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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Progress on NASA's Constellation - The Big Picture - Boston.

NASA's Constellation program, established in 2005, continues its work toward the building the future of manned space exploration in the U.S.

read more | digg story

50% of Charges Against Pirate Bay Dropped

Written by enigmax on February 17, 2009

There has been high drama on the second day of the Pirate Bay trial. Due to serious shortcomings in the prosecution evidence, around 50% of the charges in the case are going to have to be withdrawn. The defense describes it as a ’sensation’, seeing half of the charges being dropped on the second day.

pirate bayWhat has been shown in court today is that the prosecutor cannot prove that the .torrent files he is using as evidence actually used The Pirate Bay’s tracker. Many of the screenshots being used clearly state there is no connection to the tracker. Additionally, prosecutor Håkan Roswall didn’t adequately explain the function of DHT which allows for so called “trackerless” torrents.

The flaw in the evidence was pointed out by Fredrik Neij (TiAMO), who requested to comment on Roswall’s explanation of how BitTorrent actually works. Fredrik said that the prosecution misunderstood the technology, and told the court that the evidence doesn’t show that the Pirate Bay’s trackers are used.

This has resulted in prosecutor Håkan Roswall having to drop all charges relating to “assisting copyright infringement”, so the remaining charges are simply ‘assisting making available’. “Everything related to reproduction will be removed from the claim,” he said.

The defense was happy to see that already half of the charges were dropped during the morning session of the second day. “This is a sensation. It is very rare to win half the target in just one and a half days and it is clear that the prosecutor took strong note of what we said yesterday,” said defense lawyer Per E Samuelson.

Peter Althin, representing Peter Sunde said, “It is clear that this is an advantage for the accused.”

“EPIC WINNING LOL,” Peter himself later commented on Twitter.

IFPI was quick to release a statement where they try to spin the dropped charges into something good. “It’s a largely technical issue that changes nothing in terms of our compensation claims and has no bearing whatsoever on the main case against The Pirate Bay. In fact it simplifies the prosecutor’s case by allowing him to focus on the main issue, which is the making available of copyrighted works,” IFPI’s legal counsel said.

During the remainder of the morning session it was mostly prosecutor Håkan Roswall talking. Among other things he explained in detail how email works (made no mistakes there). Several details on the hardware that was taken during the raid in 2006 were discussed, as well as invoices and email conversations about server costs.

After the lunch break, around 1:30pm the court decided to end the day early. Tomorrow morning the prosecution will continue to build (or break) their case and on Thursday the defense will have its say.

This is a breaking and developing story, check back here for updates….

Magnificent Beach Houses in Dubai Photos

Dubai has not only been known as the fastest growing city in the world, but also the most lavish city in the world. Last time, I posted about the top 5 secret places and the top 5 places of interests you must not miss during your vacation at Dubai. Now, I want to post the photos of magnificent architecture beach houses that can be found in the city of Palm Jumeirah. Please note that every house has their own beach and swimming pool! I wish I had one. :D Thanks to my friend Mariz for sending me these awesome pictures through email.






German clone maker "not afraid" of Apple

By Zach Spear

The makers of the PearC brand of Mac clones say they're standing on solid legal ground in Germany and will withstand legal action from Apple.

A spokesman for HyperMegaNet UG, which sells the Intel-powered towers under the PearC brand with a copy of Mac OS X installed, said while the company hasn't heard from Apple Legal yet it is "awaiting some soon."

"First, we try to settle with Apple out of court," Dirk Bloessl told Computerworld in an e-mail. "But if necessary, we are not afraid of going to court with Apple."

On PearC's website, the FAQ section includes the question "Is the PearC legal?" The answer reads, "Yes. According to european laws Apples EULA is void."

The saber-rattling from HyperMegaNet comes while Apple and Florida-based cloner Psystar are engaged in a similar dispute over copyright and competition, but according to the German company, PearC does not violate Apple's copyright or EULA there.

"The German law says explicit[ly], that restrictions made after buying a product are not valid," Bloessl said. "So, because Apple's EULA can [only] be first read after buying and starting the setup, they are invalid in Germany."

That is, since the system has already been paid for and turned on before the End User License Agreement ever appears, Apple can't make "restrictions" on the use of the operating system, HyperMegaNet argues.

