Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Boeing's 777X plans: Big windows, lots of air, and robot manufacturing

The company is copying passenger-friendly details from its 787 Dreamliner into its upcoming 777X wide-body passenger jet, the company announces at the Farnborough airshow.
by Stephen Shankland
July 15, 2014 4:00 AM PDT

FARNBOROUGH, UK -- Passenger-friendly interior details like big windows, clean air, and comfortably high cabin pressure that Boeing introduced with its 787 Dreamliner will also come to its larger long-haul sibling, the 777X passenger jet due in 2020.

Boeing announced the details for the 777 successor here at the Farnborough International Airshow, a premier event for the aviation industry where aircraft manufacturers try to win over the world's airlines. In addition, the company said it's bringing robotic manufacturing to some parts of fuselage assembly for both the 777 and 777X, a move that should increase production rates and quality.

The 787 Dreamliner family -- including the existing 242-passenger 787-8 and the new 787-9 that just started shipping -- has a range of change designed to make passengers more comfortable. That includes large windows that let more than just window-seat passengers see out; high ceilings and reworked higher-capacity overhead bins; air-filtering systems that can absorb odors like perfume; higher humidity; and cabin pressure that's the equivalent of 6,000 feet above sea level, not the usual 8,000 feet. Among the features that will move to the 777X will be the humidity, cabin pressure, and large windows, said Scott Fancher, Boeing's senior vice president of airplane development. It'll also get lower cabin noise by virtue of a quieter new engine housing.

"One thing we learned from the 787 is the amazing passenger experience -- the cabin altitude, the cleanliness, the openness and airiness of the interior. We've learned from it and replicated it in the 777X," Fancher said. "From every seat in this airplane, the passenger will see the horizon."

Some of the changes may seem cosmetic or simple, but they aren't necessarily. Structural changes are necessary to accommodate larger windows and the higher pressure from the 6,000-foot equivalent altitude. But the prospect of happier passengers -- especially on the long trips up to 10,700 miles (17,220km) the 777-8X -- is a good argument for airplane salespeople to use, and right now the market is fiercely competitive. Both Boeing and its rival Airbus are scrambling to satisfy new demand from customers.

On the first day of the airshow, customers placed about $41.9 billion worth of orders and commitments, triple the rate of the last Farnborough show in 2012. "Prospects for the rest of the week are looking extremely positive," show organizers said in a statement.

At least some of that demand is directed at the 777. Air Lease Corp. said Tuesday it's ordered six of the current 777-300ER (extended range) jets. But Boeing has to be more excited by last week's news that Emirates Airline finalized its order for 150 777X jets. That's fully half of the 300 orders so far, and at list prices is worth $56 billion.

Boeing is ramping up production to keep pace with passenger-jet demand. For instance, its 787 manufacturing is moving from 10 per month now to 14 per month in 2018.

A rendering of Boeing 777X's interior

Here come the robots

Helping the production-line speedup will be increased use of robots for manufacturing, a move that follows the auto industry's footsteps. Boeing is moving to a new assembly technology in which robots join some 777 and 777X fuselage panels together by drilling holes and attaching about 60,000 fasteners. A German company with a major presence in the auto industry, Kuka Robotics, is supplying the robots.

Robots can improve quality and speed, and Boeing also pointed to safety improvements: the process that's being automated is responsible for more than half of worker injuries today, the company said.

Workers often aren't happy to be replaced by robots, but those affected by the robotic assembly won't lose their jobs. Instead, they'll be moved to other manufacturing jobs or to operating the robots, said company spokesman Doug Alder.

The company already opened the door to robots in 2013, using them to paint 737 wings. And it's accepted delivery of robots that will automate 737 wing assembly.

Boeing plans to keep making 777 models for another six or seven years, said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing's commercial airplane division.

Other 777X improvements

Boeing and Airbus are steering away from major new designs like the Airbus A350 XWB and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Instead, they're moving toward updates to existing craft. Airbus announced its A330neo on Monday, for example, a model that will be 14 percent more fuel-efficient than the current A330 and can carry 10 more passengers. And Boeing's 737 Max is 20 percent more efficient than today's 737 and can carry 11 more passengers.

