xYz handheld rumored to combine Xbox 360 and Zune

via DVICE Atom Feed by Adam Frucci on 5/15/09
xYz handheld rumored to combine Xbox 360 and Zune

Here’s a juicy rumor: could Microsoft be working on a portable gadget that combines the Xbox 360 with the Zune? Maybe!

The project, codenamed “xYz,” is said to feature a WVGA touchscreen and a way to play music and movies on both the device as well as the Xbox 360. Basically, it’s going to be a connected handheld gaming system with rich multimedia features. Sounds interesting, but will it actually come to exist? Time will tell.

Team Xbox via Gizmodo

Transformers style truck converts into a train, runs on algae.

via DVICE Atom Feed by Michael Trei on 5/16/09
Transformers style truck converts into a train, runs on algae.

Trains are the most efficient way to move lots of big stuff over land, but the rail lines don’t always go to where the goods need to be. With a special combination wheel design that can quickly convert from rail to road use, the Chiron transporter looks like something Optimus Prime would use when moving house. But by eliminating the need to shift the container over to a truck for the final leg of its journey, the Chiron is designed to save a lot of time and energy. Continuing the green theme, the Chiron’s power is supposedly generated by an ‘algae fuel cell’, although no further information about how this wondrous power plant actually works is given. From the picture, it looks like the Chiron also works on good old fashioned electrified lines.

While I could come up with a host of practical problems including a lack of rear access for loading the container, you’ve got to admit that it looks pretty cool.

Treehugger.com

How To Install Windows 7 On Almost Any Netbook

via Gizmodo by John Herrman on 5/16/09


Windows 7 is free for now, and works extremely well on netbooks. That said, installing the OS on these tiny laptops—especially low-end models—can be daunting. Here’s how to do it, the easy way:

If the Release Candidate is any indication (and it should be), then Windows 7 will be a nice upgrade for any Windows user. The new OS, however, is a huge step up for netbook users. Vista is notoriously poorly suited to netbooks; a buggy resource hog that subjects its users to incessant dialog boxes and requires far too many clicks to perform basic tasks, it’s kind of a nightmare to use on a 9-inch laptop with a 1.5-inch trackpad.

Windows XP has been given a boost by netbooks, as its system requirements—more-or-less decided in 2001—are more in line with the specs hardware like the Eee PC and Mini 9. But let’s face it: XP is nearly a decade old. Its user experience is trumped by free alternatives like Ubuntu Netbook Remix and Linpus, and it’s not at all optimized for solid-state drives—especially cheap ones. This means that on low-end, SSD-based netbooks, it borders on unusable.

Hence, Windows 7. It’s noticeably faster than Vista on low-spec machines, properly optimized for netbook hardware, and, most importantly, free (for now). Thing is, installation isn’t quite as easy as it is on a regular PC—in fact, it can be a pain in the ass: netbooks don’t have DVD drives, which means you’ve either got to get your hands on an external drive or boot from a USB stick for a clean install. Furthermore, smaller SSDs, like the 8GB units in popular versions of the Dell Mini 9 and Acer Aspire One, make a default installation impossible, or at least impractically tight. Luckily, there are simple methods to deal with both of these problems. Let’s get started.

What You’ll Need

• A netbook (Minimum 1GB of RAM, 8GB storage space)

• A 4GB or larger USB drive

• A Windows 7 RC Image (details below)

• A Windows XP/Vista PC or a Mac to prepare the flash drive

• For low-end netbooks, lots (and lots) of time

Getting Windows 7

Downloading Windows 7 is a piece of cake. Just navigate to this page and download the 32-bit version. You’ll need to get a free Windows Live ID if you don’t already have one, but this takes about two minutes.

Microsoft will then give you your very own Windows 7 License key, valid until June 1st of next year. (Although after March 1st, it’ll drive you to the edge of sanity by shutting off every two hours. But that’s a different story, and March is a long way off). Microsoft will then offer up your ISO through a nifty little download manager applet, complete with a “resume” function. There are ways to sidestep this, but don’t: you’d be surprised how hard it is to keep a single HTTP connection alive for long enough to download a 2.36GB file.

