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This electro-optical modulator is smaller than a lightwave

As data travels around the internet, it’s routinely switched from electrical signals to light in order to travel through the network’s fiber optic backbone. To do this, the signal travels through devices called electro-optic modulators. However, these devices are really bulky (usually several centimeters across) and require an inordinate amount of power to operate. However, a team from ETH Zurich recently published research in the journal Nature Photonics that outlines how they built a modulator one hundred times smaller and less power hungry than conventional models.

The team, led by professor of photonics and communications Juerg Leuthold, built the device out of a 150 nm layer of gold seated atop an organic material that changes its refractive index when electricity is applied. They were able make the modulator smaller than the industry standard light wavelength of 1.5 micrometers by first changing the light into surface-plasmon-polaritons. This involves converting the light into an electrical field and electrons which travel along a metal strip. At the end of the strip they convert back into light. It’s roughly akin to folding up a cardboard moving box, slipping it under a door, then unfolding it.

“It’s incredibly small and simple, and on top of that it’s also the cheapest modulator ever built”, Leuthold explains. And using just a few thousandths of a watt to convert 70 Gbs of data per second, it draws one hundredth the power as today’s models. The ETH Zurich team is currently performing long-term performance testing on the new device. There’s no word on when it will be commercially viable.

Filed under: Science, Internet



Source: NAture Photonics


Shoot food at your pets with the Petzi Treat Cam

Shoot food at your pets with the Petzi Treat Cam

A cat usually doesn’t love you the way a dog does. But my cats love me. No really. They greet me at the door meowing and carrying on. Well, one of them does. The other one greets me a few minutes later when it’s feeding time and then when she needs a warm lap for one of her constant naps. Okay, one cat loves me; the other one uses me for food and warmth. Regardless of their feelings, the Petzi Treat Cam is my opportunity to say hi to my cats while at work or traveling with the added bonus of rewarding them with food for at least acknowledging my virtual presence. If only they found it as exciting as I do.

The Petzi Treat Cam lets you spy on your pet with the help of companion iOS and Android apps. While the camera is active you can talk to them like an omnipotent pet-owning god by pressing the mic button. Nothing says you love your pets like sitting at your office desk yelling your pet’s name into your phone over and over until your little rent-free tenant appears. Both cats were constantly confused by the noises coming out of the white box. A dog might have believed that I was trapped in the box; the cats, not so much. After the initial reaction to the noises, they just sort of stopped caring. It’s not that my cats don’t like me (they really, really like me); it’s just that my voice sounds like I’m making calls from a CB radio while trucking down the interstate.


The 720p camera isn’t that great. Its quality is reminiscent of smartphone cameras from four years past. With it, you can take photos of your pets on the livestream and share them to social media or to Petzi’s animal-centric Instagram clone. It does not shoot video, which meant I had to set up other cameras to capture what was happening around the device while I was out of the house. Also, the pictures I was able to take were so pixelated it seemed mean to make my cats look that bad. Plus, because of the latency between hitting the camera button and the Treat Cam taking the photo, a lot of my pictures ended up looking like this.

The real genius of the camera is that it shoots treats at your pets. It doesn’t drop them onto the ground or into a bowl; it actually shoots food at your pets. Which is something the cats were initially not ready for. As stated earlier, the camera does not shoot video which seems insane for a gadget that shoots food. So all the GIFs are from a Nest Cam sitting next to the device.

I was hoping the melodic tones the Petzi emits when it’s placed in viewing mode would eventually have the cats rushing towards the device in anticipation of food, like the sound of their food bowls being filled has them racing to the kitchen. It didn’t work that way in the week testing the Petzi Treat Cam. Instead, after moving the camera so that it shot its load onto the hardwood floor and after realizing that the cats really don’t care if I called them over the loud speaker, I would just eject their food onto the floor and a cat would magically appear.

If I was lucky one of them would happen to be walking by when I turned on the camera so that they could be rewarded with a food assault.

But I would never know what I would see when I turned on the camera. Including the time I turned it on and saw this:

One of the cats had knocked the Treat Cam over to get to the food inside (they were not successful) and the camera was trained on the carpet This is because I just set the camera up on a tiny briefcase so it would be at cat-eye level. If your pets are as mischievous as mine there are other options.

