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Royal Wedding is Top Search Term of 2011

by Jenna Mc

So what was the topic most of us wanted to find out about . . . was it about the Eurozone crisis or the Libyan civil war? Erm…no. Most of us wanted the latest info on the Royal wedding.

Fair play, we did get a bank holiday for the occasion.

Next up was the “What is” list. So what were people searching for here? Was it, “what is the meaning of life?”, “what is an acceptable amount of consumer debt?”, or “what is the government’s manifesto?” Wrong again! It was “what is scampi?”. . .

Really?

Yes apparently the nation has had a burning desire to find out what scampi is this year. I won’t lie; I don’t know what kind of fish it is either. But more importantly I don’t care, it tastes decent and that’s all you need to know.

But have faith in our nation because topping the “how to” list was “how to revise”. It’s lovely to know the youth of today are still working hard to obtain those important qualifications to make sure they’re one of the few that might actually get a job at the end of their education, if they’re lucky.

I also felt slightly sad when I heard that a lot of us Googling “How to snog” . . .the less I say about that the better.

So after ripping apart the nation’s search terms, let me tell you what I hope for on next year’s list!

How to solve world hunger
How to create world peace
What is Apple iHome?
What is Apple iCar?
Who invented worldwide free wifi with no bad signal areas?
What day did aliens make contact with humans?
How did Jenna solve the world economic crisis?

So what do you think of my list, realistic much?

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SOPA Update: December 29th is “Dump GoDaddy Day”

by Emma Dunn

The latest casualty of the SOPA debate appears to be GoDaddy, who is expecting to lose thousands of customers tomorrow in what has been claimed to be “Dump GoDaddy Day”.

The whole motion has been started by a single humble Reddit user, who is expected to be joined by thousands more when they move their domains away from GoDaddy’s servers tomorrow.

And the reason? For a brief period of time, it appeared as if GoDaddy supported the controversial ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’ (or SOPA), which is currently doing the rounds in the US congress.

For those who don’t know, SOPA is a bill that is set to change life online forever. It will grant the US government permission to block Americans from visiting websites that are suspected of copyright infringement.

As you may expect, music record labels and Hollywood have come out in favour of the bill. And who can blame them? After all, online torrent libraries of pirated movies are harmful to the entertainment industry.

However, Silicon Valley are up in arms because there is huge potential for damage to perfectly innocent sites.

For example: sites that are based on the sharing of user generated content (e.g. Tumblr, Reddit, Digg, and so on) could be blocked on the basis of something that one of their users posted. As a result, sites become liable for user generated content.

This has a massive impact on many social sites, and fewer start-ups are likely to take the plunge in what could be a volatile political environment.

While it might not affect us directly in the UK yet, the US has a habit of setting future trends for online legislation, so if SOPA goes through, don’t be surprised if something similar is passed here.

GoDaddy have since retracted their support, but it looks like thousands of people are still likely to make the switch tomorrow. Will you be one of them?

What is your stance on SOPA? Are you worried about the impending bill? Or is it a big fuss over nothing? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!

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Understanding Routers and Switches

by Lisa Brigham

Every so often we come across a concept or a component that may be a little hard to understand. So we’ve created an audio-visual tutorial to break down what we thought may be a useful explanation of routers and switches and what the difference is between them…

In this tutorial you can scroll from side to side or just hover your mouse over the screen toward the right or left to backwards or forwards. By pressing ‘play’, the tutorial will scroll automatically but you can speed it up at any time by interacting with your mouse. Be prepared to learn about routers and switches in the best way possible.

Edu-Robo talks through Routers and Switches. An explanation of routers, switches and the difference between the two.

To lighten things up, here are a few things people have said about routers and switches on Twitter.

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Self-healing Circuits

by James Meikle

Apparently there are teams of scientists in a variety of countries working on ways to create self-healing electronics devices. One such team has had recently had a major success; scientists at the university of Illinois have managed to create a circuit that heals itself when cracked. The tech has been designed so it could work on a really small scale and may eventually lead to self-repairing microchips.

What are they doing? Don’t they know that when the robot apocalypse comes our only chance of survival is to aim for the microchips? Sure, you can blow off an arm or a robo-tentacle, but the automaton assassins just ain’t going to stop coming until you damage the chip. After all, they won’t feel pain, they won’t go into shock and they will of course be hell-bent on our annihilation.

