Blog Index for July 2017

Organic Transit's ELF, solar powered car-bike for driver + 2 kids, equals 1800mpg

(Thu Jul 27 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time))

This car-like vehicle is actually a bicycle, fitting all the legal restrictions of bicycles. With three wheels it is very stable. With the outer shell, the driver has some protection against the elements, and there's a cargo area in the back to carry groceries or even kids. It is an electric-assist bicycle, and can be fitted with a solar array.

Build your own DIY portable wireless TV from spare laptop parts

(Thu Jul 27 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time))

Want to build a portable "TV" video display unit? An old laptop screen serves as a great starting point for building a display panel, and an HDMI driver board makes it easy to connect the display to a computer. The next step is adding a battery pack, making it portable, using a pair of voltage regulators to set up the 12 volts and 5 volts required to power the components, and an external charger to recharge the batteries. A sound bar is easily buildable using a set of small speaker drivers and audio amplifiers. The "television" portion is a question mark, however since it's nearly 2020 we can easily connect this to the Internet for video streaming using a Chromecast or other HDMI gizmo. The parts can be easily enclosed in a case, and voila you have a complete and portable video display system.

Aerial update of Apple's new Spaceship campus, July 2017

(Thu Jul 27 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time))

Apple is building an iconic new "spaceship-like" campus in Cupertino. These drone videos show the current progress.

Facebook moves towards paying content creators sharing "art" in the news feed

(Sun Jul 23 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time))

While YouTube's moves make us think Google will push small-scale content creators out, Facebook appears to be inviting them (and their content) to Facebook's news feed. What's in play is those "content creators" with large audiences, and the advertising revenue that can be earned through such a channel. So far YouTube has been a premium place to play that game, because all it that's required is for someone to develop a video presence attractive enough to draw in enough audience to keep people watching your videos and the ads which come along for the ride.

On the flip side is Rights Management services so that piracy doesn't run rampant. To that end, Facebook has acquired contents rights management company Source3.

As Google commercializes YouTube, individual "creators" may be squeezed out

(Fri Jul 21 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time))

When YouTube launched all those years ago, before Google bought YouTube, it was a video service allowing anyone to upload videos about anything they wanted. Cat videos, a guy with a light saber, another mouthing words to a popular Romanian song, more cat videos, the FAIL videos, a girl sharing with us a fake scripted life, and on and on. We all built up a cycle of activity around YouTube. Some people just posted whatever, for example the people trying out stunts, yelling "watch this", then falling flat on their face or worse. That genre has evolved to where people filming extreme stunts sometimes fall to their death while filming the stunt. Others made a business for themselves, for example the Grow Your Greens guy taught many people about gardening while clearly earning lots of revenue from advertising running opposite his videos.

Maybe it's one of those it's too good to last deals, but lots of people used YouTube as a platform for launching careers in independently produced video commentary on whatever they want to say. Lately there are signs that Google is moving towards making big money deals with big incumbent entertainment studios. At the moment the independent producers still have a place at the table, but the commercial content from mainstream media is encroaching.

Are we on a slippery slope where YouTube won't have any space for individual content creators?

Project Maven to Deploy Computer Algorithms to War Zone by Year’s End

(Thu Jul 20 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time)) The US Department of Defense is partnering with unnamed high tech companies to develop Artificial Intelligence devices for use in war zones. The idea is extracting "objects" from "massive amounts of moving or still imagry." Reading between the lines, this is about analyzing video footage from drone flights in war zones, to ease the burden on military intelligence analysts.

US Postal Service introduces Informed Delivery, a Big-Brotherly preview of incoming postal mail

(Thu Jul 06 2017 17:00:00 GMT-0700 (Pacific Daylight Time))

Today the US Postal Service sent me an email inviting me to sign up with Informed Delivery. The pitch is that the USPS Mobile App will be upgraded to have access to Informed Delivery which is described as "a new, free feature that gives you the ability to see a digital preview of your incoming mail." Conveniently the Postal Service will send out grey-scale scans of the exterior of all pieces of mail arriving at the mailbox, and those scans can be viewed with the Mobile App or can be sent to ones e-mail inbox.

I'm not sure what the value is to me for this service. The big worry is that obviously it means the Postal Service is scanning the outside of every envelope, and what the heck are they doing with those scans? Who else is receiving those scans? The NSA? The FBI? Who?