DEKA The first prosthetic arm set to hit the market

FDA gives approval for DEKA prosthetic arm controlled by muscle impulses

Prosthetics have come a long way in recent years, with many artificial limbs incorporating advanced robotic and cybernetic systems that include everything up to and including mind control. Unfortunately, for all these advances, the lack of prosthetics capable of complex motor control means that most users see them as tools rather than replacement limbs. However, that may be changing as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced approval for marketing of the DEKA Arm system, the first prosthetic arm set to hit the market that translates signals from a patient’s muscles to carry out complex tasks.

Manufactured by DEKA Integrated Solutions in Manchester, New Hampshire, the DEKA Arm was developed under DARPA’s Revolutionizing Prosthetics program that aims to develop arm prostheses with near-natural control. DARPA sees the DEKA Arm as a way of expanding the options for amputees, especially those using the split-hook hand developed in 1912. It says a lot about how far prosthetics have to go that something developed over a century ago is still so widely used.

The DEKA Arm is aimed at aiding those who are using muscle-powered prosthetics; providing them with an arm that is not only less exhausting to use, but also one with finer and more complicated control. Designed for those with limb loss occurring at the shoulder joint, mid-upper arm, or mid-lower arm, the DEKA Arm uses electrical signals from the muscles picked up by electromyogram (EMG) electrodes to control the arm. This isn’t new. The Boston Arm had similar capabilities over forty years ago.

The DEKA Arm was developed as part of a DARPA program

What’s different is that the battery-powered DEKA Arm allows simultaneous control of multiple joints with ten powered movements using a variety of input devices, including wireless signals from sensors attached the the user’s feet. In addition, the hand has six user-selectable grips. That’s not bad for an arm that’s the size and weight of a natural adult arm.

DARPA says that creating the arm required eight years of work on miniaturization of motors, computer controls and sensors, as well as developing new lightweight materials that were up to the job. All of this had to be put together into a rugged package that could handle day-to-day punishment.

The FDA says that for approval of the DEKA Arm it used its de novo classification process intended for novel low- to moderate-risk medical devices that are first-of-a-kind. Based on clinical studies of 36 DEKA Arm study participants, the FDA concluded that 90 percent could use the arm for everyday tasks that previous arms couldn’t deal with, such as using locks and keys, preparing food, eating, using zippers, and brushing and combing hair. The agency also examined the arm’s software and electrical systems, and tested it for impacts and durability under exposure to common environmental factors such as dust and light rain.

The approval opens the way for DEKA to pursue a commercial release of the arm.

The DARPA video below shows the DEKA arm in action.

Sources: FDA, DARPA

United States Army’s next generation protective mask

Army researchers envision a fan embedded within the mask’s filtration system that uses less power, is lighter and is far less bulky than conventional respirators (Image: U.S. Army illustration)

As well as protecting soldiers from impacts, modern helmets and masks are also designed to provide protection against chemical and biological agents. Such gear requires a powered air purifying respirator to supply air, but these traditionally rely on a separate battery pack and blower unit that is connected to the mask via a hose. The US Army is developing technology for a compact self-contained mask that is not only lighter and less cumbersome, but also helps keep soldiers cool.

With an eye towards technologies that could be integrated into a next-gen mask, scientists at the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center developed a fan that is embedded within a mask’s filtration system. The team says this consumes less power and is also lighter and less bulky than conventional respirators, helping to lighten the load for soldiers already burdened with heavy equipment.

Instead of a blower unit hanging off the hip or back, the new system pulls air through a filtration system on the side of the mask by a mini-blower before being directed across the nose cup, providing an even flow of cool, clean air across the face. When the user exhales, the air valve closes and the clean filtered air is diverted into the mask’s eye cavity. This over-pressurizes the face piece to prevent outside contaminants entering the mask if the seal is broken.

The Army says that test studies using a modified, commercial version of the M50 joint service general purpose mask, which replaced the M40 Field Protective Mask in the US armed forces in December 2009, was found to be more comfortable for soldiers, while maintaining equal or higher levels of effectiveness when doing things that soldiers do, such as crawling, running, firing rifles and combat maneuvers.

The Edgewood Chemical Biological Center’s Respiratory Protection Branch says it plans to develop a number of technologies that have the potential to be integrated into next-gen helmet and communication systems. Amongst these is a mask that uses physiological monitoring to sense when the fan needs to activate and deactivate, or a mode that lets the user control various settings, such as turning the fan on or off, turning the fan on with airflow just to the eye cavity, or turning the fan on with airflow to both the eye cavity and the nose cup.

Source: US Army

Tech Companies Strive to Keep Net Neutrality on the Table in Government Negotiations

More than 100 major technology companies have voiced opposition against a new proposal from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler that would make concessions to a “pay to play” model of network management that would allow ISPs to charge companies for preferential treatment.

These new rules, which are currently scheduled to be voted on May 15, are expected to strike a major blow against “net neutrality,” the concept that ISPs should treat all data that travels over their networks equally.

The proposal by Wheeler, a former government lobbyist, has been opposed in writing by the likes of Google, Reddit, Facebook, Amazon, and dozens of other companies. The letter states that the FCC should not permit “individualised bargaining and discrimination.”

The Open Internet Order, a prior attempt by the FCC to set forth regulations in favor of net neutrality, was rejected in January by a federal court on the grounds that it exceeded the FCC’s authority.

According to the FCC, the latest plan will forbid ISPs from acting in a “commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.” This ambiguous wording has many worried that it could be “commercially reasonable” to allow ISPs to charge companies like Netflix or Amazon extra to for better network speeds.

There are also voices of dissent within the government agency itself. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has stated that the rulemaking should be postponed for at least a month to give the public adequate time to respond to Wheeler’s proposal.

Fearing what will happen to its users, web host Neocities is throttling all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site (identifying visitors based on the FCC’s internal IP block).

While it’s doubtful that anyone at the FCC will find their access to Neocities personally limiting, this is in an attempt to demonstrate how treating online entities differently online could make the internet a fragmented place where individuals and companies need to negotiate network speeds rather than making everything fast and available to everyone else.

