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Interesting snippets from around the globe

The battery that’s lasted 175 years

In the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University, there sits a bell that has been ringing, nonstop, for at least 175 years. It's powered by a single battery that was installed in 1840. Researchers would love to know what the battery is made of, but they are afraid that opening the bell would ruin an experiment that’s been going for such a ridiculously long time.

And, no one can actually hear the bell ringing because it is enclosed in a glass case.

The bell’s clapper oscillates back and forth constantly and quickly, meaning the Oxford Electric Bell as it is known, has rung roughly 10 billion times, according to the university. The battery is what is known as a “dry pile” - one of the first electric batteries which was invented by a guy named Giuseppe Zamboni. Dry piles use alternating discs of silver, zinc, sulfur, and other materials to generate low currents of electricity.

The idea is that its two brass bells are each positioned beneath one of these dry pile batteries, and a tiny metal sphere, or ‘clapper’, is suspended between the two bells. This 4mm clapper vibrates between the bells and rings them due to an electrostatic force, maintained by the ringing of the bells. So, when the clapper hits one bell, it’s charged by the corresponding dry pile, and electrostatically repelled. This pushes the clapper into the other bell, where it's charged by that bell's corresponding dry pile, and repelled back into the other bell. Rinse and repeat. Over and over and over again.

We’ll assume Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and the billionaire brain behind Tesla’s Gigafactory for batteries in the Nevada desert cars, has taken note.

WIKIPEDIA.ORG, YOUTUBE.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

Urinary 2.0

The future of men’s hi-tech toileting has arrived. There’s now a cutting-edge urinal that’s bound to turn the bathroom into your new favourite place to pass time and water.

The Urinary 2.0 is a smart penis bidet that aims to take the hassle out of taking a biology break by automating the cleaning process and making it entirely hands-free.

This not only means you won’t have to get your hands dirty, but that you can also reduce the chances of dropping your phone in the toilet by holding it with both hands.

That’s right. Once you’ve emptied your tank, the Urinary will proceed to spray soapy water on your privates for three seconds, rinse it and dry it immediately afterwards with a 3-second blast of warm air.

To make the whizzing experience even comfier, the Urinary packs numerous sensors that not only monitor your stream and activate the cleaning mechanism as soon as you’re done, but also adjust the warmth of the water based on the temperature in your bathroom.

If this wasn’t enough, the smart urinal will take into account your height and the size of your manhood, and adjust accordingly so it doesn’t accidentally spritz all over your pants.

Yea right.

ENGADGET.COM, LAINFO.ES

(Oct ‘16)

 

The weather forecast on your toast

Meet “Toasteroid”, the Bluetooth-connected smart toaster that can print original designs, emojis, and text on your breakfast feast. It can even print the daily weather forecast, for those of you who feel that traditional weather apps are a little too boring.

Toasteroid connects to a companion app on your phone that allows you to draw artwork and set your preferred browning level. You can also send secret messages to your friends and family that are only readable on the toast.

Toasteroid reached their goal of $150,000 in funding on Kickstarter and will begin mass production in May 2017. The intend to ship the first Toasteroids to backers in July 2017. For a pledge of $US65 ($NZ90), you could order the compact Toasteroid Mini, which only prints images on one slice of bread. For a pledge of $US85 ($NZ118), you'd get the full-sized Toasteroid, which can toast and print artwork on two slices at a time.

Or, you can just buy a regular toaster and live the rest of your life thinking “what if?”

Video at the link below.

KICKSTARTER.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

Live video of bears catching salmon

Every summer during salmon spawning season, millions of people watch bears gorge on salmon at Brooks Falls, a waterfall 480 kms southwest of Anchorage, Alaska in Katmai National Park and Preserve. When the salmon are running, news sites around the world happily announce that the so-called “Bear Cam” is up and running again, and people flock to their screens.

There are obvious reasons that the feed (no pun intended) is popular. Bears are attractive and exotic and when they spring into action on camera, it’s very entertaining. But those moments can be few and far between and you’ll have to be patient. Much of the time there aren’t even bears in sight. Yet, millions of people still tune it.

