City lights viewed from space show cultural, tech differences

In many areas of the US, it’s no longer possible to see more than a few hundred stars at night. Light pollution, the diffusion of things like street and stadium lights, is limiting our ability to see into space. However, while looking from space, lighting differences can be used to tell us things about the country where the light is originating. This includes both the technology behind the lights, as well as a bit about the cultural origin of the people using it.

A new paper in the journal Remote Sensing looks at two new sources of nighttime photos of the Earth. One is a relatively new NASA satellite, called Suomi NPP. Compared to previous instruments, its imaging has over twice the bit-depth and a spatial resolution that’s at least fifty times better.

The second is a growing archive of photographs taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station. These are now taken with a high-end SLR called NightPod. These are accessible through a dedicated website and are used as part of a citizen science project called Cities at Night.

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Dealmaster: Get an HP Pavilion 17z laptop for just $434.99

Greetings, Arsians, and Happy New Year! Didn’t get what you wanted this year? Well, thanks to our partners at TechBargains the Dealmaster is back with a big bunch of post-holiday deals for you to dig through. The top deal this week is an HP Pavilion 17z laptop for just $434.99—that’s $95 off the normal price. The 17-inch laptop has a 1600×900 display,1.8 GHz AMD A4-6210 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 750GB HD. There are lots of configuration options, too.

We’ve got that and a lot more deals for your consideration, below.

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The Kairos T-Band Turns Your Dumb Watch Into A Smart Watch

20141118234309-indigogotband Another day, another wearable design. This time it’s something called the Kairos T-Band, a watch band that connects to your normal watch and enables all sorts of exciting things like step tracking and notifications. I’ve seen a few of these sorts of things over the past year – one company hid everything inside a nice leather band and didn’t include a screen – and… Read More

TSMC May Win Bulk of A9 Orders Due to Better Production Yield

News reports and rumors have gone back and forth multiple times over whether Samsung or the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) will produce the A9 chips designed for use in next-generation iOS devices as the two companies compete for Apple’s business.

In December, a report suggested Samsung had already begun production on the A9 chips, but a new analyst prediction shared by the Taipei Times suggests that TSMC, not Samsung, may be Apple’s main A9 chip supplier due to its more favorable production yield.

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“The two companies’ technological capabilities are similar, so the key factor will be whose mass-production yield is better,” MIC director Chris Hung (洪春暉) told reporters on the sidelines of the event. Hung added that the chances of TSMC remaining the main supplier are higher because of its better yields.

While one company will win the right to produce the bulk of Apple’s next-generation chips, Apple may spread orders of the A9 processor across multiple suppliers in order to cut down on risk. The best yield results in the lowest price for Apple, so the company that manages to produce the most usable chips from a single wafer (a semiconductor material) will likely win the bulk of orders from Apple.

The continually shifting Samsung vs. TSMC rumors reflect the ongoing competition between the two chip manufacturing companies and demonstrate just how important Apple contracts are to suppliers. As we saw with GT Advanced and its failed sapphire deal with the Cupertino company, manufacturers will go to great lengths to secure lucrative partnerships with Apple.

In 2013, Apple signed a multi-year deal with TSMC to produce A-series processors for Apple devices as the company made an effort to move away from Samsung, but while TSMC produced the bulk of Apple’s A8 and A8X chips for the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air 2, Apple has not been able to entirely cut ties with Samsung due to its chip production expertise and reliability.

As chip technology advances, it becomes more and more difficult for companies like Samsung, TSMC, Intel, and others to pack transistors onto an ever-decreasing surface area, which is why Apple has likely made moves to diversify its supply chain lineup in recent years. More suppliers gives the company a backup solution should one run into production difficulties that could result in potential delays.



9 Crazy Weight-Loss Scams People Fell For This Year

The Federal Trade Commission is preparing for a New Year’s spike in weight-loss scams. This year’s highlights included a cream inspired by lobster hormones, and a magical pill that claimed to strip the calories from a plate of spaghetti.