Consumer ready CENTR video camera takes 360 degrees footage

Video professionals with the US Army, Red Bull and National Geographic are already using the technology, and you’ll soon have your chance. The consumer-ready CENTR Camera aims to make it easy to capture 360-degree HD footage, recording your world in full.

Built by former Apple engineers, the CENTR has four HD image sensors mounted around a palm-sized chassis. Instead of filming straight-on, like the average video camera, it’s constantly filming 360 degrees of footage. CENTR’s 20-variable image calibration stitches images from the four sensors into a single video automatically, so they’re available to view right away without any complicated post-filming editing.

“When shooting video, we pull either 720p or 1080p RAW video data from each camera,” CENTR explains on Kickstarter. “When each camera is shooting at 1080p resolution, we are processing 4K of panoramic video data in each frame. The effective resolution after image stitching is 1080 x ~7500 pixels. The final panoramic width for each video actually varies slightly based on the calibration parameters automatically set by CENTR.”

The footage can be viewed in real time using the CENTR interactive player on a Wi-Fi-connected desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. It looks like a normal video at first, but unlike your typical YouTube fare, you can scroll to spin it around. In a video made from the cockpit of a plane, for instance, you start off looking forward from the pilot’s POV and can then scroll to look over the wing and keep going to view the pilot himself.

In addition to video, the CENTR can be used to capture time-lapse panoramic stills photos. Each image sensor is 5 MP, allowing for 20-MP time-lapse photography. The camera also includes a single-sensor mode for times when you just want to shoot traditionally without the 360-degree effect.

The CENTR’s tape-roll design is meant to allow the filmer to grip the camera through the center without blocking any of the individual sensors. It’s also built to work with tripod and GoPro mounts, delivering a versatile filming platform for capturing everyday action.

Sketch of CENTR mount

Inside its housing, the CENTR Camera includes a digital bubble level that helps in leveling filming. It saves footage on 8 GB of internal flash storage and includes microSD expansion. The battery runs for two hours and is designed to be quickly swapped out. Audio is recorded via three built-in microphones. The camera weighs just 9 oz (250 g).

After developing the CENTR for the past three years, the design team has turned to Kickstarter to help it get over the hump to production. It’s offering an early bird pledge price of US$299 (est. retail: $399) in an attempt to raise $900,000. If all goes to plan, production is set to begin in February 2015.

When it does, it’ll be competing against products like the 360Fly and Geonaute.

The campaign pitch video can be seen below.

Sources: CENTRKickstarter

Microsoft Gains Most Websites in May 2014 Netcraft Web Server Survey

Microsoft gained the most websites again in April 2014, bringing it the closest it has ever been to Apache’s leading market share, according to the May 2014 Netcraft Web Server survey.

Netcraft received responses from 975,262,468 sites in April, up by 16 million from March.

Apache added 4.3 million sites in the month, however lost market share. Microsoft gained over twice as many sites, and increased its market share by 0.37 percentage points, bringing it to just under 4 percent behind Apache for total number of sites served.

Apache has been the most popular web server for over 18 years.

Among active sites Microsoft also gained modestly on Apache (0.20 percent), as did nginx (0.14 percent).

nginx released versions 1.6.0 and 1.7.0 on April 24, and while it lost sites overall, it was the only company to gain market share amongst the top million sites. nginx may see additional gains going forward from the improved support in the recent Ubuntu 14.04 release.

Use of the new gTLDs increased in April, with Netcraft finding massive adoption of both .email and .berlin. The latter increased in the month from 2 websites to 40,000, despite criticism of the new gTLDs from German news magazine Der Spiegel, which had previously registered its own .berlin domain name.

Microsoft IIS gained 7 million websites, over a third of which were hosted in the North Central US Azure region.

Apple is going to buy Beats Audio for $3.2bn?

Apple has reportedly bought Beats Electronics for a cool $3.2bn. The news comes courtesy of Dr. Dre himself in what has to be one of the most unorthodox corporate announcements in recent years, via Instagram.

The Instagram video along with a number of images, all of which seem to suggest the purchase is a sone deal, have all since been removed from the site.

This comes after the Financial Times reported that Apple’s purchase of Beats could be announced as soon as next week. The deal has been agreed in principle, but some financial details still need to be ironed out, the paper said.

T3’s very own Managing Editor and columnist Duncan Bell points out that whilst odd, there would certainly be method in Apple’s madness with buying Beats.

“Beats mouthpiece Jimmy Iovine has hinted at an Apple and Beats tie-up for years, but a full-on buy-out would still be a little surprising. ”

“However, the two brands would make a good pairing as they have one key thing in common: they make products that are premium in terms of pricing, yet mass-market in terms of popularity.”

“A buy-out would also give Apple an easy route in to on-demand streaming via Beats Audio, letting it compete with Spotify. Spotify isn’t profitable but it must currently be taking big chunks out of iTunes’ bottom line. Maybe Apple thinks it knows how to make money from music streaming…”

Beats Electronics is best known for its range of Beats headphones and speakers, as well as the recently launched Beats Music service.

The deal is said to be worth as much as £2 billion. If true, it would make the acquisition the largest in Apple’s history.

Apple has bought at least 24 companies in the last 18 months. Its purchase of Prime Sense is the largest that we’re aware of. Apple bought the company behind the original Kinect for $350 million (£207 million) .

The company has traditionally shied away from major purchases. However, Apple has said that it is willing to drop big money to buy a company – but only if it made sense.

Beats was founded by rapper Dr Dre and the chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records Jimmy Iovine. The first headphones under the brand were launched in 2008.

Apple is thought to be targeting the business to buy into the Beats brand itself.

Source:Financial Times

Emails Between Google,other major Tech companies and NSA Suggest Ongoing Cooperation(Reports)

Google and other major tech companies have been meeting with the NSA about cybersecurity for years, emails obtained by Al Jazeera reveal. The emails between Google executives Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt and NSA Director General Keith Alexander were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and date from the summer of 2012.

