Hugh Pickens writes writes "If you still have some last minute Christmas shopping to do and are looking for cool gifts for the tech nuts in your life David Pogue has put together a list of twelve cheap tech gifts and gadgets that real-world people can give to real-world friends, bosses, employees and family members — nothing over $100. How about a Zapped edition of Monopoly for $25 where there is no paper money in the game. You put your iPhone or iPad in the middle of the Monopoly board — and each player gets a fake credit card. You pay or collect money from the bank electronically, just by placing your card briefly on the touch screen. Or how about a Sound Oasis Sound Therapy Pillow for $38? The speakers are in the pillow, you don't feel them, and you can drift to sleep with music playing without disturbing whoever is trying to sleep next to you. Then there's the Tagg Pet Tracker ($100, plus $8 a month after three months) that snaps onto your dog or cat's existing collar. You can use the pettracker.com Web site to find your pet on a map, using your phone or computer. Our favorite is the Cirago iAlert Tag for $50. If you walk away from your smartphone (iPhone, Android phone or BlackBerry), your key chain beeps to alert you and it works the other way, too. If you leave your keys somewhere, the phone beeps to alert you as you walk away! But the weirdest and most memorable of the suggestions are the Necomimi Brain-Powered Cat Ears for $100. It's a headband with fluffy white cat ears attached that perk up, flop down and otherwise turn, cutely and catlike, in sync with your brainwaves. There's a good deal of debate online about just how much the ears' motion is, in fact, governed by your brainwaves but one thing the Necomimis do extremely well is get attention, start conversations and make your holiday gift memorable. Now go start wrapping."
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SchrodingerZ writes "The Venus, Steve Jobs' custom-made mega yacht, (valued at 137.5 million dollars), has been impounded in Amsterdam. Philippe Starck, the boat's main designer, had The Venus impounded by debt collectors, after supposedly Starck and his company, Ubik, were paid only 6 million of the 9-million-euro commission. Roelant Klaassen, a lawyer for Ubik, released in a statement that 'These guys [Jobs and Starck] trusted each other, so there wasn't a very detailed contract.' 'The Venus is a floating ode to both Jobs and Starck's minimalist aesthetic. Made entirely out of aluminum, with 40-foot-long floor-to-ceiling windows lining the passenger compartment and seven 27-inch iMacs making up the command center.' The ship was unofficially unveiled in late October, a year after Jobs' death. It now sits dormant in the Port of Amsterdam, until the payment dispute is resolved."
An anonymous reader writes "A Metro version of VLC, the popular free and open-source media player, is coming to Windows 8. On Sunday, the VideoLAN organization reached its funding goal on Kickstarter for its Windows 8-specific app. There are also plans to port it afterwards to Windows Phone 8. The project has now been funded by over 2,500 backers, who have pledged more than the £40,000 ($65,000) goal."
J. Dzhugashvili writes "As Slashdot noted earlier this week, AMD has a new line of mid-range Radeon GPUs aimed at notebooks. The chips are based on the Graphics Core Next microarchitecture, and they're slated to show up in systems early next year. While the initial report was limited to specification details, the first review of the Radeon HD 8790M is now out, complete with benchmark data from the latest games. The 8790M is about 35% smaller than its 7690M predecessor but offers substantially better gaming performance across the board. Impressively, the new chip has similar power draw as the outgoing model under load, and its idle power consumption is slightly lower. Notebook makers should have no problems making the switch. However, it is worth noting that this new mobile GPU exhibits some of the same frame latency spikes observed on desktop Radeons, including in games that AMD itself has sponsored."
alexanderb writes "Remember GNU's Windows 8 launch trick or treat in October, where Free Software Foundation activists handed out gratis copies of the free (as in freedom) system Trisquel GNU/Linux? Well, GNU returned for a Microsoft store's 'Tech for Tots' session on December 20th in Boston, MA. Like in October, the activists (accompanied by a gnu) handed out gratis copies of Trisquel GNU/Linux — a free alternative to Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8."
Today Nokia announced an agreement with Research In Motion to resolve all patent legislation between the two. The companies have been fighting over patents for almost a decade, most recently over devices with wireless LAN capabilities. The terms of today's agreement were not disclosed but it involved a one-time payment from RIM as well as ongoing payments. This agreement comes shortly after RIM's announcement that it pulled in $9 million in profit last quarter, down 97% from the $265 million they earned in the same quarter the year before. The company has pinned its hopes on BlackBerry 10, scheduled to launch next month: "So this is RIM at the end of 2012: losing subscribers and revenue, facing significant opponents, but with more cash on hand and at least one long-running lawsuit settled. If nothing else, it means the way is clear for RIM to launch its Hail Mary pass: BlackBerry 10."
