Sunday, 31 July 2011

Every other Rich person owns a Private Island Now

Have you been "laboring" under the impression that our economy is bad right now. Not so! The WSJ points out that the super high-end real estate market, at least, is doing just fine, which is a relief. There's never been a better time to purchase a luxurious private island that could hypothetically be used as a terrifying sex dungeon!

Aren't you simply in love with the Exuma Cays? So close to Florida, so uninhabited, so available for purchase for any celebrity with a spare $50 million and a strong desire to perform unspeakable acts of sexual torture on helpless "guests" who are but accessories to your twisted Gothic fantasies!
Perhaps the best-known private-island compound is magician David Copperfield's 700-acre resort Musha Cay, which is spread across 11 islands...
Mr. Copperfield describes it as a place where he can "create magic in three dimensions" and where a stay can include an optional, interactive treasure hunt where he says guests are immersed in a "living movie." (Dozens of actors and illusionists are imported to play pirates.) Recent additions to the resort include trained macaws that pick up Musha Cay's refuse and a "secret village," opening soon, where visitors can interact with tame monkeys.
Yes, that's the very same island upon which David Copperfield did not rape someone. (Really, he didn't.) Faith Hill and Tim McGraw and Tyler Perry are right next door. Potluck!

Feds seize 468,960 marijuana plants, Arrest 100

Jerks in the federal government announced on Friday that they'd uprooted 468,960 pot plants and arrested some 100 people as part of a two-week long operation in the Mendocino National Forest, called "Operation Full Court Press" by authorities and "Operation What a Bunch of Assholes" by everyone else.
The feds seized "1,510 pounds of processed marijuana" as well, all of which will be tragically wasted. The operation was the fruit of complaints by Mendocino County residents that "they'd been fired upon in or near the Mendocino National Forest," presumably by marijuana farmers. "This is an intolerable situation and it has to be stopped," said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, referring, obviously, to the presence of marijuana in the forests and not to the War on Drugs, which we are likely to win any minute now.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

10 New Cars That Are Worth Waiting For

It's a distinctly American trait to want what's next — even before it's here. Yes, Americans are spoiled, with too many choices in every genre of product, especially cars. But so what? This is the place where cars blossomed, where the first (and arguably best) car culture still exists. And where we haven't stopped loving — and lusting after — the cool car around the next bend. With that in mind, here's PM's 10 cool cars under $50,000 that will go on sale in the next 18 months. Note that the exact dates may not be 100 percent accurate: The timetable is based on what the notoriously vague car flacks told us. So we've pried free what info we could, and we share it with you here.

BMW i3 Electric City Car (Early 2013)

BMW claims that its new $35,000 Chevy Volt-beater will have 99 miles of range from its rear-mounted electric motor and floor-mounted batteries. BMW (being BMW) is also claiming 100 mph for the car's top speed, and the i3 could bring the equivalent of 150 horsepower. Cargo will be divided between the rear seats and in the front trunk (a la the original, rear-engine VW Beetle). Much of the body will be made of carbon-reinforced plastic.

Wireless charging is one intriguing concepts we hope makes it to market. In conjunction with industrial giant Siemens, BMW is working on a magnetic field charging system, like those used in wireless laptop and cell phone charging pads, where a car would parked above a charging station. At that point, a coil in both the ground and the vehicle would recognize each other and begin the charge. This beats having your Volt or Prius PHV plugged in via wire at a garage or mall for a few hours, where vandalism or other hazards exist.

Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 (January 2012)


A hot Camaro is coming and will be powered by the Cadillac CTS-V's 6.2-liter V8 with roughly 550 hp. Given how the Camaro SS with a 6.2-liter V8 that puts out a mere 426 hp can already clock a 0-to-60-mph sprint in less than 5 seconds, the ZL1 is going to be scary fast. This Camaro will go toe-to-toe with Ford's Shelby GT500—and BMW M3 and Porsche 911 owners should watch their rearviews too. Price? We'd guess between $42,000 and $48,000.

Chevrolet Corvette C7 (Late 2012)

The current 'Vette has looked the same for nearly 13 years. Though it's still an amazing car, delivering Ferrari-like performance for one-fifth the price, it's dated in many respects. Expect a lot from the all-new C7 Corvette, then, with cool exterior cues like a split rear window and a vastly upgraded interior that's well above the coach-class quarters of the present car. But handling, which has always been the car's strongest suit, will remain largely unaltered. Horsepower targets in the 400-450 range would be a safe bet for this $50,000 car, even as GM aims to lower displacement to shave weight and nudge up the fuel economy. There might even be forced induction of some kind, and it's perfectly reasonable to expect direct fuel injection for the newest crown jewel of the Chevy badge.