The emails refer to ongoing co-operation and information sharing between the NSA and industry leaders, even while some of those same industry players have been publicly voicing concerns over NSA practices.

In November of 2013 reports began to surface that the NSA was accessing data travelling between data centers, andGoogle was amongst a chorus of objectors.

Over a year earlier, in the summer of 2012, an email from Alexander referred to “A group (primarily Google, Apple and Microsoft) recently came to agreement on a set of core security principles.” The same email referred to a collaborative effort to foil a BIOS attack originating in China which included Intel, AMD, HP, Dell and Microsoft.

That alleged threat was covered by 60 Minutes, but has met with skepticism, both that the threat was real and that the NSA’s intention was the defense of data networks.Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Nate Cardozo told Al Jazeera that the NSA may have been “looking for weaknesses in the exact same products they’re trying to secure.”

John Pike, director and founder of GlobalSecurity.org told VentureBeat: “The large telecom companies, including Internet companies, have an extremely intimate relationship with the NSA. How could it be otherwise?”

One of the emails from Alexander to Brin thanks him for participation in the Enduring Security Framework (ESF) program, which was launched in 2009 to partner the private sector with the federal government to improve cybersecurity.

Another email invites Schmidt to participate in a “decision-oriented” meeting on security and threats involving mobile devices.

“We work really hard to protect our users from cyberattacks, and we always talk to experts — including in the US government — so we stay ahead of the game,” Google said in a statement. “ It’s why Sergey attended this NSA conference.”

The emails contain no reference to the NSA accessing Google user records.

Al Jazeera is expecting its FOIA request to eventually yield dozens of additional emails.

BMW gives “i8″ that is its very own solar carport

BMW Group DesignworksUSA has designed a solar carport to house the new i3 and forthcoming i8 electric vehicles. BMW is revealing the one-car solar garage concept as part of the official media launch of the i8 in Los Angeles.

The concept follows previous efforts from the German automotive giant to power its “i” sub-brand using renewable energy. It last year unveiled a similar carport system conceived in partnership with the photovoltaic firm SOLARWATT GmbH.

The latest design features an insect-like frame that makes extensive use of bamboo and like the SOLARWATT system, it features glass-on-glass solar modules on its rooftop.

The system is designed to work in conjunction with BMW’s i Wallbox Pro, enabling owners to charge direct from the solar collector panels and providing a detailed report on the amount of solar going into the system and how that compares against grid consumption. Any excess energy produced by the carport can be fed back into the owner’s residence for domestic use.

BMW’s solar carport concept may not be quite as eye-catching as say, thePure Tension collapsible solar pavilion revealed by Volvo last year, but it does appear to have a better chance of moving beyond concept stage.

The i8 hybrid, when fully charged has a range of approximately 22 miles (37 km) in all-electric mode.

Source: BMW

Sikorsky wins to replace Marine One US Presidential helicopters

Airforce One may be the flashiest plane in the US presidential hangar, but that doesn’t mean the day-to-day runabout gets neglected. The US Navy has announced that Sikorsky Aircraft has been awarded the contract to replace the Marine One helicopter fleet used to transport the President. The initial US$1.24 billion contract is for six S-92 helicopters and two trainer simulators for the US Marine Corps as part of a development and conversion program that will see a fleet of 21 aircraft built for presidential use by 2023.

Marine One is the call sign of the helicopter used by the US President for getting from place to place quickly and securely. It’s usually a VH-3D Sea King or a VH-60N WhiteHawk, but these date back to the 1960s and 1980s, and after the 9/11 attacks were regarded as obsolete.

The previous attempt to replace the Marine One fleet was a competition between Sikorsky and a Lockheed Martin / Agustawestland partnership. Lockheed won the contract to build the replacement helicopter, called the VH-71 Kestrel, but the cost of the 28-helicopter fleet skyrocketed from US$6.1 billion to $13 billion before being cancelled by the Obama administration in 2009.

sikorsky-marine-one-0

The new helicopter, dubbed the VH92, is based on the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92, of which Sikorsky has delivered over 200 to customers in ten countries since 2004. Applying lessons learned from the previous replacement program, Sikorsky was required to submit a proposal based on an existing, in-production helicopter in its bid, which will be fully evaluated before production begins. The six aircraft to be delivered by 2018 will be used to test the flight performance and mission communications of the S-92, with four going on to operational status. Meanwhile, the simulators will be used to train pilots and flight crews.

If all goes according to schedule, the first batch of production aircraft will be ordered with the final deliveries by 2023. Assembly of the helicopters will be at Sikorsky’s S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. These will then be sent to a secure facility in Stratford, Connecticut, for modifications before going on to another facility to install the integrated communications and mission systems, then back to Stratford to install the presidential interior complete with in-flight toilets.

Exactly what the VH92 will be like is highly classified, but industry opinion about the previous replacement program indicates that it will have greater range than existing Marine One helicopters, and carry up to 14 passengers and thousands of pounds of cargo. It will also be specially hardened against electromagnetic pulses, carry encrypted communications and video conferencing gear, and be able to jam radar and deploy countermeasures against anti-aircraft missiles, though the combat and communications capabilities may be scaled back to control costs.

Source: Sikorsky

Mink 3D printer lets you create your own customized color makeup

Finding the exact shade of lipstick or eye shadow you have in mind can be tough, which is why Grace Choi, a Harvard Business School alumni, came up with the Mink – a 3D printer that lets you print out makeup in any color you fancy. Whether it’s the color of a fruit, your friend’s purse or a sunset, transforming that color into any kind of makeup is simply a matter of choosing it and hitting print.

The Mink 3D printer uses the same FDA-approved substrates and ingredients used by popular makeup brands. To print color-specific makeup, a user just needs to pick a color, be it from an image found online, a photo they’ve clicked, or a color they’ve selected in image editing software like Paint or Photoshop. All the software needs is the hex code of the chosen color (easily obtained with a color picker) and Mink is ready to print.

