Thursday, March 31, 2011

NASA and U.S. Air Force considering chicken fat as jet fuel

Maybe it's to offset the high price of chicken, but NASA and the U.S. Air Force could soon be fueling their aircraft on jet fuel derived from recycled chicken fat.
Seventeen organizations are participating in Alternative Aviation Fuel Experiment II, or AAFEX II, to see if hydrotreated renewable jet fuel is a viable, eco-friendly fuel for jets.
"It's made out of chicken fat, actually," said Langley's Bruce Anderson, AAFEX II project scientist. "The Air Force bought many thousands of gallons of this to burn in some of their jets and provided about 8,000 gallons to NASA for this experiment."
To launch the experiment, this month NASA researchers from Langley drove cross-country in a specially equipped 32-foot van, dubbed "the EM-50," to deliver the hydrotreated renewable jet fuel to test sites in California.
Research team loads up for the drive to California.
(Credit: NASA)
Anderson and his team will test a 50-50 mix of biofuel and regular jet fuel, biofuel only, and jet fuel only, NASA said.
One test was conducted on a NASA DC-8 at Dryden Flight Research Center's Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.
Another test challenged a U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor at supersonic speeds over Edwards Air Force Base in California. That test used a 50-50 mix of the special biofuel and regular jet fuel.
It may not have been the case for everyone, but the NASA announcement gave me flashbacks of the Muppet chickens clucking out their version of Strauss' "The Blue Danube" waltz from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Release Date for Mac OS X Lion

Today when I woke up I found this email waiting for me:

Join us for a preview of the future of iOS and Mac OS X.

Pricing will appear in your local currency during checkout through the Apple Online Store in your country. Prices, product offerings, and program terms are subject to change at Apple's discretion. Some products or promotions are not available outside the U.S. For further information, please review the WWDC 2011 Attendance Requirements and Refund Policy.

You are receiving this email because you are a Registered Apple Developer. If you would no longer like to receive communications from Apple Developer, you may unsubscribe.

Some applications are not available in all areas. Application availability is subject to change.

TM and copyright © 2011 Apple Inc. 1 Infinite Loop, MS 96-DM, Cupertino, CA 95014.

This email is proof that Mac OS X Lion is arriving this June.  The question is what is happening to IOS, what big news are they going to be breaking that is so importnat it is being released at the same time as Mac OSX Lion?  Only Steve Jobs knows.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Google not ready to share Honeycomb source code

Though it prides itself on Android being an "open" mobile operating system, Google says it's being extra-protective of the tablet version of its OS before releasing it to the world.
Google said today that it will not release the source code Android 3.0, known as Honeycomb, just yet. The company says it's not yet ready to be customized in the same manner as previous versions of the OS, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
Current hardware partners will not be affected by the decision; Motorola just launched the first Honeycomb tablet, the Xoom, and Samsung, Dell, HTC, and Acer are expected to follow suit.
It appears Google wants to control the Android 3.0 experience, though the move is said to be temporary.
Google's Android chief Andy Rubin may have foreshadowed this move at the introduction of Honeycomb last month. He noted how he'd seen Android on a bunch of tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show, and that was very exciting to Google. However, he said, though it's an open-source operating system, Google considers itself "the shepherd."
It's not too far a leap from that comment to the idea that he and his cohorts would like to have a bit more oversight of how and when the software is used, rather than just allowing any hardware maker to slap Honeycomb on any piece of hardware.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

First Look Video: Mac OS X Lion

We got our hands on a prerelease version of Apple's latest big cat, Mac OS X Lion, and we're definitely excited about what we've seen so far. The new Mac OS isn't slated for release until this summer, but the early prerelease shows off many of the latest bells and whistles that Apple hopes will help you be more efficient on your Mac.
Several of the new features make navigating your system and software easier. The new Launchpad, accessed from an icon in the Dock, lays out your applications just as on an iOS device, making it easy to launch your favorite apps quickly. Another cool new feature is the addition of what Apple calls Mission Control, which lets you do a four-finger upward swipe to see all open applications, your desktop, and even applications open in Spaces.
Multi-Touch controls seem to be a big theme in Lion, especially if you're using a multitouch trackpad on newer-model MacBooks. You can swipe to switch apps, pinch to zoom in, and use several other multitouch shortcuts to get where you want to go quickly.
All of the main Apple apps like Safari, Mail, and the Calendar app have been fine-tuned as well, adding extras that Apple hopes will save you time and give you a better computing experience.
There's plenty more to Mac OS X Lion, and we'll be putting together a comprehensive video, slideshow, and written review of the new Mac OS closer to the launch date this summer. But for a quick overview of more of the latest features in Apple's newest OS, check out Brian Tong's First Look at Mac OS X Lion.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Exec shakeup lays blueprint for Sony's future

