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

During an interview with Charlie Rose: Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Inc said that TV technology is stuck in the 1970s. As soon as I saw that statement, the memories of my mediocre experience with all the cable services and how little they have improved came to mind.

Other technology has come such a long way since the 1970s, especially video and computer technology. Today, we are watching 1080p HD videos on YouTube and Vimeo on demand (which used to be of much lower quality than TV several years ago), while cable TV service providers just started offering HD recently, and as a very expensive 'premium' service.

Why is it that people can watch free full HD videos on demand online, but they have to spend so much money on lower quality cable TV? This may be due to the fact that cable technology is so antiquated.

Outdated Cable TV Technology Is Hanging On Like Traditional Phone Services

This difference between the Internet and TV is reminiscent of the difference between VOIP and traditional telephone services. VOIP is dirt cheap compared to traditional telephone services. In my eyes, this is a sign that we need to start using the Internet for TV, like the VOIP providers did for phone calls.

It works.

Apart from that, there is no reason that people should have to continue using channel numbers, or the same old TV remotes to spend minutes searching for what you could find in seconds if you had a proper keypad

I think that if a cable TV service provider started selling remote controls with alphanumeric keypads so you could simply type in the name of a show or channel, they could use that to get a lot of customers to switch to their service.

The seamless integration of DVR functionality could also make a big difference. I currently have to set up two different things to record TV shows because of a lack of the seamless integration mentioned.

Theoretically speaking, it is possible for cable TV service providers to implement a system which facilitates 1-touch (literally) DVR functionality.

At the end of Mashable's article on this, I saw: 'The full interview airs Friday night at 11 p.m. ET on PBS, but some air times may differ depending on your location, according to the show's website.'

This is yet another annoyance associated with cable TV. On the Internet, you can play what you want at any time.

For more technology news, visit the technology news feed, for technology reference articles explaining how things work and more, visit the technology section.

Google Has Launched its first Android One smartphone in India for $105 (6,400 Indian rupees). This is the first of a series of low-cost phones designed to run the standard version of Google's Android operating system.

The Android One program enables Google more control over the devices which enables them to issue and apply OS updates more effectively.

The Android One phone has language support for the Hindi language (including voice recognition), as well as 6 other Indian languages. Focusing on the needs of developing markets sounds like a good way to enter them, and that is what the Android One program aims to do.

Android One Technology Might Succeed In The Indian Smartphone Market

Only 10% of India's population has a smartphone, however, their population is a whopping 1.25 billion people, translating to a little over 125 million smartphone users. Regardless of market size, Google's Android One technology is going to have to compete with similarly priced smartphone technology from Samsung , Xiaomi, and Morotola.

According to Reuters, Neil Shah said: 'After China and the United States, India is the third largest smartphone market in the world and Google won't like to leave such a huge market in control of brands looking to use a custom-forked Android OS as is happening in China,'

Neil Shah is the research director for devices and ecosystems at Hong Kong-based technology research agency Counterpoint Research. The Indian smartphone market is also growing, so this is an opportunity for Google to get into it early. As the saying goes: 'The early bird gets the worm'.

Google is working on solutions that will help them compete, including the ability to watch YouTube videos offline. The ability to watch YouTube videos offline is a godsend for some Indians who have unreliable Internet service. Few things are more annoying than choppy videos.

Google intends to launch phones with Android One technology in the South Asian, Indonesian, and Philippines markets.

Source: Reuters.

For more technology news, visit the technology category of this blog, and for reference articles pertaining to technology, visit the technology library.

Penapps is a hackathon hosted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and these are the top 10 entries.

The podium at PenApps. Image obtained with thanks from Dave Fontenot.

The podium at PenApps. Image obtained with thanks from Dave Fontenot.

Winners Of The 2014 PenApps Hackathon

1: Magic Board

This is a Boosted Board controlled by a Myo armband. For me, this electrically propelled skateboard is more convenient than a Segway because it is compact. It doesn't have to be parked or chained for security (unless you decide to put it down), and of course, electric propulsion systems like these require little to no maintenance.