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As Americans resolve to lose weight and diet this year, scammers are at the ready to collect what amounts to hundreds of millions each year in products that swear to trim inches and cut pounds, usually without any exercise. The Federal Trade Commission is preparing for the annual spike in weight-loss product fraud that tends to occur this time of year, as consumers search for a “magic bullet,” said Richard Cleland, assistant director for the FTC's division of advertising practices.

“In terms of advertising issues, weight loss fraud is one of the top priorities for the Federal Trade Commission,” Cleland said in an interview with BuzzFeed News. “It's very lucrative for scammers…you've got an audience that is susceptible to being scammed and a fairly sophisticated group of marketers that are very adept of taking advantage of them.”

In the FTC's most recent consumer fraud survey, back in 2011, more consumers fell prey to fraudulent weight-loss products than any other fraud; an estimated 2.15% of consumers, or 5.1 million American adults, bought and used such goods that year. Despite that, companies typically can't pay the full fines demanded by the FTC as they've run out of money at that point. A tally by BuzzFeed News found that those accused of making fraudulent weight-loss claims paid less than $100 million in consumer refunds and penalties this year.

“Even in the best cases, it doesn't compare to the amount of money that consumers actually lose on the products,” Cleland said. “The companies have generally spent the money either on advertising or laundered the money to their own bank accounts or something, so there's usually very little money left over for consumers. That suggests that consumer education is probably a more effective tool at protecting consumers than law enforcement.”

Cleland notes that consumers should remember “there is no miracle out there.” Below, nine scams that the FTC ruled on this year.


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The Biggest Personal Finance Fails of 2014 (And How to Avoid Them in 2015)

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December is a time for reflection, especially when it comes to your finances. The expensive holiday season — think gifts, party outfits, and festive drinks — means you’re probably thinking about how to stick to a budget and keep costs down in 2014 (and dreading your January credit card statement).

It’s also a time to reflect on mistakes, which is why I’ve rounded up the top personal finance fails of 2014. The purchases that made me cringe, the examples of internet over-sharing that made me wonder how someone’s identity wasn’t stolen sooner. All so you can avoid their mistakes in 2015, and kick start better financial habits.

Fail #1: Hockey Player Jack Johnson Loses $18 Million, Files For Bankruptcy While Making $5 Million Per Season

Every time a celebrity claims bankruptcy people wonder how they could have squandered away millions of dollars without thinking about the future. In the case of NHL player Jack Johnson, his money troubles are due to putting the wrong people in charge of his finances. Johnson’s parents were in charge of managing his $18 million in earnings over the last nine years, and squandered much of it away on luxury purchases (many of which weren’t paid for in full and went into collections). His $5 million annual paycheque is now garnished heavily to pay off those purchases, and he claimed bankruptcy in October — and also learned a valuable lesson about putting mom and dad in charge of your fortune.

The lesson here is simple: make sure you put professionals in charge of managing your money, and hold them accountable for how it’s being spent. Unfortunately being related to someone doesn’t mean they’ll do the right thing.

Fail #2: Instagrammers post selfies with their paycheques, are surprised when their identities are stolen

It might be obvious to you that it’s not smart to post photos of your credit card, bank statement, or paycheque online, but not everyone stuck to that rule in 2014. Hundreds of teens posted photos of their first paycheque with hashtag #myfirstpaycheck on networks like Instagram, opening the door to identity theft. Not surprisingly, a group of thieves in Minnesota managed to cash almost $2 million in counterfeit cheques after opening bank accounts using details gleaned from those social media photos.

In 2015 remember to keep your financial details private, and don’t post your personal details online. Ever. And if you have kids, remind them that it’s not just their friends who are paying attention to their social media feeds — fraudsters can search hashtags too.

