How Bad Is It, Doc?

Zephyr Tech is a NZ based company that specializes in ‘Smart Fabric Technology’. They combine patented Smart Fabric sensor technology with novel algorithms and system design. Flexible and formable sensors detect and measure displacement, distance, force and pressure, strain, impact events and bio data.
Their latest product ‘Impact SF‘ holds promise for soldiers in the battlefield, or rather it will greatly assist the battlefield medics. Impact SF is a new solution for measuring impact – from slow collisions to ballistic impact. Using sensors and wireless connectivity, Impact SF is robust enough to withstand extreme environments.

Graphical diagnostic tools quantify an impact’s severity, direction and type, providing instant status updates and allowing evidence-based trauma diagnosis. Information is available in real time or can be stored for later use.

Impact SF Capabilities:

  • Measures position of impact and energy
  • Allows quantitative analysis of an impact’s severity, type and direction
  • Enables blunt force human trauma diagnosis
  • No restrictions to wearer of Impact SF garment
  • Technology can be integrated into existing composite structures
  • Real time and trend analysis via graphical display
  • Wireless connectivity to other user interfaces

You can read their brochure (pdf) for a few more details and pretty pictures.

[Found via DefenseTech]

I Hate Macs

From The Guardian we have the commentary ‘I hate Macs‘.

Here’s just an excerpt, the volume of comments at the bottom are not surprising:

I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don’t use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui.

PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?”

Mousy Progression

It’s been nearly 50 years since the first prototype mouse was introduced for computer use. I can’t thank mouse designers enough….with all the gaming I do on a daily basis, I wear out mice on a regular basis, having to replace them at least once a year. My current favorite? A Logitech 518 Gaming Mouse. (Which I need to replace soon, due to extreme BF2142 play)

Lots of Mice

Well, mice design has evolved in several different directions since they became popular…..some designed specifically for CAD design, some for gaming, and then there’s trackballs *ick*. So take a gander here for Wired’s photo blog of the evolution of the mouse. It’s very interesting!

Here’s a question for you. I need to replace my mouse (above linked) soon – any suggestions? I’m in a toss up between, the Logitech G7 Cordless Laser Gaming Mouse, the Microsoft Habu and the Razer DeathAdder. Now, I’m leaning more towards the Logitech, since I’ve had more experience with their line, but I’m interested in your opinions!

Crazy Reflective Table

Russian born Arik Levy, an accomplished artist, has created a new series of furnature/art decor.  These pieces are polished metal and very reflective of its immediate enviroment.  Because of the unusual angles on the edges, these pieces provide you with a unique view of room it’s placed in.

Rock Table 

I find these very cool!  Imagine if you placed one of these in a sitting room, and painted each wall a different color, or placed different objects around your room?  The visual effects would be amazing!

The History and Logic Behind Minesweeper

I’m still on vacation for a few more days, so here’s another short and sweet article on Minesweeper, who knew there was so much to reveal in its history and development of the game we love for a quick and dirty fix.

The closest ancestor to Minesweeper is probably Gregory Yob’s Hunt the Wumpus. Although it used an unorthodox grid (the original game used the vertices of a dodecahedron, and a later version used Möbius strips and other unlikely patterns), the Wumpus evolved from its predecessors in many other ways.

The Minesweeper that we all know and love was created by Robert Donner and Curt Johnson while they were working at Microsoft. It was first released as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows in 1990, but in 1992, it replaced Reversi as a pack-in game for Windows 3.1. Minesweeper became a Microsoft staple, and from 3.1 to 95 to XP and beyond, millions upon milions of people across the world turned to Minesweeper when the random chance of Klondike Solitaire became overwhelming.

Humanscale’s Freedom Chair

I’ve posted in the past about a few differnt types of chairs (Supervillian Chair, AK-47 Chair, etc.), now comes the Freedom Chair, created with your custom dynamic body posture in mind.  Humanscale has engineered numerous office and home products which they feel will maximize your effenciency and potential.  The Freedom Chair includes a counterbalance system that adjusts itself like scales to the sitter’s weight as he or she reclines, eliminating the need for recline controls.

Freedom Chair 

The Freedom Chair is designed to provide maximum ergonomic benefit to the sitter with the minimum number of controls. Adjust the fit once, then forget about it. The chair starts at $898 at Design Within Reach.

Wake Up And Diffuse This Bomb

This alarm clock available from GeekStuff4u puts you under pressure to wake you up. It’s called ‘DangerBomb Clock’ (comes from Japan).

The deal is that in order to turn it off you have to disarm the ‘bomb’ by pulling one of the wires, forcing you to do some thinking. Each morning a random color is chosen and indicated by the associated LED, pull the correct wire and the bomb is safe. Miss it and I guess you get what you deserved, a nice loud explosion perhaps?
Dangerbomb clock

How Do You Get Crabs From A Gorilla?

Pubic Lice

Carl Zimmer has a very interesting and lengthy article that covers all aspects of the lice and even touches on the the evolutionary tree of pocket gopher species and how it relates to these little pests.

If pubic lice are not the sort of thing you want to be seen reading about, let me give you the opportunity to close your browser window right now. But if you’re at all curious about the secret that pubic lice have been keeping for over three million years, the tale of a mysterious liaison between our ancestors and the ancestors of gorillas–read on.

