The story of stuff, we are just consumer numbers …

Its been about a year since someone sent me a viral video about the Story of Stuff, and I was enlightened, frightened, and motivated all at the same time. Historically, I have been a person who has spoken about made presentations about and actually published presentations about going green. And after seeing the video again, I realized that I am not doing nearly as much as I could be doing. The video attacks the linear economic model that our economy is currently based on. Some of the info. presented is new, a lot is repeat, but it’s brought together in a very clear and compelling way. You can download and watch the video also on their website http://www.storyofstuff.com/

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever. Since the film was posted, viewers in over 200 countries have visited the site over 7.5 million times. The Story of Stuff is more than a video cleverly explaining the life cycle of stuff. It’s a catalyst for awareness that gets people thinking about how all of our stuff is connected to environmental and societal issues.

Here is my list of 10 little and big things we can do, to make a change :

  1. Power Down: A great deal of the resources we use and the waste we create is in the energy we consume. Look for opportunities in your life to significantly reduce energy use: drive less, fly less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food (food takes energy to grow, package, store and transport), wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle. All these things save energy and save you money.
  2. Waste Less: There are hundreds of opportunities each day to nurture a Zero Waste culture in your home, workplace, community. This takes developing new habits which soon become second nature. Use both sides of the paper, carry your own mugs and shopping bags, get printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced, compost food scraps, avoid bottled water and other over packaged products, upgrade computers rather than buying new ones, repair and mend rather than replace … the list is endless!
  3. Talk to everyone about it: At work, your neighbors, in line at the supermarket, on the bus… A student once asked Cesar Chavez how he organized. He said, “First, I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.” “No,” said the student, “how do you organize?” Chavez answered, “First I talk to one person. Then I talk to another person.”
  4. Make your voice heard: Write letters to the editor and submit articles to local press. In the last years, and especially with Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize, the media has been forced to write about climate change. As individuals, we can influence the media to better represent other important issues as well. You could use your social networks like Facebook and Twitter for the same as well.
  5. Detox: Many of today’s consumer products — from children’s pajamas to lipstick — contain toxic chemical additives that simply aren’t necessary.
  6. Unplug: The average person watches TV over four hours a day. Four hours per day filled with messages about stuff we should buy. That is four hours a day that could be spent with family, friends and in our community.
  7. Park and Walk: Car-centric land use policies and lifestyles lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel extraction, and conversion of agricultural and wildlands to roads and parking lots. Driving less and walking more is good for the climate, the planet, your health, and your wallet.
  8. Change your light bulbs: Changing light bulbs is quick and easy. Energy efficient light bulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional ones. That’s a no-brainer.
  9. Recycle your trash: Recycling saves energy and reduces both waste and the pressure to harvest and mine new stuff. Unfortunately, many cities still don’t have adequate recycling systems in place. In that case you can usually find some recycling options in the phone book to start recycling while you’re pressuring your local government to support recycling city wide.
  10. Buy Green: Shopping is not the solution to the environmental problems we currently face because the real changes we need just aren’t for sale in even the greenest shop. But, when we do shop, we should ensure our support businesses that protect the environment and worker rights.

I am sure you can think of many more uses of the same, the point is we need to do something. Anything.

This valentines day try the 3D valentine's card

If you have been taking your time to write some of the posts of this blog, you might have noticed that I do like Augmented Reality a lot and the reality that this coming to life is an aspect that I am incredibly excited about. In this post I wanna look at some new commercial applications that are coming out.

First of all, a 3D greeting cards which have been adopted as a first by Hallmark. Yes the worldwide leader in greeting cards has taken on a step to combat the dip in sales because of eCards. Like the age old saying goes if you can’t beat them join them. Meaning that the cards now mash up the real world with the Virtual world, to create a one of a kind Augmented Reality Greeting card. The person receiving the card can visit www.hallmark.com/extra and follow the directions to be able to view a 3D animated feature by holding the greeting card up to the web camera. The technology breathes a digital life into the card. The animation tracks with the movement of the card, so no matter which way the card is moved, the animation will rotate along in full 3D. In many cards, various scenes appear as the card is turned in different angles in front of the webcam for a range of digital experiences.

