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Tycoon Unveils ‘Hyperloop’ Transport Project

American entrepreneur Elon Musk, founder of website Paypal.com (as well as many other companies/ventures), has this month unveiled a potentially revolutionary form of travel.

The ‘Hyperloop’ would hypothetically connect the US cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco by transporting commuters at near supersonic speeds. By using a system of magnets and fans, the Hyperloop would be able to travel between the sprawling cities in about 30 minutes.

The system, which would ideally be solar-powered, represents a cleaner, cheaper and far more efficient system of public transport, at least in theory.

A high-speed train service between the two cities is currently in development, but the Hyperloop is potentially a better mode of travel. Mr. Musk is confident that the idea has potential, writing in his proposal that, “Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome… the only option for superfast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment,”

Musk estimated the overall cost of the project at $6bn (£3.9bn), which is surprisingly low considering that it involves the development of a new and untested technology.

He suggests that cars could leave at intervals of 30 seconds and that they would reach an incredible speed of up to 760MPH. The eventual ticket cost would be around $20 (£13 at the current exchange rate), according to Musk’s projections.

According to Musk, the Hyperloop would be faster than taking a plane between cities, as it would not spend time ascending and descending.

However, not everyone is as optimistic as the project’s founder. Dave Lee, technology reporter for BBC news wrote, “The bright idea of transporting people using some kind of vacuum-like tube is neither new nor imaginative”. He went on to remind readers that Robert Goddard, the father of modern rocket propulsion, proposed a similar, vacuum powered system back in 1909.

MIT aeronautics and astronautics Professor John Hansman was a little more optimistic, saying that the important question is not whether the idea is theoretically sound (it is), but is instead “could you do it in a way that makes sense from an energy-efficiency standpoint and makes sense from an economic standpoint?”

Other critics have attacked Musk’s projected costs, Alan Wickens, former director of British Rail said that Musk’s cost projections were “extremely optimistic”.

The Billionaire tycoon asserts that a working prototype would take roughly 4 years to build, but has also said that he is too busy to build it right away, as he is currently working on SpaceX, a commercial spaceflight project.

What, if any, future the Hyperloop will have depends greatly on the project’s ability to capture the imaginations of investors, engineers and the general public. We’ll keep you updated.

SOURCES:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23677205

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23681266

Record-Breaking Solar Plane Completes US Journey

The Solar Impulse plane has landed at New York’s JFK airport, having completed its impressive journey across the US. This is the first time that a solar-powered plane capable of flying in both day and night has attempted to travel across the United States.

The landing completes the final leg of the Solar Impulse’s across America transcontinental bid, which began in May.

Earlier in its journey, the Solar Impulse plane broke the distance record for solar-powered flight by staying in the air for a full 18 hours.

In 2012, the Solar Impulse plane became the first solar-powered craft to complete an inter-continental flight.

The record-breaking plane was designed and built by project co-founders (and Impulse co-pilots) Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg. The team hope to extol the virtues of renewable energy with their invention.

Piccard and Borshberg are also behind the ‘Clean Generation’ initiative, which is an attempt to encourage businesses and governments to develop and adopt sustainable energy resources.

The solar impulse HB-SIA has the same wingspan as an A340 Airbus, but weighs only 1.6 tonnes (by comparison an A340 weighs, on average, about 370 tonnes). The Impulse’s wing and stabiliser are covered with some 12,000 solar cells, these drive four propellers and fully charge the lithium-ion batteries for night flying. The craft has a top speed of 70 kph (45mph) and a maximum cruising altitude of 8,500m (28,000ft).

Piccard and Borshberg claim that their next step is to attempt a journey round the world, which they hope will begin in 2015. However, in order to achieve this, the pair will have to develop a bigger plane, the HB SIB.

US Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, was there to welcome the craft, saying,

“If you look at the Department of Energy’s research programmes and technology visions, it involves many of the same kind of technology advances that these gentlemen have put together in an integrated system to accomplish something that would not have been thought of a few years ago (…) I believe in 10 years we’re going to see the fruits of all these technologies changing the world.”

