Boeing Laser Systems Destroy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in Tests

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Nov. 18, 2009 — The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] in May demonstrated the ability of mobile laser weapon systems to perform a unique mission: track and destroy small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

During the U.S. Air Force-sponsored tests at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif., the Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX), which was developed by Boeing under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, used a single, high-brightness laser beam to shoot down five UAVs at various ranges. Laser Avenger, a Boeing-funded initiative, also shot down a UAV. Representatives of the Air Force and Army observed the tests.

“The Air Force and Boeing achieved a directed-energy breakthrough with these tests,” said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems’ Directed Energy Systems unit. “MATRIX’s performance is especially noteworthy because it demonstrated unprecedented, ultra-precise and lethal acquisition, pointing and tracking at long ranges using relatively low laser power.”

Bill Baker, chief scientist of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate, praised his team and Boeing for these successful UAV shootdowns.

“These tests validate the use of directed energy to negate potential hostile threats against the homeland,” Baker said. “The team effort of Boeing and the Air Force in developing MATRIX will pay major dividends for the warfighter now and in the years ahead.”

As part of the overall counter-UAV demonstration, Boeing also successfully test-fired a lightweight 25mm machine gun from the Laser Avenger platform to potentially further the hybrid directed energy/kinetic energy capability against UAV threats.

Boeing Directed Energy Systems, based in Albuquerque, developed MATRIX, a mobile, trailer-mounted test bed that integrates with existing test-range radar. Directed Energy Systems and Boeing Combat Systems in St. Louis cooperatively developed Laser Avenger, which integrates a directed-energy weapon together with the existing kinetic weapons on the proven Avenger air defense system developed by Combat Systems.

Boeing leads the way in developing laser weapon systems for a variety of U.S. Air Force, Army and Navy applications. These systems include the Airborne Laser, Advanced Tactical Laser, Free Electron Laser, High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator and Tactical Relay Mirror System.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is one of the world’s largest space and defense businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems is a $32 billion business with 70,000 employees worldwide.

laser beam in action! despite being the country that wants to stop terrorism and war, US keeps producing more and more powerful weapons. and this weapons will soon be used in the name of against terrorism. what’s terrorism when harmless old lady zapped with the laser in the middle of the desert? its nice to see technology evolved but its being used by some people for the wrong reasons.. article from Boeing.

Dual-Boot Windows 7 and Ubuntu in Perfect Harmony

Windows 7 and Ubuntu, despite their opposing missions, can get along like best pals on a single computer. Here’s how to set up a dual boot system that lets you enjoy the best of both worlds in perfect harmony.

By default, Windows 7 takes over your boot-up process and wants to be your only OS, and Linux treats Windows like a weekend hobby you keep in a shed somewhere on your hard drive. But I’ve been dual-booting Ubuntu and some version of Windows 7 for nearly a year, and I’ve learned a lot about inconveniences, annoyances, and file-sharing necessities, and now I’ll walk you through how to set up your systems to achieve a peaceful union of your dual-boot OSes. (Both with Windows 7 already installed, and with a clean system ready for a new dual-OS existence.)

Follow through this guide, and I’ll explain how to rebuild a system from the ground up with Windows 7 and Ubuntu, with either a backed-up and cleaned-out hard drive (recommended) or Windows 7 already installed. When we’re done, you can work and play in either operating system, quickly and conveniently access your documents, music, pictures, and other files without worry or inconvenience, and boot into either system without having to worry about whether Windows is going to get mad at you. Plus, when Ubuntu 10.04 or Windows 8 come along, you’ll find it much easier to install either one without having to start over entirely from scratch.

