Growth in the IP lawsuit sector of the economy and the resulting patent-reform movement can leave you thirsting for reliable data on which to base policy judgments and cocktail-party conversation. Initially, I thought the IEEE Spectrum's annual patent stats roundup, Keeping Score in the IP Game would handily rehydrate my chit-chat cortex. After all, the data contains glittering--although frequently unsurprising--infonuggets like:Microsoft ranks fifth for total patents awarded in the Computer Systems and Software category (1,469), but first in IEEE's computed measure of the power conferred by those patents. The other four top players in that category … Read more
The Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein recently reported that the FBI went trawling through grocery store records in order to track down Iranian terror cells. In his article, he writes, "like Hansel and Gretel hoping to follow their bread crumbs out of the forest, the FBI sifted through customer data collected by San Francisco-area grocery stores in 2005 and 2006, hoping that sales records of Middle Eastern food would lead to Iranian terrorists." The program, however, was short lived and was quickly "torpedoed by the head of the FBI's criminal investigations division, Michael A. Mason, … Read more
LetsTalk has launched a new service this morning called ToneMine that lets you build your own ringtones. The service uses a multitrack composer that lets you drag and drop short, prerecorded sound clips onto an editing canvas. There are eight themed "packs" to choose from ranging from hip-hop and salsa, all the way to heavy metal. You also get some shared sound clips that will show up no matter what pack you've chosen.
The eventual goal is a takeaway ringtone you'll be able to use on your phone. You can get it sent directly to your handset via your carrier (which is configured when you sign up for the service), or download it as an MP3 ringtone to transfer on your own. You can also share it with other ToneMine users in a massive pool. There you can preview other people's ringtones and go in to remix them if you'd like to change something. It also keeps track of how many times it's been listened to and downloaded by other users.
Despite the selection of eight packs, there's really not that much to play with, although the editor is quite snappy. As an occasional user of Apple's Garageband application, I felt like the one thing it's missing is the capability to extend a looping sound clip. Instead, you're often dragging more clips together as well as you can. The service is also missing some of the commercial tie-in you'll find on competitors like Razz and Ringblender--the latter of which actually lets you go in and remix bits of commercial songs. It also reminded me a little bit of MusicShake, which demoed at last month's TechCrunch40 conference, although with a little less extensibility.
As its name indicates, this battery of five LEDs attaches to the brim of your hat, according to Book of Joe, lighting a 120-degree radius with a range of up to 30 feet. Those stats may be impressive, if you're really into lights, but they come at a rather brutal price of fashion victimization.
Facing criticism over its privacy practices, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has opted to abandon a massive new data-mining project intended to flag patterns and pinpoint relationships that indicate terrorist threats.
According to an Associated Press report, the department "quietly" suspended a program known as ADVISE (Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement) after federal government auditors issued a report this spring dogging the agency for failing to assess the privacy risks associated with the scheme. ADVISE was one of a dozen data-mining projects under way at Homeland Security, according to the AP report.
Homeland Security'… Read more
Information is the new currency. When it comes to social-networking sites and many other online enterprises, your attention is the product that is being sold. So it is not surprising that data mining, particularly efforts to link your online behavior to specific opportunities to market to you, is an exploding trend.
Data mining in itself is not inherently good or bad, but it raises many social issues whose implications we all need to understand and include in our ongoing dialogue. Data mining has benefits, including an opportunity to create a customized online experience that truly serves you better. Misuses can lead to serious breaches of privacy. I encountered several stories on data mining Tuesday that caught my attention.… Read more
One contender for that task is the Transphibian, a 3-foot-long autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) created by Durham, N.C.-based Nekton Research. The Transphibian is designed to identify mines and map the seabed by swimming and crawling through places where troops or ships are likely to follow. Soon, the company hopes to field a type of &… Read more
American coal experts want more information. And they want the U.S. government to pay for it. Today the National Research Council issued a call for more federal money to find and assess America's coal deposits.
Currently over half of the U.S. electricity is generated by burning coal. But there is uncertainty about future use and availability of coal. And there is the issue of CO2 emissions and other pollution from coal-burning power plants. Plus the U.S. must now compete with China and other nations for use of the world's coal.
In short, says the Council'… Read more
There's no easy way to clear a path through a minefield. Options range from tracked vehicles pummeling the ground with whirling flails to individual soldiers gingerly poking the ground and then defusing mines one by one. The Defense Department, cognizant of the need for both speed and safety in beach landings and other operations, is looking at another alternative--masses of small darts raining down on suspect terrain.