a look at 7 new logos from cities applying for the 2016 Summer Olympics. I think the 2016 games should be done online with various games in different cities. Maybe thats a stretch, but it would be cool to see one day. Either way, as long as i see more of this, ill be satisfied.

NBC’s THE OFFICE Writers Are Scripting GHOSTBUSTERS III !!

Sony has hired Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky, Emmy-nominated writer-producers on the Steve Carell version of "The Office," to script a "Ghostbusters" sequel that would reunite Venkman, Stanz, Spengler and Zeddemore.

Harold Ramis, who co-wrote the earlier "Ghostbusters" movies and portrayed mold fetishist Egon Spengler in those comedies, is in post-production on next summer's Jack Black period comedy "Year One," which was directed by Ramis from a screenplay by Ramis, Eisenberg and Stupnitsky.

Ramis directed three season-three episodes of "The Office," namely "A Benihana Christmas," "Safety Training" and "Beach Games."

"Office" episodes scripted by Eisenberg and Stupnitsky include "The Fight," "The Secret," "The Convention," "Women's Appreciation," "Dinner Party" and "Job Fair."

Find all of Variety’s story on the matter here.


Well, that's what I heard!

Highlights from the Ramis-directed "Benihana Christmas":

Son Spots Dad on TV, 8 Years After Family ‘Cremated’ Him

A man who cremated a body believing it was that of his father has been reunited with him eight years later after seeing him alive on television.

 
John Renehan and his father John Delaney: Son spots 'dead' father on television after eight years
John Renehan and his father John Delaney: Greater Manchester police have apologised Photo: MENS

John Renehan spotted his father, John Delaney, by chance on a programme about missing people.

Unknown to his family, Mr Delaney had spent the intervening years living in a care home just a few miles away from them, using a new name because he could not remember his own.

Police have apologised for an extraordinary series of errors which led to him being declared dead and an unidentified man being cremated in his place.

Mr Delaney, now 71, was reported missing in April 2000 after he failed to turn up at a hostel in Oldham, Greater Manchester, where he was staying.

When he turned up just nine days later, six miles away, he was admitted to hospital and seen by a police officer who failed to make proper checks of records of recent missing people in the area.

Suffering amnesia caused by a head injury, he was soon handed over to local services who cared for him ever since.

All that staff could say for sure was that the man they called David Harrison retained a strong Irish accent from childhood and made regular references to "Tipperary" and "boxing".

When, three years later, a man's badly-decomposed body was found in bushes at Manchester Royal Infirmary - it was assumed to be him.

Police produced a file for the city's coroner Leonard Gorodkin pointing out that he had been wearing a pair of jeans and a green top similar to that Mr Delaney's clothes and had a number of healed fractures appearing to match the missing man's medical history.

But despite an offer of a DNA sample from a family member, no genetic tests were carried out and no dental records analysed.

At an inquest a few months later Mr Gorodkin formally confirmed the body as that of Mr Leonard and recorded an open verdict.

Believing they were finally able to grieve for their father, the family held a wake and had the body cremated.

Eventually Missing People, the national charity supported by Kate and Gerry McCann, were alerted to the case of Mr "Harrison" and made a series of national appeals.

He was featured in a Crimewatch-style BBC programme known as Missing Live in April of this year. Mr Renehan, an engineer, caught the programme by chance as he was home during the day having worked night shifts.

"As I was turning away I got a glimpse of who I thought was my father," the 42-year-old said.

"I was sure straight away, I was stomping up and down ... for the rest of the day I could not get to sleep. I was in shock."

He was one of 50 people who called the programme claiming to be related to him whose names were passed on to police.

But unlike the others he provided photographs which led to a DNA test finally being carried out which proved paternity in July.

Mr Renehan said: “My father is suffering from total amnesia still. I have been bringing him photographs and things are just starting to click I think.”

But he said he still wakes up at night wondering about the man he cremated.

“I have got up, had a cup of tea and been thinking, 'Who was that person?’ he says.

“There is another family who are never going to know.”

Greater Manchester Police have launched a review of the case and admitted that mistakes were made but a spokesman was unable to say whether the officer who spoke to Mr Delaney eight years ago, who has since retired, would be called in.

"Greater Manchester Police accepts that in 2000, the man who was admitted to Royal Oldham Hospital should have been identified as Mr John Delaney and that the inquiries made at the time to establish the unknown man's identity were not sufficient," he said.

A separate inquiry will attempt to identify the man who was cremated.

Mr Gorodkin, who has also since retired, said he had identified the other man's body as that of Mr Delaney based on the balance of probabilities on the information he was provided. He said no DNA test was done because there appeared to be no suspicious circumstances.

"I can't say I have any regrets because at the time it will have been the most logically thing to do," he said.

The current coroner Nigel Meadows is applying to the High Court to quash the original inquest verdict.  

Apple Multi-Touch Data Fusion Adds Camera, Voice, Force Sensors

Apple has been working in new multi-touch technology that combines touch interfaces with input from the camera and the microphone. For example: this will allow you to select text in the iPhone, say "copy," go to another application and say "paste" to make this task really easy. The most intriguing part, however, is the use of a camera in laptops and desktops.

This will require two cameras, one for video chat and the other for the "hand reading," but it opens a lot of possibilities. To start with, the entire keyboard can become a gesture control pad without even having to touch the surface. In addition to that, it can be combined with actual touch technology to identify single fingers on the surface, with the possibility of assigning specific functions to them.

