Archive for August 13th, 2012

‘Neogeo X Gold’ portable arrives this December for a whopping $200

Despite the fact that 20+ years passed since you last played Neogeo, its portable rebirth this December will be shockingly expensive at $200. Tommo Inc. announced the handheld console’s December 6 launch date for North America overnight, and put detail to the various pre-installed software it comes packed with (King of the Monsters and Samurai Showdown 2 are our personal highlights, but the full list of 20 games is below the break). The system also comes with the charging dock and joystick you see above, included in the $200 price.

Beyond being a handheld Neogeo ? which, admittedly, is pretty neat ?the system doubles as a home console and can be hooked up to TVs/monitors via HDMI or traditional RCA. As such, an external joystick works with the device (though we’d suggest keeping that joystick locked to your domicile rather than take it on the go).

It’s unclear what retailers will carry the Neogeo X Gold just yet, but Tommo works with the usual brick-and-mortar suspects (Best Buy, Amazon, GameStop, etc.) Distribution in Europe and Asia is being handled separately, and no prices or dates are given for either territory.
NAM 1975

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Fan-made Mass Effect adventure game surfaces

A Mass Effect fan-game by the name of Finding Shepard popped up on the Adventure Game Studio forums recently. Created by AGS forums user Nightfable, Finding Shepard is an in-progress game set in the Mass Effect universe that directly follows the events of Mass Effect 3.

Without spoiling too much of the story from the series, Finding Shepard stars Jack, who is searching for Commander Shepard after the “destroy” version of the series’ ending. The point-and-click adventure style of the game lends itself to some interesting takes on the climactic points of the series’ plot, and gives fans that weren’t thrilled with the ending (or the Extended Cut DLC) an opportunity to experience other stories that folks like Nightfable wish to tell in BioWare’s universe.

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Barnes & Noble cuts price of Nook tablets

Barnes & Noble Inc cut prices on three models of its Nook e-reader and tablet devices on Sunday, ahead of the peak of the back to school season and amid speculation that rival Inc is preparing to launch a new version of its Kindle Fire tablet.

Barnes & Noble, which has said the Nook has allowed it to win 27 per cent of the US e-books market, said it had slashed the retail price of its Nook tablet with 16 GB of memory to $199 from $249. Amazon is the market leader with about 60 per cent of e-book and e-reader sales.

The largest US bookstore chain also shaved $20 off its 8 GB version of the tablet to $179. Barnes & Noble lowered the price of its Nook Color by $20, bringing it to $149, the latest reduction for that model.

The new prices went into effect on Sunday. Despite the popularity of the Nook devices, Barnes & Noble has had to reduce the price of various versions on a number of occasions to compete with Amazon, which is believed to be preparing to launch a new version of its Kindle Fire tablet. The earlier price reductions cut into Barnes & Noble’s earnings.

The company, which has bet its future on staking a claim in the e-books industry, reported lower-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter and said Nook revenue fell 10.5 per cent.

Signs at one Manhattan Barnes and Noble store already reflected the new prices on Sunday

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How Big Data sprung into the mainstream

This has been the crossover year for Big Data – as a concept, as a term and, yes, as a marketing tool. Big Data has sprung from the confines of technology circles into the mainstream.

First, here are a few, well, data points: Big Data was a featured topic this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, with a report titled ‘Big Data, Big Impact’. In March, the federal government announced $200 million in research programmes for Big Data computing.

Rick Smolan, creator of the ‘Day in the Life’ photography series, has a new project in the works, called “The Human Face of Big Data.” The New York Times has adopted terms in headlines like ‘The Age of Big Data’ and ‘Big Data on Campus’.

And a sure sign that Big Data has arrived came just last month, when it became grist for satire in the “Dilbert” comic strip by Scott Adams. “It comes from everywhere. It knows all,” one frame reads, and the next concludes that “its name is Big Data”.

The Big Data story is the making of a meme. And two vital ingredients seem to be at work here. The first is that the term itself is not too technical, yet is catchy and vaguely evocative. The second is that behind the term is an evolving set of technologies with great promise, and some pitfalls.

Big Data is a shorthand label that typically means applying the tools of artificial intelligence, like machine learning, to vast new troves of data beyond that captured in standard databases. The new data sources include Web-browsing data trails, social network communications, sensor data and surveillance data. A combination of the data deluge and clever software algorithms open the door to new business opportunities.

Google and Facebook, for example, are Big Data companies. The Watson computer from IBM that beat human ‘Jeopardy’ champions last year was a triumph of Big Data computing. In theory, Big Data could improve decision-making in fields from business to medicine, allowing decisions to be based increasingly on data and analysis rather than intuition and experience.

