Weekend’s Top 8 roundup – 19th Dec

The week before Christmas and we have lots of self-driving stories making the headlines, Apple finally releases the AirPods in time for Santa’s stockings, Uber makes a massive loss, lasers help kill cancer and we are finally shown how to eat chicken wings properly.

The week before Christmas and we have lots of self-driving stories making the headlines, Apple finally releases the AirPods in time for Santa’s stockings, Uber makes a massive loss, lasers help kill cancer and we are finally shown how to eat chicken wings properly.

  1. Google’s Waymo, car driving company, releases its first car
    chrome_2016-12-24_12-48-23Waymo, Google’s self driving company (I hadn’t heard of it either), has released its first vehicle in partnership with Fiat.  A mini-van souped up with the latest technology to make it see through the streets.

    This is sort of thing that could make mini-vans sexy again.  Remember that infamous scene from Get Shorty?

  2. Apple’s new found AirPods are available to purchase
    chrome_2016-12-24_12-50-36.pngApple finally announced that AirPods are available for purchase and at a $159 for a pair, this is not an impulse buy.   Apple drew a lot of criticism when it released the latest iPhone without the traditional 3.5mm audio jack; relying purely on BlueTooth technology.  Being someone that uses BlueTooth all the time, not a major upset that the manufacturers are taking away this port; Samsung is rumored to be removing it from their next Galaxy.

    Though the issue with the AirPods is the fragility of losing $159 worth of headphones by simply walking or moving your head.  Can you imagine the panic when you lose them inflight and they fall?!?!  We’ll have AirRage I tells ya.

  3. Blackberry is back; this time as self-driving company
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-20-00.pngSo you may not be able to make a call with the once dominant handset manufacturer, but you could let it drive you to the shops or work.   Blackberry has rebranded itself and launched into the self-driving market space, positioning it’s powerful QNX operating system at the heart.

    This is a bold move and it will be interesting to see if the market will tolerate the branding to stretch this far.  Once again, Blackberry is going into a very tough market, positioning its QNX up against the likes of Linux, Android and Java.

  4. Uber net income over $5.6B, but on track for a $3.3B loss for 2016
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-23-59.pngThe size of Uber cannot be underestimated.   It is a company that is innovating on so many fronts than simply democratizing ride sharing.  Uber, while private, is thought to be valued at around the $68B space, making it larger than even GM.

    However, it is still struggling to make money, as the amount of legal challenges mount and it finds increasing competition from the likes of Lyft (who incidentally GM investor in).

  5. 20 years ago this week, Steve Jobs came back to rescue Apple
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-32-16.pngWe live in Internet years, which each year feels like a few.  It was only 20 years ago that Apple was really struggling both financially and innovatively.  Hard to believe considering the powerhouse the company is today, which its huge stockpile of sheer raw cash at hand.  But one man was all it took to turn the fortunes around, through the launch for the iPod and then the iPhone.

    The question many investors have been asking today though, who is there to rescue Apple today?  With Microsoft taking the lead in releasing sexy and desirable products, anything can and will change in our industry.

  6. Prostate cancer gets the laser and deep-sea bacteria treatment
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-39-53.pngAs I approach that time of life when the body can’t take the same level of abuse it once could, and every ache and pain lasts for weeks instead of hours, I get a huge amount of faith in the advances in medical science.

    This week in the UK successful trials in treating prostate cancer using lasers and bacteria found at the bottom of the ocean.  Though the article was a little light on detail on exactly where the laser would be shot!

  7. Sleeping on planes just got a little easier and quicker
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-45-06.pngAny warrior of the sky knows that a good sleep on a plane is a hard thing to obtain. The company PowerSiesta has come up with a rather ingenious $17 product that is a flat pack cardboard pillow, that once erected creates a nice shelf for your head to rest on.

    We’ve seen this before, and as a homage, to the man we’ve all seen for over 20 years in the SkyMall magazine.  Though in all my air travels, never once have I seen anyone use one.

  8. Finally, how to eat chicken wings
    chrome_2016-12-25_06-49-10.pngThere are some viral videos that make you laugh, make you cringe, make you cry, but every so often one comes along that truly changes your life.  This week, with the help of BD Wong, this one teaches us how to eat chicken wings.

    You wouldn’t think it would be too difficult, but I have always felt I leave way too much meat behind in my fumbles with knives and forks.


… and given that this is the week of Christmas, I give you a wonderful Christmas tune from fellow atheist Tim Minchin, who sings a beautiful song about simply being together at this time of the year.  So whatever denomination you are, at the very least, enjoy your weekend.