Despite a rip in the wing, which caused the pair to scrap their proposed Statue of Liberty fly by, the Solar Impulse plane succeeded in its aims. The craft has broken records, encouraged increased thought into renewable energy and proved to be a successful invention. Solar powered passenger jets may yet be a long way off, but the Solar Impulse plane proves that the technology is getting there.

Tech We’d Like To See: Jet Packs

A jet pack is a portable device that you wear on your back in order to enable short-range flight. There is a distinction between a jet pack, a rocket pack and a rocket belt, but essentially, they all work on the same principle. In case you wondered, Jet engines feature two openings (an intake and an exhaust nozzle), whereas a rocket only has one.

A jetpack, of any kind, is likely to be powered by jets of escaping gas.

There are numerous personal flying devices that do actually work, but the jet pack, despite the overall silliness of the concept, still captures the imaginations of writers, inventors and adventurers the world over. So much so, that despite many (many) conceptual setbacks presented by the theory, working ‘rocket belts’ have actually been built (and used) for some time now. This is a fact that makes me indescribably happy.

Why we want it:

Because being able to fly would be ridiculously awesome, as would being able to soar effortlessly over the busy streets, traffic jams and cars blaring out crappy music 24 hours a day.

A trip to the shops would be so friggin’ awesome that the average jet pack-owning household would probably make enough shopping trips to single-handedly save the economy. Or something.

When can we expect it?

Jet packs are dangerous (most require large quantities of extremely flammable Hydrogen Peroxide in order to work). They are also overly expensive (Hydrogen Peroxide does not come cheap) and insanely dangerous as well as being (I’m sorry to say) completely and utterly illogical as a mode of transportation.

Having said that, Eric Scott piloted the ‘Go Fast Sports’ Rocket Belt in San Carlos, CA in 2008, the flight was a short one, but impressive nonetheless. Similar demonstrations of rocket packs/belts can be seen via a quick trip to Youtube. All the flights are short and wildly anarchic, but they all look like a lot of fun.

So, when do I get my own jet pack?

A few years ago, a rumour circulated that it was possible to build a fully functioning jet pack from items available on the Internet. It isn’t (and you’d be foolish to even try). Sadly, true jet packs, the kind seen in science fiction serials as a safe, cheap, reliable means of personal transport, remain in the domain of science fiction, a place where they will likely stay forever.

Will the jet pack ever become a bona-fide means of transportation for the general public? No. Never, but it is nonetheless fun to dream.

New Modem To Help African Internet Access

A new modem is being designed specifically for use in Africa.

Announced at this month’s TEDGlobal Conference in Edinburgh, the modem is expected to allow a far greater degree of Internet connectivity across the continent.

The device, which has been officially named BRCK, will accomplish its goals by switching between Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G and fixed broadband.

BRCK has been developed by Kenyan firm Ushahidi (which translates from Swahili as ‘testimony’). Ushahidi provide open-source software that is used throughout various African nations, as well as Japan and South America, amongst others.

Regular, uninterrupted Internet connectivity can be a frustrating prospect throughout the African continent.

Juliana Rotich, director of Ushahidi said, “While Africa may have joined the digital revolution and mobile is becoming ubiquitous, Internet connectivity is not always reliable and the price of connecting is high” she then added “We get online and then there is a power cut and we are plunged into darkness and the Internet connection goes down.”

The central idea behind BRCK was to design a modem that was Africa-specific, dealing with the various challenges presented by the continent.

In an effort to combat African electricity shortages, BRCK will allow African users to stay connected even when the power shorts out.

The BRCK will make use of an eight-hour battery, largely to overcome said power shortages, as well as special cloud-based software that allows the user to check WiFi signal strength and availability of electricity.

The modem will be able to connect to up to 20 devices at a time and is designed to be strong and durable when traversing harsh terrain. Ushahidi’s company motto is “if it works in Africa, it will work anywhere”

Essentially, BRCK works by making use of several networks instead of just one, making the odds of getting a signal that much better. An extra antenna, designed to boost signal strength, will be used for gaining Internet access in the more remote areas of the continent.

Ushahidi is hoping that this new product helps to spearhead a rise in the production of other Africa-specific hardware in the near future.

