Nikola Tesla’s 154th Birthday

Nikola Tesla was born on July 10th, 1856. Tesla is quite the fascinating figure in American history. Tesla was known for being an eccentric figure and brilliant inventor. Unfortunately he did not get credit for many of his inventions, and was often overshadowed by more well-known inventors of the time. His story is something of a sad one.

Born to Serbian parents in the Austrian Empire, Tesla became an American citizen at the age of 35 and lived much of his life in New York.

Some of his credits include breakthroughs in radio transmission, X-Ray technology and an alternating current electricity supply system. In his lifetime, Tesla acquired around 300 patents for his inventions. He spent a good portion of his life attempting to create an intercontinental wireless transmission, to no avail. He worked for some time under Thomas Edison, who he later accused of stealing his ideas and underpaying him.

He never married and had no documented relationships. While living in New York in the late 1800’s it has been documented that Tesla was a stylish figure, standing at 6’2, very thin and well-dressed; Tesla was considered to be well manicured and quite fashionable.

Tesla stated in numerous interviews that he rarely slept, and that he preferred short naps to an actual full night’s sleep, preferring instead to work late into the night.

In lieu of human companionship, Tesla took to feeding and caring for pigeons across the street from the New Yorker Hotel, where he lived for the last portion of his life. In his later years, Tesla hinted in his later years that he had regret about never marrying. There was a particular pigeon that he was fond of, and he was quoted as saying: “I have been feeding pigeons, thousands of them for years. But there was one, a beautiful bird, pure white with light grey tips on its wings; that one was different. It was a female. I had only to wish and call her and she would come flying to me. I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

In 1943 at the age of 86, Tesla died at the New Yorker Hotel. He was found by a hotel maid. At the time of his death Nikola Tesla was said to be penniless.



No Country for Dead Electronics

Planning on jet setting internationally anytime soon? Better charge your phone before you come home! TSA (Transportation Security Administration) announced this week that as an extra safety measure they have started regulating on “dead” cell phones that cannot be turned on at the airport security gate when flying into the US. TSA hasn’t released any information on why this new guideline has been set into motion, except that recently a possible security threat was suspected by the way of an electronic device. It sounds like the grumbling has already started amongst frequent flyers, naturally. People will miss flights if they have to leave their phones; visions of mass delays surely dancing in everyone’s head. While annoying, this is just another precaution to ensure a safe flight, and it seems like a small price to pay for peace of mind. I will gladly take off my shoes, charge my phone and bend over backwards if it means getting to my destination alive and well. It’s not like flying has been an enjoyable or relaxing experience for anyone in the last thirteen years.

Whether TSA will be providing chargers for dead electronics still remains to be seen. Most airports do have charging stations available, but usually they are located past the security checkpoint. And it seems like they are always in use. Waiting passengers will sit and hog up all the chargers until their phones and tablets are as juiced as they can get. I experienced this frustrating reality a few times at LAX and SFO when my phone died. During popular travel times it’s not uncommon to see throngs of people hovering over the charging stations, impatiently waiting their turn. Maybe this will finally set in motion the widespread use of wireless charging. Until all that gets sorted out, remember to keep your stuff charged up and alive before hitting the airport.

Rest in Peace, Plasma

The latest word on the street is that 2014 marks the death of plasma TV. All the biggest names are dropping plasma’s from their lines this year. Panasonic already quit production on them back around spring, Samsung just announced that they will halt their plasma manufacturing this November and TV giant LG will stop producing plasma TV’s later in the year. This news has a few plasma aficionados up in arms.

What’s the difference between plasma and an LCD TV? For starters, plasma was the first type of large-screen TV to hit the market; they were available for the masses to start purchasing back in 1994. Plasma TV’s are known for their rich colors, regardless of their size. They have the deepest black color depth, and best color contrast. This is the main area where plasma’s rule over LCD’s. Between the two, plasma color is unbeatable. They do however look best in rooms where there is lighting control. They should not be placed directly by a window or next to a bright light, as that can cause the most annoying glare. On the downside, plasma TV’s are also much heavier, which makes them harder to wall mount or move around. They also hit heavy in the power consumption department compared to the energy-efficient LCD TV.

LCD’s have gotten thinner, lighter and cheaper since they first hit the market back in the early 2000’s. Then LED-backlit LCD TV’s were released about five years back. This was the thinnest TV that anyone had seen. The picture was pretty good, as long as it was a high resolution. But they didn’t pack the dense picture punch that plasma had. LCD’s was like plasma’s brighter, thinner and trendier cousin; which caused them to become more popular.

Although plasma’s picture still looks good at ridiculous sizes, which went along with the “TV’s as big as walls” trend for the last few years, recently LED’s have taken over the market, and at a lower price too. In the end, most of these gargantuan television manufacturers state that plasma is just too expensive to make, and too hard to turn a profit on. In the meantime, until LG and Samsung halt manufacturing later this year, prices should be dropping on this dead technology, right in time for Christmas. This is good news for anyone who wants to snap one up while you still can.

