Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Man, Machine in Perfect Harmony

Forget 'One Direction', forget the latest X factor favourite, Justin Bieber or any other talentless wannabee.  Do yourself a favour and watch the movie below.

It may seem humdrum at first, but watch how it develops.  It shows true creativity and technology in action.  All you need is coupla' of robots, cameras, a computer, fancy software, shed loads of talent, together with that extra something that makes all the difference: Imagination.

So don't bother with ridiculous haircuts, throw away those Voi Jeans - they're so last year -, dump the Ugg boots, if you want to be sub-zero COOL, grab yourself a computer, embrace your inner nerd and start creatin'.

What you you make?

Monday, 2 September 2013

I've got nothing to wear!

It's been a long time since the last post.  Time's arrow has moved on with the passing of  the summer holidays and now it's the beginning of a new academic year.  So welcome back to school.

Hey! Good lookin'
It seems that the latest hot thing in gadget land is wearable tech: computerised technology that you can wear.
The latest craze seems to have begun with Google Glass: specs that include a video camera and a voice controlled computer  that responds to voice commands.  It also includes a small mouse control button in one of the arms to save you the embarrassment of having to shout OK GLASS in noisy situation while everyone wonders why you are talking to yourself.

What the time?
Samsung and Apple are thinking about similar head based wear.  But in the meantime they've produced or about to produce wrist based watch/phone/mp3 player type computers.  It is even possible to view movies on these wrist based devices.  Some come with a stylus so you can use them to browse the internet and send messages.

Light up the catwalk with an LED Dress
Wearable tech is finding its way into clothing.  It is possible to get LED dresses to wear.  This is the same technology that goes into flat screen TV's and computer monitors, but flexible.  As a result the dresses can change colour as the wearer moves around. Maybe in the future high quality pictures or adverts can be displayed on the dress.  There is also clothing available, that changes colour according to how hot or cold the person is, adding another meaning to "Your're Hot! Today."

Wearable tech is also making its presence felt in the field of medicine, with clothes available that contain monitors for temperature, heart rate, motion detectors and hydration of whether you need a drink or not. Shoes can even contain step counters measuring force and well as the number of steps.  As you walk the shoes can even generate power for charging other devices.

It's a smart bone cast
Rather than use old plaster casts to set bones, technology has found its way into helping people to recover from broken bones.  Monitors are included that tracks muscle activity and then suggests exercises to keep affected muscles active to speed up recovery.   The down side is of course, you can't get people to write 'get well soon' messages on your cast.  Ho Hum!

One ring to bind them all!
And those smart people at MIT in the states, have developed a ring that works like a credit card.  Instead using chip and pin to pay for things, customers would place a ring against a reader for money to rapidly change hands.  Quick payment for sure, but does it given muggers an incentive to go around chopping off fingers to get their jewelry?

Technology is only skin deep!
So far we've done eye wear, we've done clothes, we've covered health and we've done jewelry. What's left?  Well some people are having their personal information embedded on their skin in tattoo's in the form of a circuit board.  The information in tattoo's can be read by special readers without you even having to into contact with anything.  They can provide name, financial and health information and even your location.  Spooky!

So technology is moving away from the desktop pc, the phone and tablet, into what we wear.  What kinds of devices would you like to see in clothes.  Wi-Fi hot spots embedded in hats possibly?  What about a keyboard printed on your shirt sleeve?  What about clothes that are free but are sponsored by companies who can change their adverts on the front  using wireless technology. How do you feel about tattoos being used to track your movements?  Have your say.

Monday, 22 April 2013

What is it with lego?

With the success of Morgan Spence, there emerges a new star: James Weir in first year.  It appears James has on the quiet been making his own epic films.  Although neither can afford to hire Brad and Angelina, it hasn't stopped them from making great films using that most common and ubiquitous toys, Lego.

James  film style is little different from Morgan's.His  'Princess in Tower' film shows a greater use of narrative commentary in combination with film. Morgan in contrast, aims to complete the entire story in film.  There's nothing wrong with the approach taken by James: many famous directors - George Lucas (Star Wars) - and playwrights, Shakespeare amongst them make use of this technique.

A big advantage in using the narrative technique is that it shortens time and the film.  Long periods of travel, for example can be indicated through captions combined with other techniques.  James for example indicates days and nights of travel by switching between light and dark.  James and his brother in their other film,  'Batman & The Bank Job' adopt the more common approach as used by Morgan Spence.

A couple of stand out moments for me in the film include the transformation of Batman into his costume, how he transfers into the Bat mobile, the handcuffs.  And finally a nice touch is the two part vertical gate in Arkham.  These all show good problem solving skills of how to tell a story through film with limited resources.  Well done James!

