Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Cryorig announces ITX-compatible C1 cooler

Cryorig announces ITX-compatible C1 cooler

The Cryorig C1, unlike its twin-fan tower predecessor the R1, is designed for space-restricted ITX systems.

Cooling start-up Cryorig has announced its second product, the top-down Cryorig C1 CPU cooler for ITX and micro-ATX systems, has entered mass production ahead of a June launch.

Cryorig entered the cooling market late last year with the Cryorig R1 twin-fan tower cooler. Founded by former employees of well-known cooling brands including Phanteks, Prolimatech and Thermalright, the company is based in Taiwan and promises considerable engineering prowess – hidden, sadly, behind a cavalcade of buzzwords and registered trademarks, from the DirectCompress Soldering technique for attaching the heatpipes to the cooling fins to the Jet Fin Acceleration System that sees the gap between the fins narrow as the air travels through the heatsink.

The Cryorig C1 is, at first glance, more of the same: the Jet Fin Acceleration System is present and correct, while the nickel-plated baseplate features six copper heatpipes connected in what the company calls its Heatpipe Convex-Align technology – another trademark, naturally.

Where the C1 differs from the R1 is in its overall design. Rather than targeting larger cases with room for tower coolers, the C1 boasts a top-down design suitable for the cramped conditions of an ITX chassis. ‘With the increase of APUs and enthusiast-level ITX mainboards and components, ITX systems are no longer limited to under-powered components like they used to be,‘ claimed Alex Wang, Cryorig co-founder and chief manufacturing engineer, of his company’s second product. ‘ITX systems now are housing high-performance, high-TDP CPUs and GPUs. Cooling these crucial components is an even greater challenge in these tight spaces.

The C1 is a mere 74mm in height, with an overall size of 144.5mm x 140mm, and comes bundled with a 13mm-thick 140mm PWM-controlled fan. As with the R1, the gap between the fins differs from the top to the bottom: a 1.8mm gap near the fan narrows to 1.4mm closer to the baseplate, which Cryorig claims accelerates the removal of hot air. Full support is promised for all common Intel and AMD socket types, with the claimed ability to cool chips of up to a 140W thermal design profile (TDP) and a six-year warranty when registered via the company’s website.

Pricing for the Cryorig C1 has yet to be confirmed, with the company planning to release stock to UK retailers in June. More details are available on the official product page.

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Quantenna promises 10Gb/s Wi-Fi in 2015

Quantenna promises 10Gb/s Wi-Fi in 2015

Quantenna’s existing MU-MIMO chipset can be found in Asus’ newest router, but its success next year promises up to 10Gb/s of bandwidth via 802.11ac’s MU-MIMO technology.

Wireless communications specialist Quantenna has announced the development of a Wi-Fi chipset capable of ten gigabit per second (10Gb/s) throughput, with plans to release it commercially next year.

Perhaps the biggest complaint regarding Wi-Fi – aside from alleged health implications, disproved by scientific rigour – is that its performance can lag behind that of a wired connection. Even if you’re right next to an access point, the actual throughput of a 1.3Gb/s 802.11n Wi-Fi link is usually well below that of a 1Gb/s wired Ethernet connection – and the further away you travel from the access point, the slower it gets. Said bandwidth is also shared between all users; if you’re on a heavily-congested access point, you can expect the performance of your connection to drop significantly.

Quantenna is hoping to resolve this problem by giving wireless connections significantly more headroom, starting with a 10Gb/s chipset based on the 802.11ac standard which improves support for Multi-User Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO) connectivity. Extending the existing MIMO technology, which uses multiple antennas to isolate signals and reject noise, MU-MIMO allows for multiple connections to individual client devices which are no longer competing for the same bandwidth. The result: significantly improved performance and reliability.

Quantenna’s 8×8 architecture with adaptive beamforming demonstrates that the ‘massive MIMO’ promise of significantly higher throughput, robustness, and reduced interference can be realised in practice,‘ claimed Andrea Goldsmith, Stephen Harris Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University, in support of the company’s work. ‘This architecture will also significantly enhance the capabilities of MU-MIMO, allowing it to support interference-free transmission to many more devices simultaneously. These technology advances will transform the landscape of applications and devices that Wi-Fi can support.

Quantenna’s MU-MIMO chipset is already used in Asus’ latest Wi-Fi router, but the version due for release in 2015 will be considerably improved. ‘Wi-Fi is no longer a convenience,‘ claimed Quantenna chief executive Sam Heidari at the announcement. ‘People expect it to ‘just work’ even with demanding applications like HD video streaming. With Quantenna’s 10G Wi-Fi, they’ll always get the performance they expect—even as their expectations continue to rise.

The company’s existing chipset, which supports 4×4 MU-MIMO antenna configurations, will be extended in 2015 to support 8×8 MU-MIMO setups offering a total aggregate throughput of 10Gb/s. How much such a feature will add on to the cost of commercially available routers and access points that choose to implement it, however, has not been announced.

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DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review

Price: £19.99
Developer: Bohemia Interactive
Publisher: Bohemia Interactive
Date Tested: 26/03/2014

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

Note: Early Access Reviews are critical appraisals of games still in development which are charging money for player access to their alpha and beta stages. This review is intended to give you an idea of whether the game is currently worth investing in, but without offering a final verdict.

Take a cursory glance at DayZ and it appears little has changed in the four months since release. The major content Bohemia are planning for the mod; namely vehicles, craftable bases, and broader communication channels such as radios, are still a long way from being added. Investigate a little further, however, and you’ll discover that significant changes have been made, but they’re many and small rather than large and few.

