Give Your Gear Personality

A sign that you’re a true geek – you don’t name your car, but you name your computers. Someone shared a cartoon on Google+ recently of a guy naming his gear. I can no longer find that cartoon, but it did inspire me to name my computers and some other gear this weekend. On a Mac, this is in the Sharing section of System Preferences. On your iDevices, it is in the About section of the Settings app,

Somehow, gear seems to have more personality when you name it. My gear is named it after ski runs at Big Sky, Montana. My workhouse MacBook is no longer the bland “Evan’s MacBook,” but is now the hardworking “Iron Horse.” My old iMac is no longer the boring “Evan’s iMac,” but is the reliable and most senior “Papa Bear.” My media server is “Hollywood,” and so on.
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Fujitsu Finally Makes Their Windows ScanSnap Scanners Work on Macs

Scansnap driver mac and windows

As a follow up to my recent post on the World’s Most Awesome Automated Filing System, I intended to write a post on how to get your Windows-only ScanSnap Scanner working on your Mac. This would have been important to those of you who switched from Windows to Mac, and wanted to use your old scanners. Until recently, Fujitsu, the maker of the ScanSnap, created an artificial distinction between their Mac and Windows scanners. The hardware was identical, which should have meant that as long as you had the correct driver for your system, either scanner should have worked on your machine. Unfortunately, Fujitsu built a check into their drivers, so that a Mac would see that you had the Windows-branded version of the ScanSnap, and not be able to use the scanner. This was an incompatibly cooked up out of thin air by Fujitsu. As much as I’m a huge fan of the ScanSnap line, this had the stench of an attempt to create more sales. Fortunately, those days appear to be over.

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3D Printing Is Here! And So Are the Copyright Police

PresentNFuturePrinter

40Tech is pleased to present this guest post by Kyle from hpinkcartridges.com.

3D printing at the moment is slowly becoming a more publicly available technology. In the not so distant past the technology was only really used by big companies in industries such as engineering to create prototypes, models, etc, but within the last few years there has been a big increase in public availability with a number of cheaper 3D printers appearing on the market.

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Yikes! Your Laptop WiFi May Be Harming Your Sperm

Wifi kills sperm

Bobby recently reviewed a laptop stand that claims to protect against the effects of WiFi, but we were skeptical since there was no way to prove or disapprove those claims. We’re still skeptical, and I have no plans to buy the stand, but chalk a recent MSNBC article (published 3 days after Bobby’s review) up to strange coincidence. According to the article, a study from Argentinian scientists found that the electromagnetic radiation generated during wireless communications caused harm to sperm in a laboratory study. But before you panic, read on for some of the details.

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IBM Creates Brain-like Computer Chips That Learn and Remember

IBM Creates Brain-like Computer Chips That Learn and Remember  | 40Tech

Remember IBM? They may not be the premier computer manufacturer they once were, but the world’s oldest computer company is still skating on the cutting edge of technology. Their latest achievement? Two DARPA SyNAPSE (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics) funded prototype chips that can learn and remember in a way that “begins to rival the brain’s function, power, and speed.”

Can you say Skynet?

Ok, so we’re nowhere near AI-driven world takeover, but thinking computer chips that require very little in the way of size or power to operate is definitely a step in the bright direction. What these chips really represent is a shift in the way computers process information. They move away from the traditional Von Neumann architecture that relies on processing and memory to work separate to each other. Both chips have 256 neurons, with one chip containing the programmable synapses, and the other, learning synapses that can “remember and learn from their own actions.”

IBM’s end goal is to create a shoebox-sized chip/brain that has some 10 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses that runs on 1 kilowatt-hour of power (the human brain has 150 trillion synapses and needs about 20 watts). Eventually, they are looking to create cognitive computers that can take detailed input from multiple sources at the same time, process it and make a decision based on its own experiences as well as its programming. IBM has just finished phases 0 and 1 of the project and have already been experimenting with machine vision, associative memory, patterns recognition, navigation, and more.

Cognitive Computer Chip Demonstrates Handwriting Recognition

Like I said, don’t take a hammer to your computer and networked devices just yet — the fun’s only just beginning. These brain chips could herald a whole new age of computing.

Thoughts?

New Computer Chip Modeled on a Living Brain Can Learn and Remember [Popsci]

4 Amazing Printer Gadgets

desk drawer printer

Today, 40Tech is pleased to present a guest post by Kyle from InkCartridges.