The 777X -- a placeholder name during the development and testing phase -- is another such update. It's a lot more than just cabin improvements and a fresh coat of paint, though.

Boeing says the 777X will have 12 percent better fuel efficiency and 10 percent better operating costs than Airbus' A350-1000.

One big aspect of the 777X will be a technology called hybrid laminar flow control. In laminar flow, a fluid or gas travels smoothly, with none of the vortices and pressure differences characteristic of turbulent flow.

"It's a competitive advantage for us," Fancher said. "The longer that laminar flow length, the more efficient that surface is. It's very economical, maintainable, supportable, and on our airplanes."

The 787 uses hybrid laminar flow control on its tail assembly's vertical and horizontal stabilizers. Fancher wouldn't detail where it'll be used on the 777X, but said it's applicable to that same area. The wings, though, won't get the technology, because anti-icing technology makes it too complicated.

The 777X, announced in May 2013, will come in two varieties, the 350-passenger 777-8X and the 400-passenger 777-9X. The twin-aisle planes are wide-body models, but are two-engine craft that aren't as big as the venerable four-engine 747 jet line.

The planes aren't an impulse buy: The 777-8X has a list price of $350 million and the 777-9X $377 million.

10 awesome Google features you're not using

July 29, 2014

10 awesome Google features you're not using

Google has made a name for itself as the top search engine on the Web because its algorithms are the best at finding exactly what you're looking for. But, it's so much more than that.

The company has always encouraged innovation and that shows through many of its lesser-known features. It even made virtual reality available to anyone with an Android phone.

Anyone who has played around with Google's site knows there are plenty of other great things you can do there. From custom search functions to fun games, Google is loaded with awesome content that makes it a lot more than just a search engine. You just have to know where to look.

That's why I've made a list of the best Google features you probably don't know about yet and how you can find them. Some of these cool tools will make your life easier and others will just blow your mind.


The Internet is full of helpful flight search websites that help you find the cheapest tickets for your next vacation. We all know about sites like Expedia and Kayak. But, did you know Google is in on this market, too?

It's true. And, if you like any of those other sites, then you'll love Google Flight Search. That's because Google-owned ITA Software provides the information used by most flight search sites. That means Google Flight Search will give you quick access to the information from those other sites in one place.

You can quickly pick starting points and destinations on a map. When you've clicked on the airports you want, click on the tabs under the destination information to filter the results by length, price and date. You can also click the red "Show Flights" button.

When you find a flight you like, you can book it directly on the airline's site. You can even get information about checking luggage for that particular airline.


Not every cool Google features is a practical tool to save time and money. In fact, sometimes the company comes up with some pretty fun time wasters.

How many of you remember Atari Breakout? It's the old game developed by Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.

It starts with a row of bricks at the top of the screen. You've got to break the bricks with a bouncing ball. You keep the ball moving by sliding a paddle across the bottom of the screen. It's a pretty simple game, but very addicting.

Thanks to Google, you can play Atari Breakout on your computer whenever you want. Simply, go to the Google Image Search page and search "Atari Breakout." Then, wait for the fun to begin.

The search will look standard at first, showing a few screenshot images of the game. But, then the images will reorganize as the game's bricks and your ball and paddle will appear.

So, the next time you're on Google, have some fun, but try not to waste too much time.


Google's normal search engine is a great research tool, but the site has some very specific tools that can be even more helpful depending on what you're looking for. For instance, the Google Public Data Explorer is a treasure chest full of information on public statistics.

To use the tool, just go to the Google Public Data page. Then, use the search bar to find a topic. Keep your searches simple, like "Unemployment in the U.S."

Google will then mine its resources on the Web to return results from sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Click the link and Google compiles the information into a readable graph. You can even modify the data using things like gender, age and state.

This is an extremely useful tool for students doing research or anyone just looking to get a better understanding of social and economic conditions around the world.


Learning a new language can be tough, but Google can help you translate words back and forth between languages quickly when you're in a bind. This function is integrated right into the regular Google search, so you don't even have to visit another page.

To translate with Google, just type in "translate (word) to (language)" in the search bar. For instance, you could write "translate apple to French."

