Physical Bitcoins – they contain code for wallets containing real bitcoins
Bitcoin is rising again, this time circling the 700$ USD figure.
More and more people find the digital currency increasingly interesting as it becomes more widely discussed in the popular media.
But how do you get some? You can buy some from online merchants by searching “bitcoin”, “buy”, “sell”, and the currency of the country where you reside to find local online merchants.
Other options are bitcoin faucets which existed almost as long as bitcoin, but due to the rising value offer very small fragments of the coin now. A couple of sites offer a collection of the faucets that you can visit every hour or every few hours:
Land of Bitcoin
Another way to get bitcoins is by mining, however, the level of difficulty became so high that even high-end display cards don’t “cut it” any more. To get a decent rate of bitcoin mining you will need a dedicated bitcoin miner based on a specially designed CPU. But you can get (very) small amounts of bitcoin by using your browser at websites such as this:
A list of such and other options of getting free coin can be found here:
Bitcoin took a hit when the notorious “Silk Road” underground black market closed recently. The coin dived to a value of 109 USD from over 140 USD per bitcoin.
Some said it’s the demise of bitcoin as it was always linked to underground shady activities – being relatively anonymous and offering some level of security, it was the perfect currency for drug dealers, gun merchants and other slithering criminals.
But Bitcoin proved all the naysayers wrong. It started climbing back, and since the silk road seizure on the 8th (13 days ago), it started climbing up steadily, and then broke through its previous value and continued climbing. Currently at 186 USD per Bitcoin over at bitstamp.
The reason for the recent spike was a massive wave of purchases from china. It may be due to Baidu (the Chinese equivalent of Google) beginning to accept Bitcoin, but some think it may be the dreaded 51 percent attack – in the making. A scenario where some interested party (government or bank or a corporation) achieves control of a controlling share of the total network hashing power of Bitcoin – hence the 51 percent. The ability to be able to generate Bitcoin at this capacity is immense – requiring great resources and funds. Allowing to build a separate branch of Bitcoin, achieving the power to cancel transactions by revoking the Bitcoin transfer. In essence it is a corruption of the Bitcoin network.
The interesting question that arises is – who’s behind this sudden Chinese interest? Is it the “Comment Crew”/”Shanghai Group”/”Unit 61398″ ultra secret hacker unit situated in Beijing and hence the Chinese government – interested in getting ahead of the wave of this budding new global currency?
Or maybe it’s just a mass of new money investors discovering Bitcoin or being able to invest in it more easily due to the new exposure?
Either way, it makes bitcoin stronger, and that’s a good thing for the coin. The higher the value goes, the stronger it gets and the more attractive to “regular” investors.
Scientists at Stanford University managed to build the world’s first carbon nano-tubes (CNT) based computer. It’s pretty puny – with 178 transistors, and they’re pretty big in size – comparable to silicon transistors, but with the potential to be much much smaller, and cooler. This is a huge breakthrough as the team managed to solve the major issues related to such an undertaking – 30 percent of the yield when growing nano-tubes (they are grown like crystals) come out metallic which is no good when you want them to function as logical gates. The team managed to vaporize the metallic duds, and in order to solve the imperfections inherent in nano-tubes (some of them come out not completely straight, but more bendy) – the team came up with a powerful algorithm that allows the circuit to function correctly even with imperfections.
Tiny Particle Accelerator
Now you can accelerate particles too!
You know those huge particle accelerators? the ones that measure in diameter of kilometers – like the Hadron collider at Cern:
A look inside the huge collider
The big brains use them for physics experiments designed to find answers for such heavy weighted questions such as the age of the universe, or finding some elusive theorised particles of one kind or another. (or to create dark matter.. <evil laughter>)
Well, we might be able to save up on all that real-estate. Now that (yes, again) stanford scientists managed to create an “accelerator-on-chip” that allows to accelerate electrons 10 times faster than conventional particle accelerators in a 3mm chip. The practical applications of this technology (once it comes to fruition and steps out of the labs) will be compact accelerators and x-ray scanners for security scanings (“Is that an x-ray scanner in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”), medical therapy and imaging, and research in biology and materials science.
