Thoughts

Truly sustainable computing

Plenty could be written about this subject. I just want to call for change in two areas, because I believe they’d have the greatest impact here and now:

  1. Desktop computers should have a projected life span of 20 years.
  2. Laptops and mobile phones should have a projected life span of 10 years.

Why 10 years for laptops and mobile phones? Because they’re portable, they get banged up more and chances are they’re not going to look that good after 8-10 years, but they should be made to last that long nonetheless. Even if you won’t want to use them after a few years, you can sell them and someone else with a smaller budget will be happy to use them for as long as they last.

This means internal circuitry, which is most often the culprit in computing, should be made to last a looooong time. This is doable. There are cars and planes in use today with circuits made 15-20 years ago, which are still functioning properly. I think hardware meant for personal computing is purposely made to stop working after a few years, because computers are always upgraded and hardware manufacturers plan for obsolescence from the get-go.

There is a better way. Enclosures for all computing devices should be solidly made and finished. They should be stunningly beautiful and their design should stand the test of time. They should be easy to open and the innards serviced. And internal components should be made in such a way that they stand the rigors of heavy use through two decades, even if they become obsolete, market-wise. I think we’ve gotten to the point in computing where even if a computer is no longer desirable by someone who wants a fast machine, it’s still good enough for daily use by someone who does basic computing tasks.

I may live to eat the words in this paragraph, but surely USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, PCIe, 4K resolution and other goodies that are currently available should suffice for a while. I can’t imagine word processing applications or web applications requiring more than this, even 10 years from now. And if they do, a solid, serviceable enclosure and upgradeable hardware with backward compatibility for widely accepted standards and protocols should be enough to keep a computer going… and going… and going…

And once we pass that 20-year mark, why not make our next goal even bigger? Let’s plan for 100-year computers and let’s start doing it right now. Wouldn’t it be great if we could have machines made in 2015-2016 still in daily use in 2115-2116?

If you work in hardware, I’m sure you can think of plenty of reasons why this isn’t doable. It’s pretty easy to find reasons not to do something, and this applies to just about anything. But I want to challenge you to find ways to make this work, because it’s what we need to do in order to survive in the future. We can’t go on trashing the planet and taking from it indefinitely. We need to start conserving and giving back to it. We should focus on making it clean and beautiful.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of phones I have to throw away after 2-3 years because they turn into unusable crap. I’m sick and tired of computers and external hardware that start to break down after 3 years, some of them right after their warranty expires. And if would see what a mess we’ve made of this world, with destructive mining for rare earth minerals used in our electronics and with mountains of electronic trash polluting the ground and water tables in many places around the world, you’d be sick and tired of this as well.

There are much better ways of doing things. FairPhone is pointing the way for mobile phones. iFixit is helping too, with online service manuals and parts. But the bulk of the work still hasn’t been done. I still don’t see 20-year computers and 10-year laptops in stores. Where are they? Who’s making them? I’d like to buy one.

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Thoughts

A look at what’s ahead in terms of resources and the economy

The TED channel published two interesting videos recently which present two points of view about the Earth, in terms of its resources and economy. The first is from Paul Gilding, entitled “The Earth is full“, and the second is from Peter Diamandis, entitled “Abundance is our future“.

I invite you to watch both points of view, which are at first in seeming opposition but after some consideration, are both saying pretty much the same thing, namely this:

Our current economic models, based on carbon forms of energy, will soon reach their lifespan, and we have some choices to make ahead as we transition to other economic models and other ways of generating our energy and making our stuff.

We can have a smooth transition or we can have a rocky one, with elements of anarchy and possible energy and water wars.

What’s clear on both sides is that we need to something about it and we need to start doing it now.

The wonderful thing is there are solutions to our energy and pollution problems emerging now and if they’re implemented correctly, we will not only avert any potential crises but we will come out ahead of the curve.

What are we waiting for? Let’s do it!

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Thoughts

Countering the effect of gravity

In 2005, I wrote an article entitled “Gravitational propulsion-levitation vehicle“, where I detailed an idea of mine that I’ve had since 1997 or so, of a vehicle that could harness the gravitation field of the Earth and use it to move on the ground or in the air.

Now, in 2009, I see that my twelve-year old idea was first investigated, albeit in a more limited way, back in 1992, by a Russian scientist named Evgeny Podkletnov. Furthermore, in 2003, an Austrian scientist named Martin Tajmar developed Podkletnov’s research and found a measurable reduction in gravitational pull with the help of a spinning superconductor.

You see, that’s where our ideas are related — in using spinning discs that would generate their own gravitational fields. Back when I started thinking about this stuff, in 1997, I had no idea about Podkletnov or Tajmar. It was just me, a guy who took two college physics classes, trying to figure out how this might work. But I think it’s very interesting that people in different regions of this world, some whose life is physics and some who only have a basic understanding of the subject, are thinking along the same lines when it comes to countering the effect of gravity. It’s the sort of thing that encourages my belief that we’ll get this figured out somehow, that a vehicle powered by gravity isn’t just sci-fi stuff.

I’m not alone in thinking this way. Since I wrote the original article, I’ve gotten contacted by a number of people, some who sounded kooky, and some who sounded like they were serious. I still haven’t written back to any of them, since I’ve had no new spark of inspiration that would make me believe I could contribute anything useful beyond what I already said. But I’m glad to see that we’re possibly on the right track.

My thanks to New Scientist for publishing “Seven things that don’t make sense about gravity” — a very interesting series of mini-articles that brought me up to date with the research done on gravity so far.

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Lists

Videos about photography

I thought I’d share a few of my favorite videos about photography with you. The first video is called “Miniature Earth”, and the photos used in it are really powerful.

This next video took two years to make. It’s called “Koya Moments”, and chronicles the changing weather, light and seasons over Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dove put out a video showing the transition that takes place in makeup and Photoshop to make a model look good. It’s pretty sad really, to see that beauty is not only skin-deep but also quite elusive.

I believe this time lapse video was done by a French director, who drove across America with a friend of his in a convertible.

This is a beautiful time lapse video of the 2006 Reno Balloon Race:

Here’s how a typical fashion photo shoot takes place. The subject of this shoot is Martin Scorsese.

Holger Eilhard, a fellow photographer, put together this great time lapse video of one of the Berlin gates. It’s a whole day, from dawn to dusk.

These are a couple of the “take a photo every day” projects:

This is a humorous look at the rise of a photographer. He’s a Nikon guy and I shoot Canon, but I won’t hold that against him… 🙂

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Lists

A new perspective on the Earth

Last week, I got the following photos sent to me by email, but I don’t know who put them together. But I think you’ll agree they’re interesting enough to share. They are progressive views of our planet, doing side-by-side comparisons of it and other planets and stars, in order to give us an idea of their relative size. We are truly just a speck of dust in the universe!

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