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My Google Home turning on our Christmas tree lights and singing Jingle Bells

Posted on: Sun, 2017-12-24 - 21:02 By: admin

My Google Home turning on our Christmas tree lights and singing Jingle Bells

For those celebrating Christmas I wish you a Happy Christmas and to all others a Happy Festive Season. Please feel free to use the comments in this post to wish others. Wishes in comments on this post will be On Topic...

This is the Sonoff Wifi Smart Switch connected to a Christmas tree, and being controlled by my Google Home.

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/H2YNc5P2oEA


China is building solar roadways – ‘transparent concrete’ atop solar cells that charge driving cars

Posted on: Sun, 2017-12-24 - 16:44 By: admin

China is building solar roadways – ‘transparent concrete’ atop solar cells that charge driving cars

China is building roadways with solar panels underneath that may soon have the ability to charge cars wirelessly and digitally assist automated vehicles. This second solar roadway project – part of the Jinan City Expressway – is a 1.2 mile stretch. The building technique involves transparent concrete over a layer of solar panels.

Construction is complete and grid connection is pending, but is expected to be complete before the end of the year.

The Jinan City solar highway is formed with three layers. The top layer is a transparent concrete that has similar structural properties with standard asphalt. The central layer is the solar panels – which are pointed out as being ‘weight bearing.’ The bottom layer is to separate the solar panels from the damp earth underneath. The road will be durable enough to handle vehicles as large as a medium sized truck.

It was noted by engineers that wireless vehicle charging could soon be integrated and automated car functions could take advantage of the inherent data in this this already wired roadway.

See http://bit.ly/2Buj1Cr


Mandrake Linux Creator Launches a New Open Source Mobile OS called eelo

Posted on: Sun, 2017-12-24 - 14:30 By: admin

Mandrake Linux Creator Launches a New Open Source Mobile OS called eelo

After the demise of Ubuntu Phone and Firefox OS, there are not a lot of open source mobile operating systems left in the market. But this doesn’t discourage people from trying something new in this not-so-successful domain (and we need people to have the freedom to try out new ideas otherwise nothing will change).

A couple of months we saw the announcement of ultra-secure and privacy-oriented Librem Phone. And now we have a new crowdfunding campaign for a new open source mobile operating system called eelo.

eelo will be more than just a mobile operating system. It will have its own associated web-services such as email, cloud storage, online office tool etc. eelo is intended for people with a better respect for their personal data and privacy. But at the same time, it wants to give the end-user all the tools that a standard mobile OS provides.

eelo is forked from LineageOS, an open source Android distribution (which indicates it will run Android apps quite easily but not by default from the Googe Play Store). LineageOS can run mainstream applications so it will be used to put together a consistent mobile and web system.

See http://bit.ly/2BrSxRT


Mandrake Linux Creator Announces Open Source Mobile OS "eelo"

How much it costs to build a VR gaming rig in South Africa

Posted on: Sun, 2017-12-24 - 12:47 By: admin

How much it costs to build a VR gaming rig in South Africa

Most standard desktop computers will not be ready for VR use as there are distinct minimum requirements on the graphics card and CPU. In my own case, the CPU and rest of the machine is fine but I would definitely need a new GPU. So it is always worth budgeting for the full requirement. A note on the "more expensive" local costs for VR headsets is to always also consider whether you may need any local support or returns (and sometimes how long it takes to get through customs if you decide to skimp on shipping costs).

See http://bit.ly/2C5fZYC


Budget Buster: Taking a Razor to the cost of Shaving - What if a Simple Choice Saved you NZ$36,000 Over...

Posted on: Sat, 2017-12-23 - 16:02 By: admin

Budget Buster: Taking a Razor to the cost of Shaving - What if a Simple Choice Saved you NZ$36,000 Over 50 Years and You Got a Better Shave?

The business model behind the shaving industry is pure genius. Razors are cheap, even from the top brands. The catch is that they only work with specific cartridges. That means you're locked into buying eye-wateringly expensive replacements until the end of time.

The strategy works so well that it's been copied by heaps of other industries over the years. Think dirt-cheap printers which cost less than a single ink cartridge, or loss-leader mobile phones tied to monthly plans.

Taking the average, the cost per shave is about three and a half cents. Even if you shave every day, that's all of $13 a year. Let's compare that to the cartridges with multiple blades. They're about $5 each, and generally last a week or two. That's 50c a shave, or an annual cost of $182.

What do you get for that price? A whole lot of extra blades, obviously. We have a tendency to assume bigger is always better. Your razor only has three blades? Pathetic! You need at least seven if you really want to give your face the treatment it deserves.

Interestingly, dermatologists don't agree. A single blade can do just as good a job - if not better - at a fraction of the price.

Read the thought-provoking article at https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/money/79714779/Budget-Buster-Taking-a-razor-to-the-cost-of-shaving


Budget Buster: Taking a razor to the cost of shaving |

Why can't mobile phone LED flashlights be used to communicate in Morse code without the Internet in ...

Posted on: Sat, 2017-12-23 - 15:19 By: admin

Why can't mobile phone LED flashlights be used to communicate in Morse code without the Internet in times of emergencies?

It's an idea that been at the back of my mind a for a few months. No cellular signal or Internet means our phones are often useless and whilst I could flash the light on and off manually, I don't know Morse code and what if the receiver also does not know it? An app could, of course, use the LED light on my phone to transmit in Morse automatically if the receiver can understand it. Even better is if the receiver has the same app that "read" the light, or if too weak, a button on the screen could be pressed to match the light signals seen from my phone. This could work quite well over visible light distances and even signal to a passing helicopter.

