June 30, 2014

More About The FAA's Rules On Drones

Bruce Simpson shares his well informed opinion on the FAA's recent "recommendations" regarding UAVs.

permalink | June 30, 2014 at 10:48 AM | Comments (4)

June 18, 2014

A Change At Apple

Has Apple ever before now introduced a cheaper, less powerful version of a computer? They have now. The newest iMac is $200 cheaper at $1,099. It's been reduced from the 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 3.2GHz to the 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 with Turbo Boost up to 2.7GHz.

You can compare iMac models here. The hard drive is cut from 1Tb to 500GB (for $50 they'll upgrade it to 1TB).

permalink | June 18, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon has introduced its Fire Phone.

I've watched the videos and read down the long page of features and it sure seems to do a lot of nice stuff. If only it had some way that you could make it connect to another device at a great distance so that you could, I guess, talk or sump'n to the person who has that other device. That'd be neat, but I guess that's some crazy futuristic thing we have to wait for.

Here's the product announcement video. The contrast between the excitement level of an Amazon audience and an Apple audience is really striking.

The phone appears at the 14-minute mark.

permalink | June 18, 2014 at 08:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2014

The Next Step In Selfies

The Hexo+ has a Kickstarter that is rather over-subscribed. Their goal was $50,000 and they've gotten $486,686 at this point.

My first thought when I heard of this was about possible uses in law enforcement or in some adventurous invasions of privacy by rude people. Imagine how much you could irritate an ex by having one of these copters follow them in public. But I forgot that people's own egos are bigger than their desire to irritate exes. Videos of ones self will be more popular. Set this thing to focus on you and you've got your own little airborne robot to follow you around as you play. Then you can upload your video to Facebook and get likes.

Technically, I wonder what sort of object avoidance it has. When you're running amongst the trees, can it detect and avoid low-hanging branches?

If this project comes to fruition, I expect it won't be too long before someone using it experiences a life-changing disaster (snow cliff collapses, parachute doesn't open, whatever) and we will get a video of the disaster shot from 20 feet away by the imperturbable Hexo+ copter, rather than the spinning wild video we currently get when someone tumbles down a mountainside.

Will you be able to make it follow animals or inanimate objects like cars? It's got a top speed of 45 MPH. Imagine getting this thing to follow a herd of wild horses, or a pod of dolphins.

permalink | June 17, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2014

Drone Video, MSWD, Robots - What more could you want?

All in this video.

He's flying the new DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ which has a gimbal and improved camera. But not a GoPro.

A lot of his aerial video is Palm Springs, not Desert Hot Springs. But there is a flyover of the Horton wastewater treatment plant.

permalink | June 13, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 6, 2014


That translates to "Centers Of Excellence for Unmanned Aerial Systems." That's an FAA thing which will actually be decentralized centers of excellence. "The COE will be a geographically disbursed consortium of the FAA, university partners and their affiliates selected by the FAA Administrator to conduct UAS related research, education and training while working jointly on issues of mutual interest and concern."

UC San Diego wants to be one of those Centers. California made a bid last year, but got nothing because the state actually submitted two competing bids.

Here's the website for the California UAS Summit which takes place on June 10. The photos on that page indicate its broad scope. They're including everything from tiny almost-toy UASs up to the biggest military drones. But the real, secret benefit for researching UASs in California is revealed on this page where a photo shows how traffic congestion on the Golden Gate Bridge can be relieved. Exactly how drones will bring about that solution is not made clear.

permalink | June 6, 2014 at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

June 2, 2014

Is this the usual way?

You can livestream this morning's (begins 10 AM PT) big ol' Apple WWDC (Walla Walla Discussion Club) here...maybe. "Live streaming video requires Safari 4 or later on OS X v10.6 or later; Safari on iOS 4.2 or later. Streaming via Apple TV requires second- or third-generation Apple TV with software 5.0.2 or later."

I think that means if you are using Windows you will need to boot up your Mac emulator, right? You can do that can't you?

To use the terminology of straight boys, this thing is a sausage fest.

  • Mac sales up 12%. Tim Cook says sales of other brands are down 5%. I imagine he's referring to desktop and laptop sales.
  • Mavericks adoption has reached 51%. Windows 8 adoption is 14%.
  • They have ruled out Oxnard, Rancho Cucamonga and Weed as names for the next version of OS X.
  • It will be OS X Yosemite.
  • Lots of superficial changes; typeface, icons, translucency. Eh. I think they start with the least exciting stuff.
  • An enhanced search Spotlight. Well, that would help.
  • Greater energy efficiency in Safari - meaning actual use of electricity. The result is to preserve battery life on a laptop.
  • All your Apple devices can stay synched on everything all the time. Something called "Continuity."
  • SMS (including non-Apple sources) and phone calls are fully synched as well. That is, if you have an iPhone around, your Mac can act like a phone.
  • Dr. Dre on the phone. They got something for their $3 billion.
  • Yosemite to be released in the autumn. No charge.
  • 500 million iPhones out there. In the last 12 months 130 million people bought iPhones as their very first Apple device. Most of them had been Android users. This includes half their customers in China.
  • Customer satisfaction with iOS 7 is at 97% (but how much of that is due to the drugs they embed in the glass?).
  • 89% of iOS users use iOS 7. Only 9% of Android users are on Kit Kat.
  • Some nasty-ass attacks on Android - probably adapted from old anti-Windows tirades.
  • Oh hey, I just saw a woman in the audience.
  • iOS 8 - they list lots of revisions, none of which mean much to me since I don't have an iOS device.
  • Device enrollment for businesses. An iOS device will auto-configure to whatever the business requires when it's first booted up.
  • They just showed that woman again. I'm watching closely to see if they show a second one.
  • iOS has an app with Mayo Clinic that allows you to transmit vital signs with iOS (I assume the vital signs are measured by iOS). The app can then go on to alert the appropriate people if the vital signs have gone akilter.
  • Kid using a credit card to buy something on iOS triggers an immediate message to a parent to grant or deny permission to complete that purchase.
  • An upgrade for photos on the Mac to be released early 2015 will have some photo editing abilities to match what Photoshop Elements has had for 10 years, although it looks cooler on iOS.
  • Siri supports 22 more languages.
  • Better iOS maps in China. Lunar calendar.
  • Improved, enhanced searching in the App Store.
  • App bundles. Buy multiple apps at a discount with one click.
  • Short videos as app previews.
  • TestFlight - free beta testing program for developers.
  • SDK will offer extensibility so one app can provide services to another app.
  • Twice they've referenced Bing's translation service.
  • Third-party keyboards can be made system-wide in iOS 8.
  • HomeKit - common network protocol for all automatic home devices (lights, locks, etc.)
  • Metal 3D graphics - reduces system overhead. Maybe as much as 10x better performance.
  • Demonstration of 3,500 individually rendered and animated butterflies. Zen Garden will be free in the App Store when iOS 8 is released.
  • New programming language: Swift. Much faster than Objective-C.

