Archive for March, 2012

A Look at the History of the Computer

Friday, March 30th, 2012

It’s difficult to envision life without the computer. Today we carry small computers – that’s what smartphones are, after all – in our pockets. However, there was a time when the greater part of consumers did not have a single computer in their homes.

How did computers become such a key appliance in such a short amount of time? This is the question that science historian and author George Dyson asks, and answers, in his new book, Turing’s Cathedral, a sort of personal history of the computer.

The son of scientist Freeman Dyson, George Dyson spent a lot of his life at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies. The very first digital computers were built here under the guidance of scientist Josh von Neumann.

If you read Turing’s Cathedral it will surprise you at how much chance was involved in the development of the machines that let to computers. The book not only highlights the creation of the computer but also the personalities involved at the Princeton Institute. They weren’t always on the same page but managed to create the first digital computer nevertheless.

Genius or not, people are still people, and when working tightly on a single project there are certain to be rivalries and disagreements that occur. Turing’s Cathedral lays these things open, displaying the humanity of the scientist that created the first computer.It was not only the personal disputes that needed to be put aside to make this project prosperous; there were also ethical issues involved. The work that went into the creation of the computer walked hand in hand with the U.S. nuclear weapons project.

You might think that history books are dry reads and a history of computers must be filled with technical jargon. Turing’s Cathedral doesn’t fit that image at all. Anyone who uses a computer will find this book intriguing. Which is an awful lot of people these days.

  • Share/Bookmark

Car Connectivity

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

New vehicles like the Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, and the Audi A6 allow travellers to connect to the Internet from the front seat. These Online connections over Wi-Fi or 3G networks allow motorists to enjoy streaming video, audio, spoken text messaging, and current traffic information. We usually view tech advancements as a positive. But connectivity in the vehicle begs a major question: Is this the best thing?

Challenges of the Connected Car

People get sidetracked when they text or chat with their phones while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 80 percent of traffic accidents involve driver inattention within 3 seconds of the crash. So, if basic cell phone use is a disruption imagine what it would be like if an individual is video Skyping with their best friend while driving or watching that funny Super Bowl commercial.

Does Tech Distract Drivers?

Anything which takes a driver’s attention from the road may be a hazard. Whether it’s texting, making calls, or simply having a companion in the car. Many states have made it illegal to text while driving because of this. This is the primary reason why the news that vehicles are coming out with 3G connections doesn’t make everyone jump for joy.

Browsing the Web Inside Your Car

Soon motorists will be able to receive Facebook updates and browse the web on in-car navigation screens. We may even see the coming of short-range communication allowing drivers who are sharing the road to interact with each other.

As we said before, improvements in technology normally have us excited. But the biggest concern with the connected car is that, will raising the amount of distractions increase the amount of accidents? Car connectivity brings a lot of enjoyment to travelers, especially on long commutes, but it’s essential that drivers recognize the need to stay focused on the road no matter how adorable that video of a baby monkey is.

  • Share/Bookmark

Nanotechnology in Our World

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

You have likely heard about nanotechnology, but perhaps have almost no idea as to what it’s all about and how it applies to you. Nanotechnology can make life easier for all of us; it’s not just the stuff of science fiction. Fundamentally, nanotechnology is the science of working with matter on an atomic scale.

The practical side of nanotechnology

As an example, Science Daily ran a feature story about scientists developing a way to use nanotechnology to reduce the amount of friction in car engines and machines. If this technology becomes widespread, it may help lengthen the lives of machines and engines and enable them to operate more proficiently. Based on the Science Daily story, a team of scientists created tiny polymer particles that were distributed in automobile engine base oils. When tested under conditions that simulated those found in car engines, these tiny particles were found to have an extraordinary capability to reduce friction.

More efficient motors

Even when dispersed at low concentrations they lowered friction considerably, even more so then the friction additives currently being utilized in many industries today. How much more do they reduce friction? By about 55 percent more! Nanotechnology is a expanding industry so expect more findings like this. In fact it is growing so quickly that the United States recently released a national strategy to be certain that environmental, health, and safety research needs are addressed in the field.

The emerging world of nanotechnology

Next time you consider nanotechnology think of your car’s engine. Someday nanotechnology might be responsible for helping you save lots of money due to your engine using less gas.

  • Share/Bookmark

What is Google: Solve for X

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

We are all aware there are big problems in the world today; debt crises, illiteracy, global warming, are only a few. Google has developed a team to generate radical ideas to find answers to the world’s biggest problems, and they call the initiative “Solve for X“.

