Tag Archive: everyday tech

Apr 12 2016

WaitButWhy and Iron Man

Really first class article about Elon Musk, Tesla, SpaceX, energy use, and the future of the world.

So on my visit to California, I had two goals in mind: to understand as best I could what Musk and his teams were working on so feverishly and why it mattered so much, and to try to gain insight into what it is that makes him so capable of changing the world.

Elon Musk: The World’s Raddest Man

Jan 04 2016

Glorious exhibit of the quest to determine longitude at sea

In many ways, this was the space program of the 18th century. The current exhibit at Mystic Seaport is glorious and mesmerizing.

For centuries, longitude (east-west position) was a matter of life and death at sea. Ships that went off course had no way to re-discover their longitude…With life-changing sums of money on offer, the challenge became the talk of London’s 18th-century coffee houses and captured the imaginations and talents of astronomers, skilled artisans, politicians, seamen, and satirists; many of whom came up with ingenious methods and instruments designed to scoop the Board of Longitude’s tantalizing rewards and transform seafaring navigation forever.

The H3 timekeeper

 

Ships, Clocks & Stars

Aug 08 2014

Why I quit Amazon

I submitted this as feedback on my Amazon account today.

I’ve been a long-time Amazon customer, since 1997 in fact, and have purchased thousands of dollars and dozens of items from you in the last 17 years. I’ve always been pleased with the utility of your website and the ease of purchasing books, music, and other products.

Over the years, I have unhappily noted that small bookshops have disappeared throughout the country, with rare exceptions. This saddened me, since book browsing has always been one of my favorite pastimes; however, I also whole-heartedly embraced the digital revolution, and I recognized this loss as a disheartening consequence.

So I am not just disheartened, but dismayed, that Amazon has elected recently to impede the sales of books from Hachette. Amazon’s appeal to me was not simply that it could send hard-to-find books quickly; it was that it was open-handed and its reach enabled it to find almost any book I needed. Now, however, by limiting or blocking Hachette’s catalogue, I see that this is not true. Worse, Amazon has chosen to do this even as it has driven most of its competition out of business; it is almost impossible for me to now go to a bookstore to find unusual books, since they simply can’t afford to compete with you and maintain such an inventory. So Amazon, by blocking Hachette, has not simply interjected its self-interest into its own marketplace, but has in effect has blocked me from finding Hachette titles anywhere.

This is an unfriendly act to the Hachette authors and overall publishing industry. But it is also an unfriendly act to me, as a customer of Amazon. However easy and effortless purchasing on the Amazon website might be, it is useless if the book or other product I want isn’t there.

So, whoever in the vast organization of Amazon is reading this, I am hereby informing you as one of your millions of customers that I will no longer turn to Amazon first for book or other purchases. Instead, I will be looking for small bookstores or local vendors. And if that should fail, I will seek other website vendors who may offer those products. Amazon will be my last, rather than first, choice going forward. Competition is a wonderful thing, and your actions regarding Hachette have reminded me to patronize your competitors as a way of ensuring that my freedom to find and purchase what I want in the future is protected.

Update: this issue was resolved, although Amazon’s policies toward booksellers and others remains troubling. That said, I have set up an Amazon Smile charity, to which Amazon will donate a small portion of every purchase I make, as a small way to offset Amazon’s negative impact on small businesses and independent contractors.

Oct 25 2013

Interactive clothing

Imagine clothes that change their look depending upon your mood – or the mood of your friend. Then read about Cute Circuit.

In 2002, Cute Circuit released a shirt allowing two people to send each other hugs in different places. After getting a notification on their phone, the hug-receiver, who is ideally always near his hug shirt, puts on the garment. When they put on the shirt, the hug is awaiting them. The shirt then begins vibrating warmly, tightening around them. Each hug is personalized by the hug sender’s grip and the amount of time they held on to their own hug shirt. [Cute Circuit article]

Feb 16 2013

Steve + Steve + blue box = …

This is beyond funny. The phone phreak subculture of the 1970s ended up changing the entire world, much like the model railroad club at MIT did.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s “eureka!” moment @ Salon.com

Oct 13 2012

When you can’t find your way home…

Try a pair of GPS shoes.

