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Phonebloks

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.

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

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.

Blokstore

Bionic Hands – A Different Feeling

Bionic Hands

Bionic hands have been around for quite some time now. But I’m sure these pair of hands that can help one feel is going to be one of those breakthroughs in technology that can touch the hearts of millions, bringing tears of happiness to ones eyes. The world’s first bionic hand with the sense of touch is here. A team of researchers from Case Western University have made a new prosthetic bionic hand, designed to be capable of using measurements from 20 sensor points to control ones grip. Amazingly, the sensor data is linked directly to the sensory nerves in the patient’s forearm. The control for the grip is then extracted myoelectrically and returned to the muscles in the forearm. “Our dream is to have Luke Skywalker getting back his hand with normal function,” researcher Silvestro Micera told TechNewsDaily, referencing the hero in “Star Wars” who gets an artificial hand after his real one is cut off.

Sorenson

This was the first time that such a variant of the bionic hand was implanted into an amputee with high hopes that he would regain his sense of touch. The patient wore the bionic hand for some time over a month to see how his body adapts to the new presence. “When I held an object, I could feel if it was soft or hard, round or square,” said Dennis Aabo Sorenson, a 36-year-old man from Denmark who lost his left hand in a fireworks accident. “I could feel things that I hadn’t been able to feel in over nine years,” Sorensen said in another statement.

This is truly a miracle. An answered prayer. A dream come true for many.

Feel

Motorola’s e-Tattoo

Motorola though on shaky grounds have some cool products up their sleeve. For one here’s Motorola’s e-Tattoo. Google has always been at the pinnacle when it comes to innovative commercial products. First, it was Google Glass, now Motorola Mobility (now owned by Lenovo, work on the project started while at Google) appears to be aiming a few inches lower, working on a temporary electronic tattoo that would stick to the user’s throat. In other words, they have come up with an electronic tattoo that lets you communicate with your smartphone, gaming devices, tablets or any wearable tech. The idea is that wearer can communicate with their devices via voice commands without having to wear an earpiece or the Glass headset. Instead of actually speaking to Apple’s Siri or Google Now, you could merely think your voice command.

e Tattoo

But hold on for a minute, as there is a bit more to the whole concept than might first appear. The tattoo they have in mind is actually one that will be emblazoned over your vocal cords to intercept subtle voice commands — perhaps even subvocal commands, or even the fully internal whisperings that fail to pluck the vocal cords when not given full cerebral approval. The patent even states, “the electronic tattoo can also be applied to an animal as well.” I still can’t figure out what Motorola has in mind.

e Tattoo

In images attached to the patent filing, the size of the tattoo appears to be between a postage stamp and a Band-Aid. Other possible uses include making both incoming and outgoing audio clearer. That could mean anything from making smartphone conversations clearer in a crowded room to being able to listen to music without earphones. Still, whether the e-tattoo becomes a reality for any consumer to buy is yet to be seen.

Linux Terms You Should Know

Confused?

In GNU/Linux For Newbies of this guide, you saw some of the basic stuff and a little bit of history of what GNU/Linux is all about. Now, lets see some basic Linux terms you should know about.

1. Kernel

The kernel is a program that constitutes the central core of a computer operating system. The kernel provides basic services for all other parts of the operating system like memory management, process management, file management and I/O management. It has complete control over everything that occurs in the system. The user does not directly interact with the kernel. The user can interact with the kernel via a shell. The GNU/Linux systems use the Linux kernel.

2. GRUB

A bootloader is a computer program that loads the main operating system or runtime environment for the computer after completion of the self-tests. The GRUB is one of the many boot loaders available, it stands for Grand Unified Bootloader. It was developed as part of the GNU Project. GRUB works well for a wide variet of Operating System, even Windows. (though Windows Bootloader doesn’t allow other OS’es now)

3. File System

A file system can be thought of as similar to the index of a book containing the exact physical location of every piece of data on a hard drive. Without a file system, information placed in a storage area would be one large body of information with no way to tell where one piece of information stops and the next begins.

Some popular used file systems are FAT, NTFS, ReFS for Windows. HFS+file system for Mac and ext/2/3/4 for GNU/Linux.

