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Inquirer Daily News

POSTED: Monday, April 23, 2012, 11:53 AM

Looking to work your brain and (sometimes) your belly tonight?  Consider some of the lively Philly Tech Week and Philadelphia Science Festival events happening around town.

Both the Philly Robotics Expo and Mobile Monday Demo Night are  sold out, sorry. But you can still get in to PTW's  "Performing with Technology," a night of sound installation, interactive dance and experimental electronic music at the fidgetspace, 1714 N. Mascher St., 5-8 p.m. tonight (free).

 More interested in futurist theater with an on-line interactive component?   Check out New Paradise theater company's "Digital Performance in a Possible Future" presentation,  free from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Hamilton Hall, 320 S. Broad St.

POSTED: Thursday, April 19, 2012, 1:37 PM

How do we know that  Earth Day must  be right around the corner (Sunday)? Environmental groups focused on the (fraught with eco-peril) electronics industry have been laying on the good and bad tidings.

Cloudy Forecast: Amazon, Apple and Microsoft all got slammed by Greenpeace International yesterday in a report on cloud energy practices. While Google, Yahoo and Facebook are
"taking steps to power their clouds with clean energy," those other "highly innovative and profitable companies are building data centers powered by coal and acting like their customers won't know and won't care," said Gary Cook, Greenpeace senior policy analyst. Some data centers "use as much electricity as 250 European homes."

 We Done Good: Patting itself on the back - and maybe hoping to stave off more unwieldy state laws mandating recycling - the Consumer Electronics Association reported this week that 460 million pounds of consumer electronics had been responsibly recycled by its' members and "third party" companies in the last year. That's a 53 percent increase over the prior year.  By 2016, CEA's eCycling Leadership Initiative hopes to up the annual ante to one billion pounds of electronics, equivalent to an entire 71,000 seat NFL stadium and making room for more good gear to invade our homes. "The average U.S. household owns 25 different CE products," said Walter Alcorn, CEA's v.p. of environnmental affairs. "We want to make recycling just as easy as purchasing electronics,"  And to that end hopes you'll check out the recycling  options nearest you by visiting  

POSTED: Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 3:00 PM

Bloomberg took its beef with Comcast back to the Federal Communications Commission today, saying the  BTV news channel is being unfairly excluded from the "news neighborhood" on Comcast cable systems.

Fair and equal viewer access to all news channels was a specific condition imposed on Comcast by the FCC, in allowing the cable giant's takeover of NBC/Universal, noted Bloomberg attorney Stephen Gavin in his FCC filing. The order was to prevent  undo advantage for NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. The Commission held that "if Comcast now or in the future carries news and/or business news channels in a neighborhood, defined as placing a significant number or percentage of news and/or business channels substantially adjacent to one another in a system's channel lineup, Comcast must carry all independent news and business news channels in that neighborhood."

Bloomberg had to dig deep into the Comcast world, but  has come up with a few locales that contradict Comcast's first Annual  Report of Compliance, filed with the FCC  by senior vp David L. Cohen on February 28. The report affirms Comcast "has not re-arranged any news channel into a neighborhood since the close of Transaction and, as a result, has not incurred any obligation to neighborhood news channels." 

POSTED: Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 11:44 AM

What's buzzing in the tech world today?  A trend setter in low cost home computing has passed. And Apple's feeling some competitive heat in the mobile phone space. 

Bargain Computing Started Here: Unless you built your own PC in the garage, there was once no cheaper (serious) computer to be had than the Commodore 64, the brainchild of Jack Tramiel and reportedly the most successful model ever sold (17 million.) "We sell to the masses and not the classes," said the Commodore king, who died Sunday at age 83. 

 The Polish-born Tramiel was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, had the equivalent of a 5th grade education. After coming to the U.S., he started fooling with gizmos as a typewriter repairman in the U.S. Army, later founded Commodore to import typewriters, then got into bargain electronic calculators and digital watches. That set off his first price battles with Texas Instruments. "Business is not a sport. It's a war," he said.

POSTED: Friday, April 6, 2012, 10:47 AM

Everybody knows and loves the Franklin Institute Science Museum for its Giant Heart - a fun-house style, walk-through learning experience. Yesterday, we got a sneek peek at Franklin's Brain - a state-of-the-art multi-media exploration of our most complex body part - that will be luring in crowds and sparking imaginations come the Summer of 2014.

Intended to de-mystify some of the complexities of human biology, the exhibit will be formally called Your Brain  and is the center piece of a spiffy new  53,000 square foot extension on the south side of the Franklin Institute, formally announced with a ground breaking and comments in the museum's  rotunda under the granite gaze of Ben Franklin.

 Also boasting a large space for traveling exhibits, a high tech educational center and the latest/greatest in "green" building design (instructive unto itself), the Franklin's new pride-and-joy is to be named the Nicholas & Athena Karabots Pavilion after its most generous ($10 million) and education-minded of funders.

POSTED: Thursday, April 5, 2012, 10:17 AM
DirecTV has yet to settle its differences with Comcast over carriage of SportsNet. (AP Photo)

While DirecTV still hasn't settled its differences with Comcast over carriage of SportsNet (sigh), at least Phillies fans will be able to watch the season opener this afternoon on  the satellilte service's WPHL-17 feed.

The latter was in doubt until 9 p.m. last night, when DirecTV announced it had made a deal with Tribune Broadcasting for the re-transmission of WPHL and 23 other channels, "just as the baseball season is about to start." Also in the Tribune stable -  and blacked out from the DirecTV service since Saturday -  are the nationally fed WGN (home of the Chicago Cubs and White Sox), New York's WPIX (the Mets channel) and WDCW in Washingon, D.C. where the Nationals do their thing.

 Despite the peace agreement, DirecTV still took shots at the Tribune company, suggesting "it's unfortunate that Tribune was willing to hold our customers hostage in an attempt to extract excessive rates, but in the end we reached a fair deal at market rates similar to what we originally agreed to on March 29."

POSTED: Tuesday, April 3, 2012, 1:19 PM

Google launched a major upgrade of its globe-hopping virtual-art-museum project this morning.  Our Philadelphia Museum of Art earned some "props." 

First introduced  last year with 17 museums in nine countries contributing 1,000 high resolution images (almost all paintings), the Google Art Project  now invites on-line visitors to view paintings,  sculpture, photographs and even street art from 151 repositories  in 40 countries  -  from the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi  to the White House in Washington, D.C. 

The latter also offers Google's very cool 360 degree Street View feature -  allowing a gawker to circle a room then zoom in on stuff that catches your eye - like the side-by-side portraits I spotted this morning of Jimmy Carter and LBJ. 

POSTED: Monday, April 2, 2012, 9:57 AM
Ashton Kutcher, star of the hit sitcom "Two and a Half Men," is set to play the late Apple visionary, Steve Jobs in a biopic. (AP Photo)

The April Fools Day leak that Ashton Kutcher has signed to play Steve Jobs in a bio-pic appears on the up-and-up, unlike other "news" on Apple.

First reported yesterday by the (up-for-sale) show biz chronicler Variety, Kutcher will start filming the Jobs story in May, after the "Two and a Half Men" series shuts down for the season. Ashton's physical resemblence to Jobs in the latter's hippy-youth clearly was the clincher.

This is not the Sony Pictures-backed Jobs  opus using Walter Isaacson's authorized biography. Rather it's  an "indie" project from Five Star Institute  focusing more narrowly (maybe for legal reasons) on the early years when Jobs was co-founding Apple in a garage with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne.

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