You probably have a trick or two up your sleeve to remember where you’ve parked amidst a sea of other cars. But if you’re still prone to forgetting your parking spot, Google’s refreshed Android Search app might be able to help you out. The update adds a new Google Now parking card that lists the address of the place where you left your car, along with a map that shows how far you are from that location. In case the card got it wrong the first time (ever got lost because Google Maps gave you faulty directions?), it can also offer alternative places that you can check. Yes, that’s a nightmare if you’re in a massive parking lot, but it sure beats going around in circles for hours. Update not showing up for you? You download the APK from Android Police instead.
SSDs may be what’s “next,” but seriously — magnetic tape storage is the real heat. This darn near antediluvian storage medium is amazingly still around and kicking, and what’s even more incredible is that real advancements are taking place. Just under four years ago, IBM and Fujifilm were doing the Cha Cha Slide Tango as they introduced 8TB cartridges; today, the two are rolling out (quite literally, actually) a 35TB version into the wild, wild world that we call home. Nah, you won’t find these on any Best Buy shelves, but your great grandchild’s medical records may one day end up on something built in the year 2010. Just think about that. Think about it.
Those longstanding rumors of Sprint hoping to buy T-Mobile USA may soon come to fruition: Bloomberg sources claim that Sprint has met with six lending banks in preparation for a takeover bid. There aren’t any financing deals in place just yet, according to tipsters, but the carrier would make its offer in June or July. SoftBank (Sprint’s owner) and Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile’s) are reportedly hashing out the details of who would own what after the acquisition, with T-Mobile’s John Legere the frontrunner for the CEO spot.
If a bid goes ahead, Sprint could be prepared for the regulatory firestorm that’s likely to follow. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is believed to be crafting pro-merger arguments that would please both the Department of Justice and the FCC. The exec is well aware of what happened when AT&T tried to buy T-Mobile, Bloomberg says. Among other things, Son purportedly wants to avoid paying a big, AT&T-style breakup fee if the deal falls apart — that just gives the government an extra incentive to say no and make T-Mobile stronger.
None of the companies involved are commenting on the apparent leak, although it may be a long while before any merger could take place. In addition to any legal challenges, the boards of Sprint, T-Mobile and their respective parent firms have to sign off on the arrangement. That could be a drawn-out process, even if there aren’t any significant disputes.
So, this is pretty… big. At this very moment, researchers at IBM are building the largest data drive ever — a 120 petabyte beast comprised of some 200,000 normal HDDs working in concert. To put that into perspective, 120 petabytes is the equivalent of 120 million gigabytes, (or enough space to hold about 24 billion, average-sized MP3′s), and significantly more spacious than the 15 petabyte capacity found in the biggest arrays currently in use. To achieve this, IBM aligned individual drives in horizontal drawers, as in most data centers, but made these spaces even wider, in order to accommodate more disks within smaller confines. Engineers also implemented a new data backup mechanism, whereby information from dying disks is slowly reproduced on a replacement drive, allowing the system to continue running without any slowdown. A system called GPFS, meanwhile, spreads stored files over multiple disks, allowing the machine to read or write different parts of a given file at once, while indexing its entire collection at breakneck speeds. The company developed this particular system for an unnamed client looking to conduct complex simulations, but Bruce Hillsberg, IBM’s director of storage research, says it may be only a matter of time before all cloud computing systems sport similar architectures. For the moment, however, he admits that his creation is still “on the lunatic fringe.”
If you’ve ever searched a computer’s apps or settings, you know how frustrating it can be to guess the keywords you’ll need to get a result — why can’t you just say what you want and let the PC figure it out? Microsoft must have asked itself that same question, as it’s rolling out an update to Windows 8.1 that introduces natural language searches for common tasks. You only have to phrase your statement in a way that a human could understand to get useful links. Gripe that “my screen is too bright,” for example, and you’ll get a shortcut to the display settings. The new search feature won’t help you find everything you’d want, but it could save you precious time when it reaches Windows systems this week.
