What do machines sing of? The desire for a human personality?

Tuesday, 4 August, 2015

A machine that so much desires to be possessed of a human personality, it continuously sings number-one ballads that were written in the 1990s. Work on those vocals, and it may yet pass the Turing test…

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Your website looks the same as all the others, but so what?

Tuesday, 4 August, 2015

Websites all look the same, it’s a comment I hear bandied about from time to time. But then again, everything looks the same, cars, phones, computers, aircraft, cities. Or they can, if viewed in a certain way.

Singapore based web developer Yugene Lee suggests though that not too many people are worried. It’s not what a website looks like, the main concern is what the website (or car, or phone, or computer, or aircraft) does.

People are complaining that the web looks the same, every website looks like each other. And there is no value in web design anymore. But, the problem is it doesn’t just happen in the web industry, it happened in every school of design.

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To see the internet in fifty years time, look at the internet today

Wednesday, 29 July, 2015

San Francisco based computer programmer Maciej Ceglowski predicts that the internet in fifty years time will look much like the internet of today. The apparent lack of innovation over the next half century may not be quite as bad as it appears to be though.

This contempt for the past also ignores the reality of our industry, which is that we work almost exclusively with legacy technologies. The operating system that runs the Internet is 45 years old. The protocols for how devices talk to each other are 40 years old. Even what we think of as the web is nearing its 25th birthday. Some of what we use is downright ancient – flat panel displays were invented in 1964, the keyboard is 150 years old. The processor that’s the model for modern CPUs dates from 1976. Even email, which everyone keeps trying to reinvent, is nearing retirement age.

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“Star Wars” style word wars opening crawl brings you news of wars

Tuesday, 28 July, 2015

I’m not quite sure what to make of Word Wars, by Julien Deswaef, that takes news items published by the New York Times, that feature the word war, and renders the headline into a short video based on the opening text crawl from the “Star Wars” films… I half expect one of the movies to begin after the scroll fades.

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The end of syringe and needle injections? Here’s hoping…

Friday, 24 July, 2015

We may be about to see the end of vaccinations, and the like, being administered by syringe and needle. There is a now a small patch like object, made up of several hundred minute spikes, or needles, containing medicine, that painlessly dissolves into the skin. This I look forward to.

At first all the needles are sticking straight up, and by the end of the “injection”, the patch is completely smooth. The needles dissolve when they’re exposed to the water in your skin cells, and you’re vaccinated without any pain at all.

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A colourful visualisation of flights in and out of London in a day

Friday, 24 July, 2015

A colourful visualisation of aircraft traffic arriving and departing from the five major airports surrounding London. Apparently just about all of these flights, 99.8% of them, experience no ATC related delays. Not bad for what must be some of the busiest airspace in the world.

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All those great photos of Pluto, thanks to an aluminum camera

Thursday, 23 July, 2015

To date, the photos of Pluto, its moons, and their surroundings, taken by the New Horizons space probe, have been breathtaking. But the story of the camera, named Ralph, responsible for all these images, is also incredible.

Obviously no ordinary camera could be used for the job, and the team constructing Ralph had to, among many other factors, consider the freezing conditions in which it would be operating.

And because the various materials that make up a normal camera would respond, or shrink, at different rates, due to the ultra low temperatures – we’re talking well below minus two hundred degrees Celsius here – it was decided to build Ralph almost entirely from aluminum.

With the exception of the lens, being glass, the aluminum construction meant that the camera’s components would all shrink at the same rate.

“Going out that far, there are some fluctuations,” Hardaway says. “It can get quite cold, and materials will shrink as they get colder. But different materials shrink at different rates.” The answer, then, was to build almost the entire camera out of just one type of material. “We actually built the mirrors and the chassis out of aluminum so that as they shrink, they would shrink together, to maintain the same focal length. We could do a reasonable test on Earth and still expect the same quality image,” she says.

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Where have all the long, intimate, emails gone? Gone to work email…

Monday, 20 July, 2015

I still receive plenty of long emails, but I couldn’t quite say the same of long, intimate, messages. Fifteen, twenty, years ago, a different story though, when email had literally taken the place of handwritten letters.

Accordingly, I both sent, and received, in depth mails, though yes, rambling might be a more applicable term when it came to some of my stuff. I’m a writer though, so what would anyone expect? So what’s happened? Has email become passé? Do people use social media channels instead? Why email when you can snapchat?

Surprisingly, this state of affairs may be down to email itself, in particular its volume, the majority likely being work-related, that also seems to keep increasing, subsequently leaving little time, and energy, for composing drawn out personal messages.

According to the Radicati Group, a technology marketing firm, business email users now send and receive an average of 122 messages per day, up from 110 in 2010. Sealing and opening all those virtual envelopes takes a toll: A 2012 report from McKinsey found that workers spent 28 percent of their day on email. While the numbers cannot account for how many emails are personal, it stands to reason that few sent on business accounts are – and that people are often too exhausted from the relentless inundation to compose meaningful letters.

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Text messages from my sweetheart the invisible

Friday, 17 July, 2015

If you wish, you can sign up for a virtual partner, or (would-be) lover, or boy/girl friend. There are such services, you know.

Such… companions are also known as “invisibles”, as no one ever meets or sees them, not even the person paying for their company.

Yet the invisible – yes, fake really is far too strong a word, so I’ll not use it – still makes their presence felt, by way of text messages, creating the impression that their client has someone special in their life, to some degree anyway, as far as those around them are concerned.

Well, whatever floats your boat, I say.

And if you wish, you can sign up to be an invisible. It’s not too difficult seemingly, though you might be left thinking that your charge-out rate leaves rather a lot to be desired. Once registered and ready to go however, it’s game on. Truly.

But don’t assume that because, say, you’re a woman, you’ll be masquerading as someone’s girlfriend. No, you could well be acting as a boyfriend. And even then you may only be in a… relationship with a particular customer for a short time, before you’re assigned another lover.

I’d get the story of how we met and the last 10 messages we’d exchanged. This setup is designed to create the illusion of continuity; ideally, an Invisible Boyfriend would seem like a steady, stable presence in a user’s life, instead of what it really is: a rotating cast of men and women. And it is both: a woman who works for the service previously told me she prefers playing the role of boyfriend because she knows what a woman wants to hear.

I wondered for a second, or two, how a client paying for an invisible better half might feel about this. Then it hit me. They’d feel nothing. Even if they knew. There is, after all, nothing more life affirming than the alert, or might that be spectacle, that an incoming text message generates.

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The (old school) film projector, quite the feat of engineering really

Wednesday, 15 July, 2015

Once upon a time, before movie projectors at cinemas became digital, people called projectionists were required to oversee the entire screening of a film.

Not only did reels have to be changed at various points, depending on the length of the feature, someone probably needed to keep an eye on the actual projector, and the many moving components they consisted of, should something detach or derail unexpectedly. I never realised just how complicated a device a film projector was

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