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The history of photography starts at the human scale, with the first picture of a face in 1838 and moves in both directions, culminating in the WMAP cosmic background radiation image in 2003 and the first complete image of a molecule in 2009.

First images from atoms to the universe

The Wall of Death ride, where centrifugal (or counter-centripetal as physicists tell us we are supposed to say) force allows a motorbike rider to circle a vertical wall is an iconic daredevil attraction that has been preserved by a few dedicated enthusiasts. Traditionally a wooden cylinder provided the circuit for a classic Indian motorcycle, however vehicles such as cars and go carts have been used in tracks that are now often spherical cages.

daredevil walls of death

Obviously the design criteria for four wheeled vehicles are somewhat different on other planets. This has yielded some of the most bizarre and fascinating vehicles ever proposed, from the giant Mobility Test Article test driven by Wernher von Braun to todays rovers which have ditched the most expensive component of all, the driver.Here are a variety of some of both classic and unusual space rovers from prototype to flown.

cars in space

Phoropters, the gadgets used by opthalmologists to test your eyes look like the most spectacular binoculars you have ever seen.The traditional complex mechanical versions are technological works of art made by lens makers such as Bausch and Lomb and have the design quality of a classic vintage Leica camera. Only now are these marvelous gadgets slowly being replaced by simpler looking, wireless, digital versions which relay data to a computer for image analysis.

15 spectacular eye testing gadgets

Although the term galvanometer is often used to refer to things other than devices which measure electrical current (such as charge or resistance), there are an amazing array of early designs for this instrument, considering their simplicity.Many of these design differences are to do with the cases that surround what is basically a twisting wire, however there is something definitively analog in their mechanism and 19th century amateur scientist in their variety. Early galvanometers represent the extreme opposite of todays high energy physics, which requires giant multi billion dollar apparatuses and extreme digital processing for measurement. A long way off a compass and a battery.

different types of galvanometer

Bank vaults comprise the most impressive fortresses ever built. Their giant mechanical doors are supreme gadgets, as large as a truck but built with the precision of a Swiss watch.Working vaults range from the New York Federal Reserve with 5000 tons of gold beneath Starbucks on the corner of Nassau St. to the giant doomsday project seed bank vault in the Arctic. Reconverted vaults are used for an amazing array of items such as underground farms, dry cleaned garment stores, wine cellars, radioactive material storage and restaurants. There are even bank vaults which have survived nuclear explosions in both Nevada and Hiroshima. Here is a collection of some of the most celebrated or unusual vaults in the world

bank vaults

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Apple is closed source. What do you think of the iPhone 3GS?

June 9th, 2009 #link

The announcement of the iPhone guaranteed one thing – that every Apple keynote after it would be a disappointment.

Yesterday, was no exception. Apple announced a go-faster version of the iPhone, with a moniker reminiscent of a 1970s Citroen car, the 3GS and a minor software upgrade.

The new hardware featured a camera that was almost as good as standard issue for other phones in Europe and Japan.

The new software added a few do-dads, such as a remote bleeper and software erase that only works if you sign up to the Apple software service that gives you things like an inferior version of Gmail.

New apps were showcased, such as the very promising looking Tom Tom application and unpromising looking Tom Tom kit that hinted it would cost almost as much as a standalone GPS device, thus defeating the point.

But the big deal was the addition of tethering, allowing you to use the iPone as a 3G modem. Something that many 3G phones already do.

No matter that 3G tethering presumably costs money via the providers Apple listed, the problem was that it wouldn't work at all in the US, via the sole carrier, ATT.

Although Apple could be playing passive aggressive, deliberately directing flack at ATT, this is not just an ATT problem.

Apple is no longer the little guy offering a better alternative to Microsoft. Increasingly Apple's closed platform is becoming an irritating hassle, rather than a price that is worth paying for well designed and integrated products from hardware to software.

Here are some of the unnecessary irritations and bad design that Apple's closed approach creates:

1. You cannot easily store your music on an external device without needless messing around with iTunes restrictions.

2. You cannot go abroad with your iPhone and slip a new SIM card in without a huge pain in the ass.

3. You cannot take advantage of many new iPhone or OS features without subscribing to a service that offers inferior versions of free online services like Gmail, that will always be better because of the resources allocated to them.

4. You cannot replace the battery in an iPod, iPhone or (now) MacBook without a screwdriver.

Apple products are beautifully designed where most gadgets are useless toys, and the OS is peerless but there is a creeping sensation of needless and irritating lock in.



4 Responses to “Apple is closed source. What do you think of the iPhone 3GS?”

  1. Nick Taylor Says:

    Something I’ve been noticing recently is people using iPhones as brains for other devices – there’s been a motorbike recently that used one as a dashboard, a UAV that used one as eyes/autopilot etc… I can see something like an iPhone being a de-facto plugin brain for quite complex machines – like a really really smart Arduino with inbuilt senses.

    But it ain’t going to be an iPhone because iPhones are closed-source.

  2. apotheosis Says:

    I guess Apple learned nothing from their experience. Closing ranks around their platform and product line very nearly destroyed their company once already.

  3. OB Says:

    Yeah, because Microsoft is soooo open sourced thats why they are soooo successful… By what factual logic have you linked the near demise of Apple to its closed OS…?
    Oh, let me answer that for you. None.