Tag Archives: technology

Technology – That Was Then, This is Now

This guest post is contributed by my Aussie mate, Jim Hillier. Jim is the resident freeware aficionado at Dave’s Computer Tips. A computer veteran with 30+ years experience who first started writing about computers and tech back in the days when freeware was actually free. His first computer was a TRS-80 in the 1980s, he progressed through the Commodore series of computers before moving to PCs in the 1990s. Now retired (aka an old geezer), Jim retains his passion for all things tech and still enjoys building and repairing computers for a select clientele… as well as writing for DCT, of course.


I was just sitting and thinking the other day – you probably heard the strange ticking noises – about how far PC technology has advanced over the past few decades. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth now so these moments of nostalgia are not uncommon.

A computer of some kind or another has been a part of my life for so long and I marvel at the differences between what we thought was the bees knees 30 odd years ago to what we expect today.

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I started off circa 1980 with a TRS-80 purchased from Tandy, this was a very basic machine compared to today’s PCs but at that time it was considered pretty cool. Programs came on pre-recorded tapes which were loaded via a connected tape player. They were very volume sensitive with each program requiring its own optimum volume level and users had to keep a list of what programs loaded best at what volume setting. I taught myself Basic language during that time and used to amuse the kids with little programs I’d write especially for them.

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Next, I moved on through the Commodore series of computers, starting off with a good old Commodore 64 and eventually to an Amiga 500 and 600. When it came to playing games, these machines were incomparable in their day. I still have a working Amiga 500 and 600 stored away in the garage but, unfortunately, the floppies and software have long fallen victim to far too many house moves.

I can’t even recall the exact specs of my first Windows PC but I do remember they were far from spectacular. Those were the days when 20GB hard drives and 256MB RAM were pretty much the norm. I do, however, still remember the specs, if not the model number, of my first Windows XP machine purchased from Dell some 14 years ago which came with an 80GB hard drive, Pentium 4 CPU, and 512MB RAM – pretty good specs at that time but laughable by today’s standards.

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I’ll tell you something; XP sure taught me a lot about computers and the Windows operating system. I think I spent most of that initial year or so with XP on Google looking up how to fix this and that. XP really was a horrible operating system when it was first released, regularly BSODing all over the place. A decade and 3 service packs later, of course, XP had matured into a pretty good OS, but people tend to forget about those formative years.

Following the Dell’s untimely demise, I built my first custom machine. This was during a period when hardware advancements really went crazy and the “norm” moved to unprecedented new heights. The new norm for hard drive capacities increased from 40-80GB to 350-500GB.  The new standard for RAM was now 2-4GB rather than a measly 512MB, and Intel had introduced a whole new range of powerful CPUs.

My latest custom built machine is even more powerful of course. I always try to build my machines to specs which offer value while still retaining at least some relevancy for a period of time. However, technology is moving forward at such a rate that this is often a fool’s errand and, even as the last screw secures the tower’s side panel, I am aware that the machine is probably already outdated.

Peripherals:

I can’t finish up without also mentioning the dramatic advancements in peripherals. I remember saving up for months to purchase an Epson LQ dot matrix printer which cost an exorbitant $599.00au, ten times the amount of today’s basic multi-function inkjets.

And who remembers the old CRT monitors, whose bulk and weight belied their small screen size?

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Who would have thought that those humble beginnings would lead to a tiny portable device capable of not only making and receiving phone calls but also connecting to the internet, watching videos, playing games and music, taking photos, etc.

As I watch today’s youngsters nimbly manipulating their internet connected smartphones and tablets, I can’t help but wonder what awesome technological innovations might be in store for them during the next 30 years. The mind boggles!

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Filed under computer, History

4 Amazing Things Created By 3D Printing

In 1984 3D printing was born, and after some incredible advances in 3D printing technology over the past twenty years, we’re now at a point where we’re beginning to see some impressive results.

I have put together a list of some of the craziest, most impressive and potentially world-changing 3D printed objects that have so far been created by this mind-blowing technology – which is still only in its infancy.

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1. Artificial blood vessels

Back in 2011 a research team at the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany successfully overcome problems in tissue engineering when they printed working blood vessels.

