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Written by Paul Klein


Newark element14 is making its presence known throughout California with the help of billboards, branded bus shelters, customer appreciation events and a wrapped van. Have you seen any of them? They’re all part of a wider Tech Tour which promotes our products and services to the region’s engineering community. If you see our van or an advertisement, take a picture and tweet it using #Ne14TechTour.


This week we’ve got several exciting events taking place including six SBC Master Class Technology Days. They’re two-hour workshops where engineers can learn from experts about the latest single board computers (SBCs) and applications they support. Attendees can also get their hands on the devices and components. Four of the Master Class Tech Days are already full (in San Diego and Orange County), but there are a few spots remaining in the LA events. There will be an afternoon session Thursday, Oct. 30 and a morning session on Friday, Oct. 31. They will both take place at the Marriott Woodland Hills (21850 Oxnard St., Woodland Hills, CA).

 

Morning sessions will include breakfast for attendees and cocktails will be provided in the afternoon sessions. Products featured will include the RIoTboard, along with power supply, WiFi adapter and Xtrinsic Sensor Board. Five attendees will get to take their RIoTboard and components with them, and all attendees will get a 20% off voucher (expires Nov. 30).

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Register here:


Last week brought more exciting developments on tour. Wednesday we co-sponsored an open house and luncheon for Visual Communications Company, LLC (VCC). Engineering Manager Chris Schroeder presented a seminar on “What to Look for in Light Pipe Design.”

 

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Written by Paul Klein


Newark element14 is making its presence known throughout California with the help of billboards, branded bus shelters, customer appreciation events and a wrapped van. Have you seen any of them? They’re all part of a wider Tech Tour which promotes our products and services to the region’s engineering community. If you see our van or an advertisement, take a picture and tweet it using #Ne14TechTour.

 

Here’s one of several billboards currently up in Southern California:

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Our wrapped Newark element14 van:

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A recent customer appreciation event with Veris:

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As part of Newark element14’s activity, on Tuesday I attended TI’s Tech day in Anaheim, California. The event’s purpose was to have factory resources come in and present solutions to the attendees. We displayed our evaluation boards and talked about the solutions we offer our customers.

 

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More than 300 people came, including TI partners and other distributors, to attend various educational sessions. They were grouped into six categories including:

 

  • Sensors and Solutions
  • Signal Chain Design Considerations
  • Power Supply Design
  • C2000/Protection/Analog
  • Embedded Processing
  • Wireless Connectivity
  • Topics included:

 

The individual sessions included the following, among many others:

 

  • Temperature Sensing Solutions from TI
  • Current Sensing Solutions from TI
  • C2000™ Developments in Digital Power Control
  • Getting the most out of your power supply with the right FET Technology
  • RF Basics, Tools, Design Overview and Demo
  • Internet of Things: TI’s Wireless Connectivity Solutions
  • Capacitive Sensing
  • High Performance Signal Integrity Issues and Solutions

 

TI Tech Day 3.JPG

 

Wednesday TI hosts another Tech Day event – this time in Santa Barbara. If you’d like to follow along or catch up after the events have taken place, search the hashtag #techdayTI.

 

For more information on Newark element14’s Tech Tour, check out the company’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Pico Technology have released a beta version of PicoScope for Apple Mac owners who want to use PicoScope oscilloscopes under OS X.

 

To get your copy, go to our "Labs" section: http://labs.picotech.com/#mac and download the archive provided. Once downloaded it can be expanded in Finder and moved to the desired location (usually "Application").

 

There is a required dependency: Mono runtime environment (Mono MRE). To get it go to http://www.go-mono.com/mono-downloads/download.html and download the latest version (3.4 onwards). It comes with its own installer to be used on your system.

 

We are working to get features of the PicoScope Mac version in line with the Linux version that we released earlier this year.  From there we'll bring features of both versions in line with PicoScope for Windows version - version 6.9 - we'll be doing that in the second half of 2014.


As this is a Beta release users may experience some issues with the user interface and/or device communication - please let us know if you encounter any problems so we can resolve them as they arise.  The installation procedure is at an early stage so please bear with that at this stage of the deployment.  We look forward to receiving your reports on how the software behaves, so please don't keep it for yourself, share it on the Pico forum on the Mac version board

 

The Beta version also provides drivers and an SDK for Mac, which have been common requests from users.  Linux examples are provided that use autotools for configuration. Mac users should use brew or macports to get those on your system. Libraries are compiled to universal format including x86_64 and i386 binaries.