It does makes a lot of sense to add content to a static piece of cardboard; this would imply that although you don’t need to give an ugly marker to a person, you still give a nice greeting. They can see the card through the webcam for additional content, however if they don’t have one, then definitely they have a greeting card.However, it would have been cooler if the application was accessible on the phone so that you can see the message when you receive it and don’t have to wait to get in front of a webcam. Anyway check out a demo of the greeting below :

Give it a try, maybe this valentines day you could give a special 3D card to your geeky girl / boy friend. The link for the Hallmark card is here.

Movies … the new source of emerging technology

When I was doing my post on the Science and technology of Avatar, I was trying hard not to compare technologies displayed in movies with what is available in the real world. In fact More than once, Technology has been sourced from movies and vice versa. There is always the technology from the movies that scientists and technology companies actually try to mimic and for me one of those iconic movies was Minority Report.

We will get to minority report in a bit, but in the meantime there are many other movies that made big notches in the symphony of technological history. For example the robots featured in Terminator 2, i Robot, Bi Centenary Man or even AI, ofcourse I am sure a true movie buff would think of many more; paved a way for us to actually understand and see possible relations we could have with our robot humanoids. I am sure for people in the firld of research, it gave them that required extra push, patience to complete the task at hand and make a successful humanoid. The Asimo from Honda became the first such device that we ever made. I am not sure if calling Asimo a device would be appropriate owing to how fast these humanoids are evolving.

Getting back to Minority report, the movie must have had consultants for the technology aspects who dreamt up technologies that they used in the movie, well not really the future predicting technology which I really thought was silly and the story revolved around a really dumb plot; more so the interaction of people with the machines etc. Now they were really brilliant on the other hand. I wanna look at some of them in depth :

  • Gesture based Interfaces : This is something we might see in homes in the not so distant future. Starting from Apple to Microsoft a lot of companies are trying to work on multi touch gesture interfaces. Well Microsoft has even applied for a patent for gesture interface. Pretty cool, in fact one of the science advisors from Minority Report along with a team of other visionaries has created an honest-to-goodness, real-world implementation of the computer systems seen in the movie. Dubbed g-speak, the mind bending OS combines “gestural i/o, recombinant networking, and real-world pixels,” to deliver what the creators call “the first major step in [a] computer interface since 1984.” There are some things that need to seen to be understood, so watch the video here, and prepare to have your mind thoroughly blown to bits. via engadget. Then there is this article talking about the television screens that might come up with gesture interface.

  • Flexible Displays : Flexible displays have been a fantasy of a lot of people from advertising to car manufacturers and so there is a load of work that is done in this field. I am sure that this was started with a vision – of a durable electronic book that could be taken to the beach, on a train, rolled up and put in a pocket… it would use low power and would be updated wirelessly. And lo and behold there are a few devices that do just that : Presenting the Radiopaper. You can download an avi file with an animation for the same here.

  • Personalized Advertising : This is a great technology and while working for my previous employer we tried to make this a reality by presenting it to various companies, however people were too scared to try this technology. What is it ? Simply put, imagine advertising hoardings that display advertisements only for you, with your name and personal interest. Is it possible ? I believe it is, there are various ways to achieve it, like the NEC’s display premiered in Japan, which  utilizes a miniature camera to detect a person’s age and sex so it can play specific commercials aimed at a shopper’s demographic. You could also achieve a similar result using RFID’s and a decent small scale implementation is the ‘Salik’ system for cars in Dubai or the toll system for cars in Singapore.

  • Jetpacks :Unique among the technologies on show, jetpacks have their real-world origins in sci-fi. Several inventors were inspired by the 1920s comic hero Buck Rogers, but it took until the 50s before a workable model – the Bell rocket belt – was dreamed up by Wendell Moore, an engineer with Bell Aircraft. In this film, we get to see the benefits – and fatal flaws – of jetpacks. Benefits for the cops include dramatic, sudden entrances from hovering aircraft, and not having to bother with staircases when chasing criminals. The flaws are obvious when the officer – already an easy target flying through the air – gets in a fight mid-flight, loses his balance and spins out of control. In the real world, such problems have held back jetpack development, although we all remember the appearance of one at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Perhaps the greatest hope for jetpacks lies with a company called Millennium Jet, which unveiled its SoloTrek in February. The machine is less a jet, more a personal helicopter, with an engine powering ducted fans and a computer maintaining flight. Computer models have SoloTrek reaching 8,000ft for 120 miles, although it has only reached a few feet, tethered, in test flights so far.

