This is episode 95 of Talks About Tech Weekly. This week we talk about:
– Our new car
– Apple CarPlay and the future of car technology
– Review of Titanfall
On this episode we talk about the Oscars 2014, online currencies and more.
Online Currencies Explained
BitCoin and other online currencies are becoming very popular. But how do these virtual currencies work? How could virtual money be worth anything?
BitCoin is the world’s first decentralised currency. This means that it does not have a central organisation or country running it. You can buy, sell and use BitCoins just like any other currency. The only difference is that it’s completely virtual on the internet.
Anyone can set up a BitCoin account for free. Everyone gets there own BitCoin wallet and just like any currency its value goes up and down all the time. In order to keep the currency running BitCoins have to be created and taken out of circulation everyday. BitCoins are created by a process called mining. Miners verify and record payments in exchange for newly created BitCoins.
Anyone can become a BitCoin miner. You need a powerful computer and advanced computer knowledge. Professional miners use GPU based computers. GPU’s can process information much faster than standard CPU’s.
Integral to BitCoin is a public database and sequential records of all transactions, known as the block chain. The block chain records current BitCoin ownership as well as at all points in the past. By keeping a record of all transactions, the block chain prevents a problem particular to digital money, double-spending.
Miners have to solve a complex mathematical equation called a hash in order to verify each transaction as valid. When they solve the hash they add it to the block chain. BitCoin payment processing fees are optional and generally substantially lower than those of credit cards or money transfers which is great if you want to be a BitCoin merchant. Currently, doing the work of payment processing is rewarded with newly created BitCoins. At the moment it’s 25 BitCoins per block which is the equivalent of about €11,000.
I hope that this brief explanation of BitCoin has helped you to understand how online currencies work a little better.
On this episode we talk about Mobile World Congress and Amazon Prime Instant Video.
Lovefilm Changed to Amazon Instant Video
Amazon has owned the UK film rental company LoveFilm for over three years now. LoveFilm provides an online streaming service that Amazon are now rebranding Amazon Prime Instant Video. Anyone who has the €50 Prime membership can stream movies and TV shows for free from the Instant Video library. This is an attempt to go after Netflix and iTunes for movie and TV show rental.
Mobile World Congress 2014
Mark Zuckerberg made a big keynote at the conference held in Barcelona this past week. He talked about the internet and specifically on mobile devices. He also talked about internet.org. Internet.org’s goals are to make internet access available to everyone around the world at a very low cost.
Other keynote speakers included What’s App CEO Jan Koum who talked about the new voice call feature coming to the most popular messaging app in the world.
The highlight of the event was probably the Samsung Galaxy S5 announcement. Although the improvements to the new Samsung flagship were mostly evolutional it was still interesting to see what Samsung’s latest efforts were like.
There are a number of new colours available and a slight design change but nothing major. The other big feature is the fingerprint reader. Here is a list of all of the specs:
The phone will be available on 11th April worldwide but no price has been announced yet.
The Nokia X seems like an interesting new range of phones from the Microsoft owned company. They run android and prices start at €89. The X+ and XL have more RAM and bigger screens. The most interesting part is that Nokia put a Windows Phone-like skin over stock Android and the Google Play store is not available. Instead there is a Nokia store that you can install apps from.
On this weeks episode we talk about viral videos and the mini sumo robots competition.
Wolf in my Hall
This was a video posted to US olympic athlete Kate Hansen’s Twitter and YouTube account. The video was supposedly taken from her dormitory at Sochi where she apparently saw a wolf roaming the corridors. Turns out the video was a prank played by American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. This is not the first time that Kimmel has pulled such a stunt and previously made a ‘Twerking Fail’ video that went viral.
Mini Sumo Robots
Every year contestants from across the globe battle it out in the dojo in the hope of being crowned mini sumo champion. These robots are 10cm by 10cm in size and have to knock their opponent out of the 77cm doyho autonomously.
You can use any kind of motors, micro controllers, materials and sensors to send your opponents spinning out of the dojo as long as they have an overall weight of 500g and keep within the given dimensions.
Last Saturday 15th February 2014 Kevin and I took part in the First Lego League competition along with the team from the Moycullen Robotics Club, the Termin8tors.
We had great fun! We got the chance to meet other teams and take part in some friendly competition. During the day I recorded video. I interviewed teams, captured highlights of the day and put them together into a short video series. I hope you enjoy.
Kevin McAndrew Interview
Wild Scouts Interview
FLL 2014 Highlights
On this episode I am recovering from my binge of House of Cards season 2 and Kevin and I talk about the First Lego League 2014.
House of Cards Season 2
Last Friday 14th February the second season of House of Cards came out. The first TV series launched exclusively online has been very successful picking up 3 Emmy’s earlier on in the year. It shows that the future of TV may very well be exclusively online.
