PYB Blog

Archive for January 1st, 2011

  1. QR codes for business cards and social media

    Traditionally thought of as simply a matrix barcode for tagging products, QR codes are now being added to business cards and flyers by web-savvy individuals and companies as they look to increase their digital footprints.

    QR codes first appeared in Japan in 1994 and are designed for quick response (hence the name QR), allowing their contents to decoded rapidly by scanning devices. With the increasing prevalence of camera phones, smartphones and tablet devices QR codes are becoming increasingly popular as they are highly compatible with those products and can be used to represent a wealth of information.

    Indeed, their versatility is being pushed to new boundaries and now individuals are increasingly starting to create their own QR codes and add them to business cards, giving the recipients a handy piece of digital DNA to access.

    As this clever Audi video shows, big brands are now embracing the power of QR codes to provide interactive experiences for consumers.

    Meanwhile, via companies such as Jumpscan now individuals can create their own custom QR codes, which contain their various details including contact info, phone number, email address, social media feeds and more.

    As recipients of the codes scan them with their smartphones they can instantly connect with their new friends or professional contacts via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and other social networks.

    Not all smartphones can automatically read the QR codes, but standard reading capacity is becoming more commonplace.
    Google’s Android OS supports the use of QR codes natively on some models via the ZXing barcode scanner, whilst Nokia’s Symbian operating system also carries a barcode scanner. On iPhones a QR code scanner is not included on the Apple iOS as standard but a number of free apps available on the iTunes store, such as Red Laser, quickly add the scanning capacity to the devices.

  2. First computer to be rebuilt in London

    The first truly modern computer, built at Cambridge University in 1949, is to be rebuilt at Bletchley Park, the former home of the Enigma code-cracking sleuths in the Second World War.

    EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) was built by Maurice Wilkes and Bill Renwick to aid research scientists in their calculations. The size of a room, it helped two scientists win Nobel prizes with its ability to process millions of calculations a minute, something that most modern computers take for granted.

    The Computer Conservation Society is leading the re-building project, which will take three years and cost £250,000. The funds will come from a charitable consortium led by the entrepeneur Hermann Hauser, and will eventually be put on display at the Museum of Computing in Bletchley.

    Most of the work involved lies in sourcing the parts required; vital parts such as valves are hard to come by, and the researchers are having trouble sourcing the original plans to the machine.

    However, they have enlisted the help of computer expert and conservationist Chris Burton, who is “optimistic that [they] will get there”, according to CCS chairman Dr. David Hartley. “We’re building up a good picture of what it was like… but there comes a point at which we have to guess what was in the designer’s mind at the time.”

    The team will also have to seek replacements for the 5-foot tubes of mercury that the original EDSAC used as a method of data storage, which are now considered hazardous to health and safety.

  3. Will Google Chrome OS affect laptop sales?

    If you know the answer to that question, then people such as Microsoft, Google and many in the laptop insurance marketplace would just love to hear from you!

    If you are old enough to remember the 1970s and early 1980s (from a technology viewpoint) you may remember the huge debate at the time about the need to take computer applications off of big centralised server mainframes and put the software power on to the desktop. The ‘centralisation is dead’ brigade, led by people such as Microsoft and Apple, won the day and we moved into the ‘store it and use it locally’ epoch.

    Now, apparently without any sense of irony, people have suddenly decided that Cloud computing is the only way to do things and, surprise, surprise, everybody now is saying that it is self-evidently right for many applications and data sources to exist in a non-local location i.e. the internet Cloud.

    Much as many old-timers in IT will smile at this about-face, it is progressing rapidly and Google’s Chrome operating system is part of this move. It effectively utilises many central Cloud applications that are not stored on the laptop itself.

    One of the many theoretical effects of this is that it may be possible to produce laptops that are a little more streamlined in terms of their required processing capabilities.

    Some are predicting that this may lead to increased sales of laptops, though others are equally confident in predicting that tablets will lead to the demise of the laptop irrespective of anything Google do with Chrome.

    The situation is extremely difficult to interpret. At the very end of 2010, Google shipped a number of basic laptops and a beta version of Chrome.  Reviews are underway and initial reports appear to be mixed. One immediate and pretty fundamental problem is that if your operating system expects all of its application components (or many of them) to be available on the internet, it may get a rather nasty surprise if you are somewhere where the internet is not available!

    There have also been some negative comments relating to incompatibilities between Chrome and certain Cloud-based applications. However, the reality may prove to be driven by commercial objectives rather than philosophical discussions around Cloud computing. The fact is that Google are proving to be an increasingly ambitious and aggressive player in the ‘total IT’ marketplace.

    It seems clear that they are determined to challenge Microsoft’s virtual monopoly of much of the home Operating System environment and in directing traffic to centralised Cloud services they will, of course, also been looking to capture substantial additional business for their own Cloud based applications.

    Whether you are an expert observer of the IT or laptop insurance business, it would be a brave person that would predict the result of this being anything other than an increase in Cloud computing, a relative reduction in laptop prices and a consequential increase in laptop sales.

  4. Ten billion app downloads from Apple App store

    Briton Gail Davis from Orpington in Kent has won an iTunes gift card worth $10,000 (£6,200) for ordering the ten billionth app download from the Apple App Store.

    Though she is the account holder, the download of the free Paper Glider app was made by her daughter, and when Ms. Davis received a congratulatory phone call from Apple themselves, she thought that it was a hoax, and rejected the call.

    Ms. Davis stated that “[she] had a moment of blind panic [when she realised] but thankfully Apple called me back… they said it’s not a joke and you are the winner.”

    The app store has only been open for two and a half years, but after a popular start the last year alone has seen seven billion downloads.

    With many apps being free or having a trial, “Lite” version, many customers have sampled hundreds of the games, personal organisation and digital media apps on offer.

    With the software development kit costing relatively little, small-time developers have made reasonable salaries from one-off popular apps costing only a few dollars each, with Apple receiving a 30% cut of any earnings.

    However, even with the 160 million iDevices around the world running 350,000 separate apps, there is stiff competition for the California-based company in the form of devices running the RIM and Android operating systems from Blackberry and Google respectively.

    Meanwhile the Apple iPad tablet is also facing fierce competition with over 80 tablets unveiled at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in January 2011.

  5. TV manufacturers Vizio to enter smartphone and tablet market

    US manufacturers Vizio, best known for their production of affordable cutting edge television technology, look set to enter the smartphone and tablet marketplace with new products to be launched this week ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

    Vizio describe themselves as ‘America’s number one LCD HDTV company’ and having built up their reputation stateside selling high definition televisions at affordable prices, their move into the smartphone and tablet space could be exciting for consumers.

    With the likes of Apple and Samsung being joined in the race for mobile and tablet supremacy by RIM, HP and numerous other manufacturers in Q1 of 2011, the reports about Vizio joining the game are no major surprise.

    Articles by Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal stated that Android-based smartphones and tablets would be announced this week by Vizio, following a US TV commercial teaser at the beginning of the New Year in which a Vizio official gave a glimpse of a potential new tablet device.

    Rumoured to be launching under the unconfirmed names of the Vizio VIA Phone and Vizio VIA Tablet, the products are expected to have a number of common features: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a MicroSD card slot, HD video playback, front-facing camera for video chats and A 1 GHz processor. The phone is believed to have a 4-inch capacitive touch screen whilst the tablet looks likely to boast an 8-inch screen and stereo sound.

    The devices could feature in a complete range of complimentary products which would also include HD televisions and Blu-ray players.

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