Instead of being restricted to a limited color palette, users will be able to print (and wear) makeup in any color in the world, from the comfort of their own homes, according to Choi. “It can take any image and instantly transform it into a wearable color cosmetic, turning any phone, laptop or camera into an endless beauty aisle,” she says. “You can take a picture of your friend’s lipstick and just print it out.”

Choi 3D printed a light pink eye shadow when she presented Mink at theTechCrunch Disrupt 2014 conference in New York. While Mink can currently print powder-based makeups, Choi plans to expand its capabilities to print things like lip gloss and cream.

The 3D makeup printer is targeted at users in the 13-21 age group and will retail for less than US$200 when it’s launched later this year.

Check out the video of her presentation below.

Source: Mink via Techcrunch

Sky , CityFibre and TalkTalk announce 1 Gbps broadband for cities in UK

Broadband speeds in the UK currently max out at about 300 Mbps, provided by British Telecom. Sky and TalkTalk have now announced that they intend to bring 1 Gbps speeds to UK cities. The roll-out will begin in York next year, before moving to other locations.

Working with CityFibre, Sky and TalkTalk have created a new company that will build the infrastructure for providing ultra-fast broadband. The new venture is aiming to create a “state of the art, city-wide, pure fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network.” Once the network is built, Sky and TalkTalk will retail competing services over the infrastructure.

At 1 Gbps per second, the services will be significantly faster than the fastest fiber optic speeds available in the UK today and will match those offered by Google Fiber in the US. Sky says that the fiber optic roll-out in York will be the first time that ultra-fast broadband has been deployed in the UK on a city-wide basis. Fujitsu will be employed to deploy the network.

“This announcement makes York the digital infrastructure capital of the UK,” said James Alexander, leader of the City of York council. “Gaining ultra fast broadband across the city is a huge boost for our economy, providing significant new opportunities for businesses based here and better quality and value to our residents.”

The services are expected to go live in York from 2015, with a subsequent roll-out planned for two more, yet to be named, cities.

Source: SkyTalkTalk and CityFibre

Kohler touchless toilet lets you only ‘wave to flush’

The Japanese might have been the first to bring technology to the toilet, but even the most advanced throne requires you to touch it.

In an age where high-end hotels have touch-less taps, soap dispensers and even doors,  why do we still have to touch the toilet itself? Well, those days may soon be over.

Toilet-maker Kohler has developed the world’s first touch-less toilet, which uses electromagnetism to activate the flush when you wave your hand over the sensor.

“Unlike a beam-based sensor, in which a beam of light is broken to trigger the actuation, the Kohler Touchless flush utilizes emerging sensing technology, which projects an electromagnetic field that is both extremely accurate and reliable,” says Kohler.

“This type of sensor detects the user in the projected field and initiates the flush.”

The company will be bringing the technology to many of its upcoming models and releasing it as a $99 standalone kit that you can attach to your own toilet.

It’ll work with most single-flush models although if you have a dual-flush toilet, you’re out of luck. There’s no word yet on UK availability but we’ll keep our fingers, and legs, crossed.

“Vanhawks Valour” World’s first smart bike?

A Concept smart bike that connects to your smartphone and transmits information from an array of sensors has made its way onto Kickstarter

Designed by startup Vanhawks, the Valour is a smartbike aiming to maximise your safety and provide metrics on how you’re peddling.

Unlike other smart bikes, the Vanhawks Valour is not an electric bike. In fact, it’s a carbon fibre framed road bike. However, it’s stuffed with a variety of sensors, including an accelerometer, magnetometer and a speed sensor.

It can connect with any device that runs iOS,Android or Pebble according to its makers. It’ll piggyback off those devices to provide turn-by-turn instructions to the rider in the form of LED indicators on the handlebars.

According to Vanhawk, these LED indicators will provide riders with valuable information. Like routes that avoid steep hills.

“A year ago, we set out to create a fundamentally new kind of bike,” the company said on its website. “We believed there had to be a way to improve a technology that hadn’t been re-thought in 120 years.

“Bikes are one of the funnest, most efficient and most environmentally sound forms of transportation. That’s why we care about them so much.

“Over the last 300+ days, we’ve poured our hearts into re-thinking urban commuting from the ground up. It took countless nights, thousands of engineering decisions and R&D with some of the world’s most advanced production partners to finally make it here.”

It’s currently a Kickstarter project – the company is hoping to raise CAD$100,000 (£55,000) to get the wheels in motion. So to speak.

Sony’s new magnetic tape technology enables 185 TB

One of the joys of old science fiction movies is watching the giant reel-to-reel tape drives spin around as they serve computers less powerful than a modern wristwatch. But magnetic tape isn’t just something found in oldUFO episodes; it’s a key component in modern digital systems required to keep modern online systems reliable. At the INTERMAG Europe 2014 international magnetics conference in Dresden, Sony announced a new breakthrough in magnetic tape technology that keeps the medium relevant by allowing a tape cartridge to carry 74 times the data of a conventional data tape, or the equivalent of 3,700 Blu-ray discs.

Tapes were the backbone of computer memory storage from the 1950s until the late 1980s. They’re familiar to early home computer users in the form of the humble audio cassette that saved them from having to laboriously type in a program every time they wanted to run it. In everyday life, tapes were replaced so universally by hard discs, flash drives and optical media including CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays that it often comes as a surprise to learn that magnetic tape is still widely used as back up memory for servers and databases. Because, while discs may be fast and flexible, tape still has the advantage of being very stable and using much less power than hard disc drives, so tape is anything but yesterday’s technology.

Sony’s breakthrough, which pushes past the previous record set in 2010 by a factor of five, produces a recording density of 146 Gb per square inch. This results in a cartridge capable of holding 185 TB. Conventional tapes fall well short of this by comparison with a density of 2 Gb per square inch and a maximum capacity of 2.5 TB.

Diagram detailing the new magnetic tape developed by Sony

To achieve this density, Sony uses a new “sputter” technique to deposit fine nano-grain magnetic particles on a soft polymer underlayer less than 5 micrometers thick. These particles are much smaller than those found in conventional tapes, which are tens of nanometers wide. The fineness of the particles already improves the storage capacity of the material, but the tricky bit was getting particles to line up in an orderly fashion instead of landing at random on the underlayer.