There had been a number of research teams that tried to overcome the problems involved in providing artificial tissue with nutrients that need to arrive via capillary vessels, but these results from the German team are the most promising.

If creating working blood vessels wasn’t impressive enough, the technology could soon be used to help those patients on organ donation lists, and allow us to print fully working organs for transplant.

2. A gun

While an entire 3D printed gun hasn’t yet been made, technological advances have meant that certain parts of guns can be. Lower receivers, the parts of a gun that include the workings of the trigger and the magazine, have already been successfully printed and fitted by some 3D printing/gun enthusiasts – and it’s been causing quite a bit of controversy.

Should the technology improve to a point where additional gun parts can be manufactured (and the odds of that happening are pretty strong) then 3D printers could effectively kill a country’s gun control legislation, with individuals effectively able to create their own weapons at home – or at least, part of them.

3. A prosthetic jaw

In 2012 Belgium scientists created a 3D-printed jawbone for an 83-year-old woman after her jaw became badly infected. The standard 20-hour surgery required to reconstruct the jaw was deemed too dangerous considering the patients age, so something else had to be thought up…

While prosthetic jaws have been created before, the operation was the first ever to involve a 3D printed prosthetic. The prosthetic jaw was printed in layers from titanium powder before being covered in a ‘bioceramic’ coating.

4. Other 3D printers…

In 2007 RepRap Project (short for replicating rapid prototyper) – a company whose goal is to develop the world’s first self-replicating 3D printer – released Darwin, a 3D printer capable of printing almost all of its component parts.

RepRap Project hopes one day to be able to supply their 3D printers cheaply to people around the world, and to communities in need of materials normally associated with expensive industrial processes that they have no access to.

Exciting news for global development – these self-replicating 3D printer could well bring about a new industrial revolution in the 21st century.

This is an article by Rob Henry who is one of the directors at Ink Worldwide, which provides products like Epson, HP, Canon and Brother Ink and Toner throughout the UK. Rob has been with Ink Worldwide from the beginning and has played a major role in helping run and grow the company.

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Filed under 3D Printing, Guest Writers, Printers

How Solid Ink Technology Can Revolutionize Workplace Sustainability

Think you know ink? In this guest author article, you’ll get an introduction to an old “new” technology – Solid Ink.

imageAlthough Solid Ink technology is far from a brand-new concept – having been around since the early 1990s – it remains unique in its innovative printing method as one of the most economical and environmentally friendly techniques in the printer industry.

It is not only an increasingly viable and affordable option for businesses looking to improve the color output and professionalism of their business documents; it has the ability to significantly improve a company’s bottom line.

Developed by Xerox and brought to market in 1991, Solid Ink is now said to generate up to 90 per cent less printing waste than comparable color laser printers; resulting in a very attractive low total cost of ownership.

As a cartridge-free technology, there are no cartridges to dispose of from the workplace and subsequently, less packaging to feed to the landfills. But how does it work and how does it provide such a vibrant print output in comparison to a conventional laser or LED printer?

Solid Ink images are printed onto a rotating drum that is offset onto paper with just a single pass of the print engine. This imaging process ensures an almost-100 per cent ink-to-page transfer for normal printing.

Unlike toners that can spill and leak, causing wastage, not to mention smudge resulting in poorer quality print output, Solid Ink sticks are incredibly safe and clean, generating a miniscule amount of landfill waste in comparison with a typical color laser.

Businesses looking to minimize waste of valuable resources on printer maintenance should look to adopt a Solid Ink printer immediately. These only consist of three main assemblies – the print head, the print drum and the controller. With fewer parts to maintain and repair and its ability to last for up to 10,000 prints on average, these printers also use considerably less energy over the light cycle and reduce the energy consumption of color printers from over 75 per cent by an additional 42 per cent.

There is a myth that Solid Ink devices can take a long time to warm up, holding back print jobs that result in delays and workplace inefficiency. It is not however regarded an issue in the typical office environment, particularly where Solid Ink printers are left ‘idle’ in low-power modes rather than switched off entirely.

