Archive for Technology

On test: serving huge Nikon D800 photos on the web

Nikon's new D800 SLR camera is the new leader in the autofocus class of SLRs.

It shoots enormous 36.3 megapixel images of 4912 width by 7360 pixels height (total 36,152,320 pixels).

So how does such a monster JPEG look when served on a web page? This test uses Sirv, which sliced the image into 914 tiles (256px square images) for fast serving.

Click up to 3 times to zoom:

The original image was 32,087kb, after conversion from RAW to JPEG format with maximum quality.

This photo was taken with the Nikon D800E, which gives slightly higher sharpness and resolution than the D800. The lens used was a Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 2/50 ZF.2 with focal length of 50mm, CCD width of 35.9, exposure 1/320, ISO 400.


Car of the future is now in production

The internal combustion engine is dead.

The car of the future is electric.

The new breed in motor transport has overtaken a disused Toyota factory in Fremont, California to build 20,000 new Tesla Model S cars each year.

Tesla Model S - new factory

Fast, spacious, stunningly good looking and 100% electric. Order yours now.

If you can't wait for the future to arrive, it's actually already here, in a smaller, even faster variety. The Tesla Roadster.

Tesla Roadster

0-60 in 3.7 seconds. Range of 245 miles.

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How do you measure water filter efficiency?

Water filterI'd like to buy a highly efficient water filter to make healthy, potable, odourless drinking water in my home. The tricky thing is, how do you measure efficiency?

There is a debate going on at MetaEfficient about what constitutes efficiency. The reverse osmosis water filtration process is put forward as a solution even though it consumes electricity and outputs more waste water than it outputs drinkable water. Does that sound efficient to you? Me neither. The meta-efficiency is measured as follows:

"When assessing a product, we consider not only its energy efficiency but also its embodied energy, toxicity, affordability, and usability."

That's sensible, but you can't roll all these things into one score because they are measured by different means. Furthermore, people have different perceptions of what is important. $100 might be a lot of money to me but it could be cheap to you. Environmental impact might be important to you but it might be critical to me.

The solution would be to rate products on separate factors and provide multiple scores, e.g.

  • Life Cycle Assessment (LCA): taking all environmental impact into consideration, measured in a unit such as joules. Incredibly hard to do accurately.
  • Usability: gauging how well it does the job and how easy it is to use. Scored out of 100.
  • Retail price: in £/$/€
  • Running cost: in £/$/€

Only when you separate the important aspects of a product and measure each one in an standard unit can you compare products effectively.

It takes a true geek to do such in depth research and comparison for water filtration systems. It will happen eventually – the internet's global reach makes in-depth comparison a viable business proposition. But in the meantime, can anyone point me in the direction of a highly efficient household water filter, regardless of cost?


Government regulation of Google

Google logoA top executive has argued that government regulation may be required over the position of search results in Google.

Bad idea.

Government regulation is the absolute last resort. It might start with good intentions and the Government might have a light touch, but it would open the floodgates. Regulation only becomes more onerous and cumbersome over time. It stifles businesses ability to innovate, it slows progress and it takes some of the fun out of business.

In the free market, if Google screws up, we can go to Yahoo or Bing or another search engine. If they all screw up, a new competitor will rise. It is a self regulating system.

I trust an honest company (such as Google) more than any government, sadly.

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Extreme close-ups are a piece of cake with Magic Touch. In 3 minutes, I knocked together this impressive zoom:

Click to zoom in.

Very handy for showing huge photos without taking up much screen space.


Apple keynote in 60 seconds

Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone 3G and other big news.

Edited from 1 hour and 27 minutes into just 60 seconds…


My new sunglasses, night time use only

Jake's new sunglassesOn Monday, I made the most extravagant purchase of my life. My new wraparound sunglasses cost a cool £4,620. There is no famous brand name etched on the frame and they are for night time use only. It's what's behind the glasses that counts.

Three days earlier I'd visited Sheraz Daya at the Centre For Sight to see if he could correct my eyesight through laser eye surgery. My infallible optometrist of 17 years, Nigel Burnett Hodd, was cautious about laser surgery, but he recommended that if I did have it, I must go to Mr Daya.

The results of my eye examination gave Mr Daya total confidence that he could fix my short sightedness and astigmatism. Not only could he return my sight to 20/20, he believed he might do even better.

Snellen chartI didn't know then that better than 20/20 was possible. But I do now. Just 24 hours after surgery, my eyes were tested again and I now had 20/20 vision in my right eye and at least 20/15 vision in my left. They might improve further still over the coming weeks. For comparison, my eyes had previously been around 20/100 while the best a human can see is about 20/10.

The operation itself took about 45 seconds per eye and was almost painless. I had been sedated but was still conscious. Mr Daya was pleased with the operation and my sister drove me home with my new sunglasses and a collection of eye drops. For 4 weeks I will wear the sunglasses while I sleep to prevent me from rubbing my eye and I shall administer eye drops regularly during the day.

