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25Apr/140

​Having trouble spending your digital currency? Get a Bitcoin debit card

For all its advantages, Bitcoin has one major drawback: it's rather hard to spend. While the digital currency has legs in online marketplaces like Overstock and Square Market, few brick and mortar stores are equipped to trade in Bitcoin. Special ATMs help a little, but there has to be a better way. Xapo, a crypto coin storage vault, thinks it's found one: the Bitcoin debit card. Xapo's card promises to work exactly like your bank's plastic -- authorizing transactions by checking the requested charge against your account balance in real time. If the sale is approved, Xapo automatically sells a comparable amount of Bitcoin from the user's wallet to cover the purchase. Xapo says the card should be an improvement on the Bitcoin pre-paid cards that already exist, which require the user to manually refill their plastic before hitting the town.

"You can use it anywhere you would pay with MasterCard," Xapo founder Wences Casares told CoinDesk. "It makes it very, very easy for you to access your coins." The card will be available in two versions: a free, digital card for use at online retailers that don't normally accept Bitcoin and a $15 (one time fee) physical card that can be used anywhere. The company is offering sign ups now, with card shipping this summer. Interested? Check out the company's pre-order page at the source link below.

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25Apr/140

Crowdfunding project aims to bring a forgotten space probe back to life

The International Sun/Earth Explorer 3 probe is slated to come home in August after 36 years in space, but a group of engineers wants to use it as a platform for citizen science before it does. Sadly, NASA doesn't have the budget to reactivate a probe's that been decommissioned since 1999 -- so, the team has turned to crowdfunding to get the ball rolling. For those who've never heard of the ISEE-3 before, it was originally sent to space to study how the Earth's magnetic field and solar winds interact. Thus, it has 13 different scientific instruments on board (for measuring plasma, magnetic fields, waves and particles) that students or just about anyone can use if the group manages to recapture it.

Good news is, the team is led by Dennis Wingo and Keith Cowing, who have some serious credentials under their belt. These long-time collaborators head the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, which digitizes analog data tapes from unmanned lunar orbiters sent to space in the 1960's. Also, Wingo is the founder of Skycorp, which has developed equipment for NASA and DARPA in the past, while Cowing is former NASA employee.

These two and their team need to gain control of the ISEE-3 before mid-June 2014, else all their efforts will be wasted. In order to do so, they plan to use a dish to beam radio signals and establish contact with the probe, though it won't be that easy -- hence, the need to raise $125,000 via crowdfunding. How can ordinary people tap into the probe's onboard lab, you ask? Well, if the mission's successful, then the team will have software devs build apps, so the scientifically curious can access the probe's instruments from the ground.

[Image credit: NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center]

[Thanks, Tim]

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25Apr/140

Daily Roundup: rediscovered Andy Warhol art, Google Glass available to all, and more!

You might say the day is never really done in consumer technology news. Your workday, however, hopefully draws to a close at some point. This is the Daily Roundup on Engadget, a quick peek back at the top headlines for the past 24 hours -- all handpicked by the editors here at the site. Click on through the break, and enjoy.

Google Senior VP and head of Google+ Vic Gundotra is leaving the company

Earlier today, Vic Gundotra, the man responsible for Google+, announced he's parting ways with Google. After eight years of service to the Mountain View company, Gundotra fittingly took to G+ and explained that "now is the time for a new journey, a continuation."

Google Glass now available to anyone, may be prepping for public launch

Move over Google Explorers. As of today, anyone can splurge on their very own Google Glass headset, not just those with an invite. Now you can finally spend the $1,500 of cash that's burning a hole in your back pocket.

Lost Andy Warhol artworks discovered on Amiga floppies from the '80s

Apparently, pop artist Andy Warhol crafted a small, previously unseen collection with an Amiga 1000 back in 1985. And thanks to the collaborative efforts of several artists, archivists, curators and the Carnegie Mellon University Computer Club, the works have been recovered from a whopping 41 floppy discs.

Facebook buys smartphone fitness-tracking app Moves

Today, Facebook bought Moves, a fitness-tracking app for Android and iOS. If you're already a user, don't worry. The social giant says both apps will remain separate and it has no current plans to integrate them with your Facebook data.

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25Apr/140

These guys created the PlayStation 4 and here’s how they did it (video)

Earlier this month we were in the audience to see two gaming legends talk at length about the history of PlayStation, but if you want to watch PlayStation's head of Worldwide Studios and the PS4's lead designer have a lengthy chat for yourself, a video of the conversation is now available. Over the course of roughly 90 minutes, Shuhei Yoshida and Mark Cerney cover everything from the former getting banned from Nintendo's Miiverse (twice), how the PS Move controller signaled a new era of design teamwork at Sony and what it was like working under SCEA's legendarily hard-nosed chief, Ken Kutaragi. This type of insight typically isn't seen much outside of the annual Game Developer's Conference, so fire up the Chromecast, pour a frosty beverage and enjoy.

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25Apr/140

FTC: State bans on Tesla’s direct sales model are hurting competition

Tesla has just gained a valuable ally in its battle to sell cars directly to customers: the Federal Trade Commission. The regulator now argues that state bans on direct sales are "protectionist," propping up the traditional dealership business model rather than protecting companies from unfair abuses by automakers. It's the "competitive process" that should decide which sales model is better, not the law. The FTC also doesn't buy the notion that Tesla's modest US sales (22,500 in 2013) are a threat to the wider industry (15 million). It believes that the only thing at risk is the old way of buying cars, which might not be necessary now that customers can skip the sales pitch and do most of their research online.

