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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Future technology predictions...from the past

January 3, 2011
by Mark Ollig

I started typing this column focusing on predictions about the new high-tech devices we might see this year.

While yours truly was methodically punching the keys on the QWERTY board, an unexpected pause occurred.

Seeing the words appearing on the screen I shook my head and thought “Let’s take this first-of-the-year column in a different direction.”

“Alright, so what would be interesting? How about a look at ‘past future predications’ and see how those turned out,” I reasoned.

And with that as our new subject, we are off and running.

Lee De Forest, who invented the Audion vacuum tube in 1906, made this interesting prediction related to space travel in 1926 “To place a man in a multi-stage rocket and project him into the controlling gravitational field of the moon where the passengers can make scientific observations, perhaps land alive, and then return to earth – all that constitutes a wild dream worthy of Jules Verne. I am bold enough to say that such a man-made voyage will never occur, regardless of all future advances.”

In July 1969, the men of Apollo 11 accomplished this feat as described by De Forest.

It is also interesting to note that Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to travel into space April 12, 1961.

Lee De Forest would die a little more than two months later, June 30, 1961, at the age of 87.

De Forest did live long enough to have seen a man travel into space.

We find even popular national newspapers can miss with their predictions.

In 1936, the New York Times wrote “A rocket will never leave the Earth’s atmosphere.”

Just 10 years later, Oct. 24, 1946, one of Germany’s captured V2 missile rockets was launched by the US from New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range. The missile was equipped with a 35-millimeter motion film picture camera and reached a height of 65 miles in three minutes.

The camera recorded the first views of the Earth ever seen from space.

The “flying camera” would take a new picture frame every second and a half as it ascended above the Earth’s atmosphere.

The missile and camera fell back and crashed into the Earth at 500 miles an hour.

The camera itself was destroyed, but the film inside was protected by a hardened steel case.

A Universal News film of this event was made and can be seen at

During 1946, Darryl F. Zanuck, a movie producer and the studio executive who started 20th Century Films and then later bought out Fox Studios to become 20th Century Fox, said, “(Television) won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

Of course, we all know what became of that plywood box.

This week at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show, the very first 3D television is scheduled to be presented, which does not require those cumbersome 3D glasses to view it with.

Yes, faithful readers, the first “naked-eye” 3D television is about to be made public.

In 1943, IBM founder Thomas J. Watson Sr. was reported to have made this prediction, “I think there is a world market for, maybe, five computers.”

In checking the latest Gartner research figures, it is predicted during 2011, that 352.4 million personal computers will be sold.

If we include all tablet devices like the iPad and others, the total is estimated to be over 400 million computing devices.

Popular Mechanics magazine made this futuristic prediction in 1949, “Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons.”

Recently, I checked and found today’s 11-inch MacBook Air computer weighs in at a fit and trim 2.3 pounds.

Time magazine wrote in 1966, “Remote shopping, while entirely feasible, will flop . . .”

Forrester Forecast, an independent research company, says approximately $173 billion will have been spent in 2010 in total online shopping sales in the US.

Your humble columnist (and telecommunications laborer) feels the need to include this 1961 prediction by FCC Commissioner T. Craven, “There is practically no chance communications space satellites will be used to provide better telephone, telegraph, television, or radio service inside the United States.”

April 6, 1965, the US launched Intelsat 1. It became the first commercial communications satellite to be placed in geosynchronous orbit over the Earth.

One prediction I will never forget was made the year I graduated from high school.

In 1977, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, Ken Olsen said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

Make sure to check back with us next week, as we go over the exciting highlights from the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show taking place in Las Vegas this week.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Google's Chrome notebook finally arrives

December 27, 2010
by Mark Ollig

The first column yours truly wrote for 2010 was about the new Google notebook computer.

In that column, I wrote how Google anticipated their new Web-based notebook computer would arrive sometime late this year.

Well, apparently Google feels this is late enough in the year.