The outcome is remarkable. My left eye sight is outstanding – better than I have ever experienced with glasses or lenses. My right eye sight is good enough for all daily tasks though my hunch is that I will need repeat laser surgery to improve it further. If so, that will happen in 3 months at no additional cost.

I'll update this post later with a review of my progress.

6 months later…

I can still see clearly and my vision has been stable since the operation 6 months ago. I had a check-up today at Centre For Sight, Queen Anne Street, London. My eyesight remains better than 20:20.

During the 6 months, my eyes have felt dry on perhaps 5 occasions late at night. This is a minor side effect of Lasik treatment and though the discomfort is minimal, it can be cured with eye drops. I experienced no other side effects.

IntraLasik surgery is life changing. No more contact lenses, solutions, glasses, irritated eyes – just crystal clear vision. It costs a few bob, but it is worth every penny. The results should last until middle-age when eyesight naturally deteriorates, at which point, further operations can assist.

If you are considering IntraLasik surgery, I highly recommend you discuss it with Sheraz Daya at Centre For Sight.

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Easy money from video sharing

Video search company Blinkx has made it possible for anybody to make money from the videos they post on their website or blog.

Their clever technology (called AdHoc) analyses the content of a video and then displays relevant adverts for it. When someone clicks one of the adverts in the video, they share the revenue with you.

Here is an example:

Did you notice the advert above the video? It took less than 1 minute to set that up.

How to do it

  1. Find a video you want to share( go to YouTube, Google Video, Metacafe or a.n.other).
  2. Copy the embed code from that site.
  3. Paste the embed code into the form here:
  4. Enter a password and your PayPal email address.
  5. Blinkx analyses the video and outputs the embed code for your website/blog.
  6. Write your blog post / webpage as usual and paste in the Blinkx embed code.
  7. Someone watches the video on your site and clicks the (contextually relevant) advert. You earn money! Blinkx pays it into your PayPal account once you've earned $20.

The catch

The big downside is that an advert costs only $0.05 and Blinkx only pays you some of that (they don't declare how much, but I guess 50%). So it is going to take a loooong time before you can give up your day job. On the other side, 5 cents per click is amazing value if you are an advertiser, so get over to Blinkx and set-up a campaign to get some cheap traffic.

If you've used Blinkx AdHoc on your website, please leave a comment and tell us how much have you earned from it.

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VW Polo running on vegetable oil – no modification needed

For the last 600 miles, my Volkswagen Polo 1.4tdi has been running on a mixture of diesel and vegetable oil.

It's an experiment I've been wanting to run for 2 years but I'd been put off by the antiquated Inland Revenue taxation regime on fuel. That was scrapped recently so you can now put vegetable oil in your car without paying fuel duty. (Check that your car can run on biodiesel before trying this!).

Pouring vegetable oil into my VW Polo
I have done no modification to my 2001-built VW Polo so I was a little apprehensive for fear of damaging the engine. The car is designed to run on diesel, but the handbook states that it can run on up to 50% RME (Rapeseed-Methyl-Esther) mix, so I should be safe. Some diesel engines require modification because vegetable oil is more viscous and puts more strain on the fuel pump. It can also be harder to start the engine in winter.

To minimise the risk, I used a 1:4 mixture in my first tank. My mix is:

  • 80% diesel
  • 20% vegetable oil

55p per litre
The fuel tank capacity is 10 gallons (45 litres). So I put 9 litres of vegetable oil into the car, then filled it up with diesel.

The price of diesel recently rose above £1.00 per litre. Vegetable oil costs about 55p per litre in the supermarket. So, by using a 25% mix, I saved about £4.05 on a tank of fuel. On my next tank, I will use a 50% biodiesel mix, and will save over £10 per tank.

There was no noticeable change in the average MPG (miles per gallon) – I recorded 68mpg which is what I achieve with standard diesel.

Biodiesel is, arguably, better for the environment than diesel. It comes from a renewable source and the CO2 emissions are equal to the sequestrated amount when the vegetable grows, so it is carbon neutral. However, some people believe that it is contributing to the destruction of rainforest as Malaysia, Indonesia and other developing countries cut down their rainforests to plant palm oil, which can also be used as a biofuel.

Seeing as I am burning sunflower or rape seed oil, I don't think I am having a direct effect on rainforests. But if I wanted to run the ultimate biodiesel car, I would copy my mate Adam and collect used vegetable oil from the local fish and chip shop, run it through a filter then stick it in my car. It's free and it's an otherwise waste product. Everyone's a winner!

If you want to investigate biodiesel, there are lots of useful websites. I recommend this one to start with.

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Potato stronger than plastic

Vegware cutleryA British company has come up with an ingenious method of turning potatoes into plastic. Vegware uses the technology to create disposable items such as cutlery and tableware.

It's cheap too – a mixed bag of 10 knives, forks and spoons is only £2.97 (about $5.90US). For mass caterers, a bag of 1,000 knives costs £29.90 +VAT and shipping (about $59US).

The cutlery gets its strength from potato or corn starch and its actually stronger than standard plastic cutlery. Being made from vegetable matter, the products are totally biodegradable, so they are dramatically better for the environment than plastics made from oil.

Order online…

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