According to the clone maker's website, the PearC Starter "combines good performance with an appropriate power drain" for 599 euros, or roughly $773. The base configuration ships with a 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core, 250GB hard drive, 2GB of 1066MHz DDR2 memory, a 256MB GeForce 7200GS graphics card from NVIDIA, three FireWire 400 ports, and ten USB 2.0 ports.

Meanwhile, the PearC Advanced (799 euros or $1030) is the "allround computer" that ships with a 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 500GB hard drive, 4GB of memory, a 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8400GS graphics card, and wireless. Available upgrade options include a Core 2 Quad processor, 1TB hard drive, 8GB of memory, a 1024GB NVIDIA GeForce 9800GTX Plus, a second hard drive up to 1TB that can be preinstalled with Vista Home Premium, XP Professional, or Vista Ultimate, and a writable Blu-Ray drive.

The site offers to ship to Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, and the U.K.

Back in the United States, a case that began in July recently took a few steps forward with Psystar's filing of an amended complaint late last week.

However, the trial isn't expected to start for another nine months.

Samsung Releases Solar Powered Phone!

by Jorge Chapa" alt="samsung blue earth, samsung solar powered phone, samsung solar phone, solar powered phone, recycled plastic water bottles, solar power, green power

Green Gadget fans have been waiting for the holy green grail of gadgets for awhile now: the solar-powered mobile phone. And now it seems that Samsung has finally delivered on this promise with their brand new Blue Earth phone. Blue Earth is a gorgeous green touch phone that has a full solar panel on its back which can generate enough power to charge the phone. And yes - the gadget is still small enough to fit in your pocket!

samsung blue earth, samsung solar powered phone, samsung solar phone, solar powered phone, recycled plastic water bottles, solar power, green power

As if releasing a solar powered phone wasn’t enough, Samsung is going above and beyond to achieve what they hope is the greenest phone on the market. The body of the phone is made out of recycled water bottles and has no brominated flame retardants, beryllium and phthalates - all incredibly toxic substances. That goes for the charger as well, which also meets the newer standby mode energy efficiency ratings. Granted, it is solar powered, so really, a charger?

The device is set to be energy efficient, with a new user interface making it easy to activate the phone’s energy saving mode. It also includes a pedometer, and CO2 emissions calculator, and Samsung is aiming for minimal packaging made entirely from recycled paper.

Samsung is clearly throwing the gauntlet to all phone manufacturers, and we hope to see solar cells integrated throughout the rest of their line. The phone will be unveiled on February 16th at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

+ Samsung

Via Pocketlint

samsung blue earth, samsung solar powered phone, samsung solar phone, solar powered phone, recycled plastic water bottles, solar power, green power

Casinos on alert for card counters using iPhones

File under "It was only a matter of time": The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Nevada gaming authorities are warning casinos to be on the lookout for blackjack card counters getting an assist from their iPhones. While card counting itself is not banned in Nevada, the use of an assistive technology is a felony (!), and apps like Card Counter or A Blackjack Card Counter make it much easier for the math-impaired. ABCC's 'stealth mode,' which uses vibration to alert the user when the time is right for a big bet, is particularly head-achey for casino security.

Nevada casinos don't have any instances yet of gamblers being kicked out or arrested for iPhone use -- the initial warning was from California authorities, who spotted card-counter apps in use at a Northern California casino and thought it prudent to raise the alarm. The lure of easier blackjack winnings may be too tempting for some people to pass up, but the consequence of this iCheating may be that we all have to check our iPhones before heading to the blackjack tables.

Aside from the logistical challenges of an iPhone ban in casinos ("Sure, I don't need my phone, my family knows that I'll be here at the quarter slots for the next five hours"), this is a fascinating example of how the App Store is turning us all into denizens of the Matrix, with skills and information on demand and jacked in, literally at our fingertips. Need to level a bookshelf? Fine. Want to identify local birds? Done. Get your garage mojo in gear? Can do. Learn a language? Of course. Adding the ability to move money from the casino's pocket into yours with better odds than usual seems like a natural next step... and another 'disruptive technology' is going to come into conflict with a long-established, politically and economically powerful industry. Let's watch.

20 Best iPhone Photo & Video Apps

Cheer up iPhone fans, there are some great 3rd party apps that can enhance your iPhone photography experience by enabling you to edit and share your photos easily with family and friends. There are also some ingenious applications that enable you to capture video on your iPhone and share it. These are some of the best.