The BRCK proved to be a popular addition to the Edinburgh-based conference. It should be released in November with a price tag of £130. Pre order options are available now.

SOURCES:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22818596

http://www.ventures-africa.com/2013/06/new-kenyan-modem-to-speed-up-internet-connectivity/

The Sony Over Ear Headphones, a Revolution in Sound

With the great British summer now in full sizzle, people are taking to the streets in record numbers.

Pallid, pasty figures in ill-fitting outfits are stepping out of their homes (many of them for the first time in months) and gazing in wonder at that great big orange ball in the sky. One again, our city streets resemble a vampire vacation spot, once again; it is safe to go outside without an umbrella (Legal Note: this does not constitute a guarantee).

What does this have to do with Sony over ear headphones? Stick around; you just might learn a thing or two (Legal Note 2: Also not a guarantee).

Anyways, when you head out for a nice afternoon walk, or a weekend trip to the park, you’ll want some smooth summer sounds, playing sweetly in your ear like a gentle breeze, in order to really heighten the experience.

So: this summer, if you only get one pair of headphones: get a pair of Sony over ear headphones (from the people who brought you the PS3 – no, really).

A pair of Sony over ear headphones offers studio quality sound, protected by a comfortable and solid casing. Prices can vary, (with the top models costing almost half a grand) but Sony’s range is so diversified, that there will be something for everyone, in every price range, this summer.

If anybody knows how to make a good pair of headphones, it’s Sony. Therefore many types of Sony over ear headphones come with adjustable sound levels, making them perfect for listening to anything from spicy flamenco flourishes to the score from this summer’s biggest blockbusters. Whatever you want, a pair of Sony headphones can help you to get it.

The summer may last for another couple of months; then again, this may be all we get (it may even be over by the time you read this). Of course, as any Brit knows, the main reason that British summer clothes look so natty is that we only get to wear them once every 5 years or so (and sometimes not even that). However, a pair of Sony over ear headphones can make a stylish compliment to almost any outfit. They always look cool, even in this British heatwave!

However long this glorious weather may last, you owe it to yourself to make the most of it, so step right up and order your very own pair of Sony over ear headphones today! You won’t regret it! 

What Exactly is an Earpiece?

In general context, an earpiece is anything which becomes purposeful when it covers the ear or hangs near it. This means that an earpiece could be used as a general term for several related items which include eyeglass frames, headsets and anything else whose design allows it to fit into the ear and the block entry of sound waves. However, the most common description of an earpiece is that of an electronic device that is used to convert electronic signals into sound waves which are then directed to the ear’s canal; devices in this category can also be referred to as electronic-acoustic transducers.

In the past, the only way of listening to electronic-audio signals generated by a device was through the earpiece. However, with time, amplifiers were developed which made it possible to listen to audio via speakers. This did not render the earpiece useless; on the contrary most people use them as a preference for personal reasons which could be privacy, allowance for hands free operation or for listening to audio playbacks in good quality where there is a lot of noise. Depending on the design, devices can be described as headphones, ear buds, headsets or stereo phones.

Earpieces can be put into two categories which again depends on design and how the device functions. If an earpiece connects to the source of sound via cable, then it can be described as a wired earpiece which came before the cordless or wireless earpieces. Wireless headphones or earphones are similar in design to conventional earpieces of their kind only that they connect to the source of sound via infrared signals or radio waves. Some of the devices which are compatible with the wireless type include mobile phones, computers, CD players, MP3 players and gaming consoles with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi adapters.

Wired earpieces are convenient to some extent but the wire which dangles from a user’s ears to the device they intend to listen to can be disturbing at times. Remember, a wired earpiece has to connect to the sound producing device physically. This means that you will have to bear with dangling motion of the wire although some are designed to be spiral so that the move less. The most common earpieces come with the 3.5 millimeter (0.2 Inch) jack which has been made a standard though introduced by Sony in 1979. Before the 3.5 millimeter jacks came into existence, ¼ inch jacks were the standard. Today, there are still in use but only for professional equipment.

