Solar Tetroon Spooks Albuquerque

An interesting take on Hackerspace outreach is spooking the local community into calling the FAA and even the Air Force. It wasn’t exactly the plan at Quelab, but after an experimental solar tetroon got away from [Gonner Menning], one of the space’s members, that’s exactly what happened.

This is the first we remember hearing of solar tetroons. A tetroon is actually a fairly common weather balloon design using four triangle-shaped pieces. The solar part is pretty neat, it’s a balloon that uses the sun to heat air inside of a balloon. Instead of filling the bladder with a lighter-than-air gas it is filled with regular air and the sun’s rays heat it to become lighter than the surrounding ambient air.

For this particular flight the balloon was never supposed to be off the tether. Previous iterations had turned out to be rather poor fliers. Of course it figures that when [Gonner] finally tuned the design with an optimal weight to lift ratio it slipped its leash and got away. The GPS package tracked it for quite a while but ended up dying and the craft was nary to be found.

We weren’t going to embed the local news coverage video, but at the end the talking heads end up rolling around the word “Hackerspace” in their mouths like it’s foreign food. Good for a giggle after the break.

[Images: Zoot Azure via Flickr]

[Thanks Geoff]

Filed under: drone hacks

Solar Tetroon Spooks Albuquerque

An interesting take on Hackerspace outreach is spooking the local community into calling the FAA and even the Air Force. It wasn’t exactly the plan at Quelab, but after an experimental solar tetroon got away from [Gonner Menning], one of the space’s members, that’s exactly what happened.

This is the first we remember hearing of solar tetroons. A tetroon is actually a fairly common weather balloon design using four triangle-shaped pieces. The solar part is pretty neat, it’s a balloon that uses the sun to heat air inside of a balloon. Instead of filling the bladder with a lighter-than-air gas it is filled with regular air and the sun’s rays heat it to become lighter than the surrounding ambient air.

For this particular flight the balloon was never supposed to be off the tether. Previous iterations had turned out to be rather poor fliers. Of course it figures that when [Gonner] finally tuned the design with an optimal weight to lift ratio it slipped its leash and got away. The GPS package tracked it for quite a while but ended up dying and the craft was nary to be found.

We weren’t going to embed the local news coverage video, but at the end the talking heads end up rolling around the word “Hackerspace” in their mouths like it’s foreign food. Good for a giggle after the break.

[Images: Zoot Azure via Flickr]

[Thanks Geoff]

Filed under: drone hacks

A Single Pixel Digital Camera with Arduino

[Jordan] managed to cobble together his own version of a low resolution digital camera using just a few components. The image generated is pretty low resolution and is only in grey scale, but it’s pretty impressive what can be done with some basic hardware.

The heart of the camera is the image sensor. Most consumer digital cameras have tons of tiny receptors all jammed into the sensor. This allows for a larger resolution image, capturing more detail in a smaller space. Unfortunately this also usually means a higher price tag. [Jordan’s] sensor includes just a single pixel. The sensor is really just an infrared photodiode inside of a tube. The diode is connected to an analog input pin on an Arduino. The sensor can be pointed at an object, and the Arduino can sense the brightness of that one point.

In order to compile an actual image, [Jordan] needs to obtain readings of multiple points. Most cameras do this using the large array of pixels. Since [Jordan’s] camera only has a single pixel, he has to move it around and take each reading one at a time. To accomplish this, the Arduino is hooked up to two servo motors. This allows the sensor to be aimed horizontally and vertically. The Arduino slowly scans the sensor in a grid, taking readings along the way. A Processing application then takes each reading and compiles the final image.

Since this camera compiles an image so slowly, it sometimes has a problem with varying brightness. [Jordan] noticed this issue when clouds would pass over while he was taking an image. To fix this problem, he added an ambient light sensor. The Arduino can detect the amount of overall ambient light and then adjust each reading to compensate. He says it’s not perfect but the results are still an improvement. Maybe next time he can try it in color.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Passion Project Turns BeagleBone into Standalone Super NES

So you want to play some retro games on your BeagleBone, just load up Linux and start your favorite emulator right? Not if you’re serious about it. [Andrew Henderson] started down this path with the BeagleBoard-xM (predecessor of the BeagleBone Black) and discovered that the performance with Snes9X wasn’t quite what he had in mind. He got the itch and created a full-blown distro called BeagleSNES which includes bootloader and kernel hacks for better peformance, a custom GUI, and is in the process of developing hardware for the embedded gaming rig. Check out the documentation that goes along with the project (PDF); it’s a blueprint for how open source project guides should be presented!

The hardware he’s currently working on is a Cape (what add-on boards for the BBB are called) that adds connectors for original Nintendo and Super Nintendo controllers. It also includes an RTC which will stand in for the real-time clock features included in some cartridges (Pokemon Yellow). Also in the works is a 3D printed enclosure which would turn it into a portable, something like this other BBB portable hack.

Check out a demo of what BeagleSNES can do in the video after the break.

