Perspective

Map of countries by total population.

Map of countries by total population. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world’s population is currently 6,973,738,433

My blog has 58 followers

It is being followed by 8.317×10^-7%  or  0.0000008317% of the population.

Technology is making ours a small world in terms of communication and commerce but clearly it’s still a big world.

Figures from Google/World Bank data and WordPress. Calculations by Wolfram Alpha (because I was never good at percentages at school).

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Cat Tracking

cat on wooden fence

cat on wooden fence (Photo credit: (Sascha Uding) Arternative-Design)

Smaller GPS chips have made it possible for even the cheapest smartphone to be a satnav, locator of local takeaways and be able to give its location away to its owner if stolen or, if the proverbial tin-foil-hat wearers turn out to be right, the government.

They’ve also allowed us to plot our runs or cycle rides, places we’ve been, seen, been seen in, rather we’d not been seen in or forgotten we’d been to.

Cats though have been feeling left out of this techy tracky Endomodo-y goodness.  Until now.  This month’s T3 magazine reports on a device invented by Dave Evans called G-Paws which enables your furry friend to be tracked day and night.  Though with you average cat there would be much time spent located “on the sofa/most desirable chair in the living room” or “in the sun by the french doors”.  For about £50 you get an 11g multi-channel GPS with flash memory which can attach to any standard collar.  There’s even a social network so humans can share their cat’s wanderings online.

Combine this with a small camera and your moggy could be geotagging its way around your neighbourhood from sometime in May.

[G-Paws]

Material Love

English: Apple iPhone (left) vs HTC Hero (righ...

English: Apple iPhone (left) vs HTC Hero (right). Adapted from original source, to scramble screenshot of non-free software. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My phone’s outer shell is made from plastic and a piece of thin glass.  My car’s made of metal.  If the car was made of carbon fibre it would be seen as premium and special, yet the new Samsung Galaxy S4 has been criticised for being made of plastic, because it’s not metal like the iPhone 5.

It’s not the first time the tech industry has had a metal fetish, in the seventies and eighties everything “premium” had to have a brushed aluminium fascia, then we went through the period where clear coloured plastic was fashionable, a fad caused in a large part by Apple again with the original iMac and its guts-and-all on show design approach.  Sleek black plastic in exotic moulded shapes was the future.  For a while.

Today it doesn’t matter how good quality the plastic, or more accurately in expensive phones, polycarbonate is the legions of gadget blog and mag writers and commenters will whinge that it feels cheap compared to the metal iPhone or new HTC One purely because it isn’t metal.  The idea that metal is premium comes from the sense that it’s more resilient, like high-end granite kitchen worktops, and that it takes more effort, more craftsmanship to make, hewn from blocks of aluminium by bespectacled artisans.  A CNC milling machine in reality is a little less romantic and premium.

The strange thing is that the metal phones are more prone to the screen cracking, easier to scratch and more likely to be permanently dented when dropped.  But despite this and despite the fact that the plastics in even my sub-£100 phone feel solid and quality as far as I’m concerned metal is the thing to have.  But it’s all image, until the iPhone gained a metal body no-one cared about it, there were plastic phones that felt sturdy and plastic phones that felt like they were made out of microwave meal cartons and the iPhone 3G was one of the former (for better signal strength).  In fact many old phones had metal backplates that many people probably didn’t even think about.  It’s also marketing, use a different material for the case, tell people its revolutionary and so much cooler and better and people will snap it up.

The next big thing?  I’ve heard it’s going to be ceramic phones*, you know shiny, glossy, tough enamelled ceramics.  It’ll be the thing to have.   “Aluminium?  The same stuff they make Coke cans out of?  So cheap feeling, so cold, look at my new phone, it’s ceramic.”

(* – I may have imagined this.)

The Speed of Social Networks

Old News - canon rebel t2i

Old News – canon rebel t2i (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Once upon a time news travelled at the speed of the fastest runner, as the story of the battle of Marathon demonstrated, with the information being eventually wheezed out to a gathered crowd.  Later news from abroad depended on the speed of a ship and the reliability of the wind.  Eventually many people received news by newspapers or weekly newsreels.  Even with the advent of Wire Services one thing still delayed the news – the need to get reporters and photographers to where the witnesses are.