  • Spider robots : There are lots of places you can’t go on wheels, and caterpillar tracks destroy the landscape, so legs have long been seen as a better solution. The first such machines walked at Ohio State University (the Hexapod) and in the Soviet Union in 1977; today you can build one with Lego. Robots have been used instead of humans for bomb disposal squads as well as the new Unmanned Arial vehicles. This is one technology that is here to stay.

  • Guided Cars : The traffic of the future will be completely regulated, computer guided – and will run up the side of buildings. Only the rich will be able to afford to drive their own vehicles. Since Minority Report features two Lexus vehicles, it is no surprise that Toyota worked on the futuristic travel system. The “private pods” in the film use several familiar ideas, including mag-lev or magnetic levitation – a combination of superconducting magnets (on the roads) and linear motor technology (on the cars). Japan’s railway company, JNR, started researching mag-lev in 1970 and its two-car MLU001 train ran at 400kmph in 1987. However, mag-lev trains are not very good at hills, so don’t try this up the side of a building. And since they have no contact with the ground, braking may also be a bit of a problem.

  • Iris Recognition : In the world of Minority Report, you can never escape your identity. You are recognised, everywhere, by your eyes, thanks to iris recognition. This future world’s fugitives have to go to the desperate lengths of eye-swapping surgery to escape their pasts. Iris recognition technology has been with us for a while. It is often referred to as biometrics, and has been tested in airports and at cash machines. The users’ eyes are photographed, and then every time they present themselves to the machine it compares the eye it “sees” with the picture in its database. Subjects, however, need to stand still, and close to the machine. What we do not have yet are readers like those in the film, capable of picking out individuals in a crowd, and scanning their eyes as they walk. In Dubai, this is implemented to keep a check on expats who enter into the country especially ones who have criminal records.

  • 3D Holograms : I spoke about this in my post about Avatar, and can be checked here .

When it comes to the technology of gestural inputs etc we have made a lot of gains, and one of those can be definately the Sixth Sence technology that is being talked about so much.Proudly displayed at TED by an Indian bloke, Pranav Mistry. Check out the TED talk below.

Moving away from minority report I am sure you guys can think of enough movies that made a similar impact to you guys. Please comment and let me know. In fact I think it can be  a completely separate blog altogether, not only a post on one blog.


Invisible text … made visible for Mobiles – QR Codes

In one of my earlier posts, I had showcased a very interesting Business card, the augmented reality business card. Right next to the 3D picture of the person was another 2 Dimensional code which was also displayed and a few guys asked me about it. That was of course the QR code, and I was surprised to find that not many people knew about the humble QR code. So this post is dedicated to the QR code. Although invented in 1994, the QR code which was then heralded as the ‘next big thing’ and the ‘replacement to the age-old Barcode’, this technology did not really take off worldwide as it had the potential for.

qrcode

The main difference from the bar code is that since it’s actually a 2 D  matrix, it can contain far more information (up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters), and the scanning device is any 3G camera phone with proper QR software installed. A smaller version, Micro QRCode, holds up to 35 characters.

The QR Code is a way to use the camera of a mobile device to capture a bit of data, be it text or a URL. The user snaps a photo of the square bar code and an application on the device makes the translation. It is bit of a fringe technology and the primary reason being not all Mobile Phones ship with an application built-in, and even when it does, they do not really advertise it.

QR codes are now mainstream in Japan, and have been for a few years.  Originally developed by Denso-Wave, QR codes gained a foothold in print media in Japan at the end of the last century, and international recognition with the publication of an ISO standard in 2001.  Since then, QR codes have become ubiquitous in Japanese print media, outdoor advertising, and even on the occasional T-shirt. Sushi bars use them to track plates of sushi consumed by their customers. They appear in Japanese bus shelters posters, linking travelers to a site that provides up-to-date information on bus arrival and departure times. In fact there is a Blog from Japan where all the posts are in QR Codes. Check this sample of a post.