Ford Fiesta ST (Fall 2012)

The Fiesta ST will have an altered body for improved cooling, but may be available only as a three-door hatch. It will have better suspension tuning, possibly Recaro racing seats, some unique trim, 17-inch wheels, speed-rated performance tires and dual exhaust. Ford reportedly experimented with cramming the 2.0-liter engine from the Focus ST into this car. Unfortunately, that won't be coming to the showroom, partly because Ford is working hard to differentiate its two hot hatches. The automaker is launching them at least six months apart and trying to give the Fiesta as much of a sport focus as possible, while selling the Focus with more of an upscale feel. So expect the Fiesta to carry a directly injected, turbocharged 1.6-liter four.

We don't know the Fiesta ST's price yet, but one would think it couldn't go much higher than $23,000, with rivals like the Nissan Sentra SE-R coming in at $20,000 and the Civic Si smack at $23,000.

Hyundai Veloster (November 2011)

Hyundai is pulling a very neat trick with its Veloster. It's a slightly larger car inside than the Scion tC (and Mini Clubman or Honda CR-Z hybrid). Yet thanks to a very low 2,600-pound curb weight — 400 pounds less than the tC — it's said to get up to 40 mpg from its directly injected, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. That would best Honda's CR-Z numbers without necessity of hybrid technology, and with the benefit of a bigger cabin. One oddity: Access to the interior is a bit quirky, with one door on the driver's side, but both front and rear doors on the passenger side. Remember that weight? Fewer doors allow a carmaker to reduce structural reinforcements, and that keeps down bulk. And a low weight allows an increase in fun factor — indeed, Hyundai is promising greater sportiness than its rivals. Can the Veloster "out-fun" a Mini? Hmm, we're not sure, but Hyundai is promising a tighter turning circle than even a base Mini Cooper and a sophisticated, buttoned-down-sounding suspension. Transmissions include Hyundai's first dual-clutch six speed (hopefully with paddles) or a six-speed manual. Pricing should be in the $20,000 range.

Mini Paceman (April 2012)

The Paceman is a two-door concept coupe that debuted last year, and our sources say it's a lock for production. Mini will have to work hard with this model, though, which is essentially the forthcoming Countryman minus two doors. The Paceman should either get real horsepower and ride considerably lower than the Countryman (think: a big version of the Mini Cooper S, but with all-wheel drive), or be made even more all-road capable than the Countryman, as a rival to the likes of the Subaru WRX — of course in full rally-car livery. The latter may actually be more likely, as Mini is racing a 2011 Countryman in the World Rally Championships. That car? It gets 300 hp!

Mitsubishi Evo XI (February 2012)

With Mitsubishi scrapping its gas guzzlers and launching brand-new electric and gas-electric hybrids, all aimed at meeting ever-tighter global emissions standards, the rumor mill is suggesting that even the Lancer Evolution is going to go green. Or green-ish. The idea is to keep it high-performance and AWD, but also use some of the technology already behind the forthcoming i-MiEV electric city car and wed it to either a turbodiesel or a gas motor. The potential would still be there for exceptional output when both gas/electric power plants combine, but it's possible Mitsubishi may allow the driver to roll up to highway speeds on battery juice alone, vastly improving fuel economy. Evo XI may become both larger and more refined too, positioning it more naturally against rivals like Audi.

Toyota/Subaru FT-86 Sports Car (December 2011)

The joint-project sports car from Toyota and Subaru is now getting far enough along to report at least the following, even though we're certain much will change. The car is said to be very light, and to use at least two versions of Subaru's flat, 2.0-liter four, with output purported to be around 200 hp in the RWD Toyota model and 250 hp in the Subaru version. Toyota's edition bows first, reportedly late this year, and not as a Toyota, but as a Scion, with the name FR-S. The Subie, if it comes to these shores, won't arrive until mid-2012 at the soonest. Pricing for the SubaScion is expected to be in the mid-$20K range.

