Plus, the Ubuntu-powered smartphone campaign comes to a crashing halt.
By Jason Imms on August 23, 2013 at 2:09 pm
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is your weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the Internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of how Luca Parmitano nearly drowned in space, Harebrained Scheme’s intriguing digitally- augmented board game, and Google’s plan to monetise Hangouts.
Astronaut Luca Parmitano’s account of the terminated EVA 23 is utterly horrifying
“The unexpected sensation of water at the back of my neck surprises me – and I’m in a place where I’d rather not be surprised.” The twenty-third extra-vehicular activity (EVA) sortie, performed from the International Space Station by astronauts Chris Cassidy and Luca Parmitano, was cut short by water collecting with the helmet of Parmitano’s space suit. EVA 23 was supposed to result in the connection of a backup power source to a bank of circuit breakers, to provide redundancy in the case of an electrical failure.
Parmitano’s blog post recounting the termination of the sortie is a chilling reminder of the realities of working in microgravity, realities that have almost been forgotten in the light of NASA’s recent social media presence, and awe-inspiring characters such as the unforgettable Commander Chris Hadfield. Reading Parmitano’s account gives the reader insight into the experience of having what little atmosphere is available within a space suit displaced by water, a substance almost as inhospitable to the lungs as the vacuum.
Harebrained Schemes to launch digitally augmented tactical miniatures game, Golem Arcana
Hot on the heels of the release of the Kickstarted Shadowrun Returns, Jordan Weisman and a small portion of the Harebrained Schemes team have started work on yet another harebrained scheme, a digitally augmented board game entitled Golem Arcana. In a preview with digiboardgames.com, Weisman said that Golem Arcana was born out of his sons’ frustration with preparing miniatures, and the ambiguous nature of the rules. The concept is interesting, the game plays out on a physical board, with miniatures and dicerolls, and the players use a custom stylus to touch sections of the board or miniatures, to have details displayed on a linked tablet.
If a player wants to make an attack, for instance, they use the stylus to tap an attack marked on the base of one of their miniatures, then tap on the target miniature. The tablet records these selections, and then the player resolves the attack by rolling physical dice and using the stylus to record the results. Harebrained Schemes plan to launch a Kickstarter for Golem Arcana in mid-September. For a look at the very early prototype, check out the video below.
Google Helpouts could make finding online tutorials a much more personalised experience
Google is taking expressions of interest in Helpouts, their system designed to turn Google Hangouts into a money-maker. Google Helpouts is to use Hangouts as the core of a system for connecting people that require help, with experts that can provide that help for a fee, 20% of which goes to Google. Need private cooking lessons? Real-time help with a bike repair? Are you sick of scrubbing through YouTube instructional videos while trying to perform a complex electrical repair? Helpouts could prove to be an incredibly valuable service, as long as you’re willing to pay for the help.
It seems that Google are planning to court corporate Helpers(?) too, with leaked screenshots showing a Sears Blue Crew account that could help customers to get acquainted with their new appliances. Those hoping to use Helpouts for more nefarious purposes, say, one-on-one gambling or private sex shows for instance, should look elsewhere. Google will restrict the types of Helpouts that can be offered, including “Dangerous” content, so online bomb building teachers need not apply.
Chrome gains a lot of ground on Firefox in the race for second most popular desktop browser
According to statistics from web measurement company Net Applications, Firefox has dropped a significant number of users during June and July, with a corresponding increase of users bringing Google Chrome much closer to the coveted second spot behind Internet Explorer, PC World reports. The final count at the end of July showed Firefox capturing 18.3 percent of desktop browser usage, with Chrome trailing by a mere 0.5 of a percentage point with 17.8 percent.
Internet Explorer remains in the top spot with an almost unassailable 56.6 percent share of desktop browser usage, which is attributed to the vastly improved IE9 and IE10, and the widespread adoption of Windows 7. In the mobile space, Chrome is top dog with a 43.1 percent share of mobile browser usage, with Firefox as runner up at 24.5 percent.
Ubuntu Edge Indiegogo campaign misses the mark by $20 million
The incredibly ambitious $32 million Indiegogo campaign to produce the Ubuntu Edge has closed, missing its funding goal by a whopping $20 million. After the full 30 days, Ubuntu developer Canonical was able to raise just over $12.8 million from more than 27,000 backers. Despite the fact that the campaign shot to nearly $3.4 million within the first 24 hours, that momentum trailed off and never recovered.
Ubuntu attempted to correct by updating the pricing scheme to reduce cost of backing the project at a tier that would net the backer one of the coveted handsets, but even after multiple attempts, the campaign still stood at $8.3 million as of August 7th. If nothing else, the failed campaign shows a considerable amount of interest from consumers in purchasing an incredibly high-end dockable smartphone running the Canonical’s open source operating system.