Many parasites tend to stick close to their hosts. A parasitic wasp may wander through forests and fields to find a caterpillar from a single species of butterfly in which it will lay its eggs. Blood flukes taste the water of their ponds for molecules from human skin. Wolbachia, a species of bacteria, never even has to leave its hosts, because it is passed down from mothers to their offspring. If a parasite sticks to its host for millions of years, their evolution may run on parallel tracks. As the host species splits in two, its parasite splits as well.

Check it out on Scienceblogs.

Concept Cell Gaming

If gaming on a cellphone type of device is ever going to take off, something like the CompactAnalogThumbstick from Industrial Design is going to be necessary. It sports a nifty design to minimize size while still giving joystick functionality.


It’s in the concept stage right now, but it has all the elements to be picked up in a form very close to what you see here.  If you think about it, holding the cell phone in one hand while operating the joystick with your thumb would seem to be a very comfortable way to play. So, I think it is about time to get some decent screens on cellphones, throw in some memory and a decent processor, and let’s use this joystick to play some good games.  While truly good games are hard to come by via a cell, this unit will definately come in use for a number of current titles available.

Jedi Drinking Song – It’s Filk Music

[I’m in Hollywood for a week meeting with my agent and pitching a script, think Time Bandits meets Smokin’ Aces. Enjoy one of these fine staged articles in my absence]

Here’s the Jedi Drinking Song (links directly to m3u), found on the CD ‘Brobdingnagian Fairy Tales“.

I found that song while surfing for Celtic music for the wife, instead I find geek folk music. Also known as ‘Filk‘. I learned this week that:

Filk is music about Science Fiction and Fantasy topics. It’s kinda folk music for the Sci Fi world. Filk music includes everything from song praodies with Sci Fi themes to original pieces written with Science Fiction and Fantasy themes.

Course, our specialty has been more with the Fantasy themes than the Science Fiction (though Sci Fi often also includes Fantasy). Since I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in Junior High, I was writing Fantasy pieces and listening to “Wierd Al” Yankovic.

Want to hear more about the group or sample their many songs? Here you go, you can thank me in the comments 🙂

Word of the Week: Keybounce

Inside the PC keyboard’s case is an 8042 microcontroller chip that constantly scans the switches on the keyboard to see if any keys are down. (caveat, at least back in the day it was the 8042, i’m not sure if non-PS/2 KBs still utilize it, I need to verify). This processing goes on in parallel with the normal activities of the PC, hence the keyboard never misses a keystroke because the processor in the PC is busy.

A typical keystroke starts with the user pressing a key on the keyboard. This closes an electrical contact in the switch so the microcontroller and sense that you’ve pressed the switch. Alas, switches (being the mechanical things that they are) do not always close (make contact) so cleanly. Often, the contacts bounce off one another several times before coming to rest making a solid contact.

If the microcontroller chip reads the switch constantly, these bouncing contacts will look like a very quick series of key presses and releases. This could generate multiple keystrokes to the PC, a phenomenon known as keybounce which used to be common to many cheap and old keyboards. But even on the most expensive and newest keyboards, keybounce is a problem if you look at the switch a million times a second; mechanical switches simply cannot settle down that quickly. Therefor, most keyboard scanning algorithms control how often they scan the keyboard. A typical inexpensive key will settle down within five milliseconds, so if the keyboard scanning software only looks at the key every ten milliseconds, or so, the controller will effectively miss the keybounce.


With Airbus Against The Ropes, Will China Step Up As #2?

Wow, I had no idea that China was looking to get into the aircraft mfg business to the point where they’d potentially give Airbus a run for its money and provide Boeing with some competition in the large aircraft business. You see, Boeing’s souped up 747’s and its Dreamliner are selling like hotcakes while Airbus’ A-380 is having manufacturing issues.

Douglass McIntyre of 24/7 Wall St. is reporting that China Aviation Industry Corp says it can begin making large aircraft by 2020.

There Is No Decaf Coffee At The South Pole

Kathryn Miknaitis is a Fellow at the Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the Univ. of Chicago.

She’s on rotation in the Antarctic manning the South Pole Telescope. The South Pole Telescope (SPT) is a new 10-meter diameter sub-millimeter wavelength telescope deployed at the NSF South Pole research station in Nov/Dec 2006. Taking advantage of the exceptionally clear, dry and stable atmosphere at the South Pole, the SPT is designed to image large areas of the sky with high sensitivity.

Kathryn’s description of the work rotations and the environment struck me as somewhat similar to working on a submarine. Below is the entry that got me hooked and subscribed to her feed. Here’s Kathryn’s SPT blog.

In the galley, there are two coffee spigots. But instead of the usual “regular” and “decaf”, they’re labeled “regular” and “high-octane”, made extra strong. This suits me just fine. It also suits a station that operates 24 hours of the day, where people often find themselves shifting their schedule back and forth from days to nights or the other way around.

 Dark Sector Lab



10 Fun Facts About Storage

Om Malik has an interesting Tech History article he posted last week called ‘10 Fun Facts About Storage‘. It’s a compiloation of tidbits regarding storage, the past/present/future, that he’s gathered from other sources. Here’s two examples:

– The magnetic HDD is 50 years old. In 1956 IBM introduced 305 RAMAC (random access method of accounting and control), which is like the great-great-great grandfather of today’s disks. It was the size of a refrigerator, and stored a total of 4.4 megabytes on 50 doubled-sided, two-foot-diameter disks.

– Consumers bought 739.7 million gigabytes of hard-drive storage space last year. That is 11 times what they bought in 2003.