Serenissima writes "I've spent many hours building my Media Library in XBMC and scraping all the DVD Covers and Fanart. And I love it, I can pull up movies on any computer or device in the house. I played a movie for my son the other day so I could get some cleaning done without him being underfoot. I noticed shortly after that the sound coming from the other room was from a different movie than I played for him. I snuck up and watched for a few minutes and saw him use a trackpad to navigate to the stop and play buttons of different movies in his folder. I know it's only a matter of time before he realizes he can see all of the movies. I don't want him to have nightmares because he saw the T-1000 stab someone in the face. The quickest solution I can think is a screen saver with a password. It's mildly inconvenient to me, but would stop him from accessing anything. However, I remember how much more I knew about computers than my parents when I was a kid, and I have a feeling he's going to surprise me one day. There's a lot of ways out there to stop it, the way we do it now is to not let him watch anything unless we're there (but there are only so many times I can watch the same kid's movie). How do YOU guys find yourself dealing with the convenience of running your own server while keeping your media safe from prying eyes?"
This year's Consumer Electronics Show has nearly arrived. Later today, I'll be hurtling (or perhaps just slogging) across the West Texas desert, bound for Vegas. CES is far too big an event to see very much of, no matter what: the endless aisles (highways!) of cheap laptop bags and e-cigarettes alone take up an incredible amount of floor space, but the good stuff takes up at least as much. The categories represented aren't necessarily new, but the trends vary each time: remote-controlled helicopters, from Parrot and others, have been been getting more capable for a few years running, along with 3D televisions, action cameras, ever-bigger displays, toys for kids, toys for adults, and the newest/slimmest/priciest/cheapest laptops and handhelds. Last year I had a chance to get close-up video views at Ubuntu TV and the successfully crowdfunded TouchFire keyboard, as well as interviews with John Ryan of Pixel Qi and Raspberry Pi instigator Eben Upton. I'll be on the lookout for some of my usual obsessions (open source in consumer products, bright LED-based projectors, interesting input devices), but what would you like to see up-close from this year's crop of exhibitors (sorry, it's a long list), and why?
Nerval's Lobster writes "Building and operating a supercomputer at more than three miles above sea level poses some unique problems, the designers of the recently installed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Correlator discovered. The ALMA computer serves as the brains behind the ALMA astronomical telescope, a partnership between Europe, North American, and South American agencies. It's the largest such project in existence. Based high in the Andes mountains in northern Chile, the telescope includes an array of 66 dish-shaped antennas in two groups. The telescope correlator's 134 million processors continually combine and compare faint celestial signals received by the antennas in the ALMA array, which are separated by up to 16 kilometers, enabling the antennas to work together as a single, enormous telescope, according to Space Daily. The extreme high altitude makes it nearly impossible to maintain on-site support staff for significant lengths of time, with ALMA reporting that human intervention will be kept to an absolute minimum. Data acquired via the array is archived at a lower-altitude support site. The altitude also limited the construction crew's ability to actually build the thing, requiring 20 weeks of human effort just to unpack and install it."
iComp points out an interesting project in Derbyshire, northern England. "Bioboffins at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, UK, have developed a robot that can projectile vomit on command as a tool for studying the spread of the highly infectious norovirus. Reuters reports that the hyperemetic droid has been dubbed 'Vomiting Larry' by its creator, researcher Catherine Makison, who describes it as a 'humanoid simulated vomiting system.' The goal of said vomiting system is to study the reach and dispersion of human vomitus, which is one of the primary ways that diseases such as norovirus can spread. Norovirus is a fairly common viral infection that is sometimes known as the 'winter vomiting bug' due to its increased prevalence in the colder months. Outbreaks are generally triggered when humans ingest contaminated food or water, but can continue when subsequent people come in contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by the initial patient's effluvium."
abhatt writes "Intel is set to debut the most power efficient chip in the world — a limited edition 'Ivy Bridge' processor in the upcoming annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Only a select group of tablet and ultrabook vendors will receive the limited Ivy Bridge chips. From the article: 'Intel did not say how far below 10 watts these special "Y" series Ivy Bridge processors will go, though Intel vice president Kirk Skaugen is expected to talk about the processors at CES. These Ivy Bridge chips were first mentioned at Intel's annual developer conference last year but it wasn't clear at that time if Intel and its partners would go forward with designs. But it appears that some PC vendors will have select models in the coming months, according to Intel.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Chris Testa recently presented at TAPR Digital Communications Conference and annouced his development work on a hand-held software defined radio. Running uClinux on an ARM Corex-M3 coupled to a Flash-based FPGA, it will be capable of receiving and transmitting from 100MHz to 1GHz. Designed to be low power, Chris has designed the radio primarily with the Amateur 2m and 70cm bands in mind. Currently in early prototyping stage, Chris intends to release the design under the TAPR Open Hardware License."
