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The lighter (and darker) side of life

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’re having a good one.

Normal service shall resume shortly

This week I have been looking at the lighter, funner (real word?) side of life, but first its worth mentioning the large company who had a period of blackout: the BBC. The poor old beeb completely disappeared from the online multiverse for about an hour this week after 2 pieces of equipment both went ‘pop!’ simultaneously. This is the first time they have had everything (news, iplayer etc) go down since they launched online back in 1997. Not a bad record really. Not many other sites can say they have that much uptime. They now say lessons have been learned etc etc and they promise it wont happen again. Good, cos I do so love her wonderful ways.

And on to one of the more fun sides of technology – this week has seen the Maker Faire event (unfortunately they don’t have a 2011 website so the link is for last years) in Newcastle where inventors from all around the world can show off the smart, clever, wired and weird. Its such a great mixing pot of people, from granddads who make stuff in their sheds to multinational companies with billion dollar budgets, they can all congregate and show off what their minds have vomited. Special treats at this years event include a large 8m long robotic fire-breathing dragon (not sure what the practical application of that is, but to be honest, it doesn’t matter), beermats that flirt with you while you drink (I can definitely see the application of that) and a Turing machine that computes calculations using ball bearings. Its inventor says that it takes approximately a month for it to calculate 1+1. Lightning.

Minty. And Geeky.

As an event I am hugely supportive of this kind of thing as I think many people view ‘technology’ as something that can only be created in a laboratory with scientists in lab coats and wearing gloves and eye protectors (Dexter from Dexter’s Lab basically). Luckily shows like Makers Faire allow the public, and more specifically kids, that anyone can learn the basics of electronics or mechanics and create something amazing and useful. Or an 8m dragon. Special mention should go to Minty Geek who are creating basic hacker projects (as in simple electronics rather than breaking into Paris Hilton’s email) that fit into a mint tin and allow children to create wonderful devices for very little money but with a lot of education. These can be anything from a cookie jar alarm through to a basic lie detector!

Pictured: Thomas Edison

Another triumph of technology over intelligence that caught my eye was Jacqueline Howett’s very public breakdown over a review of her self published book on a book blog. If you haven’t read it yet (its gone SO viral that Stephen Fry is twittering about it) I would definitely recommend it, even if it does nothing else but teach you a little about how to respond to constructive criticism and remind you that the internet lasts for ever. So watch what you write online!

And finally, a double Google day. Firstly the hilarious hypocrisy of Microsoft suing Google over how the latter allows the former to search on major websites (i.e. youtube) meaning they are harder to find on Bing (don’t say we never help you Microsoft, that link might double your traffic!). But what makes it even better is that Microsoft’s chief legal counsel, Brad Smith, wrote a blog about the reasons for the court action, which if you search for on Google (search for “Brad Smith blog Google complaint”) comes up as the first result, but on Bing wasn’t even coming up on the 1st page of results! Good work Bing.

The second story from the big G is the very minor announcement of its Motion software. Its only being released in a beta version for the moment, but it allows you to use (for Gmail primarily) body language to write and perform on screen actions. It is so good I used it to write this blog! A video on how it works is below and a more detailed explanation can be found at www.gmail.com/motion. When tis becomes mainstream it is gonna be HUGE!

Have a great weekend!

The Author

Liam Faulkner

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