Category Archives: Technology

CES: 3D Printers Are Here!

3D printers

One of the big winners at last weeks Consumer Electronic Show was the new and improved 3-D Printer. Programs are already available online to replicate objects using a plastic material. While the price range keeps this printer out of the average homeowner many are expecting it to be affordable within a few years.

Sci-fi fans around the world are gleefully anticipating seeing one of these real life replicators. Imagine the possibilities, it might not yet make Captain Picard’s, ‘Tea, Earl Gray, Hot.’ it may soon replicate the cup to hold it.

Taking Cue From Obama, Nigeria Plans Big Phone Giveaway

100_0875

Remember this lady?

She and her friends were going to vote for Obama because he was giving out free phones. Of course, the Democratic party did not buy phones from her but did it matter? She got a phone and she was voting for the guy who got it for her.

Today the BBC is reporting that a political party in Nigeria wants to give out free phones to country’s poor.  According to the agriculture minister the phones will be paid for by a tax and given to women and rural farmers.

Like the Lifeline program the phones may not be directly handed out by politicians but one has to wonder how many will believe they’re getting their free phone courtesy of the political party currently in office?

BBC: All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) General Secretary Tijani Tumsa said the plan was a “mischievous vote-catching exercise” for the 2015 elections. Last week, the agriculture minister said the phones would help farmers “drive an agriculture revolution”. Akinwumi Adesina said their purchase would be financed 100_0875through a tax. He denied reports that the government had already set aside $400m (£249m) to buy the phones.

Mr Tumsa told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme the scheme was a ploy by the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to “connect” with voters in rural areas in the build-up to elections. He said he doubted the plan would boost the farming sector. “You are just creating business for the telecom companies. You are not impacting on agricultural production in Nigeria, unless the purpose is to have more phone coverage,” Mr Tumsa added.

Defending the scheme, Mr Adesina said Nigeria had the highest number of mobile phones in Africa – an estimated 110 million – but many Nigerians in rural areas did not have them.

Read the complete article at the BBC News.

Finally: Dems Read ObamaCare. Request Delays.

obamacare fallout

obamacare falloutAs Nancy Pelosi famously said, “You’ve got to pass the bill, so you can learn what’s inside…” Democrats are finally getting around to reading the ObamaCare law. And they’re surprised at the findings. Unknown taxes, hidden fees. Who would have guessed that within those 2,000 pages of hastily put together legislation would be ‘job killing taxes’ (as emphatically stated this Monday by Al Franken, D-MN)?

Well of course it’s true. Those of us who urged caution and debate anticipated this massive bill would impact people far more than House and Senate leaders would admit.

So here we are, as more parts of the law are being enacted, and Congress has just now learned about some of those unexpected fees. Acting as though they were blindsided, sixteen Democratic Senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asking for delays because they have just now realized that the medical technology field will be severely impacted by taxes levied through the new law.

It’s true, some of the Senators, including Franken, did express concerns when the bill was written about these very taxes. Unfortunately, these same senators did not see the problems as significant enough to vote no on the bill. Today as ObamaCare and its funding methods are about to become actuality they are responding to their constituents and finally, questioning elements of this new and expensive law.

You can read the letter below as provided by the Wall Street Journal.

letter to maj leader 2letter to maj leader 2letter to maj leader 3

Get Your Tricorder Here

tricorder

Star Trek fans will love this. The tricorders from early episodes is closer to reality.

Scientific America: A team of students has designed a Star Trek-inspired sensing device that can beam environmental data to a smart phone.The tricorder device is the team’s response to a challenge from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: “Is there an effective way to integrate external sensors with smart phones and can we globalize this information?” Applications could range from data collection for research to educational hands-on activities to disaster-zone assessment.

Bones would be proud.

 

Real War on Women: Husbands Alerted if Wives Leave Country

burka 1

There is a real war on women. And it’s not the one contrived by liberals to win voters in the last election. No, this war on women takes place in many countries. It’s hard for people of the U.S. to imagine but there are still places where women are still seen as second class citizens.

The Wahhab religion, is a form of Islamic Fundamentalism and originates from Saudi Arabia. Similar to Sharia, Wahhabi followers do not regard it as simply one school of thought out of many; rather the only path of true Islam.

Followers of this religion believe women must be modest, covering themselves from head to toe by a burqa in public. A woman is treated always as a minor and as a second-class citizen that needs a male guardian. Women need her male guardian to obtain her identity card or passport and women are not allowed to enter government departments.

