Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Saturday, September 25, 2021

ack ack ack!
Researchers at MIT are using the photosynthetic qualities of spinach as a battery to power notebook computers.

It goes without saying: They run to the finich, ‘cuz they use their spinich. Toot-toot!

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/25/2004 11:02:27 AM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

When an ugly old stereo speaker won’t do, Japanese-spawned Ka-on will turn your flowers and houseplants in magnetically-driven audio speakers.

The AP did a pretty poor job re-working this press release. Get the info, sure, but at least try to edit it into something less blatant.

What’ll happen to plants that have this juice coursing through them?

Not only does Ka-on deliver music, it keeps bugs off plants and helps cut flowers last longer, [company president Masumi] Gotoh claims.

”The plant is happy listening to music,” says Gotoh, showing off a rubber plant hooked up to Ka-on in his Tokyo office. ”Gerberas and sunflowers work especially well as speakers.”

Yeah right, I’m sure the plants won’t experience any stress from being used like this. Guarantee you you’ll have pot after pot of dead foliage from using this thing.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/15/2004 08:11:35 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Earlier this year, I wondered why Apple hadn’t joined in on the videogame console race. It turns out that ten years ago, they were ready to do just that, with a project code-named Pippen.

I wonder why it was aborted. Steve Jobs came back to Apple at right about the same time, so I’m assuming it’s one of the non-core efforts he eliminated (along with the Newton and the Power-PC clones). If anyone has the full story, or a hyperlink to it, I’d love to get it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/14/2004 10:05:47 PM
Category: Tech, Videogames | Permalink | Feedback (5)

Thursday, September 09, 2021

I wouldn’t have thought that an article that goes into detail about water-skimming bugs and how they inspired walk-on-water nanorobots would be all that interesting. But it was.

So how do those things, both insect and robot versions, imitate Jesus?

It was long thought the insects used their legs to create waves to push themselves forward, like a wave hitting a boat.

In 1993, Mark Denny, a Stanford University marine biologist, pointed out a problem: If water skimmers moved by creating waves, newly hatched water skimmers would be immobile because they weren’t strong enough to create waves. In reality, newly hatched water skimmers move just as well as full grown adults.

Last year, Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematician John M.W. Bush and two graduate students solved the riddle by placing dyes and particles in water and using a high-speed video camera.

Bush and the graduate students discovered that water striders move by pushing down on the surface of water enough to create valleys but not enough to break the surface. The water then bounces back like a trampoline to push the insect forward.

Yes, I find it fascinating. Yes, there’s probably something (else) wrong with me.

There’s plenty more tiny robot fun at Carnegie Mellon University’s NanoRobotics Lab. In addition to the waterstrider, there’s the digestive-tract capsulebot and the space-exploring geckobot.

Domo arigato, Professor Metin Sitti.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/09/2021 11:20:39 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

I’ve noted before that Tivo is at a do-or-die juncture, as cable and satellite providers are poised to overtake the DVR market with their own equipment and subscriber bases. In response, the pioneering company has rolled out aggressive pricing structure, and, more significantly, forged a partnership with Netflix to deliver movies-on-demand through their boxes.

My first reaction to this news was that it was a smart move by Tivo. More than anything, offering movies allows them to define the DVR as more than just a fancied-up VCR (which, to the average consumer, is still all a DVR is). It’s a step toward presenting Tivo as a digital media hub.

The more I thought about it, though, it occurred to me: Tivo can’t play this game. Because cable and satellite providers can point to their existing on-demand offerings, and can quite easily ramp them up to match this development. What’s more, they can tack it all onto the same combined cable bill, thus making the cost easier to swallow.

I even suspect that Netflix is using Tivo as a guinea pig for this service. If it’s proven to be successful, they can point to it during negotiations with cable providers to for a partnership (that’s assuming the cable and satellite industry doesn’t set up its own movie subscription service in the meantime, perhaps with Blockbuster’s help).

It’s good to see Tivo being so nimble as it tries to secure its future, but I don’t think this will do it. I still see the company disappearing inside of two years.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/08/2021 10:28:28 PM
Category: Media, Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Rational people would think twice about bringing their cellphones to church. Since rational people are in short supply, and the donation plate needs filling regardless, Danish churches are setting up SMS-enabled services that allow one to tithe wirelessly.

I guess if you can blog from church

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/08/2021 09:53:09 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Saturday, September 04, 2021

It’s hard to believe you’d need to improve upon urine. But that’s what Dyna-Tek Industries, a Kansas-based biotech company, does with Surine, a synthetic urine that’s in high demand among drug-testing research circles.

Who knew there was such a big demand for the yellow stuff?

Researchers, drug-testing labs and other institutions buy thousands of gallons of the real stuff, mostly to calibrate the equipment used to test regular urine samples for drugs or other substances. Researchers periodically check the accuracy of their equipment by introducing samples that have been intentionally spiked with chemicals.

But human urine has its limitations.

It’s unstable, decaying rapidly if not kept refrigerated and must be frozen when shipped. It can smell, it foams and donors must be screened carefully for drug use or disease. Also, different body chemistry guarantees that no two people’s urine is exactly alike, an irritation for researchers who rely on consistency…

“I think in the next few years, synthetic urine will replace human urine” in laboratories, said Fred Klaus, purchasing manager for Redwood Toxicology, a Santa Rosa, Calif., drug testing company that tests about 30,000 urine samples a day and is thinking about testing Surine. “If you end up with something like Surine that’s very stable and easy to maintain, you’re going to go to that because that’s one of your savers.”