Watching bears for entertainment is nothing new. Bear-baiting was a popular spectacle in Shakespeare’s London, for instance. More recently, in the 1960s, seats were installed around the rubbish dumps in Yellowstone National Park for watching scavenging grizzlies, who had regularly gathered in the area to feed on rubbish since the 1880s.

Check out the link below for Bear cam and other live feeds from sites around the U.S.

EXPLORE.ORG

(Oct ‘16)

 

To answer the phone, put a finger in your ear

Maxwell Smart or James Bond? The Sgnl smart strap invention, from a start-up called Innombdle Lab lets users make or take a call by putting their finger to their ear.

The Sgnl gizmo is embedded in a strap that can be attached to a standard (or smart) watch. To take a call, the user simply brings their hand to their face, secret-service style, and places a finger in their ear. The sound from the call will be relayed via bone conduction, while a microphone in the band transmits the user’s voice.

Interesting, but why would you?

MYSGNL.COM, TECHCRUNCH.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

NY City’s free Wi-Fi kiosks hijacked for porn

Back in February, Ney York City mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled 400 LinkNYC kiosks occupying the sites of former telephone booths that brought free high-speed internet, domestic phone calls, USB and smartphone chargers, and tablets for unlimited web browsing.

But the plan badly backfired when scores of homeless men and some schoolchildren soon realised they could surf porn sites all day complements of the city, using the communal Android-run tablets and gratis Wi-Fi.

There were a variety of reports in the New York Post of homeless men practicing “self-love” in broad daylight and in full view of the public.

While the company responsible for managing the kiosks has “recently implemented an additional filter for image searches,’’ and is exploring ways to impose time limits or other ways to stop "inappropriate" use, the tablet devices have been disabled in most, if not all parts of town.

Apparently the hardcore-loving street people were not impressed.

NYPOST.COM, CNN.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

…meanwhile, over in the EU

The European Commission has announced plans to bring free Wi-Fi to public spaces across the EU by 2020.

As part of the EU’s initiative to improve Europe’s digital infrastructure, there are also plans to provide next generation 5G mobile connectivity unionwide by 2025.

To accomplish this, the EU will spend €120m (or $NZ185m) over the next few years to equip parks, squares, libraries and other public spaces with free Wi-Fi. Local authorities will be responsible for the ongoing costs.

Hopefully, the EU will have better luck controlling the sexual appetite of vagrants than New York City.

THENEXTWEB.COM

(Oct ‘16)

Back to top

 

North Korea has just 28 websites

There are well over 1 billion websites across the planet as well as millions of websites for each country code top-level domain (ccTLD), such as .de for Germany or .nz for New Zealand.

But in North Korea, the number of websites the country has registered for its top-level domain barely makes it into double digits.

According to the report on Motherboard, by mistake, North Korea misconfigured its nameserver – , essentially a list that holds information on all of the domains that exist for .kp, allowing anyone to query it and get the list. In other words, a snafu by North Korea's system administrators allowed anyone to ask the country's nameserver: "can I have all of your information on this domain?" and get an answer, giving everyone a peek into the strange world of North Korea's web.

It appears North Korea has only 28 registered domains.

VICE.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

Uber drivers in US now selling solar panels

When you get a ride with a Uber driver, I hope you like chatting because rides could get a whole lot chattier.

Geostellar, an online marketplace for solar panels, has enlisted about 50 drivers in New York, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, Dallas and Miami to test selling solar panels to riders. Drivers who are participating in the scheme can reportedly make about $US1000 ($NZ1350) per sale of solar systems (which cost $US18,000 ($NZ24,659) on average). Drivers have made about 220 sales since June according to the Wall Street Journal.

This isn’t the first time a company has tried to piggyback off of Uber’s success by using drivers’ rides as a sales team. In 2015, Viewswagon tried to get Uber drivers to display ads in their car with a tablet. The company said drivers could make about $US3 ($NZ4) per hour by displaying the ads.

WSJ.COM, BUSINESSINSIDER.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

Don’t sync to your rental car

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers to beware of new 'connected car' features that allow rental car customers to connect their mobile phone or other devices to in-vehicle infotainment systems. "If you connect a mobile device, the car may also keep your mobile phone number, call and message logs, or even contacts and text messages," the FTC said.