Saudi Arabia remains the only country in the world where women are still not allowed to drive. While there have been protests against the female driving ban it remains in place.

Recently, it was reported that husbands of Saudi women were being sent text alerts if their wives attempted to leave the country. The new technology of text messages allows husbands to more quickly monitor their wives activities.

In Saudi Arabia, women must have permission from their ‘male guardians’, whether husband, brother or father, to travel outside the country. When women want to travel across the border or at the airport their guardian must sign a permission slip before the women are allowed travel.

Women in Saudi who are caught driving or attempt to leave the country without permission may be beaten by the religious police.

It is hard to imagine in this day and age that women could be subject to such restrictions.

There is a real war on women.

Read more about this at The Telegraph.

Reversing Paralysis With Nose Cells? It Might Work

jasper

Meet Jasper, a 10-year-old dachshund,  whose back legs were paralyzed. Today following a unique medical trial he is now walking and playing in the yard with his family.

Jasper can be seen in the video before and after his treatment at the BBC website.

In the study, funded by the Medical Research Council in the UK and published in the neurology journal Brain, 34 pet dogs all with spinal injuries were used. The dogs had olfactory ensheathing cells from the lining of their nose removed. The cells were grown and expanded for several weeks in the laboratory and then transplanted into the injury site. Twenty-three dogs had actual cells transplanted while the other 11 were given a neutral fluid as a control.

According to the BBC interview: Many of the dogs that received the transplant showed considerable improvement and were able to walk on a treadmill with the support of a harness. None of the control group regained use of its back legs.

The study is the first to test the transplant in real-life injuries rather than laboratory animals. Six months after the treatment, many of the dogs were able to walk with the aid of a harness.

Professor Robin Franklin of the Wellcome Trust-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute told The Times: “The principle is, we take these cells from one location where they get nerve fibers to grow, and take them to a location where nerve fibers don’t usually grow.”

“We’re confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries… but it’s not the magic bullet that’s going to solve spinal cord injury,” says Franklin. ·

Whether this will bridge between damaged and undamaged parts of the spine will work in humans is still unknown. But the success of the experiment does give some hope to people with spinal injuries.

Apple doesn’t deserve your money

iPhone

If you invest in individual stocks  you will likely, or should, be steering clear of Apple (AAPL).

Apple shares are now more than 25% off their September levels, but the question long term investors should ask is why? Is it because Mr. Jobs passed  and the new leadership is unable to innovate? The answer is an unequivocal “YES.”

Where are the really new products?

So far Apple has offered a smaller version of the iPad and an iPhone with a slightly bigger screen. These are not the game-changing technological leaps that we are used to from the technology company.

As if to put an exclamation mark on the the idea, Samsung has unleashed a series of effective adds showing the iPerson faithful standing in line for a device that does no more than to move the headphone jack to another side of their signature device.

Apple continues to offer devices that are unfriendly to those needing productivity while Andoid and Microsft put out portable devices intended for the working community.

The Microsoft “Surface” comes with Windows 8 and Microsoft Office built into the device and Android has google docs. Apple has cool apps – the same cool apps that work on everything they’ve ever had.

Apple is failing to innovate while Samsung and Microsoft find better uses for mobile technology. Investing in a company that can only make smaller or larger versions  of their existing technology is illogical. Apple is no longer the cool new thing.

Stopping Subway Flooding

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The Department of Homeland Security technology department has come up with a crazy new device that may stop subway floods from happening in the near future.

For years mass transit experts have worked to find an ability to block off sections of the tunnel system to stem flooding. While retrofitting existing tunnels with watertight doors seemed the obvious answer the price has been prohibitive.

Now they think they’ve found the answer. And it’s as simple as an inflatable plug. A giant blow up capsule that when inflated will fit snugly into the subway space sealing it off until the danger of flooding has passed.

In January 2012 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) successfully tested an unprecedented technology for containing flooding or dangerous gases in mass transit tunnels: a giant plug. S&T’s Resilient Tunnel Project (RTP) has developed an enormous inflatable cylinder, tunnel-shaped with rounded capsule-like ends, that can be filled with water or air in minutes to seal off a section of tunnel before flooding gets out of control.

The plug is made of space suite material and is strong and resistant to tears. Its quick inflation gives the ability to tunnel systems to repair and return to normal with minimal damage.

Watch the video below to see how this new technology will work. It is expected to be available in two years.

