Wednesday, 25 August 2010

God Squad and TeachBook.

If you've been reading any news lately you've probably stumbled on a couple of articles regarding these two cases.

One is a case of Best Buy owners of the brand Geek Squad against a priest for using God Squad. However, the issue there is that the priest is not just using the word Squad, which is a generic word, it's that the priest is using a similar logo to the Geek Squad, plus he uses a VW Beetle like the Geek Squad does. Although the priest isn't using the God Squad to fix computers, or even to make any money, I can understand why Best Buy is a little upset.

However, today I saw a article that Facebook is suing another website for using the word "book" in it's name. Teachbook is a "social" networking site for teachers. It's a place for teachers to help each other and discuss how they teach, among other things. Their logo does NOT look at ALL like Facebook does. There are no similarities as in the two sites don't look alike and I'm not a member, so I don't know if they even function alike, but I doubt it. As the wired article points out, Teachbook doesn't even advertise it as a "Facebook for teachers" like some other sites do. Do you think that Facebook should win? I don't.

I think people need to register other sites that end with book and start those as protest to Facebook. What do you think?


Monday, 16 August 2010

Going on vacation? Don't post it on Facebook.

One of the "great things" about social media, the internet is the ability to quickly share your photos and Tweet to all your friends and family about your wonderful vacation.

Although this topic has been discussed at length on other site all over the place, it's worth mentioning it once more.

People, especially the younger generation, aren't paying attention to the things that they post on Fecebook and Tweet out to the world. They say they're going to the store, to a concert and even on vacation. One of the links above points to a person going to a concert and getting burgled only a few minutes after leaving.

If you're planning on going out and you want people to know. Then don't post anything that'll give away when you're leaving and coming back. A concert? Don't say what day. Note that this still leaves you vulnerable to getting watched by the person who intends to rob you, until you leave.

Going on a vacation and want to make people jealous. Same thing, wait until AFTER you got back to post that you were away and upload the pictures. Why give someone the opportunity to go away with all your valuables?

And if you have kids? Educate them about their personal security and privacy, and let them know you don't want them posting that they're going away for a few days. They should also refrain from posting about their (vacational) activities when they're gone. That doesn't mean they cannot talk to their friends and Tweet/post on Facebook, generic comments and activity. But although you don't post you're leaving, someone else might do that for you.


Friday, 13 August 2010

Robot Washing Machine

The definition of a robot is rather broad. Technically a washing machine AS IS, is a robot. It washes your closed by putting the detergent, water, washing, rinsing, etc. These are pre-programmed cycles. It's very simple, it's repetitive and doesn't require much except for the help of a human to actually fill the machine with clothes, the detergent, bleach, softener and pressing the right button.

The newer higher end washing machines can do more, like use less water (by weighing how much clothes are in there) and using lower temperature water (heating water costs money).

So I thought: the washing machine as it stands is quite good. Why change it? However, wouldn't it be nice to be able to put all the detergent in there, and all the bleach and all the softener and only have to worry about putting in the clothes?

Let the machine figure out if the clothes are whites or color and then have it do everything for you. Once it's running low of something, it'll add the item to your online shopping cart. It'll let you schedule when it washes or picks the best time of the day/night to do it.

This doesn't sound very hard to do. What would it cost? Well, I started looking into it. It depends on the parts that you use.

Here were some ideas:

Building containers will add cost to your design. How about using the existing ones... the bottles? Just screw the top which is attached to the washing machine and slide the bottle in. (container $0)

Somehow you need to get the liquid in the right amount (which depends on how much clothing and how dirty it is) so you could use some sort of pump. I was looking at a mini peristaltic pump which unfortunately isn't very cheap ($60) but would give you really good control of how much you'd use.

You'd need one pump for each liquid (3 so far - $180.)

Then you'd need the logic board and the components that detect the weight and how dirty the clothes are. I didn't even try to figure out how much that would cost as I got somewhat discouraged with the price of the pump.

