GamesRead : Air Force finally reveals mysterious space plane’s experimental engines

The US Air Force has been testing a mysterious unmanned space plane for the last few years known at the X-37B. It has spent more than a thousand days in orbit over just a handful of missions, and now the Department of Defense has released the first details about what it’s doing up there.

On the upcoming mission, expected to launch between May 6th and 20th, the X-37B will test an experimental Hall thruster, a type of ion engine that operates on the principle of electric propulsion. These low-thrust engines aren’t enough to take the plane into orbit — that’s going to be handled by a ULA Atlas V rocket. Ion engines like this one are, however, very good at moving small objects a very long way without wasting too much space on fuel.

The X-37B’s Hall thrusters work by ionizing and accelerating xenon atoms to produce thrust. These engines operate at 4.5 kilowatts and can produce 0.06 pounds of thrust. That’s not very much, but when you spread that continuous force out over hours or days, you can alter an object’s orbit using very little fuel. It does require a lot of power, so the X-37B is covered in gallium arsenide solar cells.

hall engine

Ion engine technology has been used for decades in smaller satellites and space probes, but the X-37B is quite a lot larger. It’s 29 feet in length and weighs about 11,000 pounds. Hall thrusters could be invaluable for satellites, which could change orbit and remain in space for much longer. Conventional engines offer more thrust in a shorter time, but they consume a lot of heavy fuel.

The X-37B also shows how far ion engines have come, but we don’t know what else the Air Force expects to do with it. There are probably military applications that remain classified. In the past it has been speculated the X-37B could be an experimental satellite killer or some other weapons platform. That’s all speculation at this point, though.

GamesRead : iPad app fail forces American Airlines to ground dozens of planes

Swapping massive kit bags for iPads seemed like a win for American Airlines flight crews when it happened two years ago. But while the bags were big, heavy space hogs, at least the binders never crashed and caused American to ground flights.

The airline had to delay several dozen of its flights last night due to “an issue with a software app on pilot iPads.” To correct the issue, an updated version of the offending app had to be installed on the affected tablets. Planes had to head back to their gates to establish a Wi-Fi connection in order to pull down the update.

When the iPad took over in the cockpit it solved a few problems, but it also created a new one. Apps can be unpredictable things sometimes. One bad update like the one American apparently pushed to its fleet recently and you’re staring at a whole bunch of grounded planes and angry passengers who missed their connections.

That’s not an unfamiliar scenario for American, though. Two years ago their passengers had to endure massive delays when the company ran into some serious issues with their internal booking system. The incident affected a whole lot more than “several dozen” planes: American had to ground every single one of their flights for more than four hours.

Initially they tried to blame the service outage on Sabre’s reservation software, but other airlines still had access to the Sabre system. At least this time around they didn’t do something that silly, like trying to pin the blame on Apple.

GamesRead : Wrist tattoos are breaking Apple Watch

As with all new types of gadgets that hit the market, there are going to be a few issues, some of which can be solved, others that cannot. It turns out that the Apple Watch has a big problem with tattoos, especially those that are very dark in color.

Multiple new owners of Apple’s Watch device are reporting that some of the advertised features do not work properly on their tattooed wrists. Specifically, it’s the sensors on the back of the watch that are unable to function. A tattoo can stop the Watch from detecting it is touching your skin, meaning constantly having to re-enter your code if you have wrist detection turned on. The heart rate sensor also cannot track your heart beat for any length of time.

Here’s a video demonstrating the problem as well as showing the same Apple Watch working on a non-tattooed wrist.

A lot depends on the design of the tattoo where the watch sits as to the limitations it imposes. If it’s a solid dark color then you’re definitely going to experience a problem. Lighter colors, or a pattern broken up with natural skin color is more likely to be fine.

It seems unlikely Apple will be able to fix this with a software update. The heart rate monitor, for example, relies on a flashing green LED to allow the Watch to detect blood flow. The dark ink in the skin obviously blocks that function. This issue will also mean you can’t easily use Apple Pay through your Watch because it can’t sense you’re alive.

Those of you with wrist tattoos who want an Apple Watch have a choice: wear the Watch on your other wrist (if that isn’t also tattooed), or wait for the 2nd generation of Apple Watch where it’s likely Apple will have figured out a solution to this problem. If you’re unsure about whether your tattoo will limit functionality, go try one on before purchasing and find out.

GamesRead : Geil’s DDR4 Super Luce memory has real-time breathing feature

It seems that the high-end and hardcore sectors of the PC components market isn’t just about speed, it’s also about gimmicks. The latest of those comes from memory manufacturer Geil, which has made its new performance DDR4 modules “breathe” in real-time based on their temperature.

Geil offers its DDR4 Super Luce quad channel memory modules in three colors (red, blue, and white) with 2666MHz, 3000Mhz, and 3400Mhz speed options available. The breathing feature uses patented iLUCE Thermal-beaming technology, which allows users (with a windowed case) to visually see the temperature of the memory in real-time.

