National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation reminded us that it's not a good idea to let your pets hang around dangling cords, especially those carrying an electric current. Cats and dogs tend to chew on such things and, well, the results aren't pretty. Here's another tip: keep your pets away from power strips.
I had to learn this one the freakishly hard way when, earlier this morning, my cat Shizzle, who I may rename to Chev Chelios, decided to lay down next to my Belkin power strip. That usually wouldn't be cause for concern, except that he used it as a pillow with his metal ID tag draping dangerously close to the sockets. Can you guess what happened next?
Hit the jump to find out if Shizzle survived and for a closeup look at the aftermath.
A rescue effort is currently underway to drill through 2,300 feet of dirt and rock to extract 33 Chilean miners trapped below the surface of the earth. The miners have been stuck underground since August 5, and in a worst case scenario, it could take up to three or four months to get them out.
In the meantime, supplies are being snaked through a four-inch wide tube, things like shampoo, hot-weather clothes that help remove sweat, aluminum bed frames, food, lots of water water, and Sony PSPs.
That's right, Sony PSPs are being shuttled to the trapped miners, who are forced to cope with the mental hell that comes from being confined in a dark and dungy area below the earth with no restrooms. Other items being whisked down the rescue shaft include flashlights, playing cards, MP3 players, mini-TV projector, recorded soccer games, and possibly a cable to provide electrical power, which sure would make charging those PSPs a heckuva lot easier.
"We have to make sure the miners are physically and psychologically fit," said Minister of Health Jaime Manalich. "If they lose their mental balance, it could create panic and violence down there, and that would be a huge catastrophe."
In an attempt to curb the rash of worker suicides that have rocked Foxconn so far in 2010, parent company Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. said in June that it plans to raise employee wages., more than doubling the monthly basic worker pay rate to 2,000 yuan ($293).
To help offset the increased wages, Foxconn, which makes iPhones and other name-brand electronics for companies like Apple, HP, and others, plans to charge those customers more, Hon Hai Precision Industry VP C.L. Huang said during a news conference earlier this week.
Foxconn is now the world's largest manufacturer of electronic goods, but has fallen under fire in recent months following no less than 10 worker suicides at one of the company's facilities in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, calling into question Foxconn's labor conditions.
What this means for the home consumer remains to be seen. Apple, for example, is selling iPads and iPhones as quickly as Foxconn can produce them and is in a good position to absorb the higher manufacturing costs.
For those of you who watched the World Cup, you got to see some of the worst officiating in the history of sports with lots of blown calls and questionable judgment. So is it really any surprise that Toshiba's World Cup promotion would be equally controversial?
Here's the deal. Toshiba, riding the wave of the World Cup frenzy, ran a promotion that essentially encouraged consumers to buy a Core i5 laptop or Toshiba TV, and if your country wins the World Cup Final, Toshiba promised to refund your money. The promotion was run in Germany, England, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, and as everyone knows by now, Spain went on to actually win the thing.
Ready for the gotcha? A bit of small print on the ad instructed consumers to see Toshiba's site for more details, and it's there that Toshiba listed a requirement that all claimants must register their product by June 17th. As you might expect, a whole bunch of Spaniards are pretty pissed off over Toshiba's red card move.
The questions is, should Toshiba honor the rebates even if buyers didn't register their product? Spanish consumer advocate site Facua.org argues that such a major requirement shouldn't have been tucked away online, but included with the ads.
Do you agree, or this is a case where consumers simply failed to perform their due diligence?
Target this week announced plans to revamp its electronics and game section with a new open layout designed to enhance the shopping experience. Specifically, the videogame section is being retooled with 30 percent more floor space to make room for new product-accessible fixtures, such as game Learning Centers and Trial Centers.
"Target is committed to creating an intuitive and easy shopping experience for our guests," said Mark Schindele, senior vice president, Target. "The electronics and videogame reinvention was designed with the wants and needs of our guests as our top priority. They've asked for additional product diversity and better access to games and information, and our new layout offers them just that."
Target's timing is spot on. According to the NPD group, videogame hardware, software, and accessories generated $19.66 billion in revenue in 2009, so there are plenty of dollars to go around. One way Target will try to claim a larger share is through the use of its Learning Centers, which will feature a 40-inch high definition touch screen where guests can read reviews, learn about game features, view in-store price and inventory, sort by ESRB ratings, and more.
So when will this happen? In some stores, it already has. Target said the full chain rollout began in April 2010, while the majority of stores will have the new electronics layout completed by June 2010.