Ai’s Cleaning Closet: First Use of the Shark Pro Steam Pocket Mop

First Shark Mop Pic

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of cleaning products and housekeeping in general, so it’s no surprise that my interest in consumer cleaning products would spill into my online writing. (it’s not “all” politics all the time at Casa del Ai)

I recently took possession of a Shark Pro Steam Pocket mop and decided to record it being used for the first time.  When you first turn it on, it seems to do “nothing” for the first 30 seconds, and the steam it initially produces seems a little on the pathetic side.  But after about 90 seconds, it starts belching steam out in a fashion that might remind one of a science fiction story set in 19th century England.  While that description might not do it justice, you can see the great puffs of steam it produces in the video below.  (please excuse the “well lived in” interior of the home it’s used in)

(the steam is better visible when viewing in 720p or 1080p)

Does A High Klout Score Mean That Your Tweets Are “Good”?

For the past week, I’ve been grousing over Michael Arrington’s sudden about-face in regards to the website Klout.  For years now, Arrington has been happy to relegate Klout to the pile of irrelevance, and I was in agreement with him.  But then he released this blog post last week that not only says he “likes” Klout now, but he’s also invested in the company.  I lamented so much that I spent 20 minutes complaining about it on last Saturday’s show.  I then called into Michelle Ray’s show last night and lamented again.

The reason is this, and it’s a simple one:  Klout cannot determine whether tweets are “good” or not, and a lot of people seem to get the idea that it can.  The service claims to measure how much influence you have, but all it really does is measure how many people reply to you on a social network site.

Users might think that a high Klout score means that they’re important or influential or that they say really good things, but all it really means is that people respond to them on sites like Twitter and Facebook.  And in a lot of ways, it rewards bad behavior.

Don’t believe me?  Below is the Klout score of a notorious (and some would say racist) troll on Twitter.  This is a man who has a relatively small number of followers, and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks he contributes anything “good” to Twittter, but he has a higher score than most people I follow, and it’s only ten points off of the highest scored Conservative tweeters I know.  He did this by insulting pretty much anyone he comes across and watching his Klout score climb as they respond to his vitriol.  It’s just that easy.

 

 

This is not to say that the only way to attain a high Klout score is to spam and insult people; there are plenty of good folks on social media who contribute good things and are rewarded everyday, but it is dangerous, if not reckless to conflate high(er) Klout scores with good tweeting, or even good behavior.  We have to use our brains and try to keep track of the worthwhile tweeters, ourselves.  We can’t just assume that high scores equal good contributors.

It’s not just trolls you have to consider, either.  Another reason that Klout can’t be trusted as the end all be all and arbiter of who is a good tweeter is that it has no way of knowing which tweeters have been blacklisted.  I discussed blacklisting of tweeters on Saturday’s show, but I can offer some examples here too.

Simply put, when well known or influential tweeters want to shut down someone they see as a rival, they often put out ultimatums to their followers to not retweet, follow, or reply to certain people.  While I primarily spend time in Conservative circles on Twitter, it’s not just politics where this happens.  Just today, I saw a comedian discussing how comedians put the same kind of pressure on people in their circles to freeze rival comedians out.  I’m sure this takes place in plenty of demographics on social media, but Klout has no way of knowing when this has happened to someone.  As such, Klout can never be trusted as a tool to point you to the “good” people on social media.  It can only point you to who is “popular”.  And a lot of people have become “popular” by either trolling or being manipulative.  Again, a higher Klout score does not mean that the person or their content is any “good”.

So what do we do?  Should we dismiss Klout altogether?  That’s a tough question.  Because even if Klout did perfectly determine who was providing good content, you’d be doing yourself, and everyone else, a disservice by using it to discriminate in favor of or against people based solely on a Klout score.  In my gut, I feel that there could be good uses for a site like Klout, but when pressed to tell you some of what they might be, I come up empty.  So, as things stand, I can’t recommend the use of Klout as tool for determining good tweeters or content, but I’m not ready to completely give up on the site either.  My advice is to take Klout scores with a grain of salt, or better yet, a ten pound bag.  We still have to determine where good content is coming from for ourselves.

Klout, Retweets, and Why Neither One Really “Matters”

KLOUT

At the bottom of this post is a link to listen to a segment from last Saturday’s episode of Married to the Game.  This segment discusses thoughts on Klout and Twitter and old school “RT’s” versus the “new retweet”.
The text in this post is meant as a supplement to flesh out some of the thoughts shared in that segment.  While this post, in its whole, is designed for you to both read the text and listen to the audio, it is possible to take something away from just doing one or the other.  Feel free to read and/or listen at your leisure.

