iPad2 gets thinner, lighter, faster – and cameras

Given his recent health-related leave of absence, it was refreshing to see that Steve Jobs took the stage at today’s Apple event to announce the forthcoming arrival of the iPad 2. It’s lighter and thinner than the original, but packs in more features and more processing power. New additions include rear and front-facing cameras, an iOS update, smart covers, and a built-in gyroscope.,,the only advancement on the connectivity front was the addition of HDMI via an optional adapter…

The iPad 2 has the same 9.7-inch, 1024 x 768 resolution (132 ppi) LED-backlit LCD screen as the original, but the device is 33 percent thinner at 8.8mm, which is even thinner than an iPhone 4. It’s also 15 percent lighter than the original at 613g for the 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi only, and either 1.34 or 1.35 pounds for the 3G and Wi-Fi model.

In spite of the slimming down, Apple has managed to squeeze in a dual core system-on-a-chip called the A5 which has a processor that’s up to twice as fast as the A4 – and graphics that are up to nine times faster – but retains the low power attributes of its predecessor. Battery life has been preserved at 10 hours, with over a month on stand-by.

At last Apple has answered the call of its customers, and included cameras into the new iPad. There’s a front-facing VGA-quality videoconferencing cam that’s ready and waiting for FaceTime…and a 720p high definition camera to the rear. Photo and video content can be geotagged over Wi-Fi. The company is continuing its FaceTime onslaught by bringing it to the iPad. Available at launch, users will be able to use it between two iPads, an iPad and an iPhone, or iPad and a Mac…

There’s good news for those who suffer from impatience, too. The iPad 2 (and iOS 4.3) are set for release in the U.S. on March 11, with 26 more countries getting the device on March 25 (including UK, Australia, France, Canada, Sweden, and Greece).

RTFA for lots of details.

Some of you are aware that I already have an iPad 1.

Am I getting a shiny new iPad 2. You betcha. Same specs as my current critter. Same price…less trade-in. Something not at all uncommon in the world of Apple resellers.

Nutball Republican invents new birther lie on the presidential trail

Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, said on Monday that he would “love to know more” about where President Obama was born and claimed — falsely — that Mr. Obama was raised in Kenya…

Mr. Huckabee’s comments were prompted by the conservative radio host Steve Malzberg, who asked Mr. Huckabee: “How come we don’t have a health record, we don’t have a college record, we don’t have a birth certificate — why, Mr. Obama, did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate?”

The former governor responded: “I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough.” Mr. Huckabee, who is now a Fox News host, then talked repeatedly about his concerns that Mr. Obama was raised in Kenya…

“If you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather,” Mr. Huckabee said.

First I’ve heard that the Brits weren’t imperialists. They had the honesty to brag about it – instead of crap lies about regime change.

Mr. Obama did not grow up in Kenya. According to his official biography, the president was raised primarily in Hawaii by his mother and maternal grandparents and spent several years in Indonesia when he was a young boy.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, Hogan Gidley, the executive director of HuckPAC, Mr. Huckabee’s political action committee, said that Mr. Huckabee “simply misspoke” and that “he meant to say the president grew up in Indonesia…

Mr. Obama’s father was from Kenya, but in his first book, Mr. Obama wrote extensively about the fact that he spent almost no time with his father, who left his mother and saw Mr. Obama only once, in Hawaii…

Face it. The amount of time Republicans spend playing kissy-kissy with the KoolAid types confirms they have turned over political strategy and tactics entirely to the nutball wing of the party. Yes, they’ll keep hold of the pursestrings, control of the legislation really important to the corporate backbone of the Party of NO.

But, TV time, ideology and insanity are in complete control of the bigots, birthers and balmy.

Volkswagen’s Bulli offers Kombi nostalgia + economy

Volkswagen has had two of the most loved models in the history of the automobile, both originally built on the same chassis. It’s not surprising then, that the company keeps reprising them, bringing their relevance into focus.

The latest evolution of the iconic Microbus/Kombi wagon surfaced in Geneva. The new ‘Bulli’ concept offers a flexible layout, seating for six, a 40 kWh lithium-ion battery, an 85 kW electric motor with 260 Nm torque,140 km/h (87 mph) top speed and a range of 300 km (186 miles).

There’s still not enough range just yet for a serious escape vehicle – if there’s no electricity available where you’re going, you’re on a 90 mile leash – but suitable as an urban electric all-purpose vehicle…

The electric Bulli will probably not be the first of this shape available, as VW pointed out that both petrol and diesel direct injection engines can be accommodated by the front-wheel-drive design.

