Thursday, July 26, 2007

Who is it? Oh, it's just my plant saying it needs to be watered

A lot of research projects are strange, but this one is so strange that it is interesting. A bunch of postgraduates from New York University have developed a system that allows your plants to "call" and warn you when they need to be watered.

This technology is based on a set of moisture sensors placed in the plant's soil that can detect if the plant has to much or needs water.

At this point, this seems to be a very reasonable technology. But instead of creating a simple light flashing warning sign in the plant to let you know that she's in trouble, the students decided that these sensors would send a signal over a wireless network to a gateway that places a call to the owner of the plant.

The reason for this? To make the relation with your plant a little bit more personal.

"Recorded voices are assigned to each plant to match its biological characteristics and to help increase the charm of the phone message and give plants their own personality."

Plants can even have funny or sensual accents. Imagine what it would be like to get a call from you plant with that very sexy sensual voice saying: "Com'on baby! Water me...I want it! I need it!" :-)

Source: Reuters Technology News

Don't blame the cellphone! It's in your head!

It's another study that states that electro-magnetic waves sent by cellphones and cellphones' signal towers are not responsible for symptoms such as anxiety, nauseas and tiredness.

The study (done by the Environmental Health Perspectives) tested the reaction of people when they "thought the signal was on". Oddly enough, most people said they were feeling the symptoms exactly when no electro-magnetic waves were in fact being emitted in range.

The researchers stated that most of these symptoms are due to psychological causes and to the old saying that "if we believe that something will hurt us, then it certainly will".

The best explanation for these kind of symptoms is still the psychological state that people are when usually associated with stress.

Source: BBC News

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Wii the gym!!

That's the gym!! Remember when I posted on the "Wii before-and-after"? Well, now some gym in Canada felt it was a good idea to allow their clients to do some exercise while playing Wii Sports.

In Reuters:

"Studeo 55 in Vancouver has incorporated a Nintendo Wii workout station into circuit training where users can punch, run and jump with the system's movement-sensitive controller. Nathan Mellalieu, the owner of Studeo 55, said he decided to bring video games into a fitness environment after watching how much fun some children were having and, more importantly, seeing them sweating."

"All of our clients get great results, but the biggest result we see is the smile on their faces. People have to understand that fun is important."

Did you know...

...that the SMS service was first launched 15 years ago?

At the time, no one believed this would be a service that would be massively used by all the cellphone clients. Everybody was just saying: "why bother writing the message? It's so much easier to call...".

Nowadays, if you ask somebody if they could live without SMS, you may end up getting a "Are you crazy?" answer. And the severeness of this answer proportionally increases to the debilitation of the person's thumb :-)

Let's see how long will this technology stick.

Fonte: Engadget

Monday, July 23, 2007

Convert carbon into biofuel

A breakthrough technology developed by a team of engineering scientists from Wales could hold the key to converting carbon emissions into beneficial substances such as biodiesel, methane gas, and fertilizer.

Check out the explanation:

Source: Engadget

Friday, July 20, 2007

Vodafone says "no" to 3G-less iPhone

While Expansys UK is already offering a pre-order on an unlocked iPhone, Vodafone has said "no" to a contract with Apple to deploy the 3G-less iPhone in Europe.

On Reuters: "It's clearly a good, software-driven device, but we're concerned about wideband area coverage so that 3G (third-generation) or HSDPA (upgraded 3G) connectivity with the iPhone is something that we look forward to.

Every product, every alterative, every choice here has a price and we just have to be conscious of what it is that we're doing for our customers and our shareholders" a representative from Vodafone told a conference call on Thursday.

This is a clear message to Apple, for them to take in account the massive investment telecommunications companies made on 3G networks in Europe. So, maybe once Apple creates the 3G version of the iPhone (rumors point to March 2008), Vodafone will step up to launch it on its networks across Europe.

No personal data will be handed-over by the ISPs in Europe

The European Court of Justice, the top court in the European Union, has set its position on a "fight" between Telefonica (a Spanish telecommunications company which provides Internet services) and Promusicae (entity that represents musicians and record companies in Spain) regarding the request Promusicae made to Telefonica for it to hand-over the personal data of users of P2P networks that were allegedly downloading illegal music.

On CNET: "Telefonica maintained that Spanish law required it to turn over these addresses only in criminal cases or matters of national security. The Spanish court overseeing the case asked for an opinion from the European Court of Justice, which essentially backed Telefonica, saying that this information did not need to be turned over in civil cases.
This opinion's not a legally binding ruling, but if the Spanish court accepts the opinion and rules accordingly, this could form the basis for similar decisions throughout the EU."

This measure will mean a lot more work for the record companies and copyright entities since this was the most effective way to catch the illegal downloaders. These entities will now have to come up with some other technical method without violating the EU's stringent privacy laws.

I think there are some judges in the European Court of Justice that really like BitTorrent, eMule or Kazza. It's just a theory :-)

Source: CNET News

A very special Playstation 2

A kid from Aylsham, Norfolk (in the United Kingdom) bought a PS2 on eBay for 95 £ (about 140 €, $190) and when he opened the package at home, he was in for a big surprise.

Instead of the two games that he also signed for along with his PS2 there was an extra package with 44 000 £ (around 65 000 €, $ 90 000) in cash.

Now the money is in possession of the Police, who is already investigating the case, but oddly enough the kid said he'd rather have received his Gran Turismo 3 instead of the money.