 

The PicoScope Mac OS X version means you no longer need to boot Windows or 3rd party emulation tools to use your PicoScope on a Mac :-)


Trevor J. Smith

Business Development Manager

Pico Technology Ltd.

Net Neutrality in 2014: Filtered and Censored Communication


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                Net neutrality is a topic that many users of the Internet know little about. With the recent announcement by the FCC regarding their new drafted legislation “Open Internet Rules”, the topic has been on the minds of many involved with Internet regulation, including lobbyists and net neutrality advocates. The FCC has looked at this topic before; four years ago, they introduced the FCC Open Internet Order, which, in part, forced Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide access to content from their competitors, and also to high-bandwidth content such as Netflix. This ruling did not, however, prevent ISPs from charging more for faster access and more bandwidth.              

                This led to the FCC releasing a final copy of the 2010 Order, entitled “Preserving a Free and Open Internet”. Importantly, the FCC focused on keeping ISPs transparent in their management of Internet services – specifically ruling that they “… must not block lawful content, nor unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.” This, of course, opens up the debate on the meaning of “unreasonably discriminate”.

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                Earlier this year, in a case called Verizon Communications v. Federal Communications Commission, the FCC was determined to have no authority to enforce the Open Internet Rules they

                 The comic at the top dates from 2006 but is still appropriate -- bandwidth limit could be restricted at will by the ISPs, and companies who pay ISPs for special access will get faster connection speeds and possibly even the removal of bandwidth limits. For example, YouTube could pay Comcast to make sure their website had the fastest 'lane' of traffic available. Also, Comcast users would be able to access YouTube without it counting towards their monthly bandwidth limit. Keep in mind this is a hypothetical -- but without net neutrality rules in place, there will be little to stop the cable companies from acting this way. An excellent resource to learn more about Net Neutrality and the “Open Internet” is http://www.theopeninter.net/ (an excellent URL!). Their front page defines the concept of net neutrality very well: created in 2010. This had resounding impacts as two of the important clauses in the Rules -- no blocking of legal content and no discrimination of network traffic -- were vacated entirely. In the few months since then, many of the large ISPs have been finding ways to take advantage of the FCCs limited authority. AT&T and Verizon have been accused of intentionally ‘shaping’ their network traffic, slowing access to bandwidth-heavy services like Netflix and Amazon’s Cloud Services. The companies deny these allegations, but it is activities like these that should have average Internet users like you and I concerned.

 

“Network neutrality is the idea that your cellular, cable, or phone Internet connection should treat all websites and services the same. Big companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast want to treat them differently so they can charge you more depending on what you use.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently debating legislation to define limits for Internet service providers (ISPs). The hope is that they will keep the Internet open and prevent companies from discriminating against different kinds of websites and services.”

 

                This highlights the importance of voicing your opinion. It is almost certain that we will see changes; what is not certain is how these changes will affect our lives. The important thing to think about is how you use the Internet in your daily life. What is it that you value about access to the Internet? Do you use it for entertainment, research, or just social media? All Internet usage is on the rise, and no one government or authority can control the Internet as a whole. And as the Internet is so pervasive in our daily lives, we should care about what happens to it. China has been censoring their citizens’ Internet access for years. Anything related to Tiananmen Square protests (known as the June Fourth Incident in China) and subsequent massacre is blocked. Some see this as an extreme example, but left unchecked ISPs will do whatever makes them the most money.

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                So what does this all mean for us? Well, the debate has been going on for as long as the Internet has been around. Changes can come quickly, as opposed to other mediums such as television or radio, where sweeping changes took years to implement. Though changes to content might take a while, ISPs have the power to block, censor or shape their network traffic. As explained on the Open Internet website, ISPs have a financial motive to do this, and this is why consumers need to be aware of the concept of net neutrality.

                One of the issues at the forefront is whether or not ISPs have the authority to artificially create  'fast-lane' and 'slow-lane' types of connections. The ISPs have argued that they would, in fact, create 'fast-lane' and 'hyper-fast-lane' variants for more money, but these arguments have been met with skepticism -- as noted in the John Oliver video below, Comcast recently decreased their connection speeds to Netflix in order to get themselves a better deal -- they wanted Netflix to pay them for faster network speeds for Comcast subscribers. During the negotiations, Comcast's service

speeds to Netflix took a dramatic drop -- and were immediately reversed upon signing the agreement.