High efficiency Solar Cell
Tiny tinny solar cell
The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin managed this little miracle: achieving a 44.7% efficiency in turning sunlight into electricity. Just to try and understand this fit: most solar cells like the ones on your calculator, for instance, achieve an efficiency of under 20% (usually around 16%). So far, this technology is CPV (concentrator photovoltaics) – limited to sun-rich areas where the power of the sun can be concentrated to a single point to create such a powerful effect. But the rise in efficiency has gone one point (percent) in four months – which may indicate that sooner rather than later, we may open the door for super-exciting possibilities – like commercial flights that use no fuel other than the sun, or cars that run longer on sunny days, and a bit less on cloudy days – both options without fossil fuel.
Fix Your Own PC, No need for favors or technicians!
Yes, this is shameless self-promotion. It’s my first Ebook!
Personal Computers these days are small and big and comes in all sizes and shapes (mostly cube-like shapes).
As customers, most of you just want the little elves inside the box to keep running their buns off, and don’t really care about how it all works and provide you with hours of productivity, gaming, entertainment or porn.
But what happens when the elves stop running? Do you get cold sweat dripping down your shirt? Are you afraid of opening the box and finding something dead among the cobwebs and dust?
Well, don’t be. Computers these days are as simple as a house made of lego. They’re built of several primary parts that connect to each other without much effort, and the software mechanics are not that daunting as they might seem to appear.
Easy for me to say? I guess it is, but I still firmly believe that anyone who knows how to manage a screwdriver, some common sense and a practical attitude can fix most of the issues that they meet with their home computers.
The ebook on sale (You can see it either on the top right hand side of the blog main page, or go to this address to read about it and order it) is all about the main issues and troubles we encounter with windows 7, and windows XP – the most common PC operating systems out there today.
Got blue screen errors? Covered.
Got a pesky program that keep on crashing? Covered.
What about Viruses and Trojans and such? Also Covered.
I’ll take you through the list of main parts that make the PC a useable machine and how to check and make sure that they’re working. Don’t worry, it’s a short list, and there are photos.
So What are you waiting for? Buy it, and save some technician’s fees! I promise it’s cheaper than any professional visit, and it covers its cost after a single time you manage to fix your problem. Ego boost included for free!
Who’s Rich and Who’s Poor? The happy pauper or the sad millionaire?
Many are searching for the road to riches – especially in the economic climate of recent years. “Rich Dad Poor Dad” hits the spot snuggly between “self-help” and popular economy books. On the way it gathered thousands of fans and admirers.
But what does he actually say? Conventional way of financial thinking is obsolete. Since the ’30s-’40s of the 20th century, a cushy job in a big company does not offer any financial security and stability anymore. Your pension is not guaranteed.
These days, people roam from one job to the other, and loyalty between an employer and employee is considered a naive concept. One has to make sure he’ll have a nest egg for retirement – otherwise he might stay with nothing.
Kiyosaki portrays the employee life as a life of servitude. The government and banks join up forces and push the regular joe to expand spending more and more, get into as much debt as possible – in order to move the wheels of the economy and make sure that those who make plenty of money – will only make more. This, by the way, is the source of the big financial crisis of 2008. Cheap loans, less scrutiny, none or little securities pushed people to bury themselves under mountains of debt that eventually was partially lost and required the government to financially aid the banks failure to avoid a further economic landslide.
Kiyosaki is against mortgage. He believe the price you pay for this “dream house” puts you into dozens of slavery years to pay back that huge loan. In that period of time, you’re always a few months away from bankruptcy and financial ruin.
He is not against buying real estate as an investment, but only when the financing is done smartly and does not land you in a deep hole of debt.
Kiyosaki is for building special kind of lucrative businesses. Almost automatically and independently running companies. The kind of business he talks about may be left to run on its own – using trusted people – and can be returned to a year later to be seen still making money and running smoothly.
By the way, almost a year ago, one of Kiyosaki’s company filed for bankruptcy due to a 24 million dollar debt. He is still worth over 80 million dollars and invested in multiple ventures.
There are countless books and self-appointed gurus out there that are trying to convince us that the pot of gold is really quite reachable. And yet only chosen few ever reach to touch it. So, it’s not that simple. But it’s possible.
Even with all this remarkable scientific and technological advancement, our view of what the “Future” should look like has not changed much since the ’50s of the twentieth century.
We still look for flying cars (those exist but are not very practical or economic to manufacture or use in large scale), giant metal buildings, robots who serve humanity, and computer technology smart enough to either improve our lives dramatically, or destroy us completely.
But as our technology moves slowly to meet our age old vision of what the future should look like, we strive to find a new, course-corrected vision to aim for.
Now our works of fiction and art takes into consideration the advancements in science such as DNA and Cell manipulation and replication, Quantum based computing, and Renewable energy technologies.
