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Monday, September 22, 2008

All the Candidates’ Cars

Keith Naughton and Hilary Shenfeld
NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Sep 29, 2008

When you have seven homes, that's a lot of garages to fill. After the fuss over the number of residences owned by the two presidential nominees, NEWSWEEK looked into the candidates' cars. And based on public vehicle-registration records, here's the score. John and Cindy McCain: 13. Barack and Michelle Obama: one.

One vehicle in the McCain fleet has caused a small flap. United Auto Workers president Ron Gettelfinger, an Obama backer, accused McCain this month of "flip-flopping" on who bought daughter Meghan's foreign-made Toyota Prius. McCain said last year that he bought it, but then told a Detroit TV station on Sept. 7 that Meghan "bought it, I believe, herself." (The McCain campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

Obama's lone vehicle also is a green machine, a 2008 Ford Escape hybrid. He bought it last year to replace the family's Chrysler 300C, a Hemi-powered sedan. Obama ditched the 300C, once 50 Cent's preferred ride, after taking heat for driving a guzzler while haranguing Detroit about building more fuel-efficient cars.

McCain's personal ride, a 2004 Cadillac CTS, is no gas sipper, but it should make Detroit happy because it's made by General Motors. "I've bought American literally all my life and I'm proud," McCain said in the interview with Detroit's WXYZ-TV. But the rest of his fleet is not all-American. There's a 2005 Volkswagen convertible in the garage along with a 2001 Honda sedan. Otherwise, there's a 2007 half-ton Ford pickup truck, which might come in handy on the Sedona ranch; a vintage 1960 Willys Jeep; a 2008 Jeep Wrangler; a 2000 Lincoln; and a 2001 GMC SUV. The McCains also own three 2000 NEV Gem electric vehicles, which are bubble-shaped cars popular in retirement communities.

Only the Cadillac is registered in the candidate's name. Cindy McCain's name is on 11 vehicles, though not the one she actually drives. That car, a Lexus, is registered to her family's beer-distributor business and is outfitted with personalized plates that read MS BUD.

3D screenshot of Call of Duty: World at War released


Posted by D+PAD Staff

Activision has released a 3D screenshot of Call of Duty: World at War, and it’s looking hot.

The 3D screens gives us a good look at the game’s flamethrower, allowing you to rotate 360 degrees around the scene of an allied soldier setting a bunker alight.



Click here to download a hi-res version, but make sure that you’ve got QuickTime installed first.

Call of Duty: World at War is the latest title in the long line of the esteemed franchise, taking the series back to its WWII roots. The game launches across Europe on November 14th on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS and PS2, and if you haven’t yet checked out the latest trailer, you really should.

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London by Heatherwick Studio

The Rolling Bridge, located on the Paddington Basin in London, was created by Thomas Heatherwick. It is twelve meters long and opens every Friday at noon.

Rather than a conventional opening bridge mechanism, consisting of a single rigid element that lifts to let boats pass, the Rolling Bridge gets out of the way by curling up until its two ends touch.

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London 2

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London 3

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London 4

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London 5

Incredible Rolling Bridge in London 6

[images via flickr]

The Rolling Bridge Video

25 Beautiful Macro Photography Shots



A round-up of some truly revealing and inspiring macro photographs which are sure to have you marveling at the world around you. You may check out the links at the bottom of this post for further resources on the subject of macro photography.

read more | digg story

Over The Top Limousines - simply amazing...


In our day and age of automotive downsizing (Smart car is all you really need) these atrocious exercises in overblown style and scale remain popular, mostly because you don't have to own one of these yourself.

Click here for Pics! | digg story

The Road That Plays Music As You Drive



This is a road in Lancaster Ca. that makes music when you drive over it. It was created for a commercial and they designed harmonics in the asphalt to create the music when driven over. Apparently other countries have been doing it for awhile. Unfortunately people complianed and it is being removed. Their probably the same ones who complain about the jets flying through the valley.

Kashmir (PICS)


Kashmir is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's the northernmost part of the Indian subcontinent. Besides being popular for tourism Kashmir is well- known for its rich and unique cultural heritage that notably includes fantastic cuisine, handicrafts, and more.

read more | digg story

Russian Spiderman *La Parkour*



Samso, the Danish island living off-grid (PICS)



guardian.co.uk — Photographer Nicky Bonne travels to the Danish island of Samso, where the residents have completely eradicated its carbon footprint by using wind power. Everyone on the island owns a turbine, and with its simple grid of solar power, wind farms and sheep, it's selling its power to the mainland





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Oil Skyrockets!!!

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Oil prices jumped more than $20 a barrel Monday in biggest dollar jump ever as the dollar falls following the government's $700 billion Wall Street bailout plan.

Oil surged $22.46 to $127.01 a barrel, after reaching as high as $128.55 - a $24 gain - at these levels it will be oil's biggest gain ever in dollar terms.