Now though this has all changed.  News services monitor Twitter and anyone with a modern smartphone and decent data connection can be an on-the-spot reporter.  The recent Russian meteorite was not only one of the most well recorded in history, with the wealth of dashcam footage available rapidly on YouTube and the like but it was also very quickly reported on via the internet.  The BBC’s Horizon programme described the possible chain of events surrounding the future collapse of La Cumbre Vieja on La Palma, an event that could cause an Atlantic-wide mega-tsunami.  One aspect was the way the news of the event would be transmitted – within moments of the collapse beginning there would inevitably be a torrent of Tweets and photos on Twitter and Facebook.

The near instantaneous sharing of news worldwide is an unexpected side effect of services that are regarded generally as just a way to let your friends know, instantaneously, what you had for breakfast.  In the future governments as well as the news agencies will be watching out for keywords in public tweets and Facebook posts to gain early notifications that something serious is happening, from natural disasters to man-made tragedies.  This early warning can enable emergency plans to be activated sooner, and more lives be saved.

News has changed forever, from the speed of sail to the speed of light.

Smart Uses for Dumbphones

Nokia 8250

Nokia 8250 (Photo credit: xcode)

Smartphones are everywhere now it seems, especially as they become increasingly intuitive to use, more powerful and as such multi-functional.  However what are now referred to as dumbphones still have uses.  People who just want something for making and receiving phone calls or texts appreciate them, one iPhone user turned his into a dumbphone by removing all the apps except the SMS and dialer and found the experience refreshing – I wonder if he’d have found it as easy to sell the shiny, touchy-feely one and buy a £20 Nokia.

In much of the world though dumbphones are the most used phones, often for reasons of cost – both the hardware and the costs of data which make smartphones unviable.  As an article in Wired said amongst our world population of seven billion there are six billion mobile-phone subscriptions, in Columbia, Egypt and Indonesia the mobile penetration is over 90 percent and it’s more than 100 percent in Brazil, Vietnam and Russia.  The same article is about how marketers are using the ubiquity of basic mobiles to reach new markets.  The cost of mobile minutes in emerging markets are high and as such are a precious commodity, or currency.  The article author, Nathan Eagle’s company Jana provides services whereby mobile users can be rewarded with airtime for trying new products, filling in surveys and looking at adverts.  74 percent of users in Brazil would be happy to receive adverts in return for airtime.  Multinationals are catching on, P&G have launched a campaign and Jana helped Danone doubled sales of yogurt via a similar campaign.  This kind of targeted marketing that we’re used to with our smartphones is now reaching more emerging markets and according to Nathan Eagle using advertising budgets to give emerging markets consumers these airtime bonuses would give them more disposable income.

Also, in Wired’s April 13 edition is a piece about an Indian startup called Innoz and its service SMSGyan which is a search engine without the internet – again perfect for basic mobiles.  Founded by Deepak Ravindran, Mohammed Hisamuddin, Ashwin Nath and Abhinav Sree who dropped out of the Lal Bahadur Shastri College of Engineering in Kerala to persue the project to give more people access to information, and answers.  “Gyan” means “knowledge” in Hindi and the service has partnered with Wikipedia, Bing, Wolfram Alpha and others to enable the system to answer questions sent to their servers by text message.  Costing the equivalent of 1p per query it returns an answer as a text message.  The networks gain revenue, the service’s 120 million active users gain information.  The next step is expansion of the service beyond India, as the ability to gain access to info when you have no data service can be vital just about anywhere.

As Wired’s Jana article pointed out this is the second time basic mobiles have created a communications revolution in emerging markets.  The dumbphone’s not that dumb after all.

How The Net Saved Me £300

English: A close up of a Toshiba Satellite L30...

English: A close up of a Toshiba Satellite L305D-S5900 Laptop Computer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a bit of a techie though the trauma of trying to resurrect an uncooperative network or computer caused me to stop being a computer geek for a while though even now I don’t keep up with the differences between Core i3s, Core i5s, Phemons and memory specs, I thankfully don’t really need to.

I do though recognise when my computer’s doing something odd.  In the past the LCD monitor attached to my laptop has started flickering, little irritating horizontal bars, and as I recognised this as electrical noise I rerouted the cables away from noisy power cables, or in one instance plugged the laptop’s power lead in properly and all was well but over the last few months the problem has returned and nothing seemed to work, I couldn’t get the leads any further apart without the aid of scaffolding.

