Category Archives: Gadget News, Reviews, And Features

Microsoft’s Kinect guards South Korea’s borders against trespassers

Surgeons, mad scientists and sentries guarding the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) now have one thing in common: Microsoft’s Kinect. According to Hankooki, the Korean military is currently using Kinect sensors to monitor movements at the border between North and South Korea. Thanks to software developed by Jae Kwon Ko, the sensors can make out the difference between animals or humans, allowing it to notify a nearby outpost if a person is attempting to cross the border illegally. As you’d expect, the South Korean military’s keeping most details under wraps, but Ko shared that they’re looking to upgrade the system with heart rate and heat detection.

[Image credit: Edward N. Johnson/Wikipedia]



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Man who posts online vid of kitten abuse gets year in prison

Online cat videos have come to be associated with some of the cutest, silliest moments the Internet has to offer. But they can have a dark side too, as a legal sentence handed down Monday in France shows.

A veterinarian holds Oscar the kitten, who was injured when thrown repeatedly against a building. The perpetrator then posted the video to his Facebook profile.

Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Farid Ghilas of Marseille was sentenced to a year in prison for animal cruelty after posting a video to his Facebook profile last week showing him hurling a kitten against a building. The video quickly went viral, sparking widespread horror and outrage and even death threats aimed at the perpetrator.

Though Ghilas is far from the first person to be arrested after publicizing incriminating details on social media, the incident had further, faster reach than most. By the time Ghilas took the video down, Facebook users had copied and pasted his profile information; posted his name, address, and phone number on the Web; and created Facebook pages calling for his arrest. The police ended up taking Ghilas into custody less than 24 hours after the video appeared online.

On Monday, just days later, some 200 animal-rights activists, accompanied by about 20 dogs, gathered outside a Marseille criminal court as the 24-year-old man was sentenced on charges of “acts of cruelty against a domestic and tame animal.” The offense carries a maximum prison term of two years and a fine of 30,000 euros (about $40,500).

According to a translated version of a Metro News article on the ruling, Farid Ghilas gave no clear explanation of what drove him to abuse 5-month-old Oscar. “I do not know what came over me,” he reportedly said several times. “I walked around the neighborhood. Cat came to me. I took it, I swung.” After the video was shown in court, he murmured an apology.

The president of the Society for the Protection of Animals in Marseille, a plaintiff in the case, called the apology weak, Metro News reported. “We must set an example for all those who torment animals,” Andy Salviano said, while asking tense and angry protesters to respect the sentence. Other plaintiffs included the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the welfare and protection of animals.

An online petition calling for prosecution of the man who filmed the Ghilas video had garnered more than 40,500 signatures at the time of this writing.

Meanwhile, the rust and white kitty — rescued by a bystander who witnessed the ordeal — suffered a fractured leg when he fell to the concrete and is now being cared for by the Marseille SPA, where, “like all kittens, [he’s] just waiting to play,” the organization reports. Oscar’s guardian will reportedly be able to recover the pet soon. And if the Internet’s past record of kindness to vulnerable animals and the many well wishes posted to the SPA’s Facebook page are any indication, he now has supporters the world over.

Farid Ghilas is pictured in a screenshot of the offending video, captured before he took it down.

Brigitte Bardot Foundation)

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The government wants our cars to ‘talk’ to each other

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is throwing its weight behind vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication systems. After years of experimentation and a real-world trial in Ann Arbor, MI the government is (almost) ready to make peer-to-peer networking a required safety feature on all new cars. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that it’ll “begin taking the next steps” towards implementing V2V, though, what those steps are is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. One major detail left to be ironed out is when exactly these new safety standards will go into effect. The agency is currently finalizing its analysis of the data gathered during the Ann Arbor trial, which it will then use to build a regulatory proposal.

For those that don’t know, V2V systems allow cars to share information about their position, speed and heading with each other and alert a driver when there is potential for danger. That could be a car speeding through an intersection ahead or a truck in your blind spot when trying to change lanes. While there is potential for integration with automated collision avoidance technology in the future, initially the DOT will be focused on passive systems. If you’re concerned about the government having yet another avenue through which to track you, breathe easy. The data passed between vehicles includes no personally identifiable information. In fact, it doesn’t even identify the car — it only contains basic safety data. In addition to that, the NHTSA envisions multiple layers of security and privacy protection to ensure vehicles are sending and receiving reliable data.