Linux File System

4. Partitions

A hard drive can be split into different segments that act independently. Each such segment is called a partition. Partitions enable users to use multiple operating systems to run on the same drive in different partitions. Partition information is stored in the partition table (the classic Master Boot Record, and the modern GUID Partition Table – the better choice!)

 There are 3 types of partitions:

  • Primary
  • Extended
    • Logical

Primary partitions can be bootable and are limited to four per disk. If you require more than four partitions, an extended partition containing logical partitions is used. The extended partition is also counted as a primary partition so if the disk has an extended partition, only three additional primary partitions are possible. You can have any number of logical partitions within an extended partition. It is customary to create primary partitions sda1 through sda3 followed by an extended partition sda4. The logical partitions on sda4 are numbered sda5, sda6, etc.

5. Distros

A GNU/Linux distribution (or distro for short) is an operating system built on top of the Linux kernel and often includesa package management system. Unlike Windows or Mac OS X you do not need to choose an OS version that they are offering. In Linux world you could grab the source code for the Linux kernel, GNU shell utilities, Xorg X server (provides the GUI for the OS), and every other program on a Linux system and make an OS that suits your style. It might take a considerable amount of time and work to do that though.

Linux distributions do all that hard work for you, taking all the code from open-source projects and compiling it for you, combining it into a single operating system you can boot up and install. When you want to install new software or update to new versions of software with important security updates, your Linux distribution provides them in precompiled, packaged form. These packages are fast and easy to install, saving you from doing the hard work yourself. And you do need need to restart your computer after an update!

 6. Command Line Interface

A command-line interface (CLI) lets you control the computer using numerous commands in the form of successive lines of text (command lines). The CLI has no icons or pictures, and often is so simple that even a mouse will not work — it relies on the keyboard. Bash is the shell, or command language interpreter, for the GNU/Linux operating system.

7. Desktop Environment

A desktop environment provides a complete graphical user interface (GUI) for a system by bundling together a variety of X clients. The X Window System provides the foundation for a graphical user interface. Prior to installing a desktop environment, a functional X server installation is required. X provides the basic framework for a GUI environment like drawing and moving windows on the display device and interacting with a mouse and keyboard.

8. Window Manager

A window manager runs on top of the X Window System and controls the placement and appearance of windows in a graphical user interface. Most window managers are designed to help provide a desktop environment. They work in conjunction with the underlying graphical system that provides support for graphics hardware, pointing devices etc.

9. Su & Sudo

Superuser (su) is a special user account used for system administration. The equivalent name may be different in different operating systems, example; root, administrator etc. In operating systems that employ the concept of a superuser, it is recommended that most application work be done using an ordinary account or standard account which does not have the ability to make system-wide changes.

sudo is a program for Unix-like computer operating systems that allows users to run rograms with the security privileges of the superuser. Its name is a concatenation of su (super user) and “do”, or take action.

10. Repository

A repository is nothing but a storage location for all the verified packages (softwares) that are made available by a distro. All software can be downloaded and installed for its repository. This is a key reason why Linux is known to be “almost” virus free. Most major Linux distributions have their own official repositories and they are mirrorred all around the world.

<<Part 1

GNU/Linux For Newbies

GNU/Linux

 

I’ve been on GNU/Linux (popularly called Linux) only for a few months. I’m not an advanced user but I’m not a newbie anymore. So I think this would be the best time to write a guide for newbies. So here you have it GNU/Linux for Newbies. This guide will be split into parts.

A Brief History

GNU was launched by Richard M Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation in 1983. It is an operating system put together by people working together for the freedom of all software users to have complete control over their computing. The primary and continuing goal of GNU is to offer a Unix-compatible system that is 100% free software. GNU is a recursive acronym meaning GNU’s Not Unix – a way of paying tribute to the technical ideas of Unix, while at the same time saying that GNU is something different.

The Linux kernel was compiled from scratch by Linus Torvalds in 1991. It is written mostly in C. After FSF created GNU, the only missing part was a kernel that wasn’t free. While FSF was working on a free kernel called GNU Hurd, Linus Torvalds provided the last piece of software that would make GNU complete, a kernel.

What is GNU/Linux?

GNU/Linux is an operating system. The most important part of an operating system is the kernel. In a GNU/Linux system, Linux is the kernel component. The rest of the system consists of other programs, many of which were written by or for the GNU Project. The Linux kernel alone does not form a working operating system, the term “GNU/Linux” is more appropriate to systems that many people casually refer to as “Linux”.