                 Even more concerning is smaller companies such as start-ups would be at a huge disadvantage online -- larger companies with deep pockets would ensure they get the best connections, leaving new companies little room to breathe. Google and Netflix are both in a position to benefit, but both have in the past spoken in favor of net neutrality. With the new rule changes, however, it is unclear if they will continue to support the idea.

                The new, re-drafted “Open Internet Rules” are summed up by Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, in a recent blog post on the FCC website:             

“To be clear, this is what the Notice will propose:

  1. That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network;
  2. That no legal content may be blocked; and
  3. That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.”

    In response to the FCC’s comments on the issue, net neutrality activists protested outside FCC headquarters for over a week, drawing comparisons to the Occupy protests.

fcc-chairman.jpgMore importantly – the Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler (left), was recently compared to a dingo by comedian John Oliver. His hilarious segment after the initial announcement was followed up by his viewers crashing the FCC website on June 2nd, after he encouraged Internet commenters to “channel [their] anger, that badly spelled bile that [they] normally reserve for unforgivable attacks on actresses you seem to think have put on weight… Seize your moment, my lovely trolls. Turn on caps lock and fly my pretties, fly! Fly! Fly!"

                The entire segment can be viewed on YouTube here.

                We all value the Internet -- as John Oliver pointed out, the FCC is inviting comment on their website. I would encourage you to voice your opinion – the Internet is such a large part of our daily lives that if limits were placed on the content we access, the value we get from being connected would be greatly diminished. An encouraging sign is that the FCC is accepting input from the public on the proposed legislation, and so far at least 47 000 people have commented, more than any other topic on the FCC website. The email is openInternet@fcc.gov – just remember that sending comments to that email counts as filing a document into an official FCC proceeding. This is usually a good thing – there is record of all comments entered. However, your name and your full statement will be available on the web. The FCC also offers a page called the “Open Internet Explainer”, available here. It contains links to a lot more information.

 

 

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SMI RED-oem Remote Eye Tracking platform render. (via SMI)


Law enforcement and federal agencies have been using polygraph machines to detect lies since Cesare Lombroso introduced his blood pressure device back in 1895. Before that? Torture was used as the best method to detect fibs (still is to some extent). Just ask any witch that was present at the Salem Trials and they could probably tell it didn’t work that well. Some analysts will tell you that the eyes are the gateway in detecting if someone is telling the truth or not. They claim the rate a person blinks is a telltale sign of lying as well as not making eye contact or even looking up and to the left or right may be an indication of false pretenses. Some of the early pioneers of computerized polygraph have banded together to form a company, known as Converus, which is developing a new platform that tracks eye movement to detect deception.


The soon-to-be-released EyeDetect device is outfitted with German-based SMI’s (SensoMotoric Instruments) RED-oem Eye Tracking 3D camera system that tracks gaze, eye movement and pupil dilation down to 1/10 of a millimeter. According to Converus, lying causes minute changes in the eye’s behavior because it induces ‘cognitive load’ (psychology- load related to executive control of working memory), which has an effect on eye movement. Think of it like computer RAM that holds on to pieces of data before being replaced by different programs. EyeDetect captures that ocular data and analyses it to assess the ‘likelihood’ of deception while ‘suspects’ answer a series of true or false questions. The company claims the system has an accuracy rate of 85%, which is pretty high in terms of reliability but most courts in the US still don’t allow polygraph tests submitted as evidence. Converus is set to launch their device in April of this year, with Mexico as its first test subject. Businesses will use it for pre-employment screening as well as using it for random testing on employees to weed-out those individuals that accept bribes or are involved in other nefarious activities (there goes police officers and government officials).


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Menu projection at Eggcellent (via Advanced Technology Labs)


Japan is the land of technology and this week that innovation has made its way to the restaurant industry, which, according to the Recruit Advanced Technology Lab, is trying to redefine customer service.

 

A restaurant in Tokyo called Eggcellent (which, of course, specializes in all things egg) is expected to be one of the first restaurants in the world to feature an almost human-free dining experience. The facility is expected to incorporate smart glasses, gesture interfaces, customer face identification, completely wireless payments, avatars, augmented reality, iPad-based food ordering and tracking and more.