For example, rain was added about a month ago, and now players can catch the water droplets in their canteens, making it ever so slightly easier to acquire this vital resource. In addition, players can aim their guns while sat down, enabling them to sit around a campfire with friends without completely compromising their safety, or keep watch over player prisoners in a more casual, more disturbing manner.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

There are lots of different little channels that feed into DayZ’s remarkable success since it debuted on Steam Early Access at the end of last year. But one of them is this detailed way in which players can interact with their environment and the other players they encounter in post-apocalypse Chernarus. It’s this granularity of experience which Bohemia have been chasing since the Standalone release.

To understand the importance of this, it’s necessary to grasp the basis of what DayZ is, and the developer’s intent behind it. For all its layers of complexity, your ultimate goal when playing DayZ is the most basic possible. Stay alive. Do not die. See that bucket? Avoid kicking it. This is done by seeing to your needs, avoiding the zombies scattered around the environment like organic litter, and performing the delicate and potentially deadly social dance with fellow survivors you’ll inevitably encounter during your travels.

Your objective may be simple, but achieving it is anything but. Resources are scarce, and you require lots of food and water just to keep your body functional. The first hour or so of a DayZ life are a half-terrifying, half-gleeful rush as you frantically scour the nearest village for supplies, interspersed with moments of bravely running away from the prowling zombies.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

If you’re very lucky you might find enough food and water to keep you healthy. More typically you’ll either bleed to death after being attacked by your first zombie, or find nothing but rotten food, eat that in desperation, become sick, and spend the next half hour hopelessly searching for the right medication before ultimately collapsing. This is of course an entirely hypothetical scenario and definitely not what happened to me in my first and second lives.

Learning how to cope in this extremely harsh environment is a big factor in what makes DayZ so compelling. So is learning how to navigate it. Modern games are obsessed with keeping the player oriented, ensuring they always know where they are and where they are going, and there’s something about the challenge of being lost in a wilderness that is paradoxically liberating. The moment you first find a map in an abandoned car or inside a petrol station is breathlessly exciting. Then comes the puzzle of figuring out where you are on it, googling the Russian alphabet so you can translate the town signs written in Cyrillic to match them with the map names scribed in English.

DayZ Standalone Early Access Review DayZ Early Access Review

It helps that Chernarus is an incredible foundation for a game like this. Its sweeping vistas, highly realistic terrain, foreboding climate and dilapidated Baltic settlements all contribute to the sense that this is a world where nature has wrested control back from humanity, but also as a place where hope still lingers. Trekking through one of DayZ’s many forests, watching the sunlight shaft through the canopy, listening to your plodding footfall and the twittering birds in the trees is an oddly relaxing experience, providing relief between frantic zombie combat and tense encounters with other survivors.

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Interview: London Evening Standard

Leto has made his entrance tonight in a black hooded coat, wielding a baseball bat; more LA drugs dealer than the politically engaged figure in an oversized bow tie he cut at the Oscars. With suitable drama, he throws off the jacket to expose the full glory of his rock Jesus look — shades, man-leggings, tunic skirt, sleeveless T-shirt — whereupon he unleashes his power-vocals on to his fans for two adrenaline-fuelled hours: jumping, grinding, sprinting and simultaneously flirting with what feels like every single member of the crowd. ‘I don’t dive into the mosh pit any more,’ he whispers to me on a break. ‘It’s the fastest way to lose your penis. And I’m proud to say mine is still intact.’

The show is part full-on rock extravaganza, part interactive Leto comedy routine. ‘Hey you,’ he cries into his mic. ‘Great mullet, man. That’s my next haircut. Business at the front. Party at the back.’ This culminates with a stage invasion and a mass selfie, his second of the week: the 42-year-old in a huddle of ecstatic Scandi teens.

It is curious, to some, that Hollywood’s man of the moment would disappear off in the vital afterglow of his Best Supporting Actor win to revel so intimately with the global masses. But then Leto doesn’t follow protocol. Six years before his return to film as Rayon, an HIV-positive, pre-operative transwoman in Dallas Buyers Club, he walked away from Hollywood to tour with his band despite consistent critical acclaim for his gritty, transformative roles. Leto has eschewed the blockbuster juggernaut to success in favour of the slow train, via occasional, challenging roles in the likes of Requiem for a DreamFight Cluband Panic Room. Plus, he has other commitments. He is not only a method actor and singer-songwriter, but a video and documentary producer-director, photographer, painter, businessman and activist. ‘I just follow my gut — as Andy Warhol said, “Labels are for cans not people,” ’ he tells me after the gig.

All this makes Leto a very busy man. After partying all night at the Oscars (‘It was pretty f***ing fantastic to see all those Hollywood dreamers letting loose with such abandon. I looked over and my mother was dancing with Madonna’), and taking a hangover hike to Malibu, he flew to Paris for meetings, the Miu Miu fashion show and more fun: his close friend the photographer Terry Richardson was in town and shot him for this magazine before Leto attended an obscure music awards in Finland, his every word and move pounced on by the global media.

Finally, at 1am, I am whisked past a line of deflated-looking groupies into his dressing room. They eye me up along the corridor, turning a pale shade of green.

‘I’m starting to come down off the week-long pink-cloud high now,’ he tells me, dishing me up some of his tomato soup and a vegetable curry (he is vegan). I can confirm that there is no beer backstage. And I’m a little disappointed that he’s come down from jacked-up flirting mode. Tonight Leto is more business at the front, party at the back.

