How does an aeroplane’s ‘black box’ work?

After doing a little research, I can now tell you (basically) everything you ever wanted to know about black boxes…

In the average commercial aircraft, you’ll find the presence of multiple (usually four) microphones in the cockpit at any given time. They are located in the pilot and co-pilot’s headsets, as well as in the cockpit itself. Not only do these microphones record conversations between the pilots and cabin crew, they also record any ambient noise (such as switches being thrown or sounds generated by technical issues). The microphones all connect to the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), a master unit that stores the last 30 minutes of sound. The tape operates on a loop, essentially erasing itself every half hour. Continue reading

what are mp3 audio files

I am a vinyl fan. You’ve never heard of most of my favourite bands, and if you have, you won’t like them. Modern music leaves me extremely cold. I’m a fan of most styles, but the current production methods (lets bury everything under a million layers of random sounds just because we can, then we’ll get rid of all background sound and make everything pitch-perfect and soulless) are lost on me. 

As you can imagine, I came to MP3 rather late. For the longest time I wandered around with a portable CD player in my pocket that skipped if I moved even a step too fast. It ran on batteries that would run out regularly and was, generally, a pain. However, I persevered with it because I’m a compulsive music addict. The rock, blues, folk and reggae tunes I listen to daily are the soundtrack to my life.  Continue reading

Tech We’d Like To See: The Dead Actor’s Studio

Imagine a young Marlon Brando starring alongside Johnny Depp, or Audrey Hepburn playing rival to Sandra Bullock as Marilyn Monroe stops by for a catty cameo.

Depending on how you look at it, this is either tantalizing ‘fantasy film making’ or else an utterly horrible, cash-in exercise in Hollywood excess. Whatever your viewpoint, it does seem likely that someone, somewhere will try this in the near future.

About three years ago, the news broke that George Lucas, the genius behind the ‘Star Wars’ merchandise (and a couple of related movies), was buying up the likeness rights to a plethora of iconic, yet deceased, leading men and famous actresses from Hollywood’s golden age. His plan? To use a concoction of existing footage, CGI and motion capture to create reasonable facsimiles of classic Hollywood stars and have them appear in future films, despite the notable handicap of being, well, dead. Continue reading

Yahoo! Becomes ‘Yikes!’ as Recycled Accounts Relay Sensitive Information to the Wrong People

Yahoo!’s policy of recycling inactive email accounts has backfired on them, as new account owners are receiving personal emails that aren’t meant for them. 

The policy, active since June, means that Yahoo IDs and addresses are reassigned to a new user if left inactive for a year or more. But obviously both Yahoo! and some of its users got more than they bargained for. Continue reading

What is Ham Radio & How Does it Work?

Ham radio (so called because its operators were originally derided as being ‘hammy’ in the 19th century, when the technology first emerged) is a term that applies to any form of amateur radio broadcasting.

 

There are designated radio frequency spectra available solely for public use. Uses range from recreation to communication and the non-commercial exchange of ideas. ‘Hams’ take advantage of these frequencies in order to transmit any number of things Continue reading

Tablet Wars: Who’s Xooming Whom?

Essential Services, Essential Technology, Radios at Oil & Gas Plants

Oil and gas are natural resources, but obtaining them isn’t as simple as planting a seed in a patch of arable land. Today, hundreds of thousands of miles of oil and gas pipeline run all over the world, sometimes covering some of the most inhospitable environments known to man.

 

Pipelines that run above ground offer many advantages to oil & gas companies. They are cheaper to build, easier to repair, far simpler to maintain and a lot safer for the environment. However, that same environment also has no qualms about wreaking havoc on the lines, neither do politically motivated saboteurs or occasional wanton vandals who commonly make their presence felt in such places. A pipeline is a complex and intricate operation, which means that in order for everything to go right, nothing can be allowed to go wrong. Continue reading

Inform, Entertain and Educate, Two-Way Radios in Broadcasting

The disparity between how easy it is to watch a television program and how difficult it is to make one is truly staggering.

Outdoor shoots are often rushed, always difficult and dependent on a number of factors completely outside of any Human control (principally: the weather). Managing a live broadcast outdoors is a difficult job that only highly trained professionals are properly equipped to deal with.

Mistakes can cost huge sums of money and even jobs to be lost in an instant. As a result, it is of absolutely paramount importance that an outdoor shoot runs as smoothly as possible. It is not possible to control all the variables in this equation, therefore the factors that are controllable need to be handled with a great deal of care and attention. Continue reading

With touchscreen technology entering into our houses, is their still a place for the computer mouse

In the era of touch-screens, styluses and those weird little Nokia plectrum dealies (what is up with those exactly?) we have to ask questions about the future of the humble mouse. Is he now considered vermin? Do we cast him aside, banishing him to the world of grammar phones, 8-track tapes and pet rocks?

The other night, I watched Star Trek IV (yeah, the one with the whales) and apart from the fact that it had aged considerably better than the vast majority of mid 80’s movies, I noticed one thing in particular. Mr. Scott, when faced with a 20th Century computer, had no idea what a mouse was. At first, he considers it to be some sort of audio device and talks into it.  Have we always considered the mouse a means to an end? A necessary device that will be outmoded by progress? Considering this, I thought about more science fiction (increasingly where we draw our designs for contemporary technology from) and realized that appearances by any sort of hand-held computer interfaces were limited almost exclusively to communications devices and those wrist-things (even then they talked into them more than they pushed buttons) So, are the little mouse’s days numbered?

Laptops tend to use those funny little black pads (though many people attach mice to them for convenience) and whilst I doubt this idea will spread to PC, the current crop of hi-tech gadgets and gizmos are effectively cutting out our ‘mousefied middle men’ and moving steadily into the realm of touch screens and direct Human contact. How long before voice recognition? I can’t say, but I am excited about the idea of a holodeck.

The thing is; the keyboard and mouse pretty much have to be separate from the computer unit itself. Even if I had a touch screen computer, I can’t imagine sitting here and writing this article by tapping on the glass. If the computer were upright and touch-operated (not unlike those in the movie Avatar) it would still not allow me to type words for any length of time (and voice recording would be no substitute for typing anyway). So we’ve surmised that the keyboard has got to stay. What would happen if we had a touch screen and a keyboard but no mouse? Would civilisation decline? Actually, I doubt it, but I do think it would be inconvenient and take a lot of getting used to.

So is the computer mouse a dead technology? Not as far as I can see. But are the tides of progress threatening to wash over its shores? Quite possibly, however, this would involve a fairly drastic re-design of the home computer set up and such a venture always carries risks, so I think its safe the say the mouse is safe for a few years yet. Now when are they going to get around to that holodeck?