19 April 2014

Why Selling Teslas in China Will Not Help Environment

Hey class,
I am studying abroad in China in May, thus I have been learning some about China and specifically Beijing and Shanghai. If you are interested in sustainability, foreign markets, or China in general this article might interest you like it did to me. You have probably heard about Tesla, the new electric car company that has had great success so far. Electric cars are very rare in China even though the government has put incentives in place for the use of electric cars to increase. In my China class I have been learning about the pollution problems in China and how poor the air quality is due to the high numbers of cars and especially the high use of burning coal for heat. At first glance, the idea of using electric cars in a country that is fighting terrible air pollution sounds great. But once you realize that over 70% of China's electricity is produced by burning coal, the electric car is not actually helping the environment. In fact, it might be hurting the environment because it needs electricity to charge the batteries in the car, but the energy source producing that electricity is the dirty coal.

It's a really short article and here it is:

17 April 2014


I was reading an article on MIT Technology Review titled, "Why Google's smartphone may actually succeed". This article talks about modular smartphones and how Google thinks that modular phones will succeed despite many critics saying otherwise. While reading the article I came across a couple of you tube videos that really explains the concept of modular phones, and how this concept could reduce electronic waste and help to protect the enviornment. Check out the videos!



Laura Priest

Beginning of the Invisible Car

Hi guys!
I believe some people already have seen it,
but I thought it's worth pointing out here.
It is such a great start in building an invisible car.
Combining grille cameras and head-up display technology,
it was be able to create virtual overlay.
Thus, the driver can see through the bonnet to the ground.

Here is the VIDEO

Storing the sun

A new kind of battery invented by Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science at Carnegie Mellon University.

This new battery will be very useful in poor regions where it is very difficult to get an energy from oil and electricity.

This battery will gather energy from solar panel and any other renewable energy sources and will provide much cheaper 24-hours energy to rural areas.

Check this out article to read more about this topic and this awesome technology.


Does messaging apps useful?

This article is saying that messaging apps are really helpful to add assistants to the conversation.


The app called Emu became one of messaging apps only operates in Apple phones.

This app acts really smart.

For instance, when you make an appointment with your friends you could directly mark this the date and place to your google calendar by holding a bubble on your messaging screens.

But they failed to increase their markets.

Why is that?

There are several reasons to explain this situation, I'll introduce the most predominant reason in this blog posting.

They are failed to make this app usable on Android systems.

It was released on Android phones during the month of October, however, it was too complicated and fragmented to open the app. So the customers cease to use it.

Startup Makes One App Run on Many Screens

I read this article while I was surfing through MIT Technology Review website. Experts are making apps that can operate through different kinds of gadgets simultaneously.  Until now,  Samsung and apple apps only run in their own corporation's products and only few are interchangeable. Therefore, such products like Google Glass is not cost efficient and many customers are hesitant to buy those gadgets. Since they are developing apps that could operate in different OS systems, we are one step closer to see Google Glass often in the street.  Here is the link for this article and I would really want to share it with you guys.

Resources for Coding

Hello again everyone!

Here is a little more detail on the three resources I showed you this morning.


This is my personal favorite of the three resources, though Code School is a close second.  The intention behind Treehouse is teaching people with little to no skills in HTML, CSS, and other web development tools to learn them effectively for future jobs.  One of the best parts of this site is the interactive workspace.  They just recently revamped the entire HTML/CSS track to focus on building responsive webpages, something that is really important in our current technological climate where smartphones, tablets, and computers all access the web.

The format of lessons is very interactive, and you can code along with the video tutorial, then take quizzes and code challenges periodically to test your learning.

Code School

Code School is a great resource if you want to get your feet wet with a lot of different options.  They offer courses in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and other languages with more in the works.  The first section of each course is totally free, and if you create an account you might get some emails with discount offers too.  The format is similar to Treehouse, with videos and then interactive code challenges, however, I feel that Treehouse is somewhat more comprehensive and tries to teach you how to move beyond the specific project of the class and get into your own projects.  But if you want a quick introduction, Code School is a great resource.


This is a really useful free resource that can give you a basic knowledge of many different languages and tools that are useful in making websites, apps, and other programs.  I did the basic JavaScript track and the HTML/CSS track and they are great for getting the basics down pretty well.  If you want to move on, though, I would move onto one of the other resources mentioned here or in class, because I think those options help you understand more how to use the knowledge you have gained for your own projects.

I hope these resources will be helpful to you, especially those of you who want to learn on your own time and at your own pace.

