My personal opinions and rants about tech related matters

Charging methods of the future

By on Nov 9, 2011 in Editorial |

We’ve all watched with trepidation as increasingly wider smartphone displays require more and more battery power to sustain themselves; even with 2000 mAh batteries you’d be lucky to get more than a day’s full use out of a top-of-the-line smartphone these days. Surely this can’t go on forever — even with power saving technologies, eventually our processing power on these mobile devices will be bound by the electrical charge that they depend on. Without significant advances in battery and charging technologies, we’ll hit an uncomfortable dead end. So what’s next for charging and energy storage? So we all have a fairly good grasp on this kind of charging: there’s a lithium polymer or lithium ion battery inside the case that stores electrical charge in a lithium-salt electrolyte in a solid polymer compound or organic solvent, respectively. As the phone is used, the charge is depleted. When you plug in your phone via USB or an AC adapter, the electrical charge is restored. Not very interesting, so let’s move onto fresher fare: wireless charging and (later) micro-supercapacitors. Wireless charging Wireless charging is a rather interesting proposition that’s received some main-stream attention, thanks to a few well publicised TED talks and even some real products. The first thing to know about wireless charging is that it generally comes in one of two forms: close-range induction charging and long-range near field magnetic resonance (NFMR). Induction charging requires two pieces, a charger station and a device to be charged. The charger station (typically a charging mat) contains a large coil of wire, which produces a small magnetic field when a current is passed through it. When the second coil, found in the smartphone, comes into contact with the field, it induces a current to pass through the second coil. It’s essentially the same idea as a normal power transformer, except the two coils act as a transformer with an air ‘core’. The problem with induction charging is that it’s quite inefficient – only a fraction of the power used makes it to the device being charged. It also only works in very close proximity, when the two coils are almost touching. Because of this, the second form of near field magnetic resonance has the potential...

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Smartphone Batteries Explained

By on Oct 11, 2011 in Editorial |

In this article, we’ll look at smartphone battery technologies, how to extend your battery life, and what phone accessories exist to further this goal. Let’s start with a brief history lesson. The two main battery technologies used in smartphones today are Lithium Ion and Lithium Polymer. Lithium Ion batteries were originally proposed in the 1970s, and were released commercially in the 1990s. They proved popular in powering the mobile devices that became widely popular in the 1990s, such as laptops, video cameras and mobile phones. This was due to their light, space-efficient and flexible construction and lack of memory effect. Lithium Polymer batteries are an evolution of the same concept, developed in the mid 1990s. The difference between these similarly named battery technologies is that a Lithium Polymer battery holds its lithium-salt electrolyte in a solid polymer composite, whilst a Lithium Ion battery keeps the electrolyte in an organic solvent. In practical terms, Lithium Polymer batteries tend to be more reliable, more robust and cheaper to manufacture than Lithium Ion batteries. They can also be formed into almost any shape and tend to be slightly lighter, a definite advantage when designing a complex and dense device such as a smartphone. There are no significant differences in charge capacity, charge time or lifespan. Of course, battery technology isn’t standing still – batteries are a large and growing business, as mobile technology continues to proliferate. One interesting new development, published just last week in the Journal of Advanced Materials, solves a long-standing problem. Silicon had been identified as having the potential to store up to ten times more energy than materials used today, but tends to grow and shrink under charge, quickly breaking down the battery. A new polymer developed at Berkeley prevents this breakdown, allowing their prototype to absorb eight times the charge of Lithium without breaking. It’ll be a while before this technology is prepared, but it’s good to know that the increasing energy costs of bigger screens and faster processors will be matched with more capacious batteries. With current technology, smartphones tend to last only hours before needing a recharge. The iPhone 4S boasts eight hours of 3G talk time, whilst the Samsung Galaxy S2 lasts eight hours and forty minutes. You can increase this...

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Can Electronic Book Readers Succeed?

By on Nov 18, 2009 in Editorial |

With the release of the International Kindle from Amazon, the subject of e-book readers is heating up. This is one of those technologies I want to love, who wouldn’t? You have a low power device that gives you a much more natural, ink on paper, like reading experience than any backlit LCD screen can. Then with Amazon you have an integrated discovery and delivery method for receiving books to your reader, just like Apple did for the MP3 player with iTunes. Then again, I’ve just compared the Kindle book store to iTunes, perhaps this is where the problems start. We all know that in its early days, iTunes was locked up with DRM to the point of madness, the only way to free your content was to burn everything to audio CD and re-rip to MP3. Of course, things are now better in the digital download music market, with DRM gone and a choice of music stores. Although, both the movie and e-book industries have yet to catch up to the current state of sanity we enjoy with music downloads. I remember many years ago when I experimented with the e-book store for my Palm Pilot. Not only were your e-books tied to your credit card number, but they were tied to your device too. If either changed there wasn’t a clear route for how to get your books back. So when I did inevitably change my device, I lost my books. With the Kindle, things aren’t quite so restrictive, from what I’ve been able to find out, not having one myself, your books are only tied to your Amazon account. This means that you can transfer to new Kindles, and also to the iPhone application. Unfortunately, Amazon haven’t released an application for other mobile platforms yet. Still though, the Kindle isn’t the only e-book reader out there (there’s also Sony and Bebook readers), but you can’t get your Amazon e-books on any of them. Whereas, the music I buy from any music store on the web can be played on any device I like. So the Amazon e-book system still ties you to the one device, just like iTunes with the iPod, which I submit is a reason...

