Category: Hardware


GPS Starts Failing in 2010?

Switched online is reporting an article in the UK’s The Guardian that GPS satellites could begin to fail as early as 2010.  They note that the Air Force maintains the satellite network and was supposed to launch the first replacement in 2007… which it promtly didn’t do.  The satellites have been up there for up to 20 years, so they’re about due for a replacement.  The Guardian is certainly targeted at a more general audience so it’s not suprising they’re missing some details.  For instance, there are a LOT of GPS satellites up there, so the loss of a few isn’t the end of the technology.  Also, the LANDSAT program proves that satellites are often built “like they use to” as the euphamism goes.  Still, it’s a good reminder that a lot of the basic technology infrastructure on which we all rely needs to be maintained every bit as much as roads and bridges.

Broadband Providers Teaming to Outlaw Community Broadband in NC

I should start by saying I’m not even going to pretend to not be biased on this issue.  The community of Wilson, NC decided that they were tired of paying so much for so little with regard to broadband and cable.  So what’s an industrious community who’s tired of their contractor to do?  Well do it there darn self, that’s what.  Turns out they offered a better product for less than either major cable company could.  So what’s a cable company to do?  Lobby the state legislature to make that type of stuff illegal!  Personally, I’m a big supporter of community broadband, especially in markets where the cable companies don’t want to complete.  I find this trend rather flustrating and disappointing.  I understand the point about private/public competition, but if the private isn’t willing to compete, why should the public be prohibited by law from doing so?

Media Vehicle – Virtual Reality Mecha Style

For those of you who have always wanted to pilot your own giant mecha battle robot, Japanese researchers have taken another step toward the dream with the development of the Media Vehicle (site is in Japanese), which is a pod-like personal VR chamber that envelopes the user in a spherical display with no access to outside stimuli, while leaving the legs free to move. Definitely not for claustrophobics, but it’s still a pretty amazing machine.

Video of the Media Vehicle in action


Want your own supercomputer – just grab some PS3s!

Last year, scientists such as Physics professor Gaurav Khanna of UMass Dartmouth and Frank Mueller, a computer science professor at NC State, made news in tech and scientific circles by creating supercomputing clusters from Sony Playstation 3s. Their clusters have the same computing power as a small supercomputer, but the cost is only around $5000, compared to the millions that supercomputers generally cost.

Now, the new PS3Cluster Guide has become available online, and gives instructions and tips on how you can set up your own supercomputer with PS3s. Written by Khanna and his colleague Chris Poulin, the guide was developed as part of the Cluster Workshop project, which is being partially funded by the National Science Foundation. and was first announced and demonstrated at the 2nd Annual Georgia Tech, Sony/Toshiba/IBM Workshop on Software and Applications for the Cell/B.E. Processor.

So, get your spare change together and start supercomputing!


Broadband Data Collection Bill Passed

Ars Technica is reporting that Congress has finally passed the broadband data collection bill. As any good geographer will tell you, normally the first step in figuring out where you want to go is knowing where you’re at. That’s more or less the spirit of this bill. The fact of the matter is that we have terrible knowledge about broadband availability in the US. The data is spotty and misleading. Hopefully this bill will help rectify that, particularly in the mapping arena. No details about standards and how all of this is going to happen, but hopefully those will be quickly forthcoming.

Spidey-tracer legal?

A while back we talked about how the LAPD was working on an attachable GPS unit for tracking suspects. CNN has a story on the use of GPS for tracking suspects using GPS in a real world situation, but with a twist (and a video). The report wonders whether the use of trackers without a warrant is legal. Spatial Law recently commented on a related article from the Washington Post. This is a long standing issue related to privacy and spatial data which continues to not have a clear legal or ethical answer and often leads to several questions on many projects. Take a minute to consider the issue at hand with the use of GPS in law enforcement and let us know what you think.

Is GPS a high-tech crime-fighting tool or Big Brother? –

Of course you have to love the 007 footage blended into the beginning of the report.

Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day!

Anyone who’s worked in GIS with more than two people can tell you that one person is critical to keeping all this stuff working…. the system administrator. Today happens to be the 9th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day! The sys admin is normally the person you call when things go all kablewie, so you’re normally too freaked out to give him or her a pat on the shoulder in thanks. Take some time out today to find that person and give this a hearty thanks for their work. Remember, it takes all of a few minutes for an unhappy sys admin to make your life much less productive, as the good people of San Francisco recently found out.

A New GPS System…. On the Moon?

Engadget is reporting an interesting new system that’s being created. Researchers over at Ohio State University (a hop, skip, and 4 hour drive from here) are attempting to make a GPS like system for navigation on the moon. The system is supposed to be ready by 2020, and the linked article from Engadget’s site says the team is working on making lunar navigation less frustrating than its terrestrial counterpart. The quotes state they’re hoping “to avoid the stress of getting lost, or getting frustrated with the equipment” with their research. As one who’s dealt with technology gadgets pretty much his whole life, I wish the researchers luck, but I have to say that’s one big charge to take on. Here’s hoping some of their research makes it back to the consumer side before 2020!

More location iStuff

So Sue has the iPhone 3G and I was FINALLY able to upgrade the iPod Touch to the 2.0 firmware. I am quite happy with the number of times that the devices have asked to use the location settings. The camera and maps are the two Apple apps that use the location info and I have downloaded most of the location aware apps…at least the free ones…so far. Many people have been hating on the lack of telenav-like turn by turn directions, but with the Google routes through the Map app and your current position blinking on screen it is great for areas you now well enough, though a dash mounting will be good if you don’t have a person in the passenger seat to convey the directions. While I am editing a quick video run through of the iPhone location capabilities for VSTV Episode 35 we haven’t had a chance to do a side-by-side with Frank’s Windows Mobile based phone like I had hoped. Click through the break to see a few screen grabs from some of the iPhone location apps.
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Largest Self-Portrait in the World!

Created with DHL shipping company and the help of GPS! It spans nearly every continent and shows a pretty elaborate path. While this might seem flippant, I think it shows an important intersection of technology and art. Anyone familiar with ancient maps can see the obvious art there, but I can’t say I’ve ever thought of art and GPS in the same sentence before!

Via Gizmodo

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