Category Archives: Tech

And so it happened.

I got a new laptop last year September. It contained windows 8. Not the easiest thing to get around in when you’re used to Linux and already managed moderate success with windows 7. Slightly annoying.

Then came windows 8.1. Same thing as above, only more annoying as I still had to look up via Google how to do certain things. Windows 8.1 is probably fabulous, but not very intuitive for me.

Well, I can always install a Linux virtual machine on it, so that is then easier. After installing Ubuntu 13.10 I noticed that it works. Almost reasonably. The network connect was quite unstable, and the VM wasn’t fast (uhm, on a 12GB RAM, quadcore 2.6 GHZ processor, running on an SSD). Annoying.

I set up Linux as dual boot with windows 8.1. The set up worked, getting to it didn’t. Something in Windows 8x prevented me from seeing a boot menu; even with EasyBCD there was no fun to be had. Annoying. Removed the Linux partition and set that to NTFS again. Still not happy with the wobblies of Windows 8 and lacking something decent in the Linux sphere. Alas, I need that windows thing to update my GPS and the programmable remote.

I tried to load an existing VM on VirtualBox on Windows 8. The VM contains Win XP. That somehow broke VirtualBox, it didn’t load well any more, I couldn’t run the Ubuntu VM either. Even a reinstall did not do the trick.

Went out on a limb and located iATKml. A nice MacOS image ready to install in VirtualBox. Works fine on my main Linux box. Downloaded and installed the software for the remote and the GPS. Works. Oh, wow. And I don’t need to look up via Google how to do things with it. I see why people like Mac OS.

I wiped windows 8.1 from the laptop, everything, the whole bit. Installed Gnome Ubuntu 13.10 on it, it runs super fast. Boots in 15 seconds. (Real boot, everything loaded and ready to log in, not like Windows 8x that shows you a login screen after 15 seconds and then continues to load everything which is obvious after logging in.)
I created a new virtual MacOS machine on the laptop through iATKml (ml stands for Mountain Lion, the latest). Works.
Hah, wait, let’s break Virtual Box and feed it the WinXP VM (which runs fine on the Linux machine). Works. Fast.

It took a fair number of months but now I have a laptop that is fast, that I can use with VMs and find my way in.

I’m convinced many people love Windows 8. Good for them.

Wearable tech

I love gadgets. I have lots of them and they love me: I don’t have to buy them, they follow me home.

But… I don’t like the mass of wearable things that are popping up now, especially the ones that can track every little thing you do. Your smartphone is already a walking, talking unit that betrays every move you make. (Cell phone towers that know where you are simply because your phone is on, stores that watch if you walk by or come in (and if you do where you spend most time) through the bluetooth and/or wifi signal on your phone, fun bits like that.)

Aren’t we tracked enough yet, by phone carrier masts, closed circuit cameras, the NSA and their equivalent in whatever country? Why make it even easier for them? Why not then have someone shoot a chip into your body to give them ultimate comfort in tracking you, down to the level of alcohol in your blood when you get in your car?

Synology

Yes, I went for the real thing. I bought a Synology NAS (model DS 214).

Synology NAS

It’s a brilliant thing, with a very powerful yet simple management interface called Disk Station Manager (DSM). The unit is very easy to assemble (adding the 2 disks didn’t even require a screwdriver), runs flawlessly and is very quiet.

Access goes through a UTP cable to the router and after setting up the volume/shares and privileges it’s immediately recognised by everything on the network.

A very nice feature is the CloudStation which turns the NAS into your personal cloud. It works really well. At first I wasn’t set on using it constantly. Why? Enabling that feature cranked the NAS’s CPU up to 100% and also there was constant disk activity, even when no one was accessing the ‘cloud’. I sent a question to Synology’s tech support about that, wondering if this was something abnormal. After about a day it all calmed down, no more disk activity, drives went to sleep after 20 minutes, and everything’s fine in private cloud land. If you consider a NAS, I can recommend Synology.

