The BBC posted a great article about how Estonia has embraced technology to overcome its relatively small size, this extract about/from President Toomas Hendrik sums it up nicely:
There’s a story from his time in the US that he is fond of telling. He read a book whose “Luddite, neo-Marxist” thesis, he says, was that computerisation would be the death of work.
The book cited a Kentucky steel mill where several thousands of workers had been made redundant, because after automatisation, the new owners could produce the same amount of steel with only 100 employees.
“This may be bad if you are an American,” he says. “But from an Estonian point of view, where you have this existential angst about your small size – we were at that time only 1.4 million people – I said this is exactly what we need.
“We need to really computerise, in every possible way, to massively increase our functional size.”
I’ve been thinking along similar lines about the future of the UK. We’re much bigger than Estonia, but a relatively small global player, and due to get smaller as numerically larger countries become more developed. Continue reading
I was reading an article about how technology is creeping into the world of clothes shopping, or at least fitting rooms, when I hit a familiar wisdom: “But a size 10 in one shop can easily be a size 14 in another.”
We’ve been able to reduce the cost of clothes by producing them to a generic pattern in a range of sizes. That enables mass production and automation. The problem is that they’ll rarely fit the person who buys them perfectly.
What we could all do with is custom-made clothes, tailored to fit our bodies.
The sizes and shapes clothes are currently designed to are an average of a sample of body measurements. To make clothes fit each individual you would first need to get detailed measurements from each person. Continue reading
So PC sales are falling, big time, there’s a shock. To protect its two cash cows (Windows and Office), Microsoft has jumped into the hardware market to try and guarantee it can expand onto devices other than the serves and workstations that have been its mainstay for the last 30 years.
By all accounts, it’s not going well, with Surface sales poor, while Nokia is still struggling to make headway against Apple and Samsung (although sales of their Lumia range are improving). It’s too early to tell how it’ll pan out, Microsoft has a history of starting slow in new markets, but it has deep enough pockets to stick around to get it right.
So it was with interest I noted the potential launch of a smaller Surface tablet, 7- and/or 8-inch models are rumoured. Add to that the likelihood that Windows Phone is due to have 1080p output by the end of the year and you have some interesting specs to roll together.
Compared to their rivals, the Surface tablets feature quite a lot of connectivity options. Even the lowest model comes with a USB slot, a microSD expansion slot and an HD video out port. These are in addition to Bluetooth support. Continue reading
It was with some sadness I read the story of Iain Banks’ diagnosis of terminal cancer. I’ve not read any of his books (though I’ve been meaning to), but I have recently seen him in a Google Hangout (along with Alastair Reynolds and Peter F. Hamilton) and in a ‘Five Minutes with…’ interview on the BBC.
In both cases he appeared to be more than just an intelligent and thought-provoking man, but one who was energetic and full of zeal. Which makes the news even more shocking, because he appeared perfectly healthy.
Gall bladder cancer is an extremely rare condition, with fewer than 700 people being diagnosed in the UK each year (1,000 according to the NHS). It’s more common in women than men and in people over 70. Iain is 59.
As with many cancers, if caught early enough it may be possible to remove/treat it, but like many other cancers it usually remains undetected until it causes problems, and therefore symptoms, in some other organ. Continue reading
While I’d quite like to get to a situation where I no longer own physical media (books, DVDs, CDs, etc) I’ve yet to find a satisfactory way to do this. Even if I could find all the content I want at a reasonable price an electronic copy falls short in some situations. For example, how exactly do you give them as gifts (I’m sure most of us give books and DVDs as presents fairly often)?
As someone who used to run a second-hand book website I also wonder about resell rights. A physical copy may well be more expensive (though rarely by that much) but you own that copy and are free to sell it on, thereby recouping some of the outlay, or donate it to charity so they can profit from it. Electronic copies are typically just ‘rented’ from the owner. Then there’s loaning a copy to a friend, something which I’m sure we’ve all done, but isn’t possible with electronic versions.
So it was with some interest that I read about Apple’s patent for a loan and resale system for protected digital content. Continue reading
The atrocities carried out under the rule of Nazi Germany showed our ability for almost unimaginable cruelty towards one another and, probably for the first time, they were carried out with scientific precision.
Plenty of people inside and outside of Germany and the other occupied countries knew, or at least suspected, what was going on, though few could or did do anything about it.
We’re familiar with some of those who did. Oskar Schindler is perhaps the most famous due to Steven Spielberg’s film, but there were many individuals and groups who risked their lives for other people, not just Jews (Wikipedia has a partial list of those who helped Jews, while the most prominent are featured in a list of the Righteous among the Nations).
It’s perhaps not unsurprising that I’d never heard of the person celebrated in an email I received recently. Irena Sendler was part of the Polish Underground, who helped Jews throughout the war. She focused on helping children, though she also produced false documents for Jewish families before that, and managed to save at least 2,500 children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. Continue reading
The venerable Windows XP operating system is due to be completely retired in April 2014. First introduced back in 2001, it has stood the test of time, with many people still happily using it and holding a significant market share.
Microsoft obviously wants to move on and doesn’t want to support code that’s now well over a decade old. For many consumers XP is good enough though. Some are so familiar with it that the massive changes in Windows 8 forces them up a significant learning curve (and it’s an OS that has been criticised for its lack of usability).
So why keep turning over new operating systems? Apple’s OS X has been around about as long as XP and has required very few changes to the interface in that time. My suspicion is that, as one of Microsoft’s big earners, they need to keep producing new versions so consumers and businesses will keep buying them.
So I’m proposing an alternative revenue model for Microsoft, so they can keep updating XP into the future: subscriptions. It seems to be the way they’re going anyway, so why not offer existing XP users a £12 a year (£1 a month) subscription to keep XP? I’d guess you’re looking at millions of existing users, so while that doesn’t sound like much, it should be plenty to support a team of developers to keep releasing patches and updates.