We start sensible: he doesn’t seem the type, I say, to care about Hollywood accolades. ‘I don’t.’ He slumps down on a black leather sofa. ‘But I would never say, “I don’t give a shit about the Oscars,” because it’s not the whole truth. It’s not about the shiny, naked golden man, or the pat on the back, it’s about being able to stand on a world stage for two minutes in front of a billion people and say something that is meaningful, important to you.’ Leto name-checked his older brother, best friend and bandmate 44-year-old Shannon, his single mum, AIDS victims, outsiders in general, and those fighting for their dreams in Venezuela and Ukraine. ‘I could have really taken the piss. But I didn’t want to wing it with this one. I prepared. I wanted to keep it classy.’ By contrast, at the Independent Spirit Awards, he poked fun at the rumours that constantly trail him: by reputation he is a legendary lothario, recently linked with Lupita Nyong’o, Miley Cyrus and his ex-girlfriend Scarlett Johansson. He thanked ‘all the women I’ve been with, and all the women who think they’ve been with me’ as well as his ‘future ex-wife Lupita’. He tweeted selfies of the pair together in Paris, presumably to cause a stir. It has since been confirmed that they are not, in fact, dating.

At the Golden Globes he shared with Hollywood’s finest that he had waxed his entire body to play Rayon, but stopped short of a Brazilian and had not used prosthetics. What did he do with his male appendage, I ask now — strap it back? ‘A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. But, let’s just say, there are times when you’re not as prepared as you’d like to be…’ he answers cryptically, raising an eyebrow.

Leto seems to flit between composed, pale blue-eyed earnestness and cheeky provocation. ‘I thought about dragging up for the Oscars, going as Rayon, because I knew that she would have loved to be there,’ he says. ‘It’s so much work for girls to get ready. I was brought up by my mum, so I always had an appreciation of women. But now I have more respect for the process. It’s a lot, what women have to do to themselves. But in the end, when you put that final dash of lipstick on and your look all comes together, it really is a glorious reward.’

His sassy, fragile and very human portrayal of Rayon — ‘a hot mess’, as he calls her — and his thoughtful acceptance speech made Leto the true hero of Oscars night. The industry seems to have fallen for a man who, by playing the basic principles of hard-to-get, cannot be fully seduced by it. Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Oprah Winfrey all approached him with open arms on the night, Stevie Nicks gave him the necklace he is now wearing, Al Pacino has since ‘reached out’ — they are due to meet for coffee — and there have been several calls from the White House. ‘There are some exciting proposals. But I don’t know how much more I’m allowed to say. I probably need to clear it with the CIA first.’ Leto is a vociferous Obama supporter and raised funds for the 2008 re-election campaign. He has protested against California’s Proposition 8, which aimed to overturn same-sex marriage, and raised money for Haitian Relief as well as human rights and environmental charities.

I wonder if he is considering another career, in politics. ‘My mum was a teenager when she had us; she used food stamps to feed us, she got helped by social services to go back to school and train as a nurse to try to give her kids some stability. So if I can help or be of service in any way…’ he says. ‘But you know what? I’m too impatient. I’d probably swear in a speech. As George Clooney says, “I’ve f***ed too many chicks and done too many drugs to be in politics.” ’

It’s hard to reconcile Leto the wild front man with the committed method actor who performs extreme feats of self-remoulding in order to morph into his dark, outsider roles. The road to this is more lonely and torturous. During filming for Dallas Buyers Club, Leto only ever appeared on set as Rayon, not ‘meeting’ his co-star Matthew McConaughey or the other actors until after they had wrapped. He even donned lipstick and a pink fluffy jumper and flirted his arse off for his first Skype meeting with director Jean-Marc Vallée. ‘Maybe if I was making romantic comedies, there’d be more immediate silliness, more hanging out in each other’s trailers,’ he tells me. ‘I’ve never really had the kind of joy I experience with the band on set, but then I’m not really looking for that.’

Leto likens his process to ‘being a sculptor’. He lost two stone, lived rough on the streets and abstained from sex with his then girlfriend Cameron Diaz to become the drug-addicted Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream in 2000. He force-fed himself into obesity, putting on five stone to accurately portray John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman in Chapter 27 in 2007, for which he eventually suffered gout and was temporarily confined to a wheelchair (take that, Shia LaBeouf). In Mr Nobody, he underwent six hours of make-up to play a decrepit 118-year-old. Like his character Angel Face in Fight Club, who is happily freed from the prison of handsomeness when he is beaten to a pulp and permanently disfigured, Leto appears to make an effort to mask the pretty-boy looks for which, in 1994, he was cast in teen series My So-Called Life. But there is more to this, I say, something self-destructive…

‘All my roles are masochistic or… sadistic.’ His eyes flash with naughtiness. ‘Is that going to be your headline? “Jared Leto: masochist or sadist? You decide.” ’ The sexual edges of this theme can be found in his music. The SM-themed video for ‘Hurricane’, which he directed in 2007, was censored by MTV, and in ‘End of All Days’, on his new album Love Lust Faith + Dreams, he sings: ‘I punish you with pleasure, I pleasure you with pain…’

‘I have very strong self-control. There is something very seductive about it,’ he admits when we discuss his crash, three-stone weight loss for Rayon, during which the slight actor virtually stopped eating. (He used to go to the supermarket just to stare at the food.) ‘I got to understand the mentality of an eating disorder. There are the highs of losing more weight; there’s a rush of endorphins associated with that control. When you have made a severe commitment to losing weight, there is a lot of shame and guilt around eating again. I really suffered that, it’s not a nice feeling…’ But Leto found solace in self-exploration. ‘The process can be very monk-like — there is a history of people who have fasted to achieve enlightenment. There is something in that, getting to know who you are. It changed me.’

I ask him if it was easier to get into the feminine headspace because he was so close to his mum growing up. Was there already a dash of oestrogen in him? ‘Oestrogen?’ He laughs, a little offended. ‘I guess you haven’t heard all the rumours… No, I became a detective, I met with transgendered people, I asked questions: “What was it like to tell your parents?” “What’s it like to be judged?” ’ He experienced this when he first dragged-up and went into Whole Foods. ‘You don’t have to desire the surgery to have your penis cut off, but you do have to understand it. We all have issues with our identity, or know what it’s like not to belong.’