Here is a How to video to use your Bar code scanner built into the Nokia N95

Now with mobile penetration increasing world over the QR code is making a slow comeback into the world through Mobile Marketing. But people have not only used it for Mobile marketing but further with creative used of this technology. Some examples that I came across are :

  • Business Cards – a QR code could take people to your company’s website or your profile on LinkedIn.
  • Google Maps and QR Codes Mashup.
  • Memorial at graves ?
  • Mashup Augmented reality with QR Codes, not only the business card that was on my earlier post. Check out this.
  • Booking Appointments – some businesses such as doctors’ offices and hair and beauty salons are using QR Codes to enable their clients to book appointments over their mobile phones. This is great if the office is closed when you pass it or if you’re in a rush and can’t wait around to make your appointment with the receptionist.
  • Adminstration – online interactive Canadian passport application forms have integrated a dynamic QR code that changes as you complete the form. The code stores all the applicant’s information and when scanned by the government processing centre, to accurately upload the applicant’s information and to allow for much faster application processing times. This video shows how the code works and changes over time.
  • Event Ticketing
  • Opt-In Marketing – For permission based marketing solutions, companies can offer a free download in exchange for a prospect’s email address or cell number.
  • Marketing Collateral – learn more about a product or service, whether via a general website or dedicated webpage, or with the power of multi-media via a video presentation.
  • Retail Signage – show current sale events, promotional discounts, download mobile coupons to the mobile device and so much more.
  • Invitations / Event Announcements – gather further information or RSVP on your mobile device.
  • Real Estate – a quick scan of an MLS listing, or from a ‘For Sale’ sign, brings up an instant virtual tour of the property.

Check out some of these Youtube videos here to check them out.

You can check out some of these free online QR Code generators to make your own free ! Yes Free !!

Avatar …. the beginning, read on ..

Is it the Sifi plot line ? the amazing special effects ? the pace at which it reached $ 1 Billion Dollars ? the technological advancements ? The hype created on the internet ? James Cameron the name ? Whatever maybe the reason, Avatar is definitely going to be the highest grossing moving of all time. I guess you already know that, but the fastest movie franchise to make over $1.3 Billion Dollars has something right, that is making audiences wanting to see it more. And the fact that it is one of the most pirated movies of all times is not making a difference to its collections either. I am not going to do a review of the movie, you can find tonnes of it on the internet.

Personally, I believe this marks the stand point of the movie industry trying to desperately fight off illegal movie downloads and piracy. You can download the movie but you cannot download the ‘experience’, and thats what its boiling down to. Setting the stage up, were some animated movies that got onto 3D, then came IMAX and now IMAX 3D. 3D technology has existed for a long time, but somewhat sidelined as they wanted to make a version compatible for the home, and also keep down on cost. What followed was that the global piracy causing the movie industry to crash or get there pretty quick. Now the focus of movie makers worldwide is to keep the users away from the homes and get them back into the theaters.

And then out of the ‘blue’ James Cameron works up his average script which is rumored to be 17 years old and unable to materialize as technology did not exist. Don’t know about that one … lol. I say average script cos its very predictable, in face I found this awesome picture bought up by someone on failblog.org, priceless.

Having said that, the visual treat that your eyes is subjected to and the experience that your mind is subjected to is unbelievable. Most friends of mine who saw the movie in 2D did not like it, obviously since the ‘experience’ was missing.

Apart from the technology required to shoot the movie, like the awesome motion capture that brings the characters to life, quite literally, the content of the movie also hid well thought of Science. And of course so, the most expensive movie ever made must have definitely had technology advisors that made most of the decisions regarding the science that the movie would feature. Some examples of this would be :

  • The choice of putting Pandora on a moon in the real Alpha Centauri star system (the closest system to Earth) was neat since scientists are looking at moons for life.
  • Those floating mountains. Many comments expressed disappointment with them, however, it’s not quite as implausible as you may suspect. The filmmakers put thought into this: Superconductors expel magnetic field lines, so the effect could make these mountains levitate like magnets away from the surface. (Details here).
  • Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of a research scientist was uncharacteristically good. Dr. Grace Augustine conveyed the natural curiosity about the world that you would normally observe in Research Scientists.
  • If gravity on Pandora is less than that on Earth, larger organisms would be supported, like the giant ‘Home Tree’.
  • Pandora’s atmosphere is not breathable to humans. In Star Wars, Star Trek, and just about any other sci-fi film, there are countless planets with human-breathable air, which is not very realistic.
  • The hybrid antimatter/fusion rocket combined with a beam-powered light sail. That’s exactly the sort of complicated trick that real-world engineers would use to reduce fuel and mass constraints on the spacecraft to travel at sub light speeds to other planets.

