Monthly Archives: February 2012
Today’s markets are flooded with gadgets and gizmos of every possible variety. While we want to believe otherwise, a surprising number of these gizmos make their way into most homes. Take, for example, a household with two adults and two children under the age of 10. Assuming an annual household income of $60,000 or more, the number of gadgets and gizmos in the house may run to:
- One computer per adult and at least one computer shared by the two children
- One printer, scanner, copier, and fax machine
- One or more gaming system per child
- One or more gaming system per adult
- At least one mobile phone per adult
- One mp3 player or iPod-type device per child
- One or more ebook reader or tablet per adult
- One Voice-over-IP (voip) and one landline phone system
- At least one high-tech entertainment system consisting of a television, bluray player, speaker system, and other peripherals
That is about 24 devices for just four people. The number is much, much higher for a household where one or more adults work in the high-tech industry, also known as the IT industry.
The question, then, is whether we need so many devices or whether we should try to return to a simpler time. Ask anyone and they may say: “Oh, life was so much simpler back then. But, I can’t imagine life without my (insert gizmo name of choice).” We, as a people, have become quite dependent upon our devices. We go so far as to name them after our favorite characters. Much as our grandparents collected pet cats-dogs-horses, we collect gizmo-pets. Charming as it may seem, this tendency to personify our devices and grow attached to them at the hip is working against us. Our lives are getting more and more cluttered with unnecessary items that edge out the items we really do need.
The answer to the question `how many of these devices do we really need?`is quite simply `not so many`. Let’s look at that list to see if we can’t cut it down to a more manageable number:
If you look at the previous list, the household only needs one computer for everyone.
- One computer per adult and at least one computer shared by the two children: Just one computer is enough. Why not set up a kiosk in a study or den area where different people can use the computer at different times? The chances that two people need to use the computer are quite slim. There is no point in preparing for a “computing emergency” by stockpiling computers. If the children do need their own personal computer, think about getting them a tablet device instead. Those Samsung Galaxy tabs or iPads are useful for more than just playing games or watching videos.
- One printer, scanner, copier, and fax machine: The easiest way is to have a device that can do all four things. You have just cut down your device needs to a quarter of your original needs.
- One or more gaming system per child and adult: Another out-of-the-box idea is to set up a gaming network within your home. Use your entertainment system to set up a family game room where everyone uses the same gaming system. There is no need to have mom’s fitness game, dad’s shoot-em-up game, or the kids’ learning games set up on different systems. Find one system that does it all, and reuse it for everyone. If this process helps you find a happy medium where everyone spends more time together as a family, it’s a win all around.
Just by consolidating a few devices, we went from 24 items to less than 10.
Apart from the obvious benefit of reducing clutter in our homes and living spaces, we can also help the environment by cutting down on our electricity consumption.
And that’s why I think that instead of making unachievable resolutions like “lose 20 pounds by May”, we must make a resolution to cut down on the number of devices that we own and with which we clutter our lives.
There are a lot of cloud storage options available today – Dropbox, SkyDrive, MozyPro, Carbonite, and many more.
But here’s my problem: I already have a 2TB external hard drive where I store all my files at home. Copying around 1.5TB of data in the external hard drive to the cloud is very expensive since I would need to buy (or rent) the space, and pay a monthly charge. Plus, I lose the option of plugging in my external hard drive and copying my data from my computer directly.
The question then is: how can I transform my external hard drive into a secure cloud? The answer is simple: Pogoplug.
Buy the Pogoplug device from Best Buy for under 50 dollars. The Pogoplug device has 4 USB ports and 1 Ethernet port. Just plug an Ethernet cable to the Pogoplug device and connect it to the Ethernet port on your cable modem or wireless router. Now, plug in your external hard drive to one of the USB ports.
From your laptop or any other computer on the same network, just go to Pogoplug.com and activate the device. Enter your username and password to complete the activation. You are done! It’s plug-and-play.
Here are the cool features of Pogoplug:
- Your external hard drive is your cloud! That’s right. You can access your external hard drive via any browser and upload/download the files. The capacity is limited by the size of your external hard drive.
- Share files with anyone, anywhere. Select the file/folder you want to share and Pogoplug will send an email with a link to the recipient who can then download the files.
- Use the Pogoplug app on your smartphone. I use the Pogoplug app for the iPhone and it is really cool. Just launch the app and all the photos and videos on your iPhone are automatically synced to your external hard drive over 3G or Wi-Fi. Pogoplug automatically categorizes the files as per the month or date they were taken.
- Play music or videos remotely. You can play music from your external hard drive via your smartphone or the Internet remotely. Pogoplug optimizes the videos and music for you. You don’t really need to copy your music between devices anymore.
- Set up a Backup or Redundancy. Here’s the coolest feature. Just plug in another external hard drive and select a folder from the 1st hard drive to be backed up to the 2nd hard drive (via Settings>Backup on your Pogoplug online account). Whenever a file is added to the 1st hard drive, it is automatically copied to the 2nd hard drive thereby creating redundancy. The chances of both hard drives failing at once are extremely rare, so your data is safe.