First time accepted submitter Funksaw writes "Back in 2007, I wrote three articles on Ubuntu 6, Mac OS X 10.4, and Windows Vista, which were all featured on Slashdot. Now, with the release of Windows 8, I took a different tactic and produced an animated video. Those expecting me to bust out the performance tests and in-depth use of the OS are going to be disappointed. While that was my intention coming into the project, I couldn't even use Windows 8 long enough to get to the in-depth technical tests. In my opinion, Windows 8 is so horribly broken that it should be recalled."
First time accepted submitter Bearhouse writes "My Dad amazes me with (a) his longevity & energy, and (b) his continued ability to mess around with electronics stuff. Since he already has things ranging from valve amps made from war-surplus, via an original IBM PC kit to an Android tablet, I was going to buy him a Raspberry Pi for Christmas. Turns out he's already got one. I saw nothing that really got me excited here, so your ideas would be appreciated."
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about the Constitutional Court of Austria objecting to the EU's data retention law. "The European Union's data retention law could breach fundamental E.U. law because its requirements result in an invasion of citizens' privacy, according to the Constitutional Court of Austria, which has asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to determine the directive's validity. The primary problem with the data retention law is that it almost exclusively affects people in whom government or law enforcement have no prior interest. But authorities use the data for investigations and are informed about people's personal lives, the court said, and there is a risk that the data can be abused. 'We doubt that the E.U. Data Retention Directive is really compatible with the rights that are guaranteed by the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights,' Gerhart Holzinger, president of the Constitutional Court of Austria said in a statement."
An anonymous reader writes "Intellectual Ventures and RPX Rational Patent, two companies frequently referred to as patent trolls, have snapped up the troubled Kodak company's imaging patents. Bloomberg reports that Kodak has agreed to sell the patent portfolio for $525 million, despite previous valuations of over $2 billion." New submitter speedplane adds "How many stories have we read hating on the biggest patent troll of them all? Finally we see Intellectual Ventures making their case in a Wired op-ed, filled with everything you would would expect from a company suing the tech world on thousands of dubious patents: '...the system needs intermediaries within the market — companies like Intellectual Ventures — to help sift through and navigate the published landscape. By developing focused expertise, these patent licensing entities and intermediaries can function as patent aggregators, assembling portfolios of relevant inventions and providing access through licensing.' And my favorite gem: 'Ultimately, the users of those products — you — are the ones who benefit.'"
skade88 writes "Google has been working to bring many old manuscripts to the internet at high resolution for all to see. From their announcement: 'A little over a year ago, we helped put online five manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient documents that include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. Written more than 2,000 years ago on pieces of parchment and papyrus, they were preserved by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves in which they were hidden. The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century. Today, we're helping put more of these ancient treasures online. The Israel Antiquities Authority is launching the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments, at a quality never seen before.'"
GovTechGuy writes "Rep. Zoe Lofgren sat down with Roll Call to discuss her proposal to slow down the seizure of domain names accused of piracy by the federal government. Lofgren turned to Reddit for help formulating the bill, and also discussed whether her colleagues in Congress know enough about technology to make informed decisions on tech policy."
DECula writes "In a move not communicated to its users beforehand, Google's Gmail servers were reconfigured to not connect to remote pop3 servers that have self-signed certificates, leaving folks with unencrypted connections, or no service when getting email from other services. Not good for the small folks. One suggestion was to allow placing the public keys on Google's side in the user configuration. That would be a heck of a lot better than just dropping users into never never land." Apparently, "valid" now means "paid someone Google approves to sign the certificate." It's not like commercial CAs have the best security track record either.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Tech icon Steve Wozniak has come forward with several predictions for 2013, with data center technologies an important part of the list. Wozniak's predictions are based on a series of conversations he had recently with Brett Shockley, senior vice president and general manager of applications and emerging technologies at Avaya. They trace an arc from the consumer space up through the enterprise, with an interesting take on the BYOD phenomenon: Woz believes that mobile devices will eventually become the 'remote controls,' so to speak, of the world. Although he's most famous as the co-founder of Apple, Wozniak currently serves as chief scientist at Fusion-io, a manufacturer of enterprise flash storage for data centers and other devices."