TowleTech Hub

TowleTech v.104


Tt NASA announced this week that its Chandra X-ray Observatory in space had discovered the Milky Way galaxy's youngest supernova (above): "They put the star-dying event at sometime around 1868. Before this, the youngest supernova in the Milky Way was thought to have occurred around 1680. A supernova is the catastrophic explosion of a star that releases an extraordinary amount of energy, enough to outshine an entire galaxy. This new baby supernova is located near the center of the galaxy and obscured by dense gas and dust, making it virtually impossible to see in optical light. Two to three supernovae are thought to occur every century in the Milky Way. As a result, there are probably even younger ones out there waiting to be identified, said David Green of the University of Cambridge in England, who led the radio observatory study."

RossyTt Rocketman Yves Rossy takes first flight over the Swiss Alps on wings he built himself: "The self-built contraption took the former fighter pilot five years to build and perfect - and yesterday he gave it its maiden flight. Stepping out of an aircraft at 7,500ft, Rossy unfolded the 10ft rigid wings strapped to his back as he plummeted earthwards. Passing from freefall into a gentle glide, he triggered the four jet turbines and accelerated to 190mph above the mountaintops. Steering with his body, Rossy dived, turned and soared again, flying what appeared to be effortless loops from one side of the Rhone valley to the other. At times he climbed 2,600ft before diving again, leaving a trail of special-effects smoke in his wake."

GolfplayTt Google has been running a Developer Challenge for programmers who want to create applications for their Android mobile phone platform, and this week they announced the Top 50 entries in that challenge. The Challenge offers $10 million in awards. The top 5 are Android Scan, a program that discovers pricing and metadata for any product with a barcode; Breadcrumbz, which lets users navigate and record a route using images instead of a map; Pocket Journey, which is a localized networking app for localized exploration; Golfplay, a GPS, statistic, and weather resource for golfers; and Commandro, a mobile social networking app.

Tt Xbox Live this week banned the gamer tag "the GAYERgamer" of one of its users this week. According to Consumerist, "He hoped that a call to customer support would sort things out but all he received was a confusing explanation from an Xbox Live supervisor. According to the supervisor, it wasn't that she found the name offensive, but it was the 'greater Xbox community" that found it offensive.'"

Tt CBS announced yesterday that it plans to acquire the tech site Cnet for $1.8 billion.

VadoTt Creative has launched a rival to the popular Flip series of ultra-cheap, ultra-portable pocket camcorders. The Vado offers 640 x 480 resolution, along with 2GB memory and a 2-inch screen. Great for YouTube, but not much else. Though for $100 we'd call it a bargain.

Tt Although it already rates faster than any other network, AT&T announced this week that it will boost speeds of its 3G network more than fivefold by 2009, to 20 megabits per second. It better, considering that this is on the way. And what's this talk of a mini-tablet?

Tt Cnet takes a first look at the Wii Fit.

Tt The U.S. Air Force wants the ability to control "any and all" computers.

AsimoTt A symphony orchestra was handed over to a robot for the first time this week when Honda's "Asimo" robot conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in a performance of "The Impossible Dream" prior to a Yo-Yo Ma concert on Tuesday: "'It's exciting to see. The technology is mind boggling,' said bass trombone player Randall Hawes, who has played with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for 22 years. 'I was struck by how fluid the walk was when it came out and how still it was.' But Hawes doesn't think the diminutive white robot will replace human conductors any time soon. 'We react to it. It doesn't react to us,' he said. 'That's the only thing that's missing. We knew when it was going to stop so we stopped.' The symphony extended the invitation to ASIMO earlier this year after Honda donated one million dollars to establish The Power of Dreams Music Education Fund, which will support music education to underserved children around Detroit."

Tt And in other robot news, a real-life Wall-E!


JACK RUSSELL: A Jack Russell interacts with a new kind of ad/interactive floor display that is coming soon to major airports.

MISSILE COMMAND: How 'bout a two-player game of Missile Command using multi-touch on an 8' x 4' wall?

TESTE TOUCH: NYU interactive art installation where the user's touch and the temperature of the environment make a pair of giant testicles retract and giggle. Folks apparently went nuts for them at a recent fair.

SURVEILLANCE: Using your iPhone to control a high-tech surveillance system.

