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.

Are Social Networks Diverging Culturally?

One thing that makes social networking a unique and unpredictable topic within the tech world is that, in a more direct way than other computing products, they reflect the influence of their users. The infrastructure and design behind them maybe draws a certain type of user more than others to begin with, but they quickly develop a culture or cultures of their own.

To take a now-outdated example, LiveJournal, structured as it was around the metaphor of a diary, became associated culturally with a certain mode of discourse. People spilled their emotional feelings, perhaps to excess, and LiveJournal became caricatured, fairly or not, as a haven for oversharing, rumor-mongering emo teenage girls.

The recent explosion of interest in Pinterest, if you’ll pardon the rhyme, has been more gendered still, with the front page at any given time resembling a women’s magazine. Whether this reflects something about the “pinboard” format or is merely a historical coincidence of crowd behavior is hard to untangle. On the other end of the spectrum, Reddit, Digg, and especially Slashdot cater to a primarily male audience of hardcore technology enthusiasts. LinkedIn is obviously the most gender-neutral, with a notable lack of personality that is quintessentially corporate: everyone needs a job.

The most successful social networking sites, Twitter and (especially) Facebook, have created the perception that they are each a permanent phenomenon with universal appeal. But is this so? We saw this anxiety play out in a big way surrounding the Facebook IPO: not only concerns about the company’s advertising model, and thus revenue stream, but this idea of, will the crowd move on, as it did with Myspace?

There is a certain element that social networking sites will always share in common with other social phenomena like fashion, parties, trends, which don’t stand still but move with the

Facebook has gone, in my short lifetime, from a substitute dorm-room where we could all reminisce about last night’s vodka shots, to a vast, family-friendly site that attempts to encompass all potential users from child to grandma, and thereby has risked alienating the original early adopters, students, who flocked there from Friendster and Myspace.

Twitter has picked up some of the slack in this regard. Its content and users noticeably hipper, snarkier, and more “plugged-in” than Facebook. Anecdotally speaking, many of the most trend-setting people I know have long ago dropped square old Facebook for snappy, fast-paced Twitter.

For those of us who think strategically about such things, it’s important to monitor the intangible differences of flavor that have cropped up within the cornucopia of social networking options. Most normal people simply do not have the time to make a sustained commitment to 17 different social sites at once, and so as they choose what “scene” attracts them, we’re bound to see this evolution continue.

This is a guest post by Aniya Wells. Aniya Wells is one of the most passionate writers you’ll ever meet. Though her writing interests run the gamut—from personal finance to health to current events and more—her primary interest is modern higher education. She serves as a reliable online degree guide for students considering taking advantage of the conveniences inherent in distance learning. Don’t hesitate to contact Aniya for questions or comments at aniyawells@gmail.com.

Earth Hour activities to participate in Dubai, Dare to go Green – 2012

Earth Hour is back this year, which means. It’s lights out for the UAE come March 31, as residents unite in a global cause to combat climate change.

This year, Earth Hour will again witness landmarks across UAE, including the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and Al Qasbah in Sharjah, as they plunge into darkness for one hour in support of the world’s largest environmental event in history.

However, the 2012 initiative will not just request a one-hour conservation pledge, but hopefully aims to target residents at the grassroots level by hosting a number of public events and social media campaigns to target the society at large to participate in the most essential cause.

“Earth Hour is not about turning off your lights for one hour, but an opportunity for all of us to reflect on how our everyday actions impact our environment”

So whats happening in Dubai

Candlelight march at Burj Park Downtown

Organised by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) and held under the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, families and friends are welcome to light the way for a better tomorrow as they bear witness to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, switching off its lights for one hour to commemorate Earth Hour.

The walk will commence from the Burj Plaza towards Burj Park. The event starts from 5pm, while the candlelight march will begin at 8:30pm.

Light up a lamp at Dubai Internet City

Canon Middle East is inviting environmentalists and those who love Mother Earth to join them in this global initiative as its employees and their families gather outside the office building in Dubai Internet City with lamps as a sign of solidarity for Earth Hour and to make a pledge that they will take long term actions towards environmental conservation.

Additionally, Canon has also announced a public photo competition entitled “My Earth, My Lens, where people will be required to take a photograph that best symbolises what the environment means to them.