Speaking of the sort, setting up the Treat Cam is pretty straightforward. It can be mounted to the wall with the included screws attached to furniture via included velcro straps, or you can just place it on a table. (I live in a rental apartment and would like my security deposit back, so no new wall holes for me.) The problem is that the power cable is hilariously short. After routing the cable through the back of the device so it sits flush against the wall, there’s about 31 inches of cable left. Either you have to go out and buy an extension cord or place it near a power source. I placed it under my desk and this is what happened.


All told, the biggest problem I had with the Treat Cam was that it didn’t record video. While a cloud DVR option would be ideal, even saving to a local computer for later viewing would be a nice touch. The live feed is a nice way to see what’s happening at that moment, but being able to view a day’s worth of pet shenanigans is why I ended up paring it with the Nest Cam.

The device is made to share treats, but I placed cat food in it because my cats don’t particularly like treats and because the black-and-white cat (Hector) suffers from kidney disease and requires constant feeding to just maintain his weight. The Treat Cam let me feed him while I was away from home and wait and wait and wait and eventually watch him eat his food. Because of that, the $170 price is worth it for me even without video. If the company enables video capture at some point, the cost might seem less extravagant to others, especially if you enjoy shooting food at your pets so they’ll love you even when you’re not at home.

Filed under: Cameras, Misc


Source: Petzi Treat Cam


NSA won’t look at call metadata collected under the Patriot Act

NSA headquarters

The National Security Agency is apparently willing to make a clean break from the past now that the USA Freedom Act is forcing it to scale back its large-scale surveillance efforts. The organization now says that it won’t analyze call metadata collected under the Patriot Act from November 29th onward. It’ll hang on to that data for another three months for “integrity purposes” (that is, verifying that new collection techniques are working) and as long as civil lawsuits require, but the goal is to destroy that info “as soon as possible.” This doesn’t put an end to mass surveillance (that’s still practical under the new law), but it will prevent the NSA from digging through historical info that many critics believe it shouldn’t have kept in the first place.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky]

Filed under: Cellphones, Internet, Mobile


Via: Eric Geller (Twitter)

Source: IC on the Record (Tumblr)


Motorola’s phones: a visual history


Since 1984 Motorola has trotted out some of the most iconic and memorable mobile designs in the industry. Whether it’s the StarTAC, RAZR V3 or the original Droid, Motorola consistently offers something unique through design. It even allows you to make the final call on color schemes with its more recent devices so you can create a gadget that’s truly one of a kind. As the company is poised to make its next big reveal tomorrow, let’s take a look at some of those notable handsets that span four decades of mobile phones.

[Image: AP Photo/Christof Stache]

Filed under: Cellphones, Mobile



With Windows 10, Microsoft corrects the problems it created

Windows 10 Start Menu

First released almost three years ago (and updated to 8.1 a year later), Windows 8 was a bet that didn’t pay off. Bold — or brash — design decisions and a fundamental shift in UX led to a very slow uptake of the OS, and we’re now just days away from the release of its replacement. Windows 10 comes at a difficult time for Microsoft, but although it too makes grand design revisions to the current formula, this time, it’s fixing problems, not causing them.

The strange thing is, Microsoft has found itself in this situation before. In July 2009, Vista (then the company’s current OS) was installed on just one in five Windows PCs, while the outdated XP accounted for about two-thirds. Fast-forward to today, and you have almost the exact same story. Windows 8 and 8.1 have a combined share hovering around the 19 percent figure, while Windows 7 stands at around 66 percent. It’s staggering how similar a predicament the company is in. You could point to any number of reasons for why upgrades have been so slow this time around. Perhaps the most pertinent is that PC sales are weaker than ever, and existing users don’t feel compelled to make the switch. When it came to designing Windows 10, Microsoft began with where it went wrong: the Start screen.

Windows 8 set the desktop back 22 years.

For 17 years, the core of Microsoft’s OS was the Start menu. It slowly evolved from a simple gray list in Windows 95 to a highly customizable dual-column affair in 7. Then came Windows 8, and the jump to a full-screen menu with Live Tiles. It was a control system built with tablets and touchscreens in mind, and the plan was for users to ditch the old desktop programs and switch to full-screen, modern apps — the sort that work perfectly on both laptops and tablets. For those without touchscreens, the basic tenet was supposedly the same as Windows 7: Press the Start key on your keyboard, and either move your cursor to (or type the name of) the thing you want to open. But this switch to a full-screen menu was more than just a visual makeover to make selecting things on a tablet easier. Design isn’t just about the way something looks; it’s about how you use that thing, and the Windows 8 switch set “traditional” laptop and desktop interaction back 22 years.

