Microsoft’s new keyboard is meant to be used with Smart TVs

This fall marks 20 years that Microsoft has been making keyboards (make that “computer hardware,” as it was quaintly called back in 1994). Ironically, though, as the company approaches this milestone, it’s now making accessories not just for PCs,…

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iFixit joins forces with Apple to provide aftercare for products…apparently

iFixit may never be the same again as today they have announced their acquisition by Apple. Yes, Apple. Famed for taking whatever hot new hardware leaves Cupertino and reducing it to its components, iFixit will now become part of the Apple family.

As part of the deal, Apple made a commitment to produce the most replaceable electronic devices and personal computers on the market. This is a clear win for the whole iFixit community.

Apple is working hard to make devices last long enough to be upgraded or irrelevant, making repairability an antiquated notion. iFixit will become a key player in the future of Apple device development, starting with the new Smartphone Replaceability Index.

Or, you know, it might be April 1…


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Syria vows to vaccinate all children against polio

In this Oct. 20, 2013 photo released by UNICEF, a Syrian student receives a vaccination as part of a UNICEF-supported vaccination campaign at a school in Damascus, Syria. The U.N.’s health agency said Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, it has confirmed 10 polio cases in northeast Syria, the first confirmed outbreak of the diseases in the country in 14 years, with a risk of spreading across the region. (AP Photo/UNICEF, Omar Sanadiki)

In this Oct. 20, 2013 photo released by UNICEF, a Syrian student receives a vaccination as part of a UNICEF-supported vaccination campaign at a school in Damascus, Syria. The U.N.’s health agency said Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, it has confirmed 10 polio cases in northeast Syria, the first confirmed outbreak of the diseases in the country in 14 years, with a risk of spreading across the region. (AP Photo/UNICEF, Omar Sanadiki)

In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, a Syrian man looks at smoke leaping the air after a missile hit the eastern countryside of Homs, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Syrians look at damages after a missile hit the eastern countryside of Homs, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, black smoke billows the air from heavy shelling in the Damascus country side of Daraya, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, black smoke billows the air from heavy shelling in the Damascus country side of Daraya, Syria, on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video)

(AP) — Syria said Monday that it will work with international organizations to ensure that all children in the country, even those in rebel-held areas, will be vaccinated against polio following an outbreak of the crippling and highly communicable disease.

The World Health Organization last week confirmed 10 cases of polio among babies and toddlers in northeastern Syria. The U.N. health agency warned that the outbreak — the first in 14 years in the country — risks spreading among an estimated half-million Syrian children who haven’t been immunized because of the civil war.

“We intend to vaccinate each Syrian child regardless of the area they are present in, whether it is a hotspot or a place where the Syrian Arab Army is present,” deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said. “We promise that we will give opportunity to humanitarian organizations to reach every Syrian child.”

Mekdad did not specify when the immunization campaign would begin, or how those administering the vaccinations would reach rebel-held areas.

Syria announced last month that it had launched a vaccination campaign, while UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said his organization and the WHO planned to immunize 2.4 million children throughout Syria. Access to all areas of the country, however, remains a problem.

Aid groups have called for cease-fires to allow immunization campaigns to reach zones affected by fighting. There is some precedent: Syria’s warring parties have struck temporary truces before to allow civilians to flee and aid to enter some areas. International chemical weapons inspectors also have managed to cross front lines.

The need to address the polio threat is urgent, health officials say. The virus usually infects children in unsanitary conditions through consuming food or drink contaminated with feces. It attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze, spreading widely and unnoticed before it starts crippling children.

With huge numbers of Syrians still fleeing the violence to seek safety abroad, the risk of an outbreak in countries that have absorbed the bulk of refugees — Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey — is high.

Speaking to reporters in Damascus, Mekdad, the deputy foreign minister, also defended the government against allegations that its forces were blockading rebel-held areas. He said there had been attempts to extend food and supplies to civilians in certain districts and towns under rebel control.

Mekdad also noted that rebels were blockading towns considered loyal to the government, including the two predominantly Shiite Muslim villages of Nubul and Zahra in the northern province of Aleppo.

While the rebel siege of Nubul and Zahar has strategic value, it also reflects the sectarian divide of the conflict. The rebellion is dominated by Syria’s Sunni majority, while the government and security forces are packed with members of President Bashar Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam. The Christian minority has largely either stayed on the sidelines, or stood with the government.

The war has stirred up tensions between Sunnis and Shiites across the region, and acted as a magnet for fighters of both sects. Sunnis from across the Arab world have flocked to Syria to join the rebellion. Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite militants have taken up arms alongside government troops.

Regional Shiite power Iran, meanwhile, has provided financial and military support for its longtime Damascus ally.

Last year, the chief commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said the unit had high-level advisers in Syria but denied it has fighters there. More recently, however, analysts say that Iranian troops and commanders have taken on a more direct role in the conflict.

