The office desk has become a second home to most adults who work a 9-5 job. It can be infuriating knowing that someone has sat in your chair or moved your pens. For this reason we have created the 10 Cool Office Desk Security Gadgets list for your perusal. Having these gadgets on and around your desk will ensure a.) Nobody steps near your territory, b.) people will think twice before before stealing something and c.) You get to have lots of fun. Check out the list of gadgets below.

1. Rubber Band Ring Shot

ringshot If you work in an office job the chances are you have a stash of rubber bands sitting around. The idea behind the ring shot is that an immovable rigid L is created on your index finger and thumb. You mount the rubber band on to this and fire away. This device eliminates the pain caused by a rubber band snapping on your fingers.



2. Shooting Cubicle Alarm System

tri-link-alarm This next office desk security gadget is perfect for the time you need to take a 5 minute break away from your desk. The last gadget required you to be present to fight off any intruder. This gadget does the fighting for you. A three stage system protects your desk. Each of the three units has a motion sensor built in. When the first unit detects motion it triggers an alarm and a flashing light. It then secretly sends this alert wirelessly to the second and third base arming them. When sensor two detects motion it sounds an even louder alarm to scare the intruder away. If this is not successful then the final sensor fires two foam missiles at the intruder.


3. USB Cannon
usb-cannon This simple device can fire a foam missile 10 feet. Sound effects are included. It is powered by the USB port on your computer and you simply use the arrow keys to aim and the spacebar to fire.






4. Desk Catapult
desk-catapult If you like to take your office security in to the past then a desktop catapult could be used. It requires skill to get the angles and trajectory just right to hit your enemy but provides a good laugh at the same time. It measures 5 x 4 x 5.5 inches and is made of metal.






5. Self Build Desk Catapult
home-made-catapult Maybe you do not like the metal catapult and prefer to make your own. If this is the case then choose this wooden version which comes supplied in kit form. All the same features as those in point 4, but the fun of wasting office time by building it too.





6. Megazooka

megazooka The Airzooka was a cool toy which could fire a shot of air clear across a room to startle those who it was aimed at. The Megazooka is the airzooka’s big brother. In this version you can cock the megazooka and activate it with a trigger. Get it ready next your desk, ready to fire. You can then quickly grab it and fire at innocent, or guilty passers by. This thing will fire a shot of air 20 feet and as it fires air, there is plenty of that around to keep you entertained and secure.


7. Tagball – Indoor Paintball Simulator

combatball Now I doubt an indoor paintball gun will actually break skin although according to ThinkGeek it still fires accurately and at high speed. It’s essential to have one of these next to your desk to fire at those who are intruding in your desk space. This gun fires out 3/4″ velcro ammo and is capable of knocking over drinks cans from 20 – 30 feet away.


8. Radio Controlled Shocking Tanks
rc-shocking-tanks These tanks are more of a game then a security device, but can still be used to protect your space. The shocking tanks require two people to use them. They have infrared guns which when they hit the other tank a signal is sent from the tank to the controller and the person holding the remote control gets a shock. Ideal for giving to your boss as he will never come near your desk again not knowing what you have up your sleeves.




9. Magnetic Accelerator Kit
magnetic_accelerator_kit From looking at the video of this accelerator kit I get the impression it could hurt people. The devices uses magnetic forces to create an accelerator. All you do is put a metal ball in one end of the track at slow speed and a metal ball at the other end shoots out at high speed. Pain would be instant should it hit you. The system works by transferring the energy which multiplies down the track of balls till the last ball zooms off.





10. Lipstick Stun Gun
lipstick-stun-gun If all the above still do not keep people away from your desk then a Lipstick stun gun is in order. This stun gun fires out 350000 volts which is sure to scare the life out of someone should it come in to contact with them. However, when using this you can probably be assured that your job will go too as I am sure it would be against all company policies to use it.




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Could Windows 7 accomplish everything that's expected of it? Probably not, but it makes a damn good attempt. We've tested the gold master, the final version going out on October 22. Upgrade without trepidation, people. With excitement, even.

