National Day of Unplugging Starts Friday Night — You In or Out?

National Day of Unplugging Starts Friday Night -- You In or Out? | 40Tech

Is your life ruled by your tech? Do you have a Pavlovian reaction to the notification tones of other people’s smartphones? If so… it might be time to unplug. I know — it’ll be hard. Your cell phone calls, text messages, television shows, email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, and multitude of apps, web sites, and other technological wonders have become embedded in your daily routine. They’re a constant part of your life, now, right? Unplugging would just be… I don’t know… weird, or something.

Don’t worry, though, you won’t be alone. At the time of this writing there are already 1,382 people and climbing who have pledged to stand with you as you boldly step forward, out of the teeming masses, and turn your shit off.

Ok, so I admit that I’m not really taking “National Day of Unplugging” seriously. I like the idea — I even practice it on my own from time to time — but I’m not much of a joiner. What I find interesting is that there has become a need for something like this, at all. We’ve become so overwhelmed by the constant deluge of information that’s hammering into us on a daily basis that people actually feel the need to band together and say “no more!”

Well, no more until tomorrow, anyway.

This brings me to questions: Will turning off your gadgets from sunset on Friday March 23rd, 2012, until sunset on Saturday, the 24th, actually accomplish anything? Also… will the people who made the pledge actually be able to follow through? On the National Day of Unplugging page of Causes.com, they say that you can use the time to (among other things) “connect with loved ones” and “eat together.” But what if your loved ones and/or potential eating partners are best reached and coordinated with via social media, email, or cell phone? What if you have a flat tire on your way to meet them? What if, the universe help you, you are waiting for the bus and you are soooooooo Freaking Bored without your favourite iPhone or Android game that you feel compelled to throw yourself repeatedly into the flimsy plastic wall of the bus shelter? Huh? What then?

Still… if you are getting up close an personal with bus shelters because you can’t be alone with your thoughts for a few moments instead of playing Angry Birds, then I’m thinking that unplugging for a day probably isn’t going to do too much for you, anyway. You may be better off unplugging forever and hiding yourself away in a remote mountaintop monastery that can’t get cell phone service. Or, maybe… now I know this is a bit radical, and all, but hear me out! Maybe you could consider practising a bit of moderation in your life. A bit of balance, or something. I don’t want to come off sounding like some “dirty hippy” or something — but I think it’s worth a shot!

National Day of Unplugging is a fun idea, and I agree wholeheartedly with its message and the principles behind it. I think there are a lot of people who could benefit from a day off from the socio-tech-connected world and get back to a bit of tangible Zen. I think people should take it beyond just one day, though, and adopt aspects of it into their day to day lives. Without that… I’m not sure I see the point.

Note: The Sabbath Manifesto, which is the basis for the National Day of Unplugging, actually talks about unplugging once per week – so there is some provision for a longer term than one day. I submit that one day per week is nice, but it isn’t better than discovering a natural balance. It could well be the necessary first steps to discovering that balance, however.

The Sabbath Manifesto on Facebook 

What do you think?

The Counterargument: Laptops Are Better For Travel Than Tablets

Laptop vs tablet for travel

Today, 40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Andris Piebalgs, a freelance writer from My Destination.

The answer to this question may seem like an obvious one. Many people feel that tablets are the clear superior gadgets for travelling since they are, after all, smaller and lighter than laptops and can service many of the basic needs that most traveling users desire. Who cares about the extra computing power that laptops provide since you rarely have use for them during your travels anyway? I, however, disagree with this viewpoint. With the electronic and technology industry booming in terms of innovation and creativity, laptops offer you the chance to truly realize the potential of travels by making use of the newest programs and technologies.  Let me explain with an example.

READ MORE

Happy New Year — and Some Sweet Star Wars Awesome!

Happy New Year -- and Some Sweet Star Wars Awesome! | 40Tech

Bye bye 2011. We hope everyone had a great and safe night last night, and we wish you all a fantastic and prosperous 2012 — filled with happiness, good times, and 366 (Leap Year) days of awesome geekery.

To start you off, look below for some sweet geekiness. They’re not tech… but they’re definitely tech-inspired and will get you close to your nerdy heart!