Leto grew up an outsider. His father left after he was born, and Leto never saw him again. (He committed suicide when Leto was eight.) Leto’s teenage mother and the boys eventually fled Louisiana, where they lived with her Cajun parents in a one-bedroom house, to join the hippie movement. They lived in communes, mixed with artists and musicians, and moved around a lot — from Wyoming to Virginia, Colorado, Alaska, Brazil and Haiti — constantly having to make new friends and reinvent themselves. It’s hard to pin Leto down on all of this. He prefers to keep an air of apocryphal mystique. At one point, when we talk about his forefathers, he says that most of his family ‘were probably all in prison’.

Leto grew up wanting to be either a drugs dealer or an artist. At 16, he dropped out of school, before returning to another in Washington. The Leto boys were wild and unruly; they dabbled with drugs, broke into offices and warehouses to steal booze and motorbikes: ‘Other kids went to summer camp; we stole your car.’ Leto steered himself out of the nosedive when he got into college in Philadelphia to study art, and later on to a film course at the School of Visual Arts in New York. The creative focus was his salvation. Meanwhile, Shannon descended further into drug addiction, car-jacking and trouble with the police — the kind of downward spiral that Leto brutally documents in Requiem for a Dream.

But when he moved to LA to pursue a career in music (he says acting was merely a day job to pay the rent), Shannon joined him and they formed the band in 1998. ‘Music saved his life. It was either that or prison. It saved both of us really. Shannon started drumming on pots and pans from an early age; I played a broken, second-hand piano.’

Life on the road with his brother is, after all, what Leto grew up with; it satisfies his constant need for adventure, newness, change. (Thirty Seconds to Mars recently set a Guinness World Record for the most tour dates, 309, on one album cycle.)

Now in his forties, Leto still looks and acts at least a decade younger. There are no plans to stop touring now that, after years of graft, the band has achieved global recognition: Love Lust Faith + Dreams has sold ten million copies and their shows are mainly sold out. ‘We don’t give a shit about our ages. We’re not worrying about that. There are no rules,’ he tells me. And what if he met some girl he wanted to settle down with? ‘Then she’d better have a passport… look at the Rolling Stones, they just keep on going. Maybe me and my brother will be shaking it up there in our sixties. Who knows? Or maybe I’ll just walk away.’

He is even more freewheeling about his future film plans. He’d like to direct a long-form narrative, he says. He has already won multiple MTV awards for Thirty Seconds to Mars’ videos, and a People’s Choice Award at Toronto Film Festival for his 2012 documentary Artifact. This charted the creation of the band’s album This is War and their battle in 2008 with their record label EMI, which sued them for $30 million following a dispute over royalties when, after a tour and successful album, the band found themselves millions of dollars in debt. (The case was eventually dropped.)

For now, however, Leto’s eye is set firmly on his tour schedule. His devotion to his band is almost religious. Next up is Russia, followed by Ukraine. ‘I read that they censored my speech in Russia. They cut what I said about Ukraine. But I’m fully intending to sing ‘This is War’ there.’ Leto usually accompanies the song’s lyrics ‘To fight, to fight, to fight!’ with rampant flag-waving and air fist-pumping. ‘Shit could go down. We’ve already heard some things on the ground that are concerning. Through the band, we are really engaged with young voices all over the world through our social network feeds. I’ve learned so much travelling the world these past six years, it’s changed me. It’s made me a better actor…’

More than anything, Leto is fighting exhaustion now. His eyes are glassy, like marbles, and slowly starting to shut. He only has a few hours to pack and get on a flight to Belarus. He reverts to his humble Academy Awards speech mode, and thanks me for the interview. ‘I’m sorry but I really need to crash,’ he croaks gently.

It looks like Jared Leto’s Oscars week has officially come to an end.

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Where should CNET Road Trip go in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas?

America’s so-called Doomsday plane, which can keep top military leaders airborne in the event of a major crisis.

Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

The days are warm and sunny here in Northern California, and though it’s only the middle of March, it already feels like summer is just around the corner.

One reason is that I’ve started the planning in earnest for Road Trip 2014, my ninth-annual journey to highlight some of the best destinations around for technology, military, aviation, architecture, science, nature, and so on.

From Doomsday plane to Frank Lloyd Wright: The best of Road Trip 2013 (pictures)

For seven of the past eight years, CNET Road Trip has taken me all around the roads of the United States, giving me the opportunity to visit the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest, the Southeast, the Rocky Mountain region, the Northeast, and the West Coast. In 2011, I crossed the pond and covered seven countries in Europe, and last summer, I criss-crossed much of the Midwest, traveling through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri.

This year, I’m working on covering some of the last major areas in the Continental United States that I’ve never visited on Road Trip. While the exact itinerary is still very much unclear, I know I’ll be spending a good chunk of time in Texas, and then making my way into Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

Thanks to my own research and the helpful suggestions of readers, I’ve already got a list of a few potential destinations, but I’m turning to you again, fine readers, for ideas for can’t-miss places I need to include in the project.

This map, which CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman has used each year since 2006 to record Road Trip routes, reveals a couple of big holes in the country that signify places that he has yet to visit.

Daniel Terdiman/CNET)

So, if you have an idea for a Road Trip stop in Arkansas, Oklahoma, or Kansas, please send it to daniel–dot–terdiman–at–cnet–dot–com. Here’s what I’m looking for: a place in any of those states that would appeal to a national audience, that has a heavy tech or geek element, and that is highly visual, lending itself to a big photo gallery.

Some things that might work are manufacturing facilities for iconic brands, famous monuments, large-scale works of art or architecture, and famous or important military or aviation facilities. Past examples of Road Trip items include a behind-the-scenes look at America’s Doomsday plane, New York’s Grand Central Terminal, a look inside NORAD’s former home at Cheyenne Mountain, behind-the-scenes at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, the high-tech gear aboard the most advanced submarine on Earth, and so on.