What you’ll need

  • Windows 7 installation disc: For clean installations, either a full installation copy or an upgrade disc is needed. If you own an upgrade disc but want to start from scratch, there’s a way to do a clean install with an upgrade disc, though that’s a rather gray-area route. Then again, there’s probably not a person on this earth that doesn’t have a licensed copy of XP or Vista somewhere in their past.
  • Ubuntu 9.10 installation image: You can grab an ISO at Ubuntu.com, or hit “Alternative download options” to reveal a (usually very fast) BitTorrent link. You’ll want to get the ubuntu-9.10-desktop-i386.iso download for 32-bit systems, or ubuntu-9.10-desktop-amd64.iso.torrent for 64-bit on AMD or Intel systems (despite the name).
  • Blank CD or empty USB drive: You’ll need one of these for burning the Ubuntu ISO, or loading it for USB boot. If you’re going the thumb drive route, grab UNetBootin for Windows or Linux, plug in your USB drive, and load it with the downloaded ISO image.
  • All your data backed up: Even if you’re pulling this off with Windows 7 already installed and your media and documents present, you’ll want to have a fallback in case things go awry. Which they shouldn’t, but, naturally, you never know.
  • Free time: I’d reckon it takes about 2 hours to pull off two OS installs on a clean system; more if you’ve got a lot of data to move around.

Setting up your hard drive

If you’ve got nothing installed on your system, or you’ve got your data backed up and you’re ready to start from scratch, you’re in a great position–skip down to the “Partition your system” section. If you’ve got Windows already installed, you can still make a spot for Ubuntu, though.

(Only) If Windows is already installed: You’re going to “shrink” the partition that Windows 7 installed itself on. Before we do that, clean out any really unnecessary applications and data from your system (we like Revo Uninstaller for doing this). Also, open up “Computer” and take note of how much space remains on your main hard drive, presumably labeled “C:”. Head to the Start menu, type “disk management” into the search box, and hit Enter.

Windows 7 probably put two partitions on your hard drive: one, about 100 MB in size, holding system restoration data. We don’t want to touch it. Right-click on the bigger partition to the right, and choose Shrink Partition.

After a little bit of hard drive activity and a “Please wait” window, you’ll get back the size you can shrink your Windows partition by.

If the space Windows offers doesn’t jibe with what your Computer view told you was “remaining,” you might need to hit Cancel, then head back and defragment your hard drive, and take some of the steps laid out by the How-To Geek. Run the Disk Management tool again and try a Shrink Volume operation again, and free up as much space as you can.

Partition your system: You’re aiming to set up a system with three partitions, or sections, to its hard drive: One lean partition for the Windows operating system and applications running from it, another just-big-enough partition for Ubuntu and its own applications, and then a much larger data partition that houses all the data you’ll want access to from either one. Documents, music, pictures, application profiles—it all goes in another section I’ll call “Storage” for this tutorial.

How do you get there? We’re going to use GParted, the Linux-based uber-tool for all things hard drive. You could grab the Live CD if you felt like it, but since you’ve already downloaded an Ubuntu installer, you can simply boot a “live,” no-risk session of Ubuntu from your CD or USB stick and run GParted from there. Once you’re inside Ubuntu, head to the System menu in the upper left when you get to a desktop, then choose the Administration menu and GParted under it.

You’ll see your system’s hard drive and its partitions laid out. You’re going to create partitions for Linux and your storage space, but not Windows—we’ll let the Windows installation carve out its own recovery partition and operating space. On my own system, I give Windows 15 GB of unallocated space, and Ubuntu another 15 GB of space right after it, with whatever’s left kept as storage space. Then again, I’ve only got a 100 GB hard drive and don’t run huge games or applications, so you can probably give your two operating systems a bit more space to grow.

Click on the unallocated space and hit the “New” button at the far left. In the “Free space preceding” section, click and hold the up button, or enter a number of megabytes, to leave space for Windows at the front. When you’ve got the “space preceding” set, set the actual size of the Ubuntu partition in the “New Size” section, and leave “Free space following” alone. Choose “unformatted” under file system—we’ll let Ubuntu do the format itself and hit “Add.” Back at the main GParted window, click on the space to the right of your two OS spaces, hit “New” again, and set the file system as “ntfs.” Give it a label like “Storage,” hit “Add,” and at the main GParted window, hit the checkmark button to apply your changes. Once it’s done, exit out of GParted and shut down the system from the pull-down menu in the upper-right corner.

If Windows is already installed: If you’ve shrunk down its partition for free space and booted into a live Ubuntu or GParted, click on the “Unallocated” piece next to the two “ntfs” partitions that represent your Windows 7 installation and system recovery tools. Create a 15(-ish) GB unformatted partition, and give it a label like Ubuntu. If you’ve got a good deal of space left, format it as “ntfs” and label it something like “Storage.” If you can just barely fit the Ubuntu partition, you can just keep your media files in the Windows partition—until you can remedy this with a full wipe-and-install down the line.