The new Google Chrome OS (operating system) notebook, or “Cr-48” computer was made available to Google’s pilot program beta testers about two weeks ago.

Google describes this first effort to provide a strictly cloud-based computing notebook as “their test notebook” and “the first of its kind.”

The notebook itself has a 12.1-inch LCD display screen with a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels, a full-size keyboard, and a large surface touchpad.

The notebook weighs in at 3.8 pounds and operates with an Intel Atom N455 processor.

Its internal battery supplies about eight hours of continuous user computing activity and roughly one week’s worth of idle or stand-by reserve time.

There is a USB and SD card slot on the notebook. One beta tester mentioned “these don’t yet work properly,” and even Google states they do not serve any real purpose – yet.

To operate the Google notebook, one needs to be connected to the Internet and signed in under their Google account.

This notebook computer turns on (boots) very quickly (about 10 seconds) and will go in and out of standby or sleep mode instantly.

The Google Chrome notebook has been described as a larger netbook-type computer with a Web browser acting as the operating system inside of it.

What makes this particular notebook unique is that it uses “the cloud” as the venue, where all of its computer settings, music, video, work documents, games and other web applications reside.

I do see an advantage with this.

If the notebook computer became damaged or lost, a person could log back into their program applications using another Chrome notebook.

The user would have the very same desktop-like access to all programs and files in the identical manner they were accessed from the original notebook.

All of the computer’s bookmarks, applications and settings will be restored from the cloud.

This does mean, however, that you need to maintain a connection to the Internet in order to manage your applications.

The Google Chrome notebook is specifically designed to manage applications and programs from the Internet (using direct connection or wireless).

I read where Google is working to adapt their “Google Docs” online application to work in an offline mode. They expect this to be operational early next year.

The Google Chrome notebook allows for using multiple applications at the same time. Each application is opened using a separate tab – just like a regular Web browser can do.

A “full screen” mode key on the Chrome notebook allows the one application being used to occupy the entire display screen.

There are many applications and programs available for use with the Google Chrome notebook.

The thousands of existing applications now available for the Chrome Web browser (and soon to be added Chrome notebook) are accessible from the Chrome Web Store. They are easy to get – much like how folks access the iTunes Web Store or the Apple Store for their music and software applications.

The Google Chrome Web Store is at:

Google states the Chrome notebook evolves with the Web. Every time the Chrome notebook is turned on and connects to the Internet, it automatically upgrades itself with the latest features and fixes.

One feature on the Chrome notebook allows a user to keep a conversation going with an open chat window while composing an e-mail message.

One of the beta testers mentioned printing, from the notebook via Google’s Web Print, has some issues, and is “not stable.”

This beta tester also questions how one could easily move all existing music, photo, and video files stored on a computer hard drive to the cloud if a person wished to transition fully to cloud computing.

Sounds like the makings of a future Bits & Bytes column to me.

If all of our future computing does take place inside the cloud, we will no longer need the conventional Windows or Mac operating systems inside our notebook or desktop computers.

This is because the real action will be taking place over the network and inside the cloud; our computer will become just another simple hardware “device” connected to it.

The CNET website uploaded a YouTube video explaining their beta testing experiences using the new Google Chrome Cr-48 notebook at:

Google has their own YouTube video at:

You can also learn more about the Google Chrome notebook from:

Google created a humorous video about what happens when your new Chrome notebook is damaged beyond repair:

The Google Chrome OS notebook computer to be made available for the general public is rumored to be in the $200 price range.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tech highlights: 2000-2010

December 20, 2010
by Mark Ollig

As we approach 2011, I thought it would be appropriate for us to look back and recall some of the milestones in technology we have witnessed since 2000.

It was in the year 2000, when the 10-millionth website was confirmed as being online.

At the start of 2010, there were approximately 234 million websites available over the Internet.

Global Position Systems (GPS) originally developed by the Department of Defense as a military system, became available for civilian use in 2000. GPS is a satellite-based system which provides precise location and timing information to users all over the world.

