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It's always sad when a company stumbles during its victory lap, but as Sony looked to gracefully exit the PC business, some spontaneously combusting laptops ruined the day. The company has now issued an update about the Vaio Fit 11A repair program, saying that reservations are now being taken and that battery replacements will begin part-way through next month. Until then, Sony's line remains not to touch your device, and we add that you should probably shouldn't store it next to those cans of gasoline in your office.

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Cochlear implants already help those with auditory damage to hear better, but what if they could also grow new nerves while they're there? Scientists at the UNSW have discovered a way to do just that, at least in hamsters. After they introduced a gene therapy solution, a modified cochlear implant used electrical pulses to deliver the treatment directly to auditory nerve cells. That successfully re-generated so-called neurotrophins in the animals, which in turn aided nerve development and significantly improved the implant's effect. Such therapy could one day help the hearing-impaired to pick up sounds better, especially the subtle tones in music. There's a long ways to go prior to human trials, however, since it was only effective in the hamsters for a short time. But it could one day be included as part of cochlear implant therapy and even help other nerve-related conditions, like Parkinson's disease or depression.

[Image credit: UNSW Translational Neuroscience Facility]

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When you hear a scandalous conversation, there's always the temptation to live tweet it for the internet's benefit -- but what if your furniture could do that for you? Conversnitch is a project by artists Brian House and Kyle McDonald which reinvents the humble lightbulb as an internet-connected surveillance microphone. Running off a Raspberry Pi, the hardware records conversations in real time and pushes them to Amazon's Mechanical Turk, where the chatter is transcribed for the project's Twitter feed. The idea is to generate some alarm about our surveillance-heavy culture, since the bulbs have already been quietly installed in public spaces across New York -- although we guess the pair still have a long way to go before they can out-do the folks over at Fort Meade.

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Rediscovered artwork like a napkin Picasso or unearthed Matisse can be identified on sight, but pieces crafted in the digital age by pop-artist extraordinaire Andy Warhol and encoded in an outdated format are far more difficult to ascertain. In fact, it took the retro know-how of Carnegie Mellon University's Computer Club and a team of artists, archivists and curators to wrangle some of Warhol's lost pixels into the physical world.

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When we got our hands on Exetech's XS-3, we were intrigued by the idea of cramming a smartphone into a watch, but dismayed at the execution. After all, this was a device that was in no way waterproof, had a 420mAh battery pressing directly onto your skin and wouldn't even last half a day on a charge. Having sold 800 out of a production run of 1,500, the company found that customers loved the technical accomplishments, but griped about the build quality.

That's why Exetech is asking for a do-over when it comes to the XS-4.

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Hep Taxi !

While taxi services like Uber may be flat-out unwelcome in Belgium, neighboring France is still trying to figure out how to manage them. Under pressure from traditional cab drivers in the country, a new law was introduced that required the likes of Uber, LeCab and SnapCar to wait 15 minutes before picking people up, giving normal cabs a better shot at landing the business. It didn't survive very long, not that it did much to calm some old-school cabbies anyway. Now, a new report, due to be presented to the French Prime Minister today, suggests disarming the newer services of one of their greatest weapons, and turning it over to regular taxis.

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The hacker subplot in House of Cards' second season might have felt out of place, but from the sounds of a recent New York Times report, Frank Underwood's methods for putting captured hackers to work might not be too far-fetched. After being busted by the FBI, top LulzSec hacker Sabu may have conscripted at least one former accomplice to carry out a string of cyber-attacks against foreign banks and government websites, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Times. Sabu's seemingly indirect involvement suggests that he may have acted as a federal informant, helping to exploit the likes of the Heartbleed security flaw for state-sponsored cyber-terrorism. For the full report, be sure to head over to the source link.

[Image credit: Idhren/Flickr]

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Proposals to officially regulate electronic cigarettes will be announced later today by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the WSJ. The regulations would include a ban on sales to minors and a requirement for health warning labels on packaging. E-cigarettes contain nicotine liquid, which is derived from tobacco -- and that's where the FDA comes in.

"Right now it's like the wild, wild west in terms of what people are doing.."

Importantly, makers would not be allowed to state that e-cigarettes are safer than other tobacco products ( manufacturers need to provide scientific evidence to prove these claims), nor use descriptive language like "light" or "mild" to describe goods. Companies will also be required to submit a "pre-market review application" within two years, although products will be allowed to stay on the market as long as the application is filed. Outlines will also restrict marketing on TV and any efforts to appeal to anyone under 18, although they won't immediately ban the wealth of flavored e-cigarettes that have recently flourished. FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg told ABC News: "Right now it's like the wild, wild west in terms of what people are doing, the products are evolving with no regulatory oversight and being marketed in ways that are very worrisome." The full list of regulations will be posted online by the FDA at 9am today.

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Watson had been a doctor, a geneticist, a game show contestant and even a chef in the past. But now IBM's supercomputer has a new career: personal shopping. IBM has partnered with digital commerce firm Fluid to develop a cloud-based app called Expert Personal Shopper (XPS), which uses Watson's brains to answer buyers' highly specific questions. In short, the computer with many hats now plays the role of a sales associate when you're shopping online. IBM and Fluid are currently working with several consumer brands, but The North Face will be the first to feature the technology on its website. When the outdoor clothing and equipment company launches XPS, you can ask it questions like you would an assistant at a mall. If you needed a recommendation on the best equipment to use for a five-day cross-country trip, or need to know the best tent to use if you're hiking with family, including kids, then Watson's got your back. It's unclear when XPS will launch exactly, but IBM has granted Fluid a $100 million investment to speed up the digital shopping assistant's development -- all parties involved are planning to develop it further for mobile applications and devices.

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