WW1-Era Shipwrecks To Receive Protection

July 28th 1914 was a day that changed the world forever.

A global war was declared that would last for four long, bloody years and would cost Humanity millions of lives. Although the images of the gruelling, inhuman trench warfare that was waged in France are the perhaps most indelible from the conflict, it should also be remembered that an awful amount of lives were also lost at sea.

Britain alone lost over a thousand vessels from 1914 – 1919, together with about 89,300 sailors and merchant navy personnel. Germany lost hundreds of warships, as well as about 35,000 sailors. In addition, civilians were also caught in the ocean-going crossfire, as a German submarine sank the liner Lusitania in 1915, killing almost 2000 people in the process.

As we approach the centenary of the First World War, the seafloors are littered with the stark, skeletal remains of vessels leftover from this conflict. In recent years, however, these ruined ships have come under an increased level of threat from salvage teams, looters and profiteers, many of whom are intent on destroying the wrecks outright.

Shipwrecks such as those left over from the First World War, are a target for two main reasons. Firstly, they can be commercially exploited for scrap metals (and other artefacts) and secondly, fishing trawlers dredging the ocean depths in search of deep-sea fish can impact the ships, destroying them altogether.

In 2011 alone, three British cruisers, the final resting place of about 1,500 sailors altogether, were completely destroyed because copper and bronze had reached sufficiently high prices as to make such destructive salvage exercises profitable.

However, because the 100th anniversary of World War One begins this year, more and more of these ships will be protected by Unesco’s 2001 ‘Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage’, an agreement that extends International protection to shipwrecks over 100 years old.

Many people worry that these laws will prove difficult to enforce, however. Others still are worried that this move will increase the destruction of shipwrecks from more recent times, in particular, vessels from World War Two (1939 – 1945), before they come under Unesco’s protection.

Today, historians are attempting to use the centenary of the First World War as a way to educate people about the history and legacy of the conflict, as well as to demonstrate the cultural and historical importance of these undersea war graves. Many, including this writer, feel that such sites are deserving of our respect and reverence.

Shipwrecks also provide a very good habitat for local marine life and can even form the basis for coral reefs (if left undisturbed for long enough). These vessels are also studied for scientific interest, with experiments carried out on everything from metal erosion to marine biology.

At the time of writing, the British Government has failed to sign the convention.

SOURCES

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28056244

Programmer Facing Paralysis Develops Revolutionary New Software

38-year-old computer programmer Gal Sont is developing revolutionary new software to aid disabled people in communication, even as he faces paralysis himself.

Sont suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS – alternately known as ‘Lou Gehrig’s  Disease’), which he was first diagnosed with in 2009.

Due to this disease, the neurons that govern voluntary movement (located in the brain and spinal cord) are slowly dying out, which means that Gal is likely to eventually suffer from ‘locked-in syndrome’, a cruel affliction wherein the mind is aware and conscious, but the body is completely unable to move or speak (usually only the eyes are voluntarily controlled).

Tragically, there is no known cure for this condition.

When Sont (who, even today, can only stand when aided – and only for a few seconds at a time) met other people suffering with similar disabilities, he found that they were increasingly resorting to expensive (and often-inefficient) computer setups in order to help them better communicate with the outside world.

“I came to realize that these people first of all don’t understand the potential, what technology can do for them, they use all kinds of different equipment which was very expensive, and as I know technology I didn’t understand why they were so expensive”, Sont told BBC News earlier this week.

“So I decided to build the best and fastest on-screen keyboard, then when combined with the camera, it gives you a very cheap and very good communication solution… accessible for all people, not only the rich.”

Sont and his best friend Dan Russ are business partners in the Las Vegas, Nevada, USA-based start-up company Click2Speak, which aims to create a fast, efficient and accurate on-screen keyboard (created by Sont –using only his eyes) in order to aid people with physical disabilities. The driving force behind the invention is to create an affordable product that is better than anything else available right now.

Click2Speak makes use of an ingenious eye-tracking camera that allows the user to control the cursor on a screen, or click buttons on a virtual keyboard, simply by looking at them. Clicks can be made using a foot pedal, or by holding one’s gaze on a specific part of the screen. Gal’s computer makes full use of his Click2Speak software and he is able to control his entire desktop (including email, Skype, video games and, perhaps most importantly, the creation of code – the way in which he makes his living) using only his eyes.

Click2Speak is fully integrated with the SwiftKey Smartphone app, which is timesaving software that creates complete suggestions for half-typed words, based on the user’s previous word use. Essentially, the software grows easier to use the more it is utilized and this is a major part of Click2Speak’s design.

