A physics wunderkind, Taylor Wilson became the youngest person to ever create fusion at age 14. And since graduating from high school last year, he’s devoted himself to finding innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems.
Tag Archives: power
New prediction models can allow utilities to rely more heavily on wind and save millions.
The utility with the most wind power capacity in the United States, Xcel Energy, is relying more on this power source and saving millions of dollars thanks to new forecasting models similar to those used to predict climate change.
Although there’s no dearth of rugged tablets, most are still built on the assumption that civilization is close at hand. Sqigle, however, suggests that its upcoming Earl tablet could work even if there’s no civilization left. The new, crowdfunded Android 4.1 slate centers on a light-up, 6-inch e-paper screen that both extends the battery life to 20 hours and makes the 5 hours of solar-powered recharging sound reasonable — theoretically, Earl never needs to see a wall outlet. It’s also built to do as much as possible without leaning on either WiFi or a PC. Along with both analog and digital radio, the design should incorporate ANT+ sensor support and preloaded topographical maps. The project isn’t ideally timed for outdoorsy types when it’s expected to reach backers in the late summer, but the $ 249 advance price is low enough that it might justify a camping trip in the fall.
Filed under: Tablets
There’s a more efficient way to harvest energy from the backyard than by wiring up hapless critters. Researchers at the University of Georgia have proof: they’ve discovered a way to generate electricity from plants through hijacking the photosynthesis process. By altering the proteins inside a plant cell’s thylakoids, which store solar energy, scientists can intercept electrons through a carbon nanotube backing that draws them away before they’re used to make sugar. While the resulting power isn’t phenomenal, it’s still two orders of magnitude better than previous methods, according to the university. The protein modification method may have a rosier future, as well: the team believes that it could eventually compete with solar cells, producing green energy in a very literal sense.
Electric vehicles still have a few obstacles that prevent them from going fully mainstream. These typically center on the price of the vehicle itself (though this is changing), and its range. One other barrier has also been the price of home-based chargers. Now, Bosch is offering a level 2 (quicker than the usually cheaper, and slower level 1) home charging system for just $ 450. For that price you get 16 amp charging and a 12 foot cord. There are two other options that increase the amperage to 30, with a choice of 18 or 25 foot cables — costing $ 593 and $ 749 respectively. These don’t include any additional networking features and so on, but for this price, and reduced reliance on external charging networks, it’d be worth clearing out the garage for.
Via: The Verge
Every week, a new and interesting human being tackles our decidedly geeky take on the Proustian Q&A. This is the Engadget Questionnaire.
In the latest installment of our collection of gadget-related queries, Fall Out Boy guitarist Joe Trohman chats about his gear wish list and Bluetooth fashion sense. Join us on the other side of the break for the full gamut of responses.
Filed under: Misc
Source: Distro Issue 90
The International Space Station has a radiator leak in its power system. The outpost’s commander calls the situation serious, but not life-threatening.
Advances like GE’s new hybrid wind turbines could make renewable energy more practical.
GE recently sold the first of a new line of “hybrid” wind turbines that comes with a battery attached. The turbine’s battery can store the equivalent of less than one minute of the turbine operating at full power. But, by pairing the battery with advanced wind-forecasting algorithms, wind farm operators could guarantee a certain amount of power output for up to an hour.
Any day now, billions of cicadas with bulging red eyes will creep out of the ground and overrun parts of the East Coast.
One of the staples of Intel’s upcoming Haswell processor architecture is its support for lower-power idle states that can rival tablet chips in power consumption, even on the desktop. However, that may come with a big caveat for budget and custom-built PCs: certain power supplies might not cut it. VR-Zone claims that those idle states require as little as 0.05 amps of current, which could be too nuanced for older or cut-rate supplies that deliver power in bigger clumps. That might not be a problem for companies building complete PCs, but Corsair’s Robert Pearce tells The Tech Report that it may lead to a lot of motherboard builders playing it safe by disabling those specific modes by default. Many of us, in turn, would either have to buy a fresh supply or toggle the power-saving options ourselves. We’ve reached out to Intel to verify the truth, but it may be wisest to make a cleaner break from the past with any near-term upgrades.