CowboyRobot writes "In the past five years there has been an 8x increase in the amount of content being generated per every two-hour cinematic piece. Although 3D is not new, modern 3D technologies add from 100% to 200% more data per frame. In 2009, Avatar was one of the first movies to generate about a petabyte of information. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was shot in a new digital format called High Frame Rate 3-D, which displays the movie at 48 frames per second, twice the standard 24-fps rate that's been in place for more than 80 years." But with digital storage transcending some other limitations of conventional projection techniques, it's not just framerate that directors are now able to play with more easily; it's the length of movies themselves, which stats suggest just keep getting longer.
Nerval's Lobster writes "When Canonical whipped back the curtain from its upcoming Ubuntu for smartphones, it set off a flurry of blogosphere speculation about the open-source operating system's chances on the open market. But which company would actually build such a device? Apple and Research In Motion and Nokia are all out of the running, for very obvious reasons. Motorola, as a subsidiary of Google, is also unlikely to leap on the Ubuntu bandwagon. While Hewlett-Packard has flirted with smartphones in the past, most notably after its Palm acquisition, the company doesn't seem too focused on that segment at the moment. That leaves manufacturers such as HTC, which currently offer devices running either Google Android or Windows Phone. But given Android's popularity, it might prove difficult for Canonical to convince these manufacturers to do more than release a token Ubuntu device—especially if Google and Microsoft apply counter-pressure."
New submitter asola writes with this cool piece of small (ha!) news from Liliputing: "This Freescale i.MX6-quad based stick will officially support Ubuntu in addition to Android. This is a first among the newfangled category of ARM-based stick PCs. This Ubuntu may very well have the hw accelerated Gstreamer plugins created by Freescale for the i.MX6 so full HD video playing will be available under Ubuntu as well."
crookedvulture writes "Slashdot has previously covered The Tech Report's exposure of frame latency issues with recent AMD graphics processors. Both desktop and notebook Radeons exhibit frame latency spikes that interrupt the smoothness of in-game animation but don't show up in the FPS averages typically used to benchmark performance. AMD has been looking into the problem and may have discovered the culprit. The Graphics Core Next architecture underpinning recent Radeons is quite different from previous designs, and AMD has been rewriting the memory management portion of its driver to properly take advantage. This new code improves frame latencies, according to AMD's David Baumann, and the firm has accelerated the process of rolling it into the official Catalyst drivers available to end users. Radeon owners can take some comfort in the fact that a driver update may soon alleviate the frame latency problems associated with AMD's latest GPUs. However, they might also be disappointed that it's taken AMD this long to optimize its drivers for the now year-old GCN architecture."
New submitter earlzdotnet writes "A new patent troll is in town, this time targeting the users of technology, rather than the creators. They appear to hold a process patent for 'scanning a document and then emailing it.' They are targeting small businesses in a variety of locations and usually want somewhere between $900 to $1200 per employee for 'infringement' of their patent. As with most patent trolls, they go by a number of shell companies, but the original company name appears to be Project Paperless LLC. Joel Spolsky said in a tweet that 'This is organized crime, plain and simple...' I tend to agree with him. When will something be done about this legal mafia?"
MojoKid writes "Apple may be looking to improve upon the stylus as we know it today. The Cupertino company filed a patent application with the USPTO for what it calls an 'Active Stylus,' which can be used on capacitive touch sensor panels like those found on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. 'Unlike conventional styluses which work passively by blocking electric field lines between the drive and sense electrodes of a capacitive touch sensor panel, the styluses disclosed in the various embodiments of this disclosure can either act as a drive electrode to create an electric field between the drive electrode and the sense lines of a mutual capacitive touch sensor panel, or as a sense electrode for sensing capacitively coupled signals from one or more stimulated drive rows and columns of the touch sensor panel or both.' According to Apple, active styluses allow for more accurate input without driving up cost."
cylonlover writes "Robot hedgehogs on the moons of Mars may sound like the title of a B-grade sci-fi movie, but that is what Stanford University is working on. Marco Pavone, an assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and his team are developing spherical robots called 'hedgehogs' that are about half a meter (1.6 ft) wide and covered in spikes to better cope with rolling and hopping across the surface of the Martian moon Phobos with its very low gravity."
