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Repetition, it’s been said, is a sign of persistence and dedication. It’s also a sign of insanity. That’s where HTC is right now and, while it would be a fine place to be if there was no strong competition in the smartphone market (just ask Samsung), it’s not a great position for a company facing Xiaomi and other smartphone players on the prowl.

And repetition is what you get when you pick up the HTC One M9. It’s an iterative improvement on the M8, very handsome and well-built. It’s not extremely expensive — $649 unlocked and about $199 on most carriers with contract — but it’s not the cheapest phone out there. In short, it’s a middle-of-the-road model facing some real competition. The 20-megapixel main camera is slightly better than the predecessor but still nothing particularly special. Gesture features like a “tap to wake” and “turn to activate camera” make the thing a bit easier to use.

Battery life was about 11 hours. It remained powered and on standby for a full day and a half, much to my surprise. Call quality and network were fine in New York and New Orleans. The camera, as we can see below, takes great macro shots as well as acceptable selfies and wide shots. The shooting modes – including many face improvement features (which I need) – are an added bonus.

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For years, the United States has had an on again off again love affair with the idea of a la carte television -- or the ability to purchase only the channels you want to watch. After a ten-year debate, "common wisdom" appears to have largely decided against the idea, the public buying into the cable industry's argument that selling channels individually would: a) kill niche television channels and b) drive up the cost of cable. Of course, the cost of cable TV is climbing skyward anyway, and the Internet has become the perfect place for those niche channels to flee to. Frankly, I've always wondered "why the hesitation" when it comes to blowing up a sector in such dire need of meaningful disruption, and the arguments against a la carte have always seemed flimsy to me.

Thankfully, Canada has decided to go ahead and play the guinea pig for us in terms of exploring what an a la carte future would look like. After holding fifteen months of consumer hearings and waiting for years unsuccessfully for more flexible pricing options, Canadian regulatory agency the CRTC has decided to force the issue. The CRTC this week issued a ruling requiring not only that Canadian cable operators provide a discount $25 entry level core TV tier, but that above that, users are allowed to pick channels a la carte. In a statement, the CRTC explained it this way:

"Canadians, who choose to do so, will be able to supplement the entry-level television service by buying individual channels that will be available either on a pick-and-pay basis or through small, reasonably priced packages. If they so choose, they will have the option of selecting theme-based packages—such as sports, lifestyle or comedy—offered by their service providers. By December 2016, Canadians will be able to subscribe to channels on a pick-and-pay basis, as well as in small packages. In addition, Canadians will have the choice of keeping their current television services without making any changes, if these continue to meet their needs and budgets."
Of course, the ruling is being met with all manner of hand-wringing from opponents of a la carte and the cable industry about how this is going to "destroy television as we know it." Canadian media has been flooded all week with stories about how this will only drive up costs, confuse consumers, harm the TV industry, result in cats and dogs sleeping together, and generally just wreak havoc on the TV ecosystem. Except, Canadian law professor Michael Geist points out that if you look past this breathy doomsday analysis in the press and actually ask real analysts, they point out the idea will probably save consumers money:
"Maher Yaghi of Desjardins Capital Markets says the changes could “lead to a reduction of $5 to $10 in monthly [revenue per user] as customers get the option to choose the channels they want to watch and move discretionary money toward OTT (over-the-top) services such as Netflix." Canaccord Genuity analyst Dvai Ghose suggests even bigger declines of $9 to $21 for some customers. In fact, Ghose notes that “current entry-level TV monthly prices for the large BDUs are as follows: Bell Fibe TV $45.95, Rogers Cable $40.48, Shaw $39.90 and Videotron $38.00 and Telus $34.00 ($29.00 if bundled).” A $25 service is obviously going to result in reduced spending for those consumers."
So yes, the claim that we should avoid a la carte TV because it will make TV bundles -- already seeing hikes many times the rate of inflation -- more expensive is just silly. So are the claims that forcing more flexible channel bundles on cable operators will somehow destroy quality television ("people will stop creating art if you don't help prop up our failing business model" has long been an entertainment industry rallying cry). While there are a few folks in the media who seem to get it, there's been a strange, overarching gushing adoration of the much-hated channel bundle in the media that's rather inexplicable, and in no way really tied to what consumers actually want. "Be careful what you wish for," the media logic seems to go, "or you'll pay a lot of money for cable television!" they bizarrely warn.

