Saturday, September 29, 2007


The history of computer technology involves a sequence of changes to the functionality of the machines. One of the foremost of these changes is an evolution of computer’s size. The first Apple Macintosh was a bulky box with one floppy drive, a small screen and very limited processing capabilities. Then the first Apple laptop, which was a compact sleek box with, improved procession capabilities and the ability to run for a short period when it wasn’t plugged in. Finally the iPhone, while being a phone, it as many of the same computing capabilities as older computer– all in a very small box. In fact its capabilities have long surpassed those of the first Macintosh. All of these changes in computer’s physical size and associated increase in processing power were made possible because of the developments in design and manufacturing of computer chips- they have become smaller and more powerful. The possibility for these chips to be so small is because they will be designed and manufactured using a new technology, which is being called nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology refers to the design of devices on a very fine (small) scale. The best way to look at nanotechnology is to focus on computer chip design. Use of this technology will allow the designing and creating of a chip that is smaller in physical size what we have right now, but at the same time that is more powerful. If computer chips are “larger” in terms of physical dimensions, we can put fewer of them into a computer – resulting in smaller processing capabilities, or if we want to have more processing power, we need to have a bigger “box” to accommodate them. Nanotechnology allows us to design chips on a much smaller (1 nano) physical scale. When this is accomplished, the computer chip can be much smaller but with the same or even bigger power then the current one. This means that we will be able to put more of these chips into computers increasing their power and thus allowing users to run more complex applications. This also allows for very unconventional use of “computers. For example, imagine a “smart” coat, which would be equipped with nanochips (mini computers), that could register the weather temperature, humidity and body warmth. Then based on the calculations performed by these nanochips, the coat would be equipped with the ability to automatically adjust the fiber density to suit both body and external conditions.

If nanotechnology has the ability to help in creating such items as a “smart coat”, why it did not find its place on the marketplace? This is because nanotechnology is still in its developmental stage. Nevertheless, nanotechnology finds its place in the development of such ordinary items as sunscreen, cosmetics, food products and packaging, clothing, disinfectants, household appliances, surface coatings, paints and outdoor furniture varnishes. These items rely on a particular aspect of nanotechnology – namely a knowledge and ability of combining the particles. These applications still come with some concern because some believe that nanomaterials have the potential to be toxic to humans and the environment.

Nanotechnology is allowing organizations the opportunity to invest in a new and exciting technology, which has the potential for great returns. Their reasons for investment would be, that forward-looking companies would be able to think about future products that would rely on nanotechnology. Once created these products will become market leaders. In addition to the ability for nanotechnology to create new products for companies there is a great potential for funding to support their ventures. Nonetheless many social scientists believe that the technology will have larger social implications and has the potential to aggravate the financial and technological gap between developed and developing countries. This is because developing countries will not be able to join in the technological race and not be able to take advantage of the funding available to primarily the North American countries.


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Multi-Touch Technology

Earlier this year when Steve Jobs demonstrated Apple's new phone at Macworld, the feature that captivated the world’s attention was the touch-screen. Otherwise known as multi-touch, it is a technology which facilities human-computer interaction- by the user directly touching symbols/icons on a touch-sensitive screen. A multi-touch screen has multiple synchronized touch points and is backed up by software, which is able to interpret these touches. However Apple’s iPhone is not the only device using multi-touch technology, the full power of the technology is realized on a much larger scale.

A large-scale multi-touch screen was a project started several years ago by Jeff Han who was a research scientist at New York University. It was a breakthrough for touch-screen technology that was introduced earlier for the use in tablet PCs and personal digital assistants (PDAs). When this technology was introduced it fell victim of too many limitations and clumsy recognition of a touch area – ultimately making it not popular with the customers However, Mr. Han was able to over come these limitations and propose multi-touch screen solution thus significantly increasing the flexibility and versatility of this data entry mode. Apple and the iPhone further advanced it to the point where it allows end-user to zoom in or out using two fingers in a continuous manner providing a more direct mapping than with a single-point device like a mouse.

In coming years it is expected that applications ranging from interactive whiteboards to touch-screen tables will be introduced. All of these new devices when combined with the applications could allow large-scale collaboration among people. Such collaborations could take many forms, from animation collaborations at which six hands can mould the face of a monster to helping patients who have experienced a stroke to learn and perform simple motor function using interaction made possible by the multi-touch screens. For organizations, multi-touch screens will allow them to have global interactive brainstorming sessions through a network of multi-touch whiteboards.

Not only will multi-touch screen change the way businesses interact with each other, but also it should revolutionize the way in which the citizen interacts with their own technology. This last point can be exemplified by how Apple updated its classic iPod to the iPod Touch, a multi-touch-screen mp3 player. Also since Apple’s introduction of the iPhone there has been wide spread rumor that the company will introduce new iMac computer where multi-touch technology replaces classical.

Despite all the advantages of multi-touch, there is a downside to this technology. The initial cost of the new technology can be seen as a major issue, especially for personal users. With Apple’s iPhone already costing users $300.00 (US) or more, the price is significantly higher than what average cell phone costs. There is also a possibility that users will wait to buy this new technology once the ‘bugs’ have been weeded out. If this is the case some would worry that multi-touch phones could find the same fate as touch-screen PDA’s did several years ago. The popularity of Apple’s new forays into multi-touch technology however seem to win skeptic customers and it might be expect that multi-touch screens will have a wide-spread user base.


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The term mashup is used to describe the musical form of combining two or more songs but more recently it has taken on a whole new meaning. The software community has adopted this term to refer to a new wave in software engineering. Software mashups were developed to bring together information (content) coming from completely independent and different applications into one cohesive application. Each time mashup application is invoked the end-user receives new content. A typical example is the use of map data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data from Craigslist to create a mashup that provides visual representation of a real estate market ( Mash-ups have become so popular that within the past couple of years that sites have been dedicated to the creation of software mashups. Even better there is a Mashup Camp, which first took place in Silicon Valley in February 2006 where participants learn and exchange views about their mashup applications.

Applicability of software mashup is almost unlimited. For example, ChicagoCrime, took police data for crime incidents and this data on street maps from Google Maps. Now, if am person was planning to visit an area she/he doesn’t know, it is possible to check in advance whether it is a safe place. A relevant probable mash-up for students, could feature the integration of data from the evaluations of professors by students with course sequencing, creating a sort of “map” of good professor. This map would allow students to select his/her courses maximizing the chances of being taught by a professor perceived by the students to be a “good one”. The problem that could arise with this new technology could be related to bringing together disparity of data sources and presenting it in a very personal context. For example combining Facebook data with student’s class list could result in repository of potentially very personal information about individuals that wasn’t authorized by them. Even though this information is public it is not meant to be publicized. It is this kind of privacy breach where mash-ups should become a concern.

For personal users, mashups phenomenon is allowing them the opportunity to turn their mashups into a career. For example, Dom Ramsey, who developed a successful photo-sharing/photo-blogging site at What started as a hobby for him turned into a profitable venture when he sold it. As personal users experiment to find out what the different uses for mashups are, organizations can start to view them as a growing asset. Mashups allow companies to compile the information from multiple sources in order to provide a new insight into operations or a specific market. This allows for a much more customized user system. "What makes mashups really different is that you don't need to be a rocket scientist…" The ease needed to create mashups allows for organizations to tap into the vast pool of people who are creative and do not necessarily need to have software engineering background. Mash-ups will become an opportunity for organizations and personal users alike to create customized software, which can satisfy their needs.


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June 18th, 2006.

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November 17, 2005.

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Software Mashup of the Day.