1. Oldbooth

This clever little application can change boring profile photographs into comic portraits, or even give them an authentic old world feel. All you need to do is take a new photograph or select a photo from your iPhone photo library and then select a mask from Oldbooth. There are stacks of male and female bodies to choose from and you can resize, rotate and even adjust the brightness of your photo to match. Once done, just fit your profile photo into the mask and you have a brand new, old world photograph of yourself. You can download Oldbooth from the Apple App Store for $1.99.

click here to read more..... | digg story

18 Douchebag Celebrities and their Douchebag Tattoos

By Sarah

Today, more than ever, celebrities are flocking to tattoo parlors in an effort to express themselves. After braving the level of public scrutiny that so many celebrities do, you would think that most would get timeless, or at least marginally-tasteful tattoos. However, it is almost inevitable that when a celebrity gets a tattoo, it end up horrible. Whether they decided on something that is obviously drug-induced, or a vain, failed attempt at trying to convince people that they are pretty and edgy, the end result is a varied level of embarrassment. Here is our list of the 18 celebrities that were douchebags before they got their tattoos, and then leveled up on the douchebag-meter because of the tattoos they decided to get.

Nick Carter


Among Carter’s tattoos are: Asian symbols, a tribal armband, the misspelled “KAOS” in Old English, and a tribal sun. If one were to make a list of “The Worst Frat Boy tattoos”, they needn’t look further than Nick Carter. Or, he would at least provide enough material for the first several chapters.

Mike Tyson



Why couldn’t one of Mike Tyson’s friends or bodyguards stop him from getting that ridiculous Maori warrior facial tattoo? Does Mike Tyson still have friends or bodyguards?

Scott Spiezio



Professional baseball players are not usually known to flaunt their body art. St. Louis Cardinals third-base man Scott Spiezio, however, is an exception. After winning a World Series title with the ‘02 Anaheim Angels, Spiezio ventured to distastefully chronicling his booze-saturated adventures on his arms. It’s a good thing that baseball players do not wear basketball jerseys.

Ryan Sheckler



Just minutes after Sheckler got this huge mistake inked on his back, we’re guessing a conversation like this took place:

Sheckler: “Dude check out my new tat!”
Friend: “Bro!”
Sheckler: “Dude!”
Friend: “Bro.”

Nicole Richie



Reality TV starlet Nicole Richie used to have a serious weight problem. Somewhere in between then and shrinking down to her current skeletal size, she got some little wings tattooed on her back. Popular theory is that they serve as a reminder of her fight against being a big girl – the wings represent KFC Chicken Little sandwiches she was once addicted to.

Dave Navarro



Rock stars are supposed to have tattoos, because tattoos make you look like a badass (if you were in Van Halen, you of course didn’t need tattoos at all). And, as much as we like Dave Navarro, no one can look all that badass if their tattoos look like they came off of t-shirt designs at Hot Topic.




Rihanna’s boyfriend, Chris Brown, had a skull tattooed on the top of his hand. Rhianna answered by getting this ancient-fish-looking-thing tattooed on hers. Not exactly a successful one-upping.

Amy Winehouse



What a difference a few years makes. The tattoos of a musical icon should give off an air that he/she acquired their body art while traveling the world. Instead, in Winehouse’s case, they look like the mistakes of a crack head from rural Iowa, purchased with cartons of menthol 100s.

Sylvester Stallone



Stallone used to be one of the most sought after action stars of the 80’s and 90’s. And those massive biceps of his were used exclusively for ass kicking. Now they look as if they are used to promote his wife and her new floral arranging business. He’s starting to look like a female Mr. Clean; we’re all just waiting for the hair loss.

Megan Fox



Megan Fox is the sexiest woman alive. She also has some of the worst tattoos ever conceived. In interviews she often tries to attribute a deeper meaning to her body art. When is she going to realize that no one is listening?




Steve-O would like to give a shout out to his mom. “Hey Mom check me out! I’m on TV with a penis tattoo, bathed in red, white and blue wings”. Rumor has it he’ll be featured on Dancing With The Stars in an upcoming season, and we cannot wait to see if he’ll be wearing sleeveless, silk tops.

Pamela Anderson



Pamela Anderson had perfect skin, amazing legs, and gigantic breasts. And, for some reason, she decided to take herself down a notch by getting a barbed wire tattoo wrap-around. This tattoo became the douche bag calling card of the 1990s, and remains so to this day.




