China’s ‘Straddling Bus’ is Stranger Than Fiction



TEB graphicFrom an American perspective, China can look like a very strange place. While the Asian country has absorbed many Western traits into its culture, China is still different in many ways. I experienced this recently when I came across news of a new public transit vehicle being tested in China. The vehicle’s technically known as the Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) and it’s colloquially referred to as the “Straddling Bus,” due to the way it straddles the roads it moves over.

The TEB looks like a quasi-futuristic people mover that actually travels above the road on elevated walls that glide along a predefined track. In reality, the “Straddling Bus” isn’t really a bus at all. It’s more like a train. Whatever you call it, busses and trains aren’t likely to elicit that much excitement in 2016. But the TEB’s appeal comes from the way it moves over traffic, allowing cars to pass underneath. In the right setting, a TEB could be an extremely practical public transit solution, requiring less space (and in turn expense) than subways or elevated railways.

The company that designed and built the first TEB prototype actually took the vehicle out for a short test drive on a public street in Qinhuangdao. The event was attended by a decent-sized crowd, some of whom even got to ride aboard the vehicle.

But over the next few days, reports began to surface that the TEB and the company behind it were nothing more than a scam:

…Several state media outlets have published articles alleging that the company in charge of developing the TEB crowdfunded their project illegally and misled investors.
Despite the hype surrounding the trial run, both domestic and abroad, it seems that the company may have blown the occassion out of proportion. Not only was the test run just 300 meters long and completely failed to mimic real-life traffic conditions, but authorities in Qinhuangdao city also were not aware of it even happening, People’s Daily reports. The firm later verified that it wasn’t a “road test,” but simply part of “internal testing.”

It looks like the Straddling Bus has gone as quickly as it arrived. Perhaps another enterprising transit company will pick up where the first TEB left off. Anything’s possible in China.

 


Amazon Kindles Coming (Back) to Target



Kindle BackThere’s nothing like trying before buying. It’s the ultimate way to know for sure that the focus of your most recent gadget obsession is truly worth purchasing. Apple opened its own line of retail stores based on that very concept. And while it’s easy enough to order almost anything online and have it delivered quickly, there’s still no way to put your hands thru a computer display and actually hold something before pressing the “add to cart” button. And that may be why Amazon and Target have come to an agreement that’ll soon find Amazon’s Kindle line of products available to purchase on Target’s website and eventually at the massive chain’s many retail stores.

This isn’t the first time Target carried the Kindle line of products. But the retailer abruptly stopped selling the devices in 2012. No official reason was ever given for the change. But considering the fact that Amazon and Target are essentially in the same business (retail), perhaps there was some trepidation on Target’s part about selling something that directly supported its competition.

Regardless of the speculation, this development will be good news to buyers who’ve wanted to try out an Amazon Kindle, Amazon Paperwhite, Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, or an Amazon Fire TV before opening their wallets to buy one.


World’s Longest Aircraft, Airlander 10, is Unveiled



HAV logoWant to know what the world’s longest aircraft looks like? You’re probably picturing something sleek and angular like a Concorde jet or maybe something ultra-futuristic from a sci-fi film. But you’d be wrong. Very, very wrong. Because the world’s longest aircraft looks more like a giant elongated watermelon with fins on the back. Yes, it’s the Airlander 10. A kind of plane-airship hybrid. And it was recently taken out of the hangar for the first time.

The Airlander 10, officially named the Martha Gwyn, is the result of years of work by British company Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV). Martha measures at 302 feet in length, which is about 60 feet longer than most commercial airliners.

The craft was originally conceived by the U.S. military for surveillance purposes. But the project ran out of money before it could be completed. Hybrid Air Vehicles took the army’s original concept and ran with it. The company believes the Airlander 10 could be used for more than just military work. HAV is hoping to build multiple Airlanders in the next few years where they could be used for passenger vehicles, tourism movers, humanitarian missions, cargo jobs, and more.

Martha Gwyn was towed out of its hangar onto a field where it is to remained tethered to the ground. No firm date has been set for the giant aircraft’s first official flight.


GNC #1135 Your Privacy and Comcast



Comcast may be the next company you have to bargain with to pay them to not sell your surfing habits with potential advertisers. Interesting in how with some companies you pay them to provide you a service yet they consider spying on you to eek out a little more income. Very disgusting.

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Full Archive of Nintendo Power Magazine Now Available



Nintendo Power pages JPGCoverage of the gaming industry is virtually inexhaustible at this point. Pick any console, platform, franchise, or game title, and you’re likely to find a plethora of blogs, vlogs, and podcasts catering to that subject. But back in the days when the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) reigned supreme over the gaming world, news about the console and its attendant game titles wasn’t so easy to find. As a video-game obsessed kid, I remember the wait in between new editions of Nintendo Power magazine (and its predecessor, Nintendo Fun Club News) felt like a lifetime, despite the publication’s bi-monthly print schedule.

In its day, Nintendo Power magazine was required reading for anyone who took their gaming exploits seriously. Each issue came packed with news on the latest games and gaming accessories, as well as helpful things like gameplay maps and cheat codes. Just in time for the upcoming release of the NES Classic Edition (was this planned or just pure coincidence?), the entire run of Nintendo Power magazine has been digitized and archived online.

I took a quick flip thru the first issue, which features write-ups on NES classics Super Mario Bros. 2 and Double Dragon. The digital magazine even contains a reader survey that was filled out by the magazine’s original owner but never clipped and sent. There’s also a short piece on the latest Pee-Wee Herman film, as well as a celebrity player profile section devoted to Candace and Kirk Cameron.

