Monday, 29 April 2013

KOREAN HARDWARE MAKER Samsung announced the Galaxy Tab 3 on Monday, a 7in tablet that it will release in May.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 is the third generation of Samsung's original Android tablet, as the firm looks to steal market share from the iPad Mini and Google Nexus 7.
"Its compact, one-hand grip form factor ensures users can hold comfortably for hours as well as store in a pocket or small bag for reading and entertainment on the go," Samsung boasts.
Sporting a design nearly identical to that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, the device has a 7in 1,024x600 screen in its plastic casing and will come with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean mobile operating system. We don't know why it won't arrive with the latest version of Android, but Samsung is likely to release an update later.
Samsung's Touchwiz user interface is onboard as standard, furnishing the tablet with the likes of Samsung Hub, Apps and Chaton, although it's unlikely to boast the futuristic software features of the Samsung Galaxy S4. We've asked Samsung for more information.
Samsung's Touchwiz user interface is onboard as standard, furnishing the tablet with the likes of Samsung Hub, Apps and Chaton, although it's unlikely to boast the futuristic software features of the Samsung Galaxy S4. We've asked Samsung for more information.
Other specifications include dual 3MP and 1.3MP cameras, 8GB or 16GB of internal storage expandable to 64GB via microSD card and a 4,000mAh battery. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 will initially launch as a WiFI-only model in May, with a 3G version to follow in June.
There's no word on pricing or release date yet, but we've asked Samsung for more details. µ
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Samsung’s original Galaxy Tab was Android’s first iPad rival. “Rival” probably isn’t the best word, though: the iPad sold in bunches while the overpriced (US$600) Galaxy Tab collected dust. Almost three years later, a much more popular Samsung has announced the 7-inch slate’s second proper sequel: the Galaxy Tab 3.
The Tab 3 takes some design cues from the Galaxy Note line, but make no mistake. This tablet is far from being a high-end piece of hardware.
We’re looking at a mediocre display: 1024 x 600, spread over 7 inches. It also sports a nondescript 1.2 GHz dual core processor and 1 GB of RAM. Its camera is low-res (3-megapixels in the rear shooter), and it even runs last year’s version of Android (4.1 Jelly Bean).
Budget pricing?
So we’re probably also looking at budget pricing here. The US$400 Galaxy Note 8.0 doesn’t have the most cutting-edge hardware either, but – in addition to supporting the S Pen – its components are at least a notch or two above these ho-hum Galaxy Tab 3 specs.
Of course mid-range isn't necessarily a bad thing – when the price is right. Unless it somehow drops below the US$200 mark, though, it will have some tough competition. At least on paper, the Nexus 7 – which could soon come in a new version – easily outpaces the Tab 3.
The official word on pricing will have to wait, though, as Samsung hasn’t announced the Tab 3 for any specific markets yet. The global rollout for the Wi-Fi version begins in May, and a 3G version will follow in June. Yep, 3G: it also lacks LTE. Mid-range indeed.
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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The world of architecture figuratively doffed its cap to Earth Day on Monday with the opening of the Bullitt Center in Seattle. The Bullitt Center aims to meet the rigorous Living Building Design Challenge, which looks beyond design criteria and scrutinizes a building's green credentials, including energy self-sufficiency, over the course of a year in use. But more significantly, its developers claim that the Bullitt Center is the greenest commercial building in the world.
The headline tech is the Bullitt Center's rooftop solar array. Lying almost flat, the array creates eaves extending well beyond the building's footprint. It's claimed that the 5º pitch compromises only 10 percent of their performance while allowing more panels to be packed into the same area.
The New York Times reports that, on paper, the 244-kW solar array should be good for 230,000 kWh of electrical energy per year, which it's hoped should prove enough thanks to the building being much more efficient than similar office buildings. The Bullitt Foundation points out that Seattle receives more solar radiation than the average in Germany, a country where solar installations are booming.
One efficiency measure used is the maximizing of daylight. Remarkably, the Bullitt Foundation claims that the building can operate for 90 percent of the time without need of any electric lighting at all (being an office, it is primary used during daylight hours, which obviously helps). When it is needed, presence detection, daylight sensors and dimming ensure that no more lighting is used than is necessary.
The building must demonstrate water self-sufficiency, too. To that end the building is fitted with dry composting toilets and rainwater collection on the roof, which directs water to underground storage for purifying.
To accord with other items on the Living Building Challenge checklist, no prohibited materials, such as PVC, cadmium, lead or mercury (so no fluorescent lighting), have been used in construction. The building is reportedly the first mid-rise in Seattle since the 1920s to make structural use of heavy timber (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council), which is used alongside steel frame. The building is therefore ahead of the curve in what appears to be an emerging interest in timber as a high-performance building material.
Though the building's windows are motorized and automated to regulate internal temperature, some can be opened and shut by tenants, providing building users a degree of control over their surroundings that can contribute to workplace satisfaction. The Bullitt Center also does without on-site parking, promoting pedestrianism, cycling, and public transport instead. A cycle park the size of three garages is located on site.
"We've gotten to the point where incrementalism is no longer doing the trick," said Bullitt Foundation President, Denis Hayes in a PR video release. "We've got to make giant strides – giant leaps – into a new way of doing things."
This radical "new way" extends to the building's longevity. Unlike other contemporary commercial buildings which now often have a design life of mere decades, Bullitt Center is designed to last 250 years. The building became a working test case for Seattle authorities to review its planning regulations to encourage sustainable design.
etter still, the Bullitt Foundation hopes that the building will form a blueprint for similar construction in America's northwest, and is sharing lessons learned in construction with construction professionals and, seemingly, anyone interested in the design. Visitors to the building can scan QR codes to learn about aspects of the design, including the electrical and mechanical services routes which, unusually, are visible rather than hidden from view.
Talking to the New York Times, Hayes explained that if, in a decade's time, the Bullitt Center is still one of the best-performing buildings, it will not have lived up to its purpose. An admirable sentiment. We look forward to seeing how the year pans out, and if other developers pick up the gauntlet