Toyota Prius C (March 2012)

At this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Toyota debuted an entire line of Prius models, including the intriguing Prius C Concept. They still stress that this is a concept, but a small, sporty hybrid hatchback is surely on its way. We can merely hope Toyota is smart enough to retain these design cues, especially as this is meant to be a "fun to drive" hybrid with taut handling and a sub-$20K price. Toyota is promising the highest mileage of any hybrid on the road that isn't a plug-in.

Volkswagen Golf R (Early 2012)

Volkswagen had been one of the few brands in the United States that hasn't decided to Buick-ize its styling and sponge down its ride. And, indeed, the Golf R promises to be anything but vanilla. With the Golf R's AWD, 280 hp and a real six-speed gearbox, Volkswagen is at last bringing a genuine WRX fighter to the U.S. Volkswagen is even committing two body styles to the contest, pitting this car against the Mini Paceman (only a three-door). Fuel economy is said to be 20 percent better than the old R32, at a price that should be near $32,000. It will have new brake rotors, plus more aggressive stability-control settings with "track setting" or the equivalent. Expect both two- and four-door body styles, both of which will get R-body-style cosmetics and sport exhaust.

How a Top Google Executive Nearly Killed a Guy

It's been a very good year for Vic Gundotra, Google's chief of social networking. His project Google Plus hit 10 million users within two weeks of launch. But it almost took a horribly wrong turn in January, when Gundotra got distracted and nearly plowed into a stopped car on the highway.

Luckily, the wealthy Google VP had a very expensive Mercedes to prevent any carnage.

In a television commercial touting his $138,000 S63 AMG Sedan (excerpted above), Gundotra says he took his eyes off the road and failed to notice the stopped freeway traffic ahead of him. He credits the car's "magical software" with halting the vehicle and preventing untold carnage. He said his body shook and his pulse quickened for 20 minutes at the thought of what he could have done to himself or to the vehicle in front of him. "Certainly, I could have affected someone else's life," he says. "And so, there's someone else who's indebted to Mercedes as well, but doesn't even know it."
Remember to give thanks tonight for the luxury car companies who heroically prevent distracted rich guys from plowing you into the asphalt.

Man Dies of Xbox

Hello there, you, sitting in front of your computer! Are you feeling a little embolism-y? You might want to stand up and walk around for a minute before you read this story. Just saying.

The parents of British student Chris Staniforth are launching a campaign to "raise awareness about the health risks of playing online computer games" after their son died of a pulmonary embolism following an Xbox marathon. As anyone who has spent time reading the entire in-flight magazine while trying not to think about falling out of an airplane, long-haul flights can lead to deep vein thrombosis—a leading cause of pulmonary embolisms. But so can playing video games, all day!

Professor Brian Colvin — an expert on blood-related conditions — said it was "unhealthy" for youngsters to spend long periods in front of their consoles.
"There's anxiety about obesity and children not doing anything other than looking at computer screens," he told The Sun.
Back when we let kids work at factories all day, which was what they wanted to do—Please, sir, let us work at the turpentine factory, they used to say—we never had this problem. And we won two world wars! So the solution, as always, is to ban video games and bring back child labor.

US Special Operations Chief Olson warns of 'next generation' Al-Qaeda 2.0

U.S. Special Operations top commander Admiral Eric T. Olson has said Al Qaeda is 'bloodied' and is "nearing its end," but warned that its next generation, Al Qaeda 2.0 could keep the forces fighting for a decade.
Admiral Olson described the killing of Bin Laden at Abbottabad raid on May 2 as a "near-killing blow" for, what he called "Al Qaeda 1.0," as created by Bin Laden and led from his hideout in Pakistan.
Olson said the group had already lost steam as Arab Spring revolts proved that the Muslim world did not need Al Qaeda to topple governments from Tunisia to Egypt.
 "I think the death of bin Laden was an upper cut to the jaw. It just knocked them on their heels"; Fox News quoted Olsen, as saying at the Aspen Security Forum.
Olson warned of the fight to come against what he called Al Qaeda 2.0, with new leaders like American-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who, according to Olson, understands America better than Americans understand him.
He said Al Qaeda operatives like al-Awlaki would refine their message to appeal to a wider audience, and seek ungoverned spaces to operate from, where they can smuggle in weapons and train their followers.
Olson also described how current offshoots like al-Awlaki's, Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen are cooperating with militants in Somalia, forming an "invisible bridge" between the two.
Olson agreed with the White House's newly announced policy to strike terrorists through focused action rather than full-scale invasion, preferably by training and working with the host country's forces. He cautioned against thinking that raids would solve all U.S. foreign policy problems.

