An Unhappy Pair & Ann Dryod

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9-27-12)

An Unhappy Pair – Google and the Muslim community have not had the best couple of weeks given that whole Muslim video thing. Personally, I find some of our responses hypocritical. We’ve been told for years that incredibly grotesque artistic expressions such as Piss Christ (btw, sponsored with tax dollars through the National Endowment for the Arts) must be protected at all cost. Yet we now have to apologize to the world and censor the internet because some whack-o creates a video disparaging the Prophet Mohammad? I’ve only watched parts of the video…it’s too ridiculously annoying to watch the whole thing…but in what I watched, I didn’t see anything worse than Jesus submerged in urine. (Just saying…) The world may not like it, but true freedom can be ugly. God Bless the United States while we still have it!

At any rate, Google unilaterally censored the video in Egypt and Libya, as well as blocked the video at the request of a number of other countries. Also, Iran has completely blocked Gmail and partially blocked Google search. I’m not sure where this is headed, but it’s not starting off in a good way.

Fighting Tyranny is No Excuse to Be a Tyrant – We still have problems with our own government continuing to take rights that we haven’t granted. Two weeks ago, the House extended the FISA Amendments Act. This act permits the NSA to collect electronic communications without a probable-cause warrant (“warrantless wiretapping”) as long as one of the parties is believed to be outside the United States. As with other power grabs, the scope of the law has been expanded through “interpretation” to allow collection of purely domestic communication if the real target is al-Qaida. The current law has no mechanism for public accountability, so we don’t have any real idea what is being collected. The government does not have to provide any information on the amount or type of information collected or the targets of the surveillance. Most disappointing to me is the reported unwillingness of the House leadership to consider basic reporting and surveillance safeguards to protect our 4thAmendment rights. Yes, we are fighting terrorist that don’t care about our Constitution. But we give up our freedom in the process, what’s the point?

Fortunately, not everyone is on the warrantless wiretapping bandwagon. Zoe Lofgren, representing Silicon Valley, recently introduced a bill requiring police to obtain warrants to obtain e-mail, cloud data and cell phone tracking information. Current police guidelines are based on legislation passed in 1986, well before internet technology was established. The new legislation is backed by a large group of technology companies, bipartisan and non-partisan advocacy groups called the Digital Due Process coalition. Members include Amazon, ACLU, Apple, AT&T, Electronic Freedom Foundation, Freedom Works, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and many others. The coalition’s objective is to update and simplify electronic surveillance rules to protect 4th Amendment rights while ensuring law enforcement retains its ability to protect the public. Law enforcement organizations have already voiced strong opposition to similar bills, so a heated debate is sure to come.

For the record, on the FISA Amendment Act vote, John Barrow, Jeff Duncan and Joe Wilson all voted against your freedom. Paul Broun didn’t bother to vote.

Goodnight, iPad – When our kids were younger, my wife and I conducted a night time ritual that included reading the classic Goodnight, Moon. After saying good night to the light, the red balloon, the cow jumping over the moon, and the bowl full of mush, we would say our good nights to the girls and quietly leave them to their dreams.

Times have changed, and Margaret Wise Brown no longer provides the framework for evening ritual. Our night time routine is more adequately documented by the story Goodnight, iPad written by Ann Droyd.

In the bright, buzzing room, there was an iPad…and a bird launched over the moon…

If you haven’t seen the story, the parody is available on You Tube (Google: Goodnight, iPad), however, I would recommend getting the book. For those of you that read Goodnight, Moon to your kids, this story describes how your precious and inquisitive children have been infected with technology-acquired ADD.

Spoiler alert: The old lady who says hush, 1. Technology, 0.

Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker

Please Pass the Mac’n’ Cheese

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit , 9-20-12)

Please Pass the Mac’n’Cheese – It’s been months since the much-overhyped Facebook IPO.  If you were fortunate enough to buy Facebook stock, you now have half the money you started with.  In retrospect, another start-up would have provided a much better return on investment, up 30% since May 18th, the date of the Facebook IPO.

On paper, a number of similarities exist between these companies.  While this second company held its IPO in March, both companies had almost identical closing prices on May 18th.  Both have experienced tremendous growth over the last ten years.  Both companies zealously protected their culture and are fanatic about their products.

If you get your macaroni and cheese from the purple box with the bunny, you know whom I’m talking about.  Organic food maker Annie’s has outperformed Facebook by better than 2 to 1 since May.

For more, http://www.wired.com/business/2012/09/annies-mac-n-cheese-facebook/

iPhone 5 – As expected, the iPhone 5 came out last week.  It’s awesome.  Preorders have started.  Go buy one.

Sulu, ahead warp one – I grew up dreaming of the opportunity to travel in space.  Unfortunately, that hope was resoundingly crushed during my sophomore year at Tech as my physics professor meticulously explained how Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel violated all the known laws of physics.  Well, it turns out that self-important know-it-all hadn’t studied String Theory.  (Ha!)  At the 100 Year Starship Symposium (@100yss) last week, Dr. Harold White (no relation to Mr. Joe White publisher of the Metro Spirit – at least that I am aware of) announced modifications to the Alcubierre warp drive design that greatly reduce the amount of energy needed to achieve light speed.

