Going solar, old school

Apr
05
2014

On Tuesday, I booked a vehicle with my car sharing co-op, and drove into the deep suburbs, to do some shopping.

I stopped in at IKEA and bought some nice cordless rechargeable solar garden lights, named Solvinden. Here is one in my garden, among the fading narcissus, burning off the day’s accumulation of energy:

Solvinden from China via IKEA

They were appealingly priced, and I think they were on sale, for $4 each (regularly $5).

I have bought similar devices in the past, and all have failed after about six months. They are cheaply-made, and not easy to repair. These may not last long, and if they are still burning a year from now, I’ll be mildly surprised. These lamps are of course made in China, and this is not to fault the Chinese. When I was a boy in North America, Japan was our China, and Japanese a word that meant cheap junky technology. China is on the way to somewhere else, just as we are.

I’m struck by the fiscal history of this lamp, which I perceive only dimly. What titanic machinery is in play, that digs up the metals and minerals and petrochemicals, that marshals the capital and labour, that fashions and delivers a thing so resolutely disposable as this.

More helpful digital machines, in new places

Mar
05
2014

Another new gee whiz interface, a novelty in the setting for which it is designed. Helpful, charming digital machines: now bringing the online experience closer to fast food, a biome that I’m sure will be colonized with great success.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/543707-first-look-at-pizza-huts-interactive-touchscreen-table-menu/

More helpful digital machinery:
Apple iPhone CarPlay

Mar
03
2014

More from Apple in the way of helpful digital machines: an iOS interface for your automobile (including voice control, courtesy of Siri).

Sub-2-minute exposé on Youtube:

This is a nice move. Apple is positioning itself to replace an iOS user’s in-car entertainment, mapping, turn-by-turn navigation, and where possible, the car’s own (software) control system. I don’t think the iPad participates (yet). I want to learn a little more. Considering iBeacon, it adds up to an interesting mobile technology strategy to colonize the various contexts in which iOS users move about, in ways which are increasingly sensitive to the user’s location in the (meat) landscape.

On its face, CarPlay is a thoroughly sensible idea that (I would imagine) iPhone users will like. If it’s true as I’ve heard that it requires an iPhone 5, a lot of people will upgrade for this, and some people might even switch from say, Samsung, to have this particular machine in their cars.

Here’s Apple’s press release:

http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2014/03/03Apple-Rolls-Out-CarPlay-Giving-Drivers-a-Smarter-Safer-More-Fun-Way-to-Use-iPhone-in-the-Car.html

Here’s the online pitch from Apple:

http://www.apple.com/ios/carplay/

So helpful a machine, as Apple explains, “CarPlay can also predict where you most likely want to go using addresses from your email, text messages, contacts, and calendars.” In other words, the machine learns about you. I’d guess that sooner or later, it will tie in (seamlessly) to more of that trailing cloud of data that each of us emits into cyberspace, and eventually go beyond anticipating your needs, to shaping them. You’ll have the option, as always, to opt-in.

Machines all around us, becoming smarter and more complex by the day. Will it end?

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