The two sides of 3D printing in “Arms”

In what is called as the next big revolution in the world, 3D printing is slowly making its mark. A world where you can start downloading furniture, toys and other things you would need and print it yourself. Feels almost like technology utopia, but it does have its qualms.

A detailed guide to printing in 3D is already published on the blog before, you can read it here. I am today going to pen my thoughts about what’s the next few steps and where we might go from here. And yes for a seemingly innocent technology as well, there can be a dark side. (Never underestimate the mind of a human being). But before I go all dark and scary, lets start with the positive.

“Magic Arms” for Emma

 

Emma was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC), a rare disease that cripples joints and limbs. Because of this condition, the two-year-old girl couldn’t play with blocks, bring food to her mouth or hug her mother.

That is, until engineers at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children used a 3D printer to create a durable exoskeleton that helps her lift her arms. Emma was able to lift candy to her mouth for the first time while wearing the supportive plastic vest.

The Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX) is made of hinged metal bars, resistance bands and tiny 3D printed parts. Emma calls them her “magic arms.” Emma was one of the first patients to wear the WREX. Now, about 15 of the hospital’s littlest patients are wearing the lightweight vests. The ease of 3D printing makes customization of parts possible. When a piece breaks, on-demand printers enable quick fixes. If a child outgrows a vest, the engineers can simply print larger parts out.

And Emma’s case is not just isolated, here are some more :

With advances like this one, and many others, you can quickly see the draw that many people have to 3D printing. It solves business problems, but more so, it solves life problems and changes lives.

And then come the “Fire Arms”

This summer, an American hobbyist used a thermoplastic machine to fashion parts for a homemade .22-caliber rifle.

Wisconsin engineer and amateur gunsmith Michael Guslick detailed on his personal blog how he used a Stratasys 3D printer and downloaded blueprints for the lower receiver — or frame — of an AR-15 firearm (the closest civilian variant of the M-16).

Guslick has been prototyping ideas for gun parts for years, but it did not occur to him until last year to use his Stratasys to build an actual firearm. “The concept is making its way to the hobbyist gunsmith,” he explained on the blog. He took pains to record how he made the 3D-printed weapon; as to the best of his knowledge, this is the first firearm in the world to be tested.

For the U.S. government, keeping tabs on the flow of physical weapons is proving to be a problem. 3D printing is only making matters worse: How do you control a digital pattern that people can use to print guns in their living rooms?

However, if metal materials become available for home printers, it could become possible for hobbyists to one day print an entire gun. Gun-enthusiast groups like “Defense Distributed” even set up a crowdfunding page (known as “Wiki weapon”) to usher into existence the first fully 3D printed gun. Indiegogo recently shut down its page, citing “unusual account activity.”

In related news, the army recently deployed a 3D printing kit to Afghanistan, including an industrial CNC machine, plasma cutters and more, so soldiers could built weapons on the spot, without needing to ship equipment from overseas.

So well the sort of other “arms” to be printed are not al that great for mankind. Who is to say this will not lead to another incident like the one at the opening of Dark Knight Rises. Access to many weapons easy, is not really something that the engineers would have thought when they made the first.

What I think 

Well there will always be people who will use technology for bad, I think the example of the nuclear weapon is the largest that anyone can give. But the promise of clean energy is worth the scare. Similarly these extremities will always exist in technology, its upto when we will be able to justify the good to bad is when the true potential comes through. In fact, I am a believer that saving one “Emma” is worth a lot more than potentially creating havoc.

What do you guys think ? let me know.

When technology goes bad : BMW stolen in less than 3min without keys

Personally on this blog I like to talk about technology and how it makes lives better, innovation and such. But there is a time when too much technology or rather lack of thinking in application of technology is something that really creates the negative impact in people. Culprit in question :BMW.

Oh I love their cars, the concepts, the ads even like the one above. But seriously BMW what were you thinking ? Making the car with accessibility to the programming port available is definitely a major design flaw. A user on the BMW 1M addicts forum has posted this video of his BMW 1M getting stolen within 3 minutes with the thieves not having the keys. This is a video of a £43,000 BMW 1M Stolen at 3am in 3 minutes. The thieves accomplished this by accessing the BMW OBD port in the footwell by breaking the glass, reaching in and using a device to reprogram a blank key fob. The car was simply then unlocked and pushed off the drive and driven away.

 

The one incident reported above apparently used a similar FOB programmer from Bulgaria and they were able to make another key on the spot. The Chinese and Taiwanese are surely watching this closely as they can definitely make a knock off and sell it for like AED 100. Look at the 3 videos below for how these things work.

It’s probably the cream of engineers that have worked on the cars, and with the cream comes issues of practicality. They are brilliant in technology and its application, but it’s the final practical user experience if you, may that would come from the second crop or the third crop of engineers. What needs to be commended is actually the ingenuity of the guys that figured it out. BMW, looking for new engineers ??

