Phonebloks – The Phone Worth Keeping


phonebloks

Phonebloks is a Thunderclap project started by Dutch Engineer David Hakken that might just be the next big thing in the mobile industry. A phone only lasts a couple of years before it breaks or becomes obsolete. Even if just a part of it failed us, we’ll have to make it an expensive paper weight.  Phonebloks is all about solving this problem, in an unusual, yet innovative and possibly viable way. Phonebloks is made of detachable bloks. The bloks are connected to the base which locks everything together into a solid phone. If a blok breaks you can easily replace it; if it’s getting old just upgrade. David Hakken has publicized this project as an attempt to reduce e-Waste.

Bloks

And guess what it has a store all for itself. The Blokstore. It’s like an app store for hardware. In the store you buy your bloks, read reviews and sell old bloks.

Motorola has shown keen interest in Phonebloks. The company’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team went public with its one-year-old Ara Project (it’s own version of upgradable smartphones) after agreeing earlier this month to partner with Phonebloks. Now with Hakken as its new face, Motorola’s Ara project aims to bring some substance to Hakken’s arguable pipe dream, and “do for hardware what the Android platform has done for software.”

Motorola Project Ara

Motorola Project Ara

Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone, told CNN that while the Phonebloks concept is ‘well-meaning’ he suspects it will never become a reality: “the main reason that the Phonebloks will not hit the market as it will cost more, be bigger and heavier, and be less reliable. By the time it could be brought to market, the problem that engendered it will be gone.”

He might be right, but there’s always two sides to a coin.

Why I think it could work?

  1. People love customizing their phones! The time of software upgrades, rooting & jailbreaking could be history.
  2. If it’s physically possible, it might be bigger than the huge leap forward Capacitive touch screens were, when they first arrived.
  3. As a student, we can get tight on the pocket, we could settle for the default and upgrade later!

Why I think it might not work?

  1. The phone could get too bulky
  2. It might succeed as a concept, but to surpass the impact that the iPhone or Galaxy’s have in day to day work might be too much of a task.
  3. Google Play is a key factor to the success of Android. As for the Blokstore, a store with a very small number of bloks could lead its way to doom. I don’t think there could be bloks enough to satisfy consumer needs.
  4. It will be as expensive as hell.

Let’s see where it goes from here.

Customization

Customization

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Google – Project Loon


Loon Logo

Project Loon is Google’s R&D project aiming to provide internet access to rural and remote areas. Balloon-Powered Internet for Everyone is what Google aims at doing. Project Loon balloons travel around 20 km above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere, almost twice as high as airplanes and the weather. The balloons are guided by the slow and steady winds in the stratosphere. Project Loon uses software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go, then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network. People connect to the balloon network using a special Internet antenna attached to their building. The signal bounces from balloon to balloon, then to the global Internet back on Earth.

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Project Loon started pilot testing in June 2013 in New Zealand. A small group of Project Loon pioneers tested the technology in Christchurch and Canterbury. Thirty balloons were launched from New Zealand’s South Island, and beamed Internet to a small group of pilot testers. The final outcome was that the balloons were able to get a range of about 40 km with rather constant speeds in the lower broadband regions. A lot of other findings were made and Google is now working on improving the Loon.

A Google official stated that India is among the countries that have showed an interest in implementing Project Loon. Google’s Project Loon has been received with criticism and awe alike. Project Loon is a source of hope for a lot of Indians. While there is no word on when Loon will reach India, I do hope it’s soon enough. The success of this project depends on how the regulators in India greet it because the project will be requiring spectrum, which is firmly regulated in the country. The usage of radios and spectrum will be a touch task to tackle in the country.

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Mood Indigo


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Mood Indigo or MoodI is IIT Bombay‘s annual cultural fest. The 4 day event is the largest of its kind in Asia. Last year alone almost 88,000 students from over 700 colleges across India witnessed the epic event. Started in 1971 by a bunch of IITans, it now stands at its 43rd edition this year from December 20th to 23rd.

