Thursday, December 29, 2011

Intel Ivy Bridge Chips Launching Early April 2012

Intel may unveil its next generation of processors--nicknamed "Ivy Bridge"--in April, according to the latest reports. The Ivy Bridge chips for desktops and laptops promise a 37 percent performance increase over the current generation of Sandy Bridge processors.

The new Ivy Bridge CPUs use a 22-nanometer architecture, which makes them almost 30 percents smaller than the current chips, which use a 32nm architecture. Smaller chips mean lower power consumption (which is great for battery life) and more room for the integrated graphics chip. Ivy Bridge will support DirectX 11, Thunderbolt, and USB 3.0.

Taiwan-based trade publication DigiTimes reports that the first Ivy Bridge processors to launch will be quad-core desktop processors: the Core i7-3370 series and the Core i5-3570, 3550, and 3450. Because Ivy Bridge is backward-compatible with existing Sandy Bridge motherboards, desktop users should have an upgrade path available.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Google to Pay Mozilla $300M Annually in Search Deal

What's Firefox worth to Google? A cool $300 million a year, according to a Thursday report by AllThingsD.

Two days ago, Google and Mozilla announced that they had reached an agreement to keep Google as the default search engine in the Firefox browser. The pact was crucial to keeping the lights on at Mozilla, which in 2010 earned 84 percent of its $123 million in annual revenue from its Google search contract.

According to AllThingsD, Google will pay Mozilla nearly $300 million annually for another three years. Not surprisingly, Google's main competitor in the bid was Microsoft's money-losing Bing search engine, which currently has 15 percent of the U.S. search market, according to the latest comScore estimates.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Camera Captures Light in Motion

Hollywood has to resort to trickery to show moviegoers laser beams traveling through the air. That's because the beams move too fast to be captured on film. Now a camera that records frames at a rate of 0.6 trillion every second can truly capture the bouncing path of a laser pulse.

The system was developed by researchers led by Ramesh Raskar at MIT's Media Lab. Currently limited to a tabletop inside the group's lab, the camera can record what happens when very short pulses of laser light—lasting just 50 femtoseconds (50,000 trillionths of a second) long—hit objects in front of them. The camera captures the pulses bouncing between and reflecting off objects.  

Raskar says the new camera could be used for novel kinds of medical imaging, tracking light inside body tissue. It could also enable novel kinds of photographic manipulation. In experiments, the camera has captured frames roughly 500 by 600 pixels in size.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

AdBlock Plus defends decision to allow some ads

The developers of AdBlock Plus, an extension for Firefox that blocks advertising on websites, are trying to contain a brewing controversy over their decision to allow some non-flashy ads to be displayed by default.

On Tuesday, the Germany company Eyeo will release the 2.0 version of AdBlock Plus, which has a feature enabled by default that will not block ads that are, as company co-founder Till Faida puts it, not annoying. The feature, called "Allow non-intrusive advertising," can be turned off. 

"The feedback we've been getting over the years from users is 'We don't mind ads but they are too annoying," said Faida, who works with Wladimir Palant, the project lead for AdBlock Plus since 2006. 

"The feedback we get from webmasters is 'You're destroying our only revenue stream. We can't create content for free if our ads are blocked'," said Faida.  

The new feature will allow ads to be shown that are static with no animation or sound; those that are text-only without attention-grabbing images, and those that use at most one script that delays the loading of a page. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

MythBusters Test Launches Cannonball Into California Neighborhood

If there were an urban myth that suburban homes are impervious to becoming cannon fodder, it just got busted.

Two homes, a sidewalk and a van all took fire after a test for the show MythBusters went awry Tuesday and sent a cannonball out of a bomb range and into a nearby residential neighborhood in Dublin, California.

The cannonball, which took an unexpected bounce off a safety berm during the test, traveled 700 yards outside of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department bomb range where it was fired, hit a sidewalk, crashed through the front door of a home, traveled upstairs and went through the bedroom of a sleeping couple.

“They didn’t actually hear the cannonball come through the house, what woke them up was the settling of the sheetrock,” Alameda County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Sgt. J.D. Nelson told reporters after the incident.

MythBusters, the Discovery Channel show where hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman prove the validity (or lack thereof) of various commonly held beliefs, was running the test to determine if other materials could be fired from a cannon and have the same effect as a regular cannonball, Nelson said.

The cannonball didn’t stop in the sleeping couple’s bedroom. After leaving a 10-inch hole in their wall, it crossed four lanes of traffic and bounced off the roof of Ming Jiang, whose mother was watching his 10-month-old son inside his house.

“She had no idea what was going on — it was a very loud boom,” Jiang told reporters. “She thought a tree fell, or maybe a meteor, but it was not clear it was some cannonball that landed on a roof.”

The projectile finally crashed through the window of a minivan and landed in the vehicle. Surprisingly, no one was injured in the incident. Nelson told the San Francisco Chronicle that MythBusters had used the San Francisco Bay Area bomb range without incident for more than 50 episodes.

According to a statement released by the Discovery Channel to, Nelson is an explosives expert for the show and was on site for the test. “All proper safety protocol was observed,” the statement said, adding that the show’s producer, Beyond Productions, “is currently assessing the situation and working with those whose property was affected.”

Prior to the incident, show co-hosts Tory Belleci and Kari Byron had apparently tweeted images of themselves with various cannons, but those images have since been taken down. However, the photos have been posted online.

Heres a video with more details.


Friday, December 2, 2011

“Napster” No More

After being bought out in October by eternal archrival Rhapsody, music subscription service “Napster” has shut down. Heading to now gets you an explanation of what happened and a Rhapsody sales pitch.I put “Napster” in quotation marks–a practice I’ve followed, albeit inconsistently, for years–because the “Napster” that just died wasn’t really Napster. Napster was the peer-to-peer music sharing service founded by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker in 1999. It changed the world, and was sued out of business.

“Napster,” on the other hand, was a commercial enterprise–formerly known as Pressplay–that acquired the Napster name. The folks who did the rebranding presumably thought they were pretty smart, but I always thought it was a mistake. If you loved the original Napster, you probably didn’t want to pay a monthly fee for music. If you did want to pay for music, the “Napster” name sounded slightly disreputable. Either way, it smacked of false advertising and congitive dissonance. 

The fact that “Napster” petered out wasn’t shocking. Between Rhapsody, “Napster,” eMusic, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker, MOG, and Zune Pass–am I forgetting any?–there are a lot of subscription music services out there. Given that music with a monthly fee has never become a breakout hit, there may not be enough subscribers to go around. And for several years, “Napster” had felt like it was winding down rather than ramping up. (It was a latecomer to the iPhone, for instance.) 

I like subscription music–I happily pay for Rdio–and would like to see it catch on. The fact that the major services are on a bevy of devices–computers, phones, tablets, TVs, and devices like Sonos–certainly makes them more appealing. Are you paying for subscription music, and if so, from which service?