The rally reached a fevered pitch as the session neared its close, partly due to the fact that Monday is the last day of trading in the October oil futures contract, which typically results in volatile trading.

As of Tuesday, the front-month contract will be November. That contract showed prices up $6.44 to $109.19 a barrel.

"The biggest news is that people are looking at the $700 billion plan as supportive of demand, supportive of the economy," said Peter Beutel. "Everything we are looking at right now says demand has a chance to come back if the economy starts to strengthen."

In addition, a handful of supply disruptions jolted the oil market's late-afternoon rally. Refinery capacity in the Gulf Coast was still limited post- Hurricane Ike, violence in oil-rich Nigeria, and chatter of Saudi Arabia trimming production added fire to the rally, according to Andrew Lebow, a broker at MF Global.

As the price of oil is whipsawed by demand worries, Wall Street's flailing crisis, investors are having a hard time grasping oil's next move. "Traders are trying to catch knives people are throwing from the top of buildings," said Lebow.

Electronic trading of oil was halted for five minutes on Globex this afternoon following the $10 spike in oil, but trading has now resumed.

Fed bailout: On Saturday, President Bush asked Congress for the permission to spend as much as $700 billion to purchase bad mortgage assets from already struggling financial institutions in an effort to shore up further losses as the credit crisis works its way through Wall Street.

The details of the government's attempt to prop up the financial sector were still being negotiated, but the plan aims to stem any further losses on Wall Street and resume a flow of credit that has become frozen.

Oil prices had been trending lower on worries that demand was faltering but those concerns seem to be abating, according to one analyst.

"The fear has waned as far as the demand destruction" in the wake of the bailout news, said Neal Dingmann, senior energy analyst at Dahlman Rose. "The bailout has really stabilized this market."

The government plan "has put in some support levels in there," at least temporarily, said Dingmann. If the economy has a chance to recover, then the oil market hopes demand for energy would recover as well.

Weaker dollar: The Fed bailout "comes at a cost, the weaker dollar," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Alaron Trading. Investors "will look to other currencies to park their money until this entire situation is defined."

The money that the government was planning on spending as part of the proposal "is very debasing to the value of the currency," said James Cordier, portfolio manager of OptionSellers.com.

Crude oil prices were rising as the value of the dollar fell, according to both Flynn and Cordier. Crude oil is traded in U.S. currency around the globe, so as the dollar weakens, oil becomes more expensive in dollar terms.

The plan "sounds very inflationary at first blush," said Cordier, and "it will be detrimental to the dollar while people sift through the intricacies of the bailout."

However, while the surge of liquidity would devalue the dollar in the short-term, if the money for the bailout were "approved and spent, then we think the dollar would firm up," said Cordier, as the bailout money helped restore confidence to the U.S. economy.

Demand: As the nation's economy softened and demand for energy fell off, oil prices have retreated from a record high of $147.27 a barrel, set on July 11. Oil prices have tended to decrease on signs of continued weakness for the economy and rally on signs of economic recovery.

The promise of increased liquidity in the nation's economy was supporting oil prices. "When the market was concerned that the economy was going to collapse, if nobody is lending anybody any money and there is no credit, there is not going to be a lot of energy demand," explained Flynn.

While the promise of the Fed's lifeline to the financial sector may prop up oil prices in the short term, Flynn and Cordier said oil prices were on a downward trend in the longer term.

"We have seen that these high prices are unsustainable," said Flynn. "People are going to be a lot more judicious with their energy use."

Analysts said the bailout plan provided much-needed confidence at a critical moment, preventing crude oil prices from sliding even further. However, "this knee-jerk reaction in commodities due to the U.S. dollar is short termed," said Cordier.

"Demand for energy in the U.S. continues to be weak; globally, demand is weak, too," said Cordier.

Wild week, big moves: As Wall Street was heaved around last week in a series of unprecedented shifts, so were oil prices. After Lehman Brothers (LEH, Fortune 500) announced bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch (MER, Fortune 500) agreed to be purchased by Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) and American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500) was resuscitated by a $85 billion loan from the government, oil prices decreased by more than $10.

However, by Friday, oil prices gained back all of those losses and then some on speculation that the government's proposed bailout plan for Wall Street would support the economy and bring demand for energy back to healthy levels.

On Sunday, federal regulators changed the status of Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500) and Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500) to bank holding companies, a move that opens the banks up to greater involvement in retail banking and more funding from the Federal Reserve. The re-classification also means the investment firms will be under the Federal Reserve's supervision.

Hurricanes: The Gulf Coast was still working to get back to full operation after hurricanes Gustav and Ike slammed the production and refinery-rich region.

According to the most recent situation report from the Department of Energy, 89.2% of production in the region remained shut in and 75.4% of natural gas production was still shuttered. With 9 refineries in Texas still shut down, nearly 2.3 million barrels per day less oil have been processed in the region, according to the DOE.

