3D printer uses metal – prints a working gun!

Ok, so the fact that they chose to print a gun as opposed to some other useful tool is probably mainly for shock effect and media appeal.  Still, the fact that these guys are able to print high-tolerance metal parts is amazing!  Click Here for the article.

3D printers are becoming more commonplace, but most of them use plastic as a medium and create output using layers of melted plastic (stereo lithography). Below is a MakerBot 3d printer.

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This cool gadget can be yours for a paltry $2,899! 

As you might expect, a device that produces metal parts is a LOT more expensive.  Services like Solid Concepts can be very useful, giving you the ability to print on much more expensive gear, using more exotic materials for one-off manufacturing, prototyping, or even replacing impossible to procure parts on an existing machine!  These folks actually have a firearm manufacturing license, so if you have a gun with a broken but impossible to find part, they can probably make it for you quite easily.

 

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How to find when your HP computer was made and check warranty status with only the serial number

Like most people, I suspect, I’m terrible at remembering “when did I buy that machine” and “is it still under warranty”.  There is no convenient way that I have found to ascertain the manufacture date from just the serial number (though I really wish HP would add that little gem of information to the info they give you with this handy web page).

Here’s what you do: Go to this web page (http://h20565.www2.hp.com/portal/site/hpsc/public/wc/home)

Put your serial number in the top box and press enter:

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Here is what you get in return:

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If you then click on the machine identifier (circled in red), you get this:

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So while they don’t tell you exactly when it was MADE, you can see when you bought it (that’s when the warranty timer starts).  In my case above, that’s Dec 23, 2008!  Hmm… time for a new computer? Winking smile

Got a window and you don’t know what it is? Try Process Explorer! (SysInternals ROCKS)

I have to hand it to the "SysInternals" folks at Microsoft – they sure come up with some great stuff.  I just used this one: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/bb896653

I had a spurious windows with no title bar and no chrome (border,minimize,maximize & close box), just a text input box – very suspicious, especially since there have been malware threats that masquerade as IME (see http://threatpost.com/new-trojan-disguised-windows-ime-070610).

So, I ran this tool, dragged it’s "target" (next to the binoculars) onto the suspect window, and it instantly identified it as a child window of that bug-ridden annoyance known as "Adobe Reader".  I right-clicked on the entry, picked "end process" and poof! window is gone.  VERY nice indeed.

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The stock Windows "Resource Monitor" tool (buried in “task manager”, with a link on the "performance" tab to launch it) is a little more refined and gives you similar information, but lacks features like the "target" which you can drag-and-drop on any window to identify it.  Process Explorer also has some other niche tools which you might find handy from time to time.

They have a handy package called the sysinternals “suite” which contains most of the tools (including Process Monitor) all in one 13MB download.

Other utilities worth of note in the package include BgInfo (great for servers), Desktops, and Diskmon.  MoveFile is also handy if you have a pesky file which won’t delete – you can tell it to delete at the next reboot and usually that does the trick.  There is also a windows version of “whois” which unix geeks are probably familiar with.  This lets you quickly see who owns an Internet domain name.  ZoomIt is a nice tool for augmenting presentations, letting you zoom in and draw annotations (you see this used a lot in Microsoft tutorial videos).

Inane FAA/Airline rule to be removed – electronic devices

According to the Wall Street Journal: An FAA advisory committee has concluded passengers can safely use hand-held electronic devices, including those connected to onboard Wi-Fi systems, during all portions of flights on nearly all U.S. airliners, according to one of the group’s leaders.

Well, in my humble opinion, it’s about time!  There has been testing, of course, but nobody ever proved that electronic devices can or do cause interference with Jetliner avionics systems.  For years, the quaking “ohhh, you MUST turn off all electronic devices” has been heard, and for no good reason other than paranoia.  I’m very glad that Amazon helped push through some proper analysis on this.  Hopefully, this inane rule will be off the books by the end of the year.

Airlines are also working on providing WiFi access during all flight phases, including below 10,000 feet.  That’ll be fun too!

BlackBerry RIM – another nail in the coffin

According to AINonline, RIM has announced a 40% employee layoff, and the closing of the corporate flight department.

In an effort to control recent losses totaling as much as $995 million, BlackBerry is closing its corporate flight department and selling off its fleet. Earlier this year, the company sold two Dassault Falcons and has plans to sell a Bombardier Global Express. "In light of the company’s current business condition, the company has decided to sell that aircraft [the Global Express] along with the two legacy aircraft [the Falcons] and will no longer own any airplanes," the company said in a statement. It is also planning to lay off about 4,500 employees

RIM’s flagship BlackBerry product was hit hard by the iPhone.  Other manufacturers were too, but they were able to rally and update their product line to compete.  RIM has arguably done that for the most part with their latest Z10 phone, but it seems too late to recapture waning business interest in the product line.  They also re-engineered their BES (mobile device management) software to allow it to manage non-RIM devices.  They have a good reputation in that area, and so that product may help their bottom line.  The trouble is, business has basically given up on RIM solutions and has looked elsewhere.  Can they recapture their market at this point?  It’s doubtful.

Drones and privacy–will you allow it, or shoot them down?

There’s quite a bit of talk these days about drones, or unmanned aircraft (UAS).  These have several problems, when you get right down to it.

  1. Noise pollution – it’s annoying enough when Sherrif’s helicopters fly overhead and loiter for awhile, but while a UAS would probably be quieter, it’s still not silent.
  2. Safety – If one of these malfunctions or the remote pilot makes a mistake, they can crash, doing damage to persons and property
  3. Privacy – are you comfortable having cameras over your home or business, watching you and recording what you are doing?  If you are, perhaps Russia would be a better place for you to live.