Like many vehicles in Geneva, the tablet or iPad has been used in the center console as a multifunctional touchscreen interface and controller. In the Bulli, it acts as an interface for Internet-based applications, the media and entertainment functionality of the vehicles’ telephone and navigation.

This year’s Geneva Show is turning out to be a real show for lifer car-nuts. There are a few more concepts and – more important – ready for production models I’ll be posting about over the rest of the week.

Warren Buffett confident about economic growth? You betcha!

NetJets Inc., the business-jet operator owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said it placed a record order for as many as 120 Bombardier Inc. planes in anticipation of a rebound in luxury travel.

The agreement, worth more than $6.7 billion at list prices, comprises 50 firm orders and 70 options…It didn’t say how much Columbus, Ohio-based NetJets would pay for the aircraft, which will be delivered starting in the fourth quarter of 2012.

NetJets, which also ordered 125 Embraer SA jets in October, said it expects the planes’ arrival to help meet increasing demand following what will likely be a “difficult” 2011. The unit made a profit last year after David Sokol, named by Buffett to lead a turnaround in 2009, fired staff and wrote down plane values…

NetJets has a fleet of more than 800 business jets, including ones made by Dassault Aviation SA, Textron Inc.’s Cessna Aircraft Co. and General Dynamics Co.’s Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., according to the statement. The company operates a fractional-ownership model that lets customers buy flight-hours across a fleet of jets.

“Luxury travel” is a misnomer. “Business travel” would be accurate. Folks living and working outside the admittedly-boring realm of logistics aren’t likely to understand how and when chartered flight saves money over commercial air travel.

Last time my wife and some of her IT co-workers went to a course in the midwest, the software company provided a Gulfstream jet to pick them up at our local municipal airport. It cost less than the time and charges to accomplish the same via scheduled airlines.

NetJets pioneered the concept of firms leasing a set/minimum number of hours across their fleet – allowing the scheduling of airplanes of a size and speed appropriate to the catered event. Just another service that makes sense. Something our politicians in their infinite wisdom haven’t a clue about.

Meanwhile, between Embraer and Bombardier, the Sage of Omaha has made an $8 billion bet on economic growth with just one of his companies.

Pluripotent stem cells generated from horses

For the first time ever, scientists from the University of Montreal and Mount Sinai Hospital have generated pluripotent stem cells from horses. Pluripotency refers to a cell’s ability to become any of the various other types of cells found within the body, and the ability to be able to grow such cells in a laboratory setting has great implications for the field of regenerative medicine. Not only does this latest accomplishment potentially mean big things for sick or injured horses, but it could also pave the way for lab-based human stem cell treatments.

“Equine iPS cells bring new therapeutic potential to the veterinary field, and open up the opportunity to validate stem-cell based therapies before clinical studies in humans,” said study co-leader Dr. Andras Nagy…”As well, stem-cell based studies using the horse as a model more closely replicate human illnesses, when compared with studies in mice.”

The horse is an excellent model for a range of human degenerative diseases, especially those involving joints, bones, tendons and ligaments, such as arthritis,” added Dr. Sheila Laverty, a professor in the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at U Montreal. “Bone fracture, as well as damaged cartilage, tendons and ligaments heal poorly in horses. Therefore, the use of iPS cells in these animals may help enhance long-term tissue repair.”

The University of Montreal’s Dr. Lawrence Smith was the other leader of the study.

The research was published today in the journal Stem Cell Reviews and Reports.

As you can see by the photo, first use of this research is to aid in the rehabilitation of politicians. One of the better examples of a degenerate.

One in three mobile phone owners is now a mobile gamer

A new survey from casual gaming company PopCap shows that an incredibly high percentage of adults in the UK and U.S. is into mobile gaming.

This stat may be due in part to the uptick in smartphone adoption. According to a separate Nielsen survey, 31% of U.S. mobile users now own smartphones, and a Pew survey shows nearly half of cellphone users download and use mobile apps, too.

In PopCap’s research, more than half (52%) of 2,425 respondents said they had played a game on a mobile device, whether their own device or someone else’s, at some time in the past. The percentage for UK respondents was significantly higher (73%) than the rate for U.S. respondents (44%)…

The biggest gaming group was smartphone users. A full 83% of smartphone-owning respondents said they had played at least one mobile game in the past week, putting them solidly in the “avid mobile gamer” category…

Also, smartphone users are more likely to buy games than their feature phone-owning counterparts, for obvious reasons. The average smartphone-using mobile gamer bought 5.4 games in 2010, versus the 2.9 games bought by non-smartphone-owning gamers.

They’re all people with too much time on their hands. Let’s just hope they’re waiting for public transit and haven’t started a game while sitting in a traffic jam.