Watch this : Do you really need to switch off your phone on the plane ?

All mobile phones these days come with a “flight mode” and when you put this on to flight mode, all connections that transmit or receive are turned off. Be it WiFi or Bluetooth, GSM, GPRS all the modes of communication are closed off and are kept as a feature for usage by companies as many airlines insist on switching these off especially during take off and landing. Not only do they ask passengers to turn off connections they also insist on switching off these days. On my recent trip to India, flying on Emirates, I found myself telling a fellow passenger to switch off his phone as well and had a bit of an argument with him as well.

Nokia Mobile Phone

Emirates is quite a progressive airline allowing people to make and receive calls during flights but even they insist these ceremonies during take off and landing. Once I landed in Dubai and when I have started to look back at the trip I am beginning to think if it is actually required to switch off phones, not just take them to “flight mode” even in this day and age.

Before I present my justification, I think you all should see this video :

First things first most airlines including Emirates Airlines do not really understand the “flight mode” in mobile phones, considering that Android is the most popular Operating Phones these days and Android has the flight mode feature since the early inceptions of the OS, it is clear that Airlines need to pay attention to this setting, considering it was made for them.

Secondly a search trying to find if the mobiles actually cause disruptions in the signal of the sophisticated commercial airliners to today, comes up with some interesting conclusions, here is what I found out. Logic says that Airlines would not let us carry phones if it did, take the scenario that liquids over 100 ml could be mixed to make explosives, so they don’t let us carry more than 100ml. If this was the case with cell phones, they would not have let us carry these. Instead, an arbitrary set of rules established by the FAA and extended by the airlines prohibits iPods during takeoff, but explicitly allow electric shavers to be used during flight.

What about the regulations ? 

The governing body for Airlines and Airports, IATA mentioned in a study commissioned in 1993, suggested that airlines prohibit the use of personal electronic devices during takeoff and landing, despite a lack of evidence that these gadgets had caused a single accident.

In Nov 2009, the Federal Airlines Authority (FAA) of the US again mentioned in an immediate release that “there is insufficient information to support a wholesale change in policies that restrict use of PEDs.” The actual rule from FAA on this is here :

§ 121.306   Portable electronic devices.
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate, nor may any operator or pilot in command of an aircraft allow the operation of, any portable electronic device on any U.S.-registered civil aircraft operating under this part.
(b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to—
(1) Portable voice recorders;
(2) Hearing aids;
(3) Heart pacemakers;
(4) Electric shavers; or
(5) Any other portable electronic device that the [airline] has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used.
(c) The determination required by paragraph (b)(5) of this section shall be made by that [airline] operating the particular device to be used.
[Doc. No. FAA–1998–4954, 64 FR 1080, Jan. 7, 1999]

The FAA has since approved the use of Wi Fi inside the planes, and also for communicating with Airports and control towers, the frequencies of which (2.4 Ghz) have a similar effect. So based on which your iPhone or Nokia might crash the plane but not your laptop using WiFi ??

The other reasoning 

The other reasoning is that people do not pay attention to the announcements that the crew is making, or the captain is making during take off or landing and thus is a danger eventually. Well I should say good point there, but this should be forced on to your screens at the back of the seat anyway like what Emirates and other carriers do. How are we to trust someone telling us that reading a iPad document during takeoff is dangerous as we stare across a field of EMI-spewing LCD seat-back screens? Or the pilots wearing the digital watches on their wrists much closer to all the gadgets.

Another justification seems that there are those who don’t switch off even after saying it, so everyone should switch off everything. But well if there is no proof that people using these gadgets can cause a risk, then well it should not matter now does it.

The last one seems more like it, people do not want to listen to other people rant even if it means to a loved one. People want to fly and read or reflect on their thoughts when they do so. So if its a way to  “Shut up and fly” then well that is something understandable.

My verdict after reading this : Its a Dumb rule

More interesting Read : 

Prediction : Future Phones will not come with chargers

The other day I was out of charge on my phone which is a rare thing considering that I got a new Galaxy Nexus (Yes I will post a review) which is not only energy efficient but by far the best battery I have seen on a portable device taking the phone to nearly 2 days of talking and wifi without the need of charging. Back to where I was,  the need for a charger was large and the charger was no where in sight, shopped around in the office and found a blackberry charger that well fit the phone very well. This got me thinking, well why don’t all manufacturers come up with some universal standard for the charger if required. At all other times they can use alternative means built into the phone itself. I have been writing about some of these here on the blog before. Lets see whats available.

First off the Charger itself 

The mini USB is pretty much a standard charger at the moment for a lot of phones, my Blackberry, the Nexus One and now the Galaxy Nexus all seem to love it. But move Blackberry models and phones, you will quickly see that its not enough its just another in the large market for charger pins. In fact when I got this car charger from Merlin in Dubai, looked like there are a lot more than just the mini USB in the market.

