Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for February 15th, 2017

Everything You Need to Know About HDMI 2.1

Posted by kenmay on February - 15 - 2017

You may have just gotten used to HDMI 2.0, but HDMI 2.1 is already on its way, and it has all kinds of awesome new features. Here’s what you need to know about the substantial update. Read more…

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McDonald’s has re-engineered drinking straws

Posted by kenmay on February - 15 - 2017

Of all the tech innovations coming out of McDonald’s, we never would have expected the humble drinking straw needed a redesign. But that’s exactly what a team of robotic and aerospace engineers did as part of a marketing push for the burger chain’s new Chocolate Shamrock Shake. For those who aren’t familiar: the new menu item is a layered fifty-fifty combination of McDonald’s standard chocolate milkshake with the minty seasonal favorite on top. The Chocolate Shamrock has actually enjoyed secret menu status for a while now, but Mickey D’s is bringing it to the mainstream for the minty green shake’s yearly St. Patrick’s Day appearance. The redesigned STRAW — short for “Suction Tube for Reverse Axial Withdrawal, ” of course — is meant to alleviate the most basic of problems: having to wait for your shake to melt a bit before you can get the perfect mix of chocolate and mint flavors. While a conventional straw will only slurp up one part of the shake at a time, engineers from JACE Engineering and NK Labs carefully engineered the STRAW’s J-shaped snorkel design and side openings to suck in both layers at once. According to McDonald’s, their new tubular sipping device required some fairly complex computational fluid dynamics simulations to get the flow right and make sure it works just as well at the bottom of your shake as it did on the first sip. The Chocolate Shamrock Shake was released alongside a couple other new minty, Shamrock-infused beverages earlier this month, but the STRAW itself will get a nationwide release next Tuesday.

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After the initial outrage of Apple removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 died down, users not wanting to go wireless soon realized that using the phone’s Lightning port meant they could no longer charge while listening to music. Pioneer’s new Rayz Plus earbuds include a simple solution to that problem, but… Read more…

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Assassin of Korean dictator’s brother wore LOL shirt

Posted by kenmay on February - 15 - 2017

One of the two women suspected of assassinating Kim Jong-un’s brother wore a shirt with “LOL” written on it. CCTV images released by Malaysian authorities show the suspects lurking in Kuala Lumpur airport; reports variously have them using needles or a spray to poison Kim Jong-nam, who died en-route to hospital. In a scene out of a James Bond film, the toxic spray-wielding femme fatales targeted 45-year-old Jong Nam – the globetrotting black sheep of his North Korean ruling class family — in the airport’s departure hall on Monday morning. The women – believed to be North Korean agents – unleashed the noxious fumes in the face of Jong Nam as he waited for a flight to Macau, China. Jong Nam staggered to a receptionist, indicating that he was on the verge of passing out and suffering a mild seizure, police said. Nam would be running the hermit kingdom but for several embarrassing episodes (such as being arrested trying to visit Tokyo Disneyland on a false passport) that saw his younger brother rise in their now-dead father’s eyes. Assassin targeting Kim Jong Un’s half-brother wore ‘LOL’ shirt [New York Post]

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It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a good Altoids tin project, but over on Hackmypi, they’ve got a guide from stuffing the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero and a touch screen into a tin. Read more…

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Solandri writes: We’ve only been able to measure the Earth’s magnetic field strength for about two centuries. During this time, there has been a gradual decline in the field strength. In recent years, the rate of decline seems to be accelerating, leading to some speculation that the Earth may be losing its magnetic field — a catastrophic possibility since the magnetic field is what protects life on Earth from dangerous solar radiation. Ferromagnetic particles in rocks provide a long-term history which tells us the poles have flipped numerous times. But uncertainties in dating the rocks prevents their use in understanding decade-scale magnetic field fluctuations. Now a group of archeologists and geophysicists have come up with a novel way to produce decade-scale temporal measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field strength from before the invention of the magnetometer. When iron-age potters fired their pottery in a kiln to harden it, it loosened tiny ferromagnetic particles in the clay. As the pottery cooled and these particles hardened, it captured a snapshot of the Earth’s magnetic field. Crucially, the governments of that time required pottery used to collect taxed goods (e.g. a portion of olive oil sold) to be stamped with a royal seal. These seals changed over time as new kings ascended, or governments were completely replaced after invasion. Thus by cross-referencing the magnetic particles in the pottery with the seals, researchers were able to piece together a history of the Earth’s magnetic field strength spanning from the 8th century BCE to the 2nd century BCE. Their findings show that large fluctuations in the strength of the magnetic field over a span of decades are normal. The study has been published in the journal PNAS. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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These tiny beetles have evolved to ride ants like horses