- Print remotely. Plug in a printer to the Pogoplug device via USB and you can remotely print over the Internet or via your iPhone. Make sure Pogoplug supports your printer.
- Automatically copy files from multiple computers. If you have multiple computers in your home/office, it’s a headache to backup the data from all the computers. Install the Pogoplug software and select the folders to be copied automatically (via the Active Copy feature). The files are automatically synced to the external hard drive. This is extremely useful for multiple home users and small businesses where data from multiple computers need to be backed up.
- Use the Bonus Cloud Storage. When you create an account online, you get a 5GB cloud storage too. You can keep your work-in-progress files here just in case the power goes off and you cannot access your external hard drive. Of course, if you have a UPS, you may never need this feature.
With a Pogoplug hardware and an external hard drive, you can build and run your own cloud. Small businesses can use this setup to cut down costs and store important files within their on network instead of putting them up on the Internet.
It’s as simple as that – your own cloud for zero dollars a month.
Say Hi to E.T.!
Wouldn’t it be cool if we found a way to solve the world’s problems using technology? Some problems that need immediate solutions are:
- Alternative Sources of energy – Crude oil is scarce. We have about a 100 years worth left. After that, the world will come to a standstill. We need to quickly use alternative sources of energy and make it commercially viable. What about Nuclear Cars like the Nuclear Submarines? Sounds interesting?
- Cure for diseases – Not just a cure, but how do we prevent cancer and other dreaded diseases? How about improving medical technology such as cryo-surgery or Gamma knife?
- Supercomputers – How do we build supercomputers that help us solve huge problems in nanoseconds?
- Artificial Intelligence – How do we create and control Artificial Intelligence?
- Global warming – How do we solve the problem of global warming?
With all the research underway, what can we do to speed up this process? Well, maybe we could get it touch with ET. Communicating with Extraterrestrial Intelligence will eventually help transfer their technology to us. Do you want to communicate with ET?
Really? Is this a joke? Or science fiction?
No – it’s real. The SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) helps us do just that. The SETI@Home project is the world’s biggest distributed computing framework started in May 1999 by the University of Berkley. Today, more than 5.2 million users across the world ‘donate’ their computing power to analyze radio transmissions from outer space.
SETI@Home uses radio telescopes across the world to listen to narrow-bandwidth radio signals from outer space. Such signals are not known to occur naturally, so detecting such signals would show evidence of extraterrestrial technology. But there is way too much data to analyze and that’s why they need our help.
Go to the SETI website and download the BOINC software. The software is cool, light, unobtrusive, safe, and gives you total control on how much resource you want to contribute. (I just wish they had iOS or Android Apps to utilize the millions of smartphones out there)
If you’re not using PC power management on your computer, you can assign how much CPU power you want to donate during idle time. Imagine the number of times we leave our computers ON overnight! Running the BOINC software will help SETI@Home use a bit of your processing power to analyze radio transmissions from outer space.
I have installed the SETI application at home (don’t install it on your work computer since your boss wont be pleased to see you searching for Extraterrestrial Intelligence at work). Using the SETI application, we could help speed up the process of getting in touch with Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Future technology could help us solve today’s problems on Earth. If you are worried that something like Independence Day or Battle Los Angeles will happen, it might just turn out that ETs are extremely friendly.
Once you start searching for alien life forms, make sure you bolt your door at night. If you hear a strange sound, don’t be surprised to find ET outside your door waiting to phone home!
When Apple introduced Siri with the iPhone 4S, critics laughed out loud. They predicted that nobody would use Siri unless talking to your phone became ‘socially acceptable’. The Internet is now full of videos and jokes about Siri keeping us entertained.
But think about it for a moment. Siri has access to a lot of data from your iPhone. Firstly, your speech – which is a combination of talking style, accent, grammar, perceived punctuation, tone, and breathing rhythm. Secondly, the data from your GPS, calendar, emails, text messages, contacts and browser. Finally, the ability to use all this data to make a decision and execute a task for you. Going forward, adding data from both cameras, accelerometer, proximity sensor combined with the GPS co-ordinateswould be extremely useful for Siri to take decisions.
Today, we live our lives through our smartphones. Siri has all the data to take control of our lives like the Daemon and force us to do something (in the techno thriller Daemon by Daniel Suarez). In today’s smartphone world, this would not be impossible. Siri could also be used to analyze data and predict crimes before they are committed (like in the techno TV series Person of Interest). For example, Siri would automatically know if I am in debt (bank account accessed), if I just lost my job (my emails, calls, text messages) and my new application for a gun permit, thereby predicting the possibility of me shooting someone. It’s that simple.
Terminator 1,2,3, and Salvation may seem a bit farfetched for now, but we are certainly moving in that direction. Imagine if Siribecame self-aware like the SkyNet. We are already connected! Siri has the access to all user data across the world. Imagine the total power, control, and decision-making Siri could force upon us.
The next time you make fun of Siri, just remember one thing – SkyNet is just round the corner.
(Originally published at http://www.faronics.com/2012/siri-the-first-step-towards-skynet/)