Galactic Suites space hotel is on course for a 2012 debut

via DVICE Atom Feed by Kevin Hall on 11/3/09

Galactic Suites space hotel is on course for a 2012 debut

Come 2012 (you know, providing the world doesn’t end) you may have another venue for booking a luxury hotel: space. That’s the hope of the Barcelona-based architects behind the Galactic Suites, anyway, who say that they are on track with building a space hotel.

Each three-night stay at the Galactic Suites will cost a whopping $4.4 million, though that also gets you an eight-week training course on a tropical island. Hopefully you’ve let your vacation days pile up, because that’s a pretty big commitment.

You’d wear a velcro-covered suit while on board the station to aid with mobility, and you’d get to watch 15 “sunrises” as you orbit around the Earth every 80 minutes. Each hotel pod will have room for four, as well as two astronaut pilots — who, hopefully, will have their own space to retreat to.

Sure, it still sounds a little crazy, but it’s all part of a big space tourism push hinging on companies such as Virgin Galactic and the construction of Spaceport America in New Mexico.

“It’s very normal to think that your children, possibly within 15 years, could spend a weekend in space,” Galactic Suites CEO Xavier Claramunt told Reuters Television. “When the passengers arrive in the rocket, they will join it for 3 days, rocket and capsule. With this we create in the tourist a confidence that he hasn’t been abandoned. After 3 days the passenger returns to the transport rocket and returns to earth.” Claramunt doesn’t plan to use Spaceport America initially, opting instead to ferry guests into space on Russian rockets launched from a spaceport that will be built in the Caribbean.

Only time will tell if Galactic Suites really will open on time. Skeptics cite the enormous costs that a project like this obviously poses, though, according to Yahoo News, “Claramunt said an anonymous billionaire space enthusiast has granted $3 billion to finance the project.”

Via Yahoo News

5 home theater technologies coming faster than you think

via DVICE Atom Feed by Stewart Wolpin on 11/3/09

5 home theater technologies coming faster than you think

Tops on my home-entertainment wish list is the experience recorder invented by physicists played by Louise Fletcher and Christopher Walken in Douglas Trumball’s Brainstorm. Such a gadget is highly fanciful (and likely to be co-opted by the military, just like in the film), but there are five bona fide home theater trends we’ll see take off in 2010, almost all of which are connected to connectivity — and reality.

Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers go semi-wireless, still awesome

via DVICE Atom Feed by Charlie White on 11/4/09

Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 speakers go semi-wireless, still awesome

We love Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 computer speakers, and we were wondering why the THX-certified powered speakers have been scarce lately. Here’s the answer: they’re going wireless. They still deliver that kick-ass sound, and at $199, only cost about 50 bucks more than the wired version. Plug your USB wireless transmitter into your Mac or PC’s USB port, and then you’re rocking that 200-watt amplifier inside the ProMedia 2.1’s awesome subwoofer.

There’s a catch, though — that subwoofer still needs to plug into a wall outlet, and the two satellite speakers are still connected to the subwoofer with wires. The advantage? You can place those speakers and their sub 30 feet away from the PC. Might be great for listening to iTunes in the bedroom, controlling your PC via Wi-Fi with the Apple Remote app on your iPhone.

If the lack of complete wirelessness is mildly disappointing to you, the good news is that you can still get those original ProMedia 2.1 speakers for $150.

Xbox 360 Sky Player down, relaunching ‘in phases’ today

via Joystiq [Xbox] by JC Fletcher on 10/28/09

While the Xbox 360 Sky Player apparently launched in the UK yesterday as planned, things veered away from the plan almost immediately thereafter. The service was “suspended” shortly after launch, for what must be the best possible problem in Microsoft’s eyes: too many subscribers.

“Unfortunately due to the unprecedented levels of simultaneous demand,” a statement on Xbox.com reads, “we did not have the capacity to satisfy all service requests and therefore temporarily suspended all access to the service.” The service is being reinstated in phases today, presumably with some upgrades in place to deal with the demand. An earlier statement (reproduced on Engadget) specified tomorrow as the target date for the relaunch — it seems likely that all users will be returned to their regularly scheduled programming then.