Lindsey Smith

16 April 2014

State of the Union

State of the Union is an interactive data visualization of State of the Union addresses (1790 to 2014) that uses statistical methods to analyze and represent lexical content. The visualization illustrates attributes such as absolute and relative term frequency within the document as well across time, and provides additional statistical information besides. The webmaster invites viewers to "explore how specific words gain and lose prominence over time, and to link to information on the historical context for their use... You are invited to try and understand from this information the connection between politics and language–between the state we are in, and the language which names it and calls it into being."

Developments in Geographical Information Systems

New algorithm aids in both robot navigation and scene understanding

"Suppose you're trying to navigate an unfamiliar section of a big city, and you're using a particular cluster of skyscrapers as a reference point. Traffic and one-way streets force you to take some odd turns, and for a while you lose sight of your landmarks. When they reappear, in order to use them for navigation, you have to be able to identify them as the same buildings you were tracking before -- as well as your orientation relative to them. A new algorithm for determining the orientation of objects could aid robots in navigation, scene understanding."

"Disabled and elderly people could find it easier to navigate around town and city centers with a new hand-held computer being developed by a geographical information systems."

"A computer science engineering team has developed an indoor navigation system for people with visual impairments. The researchers have explained how a combination of human-computer interaction and motion-planning research was used to build a low-cost accessible navigation system, called Navatar, which can run on a standard smartphone."

In all three of these articles, it is apparent that Geographical Information Systems are becoming more sophisticated. The field is developing more precise and detail-oriented systems to aid those with special circumstances. 

What A Time To Be Alive!

The future is now! We finally have a portable computer printer robot! It works via Bluetooth wireless technology. At this stage in the products development, it is approximately 10.5 centimeters around and it only prints in black ink. It is arguably the smallest printer to date and has the propensity to decrease the amount of materials used to create it, helping the environment. 

Check it out in the link above.

Biometrics, Facial Scanning, and Databases

Computerized Face Recognition Software Can Rapidly See Through Disguises

With increases in computer power, A new milestone in biometrics has been reached. Facial recognition software used for security systems is overcoming some of the obstacles that once plagued the system's ability to function properly. By using more precise distinctive markers of one's face, they have been able to identify people more accurately in light of variance in angle, lighting, and obstructions.  

"The team tested the performance of their new algorithm on a standard database of 400 images of 40 subjects. Images are grey scale and just 92 x 112 pixels in size. They found that their technique is not only faster and works with low resolution images, such as those produced by standard CCTV cameras, but also solves the variation problems caused by different light levels and shadows, viewing direction, pose, and facial expressions. It can even see through certain types of disguises such as facial hair and glasses."

Check out the article.

Putting Your Trust In Your Computer

One of the pillars of Information Science analyzes the "Human-Comupter Interaction". An article from Science Daily expresses that consumers are more likely to partake in a risky business endeavor if technology is involved. 

"When individuals engage in risky business transactions with each other, they may end up being disappointed. This is why they'd rather leave the decision on how to divvy up jointly-owned monies to a computer than to their business partner. This subconscious strategy seems to help them avoid the negative emotions associated with any breaches of trust. This is the result of a study by scientists from the University of Bonn and US peers. They are presenting their findings in the scientific journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B." "

However, In light of the recent heartbleed virus (as seen in posts below), technology is not always trustworthy. It's important to remember that computer and internet technology is a tool developed and used by people so it works to serve the interests of it's developer/user. A risky business deal is still a risky business deal, regardless of the format. 

15 April 2014

Website Design: Breaking Grammar Rules

I was checking out the Nielsen Norman Group's website and found an article from March that discussed which grammar rules are okay to be broken online. We all have that Facebook friend who corrects grammar and spelling on a lot of posts, so I thought this was an interesting read. The rules to break are:

  1. Never use a sentence fragment
  2. Spell out small numbers
  3. Paragraphs must be 3-5 sentences
The link is here if you want to read about why they conclude you can break these rules.

New Robots Help with Complex Household Chores


I found an article on iRobot's latest ideas about new robots that could help with more household chores.  This company (which you can find more information about at http://www.irobot.com/us) already has many robots that can do things such as vacuuming and gutter cleaning, and although they say many of the household chores are still not technologically possible, this article discusses the technological ideas and steps that could be taken to create a robot that can do more complex chores such as laundry.  The fact that these robots could possibly understand human language and recognize objects is quite amazing, and I cannot wait to see how this company changes our future; however, I must say that this shows how lazy and dependent upon technology we have become. So while this is very interesting and innovative, I believe that its effects might not necessarily be as good as we think.

