Saturday, October 21, 2006

Google Acquires SpaceShipOne?

From Techcrunch:
Categorize this as another unsubstantiated Google rumor, but the word on the street is that Google has acquired SpaceShipOne and is putting it inside building 43 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. No word on the purchase price, or if this was a donation, or why the ship is not staying at the Smithsonian.

SpaceShipOne made headlines in 2004 when it won won the $10 million Ansari X prize. To win the prize, aerospace designer Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen led the first private team to build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometers above the earth’s surface twice within two weeks. In 2005 Rutan and Richard Branson formed a new company to produce a new ship, called SpaceShipTwo, for a new spaceline company, Virgin Galactic.

This rumor is either true or someone has played a very good joke on me. I have independently confirmed that there is some odd construction going on in building 43, although it could be something unrelated. If this is accurate, SpaceShipOne should arrive at Google on Saturday, October 21.

Update: This is getting interesting. A reader emailed to point out that Larry Page is on the board of trustees of the X Prize foundation (see picture, dead center bottom), while a commenter points out that SpaceShipOne is doing just fine at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, thank you very much. If you live in Washington, will you please drop by the Smithsonian tomorrow and see if it is still there? :-)

More: I will send an iPod shuffle to the first person who sends me a picture of SpaceShipOne taken any time on Saturday, October 21, 2006. You have to verify the date somehow, although if you can’t and the picture turns out to be accurate I’ll honor it. I don’t care if it’s in the Smithsonian or on a crane being lifted into building 43 - I just want to know where it is (bonus points if you get a picture of it while being installed at Google, though). Easiest way to judge this is to have people put it on flickr or somewhere else online and put a link in the comments.

Holden shows wild Hot Rod concept

The full story: the 350 kmh 700 bhp Fulda Maybach Exelero

Covini's six wheeled sportscar

From Gizmag:
Covini is a name which is not well known in automotive circles outside of Italy - that's almost certain to change thanks to the small company's latest design - a six wheel sports car along similar engineering lines to the famous Tyrrell P34 Formula One racing car of the mid-seventies. The six wheeled design offers many advantages over a conventional design as it offers more traction for cornering and braking and minimises the risks associated with tyre punctures and aquaplaning. The P34 experienced a host of development issues which technology has since solved. Covini's car certainly looks the business - in the go-department it is powered by an Audi 4.2 litre V8 motor (283.4 kw / 380 bhp @ 6400 rpm) which powers it to a top speed of 300 kmh.

Price/Performance Charts: Price of Core 2 Extreme drops ahead of quad-core launch

From Tomshardware:
If you plan on upgrading your computer with Intel's fastest processor, this may be your best opportunity yet: The latest update of our Price/Performance Charts reveals a substantial drop in etail pricing - close to $900 and substantially below any price of any other Intel Extreme processor before.

MIT student hacks his dorm room door lock

"Keys are obsolete. Everyone in your college dorm probably uses keys to enter their rooms. Why not be different, and make a home-made alternative authentication system? Now here at MIT the administration actually cares if the door locks or strike plates are modified, so I need a way of locking and unlocking the door without modifying any door components. The solution? Make something to pull the door handle."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lawmaker opposes taxing online virtual economies

An in game screen capture of Linden Lab's online world Second Life is seen in an undated publicity image. The Republican head of a U.S. congressional committee said it would be a mistake if the Internal Revenue Service.

From Yahoo:
LONDON (Reuters) - The Republican head of a U.S. congressional committee said it would be a mistake if the Internal Revenue Service introduced regulations to tax virtual economies such as Second Life and World of Warcraft.

Old buddies reunite in hopes of taking tech world by storm ... again

Steve Wozniak poses with an Apple I motherboard in an undated file photo. Wozniak, who designed and built the first Apple computers, tells his story in his book, iWoz, which is published this week. (Wikipedia/Reuters)

From Yahoo:
Gil Amelio, Ellen Hancock and Steve Wozniak are taking over a chipmaking company together. This is sort of the computing equivalent of Alice Cooper, Grace Slick and Smokey Robinson announcing they have formed a new band. Legends, yes. The outcome, less certain.

Each is a likable tech player who had tremendous success in decades past, followed by high-profile failures. Amelio got chased out of Apple, setting the stage for Jobs' return. Wozniak, who just published his autobiography, shut down his latest start-up, Wheels of Zeus, in March. Hancock is on a bunch of boards but hasn't had a management success since Exodus cratered.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Real Time Aircraft Damage Assessment

Dan Wilke demonstrates how to work DENT--a new Damage Evaluation and Notification tool being developed with the U.S. Army to help Apaches get repaired faster. [Mike Goettings photo]

Apaches, damaged during their tour of duty, will be ready to get back to the battlefield sooner thanks to a new invention masterminded by Dan Wilke.

Wilke, a structural engineer at the Rotorcraft Systems facility in Mesa, Ariz., and his manager and co-inventor Dennis McCarthy, have a patent pending on the new Damage Evaluation and Notification Tool, known more commonly as DENT.