Tackling the biggest global issues

You may wonder, how can a group of people at “Solve for X” find answers to problems that have confused world leaders for years? The brain trust at “Solve for X” is comprised of forty-six scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators from all around the world. And these people are eager. Google explains it as: “This combination of things—a huge problem to solve, a radical solution for solving it and the breakthrough technology to make it happen—is the essence of a moonshot.”

Tackling water scarcity

The Mashable.com recently ran an intriguing feature story on the “Solve for X” project. Mashable cited the account of a participant in a “Solve for X” retreat who asserted that the minds gathered with him were working on the huge issue of global water scarcity. What sort of solutions are “Solve for X” members creating to manage this problem? One involved forward osmosis with recycled ammonium salts. If you have no idea what that means, don’t fret—the folks at “Solve for X” do.

The need for technology brain trusts

Whether or not “Solve for X” produces real solutions for the world’s problems, the concept definitely has value. Technology is typically developed with a single objective in mind, usually for entertainment. That being said, it’s likely that there are many ways we could use current technologies that we haven’t considered. Ideally, “Solve for X” will help us utilize that potential.

  • Share/Bookmark

The Benefits of Encouraging Creativity in the Workplace

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Do you manage a workplace in which staff members feel free to communicate new ideas? Do your workers come to you with new plans or ideas about ways to run company meetings more effectively? Have your employees ever presented ideas for a new marketing plan or recommended topics for the company’s blog?

If this does not sound familiar, your company may be mistakenly stifling employee creativity. A lack of creativity among your employees, in today’s business environment, can spell the doom for your organization and may keep you one step behind the competitors.

Two heads are better then one right? Well what about a whole business? Promoting creativity means you have many individuals thinking of new ways to enhance your products and services, boost workflow efficiency, and improve overall productivity. This can consequently mean saving the company money.

One of the simplest ways to promote creativity is to listen to employees when they bring their ideas to you. You can also get ideas from them, by sending out an email asking them if they have any ideas for enhancement, whether big or small. When a worker does have an idea, listen to it! You don’t necessarily have to use their idea, but it’s crucial to show them respect.

If you presume that your employees do not have good ideas, then you may be missing out. In addition, not listening to them, or disregarding ideas will encourage your employees to do the bare minimum. You will end up with a bunch of people working for the weekend.

To truly inspire creativity, reward those employees who do come up with strong ideas. This could mean having to pay a small bonus to those employees whose ideas you use. It could mean praising employees in company newsletters or memos. It could even mean an in-person “thank you.”

Many people want a job that allows them to be creative. It stimulates their minds and prevents boring redundancy. Many employees also have ideas on how to improve their place of business; they just haven’t voiced them to you. So encourage them to let you know what they think. It doesn’t mean that the way you have been doing things is bad; it just means that they may have ideas that you many not have thought of. Regardless, you and your business will reap the benefits of their creativity and your employees will be happier for it.

  • Share/Bookmark

What is this Pinterest Thing, and What Does it Mean to Me

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Tired of social media? Ignoring it all together? Well, jump on the bandwagon, because it’s not going away! In fact a new site recently popped up that is rising in popularity: Pinterest. Pinterest is a little different than sites like Facebook and Twitter, since it focuses purely on the interests of the users. This encourages creativity by allowing you to share your interests with others rather than just posting updates about your day-to-day life.

The site’s name offers a clue as to what it’s all about: Pinterest is a combination of “pin,” as in pinboards, and “interest,” as in what you’re all about. Once you join Pinterest, you make your own “pinboards” or categories. You then attach photos and pictures that fit within those categories, as if you were pinning these images onto a bulletin board.

Creating Pinterest Categories

With Pinterest you can create different categories, such as business and fashion, then pin images to each category and make notes about the images along with links to the website you found them on. Then you can decide to share all of your pinboards or only a couple with other Pinterest users.

The Social Part of Pinterest

Of course, social interaction forms the core of Pinterest. You can decide to follow people just like you would on Facebook or Twitter. But you can also choose to follow specific collections. Say an associate has a number of old movie poster images that you find fascinating. But she also has a collection of images of her 3-year-old son which doesn’t quite appeal to you as much. You could choose to follow her movie posters while ignoring her toddler.

Joining Pinterest

This is the most difficult part about Pinterest. You must be invited to participate. You can go to pinterest.com and ask for an invite but there is no telling just how long it will take to receive your invitation. One surefire approach is to ask a friend that has a Pinterest account to invite you.

  • Share/Bookmark

Dressing for Success in the Workplace

Friday, March 9th, 2012

Finding work these days isn’t an easy task. Therefore you have to put your best foot forward when interviewing. A good way to do this is dress the part.

I know what you’re thinking: “The corporate world has gotten so casual—people wear flip-flops for goodness sake! Workplace attire doesn’t matter anymore.” Not true! The way you dress says a whole lot about you and how you feel about your career, and potential employers certainly notice.