Windows 7 is not quite a "Vista service pack." It does share a lot of the core tech, and was clearly designed to fix nearly every bad thing anyone said about Vista. Which ironically puts the demon that it was trying to exorcise at its heart. What that means is that Windows 7 is what Vista should have been in the public eye—a solid OS with plenty of modern eye candy that mostly succeeds in taking Windows usability into the 21st century—but it doesn't daringly innovate or push boundaries or smash down walls or whatever verb meets solid object metaphor you want to use, because it had a specific set of obligations to meet, courtesy of its forebear.

That said, if you're coming from Windows XP, Windows 7 will totally feel like a revelation from the glossy future. If you're coming from Vista, you'll definitely go "Hey, this is much better!" the first time you touch Aero Peek. If you're coming from a Mac, you'll—-hahahahaha. But seriously, even the Mactards will have to tone down their nasal David Spadian snide, at least a little bit.

The Long Shadow of Windows Vista
The public opinion of Windows Vista—however flawed it might have been—clearly left a deep impact on Microsoft. While we've got final Windows 7 code, it's hard to look 2 1/2 months into the future to predict what the Windows 7 launch will be like. However, based on this code, and the biggest OS beta testing process in history, it sure won't look like the beleaguered Vista launch at all.

If you installed Vista on your PC within the first month of its release, there was a solid chance your computer ran like crap, or your gadgets didn't work, since drivers weren't available yet. That's not how it shakes down with Windows 7. The hardware requirements for Windows 7 are basically the same as they are for Vista, the first time ever a release of Windows hasn't required significantly more horsepower than the previous one. And it runs better on that hardware, or at least feels like it does.

We ran real-world benchmarking on two test machines, a nearly two-year-old Dell XPS M1330 with 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, an Nvidia 8400M GS and a 64GB SSD, and an 18-month-old desktop with 3GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB RAM, an Nvidia 8800GT and a 10,000rpm drive. Results suggest there's little actual difference between Vista and Windows 7 performance-wise on the same hardware, as you can see:

XP_Vista_7_PS_CS4 XP_Vista_7_Shut_Down XP_Vista_7_Start_Up XP_Vista_7_Video_Conversion XP_Vista_7_Gaming

Ambiguous benchmarking aside, our experience during the beta period was that Windows 7 actually ran beautifully, even on netbooks that made Vista cry like a spoiled child who'd had its solid gold spoon shoved up its butt sideways, so the difference isn't based entirely on "feelings." Even Microsoft never attempted to market a Vista for netbooks, but is gladly offering Windows 7 to that category.

Installing XP, Vista and Windows 7 on the same hardware over the space of a week also proved that point: Hardware just worked when I booted up Windows 7 for the first time, while my machines were practically catatonic with XP until I dug up the drivers, and gimped with Vista until I dutifully updated. Hitting Windows Update in Windows 7, I was offered a couple of drivers that were actually current, like ones for my graphics cards. Centralizing the delivery of drivers is huge in making the whole drivers thing less over whelming. (It helps that manufacturers are actively putting out drivers for their gear this go-around, rather than waiting until the last minute, as they tended to with Vista.)

Microsoft has even corrected the pricing spike that Vista introduced, even if they didn't fully streamline that confusing, pulsating orgy of versions. A full version of Windows 7 Home Premium is $200, down from $260, and if you were lucky, you could've pre-ordered an upgrade version for $50. (Microsoft says that deal has sold out, but we wouldn't be shocked to find it re-upped in the near future, possibly even as we head toward the October 22 launch.) So yes, most of the early Vista problems—performance, compatibility and price, to an extent—will likely not be early Windows 7 problems.

What's Good
Windows 7 is the biggest step forward in usability since Windows 95. In fact, over half of what makes it better than Vista boils down to user interface improvements and enhancements, not so much actual new features.


Its fancy new user interface—the heart of which is Aero Peek, making every open window transparent except the one you're focusing on at the moment so you can find what you're looking for—actually changes the way you use Windows. It breaks the instinct to maximize windows as you're using them; instead, you simply let windows hang out, since it's much easier to juggle them. In other words, it radically reorients the UI around multitasking. After six months of using Aero Peek and the new launcher taskbar, going back to Vista's taskbar, digging through collapsed app bars, or even its Peek-less Alt+Tab feels barbaric and primitive. I wouldn't mind an Mac OS Exposé ripoff to complete the multitasking triumph, though.

