29 Mar 2007

2020 vision

From The Fischbowl (a staff development blog for Arapahoe High School), Karl Fisch explains...

As I write this, I realize that I've created a trilogy of sorts. The "What If" presentation was a look at the past, at the resistance to change in education. The "Did You Know" presentation was mainly a look at our present, at the incredible changes that are happening due to "flat world" factors and technological change (with a dash of prediction thrown in). And now "2020 Vision" is a look "back" at our future from the year 2020. (Ummm, yeah, sure, I planned to create a trilogy. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) Maybe by having one possible version of the future to consider we can get past the natural resistance to change. If nothing else, I hope it's another example of David Warlick's "telling the new story" to get those conversations started.

25 Mar 2007

"We are half a step away from a police state"

I have a grim facination with Russia, so this caught my eye today because it seemed just so *upbeat and jolly* in it's observation about being a whole half a step away.

We have a dictatorship in Russia, we know it's been heading there for a while but banning an opposition party on the basis that there are too few members really seems to have tipped over yet another edge.

Earlier this week I caught an interview on Womans Hour on Radio 4 with the sister of the murdered Russian journalist, Anna Politkovskaya. Her last book has just been published posthumously, The Guardian has a few extracts, 'Fascism is in fashion' makes a really chilling read.

14 Mar 2007

scooby dooby do!

Finally, my kind of Subaru.

4 Mar 2007

bee afraid

The NY Times has a pretty ominous story about vanishing bees:

This winter, in more than 20 states, beekeepers have noticed that their honeybees have mysteriously vanished, leaving behind no clues as to their whereabouts. There are no tell-tale dead bodies either inside colonies or out in front of hives, where bees typically deposit corpses of dead nestmates.

What’s more, the afflicted colonies tend to be full of honey, pollen and larvae, as if all of the workers in the nest precipitously decamped on some prearranged signal. Beekeepers are up in arms — last month, leaders in the business met with research scientists and government officials in Florida to figure out why the bees are disappearing and how to stop the losses. Nobody had any answers.

Back in the early 90s, I remember hearing mutterings about problems with the UK bee populations, I remember virus infections being suggested, but it kind of dropped from the edges of the news just as quickly as it came in. It looks like the *crisis* has been quietly going on for some 30 years over here. There is more on this on the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website as well as some really pretty bee pics in the gallery.

2 Mar 2007

separated by more than half a century and an ocean

British home-made TV from 1950.

Canadian home-madePC from 2003.

boot sale treasure

I found treasure at the local boot sale in the form of four copies of a magazine called 'Practical Television'. They were from the early 50's, 1950-1954. Sadly the cover was busted on the first one but the contents were intact.

The first edition was published in April 1950 and in the editorial at the front in concluded with:

"Although paper for periodicals became de-rationed as from March 1st, production problems still make it difficult to ensure supplies."

There is an article on page 21 entitled, Building the "Viewmaster": An Amateur Describes his Experiences in Building this Popular Home-constructor Set.

In most of us is the desire to create, to see something grow under our hands, and be able to say, possibly with ill-concealed yet justifiable pride, "I built that".
Those of us who grew up with the century were fortunate in being on the "ground floor". It was radio in the early stages. We quickly mastered the simple principles and construction of the crystal set, and quite naturally graduated to the one, two and multi-valve straight sets. But as radio became more of an exact science, and the building of successful receivers required technical ability and expensive calibrating instruments, many erstwhile enthusiasts found the going too difficult and reluctantly downed tools.

I was one of them.

As a spectator I watched the march of the industry, growing more than ever concious of my limitations with the event of television.

The old enthusiasm gripped me. I couldn't afford a television receiver; could I build one? One glance at the chassis almost frightened me and quickly dispelled the forlorn hope I entertained of becoming an early "viewer".
And so to Radiolympia 1949.
I must confess that when I saw the "Viewmaster" Envelope on the T.C.C. Stand, I imagined it to be directed to the more advanced amateur. Only by chance did I catch a glimpse of the full-sized wiring diagrams. Here was something I did understand. Moreover, the sound and vision reproduction on the demonstration receiver was of a very high standard..

A close and more leisurely examination later of the contents of the envelope so impressed me with the extreme simplicity of construction that I decided to build the "Viewmaster".

Some friends to whom I shared the charts and conveyed my intentions were sceptical. "It looks too simple, " they said. "There must be some snags somewhere."

These remarks gave me an idea. "Why not make notes as I build the receiver?" I thought. "There may be little points on which my experience will help others. If there are snags, I shal find them. If there are no snags, then many hesitant ones will be encouraged to commence building the 'Viewmaster' and ultimately enjoy the thrill of proudly saying, 'Yes, I built it.'"

And so he begins a series of articles on the building of the "Viewmaster". It's not actually a kit, it's a set of instructions comprising 8 full sized drawings and a 32 page booklet, sponsored by 8 British component manufacturers. Adverts for components "specified for the Viewmaster" litter the magazine.

"Telenews" the news section at the back of the magazine, estimate that at the time of writing:

There are approximately 285,500 television receivers in use at the present time and as the B.B.C. estimates that at least four people look at each receiver the total number of viewers is reasonably accurately estimated to be 1,142,000.

We are assured that production was catching up with demand.

In this context, things like the Homebrew Computer Club in 1970s in Silicon Valley fit right into this kind of technological continuum (though they probably had better teeth in the HCC...)

I have a couple of scans from the magazines on my flickr pages for your enjoyment, they really are quite... something. More when I get the chance.

Kiwi wireless hero

Why pay $20,000 for a commercial link to run your television station when a $10 kitchen wok from the Warehouse is just as effective?

This is exactly how North Otago's newest television station 45 South is transmitting its signal from its studio to the top of Cape Wanbrow, in a bid to keep costs down.

45 South volunteer Ken Jones designed the wok transmitter in his spare time last year when he wanted to provide wireless broadband to his Ardgowan home.

"A group of us wanted to connect our computers to each other and then we worked out a way to get of getting the signal between two points," he said.

He discovered satellite dishes were between $100 to $400 retail and that smaller dishes, the same size as a wok, were $80.

Mr Jones thought he could do better.

Along with friend Murray Bobbette they worked out mathematical equations to prove the curved metal face of a wok would have the same effect as a small satellite dish.

"We have spent a lot of time getting it right -- the first time we installed one we had it up a pole with the handle still on the end of the wok," he said.

"We had it connected to the woolshed and initially you couldn't get a signal the width of the paddock and now it can reach up to 20km."

When the television station 45 South (UHF channel 41) started up in September last year, Mr Jones thought the same technique could be applied.

"The $20,000 for a commercial link was just money we didn't have, so we bought several woks from The Warehouse instead which was convenient and cheap," he said.

Pre-recorded clips at the studio are fed through a computer and beamed to Cape Wanbrow where they are relayed off to television sets around North Otago.

The classic case of Kiwi ingenuity has made its way onto the internet and the technique has been posted by an American website, Mr Jones said.

"People wanted to know all the details about how to make their own, so it is now all publicly documented," he said.

One of the issues they had to deal with was making the pole that the wok sits on high enough to clear the Kingsgate Brydone Hotel.

They needed a clear path from the station to the hill, so the only way was up, building the pole more than eight metres high.

Mr Jones said one wok was providing Oamaru with the signal at present and there was no need to provide another wok for some time


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