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Posts tagged ‘tech’

But Would You Rather Be Felt Up?

Ever since 9/11, travel – particularly by air – hasn’t been the same. The planes are packed, the TSA changes the rules weekly, and God forbid you get caught going through Security without clean socks. But none of the changes brought about by those horrific terror attacks has folks up in the air – so to speak – so much as the new full-body scanning machines now being tested at select airports. The scanners, which make it practically impossible to hide something under your clothes, are hailed as “the solution” by security experts. But privacy advocates fear that the grainy black and white images generated by the scanners dig a little too deep, and are just a little too personal. You might think it’s not that big a deal, but for at least one security worker in Miami, his little deal is a big deal indeed

A TSA worker at Miami International Airport in Florida was arrested for allegedly assaulting a co-worker who had repeatedly teased him about the size of his genitals.

The insults stemmed from an X-ray of the accused captured during a training exercise with the airport’s full-body scanning machines, the report said.

Rolando Negrin “stated he could not take the jokes anymore and lost his mind,” allegedly striking the victim with a police baton. According to the report, a witness heard Negrin say in Spanish, “get on your knees or I will kill you and you better apoligise [sic].”

I’ve seen the output of these machines, including one of a woman that left little to the imagination, and I see where there could be a potential for abuse. But at some point, you have to decide what’s important to you – letting some minimum-wage TSA hack get his jollies at your expense, or getting your ass blown out of the sky. The scanner is quick, painless, and certain – and a hell of a lot better than getting groped in a detailed patdown.

Of course, there are other solutions to the problem. Being something of an outside-of-the-box thinker myself, I have a foolproof method to insure nothing is brought onboard the planes that shouldn’t be there – fly naked. Yep, everyone not working the cockpit strips before they pass through the scanner and everything – and I mean everything – gets checked in. Want something to eat or read on the flight? Get it on the plane. Somehow, paying extra for a blanket isn’t going to seem so wrong any more …

iSlate, Anyone?

Everyone does product rollouts, but no one does them quite like Apple – and today, we’re going to get one more example.

Just a little bit of hype ...

The tech world is a-twitter – literally and figuratively – over today’s mysterious meeting in San Francisco. Apple sent out crytic emails last week inviting the press to “come see our latest creation” – and you know that’s better than crack for the Apple fanboys and tech media alike.  Let’s face it – when’s the last time you saw USAToday hyping a product launch from Dell … or HP … or any PC brand.  Today’s event is likely to be bigger than most, however.

First, and most important, it should be the first time most of us have seen Apple CEO – and corporate compass – Steve Jobs since he returned from a leave of absence for medical treatment. When last we saw him, he was pale and gaunt – looking every bit the cancer patient he was rumored to be. Since he returned to the Apple Cupertino campus, he’s been said to be as busy as ever, and an active part of the development of the product expected to be released today.

And the product? All signs point to Apple’s version of a tablet computer – but you just know it won’t be your typical tabled. Informed sources say it will be a 10-inch unit running a beefed-up version of the MacOS that drives the iPhone. In fact, several interviews this morning with corporate partners seem to have spilled some of the beans, confirming that current iPhone apps will run on the new machine. Expect it to have Wi-Fi and possibly 3G connectivity, as well as enhanced multi-touch interfaces. It will no doubt sport a soft keyboard, but it will be interesting to see how Apple uses the additional real estate afforded by the screen size to improve the concept.

More important than the hardware, however will be the way Apple intends it to be used. Tablet PCs are nothing new – versions have been available for a decade. But they’ve always been one of those products that seemed directionless – no one really knew what to use it for. That’s where Apple can really shine – they’ve been masters of not only providing new products, but reshaping the niche in which the product resides. the iPod didn’t introduce the world to digital music, but it – and the iTunes store – revolutionized how we listened to music and watched movies. Similarly, the iPhone wasn’t the first so-called “smartphone”, but it was the one that convinced the masses go get on board. How – and what – will the iSlate (or iTab, or whatever the decide to call it)  push the envelope?

At the same time that the boys in Cupertino have been hammering out the hardware design, the lawyers have been working with different media companies to secure distribution rights.  Apple sees their new tablet as the opposite of a personal computer – this is a device to be shared … the ultimate media device.  It will be used to watch movies and television, of course, but also read newspapers,  magazines and books.  Apple has long been a favorite of schools, and this device could see use as a way to replace textbooks.  They’ve even shown it ot the folks at several major gaming companies to demonstrate its capabilities as a gaming device.  Everyone keeps looking for the “iPhone killer” – Apple may just have the “PSP/Kindle killer” …

Frankly, it’ll be good to see Steve Jobs back on stage in his black turtleneck, stopping just before leaving to say, “Oh … one more thing …” and blowing us all away one more time.

More to follow … 😀


I’ve got a couple of friends who will find the following entry quite distateful, so you might as well step away from the keyboard now …

Living in SoCal, I have lots of friends who are crazy about sushi. It’s only been lately that I’ve dipped my toes into that world of cuisine, however, and one thing is immediately obvious – it takes talent to get it right. I mean, anyone can slap together some fish, rice and veggies and wrap it in seaweed, but it takes an artist to do it right … not to mention really fresh ingredients.