Pre-95, Windows launched applications via the Program Manager, which loaded on startup and essentially took up the entire screen. Although there was a “desktop” that showed the currently open programs, Program Manager essentially represented the “base” level of the UI — the place from where you start anything you do. Windows 95 introduced the desktop as a new base, letting you pin frequently used applications like shortcuts, and, of course, added the “Start menu,” letting you open new applications without returning to the desktop. All versions of Windows had the same basic system, with the desktop being the base of operations, and the Start menu as a pop-over. Windows 8 reversed that, or at least, attempted to.

On boot-up, a Windows 8 computer presented the Start screen, which filled the entire display with applications for you to choose from. Microsoft threw away its highly successful pop-over menu in exchange for a prettied-up Program Manager that showed you everything in one go. It effectively swapped out a 17-year-old navigation system for a 22-year-old one, forcing users to jump away from their application to a full-screen menu to choose a new program. Because most use a mix of desktop and modern applications, this created a fight between two paradigms. Either you use the desktop as the base level of the UI, and get rudely booted into full-screen modern applications and the Start screen, or you do the opposite and frequently find yourself in an alien desktop environment with windowed applications. It didn’t work, and as it became apparent that many developers wouldn’t be switching over to the modern app system, Microsoft knew it needed to find a solution.

Start menu

Windows 8.1 saw the tacit acceptance that users weren’t solely going to use modern apps. Adjustments were made to better cater to the huge number still using desktop programs. The iconic Start button, an integral part of the OS since 95, returned as a visual cue. An “All Apps” view let users swap the large Live Tiles for a simplified list, and booting directly to the desktop was possible — and even default in some setups. But these were small concessions following a major overhaul, and Windows 10 pulls things back even further. The desktop is now the base of the system again, and a more typical Start menu is back, which is customizable depending on a user’s preference. Those used to Windows 7 can go with a familiar two-column vertical layout, with the left side behaving much like Windows 7’s menu and the right featuring small Live Tiles. Those coming from Windows 8 can stretch the menu further across the screen for a wider layout with large Tiles. It’s an elegant modernization of the Start menu, and a solution that will make a lot of sense to those coming from both 7 and 8.

But there’s more to Windows than just that Start button. Its vast array of apps is the operating system’s main selling point, and, right now, there’s a mishmash of desktop and modern applications that Microsoft has to support. These modern apps now have a new home: inside their own windows on the desktop. They behave exactly the same as regular programs, but look and feel more up to date. That means they can be dynamically resized and rearranged, minimized and modified with the familiar “x” in the top-right corner.


Although many apps weren’t created with this in mind, more often than not the new system works well enough. Microsoft’s core apps, of course, look beautiful in this mode, with appropriate color accenting really helping to reconcile the once-disparate desktop and modern UIs. There are still a few design oddities, with rick-click menus in particular looking dissimilar in various apps and parts of the OS. Some third-party apps are also a little confusing; as their interfaces are entirely focused on the full-screen experience, having large back buttons and UI elements sitting within a desktop window make it feel a bit like you’re running a phone app on a computer. You’d imagine that things will get better with time. Given the low number of users with an entirely keyboard-less setup — most touchscreen Windows devices are hybrids or laptops — developers of modern apps have plenty of incentive to tailor their products to the largest audience possible, and make their UIs more at home inside a window.

Action Center

The much-maligned Start screen and full-screen apps, for what it’s worth, always worked well on tablets. They’re still present in Windows 10, as “Tablet Mode.” If you’re using a Surface 3, and you undock from the keyboard, Tablet Mode will automatically kick in, pushing your apps full-screen and leaning on the Start screen for navigation. Click back in, and you’ll revert to the regular desktop environment. It’s such an elegant system it really should’ve been there from the start.

Another sign of the fragmentation between desktop and modern came in the form of Windows 8’s menus. On the modern side, a Settings menu offered basic functionality, while Control Panel had a full range of options, some of which duplicated the former’s. In Windows 10, you’ll find clearly labeled options and full functionality no matter what interface you’re using. The system tray (that little collection of icons next to the clock on the taskbar) is also massively improved, with glassy pop-ups for WiFi, volume, calendar and battery, and a refreshed slide-over “Action Center” that now shows toggles for frequently used settings in addition to notifications. It’s an altogether more unified experience, and one that works well on both tablets and traditional computers. The fact that it’s all very pretty is, of course, secondary to its functionality, but nonetheless helps Windows 10 feel like a coherent, single operating system, no matter what device you’re using.

