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A Drone of Your Own: The Booming Personal Drone Market

[ Comments Off ]Posted on January 3, 2013 by admin in Technology

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Who watches the watchers? YOU can, if you get ahead of the game. Why let Homeland Security and the NSA have all the fun? Here are three affordable personal drones you can buy TODAY.

Just don’t get carried away like this
fellow in New Zealand, who was eventually shut down by the government.

Remember the good old days, when a US Military drone was something we shot at for target practice? Probably not. I only do because as a kid, I had dreams of being an aerospace engineer, and actually built a functioning model of the Air Force XQ-4 target drone. In any case, guess what! Times have changed, and now, as you probably know all too well, military drones shoot at US! Yes, even “us” as in American citizens. But stop pouting in the corner like some liberal peacemonger about how Skynet and Terminators are just around the corner and we’re all doomed. The fact is, the military has no monopoly on drone technology; in fact non-military drones already outnumber military ones by about 2-1, according to this March 2012 Washington Times piece. Probably just as scary as surveillance and attack drones in American skies is the fact that FEDEX, for instance, is eager to convert ALL their air transports  to unmanned vehicles. Ever experienced the minor chaos that ensues when Google Docs or Gmail goes down? Well, imagine every cargo aircraft in America “going down”. But don’t fret, get on board! There are plenty of pretty amazing personal drones on the market, and frankly, the smartest innovators these days are anti-war hacker types who are more likely to be members of Anonymous than the military. So if it comes down to “The Drone Wars”, we have the smarter people on our side. We’ll probably do a more in-depth piece soon; there’s something of a drone boom going on. But rather than, um, drone on about my personal theories on the topic, for now we have a roundup below of drones you can buy TODAY, and prepare for the NEXT trendy end of the world scenario, the Drone Wars. Read the rest of this entry »

Pregnant with an Idea: Swiss Researchers to Give Birth to Roboy in 2013

[ Comments Off ]Posted on December 26, 2012 by admin in Technology

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

A human-like robot child? What could possibly go wrong? Apparently they don’t watch Sci-fi movies in Switzerland.

Dear Lord. Didn’t the folks at the University of Zurich see Artificial Intelligence or the Spanish film EVA? Apparently not, or they wouldn’t have embarked on a nine month journey to give birth to one of the world’s most advanced humanoid robots, a tendon-driven “service robot” modeled on human beings. Hopefully Roboy’s similarities to humans end at the gestation period and tendon-driven movement (most humanoid robots have motors in the joints, giving them that, er, robotic movement) and he won’t be imbued with the sentience that makes all the best movie robots go nuts. We’ve been poking fun at robots since we first went online back in 2008, mostly to point out how much your robot sucks , even if it’s sucking less all the time. But this University of Zurich project is intriguing in a number of ways that set it apart from other robot projects of the last few years. For one, although the actual production of the robot is supported by corporate sponsors, the overall development is being open-sourced. As much progress as companies like Honda have made with their proprietary corporate approach, it seems somehow reasonable to expect that the final leaps toward a robot human enough to be truly creepy will come from collective “parenting” of crowdsourced human inspiration. Second, the group developing Roboy is intentionally placing considerable emphasis on the “human-ness” of robotic design, as is evident in their ECCE project (video below). Those of us who have seen enough dystopian robot sci-fi movies will find little comfort in the words that create the acronym for the ECCEROBOT, i.e.: “Embodied Cognition in a Compliantly Engineered Robot”. I for one like to start with the assumption that a robot is “compliantly engineered”, not be reassured of the fact in the robot’s very name! But enough poking fun. The truth is that the reality of human-like robots is probably approaching faster than we think. The U of Z projects are being built largely with almost “off the shelf” components; imagine what a bunch of financing and design-specific parts could do. You can still support the Roboy project HERE, and maybe we should. Maybe we can get a head start on the inevitable Oppressionbots the US Military is probably working on in secret. See the ECCE video below. Read the rest of this entry »

Verizon or AT&T Breaking Your Heart? Why Not Dump the Bitch and Make the Switch?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 19, 2012 by admin in Technology

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

There was a time when “prepaid” meant “brokeass”, but prepaid cellphone providers are now amongst the top-rated, beating the big three with low prices, solid coverage, and NO CONTRACTS. Switching mobile providers is easier than you think.