As his illness progresses, Sont will be using his own software more and more to communicate with his family, friends and business colleagues.

Gal Sont was born in Israel in 1976 and was fascinated by computers since getting his first Commodore 64 aged 8. He married his school sweetheart, with whom he has two daughters and has subsequently spent 20 years working as a computer programmer. He is also a big sci-fi/fantasy fan and he used to enjoy outdoor activities such as kite surfing, motor biking and riding roller coasters.

By nature a proud man, Gal cherishes his independence and it is this desire to remain self-sufficient that has motivated him to create such an affordable software option for others facing similar hardships.

“I never asked for help from anyone my whole life, it was my wife and I against the world, but now I need help and assistance, and it’s not too much fun to ask all the time for others to help you (…) If you can buy a communication device by yourself without begging others to help, this is also very, very good. So I hope the people out there who hear about our software and the keyboard, will be able to use it, save money and time, and live their life.” He says.

It is clear that Sont’s miraculous mind will prove to be a life preserver, not only for himself, but also for thousands of others around the world.

“Your communication is the basis of everything, to tell someone you love them, to ask for something to drink, it is the basic need of every one of us: to communicate with my family and friends and tell them all that I need, in words. So communicating is very important, and if I can do it faster and more efficient, you know, I’ve won the world.”

SOURCES

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-28041743

http://www.click2speak.net/category/our-journey

New Yorkers Return $40,000 Found In Second Hand Couch

Every now and then a news story comes along that simultaneously lifts the spirits and restores one’s faith in Humanity. This is one of those stories.

You know how sometimes you find money down the back of your sofa cushions? Well…

Three students in New York City bought a second-hand couch from a charity shop for $20.00 and discovered an astonishing $40,000 in cash (that’s about £24,000, in case you were wondering) tucked away in several envelopes that were nestled between the cushions.

Reese Werkhoven, one of the discoverers of this hidden fortune, said, “The most money I’d ever found in a couch was like fifty cents. Honestly, I’d be ecstatic to find just $5 in a couch,”

After finding $40,000, he must have been positively delirious. In and of itself, that would be an amazing story, but here’s the REALLY amazing part; the three friends actually tracked down the rightful owner of the money and gave it back.

New Yorkers (well, they live in New Paltz, just North of the city, so ‘New Paltzers’ is probably more appropriate), Reese Werkhoven, Cally Guasti and Lara Russo found a mysterious name on one of the envelopes and decided to try and return the cash.

“We all agreed that we had to bring the money back to whoever it belonged to…It’s their money, we didn’t earn it” said Ms. Guasti.

When they tracked down the rightful owner of the cash, it turned out to be an elderly woman’s life savings. The woman’s daughter had donated the couch while her mother was in hospital awaiting surgery and was completely unaware that her mother’s life savings were hidden inside it.

The woman (who did not want her identity revealed, for fairly obvious reasons) said that she had been saving the money for many years.

Her husband had given her some funds to put away each week before he sadly died of a heart condition. She had continued to stash the money in his stead and, over several years, had amassed the small fortune discovered by the three friends.

Ms. Guasti said that the old woman believed that the discovery of the money by three honest and caring people was her husband’s way of looking out for her. She said that she felt it was “supposed to happen”.

For their troubles, the widow gave out $1,000 for the friends to share.

I don’t know about you, but that one brought a tear to my eye! See, its not all doom and gloom. Not even students are all bad! 

SOURCES

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-27429911

http://thelittlerebellion.com/index.php/2014/05/new-paltz-students-find-40k-in-a-couch/

 

Russian Officials Brand The Sims 4 as ‘Harmful to Children’

Russia has come under fire from both gamers and the global LGTB community for its decision to restrict sales of Electronic Arts game ‘The Sims 4’ to 18+ gamers.

EA have claimed that this 18+ rating is due to the game’s depiction of same-sex relationships, images of which are deemed by Russian law as being “harmful to children”.

The Sims, in any incarnation, centres on the lives of a group of virtual characters. Players must ensure that the characters are fed, enjoy gainful employment, have somewhere to live (preferably with adequate toilet facilities) and are generally happy in their lives.

sims 4 2014There are very few mission-based objectives within The Sims. In fact, it is intended as a virtual depiction (some may say satire) of modern life. To this end, relationships play a part in the game, although characters are neither explicitly heterosexual nor homosexual, these are largely choices made on the part of the player. Relationships can either be brief flirtations, casual flings or monogamous, steady partnerships; it is entirely up to the gamer.