To find out more information, here is the link!


Subways can be dangerous, but not for the reasons you might think

Even when you least expect it, credit card thieves may be trying to steal your information.  Recently, NYC subway users discovered a spy camera installed on one of the MetroCard machines. It was small enough to avoid detection by most users, but powerful enough to be used to read credit cards. A card-skimming device was also found on another machine. 

Using card-reading devices to steal personal information in public places is hardly new, but the attempts are become more creative and harder to detect. So whenever you use your credit card, be careful and aware of your environment. Read more about the NYC subway card readers here.

Battling Blight through "blexting" in Detroit

The problems facing the city of Detroit are nothing new. Since the recession, media coverage of the city has tended to be dominated by pictures of abandoned buildings and decaying automobile plants. A recent program to help change this image of Detroit involves mapping technologies and "blexting." According to an NPR article on the new initiative, "blexting" involves sending teams throughout the city to text pictures and descriptions of blight to a database. The pictures are then layered onto maps of the city enabling the local government to better respond to Detroit's problems. Municipal departments, for instance, can now see the same maps and collaborate on a response. An app currently in development would extend the use of this tool to the citizens of Detroit. According to those involved in the process, the app would allow the people who actually live in the neighborhoods to join the conversation about their city, see what local officials are seeing, and collaborate on possible solutions.  

The link to the original story and radio broadcast can be found here: http://www.npr.org/2014/02/14/277058384/battling-blight-detroit-maps-entire-city-to-find-bad-buildings.

Startup Makes One App Run on Many Screens

I was curious to see what the goal was behind this startup, Conductr, and I found that it was not what I would have guessed what it was. I guessed it would be another app that was created to be able to run on different visual devices, but instead they use it as an expansion of the condensed screen. This means that the goal is to be able to upload the largest area of the app onto a larger display screen, and the other parts, such as "related videos", can be seen on your phone or other smaller device. The goal is to "take advantage of all our display real estate", and it is working to disperse your focus onto all of the different screens around the areas around you. It seems like a cool and interactive concept.

here's the article:

14 April 2014

Modular Bracelets

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about a modular phone, which basically means you will be able to swap out different parts of your phone such as your camera, battery and processor when they become outdated without having to buy a whole new phone like you have to do today. A company has created a modular bracelet, whose parts would each be a function in many of the smart watches and bracelets you see today such as the samsung galaxy watch, Fitbit, Nike Fuelband and Jawbone Up. For example, one piece would function as the vibration motor, another as the battery, another as the bluetooth and so on. The company called Mighty Cast says they would sell the bracelet itself for $50 and each individual mod for $7 to $10. This also has potential to become very successful such as the modular phones because if your battery died on your smart watch or fitness tracker you would be able to just buy a new battery mod for $7. However, I think the one downside would be that it would look very much like the Pandora bracelets that many girls wear today, which would make it difficult for males to use the product.

Here is the link to the article: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/525681/a-smart-wristband-with-swappable-parts/?utm_campaign=newsletters&utm_source=newsletter-daily-all&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140328

An internet bug you won't even know you had

There is a long lasting internet bug called Heartbleed going around and the dangerous part is that you won't even know if it caused any damage to your computer. This bug has undermined basic security systems all across the internet by exposing encryption keys, usernames and passwords along with data for two-thirds of the world's websites. You can use this this site to help see if your usernames and passwords have been affected. If the site does not detect that you have been affected by Heartbleed you shouldn't have to worry about changing your passwords just yet.

Here is the link to the article: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/526406/what-should-you-do-about-heartbleed-excellent-question/?utm_campaign=newsletters&utm_source=newsletter-daily-all&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20140410


Lately, I've been hearing a lot about a bug called "Heartbleed" and seen many warnings to change my password on several websites immediately. It sounded scary, but I had no clue what it was. This article explains it well. 

Apparently, this information leak could lead to people gaining access to something as random, and seemingly harmless, as a internet connected thermostat. While most of our thermostats do not valuable information, they can help possible-intruders to figure out if the homeowners are at home or not. Not sure if people are over-reacting to this scare, or if really could be really bad!


Data Mining Technology Reveals Cultural Links and Boundaries

Thiago Silva and a few of his friends are working at using social networks to see the habitats and behaviors that define a culture. Silva used the social network, Foursquare, to see where people decided to eat. This is a cheap and fast way to collect a lot of information. Silva and his friends realized that food and drinks are important aspects in different cultures so after using Foursquare to find check-ins, he and his friends used Twitter to find out what food what purchased. What they realized is that the time of day and the region that the food was bought majorly affected what was purchased.


