Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for January, 2017

Dial-a-Grue: play Zork with nothing but an old phone

Posted by kenmay on January - 31 - 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=cJzgiDgBpcw The first iteration of Dial-a-Grue , in 2011, was to kit out an old rotary dial phone with an embedded computer and text-to-speech engine so that you could play Zork with nothing but the handset. The new, 2.0 version of the project, is “to port Zork I (via a z-code interpreter) to an embedded platform, and enclose that and an old modem inside a telephone, so that the game can be played from a teletype, TDD, or old computer with an acoustically coupled modem.” ( via JWZ )

Categories: reader

Pandora’s radio data now included in Billboard Hot 100

Posted by kenmay on January - 31 - 2017

Despite recent layoffs and the fact that it only launched a streaming service last month , Pandora is a giant player in the internet radio market. Billboard unveiled a partnership with the service for its Hot 100 chart, and says it immediately impacted 35 songs. It pushed nine of those up by five or more spots in the rankings, including Sex With Me from Rihanna and Rob $tone’s Chill Bill , which leaped 10 places. Lady Gaga’s Million Reasons , meanwhile, is now on the Hot 100 thanks to Pandora, Billboard says. Though Pandora recently launched a $10 Premium streaming service based on its Rdio acquisition , it won’t be available to the public until later this year. Still, it has a very consequential 78 million users and 4.3 million subscribers to its $5 Pandora Plus (not-on-demand) radio service. “Pandora is now the number one radio station in 87 US markets and represents roughly 10 percent of all radio listening, ” says Pandora CEO Tim Westergren. That’s why Pandora had such an immediate impact, even services with many more subscribers like Spotify and Apple Music already affect the chart. Pandora data will also be included in Billboard’s streaming and formula-based charts, including country, rock, R&B/Hip-Hop, Rap and Dance/Electronica. Despite the boost, Pandora announced earlier this month that it had laid off 7 percent of its workforce, due to a big increase in competition from Apple Music, Spotify and other services. On top of the $75 million spent on Rdio, it also completely revamped its site late last year and is no doubt spending big to launch Pandora Premium streaming. The company is reportedly looking for a buyer, with Sirius XM rumored to be the leading candidate so far. It may be able to take some hope from Tidal, which just sold a big chunk of itself to Sprint for a reported $200 million. Source: Billboard

Categories: reader

Keck Observatory’s exoplanet imager captures its first photos

Posted by kenmay on January - 31 - 2017

The W.M. Keck Observatory’s near infrared camera has a new instrument that gives it the power to capture images of Jupiter-sized exoplanets near their stars. That instrument is a vortex coronagraph , and it has recently taken its first two photos. One of them (top left) is a photo of the innermost of three dust discs surrounding a young star 380 light-years away. When the Jet Propulsion Laboratory team who published the study about the image combined the coronagraph’s data with Spitzer telescope’s and NASA’s WISE mission’s , they were able to conclude that the disc is made up of pebble-sized grains of olivine. That’s one of the most common silicates on Earth. The other (top right) is a brown dwarf — a celestial body bigger than the biggest gas giants but smaller than the smallest stars — that’s 23 times as far from its host star than the Earth is from the sun. Keck’s instrument was able to spot the brown dwarf despite its star’s brilliance, because coronagraphs are designed to filter out starlight. This particular one is special, though: it doesn’t block starlight with “masks” like other coronagraphs do. Instead, it redirects light by combining and cancelling out light waves. Now that JPL scientists have proven that the instrument works, they plan to continue using it to observe young stars that could have exoplanets in the future. Dmitri Mawet, the JPL scientist who led the study about the brown dwarf image, explains: “The vortex coronagraph allows us to peer into the regions around stars where giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn supposedly form. Before now, we were only able to image gas giants that are born much farther out. With the vortex, we will be able to see planets orbiting as close to their stars as Jupiter is to our sun, or about two to three times closer than what was possible before.” Source: NASA

Categories: reader

Enlarge / Preliminary version of AT&T’s Project AirGig antennas. (credit: AT&T) AT&T says it is “in advanced discussions” with power companies to start trials of a new broadband technology in at least two locations by this fall. This is an update on the Project AirGig that AT&T announced in September 2016 . AirGig is a wireless technology even though it depends on the presence of power lines. Antennas that are placed on utility poles send wireless signals to each other; AT&T says the power lines “serve as a guide for the signals,” ensuring they reach their destination. AT&T says the wireless signals could be used to deliver multi-gigabit Internet speeds for either smartphone data or home Internet service. Trial locations have not yet been announced, but  today’s announcement  says, “One location will be in the United States with others to be determined in the coming months.” There’s also no word on when commercial deployment might begin, but AT&T seems to be excited about the project. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Categories: reader