The toughest part about going green (as in, environmentally friendly) is that energy saving devices and technologies often cost a a lot of green (as in greenbacks, dinero, cash, money, ducats, pieces of eight, and for you old school adventure gamers, buckazoids). So what's our point? Well, Schosche's lower priced solBAT II solar backup device is a pretty big deal.
Owners of the original solBAT had to cough up a C-note for the luxury of toting around a backup battery capable of being charged through an integrated solar panel. The soBAT II is essentially the same thing, only it charges faster, and at $30, it also costs far less the same.
Battery capacity consists of 1500mA. The device comes with a windshield cradle and suction cup, as well as a USB charging cable. You can use your existing USB cable to charge a variety of devices, such as your iPod, iPhone, Blackberry, most cellphones, and more.
It appears we were mistaken about the price drop, but not in a bad way. The solBAT still runs $30, but we goofed in saying it originally carried a $100 price tag. The truth is, the solBAT was always priced at $30. It was the solCHAT Bluetooth speaker phone that debuted at $100 (and still costs as much). Oops!
Maybe the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) was just being pessimistic, but whatever the reason, the organization behind CES was expecting a drop in attendance this year. They were wrong.
In 2009, 113,085 people flocked to CES. This year, that number jumped by about 7,000 attendees.
"At show close, preliminary registration figures indicate more than 120,000 industry professionals attended the 2010 International CES," the CEA said in an email.
Other stats include more than 2,500 companies showing off their wares, which is actually a decline of 2,700 from 2009, or more than half. If there's a bright spot, however, it's that there were "a record 330 new exhibitors," the CEA said.
Following a failed terrorist attack over the weekend, in which a 23-year-old Nigerian man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab managed to smuggle PETN and a syringe of chemicals aboard a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, the U.S. government is tightening up security, possibly banning all electronics on inbound flights to the U.S.
"New flight rules - Body search, no electronics apply only to int'l flights to US. Just landed in ORD from Canada, missed connection," Charlene Li, an industry analyst with Altimeter Group, wrote on her Twitter page.
Li's experience might not be the norm, which seems to be exactly what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is trying to accomplish.
"Passengers flying from international locations to U.S. destinations may notice additional security measures in place. These measures are designed to be unpredictable, so passengers should not expect to see the same thing everywhere," the TSA said in a statement.
Keep in mind that the TSA didn't come out and say it was banning all electronics, but according to passenger reports, they're at least being restricted.
It was just over a year ago that Panasonic first began showing interest in purchasing a controlling stake in its smaller rival Sanyo Electric, and while it may have taken 13 months to pull the trigger, Panasonic proved to be anything but gun shy this week in a deal worth $4.6 billion.
That's how much Panasonic said it will pay to buy a 50.2 percent stake in Sanyo after closing its five-week tender offer that began on November 5. Panasonic, which is the world's largest plasma TV maker, will pay 131 yen, or about $1.48 USD, per Sanyo share.
The deal is considered a win for both sides. For Panasonic, it will now be able to draw upon Sanyo's technical prowess in solar panels and rechargeable batteries. And for Sanyo, the takeover comes at a time when the company has been struggling financially.
Panasonic said it will most likely retain the Sanyo brand and keep its shares listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, BusinessWeek reports.
Could the design philosophy used by Airbus's fly-by-wire electronic flight control systems have been the final death blow to Air France Flight 447? That's the chilling possibility suggested by a recent posting by Information Week blogger Michael Hickins.
Air France Flight 447 used an Airbus A330, which uses a completely electronic fly-by-wire system without manual or hydraulic backups. The leading theory of the cause of the Air France Flight 447 crash is conflicting information from pitot tubes, which are used to transmit flight and wind speed information to onboard computers. While Airbus had begun to replace pitot tubes in May, the pitot tubes had not yet been replaced on the plane that crashed in the Atlantic.
According to a report cited by Hickins, Airbus and Boeing, the biggest rivals in the commercial jet field, have diametrically opposed views on pilot override capabilities. Airbus A320 and newer models include so-called "hard limits" that prevent maneuvers that would overstress the airframe, while Boeing's approach keeps the pilot in charge. While it's impossible to know if a Boeing-style system could have enabled the flight crew of Air France Flight 447 to successfully handle the severe weather existing in the air, some Boeing aircraft have survived stresses well in excess of recommended limits - limits that could not be exceeded if the flight computers are in ultimate charge of the aircraft. Commercial pilots' comments, like the industry itself, are divided over whether the differences in fly-by-wire design make one method ultimately safer than another.
Which approach is better? Join us after the jump for your comments.