Gratuitous Space Battles officially blows up thousands of space ships

via DVICE Atom Feed by Tom Chick on 11/4/09

Gratuitous Space Battles officially blows up thousands of space ships

If I’d known Gratuitous Space Battles was going live this week, I would have adjusted the wallet threat level upwards. You know how the space combat scenes in Battlestar Galactica were terrible and epic and oddly serene, all at once? This game is like that. It has lovely graphics, a lot of depth, an alarming amount of replayability, and a great sense of humor, to boot. Plus, it’s universal. Who wouldn’t want to build spaceships and then throw them into massive battles so you can sit back and watch them pound the snot out of other spaceships? Isn’t that the point of all science fiction? Isn’t that why Wrath of Khan is the only good Star Trek movie?

After a lengthy beta period that incorporated lots of user feedback and lots of gratuitous improvements, Gratuitous Space Battles is now officially released. Not to say it’s final. Developer Cliff Harris clarifies the announcement of the “release version”:

Does this mean the game is finished?
It means the game is in a finished state, playable and is properly for sale, yes. It means people can review the game without thinking it’s still in beta. It means that Positech (Me!) consider this to be a finished game, rather than an on-going beta test.

Is this the end of new features?
No. Definitely not. I already have stuff (like the converging lasers thing) in the pipeline to add in later updates. There is a ton of stuff I’d love to add (if the game sells!). It *does* mean that updates will be less frequent, but probably be more feature-related rather than focusing on bug fixing, and possibly bigger in scope.You can get Gratuitous Space Battles here for the odd, odd price of $22.99.

Map of Connectedness reveals world’s most remote places

via DVICE Atom Feed by Charlie White on 10/26/09

Map of Connectedness reveals world's most remote places

Physical distance used to dictate how remote a place was, but no longer. Now that there are airlines reaching around the globe, bullet trains, Autobahn-like superhighways and go-fast boats, the remoteness of the location is measured by how good the transportation is between here and there. In the map above, the darker a location is, the harder it is to get there.

Created by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center in Italy and the World Bank, the map started out as a model based on how long it would take to travel from each point to a city with a population of 50,000.

Just be happy you’re not in Tibet, the most remote place in the world — you’ll travel three weeks to get to a city of any decent size, including 20 days on foot. And we thought the Midwest was in the boondocks.

New Scientist, via Fast Company

Hey NASA: Skip the moon, send humans to asteroids, Mars moons

via DVICE Atom Feed by Charlie White on 10/23/09

Hey NASA: Skip the moon, send humans to asteroids, Mars moons
As NASA readies the Ares 1-X test rocket, a commission of experts appointed by the president says hold everything. NASA should forget about going to the moon for now, and land humans on a nearby asteroid or comet, or one of the two moons of Mars, says the Augustine panel. The reason? It will take a whole lot less fuel to get humans back from such low-gravity destinations.
It makes sense. The moon? Been there, done that. Let’s get some big honking rockets, maybe even bigger than the Saturn V, and head out into deep space. Meanwhile, the Augustine panel recommends extending the life of the shuttle for another year — until 2011 instead of putting it in mothballs on October 1, 2010 — and keeping the International Space Station aloft until 2020 instead of crashing it into the ocean in 2015.
Too bad this commission didn’t exist when George W. Bush decided back in 2003 that our goal was to set up a base on the moon, and then head to Mars. Among the eight options presented by the commission, a moon landing would only be a training mission, a stepping stone to destinations beyond. A Mars mission would only happen in the distant future.
These new plans could work. Well, until another politician decides to change them.
Via USA Today (art courtesy Denise Watt, via Space Gizmo)

Twitter Peek: a mobile device that handles Twitter and that’s it

via DVICE Atom Feed by Adam Frucci on 10/28/09

Twitter Peek: a mobile device that handles Twitter and that's it
Are you really into Twitter, but not into having a cellphone capable enough to run a Twitter app for you? Would you rather carry two devices of limited functionality around with you than one that can do multiple tasks? Uh, OK. Well, the Twitter Peek is designed with you, and few other people, in mind.
The Twitter Peek is a wireless device that can handle Twitter and only Twitter. No phone calls, no email, no mobile internet, no nuthin’, just Twitter. There’s no word on pricing on this guy, but I’ll stick to using Tweetie on my iPhone, thanks.