Monday, 22 April 2013

Making its debut at the Shanghai Auto Show, Porsche's new Panamera S E-Hybrid stood front and center, metaphorically at least, among its Panamera siblings: a now nine-strong lineup, refreshed for 2014. The Panamera S E-Hybrid differentiates itself from its predecessor, the plain 'ol Panamera S Hybrid, with a much-improved battery and electric motor. Performance-wise, the S E-Hybrid is no slouch, hitting 60 mph (97 km/h) from a standstill in 5.2 seconds, and nudging 167 mph (269 km/h) at top speed. 
Given the development of a new lithium-ion battery, which increases capacity from 1.7 to 9.4 kWh, the insertion of the E into the name seems entirely justified. The electric motor provides 95 hp (71 kW), just better than doubling the previous model's 47 hp. Connected to a 240-V supply, Porsche claims the battery can be fully charged inside 150 minutes.
The full specs sheet for the Panamera S E-Hybrid is still missing a few fuel consumption figures, though Porsche has released 71 g/km of CO2 emissions, though conditions for meeting this figure aren't clear.
New Executive models of the Panamera S and Panamera 4S also made their debut in Shanghai. Both pack a new 3-liter twin-turbo V6 and an extended wheelbase.
It's now 4 years, almost to the day, since Porsche unveiled the original Panamera in Shanghai. The company says that, in 2012, one in every three Panameras was exported to China, which is now Porsche's largest market outside of the US.
The Panamera S E-Hybrid is set to launch before the end of the year, starting at US$99,000.
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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Apple’s MacBook Pro is a modern computing design classic, but if you find yourself tiring of its industrial looks, then the MacBook Wood Keyboard by Rawbkny may be of interest. It’s essentially a retrofit kit which modifies the look and feel of Apple’s pro-notebook using either bamboo or rosewood keys.
The concept of adding an organic feel to Apple’s keyboard design brings to mind Robbie Tilton’s mossy keyboard. However, unlike Tilton’s prototype, the MacBook Wood Keyboard doesn’t actually replace the chiclet keys, but instead sits atop the originals, with each key simply affixed to the original, like a sticker, in what looks to be a rather time-consuming process.
Despite the additional height of the Mac’s keys, Rawbkny states that its wooden add-ons won’t damage or mark the screen (though a particularly dusty screen may show a faint imprint), as a very small but sufficient space remains between screen and keys.
The MacBook Wood Keyboard is manufactured from a slice of rosewood or bamboo by laser, and the process etches the usual additional keyboard symbols onto the key face, in addition to allowing the Caps Lock light to shine through.
As of writing, we're still waiting on Rawbkny to confirm whether or not the MacBook Pro's keyboard backlight will continue to function with the new wooden keys in place.
The MacBook Wood Keyboard is compatible with all Unibody MacBook Pro models (including Retina), and will set you back US$40.