On Monday, Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency said a commander in the Guard had been killed in Syria. It said Mohammad Jamali was killed by “terrorists” a few days ago but did not provide details. It said his funeral will be held in Kerman in southeastern Iran on Tuesday.

Also Monday, a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck in the village of Sabityeh near the central city of Homs, killing at least six people, state media reported.

Footage aired on state television showed panicked residents rushing to ambulances carrying wounded children.

No group claimed responsibility for the blast, but such bombings are the hallmark of al-Qaida-linked groups who have joined Syrian rebels battling to overthrow Assad’s rule.


Hadid reported from Beirut.

Associated PressSource:
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An Adorably Tiny Reconnaissance Drone No Larger Than a Dragonfly

An Adorably Tiny Reconnaissance Drone No Larger Than a Dragonfly

The militaries of the world always have the best toys, so if you were impressed by this tiny RC helicopter from Silverlit, you’ll be blown away by the PD-100 Black Hornet that British forces have been using for reconnaissance since last year. At just 16 grams it’s about the closest thing we’ve got to a remote controlled flying insect.

Read more…


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Oil near $97 before week of data, Fed meeting

BANGKOK (AP) — Oil hovered above $97 a barrel Monday, consolidating ahead of a week littered with U.S. economic reports and a Federal Reserve policy meeting.

Benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was down 27 cents at $97.58 a barrel at midafternoon Bangkok time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The contract gained 74 cents to $97.85 on Friday but closed out the week with a 2.9 percent loss, largely due to signs of oversupply and muted demand.

U.S. data releases this week include September industrial production, retail sales, inflation and consumer confidence as well as a Fed policy meeting that could reinforce expectations that the central bank won’t begin reducing its mammoth monetary stimulus until well into next year.

The expansion of the U.S. money supply is aimed at supporting economic recovery and reducing high unemployment but has also been a boon for investors in stocks and commodities. The timing of the stimulus withdrawal has become a matter of intense speculation in markets.

Brent crude, a benchmark for international crude also used by U.S. refineries, was up 47 cents at $107.40 on the ICE futures exchange in London.

In other energy futures trading on the Nymex:

— Wholesale gasoline was up 0.7 cent at $2.57 a gallon.

— Natural gas fell 0.8 cent to $3.628 per 1,000 cubic feet.

— Heating oil rose 0.9 cent to $2.918 a gallon.

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Eminem’s ‘The Marshall Mathers LP2’ streams on iTunes Radio ahead of album’s official release

The Real Slim Shady’s back with another album, titled The Marshall Mathers LP2. And if you’re a fan of Eminem and have iTunes Radio, then there’s a way to listen to his latest work in full without going the, well, shady way. Starting today in the US, Eminem’s MMLP2 (as it’s known for short) can be streamed on the “First Play” station of Apple’s newfangled music service, allowing users to tune in to the set of tracks ahead of next Tuesday’s scheduled release. As 9to5Mac notes, this marks the first time that an entire album is being given early access to exclusively on iTunes Radio, and it could certainly pave the way for more artists to follow suit. Above all, it is another example of how the music industry is adjusting itself as new services become available — even if it might not be too excited about it.

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Ventrilo review: The essential comms tool for the PC gamer

In the heat of battle, there’s one tool that trumps all. No, it’s not your customizable mouse or the fancy keyboard with 100 different macro keys. It’s communication.

Ventrilo takes the guesswork out of what your friends are doing in-game by providing a lightweight voice over IP program to stay in constant contact.

Ventrilo screenshotVentrilo comes with a robust amount of options, but you may have to dig to find them.

Despite being completely free to download and use, Ventrilo come with a barrier to entry: You, or someone you know, must rent a server to use. Luckily, renting a 10-20 user server will generally cost less than $50 per year. If you’re tight on cash, you’ll be pleased to know that Ventrilo does allow you to set up your own server for up to eight people at no charge. Without an active server, though, Ventrilo becomes pretty useless.

When you open Ventrilo for the first time, it offers an online tutorial to run you through the basics of connecting to a new server. This includes creating a new profile, complete with teaching the program to say your username phonetically. In order to add a server, you’ll need some very specific information from it, such as the hostname or IP address, port number, and password (if one exists).

Ventrilo lobby screenshotVentrilo separates channels into games and sub-sections. Useful, but not pretty.

Once in the server, hosts and admins can create or organize rooms,  which are great for separating players in specific games and keeping each stream of chatter where it belongs. Ventrilo supports a great deal of custom configuration for the player as well, such as letting players choose when to play notification alerts, letting them set up custom key bindings, and allowing them to select user-specific volume levels.

Communication can also be done via an integrated chat interface. No matter what channel you’re in, you can join the chat and communicate via text, complete with text-to-speech as a checkable option. You also have the option to leave comments on your username to display your status (away from the keyboard, waiting to play, etc) and include a URL.

