May 17th, 2013 § §
Using a vaguely described 3-D structure researches have developed a micro battery that they claim out powers even the best super-capacitors.
With so much power, the batteries could enable sensors or radio signals that broadcast 30 times farther, or devices 30 times smaller. The batteries are rechargeable and can charge 1,000 times faster than competing technologies — imagine juicing up a credit-card-thin phone in less than a second.
No mention of the cost to produce these batteries or whether it’s even feasible to manufacture them in bulk but that’s really besides the point. The battery revolution is coming and it’s going to change everything.
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Ions flow between 3-D micro-electrodes in a lithium ion battery.
April 6th, 2013 § §
It’s a brave new world for independent film makers and those of us that enjoy high quality content are going to reap the benefits. As the costs to make and distribute content for both the big and little screen continue to be reduced the people with money who fund the project, and typically make the important decisions, are being replaced by the creative visionaries that came up with the idea. If the project can survive off a small but loyal fan-base the emphasis can be put on quality rather than mass appeal. There is no reason that the next Sopranos or The Wire can’t be distributed by YouTube instead of HBO and produced by a couple dozen people instead of a couple hundred.
A case in point is Freefly. Using what they learned from making camera-dones and stabilizers they have built MōVI, a professional grade camera stabilizer at a fraction of the cost.
The rig also has a remote-controlled gimbal and 3-axis gyroscope so that one person can be responsible for holding the rig while a second will move the camera and frame the shot. Normally a setup like this can run well into six figures but this one costs a “mere” $15k with a $7.5k unit in the works.
Hopefully this will do to image stabilization what the Red has done to digital cameras.
MōVI BTS from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.
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March 28th, 2013 § §
Once considered the benchmark for the future David Bauer takes us through the day of your average citizen in the year 2000. Even though it was a mere 13 years ago things don’t go well for our intrepid time traveler.
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February 28th, 2013 § §
Harace Dediu recently wondered why Apple’s competitors are not moving quickly to mimic the vertical integration that has served them so well over the past decade. For the first two decades of the PC revolution Microsoft was largely successful because they let OEM’s fight over who could build the cheapest hardware while they collected Windows licensing fees from all of them. Economists call this commoditization and while it steadily drove the price of computers down it doesn’t always produce the best devices. By controlling both the hardware and software Apple has been able to produce products that are more stable and have a higher degree of polish. Clearly it has worked out well for them.
While it would certainly be a big undertaking for Microsoft or Google to take full control of their hardware it’s not a task that requires the company to pivot away from its core focus. In the 80′s IBM had to pivot away from building computers and start focusing on software to save itself from obsolescence. Instead Google and Microsoft can continue to make software while a new division starts to make hardware. The Nexus and Surface product lines show that these companies are capable of making hardware just not very committed to it.
Charlie Kindel posits that this has more to do with Apple’s focus on the consumer than anything else.
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In my experience, the behaviors and culture of an organization (large or small) that focuses on the Consumer as a customer is diametrically incompatible with the behaviors and culture of an organization that focuses on Business as a customer.
I feel strongly that this is a key reason Microsoft’s products are often good, but not excellent; the consumer ones and the business ones. This is why Google will never be able to beat Apple at Apple’s game: Google’s customer focus is split between the advertiser and consumer.
February 19th, 2013 § §
A follow-up piece by Margaret Sullivan over at the NYT Public Editor’s Journal. She has been covering the Musk vs. NYT showdown since the story broke last week.
Over the past several days, I have questioned and listened to Mr. Broder, Mr. Musk, two key Tesla employees, other Times journalists, the tow-truck driver and his dispatcher, and a Tesla owner in California, among others. …… [A]lthough I do not believe Mr. Broder hoped the drive would end badly. I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it. Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight – were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending.
She failed to mention what appears to have been some pretty shoddy customer service on Tesla’s part but it’s hard to argue with her conclusion.
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In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable.