If you’ve been searching for a mobile device battery that’ll power your smartphone or tablet up from your pocket recently, you know there’s essentially no end to your choices. The difference between one battery and the next can be as simple as the color choices you’ve got available. With the company iGO you’ve got a
Doubling the efficiency of solar devices would completely change the economics of renewable energy. Here is a design that just might make it possible.
Harry Atwater thinks his lab can make an affordable device that produces more than twice the solar power generated by today’s panels. The feat is possible, says the Caltech professor of materials science and applied physics, because of recent advances in the ability to manipulate light at a very small scale.
Combining aspects of high-energy lithium-sulfur batteries with flow battery technology can lower costs.
There’s a promising new entry in the race to build cheap batteries for storing energy from solar panels and wind turbines. Stanford researchers led by Yi Cui, a professor of materials science and engineering, have demonstrated a partially liquid battery made of inexpensive lithium and sulfur. Cui says the battery will be easy to make and will last for thousands of charging cycles.
Converting methane to an alternative fuel using energy from the sun could reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.
Burning natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as burning coal, but it still produces large amounts of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. A novel device being developed at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) could reduce those emissions by 20 percent by using heat from the sun to convert natural gas to an alternative fuel called syngas, a lower carbon fuel.
Nest adds “energy services” with utilities to shift heavy air conditioning loads and tune home efficiency.
“Demand response” is not something most people outside the utility industry know about, never mind pay much attention to. Then again, most people didn’t give much thought to thermostats before Nest Labs made one.
Researchers from IBM have created a very impressive and affordable new photovoltaic system that is capable of concentrating solar radiation up to 2000 times. The system is also capable of converting 80% of incoming solar radiation into useful energy. Other than simply creating solar electricity, the system also has two other very important capabilities. Those
At the OpenStack Summit last week, Tuesday’s keynote opened with Dope’n’Stack E.N.T.E.R.P.R.I.S.E, a video that symbolizes the arrival of a new force of disruptors who see riches in building software and systems that will displace the legacy systems of old. It’s not a question anymore. OpenStack has the momentum to win, and it can thank this young group of developers and feisty systems gurus for making it happen. Companies that have long controlled the enterprise software and systems market are now at a distinct disadvantage. Their proprietary, closed-stack integrations don’t play in the new open cloud world that emulates the success of Internet-scale companies, such as Amazon Web Services, Google and Facebook. And this group of technologists knows it, making it abundantly clear last week in Portland. Cloudscaling CTO Randy Bias summed up OpenStack’s place in the market in a presentation this week, titled “The State of the Stack.” The presentation reviews the findings of a survey done with OpenStack users and relevant data about the overall community. State of the Stack April 2013 from Cloudscaling, Inc. OpenStack is as much a stack as is Linux or Java. That points to a future where it has a chance to become a standard for building out cloud infrastructure. It has the attention of startups and large enterprise companies. Successes have come with customers such as Bloomberg, Comcast, Best Buy, CERN Laboratories and the NSA, all which have built core technology on OpenStack. It has served as a stack to try new technologies, such as the Ceph storage system and any number of new networking technologies. What hypervisor OpenStack users deploy is one of the most telling signs of the shift and the adaptive role that older, more established companies have had to take on. According to an OpenStack survey, KVM has become the hypervisor of choice due to its open-management platform. It has no licensing fees and allows for free choice in how it is used. KVM is backed by Red Hat. Xen, it should be noted, became part of the Linux Foundation last week with the support of Amazon Web Services, which will have definite impacts on the market. Until this point, Citrix maintained a community edition of Xen, similar to the way Red Hat treats KVM. Other supporters include AMD, Bromium, Calxeda, CA Technologies, Cisco, Citrix, Google, Intel, Oracle, Samsung, and Verizon. AWS uses the Xen hypervisor. It is also believed that Google
Jolicloud Adds Search To Jolidrive, Its Cloud Services Dashboard Pivot, To Power Content Discovery & Rediscovery
Jolicloud, which last October pivoted yet again — to become Jolidrive: a “entry point”/dashboard for accessing third party cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Box and also social accounts like Vimeo and YouTube — has taken the next obvious step on this new product path and added a search function to flesh out its role as a cloud content (re)discovery service.