“Unless you delete that data before you return the car, other people may view it, including future renters and rental car employees or even hackers."

The FTC is advising renters to avoid syncing their mobile phones to their rental car, or to power devices via a USB port, where settings on your device may allow automatic syncing of data. Consumers who do connect their device should scrutinize any requests for permissions.

Furthermore, as we reported previously, security researchers have found that software connecting smartphones to in-vehicle "infotainment" systems could also make cars vulnerable to remote attacks.

SECURITYLEDGER.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

Using your “Wanted” poster on your Facebook profile

A (not very) intelligent fellow on the run from police in Florida has been arrested after he used a wanted poster adorned with his mug shot for his Facebook profile picture.

After investigating reports of a disturbance, police discovered the 41-year-old's Facebook profile, which revealed the man was already wanted for six months for violating his parole after two counts of battery.

Police say that as they arrested the fugitive a bag of marijuana fell out of his pocket. They charged him with possession of cannabis under 20 grams.

One Twitter user jokingly suggested that the suspect should also be charged with copyright infringement for using the police department's photo without their permission.

HUFFINGTONPOST.COM, IBTIMES.CO.UK

(Oct ‘16)

 

Driverless cars without steering wheels

The California State Assembly has recently introduced a bill, Assembly Bill 1592, for piloting driverless cars that includes “the testing of autonomous vehicles that do not have a driver seated in the driver’s seat and are not equipped with a steering wheel, a brake pedal, or an accelerator.”

The bill does come with some conditions though – the self-driving vehicles couldn’t go faster than 35 miles per hour (55 kph), and would have to be conducted within approved areas, i.e. “a privately owned business park designated by the authority, inclusive of public roads [there].”

That’ scary. If they are going to be testing these driverless cars without possible intervention by a driver, it’s probably not too far away when these become a reality on Californian roads.

Then they’ll be able to have drive-by shootings without the driver being distracted by having to drive.

TECHCRUNCH.COM

(Oct ‘16)

 

The end of OpenOffice?

OpenOffice, once a serious contender to Microsoft Office, could be shut down because there aren't enough developers to update the application suite. Project leaders are particularly worried about their ability to fix security problems.

An e-mail thread titled, "What would OpenOffice retirement involve?" was recently started by Dennis Hamilton, vice president of Apache OpenOffice, a volunteer position that reports to the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) board.

"It is my considered opinion that there is no ready supply of developers who have the capacity, capability, and will to supplement the roughly half-dozen volunteers holding the project together," Hamilton wrote.

It doesn’t appear that any decision has yet been made but Hamilton noted that "retirement of the project is a serious possibility," as the Apache board "wants to know what the project's considerations are with respect to retirement."

Many developers have abandoned OpenOffice to work on LibreOffice, a fork that got its first release in January 2011. While LibreOffice issues frequent updates, OpenOffice's most recent version update was 4.1.2 in October 2015. That was the only OpenOffice release in 2015, and there were only two updates in all of 2014. LibreOffice got 14 version updates in 2015 alone.

ARSTECHNICA.COM, MAIL-ARCHIVES.APACHE.ORG

(Oct ‘16)

 

Microsoft developing a smart, IoT refrigerator

Promising "intelligent food management" to help with shopping and meal planning, Microsoft is collaborating with household appliance manufacturer Liebherr to develop a refrigerator where stored groceries "can be monitored using internal cameras."

The refrigerators will use Microsoft's object recognition technology to create a list of your groceries – with photos – accessible via an Android or iOS app (or a Windows device).

"Microsoft is providing computer vision capability as part of this collaboration," says their web page, citing the deep-learning technology underlying the Microsoft Cognitive Services Computer Vision API, released in Microsoft's open source Computational Network Toolkit (CNTK).

"Using the deep learning algorithms contained within CNTK, Microsoft data scientists worked with Liebherr to build a new image processing system to detect specific food products present inside a Liebherr refrigerator..."

The image above is an example of what can be expected with labels of the food products detected and confidence levels (of the image recognition) overlaid.

TECHNET.MICROSOFT.COM

(Oct ‘16)

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