Over at Mashable there’s an excellent walkthrough of Boeing’s newest and hottest passenger aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, and all of its gorgeous interior features that are designed to make passenger air travel more comfortable, less tiring, and more fun than it’s ever been. Make no mistake, the aircraft is utterly gorgeous and I have no doubt in my mind that the aircraft itself is wonderfully built with comfort and smart design in mind with smart design choices from the lighting to the windows–all points that are outlined in the article–but I have my doubts that even the Dreamliner will be able to make flying fun again.
Before we get into why, here’s some more info about the jet. For starters, there’s some great news about the cabin air; something that’s a number one complaint for a lot of flyers:
The 787′s lighter, composite fuselage design means the plane’s pressurization can be changed with no concerns about weight impact.
From a practical point, the 787′s lower pressure cabin should mean a more pleasant flying environment and around 8% more oxygen absorption. This is good news for anyone who suffers from headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue when flying.
In addition, the air in a 787 is “cleaner” than other commercial planes. Fresh air comes from “air scoops,” rather than via the engines. In addition to HEPA filtration, the 787 also employs a gaseous filtration system, reducing irritants even further.
Now that’s something I’m thrilled with. It’s never any fun being stuck in an airplane breathing stale, highly pressurized air that you know is being circulated through everyone else’s nostrils and that smells vaguely like jet fuel. The 787 Dreamliner’s vaulted ceilings and bigger windows don’t hurt things at all – they all make the jet more fun to be on and more open and comfortable once you’re on board.
That is, provided that airlines and government officials are willing to let the jet stay that way, and to smooth over the passenger’s experience getting to their flight. As it stands right now, the biggest problem with air travel is the fact that it’s so painful to get into the airport, through security, and to your flight that people just don’t want to do it anymore. If you do it regularly for business or out of necessity you quickly grow an immunity to it, but that doesn’t make it much easier. The rigor and fear surrounding the security theater of TSA checkpoints in the United States at least still makes for an incredibly unpleasant pre-flight experience, one that airlines and airports do little to alleviate once you’re through security and on your way to your gate or terminal.
Then, to make matters worse, the airlines will surely take all of the wonderful technological improvements in the Dreamliner and scrap them all in favor of packing in as many passengers as humanly possible with little to no regard for the design and comfort that Boeing engineers put into their work. The beautiful seating arrangements and wide on-deck desks that you see in the concept art at Mashable will likely be replaced with rows upon rows upon rows of seats that airlines can shamelessly overbook and pack people into so tightly that the only admiration they’ll have for the vaulted ceiling is when they look up to see it – mostly because they’ll have passengers less than 6 inches to their sides, a headrest immediately behind them, and the next passenger’s seat a few feet from their face.
Still, I can only hope that some of the improvements that Boeing has made to the Dreamliner make their way into the commercial versions of the jets. There’s a big difference between the concept jets and the first-flight jets that are carefully built to showcase the technology and design of the manufacturer and the final commercial products ordered (and heavily tweaked) by airlines. The question isn’t really whether the Dreamliner can make flying fun again, but whether the airlines will allow it to do so.
If you were a fan of Reading Rainbow as a child, and miss having the opportunity to share it with your kids or with a new generation of young readers, you’re not alone. When Reading Rainbow officially stopped airing, LeVar Burton noted on Twitter that this wouldn’t be the end of the show (you can follow him, if you don’t already at @levarburton) and now he’s made good on the promise.
LeVar is rebooting the series as an iPad app and other tech-based resources, called RRKidz, along with a wealth of companion content that will get to young readers right where they are these days: on mobile devices like tablets. From an excellent article at FastCompany about this:
LeVar Burton, a children’s literacy advocate and a former star of Star Trek: The Next Generation, plans to make an ambitious comeback, giving the once-loved Reading Rainbow brand a 21st-century upgrade. Burton’s for-profit venture, RRKidz, plans to launch an educational iPad app that lets children explore topics of interest–such as, say space–in a multimedia-rich environment, with voice-over-enhanced children’s books, familiar videos of Burton at real-life places (like NASA), and, of course, games. Burton tells Fast Company he’s on a mission to “get kids hooked on books,” and says his company is “going to where kids are today; those devices that they love to spend time on.”
From the way that FastCompany explains it, this is just the beginning – the iPad app is only going to be one component in what will hopefully be a rich and long-lived educational venture, and with LeVar Burton behind it, I can’t see how it’ll be anything but wonderful.
I love Android, I really do – and I especially love how imminently customizable and tweakable it is, regardless of how sometimes carriers and Google itself will try to arrest some of that tweaking and hacking. Still, it’s probably the most open mobile OS out there, and clearly the one that most people are experimenting and toying with.