 

Is it too good to be true? Well, probably. Recruit said the infrastructure is based on iBeacon, allowing a customer to enter the restaurant, view the menu, get food recommendations, order, wait for their food, select what they’d like to watch on TV and pay – all without interacting with a human wait staff.

There are a few other unique tech features offered at the café that attempt to solve the drawbacks of fine dining. For one thing, when a customer sits down at a booth, the iPad at the table will wirelessly sync with their social media accounts, giving them their friends’ favorite dishes at that establishment. With this, the software also keeps a running toll of the order in which each customer’s dish come out of the kitchen, so no one wonders when their food is going to make it to their table.

 

The dining technology features a Kinect sensor, PC assists, Wii remote, projector and microphone to give users an interactive experience. TV screens in the restaurant are equipped with the technologies, enabling customers to change the station, order food from a virtual server and more, all wirelessly. While there was no talk of incorporating gaming into the restaurant, the possibility certainly isn’t far off.

 

A virtual dining experience may sound like something off in the distant future, but incorporating the technology into the everyday dining experience makes a lot of sense. For one thing, the technology pays for itself because restaurants can downsize their wait staff. Secondly, the customer will never have to wait for a busy waiter to take their order, or wonder when their food will arrive. There is certainly a very relevant place for human waiters in the restaurant industry, but incorporating both man and machine can produce the optimum dining experience of the future.


 

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Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have taken household plants and paired them with nanomaterials to create bionic plants that can do everything from monitoring environmental pollutants to detecting chemical weapons.

 

Researchers Michael Strano, a Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering and Juan Pablo Giraldo, plant biologist, worked together to harness plant power as a new kind of technology platform. The research team chose plants because of their ability to repair themselves, survive harsh outdoor environments and be self-reliant for power and distribution of water. The emerging field is nicknamed “plant nanobiotics” and combines plant biology with chemical engineering nanotechnology to create ‘super plants.’ The potential for plant nanobiotics is relatively untapped and the possibilities are endless. For this reason, Strano and Giraldo set out to discover what an average plant can really do.

 

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Professor Michael Strano (left) and postdoc fellow Juan Giraldo (right) in lab at MIT (courtesy of Bryce Vickmark of MIT)

 

The Process

 

To create bionic plants, researchers rely on embedding cholorplasts with cerium oxide nanoparticles, or nanoceria. Nanoceria is delivered to the plan through lipid exchange envelope penetration, which allows the substance to penetrate the protective membrane of the chloroplasts, without damaging molecules.

 

Through this process, researchers began installing semiconducting carbon nanotubes, covered in negatively-charged DNA, into the choloroplasts as well. This had a positive effect on the plant’s ability to absorb light, including the absorption of light wavelengths that are typically not within a plant’s range, such as near-infrared, ultraviolet and green light. Through this process, plants exhibited a 49 percent increase in photosynthetic activity.

 

The researchers then used vascular infusion to inject nanoparticles into the plants through nanotubes, making the plants “bionic.” While researchers are still unsure of how the process affects the plant’s glucose production, they were able to create a variety of plants with potentially practical uses in the field of biochemistry.

 

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Researchers using near-infrared microscope to detect output of carbon nanotube sensor in Arabidopsis Thaliana plant (Courtesy of Bryce Vickmark of MIT)

 

Practical Uses

 

The research team used the Arabidopsis Thaliana plant in its study as a plant model and installed a carbon nanotube, designed to detect the presence of a common environmental pollutant, nitric oxide, which is produced through combustion. In the experiment, the team successfully gave the plant supernatural properties and when presented with the toxin, its luminescence changed, telling the researchers that it indeed detected the toxin’s presence.

Giraldo and Stano created a number of nanotubes that could sense various chemicals, including the explosive TNT, chemical agent nerve gas sarin and hydrogen peroxide. The target molecule is detected when it encounters the polymer encasing the nanotube. When it is detected, the florescence of the plant changes, revealing the presence of the threat.

 

The team has plans to enhance its carbon nanotubes to create an army of plants that can detect various biochemical threats in real time, at very low concentrations. The team is also working on developing bionic plants that rely on electronic nanomaterials, such as graphene.

