Tag Archives: technology

The British army wants You to drive its new tanks – but only if you’re a gamer


All is not at it used to be in the British army, who are patiently waiting for its new Scout tank, set to be delivered some time in 2020.

The Scout is a complex machine kitted out with sensors, cameras and all kinds of modern electronics. I haven’t been able to confirm it, but there ought to be rumours flying about that it’s actually comes with an iPod docking station. At least there really ought to be those rumours flying about.

Anyway, all this new sensory equipment means that the olden days where a tank was operated by pulling levers are long gone.

Today’s tank crew needs a set of skills that has much in common with your average teen gamer.

“With the capability in the Scout SV, we’re really looking for the type of people who play Xbox games – tech-savy people who are able to take in a lot of information and process it in the proper way,” Kevin Connell, a vice president at General Dynamics, who is developing the tank for the British forces, told International Business Times.

The article goes on to talk about how easy it is to fire the main gun on the new tank…again, rumours ought to be circulating that foreign powers are so scared of this new weapon’s deadly potential that they have tried to incorporate details in the design that would render it less fearsome….like hacking through using control-alt-delete and / or the installation of Alt – F4 keys on the tank’s outside.

The reason for the jokes is: what place does a tank have on the battlefield of the future, which looks destined to be dominated by drones and semi-autonomous vehicles?

Your ‘smart’ fridge will broadcast adds – which may or may not (ever) exist

Photo: Ryan Steele
Photo: Ryan Steele

Imagine that you’re about to run out of milk. This sucks, because it means a trip to the store. Now imagine that your fridge is ‘smart’ and can see that you’re about to run out. Seeing as it’s ‘smart’ it can order the milk by itself – it would, however, just like to talk to you about what you’re missing out on by not switching to the new IsMilk brand.

Sounds wacky? Well, according to Google, this is the future of tomorrow, and not a hundred years.

“We expect the definition of “mobile” to continue to evolve as more and more “smart” devices gain traction in the market. For example, a few years from now, we and other companies could be serving ads and other content on refrigerators, car dashboards, thermostats, glasses, and watches, to name just a few possibilities. Our expectation is that users will be using our services and viewing our ads on an increasingly wide diversity of devices in the future, and thus our advertising systems are becoming increasingly device-agnostic,” the company wrote in a recent report.

And that’s fine. I mean, ads everywhere makes sense – especially if you’re Google.

What doesn’t make sense to me is the basic concept of a smart fridge. The definition of ‘smart’ in relation to intelligence is ‘having or showing a quick-witted intelligence.’ The fridge is basically going to be able to count. Lots of milk equals good, some milk is worrisome and no milk is bad. Surely that doesn’t make something smart?

A truly smart fridge would potentially let everything go old, giving its owners food poisoning – just because it was incredibly bored with just counting and then ordering things that were in short supply.

Oh yeah, it will also be capable of broadcasting adds. Adds that according to Google are ‘device-agnostic’.

The definition of ‘agnostic’ is ‘a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God.’ So in this case the fridge, this means that it believes that nothing can be known about whether or not adds exist – and if they did, you wouldn’t be able to describe them or what they were like.

I’m not sure if that’s smart or incredibly stupid….

How heavy metal piracy is gold-plating Iron Maiden

It’s probably the last thing you’d expect, but it seems like music piracy might be presenting a completely new business model to some bands. Requirements for making it work do, however, seem to include either very long or very short hair, a tendency to wear leather, a fondness of whiskey and beer and a tendency to point at stuff with your index and pinkie at the same time.

Right, stereo(which is actually a bit of a pun when you thing about it)types aside, what we’re talking here is how piracy might be offering heavy metal bands a new way of making their money.

As an example, the members of Iron Maiden are looking like they’re doing very well for themselves in spite of being one of the most heavily pirated bands around – and data seems to indicate that the band is making a lot of money in the exact locations where it’s also being heavily pirated. Basically what seems to be happening is that the heavy metal fans are downloading Iron Maiden’s music illegally, liking it and then going out and buying it.

“One reason for this may be metal itself. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase and a clear brand and identity, even down to the uniform-style black t-shirts that fans wear that differ only in band logo and art. The audience identifies with the genre, which stands in contrast to genericized genres like pop, rock and rap. It doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders. As a result, fans tend to identify more with their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it,” as the website DeathMetal.org put it.

Of course using Iron Maiden as an example of how a new business model can save an industry is a bit like focussing on what some of the positive impacts are of lower banana prices for Chiquita, while disregarding what it means to banana farmers….

Toronto family goes back to 1986

A family in Toronto has donned the mullet, cranked up the poodle rock to eleven and set all dials to 1986 by removing all technology made after that year from their lives.

Blair McMillan and his girlfriend, Morgan, along with their two kids, Trey, 5, and Denton, 2, are, as the Toronto Sun, who first reported the story, living without:

“computers, no tablets, no smart phones, no fancy coffee machines, no Internet, no cable, and – from the point of view of many tech-dependent folks – no life.”