Get your own Nintendo Power nostalgia fix at Internet Archive, where the magazines can be flipped thru in all their original glory.


Evernote has Limited-Time Offer for Eligible Students



Evernote logoThe new school year is just a few weeks away, so it is no surprise that the back-to-school sales and deals are starting to appear. Evernote has a limited-time offer for eligible students. Those that qualify will receive 75% off a full year of Evernote Premium.

As always, there is some “fine print” to be aware of. The offer is available only for new and Basic Evernote users in the United States or United Kingdom who verify eligibility with a valid .edu or .ac.uk email address by September 30, 2016. The offer is not available for those who have already used their school email address for this offer before.

It is worth noting that after the promotional period ends, those who took advantage of this offer will find that their subscription will automatically renew on an annual basis at the normal price. A year should give a student enough time to figure out if they like Evernote Premium enough to start paying for it.

Evernote says: “Forgetting sucks. Capture everything you need to know and keep it with you wherever you go.” It points out that students can use Evernote to collect class notes, web pages, handouts, articles, projects, and portfolios all together in their “productivity happy place”.


Blizzard DDoS Possibly Linked to Second Overwatch Ban Wave



Blizzard Entertainment logoYesterday, Blizzard Entertainment enacted a second ban wave of players who were cheating in Overwatch. Many banned players complained online and some of their comments suggested they were seeking some kind of revenge on Blizzard. Not long after that, Blizzard experienced a DDoS attack. This doesn’t prove that the situations are connected – but it certainly looks suspicious.

In May, a warning was posted on the Overwatch Forums that stated: “If a player is found to be cheating – or using hacks, bots, or third-party software that provides any sort of unfair advantage – that player will be permanently banned from the game. Full stop.” In June, Blizzard banned players who were cheating in Overwatch. One would think this should have been enough of a clue that Blizzard is serious about banning cheaters.

Despite a very obvious example of what would happen to cheaters, some players decided to cheat in Overwatch anyway. This caused Blizzard to enact a second banwave. Kotaku reported:

This time around, Blizzard sniffed out players who use “triggerbots”, which shoot for players when their crosshairs appear over a target, and “aimbots,” which aid in accuracy.

A Reddit user compiled a series of screenshots of complaining comments that were posted by people who were cheating and got banned. Many of the comments are overly dramatic, and some are NSFW.

Included in the Kotaku article are a few comments that imply that some banned players want to take revenge upon Blizzard via a DDoS attack. There’s no way to know whether those comments came from people who actually know how to do that, but it definitely looks suspicious.

Yesterday and today, @BlizzardCS (the verified Twitter account for Blizzard Entertainment North America Customer Support) posted a series of tweets stating that they were experiencing a DDoS attack. It affected players ability to log in to all of Blizzard’s games and also impacted their websites.

Shortly before I posted this blog, @BlizzardCS tweeted:


GNC #1134 Uber & Zika



Big news out of Uber China and I also talk about Zika. Plus some heart to heart with the Ohana.. Then I top it off with some close to home UFO discussions. Make sure you get caught up because wow you get to see what I saw.

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Coinbase Now Supports Ethereum



Ethereum logoIf you think the world of cryptocurrency is limited only to Bitcoin, you are mistaken. There are a number of other digital currency systems currently in operation. One of these is called Ethereum, which is self-described as:

Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.

These apps run on a custom built blockchain, an enormously powerful shared global infrastructure that can move value around and represent the ownership of property. This enables developers to create markets, store registries of debts or promises, move funds in accordance with instructions given long in the past (like a will or a futures contract) and many other things that have not been invented yet, all without a middle man or counterparty risk.

Ether is the appropriately named currency of the Ethereum network. Cryptocurrency trading company Coinbase recently added support for Ether. Coinbase users can buy, sell, and trade Ether directly from their Coinbase accounts:

In May, we added Ethereum trading on GDAX, our professional digital asset exchange. With the addition of Ethereum on Coinbase, consumers in 32 countries can acquire Ether and take part in an open financial system facilitated by Ethereum and Bitcoin.

Honestly, I don’t really understand any of this. But if you want to learn more about Ethereum, Coinbase has posted a helpful information page that may (?) provide some clarity.


Plex Comes to NVIDIA SHIELD



Plex logoGaining complete mastery over your home entertainment domain has always been a bit of a challenge. You’ve got video files on a NAS, a large music library on a USB drive, photos scattered across a number of devices, and access to multiple audio/video streaming services. One of the best (and most popular) software solutions for taming the home entertainment beast is called Plex. Plex is a free downloadable server that runs on your local network. Once it’s set up, a Plex server can deliver media to other devices using native Plex apps. Plex has apps on most major platforms, including Android, iOS, and Apple TV.

While Plex takes care of the software side of media management, you’ll still need a connected piece of hardware that’s capable of running Plex if you want to access all of that content on the family big screen. There are many options out there when it comes to compatible players. But Plex may have truly met its match with the new NVIDIA SHIELD. SHIELD is a home media and gaming center that’s powered by Android TV. And now Plex is available as a SHIELD app:

With support for 4K video, streamed games, and a powerful processor, NVIDIA SHIELD is perfect for Plex. It runs your Plex Media Server and our elegant Android TV interface, making SHIELD the perfect all-in-one Plex device. In addition to powering Plex, SHIELD itself transcodes your content, so you can stream all your content to any of your other devices.

NVIDA SHIELD starts at $199. Plex is a free download with optional premium features that unlock the full potential of the media-streaming software.