Filed under: ARM, linux hacks, nintendo hacks

Passion Project Turns BeagleBone into Standalone Super NES

So you want to play some retro games on your BeagleBone, just load up Linux and start your favorite emulator right? Not if you’re serious about it. [Andrew Henderson] started down this path with the BeagleBoard-xM (predecessor of the BeagleBone Black) and discovered that the performance with Snes9X wasn’t quite what he had in mind. He got the itch and created a full-blown distro called BeagleSNES which includes bootloader and kernel hacks for better peformance, a custom GUI, and is in the process of developing hardware for the embedded gaming rig. Check out the documentation that goes along with the project (PDF); it’s a blueprint for how open source project guides should be presented!

The hardware he’s currently working on is a Cape (what add-on boards for the BBB are called) that adds connectors for original Nintendo and Super Nintendo controllers. It also includes an RTC which will stand in for the real-time clock features included in some cartridges (Pokemon Yellow). Also in the works is a 3D printed enclosure which would turn it into a portable, something like this other BBB portable hack.

Check out a demo of what BeagleSNES can do in the video after the break.

Filed under: ARM, linux hacks, nintendo hacks

WhatsApp’s highly anticipated calling feature shows up

WhatsApp logos


There have been lots of reports that WhatsApp will roll out free voice calling to India in 2015. However, there’s been no confirmed timeline for when that might happen.

Late last night, images of WhatsApp’s new voice calling feature appeared on Reddit. It’s not clear how many people have access to the updated user interface.

Whatsapp 1 whatsapp 2 whatsapp 3

“Its like an invite thing, where a person with the call feature needs to “call” another person who wants to start using the feature,” according to Reddit user pradnesh07, who linked to the photos. This person also notes that it only appears to work for people running Lollipop 5.0.x on a Nexus 5
phone.

WhatsApp first announced plans for voice calling support in February of last year.

We have reached out to WhatsApp for confirmation about these photos as well as further information about the company’s planned roll out of this feature.


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WhatsApp’s highly anticipated calling feature shows up

WhatsApp logos


There have been lots of reports that WhatsApp will roll out free voice calling to India in 2015. However, there’s been no confirmed timeline for when that might happen.

Late last night, images of WhatsApp’s new voice calling feature appeared on Reddit. It’s not clear how many people have access to the updated user interface.

Whatsapp 1 whatsapp 2 whatsapp 3

“Its like an invite thing, where a person with the call feature needs to “call” another person who wants to start using the feature,” according to Reddit user pradnesh07, who linked to the photos. This person also notes that it only appears to work for people running Lollipop 5.0.x on a Nexus 5
phone.

WhatsApp first announced plans for voice calling support in February of last year.

We have reached out to WhatsApp for confirmation about these photos as well as further information about the company’s planned roll out of this feature.


VentureBeat is studying social media marketing. Chime in, and we’ll share the data with you.



The Pirate Bay is back online after almost two months

the_pirate_bay_logo


The Pirate Bay, widely known as the most popular file-sharing website on the planet, is back online after the longest outage it has ever experienced. Anyone visiting thepiratebay.se domain today will be welcomed with a functioning site, as if nothing had ever happened almost two months ago.

On December 9, police in Stockholm raided a data center, seizing servers and other computer equipment. The Pirate Bay was one of many peer-to-peer and torrent-related websites and services that went down that day. The raid was in response to a complaint from Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance.

On December 15, The Pirate Bay released its first and only official statement — a member said the team hadn’t decided if it would return. On December 22, the official domain suddenly came back online, albeit only as a single page. It went through various iterations, dropping hints left, right, and center. Now, it features the familiar search page, with a phoenix logo in place of the traditional pirate ship:

the_pirate_bay_reborn

The return was somewhat expected, as the domain eventually added a countdown clock that pointed to February 1. Today’s rebirth means the site is back almost 24 hours earlier than originally planned.

The Pirate Bay is serving torrents once again, and the site is working almost exactly as it did before the outage. In fact, it appears the database that was saved includes almost everything — the latest entries are indeed from December 9.

Yet not all of this is “good news,” so to speak. Rumor has it that some staff are not supporting this relaunch because it was supposed to be a “trimmed down version” that doesn’t require former admins and moderators.

It’s not clear whether that is true. We’ll know soon enough, however, as this staff supposedly plans to launch their own
version, at a different domain, if they don’t have access to what is available at thepiratebay.se.

Because The Pirate Bay was down for so long, many copycat sites have appeared, some more popular than others. If former staff launch their own version of The Pirate Bay, there could be even more overlap. Of course, that may end up being good news for users looking to download content.



The Pirate Bay is back online after almost two months

the_pirate_bay_logo


The Pirate Bay, widely known as the most popular file-sharing website on the planet, is back online after the longest outage it has ever experienced. Anyone visiting thepiratebay.se domain today will be welcomed with a functioning site, as if nothing had ever happened almost two months ago.

On December 9, police in Stockholm raided a data center, seizing servers and other computer equipment. The Pirate Bay was one of many peer-to-peer and torrent-related websites and services that went down that day. The raid was in response to a complaint from Swedish anti-piracy group Rights Alliance.