Pink, we get it…you are a badass. You won’t put up with the chauvinist, patriarchal bull crap your mother and grandmother were subjected to. You dye your hair fuchsia, and scream your heart out in your angst filled, ‘men suck’ anthems…but what’s with the “Mr. Pink” tattoo on your inner thigh? Is there something else you’d like to tell us about your personal life?




Sisqo really knew how to make the booty shake with his genius lyrics - thong thong thong thong thong. For some reason, he felt it was his civic duty to celebrate a this form of female underwear. Thank you, Sisqo. Although some of the most annoying, nonsensical lyrics of all time, his “Thong Song” holds a special place in the hearts – and pants – of millions. Oh, and what self respecting man gets a tummy tattoo?

Britney Spears



Britney, we knew you had a penchant for wild partying and head shaving, but now the secret is out: you’re a connoisseur of fine art as well. Featured here are dice (presumably drawn by her children) that her and ex-husband K-Fed got tattooed on their bodies to show everyone how much this redneck family loves Las Vegas. Apparently, souvenir shot glasses or even a timeshare was not enough for the Spears household.

Angelina Jolie



A lot of Angelina Jolie’s tattoos represent her family, especially the new one on her arm with the longitude and latitude of her kids’ births. I’m sure that if I had 37 kids from all over the globe I would have a hard time trying to remember where they all came from too.

Dennis Rodman



While he hasn’t been in the news much lately, Dennis Rodman cannot be left out of this list. Madonna’s influence over Rodman lives on in his many piercings and tattoos. The couple dated in 1994, until Madonna realized whom she was sleeping with. The sweet flame tattoo Rodman got on his arm, however, was later modified to include leopard shading when a stripper told him that it would, “be cool.”

Tila Tequila



America’s favorite bi-sexual diva, Tila Tequila, has made quite a name for herself. Who knew that having hundreds of thousands of friends on Myspace could lead to near-celebrity status? Cash out on your popularity while you can Tequila, because with each musically influenced heart tattoo you get (one on each arm) your star will be continually on the decline. Unless you keep getting more and more ridiculous, which we can only hope for.

18,000 Naked People!

This is a detail of the installation the photographer Spencer Tunick did in Mexico city's Zocalo on may 6th 2007 where 18,000 people showed up for the masive nude, breaking the record of Barcelona where there were 7,000 people.People were told to pack uptheir clothes and leave them by the street while making the shots.

click here for the pic (SFW) | digg story

Awesome Tetris video

The most amazing Tetris player ever. Watch until the end.

read more | digg story

Cotton Candy, A Medical Wonder?

All Things Considered, February 14, 2009 · Eating too much cotton candy isn't particularly good for your health — but cotton candy itself could provide a big breakthrough for medical technology.

Two researchers are trying to use cotton candy to create a network of vessels that could carry blood through artificial tissue. If successful, the synthetic tissue they create could be used in applications from skin grafts to breast reconstruction.

Dr. Jason Spector, a reconstructive surgeon at New York Presbyterian Hospital, and Leon Bellan, then a graduate student at Cornell, teamed up to develop the idea.

The process involves taking a small piece of cotton candy and pouring a liquid polymer over it. After the polymer solidifies, the sugar is washed out, leaving behind a network of tiny channels.

Bellan came up with the idea to use cotton candy from his previous research with nanofibers. "The fibers that make up the cotton candy really are about the same size as the really small blood vessels within the tissues of our body," Spector says.

Though the research is in very early stages -– it's not even close to being tested on animals –- Spector says this technology has the potential to allow scientists to engineer much thicker tissue than ever before.

"Without a blood supply, cells will die," Spector says. "The key thing is to have a well-vascularized construct."

Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails say goodbye, for now

2.17.09: Head Like A Hole

2.16.09: A note from Trent and a wave goodbye

Towards the beginning of my career in Nine Inch Nails, our biggest break came in the form of an invitation to perform a series of shows with Jane's Addiction. These performances essentially created and defined the term "alternative" rock in the US, created an ongoing festival franchise that is still thriving (Lollapalooza), set the stage for Nirvana to shift popular taste a few months later, and were really fucking FUN to play and attend - truly the best times I've had. The shows were epic. So epic, they propelled NIN to the "next level" (whatever that means), but caused Jane's to implode. The band broke up at the end of that tour.