This can travel 6 miles per charge, and it has a top speed of 20 mph. This is adequate for neighbourhood trips and visits to nearby stores in cities and other densely populated areas.

I always wondered how people control powered skateboards (it sounds tricky). The Myo armband controller makes this easier.

The 90-minute charge time is adequate for overnight or early morning charging.

2: PokeMMOn

This is a Pokemon massively multiplayer online game (MMO). As a long-time Pokemon fan, this sounds fun!

3: SiriKit

SiriKit kit is an extension that enables you to do more with Siri.

4: Third Eye

This is a Google Glass app that tells you what you're looking at. This could lead to the mainstream use of facial recognition technology, which could utilize the speed and power of computer technology to quickly identify the faces of criminals and missing persons.

It could even revolutionize food labelling and identification (with modifications) by bringing up a list of all ingredients via the use of a QR code, which variant of each ingredient (for example: labels usually read 'sugar', which could mean several things), the amount of each nutrient, medical contraindications, and much more.

The PenApps judges should recommend this first and foremost.

5: Quitli

6: Fuji

This is a browser-based IDE which can compile any app. This may be helpful to development teams and people who alternate between multiple computers to work on one project.

7: Linklyy

This creates links via deeplinks to launch your favourite apps.

8: Scolio

This helps to detect if you have scoliosis and will connect you to a physician. Scoliosis is defined as an abnormal curvature of the spine.

9. Flare

According to Dave Fontenot: Flare 'takes a message (text) and encodes it by flashing the screen a sequence of colors. Message is decoded by another iPhone's camera (or several).'

10: Brocast

This enables you to stream your screen live to your friends.

This article will be updated with the official winners when the time comes.

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

MHacks IV was judged by Dave Fontenot and Raj Vir and it was hosted from September 5 to 7, 2014 in Ann Arbour, Michigan, United States. There was $31,760 in prizes.

The Winners Of MHacks IV

GreenCan: This is a bin that separates recyclable items from non-recyclable ones based on the sound they make when they are thrown into it. I'm glad to see someone dedicate time to the important cause of responsible waste disposal. I'm also glad to see technology for the advancement of important causes make its way into MHacks.

However, people need to become more wary of how recyclable each material is in the first place, so they can shop more responsibly (this change is well overdue), and simply throw recyclable items in a recycle bin themselves.

This is the cheapest option, and knowledge has the potential to change the world more than anything else, but for now, GreenCan can easily make the decision for them.

Save My Glass: A safety enhancement technology for use with Google Glass. Most developers create new apps, virtual reality technology, as well as other convenience and entertainment technologies at hackathons.

It is good to see MHacks fostering environmentally friendly and safety-enhancing technology (like this) to help move the world forward, while so many other developers just want to become the next Mark Zuckerberg (i'm not saying that's a bad thing, but the majority of people are more focused on entertainment than on causes).

Tabbr: A search engine for tabs. This allows you to search for tabs by typing in relevant keywords. It sorts search results based on frequency of access and other factors.

Lark: According to the MHacks page on ChallengePost:

'A live-coding scheme interpreter that runs inside Objective-C applications. Scriptable via a TCP connection and accompanying REPL server. Update your UIViews or any other Object live, on the fly!

All code for it was hand-written, from the parser combinator library used to parse the grammar, all the way to the evaluation functions and Objective-C runtime integration over the course of 2 days! It all runs inside your app and takes 1 line of code to integrate!'

Sentimental: This project uses natural language processing (NLP) to retrieve the make, model of, and sentiment associated with each vehicle from Car and Driver.

Auto-Mate: A car portal that utilizes the Hearst APIs.

TrackPunch: This aims to help users find their next favourite songs by listening in on what they already play on Spotify, SoundCloud, 8Tracks and more. This sounds like fun!

Flash Feed: This enables Facebook page owners to interact with their followers in a whole new way. It enables them to ask questions, programmatically reply, and more. 

See the source, and the rest of the winners here.

For more technology news, visit the technology archive, for technology reference material, visit the technology section.

If you're reading this article, you're probably using a Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G Internet connection, and you may wonder why anyone would want to use the costly, old SMS technology to browse the Internet.