Nerval’s Lobster writes “Facebook has added real-time dashboards for measuring the efficiency of its data centers’ internal power and water use. Two dashboards monitor the company’s Prineville, Ore. (here) and Forest City, N.C. data centers (here), measuring both the Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) and Water Usage Effectiveness of those facilities, in addition to the ambient temperature and humidity. So far, visitors to the Prineville and Forest City dashboards only see a limited snapshot of the Facebook data: the display only covers 24 hours, and is delayed by 2.5 hours on both sites. Facebook also hasn’t disclosed how many servers the data represents, which could conceivably be used by competitors to get a sense of the social network’s total computing power. The company said that once its data center in Luleå, Sweden, comes online, Facebook will begin adding data from that location, as well. Although Facebook said it provided the information out of a sense of openness, the data—showing PUEs of about 1.09 for both facilities as of press time—is a bit of a boast, as well; as recently as 2011, Uptime Institute said that the average data center’s PUE was approximately 1.8. So far, Facebook hasn’t said whether it will provide access to the dashboards via an API, so third parties can get a better sense of how Facebook is managing power and water use over time, and through various seasons of the year.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
There’s a gold rush going on these days, or a Bitcoin rush, at least. Driven by the recent swings in the value of a Bitcoin, more and more people are learning about and becoming interested in the currency. While they could just buy Bitcoins at the current market rate, others are looking to try their luck at mining Bitcoins. And like prospectors who traveled west during the Gold Rush of the 19th century, many Bitcoin miners will find that they spend more on chasing the Bitcoin dream than they’ll ever hope to win back.
Using a wind energy and expensive lithium-ion batteries, AES Energy Storage is making money by stabilizing the grid.
The conventional wisdom is that batteries, particularly lithium-ion batteries, are way too expensive to be used on the electricity grid in a financially viable way. Chris Shelton begs to differ and he has two years of data to make his case.
We’re all about the future of the internet here at Engadget, so you can imagine our excitement when HP today announced that it’s shooting for the moon with its latest server system, the HP Moonshot. Promising significantly reduced energy consumption and space requirements, the Moonshot is HP’s “second generation” server tech, and it’s intended for use with “social, cloud, mobile, and big data,” according to the company. In so many words, this is HP’s attempt to get out ahead of where it sees internet use going — it was first unveiled in concept form last summer, but now it’s apparently ready for primetime. A video of the new tech getting introduced is just beyond the break.
Said servers are rolling out in 2013′s latter half, and can be tailored to a clients’ needs with specs from a variety of internals providers (AMD, AppliedMicro, Calxeda, Intel, and Texas Instruments are all specifically named by HP). All of this amounts to one thing: the information superhighway of tomorrow is being paved today, and we can’t wait to take a spin. Here’s hoping there’ll still be plenty of stupid gifs.