Canadian cable operators obviously weren't happy with the decision, but Canadian telco Bell apparently thought it would be a really good idea to ignore its editorial firewall, and "punish" the CRTC by pettily refusing to show CRTC chief Jean-Pierre Blais on bell-owned CTV:

"Mr. Crull became angry with the CRTC’s so-called pick-and-pay decision last week.According to sources close to the network who spoke on condition of anonymity, Mr. Crull directed senior news staff at CTV, the country’s largest private broadcaster, to exclude Mr. Blais from coverage of the story on Bell-owned networks. The ruling will give consumers more freedom to choose individual TV channels as part of cable and satellite subscriptions, but it could also affect Bell’s bottom line."
After taking a media beating, Bell Media President Kevin Crull was forced to issue a mealy mouthed mea culpa stating he'd "learned a valuable lesson" about editorial control and really dumb decisions. Of course, Bell continues to insist the CRTC's move will only raise rates for consumers. Because, you know, cable TV rates weren't increasing under the current pay TV bundle model -- and keeping consumer prices low is every giant cable operator's top priority.

Meanwhile, those who've been claiming that a la carte TV will somehow destroy television as we know it now have an interesting petri dish to keep an eye on in Canada. Of course it's very possible the regulations are awful or at the very least accomplish nothing. I think one fair point made is the people most attracted to this "skinny bundle" may have already moved on to cheaper streaming options. Still, the CRTC has made it clear that after fifteen months of public hearings, this is what Canadian consumers have told them they want.

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After being rebuffed by U.S. regulator reticence, Amazon is now engaged in testing its drone delivery services in British Columbia, just north of the U.S. border in Canada, on a piece of land dotted with oak trees and firs, the Guardian reports. The ecommerce company is using the test field to trial drones weighing under 55 lbs carrying packages ranging up to 5 lbs, flying through airspace of between 200 and 500 fat speeds of up to 50mph.

It’s happening here, and not 2,000 ft to the south, because the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority, has been dragging its heels on green lighting testing in Washington on existing Amazon company property. Last week, the FAA did finally relent and approve experimental testing for Amazon, but the company responded (with no small amount of evident pique) by noting that the actual drone approved from testing was a prototype that has since become obsolete thanks to more recent technical advances.

In Canada, by contrast, Amazon endured only a single three-week licensing undertaking, after which it has received what the Guardian says is essentially “carte blanche” permissions regarding its full fleet of drones for testing. Of course, one could argue that given Canada’s much, much lower population density and less charged political climate, comparing the FAA’s responsibilities with those of its equivalent body in Transport Canada from the neighbor to the north is essentially comparing apples to oranges.

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knwny points out this lofty proposed power plan in China. "The battle to dispel smog, cut greenhouse gases and solve the energy crisis is moving to space. If news reports are to be believed, Chinese scientists are mulling the construction of a solar power station in a geosynchronous orbit 36,000 kilometres above ground. The electricity generated would be converted to microwaves or lasers and transmitted to a collector on Earth. If realized, it will surpass the scale of the Apollo project and the International Space Station and be the largest-ever space project."
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Amazon has officially introduced Amazon Home Services, as TechCrunch reported it would last week, the marketplace for professional services including things like TV installation, house cleaning, waiting, plumbing, electrical work and more. The home services category originally soft-launched in limited beta last year, before going wide today with 700 different services on tap, and availability in 41 U.S. states, instead of just in four main metro hubs.

The Home Services category is designed to make ordering things like home entertainment centre specialists as easy as ordering up an HDMI cable, with Amazon shouldering the brunt of more difficult tasks like doing background checks and making sure pros are properly insured for their industry. Amazon also guarantees service satisfaction, offering a re-do or a refund in cases where customers aren’t satisfied, and provides reviews from verified customers, meaning you’ll know the people who are rating services actually paid for and used them.

Amazon is working directly with local service providers, but also with existing service marketplace providers like TaskRabbit, as we reported it would. The arrangement allows Amazon to cover a much wider breadth of service than it might otherwise, and could help startups reach a more mainstream audience than they might’ve been able to before.

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HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports that the Secret Service is recruiting some of its best athletes to serve as pretend fence jumpers at a rural training ground outside Washington in a program to develop a new fence around the White House that will keep intruders out without looking like a prison. Secret Service officials acknowledge that they cannot make the fence foolproof; that would require an aesthetically unacceptable and politically incorrect barrier. Prison or Soviet-style design is out, and so is anything that could hurt visitors, like sharp edges or protuberances. Instead, the goal is to deter climbers or at least delay them so that officers and attack dogs have a few more seconds to apprehend them. In addition, there might be alterations to the White House grounds but no moat, as recently suggested by Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee. "When I hear moat, I think medieval times," says William Callahan, assistant director for the office of protective operation at the Secret Service.

