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The nanny state should loosen its grip on cell phones

April 11, 2013 3:24 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

We’ve written a lot on ECN about automotive safety and its intersection with cutting-edge technology. Texting, Facebooking, and web surfing pose an existential concern for distracted drivers (not to mention pilots, train conductors, and boat captains), but the nanny state has really overreached on this one: A California court recently found a motorist guilty of distracted driving for checking a map on his iPhone.

Who’s the fool? – Profound discoveries or elaborate pranks

April 11, 2013 9:44 am | by Chris Fox, Managing Editor | Blogs | Comments

We all know the old adage that surrounds the first day of April. We’ve all taken part in or fallen victim to an April Fools prank at some point. In the contemporary realm, April Fools has taken on an entirely different persona. April 1 used to be a day where the bully in school could yell out the hallmark and get away with tripping you in the hallway (kind of)....

Star Wars on the high seas: Navy plans to deploy shipboard laser by 2014

April 9, 2013 3:35 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

Some bad news for Sci-Fi fans: The Navy’s new shipboard laser system, Laser Weapon System (LaWS), won't shoot spiffy beams of light of the sort used to kill stormtroopers, Cylons, and Klingons. But it will fire a focused infrared laser that can down drones, disable small boats, and — in the future — engage missiles and enemy jets.

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The creepiest robot yet

April 9, 2013 2:28 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor | Blogs | Comments

There is an interesting inverse phenomenon involved in creating humanoid robots: The more lifelike they are, the creepier they become. It’s not something that makes complete sense if you think about it. Theoretically, as robots become more human-like, they should begin to blend more into society and become less weird. 

The Facebook "phone" that no one wants

April 8, 2013 2:56 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor | Articles | Comments

Well, well, well. It looks like Facebook has finally decided to join the big boys and create their own phone. It’s the phone that absolutely no one was waiting for. To quote the parody video below, “Stop. Don’t do that. Nobody wants it.”

Should a computer grade your essay?

April 8, 2013 10:09 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

One should never swap quality for instant gratification. Yet that’s exactly what EdX, a nonprofit educational organization founded by Harvard and MIT, is doing with their automated grading software that promises “instant feedback” on students’ essays. Creativity need not apply.

Data pirates

April 5, 2013 9:23 am | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

As if we didn't have enough to worry about with government tracking and collecting information on our every move, we also have to be on the lookout for data pirates. Although, if the pirates get their hands on the government databases, the problem begins to look like a single problem with diverse parts.

My wish list for the next iPhone

April 4, 2013 10:32 am | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Blogs | Comments

A new iPhone is imminent! Man the ramparts! Sound the trumpets! A new coronation is upon us! OK, that’s a tad hyperbolic, but the prospect of a new iPhone has me a little giddy — especially since the iPhone 5 was a huge disappointment and reinforced my decision to snag an early 4S (and not hold out for the inevitable sequel).

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Television's next big thing: Smell-O-Vision (again)

April 3, 2013 3:44 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor | Blogs | Comments

Now that 3D television has failed to take off the way designers were hoping, companies have moved on to a newer, better, greater, bound-for-failure idea: Smell-O-Vision. Haruka Matsukura and a team from the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have designed an olfactory display system that can work in conjunction with a 2D display.

Top 10 must-read posts from March

April 3, 2013 10:47 am | by Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor | Blogs | Comments

Here’s a rundown of the most read, most popular, most awesome articles on the web. Take a look at what you missed the first time around or check up on an old favorite to see the conversation in the comments. Keep checking out the Lead at www.ecnmag.com and follow us on Twitter @ecnonline for our most up-to-date articles.

More thought required: The simplest designs aren’t so simple

April 3, 2013 9:29 am | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

I'm in the process of designing an I2C system that uses telephone cable to route the signals around. It uses standard four-conductor cables with RJ-11 type plugs on the ends. For my system, it is important that there be no twists in the cable. Getting the signals reversed (clock and data) is not too bad. It will just prevent the system from working.

BIL Gates and the BioBrick Foundation: A new paradigm for biotechnology?

April 2, 2013 11:15 am | by Karl Stephan, Consulting Engineer, Texas State University, San Marcos | Blogs | Comments

No, that’s not a typo in the headline. I’m not talking about the founder of Microsoft, though he is no doubt the reason that biotechnology researcher Drew Endy decided to name his new computer-in-a-cell devices Boolean Integrase Logic gates (BIL for short).  The technology, which I’ll get to in a minute, is fascinating on its own.