Facebook had its big coming-out party for mobile on Wednesday, and its Home launcher will soon start shipping exclusively on an HTC device. This is the social network’s first crack at being the default experience on any device. Until now, using Facebook has been a completely optional and background experience, meaning you’d have to visit its website or download one of its apps. After nine years, that approach worked rather well, to the tune of over a billion users. To get to the next level, Facebook had to start dipping its toes into uncharted territory…being the default. Creating a situation where you are the default, out-of-the-box experience certainly has many advantages. For example, HTC is putting all of its marketing power behind the HTC First, and Facebook probably didn’t have to pay a dime for any of this. The phone manufacturer is hoping that even though this isn’t a true “Facebook Phone,” that the fantasy of it being that, along with a manageable $ 99 price tag, will be enough to sell a slew of them. AT&T is certainly helping the cause on their site with this massive advertisement, which is of course what you see by default when you surf there: On April 12, when people start opening their new devices, they will see a Facebook screen asking them to log in. Yes, Facebook has reached default status. If for some odd reason the person with the phone doesn’t have a Facebook account, they can simply sign up for one. Sounds crazy, but there are still many people without a Facebook account and might not have had a reason to have one before. They might have never had a smartphone before either, which means that the Facebook Home experience will be their guide. The importance, and potential negatives involved, cannot be understated. The Power Of Default Talk to Microsoft about defaults. It worked quite well for its Internet Explorer browser until it got them into hot water. We’ll get to the hot water later, but Internet Explorer was a beast, because it shipped as the only browsing experience for Windows machines. Was it the best web browser out there? For a while, yes it was. Installing another browser used to be seen as something only really geeky, or adventurous, people would do. I remember tweaking my old Windows machine every chance I could get, downloading any other interface to the
Demand response technology—essentially dialing back power at key times—is quietly becoming a key tool for the electricity grid of the future.
The off switch is a fast-growing source of power in some parts of the electricity grid.
MTorrice writes “NASA researchers have compared nuclear power to fossil fuel energy sources in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution-related deaths. Using nuclear power in place of coal and gas power has prevented some 1.8 million deaths globally over the past four decades and could save millions of more lives in coming decades, concludes their study. The pair also found that nuclear energy prevents emissions of huge quantities of greenhouse gases. These estimates help make the case that policymakers should continue to rely on and expand nuclear power in place of fossil fuels to mitigate climate change, the authors say.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
First time accepted submitter MurukeshM writes “I have a 16 GB Nexus 4. I rarely manage to push the RAM usage above 1 GB (not counting cached processes). Yet I find it increasingly annoying when apps do stuff to save on RAM usage, such as having a browser reload a tab if I havent used it for a long time, instead of keeping it in memory or have an ebook reader load from storage instead of keeping the entire eBook in RAM. I know there are plenty of phones with far less memory, but when most of the RAM is unutilized, with more and more phones and tablets having 1GB+ RAM, isn’t it time that apps check on available RAM and use optimizations accordingly? And it isn’t only about RAM. Android by default only downloads one thing at a time, whether it be an app from Play Store or a file from a site. When connected to WiFi or 3G/LTE, there’s no reason why multiple simultaneous downloads shouldn’t be used. How do Slashdot readers with high-end phones get the most out of their device? Are there custom ROMs which act more sensibly?”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Nerval’s Lobster writes “IBM announced this week that it has developed a way to manufacture both logic and memory that relies on a small drop of ‘ionic liquid’ to flip oxides back and forth between an insulating and conductive state without the need to constantly draw power. In theory, that means both memory and logic built using those techniques could dramatically save power. IBM described the advance in the journal Science, and also published a summary of its results to its Website. The central idea is to eliminate as much power as possible as it moves through a semiconductor. IBM’s solution is to use a bit of ‘ionic liquid’ to flip the state. IBM researchers applied a positively charged ionic liquid electrolyte to an insulating oxide material — vanadium dioxide — and successfully converted the material to a metallic state. The material held its metallic state until a negatively charged ionic liquid electrolyte was applied in order to convert it back to its original, insulating state. A loose analogy would be to compare IBM’s technology to the sort of electronic ink used in the black-and-white versions of the Kindle and other e-readers. There, an electrical charge can be applied to the tiny microcapsules that contain the ‘ink,’ hiding or displaying them to render a page of text. Like IBM’s solution, the e-ink doesn’t require a constant charge; power only needs to be applied to re-render or ‘flip’ the page. In any event, IBM’s technique could conceivably be applied to both mobile devices as well as power-hungry data centers.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
If you’ve been following NVIDIA’s news blasts this past week, you know that they’ve revealed their next-generation chipset to be working with CUDA-capable GPUs. What’s more, you’ll have a bit of an idea what that means for mobile devices, the computing power they’ll have extremely soon, and you’ll be pumped up about that power coming
Apple announced Friday that 75 percent of its corporate facilities and data centers are powered by energy from renewable sources, including solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power.