12 April 2014

How Your Location Data Is Being Used to Predict the Events You Will Want to Attend

Hey guys,

Here is a great article about how new recommendation engines will be able to use your location to suggest events you may want to attend.
Website Link: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/526096/how-your-location-data-is-being-used-to-predict-the-events-you-will-want-to-attend/

Some of the events that the engines will recommend are music festivals, sporting events, conferences, and many more.  This new technology can also calculate social attractions of events by counting the number of friends who end up at the same places.  They found that a major influence on attendance was whether people's friends where also there.  Another factor was the distance from home because most people only travel a limited distance to a certain event.  The final two factors are the times people are active and your previous pattern of behaviors.  All of these combined factors will capture overall behaviors of different people and the recommendation engines use this information to produce the corresponding recommended events.

Y'all should check this article out! Technology is changing the world as we know it.

Dropbox Sharpens Focus on Photos With New App

Hey Everyone,

Here is an interesting article about how Dropbox is taking on a new app called Carousel.
Website link: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/526466/dropbox-sharpens-focus-on-photos-with-new-app/

After tackling web-based file storage and e-mail, Dropbox tries to sharpen its focus on photos through the new Carousel app.  This app plans to make it easier to sort through and share hundreds of photos and videos that many of us have on our smartphones and computers.  The new app moves form file storage to file management to organization.

This is an awesome new app that y'all should take a look at!

Conductr-Contextual Coordination

Conductr wants to help developers make apps that will spread out across multiple devices, taking advantage of all your display real estate. The company plans to coordinate any number of devices (TV, laptop, tablet, cell phone, smartwatch, google glasses) and use the characteristics that are most important to each of their application features. They use a platform to help the application put the best feature on each device that happens to be connected.
Check out the youtube video from a convention in Munich.
Laura Priest

11 April 2014

Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say

We have talked about tools to improve our reading speed and I mentioned that I had had to take a speed reading course when I was in the service. A recent article suggests that we might want to consider what we are doing.

By Michael S. Rosenwald, Published: April 6, 2014

Claire Handscombe has a commitment problem online. Like a lot of Web surfers, she clicks on links posted on social networks, reads a few sentences, looks for exciting words, and then grows restless, scampering off to the next page she probably won’t commit to.

“I give it a few seconds — not even minutes — and then I’m moving again,” says Handscombe, a 35-year-old graduate student in creative writing at American University.

But it’s not just online anymore. She finds herself behaving the same way with a novel.

“It’s like your eyes are passing over the words but you’re not taking in what they say,” she confessed. “When I realize what’s happening, I have to go back and read again and again.”

To cognitive neuroscientists, Handscombe’s experience is the subject of great fascination and growing alarm. Humans, they warn, seem to be developing digital brains with new circuits for skimming through the torrent of information online. This alternative way of reading is competing with traditional deep reading circuitry developed over several millennia.

“I worry that the superficial way we read during the day is affecting us when we have to read with more in-depth processing,” said Maryanne Wolf, a Tufts University cognitive neuroscientist and the author of “Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain.”

If the rise of nonstop cable TV news gave the world a culture of sound bites, the Internet, Wolf said, is bringing about an eye byte culture. Time spent online — on desktop and mobile devices — was expected to top five hours per day in 2013 for U.S. adults, according to eMarketer, which tracks digital behavior. That’s up from three hours in 2010.

Word lovers and scientists have called for a “slow reading” movement, taking a branding cue from the “slow food” movement. They are battling not just cursory sentence galloping but the constant social network and e-mail temptations that lurk on our gadgets — the bings and dings that interrupt “Call me Ishmael.”

Researchers are working to get a clearer sense of the differences between online and print reading — comprehension, for starters, seems better with paper — and are grappling with what these differences could mean not only for enjoying the latest Pat Conroy novel but for understanding difficult material at work and school. There is concern that young children’s affinity and often mastery of their parents’ devices could stunt the development of deep reading skills.

The brain is the innocent bystander in this new world. It just reflects how we live.

“The brain is plastic its whole life span,” Wolf said. “The brain is constantly adapting.”

Wolf, one of the world’s foremost experts on the study of reading, was startled last year to discover her brain was apparently adapting, too. After a day of scrolling through the Web and hundreds of e-mails, she sat down one evening to read Hermann Hesse’s “The Glass Bead Game.”

“I’m not kidding: I couldn’t do it,” she said. “It was torture getting through the first page. I couldn’t force myself to slow down so that I wasn’t skimming, picking out key words, organizing my eye movements to generate the most information at the highest speed. I was so disgusted with myself.”

