You may be an air traffic controller for drones in the making

Friday, 31 October, 2014

In ten years time some of us will be working in jobs that don’t yet exist. There could be no doubting that. And one of these roles could be as an air traffic controller for drones, which may soon populate the airways in far greater numbers than they presently do.

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Choose the public wi-fi networks that you access with care

Tuesday, 28 October, 2014

I often work from cafes and other public places, but am usually reluctant to tap into the free-for-all public wi-fi networks that are on offer, unless I’m forced to for some reason, preferring to use my private mobile broadband account.

After reading Maurits Martijn’s account of the ease with which some of these networks can be comprised, as it were, you might want to think twice about your use of public wi-fi networks:

We see more and more visitors log on to our fictitious network. The siren song of the little black device appears to be irresistible. Already 20 smartphones and laptops are ours. If he wanted to, Slotboom could now completely ruin the lives of the people connected: He can retrieve their passwords, steal their identity, and plunder their bank accounts. Later today, he will show me how. I have given him permission to hack me in order to demonstrate what he is capable of, though it could be done to anyone with a smartphone in search of a network, or a laptop connecting to a WiFi network.

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Will our robots be more like R2D2, or C3P0?

Friday, 24 October, 2014

The robots are coming. One day. And when they do, will they enslave us, or will they make our lives easier? But as… individuals, as apparently intelligent entities, what will they be like?

“Star Wars” makes as good a starting point as any, when it comes to visualising the way our droids may be:

R2-D2 excels in areas where humans are deficient: deep computation, endurance in extreme conditions, and selfless consciousness. R2-D2 is a computer that compensates for human deficiencies – it shines where humans fail. C-3PO is the personification of the selfish human – cloying, rules-bound, and despotic. (Don’t forget, C-3PO let Ewoks worship him!) C-3PO is a factotum for human vanity – it engenders the worst human characteristics.

I think the commentary on Threepio is a tad harsh… a mixture of both may be the way to go.

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The next stage in GIF animation evolution, the GIF Video

Friday, 17 October, 2014

I think GIF animations are more widely used now than twenty years ago, when they were one of the few ways to serve motion files the web. While the latter day animations are often fun, they can chew up download or airtime allocations, on account of their size.

So what to do? Online image hosting service Imgur may have a solution by way of Project GIFV, an application that converts GIF animations to video files. The reduction in file size certainly looks promising, a raw GIF animation at fifty megabytes becomes a video GIFV file of some four megabytes.

The cornerstone of Project GIFV is a platform-wide upgrade to automatically convert uploaded GIF files on the fly into the MP4 video format. The converted MP4s are significantly smaller than their equivalent GIFs, which allows them to load at lightning-fast speeds with better quality. By lowering bandwidth consumption, the change also optimizes Imgur for users on mobile. Rejoice!

Mind you, four megabytes still seems sizeable for a GIF animation, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

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The desk, in downsize mode since 1981

Thursday, 16 October, 2014

When I first started working I had no idea I’d one day be able to pack the entire contents of my office into a day bag, and base myself almost where ever I wanted to.

Yet since 1981, or maybe a little later than that, the amount of desk space we require has been diminishing, to the point that desks as we know them may well soon be obsolete.

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Drone racing on the forest moon of Endor

Thursday, 16 October, 2014

This may be the best possible way to use drones that I’ve seen so far… race them in Rebels versus Imperial troops on the forest moon of Endor – as seen in Return of the Jedi – style.

Presented here in French but click the “Subtitles/CC” button for subtitles.

Via prosthetic knowledge.

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The smartwatch, based on the codex rotundus… or bookwatch?

Tuesday, 14 October, 2014

Codex rotundus

The arrival of what is effectively a smartphone you wear on your wrist, in watch style, caused a splash a month or so ago, but how about the codex rotundus, a circle shaped book, about nine centimetres across, that almost looks like it could be worn as a watch, as wearable technology.

And dating from the late fifteenth century, on top of that. How old hat does this make that smartwatch look then?

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No, this is not the end of the world. Oh wait…

Friday, 10 October, 2014

Are we perhaps not mature enough as a people to be using certain of the technologies we have developed – many of which were intended to make life easier – that, through misapplication, could bring about our annihilation? It is a question that is troubling a growing number of scientists and eminent thinkers:

“We’re getting these more and more powerful technologies that we can use to have more and more wide-ranging impacts on the world and ourselves, and our level of wisdom seems to be growing more slowly. It’s a bit like a child who’s getting their hands on a loaded pistol – they should be playing with rattles or toy soldiers,” Bostrom tells me when we meet in his sunlit office at the FHI, surrounded by yet more whiteboards. “As a species, we’re giving ourselves access to technologies that should really have a higher maturity level. We don’t have an option – we’re going to get these technologies. So we just have to mature more rapidly.”

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Preserving cylinder recordings for future generations

Tuesday, 7 October, 2014

A little over one hundred years ago people were listening to recorded music on phonograph cylinders. Disc records were also around, and for a time the two formats competed with each other, before records eventually won out.

Thanks to the efforts of the Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project however, not all phonograph cylinder recordings have been lost in time, and a growing collection of such music has been converted to MP3 format for our listening pleasure today.

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Hi #KirstenDunst, pleased to meet you, so do you like… stuff?

Monday, 6 October, 2014

I don’t about you, but if I had the chance to hang out with Kirsten Dunst, rather than asking to be tagged on, say, a social network that isn’t fun anymore, I’d take her up on another of the suggestions she makes…

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