Thursday, July 31, 2008

'CFL FTW' Illuminates the Tragedy Behind Lightbulb Progress [Culture]

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Poor incandescent bulbs. They had about 100+ years of dominance, but now it's the era of energy-efficient compact fluorescent. And this triumph of the CFL has been archived for future historians in the most permanent record known to our culture: a T-shirt. If you'd like to see this clever garment actually be produced, make sure to vote over at Threadless. [Threadless via superpunch]

Army Reimagines Recruitment Center as an Apple Store-Inspired, Interactive Battle Simulator [Army]

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With recruitment levels sagging, the U.S. Army is going the hyper-interactive route with an experimental new store that's right out of the Apple playbook. That is, if Apple Genius Bar employees greeted customers with Apache attack helicopter simulators, full-scale Army vehicle mock-ups, and wrap-around 270-degree video screens, instead of those paperless receipt scanner things.

"If you think of a classic recruitment center, [all of] its forms and brochures are about as exciting as the post office," said Marc Babej, partner at marketing consultancy Reason Inc. "Why talk about it when you can demonstrate it."

So instead of campy handouts, potential Army recruits will get an accurate, interactive representation of what awaits them on today's battlefields. By the Amy's definition of "realism" that includes battle simulators, replica firearms and America's Army, the 2002 video game that lets players act out battlefield scenarios DOOM-style. In a word, games—not maiming and killing. The first interactive Army store location has yet to be established, a spokesperson said.

All I ask is, when this doesn't work, what's next? Never-ending WWDC Baghdad keynotes? Black turtleneck body armor? iPhone controlled UAVs? More "BOOMs?" What? [BrandWeek]

More iPhone 3G details: future Apple-made chips, varying visual voicemail, and new video features

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There's still plenty of emerging details and news on the iPhone 3G kicking around, but here's what you need to know from the minor bits floating around over the past few days:

  • Jobs also told NYT that Apple's acquisition of PA Semi was, in fact, intended to reduce Apple's reliance on third-party chip makers. Specifically, he said, "PA Semi is going to do system-on-chips for iPhones and iPods." So, guess that's that.

  • Per the feature showing up missing on a number of Apple's international iPhone 3G product pages, iLounge compiled a list of carriers which may or may not planning on implementing visual voicemail. Vodafone in Europe, for example, will not have it at launch, and will delay its rollout until later this year.

  • A video of a new iPhone beta build running on live hardware shows videos now in portrait or landscape modes, and includes video playlists. We'll take it.

  • Although DT's iPhone page reads differently, German paper Welt has it that that T-Mobile Germany will be selling it for €1 -- so basically free, not unlike O2's iPhone 3G launch in the UK.

[Thanks to everyone who sent these in]

Read - Jobs mentions PA Semi plans
Read - Visual voicemail support varies from carrier to carrier
Read - Beta build with portrait-mode video
Read - DT releasing it for €1 (see also their iPhone page)
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AT&T Lawyer Says Early Termination Fees Are Good For Consumers [At&t]

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According to Ars, one AT&T attorney told the FCC yesterday that early termination fees we pay for leaving our contracts before the designated time are actually a great deal for us. His reasoning was that "ETF-backed term contracts give consumers the ability to lower their monthly charges and upfront handset costs in exchange for their promise to pay monthly charges for the life of the contracts or alternatively to pay the ETF in lieu of the remaining charges." On the one hand, that's a punch in the nuts. On the other hand, he kinda has a point.

By taking a subsidy on your phone up front (such as on the iPhone 3G), you're paying less in exchange basically telling AT&T that you're going to stick with them for 2 years. If you want to leave, you can pay that $175 and get out of your contract. In this case, with the iPhone 3G, it basically lets you walk away with a iPhone 3G that you can use on T-Mobile for $374. That's not too shabby.

But a recent AP report said that Sprint waived all ETFs to a government agency that was signed up with it, essentially because "the government will never, never accept such penalty amounts." [Ars Technica]

Update: Japanese News Broadcast of Akihabara Killing Spree [Tragedy]

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Even if you don't speak a word of Japanese, there's a lot of intensity and information to be had in this newscast of the tragic Akihabara killings last Sunday. I'd just offer up a word of warning before you hit play, as there's graphic material found throughout the clip.


Nikon readying D90 for launch?

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We don't have much to go by, but the image above image might just be the Nikon D90, successor to the well-received D80 -- then again, it might be a photoshop, too. (The more we look at it, the more the area in/around the D90 badge looks pretty sloppy.) According to Nikon Rumors, it might be due as early as tomorrow; we'll let you know if the kit goes from rumor to reality.
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