Congress Tackles Loud Commercials

Health care shmealth care — government is finally working to solve a problem we can all get behind: loud commercials. The House Communications Subcommittee has approved a bill that would require broadcasters and operators (including satellite and cable) to normalize the volume of TV advertisements.

Broadcasting & Cable writes that the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) is backed by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.):

Eshoo said the bill premise was simple: “To make the volume of commercials and programming uniform so that spikes in volume do not affect the consumer’s ability to control sound.” Eshoo said that ad volume spikes had “endangered hearing for decades.” She also said legislative spouses had been urging their husbands or wives to sign on as co-sponsors. “I think they are all tired of getting blasted out of their easy chairs or off their exercise equipment due to these ridiculously loud commercials.”

After the fast-forward button (to zap through the commercials entirely), “mute” is the second most used button on the Albrecht remote. I’m not sure why advertisers think that YELLING at us will make us like their product, but hopefully this bill will pass and the TV will quiet down.

It looks like the bill only addresses oldteevee, which is too bad because we’ve noticed that newteevee sites definitely fiddle with the ad volume as well.

UltraCell Picks Up $3.8M for Portable Fuel Cells

The portable fuel cell market has been rough for some companies, but investors are still interested — startup UltraCell said this week that it raised $3.8 million for its methanol-based portable fuel cells. It plans to use some of that cash to expand its Ohio manufacturing plant.

UltraCell_XX55

UltraCell’s fuel cells aren’t commercially available yet, according to a company spokeswoman, but it’s aiming to produce hundreds of fuel cells a month by the end of this year. She said the Dalton, Ohio, plant will have the capacity to churn out several thousand fuel cells per month.

The funding was led by UltraCell’s existing investors, including BASF Venture Capital, OnPoint Technologies, Espirito Santo Ventures and the Miami Valley Venture Fund. Based on technology developed at the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the fuel cell maker has raised a total of $30 million since getting its start in 2002.
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MTI’s Fuel Cell Dreams are Running on Empty

Mechanical Technology, Inc. (s MKTY), the Albany, N.Y.,-based parent of fuel-cell developer MTI Micro, said late Monday it’s voluntarily delisting its shares from Nasdaq. In a statement, MTI said its low share price (95 cents at Monday’s close) and the zombie-like trading activity – 21,000 shares a day on average over the last year, or less than a half a percent of its outstanding shares) just weren’t worth the expense and glamor of a Nasdaq listing.
Of course, it also didn’t help that, just last Tuesday, MTI received a letter from Nasdaq warning of an impending and involuntary delisting. So MTI is quitting Nasdaq just in time to avoid getting kicked off (the company said it was thinking of delisting even before Nasdaq’s warning).
mti-stock
Nasdaq pretty much bends over backwards to make it easy for companies to stay on the exchange. Once a stock is listed, it needs to meet at least one of three criteria: Net income from continuing operations of $500,000 in the last fiscal year, $35 million in market value of listed shares, or $2.5 million in stockholders’ equity. MTI had a net loss of at least $9.6 million for the past three years, a recent market cap below $5 million and, as of December 2008, $1.5 million in stockholder’s equity.
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MTI Shows Off Fuel Cell With Removable Cartridge

mtifuelcartridgeFuel cell maker MTI Micro has a habit of making a lot of little announcements on its long march toward commercialization, which won’t happen til the end of 2009. The Albany, N.Y.-based company — a subsidiary of MTI (s MKTY) — says this morning it has reached another milestone: developing a prototype of a fuel cell charger that has a removable cartridge. That means the fuel cell can charge consumer electronics like cell phones and MP3 players for about 25 hours of use and when the fuel is all used up, the cartridge is removed and replaced with a new one; basically, this means the consumer doesn’t have to refill the cartridge manually.

