Monthly Archives: March 2014

Google’s Project Tango headed to International Space Station


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Google’s Project Tango, the prototype smartphone packed with sensors so it can learn and sense the world around it, is heading to the International Space Station.

Two of the Tango phones are due to be launched to the ISS on the upcoming Orbital 2 mission, which is scheduled to launch in May and take supplies to the station. The phones will be used as part of a NASA project that’s developing robots that could one day fly around the inside or outside of the space station, or even be used in NASA’s planned mission to land on an asteroid.

Work on the robots is already going on at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and this week the space agency let a small group of reporters visit its lab and see some of the research.

spheres space station
Three Spheres satellites float inside the International Space Station.

The phones, which are being supplied to a limited number of developers at present, were unveiled by Google a month ago. They include several cameras and infrared range-finding so the phone can build up a three-dimensional model of its surroundings—a significant difference from current handsets that can see only a two-dimensional world through a single camera.

Google has already shown the phones being used to build up a detailed map of the interior of a home or office, but NASA has much bigger plans. At Ames, which is just minutes from Google’s Mountain View headquarters, researchers have attached a Tango handset to a robot development platform called a “Sphere.”

Technically an 18-sided polyhedron, each Sphere is about the size of a soccer ball and self-powered. They can free-fly around the inside of the ISS thanks to carbon dioxide-powered thrusters, said Chris Provencher, Smart Spheres project manager at NASA.

The Spheres have already been used in developing autonomous equipment. The space agency conducted a Spheres test with a Nexus S smartphone as part of Shuttle mission STS-135 in 2011, but the Tango phones promise more capabilities.

“We are researching how effective Project Tango’s vision-based navigation capabilities are for performing localization and navigation of a mobile free flyer on ISS,” said Andres Martinez, Spheres Manager at NASA.

“Specifically, we are researching how well the 3-D modeling and visual odometry can be used to let the [Spheres] free flyer learn its environment and maneuver through it based on what it sees,” said Martinez. “This is in contrast to the current Spheres localization system, which relies on fixed sensors in the environment to help the Spheres track its position.”

On Monday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden saw a demonstration of the Tango-equipped Spheres during a visit to Ames. One was connected to a Spheres satellite, which was slowly gliding across a huge granite table in a laboratory.

There are already three Spheres units on the ISS.

Hearing that researchers are working toward a robot that would autonomously fly around the inside and possibly outside of the ISS carrying out checks, Bolden asked if the same technology could be put to use on NASA’s planned asteroid mission. The space agency wants to approach and capture a piece of an asteroid, and Bolden wondered if the work could form the base of a robot that could approach, analyze and help identify a target for the mission.

That could be so, said Provencher.

Researchers hit upon the idea of using smartphones in their development work when they realized the features they wanted—Wi-Fi, a camera, more processing power—were all present in an off-the-shelf device.

The phones in use by NASA have had several minor modifications. The lithium-ion battery pack has been removed, the phone is powered by six AA batteries and the cellular radio chip has also been removed to put it into “the ultimate airplane mode,” said Provencher. A cover has also been put over the screen to contain pieces of glass should it be shattered.

(Additional reporting by Melissa Aparicio in San Francisco.)

MacOS 10.9 Marvericks clean install how-to

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By Christina Warren
Now that Apple has released OS X Mavericks to the masses — for free — we know that plenty of users are busy downloading the latest software update and preparing to install the new operating system.As with OS X Lion and OS X Mountain Lion, Apple makes it easy for users to install the upgrade by downloading Mavericks from the App Store and running the installer.

This method works for almost all users — it keeps your data and existing programs intact and upgrades your machine to the latest OS. But sometimes, you might not want to do a regular OS upgrade.

It’s possible to do a clean install of OS X Mavericks on your Mac — or on a new hard drive, if you’re upgrading or repairing your Mac — but it takes a bit of work.

The process is a bit more complicated than it has been in previous years, but it’s still relatively easy to create a bootable copy of OS X Mavericks that you can run from a USB stick or other drive.

