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Ridesharing apps are erasing the value of taxi services

It's no surprise that ridesharing outfits like Lyft and Uber are disrupting the taxi business through lower pricing and technological advantages. However, it's now clear that these app-based upstarts are also hitting taxis where it really hurts: the value of owning a taxi service. A New York Times analysis reveals that the prices of medallions, which are necessary to operate taxi fleets in numerous US cities, have plunged sharply in the past year. In Boston, Chicago and New York City, the price of a medallion has fallen between 17 to 20 percent. Ridesharing is affecting how often cities and owners can sell medallions, too. Philadelphia is cutting prices just to sell these items at all, and half of New York's recent sales (a mere 10) were foreclosures -- the former owners just couldn't afford to stay involved.

The data doesn't directly correlate to ride volumes, so it's hard to know exactly how it translates to lost business. However, it provides a pretty good bellwether for the taxi industry as a whole. Would-be medallion buyers simply don't see much worth in cabs, even in New York (where regulations limit what ridesharers can do); it's hard to justify paying a six-digit sum to run a taxi service when your company could easily go bust. This isn't to say that old-school hired transportation is going away for good, but it's certainly not the safe bet that it used to be.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan]


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Mod turns your graphing calculator into a selfie camera

Your graphing calculator may not be getting much use these days now that other mobile devices can do the job, but it still has a few tricks up its sleeve if you're willing to do some tinkering. Christopher Mitchell's latest project, ArTICam, lets you turn a TI-83 Plus or TI-84 Plus calculator into a selfie-oriented camera. The mod mostly requires a Game Boy Camera and a programmable Arduino board like the Uno. After a little bit of wiring and some (thankfully ready-made) code, you can snap self-portraits with a calculator command. The 128 x 123 grayscale pictures you take won't win photography awards, but that's not the point -- this is more about having fun with gadgets that might otherwise sit in the closet gathering dust. Hit the source link if you have the gear and want to give ArTICam a whirl.

[Thanks, Christopher]


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Put your Game Boy on the big screen with this HDMI adapter

There are certainly ways to play classic Game Boy titles on modern TVs, but many of them involve emulators. What if you have the real system in your hands? That's where the crowdfunded Hdmyboy project might just save the day. The project lets you modify the original Game Boy (thankfully, in a non-destructive way) to put its video on any HDMI-equipped display. If you've ever wanted to play Link's Awakening on your big-screen set, it's now relatively trivial. The Hdmyboy even works with a NES controller, so you can relive your childhood from the comfort of the couch.

This isn't the cheapest way to indulge your nostalgic side. It'll require a pledge of between €115 to €125 ($143 to $156) to get both the adapter and a replica NES gamepad when they ship in May. If your parents sold your Game Boy years ago, a limited-run €1,000 ($1,245) pack will get you a clear handheld and 10 games on top of the Hdmyboy kit. You'll have to really miss the days of monochromatic mobile gaming for this to make sense, but the price could be justifiable if you've been dying to brush up on your Dr. Mario skills.

[Thanks, Will]

Nintendo Game Boy 1st-gen


Pizza Hut’s eye-tracking menu knows what you want before you do

When scanning a menu, are you justifying that Dame Blanche sundae in your mind rather than actually choosing a dessert? Pizza Hut wants to help you skip your super-ego middleman and just let your id order that triple-cheese bacon pepperoni pie directly. It's "Subconscious Menu" uses Tobii's eye-tracking tech to figure out which of 20 different ingredients you're looking at on a screen (see the video below). It then takes all of three seconds to identify the pizza you really want based on which you looked at the longest. Pizza Hut says its Subconscious Menu is still in trials, but after testing to a 98 percent success rate, it may eventually appear in restaurants.

[Image credit: Lexis Agency/Pizza Hut]


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​TZOA is a wearable that tells you where to find clean air

Some mornings, you wake up, walk outside and breathe in a hearty lungful of dirty, smog-heavy air. It's almost tasteless, but it can still wreak havoc on your respiratory conditions. What if you could avoid those nasty, unseen pockets of nasty air? That's sort of the idea behind the TZOA, a Kickstarter project that bills itself as the world's first wearable enviro-tracker. The tiny, round tracker has sensors that keep tabs on air quality, UV light, humidity, and temperature -- all of which feed data to a companion smartphone app to quantify the environment around the wearer. The user can then see get a quick look at the quality of the local air and upload the data to create a crowdsourced pollution map of their town.