The answer to that: Not everyone has Internet access. Outside of your country, there are people living in highly oppressive regimes with limited Internet access. Cosmos Browser provides a way around that.

How Do You Bring Such Regimes Out Of The Dark Ages? Connectivity!

The Internet is the only medium on which all people can express themselves to millions without knowing the right people or paying a great deal of money to get their voices heard. This freedom of expression is paramount to organizing protests which change the world.

The creation of the Cosmos Browser by Stefan Aleksić and his team of developers (listed at the bottom) opens a window of opportunity for Internet connectivity, even where it is disabled outright, as long as SMS is available.

Apart from protesting, i'm sure that everyone living in such oppressive regimes would like to get Internet access so they can see what else is happening in the world, meet people online, and simply enjoy the Internet however they wish.

Speaking of seeing what else is happening in the world -- This helps people living in oppressive regimes see the freedom and quality of life that they could have if it wasn't for their oppression, motivating them to work towards a better future (however they see fit).

How Does The Cosmos Browser Work?

According to the Cosmos Browser Github project page:

'After a person inputs a url, our app texts our Twilio number which forwards the URL as a POST request to our Node.JS backend. The backend takes the url, gets the HTML source of the website, minifies it, gets rid of the css, JavaScript, and images, GZIP compresses it, encodes it in Base64, and sends the data as a series of SMS's. The phone receives this stream at a rate of 3 messages per second, orders them, decompresses them, and displays the content.'

Currently, this app runs on Android only.

The following developers created this software at MHacks IV.

App Developers

  • Stefan Aleksić.
  • Shreyas Raman.
  • Rohith Varanasi.
  • Justice Suh.

For more technology news, visit the technology category, and for technology reference articles explaining how things work and more, visit the technology section.

John Legere, the CEO of T-Mobile has announced that T-Mobile will offer free Wi-Fi texting and calling during the Un-carrier 7.0 event.

This means that if you're in a region with poor cell signal coverage, you can take advantage of whichever Wi-Fi connection is available. You will be able to make HD voice calls.

Wi-Fi texting and calling also provides a huge benefit for people like me, who spend plenty of time at home with a Wi-Fi and DSL Internet connection.

According to Mashable:

'To enable this, every new smartphone sold by T-Mobile will come Wi-Fi-enabled for Wi-Fi texting and calling (the feature must be built-in by manufacturers).

Additionally, all of the carrier's existing customers have the ability to trade in their existing device for one of the new Wi-Fi-enabled handsets via the company's Jump program.'

T-Mobile also allows customers to switch carriers without early termination fees (ETF), and to 'test drive' iPhones for a week before committing to a contract.

Every company's policy has its strengths and weaknesses. Some prioritize reliability, while others prioritize the importance of low fees, and performance.

While some: like T-Mobile, put freedom high on their list of priorities, which is unusual for a carrier, because cellphone service providers usually insist on locking phones permanently. Wi-Fi texting and calling is one of the greatest additions to their service i've seen so far.

How Would Wi-Fi Texting Affect Demand For Public Wi-Fi Hotspots?

People browse the Internet often, but what I see them do most is text, which is done through carriers, and not Wi-Fi. This heavy texting is very costly. Therefore, enabling Wi-Fi texting would increase the incentive to find Wi-Fi hotspots when they aren't at home.

Is It Worth It To Hunt For Wi-Fi Hotspots When You're On The Road?

That isn't worth it to me, because I don't text very often. However, it depends on how common Wi-Fi hotspots are in your area.

If they are rare, then you're going to get sick of hunting for them and give up eventually. If they're common, then it may be worth it to you.

Source: Mashable.

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

People used to look at my phone and say 'Wow! It still looks good'. Comments on my tablet include: 'It still looks nice and new' (after 2 1/2 years of heavy usage).

Leaving Electronics On Shortens Their Lifespan

Leaving electronics on when you're not using them is not only a waste of energy, but it will shorten their lifespan due to the heat they generate. This normal phenomenon is not overheating, but heat gradually wears them out.