The system even contemplates combining all this with accelerometers and force sensors, so the touch action can generate secondary data. One example of this may be applying a deformation effect to an image or a sound effect to a music track, giving it more or less strength depending on the force you use in your action.

Blacklight Posters for the Seriously Stoned


September is National Mushroom Month, and while organizers presumably want to honor the shiitakes that jazz up salads, we can't help but think of the kind you eat in your parents' basement that makes your friends' faces melt.

read more | digg story

17 Extremely Expensive Gadgets for the Luxurious Lifestyle


If excessive is your motto, you’re gonna love this article. Opting to choose the path of interesting and innovative, we left out be-jewelled phones and diamond encrusted appliances to give you 17 truly expensive and truly unique devices that will surely make your neighbors and other rich cronies drool!

read more | digg story

You Can Tell a Woman's Orgasmic Ability By the Way She Walks

A new study found that trained sexologists could infer a woman's history of vaginal orgasm by observing the way she walks. The study is published in the September 2008 issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the official journal of the International Society for Sexual Medicine and the International Society for the Study of Women's Sexual Health.

Led by Stuart Brody of the University of the West of Scotland in collaboration with colleagues in Belgium, the study involved 16 female Belgian university students. Subjects completed a questionnaire on their sexual behavior and were then videotaped from a distance while walking in a public place. The videotapes were rated by two professors of sexology and two research assistants trained in the functional-sexological approach to sexology, who were not aware of the women's orgasmic history.

The results showed that the appropriately trained sexologists were able to correctly infer vaginal orgasm through watching the way the women walked over 80 percent of the time. Further analysis revealed that the sum of stride length and vertebral rotation was greater for the vaginally orgasmic women. "This could reflect the free, unblocked energetic flow from the legs through the pelvis to the spine," the authors note.

There are several plausible explanations for the results shown by this study. One possibility is that a woman's anatomical features may predispose her to greater or lesser tendency to experience vaginal orgasm. According to Brody, "Blocked pelvic muscles, which might be associated with psychosexual impairments, could both impair vaginal orgasmic response and gait." In addition, vaginally orgasmic women may feel more confident about their sexuality, which might be reflected in their gait. "Such confidence might also be related to the relationship(s) that a woman has had, given the finding that specifically penile-vaginal orgasm is associated with indices of better relationship quality," the authors state. Research has linked vaginal orgasm to better mental health.

The study provides some support for assumptions of a link between muscle blocks and sexual function, according to the authors. They conclude that it may lend credibility to the idea of incorporating training in movement, breathing and muscle patterns into the treatment of sexual dysfunction.

"Women with orgasmic dysfunction should be treated in a multi-disciplinary manner" says Irwin Goldstein, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine."Although small, this study highlights the potential for multiple therapies such as expressive arts therapy incorporating movement and physical therapy focusing on the pelvic floor."

Source: Wiley

uPlayMe-

Picture_19Don Pelson thinks licensing music for online distribution is dumb. He should know: the former consumer marketing SVP at Warner Music Group wants to create a community around the music people already own play, and with uPlayMe he thinks he’s hit on a missing link.

UPlayMe will definitely not be signing licensing deals with the major labels to distribute music. Pelson sees music distribution as an overcrowded market plagued by hefty licensing fees, offering little room for a startup to connect music consumers around the music and videos they watch.

"To be blunt, the cost of licensing music is so significant that I don't see the possibility of putting an ad-based music service around music, if you're delivering it to the consumer," Pelson told us via phone. "Pandora, Rhapsody and the rest don't work, and over the next 24 months, licensing models will change. People who licensed (music catalogs at today's prices) will feel dumb."

Consumers already have plenty of places to check out music and videos. Why bother joining that crowded field? So uPlayMe takes a different tack: letting other companies handle the distribution of music while it concentrates on helping listeners communicate with each other about what they're hearing, regardless of where they're hearing it. "The content is there," said Pelson. "That's not the value proposition, that's not the problem that needs to be solved. It's 'how do you make music social again, how do you add value?'"

The uPlayMe application, released this week after about a year of development, sits on your Windows or Macintosh computer, checking out what you play in a wide range of online and offline music applications: iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, YouTube, Last.fm, Pandora, Hulu, Metacafe and CBS Radio. UPlayMe watches what you play in these programs to create a realistic portrait of your media consumption habits. Luckily for occasional fans of adult or controversial content, it offers a way to delete objectionable media from your list.

Picture_20 Once it has a good picture of your listening and viewing habits, uPlayMe recommends new content and hooks you up with people who are into the same stuff. Once you make friends with people on the site, you can see what they're watching or listening to in real time. In addition, it shows you which other members are consuming the exact same piece of content as you at a certain time, so you can send them a message or check out their profile (see screenshot to the right).

The company is adding the ability to share and discuss media with people who don't have the application installed, as well. Those people will get updates via e-mail instead of being able to watch or listen inside the uPlayMe desktop application. Essentially, your friends become your filters, just like in real life.