Note: A clean install will erase all of the contents on your disk drive. Make sure to back up your important files, settings and apps before proceeding.

  • Getting Started


    To do a clean install of OS X Mavericks, you’ll need a blank USB flash drive that is at least 8GB in size. You’ll be using this drive completely for OS X Mavericks, so don’t waste a larger drive if you have an 8GB available.

    You can also use an existing hard drive partition, but that process complicates the second option for this installer.

    You’ll also need to download OS X Mavericks onto your existing Mac.

    Image: Apple, Screenshot by Mashable
  • Download OS X Mavericks


    You can download OS X Mavericks from the Mac App Store here.

    This will download a 5.2GB file called “Install OS X Mavericks” to your Applications folder.

    Image: Apple, Screenshot by Mashable
  • Format USB Drive


    Now, format the USB drive by opening up Disk Utility. It’s in the Utilities folder in Applications.

    Select your USB drive and click on the “Erase” tab. Select Mac OS Extended (Journaled) as the format type and keep the name as “untitled.”

    Click the Erase button. This will take a few minutes, but will erase your USB drive will be erased and format it with the proper file system.

    Image: Apple, Screenshot by Mashable
  • Easiest Option: Use Lion DiskMaker App


    A great app for automating the creation of an OS X bootable USB disk called Lion DiskMaker.

    Lion DiskMaker is still putting the final touches on its version compatible with Mavericks, but the creator’s latest beta version supports OS X 10.9 and will build a bootable USB. The only caveat is that you must have the Install OS X Mavericks file inside your Applications folder.

    This is far and away the easiest way to create a bootable copy of OS X Mavericks.

    Although I’ve successfully built a number of bootable USB disks with Lion DiskMaker, be aware that in my tests, the process took more time than the manual method (below). If you’re low on time and high on efficiency, the manual method may be your best bet.

    Image: Lion DiskMaker, Screenshot by Mashable
  • Option 2: The Manual Way (Requires Terminal)


    First, I’d like to thank MacRumors forum member tywebb13 for his instructions on creating a manual bootable USB copy of OS X Mavericks.

    This method requires using the Terminal app. If you’re not comfortable typing commands into Terminal, just use the Lion DiskMaker app (above).

    To continue with using Terminal, follow the steps below.

    1. After downloading OS X Mavericks to your Applications folder and formatting your USB drive (make sure it’s called “Untitled”), open up the Terminal app.

    2. Paste the following command into the Terminal window and hit enter:

    sudo /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ –volume /Volumes/Untitled –applicationpath /Applications/Install\ OS\ X\ –nointeraction
    view raw mavericks-install hosted with ❤ by GitHub

    3. You will be prompted to enter in your user password. Then, you’ll see a list of processes on the terminal screen that read:

    Erasing Disk:
    Copying Installer files to disk…

    This process runs a special mode built into the OS X Mavericks installer that can create installable media. The disk you’re copying the media onto becomes bootable, too.

    The process takes less time than Lion DiskMaker, but you’ll need to follow the instructions exactly. Don’t move the installer to another folder, and make sure you don’t have more than one disk drive titled “Untitled” connected to your machine.

    Image: Apple, Screenshot by Mashable
  • Booting Up and Installing


    Once your USB drive has been created, it’s time to install Mavericks.

    1. Restart (or boot up) your Mac with the USB drive connected and hold down on the Option key. You should see a screen that lets you select a number of different hard drives, including your USB drive that reads, “Install OS X Mavericks.”

    2. Click on that drive to open up a list of settings. If you just want to do a typical OS X installation, you can do so (but then, why did you take the time to make the bootable media?).

    3. For a clean install, open up Disk Utility and erase your main hard drive. Once you’ve done so, you can go back to the Install OS X Mavericks disk and choose “Install a new copy of OS X.”

    Image: Mashable, Christina Warren

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After the Install

After installing OS X Mavericks, you can start restoring your programs and settings using either a Time Machine backup or Migration Assistant.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

Image: Apple; Lion DiskMaker