Of course, readers of this column are already familiar with the basic design of the Alcubierre warp drive.  The Alcubierre drive operates on the principle of moving space-time instead of moving within it, avoiding limits imposed by Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.  Using techniques identified through String Theory, it is possible to artificially expand or contract space-time by manipulating the dark energy that makes up the Universe.  By manipulating dark energy both behind and in front of a spaceship, the Alcubierre drive effectively creates a space-time wave that propels the spaceship up to 10 times the speed of light.  Earlier calculations indicated that the amount of energy needed to power the engine is equivalent to converting the entire mass of Jupiter to energy (hardly practical).  Dr. White’s research shows that modifications of the engine geometry reduce the energy requirements to a mass of a Volkswagon Beetle (now we’re talking!).

Unfortunately, the current cost of anti-matter is still around $100B per gram, and several commentators seemed to believe that no existing material is capable of handling the structural stresses of the spaceship.  And, yes…radiation.  Lot’s of negativity there as well.  But at least for all you kids dreaming of flying to the next star, there is one thing to offer.  Hope.

Until next time, I’m off the grid.  Gangnam style.  @gregory_a_baker

 

 

It’s Almost Here

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit 9-13-12)

 

It’s Almost Here – One of the most anticipated tech events of the year occurs this week with the release of the iPhone 5. Unfortunately, our columns are due on Tuesday, and Joe wouldn’t push back publication to accommodate the release of the iPhone. So what I have to give you is just the best guess of what’s coming. Fortunately for me, the iPhone 5 is probably Apple’s worst kept secret. You’ll know for sure by the time you read this.

If all the rumors are true, the iPhone you wish you were holding in your hand by now is a significant redesign. The 4-inch screen is longer and thinner, allowing an extra row of icons and more accommodating to HD video. And of course it is thinner than its predecessors. While the new 8-pin dock connector is well overdue, you are still somewhat bitter that all your old accessories are relegated to eBay. The 4G LTE will be awesome, and I can’t image iPhone shipping without iOS 6.

Did an iPad mini get announced? Maybe, but I’m doubtful. I’m guessing that Apple would want to create additional hype. At any rate, get your pre-ordering done early. It would be hard to image that the iPhone 5 would be anything less than the best phone on the market.

Injured Gadgets – This past week a friend of mine stopped by to show me how he cracked the glass on cell phone. A common occurrence…I’m sure all of us have known someone, like a spouse or child, to crack up a cell phone. I thought that the only way to have these things fixed was to take them back to the carrier and essentially trade up to a new phone and new plan. Turns out, that a number of sites are popping up offering replacement parts and DIY instructions. One that my friend found was Injured Gadgets out of Norcross, GA. They offer a large number of replacement screens for a wide variety of smartphones and iPads. They have also posted DIY videos on YouTube. Fair warning…you had better be comfortable working on tedious tasks before you set off on this adventure. If not, these guys also do repair. Either way, you have another option before having to submit to the carrier’s will.

Nerf Arms Race – In 1969, Nerf was invented. And much like the cavemen who fought with stones and sticks, I grew up throwing Nerf balls at my brothers and beating each other with Nerf bats. And just like stones and sticks evolved into more sophisticated armaments, so has Nerf. The Nerf Ballistic Ball introduced in 1989 began the current generation of ball blasters. The Nerf Arrow released in 1991 proved to be the most accurate Nerf projectile…at least until a fin was bent. The Mega Dart came in 1992, and the Whistler Dart in 1993. Each generation of blaster designed to increase distance and capacity, seeking superiority over the blaster owned by the kid next door. This year, the Nerf Arms Race went nuclear.

Introducing the Nerf N-Strike Elite Hail Fire, the highest capacity blaster ever produced by Hasbro. This blaster holds 8 x 18 dart clips for an astonishing 144 darts without reloading. Utilizing Hasbro’s new Elite Dart technology, this blaster has a range of an equally astonishing 75 feet! The N-Strike Elite also provides a motorized semi-auto mode that allows the shooter to unload darts as quickly as they can pull the trigger.

The downside? Now you’ve got 144 of those stupid darts to pick up and reload.

And, yes, in case you are wondering, GoDaddy is still up. Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Were They Thinking?

(Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9-13-12)

What Were They Thinking? – By now, all of our readers should be familiar with the hacktivist group Anonymous. Anonymous is a loosely knit organization that strongly opposes internet censorship and surveillance and has been credited with taking down secure and high profile websites, including those of government organizations. As a group that has routinely shown a high level of seriousness and capability, Anonymous has earned a great deal of respect. Therefore, one has to wonder what Early Flicker was thinking when they filed to trademark the Anonymous logo and slogan. The application was filed with the French Institut National De La Propriete Industrielle (INPI) in February. The filing became known earlier this week, and Anonymous responded in a YouTube video promising to “take down any business they have going on the internet, and the 99 per cent will not stop until the registration has been revoked and a public apology has been made.” Best of luck to you guys!