Star Wars Cookie Cutters, Sandwich Cutters, and Pancake Molds from Williams-Sonoma!

image  image  image

image  image  image

They’ve got some Spider-man comic book and Marvel super hero cookie cutters, too!

Have a super-geeky 2012 everybody! 

Crazy Things That Happen Every 60 Seconds On The Web

Crazy Things That Happen Every 60 Seconds On The Web | 40Tech

Did you know that, every 60 seconds on the internet, there are over 695,000 Facebook updates, 168 million emails (which, frankly, shakes the whole “email is dead” theory), 219,000 PayPal payments, over 12,000 new Craigslist ads, and about 2 million people watching porn? That’s every single minute, according to the pretty infographics put together by Go-Globe.com. There are also 925 iPhone 4S sales, 11 million IM conversations, 232 computers that got infected with malware, and some 38 tons of e-waste generated.

These are only a few of the highlights of the 40 items listed across the two infographics. Many of the entries are eye-widening, especially when the timeframe is considered, but — maybe because I practically live online — not surprising when considered in the grand scheme of things. In fact, I thought some were a little low. Only 694,445 search queries per minute on Google? Only 416 website hacking attempts? Only 13,000 (plus) iPhone apps downloaded? I wouldn’t have been surprised if there were more.

Check out the infographics below — what stats stand out to you?

Incredible Things That Happen On The Internet Every 60 Seconds Part 1 | Go-Globe.comIncredible Things That Happen On The Internet Every 60 Seconds Part 1 | Go-Globe.com

Incredible Things That Happen Every 60 Seconds On The Internet | Business Insider

Think the DMCA Is Bad? How About a Law That Starts U.S. Internet Censorship?

Internet censorship

We’ve written a few times before about the entertainment industry’s war against piracy, and the collateral damage that it causes. We’ve covered the U.S. government’s seizure of domains without due process, the government’s mistaken take down of 84,00 innocent sites, and attempts to push through a treaty with other nations that would, among other things, make it illegal to unlock phones. That was bad, but if a bill that is currently under consideration today is passed, things could get much worse.

READ MORE

The Future of Technology, Facebook, and Relativity

The Future of Technology, Facebook, and Relativity | 40Tech

Do you remember when cell phones were for rich people? It’s only a short jump in my memory to the day when a homeless kid got angry at me when I told him I didn’t have any change; convinced I must be lying because I was carrying a mobile phone. You know, back when they still kind of looked like phones, and Nokia was king?  I felt bad for the guy, but I really was broke. I got the cell phone on credit, could barely pay for the bill, and was having many a fight with the company over false charges.

This ramble isn’t to point out that cell phone companies were crooks, even back then, and it’s not to talk about my questionable technology-money choices. The point is that this was only a few years back. I was in my early 20’s — I’m only in my mid-30’s now — and have gone from having no computer, an unused email address, and the blissful (and retrospective) peace of not knowing or caring where people were or what they were doing, to being a geek tech-blogger that makes his living in online marketing and communications. I own an iPhone, my hold-out wife has finally gotten an Android, and my three-year-old owns my iPad — and regularly sends me artwork via email.

 

Tech is Hungry

Technology is now in the palms of tiny little hands. It’s affordable, or at least readily available, to the majority of the planet, and it’s entire weight of purpose seems to be to interconnect everyone and everything as fast and as in depth as possible. The flow of information has reached truly epic proportions, as has the ability and desire to track that flow, along the habits of the people drowning in it.

The technology behind this phenomenon feeds upon itself, and in many cases, it exists only to further itself. Some of the biggest blogs out there are only so popular because people need a filter; a place to better understand, control, and find some sense of order in the massive technology machine — redundant as that phrase may seem. Smaller blogs exist for the same reason. It was likely part of why Evan started 40Tech, why I joined him, and why you are reading this post right now.

 

Facebook

Facebook is a prime example of the direction of technology. It’s sole purpose is to become familiar and intricately entwined with as much of your life as possible. It attempts to augment your life; make it easier, faster, more connected. It’s addictive. Facebook is so successful at this that it has become embedded in the general populace to the extent that it can almost be perceived in the same way as a governing body. It creates rules that dictate our way of life, is an easy target for privacy concerns and conspiracy theories, and the smallest changes can lead to virtual revolt and widespread public outcry. Facebook, much like many of the governments out there, projects an image of a body that wants to further mankind; make the world we live in a better place and all that. And like many governments, it’s more than a bit of a stretch for most people to really believe that’s true.