Space Shuttle Atlantis, Space Shuttle Endeavour, 2 Rainbows

— Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S.A. --

With two rainbows framing the Launch Complex 39 area in the early morning at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 20 September 2008, NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis (foreground) sits on pad A and NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour (upper left) on pad B. Photographer: Troy Cryder, NASA

Scarless Surgery Uses Body's Own Openings

VIDEO
At Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a procedure known as natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery, or NOTES, was used to remove Albert Pagliuca's gallbladder. Some doctors question whether the risks of this type of surgery outweigh the benefits. Warning: This video contains graphic images that may be disturbing to some viewers.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 21, 2008; Page A01

When Albert Pagliuca got gallstones, his surgeon offered to remove his gallbladder with a new operation designed to hurt less, get him back to work more quickly and leave no visible scars. But there was one catch: Doctors would pull the organ out through his mouth.

"I kept thinking, 'What if it gets stuck in my windpipe?' " said Pagliuca, 45, who lives outside Chicago. " 'What if I choke on it?' "

After doctors guaranteed that would not happen, he agreed, becoming one of several dozen Americans who have undergone experimental procedures that could take minimally invasive surgery to a new level -- operations that do not cut the skin open. Instead, surgeons enter the body through a "natural orifice."

"It's potentially a very big deal," said Nathaniel J. Soper, who chairs the surgery department at Northwestern University. "This could be the endpoint in innovation, going from big incisions to little incisions to no incisions at all, which is the Holy Grail when things have to be removed from the body."

Many surgeons are enthusiastic about the possibilities, but some question the need for the new procedures when safe, only slightly invasive alternatives exist. And they fear that doctors will rush ahead before they have perfected their techniques and made sure that the benefits are worth the risks.

"That's exactly what's going to happen," said Ira J. Kodner, a surgery professor and a bioethicist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "Those who haven't been trained are going to go out and do it. They are going to take a weekend course and start offering it. It's going to happen. I guarantee it."

David Cronin, an associate professor of surgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is especially concerned that non-surgeons will start doing the operations. He said: "Not every idea is a good idea. I've been following this one with clenched teeth."

Proponents argue that they are well aware of the pitfalls and have taken steps to prevent them. Two key medical specialties joined together to try to ensure that the operations are carefully studied before becoming widespread, in the hope of avoiding the kinds of complications caused by laparoscopic surgeries in the early 1990s.

"It's very promising," said David W. Rattner, chief of general and gastrointestinal surgery atMassachusetts General Hospital. "But patient safety is paramount. This needs to be developed in a responsible and careful manner. I think we're proceeding very well so far."

The approach, called NOTES -- for natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery -- seeks to move beyond arthroscopic and laparoscopic techniques, which for many procedures replaced large incisions with several small ones, shortening hospital stays and recovery time, reducing pain and risks, and leaving much smaller scars.

More recently, surgeons realized they could enter the body through natural openings with flexible endoscopes, which are routinely used for diagnostic purposes such as colon cancer screening. After experimenting for years on pigs and human cadavers, a team in India announced in 2005 the first successful procedure in humans.

"At first people said, 'Are you crazy? That's ridiculous,' " said Anthony Kalloo, a professor of medicine and the chief of gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins University who pioneered the new techniques in the laboratory. "But this has really started to take off."

Surgeons have now performed the procedures on more than 400 patients worldwide, mostly in South America and India. Doctors in Europe are experimenting with them, and a handful of surgeons began trying the approach in the United States in the past year.

The technique has been used mostly to remove gallbladders through the mouth or the vagina. But a few patients have had appendectomies, and doctors are experimenting with stomach surgery for obesity and other conditions.

"For centuries, we thought to do any surgery in the abdomen we needed to create this big hole, do what you need to do and close that big hole," said Mark A. Talamini, who chairs the surgery department at the University of California at San Diego. His colleague Santiago Horgan has performed about 29 NOTES operations in the United States and Argentina. "This is a totally different way of thinking about operating," Talamini said.

To remove a gallbladder or an appendix through the mouth, surgeons give patients general anesthesia and slide an endoscope down the throat and into the stomach. They inflate the abdominal area to make it easier to see and sterilize the stomach. In addition to a camera that transmits images, the endoscope is equipped with a variety of small instruments, including a tiny scalpel that cuts a hole in the stomach wall, allowing the surgeon to snake the endoscope to the organ needing removal. Other instruments enable the surgeon to move the organ, cauterize bleeding blood vessels, suture and clip the internal incisions and pull out the organ.

So far, most surgeons are making at least one external incision in the abdomen, usually in the bellybutton, to insert a laparoscope to help them see where they are working and sometimes assist with other aspects of the procedure, such as lifting the organ. But at least one group has started removing gallbladders through the vagina without any external incisions, and the goal is to refine the techniques and instruments to operate entirely internally.