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Ten reasons why Ubuntu is better than Windows.

By on Oct 14, 2009 in Editorial |

Reliability. Of course Ubuntu can go wrong but only when I mess with it. Meanwhile, Windows seems to go wrong all on its own with no help from me! Settings are easier to find. Everything you could need to alter is either available through the “System” menu, or right clicking a particular object. Windows requires you to drill through multiple layers of menus. Boot speed. Compared to Windows, the boot time of Ubuntu is stunning. See for yourself. Disk space. Ubuntu takes at most a quarter of the disk space that Vista and Windows 7 takes. That means you have more drive space to use for your own files. Operation speed. Windows soon slows down, Ubuntu doesn’t seem to ever slow down. Everything works as quickly as it did yesterday. Applications are easier to install. In Ubuntu, you have the “Synaptic Package Manager” which gives you a point and click interface to choose applications to install – think of it like an App Store. Unlike Windows, where you have to hunt the internet for a .exe to download, then run it yourself. In Ubuntu, it’s an all in one operation. Desktop effects. Thanks to a system called Compiz, Ubuntu has more snazzy desktop effects than Windows or Mac OSX have ever had. You can set up the combination that is perfectly useful to you. Regular releases. With Ubuntu, you have the equivalent of a service pack every six months. Between those releases, on average, you’ll get bug and security fixes every week. The command line. This is a controversial one as I wouldn’t suggest novice users jump right into using the command line (but I would encourage you to learn!). Although, I like how I can achieve – with a single line of code – something that would take a few minutes of point and click work. Windows has a command line, but it’s just not as useful. No DRM, i.e. no Windows Genuine Advantage. Because Ubuntu is free there’s no nasty DRM to get in your way when you’re installing the system, either on your own computer, or taking your Ubuntu CD to your friend’s computer. Get...

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Should Spotify Mobile be premium only?

By on Sep 7, 2009 in Editorial |

You have no doubt heard about Spotify, in fact given the amount of e-mails I get asking for invites, I’d be amazed if you haven’t. In my opinion, Spotify plays a crucial roll in the world of on-line music distrobution. Before you commit your money to buying a whole album, I believe, you have a right to try before you buy. Much to the chagrin of music companies, illegal file sharing perfectly fits the roll. You get the try the album with no hassle and no money changing hands, and then, as long as you’re honest, when you’ve made your decision, you can choose to delete the album, or go and buy it from a DRM free online music store. To me, doing this, while of questionable legality, was the nearest on-line alternative we had to the headphone booth in your local music store. However, Spotify came along and took away all the grey area of illegally sampling music. With Spotify you can stream music across the internet and listen to it as much as you like. With adverts if you pay nothing, and without if you pay £10 a month, we’ll return to the premium service below. That is not to say that Spotify is perfect. When it first started it was more perfect that it is now. Since it’s been going, the record companies have been stamping their ignorant size 12 boots all over it, so that we now have region restriction on some albums, while others have been pulled completely, even though Spotify are constantly adding more and more tracks. To the record labels I say this; the more restrictions you put onto a service like Spotify, which you should be thanking your lucky stars for, the more you will push people back towards illegal file sharing. It’s a simple mathematical matter of convenience. Spotify is actually more convenient than getting music via file sharing. If you prevent people listening via Spotify, they will by simple human nature, opt for the next most convenient option. Sorry, but it’s a fact of life and you can either work with it, or be burned by it. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s how things are. Now, lets...

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Delicious Twitter

By on Aug 13, 2009 in Editorial |

If you are a user of Delicious and Twitter, then the lovely people who develop the former have snuck in a very clever new feature to help you bring the two together. While you are adding a page to delicious you now get an extra field to fill in, “Send” which covers your delicious contacts, someone’s email address and yes, your twitter account. Selecting the latter opens up a message box for you to type your accompanying ‘tweet’. When your post is added to Twitter, your message is posted along with a short-code URL; something that should be familiar to most web users these days. As a way of stamping their own brand on this, the short-code is from their own domain, “icio.us”, which does give your tweet a certain air of exclusivity. This has come hot on the heels of flickr adding thier own flic.kr short codes for tweeting photos directly from your flickr...

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