Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks

Steering Wheels that Tell You When to Turn

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 5:15 PM on March 22, 2012

Steering WheelToday while driving we are often distracted by many things including cell phones, audio systems and the GPS monitors. Unfortunately people will look down at their GPS monitor on the center console while driving especial if they don’t know where they are going. Distracted drivers are a major cause of accidents in the United States. Many people are looking for solutions to this problem including the AT&T Lab. For those of you who don’t know AT&T has one of the best and oldest technology labs in the world. They were key in the development of everything from cell phones to HDTV. They are currently working on a steering wheel that uses vibrations to tell you which way to turn. If you need to turn left the left side of the steering pad will vibrate and if you need to turn right the right side will vibrate. They hope to add other abilities including the ability to tell if there is someone in your blind spot in the future.

My first question was whether having the steering wheel buzz would in it self be distracting. However testing with both younger drivers, those 25 and younger and older drivers 65 and older show that with both groups they are distracted less often using this method. It also showed that driver follow direction better using this method then others. AT&T labs is still doing more testing on this and it will not be in consumer cars anytime in the near future Anything that will keep drivers eyes on the road is a good thing. Do you think this is a good or bad idea. You can find out more about this concept at Technology Review.

ARIN Talks IPv6

Posted by Andrew at 2:51 PM on February 19, 2012

World IPv6 LaunchJohn from the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) chats with Jeffrey and John on the transition from IPv4 to IPv6.

In the past year, the last remaining IPv4 addresses were handed out to global regions. Some areas of the world have already run out of unallocated addresses, so it’s essential that in the next few years everyone starts using IPv6. This year, the World IPv6 Launch happens on 6 June 2012, with internet service providers (ISPs), networking equipment manufacturers and web companies permanently enabling IPv6 for their products and services. This is a big step forward in the transition to IPv6 but don’t worry, IPv4 isn’t going away for at least 10 years.

Warning…this interview is for advanced users only.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.

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Sony Connects Up At CES

Posted by Andrew at 7:30 AM on January 10, 2012

Sony LogoSony‘s CES focus this year is on electronics, content and network services combining to deliver high quality entertainment anytime and anywhere. Supported by a slew of product announcements, new connected devices range from TVs, Blu-ray players and A/V receivers through to tablets, smartphones and PCs and on to camcorders and mobile music players. Sony is combining these with online services for music, video and game delivery, creating a great user experience (as they say). TVs, PCs, smartphones and tablets are key to this experience as the four main devices used for entertainment.

Sony is committed to designing technologies for every aspect of consumer entertainment – in or out of the home, on the go, in the air, at work, at play, or wherever life takes you,” said Kazuo Hirai, Executive Deputy President, Sony Corporation. “When these products are combined with Sony Entertainment Network (SEN), which offers innovative services like Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited, as well as PlayStation Network, the user experience is truly unmatched and only made possible by a company like Sony.”

The Bravia TV line has been expanded in all three areas; entry level BX, step-up EX and flagship HX. Brightness and contrast levels have been increased and picture quality improved with Sony’s X-Reality and Motionflow video technologies. In particular the latter helps to reduce blur caused by rapid camera movements which is often a problem with LCD screens. Sony is sticking with the Google TV platform with a new network player and Blu-ray player featuring Google TV. Certain Bravia models will link seamlessly to these devices to provide Google TV features directly on the TV.

Sony Xperia ion smartphoneSony’s Vaio range of computers will continue to be updated with more entertainment feature and new designs that fit with consumers’ needs and increasing mobility. At CES, Sony will be demonstrating new technologies and prototypes for a range of technologies including glasses-free 3D.

In the smartphone space, the Xperia brand has done reasonably well, but increasing the smartphone share in North America is now one of Sony’s highest priorities. Sony Ericsson will be subsumed into Sony Mobile Communications and all new phones will carry Sony branding. The latest addition to the Xperia line-up is the Xperia ion, Sony’s first LTE smartphone coming with an HD 720p display and aluminium body. Also new is the Xperia S which comes with 3D image capture.

