Timothy Lord starts this video with these words: "Sensors are a big deal at CES this year. They are small devices that track everything from the location of your pets to how many steps you have taken today." And so he chatted with Phillip Bolliger, founder of Swiss company Koubachi AG, which makes Wi-Fi sensors that help you give your plants the right amount of water and light and to keep them at the right temperature. As of this writing, the prices on their online store are in Euros, not dollars, but the sensors are now available through Amazon with U.S. pricing. Koubachi also has a free app for your iOS device, and a Facebook app for your computer or Android device, that will help you give your plants the right amount of fertilizer and other love even if you don't buy a Koubachi sensor.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
John "Jack" R. Horner is the Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, adjunct curator at the National Museum of Natural History, and one of the most famous paleontologists in the world. Known in the scientific community for his research on dinosaur growth and whether or not some species lived in social groups, he is most famous for his work on Jurassic Park and being the inspiration for the character of Alan Grant. Horner caused quite a stir with the publication of his book, How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever, in which he proposes creating a "chickensaurus" by genetically "nudging" the DNA of a chicken. Jack has agreed to step away from the genetics lab and put down the bones in order to answer your questions. As usual, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.
Wayne Rasanen's Decatxt chording keyboard may be new and exciting to him, and he says has a patent on it so apparently the USPTO found it novel and original, but it's not the first chording keyboard by many long shots. The idea has been around (at least) since 1968. And let's not forget Braille chording keyboards, as described in a 1992 IEEE paper. And if you have an iPhone and want to experiment with a virtual Braille chording keyboard, there's an app for that. Maybe we're just jaded. Or maybe we've known a lot of blind people who used one-handed Braille chording keyboards to type as fast with one hand as a sighted person using a QWERTY keyboard and two hands. So it's hard for us to get excited about a chording keyboard. Be that as it may, we wish Wayne Rasanen all the luck in the world as he brings his invention to market.
"When you think about electronics manufacturing, you probably don’t automatically think about Africa. You are about to meet somebody who would like to change your mind about that. His name is Tony Smith, and he is the CEO and Founder of Limitless Electronics." That's how Slashdot Editor Timothy Lord introduces this video. And that's what it's about: Former Microsoft employee Tony Smith at CES 2013 talking about his efforts to bring electronics assembly and distribution to his native country, Cameroon, through his company, Limitless Electronics.
Bennett Haselton writes "Here are three hacks that I adopted in the last few weeks, each of which solved a minor problem that I had lived with for so long that I no longer thought of it as a problem — until a solution came along, which was like a small weight off my shoulders. None of these hacks will help impress anyone with your technical prowess; I'm just putting them here because they made my life easier." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
Jörg Sprave's day job is as a manager in the world of consumer electronics. But he has been for many years making manifest the sort of things that once filled my school notebook margins with doodles: slingshots and other devices for launching bolts, steel balls, and other stuff at high speed at targets or just into the air. (Some of his "slingshots" are hard to recognize as such; he eschews the classic American wrist-rocket braced design as well as the old Tom Sawyer forked branch in favor of things a bit more elaborate.) Thanks to the Internet, hobbies that were once obscure are now easy to follow, and Sprave's homemade slingshots are no exception; you can follow his exploits through an ongoing series of YouTube videos and a forum site that builds on these videos. He's doing it in Germany, too, where firearms may be harder to come by than in the U.S., but giant honkin' firecrackers are available (at least for part of the year), and acts accordingly. Amazingly, he has yet to lose an eye; his goggles are a wise precaution. Sprave has agreed to answer your questions about his own take on physics as a hobby. As usual for Slashdot interviews, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.
Rikki Endsley has been Community Manager for USENIX since September, 2011. She also edits their magazine, ;login:, writes for publications ranging from Linux.com to Network World, and is a long-distance runner to boot. But this interview concentrates on USENIX, a worthy organization that does a great job of helping its members (and the entire Unix/Linux community) stay up to date technically and, with its job board, keep USENIX members employed. Toward the end of the conversation, Rikki mentions some of the intangible but valuable benefits people get when they attend USENIX events. (Remember: If you don't have time to watch the video, can't see the video or just don't like video, you can click on the "Show/Hide Transcript" link and read a text version of the video.)
Timothy ran into these NSD people at CES. If we were giving out a "best huckster" award, NSD booth dude Doug Lo would surely be a finalist for it. He's one heck of a talker. The exercise balls he's pushing? A number of companies have been making and selling similar products for many years. They seem to have some medical benefit as physical therapy aids for people with wrist or carpal tunnel problems, and may also be useful exercise devices for people who want to strengthen their hands and fingers. Have you used a gyroscope exercise ball? If so, did it help cure a wrist problem or help strengthen your hands and fingers? And which of these brands (if any) did you try?