Much Ado about Drones

Drones have been front and center in the news lately. This is an older technology that is newly available to the general public. Drones went from being used primarily by the US Government to now being used by real estate agents to with a couple of hundred dollars to burn. We all knew of their existence, but now we can actually afford to have our own! The definition of a drone is an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicle” Basically it’s a remote controlled flying object with no human on board. A human controls the drone behind the scenes, plotting its route turn by turn.

When used in war, drones have been very controversial. The military requires that there still be what they call a “man in the loop,” which is a human ground controller that is making decisions on how the onboard weapons are used during drone attacks. There have also been concerns about drone mishaps while the military is out testing them. There have been more than a few reports of military drones falling from the sky over the last few years. There have been around 400 large drone crashes reported in the US since 2001.

The US has some pretty strict regulations on drones in regards to where they can fly and what they can be used to record. In the US drones are not allowed to fly within five miles of an airport. This rule was not as strict in Canada, but that might change soon. A story in the news this week reported that a drone was spotted near an airplane that was coming in for a landing. This is unnerving for a few different reasons. The first concern naturally is terrorist-related. There is nothing to say that drones that fly near the airport can’t be armed with some self-detonating device that could cause a tragedy if it gets too near a plane. The other concern is if the drone hits an airplane in a sensitive area, like inside the jet, which is enough to take down an entire plane.

The US is also cracking down on the use of drones for business purposes. The problem with using drones for real estate photography is that they are being used commercially, which would require a permit from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration.) Drones can give potential home buyers an aerial view of their potential new property.
Even though the first drone was designed back in the 1950s, they still seem so futuristic; like something straight out of The Jetsons. They are something that we are going to have to get used to as drone popularity grows.

Meet Robonaut-Space’s First Personal Assistant

NASA has released a video today of their “Robonaut, “ a robot that is going into space to help astronauts not only with their daily chores outside of the spaceship, but also to keep them healthy during the trip. The robot will serve as a sort of personal assistant to the other astronauts on board, making their lives a little easier. NASA states that traveling outside of the spaceship be taxing on the astronauts, so they are teaching the robot how to take over some of the more strenuous tasks.

The video that NASA released shows the Robonaut holding a syringe, and some of his designers talking about how the robot may be able to handle medical duties for astronauts in the future, with the robot being guided by doctors back on earth, of course. The other thought that Robonaut’s designers expressed is how useful he may be in potentially dangerous environments, where it would not be safe to send humans.

There are some ways that Robonaut can help folks here on earth as well. There is talk of the robot’s body parts potentially helping stroke victims with getting some of their muscle movement back. Robonaut has arms that move and hands that can grasp, all triggered by infrared light. If this works on a robot, is there a way they can make this work on a human who has lost their ability to move these limbs? How about legs? Is there a chance these will be designed next?

If these types of robotic limbs were created for humans, the possibilities are truly endless. This could be life-changing for people who struggle after losing a limb, or even multiple limbs. Could wheelchairs become a thing of the past? Either way, I feel like Robonaut has quite an exciting future.


DJ Battles

Bang & Olufsen jumped on the “celebrity-endorsed headphone” bandwagon this week with their announcement that that they have recruited DJ Khaled for the release of their new BeoPlay H6’s.

DJ-Style headphones have been all the rage for the last few years, and got an extra boost back in 2006 with the introduction of “Beats” headphones and more particularly the Beats by Dr. Dre line which has blown up over the years, and is the most popular line available today. A few companies have imitated the Beats empire; namely 50 Cent’s SMS Audio 50, Soul by Ludacris and House of Marley, which needs no explanation.

B&O’s decision to join in on the fad is a little surprising. The Danish company is known best for selling high-end electronics, and the chain is known for being quite pricey. The tagline for these new earphones is “We the Best Sound.” That’s not even proper English. The name is based off DJ Khaled’s fifth studio alum “We the Best Forever.” I think this is a strange marketing strategy considering the steep $400 price tag for these earphones, which are about $150-$200 more expensive than Beats.

Beats has the backing of not only the ultra famous Dr. Dre but also his side partner, Interscope records co-founder Jimmy Iovine. These two are a powerhouse celebrity duo with many high profile connections in both Hollywood and the music business. This has been part of Beats success, as you will find many big names endorsing the headphones for their friends Dre and Iovine. On the other hand, DJ Khaled is known best for being a Little Wayne protege. We are interested to see how well these new headphones fare in this trendy market.

Where did DisplayPort to HDMI Cables go?

A few years ago HDMI to DisplayPort cables were available aplenty. Now you are hard pressed to find this sort of cable. What happened?

HDMI, which is short for “High-Definition Multimedia Interface,” is owned by a consortium, which is basically a group of assorted companies that have rights over the technology. This consortium strictly regulates the way HDMI is manufactured and sold.

If a cable has a male HDMI connector on one end, according to the rulebook it must have a male HDMI connector on the other end. Any other connector is considered a violation of HDMI’s regulations, making these cables unlicensed and considered illegal.