TowleTech V.103


Tt You may have heard of a little game called Grand Theft Auto IV. Its sales topped $500 million in its first week in stores.

Tt What you may not know about GTA IV is that it has a gay theme (see video clip, right, via via GuyTVBlog).

Jockohomo writes: "No, big bruiser Niko Bellic is not gay but rather disturbingly plays a homosexual lothario on an online dating site to lure a gay Irish American mobster. Damn, my ears perked up regarding the gay sequence, but surprise the play is handled brilliantly and with a great deal of humor thanks to acclaimed screenwriter Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boyscout and The Long Kiss Goodnight). Per usual players can choose not the complete certain missions; i.e. main character Niko benefits later from a friendship formed with the gay mobster. Remember you’re playing an apocalyptic adult game where no demographic remains unscathed. While GTAIV walks a precarious line I have to give Rockstar Games props for not defaulting to the usual homophobic sequence filled with stereotypes."

HtctouchdiamondTt Mobile phone manufacturer HTC this week launched the Touch Diamond, an iPhone like Windows Mobile device that has been lauded for its looks. Cool Hunting writes: "All the most important functions are accessible from the home screen using a simple gesture based touch interface; the graphics and animation are gorgeous. While the faceted physical design is innovative, its little nuances, like turning the phone over to silence an incoming call, that make this a device worth noting."

Tt Bluetooth sensors could soon be implanted in people at risk of a heart attack: "If the 'in-body network' recorded that the person had suddenly collapsed, it would send an alert, via a nearby base station at their home, to a surgery or hospital."

Tt You'll never win: study finds that the number of fat cells in your body will never change.

BugsTt Military may be using electronic insects for surveillance by the end of the year: "British defence giant BAE Systems is creating a series of tiny electronic spiders, insects and snakes that could become the eyes and ears of soldiers on the battlefield, helping to save thousands of lives. Prototypes could be on the front line by the end of the year, scuttling into potential danger areas such as booby-trapped buildings or enemy hideouts to relay images back to troops safely positioned nearby. Soldiers will carry the robots into combat and use a small tracked vehicle to transport them closer to their targets. Then they would swarm into the building and relay images back to the soldiers' hand-held or wrist-mounted computers, warning them of any threats inside. BAE Systems has just signed a £19million contract to develop the robots for the US Army."

WinterTt Meet the world's first bionic sea creature: "Two years ago Winter was the dolphin that could not swim. Instead of powering through the water with a flick of her tail, the bottlenose could barely waggle from side to side. She had lost her tail in a crab trap at just two months old and was found floating in distress off the coast of Florida."

Tt The AP has launched a news service geared for the iPhone: "The service will deliver local news from participating member newspapers and national and international news from AP. The reports will be organized by ZIP code. Google Inc., Yahoo Inc. and others also offer news services tailored for mobile devices, but Jeffrey Litvack, global product development director for AP, said the Mobile News Network would offer easier access to local news stories. Apple offered guidance on how to best tailor the service to the iPhone but has no formal role with the product, Litvack said." The iPhone also this week got its first photo-sharing site: Natuba.

UnoTt Are you ready to unibike? " The electric Uno is the brainchild of 18-year-old Canadian Ben Gulak who spent several years developing the bike, which is controlled entirely by body movements. The machine actually has two wheels, side-by-side, and uses gyroscopic technology to stay upright. It moves in the direction the rider leans - and the more you lean, the faster you go. Ben claims that the bike could help beat pollution and he was inspired to design it after visiting China and seeing all the smog there."

Tt To the moon, you! NASA has invited aeveryone the opportunity to place their name in a database which will be put on a microchip and put aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft. It's scheduled to launch in late 2008. It's for all practical purposes a novelty, although if the probe happens to be hijacked by aliens, at least they'll know how to address you. Submit your name here.

Tt Perhaps the only people happy about this news are the makers of Propecia: Men living in polluted areas more likely to go bald. "The scientists believe toxins and carcinogens found in polluted air can stop hair growing by blocking mechanisms that produce the protein from which hair is made. Baldness is known to be hereditary, but the new research suggests that environmental factors could exacerbate hair loss."


BLACKBERRY 9000: A crackberry review of the newest BlackBerry device!