The concept is somewhat similar to that of Last.fm, but Pelson sees an opportunity to leapfrog ahead of that site as it works on integrating with CBS and another CBS acquisition, CNET. In addition, Last.fm doesn't "scrobble" playback behavior from as many sources as uPlayMe. As for the social music behemoth iLike, which claims 28 million users, Pelson says most of those people don't use the service on a regular basis. He says uPlayMe's growth rate of 2,000 desktop installs per day is more significant.

So how is uPlayMe going to make money on music and videos without hosting or distributing them? In addition to receiving kickbacks for ticket and music sales, the answer, of course, is advertising. UPlayMe plans to offer user demographics to advertisers at a lower cost than other avenues will be able to match.

"Do you want to sponsor Madonna?" asked Pelson. "It used to be you'd write a huge check and talk to her manager. Here, we'll place your ad every time we play Madonna (by matching an ad to the song's metadata)," adding, "there's no reason we cannot do this legally."

By finding a spot between consumers and their media without having to license the media, uPlayMe could build a formidable business, assuming consumers continue to install the application. It essentially mirrors the way many of us consume media (via instant message or email from a friend) in a way that's both faster and more passive. All you have to do is listen to something or watch it as you normally would, and your friends will see it. Plans for the future include a mobile application that will overlay peoples' geographic locations into the network, so that you can find people in your immediate area who are into the same stuff.

Warner Music Group was impressed too. The company invested in uPlayMe in July.

Tivo HD XL

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TiVo HD XL

Everything’s getting tiny. The once sexy V8 engine is now an automotive pariah while the Smart Car gets all the chicks; HD video cameras are now damn near Twinkie-size, and we’ll probably be implanting the next-generation iPod in our molars.

But there's at least one company isn’t succumbing to all this smaller-is-better madness: Tivo just announced the Tivo HD XL. Stuffed like a Cornish hen with a terabyte hard drive, it’s the highest capacity DVR available, with room for 150 hours of HD content. That’s, like, every Olympic event you actually care about plus all 60 episodes of The Wire. It’s an entire season of Sunday Night Football with more than enough space for your Food Network-obsessed roommate to go balls-out on Batali. —Joe Brown

WIRED Western Digital hard drive is nearly silent. THX-certified audio and video (finally). Say goodbye to the ugly sitck, because the XL gets the same slick programmable remote as the Series 3. TiVo-easy, as expected, with the company’s ever expanding catalog of downloadable videos (YouTube!).

TIRED Remote collects more greasy fingerprints than a second hand sex-bot. Annoying info screen hovers over the picture for a few seconds too long each time you change channels. Cutesy TiVo noises are a little grating, and your only other option is to turn all the sound effects off. We noticed an increase in video artifacts when recording off both tuners simultaneously. In San Francisco, at least, you have to deal with Satan Comcast to get service. $600 plus the $20 monthly fee is a lot of cheddar.

$600, tivo.com

Intensifying the Sun


Marc Baldo poses with a collection of glass sheets coated with light-emitting organic dyes. The dyes absorb light and reëmit it into the glass, which channels it to the edges of the sheets. Baldo uses the devices to concentrate sunlight, making solar power cheaper.
Credit: Porter Gifford
Multimedia
video See how the solar concentrator works.
photo A demonstration of how the solar concentrators are made.

In his darkened lab at MIT, Marc Baldo shines an ultraviolet lamp on a 10-­centimeter square of glass. He has coated the surfaces of the glass with dyes that glow faintly orange under the light. Yet the uncoated edges of the glass are shining more brightly--four neat, thin strips of luminescent orange.

The sheet of glass is a new kind of solar concentrator, a device that gathers diffuse light and focuses it onto a relatively small solar cell. Solar cells, multilayered electronic devices made of highly refined silicon, are expensive to manufacture, and the bigger they are, the more they cost. Solar concentrators can lower the overall cost of solar power by making it possible to use much smaller cells. But the concentrators are typically made of curved mirrors or lenses, which are bulky and require costly mechanical systems that help them track the sun.

Unlike the mirrors and lenses in conventional solar concentrators, Baldo's glass sheets act as waveguides, channeling light in the same way that fiber-optic cables transmit optical signals over long distances. The dyes coating the surfaces of the glass absorb sunlight; different dyes can be used to absorb different wavelengths of light. Then the dyes reëmit the light into the glass, which channels it to the edges. Solar-cell strips attached to the edges absorb the light and generate electricity. The larger the surface of the glass compared with the thickness of the edges, the more the light is concentrated and, to a point, the less the power costs.

Baldo, an associate professor of electrical engineering, published his findings recently in Science. On their basis, he projects that his solar concentrators could be made big enough for the electricity they help generate to compete with electricity from fossil fuels. Indeed, says Baldo, panels equipped with the concentrators "could be the cheapest solar technology."

Secret Ingredient
The process for making Baldo's solar concentrators begins down the hall in another lab. A postdoctoral researcher, Shalom Goffri, takes several bottles filled with colorful dye powders from a cabinet and measures the powders into small vials. Some of the dyes were developed for use in car paints; others have been used in organic light-emitting diodes. Both types of dyes can last for years in the sun, a quality essential for solar concentrators. Once he has measured out the powders, Goffri adds a solvent to each to make a liquid ink.

