The village of Lulongo has no electricity. To keep his phone business going, Charles has to travel half a day to charge his phone at a significant cost. The village phone program initiated by Solio, a company with a clever tagline – ‘plug into the sun’, is helping African villages without electricity, to have access to phone technology, providing them with a new means of electricity rather than relying on dung, kerosene and crop waste which can cause phenomenal indoor air pollution, resulting in pneumonia, chronic respiratory disease and lung cancer. Solio is available online to everyone who wants to start trading in their electricity plug for solar power. Whenever and wherever you need power, Solio is there for you. Its unique design, which can easily fit in your back pocket, can be used to charge your electrical equipment when you’re travelling. Other great solar powered travel accessories are available from Powermonkey. Power to the people!
This weekend, Apple’s take-back program continues in Australia, accepting unwanted and damaged computers, laptops, monitors and computer related peripherals. Since their first take-back initiative began in Germany in 1994, Apple have launched programs in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and throughout Europe, diverting over 34 million pounds of electronic equipment from landfills worldwide. Check here to see what is accepted and where. I can only assume other brands of computer equipment are accepted. I remember when I was growing up, the family computer was a Mac (with the colourful apple as a logo) and the hard-drive had to load off a hard-disk totalling 1.44MB. I wonder if we still have it…
Get in touch with your inner computer geek, next weekend at the Kelvin Grove QUT Creative Industries Precinct where technology will be celebrated at the Next Level Festival. It’s a free program of events happening from the Friday 26th to Sunday 28th October, with music and multi-media performances, movies, stalls, exhibitions, competitions and arcade games. We use technology and computers so much we hardly even think about how it filters into our lives and urban environments. A keynote session is “Stranger than Fiction – The real time city” which will explore how sensors and hand-held electronics are changing the way we describe, understand and design cities and the impact of technology has on the physical structure and spaces of our cities. This session highlights the very interesting and innovative work of the SENSEable City Laboratory, a new research initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
It would have been rather interesting if Next Level also talked about creative solutions to address the often overlooked issue of e-waste that comes with the advancement of technology. Funnily enough, that very same weekend, Apple are doing their bit to address this by offering free computer recycling around Brisbane. Looks like Apple might have listened to Greenpeace who have been asking them to “Green My Apple”.
Time-crunched lasses and gents who like to stay looking good but can rarely spare the time to browse the plethora of skincare and grooming stores for the ultimate moisturiser, serum, fragrance, gloss, etc., will be relieved to hear that kit: has finally launched its online retail space. For those who haven’t yet discovered the glorious wonders of kit:, it could be best described as a grooming-inspired candy store for grown-ups. The younger, sassier offering from the people who bring you Mecca Cosmetica (if Mecca were Barbie/Batman, then kit: would be Skipper/Robin), kit: is a one-stop shop for some of the world’s most coveted beauty products, including Antipodes, Cowshed, Korres, Mudlark, Jemma Kid, Task Essential and Too Faced, to name but a smattering. With an infinite range and speedy delivery, you’ll no longer have to slink out of the office after a hard day’s work, just praying that nobody catches a glimpse of your dishevelled appearance.
From the source: Pecha Kucha (which is Japanese for the sound of conversation) has tapped into a demand for a forum in which creative work can be easily and informally shown, without having to rent a gallery or chat up a magazine editor. This is a demand that seems to be global – as Pecha Kucha Night, without any pushing, has spread virally to over 80 cities across the world. Find a location and join the conversation.
Tonight that conversation is taking place at the Powerhouse from 8pm. The key to Pecha Kucha Night is its patented system for avoiding this fate. Each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each – giving 6 minutes 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up. This keeps presentations concise, the interest level up, and gives more people the chance to show. Go, sip, meet, question, laugh, learn.