All of the 40 or so reported U.S. procedures have been done under guidelines established by NOSCAR, the Natural Orifice Surgery Consortium for Assessment and Research. The consortium was created by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy and the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons to try to develop the technique safely.

The guidelines call for all operations to be conducted under the close watch of an independent panel of experts to make sure, among other things, that they are done as safely as possible and that patients understand that they are experimental. The group has also established a registry to gather data on safety and effectiveness.

Still, some question whether the potential risks are warranted. One of the biggest fears is that the incision in the stomach wall might leak, which could cause life-threatening infections.

"You have to ask: Does the science at this point justify doing this? What is the risk-benefit ratio?" Kodner said. "For the most part, the benefit is there's no visible hole on a person's body. The risk is you may perforate an organ and cause a patient a really serious complication just to avoid a cosmetic scar. Is it worth it?"

While praising NOSCAR for trying to develop the technique carefully, Kodner and others note that there is no regulatory body equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration that can stop a procedure from proliferating too quickly, especially if patients start clamoring for it.

"What's going to control it from expanding before it's ready for prime time?" Kodner asked. "How do you control it once the box is open? That's what's happened with every other surgical innovation. Once it hits the media, everyone wants it. That's the shady side."

Cronin also worries that non-surgeons may start performing the procedures.

"If NOTES is being done by a gastroenterologist who does endoscopies, they may know what the anatomy looks like in a textbook, but they are very unsophisticated and unknowledgeable about what complications to expect from surgery and how to treat them because they are not surgeons," he said.

But no major complications have been reported so far, and the procedures appear to cause less pain and speed recovery, several surgeons said. Most patients spend a night in the hospital just to be safe but could probably go home the same day. Some need nothing more than over-the-counter painkillers. They return to work in less than a week -- with virtually no visible scars.

"I am so happy this was available to me," said Pagliuca, who after his surgery last summer had a mild sore throat, which went away quickly, and stomach pain for a few days that felt like he had done too many sit-ups. "It was so easy, and I don't have a scar I have to look at every day to remind me of something I don't want to have to think about. It's fantastic."

Awilda Sanchez, 31, of New York, went home the same day she had her gallbladder removed through her vagina in March, after doctors assured her the procedure would not affect her sex life or her ability to have children. She said: "I think everybody should get this. Now when it's bikini time, I won't have to worry about a scar. I think it's great."

But not everyone has been thrilled.

After having her gallbladder removed through her mouth last November, Colleen Caddell, 53, of Hillsboro, Ore., experienced several days of throat pain so intense she could barely swallow and a week of vomiting.

"I had terrible problems," she said. "It was excruciating. It was not at all what I was expecting."

Caddell's doctor said that she had preexisting throat problems and sensitivity to pain medications that probably contributed to her complications, and that none of his other patients had any problems.

Several experts predicted that the procedures could be widely available in two to five years, but they acknowledged that much more work needs to be done first. The operations take much longer than laparoscopic procedures. Better instruments need to be developed to reduce the time and the need for outside incisions.

"There's been a kind of frenzy of activity with a lot of new start-up companies to design instrumentation," said Lee Swanstrom, director of minimally invasive surgery at Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore.

In addition, careful studies need to be done to compare the procedures directly with existing operations to prove that NOTES is equally safe and offers clear advantages.

"If it proves to be risky, which I don't think it will be, or of limited benefit, then we'll stop doing it," said Marc Bessler, director of laparoscopic surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia. "So far it doesn't seem to be risky, the patients definitely have a cosmetic benefit, recovery seems to be better, and they seem to have less pain. If we can get to recovery-free, pain-free and scar-free surgery, that would be a revolution."

‘Touch Grind’ Flips iPhone Fingerboarding

touchgrind_lead2.jpg
To skaters of a certain age, fingerboards (miniature plastic skateboards originally marketed as keychains) evoke memories of countless hours spent doing boardslides on schoolbooks and executing ollies five times the length of the board. Now Illusion Labs has introduced a new iPhone game called Touch Grind that improves on the concept for the digital age.

Available next month from the iPhone App Store (price TBA), Touch Grind takes old-fashioned fingerboarding to the next level. Whereas version 19.89 was predicated on the stickiness of fingersweat to perform tricks, the Touch Grind deck relies on finger gestures, allowing players to do flip tricks that were impossible with the 20th Century version. Check out a video of the game below.

[Touch Grind via OhGizmo]

Kool Keyz Gloves Give You Piano Hands

I found this interesting, because in last year American Inventor Show, the judges, booed this device off the show...a year later look....

keyboardgloves.jpg
Whether you play air guitar in your garage band or you like to spazz out on make-believe drums every now and again, the imaginary performance is nothing new. But get ready for a new level of realism with Kool Keyz, a toy that puts musical notes at the tip of your fingers without using an actual instrument.

