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Category archive: Technology

Wednesday March 04 2015

Dezeen reports, here.

Like I say: when drones do annoying things, they can be very annoying, but they are far too useful to ban.

Hey, maybe a drone could have a 3D printer attached to it, to 3D print in the sky!

As Andy said in his comment on this:

I think the answer is micro-controllers ...

Yes, once you have clever computers piloting these things, rather than clumsy old humans, they can do almost anything.

Saturday February 28 2015

I just googled “3D printing” and clicked on “images”.  One of the more interesting images I encountered was this one ...:

image

… which I found here.  The point being that this is one of those technologies which lots of people are getting excited about, perhaps as something they might be able to do themselves, for fun but also for profit.  But most of the significant early applications of 3D printing seem now to be by businesses which were already making stuff, and now have another way to make it.  Regular thing makers (for those not inclined to follow links that’s a link to pieces about the use of 3D printing by the aerospace industry) have a huge advantage over “home” 3D printers, which is that they already know what would be worth making.

And making in quite large quantities, which means that they can acquire or construct highly specialised 3D printers for those particular items, which use their own very particular material inputs.  3D printers, if they are to pay their way, must surely specialise.  Which means they’ll be applied first by businessmen, rather than by mere people in their homes.

I have yet to hear about any 3D printing killer app which will kick off the much talked-of but yet-to-occur home 3D printing revolution.  It will come, I’m sure.  But it hasn’t come yet.

Thursday February 26 2015

This is cool, says Instapundit, and he’s not wrong:

For all his joie de vivre, Jardine is a master drone builder and pilot whose skills have produced remarkable footage for shows like Australian Top Gear, the BBC’s Into the Volcano, and a range of music videos. His company Aerobot sells camera-outfitted drones, including custom jobs that require unique specifications like, say, the capacity to lift an IMAX camera. From a sprawling patch of coastline real estate in Queensland, Australia, Jardine builds, tests, and tweaks his creations; the rural tranquility is conducive to a process that may occasionally lead to unidentified falling objects.

Simply put, if you’ve got a drone flying challenge, Jardine is your first call.

So, Mr Jardine is now flying his flying robots over volcanoes.  There are going to be lots of calls to have these things entirely banned, but they are just too useful for that to happen.

When I was a kid and making airplanes out of balsa wood and paper, powered with rubber band propellers, I remember thinking that such toys were potentially a lot more than mere toys.  I’m actually surprised at how long it has taken for this to be proved right.

What were the recent developments that made useful drones like Jardine’s possible?  It is down to the power-to-weight ratio of the latest mini-engines?  I tried googling “why drones work”, but all I got was arguments saying that it’s good to use drones to kill America’s enemies, not why they are now usable for such missions.

Wednesday February 25 2015

It often happens with me that, while rootling around in the archives for one picture, I stumble across another which strikes me as worth showing to the massed ranks of BrianMicklethwaitDotCom’s readers.

Pictures like this, for instance, which I took at the top of the Monument, in November 2012:

image

Small, blurry, totally recognisable.  Definitely a Big Thing.

As for all that wire netting (which I believe dramatically lowers the cheese content of the above shot), well, here is another shot, of how matters at the top of the Monument used to be not so long ago:

image

I took that in July 2007.  (Note the pleasingly dated camera.) The change from prison bars to wire netting, which happened soon after that, was presumably because of different versions of health and safety.  Originally there was neither, just some waste high railings.  See this hand-done photo “by Canalleto (after)”, whatever that means.  (His production line, but not him, maybe?) And see also this picture.

Wednesday February 18 2015

Today was the first first day of spring, so to speak.  By this I mean that it was the first day of 2015 which made in clear that winter would eventually end and that summer would eventually arrive.  Cool, but blue sky and sunshine.  Meanwhile, winter may soon resume but spring at least is now officially on its way, and will happen.

As a technically rather incompetent photographer, heavily dependent on good light, I rejoice.  The season of rootling through the archives is nearly over.  The season of adding to the archives is getting started.

