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Businesses

Submission + - Michael Dell Is Buying A Boeing Dreamliner (nycaviation.com)

longacre writes: Dell Computer scion Michael Dell is reportedly buying a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It is not yet clear if Dell plans to use the state-of-the-art, 250-passenger jet for personal travel or as an investment. Ironically, it wasn't that long ago that one of Dell's products had a similar problem to that which caused the FAA to ground the 787: Exploding lithium ion batteries.
Facebook

Submission + - Facebook "Accidentally" Deletes Post by Ariz. Gov. (kfyi.com) 2

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook said Friday it mistakenly removed a post in which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer criticized a controversial policy decision by President Barack Obama's administration to limit deportations of illegal immigrants.

Submission + - Texas to Cape Wind: You're Not First Yet

longacre writes: Cape Wind is making headlines for for being the first offshore wind farm to earn federal approval, but it still has plenty of legal hoops to jump through before groundbreaking. Texas, on the other hand, requires no review--state, federal or otherwise--to build wind farms off its shore. Texas energy expert and Popular Mechanics senior editor Jennifer Bogo talks to Texan energy leaders who are confident they will beat Cape Wind to the punch for the distinction of having the first functional U.S. Offshore wind farm. "I was about to write a press release to congratulate Cape Wind for getting their approval," says Jim Suydam, press secretary of the Texas General Land Office, "and let them know when they're done jumping through hoops up there they can come build off the Texas Coast." Despite its reputation as an oil-addicted, non-environmentally-friendly conservative state, Texas' existing land-based wind farms actually produce four-times more electricity than California.
Iphone

Submission + - Netflix Gauging Interest in an iPhone App (nytimes.com)

gollum123 writes: If a new survey sent out to Netflix subscribers is any indication, the iPhone might be the next device that its streaming service rolls out on in the coming months. According to a tip sent to Hacking Netflix, the subscription video company is now asking users how likely they would be to use an iPhone app to view movies via its online streaming service. According to the survey, an iPhone app would give users all the same functionality that they have when streaming on a PC or other device, including all the same movies and TV shows without advertisements or trailers. If the app is rolled out, the ability to watch on the Apple mobile device would be offered at no additional charge to existing Netflix subscribers. There is one potential downside to such a release: Based on the survey questions, it appears that the app would require users to be connected to a Wi-Fi network, so they wouldn’t be able to stream from AT&T’s wireless network.
Movies

Submission + - Roger Ebert Speaks Again Today with Voice Software (oprah.com)

An anonymous reader writes: By now you've probably read the heartwarming profile of Roger Ebert's cancer battle in the current issue of Esquire (along with its haunting photos). And you've probably read about the company, CereProc, that's using advanced text-to-speech software to recreate the voice that the beloved critic lost when he lost his jaw in surgery (not that that stopped his Tweeting). But now, after Ebert's initial impressions, we finally get to see it in this video from today's Oprah show. What do you think? From on-air excerpts: "It still needs improvement but at least it sounds like me," Ebert's computer said when it "spoke." "[I]n first grade, they said I talked too much. And now I still can."
NASA

Submission + - Why R2 Shows Real Workplace Potential For Robots (popularmechanics.com) 1

tyghe!! writes: GM and NASA unveiled the latest upgrades to their work-horse torso-bot, the Robonaut 2 (R2). The new R2 shows off impressive design, flexes complex abilities and, finally, gives real-world job skills—in the factory or at the space station—to a bot designed like a human. This story explores why R2—and not, say, Asimo—paves the way for the futures of utilitarian humanoid robots.
Education

Submission + - Texas likes open source, doesn't understand it 2

emerika writes: The state of Texas has issued a request for offer that is embarrassing to read. On the surface, they want to invest in open source textbooks; however, the RFO is littered with statements like: "A state-developed open-source textbook is the property of the state".

Particularly annoying, and an ongoing problem, is that they have written their own definition of open source: "As defined by statute, an open-source textbook is an electronic textbook that is available for downloading from the Internet at no charge to a student and without requiring the purchase of an unlock code, membership, or other access or use charge, except for a charge to order an optional printed copy of all or part of the textbook."

Further evidence of their lack of understanding here: "The Commissioner of Education (COE) may provide a license to use a state-developed open source textbook to an entity not listed. In determining the cost of the license, the COE shall seek, to the extent feasible to recover costs of developing, revising, and distributing state-developed/state owned open-source textbooks."

Full text of the RFO can be found here: http://esbd.cpa.state.tx.us/docs/701/86724_1.pdf

Submission + - Real Travel Site Lets You Book 'Lost' Flight (nycaviation.com)

longacre writes: Doesn't seem like a great idea if you ask us, but if you really want to experience a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific and end up on an imaginary island where no one can find you, Kayak.com has a deal for you.

The travel search engine has hidden a so-called “Easter Egg” within their results: Look up a one way trip from Sydney to Los Angeles for Sept. 22nd and you’ll be given the option to buy a ticket on Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, the same fictional airline and flight number which crashed and stranded the characters featured on the popular ABC series Lost. Unfortunately, the site won’t actually let you enter your credit card to book the trip—clicking the flight only leads you to the Lostpedia wiki dedicated to the show.

