Tag Archives: Technology

Google Glass Review: Functions and Flaws

There has been a lot of hype over one of Google’s latest gadgets – Google Glass. The multi-billion dollar company never fails to create huge excitement around their products, which is evident in this case by their impressive video trailer “How It Feels [through Glass]”

It’s easy to get really excited about Google Glass after watching something like this. The song alone almost makes you want to go ski-diving and start living a fuller life.

However, since Google Glass became available to more ordinary folk (at a price tag of $1500), several videos have since surfaced that highlight the inherent flaws in this technology. A Google Glass review by Engadget mentions some of these shortfalls.

Google Glass Review: Functions & Flaws

Google Glass Review - Sergey Brin (image: news.cnet.com)First and foremost, there are MAJOR concerns about privacy. Google Glass wearers could be filming you while in the bathroom or recording your daily movements. Stalking would be taken to a whole new level.

It is also not mentioned that Google Glass requires a wireless connection to your smartphone (which comes at an additional cost). Users have also reported that battery-life is really only a few hours and that the device needs to be charged often via a micro USB.

Functionality also seems to be quite limited with this early edition of Google Glass. You can’t browse webpages or make use of any apps at this point. What Google Glass does allow you to do is check weather forecasts, take pictures and videos (and share these), do basic searches, read and reply to emails or messages, hang out on Google+, get directions, tell you the time and respond to voice prompts. I’m sure there are a few more functions of Google Glass, but at this point, it is essentially a low-end smartphone for your face.

There’s no doubt that Google Glass will evolve into something more impressive over time, but it is also most likely that credit for this will be due to non-Google developers and rather users of the technology – a cheap and effective method of outsourcing. But at least Google has planted the seeds for a possible future behind a screen.

Article originally posted on cDs Global Blog


Does the Internet impair our ability to concentrate?

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ARGUMENT: The Internet impairs our ability to contemplate and concentrate for long, sustained periods of time

AN ex-colleague of mine (Ryan Calder) started an interesting debate about the Internet on Facebook. He was asking whether or not people thought that the Internet (and cyber culture in general) impairs our ability to concentrate. Some of the comments were quite interesting.

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Embracing Change

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THE world is changing pretty fast – exponentially in many cases, particularly in the technology and online industries. It’s natural for anyone, regardless of age or creed, to feel overwhelmed by the library­ of choice. Laptops, iPads, notebooks, Kindles, iPhones, netbooks, iPods and gaming consoles are all on offer under different brands and with varying specifications. This is failing to mention the infinite range of smartphones.

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Exponential Times in the Information Age

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EXPONENTIAL TIMES: Extra! Extra! Etc. Etc.

I TREATED myself with a NAG (New Age Gaming) magazine the other day, which came with a glossy-ink-scented E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) supplement. The accompanying DVD was also largely dedicated to E3 and consisted of around two hundred game videos, trailers and GameTrailers.com awards.

I do not work for NAG nor do I sell their magazines. I was merely mesmerized by how far gaming has come in the last few years. We are certainly living in exponential times with the bacterial-like spread of information and new technologies.

Gone are the days of chalkboards and letter posting in the developed world. The sale and consumption of hard-copy books is fast dwindling at the hand of the Kindle and other eReaders. If Wikipedia were to be published as a book it would be over two million pages long. There are now even babies in the world named “Facebook.”

Exponential Times in Gaming
3D graphics has reached a point beyond comprehension five years ago. The number of gaming devices and vibrating motion controllers on the market this year can have one gleefully immersed 24/7 if you have the time. The exponential rate at which new game titles are being released has made the task of writing letters to Santa quite a meticulous one.

Exponential Times in Social Media
In 2007, one out of every eight U.S. couples met online. It is now estimated to be one in five. When television first entered our lives it took 13 years to reach a target audience of 50 million. Facebook took just two years to get the same number of people on board its platform.

Greater than the exponential development of technology, is the exponential availability of information. It is estimated that a week’s worth of the New York Times contains more information that anyone living in the 18th century would have consumed in their entire lifetime. The amount of technical information available is more than double every two years.

Exponential Times in Education and Employment
This exponential growth of technology and information is changing the way children are educated. Students are now being prepared for jobs that don’t yet exist and being trained to use technologies that have not yet materialised. It has also been shown that students who are online tend to outperform those who receive more face-to-face education.

This is of course changing the way that people are employed globally. It is estimated that 95% of companies that are online today recruit people using LinkedIn; around the same percentage of businesses use social media for marketing purposes.

Exponential Times Year to Year
In 2008, more than 200 million cell phone calls were made every second. This has roughly tripled every 6 months since. In 2009, every minute or so, a day’s worth of video footage was uploaded to YouTube. In 2010, the number of Google searches completed every ten minutes could have powered Las Vegas for half an hour. This year there are roughly 80 million Farmville farmers versus the 1.5 million real farmers. The moment you’ve finished reading this, most of this information will be outdated.