An anonymous reader writes "Joerg Sprave is at it again. This time, in order to bring in the New Year, he's got something with a bit more bang to it: a firecracker-launching slingshot. Being German, Joerg has built a slingshot that will accommodate the largest legal firecracker in that country. '2 grams of black powder in a tight cardboard "cigar" make a pretty loud bang! In order to make these bangs more spectacular, it is desirable to shoot them as high into the air as possible. A special slingshot crossbow has been designed, chambered for the strongest legal firecrackers. The weapon is a breech loader, and an integrated storm lighter allows the shooter to light the fuse when the weapon is all ready for the shot. The weapon launches the firecracker with tremendous force. The blunt object easily crashes through a moving card board box, and — equipped with a wooden tip — even goes in all the way into a block of ballistic gelatin.' His two videos are available on YouTube: part 1, part 2." This is the same gentleman who made a slingshot that launches machetes.
hypnosec writes "Babak Parviz, the founder and head of Project Glass at Google, has revealed that the feature set of Google Glass and state of apps is still in flux and that there is a lot of testing going on at the moment. In an interview with IEEE Spectrum, Parviz provided insights into Project Glass, the reasons behind having such a gadget and what's there for the project in near future. Parviz said that they are trying out new ideas and ways in which the platform can be used while also trying to make the platform more robust. There is no specific feature set that Google has been talking about and 'It is still in flux.'" My favorite question / answer pair: "IEEE Spectrum: What kind of business model is associated with Google Glass? Babak Parviz: This is still being worked on, but we are quite interested in providing the hardware."
timothy writes "For the last few years, I've been using Android tablets for various of the reasons that most casual tablet owners do: as a handy playback device for movies and music, a surprisingly decent interface for reading books, a good-enough camera for many purposes, and a communications terminal for instant messaging and video chat. I started out with a Motorola Xoom, which I still use around the house or as a music player in the car, but only started actually carrying a tablet very often when I got a Nexus 7. And while I have some high praise for the Nexus 7, its limitations are frustrating, too. I'll be more excited about a tablet when I can find one with (simultaneously) more of the features I want in one. So here's my wish list (not exhaustive) for the ideal tablet of the future, consisting only of features that are either currently available in some relevant form (such as in existing tablets), or should be in the foreseeable near future; I'll be on the lookout at CES for whatever choices come closest to this dream." Read below to see what's on Timothy's wish list.
Voline writes "Digitimes reports that Asus and Acer will not be producing netbooks in 2013, signaling the end of a product category that Asus began five years ago with its Eee PC. The Guardian looks at the rise and fall of the netbook and posits some reasons for its end. Reasons include: manufacturers shifting from Linux to Windows, causing an increase in price that brought netbooks into competition with full-on laptops that offered better specs for not much more money; the global recession beginning in 2008; and the introduction of the iPad and Android tablets."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Google tried to extend its influence to televisions, an effort that largely crashed and burned. Apple executives call Apple TV a 'hobby,' although it's been long-rumored that their company has a television set in the works. And Microsoft's made a muscular attempt to conquer the living room with the Xbox, which now does a lot more than just video games. If current rumors prove correct, you can soon add Intel to that list of IT giants with an eye on televisions. According to TechCrunch and SlashGear, the chip manufacturer is prepping to unveil a first-generation television system of some sort at next month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. TechCrunch suggests that Intel will debut the system on a city-by-city basis, similar to what Google's doing with Google Fiber, in order to maintain 'more flexibility in negotiating licensing with reluctant content providers.' (The publication's information comes from the ever-popular unnamed sources.) In essence, Intel is proposing a set-top box paired with a subscription service, which would provide a mixture of traditional programming alongside streaming content."
Zothecula writes "If robots are going to be part of our everyday lives, they'll need to fit into our homes rather than the factory floor. Few people would be comfortable living with a metal spider on tank treads, so the University of Zurich's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory is building a robot toddler called 'Roboy.' Using 'soft robotics' technology that mimics the human body, the 1.2 meter (3 ft, 11 in) tall humanoid robot is part of an effort to make robots that people are more comfortable with in day-to-day situations."
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that U.S. energy companies are racing to install wind turbines before a federal tax credit expires at the end of this year which could be lost as Congress struggles with new legislation to avoid the 'fiscal cliff.' 'There's a lot of rushing right now to get projects completed by the end of the year,' says Rob Gramlich, senior vice president at the American Wind Energy Association. 'There's a good chance we could get this extension, it is very hard to predict, but the industry is not making bets on the Congress getting it done,' Even if there is an extension there is likely to be a significant curtailment of wind installations in 2013. From 1999 to 2004, Congress allowed the wind energy production tax credit to expire three times, each time retroactively extending it several months after the expiration deadline had passed, but wind energy companies say they need longer time frames to negotiate deals to sell the power they generate. 'Even if the tax credit is extended, our new construction plans likely will be ramped back substantially in 2013 compared with the last few years,' says Paul Copleman. 'So much time has passed without certainty that a normal one-year extension would not be a game-changer for our 2013 build plans.'"