Friday, February 17, 2012

The Globe at Night project

Light pollution is defined simply by the glow of artificial lights that get scattered at night and block the natural light of stars and other celestial objects, blocking our views of the sky. It seems that recent studies show that it also can have serious health implications. In a nutshell, our bodies are "fooled" into thinking it's still day light and the production of melatonin - a hormone that regulates our awake/sleep cycles - and this can have an influence on bad sleep patterns, but more dangerously, low melatonin is linked with a higher risk of breast cancer.

“Light at night is now clearly a risk factor for breast cancer. (...) Breast tumors are awake during the day, and melatonin puts them to sleep at night.”
David Blask, researcher at the Cooperstown, New York-based Mary Imogene Bassett Research Institute.

To reduce the risks specialists recommend a good night of sleep with all light sources blocked, both from outside and inside. This means shades closed, TVs and monitors off, lamps, and everything else that's lit enough to be a substitute for daylight. 

The light bill for all of this night town lights is huge. Estimates show 1.5 billion dollars of wasted energy worldwide and more than 10 million tons of carbon dioxide produced. In a world running mostly on oil and looking for alternative energy sources, this is completely unacceptable. 

The Globe at Night project is a project that aims at measuring light pollution all over the planet, and it relies on common people to input their observations. It's as simple as going out for some minutes at night and looking for the Orion constellation, and comparing your observations to the examples given in the website to measure which magnitude stars can be seen from your location. Head over to their website and give your contribution.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Apple and Samsung at it again

Shortly after losing a case in the German courts, Apple, creator of the very famous and loved by the masses iPod, iPhone and iPad, is at it again, suing Samsung for 'copying' their products. All in all, these two electronic giants are engaged in 30 patent infringement battles in 10 countries, and honestly I think it's becoming kind of pathetic.

We were the first! Oh wait no we weren't.
Basically Apple is sad because their iPhone and iPad design was "copied" by other companies, never mind the fact that touch-screens have been around for decades and present in smart phones even from the day when there were no color screens, or that commercial lithium ion batteries were developed by Sony in 1991, and all other technologies behind the iPhone were not Apple's idea; putting them together, however, it was, and that is commendable and gave them unprecedented success. But you can't sit on your laurels forever. Other companies are bound to catch up and copy your ideas, eventually even improving them somehow, which is what all other phone companies are trying to do in order to remain competitive which is what companies are all about.
This has a Samsung processor... Awkwaaard

My point is: crying over this is just hypocritical and wrong. Almost none of the products Apple offers were originally their ideas, but ideas borrowed from others and improved into something people like.

The bottom line is that Samsung's devices are outselling Apple's. Instead of trying to improve their products in some way that will give them an edge, they are spending millions in courthouse bullying. Since Samsung holds some patents of their own, it's throwing some punches back.

In the end it's all about who manages to convince people who don't need these gadgets to lay down the better part of a thousand dollars to get one, just to be cool.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Windows 8 is coming

Microsoft announced they will make publicly available a preview version of their newest Operating System. While a developer version was released last september, this one is aimed at the common user, albeit with the tag of "trial", which means some features might not be available.

The software giant will announce the release february 29 in Barcelona, during the World Mobile Congress, aiming their new OS towards the mobile market, both phones and tablets.

Many people have tried this already and both screenshots and videos are readily available, showing a radical departure from the traditional layout first introduced in Windows 95, almost two decades ago.

Some sources state that the most noticeable change will be the removal of the ever present Start menu, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was an optional choice; many people like the way it works and are comfortable with what's familiar, so completely removing it would mean shooting oneself in the foot. Microsoft isn't famous for taking such high risks.

So will it suit computers, since it was designed for tablets? We'll have to wait for the 29th and try it ourselves.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tech news

It's been a busy week in the technology world. Here's a quick round up of the main articles:

The Pirate Bay founders refused appeal

The founders of the popular torrent hosting and tracker The Pirate Bay were denied an appeal by the Swedish Supreme court, thus making their previous sentences final. Guilty of "assisting in making copyright content available", Gottfrid Svartholm, Fredrik Neij and Peter Sunde are sentenced to one year and in jail and to pay around 3 million euros all together as reparations.
From Sunde's blog:

"From having the minister of justice pressured by the US to illegally make a case of TPB, through the police officer responsible for the investigation (Jim Keyzer) 'just happened' to get a job at Warner Brothers the weeks before I myself got promoted from a witness to a suspect to the judges in the court cases being either board members, or in one case the actual chairman of the board, for the Swedish pro-copyright society, it was clear to us that the supreme court – where many of the judges make a lot of money on their own copyrights – would be hard to persuade to take the case." 

The site moved to the domain , but taking the recent event with Megaupload, it is quite possible that their site will be taken down by the US justice department, despite SOPA and PIPA not passing. It would seem they never needed those laws in the first place to blatantly censor the internet; they were just an mirage.

Apple's appeal to ban Samsung products in Germany fails

An appeal to ban Samsung smartphones and tablets was rejected by the Munich Regional Court. Apple Inc. claimed these devices to be in violation of their patents on who knows what. At the end, the final verdict was "Apple should go eat some oranges, this is just a case of sour grapes."