Friday, March 5, 2010

No more hydro bill...

One of the interesting side effects of last year's stimulus bill was $400 million in funding for ARPA-E, the civilian, energy-focused cousin of DARPA. And in this week's first ever ARPA-E conference, MIT chemist Dan Nocera showed how well he put that stimulus money to use by highlighting his new photosynthetic process. Using a special catalyst, the process splits water into oxygen and hydrogen fuel efficiently enough to power a home using only sunlight and a bottle of water.
Like organic photosynthesis, Nocera's reaction uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and energy. However, whereas plants create energy in the form of sugars, this process creates energy in the form of free hydrogen. That hydrogen can either be recombined with the oxygen in a fuel cell to generate electricity, or converted into a liquid fuel.
In about four hours, water treated with Nocera's catalyst can produce 30 kilowatt-hours of energy. Moreover, the process is cheap. So cheap, in fact, that Nocera has no problem envisioning a day when each house generates its own fuel and electricity from photosynthesis.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

W3 School

Featuring one of the largest collections of tutorials and reference articles for web developers on the internet, W3 Schools offers a huge assortment of learning and training resources on just about every relevant language and web service in use on the web today. You’ll find content tailored towards the full range from beginner to expert developer along with code examples, quizzes, tutorials, and reference guides in a relatively clean and well-organized site complete with a well-trafficked forum community.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

10 small steps for better heart health

Change is an important part of living with heart disease or trying to prevent it. A jump in blood pressure or cholesterol earns you a lecture on healthy lifestyle changes. Heart attack and stroke survivors are often told to alter a lifetime of habits.

Some people manage to overhaul their exercise pattern, diet, and unhealthy habits with ease. The rest of us try to make changes, but don’t always succeed. Instead of undertaking a huge makeover, you might be able to improve your heart’s health with a series of small changes. Once you get going, you may find that change isn’t so hard. This approach may take longer, but it could also motivate you to make some big changes.

Here are 10 small steps to get you on the road to better health in 2010.

1. Take a 10-minute walk. If you don’t exercise at all, a brief walk is a great way to start. If you do, it’s a good way to add more exercise to your day.

2. Give yourself a lift. Lifting a hardcover book or a two-pound weight a few times a day can help tone your arm muscles. When that becomes a breeze, move on to heavier items or join a gym.

3. Eat one extra fruit or vegetable a day. Fruits and vegetables are inexpensive, taste good, and are good for everything from your brain to your bowels.

4. Make breakfast count. Start the day with some fruit and a serving of whole grains, like oatmeal, bran flakes, or whole-wheat toast.

5. Stop drinking your calories. Cutting out just one sugar-sweetened soda or calorie-laden latte can easily save you 100 or more calories a day. Over a year, that can translate into a 10-pound weight loss.

6. Have a handful of nuts. Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and other nuts are good for your heart. Try grabbing some instead of chips or cookies when you need a snack, adding them to salads for a healthful and tasty crunch, or using them in place of meat in pasta and other dishes.

7. Sample the fruits of the sea. Eat fish or other types of seafood instead of red meat once a week. It’s good for the heart, the brain, and the waistline.

8. Breathe deeply. Try breathing slowly and deeply for a few minutes a day. It can help you relax. Slow, deep breathing may also help lower blood pressure.

9. Wash your hands often. Scrubbing up with soap and water often during the day is a great way to protect your heart and health. The flu, pneumonia, and other infections can be very hard on the heart.

10. Count your blessings. Taking a moment each day to acknowledge the blessings in your life is one way to start tapping into other positive emotions. These have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being, just as their opposites — chronic anger, worry, and hostility — contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

King of pop

Sources have confirmed to Billboard that a deal between the Michael Jackson Estate, AEG Live and Sony for a theatrical release of the Michael Jackson rehearsal footage from the ill-fated This Is It concerts could close today, though there are still some “unsettled terms” that are being negotiated. In fact, the deal is in such flux that it could shift to another studio by the end of the day. According to the source, Sony Music may co-invest with one of the film studios on this release, including Sony Pictures.

