TowleTech Hub

Towletech V.109 - A Round-Up of the Best Tech, Science, and Geek-Related News from the Web


A round-up of the best tech, science, and geek-related news from around the web.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.49.32 PMRoad (1) This oven-baked lens costs less than a penny and can turn your smartphone into a microscope.  

Road (1) The future of photography is here. "Unlike other cameras, which essentially capture a 2-D approximation of a scene, the Illum’s lens takes in the 4-D light field and renders that data into a manipulatable, interactive image. This means you can take a picture, and then refocus or shift the perspective slightly."

Road (1) The cast for Star Wars Episode VII has finally been revealed.

Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 3.53.26 PMRoad (1) The Department of Homeland Security is advising computer users to refrain from using Internet Explorer until a fix is found for a serious security flaw that allows hackers to control your PC.

Road (1) Is Apple gearing up for a Paypal/Google Wallet-style mobille payment service?

Road (1) Screen Shot 2014-04-28 at 4.09.35 PM The limitless posibilities of Google Glass and the wearables revolution. "Bicyclists will use info-glasses as a heads-up display for everything from road speed and map route to heart rate and glucose levels...Parents who are out to dinner will be able to discretely listen in on the baby monitor back home or view streaming video off a bedroom webcam…imagine an app that uses face recognition to tell you the name of the acquaintance walking toward you and your spouse at a cocktail party, sparing everyone the embarrassment of a fumbled introduction." 

Road (1) Cosmos explores the birth, death and chemical composition of stars.

Road (1) Wired looks at the budding relationship between Silicon Valley entreprenurs and the cannabis industry. "For the science and technology set, it’s a classic opportunity to disrupt an industry historically run by hippies and gangsters. And the entire tech-industrial complex is getting in on the action: investors, entrepreneurs, biotechnologists, scientists, industrial designers, electrical engineers, data analysts, software developers. Industry types with experience at Apple and Juniper and Silicon Valley Bank and Zynga and all manner of other companies are flocking to cannabis with the hopes of creating a breakout product for a burgeoning legitimate industry."

Road (1) We all know how frustrating it is trying to watch a movie over a laggy internet connection. But what if your entire life was lagged? Enter Oculus Rift and Swedish internet provider


Self_cleaning_car_06-660x440Road (1) Does Nissan's first self-cleaning vehicle mean that car washes will soon go the way of the record store? "The [car’s] paint, developed by engineers at the Nissan Technical Centre in the UK, is hydrophobic and oleophobic. That means it repels water and oil. That means the gunk and goo that normally sticks to your ride slides right off. It’s like wax, but better. Nissan’s engineers have applied the finish, called Ultra-Ever Dry, to a Nissan Note and say it does a remarkable job repelling rain, spray, frost, sleet and standing water. If the video is to be believed, mud literally slides right off." 

Road (1) In other automobile news, Google’s self-driving cars now demonstrate an impressive understanding of cyclists’ gestures and pedestrian behavior.


AtariRoad (1) The Holy Grail of video game artifacts has been found. "Digging in Alamogordo, New Mexico [Saturday], excavators discovered cartridges for the critically-panned Atari game E.T., buried in a landfill way back in 1983 after Atari couldn't figure out what else to do with their unsold copies. For decades, legend had it that Atari put millions of E.T. cartridges in the ground, though some skeptics have wondered whether such an extraordinary event actually happened."

Road (1) SpaceX shows off controlled Falcon 9 rocket soft landing, a possibe laying of the groundwork for the company’s long-term goal of bringing humans to Mars.

What Exactly Gets Better? Well, for starters... ; Towleroad Tips

If you just came out from under a rock this week, this is part of the It Gets Better Project on You Tube, launched by Dan Savage in response to increased coverage of suicides by young gay people, and likely an increase in actual attempts. This one by half of Logo's Jefferey and Cole team and TV writer Guy Branum speaks to the important role of friends in the end. A good reminder for any age.


Towleroad notes...

Though his talents differ from those of the friends portrayed in the video, thanks to my friend Rob for sending it on.

You too can always tip us on news or anything you think we should consider for Towleroad by sending us email at tips @ or through our contact page. Steve Pep's will be posting through the weekend, following a great effort in a  big news by by Andrew Belonsky. He continues Monday. And Andy Towle really will be back in another week.

And, Direct message to Andy T.: Yes you're missed. No, it isn't the same. Put down he iPad.

Bonus Tip: On an iPhone? Hit the bookmark button when on the site to get a direct link to the site among your apps.

Bonus Tip 2: Can't remember how to spell "towleroad"? Just start typing t-o-w-l in Google's real-time search and you're here. Or use the shortcut url of (like our twitter name) which forwards to the site automatically. 

Have a good weekend.