Add the ever popular iPhone and the other Galaxy smartphones and the chargers change. I am not sure if the mini USB is the best standard, but considering that most people seem to have one lying around these days, looks like this could be a good standard to follow.

Getting to the Chargers built in with the phone 

First getting through the familier, here is a list of some you can read within the blog:

Indian Innovation : Wind Powered Helmet mounted Cell phone charger

Indian Innovation : Hand Powered Mobile Phones 

Thermoelectric boots charge your mobile phone

Charging phone from the movement of the owners

Charging Phones with residual energy from airwaves

Charging phones with body heat

Some more from other blogs that can fill up the gap with more innovations

Nokia Bicycle charging kit 

Some Eco friendly charging options (must see) 

Juicebox, the charging platform available in public places

Another Charger using movement of phones 

Mobile phones charged by the power of speech

Wind-powered mobile phone charger

Mobile phones in developing nations could charge up using dirt

Sound Charge t-shirt tops up mobile devices using sound

Solar powered tie charges your mobile phone

Piezoelectric generator creates power from shoes

Interestingly a lot of these were invented by Nokia in an attempt to make the lives of all better, but the lack of good software (ahem .. Android) has kind of made it difficult for Nokia to make it big in the market, we might be able to see some of these innovations in the Mobile Phones running Windows Mobile. Keeping fingers crossed to see the Lumia 900 with one of these built in.

From notifications that require attention of the users towards energy saving and other power saving tips to alerts when Phone batteries are fully charged, the chargers require an upgrade if possible to go with apps that are coming up on phones to do the same on the software side. All in all it seems like a really required innovation that the manufacturers are keeping away from the consumers, even though it seems like they have most of these figured out. Well only time will tell if these innovations will get lost or really get implemented into future phones. Are you listening Google, Apple and ofcourse Nokia.

What’s the alternative options if Bit Torrent sites are closed ?

Survival of the fittest is the motto that Human Beings have always lived by. When faced by adversity or restriction, we tend to fight and find solutions that are tailored to the problem as well as solutions that are well sometimes out of the box. Today, the online world especially most of the people who download content from the internet are faced with some serious restrictions to what people can download and share. A wealth of information / data and content is available online but not all of it is copyright, one of the most efficient ways to share this information especially large information like music movies etc was through the very very popular Bit Torrents. Bit torrents have gained popularity over the years and as you would imagine most people use them. But with the introduction of SOPA / PIPA and now ACTA it is getting more and more unlikely that these Bit Torrent sites and clients can move further. But like I said earlier we do come out of problems with innovative solutions. Although I believe that more solutions will present themselves in due course like the Option 2, currently there is a budding solution to our woes.

The truth about piracy is simple, I would download a movie and watch it only if I am not really interested to go see it in the theatre. In fact if torrent downloads were not possible, I would not really go and see it at all ! So in that sense the movie industry does not need to fear torrent downloads per se. The real piracy is the fake DVD’s, CD’s and other activities that happen in the shadow and bringing a few websites down will fuel these activities even more. Demand Supply rule here. If you look at the infographic I posted last week this gets terribly visible. The bad movies made the top 10 list as well as the good ones, the downloading trend will probably affect by pinching away those users who would love to buy and keep copies of movies. Not the real cinema money. Food for thought.

First lets talk about Torrents in general. 

A torrent file is a document containing a number of pieces of information about a file including the names of its various component parts as well as pertinent identifying information. Torrent files do not point to specific files on specific servers but instead point to codes that identify chunks of a file. These files are actually quite large – a few kilobytes to a few hundred – and most BitTorrent feeds have used them exclusively for the past few years.

There’s a problem with torrent files, however, that has to do more with perception than reality. To the average politico – and to the average media lobbyist – Torrent files are “files” that point to pirated content.

Option 1 : Tribler

One of the technologies that builds on the BitTorrents which is going to be more relevant than before is Tribler. The Tribler BitTorrent client is no newcomer to the BitTorrent scene. It has been in development for more than 5 years and has delivered many innovative features, which have mostly been ignored by the masses. Developed by a team of researchers at Delft University of Technology, the main goal is to come up with a robust implementation of BitTorrent that doesn’t rely on central servers. Instead, Tribler is designed to keep BitTorrent alive, even when all torrent search engines, indexes and trackers are pulled offline.

So how does it work?

Like many other BitTorrent clients, Tribler has a search box at the top of the application. However, the search results that appear when users type in a keyword don’t come from a central index. Instead, they come directly from other peers. Downloading a torrent is also totally peer to peer and not from a central location. When a user clicks on one of the search results, the header information or meta date (what exists in the torrent file) is pulled in from another peer and the download starts immediately. Tribler is based on the standard BitTorrent protocol and uses regular BitTorrent trackers to communicate with other peers. But, it can also continue downloading when a central tracker goes down.

