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Say Hello To Firefox 34

The latest beta release of the Firefox browser has a interesting new feature that you can use it to make audio and video calls. It’s called Firefox Hello and it works with a range of other browsers and video call services that use HTML-5 based WebRTC technology. It’s really easy to use, and there’s no need to create an account. Just download and install Firefox 34 Beta, click the Chat icon that appears in the Customise menu box – better still move it to the toolbar – and you are in Guest Mode. Click on the email link for someone you want to contact, they will be sent a link to respond to and when they do a notification appears on your screen and you are ready to start chatting using audio or video. You can make things even easier by you, and your regular contacts setting up Firefox accounts and you can call them up with a single click on the Contacts list.


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Iconic Development For Designers

How many times have you been stuck for an icon, and we’re not talking about a common or garden Wingding? Mock ye not, it can happen, especially if you are a designer, web or otherwise, artist or just a garden shed tinkerer, looking for an icon to dress up your latest home-brew gadget. Well, to save you searching the web the good folks at Google, specifically the Google Design division, have just made a whopping 750 icons and glyphs available as open source images and code. They’ve just published the whole lot on the GitHub code-sharing website as 24 and 48 pixel SVG files, plus PNG versions for use on web pages and iOS apps, and not forgetting top quality hi-dpi PNG formats for specialist users. You can download the whole lot for free, or click the Preview button to see what’s available and if you have been wondering where to find that elusive battery 60 percent charge symbol, now you know.


Compact Fusion Coming?

Yes, yes, we’ve heard it all before but news reaches us, via Gizmodo, of an exclusive report in Aviation Week magazine regarding a compact fusion reactor proposal from Skunk Works. They’re a division of Lockheed Martin, famous for developing stealthy aircraft and experimenting on crashed UFOs (possibly…).  Nuclear fusion is what powers the Sun and unlike nuclear fission, the stuff that makes atomic bombs go bang, it’s pretty clean, doesn’t go bang, generates negligible waste and should be of no interest to terrorists. Basically it works by heating a plasma – an electrically charged gas – up to the point where ions in the plasma fuse together, and in doing so, releases very large amounts of energy, in theory more energy than is needed to sustain the process. It’s a win-win situation, but there’s a problem. For fusion to take place the plasma has to be heated up to hundreds of millions of degrees centigrade, hotter than any known material can withstand so it must be contained inside a large vacuum chamber and held in place by powerful magnetic fields, essentially a magnetic ‘bottle’. It looks a bit like a donut, with the plasma running around the inside, and most importantly, not touching the sides. Up until now most experimental fusion reactors have been based on the Soviet Tokamak design, and they’re very big, complicated and expensive to build and thus far not very successful. The Skunk Works design is much smaller, not much larger than a jet engine in fact and because it is relatively small the designers say that they can get to the prototype stage in just 10 years, and in 15 years, be in a position to start producing 100MW fusion reactors, small enough to fit inside a shipping container. That’s enough power for 80,000 homes. Fusion is the Holy Grail of cheap sustainable energy and we’ve seen many, many claims over the years that it is just around the corner. At this stage there’s no way of knowing if this will come to anything but sooner or later someone is going to crack this nut, so here’s hoping that this will be the one!



Warner Warning

Pirates beware, Warner Bros has unleashed an army of ‘robots’, designed to track down and curtail the activities of those suspected of stealing or distributing its movies and media. It’s okay we’re talking not about Terminator-style killbot turning up at your front door. The robots in question are software programs or bots that mimic the behaviour of humans, searching the Internet for movies to download. This information, which comes to us courtesy of Torrent Freak, was revealed in heavily redacted court records that came to light following a series of lawsuits between the studio and a file hosting service. The papers describe how Warner Bros use the bots to research links to sites allegedly infringing its copyright by hosting or linking to content. When it finds one it automatically sends a Takedown Notice to the suspected offender. Apparently it focuses its attention on around 200 sites but here’s the rub, the process is fully automated and according to the documents, the material is not downloaded, reviewed or checked by humans, which calls into question the accuracy, legitimacy and even the legality of the exercise. Without conducting follow-up checks there would seem to be no way of knowing if the bots are correctly identifying dodgy material, or even the possibility that it may be perfectly legitimate. More revelations are promised soon.