Windows 7 brings back a sense of a tightness and control that was sometimes missing in Vista—there's a techincal reason for this relating in part to the way graphics are handled—moments where I've felt like I wasn't in control of my PC have been few and far between, even during the beta and release candidate periods. The more chaste User Account Control goes to that—the frequency with which it interrupts you was grating in Vista, like standing under a dripping faucet. But it actually works as Microsoft intended now, with more security, since you're less likely to repeatedly hammer "OK" to anything that pops up, just so it leaves you the hell alone.


Other super welcome improvements are faster, more logical search—in the Music folder for instance, you can narrow by artist, genre or album—and more excellent file previews, though they're not quite as awesome as what OS X offers up. (And why aren't they on by default?) There are lots of little things that make you say, "finally" or "that's great," like legit codec support baked in to Windows Media Player, Device Stage when you plug in your gadgets, or the retardiculously awesome background images.

In short, Windows 7 is what Windows should feel like in 2009.

What's Not So Good
There are a few spots Microsoft rubbed polish on that still don't quite shine. Networking is much, much better than Vista—the wireless networking interface isn't completely stupid anymore—but the Network and Sharing Center still doesn't quite nail it in terms of making networking or sharing easy for people who don't really know what they're doing. I wouldn't turn my mom loose inside of it, anyway. The HomeGroup concept for making it easy to share files sounds good in theory, but in practice, it's no slam dunk. I imagine regular people asking, "What's up with crazy complicated password I have to write down? Can I share files with PCs not in my HomeGroup? What's all this other stuff in my Network that's not in my HomeGroup?"


Not all parts of the user experience are sweeter now. Microsoft, just fix the unwieldy Control Panel interface, please. (Hint: Steal OS X's. Everything's visible and categorized.) And Windows Media Player's UI while you're at it. If it makes iTunes look simple, it's got problems. I'd really like to be able to pin folders directly to the Taskbar as well, not simply to the Windows Explorer icon in the Taskbar. It's kind of confusing behavior, actually—why can you pin some icons (apps or files) and not others (folders)?

Internet Explorer 8 ain't so great, either. It's better than IE7, sure, and actually sorta supports modern web standards. But you'll be downloading Firefox, Opera, or Chrome as soon as you get Win 7 up and running, since IE's not better than any of them. And while you could argue you wouldn't be so inclined to use Microsoft's own mail application either, you might, but you'll have to download it first. Instead of being app-packed, Windows 7 gives you an optional update for Live Essentials, with apps like Mail, Photo Gallery and MovieMaker. Some people might like the cleaner install, but this is a fairly senseless de-coupling—not including a mail app with your own OS? I know those European regulators are ridiculous, but come on.

I suppose the biggest thing missing from Windows 7 is any sense of daring (psychedelic wallpapers aside). It's a very safe release: Take what was good about Vista, fix what people bitched about, and voila. We get it, people want a safe operating system, not an experiment in behavioral science. But even as Windows 7 restores some of the joy in using Windows, you get the sense that it could've been more, if it hadn't been saddled with the tainted legacy of Vista. I wonder what Windows 7 would have been without Vista.

The Verdict
Windows XP was a great OS in its day. Windows Vista, once it found its feet several months in, was a good OS. With Windows 7, the OS is great again. It's what people said they wanted out of Windows: Solid, more nimble and the easiest, prettiest Windows yet. There's always a chance this won't be a huge hit come October, given the economy and the state of the PC industry, but it's exactly what Microsoft needs right now. Something people can grab without fear.

Source: [matt buchanan;]

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Facebook, for better or worse, is like being at a big party with all your friends, family, acquaintances and co-workers.

Facebook-site There are lots of fun, interesting people you're happy to talk to when they stroll up. Then there are the other people, the ones who make you cringe when you see them coming. This article is about those people.

Sure, Facebook can be a great tool for keeping up with folks who are important to you. Take the status update, the 160-character message that users post in response to the question, "What's on your mind?" An artful, witty or newsy status update is a pleasure -- a real-time, tiny window into a friend's life.

But far more posts read like navel-gazing diary entries, or worse, spam. A recent study categorized 40 percent of Twitter tweets as "pointless babble," and it wouldn't be surprising if updates on Facebook, still a fast-growing social network, break down in a similar way.

Combine dull status updates with shameless self-promoters, "friend-padders" and that friend of a friend who sends you quizzes every day, and Facebook becomes a daily reminder of why some people can get on your nerves.