In fact just to be able to satisfy the blazing questions of all the geeks out there, as well as some critics who just seem to need a reason to bash up something or anything of interest, the movie staff came up with the awesome pandorapedia. An encyclopedia for anything ‘Pandora’ or ‘Avatar’. (More ‘Avatar science’, links at the end)

Like, the 3D hyper realistic holographic image projectors, the 3D Heads Up Displays in the flight control rooms, the title technologies showcasing direct Brain-Machine Communication, or even the AMP (Amplified Mobility Platform) for the humans on ‘Pandora’ are all technologies that are based on more scientific fact than fiction. Looking at some of them :

3D Holographic image projectors : CNN had tried its hands with 3D holographs a while back with its recent election coverage. Granted, the anchors and reporters being videotaped weren’t actually looking at holograms. Instead, they were looking at monitors, and CNN used 44 small, fixed cameras and 20 computers to insert virtual holograms with real-time effects processing. Fake holograms! Wait, that’s kind of redundant, isn’t it?

Brain Machine Communication of the Avatar : Brain Machine Interfaces and Mind Reading by computers is growing ten fold every year. New research in this field is enabling a new genre of applications for the computer check out more details here.

Amplified Mobility Platform (AMP) : Already featured in movies like the Matrix Trilogy and the Iron Man, this seems to be the next form of Personal Military technology that is going to be widely anticipated and made available. Tests on primitive versions of this technology already are under trials under the name of exoskeletons. more on Wikipedia about exoskeletons and powered exoskeletons.

Amino Tanks: Used to harbor the avatar to deliver the required nutrition to survive, this innovation is also being used in various research laboratories for organ regeneration.

There is a lot of resources available for the science of the movie. You can check out some of the links below :

Chrome OS – Interesting, but ….

I am a very big Fan of Google, and like a lot of guys of my kind I follow most of Google’s activities quite avidly. Google’s Chrome found its wy straight into my heart and laptops ever since they have started providing support for extensions. Chrome is Google’s attempt to further its concept of browser-based computing, in which the traditional PC is deemphasised in favor of a completely web experience. Anyway, when I heard about Google’s next venture i.e the Chrome OS, which is already out in beta sort of a phase; like everybody else I was also excited.

But once you get through the complete hype and excitement we get to see that not only is the Idea of a browser based operating system quite Old, but not a very successful one at that. I do also beleive that the Chrome OS is definately going to give the web back to the people, it is Open source, has the Google brand name on it and whats more, its giving a lot of power and flexibility for application developers.
Although Google Chrome is an Operating system by definition, I think Google chrome is actually meant for a different segment of electronics that is not yet in the market. It will not replace the windows domination of desktops or even laptops, it might not replace the typical geek machine with linux loaded on it. But will definately feature on a lot of small low power specific functional devices. It might spark a kitchen top receipe book, or a notepad for bloggers, or even a ebook reader where instead of reading ebooks, you could also browse the internet. Although, only time will tell if it will be a success or failure.
Again the idea of cloud computing is not really very new, its been around for a while now, more than 10 years, but it has not yet picked up because there wasen’t a proper brand name behind it, having Google’s brand name for a OS that is web based brings not only credibility but also stability and brand power to the Chrome. Well just to show the other options available if the Web Based OS market picks up, here are some options to chose from :

Cloudo

Clurrently in beta, Cloudo is described as offering everyone a “free of charge computer” as it lets “every computer, in school, at work, at your friends’ or even in the library” become your own. That is, Cloudo lets you log in to your user account from any location. Cloudo is also reasonably flexible: you can skin the user interface (UI), and developers can also develop their own applications for the platform.

Cloudo is expected to officially launch next year, but you can try the beta right now for free.

Glide

Now at version 4.0, Glide syncs your online desktop to your mobile device, allowing for a fairly constant connection to your data. This Flash-based Web desktop supports multiple users, just like your home PC, and offers an impressive 20GB’s of cloud storage, all without any ads.

Jolicloud

A project which started in the summer of 2008, Jolicloud is currently an invitation-only affair. Jolicloud is targeted specifically at netbooks, much like Chrome OS will be. A wide range of compatible devices can be found on the Jolicloud website, and the list is growing. The idea behind Jolicloud is to create a more “organic” OS, removing the need for costly software with Web alternatives.

You can follow Jolicloud’s progress on Twitter.

EyeOS

EyeOS is one of the most established cloud-centric OSes, having been around since 2005. Since its launch the open-source cloud computing OS has gone on togain support from various companies and organizations as users. With a wide range of bundled software–including office software and a development environment–EyeOS is a great alternative to Chrome OS. You can try it now here.