Facebook isn’t going anywhere, either — not without a scandal that shakes the entire foundation of their business to the core, or a hostile takeover by a frightened government or technological superpower. With some of the things in the media regarding questionable privacy practices and the rapid expansion of Google+, those things may not seem so far-fetched, but even if the big bad were to happen to the social media giant, it would probably just morph, as opposed to vanish.

Social connectivity is a way of life for us now; whether we like it or not, and no matter the anxiety, stress, or fun disorders it could cause or amplify. It appeals to the voyeur in us. It allows us to meet people we would otherwise never meet, and keep in touch with people to a degree that would be impossible without it. It is a part of work, school, play, business, entertainment, and everyday, mundane life. For Pete’s sake, your washing machine can already contact you to let you know your laundry is done, and there are tweeting dog collars, man!

 

Bring on the Microchips!

Over the next 10-20 years, unless the “social media bubble” or end of days people are right, we will likely find ourselves micro-chipped, QR-coded, and surfing the web while jogging with augmented reality sunglasses that also allow us to huddle with our families, friends, or business contacts on GoogleBook. Don’t ask me how they will take our video — somebody else will figure that out, I’m sure. That is, of course, unless we are all suffering from wifi, cellular, and bluetooth radiation poisoning, which could bring the world to a screeching and potentially catastrophic halt that would make Y2K fears look like a happy day at the park.

Or maybe we’ll be busy ripping the fabric of the universe apart with time machines. Did you hear that Albert Einstein may have been wrong? Some scientists at CERN, near Geneva, may have just recorded neutrinos that were travelling faster than the speed of light. That might disprove the Theory of Relativity and screw up one of the major fundamentals of modern physics. Learned that on Google+, I did… And I’ll be sharing it on Facebook, too.

How Important Are Grammar And Spelling Online?

How Important Are Grammar And Spelling Online? | 40Tech

One might think that the world wide web, which is still predominantly text-based, would be the spearhead in the rise to new heights of literary articulation. Unfortunately, if you were the one who was thinking that, you were sadly misinformed. In actuality the ability or willingness to write with proper grammar and spelling has been replaced by  a general acceptance of a lower standard. The acceptance appears general, that is. Where do you stand on the subject?

Image by JD Hancock

I confess that poor spelling and grammar is a pet peeve of mine. When I am reading something that runs rampant with glaring errors, I find it difficult, irritating, and that the work loses credibility in my eyes. There are levels, however. While misspellings like “definately” and “loose” (for lose) always make me cringe a bit, I make allowances for posts and comments that have mistakes in them. I recognize that, while English is the most prominent language on the web (at least in my own experience), many of the active participants of the social and interactive super-real-time web are not native speakers (or writers). If I were to have to communicate in other languages, I have no doubt that my writings could easily be the stuff laughing stocks are made of.

Where I draw the line, however, is with “texting” or “IM” style writing. Some of that has its place, too — or had, before the mass adoption of full hardware and software keyboards — but forgive me if I think that there is never a good excuse to write “wat” in place of “what.” That’s almost enough to get me to stop reading altogether. I also can’t stand l33t. Practically unheard of for a tech-geek, I know, but the secret code of elite nerds always struck me as a really annoying oxymoron.

Now before those that are inclined start tearing apart some of the grammatical inconsistencies of this post, I should mention that I am ok with conversational writing. That is to say that I don’t mind some liberties being taken to convey tone and flow that, on some level, emulates how two friends or acquaintances would talk with one another. In fact, I think that sort of writing is essential on the web. It is part of what makes a blog post resonant, and helps the reader and writer to identify with one another. How far I’m willing to accept this style of writing is dependent on the subject matter, the points I made above, and quite likely, my age/maturity level while reading. And I’m fully aware and accepting of the fact that my maturity level can fluctuate… :P

Is my acceptance of even a limited degradation of writing on the web part of the overall problem? Probably. Is it one of the factors that leads to established journalists getting lazy  (and sometimes disappointing) with their writing? Again, probably. It’s all tied in with other factors like language barriers and the attention deficit fostering speed of the online world. Is there a line that should be drawn in the sand somewhere, though? Should people be publicly flogged for ignoring the oh-so-convenient spell-check integrations out there? Personally, I think that spell-check, auto-correct, and especially auto-complete are actually part of the problem. Since I started using the iPhone and iPad, for example, I have noticed a marked increase in mistakes while typing on a full keyboard — especially with contractions.