On one hand, this is an achievement, making fuel cells easy to use for for consumers. Fuel cells have made very little headway into the consumer electronics market and making the product as easy to use as possible is necessary to spur adoption. As an MTI spokesperson explains to us, “MTI Micro strongly believes that asking consumers to fill up with methanol via a squirt bottle is simply too cumbersome and time consuming. By developing the cartridge, the user experience will be both more appealing from a convenience standpoint, and practical.”

MTI is probably spot-on in its assessment that the cartridge will likely be the more popular way to operate the fuel cell in the mobile world. These fuel cell chargers are targeting people who are on-the-go and would carry an extra cartridge in their bag as a backup — I couldn’t envision carrying my own supply of methanol that I would periodically inject into the device.

But on the other hand, removable fuel cell cartridges add more waste into the system than refilling cartridges. Disposing of a cartridge after 25 hours of use — which is charging a cell phone battery over 10 times, listening to 10,000 songs on an MP3 player or taking 6,000 pictures — can equal a significant amount of waste over a year. The cartridges are meant to be recycled, however, so there is an end-of-life plan.
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Don’t forget the HP Magic Giveaway!

Hpmagicbanner

We’ve been so very busy but it’s important to take time to remind you that various sites have contests underway for the HP Magic Giveaway.  Our contest will kick off on December 16 but right now you can enter the contests underway at these participating sites:

The Gadgeteer 02-Dec 08-Dec
Gotta Be Mobile
I Started Something
Down-to-Earth Mama 03-Dec 09-Dec
moosh in indy.
La Bitácora de Erwin Ried
Carlos Alberto
Geeks To Go! 04-Dec 10-Dec
GearDiary
Geeks!
One Day, One Job 05-Dec 11-Dec
Techie Diva 06-Dec 12-Dec
Notebooks.com
Geek.com
Techmamas 07-Dec 13-Dec
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Noticias Tech
InfoWester

MTI’s Fuel Cell Chip Beefs Up & Slims Down

Fuel cells, whether they’re made for your car or your cell phone, always seem just around the corner, but MTI MicroFuel Cells [s MKTY] hopes to put full cells in your hand soon. The company announced today that it has improved the power performance of its Mobion chip by 25 percent and decreased its size by an equal measure compared to the previous iteration. This is the third generation of the Mobion chip, which debuted at the start of 2007, but a commercial version won’t been seen until at least 2009, when the company hopes to start selling its micro fuel cell to OEMs who could put them into devices ranging from GPS units to cell phones to MP3 players. Read More about MTI’s Fuel Cell Chip Beefs Up & Slims Down

MTI and NeoSolar Making Fuel-Cell Powered Mobile Computers

We’ve been waiting awhile for the coming revolution of both fuel cell-powered devices and those tiny computers called “ultra-mobile PCs.” Well, now we can wait a bit more for a gadget with both of those future-forward designs in one. This morning, fuel cell maker MTI Micro and Korean consumer electronics maker NeoSolar said they will be making a variety of consumer electronics powered by fuel cells — most notably, ultra-mobile PCs.

The companies aren’t revealing much, but they say the gadgets will be able to use MTI’s methanol-based fuel cell technology, Mobion, as chargers, embedded technology and as snap-on attachments. No word on when they’ll be available, but check out the gadget below:

Sapiens

Like me you may have tried out various application (and/or file) launchers now and then and possibly none have grabbed you enough to make them a regular part of your Mac life, what with their sometime idiosyncratic design philosophy and all.

If have somehow missed out on the whole launcher family of apps; if you, as many people do, travel from your hard drive icon, to applications, to scroll down, to double click, to open application – then you are probably wondering what on earth is the point of another application just to do that. Surely for such a simple task, adding intermediate steps must make it all much more complicated? Well, possibly to start with, but not after a little practice, and there is a sweet smooth swiftness to knowing your machine well enough to be able to launch any application in a second or two with a couple of key strokes. It’s a control thing. It’s a delight thing.