This uniformity was achieved by using an electrostatic discharge to force argon ions into the target material, which forms it into a thin, uniform layer. It involves having the magnetic particles of both the same average size (about 7.7 nanometers) and lined up in the same direction. In addition, the polymer underlayer has been re-engineered to make it much smoother, so the particles lie more evenly. The result is a tape material that Sony boasts has the world’s highest recording density by area.

Sony says that it is currently working on commercializing the new tape material, as well as improving the sputter technique to achieve even greater recording densities.

Source: Sony

Cree aims to make fluorescent tubes obsolete with LED T8 series

Fluorescent lights aren’t on the top of many people’s favorites list. Ever since they were introduced at the New York World’s Fair in 1939, they’ve been notorious for their cold, bluish light that is the definition of “uncomplimentary” and accompanied by flickering and a telltale buzz. Cree, Inc. is aiming to relegate fluorescent tubes to the pages of history with its new T8 series of LED tubes that promise LED-level energy savings and greatly improved light quality.

LEDs have proven a useful alternatives to both incandescents and fluorescents when it comes to bulbs with their durability, economy, and promise of better light, but when it comes to tubes, LEDs haven’t quite made the grade. It’s easy enough to shape an LED to match a fluorescent tube, but the color leaves much to be desired and they aren’t as bright as they need to be.

The Cree T8 is a new series of tubes designed to replace conventional fluorescents. According to Cree, the T8 is capable of putting out 2,100 lumens per tube for 21 watts of power, or 3,800 lumens for a two-tube fixture. In part, this is due to the oval shape of the tubes which is designed to avoid wasting light illuminating the inside of the fixture.

The Cree T8 is 30 percent more efficient than conventional tubes

With a 30 percent energy savings, Cree says that the tubes will pay for themselves within three years. It has a near-universal driver compatibility and the company claims that the T8 has the industry’s best color quality, capable of covering both the 3,500 K and 4,000 K color temperature ranges.

Cree is claiming a 50,000-hour lifetime for the T8, which is also dimmable and compatible with over 90 percent of electronic ballasts (that is, the circuitry used to regulate fluorescent tubes), including instant start, programmed start, and rapid start ballasts.

“Similar to what we’ve achieved with the Cree LED Bulb in the residential market, the Cree LED T8 Series is revolutionizing the commercial lighting market with a product that saves energy, delivers superior light quality and is universally compatible with nearly all existing fluorescent T8 ballasts,” says Chuck Swoboda, Cree Chairman and CEO. “There’s no reason to install another linear fluorescent tube again.”

The Cree T8 is available in the US and Canada for a suggested retail price of US$30.

The video below introduces the T8 series of LED tubes.

Source; Cree via Gizmodo

US Government mistakenly sends student a $350k drone

This isn’t your average AR drone, instead it has a range of around 15 miles and the ability to stay in the air for over three hours, costs £200k mindThe US Government has mistakenly sent a student parts of a $350,000 drone or UAV.

Having initially ordered a weightlifting bench the student was surprised to find that as well as the necessary equipment for improving his upper body strength he’d also been sent most of the parts needed for a military-grade unmanned aerial drone.

Resisting what must have been the obvious urge to become the next General Jumbo the student contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, alerting them to the whereabouts of their high-tech flying machine.

This was of course after they posted their findings to reddit asking for any advice on what to do with what was almost certainly not an accessory for the weightlifting bench.

Initially intended for a wildlife sanctuary the Puma AE UAS drone was being sent to help monitor wildlife on the sanctuary however the drone has also been used by the US Army as a recon UAV.

With a range of over 15 miles and a battery life that gives it well over three hours of flying time the Puma puts consumer drones to shame, unsurprising really when you consider the difference in cost.

Lenovo unveils its N-series Chromebooks

Lenovo unveiled two new Chromebooks, including a very flexible model that can turn into a free standing touch screen laptop.

 

The new Lenovo N-series comes in two flavours, the more traditional N20 and the more flexible N20P.

Both laptops come with the latest version of Google’s Chrome OS installed. They also feature Celeron processors, and come with the same 720p 11.6-inch screen, 4GB RAM and 16GB internal SSD.

They also come with 100GB of Google Drive space, Bluetooth 4.02, HDMI, card reader, two USB ports and an eight hour battery life.

Specs wise, that’s roughly the same as the Acer 720 – currently considered to be the best Chromebook available.

Do a barrel roll

Where Lenovo’s new range sets itself apart from the competition though is the N20P’s hyperflexibility.

Most laptops screens can rotate around 120 degrees from closed. The Lenovo N20P can rotate 300 degrees. That means it can essentially flip itself over and use its keyboard base as a stand. The N20P also comes with a ten-point touch screen.

According to Lenovo, the N20 will be available in the US in July, while the N20P will land one month later in August. There’s no word on UK launch dates yet, but we’ll let you know when we find out.

Both will be available through Lenovo’s website for $279 (£165) and $329 (£195) respectively.

Darwin’s Historically significant marine chronometer

In an age where accurate time measurement is taken for granted, the upcoming auction of an 1825 marine chronometer highlights just how far science has advanced in the last 200 years.

The invention of the marine chronometer directly resulted from the UK “Longitude Act” of 1714 that offered £20,000 reward (£2.6 million in today’s money) for developing a means by which longitude could be accurately and economically measured at sea.

The resultant invention of the Chronometer helped Britain establish not only the naval, but also mercantile advantage that allowed it to dominate the oceans until the early 20th century.

The marine chronometer heading for the auction block on July 9 has certainly witnessed its fair share of history in fulfilling that critical scientific role, having accompanied Charles Darwin on his epic five-year second voyage (1831-1836) to South America and the Galapagos Islands, the North American Boundary Expedition (1843-1846) which established the border between the USA and Canada and the 1857 survey of the Australian coastline which saw the naming of Darwin and the Fitzroy River.

