Thursday, February 6, 2014

Boot up: death of cameras?, tracking solar use, internet growth limits, and more

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

Some 40-inch LED televisions bought today use 80% less power than the cathode ray tube televisions of the past. Some use just $8 worth of electricity over a year when used five hours a day - less than a 60-watt incandescent bulb would use.

Those incandescent light bulbs are being replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs and LEDs that use 70% to 80% less power. According to the Energy Department, widespread use of LED bulbs could save output equivalent to that of 44 large power plants by 2027.

The move to mobile also is helping. Desktop computers with big CRT monitors are being replaced with laptops, tablet computers and smart phones, and these mobile devices are specifically designed to sip power to prolong battery life.

It costs $1.36 to power an iPad for a year, compared with $28.21 for a desktop computer, according to the Electric Power Research Institute.

Neat idea by Google, now being extended to Philippines, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and Nigeria:

Since using Google+, Gmail, and Google Search is free through Free Zone, there is no limit to the amount of data you use for these Google products. You're also not charged for any links that you click on from the search results page.

Important: When using Search, the page you access after clicking on a search result is free. However, if you click on a link within that article—or if a link takes you outside of Google+ or Gmail—you'll be shown a warning page alerting you of any potential charges. It also gives you the opportunity to sign up for a data plan if you don't already have one.

Where have we seen this business model before?

Mark Pincus of Zynga:

We wanted to share with the r/bitcoin community that Zynga Inc. (NASDAQ: ZNGA) is now conducting a Bitcoin test with BitPay (, a leading Bitcoin service provider, in select web games.

In response to Bitcoin's rise in popularity around the world, Zynga, with help from BitPay, is testing expanded payment options for players to make in-game purchases using Bitcoin.

So is it in-game currency or payment?

You're probably here because you saw an auto-tweet from my solar panels. Yes, that's right, my house is wired up to the Internet of Things!

Neat little script (on Github - see the post) which will find out how much energy you've generated each day.

Horace Dediu has dug into the historical growth of internet use in 100+ countries, and finds it fits a predictable growth curve:

If we look at growth, the inflection point comes in 2016. Thereafter internet user growth will slow.

Overall, the growth pulse of the internet will be approximately 40 years long.[4] We are therefore nearly half-way through.

It might seem an interesting but benign fact, however I must caution that as we've seen with smartphones, once the point of inflection is reached, investors tend to flee the sector. That in itself may not be a bad thing but investment flight has deep effects on "ecosystem" participants.

Venture investments tend to feed entrants disproportionately and they are remarkably sensitive to the valuations of public companies (and IPOs). These investment might therefore be in danger in two years. Plan accordingly.

Because investors tend to move away from markets where growth is slowing. So what comes after the internet?

They took an iPhone 5S, Nokia 1020, and some DSLRs out for a fight.

Comparing smartphones to DSLRs is like comparing apples to oranges. They have different views, give different amounts in focus, different possibilities for editing, capture different ranges of brightness and there's a whopping six-fold difference in the size of pictures between these devices. So how do you compare them?

At first, we struggled to find a test that would be completely fair to both, and eventually realized that fairness would limit us to shooting a flat black-and-white chart in a studio. Fascinating for Mr. Spock, but meaningless to most humans. So instead, we shot normal scenes, and we've tried to spell out the biases involved.

DSLRs are better... but not by much. And the gap is closing.

It's another smartwatch! Cutting to the car chase..:

The Toq is an expensive [$349] curiosity that provides a bit of convenience for certain users. Overall, it is probably not the smartwatch we are looking for. It doesn't have any fitness tracking or other interesting sensors, has a limited set of applets and an interface saddled by slow response time and bugs.

Oh well, they tried.

On Corning's figures for how much LCD screen demand there will be, and how it's growing (there's a graph):

The display of, well, anything has been liberated from bulky, heavy CRTs or blocky black and white LCD screens. Today, the tech world is about pieces of glass, showing whatever content and interface you can imagine. It's almost as though the content is  dematerialised. No buttons, no case, no bezel - everything is about the image. The image is the glass and the glass is the product.

If it's a yard across you bolt it to a wall and watch video on it. Smaller, and it goes on a desk and you use a keyboard and mouse. Smaller still, and it's called a 'tablet', gets touch and goes in a bag, and smaller still and it goes in a pocket, or on your wrist perhaps. But it's all just glass with a data connection. 

Owen Boswarva:

Most users will find the ONS [Office of National Statistics] portal to be the preferable source. The ONSPD [ONS Postcode Data] downloads contain all of the Code-Point Open data, plus additional ONS fields. The ONS downloads are immediately available, whereas the Ordnance Survey supply is via a link sent to the requester's e-mail address. The ONS downloads are provided in a choice of formats and, most importantly, ONS maintains an archive of previous releases rather than just the most recent.

If the ONS downloads are subject to the Open Government Licence, and not the OS OpenData Licence, that is another good reason to procure the data from ONS rather than from Ordnance Survey.

The context is updating OpenStreetMap. Turns out, though, that the ONSPD data is under the Ordnance Survey licence - which while good, isn't as great as the Open Government Licence. A pity that these differences still exist nearly four years on from opening up UK government data.

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The caption on this photo was edited to remove the unnecessary word "female" to describe the photographer. We apologise for its inclusion, which came from the caption supplied by the photo agency.

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