A DO-IT-YOURSELF PARTY BUTTON: Just what everyone needs, a party at the press of a button.

THE ATLAS DETECTOR: An animated explanation of the world's largest Hadron collider, which later in 2008 will be used to learn about the basic forces that shape our universe, creating microscopic black holes by colliding protons, and perhaps determining the origins of mass. Heavy stuff.

HEART BEANS COFFEE GRINDER: Coffee grinder that moves in sync with your heartbeat to "induce an experience of intimacy with the process of making coffee." Why? I have no idea.

TowleTech V.103


GuestbloggerI'm sad to announce that this will be Jon Barrett's last TowleTech column (at least until I can beg him back). Jon's embarking on a fantastic book project and I want to take this moment to thank him for his outstanding contributions to Towleroad. I know this post is something a lot of people look forward to each week. It will continue. If there are any witty and wise writers out there with their finger on the gay and tech world pulse, shoot us a tips email. In the meantime, thank you Jon. You will be missed.

Tt BMW is bringing back the tiny Isetta and the company's likely to turn to the classic into an electric vehicle that could hit American showrooms by 2012. Reports Autopia: BMW brass are reportedly poised to sign off on the project in order to meet California’s zero-emissions vehicle mandate, which requires automakers to build 7,500 emissions-free cars by 2014. Click here to see what the new Isetta might look like.

Meanwhile, when the next generation of the Toyota Prius comes out in 2009 it’s expected to be four inches longer, have a more powerful engine, and be more fuel efficient, AutoObserver reports.

IphoneTt Fortune is reporting that AT&T is preparing to “subsidize the cost of the new iPhone, bringing the price down to $199 for customers who sign two-year contracts,” when Apple comes out with a 3G version, which is expected to happen this summer.

And for that iPhone you’ve already got: Gizmodo reports that AT&T hotspots—including at Barnes and Noble and Starbucks—are now offering free Wi-Fi service to iPhone users. Working off your laptop? No worry. Here’s how to fool the hotspot into thinking your browser is an iPhone.

Tt As part of the promotion for his new film, Australia, director Baz Luhrmann has launched a filmmaking course on iTunes called Set to Screen. As Underwire reports: “The virtual film school features monthly podcasts with behind-the-scenes footage from Australia designed to illustrate how costume design, cinematography, music scoring, and other production elements come together. The kicker: Some podcasts include assignments. The best student work will be included in the DVD for the World War II romance [starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman] after its theatrical release next fall.

SubwayTt New York City’s MTA will begin installing cameras in its subway cars as part of a pilot program to reduce graffiti in the trains, which the MTA says costs $1.8 million per year to remove. But, as Autopia reports: Most transit systems that already use cameras in their cars still have intolerable amounts of graffiti and scratchiti.

Tt Starting this week, iTunes began selling movies the same day they are released on DVD. Participating studios include 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios Home Entertaiment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Lionsgate, Image Entertainment, and First Look Studios.

BlackberryTt The Boy Genius has snagged some images of the upcoming BlackBerry Kickstart, which comes in a clamshell, has a Pearl-esque keyboard, and apparently utilizes both an internal and LCD screen.

Tt Here's a new twist on recycling: Re-Shirt is an Austrian-based company that resells used T-shirts based on the owners' anecdotes of when it was originally purchased or a memorable event that took place when it was worn. Each shirt is assigned a code, so when someone buys it, they can come back to the site and add to the shirt's history. From what I can tell, the stories are pretty clean--can't say as much for all the shirts.
(Via Coolhunting)


POKE ME: British Sketch Comedy collective Idiot of Ants re-enacts a Facebook interaction if it were to take place in person.

iGOOGLE: Google introduces personalized home pages created by top designers and pop stars.

MACBOOK ERROR: Lenova parodies the MacBook Air.

TIDYBOW: Amazing self-cleaning toilet.



GuestbloggerIn this week's tech news, Jon Barrett looks at magnetic field masterpieces, interactive holograms, airline seating that you'll be looking forward to, Beauty and the Geek jeans, and test tube turkey.

Tt Flint Weisser, a Pratt student from my hometown of Boise, has created a series of drawings by capturing the complex interactions of magnetic fields. As’s Alexis Madrigal explains: “Each piece consists of magnets bolted to steel plates and covered with a thin film of nickel particles sandwiched in plastic. The nickel particles act like iron filings to align themselves to the magnets’ fields.” Not sure I get it, but the result is pretty amazing. See more of Weisser’s work here. Or see it in person.