Geil has achieved this by pairing pulsing LEDs fitted to the top of the memory modules with a precision temperature detection controller. A dynamic temperature sensor constantly updates and adjusts the beat of the LEDs. The beats get increasingly quicker depending on how hot the modules are. There are five levels of this breathing:

  • Level 1 –> 40c or less: 13 beats/min
  • Level 2 –> 40-45c: 60 beats/min
  • Level 3 –> 45-50c: 80 beats/min
  • Level 4 –> 50-55c: 120 beats/min
  • Level 5 –> >55c: 200 beats/min

So as the memory works harder, the heart beat of your system gets faster. And if it gets too high then a warning will sound.

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Here’s a video of the pulsing in action, although having this demo setup in a darker area would have been really helpful:

I’m sure under the right lighting conditions this could look great with the color matched to your motherboard and case. The effect and impact will soon wear off, though, especially if your case ends up hidden under a desk.

Right now Geil has made quad module 16GB kits available for purchase ranging in price from $225 to $320 depending on the speed you opt for.

GamesRead : Chris Columbus offers Gremlins, Goonies remake updates

In the 80s Chris Columbus wrote two of the most beloved films of the decade: Gremlins and The Goonies. These two films have been watched and enjoyed by generations of kids on cable, VHS, laser disc, DVD, and Blu-ray, but it’s time for a new generation to get their taste of these films on the big screen. Or possibly just one of them.

Talk of a Gremlins sequel has been flying around for years now, but this month Disturbia writer Carl Ellsworth was announced as working on the script, so there’s more of a push to get it made. Ellsworth also worked on the Goosebumps film as well as a pair of remakes in The Last House on the Left and Red Dawn.

More recently, Columbus appeared at CinemaCon in Las Vegas and talked about the status of that film and how J.J. Abrams helped guide the good ship Mogwai. He noted that the new film — which is just now being written — is not a remake of the first one, but a reboot which will be good news for fans of the two existing films.

“When I saw Star Trek, you know, I was like ‘this is the way you do it. You have to connect the audience emotionally to the past.’ By seeing Leonard Nimoy in that movie,” he said. “And then so obviously a few days ago seeing Harrison Ford and Chewbacca at the end of that Star Wars trailer. Eight million geeks crying their eyes out, me included. So I thought ‘well that’s a great, great thing to do.’ So we won’t…we’re gonna apply that to Gremlins….We’re not gonna forget about the past.”

Gremlins and Gremlins 2 director Joe Dante popped up on Twitter to make a few comments about the remake/reboot status of the film. At this point his involvement in the new film is unknown.

Meanwhile, Columbus also discussed the remake of his other 80s classics, The Goonies, but that one is proving more problematic. “Goonies is tougher,” he said. “We’ve talked about it for years. That’s tougher, so [Richard] Donner and [Steven] Spielberg and myself are trying to find a story. So, we’re looking.”

About a year ago, Goonies director Richard Donner said that a sequel was in the works. The proposed idea for that film would involve the original Goonies as adults who see their kids go on a similar adventure to the one they did back in 1985.

GamesRead : GoPro just bought an immersive video company

For years, GoPro’s cameras have been giving us amazing first-person video experiences from all over the world. Now, it looks like they’re getting ready to let you fully immerse yourself in the action. GoPro has just bought Kolor, and while they offer GoPro accessories like the 360-degree mount you see above, they’re more than just an aftermarket add-on company. Kolor also develops sophisticated stitching software called Autopano that creates seamless spherical videos from rigs like that one — as well as panoramic videos and virtual tours.

Ever since they launched it, GoPro has been rapidly expanding availability of their video channel. Today, you can find it on Roku devices, the Xbox 360 and XBox One, and LG’s smart TVs. It has already made its way to YouTube challenger Vessel, too, but it could be much more in your face now that Kolor is in the mix.

It’s inevitable that you’ll see GoPro bringing their video content to VR devices like the Oculus Rift and Gear VR. Instead of simply watching a GoPro video of a skydiver or base jumper from the wearer’s perspective, you’ll be able to strap on your goggles and virtually swap places.

Kolor’s gear and software is perfectly suited to virtual reality, and the acquisition instantly makes GoPro the go-to source for real virtual reality video — as opposed to the computer-generated stuff like that roller coaster demo that was making people throw up.

The next house you’re thinking of buying on the other side of the country? Your realtor could fire up a Kolor-powered 360 livestream and let you experience a first-person walkthrough from the comfort of your own couch.

It’s an incredibly savvy pick-up by GoPro. They’ve built a solid foundation for their vision of the future of video.

GamesRead : Microsoft announces new Edge browser with support for Chrome and Firefox extensions

It’s out with the old and in with the new at Microsoft’s BUILD conference. Microsoft’s browser has always been called Internet Explorer, but it looks like the company has finally acknowledged that the IE brand has been hopelessly tainted. The new Windows 10 browser will be called Edge, and it comes with one unusual feature — Edge can use Chrome and Firefox extensions.