I'm sure lots of people out there have great ideas on how this could be done for less than $300. However think about it, that's $300 you're adding to the price of something that's around $300 already.

Still - feel free to play around with my idea. Just post something about it. I'd like to know if anyone's tried it.

The next problem (which really should be a separate problem) is getting the clothes INTO the washing machine. Thereby eliminating the need for you to do it.


Wednesday, 11 August 2010


For some reason I started to think about Home Automation and particularly robots and how they change our lives. Most people don't realize just how many things in the world are currently handled by robots. Granted most of these are in factories or warehouses, but people that know me, know I am a fan of the Roomba.

However, one of the things that I've always wondered was why people always want their robots to do many things and worst of all, to look humanoid. That is to say, they have 2 legs, 2 arms and a head.

Does your robot really need a head to vacuum? I think that's the success of the Roomba; it's designed to do one thing - suck dirt and pick up debris from your floor. There are still issues with it. I have once sofa that's too low and therefore the Roomba can't get underneath to vacuum. iRobot, the makers of the Roomba have also made one that "mops" called the Scooba. I'm not sure how well it does it's job, but it seems to work well.

Again, what people need to understand is that if you want a robot at home to do chores, it's not going to look at all like a human.

Robots need to be made to work on a particular task as efficiently as possible. Humans are not the most efficient design for everything, but our advantage is we can do multiple things at the same time (well mostly.)

Washing windows? Why not make windows that wash themselves? (They're working on this BTW.) Also, there are robots that do this to some extent: look at this video.

Washing clothes: A washing machine already takes care of that for you. You just need a robot that sorts clothes by color, puts them in the washing machine. (You can just put them in the hamper - unless you ALSO want yyour robot to pick up your clothes. How lazy are you!) However, how about making the washing machine more intelligent? Why not have it dispense the right amount of detergent? All you do is fill containers with liquid or powdered detergent, bleach, fabric softener. The machine can detect what types of clothes are in there and dispenses the right "ingredients" for the wash.

If you start running low of something, it emails you, or better yet, adds it to the shopping cart that your fridge... Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself. Anyway, you still need to move the wet (and heavy) clothes to the drier and then fold them. But those are two different things. The same robot that sorted the clothes could move them to the drier, and another would fold them (and iron.)

Picking up things (like shoes, clothes, books, and general crap) can be done by one robot - all it needs is an arm and pincers. This one looks quite interesting, granted it seems more like a toy than a real functioning robot, but maybe it can be hacked.

Spills! Dropped a glass with a liquid? Dropped a jar with mayo? One robot to pick up the bits and gook (all excess,) the others (Roomba, Scooba) take care of cleaning the floor.

Toilet: Yes, someone's been working on it. However, I think that approach isn't the best. Again, it's doing what a human would do. Stick a brush and scrub. See how bulky that looks? This one disenfects the seat. I think that this can be done more efficiently in a different way. It may mean changing the toilet or at least the seat.

Tub: I found this but don't really know how well it works.

Shower: Well, not exactly a robot but I found this. Maybe what you need is something to scrub the bottom (like a mini-roomba type scrubber.)

Pools: These have been around for a while (I think iRobot makes them too.)

Gutters: Roomba has one too. Again, doesn't look like a human, but needs human interaction.

The one thing that I did think all of these robots could benefit from is a network connection and the ability to communicate between each other and a "master" device. How about being able to program or have them remotely execute.

Although I focused on a lot of things that have to do with cleaning, robots don't need to just be focused to cleaning. Walking the dog? (Didn't find anyone that's working on that.) Cutting the grass? (There's a few.)

Yes, I know what most people are going to say. Each robot isn't cheap (eg. Roomba goes for $300+) so having one for each task makes it expensive (10 robots at $300) and these existing robots don't have the networking capabilities yet.

Still, it defintely made me start to think about what the not so distant future could hold as the components to build these devices become cheaper and cheaper. Not to mention you can buy one robot at a time over a period of several years. My Roomba is 4 years old and still works (although I can't find the filters for it anymore.)

What robot are you waiting for?