Fast forward to the present. Corporate rock STILL sucks. A friend tells me they saw the original Jane's lineup play a tiny show in LA that was unbelievable. I break out my Jane's records and am amazed by how vital they sound. These guys were the real deal and in this current climate mostly dominated by poseurs and pussies it was refreshing to hear something that sounded dangerous, volatile, beautiful and SINCERE.
Emails were sent, phone calls were made, dinner was arranged, ideas were discussed and the next thing I know we're in the studio experimenting. We laugh, we get to know each other, we cry, we yell, we almost quit, we record LOTS of guitar solos, we discuss, we actually begin to all communicate, we yell some more, we become FRIENDS, we laugh again and we do some great things. I get to see first hand why they broke up all those years ago but I also get the chance to see four distinct personalities that become an INCREDIBLE band when they're in the same room.

In NIN world, 2009 marks the 20th anniversary of our first releases. I've been thinking for some time now it's time to make NIN disappear for a while. Last year's "Lights in the Sky" tour was something I'm quite proud of and seems like the culmination of what I could pull off in terms of an elaborate production. It was also quite difficult to pull off technically and physically night after night and left us all a bit dazed. After some thought, we decided to book a last run of shows across the globe this year. The approach to these shows is quite different from last year - much more raw, spontaneous and less scripted. Fun for us and a different way for you to see us and wave goodbye. I reached out to Jane's to see if they'd want to join us across the US and we all felt it could be a great thing. Will it work? Will it resonate in the marketplace? Who knows. Are there big record label marketing dollars to convince you to attend? Nope.
Does it feel right to us and does it seem like it will be fun for us and you? Yes it does.
Look for tour dates soon and I hope to see you out there.


Dubai denies visa for Israeli tennis player

In this Jan. 19, 2009 file photo, Israel's Shahar Peer reacts as she plays AP – In this Jan. 19, 2009 file photo, Israel's Shahar Peer reacts as she plays Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki …

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The top official in women's tennis reprimanded the United Arab Emirates on Sunday for blocking an Israeli player from a premier Dubai tournament, calling the decision to deny her a visa "regrettable."

But the absence of Shahar Peer could extend beyond the matches under way. The WTA Tour is planning to review its future in Dubai, and the UAE — which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel — could face a possible blow to its ambitions of becoming an international hub for big-ticket sports.

"Ms. Peer has earned the right to play in the tournament and it's regrettable that the UAE is denying her this right," WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said in a statement issued after the UAE's last-minute decision.

Peer, ranked 48th, had been scheduled to play Monday in the Dubai Tennis Championships, a joint ATP and WTA event which includes all the top 10 women's players.

"All the players support Shahar. We are all athletes and we stand for tennis," said Venus Williams. "The players have to be unified and support the Tour whichever direction they take on the issue."

Reigning French Open champion Ana Ivanovic said: "I really don't like sports to be mixed with politics."

Peer broke barriers last year in Qatar when she was the first Israeli to play in a WTA Tour tournament in the Persian Gulf. But the UAE — locked in a rivalry with Qatar to host major sports events — could face setbacks if the WTA and other federations grow skittish of planning events with the prospect of Israeli athletes being blocked.

Last month, Peer was the focus of protests in New Zealand over Israel's recent three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip against Hamas militants. She was provided extra security at the ASB Classic tournament there.

Tensions have been high between Israel and Arab countries since the assault, in which about 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Emirates officials did not respond to repeated calls and e-mails for comment. A brief statement by the Dubai Tennis Championships organizers said Peer was notified of the visa rejection on Saturday and "therefore did not travel to Dubai" after finishing a tournament in Thailand.

The UAE has no diplomatic relations with Israel, but Israelis with dual citizenship have entered the country for international sporting and business events using second-country passports. On some occasions, Israeli passport holders have been allowed entry for meetings held by the United Nations or other international agencies.

It was not clear whether Peer was traveling on an Israeli passport.

Peer's brother and spokesman, Shlomi Peer, said the 21-year-old player applied for a visa months in advance and was assured by tournament organizers that she would be allowed entry.

Scott said the current tournament will proceed, but WTA tour officials will "review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament."

Peer was expected to return to Israel later Sunday. She could not be reached for comment.


Associated Press writer Amy Teibel in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

NY Times: 2010 Honda Insight Sprouts in Shadow of Prius

Published: February 12, 2009

IN designing the 2010 Insight, Honda’s goal was to create a hybrid car that was not just practical, but would be priced within reach of eco-conscious buyers on a budget, providing a greener choice to customers who cannot afford a Civic Hybrid or a Toyota Prius.