schwit1 quotes a report from Digital Trends: In this generation of self-starters and self-made women and men, do-it-yourself isn’t just an option, it’s a way of life. And if there’s not an app for that, chances are there’s a YouTube video for it. That was certainly the case for a woman named Cara Brookins, who is living proof that if you’re willing to learn, you absolutely can. In 2008, Brookins was in the midst of a family struggle, having left a husband she called “violent and abusive.” Looking to make a fresh start for herself, she took the idea of rebuilding quite literally, perhaps using the physical experience of constructing a house as an extension of her emotional and mental journey. Though she had no previous experience in construction or architecture, Brookins found a series of YouTube tutorials on building a home and got to work. Over the course of nine months, Brookins worked tirelessly with the help of her four children to build a new home for themselves. “I had rented this cabin for a Thanksgiving getaway, ” the mother of four told CBS News. “And driving there, we passed this house that had been ravaged by a tornado. It was this beautiful dream house and it was sort of wide open. You don’t often get the opportunity to see the interior workings of a house, but looking at these 2x4s and these nails, it just looked so simple. I thought, “I could put this wall back up if I really tried. Maybe I should just start from scratch.'” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: reader

Authorities say Tulsa maintenance base workers workers for American Airlines found seven bricks of cocaine weighing 31 pounds with a street value of about a half a million dollars hidden in the nose of an AA aircraft. (more…)

Categories: reader

The LG UltraFine 5K Display was designed in part by Apple to work with the New MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, which was discontinued late last year. According to 9to5Mac, the display apparently wasn’t designed to work next to routers as it will flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers when it’s within two meters of a router due to electromagnetic interference. The Verge reports: In emails to 9to5Mac, LG acknowledged the problem — which LG says isn’t an issue for any of its other monitors — noting that routers “may affect the performance of the monitor” and that users should “have the router placed at least two meters away from the monitor” to avoid issues. Once the monitor was moved into a different room away from the router, 9to5Mac says the issues subsided. Despite the fact that it’s insane to require a router to be far away from what is likely the main computer in your home, there’s been no indication that LG is working on a fix for the issue, which may be more troublesome. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: reader

Peter Capaldi Is Leaving Doctor Who

Posted by kenmay on January - 31 - 2017

It’s time to say farewell to the latest incarnation of the world’s most beloved Time Lord: Peter Capaldi has officially announced his departure from Doctor Who at the end of the current series. Read more…

Categories: reader

Boeing’s New Space Suit Is Straight Outta SciFi

Posted by kenmay on January - 30 - 2017

After years of lumpy and Tron-esque spacesuit concepts, we’re finally getting closer to the slick beautiful designs proposed way back in the ’60s. The recently released Boeing spacesuit is designed as a model for what NASA astronauts aboard the proposed Boeing Starliner spacecraft would wear on their 2018 trip to the International Space Station.  Even fully loaded with tools and accessories this iteration would shave off more than 10 pounds compared with the current gear, and it would offer several notable improvements. Chief among them is the absolutely striking similarity to the suits worn in 2001: A Space Oddssey . SpaceX has been doing some cool stuff and all, but as far as I’m concerned, NOW we’re ready to start talking about space exploration.   Former astronaut Chris Ferguson modeling the Starliner suit (2017) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) The Boeing suit weighs in at just 20 pounds with tons of streamlined fit advances like zippered joints and lighter ergonomic materials. Thinner gloves with conductive tips would help with fine motor movement and connectivity. The helmet seems like a gentle nod to earlier Apollo days, while the lighter grippier boots were developed with Reebok for fancier (and decidedly modern) footwork.  There’s more to a successful space flight than dope gear, but the level of elegance and flexibility in this suit is thrilling. Not to put too fine a point on it, but SpaceX still has a lot to beat in the private space race. Former astronaut Chris Ferguson modeling the Starliner suit

Categories: reader

Some of Earth’s oxygen escapes to the moon every month

Posted by kenmay on January - 30 - 2017

The Earth and the moon share more than an orbit around the Sun. Turns out that bits of atmosphere manage to travel the 240, 000 miles out to our nearest celestial neighbor, and have been for more than 2 billion years, according to data gathered by Japan’s moon-orbiting Kaguya spacecraft. In a study published on Monday to the journal Nature Astronomy , planetary scientist Kentaro Terada of Osaka University observes that ionized oxygen particles escape from the upper atmosphere for five days every month to bombard the surface of the moon. Terada’s data suggests that oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere are first ionized by ultraviolet light and then accelerated into the magnetosphere , the planet’s magnetic envelope. The magnetosphere extends more than 370, 000 miles away from the Sun, fully enveloping the moon’s own orbit around the Earth. For five days every month when the moon passes through the magnetosphere, it is blasted with these ionized particles. The Osaka University team estimates that every square centimeter of the moon’s exposed surface is struck by approximately 26, 000 oxygen ions every second over the five day period. While this isn’t enough for the moon to develop a breathable atmosphere of its own, this discovery suggests that the moon’s surface could hold clues to Earth’s ancient atmosphere — much like ice cores being dug out of the Greenland and Antarctic permafrost. Source: Science News

Categories: reader