February 14th, 2013 § §
A few days ago I read a New York Times piece Stalled on the EV highway and was quite surprised by the miserable experience that Mr. Broder had with his Tesla Model S. So much so that I checked out previous articles the author had written to see if, like the folks at Top Gear, he might have an axe to grind with electric cars. While he has a lot of articles covering the oil industry none of it seemed to particularly biased and would actually be quite normal for someone covering the environment beat. I chalked the poor cold weather performance of the car up to weak software and assumed Tesla would release some updates to help address the conflicting reports Mr. Broder got from his car. Clearly I jumped to that conclusion too quickly however as Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla, has been on the warpath since the article came out. I don’t feel too bad though as it looks like Mr. Broder did not think his car, owned by Tesla, would keep a log of everything he did. Wired reports that:
According to Tesla, Broder was given explicit instructions for his drive: Keep the speed at 55 mph and turn down the climate control. Broder claims to have set the cruise control at 54 mph, and at one point he writes that he “limped along at about 45 miles per hour.” However, the logs released by Tesla show that he drove at speeds ranging from 65 to 81 mph, and kept the interior temperature at 72 degrees, increasing it to 74 degrees at one point.
In an interview with Fox News Mr. Musk took it a bit further claiming that it appeared Mr. Broder was set upon getting a picture of the Model S on a tow truck. He drove past multiple public charging stations and even “disconnected the charger with an indicated range of 32 miles, despite planning to drive 61 miles.” He even, apparently, drove in circles around a charging station in what Musk assumes was a deliberate attempt to run out of juice. “If someone were to do a test drive of a gasoline driven car and filled up the car and filled up the car to a quarter tank, drove past several gas stations until it came to a stop what would you think of that reporter?”
Tesla has so far declined to release the raw data and Mr. Broder is working with his editor on a rebuttal. Mr. Musk is obviously biased toward believing that the Model S is a fantastic car and could not possible have performed as poorly as it did. Mr. Broder and his editor have a vested interest in getting more page views and it’s hard to stand out when your review is as positive as all the others out there. It’s Motor Trend’s 2013 Car of the Year after all. I found the article through a 3rd party and I’m guessing the only reason they linked to it was because it was out of the ordinary. Short of some sort of mea culpa from the intrepid report I doubt we will ever know for certain what really happened on that cold winter day. I suspect the truth lies somewhere between Mr. Broder’s account and Mr. Musk’s reading of the logs.
Update (2/14 4:45pm)
Mr. Broder has posted his point-by-point response to Mr. Musk’s accusations. He maintains that everything he did was in line with what he was told to do by Tesla phone support.
The Tesla personnel whom I consulted over the phone – Ms. Ra and Mr. Merendino – told me to leave it connected for an hour, and after that the lost range would be restored. I did not ignore their advice.
He also states that he did not know about the charging stations he passed, again he was being directed by Tesla support staff, and denies trying to deliberately drain the car.
I drove around the Milford service plaza in the dark looking for the Supercharger, which is not prominently marked. I was not trying to drain the battery. (It was already on reserve power.) As soon as I found the Supercharger, I plugged the car in.
He finishes by denying that Mr. Musk apologized for any inconvenience he had.
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Mr. Musk not only apologized, he said the charging stations should be 60 miles closer together and offered me a second test drive when additional stations were built.
February 13th, 2013 § §
The always thorough and insightful Horace Dediu argues that iTunes, which includes the App Store, is no longer a “break-even” business and is becoming one of the primary pillars upon which Apple rests; Dediu calls these stool legs.
There are several observations we can make:
- iTunes now becomes a steadily and rapidly growing business. Growth over the previous two years averages well over 30% and is consistent across seasons.
- The absolute revenue number is substantial: $13.5 billion for 2012 (up from $10.2 billion in 2011).
- Assuming a gross margin of 15% to 17% yields contribution of $2 billion in margin in 2012 and $1.6 the year before.
- iTunes is now Apple’s fourth largest business, having overtaken the iPod in revenues two years ago
- iTunes growth relative to the Mac means that it could become the third largest business during this year.
To put this in competitive perspective:
Indeed, if seen in isolation, iTunes+Accessories combined is a bigger business in terms of revenues than any of the other phone vendors except Samsung
At a recent Goldman Sachs tech conference Tim Cook added more evidence to the pile:
And we’ve built a great ecosystem that is also fueling a developer industry..we’ve now paid out over $8 billion to them.