 

Giraldo said the field of plant nanobiotics is still in the developing stages. He considers it a great opportunity for the communities of plant biologists and chemical engineering nanotechnologists to work together towards a world of technology powered by plants.


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Cortana in action (via WPC)


One of the biggest features of Apple's mobile OS is its voice recognition tool, Siri. Siri allows users to ask questions such as “are there any taco restaurants around” and will process the question and give the user an appropriate answer - we know the deal. Most impressively, Siri is good at understanding people's everyday language. Users can speak how they normally would to another person and Siri can interpret the meaning correctly or will ask questions to get a better understanding of what was asked. This is a demonstration of the recent technological advances in the area of speech recognition.

 

Since Siri has been so successful it is only natural for Apple's competitors to come with their own versions of personal assistants for their mobile products. The latest versions of Android software now comes equipped with Google Now, Google's very own intelligent personal assistant. Google Now comes as part of the Google Search application and can learn and adapt over time to a user's search habits. Now, Microsoft is set to soon join the voice recognition competition by releasing its  own personal assistant, currently known as Cortana.

 

The name Cortana stems from the popular Halo series on Microsoft's Xbox consoles. Cortana is a fictional AI character who feeds information to the main character. With Window's newest phone update Cortana will take the form of an animated circular icon which will change shape when speaking or processing information. Additionally, much like Google Now, Cortana will be capable of keeping track of user's previous search requests and use this information to better process requests in the future. Cortana will also attempt to learn a user's schedule and goals. Using this information it will then find and offer useful information to the user.

 

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Making the World a Smarter Place

FTF 2014 Dallas, Texas

Join us at our upcoming FTF Americas and experience one of the most comprehensive embedded ecosystems in the industry. FTF features four days of in-depth training, workshops and demonstrations from Freescale and ecosystem partners.

FTF 2014 will help you shape the future of embedded design by providing opportunities to learn, share and connect with application engineers, product experts, peers, media, analysts and Freescale leaders.

Why You Should Attend

  • Accelerated learning and immediate feedback with over 400 hours of training
  • Find the answers you need to the questions you didn’t even know you had in the interactive, 250-demo technology lab
  • Resolve design challenges and save time by collaborating with industry thought leaders
  • Gain the knowledge you need to stay relevant in this ever changing industry

View Our Sponsors

Learn more about the companies that are helping to make this year's FTF possible, view our sponsors.

 

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Set Top and Smart TV PR images... Keyboard is quite welcome! (via Hisense)


Android fans unite – Hisense recently announced the launch of its new Smart TV powered by Android 4.2.2. The Hisense H6 Smart TV combines Android technology with the innovative TV services now offered by Google (formerly known as Google TV). The new toy offers upgraded Easy View capabilities and a remote-controlled air mouse for easy-of-use. The new TV is available in 40-inch, 50-inch and 55-inch models, but for anyone that wants the technology without investing in a new TV, the Pulse PRO Set Top Box is available.

 

The new H6 Smart TV is supported by Marvell’s ARMADA 1500 Plus (88DE3108) HD Media processor and has both 3D and internet capabilities. Those ready to invest in a new TV will enjoy 3D, Netflix, YouTube, Pandora and Vudu HD capabilities with 1080p resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate. The H6 Smart TV also received an Energy Star 6.0 qualification and comes with a wireless, voice-controlled air mouse remote.

 

Those that want the innovative technology of Hisense, Android and Google without purchasing a new TV can enjoy the Pulse PRO Set Top Box. The device connects directly to an existing television and offers almost all of the same features as the H6 Smart TV. Both products are equipped with Hisense’s Social TV App and Cloud Services Hi-Media Player and Receiver. Both devices are also Energy Star 6.0 qualified and feature 1GB RAM and 8GB ROM. The Pulse PRO Set Top Box will also include the H6 wireless controller that features IQQI Smart Input Technology with just 30 keys.

 

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One "smart" remote... always the dedicated Netflix button...

 

Aside from being equipped with Netflix, Vudu HD, YouTube and Pandora, the Pulse PRO Set Top Box and the H6 Smart TV will also feature Amazon Instant Video, Chrome, Google Play, Prime Time, Android-powered TV v4 Media Streaming, Google Voice Search, Marvell BG2-CT board with 4G Flash and 1G RAM, Wi-FI, Ethernet connectivity, Bluetooth capability, HDMI-In/Out, IR-In/Out, DLNA, USB and a remote with Motion and MIC Sensors.