Here are 12 of the most annoying types of Facebook users:

The Let-Me-Tell-You-Every-Detail-of-My-Day Bore. "I'm waking up." "I had Wheaties for breakfast." "I'm bored at work." "I'm stuck in traffic." You're kidding! How fascinating! No moment is too mundane for some people to broadcast unsolicited to the world. Just because you have 432 Facebook friends doesn't mean we all want to know when you're waiting for the bus.

The Self-Promoter. OK, so we've probably all posted at least once about some achievement. And sure, maybe your friends really do want to read the fascinating article you wrote about beet farming. But when almost EVERY update is a link to your blog, your poetry reading, your 10k results or your art show, you sound like a bragger or a self-centered careerist.

The Friend-Padder. The average Facebook user has 120 friends on the site. Schmoozers and social butterflies -- you know, the ones who make lifelong pals on the subway -- might reasonably have 300 or 400. But 1,000 "friends?" Unless you're George Clooney or just won the lottery, no one has that many. That's just showing off.

The Town Crier. "Michael Jackson is dead!!!" You heard it from me first! Me, and the 213,000 other people who all saw it on TMZ. These Matt Drudge wannabes are the reason many of us learn of breaking news not from TV or news sites but from online social networks. In their rush to trumpet the news, these people also spread rumors, half-truths and innuendo. No, Jeff Goldblum did not plunge to his death from a New Zealand cliff.

The TMIer. "Brad is heading to Walgreens to buy something for these pesky hemorrhoids." Boundaries of privacy and decorum don't seem to exist for these too-much-information updaters, who unabashedly offer up details about their sex lives, marital troubles and bodily functions. Thanks for sharing.

The Bad Grammarian. "So sad about Fara Fauset but Im so gladd its friday yippe". Yes, I know the punctuation rules are different in the digital world. And, no, no one likes a spelling-Nazi schoolmarm. But you sound like a moron.

The Sympathy-Baiter. "Barbara is feeling sad today." "Man, am I glad that's over." "Jim could really use some good news about now." Like anglers hunting for fish, these sad sacks cast out their hooks -- baited with vague tales of woe -- in the hopes of landing concerned responses. Genuine bad news is one thing, but these manipulative posts are just pleas for attention.

The Lurker. The Peeping Toms of Facebook, these voyeurs are too cautious, or maybe too lazy, to update their status or write on your wall. But once in a while, you'll be talking to them and they'll mention something you posted, so you know they're on your page, hiding in the shadows. It's just a little creepy.

The Crank. These curmudgeons, like the trolls who spew hate in blog comments, never met something they couldn't complain about. "Carl isn't really that impressed with idiots who don't realize how idiotic they are." [Actual status update.] Keep spreading the love.

The Paparazzo. Ever visit your Facebook page and discover that someone's posted a photo of you from last weekend's party -- a photo you didn't authorize and haven't even seen? You'd really rather not have to explain to your mom why you were leering like a drunken hyena and French-kissing a bottle of Jagermeister.

The Maddening Obscurist. "If not now then when?" "You'll see..." "Grist for the mill." "John is, small world." "Dave thought he was immune, but no. No, he is not." [Actual status updates, all.] Sorry, but you're not being mysterious -- just nonsensical.

The Chronic Inviter. "Support my cause. Sign my petition. Play Mafia Wars with me. Which 'Star Trek' character are you? Here are the 'Top 5 cars I have personally owned.' Here are '25 Things About Me.' Here's a drink. What drink are you? We're related! I took the 'What President Are You?' quiz and found out I'm Millard Fillmore! What president are you?"

You probably mean well, but stop. Just stop. I don't care what president I am -- can't we simply be friends? Now excuse me while I go post the link to this story on my Facebook page.

[By Brandon Griggs CNN]

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Berkeley engineers invent a cell-phone microscope.

What the world needs now—besides love, of course—is a new technology for diagnosing infectious disease that's inexpensive and portable yet highly effective. The World Health Organization estimates that there were about 247 million cases of malaria in 2006 and more than 9 million new cases of tubercellscopeculosis in 2007, with African countries bearing most of the burden in both cases. Fortunately, a group of engineers at UC Berkeley may have come up with the very thing, a device they call the CellScope, a simple attachment that clips onto the back of an ordinary camera phone and turns it into a portable and easy-to-use microscope capable of visualizing single-celled pathogens like malaria parasites or tuberculosis bacteria—no laboratory required.

