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Archive for December, 2005

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December 31st, 2005

New Year gong for Apple aesthete

New Year gong for Apple aesthete

The hardware designer responsible for regenerating Apple with his iconic visions for the iMac, iBook, PowerBook, PowerMac, Mac Mini and iPod, has been honoured by the Queen in her New Year Honours list.

Jonathan Ive today received a CBE, not because of his undoubted influence in resurrecting the fortunes of Apple over the last decade, but in recognition of the positive effect his eye for a winning gadget has arguably had on the lives of millions of tech consumers.

Here’s that New Year Honours list in full, courtesy of the Beeb…

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December 22nd, 2005

Wishing you a Scientific Christmas, and a Very Techy New Year!

Wishing you a Scientific Christmas, and a Very Techy New Year!


If you’re still chained to a desk while the last few days before Christmas idle by in a lazy flurry of end of year admin, why not cheer yourself up with some seasonal science?

The online team at New Scientist has outdone itself this year, creating a winter wonderland of festive techy treats, all wrapped up in a sparkly package of Christmas Science pages.

Why not spend the rest of the week IMing and emailing all your other office bound mates with a sleigh-load of festive scientific nonsense? It’s all great stuff.

Visit the site right now and discover the untold mysteries of: how Santa’s reindeer work through the night; the perfect equation for a succesful Christmas dinner party; how to stay jolly for longer; the private joys of overeating; and of course the secret to getting more Christmas pressies than anyone else!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all, from everybody at Prompt Communications.

Here’s to a Prosperous 2006! (and more presents than anyone else)

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December 21st, 2005

Apple May Introduce a 1 Gigabyte iPod Nano

Apple May Introduce a 1 Gigabyte iPod Nano

Apple is considering introducing an iPod Nano with one gigabyte (GB) storage capacity according to Yahoo News and the Register. Currently Apple offers a one GB iPod known as the iPod Shuffle. The Shuffle is less expensive than the Nano and has sold incredibly well.

It’s one thing to say that the general movement in the storage capacity industry is one towards greater space with cheaper prices, but it’s quite another thing to see it in action. Here we have a more expensive product line, the Nano, that is considered being offered with a smaller storage capacity in order to appeal to a wider audience with a less expensive price. The sales success of the less expensive and smaller capacity Shuffle shows that there is indeed a market at the lower end of storage capacity. This might mean that the apparent need for storage might be greater than the actual need for storage. The popularity of these devices shows the strength of the market as a whole, but especially within the smaller capacity and less expensive segment.

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December 19th, 2005

A Christmas Carol on MP3, free.

A Christmas Carol on MP3, free.

Penguin Books is serialising a free audio recording of sitcom star Geoffrey Palmer reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The book is based on similar stories by The Muppets and Blackadder and is being made available to download in five chunks in MP3 or AAC format.

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December 15th, 2005

Wikipedia: it's not *that* bad, really

Wikipedia: it's not *that* bad, really

Community encyclopaedia Wikipedia has found a friend at last: scientific journal Nature has compared it to Encyclopaedia Britannica and it didn’t do too badly. The journal’s researchers found an equal number of serious errors in both publications (four, each). When it came to factual errors, misleading statements or omissions, Wikipedia had 162 and Britannica had 123.

Nature was pretty hard on Wikipedia’s writing though, saying many of the entries lacked structure and are confused. We think it’s as if the whole thing was thrown together by 13,000 volunteers chipping in whenever they’ve got time.

Everyone’s an expert on something, and I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of reading an article about our area of interest and knowing that it’s riddled with mistakes. It’s unsettling because it makes you wonder what mistakes you’re taking in as truth in other areas where you’re less clued up. At Wikipedia, everyone is able to fix the mistakes, so you can correct anything you see that’s wrong. In theory that should make the content more accurate. One problem is that people don’t stick to their area of expertise and can’t resist the urge to dabble, so mistakes creep in. Another is that everyone has an equal voice, irrespective of education or other qualification.

As a global and open resource independent of any corporate publishers, Wikipedia makes a valuable contribution to the internet. It’s possible more controls will be added in future to try to police the content’s accuracy, but given its free and easy nature, it’s not lagging too far behind the Britannica benchmark. The Nature study should go some way to restoring faith, following a difficult period for the site.

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December 13th, 2005

Coming to a mobile phone near you: Spam

Coming to a mobile phone near you: Spam

It’s a common occurrence: A call late at night from someone you don’t know trying to sell you something. But these types of calls are largely the domain of land lines, not mobile phones. That, however, is changing and telemarketing firms are beginning to bug mobile phone owners as well.

Enter the telecom providers. Verizon Wireless has won injunctions against two telemarketing firms in the US to prevent them from using “autodialers” and “pre-recorded messages”. These injunctions are permanent.

With millions of people around the world leaving behind their landlines forever for mobile lines, it’s a welcome sight to have a telecom provider actually working on your behalf to prevent the problems of an old technology from continuing to plague a new one.

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December 12th, 2005

Even cheapskates spend a jolly lot in December!

Even cheapskates spend a jolly lot in December!

