Technolotics #36 – A Dose of Genius


Listen: Episode 36
Watch: Youtube


A Dose Of Genius

  • Dramatic increases in the numbers of students using “smart pills” to increase
    • concentration,
    • focus,
    • wakefulness
    • and short-term memory.


  • Adderall,
    • used to treat attention-deficit disorder.
    • Sales up 3,135 per cent in the last 4 years.
  • Provigil
    • used to treat narcoleptics, who fall asleep uncontrollably.
    • Sales up 359.7 percent in the last 4 years..
  • These “brain steroids” are cheaply available, with those having legitimate perscriptions selling or giving away the pills to their friends.


  • Study published in an international biomedical and psychosocial journal noted that 7 million Americans used bootleg perscriptions in 2002 and 1.6 million were in the student age group.
  • In May, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America issued its annual attitude-tracking study on drug use
    • it concluded 2.25 million kids of middle school and high school age are abusing stimulants.
    • This represents 1 in 10 students in that age group.


  • These represent the first geneneration of brain pills, memory drugs may soon be on sale pending the results of clinical trials.
  • Four US companies are racing to bring drugs for Alzheimer’s patients to market.
  • Researchers expect those drugs to slowly filter into use by a population sick of forgetting what they meant to buy at the shops and students looking for an edge.
  • One new drug boosts the activity of glutamate, a key neurotransmitter that makes it easier to learn and encode memory.


  • For the future:
    • Will business see it as a way to get more out of the average worker.
    • Certainly in jobs where mental endurance matters it will creep in, especially as those who take them at school move into these roles.


  • What about the side effects?
    • Cleaner student accomodation.
    • Strattera — the ADHD medicine can result in liver failure
    • a form of Adderall was pulled from its markets as a result of sudden unexplained deaths in children with cardiac abnormalities.


  • How long before it becomes common over here?
    • Points race and pressure to succeed placing greater pressure on students.
    • Will those who cannot attend grind schools use these drugs to keep up?



The Last Radio

  • The GNU programmable radio
  • Capable of grabing most of the electromagnetic spectrum


  • Most devices that use wireless communications utilize single purpose radios which operate over a narrow band of frequencies.
  • A general purpose radio that can be reconfigured offers greater flexibility and economy of scale.
  • Imagine being able to recieve or transmit any kind of signal using one device.


  • Eric Blossom & Matt Ettus teamed up to develop a HDTV reciever.
  • While they have yet to decode HDTV they have gone on to build the a software-defined radio.
  • The system consists of the:
    • Universal Software Radio Peripheral, or USRP motherboard
    • the daughterboards that allow it to transmit and recieve over various parts of the electomagnetic spectrum.


  • The device is already being used to track shopper movements within a closed area using triangulation of the GSM signals.
  • Blossom is working on a passive radar system which will use ambient radio waves to track flying objects up to 50 km away.
  • System opens up vast possibilities for researchers and amateurs, Ettus is selling the kits from his website starting at $550


Netvibes Ecosystem

  • Popular WEb2.0 online desktop / portal netvibes have launched Netvibes Ecosystem
  • The ecosystem is a cleverly designed one way mirror of RSS content, widgets created with the netvibes API, and flash content
  • You can alter how netvibes works, subscribe to feeds created by users, add a clock, games etc
  • With integrated POP3 mail, mouseover feed preview, and built in RSS viewer, Netvibes is rapidly becomming a top notch alternative to separate RSS feed viewers


Gesturtek outdo the Wiimote

  • New camera software from Gesturetek should enable X360 and PS3 to replicate all the functionality of the Wiimote and more


  • Gesturetek showed off their Software development kit at E3
  • It is used to program for the as-of-yet unannounced XBox 360 camera.
  • This is not a slightly better EyeToy which could only identify motion and direction.
  • The SDK allows for the identification and tracking of a single person’s face.
  • It also tracks limbs in 3 dimentional space.
  • It can in fact identify and track individual fingers.
  • This allows for very sophisticated gesture recognition if the hype is to be believed.


  • The SDK is also being ported to the PS2 and PS3 and should be ready by the end of the summer.
  • The question is – will software support the peripheral?
    • Writer makes the point that Nintendo Wii is all about the controller.
    • Game makers have no incentive to incorporate gesture control into their games.
    • It’s much easier to churn out generic sequels to popular titles.
    • Those that do might do so poorly.
    • Nintendo on the other hand incorporate gesture recognition by default.
    • It’s the unique selling point of the Wii.
    • For developers it is much more likely to be fully incorporated into games for the Wii.
  • Gesture games are hugely popular, Guitar Hero allowing air guitar afficionados everywhere to strut their stuff.


  • If the system works then it would be nice to see other uses of it.
  • no more seaching for the remote control, simply control every device in the room via gestures.


Short Stories

Google Spreadsheets

  • Googleblogger – Spreadsheets for everybody else
  • Will not replace advanced corporate functions
  • But – multiuser / post online / all basic functions – fine for home / small business use
  • Only major feature missing = charts

Google Browser Synch

  • Google have launched a tool for those of us forced to skip from Desk to desk
  • Google browser synch lets users carry their settings with them
  • bookmarks, history, persistent cookies, and saved passwords are kept up to date
  • handy, but do you trust google with this info?


NSA Lawsuit will go ahead

  • Judge rules that the lawsuit against the NSA over their illegal wiretapping can go ahead


  • Lawsuit filed by the ACLU in Detroit and the Center for Constitution Rights in New York in January.
  • Claim was that the wiretapping violated American’s rights to free speech and privacy.
  • Plaintiffs asked the judge in March to declare the wiretaps illegal.
    • The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires a visit to a secret court to authorize spying within the United States.
    • The NSA had not done this, making their wiretaps warrentless and illegal.


  • Government filed a motion saying no court can consider the issues as it may harm national security.
  • Judge said she will hear the government’s motion only after proceeding with the hearing on the plaintiff’s motion to declare the spying illegal.
  • The Justice Department has yet to respond to the legal challenge.


Hitch – iPod to iPod without PC

  • Finally – rip to and from portable devices without a PC

Media Pimp



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