Sony Bloggie LiveOn the imaging front, no less than 13 new Handycam camcorders are being unveiled. A new image stabilisation system called Balanced Optical Steady Shot has been developed that controls the complete optical path from lens to sensor as a single floating unit. This reduces handshake blur by up to 13 times compared to the previous models. There’s a new camcorder model with a built-in video projector that has improved brightness and enhanced audio. The trusty Bloggie range now has a “Live” model which will live stream HD video over a Wi-Fi connection and there’s an unboxing over at sister channel Of course, Sony has a bunch of new Cybershot digital still cameras.

Z Series Audio MP3 PlayerFinally, it wouldn’t be CES if Sony didn’t announce a Walkman or two. The new Z series of MP3 players comes with an application interface and connectivity to both Sony’s Music Unlimited and the Android Market. Content can be played from Z series devices either wirelessly using DLNA or via HDMI to Bravia TVs. To further improve the audio experience, no less than eleven new Balanced Armature earbud-style headphones are now available as well.

That’s it – a quick overview of the products on show at CES by Sony and they all look like fun.

Silentium’s Quiet Bubble at CES 2012

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 1:10 PM on January 5, 2012 If you are going to CES and especially if you are working CES the one thing that will be hard to find will be quiet time. This is where the Quiet Bubble by Silentium comes in. The Silentium technology reduces disturbing noise and captures ambient noise from the environment and cancels it out. Creating a quiet and peaceful bubble around the individual.

Silentium QB technology is based on their proprietary Zone to Zone Active Noise control. The noise control produces an opposing signal at the same amplitude but with the opposite plan as the intrusive noise, providing a significant reduction of noise level. The Silentium technology, QB1 used with a headset reduces the noise between 14dB(A)-23Db(A). A standard passive headset combined with Silentium’s active technology allows for noise reduction up to 30dB(A). The technology (QB2) can also be used without the aid of headphones. It reduces ambient noise 14dB(A) within an individual zone helping to reduce stress in a work environment. Silentium is already working with various OEM and ODM to reduce noise within industries such as HVAC, IT, automotive among others. As Silentium CEO Yossi Barath said, “Even short-term exposure to noise pollution reduces our ability to concentrate and communicate,” the Silentium technology works to reduce this noise.

Silentium will have booth 22046, in the South Hall lower level where they will be demonstrating its Active Noise Control. You can stop by the both and try it out. Sit and relax with headphones on you can experience a Quiet Bubble, a reprieve from the noise and tension of CES.

Cox Leaving Wireless Business on March 30, 2012

Posted by J Powers at 10:34 AM on November 16, 2011
Cox Logo

Cox Logo

A confidential document got leaked out stating the Cox cable has decided to get out of the wireless business. Within 24 hours, Cox officially stated this was true – on March 30th, 2012, Cox will end their wireless service.

Back in 2008, Cox bought part of the 700 MHz spectrum to start Cox Wireless. Last year they launched the service, however, the plan didn’t pan out. Maybe part of it was because Stephen Bye left in March (he headed the wireless division).

“Cox is working to make this transition as seamless and easy as possible for our customers,” said Len Barlik, executive vice president of product development and management.  “We are proud of our employees’ dedication to delivering the excellent customer service that Cox is known for, and we will continue to keep our wireless customers’ satisfaction a top priority during this transition period.”

This affects customers in the  Hampton Roads, Roanoke and Northern Virginia; Orange County, San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Omaha, Nebraska; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.; and Rhode Island and Cox communities we serve in Connecticut and Cleveland, Ohio. This only affects wireless and 3G services. Cox will be giving a $150 credit to those who had the multi-service.



Diversity in Silicon Valley

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 2:59 PM on October 29, 2011 Silicon Valley have a diversity problem. That question is raging today on Twitter and Google Plus after the screening of the show Black in America 4 produced for CNN by Soledad O’Brien which will air in a couple of weeks. One of the participants  in the show was Michel Arrington, who said “I don’t know a single black entrepreneur”. He then went on to say he thought that Silicon Valley was a meritocracy and that the best rise to the top no matter their race, sex or creed. This is when the fireworks started. Many called him out on the idea that Silicon valley is colored blind and a pure meritocracy. It is true that the customer doesn’t care who is behind a piece of technology as long as it works, however the business side of Silicon Valley is a different story.