What’s that odd shape, you ask? That’s the world’s thinnest nanowire — and it could be the key to a future wave of flexible devices. In blasting single-layered, semiconducting materials with an electron beam, Vanderbilt University student Junhao Lin has created wires that measure just three atoms wide while remaining strong and very bendy. Since there are already transistors and memory gates made out of the same material, Lin envisions circuits and whole devices that are paper-thin, yet can stand up to abuse; in the long run, he envisions rollable tablets and TVs that could fit in your pocket. The technique could help produce 3D circuitry, too. We’re still a long way from either of those becoming practical realities, but the discovery at least shows that they’re technically possible.
25 terabytes of storage in a single standalone cube? That’s now possible, thanks to Seagate’s new 5TB hard drive. You can pair the LaCie 5big Network 2 five-bay NASThunderbolt series with up to five individual 5-terabyte drives for a maximum of 25TB of storage for less than two three grand. Based on the $300 price difference between the 15TB kit ($1,299) and the 10TB version ($999), we imagine you’ll be able to max out the RAID device about $1,900, once these gigantic drives become available for purchase individually. For now, you’ll need to settle for one of the two above configurations, available directly from LaCie beginning today. The 5big is available in a 10TB config (two drives) for $999, while doubling the storage will also double the price. You can even max the thing out with five drives for 25TB of storage for a cool $2,500. If smaller capacities are what you’re after, LaCie’s 2big is available with a pair of the new 5-terabyte drives for $899, or in a single configuration with the $449 d2.
Update: We never like to strikethrough any content, let alone four full lines, but after hearing from LaCie, we have a bit more clarity when it comes to the company’s new product offerings. The 5TB drive will be available in three products (outlined above), but not the aforementioned NAS. Ultimately, that’s great news for consumers — you can opt for a single-drive (5-terabyte) config for just $449.
The perks for Windows Phone 8.1′s early users just keeponcoming. Microsoft has posted versions of two desktop Windows 8.1 apps, Movie Moments and Reading List, that are built solely for its new mobile OS. Reading List is arguably the bigger of the two releases — you can now save articles on your Windows Phone to digest them later on any synced device, whether it’s the handset or your PC at home. Like its full-size counterpart, the mobile app both highlights articles in its Live Tile and lets you pin favorite reading categories to your home screen.
Movie Moments is a tad more straightforward. The app lets you distill recorded videos down to minute-long clips with captions and your choice of soundtrack. After that, it’s just a matter of sharing the resulting masterpiece to Facebook or OneDrive. It’s doubtful that the tool will replace Instagram or Vine in your life, but it may be handy if you’d like to have a little more control over your short-form movie projects.
Nanowires, although they’re building steam, still have to overcome the not-so-small problem of cost — they often have to use indium tin oxide that’s not just expensive, but fragile. Duke University has developed copper-nanowire films that could remedy this in style. The choice of material is both a hundred times less expensive to make than indium and is much more durable. It’s flexible, too: if layered on as a coating, the nanowires would make for considerably more viable wearable electronics that won’t snap under heavy stress. The catch, as you might suspect, stems from the copper itself, which doesn’t conduct as much electricity as indium. The nickel will keep your copper electronics from oxidizing faster than the Statue of Liberty, however. Any practical use could be years away, but further successes from Duke could quickly see printable electronics hit the mainstream power and power our dreams of flexible displays.
Remember the Cray XK6 at the University of Illinois that drives the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters project? Well, it looks like it’s getting a little memory upgrade, sorta. We’re not talking a slick new SSD here, or even a sweet NAS, all that computational power requires nothing less than… tape. Okay, so it’s actually a full storage infrastructure, and some of it — 25 petabytes no less — will be disk-based. The rest — a not insignificant 380 petabytes — will be the good old magnetic stuff. The idea is that the disk part will be used for instant access, with the tape section serving as “nearline” storage — something between an archive and online solution. Spectra Logic is providing the tape, and says it’ll take a couple of years to implement the whole lot. Once complete, the system will support the supercomputer’s lofty tasks, such as understanding how the cosmos evolved after the Big Bang and, y’know designing new materials at the atomic level. And we thought we were excited about out next desktop.