I’d like to reward readers who come up with a great idea. So while I do have a list of potential destinations, if you send me a suggestion I haven’t already thought of myself, and that I end up adding to my itinerary, I’ll send you a small gift in exchange.

I hope to hear from you, as I know that many of you have extensive experience traveling, and I’d love to be able to benefit from that experience — and share the wealth with my readers. I look forward to hearing from you.

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MIT’s super-speedy robot fish makes flashy escape

Robot fish

MIT’s Andrew Marchese and Daniela Rus put the soft silicone rubber outer skin on their robotic fish. The rubber was cast in a 3D-printed mold.

M. Scott Brauer)

Some robot fish we’ve seen wouldn’t be able to escape a predator if their fins depended on it.

Enter the new fish-shaped “soft robot” developed by Andrew Marchese, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. It can execute an escape maneuver called a “C-turn” in about 100 milliseconds, matching the speed of fish in the wild. Such swiftness is one of the things that most sets this robofish apart.

Soft robots are machines that have gushy exteriors and move around through the use of fluids or gases pumping through vein-like internal tubes. They’re of interest because they don’t hurt when they bump into people (nor do they scratch the furniture). “We’re excited about soft robots for a variety of reasons,” Daniela Rus, one of the researchers who designed and built the fish, said in a statement. “As robots penetrate the physical world and start interacting with people more and more, it’s much easier to make robots safe if their bodies are so wonderfully soft that there’s no danger if they whack you.”

Like a robot fish to water…

Video screenshot/CNET)

The fact that the fish can perform an escape maneuver “is really important for the field of soft robotics,” Marchese said in the below MIT video about the invention. “It shows that soft robots can be both self-contained and capable of high performance. The maneuver is so fast and it’s got such high body curvature that it shows soft robots might be more capable than hard robots in some tasks.”

The robofish consists of a hard control module that stores the electronics and a carbon dioxide canister in its head and abdomen. From here, two inflatable tubes travel down each side of the fish to its tail. These tubes have nozzles that feed them carbon dioxide. The opening of the nozzle controls how fast the fish moves, while the amount of tube inflation controls the angle at which the fish changes direction. The electronics module also contains a receiver that allows it to be controlled wirelessly, and the entire robot is covered in soft, waterproof silicone rubber made from a 3D-printed mold.

The novel gas-though-tube-controlled movement differs from other robotic fish we’ve seen, like the one invented at the U.K’s University of Bath, which moved thanks to an undulating fin on its underside.

Rus, director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, said a normal robot with hinged joints couldn’t possibly move so fast and that the unique propelling mechanism of the robofish — inflating and deflating internal tubes with carbon dioxide — gives it a distinct advantage over its land-dwelling clunky cousins. “The fact that the body deforms continuously gives these machines an infinite range of configurations, and this is not achievable with machines that are hinged,” she said.

Currently, the robofish can only swim for a few minutes before it runs out of gas. The researchers are working on a new version that should last up to a half-hour and will use water to pump through the tubing in the fish’s body to propel it.

Of course, the MIT crew didn’t build their robot with the thought of lazy fish-tank owners in mind. In addition to pushing along the science of soft robotics, Rus believes the invention can also help wildlife scientists conduct research, by having it swim along with schools of fish while collecting data about their movements and habits like this robofish invented by an engineering professor at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Additionally, “we also view this research as a first step toward creating soft robots that can operate in human-centered environments,” Marchese told Crave. “We are especially interested in developing a new kind of soft hand and manipulator that embodies the materials and principles demonstrated by the soft robot fish.”

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Shark Tracker: Watch as Jaws takes a transatlantic jaunt

Lydia the shark

Lydia the shark gets checked and tagged.

Ocearch/Robert Snow)

An intrepid great white shark nicknamed Lydia is off having the journey of a lifetime, and the public is getting to follow along on the unprecedented adventure. She’s crossing the Atlantic ocean, but she’s not alone. The 14-foot-long shark carries a satellite tracking tag and her movements are constantly updated on the Ocearch Shark Tracker site.

Lydia isn’t the first shark to be tracked by Ocearch, a nonprofit ocean predator research organization, but she is the first tracked shark to go gallivanting all the way across the Atlantic on a personal cruise. The map of her movements is impressive. She has traveled around 20,000 miles since she was tagged about a year ago.

Lydia’s path seems unusually ambitious for a great white. Tracking expedition leader Chris Fischer told the BBC he believes she may be pregnant and gestating her babies. Her ultimate destination could be in the Mediterranean in waters the sharks are known to use as a nursery.

The tracking technology updates every time her fin gets above the surface of the water, so her whereabouts tend to be updated multiple times throughout any given day.

In order to bring the tracking online, Ocearch had to first tag the animal. She was trapped in waters near Florida, raised onto a platform, and then examined and tagged on her dorsal fin while she was still awake. She was then released to continue on her way.

She is now giving researchers a unique window into the lives of great whites, especially considering her unusual penchant for long trips. If she keeps this up, we’re not going to need a bigger boat; we’re going to need a bigger ocean.

Lydia tracker

Lydia’s trail goes all over the place.

Screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET)

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Mathematician says Candy Crush is really, really hard

The sweetest game being beating a mathematician, of course.

Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET)

I confess that I occasionally laugh at my mathematician friends. (They laugh at me all the time.)

What stirs me is the stimulus/response mechanism that urges them to reduce everything to math. It doesn’t matte whether it’s global warming or intercontinental warring, they can find a mathematical answer.

I know it’s not (always) their fault, but when they start to discuss who ate what at dinner, in order to split the check, my teeth begin to talk among themselves.

I am secretly overjoyed, therefore, that mathematicians have declared that something mundane is quite difficult for them.