And, also today, I went to a funeral, in Salisbury, which is about an hour and half out of London by train, in a south westerly direction.  The last time I ventured out of London into that part of England that is not-London for a ceremony, the weather was similarly excellent

As soon as we stepped out of Salisbury station, strange and exotic sights presented themselves, such as this Stonehenge Tour Bus:

image

But there was something odd about it.  It appeared to be leaning over somewhat, away from us.  When I got round to the front of it, I saw that appearances had not deceived.  It was leaning over:

image

How can a bus do that?  Was the suspension malfunctioning?  Was the Stonehenge Bus leaning over on purpose, in order to help a wheelchair bound passenger to embark?  Was it partly parked on the pavement, and was a suspension computer overcompensating?  Was there a kink in the road, downwards, next to the pavement?

I couldn’t hang about to investigate or to ask.  We had a funeral to get to.  But, odd.

Saturday February 14 2015

First, the BMdotcom headline of the day:

Ukrainian Army Using 3D Printed Drones To Battle Pro-Russian Separatists As Cease-fire Nears

These drones are being used to “monitor”, not for bombing or shooting.  Nevertheless, interesting.

In other drone photography news, have a look at the new Apple Headquarters, as it takes shape.  This particular movie seems to be friendly, so to speak.  Apple would appear to have agreed to it.  But what of drone photos and drone movies that are not so friendly?

I first realised that drones would be a big deal when I saw one (with a camera attached) in a London shop window.

Friday February 13 2015

I just came across this Economist piece from last November (I think that link will keep on working), saying that there may soon be ultra-cheap trans-Atlantic flights.  I did not know this.

Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier that has been expanding rapidly across Europe, has begun flying across the Atlantic and to Thailand. Next March Wow Air, an Icelandic carrier, will start flights on routes such as Boston to London, via Reykjavik, with introductory prices as low as $99 one way.

Time was when …:

… the fuel burned by long-haul planes made up a large proportion of the cost of operating the flights. That made it hard for budget carriers to find enough cost savings elsewhere to cut prices sufficiently to tempt flyers to switch from carriers offering more comforts.

This is now changing, with the launches of some new and far more fuel-efficient planes: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, already in the air, Airbus’s A350, which will start flying within weeks, and a revamped version of Airbus’s A330, coming in 2019. Ryanair’s boss, Michael O’Leary, recently reiterated a promise that he would eventually sell transatlantic flights from as little as €10 ($13) one-way and with average return fares of around €200-300. The full-service airlines will also be ordering these new planes, but their cost disadvantage compared with the nimble budget carriers (because of such things as their legacy pension schemes and labour agreements) will become more stark.

Perhaps I will one day set foot in the USA after all.

As for that Economist link above, no, unless you subscribe.  You have to google “making laker’s dream come true”.  Then you can read it.

Or: this link seems to get you straight to a recycled version of the piece.

Thursday February 12 2015

Last night, seeking to illustrate a point made in the previous posting about how things on the ground look like toys, when viewed from an airplane, I failed to find any pictures of my own to illustrate the point, but I did come across this:

image

Triple Chess!!!  I did not know that such a thing existed, as a serious thing, until last night.

I took this photo in 2008, but it was one of those photos that I took and then instantly forgot about.  Then, later, when looking through the photos I took, I skipped straight over this one and concentrated on others taken at the same time, so I did not actually learn of the existence of Triple Chess, in 2008, when I photoed it, even though I had just photoed it.

Also in this photo is another strange contrivance: the Four Wheeled Pedal Board.  How the hell does that work?  Judging by the absence of any feedback at the other end of that link, the Four Wheeled Pedal Board never caught on.  Perhaps because nobody else could see how it worked either.  And perhaps also because it actually did not work?  “How far”, asks the box, “can you go without falling off?” I’m guessing that for most the answer was: not very far at all.

Despite the instructions for the Four Wheeled Pedal Board being in English, this photo of stuff in a shop window was taken in France, in Quimper, a city which regulars here will know that I often visit.

And look, there is a website. Does the fact that this Four Wheeled Pedal Board seems to be an Anglo invention reflect the continuing interest of Anglo culture in pointless gadgets, in mucking about instead of doing serious things?  Because in Angloland we think that mucking about can lead to serious things?  Perhaps.