I am mainly concerned about #3, though the first two certainly are things to think about.  As time go by we (as a nation) are slowly giving up our privacy by allowing our lives to become more public (we post personal stuff on Facebook or Twitter and then wonder how stalkers know about us for example).  Todays youth has grown up with this pervasive social network and doesn’t even give a thought to how their personal privacy is compromised by participating.  It seems it’s only us old farts who grew up before this became prevalent who look at it and say “wow, that’s not good, nope, I’m not doing that”.

Unmanned drones are another thing that is starting to take off (ok, sorry, couldn’t resist that).  If we sit idly by and allow this to happen, then there will be no concept of privacy, even in your own back yard.

One town in Colorado has a proposal drafted by resident Phillip Steel to do something about this, in a very American manner.  According to Steel, “We do not want drones in town.  They fly in town, they get shot down”.  Excellent!

The proposal was to sell $25 hunting licenses, and offered a $100 reward to anyone who shot down a drone “known to be owned or operated by the United States Government”.  Wow, how cool is THAT??

The FAA of course (in their traditional role as spoilsports) takes issue with this, stating “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane”.  They claim that they are responsible for airspace and safety and that a damaged aircraft could crash and hurt somebody or damage property (hmm… kinda like my #2 above even without the gunman, but I’m sure they feel THOSE risks are acceptable).

Personally, I think that if everybody took the attitude that Mr. Steel has, that the FAA would find it difficult or impossible to enforce on a large scale, the government would find that they are spending a LOT of money to replace these expensive planes, and the whole thing would fizzle, much to the delight of privacy loving folks everywhere.

Here’s another entertaining alternative, borrowed from WWII.  The Germans had flying bombs which had no pilot and would fly across the channel, run out of Petrol (it’s England, folks), then crash and explode.  They were quite terrifying as weapons because of their random targets and because you could hear them and knew you were safe… until the engine stopped.  Very Hitchcock-esque from a terror standpoint, but I digress.  The allies came up with a good solution.  They’d fly up next to these things, put a wingtip under their wing and then roll their plane.  This caused the bomb to bank, veer off course, and crash in the channel.  Wouldn’t it be fun to do that with a Drone?  Of course I never would do such a terrible thing, and I would never recommend that anybody else do such a terrible and rebellious act, but it’s fun to think about isn’t it?  I bet there are a number of other fun scenarios that don’t involve something as direct as shooting a drone down.  This could be a fun video game!!

Here’s a short article in AVWEB about this amusing Colorado proposal.

PAL-V ONE–an interesting entry in the flying car realm

PAL-V Europe NV started in 2001 to design a roadable aircraft.  What they came up with is very interesting indeed.  It’s a two-place (two seater) gyroplane which behaves like a souped-up 3 wheel motorcycle on the road (yes, it leans!)

There are always compromises when trying to come up with a machine that works both in the air and on the road.  Historically, companies working in this area emphasize the air, and give you a “roadable” machine which has pretty lousy performance, but gets you from your garage to the airport, and that’s about it.  PAL-V, on the other hand has really worked on the road part of the equation, producing a vehicle which delivers high performance (112mph), has good range, and seems like it would actually be fun to drive.

As far as the airborne side goes, an gyroplane is an interesting approach.  It is a rotary wing craft, but the wing is not powered, it rotates from forward air pressure.  This means you can’t land or take off vertically, but it is a lot simpler and cheaper than a helicopter’s rotor mechanism.  It is quieter than a helicopter as the blades spin much slower, it takes off and lands at low speeds, and can’t stall.  In the event of an engine failure, it can be auto-rotated to a safe landing.  It’s designed to fly below 4,000 feet in uncontrolled VFR (visual flight rules) traffic.  They say it will do 112mph in the air as well as on land!

Roadable high-performance gyroplane

Terrafugia flying car–getting closer to reality!

Terrafugia has been working on some interesting things in the flying-car realm.  I wrote about them a couple of years ago, but now we are getting closer to being able to actually go out and buy one of these.

Driving to flying, and back to driving again

Here’s some interesting inside-the-cockpit footage:

Inside the cockpit

Now, they have announced that they are working on a hybrid-electric VTOL car!  At the moment, it’s at the concept stage, but it certainly would be really cool if they can get it off the ground (er, sorry, I couldn’t resist)

VTOL hybrid gas/electric

Hyperloop, electric cars, and philosophy–Elon Musk

This is a really neat interview with Elon Musk.  In case you’ve been in a cave for the last 20 years, Elon founded Space-X, Tesla, and is one of the more creative and brilliant entrepreneurs around.  He seems to be a very intelligent yet genuine person, as you’ll see in this interview.  He has an interesting philosophy on creative design processes and

One of the ideas he’s spoken about recently is something he refers to as the Hyperloop.  This is apparently a new mode of transportation which is supposedly very fast, accident-free, and low cost.  He visualizes using this technology to link major cities.  As he’s a bit on the busy side with his other ventures, his plan is to release this into the public domain so that others can pick up the ball and run with it.  How cool is that??

Hyperloop, electric cars, and philosophy–Elon Musk

RIM Blackberry 10 (BB10) available this week

With the general availability of the Blackberry 10 device starting on Monday of this week, several important questions arise.

Does anybody actually care?  RIM has lost so much momentum to iPhone, Android, and Windows phone.  Can they realistically ever recover? I doubt it.  Still, there are die-hard crackberry addicts who will embrace this new model.  Businesses need to take a bit of a look and see if there is any demand in their user base.  If there is (especially executive demand), then the new management platform may be worth digging into.  RIM wants everybody to use this to manage ALL of their mobile devices.  Whether or not this will actually happen remains to be seen, but BES10 will be needed if you want to support BB10 properly.  Since BES10 is new, it would probably be prudent to wait 6 months or so before deploying it in production.

Gartner has published a fairly concise report on this: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2374518