Turning Windows on its head was never going to work.

And that’s really the story of Windows 10: Microsoft righting its design wrongs. History has shown that users don’t generally react well to big interface revisions. Purely cosmetic changes can slide by okay — although you’ll always upset some people — but turning the operating system on its head was never going to work out well for Microsoft. It’s spent the best part of a decade fighting, trying to force design changes that its users didn’t want or need, only to revert them with the next revision. Now, after the mess of Windows 8, it’s righted the ship once again. It just has to stay on this course, and make the small adjustments necessary to keep moving in the right direction.

Filed under: Software, Microsoft



Next ‘Splatoon’ update will fix matchmaking, increase level cap

Splatoon is easily Nintendo’s breakaway game for 2015. The brightly colored post-apocalyptic third-person multiplayer shooter sold more than a million copies in its first month. It’s tons of fun, but it also feels a little incomplete: the game launched with a low level cap, and a primitive, randomized matchmaking system that made it almost impossible to team up with friends. In a few days, that changes — in August, Nintendo will be upgrading Splatoon with new weapons, new items, a higher level cap and more robust matchmaking.

For players that have been with Splatoon from day one, the August update is flush with essential changes. For starters, the update fixes the game’s matchmaking. Right now, teammates for Ranked Battles are assigned randomly, making it almost impossible to play on a team with a friend — but the new update will introduce new a Squad Battle mode that allow you to form custom teams. A second new mode, Private Battle, will let players create matches with customized map settings and team sizes. The game’s “Regular Battle” mode will still be randomized, however.

The update also adds in a ton of new content, including two new weapon types (a gatling-gun called “The Splatling” and a fancy paint-bucket called “The Slosher”) and more than 40 new pieces of fashionable armor and gear. Nintendo is also bumping the game’s character level cap from 20 to 50 and will tack rank S and S+ to the top of its competitive ranking system.

Best of all? Nintendo’s not even done yet. The company says it will continue to add new battle modes, weapons and maps to the game throughout the rest of the summer and into the Fall. If you were holding off on buying Splatoon until it felt more complete, your time has come.

Filed under: Gaming, HD, Nintendo


Source: Nintendo


Everything we know about the Motorola Moto X (2015)


The Moto X, despite not being as commercially successful as the competition, remains one of the most respected devices in the world. Motorola keeps its phones simple and focuses only on areas that consumers actually care about. The jump from the original Moto X to last year’s model was quite the jump, but still lacked something to make it stand out from Samsung and Apple’s offerings for the holiday season. This year, Motorola once again has an opportunity to come out on top with a flagship device.

What is Motorola up to and will an anticipated refresh be as major as we’re making it out to be?


It’s possible that we’re all just getting wrapped up in the excitement around a new device, but it should certainly be a lot more than a small refresh this time around. Since the first model came out, consumers have been begging for a new Moto X that will employ an amazing camera, sharp display, and lengthy battery life.


The Moto X (2014) has fairly nice specs: a 5.2-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 801 processor, and 2GB of RAM. Even for today, that’s still high-end. A small bump wouldn’t hurt anything, but it wouldn’t be a terrible idea for Motorola to simply leave them as it is, give or take on another gigabyte of RAM.

As much as the Moto X (2015) doesn’t need better hardware, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Motorola include the Snapdragon 810 in the package. Rumors indicate that the new Moto X should have a 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 808 processor, 21MP / 5MP cameras, microSD card slot, and 3600mAh battery.


A Moto X refresh shouldn’t pack a lot of extra features in it. One of the beauties of the device is that it aligns closely to stock Android, and many would prefer to keep it that way. After all, filling the software with undesired bloat only slows down the system and tends to cause some unnecessary errors.


On the other hand, aside from better hardware, many would like to see some major improvements to the device’s camera. We’ve heard a bevy of rumors regarding improvements to hardware thus far, such as a 16MP rear camera with optical image stabilization (OIS) and a front-facing camera with flash. Motorola’s CMO already dropped a few hints, saying that the camera will be a major focus in the upcoming flagship:

That makes us fairly optimistic and, if Motorola follows through, the next Moto X will make many consumers extremely happy.


