colinneagle writes: Widespread adoption of 3D printing technology may not be that far away, according to a Gartner report predicting that enterprise-class 3D printers will be available for less than $2,000 by 2016. 3D printers are already in use among many businesses, from manufacturing to pharmaceuticals to consumers goods, and have generated a diverse set of use cases. As a result, the capabilities of the technology have evolved to meet customer needs, and will continue to develop to target those in additional markets, Gartner says.
Comparing the impact of 3D printing to that of ecommerce, Gartner says the technology holds the potential to fundamentally change how business transactions are conducted. Businesses can create physical prototypes and architectural models much easier, and in some cases could enable customers to print the final purchased product from their own 3D printers, Gartner says. This potential will drive the cost of 3D printers down as businesses look to take advantage of new business models, Gartner says.
colinneagle writes: On March 19, Nokia posted a picture of a Lumia with the caption "Sun, sun, sun, here we come!" This caused rumors to fly that the company was working on a phone with solar-charging capabilities. Just a few days earlier, the French WP enthusiast site MonWindowsPhone reported that SunPartner Group, a French solar cell maker, had signed a deal with an "unnamed" smartphone manufacturer.
This would be huge for Nokia if it happens. It would also be huge for SunPartner, a company I doubt anyone has heard of on this side of the Atlantic. It makes products for mobile devices called Wysips crystals. The Wysips combine optical and photovoltaic technologies into an ultrathin layer that sits right below the screen of the phone (image available here). SunPartner says that leaving the phone in any light, whether it's office lighting or the sun, will recharge the screen.
colinneagle writes: In September, an astounding video of an amazingly altruistic pig saving a goat that appeared to be trapped in a small pond went viral quickly, spreading from an otherwise unused YouTube account to Time magazine, NBC's "Today" show, and ABC's "Good Morning America." The New York Times reports that the video, which has since racked up more than 7 million YouTube views — and will probably see a few million more in the wake of the Times' report — was staged.
Even more notably, it wasn't staged by an anonymous YouTube user, like the one behind the infamous "Golden Eagle Snatches Kid" video, which saw 42 million views before it was debunked hours later. The more adorable, and plausible, story of the goat and the pig was staged by Nathan Felder, the 29-year-old comedian and star of the upcoming Comedy Central show "Nathan For You," in which Felder "helps small businesses execute outrageous marketing stunts devised by him and his producers," the Times says.
NBC apparently showed the video on its Nightly News program even though Felder says he ignored the network's "fairly persistent" requests, the Times says. However, what is even more interesting is how little the reporters behind these shows bothered to verify the video's legitimacy. To NBC's credit, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams acknowledged that he had "no way of knowing if it's real." As the Times points out, few others bothered to even look into it:
"When the video was played on 'Good Morning America,' Elizabeth Vargas tried to ask her fellow presenters how the pig had freed the goat, but she was met with laughter. 'Every day with Elizabeth, it’s like, ‘How did this happen?’' replied the weather anchor Sam Champion.
colinneagle writes: You may have heard of the Web Bot Project. It was an application that crawled news articles, blogs, forums, and other forms of Internet conversations, looking for specific keywords. Its creators, Clif High and George Ure, initially did it to look for stock market trends. After claims that Web Bot allegedly predicted the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and Hurricane Katrina months before they happened, High went all Art Bell/George Noory, creating a website where he post a whole lot of nonsensical babble pretending to be predictions.
No, I don't think much of the Web Bot project.
But the idea of looking through existing conversation for patterns and emerging trends isn't invalid. Researchers at Microsoft and an Israeli research firm have created software that attempts to predict outbreaks based on two decades of New York Times articles and other online data.
This kind of data mining has a decent track record. For example, reports of droughts in Angola in 2006 triggered a warning about possible cholera outbreaks in the country because outbreaks following a drought had happened before. A second warning was issued in early 2007 from news reports of large storms in Africa because they had happened before.
In similar tests involving forecasts of disease, violence, and a significant numbers of deaths, the system’s warnings were correct between 70 to 90 percent of the time, Kira Radinsky, a researcher at the Technion-Israel Institute, told MIT Technology Research.
colinneagle writes: A new service alled CurbTXT allows strangers to contact each other to inform them of parking or general car problems. Users register on the company website by submitting their cellphone number, license plate information, and zip code. A concerned passerby — say, someone whose driveway is blocked by an illegally parked car — can send a text message with the license plate number and the complaint to CurbTXT's designated number. CurbTXT relays that message to the car owner without revealing who sent the message in the first place.