Universal Serial Bus (USB) flash drives (used to connect computing devices) were first publicly obtainable when Trek Technology and IBM began selling them in 2000.

Sony launched its PlayStation 2 video game console in 2000.

The next year, Microsoft released its own video game system called the Xbox.

In January 2001, we came across the presence of the noteworthy – and yet sometimes controversial – Wikipedia website. This non-profit site currently contains more than 17 million articles which have been written collaboratively by people from around the world. These articles can also be edited by anyone with proper user access to the site.

One of the today’s most popular media-player devices made its debut Oct. 23, 2001, when Apple first introduced the iPod. As of April 2010, more than 260 million iPods have been sold world-wide.

The year 2002 saw the invention of a helpful (and entertaining) household robot known as the Roomba. This circular 13.4-inch in diameter device is an electronic robotic vacuum which navigates around the inside of your house, cleaning the floor. It has built-in sensors which keep it from running into walls, and it won’t fall down the stairs – which is always a good thing.

Apple’s iTunes Music Store made its introduction in 2003, and Time magazine proclaimed it as the “invention of the year.”

In 2003, Apple also released its new Safari graphical web browser on their Mac OS X operating system. (A Microsoft Windows version of Safari became available in 2007).

With our computer and a headset, we were making telephone calls over the Internet in 2003 using Skype, a software creation of two Estonian developers.

The online social networking site called Facebook was launched in 2004. As of July 2010, Facebook boasts more than 500 million active users, with your humble columnist being one of them.

Google started a free e-mail service called Google Mail, commonly known as “Gmail,” in 2004. Paul Buchheit is the programmer responsible for its creation.

Mozilla’s FireFox, a popular web browser alternative to the Microsoft Internet Explorer, was first released Nov. 9, 2004.

The year 2005 saw a ground-breaking method of sharing video files, when YouTube went online.

We began to tweet short-length messages to the world in July 2006, when Twitter appeared on the Internet scene.

In 2007, we were broadcasting our own video content creations live over social networks like and

Apple’s first Internet and multimedia-enabled smart phone, called the iPhone, first hit stores Jan. 9, 2007. One interacts with the iPhone via its glass liquid-crystal display touch-screen.

In March 2007, the Hulu website began showing streaming video of movies and television shows from most of the major mainstream networks and studios. released the first Kindle e-book reader in the US Nov. 19, 2007.

Google came out with a graphical user web browser with its introduction of Chrome on Sept. 2, 2008.

Apple’s MacBook Air, a thin 13.3” notebook, was made available to the public Jan. 15, 2008.

In 2009, Google reveals a “big secret” at its April 1 Google Data Center Energy Summit conference in Mountain View, CA. Google announced that it builds its own computer servers. Each individual computer file server contains an internal 12-volt battery pack.

Jan. 27, 2010, Apple’s chairman and CEO, Steve Jobs, introduced the long-awaited iPad at an Apple press conference in San Francisco. The iPad is configured with 16, 32, or 64 GB of internal flash drive storage.

“Cloud computing” became a buzz word during 2010.

Many in the industry believe “the cloud” may become the future venue where we will store, access, and manage our documentation and all other web-based applications, software, and files. The programs we previously stored inside our personal computers’ hard drive will reside and be accessible from encrypted computer file servers attached to the Internet.

Just this month, Google came out with its new notebook computer specifically designed for using software applications stored in the cloud. The Google Chrome notebook uses Google’s Chrome Operating System.

My concern about cloud computing remains centered on the safety and security of the information being stored.

A video tour demonstration of the new Google Chrome notebook can be seen at

The future discoveries, innovations, and technical advances of 2011 are yet to be revealed to us.

At the start of 2000, we talked about how much storage space our personal computers held using terms such as megabytes. By 2005, we spoke of gigabytes. It is now near the end of 2010, and we are speaking in terabytes.

