Star Apps: The Madden Brothers

Maryland-born brothers Benji and Joel Madden always dreamed of making it in California. After 14 years of pop-punk success in Good Charlotte and 10 years as California residents, the two are now performing as The Madden Brothers, and they're sending fans a postcard that reads "We made it!" in the form of new album "Greetings From California." I chatted with Benji Madden, who will soon tour with his brother.

You shocked a lot of people recently when you pulled the plug on Good Charlotte. It freaked a lot of people out when we said we … Read more

On Facebook, good (and bad) moods are infectious

Isn't it interesting when someone posts a highly positive comment on Facebook and tons of their friends "like" the post and chime in with like-minded comments? Likewise, the same happens with negative comments. This is no coincidence.

A new study published in Plos One on Wednesday by researchers from the University of California at San Diego says that moods on Facebook are contagious. While negative posts definitely beget negative posts, positive posts are apparently more infectious.

"Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their … Read more

Apple's 'spaceship' campus architect dishes details

Stanford University's campus has a large central quad full of plants, flowers, trees, and pedestrian walkways -- this was Apple late co-founder Steve Jobs' vision for the design of the company's upcoming futuristic spaceship-like campus.

Architecture firm Foster + Partners is heading the project -- which is slated to be done in 2016 -- and the firm's founder, Norman Foster, recently spoke to Architectural Record about the thinking behind the new headquarters.

Jobs laid out plans for the campus in 2011. The facility is expected to have four stories and span a whopping 2.8 million square feet. … Read more

California court: Drivers can use smartphone maps, for now

Texting or chatting on the phone while driving is illegal in California, but the law seems still to be catching up with technology when it comes to other aspects of smartphone use behind the wheel.

A court of appeals has reversed an earlier court decision that ruled map reading on a cell phone was taboo under the law, according to the Associated Press. The 5th District Court of Appeal said the law currently applies only to talking and texting on mobile devices and doesn't yet have legal language for app use.

The case came about in January 2012 after … Read more

VC Tim Draper: Maybe US will end up with 60 states

Venture capitalist Tim Draper revealed in December a plan to divvy up California into six separate states. Now he thinks the idea is about to spread throughout the nation.

Draper, co-founder of Silicon Valley venture firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, has called for a breakup of California into six self-governing states: Jefferson, North California, Central California, West California, South California, and Silicon Valley. His central thesis is that the state has become too unmanageable, with 38 million Californians vying for attention from the state government in Sacramento.

Many have dismissed his proposal, but Draper thinks this is an idea whose time … Read more

Can a simple app really give you superhero sight?

Crazy-good vision sounds like something a character in a game might possess. But a researcher at the University of California at Riverside has invented an app that promises to bestow users with the gift of super-sight -- in real life.

Aaron Seitz, a UCR professor of psychology and developer of the Ultimeyes app, along with several colleagues, just published research in the journal Current Biology indicating that baseball players who used the Ultimeyes app for 30 25-minute sessions were able to improve their vision by an average of 31 percent. That's impressive enough, but what's truly amazing is that some players saw their vision go beyond normal 20/20 to 20/7.5, meaning they could see at 20 feet what someone with normal vision couldn't see beyond 7.5 feet.

The best part of the news? While the researchers tested the app on baseball players, who can obviously benefit from being able to see a flyball clearly, anyone can download and use the app by visiting the Ultimeyes Web site, which I did. … Read more

Proposed bill would require kill switch in Calif. phones, tablets

California regulators are stepping up their efforts to deter smartphone theft.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, and other regulators will introduce a bill on Friday that would require smartphones and tablets sold in the state to have software that would completely disable the device if stolen, a concept often referred to as a "kill switch." If passed, the bill would go into effect for any device sold after January 1, 2015.

The bill is the latest step taken by regulators to force more aggressive action to crack down on theft. The … Read more

California may give tax breaks to SpaceX, other space travel firms

Commercial space-exploration companies may end up with a big tax break if they call California their home.

The state Assembly passed a bill Wednesday that would exempt private-sector space-travel companies such as SpaceX from paying property taxes on their spacecrafts and properties, a potential boost to help offset the costs of running their expensive missions.

The 10-year exemption would be part of an overarching effort by lawmakers to bring new life to California's aerospace industry.

"With this bill, California can incubate and grow this exciting new industry and create thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs right here in … Read more

Test driving the Audi ERL tech of tomorrow, today

This week, we paid a visit to Audi's Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in northern California. Rather, it paid a visit to us, bringing along its Audi Urban Intelligence Assist demo vehicle to San Francisco and taking me for a spin.

The Audi Urban Intelligence Assist (AUIA) vehicle is, essentially, an Audi A6 3.0T that has been outfitted as a test bed for a variety of technologies being developed by Audi ERL and its partners at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at San Diego, and the Center for Advanced Transportation Technologies at USC. During … Read more

Sheer genius: Silicon Valley as a separate state

I'm going to give you a choice.

You can have all the nerds or all the wine.

Come on, you've only got 30 seconds to decide.

No, I haven't already hit the Christmas cabernet franc. Instead, I've merely been bathing in the frank proposal to split California into six separate states.

As TechCrunch reported Thursday night, this marvel is the brain offspring of venture capitalist Tim Draper. And truly, it's an excellent idea.

Living in Northern California, it's hard for us to accept that we're lumped together with the likes of, for example, … Read more