Sci-Fi

Avatar Soars Into $1-Billion Territory 782

Suki I writes " Avatar soars into $1-billion territory. 'Strong foreign ticket sales help make the science-fiction movie the fifth in history to pass the watermark. ... One of the riskiest movies of all times is now officially one of the most successful at the box office. When Avatar opened, its solid but far from stellar results left 20th Century Fox uncertain about whether the $430 million that it and two financing partners had invested to produce and market the 3-D film would pay off.'" Given that the big alternatives were Sherlock Holmes or Alvin & the Chipmunks, I think the winner was clear.
Science

Submission + - What Stolen Emails Really Say About Climate Change (popularmechanics.com)

tyghe!! writes: Peter Kelemen, a professor of geochemistry at Columbia University's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, explains that stolen e-mails from climate scientists corresponding with East Anglia University tell us more about ethics, transparency and peer review in science than they do about the state of climate science—which, he says, is in no way a house of cards.
Power

Submission + - GE's Sodium Fast Reactor Cleaning Up Nuclear Waste (esquire.com)

mattnyc99 writes: No matter what you think of Esquire's Augmented Reality issue, inside it are the magazine's always illuminating Best and Brightest profiles, including this extra-illuminating story on Eric Loewen, the average-geek GE engineer whose nuclear-waste transformation process might provide the world with a plan for when the oil reserves dry up. At least one Republican seems to tentatively support the fourth-generation "PRISM" reactor, and while Bill Clinton shut it down and Obama has yet to approve, Steven Chu might push liberals behind a suddenly advanced version of what was once a McCain-campaign agenda. From the article: "I was intrigued because from [Dr. James] Hansen's description, it sounded like we must be nuts for not pursuing this. If you discovered a machine that turned lead into gold, you'd think the government would exploit the machine for the good of the country."
The Military

Submission + - Behind the Trigger with America's Drone Pilots

An anonymous reader writes: As President Obama meets with advisors on an Afghanistan strategy today (who are now leaning more toward Joe Biden's more-drones policy), and even as Al Qaeda claims it's not all that scared of drones, the new issue of Esquire takes the first real in-depth look at the American military's UAV build-up. Defense geek Brian Mockenhaupt spends some time on the ground in Afghanistan, as well as back at the Pentagon, where the pilots ("more like snipers than fighter pilots") are playing a kind of RPG game, getting to know terrorists' daily ins and outs. Looks like these Reaper drones are the real wave of the future, eh?

Submission + - Stats Say Americans Still Aren't Drinking, Gamblin (esquire.com)

mattnyc99 writes: "Nate Silver from the great geek politics blog FiveThirtyEight.com has an interesting column in this month's issue of Esquire, essentially crunching the numbers to find out there are no sins left to tax. That is, for all the broke states out there looking for answers, they're not going to find money in people wanting to go to new casinos or wash away their sorrows in booze. From the article: "Conventional wisdom has long held that gambling is recession-proof. In Las Vegas, it's been anything but. Gaming revenues received by local casinos were down 12 percent in 2008 as compared with a year earlier. (This figure and all others in this article are reported on an inflation-adjusted basis.) And 2009 will be even worse: So far, revenues are off almost 15 percent from 2008's already depressed figures. The recession, then, appears set to cost Las Vegas more than a quarter of its business.""

Submission + - Budget Problems Produce Useful Ferment at NASA (popularmechanics.com)

YIAAL writes: Writing on the Popular Mechanics website, Rand Simberg reports from the Space 2009 conference. While NASA's plans for a heavy lift vehicle are looking ever more tenuous, previously excluded players are coming forward with genuinely creative — and commercially oriented — ideas that will do more for less.

ULA's plan is to develop propellant depots, lunar injection stages, and lunar landers derived from the existing Delta IV and Atlas V launchers, and to launch all the pieces with those vehicles (or perhaps slightly larger versions of them). The proposed lunar lander has dual-axis thrusters, allowing it to use main propulsion vertically for most of the descent, and then rotate for a horizontal landing. This puts the astronauts much closer to the lunar surface for safer entry and exits. The depots are placed in low Earth orbit and in the Earth-moon Lagrange point L2. ULA claims that their plan will provide a robust launch architecture, with two human-rated vehicles (rather than depending on one, as NASA has with the shuttle, and with its plans for Ares I) . . . . These ideas, from "A Commercially Based Lunar Architecture," one of the ULA papers, would have been heretical a few months ago . . . These papers may well mark the final nails in the Ares and Constellation coffin, signaling that this fall could see yesterday's heresy become tomorrow's new conventional wisdom.

Will these new ideas catch on? Or will NASA defend existing rice bowls to the end?

Robotics

Submission + - Air Force Planning New Drone Fleet for Pakistan (esquire.com)

mattnyc99 writes: With tensions high on the border, a new commander in Afghanistan, and complaints of civilian deaths from robotic U.S. strikes in Pakistan raising anti-American sentiment, the Air Force is sketching out concepts for new robotic hitmen, reports Esquire.com. Among the new drones (which are all very small) are the Suburb Warrior (loaded with four or five mini missiles for semi-urban environments), the Sniper targeting system ("that can lock on to multiple targets, allowing a single drone pilot to coordinate the attacks of a squadron of robots"), and a backup fleet of flying buggies that act as suicide-bomber snipers. From the article: "Picking through the dozens of systems in this briefing, many of which will be flight-tested within five years, there's a clear set of goals: build smaller, even microscopic drones with smaller weapons that can hunt in swarms and engage targets in the close quarters of urban battlefields. And hunt as soon as possible."

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