The next steps take place inside a sealed box, so that Goffri doesn't inhale the solvents used to make the dye. He reaches into the box, using thick black gloves mounted in its glass front, and carefully mixes together different inks. Determining the right combination of inks solved a fundamental problem that researchers have encountered with this type of solar concentrator. If the glass sheet is coated with a dye that absorbs sunlight in, say, the green-to-blue range of the solar spectrum and emits light of the same wavelength, the emitted light will be quickly reabsorbed by the dye, and little of it will ever reach the edge of the glass. The problem has limited the size of these solar concentrators, since the further the light needs to travel to the edges, the less of the light will make it.

By using certain combinations of dyes interspersed with other light-absorbing molecules, Baldo makes coatings that absorb one color but emit another. The emitted light is not quickly reabsorbed by the coatings, so more of it reaches the edges of the glass sheet.

The coatings that Goffri is making absorb ultraviolet through green light and emit orange light. Once Goffri has prepared the final mixture, he pours a small amount on a 10-centimeter-wide glass square--the largest that can fit inside a device that spins the glass at 2,000 revolutions per minute to spread the ink evenly. Within a minute or two, the solvent has evaporated and the process is finished. The solar concentrator, with its coating of orange dye, is complete.

The Prototype
To generate electricity, Goffri connects the solar concentrator to solar cells. He's making what is called a tandem solar module, a type of solar panel that uses two different kinds of cells to capture more of the energy in sunlight than a single kind could. Different wavelengths of sunlight have different amounts of energy; ultraviolet light has the most and infrared the least. Solar cells are optimized for particular colors. One designed to convert infrared light into electricity, for example, will convert most of the energy in blue light into waste heat. Likewise, red light will pass through a solar cell optimized for high-energy blue light without being absorbed. Ideally, solar cells for different wavelengths would be used in combination to collect the most sunlight, but this approach is often too expensive to be practical.

Baldo's concentrators offer an inexpensive way to combine solar cells optimized for different wavelengths of light: different colored coatings can be paired with different types of solar cells in the same device. To make a prototype, Goffri takes a type of solar cell well suited to high-energy colors and glues it to the inside of a plastic frame; then he slides the concentrator into the frame so that its edges line up with the cells. The concentrator captures ultraviolet, blue, and green light and emits orange light that the cells convert into electricity. The lower-energy light, from the red and infrared end of the spectrum, passes through the solar concentrator to the next layer. In the prototype, the next layer is a full-size, conventional silicon solar cell that isn't paired with a solar concentrator.

The prototype, Baldo says, can convert almost twice as much energy from sunlight into electricity as a conventional cell can, provided that the concentrator is roughly 30 centimeters square. This translates to a 30 percent decrease in the cost of solar electricity.

In the future, the cost savings can be much higher, Baldo believes. He doesn't use a concentrator for the infrared light because, so far, no good dyes for capturing those wavelengths exist. But he is confident that such dyes can be developed. When that happens, he will be able to add a second concentrator, for little additional cost, and replace the full-size silicon solar cell with smaller, cheaper cells attached to the concentrators' edges. If the cost of photovoltaics drops over the next several years, as expected, this setup could make solar power about as cheap as electricity from coal, he says.

There's more work to be done in the lab, such as improving the range of colors the concentrators can absorb, which will make it possible to tailor them to specific slices of the spectrum. But Baldo says that it's time to start moving the technology out of the lab and into the market. He and his colleagues have founded a company called Covalent Solar, which is starting to raise money. The company, based in Cambridge, MA, plans to have its first products--­probably tandem solar modules--available within three years.

Cancer Redefined


Cancer signs: This image shows the active site of the IDH1 enzyme. Scientists have discovered that mutations in the gene encoding this enzyme are found in the tumors of patients with the brain cancer glioblastoma.
Credit: Parsons et al

In three new studies that could redefine how cancer is viewed, researched, and treated, scientists have created a detailed map of the genetic mutations that underlie two of the deadliest forms of the disease: pancreatic cancer and glioblastoma, the type of brain tumor that Senator Edward Kennedy was diagnosed with this past spring. The new findings are the first steps in the huge task of mapping the genomes of cancer, as researchers work to learn about cancers from the ground up.

Scientists have known for decades that cancer develops in response to genetic changes that cause cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. But uncovering each of these changes, and understanding how they lead to disease, is a Herculean task--one that involves sequencing and analyzing upward of 100 different kind of tumors, with hundreds of different patient samples of each. And while some believe that systematically cataloging the mutations could provide unprecedented insight into fighting or even preventing cancers, others believe that the high cost of such research might not be worth the rewards. These papers provide the first glimpse at what the rewards could be.

One paper, published online in Nature, is the first study born from data gathered by the publicly funded Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), an initiative created to use large-scale genome sequencing to find and map different cancers' genetic aberrations. Lynda Chin and Matthew Meyerson, both at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, in Boston, analyzed more than 200 glioblastoma tumors for genetic changes (such as the number of copies of each protein-coding gene present in the sample, and whether these genes have been turned off through a process called methylation), and they also analyzed 600 genes already implicated in the disease. Their results confirmed known culprits and revealed previously unknown changes in three major genes: two known tumor suppressors (NF1 and ERBB2), and one that is newly associated with cancer (PIK3R1) and could potentially be targeted by drugs already in development.

The other two studies--the fruits of a private cancer genome project headed by a trio of researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore--analyzed far fewer tumors at a far greater level of detail. Published online in Science, these papers examine 22 pancreatic tumors and 24 glioblastomas for gene copy number and gene expression, as well as the sequences of just about every single one of their more than 20,000 protein-encoding genes. The researchers found an average of around 60 genetic changes per tumor, but they also discovered that most of those mutations acted on a core set of just 12 cellular pathways.