 

Both Products are currently available on the market. The Hisense H6 Smart TV ranges in price up to $1,099.99, depending on the size of the screen. The Hisense Pulse PRO Set Top Box is available for $199.99.

 

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Russell Rubman’s Gittler Guitar. (via kickstarter & Russell Rubman)


Guitars, or stringed instruments, haven’t changed much over the few thousand years since their inception. (A 3,300-year-old stone carving of a Hittite bard playing a stringed instrument is the oldest iconographic representation of a chordophone. Wiki) They still feature a body of some sort, neck, fretboard and headstock that is usually outfitted with six or more strings. On acoustic guitars, it’s the hollow body that produces sound when the strings are strummed, however on electric models, the sound is produced through electronic pickups that channel the sound to an external speaker or amplifier. Various designs have been produced over the years to give both kinds a distinctive look, however they still feature the traditional parts. Back in the 70’s, musician Allen Gittler looked to minimize his guitar’s makeup, stripping away all unnecessary parts but still retaining the instrument’s basic function without the loss or handicapping of its sound. His resulting design did away with the guitar’s body and headstock but retained the frets (situated on a single rod), strings and small strumming area.

 

Taking a page from Allen’s minimalistic design, Russell Rubman has taken that layout and given it a 21st century makeover. His Gittler Guitar still maintains a minimalistic design but is manufactured with aircraft-grade titanium, outfitted with 31 cylindrical frets (complete with LED lighting) and six string tuners positioned on the bottom of the instrument. Sound is captured using magnetically isolated transducers that send a signal to any MIDI interface or computer and then piped to an amplifier. The bottom also features an ‘E-Box’ that has both tone and volume controls to alter the signal to produce different sounds, much like an electric guitar. Russell is currently funding his Gittler Guitar on Kickstarter in an effort to acquire backing to manufacture his futuristic remake. Those looking to get their hands on one can pledge $2,000 or more with delivery just in time for the holidays (estimated delivery by December of this year).

 

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University of Buffalo’s 40Lb sensor system. (via UofB and BBC)

 

Wi-Fi signals can be found almost anywhere: in large cities, rural towns and even in the mountains (next to ski resorts and ranger outposts). You can even find them on the ocean, especially on cruise ships, however you will not find them under the ocean. Even though radio waves can penetrate water to a certain degree they have very little range (unless you have access to the US Navy’s ELF frequencies), which ultimately negates watching Netflix at 20-fathoms. A research team from the University of Buffalo is developing a way to overcome the problems surrounding spotty Wi-Fi service found beneath the waves. Actually, the team is hoping to create an underwater internet network for the purposes of improved tsunami detection, submerged oil and natural gas exploration, military surveillance, pollution monitoring and other applications.

 

Instead of submerging Wi-Fi devices encased in waterproof enclosures, the system will work similar to tsunami-detection networks. They work by using sensors on the ocean that send SONAR-based data to buoys on the surface, which then send out that data using a radio-based signal. The application doesn’t rely on the technology itself in creating an underwater network but rather relies on the different collection methods used by various companies and organizations. It’s also in that regard that the researchers are aiming to create a shared standard that would allow communications to be used by anyone. To find if their system could be feasible, the team dropped two 40Lb. weighted sensors into Lake Erie. They then typed a command into a Wi-Fi enabled laptop and sent the command to the sensors, which was then successfully ‘pinged’ back to the laptop after bouncing off a nearby concrete wall. As to when their system could be implemented into existing or newly designed submerged systems is unknown, however their platform is ‘sound’ and could be installed sometime in the near future.

 

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IBM 5150 PC... (via Wiki)


The late 70’s saw the birth of personal computers, which at the time were being developed in garages by home-brew enthusiasts (Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were among those enthusiasts). Not soon after, companies such as RadioShack, Commodore International and Apple were successfully selling their own affordable take on desktop PCs to both companies and individual consumers. When 1980 rolled around, product test engineer (at the time) for IBM William Lowe came up with an idea to get the company into the burgeoning personal computing market (it was, however, the leading provider of corporate mainframes at the time). He believed it was possible to conceive, engineer and manufacture a personal computer within oneyear’s time, which was unheard of back then. The company took a chance on Williams’s idea and he went forth and compiled an engineering team, known as the ‘Dirty Dozen’, to make the new project a reality. Instead of designing proprietary technology and software, William and his team looked to the fledgling Silicon Valley companies for off the shelf parts.


