Author Archives: Nicholas Brown

About Nicholas Brown

Nicholas Brown, a writer on Cleantechnica and Gas 2, has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. He is also interested in developing energy-efficient technologies. Follow him on Twitter: @Kompulsa. Like Kompulsa's Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/kompulsaofficial

Apple's first phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus is one way to get a larger screen without buying a tablet, and you can fit it in your pocket. However, Apple hasn't given up on tablets. They have now made the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Mini 3 available for preorder.

As was the case with netbooks, tablets, pocket PCs, laptops, and many other devices, one can't suit everyone.

The iPad screens are bigger and better for viewing movies, playing games, and shared activities with your siblings or friends, but they must be carried in your hand, a backpack, or another case you can wear.

The iPad Air 2 price starts at $500 for the 16 GB model with Wi-Fi only, $600 for 64 GB, and $700 for 128 GB. The LTE versions of all the iPad Air 2 models cost an additional $30. They come in silver, gold, and space gray. The iPad Air 2 is equipped with Touch ID, a fingerprint recognition system.

You can preorder them on Apple's website.

If you're interested in the smaller, more affordable iPad Mini 3, these start at $400 for the 16GB model, $500 for the 64 GB model, and $600 for the 128 GB model.

 An Old Problem That Still Hasn't Been Resolved

The iPads support the most common MP3 and lossless WAV file formats. However Apple hasn't implemented support for the Ogg or FLAC file formats.

MP3 files are often twice the size of (and slightly lower quality than) Ogg Vorbis files (these end with the extension .ogg). Ogg isn't a new format. It is already supported on nearly all tablets and phones, including Android and Blackberry.

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is a lossless audio format which is 40% smaller than WAV files. It enables audiophiles to enjoy the best sound quality and save a great deal of space.

There is no catch to using Ogg or FLAC.

You can preorder the iPad Mini 3 on Apple's website.

Source: Mashable.

For more technology news, visit the technology category. For technology-related reference articles, visit the technology section.

Cleantechnica.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to build extra-environmentally friendly solar farms, incorporating traditional farming with its 21st century cousins — sheep and free-range poultry ranging in between and underneath solar panels, grazing and generally keeping things tidy.

In the same tradition as these farms, Primrose Solar has selected Solarcentury to help build a solar farm to the highest environmental standards in Portsmouth, using a holistic approach to the construction and operation.

Solar farm with wildflowers Image Credit: Solarcentury

We don’t normally cover small project announcements — the Portsmouth solar farm, to be located on the Southwick Estate in Fareham, is coming in at only 48 MW.

However, from my days covering global warming and climate change through to today, where I cover mostly investment and analysis, I have always had a penchant for the “extra-effort,” so to speak.

The Southwick solar farm will generate 48 MW of solar power, which is enough to power approximately 11,000 homes, and is expected to begin construction this month.

But in addition to adhering to the usual STA 10 commitments, Solarcentury will be taking it a step further, “piloting an environmentally stringent onsite waste and energy management programme,” while in turn, Primrose Solar will take “an industry-leading approach to biodiversity and ecological enhancements at the site.”

Primrose Solar is already working with Wychwood Biodiversity to carry out a full ecological survey and initiate the creation of a habitat management plan for the site. According to Solarcentury’s press release:

Wildflowers will be sown using native seed mix to help reverse declining pollinator species such as bees and butterflies whose habitats have been decimated by intensive farming practices in recent decades. In autumn and winter, sheep will be grazed among the panels, so the land will be used for food production as well as producing clean solar electricity.

“Our responsible approach to building solar farms, together with Primrose Solar’s continued investment over the lifetime of the project, is really going to make Southwick solar farm an environmentally robust site,” said Frans van den Heuvel, Solarcentury’s CEO.

“Our waste and energy management programme will see a number of new initiatives employed during the build that we’re looking to roll out across all of our future sites.”

Looking beyond the agricultural aspects of the project, during construction, Solarcentury will be relying on solar-powered and biodiesel generators, onsite food provision to minimise lunchtime driving, recycling as much as possible (including the food and canteen waste), on-site composting toilet facilities, car sharing, and a CCTV setup running on hydrogen fuel cells.

