Brian Micklethwait's Blog
In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.Home
Darren on The good done by the Apple Newton
Darren on Don't judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
Michael Jennings on The good done by the Apple Newton
Brian Micklethwait on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Tatyana on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Katherine James on A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
Katherine James on 3D printed baby in the womb
Simon Gibbs on "In order to comply with Google's regulations ..."
Brian Micklethwait on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Friday Night Smoke on I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
Most recent entries
- Under Blackfriars Bridge
- Feline ephemera
- The good done by the Apple Newton
- 3D printed baby in the womb
- A new Morrisons is opening in Strutton Ground next Monday
- Ashes Lag recovery continues
- A Bitcoin vending machine and a Lego photographer (and a Lego Hawking)
- “In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
- Blue wind
- Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
- Me trying to tell Norman Foster and Richard Rogers apart
- I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
- The Met swoops on the Adams Family
- South Bank Architects?
- Colour photography
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Category archive: Technology
Incoming from 6000, aware of my Feline Friday habit, about a 16th century plan to use cats and doves as weapons of war:
Asking for trouble, I’d say.
Thus encouraged on the cat front, I went looking for other weird stuff, in the cat category.
I found this, which is a camera decorated with a logo that is part Hello Kitty and part Playboy Bunny. Weird:
I guess the Kitty is wearing those big pretend rabbit ears.
And weirdest of all, beauty bloggers are decorating cat claws:
It seems that doing crazy things with cats is a permanent part of the human condition. Although to be fair, the excuse for the pink claws above is that they stop your cat from scratching the furniture. And I suppose making them brightly coloured means you can see at once if the cat is wearing them, or has managed to get rid of some of them.
In the latest manifestation of the original Friday ephemera, there are no cats. Not this time. But 6000 included the weaponised cat notion in an ephemeral collection of his own. His final ephemeron was an octopus photo. That also just about qualifies as feline, if you focus on the final three letters.
From towards the end of this by Stephen Green:
Apple is one of the biggest users of batteries on the planet. Every iPhone, every iPad, every MacBook runs on battery power. Apple devices also tend to get the best battery bang for the size, compared to the competition. This is a company which understands better than probably any other on the planet how to make devices which conserve power while still producing best-in-class performance. If Apple wants to continue to improve, they should absolutely pursue every kind of energy source Cook believes might produce future improvement for Apple’s devices and for its customers. Will there be blind alleys and dead ends? Sure.
The Apple Newton was a dead-end device, but creating that product also resulted in the super-low-power ARM chips which run damn near every decent mobile device on the planet.
Interesting. I don’t know what an ARM chip is, but that sounds reasonable. I’m guessing the Apple Newton was one of those ideas where a whole lot of new things all had to work at once, and only some of them, like those ARM chips, did.
I once bought an Apple keyboard, but apart from that I can’t remember buying any Apple stuff. But, I am acutely aware of how much I have benefited from their activities, which caused everyone to do far better than they would have done otherwise.
… Yet for me, the most memorable 3D printing innovation of the last year or so was the launch of a $1,200 service called ‘Form of Angels’ from the Japanese pioneer Fasotec. Here an MRI scan is taken of a pregnant woman, and then used to produce a 3D printed model of her unborn baby. The plastic foetus can even be supplied embedded in a resin model of its mother’s midriff for presentation on the expectant parent’s mantelpiece.
Pictures of what that looks like here, among (as you can imagine) many other places.
Yesterday I did something that is often rather hard. I photographed some wind. Any idiot who can video (a category of idiot that does not really include me – although I hope to be changing that Real Soon Now) can video wind. You video trees swaying. Roof clutter swaying. Things being blown around. Whatever. But how do you photo the wind? Answer you photo its static dislocative (my word processor says that isn’t a word – it is now) effects. But these effects are rather rare. What you need is something like sails on boats, or some kind of urban substitute for sails on boats. Yesterday, when on my way to Victoria Station, I encountered just such a substitute.