Experienced Linux geeks might be wondering where the swap space is going—but don’t worry, we’ll create one, just not in its own partition.

Installing and configuring Windows

Grab your Windows 7 installation disc—either a full copy or modified upgrade disc, and insert it into your DVD drive. If your system isn’t set up to boot from CD or DVD drive, look for the button to press at start-up for “Boot options” or something similar, or hit up your system maker’s help guides to learn how to change your boot order in the BIOS settings.

Follow through the Windows 7 installation, being sure to choose “Custom” for the installation method and to point it at that unallocated space we created at the beginning of your hard disk, not the NTFS-formatted media/storage space we made earlier:

Work your way through the Windows 7 installation, all the way until you reach the Windows desktop. Feel free to set up whatever programs or apps you want, but what we really want to do is set up your Storage partition to house your pictures, music, video, and other files, and make your Libraries point to them.

Hit the Start menu, click Computer, and double-click on the hard drive named “Storage” (assuming you named it that earlier). In there, right-click and create new folders (or hit Ctrl+Shift+N) for the files you’ll be using with both systems. I usually create folders labeled Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos—I could also see folders for saved games and data files from big software packages. Copy your media files into these folders now, if you’d like, but we’ve got a bit more tweaking to pull off.

In the left-hand sidebar, you’ll see your “Libraries” for documents, music, pictures, and video. At the moment, they point to your Public shared folders and the My Pictures-type folders on your main Windows drive. Click once on any of the Libraries, and at the top of the main panel, you’ll see text stating that this library “Includes: 2 locations …”. Click the blue text on “2 locations,” then click on each of the folders below and hit “Remove” on the right-hand side. Now hit “Add” and select the corresponding folder on your Storage drive. Do the same for all your music, pictures, videos, and other media folders.

Want to add another library for quick access? Right-click somewhere on the desktop, choose New->Library, and follow the steps.

That’s about it for Windows. Now get your Ubuntu CD or USB stick ready and insert it in your system. Ignore whatever auto-play prompts appear, and restart your system.

Installing and configuring Ubuntu

Restart your computer, this time booting from your Ubuntu Live CD or USB boot drive. When your system boots up, choose your language, select “Try Ubuntu without any changes to your computer,” and you’ll boot into a “live” desktop, run entirely off the CD or USB stick. Once you’re booted up, try connecting to the internet from the network icon in the upper-right—it helps during the installation process, ensures your network is working, and gives you something to do (Firefox) while the system installs.

Click the “Install” link on the desktop, and fill out the necessary language/location/keyboard info (most U.S. users can skip through the first 3 screens). When you hit the “Prepare disk space” section, select the “Specify partitions manually” option, then hit Forward. Select the free space that’s after your first two Windows partitions with ntfs formats, then hit the “Add” button at bottom. Your partition should already be sized correctly, and the only thing to change is set “/” as a mount point. Here’s what your screen should look like:

Click OK, then finish through with the Ubuntu installation. If it catches your Windows 7 installation, it might ask if you want to import settings from inside it—you can, if you’d like, but I usually skip this. Wait for the installation to finish, remove the CD or thumb drive, and reboot your system.

When you start up again, you’ll see a list of OS options. The only ones you need concern yourself with are Windows 7 and the top-most Ubuntu line. You can prettify and fix up this screen, change its settings, and modify its order later on. For now, let’s head into Ubuntu.

We’re going to make the same kind of folder access change we did in Windows. Click up on the “Places” menu, choose “Home Folder,” and check out the left-hand sidebar. It’s full of links to Documents, Pictures, and the like, but they all point to locations inside your home folder, on the Linux drive that Windows can’t read. Click once on any of those folders, then right-click and hit Remove.

You should see your “Storage” partition in the left-hand sidebar, but without that name—more like “100GB filesystem.” Double-click it, type in the administrator password you gave when installing, and you’ll see your Documents, Music, etc. Click and drag those folders into the space where the other folders were, and now you’ll have access to them from the “Places” menu, as well as any file explorer window you have open.