“We are excited about setting a new environmental standard for building Southwick solar farm, working together with Solarcentury, a perfect choice for the build because of our shared values,” said Giles Clark, CEO Primrose Solar.

“And this is just the start. We’re in this for the long term. For the next 25 years, Primrose wants to be a ‘good neighbour’: supporting the local community and working with the landowner to demonstrate responsible stewardship of the land for the lifetime of the solar farm.”

Source: Cleantechnica. Reproduced with permission.

Wearable technology doesn't have to be the same shape or size of a watch. Yet many companies are trying so hard make them resemble traditional watches. Analog watches are built the way that they are because that is what suits them best. I think Will.i.am agrees.

He is now selling a wearable phone shaped like a bracelet called the Puls (possibly under his i.am+ product line). It is not a smartwatch, and it does not require a phone, which is reminiscent of the Timex Ironman One GPS which doesn't require one either.

The Puls has 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, Wi-Fi, 3G, GPS, and the other basics. The Puls has a large, curved screen, which may make it easier to type text messages and dial numbers.

The Puls would have looked too chunky if it was designed like a traditional smartwatch, hence the curved, bracelet design.

According to VentureBeat:

'In addition to texting and calling, the Puls can also track location and steps, since the device will be connected through a cellular network (no word on pricing related to mobile connectivity). So, it also has a (limited) fitness application for runners.

The most unusual aspect of the device is its ability to take calls without holding it up to your mouth. I conducted a phone call with my hands by my side; I could hear the call crystal clear through the speaker and, more impressively, the caller could hear me talk at a normal volume.'

Will.i.am says that 'consumption' will eventually shifted to tablets, while communications tasks will be taken over by other devices like the Puls.

The Impact Of The Puls And Similar Devices On Privacy

That is a possibility. However, I think most people are unlikely to start wearing earphones all the time just in case of a phone call, because a wrist phone won't offer you the privacy that a handset does.

You can speak at a lower volume during phone calls, and no one else can hear the other person on the line.

When you receive text messages, they may show up on your wrist so people beside you can see them. Strangers will also see who is calling and hear them clearly. A step forward for convenience, and a step backward for privacy.

Source: VentureBeat.

For more technology news, visit the technology category. For technology reference material, visit the technology section.

There are many activity tracking devices on the market, but they serve different purposes and people. Some of the most basic, and oldest ones include stopwatches and calorie counters. Some are designed for swimmers, however, the founder of Xmetrics found them all to be too inconvenient.

Massimiliano Rosolino Putting An Xmetrics Tracker on his head. Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

Massimiliano Rosolino Putting An Xmetrics Tracker on his head.
Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

Xmetrics is a wearable technology for swimmers' heads that has a 9-axis mechanical sensor which provides the swimmer with services similar to what a coach would, such as speed measurement. It also provides the swimmer with audible feedback.

Video: Eli Regalado on YouTube.

'It’s like having your own coach whispering in your ear to keep you focused', according to Xmetrics founder Andrea Rinaldo.

'With this device, a swimmer will make his or her stroke count, will get a real-time audio feedback on performance, biological feedback and enjoy a design which is made for comfort and convenience,' adds Rinaldo while explaining the benefits that the users of this device will derive from its usage.

Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

Image obtained with thanks from Xmetrics.

There are other similar technologies on the market such as the Garmin Swim Watch with Garmin Connect for $150, which can display speed, time, distance, strokes, and more. However, the Garmin Swim Watch doesn't serve quite the same purpose, as the Garmin tells them afterwards (which is perfectly fine as well).

If you're willing to spend more to get feedback underwater, you can check out the Xmetrics Indiegogo campaign.

Other features include wireless data upload capability so you can analyze and track your progress on your iPhone, Windows, or Android smartphone via their app.

Financial Benefits Of Swim Watches Like The Xmetrics And Garmin Swim Watch

The greatest financial benefit by far of electronic coach technology is that you won't have to hire a coach if you don't want to.

The downside is that typically, nothing is more inspiring than a real person. Of course, you can only achieve that level of inspiration if you find the right coach.

Source: Xmetrics Indiegogo Campaign (linked above).

For more technology news, visit the technology category. For technology reference material, visit the technology section.