These pathways may be central to future drug development. "It may be more productive to screen for drugs that act against the core pathways," says Bert Vogelstein, one of the project heads at Johns Hopkins. "By targeting the pathways, it's possible that new drugs could be effective against a much greater fraction of tumors."

ne finding in particular by the Johns Hopkins group shows the value of the genome-wide approach. Victor Velculescu, who led the Hopkins glioblastoma study, and his colleagues discovered that a mutation in one gene differentiates one subset of glioblastomas from another in a disease that researchers had always believed was quite homogeneous. The gene, called IDH1, had never before been implicated in any cancer. But the IDH1 mutation occurred in 12 percent of glioblastoma patients, and those people were, on average, 20 years younger and survived significantly longer than patients without the mutation. This finding--perhaps the most instantly clinically relevant piece of the three studies released today--is one that the scientists hope could soon be used to help physicians better predict their patients' survival. The finding could also help clinicians determine if existing therapies might be more effective on this brand of glioblastoma and ultimately help create treatments directed specifically at the IDH1 pathway.

Cancer researchers welcome the flood of data gleaned from both approaches. "I'm just glad the information is in the till," says Paul Mischel, a neuropathologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who specializes in glioblastoma therapy development and application. "These studies provide the first really well-delineated set of road maps." Chin and Velculescu hope that sequencing costs will soon drop low enough to allow them to combine the two techniques, sequencing large numbers of genes in many tumors.

The studies have also revealed to scientists looking to treat these diseases just how difficult their challenge really is. "For the first time, these are giving you the complete picture of these two cancer types," Velculescu says. "This is important, because if we ever want to cure cancer, we have to know what's wrong with it. And unfortunately, what appears to be wrong with most cancers is more complicated than we may have anticipated."

Renntech C63



LAKE PARK, Florida — Former AMG stalwart Hartmut Feyhl's RENNtech figured there was plenty of untapped adrenaline under the hood of the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG — nearly 100 horsepower, as it turns out.

Once RENNtech was through fiddling with the car's 6.2-liter V8, output jumped from 451 to 548 hp while torque climbed from 443 to 510 pound-feet. The first step in the transformation was to upgrade the ECU. Then the tuning house added a set of stainless steel long-tube headers and performance-oriented tailpipes.

Dig a little deeper under the sheetmetal, and you'll discover a fully adjustable sport suspension that enables the owner to dial in ride height and shock damping settings. The brakes have been upgraded as well.

What this means to you: Even without additional modifications, the stock C63 AMG is a veritable bargain at $55,975.

The Early Adoption Paradox




Companies need the spendthrift, line-waiting, early adopters. So why are they so willing to screw them over?


I suffer from a near-debilitating fear of tech commitment. Early adopter, I am not. With pre-orders of the first Google Android phone rumored to be kicking off any day now, early adoption is a topic I’ve been burning a lot of brain cells on lately. I mean, should I or shouldn’t I? That’s the eternal question of this transistor-dependent existence I lead. Unfortunately for my own technological evolution, I find early adoption to be a lot like playing Russian Roulette with a bullet lodged in all six chambers: I can’t possibly win.

I often wonder what goes on inside the mind of an early-adopter. A good friend of mine has it bad—every single time a shiny new product is released, you can bet he’ll be one of the first to have it. You know this guy. He’s the one who set aside $600 for the iPhone the day it was first rumored to even exist. He’s always waiting in those wrap-around-the-block store lines or giving me the inside track on the next big “secret” pre-order or closed-beta he’s eyeballing. I remember the day the original gumpack-shaped iPod Shuffle was first announced. Despite having a top-of-the-line whatever-gen “full-sized” iPod was out at the time, he just had to get his mitts on the Shuffle. He told me it would be like a sidecar to his regular iPod. Poor guy. By now, he must have a Smithsonian-like storage locker full of dust-caked, obsolete gadgetry.

But here’s the thing: My buddy and others like him are what make the tech world go ’round. Hardware manufacturers, software makers and Internet service operators don’t just hope for this type of consumer—they NEED them. Most of the tech-buying public is as skittish as I am about jumping into bed with something new and unproven. Thankfully, these early adopters are out there to test the waters for us. Once we see from the sidelines that they’re out there having fun, we’re comfortable enough to join the game. This is how a new product first survives and then eventually flourishes.

An early-adopter is a pioneer of sorts—but what’s the benefit of being one? If a product does actually take off and become wildly successful, it’s not like they get a share of the profits. In fact, they don’t get anything above and beyond what I get when I finally tag into the match much later on. What they do get, more often than not, is a royal screwing when the prices drop or successive product iterations are quickly ushered in.

Then again, isn’t the early adopter happy to play along? When he eschews personal hygiene and adult responsibility to stand in line for the latest and greatest wonder gadget, doesn’t he realize he’s going to pay a tax for the bragging rights he (thinks he) has? Doesn’t he know full well that a slicker Version #2 is just around the corner? Yes indeed, says the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The non-profit research foundation has published a study, which found that early technology adopters make up 8 percent of the total U.S. adult population. “The overwhelming majority of them know full well what they’re getting into,” says Pew’s Assistant Director, John Horrigan. “These are people with a passion for technology who like being on the cutting edge. Companies understand this and know that these people will not be alienated by the subsequent versions [of their products] that come out. Clearly, this is worthwhile for a lot of early adopters, otherwise we wouldn’t have this model.”