That's a good thing, because well-outfitted labs are often hard to come by in the developing world. The conditions are usually hot, and electricity may be spotty at best. Put simply, the best medical technologies require clean, air-conditioned labs stocked with bulky machines and endless shelves of reagents—not what a public-health worker is likely to find in places like sub-Saharan Africa and the jungles of Southeast Asia. In such locations, diagnoses used to be based solely on the observations of sparse medical personnel. Then basic microscopes become more common, making diagnosis more of a science. And in the past 15 years or so, strip tests, which work much like pregnancy tests but diagnose various infectious diseases, have become an important tool in the Third World.

But these methods are far from ideal, says Bernhard Weigl, group leader of diagnostics development teams at PATH, a Seattle-based global health organization. In field conditions, basic microscopy yields false negatives about half the time, partly due to poorly trained technicians, and strip tests have a bad rap because their quality is variable—some types are very effective, others are nearly useless.

The CellScope's engineers and the public-health groups that will help test it are optimistic that the device could be a solution. It all began in a Berkeley bioengineering class taught by Daniel Fletcher. To make things interesting, Fletcher presented his students with a challenge: if you were hiking in a remote village where an unknown infectious disease was spreading, what could you build with only a camera cell phone and a backpack of lenses that might help identify the disease? In response, his students developed a prototype CellScope, and the research seemed promising enough that some of the students continued working on it with Fletcher after the course ended (the research was described in this report, recently published in the journal PLoS ONE).

According to Fletcher, CellScope users will be able to take diagnostic images of blood or sputum samples and then either send them off for further analysis using the phone's wireless connectivity, or analyze them independently using image-analysis software that could be installed on the cell phone. In addition to being more portable, the CellScope may prove to be more valuable for diagnosis than basic compound microscopes. That's because the device is capable of fluorescence microscopy, which produces images that are much easier for a layperson to decipher. It's like picking out bright stars from a dark sky, says David Breslauer, a bioengineering graduate student at Berkeley and member of the CellScope team.

Weigl expects that the CellScope will be practical for field diagnoses of malaria and other parasites. He is hopeful that the CellScope could be more effective than test strips, which cannot differentiate between someone with an active infection and someone who was previously infected but has recovered. Furthermore, the CellScope should be able to detect malaria at an earlier stage of infection than test strips. Although the CellScope could be used to diagnose TB as well, Weigl cautions that this could not be done without a lab, given how infectious the disease is. Unlike malaria, which cannot be contracted from blood, a person could contract TB simply from handling an infected sputum sample.

Fletcher says that specialized versions of the CellScope could be tailored to specific uses. A low-resolution version could be used to examine the skin for malignancies, or an otoscope version could allow a mother, for instance, to examine her children's ears for infections and to take a series of pictures that could be sent via cell-phone picture messaging to the doctor for a professional opinion. "You can imagine a suite of little attachments that had different applications," Fletcher explains.

While the CellScope is likely to fill a need for more effective microscopy in the field, experts say that the long-term trend will probably be toward higher-quality rapid test strips and nucleic-acid-based methods for diagnosing disease in the developing world. Commonly used for establishing identity in criminal investigations and for diagnosing disease in developed countries, nucleic-acid techniques involve amplifying and detecting the DNA of various disease-causing pathogens. It's a very precise and specific method of detecting disease, but the challenge is making it portable and cheap enough for use in the Third World. Many research groups are working to overcome these hurdles, and much progress has already been made.

In the meantime, Weigl says, simple devices like the CellScope may be just what the harried, developing-world doctor ordered.

[By Ian Yarett | Newsweek Web Exclusive]

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_45558466_mantis-baesystemsThe Ministry of Defence has showcased current and next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The event was held as part of National Science and Engineering Week - an annual event celebrating science, engineering and technology - and to give manufacturers the chance to show off some of their creations.

Military use of UAVs has been growing fast. Twenty years ago, they were a bonus item for the armed forces, now they are seen as an essential part of the modern warrior's arsenal.

UAVs are mainly used for reconnaissance, although some of the larger models can also drop weapons.