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William C. Lowe (via wiki)

 

A year later, the iconic beige-box was born, which was a surprise to those in the industry, including IBM. Known as the IBM 5150 Personal Computer, it featured an Intel 8088 (clocked @ 4.77MHz) processor, 16 to 256kb of memory running Microsoft’s DOS 1.0 operating system. The set-up cost consumers a mere $1,565, however that was without a monitor or even disk drives, although they were available in different configurations of the 5150. After the PC’s release, Apple took note of IBM’s first offering and actually placed a whole page ad in the Wall Street Journal stating ‘Welcome IBM. Seriously’ as something of a blasé taunt. Microsoft founder Bill Gates was apparently at Apple’s headquarters at the time of IBM’s unveiling and later stated that it took Apple a full year to realize what had just happened. The 5150 was launched in August of 1981 and by October of that same year, droves of people were dropping $1,000 deposits just to get their hands on one. By the end of the following year (1982), the company was selling roughly one PC a minute per business day (9 to 5). The 5150 was so popular it became known as the ‘PC’, which is still widely used today. Thanks to William’s efforts and insight, the desktop PC is still going strong today and can be found most anywhere on the planet! Unfortunately for us, we have lost yet another entrepreneur of the technology most of us take for granted. William C. Lowe, 72 passed away on October 19, 2013 of a heart attack. He is survived by his wife Cristina, his 4 children and 10 grandchildren.

 

William C. Lowe

January 15, 1941 – October 19, 2013

 

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Graphene concept art. Single layer...


Graphene is back in the spotlight and its unusual properties are once again being harnessed, this time for use in sticky-type memory. Yang-Fang Chen and his fellow researchers from the University of Taipei designed the memory for use in flexible electronics. Flexible memory has been created before by researchers from the University of Cambridge using nano-wires grown on plastic substrates, however practical applications using the flexible memory are still a decade or more away. Instead of using plastic, the research team from the University of Taipei used graphene coated in a conductive polymer topped with aluminum electrodes to create a flexible memory sticker. Using graphene as the memory’s substrate gives it the ability of having a natural attraction to other molecules (this is known as the van der Waals force), which allows the memory to be attached just about anywhere.

 

In initial tests, the researchers applied their flexible memory sticker to various surfaces, including a business card and a medical bracelet, which they found did not diminish data retention even while curved. They also found that the memory could be applied, removed and applied again a number of times without losing any stored data. The team stated that with a few more parts (like a Wi-Fi module) attached to their sticky memory, the device could conceivably be used as a flexible flash drive. Think of it like a Post-It note that is able to download data from your computer or mobile device, then is peeled off and stuck to another device to upload that data. The possibilities are endless, the team even thinks that they will be able to incorporate the memory into other flexible electronics sometime in the near future.

 

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Toyota’s Advanced Active Safety Research Vehicle. I look forward to computer controlled autos. Mostly to avoid traffic jams (via Toyota)


Anyone who’s watched I, Robot (Will Smith version) can recall the car chase scene with an Audi that’s capable of driving itself and avoiding collisions. While that fictitious car was featured in a science fiction film, there have been several successful autonomous vehicles that are capable of the same feat, although they are not mass-produced. According to a recent press release from Toyota Motor Corporation, the company plans to introduce their advanced driving technology to consumers in only two years. Known as the Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA), the technology uses a series of sensors that allow the vehicle to take control and avoid collisions. The system actively looks for vehicles and other obstacles in the car’s path, and if dangerous conditions are detected, the car swings into action by taking control of the vehicle’s brakes and steering to avoid the obstacle.

 

The system does give the driver a chance to react before it is initiated, at which point it brings up a visible notice on a display as well as sounding an alarm. AHDA is actually comprised of two separate technologies, with one known as Cooperative-adaptive Cruise Control, which communicates wirelessly with the surrounding vehicles in order to maintain a safe distance from each other. The second piece of technology uses Toyota’s Lane Trace Control system, which uses millimeter wave radar along with HD cameras to aid in steering control to keep the vehicle in its driving lane. Toyota has already fielded the technology on a limited scope with test vehicles driving on Tokyo’s Shuto Expressway and is set to expand sometime in the next few years.

 

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