U – S – A! U – S – A! – In a welcome distraction from the political season, the Olympic games started this past week in London. Over the next couple of weeks, the world will be watching athletes compete in 30 different sports. For most of us, the Olympics provide the opportunity to catch-up with the lesser known sports, some of which are only televised during the games. Every once and a while, the coverage switches over to an event that makes one wonder, “Is that really a sport?” For me, beach volleyball falls in this category. I am convinced that the reason it receives so much coverage is because of the lack of coverage on the participants. (not that there’s anything wrong with that…)

At my daughters gymnastics practice earlier today, we had a discussion about all the sports. Even with all the different events, we all came to the conclusion that there are only six uniquely different competitions. There are Racing events such as swimming and cycling that that demonstrate that I’m-Faster-Than-You. We have Combat events such as Boxing, Wrestling and Fencing that show that I’m-Tougher-Than-You. Strength and Skill events such as Weightlifting, Archery and Field events allow competitors to boast I-Can-Do-That-Better-Than-You. Goal scoring events such as Soccer, Handball and Water Polo are based on I-Can-Stick-It-Better-Than-You, and Volleying events such as Tennis, Badminton and Beach (sic) Volleyball fall into the I-Can-Thwack-It-Better-Than-You category. Finally, there are the Judged events such as Gymnastics and Synchronized Swimming that let the world know I’m-Prettier-Than-You.

So, are you interested in keeping up with all the Olympic athletes? One of the better spots I’ve found is hub.olympic.org. It’s an aggregation site that brings together the Twitter and Facebook feeds of all the Olympians. Check out the latest from Jordan, Missy, Michael and all the other athletes. And of course, stay up to date with all the Olympic news at www.london2012.com.

Until next week, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker

 

 

 

Charged Up

 (Reprinted from the Metro Spirit, 9-6-12)

Charged Up -Please Connect Your ChargerHow many of you have this experience with your phone? Every day at about 2:30pm, I check the power on my phone. 80%. Awesome…I’ll be able to make it to the end of the day. But by 3:00pm, my Droid X is beeping at me to be plugged in. Of course, I’ve checked all the normal stuff. Social media updates…pull only. Weather Bug…unistalled. Random background processes…removed. Screen brightness…very dim. Automatic downloads…Just Say No! I’m sure that there is some technical issue going on. But let’s be honest…Sometimes you want to know how the clock is built. Most of the time, you just want to know what time it is. When it comes to battery life, we just want the darn thing to work.

So it was with hopeful optimism that I read a CNET article this week about the improvement’s in Smartphone battery life. Let’s start with the obvious. Currently, if you need more battery life, get a bigger battery. For example, Apple devices are able to get a greater yield because they use an embedded (i.e., nonremovable) design. The batteries can be designed around the phone “guts” and require less packaging. Both characteristics provide more options to increase the battery size.

A fundamental change of the battery structure is required to produce significant improvements, however. Unfortunately, a battery is a relatively simple construct, and assuming you don’t want the battery to spontaneously erupt, there are only a so many chemicals you can use to build one. Incremental improvements will occur by changing the stuff inside the battery. Many researchers champion the use of silicon as an anode material. The team at Stanford University claim that their prototypes last for 6,000 charging cycles before replacement is needed (as compared to 350-500 charging cycles for conventional lithium ion batteries). Of course, the silicon anode tends expands and cracks while in use. Don’t worry…they are working on that.

A more fundamental change is to ditch the conventional design altogether. One method promoted by start-up Prieto Battery eliminates the liquid electrolyte and uses an electroplating process to coat nanowires with a layering of materials to serve as the anode, cathode and electrolyte. The greater surface area and shorter distance between components allow for astonishing charge times, as little as 5 minutes for a full charge. The battery should last for about 10 hours on a full charge. Very cool, indeed.

We’re probably 2-3 years before any of these ideas hit the market. In the meantime, don’t forget your charger.

Will Work for Capital

– This past week, a group of Augusta entrepreneurs completed their participation in CapVenture. CapVenture is a six-week training series sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) to help start-up business leaders identify and raise the capital needed to get their enterprise off the ground. As part of the series, participants actively participate in the venture capital process by building term sheets and pitching to a set of experienced entrepreneurs. The top pitches are selected to present at the September 12 finale. Sadly, no Augusta participant was selected; however, the finale is open to all to attend. Register at www.tagonline.org.

We all need to give a big thanks to Carolyn Newsome of CMA Technology for stepping up and making this happen for the TAG-Augusta chapter. Augusta could not have participated in this event without her efforts.

And, yes, the countdown to the iPhone 5 continues. More next week.

Until next time, I’m off the grid. @gregory_a_baker