Many of Xerox’s uniquely-developed Solid Ink printers boast a patented Intelligent Ready power management function that learns and adapts to the unique print usage patterns of your particular workplace.

With a low entry price and greatly reduced cost per page Solid Ink printing technology is now the most environmentally friendly way of putting image to paper and can greatly reduce a business’s carbon footprint in line with government targets.

About the author

“How Solid Ink Technology Can Revolutionize Workplace Sustainability” is written by authorized Xerox supplier First Choice Business Systems, one of the UK’s leading providers of Solid Ink multifunctional printers and print production environments. It aims to maximize efficiency, cost control and organizational fit for customers across a breadth of industries.

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Filed under Digital Media, Green Living, Guest Writers

I’m Infected With Technology Fatigue

imageThe Internet is a demanding mistress. Once you hookup – you’re hooked. At the moment I’m on a short vacation and yet, I find I have a craving to stay connected.

Now, that’s either a sad commentary on my lifestyle, or the tentacles of “always on” communication have finally managed to wrap themselves around my DNA. Maybe this is what evolution is really all about   Smile Frankly though, I’m beginning to find the whole thing neuron numbing.

It’s not just the Net that has wormed its way into my subconscious (I wonder what Freud would say about that), it’s the entire technology thing – the world of connected devices, and the ever increasing perceptual need for increased speed.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece – which I didn’t post – in which I kicked around the following personal points.


image_thumb2_thumb_thumbI’m an old computer dog now, and I must admit, that being so makes it just a little harder to learn new tricks. On the other hand, being an old dog does have a positive side – I’m not a techno lemming.

You won’t find me jumping off the cliff with the masses on their way to the Apple (Techno Lemmings “R” Us) Store, for the latest and greatest iPad, or iPhone, or stripping out a dual core processor for a tiny improvement (maybe) to be gained by installation a quad core, or better, processor.

Even Facebook has little appeal – although, I will admit, I do have a Facebook account. Not sure why really – I just don’t see the benefit; at least not yet. Hmmm, maybe I’m more hype driven than I feel comfortably admitting.


Fast forward to today  – I now use Facebook more than ever, (as well as Google+), I jumped off the techno lemming cliff and bought an iPad (to mate with my smart phone) and, went so far as to install a quad core processor – and realized no perceptible gain. Although, I’m sure a benchmarking application will show an increase in performance – if I could only learn to count in microseconds I’m convinced I’d see it too.

This past week, I paid a visit to my Bank (for the first time in years), and not surprisingly, few of the staff recognized me as a customer. Hardly unusual given that I conduct all my financial affairs on the Net. Still, I found it troubling since in years gone by, dropping into the Bank was not unlike stopping by the coffee shop – a bit of conversation – a chance to catch up on the local gossip.

I’m not suggesting that I’ll give up on Internet banking anytime soon but, my banking visit drove home to me that there is a personal hidden price to all this new fangled technology – at my Bank, for example, I’ve become a nameless, faceless, non-entity. Given the types of transactions I complete on the Net, I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg. In all likelihood, I’ve been reduced to an IP address.

Some years back, I cut my Internet connection for eighteen months or so (2000 – 2001), and, I was more than a little surprised to find that I didn’t miss it – not at all. Interestingly, by the time I reconnected, the basics had not changed. Sure, the hype machine was in its usual overdrive mode in its attempt to convince me that I had missed a revolution – and admittedly, I had missed some evolution – but, hardly a revolution.

I’m now an even older computer dog and, despite my best efforts, I have become a techno lemming. I’m convinced that I’m addicted to the adrenalin rush attached to the self driven need to stay on the leading edge of technology. Sad really.

Marshal McLuhan was right – “The medium is the message”. On balance, I think that connective technologies have been hijacked, more often than not, so that the technologies have become the message rather than content. And so, the need by technologists to disparage “soon to be old technology” which must be replaced by new and more exciting advances. Or so goes the ever active hype machine.