Google will then return normal search results along with one special addition. At the top of the page above the results, there will be a simple white box with your original word and translation inside. Google will let you know it less than a second that "pomme" is French for apple. It also has a small speaker icon that will let you hear the word if you aren't sure how to pronounce it.

Want to translate larger blocks of text? No problem. Google Translate is a full-fledged webpage and app that lets you translate entire paragraphs from one language to another.


What's healthier, an orange or a banana? Finding out is easier than ever with this simple search tool. Just like the translator feature, Google will let you compare the nutritional information from many foods using the regular search bar.

Just type "compare" into the search bar, along with the foods you want to look at, such as "compare broccoli and asparagus." Google will do the rest.

When the site returns your search results, it will include a large white box at the top. The box will contain both of the items you want to compare, along with some nutritional information. For foods like broccoli, it will even give you the option to modify the results for different varieties and how it was cooked.

This is a great feature to use if you're counting calories or just want to know a little bit more about the foods you eat every day.


Finding definitions for words you don't know is now easier than ever thanks to Google. Google even goes above and beyond to provide you everything you could ever need to know about a word.

To find a definition, just type "define (word)" into the Google search bar, such as "define tintinnabulation" - it's "a ringing or tinkling sound" if you were wondering.  The search will return with a standard dictionary entry at the top of the page that includes pronunciation, parts of speech, and every possible definition.

If you click the gray arrow at the bottom of the box, you get access to even more information about the word. You can find out where and when it originated and how often it has been used over time. You even have the option to translate it into another language.

You used to have to buy a subscription to expensive services like the Oxford English Dictionary to find information like that. Now, it's right at your fingertips.


Whether you're cooking or helping your child with math homework, odds are you're going to have to convert different units of measurement. Your recipe might call for half a cup of milk, but the carton says eight ounces. Or, maybe your kid is learning about the metric system.

Don't panic; Google has your back. It has an easy to use converter tool built right into the search function. Just type in a search like "convert eight ounces to cups" to find the correct conversion.

Your search will come back with a nice conversion calculator at the top of the page with your answer already plugged in. If you have another question, you don't have to search again.

You can edit the numbers and units of measurement right in the calculator to find out a new conversion. When you type in the numbers, it converts them for you in real time!


This is a really unique research tool for those studying languages and books, but, you don't have to be professor to appreciate it.

Google nGrams is a feature of Google Books that lets you search how many times specific words occur in over 5 million books. It then charts your results on a graph, so you can see how often certain words are mentioned over time by using books from those time periods.

It's pretty interesting to look at the popularity of words over time. You can see which words were popular a hundred years ago and which ones are used more frequently now.

To use nGrams, just type in the words you want to search for in the search bar at the top of the page. Separate each word with a comma, so the algorithm knows they are different terms. You can then modify your search by year and language.  The large graph will then show you the ups and downs of the word usage over time.

For serious researchers, Google also lets users download the raw data for free to run their own experiments.


If you thought Google Earth was great, then this going to blow your mind. You can step off of our planet and into the universe with Google Sky.

Instead of searching locations on this planet, this feature lets you look at outer space using images from different telescopes, probes and satellites. It works similarly to Google Earth. You can search for items in the search bar at the top and Google Sky will show you the most recent images of the stars, planets and galaxies you are looking for.

The tool also includes showcases at the bottom of the page to direct you to popular and interesting parts of the map, like images from the Hubble Telescope and shots of our own Solar System.

In addition to the basic map, you can look at infrared and microwave images of space. You can also look at historic map of the stars made by Giovanni Maria Cassini in 1792! You can also overlay these different images on top of one another to see how they compare.


Google's algorithms are really good at searching the Internet to find the information you're looking for. But, have you ever been frustrated because searches keep returning with words or phrase you don't want?

You can use special terms and symbols called search operators to refine your searches and make sure they come back the way you want. One of the helpful search operators helps you exclude search terms that you don't want to show up in your results

It's pretty easy to do, too. Simply, enter the minus (-) symbol in your search before any words you don't want in your results. That little symbol tells Google's search algorithms to ignore any results that show up with the dashed words.

Say you wanted to search for "puppies," but didn't want to see sites that were selling them. Just type in "puppies -sales" and you're set.

This is a great tool for everyone, whether you're doing serious research or just trying to find a smoothie recipe without strawberries. Sometimes the words you leave out of a search are just as important as the words you put in.