Of course, there lies the potential for abuse of the service. Anonymity, especially on the internet, has brought out the worst in some people, and could only become infinitely more explosive when combined with road rage. Whether this becomes an issue as CurbTXT matures, and how the company plans to address it, will be interesting to watch.
colinneagle writes: The Center for Disease Control issued some preliminary results from its National Health Interview Survey for 2012, which found that 35.8% of American households no longer have any sort of hardwired telephone in their houses. They are exclusively wireless. Another 15% said they received "all or almost all calls on wireless telephones" despite also having a landline telephone.
Every now and then, we find our technological preferences going backwards. This happens either when the old technology had its pluses we forgot about or the new has serious deficiencies. Look at the resurrection of vinyl records lately. It's happened because digital music sounds like garbage, and audiophiles have noted for some time that vinyl sounds much more natural.
I'm feeling the same way about my phone. Never once did someone tell me they could barely hear me on a land line. No calls were dropped. I didn't lose signal. Nor did I suffer for using a land line.
In the end, it's about productivity. If I get one more call saying "Wow, I can barely hear you," or drop a call mid-question, that may be my signal to call AT&T for a land line and go retro. At least I'll be able to do my job.
colinneagle writes: Yesterday the National Intelligence Council (NIC), which is made up of 17 U.S. government intelligence agencies, released the 140-page report Global Trends 2030 (GT2030) Alternate Worlds. In all four of the alternative visions of the future, U.S. influence declines and it may be regarded more as a "first among equals." By 2030, the West will be in decline and Asia will wield more overall global power than the U.S. and Europe combined. "China alone will probably have the largest economy, surpassing that of the United States a few years before 2030," the report states.
'Megatrends' include an overall reduction of poverty and the "growth of a global middle class." NIC also sees a potential world of scarcities as the demand for food and water increase as the world's population swells from 7.1 billion to 8.3 billion people. Advances in health technologies will help people live longer, but 60% of the world's population is expected to live in an urban environment. Technological breakthroughs will be needed to meet the world's food, water and energy demands.
"Without completely disengaging, the U.S. no longer tries to play 'global policeman' on every security threat," the report states. However, that collapse or sudden retreat of U.S. power could lead to global anarchy, according to "Potential Black Swans that would cause the greatest disruptive impact."
colinneagle writes: For IT businesses, the fiscal cliff could mean higher taxes on research and experimentation than were imposed prior to 2011, a $114,000 decrease in tax provisions allowing small businesses to write off asset-related expenses, and the disappearance of a bonus first-year depreciation on expenses that stood at 100% as recently as 2011.
However serious these potential changes are, many in the IT world may not have been paying close-enough attention to avoid falling victim to them. Last month, nonprofit IT trade association CompTIA released a whitepaper showing that while 65% of its responding members believe the fiscal cliff should be approached with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases, another 17% said they didn't know or were undecided.
Lamar Whitman, director of public advocacy for CompTIA, attributes this significant lack of knowledge to a combination of factors common in the IT industry. Quite simply, IT startups and small businesses may be too preoccupied developing and selling their products to stay abreast of changes in tax provisions, Whitman says.
In addition, many in the tech world do not have "a huge amount of political interest," and "don't follow it day-to-day." Then there's the fact that the politicians who continue to bicker over how to prevent have repeatedly told them "we won't go off the fiscal cliff."
colinneagle writes: This article highlights a startup entering the gesture-based computing market with a technology that enables touch-less interaction with a television that resembles touchscreen navigation on a tablet. The idea is that internet TV will bring more apps and content to the TV screen, and a more intuitive method of navigation will be needed.
While reporting and researching the topic, the question I kept asking was what it will take to get everyday consumers to use hand gestures to control their PCs and TVs and whatever other devices they'll use. All the experts seem to agree it's inevitable, but some kind of breakthrough will need to happen to persuade people to ditch the mouse, TV remote and keyboard. Will it be quality of gesture recognition? Simplification of the product? Enhancements to user interface that accommodate gestures? Price?
colinneagle writes: Several other autonomous cars have been developed elsewhere, most famously by Google, and they are generally capable of identifying objects in the road directly ahead of or behind them. The challenge undertaken by the MIT researchers is making these cars aware of dangers lurking around corners and behind buildings.