TowleTech v.108


Tt Summer is upon us, and authorities in Britain report that Google Earth and social networking sites are to blame for a new surge in pool-crashing. "The craze involves using the Google Earth programme, which provides high-quality aerial photos of Britain and other countries. Once a target is chosen, the organisers use social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo to arrange to meet, say police. Officers said that residents have woken up to find youngsters 'dipping' in their back gardens, or have come home from work to a swimming pool full of beer cans. One group has already boasted on the internet that it held an event earlier this week. Sixteen people are said to have gatecrashed two pools near Bournemouth. The rules of 'dipping' often include wearing fancy dress and participants are urged to 'bring a bike' to escape if discovered."

SnowwhiteTt Scientists are now nearly certain that they have found ice on Mars: "In a photograph released Thursday evening of a trench that the Phoenix Mars lander has dug into the Martian soil, some white patches that were seen earlier in the week have shrunk, and eight small chunks have disappeared. Until now, scientists were not sure if the white material was ice or some kind of salt. When exposed to air, water ice can change into water vapor, a process known as sublimation. Salt, on the other hand, is not capable of such a vanishing act. 'It must be ice,' said Dr. Peter H. Smith of the University of Arizona, the mission’s principal investigator. 'The whole science team thinks this. I think we feel this is definite proof that these are little chunks of icy material.'"

Tt Firefox 3 was released this week, and over 8 million copies of the popular browser were downloaded in the first 24 hours. Security flaws were found almost immediately.

SporewTt As I mentioned earlier this week, the Spore Creature Creator was released this week as well, leading to some, uh, intelligent design. Here's a first look from Macworld.

Tt Apple's iTunes music sales this week topped 5 billion songs: "Apple on Thursday said music sales on its iTunes store have topped 5 billion songs, and visitors are renting and purchasing more than 50,000 movies each day. Apple, which has surpassed Wal-Mart as the leading music retailer in the United States, put out a brief press release on the latest numbers, offering no further details. The company has a catalog of more than 8 million songs, 20,000 TV shows, and 2,000 films, including 350 in high-definition format."

Tt A 52-year-old man, suffering from advanced skin cancer, made a full recovery after being injected with billions of his own immune cells in a first-of-its-kind treatment: "After two years he is still free from the disease which had spread to his lymph nodes and one of his lungs. Doctors took cells from the man's own defence system that were found to attack the cancer cells best, cloned them and injected back into his body, in a process known as 'immunotherapy'. Experts said that the case could mark a landmark in the treatment of cancer."

LightningjarsTt Those of you nostalgic for those summer nights as a kid when you trapped fireflies in the backyard might enjoy these solar-powered jars that emit a golden glow once it gets dark. I only wish they twinkled a bit.

Tt Is Yahoo! playing too hard to get?

Tt Save Ferris? A high school hacker who broke into his school's computer system and changed his grades could face nearly four decades in jail: "As if changing a few grades wasn’t enough, Khan also allegedly 'altered the permanent transcripts of at least 12 other students at Tesoro High School' and installed a malware program on the computer system to give him access from anywhere. He was finally caught when he asked for his own transcript, at which time 'school officials noted a discrepancy.' Khan faces almost 70 various felony counts, adding up to a maximum of 38 years in jail."

Tt Google's Android platform is expected to challenge the iPhone for dominance in the touchscreen market once devices start to appear that utilize it. Here's a preview of how it works.

Tt Scientists finally uncovering mysteries of the whale shark: "It suddenly nose-dived, plummeting through the depths towards the sea bed using its tremendous weight to go faster and faster and then suddenly pulling out, using its own momentum. When it reached a certain height it plunged down again as thought it was on a helter-skelter, racing down the side of a hill and then using the speed to get up the other side. It went round and round in a fairly tight circle always maintaining the same undulating movement. It is like the way a bird dives, then soars, using its momentum and gravity to conserve as much energy as possible. It flies like a bird - but, in this case, a bird as large as a bus."


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Tt So the big news this week was the announcement of the long-awaited 3G iPhone (in black or white), which comes with built-in GPS. Here's Steve Jobs' keynote address in 60 seconds.

Tt The iPhone App store will be available in early July around the time of the phone's launch with the iPhone 2.0 software. It will work like the iTunes store, with users downloading free or paid applications via a button on the phone's interface. Games by Sega, an auction app from eBay, a mobile social networking app called Loopt, a TypePad blogging client, a news app from AP, a stats and score app from Major League Baseball, and a medical-oriented app called Modality were among those shown off. Expect many more as 250,000 of Apple's SDK (software development kit) have been downloaded from the company. Steve Jobs also demo'ed MobileMe (and its questionable logo) which replaces Apple's .Mac service and keeps you fully synced from phone to computer almost instantly.