That’s nice, but I’m going to remain steadfastly terrified of new, unproven technology and I’ll continue to cower behind the courage of the early adopter. You, my friend, are the battle-scarred warrior who goes forth bravely into the dark and dangerous, uncharted waters of tech consumerism. If you discover an island paradise out there, send a message back to shore and I’ll follow. But if your boat gets swallowed by a sea monster, well, you should have see it coming.

Exactly what’s got me so frightened about early adoption? Let’s have a look-see in my rogue's gallery of the products most cruel to their first owners.

The Engine We(Ford) have all been waiting for

words: Stu Fowle


Today I'm in a displacement lover's hell. The trip from Chicago to Dearborn was made in record time, but not because of some big, burly V-8. The twin-turbo six of Motive's long-term BMW 135i was responsible for pinballing me through the mouth-breathing, truck-driving hordes of rural Michiganders along I-94. And here at Ford's Beech Daly technical center, the buzz inside is all about the upcoming EcoBoost V-6, which Ford hopes will provide V-8 power with V-6 efficiency. Suddenly, the whining from purists two years ago when BMW announced its first turbocharged gas engine since the '70s doesn't seem like a big deal. This is Ford. Mustangs and F-150s. V-8s and Toby Keith. And now that's all fallen to turbochargers and economy? What's next, painting the blue oval green? To peek behind the curtain and see exactly what's going on, I've come here to get my hands dirty. I'm going to build one of the first EcoBoost engines.

Slapping two Honeywell turbos on the 3.5-liter Duratec and calling it the V-8 of our gas-deprived future wasn't the knee-jerk reaction to $4 fuel that it might seem, and it wasn't as easy as it might sound. Work on the EcoBoost started in 2002, long before the marketing department dreamed up that name. Over one million miles have been logged on dynamometers and public roads in the time since, and over 120 engines have been torn to bits and examined under microscopes. There have been 150,000-mile fatigue tests, 360-hour durability tests, and even one part of development that involved 1500 cycles of making the exhaust manifolds glow red with heat then cool again before making another run. While many parts of the EcoBoost's naturally aspirated counterpart didn't change significantly, almost everything was at least mildly tweaked.

Michael Shelby, Ford's EcoBoost V-6 Engine Development Leader, greets me at the door of the tech center with a pair of safety glasses and a smile, showing that he's prepared to laugh at some media-type trying to build his company's most advanced V-6 ever. We head behind closed doors — lots of them — and past a vast room ripe with the smell of old motor oil and full of long benches, each of them covered with prototype engines cut open like dissected frogs in a high school biology class. If I were a real Ford geek, I'd probably have some breaking engine news for you at this point. But I'm not, so I keep following Shelby and probably miss some quad-turbo Boss V-8 hiding in a corner.

In the next room, an EcoBoost is laid out at a horseshoe-shaped table with the deep-down bits at one end and the intake parts at the other. The engine block is first in line, and it's basically the same chunk of aluminum found under the hoods of Fusions, Tauruses, and most other V-6–powered Ford products. But then Shelby turns the block on its side and points out a few key changes — the outside of the cylinder walls have been strengthened to withstand extra pressure, and there's a bit of extra machining at the bottom of each cylinder to accommodate a squirter that blasts oil at the bottom of each piston to aid cooling. Additionally, the oil pump has been upgraded to flow four more cubic centimeters per revolution.

eco2_center.jpg

The only other changes made to the short block come when we get up to the pistons, which have already been set in place and connected to the crankshaft for me. (It's all right, I wouldn't have trusted me, either.) An advantage of direct injection is the ability to control the quick, precise blast of fuel. To capitalize on this, the EcoBoost gets piston heads with a bowl cut into them. It looks a bit like a backyard swimming pool with an oblong shape and a deep end at the middle. I run my finger along in the path gasoline will take, making a whooshing noise that silences the room with awkwardness. The fuel comes in from the side of the cylinder, sprays into this bowl, and is directed right up toward the spark plug for more complete ignition. This extra bit of engineering is advantageous when the engine's cold and operating less efficiently.

That brings us up to the cylinder heads; big, bulky hunks of aluminum that threaten to cut my hands in 50 different ways. Shelby spins one around in his hands, pointing out the obvious changes before passing it off to me. Beneath the surface, larger and deeper cooling jackets draw more heat from the fuel injectors. Additional cooling lines flow out of the block and through each turbocharger to cope with 1742-degree F exhaust temperatures. Shelby's engineering team spent extra time on these seemingly simple hoses to promote thermal siphoning within them. That's a process in which boiling water inside the turbos acts as a pump to draw cooler water in, which in turn prevents thermal soak. You don't honestly expect soccer moms in Flexes to sit in the garage for a few minutes so that the turbochargers can cool, do you? I pick up the entire assembly and hold it up to our unfinished engine. It fits snugly against the heads and wraps around from one turbo to the other. Shelby says how proud he is of the tight packaging that'll allow the engine to squeeze into so many of Ford's cars.