These reckless researchers could end up sealing our fate if they succeed in developing their bloody self-healing chips. Our electronic enemies with be like mash up between two of the most unstoppable types of movie monsters: the relentless killer robots and the supernatural psychos that just refuse to die a la Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Hell the robots could even get cocky and go for a bit of psychological warfare by grabbing massive machetes and donning hockey masks.

Anyway, if we’re going to come up with a way to counter this heinous threat we’re going to have to understand the tech first. Surprisingly, there is no mention of the almost mythical nano-technology; it doesn’t look like we’re going to see robots being repaired by other microscopic robots anytime soon. However, the simplicity and elegance of the actual tech is almost as disturbing.

The circuits are made with tiny liquid metal capsules embedded into the brittle surfaces. When stress is applied the surface cracks and breaks the circuit. However, when the surface cracks the capsules crack along with it and the liquid metal quickly fills the gap, hardens and restores the circuit. It’s almost similar to how our skin reacts to a cut: blood fills the gap, then hardens and restores the seal. With the circuits though, this happens within one millisecond.

Great, the robots with be all healed up before you can even yell ‘Take that you jumped-up toaster!’

But there might actually be a couple of bright sides to this tech. For one, your lovely electrical appliances might last significantly longer. But, more importantly, this tech could be extremely helpful when it comes to space travel. One of the main issues with prolonged space travel is the need for spare parts; on a spaceship it’s kind of difficult to order a new circuit board from eBay. This new tech could give us self-healing circuits which last much longer, meaning that it might actually be feasible for us to escape the mechanical monstrosities by blasting off into space and searching for a new robot free home.

What other fields would benefit from circuits which can heal themselves almost instantly? How would you take out a super-tough robot with a self-repairing chip? Let us know in the comments box below.

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Anniversary of Carl Sagan’s death

by Austin Young

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the death of the, deep breath, American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, science populariser and science communicator, Carl Sagan.

While Sagan’s body of work is, naturally given his resume, pretty broad, he’s perhaps best known in many circles for being the man behind the 13-part TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a show that has been credited with changing the way science was shown on TV forever – pretty high praise.

On top of that, the series, which dealt with a wide range of scientific subjects, including such TV-friendly themes as the origin of life and a perspective of man’s place in the universe – became the most widely watched series in the history of American public television, that is until The Civil War documentary series stole it’s crown in 1990. Still, when you consider the fairly “difficult” subject matter of the series, it certainly did alright!

Of course, Sagan did a lot more than that. While he produced so many scientific papers, books and other various methods of work that they would be too numerous to mention, he’ s revered in pop culture circles for writing the novel Contact, which was, of course, the basis for the 1997 film starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey.

Sagan will forever be revered by anyone who even so much as read any of his work, and Twitter has been full of tributes to the man for much of today.

One user, Rocky_Sci wrote: “Remembering Carl Sagan this morning who left us this day in ’96. The great astrophysicist and cosmologist inspired a generation, including me.”

Another user, GovertTweets, wrote “15 years ago today (20 Dec 1996), Carl Sagan died, great inspirator.”

A famous letter than Isaac Asimov wrote Sagan back in 1974 has also been doing the rounds online, and sums up the man far better, and more concisely, than any tweet or blog post ever could. It read:

“Dear Carl,

“I have just finished The Cosmic Connection and loved every word of it. You are my idea of a good writer because you have an unmannered style, and when I read what you write, I hear you talking.

“One thing about the book made me nervous. It was entirely too obvious that you are smarter than I am. I hate that.

Yours,

Isaac Asimov”

Genius. In every sense of the word.

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99 Percent Invisible – Podcast Review

by Margaret Kay

I came across the podcast 99 Percent Invisible after it was featured on one of my favourite Sciencey/Tech podcasts, Radio Lab. The weekly podcast, produced by Roman Mars for the San Francisco public radio station KALW, investigates various examples of design and architecture that often go unnoticed by most of us.

Though some of the stories focus on more concrete creations, such as the ‘Darth Vader Family Courthouse‘ (episode 39), many of the episodes uncover the unseen design elements that go into various technologies.

