Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On the move

Thanks for visiting. I am now posting this blog at InventorSpot. Please come on over for a visit!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sign of the times?

It was never my intention to be the bearer of bad tidings, but I'm afraid somebody has to break the news that the neon sign is on the way out. Advances in LED technology and Electroluminescent (EL) wire are rendering these electronic icons of kitsch obsolete, while their toxic components - such as mercury and argon - and high electricity consumption are raising the collective eyebrows of the environmentally conscious.

Fortunately, New York native and architect Kirsten Hively, is doing something about their impending demise. She is documenting them. Hundreds of them. All around New York City.

With Project Neon, Hively is not only capturing the images of the signs, she is capturing the stories behind them. Attached to every sign is a business, and she goes inside each of one them, making a purchase, and meeting the people that give the signs meaning.

Still, as much as neon signs are an important part of 20th century culture, not everyone is going to miss them:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bussed: the moves

Catching a bus can be painful. You stroll down to the bus stop on time, only to watch your ride whiz by, empty and a couple of minutes early. Then you sit, and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, the next bus arrives, 15 minutes late, and it's so crowded that you get carried off by a wave of exiting passengers at each stop, and have to work your way back on. Three minutes after you board, the bus behind yours overtakes you, with nary a passenger on board, and you wonder why you didn't just drive, or write the whole day off as a big mistake.

Evidently, someone at the MTA in New York has actually caught a bus at some time in their life, and recognizes this issue. Enter BusTime, a pilot program that tells passengers where their bus is.

Powered by intelligent transit technology company, Clever Devices, BusTime gives you real-time information about your bus via a range of methods, including text, internet, and email. You even get to watch your bus on a map.

But this isn't just about making things more convenient for the consumer. It's a public safety issue as well:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Meat your maker

There are many reasons your conscience may be telling you not to eat meat, while your body tells you otherwise: it's a massive tax on the environment; it's just not right to eat another sentient being; the factory farms where most of our meat comes from are just downright inhumane; the karma's a bitch, etc.

But what if you could eat meat that didn't actually come from an animal? That presents a few issues in itself, it's true - such as, there's just something fundamentally wrong with that. But it's still a great idea.

Medical University of South Carolina Assistant Professor, Vladimir Mironov (pictured), certainly thinks it's worth a try. He's been working on 'in vitro' - or cultured - meat, for the past decade, and is itching to find the funds to get it out to the public. Unfortunately, like a festering, green, slimy drumstick that's been sitting in the fridge for the past three months, nobody wants to touch it: not the FDA, not the National Institutes of Health, not even NASA (well, not anymore - they did donate a few dollars to the cause, until they realized they won't be sending anyone to Mars in the foreseeable future).

Surely someone would buy it? Heck, they buy this:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Skip to give food

Do you like the idea of donating money to worthwhile causes, but never seem to have the budget to justify it? Do you like to treat yourself every now and then? You may be the perfect candidate for Skip1.org.

Founded by former Hollywood producer, Shelene Bryan, Skip1.org asks you to simply forgo one of those treats every now and then, and donate the money to something more beneficial - namely, food and water for people who actually need it to survive another day.

One hundred percent of all public donations go into projects that achieve these goals, so you know that the croissant or pedicure or t-shirt you decided not to purchase, is going a lot further than it would have in your tummy or on your feet or back.

Which derives more satisfaction: fulfilling a passing desire, or helping someone out?

Here is Bryan explaining her inspiration behind skipping one:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The data is out there

There is truth in data, and the data is out there. The problem in this information age is not that we have data, but that there is so much of it, and it is very difficult to collate it and make any sense of it.

Dele Olowoyo wants to help us put it all together. His Global Intelligence app is designed to raise awareness of the issues that developing countries face, and to provide a way for people to help find solutions to these issues, through interacting with a huge array of data from The World Bank and the CIA World Factbook.

It's a lot of fun to use, giving you interactive, graphical data at the click of a button. You can learn a lot in a short space of time, and if Sir Francis Bacon was right, then knowledge is power.

Global Intelligence is one of over 100 entries in The World Bank's Apps for Development competition, which "challenges participants to develop software applications related to one or more of the Millennium Development Goals." It has been made possible since The World Bank made a plethora of information freely available back in April, 2010, as part of its Open Data Initiative.

Voting in the competition, which offers $45,000 in prizes, is open for the next 25 days. Here's its promo video:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shouting (and other stuff) on the rooftops

Today's great idea isn't a great invention, or a world-saving new technology. Today's great idea is just a great idea. Lewis Dryburgh (pictured) is full of them.

The talk he gave at December's Boring Conference, in London, was about spending time on parking lot roofs. How is that a great idea? Well, as he points out, these roofs are unoccupied around 90% of the time. That gives you over 21 hours a day to yourself, in some of the most crowded areas of your city. If you value your space, this really is a great idea!

Dryburgh is a font of quirky, uplifting ideas like this. Previously, he's left friendly messages around for people to pick up, and given his phone number out for random people to call. Stay tuned to his blog, to see what he comes up with next.

Here are 30 glorious seconds he spent on one parking lot roof:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Can't be e-gypped

While you may be familiar with the chart on the left, that details the volume of internet traffic through Egypt during the current political crisis there, what you may not be familiar with is the novel workarounds people are finding to spread the word.

There have been two distinct methods of overriding the internet block. One is to use old technology, and the other is to use really new technology.

Let's start with the old. According to the BBC, there has been a big resurgence in faxing, ham radio, and the old dial up modems that got the internet started. The real advantage of these, is that you don't need an Egyptian service provider to get access - so long as the number at the other end of the phone line can connect you to the internet, you're online!

The new-fangled approach is intriguing, too. Last week, Google bought SayNow - a service that allows you to post voice messages on Twitter. And now they're getting a great chance to demonstrate its efficacy. So many messages are pouring in with the #egypt hashtag, that you could spend your whole day listening to them and nothing else.

And if these two approaches cease to work, there are plenty more. You can limit the provision of technology, but you can't limit determination or ingenuity: