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21 June 2012

Dell's Project Sputnik

Dell’s Projects Sputnik is is a six month initiative to take a premier laptop – the XPS 13 Ultrabook – and create an out-of-the-box Linux-based development machine.

Various languages, tools and SDKs will be ported and installed onto a hardware-optimised version of Ubuntu platform.

Here are couple of extracts from my article:

This tool set extends the existing collection of Linux software by adding powerful web, cloud and app friendly development environments. Examples include the ever popular Eclipse platform for multi-language development and testing, and Git-based source control management software. All the key web languages, such as HTML CSS and JavaScript will be supported. Other languages, such as Ruby, will depend on the 'feedback noise' generated by their proponents.

Mobile app support will be important too. Android development tools another early target, so both the Android and Java software development kits (SDKs) will need to be included. Additional support for Appcelerator, PhoneGap and similar mobile-targeted JavaScript-based frameworks may also be considered.

One suggested scenario is for web and app developers to work with 'micro clouds' on their local machine, before the final solutions are pushed out to a real-world public or private cloud. Incorporating OpenStack technologies is another idea. OpenStack was founded by Rackspace Hosting and NASA to create a series of interrelated technology projects for cloud infrastructure solutions. It's freely available under the Apache 2.0 licence.

Dell employee Barton George has created a seven minute video overview of Project Sputnik (goo.gl/Wy0Pr). He talks about being able to select self-contained language and operating system profile packages as part of a simplified configuration operation. JavaScript, Ruby and Android are just some suggested profile packages.

One of the biggest benefits to selecting Ubuntu is its massive user and developer community. There's a particularly impressive collection of informational web sites, interactive forums and videos of all aspects of the operating system. And plenty of opportunity to get personally involved.

Throughout the six month trial Dell will attempt to elicit plenty of developer-centric suggestions and comments. For some time now Dell has used their Idea Storm site to gather feedback. Now there's a Sputnik Storm session (goo.gl/sX81q) which allows anyone to contribute to the success of the project.

There’s loads of other articles in the magazine including keeping passwords safe, cloud-based storage evaluations, Ubuntu Server, Gmail tips, mobile gaming, a look back at the social history of computers in the 70s and 80s, and lots more.

All for just £2 - amazing.


Liquidmetal is a fascinating material from a group of alloys often referred to as amorphous metals or metallic alloys.

They have a non-crystalline structure, just like glass, and exhibit similar shape forming characteristics while retaining conductive properties.

The potential for this new material is enormous (as you can see from my article extracts below):

At first glance a liquidmetal alloy looks similar to stainless steel, albeit with a slightly different tone and hue. The exact colour depends on the alloy's specific composition.

However, hold it in your hand and you'll notice a distinctly warmer feel than with metal. Straight from a casting mold or die, liquidmetal objects exhibit a smooth mirror-like finish. But satin or brushed finishes are also possible. 

The key attributes are super strength and resilience, high scratch and corrosion resistance, and an ability to be precision cast into complex shapes. It's a very attractive combination.

In contrast plastics are easy to shape, but simply aren't strong enough. Metals have the strength, but complex shapes are difficult to create. And glass, despite its malleability and beauty, is just too fragile.

The hardness and strength-to-weight ratio of a liquidmetal alloy are particularly impressive. Compositions containing zirconium are stronger than aerospace-grade titanium alloys, and on a par with the very latest high-strength steels and specialised composite materials.

Some manufacturers have already experimented with liquidmetal cases. One such case enabled SanDisk's Cruzer Titanium USB flash drives to withstand crush pressures of over 2,000 pounds. SanDisk chose the same material for some of their 200-series Sansa flash-based MP3 players. While Nokia's Vertu Ascent mobile phone also featured a liquidmetal case.

With such a high strength-to-weight ratio liquidmetal is extremely attractive to aerospace designers and racing engineers. These industries have the motivation, money and skills to make rapid progress in both material science and manufacturing techniques.

The impressive strength, combined with liquidmetal's elastic nature (it's many times springier than steel), makes it ideal for all kinds of sporting equipment. Examples include golf club faces, tennis racket frames and skis.

Read more Apple analysis posts.

5 June 2012

Fish! Omnibus by Steve Lundin, John Christensen, Harry Paul and Philip Strand

We'd all love to have a positive, energetic and happy work environment. For the authors of Fish! this is not only possible, but something we can control.

This omnibus edition combines the original Fish! book with Fish! Tales and Fish! Sticks. The supplementary books take the fishmonger-inspired philosophy and reinforce it with real-world examples and motivational suggestions respectively. Each book is quite short in length, so it's possible to whiz through one in a couple of lunchtime reading sessions.

Fish! imparts its wisdom using a story. Yes, it's a highly Americanised and somewhat corny story, an approach that won't suit everyone. Nevertheless, it's quite easy to spin through the text and draw out the salient points. And what are these salient points? Well, it boils down to four key messages: attitude, playfulness, goodwill and presentness.

Your own attitude is probably the most important factor of all. How you feel about the day, how you respond in different environments and situations, and your relationship with others; it's all under your control. You can be positive, energetic, creative, patient, caring and supportive. Or you can decide to be bored, disinterested, regretful, bitter, hostile or angry. Essentially the message is become whoever you want to be simply by changing your attitude.

Treating every task as a play activity can't fail to engender a sense of fun and enjoyment. Once again it's just a matter of personal perspective and attitude. The authors suggest that even the most serious and demanding tasks can be viewed in a playful light. Though I'm certain transforming some of your most obnoxious chores into amusing entertainment will require more than a little effort.

How does it feel to make someone else's day? Energising? Satisfying? Good deeds invariably bring about good feelings. Money and success, on the other hand, tend to bestow far less in terms of personal gratification. The message here is when you offer your time, assistance, feedback and support, your own happiness levels increase.

Busy lives, weighty responsibilities and relentless deadlines are difficult enough. However, beating yourself up about past events or worrying about what will happen tomorrow, only makes coping with today that much harder. So, the final key message is be present; live in the moment. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet to happen, and often turns out to be strikingly different to what we'd imagined. It's notable how many individuals, when questioned late in life, say what they regret most of all is the time they spent worrying about situations and events that never actually happened.

Of course, you can apply the Fish! philosophy to any aspect of life. A simple recipe to create a happier you.