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Back inside the heads, three of the engine's four camshafts are essentially the base 3.5-liter's with valve event durations slightly modified. They look like any other cams, with sets of two lobes sitting down over each piston. I set one in place after resisting the urge to wield the heavy metal bar like a nightstick. The fourth cam is affectionately referred to as the "shish kabob" because of its peculiar four-sided lobe halfway along its length. It drives the high-pressure fuel pump added to feed the direct-injection system and I don't notice it at first glance. Then I feel silly, like a child not knowing why the square toy doesn't fit in the round hole.

The pump sends fuel under pressures as low as 200 psi and as high as 2900 psi into the injectors, which spray fuel through six small holes directly into the cylinders. For as complicated and revolutionary as direct injection is made out to be, the injectors themselves look like three unassuming nozzles dripping off from one main rail. Looking at the fuel pump housing, though, you'd think it protected a ball of plutonium. There's a giant chunk of metal protruding from the cam cover to ensure the fuel pump isn't ruptured in a frontal collision, plus a thick cover over the pump to limit noise and vibration from its solenoid. Anyone who owns a direct-injection Volkswagen or the turbocharged versions of the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky will understand why that cover's there. Ford doesn't want anyone asking EcoBoost drivers if their cars are diesel-powered.

eco4_center.jpg

While the fuel side of power creation is highlighted by direct injection, air intake is all about the turbochargers. Two parallel turbos drive as much as 12 psi of boost into the intake manifold and dual-walled exhaust manifolds help drive more thermal energy back into the process. I pick up one of the manifolds, then a turbo, and fasten them together with two bolts. A plant worker would squirt a bit of silicone between the two flush surfaces, but because my engine's going to be torn back apart, we skip the sticky stuff. Eight bolts fasten the manifold to the engine block and I crank them down with an electric torque wrench just like the ones in the factory. Only in the factory, the tool records each and every bolt going on, automatically sets torque ratings for each, and records the whole process to prevent mistakes made by hangovers or a case of the Mondays.

Because the turbos help to drive up the engine's torque output, the traditional technique of using long intake runners isn't necessary, so the EcoBoost's manifold is noticeably shorter than its naturally aspirated counterpart. This prevents compression from happening in the intake and promotes higher compression inside the cylinders. It fits on top of the near-complete engine like a star on a Christmas tree.

eco5_center.jpg

Once the air and fuel finally meet in the EcoBoost's six cylinders, the engine produces 340 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque, but those figures might vary slightly from application to application. (The one I'm building? It'll probably make somewhere closer to 200 hp and drink oil like a worn-out RX-7.) Those numbers were also obtained on premium fuel — Ford recommends using the good stuff but assures us that the EcoBoost won't have detonation issues on regular unleaded.

Using direct injection allows the engine to run at a higher compression ratio of 10:1, which Shelby speculates is 0.75 to 1.0 points higher than the same turbo motor would run with conventional injectors. Along with the higher ratio, variable valve timing on the intake side provides increased efficiency and better low-end torque. By advancing intake timing as much as 40 degrees, Ford engineers were able to spread the engine's peak torque along a plateau from 1500 to 5000 rpm.

As I fasten one last bolt with the torque wrench, I can't help but be impressed by Ford's high-power V-6. It'll be marketed as an alternative to the company's own V-8s displacing 4.6 liters and higher, and Ford predicts fuel savings of as much as 20 percent. In products like the Flex, it'll boast a huge advantage over the less powerful sixes in GM's Lambda crossovers, Honda's Pilot, and others, while costing just $700 or so more than the current 3.5-liter. In another application, the EcoBoost will put the Lincoln MKS in a class above the twin-turbo BMW 535i, the Mercedes-Benz E350, or the Cadillac CTS and on par with some of our favorite V-8s, including Infiniti's M45. And then if Ford stuck this thing in an all-wheel drive Fusion — okay, we'll stop. But just keep this in mind: It was Ford's SVT communications manager who invited us out for a closer look at EcoBoost. Take from that what you will.

Of course, simply seeing and holding all the parts of this new engine in my hands isn't enough to say it'll draw Americans away from V-8s or more efficient foreign competitors. We'll have to wait until next spring, when the first Ford vehicles will start offering the EcoBoost, to say anything for sure.

2009 Dodge Ram Sport R/T


Nobody knows better than the engineers and designers at Dodge that its 2009 Ram needs to break the mold. It's not helping that huge hurdles are in the way-oil breaching $120 a barrel, economy cars flying of dealer lots, and that Ford's about to unleash an all-new F-150 (check out our next issue). It's also no secret that Chrysler is suffering from the backlash of foisting too many mediocre products onto the public.

Will the new Ram make a difference?

To begin, much of the Ram is not modified (the frame is largely carryover, there are three cab configurations, three engine choices-auto and manual gearboxes are the same-and three box lengths). Still there is plenty here to separate the new Dodge Ram from its other half-ton competitors, especially the two recently revamped trucks (from GM and Toyota).

Most notable, all new Rams now use a rear coil-spring suspension with trailing arms to locate the live axle, a la Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango. This change saves about 40 pounds in weight and allows frame engineers to better control many of the typical harsh ride frequencies and vague handling issues endemic to leaf-sprung pickup trucks. The front end remains similar in architecture, but does use a liberal amount of high-strength steel and aluminum to save another 10 pounds at each corner. All that weight saving came in handy as Dodge has finally created a true Crew Cab model for its Ram. This new cab length, which also requires a smaller bed box, allowed Dodge to incorporate two weatherproof, lockable storage bins into the bed's fender sides. The storage areas are easily accessed from either side of the truck and offer enough room for tools, sports gear, or camping supplies.