Some of previous year events that stole the show

  • The French Canadian rock band Simple Plan came exclusively to India to perform in Mood Indigo 2012.
  • Australian Progressive Rock Band Karnivool‘s first performance in India in 2011.
  • The first ever Sumo Wrestling match in India in Mood Indigo 2010.
  • Swedish metal band Katatonia’s first Asian performance in Mood Indigo 2010
  • English band Porcupine Tree’s first Indian concert in Mood Indigo 2009
  • The Ensiferum concert in 2008 which was the first international night of Mood Indigo

Mood Indigo

It would be awesome if I could go there this year. I really don’t want to miss it. You can download the brochure here.

Dates

ReRAM – The End Of NAND Flash


For over 50 years, both computers and mobile devices have depended upon NAND Flash as a memory module. It’s high time it needs a much needed replacement. Crossbar, a California based technology startup has come up with a ReRAM (or RRAM) design that they claim is capable of being commercialized. I know what you’re thinking, what on earth is ReRAM!?! ReRAM (Resistive Random Access Memory – do memristors ring a bell?) is just another form of RAM has been around for a while but with little success in becoming anywhere near being commercialized. The company has not announced that it is ready for mass production, but that they have successfully implemented the architecture on Silicon.

So How Does It Work?

ReRAM works by creating a resistance rather than directly storing charge, as in traditional memory. When an electric current is applied to the material, it changes the resistance of that material. This change in resistance is what is exploited for data storage. The new resistance state is then measured as, you guessed it, 1’s and 0’s, and READ or WRITE processes are initiated. ReRAM designs are low voltage, its endurance is far superior to flash memory, and the cells are much smaller and a lot faster. If you are a true geek, you might want to read the whole working as well!

What makes ReRAM an even better alternative than NAND Flash is that it is almost 20 times faster (140 MB per second WRITE speed as compared to 7MB per second for flash) than the best flash storage available today. An added bonus is that it has a lifetime of more than 10 years and it uses very low amounts of power. ReRAM is a technology that can take the mobile device industry by storm. The biggest problems we face with mobile devices is the terrible battery life and low data storage. ReRAM is capable of rectifying all these problems and giving us a phone capable of storing thousands of HD Videos with a playback time of over a week! A dream come true for many Android users!

The current estimate is that ReRAM will be ready for mass production by the 2017-2018 time frame. But there’s still no certainty that this technology will make it. Improvements made here may be applied to flash and manufacturers may take advantage of the characteristics of ReRAM and implement it in flash without having to change anything. It’s funny the industry, ain’t it?

MOTO X: The Anti-iPhone


MOTOROLA LOGO

On August 15, 2011, Google Inc. announced their agreement to acquire Motorola for US$ 12.5 billion and the merger was finally completed on May 22, 2012. Google unveiled the new logo and the new name for Motorola Mobility on June 26, 2013. Motorola Mobility is now simply known as “Motorola – a Google Company”. And now, the moment a legion of MOTOfans were waiting for! It’s finally here! The MOTO X has been unveiled.

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Clearly, what Google wants the MOTO X to be, is everything that the iPhone’s not. The MOTO X lets you customize your phone before you order it. “People are skydiving out of space ships. But you can’t design your own phone? Not anymore. Now MOTO X lets you choose the front, the back, the accents, the wallpaper, the memory, and even a short message. It’s all your call.” There are a few things that make the MOTO X stand out, here are some of its killer features.

You have almost 360 colour options to choose from, different panels, accents etc, which equates to you having a 1 in 360 chance of having the same phone as your frenemy. It’s also rumoured that there’s a chance that teak, ebony and other wood panels are on its way as well. You can also get matching accessories to complement your phone and style. Everything, that the black or white iPhone is not.

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For me the killer feature is the Touchless Mode! A first for touchscreen phones! or any phone for that matter. Just like the iPhones Siri, you can talk to your phone, but you don’t have to hold down a button for it to listen, it’ll always be attentively listening to you, obeying all your commands, even if its covered under your untidily kept bed sheets!

The era when a watch was a style statement is over. You always wake your phone to check out the time. With this in mind, Motorola has added a nice feature that automatically wakes the phone when you take it out of your pocket or lift it from your desk. You also don’t need to search for the Camera icon every time to miss that priceless shot! Just twist the phone twice, and you’re ready to shoot in a jiffy!