On December 15, The Pirate Bay released its first and only official statement — a member said the team hadn’t decided if it would return. On December 22, the official domain suddenly came back online, albeit only as a single page. It went through various iterations, dropping hints left, right, and center. Now, it features the familiar search page, with a phoenix logo in place of the traditional pirate ship:

the_pirate_bay_reborn

The return was somewhat expected, as the domain eventually added a countdown clock that pointed to February 1. Today’s rebirth means the site is back almost 24 hours earlier than originally planned.

The Pirate Bay is serving torrents once again, and the site is working almost exactly as it did before the outage. In fact, it appears the database that was saved includes almost everything — the latest entries are indeed from December 9.

Yet not all of this is “good news,” so to speak. Rumor has it that some staff are not supporting this relaunch because it was supposed to be a “trimmed down version” that doesn’t require former admins and moderators.

It’s not clear whether that is true. We’ll know soon enough, however, as this staff supposedly plans to launch their own
version, at a different domain, if they don’t have access to what is available at thepiratebay.se.

Because The Pirate Bay was down for so long, many copycat sites have appeared, some more popular than others. If former staff launch their own version of The Pirate Bay, there could be even more overlap. Of course, that may end up being good news for users looking to download content.



The iPhone may be starting to steal Android’s lower-inc

Robert Scoble Verizon iPhone Flickr


When I was working in Tajikistan, a desperately poor country, my driver had an iPhone. He’d saved extensively to afford it, and prized it as a status symbol. And when things got tight, he didn’t trade it for a cheaper, equivalent Android model — he traded it in for an older iPhone.

Apple has begun clawing back market share from Android, which has for years dominated the mobile phone market. For a long time, iPhone was the phone of the most wealthy consumers, and Android served everyone else. But Apple’s record-breaking iPhone sales suggest that lower-income people now feel that an iPhone is worth saving up for.

business-insider-logoCEO Tim Cook talked on Apple’s last earnings call about new “Android switchers” joining Apple. Could it be that Android is now funneling new consumers to Apple? And could those consumers be status-conscious people who are willing to spend money on the top brand, even if — from a strictly utilitarian point of view — they probably should not?

Things have never been better for Apple. The U.S. company’s last quarter was more profitable than any other company ever, driven largely by the runaway success of the iPhone business.

Along the way it has
dealt significant damage to high-end smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, who have seen their profits drop as a result.

For a long time, Samsung held its own against Apple as a genuine competitor in the high-end smartphone sector. Samsung’s Galaxy S and Note ranges consistently did well, and drove profits for the company. But the introduction of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus changed the game.

Samsung’s profits are now cratering — a 60 percent drop in Q3 of 2014. And in South Korea, Apple is seeing massive sales. It’s unprecedented for any foreign smartphone manufacturer to pass the 20% market share mark in the country. Apple is now at 33 percent, and still rising fast.

Apple Samsung South Korea market sharesIt’s rapidly becoming clear that much of Samsung’s previous success was simply because it provided a product that Apple could not provide — a larger-screen smartphone. Now that an Apple-branded phablet is on the market, there’s no reason for consumers stick around on the less attractive platform.

Here’s another detail demonstrating Apple’s success in the high-end market: Its products are now considered the top luxury gift item in China, ahead of designer goods maker Hermes, fashion house Gucci, Luis Vuitton and Chanel.

But Apple’s status as a luxury brand isn’t sufficient to explain its runaway success. And if Apple were content for the iPhone to be a desirable
high-end product alone, that wouldn’t justify its significant discounting in retailers like Walmart.

So here’s one possible way to explain it.

Apple is fully penetrated among high-end consumers, and it’s now moving down the market. Consumers think of the iPhone in a unique fashion, because of its unparalleled desirability.

It’s not that no-one wants an Android. While the iPhone is undeniably a more attractive product, there are still loyal Android fans. There’s the die-hard Android community for one, and Chinese Apple rival Xiaomi also has an extremely passionate fanbase. The OnePlus handset, which runs a forked version of Android, also proved incredibly popular.

But by and large, Apple holds an allure with consumers that Android
products find it almost impossible to emulate.

Apple’s move to discount iPhones on contract to affordable levels, and to market older iPhones at lower price points, is reflective of this: Having cleaned up the top end of the market, the company is successfully moving down. If you want an iPhone but don’t have much money, there are plenty of wireless service providers willing to offer you a contract that will reduce the iPhone to a fraction of its total price tag.

There are not many hard stats to back this up, but plenty of anecdotal evidence. Everyone knows how desirable the iPhone is, and how nearly everyone either has one or wants one — even if they can’t really afford it.

As Sandip Roy writes for Huffington Post, “it goes without saying that the iPhone is a status symbol.” But, uniquely, it’s “a status symbol that actually does something instead of just sitting there, being a status symbol.”

The
iPhone’s functionality compared to jewelry or designer options could explain why consumers are willing to save and shell out for what’s realistically above their price point — why they’ll buy a $700 smartphone when a $300 one would suit their needs.

Apple is successful because it’s produced a great, high-end product. It’s record-breakingly successful because it’s produced a product that has such a desirable cachet that it’s not even considered in the same breath as other smartphones. As a consumer item, it’s totally unique.

This story originally appeared on Business Insider.


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