Friday, July 31, 2009

Three Things to Know About Office Web Apps

A new post on the Office Web Apps blog discusses some of the major tenets that have been driving the design and engineering of this new service launching alongside the upcoming Office 2010 software. The post describes how the team focused on trustworthiness, the familiar Office user experience, and the high fidelity of the content provided by the Web Apps. From these notes, we can gleam a bit more insight into what the new Web Apps service is going to look like and how it will behave.

1. Web Apps Won’t Cause Data Loss and They Won’t “Mess Up” Your Documents
One of the problems with some online file viewers and editors today is that they can “mess up” your document when you go to save it online. If the service in question doesn’t support a particular feature, for example, it won’t know how to properly display it. That won’t be the case with the Web Apps since they’re specifically designed to work hand-in-hand with the desktop software. For example, if a user uploads a file with a watermark, a feature which the initial release of Office Web Apps won’t support the editing of, the user can still make changes to the file and resave it without the Watermark being removed from the document. In other words, your files are safe.

2. Web Apps Will “Feel” Like Office
The Office Web Apps will deliver a familiar experience to the end user by offering a recognizable UI with many of the same features including matching icons, the same commands, the Ribbon interface at the top, and more. However, the goal is not to create an exact replica of the Office software UI. Instead, Web Apps will take advantage of the web platform’s strengths.

Web Apps will also offer a similar experience to what you would have in Office, even though the effects of this may be subtle. To give an example, the blog post demonstrated the difference as to how Microsoft Word would behave when you hit “enter” in a table versus how a basic text editor would behave.

3. The Document Always Looks and Acts the Same
The Office Webs Apps will ensure that no matter what kind of file you’re working with, it will always appear the same whether it’s being viewed on the web or on the PC. Not only will it appear with the same formatting and layout, everything in the document will be consistent, too, whether that’s calculations, animations, pagination, etc. In this respect, Web Apps docs behave much like the Adobe PDF – always the same file no matter where it’s viewed.
More here...

What to Look For When Buying Used

• Walk around the vehicle, looking for signs of body repairs and patches of paint that differ slightly from the original. Run your hand along the panels to check for any rough bodywork that may have been re-sprayed. Minor scratches and chips can be fixed but cracks and impact craters are another story.

• Telltale signs of repair include one headlight that looks newer than the other.
• Rust can be in hidden places, such as the inside of doors.
• Don't forget to look for rust spots underneath the car, and check for signs of oil leaks and other defects at the same time.
• If you can, bring a magnet with you when viewing the car. Run it along the bodywork. It will not stick to filler, telling you if any panels have been crash-repaired.
• Study the condition of the tyre sidewalls, and check the tread for signs of uneven or excessive wear. Check that all tyres are the same size, too.

Under the Bonnet
• Be brave and look under the bonnet. Corroded battery terminals or holding brackets, an oily engine, frayed wiring and cracked hoses are all signs of neglect.
• A coating of oil or sludge on the inside of the radiator cap is cause for alarm. To check this, remove the radiator cap and rub your finger along the inside of the cap to see if there are any substance buildups. There shouldn't be any.
• Remove the radiator cap and start the engine from cold. Look out for air bubbles surfacing in the water, which could indicate a defective cylinder head gasket.
• Check the oil level. To do this, remove the dipstick and clean the oil off with some tissue. Dip the stick back into the oil reservoir and gauge how much oil is in the engine. There will be a level indicator on the dipstick to tell you the required oil level. Low levels of oil indicate poor maintenance or a possible oil leak. This can be extremely expensive to repair and in a worst case scenario cause the engine to seize.
• Brake fluid levels are crucial if there is no brake fluid, the vehicle will be unable to stop. The brake fluid reservoir is located under the bonnet in the back right-hand area of the engine bay. Remove the rubber cap to show the brake fluid level. Low fluid levels could signal a leak.
• To check the shock absorbers, bounce the corner of the vehicle up and down several times when you release it, you should feel the vehicle bounce back twice, any more and you may need new shock absorbers.

