Thursday, April 28, 2011

Queer Codes? All about QR 2D barcodes

Have you noticed more of these strange symbols lately? These are QR codes or 2D bar codes. They store information, a lot of information. Whereas a regular barcode that is made up of lines can store 30 numbers, a 2D QR can store 7,089 numbers!

I happen to know this because of a great article on the subject that I just read: Top 14 Things Marketers Need to Know About QR Codes by fellow Search Engine Watch columnist Angie Schottmuller. This article appears in the April 26 issue of Search Engine Watch and they bill it is as: "a great crash course on tools, tactics, and best practices to confidently help you jumpstart a 2D barcode marketing campaign." And I agree wholeheartedly.

The article is also a good general introduction to the technology and why people are using it. Since one goal of this blog is to make technology more accessible I thought I would highlight Angie's article for that reason. And that makes one less article I have to write, which is good, because I know that someone, at some point, is going to ask me: Stephen, what's a QR code? Now I can simply point them in Angie's direction.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Iron Chip: A good example of "biology meets computer" via microarray

Got to love hyperlinking. It takes you to so many interesting places. Like this lecture on a common genetic disorder which also explains how chips called microarrays can be made to detect biological substances, like proteins.

Prof. Martina Muckenthaler, PhD Head of Molecular Medicine University of Heidelberg
This one hour video-taped lecture from one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, Professor Martina Muckenthaler, PhD., Head of Molecular Medicine at the University of Heidelberg is a real geek-treat. What is particularly like about this video is:

a. the professor’s superb pedagogical style as she leads her audience of university students from a simple introduction to hemochromatosis to a detailed explanation of its mechanisms at the molecular level, followed by the technology she has been developing to perform her research.

b. the English subtitles, which are very well done and a great example of going the extra mile to share knowledge and information.

Even if you watch just the first 15 minutes you will get a good sense of why the world needs to know more about haemochromatosis (the British English version of the spelling is used in the subtitles). Hemochromatosis is not easy to explain and I'm speaking as one who has spent a lot of time trying to explain it (mainly because my wife has it). So I was delighted to encounter this video in my ongoing ferreting out of useful information about this debilitating, frequently misdiagnosed, and potentially fatal condition.

Every person needs to do as much self-education as possible when it comes to their health. For example, if you have learned through genetic testing that you have mutant alleles of the HFE gene (C282Y and H63D) then this video will help you understand what that means.

To watch the video, click the image above or use this direct link ( which I encourage you to share. There is also a paper here on the technology of microarrays. And Wikipedia has an entry on DNA microarrays that I found quite helpful.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Capping the Net: AT&T T-Mobile deal spells bandwidth caps, captive users, and rising costs

IMHO: If the AT&T purchase of T-Mobile goes through we will see a new era of rising prices for bandwidth, the expansion of bandwidth caps and captive users. I have been saying for some time that the future of the 'net is looking bleak, at least from the point of view of the average user.

The days of cheap and seemingly limitless bandwidth are coming to an end. Maybe not tomorrow, or even this year, but the writing is on the wall and it says you will have to pay a lot more for bandwidth, and you will pay by the gigabyte. No more all you can eat for X dollars per month. Try 5 gigabytes for $50 and $50 a gigabyte for overage. No rollovers, no exceptions, unless you opt for the platinum plan, a mortgage payment priced top tier of connectivity affordable only to the few.

The golden age of surfing without thinking about the bandwidth you are burning, the salad days of unlimited movie watching over the web, through your Xbox and onto your HD flat screen? It's about to end. Get ready to sit around the hearth and reminisce about the good old days of unlimited data plans and all the online gaming you could eat.

Melodramatic? Only time will tell. Set a reminder to check back here in 12 months (I use the calendar on my iPhone). But before you bet against these dire prognostications, checkout Stop the Cap, a great website that I've been watching for some years now. The have a wealth of material on many aspects of broadband pricing, service levels, and telecom lobbying:

Many companies in the broadband industry are engaged in a high-priced lobbying campaign to manufacture a “bandwidth crisis/exaflood” or “shortage,” suggesting that consumers are abusing their broadband connections at such a rate it threatens the integrity of the Internet and its distribution platform...[but]...most of the companies complaining refuse to open their records to independent verification “for competitive reasons.”

If you do visit Stop the Cap you will see where I got the inspiration for the graphics in this post. Anyone who wants to raise awareness of cap-creep and other net-farious telco activities is free to re-use or link to my images. However, use of these images by any telco without written permission is prohibited. (Okay, so it's highly unlikely anyone from AT&T or T-Mobile or Comcast or Time Warner or Verizon is going to read this, but I'm just saying, you've been warned, right.)