Fail #3: New York Teen Says He Made $72 Million Playing Stock Market On Lunch Break, Is Immediately Debunked

One of the most basic personal finance mantras is to live within your means, but for some people that just isn’t enough. The #richkidsofinstagram mentality seems to be the motivation behind New York teen Mohammed Islam, who reportedly made $72 million trading stocks on his lunch breaks, and bought a BMW he couldn’t even drive yet. His story turned out to be fake, and his parents said they want to disown him for lying.

Our lesson learned from Mohammed is to be honest about your finances and live within your means. Too many people are worried about portraying themselves as better off than they actually are just to keep up with the ‘Joneses’, and that can result in credit card debt, or in this case a string of bad headlines.

Fail #4: Canadian Woman Faces $1 Million Medical Bill After Accidentally Giving Birth In The US

“Babymoons” are becoming the norm for expectant moms looking for one last vacation before they give birth. One Canadian couple traveled to the U.S. nine weeks before their baby was due, and the woman went into labour and had her baby while away. Though the couple was assured Blue Cross insurance would cover their medical bills, the insurance provider denied the claim, and now the couple is stuck with a $1 million bill.

This is classified as a fail because you have to do your due diligence when traveling. It’s no secret that getting health care outside Canada can result in astronomical costs, so make sure you get a second opinion when traveling abroad so you’re sure you’re covered for any situation.

Fail #5: Traveller Stuck With $1100 In-Flight Wifi Bill

If you think paying $25 to check a bag is expensive, then you probably can’t imagine getting a $1,100 bill for using in-flight Wifi. That’s what happened to a Canadian traveler on Singapore Airlines — he purchased a 30MB data package for $28.99, but upon landing received a bill for $1,171 for additional data usage charges. The airlines says he has to pay up since he agreed to the terms and conditions when he purchased the original package.

This story reminds you to always read the fine print, whether it’s for something as innocuous as a Wifi package, or something as big as a home purchase, mortgage or other loan, or a credit card contract. Know what you’re signing up for, or risk facing the same fate as this shellshocked traveller.

Fail #6: Couple Steal’s 50 Cent’s Identity, Buys Diamonds & “Dozens” of Vespa Scooters

When was the last time you checked your credit card statement for fraudulent charges? This year an Ohio couple got away with purchasing diamonds, Vespa scooters, and other luxury items by using publicly-available personal information and stolen credit card numbers from celebrities including 50 Cent.

The lesson for 50 Cent — and for you — is to monitor the activity on your credit cards. While most people would notice “dozens” of Vespa scooters charged to their card fraudulently, would you notice a tank of gas or an online shopping purchase?

Hopefully these lessons will help you kick start your finances in 2015 — whether you’re saving up to buy a home, trying to get out of debt, or just trying to stick to a budget, learn from the lessons above and follow the basic financial rules: live within your means, spend less than you make, and save as much as you can. Happy New Year!

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VLC Developer Confirms iOS App Will Relaunch in Early 2015 [iOS Blog]

Felix Paul Kuehne, lead developer for the iOS and OS X version of popular video player app VLC, has confirmed that VLC for iOS should be available again soon in the iOS App Store (via Softpedia). The app will be returning after an almost four-month absence from the iOS platform.

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VLC for iOS mysteriously disappeared from the iOS App Store following the release of iOS 8 in September of this year. VLC did not comment on the removal, only stating that it was “working with Apple on a solution” to bring VLC back into the App Store. After several months of silence, the company announced in early December that it was launching a semi-public TestFlight beta trial of the updated version of the app.

Addressing a recent complaint about the app still not being available, Kuehne wrote in a VLC forum post that, “It will be again, but probably early next year due to the iTunes Connect holiday shutdown.” He added on Twitter that the app will be back “Hopefully quite soon.”

VLC recently released the TestFlight beta 2 version of VLC for iOS 2.4.0 with a handful of improvements. Based on Kuehne’s comments, soon everyone, not just beta testers, will be able download the version as a new app or an update for versions downloaded before the app was removed from the App Store.