Naturally, the product is still in the early stages: the team is still working with early prototypes, and is working to test those devices against high-end atmospheric sensors. If everything goes well, the TZOA will be ready to enter production for a (projected) summer 2015 launch. Want to help? Check out the Kickstarter page at the source link below -- a $135 pledge nabs you a TOZA sensor from the project's first production run.


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Engadget’s Cyber Monday 2014 roundup

So you've finally recovered from Thanksgiving dinner, only to realize that you missed out on some hot Black Friday deals. Are you stuck paying full price for your gifts? Far from it -- a whole host of stores are participating in Cyber Monday, a second round of (usually online-only) sales that are frequently as tempting as what you saw just a few days earlier. There are some particularly juicy bargains this year, ranging from surprisingly affordable 4K TVs and smartwatches to gigantic game console bundles. Check out the gallery below to see some of the bigger Cyber Monday deals we've spotted so far, and be sure to let fellow readers know about other bargains in the comments!

[Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

Cyber Monday 2014 roundup


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Sony Pictures is worried that North Korea hacked its computers

If you've been intrigued by the hack that took down Sony Pictures' computers, you've probably wondered who the self-proclaimed culprits, the "Guardians of Peace," might be. Are they disgruntled employees? Social activists? According to Recode sources, Sony is worried that they're actually North Korean cyberwarriors. The company and its security consultants are "actively exploring" theories that an outfit in China breached the network on North Korea's behalf. Investigators haven't confirmed anything, but they also haven't ruled out the Korean link so far.

Why make the connection? Supposedly, the digital assault may be tied to the Christmas Day release of The Interview, a comedy about an attempt to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The country vowed "merciless retaliation" over the movie, and a cyberattack on the responsible studio would certainly qualify. With that said, the story doesn't completely line up. The Guardians of Peace have been calling for "equality," and there's not much besides the name that would suggest they're state-sponsored. Sony certainly isn't pointing fingers in public -- it's only repeating a previous statement that there was a "service disruption" in the week. As it stands, it's likely that the company is more concerned about getting its systems back in action than figuring out who to blame.


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DNA smeared on a rocket survives re-entry and tells of life’s origins

Well, would you look at that: scientists have discovered that DNA can make it through the hellish ordeal of atmospheric re-entry after all. German and Swiss researchers dotted a rocket's grooves and screw heads with fragments of genetic blueprints to see how they'd fare in situations that could've led to the appearance of life on Earth. Scientific American notes that the 13-minute rocket trip might not perfectly represent how DNA might actually travel from one celestial body to the next (that'd be by meteor), but there is purpose here. What the experiment suggests is that even if the meteor's been scorched, that the material can survive at higher temperatures than previously expected, and as such this paints a better picture of just how resilient DNA is. What's next? Pushing the limits further and seeing exactly what it takes to kill the double helix -- we're pretty sure at least one rock band is itching to find out.

[Image credit: Getty Images/OJO Images RF]



OnePlus’ Black Friday deal: you can actually buy the damn phone

OnePlus has just let it be known that you'll finally be able to buy its $299 One phone sans invitation for Black Friday. The "deal" starts today and lasts all weekend, with the 16GB white model up for $299 (€269 in Europe, £229 in the UK) or $349/€299/£269 for the 64GB black model. There are also discounts on other accessories. That marks the first time (other than an hour last month) that folks will be able to buy the now-slightly-dated model without an RSVP. Despite the ridiculous waiting period, though, the 5.5-inch, 1080p device still has plenty of power and charm for its petite price. Hopefully it'll come off invitations for good before the next model comes out.