So it was with a little trepidation that I saw this little article about a new Japanese import coming to America – the sushi robot.  To be honest, the machines don’t entirely replace the sushi chef, but rather automate some of the tasks – creating the perfect rice ball, for example, or rolling the perfect maki roll.  The target is large institutional users who need to crank out mass quantities of sushi – cafeterias and supermarkets, for example.

“Behind the scenes, it really helps if you’re catering and outsourcing,” Tsuchiyama said.

All this is meant to meet the needs of Americans’ burgeoning sushi appetite.

“Sushi is trendy,” Tanaka said with a laugh.

The United States has about 10,000 Japanese restaurants, according to a 2006 report by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The number of these eateries increased by 250 percent in a decade, the report says.

With a third of those Japanese eateries here in Cali, you can see why both AUTEC and their major competition are based in Torrance, right next to the Home Office here in Redondo Beach.

An interesting aside is that today’s AUTEC is yesterday’s AudioTechnica. If you had a turntable in the ’70s, I’ll guarantee you had an AudioTechnica cartridge on the end of the arm. With technology leaving the record in history’s dustbin, AudioTechnica needed to adapt, and the AUTEC sushi robot was born!

Personally, I think this is a great idea, but if you’re getting your sushi from anywhere that needs to use this technology you’d better rethink your eating habits … 😮

Hearing Footsteps, Mr Jobs?

From the beginning, Apple has had a knack for eye-catching – and sometimes eye-popping – products. You don’t like to throw around terms like “iconic”, but that’s exactly how to describe the series of products that have come from the minds in Cupertino: Macintosh … iMac … iPod. Even the ones that didn’t catch on, like the Lisa and Newton, were years ahead of the rest of the industry – often, to their own detriment.

From the moment it was introduced – hell, for a year in advance of introduction – everyone knew the iPhone would change the cell phone as we knew it. The first cellphone with a real operating system and real applications. That gorgeous screen and the seemingly magical touch capabilites. It was a winner from Day One, despite significant shortcomings. There’s a whole lot of iPhones out there right now, and I’ll bet it’s the only mobile phone you can name by it’s brand.

Well, maybe not any more. For years, people have been looking for an “iPhone-killer” only to be disappointed (hello, Palm Pre?). But it’s possible that the first legitimate challenge to the iPhone has arrived in the form of Motorola’s Droid. Powered by the Google Android operating system, the Droid can do pretty much everything the iPhone can, and then some. Elegant operation? Check. App Store? Check. But wait … there’s more! Seamless integration with Google apps? Check. Freedom from the lame-ass AT&T network that every iPhone user (and this BlackBerry one) is saddled with? Check. A real keyboard? Check and check!

I’ve yet to actually see one, but the reviews for the Droid are lavish. To be honest, I think a lot of them are driven by nothing more than the thrill that someone has finally gotten it right – or, right enough – and can legitimatelly challenge the iPhone. But it’s gotten people’s attention, not the least of which the legions of Apple FanBoys who are rabidly defending their brand. And even TIME named the Android their “Top Gadget of 2009” (with the latest iPhone 3GS coming in #4) – although, it’s probably worth noting they also named “The Princess and the Frog” their top movie, pretty much calling the whole deal into question … :-)

I’m not saying that the Droid is the do-all, end-all – it has many of its own shortcomings. But for the first time, you see websites advertising their Android app alongside – and in some cases, instead of – their iPhone app. This is the one that will force Apple to step up and make real upgrades to the iPhone – starting with allowing them to be used on a network worthy of the platform. When they do that, I just might become another FanBoy iPhone owner.  But if they don’t take the challenge seriously, they might just become a museum piece …

Leave It To The Germans To Overthink My Morning Java …

We all have our vices in life … mine is coffee.  Three healthy cups in the morning, or I’m pretty much useless to anyone.  When things are going crazy, I blow through the java pretty quick, but if things are progressing at a manageable pace, I might linger a little longer over a cup – long enough for the damned thing to get cold.

Now, most of us would just walk to the microwave and zap some life back into it, but that’s not good enough for a group of German scientists who’ve founder a better way – a smart mug!

The idea came to the researchers at the Christmas market in the Bavarian town of Rosenhiem. “We got upset because the mulled wine” — Glühwein, in German — “was always either too hot or too cold,” say Klaus Sedlbauer, the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics (IBP), and his colleague Herbert Sinnesbichler. “We had to find a solution.”

They hollowed out a standard mug and inserted phase change material, which melts at a desired temperature and acts as a thermal stabilizer.

The material absorbs the warmth of the mug’s content like a sponge, stores it and brings it down to the optimal temperature. And then the PCM helps maintain the content’s temperature at this optimal level by slowly releasing the stored heat back into the mug’s contents. “Under ideal circumstances,” Sedlbauer says, “the optimal temperature can be maintained for 20-30 minutes.”

In order to even further insulate the mug and permit less heat to be lost, the outside part of the mug’s hollowed-out cavity — that is, the part farthest from the material whose temperature needs to be maintained — is lined with a razor-thin layer of either plastic or ceramics. This helps further ensure that the contents of the mug only start cooling down once the PCM has released all of its stored thermal energy and returned to a solid state.

Because the material holds the liquid at exactly the right temperature over time, it can be used to optimize a drinking experience.  Need your beer at exactly 44.6 °F?  No problem – just design the mug for the precise temperature and it’ll do the rest.  Of course, since any one mug will only hold liquid at one particular temperature, you’ll need a whole collection, but hey – that’s what the dishwasher is for, right?