Ear buds have not been in the market for long but what makes them worth mentioning is their design which completely changes how the user perceives sound. An ear bud feeds sound directly into the ear drum which is unnatural because the waves bypass the acoustic contouring provided by the listener’s outer ears and head. This way, the user’s brain will assume the sound is in a straight line in the head and between the ears; the result is sound which does not have the three dimensional effect which is normally provided by loud speakers due to the configuration between them and the users ears.

Depending on their configuration, earpieces can further be classified according to their shapes and sizes. For instance, circum-aural headphones come with large pads which surround the outer ear and are the kind used in most professional recording studios. The other type in this context would be supra-aural headphones which fit over the ear without surrounding it. Ear buds which were discussed earlier fit into the ears outer canal but do not fully cover it which means external sounds from other sources are still audible around them. Canal phones which make the fourth category fit snugly into the ears canal and are therefore effective in blocking exterior sounds.

Noise cancellation is a feature which is slowly gaining popularity with the public. The technology works to improve the quality of sound reaching the ear drums by cancelling out other sounds from external sources. The most advanced noise cancelling headphones utilize a physics principle called destructive interference where the headphones produce sound of equal wavelength with noise so that they cancel out. Note that noise cancelling headphones direct some of their sound outwards so as that it cancels noise coming from exterior sources. If you plan to buy earpieces, list down the specifications you would want to avoid purchasing something which will later frustrate you.

Keeping You Safe: Two Way Radios in High Security

These are troubling times for our nation and indeed for the world at large. Our little corner of the history books will be blighted by a global recession and civil unrest as political opportunists fan the flames of religious and racial tensions. In the midst of all this turbulence, there’s us, the regular people, caught up in the middle of the maelstrom.

In a world fraught with buzzwords like ‘terrorism’ ‘counter-terrorism’ ‘contamination’ ‘organized crime’ and ‘data theft’, its easy to feel like you’re always at risk, only ever one diplomatic blunder or power hungry madman away from World War 3. In such a world, an increase in security is often felt to be the only way to achieve peace of mind. Enter the world’s high security professionals.

Whether providing security for public figures, guarding prominent buildings, patrolling national boundaries or keeping the Internet safe from hackers, high security is an enormous and varied industry that demands much from its workers. Public and private security firms are stretched to deal with all the issues and potential problems that they have to tackle.

Fortunately, two way radios and security earpieces make their work a lot easier. The same type of radios that are used by the military can be affordably purchased by the security services, as and when needed.

These radios are rugged and durable, they can withstand almost any weather type and they have strong, long lasting batteries that allow for hours of field work. Two-way radios are by far the quickest and most reliable form of portable communication, not as clumsy as a pager or as temperamental as a phone. In addition, two-way radios are incredibly easy to use, meaning that training is a doddle.

Working alongside state-of-the-art surveillance technology, non-lethal weaponry and bleeding edge computer security programs, the simple, effective (and simply effective) two-way radio is still the security services first and finest friend.

Whether on foot or in vehicles, whether standing guard or co-ordinating the efforts of a team, two-way radios are an absolutely indispensable part of the high security industry, making them a vital component of the nation’s peace of mind.

You’ll find two-way radios helping to keep secure our data centres, cash warehouses, government buildings, military bases, secure storage facilities and even more sites than we have the space to name.

The world may be a conflicted, sometimes frightening place, but the high security workers around the globe are helping us to sleep at night and using two-way radios to do it.

Inform, Entertain and Educate Two-Way Radios in Broadcasting

The disparity between how easy it is to watch a television program and how difficult it is to make one is truly staggering.

Outdoor shoots are often rushed, always difficult and dependent on a number of factors completely outside of any Human control (principally: the weather). Managing a live broadcast outdoors is a difficult job that only highly trained professionals are properly equipped to deal with.

Mistakes can cost huge sums of money and even jobs to be lost in an instant. As a result, it is of absolutely paramount importance that an outdoor shoot runs as smoothly as possible. It is not possible to control all the variables in this equation, therefore the factors that are controllable need to be handled with a great deal of care and attention.

Before we even get to the problems presented by demanding talent, caffeine-addled directors, technical hiccups (and anything else you’ve heard discussed in exasperating terms on a variety of DVD commentaries), producers need to consider the health and safety of all participants. Keeping so many varied lines of communication open requires a technology that is proven, reliable, affordable and easy to use. As a result, two-way radios are a mainstay of the broadcast industries.