OnePlus One

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/11/28/oneplus-black-friday-no-invite-needed/?ncid=rss_truncated

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Drinking a pint from an espresso-inspired beer tap

I'm tired of walking into musty pubs and ordering pints that are bland, poured incorrectly, or twice the price of the nearest off-licence. If I weren't meeting friends, I'd be out the door faster than Road Runner. Of course, more than a few social drinkers share my apathy, so a surge of public houses are starting to change tack. They're embracing top-notch craft beers and employ bartenders that put genuine care into your order. You feel like they want your business, and what you're getting in return would be difficult to replicate at home.

Cambridge Consultants has noticed the trend, too. The RD company is something like Q's laboratory from the James Bond films, creating weird and wonderful gizmos for a range of different industries, including defence and security, health, energy and wireless communications. In the past, its multi-discipline teams have prototyped a tea-making device that brews the perfect cuppa in two minutes, a portable radar that can see through walls, and a water bottle that glows as you become dehydrated.

For its next experiment, Cambridge Consultants wants to give beer aficionados some added choice and excitement at their favourite bars. It looked to dry hopping, a post-fermentation process pubs and breweries employ to strengthen the flavour and aroma of their beers. By throwing fresh hops into a keg, their natural flavours are slowly extracted and infused for up to a couple of weeks. After toying with temperature, agitation and a ton of other methods, Cambridge Consultants realised that pressure could be used to turbocharge the process.

With this in mind, Hoppier was born. From the front, it looks just like a regular beer font, with a big lever at the top and a pump under the table: Nothing special. But peek around the back and the design becomes a little more alien. The team has integrated a steel portafilter, the kind you would normally find on a espresso machine. The beer, under pressure, is forced through this special brew chamber filled with crushed hops, which infuse the draught before it hits the pint glass.

The company is hardly the first to play around with the dry hopping technique though. Dogfish Head, a craft brewery in the US, unveiled a similar machine called Randall (aka Randall the Enamel Animal) in 2010. The device allows breweries to connect a tap on one side and run their preferred beer through two chambers; the first contains the fresh hops and the second gives the mixture time to settle and "defoam." The company then followed it up with the cheaper and more portable Randall Junior, which is roughly the size of a Thermos flask and gets to work when you leave it in the fridge. Some beer aficionados have even nailed the dry hopping process with traditional French presses.

"It gives people the opportunity to do their own thing, and make a custom beer that they could put their own name to."

The Hoppier could, in theory, be used to blend the flavours of other ingredients, such as fruit and spices. Edward Brunner, the company's head of food and beverage systems, says that stouts could benefit from the infusion of coffee grounds, something Hoppier is obviously more than equipped to do. It's a versatile machine, and in the hands of bartenders, I'm sure even crazier combinations could be discovered. "It just adds a bit of excitement," Brunner said. "It gives people the opportunity to do their own thing, and make a custom beer that they could put their own name to."

But what does it taste like? Does the machine actually deliver? Well, 'hoppiness' is a tricky characteristic to describe, but I could taste the difference immediately. The beer tastes somewhat fresher and the core flavors are stronger -- it's a richer, punchy pint that still feels natural and authentic. I wouldn't say it's superior to a regular draught, but it's different and makes a nice change from the generic beer selection found in most British pubs.

Hoppier also succeeds as a spectacle. Normally when a bartender takes my order, I stand around and gaze absent-mindedly at the spirits behind the counter, or at whatever football match is being shown on TV. Watching someone pull a pint just isn't that exciting to me. But with the Hoppier, its espresso machine DNA helps to replicate the bustling coffee shop experience. The idea is that the machine, the aroma of the hops and the bartender's skill will make you feel like you're ordering something special. Normally, the dry hopping process isn't seen or advertised (I suspect most people are unaware that it even exists) but here, you''re able appreciate it and taste the difference immediately.

For all its promise of tasty, personalised beers and added theatre, it's still unclear if pubs and bars will get on board. Most landlords are under enough pressure as it is; upgrading beer fonts and keeping a stock of chilled hops isn't going to help. However, Cambridge Consultants say it's in talks with breweries and the initial feedback has been positive. So who knows, maybe I'm looking at (and tasting) the future here. At this stage at least, the Hoppier certainly succeeds as a proof of concept, and it would definitely liven up the dreary atmosphere offered in my local at the moment.


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