The source also says that Michael Jackson’s father Joe Jackson’s efforts in conjunction with promoter Leonard Rowe have “muddied the waters” in the Michael Jackson Estate and AEG’s attempt to close a TV network deal for the presentation of the original This Is It production, created by Jackson and Kenny Ortega.

The This Is It special has been conceived as a tribute to MJ featuring Janet, the Jackson 5, and other major performers. The source says Joe Jackson has been shopping his own Jackson Family special on MJ’s birthday on Aug. 29, which neither Janet Jackson nor the Jackson brothers have agreed to.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reasons not to get iPad

Big, Ugly Bezel

Have you seen the bezel on this thing?! It's huge! I know you don't want to accidentally input a command when your thumb is holding it, but come on.

No Multitasking
This is a backbreaker. If this is supposed to be a replacement for netbooks, how can it possibly not have multitasking? Are you saying I can't listen to Pandora while writing a document? I can't have my Twitter app open at the same time as my browser? I can't have AIM open at the same time as my email? Are you kidding me? This alone guarantees that I will not buy this product.

No Cameras
No front facing camera is one thing. But no back facing camera either? Why the hell not? I can't imagine what the downside was for including at least one camera. Could this thing not handle video iChat?

Touch Keyboard
So much for Apple revolutionizing tablet inputs; this is the same big, ugly touchscreen keyboard we've seen on other tablets, and unless you're lying on the couch with your knees propping it up, it'll be awkward to use.

Want to watch those nice HD videos you downloaded from iTunes on your TV? Too damned bad! If you were truly loyal, you'd just buy an AppleTV already.

The Name iPad
Get ready for Maxi pad jokes, and lots of 'em!

No Flash
No Flash is annoying but not a dealbreaker on the iPhone and iPod Touch. On something that's supposed to be closer to a netbook or laptop? It will leave huge, gaping holes in websites. I hope you don't care about streaming video! God knows not many casual internet users do. Oh wait, nevermind, they all do.

Adapters, Adapters, Adapters
So much for those smooth lines. If you want to plug anything into this, such as a digital camera, you need all sorts of ugly adapters. You need an adapter for USB for god's sake.

It's Not Widescreen
Widescreen movies look lousy on this thing thanks to its 4:3 screen, according to Blam, who checked out some of Star Trek on one. It's like owning a 4:3 TV all over again!

Doesn't Support T-Mobile 3G
Sure, it's "unlocked." But it won't work on T-Mobile, and it uses microSIMs that literally no one else uses.

A Closed App Ecosystem
The iPad only runs apps from the App Store. The same App Store that is notorious for banning apps for no real reason, such as Google Voice. Sure, netbooks might not have touchscreens, but you can install whatever software you'd like on them. Want to run a different browser on your iPad? Too bad!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Apple iPad

Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage in San Francisco today and unveiled the iPad. The tablet device is “more intimate than a laptop, and it’s so much more capable than a smartphone,” according to Jobs. What it looks like is enlarged iPhone.

Jobs dandled the hardcover novel sized device in his hands, looking very close to the 10 inch screen many had predicted.

The device is .5 inches thick with a 9.7 inch screen. It weighs only 1.5 lbs and holds 10 hours of battery life.

It will hold either 16, 32 or 64 gigabytes of flash storage. It is wireless and Bluetooth equipped.

On the all-important application side, the iPad can run apps from Apple’s store in one of two ways: You can see it at the original size in middle of the iPad and with black around it or the iPad can double the pixels to run it full screen.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What exercise can do for you

Millions of Canadians simply aren’t moving enough to meet the minimum threshold for good health — that is, burning at least 700 to 1,000 calories a week through physical pursuits. The benefits of exercise may sound too good to be true, but decades of solid science confirm that exercise improves health and can extend your life. Adding as little as half an hour of moderately intense physical activity to your day can help you avoid a host of serious ailments, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and several types of cancer, particularly breast and colon cancers. Regular exercise can also help you sleep better, reduce stress, control your weight, brighten your mood, sharpen your mental functioning, and improve your sex life.