For example, in episode 38, the podcast examines ‘The Sound of Sport‘, which may not be as organic as you might think. In fact, what you hear when you watch sports on TV is often finely orchestrated, artificially-created sound. Mars interviews Dennis Baxter and Bill Whiston, who are “sound designers” for televised sporting events. As Dennis Baxter, sound designer for the Olympics, puts it, “There are some sports that you just cannot capture the natural sound,” such as cross country skiing and biathlons – because of the size or the course. Rowing is another sport that’s posed problems. Though video footage is captured using chase boats and helicopters, the noise of the engines completely drown out any natural sound.

So, in order to make the sporting event more entertaining, sound designers like Baxter use samplers (a keyboard attached to a digital recorder) to recreate the swish-swish sound of skis sliding through snow, the pattering of feet pounding the pavement and the splashes of paddles gliding through water. Oh, and the clomp-clomp sound of hooves that you hear when watching a horse race? That’s actually the sound of charging buffaloes, slowed-down and digitally tweaked to make it seem believable.

In a similar episode, Mars looks at ‘The Sound of the Artificial World,’ such as the noise your iPad makes when it unlocks, the various beeps of your mobile keypad and the clicks and clacks of widgets. He asks: Who creates these sounds? And what makes a sound resonate with the public?

Another episode uncovers how the online-based organisation (or non-organisation, as some see it) Anonymous was able to form without any coherent structure or plan. Mars investigates how the group (or non-group, as some see it) created such an effective brand identity despite having no clear hierarchy or set of “rules.”

Aside from the truly captivating topics, Rowan Mars’ narration is excellent. During Episode 31, Mars interviews an information designer named Nicholas Felton, who measures his life in thousands of mundane, daily details. As an example, Felton explains that his report can tell you when you had your first ice cream of the year or “how many hours of your life you’ve spent listening to ‘Hotel California’ on the radio.” After this, Mars quickly adds – “I have to break in here to say that this is where a normal public radio show would play the song ‘Hotel California,’ but I am your friend and I would never do that do you.”

Finally, the podcast works because it isn’t too long. Most episodes are under 10 minutes, which is ideal for my short attention span.

What are your thoughts on these examples of behind-the-scenes design? Any opinions on artificially-created sounds in televised sports? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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Cloud Computing- What is it all for?

by Mhairi Steele

The concept of Cloud Computing has been around since the 60′s but more and more companies are beginning to use cloud computing due to the increase level of security now available. But what is cloud computing and what is it all for?

Cloud Computing is when you use web-based applications to store information, rather than storing data on your computer as well as having access to your company’s computer systems.

There are a number of benefits of Cloud computing, here are a few:
Flexibility

Cloud Computing offers much more flexibility because your employees can see vital data and information from any computer and some also allow you to access business systems securely, remotely.
Low Cost

It also is a low cost option as it has a low cost investment (from as little as £5 a month) and because the cloud is often supplied by another company, there are not IT support staff costs for you to consider.
Quick

It is also a quick service as it allows you to bypass the lengthy set-up time and just start using the service immediately.
Up-to-date

The majority of providers regularly update their systems and add new features so you can be sure that you are constantly up-to-date.
Mobile

You can access the cloud anywhere so if you are away for a meeting or travelling somewhere, you can still access all your information and add to it whilst you are on the move.

There are different types of Cloud Computing, this can include a full cloud-based system or just some documents available online like Google Docs.

A great example of the use of Cloud Computing is this week’s announcement of the Higgs Boson particle which was released via a webcast and then shared via a ‘cloud’ system.

Businesses are increasing using cloud computing mainly because of the low costs and ease of accessibility and according to the BBC, by 2012 businesses using the cloud will double from 2010 levels.

What do you think of cloud computing? Do you use it on a daily basis? Do you use it for personal or business use? Let us know in the comment section below…

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The Future Is Going To Be Great!

I am excited. Every time I have a dig around on the Internet I come across an exciting tech development that makes me wish that I could jump to the future when the product is actually available and doesn’t cost a small fortune to own. Todays bit of tech that got me drooling is from Samsung.

Now, flexible video screens have been done before but this is one that I feel really looks towards the future and how we will be wanting to communicate. So that got me thinking about other ways in which we will want to work and communicate in the future and what will the technology be like.

Another clip I love is the Nokia Morph concept video. We’ve blogged about the Morph concept before, but’s so cool it’s worth a second mention. The clip below is the short version, check out the full post for a long version.