A random reading of New Scientist offers that Candy Crush has been officially declared NP-hard.

No, not NPR’d. NP-hard.

This doesn’t stand for “No Point, but hard.” Although it should. Instead, it’s a mathematical term that describes the number of times a mathematician must furrow her brow, while drinking several gallons of scotch in order to solve a problem.

Should you have so far failed to play Candy Crush — you’re invited to my house for dinner and a Lava Vine grenache as a gesture of respect — it’s a game where bright pieces of candy move around and you’re supposed to line them up. Or something like that.

This didn’t deter Toby Walsh, adjunct professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Australia’s University of New South Wales (among other things), to analyze this game and designate it a certification.

Please don’t force me to take you through all his methodology. I am very results-oriented. I can tell you that he manipulated the little pieces of candy to simulate the famous Boolean satisfiability problem.

This attempts to see whether successive logical statements are in line with each other or not.

Some people call this a first date.

Walsh’s conclusion is that Candy Crush is NP-complete, a strain of NP-hard. Another example of an NP-complete problem is the Traveling Salesman Problem, one which finds the shortest route to send a salesman on his way.

Any Candy Crush player who suddenly wants to show off their intelligence to their non-Crushing friends should consider first that this game isn’t the only one that’s deemed NP-hard.

Super Mario is alongside it, as is Legend of Zelda.

Still, the next time you’re being given a hard time by a mathematician for your mental ineptitude, you can try to get him to beat you at Candy Crush.

It’ll be inane, but you might enjoy it. For at least 30 minutes.

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Trapped in the Time Travel Lab: My puzzling Sunday

If this doesn’t make you feel competitive, it’s like I don’t even know you anymore.

Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

“You are trapped in the mysterious laboratory, where it has been said, they study time travel. The door is closed. A lot of hidden clues await you. You wonder if they were able to make time travelling true…” These words on a poster beckon you in to a frantic puzzle-solving team experience that can lead, as it did in my case, to your untimely demise.

Or you might…Escape from the Time Travel Lab.

SCRAP Entertainment’s first Real Escape Game was held in Japan, and nowadays the company is putting on events in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. In addition to the basic Mysterious Room, people have escaped from the Magic Show, the Werewolf Village, and other sticky scenarios. There are also Real Escape Game branches in Singapore, Taiwan, and China, plus there seem to be at least four live-escape game companies operating in the UK, so I’m going to call this a worldwide phenomenon. If the rest of this sounds fun to you, you may be able to find something similar nearby.

On the particular Sunday on which I fell into a rift in time and space, never to be seen again, my team of six assembled in a cute tea shop below the venue, a nice, clean spot in San Francisco’s Japantown that’s probably normally used for art installations or something.

The signs warn you to use the restroom before the game starts, since you will literally be locked in the Lab for the next hour. (As it turns out, there’s a “lab technician” in the room with you the whole time, so it’s not as dramatic as the waiver makes it sound, but the game timer’s not going to pause while you take a bathroom break, so it is something to think about!)

“Detective-style clothes might help to sharpen your mind,” the Web site said, but also, “refrain from wearing heels,” so I squashed my first impulse of Victoriana. Clearly we’d need to be physically active to some degree. In Web-based room escape games, you need to examine everything, from the undersides of furniture to the tops of light fixtures. I settled for a Nancy Drew T-shirt, sneakers, and my lucky magnifying glass.

As I’d suspected, I didn’t actually get to use the lens: you’re not allowed to use any items you bring in. Including multitools, the cheerful young MC told us firmly. (“Pens and paper?!” “They’ll be provided in the room.”) We hung our jackets on a rack outside, but there was a clear, closed bin inside the room where we could store our purses and bags, thus removing most worries about credit cards going missing.

my lucky magnifying glass

It’s my lucky magnifying glass because it’s pretty, all right? Not because it saved us from wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey destruction, because it didn’t.

Toni Thompson)

The game is played in groups of 11, so we were thrown in with 5 very nice strangers. Going around the room, we introduced ourselves and described our experience with these types of games, and time travel in general. My aunt (she of the Thor socks) claimed to be from the year 2038. Her friend obligingly said he had come to our time in pursuit of her. Another friend revealed that he’d been time traveling at a rate of roughly 1 minute per minute for…quite some time now. The MC’s face: “So this should go well.”

The opening briefing laid out some parameters of the game, though it didn’t ultimately keep us from being lost in an eternal temporospatial limbo. The directions were clear as to, for example, what objects in the room we could and couldn’t disassemble. (Did reading those words make you want to click over to buy tickets? Then we’re on the same page.)

When we finally walked into the room, it was a bit like living out my favorite scene in “Apollo 13,” when they put the engineers in a conference room and tell them they have to save the day by making THIS fit into THIS using only THESE PIECES. Except with more of a festive air, though we certainly all got pretty excited as our time ran out and our impending doom, um, impended. I wasn’t the only one with shaking hands.

What’s funny is, I’d assumed that with the set of experienced puzzle-solving brains I’d brought with me on my team, we’d definitely win unless the puzzles were badly designed. I’d also suspected I’d be dead weight in the group, based on past games parties with most of these people. Neither of these turned out to be correct. I personally solved and helped solve several puzzles (to be honest, they weren’t hard). And my group — you may have picked up on this from foreshadowing — DID NOT escape from the Time Travel Lab! We definitely could have…maybe in about another 10 minutes…but we did not.

As the game’s materials point out, there’s no shame in that. Still, it’s not WINNING, is it?

We failed to escape from the Time Travel Lab!

This pic does not contain my aunt, who was voluntarily erased from this corner of history. Probably afraid they’ll track her from 2038.

Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

Overall it wasn’t quite what I was expecting — I’d thought there’d at least be some in-story justification for all the puzzles, and instead they appeared mostly arbitrary. But even though the puzzles weren’t hard and yet we didn’t come that close to winning, my team still walked out (insofar as you can walk out after having fallen into a spacetime anomaly never to return) feeling like the challenge was fair. That seems like good game design. Here’s a little advice, none of which I think counts as spoilers:

1. The comfortable-shoe requirement was a good one. Most of the puzzles are mental, but in addition to the restrictions listed on the site, at least one person in your group should be able and willing to get down on the floor.

2. Unless you bring enough people to fill all the game slots (the number varies by scenario), you’ll be thrown in with strangers, but that’s OK. Anyone who thought this sounded fun and showed up to try it is probably pretty rad, so the group meshes a lot faster than you’d think.

3. Organization is key. Every minute counts, the setting can be a bit overwhelming, and it helps to have someone keeping track of the overall effort. (Corollary: Communication is also key, so if your friends hate being hurried or get snappish in a crisis, it may be best to leave them at home with your high heels and multitool.)

Escape from the Time Travel Lab poster
Real Escape Game in the U.S/SCRAP Entertainment)

I guess that’s all I can say without ruining it. It was definitely worth the ticket price; I live in San Francisco so I don’t have to judge whether it was worth the drive as well. Still, we immediately started looking into getting tickets for Escape from the Haunted Ship. It takes place aboard the Queen Mary! The actual Queen Mary, down in Long Beach.

Unfortunately, the dates for Haunted Ship didn’t work out for us. And my team vetoed the upcoming Escape from the Space Station (before your air runs out) as “too scary.” My aunt’s hoping for other local venues, such as…Alcatraz.

Alcatraz! Think it over, Real Escape Game people! Minus the swimming!

In the meanwhile, if you know of any other interesting types of puzzle-based events, please tell me about them in the comments below at @pages_and_pages. (Shout-out: I found out about Real Escape Game via @sosh, the not-personalized Twitter feed of a personalized event-recommendation service based in some major US cities.) I’ll leave my future self some notes on the calendar!

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The Web at 25: Dot-com bubble bursts and breaks me, too

Part 1 of The Web at 25, my look back at the first quarter-century of all things www, left off with both the Web and myself at the peak of an awkward adolescence in early 1995.

This is where things start to get really interesting.

Data nerds who shunned the Web when Tim Berners-Lee first demonstrated it in the United States in 1991 could no longer ignore it mid-decade. After the pioneering Mosaic Web browser launched, the Web saw an annual growth rate in service traffic of 341,634 percent, according to author and early Internet evangelist Robert H. Zakon.

Me at age 17. Happy birthday, Web. I still can’t quit you after all these years, even though you did force me to try, once. (Click to enlarge.)

Marsha Henry)

In the span of about two years, Mosaic transitioned from a university-based project to a publicly traded company named Netscape that saw the price of its shares close at more than twice the opening price on their first day of trading in August of 1995. Companies grow up so fast these days, don’t they?

From that point, the dot-com bubble began inhaling all the air (and capital) in the room and didn’t stop until it left us all with economic Bubble Yum stuck to our faces.

There are millions of stories told about this epic boom, bubble, and bust period. This is mine.

It starts in 1997 with me at age 17 and a copy of Microsoft Frontpage in my parents’ basement and ends with me living in a double-wide trailer on the banks of the Yukon River in the Alaskan Bush five years later. Here’s what happened in between.

Respect my authori-tay!
Like many other young nerds of the era, I suddenly found around 1997 that my understanding and knowledge of the Web was commanding a lot more respect from people significantly more powerful, wealthier, and older than myself. By this time, using MS Frontpage, I had already built a few very simplistic Web sites for fun that were not even remotely attractive or very functional, but even my basic Web design skills were in high demand at the time, and it was still presumed that teenage nerds could be hired cheaply.

Suddenly I was taking meetings with one of the most powerful lobbyists in Colorado to talk about building a Web presence for key campaigns. I built a site for a top wedding photographer out of Boulder in exchange for learning her craft. When I went to college in September 1997, part of my financial aid package was a work study that made me one of the college’s main Webmasters as a first-semester freshman.

This was the Web site I designed to convince people to let me design their Web sites. For some reason, it worked. (Global means worldwide and ducks have webbed feet — get it?)

Eric Mack/CNET)

Here’s the kicker, though: I was a pretty bad Web designer. At the time, the Web seemed to be making everyone who touched it rich, spurring an outright panic by anyone who saw the emerging medium as either an opportunity or a threat. Businesses had to get online to stay competitive, as did politicians and even nonprofits, it turns out. They might not have understood what a domain name was, they just knew I could get them one.

And I did, at least until the rest of the world caught up with me, better Web designers became more plentiful (and cheaper), and the Web began to create opportunities to use another skill that I actually both enjoy and excel at (or at least I hope some readers think so).

I switched schools and majors from computer engineering to journalism and found that the Web would still provide. I landed a gig with an early iteration of that took an earnest interest in America’s local music scenes. I spent the next few years traveling the Midwest to interview artists, take in live shows, and write snarky reviews. I was still a student. I wasn’t based in Silicon Valley or manning a startup, but I was still pursuing the dot-com dream for better or for worse. Sometimes it got a little out of hand.

After one particular show, my college girlfriend was a bit confused to find pop-punk darlings Good Charlotte in my living room along with a squad of local strippers providing a live demonstration of the latest technological advances in silicone. Those guys were straight edge, so there wasn’t any cocaine involved that night, but there were plenty of other nights and other bands.

I, being a good boy, never partook. No, really.

By early 2000, I had no interest in finishing my broadcast journalism degree and struck a deal to design my own degree in online media (again, this involved a work study maintaining part of the university Web site and teaching a Web design course to other undergrads — can’t beat cheap labor, I guess). I began working on a little graduate student’s project called that was actually making a name for itself as a leading online magazine, competing with the likes of Salon and Slate.