 

Timothy Leary-developed video games found in New York Public Library archive

Tune in, Torn On, Drop Out Lost Timothy Learydeveloped video games found in New York Public Library archive

The New York Public Library recently discovered a treasure trove of video games in its archives created by psychedelic evangelist Timothy Leary. Over 375 floppies(talk about flashbacks) containing a “dozen or so” games developed by the LSD-advocate in the ’80s — some are playable via emulation — are now on display in the library’s rare books and manuscripts division, according to The New York Times. The good doctor’s digital works had a self-help bend to them, advocating self-improvement by interactive means as opposed to pharmaceuticals, and apparentlyrecreational drugs as well. If you fancy yourself a cyberpunk, Leary also had an in-progress project based on William Gibson’s Neuromancer, replete with writing by William S. Burroughs and a soundtrack by Devo. He had more than just prototypes, too: His Mind Mirror was commercially released in 1985 and sold 65,000 copies for publisher Electronic Arts. If you can’t make it to the NYPL, a version has beenadapted to Facebook so you can glean your personality profile from your… profile.

[Image credit: Jaycobs / Flickr]

Fold-up telescope

As found on Engadget:

“Researchers want higher-resolution images of the Earth from space, but glass-based telescopes won’t always be up to the job; eventually, the necessary hardware will be too bulky to lift into orbit. It’s a good thing, then, that DARPA recently tested a ground-based prototype of its MOIRE (Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploration) folding telescope. Like the future spaceborne unit, the ground telescope replaces glass with a high-efficiency polymer membrane that weighs one seventh as much and collapses into compact shapes. The optics would launch at a diameter of 20 feet, but they would expand to 68 feet. That’s larger (and likely sharper) than what you’ll see at many Earthbound observatories for quite some time. DARPA hasn’t committed to a launch date for its folding design, but the finished device could image 40 percent of our world in one shot — a major advantage for defense planners who may literally need to see the bigger picture.”

It’s impressive to see what they come up with every time!

Poland’s blow up hall

Poland’s Blow Up Hall 5050: Half luxury hotel, half digital art installation

 

Blow Up Hall: exterior (Photo: Loz Blain/gizmag.com)

Blow Up Hall: exterior (Photo: Loz Blain/gizmag.com) 

I’m here in Poznan, Poland – a town I’ll admit I never knew existed until I bought my plane ticket. Which is a bit pathetic of me, since “Poznan” more or less translates as “the town everyone knows.” Whoops, I guess I missed that memo. It’s a typically charming European town with a gorgeous city square, a 1,000-year plus history full of horrific wars and destruction, a Catholic bent and a surprising number of sex shops per city block.

Beautiful city square in Poznan, Poland. Photo: Loz Blain

I’m here to visit Blow Up Hall 5050, one of the most unique hotels in Europe, attached to one of the “best shopping malls in the world” and a pet project of Grażyna Kulczyk, the richest woman in Poland.

Until 2006, Kulczyk was also married to the richest man in Poland, but while her ex-husband’s business ventures are quite dry – oil, gas, coal power, mining and beer brewing – Grażyna sees herself much more as a passionate patron of the arts.

She calls her signature approach to business the 5050 model: everything should be 50 percent art, 50 percent business, each side supporting the other. In this spirit, she bought up the crumbling carcass of a gigantic old brewery in 2003 and began development on a mammoth 120,000 square-metre complex that houses two high-class shopping malls, a free art gallery where Kulczyk shows her personal collection of modern art, and the Blow Up Hall hotel.

Stary Browar shopping centre, featuring frequent art installations (Photo: Loz Blain/gizma...

The amazing brickwork and architecture of the old brewery were painstakingly preserved and worked into the ultra-modern design of the Stary Browar center and Kulczyk has dotted hundreds of artworks, big and small, throughout the complex to give it her unique 50/50 twist. It also doubles as a giant exhibition and event space, with frequent fashion shows and workshops filling out a very full annual calendar.

And so to the hotel. Right next to the buzzing retail hive of the shopping malls, Blow Up Hall 5050 has been created as an oasis of calm and high-end luxury for Poland’s elite: rock stars and tycoons, presidents, cultural icons and of course, Gizmag contributors.

Walking in the front door, you’re immediately struck by the grand entrance hall, complete with its four levels of brickwork and artworks ranging from the giant “Red Dwarf” at the back of the hall, through a number of artworks including a Spencer Tunick, to the spinning light installation above you.

Blow Up Hall 5050 - the entrance hall (Photo: Loz Blain/gizmag.com)

There’s no check-in desk, just a concierge who confirms your booking and hands you your room key – an iPhone 5. It’s yours for the duration of your stay, it comes pre-fitted with a Polish sim card and you can use it throughout the city.

From there you step into the lobby – and into the key Blow Up Hall artwork itself, designed by digital artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and inspired by Blowup, a British art film of the 1960s. Most of the room is in dark shadow, barring a starkly lit path up the center leading to a series of large screens in which your own image is digitized and split up into a dizzying pixellated array.

