Facebook Immortals

Our Facebook pages will outlive some of us. And now our profiles are all set for that to happen. Facebook announced this week that they have tweaked their privacy settings in the event that a user passes on and their profile becomes a “memorialized” page. This way a users page will still be active, even in the event that the user is not. They are also implementing something called a “Look Back” video for user’s that have passed on. These videos became popular when Facebook generated them for their tenth anniversary. They will include a user’s top posts, important moments and most liked pictures. Sounds a little morbid, but perhaps this will be a helpful tool to grieving loved ones. Time will only tell.

London’s 3-D Makeover

Google announced this week that they are giving their Google maps a little make-over by adding 3-D feature. This will allow you to simulate flying over the city, without the blurriness that comes with normal Google maps. This sounds familiar to Google Earth, but is supposed to give a life-like experience of feeling like you are really in the city itself. London is the fifth city in the U.K. thus far that has been given the 3-D treatment, but hopefully we can expect a U.S. city to be next. Although this is news for Google, Apple has had a 3-D mapping option for about a year. Google mapping is much more popular than Apple however, and Google states that they hope to map the world. Sounds pretty ambitious to the rest of us, but nothing’s impossible.

Digital Underground

Bitcoins can be confusing. They have been around for awhile now, and this week in New York a plan was proposed to protect consumer rights where Bitcoins are concerned. There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding this new currency, or faux currency as some see it. Bitcoins are basically virtual currency. They are not backed by any federal bank, so they are seen as risky. Bitcoins are the first invention in what is known as cryptocurrency: the exchanging of money online through a secure information economy. Some retailers are already accepting bitcoins as a way to pay for goods, and it sounds like the technology is on the verge of breaking through to the more general public. If the New York Department of Financial Services gets their way, there will be consumer protection when using Bitcoins. This would be a big step in the digital money world. Now the rest of us just need to figure out what it all means.

Home Depot Goes Hi-Tech

Home Depot came out with the news this week that they are featuring 12 brand-new 3-D printers in selected stores around California, New York and Chicago. They will have a whole staff dedicated to teaching customers on how to use the printer, and will even help you create little mementos to keep. This is seen by some as a risky venture for Home Depot, as it doesn’t seem to be the correct market for such an expensive technology. On the other hand this might draw a big crowd, curious to see how the new printers work. These will be available for sale both in the selected stores and online. There will be about four MakerBot models to choose from retailing from$1,300 to $2,900.

Raspberry Pi Sweet Spot

About two years ago a mini computer about the size of a credit card was unleashed on the market. It’s able to connect to computer monitor or a TV and it can handle most things that a regular sized computer can. You can play computer games with it, create spreadsheets, surf the interwebz, watch high resolution videos and it even has a camera to take pictures or videos. The Raspberry Pi was developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and was originally designed to teach kids the ins and outs of computer programming in a super affordable way.

They started with two models; the first is called “model A” and retails for $25, the “model B” version for $35. This week the company released an upgraded version of Model B, aptly named “Model B+” and it is already on shelves ready for purchase. The computer will have some upgrades and will still be the low price of $35. There were two USB ports added, for a grand total of four ports. They also lowered the power consumption level, and added a micro SD slot. The B+ also has kept with the same ARM-based BCM2835 processor plus an HDMI port and it still comes with the same 512MB of RAM.

This is great news for anyone who wants to pick one up for their child or even themselves to play around with and learn some cool new computer tricks. The possibilities are endless with this little pocket sized computer.



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.
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, usually living out of various hotels.
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 had patents for his invention of the electro magnet motor, the means for generating electric current and an electrical circuit controller, just to name a few. 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.
Tesla 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, and as the story goes he had quite a few female admirers, but chose his work to be his life’s focus.
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. His inventions and showmanship gained him popularity in the world of science. He was well-liked by many of his colleagues, and gave him a reputation of being somewhat of a “mad scientist.”
One of his many well-known inventions was named the “Tesla Coil,” which he invented around 1891, and is still used today. The coil is used to create high frequency alternating-current electricity by producing low-current, high voltage. This is only one of his many inventions that made Tesla a well known name.
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. 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.
Oddly enough in the 1990’s there was resurgence in the popularity of Tesla. Books were written about him, and he was on the covers of magazines. In the 2012 he even had a car named after him. “Tesla Motors” use the same AC motor that Tesla invented.

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.