Why GNU/Linux?

First of all, GNU/Linux is free! Users have immense freedom of choice in their software. You can even change your own desktop to suite your style. GNU/Linux is also less likely to crash, better able to run more than one program at the same time, and more secure than many operating systems. With these advantages, Linux is the fastest growing operating system in the server market with more than 90% market share. More recently, Linux has begun to be popular among home and business users as well.

Or if you have an old PC lying around, there are many lightweight Linux distros that can revive its functionality. Many modern Linux distros can run with as little as 64MB of RAM (some even less). Linux is virus free! (almost) Sick of malware that constantly infects systems and causes problems? Linux is for you! Linux is just plain more fun to use with all its features and c

Is GNU/Linux right for me?

Are you a hardcore gamer? Sorry, Linux might not be for you. Though there are many great games in Linux and Steam has started to make its presence felt in the Linux Gaming Market, its still not on par with Windows. There might be a lot of Industry Standard software that you need to use that run only on Windows. Printing can be a pain in GNU/Linux. Linux software still has very experimental CMYK features. This is getting better, but it’s not really satisfying for professional use yet. If these are your main uses, then GNU/Linux is not be for you.

If web browsing, some gaming, simple photo/video editing and a little bit of everything is what you usually go on doing. Hands down, GNU/Linux is better than Windows. If you care about security at least a little bit, switch to GNU/Linux!

GNU/Linux Distro Tree

The below is a very basic GNU/Linux distro tree. There are more than a 1,000 different GNU/Linux distros to choose from.

Linux Distros

Which distro is right for me?

If you have been on Windows a long time and want to make that big switch to Linux, I suggest you start with one of the Debian based distros. I started off with Linux Mint, and I think you should too. It is the perfect choice. Though others like Ubuntu are just as good. Naturally, the rest of the guide will be focused on Debian based distros, though most apply on other distros as well.

A comprehensive coverage of all GNU/Linux distros can be found at DistroWatch. Or you could take the distro test to see which distro is for you.

Part 2 >>

Leaked: Nokia’s Android Smartphone

nokia-normandy-leak-evleaks-635

Guess who’s joining into the Android Club? Yes, Nokia has finally realized that Windows alone cannot save the face of Nokias fortune. This has been rumored around for quite a while now, but recent image leaks show that this just might be true. Nokia might just bring out their first Android Smartphone. The body of the device similar to any of the current line of Lumia devices, which just means it looks nice, feels sturdy and is colorful. I’m definitely a fan of Nokia’s hardware design, and a huge fan of Android, I think this could be the start of real magic!

nokia-normandy-android-interface

Leaks of Nokias Android phone, codenamed Normandy, were originally published in November, but a number of recent images have provided a closer look at the hardware and software. Vizileaks has published what appears to be a near-final hardware unit, and some of the apps it can run. Thanks to Evleaks, we’re getting a closer look at the UI on the Normandy.

Nothing is confirmed on the hardware yet, but it is rumored to have a Snapdragon processor, with 512MB of RAM, a 5MP camera. The images found also show two SIM Card icons, this clearly shows that this phone is not for the US or Europe. Asia might be the target market of the Nokia Normandy. If Nokia can just upgrade the hardware a bit and get the pricing right, it might be a mighty contender to the newly launched Moto G. Let’s wait & watch.

The Blackphone: No more snooping around

blackphone

In a time where Privacy is just a myth, Silent Circle & Geeksphone have announced the formation of a new Switzerland-based joint venture and its first surveillance-thwarting product, the Blackphone. This Blackphone runs a new security-oriented version of Android called PrivatOS. They claim that the Blackphone will put privacy and control directly in the hands of the user.

The Blackphone will be a carrier and vendor-independent smartphone that will allow consumers and businesses to make and receive secure phone calls, exchange secure texts, transfer and store files, and video chat without compromising privacy on the device. But all this is possible only if both the users have the Blackphone smartphone.

Though nothing has been revealed on the specs of the phone, the company claims that the hardware is a “top performer”. More importantly, there isn’t a lot of detail yet about how the privacy measures are going to work other than encrypted messaging, “secure telephony”, and privacy measures baked into the hardware, including on the CPU.