Solar Flares, A Slap in the Face from Space!…

With the solar maximum of 2012 building up the sun is putting on quite a show for us all. The sun, our all gas jolly giant is due to reach the peak of its solar flare activity in 2013. The peak called Solar Maximum is generating a lot of interest. Scientist have calibrated instruments, created classifications, the rest of us just have to sit back and enjoy the wild ride. We actually know a lot about how the flares happen we just can’t do much about it.

Solar flares – also called Mass Coronal Ejection – consist mainly of super excited protons and electrons, heated to millions of degrees before spewing out of the sun. The individual particles don’t have enough mass to do any direct damage, no bullets from the sun, but collectively there is so much energy being sent out in the flare that they can be very dangerous. At most risk are astronauts and soon to join them space tourists. When travelling outside the Earths magnetic field the radiation – especially X-rays and Gamma rays – is extremely dangerous to living organisms, doing damage to each cell in your body. Currently no space craft are able to completely protect its crew from this radiation. Ironically Solar Flares actually cut the number of cosmic rays hitting Earth by deflecting the stream – solar wind – of particles.

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FetchTV2. Fletch Lives…

More than a PVR and Less than Foxtel IQ

FetchTV is iiNets entry into the Australian pay tv market. Going up against heavy weights like Foxtel and Telstra may not seem like a sensible plan but iiNet may be onto something here. It makes use of the spare capacity in the network and provides iiNet with a whole new revenue stream. At it’s most basic FetchTV is a PVRPersonal Video Recorder – with the addition of internet delivered content. What iiNet have achieved is to provide the basics for a good price , in a more strategic sense they have aimed at a gap in the market, fill that gap iiNet. At the moment this is most evident in the collection of European soccer channels and world wide news channels. Don’t replicate Foxtel, go for the parts of the market they have ignored.

Technical experts have gone to great lengths to show Fetch is not an IPTV or internet streamer. Instead it makes use of dark fibreunused parts of the optic network – and IP Multicast TV over the Agile direct ADSL2+ network. So there is specific infrastructure in place to shift the bits where as your typical IPTV setup just uses the standard internet backbone to shift the information about.

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Solid State Investment…

Upgrading your hard drive to an SSD – Solid State Drive referring to the Flash memory as Solid not moving – is the best bang for buck upgrade there is. Upgrading other parts can be costly and involve many parts – upgrading cpu will often require new motherboard and ram , even then it may only give you a small percentage improvement. Changing to a fast video card can gain a lot of improvement in games but top end video cards are an expensive habit – over $1000 for top of the line. SSD upgrades can be quite cheap, and will bag you a considerable speed improvement. The speed you get with an SSD only improves certain aspects of your computer but it is all the good bits. Boot up time, applications loading and switching will al become a lot snappier.

32GB is not enough, no matter what the salesman tells you. Say to him no, bad salesman, 32 is not enough. If you buy a 32GB SSD and install Windows 7 Ultimate you will have 7Gig free, I have movies that take up more space than that. 64GB is the minimum for a Windows PC, if you want to actually install applications on top of windows go with 64GB. I can see the advantages of 128 as well, big apps like Photoshop, Premier, Cubase would quickly fill a 64GB drive, so for workstation type machines 128GB would be the minimum. Buy as much as you can afford over 32GB, if all you can afford is 32GB don’t bother, keep saving and buy the cheapest 64GB you can afford. In-fact the price difference between 32GB and 64GB is only $35.

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XBMC Media Centre Software, 10 Feet Tall and Twice as Wide…

So you’ve decided to build that media centre PC, spent the big dollars on the hardware, finished the marathon build, installed windows, now what. Very quickly you will find out that the normal windows interface isn’t so great when viewed on a TV, even a big TV. That’s where the 10 foot interfacemeaning visible from 10 feet away – of XBMC comes in. XBMC’s interface combined with the ability to bring together all of your hardware in the one place gives you the perfect way to work with you multi-media PC. Add in a remote control and you have the perfect multi media PC.

XBMC has a long history, starting out life as an upgrade to the original Xbox media playing software, a version for the old beast can still be downloaded. XBMC source code has been used as the framework for projects such as Boxee, MediaPortal, Plex, 9×9 Player, and Voddler. Many of these products display the “Designed for XBMC” or “Powered by XBMC” official XBMC logo denoting certified approval from the Team-XBMC developers and the XBMC Foundation.

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The Commodor 64, the Computer That Changed the Galaxy…

The Commodore 64 sold in excess of 17 million units in its lifetime, still the largest selling single model of computer in history. Introduced in 1982 this computer more than any other made computers available to the average joe on the street, who proceeded to cut their teeth on this new beast.