Chromebook Pixel – Battery Replacement

Replacing a battery in the Google Chromebook Pixel is a very simple affair.

Recently I purchased a Chromebook Pixel from eBay and have fallen in love with the flexibility of this device.  The only niggle when buying an older second hand computer is of course the battery – it had degraded a little from its original operating level.  I am only getting around 3 hours out of it.

I decided to replace it with a battery from eBay.   Here are some photos to help anyone else that wishes to go down this same path.

Google has made this a very painless operation.  There are 4 screws that hold the bottom case on; these are located under the rubber pads at each corner.   Simply ply them off with a small screwdriver and you will be see the philips screws.

Unscrew these.  The lid will still not pop off as it is held by glue and clips.  However take a small flat head screwdriver and prise up the corner until the glue starts to give.  The lid is hinged on the back, so be careful which side you start from.   Once the glue gives way it will pop off quite simply.

The battery itself, as you can see, is a 4 cell configuration instead of one big one.  You unscrew about 8 screws for it to pop out with a very simple clip on the top to connect it to the motherboard.

The overall process was only 5-10 minutes.

Now for the bad news — the bloody battery I purchased didn’t work!  It didn’t hold charge and died after 5 minutes.  I am returning it for another so we’ll see how well the new one will work.   small tip – mark the original battery so you know which is which as they are both identical in all markings.

Weekly Top 8 Tech Stories – 24th October

A big week in the world of tech where Google, Apple, Tesla and Microsoft had big product announcements and Amazon had its quarterly earnings report.

A big week in the world of tech where Google, Apple, Tesla and Microsoft had big product announcements and Amazon had its quarterly earnings report.

  1. Google redefines the whiteboard at $6,000
    Googlechrome_2016-10-29_18-33-16.png announced the Jamboard, a very rich interactive whiteboard that integrates deeply with their recently rebranded Google Suite (formerly Google Apps).  This puts it in direction competition with Microsoft’s Surface Hub 55″/80″ line.

    On this 55″ whiteboard, you can have ‘jams’ with your fellow colleagues, with a huge amount of interactivity bringing in content from all over.   Gone are the days of whiteboard inked hands and taking photos of creations.

  2. Microsoft announces its first ever desktop PC
    chrome_2016-10-29_18-39-39For a company that shaped the PC industry it is a little baffling they are only getting into creating their own desktop PC nearly 30 years since the desktop revolution began.  But the wait was worth it.

    In addition to their Surface laptops getting major updates, they introduced the Surface Studio, a $4,000 desktop that is not like anything we’ve ever seen, including a very cool input device, called the Surface Dial.  Move over Apple, there is a new cool kid in town now.

  3. Apple announces the new MacBook with the touch bar
    chrome_2016-10-29_18-45-37While Microsoft was putting its vision of the non-tablet world forward, Apple is trying to redefine the laptop with its latest MacBook, with the new interactive touch bar.

    Instead of the usual row of function keys, they have replaced it with a OLED touch bar, that will change context depending on the application you are in.  Function keys have become ingrained in our brains for various things.  First it was the 3.5mm audio jack, now the function keys – is nothing sacred?  Qwerty layout next?

  4. Tesla announces near on invisible solar roofs and a large power pack
    chrome_2016-10-29_18-52-55Ahead of the shareholder vote later in November about the Solar City deal, Elon Musk took to the stage to announce a new revolutionary solar panel for residential homes that is near on invisible to the naked eye – no more unsightly big silver boxes on the roof.

    In addition, he announced that Tesla have doubled the capacity of its Powerwall product while keeping the price at $5,000 and throwing in an inverter at the same time.  Running your house off-the-grid just got way more affordable and real.

  5. Twitter kills off the 6.5 second video service Vine; 300 people lose jobs
    chrome_2016-10-16_10-37-48Twitter is desperately trying to make money, but while it figures that out, it is killing off the Vine service it launched under 3 years ago.  As part of this cost restructuring 300 people will be losing their jobs.  With all the free media publicity Twitter gets, especially with this years US elections, they still can’t make money or find a buyer (though rumor has it that Disney maybe sniffing around again).

    Though not all may be lost, never wanting to miss an opportunity, the popular adult site, PornHub, has said they are willing to buy it from Twitter, because as they said it, “6 seconds is more than enough” – and they have the data to prove it!

  6. Slack may be in for some serious competition, with Microsoft Teams
    chrome_2016-10-22_10-56-16Microsoft is expected to release next week it’s version of Slack, called Microsoft Teams.  There was a desire internally to buy Slack for $8B but Bill and Satya weren’t for having it.

