Stanford researchers have figured out a way to incorporate silicon nanowires into rechargeable lithium ion batteries and extend their life from 4 to 40 hours. The work, described in a paper in Nature Nanotechnology, could lead to iPods, laptops and camcorders that could be run nearly for an entire weekend without requiring a re-charge. Of course, this is still in the lab stage, and there are undoubtedly quite a few steps and hurdles between the campus and commercialization, but we're optimists. So, here's to the end of the ABC (Always Be Charging) Rule of electronics.—Gregory Mone
Microsoft wants to stop selling Windows XP on June 30, but not all of its customers are happy about that, or excited about the prospect of switching to Vista.
Infoworld has started an online petition designed to rally support behind the old operating system—the site has even been soliciting support videos. Even if you don't share the passion of the XP support community, Infoworld's list of reasons for saving the operating system, culled from a variety of sources, makes for interesting reading. Fewer business are planning to switch to Vista, some analysts say it's never going to be the right choice for most enterprise IT outfits, and several reports indicate that it's just not performing as well as it should. PCWorld.com even shows you how to switch back from the new to the old.—Gregory Mone
Netflix just announced plans to begin dispatching movies straight to televisions through an LG-Electronics-made, Internet-connected set-top box. Netflix distributes most of its content—movies, TV shows and more—the old-fashioned way: through the mail. More than 7 million subscribers take part in one of its many rental plans, sending and receiving DVDs in small square envelopes. Now, thanks to high-speed Internet connections, the company is hoping to quicken the process, and allow customers to rent movies via the Web.
Netflix has already dipped its toes into this arena, but its "Watch Instantly" program hasn't fully caught on, in part because most users had to watch the content on their computers. The LG box will change that, allowing users to watch up to 40 hours of movies and shows per month. The selection isn't as great, but it's still significant. The company's DVD library is 90,000 titles strong, and the online selection currently has more than 6,000 options.
The LG partnership is also just a first step. Netflix plans to sign deals with numerous electronics companies, and transform itself into more of a movie channel than an Internet-age Blockbuster. Will it be the leader in online video rentals? Apple might have something to say about that.—Gregory Mone
Now I'm not saying anyone should actually feel bad for Microsoft or anything like that, but the reaction to its new operating system, Vista, must be more than a little frustrating to the software giant. The old version, XP, is still performing well, and retailers have even requested that Microsoft keep it bundled in new computers for longer than originally planned. On top of that, an independent firm says that a planned upgrade to Vista still doesn't perform as quickly as the latest version of XP. Oh, and then there are those Apple ads.
In other Microsoft news, the company is reportedly considering constructing a new data center in Siberia.—Gregory Mone
This sounds like no big news at first: Researchers found a security loophole in Windows 2000. But the scope of this potential flaw is fairly tremendous. The researchers, from the University of Haifa, say that emails, passwords, credit card numbers could all be tracked by someone exploiting the purported loophole. An industrious hacker could even access information dispatched prior to the breach, or data that is no longer stored on the computer. The computer scientists say the flaw lies in the Windows 2000 random number generator, and could apply to XP and Vista as well. You can read the paper here, and get involved in the lively conversation at slashdot here.—Gregory Mone
Time to get to work: A week after announcing its mobile applications platform, Google has launched a $10 million contest for developers that come up with the best mobile software in areas like social networking, media sharing, gaming, location-based services and news and information. The 50 most promising entries received by March 3 will each get a $25,000 award. During the next stage, these winners will be eligible for ten more prizes of $100,000, and another ten at $275,000. To keep track of developments, check the android blog here.—Gregory Mone
It's the world's smallest radio. Made from a single carbon nanotube, "the real nanopod" is 10,000 times thinner than a human hair but can receive and play tunes broadcast by AM and FM radio stations.
The first song played on the nanotube radio was Eric Clapton's Layla. The technology isn't perfect yet (you'll hear some static), but the song is clearly recognizable.
In the image at left, taken by a transmission electron microscope, a slender nanotube protrudes from an electrode that provides power for the tiny radio (the radio waves were added to the image for effect). When the frequency of the incoming radio waves matches the resonant frequency of the nanotube, it vibrates. The nanotube's tip, which is electrically charged, detects the mechanical vibrations and translates them into sound signals.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California at Berkeley who teamed up to invent the radio say that its extremely small size opens the door to some exciting applications. For example, they envision radios that could be implanted in the inner ear as hearing aids or as discrete devices for receiving information.—Dawn Stover
Image: Courtesy Zettl Research Group, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of
California at Berkeley
This must be an illusion. Are PC makers actually trying to out-cool Apple? Gateway might be running in third place in the PC market, but the company's latest model suggests that it's taking the lead in design.
The new One, a desktop with a wireless mouse, keyboard and all-in-one flat-panel LCD monitor, ditches the under-the-desk annoyance of the traditional tower with tangles of wires and cables snaking out the back. Like the iMac, the hard-drive and DVD slots have melded with the screen. Only a single power cord extends out the back. Sure, we're not quite at the everything-wireless stage that some MIT scientists see in our future, but this is an encouraging trend.
News of the new PC broke two weeks ago, and USA Today's tech columnist gives Gateway's One a strong review here.—Gregory Mone
The New York Times reports today that Google and IBM are sinking $30 million into a two-year project to build remote data centers that can handle sophisticated computing research remotely. No World of Warcraft player will again be safe now that students can crunch probabilities with the 1600+ processors Google is installing in an undisclosed location.
But seriously: the two companies—along with six universities (Carnegie Mellon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maryland and the University of Washington)—are cooperating to get an inadequately funded area of research off the ground. The Times succinctly defines "cloud-computing" as a "new kind of data-intensive supercomputing" that "often involves scouring the
Web and other data sources in seconds or minutes for patterns and
insights." It's typically used by major corporations to analyze web traffic and refine big systems, but now any university kid with a password will be able to create programs and software that can take advantage of the horsepower Google and IBM are providing. —Jacob Ward
It's got to stop sometime. That's the message from Intel co-founder and computer visionary Gordon Moore, whose 1965 prediction that the number of transistors on a chip would double roughly every two years proved startlingly true. But Moore's Law, as it's known, can't apply indefinitely.
On an NPR show recently, Moore explained that he sees his famous axiom expiring in about 10 to 15 years. Eventually scientists will run into a wall trying to uncover new ways of jamming in more transistors. But let's hope that this time he's wrong.—Gregory Mone