I’m taking myself out of that game. While it’s hardly practical for me to cut the Internet cord again – it is time for me to climb another mountain I think – time to reassess the benefits of my wired world – time to reconnect more closely with the “real” world.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Internet Addiction, Opinion, Point of View, Social Networks

The latest and greatest technology gift ideas for Father’s Day

Thinking about that special gift for Father’s Day? Guest writer David Samuel offers some suggestions; a few you might consider – well,  just a little “strange” (maybe that should read – “bleeding edge”).

imageWith Father’s day just around the corner it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to get your loved one. It’s very easy to settle for the usual gifts such as his favorite beverage or a new sweater but he deserves better than that. Instead of the usual anticipated tiresome gift why not surprise your old man with some tech wizardry, below are some of latest and greatest technology gift ideas to suit all tastes and budgets.

Before you dismiss the notion on the grounds that your father simply does not get along with technology consider this “technology works best when it is seamlessly integrated into everyday life”, which brings me on nicely to my first suggestion.

The universal remote controller with integrated bottle opener, no, I’m not making that up. Some genius has actually combined the two objects no man can live without and it can be yours from as little as £23.50. If your Dad loves beer and TV this gift is pretty much the Holy Grail.

For those of you with fathers who like to showcase their masculinity then the talking digital grill thermometer will give him the perfect platform to exhibit his awesome caveman like cooking skills. Now all the family can relax without the worry of food poisoning.

For those of you with cash to splash, why not spoil your father with a tablet PC. The Apple iPad is the most popular tablet right now but android tablets are making a surge in popularity and leading the way is the Asus Transformer TF101.

Next up is a gift suited for the intellectual Dad’s out there. A touch screen hand-held Soduku device, with multiple levels of difficulty and an array features this will have your Dad banging his head against a wall in frustration.

As promised five great technology related gift ideas to suit all tastes and budgets, you’ve now got no excuse to settle for the ordinary. The above ideas will have hopefully give you some food for thought but don’t hang around, Father’s Day is fast approaching.

Got a gift idea of your own? Please feel free to share your ideas below in the comments section. Silly, peculiar and great technology gift ideas are all welcome.

Bio:

David Samuel is an electronic media consultant, with over 13 years’ involvement with some of the world’s leading electronic retailers. David’s awareness and market intelligence make him one of the best equipped experts around. While specializing in laptops David’s knowledge covers a wider spectrum of consumer electronics.

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Filed under Connected Devices, Guest Writers, iPad, Older Adult Computer Users, Point of View

HTC EVO 3D Brings 3D Parallax to Smartphones

Smartphone 3D – a game changer, or just a passing fad? Guest writer Simon Drew takes a look.

imageWith the resurrection in 3D cinema in recent years with Hollywood hits like Avatar, there has been a big drive by electronics companies to extend the craze to other devices. 3D televisions are now becoming more commonplace and even 3D games consoles are available with the introduction of the Nintendo 3DS.

It is no surprise then that this ‘new’ technology should make its way into the world of mobile phones, and even less of a surprise that HTC would be one of the companies at the helm of this latest development.

Although 3D cinema has been around for several decades, the technology has not really existed until now to take it to a wider arena. The electronics industry is currently undergoing rapid development however, thanks to the ever increasing demand for the latest smartphone gadgetry, and now it is more than feasible to introduce this feature to the world of mobile telephony.

It should be noted that the 3D technology found on the HTC EVO 3D, as with its only current rival the LG Optimus 3D, does not work in the same way as 3D cinema. While the latter requires 3D glasses to be worn for the 3D effect to be achieved, this is no longer a requirement with the relatively recent development of parallax barrier displays.

This system works by placing an undetectable barrier between the user and the screen so that the screen image is only partially displayed. This results in each eye seeing a slightly different image and the resulting disparity being the cause of an apparent third dimension that does not truly exist. While this system means that 3D glasses are no longer required it does have one obvious drawback.

This drawback is that the 3D effect is only achieved when the screen is held at a certain viewing angle. For short term use this is fine, but unless you are able to maintain perfect positioning of your head and the phone screen for extended periods, this will only lead to frustration when trying to engage in longer activities like watching 3D movies.