Tt If you bought a 1st generation iPhone after May 27th, you get a 3G iPhone free. If you have a 1st generation iPhone and you upgrade to the 3G iPhone you can give your phone away to someone you love and they can activate a new account with it.

BrinTt Google founder Sergey Brin spent some pocket change ($5 million) investing in space tourist company Space Adventures. They book flights on Russian Soyuz rockets. Brin will reportedly get on board one of them in the next few years. Said Brin: "I am a big believer in the exploration and commercial development of the space frontier."

Tt Yahoo and Google entering into partnership around search advertising: "The deal is non-exclusive. Yahoo will be able to run Google ads alongside Yahoo ads or other ad providers. The deal is expected to add $800 million a year in revenues and $250 million to $450 million in operating cash flow. The deal only applies to paid search and contextual ads, not to algorithmic search."

Tt Firefox 3 to be released on June 17...

ZeppyTt Stephane Rousson, a 39-year-old Frenchman, No date has been set for the next attempt.

Tt A Bulova watch lost at sea was reunited with its owner after 67 years sitting at the bottom of Gibraltar Harbor. It was still working. Owner: "To say I was stunned could be considered a major understatement,' said Mr Bacon, a widower and father of four who is almost 90. It truly was a miracle that I had been reunited with that watch after a lifetime. Now I wear it every day and it keeps perfect time, even after all those years in the water. It is absolutely excellent and I consider it a long-lost friend.'"

Tt Here's a fascinating concept design study from BMW: "GINA, an acronym for "Geometry and Functions in N Adaptations," obviously. When motorized metal framing moves, changing the car's shape and function, its flexible fabric skin moves with it. (Quick: Someone tell Michael Bay.) And though it's fully functional, at the moment there are no plans for a production run—GINA's only on view at BMW's Munich museum."

Tt Do you want the thinnest notebook computer in the world but can't decide between the Macbook Air, the Voodoo Envy 133, or the Thinkpad X300? Here's a handy comparison.


MOON MISSILES: Britain has successfully tested "moon missiles" called Penetrators. They plan to shoot four from a spacecraft into the surface of the moon to test what's below its surface.

POPCORN: This video, widely circulated this week, was outed as a viral video from Bluetooth headset retailer Cardo Systems. It's a hoax.

SPORE CREATURE CREATOR: Maxis is set to release the Spore creature creator on June 17, in anticipation of the full Spore video game this fall. It will allow people to create thousands of creatures that will ultimately populate the videogame once it arrives in users' hands. this clip demonstrates the process of building a creature.

SKYSCRAPER: A 65-foot 'skyscraper' made out of Erector set pieces created by artist Chris Burden was unveiled in NYC's Rockefeller Center this week.

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Tt Zaha Hadid's designs for a new Cultural Centre and Opera House in Dubai are out of this world, in an extraterrestrial sort of way.

Tt Browser quotient? Test reveals that people with the highest IQs use Firefox on a Mac PPC, and those with the lowest use Firefox on Windows 98.

StevejobsTt All eyes are on Apple this coming week as the company prepares to introduce the second coming of its iPhone, rumored to have 3G, GPS, and unknown innovative capabilities, as well as a relaunch of its .Mac service. August, 1985 Fortune magazine trumpeted the "fall of Steve Jobs."

Tt Apple filed a patent last week to put solar panels on devices like iPods and iPhones: "Outfitted with such technology, Apple’s devices, like the iPhone, could have photovoltaic cells stacked underneath LCD touch screens, thus maximizing the area available for harnessing the sun. The filing said that information regarding the performance of a device’s solar cells could be displayed on the main screen next to info for battery power, text message alerts and time of day. Or this information could also appear on top of the solar cells themselves, which are likely to display some version of the Apple logo."

RobotsphereTt Inflatable robots could one day explore Mars: "An army of inflatable, spherical robots might one day roll around on the Martian surface. Engineers who have designed the lightweight probes say they could economically explore vast regions of other planets...Crucially, when deflated and stowed, the inflatable occupies just half the volume a wheeled rover with equivalent sensing instrumentation would require, says Bruhn. The technology would allow the descendents of NASA's Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers to carry mini-rovers of their own – dispatching them to scout out new sites of scientific interest."

Tt Digital pot tells you when plants need to be watered.

Tt Starving: Fasting for 16 hours before a flight may fend off jet lag, and eating less may beat exercise for having a longer life — at least in rats. And the gene activated by restricted diets could be activated by an over-the-counter drug very soon.

DcTt The SITE Intelligence Group, a US intelligence organization that monitors terrorist activity on the internet, said this image was created by terrorists to simulate what would happen to DC after a terrorist attack. They had no idea it came from the makers of the video game Fallout 3.