On the Inside
• Check the brake and clutch pedals. If they look overly new they may have been replaced for the wrong reasons; if they look old and worn the car may have covered a bigger distance than claimed. They should have average wear for the claimed mileage.
• Ensure that all the controls (including heater, wipers and so on) are working as they should. Examine the windscreen, which is an expensive item to replace.
• Check to see if the oil, brake and battery gauges light up. Problems with any of the three could signify mechanical issues or owners' neglect.
• Check the headlights, brake lights and reverse lights before you take it out for a test drive. Also, test the horn and indicators.
• Observe the steering, clutch and brakes; the steering should not move more than two inches in either direction without turning the wheels; once you put the vehicle in gear, how far does the clutch rise before the vehicle moves? If it doesn't work until it returns to its original location, it may need an adjustment or replacement (replacing a clutch can be expensive).

The Test Drive
• The wheel should be in the correct straight-ahead position. Although correcting any deviations could entail no more than a slight adjustment, it could also indicate suspension damage.
• While the engine is running you should listen to see if it "idles" well. This means that there should be a constant and steady ticking over.
• Loud knocking or whines should be checked out by a mechanic. It may just need to be tuned; however, it could also lead to more difficult mechanical repairs.
• Observe whether or not it is easy to change gear. If you hear a grinding noise there may be transmission or clutch problems. If it is only happening on one gear, it is more likely to be the transmission.
• If the steering wheel shakes when making a turn, there may be a suspension problem. If all appears well, take the vehicle up to motorway speed and up some hills to test its performance. If the steering wheel vibrates at higher speeds, there may be an alignment problem.
• Press the brake pedal down fully and hold for just under a minute- it should hold firm. If it doesn't there could be a leak and you should drive with extreme caution. Check brakes at a slow speed to see if there is any pulling, screeching or sticking. If there is a pull, they may simply have to be readjusted; however, if there is screeching, it could mean the brake shoes are worn and need work. When it is safe to do so, check the brakes at higher speed for the same problems.

More here...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Aeryon Scout & Tablet-based Control PC

Your local police may soon be packing flying surveillance bots. At the AlwaysOn Stanford Summit, Aeryon Labs President Dave Kroetsch gave a compelling pitch on his company, which makes a two-pound robot helicopter that has enough on-board intelligence and stability control to allow it to be flown by people who just point to locations on a Google Map-based interface.

The whole kit, including a table-based control module, fits in a suitcase-sized crate and can be quickly assembled in the field. After the user snaps the flying bot together, he or she just tells it where to go by pointing to a spot on a map. The device has a motion-compensated camera that can take 5-megapixel stills and stream video back to the operator's tablet.

The Aeryon Scout and its tablet-based control computer.
(Credit: Aeryon)

More specs: Kroetsch says the Aeryon Scout can fly in up to 30 mph winds for up to 20 minutes. It is limited to 500 feet in altitude (to fly under FAA restrictions). One kit costs $50,000.

Aeryon plans to sell to private security forces, and eventually police departments. Kroetsch is doing things in this order because it's easier to get a contract from a private firm than from a cash-strapped police department or grant-funded program at one.

Obvious other markets include construction (for site surveys), other public safety applications, and of course military.

The company is headquartered in Canada and hopes to have United States FAA approval for its flying robot within six months. Sadly, until that approval comes, the Scout is grounded Stateside. And that means no demos for reporters or buyers unless they head up to Canada.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Panasonic Robot Mascot Off To Le Mans