No longer a tight two-seater, the new Insight has room for five and some cargo. More Photos »

The Insight's special gauges and readouts encourage economical driving. More Photos >

That may sound easy, but it was perhaps a more daunting challenge than it seems. Consider that a hybrid gasoline-electric car is a fairly complicated machine, given all its batteries, electric motors, sensors, clutches and so forth. For instance, in the current-generation Prius, 370 patents cover the drivetrain alone. No wonder most hybrids are priced thousands of dollars above the equivalent gasoline models.

Also, recent gains in the Japanese yen against the dollar are putting upward pricing pressure on the Insight, which Takeo Fukui, Honda’s president, has said he wants to hold below $20,000 for the base model.

Although Honda will not announce prices until shortly before the new Insight goes on sale in early April, the numbers take on added importance as Toyota prepares to sell a redesigned Prius, which is expected to get better mileage, later in the spring. If the Insight can’t beat the Prius on economy, it will need to be a compelling value.

Honda says the Insight will go 40 miles on a gallon in city driving and 43 on the highway. Those numbers don’t seem particularly hybridlike — the gasoline-driven Smart Fortwo is rated 33/41 — especially for a car whose namesake, the 2000-6 Insight, was renowned for an economy rating that briefly touched 70 m.p.g. (Under the recently revised government formula, the 2006 Insight would have carried a combined city-highway rating of 52 m.p.g.)

“The original Insight was a fuel-economy champ,” Kurt Antonius, an American Honda spokesman said. “But it came at the expense of practicality and price, which limited its market potential.” That original Insight was a two-seater with very limited cargo space.

The 2010 Insight, like the Prius, is a functional five-door hatchback. “The new Insight could have had better fuel economy,” the chief engineer, Yasunari Seki, told me in December. “But then it would have cost more.”

Though the new Insight gets significantly lower mileage than the original, Honda has loaded it with an array of gauges and displays intended to coach drivers to be more economical. For instance, the speedometer’s background color changes from blue to green as one’s driving becomes “more environmentally responsible.” Readouts reward the frugal driver with an “eco score”; if you excel, you win a digital trophy surrounded by a wreath.

Mind the gauges and you can optimize your mileage — often, in excess of the E.P.A. ratings. In my initial testing of the Insight, at the press preview in Arizona, I failed to beat the E.P.A. numbers. This was the case even when driving solely in “Econ” mode, which counters a driver’s most wasteful tendencies by dampening the throttle response, adjusting the air-conditioning and maximizing the electric assist.

But some other journalists who drove a similar test route said they topped 60 m.p.g. In later testing, I did as well.

So, obviously, your mileage may vary.

But even before the Insight goes on sale, Toyota may have trumped Honda’s new hybrid ace. The redesigned 2010 Prius, unveiled in January at the Detroit auto show, is said to achieve an industry-leading 50 m.p.g. And while Toyota suggests that its next Prius will beat the Insight on mileage, it is likely to cost considerably more; the 2009 Prius starts at $24,095 and can approach $28,000 fully loaded.

Beyond the matter of mileage, the Insight has other issues. Styling is one, for the stubby hatchback looks, frankly, like a knock-off of the 2004-9 Prius. Even if you don’t consider that design a bit homely, as I do, you have to concede that once the redesigned Prius is on the road, the look of the old one will start to seem stale. The Insight will be stuck wearing out-of-fashion clothes for the next five years or so.

Honda insists that it didn’t have much latitude in developing a more distinctive look. “You speak of a similarity to Prius, but the fundamentals of aerodynamics and packaging will lead designers to a similar place regardless of the brand,” Mr. Antonius said. “A Ferrari 599, Corvette and Aston Martins share similar shapes based on what their packages are trying to accomplish.”

Mr. Antonius suggested that the new Insight drew some styling cues from its namesake. Its distinctive nose evokes the FCX Clarity, an experimental Honda powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Those who opt for green vehicles seem to like making a public greener-than-thou statement. Hybrid versions of the Honda Civic, Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Malibu suffer in this regard because it is hard to tell them from conventional gasoline-only versions.

But there is no doubt that the Insight is a hybrid, or that it is a Honda. Outside and in, the Insight is engineered and equipped like a full member of the family. It seems well thought-out, is faithfully executed and feels substantial, though not as plush as the Civic Hybrid. The two cars share some content, but the company could not say how much.