On show was equipment currently deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as prototypes and models of new technology that could be in service in the next few years.

The role of unmanned vehicles was to do "dull, dirty, and dangerous work and lessen the risk to the troops," said General Andrew Figgures, the officer in charge of MoD procurement, at the event..


Built by Honeywell, this 8kg hovering air vehicle carries a regular and night vision camera, _45558483_honeywell-mav enabling troops to get a stable eye-in-the-sky.

The device, with a price tag of $250,000 (£180,000) is already in use with the US Navy and is currently on trial with British forces and the US 25th Infantry Division in Iraq.

Speaking to the BBC, Adrian Harding from Honeywell, said the device was almost unique in the market.

"Unlike most other UAVs, which have to make numerous passes over a target, we can hover overhead and have constant eyes on the ground," he said.


Thales' UAV is already in active service in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike many UAVs, _45558494_watchkeeper Watchkeeper does not need to be "flown" by an operator. The device is autonomous, choosing the best flight path to get to a destination set by an operator.

Speaking to the BBC, Sergeant David Alexander - serving with the 32 Regiment, Royal Artillery - said that the Watchkeeper had already helped save lives.

"It's easy to operate. Really easy. We have two-man teams, one who directs where the aircraft needs to go, and the other who monitors the images coming in.

"It's main use is spotting possible IED [improvised explosive devices] by looking for disturbed soil, wires or possible enemy combatants.

"The work is really satisfying as you help save lives."


_45558526_mq-9_reape The successor to the well known Predator UAV, the Reaper gives the armed forces a larger, faster aircraft with a greater payload.

Originally called Predator B, the aircraft has been designed to perform high-altitude surveillance, reconnaissance and so-called hunter-killer missions.

While the Predator could operate up to an altitude of 25,000ft (7620m) and a speed of 120mph (193kph), Reaper can go up to 50,000 feet at speeds of over 240 mph. It can also carry a weapon payload in excess of 1.3 tonnes.

The Reaper is already in service with the RAF and USAF and the developers are working on further modifications.

DESERT HAWK III_45558533_deserthawk3

Another UAV, but much smaller than Reaper, Desert Hawk III is a hand-launched drone that is used by troops to carry out surveillance. The device fits inside a backpack carried by troops.

Developed by Lockheed Martin, the UAV has a range of up to 15km and can be in the air for up to 90 minutes.

At present, an operator controls the Desert Hawk III from a laptop and transmitter, although the developers are working on a customised and more durable control system.


_45558557_casper250 British firms are also working on small UAVs that can be carried in a backpack.

Birmingham-based Sonic Communications has built the Casper 250 Man-pack, a battery-powered UAV that is ready for launched within 20 minutes of being unpacked.

The developer's say the device becomes "silent and invisible" once it reaches 100m, can stay airborne for more than 90 minutes and has a range of 12 miles.

Casper has two interchangeable cameras, for night or day use, and can transmit the images either directly to the ground control station or to a command and control centre.


_45558558_taranisgraphic-baesystems BAE Systems is working on two very different UAVs.

Mantis is a large pilotless aircraft, with a wingspan of 22m, can stay airborne for more than 24 hours and operate at more than 40,000 feet.

Speaking to the BBC, BAE's head of communications, Adam Morrison, said the Mantis could survey or patrol an area with great accuracy.

"Most UAVs are controlled on the ground, even if that control is a bunker somewhere in the US. Because of the human element, you're never going to get a precise and regular course over time.

"With Mantis, you can cover an area with almost regular monotony, which means not only constant coverage, but you can spot if anything in that area has changed.

"You could also use it for maritime patrol and with the autonomous nature of the plane, all you need to tell it is which airfield it takes off and lands at, the length of runway and off it goes."

The other UAV it is working on - Taranis - is very different. The £124m, four year project to develop it hopes to create an unmanned, stealth, deep-strike aircraft as part of the Government's strategic unmanned air vehicle experiment.

Initial ground trials are scheduled for late 2009, with a maiden flight scheduled for 2010.


[By Daniel Emery Technology reporter, BBC News]

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Traditional versions of the iconic device are a thing of the past, but future iterations will have a long and vibrant future.


Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I was recently cleaning out a closet and came across an interesting artifact: my first iPod.

