All posts by Andy

I'm an eternal optimist, geek of many areas, entrepreneur, coder, love RVs, cats and nuclear submarines.

Space Shuttle Computers May Not Gracefully Handle New Year Transition?

Wow, seems that as the shuttle Discovery is being hauled out to the launching pad to prepare for an early December launch, we learn that NASA has no idea what the on-board computers will do during a new year transition from Dec 31-Jan1.

They can not say with a high level of confidence that the computers will handle that transition gracefully, in fact there is enough worry that they are mitigating it by trying to ensure they land on New Year’s Eve. Or in case something happens and they need to remain in space ’till the new year, NASA is devising a strategy to hack together some procedures to work around the problem though they don’t indicate they know yet how they’ll do it. Here’s a quote to inspire confidence from a Discovery astronaut:

“We’ve just never had the computers up and going when we’ve transitioned from one year to another,” said Discovery astronaut Joan Higginbotham. “We’re not really sure how they’re going to operate.”


Overclocking out of the Factory?!

Remember back in the day overclocking was all the rage and it was a battle between the geeks trying to squeeze out more than the warranty justified and the cpu manufacturers trying to find ways to prevent you from overclocking? Then we learned that mom and pop shops were delivering generic PCs to customers with overclocked cpus and charging more?

Well look where we are now thanks to Gateway and their new FX530. Gateway will deliver to you an overclocked machine out of the factory! Here’s a quote from their page:

Just say no to DIY overclocking and let us do it for you! We’ll factory overclock your Intel® quad-core processor.  Yep, you read that right: factory overclock, which is something that most other major PC manufacturers don’t do.”

So there you have it. Why risk overclocking your cpu and potentially hosing it when Gateway will overclock it on the factory floor *and* give you a warranty?

Billion Tree Campaign

Professor Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate for 2004 and founder of Kenya’s Green Belt Movement, has planted more than 30 million trees in 12 African countries since 1977.  When a corporate group in the United States told Professor Maathai it was planning to plant a million trees, her response was: “That’s great, but what we really need is to plant a billion trees.

treesOut of that idea comes the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign with a goal of combating global warming (assuming there really is global warming 🙂 ).

I have to be honest with you, I’m no tree hugger, but I really like this idea!

Happy Birthday Intel 4004

The chip that started it all is approaching middle age. Back in November of 1971, Intel publicly announced the world’s first customer-programmable microprocessor and started an electronics revolution that changed our world. For more details, here’s the wikipedia page on the i4004.


Produced: From late 1971 to 1974
Manufacturer: Intel
CPU Speeds: 740 kHz
Architecture: pre x86
Socket: 16 pin

Adobe Donating Flash Code to Mozilla

From Betanews:

“Adobe announced today that it was donating its Flash scripting language engine to the Mozilla Foundation, where it will become an open source project called Tamarin as well as being integrated directly into the Firefox Web browser. Adobe is opening up its ActionScript Virtual Machine, which forms the core of Flash Player version 9. The most recent release in June added improved debugging, faster start times, full runtime error reporting, and better performance.”


Cup Communicator, A High Tech Throwback to String and Can

I found this interesting review on ‘we make money not art’ about combining the form and function of an old children’s toy with modern day walkie talkies. The site has a short interview with the creator of the Cup Communicator.

Its creator Duncan Wilson starts with a pair of small and simple walkie talkies, adapts them to his needs by disabling some of its functions, attaching custom controls and switches, reducing the battery size and finally changing the the configuration of everything else like the antennas, speakers and mics.

You lightly squeeze the polyurethane cup to activate the push to talk function and speak into the cup. The end of the rope (antenna) has a red LED that lights up to show you when you’re receiving an incoming signal from the other cup.

Cup1  Cup2

Flu Prevention Includes More Sunlight?

Nature is reporting on scientific studies (performed internationally) looking into the reasons for a sharp jump in influenza during the later part of the year each year, particularly after the Winter Solstice. The Flu kills about 1 million people a year worldwide so there is a lot of interest in understanding how to prevent it besides simply immunizing 6+ billion people.

They found numerous causes for the seasonal spikes including: “Low relative humidity favours influenza virus aerosols, and indoor crowding facilitates transmission. Autumn brings young children together in schools, and Christmas travel mixes up previously separated populations.”

But they also found a slight but interesting relation to Vitamin D deficiencies which could be due to reduced sunlight during the Winter months. You can read the full assessment of the studies in the article above, but it makes me wonder if suntanning salons provide the body with the vitamins necessary to help combat the flu.

Fishopolis: Revolutionizing Smartphone Arcade Gaming?