Ubuntu won’t “mount,” or make available, your Windows 7 and Storage drives on boot-up, however, and we at least want constant access to the Storage drive. To fix that, head to Software Sources in the System->Administration menu. From there go to Applications, then the Ubuntu Software Center at the bottom. Under the “Ubuntu Software” and “Updates” sections, add a check to the un-checked sources, like Restricted, Multiverse, Proposed, and Backports. Hit “Close,” and agree to Reload your software sources.

Finally! Head to the Applications menu and pick the Ubuntu Software Center. In there, search for “ntfs-config,” and double-click on the NTFS Configuration Tool that’s the first result. Install it, then close the Software Center. If you’ve got the “Storage” or Windows 7 partitions mounted, head to any location in Places and then click the eject icon next to those drives in the left-hand sidebar. Now head to the System->Administration menu and pick the NTFS Configuration Tool.

You’ll see a few partitions listed, likely as /dev/sda1, /dev/sda2, and the like. If you only want your storage drive, it should be listed as /dev/sda3 or something similar–just not the first or second options. Check the box for “Add,” click in the “Mount point” column to give it a name (Storage, perhaps?), and hit “Apply.” Check both boxes on the next window to allow read/write access, and hit OK, and you’re done. Now the drive with all your stuff is accessible to Windows and Linux at all times.

Adding swap to Ubuntu

“Swap” memory is a section of the hard drive that your system’s memory spills over into when it gets full and busy. Until recently, I’d been creating a whole separate partition for it. Recently, though, I’ve found that swap isn’t always necessary on systems with a large amount of memory, and that swap can simply be a file tucked away on your hard drive somewhere.

Follow the Ubuntu help wiki’s instructions for adding more swap, but consider changing the location they suggest putting the swap file—/mnt/swap/ for the place your Storage is held—/media/Storage, in my case.

Share Firefox profiles and more

That’s about it for this guide to setting up a harmonious Windows and Ubuntu existence, but I recommend you also check out our previous guide to using a single data store when dual-booting. It explains the nitty-gritty of sharing Firefox, Thunderbird, and Pidgin profiles between Linux and Windows for a consistent experience, as well as a few other dual-boot tricks.

You might also want to consider creating virtual machines with VirtualBox for those moments when you’re in one OS and need to get at the other. Ubuntu is free to create as many instances as you want, of course, and Windows 7 (Professional and Ultimate) are very friendly with non-activated copies—not that either can’t be otherwise activated in cases where it’s just a double-use issue.

superb guide on os-dual-boot. might need this guide later when i’ve found the right lappy for me.. article from Lifehacker.

Xbox 360’s Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM and Zune Video Come November 17

All those features we went over in our Xbox 360 update impressions post are finally rolling out to everyone on November 17.

To recap, here’s what’s new:

Facebook – Update your status to share what movie, game or entertainment you’re enjoying, connect with friends and view their Facebook stream, status updates and photos on the big screen – all seamlessly integrated and custom-built for Xbox 360. You can even compare your Xbox LIVE and Facebook friends lists to see which of your friends are on LIVE.
Zune – Zune video on Xbox LIVE offers a full fidelity experience with instant on HD in 1080p and 5.1 channel surround sound. No waiting for downloads or buffering, it’s there at the press of a button. You can also share the experience with up to seven friends through voice chat and Avatar integration on the TV screen – it puts a whole new spin on “movie night.”
Twitter – Stay in the know by discovering, posting and replying to Tweets right on your Xbox 360. You can even view friend profiles, trends and conversations, or search to see who’s tweeting about your favorite game.
Last.fm – Discover more music and explore endless personalized radio stations with Last.fm on Xbox 360. Skip, “ban” or “love” tracks to create your perfect mix-we’ve even built in “Gamer Stations” with game-related types of music selected specifically for the gaming community (Available in the U.S. and UK)

In addition to these social features, Xbox LIVE will also be debuting “News and More,” a new section of the “Inside Xbox” channel, transforming Xbox LIVE into a full-fledged media portal. With a regularly-updated stream of content from MSNBC, The New Yorker and Dilbert, “News and More” brings the latest in current events, arts and entertainment right to your fingertips.

i posted yesterday on facebook on PS3. now Xbox 360 confirms the Facebook integration next week. with these features you can have almost all media-capable with just a console nowadays. what else can consoles give? i’ll be on Facebook more frequent next year i guess.. (same statement when Sony announces Facebook integration on PS3). i haven’t join Twitter so that might not be too useful for me. Zune and Last.fm sounds interesting but would it be good here in my beloved country with this kind of internet service? i might need to wait for the whole day for a movie to be fully loaded and visible. else i would have to wait  few minutes after every 10 minutes of video streaming. haha.. a question of internet service here.. article from Gizmodo.