Not surprisingly, Tesla agrees "wholeheartedly" that state rules need to change. The National Automobile Dealers Association is less than enthusiastic, however. It maintains that customers "lose virtually all bargaining power" in a middleman-free environment, since they couldn't simply go to an independent store to haggle for a better deal.

The FTC's criticism stops short of announcing any formal action, and it's not clear that anything will change. The Commission exists primarily to regulate companies, and it may have a tough time pressuring individual states; right now, it's just hoping that legislators will see the bans as anti-competitive and reject them accordingly. Still, it's clear that dealers shouldn't expect much FTC sympathy if the dispute over Tesla's sales strategy ever reaches the federal level.

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25Apr/140

eBay’s new mobile apps are all about you, borrow some Pinterest looks

eBay's mobile apps just got a little more personal. The company refreshed its offerings for the iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone 8 today, unveiling a new look for the apps that's customized to your habits. The highlight of the update is a new "My Feed" section on the home screen which populates with large photos of items you've indicated you want (like this epic collection of 125 Goat books). It looks a lot like Pinterest, with updated imagery that makes you feel a little more like you're shopping for high-end antiques rather than crap someone found in grandma's attic.

If you'd prefer to bid on a "Stylish Lion Mane" for your pooch from the mobile web, you're in luck. Those accessing the site from their phone or desktop browser will also get the new personalized feed. The update isn't quite live yet, but will launch with the ability to list items for sale from your phone as well as respond to offers and browse through Daily Deals. Because bargains like this $5 unisex toilet bag don't come along everyday.

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25Apr/140

​California’s smartphone kill-switch bill flops in the state senate

US carriers can all collectively breathe a sigh of relief today: California's mobile kill-switch bill is dead, at least for now. The would have required all smartphones sold in the state to include a remote-kill feature designed to render stolen phones useless. The bill was designed to curb phone robberies by making the crime less lucrative. If carriers didn't comply, the state would have been able to fine them $2,500 for every unsupported device sold.

Although the fine would have only been enforceable in California, the bill could have put the remote-kill feature in phones nationwide. In fact, it still might: though the bill failed to garner enough votes to move on to the state assembly, it still has the option to return to the senate in the future.

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25Apr/140

Minecraft on Xbox One will transfer saves from Xbox 360

Due to a lack of backwards compatibility, upgrading to new-gen systems like the Xbox One and PS4 has meant mostly leaving your old games and the progress made in them behind, but not in this case. Phil Spencer, the new leader over at Xbox, announced tonight that Minecraft on Xbox One will be able to transfer saves from its Xbox 360 version, so whatever you've already built will come with you. He didn't drop any other details on exactly how the move will work, but mentioned it is the product of cooperation between Microsoft and the game's developer, Mojang, while promising more news soon. Big enough news to make up the current sales gap between Microsoft and Sony's consoles? Probably not -- especially since Mojang's Owen Hill says the plan is to enable save transfers between PS3 and PS4 as well -- but it's a nice feature to have and we'll be interested to see what it means for other games -- someone get Rockstar on the phone about that inevitable GTA V port.

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25Apr/140

Pinterest focuses on discovery with new Guided Search

With over 750 million boards and 30 billion pins, Pinterest has seen nearly a 50 percent increase in new pins in just the last six months. Indeed, CEO Ben Silbermann even calls it the "world's largest human-curated collection of things." Therein, however, lies a problem. With so much information, it can be difficult to find what you really want, but even worse, it becomes really (really) hard to find or even discover new things that might be of interest to you.

Today, in its San Francisco office packed full of journalists and guests, Pinterest announced a new feature that promises to fix that: Guided Search. Contrasting it to Google, Silbermann said that Pinterest's new Guided Search is "more about exploration than it is about an ordered list for every person in the world." So when you type a keyword into the search bar at the top, it'll offer narrower topics that you can focus in on. For example, if you were to search for "chair," it'll show subcategories like "accents" or "living room" or "patio." Silbermann also emphasized that these would be words used by real people, so if you were to search for "hairstyles", some of the suggestions would be "medium length hair" or "up do" or "bangs."

"I can go from inspiration all the way into doing something," said Silbermann. "That's the promise of Guided Search."

To go along with Guided Search, Pinterest has also rolled out a couple of extra features, namely improved Related Pins and Custom Categories. As their names suggest, the new Related Pins now show 90 percent more related items, while custom categories expand on the 32 standard groups that Pinterest has as defaults. "We picked the categories relatively arbitrarily," admitted Silbermann, referring to when the team first chose the group names. Now you can create your own, simply by tapping a button and entering a title like "Bob Dylan".

According to Pinterest, the new search features will be rolled out in the next app updates on iOS and Android. Custom Categories, however, are still a little new to them and will be making a more gradual appearance to users.

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25Apr/140

Watch NASA’s Morpheus take to the air

NASA's Morpheus lander has gone a long way since it crashed and burned in 2012. The agency's vertical landing and takeoff test vehicle now has a number of successful flights under its belt, including one that's just concluded at the Kennedy Space Center. On this most recent flight, the lander easily traversed 1,300 feet at a speed of 36mph for 98 seconds, proving that it has a future in delivering cargo to space. As always, Morpheus had a very important passenger during this event: the team's Autonomous Landing and Hazard Avoidance Technology. This equipment, called ALHAT for short, determines the best place to land by using lasers to scan for rocks and other hazards. That means it could be an essential tool when traveling to worlds we don't know as well as Mars or the moon, as it can guide spacecraft to safety without human input. We've sadly yet to see ALHAT in action, as this particular flight used a predetermined landing point. But, since Morpheus breezed through it like a champ, the team will let the sophisticated landing tech take the reins next time.

[Image credit: NASA/Frankie Martin]

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