Did you detect a whiff of verbosity in the first paragraph above? If so you would, I think, be right. This is because I was writing verbiage to go next to a big vertical picture, verbiage that needs to be enough to prevent the picture impinging upon the previous posting.
The first two paragraphs of the above verbiage did not suffice to accomplish this task. Hence these final five paragraphs.
And hence the fact that they are five paragraphs rather than one.
I was just making sure.
I can’t tell until I post it, whether this problem has been sorted, so I am now over-reacting.
From the Preface of Christopher Barnatt’s 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution:
Within a decade or so, it is likely that a fair proportion of our new possessions will be printed on demand in a local factory, in a retail outlet, or on a personal 3D printer in our own home. Some objects may also be stored and transported in a digital format, before being retrieved from the Internet just as music, video and apps are downloaded today. While the required technology to allow this to happen is still in its infancy, 3D printing is developing very rapidly indeed. Some people may tell you that 3D printing is currently being overhyped and will have little impact on industrial practices and our personal lives. Yet these are the same kinds of individuals who once told us that the Internet was no more than a flash in the pan, that online shopping would have no impact on traditional retail, and that very few people would ever carry a phone in their pocket.
In 1939 the first TV sets to go on sale in the United States were showcased at the World Fair in New York. These early TVs cost between $200 and $600 (or about the same as an automobile), and had rather fuzzy, five inch, black-and-white screens. Most of those who attended the World Fair subsequently dismissed television as a fad that would never catch on. After all, how many people could reasonably be expected to spend a large proportion of their time staring at a tiny, flickering image?
The mistake made by those who dismissed television in 1939 was to judge a revolutionary technology on the basis of its earliest manifestation. Around 7S years later, those who claim 3D printing to be no more than hype are, I think, in danger of making exactly the same error.
I’m guessing that what I saw in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, was the 3D Printer equivalent of those “rather fuzzy, five inch, black-and-white screens”, at the New York World Fair, the first stumbling steps.
I haven’t read much of this book yet, but I have already learned one excellent application of 3D printing, which is to print not the Thing itself, but the mold for making the Thing. You then make the Thing itself in the regular old way. Clever.
LATER: Here is Barnatt’s description of that last thing (p. 9):
A particularly promising application of 3D printing is in the direct production of molds, or else of master ‘patterns’ from which final molds can be taken. For example, as we shall see in the next chapter, ‘3D sand casting’ is increasingly being used to print molds into which molten metals are then directly poured to create final components. As explained by ExOne - a pioneer in the manufacture of 3D printers for this purpose - by 3D printing sand casting molds, total production time can be reduced by 70 per cent, with a greater accuracy achieved and more intricate molds created. In fact, using 3D sand casting, single part molds can be formed that would be impossible to make by packing sand around a pattern object that would then need to be removed before the mold was filled with molten metal.
Like I say, clever.
My scanner turned “molds” into “maids” throughout that piece of scanning. Not clever.
Mick Hartley’s latest little clutch of photos illustrates one of the things I particularly like about his photography, which is his relish of colour. He even points spells this out in the title of his posting. I have nothing against black and white photography, especially in the decades when it was that or nothing, and neither does Mick Hartley. But there is something rather fetishistic and fake-arty about how black and white photography continues to be worshipped, long after colour photography became easy to do.
Often colour is deeply embedded in the story that the picture tells, as in this photo. This is not one of Hartley’s own, but he constantly picks up great photos done by others on his radar (this one being number nine of these twelve):
No prizes for seeing why I particularly like that one.
But it’s not just the photography aspect that I like. I also like that the anonymity angle is also covered. I more and more tend to prefer anonymity in the pictures I take myself of other photographers, and post here. Often it happens because the camera covers the face of the photographer I am photoing.
I went rootling through my archives for a snap of someone whose face is partially hidden, and found this snap, of which I am very proud. Here, the anonymity job, albeit only partially, is done by a big pair of sunglasses.
I also like the colours in that photo. Snobbery about blackness and whiteness, and especially about blackness, also extends to what colour cameras ought to be, doesn’t it?
Yes, I’m afraid I’ve been doing rather a lot of quota posting of late.