Pioneering technique for growing new breasts could be available next year

A new therapy that is intended to regrow a woman’s breast from her own cells after a mastectomy could be offered to British patients for the first time next year, The Times has learnt.

A patient trial of the new technique, which induces fat tissue to fill a breast-shaped scaffold implanted under the skin, is being planned for the spring by surgeons at a London hospital.

The initative comes as scientists in Australia announced yesterday that they would start treating women using a similar procedure within six months, the result of successful tests on pigs and mice. If the trials are successful, the new approach would transform breast reconstruction, offering an alternative to saline and silicone implants that is likely to achieve better cosmetic results and a more natural feel. The technique, which is expected to regenerate a breast in about eight months, could also be used for breast enlargement, though it will initially be used to treat cancer patients.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, of the London Breast Institute and St George’s Hospital, told The Times that he would seek approval from his ethics committee to try the procedure next month, and hopes to be cleared to start treating patients by next March. The Australian team, led by Professor Wayne Morrison, of the Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery in Melbourne, has already obtained ethical approval for a trial involving half a dozen women, which will start within six months.

Professor Mokbel said that his first patients would be women who had been cancer-free for at least two years. That is to guard against the possibility of stimulating the growth of cancer cells left over after surgery, which is the chief risk of the treatment. “This is the next step in breast reconstruction surgery,” he said. “It is potentially a very exciting development. I believe it will be successful, and will allow us to regrow a fatty breast that looks and feels more natural.” He added that it should be used only in clinical trials, not least because of the risk of restarting a patient’s cancer.

The technique, which the Australian team has named Neopec, involves removing some of the woman’s own fat cells, and enhancing the concentration of stem cells within them in the laboratory. A biocompatible scaffold is then implanted under the patient’s skin, to create a cavity that matches the shape of her other breast. The stem cell-enhanced fat is injected into the cavity, which the cells divide to fill. The cavity is attached to blood vessels under the arm. The Melbourne team, which has been developing the technology for a decade, has recently tested it on pigs, which grew new breasts within six weeks.

Phillip Marzella, chief operating officer of the Bernard O’Brien Institute, said that the procedure relied on the body’s own behaviour of filling internal voids. “Nature abhors a vacuum, so the chamber itself, because it is empty, tends to be filled in by the body,” he told The Times. “We hope it will have a significant impact around the world. There are a lot of women who don’t have reconstructive surgery for whatever reason, or have silicone breast implants, but this will give them their own tissue back. “We also like to think that it would alleviate the shock that a woman feels when she is told she has breast cancer, to know that she could possibly grow her breasts back.”

Dr Marzella said the first trials would involve a scaffold that would have to be surgically removed after the new breast had grown. In the longer run, a biodegradable version could be used. “We also envisage that in ten years’ time this approach could be open to cosmetic surgery and, if the principle works, then it could be used in the nose or other parts of the body for reconstructive surgery.”

The technique will create a new breast entirely composed of fat, without functional breast tissue and milk ducts. Professor Mokbal predicted that it would eventually be possible to regrow more specialised breast tissue. “Though it’s still quite far away, mammary stem cells could be used to regenerate the whole breast, including the nipples and milk ducts,” he said.

Anthony Hollander, professor of tissue engineering at the University of Bristol, who led a team last year that replaced part of a woman’s trachea with stem cells, welcomed the study. “This is a simple concept, and simple very often means good,” he said. Sarah Cant, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “This is an extraordinary piece of early research. that might lead to improved breast reconstruction after surgery. The next stage is to see if this technique will be safe and effective in people and only then can we assess its true potential.”

this is a good news to those that have been affected by breast cancer. and this definitely helps those who wanted bigger boobs.. the most interesting part, this sounds promising enough that it should spur the medical reconstruction of human organs sooner or later. however this is still under testing. lets hope that the tests went well and bring us all good news. article from TimesOnline.

