A very cheap computer …

A couple of weeks ago I heard about a new(ish) computer that could possibly revolutionise the world of IT.


Although we are pretty power hungry beings – waiting for the next version of the iPad (with Retina display obviously) – there are some applications that don’t need this amount of computing power. And this is where the Raspberry Pi steps in. The basic ‘A’ model costs £16 (yes, sixteen pounds!) and is the size of a credit card. Theres no milled aluminium case here (or beige box for that matter).

The computer is as basic as it gets (there is an upgraded model for around £30.)

You need a keyboard, mouse and screen, but otherwise you can run this little machine from a basic plastic mount box.

You can read about the technical specifications here, but I can’t help but think that this is a huge leap forward. We are able now to buy kit that has sufficient processing power off a low power load but is as cheap as chips.

I have a client who is looking at building these sort of things into school desks – where basic applications can run. They will be so cheap as to not be not worth stealing. They can also be used to run robotics as the size is so small. I am also wondering about their use as processors of images as part of a TV screen set up. As the machine can process video there is no reason they can’t be plugged into the back of a projector – which in turn can take a feed from the internet.

I am guessing that the processing power available is higher than that of the Appollo Space ships which took man to the moon! This is fantastic progress…

Art – from space?

I have an issue with Twitter, with the number of people I follow (and who follow me) the twitter-stream is long – and changes every few seconds. It’s hard separating the good and bad! I really need a spring clean.


Of course the beauty of twitter is that you can go to an individuals feed and work through their tweets. One of my favourites is @Queen_UK – it’s a great take on life from the (not) real Queen.

But there is another which is just brilliant – @Cmdr_Hadfield – Chris is a Canadian Astronaut, currently living in space aboard ISS as Flight Engineer on Expedition 34 and is to be Commander of Expedition 35. He takes photographs – lots of them!

The photograph taken on the blog today is one of Chris’ – and is the outback in Australia. I think it is a stunning image – it looks more like art than a straight aerial shot?

There are other shots on Chris’ twitter feed – including San Francisco and New York. there is something fascinating about looking down at the place we call home?

The end of a (golden era) – Neil Armstrong RIP

I seem to be going to a few 50th Birthday parties at the moment. It’s a worrying trend. But sadly, it’s a one-way street.

And the people of my generation will have all know the name Neil Armstrong. The man who had the honour of making those first steps on the moon back in 1969 – whilst an incredulous world watched on. His famously (incorrect) phrase known to everyone – “Thats one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. It was an era or great hope and exciting advances. Space was a big thing. Most kids of my age were fascinated by these apparent hero’s. In fact Armstrong was uncomfortable with the limelight it thrust him into – it was, as he said many times’ “his job”.

But what a job. He was a risk taker – they landed the Eagle with less than 30 seconds of fuel left. On a foreign ‘planet’ – where there was no ‘go around’. No ability to have a few practice runs with an instructor. No one knew if it would work. He pushed the limits of human ability in flying terms. He and Buzz Aldrin became household names for their bravado. It was an incredible achievement.

It is more amazing when you think back to the technology in 1969 compared to now. Your iPhone contains a more powerful processor and computing power than the computer used to get Armstrong and Aldrin to the surface of the moon!

Armstrong was a hero of mine. I never got to see him – although I did meet Buzz Aldrin once. Armstrong inspired a generation. What a pity that this era has ended. It’s a sad fact that NASA have stopped manned exploration of space now – it might be some time before we see another Neil Armstrong?

Life on Mars?

A year before I was born, John F Kennedy made his famous “Man on the Moon address”, he said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” Impressive stuff, a massive challenge, a goal and one that stretched humankind like nothing had done before.

The Mars Wendy House at Toys R Us

Of course NASA did it (despite the doubting nay-sayers) and it was a time defining moment. I saw bit of the moon when I was at Downing Street earlier this year.

I was intrigued by the news story that hit the papers on Friday last. That man had been to Mars and back – and walked on the red planet too. Amazing – especially as I must have missed the Press Release? The whole mission went without a hitch – no dramas, no tricky bits despite the whole thing lasting 520 days.

Except that this wasn’t the whole story. Basically some blokes had been locked up in a big garden shed in a Russian car park on the outskirts of Moscow. One of the Carparkonauts said afterwards, “We have achieved on Earth the longest space voyage ever, so that humankind can one day greet a new dawn on the surface of a distant but reachable planet.”

Well that is brilliant – I’ll bet is JFK is watching up there somewhere (space I mean) he’ll be rolling around. “Impressed” will not be on the tip of his tongue?

The idea was to see if the blokes could manage to live together in the shed without light for 18 months. They did. They didn’t die of boredom. They didn’t suffer any radiation sickness either, nor illness from weightlessness…

I could have helped the boredom thing – I could have lined up a 5 day Cricket Test Match followed by a weekend omnibus of Coronations Street interspersed with EastEnders. Then a whole series of Question of Sport followed by wall to (garden) wall Gardeners Question Time. The whole lot should take a week – and the boredom level should be pushed to the limits?

This has to be the non-story of the years / decade?

No more men on the moon?

It seems that President Obama has come to his senses!

The moon - quite a long way away? Courtesy NASA

Bush started a programme in 2004 known as Constellation – it was costed at $104bn!

Whilst the original moonshot in the 1960’s when Kennedy galvanised the western world I cannot see why mankind would want to spend £65 billion on proving we can go to the moon – again? Or have I missed the point? As a kid I was fascinated by space and the Apollo missions – Buzz Aldrin sounded just great! But that was then… the world has moved on. We have other priorities.

We may have learned a lot as a result of the work NASA did but there are myths about how they ‘invented’ new products – velcro for example. That was invented by George de Mestral

But that diverts the argument. Imagine what we could do with £65bn. We could probably wipe out ‘homelessness‘. We could train doctors to eradicate many of the worlds diseases – especially in the third world.

I know the money won’t go to such causes. Perhaps Obama will use it to sort his health reforms?

Will electric ever be cool – in transportation?

I spent a freezing cold day in Hull last week; actually it was colder in the warehouse I was surveying than outside! I was parked in one of the darkest and dirtiest car parks I have been in for some time. It was not a ‘Park Mark‘ place by any stretch of the imagination!

Plug your car in here after 3pm

When I came back to my car, I realised that I had parked in a space reserved for those vehicles that need plugging in. I was lucky as it was only 2.00pm… I was also relieved to see my car was intact – although I could only check this when I got outside in the daylight.

I am not a great fan of these electric ‘vehicles’ – the only decent one is a Tesla and that’s a bit beyond my means! It costs a cool £86,940 – speeds to 60mph in 3.9 secs and has a range of 244 miles (better than my little car most of the time!)

By the end of 2010 it will be joined by such contenders as the Nissan Leaf, Coda sedan, and the Think City. But we are talking 100, 90 and 110 miles respectively before you need to find a plug (or a set of AAA batteries). The Think Car seems to have had an accident in the design department. Perhaps they were at lunch when they got around to that part? Or was it a winning design competition at a Junior school?

There’s an interesting article in the Guardian about the state of play of the electric car market here

So, we have some ways to go yet. But then last week there was an announcement by NASA which suggest to me that I might be thinking about electric after all… As the saying goes – I want one of those!

And for the weekend I would like an ICON A5 – if thats OK? And the price – around the same as a Tesla! Now that really is cool. I wonder if they will let me land on the Trent?