permalink | June 2, 2014 at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2014

Do you suppose...

...that Donald Sterling is bothered to learn that his L.A. Clippers, which have been in existence since 1970, is worth only two-thirds as much as Dr. Dre's Beats Music which has been around since January?

permalink | May 29, 2014 at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

Got A Wind Turbine Fetish?

Or just curious?

EBOLI (SA) Italy - 22 May 2014 . Available today, the app Windfarm Locator offers a global wind farm monitoring platform to iPhone and Android users.

Thanks to an algorithm mining info on the internet one of the biggest wind farm database has been created and made available to the apple and android mobile users (iOS 5.1.1 or later and Android 4.1 or later). More than 12,000 wind farms have been listed up until now! For each wind farm site in the database, atmosphere is hourly modeled at wind turbines hub height and wind farm production esteemed at the specific site based on the wind farm technical specs.

App features include:

  • A detailed global map of installed wind farms
  • Wind farm comprehensive technical informations
  • An estimate of how many MWs each plant supplies to the grid realtime, update hourly.
  • Easy to search any location in the world.

"Since we implemented the first algorithm we have thought about a tool everybody can understand. Yes, we maintained a technical description but we converted all the data also in a more readable form such as how many homes each wind farm feeds each year in the specific country the farm is installed," said Francesco Paraggio, core developer of the app.

Further, everybody using the app can contribute improve the database by taking a photo of a wind farm. Each month one of the contributors will be rewarded with a fantastic handheld anemometer.

windfarm locator
"Hey Ma, this app says we're standing right under a wind turbine!"

The Android app is $3.66.

The iOS app is $3.99.

Maybe that extra 33¢ for the iOS app buys you one day of Beats Music.

permalink | May 29, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2014

Zinc-Air Batteries

I had never taken note of zinc-air batteries before, so I looked 'em up. Wikipedia gives you all the expected info, but here's the critical part: The U.S. has 35% of the world's supply of zinc, but only 0.38% of the world's lithium. We import 80% of what we use. The biggest reserves of lithium are in Chile, Bolivia and China. Last year, scientists at Stanford announced an advance in zinc-air batteries that involved "electrode catalysts made of cobalt oxide, a nickel-iron compound and carbon nanomaterials." Also last year, ZAF Energy Systems in Montana announced additional breakthroughs that will give zinc-air batteries twice the energy output [per kilogram] of lithium batteries.

Eos Systems believes it has achieved the holy grail of energy production (or one of several holy grails, I guess). And that is battery storage of electricity that is cheaper than any other means of dealing with peak energy demands. Click here to see a simple graph produced by Eos of the relative costs of peak energy solutions. It shows gas turbines among the least expensive and hydro-pumping even less expensive than gas turbines. I imagine the numbers for hydro-pump storage come mostly from areas where there is an abundance of water to pump, not from desert areas where groundwater would be the only source of water.

But cheapest of all (on their nice graph) is the Eos Aurora zinc-air battery. Consolidated Edison (of New York) is testing one of them. (BTW, "CAES" on that graph is Compressed Air Energy Storage.)

But all that is prelude so that you can appreciate the big news that on Friday the winners of the Intel-ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) were announced and the third-place winner (or maybe it's a tie for second-place) was Shannon Xinjing Lee of Singapore who developed a novel electrocatalyst for zinc-air batteries this is lighter, more stable, has greater longevity, less expensive and more environmentally friendly. The secret behind this electrocatalyst? It is "made entirely from carbonized Chinese eggplant." The press release doesn't explain if "carbonized" means something specifically scientific, or if it's the same thing that happens in a recipe for blackened eggplant. Ms. Lee gets a $50,000 prize.

The first place, grand prize Gordon E. Moore Award of $75,000 went to Nathan Han who developed a tool that is 81% accurate in identifying cancer threats from BRCA1 gene mutations. Next year, if he studies real hard, Mr. Han will get to drive his mom's old Corolla after passing his driver's license exam. He is 15 years old and a student at Boston Latin.

permalink | May 18, 2014 at 09:30 AM | Comments (1)