A well-rounded exercise program has four components: aerobic activity, strength training, flexibility training, and balance exercises. Each benefits your body in a different way.

Exercise at a glance

In a nutshell, exercise can:

  • reduce your chances of getting heart disease. For those who already have heart disease, exercise reduces the chances of dying from it.
  • lower your risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.
  • reduce your risk for colon cancer and some other forms of cancer.
  • improve your mood and mental functioning.
  • keep your bones strong and joints healthy.
  • help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • help you maintain your independence well into your later years.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Six types of IT learners

A new study from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario that looks at how people learn technology in organizations finds formal methods are least common. Hands-on and peer-based forms of informal and incidental learning occur most often.

The study also identified six types of learners: purposive planners, explorers, visionaries, problem solvers, reluctant learners and pinballs. The January 2010 issue of Impact published by the Ivey Business School defines the categories as follows:

“Purposive planners are very structured and self-disciplined in their approach. They plan carefully and with a lot of attention to detail, and once they’ve made their plan they act on it.”

“Explorers find time to learn on their own because they find it fun or useful. They might for example, stop in the middle of a task and spend some time looking at menu choices or drilling down into new areas.”

“Visionaries are people who find out about new technologies and think about what these could do for them personally and in their organizations. Visionaries are sometimes explorers. They tend to be lateral thinkers, and look at technology from a very strategic perspective.”

“Problem solvers are not necessarily interested in technology, but are very interested in mastering their workplace tasks. They tend to have a strong task-oriented mindset.”

“Pinballs are people who don’t think about learning, but simply bounce around between technologies, picking up knowledge while they’re being buffeted about. They tend to do a lot of incidental learning, and some actually become quite capable users of technology.

”Reluctant learners “are people who don’t really see the value of technology in their jobs. They simple focus on what they have to learn to survive in the organization.”

Individuals don’t necessarily fit into only one category. The interesting thing about the categories is that they tend to overlap. Some categories may relate to what someone does, while other categories might relate to how that person thinks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Solar eclipse

In last week's solar eclipse, the moon didn't quite blot out the entire sun. That's what made it such a beautiful sight.

Called an annular eclipse (annular means ring-shaped), the moon blocked all but the sun's outer edge, creating a fiery hoop in the sky. Canadian astronomy fans didn't get a chance to see it. It was only visible along a 300 km-wide strip stretching from Central Africa to China.

The Mail Online's excellent coverage includes a video of the eclipse in progress in various spots including Kenya and India.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Windows Mobile 7

The Windows Mobile rumor mill is officially in overdrive after a blog by the name of Bright Side of News claimed it "spoke with representatives from Microsoft, Lenovo, Qualcomm, TI, Nokia, nVidia, HTC and many more" and the sources said Windows Mobile 7 had been delayed until 2011. This conflicts with invitations bloggers like istartedsomething received from Redmond to Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona regarding "several exciting announcements" about Microsoft's "consumer vision and grow opportunities for the mobile industry as a whole." Upon closer inspection though, Windows Mobile 7 is not mentioned specifically in the invitation.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google is considering withdrawing from China

The attack was also made on about 20 large corporations operating in China and the company says it has evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

The unprecedented threat by the world biggest internet company casts China’s notorious disregard for intellectual property in an entirely new light and potentially raises a major obstacle for the country’s push for wider acceptance in the global community.

Google was criticised when it launched in 2006 for accepting government censorship, but said this will now stop and over the next the few weeks will discuss with the Chinese government the basis on which it could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Toronto school board to stop buying Macs

The decision, which surfaced late last year, is now under fire from one school board trustee, who argues that students and staff should be exposed to more than just one computing platform. Find out why the board changed its policy. In an effort to cut costs, the Toronto District School Board plans to stop introducing new Apple Inc. computers into classrooms for general use.

The new internal IT policy could lead to most TDSB students only being exposed to PC computers. The exception to this rule will be for specialized school departments where Mac usage is seen as the industry standard, such as the Media Arts or Music disciplines.