How much will the new Moto X cost? It’s hard to estimate right now as we’re not sure what major improvements Motorola will be bringing to the table. What we do know is that Motorola has to keep this device fairly affordable for it to be well-received. You can usually pick up a high-end device between $199 and $299 on a two-year contract, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the new Moto X priced similarly. The off-contract price, too, is important. Depending how advanced the phone’s technology is, the off-contract price should be between $399 and $599.


Those estimates are clearly a guess for the base model of the rumored device. Select additions, like a premium back panel, through Moto Maker will only increase the price that Motorola goes with.

Release Date


Motorola has an global event taking place on July 28. The now Lenovo-owned company will hopefully refresh many of its devices in the Moto brand; however, only the Moto G (2015) is practically guaranteed to make an appearance.


Another element to keep in mind is that Motorola’s Moto X notoriously releases in September, so it’s highly possible that Motorola could host an entirely separate event for its flagship device. It would just be rather strange if Motorola held a sizable event around the world for a mid-range device while its flagship is coming in a few weeks.

You should be optimistic that we’ll see the Moto X alongside the new Moto G, especially considering that we’ve seen multiple Motorola devices pass through the FCC.



There are some high expectations for the next Moto X and Motorola certainly won’t be able to meet all of them. What the company can do is improve upon the camera and battery life, two areas that consumers and critics have long begged Motorola to fix.

What would you like to see in Motorola’s next flagship device?

Come comment on this article: Everything we know about the Motorola Moto X (2015)


Moto 360 wireless charger makes its way through the FCC


A new device from Motorola has made its way through the FCC under ID IHDT6UA3, and it seems to be similar to the Moto 360 charger we saw last year.

The FCC notes that this “wireless charger” was used to charge a “Motorola smart watch” at 0, 50, and 90% levels. While we most certainly expect to see a new Moto 360 this year, this wireless charger doesn’t drop many hints regarding that. It was used to charge a “Motorola smart watch,” but that’s quite vague and could even refer to the current Moto 360.


Either way, Motorola has hinted that there is another smartwatch in the works, but we just don’t know when we’ll see it. We could see it at tomorrow’s event, but Motorola seems to be focusing more on their phones this time around. But then again, Motorola says “our relationship status is about to change” and that could indicate some relationship between the company’s new lineup of phones and a smartwatch in the spirit of “our phones never leaving out sides.”

Whatever happens, if a Moto 360 is truly in the works, it shouldn’t be much longer before it makes an appearance.

source: FCC
via: Droid-Life

Come comment on this article: Moto 360 wireless charger makes its way through the FCC


T-Mobile sends Android 5.1 and battery improvements to the HTC One M9


Right now, T-Mobile is pushing a software update to the HTC One M9 on its network. The carrier updated the device’s support page this morning with a listing for new features and improvements.


The software update contains Android 5.1, Google Wallet, anti-theft protection, and battery improvements. All of those items except the new anti-theft protection sound familiar. The One M9 will now prevent unauthorized factory resetting from going through. Users need to have a screen lock and Google account on the device for it to be activated automatically.

T-Mobile’s build number for this software update is 2.7.531.6.

Source: T-Mobile

Come comment on this article: T-Mobile sends Android 5.1 and battery improvements to the HTC One M9


Google eliminating Google+ signup requirement from YouTube, other services to follow

Google in the sun left

Over the past few months Google has been consistently dialing back its Google+ integration into many of its other services. It all began with the announcement of the new Google Photos app, where the company would no longer require users to use Google+ to back up their photos and videos. Now these steps are becoming more apparent, as the company announced its next move to take Google+ integration out of more services.

In a blog post earlier today, Google explained that in the next few weeks, you will no longer need a Google+ account to comment, upload or create your own channel on YouTube. You’ll still need a Google account to access these features, though we’re sure most users will welcome this change to the video-sharing service. This change also means that comments you make on YouTube will show up on YouTube alone, not on Google+ like they do currently. This change starts rolling out today, while the removal of the Google+ requirement won’t go live for a few weeks.

In addition to these changes, the YouTube team also says it’s working hard to reduce the number of spam comments on its videos. The rate of dislikes on comments has already dropped by more than 35% across YouTube.

Google notes that YouTube is just the first of its services to receive this change – more will follow in the coming months. How do you feel about the big change? We know many users were upset when the company first rolled out this requirement, but we’d still like to know your thoughts in the comments below.

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