Two-way radios help to keep a shoot or set running smoothly and efficiently, whilst at the same time ensuring that the production team, guests and everybody else involved are safe and secure. Without an instant method of communication, a large amount of today’s TV programming would simply cease to exist (of course, some may say that isn’t too bad a thing!).

Live broadcasting is like catching lightening in a bottle; all conditions need to be as close to perfect as Humanly possible. Two-way radios help to make such a demanding task achievable.

For directors, producers and assistants, the ability to speak directly to the assembled professionals is completely indispensable.

Ultimately, co-ordination of talent, equipment and staff coupled with effective time management and supreme professionalism on all fronts makes broadcasting what it is. However, two-way radios make it all a lot easier and create many more opportunities for better work to be done.

What Is A Two Way Radio And Who Uses Them?

A two-way radio is basically a radio that is structured to transmit and receive. In general, most voice-wireless communications technology, counting cellular systems, are categorized by two-way radio definition. Usually, a two way radio refers to a radio system primarily utilized for group call communications. This two-way system is also called PAMR Public Access-Mobile Radio, PMR Private-Mobile Radio, LMR Land-Mobile Radio, and PMR Professional-Mobile Radio.

Portable 2 way radios are frequently called “walkie-talkies” or “handie-talkies.” Not much different from “handie,” the term sometimes used to describe mobile phones. While we’re on the subject, it’s probably best to get something out in the open right now. People often interchange the terms two-way radio and walkie-talkie.

However, walkie-talkie is chiefly a generic or slang-term for hand portable two way radios. Moreover, the term usually implies non-professional, license free, consumer type, or “toy” equipment. When referring to two-way radios, people are basically talking about professional licensed equipment. A walkie-talkie is generally a hand-held CB radio. A 2 way radio is of superior quality and utilizes much higher frequencies. Two-way radios can also be found in mobile and base-configurations in addition to using radio network-infrastructure.

In addition, two-way radios are usually decked out with a PTT or “Push-to-Talk” key to trigger the transmitter. Users simply press the PTT key and quickly begin a conversation. The user lets go of the PTT key in order to hear others.

A two-way radio user can talk immediately with other radio users or utilize radio network-infrastructure. A direct-talk amongst radios, normally referred to as direct more operation/talk-around mode, has restricted reach because of limited radio power. To defeat this restriction, a radio network-infrastructure can be used to expand the communication range.

WHY USE A TWO WAY RADIO?

With numerous choices in wireless technology today and with 2 way radios being one of the first wireless devices, some wonder if this type of radio is still a useful gadget in the current world of technological communication. Well actually yes. There are two main features that differentiate two-way radios from other wireless gadgets:

-Instantaneous Communication

Two-way radios offer instant communication. Users can simply press the PTT or “Push-To-Talk” key and inside a fraction of a second, the user can instantly speak and convey their message. This is because of the quick-call setup time entrenched in the technology. This quick communication possibility is one of the main reasons why businesses and organizations prefer two-way radios for their operational or tactical communications.

-Group Communication

An additional unique feature of two way radios is its ability to facilitate “group-calls” or “one-to-many” communications very effectively. This means that one user can easily communicate with one, five, twenty, hundreds, or even thousands of other 2 way radio users simultaneously.

In other words, there’s no need for users to repeat themselves time and again if they need to communicate with more than one user. Moreover, two way radios performs perfectly for group communication using a minimal amount of RF channel-resources. If every user were in the same vicinity the majority of the time, they would only need one-channel resources to speak to hundreds of other users.

WHY NOT SIMPLY USE ANY WIRELESS-SYSTEM?

There is an abundance of wireless-technology today, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The choice of which technology is idea for one’s group or association will depend upon if the technology can satisfy the user’s requirements. For users who need to function in a group, communicate instantly, and remain mobile, a two-way radio is the best choice compared to the other wireless technology available on the market today.