The previously unrecorded marine chronometer is dated 1825 and signed by William Edward Frodsham. It was one of 22 chronometers aboard HMS Beagle (the ship which carried Darwin on his second voyage and also mapped Australia’s coastline). Until now, only two other recorded chronometers from HMS Beagle are known to have survived, and are in the British Museum.

Given its stellar provenance, the chronometer seems ridiculously cheap if it does fall within its expected price range of £30,000-50,000.

Source: Bonhams

SanDisk targets enterprise customers with its world’s first 4 TB 2.5 inch SSD

Flash-based solid state drives (SSDs) have historically been the poor cousins to platter-based HDDs in terms of storage capacity, making them a poorer option for enterprise applications. But SanDisk is looking to change things with its new Optimus MAX SSD, the world’s first 2.5-inch Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) SSD packing 4 TB of storage capacity.

Touting the new drive as the first true replacement for legacy mission-critical data center SAS HDDs, SanDisk claims the 4 TB Optimus MAX SSD allows enterprises to maintain their current SAS storage infrastructures, while providing improved, cost-effective performance, and generating less heat and consuming less power than HDDs.

Just exactly how cost effective the new drive is remains to be seen as SanDisk hasn’t revealed pricing details, but it is claiming sequential read/write speeds of up to 400/400 MB/s and random read/write speeds of up to 75,000/15,000 Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) for the drive via its SAS 6 Gb/s interface.

Although the thought of slotting a 4 TB SSD into your laptop might sound appealing, SanDisk is targeting the drive at read-intensive applications with typical workloads made up of a read/write ratio of 90/10. This includes data warehousing, media streaming, web servers, video on demand (VOD), and web-based applications.

“Customers have been looking for a way to transition their data centers from HDDs to NAND flash, but have been forced to decide between cost and performance, or give up important functionality,” says John Scaramuzzo, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Enterprise Storage Solutions at SanDisk. “We believe that the Optimus MAX will be a disruptive force within the storage industry, catalyzing many organizations to make the switch from their HDD-prominent data center infrastructures to SSDs.”

Source: SanDisk

Pilotless Black Hawk helicopter is real in near future

A pilotless version of the world-famous Black Hawk helicopter is in development, and is almost ready to start doing battle. It’s being made by defence contractor Sikorsky to help the US military reduce its troop numbers and costs.

The lack of a pilot has obvious benefits. Not only will it reduce casualties, it’ll also save troops from having to go on tedious resupply missions when they could be better used elsewhere.

“The ability for the pilot to leave the cockpit for potentially dull and dangerous missions significantly reduces crew limitations and increases Black Hawk flight operations,” maker Sikorsky said in a statement.

But that doesn’t mean it would be without a pilot at all times. Rather, the pilot could take control for more complex missions.

The technology has been in development since 2007. The helicopter could be deployed as early as next year.

“Imagine a vehicle that can double the productivity of the Black Hawk in Iraq and Afghanistan by flying with, at times, a single pilot instead of two, decreasing the workload, decreasing the risk, and at times when the mission is really dull and really dangerous, go it all the way to fully unmanned,” Chris van Buten, Sikorsky’s innovation vice president, said in a statement.

Source: Sky News

Orwellian Big Brother is a Reality: Government in Your Internet

 

From the Snowden leaks to the recent passage of the Brazilian government “Marco Civil da Internet”, a set of legislation designed to enforce net neutrality, freedom of expression and privacy, there is no mistaking that this is a critical time for the internet and it’s digital citizens.

Cloud and hosting providers need to pay close attention to developing legislation and technologies to address the privacy and security needs of its customers in this fast changing environment.

Shortly after the NSA’s PRISM program was first reported, Forrester Research predicted that US cloud providers could lose up to $180 billion in business over the next three years due to concerns around the scope of surveillance the program enabled.

In a March Ted Talk Snowden said, “The best way to understand PRISM, because there has been a little bit of controversy, is to first talk about what prism isn’t. Much of the debate in the US has been about meta data. They’ve said ‘it’s just meta data, it’s just meta data’ and they’re talking about a specific legal authority called section 215 of the Patriot Act. That allows sort of a warrantless wiretapping, mass surveillance of the entire country’s sort of phone records, things like that…PRISM is about content, it’s a program through which the government could compel corporate America, it could sort of deputize corporate America to do it’s dirty work for the NSA.”

Some companies initially resisted compliance, challenging the NSA in court, but they all lost. Later after the Snowden revelations, a new ruling forced the declassifying of the 2008 Prism decision.

“It was never tried by an open court, they were tried only by a secret court,” Snowden said. “And something that we’ve seen…15 federal judges have reviewed these programs and found them to be lawful, but what they don’t tell you is those are secret judges in a secret court based on secret interpretations of law that’s considered 34,000 warrant requests over 33 years, and in 33 years only rejected 11 government requests. These aren’t the people that we want deciding what the role of corporate America in a free and open internet should be.”

Although the NSA continually tries to explain the measures and secrets as an important part of national security and characterizes its data collection as “only meta data”, it’s having a hard time spinning the Snowden revelations in its favor. Even late night political comedians are picking up on this topic. John Oliver addressed NSA policies Sunday in an interview with former NSA agency chief Keith Alexander which resulted in a funny yet powerful commentary on the organization.

In a blog post Monday, the NSA again addressed its policies in relation to internet security and the Heartbleed vulnerability. It explained some of its thinking on keeping threats secret.

“But there are legitimate pros and cons to the decision to disclose, and the trade-offs between prompt disclosure and withholding knowledge of some vulnerabilities for a limited time can have significant consequences,” Michael Daniel, special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator said. “Disclosing a vulnerability can mean that we forego an opportunity to collect crucial intelligence that could thwart a terrorist attack stop the theft of our nation’s intellectual property, or even discover more dangerous vulnerabilities that are being used by hackers or other adversaries to exploit our networks.”