So anyway, here’s the link.
And here is the quota photo:
That’s actually one of my more favourite recent photos. It was taken just before Christmas, in Twickenham, where Patrick Crozier lives, through the window of a shop where they sell … things like that.
I like the water on the window.
I don’t know how it works for you, but when I am waiting for a bus, I can think of nothing except the bus. When will it arrive? I need to know in advance, or I might not realise it has come and then miss it, by reading a book and ignoring it, for instance. So, I squint obsessively into the distant place where the bus will first be visible.
When a bus does appear, the next question is: Is that the right bus? I need to know. But, my eyesight is terrible. I can just about see that it’s a bus. But what number bus? Is it a number that will suit me?
Last Tuesday evening, I was waiting for a bus to arrive to take me to Chateau Samizdata. For several long minutes, no bus appears, to replace the one I had just missed by about fifteen seconds. Finally, one does appear, emerging from Parliament Square and preparing itself to make its way up Victoria Street, about half away along which I was standing in wait. The usual paroxysm of infuriated uncertainty begins. Will it be a bus numbered in a way that suits me and my intended journey. The bus approaches with its inevitable and inevitably ridiculous slowness, waiting with an absurd deference to legality at the traffic lights next to New Scotland Yard, by which time I am finally able to discern that the number on the front is not the kind of number I want. The wrong numbered bus arrives, and continues up Victoria Street, with me not on it.
Then, another bus appears in the far distance, and that is when inspiration strikes. I realise that certainty regarding the suitability or unsuitability of the bus will come a whole lot sooner if I make use of my camera’s superior eyesight, compared to mine. So, I cranked up the zoom to its maximum, and took this photograph:
That won’t win any photo-of-the-year competitions, but I had my answer just about straight away, what with my camera being able to zero in on the destination and number on its little digital screen. Yes, a good bus. It was another minute or more before I would have been able to confirm this information with my mere eyes, and that was a minute during which infuriated uncertainty was replaced by contented anticipation.
So, another impact of digital photography. Bus stops, for me, are now slightly more fun and slightly less annoying.
This posting also explains why I so greatly appreciate those electronic bus stop signs that tell you exactly what buses are due, approximately when.
Guided by the excellent advice of my mostly silently lurking commentariat ("Friday Night Smoke” in particular has a way of supplying extraordinarily welcome and pertinent comments, with gaps between them of several months), I got myself this wonderful new computer screen. The main feature of this new screen is that, thanks to that advice, and unlike my previous computer screen, it is IPS.
IPS (In-plane switching) is a screen technology used for liquid crystal displays (LCDs). It was designed to solve the main limitations of the twisted nematic field effect (TN) matrix LCDs in the late 1980s, such as relatively high response time, strong viewing angle dependence and low-quality color reproduction. In-plane switching involves arranging and switching the molecules of the liquid crystal (LC) layer between the glass substrates. This is done in a plane parallel to these glass plates.
My IPS screen is at its considerable best, no matter what direction I look at it from. Unlike the earlier screen, where I needed to be directly in front of it to get a good result.
But, my old computer screen, just like the new one, was on my desk, right in front of me. So, although my new computer screen was a great improvement, I did not get the full force of the improvement, massive though that improvement was.
But now, when I look at my television, and then back at my computer screen. My television is not at the same level as my eyes. It is higher up than that. Now, next to my super new computer screen, it seems like everything on my television is permanently in the dark:
At first I just wanted to take and show that one picture. But then I thought, what if I photo the television screen from right in front of it, higher up? So, I raised my camera above my head, using its tilting screen to go on seeing the picture, and here is what suddenly happened:
Suddenly Charlie Sheen, one of Two And A Half Men (before Charlie Sheen got fired and his character killed), is suddenly to be seen, as clear as day.
Actually, in the bit linked to, Charlie Sheen’s exit from the show is described thus:
Even though Sheen’s antics involving Two and a Half Men have been continuously reported in every news medium, it’ll be interesting to see how violently killing off one of the series’ focal characters will be received by its viewers. While it can be said that television viewers are extremely loyal, the overt decimation of Charlie Harper may leave a bad taste in the mouth of those looking to watch an actual comedy series.