This long-forgotten online magazine gave me my introduction to Silicon Valley. (Click to enlarge)

Screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET /

I drove down to Austin that March with the Ironminds crew for
South by Southwest Interactive, where we had been nominated for Best Current Events Site. Remarkably, we actually won, beating out big media names like “The Daily Show.” I was 20 years old and I was part of something that smart people actually approved of, something that actually seemed to matter.

And for the first time, I felt as though I was among my own people. These people understood why I spent so many evenings glued to a monitor, trying to discern how the pieces all fit together, where it was going, where it could go.

At that year’s SXSW Frog Design party, I pulled Ironminds founder Andy Wang aside.

“Andy, I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to go to college. I don’t want to go back to Missouri. I want all this,” I told him. I’m pretty sure we were both a little drunk, but I was still dead serious.

“Go talk to everyone,” he told me. “Ask all of them for a job and then pick the best offer. You’re a f*****g award winner now.”

How come I’ve never heard this from any of my guidance counselors, I thought to myself. How absolutely brilliant.

By the end of that week I had a handshake agreement to start working at Business 2.0 magazine’s San Francisco Bay Area office within eight weeks. If you don’t remember Business 2.0, you could be forgiven. It was one of many such new publications at the time that didn’t survive in its original form (remember Red Herring or the Industry Standard? No? Well they were real once too.) Eventually it was swallowed by Time, Inc. and got lost somewhere in the fallout of the AOL Time Warner debacle before disappearing altogether around 2007.

History now tells us that the dot-com bubble actually peaked two weeks before that fateful trip to Austin, but it was still easy to believe at that moment that the party could continue forever. So I packed up and went to California for what I thought would be a permanent move. But it turned out to be a front-row seat for a great unraveling.

Rude awakening
From the beginning, working at a “new economy magazine” was not all that I had dreamed that night in Austin. The people were nice, but my chops weren’t yet well-honed enough to be a business reporter and I spent lots of my time copying text from the print magazine edition and pasting it on to the Web site. Not exactly the glamour I was hoping for, and how come we couldn’t write some code to do all that anyway?

My living situation also proved interesting. Eventually, after time in hostels and finally being grilled rather intensely during an interview with my future roommates, I moved into a three-bedroom house where I was one of five tenants (the garage had been converted into two more bedrooms). The setup was unexpectedly quiet, however, since the room next to mine was never actually used by the chief operating officer of a major networking company who rented it as an emergency crash pad much closer to San Francisco than her large home in San Jose, farther south. I never saw the other person living upstairs, who also worked for a dot-com. I never even found out which one.

There were high points at the office, like writing a story on Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, who seemed to epitomize the spirit of Silicon Valley I was in search of, but ultimately I wasn’t happy and things quickly got weird around the office as it became clear that the epic ride of the last half-decade was beginning to run out of fuel. Particularly after we moved into a new office space near arguably one of the worst neighborhoods in America, it all seemed to come unglued very quickly. At a mid-summer staff retreat in the coastside town of Monterey, the tension was palpable, at least until it was all released in what may have been the largest collective binge I’ve ever been witness to. My editor ingested multiple mind-altering substances that weekend, broke one of hotel’s windows (with his head, was the rumor), and spoke in a Beavis and Butthead voice for several hours straight. And he was one of the more well-behaved of my superiors that weekend.

It’s hard to say exactly how many people moved to the Bay Area in search of that same dream during that time, but we do have a sense of how many ultimately joined me in abandoning the dream. An oft-cited figure places the number of people that quickly vacated San Francisco between 2000 and 2002 at 30,000, eventually making it the fastest-shrinking city in the country for a moment.

I went crawling back to college, and to Ironminds, which was ironically in the midst of being purchased by a group of “new-media investors” who moved it from Missouri to New York, rapidly poured millions into it, even after the bubble had clearly burst, and then shut it down just as quickly (although it did eventually lead to the creation of Deadspin via former Ironminds editor Will Leitch).

The dream that had helped me retroactively justify the self-imposed isolation of my adolescence seemed to be dead.

Set adrift
I turned my energies to improv and stand-up comedy, lazily finished my journalism degree, and began to see the value of drinking as a hobby. At the same time numerous ruined dot-com prodigies were retreating to yoga ranches and beyond, I took a gig living on a houseboat in the Florida Keys in exchange for — what else — Web design help.

I sometimes woke up on the beach after a long night at the bar on Big Pine Key and wasn’t sure if I was having a good time or too depressed to even recognize it.

Like many others, I kind of lost my mind for a little bit after the dot-com boom went bust.

Johanna DeBiase)

That fall I moved into a house in Denver with a few friends that I had grown up with to try and find a little grounding and figure what to do next now that Web design was providing me far less (I had to share that houseboat with 11 other guys and no air conditioning).

I delivered food and worked for family while still dabbling in Web design and writing jobs that suddenly paid next to nothing. 9/11 happened, the world seemed to be turned upside down, and that glitzy fantasy I encountered in Austin just 18 months prior felt like it had never even existed.

After months of sending resumes to anyplace that might be vaguely interested, I received exactly one job offer — from a tiny public radio station in the Alaskan bush that was not even reachable by roads.

I signed a two-year contract sight unseen and flew to Alaska. I did not bring a computer or cell phone. Perhaps it was time to grow up and put away those childish things. Without being too hyperbolic, I think the dot-com bust may have broken my heart more than a little bit. Those digital dreams had been banished to the wilderness, and now, so had I.

CNET comments are currently down for maintenance, and should be back soon. In the meantime, please share your memories of the dot-com boom and bust on Twitter at @crave and @ericcmack. In our next installment, I’ll celebrate the 25th birthday of the Web by looking at those years that I spent watching it develop and try to re-assert itself from a distance.

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