Tt Your Skype call could possibly be the mule for a secret message: "The next time your internet (VoIP) phone call sounds a bit fuzzy, it might not be your ISP that's to blame. Someone could be trying to squeeze a secret message between the packets of data carrying the caller's voice. Wojciech Mazurczyk and Krzysztof Szczypiorski, information scientists at the Institute of Telecommunications in Warsaw, Poland, revealed last week that they are developing a 'steganographic' system for VoIP networks. Steganography is the art of hiding messages by embedding them in ordinary communications."

Tt Expanding your mind: compounds that trigger growth of new brain cells might help to treat depression.

Tt John McCain says Grand Theft Auto is a sin against God.


MAGNETIC FIELDS: Made visible by NASA animators. Very cool.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW: Don't try this at home.

PANORAMIO: Google releases new feature that allows you to see things in a virtual 3-D environment.

PARIS: A demo of the anticipated Sony Ericsson 'Paris' cellphone.

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Tt The Telectroscope, an enormous Victorian-looking contraption that allows the viewer to peer into a scope and look through a long tunnel all the way to England, was installed near the Brooklyn Bridge this week. An identical contraption was erected across the Atlantic, in London. And it works.

LondonAccording to Gizmodo: "St George says in the 19th century his great-grandfather, Alexander Stanhope St George, built a trans-Atlantic tunnel from London to New York which was forgotten by time. The artist discovered his great-grandfather's plans recently and using the diagrams installed parabolic mirrors at both locations that reflect what's happening 3500 miles across the pond." Of course, the smoke and mirrors here has more to do with fiber optics and the internet transmitting a picture in real-time. But apparently, if you have a friend in London, you can sign up for a simultaneous look at one another from thousands of miles away. The Telectroscope will be open to the public from now until June 15.

UfoTt Steven Spielberg's forthcoming ghost and UFO-based social networking site is to be called Rising.

Tt The U.S. is 15th in the world when it comes to broadband usage. Beating us? The cold, dark countries of the north like Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland: "Come to think of it, all five of them are also quite cold and dark for long periods of time; perhaps huddling inside around a monitor all winter provides more impetus to meet up with friends, shop, and search for entertainment online."

DiorTt Christian Dior unleashes squadron of $5,000 cell phones.

Tt New website Pos or Not challenges visitors to guess whether or not a person in a photo is HIV-positive. Joe.My.God: "The network wants the word about its H.I.V. site and its message to be spread like a popular YouTube video. It enlisted celebrities like Wyclef Jean, a musician, and Rosario Dawson, an actress, to make promotions for the game, which are playing across MTV’s networks. The game — if it can really be called that — was played about 5.1 million times by 400,000 people in its first three weeks, according to mtvU. Entertainment Weekly’s Web site suggested it might be the 'most depressing use' of an Internet trend ever, but suggested that any H.I.V. outreach effort could be beneficial."

BurjTt The Burj Dubai this week became the world's tallest structure: "As of today, you can find the tallest man-made building in Dubai. The skyscraper is called Burj Dubai (burj means tower in Arabic) and the tower overtook the Warszawa radio mast in Poland which measures 646 meters. The Dubai-based skyscraper measures 650 meters and it’s expected to get even bigger and will reach 819 meters to the aircraft beacon."

Tt Are carbon nanotubes, which are used to create tennis rackets, baseball bats, airplanes, and bicycle frames, as dangerous as Asbestos? "Animal studies indicate that these long and very thin carbon molecules could cause a cancer called mesothelioma, which occurs in the lining of the lungs. 'The problem of asbestos was caused when it was released into the air, if it was handled inappropriately or incorrectly. Carbon nanotubes could do the same,' said Andrew Maynard, chief science adviser to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies in Washington and one of the authors of the study."

MayerTt Exhibitionist John Mayer shows off his BlackBerry Bold.

Tt Facebook is about to undergo a major facelift: "Designers are planning some widespread changes to the way the core profile page is organised, aimed at making it 'simpler, cleaner and more relevant'. The site is consulting its users on the changes ahead of a gradual roll out starting next month. Facebook is currently based around a single main page showing a news feed, friends and applications. But critics say a big increase in the number of free gifts, games and quizzes has left the site looking cluttered and confusing. Facebook's answer is to split the main profile into five separate pages, all accessed by clicking on tabs at the top of the screen."


SATELLITE: Lockheed Martin this week released this intense video of the satellite shootdown that occurred in February over the Pacific.

IPHONE vs BLACKBERRY BOLD: A completely biased comparison of the iPhone to the BlackBerry Bold from the folks at the iPhone blog.

STEVE BALLMER: Microsoft CEO is the target of an egg thrower in Hungary.

FLYING BIKE: Dude has discovered a way to attach a stationary bike to Google Earth and zoom around.


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