Some might seize on all this as illustrating the fact that photography is a substitute for really looking at things.  I photoed it, but I didn’t actually look at it!  But, I am looking at it now.  And, do people who do not take photos look carefully at everything that they see?  Of course not.  The real problem with photography (as I recall mentioning in this talk I recently gave about photography) is not that you don’t look at things, but that you are liable to spend your entire life looking at things and never doing anything else.

Note also the red, white and blue accordion, bottom right.  Confirmation of the Anglophile inclinations of this shop?  Well, no, because the French are also big on red, white and blueness, aren’t they?

Wednesday February 11 2015

One of the better kept secrets of the popular entertainment industry of the modern world is how very good certain people are at faking reality, with quite small but very well made models.  Thoughtless people say they can always spot such fakery.  But the truth is that they only spot what they spot.  What they don’t spot, they don’t spot.  Obvious, if you think about it.  The same principle applies to things like men wearing wigs.  We can only see them when they are done badly.

So, I’m guessing that not everyone in Hollywood will be pleased about the internet presence of this guy, who contrives pictures like this ...:

image

… by doing this:

image

I found out about Michael Paul Smith from this Colossal posting, which is also where I got the above photos.

Much of the success of such fakery is to do with the camera being in the right place.  In particular, it needs to be low enough to see things from the same angle that a human would see them if the scene was real.

I remember first working this out when, as a kid, I went through a model railway magazine phase, a craze I caught from my best friend just a few doors away in Harvest Road, Englefield Green.  Most of the pictures in those magazines were obviously of models, but this was not because the models were always badly made.  It was because the camera was looking down on the scene, just as you do when you are looking at a model.  On the few occasions when the photographer would take the trouble to get his camera at real eye level, so to speak, it was amazing how realistic everything could suddenly look.

By the same token, and being only an occasional flyer, I have never yet tired of the thrill of looking down at the ground, preferably at built-up areas, from an airplane in the process of taking off or landing.  Everything looks like toys.  Really, really well made toys.  Your frequent flyers have got used to the idea that this is really just boring old reality, seen from above.  But to me, what I see from an airplane is something totally different from reality.  It is an entire world, painstakingly faked in miniature, for my personal entertainment.

Tuesday February 03 2015

Recently, circumstances took me up from the South Bank walkway onto Waterloo Bridge.  As I recall it, the idea was to walk across the bridge to one of the District Line tube stations on the north bank.  But before I did that, I took pictures from the south end of the bridge, from which a lot can be seen.  This isn’t the half of it, but it is some of it: 

image imageimage image

Time was when I’d have taken only pictures like that last one, of Big Ben through The Wheel.  Note that all the other pictures contain things that will soon pass.  Cranes.  And two adverts for entertainment, one for this and one inside the Thing the advert is on the outside of.  Also, in among taking these shots, I also took this one, which was very temporary indeed.

That Big Ben shot is through a gap between, I think, the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery.  Between two of those South Bank concrete lumps, anyway.  I do like gaps.  And then I moved a few yards south, and through the same gap between the lumps, or maybe through another gap, I saw this:

image

Here are two pictures I took a few days later, to explain what the above roof clutter is, both taken outside Westminster Abbey:

image image

As you can see, the spikey bobble is on the top of Methodist Central Hall.  And the roof clutter is one of London’s great roof clutter clusters, on top of top of New Scotland Yard.  As so often with roof clutter, such a bland facade.  With such a crazy hairdo.

The man scratching his back is, I think, St George, commemorating the Crimean War.  But that could be quite wrong.

As I get to know London better, I learn to connect distant views to close-up views, not just of obvious stuff, but of everything.

Sunday February 01 2015

Adverts can be very revealing:

image

I spotted this advert at a bus stop in Quimper, Brittany, on January 2nd.

The point is, this is not Paris.  Quimper is a provincial French city rather than a big French city.  So this really got my attention.

More fun being had with the Union Jack there.

Tuesday January 27 2015

Story here:

A man believed to be a recreational drone operator accidentally crashed a small device onto the White House grounds early Monday, investigators said, briefly triggering a lockdown and reinforcing concerns about security at the executive mansion.

Via here and here.

LATER: The inevitable “let’s ban drones” discussion is upon us.

EVEN LATER: Sports enthusiasts are clamoring for aerial robots that can record their best moves.

Lexington Green, here:

What if … ?