Study shows mixed answers to the question of whether Tweets drive ratings–revealing limits to what we know about social media’s real-world effects
Can Tweets drive television ratings? Meaning, when people are gushing about a show, does it change other people’s choices and behavior? If it does, it means we know something new about how social media activity affects events in the real world.
Nokia has been granted a patent injunction against HTC in Germany this week that has to do with power saving technology. The injunction was handed down by Judge Dr. Holger Kircher presiding over the Mannheim Regional Court. Kircher and the panel of judges he presides over found that HTC infringes Nokia’s patent number EP0673175. The
Now might be the time to familiarize yourself with the Power Matters Alliance (PMA). The industry’s most recognizable standard, Qi, is facing serious competition from the PMA, which has garnered support from Duracell Powermat, AT&T, smartphone manufacturers such as BlackBerry and ZTE, and even Starbucks shops, which have begun rolling out its wireless charging tech in certain outlets. Beginning soon, you may be able to charge your compatible smartphone at European McDonald’s restaurants, too — the food service giant’s support comes courtesy of Helsinki-based PowerKiss, which is now ditching Qi in favor of the PMA. The move is arguably the Alliance’s most significant to date, and it could bring confidence to organizations currently considering their own strategies.
It’s unfortunate for consumers who may have recently invested in Qi, however — popular wireless charging spots in major European train stations, for example, will be swapping out their infrastructure to support PMA. According to PowerKiss founder Maija Itkonen, the decision was based on the standard’s new technology that enables individual charging sites to monitor usage trends and control consumption, along with significant support from companies throughout the industry. We’ve even heard speculation that Apple may soon announce support for the PMA standard, though we remain skeptical. Regardless, this is a major blow to Qi, though it could be a significant step forward for consumers — that $ 99 Powermat charging set might seem a more-reasonable acquisition now.
We’d heard rumors that Swiftkey might have assisted Blackberry on its well-received (and often prescient) BB10 keyboard, but the app maker has now confirmed that its software is behind the Galaxy S 4‘s native keyboard. It’s the first time that the company’s publicly admitted to powering a handset manufacturer’s keys and will sidestep the need for S 4 users to download its standalone app. Swiftkey’s CTO Ben Medlock said that the keyboard is “at the heart of [Samsung's] flagship smartphone” and is hopefully just the first of many Android devices arriving with the company’s voodoo already built in. We’ve added Ben’s full statement after the break.
Google’s brand name made Reader work in Iranians’ favor.
Journalists and other professional nerds are angry that Google is snuffing out its moribund RSS software, Reader. But as Quartz’s Zach Seward points out, plain old normal folks in Iran used Reader quite a bit to get around internet censorship. And those users won’t be helped by the Reader clones popping up in its wake, because Google Reader’s unintended power as an anti-censorship interface flows from its “Google” pedigree, not its “Reader” functionality.
Transatomic is developing a new kind of molten-salt reactor designed to overcome the major barriers to nuclear power.
Transatomic, an MIT spinoff, is developing a nuclear reactor that it estimates will cut the overall cost of a nuclear power plant in half. It’s an updated molten-salt reactor, a type that’s highly resistant to meltdowns. Molten-salt reactors were demonstrated in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Lab, where one test reactor ran for six years, but the technology hasn’t been used commercially.