It was nearly eight years ago that I was among the very first people in New York City to carry around the first-generation iPod. About the size of a pack of cigarettes, it was advertised with the tagline "A thousand songs in your pocket." I can even remember the song used in the first TV spot: Take California by The Propellerheads.

Since then, I've upgraded to a 2007 model boasting a 160-gigabyte hard drive that makes holding a mere thousand songs seem quaint. Before long, I will no doubt be waxing nostalgic about this music player as well—one that, at not even half full, holds 5,231 songs, 141 videos, and 228 podcasts.

First Quarterly Drop in iPod Sales

The iPod as many of us have known it is on the wane and giving way to a more feature-rich family of devices that in time will bear little resemblance to the trailblazing digital music players that helped Apple capture 70% of the North American market. Evidence of the iPod's decline came July 21, when Apple disclosed its first quarterly decline in iPods sold. In the three months ended in June, Apple (AAPL) sold 10.2 million iPods, versus 11 million a year earlier.

Anticipation of the drop-off is "one of the original reasons" Apple developed the iPhone and the WiFi-enabled iPod touch, Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said on a July 21 conference call with analysts. Apple is prepared for lower sales of what it calls "pocket products:" the iPod shuffle, nano, and classic.

At the same time, the iPod business "will last for many, many years," Apple believes. The company has good reason to want to extend the life of a product line that's generated $38 billion on sales of 218 million units, catapulting Apple ahead of SanDisk (SNDK), Microsoft (MSFT), Toshiba (6502.T), and others.

Flash Memory Is Cheaper

What will iPod's next generation look like? Most of Apple's energy is going to be devoted to the iPod touch, the most advanced and versatile version of the iPod.

My prediction is that one of the first casualties of Apple's emphasis will be the hard drive-based iPod classic. Flash memory is cheaper, consumes less power, and resists abuse better than hard drives, so future high-capacity iPods will most likely be based on flash.

I'm also betting those high-capacity models will look more like the iPod touch, and less like my iPod classic. If history is any judge, Apple will revise its iPod lineup in September, as it has every year since 2005.

A Mic Would Broaden Appeal

Besides a refresh of the iPod nano (it's been revised every fall since its introduction), you can also expect a more advanced version of the iPod touch. The next touch will come with 64GB of flash memory.

And since it runs virtually all of the same applications that the iPhone does, then it stands to reason that the touch will starting taking on more hardware features to accommodate applications. Aside from music and video, it's now already marketed as a handheld gaming machine, a communications device, and a handheld Web device. In a limited way it can even be used for navigation.

Over time, the touch will do even more. Consider its appeal if Apple were to add a microphone that lets you make calls on Skype (EBAY) or other Internet-calling services, without the need for the awkward headset that's required for such calls now.

You could talk on it as if it were an iPhone, and the mic would put in double duty for simple audio recordings like meetings, lectures, and voice memos.

How About a Camera?

The touch should really have a camera, too. And is there any reason why that camera can't be better than the one in the iPhone? The latest iPhone 3GS sports a 3-megapixel camera sensor, while the latest phones from Nokia (NOK) have an 8-megapixel sensor. Apple could split the difference and give the touch a 5- or 6-megapixel sensor, giving it the ability to take really gorgeous pictures.

And if the touch has a camera, then it should support video. All that added memory leaves plenty of room for clips, and the Wi-Fi connection makes it easy to send them directly to YouTube (GOOG) and other video-sharing sites. And while Apple has resisted adding memory-card slots to its handhelds in the past, now that the Mac has a slot for SD memory cards, is there any reason the iPod touch (and for that matter a future model of the iPhone) can't have a slot for Mini-SD cards for added storage capacity?

While we're wish-listing, why should the iPhone be the only device in Apple's lineup that can help you get from one place to another? Why not add a GPS chipset, and let the iPod touch become a full-fledged personal navigation device? The touch's limited navigation features currently only work when Wi-Fi is present. This is fine when you're in a city, but no help when you're on the road. With excellent personal navigation devices from Garmin (GRMN) and TomTom (TOM2.AS) selling for as low as $120—more than $100 below the entry-level touch—why consider navigation a premium, iPhone-only feature?

However Apple answers that question, what's clear is that traditional versions of the device are a thing of the past—and future iterations will have a long and vibrant future.

[Source: by Hesseldahl: reporter for]

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