The adventure continues . . . so stay tuned.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday gift ideas for the tech-minded

December 13, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Well, faithful readers, it’s that time of year again, when the holiday phobia known as, “What do I buy them again this year?” makes itself known.

We are fortunate it’s 2010; we have so many marvelous new tech toys and devices available.

One of them is from D-Link, who sells the new Boxee Box device.

This intelligent, small cube is essentially a media player which easily connects your home television to the Internet.

The Boxee Box has a unique design. It is, in fact, box-shaped – albeit a couple corners missing.

The device measures 4.7 inches on each side and has a flush power button on its top and a nonskid rubber base.

It sits at a funny angle, but the shape was designed this way on purpose in order to avoid having the box easily pulled back by the cables connected from the TV and Internet router.

Boxee Box’s website makes the statement, “Just plug this little guy into your TV with the included HDMI cord, connect to the Internet via wireless or Ethernet, and you’re set to watch your favorite shows and movies from the Internet on your flat-screen TV.”

The built-in software allows it to always be looking for your favorite video content; you are constantly kept up-to-date with the latest videos available from the Net.

The Boxee Box makes these video streams available for you to watch via its navigational on-screen menu displayed on your television.

The Boxee Box also includes sources for thousands of TV show episodes accessible from the Internet. Find the show you want to watch, click play, and enjoy.

The video-streaming movies and television shows are viewed on your regular television.

What is nice about the Boxee Box is that you need only the Internet connection, not cable or satellite TV, and there are no monthly fees for using the Boxee Box.

The Boxee Box itself is fundamentally a personal computer-like device running with Linux operating system software. The hardware processor is Intel’s Atom CE4100 SoC (system-on-chip processor), running at 1.2 GHz.

The Boxee Box can support dual 1080p video streams, along with advanced 3-D graphics and audio.

Since many of our favorite movies and shows are being uploaded to the Internet, we have an almost endless supply of them to choose from, so it makes sense to use the Boxee Box for watching any video you want, when you want.

The Boxee also works well with the Netflix online movie library.

An SD (secure digital) card slot is found on the Boxee Box which can be used to display the pictures from your camera’s SD memory card.

One can also access the videos, music, or pictures from your personal computer or any network drive with the Boxee.

The Boxee Box comes with a remote control unit, an HMDI (high-definition multimedia interface) cable, Ethernet port, 802.11n Wi-Fi, two USB ports, and composite audio connectors.

The Boxee Box supports the following operating system platforms: Apple Mac, Linux, and Windows.

So, now your favorite techno-geek can watch real Web TV on their high-definition television without having to use the family computer.

The Boxee Box is priced at about $200.

For more information, check out the website at

A fun tech toy on my list this year is the . . . say it out loud with me . . . “WowWee Robosapien V2 Full Function Humanoid Robot.”

This entertaining, programmable robot comes equipped with hearing and vision sensors.

It will respond using its voice (in English) when someone speaks to it.

Standing at nearly 2 feet tall, the robot can “see” people close by using its vision-sensor eyes, and will follow the movement of objects around it.

The robot’s grip sensors allow it to pick up small items, too.

This holiday gift is a bit pricey, at nearly $500, but hey, you are getting a real, live robot for your money.

Just go to YouTube and search for videos on WowWee Robosapien V2 Full Function Humanoid Robots to see them in action.

A couple of robots I remember playing with as a youth were called the “Rock’em Sock’em Robots.”

For those of you over 50 who like to reminiscence, check out this memorable television commercial from our youth at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Utilizing the Internet during US - S. Korea military exercises

Dec. 6, 2010
by Mark Ollig

The USS George Washington (CVN 73) arrived off the coast of South Korea a couple of weeks ago to participate in Naval drill exercises in the Yellow Sea.

With the drill taking place close to North Korea, one could expect some tension.

I did what many folks do; I looked to the mainstream media for updated news and information.

When I turned on the television, I was surprised by the lack of any real-time coverage of this event as it unfolded.