Tribler uses crowd-sourcing to keep the network clean. Content is verified by user generated “channels”, which can be “liked” by others. When more people like a channel, the associated torrents get a boost in the search results. All this without a central server, guess what no more shutting down websites, and no more losing downloading opportunities.

It simply can’t be shutdown, blocked or censored, whatever laws politicians may come up with. One thing that could theoretically cause issues, is the capability for starting users to find new peers. To be on the safe side the Tribler team is still looking for people who want to act as so called bootstraptribler peers. These users will act as superpeers, who distribute lists of active downloaders. The only other way to shut it down would be to shut down the internet. Imagine that !

While the Tribler client only has a few thousand users at the moment, for avid file-sharers it must be a relief to know that it’s out there. No matter what crazy laws may pass in the future, people will always be able to share.

Those who want to give it a spin are welcome download Tribler here. It’s completely Open Source and with a version for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Option 2 : 3D Printing

This for a lot of people including the Pirate Bay is the future of downloading. With 3d printers getting more affordable as well as a lot more advanced, the days when 3D artwork of a movie Blue Ray downloaded and printing your own copies of the Blue Ray disks is not far away. This about this as an option, you browse popular 3D sharing websites including ones like Google Sketchup, where some user uploads a 3D image of a DVD with the print of the movie on it, all you need is a 3D printer to make unlimited copies of the movie for you.

This is a bit distant but do not under estimate the importance of something like this, especially when Pirate Bay makes a prediction on these lines.

Option 3 : Other Peer to Peer tools 

The third option would be the one that people that plant viruses and malware love. Back to the age old software like Limewire, iMesh and other clients on desktops that can also help in peer to peer downloads. I think we all know the era when we relied on these and what was the result. COnstant pain of viruses and such.

Regardless the option we choose, the options for the industry to block the downloading would only mean that we will find another means and source, after all we are not the most successful species on the planet without the adversity to adapt.

Namma Metro – A geek train for a high tech city

Bangalore was the Garden City of India and IS the Silicon valley of India now. Yes, there will be some debate over this statement, but Bangalore is and always will be for me the IT hub or IT Capital of India. So when a new Metro started operation in the city it had to keep up with that image. Having used the Metro in Dubai, I was not very impressed with having the Metro manned with a driver, as opposed to the metro in Dubai which is completely automatic. But thinking as a project Manager I realized that the Capex of introducing an unmanned system was far greater than having the Opex of a Manned system, and in India there is no shortage of labor or rather inexpensive labor so it made sense.

So without having a train that was automatic, it would have to be impressive in terms of technology for me to be able to be impressed with it. On my last trip to India, I did go and see the train in Bangalore, the coach placed at MG Road was a non working display sample but still did not fail to impress. I did a bit of research on the technology used on Namma Metro and I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some things I found out :

The track system

The Bangalore Metro is standard gauge, a system used by most metros worldwide. Narrower than the broad gauge, it allows for greater manoeuvrability, easy ride along curves, laying of tracks even on narrow stretches and control. The standard gauge has a track width of 4ft, 8.5inches, or 1,435mm, while the Indian broad gauge is 5ft, 6inches, or 1,676mm.

Bangalore Metro runs on the ballastless track system used by 70% of the world’s metros. In layman’s language, this means the track does not require stones used on traditional broad gauge track systems to build the track and run the train, as the load is lower than that of a conventional train. The tracks are laid on a concrete slab after assessing the engineering factors. Stones on the conventional track help in balanced construction, while in metro systems concrete slabs are enough.

The Rolling Stock (Coaches)

The rolling stock (coaches/cars) are three stainless steel-bodied wagons. The train will be under the driver’s control, but they are equipped with some Automatic Controls to assist the driver. The seating capacity per train is approximately 1,000, giving more floor area to standing passengers.


The coaches are manufactured by Hyundai Rotem Korea and Mitsubishi Electric Company. BEML has the licence to manufacture the coaches in Bangalore. While Mitsubishi supplied the traction for the coaches, Hyundai Rotem supplied the rolling stock and BEML the coaches.

Power in Third Rail

Electricity for the train will run on a third rail next to the main track. It has an opening at the bottom at certain points from where the train draws its power. The third rail is covered with a yellow shroud, and a person falling on the track won’t be electrocuted. ABB designed, supplied, installed and commissioned four substations to receive and distribute electricity at 66/33 kV, as well as auxiliary and traction substations. ABB will also provide an integrated network management, or SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system to monitor and control the installations.

Consumer tech in the Coaches

Apart from the technology of the trains themselves, of course something that will not be very visible the trains feature a host of features that are visible and form an important part of the coaches. Guess here are some of the interesting consumer or close to consumer technologies in the metro.

Wi-Fi : Ironically the first thing I am listing is not visible at all, but is increasingly becoming one of the basic requirements especially in a city like Bangalore. Passengers can use their laptops, tablets and the mobile internet to be connected while on transit.