I have worked in the printing industry for a while now, and I could probably say that it’s not exactly an exiting field of technology… but I’d be wrong! The last couple of months I’ve discovered so many amazing inventions and creations, all printer related, that I could never have even imagined. It just goes to show that even the most boring of things can be fun at times if you look hard enough. Lets have a look at just a few amazing printer inventions and gadgets…

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Robots, Helicopters & Touchy Androids, Oh My!

Robots, Helicopters & Touchy Androids, Oh My! | 40Tech

I just spent the last few days rearranging my house, moving my mother, and then rearranging and cleaning my house some more. Naturally, that got me thinking about robots.

As it turns out, there are no robots out there that can do all of those things for us yet (boooo!), but there have been some great strides in the general direction, as well as in artificial intelligence in general. Check out some of the videos that I found:

Image published by Artur

Cute Household Robots from Tokyo

This video is in Japanese, but it is a nice showcase of Toshiba’s ApriPoco and Tokyo University’s robots. These are robots that can control your electronics with IR and voice commands, help you do the dishes, and help you get around. I’m not sure as to how capable these robots are of actually learning beyond what they are specifically programmed for, however. They could be more complicated software than actual AI — but they are still cool. And cute. It’s always good to be cute.

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Domo

Domo is a robot out of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), created by Aaron Edsinger, and shows off some impressive voice recognition and visual tracking. It is only a torso, and is definitely a work in progress, but the most important thing about Domo is that it learns. Big, friendly eyes and sensors that respond to human touch aside, this robot can figure out the best place to grab something before it picks it up — which may sound easy, but is incredibly hard to program. And yes, it is named after the Styx song. Hit the link to enjoy that little piece of the 80′s for yourself.

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STAIR, Cool Helicopter Tricks & the Future of Robotics

STAIR is short for STanford Artificial Intelligence Robot, created by roboticist Andrew Ng, who, after several years of trying to improve on robot AI through increasingly complex programming and mathematics, has now changed his angle to a more simplified approach. Apparently, the brain runs on a very simple learning program that neuroscience has proven to be the same for each of our senses. Ng and his team have put that concept to good use and have had some impressive results. STAIR is able to differentiate between different objects, find what it is looking for and pick it up, without a 3D model or any specific programming — all it needs is a little one on one instruction. Once it has been shown how, STAIR can figure out the rest on its own, even though every object is not exactly the same.

Before focusing on the machine learning aspects of STAIR, Ng’s robot was about 88% reliable in finding and picking up objects. Since the shift in thinking, however, accuracy has jumped up to 97% — which is pretty amazing! Ng and his team also used this technology on a small helicopter, making it autonomous. This helicopter was not only able fly itself, but, after observing a human doing the same, it taught itself how to do some crazy stunts as well, like flying upside down and other aerial acrobatics.

There is no YouTube video for STAIR, but you can find links to videos on this page. If you want to see the very cool helicopter, see the video below. The one following that is a presentation (about 16 minutes) by Andrew Ng talking about the future of robotics and showing how he came to the machine learning methodology he now uses, and why it works.

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Aiko Android

Trung Le’s android Aiko has been both regaled and called a hoax. Many people thought, from the initial videos, that the robot, which looks very much like a pretty Japanese woman, was a trick of computer graphics. To dispel this, Trung Le — who made Aiko in his basement — brought his android to the Ontario Science centre, so people could talk to it, poke it, and see that Aiko can both interact with humans and, apparently, feel. It’s all very impressive and interesting, really, if a little creepy. At least I find it creepy. I like my humans-looking-things to be actually human, if at all possible. Also, I’m not entirely sure why a robot needs to simulate anger and tell people to stop touching its breasts, but there are all kinds of weirdoes out there, I suppose. Androids are people too, right? They have the right to not be pawed at and otherwise groped.

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I’m saddened that there are no robots out there yet that can help me avoid three days of exhausting work — but things are looking promising for the future, no? If you have any links to other robot videos, or happen to know more about any of the above (including pointing out any possible errors or updates), please post in the comments!

[Reader Survey] How Much Disk Space Does Your Computer Have, And How Much Have You Used?

disk space survey

Disk space is abundant and cheap. These days, you can get a 2 TB hard drive for under $100 from Newegg. I remember one of my first work computers, about 10 years ago, that came with a whopping 2 GB of storage. Those days are long gone. With the move to solid state drives, though, storage space is getting smaller, at least on a single solid state drive. My MacBook Air has a 128 GB drive, which would have felt humongous even a few years ago, but now feels small compared to my Windows 7 machine.

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