Below are two of the videos where you can find this information as well as more and more and more…

Exponential Times in 2008

Exponential Times in 2011

Whittle jet engine and how a plane flies

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FRANK WHITTLE: Genius inventor of the jet engine

IT’S quite amazing to consider that we are able to fly. We have built huge, metal birds they are able to take up to 800 people 11 000 metres above the ground without flapping their wings. Granted that aeroplanes are by no means perfect; but having achieved flight, and moreover being able to launch rockets into space, is certainly an achievement to be proud of. And it’s all thanks to the turbojet engine, or rather the man behind its invention.

Whenever one thinks of flight, the immediate names and imagery that might pop into one’s head are those of the Wright Brothers. Media coverage of such events, and consequently their recording into the history books, has a lot to do with that. History tends to neglect those without the proper status, family background or financial backing. In fact, the working class genius that thrust Britain firmly into the jet age was largely ignored by the British government and air ministry. They didn’t even bother to send a cameraman to the first (and successful) test flight of Britain’s first jet.

Frank Whittle (born 1907) is the genius to thank for our modern day aviation industry. Whittle began working as a fitter for the RAF (Royal Air Force) at the age of 16. Soon after he was air-born and performing stunt shows for the public. At 21 Whittle wrote a thesis titled Future Developments in Aircraft Design, in which he foresaw the entire future of flight. At 22, Whittle took out a patent for a jet turbine. He was also given a model aeroplane at age 4.

What made Frank Whittle’s jet engine unique is that it consisted of only one moving part – as opposed to the hundreds of moving parts used in conventional piston engines. Whittle’s piston-less jet engine also had no propeller, and drove planes through the air by thrust alone. Once patented and produced, Whittle’s remarkable engine successfully thrust Britain into the jet age and turned the aviation industry on its head.

The Airbus A380

The Airbus A380 – currently the largest passenger aeroplane in the world (image: wikipedia.org)

The Airbus A380 – currently the largest passenger aeroplane in the world (image: wikipedia.org)

How a jet engine works

The single moving part in a jet engine is the bladed turbine that spins at a remarkable speed and makes that familiar noise as a plane prepares for take-off. Air is sucked in and accelerated into large combustion chambers where fuel is injected and ignited. The ejection and burning of fuel heats and expands the air and gives it enough energy to drive the turbine. The turbine, in turn, accelerates the hot air at high ‘jet speed’ providing enough thrust to drive an aeroplane forward.

Actually getting into the air and staying there is all to do with working against opposing forces. It’s all a matter of lift versus weight and thrust versus drag. One also needs to consider the air as fluid – a sea of scattered water molecules that has density. In other words, an aeroplane sails across the sky rather than flies while a fish flies through the sea rather than swims. This is why it’s difficult to take off where the air is thin and why we should hope for a cold day whenever we fly.

It has to be said that Frank Whittle was a bit of an unapplauded genius. Being able to simplify a complex mechanism consisting of hundreds of moving parts into the single turbine jet engine, is nothing short of elegant. Being able to predict the next 50 years of an entire industry, is nothing short of visionary.

DTV: The Digital TV Transition

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DTV: The dawning of a new viewing era

WE are entering a new era of television­. With a boom in the sale of 3DTVs predicted for this year, and the switching from analogue­ to digital television now postponed until 2013, surely this signals that things can only get better. But what does it mean for the end user?

Some feel that before we had the chance to upgrade our sets to HD-ready TVs, out came 3D-ready ones. They may feel that they now need to purchase digital­-ready TVs.

Fortunately this isn’t quite the case. The analogue signal (which is transmitted in a similar manner to radio­) will eventually be phased out; but before that happens, TV viewers with analogue TVs will still be able to pick up digital broadcasts after installing a Set-Top-Box (STB). These convert digital signals into analogue signals so that they may be viewed on older, analogue­ TV sets.

The Digital TV Transition

(image: www.digitalproductionme.com)

“But what’s so great about going digital?” I hear you shout. The format and efficiency of digital broadcasts over analogue­ ones not only offer better picture and sound quality, but also frees up space on the broadcasting spectrum — allowing broadcasters to offer far more channels than before.

“DTV (digital television) also offers multiple programming choices, called multicasting, and interactive capabilities. Also, some of the spectrum can now be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).” — www.dtv.gov

So in a nutshell, more channel choices­ with better quality broadcasts and even more interactive shows will be an offer with DTV. It has also been mentioned that the number of local SABC channels will increase from three to more than 10.

So while we may not need to upgrade our boxes in order to view digital broadcasts, if we wish to enjoy the full benefits of digital TV, including improved picture and sound quality, we will need to by entirely new TV sets. The same applies if we wish to enjoy HD, Blue-Ray or 3D broadcasts. We may be able to view them, but not at the quality in which they were intended.

The 3DTV Transition

So what of 3DTV? Being the new kid on the box, 3DTV broadcasts are still expensive to make and therefore expensive to view properly. Largely as a result of this, 3DTV has been separated into two categories — active and passive TV technology.

In both cases, 3D glasses are required to view 3DTV. However, with passive TV technology, one has to sit in a particular position without much leeway to move around in order to view the picture in 3D. The cheaper glasses essentially divide­ the image into two. A single frame is filtered for each eye. So essentially you are seeing the image at half its original resolution.