Depictions of sex (called ‘woohoo’) within the game take place under sheets, or in other private places. Players can tell that something is going on, but one would be hard pushed to guess that it was sex without some prior erm…Woohoo experience.

In 2010, Russia passed a law known as 436-FZ, which was created, ostensibly, to protect children from harmful content. The law gives Russian officials the right to censor anything that may elicit “fear, horror, or panic in young children”. It sounds fair enough, except when you try to envision any child, no matter how sensitive, being rendered ‘fearful, horrified or panicky’ at the sight of two, essentially genderless, computer sprites exchanging, essentially nothing, under a duvet.

For the record, Sims cannot take illegal drugs or self harm in any way (with the possible exception of being up all night woohoo-ing and then falling asleep at work and being fired, which I don’t think qualifies), so it is hard to imagine why else the game could have garnered such a severe age restriction.

Oh wait; I forgot to mention that in 2013, Russian authorities amended 436-FZ so that it prohibits the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships”. Now there’s an ill-fitting definition if ever there was one.

Many studies/groups (such as America’s TREVOR project) maintain that media-enforced pressure to conform to heterosexual norms can cause depression, anxiety and even suicide among LGBT youths, essentially proving that only showing one type of romantic relationship can actually be harmful to young viewers. On the flipside, as far as I know, there is no evidence to suggest that seeing a same-sex partnership in a video game will cause an otherwise heterosexual gamer to become a homosexual and even if there was, how exactly would they be being harmed by this unlikely metamorphosis?

Critics maintain that this move reflects little more than personal prejudice in the guise of child protection. Who’s ‘fear, horror and/or panic’ are Russia really preventing here?

In the rest of the world, The Sims series has either been rated at 10+ or 13+ (mainly because of all the woohoo, I suppose). Electronic Arts was voted as being one of the best places to work for LGBT individuals by the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) in 2012, it got a score of 100%.

One has to wonder what score the Russian government would get.

SOURCE

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-27374539

Jawbone ERA Bluetooth Headset

You’ve probably stumbled upon this looking for information about headset’s, hopefully this will help you answer some of those questions, if not please click on one of the relevant links within the article

Jawbone may now be best known for its UP wireless activity trackers and its Jambox speakers, but before anything else the San Francisco company was a force in the world of Bluetooth headsets. The new ERA is Jawbone’s (mostly) triumphant return to the ears of busy businessmen worldwide.

 

What Is It?

The Jawbone ERA is a small, powerful Bluetooth headset. It’s only 47mm long, 22mm wide and 13mm deep, and weighs only 6g. It has an internal rechargeable lithium-ion battery good for 4 hours of talk time or music playback, and a high quality noise cancelling microphone that promises clear and accurate voice calls even in loud environments.

For such a small device, the ERA is well-built. There’s no creaking plastic or microphonics when you’re wearing the wireless headset, and even at maximum volume on a bassy music track there’s no undue vibration or distortion from the ERA’s earpiece.

There are five main elements involved in the care and usage of the ERA. The first is the headset’s single visible switch — it’s on the inner face of the ERA, toggling from power off to hpower on — when you can see the blue half of the switch, the Bluetooth headset is turned on. Forwards from the power switch is a small, rubberised, cylindrical mole — this is a skin sensor that knows when you’re wearing the ERA and when you’re speaking, aiding the earpiece’s active noise cancellation.

Hidden away on the back of the Jawbone ERA is the headset’s sole multi-purpose button. The process for using said button is a little arcane — there’s a guide in the box, of course, but remembering just how many short or long presses to tap on the back of the ERA can sometimes be a little difficult.

To adjust the ERA’s audio output volume, for example, you press and hold the multi-purpose button as the headset cycles through various volume levels from minimum to maximum to minimum and so on; to answer or end a call is a single press, to skip audio tracks is a double press — it’s easy enough with practice, but slightly complex to initially learn.

At the end of the protuberance of the Jawbone ERA — the best word to describe the piece of the headset that juts forwards from its resting place in your ear — is its internal microphone. The microphone is hooked up to the rest of the ERA’s electronics package, and does an incredibly good job of clearly transmitting your voice to anyone you’re talking to.