I do believe that the work of science fiction writers these days seems more difficult than before. Thinking up original and previously unthought of ideas without relying on pre-existing foundations is a job for giants such as Jules Vernes and others.
Almost a year in waiting, months of delays, leaks, and updates.
But it’s here now.
It’s the smaller, better, more elegant equivalent of kinect – for the desktop (or laptop) PC.
It’s called “LEAP” and what it is, is a motion/volume sensor that allows you to control your pc using gestures and movements with (up to) all ten fingers.
Confusing? remember the movie “Minority report”? well it’s pretty much like that, only you don’t need to wear anything, just put your hands in the air.
It started with Primesense, a small israeli company that designed the kinect (before it even got that name) and signed a deal with microsoft which brought the bulky controller to millions of home along with the XBox360 video games console.
The kinect allowed people to play using their entire body instead of relying on a game controller. It pretty much revolutionized the gaming world, but was limited to Microsoft’s game console, and did not have much use elsewhere. Especially considering it’s inaccuracy and requirement for plenty of space.
The success of the kinect did not go unnoticed, and around May 2010, a small american company that goes by the name “Leap Motion”, announced a product that sounded way too good to be real, the “LEAP” controller. It sounded so far fetched, that there were quite a few claims that it’s all “vaporware” that will dissipate as soon as they reeled in enough gullible investors money to allow them to fly off to some sunny island with no extradition treaties.
They promised a controller that is roughly the size of a pack of gum, allows millimeter-level control accuracy, and with all ten fingers! Can this even be done?
Leap – Closed Box
But as time passed, the Leap controller turned out to be quite real. The company kept releasing bits of news, demonstrating the gadget at trade-shows, and showing off the capabilities in video clips. And in December 2012 Leap Motion begun shipping 10,000 developer units which included an early preview version of the controller as well as an SDK. This was a brilliant move which allowed the early building of the future application store for the Leap – months before the official release.
Demand exceeded supply greatly as over 40,000 developers applied to receive the early SDK since May 2012! By April 2013, around 12,000 developers had their hands on developer kits and were busy developing new software for this new piece of hardware.
On the same month, Leap Motion sent an update to pre-order customers, that shipping has been rescheduled for the third time – to July 2013.
The Leap was originally supposed to start shipping on December 2012, postponed to the first quarter of 2013, postponed again to May 2013, and finally got a release date: July 22nd, 2013.
The reasoning that the company offered for the delays was that the already manufactured 600,000 units needed further testing, but it seems to me that the company wanted more time to get a strong software base for its application store as well as more time for debugging so as to allow for the smoothest release they could do and avoid faulty hardware, or software.
So what’s in the box?
Warning leaflet in several languages
Long USB connection cable
Short USB connection cable
A cardboard card that refers to Leapmotion website for software and driver download
How does it work?
That was the million dollar question that people has been asking ever since that first announcement. Microsoft/Primesense Kinect just came out in November 2010 and introduced a technology that struck many as revolutionary, and this little unknown company named “Leapmotion” dares to make claims that puts kinect to shame? How is that even possible?
The Leap with sticker on
Conjectures regarding this intriguing technology ranged from miniaturized radar technology to talk about even more exotic options (aliens anyone?). The truth, as it mostly is, was much more straight forward. The Leap makes use of two small fast and accurate cameras, as well as three infra-red LEDs.
It observes a hemisphere above it for up to a meter in height, and samples it in high speed and accuracy that reaches upto 0.01 millimeters. Using the two cameras it manages to get a precise 3d image of the fingers it’s programmed to follow.
Does it work?
Yes, it does.
I did encounter some issues while installing, but they were more due to my enthusiasm: hooking up the device before bothering with the software download lead to an old developer version driver download which was not very compatible with the new software.
After using system restore to correct my erroneous ways, I reinstalled the software and everything became nice and shiny.
A few issues to mention before continuing:
The controller is sensitive to strong lighting. The reason is pretty obvious: The infra-red leds being used in it are influenced by strong light and especially direct sunlight. This may influence accuracy and ability of the Leap.
The Leap tends to grow warm. However, I have left it connected overnight, and it continued working without any issues even though it did grow warm.
The Leap controller is a small box measuring 8 cm long, 3 cm wide, and 1.1 cm tall. It’s very light and weighs about 30 grams, and is made of black plastic (top part which is semi-transparent) surrounded with an aluminum bezel (which also acts as a heat sink).