Geek Stats:

Width: 65.3 Height 129.3mm
Curve: 5.6 -10.4mm
Display: 4.7″ AMOLED (RGB) / HD 720p
Weight: 130G
Battery: 2200 mAh. Mixed usage up to 24 hours
Rear Camera: 10MP / LED Flash / 1080p video (30fps)
Front Camera: 2MP 1080p HD video
Operating system: Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
Architecture: Motorola X8 Mobile Computing System
RAM: 2 GB
Storage: 16 GB standard, 32 GB version available online. 2 years 50GB storage free on Google Drive
Bluetooth: 4.0 LE + EDR
WiFi: 802.11a/g/b/n/ac (dual band capable)
Bands: GSM/GPRS/EDGE, UMTS/HSPA + up to 42 Mbps, CDMA/EVDO Rev. A (CDMA model only), 4G – LTE

The MOTO X is an awesome phone. But, not revolutionary like the iPhone was back in 2007. It’s not a game changer, but maybe it points to the direction where Motorola and Google intend to go from here. What MOTO X lays on the table is an amazing phone that is not stuffed with useless features, rather packed with quite a good number of useful feature. I think Motorola might just have a winner in their hands.

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Makey Makey


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When you were a kid, have you ever imagined pressing on random things and wanting it to interact with you or your computer? Well, this neat little invention from MIT Media Lab will let that simple childhood dream of yours to come true. MaKey MaKey, created by Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum, is a simple invention kit that allows users to turn everyday objects into touchpads, using the ‘MaKey MaKey,’ alligator clips, and a USB cable. MaKey MaKey is built on top of the Arduino.

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Amazing right? But the idea is pretty simple. Say you connected your alligator clips to a set of letters made of Play-doh. When you touch the letters, you make a connection, and MaKey MaKey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks  it’s a regular keyboard (or mouse). Therefore it works with all programs and webpages, because all programs and webpages take keyboard and mouse input.

Make + Key = MaKey MaKey!

Yes, now surely the question in your mind is, with what all can you use MaKey MaKey with? The answer is anything that can conduct even a tiny little bit of electricity. Some of those used were ketchup, apples, bananas, lemons, pencil graphite and what not. Try it on different stuff and share your brilliant ideas with the community.

Piano

MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. It helps you work on an Arduino based board without understanding even a wee bit of programming. It’s a pretty amazing concept. You can even contest with others for a $5000 prize and a public showcase of your MaKey MaKey project. Artists, Kids, Educators, Engineers, Designers, Inventors, Makers… Or quite simply, it is for everyone.

Makey-Makey

Arduino


Arduino-Logo

Arduino is an open-source single board microcontroller with easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s made for the artists, designers, hobbyists and all fun loving electronics enthusiasts that love to build small interactive projects that can be used in our daily life. The microcontroller on the board is programmed using the Arduino programming language and the Arduino development environment. Arduino projects can be stand-alone or they can communicate with software running on your computer.

Arduino316

The Arduino programming language is pretty simple to learn.  The code you write for your Arduino are known as sketches. They are essentially in C++. The code itself is easy to understand. The code below shows how self explanatory the code for blinking an LED is.

Code:

#define LED_PIN 13
void setup () 
{
 pinMode (LED_PIN, OUTPUT); }
void loop () 
{
 digitalWrite (LED_PIN, HIGH); 
 delay (1000); 
 digitalWrite (LED_PIN, LOW); 
 delay (1000); 
}

The biggest strength of the Arduino Community are the users who develop Arduino projects, share ideas and code to the Arduino projects, guide beginners by answering questions and helping out at the forums and also provide invaluable feedback. The online community has people from all over the globe come and share their thoughts. They also have region specific and special interest groups.

A USB cable powers the device. Arduinos can run standalone by using a power supply as well. Once you’ve burned the program into the board, you can opt to give it an external power supply. But this is entirely dependant on what you’re using it for and circumstances you want to use the device in.

QuadCopter

You can build your own Arduino board or it can be purchased pre-assembled; the software can be downloaded for free.

Just in case you’d like a little inspiration to start, here are a few Amazing Arduino Projects.