Silicon Valley is no different then the rest of society. The problem is not out-and-out racism, the problem is one of familiarity. As Hank Williams an African-American entrepreneur pointed out people tend to gravitate toward those who are like them. Investors and most mentors in Silicon Valley are white and male and they tend to naturally gravitate toward young, white male entrepreneurs. In other words the investors finds those who fit a pattern that they are looking for. It often happens without any thought or intention behind it. Often groups like NewMe Accelerator which focus on helping black tech entrepreneurs, have trouble even getting mentors or investors to take a look at them. Hank Williams said Techcrunch barely looked at NewMe Accelerator at the last tech meet up. That when they finally did  the Techcrunch report was mostly about the group itself and not about the individual tech companies that were working within it.

If this discussion highlights one thing it is that if you are white and male you need to tread lightly when the conversation about diversity comes up. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t talk about it, but expect a reaction especially if you make sweeping statements like Michael Arrington did.

FCC Opens White Space for Testing

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 1:40 PM on September 22, 2011

On Sept 19 the FCC opened up white space for testing for 45 days. What is white space and why is it important and the use of it controversial. White Space is the part of the frequency spectrum that is not being used. It came about with the switch from analog to digital. Because digital doesn’t use as much band width as analog there were spaces between channels that were not being used. These are known as white spaces. The FCC is now allowing companies to register and start testing devices within the white spaces for 45 days. One of the biggest controversy about white space is the problem of interference and how much space is needed between bands to avoid it. Spectrum Bridge a Florida based company has created the first database that shows where white space is available. That is the data base that is being used and tested. Other companies, including Google have registered to be white space administrator. Once the testing is done, then the FCC will review the results and see where interference occurred and what corrections need to be made.

What makes this test and white spaces themselves important is one use for it is what is known as Super Wifi. Super Wifi uses the lower frequency that exist within the white space. This allows it to travel the frequency to travel much further then traditional wi-fi does. It will also penetrate walls. Super wi-fi could be a boon for less populated areas where companies don’t want to spend the money to put in cables or fibre. The FCC has limited the wattage that can be used to 40 watts, this may or may not cut Super Wifi capability. Super Wifi will probably not be practical in more populated areas, where TV bands are much closer together and there is less white space available.

The National Broadcast Association is fighting the use of white space as it has been laid out by the FCC. They say it does not provide enough space between bands to avoid interference. Now lets be clear the area of the spectrum known as white space used to be license to TV companies under the old analog system. I suspect that they were not happy with the whole idea of white spaces. Companies like Google, Intel and Microsoft are looking forward to being able to use white space for not only wi-fi, but also Bluetooth devices. They may have to wait awhile, the Spectrum Database is first of many databases that have to be tested and the results evaluated. Just the testing itself is going to take over 300 days add to that the evaluation period and you are probably looking at late 2012 before white space will be available for commercial use. Once it is the possibilities could be limitless, but will unfortunately will probably be limited.

How to Prevent Traffic Jams

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 6:27 AM on September 16, 2011

Traffic Jam If you’ve driven at all you’ve probably been in a traffic jam at least once in your life. If you live in the Northeast or around any major metropolitan area such as Chicago, Dallas, or Los Angeles you may feel like you are in one almost daily. Sometimes there is a visible cause such as a car accident or roadwork, but other times a traffic jam seems to appear for apparently no reason at all. Scientist and engineer have been studying this phenomenon for years. In 2007 ScienceDaily published an article explain how this can easily happen using a truck switching lane and therefore cause the traffic behind them to slow down below a critical speed. The traffic around the incident clears and moves forward however the problem rolls back like a wave creating the traffic jam. There is a good graphical representation of this at SmartMotorist

