Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

How to get rid of gadget chargers and power supplies

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

The Slashdot question about this topic reminds me of the overwhelming array of 9 chargers and low voltage power supplies which power my equipment.

In the comments, it was mentioned that a connector manufacturer employs a lobbyist to foil any attempt to mandate standardization of the connectors and low voltage power supplies.

Another comment mentioned the 12V standard car cigarette lighters. This standard is currently usable only in cars, and most gadgets are not designed to be powered from them.

Solution?

  1. Manufacture a splitter which allows 5-6 plugs (shaped like car cigarette lighter plugs) to receive power at the same time.  Those splitters are meant for use at homes,  and will allow several gadgets to be powered/charged at the same time.
  2. Manufacture a DC to DC converter for each gadget, to allow most gadgets to be powered from standard car cigarette lighters. It may be possible to miniaturize those converters, as they don’t require a 110V/220V step down transformer.  People will prefer to carry those converters with their gadgets, rather than the bulkier manufacturer-provided power supplies.
  3. Manufacture a car cigarette lighter lookalike socket, powered by a step down transformer, for use at homes.  This will allow homes to provide the same power connectors as cars.

Then, car cigarette lighter sockets will become the de-facto standard power supply for gadgets. Those three products will solve the chicken-and-egg problem of introducing a standard power supply for gadgets, which require DC power.

Is Nokia E90 an upgrade for Nokia 9210i users?

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Yesterday I met Erez and he demonstrated to me his new Nokia E90.
I am a Nokia 9210i user, and it still serves me well, after several years.
The Nokia E90 is good looking. It features a full keyboard - very useful for writing SMS messages. It has a built in camera, so I would not need to carry with me also a digital camera. It is capable of storing hundreds of MB of digital data. There is even a barcode reading and decoding application!

HOWEVER:

  • It does not have a FAX application, which Nokia 9210i has and which I consider to be essential, even though nowadays I do not use it frequently.
  • In the SMS application, it is very awkward to enter textual data, which mixes Hebrew and Latin letters.
    • Switching between those two keyboards is a 3-key operation rather than a single-key operation, as in Nokia 9210i (or 2 keys pressed simultaneously in personal computers).
    • If you press the Shift key while you are in Hebrew keyboard mode, you still get Hebrew letter - rather than uppercase Latin letter, as in all personal computer keyboards and in Nokia 9210i.

Conclusion: I’ll pass on it, and wait for the next model with similar features.

I want to buy your trash!

Monday, April 7th, 2008

I am a recycling plant.
I extract energy from your organic trash and use it in my other recycling processes.
I extract pure water from your sewage water.
I separate rare metals from your inorganic solid waste and sell them to manufacturers of goods.
I developed technologies for inexpensive transportation of your wastes into me.
I have advanced technologies for separating out mixtures, so that you will not need to sort your own trash.
I invest a lot into R&D for developing cheaper and better methods of processing your refuse.
I have lobbyists in legislature bodies, who cause the appropriate laws to be passed, so that it is cheaper for you to sell me your refuse for a pittance, than to dispose of it in manner which pollutes the environment.
I hand out research grants to scientists, who research methods for separating radioactive nuclei out of material, with the goal of purifying radioactive wastes.

(Translation from inscriptions on a marble slab, which was found in Antarctica after all ice was dissolved due to global warming, and which is believed to be 65 million years old.)

Brainstorming about electric car energy source

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

As I was reading yet another article about Shai Agassi’s Electric Car project (a Google search turned up several references, such as The Electric Car Acid Test and Israel Is Set to Promote the Use of Electric Cars), I asked myself what if we could design a “liquid battery”.

Such a “liquid battery” would really be a fuel cell. We pump in two liquids (in the following - liquid/chemical A and liquid/chemical B). As the car is being driven, it gets the electrical energy from combining liquid A with liquid B, creating a third liquid (in the following - liquid/chemical AB). Liquid AB would later be withdrawn. In a processing plant, liquid AB would be electrolyzed and separated back into liquid A and liquid B, effectively charging the system with energy.

Such a system already exists, but using hydrogen. Hydrogen is combined with oxygen to yield water. Water is then electrolyzed to recover the hydrogen for another round.

The challenge is to find chemicals (which can be liquid, gas or solid powder) A, B and AB with the following properties:

  1. They store energy when separated rather than combined, so that no single chemical will be able to release energy uncontrollably i.e. explode. So, for example, ATP (used as energy storage medium by biological processes) would be out.
  2. No one of them can release energy by combining with oxygen or nitrogen. This would eliminate the big safety risk of hydrogen.
  3. Chemicals A and B can be combined in a fuel cell to efficiently release energy in the form of electricity.
  4. Chemical AB can be efficiently separated into chemicals A and B in a power plant.
  5. High energy storage density, relative to current technologies.

Force fields seen as critical to advancement of human civilization

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

Existing discussion about total energy consumption by civilizations (such as the one summarized in Kardashev scale) neglects the accident and terror factor.

Disasters (both natural and man-made) are usually associated with uncontrolled release of energy. When a civilization deals with little energy, the scope of man-made disasters is limited. However, when a civilization has a higher Kardashev scale rating, it deals with a lot of energy. Then uncontrolled energy releases can wreak a lot of havoc. Example: meltdowns in nuclear reactors.