As someone who has been viewing the technical specifications of electronics' components for years, I learned that there is a clear correlation between usage and the lifespan of nearly every technology because every electronic component in your device (transistors, etc) has a lifespan measured in hours of usage.

Personal experience confirmed this for me as well. My electronics run strong for more than 8 years, while all the others I see left on typically last only a few years.

Portable Electronics Need Cases, And Not just Any Case

As Max Knoblauch said on Mashable: Carrying electronics without a case poses a great risk of damage to your screen and device corners.

There is typically a large assortment of cases in stores, which means that you should really take the time to pick the best one for you. For every store that has too few options, I encourage you to leave and stop by another one with more options.

I have seen cases increase the risk of phone damage, which sounds ridiculous, but there is a right and wrong way to do almost everything.

I know that some people like sleeve cases which you can slide your phone in and out of, but that type has caused more damage than any case i've seen. This is because the awkward way in which it requires you to access your phone increases the likelihood of it slipping out of your fingers (you usually have to pull the phone out by its edge).

This type of case also doesn't offer much protection because you have to take the phone out of it to use it, exposing it to all the dangers. While it is in your pocket, your phone will be fine with or without a case, as long as you don't have any other objects (such as keys) in the same pocket or handbag compartment.

Use a case that you can use the phone or tablet in, and ideally, it would contain a little padding or rubber to help absorb energy from falls and minimize shock to the device.

Falls, And How To Avoid Them

Each little fall causes a small amount of damage. Every time you drop a phone, a hairline crack in a solder connection or a chip may get bigger, and after a few drops, it will finally break.

Buying a case isn't all you can do to protect your devices from this. For the sake of your mental health, and your devices' longevity:

Don't carry them on every visit to the bathroom, or kitchen, and you should really put them away during conversations so you can better communicate with the person, and to reduce your chances of dropping them.

Leaving Electronics On In The Hot Car (Without A/C)

The temperature in a car can soar to 138 °F after spending only 90 minutes in the sun. Electronics already barely stay within their temperature limitations under normal, hot, circumstances when they're turned on. This is because their high performance technology is crammed into a tiny package.

Leaving them on when they're in a hot car can cause overheating because the heat in the car adds to the great deal of heat that they already generate. This may even lead to battery explosions.

Improper Damage Control

Don't try to turn electronics on after they get wet. They must be dried thoroughly first. My water damage repair article will explain how to do this.

For reference articles explaining how various technologies work, how to guides, and more, visit the technology section.

In March 2010, Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull volcano erupted. That eruption was such an enormous and petrifying disaster that it shut down all Nothern European flights (except the emergency ones) for day, a stark reminder that the greatest danger of volcanoes isn't lava, but their ash emissions.

Unfortunately, volcanic eruptions can get much worse than that.

Introducing Yellowstone, A Supervolcano Under A National Park

Supervolcanoes are 'super' because of their massive scale, and potential to blow everyone into the sky. I have to admit that was an exaggeration, but my point is that all other volcanoes pale in comparison to them.

All the eruptions you have seen are nothing compared to what Yellowstone can do, hence the hysteria and curiosity surrounding it.

The Yellowstone caldera (which is a sink in or near the centre of a volcano) is 55 by 72 km (or 34 by 45 miles), and it is an active supervolcano.

I can't say that I didn't mean to scare you, because i'm going to do it again: Odd things have happened at Yellowstone National Park recently, and it happens to be the park sitting atop the Yellowstone Caldera , which sits atop a massive underground pool of red-hot magma.

In case you were wondering, all of those beautiful heated spectacles you see at Yellowstone National Park such as the Old Faithful geyser and more are caused by Yellowstone's volcanic heat.

According to CNN, the road that takes visitors past the White Dome Geyser, Great Fountain Geyser and Firehole Lake melted due to Yellowstone's intense heat.

For a volcano that hasn't erupted (or to be more specific, supererupted) for tens (or hundreds) of thousands of years, Yellowstone is very active. It is producing steam, the caldera rises and falls periodically, and it experiences 1,000 to 3,000 little earthquakes annually.

Is Yellowstone Going To Erupt?