Discussion and news on privacy, net neutrality and data sovereignty happens daily. Multi- stakeholder governance as a means to address keeping governments out of the internet or at least equally represented is a hot topic. At the two day NetMundail conference last week,  guidelines were discussed for future internet governance.

As the discussion continues to evolve it’s important for cloud and web hosting providers to stay informed of the issues and new legislation so they can best serve their customers in whatever part of the globe they happen to be. As cloud servicesbecome more prevalent and are hosted in multiple countries, service providers may be facing more restrictions based on where data is physically stored and which country has domain over the data.

The WHIR interviewed  Jelle Frank van der Zwet of Interxion at World Hosting Days in Germany. When asked about the need for data centers in foreign countries, he had this to say, “If you want to do business in Germany, you must have a data center and infrastructure in Germany. That goes for Amazon, that goes for any cloud provider, small or large if you want to do business in Germany I recommend you have your infrastructure in Germany. I would say the same for France.”

His comment in the context of the greater discussion about data sovereignty and NSA backdoor access into United States based company’s data underscores the importance of where data is hosted in relation to local laws and policies, a growing concern among cloud and hosting providers. For example, the US Supreme Court ruled Friday that a government search warrant will require American companies providing internet, email, and online storage services to hand over data stored anywhere in the world.

This could have serious implications for American companies interested in doing business outside of American soil. In July, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told reporters in Berlin that “whoever fears their communication is being intercepted in any way should use services that don’t go through American servers.”

The search warrant ruling last week confirms that the US can legally access data residing outside the country.

There are several opportunities to learn more about security, privacy and data policies. The internet and specialty technology publications such as the WHIR are a great source. However, there are also many industry events that give companies and concerned individuals the opportunity to contribute and get more involved in discussions around these issues.

HostingCon 2014 has several panels exploring these issues and more. Join the i2c panels on June 17 to learn more about post-Snowden issues and the future role of the United States in internet governance.

Pentagon’s Superpowered Autopilot Will Do the Work of 5 Crew Members
Image: DARPA

Some think that the Defense Department couldn’t possibly reduce its forces as much as it claims it will. After all, who would fly the planes?

Now DARPA has an answer. The Pentagon’s research arm is developing a sophisticated, drop-in autopilot that can replace as many as five crew members of a military aircraft, and turn the pilot into a high-level “mission supervisor” issuing commands through a touch screen.

The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program is a tailorable, removable kit that will assist in all phases of aircraft flight — even dealing with emergency system failures in-flight. The  agency says the system will reduce pilot workload, augment mission performance and improve aircraft safety.

“Our goal is to design and develop a full-time automated assistant that could be rapidly adapted to help operate diverse aircraft through an easy-to-use operator interface,” said Daniel Patt, DARPA program manager, in a statement. “These capabilities could help transform the role of pilot from a systems operator to a mission supervisor directing intermeshed, trusted, reliable systems at a high level.”

DARPA says it plans to build on the advances in autopilot technology over the past 50 years and develop a highly adaptable automated system that can move from aircraft to aircraft and execute missions from takeoff to landing — all from a simple touch and voice recognition interface.

Allowing ALIAS to handle lower-level flight maintenance tasks would free human operators to focus on mission-level tasks, according to DARPA.

In outlining the Pentagon’s budget in February, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressed his intent to shrink the department’s budget to pre-World War II levels by reducing personnel and expensive equipment costs in preference for cost-saving technology.

“We are repositioning to focus on the strategic challenges and opportunities that will define our future; new technologies, new centers of power, and a world that is growing more volatile, more unpredictable, and in some instances more threatening to the United States,” said Hagel.

Silent Hybrid Motorcycles that Pentagon Will Use for Stealth Raids in Future

Special Forces teams are all about silently penetrating remote areas and executing complex, lightning-fast raids. Now DARPA is developing a new vehicle to soundlessly race commandoes to their missions: stealthy, hybrid-powered motorcycles.

The idea is to develop a hybrid power system that relies on both electric and gas power, allowing special ops to go off-road and zip past enemy forces with the silence of an electric engine, while also being able to handle extended missions and higher speeds with a supplemental gas tank.

In February, DARPA awarded Logos Technologies a $100,000, six-month Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract for a preliminary design to see just how viable the project is.

“Quieted, all-wheel-drive capability at extended range in a lightweight, rugged, single-track vehicle could support the successful operations of U.S. expeditionary and special forces in extreme terrain conditions and contested environments,” said Wade Pulliam, manager of advanced concepts at Logos Technologies, in a statement. “With a growing need to operate small units far from logistical support, the military may increasingly rely on adaptable, efficient technologies like this hybrid-electric motorcycle.”

Although still in the research phase, Logos plans to fit its quieted, multifuel hybrid-electric power system with an all-electric bike from San Francisco-based manufacturer BRD Motorcycles — a seven year old company that specializes in electric motorcycles.

For its base platform, the project relies on an existing (and what BRD calls “barely legal”) racing bike, the RedShift MX, a 250-pound all-electric moto that retails for $15,000.

“The team is excited to have such a mature, capable system from which to build, allowing an accelerated development cycle that could not be achieved otherwise,” said Pulliam.

As it stands now, the RedShift MX has a two hour range, but will be extended with a gas tank the size of which will be determined by the military in the research period. The focus on the electric element suggests that DARPA is more concerned with the stealthiness of the motorcycle than it is efficiency. And although the Redshift MX can reach a maximum speed of 80 mph, it’s hard to imagine that speed would be necessary on the rough terrain military missions would require.

The military has been trying to figure out how to implement a silent motorcycle team for some time. Last year, Zero Motorcycles was awarded a contract to develop a similar electric motorcycle for Special Operations that boasted keyless ignition, blackout capabilities and replaceable battery packs that run for about two hours.

Being smart makes drug and alcohol addiction recovery harder. In the course of hundreds of hours spent with others in the recovery community, I have yet to meet a doctor, lawyer, or successful business professional whose substance abuse issue has landed them in jail. The wrinkly brown bags, park benches, shady payphones, foam cups filled with jingling coins, and cardboard signs that make up the pop culture perception of alcoholism are a far cry from the majority of reality. That is, approximately ten percent of the U.S. population with the heritable neurological disease of addiction.