Windows4All

We’re not to sure what Microsoft would make of this one. Powered by Silverlight, Windows4All mimics the desktop environment of Windows 7. Offering many of the basic programs that ship with the real deal, such as Paint, Notepad and Solitaire, Windows4All is more of an experiment rather than a legitimate Web OS. Either way it still makes for an interesting in-browser experience.

This makes up just a few of the currently available web-OS’. If you try any or are using any, then be sure leave your recommendations and comments below!

Awesome new Business Card … Unbelievable

Everyone wants to have an identity, this and leaving some information to contact or get in touch with a person have led to tremendous business card designs. And to make one stand out people usually go through a lot of trouble. You can see some extreme examples of the same in these links below.

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/05/20/effective-business-card-design-better-than-a-plain-ol-business-card/

http://blogof.francescomugnai.com/2008/05/70-new-amazing-business-sards/

http://www.reencoded.com/2008/05/20/42-awesome-business-card-designs-with-links-to-100s-more/

http://www.graphicmania.net/most-amazing-business-cards-design-inspiration-ideas/

But that is still in a flat 2D world, introducing the new Augmented Reality Business card solutions to enable posting yourself in 3D, in fact the makers are looking at including your latest status update from social networks, tweets from twitter or any other content from the internet. This definitely goes down as a cool innovation, more will soon come.

Augmented Reality is going to be Big in 2010 and this is one of the first in the list of innovative applications that people are going to come up with for this awesome technology.

Check out my other posts about this cool technology :

Augmented Reality – The possibilities are endless

Future Tense ..

Phonetography .. the best camera ?

One of the most famous quotes about photography that I have ever seen, was on the site called IPhone as Art.

“ The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

Searching for a Snowy Owl

Just as writers just write something anything to keep their skills sharp, photographers also need to practice all the time. Well for most practical purposes it is not very simple carrying around an SLR camera around with you to shoot photos and to practice. So the humble mobile / camera phone has taken over the place of the scribble pad for photographers. And believe it or not, its not just good for getting photos of that scandalous MMS, but also amazing photos. Most of these sites are for pictures taken with iPhone, but my Nokia N95 is not far behind either.

The camera phone photography has become more than just a visual notebook, a journalistic record of events or a way to send friends photos of your dog. While most photographers will claim that they simply fell into shooting with their cell phones, saying, “What the heck, I’ve always got my phone with me,” it has rapidly evolved into a legitimate tool for artistic expression and has even shown up in commercial outlets, such as Robert Clark’s commissioned book Image America, shot entirely with his camera phone.

Have a look at these amazing sites based on the Mobile camera photography.

iPhone

Nokia N95

You might also want to check out this comparison between the iPhone camera and the N95 camera. Definately worth visiting. http://n95mobilephone.wordpress.com/2007/12/12/nokia-n95-vs-iphone-photos/ and also the Apple micro site for Nokia N95 photography awards ?????? http://web.mac.com/jamesburland/Nokia_Creative/Blog/Entries/2008/2/7_Photo:_The_Nokia_Creative,_N95_Photo_Awards_-_January_2008.html

This brings us to another site that mentions the best camera is the one in your hand, check out also : http://www.thebestcamera.com/

My humble addition to this list that I dare not add here are on facebook in the album phonetography. Check it out here.

The world according to ….

I am quite certain that most people have seen this map titled, the world according to the United States of America, the stereotype of the Americans towards most of the world is quite legendary. It is hilarious, although offensive to a few. Found this here.

Interestingly I also found this other sketch made by an Indian, showing the world according to us, the Indians.

Well you can check his site out here. Thanks to both these guys for these awesome infographics.

How to hyper activate your USB Thumb Drive

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Nearly everyone of us carries around a flash drive with some of our important information with us. But flash drives have evolved, not only are they now growing in capacity and speed. But with a small push from the software industry the humble flash drive will play an important part in the whole cloud computing phenomenon. As applications move from computers to the cloud, it is quintessential for the applications of the desktop to move around a bit as well, with the user I mean. The applications that cannot (at the moment) be realized from the cloud need to be for the user to be able to use. They also need to essentially provide another important feature i.e. not to leave any files on the host computer once you take them to your friends place. This is essentially something that separates a normal application from a portable application.