A curious change has been taking place on Twitter over the past six months.  It used to be that in Conservative circles on Twitter, when people wanted to stand out, they would try to make sound and logical arguments, and they would interact with as many people as they could to share them.  It was the very definition of grassroots, and that mentality is one reason that I believe Conservatives were able to so soundly defeat Progressives in the midterm elections.  For lack of a better term, Twitter was organic, and most of the discussions felt natural.  But as with most good things, it seems that that more natural order of Twitter is in danger of coming to an end.

And who do I blame?
FavStar and
Klout

I say FavStar, but that might not be fair.  It’s more like the “FavStar” mentality.  And what is FavStar, you might ask?  It’s a handy website that tells you which of your tweets have been favorited and/or retweeted.  It also has a counter to tell you how many times each tweet has received this treatment.  While FavStar is tremendously popular on Twitter as a whole, it’s very rare that you’ll see someone of the #TCOT persuasion actually invoke the name of this service.  While they don’t say “FavStar”, specifically, they do seem to put a lot of stock into the statistics that FavStar tracks, such as favorites and retweets.

While “FavStar” may not be in the average Conservative’s lexicon, Klout, most likely, is.  Klout is a service that tries to determine how influential of a personality on social media you are.  You sign into it with your various social media accounts, and it spits out a number that tells you how “important” you are.  It sounds like I’m being facetious, but if you listen to an excerpt from my radio show below, you’ll see that having a high Klout score can grant you special privileges like renting luxury cars for “free”.

So, why would Conservatives want you to pay attention to their Klout scores or how many times they’ve been retweeted?  To put it shortly, there are THOUSANDS, if not tens of thousands of Conservatives on Twitter vying to have their voices heard.  A few years ago, it was fairly easy to follow all of the really “good” Conservative tweeps and not be overwhelmed.  But today, you can follow nearly 2000 tweeters and still be missing out on solid voices.  It gets to a point where you simply cannot keep up with it all.  And a lot of influential tweeters know this.  So they tell you that they are the ones you should listen to, and their high Klout scores or the number of times they’ve been retweeted are proof of this.

The problem is that, while they are trying to find a way to distinguish themselves, they’re practically knocking the ladder down before other good tweeters can reach a similar point of prominence that they enjoy.  Now there is a small catch to this:  Prominent people who have been trying to knock the ladder down *do* help some smaller tweeters up the ladder.  The problem is that they are generally only willing to help someone up who basically parrots their views.  They do this for two reasons:
1.  Brown nosing has been the quickest path to the top since the dawn of time.
2.  They create more power for themselves in the process.  The person who parrots them knows where their meal ticket is, so they will continue to parrot the prominent tweeter’s views effectively “forever”.  And the more influence this smaller person gains, the more useful they are as a parrot.  In a lot of ways, this scenario resembles crony capitalism, or just general cronyism.

So, why should you care?  If you use social media sparingly and you have no ambition of ever becoming prominent yourself, then you have very little reason to care.  You still do have reason to care, but not as much as some other people would.  However, if you have a website to promote, or you want to feel like you’re effecting conversation, then it helps to develop some sort of prominence for yourself.  As recently as a year ago, you could do this fairly easily by just talking to people and making good points.  It was as simple as that.  Today, it seems that the only way to amass any amount of prominence is to have an already established person vouch for you.  This can be done in many ways, but when you boil it, it usually comes down to some variant of brown nosing.  This is not to say that you can’t develop prominence on your own, but if Twitter is a marketing tool to you, then it will really only be useful if you can get the bigger fish to help get your links clicked.  (or your thoughts heard)

The text in this post was written as a supplement to the audio in the link below.  While I don’t expect this message to be received with open arms by everyone, this is definitely something that has been discussed (privately) for a while.  Last week’s article, where TechCrunch founder, Michael Arrington, espoused on why he now supports Klout was the real motivating factor for me expressing these views out loud.  As more and more people join social media and become politically involved, the scenario that I’ve outlined above and below will only become more of a problem.  As I said on the show, right now we’re witnessing a snowball that is rolling down a hill and soon to become a boulder.  I’m speaking out now, before that boulder has a chance to knock some really good tweeps out.

CLICK HERE TO HEAR WHY
I DON’T PUT MUCH STOCK IN KLOUT

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