In the standard key of “C,” each finger plays a note in the scale (A-F), with sounds that mimic the piano, violin or guitar. The audio output is amplified through a tiny speaker that clips onto your belt, charging through a computer’s USB port. Kool Keyz drops on October 17th for $69.99. Watch a video demo below.

[Hammacher Schlemmer Via Slippery Brick]

How To Make Microsoft Cool Again

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After leaving everyone a little confused with the Seinfeld portion of their Crispin Porter + Bogusky helmed ad campaign, Microsoft aired the second installment last night. The new commercial, titled “I’m a PC,” goes straight at Apple’s “Mac vs.PC” ads with a bunch of people (including Pharrell) claiming that they’re PCs, implying that they’re not actually lames like Apple says they are. While these new ads are better than the first bunch, we’re still kinda confused.

We thought these ads were supposed to tell people why Window’s isn’t wack, but they don’t even mention Microsoft or Windows, let alone any of its features. WTF? Who cares if astronauts and animal trainers use it? You’re supposed to be telling the people who want to look cool with a Macbook why they should stick with Microsoft. Now, before we get ahead of ourselves, Microsoft still has the computergame on lock with a damn near 90% market share, but they got problems. Maybe they should focus on them instead of making commercials. We got some suggestions on how they can step up…

1. MERGE THE XBOX AND WINDOWS TEAMS
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Ask anyone under the age of 40 what the best Microsoft product is, and they’ll probably tell you Xbox 360. Besides the dreaded Red Ring of Death, everything about the 360 is dope. It has the best game selection, powerful hardware and, most importantly, the best software available on any console. Playing online with friends on PS3 is straight up painful, while Xbox Live makes it effortless and it looks great. Two things that are seldom said about Windows.

2. BE MORE PROACTIVE
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For a company as large and rich as Microsoft, you would think they’d be a beacon of innovation. But most of their consumer products seem to be answers to products that are already successful, like the Zune and Windows Live. Now the Zune and Windows Live aren’t bad products, they’re actually pretty damn good. But it’s hard to stand out when you’re #2. They need to take more risks with their products, bring in some innovators and stop trying to create things to destroy popular products.

3. FIRE STEVE BALLMER
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Besides their slick, attractive, innovative products, there’s one reason Apple is able to stay on top and his name is Steve Jobs. People only hear or see Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer when he’s pissed off and ranting about one of their competitors. No one wants to buy products from him. Microsoft needs a charismatic figurehead that people actually like to peddle their products to the masses. A good salesman can sell anything, no matter how wack. Just ask Diddy.

4. FOCUS AND SIMPLIFY
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When they launched Windows Vista, they launched FOUR different versions! When your average user walks into the computer store, they just want to pick up Windows and keep it moving. If they get confused at all, that’s a problem. And when it comes to Windows, people have been very confused. They need to trim the fat and focus on doing a couple things really well.

5. OPEN MICROSOFT RETAIL STORES
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Microsoft seems to think that their main problem is one of perception. That people only think Windows sucks because Apple and a lot of the media has said it sucks. And they’re kinda right. If they want to really change people’s perception of Windows and all things Microsoft, they need to let people experience it first hand, on their terms. They need a Microsoft retail store. The only time people experience their products is when they go to Best Buy or some other store where they speak to poorly-trained sales people. If Microsoft had their own store, they’d be able to give people the entire Microsoft experience. Whatever that may be.


What’s that smell? Why, it “Smells like Wii Spirit”

Smells like Wii Spirit

The Wii, when used well, is still unique amongst the current generation of consoles to immerse gamers in games in new and interesting ways. Video games, also, are powerful in the way that they can appeal to all… well, most of… our senses; sight, touch, sound, even taste back in the old days.

But of all the human senses, there’s one that games have long neglected to accommodate.

Smell.

Chinese hardware developers AreusTech have invented a rather original accessory for the Wii, the uniquely named “Smells like Wii Spirit”, which is capable of emitting unique scents depending on the games you’re playing.

Examples:
Super Mario Galaxy: Sweet, aromatic, flowery
Wii Sports / Wii Fit: The pleasant aroma of sweat
Tiger Woods: freshly mowed grass

No word yet on where in the world this product will be distributed to. Don’t worry though, you’ll know. You’ll smell it coming a mile off.

Apple recalls millions of iPhone 3G power adapters

If you have an iPhone 3G power adapter that looks like the photos at right, stop using it immediately.

That’s the word from Apple Inc. (AAPL), which is warning users that in certain conditions those little metal prongs can break off, get stuck in the power outlet and give you a very bad shock.