All three engines (3.7-liter V-6, 4.7-liter V-8, and 5.7-liter V-8) remain the same and oddly offer similar fuel-economy numbers. The V-6 is rated at 215 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, is standard on two-wheel-drive Regular and Quad Cab models, and is rated at 15/20 mpg for the manual and 14/20 mpg for the automatic, with a flex-fuel version available for fleet sales. The 4.7-liter V-8 has 310 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque, is standard on all 4WD models and the Crew Cabs, and is rated at 13/19 mpg for 2WD and 13/18 for 4WD. All 4.7-liter V-8s are flex-fuel capable. The new-generation 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 has smarter variable valve timing, a two-stage intake, and a more aggressive MDS (multiple displacement system) calibration, all of which offers 13-percent-more power with four-percent-more fuel efficiency. The big V-8 is rated at 390 horsepower and 407 pound-feet of torque, is standard on all Sport and Laramie models (an option on all others), and is EPA-rated at 13/19 for 2WD, and 13/18 for 4WD models. It's worth noting 89-octane fuel is recommended.

2009 Dodge Ram Sport RT Front Three Quarter View
CLICK TO VIEW GALLERy

Maybe the most dramatic change to the new Ram is inside the cabin. Dodge interiors have long been at the bottom of the segment; however, material upgrades, design layout, and convenience details are sure to make the new Ram a stronger player. The base ST cloth bench seats, as well as the top-grade Laramie leather buckets, have a sportier, well-supported character, with firmer seat bolsters in all the seatback and seat-bottom choices. Dash surrounds look more like furniture-grade choice, and gauge clusters and backings are well organized and clean. Seating configurations allow for a bucket seat/center console option on upper trim levels, as well as a more work-truck bench-seat option (it has bucket-type 40/20/40 seats) with a traditional column shifter that includes a convenient manual thumb shifter. Storage cubbies and slots abound, including two hidden six-pack floor doors at the rear passenger's feet in Quad Cab and Crew Cab models.

Still, outside is where many will feel the new Ram takes its most significant risk. Dodge designers have throttled back the "big-rig" look that so defined the revolutionary 1994 model. Now the Ram has a more polished and styled appearance, more balance between front and rear wheels (with none of that "butt in the air" look). Ralph Gilles, newly appointed vice president of Design for Chrysler and lead designer on the new Ram, worked with his team for more than two years to make the new truck look modern, yet still appealing to a typically traditional buyer.

The resulting slant-forward, head-tilted look of the new hood and grille gives the impression the truck is leaning toward you, as if it were putting a finger in your chest during an argument. This look, along with the smooth lines, wider wheel arches, and higher window heights (while keeping the bed height reasonable for an average man to reach into the bed) combine to give the new Ram a more sophisticated look, setting itself apart from the other competitors in the field. But does it work? We had the new Regular Cab 2WD R/T for a few days around Southern California, and if the reaction from the guys on the road is any indication, Dodge may have something here.

Our Inferno Red R/T had body-color bumpers with a few light chrome accents. Our test unit weighed only 4779 pounds, which gives it a strong power-to-weight ratio of 12.3 pounds per horsepower. The 4.10:1 axle gears and sticky Goodyear Wrangler HP tires don't hurt, either. At the track, this translated to 5.7 seconds 0-to-60 mph, and gave us a nice thrill ride around the streets of L.A. Dodge didn't ignore the stopping tech, either. Although essentially carryover technology from the previous gen, the stopping distance from 60 mph was a respectable 135 feet-10 feet shorter than a comparably equipped Tundra. We found it easy to get 19 mpg on the instant computer fuel-economy readout and took note of when the MDS kicked into fuel-saving mode.

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The R/T's cornering abilities are especially impressive. Its figure-eight performance of 28.2 seconds at 0.61 g is among the best of this ilk, topping even the Range Rover Sport (no doubt a result of the new rear suspension and big motor). Additionally, when under hard cornering loads, the Ram proved exceptional at absorbing and dissipating harsh inputs, with the coil springs performing far better than the previous leaf-sprung setup. We ran with a 1000 pounds in the Ram's bed, and aside from small amount of body roll, the truck held its ground. Manufacturer payloads range from 1400 to 1900 pounds, with maximum trailer weights ranging from 2950 (V-6) to 9100 (Hemi) pounds. Dodge says it has as many as a dozen different single-stage coil springs that can be selected in just about any combination to set at either rear corner to compensate for the varying forces that depend on cab configuration, axle ratios, option packages, wheel and tire choices, and many other variables.

New Rams will offer five trim levels-ST, SLT (which will include the popular Lone Star and Big Horn Editions), Sport (which includes the R/T), TRX-4 Off Road, and topline Laramie-and pricing will be aggressive, starting at $22,170 (ST regular cab, shortbed, 2WD), but moving close to $45,000 with all the options (Crew Cab, Laramie, RamBox, Nav, DVD, moonroof, 4x4). We'll have more in the month to come as we pit the new Ram against other new trucks for Motor Trend's 2009 Truck of the Year.

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