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Google OnHub review: Routers don't have to be so complicated

If you're like me, a cold feeling of dread grips your heart every time your internet goes out. "Is Comcast down," I ask myself, "or is my horrible router misbehaving yet again?" This usually follows 10 minutes of unplugging and then plugging things back in, waiting and hoping for your internet connection to be restored, because there's no easy way to troubleshoot otherwise. And that's not to mention that setting up a router or completing a simple task like renaming your network or changing its password is usually far more of a chore than it should be. There has to be a better way.

Google believes that its new OnHub wireless router is a step forward. Made in partnership with TP-Link, it's a powerful, intelligent and, yes, beautiful home networking device with a high price to match. Google is betting that the combination of ease of use and attractive design is the path wireless routers need to follow -- but those features come at the expense of others you'd typically expect from a $200 router. The question: Has Google made the right trade-offs to justify the OnHub's price?

The ferrofluid font in action

You may have seen ferrofluid (aka magnetic ink) used for clever science demonstrations in school, but it might just get a much cooler application before long. Linden Gledhill and Craig Ward have developed Fe2O3 Glyphs, wild-looking characters created by putting a ferrofluid between glass plates and subjecting it to spinning magnetic fields. The result is a sort of anti-font -- while the "letters" look like they could be part of an alien language, they're so unique that you'd likely never produce the same effect twice.

BELARUS

The next time you see a graceful, dramatic video shot by a camera drone, you may have a swan to thank for the absence of any jittery footage. Stanford University researchers are developing camera suspension technology inspired by whooping swans, whose heads remain remarkably still even when they're making aggressive in-flight maneuvers. Thanks to a blend of high-speed video and computer modeling, the scientists discovered that the swan's neck acts much like a vehicle's suspension, passively countering the effects of flapping wings or headwinds. It'll likely take a while before the nature-inspired design reaches something you can buy, but you may well see a day where drones are producing sharp, stable video even when they're traveling at high speeds or facing strong gusts.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Sergei Grits]

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Researchers try smoother robot movements

Eliminating the herky-jerky movements of robots isn't just good for comforting nervous humans... it helps the robots, too. Researchers have developed smooth movement algorithms that slow the acceleration and deceleration of robots, saving as much as 40 percent of the energy they'd normally use. The trick is to order tasks in a way that lets robots move at their own pace without colliding into each other. Factory robots typically rush through tasks in a rigid order, only to wait for their fellow automatons to catch up. Here, they're more flexible as to when and how quickly they get things done.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Here's hoping that you weren't bent on watching The Hunger Games: Catching Fire or World War Z on Netflix -- if so, you don't have much time to do it. Netflix has confirmed that it won't renew its longstanding movie deal with Epix, which will lead to many Lionsgate and MGM titles disappearing from the service come September. The company hopes you won't mind, though. As Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos points out, there are legions of original shows lined up -- Netflix is betting that you'll be too busy watching Narcos to worry that a favorite flick just disappeared.

Google's self-driving Lexus cars in California, not Texas

Ever performed a track stand, where you keep your bike upright at a stop without taking your feet off the pedals? If you have, you'll want to avoid trying that around Google's self-driving cars, at least for a while. One Austin-based cyclist reports an encounter where one of the autonomous cars was comically unsure of what to do when it spotted him doing a track stand at an intersection. Every time his bike moved even slightly, the car would lurch forward and promptly hit the brakes. Nothing happened beyond some good laughs, but it was clear that Google's self-driving code didn't know how to handle a not-quite-stationary bike.

INDIA-ENVIRONMENT-EWASTE

You probably know that you should recycle your old tech when you're done with it, but getting other people to do the same? That's quite hard, apparently. The United Nations and INTERPOL have found that only 35 percent of the European Union's electronic waste in 2012, about 3.2 million imperial tons, was recycled properly. The rest (6.1 million tons) was either exported, recycled improperly or trashed. And that's a problem beyond just the expected environmental issues, such as toxins making their way into landfills. Many crooks take advantage of this lapse by scavenging and smuggling e-waste -- that old laptop you chucked out might be a gold mine for a bootlegger hoping to sell its parts or raw metals.