So, on the evening of Nov. 27, I instead turned to the Internet.

Using, I was able to follow the Twitter hashtag’s being used, which relayed messages about the Naval drill and the events taking place.

I then spent the next 30 minutes filtering out the many repetitive messages.

Most Twitter users were merely repeating or “re-tweeting” the same thing to each other.

There wasn’t any current news up to this point.

Then, one message (sandwiched in-between the repetitive stream) appeared, which stood out uniquely from the others.

The message came from a source who was actually reporting the events as they were happening in South Korea.

The posted message read, “We’ve now got reliable info that both surface-to-surface & surface-to-air missiles being readied in N. Korea on the west coast.”

This communication read like it was being reported from a news war correspondent in the field.

The Twitter’s user name was @W7VOA.

W7VOA is actually Steven L. Herman, who is the Voice of America (VOA) Bureau Chief/Correspondent covering the Korean peninsula and Japan.

Herman was also a print and broadcast reporter and editor with the Associated Press.

He is currently based on the scene in Seoul South Korea.

Herman’s personal web link, where his direct posts are being sent to, can be seen scrolling in real-time at

Late that night, Nov. 27, a message posted from W7VOA read “AFP photographer on Yeonpyeong says anyone still there ordered to take shelter in bunkers.”

Later, W7VOA sent this report via his Blackberry, “Ministry tells all journalists remaining on Yeonpyeong to evacuate island by taking 1900KST ferry to Incheon.”

Another reporter named Sam Kim, who was covering North Korea, sent messages under the user name @egalite_twitted. He posted fresh new pictures of the USS George Washington upon its arrival at

This reporter works for Seoul’s Yonhap news outlet, their website is

“Wish I could see inside South Korea right now,” I thought.

I opened another tab in my web browser to search for any live webcams (video camera’s transmitting live images over the Internet) originating from South Korea.

It was 10 o’clock at night here, which meant it was 1 o’clock in the afternoon and still daylight in South Korea.

A South Korean website map showed the locations of 13 webcams.

I clicked on the link of the webcam located in the most northern section of South Korea and closest to North Korea.

This website, originating from South Korea, appears in Korean text; however, at the top of the web page I saw an “ENG” translations icon, thus saving yours truly from having to learn the Korean language.

The most northern webcam was called “Sunrise of Han River.”

Clicking this link opened the sites webcam online video player.

Soon, I was watching in real-time, outdoor events occurring in this part of South Korea.

The webcam is physically located in Haneul Park, which is right along the Hangang River.

This is the website’s description of the webcam’s location, “Haneul Park is a grass park that is the nearest to the sky settled in the 2nd Nanjido reclaimed land, having a wonderful look of Seoul at one sight.”

“Especially here you could see Seoul at one sight, those are Buchanan to the north, Namsan and 63 Building to the south, and Hangjusanseong to the west,” the translated text on the webpage explained.

This particular webcam automatically pans slowly back and forth, showing almost a full panoramic view of the surrounding area.

One could see brush and grass gently swaying in a light breeze along the countryside and in the background were several rolling hills underneath a blue sky.

The webcam showed the Sungsan Grand Bridge, buildings, and highways with cars traveling along them unimpeded.

When I checked this webcam during the night, thousands of individual dots of light emanating from building windows were clearly visible.

Seoul is to the southeast, and Incheon is to the southwest of this webcam’s location.

The link I used to find the webcam is

In the morning, Nov. 29, W7VOA messaged, “Pentagon now confirms there will be “live fire” exercises as part of the US-ROK naval drill in Yellow Sea.”

Nov. 30 W7VOA reported ,“Gen. Sharp, the USFK commander, says “situation is calmer,” but will continue to keep all informed.”

Using the Internet, I was able to view in real-time a northern geographical location in South Korea, while receiving up-to-the-minute messages sent out by news correspondents based inside South Korea.

All of us have the means to go online and independently learn about (or report on) late-breaking news events as they happen.