Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for May 4th, 2017

Chess with wireless, glowing nixie tubes

Posted by kenmay on May - 4 - 2017

Lasermad’s Nixie Chessboards take 8-10 weeks to hand build, during which time each of the chess pieces is painstakingly built around a vintage nixie tube scavenged from the world’s dwindling supply, and the board is prepared with the wireless induction coils that power the pieces when they’re set on the board, lighting them up. ( via Red Ferret ) (more…)

Categories: reader

Ultrasonic beacons ( previously , previously ) let advertisers build an idea of when and where you use your devices: the sound plays in an ad on one device, and is heard by other devices. This way, they can associate two gadgets with a single user, precisely geolocate devices without aGPS, or even build graphs of real-world social networks. The threat was considered more academic than some, but more than 200 Android apps were found in the wild using the technique . In research sponsored by the German government [PDF], a team of researchers conducted extensive tests across the EU to better understand how widespread this practice is in the real world. Their results revealed Shopkick ultrasonic beacons at 4 of 35 stores in two European cities. The situation isn’t that worrisome, as users have to open an app with the Shopkick SDK for the beacon to be picked up. In the real world, this isn’t an issue, as store owners, advertisers, or product manufactures could incentivize users to open various apps as a way to get discounts. From the paper: While in April 2015 only six instances were known, we have been able to identify 39 further instances in a dataset of about 1,3 million applications in December 2015, and until now, a total of 234 samples containing SilverPush has been discovered. We conclude that even if the tracking through TV content is not actively used yet, the monitoring functionality is already deployed in mobile applications and might become a serious privacy threat in the near future Apparently it’s not very effective—consumer speakers and mics aren’t designed with ultrasonic use in mind and the authors say noise, audio compression and other factors “significantly affects the feasibility” of the technology—but the intent is clearly there on the part of advertisers and appmakers to make a stab at it. Annoyingly, there doesn’t seem to be a list of the apps that are doing this, but there is a reference to a McDonalds app. If an app asks for access to your device’s microphone, camera, etc., and you don’t know why, delete the app.

Categories: reader

Workhorse W-15 revealed: PHEV pickup with 80-mile range

Posted by kenmay on May - 4 - 2017

Not even a year after releasing renderings of its new range-extended electric truck , Workhorse has unveiled the real thing. As promised, the new Workhorse W-15 uses a pair of electric motors, one in the front and one in the back, for propulsion, along with a BMW gas engine and Panasonic batteries to supply power. Impressively, the truck is rated to go 80 miles on a full charge, and it will manage 32 mpg highway and 28 mpg city with the gas engine in use. While delivering these environmentally friendly numbers, the W-15 won’t be lacking in performance and usability. The dual motors produce 460 horsepower and deliver that power to all four wheels. As a result, Workhorse says it will go 0-60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. The W-15 can also carry up to 2, 200 pounds of cargo in its bed, and it has a 7.2kW, 30-amp power outlet on the side suitable for running power tools. The only weak point in the truck’s capability is towing, which is rated at 5, 000 pounds. For comparison, a base, V6-powered Chevrolet Silverado will tow 7, 600 pounds , and a Ford F-150 with the smallest EcoBoost V6 can tow up to 8, 500 pounds . Of course neither is as economical nor as powerful. The W-15’s performance isn’t let down by the exterior, either. The exterior is chiseled and chunky, with no shortage of flat planes and sharp angles. It screams tough commercial truck . The look is carried inside to the custom dashboard, too, with lots of tough plastic in gray, white, and orange. The interior is quite spartan, with hardly any controls except a simple dial for shifting in the center. Instruments and infotainment are displayed on two LCD screens, with the infotainment one controlled via touch. Even though the truck is fairly barebones, Workhorse has included dual airbags , automatic emergency braking, and lane-departure warning. The Workhorse W-15 is aimed primarily at the commercial market, and demand appears to be high. The company says it currently has 4, 650 pre-orders . Pricing hasn’t been announced, but Workhorse intends to deliver trucks next year. We think this truck could have some strong appeal to private consumers as well, however the company hasn’t announced plans for personal-use sales. Related Video: Source: Workhorse

Categories: reader

Last November, SpaceX asked the FCC for permission to launch 4, 425 satellites to provide high speed internet around the globe. While current satellite internet can be slow and high-latency , the Elon Musk-founded company promises its proposed service will be much better thanks to custom satellites deployed into low-Earth orbit. In a Senate hearing today on US Broadband infrastructure, SpaceX’s vice president of government affairs Patricia Cooper explained the company’s plan, which includes its intention to begin launch operations in 2019. SpaceX hopes to start testing its satellites before the end of this year and continuing through the early months of 2018. If that’s successful, the company plans to launch satellites in phases between 2019 and 2024, after which the system will be at full capacity. SpaceX plans to launch the system with its Falcon 9 rocket , which has been successfully launched and landed with an eye toward re-usability. The entire system, said Cooper, is meant to provide a high volume of broadband capacity at “fiber-like” speeds over a wide area. The company says it’s designed its system to be highly adaptable, too, with the ability to “steer dynamically a large pool of beams to focus capacity where it is needed.” The company also promises that its system will be cost-effective. Cooper concluded her remarks with specific recommendations for current and future regulations, including those that require NGSO systems to launch within six years of licensure. These regulations were written more than 20 years ago, the company argues, and should not apply to modern systems like the one SpaceX is proposing. The company would also like to see more of the national funding for broadband projects. Cooper mentioned that only 1.5 percent of all funds appropriated for broadband infrastructure had been awarded to satellite systems. In addition, SpaceX would like the Senate to reward systems that promote efficient spectrum use, revise specific policies around the use of satellite-specific spectrums and to streamline the licensing process for the same. Oh, and “modernize” the FAA commercial launch regulations, which would allow for more launches per year than is currently allowed. Having a ton of satellites close to Earth providing broadband internet to anyone regardless of location certainly sounds fantastic, and a solid step forward for an increasingly internet-reliant populace. Still, without more specific timelines and operational details, it’s hard to get too excited, even though we secretly are . Via: Ars Technica Source: Senate Remarks, SpaceX’s Patricia Cooper

Categories: reader

Apple probably won’t start building iPhones and iPads in the United States any time soon , but CEO Tim Cook is happy to help other companies keep their manufacturing businesses stateside. Apple will pour $1 billion into a fund aimed at promoting advanced manufacturing jobs in the US, Cook announced on Mad Money today. “By doing that, we can be the ripple in the pond, ” Cook said. “Because if we can create many manufacturing jobs around, those manufacturing jobs create more jobs around them because you have a service industry that builds up around them.” Apple will announce the first beneficiary of its fund later in May. Cook touched on other areas of interest for Apple, including its intention to support programs that help train developers and get more people coding. Apple will announce details about this endeavor in the summer. “We’re really looking at this thing deeply, ” Cook said. “How do we grow our employee base? How do we grow the developer base? How do we grow manufacturing? You will see us bring things to market in all of those areas across this year.” One of President Donald Trump’s rallying cries during the campaign was the idea that he would bring manufacturing jobs back to the US. In early 2016, Trump said he’d force Apple to “build their damn computers in this country, ” though in reality there’s no teeth to such a threat and the company still assembles its gadgets abroad . Source: Mad Money

Categories: reader