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February 4, 2010

LEGO Qantas Airbus A380

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Wrote Ryan, aka The BrickMan, who created it:

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Well, Brickvention 2010 (Australia's largest LEGO show) is now over for another year!

I was lucky enough his year to be crowned Best in Show for 2010 as voted for by the registered attendees.

I feel honored and privileged to win such a title given the amazing stuff that people had built, as I have never in my life seen such amazing LEGO creations before.

Thank you to everyone who voted for me, I am truly humbled.

Some specs on my Qantas Airbus A380:

• 35,000 pieces

• 2.2 meters long and 1.8m wide

• Mindsensors 8 servo motor breakout card as well as 6 Hitechnic sensors

• Fully automated touchscreen controlled functions:

•• Front landing gear door (Hitechnic servo)

•• Front landing gear (NXT motor)

•• Two rear landing gear doors (Hitechnic servo)

•• Both landing gears powered by one NXT motor

•• Front cargo door (Hitechnic servo)

•• Airbrakes on wing (Hitechnic servo)

•• Landing flaps (NXT motor)

•• Tail fin and rear wing (Hitechnic servo)

•• Engines (power functions with IR remote)

•• Landing lights (power function lights)

The NXT and power functions use lithium batteries and they lasted all day with full usage, no problems at all — but the Mindsensors churn through the AA batteries like there's no tomorrow.

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[via Le Journal du Geek and Eurobricks]

February 4, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Shades of '1984' — Is Apple becoming IBM?

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That's the gist of Jonathan Zittrain's argument in a passionate op-ed piece in today's Financial Times; it follows.

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A fight over freedom at Apple's core

In 1977, a 21-year-old Steve Jobs unveiled something the world had never seen before: a ready-to-program personal computer. After powering the machine up, proud Apple II owners were confronted with a cryptic blinking cursor, awaiting instructions.

The Apple II was a clean slate, a device built – boldly – with no specific tasks in mind. Yet, despite the cursor, you did not have to know how to write programs. Instead, with a few keystrokes you could run software acquired from anyone, anywhere. The Apple II was generative. After the launch, Apple had no clue what would happen next, which meant that what happened was not limited by Mr Jobs’ hunches. Within two years, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston had released VisiCalc, the first digital spreadsheet, which ran on the Apple II. Suddenly businesses around the world craved machines previously marketed only to hobbyists. Apple IIs flew off the shelves. The company had to conduct research to figure out why.

Thirty years later Apple gave us the iPhone. It was easy to use, elegant and cool – and had lots of applications right out of the box. But the company quietly dropped a fundamental feature, one signalled by the dropping of “Computer” from Apple Computer’s name: the iPhone could not be programmed by outsiders. “We define everything that is on the phone,” said Mr Jobs. “You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work any more.”

The openness on which Apple had built its original empire had been completely reversed – but the spirit was still there among users. Hackers vied to “jailbreak” the iPhone, running new apps on it despite Apple’s desire to keep it closed. Apple threatened to disable any phone that had been jailbroken, but then appeared to relent: a year after the iPhone’s introduction, it launched the App Store. Now outsiders could write software for the iPhone, setting the stage for a new round of revolutionary VisiCalcs – not to mention tens of thousands of simple apps such as iPhone Harmonica or the short-lived I Am Rich, which for $999.99 displayed a picture of a gem, just to show that the iPhone owner could afford the software.

But the App Store has a catch: app developers and their software must be approved by Apple. If Apple does not like the app, for any reason, it is gone. I Am Rich was axed from the Store after it was ridiculed in the press. Another app, Freedom Time, never made it in. It counted down the days to the end of George W. Bush’s US presidency, and that was deemed too politically sensitive. An e-mail reader was denied because it competed with Apple’s own Mail app. Imagine if Microsoft’s Bill Gates had decreed that no other word processor but Word would be allowed to run on the Windows operating system. Microsoft lost a decade-long competition lawsuit for far less proprietary behaviour. 

Despite outsiders being invited to write software, the iPhone thus remains tightly tethered to its vendor – the way that the Kindle is controlled by Amazon. George Orwell’s 1984 was retroactively zapped from Kindles around the world after Amazon grew concerned that it had sold the book without permission.

To be sure, many rejected apps will not be missed. (Only eight spendthrifts bought I Am Rich before it disappeared.) And users can be protected from harmful software from suspect sources. But consider: the world wide web started as, and remains, an app. Its first versions were written by Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist who was unaffiliated with any software or hardware vendor. How worthy of approval would Wikipedia have seemed when it boasted only seven articles – dubiously hoping that the public would magically provide the rest? How threatened might today’s content publishers feel by peer-to-peer apps that let iPhone users trade data from one phone to another? We know the answer to that: enough that they have persuaded Apple to exclude all such apps from the App Store. 

It is tempting to think that a little outside software is better than none. But what is fine for a single device may be bad for the ecosystem. The iPhone’s hybrid model of centrally controlled outside software is already moving beyond the smart phone. This is the significance of the iPad. It could have been built either like a small Apple Macintosh – open to any outside software – or as a big iPhone, controlled by Apple. Apple went with the latter. Attach a keyboard to it and it could replace a PC entirely – boasting plenty of new apps, but only as Apple deems them worthy.