My immediate thought was that the external monitor output was on its way out, I connected my netbook to the monitor to check that it wasn’t that or the lead to it that was faulty.  Nope.  My heart sank, as much as I’d like a shiny new laptop, namely a Lenovo one in blue at a significant discount on Amazon Warehouse, not that I’d looked in any detail, I couldn’t justify it.  I have an old desktop PC that with £50 of upgrades to its memory and an adaptor for the laptop’s big hard drive would also do the job but I thought I’d try asking the massed geeks of the net for assistance first.

Having typed “toshiba satellite vga output flickering” into Google (other search engines are available) and clicked through a few links I found that many people had solved the problem by plugging the laptop and monitor into separate mains sockets.  Sceptical as I was I tried it and blow me it worked.  There’s still some faint flickering and the fact that it’s a recent problem makes me think the adaptor could still be on its last legs but replacing that’s the cheapest option of all, if and when I need to.

That’s one of the greatest benefits of the internet, for all the naysayers proclamations that it’s just a hole of filth and misinformation – if you cast your net wide enough you can find an answer to just about anything.

Women’s Health: Women Are More Tired Than Men — Here’s 7 Possible Reasons Why

LadyRomp

Woman sleeping in bed

It probably doesn’t come as a shock, but women are more likely than men to be super tired.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released on April 12th indicated that 15 percent of women compared to 10 percent men reported feeling “very tired or exhausted.” And that gap widens when you look at men and women between the ages of 18 and 44 (only 9 percent of men vs. 16 percent of women).

Here are seven (not totally scientific) reasons we think this may be the case:

1. You might be doubling up on the work you do. Although we’ve made strides toward a more equitable division of labor, women still tend to do more hours of housework and child-rearing than men do. So women who work outside of the house as well essentially have two jobs.

2. You have too many weeknight plans. Women are overwhelmingly guilty…

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What being a Writer taught me

The IDEA Bucket

The new writer

I read something pertaining to writers a few days back. It was a letter Oscar Wilde had written to someone asking for tips on how to become successful as a writer. Mr. Wilde told him not to depend on his art as his sole source of income and that he should keep his “day job” since one might sacrifice his everything for his art, but Art is a cruel mistress.

In fact, most of the writers I have come across lately do not depend on the sales of their books as the sole source of income. (Some authors even make more money via affiliate links and advertisements on their sites  than their books.)

The new-age, independent writer now constitutes a niche called micro-entrepreneurs as they offer products (e-books, courses, video tutorials) to services like editing, sponsored posts, reviews, etc  from their micro platforms or companies (website/blogs/social networking sites). Some writers who spend a lot of…

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Cheeky Marketing

apples

apples (Photo credit: msr)

My parents will tell you that when I was little, as in younger not shorter, I watched the adverts on TV more than the programmes.  back then there were many amusing and memorable ads, these days though too many try to be clever or ironic but fail to be funny – notable exceptions being the current Fosters “Good Call” campaign and Three’s Dancing Pony.  Some of the pseudo-science can be hilarious if you’re of a scientific persuasion but that’s for another post on another day.

One recent advert immediately caught my eye and made me laugh, then had me wondering whether they’d get away with it.  No, I thought, their lawyers must have checked it.  It’ll be fine.  The ad in question is, of course, the Somersby Cider parody of the excitement that surrounds the product launches of a certain fruitily named purveyor of shiny gadgetry.  I was impressed with the creativity and just how many gadget puns they managed “single core, dual core” and the “less apps, more apples” tagline.  The fact that it’s cider just added to the enjoyment of it.

But it’s not just Carlsberg who have been a tad cheeky recently, in the days preceding Samsung’s Galaxy S4 launch LG placed an ad for their Nexus 4 on their Times Square billboard above Samsung’s “be ready 4 the next Galaxy”  which read “ready 4 you now”.  Cunning.

Then on the launch day while journalists were waiting to enter the venue and feeling rather chilly in the midst of the New York winter HTC thoughtfully laid on complimentary hot chocolate.  So yet more tasty marketing.

It’s good to see that in our times of vicious patent lawsuits and arguments over who invented rectangles with rounded corners companies can indulge in some light-hearted competition.