It may just be one of the rudest social customs of late, but talking with bluetooth headsets are well and truly becoming second nature. For those who wish to join the robot race or simply improve their current adaptation, the new Jawbone bluetooth device is for you. Designed by Yves Behar, the curved encasing shapes to either side of your face and the inside is lined in metal grade plastic, for smooth contact with your skin. But these are mere additions to the true value of the product. Featuring a revolution in noise shield technology, the device virtually eliminates all background noise from your call with just the push of a button. As background noise changes it also seamlessly adjusts the speaker output so you can hear your caller’s voice better. It was IT review website CNET‘s highest rated bluetooth headset ever, and is now being sold in conjunction with Apple’s iphone. Watch the effective demo here. Just think what we’ll be using in ten and twenty years.
Set to launch in October, the UK’s PC World announces the first truly carbon-neutral mass-market PC, which is said to use between 13 and 17 % of the energy consumed by a standard desktop PC. And its manufacturers hope that its release could signal the reverse of our growing trend to embrace and devour power-hungry appliances, with little thought to their environmental effects.
Bringing back last century’s ‘push button’ technology, this PC negates the need for LED power lights. The hard drive doesn’t contain an internal fan, as the power pack sits externally like a laptop, reducing the need for cooling. External casing is made from recycled materials like aluminium drink cans and used plastics. And the piece de resistance is the wooden screen, mouse and keyboard casings, made from plantation beech, ash or sapele grown in Africa, Germany and the US. (more…)
The Benetton Group, most widely remembered for its publishing of thought provoking advertisements, is an international clothing brand started by three brothers and a sister; Luciano, Carlo, Gilberto and Giuliana Benetton, in 1965. What might not be widely known is that Fabrica, is Benetton’s communication research centre, and was created in 1994 from Benetton’s cultural heritage. Fabrica is housed in a stunning building by Japanese architect Tadao Ando and is situated outside Treviso in Northern Italy. Fabrica is described by itself as a meeting place. “Meetings between people, of course, but also between artistic fields, languages, forms of expression, territories”. Each year a group of young people are invited from all over the world, and dedicate, through photography, design, music, video, writing, interactive and visual communication, to uncover the future. Interestingly applicants must be under the age of 25 years. If successful, you will be asked to attend a two week trial period and if you are liked, a one year contract/scholarship will be offered including a return trip from your city, accommodation, lunch from Monday to Friday, health insurance and a monthly allowance to cover living expenses. William Barton attended in 2005 and created Songlines with three percussionists. Who wants to speak Italian?
We hear it every day – all the ways we could be saving energy if we just took the time to turn off the lights when we leave a room, stop lingering in front of an open fridge for so long, or to switch off our computer when we’re not using it. But if you haven’t yet managed to incorporate such energy-frugal behaviours into your lifestyle, here’s a good place to start. Last year, blogger Mark Ontkush wrote a post about how much energy Google could save if it had a black screen. You see, according to Mark’s calculations, when your screen is white – whether it’s a blank word document or the Google homepage – your computer consumes around 74 watts, but when it is black, it consumes only 59 watts. Taking into account the huge number of page views, Mark calculated that up to 750 mega watts/hour per year would be saved. In response to the post, Google has created a black version of its search engine, called Blackle, which exhibits the same functions as the original version, but with lower energy consumption. And while it’s a small step, it’s definitely one in the right direction.
The post-it phenomenon. In an attempt to help us keep track of those little odd jobs we need to accomplish, we attained the ability to stick reminders wherever we wanted. But with a mass of yellow squares across your monitor, they can start to become part of the scenery and their relevance is forgotten. Back to the notebook, where each day starts a new to-do list, putting the unfinished list of yesterday to the depths of pages past.
We have PDAs, Outlook calendars and diaries which manage appointments rather well, but what about the little things along the way that get left to the last minute? Can we consolidate everything in our lives we have to do?