If Apple is the gatekeeper to a device’s uses, the governments of the world need knock on the door of only one office in Cupertino, California – Apple’s headquarters – to demand changes to code or content . Users no longer own or control the apps they run – they merely rent them minute by minute.

Hope lies in more balanced combinations of open and closed systems, such as that embodied by the traditional Apple Mac – or phones based on the Android operating system from the Open Handset Alliance, a consortium of hardware, software and telecoms companies. Android Market is the approved counterpart to Apple’s App Store but, in this case, users are also free to go off-roading, installing any code they like. Android is a canary in the digital coal mine: will its more open model survive should people load suspect apps and find they cannot make calls any more?

Mr Jobs ushered in the personal computer era and now he is trying to usher it out. We should focus on preserving our freedoms, even as the devices we acquire become more attractive and easier to use.

February 4, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Why Boat — by Wally Hermès Yachts

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Wrote Nick Vinson in a November 13, 2009 Financial Times story, "It is more of a 'floating island' or a 'house on the water' than a mere yacht. Why's extraordinary triangular hull looks like nothing seen before: the 3,400 sq. metres of guest space has the interior and exterior volumes of a villa, is stable even in full swell and has an optimum cruising speed of just 12 knots.

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"The most unusual thing about Why is its low-lying, almost triangular structure, 58 metres long with a 38-metre-wide-beam, wider than that of a 300-metre long cruise ship. The accommodation is contained within the hull, with only the cockpit emerging.

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"The bow has a 25-metre U-shaped pool that follows the prow and a helipad. A 130-metre-long jogging track traces bow to stern and a 30-metre long 'beach' flanks its stern, as the boat’s design creates a totally flat sea behind it when anchored. The roof, made of photovoltaic cells, operates like a giant Venetian blind, following the sun or retracting completely to expose the terraces below.

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"Unlike conventional yachts, the propulsion system is in the bow, as is the hold for the tender and 'toys' garage (it can take a 14-metre Wally 47 tender).

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"Accommodation is split over three levels, all primarily facing the stern, with further glazing on both sides. At the top is the owners’ deck, with a 200-sq-metre apartment opening on to a private terrace. Below this is the guest deck, offering five suites – two of 60 sq metres and three of 30 sq metres – plus a lounge/library and its own terrace. A wide, sweeping staircase leads down to the 720-metre main saloon deck, with living, dining, media and music rooms, a spa and gym, all leading to “the beach”. Below this is accommodation for the 20 or so crew (apart from the captain’s and first officer’s cabins, which are up top).

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"Interiors, part inspired by prewar Nordic architecture (think Alvar Aalto) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion, are by long-term Hermès collaborators Rena Dumas Architecture Intérieure. Materials include paper, wood and leather; textures are matt, colours are kept light and edges are softened for “total comfort, elegance and relaxation for the eyes and the body”, according to Denis Montel of RDAI. He has also attempted to soften the characteristic hard light you normally get afloat: three patios pierce through the boat, the largest housing a tree and possibly a kitchen garden. With their large picture windows, the patios enhance the relationship between the exterior and the interior and, with sliding screens, help break up the vast spaces into a human scale.

"Why’s hull, plus the fact that its ideal cruising speed is just 12 knots, means that it requires less power than a traditional boat of equal size (in volume terms that is a 100-metre conventional yacht). It uses a state-of-the-art diesel-electric propulsion system and the 900 sq metres of photovoltaic cells that cover the roof and sides provide about 20 per cent of the energy required to live on board. There are high-efficiency batteries to store energy, optimised thermal insulation, a system to recover lost energy and a smart consumption management system."

Though only a concept exists as a full-scale maquette in a boatyard in Ancona, Italy, they're ready to build one for you.

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€90–€100 million ($130 –$140 million).

February 4, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Toucan Opener

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$18.

February 4, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A nice way to begin a day...

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is with the following email: 

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Hello Joe,
 
I’m writing to you to draw your attention to a feature article we recently published over here at Health Expert Blog, titled “Top 50 Blogs by Physicians,” in case you hadn’t seen it yet. I thought you and your readers at bookofjoe might be interested in taking a look. Please let me know if you get any feedback.
 
Cheers!
James J. Atkinson
Health Expert Blog

February 4, 2010 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Manhattan with no horizon

Uptown

Created by BERG.

"Because the ability to be in a city and to see through it is a superpower, and it's how maps should work."

Downtown

A set of 2 limited-edition (1,000) prints (3 feet tall x 2 feet wide; 1 uptown and 1 downtown) costs $65.

[via Mike Beversluis]

February 4, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Typewar

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Just how much do you know about fonts, anyway?

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$1.99 at App stores everywhere.

[via beautylivesaboveus]

February 4, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Taylor Swift & Stevie Nicks 2010 Grammy Awards


Thank goodness for YouTube 'cause I missed it first time around.

February 4, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Truth Hurts Cards

2

"Letterpressed card

3

with envelope."

1

Apiece, $4.

[via Hurricane Vanessa]

February 4, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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