I've been monitoring and writing about battery technology advancements for years, and was let down so many times. This time, a li-ion battery technology that can be recharged to 70% in 2 minutes has been developed, and it can theoretically last 20 years!

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang. Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

NTU's Assoc Professor Chen Xiaodong with research fellow Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang.
Image obtained with thanks from NTU.

This technology is facilitated by the use of a titanium dioxide-based gel in the anode, unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries which often contain graphite anodes. Titanium dioxide is an abundant, cheap, and non-toxic material. That is a step in the right direction for battery manufacturing.

According to NTU,

Naturally found in spherical shape, the NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which is a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging.

The previous advancements usually had a significant flaw, or just didn't make it to the market, or at least not yet. For example: MIT's battery that charges in 20 seconds, and is cheaper than the others.

That was one of few technologies which didn't appear to have any serious flaws. It would be a game changer if it was commercialized.

It could have a great impact on the electric vehicle industry. A key issue affecting electric vehicle adoption is battery charge time. If electric vehicles could recharge quickly enough, they would not need much range. Range is currently an issue because people won't want to sit in a public place for hours waiting for their vehicles to charge.

People rarely drive more than 30 miles at a time, and even if they wanted to do a 400-mile trip in a car that has only 80 miles of range, they could recharge it for 2 minutes every 80 miles (or ever 30-60 minutes). While that isn't difficult, if you think it is, most people won't have to do it anyway.

Some think that electric vehicles must amount to the 300-500 mile range that gasoline-powered vehicles have, but this isn't necessary. Gas tanks are cheap enough to just make them bigger. Most people's gas tanks can last longer than a week, so they don't even bother to refill them daily.

Apart from that, electric vehicles have the other benefit of recharging at home overnight daily so the user won't have to go to a gas station, and they will have their full range every day, unlike gas-powered vehicle users which can't have that luxury.

This Battery Technology's Impact On Electric Planes

The electric plane industry hasn't taken off yet, and is struggling to do so. However, i'm sure that electric planes could benefit from a reduced recharge time. Planes will sometimes need to top up between flights, and time is of the essence in the airline industry.

The ability to recharge to 70% in two minutes might help the airline industry take another big step towards the electrification of planes.

This technology was developed by a team of researchers including Prof Chen Xiaodong, Tang Yuxin and PhD student Deng Jiyang at Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore.

Source: NTU.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa.

For more technology news, visit the technology category. For technology reference material, visit the technology section.

Samsung has introduced a new 60 GHz Wi-Fi technology that can achieve speeds up to 4.6 Gbps.

They said it can download a 1 GB movie in 3 seconds (or less) if an excellent Internet connection is used.

As the Daily Digest News writer Craig Manning said:

Of course, Samsung also notes something that just about anyone who has ever used the internet already knows: real-life Wi-Fi speeds do not always live up to what hardware is actually capable of. In order to take advantage of the full potential of the new super-speed Wi-Fi band, users will have to have a “best case scenario” where their router, modem, internet service provider, and all other items are working perfectly.

Samsung hopes to implement this new Wi-Fi technology in devices, starting in 2015.

Factors Which Can Affect Performance, Regardless of How Fast Wi-Fi Technology Gets

Your Internet Connection

It is important to remember that a Wi-Fi network is not an Internet connection, but a wireless local network that enables you to connect to a modem.

Your Internet download speeds are mostly dependent on your Internet connection, because Internet connections are normally much slower than Wi-FI networks.

Wi-Fi Signal Strength

You could have the fastest Wi-Fi network and Internet connection in the world, and still experience poor performance.

Venturing too far away from your router can weaken your W-Fi signal and result in a patchy, unreliable connection. Ensure that you minimize any possible signal obstructions (including walls), and of course: Place your router closest to the area that you spend most of your time.

Will This New Wi-Fi Band Affect 4G Usage Rates?

Here are some factors to consider:

  • People who spend most of their time at home especially will enjoy this, and even deem 4G unnecessary.
  • People who spend most of their time at home and in offices with decent Wi-Fi connections may not need 4G.

Note: A lowercase 'b' denotes a bit, and an uppercase 'B' denotes a byte. A byte is 8 bits. Therefore, a Gb is a gigabit, and a GB is a gigabyte.

Main source: Daily Digest News.

Follow me on Twitter: @Kompulsa.