As long as you Remember the Milk, you might have more success. A free online to-do list creator and task manager, there’s something fun and unique about this approach. I’m just wondering how much of my time I spend on updating the list, where other things could be done. Everything in moderation, I guess, even milk
It comes as no surprise to those who have witnessed my many outfits over the years that along with my predilection for shoes and clothes, I am a confessed bag addict. It is an infatuation that I can trace back to two standouts from my younger years. One was a grey Miffy coin purse that rarely left my side as its little seams bulged with the small one and two cent coins donated by generous adults. The purse disappeared around the time I could no longer zip it up. I wouldn’t dare point any fingers but I’m sure one of my three older brothers had a hand in its disappearance. The other fave was a palm-sized and crescent-shaped handbag my parents brought back from a holiday in Hong Kong. (more…)
From Toyota.com: In 1800, Alessandro Volta arranged zinc and copper discs in a column and invented the battery. 204 years later, Toyota has electrified automotive history with the first high-performance hybrid, named in his honor. The Giugiaro-designed carbon-fiber body seats three people abreast and features “drive-by-wire” controls, allowing you to position the steering wheel and pedals in front of any one of them. And the Volta’s 408-hp Hybrid Synergy Drive® (a 3.3-litre V6 with an electric motor for each axle) not only delivers 435 miles on a 13.7-gallon tank, but 0-60 (or 95.56 km/hour) acceleration in a mere four seconds. Somewhere, Count Volta is smiling.
To prove that hybrid technology can be used in a high-performance vehicle, the Volta can reach a top speed of 155 mph (249 km/hour). It won’t compete with Lamborghini or Ferrari with that top speed, but it uses a lot less gas. There’s no word yet on how much one of these sleek hybrids will set you back or even when it will be released, but it’s good news that being green is getting sexier..
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NwfGA4cxJQ[/youtube]There are 1.8 million named species on this planet, and the water is rising. Despite many species being at risk through extinction and millions more yet to identify, it is still an impossibly big list of creatures great, small and microscopic. Nevertheless, an ambitious project called The Encyclopedia of Life has recently been funded with an aim to catalogue every single critter in an accessible, comprehensive ‘ecosystem of websites’. Birdwatchers, biology students and science buffs will be counting down the days til its release. However, judging by the stunning imagery in the promo clip above, it will be a source of inspiration for all homo sapiens.
Thanks to Wikipedia, we can not only have limitless knowledge at our fingertips; we can create it, edit it, share it, take it or leave it. The web-based software that makes this possible is now being applied in a revolutionary filmmaking project, directed by Matt Hanson. His project is imaginatively called A Swarm of Angels and aims to create a big-budget digital feature film online with the participation of 50,000 artists, technicians, script-writers and film buffs. Facilitating such a massive participatory community (or ‘swarm’) has to be somewhat of a benevolent dictatorship, Hanson admits, but the intention is to encourage as much contribution as possible. Currently, for example, a competition is being run to design the poster for the film, using the image above. As the project develops, users will continue to vote on decisions, suggest edits to the script, submit video or actually be part of the production team. When the film is finished, it will be distributed for free and open for remixing under the copywriting innovation known as Creative Commons. As a non-profit project reliant on the funding of the users, the Hollywood machine is bypassed, and decisions are made according to artistic notions, not financial ones. With nearly 10,000 ‘angels’ already in the swarm, filmmakers and viewers alike are clearly spreading their wings.
I am constantly reminded of the significant beauty in the world both in life and death and yesterday was another one of those days. I celebrated a friend’s birthday with the wonderfully crazy idea of breakfast on top of Mt Warning. As we began the journey at 4am, the much-needed draw card to get to the top was stove-top espresso and fresh French Twist pastries. This incentive was much-needed as I was carrying my 15kg boy Jasper in a backpack and as we soon found out, a huge physical challenge! As we slowly stepped the muddy track in darkness with head torches, I was deep in thought and respect for our diggers and also, as painful as it was, the beauty and sheer joy of carrying my son on my back – strange dichotomy! The journey took about two and a half hours to the top and for all that time I got to share his baby space – a multitude of cute sounds. The highlight was as I listened to him copy the bird calls that began to sound as dusk broke. There was something incredibly peaceful in my pain knowing that I was going to get him to the top no matter what it took. It made me feel happy and alive. Beauty, pain, ANZACs, death, nature, the solar system, trees, climate change, war, love, forest, friends, love, life… so many thoughts ran through my head as I trekked to the top and back. (more…)
I have something to confess. I was in the middle of writing a piece opposing online profile sites and their proliferation in today’s society. I waxed lyrical about how impersonal these profile sites are, how they cultivate a culture of communicating solely in an electronic environment and how they have caused a decrease in face to face interaction between people. I had read a few articles of similar ilk, profiling people all over the world who had a strong online presence through websites such as myspace, wayn and facebook. I couldn’t understand that somebody would want to put such personal information on the internet for all to see. Personal photos, details of your relationship status, age, high school etc.