With active TV technology one wears independently powered 3D glasses. 3D images can be viewed from any angle which send out full frames on each eye sequentially, providing original picture quality at the full 100% resolution. It’s a no-brainer which TV technology is the more expensive one.

It’s difficult to say when would be a good time to upgrade one’s TV set given the circumstances. Like personal computers, televisions are becoming as quickly replaced by new technologies. The only advice I can give is start saving now.

THE difference between analog TV and digital TV has its roots in the way the TV signal is transmitted or transferred from the source to the TV, which, in turn, dictates the type of TV the consumer needs to use to receive the signal. This also applies to the way a DTV converter box has to transfer a signal to an analog TV, which is important for those consumers who use DTV converters to receive TV programming on an analog TV set. – About.com

A tribute to Jean Pain and Solar Impulse

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I WAS thrilled to hear that the world’s first fully solar powered aircraft, Solar Impulse, successfully completed its first international flight last week. The Swiss solar powered aircraft flew for a full 13 hours from Payerne to Brussels without using a single drop of fuel. Granted that the aircraft is slow moving (with a top speed of around 50 km/h), Solar Impulse represents an astonishing feat of engineering and shows just how much can be achieved with renewable technology. Gizmag.com suggests that we may even look back on this period as a “Wright brothers moment” in the history of aviation.

According to Gizmag: “A rough calculation tells us that a Boeing 747 would have used around 7 570 litres of fuel to make the same trip. Of course it’s not much of a comparison when you consider that a commercial airliner can carry hundreds of people, but one can’t help but think that the seeds of a new era are being sewn. Solar Impulse is powered by 4×10 horsepower electric engines, the Wright brothers had 12 horsepower at their disposal when they flew at Kitty Hawk in 1903.”

We should not neglect these significant moments in history. It brings to mind the ecological work done by a Frenchman who died in 1981. My attention was drawn to this great innovator by a contact living in Russia who happened across a video made by some permaculture students living in New Zealand. Ah, the joys of Facebook!

Jean Pain (1930-1981) was a self-taught organic gardener, forester, and biotechnologist who developed a compost-based bio-energy system that produced 100% of his energy needs. It can be argued that he was a genius ahead of his time, as three decades later we continue to develop efficient bio-energy systems with new technologies that are as efficient. Pain’s work is certainly worth celebrating, so I wish to offer this as a tribute to the great man.

The Jean Pain Method

"This power plant supplies all a rural household’s energy needs. It is a mound of tiny brushwood pieces (three metres high and six across). This compost mound is made of tree limbs and pulverized underbrush. The 50 ton compost is in a steel tank with a capacity of four cubic metres. It is three-fourths full of the same compost, which has first been steeped in water for two months. The tank is hemetically sealed, but is connected by a tubing of 24 truck tyre inner tubes, banked near by a reservoir for the methane gas produced as the compost ferments" — www.daenvis.org

"This power plant supplies all a rural household’s energy needs. It is a mound of tiny brushwood pieces (three metres high and six across). This compost mound is made of tree limbs and pulverized underbrush. The 50 ton compost is in a steel tank with a capacity of four cubic metres. It is three-fourths full of the same compost, which has first been steeped in water for two months. The tank is hemetically sealed, but is connected by a tubing of 24 truck tyre inner tubes, banked near by a reservoir for the methane gas produced as the compost ferments" — http://www.daenvis.org

The method of creating usable energy from composting materials has come to be known as the Jean Pain Method. By distilling methane, Pain was able to run an electricity generator, fuel his truck and power all his electric appliances. Pain lived on a 241-hectare timber farm, so had free access to the raw materials needed to produce energy.

Pain essentially constructed a compost power plant (of his own design) using brushwood and pulverized underbrush, which supplied 100% of his and his wife’s household energy needs. Pain estimated that 10 kilos of brushwood would supply the gas equivalent of a litre of petrol.

Jean PainPain spent considerable attention developing prototypes of machines required to macerate small tree trunks and limbs; one of these, a tractor-driven model, was awarded fourth prize in the 1978 Grenoble Agricultural Fair, according to Wikipedia.

When compost decomposes or ferments it produces heat. By burying 200 metres of pipe within a large compost mound, Pain was able to heat four litres of water a minute to 60 degrees Celsius. A sizeable compost heap continues to ferment for 18 months, after which the installation is dismantled, the humus is used to mulch and fertilise soils, and a new compost system is erected.

Jean Pain’s methane generator took 90 days to produce 500 cubic metres of gas. However, this is enough to power two ovens and three burner stoves for a full year. Pain’s methane-fueled combustion also powered a generator which produced 100 watt-hours of electricity every hour. Pain was also able to store this current in an accumulative battery, which could be used to power lights.

The Jean Pain Method is an amazingly simple and incredibly inexpensive system of extracting both energy and fertiliser from plant life. Pain worked within the balance of nature to become truly self sufficient. May history honour his memory.