Despite being so robust and useful, especially for games that don’t include integrated VoIP, Ventrilo is dull and lacks a user-friendly interface. A plain white window with endless branching menus and buttons can overwhelm the less tech-savvy, who will undoubtedly miss out on the many features Ventrilo hides away in embedded menus. Fortunately, you don’t need all those options to use Ventrilo effectively.

The program is light on system resources, but it can be a connection hog at times. Latency can spike causing delayed voices or missed transmissions all together. It is recommended you use a stable, strong connection before investing your multiplayer communications into Ventrilo.

Ventrilo chat channel screenshotVentrilo’s integrated chat window will even talk to you via text-to-speech.

Ventrilo may not be the prettiest communication tool of all time, but it is one of the most robust and stable. I’ve been using Ventrilo for years and have yet to explore the deepest trenches of the options. Luckily, you don’t have to dive deep to get the most out of it. It’s just nice those endless options are included. For those who don’t want the hassle, it’s simple to use and effective for the gamers who want to get the job done.

Note: The Download button takes you to the vendor’s site, where you can download the latest version of the software appropriate to your system.

Alex Cocilova Assistant Editor, PCWorld

Alex covers desktops, everything from fancy to practical. He’s also an avid (addicted) gamer and loves following the industry.
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Neko Case: Tiny Desk Concert

Tiny Desk Concerts

October 31, 2013 It’s Halloween! Watch a Tiny Desk Concert featuring Neko Case (in costume), Kelly Hogan, as well as Eric Bachmann of Crooked Fingers and Archers of Loaf.

Set List
  • “Night Still Comes”
  • “Calling Cards”
  • “Local Girl”

Producers: Bob Boilen, Denise DeBelius; Audio Engineer: Kevin Wait; Videographers: Denise DeBelius, Becky Harlan, Abbey Oldham; photo by Meredith Rizzo/NPR

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What Slate Readers Think About the Biggest Challenges Facing America

Applicants waiting in line at a job fair
Readers worry most about where the economy will be in 30 years.

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

This article is part of a series presented by the American Prosperity Consensus in partnership with Slate. You can read the rest of the stories in this series here.

Three weeks ago, Slate and the Copenhagen Consensus Center launched the American Prosperity Consensus. On the very first day of the  government shutdown, APC asked expert organizations and Slate readers for their ideas on how the U.S. might overcome short-term, partisan divisions and begin to focus on the issues that matter most to ensure American prosperity in 2040.

APC seeks to determine the best course of action while acknowledging the trends that will change the U.S. domestically and shape the role it plays in the world. When we look at the reader input and expert commentary, there is a great deal of overlap with major polls. The overarching concerns have been about jobs and the state of the economy. Slate readers pushed these two issues in the comments on nearly every piece we ran in the series. Whether experts were discussing immigration or infrastructure, readers wanted to know how the topic connected to improving the U.S.’s economic situation. They also worry about what kind of jobs will be available to them and to their children. This input is consistent with poll results from Gallup and Pew Research, in which the top two issues Americans rank as most important are a stronger economy and more jobs.

A third area where we see a great deal of agreement is on the affordability of health care, which takes prominence both with Slate readers and in opinion polls. As the country grows older, the cost of necessary care weighs on Americans’ minds. Taken together, these three points cut to the heart of the American Prosperity Consensus: How can we ensure lasting growth from now through 2040?

In other areas, Slate readers tended to focus more on the ways the government spends its money than on the overall level of spending. Your apprehensions over the Affordable Care Act, for example, relate less to the cost of the program itself than on provisions like low-income subsidies. The Gallup and Pew polls point more generally to Americans’ concern over federal spending and the budget deficit.  The polls also show continued concern over the threat of terrorism; Slate readers were more troubled instead by the role of threat inflation on bloated military budgets, and worried about how sustained increase in defense spending impacted outlays for areas such as education.

Slate readers also expressed concern about the perceived influence of commercial and corporate interests in the political process. This topic arose on subjects as diverse as obesity and food processing to immigration and bridge maintenance. The common theme you articulated across these topics was that unless the U.S. government can counter this influence, societal benefits will always come second to corporate profits.

There were other noticeable divergences between your feedback and the opinion polls. Slate readers were strongly concerned about climate change and the environment whereas Gallup and Pew polls show that the average American places relatively low importance on these issues compared with subjects such as the economy, taxes, or terrorism.

Fundamental to the APC is the acknowledgement that the very fabric of American society is changing; as I said in my opening piece, the U.S. of 2040 will be a far different place than the country we know today. Americans continue to reshape their identity, and the outcomes of this process will weigh heavily on the nation for years to come. This idea will play out as we ask economists to craft smart solutions to the issues you have named and advance the debate. Future pieces from APC will focus in greater depth on topics from climate change and the environment to lobbying and campaign finance. The project is one of inclusion, and we strive to reach out to as many people as possible.

The American Prosperity Consensus seeks to prioritize the smart policy solutions that will provide the most impact on American growth over the next three decades. We’re looking forward to discovering from you how to make the most of America’s future.

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