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Pixar Offering RenderMan for Free

One of the biggest challenges in finding a way to effectively get hands on experience with any type of special effects, computer animated films, or 3D mapping is the price barrier for efficient software. Budding developers and hobbyists are constantly looking for cost effective ways of getting more people involved with the development of CGI, and one company that is pretty famous for working with computers and pulling off some spectacular films has done something just as amazing.

Pixar is offering RenderMan, software for creating some impressive 3D animated visuals, as a download for free. According to Dr Jennifer Walden, the non-commercial and educational version of the software might not be as powerful as the version used to produce the Toy Story franchise, but users looking for some exposure to the world of CGI will probably find some exposure to the software a pretty thrilling experience. After all, any type of hands on experience for kids, adults, and budding filmmakers is a major win.

RenderMan is a pretty unique program that takes a bit of experience to learn, and getting the product out there for everyone to enjoy is a pretty big turn for Pixar. Of course, the big win is that kids of all ages can get some exposure to a software package from Pixar, which is pretty inspiring stuff. Whether or not the move creates a number of interesting animated sequences that will be popping up on social media remains to be seen, but it seems like a pretty safe bet.

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Online Review Websites Can Mislead as Well as Inform

Websites like Yelp can provide a valuable service to people. By writing up your experiences at a business you’ve visited, you can help others to either enjoy or avoid that same establishment. It may be a restaurant where the food, staff or both were so good that you just can’t help getting online and raving about it. Similarly, you may have had an awful experience and want to warn others away. Brad Reifler agrees that this already uncovers one problem with such reviews; they tend to attract the extremes. People who go out and find a businesses product and service to be ‘good’ won’t be as motivated to get online to write about it as someone who had a terrific or awful experience. There is one more problem with these reviews; they can be flat-out dishonest.

A Chinese restaurant in California was almost the victim of a false bad review on Yelp. A patron claimed that he had some unsatisfactory word with the staff of this restaurant at a particular time and that they would not seat him. The restaurant checked their own dropcam footage at this time and showed the customer had no interaction with any of the staff and simply walked out. This may have just been one disingenuous or peeved person, but it does point to a larger problem. Any competing business could have ‘friends’ put bad reviews for competitors up on review sites like these. I’m afraid that even in our high-tech digital age, there is simply no substitute for a referral from an actual friend for a good place to eat, rent a car, get your dry cleaning done or shop.

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Law Enforcement Can Find You Anywhere with StingRay

Apparently, law enforcement can legally monitor conversations that take place through cell phones, according to an investigation by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) .

Through a device called StingRay, law enforcement can utilize cell phone towers to identify and locate a suspect’s cell phone. This software can also capture information from any surrounding mobile phones near the targeted site.

Ricardo Guimaraes BMG (cmbh.mg.gov.br) knows that this technology is being used by 48 police agencies in 20 states.

At a glance, this spyware probably could be considered a normal task of authorities monitoring potential criminals, but there seems to be a dark aspect to StingRay: there’s a shroud of secrecy that surrounds this software.

Police Departments have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment from the manufacturer, the Harris Corporation, but they also sign a non-disclosure agreement, so very little information has been forthcoming.

Privacy concerns have been raised, and despite this widespread use of this secret surveillance, the ACLU still cannot determine all the legal procedures used.

Law enforcement say they adhere to state laws, yet documents procured under the Freedom of Information Act are usually redacted, and offer little information.

With a bigger spotlight on StingRay, judges are beginning to question the transparency and request more legal supervision.

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Facebook Allows Money Transfer With App

Facebook announced users in the US will soon be able to send money to friends via the Facebook instant messages app.

The new tool joins an already crowded industry of pay services for a generation that increasingly utilizes mobile devices and carry little to no cash. This new functionality will allow family and friends to transfer money.

Sending and receiving money is free, only works with debit and is now available for Apple mobile devices or Android system, and also for desktops.