For more tech news, visit the technology category, and for technology reference material, visit the technology section.

Sony's Xperia Z3v has a 4K camera, which is awfully high for a smartphone camera, but bear in mind that 4K just means that its video resolution is up to 3840 x 2160 pixels (some are a little below that, but not far). 4K, HD, and megapixel (MP) ratings are not a measure of quality, just resolution.

The rear camera is 20 MP, and the front one is 2.2 MP. As part of their focus on making this a high-resolution phone overall, Sony also implemented support for high-res audio.

According to Pete Pachal from Mashable:

The rear camera is an impressive 20 megapixels, and it has a varied bag of tricks: There's a time-lapse mode that lets you pick the part of clip that you want slowed down. It's only 120 frames per second — not as good as the iPhone 6's 240fps slo-mo mode — but the flexibility is nice to have. The phone also lets you combine pics from the rear camera and the 2.2MP front camera in creative ways, like putting one person's face on someone else's body.

Sony Could Have Made The Z3v Even More Competitive

If I was Sony, I would have focused more on the overall camera quality of the Z3v than resolution. The areas in which all smartphones fail include, but are not limited to:

  • Screen brightness is never adequate outdoors without significant shading.
  • Horrible speakers.
  • The inability to block out loud ambient distractions during phone calls.

Here is where Sony nailed it:

PS4 RemotePlay: Playstation 4 players can stream gameplay from their console in real time to the Xperia Z3v. Players can also stream gameplay simultaneously to their TV and the Z3v.

Water resistance was a good idea in my opinion. Water resistant watches are standard now because people have them on their wrists most of the time when outdoors. People now have their phones in their hands so often (too often, if you ask me) that they are bound to get a little wet at some point, or have to put them away every time it drizzles.

Source: Mashable.

For more technology news, visit the technology category. For technology reference material, visit the technology section.

Cody Wilson is known by many as an anarchist and a gun advocate. More specifically, he is best known as an advocate of unregulated gun ownership.

3D printer for guns (Ghost Gunner)

The Ghost Gunner 3D printer for guns.
Image obtained with thanks from: The Ghost Gunner Website.

He demonstrated that guns can be manufactured using 3D printers, and he is now selling $1,300 3D printers through his company, Defense Distributed for anyone that wants a 3D printed gun. He calls it The Ghost Gunner, and it is an open source CNC machine designed to create the lower receiver of guns.

Why Are 3D Printed Guns Such A Big Deal?

To understand the sheer magnitude of this news (I won't say it is good or bad news for the sake of being neutral), it helps to look back at the gun control debate.

Here are the key reasons the advent of this technology is significant to those who advocate gun control (these are just theories, correct me if i'm wrong):

  • Criminals can make themselves 3D printed guns very easily, if they have the money. This means that established gangsters will certainly get their hands on them without smuggling.
  • Whether or not this particular 3D printer is banned, gun bans will no longer be able to reduce gun ownership rates much among most people.

Gun control opponents will probably like this: Not all gun rights advocates completely oppose all gun control, however, those that do will like this 3D printer technology because it may totally thwart gun control efforts. 3D printers are not likely to be banned, and they are becoming more mainstream.

People will eventually be able to manufacture anything they want, whether or not it is legal.

Is It Legal To Build Guns With 3D Printers In The U.S.?

I wouldn't risk making guns, even with a 3D printer because a background check and registration are required for gun ownership.

My guess is: The machine is legal, but printing guns with it is not. If there is a legal loophole allowing the use of 3D printed guns, it will most likely be closed at some point.

Source: Mashable.

For technology news, visit the technology category, and for technology reference material, visit the technology section.

Thync is a Silicon Valley startup company based in Los Gatos, California which developed a highly unusual technology which they demonstrated for Brad Stone, a writer on Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

This isn't outright mind control. However, it is somewhat similar. A prototype device with two electrodes were placed on his head to target his cranial nerves.

The engineers asked him if he wanted to induce a calm or energetic emotion. He chose the calm one. After he adjusted the intensity setting, he said that a: 'familiar knot of stress in my stomach evaporated'.

Theoretically, mind control technology may be able to invoke a state of happiness, enhanced concentration, enhanced dopamine production to aid Parkinson's Disease sufferers, and much more.