And above, one group of researchers have come up with a 32-inch multi-touch display running Android. The results are astounding to see. I kind of wish I could get one of these for my wall, frankly.
When I heard this story, I was more saddened than anything else. Frankly, there’s no love lost between Facebook and I – I don’t find the service quite the panacea communications platform that so many other people do, but I do have some love for Google, and think that they have some of the smartest people working on the coolest technology that can actually improve our lives of any tech company (and I don’t just say that because I almost joined them.)
Facebook, on the other hand, is the epitome of a tech company and brand that lives, breathes, and exists to make as much money off of the backs of their users while consistently keeping them controlled, monitored, managed, and herded. Facebook lives to eat their data and all of their personal information and then sell it to the highest bidder under the guise of keeping people “connected” and “in touch” with the ones they care about.
I’m not saying Google doesn’t do similar things, or want to eat our data and sell it all as well – but at least they offer something back in exchange, even if you don’t think it’s a fair trade.
All that aside, when I heard the news that Facebook had hired a PR firm to start releasing media advisories and spreading FUD about Google, I was pretty livid. They could have done the same thing and called it avertising or marketing, and that would have been fine in a way – at least they would have been above board. Instead, Facebook went undercover, using a PR firm as their front, with instructions not to divulge their connections. That’s just underhanded.
Like I said on Twitter, I don’t know what’s funnier, the fact that Google’s the good guy here, or the fact that Facebook is actually pretending it gives a damn about privacy.
TwitPic, one of the most popular image hosting services that many users use alongside Twitter, recently changed its terms of service in probably the most horrible way possible: they now have rights to use and re-use the photos that you upload.
That’s right – if you’re out at a bar snapping photos of your friends and your drinks, you might presume that you have some control over the photos and how they’re used because you took them, right? Not if you upload them to TwitPic.
If you’ve noticed some of your friends veering away from the service, this would be why. It’s a bigger shame because TwitPic is one of the image hosting services supported officially by Twitter, which means you’re able to see images from TwitPic in-line at the Twitter web site and in the official clients, not to mention most of the unofficial and third-party ones.
Sadly, a number of TwitPic users have to find a new home if they want to retain ownership and legal right over the content they upload – assuming it’s not already copyrighted by someone else, that is. Here’s the scoop from an article over at ReadWriteWeb:
“To clarify our ToS regarding ownership, you the user retain all copyrights to your photos and videos, it’s your content,” Noah Everett, founder of TwitPic, wrote on the company’s blog. “Our terms state by uploading content to Twitpic you allow us to distribute that content on twitpic.com and our affiliated partners. This is standard among most user-generated content sites (including Twitter). If you delete a photo or video from Twitpic, that content is no longer viewable.”
So to be clear, you don’t give them ownership or complete rights over the content, but you do give them the right to use or re-use the content as they see fit. Which for most people, are enough rights removed that they’ve moved on to another service.
Everyone’s been talking about this story today, but I think it’s an incredible one. In what’s clearly the biggest purchase or acquisition the company has ever made, Microsoft has weighed in and purchased Skype outright for $8.5 billion. That’s a lot of dough.
Microsoft is buying Skype from Silver Lake, the investment firm which has had a majority interest in Skype for a while now, since eBay spun it off after acquiring it and not knowing what to do with it. Now, what the future has in store for Skype is anyone’s guess, but we’ll see how it all turns out for the company: it’s going to be interesting to see what Microsoft decided to do with Skype.
A lot of people have already predicted that Microsoft will simply shut Skype down and absorb its technology into its own communication and VoIP products, leaving nothing behind. According to Microsoft, they have no such plans. From PC Mag:
Microsoft said the deal will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications across its products, while expanding Skype’s reach. Skype will be available on Microsoft products like Xbox, Kinect, and Windows Phone, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live, and more.
Microsoft said it will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.
“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in a statement. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”
When the deal is complete, Skype will be a new business division within Microsoft. Skype CEO Tony Bates will become president of the Microsoft Skype division, reporting to Ballmer.
If that’s the case, we’ll still see Skype in the future, and people will still be able to use the service. However, as one clever Twitter user put it, I wonder if they’ll make us all sign in with our old Hotmail/Live IDs that none of us remember the passwords to anymore.
According to a report by Royal Pingdom, the iPad is already a more popular computing platform than Linux. Ouch – I know a lot of Linux evangelists that are going to be mad about this – and are likely already coming up with ways to dismiss the report entirely.
Over at Geek.com I wrote a story about how XP has finally lost top spot in market share to Windows 7, but down there near the bottom of the chart in that story is another, equally interesting story: that “Other” category.