    Microsoft have been here before, when they bought Yammer in 2012 – the Facebook for business as it was billed.  The leaked photos of Team looks suspiciously close to an updated Yammer. Slack has found a lot of love with its users, so it will be interesting to see if teams are willing to move away.  Pricing could be the key.

  7. Amazon releases weaker profits, stock takes a dive
    chrome_2016-09-24_05-16-50As part of its quarterly report, Amazon announced its profits weren’t as strong as they had hoped, but still profitable, 6 quarters in a row.  However that isn’t enough to appease the stock market who punished the stock by taking nearly $70 off its share price.

    Amazon for so long operated at a loss and now it is profitable it doesn’t seem to be enough for some, who had pegged the stock to break the infamous $1,000 stock price.  AWS was up 55% year-on-year, showing that their grip on the cloud market is showing no signs of letting it up.

  8. Need some sleep on the move?  The OstrichPillow may be what you need
    chrome_2016-10-29_19-17-23.pngWe’ve all been there, schedules get pushed around and before you know it, you are grasping for some sleep whenever you can.   Except you can’t just get comfortable.  Anyone of my fellow air warriors will know the pain of trying to sleep on a cramped plane.

    One company, Studio Banana Creations, may have the solution for us, with their new flexible pillow that transforms from a discrete scarf into something that is well, not discrete.


… and this week’s soundtrack was brought courtesy of Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats.  I particularly love his ‘I need never get old’ track.  Excellent album check it out.

Why, I, the anti-social-networker fell for Google+

I hate Facebook.  I don’t care about your lives.  If I cared, I would be part of your life and I would talk to you, I would interact with you and I would get involved with you.  I could go on for why I hate Facebook and all the problems with privacy and how you are giving your life over to a company whose sole purpose in life is to make money from your rants, your photos, and your connections.

So you can understand the surprise some of my friends and colleagues had when I popped up as a supporter of Google+.   I’ll admit, I didn’t go running towards it and was somewhat forced into creating a Google+ account to be able to do a few things within YouTube.  I was angry at the time for being forced to do it.

So I stepped slowly into the pond of Google+ and discovered it wasn’t really a social network.  It is a lot less than Facebook.  Google+ is basically a beautiful interface to the good old fashioned mailing lists.

Remember in the old ascii days of the Internet, back when you would get scorned for simply sending an HTML formatted email (sending such an email could polarize a community quicker than any other issue) you had mailing lists.  

A mailing list was a collection of like minded people focused on a particular subject area.  The interface was simple, email.  You jumped in and joined in.  I met some wonderful people in those heady days that mailing list traffic would account for 80% of my email traffic.

They started to go out of fashion when the blogging revolution was heralded in and conversations started to splinter into the various comment forums on the individual sites.   Then when blogging died off with the advent of social networks, this was the final nail in the mailing list coffin.   Conversations went to pithy 140 characters, with the odd link to an interesting link.   The heart and community of the mailing list was lost and diluted to social media.

Google+ comes with powerful communities.  Which in a nutshell are mailing lists.  They have all the ingredients of what a mailing list was, complete with Nazi moderators that will happily nuke an off-topic post.

Anyone that was a fan of the mailing list of yore will know some of the more subtle codes we would use to signal our support.  For example, to add your weight to a debate, you would simply reply to a thread, with the “+1” at the top of the reply.   So you can appreciate how sentimental it was to see the [+1] link to signal your weight for either a post or a even a comment within the Google+ community.

You can post pretty much anything to a community (assuming you on topic and get past the moderators).  If some you dislike keeps trolling (making an annoyance of themselves) then you can mute and remove them from your life completely.  This is a wonderful feature making reading the community beautifully devoid of idiots (as the moderator can ban them completely if enough people find their views constantly unhelpful).

Google+ Community can even be private.  This is a powerful feature that we use as part of our internal projects to monitor useful links.  This again, very akin to a private mailing list, with all the usual controls and benefits.

I like how I can either engage with the list via email or keep it on the web/app.  I like how Google+ tracks how much I have missed since the last time I visited the group, with beautiful interfaces both on the web and the mobile/tablet apps all adding to the experience.

Here are some examples of the communities I follow:

Now someone will say that Google+ is still a social network.  Maybe, but if that is the case then the mailing list was the original online social network.

For me, I treat it as a beautiful mailing list alternative, allowing me to engage with a community to learn and participate.  Getting back to the spirit of the good old fashion mailing list.

I have enjoyed getting back to the spirit.