Emergency Voice Comms : Passengers will have emergency voice communication with train staff through a speaker system. Passengers can press a call button to communicate anything urgent to the driver or control centre. Help will be at hand at the next station. The integrated control centre will have direct communication with trains and stations which will be CCTV-fitted with visual and audio service information.

Collision Detection : Bangalore Metro also has automatic train supervision, protection and operation systems — if there’s a train on the same track ahead, the approaching train will sense it and come to a halt at a safe distance.

CCTV Monitoring : Cameras will be installed inside the train as well as stations, and people’s movements will be monitored by an operations control centre at Byappanahalli. In case of any help or emergency, the control room will be able to see what went wrong.

Ticketing : Ticketing, too, is completely automated with just a swipe of the ticket, token or card at a particular point near the entry and exit, enabling the gates to open and close. Recharge of metro cards through mobiles and SMS, a first in the world. What I am waiting for Google India to introduce the features of Google Wallet into the Metro, it will be really interesting. Are you listening Google?

Bollywood and Social Media – Ra.One

Bollywood’s interest on the internet was so long left to some ads on youtube, trailers and websites for nearly every movie that tried to provide some “interesting” information about movies. Lately we do see some activity on the social web, Facebook Pages and such started by Aamir Khan during Three Idiots, were quite engaging. Aamir himself on his twitter used to post and interact with people for publicity.

What one does, the next Khan seems to take on seriously and try to outdo. Case in Point, Ra.One. In the past few days if you have not seen an Ad for Ra.One on websites that use Google Adsense, then well you might not be a frequent surfer. Because, I have seen the ads everywhere from Gulf news right through to Labnol.org one of the most famous tech and how to blogs from India. Compelled to click on the ad, I did click on it. This is my review of what I found and where I was taken. An insuisitive thought on the social media campaign for Ra.One.

First of all SRK and Google have partnered for the promotion of the movie Ra.One. Although I am not a big fan of SRK, I am of Google and so when they decide to pay attention to a movie in India, it makes things a lot more interesting for tech fans especially Google fans like myself. So well here are what Google is offering SRK and what I think of those.

The Google Ads

Impressive. One word to describe the campaign. They have targeted audience on various age segments and various interest groups. Starting from the teaser ad which spoke about the launch of the YouTube campaign, right through to the various sizes of ads and the sheer number and visibility of the ads, am impressed. They did manage to not only attain my attention, but also got me to click through. I do click ads on blogs that I usually like as a simple token of appreciation of me liking the blog. Although I know nothing like leaving a comment, but if I have nothing to actually comment I do provide a click on the ad. Well the quality of ads is important to click through, and I should say I was impressed.

YouTube Channel 

The ads on Adsense take you to the custom built YouTube page for Ra.One. If you have not been fortunate enough to check it out yet, you should. I was really impressed again with how they have used the personality of SRK to interact with some of the elements that we are used to seeing on the YouTube page. Here is a sneak peek at the YouTube channel with a video available on the channel itself.

Google Plus

Yes we all heard it, SRK will be on Google Plus Hangouts, Hanging out with fans soon as well. He has a new profile on Google Plus after conquering the twitterscape with his twitter profile. You can check out his Google Plus profile here with this link below:

No you cannot add him yet, cos Google and he are working on privacy, but if you do check out the profile you will see very soon that there are spicy bits to the movie progress there.

Website and other profiles

The end of the video on YouTube takes you to the website of Raone, and you will be really surprised to know how much effort they have put in on the online presence for Ra.One. They have actually gone ahead and created a profile on nearly every interesting social network where you can find people on. From the indian ex favorite Orkut, right through Blogger where they are posting some interesting information.

The website first of all was a bit disappointing after all the roads leading it there. It was completely flash driven made for children sort of a website. Could have been better. But there are some interesting new things from other indian movie websites, the shop where you can buy merchandise (again for children) and also a comic as well. I am thinking the movie is more inclined to get the kids into the theaters. There is also an interesting segment which is deconstruct G One and it shows really heavy terminoligy for the gear he is wearing. You should check it out here : . Reminded me of Prashant Nair :)

Coming to the Online profiles, well I am going to list them out here to save you the trip to the website but if you do want to go then the link is : http://www.raonemovie.com.

Youtube : http://www.youtube.com/raonemovie

Google Profiles : https://profiles.google.com/107544518344682087224/

Blogger : http://raonediary.blogspot.com/

Linked in : http://in.linkedin.com/in/raonemovie (really ??)