The attraction for us nerds was purely based around its graphics and sound capabilities, it was technically the best machine at the time. This alone doesn’t explain it’s success though.

After it’s release in 1982 Commodore began selling the machine through main street retail stores instead of through specialist electronics stores. Computers sold through electronics parts stores had the stigma of build you own computer kits, this locked most people out. Even in the nerd world at the time the kids that had the funds, tools and ability to build their own computer were a tiny subset of this community.

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Just Be Thankful Boobs Don’t Run on Windows…

Just be thankful boobs don’t run on Windows.

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated, ‘If Ford had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.’

In response to Bill ‘s comments, Ford issued a press release stating: ‘If Ford had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:’

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The Nikon D300. Outed at the St Kilda Festival…

and why I can never use my much loved compact camera again, damn . . ..

When an opportunity to test a camera like the D300 comes along you have to take it. When you have that chance and it happens to fall on the day of the St Kilda Festival well the odds are off the charts. All of the photo’s in this article were taken during an afternoon at the St Kilda Festival..

The D300 today was provided by CrashPICS with a Sigma 70-200 zoom lens fitted, extra battery fitted allowing faster burst modes and a 16GB memory card. The body of the D300 is heavy duty and feels really solid with its Magnesium alloy weather-sealed shell. The optional MB-D10 battery pack, big lens and the full kit loaded the camera does become a little heavy, but it’s all worth it. The camera body alone is 825grams, loaded up your close to 2kg of technology.

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The D-300, 12.3-mega pixel – with a monster 23.6 x 15.8mm CCD chip – was officially replace by the D-300S in December 2009, this does also mean the D-300 can be found cheap second hand at the moment. Bargains can be found for as little a $1200 Au$. This won’t last as the numbers sold initially aren’t ever as high as cheaper cameras. The camera was set to max resolution 4288 x 2848, producing jpeg files of around 8meg a shot.

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Amazon. From Paper to New Media Empire…

Amazon over the last 18months have transformed themselves from a slowly declining paper merchant to a new media behemoth.

It started with the gutsy introduction of Kindle. The iPad was just an idea swilling around in Steve Jobs’ head – a thought put there by Juan-Luc Picard – when the Kindle was introduced. We’d even go as far as speculating that the Kindle’s success gave Steve Jobs the confidence to release his Star Trek inspired tablet.

With the introduction of it’s On-Demand streaming service, Amazon has pitched a new direction and their plan starts to become clear. Amazon has shifted from being an online – paper – book store, to being the ultimate –customizable – media service . Not just media either, but all parts of the media experience, if your prepared to rent, buy or try – Amazon has it, or has it planned for the near future. Core to this strategy is selling every part of that media equation, from space on their usable media servers – downloadable movies – eBooks – gadgets – consumables as well as hardware to consume all their new media, everything is a salable product.

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Facebook Makes Tinfoil Hats…

Facebook prepares to add VOIP services to its expanding social networking empire.

All of the stories surrounding Facebook at the moment are small pieces of a puzzle, when you bring them all together an interesting picture develops..

The chatter started with your profile phone numbers being made public. While reports around the wobbly web concentrated on the privacy aspect of this action – which Facebook doesn’t give two whoots about – more important was the building of a facebook phonebook, an important part of any telephone system around the world, the Blue Pages.

The Inquirer reports a VOIP service being in testing. While the VOIP service is a logical extension to Facebook it’s importance is a little more obscure than that. For Facebook to really be aware of what we are doing it needs your phone to be routed through Facebook. That doesn’t mean they will be listening to your calls but they will have your call records in their database. At the moment your telephone company has all of your call records – you see a summary of it on your bill – all of this information will be in Facebook.

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A History of: The Turbo Button…

Does chasing the Crack-Dragon make life any better?

At the early dawn of computing there were three buttons that sat at the front of all PC’s, Power, Reset and Turbo.

The original IBM PC released in 1981 had a CPU clocked at 4.7hz, slow by today’s standards but for its day it was a beast and affordable. People very quickly learned to push the PC to its limits leading to the desire for more power – we always want more – this chasing of the Crack-Fox led to the creation of the myth of Turbo.

With more power – by 1986 the PC ran at 12mhz – came unexpected consequences, many games would run at frantic speeds – imagine Pacman on crack – Turbo was brilliant at speeding up CPU suckers, not so good at getting along though, with Turbo switched on CPU’s had a tendency to freeze. Compatibility was a serious problem. This was especially true for serious Apps such as word processors, with Turbo on they would crash at the least convenient time – before saving i usually found.

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Because nerds are people too…