This all means it’s very portable. You can carry it around in your pocket, and if you already installed the drivers and software off the internet, you don’t even require an internet connection to start working. Downloaded Software includes the device driver which installs two icons on your task bar. one deals with flicks (gestures) and their setups, and the other gives access to the controller settings and it’s “Airspace” applications store.
All this refers to working with Windows 7, as that is my system on which I tested the Leap. Windows 8 offers some more ease of use and there is access to the Airspace Applications store from the tiles interface (formerly known as “metro”).
Control of the operating system does not come pre-activated, probably as developers understood that there is a learning curve to consider, and many would prefer to reserve the use of the Leap for designing or for playing.
In order to activate the windows control module, you will need to open “Airspace” and install an application called “Touchless for windows”. |Then you’ll need to go to the added icon and choose the control level (basic or advanced).
The distinction is required as the higher the level of control, the more dexterity and experience is needed to avoid errors. On the basic level, you can only use some simple gestures. Scrolling through pages, choosing, maximizing, and moving windows and icons.
On the advanced level you can do almost anything. Including zooming in and out (yes, also in google maps, and google earth), and using all ten fingers. This takes time and practice to learn. Accuracy is indeed high, which sometimes proves to be a disadvantage. The human hand is shaking all the time, and even more so when you have to hold it suspended in mid-air while moving it around.
So, not unlike professional photography, you need to learn to steady your hand if you want to keep accurate. Air drawing accurately, choosing icons and windows, and even during gaming. It can also be quite tiring. The controller is built for certain tasks more than others. Music, design (painting, sculpting, building), and gaming are the main purposes the developers had in mind.
These are all time-limited tasks. Even when you paint on a canvas with a brush and oil colors, you cannot do it for more than a few hours a day since your hands and eyes will grow tired. The same goes for the Leap.
Uses, Weaknesses and Possibilities?
The Leap was born out of need or necessity, mostly of designers. The ability to sculpt using a computer, but in the air, seemed to be like an unreachable dream.
Therefore, the target audience for the new controller is as follows: Artists (designers of all kinds, painters and sculptors), computer game players, and musicians. The attraction of being able to sculpt without the use of mouse and keyboard is quite easy to understand. They are not even a bit like the tools we use in the real world. With the Leap you can even take a pencil or a brush in your hand to reach a higher degree of accuracy.
Computer games can get a real boost from such a device. Example? The huge space simulation kickstarter hit “Star Citizen” declared that they will support the Leap even before it got a final release date. Whether it will be for actual flight control, or just for handling some of the ship’s controls and screens, it will add immensely to the gaming experience.
For now, the available games that support the Leap are pretty basic, and most are casual style games, such as “Cut the rope”. The provide joy, but don’t really take full use of the abilities that the Leap can offer.
The way Leap Motion uses an application store shows the direction that the industry is heading to, which started with the desire to copy Apple Computers, and start making money off applications.
However, this decision may limit the ability of the new device from reaching bigger audiences. Even though it is possible to program applications and games for the Leap using HTML5, which has been and is still being done, the PC is not a natural environment for application stores. (No matter what Microsoft would try to tell you – with it’s pushing of Windows 8 and it’s “app store”)
Musicians may find the Leapp an interesting new tool. For now there are only a few basic programs that allow you to use the Leap for playing piano or drums.
Support for graphic programs is still scarce. Autodesk provides a free plug-in for Maya 2014 that allows you to use the Leap with their design suite.
But more common tools, such as Adobe software and especially Photoshop, are yet to be officially supporting the Leap controller. For now there is a 30 USD third-party plug-in on offer that lets you use the Leap with photoshop. I don’t believe many will buy it, as it’s a time limited deal considering Adobe will quite surely release support in future updates. (Leap Motion sat down with Adobe in regard to collaborations in the past)
The Leap might find further use with archeologists, as well as scientists and doctors. Archeologists will be able to explore 3d models of ruins with greater ease, and doctors and scientists will be able to examine molecules, cells, and organs while conducting virtual operations and tests without the need for touch.
Conclusions and Summary
The Leap Controller is a unique and innovative product. It is a second or third generation of motion/volume commercial sensors such as the kinect and others, but is still at a league of its own.
As such, and considering it’s young age, it still has some childhood pains. There are no serious bugs (beyond over-sensitivity, or missing a finger or two), but it’s usefulness is still questionable.
However, I do believe that as it’s usage become more common, as I’m sure it will, people will find new and exciting uses for its capabilities. And with time, the software will catch up and allow for easier work as well as play.