Kaz Hirai, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, has been named as a possible successor to Chairman, President, and CEO Howard Stringer.
Kaz Hirai, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, has been named as a possible successor to CEO Howard Stringer.
(Credit: James Martin/CNET)
Sony's CEO has named an heir apparent.
Howard Stringer, while making some organizational tweaks, today chose Kazuo, or Kaz, Hirai to possibly succeed him at the helm of the iconic consumer electronics company.
Hirai, 50, rose up through the ranks in the music and video game businesses and has been the president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, which produces the successful PlayStation franchise as well as the video game business. Now, he's been tapped as the head of the entire consumer business, meaning not only video game consoles and titles, but TVs, Blu-ray players, notebooks, and more.
This is a pretty big deal. Hirai's heading the business will mean changes in some ways, but it will also establish some consistency for whenever Stringer does eventually decide to leave. Here are the most important things about today's announcement.
Stringer's "convergence" agenda should stay on track
Sony's chairman, president, and CEO first laid out his plan at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2009, stressing that the future of consumer electronics was the convergence of PCs, TVs and other gadgets, and entertainment. For most consumers we'd say, well, that's fairly obvious what with our smartphones and tablets being able to play our downloaded apps, videos, and music, and the emergence of lots of streaming entertainment content from the Web to our TVs through video game consoles, set-top boxes, and through the TV itself.
But that wasn't necessarily as obvious two years ago. And Sony has historically struggled with different business divisions working together across music, video, and software platforms. By putting everything--TVs, entertainment software, PlayStation, MP3 players, Vaio laptops--under one roof and a single executive, that actually encourages more cooperation across the company. It's a way of securing his legacy at the company.
The guy in charge of video games is now in charge of TVs
TVs and audio were the jewels in Sony's crown for decades. But today? Apple introduced the iPod a decade ago and basically dismantled Sony's Walkman business. The TV business has been outpaced by Samsung, and hasn't turned a profit in more than half a decade.
Hirai's appointment shows how important the PlayStation business is to the company's fortunes now. For many years, the consumer electronics divisions and video game divisions treated each other as almost separate companies. The PlayStation group is profitable and is responsible for Sony's PlayStation Network, where games and movies can be downloaded to the PS3. By combining responsibilities for Hirai, now the same person will be responsible for the PSN and the Qriocity platform, which has services like Music Unlimited that allow songs to be bought and streamed to the PlayStation 3, and Sony TVs, and Blu-ray Home Theater systems, as well as a range of Sony's portable devices.
He's not another Stringer
Compared to Stringer, 69, Hirai is about two decades younger. As Sony's iconic brand name ages, and as the cachet once associated with having a Sony stereo or TV has been replaced by the cachet of owning an Apple product, it's not a bad move for Sony to pick a leader whose experience aligns him better with its core demographic: young, male gamers.
While Hirai lives in the U.S. now, he was born and raised in Japan. Longtime observers of the company would say that's important for a Sony, whose founding and legacy is distinctly Japanese. As previously noted, Hirai grew up in the company and is recognized as being instrumental in the growth of its gaming business. Stringer was born in Wales and is a former journalist and media executive. He was brought into Sony to shake things up precisely because he was an outsider. It appears that experiment will soon be over.
This isn't set in stone
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal today, Stringer said that Hirai isn't his successor for sure, but is "the leading candidate." Just two years ago, Stringer had selected four executives that he dubbed the "four musketeers," relatively young English-speaking Japanese execs that would help his turnaround the company's fortunes. Hirai was one of them. Hiroshi Yoshioka was another, and he has now been charged with running a group parallel to the consumer business, the Professional and Device Solutions Group.
Stringer has been known to shake things up every few years. So if he does stay on until 2013, as some have speculated, it's not entirely outside the realm of possibility he'll change his mind yet again.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tablets are the 'post-PC era'? No way!