The article is a very interesting insight into how technology is everywhere in our moderns lives.

Pentagon uses 50 year old COBOL code to figure out who to pay

A recent story by Reuters details how the Pentagon’s payment system is heavily reliant on COBOL computer code, much of which is about 50 years old – seven million lines of Cobol code basically decides who gets paid.

And the code hasn’t been updated in the last 10 years or more….

While this is, of course, worrying for a lot of service personnel, many of whom have been on the receiving end of the mistakes made by the system, it’s probably good news for people worried about whether or not the system can be hacked.

As the Defense Joint Military Pay System, the office responsible for overseeing the system told Reuters:

“As time passes, the pool of Cobol expertise dwindles.”

18m Euro aimed at making your internet reach warp speed

The European Commission and Japan have announced that they will be funding a number of research projects for a combined value 18 million Euros, with the goal of increasing the speed of internet connections by a factor of up to 5000. This would mean that many Europeans and Japanese homes would have 100Gbps connections.

According to ISPreview, the projects launched will look at issues like enabling 100Gbps networks, how to better the use of existing electronic infrastructure to support the new ultra-high speed connections and improving data security and energy efficiency in ultra-high speed connections.

Five things that make programmers shudder

Programmers and software developers are generally in high demand, can work with challenging problems and get paid pretty damn well to do so.

So it’s a great gig, right?

Well, to a points, it seems….because programmers and software developers are people. And people can always find something to worry about.

Proof, you want? Why then, Yoda, take a look at a recent article from IT World, that lists the five most scary things for programmers.

In reverse order of scariness, they are:

5. Incompetent management and coworkers
– Think blundering bosses, who thing that python must be dangerous to have in the office and C++ is a really strange grade to get.

4. Being forced to learn or use a specific technology
– Like being a trekkie and being forced to go to a Star Wars convention.

3. No longer liking my job
– How does knowing seven programming languages help me realise my (new) dream of becoming safari guide?

2. Losing my job
– Few words are as scary to programmers as ‘outsourcing’

1. Screwing up
– Let’s face it, programmers see bugs everywhere, all the time. And sometimes they’re actually there…

20,000 robots are building your iPods

The massive Apple, Microsoft and Sony subcontractor Foxconn have released an update on its stated goal of using a million robots to build iPods and other products.

According to the company’s director, Terry Gou, the company now has around 20,000 robots in its factories.

The long-term goal of Foxcoon is to use robots to replace many of the 1.2 million workers it currently employs.

UK online benifits wants you to welcome (back) Windows XP and IE6

Photo by: luc legay

Anyone in the UK wishing to claim benefits through the Government’s online services had better not have bought a new computer any time during the last, say, decade or so.

A pointed out in a rather sweet piece in The Inquirer, people wanting to claim either Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance or Overseas State Pension can do so online by visiting the website Gov.UK. From here they’ll be directed to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) where they’ll be asked to fill out an online form.

“This service doesn’t work with some modern browsers and operating systems,” the website warns.

What DWP is actually saying is that the site struggles can’t really interact with anything that’s either a) not a PC using Microsoft products and/or b) any Microsoft newer than
Microsoft Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.

Just to clarify, Windows XP was released in 2001 and Microsoft has recently announced that it’s no longer going to release updates for it. Internet Explorer 6, on the other hand, is…no, Internet Explorer 6 is also from 2001…

But don’t worry, DWP say they are working on something.

“We are considering how best to provide this service in future. You may want to claim in another way,” they say of their website.

I’m sure they’d be very happy if you send your forms in by mail-coach….

Google releases specifics of Glass glasses

Google has released the (sorry, there really isn’t any avoiding this pun) specs of the Google Glass glasses.

So let’s take a look at some of them, starting with the bad:

Google says:


  • Adjustable nosepads and durable frame fits any face.
  • Extra nosepads in two sizes.

I say:

Well, anyone who’se tried earphones that come with various sized ear pieces, or anyone who has ever worn safety goggles with adjustable nosepads will tell you that if Google can keep their promise on this one, they’re very close to being able to walk on water. They’re committing the ‘one size fits all’ sin. One size fits all is, of course, true. If you make the item big enough, that is…

Google says:


One full day of typical use. Some features, like Hangouts and video recording, are more battery intensive.

I say:

This is exactly what your phone manufacturer has been telling you for years and years and year and….


However, the good are ery good:

Google says:


High resolution display is the equivalent of a 25 inch high definition screen from eight feet away.


  • Photos – 5 MP
  • Videos – 720p

I say: I wants it. I wants it. A few more words: I really want it. No, it’s basically augmented reality and wearable high def recording equipment. Who wouldn’t want that.

Google says:


  • Bone Conduction Transducer

I say: This is going to be like wearing science fiction 🙂

I mean, look at it:

Photo by: Fifth World Art
Photo by: Fifth World Art