DENT is being developed under a contract with the U.S. Army as the solution to the difficult and long-standing problem of the accurate reporting and rapid assessment of Apache field damage, Wilke said.

“The U.S. Army wants to provide timely repair of damaged aircraft,” said Wilke, an associate technical fellow. “The problem has been long cycle time required for identification of type, size, and location of damage on the airframe. It can take a week or more for engineering to receive the damage definition necessary to begin analysis. Additionally, tracking and documentation of aircraft damage, analysis, and repairs is currently insufficient.

DENT incorporates a web-based reporting and tracking system for ease of use by the aircraft maintainer and the engineer. The invention consists of four key elements: a method for the consistent identification of location, size and type of damage; an automated transmittal of damage details to the appropriate personnel; rapid assessment of damage using automated analysis techniques; automated storage of all damage related field and engineering data in a central location.

“The combination of a consistent damage assessment process with the automated analysis tools will provide an estimated 85 percent reduction in cycle time for the disposition of field damage resulting in increased aircraft availability,” Wilke said.

The near real-time availability of damage and repair information will provide savings to both the customer and The Boeing Company throughout the life cycle of the aircraft,” he added. “The patent pending process is the foundation of a new product line for The Boeing Company in a previously untapped market niche.”

Wilke said the U.S. Army has just begun using the tool in Iraq, and will make a make a major DENT in its operation by the middle of 2007.

Apple to release two iPhone models, one with WiFi

From Appleinsider:
Apple Computer plans to introduce two iPod-based cell phone models in the first quarter of 2007 that it will initially manufacture in limited quantities, says one analyst.

In a research note released to clients on Monday, Prudential Equity Group analyst Jesse Tortora said his checks indicate that one model will be a smart phone, including integrated keyboard, video and music capability, while the other model will be a slimmer phone with just music functionality.

The analyst, who remained mum on his sources, said at least one of the models will include WiFi wireless capabilities.

"Although these phones represent significant upside earnings potential for the company, there are some concerns regarding market acceptance and battery life, given the number of functions included in the phones," he wrote. "Our checks indicate that Apple will produce these phones in limited quantities initially as a market test vehicle."

For Apple's fourth fiscal quarter ended September, Tortora expects the Cupertino, Calif.-based company to post some upside to street estimates, driven primarily by Mac sales strength and favorable component cost declines. He's modeling revenue of $4.8 billion and earnings-per-share of $0.55, ahead of consensus estimates of $4.7 billion and $0.51.

"While we expect Mac momentum to continue in the [December quarter] (forecasting 1.9 million units), we are more cautious on the outlook for iPod sales and on Apple’s overall margin prospects," the analyst wrote.

While Tortora said checks indicate Apple is preparing its ODM partners for production orders of as many as 21 million iPod units during the December holiday quarter, he said other checks suggest that iPod unit shipments will come in closer to 16 million units for the quarter.

"Moreover, while our checks indicate that production of Apple's new wide screen video iPod will begin in the [December quarter], we do not expect the product to be released until early next year," he continued. "All told, we would not be surprised to see Apple scale down ODM production plans as the quarter moves on, and think that iPod sales could fall short of investor expectations."

Tortora, who maintains a Neutral rating and $74 price target on shares of Apple, recommended that investors remain on the sidelines until he gets "better visibility into the competitive dynamics of the media player space" and its new product ramps.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Movie Downloads: iTunes v. The Rest

From Techcrunch:
Our recommendations: If you are on a Mac, your only choice is iTunes. For Windows users, Movielink has the deepest catalog, and Guba has the best pricing (they are actually taking a loss on sales). CinemaNow has an outrageously priced burn-to-DVD product that may be attractive to some users (although simply buying the DVD seems to make a lot more sense).

Additional notes: All services except iTunes had rental agreements allowing users to rent a movie for 24hrs from pressing play or 30 days, whichever comes first. The number of movies in catalogs were taken either from company numbers or number of movies accessible on the site (these numbers fluctuate). The top 10 movie rentals drawn from IMDB data were: “The Sentinel”, “Take the Lead”, “Poseidon”, “Friends with Money”, “RV”, “Inside Man”, “Akeelah and the Bee”, “Scary Movie 4”, “Silent Hill”, and “Just My Luck”.

When trying out the services, I found the $0.99 rental from GUBA to be the best choice. It was cheap enough that I didn’t mind spending the time downloading a movie and deleting it after I was finished. Renting from the other services just didn’t seem a fair deal at $2.99 or $3.99 with Blockbuster down the street and Netflix in my mailbox. I can’t believe that most of these services expect me to pay the DVD price for a movie that hogs my hard drive, comes with a highly restrictive license, and sucks up my bandwidth for 1-2 hours of downloading. However, in the long run I choose iTunes as the service to watch. Their catalog is a lot smaller than the other services, but they offer the most value with their digital movies by easily integrating with my iPod and granting me more licenses. For now, I think I’ll continue using DVDs to archive my favorite movies, but rent digital versions of the ones I just want to see once. What I’d really like to see in this category is a digital Netflix service that automatically rents, downloads, and deletes movies from my computer for a flat monthly fee.