          I've been hearing "post-PC era" so much now that I wince when I hear the term. Clearly it must be time for me to get something off my chest.
There is no post-PC era.
Not as I see the landscape, at least. To me, tablets are a big break with the past when it comes to user interface, but deep down, more stays the same than changes. And the better tablets get, the more they'll simply absorb what we do with PCs.
In short, tablets will become PCs. Different PCs from today's PCs, but PCs.
Granted, I might be using the term "PC" differently from the main proponent of the "post-PC" idea, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs, who eagerly trotted the phrase out over and over during the iPad 2 launch last week. Apple often means "Windows personal computer" when it uses the term "PC," as evidenced in the Mac vs. PC ads. And there was a day when PC Magazine, PC World, PC/Computing and their ilk were indeed devoted to the Wintel world and not Macs.
But I prefer the term PC in a more generic "personal computer" sense. I use a MacBook Pro, a Lenovo Windows XP laptop, and a Dell Windows 7 laptop, and to me they all feel like, well, personal computers. There are differences between the Windows and Mac machines, sure, but I use the tools for exactly the same work and personal tasks. In short, for personal computing.

Today's differences
          Right now there are plenty of legitimate distinctions between tablets and PCs. First and foremost, tablets have a touch-screen interface rather than the traditional combination of a keyboard and a mouse or trackpad. They're smaller and lighter. What they lack in processor power they make up for in battery life. They come with a different operating system that means the vast array of PC applications won't run. And at least in the case of the iPad, they lack the profusion of ports to connect external monitors, digital cameras, wireless network dongles, backup systems, thumb drives, and, yes, heated slippers.
Then there's the matter of how people use tablets. There's plenty of overlap--Web browsing, e-mail, social networking, casual games--but there are differences as well. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son has ditched his PC for an iPad at work, but most people probably aren't ready to follow him just yet even if conservative corporate IT administrators could be persuaded to make a pretty radical change.
Many routine work chores become harder or impossible on a tablet. Microsoft Office is absent, typing on a virtual keyboard isn't the same, and file storage and transfer is a more complicated matter.
On the flip side, there are things tablets can do that PCs today can't. Games, drawing apps, and other interactive software take on a new direct, physical connection with a large touch screen and an accelerometer that tells a program how a person is moving the tablet around. Watch Apple's demo of iMovie for the iPad to get a feel for how far user interfaces are moving away from WordPerfect 5.1.
In addition, tablets function as book readers much more gracefully than laptops and are significantly more portable. The battery life means they're not nearly as tethered to power sockets. And the instant-on availability means people put off by the hassle of booting a PC might grab a tablet for a mid-conversation search to identify six wives of Henry VIII.
All these new options for tablets lead Gartner to agree with the post-PC idea: "We expect growing consumer enthusiasm for mobile PC alternatives, such as the iPad and other media tablets, to dramatically slow home mobile PC sales, especially in mature markets," said George Shiffler, a Gartner research director, last week.
In other words, to some extent, it's an either-or situation, where tablets replace PCs in some circumstances.

Tomorrow's similarities

          To this point, I agree with the "post-PC" idea, too. Smartphones and tablets are qualitatively different from PCs, and they're supplanting PCs to some significant extent both when it comes to purchasing choices and daily usage.
But when I unleash my imagination and fast-forward a few years, I think the distinction between what we call PCs and tablets will fade.
Let's start with peripherals. Today, you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to your iPad. As I see things shaking out, wireless connections--Bluetooth, Wi-Fi Direct, or something else--also will permit many other devices to be attached. And as tablets adapt to the business world, I predict they'll get ports. Maybe Intel's new Thunderbolt, though doubtless expensive today, will provide a one-port-to-rule-them-all simplicity that will get along better with the sleek tablet world.
Processor power, too, will improve. Certainly very thin and light designs can't accommodate the hot and power-hungry CPUs of high-end or even mid-range PCs today, but the better mobile processors become, the more average computer user's workload they'll be able to handle.
The way I see things shaking out, people will often end up carrying a tablet with them. When necessary, modular keyboards, mice, and large monitors will be linked up to assemble something that would be awfully hard to think of as anything but a PC. Maybe for the laptop crowd, people who don't always have the luxury of a desk to clutter up with assorted accessories, keyboards will snap on or be built into optional covers.
I don't think PCs, as we see them today, will die out. But they'll be relegated to a smaller niche. Laptops have steadily encroached into the mainstream PC world, edging tower and desktop PCs away from the center of the market toward those on a tight budget, gamers, workstation users, and cubicle farm dwellers. Tablets, I think, will do the same thing to today's conventional laptops--push them out to the fringes where people need optical drives or major processor power or aren't willing to pay a premium for lots of flash memory or something slimmer than a pancake.