In January, 2012, Slashdot carried a story about the launch of a $10 million X-Prize for Tricorder design. This year, at CES, Timothy Lord met Alan Zack, who works for the X PRIZE Foundation, and learned a little more about the Tricorder prize and what it's going to take to win it. "Ultimately," says the www.qualcommtricorderxprize.org page, "this tool will collect large volumes of data from ongoing measurement of health states through a combination of wireless sensors, imaging technologies, and portable, non-invasive laboratory replacements." If the success of the Ansari X PRIZE is any indication, it's a rational goal -- and the competition will be exciting to follow as it cranks up.
This video shows a computer case that's "pretty expensive," says Timothy Lord. "It's over $300. On the other hand, it is beautiful." The manufacturer, Taiwan-based IN WIN, has put a $399 MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price) tag on their top-of-the-line "limited edition" computer cases. Wow. Most of us probably won't buy one of these, considering that low-cost mid-tower cases can be had for $30, and the entire computer used to edit this video cost $399 (with the addition of some RAM and a better video card). But there is a market for Lamborghinis, and there is a market for computer cases that cost as much as a complete low-end computer. And CES (annoying sounds if you click the link) is a great place to look at them even if you don't really need a computer case that costs more than a minimum wage worker's entire weekly paycheck.
Decibullz creator Kyle Kirkpatrick talks as fast as an old-time carnival barker and is as enthusiastic about his product as Dr. Ironbeard was about his potions. A lot of people are probably satisfied with $10 earbuds, but it's kind of a cool (more accurately a warm) idea to have earbuds you can heat in your microwave, then shape and reshape as often as you like to fit perfectly in your ears.They're just one of many interesting items on display this year at CES (annoying sound if you click the "CES" link).
Many reporters go to the CES, AKA Consumer Electronic Show (warning - link landing page plays annoying sound) in Las Vegas to see the newest 42.001" LCD TVs, which are 0.001" bigger than last year's 42" models. And there are many boring Windows 8 devices, many of which both run Windows and can display the number 8. These items, along with keynotes from tech gurus like Bill Clinton (We're not making this up!) may be amazing to some news outlets, but not to Slashdot or to Our Man Timothy, who seeks out the new, the bizarre, and the unusual and -- without taking a dime from them -- lets their instigators talk to him about their wares. But it's got to be good stuff, not run of the mill incremental advances. Like the Good Night Lamp(tm), which was invented by Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, whose "work has been exhibited," says the goodnightlamp.com/team page, "at the Milan Furniture Fair, London Design Festival, The Victoria & Albert Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York." Now the Good Night Lamp people are showing off their product and trying to raise money through Kickstarter. But that's enough from us. We will now hand the microphone to Ms. Deschamps-Sonsino and let her tell you the rest.
This video is an interview with Matt Heusser, who makes a good living as an independent IT consultant. He says many other people who are currently pounding out code or performing other routine computer-oriented tasks can become independent, too. He's not selling a course or anything here, just passing on some advice to fellow Slashdot readers. He's written up some of this advice in a series of four articles: Getting People to Throw Money At You; How to become IT Talent; That Last Step to Become ‘Talent’ In IT; and The Schwan’s Solution. He also gave a speech last November titled Building your reputation through creative disobedience. (The link is to a 50 minute video of that speech.) Anyway, we figure quite a few Slashdot readers are at least as smart as Matt and may want to take some career steps similar to the ones he has taken. In today's video, he gives you some ideas about how to stop being an IT worker and how to become IT talent instead.
A while ago you had the chance to ask founder of the GNU Project, and free software advocate, Richard Stallman, about GNU/Linux, free software, and anything else. You can read his answers to a wide range of questions below. As usual, RMS didn't pull any punches.
Let's say you are an IT stud named Yoed Anis, you spent a year in Japan and decided you really like Saké, and you're back home in Austin, Texas. Since Texas, like Japan, grows lots of rice, you obviously need to start the Texas Saké Company to produce Rising Star and Whooping Crane Sakés, which you sell online and through a number of Texas restaurants and retailers. But whatever we can say in print pales beside a two-part brewery tour conducted by Toji Yoed himself, accompanied by Timothy Lord and his trusty camcorder. Yes, there's a transcription. But the video tour itself is better, even though it regretfully does not include the delightful aroma of Saké being made. (Someday, perhaps, Slashdot Studios will be equipped for Smell-O-Vision, but that's at least a few years off.)