Looking forward on Ethernet's 40th anniversary

April 2, 2013 10:24 am | by John D’Ambrosia, Chairman and Board of Directors, Ethernet Alliance Chief Ethernet Evangelist, CTO Office, Dell | Blogs | Comments

Ethernet this year is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and anniversaries are typically the time to celebrate the past. But with so much innovation and development percolating across the global Ethernet ecosystem, there is little time for the technology’s vast array of stakeholders to look back on its successes.

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A legitimate case for drones

March 29, 2013 3:32 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor | Blogs | Comments

There’s been a lot of chatter in the news (and here on ECN) about drones. These arguments usually come down to questions about ethics, military power and tangentially the military industrial complex, and the relationship of the US with various other countries. It’s rare to see drones talked about in any context outside of military.

Post-Sandy legislation: Backup generators would prevent long gas lines

March 28, 2013 4:12 pm | by Chris Warner, Executive Editor | Blogs | Comments

Five months have passed since Superstorm Sandy, and legislators are nipping around the edges of bolstering the fuel distribution system so more gas can get to the consumer in the case of a widespread power outage or other state of emergency.

Is re-industrialization the key?

March 28, 2013 2:27 pm | by Tom McNamara, Assistant Professor of Operations Management, Rennes School of Business | Blogs | Comments

Most economists agree that the “Great Recession” of 2008 ended sometime around August 2009, and while the economy has been slowly recovering, unemployment still appears to be a stubborn problem. The headline rate is just a shade under 8 percent, which translates into a little over 12 million Americans out of work.

Replenishing the “brain drain”

March 28, 2013 9:26 am | by Paul Michalicka, SKF USA Inc. | Blogs | Comments

It is a phenomenon that is referred to with a catchy rhyme: “the brain drain.” Older workers are leaving companies, taking their experience and knowledge with them. And, for various reasons, the reservoir is not being refilled at the same rate. Knowledge leaves, and the tank threatens to go dry.

The first high-tech war

March 27, 2013 2:54 pm | by Tom Ligon, Technical Contributor, with contributions by the SIGMA Think Tank | Blogs | Comments

Ironclad warships. A steam-powered warship defending New York’s harbor. Submarines. Rifled cannon firing elongated explosive shells. The first use of steam power for logistical support of a battle. Industrial automation. Obviously, I’m talking about the U.S. Civil War, right? Nope.

Internet sales tax will only benefit the state

March 25, 2013 3:34 pm | by Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor | Articles | Comments

Get ready to pony up more dollars for online purchases. On Friday, the U.S. Senate passed the innocuously-titled "Marketplace Fairness Act" through the upper chamber on a 75-24 vote. The bill would require e-tailers to collect and remit sales tax on interstate commerce, even when the business has no physical presence in the state.

Nuclear power: The future of human civilization

March 25, 2013 10:23 am | by Tom Ligon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

This is not an article about the environment. This is not an article about oil. This is an article about the long-term future of human civilization. Are you with me so far? Are you in favor of human civilization having a future, not just for another hundred years, but for thousands ... tens of thousands?

The best way to improve distributors, according to engineers

March 22, 2013 4:43 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Associate Editor | Blogs | Comments

How do you deal with distributors? Distribution is a key aspect of the engineering process, and it's important to choose the right distributor. You need dependibility, reliability and transperency to make the relationship between distributor and manufacturer work. 

The LED rundown

March 22, 2013 2:16 pm | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Articles | Comments

The life of a light-emitting diode (LED) isn’t as simple as some advertisers may lead you to believe. Manufacturers offer numbers like 100,000 hours as the expected lifetime of high-powered LEDs, but those numbers reflect calculations done using optimum conditions and specification points.

Bendable display technology takes the stage

March 22, 2013 12:06 pm | by Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor | Corning, Samsung | Articles | Comments

It happens to everyone who owns a smart phone or tablet. One ill-fated toss into the car or accidental drop on the hardwood and suddenly the screen is too cracked to read. Not only does this render the phone useless until you can get to a store, it can mean spending hundreds of dollars on a new screen or an entirely new phone.  

Soldering and other tools

March 22, 2013 9:17 am | by M. Simon, Technical Contributor | Blogs | Comments

I don't have a lot to say today. I'm busy on the bench building things. But I have come across a few good tools and soldering helpers, so I thought I'd provide a few links. Harbor Freight has a couple of good items. Yes. I know it is easy to buy junk there, which is why I thought I'd mention these two items.

Level the playing field between retailers and e-tailers

March 20, 2013 9:38 am | by Colin Hanna, President, Let Freedom Ring | Blogs | Comments

As a former local elected official, I know that tax revenues need to come from somewhere and that they should be levied on as fair a basis as possible. It’s a delicate balance, one that does not come easily. Government must be responsible in its spending and should not abuse its authority to effect change in the marketplace....

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