CableCard card tuners on the way

cablecard

We were momentarily excited when we heard that CableCARD compatible tuners will be available for purchase by the end of the year. A card like this would allow you to hook up your digital cable to your computer and record programs natively. This has been possible for a long time with analog cable and PVR software such as MythTV. Up to this point, recording digital cable has required a dedicated cable box and workarounds to allow the computer to change channels.

Wait a minute though, the announcement was made by Microsoft? Indeed. Microsoft has been making a big push into the home theater PC market with Media Center. Redmond’s PVR offering is also limited to recording analog television;opening up digital would expand the marketplace for them. But here’s where it gets hairy: if you read the Microsoft announcement, TV shows flagged as CF (copy freely) are the only ones that can be recorded.

So, if we have this right:  you shell out money for a new tuner then you pay more for the rental of the CableCARD. Both of these expenditures are on top of a digital cable subscription. And yet you can only record shows marked with a “Copy Freely” flag. Who makes the decision on which shows we can pay to record?

AVR controlled Rubik’s cube solver

[Andrius] just sent in his robot Rubik’s cube solver. It isn’t as fast as the solver we saw last year but it also doesn’t require as many parts either.  This project utilizes two claws, each actuated by just two servo motors. The thinking is done by a PC which calculates the necessary moves to solve the cube. Each instruction is then passed via USB to the AVR ATmega16 microcontroller that is responsible for the servo operation.

Right now it looks like the colors for each starting face have to be entered manually before a solution is calculated. We think [Andrius] is probably planning to upgrade this with the next generation of his software as he already has a webcam setup for this type of analysis.

Linux (via iLoader) out for Nano 2G

Iloader

[Linux4Nano] over at the [Gna! repositories] have just finalized a breakthrough for their bootloaderproject.  Because the iPod Nano 2G has a hardware encryption chip, it could previously not be flashed with a custom firmware. By digging around in some assembly code (and working their magic) the team was able to get Linux onto the 2G, develop drivers for its peripherals (screen, clickwheel and serial interface are a few), and put all of that code into a package convenient to install by the end user. If you’ve ever considered installing uClinux (the ported distro) on your Nano, the [Linux4Nano] team have made the iLoader an easy place to start.

Update: Closer inspection yields that the iLoader is not yet able to load uClinux onto a 2G because it has not been ported. However, it can reload it with other custom firmware which is still a solid breakthrough.

Exoskeleton rental now available

The HAL two-leg exoskeleton is now available for rent in Tokyo for $2300 per month. We saw the HAL in our power suit roundup from last year. There is footage of this lower-extremity suit demonstrated by three people. The video is a bit creepy because the they are apparently just out for a stroll in the city.

We really do want to see this succeed. Every time another advancement in exoskeletons comes around we glimpse the future of mobility and freedom for victims of paralysis. The machine is controlled via an interface that picks up electrical impulses on the surface of the skin. The built in battery provides power for up to five hours of operation before recharging is necessary.

[Thanks David]

Rock Band drum set remake

We’ve seen some impressive mods for the popular video game Rock Band, from new cymbals to an air powered kick pedal, but we cant say we’ve seen someone go as far as the folks over at EDrums. They start off making their own mesh heads, a junction box to connect everything, and then a base to hold it all together. It is definitely some dedication and hard work for a setup that will only be used in the living room in front of the T.V. Check out some more video of it in action, and a comparison to the original Rock Band drum set, after the break.

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