The HDMI consortium started cracking down on illegal cables back around 2011. Cease and desist letters were sent to retailers selling the cables, as well as the manufactures that were creating them. Threats of legal actions were thrown around, although it’s unclear if any court dates were actually held.

If you are in need of a cable that is HDMI to DisplayPort, there is still one fix available, and you don’t even have to break the law to use it. You can still use an adapter with your HDMI cable, as long as the HDMI portion has a female end. Female ends are found to be acceptable.

Parking Wars

San Francisco’s city attorney issued a “cease and desist” demand this week to a peer-to-peer iOS parking space app, much to the relief of many San Franciscans. The app is called Monkey Parking, and it allows drivers to sell their public parking spot through the app for profit. Naturally this is an issue considering it is against the law to profit from a public space without a permit from the city; and not to mention that both the street and the sidewalk is owned by the City of San Francisco.

For the first time in a long time San Francisco’s officials are being proactive about illegal activity that is happening in their streets. In the city, it is common to see open drug use, nudity and prostitution. Even with all that, parking still remains San Francisco’s top nightmare. The city’s streets were not designed for the amount of traffic that they are subjected to daily. The city itself is only seven by seven miles, and is overcrowded with people and cars, making street parking a pain.

Some of these parking apps can charge up to $13 a space, and employ people to sit in spots until they are bought. Imagine what a jam-up this is causing. It’s already super pricey to park in private lots and parking garages, usually upwards of $25 for a few hours. So having to pay for public parking through an app (on top of the expensive parking meter cost) is just ridiculous. Not to mention the danger of engaging in a bidding war while behind the wheel.

Going forward, drivers who use the Monkey Parking app, or similar iOS apps like Parkmodo and Sweetch, may be fined up to $300.

The End of Computerworld

Computerworld announced this week that they are ending the print version of their magazine and going to a strictly digital publication going forward. This has been a trend for the last few years in what many call the “death of the printed word.”
This is not surprising unfortunately; as magazines have been going out of print left and right for the last few years. Most editorials are digitized regardless of whether they have a print copy. Their profits come from advertising; digital editorials can be very profitable. The end of print magazines has been referred to as the “death spiral,” which is today’s language when describing something that is on the way out the door at a speedy rate.

In today’s world of blogs, instant news and e-readers, magazine sales have been down for many printed publications.

Computerworld has been in print since 1967, with the final print version being released next Monday, June 23, 2014.
Their content is directed towards IT managers and various other techies. The magazine gives information on upcoming seminars and other time-sensitive information, mostly new releases in the field of technology. In this case it makes sense to have a mobile version that’s quick and easy to reference. It’s also worth mentioning that isn’t a typical keepsake magazine like “Life Magazine” or “Rolling Stone” that people tend to hoard in their garages. The exception would be the issues that covered ground-breaking technical territory. If you are a random nerdy hoarder, hold on tight to your issues.The classics are sure to be worth some coin someday.

Amazon on Fire

Amazon has been pretty busy lately. First they released their new Fire TV streaming device a few months ago, and now they are announcing this week their new Amazon Fire smartphone. The phone is making a pretty big buzz.

For starters, Amazon is ruling the phone game by offering free photo storage for an unlimited amount of photos on their cloud drive. Anyone who has an iPhone knows the irritation of the “storage almost full” error message. What do you mean I can’t keep 3,000 pictures on my phone?!

Along with the phone Amazon is throwing in a full year membership to Amazon Prime, which includes free streaming of movies and TV shows through Prime Instant Video. Prime also offers access to over a million songs available for unlimited streaming.

The most unique feature of this phone is the introduction of a 3D display on a smartphone. There has been much talk about this feature, and it looks pretty amazing. The photo Amazon chose to showcase the 3D feature was that of the Eiffel Tower. When the phone moves, you get a 3D view of the tower as well. It looks really neat, and is totally unique to the Fire.

The Fire’s camera is also pretty cool, it comes with 13-megapixels and its own button that’s specifically for pictures. You can even take photos when the camera screen is not up; the whole process is said to take about one second.
The display size is only slightly bigger than the current iPhone 5s, which is a little surprising considering the newest smartphone trend has been “the bigger, the better.” Battery life is similar to most smartphones on the market, and comes with a micro USB port. This phone will only be available through AT&T and is set to be released in late July this year.

The Fire will be competing with both Samsung and Apple’s latest phone efforts, and honestly the 3D feature may be the biggest pull. It is in the same price range as both the iPhone 5s and the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Amazon Fire TV sells for $99-The same cost as the Apple TV and the Roku 3. This unit comes with a free month of Amazon Prime, and has the same functionality as other streaming devices on the market today. This release was much less publicized, as it didn’t come with too many new features to make it stand out against its uber popular competition.

So at first glance it looks like Amazon is busy riding the coattails of bigger-named competitors, and cashing in on a tired market that’s already overrun with too many choices. At least they brought something new and fresh to the table with the Fire phone. The smartphone technology bar has been raised yet again, and we can’t wait to see how the competition will respond.