Posted by kenmay on February - 15 - 2017

When army ants stream into the jungles of Costa Rica, they leave death and destruction in their wake. These nomadic group predators eat everything from millipedes to other ants, and they even raid wasps’ nests for eggs and larvae. Any insect that doesn’t escape the swarming column of hundreds of thousands of ants is likely to die a terrible death. And yet many insects have evolved to live among army ants, feeding on their scraps and even taking shelter in their nests. Researchers Christoph von Beeren and Alexey K. Tishechkin just identified a tiny beetle they’ve named Nymphister kronaueri that keeps up with the army ants’ endless march in an unusual way. N. kronaueri clamps onto an army ant’s back with its mandibles, as if it were a soldier going into battle on the back of the most magnificent steed in the world. Von Beeren and Tishechkin describe the strange life of N. kronaueri in a paper for BMC Zoology , and they explain how these animals evolved to live among creatures who would normally gorge themselves upon their beetle guts. Insects and other creatures who live among ants are called myrmecophiles , which literally means ant lovers. Myrmecophiles stand to gain a lot from this strange relationship. Certainly they can feed off the colony’s leftovers in the wake of a raid, but there’s more to the relationship than that. Ants create a pleasant environment, much like a human city that attracts wild animals. The researchers write: Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Jaguar and Shell partner for in-car fuel payments

Posted by kenmay on February - 15 - 2017

Luxury automaker Jaguar Land Rover has partnered with Shell to make fueling up a touch more convenient. That’s because everyone who owns a vehicle equipped with the company’s InControl Apps will be able to pay for gas without ever leaving the driver’s seat. All you need is the Shell mobile app, either a PayPal or Apple Pay account and at least $40, 000 for one of the supported cars and you too can take advantage of the new feature. As the video below shows, it looks like all you need to do is connect your iPhone (Android support arrives sometimes later this year) to your Jag’s infotainment system via USB. From there, everything is handled via the car’s touchscreen. How this differs from other mobile payment tech, Jaguar says, is that this one uses geolocation in concert with PayPal or Apple Pay for transactions. The functionality launches February 15th in the UK and additional availability will roll out over the course of this year. Jaguar says that additional applications of the tech could include drive-through restaurants and parking services. Which, to be honest, sound far more convenient than paying for gas. I mean, you still have to get out of your car for the former. The latter? It should eliminate the awkwardness of digging your wallet from a back pocket while you’re seated. Source: Jaguar

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(credit: Indigo Skies Photography ) An organization that manages transmission systems across the central US announced on Tuesday that it broke a record for wind penetration in North America. On Sunday at 4:30am, Southwest Power Pool (SPP) became the first regional transmission organization (RTO) to serve 52.1 percent of its load using wind energy. SPP also set the previous record in April 2016 with 49.2 percent wind generation. A record previous to that was set by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in late March 2016, when the organization hit 48.28 percent wind penetration at 1:10am. Records for wind penetration, which measure the amount of total load supplied by wind on a moment-to-moment basis, are being broken more frequently these days, on a regional and internal level. As RTOs, which generally serve large areas and cross state lines, add more wind turbines to their portfolios , wind is becoming a more important part of the energy mix. SPP noted that “wind is now the third most-prevalent fuel source in the SPP region,” which covers 550,000 square miles of territory in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and portions of neighboring states. Natural gas and coal are still the primary fuel sources for SPP, but the organization said that wind accounted for 15 percent of its generating capacity in 2016. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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