Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Body Scanners: the Capitalists Strike Back.

So you know those shiny new body scanners that airports are rolling out?
Well there are alot of people up in arms about the privacy affects of them.
It's essentially a way to digitally remove clothing to check for weapons or other security infractions.
It's like strip searching, just easier and faster.
Heres a thought...
Obviously what ever waves they're using, it doesn't penetrate everything. 
Otherwise the weapons, or the bodies for that matter, wouldn't show up on the screen.
Metal seems to be reflected, as does body fat.
So for the privacy fanatics, we should create a brand line of underwear that blocked the body scanners.
Maybe it could contain a metal mesh.
I'm not sure if that would work, but surely there is some form of material that would block the waves.
Even better, make Tshirts with lettering made out of the material.
It could say "Mind Your Own Business" or "I See You Too".
Just to mess with their heads.
And make stickers with the letters.
So people could write their own messages to our friendly TSA agents.
Just a thought.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Purely Data Phones

   Back in April I wrote about Google Voice incorporating VIOP and using it over a phone with only a data plan, or over wifi, and not having a voice or text plan, similar to Clear's services. Then in May I wrote about how clear was considering making a product of their own that ran on a nearly identical concept. Well about a month ago, Google launched Voice through GMail. I've used it quite a bit and i love it. Now all they need to do is update the Google Voice app (Including multiple OS's) so it can take advantage of this capability.

Google's Automated Navigation for Automobiles and Why it's Pure Genius

   Google just announced that they are actively testing a car that can drive itself. The New York Times has a few more details. So far, their automated Prius has logged over 140,000 with only minor human intervention. The last 1,000 miles have been 100% human action free. The only collision experienced was when someone else rear ended them at a red light.
   So what does this mean for you and me? It means the day when we can just tell our vehicles where we want to go and then sit back and enjoy the ride are within the visible near future. It means I can safely study for that impending midterm or review that big presentation on the way to school or work. It means possibly automating public transit. It means traffic will automatically yield right-of-way to emergency vehicles when lives are on the line. It means hands free driving and calling. It means fewer accidents, less traffic, fewer tickets for lead-footers (you know who you are).
   This is great for us, but what is in it for Google. How is Google going to make money or even recover R&D costs from this projects? I highly doubt that Google is going to start making cars. They aren't very likely to build automated navigation hardware to sell. It's even very likely they'll give the software away for free. What do they stand to benefit from the existence of such a technology?
    Many people asked how Google intends to make money off Android, since it doesn't have ads and they don't charge for it. The fact of the matter is, they already have. They gave app developers the ability to include AdSense into their apps. And Google gets a cut of that add revenue. That cut had already paid for the development costs of Android. They made money off the project indirectly as opposed to directly. It's not a very common business strategy, but it seems too have worked for them.   The same concept will apply to the automated navigation systems. If I had a car that would drive for me, I'd no longer be limited to just listening to the news or music. I wouldn't even be limited to listening. I could do anything I wanted. What do you do when you have 10-30 minutes on your hands and nothing pressing to do. I get on the internet. And where does Google make their money? On the internet. Selling add space to customers and showing it on their search results as well as through other people's sites via AdSense.
   You've seen how bad traffic can get. Think about that as a potential untapped market. Assuming one out of every ten trips makes one search while they're driving/riding, Think of the revenue Google would make in one year. That would easily recoop any investment they make into this automation technology.
   And think of the possibilities in data mining. Google will have position and real time traffic data from every car that has this kind of system installed. They will know exactly how fast traffic is moving at every junction. They will have greater data for ads based on your driving habits and detours. Think of the possibilities for Google with all that real time data.
   There may not be any obviously direct positive results from this project, but that's not how Google works. They don't make money off anything directly. Even search and GMail. they don't make money off the email you're reading, or the search you just requested. They make money off on the side of the screen. They make money indirectly from all their products. That's just how Google rolls.

Sources:
Google
New York Times

An Idea for New Book Format

   How many learning styles are there?
According to Flemming's VAK model there are three.

  1. Visual
  2. Auditory
  3. Kinetic
   There are tests out there you can take to find out which one you're brain favors. Many people lean towards two. I've taken a few of these over the years and I tend to be fairly well balanced between all three.
   When an author writes a book, like a text book, how many versions do they write? Just one. Now, they do print multiple editions, but that is merely to add updated informations, or in some cases to sell more books by inhibiting resales. 

   How many text books cover all three learning styles well enough? I have yet to find one that even attempts to make an effort of equally incorporating all three styles. They usually focus entirely on one form or another.
   I understand that you can't exactly make a book talk to accommodate auditory learners, but something can be included in the book that can. A CD or DVD. many programming books come with CDs, Why not history books? Or literature? Or even math? The CD could be an audio version of the book. It could be listened too in the car, while working out, or while cleaning. The CD could also include videos for those kinesthetic learners to follow along. 
   Each book tends to focus only on those that learn well from reading. There are the occasional pictures, but not many. I suspect this is why some students like a certain text book while others despise it. The students that like it are likely of the same learning style as the author.
   This could explain some educational television shows, such as National Geographic and Nova, make use of all three elements of learning. There is always great visuals, a narrator or some form of dialog, and some even throw up a text summary for each section. I loved watching Bill Nye the Science Guy as a kid (I still do). They always had an enthusiastic person narrating with crazy visuals than a bullet point summary. 
   Why can't books do that? because authors are tied to the traditional meaning of the book. The ones that work really hard at it have great visuals. Part of me suspects that the only reason some of the science books have semi decent pictures is because the author is a visual learner himself and that is the only way he knows to describe what he is talking about.

   This would be a great way to incorporate eBooks. include the eBook with the textbook. This way those who need the feel of the book have it. Those who need the videos have it. and those who need the audio books have it. There is no reason not to bundle these all together to make a greater learning experience. A quick glance at developments is eReaders seems to indicate the technology is close to creating a consumer device that is portable and can handle all three learning styles. Until than laptops can make do, but i would like to see something similar to an iPad or Kindle form factor. Now that I think about it, iPads could handle this type of thing right now. We just need a compatible app (or browser) and the content.

   So here is what we need: a publisher that will bundle the content and authors that will collaborate. Obviously an author will write his book in the form learning style that he is best at. The publisher would then pass on the material to another person who has an auditory learning style to create the audio book, and then onto a kinesthetic and visual team to create the videos. These products are all packaged together and sold as one.
   I don't know about the rest of you, but I would get alot of benefit from something like this since my learning style is fairly close to being equally balanced. I suspect nearly everyone would benefit from something like this sense they would be ably to tailor their studying to their learning style. I hope to see something like this in the future. It doesn't seem too far fetched.