Orkut : http://www.orkut.co.in/Main#Profile?uid=18156379693003537934 (Wont open in Dubai, Thanks Etisalat)

My Space : http://myspace.com/Ra.OneMovie

Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/raonemovie/

Twitter : http://twitter.com/#!/IAMSRK (SRK’s Own Profile)

And the Grand Daddy of Social Media Marketing

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Ra.OneMovie

With this new avatar of Movie Marketing, SRK and RA One have taken another leap into the online world, but how successful the campaign will be can only be measured with the success of movies, well soon you could be seeing more of these.

It is the first time that an Indian movie has so thoroughly embraced online advertising and engagement with fans. Couple that with the increase in online distribution of Bollywood movies on Yahoo! and YouTube and it signals that the industry is making a concerted effort to tap into the online market. The entire campaign also shines some light on the fact that Google seems to have a keen interest in India, and everyone knows to be popular in India you need to be associated with Bollywood and Cricket. With Youtube already showing IPL games live streamed across the country this might be Google’s foray into Bollywood.

Inquisitive Guide – The “new” Facebook : Everything you need to know

Yes, our semi favorite Social Network has changed … again. The fact of the matter is whether we like it or not, the changes are here for a while, until they change are going to change once more. There have been more negative reviews to the redesign than positive ones, the fact of the matter is no matter how much we complain, it is still a free product that we are NOT compelled to use, but we all use during our everyday life. After desperately trying to add in all the features that were unique in the rival social networks like the subscribe feature making the twitter’s main feature available on Facebook and the lists redefined to behave more like Google Circles; Facebook threw their biggest gamble yet. A complete redesign from the profile to the user page.

Yes I liked the previous Facebook better, but I guess we all need to adapt into the new one; so what if I thought someone had a Blue Drink and barfed all over the screen. So I thought I will post some of the most important features of the “new” redesigned Facebook. Some that might need to be known to all. Sigh, I liked Social Networking sites when you did not need a manual to use them. Some humor about the changes first here below.

Changes to the News Feed including the Ticker

This is one of the most noticeable new changes on the new Facebook. Facebook’s new design highlights posts that you’ll likely find important (well what they think you will find important), and prioritizes them at the top of your feed when you log in. The top stories are designated by a blue tag in the upper left corner of the post. Knowing so much about you it might be easier for them to actually “guess” this through their algorithms. Keeping the page open for a while, I did notice that it did not change much if you leave it open.

If you have used Twitter you will know that new tweets are displayed at the top and Facebook has a similar feature for their new recent stories. The ticker in the right is interesting and annoying. This is the place where real time information will be put up. It will always be there and also auto attach to the chat window as well.

Photo Albums

It has been known for a while by all that the largest database of pictures on the Internet is with Facebook. From Albums that people add to Facebook Apps that create its own set of images (for some reason are very popular on Indian Profiles) the entire Facebook is full of pictures. Using the previous theater mode, people who had complaints realized that the way pictures are displayed is now changed. Google Plus users will immediately pick the copy cat. However, the images are provided with good area for commenting and viewing in a theater like view as well.

The Like Button is no more just that

The Like button is one of the social legends of our time. Nearly everyone trying to come up with an equivalent. Google even got the +1 as a competitor, but guess what, like everything else Facebook is going to fix the like button although its not broken. Now you will not only like, but the most requested Dislike will come up as well along with any verb that people can think of. So well with the new redesign developers can come up with their own verb like, “Inquire”, Broke, and stuff. This is an evolutionary step for the like button, lets just hope it does not evolve into extinction. Facebook’s most used feature might just become diluted in the crowd.

Media is coming to Facebook… Big time

When a good friend of mine mentioned a while back, that he is now used to picking up news and interesting information on Facebook first before checking up on it on other sites, I realized that Facebook’s sharing feature had grown BIG. I cannot imaging the last time I searched the web for new trailers, all friends put up something interesting inevitably.

Facebook I guess realized the same thing and has made it possible to now watch TV and movies, listen to music, and read news with your friends — all within Facebook. Starting today, thanks to a whole bunch of partnerships, there are a lot more things you can do without ever having to leave Facebook. You can watch a show on Hulu, listen to a song on Spotify, or check out a story on Yahoo News. The ticker will tell you what your friends are watching, listening to or reading, allowing you to share the experience with them by clicking on a link. Although the video and songs are now US centric, they are going to spread around the world soon.

Now to the two most dangerous and ones you really need to watch out for.

Apps posting information about you

Applications on Facebook used to ask your permission before posting anything on Facebook. Now they dont need to. If you are worried about privacy you need to ensure that you are clear about what Apps you choose and what you dont, cos once an application has access to your profile it can post and access information when ever it wants.

With this move Facebook is slowly trying to kill one of its biggest problems Privacy. How ? Well this is the first step to removing privacy completely. Eventually all information about you will be available freely with your knowledge and you will be OK with it, thats what Facebook is trying to suggest, this could be the very first step in that direction.

But for those worried about privacy, this is something you need to go back and check, all the applications you use and what information they can access and what sites you have logged in using your Facebook Id and what they can do with that information is all something that we need to worry about for the time being.