This browser is a big redesign for Microsoft, which has relied on iterative changes to Internet Explorer all these years. The code name was Spartan, and that should give you a clue as to the approach being taken. Edge is designed to be slim and fast. It drops support for legacy technologies like ActiveX and browser helper objects. It runs on a new rendering engine called EdgeHTML, which is a fork of Microsoft’s IE engine known as Trident. Edge will include deep integration with services like One Drive and Cortana as well.

edge 2

Launching a new browser inevitably comes with some growing pains as users are forced to do without many of the extensions they’ve come to rely on. Microsoft’s solution to this is allowing users to install extensions designed for both Firefox and Chrome. You won’t just be able to install the Chrome or Firefox version of a plugin, but Edge will understand the extension if it’s tweaked a little. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore says the popular Reddit Enhancement Suite add-on was ported to Edge with virtually zero work. It’s similar to Microsoft building support for Android and iOS apps into Windows 10.

Edge will be the default browser in Windows 10 and Windows Phone 10. It’s going to have its own HTML and JavaScript extensions eventually as well, but by not implementing a completely different extension system, Microsoft is making it easier to transition to Edge. For once, maybe people will. After all, Chrome is getting awfully bloated these days.

GamesRead : Hulu paying $1 million per episode for exclusive Seinfeld streaming rights

What’s the deal with Hulu? The streaming service apparently wants to be in the Seinfeld game so bad that it’s paying about $180 million dollars (or $1 million per episode) for exclusive streaming rights. Hulu struck the deal with Sony Pictures TV for exclusive streaming rights to all 180 episodes of the seminal ’90s sitcom.

Seinfeld launched in 1989 and ran for nine seasons until 1998 when star, writer, and producer Jerry Seinfeld decided to walk away while the show was still wildly successful. Speaking of big numbers, the comedian reportedly turned down a $110 million payday for a tenth season.

Seinfeld played alongside fellow stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, and Michael Richards. Dubbed “the show about nothing” because of its seemingly mundane plots, the show has been on television in syndication since it went off the air, but now Hulu will be the only place you can watch it streaming.

Hulu features a variety of new shows like The Flash, Once Upon a Time, Gotham and just about everything else, but the company also boasts a pretty deep roster of older shows ranging from I Love Lucy and Green Acres to Cheers and Wings. But, if you want to check out that other wildly popular ’90s NBC sitcom Friends, you’ll have to keep your Netflix account because that came along with the ‘Flix’s purchase of the WB TV rights.

GamesRead : Windows 10 phones can double as desktop computers

In just a few more months, Windows 10 will arrive. It’s coming to desktop PCs, laptops, tablets, and phones — and it’ll even let some phones turn into desktop PCs. Pair a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard with your Windows 10 phone, hook a monitor up with an HDMI cable, and you can launch your apps on the big screen.

The desktop transformation is part of Windows 10’s Continuum feature, which also allows devices like the Surface Pro to switch between laptop and tablet mode on the fly. Sounds pretty awesome, right? It is, but there are a couple important caveats. First, Continuum won’t be supported on any current Windows phones, so don’t rush out an buy one right now if the promise of using it has you all hot and bothered. You’ll have to be patient: when next-gen Windows phones start shipping later this year with Windows 10, they’ll include the necessary hardware to drive a second display. Second, it only works with Universal apps. By the time Windows 10 arrives, there should be loads of quality Universal apps in the Windows Store.

Microsoft’s certainly doing everything they can to convince developers to get with the program. The promise of coding an app once and having it run on Windows PCs, tablets, phones, and even the Xbox One is already a pretty decent incentive. Showing off Continuum ought to help build excitement, too.

Geeks have been waiting for someone to deliver an experience like this on a smartphone. One of the most exciting features that Canonical touted for the Ubuntu Edge was its ability to double as a desktop computer. While Ubuntu phones have gone on sale, they don’t offer that functionality out-of-the-box just yet. Looks like Microsoft just might beat them to the punch.

GamesRead : In-flight noise set to disappear thanks to lightweight membrane

Having been a passenger on flights for the past 35 years, I can say with confidence that the noise experienced during a flight has been reduced significantly, especially on take-off and landings. This has mainly been down to improvements in engine design as far as I can tell. However, you still get a constant, low level of noise during a flight, but that is set to disappear thanks to a new membrane.

Aircraft designers try and save weight wherever possible because that in turn saves on fuel. In order to retain strength while staying light, honeycomb structures are used in the construction of an aircraft’s cabin and wings. The side-effect of this being that such structures do not block sound energy very well.

NCState_aircraft_membrane

A team working out of North Carolina State University has come up with a solution, though. They’ve created a new, lightweight rubber membrane that can be fixed to one side of these honeycomb structures while adding only 6 percent to the overall weight. In return, between 100-1,000 times more sound energy is blocked, making for a much quieter flight.

Although very cheap to produce and very lightweight, aircraft designers may choose not to use this membrane throughout an aircraft because it still adds weight. However, for business and first class sections, it could make a lot of sense, and may even provide a lighter, cheaper option than current methods of dampening sound within those more exclusive areas. The cockpit could also benefit from use of this membrane, allowing verbal communication to be clearer between the crew.