The segment of the ERA that you’ll have the most interaction with, though, is its earpiece. It’s the misshapen lump protruding from the otherwise sleek body of the ERA, with a wide-band audio driver surrounded by a removable silicon eartip. Jawbone includes four different silicon eartip sizes in the ERA’s retail packaging — suitable for a small right ear, medium right ear, medium left, and large right. In practice we found both the small and medium right eartips to offer the best fit

The ERA is not a cheap headset. If you buy it without the charging case, you’re up for a full $149, while adding the charging case tacks another $30 onto the price tag. I genuinely think the charging case is a mandatory accessory — it does a great job of providing extra power to a headset that definitely needs it — but as an overall package the ERA is very expensive.

What Is It Good At?

Just using the Jawbone ERA is an enjoyable exercise straight out of the box. There’s that ever-present secret agent feel to pressing a button on your secret in-ear headset, and after you’ve learned the ropes, taking calls, playing and selecting music tracks is simple.

The active noise cancellation of Jawbone’s microphone — the company calls the entire package NoiseAssassin, now at version 3.0 in the new ERA — is excellent. For making voice calls, or talking to Siri or Google Now, it’s definitely the most capable Bluetooth microphone I’ve used, and is possibly the best headset microphone I’ve used full stop. Especially in noisy environments, the novel noise cancelling built into the body of the ERA works very well.

For the first few days of trialing the headset, everyone I talked to with the ERA noticed the difference in the clarity and quality of voice calls. When you’re talking, the ERA clearly transmits audio, and when you’re not, it doesn’t — simple as that. With the help of the skin sensor, the ERA’s noise cancellation removes one of the most annoying impediments to workday phone conversations in existence. If you and a friend both had Jawbone ERAs and smartphones hooked up to a mobile carrier that supported HD Voice, you’d be able to chat away in the middle of a hurricane.

Beyond transmitting voice and audio, the Jawbone ERA is equally good at playing it back. I haven’t heard previous Jawbone Bluetooth headsets to compare the ERA too, but Jawbone says its earphone driver is much improved, and I’m inclined to believe them — this is a tiny Bluetooth headset, but at maximum power it’s actually capable of outputting a decent amount of audio oopmh. Compare it to a good pair of earbuds or in-ear monitors (I sabotaged the ERA by trying it out against Logitech’s excellent UE 900 IEMs), and it isn’t great, but it beats out Apple’s iPhone earbuds any day.

There isn’t a great deal of bass extension from the Jawbone ERA’s earphone speaker driver, but both treble and mid-range detail is excellent — significantly better than I was expecting. Maximum volume isn’t exactly ear-splittingly loud, but it is good enough to hear the ERA in an otherwise noisy environment. Jawbone’s various audio cues — a sort of aural guide to the ERA’s various features as you select them — are presented in a pleasantly soothing female voice, although you can customise them usng Jawbone’s companion mobile app, which also adds some useful features to the ERA’s repertoire.

Jawbone’s ERA works well as part of the entire family of Jawbone products. The accompanying Jawbone app for both Android and iOS devices (tablets and smartphones alike, although you’re likely only using the ERA with a phone) will be updated in the near future to link various products together, although Jawbone isn’t sharing specifics just yet. You should be able to get updates on your UP24′s daily activity or sleep progress in your ERA headset, for example. It’s a minor software trigger, but one that adds value to the entire Jawbone ecosystem.

If you’ve bought the charging case for the ERA, you’re in for a treat — it’s both a convenient and sturdy place to store the headset when you’re not using it, and a portable recharging station. The ERA headset sits in the case with its rear microUSB port holding it securely, while the dock has its own microUSB port for recharging. There’s a small indicator on the side of the charging case that tells you how much charge it has remaining, and the flip-up connector makes getting the ERA out easy when you need it. It’s the smartest way to store the ERA, and it has a thin leather strap for attaching it to a keyring.

I kept the ERA on my keyring for a fortnight, and the charging case didn’t get more than a couple of scratches — it’s just as sturdy as the ERA itself. It holds a total of 10 hours worth of charge for the headset, it charges quickly, and it’s convenient storage. I did have one instance where the ERA’s silicone earpiece fell off while the headset was stored away in its case, but for the most part the eartips stay on securely.

What Is It Not Good At?

It’s not possible to talk aout Bluetooth headsets without talking about the cringe factor inherent in using one. Don’t get me wrong — the Jawbone ERA is a very cool Bluetooth headset, but at the end of the day, it isstill a Bluetooth headset. If you want one, this is the one to get, but you better really want to wear it.