According to a press release issued Friday:

“Apple has received reports of detached prongs involving a very small percentage of the adapters sold, but no injuries have been reported.” (link)

The adapters were supplied with every iPhone 3G sold in the United States, Japan, Canada, Mexico and several Latin American countries (see list here). Anybody who bought an iPhone in one of those countries received the bad adapter.

Analysts estimate that Apple has sold more than 4 million iPhone 3Gs since it was introduced in July.

Along with its tersely worded safety warning, Apple on Friday announced the details of a power adaptor exchange program:

“There are two ways to exchange your current ultracompact Apple USB power adapter for a new, redesigned adapter.

  • Order a replacement adapter via the Web. These replacement adapters will ship within three weeks of your order, starting on Friday, October 10.
  • Exchange your adapter at an Apple Retail Store starting on October 10.”

Apple will replace the old adapters with the one pictured here, identified by a small green dot. The old adapters must be turned in at the same time; iPhone owners who order their replacement via the Web are being asked to give an address so Apple can send them a mailing packet.

Product recalls are not unusual in the computer industry, although they usually involve defective batteries. In August 2006, Apple recalled 1.8 million notebook batteries manufactured by Sony (SNE) because they had a tendency to overheat and, on occasion, catch on fire. See here.

Stop-Motion Lego Keeps The Original Star Wars Spirit Alive

Yes, the prequel trilogy and The Clone Wars movie may have disappointed hardcore Star Wars fans to the point where only The Force Unleashed can possibly redeem George Lucas in the eyes of his once-faithful audience, but that's not to say that they're disillusioned with Star Wars itself. In fact, they love it so much that they're making their own versions, and like their fallen hero, they've become disillusioned with real actors to the point where they've replaced them... with Lego. The results are as scrappy, irreverent and filled with adoration for their source as the original Star Wars was for its predecessors... if a little less likely to make their creators vast sums of money.

[All YouTube]

George Michael Arrested in Public Toilet Again


George Michael at Wembley Stadium
Michael has said that following his tour he was hoping for a quieter life

The singer George Michael has been cautioned after being arrested in a public toilet for possession of drugs, thought to include crack cocaine.

"A 45-year-old man was arrested on 19 September on suspicion of possession of drugs in the Hampstead Heath area," a Metropolitan Police spokesman said.

The singer was taken to a police station and given the caution for possessing class A and class C drugs.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said drug laws needed to be "flexible".

Asked why Michael had been given a relatively mild punishment for the possession of class A drugs, Mr McNulty said he did not know the details of the case.

George Michael has been in trouble with police before

But he added that the law provides a wide range of punishments for possession of drugs, and "circumstances and context" had to be applied.

The Home Office website says possession of class A drugs can result in up to seven years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Mr McNulty told the BBC: "The biggest message is that drugs are wrong and people will be punished, but it must be right that there is flexiblity in the law."

But the government has the balance "about right" between being tough when it needs to be and providing treatment for individuals "to get off that horrible spiral of drug dependancy and crime", he added.

'Quieter life'

Last month, George Michael completed his 25 Live world tour, his first for 15 years.

After performing "final" dates at London's Earls Court and in Copenhagen, Michael said he would be retiring from arena and stadium shows.

He said he would leave the "bells and whistles" of large-scale tours behind after the tour because he wanted a "quieter life".

During the concerts, he performed his number one hit Outside in a police uniform in a jokey reference to previous arrests.

The song itself referred to his arrest in 1998 when he was detained by an undercover police officer for lewd conduct in a public toilet in Beverly Hills, California.

Until that time he had not "come out" in public, but the arrest and subsequent conviction forced him to reveal his homosexuality and his relationship with American Kenny Goss.

Michael also came into conflict with the law in October 2006 when he was found slumped over the wheel of his car.

And last May he was given a two-year driving ban after pleading guilty to driving while unfit through drugs.

Earlier this year, the 45-year-old singer signed a multi-million pound deal with publisher HarperCollins to write his autobiography, which he said would be a "no-holds barred" account of his life.

And during his final shows on stage, he revealed that he had written a Christmas song which would be released this December - his first festive song since Wham!'s Last Christmas, initially released in 1984.

Einstein fridge design can help global cooling

Scientists relaunch a 1930 invention that uses no electricity and would reduce greenhouse gases

An early invention by Albert Einstein has been rebuilt by scientists at Oxford University who are trying to develop an environmentally friendly refrigerator that runs without electricity.

Modern fridges are notoriously damaging to the environment. They work by compressing and expanding man-made greenhouse gases called freons - far more damaging that carbon dioxide - and are being manufactured in increasing numbers. Sales of fridges around the world are rising as demand increases in developing countries.

Now Malcolm McCulloch, an electrical engineer at Oxford who works on green technologies, is leading a three-year project to develop more robust appliances that can be used in places without electricity.