I guess Dyna-Tek has created the long-sought-after holy golden grail in urinary research.

I wonder who’s donating all these gallons of piss. You see calls for blood donation drives all the time, but never urine donations. Shoot, I’d bet you could persuade more people to donate their piss than their blood. You could even find some beer sponsorship for it, which would serve the dual purpose of priming the pumps.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 09/04/2021 10:00:31 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Municipality-wide wi-fi zones have been established in small communities like Cerritos, California and Chaska, Minnesota. Now, the concept is going to the bright lights of big-city Philadelphia.

I’ve noted before that when wireless Internet service becomes a government service, it’s bound to clash with companies that aim to make money offering the same thing. If Philly accomplishes this metropolitan-wide hotspot coverage, companies like T-Mobile and Verizon have to serious shift gears in how they plan to operate in this market. They could be better off simply becoming partners with the government providers.

I’m hoping Philly succeeds. If nothing else, it could really spur my town, St. Pete, to get its nascent wi-fi plans off the ground.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/01/2021 11:13:30 PM
Category: Wi-Fi | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Monday, August 30, 2021

It’s 25 years into the future, unfortunately. This, despite the best efforts of NASA, Moller International and Boeing’s Phantom Works division.

At this point, it doesn’t matter. All that stuff — flying cars, Moon condos, teleportation — is part of our old future. It was supposed to be here when the year 2000 rolled around. That didn’t happen, so it would be anticlimactic now.

By the way: Is it even possible to mention the concept of flying cars without “The Jetsons” coming up?

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/30/2004 10:15:17 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, August 26, 2021

shufflin' along
I believe I read somewhere that the majority of iPod owners regularly set their players on Shuffle. I know I do. Everyone likes variety.

When you’re dealing with thousands of music tracks, over a wide range of genres, you expect to go a long stretch between hearing the same song or artist. But that’s often not the case, prompting some to question the randomness of Shuffle and wonder if the iPod doesn’t “know” to play certain songs more than others.

I myself experienced this, and even after assuring myself that the probabilities checked out, still ditched every Police song off the little 5-gigger.

The obvious solution: Shuffle by genre, or artist, or some other tag. Slightly more ambitious would be creating enough playlists to cover your various musical moods. But that involves editing song tags, syncing up the iPod with your computer… Too much work.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 08/26/2004 10:37:03 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (6)

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

ring around
Apple’s strategy with the iPod from the beginning was to use it as an introductory device. It’s purpose was to introduce consumers to an Apple product, let them experience the quality of it, and then sell additional items. The prime complementary merchandise for the iPod is the iTunes Music Store — a natural, since you’ve got to have something to play on your music player, and the IMS is specifically designed to work with the iPod.

A secondary aim was to use the iPod to help spur sales of the Mac. There are now signs of that strategy working in at least one critical market segment: College students. Students enamoured of the iPod are choosing Mac Powerbooks instead of Wintel notebooks for the back-to-school season.

This validates Apple’s decision to expand the iPod market by offering them preformatted in Windows. The early criticism of that move was that it would hurt Mac sales by removing an incentive from the typical computer buyer to switch. This development suggests that it’s irrelevant. What’s more, it points out to consumers placing greater importance on the hardware and look-and-feel in deciding on their computer hardware.

Naturally, this wouldn’t be happening if the pricing and software options weren’t right:

Now that Microsoft Office is available for Macs, [salesman Jeff] Guba says, students can work with many Windows programs, such as Outlook for e-mail and Word for documents. “That made a big difference,” he says. [Note: This is not really accurate; MS Office has been available on the Mac OS for several years; it’s always been compatible with Windows documents and systems, even though some programs (notably Access) aren’t available for the Mac.]…

Besides the afterglow of iPod, other factors are giving Apple laptops a boost:

-Viruses. Internet viruses that affect Windows machines “have gotten out of hand,” says Charles Hendee at New York University’s computer store. “Every week, we have three or four people switch for just that reason.”

-Price. Unlike Mac desktops, which tend to cost more than comparable Windows machines, entry-level iBook laptops are competitively priced, at about $949 with Apple’s education discount.

This isn’t going to vault Apple to the top of the computing heap. But it’s a nice little gain.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 08/25/2004 11:04:18 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Tech | Permalink | Feedback (3)

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Part Tamagotchi, part 1-900 number: It’s Artificial Life’s Virtual Girlfriend, on a 3G mobile phone near you.

I foresee a bunch of sticky phones resulting from this…

(Via The Moderate Voice)

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 10:33:31 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback

One more reason to forsake the stovetop and nuke your food: Sharp Corp. has come up with a microwave that burns away excess fat, oil and salt by generating 572-degree superheated steam.

Keep an eye out for the chubby moron near you who uses this amazing device as his rationalization for scarfing down three or four microwavable burritos. Gotta have that afternoon “power snack”!

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/24/2004 10:09:12 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, August 23, 2021

The St. Pete Times Forum, home of the Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning, is going wi-fi.

I imagine the immediate beneficiaries will be reporters covering events there; they won’t have to hunt for data jacks for their notebook computers anymore. But past that? Ticketholders to hockey games and concerts aren’t likely to be lugging notebooks with them. PDAs are generally on the way out, and the phones that are replacing them are already able to tap into cellular service networks. As more and more Bluetooth-enabled devices (aside from phones) flood the market, I’m sure an arena-sized hotspot will be much appreciated. But for now, it’s more effective as a marketing plug.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2004 11:27:31 PM
Category: Wi-Fi | Permalink | Feedback

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