Considering all this, I give it 4 drops out of 5, for a trully innovative product.
Over the years I’ve used quite a few music players. Cassettes, Compact Discs, MP3 CDs, and finally Solid State Memory Based Players (both dedicated and non-dedicated such as smart phones).
Nowadays, Most people rather get all (or most) of their entertainment from one device – namely, their phone.
But I don’t subscribe to that. One of the biggest reasons against it is that it hogs up the limited battery life and renders the phone dead faster.
Also, it’s more difficult to take a phone for a run rather than a more portable and lighter dedicated media player.
Sadly, most of the world doesn’t seem to share my opinion, and so the variety of mp3/music players that used to be quite big is shrinking by the day, and these days they’re much tougher to find, and even more expensive than they used to be.
Simple math: less options, higher cost.
So, what is the best and optimal music player I would like to see:
1. Replaceable & Rechargeable battery: The vast majority of current players are using in-built lithium-ion (not even lithium-polymer like the new smartphones) rechargeable batteries. This allows for cheaper manufacturing but also means 1-3 years life time till the battery dies with no easy way to replace it. I would like to see a replaceable battery such as in the samsung phones, or even better, a AA or AAA battery operated player. Cowon made one of the best ones, the G3, but it had limited memory capacity and no expansion option.
2. Memory Expansion: most cheap players came with a built in capacity of solid state flash memory, and no option to add on to that. But some came with a micro-sd slot for expansion. The Sandisk Sansa series (Fuze, Clip, Zip, and Fuze+) all included a microSDHC slot that allowed up to 32GB (and even 64GB with microSDXC cards) extra capacity.
3. Standard data/power connector: namely, no proprietary crap. Sandisk realized that they were making a mistake with the proprietary port in the old fuze/view and switched to microUSB port with their newer generation. Too bad they destroyed the new player chances by switching to touch interface.
4. Tactile wheel interface: Yes, ipod did it quite well to begin with, but I believe that sandisk took that idea and greatly improved on it. They introduced the scroll wheel with the e200 series, through the view model and finally the old fuze. Sadly it didn’t stay further. I suspect they were threatened to be slapped with a lawsuit by some big company or a patent troll. <cough>apple<cough>
5. More Sophisticated yet intuitive software (Operating System): Most players use some form of free and very basic operating system. But these days, the cpus allow for so much more than before, that the programmers can allow themselves to put more serious work into the players. Things like style learning – the player learns your style and suggest the best songs for you from the selection available on the player. With a wireless network option the player can get lyrics from the net and display them for the song playing.
These are only five points. There are possible many more. I’m sure one could scrounge up a design or open a kickstarter project, but the question is, how many people would really like that to open, enough to put some money on it?
With the generous help of carbon fiber, a new technology by the name “UltraRope” allows to reduce the weight of elevators apparatus as well as the energy required for its operation.
These days, elevators are a common sight. But even with its broad use and common appearance, they are not without their limits.
Which is the tallest?
People wish to live close to their work place, and use up less time, energy and money in the transition between home, work and vice versa.
Today there are only a few sky scrapers in the world which belong to the exclusive “over 500 meters tall” club, and they’re all quite well known. (“Burj Khalifa” in Dubai, which starred in “Mission: Impossible” movie, is currently the tallest building in the world with 828 meters height, but will soon become the second tallest with the completion of “Sky City” in China)
Sky City in Changsha
But one of the many problems encountered by architects and engineers when coming to the gargantuan task of designing and building such babylon towers, is the task of lifting passengers and freight to those head spinning heights.
Now, a finnish company by the name of “Kone” has taken upon itself to solve this problem, by introducing a technology named “UltraRope”.
“UltraRope” takes one of the lightest and strongest materials known to men – carbon fiber, and uses it to allow lifting of people and freight to new heights, while reducing energy and weight by almost 10x factor.
Here is how it works
Regular steel cables being used in standard sky scrapers are just not up to the task. They become a big problem for the super-tall building infrastructure and engineering plans when going over a few hundred meters.
The tallest a building gets, the more weight an elevator cables has to withstand. At the height of 500 meters, that cable has to withstand a weight of 100,000 kilograms!
Which will be the tallest soon?
Carbon fiber has been mentioned before as the material of choice for the “space elevator” idea checked by Nasa as a viable idea to lift cargo and personnel to a point outside the atmosphere. It is the only material that can withstand the great stress such a gigantic tube needs to take.