A continuum of PCs

          "It's a shame, almost, that we squandered the term 'personal computer' 30 years ago," lamented the John Gruber of Daring Fireball while swooning over Apple's iPad 2 announcement.
Nonsense, I say. "Personal computer" was a perfectly reasonable term then, and the term will be just fine until Ray Kurzweil's singularity arrives and Skynet converts all the humans into smart matter.
A MITS Altair, a TRS-80 Model 4, an Osborne 1, an Apple II, a BBC Micro, a Macintosh SE, a Gateway 486DX2-40, a Power Computing PowerCurve 601/120, an IBM ThinkPad, an Asus eee PC--they're all PCs to me.
There have been some revolutionary shifts over the years, of course. Graphical user interfaces, hard drives, networking, graphics processors, portability, CD-ROM drives, the Internet, Wi-Fi--each of these have profoundly changed what a PC is.
With tablets, we get touch screens, orientation sensitivity, and geolocation.
In the future, maybe we'll get voice control that works, a high-speed, all-purpose optical communications port, biometric identification that rids us of our 450 usernames and passwords, smartphones that beam information to our contact-lens displays, batteries that recharge from the sun or from a glass of whisky, truly reliable and pervasive wireless networking, and nanobots swimming among our neurons so we can download the ability to speak Mandarin Chinese.
Is it personal? Is it computing? Then it's a personal computer.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The iPad 2!

Apple has just made its second-generation iPad official! It features a 1GHz dual-core A5 chip and,finally, cameras, both on the front and rear. The new CPU is said to be up to twice as fast, with graphics performance up to nine times better than on the original iPad, while power requirements have been kept the same. Battery life is, consequently, unaltered, with Apple promising 10 hours. Pricing, too, has been left unchanged, starting at $499 for a 16GB WiFi-only iPad 2 and stretching up to $829 for a WiFi + 3G SKU with 64GB of storage. The new tablet will come with an HDMI output capable of 1080p -- which will set you back $39 for the requisite dongle, called an Apple Digital AV Adapter -- but there will sadly be no rumblings of Thunderbolt connectivity here. What you will get is an enlarged speaker grille on the back, as expected, and the same 1024 x 768 resolution and IPS LCD screen technology as on the original iPad.

720p video recording at 30fps will be on tap from the rear-facing camera, which can also do a 5x digital zoom if you're into that kind of thing, whereas the front-facing imager will record at a more modest VGA resolution, also at 30fps.

There's a new cover for the device, which is best defined by Steve Jobs himself: "We designed the case right alongside the product. It's not a case -- it's a cover." Basically, it's a magnetic flap that protects the front and automatically wakes and puts the device to sleep according to whether it's open or closed. Guess we know what that proximity sensor was about now. These Smart Covers will cost $39 in plastic or $69 if you opt for leather.

The iPad 2 is 33 percent thinner than its predecessor, at a mind-melting 8.8mm, and a little lighter at just over 600g, while paintjob options have been expanded: you'll get a choice between white and black. It'll be available on both AT&T and Verizon, and all variants start shipping on March 11th. Apple Retail Stores will start sales at the unusual hour of 5PM, which will probably make online pre-orders the fastest way to get yours.

In terms of new software, Apple's launching iOS 4.3 alongside the new iPad and bringing with it much improved Safari performance as well as FaceTime, Photo Booth, iMovie and GarageBand (the latter two costing $4.99 a piece) apps specifically for the newly camera-enriched iPad. Personal Hotspot capabilities are also arriving in the latest version of the OS, but they'll be exclusive to the iPhone 4, so you won't be able to share your 3G iPad's connection. The minimum compatible version of iTunes for the new iPad 2 will be the freshly released 10.2.

You'll find Apple's official PR and some slick promo videos below, or you can keep your mouse clicking and check out our first hands-on with the iPad 2.
Show full PR text