Apple has more cash than the federal government

 Paul Sakuma

Who's ready for iAmerica?

As the BBC has reported, the software company Apple has more cash on hand than the United States federal government, according to the company's financial records.
Apple's quarterly financial report shows that the company responsible for the iPad, iPod and the iPhone now has $76.4 billion in reserve cash, while the Treasury Department is sitting on just $73.7 billion.

The feds could probably learn a thing or two from Apple's success. Congress remains embroiled in a debate over spending and whether the federal government, which currently owes trillions in debt, should be allowed to borrow even more. International credit rating agencies have threatened to downgrade the national debt for the first time in the nation's history if Washington doesn't come up with a solution to lift the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling while implementing a concrete plan to get the nation's financial house in order.
Meanwhile, Apple's financial report shows that the company's profits, even through the last recession, are booming.

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2' Hits $1 Billion in Global Box Office

Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
In a fitting farewell to one of the most magical film series in Hollywood history, Warner Bros.’ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the first film in the franchise to reach the $1 billion mark worldwide.
Deathly Hallows 2 will cross the milestone on Saturday, having grossed $296 million domestically and $630 million overseas through Thursday for a global total of $926 million. Another blockbuster weekend at the multiplex is forecast, allowing the film to easily pass the vaunted $1 billion mark.

The movie, benefiting from being released in 3D, is racing past the milestone in about two weeks, a remarkable achievement. Until now, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone overseas) was the top grossing pic in the franchise, having grossed $974.8 million globally in 2001-02.

The Harry Potter franchise has always been immensely successful internationally, with every title in the series earning substantially more offshore. So far, 68 percent of Deathly Hallows Part 2’s gross has been earned at the international box office, fueled by standout performances in the U.K., Japan, Australia and Germany.

By the end of this weekend, Deathly Hallows Part 2 should surpass Sorcerer’s Stone's domestic gross of $317 million, the best in the series. It also will have surpassed the $659 million earned last year internationally by Deathly Hallows Part 1.
Deathly Hallows Part 2 becomes the 9th movie in history to gross north of $1 billion worldwide, a club that includes Warners’ The Dark Knight ($1 billion), Disney’s Alice in Wonderland ($1.02 billion) and Disney’s 2011 summer tentpole Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($1.03 billion).

Only one film has ever grossed north of $2 billion, and that’s James Cameron’s Avatar ($2.8 billion).

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Google+ Users Are Nearly All Male

Already using Google+?

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the Google+ stats trackers: Three quarters (or more) of Google+ users are male.
SocialStatistics, a third-party site that gathers data from select profiles, pegs the percentage of male users at 86.8%, while FindPeopleOnPlus, which curates information from about a million users, says men constitute 73.7% of Google+.

FindPeopleOnPlus also discovered that 95% of the Google+ users who say they are “looking for love” on the site are male. Some 25,000 users in their sample identify themselves as single, versus 19,000 married and 12,000 in a relationship. The vast majority of the million users sampled don’t say what they are.
With around 60% of users identifying themselves as web developers or software engineers, that paints a fairly stereotypical picture of Google+’s userbase: nerdy guys who have deep understandings of technology and who don’t mind killing some time setting up Circles of friends.

It’s true that the early adopters of any new technology are usually male. But Google+ will have to appeal to a mainstream audience if it’s to reach mass adoption anytime soon. Consider the gender breakdown for Google+’s biggest competitor, Facebook. The social network is close to a 50-50 split between men and women. And some of Facebook’s most addicted, most enthusiastic users are women.

Meanwhile, Google is about to stop requiring users to input their gender — meaning we may get less accurate stats as time progresses.