The word “decimate” is now routinely misused, to the point where it has pretty much lost its original meaning, of one in ten Roman soldiers in a legion being executed, when that legion misbehaved. But I have never before heard of an individual being “decimated”, overtly or otherwise. But I digress.
The point is, now I want a new television screen. There is nothing “wrong” with the old screen. It works as advertised. I just don’t like it any more.
But I also like these ...
… which were taken in 2001, in Paris, using my very first digital camera, something called a Minolta Dimage EX1500, which I wrote about at the bottom of this 2006 posting here, complete with a photo of this strange contraption. First generation digital cameras like that one were lousy in low light, so for making portraits indoors (which was what I first bought it) you needed flash. But flash from straight in line with the direction the camera is pointing is horrible, a guarantee of red eyes and hideous shadow effects. But this Minolta Dimage had a flash attachment that you could hold out to the side, at the other end of a wire, which changed everything. I am surprised more cameras don’t still sport such a feature.
And the reason I mention this now, all of a sudden, is that yesterday, I took another selfie of myself, in Currys PC World, Tottenham Court Road, where I had just picked out a cheap, nasty little portable DVD player the size of a laptop, costing about half what a radio used to cost, to watch in bed and send myself to sleep, which I need to do to cure my Ashes lag. There I was, wandering back towards the checkout, gawping at the giant flat screen TVs of the sort I can remember costing ten grand but which now cost not a lot more than one grand and some of them even less than that, and suddenly I saw myself on one of the screens.
Out comes the camera. Snap. Whenever I see something which startles me, I try to photo it, provided it’s still there to be photographed, as this strange sight was:
Unlike the above two photos, this one is not me photoing myself the wrong way round in a mirror, but photoing myself by photoing a photo of myself, which means that my photo is the right way around.
I’ve got the box with the little DVD player jammed under my left arm. I nearly put it in my bag while I was taking the photo, but that would have been half way to shoplifting and very dodgy looking. What with me being on camera at the time.
Mick Hartley links to some pictures of people forming human sculptures. He chooses his favourite. I choose this one:
One of the speculations I offered in my recent talk about the impact of digital photography was that digital photography has greatly encouraged this kind of temporary art.
Recently I heard tell of some kind of performance art event where cameras were forbidden. My googling skills did not enable me to track down any report of such an event, but I am guessing that one of their motives was to avoid the creation of an object, which someone might later buy, and then (perhaps for a great deal more money) sell. And I further guess that the “artists” in question were being deliberately contrary, as artists typically like to be these days, and chose to do the daft, counter-intuitive thing. The obvious response to temporary art is to take pictures of it, to make it permanent. So, said the artists, let’s forbid that, and be different.
But most people who do something “creative” want some kind of record or product of their efforts, something to show for it. Literally, some thing, to show. And the fact that it is now so totally easy to create such things, such records, and communicate them far and wide to friends and family, real and virtual, must surely increase the attraction of doing such temporary art. Art, that is to say, that in the past would have been temporary, but which can now be made permanent. See also: painting, sand castles, ice sculptures.
As to what these particular people are communicating with their body assemblages, what it speaks to me of is the futility of life in the world now, for young people, educated, unemployable, unneeded, probably in debt.
Here are an extraordinarily large number of photos of the Airbus A380, showing off at a Russian air show.
Here is one of my favourites, in the photoing-planes-from-above-and-yet-also-from-the-ground genre, that the A380 so likes to encourage, when showing off at air shows, the point being that for such a big airplane, this is a bit surprising:
I could be wrong, but somehow I don’t think a slogan like that – “Own the sky” - would be used in the primmer, prissier West, now so much more environmentally hesitant about jet airplanes. Not environmentally hesitant enough to actually stop flying them and flying in them, you understand, but environmentally hesitant enough for everyone to pretend they feel bad about it.
I got a very similar shot of the A380 when it performed the same kind of dance routine at Farnborough, in the summer of 2010:
No mention of anyone owning the sky then, there.