What would a history of the British Empire look like if it did not use the “rise and fall” metaphor?

What would that history look like if it examined not just the political framework or just the superficial gilt and glitter, or just the cruelty and crimes, but the deeper and more enduring substance?

What if someone wrote a history of the impact of the English speaking people and their institutions (political, financial, professional, commercial, military, technical, scientific, cultural), and the infinitely complex web of interconnections between them, as a continuous and unbroken story, with a past a present … and a future?

In other words, what if we were to read a history that did not see a rising British Empire followed by a falling Empire, then a rising American Empire which displaced it, but an organism which has taken on many forms over many centuries, and on many continents, but is nonetheless a single life?

What if we assume that the British Empire was not something that ended, but that the Anglosphere, of which the Empire was one expression, is something that has never stopped growing and evolving, and taking on new institutional forms?

What if it looked at the unremitting advance, the pitiless onslaught, universal insinuation, of the English speakers on the rest of the world, seizing big chunks of it (North America, Australia), sloshing up into many parts of it and receding again (India, Nigeria, Malaya), carving permanent marks in the cultural landscape they left behind, all the while getting wealthier and more powerful and pushing the frontiers of science and technology and all the other forms of material progress?

What if jet travel and the Internet have at last conquered the tyranny of distance which the Empire Federationists of a century ago dreamed that steam and telegraph cables would conquer? What if they were just a century too early?

What if linguistic and cultural commonalities are more important than mere geographical location in creating political unity in this newly shrunken world?

I recall musing along the same kind of lines myself, a while back.

The important thing is, this mustn’t be advertised first as a plan.  If that happens, then all the people who are against the Anglosphere, and who prefer places like Spain and Venezuela and Cuba and Hell, will use their ownership of the Mainstream Media to Put A Stop to the plan.  What needs to happen is for us to just do it, and then after about two decades of us having just done it, they’ll realise that it is a fate (as the Hellists will describe it) accompli.

Because, guess what, we probably are already doing it.

Friday January 23 2015

I’ve already noted drones being used to take photos, and to save lives (although that is only being worked on).  Now, here is a story about drones being used to smuggle drugs.  One of these drones crashed, which is how they know.  The drugs were too heavy.  Man.

Is there anything, as Instapundit would ask, that drones can’t do? During the next few years, we’re probably going to find out.

LATER: Proposed State Legislation May Limit Drone Facial Recognition Use

Monday January 19 2015

This posting is a bit of an experiment, because the two pictures embedded in it may not be small enough, to start with, and may have to be made smaller, after all those of you who hang on my every posting, and see it immediately, have seen it immediately.  Also, I want to put them on both sides of the posting, and that may not work either.  So, patience everyone, and be ready to endure graphic juggling, because these are the kind of things that my posting software is bad at showing me.  I have to see evertything in situ, to be sure.

imageimageSo, to get to the point, what this is about is the way that very small pictures sometimes look quite different to the exact same pictures, but larger, a theme also explored in this posting. And the idea is that the two pictures will go, on the left and on the right, at the top of this paragraph.  De-dum de-dum de-dum, computer crap computer crap.  Well, touch wood, this is working.  There was a bit of fiddling with the instructions about putting pictures on the right or on the left, but I finally cracked that and made it happen.

The point of all this is that the pictures, when small, look quite similar.  The only very obvious difference is that on the left there are rather more verticals in the railings to be seen.  But click on the pictures and get them ten times larger, and you will see that the focussing is quite different.  In the one on the left, the railings are the front are in focus and the Shard is barely discernible behind them.  On the right, the big picture shows the Shard quite clearly while the railings are very blurry.  Okay, the small pictures are not identical, and alert viewers may have detected the very difference that I say is so unclear in the small pictures, but the small pictures are much more similar to each other than the large ones are.

One of the many morals to be drawn from this is that the bigger the screen on your camera is the better, because the bigger the picture, the easier it is to tell exactly what that picture looks like.  This is yet another reason why people who take pictures with tablets, the cameras with the biggest screens of all, are being very sensible.  They are the ones who know exactly what they are getting, exactly when they are getting it.

In the end, the only cock-up that early readers were subjected to was that in the heading, I at first put that the Shard was in front of the railings rather than behind them.