Current-generation Apple TV

Do you recall the early days of the Apple TV, when you could expect to pay over $100 to put an Apple-powered media hub in your living room? They might come roaring back. Sources for 9to5Mac claim that the next Apple TV should cost between $149 to $199 (the final price is still up in the air) when it ships, which is reportedly sometime in October. That's still less than the original cost when it was new, but you could be in for sticker shock if you were expecting Apple to keep the price to $99 or less. It could make the Fire TV and Roku 3 look like relative bargains, depending on how attached you are to Apple's ecosystem.

NSA headquarters

The National Security Agency isn't just yearning for quantum computers that can break tough encryption -- it wants encryption that can protect against quantum computers, too. Officials have begun planning a transition to "quantum resistant" encryption that can't be cracked as quickly as conventional algorithms. As the NSA explains, even a seemingly exotic technique like elliptic curve cryptography "is not the long term solution" people thought it was. Quantum computing is advancing quickly enough that the NSA and other organizations could find themselves extremely vulnerable if they're not completely ready when the technology becomes a practical reality.

cyber sitcom, terrible idea

It's been a wild week, and not just for our stock portfolios. The internet's self-described "Spam King" admitted to posting more than 27 million ads on Facebook. Microsoft celebrated the 20th anniversary of Windows 95 by dredging up a promo video featuring Jennifer Aniston and Matthew Perry. Because Friends is never not topical. And a British man endured an 11-hour surgery to have the world's first bionic penis installed. Good times!

Inhabitat's Week in Green

Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week's most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us -- it's the Week in Green.

Tesla gets a lot of press -- but just how good are its vehicles? Well, Consumer Reports just awarded the Model S P85D a rating so high that it broke the scale. The Model S also put range anxiety to rest this week by traveling a record-breaking 452.8 miles on a single charge. Are you in the market for an electric car? We just rounded up the best EVs of 2015 -- from the perfect city car to a family-friendly EV and a midlife crisis sportster. Water and electricity might not mix, but EVs are also taking to the seas -- check out this solar- and wind-powered self-driving boat and this all-electric personal submarine that lets you explore the ocean deep. And in Europe, Paris announced plans to go completely car-free for one day in September and all Netherlands Railways trains will be 100 percent wind-powered by 2018.

LA Police Shootings

Come Monday the Los Angeles Police Department begins its deployment of body cameras for officers. The initial rollout is limited -- only 860 of the proposed 7,000 cameras will hit the streets at first -- and the SWAT team won't get them until sometime after mid-September, according to The Los Angeles Times. The LAPD "doesn't plan on" making the recordings public unless a criminal or civil court case attached to them, though. The American Civil Liberties Union says that this blanket refusal to make all captured video public means that police departments can cherrypick what footage they do choose to distribute and essentially use it as PR for good deeds while keeping less-than-applause-worthy footage out of the limelight. Of course, one way around that would be setting up a YouTube channel like Seattle did, but that brings about its own set of critics.

[Image credit: Associated Press]

Amazon Echo speaker in all its monolithic glory

Amazon's Echo speaker has been fine for playing music and audiobooks so far... unless you live in a household with more than one Amazon user, at which point it just gets messy. That won't be a problem any longer, though: Amazon has added support for multiple accounts, making it easy to play solely from your own collection. You only have to tell it to switch profiles to get your tunes. Simply put, this could be a lifesaver if you're going to share an Echo with roommates or a significant other -- you don't have to create a shared account or risk having someone else pollute your song recommendations.