“The term itself is vague, but it is getting at something that is real,” says Jon Kleinberg, a computer scientist at Cornell U niversity. “Big Data is a tagline for a process that has the potential to transform everything.” Rising piles of data have long been a challenge.

In the late 19th century, census takers struggled with how to count and categorise the rapidly growing US population. An innovative breakthrough came in time for the 1890 census, when the population reached 63 million. The data-taming tool proved to be machine-readable punched cards, invented by Herman Hollerith; these cards were the bedrock technology of the company that became IBM.

So, the term Big Data is a rhetorical nod to the reality that “big” is a fast-moving target when it comes to data. The year 2008, according to several computer scientists and industry executives, was when the term ‘Big Data’ began gaining currency in tech circles. Wired magazine published an article that cogently presented the opportunities and implications of the modern data deluge.

This new style of computing, Wired declared, was the beginning of the Petabyte Age. It was an excellent magazine piece, but the ‘petabyte’ label was too technical to be a mainstream hit – and inevitably, petabytes of data will give way to even bigger bytes: exabytes, zettabytes and yottabytes.

Many scientists and engineers at first sneered that Big Data was a marketing term. But good marketing is distilled and effective communication, a valuable skill in any field. For example, the mathematician John McCarthy coined the term ‘artificial intelligence’ in 1955, when writing a pitch for a Rockefeller Foundation grant. His deft turn of phrase was a masterstroke of aspirational marketing.

In late 2008, Big Data was embraced by a group of the nation’s leading computer science researchers, the Computing Community Consortium, a collaboration of the government’s National Science Foundation and the Computing Research Association, which represents academic and corporate researchers.

The computing consortium published an influential white paper, ‘Big-Data Computing: Creating Revolutionary Breakthroughs in Commerce, Science and Society’. Its authors were three prominent computer scientists, Randal Bryant of Carnegie Mellon University, Randy H Katz of the University of California, Berkeley, and Edward D Lazowska of the University of Washington. Their endorsement lent intellectual credibility to Big Data.

Rod A Smith, an IBM technical fellow and vice president for emerging Internet technologies, says he likes the term because it nudges people’s thinking up from the machinery of data-handling or precise measures of the volume of data.

“Big Data is really about new uses and new insights, not so much the data itself,” Smith says. IBM adopted Big Data in its marketing, especially after it resonated with customers. In 2008, Smith’s team put up a website to explain the Big Data theme, and the site has since been greatly expanded. In 2011, the company introduced a Twitter hashtag, ‘#IBMbigdata’. IBM has a Big Data newsletter, and in January it published an ebook, ‘Understanding Big Data’.

Since its founding in 1976, SAS Institute, the largest privately held software company in the world , has made software that sifts through databases, looking for nuggets of value. SAS, based in North Carolina has seen many a marketing term in its field, including “data mining,” “business intelligence” and “data analytics.”

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Wireless Power for the Price of a Penny?

The newspaper-style printing of electronic equipment has led to a cost-effective device that could change the way we interact with everyday objects.For a price of just one penny per unit the device, known as a rectenna, which is presented in IOP Publishing’s journal Nanotechnology, can be placed onto objects such as price tags, logos and signage so that we can read product information on our smartphones with one simple swipe. This type of technology, which is known as near-field communication (NFC), has already been implemented to allow fast money transactions; however, this new device could lead the way to large-scale adoption at a low cost.

The rectenna, created by researchers from Sunchon National University and Paru Printed Electronics Research Institute, could be implemented onto everyday objects so that they can harness the power given off by the smartphone’s radio waves and send information back to it via printed digital circuits.

It is called a rectenna as it is a combination of an antenna and a rectifier — a device that converts alternating current (AC) into direct current (DC). The rectenna was printed onto plastic foils in large batches using a roll-to-roll process at a rate of 8m min-1. Five different electronic inks were used and each rectenna had a length of around 1300 mm. The researchers state that the rectenna can harness power directly from radio waves given off by a mobile phone, converting AC into DC. The rectenna created in this study could provide at least 0.3 watt of power from an alternating current which had a frequency of 13.56 MHz.

NFC technology is very similar to QR codes, whereby users take a photo of a square-shaped bar code on a poster or advert using their smartphone. The difference with NFC is that items will contain a small computer chip or digital information, operated by DC power. “What is great about this technique is that we can also print the digital information onto the rectenna, meaning that everything you need for wireless communication is in one place,” said co-author of the study Gyoujin Cho. “Our advantage over current technology is lower cost, since we can produce a roll-to-roll printing process with high throughput in an environmentally friendly manner. Further, we can integrate many extra functions. ”

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