Panasonic wants to prove that its AA alkaline Evolta batteries are the best in the world--even though it already has a certificate from Guinness World Records.
The electronics giant plans to send its 12-inch Evolta robot car in France, where it will race around part of the Le Mans endurance circuit for as long as possible.
Evolta batteries have a 10-year shelf life. Panasonic boasts they're the longest-lasting batteries of their kind in the world.
Built of carbon fiber over an aluminum frame, the Evolta robot car (more like a tricycle) travels at a blinding top speed of 0.8 mph. It has two small forward motors powered by a pair of batteries in its robot driver's back, and autonomously follows a lead car emitting an infrared guide signal.
The robot, called "Mr. Evolta" in English, was designed by entrepreneur Tomotaka Takahashi, known for his designs for humanoid kit robots inspired by Japanese animation and science fiction.
Mr. Evolta is no stranger to challenges. Last year, he managed to climb out of the Grand Canyon--it took over six hours but he successfully scaled 1,700 feet after two aborted attempts. Check out the video below.
The Evolta campaign is another illustration of how Japanese manufacturers are willing to use robots as pitchmen in Japan, catering to an innate Japanese love of machines. Honda Motor's Asimo robot is probably a more effective "spokesperson" than any of its human colleagues.
How would people respond if GM replaced Fritz Henderson with a robot CEO?

More details..

Turn Your iPhone Into A Humanoid Robot

An enterprising tinkerer in Japan has turned an iPhone 3GS into a humanoid robot by wiring it to a mechanical body.
Meet "Robochan."

Check out the video. Robochan is perhaps disturbing, but undeniably cute. The anime face and leek-waving are nods to Hatsune Miku, a character created for Yamaha's Vocaloid singing synthesizer application. Hatsune is a virtual idol in Japan; one of her albums topped the Oricon music chart last month.
Robochan consists of a 3GS wired to a Kondo Kagaku KHR-2 HV kit robot through its doc connector. The 3GS serves as the controller for the humanoid body, a popular kit which retails for about $900 with much assembly required.
Robochan can speak, dance, wake you up at a preset time, learn motions taught by hand, and react when its screen is touched. 

More details... 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NASA: Robots Very Successful In Endeavour

Computer world- Shortly after the NASA space shuttle Endeavour undocked with the International Space Station this afternoon, officials called the mission's robotics work a huge success.

The shuttle and its seven-person crew spent 10 days, 23 hours and 39 minutes linked up with the space station to install the last of the Japanese laboratory there. And for those nearly 11 days at least one, if not two, robots were at work almost every day. Without them, the mission simply could not have been completed, according to Bill Jeffs, a NASA spokesman.

"This was a challenging mission from a robotics standpoint," Jeffs said in an interview with Computerworld today. "We used the robotic arm on the space station, the robotic arm on the space shuttle and the arm on the Japanese laboratory. In terms of robotics, it's been very challenging but very successful."

After the undocking, the Endeavour embarked on a so-called "fly-around" the space station which allows the astronauts still there to visually scan the outside of the shuttle for any problems with the critical heat shield. Once the inspection is completed, NASA pilot Doug Hurley is set to maneuver the shuttle away from the station and put it on a course to earth.

Endeavour is scheduled to land at 10:48 a.m. EDT on Friday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Before the mission, Holly Ridings, lead space station flight director for Endeavour, called it one of the most technical ever to be undertaken by NASA. With an ambitious schedule of five spacewalks, the astronauts onboard both the station and the shuttle used three robotic arms.

More here...

Ferrari's Innovative New V8—the 458 Italia

The Italia is the latest incarnation of the mid-rear engined Ferrari berlinetta and will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. While it's true that every Ferrari is innovative by definition, it's equally true that in the course of the Prancing Horse's history, certain cars have marked a genuine departure from the current range. This is very much the case with the Ferrari 458 Italia, which is a massive leap forward from the company's previous mid-rear engined sports cars.

The new model is a synthesis of style, creative flair, passion and cutting-edge technology, characteristics for which Italy as a nation is well-known. For this reason Ferrari chose to add the name of its homeland to the traditional figure representing the displacement and number of cylinders.

The Ferrari 458 Italia is a completely new car from every point of view: engine, design, aerodynamics, handling, instrumentation and ergonomics, just to name a few.