MIT PhD student Swarun Kumar showed a video of a test run by the MIT researchers in which an autonomous golf cart running the technology, called CarSpeak, encountered a pedestrian walking from the entrance of a building to a crosswalk. The golf cart stopped roughly five yards ahead of the crosswalk and waited long enough for the pedestrian to walk to the other side of the road. The vehicle then continued driving automatically.
The solution Kumar presented is based on a method of communications that is intended to expand the vehicle's field of view. This can be accomplished by compressing and sharing the data that autonomous vehicles generate while they're in motion, which Kumar says can amount to gigabits per second.
In a comparison test, a car using CarSpeak's MAC-based communications was able to stop with a maximum average delay of 0.45 seconds, compared to the minimum average delay time of 2.14 seconds for a car running 802.11, the report noted.
colinneagle writes: On last night's 60 Minutes it took less than 15 minutes for them on national TV to torpedo Huawei in the United States. Folklore within the routing and switching community was that Huawei stole router product secrets from Cisco, down to the chassis, IOS and all the way down to the spelling errors in the manuals. Many have said it for years, but 60 Minutes put it on worldwide television tonight for everyone to know.
Now on Monday the Government House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence final report is due. It is not expected that Huawei will be a big fan of theirs or the report. It could be a death blow for Huawei with any enterprise customer in the United States.
So where does this leave Huawei with in the United States when you have a sitting Congressmen in Mike Rogers saying this?
"If I were an American company today, and I'll tell you this as the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and you are looking at Huawei, I would find another vendor if you care about your intellectual property, if you care about your consumers' privacy, and you care about the national security of the United States of America," Mike Rogers said on 60 Minutes.
Huawei might have impressive sales, be hiring in the United States, but out of the 40 CEOs I sent an email to before writing this article, none said they would even let them in the door.
colinneagle writes: When someone calls into support, we first verify his or her account information. On the phone, this can take seconds. On a chat feature it can take a minute or two because people type slower than they speak. I also find that when people type in a chat they try to make the process go quicker by abbreviating the conversation. This means they might not give me all the information they would have if we were talking on the phone. The more descriptive a customer is about a problem, the easier and faster it will be to solve their issue. But the nature of a chat feature means people will abbreviate their stories to be more efficient, without realizing this just makes it more difficult to solve the problem. I end up asking more questions, which takes longer for the full story to come out.
Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can’t see your screen and likely have less information to work with, it can make it impossible to tackle a complex issue. It would be much more efficient for both me and the customer to talk on the phone so I can walk the customer through the steps I am taking.
One of the arguments for offering chat support is that support techs can respond to more than one customer at a time by having multiple chat boxes open. This is incredibly inefficient. I prefer to give each customer my complete attention, as this is a much more effective way to solve a support problem. Plus, there’s always the possibility that the support tech will type a message into the wrong box, confusing matters.
colinneagle writes: If the software industry showed as much innovation and initiative as the malware business, we might have some really nice software to choose from. But for now, the bad guys are one step ahead of the rest of us, with a new way to squeeze money out of your pocket.
Microsoft calls this new trend ransomware, and it looks a lot like older scams in which an app masqueraded as an antivirus program and then tried to sucker you into buying a useless piece of software to remove an infection that doesn't exist.
In the case of ransomware, an infection takes control of and holds hostage an infected machine, locking the user out until a payment of some form is made. In one case, Microsoft found an example that looked like an official Microsoft screen, claiming the Windows license was invalid.
The ransomware locks the computer, displays the alert screen and demands the payment of a "fine" for the supposed infraction through a legitimate online payment service like Paysafecard or Ukash. Since many of these infections are taking place in Europe, Paypal does not seem to be involved.
colinneagle writes: "“As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families,” Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs wrote in a recent company blog post."
What should be noted here is Microsoft’s effort at bringing legitimate objective analysis to an issue that is steeped in controversy, subjective opinion and religious fervor. By pointing to its workforce, which is a substantial factor in both state employment and tax revenue, Microsoft made same-sex marriage not one of subjective morality, but one of economics. When a key contributor to the state economy makes that kind of a claim, it suddenly becomes much easier for state politicians to step up and vote in favor. This way, these politicians aren’t choosing a side on a divisive morality issue. They’re acting to help improve the state economy."