SunspaTt Fresh on the paws of the fauna sauna (which is supposed to heal your pet’s arthritis with infrared heat) comes the SunSpa, a product that claims to control Fido’s mood swings by stimulating sunlight. Reports Crave: “The 150-watt light keeps the bed at a toasty 80 to 85 degrees while promising to last 5,000 hours. The bed itself is covered with “Crypton Fabric” that is odor- and water-resistant, two qualities that would probably improve any pet’s disposition with or without light.”

Tt If you’re fed up with the cell phone options out there, here’s your chance to create one of your own design—and to pocket a little cash while you’re at it. LG is throwing an innovation challenge and asking average Joes to come up with designs for the “dream phone.” But if the pretty weak prizes don’t deter you—the winner gets a 52-inch screen TV and $10,000—the deadline probably will; all entries must be in by April 30.

DeltaTt In what could quite simply be one of the best creations of the 21st century, next to the iPhone anyway, Delta is planning to introduce new “Cozy Suite” seats in the economy section of its Boeing 777 and 767 fleet by 2010. Says Gizmodo: “The major feature of the design is a staggered layout that increases privacy while simultaneously creating a space for weary travelers to rest their heads. It also allows passengers to enjoy 31 inches of leg room (two inches better than the competition) and the ability tot recline without disturbing the people behind them.”

Tt The next chapter in the ongoing saga of the much-rumored 3G iPhone: The Times Online in the UK quoted an unnamed source as saying that the upcoming device will have a “radically different” appearance than the current iPhone. Two apparent possibilities are a clamshell and a slider with a hardware QWERTY keyboard. Seems a little too standard for Apple, though, no?

MeatTt I guess Garden Burgers are no longer good enough. PETA announced this week that it would offer $1 million to the “first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012.” To win, the contestant must also produce a product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike.
(Image via Gizmodo)

Tt The Centers Disease Control confirmed a piece of news that a few of my friend friends can attest (Henry? Helen?). This year’s flu season was the worst in recent history. And worse: The flu vaccine didn’t really work.

PantsTt And for today's "clever concept that could get you in trouble at airport security": Beauty and the Geek Jeans. Essentially, it's everything you need to work your computer--on the front of your pants. In addition to the keyboard, it includes speakers built into the knees, a pocket for mouse storage, and (ahem) a joystick controller behind the zipper.

Tt In honor of Earth Day, Lifehacker put together a list of easy ways to go green with your computer.

Tt In case you’re still itching to get your hands on a Kindle, they’re finally back in stock on Amazon. Honestly, though, mine’s been collecting dust on my nightstand. Every time I try to buy a book, it’s not yet available for the Kindle.

Tt Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope. An interactive hologram that responds to gestures.

TowleTech V.101


GuestbloggerIn this week's tech news, Jon Barrett looks at imagined cities, using your iphone as a DJ deck, a hot way to avoid letting your memory burn you on your anniversary, massage pants, and a promising experimental treatment for cancer.

Tt has compiled a portfolio of mile-high skyscrapers and floating cities that never were. Above: Frank Lloyd Wright’s This Illinois, which was supposed to shoot 5,278 feet above Chicago.

IphoneTt I don’t have a lot of information on this (or this) concept dj iPhone application. They definitely look cool. But if your hands are small enough to work those turntables, I don’t know how popular you’re going to be at the party.

Tt Earlier this week, Andy posted video footage of a man stuck in an elevator for 41 hours (all part of a story in the most recent New Yorker magazine). But the sidebar to that story is also worth a read: everything you didn’t know about elevators and elevator safety.

Supermen2007 Supermen1977Tt Check out this “young me/new gallery,” where people have posted old photos of and then tried to recreate the same pose today. Better yet, post a pair of your own pictures.
(Via BoingBoing)

Tt Here’s a new tool to that attempts to predict if your next flight will be delayed—and by how much. As Autopia reports: Delaycast gathers historical data and runs it through powerful computers, using algorithms to search for patterns. This gives is a roadmap to anticipate future delays. It’s predictive modeling, and it’s similar to what sites like Farecast use to guess which way ticket prices are going.