Remember The Rule: Technology Is A Double-Edged Sword, Especially Mind Control

This stimulation technology could change the world. However, this is no exception to the rule that technology is a double-edged sword, and both side's of this technology's sword are extremely sharp.

It has the power to enable people to walk, to concentrate and vastly improve productivity, leading to a better world.

It may even be able to invoke a state of creativity, kick technological advancement into overdrive, and save lives. Now, for the bad side of it:

Think about 'Big Data', and how companies value statistics on consumer behaviour so much. It helps them conduct market research. Market research can be used for good or bad.

Market research can be conducted to determine what type of products consumers like most, or it could be conducted to determine what predatory/shifty marketing techniques and gimmicks they are most likely to fall for. Mind control is even worse.

Getting people to spend money on things that they don't need is a major economic problem, especially considering the fact that there are so many people in the world who don't even have access to the most basic things they need due to a lack of money.

How does this relate to brain stimulation and mind control?

Theoretically, this technology could be adapted to connect to smartphones and tablets, then 'motivate' you to purchase things that you don't need when you're looking at them, or even to conveniently boost your mood while playing a given game, or depress it when using another app, or looking at another product that the controlling app (or service) doesn't want you to use.

In other words, this technology may have the potential to achieve a limited form of mind control if it falls into the wrong hands.

If not mind control, this could be considered excessive persuasion at the very least.

Apart from that, according to BusinessWeek:

'Thync announced on Oct. 8 that it’s raised $13 million from investors, including well-heeled Khosla Ventures, to mine the intersection of neuroscience and consumer electronics. Sometime next year, the company will begin selling a miniaturized, Bluetooth-enabled neurosignaling device, along with the seductive, controversial proposition that customers can program their state of mind. 'This is an avenue for people to call up their best stuff on demand,' says Isy Goldwasser, Thync’s chief executive officer and co-founder. 'It’s a way for us to overcome our basic limitation as people. It lets us call up our focus, our calm, and creativity when we need it.'

Source: BusinessWeek.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered airplane that will make the first solar flight around the world. The flight will start and end in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), according to Masdar.

H. E. Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, UAE minister of state and chairman of Masdar said: 'Abu Dhabi, Masdar and Solar Impulse have in common a pioneering spirit, a long-term vision and a desire to explore new horizons. We share a commitment to foster the development of technological advances in alternative energy sources in order to contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable future.', according to the Masdar press release.

I agree with that. Masdar's projects are long-term. They don't build temporary or transitional hybrid projects that still rely heavily on fossil fuels. They build self-sustaining solar and wind-powered projects. They are even working on a renewable energy-powered desalination project.

The Solar Impulse Project Paves The Way To A Future Of Clean Transportation

The Solar Impulse project facilitates transportation around the world without reliance on fossil fuels. These are all what I consider long-term projects, because they can be relied on for many years to come, regardless of fuel supply disruptions and scarcity.

These projects also provide proof-of-concept, and hence, motivation to prospective technology developers in the UAE to develop equally (or more) brilliant technology.

As Bertrand Piccard, the co-founder of Solar Impulse said:

'This well-matched partnership will showcase Abu Dhabi as a centre of expertise when it comes to renewable energy and at the same time Solar Impulse will demonstrate the far-reaching applications of clean energy during the first solar-powered flight around the world,”

André Borschberg, the other founder of Solar Impulse continued: 'We have chosen this location as being the best and most suitable departure and return point for the round-the-world tour, due to its climate, infrastructure and commitment to clean technologies.'

The new Solar Impulse 2 is built with a wider wingspan (72 meters, which is greater than that of a 747), it is made from lighter materials, it has more efficient motors, 17,000 solar cells and an improved cabin.

Who said that solar airplanes should be built like traditional ones? I think it was smart to take advantage of the wide wings that aircrafts have, make them even wider, and install solar cells on them. Solar power systems are easiest to integrate into flat surfaces. Curved surfaces require inefficient flexible solar panels.

Despite the wide wingspan, it weighs only 2,300 kg (5,070 pounds). The Solar Impulse 2 will be delivered from the Payerne aerodome in Switzerland near the end of this year. It will be displayed during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week at the World Future Energy Summit.

Main source: Masdar.