This video is looking at the way that we will interact with future technology, this to me is beginning to get a little bit crazy, the thought that we wont be sitting at a desk with monitor and keyboard is hard to comprehend but who knows this could be the norm in the future.

The next video has gone in another direction. Rather than removing the desk and having everything floating this makes the desk your communication tool. This is obviously an early prototype but I think that this will be an interesting technology to watch as I think it has a lot of potential.

You might be thinking that all this flexi-nano-touch majiggery is some kind of sorcery but sometimes reality is stranger than fiction with a look at technology that already exists.

So will nano technology be in all of our technological thoughts for the future? Well this video suggests what could happen in the future. It is interesting to think about but also a little bit terrifying at the same time.

This is just a round up of what could be the future I am sure that there will already be new ideas and developments occurring all the time. And who knows there may all ready be developments that we have not even conceived yet.

What would you like to see in future technology? Is there a product or service that you feel will change drastically in the future? Let us know in the comments.

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The evolution of Android

by Andrew Moir

Android Inc. was founded in 2003 with a secret mission to develop more dynamic software for mobile phones. Google purchased the company in 2005 and while most didn’t realise the significance of this acquisition, it had long been suspected that the search engine giants would make a move into the mobile sector.

In 2007 the company launched the first version of the operating system, based on the Linux Kernel. Without their own handsets Google needed to find collaborators to run the innovative system and so the Open Handset Alliance began.

The Alliance is a consortium of electronics, technology and communications formed to develop open standards for mobile devices and ultimately challenge Apple’s dominance in the smart phone market.

Since it’s founding in November 2007, the Open Handset Alliance has continued to grow and now comprises of 84 companies including Sony, Motorola, Dell, Intel, HTC, Vodafone and T Mobile.

The first phone to feature the Android system was the HTC Dream. This version of the software featured a number of Google features including G mail, Google Maps and YouTube video viewer.

From having less than 3% market share in 2009 Android has grown exponentially and is now thought to have more than half of the market with the operating system available on more than 130million devices worldwide with 6billion apps downloaded from the Android Market from games to instant messenger.

There have been many versions of the OS since its launch each, fixing bugs and evolving the system. Google has chosen to name each major update after something sweet in alphabetical order. Following the Beta the first major update was version 1.5 otherwise known as Cupcake. This incorporated Widgets and MP4 support. Through Donut, Eclair, Froyo and Gingerbread a vast number of features were added with bluetooth support, voice search, Javascript, Flash, USB connectivity and support for multi-core processors.

The current version is called Ice Cream Sandwich and includes new features such as a customisable launch bar, a built in photo editor, a new tabbed browser and high resolution video recording.

The future seems pretty bright with Android moving away from phones and onto tablets and e-readers like the popular Samsung Galaxy Tab, with a highly customised version featured on the Kindle Fire.

Although the iPhone remains the best selling phone on the market, others like the Samsung Galaxy S2 and HTC Thunderbolt are catching up and Android’s flexibility makes it powerful. However, with Nokia’s collaboration with Windows appearing popular there could be a new player in town.

Do you have an Android or are you married to your iPhone? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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NAO Next Gen- The real life Wall-E

by Mhairi Steele

Aldebaran Robotics, leader in humanoid robotics, have released their latest creation; NAO Next Gen.

The new release from Aldebaran is designed to move like a human! It is a good looking little robot and comes with a 1.6 GHz Intel Atom chip, powerful enough to handle two HD video streams for better facial recognition!

NAO Next Gen has an improved walking rhythm which allows it to walk quicker and an improved algorithm allows it to fall over safely and then pick itself back up.

The little robot has Nuance voice recognition software and can perform ‘word spotting’ where it can respond to certain key words within a larger sentence.

The robot was created to help serve organisations that care and teach autistic children who lose their autonomy. But they can be used by anyone, anywhere and 2000 robots have already been sold and are being used in labs (mashable).

See the full information on the robot on Aldebaran’s press release and this video shows what it can do:

The below video, I think, is brilliant as it shows the NAOclimbing a ladder! A difficult task for robots:

And for a bit of fun, The NAO robots doing Single Ladies:

And Thriller:

So what do you think about the robots? Want one? We certainly do!