Ahhh, kids :-)

Source: Engadget

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Save energy with Google's new goth search engine: Blackle

Since a scientist reported that white backgrounds on computer screens use more energy than a black background, people have been searching for the goth within and have changed to darker (and scarier) looking backgrounds on their computer screens.

Being Google a new aficionado of the environmental measures to save on energy consumption, it has created Blackle, the "dark" twin of Google Search Engine. The idea is simple: Blackle is exactly the same as Google (allowing you to perform the well-known searches in milliseconds) but with a black background and gray foreground.

Since Google is one of the most visited websites on the planet (if not the very top one), if everyone would use this clone, imagine the energy that we could save :-)

Hand-gesture TV remote control

We have reached the peak of laziness: now people won't even have to look for the lost remote control on the living room's couch.

A team of scientists has unveiled a gesture-based control system for the television which uses only its own system of hand signals.

Similar to a previous concept developed by MIT, the system works by monitoring the "movements" of the lazy zapping person, and then reacts to a set of hand motions, such as the ones depicted in the picture.

In an attempt to reach the ridiculous of laziness, a similar device is also in development which allows its user to control almost all features of the television using a single thumb.

Source: Engadget

More news on the iPhone

The iPhone hype is not finished yet. A lot of interesting news still on the run. Check it out:

The Evolution of Cellphones

If you want to see what it was like in the past to have a cellphone, you have to check this post on the evolution of cellphones. Simply spectacular!

Here's a teaser:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Avoid that cable clutter

While wireless energy is not available to the public, we have to worry about that cable clutter spread across our office's floor.

What if there was a simple way of avoiding this annoying problem? Check this out:

Uhh, my wife is gonna love this :-)

Source: Lifehacker

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Turn your old tupperware back into oil

A US company is taking plastics recycling to another level – turning them back into the oil they were made from, and gas. All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers).

Key to GRC’s process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials. As the material is zapped at the appropriate wavelength, part of the hydrocarbons that make up the plastic and rubber in the material are broken down into diesel oil and combustible gas.

It looks like those old tupperwares at home finally have a purpose :-)

Source: New Scientist

500Gb in one DVD

European researchers (in a consortium including partners from Germany, Hungary and Italy) have managed to work out how to store 500GB of data on a regular HD DVD or Blu-ray disc.

The Microholas project developed a micro-holographic recording technique, using nano-structures inside the disk rather than on the surface as in conventional optical storage systems. This allowed for an increase of the storage capacity far beyond the limits of today's red-laser DVDs and next-generation blue-laser discs.

A single-layer Blu-ray Disc can hold 25GB. A dual-layer disc holds double this amount. Single- and dual-layer HD DVDs hold 15GB and 30GB of data, respectively. The 500GB prototype has 50 data-storage layers.

Source: The Register

10 days of the iPhone: news round-up

The first 5 days of the iPhone were interesting as some oddly enough news were coming up, so I guess it's a good idea to check how the news have evolved around Apple's phone experience:

Technology can be used for the strangest things

Check out some of the most strange inventions technology can bring to you:

  • Electromechanical teenager repellent - a device that makes annoying high-pitched noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not to adults, thus aiming to solve the problem of unwanted gatherings of youths and teenagers in shopping malls, around shops and anywhere else they are causing problems
  • Anti-flatulence underwear - airtight underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter that removes bad-smelling gases before they escape

  • Alarm clock that runs away from you - an alarm clock that runs away and hides if you don't get out of bed on time. When the alarm sounds you can snooze one time. If you still don't wake up, Clocky will jump off of the bedside table, and wheel away, mindlessly bumping into objects until he finds a spot to rest. You'll have to get up and out of bed to silence his alarm.

  • Software that detects cats walking across the keyboard - When cats walk or climb on your keyboard, they can enter random commands and data, damage your files, and even crash your computer. This can happen whether you are near the computer or have suddenly been called away from it. PawSense is a software utility that helps protect your computer from cats. It quickly detects and blocks cat typing, and also helps train your cat to stay off the computer keyboard.
You can check some more here.

PS3: price going down, sales going up

By lowering the price of PS3 by just $100 (74 euros), Sony was able to increase its sales rank on Amazon by 2500%.

Maybe Steve Jobs will take this "advice" and lower the price of the iPhone by $100 too.

Source: Engadget

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

5 days of the iPhone

The iPhone is out for 5 days now. Maybe it's a good time to check it out what's been going on during this time:

So the hype is stronger than ever... Let's wait a few more days and see what news appear.

AllOfMP3 out, MP3Sparks in

For those of you that use the website to get (fairly illegal) MP3 tunes, you might have noticed that it is no longer available. Whether it was the pressure of copyright companies or just a willing shutdown from the owners, we can't know for sure.

However, the shutdown didn't last long as a new website (basically a mirror of the original one),, is now up offering the same service.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

How to keep your coke cold while on the computer

I know this is something that haunts some "computeraholics", so here's the solution for all the "cold-drinks by the keyboard" fans.

The USB mini-fridge helps keeping your can drink cool right where you want it - by your computer.

So, if you're too lazy to get up and pick up your drink or if you're afraid that those untrustworthy colleagues steal your favourite drink from the office fridge, go get your 33$ (25€) usb mini-fridge.

Source: übergizmo