The TimeLine instead of the Facebook Profile 

In what is the biggest of the changes to Facebook, the entire provide of a person is now going to change into a Digital scrapbook for all of us. With all information we ever put up being physically available to anyone viewing your timeline. Although the feature is going to go live only by the October 1st, I got a preview of the feature and my timeline is available now. Here is how it looks.

You can now add a lot more “life events” on your profile, a new banner picture as well. Maps on the profile all in the name of making a complete Timeline. So much so that you will be asked to provide your birth photo as well. I am sure we are going to see quite a few baby photos soon. Timeline is going to reveal everything you wanted to forget and regret about posting on Facebook ever ! And it will tell your friends about it too, if they have time to stalk on you. The further back in Timeline you go, the more Facebook will compress the information so that you’re only seeing the most interesting parts of your history. You can customize this by clicking on a star next to a status, say, or enlarging a picture.

If you would really want to get your own timeline right now, try some of these steps mentioned here.

Probably the most riskiest decisions ever, this redesign might have the impact of driving its users to other sites like Google Plus. And with Diaspora now opening windows to new users, there could be very soon fragmenting of these social networks.

Wordless Thursday – Revolution in every generation

My life is constantly changing and evolving, especially in how we lead our day to day. I would love to go behind the scenes to research upcoming technologies but cant. However. it’s always a pleasant surprise when big new things come out.

This infographic highlights big inventions that impact our lifestyles greatly. It does a good job of getting lots of cool info into one piece. I must say however I’d like to see more of the ‘graphic’ section of infographic. There’s definitely some cool statistics and charts that could be thrown in with all these great ideas. A cool fact you may not catch a first glance: 2.8 million e-mails are sent every second!

What is Bit coin and why you should bother ? – an Inquisitive Guide

Unlike most people, I had not really heard about the Bitcoin used at large. However, now that I think about it, I think I might have come across the BITCOIN phrase in passing when looking through the internet for some cracks, yes I did search and no I did not find what I was looking for. Getting back to the whole topic of Bitcoins. A couple of weeks back a friend Megha, posted the information about the BitCoins on facebook, and I have been reading about it from then, to get a good idea about BitCoins. Here is what I have found out, simplified for all.

Like everything on the internet, from the internet itself, this is revolutionary. It is a new form of currency, completely online and something that all of us can use. This post is an indepth guide to the Bit Coin and what you can and cannot do with it. Like everything on the internet, there is a major real difficulty among all people to accept it, there are discussions on the god and the bad of the BitCoin all over the internet at this time. So I will not divulge into that for now.

What is BitCoin ?

BitCoin is a new currency – it wants to shake the entire global economy. And some people think it might! It’s online money—an alternative to dollars and euros. Well what’s that mean? It’s complicated, but I will break it down over the next few posts. Yes, there are some simple infographics that help in making it easier to understand, I will add them here below. I will however tell you there is one part which is not so clear and that is how the coins are generated.

Bitcoin is underwritten not by a government, but by a clever cryptographic scheme. For now, little can be bought with bitcoins, and the new currency is still a long way from competing with the dollar.

Again, BitCoin is Digital ..

BitCoin is not real money. It’s an online “currency”—virtual tokens that can be exchanged for goods and services at places that accept it. The list of which is fast growing.

In 2008, a programmer known as Satoshi Nakamoto posted a paper outlining Bitcoin’s design to a cryptography e-mail list. Then, in early 2009, he (or she) released software that can be used to exchange bitcoins using the scheme. That software is now maintained by a volunteer open-source community coordinated by four core developers. Like real money, It does have a market where its value against some real world currencies are mapped against, check it out here http://www.bitcoinwatch.com/, while writing this post the value of a BitCoin was nearly $14.

The programmer Satoshi wanted people to be able to exchange money electronically securely without the need for a third party, such as a bank or a company like PayPal. He based Bitcoin on cryptographic techniques that allow you to be sure the money you receive is genuine, even if you don’t trust the sender.

If you look at the first video above, its from the four core developers and they are thinking big, they are looking at BirCoin as a way to revolutionalize finance, just as how the internet revolutionized publishing.

How do I start. I.e the Basics

Once you download and run the Bitcoin client software, it connects over the Internet to the decentralized network of all Bitcoin users and also generates a pair of unique, mathematically linked keys, which you’ll need to exchange bitcoins with any other client. One key is private and kept hidden on your computer. The other is public and a version of it dubbed a Bitcoin address is given to other people so they can send you bitcoins.

Crucially, it is practically impossible—even with the most powerful supercomputer—to work out someone’s private key from their public key. This prevents anyone from impersonating you. Your public and private keys are stored in a file that can be transferred to another computer, for example if you upgrade.