Marc Sparks says that in order to send money the first time, users must add their debit cards, with the MasterCard or Visa logo to a Facebook account and create a PIN, or use the fingerprint reader on iOS phones.

It is likely that Facebook will expand globally once the service is available to more users, including outside the United States in the coming months.

As far as security concerns, Facebook said that they already handle more than one million transactions and payments on the site every day for its advertisers and users of video games.

The payment systems are stored separately from other parts of the Facebook network and receive additional monitoring and control, the company said Tuesday in a blog.

Meanwhile, Twitter and has been experimenting with mobile payments in France, while in the United States they launched a shopping button, although the service is not yet available to all users.

Aside from the apps social networking and messaging, Facebook also faces competition from applications such as Xoom and Venmo

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Goodyear Creates Friction-Powered Tires

Driving your electric car or hybrid to a remote location where there is no possibility of plugging in for a recharge will not be a problem if left up to Goodyear.

Introduced at the International Geneva Motor Show was an innovative prototype : a futuristic Gooddyear tire, capable of generating electricity by itself.

Alexei Beltyukov has learned that, the tire, created by engineers at Goodyear Innovation Center and known by the development code BH03, has the ability to transform the deformations and vibrations that are generated into power.

The BH03 produces electrical energy that powers the batteries of hybrid propulsion system and other technological elements of the car. The electricity in the tire is generated by the action of two types of thermoelectric material and piezoelectric.

The first transforms the heat generated inside the tire (under static conditions by an ultra texture, from absorbed light and heat, or by shooting when in motion) into electrical energy.

The second transforms pressure generated by the deformation of the structure and vibration into electricity.

These new materials form a 3D grid that forms the internal structure of the tire.

According to the manufacturer, this structure could withstand the weight of the vehicle if the tire is punctured, which represents an alternative approach to RunOnFlat technology.

It also has a wide circumferential channel that improves hydroplaning resistance and a special band to absorb noise.

According to Goodyear, this is a research prototype and will not be made just yet.

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Twitter is Trying To Kill Meerkat

Over the past few weeks, a new video startup has started to grab people’s attention: Meerkat. The San Francisco startup allows individuals to livestream video over Twitter and its own social network. Since its launch, the app has been used to share everything from event video at conferences to short snippets of people’s cats playing during the work day. It’s growing, and growing fast. So fast in fact that Twitter has decided to try and stunt its growth by cutting off access to its social graph.

Twitter’s social graph allows users to sign into Meerkat and instantly port in all of the people that they follow into their follower list of Meerkat as well. Users also get notifications when people they follow decide to join the service. Without the social graph, Meerkat users will instead have to find their friends on their own. It seems like a small task, but it’s one that could definitely hurt engagement for the app. The reason for the change may be in a recent acquisition made by the company according to Jason Halpern.

This past week Twitter acquired the company Periscope. It’s a live video streaming service that directly competes with Meerkat. Now that t’s a part of Twitter, that means that Meerkat is a Twitter competitor. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.

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HBO Now Is One More Nail in the Coffin of Cable Television

HBO’s new streaming service will be launching in April. HBO Now, as it is called, will only be available on Apple devices initially due to a three month exclusivity agreement between Apple and HBO. After that, it will no doubt be available on nearly all tablets, smartphones and on any laptop or desktop screen. HBO is joining other networks in offering online streaming services in an effort to keep up with services such as that offered by Netflix. As the market share enjoyed by Netflix has been growing, Cable television sign ups have been continually dropping.