What about you? Where do you draw the line — or do you care at all? Why?

Scientists Just A’Wanna Have Fun [Random Tech Videos]

Scientists Just A'Wanna Have Fun [Random Tech Videos] | 40Tech

Ok, look — I don’t know if these are real scientists or what, but a bunch of song and musical-style parody videos where the subject is crazy science concepts and gear that even I (in my extreme geekiness) know almost nothing about, well… let’s just say I was too busy giggling to find out. And that was one hell of a run-on sentence – but hey! It’s another long weekend up here in Canada, and when I get a long weekend post, I like to loosen up the reigns a bit.

Seriously, though, if you want something that will boggle your brain, and maybe make you laugh to the point where your loved ones and co-workers look at you funny (not talking about myself here… really!), then you need to take a look at these!

Here are three of the videos for your viewing pleasure! And here’s a link to the entire 11 video playlist put together by BioWorld Today.

A Little GTCA and DNA to the Tune of YMCA

YouTube Preview Image

 

Monitor Cell Impedance with Motley Crue (I know…)

YouTube Preview Image

 

Boy Band Pipetting Madness

YouTube Preview Image

 

And last, but not least:

Building Blocks of Cell Biology Done to the Black Eyed Peas – in LEGO Animation!

YouTube Preview Image

 

Thoughts? Giggles? Sardonic Messages?

3 Reasons the IT Department (Still) Hates Your iPhone

3 Reasons the IT Department Hates Your iPhone | 40Tech

Today, 40Tech is pleased to present you with a guest post by Jaelithe.

Everyone you know has one—everyone except for you. The mere mention of the shiny rectangle has your IT guy cussing under his breath.  One look at the interface of this phone and it’s obvious it was designed for the consumer but that doesn’t mean it can’t do the heavy-lifting too. So what has your IT department so worked up?

Sensitive Corporate Data

In 2007 the iPhone stomped onto the cellular scene with huge technical advances and major curb appeal but it lacked some critical security features for IT departments to jump on the bandwagon. At first, the iPhone didn’t support the encryption of user data and didn’t have a solution to remotely wipe data clean in the event the phone was lost or stolen. Enterprise fraud management is a huge IT concern and becomes ever bigger if your IT department has to be concerned with you and the guy you left your iPhone next to on the bus. In addition, many IT departments achieve corporate goals with third-party applications and office suites (the iPhone wasn’t supporting them yet). Apple quickly responded, adding support for third-party apps and the ability to interact with Exchange servers. The memory of the first iPhone’s limited capabilities echoes in the minds of IT professionals everywhere—it could take a while for them to shake off the stigma.

Corporate Customization

Your company doesn’t want to pay for you to take photos in the bathroom of your abs (or other ridiculousness). The iPhone has a myriad of fun, snazzy features but companies don’t want to pay for you to take pictures for Facebook, play Angry Birds, or watch YouTube videos featuring cats jumping out of boxes. It’s critical to IT departments that they’re able to customize the features and define settings on the device in order to effectively manage compliance with the company’s acceptable-use policy. Apple is now delivering solutions to administrators.

Business Apps

In 2007 there were fewer apps that applied to serious business folks but now there’s a never-ending myriad of apps available specifically engineered to support business objectives. As Apple provides more and more solutions, it will be difficult for IT departments to hold their stance for long.

Does your IT department still hate the iPhone, or have they come around? How do they feel about Android?

Jaelithe is a freelance writer interested in all things tech. Jaelithe and her iPhone Irene live a very happy life together filled with technology and productivity. You can usually find Jaelithe writing about enterprise fraud prevention for Attachmate, and the ways that gadgets can enhance everyday life.