FishopolisRivia is a new software developer that focuses on Windows Mobile devices.  They have a new game out called Fishopolis with a unique controlling system which utilizes the phone’s camera to detect movement. A trial version with access to the first 3 levels is available from their site, or you can purchase it from Handango for US $12.95.

Here’s a more detailed description from the Rivia site:

Fishopolis is Real-Action Shoot’em Up game. Your task is to shoot fish, but what the real fun part is that you are using your whole phone to aim. Simply – to aim to the right, move your phone to the right. Fishopolis is using the image from the phone’s camera to detect movement. Now this is real action!

Go through the quest for Fishotreasure which consists of 11 levels with 8 different types of fish to shoot or try yourself in Time and Countdown challenges.

This is the game that will make you feel that your smartphone is really Smart!
– Unique controlling system, based on camera movement
– 3 game modes – Story Mode, Time Trial, Countdown Mode
– Story Mode with 11 levels
– 8 different types of fish with unique behavior to shoot at
Amazing Graphics and Sound experience
– Possibility to keep the high scores for each game mode

[found via msmobiles]

Anti-Virus SW now available for WM Devices

Though AV software has been available for some time on Symbian phones, looks like Windows Mobile is popular enough now to demand its own version! Symantec has released a version of this AV protection for Windows Mobile 5 devices on PocketPCs and Smartphones.

Their service also includes LiveUpdate Wireless service to automatically update threat protection signatures to ensure protection against new viruses, Trojans, and worms.

[found via msmobiles]

Cell phone rings when it’s baby time

Japan’s NTT DoCoMo is at it again with pioneering new uses for the mobile phone. Their latest contraption is targeting women wanting to get pregnant.

The user enters in data to the phone relating to her menstruation dates and the phone alerts the user when it thinks she’s ovulating (yeah, i know this is probably more information than you wanted to know).

To take the cliche of their target audience just a little further, the phone also comes with a recipe database. So now you can have a “bun” in two ovens!


How does Direct Push for Windows Mobile work?

Here’s a really good 10,000 ft overview of the Direct Push method used by Exchange servers and Windows Mobile devices to keep the device in sync in near real time.

If you’re comfortable with basic networking concepts then you’ll easily consume the article and see how simple this technology really is. I for one, *love* Direct Push, though the wife doesn’t like it when the smartphone lightly chimes with ‘new mail’ at 3AM from my bed side table. 🙂

[found via Smartphone Thoughts]

Crows are damn smart

You may have heard about the freak crow Betty several years ago when scientists found her making tools to fetch food out of a little trap. Welp, the scientsts are at it again with more Crow vs. Intelligence studies on an island.

Seems word is getting out in the crow world and they’re teaching their young.


Compared to other crows, those from the Pacific island of New Caledonia are master tool makers and users, second only to humans and on level with chimps when it comes to finding novel uses for everyday objects

Speaking of supposedly intelligent animals, if you haven’t read this old “Onion” news parody, check it out, titled: Dolphins Evolve Opposable Thumbs. ‘Oh, Shit,’ Says Humanity


DARPA’s Night Vision Skunk Works Program

On the DARPA Mil site, there is a 1 minute video demo’ing functionality that their new nightvision development hopes to deliver to the military soon and ‘Once Again, Own The Night’. The technology demo’d provides the soldier a view through multiple spectrums, is networked with other soldiers to share what they’re seeing and might even relay data to orbiting autonomous vehicles to attack the viewed target.

From the DARPA site:

The goal of the Multispectral Adaptive Networked Tactical Imaging System – MANTIS program is to demonstrate a visualization system to regain the nighttime advantage for the individual soldier and provide unprecedented situational awareness. MANTIS consists of:

  1. a head-mounted, multispectral sensor suite (Vis/ NIR/SWIR/LWIR), digital display and an inertial navigation system, and
  2. a body-worn processor and power supply, to digitize, process, and display fused imagery, augmented reality and battlefi eld information in real time. MANTIS will provide small units with network-enabled, collaborative visualization for soldier-to-soldier image sharing, access to remote sensors and targeting handoff to off-board weapons, allowing the soldier to point, click and Kill.

[found via DefenseTech]

Fry’s online, finally

If you know about Fry’s you probably also know that to take part in the “Costco of the electronics stores”, you had to be lucky enough to live near one because the online presense was basically nill. No more, now Fry’s appears to have their complete store online and joining the ranks of other e-tailers.

My favorite online electronics store for everything from software to building out a new PC from scratch is NewEgg, now i have Fry’s to look to just in time for the holidays.

Check out the ExtremeTech article for details.