Inside that “Other” category, if you break it out by mobile OS to iOS, and then again to the iPad specifically, you get 1.18%. Which is still bigger than Linux’s overall 0.71%. Pingdom confirms:
These market share numbers are from Statcounter and are based on visitor statistics averaged from 3+ million websites. In other words, they represent computers used to access the Web. Mobile phones and other small-screen devices are not included.
In other words, the iOS market share you see in the chart is only for iPad. It does not include the iPhone or iPod Touch. We’ve verified this with Statcounter, just to be entirely sure.
Not only is iPad now so widely used that it shows up in this list, iOS for iPad has managed to pass Linux as a “desktop OS” (we use quotes, because tablets will probably soon make up their own category). In fact, it passed Linux sometime around December. Not bad for a device that was launched just back in April of 2010.
Wow. Talk about a rise of a product – it’s clear that one of the things that people with iPads do most often is surf the Web. Head over to Royal Pingdom for more details.
So RIM – the company behind the BlackBerry and its line of products – finally managed to ship the BlackBerry Playbook. The reviews have been flying, with most of them falling into two categories: BlackBerry fan sites that are heralding the device as a great gadget for BlackBerry fans with a few fatal flaws; and other tech sites without the same BlackBerry focus that are putting more of a fine point on its flaws and suggesting people wait until those flaws are fixed.
PC Mag‘s review is in the latter half, as are most of the reviews on the Web – and the best ones, I think. The PlayBook got pretty “meh” reviews from most people partially because it won’t get email unless it’s paired with a BlackBerry phone, it’s buggy and quirky, its apps aren’t really well designed just yet, and there’s no video chat even though there’s a front-facing camera.
All of these issues are ones that RIM could fix easily though, but they had a difficult enough time actually getting the PlayBook to market – it was announced way back in 2010 and is only now being brought to market, and PC Mag is right: in that same time period Apple brought the iPad 2 to bear and Motorola brought the Xoom to bear and there have been a number of other Android tablets with more features even if they’re generally cruddy. RIM was just too slow to really make a huge splash here.
Still, time will tell whether or not users can look past the issues or have faith in RIM that they can fix them in a timely fashion. In the interim, head over to PC Mag and see what they think – maybe it’ll inform which tablet you buy.
Kelley Blue Book just released its list of top 10 Green Cars for 2011, and while most of the vehicles you would expect to make the list are on it – including the 2011 Toyota Prius (shown above) and the previously mentioned Nissan Leaf, there are a ton of other vehicles that made the list that you might not initially expect considering some of them are traditional gas-burning vehicles and not hybrids at all.
The goal of the study was to present a variety of fuel-efficient and environmentally conscious vehicles that consumers can think about when they head to the dealership that won’t lighten their pockets terribly much considering the cost of gasoline, but will also keep the air clean and the environment healthy for future generations to enjoy. One thing KBB editors noted was that once again – as always – high gasoline prices actually get people thinking about hybrid vehicles and energy efficient cars. The same is true now, according to the editors:
In addition, Kelley Blue Book Market Intelligence today announces the latest March 2011 survey data detailing consumer sentiment and opinions on gas prices, showing that gas prices are increasingly influencing car shoppers’ vehicle purchase considerations. The number of survey respondents reporting that gas prices have changed their mind about the vehicles they are considering increased 5 percentage points from 30 percent in February 2011 to 35 percent in March 2011. Further, the amount of respondents who identified better fuel economy as the primary reason they are looking to purchase a new vehicle also has been on the rise over the past three months, increasing from 6 percent in January 2011 to 15 percent in March 2011. In addition, 85 percent of car shoppers in March 2011 indicated that they feel gas prices will be higher in the next 30 days, up 11 percentage points from February 2011. On average, consumers taking the March 2011 survey said that a vehicle would need to get at least 26.2 highway miles-per-gallon in order for them to consider it for their next vehicle purchase.
Keeping consumer sentiment about gas prices in mind as the kbb.com editors chose their annual Green Car list for 2011, they were immediately struck by the much wider range of vehicles they had the privilege of considering this year when compared to years past. These days not only are there more hybrids than ever before, there also are more high-efficiency gasoline-powered vehicles on the road.
I have to acknowledge this – when I see vehicle companies marketing cars that get a whopping 20-25 miles per gallon, I have to scratch my head: my 7-year old sedan gets 25 mpg, and I think that’s pretty awful – I, for one, am hoping to have options in the 30s when I head out to buy my next vehicle.
Still, to the point – as mentioned, you’ll find the Toyota Prius in the list, you’ll also find the Chevrolet Volt, and the Nissan Leaf, of course. You may be surprised, however, to find winners like the 2012 Ford Focus and the 2011 Hyundai Elantra in the list as well – both of which are generally lauded as being great vehicles, but they’re not hybrids or electric cars. The moral of the story? You have options when shopping for a green vehicle.