While many scientists have heard the call for self-healing electronics, their previous projects have usually had just a limited capacity to come back from the brink. Caltech has developed an integrated circuit that could take much more of a bruising. Its prototype power amplifier chip has a dedicated circuit and sensors that can change actuators in microseconds if there’s damage, re-optimizing the connections on the spot. And the chip can take a lot of that damage — 76 examples in a penny-sized cluster endured multiple laser strikes in tests (like the one above) while still ticking. The self-healing even helps while everything is in tip-top shape, as it can cut power use by watching for the usual hiccups in load and voltage. So long as Caltech can develop the technology beyond its currently expected niches of communication and imaging, many of our computing devices could eventually take a few bumps and scrapes on the inside, not just their rugged exteriors.
Filed under: Science
Leading tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are making huge inroads in the use of renewable energy for corporate facilities and data centers, but cost and delivery challenges remain.
The Mophie Juice Pack Air For iPhone 5 Drops iTunes Syncing, But Still Saves You When You Need More Power
Mophie caused a bit of a double-take by introducing not one but two rechargeable external battery cases for the iPhone 5 within a few days of each other. The Juice Pack Helium offers a sleeker body, but the Juice Pack Air, announced later, offers more stamina. I’ve been testing the latter for nearly a week now, and it lives up to Mophie’s good reputation, with a single trade-off that may or may not influence your buying decision.
Securing critical infrastructure needs to go far beyond the measures in President Obama’s recent executive order.
Yesterday, the president’s cybersecurity coördinator, Michael Daniel, appeared in San Francisco at the world’s largest security conference, RSA, to explain how the president’s cybersecurity executive order—intended to help U.S. critical infrastructure to withstand computer attacks—will operate. The order, announced by President Obama earlier this month, will create voluntary security standards for power utilities and other infrastructure companies and allow them to receive classified government information about security threats.
Adobe Debuts Photoshop Touch For Phones, Bringing The Full Power Of The Tablet Version To Your Pocket
Adobe mobile Photoshop strategy has so far kept more heavyweight editing to tablets with Photoshop Touch, and left the iPhone with Photoshop Express. But today the company has officially released Photoshop Touch for iPhone and Android smartphones, which inherits virtually all of the functionality of the more powerful tablet app, with an interface tailored to the smaller screens.
A natural battery in the inner ear could drive implantable electronic devices
Deep in the inner ear of mammals is a natural battery—a chamber filled with ions that produces an electrical potential to drive neural signals. MIT researchers, together with colleagues at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), have demonstrated that this battery could power implantable electronic devices without impairing hearing.
Thirty days is just a tiny fraction of the two-year commitment you sign when buying discounted phones in the US — one-twenty-fourth of the actual time you’re stuck with the device before switching phones. For a reviewer like me, however, it’s actually about twice as long as I typically spend with any given device as my daily driver. I’m halfway through my monthlong BlackBerry 10 experiment, which means this is the point at which I’m usually ready to move on to something new.
Strangely, I’m not feeling the same about the Z10 — at least, not as much as I had expected. While I became accustomed to the user interface during the first week, my experiences during the second week were even more smooth and natural than before. That’s great news as I prepare for my upcoming trip to Spain to cover Mobile World Congress (I leave tonight), since my habits as a power user will be amplified during my weeklong venture to the other side of the Atlantic. Phone-wise, what would normally be a minor frustration at home can become an emergency in other countries, so I spent this week putting the Z10 to the test. I wanted to make sure it’s prepared for the rough and taxing journey the two of us will face in Barcelona. Venture across the break and I’ll fill you in on some of the things I discovered.
Editor’s note: This is not a review. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to read through our review of the BlackBerry Z10 and the BB10 operating system, now is the perfect time to do so. As I progress through my 30-day BlackBerry trial, I’m writing most of my thoughts with the assumption that you have a basic understanding of BlackBerry’s new devices and platform.
