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The Future of Farming, Part 3: The Business of Urban Ag and CEA
September 03, 2013
"Growing crops is only half the job. The other half is marketing -- and if you don't do that right, you will probably go out of business," said AG Kawamura, founding member of Orange County Produce and head of the 114-acre Orange County Great Park Farm. Taking a crop directly to farmers' markets, grocery stores and restaurants to sell is only a small part of the marketing job.
The Future of Farming, Part 2: New Growth Patterns
August 20, 2013
Few earthly ag tech environments -- at least in the United States -- come more controlled than the Houweling's Tomatoes Ultra-Clima greenhouse facility in Camarillo, Calif., where the company produces a broad range of tomatoes and cucumbers grown hydroponically under glass across 125 acres. Houweling's is a family-owned company that operates a total 175.5 acres of high-tech hydroponic greenhouses.
IBM Creates Software Ecosystem for Thinking Chip
August 09, 2013
IBM on Thursday announced a software ecosystem tailored for what in essence amounts to a computing architecture that works like the human brain. It supports the programming cycle from design through development, debugging and deployment. The software ecosystem is the fourth phase of the Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics, or SyNAPSE, project.
The Future of Farming, Part 1: Controlling the Environment
August 06, 2013
Famine... or feast? Soil... or hydroponics, aquaponics, aquaculture or aeroponics? Nine billion hungry human beings will be living on planet Earth by 2050. "We will need to produce more food in the first half of this century than we did in the previous 100 centuries combined," declared Tony Kajewski, president of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
Brick-and-Mortar's Showrooming Scourge
November 20, 2012
How can classic retail, the brick-and-mortar physical stores dotting our neighborhoods, compete with the likes of Amazon and Zappos? Can real-world retail survive e-commerce? And if it can, what's the trick? How do retailers intend to meet this growing threat? We're now seeing something insidious that threatens the very heart of brick-and-mortar retail: showrooming.
Scorched 'Earth' Spotted in Star System Next Door
October 26, 2012
Astronomers have wondered for centuries about the possibility of Earth-like planets in the neighboring Alpha Centauri star system, but only recently did their ongoing search bear fruit. European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of Earth orbiting a star in Alpha Centauri. Observations made over more than four years have revealed "a tiny, but real, signal."
Google's Neverending Big Adventure
October 25, 2012
In its ongoing effort to create the perfect map of the world at ground level, Google took a trek into the Grand Canyon this week. Earlier this month, Google announced that it had doubled the number of special collections in its Street View catalog and updated its images along 250,000 miles of roads. Yet Google was hardly done -- it was heading next to Arizona for its descent into the Grand Canyon.
NASA's X1 Robosuit Designed to Live Dual Lives
October 16, 2012
NASA and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition have jointly developed a new robotic exoskeleton, dubbed the "XI," that could help astronauts in space stay in better physical shape, while also helping humans on Earth walk. The 57-pound wearable device is in essence a robot that fits over a human body to either assist or inhibit movement in leg joints.
Microsoft's Digits Could Turn Us All Into Hand Dancers
October 09, 2012
The long-lived and usually reliable mouse could soon be put out to pasture, as Microsoft unveiled this week a new hand-gesture sensor that could allow users to point with their fingers rather than a cursor. The new Digits prototype is part of an effort to create a mobile device that could transform interaction with a computer interface.
Reports of the Mouse's Death Are Not Greatly Exaggerated
October 09, 2012
The mouse may be running scared. That's the kind with buttons and scroll wheel -- not the tailed, furry variety that elephants are afraid of. How long has the mouse got? Way back in the dark slate ages of 2008, Gartner analyst Steve Prentice made a startling prophecy based on his observations of multiple computer interfaces that used gestures and other interactions.
LibreOffice vs. OpenOffice, Part Deux
October 08, 2012
It's been a momentous few weeks for FOSS fans, not least because LibreOffice -- one of the most popular exemplars of free and open source software today -- celebrated its second anniversary late last month. Indeed, with 325 active committers over the last 12 months, LibreOffice is now the third-largest free software project listed on Ohloh focused on the development of a desktop application.
Make a Handy Little Android PC for Light Lifting
October 04, 2012
As many of us are gearing up for Windows 8's imminent release, it may well be worth considering some alternatives. I don't know about you, but after XP to Windows 7, via Vista, the idea of another OS from Microsoft, while not yet causing night sweats, is engendering some trepidation.
Mobile CRM Gets Gamified
October 02, 2012
CRM is a mature software category with a decades-plus history of development and evolution. Still, one important problem remains unsolved: A lot of employees, especially sales staff, just can't be bothered with it. Corporate "solutions" have ranged from bribing to arm-twisting to appeals to corporate loyalty. None, though, have worked so well as building gamification features into the system.
The United States of Google
October 01, 2012
I was watching "The Daily Show" the other night and Jon Stewart walked through the failures of the Obama administration, concluding that anyone who did this badly couldn't be reelected if not for the Democrats' secret weapon. He then showed Mitt Romney as that secret weapon, along with a number of troubling clips about the impressive number of mistakes Romney is making.
Driverless Cars Get California License
September 26, 2012
Driverless cars might be making more of an appearance on California roads, thanks to a new law that sets safety and performance guidelines for advancing autonomous vehicles in the state. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Alex Padilla, and Google cofounder Sergey Brin were on hand at the company's Mountain View headquarters on Tuesday, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law.
Baxter the Robot Works for $22k, No Bathroom Breaks Required
September 21, 2012
A company by the name of Rethink Robotics appears to be one step closer to fulfilling a long-held dream of people in the robotics industry -- it has unveiled an apparently easy-to-use robot that can learn and adapt to new circumstances. The robot, Baxter, has the usual oversized robot arms, but its "head" is a screen with a placid face. Think of a much nicer version of Cain, the bad-guy-made-robot in Robocop 2.
New-Fangled Bicycle Helmets: Not Just Brain Buckets Anymore
September 21, 2012
There is no denying that serious cyclists adopt some very specific forms of fashion. The jerseys and shorts are tight-fitting to reduce drag, gloves are worn both to provide padding while gripping the handlebars and to protect hands during a crash, and shoes are a fashion statement all of their own. But one piece of equipment has become somewhat ubiquitous: the helmet.
My iPhone 5 Will Be Naked
September 20, 2012
As I anxiously wait for my shiny new iPhone 5 to arrive on Friday -- like 2 million others -- my thoughts first turned to protective cases. Would any be available? How long before manufacturers caught up with Apple's secrecy machine and started producing them so I could buy one? And screen protectors, when will my favorite screen protector company be able to deliver? Then I realized that maybe now, finally, I don't need a case at all. After all, what do I value more and more out of my iPhone? Pocketability.
Your New 2nd Car Could Be an E-Bike
September 14, 2012
Interbike, the largest bicycle trade show in North America, remains very much about pedal power, but in addition to the high-end Tour de France-worthy road bikes, go-over-anything mountain bikes, and hipster- and messenger-friendly fixed gear bicycles, there are those that are juiced up with electric motors and batteries.
Hey Apple, Better Get Cracking on an Amazing iPhone 6
September 13, 2012
When Apple introduced the iPhone 4S, I skipped it in favor of keeping my iPhone 4. So no day-to-day Siri for me. But wow, am I glad I held off and waited. The new iPhone 5 is definitely the best ever, the most usable creation to come out of Cupertino in years. And the attention to design -- love it.

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