it.gen.nz

Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mr Jackson goes to Wellington

On Thursday I presented my submission on Software Patents to the Commerce Select Committee of Parliament. It was a fascinating experience, and one which is open to all New Zealanders.
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posted by colin at 2:24 pm  

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Starlight

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talk about stargazing, and how you can use cheap or free technology to help you understand what you’re seeing when you look into the night sky. I’ll be on after the 11am news.

Read on for my speaking notes, or after the broadcast you’ll be able to download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 7:14 pm  

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Software Patents – end the madness!

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talk about the deranged world of software patents, where someone can claim that an idea they had five years ago suddenly means that entire industry owes them a fortune. I’ll be on after the 11am news.

Read on for my speaking notes, or after the broadcast you’ll be able to download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 7:06 pm  

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Is this the strangest looking aeroplane?

sr71.jpg

This is a Lockheed SR71 “Blackbird”, displayed on public view at the air museum in Duxford, England. The Blackbird was a high-altitude supersonic spyplane used in the later part of the cold war. The Americans started using the Blackbird after Gary Powers was shot down over the USSR in his U2 – the SR71 flew higher and faster – but pensioned it off after it became clear that advances in missile technology meant it was at risk of shooting down from the installations it was sent to observe. Now, of course, we all use satellite technology thanks to Google Earth. As a kind of postscript, the U2 is still flying over Iraq and other hot spots, long after the aircraft designed to replace it has gone to the museums.

The Blackbird flew at over Mach 3, at heights of over 75,000 ft. It took off and landed – of course – at sea level, so its engines and airframe needed to be able to deal with low speeds as well as its cruising altitude. The engines would only burn subsonic air, so the inlets of the engines had to be complex and vary in shape to slow the air enough when the plane was going fast. That’s the purpose of the cones pointing forward out of the engines – the cones moved in and out depending on the aircraft speed. Even so, the SR71 would sometimes suffers what the US military quaintly called an “unstart” while at cruising speed and altitude. Both engines would go out, meaning that the aircraft would have to descend and decelerate while trying to restart the engines nearer sea level. That’s not something you would want to have to do over enemy territory!

Even so, not a single Blackbird was lost to enemy action. But 12 out of the 32 that were made crashed in accidents. It’s not technology that you’d want to use in airliners.

But I still think it’s a wonderful, if strange, looking aircraft.

posted by colin at 9:42 pm  

Monday, August 10, 2009

iPhone in XT-land

As I said on the radio last week, I recently changed my iPhone from Vodafone service to Telecom’s XT network.

I did it primarily because Vodafone’s coverage at my house in Wellington was so poor. Every time the mobile rang I would have to run upstairs with it and get out onto the deck to hear the caller. Vodafone say they are going to do some more “infill” of their urban Wellington coverage next year; I can’t wait that long.
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posted by colin at 7:30 am  

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Setting Government Information Free

Today on Radio New Zealand Natonal after the 11am news I talked about the why and the how of setting government information free so that we can all benefit. There’s been a lot of work done on this in many countries, including New Zealand, and some useful things are starting to happen. In a few weeks time a bunch of folk in New Zealand are giving up their weekend to attend the first ever New Zealand Open Government Data Barcamp and Hackfest.

You can read on for my speaking notes, or download the audio as ogg or mp3. (more…)

posted by colin at 7:10 am  

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