Scientists create 'world's darkest material' Improves Optical Imaging in Telescopes

Scientists create 'world's darkest material': Vantablack
The Dark Side has some catching up to do. A new nanotech material claims the crown for being the darkest material ever created.

by Amanda Kooser
 @akooser July 14, 2014 9:15 AM PDT

Black is an important color. It helps Batman disappear against the night. It keeps Goth kids looking stylish. It's the cover look for Spinal Tap's infamous "Smell the Glove" album. Just when you thought black couldn't get any darker, scientists from Surrey Nanosystems in the UK have announced the creation of a super black material.

The breakthrough isn't geared toward fashion, however. It was developed for use in electro-optical imaging and target-acquisition systems in order to improve those devices' sensitivity. One example of a use for the material is in telescopes to increase the instruments' ability to see very faint stars.

Called Vantablack, Surrey says the new material "is revolutionary in its ability to be applied to lightweight, temperature-sensitive structures such as aluminium whilst absorbing 99.96 percent of incident radiation, believed to be the highest-ever recorded."

Vantablack is created through a low-temperature carbon nanotube growth process. It took two years of development and testing to achieve success in applying the material onto aluminum structures and pyroelectric sensors, readying it for use in actual imaging systems. It can be used to coat components like optical sensors, baffles, and apertures.

"We are now scaling up production to meet the requirements of our first customers in the defense and space sectors, and have already delivered our first orders," said Ben Jensen, Surrey Nanosystems' chief technology officer. As it turns out, Vantablack is the new black.

Driverless cars heading onto British roads in 2015

Driverless cars heading onto British roads in 2015

Government desire to change the rules to allow companies to start running trials of cars that do not need human driver will require change to Highway Code, industry sources say

By  Peter Dominiczak

10:15PM BST 29 Jul 2014

Driverless cars will start appearing on British roads next year, ministers will announce on Wednesday.

The Government wants to change the rules to allow companies to start running trials of cars that do not need a human driver on UK streets, industry sources said.

It means the first computer-controlled vehicles will be seen on quiet British streets by January next year.

Ministers will update the law to ensure that driverless cars can take to the streets – a move which will require a change in the Highway Code.

The new generation of vehicles work by using GPS technology to locate the vehicle’s position on an electronic map.

Google earlier this year unveiled its first computerised self-driving car, which has no steering wheel or accelerator. The company will test prototypes in California this year and says the ultimate goal is for cars to “shoulder the entire burden of driving”.

However, motoring campaigners have raised safety concerns about the possibility of driverless vehicles appearing on British roads.

A government document released this month said: “These vehicles will have a driver present but are capable of driving fully independently, using knowledge of the environment in which they are driving.” It added: “Fully autonomous cars remain a further step, and for the time being drivers will have the option (and responsibility) of taking control of the vehicle themselves. Vehicle manufacturers and their systems suppliers continue to explore the opportunities for full autonomy.”

David Bizley, the technical director of the RAC, said: “We suspect it will be difficult for people to come to terms with giving up control of their vehicle to a computer. Many vehicles already have features such as automatic braking and it is claimed that driverless technology is able to identify hazards more effectively than a person can, but many motorists will be concerned about not being able to control the speed of their vehicle for the conditions or layout of the road.”

Mr Bizley added: “The biggest question for society has to be how we manage the transition from having just a few of these vehicles on the road initially to having a mix of both driverless and driven vehicles to finally having just driverless vehicles.” Britain will also benefit from recent changes to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic.

It used to state: “Every driver shall at all times be able to control his vehicle or to guide his animals.”

However, an amendment agreed in May would allow a car to drive itself as long as the system “can be overridden or switched off by the driver”.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Google's Android Has a Fake-ID Problem
By Dune Lawrence July 29, 2014
Google’s Android operating system has a security flaw that could allow hackers to impersonate trusted applications and potentially hijack your phone or tablet, according to research released today.

The basic issue is the way in which Android checks—or rather, does not check—that certain applications are what they say they are, according to Bluebox Security, the company that identified the vulnerability. Hence the catchy name, “Fake ID.”