You may still wonder how this can be possible with smartphones, iPods, iPhones, tablets, mobile phones available. Here are the main reasons why these technological gadgets may NOT meet the above requirements:

-Instant Communication

Consider this scenario. You are out hiking, run into an emergency situation, and must communicate quickly to confirm your dilemma. If you were using a mobile phone, for instance, you must dial a number, wait while the call is being setup and connected; that’s if you get a signal. The phone must then ring to the other person, and they finally answer, if their voicemail isn’t on! The whole procedure could take several seconds and within that valuable time, your situation could easily worsen.

With a 2 way radio, you simply press the PTT key and yell “emergency” while the other users “immediately” pick-up your signal. This is assuming that RF-channel is accessible. However, there is a way that two-way radios features can surmount RF-channel blockage and give highest-priority to emergency calls, a feature not available to other wireless devices.

-Group Communication

Take this example. You need to let your staff know that there has been some changes for a planned meeting. If you have to contact them one at a time, it could become tedious. With a two-way radio, you can simply select your talk-group, press the PTT key, and begin your message to five, 10, 15, or however many staff members you need to communicate with simultaneously. Now, raise that number to 1000 workers and imagine the work involved if you had to go through cellular phone channels.

Though some wireless systems permit group calls, it usually restricts the amount of group members that you can communicate with at one time. With a two way radio, you simply need to speak once and be heard by many.

WHO USES 2 WAY RADIOS?

Two-way radios have been utilized for many years by numerous industries and associations. Because of the nature of their operational requirements, they use two way radios to broadcast their operational and communicational needs. Organizations and industries that may depend on two-way radio usage are:

-Public Safety associations such as EMS emergency medical services, police, ambulance service, fire brigade, disaster-recovery agency
-Security like intelligence agencies and military
-Transportation industries like subway, railways, seaports, airports, subways
-Oil and gas companies
-Utility companies like cable TV, telephone, water, gas, electricity
-Construction companies for road and bridges, residential, commercial
-Transport service companies like trucks, limos, taxis
-Hospitality industries like tourism, restaurant, resort, and hotel
-Service industry such as towing and delivery companies
-Government agencies like public works, embassies, municipal, district governments, and ministries
-Manufacturing
-Contractors for roofing, plumbing, excavating, electrical
-And many more…

Overall, those who utilize two-way radios are frequently businesses or agencies with many staff members or workers who work in groups and are mobile.

TWO WAY RADIOS TODAY

Today, two-way radios come with additional or improved features from years before. For example, display screens show important information at a quick glance, keypads lock to maintain channel settings, there are various ring-tones and silencers to choose from along with out of range alerts, and much more!

What Features Should I be Looking For if I Want a Bluetooth Headset for Conference Calls?

OK, so your basic requirements ought to be simple enough. Firstly, you’re going to need great sound quality. You’ll need to hear and process important information quickly and without asking the boss to repeat him/herself (unless of course you are the boss, Tina, in which case you don’t want your employees making you repeat yourself over and over).

The next feature on our list should be a great microphone, its no good being able to hear everyone clearly if they can’t understand a word you’re saying! The microphone ought to be able to transmit as cleanly as possible, without picking up too much background noise (e.g. dogs barking etc).

Another factor to consider is comfort, some calls can drag on for hours longer than they were intended to and you need to ensure that you are thinking clearly about what is being said, rather than worrying about the nagging pain on the side of your head! You’ll need a headset that is comfortable and easy to wear at all times, something that, ideally, you’ll forget you’re even wearing. If you aren’t sure how to find that, try on a friend’s headset for 15 minutes and see how it feels, if it is starting to become uncomfortable, you’re probably better off with a different design.

Once you’ve got these bases covered, you’ve probably found the right headset for you, but I’d read all the reviews you can find before purchasing, just in case! The truth is, that if you want a good quality headset, you’re going to need to spend out a little.

A Bluetooth headset is actually a good choice here, because it gives you the freedom to move around. My Dad used to take conference calls with his headset; casually dispensing advice to other attendees whilst tending to his bonsai trees. Sometimes having a little distraction can make all the difference. His thoughts were focussed and his mind was calm. This allowed him to take several conference calls a day and always be at his best. Sitting down for extended periods of time can be more tiring than people think!