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The 404 1,419: Where it’s open tax season with Aunt Jill Schlesinger (podcast)

Tune in for Aunt Jill’s official one-on-one basketball challenge to “financial adviser” Suze Orman

Suze Orman)

Leaked from today’s 404 episode:

– Make way for GameSpot’s Ultimate Upgrade Sweepstakes.

– The smart guide to financial aide.

Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry.

– Ventev: Idiot proof, Aunt Jill approved travel chargers.

Follow Aunt Jill on Twitter.

Episode 1,419


iTunes (HD)
iTunes (SD)
iTunes (HQ)
iTunes (MP3)



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Windows 8.1’s first major update leaks online: improved Store app integration, time-saving tweaks

Microsoft’s incoming Windows 8.1 update might not make any grandiose changes, but it looks as if it will offer some appreciated navigation and start-up improvements. A new build with an unreleased upgrade in tow, has leaked online, offering risky types the chance to try it several weeks before its official release. As teased last month, the update will let you pin your Windows Store apps alongside other programs on your desktop start bar. It sounds like a timesaving improvement, as before you’d have to labor through the Start screen to launch those aforementioned apps. Windows 8-styled apps also pick up a new bar with close, minimize and snap options available to click on, forgoing those keyboard shortcuts. Live Tiles now have contextual menus available with a right click, making them easier to resize, move (or remove). A new shutdown button, as leaked just last week, also throws up a new drop-down menu for restarting, shutting down and sleep mode. This experimental build is apparently a three-week old one — the real deal is expected to arrive next month.



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What headphone buyers need to know, Part 2

Open-back Sennheiser HD 800 (left), closed-back AKG K 272HD (right)

Steve Guttenberg/CNET)

There are many types of headphones, and if you understand the pros and cons of each before you go shopping, you’ll make a more informed buying decision. Closed- and open-back headphones sound very different and serve different needs. To learn more about how they differ I spoke with two engineers, Sennheiser‘s Axel Grell and AKG‘s Philipp Schuster, and thanks go out to them. Today I’ll look at open- and closed-back headphones; I covered on- and over-the-ear headphones in yesterday’s blog item.

Closed-back headphones’ ear cups have no openings, so they hush outside sound by creating a tight seal around your ears. Open-back designs are just the opposite, the ear cups are open to let you hear the world around you. So where you listen may determine whether you’d prefer open- or closed-back headphones. Generally speaking, open headphones sound better when you’re listening in quiet settings. If you try to listen to an open-back headphone on a bus you’ll have to turn the volume way up to overcome the bus’ noise. Open-back headphones’ sound can be heard by people nearby; closed-back designs keep most of the sound in the ear cups.

Closed-backs’ noise isolation may be adequate for some buyers, but if you need maximum noise hushing, buy noise-canceling headphones. The upside for closed-backs is they don’t use batteries or electronic processing to keep noise out, and dollar for dollar closed-back headphones sound better than noise-canceling headphones. I covered the difference between noise-canceling and noise-isolating headphones in a previous write-up.

Open headphones produce more spacious stereo imaging, because the “backside” of the drivers radiate sound in free space. With closed-back headphones the sound reflections inside the ear cups can play havoc with the stereo imaging; with open headphones you hear the sound directly, without reflections. Poorly designed closed-back headphones tend to sound “canned” and hollow. For a given price class, open headphones sound better than closed designs.

Beats full-size headphones, all of which are closed-back designs, have boosted buyers expectations for bass power, so most headphone manufacturers are producing bassier sounding models than they did in years past. The pumped up bass response is a benefit if you crave maximum bass oomph, or mostly listen in noisy places like trains, buses,
cars, etc. If you prefer a more accurate tonal balance, or tend to listen in quiet surroundings and don’t need isolation from noise, buy an open-back headphone.

Schuster pointed out that your ears will probably feel hotter with closed-back headphones than they would with open designs, which allow for greater air circulation. Almost all on-ear headphones are closed-back designs. So don’t waste time searching for the “best” headphone, look for one that best suits your needs.

For more information about headphones, check out Justin Yu’s Headphone Buying Guide.

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