Einstein refrigerator

His team has completed a prototype of a type of fridge patented in 1930 by Einstein and his colleague, the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard. It had no moving parts and used only pressurised gases to keep things cold. The design was partly used in the first domestic refrigerators, but the technology was abandoned when more efficient compressors became popular in the 1950s. That meant a switch to using freons.

Einstein and Szilard's idea avoids the need for freons. It uses ammonia, butane and water and takes advantage of the fact that liquids boil at lower temperatures when the air pressure around them is lower. 'If you go to the top of Mount Everest, water boils at a much lower temperature than it does when you're at sea level and that's because the pressure is much lower up there,' said McCulloch.

At one side is the evaporator, a flask that contains butane. 'If you introduce a new vapour above the butane, the liquid boiling temperature decreases and, as it boils off, it takes energy from the surroundings to do so,' says McCulloch. 'That's what makes it cold.'

Pressurised gas fridges based around Einstein's design were replaced by freon-compressor fridges partly because Einstein and Szilard's design was not very efficient. But McCulloch thinks that by tweaking the design and replacing the types of gases used it will be possible to quadruple the efficiency. He also wants to take the idea further. The only energy input needed into the fridge is to heat a pump, and McCulloch has been working on powering this with solar energy.

'No moving parts is a real benefit because it can carry on going without maintenance. This could have real applications in rural areas,' he said.

McCulloch's is not the only technology to improve the environmental credentials of fridges. Engineers working at a Cambridge-based start-up company, Camfridge, are using magnetic fields to cool things. 'Our fridge works, from a conceptual point of view, in a similar way [to gas compressor fridges] but instead of using a gas we use a magnetic field and a special metal alloy,' said managing director Neil Wilson.

'When the magnetic field is next to the alloy, it's like compressing the gas, and when the magnetic field leaves, it's like expanding the gas.' He added: 'This effect can be seen in rubber bands - when you stretch the band it gets hot, and when you let the band contract it gets cold.'

Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said creating greener fridges was hugely important. 'If you look at developing countries, if they're aspiring to the lifestyles that we lead, they're going to require more cooling - whether that's air conditioning, food cooling or freezing. Putting in place the technologies that are both low greenhouse-gas refrigerants and low energy use is critical.'

McCulloch's fridge is still in its early stages. 'It's very much a prototype; this is nowhere near commercialised,' he said. 'Give us another month and we'll have it working.'

WTF...I couldn't imagine going to school here.



(Poteau, Oklahoma)

The mascot is a Raider.

Robot wheelchair finds its own way

MIT invention responds to user's spoken commands

David Chandler, MIT News Office
September 19, 2008

MIT researchers are developing a new kind of autonomous wheelchair that can learn all about the locations in a given building, and then take its occupant to a given place in response to a verbal command.




A demonstration of an MIT-designed wheelchair that responds to verbal commands.Video courtesy Nicholas Roy

Just by saying "take me to the cafeteria" or "go to my room," the wheelchair user would be able to avoid the need for controlling every twist and turn of the route and could simply sit back and relax as the chair moves from one place to another based on a map stored in its memory.

"It's a system that can learn and adapt to the user," says Nicholas Roy, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics and co-developer of the wheelchair. "People have different preferences and different ways of referring" to places and objects, he says, and the aim is to have each wheelchair personalized for its user and the user's environment.

Unlike other attempts to program wheelchairs or other mobile devices, which rely on an intensive process of manually capturing a detailed map of a building, the MIT system can learn about its environment in much the same way as a person would: By being taken around once on a guided tour, with important places identified along the way. For example, as the wheelchair is pushed around a nursing home for the first time, the patient or a caregiver would say: "this is my room" or "here we are in the foyer" or "nurse's station."

Also collaborating on the project are Bryan Reimer, a research scientist at MIT's AgeLab, and Seth Teller, professor of computer science and engineering and head of the Robotics, Vision, and Sensor Networks (RVSN) group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Teller says the RVSN group is developing a variety of machines, of various sizes, that can have situational awareness, that is, that can "learn these mental maps, in order to help people do what they want to do, or do it for them." Besides the wheelchair, the devices range in scale from a location-aware cellphone all the way up to an industrial forklift that can transport large loads from place to place outdoors, autonomously.

Outdoors in the open, such systems can rely on GPS receivers to figure out where they are, but inside buildings that method usually doesn't work, so other approaches are needed. Roy and Teller have been exploring the use of WiFi signals, as well as wide-field cameras and laser rangefinders, coupled to computer systems that can construct and localize within an internal map of the environment as they move around.

"I'm interested in having robots build and maintain a high-fidelity model of the world," says Teller, whose central research focus is developing machines that have situational awareness.

For now, the wheelchair prototype relies on a WiFi system to make its maps and then navigate through them, which requires setting up a network of WiFi nodes around the facility in advance. After months of preliminary tests on campus, they have begun trials in a real nursing home environment with real patients, at the Boston Home in Dorchester, a facility where all of the nearly 100 patients have partial or substantial loss of muscle control and use wheelchairs.