Dominic Wilcox GPS Shoes

Oct 02 2012

The patent mess: why and how

Everyone who even occasionally reads about the endless rounds of high-dollar patent litigation (think Apple vs. Samsung) or the abuse of purchased patents by shell companies with no business other than to carpet-bomb an industry with patent claims (“trolling”) knows that the patent system has seriously broken over the last 30 years. Processes and methods that were never considered patentable before suddenly were, and have spawned an enormous legal industry generating billions of dollars in claims and counterclaims. Small entrepreneurs face the impossible task of determining, before they even begin shipping a product, whether they might violate some obscure patent somewhere, even one that may not yet have been granted, but which could put the company out of business overnight.

Last year a little-known software company, which had licensed to Apple a patented software component for use in Apple’s developer tools, then sued a number of small independent developers for using those tools from Apple, claiming that each and every one of them needed its own license. But the tools came from Apple which of course already had a license. This would be like licensing a car company to use a new kind of windshield wiper — and then requiring every buyer of those cars to get a license, too.

How did we get to this absurd state, where lawyers effectively beat down innovation and claim patents for shapes and clicks? Because one court with enormous power decided to turn a hundred years of patent precedent on its head. Here’s the story.

How a rogue appeals court wrecked the patent system

Sep 24 2012

IFTTT

Do you need to get a call when someone tweets? Or have your house email you when it detects someone inside? Then you need duct tape for the Internet: About IFTTT.

May 18 2012

Strong passwords that aren’t passwords

Creating usable passwords that resist cracking and yet are memorable is becoming an increasing burden, given how many sites, devices, and messaging systems we all now use. The trick is not to use a password, but a passphrase, and to encode it with symbols, not merely numbers and letters. It’s longer to type but by that very nature far harder to break. Consumer Reports has a short article on this very point, with some interesting tips.

How to create a strong password (and remember it).

Apr 17 2012

Arduino: control your world

I’ve been waiting for device control as the next big wave of home computing: tie the brains of the ubiquitous computer to the electrical and electronic tools that surround us, such as HVAC systems, telephone systems, lighting, etc. But to my surprise there’s been little of this to emerge, other than limited systems like X10.

But now there’s an open source effort to provide cheap generic microcontrollers that can be easily programmed in a kind of homebrew fashion, coming out of Italy of all places.

Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. It’s an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board.

Arduino

via Arduino – Introduction.

Apr 13 2012

Charleston’s tiniest house

The tiniest house in Charleston, SC, at Reid and America. Known as the “House of the Future” (eek), it was designed by David Hammons as an art entry for the 1991 Spoleto Festival. It’s maintained by the contractor to this day. Keep your elbows in.

via charleston sc – Google Maps.

Apr 09 2012

Kitchen tricks

Love it. Squeeze pancake batter from a ketchup bottle, decant wine in a blender, and peel garlic by just smashing it. Elegant? No. Right to the point? You bet.

Top 10 Crazy Kitchen Tricks That Speed Up Your Cookingvia Top 10 Crazy Kitchen Tricks That Speed Up Your Cooking

Mar 19 2012

Shoelace breaking and entering…

Nov 14 2010

Cellphones and cancer

Apple, for example, doesn’t want iPhones to come closer than 5/8 of an inch; Research In Motion, BlackBerry’s manufacturer, is still more cautious: keep a distance of about an inch.

via Cellphones and Cancer – A Far-From-Settled Issue – NYTimes.com

Sep 27 2010

Segway company owner dies driving segway off cliff

Oh, for God’s sake. Did he really? Yes, he really.

Aug 01 2010

Rape charges dropped after deleted messages recovered

In what may be the first time an iPhone’s elephantine memory has saved someone accused of a serious crime, deleted data retrieved by a leading surveillance expert appears to have led to the dropping of five rape charges against a Sydney man.

via Rape charges dropped after deleted messages recovered from iPhone.

Aug 01 2010

World’s largest skateboard on a suicidal mission

A helluva ride with no seatbelts. Beats my Porsche.

worlds largest skateboard

Jun 28 2010

Decorking in an emergency

Opening wine with a shoe…

and opening Champagne with a sword.

May 09 2009

Roomba’s pathways

roomba-movements

http://www.doobybrain.com/2009/05/08/long-exposure-shows-roomba-cleaning-path/

Apr 23 2009

Frog eats Christmas light, gets illuminated

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