Adapting to read

The brain was not designed for reading. There are no genes for reading like there are for language or vision. But spurred by the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Phoenician alphabet, Chinese paper and, finally, the Gutenberg press, the brain has adapted to read.

Before the Internet, the brain read mostly in linear ways — one page led to the next page, and so on. Sure, there might be pictures mixed in with the text, but there didn’t tend to be many distractions. Reading in print even gave us a remarkable ability to remember where key information was in a book simply by the layout, researchers said. We’d know a protagonist died on the page with the two long paragraphs after the page with all that dialogue.

The Internet is different. With so much information, hyperlinked text, videos alongside words and interactivity everywhere, our brains form shortcuts to deal with it all — scanning, searching for key words, scrolling up and down quickly. This is nonlinear reading, and it has been documented in academic studies. Some researchers believe that for many people, this style of reading is beginning to invade when dealing with other mediums as well.

“We’re spending so much time touching, pushing, linking, scroll­ing and jumping through text that when we sit down with a novel, your daily habits of jumping, clicking, linking is just ingrained in you,” said Andrew Dillon, a University of Texas professor who studies reading. “We’re in this new era of information behavior, and we’re beginning to see the consequences of that.”

Brandon Ambrose, a 31-year-old Navy financial analyst who lives in Alexandria, knows of those consequences.

His book club recently read “The Interestings,” a best-seller by Meg Wolitzer. When the club met, he realized he had missed a number of the book’s key plot points. It hit him that he had been scanning for information about one particular aspect of the book, just as he might scan for one particular fact on his computer screen, where he spends much of his day.

“When you try to read a novel,” he said, “it’s almost like we’re not built to read them anymore, as bad as that sounds.”

Ramesh Kurup noticed something even more troubling. Working his way recently through a number of classic authors — George Eliot, Marcel Proust, that crowd — Kurup, 47, discovered that he was having trouble reading long sentences with multiple, winding clauses full of background information. Online sentences tend to be shorter, and the ones containing complicated information tend to link to helpful background material.

“In a book, there are no graphics or links to keep you on track,” Kurup said.

It’s easier to follow links, he thinks, than to keep track of so many clauses in page after page of long paragraphs.

Kurup’s observation might sound far-fetched, but told about it, Wolf did not scoff. She offered more evidence: Several English department chairs from around the country have e-mailed her to say their students are having trouble reading the classics.

“They cannot read ‘Middlemarch.’ They cannot read William James or Henry James,” Wolf said. “I can’t tell you how many people have written to me about this phenomenon. The students no longer will or are perhaps incapable of dealing with the convoluted syntax and construction of George Eliot and Henry James.”

Wolf points out that she’s no Luddite. She sends e-mails from her iPhone as often as one of her students. She’s involved with programs to send tablets to developing countries to help children learn to read. But just look, she said, at Twitter and its brisk 140-character declarative sentences.

“How much syntax is lost, and what is syntax but the reflection of our convoluted thoughts?” she said. “My worry is we will lose the ability to express or read this convoluted prose. Will we become Twitter brains?”

Bi-literate brains?

Wolf’s next book will look at what the digital world is doing to the brain, including looking at brain-scan data as people read both online and in print. She is particularly interested in comprehension results in screen vs. print reading.

Already, there is some intriguing research that looks at that question. A 2012 Israeli study of engineering students — who grew up in the world of screens — looked at their comprehension while reading the same text on screen and in print when under time pressure to complete the task.

The students believed they did better on screen. They were wrong. Their comprehension and learning was better on paper.

Researchers say that the differences between text and screen reading should be studied more thoroughly and that the differences should be dealt with in education, particularly with school-aged children. There are advantages to both ways of reading. There is potential for a bi-literate brain.

“We can’t turn back,” Wolf said. “We should be simultaneously reading to children from books, giving them print, helping them learn this slower mode, and at the same time steadily increasing their immersion into the technological, digital age. It’s both. We have to ask the question: What do we want to preserve?”

Wolf is training her own brain to be bi-literate. She went back to the Hesse novel the next night, giving herself distance, both in time and space, from her screens.

“I put everything aside. I said to myself, ‘I have to do this,’ ” she said. “It was really hard the second night. It was really hard the third night. It took me two weeks, but by the end of the second week I had pretty much recovered myself so I could enjoy and finish the book.”

Then she read it again.

“I wanted to enjoy this form of reading again,” Wolf said. “When I found myself, it was like I recovered. I found my ability again to slow down, savor and think.”