This is a similar setback to the one found on early handheld colour devices such as the Sega Gamegear. While the Sega handheld console looked more spectacular on paper, it lost out to its monochromatic Nintendo Gameboy rival for this very same reason – the screen was only viewable if you held it in the correct position.

Perhaps this was part of Sega’s downfall as they certainly don’t enjoy the position that they once did in the gaming industry. Should HTC and LG be worried? Maybe, but probably not. Most owners of their smartphones are not impatient school children and both companies have more up their sleeves than just 3D smartphones.

However, it could be a deciding factor in whether or not 3D really takes off in the smartphone industry and becomes a well established niche like music phones or camera phones. There are, no doubt, a great many people who will be keen to get their hands on this latest technological development but, perhaps even more who will not be fully convinced until this drawback is ironed out.

Simon Drew is a Marketing Executive with MD Operations Ltd, an online marketing company based in the UK.

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Filed under cell phone, Communication, Connected Devices, Interconnectivity, Telephone

Smarter Than Ever – IObit Releases Free Smart Defrag 2

IObit announces a new version of their free disk defragment software – Smart Defrag 2.

Defrag In a real sense, it’s often difficult to measure an increase in system performance following Hard Drive defragmentation. Nevertheless, I do agree, that defragging is a positive maintenance process, and should be done regularly.

A  quick recap on disk fragmentation: What is it?

Creating and deleting files and folders, installing new software, and downloading files from the Internet, will cause a Hard Drive to become fragmented. When you delete files or folders, the first available empty spaces on the Hard Drive are filled in randomly when you create new files and folders – as you do when you save pics from your camera, install software, save emails, or create documents.

To keep fragmentation to a minimum, I run the paid version of TuneUp Utilities 2011 in the background, which continuously optimizes, amongst other things, my computer’s hardware, including automatic disk defragging.

The latest release (March 18, 2011 ), of the award winning free system tool, IObit Smart Defrag 2 , can also run on this type of “set and forget” basis. I occasionally hear from users that they can’t remember the last time they defragged their disk/s – they’ll get to it – eventually. But, they don’t have to – IObit Smart Defrag 2, can do this for them on a continuous basis.

Sporting a brand new user interface, (which remains uncluttered), IObit Smart Defrag 2 continues to be easy to use, and as in previous versions – it’s fast and efficient, and best of all, it’s free.

Installation: Be cautious.

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NEW – Boot time defrag allows files which can’t be defragged, or moved while the system is running, to be defragged. These files include pagefile, hibernation file, MFT, and system files.

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If you’re running the automatic defrag feature, you’ll have ready access to a simple reporting tool.

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Running a full defrag, and full optimization (which places  frequently used files and folders into the fastest area of the disk), took just a few minutes.

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Fast facts:

Extremely Fast and Efficient Defragmentation Enhanced – Using IObit’s latest defrag engine and the new “Boot Time Defrag” technology, Smart Defrag 2 has not only the world’s fastest defragmenting speed but also the most advanced defragmenting ability. It’s been specially designed for modern, large hard drives, which eliminates the long waiting time.

Always-on Automatic Defragment Enhanced – Smart Defrag 2 works automatically and quietly in the background, so it continually and constantly keeps your computer fragment-free.

New! “Boot Time Defrag” Technology – Smart Defrag 2 uses a new “Boot Time Defrag” technology which allows you to defrag files during the system boot process – files which cannot be defragged or are not safe to move after the system is already up.

System requirements: Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit), Vista (32-bit and 64-bit), XP (32-bit and 64-bit) with SP2/SP3 or Home/Professional/Media Center, and 2000.

Languages: English, Albanian, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Flemish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italiano, Japanese, Korean, Malayalam, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese, 简体中文, 繁體中文.

Download at: Download.com

The addition of a “boot-time defrag” feature (not always available in a free defrager), coupled with an improved defrag engine, makes Smart Defrag 2 a worthy competitor in a crowded freeware defrag market.

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Filed under 64 Bit Software, Computer Maintenance, Computer Tune Up Utilities, Defrag Tools, Defraggers, downloads, Freeware, Hard Drive Tools, IObit, Software, TuneUp Utilities, Windows Tips and Tools