Power comes from a slightly smaller version of Honda’s Integrated Motor Assist system. There is a 1.3-liter, 98-horsepower 4-cylinder engine assisted by a 13-horsepower electric motor-generator. The new Insight cannot start out from a stop in all-electric mode, but it can run on electric power alone at very low speeds.

Honda says engine tuning was skewed more toward pep and punch than maximum economy, but the Insight still feels pokey on the road. In “Econ” mode it is even slower.

The biggest enemy here is not the engine, but the continuously variable transmission — no manual or conventional automatic is offered — which sounds as if it needs a trip to Aamco. The CVT is a compromise between the efficiency of a manual and the ease of an automatic, but it seems noisy and coarse because it lets the engine race seemingly out of sync with the car’s speed.

Worse, base models lack stability control, which flies in the face of Honda’s “safety for everyone” campaign. To get this safety feature you must upgrade to the more expensive EX, which includes cruise control, multifuction display, heated mirrors and intermittent wipers. So the base model with the lowball price may not be an attractive bargain after all.

Despite a curb weight of just 2,723 pounds, the base Insight feels steady on the road; it is well-mannered, predictable and nimble if not quick. It feels not unlike the current Prius, which is to say it seems a little less sophisticated than the Civic Hybrid.

The electric power steering is just responsive enough. The Insight is a convenient, easily park-able size. And it will theoretically seat five, though three adults would not want to share the back seat. The Insight is slightly smaller outside than the current Prius, but a bit larger inside.

The nickel-metal-hydride battery pack and electronics unit is compact enough to fit under the rear cargo floor. That allows the rear seat backs to be folded down (not possible in a Civic Hybrid). In that configuration, the cargo area is a relatively cavernous 16 cubic feet.

It appears that in most specifications, Honda used the current Prius as its baseline, and it made slight improvements all around. All of which may be moot if the new Prius turns out to be a significantly better car.

Rivalry aside, if you can forget for a moment that the Insight is a hybrid — yes, that would seem to defeat the purpose — you can consider it against the standards of regular vehicles. It slots logically into Honda’s lineup above the $15,000 Fit (which gets 35 m.p.g on the highway) and the $16,000 gasoline Civic (up to 36 m.p.g.) and below the $24,000 Civic Hybrid (45 m.p.g.)

In that context, the new Insight is worth consideration as a good economy car, hybrid or not.

And isn’t it better to celebrate what the Insight is, rather than whine about what it is not?

INSIDE TRACK: Green lite.

Emulator That Aims To Save Obsolete File Formats

Disks and discs, Eyewire
The project aims to get at files held on older storage media

Long lost file formats could soon be resurrected by pan-European research.

The 4.02m euro (£3.58m) project aims to create a universal emulator that can open and play obsolete file formats.

Using the emulator, researchers hope to ensure that digital materials such as games, websites and multimedia documents are not lost for good.

The emulator will also be regularly updated to ensure that formats that fall out of favour remain supported in the near and far future.

Called Keeping Emulation Environments Portable (Keep), the project aims to create software that can recognise, play and open all types of computer file from the 1970s onwards.

As well as basic text documents it will also let people load up and play old computer games that technology has left behind.

"People don't think twice about saving files digitally - from snapshots taken on a camera phone to national or regional archives," said Dr Janet Delve, a computer historian from the University of Portsmouth and one of the research partners on Keep.

"But every digital file risks being either lost by degrading or by the technology used to 'read' it disappearing altogether," she said.

Without work to preserve ways to access the formats that are common today, 21st century citizens risk leaving a "blank spot" in history, said Dr Delve.

Already the number of unreadable documents in archives is beginning to mount up.

Britain's National Archive estimates that it holds enough information to fill about 580,000 encyclopaedias in formats that are no longer widely available.

Research by the British Library estimates that the delay caused by accessing and preserving old digital files costs European businesses about £2.7bn a year.

"We are facing a massive threat of the loss of digital information. It's a very real and worrying problem," said Dr David Anderson, who will work with Dr Delve on the UK end of the project.

"Things that were created in the 1970s, 80s and 90s are vanishing fast and every year new technologies mean we face greater risk of losing material," he said.

Dr Anderson said emulation was more workable in the long term than the usual method of preserving old files which involves migrating information on to new formats with its attendant risks of data degradation and corruption.

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