iPhone - a few (color coordinated) widgets needed

   Guess who is opening up its platform - yes, the very last company that would come to mind - one that’s synonymous with “proprietary” - Apple! The company that taught us that function must follow form, and used color as their competitive differentiation, is now releasing an SDK (software development kit) so that anyone can build an application for the iPhone

The release of the iPhone SDK is slated for February of 2008 (in June of 2007 they announced that they would Apple would start supporting 3rd party applications built to Web 2.0 standards). Their current suite of web 2.0 apps include TwitterFacebook and Mundu. No doubt there will be a big rush to build widgets once they officially launch the new platform.

One thing is clear though, no matter what the application, the icon color better be just right!


Technorati Tags: iphone, apple, sdk, twitter, facebook

Science Sunday: Using Magnetic Sensors for Global Positioning.

earth_magnetic_poleIf birds do it, and even hamsters do it, I am sure we can figure out a way to do it too; I am of course, referring to the use of magnetic sense to navigate on a long journey.

The method is called Magnetic Global positioning. The idea is simple; the earth is like a giant bar magnet placed along the it’s axis. All we need to do is to take precise measurements of the earth’s magnetic field around the globe and then when you want to find out where you are, just check the magnetic field of that location!

Where do you get the magnetic field data around the globe? Well, it turns out that the United States Geological Survey has already done the work. It has tabulated the Earth’s mean field and its inclination at many points over much of the Earth’s surface.

To measure small magnetic fields, we simply rely on the two guys who just won noble prize in physics for discovering Giant Magnetoresistance Effect. They showed that for certain materials, a small change in a magnetic field makes a large change in the associated electric field. In fact, your hard drive and the IPods , work the same way too!

So to find your location, you measure the magnetic field and its inclination , and compare it with the known value and you know exactly where you are! No satellite needed.


Although less accurate than satellite GPS, the new sensor’s use of the magnetic field means it is more reliable in certain situations. For example, in remote areas that have no satellite reception, or in bad weather conditions where the connection is temporarily lost.

The accuracy of the positioning accuracy is dependent on the accuracy of the magnetic data for a location and that can be significantly improved. The next time when Google or Amazon is doing a “street view” perhaps they can carry a magnetic sensor with them too!

I am not even suggesting that we use it instead of GPS, we might want to consider using it in conjunction with the GPS . In downtown areas where the tall buildings are blocking access to the GPS satellite, the magnetic positioning will take over. The magnetic position can also be used indoors, like in a parking structure or a building.

Via NewScientist

Good news on the Microsoft Excel hundred millennium bug

 Turns out there is a bit of an uh-oh in Excel land. In Excel, do the calculation 77.1*850. Your Casio (if you still have one around) would tell you that’s 65,535. But Excel says it is 100,000. Yes, a nice, even, no apologies, hundred thousand.

It is quite amazing to me that after all these years of 10s of millions of people using Excel around the world, that this is the first time that a bug like this has been reported.

There is plenty of discussion over at the Microsoft excel blog regarding whether this is a real calculation error, or it is just a display problem. According to Microsoft engineers, this is a display error, while folks on the board have run several calculations and made the point that it is a calculation error, which, of course, would be much more serious.

Well, since we just love excel, we just had to do our own checking to see what was going on, and the good news is that it indeed appears to be just a display error.

The calculation (geek alert) is below. The number N = 77.1*850 turns out to be 100,000 as expected. N-1 is 65534, N-2 is 65533 and so on. N+1, is interestingly, 100,001 while N+2 drops back to 65537. Now when you take the difference of the two series, it is well behaved (you get back 0,1,2,…. as answers) indicating that this is not a storage bug but just a flight of fancy of the numerical representation of the display.

N=77.1*850 x N-x N+x x=[(N+x)-(N-x)/2]
100000 0 100000 100000 0
  1 65534 100001 1
  2 65533 65537 2
  3 65532 65538 3
  4 65531 65539 4
  5 65530 65540 5
  6 65529 65541 6
  7 65528 65542 7
  8 65527 65543 8
  9 65526 65544 9
  10 65525 65545 10

Now 65,535 or its close cousin 65,536 should look familiar to most tech folks. Yes it is 2^16 in binary representation indicating, perhaps some integer computation error in the display. Why excel exhibits this problem for only a handful of calculations (not all) that compute to 65,535, is not clear. But Microsoft promises it will be fixed soon.

Meanwhile, if at the end of a complicated floating point calculation, you get a nice even 100000 for the answer, be sure to get out the calculator!

Google to invest $10M into green start-ups

Googleuse-2Google announced today that they are looking to invest $10 million into companies that are working towards creating “sustainable transportation solutions.” Previously, Google has given grants totaling $1 million to non-profit organizations also focused on reducing automobile emissions.

Google launched RechargeIT in June, a project “aimed at accelerating the adoption of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.” The search engine giant has contracted with Hymotion, a company that converts regular gas guzzling cars to hybrids, to modify six vehicles used for demonstration of the technology (you can see the actual vehicle data here).

The deadline to submit proposals is October 22nd, ‘07.

Earlier, we posted an article about Google putting itself into competition with VC’s by investing in a variety of start-ups that they eventually acquire. And recently we reported on two promising solar power start-ups.

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