What do you think?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Your teachers are past it?

Everyone who's made it big, did it while they were young.  Richard Branson (Virgin), Albert Einstein (Theory of Relativity - don't be misled by the famous picture of him as an old man), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft),  Steves' Wozniak & Jobs (Apple), Hewlett & Packard (guess what they did!), the list goes on and on. Well they've just been joined by one of the newest and youngest internet millionaires, Nick D'Aloisio.

Nick D'Alosio
Young Nick at 17 has just been given more than £20 million by Yahoo for a phone app he developed when he was even younger at 15.  Developed at home, the app he called Summly uses clever programming to produce a daily digest of all the main news stories on a phone, providing users with quick links to more detailed articles.

It was only released in the Apple Store four months ago, but since then its gathered over one million downloads.  Amazing stuff.

Nick's success, again proves that it's the young, the one's closest to new developing trends, that have the coolest ideas: age is not a barrier to success.  And with technology, armed with a simple computer, any one can produce world beating apps in their bedroom.

So what's stopping you?  What ideas have you got for a phone app?  What would you like to see on your phone?

Ignorance is no longer a barrier. You'll find out to develop phone apps  in a new upcoming unit on android programming.  All that's missing is the starting idea, so get your thinking hats on!

How would you spend £20 million smackers?

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Neon Rocks

Fresh from the cutting room floor, another ABSOLUTELY STUNNING, MUST WATCH film by Morgan Spence  Give yourself a treat and watch it.

Be able to tell your grand kids, that you knew Morgan, before he was world famous, because you can be sure, we are witnessing the birth of a great talent.

What are your favourite moments?

Among many a few stand out scenes for me, include the security film footage where the viewing perspective changes to that of  security camera and the film switches into grainy black and white: then the fabulous detail of the animate screen on the laptop: the scene at the bar with the glasses filling up, and finally the fireworks at the end. The music is good, but the film is better.

What you think?

What's your poison?

There are literally thousands of different programs.  They range from little apps or widgets you might use on a phone - something like Angry Birds. perhaps - to full blown monster application suites. Microsoft Office. is one example.

Each of us probably have their own favourite programs which we love and use as often as we can.  For many, these are probably games.  For others it might be software that help us communicate or internet apps such web based e-mail or for social networking sites like Facebook.  But for a few, they include programs that can be used for more creative purposes.  It might be Photoshop for creating unusual images,  Auto-cad for design or Adobe After Effects for adding in special effects or title sequences to films. 
Christopher Douglas shows us how this can be done in an appeal for the Water Aid Charity during our Focus on Business course.  Good work Christopher, though I'm not sure about the sound track.

What are your favourite programs? What can you not bear to be without?  What do use them for? We want to know.

Are there any programs that you would like to be available in school?  Come on here's you chance to have a  say.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Social Networks: Saint or Sinner

Social Networks.  Everybody has some idea of what they are.   Well dear reader, you do, or more than likely, you wouldn't be here.  Social networking is all about being a member of a group that shares some common interest and believes in sharing information.  In the past this has meant belonging to an extended group of friends or people in clubs that you personally know and talk to.  Nowadays this means using computing technology hosted by companies like Facebook, Twitter or Google to maintain contact with your social group.  Because you don't have to meet face to face, you can have a much larger social group, where one post can be read by thousands and your friends can be spread around the world.  Something that just couldn't be done before Social Networks arrived on the scene.

As they say, its good to share and keep up to date with your mates.  And we can all think of positive benefits to social networking.  But is there a dark side?

We've all heard of stories along the lines of "Facebook lost me my job", mostly because people have included pictures of themselves doing something inappropriate or because they've said things about their work mates or their boss.  In which case, don't blame Facebook, Twitter or any other site, its down to being an IDIOT!  Plain and simple.  What is said on Facebook, stays on Facebook ...  and there will be consequences, perhaps not to day, not tomorrow, but when you least expect it.  Like when applying for a job and increasingly colleges, employers are scanning social network sites for what job applicants have said or done.  No!  We can't blame technology or social networking sites for allowing us to be idiots. Being able to use a computer is no protection against stupidity.

Some experts believe social networking is evil because of the way it allows companies to track and record so called private data like where we go, what we we see and what we read.  To an extent they have a point, but perhaps the real danger of social networking is its main strength:  the ability to recruit others to a common cause.  While this is can be a benefit, it can as the video above shows, be a force for bad where people can join together to oppress others in what's become known as cyber-bullying.

Some liken this to a virus spreading desiese between groups.  It starts slowly through a marginally offensive remarks.  These slowly becomes worse, as friends try and outdo each other in being rude about another and these as the video below shows, generally tend to be girls.