Verifying identity is one of the most fundamental issues online. Is someone logging into a bank account the owner of that account? Is an application what it claims to be? San Francisco-based Bluebox helps companies secure their data on mobile devices, and its staff members work to research and understand the architecture of the mobile operating systems that Bluebox builds onto, says Jeff Forristal, chief technology officer.

Each Android application has its own digital signature—an ID card, in essence. Adobe Systems (ADBE), for example, has a specific signature on Android, and all programs from Adobe have an ID that’s based on that signature. Bluebox discovered that when an application flashes an Adobe ID, for example, Android does not check back with Adobe that it’s an authentic one. That means that a malicious actor could create malware based on Adobe’s signature and infect your system. The problem isn’t specific to Adobe; a hacker could create a malicious application that impersonates Google Wallet and then access payment and financial data. The same issue applies to administrative software present on some devices, allowing full control of the entire system.

“We basically discovered a way to create fake ID cards,” says Forristal. “There are different vectors. They all come down to: I can create a fake ID card. The question is, which fake ID card do I create?”

The flaw affects Android systems from 2.1 (released in January 2010) on up, though the latest version, 4.4 or KitKat, has closed the hole as it relates to Adobe, according to Bluebox. To give an idea of scale: From 2012 to 2013, about 1.4 billion new devices shipped with the Android operating system, according to Gartner. Gartner (IT) estimates that 1.17 billion additional Android devices will ship this year.

The revelation of this particular vulnerability illustrates how security researchers and Google handle the discovery of flaws in software or programs. It also shows the complexity of handling a vulnerability affecting Android because fixes require adjustments from not only Google but also from various app developers and device makers.

Bluebox concluded its research in late March and submitted the bug to Google by March 31, according to Forristal. The Android security team developed a fix in April and provided the patch to vendors, who had 90 days to implement it before Bluebox publicized its findings, he says. Bluebox has tested about 40 Android-based devices out of more than 6,300 in the market. So far the company knows of only one vendor that has put a patch out, he adds.

Google did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Bluebox plans to discuss its findings at the Black Hat convention in Las Vegas next week. Expect a lot more troubling security news before then. Black Hat tends to bring it out.

Stanford researchers show off blueprint for self-healing lithium battery

Stanford researchers show off blueprint for self-healing lithium battery

By Jon Gold  Follow
NetworkWorld | Jul 28, 2014 12:43 PM

A paper published today by Stanford University researchers outlines a way to make lithium batteries a lot safer, opening the door to a host of new applications in everything from smartphones to electric cars.

The paper, which ran in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, details the use of a carbon nanotube layer to isolate a lithium battery’s anode, protecting it from the rigors of heavy use.

Lithium-ion batteries are one of the most efficient ways to pack a lot of power into a small space, and they’re consequently in heavy use – one of them is probably powering your smartphone as you read this. The Tesla Model S also uses a lithium ion cell for power. But lithium-ion batteries use several other materials as anodes, even though a lithium anode would be substantially more efficient.

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The reason for this? A lithium anode tends to form irregular, “mossy” metal deposits with use, rapidly decreasing efficiency and causing potential safety issues. But the Stanford team, led by Professor Yi Cui, used a coating of amorphous hollow carbon nanospheres to isolate the anode and prevent the formation of the unwanted deposits.

The effect is more efficient batteries that last roughly 50% longer than units without the carbon nanosphere treatment, with consequently broad implications. Safe lithium batteries could mean longer ranges for electric cars, longer lives for portable electronic devices and much more.

Some of the same team members were responsible for a another potential Li-on battery advancement, outlined in another paper last year, this time of a flexible carbon nanotube “skin” for existing silicon anodes, which helps stop them from cracking and losing efficiency.

Monday, July 28, 2014

5 reasons the phablet is fabulous

5 reasons my phablet is fabulous

Crave's Michael Franco has been living with an awfully big phone for just over four months. His conclusion? Size really does matter.

by Michael Franco  @writermfranco July 23, 2014 9:48 AM PDT

Not long ago, I wrote about some trepidation I was having about giving up my iPhone and switching to an Android device for the first time. That hesitation largely disintegrated once I held my new phone in my hand. It was the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and it felt big, but good.

After having gotten to know the Note 3 for a few months, I'm back to say: iPhone? What iPhone?