A Bitcoin address looks something like this: 1H4NSNzoP7eoYnL69HCvehVTZBPJoyMzK9. You can transfer a donation to me on the attached BitCoin Address. YOu can also go to some online stores where you can use these BitCoins to buy real world goods.

Transactions with BitCoins and how they occur

When you perform a transaction, your Bitcoin software performs a mathematical operation to combine the other party’s public key and your own private key with the amount of bitcoins that you want to transfer. The result of that operation is then sent out across the distributed Bitcoin network so the transaction can be verified by Bitcoin software clients not involved in the transfer. [ This is important as this is the step where the internet and BitCoin software clients perform the function of banks where they confirm the person is you, such that your current value of Bit Coins is calculated and the balance given back to you]

Those clients make two checks on a transaction. One uses the public key to confirm that the true owner of the pair sent the money, by exploiting the mathematical relationship between a person’s public and private keys; the second refers to a public transaction log stored on the computer of every Bitcoin user to confirm that the person has the bitcoins to spend.

When a client verifies a transaction, it forwards the details to others in the network to check for themselves. In this way a transaction quickly reaches and is verified by every Bitcoin client that is online. Some of those clients – “miners” – also try to add the new transfer to the public transaction log, by racing to solve a cryptographic puzzle. Once one of them wins the updated log is passed throughout the Bitcoin network. When your software receives the updated log it knows your payment was successful. It takes a bit longer than banks in this step as the cryptographic puzzle that they solve is also part of the BitCoin universe, more on that later.

The nature of the mathematics ensures that it is computationally easy to verify a transaction but practically impossible to generate fake transactions and spend bitcoins you don’t own. The existence of a public log of all transactions also provides a deterrent to money laundering. The global public transaction register is a register that keeps track of the history of every single Bitcoin through that log, from its creation through every transaction. Yes there is a bit of a problem here.

Identity, since every BitCoin is tracked it would be possible to know how much money each person has in the system and who is performing transactions. I dont really think its a problem, In fact its better. Considering whats happening in India these days with corruption and black money, there will be none. Everyone will have as much money as they are worthy of, so this is really a blessing in disguise. However unlike the real world, it might be an issue to some, as very rich people can be targeted for crimes like kidnapping, extorsion etc. But hey, at least we can keep our blood sucking politicians at bay.

How are these coins created and how can you obtain bitcoins? 

Bitcoins are “mined”. When you set your Bitcoin client to a mode that has it compete to update the public log of transactions. All the clients set to this mode race to solve a cryptographic puzzle by completing the next “block” of the shared transaction log. Winning the race to complete the next block wins you a 50-Bitcoin prize. This feature exists as a way to distribute bitcoins in the currency’s early years. Eventually, new coins will not be issued this way; instead, mining will be rewarded with a small fee taken from some of the value of a verified transaction.

Mining is very computationally intensive, to the point that any computer without a powerful graphics card is unlikely to mine any bitcoins in less than a few years.

Other ways of obtaining BitCoins are exchanges like Mt. Gox, which provide a place for people to trade bitcoins for other types of currency. Some enthusiasts have also started doing work, such as designing websites, in exchange for bitcoins. This jobs board advertises contract work paying in bitcoins.

Money is made to spend right ? So, Where can I spend these coins ?

There aren’t a lot of places right now. Some Bitcoin enthusiasts with their own businesses have made it possible to swap bitcoins for teabooks, or Web design (see a comprehensive list here). But no major retailers accept the new currency yet.

My thoughts

The BitCoin is in its infancy, however it has corrected some of the loopholes that current fixed currencies have. However, at the end of the day this is the first of its kind in this space. However, like most software and services on the Internet (which is what I look at it now) it will evolve, and might come up with a new variation of this concept and that will be the one to look out for.

Current world currencies do not have to be threatened by this new currency. As financial masters and grand masters analyze and dissect this form of the currency they will point out some of its flaws and what will come out of it is a clean workable currency format that all of us can eventually use. For the time being it is a nice to know fact that there is an alternate currency that is not government controlled and neither bank influenced. This might just be the spark for the actual online currency to come into being. Lets hope it does.

Some Resources

BitCoin and What is it: http://weusecoins.com
BitCoin home page: http://www.bitcoin.org
Bitcoin Trade: http://www.bitcoin.org/trade
BitCoin Economy Watch: http://www.bitcoinwatch.com
Bitcoin Exchange: https://www.mtgox.com
Bitcoin escrow service: https://clearcoin.appspot.com
Bitcoin e-commerce platform: https://www.mybitcoin.com
Fun with bitcoin http://witcoin.com – the bitcoin q and a .

Wordless Thursday – What is a Data Scientist

This week’s infographic is actually a profession. Something that I would like to give a hand at, but actually I think that guys like Pointy Haired Dilbert might end up being really awesome at. Either way, the definition of a Data Scientist is a person who can analyze, present and make action plans based on information that is collected and help people make better decisions using the information by making it more understandable.