Having read last week that the average amount people are expected to spend on Christmas shopping this year is £392, I was not only shocked, but also disappointed that a self confessed shopaholic like myself could fall into the ‘cheapskate’ category.

I think it is ridiculous that we get sucked into this consumer frenzy each year, spending so much on unwanted gifts, even going so far as to get ourselves into debt…all because it’s Christmas! So this weekend I went home and added up exactly how much I had spent on presents this year, and came to a grand total of £300. I didn’t think I had spent nearly that amount, but clearly it all adds up.

The research I mentioned was conducted by KPMG. It also discovered that 21 per cent of female respondents had yet to start their Christmas shopping; well I’m ahead of the game there. Sadly, if you haven’t finished (or started!) your Christmas shopping yet, you’re probably going to spend more than the average. Perhaps you could just not start at all, or save your shopping for the sales and get double the amount for the same price?

Other responses also revealed that men expect to spend £424 on presents compared to the meagre £361 that women expect to spend. So not only have I spent less than the average, I have also spent less than most of my gender. I can only conclude that I am a cheapskate, or failing that an economical shopper who thinks Christmas is a rip off.

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December 9th, 2005

Flash Memory — Not Just for Music

Flash Memory — Not Just for Music

Flash memory is gearing up to play a bigger role in the home PC market. Manufacturers are proposing hybrid storage that makes the most of the Flash drive’s compact form and ability to rapidly access data and the hard drive’s ability to store much more at a lower cost. The flash hard drive is wired into the regular hard drive, and the reduction in power consumption enables laptops to stay running dramatically longer than they would with just a normal hard drive.

It’s a similar theory to that used in the hybrid systems of cars like the Toyota Prius. If a system that requires a source of energy is split into two different systems that both feed one another to sustain the entire system, then less fuel is required to run the system as a whole. Gasoline is the only fuel, but the hybrid has a regular engine and a large battery running together. The regular engine is given an extra boost of power from the battery at times, and at times the engine is charging the battery up. The drive gets whatever amount of power they need, not really noticing if it is the large battery moving the car or the engine. Because the engine part of the hybrid is smaller in size than a regular standalone engine in a car, less gasoline is consumed. The same thing is going on here with the Flash drive.

Though it adds to the complexity of the entire system as a whole, if it works out well, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if it is seen more commonly in computers, and in memory drives of all shapes and sizes.

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December 8th, 2005

Square wheeled robo-car

Square wheeled robo-car

You would think that of all the technologies mankind has developed, the one which we’ve perfected one hundred percent, leaving absolutely no room for further design improvements would be the wheel. It’s round, it rolls, job done. Not good enough for the science guys at Global Composites, however, who felt that there was still a lot of unexplored potential in the previously discarded ‘square wheel’ design.

It might sound stupid, but it does actually work and there are apparently some valid reasons for exploring this angle which might have all sorts of applications in nano-technology. The key to the design’s usefulness is that it enables locomotion in a machine that can be manufactured from fewer and less complex components than other types of machine, which is quite helpful when you’re trying to build really, really small things.

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December 7th, 2005

Icy tooth wiggling loose

Icy tooth wiggling loose

Antarctic scientists are studying the birth of a giant iceberg in an effort to gain greater understanding into the effects of global warming.

The gargantuan 30km by 30km ice block has been named ‘Loose Tooth’ while in the process of cracking away from the edge of the Antarctic. The last time a slab of ice this size broke off the ice shelf was back in 1964.

GPS receivers and seismometers have been installed into Loose Tooth to trace the opening of a crack gradually separating the block from Amery Ice Shelf.

The process of an iceberg breaking into the ocean is called ‘calving’. Loose Tooth is expected to fall off the shelf sometime over the next five years.

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December 6th, 2005

From the rubble comes Wi-Fi

From the rubble comes Wi-Fi

New Orleans, continuing a trend of cities throughout history that have resurrected themselves after a disaster or war, has decided to offer its citizens and visitors city-wide Wi-Fi. New Orleans was all but destroyed in an enormous hurricane and flood in August of this year.

The move has not been without controversy as BellSouth, which provides internet access to New Orleans, has seen the move by the city as “state sponsored competition”. According to city officials, in revenge they have withdrawn their donation to the city of one of their buildings.

The benefits of free Internet access cannot be underestimated. By charging for access, many consumers or start up businesses that wish to go on the Internet will be prevented from doing so. Their access helps the local economy tremendously. If the local government in New Orleans did not have the power of a state of emergency behind them, they may not have been able to get around BellSouth’s protests against a free Wi-Fi network. Ironically, the destruction of a city often pulls people together in a way that makes things possible which would never have got off the ground under normal circumstances.

Not that we’re advocating the flooding of cities…

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December 1st, 2005

Laptops for fashion victims

Laptops for fashion victims

What kind of new features would improve your laptop? Longer battery life perhaps, better graphics subsystem, lighter case? How about a nice colourful pattern made out of pieces of suede glued onto the case? According to this press release from Intel, that’s exactly what people in today’s ‘image conscious culture’ want from a portable computing device. We hear that MTV has already commissioned a new series of Pimp My Laptop, although if you prefer the desktop pimping scene, you might like to check out this site.

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