The mother of all launchers, the UberLauncher, is Quicksilver. Quicksilver quite rightly gets a lot of press. It was amazing the last time I tried it and I’m just about to give it another go after rediscovering it via Quicksilver: The Guide.

Searching and launching applications is however the very tip of Quicksilver’s considerable, iceberg like abilities and for me this depth and ability was, and possibly will be again, just too much. Quicksilver is a whole world and needs time and effort to explore and appreciate. So many worlds, so little time.

My own road to regularly using an application launcher has been patchy and inconsistent. Or, I would argue, I’m picky and like to test choices out thoroughly before settling on just one. I won’t list out the choices, but, for now at least, I have settled on one: Sapiens.

Sapiens has only the basic application launcher functionality of the heavyweights in its field but has a visual simplicity which defies it’s underlying basic intelligence. Sapiens sometime idiosyncratic design philosophy is a radial one – a radial look and a supposedly radial launch facility via circular mouse gesturing. More about that later.

The radial look is very nice. Sapiens can mirror your desktop through the interface, or not, and lays out your 13 most commonly used applications in sensible groups. If an application is already open then, of course, it doesn’t show up in the Sapiens interface, the next most regularly used application takes it’s place. The search is adaptive via the ‘Brain’ and Sapiens will learn which applications are your favourites; favourites get a more prominent placement; ah, twas ever thus.

Sapiens

The search is also user adaptable via a right click where you can either increase or decrease an application’s importance or even tell Sapiens to forget about it completely. There is a simple but complete Tools menu which does everything you may need behind the scenes and five different gui layouts to choose from.

Enter will launch a centrally placed application from Sapiens, so that in theory one circular mouse gesture and one click will launch your most used application. Now it may work for you but I found this circular mouse gesture just isn’t available in my muscle memory so I have opted to open Sapiens via a double shift-click, an option available from the Tools menu; no problemo then, three clicks not two, not too shabby.

If the application you want isn’t visible when Sapiens opens, if it isn’t one of the applications you use very often, then just start typing its name with the Sapiens interface open and Sapiens will search for it, exactly like Spotlight. Once you see the icon pop up in Sapiens you’re off.

Prior to Sapiens I was used to using Spotlight via Cmd Spacebar to search for everything, but I love the focus of Sapiens. It launches applications – that’s it.

And this may be why my re-entry into the world of Quicksilver will fail once more.

So many worlds, so little time.

Video: quickly factory restore an Asus Eee PC with SSD

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tMnkhWXO5U]The last time I restored the Asus Eee PC, I mentioned that it only took about five minutes using the included recovery DVD. Last night I needed to restore again (due to my efforts to install XP) and decided to try the hidden recovery partition on the flash-based storage in the unit. I was blown away by how quickly the device was restored with that factory-fresh smell. So much so that I had to repeat the process on camera for you and time it!While it’s not often we need to restore our mobile devices, I see a tremendous benefit to the SSD approach and I’ll likely never remove the recovery partition. If I face a complete system meltdown, I’ll want to get back up and running as quickly as possible. There’s always the question of restoring applications and data locally, but at the end of the video, I share some thoughts on that topic.Thanks to ThoughtFix for the inspiration on this approach.

Is World of Warcraft really the most popular MMO?

Probably not, as it turns out; certainly not in the Western hemisphere, anyway. Working with publicly-known figures, veteran MMO developer Raph Koster recently made this observation on his blog:

[I]t may be possible that World of Warcraft is actually sitting around #4 or #5 in the top MMOs in North America and Europe.

This is because while Blizzard claims 8.5 million subscribers (as of January 2007) only 3.5 million are based in the West. Let’s be generous and assume the game’s recent expansion pack boosted that to 4 million– even then, WoW would be trailing far behind the top Western MMO. [digg=http://digg.com/gaming_news/Mythbusting_is_WoW_really_the_most_popular_MMO]

So which virtual world rules this region? The name will surprise you – but here is a clue: it is based in Finland, and doesn’t involve bashing Orcs in the head.
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