The Times also reports that the Secret Service wants to spend $8 million to build a detailed replica of the White House in Beltsville, Maryland to aid in training officers and agents to protect the real thing. "Right now, we train on a parking lot, basically," says Joseph P. Clancy, the director of the Secret Service. "We put up a makeshift fence and walk off the distance between the fence at the White House and the actual house itself. We don't have the bushes, we don't have the fountains, we don't get a realistic look at the White House." The proposed replica would provide what Clancy describes as a "more realistic environment, conducive to scenario-based training exercises," for instructing those who must protect the president's home. It would mimic the facade of the White House residence, the East and West Wings, guard booths, and the surrounding grounds and roads. The request comes six months after an intruder scaled a wrought-iron fence around the White House and ran through an unlocked front door of the residence and into the East Room before officers tackled him.

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Amazon has long sold you products. Now it wants to help you fix your sink, clean your home and mount your TV, too. Four months after the e-commerce behemoth quietly began posting listings for services such as TV installations, Amazon is formally announcing the new category of listings in partnership with companies such as TaskRabbit, Pep Boys and TakeLessons. The move into services will pit Amazon against companies such as Angie’s List, Craigslist and a host of startups, though none have become the mainstream, go-to destination for home services.

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Pebble Time breaks Kickstarter record with over $20 million raised

Pebble won record support from the Kickstarter crowdfunding community in its second trip to the well, for its next-generation Pebble Time smartwatch, CNN Money reports. It raised $20.3 million from 78,463 people in a campaign ended Friday, making it the most-funded Kickstarter campaign ever by a $7 million margin. When it ships in May, the device will go up against the Apple Watch but offer a week between battery charges (rather than a day) and a lower price of $199.

Tim Cook speaks out against “religious freedom” laws

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Posted by on in RE/Code

Read more Re/code Daily here!
Your friends can also receive Re/code Daily! They can sign-up for FREE here.

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G20All smiles at the G20 Summit.

Image: AP Images/Associated Press

That damn autofill.

The Guardian has revealed, an unidentified officer at the Australian immigration department accidentally emailed personal details of world leaders to the wrong person ahead of the G20 Summit in Brisbane in November, 2013.

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The MGM trademark lion, Leo, famously roars at the beginning of every MGM film. In fact, "Leo" has not been one lion but seven, starting with "Slats" the lion from 1917 to 1928. An actual lion named Leo roared from 1957 to the present day.

"Jackie," born in 1915, was the second MGM lion and the first celebrated roar. The roar was recorded separately and then married to a film of Jackie roaring, with Jackie's head in a frame to give a black surround. The final product was first used in MGM's first sound production, White Shadows in the South Seas (1928). The sound was provided to the studio microphone by a gramophone record.

It is Jackie and his roar that is seen in sepia at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz (1939). As well as being MGM's living logo, Jackie's also appeared in over 100 films, including several Tarzan movies.  

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Jetblue1A JetBlue airplane taxis to park at a gate at Logan Airport, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Boston.

JetBlue has a lot of angry customers Monday after a system-wide outage left travellers grounded in several airports.

Responding to frustrated passengers on Twitter at around 6am ET, JetBlue said it was working quickly to get things back up and running.

@scottwax The outage is system-wide, Scott. We're working as quickly as we can to get it back up and running. Thanks for your patience.

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It's no secret that many companies monitor their employees' computer use. But things are going much further than simply ensuring the normal "don'ts" -- file sharing, porn viewing, etc. -- are tracked for disciplinary reasons. Companies are now on the lookout for the next "insider threat." Some companies are viewing the Snowden saga as the ultimate cautionary tale, albeit one that results in more surveillance rather than less. (via Dealbreaker)

Guarding against such risks is an expanding niche in the security industry, with at least 20 companies marketing software tools for tracking and analyzing employee behavior. “The bad guys helped us,” says Idan Tendler, the founder and chief executive officer of Fortscale Security in San Francisco. “It started with Snowden, and people said, ‘Wow, if that happened in the NSA, it could happen to us.’ ”
But the effort to find -- and prevent -- the next "insider threat" from damaging his or her company seems to be just as misguided as the government's efforts to do the same. Looking for potential threats often results in viewing almost everything as an indicator of future treachery.

One company cited "changes in email habits" as being indicative of an "insider threat." Others, like Stroz Friedberg, aren't as selective. The company, started by former FBI agent Edward Stroz, veers into the same dangerous territory the government does when rooting out "threats." In its hands, normal activities are viewed with suspicion by its monitoring software.