This big new slab of tech has been much more satisfying to use than my iPhone ever was. Sure I miss some of the ease with which my old phone integrated with iTunes, but beyond that, I can't really think of a reason I'd rather go back to Mac than forward with the Note.

Now before you accuse CNET or me of being a shill for Samsung, please know this is a personal piece about a personal decision to buy the Note 3. It just happens to be the phone I own, not some kind of publicity stunt from Samsung (although I wish they had given me this monster for free!).

Now that that's out of the way, here are five reasons I'm loving my phablet, and why you might consider upsizing as well.

Bigger really IS better (You knew that was coming, didn't you?)

Far and away the best thing about this phone is its downright huge screen size. Sure I've had to put up with jokes from friends who ask to borrow my "mini TV" when they need to look something up or make a call, but I chalk that up to jealousy.

Clocking in at 5.7 inches, the Note 3's screen is big enough that I can actually enjoy a night of binge-watching "Supernatural" without feeling like I'm viewing the episodes through a keyhole. It also makes surfing the Net a super-pleasurable experience. I can actually read the text and view the photos -- no squinting needed. Lastly, I pretty much do all my e-reading on this thing now, from books to magazines. In fact, I haven't had to boot up my old iPad for use as a reader since I got the phone. Heck, it's almost the size of a small paperback anyway, so it seems natural for this purpose.

So I've come to the conclusion that big is good. Sure, it can be a bit tricky to pull the phone out of the pocket of my jeans when I'm driving, but otherwise, the size has been a non-issue in terms of carrying the thing around. The fact that it's super thin means you get used to having it on your person in about two days.

I will say, though, that I find Samsung's split screen feature a little silly. The screen's not THAT big, so I'm not sure you'd ever see value in having two different windows open at once on the thing, but maybe there are people out there who take advantage of the feature. I'm not one of them.

The 'write' stuff

I'm a writer, right? So since I got this phone, I no longer need to carry around a separate pad to write down story ideas or bits of bad poetry the world will never see. Instead, I just whip out the pen and actually write down whatever's on my mind. It's a super fast process and I find that there's a real difference between what I produce when I actually write words instead of thumbing them out. Somehow thumbing seems too utilitarian for creativity. It's perfectly suited for texts and quick emails but not so much for writing down more detailed reflections or story ideas. For that I like going old school on my new-school tech by using a pen.

One of the cooler features of Samsung's S-Note app is that you can actually send your handwritten notes to someone as PDFs in an email attachment, something I discovered when a friend asked to see the reading list a bunch of us had compiled on vacation a few weeks ago.

Plus, I'll admit it. I just feels super cool to slide that pen out and wield it like a sword over the battlefield of my phone (can you tell I watch too much "Game of Thrones")? So few people have the Note that the pen is still a novelty that gets you noticed. The Leo in me likes getting noticed.

That being said, I don't really use the pen's handwriting-to-text feature. I find it a bit awkward, sort of like the shorthand freak show some of us tried to master in the early days of PDAs. But for jotting down actual thoughts, shopping lists, movie recommendations and stuff like that, the pen is mightier than the thumbs.

Swiftly swooping

I know you can get the SwiftKey predictive keyboard on other phones, but when the keyboard is as big as it is on the Note 3, you can really fly along when you're typing text or emails. My manly pointer finger seems downright dainty swooping over those jumbo keys.

Gargantuan gaming

I'm a big tower defense guy, so getting to play Tower Madness and Field Runners on this thing after using the diminutive screen of my iPhone for so long was like going from an early Game Boy system straight to the arcade of the future. Puzzle games like The Room are super gorgeous, and when I play Border Siege, I can easily taken in the whole world map -- a vital component of planning world domination.

Pretty as a picture

The Note 3 takes really nice photos thanks to its 13-megapixel camera. But what good are great photos if you're looking at them on the screen that's roughly the size of a post-it note. With this generous screen size, you can really satisfyingly ogle the photos you take, enjoying many more details than you'd see with a smaller screen. I even recently downloaded the 500px app just so that I could enjoy the work of photographers who are leaps better than me on my nice big screen.

You can also actually seriously edit your shots on the Note's screen without the need to get back to your computer.