Netflix Streaming on Sony’s PlayStation 3

Following Sony’s new marketing campaign (“It Only Does Everything”), Netflix Streaming has finally arrived on the PS3. When announcements were made last month that we’d finally be joining the ranks of the Xbox 360 as well as various LG, Samsung, and Insignia networked Blu-ray Disc players, I immediately signed up for my free Netflix “Instant Streaming Disc.” I wasn’t exactly sure why they were sending me a disc, thinking that it would be some type of firmware update. But it turns out (or, if I had read the announcement further than “go here to sign up for your free disc”) the Instant Streaming Disc is actually a Blu-ray, which uses BD-Live to stream movies and television episodes from the Netflix server. Meaning, every time you want to stream content, the Instant Streaming Disc must first be inserted into the PS3.

Setting It Up

Netflix Streaming on the PS3 rquires: a Netflix membership subscription plan with unlimited viewing included (1-at-a-time DVDs with unlimited streaming is $8.99/month, and $10.99/month for a 1-at-a-time with Blu-ray Disc access), the free Netflix Instant Streaming disc, and a broadband internet connection (hard wired or wireless).

For installation and title selection, you’ll at first need both a computer and your PS3 (in the future, one could use the PS3’s internal internet browser). First, insert the Instant Streaming Disc into the PS3. An unlocking code will show up on your TV’s screen. From there hop over to your Netflix account, in the “Watch Instantly” tab, where it will ask you for that code. Once entered, the PS3 will sync up your Instant Queue. Selected titles can be arranged as you see fit, just like your DVD Queue. It’s handy to pick carefully here, because if you have a lot of titles, scrolling over to the last one can be a bit time consuming.

Daily Use

Running the disc brings you to your Instant Queue. Clicking to the right (using either a remote, or a PS3 game controller – I personally am using a Harmony 880 via the Nyko PS2 USB adapter. Logitech now makes a PS3 adapter for their remotes) scrolls you through your Queue. Click UP and then to the right to access other categories, such as Recently Watched, New Arrivals: Movies, New Arrivals: TV, Comedy, Drama, Action, and a myriad of other genres.

Click (or press down) on any title to “play,” give the title a star rating, or “remove from Instant Queue.” Once a movie is started, options will change to “resume playing” or “play from the beginning.” TV shows are organized by season, so play options include “Play Episode 1” or “Choose Episode.” “Play,” “pause,” “fast forward” and “rewind” buttons work as they should (though fast forward and rewinding require 10 or so seconds to buffer). But pressing stop will exit you out streaming all together (taking you back to the PS3’s menu); to go back to your Instant Queue, simply press “menu” and then click “up.”

Movies and TV episodes are available in “HD” (AVC encodes oscillating between 1.5 and 5 Mbps) and SD (running just under 600 kbps), with all audio in two-channel, stereo Dolby Digital. There are over 17,000 movie and TV titles. TV shows are a mix of old and new; movies are generally older, given contracts movie studios have in place with pay cable outlets which streaming would violate. “Starz Play” titles are newer releases (anything that’s currently playing on the Starz network), but they don’t appear to be in “HD.”

Impressions

For anyone savvy enough to have a Netflix account and a PS3 already, this is a no brainer. It’s free (well, included in your subscription), and easy for those of us who have no trouble surfing the web. For folks less technically savy, this service is more difficult than using cable or satellite On Demand services because you can’t manage your account from one location.

Quality-wise, Netflix Streaming certainly isn’t a Blu-ray killer, let alone even competitor, but I suppose that’s not really the point. This is an added feature to allow subscribers more content and added value. Quote-unquote HD content is “serviceable.” Not as good as HD cable/satellite, but a bit more resolution than DVD. I checked out ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (a fantastic Blu-ray, btw) and the opening sequence of ‘Scorpion King 2’. These two features weren’t as clear as the Vudu HDX titles I’ve seen, nor as good as Quicktime HD movie trailers. They suffered from banding, blocking, and digital artifacts. Once my expectations were in the proper place, I was generally pleased. This would be a good way to see a title when you didn’t want to wait for Netflix to send out your next disc. The one thing to mention here is that my Internet connection did drop out once, and so ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ paused, and started replaying in SD, which was no comparison. To get it back up to “HD”, I hit “menu”, and “resumed playing” which re-buffered the feed, and brought it back in “HD.”