The software establishes a base line and then scans for variations that may signal that an employee presents a growing risk to the company. Red flags could include a spike in references to financial stresses such as “late rent” and “medical bills.”
And what better way to tackle "late rent" or "medical bills" than suddenly finding yourself unemployed simply because re-purposed FBI analytic software thinks any small sign of (possibly temporary) financial instability indicates your next move will be to steal something. Millions of people in the US deal with these realities frequently -- especially the latter. And yet, millions of employees still find other ways to tackle these problems instead of dipping their hands in the tills or running off with sensitive documents.

Stroz's software also thinks -- like the government -- that an unhappy employee is a malicious employee.

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Here's one more secret to help your PowerPoint slides sell. You always need good, well-written content, engaging graphics, and chic animations. Now, add some flashy text to that mix—judiciously—to give your ideas more sizzle. 

Special effects in PowerPoint are minimal, but you can combine effects to create some interesting visuals. Although not really classified as effects, the Text and Outline Fill provide several options such as Solid colors, Gradients, Pictures or Textures, and Patterns to get you started.

Open a template or a blank presentation. If blank, choose a background color, gradient, texture, or image. (Note: The fonts have been sized at 200 points for these exercises, so the effects can be easily viewed on smaller screens.)

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It's easy to forget about the nondescript search box—you know, Google search on Android devices or "Spotlight" search in iOS—that sits on the home screens of our smartphones and tablets.

Indeed, the little Google search box has been there so long, I've ceased to even see it. Spotlight search on the iPhone and iPad fares worse, given that it's completely hidden until you give your home screen a downward tug.

That's too bad, given that Google and Spotlight search are two of the best time-saving tools on your Android or iOS device.

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What Really Happens When Someone Enters the Witness Protection Program

Born of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, and the brainchild of longtime Department of Justice attorney, Gerald Shur, the U.S. Marshall Service Witness Security Program (WITSEC) has successfully protected more than 18,000 people since it first began operations in 1971.

Membership in the witness protection program is typically for life, and usually begins with a visit from U.S. marshals, whether anticipated or not. While many of the witnesses and their family members have time to make the decision and prepare for their new lives, others are forced to choose rather quickly. Even occasionally having to leave within moments of the marshals arriving.

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An anonymous reader writes Ars is running a story about the new all-electric racing car series first visit to the U.S.. "The pit lane we're standing in is unusual, and not only because it's a temporary setup placed in the shadow of American Airlines Arena (home of the NBA's Miami Heat). Garages are set up on both sides rather than being limited to one. A few things also appear to be missing. To start, a familiar smell from the usual mix of burning hydrocarbons is absent. And it's remarkably quiet. The occasional impact wrench bursts out in a mechanical staccato, generators drone here and there, but there are no V8s burbling, no V6s screaming....Welcome to Formula E, the world's first fully electric racing series. Miami is playing host to the first of two US rounds—the next being held in Long Beach, CA, on April 4—and it's the fifth race in this ePrix's inaugural season. Given we've got a bit of a thing about racing at Cars Technica, as well as an obvious interest in electric vehicles, we had to be on the ground in Miami to experience this for ourselves."
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Solar Impulse Just Took Off in the Dark to Head from Mandalay to China

Early this morning, Solar Impulse took off form Mandalay, headed to toward China—after more than a week spent waiting in Myanmar for weather conditions to improve for flight.

Expected to be one of the most difficult legs of the airplane's round-the-world journey, this part of the trip will see cabin temperatures drop to -20 degrees Celsius as the aircraft passes over the mountains in the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. At points, pilot Bertrand Piccard will have to use additional oxygen in the unpressurized craft. The route, which should see the airplane tracel around 850 miles, should take around 18 hours. [Solar Impulse, PhysOrg]

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NSA Considered Ending Phone Spying Before the Edward Snowden Leaks

A new report by the Associated Press suggests that the National Security Agency mulled the possibility of abandoning its phone surveillance program just before the Edward Snowden's leaks—though ultimately the suggestion didn't progress fast enough.

The report explains that some officials at the NSA "believed the costs outweighed the meager counterterrorism benefits" that the program offered. Those internal critics pointed to ever-increasing costs of recording and storing information from phone calls which weren't successfully uncovering evidence of terrorism. Understandably, they also "worried about public outrage if the program ever was revealed," points out the AP.