Preparing Your Flash Drive

This is the annoying part, but it’s not necessarily that difficult. Here are some guides, by OS (some linked for length):
Windows XP
Windows Vista
• Mac OS X (courtesy of Ubuntu, funnily enough):

1. Open a Terminal (under Utilities)

2. Run diskutil list and determine the device node assigned to your flash media (e.g. /dev/disk2)

3. Run diskutil unmountDisk /dev/diskN (replace N with the disk number from the last command; in the previous example, N would be 2)

4. Execute sudo dd if=/path/to/downloaded.iso of=/dev/diskN bs=1m (replace /path/to/downloaded.iso with the path where the image file is located; for example, ./windows7.iso)

5. Run diskutil eject /dev/diskN and remove your flash media when the command completes (this can take a few hours on slower drives)


Starting Your Install

Ok! Now you’ve got a bootable flash drive, and you’re ready to start installing. It should go without saying, but once you start this process, you’ll lose all existing data on your netbook, so you should back up any important files before going through with anything from here forward.

Insert your USB drive and reboot your netbook. As soon as your BIOS screen flashes, you should see instructions for a) changing your netbook’s boot order or b) entering its BIOS setup. In the first situation, simply assign the USB drive as the first boot device. In the second, navigate through your BIOS settings until you find a “Default Boot Order” page, and do the same thing there.

From there, you should see the first Windows 7 installation screens. Anyone with a 16GB or larger storage device in their netbook can just follow the instructions until the installation completes, and skip the next step.

If your SSD is smaller than 16GB, or if you just want to save some space, do what they say, but only until the first reboot. After the Windows 7 installer has restarted your computer, you’ll need to modify the boot order again. Do not allow installation to continue! Manually change the boot order to prioritize the USB drive again, just as you did at the beginning of the installation.

Compression!
Simple file compression is the secret to squeezing Windows 7 onto your skimpy 8GB SSD. Now that the Windows 7 installer has copied most of its system files to your drive, you’re going to tighten them up with Windows’ trust old “Compact” command. Here’s what you do, as described by Electronic Pulp:

Choose “Repair” at the Windows 7 Setup screen, go to “Command Prompt” and enter the following code:

d: (or whatever drive letter is assigned to your SSD)
cd \windows\system32
compact.exe d:\*.* /c /s /i

And wait. And wait and wait and wait. This can take anywhere from eight hours to two days, so you’ll want to set your netbook down in a corner and forget about it for a while. [Note: compressing so many of your system files does have a performance cost, but in day-to-day use, it’s negligible]

Once this is done, reboot the netbook again and let it continue the installation as normal. That’s it!

All said and done, an 8GB SSD should have nearly 2GB of free space left—not much, but enough to work with. And given that most netbooks come with inbuilt, flush SD expansion slots, and that high-capacity SD cards are extremely affordable, having a small amount of space on your root drive isn’t at all prohibitive.

Setup and Customization Help

Windows 7 works fairly well out of the box, but as with any new Windows installation, you’re going to need to download some drivers. Vista drivers usually do the trick, but sometimes workarounds are necessary. Thankfully, most popular netbooks have spawned helpful fan forums, many of which have Windows 7 subforums. Some of the best:

So there you go! Enjoy your new Windows 7 netbook! Please share your experiences in the comments-your feedback is a huge benefit to our Saturday guides. And of course, have a great weekend!

Your Gadgets Don’t Break As Soon As Your Warranty’s Expired – Your Brain Is Just Wrong

via Gizmodo by Jason Chen on 5/15/09


Wired takes a look at the “phenomenon” of your gadgets breaking just after the warranty on them expire. A conspiracy? No.

There are two components to this. One, manufacturers calculate with extreme thoroughness how long to make their warranties so they don’t have to repair a bunch of products for free. Two, it’s your brain that makes you remember that one time that something broke outside warranty.

“It’s really connected to two things: regret and memory,” says Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational. A gadget that dies a day out of warranty will piss you off a lot more than one that soldiers on until after you’ve lost the certificate. And years later, you’ll probably remember it more acutely, too.

[Wired]

Brass Knuckle Soap Allows You To Punch Up a Good Lather

via Gizmodo by Sean Fallon on 5/15/09

Molded like brass knuckles, this soap is perfect for punching away the memories of the night before, purifying your body and spirit with a mixture of soap and pain.

[SPYE via Likecool]

Wolfram Alpha Fail Is Appropriately Nerdy

via Gizmodo by Dan Nosowitz on 5/16/09


Wolfram Alpha, the dorktastic computational search engine, got off to a bit of a rocky start when it launched last night. At least its first fail message had the foresight to include a HAL reference.

As it’s an alpha, we’re not too bothered that it’s run into some overload problems. Hey, at least people are using it, right? But be warned, Wolfie: A pithy error message can only charm us for so long.

[via Twitter]