Inside the Motorola Droid, an iPhone likeness

via CNET News.com on 11/1/09

Though the Motorola Droid and Apple iPhone have different chassis, their high-octane engines are similar.

The internal similarities begin with performance: both devices are fast. The iPhone 3GS is already distinguished for its speed. And the Droid is quickly garnering similar accolades.

The Motorola Droid has a radically different exterior compared with the iPhone but uses a speedy Cortex-A8 ARM chip like the Apple phone.

The Motorola Droid has a radically different exterior compared with the iPhone but uses a speedy Cortex-A8 ARM chip like the Apple phone.

(Credit: CNET Reviews)

“The Droid makes a big leap in internal performance. Compared with its rather sluggish Android predecessors,” CNET Reviews said, citing the speed at which the Droid opens applications and menus and scrolls through lists and switches display screens.

“We’re really pumped to see all the industry excitement it’s created,” said Jeff Dougan, the OMAP 3 product marketing manager at Texas Instruments, which supplies the OMAP 3430 processor that powers the Droid. “This is the first handset that truly realizes the full potential of Android,” he said, referring to Google’s Android 2.0 operating system that runs on the Droid phone.

The TI processor, like the one in the iPhone, is based on an a new architecture called Cortex-A8 from U.K.-based chip design house ARM, whose wide variety of chips populate most of the world’s cell phones. Dougan says most smartphones currently on the market use an older, lower-performance ARM architecture than the Cortex-A8–with the exception of the Palm Pre, which opted for the newer TI chip. The Cortex-A8 provides a “two to three times performance boost” over older architectures, according to Dougan.

Max Baron, an analyst at Microprocessor Report, says the chips in the Droid and the iPhone (see not below) are so alike that differences are more dependent on the operating systems the two chips use and how successfully each phone maker optimizes the OS. “With chips that have near-similar specs, the optimum OS and the look-and-feel of the user interface may make or break the product,” Baron said.

“The caveat, however, is that even small differences in chips will surface and become important differentiators as soon as the market forces you to increase the screen size or add more pixels per screen, or execute more power-consuming applications,” he added.

The raw MHz ratings on the chips are slightly different. The processor in the iPhone 3GS–which is believed to be based on the Samsung S5PC100 processor–runs at 600MHz, according to most accounts. The Motorola Droid’s TI chip is rated at 550MHz though theoretically it can be run as fast as 600MHz, according to TI’s Dougan.

Both phones also use PowerVR graphics from Imagination Technologies–a company that both Apple and Intel have invested in, testifying to how hot its ultramobile graphics technology is. The PowerVR is renowned for its ability to process several million triangles-per-second–a key indicator of graphics chip performance–blowing away other phones and the previous version of the iPhone.

Other internal specifications are similar between the two phones, including memory capacity (either 16GB or 32GB) and communications chips that offer 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connections.

So, internally the Droid is every bit the iPhone’s equal. And future versions of TI OMAP 3 chips that may appear in upcoming Droids will be backed by formidable ecosystems, according to Baron. “Investments in application software may lean more toward the TI components,” said Baron, given TI’s strong support of the entire chip ecosystem, including auxiliary chips and software development tools.

Note:: Apple’s and Samsung’s reluctance to release information about the processor used in the iPhone 3GS has made it difficult to determine if the chip is based on the Samsung S5PC100, according to the Microprocessor Report’s Baron. Many iPhone 3GS reviews and teardowns, however, state explicitly that the iPhone’s processor is essentially the Samsung S5PC100 processor.