Photographs could range from images of the ocean to pictures of gardens, and will need to be accompanied by a photo caption that best captures the essence of the image.

If you are at Abu Dhabi

Drumming on the Corniche

The ongoing Abu Dhabi Festival is inviting residents in the capital to join millions of people around the world in celebrating the annual Earth Hour. Abu Dhabi will celebrate the evening with a drumming spectacular on the Corniche aiming to spread the important message of environmental awareness to passers-by.

The event kicks off from 7pm until 9.30pm at the Sahil Al Maydan Corniche in Abu Dhabi.

Cycle to save the Earth

For the second year in a row, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi plans to go beyond 60 minutes by generating 24 hours of clean, renewable green energy through cycling to further support the biggest climate awareness campaign from the World Wildlife Foundation.

From 10.30am on Saturday, March 31 until 10.30am Sunday April 1, the lobby of the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr will be outfitted with stationary bicycles.

With the use of dynamo technology and a full 24 hours of cycling shared amongst residents in the community, guests and hotel colleague participants, this “pedal power” will activate an LED lighting structure, fashioned after the property’s iconic facade, with symmetrical LED lights designed to reflect the water patterns of the Abu Dhabi Creek.

Sharjah and Northern Emirates

Family fun day

In Sharjah, a family event is being planned in Al Majaz Park by the Environment and Protected Areas of Sharjah.

Residents can participate in a host of activities including environmental competitions and a musical performance. The event starts from 6pm.

Music for the soul

In Ras Al Khaimah, the emirate’s tourism development authority has partnered with Al Manar Mall to invite the residents to join a public gathering with an acoustic performance by Fusion Again music band. The performance will start at 8:30pm.

Light the way

In Fujairah, a low-key event will take place in front of the municipality building, with candles and floating lanterns to mark Earth Hour. The event will start at 8:30 pm.

On Social Media 

There is another massive campaign online for Earth Hour is taking place which is more interesting than the offline campaigns and something that encourages people to work on the grass roots level. I will if you will. Check out 2 of my fav RJ’s on radio Catboy and Georgdie Bird on this one. The concept is simple: inspire others by challenging them to commit to an environtmental action in exchange for a dare.

Some more Dare’s below:

Check out more challenges and dares here.

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.

Food waste in India the extremes – Blog Action Day

Today is blog action day, and world over thousands of bloggers like myself (although I dont think I am a serious blogger yet) are talking about a common issue. Since 2007, Blog Action Day has focused bloggers around the world to blog about one important global topic on the same day. Past topics have included water, climate change and poverty. This year, Blog Action Day will be held on October 16, which coincides with World Food Day, so naturally our 2011 theme is FOOD.

Here is a video put together by One.org on the issue of Famine and Food. As visible this campaign requires attention from all of us, from the celebrities to the nobodies.

FOOD is something we need to talk about in the near future, as more people are moving away from agriculture to cities in search of lucrative job options, the food crisis is going to get worse. And the situation is not any different in India. India is a country of extremes, there are cities where there are people starving and on the other we have lavish weddings where food is wasted, along with the aping spanish festival of la Tomatina. The worse of these is definitely the rotting of food in the warehouses of the government where food is stored for transportation.

A 2007 estimate from the ministry of food processing says a whopping Rs 58,000 crore (Rs 580 billion) worth of agriculture food items get wasted in the country every year. Private consulting firm Rabo India Finance had prepared the food wastage report and presented it to the ministry. Quoting from the report, Minister of State for Food Processing then, Subodh Kant Sahai told the Parliament that the fact that such a huge quantity of food items goes as waste in the country is an eye-opener for every Indian.

The report said the food wastage is mainly due to lack of post-harvest infrastructure such as cold chain facilities, transportation and proper storage facilities, etc. He said the loss due to wastages could be reduced by a developed food processing industry, strengthening of the post- harvest infrastructure and filling the gaps in the supply chain. The government, through its schemes for financial assistance for development of food processing industry and other promotional measures, plays a proactive and facilitating role for overall development of food processing sector in the country. Sahai said with huge potential of retail driven demand, many retail giants including foreign companies have shown growing interest in Indian agri and processed food products. But has anything changed ?? Not really.