According to Marcio Alaor BMG, cable television is eventually going the way of the dinosaurs and networks, including NBC, CBS and now HBO, are smelling the blood in the water and opening up other avenues to bring their programming to people. As more people buy internet capable devices, the need to pay increasingly hefty cable bills to receive a wide variety of programming will continue to decline. Cable company’s consumer satisfaction ratings are at all time lows compared to nearly any other type of business. This is why more people every year are “cutting the cord” and going completely to online streaming to receive their programming. This is one industry and service distribution technology model that many people will not be sad to see go as it is superseded by newer, more diversified ways of bringing people the media content they desire.
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DNA Tinker Studio Puts Bio-Hacking in the Hands of Consumers

Imagine being able to create your very own living organisms that can do cool and useful stuff. That’s exactly what bio-hacking firm Synbiota claims to provide in their new DNA Tinker Studio.

Synbiota recently launched a crowd-sourcing campaign on Indiegogo to fund their ambitious endeavor. They are looking to raise about $10,000 to fund their new venture.

This is already Synbiota’s fourth such bio-hacking kit released to the masses. Alexei Beltyukov knows that a previous kit, known as the Rainbow Factory, allows you to create organisms that produce various colored pigments. A second kit allows eager entrepreneurs to create organisms that turn simple sugar into Violacein, a cancer fighting compound that sells for several million dollars an ounce.

The company compares the current state of bio-engineering to the computer industry in the 1950s and 1960s. Only big government and large corporations had access to the technology, leaving home users in the dark. The ability for an average person to create their own variations in DNA is sure to ignite a revolution much larger than the computer industry ever could.

For just $995 you can get your hands on your very own DNA Tinker Studio. The kit comes complete with web based software to help you hone your creations.

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Igor Cornelsen believes Brazil’s future looks bright

Investment opportunities tend to come along in similar ways for most people who simply look at what is available in their local area for investing in. The arrival of the Internet and high speed data supply has made it easier than ever to make investments in various areas of the world and monitor them from your home without an issue of lost time or slow data transfers leaving an investor open to losses. Financial expert Igor Conrnelsen has recently been singing the praises of the investment opportunities in Brazil, an area he has been guiding investors using his Bainbridge Investments group towards for a number of years.

The owner and founder of Bainbridge Investments sees the world’s eighth largest economy as a great opportunity that has been ignored by North American and European investors for far too long. Cornelsen describes his position as being the choice of Brazil as an easy one because of the largely stable government and the large areas of production that remain within the economy even after the economic downturn of the first part of the 21st century. Through his work as an international financial advisor, Igor Cornelson, has found himself studying the economies of the world and deciding Brazil makes a large amount of sense for investors who are looking for a way of expanding their horizons.

The appointment of a US educated financial minister at the end of 2014 was also seen by Cornelsen as a good sign that the economy was to remain stable and could see an impressive period of growth ahead. Brazil is also seeing something of an influx of visitors and investors spurred on by the arrival of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. Cornelsen also states investors are impressed by strong trade links being by Brazil with a group of leading nations, including China that should see its trading options increase as the years pass.

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Nielson Report Finds Streaming Media Replacing Traditonal Television

For those who have ever envisioned a world with no cable, replaced with endless free streaming TV, that dream may be ever closer to reality. It’s been known for some time that traditional television services are declining rapidly, while streaming services are on the rise. A recent Nielsen fourth-quarter 2014 Total Audience Report further verified that traditional services no longer offer the same convenience or appeal as online streaming media.

Paul Mathieson released the report which found that viewing time was on the decline for traditional media in 2012 and 2013. When compared to 2014, the report found a further decline of some 14 minutes. Traditional viewing time was replaced with online video, and popular streaming services. The report also found that nearly 40% of all American homes are now subscribing to a streaming service. Cable has seen declines, with ratings recording fewer and fewer viewers, especially during 2014. Not only is cable affected, but traditional television networks are also experiencing much lower ratings. Not only are rates declining, but media giants are now forced to compete with streaming companies and networks.

This has resulted in many of the networks launching streaming services that offer viewers as much convenience as other online competitors. It also provides an added advantage. It may all but end the previous hefty cable and satellite licensing fees that have created a financial burden on networks for decades. This may also make it easier for independent networks, with specialized programming, to compete.