Monday, 15 April 2013


We've seen robots optimized for stability before, but where, for example, Dr. Guero's modified Kondo KHR-3HV could withstand the odd gentle prod with a finger, the Italian Institute of Technology's COMAN is apparently made of sterner stuff, remaining vertical in the face of rather more determined jostling thanks to its sensor-equipped motorized joints.
Being a sensing, autonomous machine, COMAN is a robot in the truest sense of the word. Despite its apparent state of headlessness, the robot is not without a brain. In its chest is a dual-core Pentium PC104 CPU, along with a battery pack providing 150 minutes of gadding about.
Overall balance is assisted by inertial sensors in the pelvis and chest, but the key to its resilience against knocks is its series of motorized and elasticated joints which adjust stiffness when needed. That need is determined by torque sensors in each joint, as well as degrees-of-freedom sensors in the ankles with which COMAN senses the ground and adjusts to inclines. 
Despite the apparent emphasis on staying upright, the researchers frame this as compliance, the better to increase safety in human-robot interaction (COMAN is short for Compliant Humanoid Platform). Other stated project aims include reducing energy consumption, and achieving faster machine learning. COMAN brings us a step closer to the day when robots may make fine, upstanding members of human society
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Come one, come all – step right up! Make your own smartwatch! Apple’s doing it, Samsung’s doing it, and so can you! Okay, maybe it isn’t quite that common, but it’s almost comical how many big companies are reportedly working on smartwatches. The latest Silicon Valley giant, Microsoft, knows a thing or two about being late to the party ... maybe it wants to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
The scoop comes from the Wall Street Journal, which says little birds in the supply chain point to Microsoft “working on designs for a touch enabled watch device.” The company is supposedly eyeing 1.5-inch screens for its wrist computer. The report continues: Earlier this year, Microsoft asked suppliers in Asia to ship components for a potential watch-style device, the executives said. One executive said he met with Microsoft's research and development team at the software company's Redmond, Wash., headquarters.
Assuming the report has solid information (the WSJ typically does) then this indicates Microsoft is considering a smartwatch. It could come to market, it could get killed beforehand, or the company could wait and see how rivals (like Apple's) do before pulling the trigger. Who knows.
A wearable revolution?
What is for sure is that big tech companies are eyeing wearable computing as the next big thing. And for good reason. Smartphones and tablets will still evolve, but it’s getting harder to come up with something new there.
Smartwatches and smartglasses could give customers quicker, more immediate access to notifications and basic info. Who needs to yank a smartphone or phablet out of your pocket when you can flip your wrist or talk to your glasses? Or at least that’s how the thinking goes.
It will be interesting to see how customers respond to wearables. If you read tech blogs like Gizmag, there’s a good chance you’re already curious (if not foaming at the mouth) about products like Google Glass. But will “regular" people respond to it? Or smartwatches for that matter? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
Google Glass and Apple’s wrist computer are expected to ship towards the end of this year. No word yet on when Microsoft’s, Samsung’s, LG’s, or anyone else’s smartwatch will land. Can't wait? You can pre-order Pebble or order I'm watch right now.
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