A latest report (as late as May 2011) on the subject by Macroscan suggests that nearly 40% of the food we produce especially vegetables and fruits are lost in post-harvest losses in India and has been held up as the most compelling reason to permit a flood of investment in the new sector of agricultural logistics, to allow the creation of huge food processing zones, and to link all these to retail food structures in urban markets. The urban orientation of such an approach ignores the integrated and organic farming approach, as it does the evidence that sophistication in food processing has not in the West prevented food loss or waste.

All however is not lost, there are individuals that are helping make a change. Using wasted food from pompous weddings and other places, a firm called BIOTECH has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Kerala, Southern India and saved several tonnes of CO2 per year simply by converting waste to bio fuel. They were provided with the prestigious Ashten Award for Sustainability as well.

Their success is all down to their biogas digester. Designed to be easily installed, it comes in different sizes to process not only home waste but also market and municipal waste. Digestion produces biogas which in turn reduces reliance on more expensive and harder to access LPG. BIOTECH has calculated that the average family can pay back the cost of the digester in three years. They also facilitate the government subsidies which may cover part of the installation costs. By 2009 they had installed 16,000 plants in total.

BIOTECH is a burgeoning organisation. It has tripled in size since 2006 and now employs over 140 people with a wider network of installers. It continues to refine and expand the digester model and to spread the word across the country. Unsurprisingly demand is growing. After all, here is a product that works.

Now are we just going to read this post and think about the food problem or are we going to take an action. Action could be anything from sharing this post for people to read to signing a petition with the government to privatize the warehousing of food or even getting one of these Bio Gas converters for yourself. We need to take action some way anyway possible.

 

Wordless Thursday – Angry Birds Addiction

Angry Birds might be the greatest Mobile game ever created. The craze of the game just keeps increasing, people in the office seem to start playing it in long boring meetings as well. Oh the game and oh the addiction. So much so that someone thought it would be a good idea to make an infographic on the game and its addiction. Check out some really interesting statistics of the game, a “Birds” eye view perhaps.

The producers of the game are growing richer and the users more addicted. I installed the free version on my Android and say what, I could not put down the phone for sometime. Now well nearly though the game, I am kinda over the addiction. However, the Game is still entertaining when Blocks or paper toss does not compel me.

Location, Location, Location … the next big thing

At first there was the humble Mobile Phone, then it received a GPS and with the addition of a camera and smart internet connections, it transformed into the SMARTPHONE. Then came Android and the iOS platforms making it easier for developers to use the platforms and launch new services and applications on them. Apps are all the rage. Through the entire process a new object came to light, the location. With mobiles becoming more location aware, searches could be tailored to what’s nearby.

The world of Check Ins was born. Facebook, Twitter, Google + and other services opted Check ins as a new inclusion into the vast software frameworks. However one company did spark off the initial interest and its popularity is what drove companies to follow. Foursquare. Foursquare has not been the most famous of apps for the mobile phones, but it was really instrumental in making the location based aspects of mobile phones important.

Foursquare is a Social Networking platform that will try and get you to meet people in your vicinity and also provide you with opportunity to meet with like minded people who go to similar places like you. Restaurants offer discounts and offers on Check ins usually and frankly I was happy to see this in Dubai too. We were at the Le Meridean village, Dubliners Pub and restaurant and walla they have a special for check in as well. I am not sure if it still exists but was an interesting find when I was there a few weeks back. Check out Checkin Mania, a site that keeps track of checkins on Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla and Britekite.

Now they are taking location based applications to the next level. With newer developers now beginning to use Foursquare as a platform for their related Apps new interesting location based games are coming up. Here are a few that might really interest you all.

World of Fourcraft

The World of Fourcraft is a clever Foursquare application which allows users to track their check-ins and use them for ‘social conquest’ gameplay. Currently the application is designed for use within New York City, pitting the five boroughs and the areas surrounding, aptly titled ‘Here Be Dragons,’ against each other.  Signing in with a Foursquare account, players must select – and join forces with – their borough.  ’Borough Buddies’ must then boost their teams status with increased Foursquare check-ins across the city, ‘swarming’ and conquering territory.

There are no prize-incentives, with the app relying on neighborhood pride to encourage play. Users can keep track of their ‘hood’s progress with the Battle Map found on the website.