Tt Need something a little more substantial to carry your MacBook Air around with? Check out this ultra-slim shoulder bag from Orbino. If red’s a little too much, the Handstained Mahogany Leather might be more your style.

RingTt And here’ s little something for those engaged couples in Massachusetts and Canada (the only two places in North America where gay people can legally wed): It’s a wedding band that burns your finger to remind you of your anniversary. As Gadget Lab explains: A full 24 hours before your special day begins, a “hot spot” on the ring’s interior will begin to warm up to 120 degrees for approximately 10 seconds. And in case that doesn’t do the trick, the ring will continue to warm up every hour, on the hour, all day.”

Tt Are those massage pants? Or are you just happy to see me?

Tt If you watched 60 Minutes last Sunday, you’ll know that John Kanzius, a man who has absolutely no medical training (and not even a college degree), has come up with one of the most promising leads in cancer research today—using radio waves and a hot dog. Check out this story:

TowleTech V.100


GuestbloggerIn this week's tech news (our 100th TowleTech!), Jon Barrett looks at Zaha Hadid's futuristic designs, strange German tech-wear, carbon dioxide maps, air-taxi service (for the rich), and how Tivo execs might know the outcome of American Idol before you do.

Tt The Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid won a competition this week to design a museum in Vilnius, Lithuania, that may serve as an exhibition space for the Guggenheim Foundation and the Hermitage Museum. Hadid’s space-age design beat proposals by Daniel Libeskind and Massimiliana Fuksas. If feasibility plans for the museum are approved, it should open by 2011.

VulcanmapTt Scientists at Purdue University have come up with a new technique to precisely track daily and local patterns of carbon dioxide emissions—down to 100-square-kilometer chunks across the country. “The resulting database and maps provide of a view of the industrial metabolism of our combustion powered lives,” The New York Times reports. For a video of the NASA- and Department of Energy-funded program, called Project Vulcan, check out this video.

Tt In the continued and mounting speculation about the arrival of a 3G iPhone, bloggers pounced on a comment The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg made during a conference last week. According to Crave, Mossberg was discussing broadband penetration and online video when he casually mentioned iPhone and said “it will be 3G in 60 days.” But on Tuesday, Mossberg told Silicon Alley Insider that his comments were misunderstood. “If I knew when this date was, why would I announce it in the middle of a sentence at the Finnish embassy, rather than report it in The Wall Street Journal?

LederTt And in equally ridiculous Apple-related news (unless you’re Bavarian), a German company has created a pair of lederhosen, complete with an iPod-control panel. The britches were unveiled a few months ago, but timeliness be damned, I thought these were too funny not to talk about.

Tt In a move to broaden the scope of what has been only a photo-sharing website, Yahoo added videos to Flickr this week. Reports cnet: “The videos, limited to 90 seconds and 150MB, will be shows as thumbnails alongside users’ photos, and will inherit all the features of photos stored on the site: Users can add comments, captions, geotags, and privacy restrictions so only friends or family may view the videos.”

Tt Bad news for hops-loving homos. Research out of New Zealand reports that climate change may threaten the production of malting barley, a crucial ingredient to making beer. “It will mean either there will be pubs without beer or the cost of beer will go up,” the Associated Press quoted one of the researchers as saying.

IdolTt TiVo execs say they can predict the outcome of American Idol simply by gauging users’ fast-forwarding and rewinding habits. And according to, the company is 4-0 for the past four weeks of AI competition. “Those performers who are most frequently fast-forwarded through also happen to be the ones who receive the fewest votes,” reports. “Conversely, performers who are rewound and re-watched get the highest votes.

DayjetTt With travel on American Airlines nearly grinding to a halt this past week, there’s added reason to pay attention to a new company called DayJet. The Atlantic Monthly’s James Fallows asserts that, by using its fleet of tiny Eclipse 500 Jets to shuttle passengers back and forth to wherever they want to go (and whenever they want to get there), DayJet is one of the first companies to offer viable air-taxi service to the country. Unfortunately, DayJet’s service—which, according to, can cost about twice as much as a standard airline flight—is currently limited to the southeast corner of the country.

Tt Could NapTV—only a concept now—be the laptop computer of the television category?


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