Here is a simple rule for any interview: Overdressed is far preferable to under-dressed. Even if you’re interviewing for a company that has a relaxed working environment, you will still should wear proper business attire for the interview. The better dressed you are, the more you show yourself off as someone who is serious about their career and this particular job. If you show up to an interview dressed down, you’re starting from a weaker position.

Then there’s the workplace itself. If you work in a casual environment, one in which formal business attire is not needed, you can still dress for success. This might seem obvious, but always wear clean clothes. Resist the urge to throw on last night’s jeans. Try to always take into consideration the clothes you happen to be wearing, something that looks good, or is business casual clothes. Looking sharp will set you apart as a professional.

Of course, you still have to be a good worker. You can be the best-dressed person on the planet, but it won’t help you if you don’t do your job well. All things being equal, the better-dressed employee will always make the better impression.

  • Share/Bookmark

7 People You Should be Following on Twitter

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

So now that you are on Twitter you’ve probably followed coworkers, clients, and friends. But maybe you are curious about more then what your coworker did over the weekend.

Well, lucky for you, almost everyone has a Twitter now.  This includes celebrities, scientists, entrepreneurs, and legislators and you could follow them and listen to what they’ve got to say.

Here are 7 of the more interesting individuals that you ought to be following on Twitter:

  1. Conan O’Brien: The late-night talk-show host is definitely one of the wittiest people around. He’s also a master of the absurd. With that being said, his Twitter comments are always entertaining. You will be pleased to know, too, that he never promotes his show through his Tweets.
  2. Marissa Mayer: Mayer is the first female engineer at Google, you can get a glimpse into the life of a tech expert as well as learn some interesting things about Google by following her @Marissamayer.
  3. Mike Massimino: Head in the clouds? Then follow @Astro_Mike, the Twitter home to NASA astronaut Mike Massimino. This astronaut can provide you with the inside scoop on life at NASA as well as a glimpse into what it is like to go into space. (He also made a recent cameo on the Tv series The Big Bang Theory. And, yes, he tweeted about it.)
  4. Rainn Wilson: Fans of NBC’s The Office know Rainn Wilson as beet farm owner and top salesman Dwight Schrute. He also runs one of the most entertaining Twitter feeds out there at @Rainnwilson. An example of a recent Tweet: “If I had a bird, I would call it James VanDerBeak.”
  5. Ryan Penagos: For anybody who is curious about Comics, Ryan Penagos Twitter feed helps keep you up to date. He is the editorial director of Marvel Comics and he recently tweeted about a new Spider-Man video game.
  6. Barack Obama: Maybe you didn’t vote for him, but Barack Obama is the president of the United States. How can you not follow his Twitter feed? Have a look at what the Commander in Chief has to say at @BarackObama.
  7. Bill Gates: The impact that this man has had across the world of technology is undeniable. If you’re curious about his daily thoughts and want to get updates about the charitable causes he and his wife devote their time to, follow him @BillGates.
  • Share/Bookmark

Will Windows Phone Change the Way We View Microsoft

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Microsoft is one of the most powerful companies in the world. Its Windows and Office products power computers globally. Microsoft’s chief, Bill Gates, remains to be one of the more important names in the technology field. But one thing…Microsoft is not cool—at least not yet. Having said that, there’s some signs that Microsoft’s new smartphone software, Windows Phone, could possibly change this.

Sure Microsoft’s products are everywhere but, in the eyes of the consumer, they’ve always fallen just short of cutting edge. Microsoft has had a handful of failed products in the past, for instance, the Zune. Do you remember this little mp3 player? How about the Kin phone? These products and others have led to Microsoft’s less then cool reputation.

Windows Phone software, though, seems to be a hit among the technology press. Many media critics say that Windows Phone is one of the best looking and performing smartphone operating systems currently available. That’s heady praise for any company, not just Microsoft.

The praise that Windows Phone receives is predominantly dues to its eye-catching look and the animated home screen tiles, as opposed to the more static home screen of the iPhone. This OS has people fired up as well as it gives users quick access to their social networks. The social media icons on the home screen come to life when a friend posts an update or image, this means you don’t need to click the Facebook icon to get a glimpse of your activity.

Problem is, even with the clever design features of Windows Phone, the operating system has not turned into a big seller. A part of the blame may go to the companies making the actual phones designed with Windows Phone. These phones tend to be fairly bland and blunted Windows Phone sales. At the same time, wireless service providers continue marketing the iPhone and handsets running Google’s Android operating system.

While sales may be lower then desired for Windows Phone the change it is making to Microsoft’s reputation could have a very favourable impact. Where the consumer is concerned, a little cool never hurt a business.

  • Share/Bookmark