On my 52” Sony LCD, the SD streaming content was subpar (but truthfully, most SD content doesn’t look great). It’s like watching a non-anamorphic widescreen DVD, and “zooming in” your TV to make it fill more of the screen. Images and text are hazy, fuzzy, and colors are muddy. Here I checked out ‘Armageddon’ (which was in anamorphic widescreen), ‘Dead Space: Downfall’ (non-anamorphic widescreen) and ‘Big Bry’s Western Style BBQ’ (1.33:1). Each title had its own disappointment. ‘Armageddon’ was blocky, and less engaging without its 5.1 mix; ‘Dead Space’ looked clear, but it had letterboxing and pillar boxing happening at the same time; and ‘Big Bry’s’ audio was out of sync for the entire presentation (though, this might not be the fault of the service).

Despite its ease of use, and the fact that it’s free (Xbox 360 owners have to pay over $50/year for Xbox Live Gold service), my biggest complaint is the necessary Instant Streaming Disc. Sure it’s a nifty use of BD-Live, and no doubt there’s a specific, genius-computer-programmer reason as to why it had to be designed this way, but frankly, it’s cumbersome. Is it really THAT hard to get up off the couch and insert a disc, like when playing any Blu-ray or DVD? Of course not, but like the PlayStation Store or Network, streaming content seems better served for when you can exit out of a movie or game, and then click over to something else. Now streaming is forced to be a conscious choice, and given the quality of the service, it might be a better value to pop in another Blu-ray or in some cases, a DVD. At least with many DVDs, you’re getting a discreet surround sound mix.

Bottom Line

Though Netflix Streaming may have its uses (digging back in to childhood classics like ‘Voltron’!), and it’s great to bring another feature to the PS3, video/audiophiles need not apply. The current lack of quality will be bothersome. Hopefully, with time, the streaming / video encoding quality will grow along with the selection of “HD” content. For now, enjoy what you can.

nice review done by Micheal S. Palmer of High-Def Digest. i tried to open up Netflix last night. i thought its free. but i need to subscribe for $9/month. i’m not into that just yet. but this guide could be useful in the near future.

New dinosaur species may be a missing link

Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa – Before the dig started, it looked like any other patch of dinosaur dirt: gray soil, a few brownish fossilized bones exposed by erosion. Paleontologist Adam Yates thought his diggers would find a few bones from the massospondylus — South Africa’s most common dinosaur, a small omnivorous creature not much bigger than a large dog.

So the Australian paleontologist at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg initially assigned a master’s student to excavate the site and research the story of how the dinosaurs died. But within days back in 2006, it was clear they were onto something big. In about 11 weeks spread over the years since, Yates’ team excavated about 300 bones from a site just over 20 feet long and 9 feet wide. They discovered three new dinosaurs and the fangs of a mysterious dinosaur carnivore, probably a fourth new species. The first to be named and researched is Aardonyx celestae. The others are still being studied.

What makes Aardonyx celestae so exciting is that the species, like a crucial piece in a complicated jigsaw puzzle, helps explain how some of the earliest dinosaurs, two-legged herbivores known as prosauropods, evolved into the largest creatures that ever walked the Earth: the sauropods, four-legged creatures with long necks and small heads that ripped off tree foliage with their cavernous jaws.

Yates doesn’t like the term “missing link.” It upsets his scientific sensibilities, because evolution does not unfold in a neat linear fashion. But he says the term does at least convey the significance of the discovery. “It’s one of the dinosaurs in a long, smeary continuum,” he said today. “It shows us what we should already have pretty much guessed, which was that evolution was a messy complicated affair.”

The scientists found two Aardonyx specimens at Spion Hill in Free State, neither of them adult. The smaller of the two — a more complete set of bones — was about 7 years old, about 23 feet long and 6 feet high at the hip. An adult might have grown to 50 feet and weighed half a ton, Yates said.

His eyes lighted up today as he talked about dinosaurs, bones and evolution. Although he was in the 21st century at a news conference pointing at slides with a red laser pen and wearing a radio mike, it was easy to imagine him a couple of centuries ago, striding over the limestone and shale cliffs of Lyme Regis, the famous paleontology site in southern England where “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” by John Fowles was based.