Sure, people see it as an easy and efficient way to keep in contact with a large number of friends all over the world. One article used this analogy: you wouldn’t call thirty of your best friends in one evening, yet you could log onto myspace or facebook and touch base with them all in a fraction of the time. Another article blamed the phenomenon on the culture of narcissism today, especially amongst teenagers and Gen Y. What better way to adhere to the ‘It’s all about me’ ethos of a generation than create a site dedicated to yourself? (more…)
I had a job interview a few weeks ago. I met Tina, the office manager and we clicked. I articulated my skills for the job well, Tina smiled and nodded approvingly and asked me back for a second interview. I had the job in the bag. On the second interview, I met Larry, the general manager and was asked to sit a ‘wealth test’. It was a computer-generated multi-choice of about 30 questions. It cost $150 US. I thought this was a little strange, yet completed the test, giving completely honest answers. The questions seemed fairly standard. I felt quietly confident that the role was mine. After completing the test, pages and pages of results were printed, detailing my wealth profile. She explained to me that these results revealed the ‘type’ of person I was, to identify the field of work I should be engaging in, according to my ‘path of least resistance’ to success. In their terms, success meant ‘making money.’
The power of great design and great designers is to deal with all the simple and challenging elements within our built environment. Before you jump to conclusions with the headline, there are two designers that I would like to introduce you to. Maaike Evers and Mike Simonian from mike and maaike inc are an innovative duo who have added their touch to many products in our world. Positioning their company ‘as a resource for experimental design, progressive ideas and unexpected solutions for products, furniture and environments’, no wonder they were asked to work on the design of the XBox 360, along with offering a design solution to a nuclear waste site. Winner of the Bulletin’s ‘Plutonium Memorial Design Competition’ Mike and Maaike wanted to address the issue of 70000 tonnes of nuclear waste being dumped at a remote site in Nevada at Yucca Mountain. Why need a remote location if it is so safe? They wanted to raise the issue by suggesting a memorial that would contain 500 tonnes of nuclear waste next to the White House. A very clever use of design to raise an important environmental issue.
The recent boom of everything mini – iPods, mobile phones, cars and even living spaces – means we all now live a slightly more minimalist existence. But the one exception, for women at least, is the laptop. While they’re a lot smaller than they used to be, portable computers are still that little bit too chunky to slip into your purse. Yes, it’s true – men now have the manbag (ahem, that is, the satchel), which is perfectly sized for housing your laptop while ensuring that you still remain rakishly styled, but for women, it’s still a bit of a challenge. Enter the Ultra Mobile PC – an attractive little laptop that puts even the cutest mac books to shame and folds up lithely into a CD-case-sized square. While this clever computer won’t suit everyone (its 7” OLED screen makes designing layouts a little cumbersome), it supports most professional applications and has a built-in DVD drive for entertainment and gaming. Its design, a collaborative effort between Antenna Design and Fujitsu, recently won an IF Product Design Award and marks the beginning of an entirely new wave of laptop design. Now the only thing to do is find a purse that matches…
You may be already aware of the well-known online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. A new site has recently challenged Wikipedia and the ‘liberal bias’ which is apparently inherent in its listings.
Conservapedia (catchy, no?) was developed in November 2006 in response to the ‘leftisms’ throughout the information on the Wikipedia site, providing a conservative alternative. Visually, the site looks and feels just like Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is mentioned (and defiled) extensively throughout it. Conservapedia pitch themselves as “….an online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America….You will much prefer using Conservapedia compared to Wikipedia if you want concise answers free of political correctness….Conservapedia is a much-needed alternative to Wikipedia, which is increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American.”