One of my fondest recollections from my BlackBerry Curve days was the phone’s intricate use of shortcuts. They were everywhere; discovering new shortcuts was the equivalent of locating hidden treasure on a pirate map. At the time, I had the feeling that there were plenty of keystrokes and other shortcuts that I never found — and now I’m experiencing that same thing with BlackBerry 10. Since my first week was dedicated to learning the user interface and ecosystem, I didn’t learn many of BB10′s secrets; this past week, however, was a completely different story. Thanks to a plethora of online resources (including some helpful Engadget commenters), I was immersed in the phones inner workings.
I discovered that there’s a delicate balance between necessity and luxury. In other words, shortcuts can add a great deal of convenience and depth for power users, but it’s also important that they don’t overwhelm users that only want to utilize of the platform’s simple features. Fortunately, BlackBerry does a beautiful job of striking this balance. For instance, the keyboard offers several handy tricks — type “ld” to automatically insert today’s date, “mypin” for the device PIN, “mynumber” for your phone number and so on. I’ve also put in my own custom autocorrects, the same way I can with most other platforms. If you don’t want to see the keyboard anymore, just pull it down with two fingers (and vice versa). The most mind-blowing shortcut, though? If the Hub misbehaves, you can reset it without a battery pull by pulling down from the top-right corner of the screen five times. (Head here for more shortcuts.)
I wish I could say that BlackBerry 10 offers that same kind of flawless execution in every facet of the OS, but unfortunately there are still plenty of areas that need extra work. One such area is battery life. Nearly every review I’ve read (including our own) makes mention of the Z10′s power-management struggle, and my experience over the last two weeks matches those claims. I’m emailing, messaging, tweeting and browsing the internet much more frequently than any sane person should, but I’m lucky if the phone gets me through a standard workday — usually eight to 10 hours at the most. Not once have I been able to make it through a full day on a single charge. Granted, there are some power-saving measures you can take to extend the Z10′s life, but these will likely only work if you aren’t wholly dependent on the phone for any degree of your livelihood. (And don’t even think about playing graphic-intensive games on it unless you’re close to an outlet and a charger.)
This week, I also explored (and became frustrated by) BlackBerry Maps. Its simple interface might do the job for some travelers, but it’s too basic for my needs. The voice turn-by-turn navigation, GPS tracking and traffic updates are handy to have and all work well, but those are staples for any OS at this point, which means they aren’t standout features. The bigger concern is what the Maps application doesn’t supply: I need transit directions, walking options, offline maps, distance between two points, a bird’s eye or Street View feature, more POIs and Zagat- / Yelp-style reviews. I also noticed that while it’s able to find most businesses I search for, there are a few smaller establishments that don’t show up (many of which have been around for years).
Unfortunately, I’ve grown increasingly hesitant about relying on BB Maps as my sole navigation option for my trip to Spain, so I’ve been playing with two other options: an older APK of Google Maps sideloaded from my computer — it’s sluggish, but usable — and Nokia Here on the BB10 browser. So far, the latter has been my top choice. While it’s a web app, it works amazingly well with very little delay in response. Best of all, it does everything BB Maps doesn’t do with the exception of voice turn-by-turn, and I actually don’t even use that feature very often.
Apart from my experience using Nokia Here, the browser as a whole is one of my favorite elements of BB10 so far. I typically use HTML5 much more frequently than I use Flash, but it’s nice to have the option to take advantage of the latter whenever I want. If it’s not needed, I can easily turn it off in the settings. This is one feature that may persuade others to give BB10 — an OS without many competitive advantages over its rivals — a shot. I do wish text would auto-adjust to fit the screen whenever I zoom in (much like HTC does on its browser), but I use Reader mode to check out long-form articles in a larger font, so it’s not a huge pain. The only thing missing on the browser to appease this frequent flier is the ability to save pages for offline reading, so I’ll likely depend solely on movies and podcasts en route to Barcelona. How well will that work out for me?
