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Apples and walls

Steve Rogerson’s round-up of last month’s news and events, including some that may have slipped under the radar


he lovers of the Great Wall of China have often claimed that this is the only human-made construction that

can be seen from space. As I’ve never been up there, and at my age it is a certainty I never will, I am afraid I cannot verify the truth of this. However, this must give a bit of an inferiority complex to all the fans of other structures. Though I cannot think there are many supporters of the Fresh Kill landfill near New York, claimed to be the largest pile of rubbish in human history, and I am sure Burj Khalifa in Dubai has its groupies, being as it is the tallest building in the world. And the Benin Walls in Nigeria have a claim that they might actually be bigger than the Chinese wall, though whether they have been seen from space, I wouldn’t know. That said, what do you do if you have a

really famous wall that is quite long given the time it was built, but just doesn’t stand out the way it should? The answer, it seems, is to light it up. Well, that is what happened at the end of August to Hadrian’s Wall when 400 illuminated balloons were lit up along its length to demonstrate M2M communications (see picture) powered by the IDigi Device Cloud. The balloons pulsated in colour and in sync with each other thanks to XBee RF modules in what was basically a 117km long Zigbee network. But could it be seen from space? I think we should be told.

Now that I have finally taken the plunge and got myself an IPad, I am quite looking forward to using it as an alternative form of in-flight entertainment next time I travel abroad. It can sit in the little pouch in the seat in front of me alongside my IPod, a real book and a newspaper, and of course the headphones to listen to the airlines own offerings. I’ll probably have to move all those boring safety notices and sick bags out of the way to make room. Have tech, will travel. However, it seems that before long I won’t need to bother if an idea from Jet Asia Airways catches on. It is giving its passengers an IPad to use while on the plane, though probably preloaded with some rubbish or other. And in economy you have to pay for the privilege. Bit of a cheek.

For those who prefer old Apple tech, I suggest you head for Christie’s on 9 October when one of the original Apple computers will go under the hammer. The Apple-1 has the serial number 22, was

42 September 2012

hand-built by Steve Wozniak and is expected to fetch about £70,000. I was rather shocked to receive an email headlined “KILL KILL KILL”, all in capital letters. Was this some form of hate mail, I wondered. No, just ZMDI telling us that it didn’t want us to use its latest press release about some smart charging components. The word “overkill” is a lovely fit. London’s Natural History Museum might be a good place to visit on the evening of 28 September. True, it is a good place to visit at any time, but that Friday from 4 till 11pm it will have 350 of its scientists available to question plus opportunities to try your hand at forensic science and have a behind the scenes tour. And it is free entry. Tempting.

“Can I have that balloon please, daddy?” “Only if you want the other 400 it is connected to.” “Ooo, yes please. Thank you.” “Why can’t I keep my big mouth shut?” This is Hadrian’s Wall’s attempt to overcome its inferiority complex by lighting itself up with M2M connected balloons. Beat that, Great Wall of China!

And finally, a bit of delightful madness

from RS Components. It held a Twitter powered Scalextric race at the end of August with the cars’ progress depending

on how many Twitter votes they got. You could either vote for the red or the blue car. And there were prizes to win. Formula One eat your heart out.

It was nice to see Scott Fletcher, chairman and founder of technology services company ANS Group, jumping on the bandwagon I started in this column last month about Manchester getting the benefits of the Olympics rather than London. He put out a rant about it in the form of a press release referring to the east London area as “silicon roundabout” and saying: “Meanwhile, down on the ranch, London marches on with it’s smoke and mirrors display hauling in ‘famous’ tech brands like Google, Microsoft and Facebook to campuses of worker-bees.” Of course, he’d never dream of being involved in anything that resembles a smoke and mirrors display, as this picture he sent us of himself shows.

Components in Electronics

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