If you want to read more, follow this link. (It’s worth it!)

Last Operating ICT 1301 Mainframe Computer Set To Run Again

Zothecula writes “What weighs 5.5 tons and has less computing power than your watch? A pioneering piece of computing history call ‘Flossie,’ the last operating ICT 1301 mainframe. The National Museum of Computing recently took delivery of the dismantled computer, which needed three moving vans to bring it to the museum’s storage facility in Milton Keynes, UK. Rod Brown, custodian of Flossie for the past decade, said: ‘Flossie has had an extraordinary life — or more precisely four lives. After it was decommissioned at the University of London in about 1972, it was purchased at scrap metal prices by a group of students who ran an accounting bureau for about five years. They then advertised it in Amateur Computer Club Magazine and it was bought — again at scrap metal value. After languishing for a period in a barn in Kent, it was restored with the help of the Computer Conservation Society. Visitors could then come and see, smell, and feel the vibrations of a remarkable 1960’s computer. Last year, Flossie was again at risk of being scrapped, but thanks to The National Museum of Computing the machine is safe again. The team and I are delighted with this news — especially because TNMOC has such an outstanding track record of restoring computers and maintaining them in full working order. We look forward to the day that it can go back on display.'”

Original article at Slashdot.

Linux Trojan

ZDnet reported about a sort of successful Linux Trojan. It looks like a real threat, even Engadget mentioned it. It’s not a trojan that needs you to go into immediate lock-down; before it works you will need to click a link so a malicious website can do its job, but still the Linux Desktop must be gaining popularity when someone goes through the trouble to actually do this.

As ZDNet reports:

This appears to be a variation on a very common theme in contemporary Windows malware: A banking Trojan.

Here the name of the game is to grab your personal login and password data with a “Form grabber” as you enter it into your bank or other online system. This information consists of your stolen credentials, the timestamp of when you visited a site, which Web sites you visited, and possibly your Web browser’s cookies. Finally, all this is then passed on over the Internet to a command-and control server. From there the crooks can get to work selling your information to people who will start running up your credit-card bills.

So take care, people. This is real. Only click links that you can verify. Go to your banking system through your bookmarks and you should be safe.

Pioneer 1

No, this is not about the early settlers in the United States. This is also not about the brand of musical equipment. This is about the spacecraft, Pioneer 1, that was shot into space long ago, in 1977.

After 35 years, this craft are still going and operating, sending data back to earth. Isn’t that amazing? After all that time it has crossed a distance that we cannot imagine and despite the insane environment it passes through it is still functioning. The craft is now on or near the edge of our solar system, beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Pioneer 1 and its double, Pioneer 2, are amazing in more ways than one. Each of the craft are outfitted with a recording from earth which contains sounds and music on an LP (ancient technology). The LP is made of gold to assure that it will stay in one piece and perhaps someday it will be found by an intelligent civilisation. On the Pioneers they also mounted a plaque:

Pioneer Plaque
Plaque on the Pioneer craft

It shows two people, the position of our solar system in reference to most known pulsars, the binary number 8 and our depiction of the hydrogen molecule. Click the image for a larger version where most things are explained.

As it’s 35 years ago and the Pioneers are reaching the ‘edge’ of what we call ‘our’ solar system I wanted to pay homage to the people who devised those machines and sent them off. After all, in a way they boldly went where no man has gone before.

Solar stoves in Argentine

I found this on HappyNews.nl. (Dutch site)

In the Argentinian town of La Puna, one of the sunniest places in the world, you see solar stalls more and more these days, food stalls where people cook on nothing but solar heat.

During the carnival festivities in the northern area Lap Puna solar stalls pop up, in Tilcara, Humahuaca, La Quiaca, Purmamarca and Uquía, all of them tourist spots.

The solar cooker (kiosko solar) is a cart on wheels which has a mobile solar furnace, nothing more than a strip of pleated aluminium with a diameter of 1.20 metres / 4ft. In the centre of the strip they mounted elements on which the cooking is done.

“People don’t believe that this works, and when they try it they’re surprised,” says Marta Rojas, a teacher who started a solar cooker in Tilcara. “They want to touch the strip and then they get burnt,” she laughs. On her cooker she prepares pizzas and quinopastries.

More information on solarcooking on wikipedia (in English).