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How did I get into this is also an interesting story, I work on a construction site and IT facilities there can be a little poor. Like restricted internet access for an hour a day with ridiculously slow download speeds. Anyway, the company where I work is considerably large and the IT department there had issues with things like virus on machines being transferred from USB drives, people installing malicious software accidentally etc. So they decided to have a restriction on installing anything on the computer. That started some issues with inaccessibility to software, legitimate open source software included. In that scenario I was forced to use only the software on that computer like, internet explorer (of which I am not a big fan) and Office, no image editing tools etc. I had to work on a few image editing assignments as well as could not stand to use Internet Explorer. I wanted either Chrome or Firefox, firefox being the second choice. So like always necessity is the mother of all inventions and finds. Well in that scenario I tried to look for software that I could use without installing it, and walla a whole new world of portable apps greeted me.

The portable application suites that are available are built in such a way that you do not need to actually worry about your information being left on another computer, you plug in your USB into another computer, run the application and once your work is done; remove the USB and you are done. In fact there are applications that keep the data in the USB encrypted so in case you lose the USB drive the person who finds it will definitely not be able to see any information that is on the thumb drive.

If you have not been looking at the portable apps world, you will be surprised to see and know the vast libraries of applications that are already available either official releases from the companies who are making the software themselves, like firefox portable etc, and then there are unofficial releases done by Portable Application enthusiasts. Most of them work like a breeze. Essentially portable apps are available as individual applications but for starters or to better organize the portable apps on your thumb drive, it is better to use an application launcher like portableapps.com, liberkey, or geekmenu. Then there are those that come preloaded onto USB drives like the U3, which comes standard on all Sandisk drives; which although are not open source but definitely free with their drives.

Today not only do you get portable applications but also complete Operating systems that are portable on USB drives called Live USB. In fact windows 7 can be ported into your USB to make a portable windows 7 OS Drive.  Well enough spoken about these nifty tools, let me just add some links for you guys to check them out.

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These flash drives  make a great Holidays present to your geek friend also 😉 Load in one of the above mentioned portable app launcher and some apps for a great surprise. In case you cannot find your favorite application yet, then you can in fact create your own. Package factory is a portable application creator for the U3 launcher system. They claim that they can convert any application into a portable application, let’s hope it works. Check out the Package Factory here. Some of my favorite tools on my USB drive at the moment that I really use would be, Gimp portable, Sketch Up portable, Chrome Portable as well as Firefox portable, VLC portable, Picasa 3 Portable, Keepass portable, Thunderbird portable, Sunbird portable, convert All portable and last but not the least 7-zip portable.  Most of these from the POrtableapps.com launcherAll awesome tools that let me do a lot without having to install them on my machine.  Have also installed recently Opera tor portable which helps me access Flickr at work, which is essentially blocked in the UAE. Although I have to admit, for the one hour of slow browsing, Opera Tor is not really ideal. I hope someone makes a good chrome extension to mimic the performance of tor.

Infographics – Information and Graphical Design

I have a big fascination for information display and design, especially after I started working on the company presentations for my previous employer. During preparing presentations I always would get stuck with that page that needs to have a lot of information within a small space and with clarity. And would always come across these images mostly in newspapers, magazines and in various websites called info graphics which did exactly that. So what exactly are these info graphics ? This is what wikipedia has to say about them :

Information graphics or infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge. These graphics are used where complex information needs to be explained quickly and clearly, such as in signs, maps, journalism, technical writing, and education. They are also used extensively as tools by computer scientists, mathematicians, and statisticians to ease the process of developing and communicating conceptual information.

What sparked this post you ask ? I was looking for information about plastic bottles and what a big hoax it is (my thoughts about this another time) and I came across this awesome info graphic from onlineducation.net about the bottled water.

They have other interesting info graphics about A day in the internet, talking about the data exchanges over the internet through the social web. There is also this interesting piece about why Americans are fat ? :)

The interest for info graphics has spread wide and far, even to the extent that google made use of infographic (baloon comic) for their launch of Google Chrome. One of the most famous examples of info graphics is the London Metro system. Timelines, Data maps and even recipes … well I think you should check out more info graphics, see below.

If you find this interesting then you should definately try out googling “infographics”, it will bring up great resources for the images.

Check out some of these great videos about infographics as well :

And my personal favourite : The Did you know series

Useful Links apart from the Google search :