KENYA-TELECOM-MOBILE

A team of Princeton and Harvard researchers analyzed the phone call records of 15 million users in Kenya -- not to spy on people, but to study the spread of seasonal disease. The team wanted to see if the movement of phone users can predict outbreaks of seasonal diseases like rubella or German measles. So, they used anonymous records from between June 2008 and June 2009, including locations where people made phone calls. They then compared the data to the areas where cases of rubella were reported in the country. The result? Well, it turns out the subjects' movement patterns matched the locations with the highest risk of rubella within that year-long period.

'Mortal Kombat X'

I hope you weren't counting on playing Mortal Kombat X on your trusty previous-generation console -- you're about to be disappointed. Warner Bros. has cancelled both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of the bloody brawler, claiming that neither version would meet the quality "expected of a Mortal Kombat game." It's not certain exactly what went wrong. However, it's clearer than ever that the transition to newer platforms is taking its toll on developers. Getting a game to run on more than two or three platforms isn't easy or cheap, and there isn't much incentive for studios to keep working on legacy support when you're increasingly likely to have a current system in your home.

A group of six people bade the rest of the world farewell on Friday to begin their year-long stay in a cramped dome on Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano. The French astrobiologist, German physicist and American pilot, architect, doctor/journalist and soil scientist went on a voluntary isolation to simulate a manned mission to the red planet, which could last from one to three years. The team will have to endure living together in a 36-foot-wide, 20-foot-tall abode called HI-SEAS, short for Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation. They do have (tiny) rooms of their own with enough space for a sleeping cot and a desk, but they can only go outside if they're wearing a spacesuit. All six also won't have access to comfort food if they're feeling stressed from their living situation: they have to make do with basic food items like canned tuna and powdered cheese.

BlackBerry Venice in the flesh

BlackBerry's Android-based Venice smartphone isn't just a figment of someone's imagination... at least, if you believe Vietnamese resident Ba Minh Duc. He claims to have photos of the slider in action, complete with its hideaway QWERTY keyboard, 18-megapixel camera and curvy screen. This isn't quite the phone you remember from 3D renders (or the once-teased BlackBerry 10 version), though. BlackBerry appears to have moved the power button to the side, and the body isn't as slender in person as the renders would suggest. This is undoubtedly a work in progress, and it won't be surprising if the Venice design changes more between now and release. Still, this is exciting stuff if you've been yearning for a phone that melds BlackBerry's hardware and services with Android's customization and wider app selection.

2007 Consumer Electronics Show Showcases Latest Tech Products

Remember the heady days of August 2007, when the iPhone had barely reached store shelves and the Nokia N95 was all the rage? The US International Trade Commission sure does. After reviewing an 8-year-long case, the ITC has ruled that Nokia's phones (now Microsoft's) don't infringe on InterDigital patents covering 3G cellular technology. The decision eliminates the possibility of an import ban that would have prevented Microsoft from selling many of its phones in the US, including modern day Lumias. Things very nearly didn't go the company's way -- a judge had ruled in April that Microsoft was using InterDigital's patents, which would have forced the folks in Redmond to pay up.

International Space Station backdropped againts a blue and white Earth.

NASA recently paid Russia $490 million to continue ferrying its astronauts to the ISS, but Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden says "it doesn't have to be this way." In a piece/open letter the space agency's head honcho wrote for Wired, he explains how the Congress is holding back the agency from launching astronauts on US soil. Apparently, if the House of Representatives approved the funding the agency was asking for, then NASA would have already been making the final preparations for a US-based launch.

Britain Wireless Festival Day 2

It's no secret that Apple and Tidal are at each other's throats over music exclusives, but that fight might have reached a new peak. Tidal claims that Apple stopped it from streaming Drake's brief guest appearance at New Orleans' Lil Weezyana Fest on August 28th, presumably due to an exclusivity deal with the Canadian musician. If you take Tidal's word at face value, Apple was an Orwellian tyrant "interfering with artistry." One of the New York Post's tipsters goes so far as to contend that Apple is trying to "dictate" when and where artists can perform, which would be harsh... if it were true.