World's Most Expensive Watches, must check out

App Store, Android Market spur explosive app download growth

Thanks to Apple's App Store, Google's Android Market and a number of smaller online stores, the explosive growth of mobile application downloads continues.
Researcher In-Stat, in fact, projects some 48 billion mobile application downloads by 2015.
In-Stat said the rate of downloads has increased as the market for apps has become flooded. Apple's three-year-old App Store, for instance, now offers more than 425,000 apps while Android Market offers more than 200,000.
In-Stat didn't specify its projected annual rate of increase in mobile app downloads, or offer historical figures.
However Juniper Research said there were only 2.6 billion smartphone app downloads in 2009. And Juniper predicted a year ago that there would be 25 billion smartphone app downloads by 2015.
Apple's App Store is a big reason for the explosive growth of app downloads.
Apple said in July that more than 15 billion App Store apps had been downloaded to 200 million iPhones, iPads and iPod touches over the past three years.
By comparison, Google recently claimed 4.5 billion app downloads from its Android Market.
Philip Schiller, head of Apple product marketing, has said that Apple alone has paid out some $2.5 billion to app developers over the last three years.
The developers receive 70% of the purchase price of their apps sold on the Apple site. Apple's revenue from the site was $1.1 billion through the period, meaning that the App Store has generated some $3.6 billion in overall revenue through mid-2011.
In-Stat forecast that overall app download revenues will surpass $29 billion in 2015.
"Largely spurred by the launch of the iPhone, mobile applications have been a strong growth market over the past several years," said Amy Cravens, an In-Stat analyst. "The number of apps available has exploded, which has sparked an increasing rate of downloads."
She said the challenge for developers and app stores will be to compete across multiple mobile platforms.
In-Stat added that the explosive growth of app downloads will keep pressure on them to keep prices low, or even to offer free products. Users now pay an average of $2.50 for a mobile app, the research firm reported.
In-Stat said the spread of smartphones is also boosting app downloads. Smartphones made up one-fourth of all cellular phone shipments in 2010. That number is projected to jump to 45% in 2015, the company said.
Nearly half of all app downloads are now done over Wi-Fi, In-Stat said.

Mozilla building mobile OS to battle Chrome

 Mozilla revealed preliminary plans today to take the Gecko engine that drives its Firefox browser and turn it into an open-source operating system that will eventually work on phones and tablets.
Called Boot to Gecko, it is known that the source code will be released to the public "in real-time," wrote Andreas Gal, a Mozilla researcher. Gecko is the rendering engine that powers Firefox and the e-mail client Thunderbird. By contrast, while Google's Android mobile operating system is open source, the main development work on it does not become available until after Google has green-lit its publication--sometimes not until months afterward.
"We will do this work in the open, we will release the source in real-time, we will take all successful additions to an appropriate standards group, and we will track changes that come out of that process. We aren't trying to have these native-grade apps just run on Firefox, we're trying to have them run on the web," Gal said in a forum post. Mike Shaver, Mozilla's vice president of technical strategy, said that the Boot to Gecko apps won't use the Android SDK but instead run new and current Web app APIs
He also identified four areas for development. One is new Web APIs, which means building "prototype APIs for exposing device and OS capabilities to content." This is how the operating system would support current essential mobile features such as telephony, SMS, cameras, USB, Bluetooth, and near-field chips. A second area for development is to build a privilege model, which is a key security feature for ensuring that new features are "safely exposed to pages and applications," he said.

Boot to Gecko will include some low-level Android code for kernel and driver support so that it can run on Android devices. This does not exist yet, and porting it to a new system could prove to be extremely challenging. Then there is the final area of development--that of applications. The idea behind Boot to Gecko is to create a system where native Web apps can run just as well as the native apps for iOS do on that device.
Shaver added that the company is looking at Tegra 2 devices because they offer hardware acceleration of open audio and video formats.
For people who want to get a stronger idea of what Boot to Gecko will amount to, Gal noted that its "starting point" is a device running Firefox for Android as its homescreen, with some custom APIs thrown in. He also admitted in that post that there is an "ultimate goal" to the project, that of "breaking the stranglehold of proprietary technologies over the mobile device world." 

Facebook Blocks The Secret iPad App

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Just last night, our own MG Siegler unveiled that Facebook’s top secret iPad app was hiding in plain sight right within the publicly available iPhone app. All it took was a quick, mostly-pain-free modification or two, and you were knee deep in unexplored Beta territory.

Alas, it looks like Facebook has found a way to close things back up.

We’re hearing tons (as in hundreds) of reports that users who are just now getting around to checking out the trick are unable to do so. The iPad-friendly app still launches — you just can’t do much, as newcomers are being turned away at the login screen.

Oddly, it seems that those who managed to sneak in to the party before Facebook started closing the gates are still on the guest list.. to some extent. MG is still able to click around the app, though certain things (like notifications) are acting strangely or not functioning at all. No word yet on whether they plan to give everyone outside of Facebook HQ the boot completely.

Oh well. If all else fails, you can always load all the photos from our full photo gallery into your iPad’s photo app and pretend.