He confessed a little sheepishly that he initially overlooked the site. You could barely sink a hammer into the fossil-rich Karoo Basin in eastern South Africa without hitting massospondylus bones; the last thing he wanted to do was dig up something ordinary.  “They’re very common and I really wasn’t interested in digging up a lot of massospondylus bones,” Yates recalled. “We had other exciting sites.” But he was there to supervise on day one in 2006, when the master’s student, Marc Blackbeard, and other volunteers started to dig. As they chipped away, they pulled out bones by the dozen — far bigger than those of a massospondylus.

His voice rose in excitement when remembering that day: He was rushing around, too busy even to dig, as volunteer students kept producing extraordinary bones, asking him to tell him what they’d found. “As soon as we started opening up, we realized it was very densely packed,” he said. “We kept on finding bone after bone. You start to say, ‘This doesn’t add up. It’s not what I thought it is.’ Pretty much within the first few days I was clear that it was a new type of dinosaur.”

Aardonyx, or earth’s claw, is a reference to the concrete-like stone in which the fossils were embedded at Spion Kop, one of South Africa’s richest dinosaur sites. Celeste is Yates’ wife, a paleontology preparator who had the unpleasant task of chipping the stone from the fossils.

U.S. paleobiologist and functional morphologist Matt Bonnan of West Illinois University, who took part in the project sponsored by National Geographic, studies bones to find out how dinosaurs moved and lived. “This find is very significant because Aardonyx is a transition animal,” he said. “It’s a close cousin of the sauropod dinosaurs. It gives us a window on what was happening very early on in the evolution of those giants.”

Bonnan describes Aardonyx celestae as a lumbering creature with a large belly and chest, like the huge sauropods that came later. Like those animals, it ate huge quantities of foliage. The prosauropods, smaller grazing animals evolved to run, dominated the landscape when Aardonyx lived. Aardonyx exemplifies why dinosaurs evolved from bipeds to quadrupeds. Lush vegetation allowed them to eat more; they evolved into larger animals. But their huge bellies made balancing on two legs difficult, so they dropped onto their smaller front legs, eventually evolving into heavy quadrupeds.

The scientists’ hypothesis was that the Spion Kop area was once a lush, wet oasis edged by a vast desert — hence the different kinds of dinosaurs found there. They believe the animals may have died during a drought, possibly at the edge of a dry water hole.

At some point, carnivore X — an unknown mystery carnivore — ate the dead or dying Aardonyx. Several fangs were found on the scene, and they’re not like other dinosaur teeth from the same era. But with just a few teeth to go on, carnivore X is another missing piece of the dinosaur evolution puzzle. “I’d very much like to find the bones of the mysterious carnivore X,” Yates said. “Its teeth are intriguing, teeth like dinosaurs that don’t appear until much later.” He hopes more digging in the area might uncover the carnivore. “That’s the joy of paleontology,” he said. “There’s something out there. We have to go out there and find it.”

new dino found. an interesting story as they’ve found the part that connects two sets of generations of dinosaurs. and naming it after his wife? that’s kind of romantic. my dear – what would u like me to name after u? my car? haha… article from Los Angeles Times.

Facebook Coming With Next Playstation 3 Firmware Update

What's That Facebook On My XMB!?

That’s a nice selling point you had there for a few weeks Microsoft. Looks like it’s not going to remain exclusive for long though, as rumours mount that Facebook will join the realm of Playstation 3 features with the next Firmware Update.

Images were originally posted by ScrawlFX, clearly showing Facebook integration aswell as coloured trophy cards and tidier photo browsing. At first we would have said “Photoshop(!),” but the fine folks at ScrawlFX have noted the images are also currently uploaded to uk.playstation.com’s website.

Obviously we’re not meant to see these yet. But we have, so all we’re left questioning is – why the hell is Facebook access hidden in the “Account Setup” area of the XMB. Could this be some sort of trophy interaction used in conjunction with your Facebook profile? And why are the images in Spanish on uk.playstation.com’s website?

ahah.. facebook on PS3? good news then.. i don’t have to open up boot my PS3 to Yellow Dog Linux just for Facebook.. can’t wait for this to come.. i’ll be more active on facebook after this.. 😉 rumor from PushSquare.