As Gruber points out if you add in the Apple’s 30% cut the app store take in $11.5 billion in revenue with $3.5 billion in profit for Apple. That’s one health ecosystem.
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February 6th, 2013 § §
Verizon reported Tuesday that more than half of the iPhones the company sold in the fourth quarter were older models that sell at deep discounts. Dane Scism, a Verizon dealer with nearly 600 stores around the country, said many of his customers settled for the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, because they didn’t see a value in paying up for the iPhone 5′s faster cellular connection—one of the new device’s marquee features.
I can see how it’s bad for Apple that people buy the “free” iPhone 4 over the $200 iPhone 5. Even though the margin is the same the total profit is less. I fail to see, however, how the fact that people are choosing the two-year old iPhone over the latest Android phones is good for Apple’s competitors.
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January 24th, 2013 § §
This Super Supercapacitor could be the biggest technological breakthrough since the computer was invented; a battery that doesn’t suck. Though there have been many advances over the past decade the fundamental design of the chemical battery hasn’t changed since it’s invention over a century ago. The problem with the battery as we know it really comes down to speed. They are slow to charge and slow to release energy. They are also incredibly toxic. You should feel guilty every time you throw one in the trash.
Enter the Supercapacitor. It will charge in minutes and can discharge just as quickly. Ok so you can charge up your phone and electric car in minutes instead of hours, that’s cool but it doesn’t seem that revolutionary. Here are just a few of the benefits that will come with a battery revolution.
The Super Supercapacitor | Brian Golden Davis from Focus Forward Films.
No more oil
The reason that we are so dependent upon oil is not because Exxon earns billions of dollars ruining the environment; it’s because gasoline is an amazing substance. It sounds boring but the energy to weight ratio of gasoline is unparalleled. If you think of your gas tank as an energy storage device it’s incredibly efficient. You can fill it up in minutes and the amount of power you can get out of it is limited by the size of your engine. Electric cars have to be plugged in overnight in order to top of their batteries and the only way to get a lot of power out of them is to have a dozen or more dishing out power at the same time. To add insult to injury about half the energy stored in our gas tank gets wasted generating heat.
No More Power Lines
For things that don’t move we use power lines to transport the energy from distant power stations to your home or office. Beyond the fact that they ruin views and fall down during storms they are inherently inefficient. Transporting electricity long distances not only causes a loss of energy but the power plants have to generate power when people are going to use it rather than when it’s most efficient. This means that power plants are required to have a high-capacity to handle the evening hours but sit mostly idle during the night. More importantly this makes it very hard for alternative energy sources to compete. We harness wind when we can get it and solar during the middle of the day neither of which match up terribly well with our demands. The best place to harness this energy is also typically far away from urban areas. These factors add costs that reduce their viability when compared to coal and natural gas.
So a better battery not only makes electric cars a viable alternative but it will give a huge boost to alternative forms of generating energy. Put a wind farm in the middle of the ocean or a solar farm in the middle of a desert and simply transport Supercapictors back and forth.
The little things
The battery in our portable devices makes up a very significant portion the weight and bulk. Much the advances that Apple has made in shrinking their devices has come from brilliant work with the inherently crappy technology. Take a look at the guts of this iPhone 5 and you will see what I mean. Now imagine if they didn’t have to waste so much time coming up with clever ways to stick a huge battery in a tiny phone. One of the reasons it took them so long to add 4G to their phones was because the 4G chips needed to improve their power efficiency. People that picked up early 4G phones often turned 4G off because it would drain their battery in a couple of hours.
And that’s just the beginning because just like the computer it is almost impossible to imagine what can be done with a technology that is this transformative. It will do to electronics what the internet has done to computers. Would you like a GPS tracker in your keys? A laptop that needs to be charged once a month? Perhaps a phone as thick as a piece of glass? These are the type of things that are impossible with our current technology.
I had hoped to see something this revolutionary in my lifetime. I never dreamed it would happen this soon. I really, really hope this technology pans out.
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December 16th, 2012 § §
Interesting video about ways to address online bullying, trolling. Do we add safeguards and restrictions or do we look to our culture as the root of the problem?
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