Then there are the 'Trolls'.  These tend to be individuals who 'troll about' the internet to make hate filled comments, such as taking delight in someone's else misfortune.  Why? Know one really knows.  Perhaps its because they are sad and insecure loners who want everyone else to be as miserable as they are.  Or perhaps its because, with technology available, they can.

So what do you think are social networks good or bad?  Have you been bullied in this way?  What do you think about 'trolls'?  Why do they do it?  Do you think social networking should be allowed in school?  Come on let us  know?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The End of the World is Nigh!

No its not Armageddon, nor the end of the Mayan calender.  Rather, could it be the end of the desktop computer as we've come to know it and love.

Back before the tablet, further back before the notebook, and even further back before the relative cheapness of laptops, most people's first contact with computers, was through the tower and screen of the typical desktop computer.  While not mobile, the desktop computer retained lots of advantages when compared to the developing laptop market.  To begin with, they were a lot cheaper.  With more space in the tower, they could have bigger hard disks giving them greater backing storage.  They had more powerful graphics cards giving them greater game playing ability and with more input and output sockets they could connect to almost every type of device, from joysticks through full sized keyboards to the ability to output to multiple monitors. More memory could be packed in and with space for big cooling fans and heat sinks faster processors could be used.  In almost every way, apart from portability, desktops had the advantage over laptops.

More Poowwwwerrrrr!!
For Power Users

For Steam Punk Fans

For Motorbike enthusiasts

And best of all.  Desktop PC's could be fully customised and be easily built at home according to your own needs or specifications. They could be game orientated or built especially for web or program development. Or for video editing or for business needs.  For example I know someone whose desktop computer has 24 Gb (shed loads) of RAM memory and backing storage of 48 Terabytes (48,000 Gigabytes, more than all the school desktop computers put together)

Nowadays, the key aim is for mobile computing and so development is focused around small laptops, tablets, 4G smart phones etc.  And manufacturers - Samsung, HTC, Lenovo and Apple in particular etc - don't like people messing with the innards of their machines and anyway, there isn't any room for custom bits and pieces.  So more mobility means being less fixed to desktop machines which means less need for for desktops which means an end to customisation and so fewer people building their own computers.   So it's not so much video killed the radio star, its more mobility killed the desktop!

Is this true!  Are we at the beginning of the death of the desktop?  Or if you have a desktop, how would like to see it customised?  What would you add or remove to make it your own?  It has to be more than a sticker!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Computers. Huh! What are they good for? Absolutely nothin'!

Has Santa been kind to you this Christmas? Did you get the gadgets that you wished for?

Nowadays, thanks to scientists, computer engineers and programmers, you can get truly amazing mind 'fizz-boggling' tech. From robotic pets with artificial intelligence, through cameras with inbuilt GPS that can tag your pictures with the exact position you took them from, to tiny phones with the same processing power of 5 year old desktop computers. But the question has to be asked what is all this tech used for?

Surely, given the heavy duty expense of developing all this tech and the real cleverness of the people involved in making it all work - they are a cut above the usual Big Brother, reality game show fodder desperate for their 15 minutes of fame. - it has to be used for more than watching yet another 'You Tube' vid of tipsy Granny's attempting to POGO to Firestarter by The Prodigy

And while its sometimes good to play games and blow up stuff.  There has to be more to making use of this life changing technology than using it to blow up even more stuff.  Skype, incidentally developed in Estonia by Ahti Heinla, Priit Kasesalu and Jaan Tallinn showing that the web isn't all about the Americans and the British (although Skype is now owned by Microsoft.) is great for keeping in touch with friends and the 'rellies' over long distances.  But really, do you need to 'skype' your friends who you've been talking to and text messaging all day and are seeing later the same evening.

Everyone knows that 'it's good to share'.  It's this principal that's made social networking popular.  People like sharing: sharing their knowledge, helping others, showing off and keeping in touch. Sometimes though you can 'overshare' as the recent program "Don't Blame it on Facebook" demonstrated.  People can be arrested and loose their jobs as a result of comments made through social networking.  And there is such thing as 'too much information'.  Believe it or not, not everyone cares about your latest bowel movements or that your chances of getting a girl friend is listed as 'mission impossible' unless you want everyone's pity or your status is listed as the 'original wild child' - no you're not.

So what do you use your computer for?  Are there any creative's out there?

Does anyone use their computer or tablets for photo-shopping pictures, composing music, creating 'mash ups', building websites, writing essays, books or poetry, solving maths problems, analysing data, research or finding out how to do things.

Come on: tell us what you do with all this tech!