Check out more about World of Fourcraft

Foursquareopoly

Foursquaropoly turns your city into a Monopoly board and your Foursquare check-ins into a gaming piece.  Players begin with ten-thousand dollars and can buy unclaimed buildings they check-in to using Foursquare.  Rent and upkeep fees are determined by the building’s popularity and are payable by the owner.  Just like the original Monopoly game, players who ‘land’ in a claimed location must pay rent to the virtual landlord.

Originally a student concept, the app is currently in development.

Check out more about Foursquareopoly here.

 

We can only wait

Alas, unfortunately like everything in technology, these games are currently gaining popularity in the US, next it will spread to countries like India and then come over to places like Dubai. However, in the mean time we can get around the various check in stops in Dubai and meet with the different Mayors and Chieftains of Foursquare.

Have not yet tried Foursquare ? here is how you can get it for yourself, FREE. Available for Android, Blackberry, Nokia and the iPhone on http://m.foursquare.com ; visit it on your phone browser.

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 .

Let us help – NGO Awareness – Part 2

Through the years NGO’s (Non Government Organizations) have come forward to fill the gap which the government in India has been unable to fill in. While talking to Sowmya on her interview (which you can read here) I realized that the number of NGO’s that are trying to work on issues related to India are quite a few, and they talk to research analysts like Sowmya to help them do the right thing. But there are those who have already spent a lot of time in trying to help various segments in India, like the poor, the old or just children. Working with profit or non-profit these people definitely deserve a mention in their role in the society in India.

 

The list of NGO’s last time was inquisitive enough to receive a lot of hits from you folks. So this time around I thought it would be good time to send in the second set of NGO’s list for the sake of NGO action from all of us, maybe eventually we will start our own action plan to help pick one of the NGO’s on the list.

Bhumi

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Activity: Bhumi is one of India’s largest independent youth volunteer non-profit organisation. Our volunteers work amongst orphaned and underprivileged children in Chennai, Thiruvallur, Bengaluru and Chandigarh with the aim of providing children with quality education and enable them to become responsible and productive citizens of the future. The efforts of our volunteer force consisting of over 300 students and young professionals under the age of 30 benefit over 2,500 children every year.

Support: Education, Children, Environmental Conservation, Mentorship

Note: Bhumi is an under-30 youth volunteer organisation, and to be able to reach out to more children, we need volunteers who can spend 2 hours every weekend to teach at an orphanage near their residence.


Help A Child to Study

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Activity: Help A Child to Study sponsors the higher education of meritorious underprivileged students, supporting them to achieve dreams of a better future. We sponsor all formal courses above 10th, including 11th and 12th, diploma courses, degree courses, B.E., M.B.B.S. and Postgrad. Through education our students are able to escape the cycle of poverty through their own talents.

Support: Education, higher education, sponsorship of students.

Note: – We are looking for financial donations to support the higher education of our students, most of whom live in rural areas of Maharashtra and Karnataka.


SAHAI helpline for suicide prevention and emotional distress.

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Activity: Started on 2nd Oct 2002, SAHAI is Bangalore’s telephone helpline for people in emotional distress. Our dedicated, trained volunteer counsellors are available to answer your calls between 10.00 a.m. & 6.00 p.m., from Monday through to Saturday.

All calls are confidential and privacy is assured.

Whether it is facing problems with your family, in school, at work or with your friends,Sahai Counsellors will give you their undivided attention and will guide you. And, when you’re ready, SAHAI will help you find a long-term solution to your problems, through telephone counselling.Sahai volunteers will help and equip you with the skills,needed to cope with distressing situations of life like loss, failure, broken relationships or the ever-increasing demands of today’s fast-paced life.

SAHAI volunteers are homemakers, professionals and college students – people from all walks of life who are committed to saving lives. SAHAI volunteers undergo 30 hours of suicide prevention training conducted by professionals from NIMHANS and the Medico Pastoral Association, along with Rotary Bangalore East, three of the help line’s founding partners.

Volunteers are trained to help each caller ventilate, to respond without judging, and to guide the caller to address their problem. Volunteers learn how to listen pro-actively, and to recognize and assess signs of stress and depression.

Support: Suicide prevention and emotional distress telephone helpline.

Note: Public awareness, more volunteers and funds to raise awareness.


This post is a part of BlogAdda’s Bloggers Social Responsibility (BSR) initiative. I am exercising my BSR. You can too by spreading the news of these NGO’s and Support. Its the least you can do if not donate money.

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.