Dump the Bitch
This parody image borrows from an
hilarious book by Cynthia Heimel

Years ago, whenever I was having problems with a girlfriend, a dear friend of mine who was gay would cattily say “Why don’t you just dump the bitch and make the switch?” In spite of the sexist term, this always drew a laugh and eased some of the seriousness of the situation. So I’m here to offer you some similar advice. I know, I know. You’ve been with her for what – two years? Five, ten years? In the beginning, she was sweet to you. She seemed to give you the world, and all she asked in return was a little loyalty. “Just promise you’ll be with me for TWO YEARS” she said, “and I’ll give you everything you could possibly want”. And she WAS like a new lover every two years, getting a complete makeover, just to please you, because she knew that others were vying for your attention. Then, at some point, she started getting a little more clingy. A little more selfish. She had you roped in, so she said “Well, if you really love me, you’ll stick around ANOTHER two years. But this time, I’m not putting out. And if you want to keep me happy, you’ll have to THROW DOWN SOME CHANGE, buddy!” After a while, even though you needed her pretty much 24/7, you felt trapped and exploited. And by then, there were only a couple of others who still might want you, and they seemed to be just about as high-maintenance. How would you ever escape this smothering relationship? Well, as it turns out, there’s some fresh blood in town, so maybe it’s time to break it off.

Whether you’ve been with Verizon or AT&T (by far the dominant duopoly) you may have noticed that over the last decade, the monthly rates have skyrocketed, the great deals have dwindled, and the service – unless you’re paying through the nose for a premium data plan – is no better than it was (and in some cases is worse) than ten years ago. For me, this finally reached critical mass a few months ago, when I went into the local Verizon store for my “new every two” deal. First, I’ll share my little story (I’d love to hear yours in the comments!) and then I’ll tell you how I discovered that “pre-paid” no longer means “broke-ass”, and how easy it was to find and switch to a new provider.

So below is my story. As I said, we’d love to hear yours in the comments. If you don’t want to read my sad tale, just skip to the alternatives I list at the end. Read the rest of this entry »

Your Robot Sucks Less Than Ever

[ Comments Off ]Posted on July 10, 2012 by admin in Technology

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

But now it is going to kill you.

Don’t be fooled by the cuteness. Glowing
red eyes are one of the first signs that
the uprising has begun. See videos below.

Personally, I don’t understand the liberal peaceniks’ big fuss about the Obama administration’s unbridled abuse of drones around the world. What we REALLY should be worried about are our house pets and Skynet, now that Google has created a cat-aware artificial intelligence, and on top of freaky military robots like Big Dog, Pet Man, and Cheetah, we have weird. eleven-pound robots that hop like fleas , maple-seed inspired spybots that can be thrown like boomerangs, and miniature quadrotors that can play the James Bond Theme. Not to mention the squirmy softbots that will be oozing under a door near you soon. Yes, we’ve bemoaned the tragic state of robotics on a couple of occasions previously, first explaining why your robot sucks and later, why it sucks slightly less. We’ve also belittled the progress being made in the field of artificial stupidity. But robots are finally coming into their own. Maybe a little TOO MUCH into their own. Try to imagine thousands of mechanically whining and whirring robot dogs approaching on the horizon, the ground being darkened by millions of buzzing quadrotor drones above them, while in their midst bipedal metal men hurl single-bladed mini-copters at you, and you either have the makings of a great new near-future sci-fi thriller, or an accurate vision of our impending doom. If Google’s computers can learn to recognize human faces that is. Until then, hide your cat. Below are some videos of the latest preparations for the robopocalypse. Read the rest of this entry »

Beneath the Surface of Microsoft Surface

[ Comments Off ]Posted on June 19, 2012 by admin in Technology

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

It’s the interface, stupid. And what Microsoft is doing may be bigger than you think.

Last week, some words came out of my mouth that you don’t hear coming from my mouth too often. They were “I’m really excited about this new Microsoft product!” Strangely, I wasn’t referring to Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. I had no idea it was coming. I was actually referring to Windows 8, but the announcement of the new Microsoft hardware just validated the things I was saying to a friend about why Windows 8 had me worked up. The funny thing is, I’m not really that excited about Windows 8 itself. I’m no Microsoft Fanboy by a long shot. I’m still running XP, because when I use a computer I really prefer ignoring the OS so I can just get work done. And glassy swooping windows don’t help me get work done. I even turn that stuff off on my beloved MacBook. And I don’t feel like battling with Linux. No, what I’m excited about is the fact that Windows 8 and a viable Windows tablet (don’t forget, they’ve tried this before) will probably push a paradigm shift I’ve personally been waiting for for almost a decade. And I think a lot of tech industry writers are really missing a beat here on the significance of what Microsoft is doing, by zeroing in separately on the device or the OS as focal points, rather than looking at the whole shift that is occurring. It’s similar to how the industry got wowed by the iPad or Kindle, while failing to notice the genius of where the real change was taking place, which was in the control of content. No, I think there’s a bigger shift afoot thanks to Microsoft’s new direction. Read the rest of this entry »

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