Friday, May 24, 2013

Working Apple 1 demo

Only 6 Apple 1s are thought to be still be working and 1 of those is going to be auctioned for what is expected to be a heap of cash! Last year another working Apple 1 also went up for auction and this video was made of it in action. Update : it sold for $671,000!

Another satellite hit by space debris?

It is feared the nano-satellite Pegaso (NEE-01 Pegaso), the first satellite owned by Ecuador, could have been damaged by space debris. It passed very close to the remains of a Soviet rocket still in orbit but it will take up to 48 hours to find out if the satellite has been damaged by the collision, any collision may have been a glancing blow.

The debris was from the upper stage of a Tsyklon-3 rocket.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The changes to Flickr

Flickr is my favourite social media site (though i think it firstly as a photo archiving and sharing site) so obviously the major redesign as unveiled yesterday was of interest. The changes have not gone down with long-time users of the site with thousands registering their dismay of the changes on the official forum (the news media didn't bother checking this on the whole, they just regurgitated the Yahoo press release about it being "awesome").

I don't like the changes that much but will adapt, hopefully feedback will be listened to and the changes can be tweaked though i do not expect there to be too much in the way of change. The main thing would be a bit more white space restored, the overall feel of the site is a bit oppressive and heavy now. I suspect the vision Yahoo have for Flickr differs somewhat from that of long-time users and pro users (the pro accounts are being phased out in any event).

No Flickr is not aimed at the pro anymore but will become yet another social photography sharing site. That is a shame as many users (including myself) have invested a lot of time and effort cataloging and curating our photography collections, sorting them into sets and collections, geotagging and labelling them. The new user interface either hides or does away with much of this organisation.

I guess this could be another step in the dumbing down of the internet and life in general. Organisation and choice lost and replaced by something glitzy you can't customise. Care and effort lost to be replaced by passive consumption. What i will probably do is make greater use of blogs to organise images and use Flickr more a repository. Of course that means one is relying on one's blog platform not disappearing, but maybe its time to explore a few other platforms to hedge one's bets...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Astronauts plug ISS leak

Two astronauts on the International Space Station have completed a 5 hour spacewalk in order to fix an ammonia leak which was detected on Thursday. The leak, in part of the station's cooling system to one of its solar arrays, was detected on Thursday when the crew saw white flakes floating away from the station and was fixed by replacing a pump controller with a spare unit. Although the station and crew were not in danger power supply from the array was affected and electricity had to be rerouted from elsewhere to keep all systems operating.
Photo from NASA

London in colour... in 1927

Pioneering British film maker Claude Frisse-Greene made a number of silent films showing life in the UK in the 1920s, one of which in London was filmed using the colour film he and his father William developed called the Friese-Greene Natural Colour process. Claude hoped the film could help publicise the process to Hollywood though in the end Technicolor won that battle. The British Film Institute have now released this film online, after performing computer enhancement to reduce flickering.

The Friese-Greene Natural Colour process grew out of William Frisse-Green's Biocolour. This was an additive colour film process. The subject was filmed using black and white film, the illusion of colour was created by exposing alternate frames of film through two colour filters. Each alternate frame is then stained red or green. Although this did give a passable illusion of true colour the films suffered from flickering and colour fringing especially if there was rapid motion. Additive colour films died out by the Second World War with subtractive colour processes like Kodachrome and Technicolor eventually becoming the norm.

The film shows a fascinating insight into normal everyday life in the capital. Buses, boats and lots of men in hats! The skyline of London is very different to today though at times the scene hardly seems to have changed that much at all.

London in 1927 from Tim Sparke on Vimeo.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Weapon Fail : Project 685 "Mike" submarine

The Soviet Project 685, known as "Mike" to NATO, was a singleton class of submarine which sank 5 years after commissioning and is now a radioactive time bomb under one of the richest fishing areas in the world off the coast of Norway...

The order to design the 685 was made in 1966 but it took nearly 20 years before K-278 (as the boat was numbered) entered service in 1984. The 685 was an experimental submarine designed to test a number of new technologies and design features including a double hull and stronger internal bulkheads. The inner hull being titanium. The 685 could dive notably deeper than any NATO submarine, down to 1250m. The 685 included a personal escape sphere built into the sail to allow the crew to escape if anything happened in the deep sea.

Despite all that 685 came a cropper in relatively shallow waters. On the 7th of April 1989 while at a depth of no more than 335m south west of Bear Island a fire broke out on board. Despite the watertight doors being closed the fire was able to spread via cables. The reactor was shut down and the submarine surfaced and most of the crew abandoned ship though many died of exposure. Several hours later the submarine sunk. In total 42 men died in the accident.

And 685 became a radiological hazard. As well as the reactor the 685 carried 2 torpedos armed with nuclear warheads. If there is a serious radioactive leak then rich fishing grounds off the coast of Norway could be ruined for centuries. Surveys of the wreck have indicated cracks along the hull but as yet no serious radioactive leak. The wreck has a large hole in it's torpedo compartment however. Sea water is said to be corroding the casings of the warheads and the submarine's hull. Some plutonium was detected to have leaked from one of the warheads in 1994.

As raising the wreck would likely be too risky the strategy instead has been to seal cracks in the hull. The hull is now said to be safe for 20 to 30 years. So thats ok then...

Friday, May 3, 2013

The return of Vectrex

Vectrex was one of a multitude of competing consoles in the early days of home video gaming. I vaguely remember the name but not a lot else (i didn't even get a 2600 until the early 21st century, thats how slow i am sometimes!) but Vectrex stood out for a number of reasons. For one it had its own built in screen, not relying on a TV (which means you could keep playing even if Mum wanted to watch her soaps). Vectrex was also vector based though a much simpler level than today's. Simple graphics were augmented by colour screen overlays. In 1984 after the disaster of the video game crash Vectrex disappeared...

To return now as an iOS app. TUAW have the following review and video. The app looks really nice, adding a lot of value to a simple emulator, even including vintage TV ads!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The voice of Alexander Graham Bell

Despite the fact his inventions like the telephone have helped billions of people hear others voices (and record voices) no one knew what Alexander Graham Bell's own voice sounded like (apart from people who knew him of course).

Now one of the earliest wax disc recordings from 1885 which comes complete with a written transcript by Bell has been scanned using a non-invasive optical sound recovery process and audio extracted by calculating how a stylus would move through the grooves of the disc. More details of the optical scanning can be seen here.