Blog Archives

CD and DVD ROM: endangered species

“Technology is like a fish. The longer it stays on the shelf, the less desirable it becomes.”
– Andrew Heller

The image below represent blank CD and DVD towers. They have been at that level for years now: I have not burned a CD or DVD for backup in years. Even more interesting is that I am still playing old 33 and 45 vinyl from times to times but music CDs even less often (but that might be a generational thing!). USB flash drive have also become so common that 2 and 4 Gb versions are used to distribute promotional documents. While I think the traditional USB flash drive is also close to the endangered technology list, they still are used widely to move data around, but Cloud-based alternative have become the most “frictionless” method for many digital users.

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Apple A7 chip and iOS 7 thorough reviews available…

For those of you following the tech world, in particular computers, the announcement of the A7 64 bits SoC probably got a WOW out of you. It did for me. To me screen size, phone shape and the same has nothing to do with innovation. The issue of 4″ vs. 4.5″ vs. 5″ screens is like preferring a 13″ vs. 15″ vs. 17″ notebook or a 50″ vs. 65″ TV set. However, screen technology providing rendering image, resolution, contrast, color delivery (gamma, …), lower power consumption and the combination of all of them and more that is innovation. The same for custom, optimized and powerful SoC chips that drive these micro-computer… errr smartphone.

Quite frankly looking back at computing since the Z80, TRS-80 and commodore when I started on my first computers, the power packed in commercially available device of such as small format as the iPhone 5S, fitting in one’s pocket and working for hours before recharge, is absolutely amazing. In addition it delivered to the general public a 64 bits platform along with the OS and numerous apps (all of Apple apps on the iPhone 5S have been recompile in 64 bits). It might not register as a big deal to most phone users but it is from a technological standpoint. Also interesting that ARM was joint venture between Apple and two other companies in part to produce power efficient chips for the Newton, such a long time ago it seems.

A very interesting review, with benchmarks, can be accessed at AnandTech. We will certainly know more when someone actually get a layout of the chip (from high-res X-ray), but still very interesting. The review also look at the integrated camera and fingerprint system. Another interesting read is Daring Fireball takes on 5S new technologies.

Today was also the public release day for iOS 7 (like it or not!). Ars Technica published an in-depth-review.

Good reading 😉

Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning…

With the start of the a new semester approaching fast, here is an interesting study on the effect of laptop in university classroom both on the person of interest and the surrounding peers. Based on my teenagers behavior at home, it seems obvious that multitasking  in the form of (homework, Facebook, music, Skype) or (TV, Facebook, texting) never really worked.

The manuscript is by Sana et al in Computers & Education entitled “Laptop multitasking hinders classroom learning for both users and nearby peers” is demonstrating the (significant) effect in the classroom.

Abstract: “Laptops are commonplace in university classrooms. In light of cognitive psychology theory on costs associated with multitasking, we examined the effects of in-class laptop use on student learning in a simulated classroom. We found that participants who multitasked on a laptop during a lecture scored lower on a test compared to those who did not multitask, and participants who were in direct view of a multitasking peer scored lower on a test compared to those who were not. The results demonstrate that multitasking on a laptop poses a significant distraction to both users and fellow students and can be detrimental to comprehension of lecture content.

Thanks to those who have pointed out this study on LinkedIn.

Getting a summer job in a research group?

For an undergrad student, applying and getting a summer job in a research group can be a life changing experience. This is when you will get a taste of what doing scientific research, along side graduate students, feels like. For many, this is all the necessary push needed to apply to graduate studies.

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The One Day Initiative

As expected, December 21st 2012 has passed. Earth and humans are still there, no end of the world in sight, no apocalyptic scenario (though we had a nice winter storm 😉 )

It is quite impressive that almost 1 Canadian out of 10 believe in these dooms day announcements. See this link: One in Seven (14%) Global Citizens Believe End of the World is Coming in Their Lifetime | Ipsos.

Even sadder, is when a society that thrived on science and technological advances (which is impossible  if the fundamental discoveries were not performed), a society that has split the atom and uses its power for energy, medicine… and yes military applications, believes at a level of almost 50% of the population, that Earth age is orders of magnitude younger than science tell us and that the bible provides an accurate account of the creation (In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins.).

When this happen, we as scientists have failed to communicate efficiently with the public. We, scientists, need to get involved and educate on a larger scale.

Last year, I spent one day meeting over 500 students from a high school talking about radiation, radioactivity and its use in medicine. I intend to repeat the experience this year. If  I alone, during that single day, was able to reach hundreds of peoples, together we can reach out to millions, covering hundreds of topics.

Wouldn’t it be nice if one day per year would be dedicated officially to science and technology education conferences by experts for the general crowd, coming back every year at a similar date? Every school would have to get this day planned in their calendar year. In return, every University would make their advance graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, researchers and professors available on that day (no classes!)… Wouldn’t it be an exceptional day!

In the mean time, for 2013, I challenge you to give one day: let’s call it the one day initiative (it needs a good name!) to meet, talk with and educate your fellow citizens about science and technology. This can be meeting elementary or high school students, make a public conference, participate in a scientific debate, …

If you like this concept, please do disseminate the link to this blog post and use the name one day initiative as often as you can. Maybe by the sheer numbers we can create something new.

On the go…

On the go…

Here is a few tools I really appreciate to carry with me on the go:
  • iPad: I do all of my reading and manuscript editing on it!
  • MacBook Pro Retina display: only on buisiness trip longer than a few days or if I need to finish that last presentation (Keynote for iPad works ok for simple presentations or when the presentation is ready. I still find it easier to build a presntation on the Mac).
  • Cables / Adaptors Organizer: I recently discovered the Coccon Grid-It. It is a simply, elegant and efficient organization system. The picture above shows a fully loaded “grid” with cables, adapters and so on. Just put it in your bag, very robust; nothing came out of it on my last trip (21 hours of plane, 28 hours of total travel and 4 airports later)
  • PlugBug: I really like Twelve South PlugBug power adapter for iPod/iPhone and iPad. The nice thing you can fit it on the top of the MacBook adapter so that it uses a single wall plug.
  • Logitec usb+laser presentation tool.
  • Bose QC 15 for those long flight. Very confortable and highly efficient noise cancelling. I found that it does make a difference on long flights. I did own cheap noise cancelling headphones for the past few years. I have to admit that the QC15 are really in a different class.
  • Digital camera: Just replace my iPhone3GS with a iPhone 5 two weeks ago (just in time for conference travels 😉 ). As advertised, I found that it covers my needs for pocket size camera and business trips photography very nicely. Of course not in the same category of a full-fledge Canon or Nikon camera but my pictures of the Sydney Taronga Zoo are really quite good.
  • Good old pen: you have to fill out those custom forms after all.

Evolving technology

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke

I certainly love technology. They are enablers for thing we thought impossible to perform in a reasonable amount of time just a decade ago. My children laugh at me when I tell them of my first 20 Mb drive, which was the size of a big, thick pizza box. The comparative for them are the 32 or 64 Gb thumb drive! Similarly, today cellphones are more powerful than supercomputer of the 1980’s.

The growing complexity of technology is remarkable and many technologies “evolve” at a rapid, accelerating pace. Kevin Kelly’s book What Technology Wants constitutes a highly recommended read. The increasing complexity is illustrated for numerous technologies as function of years. Furthermore, there is an interesting discussion about the human-technology interaction and how difficult it is to anticipate the numerous failure modes (what can actually go wrong) when dealing with complex systems and trying to include fail safe measures.

 

I would also like to point out this TED talk entitled how technology evolves.

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