A two-seater berlinetta, the Ferrari 458 Italia, as is now traditional for all Ferrari's road-going cars, benefits hugely from the company's Formula 1 experience. This is particularly evident in the speed and precision with which the car responds to driver inputs and in the attention focused on reducing internal friction in the engine for lower fuel consumption than the F430, despite the fact that both overall displacement and power have increased. However, Ferrari's track experience makes its presence felt in the 458 Italia not only in terms of pure technological transfer but also on a more emotional level, because of the strong emphasis on creating an almost symbiotic relationship between driver and car. The 458 Italia features an innovative driving environment with a new kind of steering wheel and dashboard that is the direct result of racing practice. Once again input from Michael Schumacher—who was involved from the very start of the 458 Italia project—played an invaluable part.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Nissan Unveils All-Electric Sedan Prototype

Nissan gave a glimpse of its plans to make an all-electric sedan that will go 100 miles on a charge and have a suite of online features to aid drivers.

The company on Monday showed off an electric car prototype, based on the Tiida mid-size sedan. It said that an all-electric production car with a unique design will be unveiled on August 2 at its Yokohama, Japan headquarters and go on sale in 2010 in Japan and the U.S.

The electric sedan will connect to Nissan's data centers to provide drivers with information and support, according to the carmaker.

Nissan's EV prototype, an electric power train fitted onto a Tiida/Versa mid-size Versa sedan.
(Credit: Nissan)

The EV-IT system will display on a map how much driving range they have left and can calculate whether a car can make it to a pre-set destination. The system can point drivers to available charging stations within driving range.

The driver can also remotely view a battery's charge and turn on the air conditioner from a Web-connected computer or phone. Charging can be scheduled to take advantage of off-peak rates, too.

The car itself is built around Nissan's electric motor and a 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack which is placed under the car. With generative braking that charges the car during deceleration and braking, Nissan estimates that drivers can get 100 miles on a charge, although it notes that range depends on conditions and driving styles.

Although it lags in hybrids, Nissan has been one of the most aggressive in developing all-electric sedans. It is already testing the EV-02, which is based on the Nissan Cube chassis. It also has a partnership to work with Better Place, which provides consumers with charging points and access to battery-swapping stations in exchange for subscription plans.

Nissan has not announced prices, but a company representative told the Associated Press in Japan that the electric vehicle would be "competitive" with gasoline cars.

Because of the limitations on driving range and the high cost of batteries, other automakers including Toyota and General have said they expect consumers will favor gasoline-electric cars.

Along with Tesla Motors, start-ups Coda Automotive and Detroit Electric are making all-electric cars which they say will have enough range for daily driving for many people.

More here...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Female Robot Takes To The Catwalk

The latest hot model about to grace the catwalks of Japan made an appearance today. Fluttering her eyelids, HRP-4C as she is known, was unveiled by scientists as the most human-looking robot yet.

Rory Cellan-Jones has been taking a look.

Robotic Fish to Mimic Swimming

Researchers at the University of Bath are to build a robot to help understand how fish swim against the flow.

A consortium of five institutions have been awarded £1.5m to create the swimming robot trout.

The Ocean Technologies Lab at Bath will try to mimic the sense organ found in fish which allows them to detect the flow of water and react to it.

It is hoped the robot can be used in future for pollution control and monitoring the world's ecosystems.

It could also be used to study marine life near the seashore.

Complex controls

Dr William Megill, Lecturer in Biomimetics at the University of Bath said: "Currently, most aquatic robots can't manoeuvre very well in the shallow water near the shore because they just get smashed against the rocks by the force of the waves.

"However, even in a tsunami, fish manage to sense and swim against the current so that they stay in the water, rather than ending up on the beach.

"So this project is interesting on two levels - firstly we want to understand more about how the fish manages to react to changes in current, and secondly we want to create a robot that mimics this artificially."

The fish's complex nervous system will be emulated by computer software, developed by the University of Verona, which will allow the robot to interpret changes in flow outside the robot so it can adjust its swimming behaviour to compensate accordingly.

The FILOSE (Robotic FIsh LOcomotion and SEnsing) project is financed by the European Union.

More details at BBC...