The stock video and music players deliver decent quality, but they’re still a little too basic. No audio enhancements can be found on either player, though at least the video app offers sharing and editing options, something I believe is essential on every flagship smartphone. While I can’t do much tweaking, the phone’s audio element is at least loud and balanced enough to get an above-average listening experience, which means it’ll work well enough on my upcoming flights. Without additional settings, however, the Z10 won’t be my personal media device of choice unless I find solid third-party options to take the place of both players.
Just like multimedia playback, the camera UI is surprisingly scarce and simple. I’ll discuss the imaging performance in more detail later this month (spoiler alert: it’s not terrible, but I won’t look at it as my go-to device if I need to take high-quality shots). Sadly, BB10′s camera UI doesn’t offer very many settings to tweak. I’d rather have options available to adjust my shot for each unique situation, but even the most basic camera features are missing. I’d like to see HDR, ISO, white balance, panorama mode, exposure and additional Scene modes, among others. Using the volume rocker as a shutter button is a nice touch, especially when the only alternative is to touch the viewfinder, but very few tricks are available for the camera aside from this.
The camera, maps and multimedia apps offer just a few examples of the minimalism that appears throughout various parts of the OS. It’s been one of my major takeaways from the first half of my BB10 trial, and I don’t believe things were left out by accident — in fact, most mobile platforms start out the same way. It makes sense that a company like BlackBerry would want to focus primarily on the core OS and features first and tackle smaller things like extra settings and options iteratively as the platform grows and progresses. Unfortunately, it also means I’m making compromises in order to use BlackBerry 10, but I’m hopeful that we’ll start seeing third-party apps that throw in more options.
The first half of my experiment was the easy part. As I prepare for my trip to Spain, I’m now starting to realize the second half of the month will be the true test of what the BlackBerry Z10 is capable of, especially from a power user’s point of view. My reliance on the device will increase dramatically as I work overseas, and to be honest, I’m a little nervous about it. While I’ve had enough time to become acquainted with BB10, and to make sure I’m equipped with everything I need, there’s no way I can count on the device’s battery to last me the whole day without an external pack. Still, there’s nothing like a huge trip to turn an unproven OS into a proven (or worse, still unproven) one.
You can follow Brad on Twitter, where he is documenting many of his thoughts and observations on BlackBerry 10.
Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week’s most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us — it’s the Week in Green.
This week President Barack Obama set the tone for the coming year in his 2013 State of the Union address, which advocated 3D printing and called for a speedy transition towards renewable energy to help combat climate change. The future of clean tech is already looking bright, as the world’s solar power capacity just hit a record 101 gigawatts, and researchers found a new way to charge batteries by harvesting ambient electromagnetic waves from thin air. Speaking of batteries, a new lithium-ion battery developed by USC utilizes nano-sphere technology to store three times more energy while cutting charge time down to just 10 minutes. Clean tech is invading the kitchen as well — behold the Biobot, a tabletop device that converts waste cooking oil into biodiesel.
Verizon has once again earned top-slot for customer care and service, according to JD Power and Associates. This marks the carrier’s fourth year straight as #1, something it isn’t showing any signs of letting go of in the near future. The status is based on ample amounts of feedback and surveys, with online, telephone, and
New technology, including better control algorithms and communications, is improving the performance of wind turbines.
Superficially, wind turbines haven’t changed much for decades. But they’ve gotten much smarter, and considerably bigger, and that’s helped increase the amount of electricity they can generate and lower the cost of wind power.
An anonymous reader writes “A copyright monitoring program called MarkMonitor mistakenly flagged HBO.com for pirating its own shows, and sent automatic DMCA takedown notices to the network. It’s a funny story, until you realize that MarkMonitor is the same software that will power the U.S. Copyright Alerts System (a.k.a. “Six Strikes”), due to be rolled out by the five largest U.S. ISPs sometime in the next month.”
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
IBM's Watson supercomputer outperformed humans in the televised game show "Jeopardy." Now the company is moving some of its underlying technologies from the supercomputer into new entry-level servers.