So Scientist have known what happens in a traffic jam for awhile, the question is how can they be prevented. There are three types of traffic flow. Free flow, where traffic is flowing at the maximum speed allowed. Synchronized flow where because of the traffic density the vehicles move at a slower but still constant speed. Finally there are jams where speed drops to zero when traffic density reaches a certain unknown threshold. So how do you prevent the third circumstances. One possible solution is to have vehicles to talk to each other through an automated system. If you have been in a traffic jam you will quickly recognize that most people have one of two reactions the first are the defensive drivers who leave more space between them and the vehicle in front of them then necessary. The second group are offensive driver, the  kind that drive up so close behind you that you can see the spinach they had for diner. What you want is for vehicles entering the traffic jam zone to act more defensively and enter the problem zone slower and those in front to leave the jam quickly causing the traffic jam to dissolve.  What is the best way to do this, one possible solution is to have cars talk to each other. They could share their speed and position to the cars around them. As cars in front of them slow down this would hopefully convince the cars coming up to the area to slow down also. Meantime the cars in front of the congested area would leave faster, keeping the flow going.  This is the idea that is discussed in a Technology Review article published by MIT.

There are of course several problems that need to be resolved for this to work. First is security you want to make sure you have a system that can’t be hacked. Second at this point it is unclear how many cars need to have a system installed for it to be effective. Also systems that are manufactured by different companies need to be able talk to each other. Finally people have to actually use the information that they are provided in the way they are suppose to. As more and more cars enter our highways both in the United States and around the world developing technology like this becomes increasingly important. This type of technology is still in its infancy, but if it becomes reality, it will have far more impact on productivity and the economy, then any social network.

Robotic Hair Restoration – Your Head on an Assembly Line.

Posted by J Powers at 8:48 AM on September 2, 2011


Hair. Long Flowing hair. Unless you lose it on top, then you go to a company that will put hair back on top of your head. You love the idea so much, you end up buying the company.

Now there are robots that help transplant hair. Recently, the FDA approved robotic hair transplant technology. These Restoration Robotics – Also called ARTAS - make the art of Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE) a lot easier for the physician.

Sara Wasserbauer M.D. has performed a two-year study, collecting data on the effectiveness of the ARTAS. She has found shorter healing times, less invasive surgery and a cut in transplant time – 5 hours as opposed to 10 without the robot.

“It’s quite amazing to think how far technology has come,” said Dr. Wasserbauer. “The use of robotics is already used in many fields of medicine – especially in surgical procedures. I’ve been very excited about this particular study and am enjoying being part of the research team to determine the pros and cons of using robotics in hair restoration.”

The device looks pretty scary, but it looks to advance the technology of hair restoration. The physician uses software to help guide the robot in placing the hair.

I personally chose the opposite – I can grow a full head of hair, but would rather not. However, I know that some of you want to reverse your baldness and don’t want to have a bad experience. With this robot cutting down the out-patient process and possibly creating a more successful hair restoration process, would you prefer this system over regular hair restoration?

The Loss of Tech Know-How

Posted by Andrew at 11:33 PM on August 30, 2011

What do compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), LCD screens, rechargeable batteries, solar cells and integrated circuit packaging all have in common? They’re all technologies that the USA can no longer produce within the country itself and must rely on companies in Asia, such as Taiwan and China to manufacturer. The technology has effectively been lost to the US, having migrated from West to East as part of major purchasing deals.

These deals might be considered as best business practice too. The way it often works is that a US-based company develops a technology and a product, but a small part is subcontracted out to foreign 3rd party. Say a little daughter board. Time passes and the 3rd party comes back to the US company and offers to build not only the daughter board, but also the motherboard, and more cheaply too. The deal happens, it’s a success and profits are up all round. Time passes and the 3rd party comes back and offers to build not only the motherboard but the whole product and more cheaply too. The deal happens, it’s a success and profits are up all round. It’s all good.

What happens next? The once 3rd party contractor goes to a US-based major distributor or retail chain and offers to make them an own-brand version of the product more cheaply than the market leader, now having access to all the technology required to make the product without any assistance. Surprised? Don’t be; this is what happened between Dell and ASUSTeK but it’s a pattern that has been repeated in many industries and continues to be repeated.

If you want to know more, Forbes are running a series of articles by Steve Denning, starting with Why Amazon Can’t Make a Kindle in the USA, on the loss of technological expertise from the USA. I think they’re an excellent read that explains much of the world today, even if you don’t necessarily see the loss of know-how from the US as a bad thing. It’s also worth browsing some of the comments to see other people’s thoughts on the articles, especially those from other countries.