Monday, September 8, 2008

Google Military-Controlled Satellite Reaches Orbit, We Don't Feel Lucky

According to the company, the GeoEye-1 satellite is the highest resolution commercial satellite orbiting the planet right now. It reached orbit yesterday, but in reality, it's not an ordinary commercial satellite: it's fully controlled by the Department of Defense's U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. And two guys named Larry and Sergei.

Part of the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency NextView program, the SUV-sized GeoEye-1 launched yesterday in a Delta II 7326 rocket from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California—without exploding. Hours later, GeoEye's ground station in Norway confirmed that the rocket had delivered its payload right on target. The satellite was alive, fully armed and operational on its 423-mile orbit above the Earth.

Built by General Dynamics, the GeoEye-1 is equipped with a next-generation camera made by ITT. This camera can easily distinguish objects 16 inches long, with 11-bits per pixel color. In other words: this thing can see the color of your shorts. It will be up there, looking at your pants every single day, the time it takes for it to complete one orbit. And it will keep doing that for more than ten years, its expected life.

Of course, there's nothing new here until you notice the huge Google logo on the rocket, signaling the fact that Sergei and Larry own the exclusive rights to the GeoEye-1 images. Yes, no other company will be able to access this information, only Google. And they will be there, available for the public in Google Maps and Google Earth.

But don't fret, tin-foil hatters, because Google won't be able to access the highest resolution images because of US government regulations. Sure, the other guys will, but then again, their big bad satellites can see closer than this one. Still, you can rest safe that your underpants will be safe from public scrutiny. For now. Unless you do like me and keep flashing them around. [GeoEye, Wikipedia, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency via Cnet]

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Solar Powered Car Attempts to Circle Globe as Slowly as Possible

Another day, another golf cart size, three-wheeled solar-powered car with style ripped from the 1980's. At least with this one, the Solar Taxi, there's a record at stake, as Swiss "adventurer" Louis Palmer is taking the car on a trip across the planet without using a drop of gasoline. He'll be the first to do it, and we're hoping his example will inspire more alternative energy cars (hopefully a few have that elusive fourth wheel). The 35 MPH top speed is going to be a tough sell with us Yanks. Palmer, my man, haven't you heard? Women and men alike get hot and bothered by power and speed.

The Solar Taxi gets its juice from a $5,000 solar panel trailer provided by German company Q-Cells. Weather permitting, the trailer provides the Taxi with 60 miles of oompf. Longer runs are powered by a pair of $15,000 250-lb. recyclable batteries from Zebra Battery. They store energy from the sun and from whatever electrical socket Palmer can find at night (it's just like searching for a socket at a conference, but bigger, and people will still manage to trip awkwardly over the cord).

Altogether, Palmer said the rig gets about a 200 mile range between charges. As of this weekend, Palmer and his crew had traveled 27,000 miles across 28 countries, so that's a lot of stop and go driving—or is that charging?

The trip is scheduled to conclude in December, but Palmer won't be finished just yet. He's also in the middle of planning an 80-day solar powered race around the world for sometime in 2009. [ABC News]
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Fresh Pics of Collapsible, Portable Microsoft Arc Laser Mouse

Thanks to tipster Alex, we've got some fresh hands-on pics of the new Microsoft Arc mouse, which we got a first look of back in July. The $60 mouse folds down to half its size for easy portability thanks to what the packaging calls a "strong metal hinge," and the glossy veneer, to quote Blam, is indeed "flip and drool" worthy.

According to Alex, the tiny USB dongle attaches to the underbelly of the Arc when not in use via a magnet, and there's a storage bag for travel purposes. The packaging quotes a 30-foot range, and jumping is non-existent, says our tipster.

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Apple Admits British Man Invented iPod in 1979, Uses Him to Win Patent Lawsuit

There you have it folks. The real inspiration for Apple's game-changing iPod, courtesy of the world's unluckiest Briton, Kane Kramer, 52 (not including the fifth Beatle). You see, in the dark technological days of 1979, Kramer saw a beacon of light in his IXI. Capable of playing a mind-busting 3.5 minutes of music, the IXI prototype was Kramer's ticket out of obscurity. Sadly, when he couldn't raise enough venture funding to renew the IXI patent in 1988, the device became the Zune of its time, and was largely forgotten. Fast forward to the present, when Apple, fresh from making year-over-year record profits with the iPod, needed Kramer something fierce to bail them out of a lawsuit jam with

Apple called Kramer so he could serve as a consultant for the trial, and so his patents and drawings could be used to settle the suit out of court.

"I was up a ladder painting when I got the call from a lady with an American accent from Apple saying she was the head of legal affairs and that they wanted to acknowledge the work that I had done," Kramer told Daily Mail. "I must admit that at first I thought it was a wind-up by friends. But we spoke for some time, with me still up this ladder slightly bewildered by it all, and she said Apple would like me to come to California to talk to them. Then I had to make a deposition in front of a court stenographer and videographer at a lawyers’ office. The questioning by the Burst legal counsel there was tough, ten hours of it. But I was happy to do it."

And now he'd be even happier collecting some of that multi-billion dollar iPod business, but so far all he received was compensation for his time at the trial. The struggling furniture salesman, fresh from another failed business, is now negotiating additional compensation, but says he was happy to help whatever the outcome. Well, as long as it isn't more iPods...

"I can’t even bring myself to buy an iPod for myself," he said. "Apple did give me one but it broke down after eight months." Hmm. Apple products seem to be doing that a lot these days.

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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Real Estate Professionals -- Auckland, New Zealand, "David Lim's"

Real estate agents have probably become more unpopular than politicians in the "least trusted profession stakes" this week and it doesn't help when they resort to extreme hyperbole, claiming "views to South America" from Kawau Island, New Zealand and misleading "not taken from property" idyllic views. Here's an idea: how about taking the picture from the property?

A mate from Glenfield, Auckland, sent me this: "This Ray White rental sign was graffitied in June. I've rung Ray White twice, and emailed their head office, but two months on and it's still there - the only graffiti on the street. Unsurprisingly, the property has yet to be let." How can we trust these "professionals" to sell or rent our properties?

Pimp My Blog: From 12" to 42" screen size on Samsung Plasma TV

I have always want to see how my tiny HP 2510P's looks like on my 42" Samsung Plasma TV, so today I went out to JB HiFi at Lynn Mall to buy a video out cable for this little project.  The result is cool and my kids loves it!  Took the pimped out images with my Nokia N95's camera at late evening (click on picture below to see a bigger image).