As the research progresses, Roy says he'd like to add a collision-avoidance system using detectors to prevent the chair from bumping into other wheelchairs, walls or other obstacles. In addition,Teller says he hopes to add mechanical arms to the chairs, to aid the patients further by picking up and manipulating objects -- everything from flipping a light switch to picking up a cup and bringing it to the person's lips.

The research has been funded by Nokia and Microsoft.

iPhone Developers Go From Rags to Riches

By Brian X. Chen Email

Demeter_2The iPhone is a revolutionary handset. But it is also the key to a virtual gold mine -- the iTunes App Store, where independent developers can become multimillionaires in just a year.

Since its launch in July, the App Store has grown to become an indie developer's dream come true. Steve Demeter, developer of the vastly popular $5 iPhone game Trism, announced he made $250,000 in profit in just two months. His team? Himself, mainly, with a little bit of help from a friend and a contracted designer (whom he paid $500). If his profits continue at this rate, Demeter will earn nearly $2 million by July 2009.

"I really didn't think about the money," Demeter said in a phone interview with Wired.com. "I got an e-mail from a lady who's like, a 50-year-old woman who says, 'I do not play games, but I love Trism.' That's what I did it for."

What's more, Demeter initially released Trism as a free native application in the Jailbreak community -- meaning it was a game that users could play only if they hacked their iPhones. The prospects of making money were uncertain, but Demeter had a vision: He knew iPhone apps would get big once Apple released a software developer kit to allow third-party apps on the handset, and he wanted to get in on the platform early.

Though Demeter's success was fortuitous, he said he expects other applications to see similar numbers. He said the factors that made Trism stand out were unique gameplay (Trism is essentially a version of Bejeweled using the iPhone's accelerometer), high replay value and an online leaderboard that creates community. He said applications with great content will sell themselves, and that's ultimately what other developers need to focus on, too.

In a sense, the App Store, despite its corporate ties, has created an open market where developers can strike it rich with minimal resources -- even out of a garage -- so long as they possess the talent and the time.

TrismBart Decrem, CEO of Tapulous, would agree. His company's free application Tap Tap Revenge, a music-rhythm game that utilizes the iPhone's touch screen and accelerometer, hit a milestone of 1,000,000 downloads just two weeks after its launch. As of this writing there are 1.75 million users who have downloaded Tap Tap Revenge, according to Decrem, and the company expects that number to grow to 2,000,000 by next week. As for profits, Tapulous just recently began inserting advertisements in the game, and the company also has plans to release a premium version that will cost money.

Decrem was mum to disclose profit numbers, but Demeter estimates that any top iPhone app is making its company roughly $5,000 to $10,000 a day.

Decrem's recipe for success with Tap Tap is similar to Trism's: Paying attention to detail; keeping the app engaging and alive with various forms of gameplay; and relying on those two factors to spread popularity with an old-fashioned marketing method -- word of mouth. Similar to Trism, Tap Tap Revenge was also an app that initially emerged in the Jailbreak community, and it spawned a loyal following there before breaking out into the broader market with the launch of the App Store.

Decrem, whose initial team was only four people including himself, said he views the App Store as an exciting new landscape, as opposed to today's overcrowded world of dot-coms.

Taptap"I think it's a very interesting space, and it's very reminiscent of the early days of the web in terms of the amount of green fields and opportunity," Decrem said in a phone interview. "You really don't need a huge amount of capital. You need attention to detail and product, and that's going to keep increasing."

Not all App Store success stories started out with the iPhone in mind.Design by a Knife CEO Austin Sarner's story is a bit different from Demeter's and Decrem's. Sarner built his reputation as a coder who had developed popular Mac applications in the past: App Zapper and Disco. He didn't even think about developing an iPhone app until much later in the game, he says.

Good thing he did: Sarner's $3 application, Pennies, a budgeting tool, was the 12th most popular in the App Store at one point.

Sarner echoes the idea that great content -- not marketing -- is what drives App Store success.

"You can come up with a generic idea, but implement it properly and you really are going to stand out," Sarner said in a phone interview. "Basically everybody's on the same level once they submit an iPhone app. Unlike traditional marketing, there's no ad campaign: A user just sees what he sees in the iPhone store, and the applications kind of have to sell themselves to some extent."

PenniesAll three of these developers -- big fish in a small pond, if you will -- have plans for future iPhone applications as well.

"I have a sense of a bigger picture," Demeter said. "The community that has spread within Trism -- the amount of people that use forum accounts and create a sense of community -- I want to keep making great games, games people want to play."

Also see:

(Photo courtesy Steve Demeter)

(Screenshot credit: Wired.com, nwistheone/Flickr, Sigalkos/Flickr)

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