First Lego League 2014
Yesterday 15th February, we took part in the First Lego League competition held in the Radison Blu hotel in Galway. The event was really great fun! We had a great time and we picked up the award for the robot performance. Thank you to everyone who made this great competition possible. A special thanks to Bernard Kirk the Director of the Galway Education Centre, Debbie Merrigan and Paul Sleem for putting together a great competition!
Keep an eye out on the Talks About Tech YouTube channel because I’ll be uploading videos of the day.
Here is a link to the YouTube video of the overview of the Disaster Master app: http://talksabouttech.com/disaster-master-app-guide
On this episode I talk about the new Microsoft CEO, flappy bird crisis and more.
Bionic Hand Lets Amputee Feel
Scientists from the EPFL in Switzerland and the SSSA in Italy have been working on a new prosthetic hand that will allow the user to feel what they are touching.
36 year-old Dennis Aabo Sørensen from Denmark lost his left hand in a fireworks accident nine years ago. He was the first person to have this new prothetic arm tested on. The way it works is electrodes are implanted into the nerves in his arm. There are a number of sensors in each artificial tendon in the fingers of the hand that can tell the tension. This allows Dennis to feel what he is touching and also feel if something is soft or hard and how hard he is gripping the object. The output from the sensors is electrical but unfortunately the brain only accepts electrical impulses from the nerves. The scientists came up with algorithms that could create impulses that the brain were able to interpret. That is truly amazing!
Dennis was blind folded and ear plugged and he ‘could feel things that he hadn’t been able to feel in over nine years’. ‘When I held an object, I could feel if it was soft or hard, round or square’.
This is the first time anything like this has been tested on a human and it was incredibly successful.
Microsofts New CEO
Microsofts epic search for a new CEO is over. Satya Nadella has worked for the company for over twenty two years and now he has become the new CEO of one of the worlds largest technology companies. Nadella was born in India in 1967 and studied electrical engineering at Mangalore University before moving to the US to study computer science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
His career started at Sun Microsystems but he soon moved to Microsoft to work at the Online Services Division. Nadella has since played a huge role in many of Microsoft’s cloud computing services such as Azure, Bing, Sky Drive, Xbox Live and Skype.
It will be very interesting to see what Nadella does with Microsoft but one thing for sure is that we will definitely be seeing many new cloud computing products from the company in the future.
First Photo of Earth From Mars
Curiosity has been on Mars for a few months now and this week it delivered its first image of the Earth and the Moon from Mars. Although the Earth looks like a tiny spec in the distance we now know what Earth looks like from Mars and it’s pretty cool.
Flappy Bird is no More
The flappy bird developer has taken down the highly successful tweet following this tweet last week:
‘I am sorry Flappy Bird users, 22 hours from now, I will take Flappy Bird down. I cannot take this anymore’
The game has been downloaded over 50 million times on android making the Vietnamese developer $50,000 per day. Not bad! The game was launched last year and was a complete flop, however, the game started to take off in December when loads of people started leaving reviews in the App Store. The app started to build into the frenzy that it became today. The reason that he took the app off the stores is a mystery but we sure will miss it.
On this episode we talk about the purchase of Motorola, Facebook and much more.
Lenovo Buys Motorola
This week Lenovo bought Motorola from Google for $2.91 billion. In Europe and the US Lenovo are known as a consumer computer manufacturer but Lenovo are actually a big player in the Chinese mobile phone market. This purchase will allow Lenovo to enter the US and European markets pretty easily as Motorola already have the relationships with carriers and retailers.
Google are just after buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion and now they are selling the company. They are holding on to the majority of Motorola’s patents though. Only about 2,000 patents will go to Lenovo and Google will give Lenovo a license for the remaining patents.
What is the future for Motorola? I have heard that Motorola will remain a separate company from Lenovo. Lenovo will just use Motorola to enter the US market. I am happy to hear that because Motorola are making great phones at the moment and hopefully they will keep making great phones in the future.
Google Glass Designer Frames Now Available
Glass is Google’s take on wearable computing. It has been constantly in the news for its new approach on interacting with technology. Google has now come out with four new pairs of glasses from the ‘Titanium Collection’ that are fully compatible with Google Glass. The frames are made of extremely light titanium. The frames will cost $225 on top of the current $1500 price for Glass but I presume these frames will also be available when the final product comes out later on this year for a lower price.
This week Facebook released their Q4 earnings for 2013 and the figures are incredible. The total revenue was $2.59 billion, that’s 31 cent per share. Facebook now have 1.23 billion monthly active users and 945 billion of them are using mobile devices. Another interesting stat is that 53% of Facebook’s revenue was from mobile advertising. This really shows the increase in Facebook mobile use. Facebook’s total revenue this year was a whopping $7.87 billion up 55% from last year.