What that means is that it’s a slightly dorky dongle hanging out of your left or right ear, and even as unobtrusive as it is it is noticeable, and if you wear it out in public you’ll get the odd sideways glance or cautious glare. I made the mistake of wearing the ERA between my morning train and the Gizmodo office, and ordered a coffee at a cafe on the way — only afterwards did I realise how much of an idiot I probably looked like to the barista.

Of course, there is absolutely a time and place where the ERA truly belongs. It’s invaluable on long car trips, where the one-touch button means you can answer a call and have a discussion almost entirely hands-free, without distracting yourself from the road. If you’re hard at work and don’t want too much of a distraction, it’s possible to talk on the phone without disrupting your flow.

Without its charging case, the Jawbone ERA will run out of power within 4 hours at moderate listening volume, if you’re listening to music or constantly making and receiving voice calls. This is not enough for an entire workday of listening to music on the ERA, for example, and if you have a particularly busy string of phone meetings you might quickly run the ERA to the end of its battery life.

It’s possible to eke a day’s power out of the ERA with light usage, but as a general rule, it won’t last a full eight hour stretch — and it’s this that makes the extra cost of the battery charging case worthwhile. You’ll have to shell out a few more dollars, though, and this factors into our overall view of the ERA as a particularly expensive Bluetooth headset.

Should You Buy It?

Jawbone’s ERA is, as Bluetooth headsets go, very fashionable. You can buy the ERA in any one of four colours, and all four will be available in Australia. As it stands, the ERA is being sold exclusively in Apple Stores around the country, so if you want one to complement your Android phone you’ll have to step into the heart of darkness for at least a few minutes.

The ERA is a great headset, there’s no denying that. It sounds great, has the added features offered by Jawbone’s bespoke app, and it’s both attractive and versatile. All this brilliance does come at a price, though. The high asking price does restrict the appeal of the Jawbone ERA significantly; it’s likely to only appear on the ears of well-heeled businessmen and ultra-fashionable advertising and marketing and PR types.

If you want the best Bluetooth headset at any price, our money goes towards the Jawbone ERA. Before you buy it, though, I’d suggest you give careful consideration to its utility and how often you’ll be using it — an alternative might be more appropriate. Anyone deciding that the $179 ERA is right for them won’t be disappointed with how it performs. It’s on sale around Australia from the end of this month.

What’s is the Best Bluetooth Headset for Running?

Asked by Hiromi in Osaka

Hi Hiromi, How’s life in Japan? I’d love to visit one day, but until then, here’s your answer…

It all depends on how much you sweat. Yes, I know that’s a little bit indelicate of me, but unfortunately it happens to be true. I’ve read many, many customer reviews of otherwise fine and good headsets that claim to be designed for joggers, but that conk out the first time they get significantly wet…

Headsets designed for jogging are often created so that they won’t fall out of your ears as you run, with almost no concern placed on how much you may sweat during the run. Some people sweat a lot and some sweat very little. In either instance, your sweat level needs to be a factor in your purchasing decision (and there’s no nicer way to say it than that!)

Then, another factor to consider is how much the headset will isolate you from your surroundings as you run. Noise cancellation headsets might do a superlative job if you’re running past a noisy construction site, but they aren’t going to be much help in the wake of oncoming traffic. Again, it comes down to individual choice. Some runners subscribe to the Linford Christie ‘bullet from a gun’ mentality, whilst others simply enjoy a bit of exercise, but also like to stay aware of what’s going on around them.

It is also misleading to assume that a branded headset from a sportswear manufacturer is in any way superior to one designed by a trusted electronics firm. In many/most instances, the opposite is actually true.

Sadly, even so called ‘sweat resistant’ headsets are often anything but and there isn’t a lot you can actually do to get your money back. Your best bet, if you ask me, is to buy a mid-range headset, use it specifically for jogging/going to the gym and don’t expect it to last for very long. If it performs badly, chalk it up to experience and buy a different headset, if it lasts for a decent period of time, then replace it with a similar model, or else the same one again.

I’ll be honest; every so often I get one of these questions that I find hard to answer, as no amount of research will really help. Type in the name of any ‘Bluetooth Headset for Jogging’ into Amazon (or whatever the Japanese equivalent of Amazon may be) and you’ll read just as many complaints in the reviews as praises.

Due to this, I’m reluctant to name specific models, because they may not actually work for you. I’d hate to say, “Oh, this headset works really well”, only to have you write back “Does it b*llocks!”. I have personally reviewed several pairs of headphones online (which you can view by clicking HERE), but not any Bluetooth headsets (to the best of my recollection), so I’m afraid that’s all the advice I can give you on this one!