Another difference you can see there - see planely, you might say - is the difference a better camera makes. Happily my 2010 camera is not the one I use now, which is rather better.
Yes. Following the comments on this earlier posting, mentioning the magic acronym “IPS” (totally new to me until now – what it means is colours don’t change with the viewing angle), I went to PC World and bought one of these, the excitingly named LG 23EA63, off one of PC World’s shelves. This screen is probably not nearly as good as the one Michael J recommended, or as any of the others talked about in those comments, but it had the virtue of costing only £130. For something like a screen, that is nearly petty cash for me, so I would not object to later getting an even better screen, chosen with greater care and deliberation, after such screens have got even better than they are now.
The thing was, I really needed an okay screen, now. Not a brilliant screen in ten days. An okay one straight away. This is why God invented shops. I considered Argos (there is one a walk away from me), but decided that I would get more (as in: some) help if I went to PC World. So it proved. Recent experience of the customer service in PC World Tottenham Court Road has been very good, so that’s where I went.
I noticed on my way home that further thought has been given to packaging since I last bought something of this kind. The box I took it home in had a convenient handle to hold, and was as thin as ingenuity could make it. Such things are not trivial. Well, maybe they are, but they are very nice. As usual capitalism obsesses about the details, and constantly improves them.
Getting back to how the screen works, this screen is only “okay” rather than “brilliant” when compared to truly brilliant screens costing significantly more. For me, this one is already brilliant, a massive step up compared to the horrible screen I have been using for the last few weeks. All my photos now look hugely better than they just did, and, I am almost certain, better than they ever did, even on my earlier Samsung screen. This, in other words, is the best screen I’ve ever had.
And on further reflection - reflection, by the way, being something that my new screen carefully refrains from doing – I find myself thinking of another reason why I am glad to have bought what I take to be a pretty bog standard screen, rather than the slightly grander ones being talked about by my helpful commenters. This blog depends a lot on my photographs, and I consider it a great advantage for me to be using a screen probably a lot like the sorts of screens most viewers of this blog will be using. How my photos look on this new screen of mine is probably how the majority of my viewers will likewise see them. A better screen might have got me rhapsodising about effects that many viewers might not themselves be getting.
Anyway, whether right about all this or deluded, and given that time may eventually tell rather differently, the way time so often does, I am now very happy.
A few weeks ago my NumberOneDoublePlusGood Computer screen, a Samsung, conked out. I have a cheap (i.e. sixty quid) back-up screen, which I am now using, but I don’t like it. Worse, I don’t trust it. I fear that, because of how this screen behaves, that I may as a result be misediting photos, so to speak, making them the wrong colour or the wrong level of brightness.
So, does anyone reading this have any ideas about what sort of screen I should buy to replace this screen? I’m thinking, quite big, quite cheap, and good for photos in particular and for computer mucking about by an amateur in general. I’ve been out of this market for a year or two, and would love some guidance. What I am looking for is that sweet price/quality spot at the top end of cheap. The best piece of kit that you can get for not silly money. I am not interested in spending a thousand quid getting something even more wonderful than wonderful, just two hundred quid on something wonderful. Thoughts anyone?
That talk I gave at Christian Michel’s was really just a ragbag of different thoughts I have had over the last few years about digital photography and its effects and uses. One of the effects I speculated about - having already done so beforehand, here was that digital photography has encouraged temporary art, such as graffiti, ice sculpture, and the like, by rewarding it with a permanence and swankableness that would, pre digital photography, have been hard to contrive.
Yesterday, following one of David Thompson’s Friday Ephemera links to some bizarre hyper-realistic painted wood sculptures, I came across yet another variant on the theme of artistic temporariness, in the form of some particularly fine sandcastles, done by someone called Calvin Seibert:
I chose a sandcastle picture that included the sea in it, to emphasise the fact that this wonderful creation will very soon be swallowed up and turned back into beach. In King Canute’s time, that would have been that, but we now live in the post-Canute age. Waves can be stilled, and sandcastles can stand on beaches for ever.