So why have researchers from Princeton University been predicting a loss of 80% of users by 2017? Researchers compared Facebook and MySpace growth curves to that of epidemics, specifically using the SIR (susceptible, infected, recovered) model. They applied the SIR model to publicly available historical Google search data for MySpace and Facebook. They were able to identify the adoption and abandonment phases for MySpace and for Facebook they found that it was ‘just beginning to show the onset of an abandonment phase’ showing a decrease from the beginning of 2013. The research also mentioned that ‘the Google search query data for the OSN is assumed to be representative of the magnitude of the infected population’.
It seems that the researchers assumed wrong. According to the Q4 figures Facebook has a huge number of mobile users who wouldn’t use Google to access their accounts. Consequently, the results from this survey are severely skewed.
I don’t think that Facebook is going anywhere for now but there certainly is the risk from other, smaller social networks. Currently, Facebook’s solution is just to buy them.
The Most Frustrating, Addicting Game Ever!
Flappy Bird has been an internet phenomenon. Users of the game have been reporting their frustration, addiction and uselessness for the game. Flappy Bird is a very difficult game where you have to guide a bird through gates. The more gates you pass the better your score. Simple, right? Well you should check this game out because it’s harder than it sounds. You can download it for free now from the iOS App Store and Google Play store now.
On this episode we talk about 30 years of the Macintosh, the Mars One mission and more.
30 Years of the Mac
The first Mac was released on 24th January 1984 and it has defined the way that we use the desktop computer today. Now, Macs come in many different shapes and sizes. On this show we go on a journey of the history of the Mac.
Here is the link to the original Macintosh ad from 1984: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zfqw8nhUwA
Mars One Mission
The Mars One project was set up as a mission to go to Mars. Unfortunately, the technology isn’t advanced enough yet to bring people back from Mars so the 4 participants would only have a one-way ticket. Anyone could apply to volunteer for the project and they got a huge response of 202,500 people. They have now narrowed it down to 1,052 people, 3 of which are Irish. Joseph Roche, an astrophysicist in Trinity College is one of the contestants who have made the cut. At the moment the people who have been chosen are undergoing a physical test and we will hear back who they have chosen for stage 3 in March.
Nest Bought by Google
This week Google bought the company Nest for $3.2 billion. Google have been buying lots of companies recently including the robotics company Boston Dynamics. Nest have a smart thermostat for your heating system that allows you to schedule your thermostat based on your daily schedule and you can control it from mobile devices and from the web.
So why would Google want to buy Nest? Maybe because they have patents that Google want. Another possibility could be that Google are interested in the Connected Home idea. The Connected Home is a concept that has been around for a while now and the idea is that you can monitor everything in your house, turn devices on and off and create schedules when you want them to turn on or off. An example is for all the lights in the house to turn on once the house begins to get dark and they automatically turn off the lights at 1am. Nests technology is right down the connected home’s alleyway.
Barack Obama NSA Reform
Barack Obama has begun a reform of the NSA which includes putting restrictions on the information that they can withhold. The majority of the restrictions were on the NSA’s ability to tap phone conversations. Obama can’t just change the NSA in an instant though. His proposition now has to be passed by congress and government departments before it can be put into place. The speech does not address the biggest issue of all which is PRISM.
Google Smart Contact Lenses
Google has made a prototype contact lenses that checks glucose levels in tears. This is extremely useful for diabetics. On the lens is a tiny glucose sensor and transmitter that take up very little power and can relay data to any device. Google says that this product might take 5 years to get into production but it’s still very cool.
Beats music is a new service coming out from Dr.Dre and Jimmy Lovine on the 31st January to compete with Spotify, Rdio, Google Play Music and all of the other music services out there. It won’t have a big library of music to start but what they want to do is be able to tell you the music you would like by asking questions about your taste and analysing the type of music you listen to. It will be purely subscription based and will cost $10 per month with a special for AT&T customers $15 per month for 5 family members on 10 devices. I’m always on for another alternative to keep competition in the space and beats music does provide a different solution to others in the space.
Rumours and leaks are saying that Microsoft will release an update 1 to Windows 8.1 in April. Along with that in April the BUILD conference is in April and there are rumours of Windows 9. That said Microsoft will probably only be showing concepts and will not actually have a product. Windows 8 didn’t really take off so what are Microsoft going to do in Windows 9 to improve it? Well I would definitely like to see a return of the full start menu. I don’t think Microsoft will let go of the Metro interface in Windows 9 though. What I do think they will do is make it easier to bypass the Metro interface. It will be very interesting to see what they will do in April.
Tech We’ve Been Using This Week
This week Kevin and I came second in a video competition and we both won new iPad Mini Retina’s. These tablets come packed with the A7 chip and a 7.9inch retina display that comes in at a resolution of 2048×1536. I have had an iPad 2 for a long time now and I love it but I find the smaller form factor of the mini is just brilliant! It’s much faster than the old iPad 2 and the screen is just amazing! Text looks so clear and crisp it makes the iPad 2 display look like 8-bit. It’s just incredible. The price tag is pretty steep though. The 16GB model starts at €399 but they are great prizes to get though.