Traditionally, the way to mitigate against man-made disasters was to live away from dangerous locations. Dangerous locations are locations, in which a lot of energy is manipulated. However, once a civilization advances to type I or even type II, then it will be at its disposal enough energy to wreck an entire planet. Humans would have to live in far away space stations, and in those space stations use much less energy than is available to their civilization.

Therefore, development of force fields able to contain such explosions is critical to humanity survival as it strives to become a type I civilization. This is important not only because of the risk of accidents, but also because of terror acts.

Will a PC of the future integrate also a compass?

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Of course, I am limiting this discussion to PCs and other Internet nodes on the face of the Earth. Building a spaceborne network has its own special considrations, as well as a network of nodes deep inside the Earth.
An inexpensive replacement to the current networks of cables, cellular operations and telephone cables is mesh networks. In those networks, a PC communicates with its nearest neighbors, and they route packets to each other in a way reminiscient of the old UUCP protocol.

There is the problem of discovery of the topology of a mesh network, especially given its dynamic nature.

My suggestion: equip each node (a PC or other) with a compass or its equivalent (such as a GPS receiver) and a way to find the directions of its neighbors relative to it.

Nodes will select their IPv6 addresses from a block of addresses, and the addresses will depend upon their latitude and longitude. Thus, from the IPv6 address of a target node, the source node will figure out how to route data packets it wants to send to the target node.

Voila, no large corporations, no expensive infrastructures will be necessary (besides the GPS satellite network, if a GPS receiver is used).

Computerized Elections in Israel

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Background Information

The Israeli Ministry of Interior is planning to computerize the process of elections in Israel, using electronic voting machines. They are planning to start by running a pilot in ten settlements during the upcoming Nov. 27, 2007 council elections.
Sources:

This is a Bad Idea

The following reasons are given for the move to computerized elections:

  1. Reduction and even elimination of rigging votes and multiple voting.
  2. Election results availability few minutes after end of elections.
  3. Budgetary savings.
  4. Ability to vote from anywhere without special procedures.

Unfortunately, the first three reasons are either untrue or are insufficient justification for switching to computerized elections.

  1. The worldwide experience with election machines is that they are not secure, not well-designed, violate anonymity of votes, and facilitate rigging of votes even more than paper based ballots.
    Sources:

  2. Election results are not available if the voting machines develop technical problems, as they did in several elections in the world. A more fundamental point is that the integrity of the election process is worth the wait until the next morning. Confronted by the choice between rigged elections with speedy results and clean elections with results available only after 10 hours or so, every sane citizen would choose the second alternative without thinking twice.
  3. Any budgetary savings from using election machines are wiped by bad policies adopted by corrupt politicians, who got elected to office thanks to corrupt elections process. This is one place where one could be penny wise and Pound foolish (or one million wise and ten billion foolish).
  4. The fourth goal of computerized elections can be accomplished by alternative means - for example, by using computers only to verify that a voter did not already vote elsewhere. Paper ballots can still be used for the actual votes.

See also:

It is to be noted that the talkbacks to the news items about the Israeli Ministry of Interior plans demonstrate that Israelis are clueful about the dangers of electronic elections.

What Can be Done About This?

  • Find which voting machines will be used in the pilot and publicize audit results and cracking tips available from other countries where they were already used.
  • Refuse to vote in the voting machines during the pilot.
  • In the pilot, the results from the electronic voting machines will not have official use, so it may not be unlawful to actually crack into them. DISCLAIMER: IANAL. CONSULT WITH YOUR LAWYER BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS SUGGESTION.

Three practical philosophies

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Summary

In addition to major life philosophies and religions, there are also various philosophies and methods which aim at doing better various things in life. In this post I write about three such “minor” philosophies.

Feldenkrais Method

The Feldenkrais Method belongs to the realm of complementary and alternative medicine. It stresses user physical movements. It is applied by people like dancers or musicians, who want to improve their movement repertoire, and by people, who want to reduce their pain or movement limitations. One famous student of the Feldenkrais Method was David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel.
Wikipedia article (also source of this summary): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feldenkrais_Method
The Feldenkrais Method Center: http://www.feldenkrais-center.com/INDEX_ENG.HTM

Eliahu Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) belongs to the realm of business and organizational management. Each system (business or organization) has a goal to be maximized. Each system has also a key constraint, which limits the system’s performance relative to its goal. In order to manage the system’s performance, the key constraint must be identified and dealt with.
Wikipedia article (also source of this summary): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_Constraints

Steve Litt’s Universal Troubleshooting Process

The Universal Troubleshooting Process (UTP) belongs to the realms of repairing malfunctioning equipment and software debugging. It is a method for troubleshooting reproducible problems and ensuring that once they are fixed - they stay fixed.
The core of this process is a 10-step process, which covers preparations, actual diagnosis, repair, and post-repair work.
Longer description of the process: http://www.troubleshooters.com/tuni.htm

Technology Predictor Success Matrix

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

Technology Predictor Success Matrix - the reason why you are going to stay up awake all night and be glued to the WWW.
Technology Predictor Success Matrix
What · Technology · Prediction

Broadband Internet does not have to be expensive

Monday, December 26th, 2005

In Dharamsala, Dalai Lama’s home in exile, they managed to install a solar-powered wireless mesh at low budget.
Network Watch article
Tibetan Technology Center blog