Smart people use their intelligence to stay out of trouble and hide the problem, and that often works for years, or even decades before health and social consequences force them into a treatment setting. I’ve never had a consequence, therefore I don’t have a problem, they think. But the keen intellect that lands them recognition as the smartest person in the room at school and work, and occasionally gets them in trouble for seeming impatient and arrogant in small groups keeps them out of settings where a herd mentality is the status quo. You simply don’t see many physicists, neurosurgeons, investment bankers, or award-winning authors at church. Nobel laureate Winston Churchill got away with drinking from morning ‘til night his entire life, until a series of strokes led to his death. Alcoholic hypertension is a huge risk factor for strokes. It must have been stress and exhaustion, say some historians, enabling his lifestyle post mortem. Because how could such a good person be an alcoholic?

The idea programmed into us by religion from an early age that all human behavior falls into a dichotomy of good and evil is what brings many intelligent people to their knees with depression and substance abuse issues later in life. Priests, superstitiously denied marriage and sex, have their own dedicated national treatment center in Rochester, Minnesota called Guest House. As our adult personalities develop, we tire of the religious right’s cult mentality that we are bad and God doesn’t love us if don’t do X, Y, and Z every week. I heard from a Pastor this week that many people go to church because they think they will be seen by the community as a “better” person, and that in turn will be good for their business’ bottom line.

The late behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner once led a famous study that suggested that even pigeons are superstitious. The birds he studied danced around, bobbed their heads, spun in circles, and exhibited all kinds of other food seeking rituals. The miracle always happened: Food came, eventually. He related that phenomenon to superstitious human behavior. Superstition, he theorized, was actually beneficial to a population’s survival. Many human and animal rituals, such as sacrificing lambs, are clearly nonsense. But an evidence based look at other religious traditions like the kiss of peace, not eating shellfish, not eating pork, and alcohol abstinence shows that many customs arose from a public health crisis. Those traditions use God to address herd immunity to viruses, food allergies, parasites, and cirrhotic hepatitis, respectively.

As intelligent people, we don’t need God to tell us to cook our pork thoroughly, to not try shellfish for the first time in a remote area hours away from an epi-pen, and to not drink every day. But what gets us into trouble is the thought that we don’t need the emotional support of other people in conjunction with at least an abstract belief that human life isn’t pointless. At first, alcohol is a terrific thought-numbing sedative that brings us “Type-I” alcohol dependent (the non-violent variety) folks out of our shell for a while, then puts us to sleep. Predictably, though, our tolerance increases over the years, and e 2940 eventually the amount we have to drink to get that affect becomes harmful to our health.

When we reach that point, recovery depends on finding something besides the chemical to relieve our uncertainty, fear, anxiety, and low self esteem. Simply put, there are only three things besides chemicals to this aim: 1.) Other people, 2.) Some sort of belief system, no matter how abstract, that we can draw upon to feel life has a purpose and that we’re something more than just deer waiting to get hit by a truck, and 3.) Physical activity. Exercise allows us to access our bodies’ natural painkillers and makes us look and feel better, increasing self esteem. That’s really it.

I know where to find numbers one and three, but like a lot of other people in my shoes, number two was and still is a tough one. Sometimes we do things just because we do them, said Dr. Q in one of our sessions. Doing things just because annoys me. I grew up asking why to everything. In some cases, knowing why isn’t helpful. Do I need to know that kissing is a mutual subconscious evaluation of the complementarity of a prospective partners’ major histocompatibility complex, thus the viability of their potential offspring? Probably not. What I really need to do is just go for it when the opportunity presents itself.

The place where I attended my initial course of addiction treatment advertised itself as a non-12-step program that does not accept court ordered patients. They were clearly seeking a higher socioeconomic class of people, both in terms of education and access to health insurance or self pay.

They snuck the concept of faith into our group in a clever and very accessible way. The window of our group room had a clear rubber suction cup stuck to it. From it a crystal prism hung from a piece of nylon fishing line. Depending on the time of day, sun rays coming through the window traveled through the prism and were split into rainbow colors. As our discussions progressed, those thumbnail sized rainbows traveled the room, slowly making their way across the walls, our foreheads, chests and hands. Once and awhile someone said something profound about their life, and a cloud in the sky would just happen to move away from the sun, painting the room with rainbows. “Oh, my God, it’s the Crystals,” our counselor John said in a sort of ghost hunter meets PBS narrator sort of voice. Oooh yeahhh, Crystals, our group was quickly into it after a couple days.

One day a woman brought in a letter from the IRS that she was afraid to open. So afraid, that she had let it sit unopened on her kitchen table in Boston while she drank red wine. We discussed the letter and her fear as a group. What was the worst it could be? What was the best it could be? Even if it’s the worst possible news it could be, then what? And so forth. The suspense was killing all of us. Having had financial trouble myself, my heart was pounding. I was literally scared for her to open the envelope.

But finally she did. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it was not nearly as bad as she had imagined it would be. We gave credit to the Crystals.

The people in my group included a successful investor from Malibu who used to manage the Air Force’s finances, a man my age with a double MBA/J.D. degree who went on to practice law, a college professor, an insurance coder, a Master’s-level librarian, and an inspector who worked at a state environmental agency. This was not a church going group. But by using a simple decoration and an ‘OMG, It’s the Crystals’ narrative, we had invented a sort of religion.

In essence, they cleverly taught us how and why religion is important and useful to religious people. We learned how to begin developing our own concept of faith, so that we have a tool to deal with the anxiety of not being able to explain or fix inevitable things that happen in life – job loss, illness, separation, death. If I can’t explain or fix this uncomfortable circumstance, then I must attribute it to all that in the universe that I can’t see and don’t know. Whatever your brand of Crystals – For Atul Gawande, it’s healing patients, for Robin Williams it’s making people laugh, and for me it’s touching people’s lives with storytelling – find them and have them. And that rainbow will eventually cross your path.