But watching this TED Talk today by Harald Haas titled "Wireless data from every light bulb" you begin to realise you can speed the same process up and transmit a lot of data. I like the idea too of cars being able to communicate in this way with each other while they drive, all with less radio spectrum being used and at the same time still illuminating the road.

I'm sure there will be challenges too with this approach but it is quite shocking to hear about the efficiency waste behind the use of cell towers. It makes you realise that we drive and invest in a technology because it basically works, but it may not be the most efficient or environmentally friendly way of achieving the same ends. We had (still have) internal combustion engines, but we have discovered far more efficient and less environmentally damaging ways of achieving transport today. We need out-of-the-box thinkers and innovators, we need people to help make it happen, and we need to listen too.

Watch the TED Talk at http://bit.ly/2Bq9MmL


The Kindle Changed the Book Business. Can It Change Books?

Posted on: Sat, 2017-12-23 - 04:10 By: danie

The Kindle Changed the Book Business. Can It Change Books?

A very valid point! Kindles and eBook readers have been mimicking the existing paper book format. Yes, we can argue the pro's and con's of that again but personally, I find many more pro's to using my Kindle and I read a good 25 to 30 books per year on it.

But this article poses the question about why are authors and publishers not changing the format and experience of book reading itself considering all the new advances and tools we have now which offer new opportunities. Why are we still reading long-form books broken into serial chapters?

The next phase for the digital book seems likely to not be about trying to resemble print at all. Instead, the next step is for authors, publishers, and readers to take advantage of all the tools now at their disposal and figure out how to reinvent longform reading. Just as filmmakers like Steven Soderbergh are experimenting with what it means to make a "movie" that's really an app on a totally interactive device with a smaller screen, Amazon and the book world are beginning to figure out what's possible when you're not dealing with paper anymore.

See http://bit.ly/2BXQXL6

This Is The World’s First Fully Solar Train - In Byron Bay Australia

Posted on: Fri, 2017-12-22 - 23:12 By: danie

This Is The World’s First Fully Solar Train - In Byron Bay Australia

Custom curved solar panels on the roof of the train send power to a set of batteries that replace one diesel engine; the other engine is still in place and can provide backup power in an emergency. As the train brakes, it generates more electricity, like a hybrid car. At a train station, the train can be plugged in to pull more power from solar panels on the roof. If there’s a long period without sun – somewhat unlikely in this part of the world–the train can also plug in to get renewable energy from the local grid.

“The large solar array on the platform roof coupled with the custom curved solar panels on the train roof produce more solar energy per day than is required to operate an hourly return service,” says Holmes. With one full charge, the train can make 12 to 15 trips.

Volunteers fully restored the train to its vintage condition to attract more riders–which should take more cars off city streets. The train fits 100 seated passengers, with room for more to stand, and also has a luggage room for bikes and surfboards. A ride costs a little more than $2 (three Aussie dollars).

See http://bit.ly/2BlOy9x

 

 

This Is The World’s First Fully Solar Train

 

 

Snowden’s New App Uses Your Smartphone To Physically Guard Your Laptop (or Anything Else

Posted on: Fri, 2017-12-22 - 23:03 By: danie

Snowden’s New App Uses Your Smartphone To Physically Guard Your Laptop (or Anything Else

The NSA whistleblower and a team of collaborators have been working on a new open source Android app called Haven that you install on a spare smartphone, turning the device into a sort of sentry to watch over your laptop. Haven uses the smartphone’s many sensors — microphone, motion detector, light detector, and cameras — to monitor the room for changes, and it logs everything it notices. The first public beta version of Haven has officially been released; it’s available in the Play Store and on F-Droid, an open source app store for Android.

The app essentially uses all these sensors to detect any event and records this with options to alert you. It's a high tech version of sticking a hair over the crack in the cupboard doors. The scenario described is not about preventing theft, but rather when someone sneaks in to just try steal information. It could work equally well though for people concerned about domestic abuse or teenagers worried about snooping parents etc.

See https://theintercept.com/2017/12/22/snowdens-new-app-uses-your-smartphone-to-physically-guard-your-laptop/


Snowden’s New App Uses Your Smartphone To Physically Guard Your Laptop
"Haven" guards against so-called "evil maid" attacks, in which your boot software is surreptitiously modified to defeat encryption.

Got a Sonoff Wifi Smart Switch to work with my Google Home

Posted on: Fri, 2017-12-22 - 15:30 By: danie

Got a Sonoff Wifi Smart Switch to work with my Google Home

The video below shows me using voice control through my Google Home to remotely switch an extension lead on and off, and to query whether it is in the on or off state. The actual Google Home pairing took less than a minute but the setup of the switch had me a bit challenged. The problem with pairing the switch to my home router was that it kept failing - the short answer is: put the phone into aeroplane mode with Wifi on, and it works flawlessly.

I've posted a few screenshots also at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dvdmerwe/albums/72157691336221165. All in all I'm very impressed with this switch and I'm definately getting a few more. Some of the things it will do are:
1. Switch on or off using the mobile phone app (or a homescreen widget which also shows the switch status).
2. Use Google Home or Siri to switch it on or off, or query status, with your voice.
3. Create a schedule of times to turn it on or off (easily replaces any normal timer switch).
4. Basic timer to countdown to turning off or on.
5. Loop timer to setup schedules to for example turn a pump on for a time and have it off for a time, and to repeat the cycle.
6. Can share control of the switch to another user.
7. As it connects to the cloud you should be able to control it from anywhere in the world.
8. It works on 220V 50Hz but will also work in the USA on 110V. 10A current is good enough to control a wide variety of devices. The nice thing is this switch is also available in most countries around the world.
9. There are also fancier versions of the switch that give additional information. See https://www.itead.cc/wiki/EWeLink_Introduction for some of these as well as further information on its different modes.

Watch the video at https://youtu.be/Fd6EdJJo_R4


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