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If you thought Lincoln Motor Company made cars exclusively for real estate agents and Matthew McConaughey, you were very wrong. It has just unveiled a hulking new Continental Concept, which will pave the way for future tarmac terrors (not a spelling error) in the years to come.

Lincoln says the new full-size sedan signals what’s coming from the brand next year. It also boasts that the car has meticulous craftsman ship and, importantly, technology at its core.

What kind of tech you ask? Well, let’s start on the outside where the Continental shines bright with LED matrix headlamps with laser-assisted high beams and light-through-chrome (whatever that is) tail lamps.

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Posted by on in CNET

coachella.jpgCoachella image by Jason Persse, CC BY-SA 2.0

If you're all amped up for the American music festival season, it's a good idea to brush up on what you're allowed to take in -- this year both Coachella (Indio, California, April 10-12, 17-19) and Lollapalooza (Grant Park, Chicago, July 31-August 2) have banned the divisive selfie stick.

According to Coachella's Rules and Policies, there are to be "no selfie sticks/narcissistics" brought into the festival on the two weekends on which it is to take place, while Lollapalooza's FAQ notes that "GoPro attachments like sticks, selfie sticks & monopods" are not allowed.

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In an editorial published by The Washington Post on Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook comes down hard on a spate of U.S. legislation he believes enables discrimination under the guise religious freedom.

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After posting a series of tweets on Friday speaking out against controversial laws in Indiana and Arkansas protecting "religious freedom," Cook went a step further and penned a scathing editorial condemning such legislation as "designed to enshrine discrimination in state law."

"Something very dangerous happening in states across the country," Cook writes, referring to a flood of new legislation some believe equates to government protection for discriminatory practices.

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Apple's Tim Cook is increasingly speaking out about social issues. James Martin/CNET

The United States is on the precipice of change, but Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, says it's not for the better.

His concern is a wave of pending legislation in more than two dozen states, mirroring Indiana's controversial new law that some fear will allow discrimination against lesbian, gay and transgendered people through what the state calls "religious freedom." The law, which was signed by Indiana's governor last week, declares that an action by state or local government may not "substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion."

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biphotonsymbolicrepresentation.jpgNeolexx

For the first time, quantum entanglement of a single particle has been observed by researchers -- an event that Albert Einstein believed to be impossible under the contemporary quantum mechanics definition of physical reality, calling it "spooky action at a distance".

According to theory, quantum entanglement occurs when a pair of particles remains connected over distance in such a way that actions performed on one particle also have an affect on the other.

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Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook grew more vocal in his fight for equal rights, turning to the editorial pages of the Washington Post to condemn a wave of new legislation that he said would enshrine discrimination.

Cook writes that the newly enacted Indiana Religious Restoration Act, which allows individuals to cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state non-discrimination law, is just one of more than two dozen similar pieces of legislation under consideration around the country.

Some are more overt than others, like the Texas law that would strip the salaries of clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, he writes. Others use religion to cloak discrimination.

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Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook grew more vocal in his fight for equal rights, turning to the editorial pages of the Washington Post to condemn a wave of new legislation that he said would enshrine discrimination.

Cook writes that the newly enacted Indiana Religious Restoration Act, which allows individuals to cite their personal religious beliefs to refuse service to a customer or resist a state non-discrimination law, is just one of more than two dozen similar pieces of legislation under consideration around the country.

Some are more overt than others, like the Texas law that would strip the salaries of clerks who issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, he writes. Others use religion to cloak discrimination.

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The iHeartRadio Music Awards were not exactly the Grammys (or even the VMAs), but that's okay because Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift had a great time entertaining each other.

Within moments of the award show starting Sunday night, Swift and Timberlake trolled the audience by having Justin pretend to accept Taylor's "Best Lyrics" award.

jt_taylor_swift

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The iHeartRadio Music Awards were not exactly the Grammys (or even the VMAs), but that's okay because Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift had a great time entertaining each other.

Within moments of the award show starting Sunday night, Swift and Timberlake trolled the audience by having Justin pretend to accept Taylor's "Best Lyrics" award.

jt_taylor_swift

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Efficient Housing Design Might Finally Be Catching On - Techlick Tech News - 24/7
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Efficient Housing Design Might Finally Be Catching On

The idea of passive housing — basically, well-insulated buildings that don't require a ton of energy to heat and cool — is certainly not a new one. Standards for passive housing have been around for 25 years in Europe, but they are only now starting to catch on stateside.

The New York Times has an excellent profile on the rise of the passive house in New York City that's worth a read. 'Catching on' is maybe an overstatement — according to the article, dozens of passive units have been built, but far more are under consideration.

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