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Television

Comcast Puts the Screws To HDTV 317

Posted by kdawson
from the applying-a-cold-compress dept.
Todd Spangler writes "Comcast, like every video distributor, compresses its digital video signals. But to fit in more HDTV channels, Comcast is squeezing some signals more than others. The cable operator claims it is using improved compression techniques, so that most subscribers won't see any drop-off in picture quality. But A/V buff Ken Fowler claims the differences between some of Comcast's more highly compressed channels and Verizon's FiOS TV are indeed noticeable. He's posted his comparative test results on AVSForum.com — and the results are not pretty."
Science

The Squid's Beak May Revolutionize Engineering 79

Posted by kdawson
from the fortuitous-gradient dept.
Ace905 writes "For years the razor-sharp beak that squid use to eat their prey has posed a puzzle to scientists. Squid are soft and fragile, but have a beak as dense as rock and sharp enough to break through hard shells. Scientists have long wondered why the beak doesn't injure the squid itself as is uses it. New research has just been published in the the journal Science that explains the phenomenon. One of the researchers described the squid beak as 'like placing an X-Acto blade in a block of fairly firm Jell-O and then trying to use it to chop celery.' Careful examination shows that the beak is formed in a gradient of density, becoming harder towards the tip end. Understanding how to make such hardness gradients could revolutionize engineering anywhere that 'interfaces between soft and hard materials [are required].' One of the first applications researchers envision is prosthetic limbs."
Patents

The Rush To Patent the Atomic Bomb 160

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the can-you-sue-a-glowing-man dept.
dooling writes "In case you were thinking of building your own atom bomb, you may want to weigh your intellectual property liability. It seems there are over 2000 patents covering the atom bomb. To avoid publishing the patents, a central tenet of the patent system, "the project made use of an obscure law whereby patent applications could be filed but no one would actually look at them or evaluate them. They would just be stamped secret and stored in a vault at the patent office." The irony here is that while all the patents were essentially stored in the same place at the patent office and written to be understandable by any engineer, the Manhattan Project worked diligently to compartmentalize knowledge, using code names for just about all aspects of the project and keeping tight security on all information. It seems the patents were filed to give the U.S. government an essential monopoly on the burgeoning nuclear industry and protect it against others who might patent similar technologies later."
Idle

Spread Your Ashes on the Moon 1

Posted by samzenpus
Celestis Inc., has pioneered the sending of cremated remains into suborbital space on rockets and now it wants to start a service that would send your ashes to the surface of the moon. The new service starts at $10,000 for a small amount of ashes from one person and could begin as early as next year. The Company currently offers a service that will spread your ashes on the sound stage where the original moon landing was shot for $100.
Television

South Park To Be Available Online Free and Legal 277

Posted by Zonk
from the i-like-the-crazy-future dept.
garnetlion writes "South Park is coming online, free and legal. My brief research has not indicated if it will use DRM, require some silly Windows-only software or be otherwise substandard. According to a Wired blog article, 'Parker and Stone said they were inspired to start the site when they got 'really sick of having to download our own show illegally all the time. So we gave ourselves a legal alternative.'" In this regard South Park joins fellow Comedy Central notable The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, whose archive was made freely available online late last year.
Cellphones

Analog Cell Phone Network Shuts Down Monday 205

Posted by Zonk
from the end-of-an-ear-a dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "AT&T and Verizon will be shutting down their old, analog AMPS networks next Monday, and AT&T will also turn off its old TDMA network, with smaller providers expected to follow thanks to a sunset date set by the FCC. After these old networks are shut down, the networks will be all digital. Of course, if you have one of those old fashioned 'just a phone' cellphones and it happens to be analog, you'd best enjoy the last few days before it becomes useless."
Communications

AT&T Quietly Introduces $10/Month DSL 258

Posted by kdawson
from the not-what-i-call-broadband dept.
prostoalex writes "As part of the deal with the FCC to approve the AT&T/BellSouth merger, AT&T started selling, but not advertising, a $10-per-month DSL service in 22 states, AP has learned. 'The service provides download speeds of up to 768 kilobits per second and upload speeds of up to 128 kbps, matching the speeds of the cheapest advertised AT&T plan, which costs $19.95 per month in the nine-state former BellSouth area and $14.99 in the 13 states covered by AT&T before the acquisition.'"

Google Maps vs the Rest 242

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the look-through-the-keyhole dept.
Andrew writes "Shortflip.com has an interesting article on the history, present, and future of 3D satellite imaging applications. Obviously they focus on Google Maps, but they make a good case for Google's competitors, although it's hard to imagine anyone being able to challenge Google's market share in the near future. Emphasis is on user features, map accuracy, and future technology."

Dungeon Masters in Cyberspace 119

Posted by Zonk
from the i'm-a-better-dm dept.
The New York Times has a piece this afternoon about the launch of Dungeons and Dragons Online. They talk with some of the folks who made the game, and reflect on roleplaying's move from table-top to online spaces. From the article: "While players in most online games communicate by typing, Turbine has tried to enhance the in-person feel of D&D Online by building voice-chat software into the game so players can speak with one another using a microphone plugged into their computer. And while most video games try to adopt a cinematic mode of storytelling, D&D Online plainly reminds users that they are playing a computer approximation of a pen-and-paper game. During combat, an icon of a spinning 20-sided die appears in a corner of the screen, just as modern slot machines still show spinning reels even though a microchip has already decided if you've won the jackpot."

Microsoft Confirms 6 Versions of Vista 524

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the this-is-getting-complicated-fast dept.
Darthmalt writes "The BBC has a story confirming that there will be 6 versions of Vista. They are Vista Business, Vista Enterprise, Vista Home Basic, Vista Home Premium, Vista Ultimate, Vista Starter. Also included are some of the differences between each version."

Why 7.1 Surround Sound is Overkill For Most Homes 408

Posted by Zonk
from the bigger-is-not-always-better dept.
RX8 writes "Home Theater expert Mark Fleischmann explains why you should not fall for the 7.1 hype and why 5.1 surround sound is adequate for most homes. From the article: 'With the marketing of 6.1 and 7.1 surround, the industry has decisively outwitted itself. It has convinced many consumers to buy new receivers and more speakers. But it has also undermined the 5.1-channel standard, which is more appropriate for the home, slowing the acceptance of surround sound in general.'"

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