Despite the fact that Yellowstone is enormous and dangerous, worrying about it is only going to make you unhappy. Apart from that, CNN said that there would be a warning well in advance if it was about to erupt, and the National Park Service doesn't expect an eruption for at least thousands of years.

LG has their Android-powered G Watch R on display at the IFA 2014 technology conference in Berlin, Germany, and it really looks just like a conventional analog watch in certain cases, with its 100% circular screen, and a traditional bezel.

Two of the LG G Watch R, side by side.

The LG G Watch R. Image obtained with thanks from LGEPR on Flickr.

The Motorola Moto 360 looks very much like a traditional watch as well, but they had to use the bottom of the face as a sensor, so it isn't 100% round. While this isn't a big deal, if you really must have authentic analog look, the LG G Watch R achieves that.

The fashion-conscious have been choosing analog watches because of their classic, accented design, and the glimmering jewelery-like appearance that certain models have, and smartwatches are usually square, and have a typical electronic appearance.

I don't mind square watches at all. I like them, but everyone has their preferences, and it is good to see that there is now an option for everyone (at least, for those who can afford smartwatches, because they are awfully expensive).

According to Mashable:

'The LG G Watch R also comes with a beautiful leather strap made of calfskin, although buyers will have other strap options when they buy.

The touchscreen is relatively responsive — again, more so than the Samsung Gear S — but it still has its hiccups; there were times the display lagged when swiping a finger to move from one notification page to another. It also needs to be wirelessly tethered to a smartphone, unlike the Gear S that has built-in 3G and works on its own.'

As is the case with the Moto 360, the LG G Watch R watch is functional. It enables you to conveniently swipe up through features such as the weather, your messages, flight data, you can ask it for directions, and more.

The LG G Watch R May Be Safe To Wear Outside

Apart from that, there is also a practical benefit of the effort to mimic traditional analog watches: People are victimized for their mobile electronics, more than anything else, by far!

Smartwatches have a high-tech and expensive appearance, which will attract thieves. To add insult to injury, they are on your arm all the time, so thieves will be sure that they can get something valuable if they attack you.

In other words, thieves may target you first since they will see your smartwatch instead of checking to see what other people may have.

Pricing for the LG G Watch R is not yet available.

Source: Mashable.

For more smartwatch news, visit the technology category, and for reference articles pertaining to technology, visit the technology section.

Git Bounty is a project that aims to incentivize the repair of bugs in open source software with money. When money talks, everyone listens. Therefore, this likely has great potential to increase productivity in the open source software community.

Nearly every open source software project has some form of bug tracking technology, or a bug list for volunteers to take on. This is very helpful. However, not everyone wants to volunteer, so Git Bounty will enable people to post bugs with a monetary reward for those who fix them.

In the future, the team may take a fraction of the bounty, but they would provide the option to donate that fraction to a charity instead. Either way, the money will be put to good use.

Git Bounty was developed by Angus MacIsaac, Adam Burvill, Anton Shevchenko, Nathan Boiron, Martin Coulombe. These developers work together at the Osedea development shop in Montreal, Canada.

The Git Bounty Team Saw A Need For This Due To Their Own Challenges

They recently worked on a project involving an open source framework which they needed fixed, and they would have gladly paid someone $2,000 to do so. It is unfortunate that there are so many people willing to pay for work, and so many people who need work but can't find it.

Git Bounty will help this situation by giving volunteers a way to make some money on the side.

According to TechCrunch:

Coulombe said that the team plans to 'keep working on Git Bounty after the event. 'We see the potential and the value. We just have to see how it gets accepted in the open-source community,' he said.

He also noted that while the project is mostly focusing on bug fixes right now, it could also be used to pay programmers to add new features to a project.'

The latter could be very helpful. As someone who has used Linux and been part of the open source community for years, I have seen that the open source community has been staying afloat and certain parts of it are growing. This concept could also help other open source technology (even hardware).

However, open source software hasn't enjoyed quite as much success as it deserves, so the injection of more funding into the community is very welcome.

Source: TechCrunch.

For more technology news, visit the technology category, and for technology reference articles explaining how things work and much more, visit the technology section.